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The Brontes

How fitting that my final post of 2015 shall be my fifteenth. I had hoped to get something out for Emily Brontë’s deathday earlier this month (Nick Holland did a lovely post on his own blog here). However, these past two months have been hectic and busy and only now – New Year’s Eve no less, have I found the time to sit and write. The draft I wrote for this post was about Emily’s appearance, however it is a very complex affair and cannot be done without reference to Anne’s appearance – so, I am afraid, fellow Brontë lovers, you shall have to wait just a little longer for it.

I will try and keep this short. Earlier this month the Telegraph posted an interesting article regarding the ‘pillar’ group portrait of the three Brontë Sisters. It’s not a brilliant article (indeed the timeline states Emily died twice) but it is important to note a few of the main points as follows:

  • The NPG is set to ‘reveal mysteries’ of ‘shadowy’ Branwell.
  • Branwell painted over himself in the ‘pillar’ group painting.
  • ‘Fading paint’ and ‘the steady march of time’ have led to the figure behind the pillar to appear.
  • The pillar is ‘now thought’ to have been painted as the composition was too cramped, rather than other ideas.NPG 1725; The BrontÎ Sisters (Anne BrontÎ; Emily BrontÎ; Charlotte BrontÎ) by Patrick Branwell BrontÎ

Christopher Heywood put forward an argument in 2009 (Brontë Studies 34.1, March 2009, pp. 1–19) that the pillar was painted over by Charlotte. Not only was a pillar something of a trademark of Charlotte’s drawings and ‘creative vision’ (see The Art of the Brontës pp. 163, 179-80, 243-4, 251), Heywood also details that the paint of the pillar has suffered ‘tabaccoing’; i.e. a fading, caused by mixing paints improperly with gone off linseed oil – indicative of the pillar having been painted some time after Branwell had stopped using oils, possibly before Gaskell’s visit where she was shown the painting. Indeed, the question remains, why did Charlotte not show her the other picture, of all four of the siblings? Heywood cites Charlotte’s contempt for Branwell, and I am inclined (not without hesitation mind) to this view also.

I am presuming that the NPG is aware of this view as I cited it in an essay draft that I sent them in August. I am also presuming that they have read the detailed account of the portraits by the brilliant Susan R. Foister (Brontë Society Transactions 18.5, January 1985, pp. 348–9) and come to a conclusion I am very sympathetic with: that the ‘pillar’ group was the first portrait of the sisters, and ultimately abandoned, unfinished, because of the cramped composition.

This is not, then, a new idea. It is equally talked about in Heywood, Alexander and Sellars’s the Art of the Brontës (see p. 75) and Juliet Barker’s group-biography The Brontës (p. 215). There is no mystery regarding Branwell, then; he was just an amateur painter and he gave up on a painting that wasn’t working, like any of the best artists. And it is a poor painting: there is no definition of hands, no definition of fabric, nor background or objects (as there is in the original of the other painting). The only things that really work are the faces, and, even considering that, it appears from what we know about the ‘gun’ group is that the faces were much better the second time around (though still poor likenesses in the opinions of Charlotte and her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls, hence the hiding of both portraits and the destruction of one).

I might add that the figure beneath the column has always been visible to a degree; the very first newspaper article regarding the portrait (The Sphere 1914), which I have framed (see pic) shows the column with some visibility between the sisters, and even in the shadowy black and white some discernment can be made: the light of the column follows the light of the painted out hair, if one compares the two images. photo (13)

Further to this, and here mark my words, there will be little to no new information regarding the painted over figure – the x-ray, completed in the 50s when Jean and Inge Nixon first enquired about it (see Nixon, BST 13.3, January 1958, 230–38) – is quite sufficient to know what is beneath the pillar: a shape of a person with a single left eye, with some colour distinction re: the hair and the pale collar, but no true features. Anyone can see this through booking an appointment with the NPG Heinz Archive (and for those interested, I suggest you do – this topic is a fascinating one). There could be some contention as to whether the figure really is Branwell, or whether it is actually their father, Revd Patrick Brontë, but I should leave that debate for another day.

