Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Branwell Bronte

Few remember Branwell Bronte, brother of the famous Bronte sisters.  Patrick Branwell, named for his mother’s side of the family, was born on June 26th, 1817.  His life was short - thirty-one years - and marred by addiction to alcohol and possibly laudanum. 

Elizabeth Gaskell, in her biography of Charlotte Bronte, writes of Branwell, that he ‘was rather a handsome boy, with "tawny" hair, to use Miss Bronte's phrase for a more obnoxious colour….’

In the same work Ms. Gaskell highlights the importance of Sir Walter Scott’s work to the Bronte family.

‘…Mr. Bronte encouraged a taste for reading in his girls; and though Miss Branwell kept it in due bounds, by the variety of household occupations, in which she expected them not merely to take a part, but to become proficients, thereby occupying regularly a good portion of every day, they were allowed to get books from the circulating library at Keighley; and many a happy walk, up those long four miles, must they have had, burdened with some new book, into which they peeped as they hurried home. Not that the books were what would generally be called new; in the beginning of 1833, the two friends seem almost simultaneously to have fallen upon Kenilworth, and Charlotte writes as follows about it:--

"I am glad you like Kenilworth; it is certainly more resembling a romance than a novel: in my opinion, one of the most interesting works that ever emanated from the great Sir Walter's pen. Varney is certainly the personification of consummate villainy; and in the delineation of his dark and profoundly artful mind, Scott exhibits a wonderful knowledge of human nature, as well as a surprising skill in embodying his perceptions, so as to enable others to become participators in that knowledge."…’

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