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.

Walt Whitman

American poet and journalist Walt Whitman learned the printing trade as an apprentice on the Long Island Patriot. (1831-2) Later he became the editor of a weekly newspaper the Long Islander. (1838-9)

In 1841 he moved to New York to work as a compositor on The New World. Also contributed to Aurora, Evening Tattler, Statesman, and various other New York publications. Founded Brooklyn-based Weekly Freeman in 1848. The first edition of Leaves of Grass (poetry collection) was published in 1855. During the American Civil War he was a part-time clerk in the Army.

By 1865 he was working at the Indian Bureau at the Department of the Interior but he was fired for publishing “obscene poetry”. However, he was feted by many writers of the time including Swinburne and Tennyson. He suffered a stroke in 1873 and moved in with his brother George and was ill for several years after.

In 1882 he was visited by Oscar Wilde. The same year his anthology Leaves of Grass was withdrawn after complaints in Boston but sales mushroomed in other parts of the USA as a result.

In 1888 he had another stroke and was severely ill. It was around this time that his Calamus series of poems was declared to have homosexual overtones but Whitman denied the claim. He died in 1892.

From Spontaneous Me

The hairy wild-bee that murmurs and hankers up and down—
that gripes the full-grown lady-flower, curves upon her with amorous firm legs, takes his will of her, and holds himself tremulous and tight till he is satisfied.

 Extract from Song of Myself      

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.