Sunday, February 02, 2020

Sunday, February 02, 2020 3:22 am by M. in , ,    No comments
Recently auctioned at Sotheby's and now on exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum:
BRONTË FAMILY | Collar, said to have belonged to Charlotte Brontë, with two letters by Arthur Bell Nicholls

Embroidered whitework collar
muslin, tapered with a saw-tooth border, cotton thread floral design incorporating twelve fronds of a flowering plant, each frond with three sets of three conical flowers, 425 x 370mm, SAID TO HAVE BELONGED TO CHARLOTTE BRONTË AND HAVE BEEN EMBROIDERED FOR HER BY HER SISTER ANNE, spotting
[with:] Two autograph letters signed by Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls, to Martha Hopksinson, the second enclosing an autograph testimonial signed ("...I have known Martha Hopkinson for many years first as a scholar and afterwards as a pupil Teacher in Haworth National School, in which she served an apprenticeship of five years..."), altogether 7 pages, 8vo, Banagher, Ireland, 3 November 1861 to 14 February 1862, with two autograph envelopes

AN EVOCATIVE RELIC WITH COMPELLING PROVENANCE. Martha Carr, née Hopkinson (1842-1905), was a student at Haworth National School when it was run by Charlotte Brontë's husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls. It is well documented that Charlotte helped her husband at the school during their brief marriage, during which time (1854-55) Martha will have been a favourite student. As the letters accompanying the collar attest, she continued at the school as a student teacher, and was presumably still there when Nicholls sold the contents of the parsonage and returned to Ireland, making her ideally placed to have been given a Brontë keepsake. Her family also bought furniture at the Parsonage house sale of October 1861.

In 1893, as part of discussions about the opening of a Brontë museum, Martha wrote to the Dewsbury Reporter with her recollections of the Brontës and the relics that remained with her family:

"...I was only about twelve years old when Miss Brontë died. I know very much more about her husband. I remember her being married, and I also remember her coming into school every Friday to examine the needlework [...] we have the flock bed on which she used to sleep [and on which the gifted writer died]. We have also a small dressing table that used to be in a bedroom. I have also a collar, worked on by one of the sisters..." (16 December 1893)

The collar was mentioned again by Whiteley Turner in A Spring-Time Saunter: Round and About Brontë Land (1913), at which time it was also illustrated. It was shown to Turner by Martha's sister, Ann Tempest, who told him that: "We value it, not particularly beacuse it was Charlotte's, but in remembrance and for the sake of those since passed away, who prized it very, very dearly; the embroidery is the work of Charlotte's youngest sister, Anne." (p.228) Charlotte's bed, which was still with the family in 1913, has since been lost to woodworm.


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