Spanish ‘flu

German graves
German graves

At the time of writing the world is in the grip of a pandemic – Covid 19. People are dying all over the globe and the social, political and economic consequences are huge. But it’s worth remembering this has happened before.

Shortly after the end of the First World War the Spanish ‘Flu swept through a generation who were already decimated by conflict. Unlike Covid 19 the Spanish ‘Flu affected young men most seriously.

Among them were 34 German prisoners of war who were due to be repatriated when they caught the infection. They all died, and are now buried in the cemetery at Castle Donington in Leicestershire. They share a separate peace garden area to one side of the site.

The names of the dead
The names of the dead

The Brontë family

Interior view of Brontë Parsonage
Interior view of Brontë Parsonage

The Rev. Patrick Brontë was appointed vicar of St Michael’s and All Angels’ Church in Haworth, West Yorkshire in 1815. He and his family lived in the  Parsonage, which is now a museum to them and their writing.

Sisters, Charlotte (1816–1855), Emily (1818–1848), and Anne (1820–1849) are well known as writers ad poets. Their brother Branwell (1817–1848) was an artist and poet.

In line with the times, the girls originally wrote under assumed names to keep their identities – and their genders – secret. They were known as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.

Haworth was not a luxurious place to live and the cold, draughty Parsonage was not a healthy environment. Its water supply is believed to have been infected by runoff from the adjoining graveyard.

Self portrait by Branwell Brontë
Self portrait by Branwell Brontë

In addition, Branwell drank heavily and was addicted to opiates. He died in 1848 at the age of only 31. Within 10 months Emily and Anne followed him to their graves.

Charlotte married Haworth curate the Rev. Arthur Bell Nichols in 1854 and the two were reportedly happy, but she died from complications of pregnancy less than a year later.

Charlotte’s novels
Jane Eyre, published in 1847
Shirley, published in 1849
Villette, published in 1853
The Professor, written before Jane Eyre, was first submitted together with Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë. Subsequently, The Professor was resubmitted separately, and rejected by many publishing houses. It was published posthumously in 1857.

Emily’s novel
Wuthering Heights published in 1847.

Anne’s novels
Agnes Grey, published in 1847.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall published in 1848.