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Every so often a Brontë object or document so rare and precious comes up for sale that it's hard to believe it could end up anywhere but here at the Parsonage. Late last year a document in faded brown ink fluttered out of a book whose owners had never before suspected its existence. Closer inspection revealed it was addressed to 'M Heger', and, anticipating that it might be something very special, its owners took it to a London agent for identification.
The document turned out to be something very special indeed. The handwriting was that of Charlotte Brontë, and the document revealed as a devoir - French homework Charlotte had been assigned by her teacher Constantin Heger.
The generosity of generations of donors has ensured the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth, once home to the world's most famous literary family, is now the world's biggest collection of Brontëana. The Brontë Society exists to maintain the Parsonage and its very special collection of documents, manuscripts and Brontë possessions. Sometimes, however, we need help to purchase something we feel we cannot afford to let go. Charlotte's devoir is, without doubt, one of those very special items.
Never before published, the essay, titled L'Amour Filial - 'The Love of a Child for Parents' - is full of insights into Charlotte's interior world, and sheds light on a formative time in her life. But we do need your help, so that the Brontë Society can acquire this important document. If you can afford to help us keep it in this country and in Haworth, where it surely belongs, by giving financially, whether a little or a lot, we have a chance of bringing it home to the Parsoange.
Professor Ann Sumner
The Brontë Society
Two professors today made a public appeal to find lost art treasures featuring Yorkshire landscapes which mysteriously disappeared over 150 years ago.
Art historians Professor Ann Sumner, Brontë Parsonage Museum Director, and David Jackson, Professor of Russian and Scandinavian Art Histories at the University of Leeds, launched the appeal today in Haworth at a talk about pioneering romantic landscape painter Thomas Fearnley, who was born in Norway, but whose grandfather emigrated from Heckmondwike in the late eighteenth century.
Obsessed with painting landscapes and nature in authentic detail, Fearnley was one of the first artists ever to regularly paint en plein air (in the open air), and made a trip to explore his roots in Yorkshire and the Lake District in 1837. (...)
It was while writing a book together – In Front of Nature: The European Landscapes of Thomas Fearnley (pictured) – that the two professors realised this priceless hoard of Yorkshire landscape paintings had entirely vanished.
‘It’s likely his beautiful, detailed paintings still hang in someone’s house, or are stored in an attic somewhere,’ says Ann Sumner. ‘Although his Lake District views are well known, his Yorkshire paintings have never been traced, and, as Fearnley historians, David and I are most anxious to do so. It would be wonderful if someone found a Fearnley signature, or recognised his style. If anyone knows anything at all about their whereabouts, please do contact us, and we will investigate further.’
If you believe you own a Thomas Fearnley painting, or know where one may be found, contact Professor Sumner, or write to her at Brontë Parsonage Museum, Church Street, Haworth BD22 8DR, United Kingdom.