• K.E. Berringer

Branwell Brontë

The Heathcliff of Haworth

Branwell Brontë was the only brother of authors Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. While he shared many characteristics with his sisters, his life was not filled with the same accomplishments. Over the course of his life, he had difficulties holding a career, possibly fathered an illegitimate child, had at least one affair with a married woman, and was generally scandalous in comparison with his well-respected family.

A self-portrait of Brontë, c. 1840.

Early Life

On the 26 of June 1817, in the small village of Thornton in Yorkshire, England, Patrick Branwell Brontë was born. He was the fourth child and only son of Patrick and Maria Brontë. At the time of his birth, the couple already had three daughters: Maria (born April 23, 1814), Elizabeth (born February 8, 1815) and Charlotte (born April 21, 1816). Two more girls would follow in the next few years; Emily Jane (born July 30, 1818) and Anne (born January 17, 1820).

Though he had been named after his father, it was a name he rarely used. To avoid confusion, he was instead called Branwell. This was his mother's maiden name, which was not an uncommon way to name boys during this time.

Patrick was originally from Ireland and had come from a very poor family. The family name was actually Brunty, but for unclear reasons Patrick had changed his name to Brontë after moving to England. He likely did it to elevate the name, a non-Irish name would have taken him further than an Irish one. Patrick worked in the Anglican church, serving in various positions at different parishes. It was while serving in one of these positions that he met the children's mother. It was apparently love at first sight and they married in late 1812.

Both Patrick and Maria wrote in their free time, and Patrick had even published some of his own poetry. Most of Maria's work, if it existed to begin with, has long been lost. Only a few of her letters and an essay remain.

In early 1821, Patrick was appointed to a perpetual curate and the family moved into a parsonage in a small village in the English moors, Haworth. Soon after their move though, their mother became ill. Her death was slow, it was likely from cancer somewhere in her abdomen. Less than a year after they had moved, the elder Maria died in 1821. She was buried in the family vault.

The loss was devastating to the family, especially to Patrick. He struggled not only to provide financially but also in raising the children. Oldest daughter Maria, who was only around seven at this time, became a motherly figure for the children. To Branwell, especially. As their father struggled through a depression, she was there for them. Patrick wanted nothing more than to give his children a better life than the one he had had. He felt it best that the children's aunt, Elizabeth Branwell, come to stay with the family in order to alleviate some of the difficulty. Aunt Branwell, as they called her, was known as a spinster and earned a small monthly income from her inheritance, so she was perfect to help the struggling family. She would end up staying with the family for the rest of her life and in this time, she and Branwell would form a close relationship.

In 1825, the family was struck with two more tragedies. Early in the year, they received news from Maria and Elizabeths boarding school that they had become sick. On May 6th, the younger Maria died at just 11 years old. Just over a month later, on June 15th, Elizabeth died, aged 10. It was less than two months before Branwell's eighth birthday when he saw his sister's bodies carried into the family vault to be with their mother. Both deaths were caused by consumption, also known as tuberculosis. It has been suggested that this is around the time when Branwell began to develop depression and anxiety.

One of the books written by Charlotte and Branwell. They spent years working on the country of Gondal and filled many books. This particular one was purchased by the Brontë Parsonage Museum in 2019.

The four siblings all felt the loss in their own ways. But it did lead to them becoming a very tight-knit group. They spent most of their time together, often falling into a world of their imaginations. When Branwell was nine, he and Charlotte began to create their own world called Gondal. They spent hours writing each and every detail and created maps, a political system, wars and many, many characters to call it home. They even built their own cities, using Branwell's beloved toy soldiers as stand-ins for their characters. Branwell's favourite character, played by his favourite soldier, was daring war hero Alexander Percy. He and Charlotte spent hours each day working on Angria, and the two would form a close childhood bond over their little land. Emily and Anne soon joined in on their game and built the neighbouring world of Angria. Together, the children would come together to create Glasstown. Over the course of many rainy English days, they would collect their stories in tiny books that they made.

The group also spent their days receiving lessons. Their aunt would often give them basic lessons on manners, chores, and how to run a household. She also provided many of the magazines and stories that the children read. She was strict when it came to their lessons, but loving as the mother figure she was.

Occasionally, travellers would pass through Haworth and would visit the parish. Some of them were trained craftsmen, who would give the children their own lessons. This gave the children an opportunity to learn skills that otherwise never would have been offered in their small village, such as drawing and the arts.

