Haworth and the Brontes

October 11, 2007 at 2:03 am (Anglophilia, books, To Britain and back, September '07, Travel)

brush_bronte_wideweb__470x3500.jpg I thought that I might be less than thrilled to be visiting the Bronte Parsonage for the second time in two years, but in fact, I got much more out of this particular visit. This was partly due to the presence of Robert Barnard, one of my favorite mystery authors. dscn0381.JPG For Barnard, the family history of the Brontes and their immortal works of literature are a passionate avocation. He has written a biography of Emily Bronte and served as president of the Bronte Society. He delivered a talk on his favorite subject in the cramped basement of the Bronte Parsonage Museum. dscn0384.JPG The talk, which centered on the efforts of the society to secure documents, especially letters, relating to the Brontes, was utterly fascinating. He also informed his rapt audience that it was due to the tireless efforts of the society that a previously unknown photograph of Charlotte Bronte was unearthed.


The Parsonage retains its power to haunt. Legends swirl around the Bronte family; recently, at least one biography – The Bronte Myth by Lucasta Miller – has sought to cut through the occasionally misleading (and often distracting) aura of mystery that surrounds their lives. Yet how could their story be viewed as anything but tragic? In 1821, the year after she had given birth to Anne, her sixth child, Maria Bronte died an agonizing death from cancer. Of the six children she had borne, none made it to age forty.

patrick.jpg Poor Reverend Patrick Bronte – predeceased by not only his wife but all six of his children! It would test anyone’s faith…

church.jpg We went into the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, where Patrick Bronte preached (Only the tower actually dates from his time there), then walked around the village. Haworth is actually quite beautiful. The high street is quite literally high, located at the summit of a rather steep hill. (Detective Charlie Peace describes his arduous ascent of that hill in Barnard’s novel The Corpse at the Haworth Tandoori. (This is, IMHO, one of his best books.) dscn0392.JPG dscn0391.JPGYou can see by these pictures that the lush countryside of the Dales can be clearly seen from the center of town; this view down Haworth’s high street is one of my favorites in Yorkshire – well, one of many, of course. And the “old timey” apothecary shop is a surprise and a delight. dscn0398.JPG dscn0396.JPG dscn0395.JPG

dscn0397.JPG Finally – here’s Yours Truly leaning on this beloved symbol of Old England. As I was preparing for my first Yorkshire sojourn in 2005 – my first trip back to the “old country” in twenty years – several people assured me that those red phone booths were gone. What did they know, eh? There’s a saying, “Trust but verify.” Sometimes I think it should be “Don’t trust – verify, by going and seeing for yourself!”

Robert Barnard accompanied us to lunch; I was lucky enough to be seated near him. His conversation was very frank and open, regarding his fellow crime writers; he knows and has great regard for P.D. James and Peter Robinson. On the subject his personal history, he was similarly forthright, telling us that his childhood was deeply affected by his parents’ unhappy marriage. I appreciated his directness on this and other subjects.

dscn0378.JPG Tour manager Moira Black, study leader Carol Kent, and Robert Barnard


  1. Roberta Recommends: Best of 2007, Part Two « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard an author that always delivers the […]

  2. Last Post, by Robert Barnard « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Barnard is not only a much-honored author of mysteries; he is also an authority on the Bronte family. The talk he present to our group at the Bronte parsonage was […]

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