Did you know that the Bronte family name was originally Brunty? Neither did I. Somehow “Charlotte Brunty” doesn’t have the same romantic ring to it! That’s just one of the fascinating facts I discovered during the Friends visit to the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, West Yorkshire. A member of the Bronte Society gave us an illuminating talk about the famous sisters’ childhood in Haworth. She told us that it was their father, Patrick, who was from a barely literate Irish family, who fixed the spelling of the name from Brunty to Bronte – to hide his humble origins perhaps? After the talk, another member of the society led a walk around Howarth showing us the places associated with the family: Haworth church, the Apothecary and the Black Bull pub. Branwell Bronte was a frequent visitor to the Black Bull and his chair is still there to this day.
After lunch, we spent a happy few hours in the Parsonage Museum. I think we were all struck by the tiny books, covered in minute, barely legible, writing, which the sisters filled with stories about their fictional worlds. The Brontes wrote more words as children than in all their published adult works. I was amazed to discover that one of Charlotte’s miniature books is more than 60,000 words long. There was added interest in the museum; a display of costumes used in the recent B.B.C. play, “ To Walk Invisible” and a collection of poetry , written by Simon Armitage, commemorating the bicentenary of Branwell’s birth.
The visit gave us much to think about, especially; how many more jewels of literature would we be reading today had the sisters lived and continued writing into old age?
- Carol Archer