Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Auctions at Bonhams

The Sotheby's auction of a Charlotte Brontë manuscript is not the only one going on in the following days:

In Bonhams to be auctioned next November 22

Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs, including the Property of the late Michael Silverman
New Bond Street, 22 Nov 2011 at 10:30

Lot No: 16
Autograph letter signed ("P. Brontë"), to the Haworth stationer John Greenwood, asking him to order Dr Cumming's Sermon before the Queen and the Churchman's Almanack for 1851, one page, lightly browned overall, a little wear, marginal nicks, but nevertheless still in attractive condition overall, oblong 8vo, Haworth, 5 December 1850
Estimate: £600 - 800, € 690 - 920

PATRICK BRONTË FACES THE THREAT OF PAPAL TYRANNY. This letter was written by the Rev Patrick Brontë, while living alone with his surviving child, Charlotte, at Haworth Parsonage, Branwell having died on 24 September 1848, Emily on 19 December 1848, and Anne on 28 May 1849: although by now he had perhaps some inkling of the fame that was to be accorded to all three of his daughters; for Charlotte had managed to wrest control of her sisters' novels from their original publisher Thomas Newby, and Smith Elder were due to publish Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey five days after the date of this letter, on 10 December 1850. Charlotte was to escape the confines of Haworth Parsonage a few days later, going to stay with her friend Harriet Martineau at the Knoll in Ambleside on 16 December – see the adjacent lot.
Patrick Brontë's tastes did not run to fiction however: along with the almanac, he is here ordering A Sermon preached in the Parish Church of Crathie, Balmoral, before Her Majesty the Queen, on Sunday, Sept 22d, 1850 by the fashionable preacher John Cumming, a luminary of the Presbyterian Church of England and keen opponent of both Tractarians and Papists. While greatly admired by the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland (of clearances fame), Cumming found much less favour in intellectual circles: 'Tennyson, whose mother held Cumming's books as her favourite reading, thought him a mountebank, and satirized him in the poem 'Sea Dreams'. Thackeray believed him to be 'a bigot, a blasphemer ... the world would be horrible if he and his could have his way' (Ray, 3.439). But the most remarkable critique of Cumming and his works came from George Eliot, who published a withering article in the Westminster Review of October 1855. In it she condemned the "bigoted narrowness", "unscrupulosity of statement", and "lack of charity" towards his religious opponents which Cumming exhibited in his literary works' (Rosemary Mitchell, ODNB).
This was a period when anti-Catholic feeling ran especially high, following the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on 29 September 1850 and the Pope's appointment of Wiseman as first Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster. Patrick Brontë himself had written 'A Tract for the Times' published in the Leeds Intelligencer on 23 November 1850, where he proclaimed that 'the whole fabric of our establishment is shaken to its very centre, and threatens to fall'; while his daughter Charlotte's 'loathing of Catholicism, which had been deepened by her own susceptibility to it in Brussels, was fanned to a white heat by these events' (Barker, The Brontës, p.662).
John Greenwood, the letter's recipient, was the Haworth stationer who five years later was take it upon himself to inform Charlotte Brontë's famous friends, such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Harriet Martineau, of her death: 'Selling papers as a sideline, he had been encouraged by the patronage of the Brontë family (who must have singlehandedly kept him in business), and Charlotte, in particular, had gone out of her way to help him extend into the bookselling trade by ensuring that her publishers supplied him with the cheap editions of her books to sell. Clearly he knew the family, though no better than many others in the township, but he had literary pretensions himself and therefore highly prized his connections with "Currer Bell"' (Barker, p.774).
This note is not printed in The Letters of the Revd Patrick Brontë, edited by Dudley Green (2005); although Green does print a few similar documents, such as those at pp. 199 and 203.

