Sunday, 1 November 2015

Writing - Death at the parsonage

I've heard it said that you can't achieve success without having suffered in some way. This saying can take different forms depending on the situation. 
As a young single man entering the teaching profession I was informed that I wouldn't be a complete teacher until I was married and with children of my own. 

The story of the Brontes is one rich with tragedy, ideal fuel for writing whether you agree with the above premise or not.

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When the Brontes moved to Haworth in 1820, the physical isolation of the property mirrored the social isolation of the family from the village. It was also the point at which things started to go awry for the family. A year after moving to Haworth Maria Bronte (mother), Patrick's wife, died which made it even more difficult for the family to integrate with the village, leaving six small children ranging from 20 months to seven years old.
Elizabeth Bramwell moved to the parsonage to look after the children. In 1825 the family suffered more anguish when the two eldest, Maria (11) and Elizabeth (10), died of TB within six weeks of each other. Losing their mother and two eldest sisters must have had a profound effect on the remaining children. Overnight the middle child, Charlotte, became the eldest but with little instinct for being a 'little mother'. Instead the children, three girls and Bramwell retreated into a make believe created world that involved stories and craft activities. They sewed miniature books and wrote stories which led into a world of writing.

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Patrick Bronte

Patrick Bronte, a published and enthusiastic author, their father must have been an inspiration to the children. He encouraged the girls to learn to read and they attended school at various times in their lives. In fact they grew up with the certain knowledge that they would have to earn a living at some point. Teaching was the acceptable profession for genteel young ladies. However, they didn't like being away from the family, which is understandable and so fashioned a system where one of the girls would work while the others were at home. Throughout this time they wrote prolifically and eventually took the leap of publishing their works using money left by their Aunt Bramwell who died in 1842. They used the pseudonyms Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily) and Acton (Anne) Bell. It took five years for them to achieve any level of success and that was with Charlotte's Jane Eyre, whereas Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were initially less well received.

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Branwell Bronte

Tragedy struck once again in 1848 when Branwell, who suffered from alcohol and opium addiction died suddenly in September that year aged 31. At the same time it was realised that Emily was seriously ill with TB and she died three months after her brother. The illness wasn't leave the family as then Anne was diagnosed with the disease. They moved her to the seaside, Scarborough, but she died in 1849. Charlotte was left devastated and often paced round the dining table as the others had. Eventually she married curate Arthur Bell Nicholls but it was hardly a love match as that of Jayne Eyre and Mr Rochester. She just about liked him enough. The tragedy had not ceased its grip on the Bronte family as shortly afterwards, 9 months of marriage, Charlotte died as a result of pregnancy related complications.
Patrick commissioned Elizabeth Gaskell to write Charlotte's biography but in fact the families history was every bit as interesting as any novel.

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Bronte Parsonage

God Bless