Great news from the Parsonage Museum: just a few months before the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontё’s birth, the Brontё Society has acquired a precious book that belonged to Maria Branwell, mother of the three Brontё sisters. The book, a copy of Robert Southey’s The Remains of Henry Kirke White, is an item of great value and not just because it is one of Mrs Maria Brontё’s rare surviving possessions, but also because it offers new surprising opportunities for research.
On the website of the Parsonage Museum Anne Dinsdale, Collections Manager, defines the book “one of the most significant Brontё items to come to light in many years”; inside the book, in fact, we can still see Latin inscriptions by Patrick Brontё, annotations and sketches by various members of the family, a letter written by Arthur Bell Nicholls – Charlotte’s husband, and above all two unpublished manuscripts by Charlotte Brontё. They are a poem and a fragment of prose that, according to the New York Times, tell about Angria, the fictional world conceived by Charlotte and Branwell; in particular, the prose seems to tell about the meeting between some Angria characters and people from real cities in England, while the poem is centered on Mary, another character from Charlotte’s fictional world. Reportedly, both the texts are approximately 70 lines long, and they were written by Charlotte at the age of 17.
There’s a romantic story behind this Brontё treasure that makes it even more extraordinary: as Patrick Brontё itself testifies in one of the Latin inscriptions he wrote inside in fact, the book of his “dearest wife” survived a shipwreck on the Devonshire coasts in 1812, just before their marriage, and the marks left by seawater are still visible on its pages.
The volume was later sold during a sale held after Patrick’s death at the Parsonage in 1861, became the possession of an American family in 1916, and will finally be back home just before the bicentenary celebrations, after hundred years.