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The Brontë Story by Margaret Lane

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

1953, William Heinemann Ltd

I was entirely fascinated with this biography of the Brontë family focused mainly on Charlotte. Margaret Lane calls her biography "a sort of footnote to Mrs. Gaskell," referring to that writer's Life of Charlotte Brontë written in 1857. There are a vast number of other volumes written on the Brontë's, including a very thick recently published one Sue tells me has been collecting a bit of dust on her shelf, but I have only read Margaret Lane's, having found it in a pile of books (along with C. Brontë's Shirley and The Professor) at Jo's house. I heartily recommend this version which incorporates quotes from the Gaskell biography (Gaskell knew the Brontë's personally), but adds information she had not been aware of or had left out on purpose.

Cuddle up with a warm blanket in your bed or armchair, (or seat on a train?*) and enter the Brontë's dark, cold, motherless parsonage from which sprung the likes of Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne). Feel the astonishment at the breadth of imagination and emotions of the women of this isolated, strange and tragic family. Weep at the brevity of their lives.

After that rather emotional injunction to read this book, my friends, I hope you will not be disappointed to find forthwith the few quotes I managed to mark while reading, none of which illustrate the above!

Too blunt?

Regarding a friend of Charlotte's:

Mary is my study for the contempt, the remorse, the misconstruction which follow the development of feelings in themselves noble, warm, generous, devoted and profound, but which, being too fully revealed, too frankly bestowed, are not estimated at their real value. (91) from Charlotte's letters to Ellen Nussey

If only...

Branwell (the only Brontë son) might well have made a tolerable living if he had really possessed the talent that everyone believed in, or if he had been capable of sustained effort, or if he had not been unstable, precocious, attractive and twenty-one. (130)

On the teaching profession

Regarding the Brontë girls as governesses:

...they had not the happy knack of imparting information, which seems to be a separate gift from the faculty of acquiring it. (134)
The Brontë Sisters, Yorkshire

Une grande passion

I hope you will not have the romantic folly to wait for the awakening of what the French call "une grande passion". My good girl, "une grande passion" is "une grande folie"...No young lady should fall in love till the offer has been made, accepted--the marriage ceremony performed and the first half-year of wedded life passed away. A woman may then begin to love, but with great precaution--very coolly, very moderately, very rationally. If she ever loves so much that a harsh word or a cold look from her husband cuts her to the heart--she is a fool.

- Charlotte (age 24) in a letter to Ellen Nussey

On the Spectrum?

Emily Brontë's death and character (a theory she had Asperger's Syndrome (ASD)).


*seat on a train: when I wrote the draft of this post last week, I was planning a trip by train to the UK to visit Sue. Alas, due to Covid, we had to cancel. The armchair will have to do for now.

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