Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Brontë Book Sells for $1.1 Million

When Charlotte Brontë wrote  'The Young Men's Magazine' in 1830, she was l4 years old. She wrote in tiny script to mimic an actual magazine's typeset, and may have used a magnifying glass to help her see her printed words.  In December, 2011, this tiny 19-page manuscript sold at auction for $1.l Million. 

One of Charlotte's tiny books

Charlotte and her younger brother Branwell made a number of tiny books with stories and articles based on Blackwood's Magazine, a popular magazine that their father Reverend Brontë subscribed to. The two young writers even included a table of contents and advertisements. A story in this 'Number 2' edition (there is a series of six), follows the adventures of a man who witnesses a murder, and contains a hint of what's to come in Jane Eyre when Bertha sets fire to Rochester's bed: the male character 'constantly raged about the spirits of Caroline Krista and Charles Wellesley dancing before him. He said that every now and then they glided through his eyes to his brain where an immense fire was continually burning and that he felt them adding fuel to the flames that caused it to catch the curtains of the bed that would soon be reduced to ashes.'

The director of the Brontë Parsonage Museum said, "The fact that it's unpublished and unknown makes it extraordinary." The discovery of this minute treasure was unexpected, which makes it all the more thrilling. Often, artefacts or letters surface 'out of the blue' to provide more insight into the mind of an artist or musician we thought we already knew, and our lives become richer for it. Here is a tiny precursor to a master work of literature that Charlotte would write 17 years later. The seeds of Jane Eyre had been hidden from view all these years, but now we see how her creativity mined the gems from her past and incorporated them into her adult fiction. What a wonderful new way to experience Charlotte Brontë.

This surprising discovery should encourage a willingness to explore the possibility that more secrets about this remarkable woman have emerged recently as well. Timing is everything. Perhaps the fact that I was able to uncover hidden revelations about this famous family is not unusual at all. As we see from this latest find, buried treasures occasionally do surface. Maybe Charlotte's spirit is amazed at the interest we take in her, and desires her admiring public know all. 

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