What of course one may wish to see is a recreation of the other portrait – the ‘gun’ group, which I have kindly reproduced for you below. Now that is a fascinating tale – one upcoming for Brontë Studies, by myself and no other (save much help from Robert Haley, Christopher Heywood and Amber Adams at Maney). gun group crop

Saying all of this, of course, I am very much looking forward to seeing the upcoming exhibition. In the new year, as I have said above, we shall examine the appearances of Emily and Anne, and, as I did not mention, a newly found picture, possibly of Branwell Brontë. If authentic, this image will be the first of him face-on, and therefore a very exciting discovery.

Yours, dear reader,

Emily x

Updated 01/01/2016. I had previously incorrectly stated that the pillar was comprised of oil mixed with watercolour, not gone off linseed oil (I wrote my account of Heywood’s article from memory and have now double-checked my facts). Apologies for any confusion. The article is available to read online at Maney to all Brontë Society Members and subscribers to Brontë Studies here.

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

 – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

Pen scribble of the four Brontës by moi in style of Kazuko Nomoto (Pocko) cover image of Vintage Classics Little Women (Alcott).

I love this time of year. I feel this time of year really ‘gets’ me. Like, you fancy going to bed earlier because functioning well only when the sun is down has been a difficulty all summer? Sure – we’ll have you shutting your curtains at 4pm and popping the heating on so you get nice and cozy. You wanna go out into the world but only really like knitwear? Sure, we’ll drop the temp a few degrees. You thrive from the sound of the wind and feel it is the breath of life? Go outside, feel alive. This time of year is made for me. Justin Hayward gets it in the song Forever Autumn. I don’t even mind if it never gets to Christmas – just keep pumpkins and fireworks coming, I’ll live the rest of my days in happiness amid the falling of the leaves and the southern breeze. A steaming mug with a friend outside but wrapped up is Heaven way more than a few gifts beneath a tree and a gigantic overindulgent meal.

Anyway – I digress. Today I’d like to talk about the face of Charlotte Brontë, as a few weeks ago the Brontë Society shared a newly found image of her. Now, during my study of the Brontë Portraits I have been collecting images – whether approved by the society or not – that are said to depict Charlotte Brontë (and of course her sisters, Emily and Anne).

When we’re talking about the appearance of an historic individual, we can make a Johari window of a sort regarding what we can know about the subject. The enquiry requires two kinds of analysis: visual, whereby we draw conclusions from those existing likenesses (and of course here we can also scrutinize their validity); and descriptive, whereby we can examine existing descriptions and conclude certain knowledge that way. Within these two kinds of analyses, there are going to be things that are known and demonstrated in both, and equally not known or demonstrated in either – or indeed demonstrated in one, but not the other.

Charlotte Brontë Known features (visual) Unknown features (not visually apparent in likenesses)
Known features (described) A. e.g. Hair colour: Chestnut/ light brown – described as such and visible in portraits. B. e.g. Height: at a diminutive 4’9, Charlotte’s height has been described but is not obvious in images.
Unknown features (not described) C. e.g. Hairstyle: drawn up into a top knot with two ringlets framing the face in Branwell’s two paintings, though this is never specifically described. D. e.g. Nude appearance: never visually replicated, never described.

So there are a number of conclusions we can draw regarding likenesses of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. In terms of the window, what is most important is what is in box A.: things we can see in visual representations, and things we know from written descriptions. But we can also take on board, to a degree, those things that are only accessible via likenesses or via descriptions independently of each other. Of those things that we have no knowledge of regarding the girls’ appearances, we can only speculate – but speculation can be undertaken to a degree of rationality. Once we have considered all of these things, our conclusions must be drawn carefully.

Friend of Branwell, Francis Henry Grundy, described the four Brontës as: ‘distant and distrait, large of nose, small of figure, red of hair, prominent of spectacles’. Carolyn Marie Morgan rejects this: ‘none of those more intimately connected with the Brontës concur … only Charlotte and Branwell wore spectacles and Branwell alone had red hair.’ However we might be able to draw something from Grundy’s words: the girls were Irish and Branwell had vividly orange hair, so perhaps when Grundy refers to them as ‘red haired’ he means that they had a red sheen to their hair that accompanied their fair skin, a trait common to those of Celtic heritage (though nb. the hair of Charlotte, Emily and Anne are all extant in various forms at the Parsonage).

The ‘gun’ group by Branwell (Charlotte detail), c. 1835 (tracing c. 1860).