Lot No: 17

Autograph letter signed by Harriet Martineau, to Mrs [Julia Anne] Barkworth, enclosing Villette by 'Currer Bell': "Here is a treat for you! It is Currer's present to me; & with it, the publisher sends me, – Esmond ! Very kind! I know you will not be long about Villette. The Arnolds are to have it next; & then two other families", one page, 8vo, autograph direction to Mrs. Barkworth to reverse, two corners neatly clipped, a little foxed and creased, tipped to card, "Monday morng" [?1 or 8 February 1853]

Estimate: £600 - 800, € 690 - 920

'CURRER'S PRESENT TO ME': although Harriet Martineau's bent was more for what was to become known as sociology rather than fiction – indeed she has been hailed as the first woman sociologist – she was, in Winifred Gérin's assessment, 'indisputably, the leading woman writer of the day' and her friendship meant a great deal to Charlotte Brontë who after their first meeting in 1849 told a friend: 'when I walked into the room and put my hand in Miss Martineau's, the action of saluting her and the fact of her presence seemed almost visionary'. For her part, Harriet Martineau recognised her visitor's extraordinary gifts, writing for example of Jane Eyre: 'When I read it I was convinced that it was by some friend of my own, who had portions of my childish experience in his or her mind' (Winifred Gérin, Charlotte Brontë, 1969, pp. 408-412).
Villette was to be published on 28 January 1853, and on the 21st Charlotte Brontë wrote to Harriet: 'I know that you will give me your thoughts upon my book as frankly as if you spoke to some near relation whose good you preferred to her gratification'. Harriet Martineau did indeed give her thoughts frankly upon the book, but unfortunately in public, by way of a review in the Daily News of 3 February 1853. While acknowledging the author's stamp of originality, she complained: 'All the female characters, in all their thoughts and lives, are full of one thing, or are regarded by the reader in the light of one thought – love', adding: 'It is not thus in real life. There are substantial, heartfelt interests for women of all ages, and under ordinary circumstances, quite apart from love'. She reiterated this complaint in a letter to Charlotte Brontë, receiving from her the reply: 'I know what love is as I understand it; and if man or woman should be ashamed of feeling such love, then there is nothing right, noble, faithful, truthful, unselfish in this earth, as I comprehend rectitude, nobleness, fidelity, truth, and disinterestedness'; bringing their friendship to an end (for a summary of the whole episode, see Gérin's Additional Note, 'Charlotte Brontë and Harriet Martineau', p.598; and Juliet Barker, The Brontës, 1994, pp. 719-720).
Charlotte Brontë had been a visitor not only to Harriet's house in London, but also to the Knoll, her house at Ambleside, near Matthew Arnold's house at Fox Howe; and it is to the Arnolds that Villette, as per this letter, is to be sent next. The letter itself makes it explicit that it is the advance copy of the book as sent by 'Currer Bell' that is being passed around. Our letter is dated only as having been written on a Monday. Charlotte Brontë had sent her Villete on Thursday 21 January. Allowing a day or so for posting and time for reading and writing the review, it seems that our letter could have been written on Monday, 1 February; if not then, on Monday, 8 February: if written much later, the point of the letter gets lost. Smith Elder, publishers of Villette, had also published Thackeray's History of Henry Esmond (1852); Thackeray, incidentally, had much the same reservations about Villette, but kept them private.
The recipient of the letter can be identified as being Julia Anne, wife of Alfred Barkworth of Tranby Lodge, Ambleside, a next-door neighbour of Harriet Martineau and close to the Arnolds at Fox How. Harriet Martineau herself describes the neighbourhood in A Complete Guide to the English Lakes (1855): 'These falls seen, the tourist need alight from his car no more, for he is only a mile and a-half from Ambleside. He presently passes Pelter Bridge, which spans the Rothay on the right. That is the way to Fox How: and he presently sees Fox How, – the grey house embosomed in trees, – at the foot of Loughrigg... To the left, there are good views of Rydal Park. Approaching Ambleside, the first house to the left is Lesketh How, the residence of Dr. Davy: the white house to the right is Tranby Lodge, the abode of Alfred Barkworth, Esq.: and the house on the rising ground behind the chapel is the Knoll, the residence of Miss. H. Martineau'.
Also in Bonhams:
Books, Maps & Manuscripts and Photographs
Oxford, 29 Nov 2011 at 10:30  

 

Lot No: 521

BRONTË (CHARLOTTE, EMILY and ANNE)
Life and Works of Charlotte Brontë and Her Sisters, 6 vol., wood-engraved plates, contemporary half calf, elaborate gilt panelled spines, 8vo, Smith, Elder, 1883-1878
Estimate: £600 - 800
Lot No: 607

BRONTE (CHARLOTTE, EMILY and ANNE)
[The Works], 7 vol., "Haworth edition", frontispieces, blue crushed half morocco gilt for Asprey & Co., 8vo, Smith, Elder, 1899-1900
Estimate: £400 - 600 

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