However, Branwell was soon left to his own when his sisters were sent away to attend the Cowan Bridge Boarding School. First, Charlotte and Emily left, and Anne followed in the year or so after. It is possible that Branwell attended the Haworth Grammer School. Although it is more likely that he received the majority, if not all, of his education from his father. If he did attend a formal school, it would not have been for a very long period. Patrick did not earn a lot of money, and the majority of it went to funding the girl's education. Patrick may have felt that a formal education was more worthwhile for the girls, but for Branwell, it may have been a point of pride to educate his son. Patrick was well-educated and intelligent, knowledgeable especially in literature and the classics, to pass that down to his only son would have been something any father would want to do. Patrick was apparently a good teacher, always making sure that his son always kept up in his lessons. When they were not focused on school lessons, he taught Branwell to play the organ for the parish.

It also helped Branwell was apparently an eager student. He excelled in his lessons and went beyond that. Branwell used his knowledge of literature to create his own magazine, called "The Branwell's Blackwood's Magazine". It included Branwell's original poems, plays, drawings and other writings. His sisters would even contribute some of their own writings. It gave Branwell an opportunity, though, to show off how knowledgable he had become. As a child, Branwell was known to love showing off. He was described as impulsive, erratic and emotional with a quick wit.

Emily would eventually return home from school early, feeling too homesick to stay. With only each other, the two teenagers became the best of friends. They each had a shared interest in classics and literature and bonded over this. Together, the two wrote their own plays and would perform them for their father. When Charlotte and Anne returned home, they would join in. The plays could range from being silly and light to being surprisingly dark, covering topics such as politics and war. But even when they were young, the children seemed to be intelligent, all with a bright future ahead of them.

This is likely a painting that Branwell copied. Likely painted at the start of his career, it has sustained quite a bit of damage over the years.

Painting Career

At a young age, Branwell decided that he wanted to be an artist. Around 1834, he began apprenticing under painter William Robinson. Robinson was known as a good painter, but not necessarily the most competent painter. He did help Branwell to develop some skills. One way he did this was by encouraging Branwell to repaint pre-existing paintings, which gave him an opportunity to learn different techniques and styles while also repainting works in his own style. Robinson also taught Branwell many bad habits, though. Like when Robinson neglected to teach Branwell how to properly mix his paints. Over time, this can affect the painting, especially when they are not properly conserved. It can result in faded colours and chipping paint, and can ultimately ruin the painting.

A portrait of the Brontë sisters, with a ghostly Branwell standing behind them. The girls from left to right: Anne, Emily, Charlotte.

In 1834, Branwell painted a portrait of his three sisters, with him standing in the background. Early in his career, it is not a painting without flaws, but it has become one of the most famous depictions of his three sisters. At the end of its creation, though, for some reason, Branwell decided to remove himself from the painting, so he covered himself up. Although, his lack of proper knowledge shows and over the years, the paint has faded away to reveal Branwell's silhouette behind his sisters.

Branwell was determined to be an artist, though. He told his father that he was going to submit a letter to the Royal Academy of Arts seeking admission. Although, it is uncertain if he really did submit any letter. Branwell almost never discussed an admissions letter in writings to his friends, and later biographers speculate that he may have been too afraid to submit one. His background was not as prestigious as the other students who attended the school, and his education in art was lacking in comparison. If Branwell was as prideful as believed and was already suffering from symptoms of anxiety, then a fear of rejection likely could have stopped him from applying at all.

For a while, Branwell turned to writing. He wrote poems under the name Alexander Percy, which he sent into various magazines. He was fairly successful and was published about as many times as he was rejected. It instilled in him confidence as a writer though, so much so that he wrote to William Wordsworth, whose poetry had inspired him at a young age. In his letter, he included several of his poems, asking Wordsworth for criticism. Branwell would not write receive anything in return, which was incredibly disappointing to the young writer. We know now that Wordsworth kept the letter, but why he did without writing back remains unknown.

A portrait of Isaac Kirby, Branwell's landlord.

In 1838, Branwell ended up leaving Haworth to pursue art. It is possible that he first moved to London, but only for a short time. If he did, his time there was very short. Even then, London was an expensive city and Branwell's funds were limited. Especially when a part of his living expenses included funding his blossoming relationship with alcohol.

We do know that Branwell found his way to Bradford. There, his father helped him to find a room for rent and Branwell set up his first and only studio on 3 Fountain Street in Bradford. The room was owned by a man named Isaac Kirby and his family. When Branwell's money ran low, he would instead paint a portrait of one of the Kirby family members in exchange for rent.

