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At the top of a cobbled street, overlooking the little village of Haworth, sits a rather dour Georgian house backing onto a shadowy graveyard. Facing the bleakness of the Yorkshire Moors, this modest dwelling appears to offer little encouragement or inspiration to the approaching visitor. But once over the threshold, the lives, loves and tragedies of one of the most notable families in the English literary world will be revealed. Managed by the Bronte Society, the house has been restored to reflect its appearance in the 1850s, and most of the furniture belonged to the family. A wealth of Bronte memorabilia can be found in the parsonage and the exhibition room.
Patrick Brunty left his large family in Ireland with aspirations to better himself at Cambridge. Known in England as Bronte, he took several positions as a Curate before arriving at Haworth with his young family in 1820. This 18th century parsonage became home to him, his wife, and their six children for the rest of their lives. Sadly, most of these were short. Mrs Bronte died less than 18 months after moving to Haworth, followed by her two eldest daughters, then aged 10 and 11, in 1825. Elizabeth Branwell came up from Cornwall to take charge of her sister's remaining children, Anne, Charlotte, Emily, and Branwell, and to run the parsonage. Patrick Bronte encouraged his children to develop their imaginations through books. As a published author of poetry and novels, many of his own works already took pride of place on the bookshelves.
As 'genteel' young ladies, the sisters all earned their living as governesses, and Branwell worked briefly as a professional portrait painter in Bradford. Later he also became a tutor, but was dismissed for a supposed love affair with the wife of his employer. Charlotte went on to study in Brussels, and Emily took over as housekeeper at the parsonage following the death of her aunt in 1842. Despite their separation, the sisters continued with their joint literary interests, and 1846 proved to be a significant year for the writing trio. 'Poems' was published in the May that year under their pseudonym 'Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell'. By July Emily had completed 'Wuthering Heights' and Anne finished 'Agnes Grey'. Whilst caring for her father in Manchester, Charlotte began 'Jane Eyre' in August of the same year.
After the elation of the previous two years, September 1848 heralded the onslaught of more tragedies. Branwell died of suspected Tuberculosis, undoubtedly brought on by his weakened resistance through drug and alcohol abuse, and just three months later Emily also died from TB. In May 1849 Anne died of the same dreadful illness. Now alone, Charlotte concentrated on her writing, and reluctantly entered London's literary society. During this time she met Elizabeth Gaskell and they became good friends, visiting each other several times over the next few years.
A final happy interlude at Haworth came with Charlotte's marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls in June 1854, only to be quickly followed by yet another death. Charlotte herself died in the early stages of pregnancy in March 1855. Her father approached Elizabeth Gaskell to write his daughter's biography, and this was published in 1857. Charlotte's bereaved husband remained at the parsonage caring for his father-in-law for a further six years. When Patrick died, aged 84, Arthur returned to Ireland.
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