FAQs

Your most commonly asked questions answered
Your most commonly asked questions answered

I am working on a project for school. How can I find out more about the Brontës or their work?

Click here for the website's pages about The Brontë family and their work.

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I would like to use the Museum library. Can anyone do this, and how do I arrange it?

A: Yes, anyone can use the Parsonage Library. To apply, fill in the form here, or write a letter explaining what you would like to use, roughly how long you think you will need to study, together with your email and telephone number to, and send to: Sarah Laycock, The Library, Brontë Parsonage Museum, Church Street, Haworth, BD22 8DR. You will receive a reply as soon as possible to discuss times for your visit.

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My family owns something we believe belonged to the Brontës. How do we find out more?

Start by taking some good, close-up photographs of the item from different angles (or photocopy it, if it's a manuscript), and send the pictures together with an explanation of how the item ended up in your possession, and why you believe it is linked to the Brontës, by email here, or by post to: Ann Dinsdale, Brontë Parsonage Museum, Church Street, Haworth, BD22 8DR. Include your phone number and/or email, and we will reply to you as soon as we can, possibly to arrange a time for you to visit with the item if you are able to do so.

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I live abroad. Is there a Brontë Society branch in my country?

For details of Brontë Societies around the world, click here, and scroll down to 'Other Brontë Societies.' If your country has no society already, perhaps you might consider starting one, in which case you could begin by contacting the membership officer, here.

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Why did the Brontës all die so young?

The 1850 Babbage Report into public hygiene in Haworth showed that villagers reached an average age of just 25.8 years of age. In this context the Brontës' lifespans seem fairly healthy. Somehow they managed to avoid numerous epidemics of dysentery, cholera, typhus and smallpox, possibly because they lived at the top of Main Street rather than the bottom, so that sewage was draining away from them; possibly because they had access to their own water supply via a well in their back yard.

Branwell died at the age of 31, officially from 'marasmus' (chronic bronchitis), although it is now believed he was probably suffering the same tuberculosis as his sisters Anne and Emily: symptoms had been masked by his alcohol problem. Emily died three months after him, aged 30, from tuberculosis. Anne died, aged 29, five months after Emily, also from tuberculosis. Finally, Charlotte died, aged 38, in 1855, from what was recorded on her death certificate as 'phthisis', or tuberculosis. It is now widely believed, however, that her pregnancy may have caused her death, since she seems to have been suffering excessive morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum).

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Are there any Brontë descendants?

There are certainly no legitimate descendants. Branwell, Emily and Anne never married, and, although Charlotte is believed to have been pregnant at the time of her death, her baby died with her. Over the years a handful of people have claimed illegitimate descent from Branwell Brontë, but no line of descent has been proved. There is, however, some evidence that Branwell may have fathered a child. In June 1840 he was dismissed from his post as tutor to the children of Mr Postlethwaite of Broughton House, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria. According to a visitor, who in 1859 caught a glimpse of a letter Branwell had written to his friend John Brown, brother of Haworth sexton William Brown, this was because he had 'left Mr Postlethwaites with a natural child by one of the daughters or servants - which died'. A poem of Branwell's from around this time, 'Letter From a Father on Earth to His Child in Her Grave', would seem to confirm this. It seems likely that the woman in question was a servant of the Postlethwaites, Agnes Riley, whose daughter - Mary - had died before Agnes emigrated to Australia in 1852.

There are many alive today who can prove descent either from the Cornish family the Branwells (Mrs Brontë's family), or from the Irish family the Bruntys, or Pruntys (Mr Brontë's family).

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I own a painting signed 'B Brontë'. Is it likely to be by Branwell?

It's possible, however Branwell was not known to sign his name in that style. There is another, later painter known as 'B Brontë', who painted many landscapes, particularly of the north of England and of Wales. We know little about him, though. If you believe your painting may be by him the Museum would still be very interested to learn more about it. Please email us about it here.

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I believe I own an early edition of a Charlotte Brontë novel. How do I find out more?

If your novel is published by Smith, Elder & Co, and is one of three volumes (or all three), then you have an early edition. Please contact us here for more information, although we are unable to offer valuations. If it has the imprint of any other publisher it is likely to be one of the late nineteenth-century editions, of which there were many.

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What are the origins of the Brontë name?

Patrick Brontë was born in Northern Ireland, where his name appears to have been written as 'Brunty' or 'Prunty' - there is no regularised spelling, since so many people in that area at that time could neither read nor write. At the point when Mr Brontë enrolled as an undergraduate at Cambridge he began to spell his name 'Brontë', with two dots over the 'e' to mark the fact that it was pronounced as a separate syllable. He is thought to have used this spelling, either because it was redolent of the Greek word 'bronte', which means 'thunder', or because he was an admirer of Nelson, who had been dubbed 'Duke of Bronté' three years earlier. Bronté was part of the then Kingdom of Sicily.

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Where is Wuthering Heights?

There is no single place that can be seen as its origin. The geographical location fits with the place known as Top Withins, but the ruined farmhouse there today bears no resemblance to the house in the novel. The description of the house is far more like the real-life Ponden Hall, which lies further down the moor, next to Ponden Reservoir. For an interesting comparison, see here. Some architectural features of the house described in the novel also correspond to what is known of High Sunderland Hall, Halifax, which is now demolished. For a gallery of places associated with the Brontës, click here.

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Why is the birthdate wrong on Anne's gravestone?

Anne's gravestone at St Mary's, Scarborough, gives her age at the time of her death as 28, when in fact she died aged 29. This was one of five errors noted by Charlotte on her sole visit to the grave. The other errors were remedied, but the stonemason died before he was able to correct the fifth, and it stands uncorrected to this day.

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Why does the Museum close for the month of January?

January is the Museum's 'closed period', when essential renovation, conservation, cleaning, redecorating and checking of exhibits takes place. Some items are sent away for special care. New displays are also mounted at this time, and many items returned to storage and swapped with others that might have off display for a while.

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Why does the Parsonage own so many of Charlotte's possessions and so few belonging to the other Brontës?

By the time Charlotte died in 1855 she was a famous author and national figure; keepsakes of her belongings were eagerly sought and carefully kept. The other Brontës, however, all dead by 1849, had not experienced fame in their lifetimes, so that their belongings were less likely to survive as treasured mementoes. In addition Charlotte is thought to have destroyed some items in an effort to preserve the good reputation of her sisters. She is known to have been shocked at the reception for Emily's Wuthering Heights, and wrote, of her sister, "An interpreter ought always to have stood between her and the world." None of Anne and Emily's prose 'Gondal' sagas remains to us, and of Emily's second novel referred to in a letter dated February 15, 1848, from her publisher T. C. Newby, there is no trace. If the second novel - in whatever form - did exist, it is likely that its disappearance - and that of the Gondal sagas - is down to their being destroyed by Charlotte.

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