While living in Bradford, Branwell indulged in a more artistic scene. He quickly began to befriend other local artists, many of whom he met at the local pub.

However, Branwell failed to make a living. As hard as he fought not to, he began to fall into debt and was forced to return home in 1839.

Scandal Around Other Careers

Branwell lived in Haworth again for a brief time. At the beginning of 1840, he found new work when he was hired as a tutor to the two sons of the Postelthwaite family. So, he packed up his bags and moved to their estate in Broughton-in-Furness. By June, however, he had already been dismissed from his position.

It is unclear exactly why the family forced him to leave. Branwell as a tutor seemed to be rather successful, so his dismissal had been sudden and unexpected. However, some historians believe that the dismissal came after Branwell fathered a child with one of the home's daughters or maids. This claim first came after a letter from Branwell to the brother of a close friend stated "[Branwell] had left Mr. Postelthwaites with a natural child by one of the daughters or servants -- which died."

This claim of a letter should not be taken as fact though. The person who brought forward this information had only seen the letter in the Brontë home when they were a visitor in the late 1850s. Having said that, it is not the only evidence to support this claim. One of the Postelthwaites maids, Agnes Riley, did indeed give birth to a daughter named Mary a few months after Branwell left. Records become scarce on the Rileys, though. Agnes moved to Australia around 1852, but Mary's life is even more unclear. Some historians suggest that Mary died young, long before 1852, while others believe that she went to Australia with her mother at a young age and lived until at least 1852.

One of the biggest pieces of evidence to support this theory though is something that Branwell himself left behind. In 1846, several years after he had left Broughton-in-Furness and only a year or two after Mary is speculated to have died, Branwell published a poem entitled Letter From a Father on Earth to his Child in her Grave. It is one of Branwell's most moving poems, and it is believed that he wrote it during a time of extreme grief. However, Branwell had also witnessed his father lose two daughters. It is just as likely that he was describing the pain of his father. The poem is long but is as follows:


"From Earth, –whose life-reviving April showers

Hide winter’s withered grass ‘neath springtide flowers,

And give, in each soft wind that drives the rain,

Promise of fields and forests green again–

I write to thee, the aspect of whose face

Can never change with change of time or place;

Whose eyes could look on India’s wildest wars

More calmly than the hardiest son of Mars;

Whose lips, more firm than Stoic’s long ago,

Would neither smile with joy nor blanch with woe;

Whose limbs could sufferings far more firmly bear

Than could heroic sinews strung for war;

Whose frame desires no good, nor shrinks from ill,

Nor feels distraction’s throb nor pleasure’s thrill.

I write words to thee which thou wilt not read,

For thou wilt slumber on howe’er may bleed

The heart, which many think a worthless stone,

But which oft aches for its beloved one;

Nor, if God’s life mysterious, from on high

Gave, once gain, expression to thine eye,

Would’st thou thy father know, or feel that he

Gave life, and lineaments, and thoughts to thee,

For, when thou diest, thy day was in its dawn,

And night still struggled with life’s opening morn;

The twilight star of childhood, thy young days

Alone illumined, with its twinkling rays,

So sweet, yet feeble; given from those dusky skies,

Whose kindling, future noontide prophesies,

But tells us not that brightest noon may shroud

Our sunshine with a sudden veil of cloud.

If, when thou gavest back the life which ne’er

To thee had given either hope or fear,

But peacefully had passed, nor asked if joy

Should cheer thy future path, or grief annoy–

If, then, thoud’st seen, upon a summer sea

One, once in features, as in blood like thee

On skies of azure blue and waters green

Commingled in the midst of summer’s sheen,

Hopelessly gazing–ever hesitating

‘Twixt miseries, every hour fresh fears creating

And joys–whate’er they cost–still doubly dear–

Those “troubled pleasures soon chastised by fear”

If thou hadst seen him thou wouldst ne’er believe

That thou hadst yet known what it was to live.

Thy eyes could only see thy mother’s breast,

Thy feeling only wish on that to rest;

It was thy world; –Thy food and sleep it gave,

And slight the change ‘twixt it and childhood’s grave.

Thou view’dst this world like one who, prone, reposes

Upon a plain and in a bed of roses

With nought to see save marbled skies above,

Nor hear, expect the breezes in the grove:

I–thy life’s source–was a wanderer breasting

Keen mountain winds, and on a summit resting,

Whose rough rocks rose above the grassy mead

With sleet and north winds howling over head,

And nature, like a map, beneath him spread:

Far winding river, tree, and tower, and town,

Shadow and sunlight, ‘neath his gaze mark’d down

By that mysterious hand which graves the plan

Of that drear country called the life of man.

