Good Reading : June 2007
10 goodreading ı JUNE 2007 In 1820, the Reverend Patrick Brontë moved with his wife and six children – five daughters and a son – from Thornton vicarage in Yorkshire to Haworth parsonage, some ten miles distant, with all their possessions piled onto horse-drawn carts. Haworth is a small village in the wild north Yorkshire moors, its steep main street still looking much as it would have done in the nineteenth century. Haworth parsonage is an elegant stone Georgian building overlooking the graveyard of Haworth parish church. In summer it looks pretty and appealing, but during the long northern English winter it has a bleak, melancholy aspect. Shortly after the Brontës moved in, Maria, the mother, died of cancer and ‘Aunt Branwell’ came to look after Maria (the eldest daughter), Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. Maria, aged 11, and Elizabeth, 10, died of tuberculosis within four months of each other in 1825. The four remaining children were left pretty much to their own devices as they grew up at Haworth; Aunt Branwell was withdrawn and austere, and their father spent his time in his study, even eating alone all his life.The children began to write stories based in imaginary lands, and as they grew older would discuss their work in the evenings in the dining room. All of the famous Brontë novels were written at Haworth. Charlotte Brontë’s first biographer, Mrs Gaskell, visited the parsonage in 1853, when, apart from the servants, Charlotte – the only remaining sibling – lived there alone with her father. Mrs Gaskell wrote: ‘Everything about the place tells of the most dainty order, the most exquisite cleanliness.’When Charlotte became engaged to her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, she converted a store room into a study for him and began to alter the rest of the house to make it more comfortable. Charlotte Brontë died at Haworth in 1855, aged 38; her father Patrick, having outlived his wife and all his children, died there in June 1861. After that the house was much altered and extended by subsequent clergymen, but it has since been restored to its original appearance and now, as the Brontë Parsonage Museum, contains much of the original Brontë family furniture and household items. As a literary shrine, Haworth parsonage is second only to Shakespeare’s home. It is cared for by the Brontë Society, a worldwide literary body that evolved from a small group of enthusiasts who got together in 1893. the tenants of Haworth parsonage writers’ house A view of Church Street, looking towards the Brontë Parsonage Museum, with the church Sunday school on the right. The dining room is where the sisters did much of their writing and where, in the evening, they would walk around the table discussing their work. The former store room that Charlotte converted into a study for her husband-to-be, Arthur Bell Nicholls.