The story of the Bronte family, and the stories they penned themselves, have captured the imagination of book lovers for over 150 years. Charlotte, who wrote the beautifully crafted Jane Eyre, and Emily, author of Wuthering Heights, were the literary geniuses of their era and their influence lives on to this day.
This afternoon, I had a glimpse into their lives at the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, a picture-postcard village in West Yorkshire, about ten miles west of Bradford. Needless to say, Haworth is now a major regional tourist attraction. People all over the world flock at this time of year to soak up the history, culture and landscape of plunging hills and stunning views which surround the settlement. It became clear how the Yorkshire moorland influenced the setting of their work and the nature of the characters.
|The room in which the Bronte masterpieces were written|
Cramped little shops snake up the hill leading to the village square and are well worth a look. Inside the square and at the summit of the hill is the famous Black Bull pub, which proudly overlooks everything else of importance in the village. Inside you can see the chair which Branwell Bronte (brother of Charlotte and Emily) sat on to enjoy his pint of beer.
These sights set up the trip to the Parsonage very nicely indeed, and we were not to be disappointed. We learned the Brontes moved in the residence in 1820, when Emily and Charlotte were small children. Their elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, succumbed to an early grave due to a typhus epidemic caused by disgracefully poor sanitary conditions. Their father, Patrick, had secured a job as the Perpetual Curate of Haworth Church and somehow ended up outliving his entire family, finally passing away in 1861 at the grand old age of 84.
Patrick’s study – a den of quiet concentration – was meticulously presented, epitomised by the magnifying glass used to assist his extensive reading and writing, placed on the table. As the major political figurehead of the village, one can imagine he spent many hours here. Among other commitments he founded a Sunday school in 1832 and campaigned for a clean water supply to Haworth, secured in 1856.
Perhaps most interesting was the dining room, one of the more most spacious areas in the house. It was where the sisters’ literary triumphs were forged, including Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. A rocking chair in the corner next to a grand fireplace would have been regularly used to ponder the next sentence, while, on a more sorrowful note, the sofa opposite was the piece of furniture on which Emily died.
We were also taken around the tiny kitchen, the generous servants’ room and the art studio of Branwell, filled with paintings – some excellent, others rather amateurish. Most interesting was Branwell’s bedroom, where he eventually died as a result of his all-too-frequent trips to the Black Bull and dire alcoholism.
So, if you’re living in the region and interested in your literature, I would recommend a visit! I’m hardly a bookworm but it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.