Brontë 200 - Branwell 2017

Branwell 2017

Branwell 2017

Branwell was the fourth of the six Brontë children and the only boy. After the death of their mother in 1821 their mother's sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moved into the Parsonage to look after the children, and Branwell was close to his Aunt Branwell. In 1825 the two oldest children Maria and Elizabeth died from tuberculosis. The four surviving children, with only five years separating them, became a close and exclusive band...

Branwell may have attended Haworth Grammar School for a short period when he was young. If he did, it was the only education he received outside his home. He and his sisters received their primary education from Aunt Branwell; visiting masters taught drawing and music, his father tutored him in the classics, and introduced him to wide reading. Branwell was a willing scholar with a precocious intellect. His translations of Horace's Odes were to receive critical acclaim; he played the organ in his father's church, and he aspired to being a professional portrait painter. Physically small with flaming red hair, Branwell was impulsive and quick-witted, and loved showing off in company.

In 1838 Branwell set himself up as a professional portrait painter in a rented studio in Bradford. He made many friends among the artistic community of the Bradford pubs, but failed to make a living. In 1840 he took a position as tutor to a family at Broughton-In-Furness, Westmorland, but was sacked within a year. From October 1841 to April 1842 he worked on the Leeds-Manchester railway, first as a clerk at Sowerby Bridge, then as Clerk-In-Charge at Luddenden, where he missed a discrepancy in the accounts and was sacked. At the beginning of 1843 his sister Anne secured Branwell the position of tutor to the only boy in the Robinson household at Thorp Green near York, where she had been governess to the girls for the previous three years.

In July 1845 Branwell was sacked Thorp Green. Although the details are not known, Branwell seems to have had an affair with his employer's wife, Mrs Robinson. Aged 27 Branwell found himself back home in disgrace after a fourth failed career.

From the age of nine until adulthood Branwell and Charlotte collaborated in the creation of their imaginary world Angria, its topography, politics, wars, and large cast of exotic characters. They made little books from their stories. Branwell sent written work for publication or critical judgement to writers or publications he admired, including Blackwood's Magazine, Wordsworth, De Quincey and Hartley Coleridge. His only published work was a handful of poems in Yorkshire newspapers.

Over the three years after he had been sacked from Thorp Green, Branwell sank into self-pity, became dependent on alcohol and opium, and was probably unaware his sisters had had their first novels published. During the last year of his life his father took him into his own bed to control him and alleviate his nightmares. Branwell became ill, probably from tuberculosis, in summer 1848, and died on September 24.

 

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