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- Charlotte's 'little book' goes to Paris

Story that prefigures 'Jane Eyre' achieves record auction price
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It is 'unquestionably the most significant Brontë manuscript to come to light in decades,' according to Museum Director Andrew McCarthy, and 'in important part of our broader literary heritage.' But sadly the Parsonage Museum was outbid when Charlotte Brontë's 'Little Book', containing a story that seems to prefigure the plot of Jane Eyre, went on sale on December 15, 2011, at Sotheby's, London, achieving a record price for any Brontë manuscript sold at auction.

The handwritten miniature magazine, in the Brontë children's famous minuscule script, is 19 pages long, and titled Young Men's Magazine Number 2, one of a group of six. Of the remaining five magazines, four are held at the Parsonage Museum; the last has been missing since the early 20th century. One of Charlotte's stories within concerns a murderer who is driven to madness after being haunted by his victim, at which point 'an immense fire' burns in his head, and he imagines it catching his bed curtains, setting fire to his bed, much as the bed of Mr Rochester's mad, incarcerated wife Bertha burns at the end of Jane Eyre.
The successful bidder, at a record price of £690,850, was Le Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, a relatively new Parisian museum set up in 2004 to showcase significant literary manuscripts. Although the Parsonage had mounted a fundraising campaign, and secured a grant for £613,140 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the eventual sale price was beyond anything the Bronte Parsonage Museum could afford.
‘It will not be going home, back to the place where it all began, the Parsonage at Haworth,' commented Brontë Society President Bonnie Greer after the auction. 'Its presence there would have placed it not only at the heart of the proud community in which she was born and raised, but would have brought full circle a Yorkshire story, a Northern story, a British story, a world story. It belongs in Haworth and we are bitterly disappointed that scholars and members of the public may now not have the opportunity to study and enjoy it as part of our public collection.’


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