The Early Writings of Charlotte Brontë

The Early Writings of Charlotte Brontë

The Early Writings of Charlotte Brontë

The Early Writings of Charlotte Brontë

Excerpt

Charlotte Brontë wrote in her preface to The Professor: 'A first attempt it certainly was not, as the pen which wrote it had been previously worn a good deal in a practice of some years.' Her novels stand at the end of a long apprenticeship. Through a close study of her juvenile manuscripts, it is possible to follow the course of Charlotte's early work and to relate it to her later development as a writer. In her case, the meaning of the term 'juvenile' must be extended: until the age of twenty-three she wrote stories and poems about the imaginary African kingdom which she and her brothers and sisters had created.

The Brontë juvenilia began as the result of childhood play, woven around a set of twelve wooden toy soldiers given to Charlotte's younger brother Branwell on 5 June 1826. Three years later the children began writing miniature books for the toy soldiers. Gradually the plays took on an exclusively literary nature as the children chronicled the events and stories of their imaginary characters. Little evidence survives of the roles which Emily and Anne played in this early imaginary world; after 1831 they withdrew to form their own legend of Gondal. But for another eight years Charlotte and Branwell continued to write their 'Glass Town Saga', which later came to concentrate on the imaginary kingdom of 'Angria'.

It is important to have a clear idea of the development of the saga, since its immense complexity of detail can be overwhelming. Because stories and poems were not always conceived in chronological order, some manuscripts describe the past of certain characters while others concentrate on the fictional present, and one manuscript, 'A Leaf from an Unopened Volume', looks forward to the destruction of Angria. This book follows the development of the juvenilia as the manuscripts were . . .

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