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Aunt Branwell who brought up the Brontë children after the death of their mother.
Born Penzance, Cornwall, 1776.
Died Haworth, Yorkshire, 29th October 1842.
Family and Religious Background - See Maria Brontë.
Her Move to Haworth
At the end of January 1821, Maria Brontë contracted cancer and became gravely ill. The Brontë's had only arrived in Haworth the previous April, so had no relatives or friends of long standing to call on for help with the six young children. Elizabeth Branwell, an unmarried sister of Maria's, had visited the Brontë s before, for almost a year in 1815-16, helping with the move from Hartshead to Thornton, and staying on to help with the birth of Charlotte. When Elizabeth Branwell answered this second call, she did so on the understanding that it was only on a temporary basis. She arrived at Haworth Parsonage in the summer of 1821, and stayed until her own death, 21 years later.
We do not have a clear description of Aunt Branwell. By the time she came to Haworth she was forty-five years old and presumably a confirmed spinster. Her background in Penzance had been privileged and comfortable. She had been used to polite society and balls, and, despite the break up of her family in 1811, she still had a private income of £50 a year. There were times when Aunt Branwell had wanted to leave the cold and draughts of Haworth and return to Penzance, but she never did. From her twenty one years in Haworth we have no record of her having any social contact with the village, and if her staunch Methodism caused any friction between herself and the Anglican minister that she shared house and family with, it is not recorded.
After the Clergy Daughters' School disaster of 1824, Mr. Brontë kept his four remaining children at home for the next six years, sharing responsibility for their education with Aunt Branwell. Bringing up and educating four exceptionally bright children in a small house demanded that Aunt Branwell run a tight ship. The locals thought her 'a bit of a tyke', and claimed they could set their watches by the regularity of the Parsonage routine.
Aunt Branwell's £50 a year was very much her own private money, so when, in 1841, Charlotte ventured to ask if Aunt Branwell might support Emily, Anne and herself in a venture to open their own school, Charlotte was pleasantly surprised when her aunt offered her £150. This venture never got off the ground, but Aunt Branwell was again forthcoming with funds the following year when Charlotte and Emily went to extend their education at the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels.
Aunt Branwell had always enjoyed robust good health, but on the 25th October 1842, she suffered a constriction of the bowel, and died four days later. Charlotte and Emily were still in Brussels, and returned home too late for the funeral. But Aunt Branwell's two favourites' the 'baby' Anne, and the only boy, Branwell Brontë , were both there, and it is Branwell who has left us the warmest testimonial to his aunt. Writing to his friend Grundy on the day his aunt died, Branwell concludes " I have now lost the guide and director of all the happy days connected with my childhood." Elizabeth Branwell left most of her money to Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. They used some of it to finance their Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell (1846), the beginning of their careers as published writers.
|© Митрофанова Екатерина Борисовна, 2009 ||