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

vrijdag 21 oktober 2011


By Anne Collett 
A talk to the Australian Brontë Association 

At the outset I feel I should admit that although I am a Bronte fan, up until very recently it would be more accurate to say that I have been a fan of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre since my first encounter at the age of eleven or twelve.

Interesting: read on: maths.mq.edu.au/bronte

Sketches from Branwell Bronte

Branwell Brontë was a promising writer and artist with a rich imagination. Although he was the first of the Brontë siblings to appear in print, he would never gain money or success and was destined to live in the shadow of his three sisters.

In his novel Branwell, Douglas Martin describes how: As the only son, Branwell … is expected to make the fortune for the family and immortalize the Brontë name. Given no formal education, he is painstakingly tutored by his father, and writes endless stories and poems with his sisters in 
their small parsonage home. Haunted by the early deaths of his mother and sister; both named Maria, Branwell is unable to reach his heart’s desire: to be a great artist. He roams from job to job, as painter, railway man, and tutor, constantly writing and sketching, as his sisters spin and fume on the dark moor with the stories that will immortalise them. 

The life of Feild Marshal the Right Honourable Alexan[d]er Percy, autograph manuscript, 1835


Branwell Brontë, The Monthly Intelligencer


maandag 17 oktober 2011

Dear Nell, October 17th, 1841.

Upperwood HouseOctober 17th, 1841.
Dear Nell,—It is a cruel thing of you to be always upbraiding me when I am a trifle remiss or so in writing a letter.  I see I can’t make you comprehend that I have not quite as much time on my hands as Miss Harris or Mrs. Mills.  I never neglect you on purpose.  I could not do it, you little teazing, faithless wretch.
‘The humour I am in is worse than words can describe.  I have had a hideous dinner of some abominable spiced-up indescribable mess and it has exasperated me against the world at large.  So you are coming home, are you?  Then don’t expect me to write a long letter.  I am not going to Dewsbury Moor, as far as I can see at present.  It was a decent friendly proposal on Miss Wooler’s part, and cancels all or most of her little foibles, in my estimation; but Dewsbury Moor is a poisoned place to me; besides, I burn to go somewhere else.  I think, Nell, I see a chance of getting to Brussels.  Mary Taylor advises me to this step.  My own mind and feelings urge me.  I can’t write a word more.‘C. B.’

zondag 16 oktober 2011

The inspiration and imagination of the Brontes.

In the autumn of 1825, Tabitha Aykroyd was employed as cook and housekeeper at Haworth. Her influence on the Brontë children, particularly on Emily, was monumental. Tabby, as she was known, was a native of Haworth and brought to the children the folklore of the Yorkshire moors:

 She told of fairies that danced by the bed-sides in the moonlight, and of those who had seen them. When the peat glowed red on the kitchen hearth and shadows stretched across the stone floor, Tabby made the warm air seem alive with creatures of the fern and heather. (Simpson, 27)
The imaginations of the Brontë children, fired by Tabby's fascinating folktales, encountered the door, in 1826, to further development when the Reverend Mr. Brontë presented twelve wooden soldiers to Branwell. The four siblings created characters and islands around these toys and developed an oral literature that would later be transformed into poetry, constituting the well-known "Gondal" saga that Emily and Anne continued long after Branwell and Charlotte lost interest. Of special note is Emily's choice of names for her special heroes: Sir Walter Scott and the Lockharts. The literary reference seems to indicate an acquaintance with literature, an idea reinforced by Charlotte's "History of the Year 1829": 
We take two and see three newspapers a week. We take the Leeds Intelligencer, Tory, and the Leeds Mercury, Whig, edited by Mr. Baines, and his brother, son-in-law, and his two sons, Edward and Talbot. We see the John Bull; it is a high Tory, very violent. Mr. Driver lends us it, as likewise Blackwood's Magazine, the most able periodical there is. The editor is Mr. Christopher North, an old man seventy-four years of age; the 1st of April is his birth-day; his company are Timothy Tickler, Morgan O'Doherty, Macrabin Mordecai, Mullion, Warnell, and James Hogg, a man of most extraordinary genius, a Scottish shepherd. Our plays were established; Young Men, June 1826; Our Fellows, July, 1827; Islanders, December, 1827. These are our three great plays, that are not kept secret. Emily's and my best plays were established the 1st of December, 1827; the others March, 1828. Best plays mean secret plays; they are very nice ones. Their nature I need not write on paper, for I think I shall always remember them. The Young Men's play took its rise from some wooden soldiers Branwell had; Our Fellows from Aesop's Fables; and the Islanders from several events which happened. (Qtd. in Lane, 63)

The Young Men’s play gave rise to an imaginary colony in Africa called Angria, peopled by the characters represented by the toy soldiers. Although all four of the children were involved in the play at first, Emily and Anne soon branched off into their own imaginary kingdoms, leaving Charlotte and Branwell to manage the affairs of Angria by themselves. Both brother and sister wrote stories, poems, articles, and histories about the colony, and it seems that they were often at odds with each other regarding how events should proceed. Because many of the Angrian tales do not survive, scholars of the Brontë juvenilia face difficulties in piecing together details of the characters and the overall story of the colony.

Charlotte eventually became the dominant creative force behind the play, and she developed complex, interconnected plots that drew on the often-stormy relationships between several main characters. These plots were also strongly influenced by recent events in the political world, as well as by Charlotte’s current choice of reading material. Magical elements permeate the early stories, in which the four siblings feature as all-powerful Genii who control the colony. By the later stories, Charlotte was more interested in the political machinations and romantic entanglements that she wove into her complex plots, leaving the world of fairy tales behind. Her writing shows the influence of various histories and legends, stories like the Arabian Nights, and the literature of Byron, Scott, and contemporary writers.                  

Haworth parsonage through the years

Here is the earliest known image of the Parsonage believed to date from the 1850′s. Notice just the three white steps leading to the front door and the path at the side of the house. Also note the footpath leading to the fields at the back of the Parsonage. This is the path that the girls would of taken to the moors beyond. Just visible is the top of church lane from which the footpath originates. The narrow chimney visible left of centre of the Parsonage is from Patrick’s back kitchen.

Interesting pictures, this one I never saw before. More pictures: brontes remembered 

Above is a view taken around 1900 showing Wades extension. Also visible is The Barn (to the right of the Parsonage) which was a stonemasons workshop in the Brontes day (and just out of shot of the earliest image). It was demolished in 1903. The top of church lane is visible and part of the sunday school.

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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