I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

woensdag 19 januari 2011

19-01- 1880 Martha Brown servant of the Brontes died aged 52.

Martha was one of the six daughters of John and Mary Brown of Haworth. John Brown was the village Sexton and, although thirteen years older, he was a close friend of Branwell Brontë. The Browns lived in Sexton's House, which John himself had built on the eastern end of the Church School, shortly after the school was built in 1832. Most of John Brown's daughters worked at the Parsonage at one time or another, cleaning, washing and running errands, but Martha was the only one to live in.
Since 1826, Tabitha Aykroyd had been the only servant living in at the Parsonage. In 1836 she broke a leg very badly, which left her lame. Emily Brontë took on many of Tabby's duties, but by 1839 it was clear that permanent extra help would be needed, and eleven year old Martha Brown moved in to share the bedroom of sixty eight year old Tabby. This arrangement continued until Tabby's death sixteen years later, when, with only Mr. Brontë and Mr. Nicholls left to look after, Martha finally had the room to herself. Her duties ranged from basic washing, cleaning and laying fires, to running errands and, after Tabby's death, preparing food. She was also called upon to help nurse the sick of the household, and for all this she was paid £6 a year when she started, rising to £10 a year by 1858.

On the death of Patrick Brontë in 1861, the Brontë household was broken up, and Martha went with Arthur Bell Nicholls (Charlotte's widower) back to Northern Ireland. Whether this was just to help Mr. Nicholls settle in to his new home, or whether it was intended that she settle there as his housekeeper, we do not know, but by Christmas 1862, Martha was back in Haworth, living with her widowed mother at Sexton's house (John Brown had died of 'dust on his lungs' in 1855). Martha took domestic work in the village, including a stint with Dr. Amos Ingham (lately the Brontë family physician) at the Manor House in Cookgate. Martha's mother died in 1866, and in 1868 Martha, who increasingly by then was in poor health, went to live with her sister Anne Binns and her family at Saltaire. She stayed there for nine years, until the domestic tensions between her sister and her husband Ben became intolerable for her, and she returned to Haworth, where she spent the last three years of her life living alone in a small damp cottage in what is now Sun Street. She died there of stomach cancer on the 19th January 1880.

Throughout her post-Parsonage years, Martha and Arthur Bell Nicholls maintained a regular correspondence, and Martha visited Mr. Nicholls (and his second wife after 1864) a number of times. He always asked her to stay, and she always declined. Martha had featured in Elizabeth Gaskell's best selling biography, The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), and in her later years she became something of a celebrity. Martha treasured a large collection of Brontë memorabilia that she was happy to display, but reluctant to sell. On her death however, this collection was divided between her sisters and it gradually dispersed.

4 opmerkingen:

  1. Deze reactie is verwijderd door een blogbeheerder.

  2. What a lovely image of Martha, I hadn't seen it before. She must have missed the Bronte's teerribly...I feel for her having to travel around without ever having a family of her own and also dying alone. Oh if only her Bronte treasures could have been kept together. Thank you for this post, I learned so much about her.

    I'm quite stunned about the discovery of Charlotte's bible...I'd seen the picture but knew nothing about it...how I'd love to look through it. Do you know what he did with it...the Parsonage Museum should have it, don't you think?
    xo Jessica

  3. I'm reading The Crimes of Charlotte Brontë: The Secret History of the Mysterious Events at Haworth, and it's mainly told by Martha's point of view. Very intriguing, indeed!

  4. What happened to Martha's collection , the dispersal and disappearance in a sense, is exactly what Arthur Bell Nicholls avoided by holding on to the little books 15 years longer than 1880 and then keeping his other Bronte treasures another 14 years until his death in 1906. With the passage of more time, the Bronte item's value was even more marked and it become less likely they could just disappear . Over the decades people kept waiting for the interest in the family to drop off ; of course it never has . Undoubtedly Martha would have held on to her treasures too had she lived .


The Parlour

The Parlour



Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte

Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

Top Withens in the snow.

Top Withens in the snow.



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