Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006 1:57 pm by M. in , ,    No comments
Very exciting news in The Times today:

The father of the Brontë sisters has long been pilloried as a Victorian bully, after a damning description by the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.

Now his image has been transformed by a previously unpublished letter that has come to light among historic papers in the library of Lambeth Palace.

Ten days after the death of his daughter, Charlotte — the sixth of his children to die before him, primarily from tuberculosis — the Rev Patrick Brontë gave a deeply moving account of the tragedies that struck his gifted family.

The 78-year-old parson wrote: “I have lived long enough to bury a beloved wife and six children — all that I had, I greatly enjoyed their conversation and company, and many of them were well fitted for being companions to the wisest and best. Now they are all gone — their image and memory remain, and meet me at every turn — but they themselves have left me.”

The four-page letter was found among papers relating to Charles Thomas Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1862 to 1868, which were donated to Lambeth Palace two years ago by Longley’s descendants.

Brian Wilks, the Brontë scholar, said: “It’s the missing piece of the jigsaw. The letter will delight and startle Brontë enthusiasts. The letter shows dignity, courage and suffering.”

The letter was sent to Longley in 1855, while he was Bishop of Ripon. Thanking him for his words of comfort, Brontë admitted that his grief was challenging his faith: “The Lord gave and the Lord took early away . . . But I have often found, and find in this last sad trial that it is often frequently extremely difficult to walk entirely by faith, and sincerely to pray ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven’.”

The tone and quality of the letter contradicts the comments made by Mrs Gaskell —
Charlotte’s first biographer — during Patrick Brontë’s lifetime. In Blackwood’s Magazine, which he is known to have read, she described him as “a cassocked savage who ought to have been taken out into the garden and shot”.

The new material will be published in the Brontë Society Journal next autumn. (Dalya Alberge)

We are certainly delighted as Brian Wilks says and would love to read the whole letter. However, there was no need for this letter to surface to prove what a great father Patrick Brontë was. There are plenty of letters already which point in that direction.

Far be it from us to endorse what Mrs Gaskell did. However, it is our opinion that she shouldn't be maligned in turn. What she did she did to 'save' Charlotte's reputation in the strict Victorian times.

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