'Mr Brontë sat beside the fireplace erect in his chair'

The Revd. Patrick Brontë carried out most of his parish business from this room, which he used as his study. In old age he was described as 'sitting in a plain, uncushioned chair, upright as a soldier' before the fire. Elizabeth Gaskell did not know the young, enthusiastic Patrick Brontë, whose wife Maria addressed him as 'My Dear Saucy Pat' during their courtship. Gaskell did not encounter Mr Brontë until a visit to see her new friend Charlotte in 1853. By then he was unwell, in his seventies and had suffered the loss of all but one of his family. Thus Gaskell's sometimes unfavourable presentation of Mr Brontë lacked the dimension of the father whose lively ideas, discussions and encouragement stimulated and informed the minds of his children.


Mr Brontë was a remarkable clergyman, deeply concerned about the welfare of his parishioners, founding a Sunday School and campaigning for improvements in sanitation in Haworth. He was keenly aware of wider religious and political issues, and wrote many letters to the newspapers. Mr Brontë was a Church of England clergyman. He did not support the strict Calvinist doctrine of only the 'elect' reaching Heaven, and, like his daughter Anne in her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, his attitude tended towards the more generous message of forgiveness and hope.

Mr Brontë's eyesight deteriorated with age until he was almost blind. When he was sixty-nine he travelled to a surgeon in Manchester and underwent a cataract operation without anaesthetic which improved his sight, though he continued to wear spectacles and to use a magnifying glass to help him read. It was while Charlotte was nursing her father in their lodgings in Manchester that she began to write Jane Eyre.

It was in this room that Patrick Brontë first discovered that his eldest daughter was a successful author. In a letter of August 1850, Elizabeth Gaskell recounts how when Charlotte, carrying a copy of Jane Eyre and some reviews, marched into her father's study, the following exchange took place:

'"Papa, I've been writing a book." "Have you, my dear?" and he went on reading. "But Papa I want you to look at it." "I can't be troubled to read MS." "But it is printed." "I hope you have not been involving yourself in any such silly expense." "I think I shall gain some money by it. May I read you some reviews?"'

Later that day he announced: '"Children, Charlotte has been writing a book - and I think it is a better one than I expected."' Mr Brontë was always very proud of his children's achievements, attributing their ability in part to his own eccentricity.

Mr Brontë, who had fought his way from a humble background in Ireland to Cambridge University, knew the value of education and fostered his children's interest in art, literature, politics and music. Three popular engravings of biblical scenes by John Martin (1789-1854) hung in this room ('The Deluge', 'Belshazzar's Feast' and 'Joshua Commanding the Sun'). Martin's dramatic, large-scale pictures were an early inspiration for the young Brontës.

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