Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pop History Moment: Death Stalks Haworth Parsonage


When I first read about the Brontë brood - Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, Anne - I remember thinking how cool it must have been to grow up in a house full of writers... Then I met other writers. The real irony is that the parsonage in such a devout parish could be so thoroughly infested with these demons, with all their demons...

Death visited Haworth Parsonage often, and came for Emily on this day in 1848. Always frail - which the weather in Yorkshire did precisely nothing to ameliorate - she caught a chill while attending the funeral of her brother Branwell in September and three months later she was dead herself, of tuberculosis.

Emily Brontë wrote only one novel; that it should be Wuthering Heights more than excuses the paucity of her oeuvre. Reading it practically killed me, so I'm compelled to admire the fortitude of anyone who could write it - especially in longhand, several times over, by lantern light in a draughty house.

The following year Anne Brontë died, after which there was a six-year gap before the loss of Charlotte; of the six children sired by Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell following their marriage in December 1812, all of them (and his wife besides) died before the parson did, in June 1861.
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