The question, then, is: what can we know about Charlotte Brontë’s appearance, and can we then use what we know to ascertain that future potential finds (for example, art) are authentic/inauthentic?

We know that Charlotte was tiny. Halifax author John Stores Smith gives a vivid account of meeting her where he describes her piercing, ‘mesmerizing’ gaze, and her hand, which was one of the smallest he had ever grasped. Harriet Martineau compared her to little people seen at the Circus, and Jane Forster likened her to a wee bird. Many considered her deeply unattractive, with altogether too much chin about her face and in possession of a high, narrow forehead (though Arthur Bell Nicholls contested this, stating her forehead was wide, so much so that she arranged her hair so as to narrow it).

In terms of likenesses, we can only really examine Branwell’s two portraits (of which one no longer exists in full however there is a tracing taken from the original), and the famous portrait of her by George Richmond, the society painter, which has been so widely replicated that it is probably the best-known image of her in existence.

However, of these images, there is little similarity. Branwell was a novice painter, and while Richmond was an expert, he threw out his portraits with stunning rapidity and according to many account idealized his sitters, so much so in the case of Charlotte that where many considered her plain, Richmond made a veritable beauty of her – one that allegedly was much more similar to one of her sisters (though we aren’t sure which). Charlotte herself had a real love of author portraits, and it is understandable that she was responsible for the hiding and near-destruction of Branwell’s two portraits. This shows that she was fiercely protective over her image – and indeed only the Richmond portrait was known to the public, until Branwell’s portraits were found some 53 years after they were hidden away in Ireland with Charlotte’s widower Arthur Bell Nicholls.

The first Landseer pic (Charlotte detail), c. 1834.

The second Landseer pic (Charlotte detail), c. 1845.

But the question remains as to whether there were other portraits. It is likely that Edwin Landseer made two portraits of the three sisters, however these require slightly more research. To my mind they may well be authentic.

Another portrait that is well known is the John Hunter Thompson image, which according to Ellis Chadwick was begun by Branwell and finished by Thompson, his friend, after Charlotte’s death. Ellen Nussey said that this portrait looked just like Charlotte on her wedding morning. Christopher Heywood considered earlier this year in Brontë Studies that the same thing happened with a portrait of Emily in a large straw hat. If this is the case, I wonder if there is perhaps a Thompson portrait of Anne, hitherto unknown and waiting to be found.

As well as these portraits are two apparent self-caricatures, one which received some press coverage the other week, and another which Charlotte included in a letter to Ellen Nussey. One image that I think requires a second glance is a third caricature, by Branwell, included in one of his workbooks from his time working on the Railways. When I found it, whilst leafing through the Art of the Brontës at 3am, I hastened to e-mail Robert Haley at the True Likeness website, as the similarity to the alleged photograph is striking.

Self-caricature by Charlotte in a letter to Ellen Nussey (detail), 1843.

Caricature by Branwell c. 1840s.

According to Alexander and Sellars, this is a lawyer or clergyman facing a goose. I think it is Charlotte – the goose perhaps an inkblot turned symbolic of her nagging him; her face distorted and aged in a cruel depiction – but note the piercing eyes, strand of curling hair, hair covering ears, and neckerchief.

Ambrotype copy of a daguerreotype (detail of face) c. 1847.

Following this, we are brought of course lastly to the photograph of Charlotte, which appears to possess many of the features she is described as having: a piercing gaze, hair that always covered her ears and was parted ever so slightly to the left and covered her broad forehead, a nose that was a curious mix between retroussé and aquiline, a lop-sided mouth, a poor complexion (you can see some scarring/pimples) and that broad, cat-like face with altogether too much chin. The neck scarf implies Brussels, where wearing a neck-scarf was a social norm (indeed having a bare neck was the height of scant cladding), and she and the Emily figure share thick travelling cloaks. Even the small kink of hair curling at the front matches the caricature by Branwell – if one looks closely at the drawing the hair comes down over the forehead in a distinctive curl (though Alexander and Sellars consider it a judge’s wig).

So, I wonder as to what more we can find by way of understanding the appearances of the three Brontë sisters (and I shall, as time progresses, examine the other 2 girls). To my mind, the trope that they had very simple and uneventful lives is a nonsense, dooming them to a concealment within the vaults of history: they had as rich and complex a lives as anyone does, and at a time of much change with regard to art, photography and fashion, I do think there is much more to be discovered. I wonder what the future holds. I have been researching now for two years. Next autumn, when I feel the cold wind blow and draw my scarf about my neck, I wonder what I shall know then that I have no conception of now.

