in the article also a very beautiful photograph of the Haworth Churchyard. Photo: Simon Warner
1818. In that year the illustrious novelist Walter Scott discovered a box of lost Crown Jewels hidden in Edinburgh Castle and was rewarded with the title of baronet. Percy Bysshe Shelley pseudonymously published his sonnet ‘Ozymandias’ and Mary Shelley anonymously published her novel Frankenstein, which was influenced, her husband notes in the Preface, by the physician Erasmus Darwin’s experiments. Frankenstein was reviewed that year by Walter Scott. Wars of independence and colonialism were being fought around the globe. Karl Marx was born in Germany and would one day be a great reader of English literature. He was deeply affected by P. B. Shelley’s radicalism, Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones was his favourite novel, he considered Scott’s Old Mortality a masterpiece, and by the early 1850s he was lauding Wuthering Heights for its condemnation of the middle classes. In 1818 Darwin’s grandson Charles was nine years old, a directionless boy (his father thought) who consumed Byron, loved books, and would go on to ‘read and reread until they could be read no more’ the novels of Scott, Jane Austen and Mrs Gaskell. He read Jane Eyre; we can assume he’d also read Wuthering Heights and would have recognised the author of this story of ferocious generational struggle as a kindred spirit. It’s not known if Emily Brontë ever saw a copy of The Voyage of the Beagle (1839), which foretold On the Origin of Species (1859); I like to think she did. And if not that book, then perhaps other works of scientific discovery, Georg Forster’s classic A Voyage Round the World (1777), or George Anson’s Voyage Around the World in the Years 1740-1744 (1748), as it’s known there was a copy in the library at nearby Ponden Hall to which the Brontës had access, or indeed anything by or about the Arctic explorer Sir William Edward Parry, whom Emily chose as one of her earliest heroes in the games she played with her siblings. Her Gondal poems were set in fantasy lands in the North and South Pacific, conceiving for the southern island bright Eden skies, palm trees alongside cedars and beeches, and ‘tropic prairies bright with flowers’. The Brontë Parsonage Museum has a family copy of Goldsmith’s Modern and Ancient Geography, with Gondal place names added to the index, most likely by Emily. In her own imagination she was well travelled. Her French teacher thought that she possessed the disciplined mind and superior will of a great navigator.