Friday, January 20, 2012

The Brontes in Brief - A Guest Post Biography by BronteBlog

January is a very Brontë month of the year. Not only does it include Anne Brontë's birthday - she was born on January 17th, 1820 - and her death sentence - on January 5th, 1849 a doctor visited the Haworth Parsonage, not long after the deaths of Branwell and Emily Brontë, and told Patrick Brontë that his youngest daughter hadn't long to live due to tuberculosis - but it's also the first full month of the winter, where there can be very few nicer things than curling up with a good book. The Brontës' verbosity - at least in comparison with today's widespread style - as well as their dexterity at telling a few good stories make for very cosy reading. If you have been made to read the Brontës for school, forget that experience and pick up their novels anew and let them set the pace as well as the atmosphere. You won't regret it.

The Brontës lived most of their lives in Yorkshire. Out of the six siblings - the two eldest girls died early on - the four known today, were all born in the village of Thornton between the years 1816 and 1820: Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. Within a year they would move to the parsonage at Haworth, where their father had been appointed perpetual curate and where they would spend most of their lives. The Parsonage is now a museum well worth a visit and boasting the largest collection of Brontë objects in the world. All sorts of Brontë treasures - from the mundane clothes to the stories they wrote as children and young adults - can be found there, documenting lifetimes of dreams, hopes, and lots and lots of writing.

As children they lost themselves in their imaginary worlds of Angria and Gondal. Angria was mostly Charlotte and Branwell's domain, full of exotic, African-inspired landscapes peopled with their real-life heroes turned into imaginary characters such as the Duke of Wellington and his sons. Gondal was Emily and Anne's and despite being an imaginary island in the South Pacific, the place was pure Yorkshire. Recently an (unpublished) Angria booklet was auctioned for £690,850. There are many tiny booklets telling Angrian stories but from Gondal only the poetry remains.

With that creative upbringing, it was no wonder when the three sisters, disappointed in their jobs as governesses, decided to publish a volume of poetry. The volume gathered a few good reviews but sold but two copies. Undefeated, they decided to try their hand at novels and thus Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey were first accepted for publication while Charlotte's The Professor was turned down and continued doing the rounds of publishing houses until it reached one where the reader, though unimpressed by the actual, novel, saw the writer's potential and ask to see any other writings. Charlotte, which by now had been busy at work on Jane Eyre - trying to prove to her sisters that a novel could have a plain main character, much like its author - submitted that novel and the rest is history. 1847 saw the publication of three novels that are still widely read today. Not just read but also written about, discussed, adapted, played, etc. No need to look far for that: new film adaptations of both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were released in 2011, not to mention the amount of books published inspired one way or another by the novels.

Wuthering Heights would be Emily's only novel, though her poetry is still extant and also stunning. But Anne would go on to write The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Charlotte, who lived unil 1855 (only nine months into a very happy marriage - the only sister not to have died a 'spinster'), went on to write Shirley and Villette. The Professor would be eventually published posthumously. Her last novel, Emma (not to be confused with Jane Austen's novel of the same name!), was only just started.

All this to say that though The Brontës' month is only a stop within Laura's Victorian Challenge, the Brontës - much like the Victorians themselves - are alive and well as we constantly see on our blog. We first started in 2005, curious as to what the Brontës' afterlife in the 21st century would be. All these years later we are still surprised by their far-reaching shadows. Enjoy January! (And thanks to Laura for having us here and for keeping the Brontës alive too).

Best wishes with your challenge,


  1. Thank you for the Bronte post! It's always a good time to discuss the works of the Brontes.

  2. Interesting post! I didn't know there was another sister, Branwell.

  3. Very informative! I love their life story and their work. It's incredible how well they wrote under those circumstances.

  4. Thanks again Laura for having us!

    And to Suko - we are sorry we didn't make ourselves clear. Branwell actually was the only brother. He was, for instance, the one who painted the famous portrait (see top of this post).

  5. This is so fascinating. My sister and I LOVE the Bronte sisters and read them growing up. It was such a bonding experience for us two little girls to discuss their books.
    -Aaron Agopian and Larissa Agopian-Davis