E x

Ps – see below for some images that are not Charlotte…

NOT Charlotte: this watercolour originated in Belgium and was sold to the NPG, signed by Paul Heger in 1850, however the title ‘Portrait of Miss Mary Vickers’ was found on the back after further research and it was revealed to be a fake. Saying that, I like this portrait and feel Charlotte would have also.

NOT Charlotte: this photo (on the left) gained much publicity in the 90s after its discovery in a box labelled ‘taken within a year of CB’s death’, implying it was Charlotte. However, it appears clearly to depict Ellen Nussey (see comparison on the right).

Happy black cat day! I want to get away (indeed as far as possible) from trans issues (for the moment) and Germaine Greer (Jesus, did you see her rant to Victoria Derbyshire?? I’ll warn you, it is awful) and thankfully, I think (/hope) we are all over that now. I still would love her to read my open letter to her, but it appears heels are being dug further and further into the ground for obstinacy, and we can no longer help her (and here’s a fascinating article by the Telegraph detailing why. Also see this by the Guardian). I got into a few debates on Facebook about how she should be allowed to speak, and in some ways she should… but proponents of this view are sort of distracting from the issue at hand: she has in many ways lost her credibility due to her immovability, and academics should be ever-flexible in their approaches to topics, especially their own subjects.

Anyway, I digress; today I’d like to speak briefly about some of my favourite of all animals; cats. I have owned my fair share. And the Brontës were seldom without a cat, or indeed cats. Tiger, who featured in a watercolour by Emily, appears to have been a ginger tortoiseshell with a bandy tail, purchased and lost between 1843 and 1845. ‘Little black’ Tom, the other Brontë cat we know of, appears to have been a black tabby, though not much is known about him save Ellen Nussey’s description of him: ‘it received such gentle treatment it seemed to have lost cat’s nature, and subsided into luxurious amiability and contentment.’ It sounds like Tom had the life! Despite the luxury, I thought cats would be a fitting subject for the few days approaching Halloween, though there is regrettably not much to say.

So instead, I shall leave you with Emily Brontë’s essay The Cat, written in Brussels in 1842.

I can say with sincerity that I like cats; also I can give very good reasons why those who despise them are wrong. A cat is an animal who has more human feelings than almost any other being. We cannot sustain a comparison with the dog, it is infinitely too good; but the cat, although it differs in some physical points, is extremely like us in disposition. There may be people, in truth, who would say that this resemblance extends only to the most wicked men; that it is limited to their excessive hypocrisy, cruelty, and ingratitude; detestable vices in our race and equally odious in that of cats. Without disputing the limits that those individuals set on our affinity, I answer that if hypocrisy, cruelty, and ingratitude are exclusively the domain of the wicked, that class comprises everyone. Our education develops on of those qualities in great perfection; the others flourish without nurture, and far from condemning them, we regard all three with great complacency. A cat, in its own interest, sometimes hides its misanthropy under the guise of amiable gentleness; instead of tearing what it desires from its master’s hand, it approaches with a caressing air, rubs its pretty little head against him, and advances a paw whose touch is as soft as down. When it has gained its end, it resumes its character of Timon: and that artfulness in it is called hypocrisy. In ourselves, we give it another name, politeness, and he who did not use it to hide his real feelings would soon be driven from society.

‘But,’ says some delicate lady, who has murdered a half-dozen lapdogs through pure affection, ‘the cat is such a cruel beast, he is not content to kill his prey, he torments it before its death; you cannot make that accusation against us.’ More or less, Madame. Your husband, for example, likes hunting very much, but foxes being rare on his land, he would not have the means to pursue this amusement often, if he did not manage his supplies thus: once he has run an animal to its last breath, he snatches it from the jaws of the hounds and saves it to suffer the same infliction two or three more times, ending finally in death. You yourself avoid the bloody spectacle because it wounds your weak nerves. But I have seen you embrace your child in transports, when he came to show you a beautiful butterfly crushed between his cruel fingers; and at that moment, I really wanted to have a cat, with the tail of a half-devoured rat hanging from its mouth, to present as the image, the true copy, of your angel. You could not refuse to kiss him, and if he scratches us both in revenge, so much the better. Little boys are rather liable to acknowledge their friends’ caresses in that way, and the resemblance would be more perfect. They know how to value our favours at their true price, because they guess the motives that prompt us to grand them, and if those motives might sometimes be good, undoubtedly they remember always that they owe all the misery and all their evil qualities to the great ancestor of humankind. For assuredly, the cat was not wicked in Paradise.

