Branwell Brontë and Ponden Hall

  • Tom Winnifrith


The investigation of the Brontës’ literary ancestry is a dangerous business. It is easy to become obsessed with a resemblance that is trivial or coincidental. Wuthering Heights is one of the most original novels in the English language, but if one added up all the supposed models for this novel, one would have to believe that Emily Brontë had not an original thought in her life. Shakespeare, Hoffman, George Sand, Dickens, Walter Scott, Blackwood’s Magazine, Yorkshire gossip and Irish family history are all supposed to have made their mark, and perhaps some of them had some influence. Influences on Charlotte are perhaps a little easier to track down. We do know a little more about what Charlotte had read (and had not read), and a clear autobiographical line is marked, whereas we know little about Emily’s life and less about her reading. Even with Charlotte the autobiographical and literary influence is a great deal more subtle than most biographers and literary historians have assumed. With Anne and Branwell, less impressive writers than Charlotte and Emily, literary sources are less likely to be filtered and refined. Since Anne was almost always fairly close to Emily and Branwell often fairly close to Charlotte, we can learn something about possible literary influences on the two greatest Brontës from studying the works of their less well known brother and sister.


Romantic Involvement Original Thought Full Title Literary Influence Adolescent Reading 
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  1. 3.
    M. Monahan, ‘Charlotte Brontë’s The Poetaster: Text and Notes’, Studies in Romanticism, vol. xx (winter 1981) pp. 475–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Tom Winnifrith 1983

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  • Tom Winnifrith

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