The Brontes then and Now,extracts from a “Symposium of Articles” and introduction

I stumbled on one of those gems of Ebay ,a little obscure booklet,these often go for pennies and offer the possibilities of hidden treasure .This has certainly been the case with this booklet .”The Brontes then and now ” was published by the Bronte Society  in 1947  and printed in Shipley by Outhewaite Bros Caxton Press .

Its has a introduction that reminds one of the austerity of post war Britain .It was published to commemorate the centenary of the publication of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights (Its doesnt mention Agnes Grey)It consists of articles from assorted editions of the Bronte Society transactions from the previous decades ,but laments

“Owing to difficulties created by the scarcity of paper ,the volume is not as large as the society would liked to have published on so memorable an occasion”

Its aim was to collate “The best essays to show how the Brontes are regarded today” (though that is  not strictly true one article dates from the early 1920s ,)in general it is a accurate description of the essays and articles.

.I will reproduce long extracts from several articles over the next week or two as they almost all contain interesting little long lost views and ideas ,the writers rang from the Rev  J C Hirst the Vicar of Haworth ,Fanny Ratchford and  a Russian Prince ,Prince D S Mirskey who writes about reading Jane Eyre in 1917 /1918 in Erzerum  ( see footnote ),while in the Russian army at “a terrible time ,the Russian Front had already collapsed and we the remainder of the Russian army were awaiting the inevitable end ”

(I can only find a photo of the prince from the book cover above,he went back to Russia and died in a Gulag

There is a short article reproducing the causes of death of all the Brontes,those of Branwell ,Charlotte Emily ,Ann and Rev Bronte have the causes of death verbatim from the death certificates .”direct evidence from the registers office at Keighley” While another short article  relates details of their burial sites.This was written by the then  vicar of Haworth  J C Hirst (In his last year as vicar ,having seen Haworth through the seond world war)He was thr last Vicar of Haworth to live in the Bronte Parsonage prior to its becoming a Museum.

The photo below is slightly earlier and from the excellent site ,this site also contains invaluable primary sources .


Other articles comment on the views of people locally about the Brontes,which echoed the impressions I have gained from talking locally to those who had passed down family memories of the sisters

“I met with with more than one Lady who had known the Brontes  and ,,spoke with undisguised contempt,I was assured that they were “Not ladies and that they were not even succesful as governesses “( the writer used the quotes from a book “The Memories of Sir Weymuss Reid ).

Sir Weymuss was at one point editor of the Leeds Mercury ,he began working for the paper in 1870 and was there for  around 16 years giving him ample time to gain local knowledge from those who knew  of or had met the Brontes of the Brontes .

Hes quotes several parts of the book with regard to local feeling at the time of the Brontes and shortly after .

Other hidden gems include some quotes from famous authors ,including the comment that Thomas Hardy wouldnt read Wuthering Heights because he had heard it was depressing ,which coming from the Author of Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D urbevilles is a bit rich.

The Battle of Erzurum

“At the end of the offensive in the storming of the city of Erzurum itself, the Russians captured some 9 standards, 5,000 prisoners and 327 guns. The Ottomans lost about 10,000 men killed and wounded, as well as 5,000 prisoners.[2] The Russians lost 1,000 killed, 4,000 wounded and 4,000 became affected with frostbite.[ , The full text can be found here

He seems to have relied heavily on Elizabeth Gaskel and repeats the slanders on Patricks character long since known and proven to be untrue ,he may be one of the sources used by early biographers

“Only those who dwelt under the
same roof knew him as he really was. Among the
many stories told of him by his children, there is one
relating to the meek and gentle woman who was his
wife, and whose lot it was to submit to persistent
coldness and neglect. Somebody had given Mrs.
Bronte a very pretty dress, and her husband, who
was as proud as he was self-willed, had taken offence
at the gift. A word to his wife, who lived in habitual
dread of her lordly master, would have secured all
he wanted ; but in his passionate determination that
she should not wear the obnoxious garment,

he deliberately cut it to pieces, and presented her with
the tattered fragments.

On the other hand he is elsewhere very critical of Gaskel

“Unhappily, first
impressions are always strongest, and running through
the whole of Mrs. Gaskell’s story, may be seen the
impression produced at her first meeting with Char-
lotte Bronte by her nervous shrinking and awkward-
ness in the midst of unknown faces.

It was not thus with those who, brought into the
closest of all fellowship with her, the fellowship of
school society, knew the secrets of her heart far better
than did any who became acquainted with her in after
life. To such the real Charlotte Bronte, who knew
no timidity in their presence, was a bold, clever, out-
spoken and impulsive girl ; ready to laugh with the
merriest, and not even indisposed to join in practical
jokes with the rest of her schoolfellows. The picture
we get in the ” Life” is that of a victim to secret terrors
and superstitious fancies. The real Charlotte Bronte,
when stories were current as to the presence of a
ghost in the upper chambers of the old school-house
at Roehead, did not hesitate to go up to these rooms



alone and in the darkness of a winter’s night, leaving
her companions shivering in terror round the fire

He also relates local people where by far fondest of Branwell

“and any one
who cares to go to Haworth now and inquire into the
story of the Brontes, will find that the most vivid
reminiscences, the fondest memories of the older
people in the village, centre in this hapless youth.

” Before me lie the few letters which remain of
Emily and Anne. There is little in them worth
preserving. Both make reference to the fact that
Charlotte is the great correspondent of the family,
and that their brief and uninteresting epistles can
have no charm for one who is constantly receiving
letters from her.

In Yorkshire, indeed, the stolid people
of the West Riding were not greatly moved by this
enthusiasm. Just as Charlotte herself had seemed an
ordinary and rather obscure person to her Yorkshire
friends, so Haworth was still regarded as being a very
dull and dreary village by those who lived near it


I stepped for a
moment into the kitchen, where the landlord and
landlady were having a comfortable chat over pipes
and ale, with a companionable rustic of the place,
who proved to be a nephew of the old servant Tabby,
who lived so long, and at last died in the service of
the Bronte family. I joined the circle, and sat there
till long after midnight. Branwell was clearly the
hero of the village worship. A little red-headed
fellow, the landlord said, quick, bright, abounding in
stories, in jokes, and in pleasant talk of every kind ;




he was a general favourite in town, and the special
wonder of the Black Bull circles. Small as he was,
it was impossible to frighten him. They had seen
him volunteer during a mill-riot to go in and thrash a
dozen fellows, any one of whom could have put him
in his pocket and carried him off at a minute’s notice.
Indeed a characteristic of the whole family seems to
have been an entire insensibility to danger and to
fear. Emily and Charlotte, these people told me,
were one day walking through the street, when their
great dog, Keeper, engaged in a fight with another
dog of equal size. Whilst everybody else stood aloof
and shouted, these girls went in, caught Keeper by
the neck, and by dint of tugging, and beating him
over the head, succeeded in dragging him away.” I
extract this passage because of the confirmation
which it gives, on the authority of one who made
his inquiries very soon after the death of Charlotte
Bronte, of the account of some of the family charac-
teristics which appear in these pages ; n

Of Charlotte he  writes

Do not underrate her oddity,” said a gifted
friend who knew her during her heyday of fame,
while these pages were being written. Her oddity, it
must be owned, was extreme — so far as the world
could judge.


About hathawaysofhaworth

I am a Historian and author living in the north
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