Emily Brontë, May 15th,1842.

I had intended this post to have many things but I have been busy for a few days and much distracted. My friend Naomi had a baby! Welcome to the world Mathilda Florence Hennessy (b. 30/09/2015) and congratulations to Naomi and Ian on bringing such a beautiful light into the world.

Naomi and I first met in 2004 where we were in the show Cider with Rosie together (see embarrassing old pic below). She played Rosie Waterbury (and a few other characters) and I played the young Laurie Lee. Since then, we have acted many times opposite each other, all when I acted as a boy (for want of an easier description). We were often cast as lovebirds: in the 2013 production of The Merchant of Venice where I was Gratiano and she Nerissa, and more notably in the 2014 production of Brontë where she played Charlotte Brontë and I took the roles of Constantin Héger and Arthur Bell Nicholls.

Rosie Waterbury and Laurie Lee – Cider with Rosie, 2005

Shylock, Gratiano, Nerissa, Salarina and Solania – The Merchant of Venice, 2013

It was this show, Brontë (written by Polly Teale), that first sparked my interest in the Brontë sisters and, looking back, I find it astounding I lived a life without them in it for so long. My interest was continually reinforced by a number of peculiar occurrences that happened about that time. Everything suddenly made sense to me in a Brontë-ish context.

Constantin Héger and Charlotte Brontë – Brontë, 2014

In 2013, I visited Brussels, and then one of my aunts sadly passed away before Christmas (think Aunt Branwell), and then during the Christmas period I suffered a M Héger-like situation. As well as all of this, Lana Del Rey had just released Tropico – which was, for the introductory montage and Body Electric at least, a homage to getting in contact with your spiritual ancestors. This spoke to me: Del Rey was meeting Elvis, Adam and Eve, John Wayne, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Marilyn Monroe. Due to the research involved with being cast in Brontë, a fervent study of the Brontë sisters began: my own spiritual ancestors, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, were being found.

I was also finding my feet academically. I had finished my MA and wanted to write something on Hans Christian Andersen and The Snow Queen, and I wanted to philosophically examine the treatment of cetaceans by the Faroe Islands, and I wanted to save the world from homophobia and racism (and these are all things that I want yet to do), but the Brontës suddenly got in the way of that.

The night of 18th February 2014, I had a dream in which I was in my old house (which is my consistent dream location) and there was a tiny figure running about outside – a shadow viewed through the windows. Oddly, my old house is not unlike the Brontë Parsonage; a remote location, sparsely furnished, near to a village but otherwise with access to remote wilderness. I was definitely a child that grew up in the middle of nowhere. In the dream, a creature, this sprite, was zooming around the house, and I felt afraid, the same spooky feeling one gets when considering ghosts (not something I make a habit of). And then, at the last minute, a face appeared at the kitchen window, and in fear I jolted awake, the face imprinted on the backs of my eyes like nothing I had ever seen. Human, but with these striking, staring eyes, glaring through the glass at me.

It’s important to know that at the time I was commissioned to complete some drawings for the Courtauld Institute’s dress history department, so my mind was in a very creative place, soaking in everything, and my dreams are always very vivid anyway. A few days later, on 23rd February, I had another dream. It was just after 5 o’clock in the morning, and this tiny woman was sat at the foot of the bed. I recognized the face as that I had dreamt about before. She expressed some guilt and remorse, and was much less intimidating, and we spoke a while before I woke up. It was later that day that I first came upon the Brontë photograph after trying to find as many pictures of the Brontës as I could and ultimately googling ‘Brontë photograph’, wondering if ever a photograph had been taken – and I recognized Charlotte’s face as that which had come to me in the two dreams.

