A provoking experience: The Brontë Parsonage Museum

Whether you have a degree in English Literature or you’re just a casual reader, you’re bound to have come across the works of the Brontë sisters. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are among the most famous authors of British Victorian literature. Some of their most beloved works such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights have left an everlasting impression on the literary world; the Gothic genre as it stands today owes a lot to their marvellously crafted fictional novels. But every writer has to start somewhere. Where did it all begin for the Brontë sisters?

Well, for most of their lives they lived in a humble parsonage in Haworth. From the outside, it’s a charming cobblestone village in West Yorkshire, yet upon visiting the parsonage, you experience something otherworldly. Saying that probably makes it seem like I’m way too engrossed in the final chapter of Jane Eyre. However, I’ve visited the Brontë house a few times now, and every time I’m met with this overwhelming urge – to write. 

when I’m in the parsonage, it’s like I’m sharing that passion

I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly spiritual person. Visits to National Trust Houses and other museums have always been on the agenda for Bank Holiday Mondays or during the summer breaks. But no matter where we’d go there would always be something that would draw us back to the quaint town of Haworth. Waltzing through the Parsonage’s large parlour (made by the Brontë’s), Mr. Brontë’s study, the kitchen, store-room, servants’ quarters and bedrooms almost feels like you’re being spiritually transported to the early 19th century. Like a ghost from the future peeking, almost intruding, at these sisters’ beginnings as writers. Their adorable collection of tiny notebooks, barely measuring bigger than a thumb, leaves us speechless as to how anyone could write so small, in cursive nonetheless! The eerie atmosphere practically seeps through the hanging portrait of the Brontë sisters, with the ghostly figure – thought to be the son of the Brontë family, Branwell – being concealed by a pillar painted over it. 

Wherever you go within the house, it exudes atmospheric bliss and wonder, always as if it’s still being lived in. Maybe that’s the reason why I’ve felt this spiritual connection. And yes, these may sound like the ramblings of a deluded bookworm or obsessive fan, but it’s the only way I can describe it. As an aspiring young writer myself, I spend hours obsessing over draft upon draft of an article, labouring over a specific phrasing after repeatedly pressing that backspace button. Regardless of whether it’s just writing on a screen, to me it feels like a physical exertion at the end. Like you’re running a sprint with so much fire in your belly and only when you’ve finished are you met with that sense of elation. It’s a sense of triumph unlike any other I’ve experienced. 

That passion they’ve created can never truly go away

And, as strange as it sounds, when I’m in the parsonage, it’s like I’m sharing that passion. When you think of how much drafting, checking, start-overs and note-taking must have gone into creating their stories, their drive for writing must have been so divinely all-consuming. Just imagine it. No laptop. No backspace. No delete button. You’re left with a simple pen and paper. Yet that paper became the catalyst for the Brontë’s creative sides to flourish and grow into something everlasting.

That kind of magic, I don’t truly believe goes away.

Their collective lifelong enthusiasm for creating some of the most celebrated stories radiates through the home. All the ink spilt and notebooks sewn are soaked within their walls. That passion they’ve created can never truly go away. And their inspiration is being spread to so many other budding writers out there. 

Many people might tell me that it’s hearing how devoted they were to their writing that has given me a sudden burst of insight. That, in reality, there is no spiritual aura there. However, if any of you find yourself walking along the cobbled streets of Haworth, have a little look for yourself in the former Brontë residence. See if you receive the ‘mysterious summons’ as you could call it.

By Katie Heyes

Image: by Man Alive! via Creative Commons

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