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

zaterdag 19 juni 2021

It happened at Sotheby's.

My friend, Geri Meftah, of The Brontë Sisters  blog, told  me  about The Honresfield Library collection  and its Brontë items to be auctioned off via Sotheby's. One of her emails contained this information:

".... literary lovers will be able to see items from the private collection at exhibitions in London, Edinburgh and New York"

New York? That's well within a day trip for me, so my husband and I decided to see if we could view the collection. I was particularly interested in seeing the manuscript of Emily's poems, which would be in the  Sotheby's NYC display.

Display area

For many years it has been said such Emily papers were destroyed. Well here were  some and quite possibly they were among the very papers that electrified Charlotte in the autumn of 1845 when she read Emily's poems and resolved they would all seek publication.

These pages are arguably the most important Brontë manuscript there is, based on the rarity of Emily's effects, the importance of her poetry and for being the spur that ultimately brought us the Brontë sisters books.  

At first I wondered since we were not gong to be bidding, we would not be let in to see the collection. But that's wasn't the case at all. Sotheby's was very welcoming. All one had to do was make an appointment via email. This we did. 

Sotheby's  NYC, should be known as a free, cool thing to do in Manhattan. You get to wonder about and  look at all the items featured  in up coming autions. We saw three floors of priceless jewels, paintings and much else. There's also a great Italian cafe on site!

The Brontë items on display in New York , besides Emily's poems, were Martha Brown's copy of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey (signed by Patrick Brontë) , two letters of Branwell's, plus the family's 1816 Berwick Book of Birds, featured in the beginning of Jane Eyre.

Branwell letters

It was all great to see. There's nothing like Brontë items. We enjoyed looking at it all for some time. We then went off to see everything else on display in this historic auction house.

When we were about to leave, I said to my husband " let's say goodbye to the Brontë items." and we returned to the Honresfield display. I noticed a young man looking it over. "Oh I thought how nice,  another fan". We had the area all to ourselves earlier, it was good to see another enthusiast. 

There was a tag in Emily's poems, placed like a bookmark. My husband wanted to know its significance.
A young woman came by who was obviously connection to Sotheby's and he asked her about it. Turned out it was something to do with the packing. Anyway instead of leaving, we fell into conversation about the items with her and the young man. 

We all were excited about the items and chatted about them.

Then as she was speaking, the young woman reached into her pocket,took out a key and opened the Brontë case.

Bronte display case

My shock was such, it was as if we had entered another dimension.
In fact I said aloud.

 " She's opening the case!"

She then handed the young man the Berwick Book to look over .

I said"  She's taking stuff out! "

I now realized I was in the presence of a for real bidder and a curator. I later read the young man's  business card. He was  a representative of a large, antiquarian  book company with shops around the world.

After he looked the book over,  the curator very kindly showed my husband and I the Jane Eyre related pages and prints .

 I was pinching myself already.

Berwick book

The Berwick book was put back in its place and she then took out Emily's poems to hand to him for inspection. When he was about to hand them back, I saw my chance and I took it.  I would regret it forever if I didn't.

" May I hold that too? " I asked and she said" Certainly "

Holding EJB poems

I do believe these poems were among the ones CB found in 1845.  The poems were neatly written in ink in Emily 's hand (like block printing as they did in the little books, but larger) with editing marks done later by Charlotte in pencil. These pages were not put to the flames when Emily and Anne's papers were burned. That speaks of a special attachment on Charlotte 's part. I did think of Emily's writing her poems and Charlotte holding these pages. Everything started after that discovey, and here, somehow, I held those pages too...even if for a half minute. You can't even hope for something like that. It's a kind of miracle.

Close up of poems photo

And now for the good news! The sale has been postponed so Friends of the National Libraries, the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford and Jane Austen's House in Hampshire, among other groups, can raise the funds needed to keep the collection together and in public venues! The group thanked Sotheby's for giving them time to try to "preserve the entire library as a collection to be allocated to libraries around the UK for the benefit of the public".

Anne Lloyd.

The British Library Has Joined Forces With Other U.K. Institutions to Save a Historic Manuscript Collection From the Auction Block.

Read all: news.artnet/uk-institutions-save-historic-literary-library-sothebys

Next month, a once-in-a-generation collection of literary manuscripts, including pieces by Jane Austen, Walter Scott, and the Brontë sisters, was set to hit the auction block.

A consortium of British libraries and museums have come together in an attempt to save the prized group of manuscripts from being split up and disappearing into private hands—and Sotheby’s has agreed to postpone the sales while the effort is underway. 

In a statement this week, the consortium vowed to raise the £15 million ($21 million) needed to purchase the collection and redistribute it to libraries around the U.K. “for the benefit of the public.”

“Once in a generation, a collection of books and manuscripts appears from almost nowhere that is met with a mixture of awe and stunned silence, followed by concerted action to bring it into public ownership,” said John Scally, an FNL trustee and the head of the National Library of Scotland, in a statement. “The U.K.-wide consortium is determined to raise the funds to ensure we can save the Honresfield Library for everyone to share and enjoy.”

The consortium has put out a plea for help from institutional funders and individual philanthropists, while the FNL has launched a crowdfunding campaign

“We are pleased to play our part in this potential outcome for this great library,” said Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s specialist in English literature and historical manuscripts, in a statement. “The unprecedented initiative is testament to the continued power of literature to inspire the public so many years after these writers first put pen to paper.”

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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