‘Charlotte’ in the Brontë photograph

At this time, of course, we were preparing for the production of Brontë. Each day before we went live the cast got together on the stage and had the tech guys plays Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, which we all sang along to as a warm-up. There were seven of us, and 104 lighting cues, and we received many kind words and compliments from friends, relatives and members of the public who came to watch. Looking back, I think that the casting was slightly wrong, and certain parts of the show I would change, but at the time I do not think it could have been better.

Then I began to read the biography by Juliet Barker (which was kindly given to me by the director of the show), and the poems of Emily, and I started to get more and more familiar with the Brontë story – a familiarity that has grown to a deep and certain expertise, not to mention one that I have paralleled endlessly against my own life experiences.

The photograph I took of the portrait when first I saw it in real life.

On the 5th March, I went in to London and wandered down to the National Portrait Gallery so as to examine the Brontë portraits for the first time – and as I arrived, a woman walked into the room and met me and said, ‘Are you here for the talk?’ Puzzled I asked her which talk, and she said, ‘Well – the talk on the Brontë portraits’ ! I learned more and more – and felt some sympathy with Charlotte and Arthur Bell Nicholls, who concealed the two Brontë portraits: Charlotte clearly did not want them found, least of all hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. More strange phenomena happened, spurring creative visions. That April, I saw a lapwing on the moors. The following April, it was a merlin. A year and a half later, I began this blog. Hopefully there’s much more to come ..! x

Today, 29th September, is the birthday of Elizabeth Gaskell. Dear, dear Mrs Gaskell.

One can only imagine how you felt to hear your beloved Charlotte – who truly was a very good friend – had passed away, and how your feelings were to be pushed entirely into a project insisted upon by Patrick Brontë.

In 1857, barely two years after Charlotte’s death, Gaskell had completed and published (through Charlotte’s old publishers, Smith, Elder & Co.) The Life of Charlotte Brontë. It is important to note that Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte’s husband and widower, was not altogether too happy about the work being published (as he was exceptionally private; cf. letters to Ellen Nussey from Charlotte demanding discretion), however, he would not argue with Mr Brontë about this. He advised Mrs Gaskell to seek out Ellen Nussey, as Ellen was the foremost expert on everything Brontë-related.

The biography did not come without its scandals – Gaskell not only had something of a habit of writing quite theatrically and over-dramatizing events and characters, with a frank and forthright approach, but she was also dealing with scandalous content: the conditions of Cowan Bridge School and Branwell’s affair with Lydia Robinson leading to responses and, in the case of the Robinson family, a lawsuit.

We know now much more than Gaskell published, for example Charlotte’s unrequited love for her tutor, Constantin Héger, and the romance that she had with her publisher, George Smith – and these are things that are detailed in Juliet Barker’s extensive biography of the whole family, The Brontës [available to buy here, and Gaskell here].

E x

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending with some friends a jumble trail in which locals sold old – and in some instances new – bits and bobs from their front yards. About an hour into our search, what did I find?

I had to buy it. It never ceases to amaze me how far the name of Brontë has come from the remote hills of Haworth..!

Another sweet find were two coasters that resemble two well beloved (well in one case, well feared) characters from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials – Iorek Brynison (the bear) and Marisa Coulter’s sinister dæmon, the Golden Monkey. All from the same stall, spookily. Horley and Grinstead from Pullman’s latest work, The Collectors, come to mind.

Was it by some Divine Providence that I found these items? Since my Brontë-mania began in (between Nov 2013 and Feb 2014) lots of peculiar things have happened, quite by chance, that have suggested I am on the right path – but many coincidences happen daily, I suppose, and as I said above, they have become known far and wide, and their reach and influence extends across the world. Oh, to be a genius!

E x

Just came upon this rather wonderful quote by Lucasta Miller:

Facts, then, can become mythic through the way in which they are packaged and perceived. That there were three – and not four or five – Brontë sisters is, for example, a historical fact. But the motif of the three sisters has a cultural mystique stretching back into fairy tale, which unconsciously – or consciously, as when Ted Hughes calls them the ‘Three weird sisters’ after the witches in Macbeth – contributes to the sense of mystery which surrounds them. The historical accident by which three of Patrick and Maria Brontë’s five daughters lived beyond childhood, grew to develop literary talent, and become famous as a trio melds at some level in the cultural consciousness with the atavistic magic associated with the idea of the three sisters.

The Brontë Myth can be purchased here. Guardian review here.

E x