If seen, men’s eyes would, loathing, shrink from thee,

And turn, perchance, with no disgust from me;

Yet thou had’st beauty, innocence, and smiles,

And now hast rest from this world’s woes and wiles,

While I have restlessness and worrying care,

So, sure thy lot if brighter–happier–far!

So may it prove–and, though thy ears may never

Hear these words sound beyond Death’s darksome river

Not vainly, from the confines of despair

May rise a voice of joy that THOU art freed from care!"


The theory that Branwell had a child is worth speculating on. If it is true that he had a child, then this child would have been the only immediate descendant of the Brontës. We will likely never know though if Branwell's dismissal had been over such a scandal. And we will certainly never know what happened to his alleged descendant, if they lived, died or even existed.

Either way, Branwell was forced to return home once again, this time even more disgraced. In his depression, he found his attention focused even more on alcohol. At some point, he started taking laudanum, which is an opiate. If his drinking had not been an addiction before, it certainly was now. In April of 1841, Branwell found a new job. This job was at the Luddendenfoot Station, in Luddendenfoot, where he worked as a clerk. When Charlotte heard about this, she was upset. She believed that Branwell had given up too easily on his career as an artist. He had not entirely given up on his artistic pursuits, as he did continue to write and publish poetry. He had even started to earn small fees in return for the works he had published in the Yorkshire newspaper.

It was said that at this time, Branwell had become a frequent patron of the Lord Nelson Tavern, the local pub. Perhaps this frequent patronage was what contributed to him losing his job in March of 1842. This time, he had been accused of theft after his employer noticed discrepancies in their books. Branwell likely had not stolen, he was just incompetent.

Branwell would not find his next job immediately, instead, he stayed in Haworth for several months. The three sisters had gone off to find their own work, so there was not as much of a financial toll on their father. Later that same year, Branwell would stay at his aunt's side when she fell ill. He would be with her when she died in October. Branwell would say of her death, "I have now lost the guide and director of all the happy days connected with my childhood."

Affair at Thorp Green

Anne helped Branwell to find his next -- and final -- job. For three years, Anne had been a governess for the Reverend Edmund Robinson, in an estate called Thorp Green. In January 1843, she was able to secure Branwell a position as tutor to the family's sons. Just as in his previous tutoring position, Branwell was noted to be good at it. But, just as in his previous positions, he ended up sabotaging himself.

During his employment, Branwell began an affair with the reverend's wife, Lydia Robinson. Not only was she married, but a mother of five and at least fifteen years Branwell's senior. It is unclear who first began the affair, but it was likely Robinson rather than Branwell. No matter who started it, Branwell fell deeply in love with her. This was not returned, at least not in equal amounts.

When the reverend discovered the affair after two and a half years, Robinson completely denied it. When her husband insisted that that was a lie, she denied that she had any feelings for Branwell. Of course, Branwell was promptly let go. Not only had he lost another job, but he was also heartbroken.

"Our Lady of grief". It is likely meant to symbolize the death of Branwell and Robinson's relationship.

In 1845, Branwell was forced to return to Haworth yet again. He could not get the affair out of his mind, though. That is why in 1846, when the reverend died, Branwell returned to Thorp Green with a marriage proposal. Robinson quickly rejected it. She blamed this on a clause the reverend had apparently added to his will, which stated that if she ever married Branwell, then she would have her fortune, estate and children taken away. Anne, who had ended up leaving her position shortly after the affair came to light, said that she had never seen any such clause. This time when Branwell left Thorp Green, it was for good. Not long after, Robinson married a rich man many years her senior.

Branwell was in an incredibly dark place when he returned home. In his sadness, Branwell wrote two poems about the affair. One was entitled Thorp Green, the other was entitled Lydia Gisborne, which was Robinson's maiden name. Branwell would send the latter of these poems, along with one of his drawings that he had titled Our Lady of grief to a friend. The poem describes the state of his mind at this point, as he sunk further and further into depression while also increasing his reliance on alcohol and laudanum. Lydia Gisborne follows:


"On Ouse's grassy banks - last Whitsuntide, I sat, with fears and pleasures, in my soul Commingled, as 'it roamed without control,' O'er present hours and through a future wide Where love, me thought, should keep, my heart beside Her, whose own prison home I looked upon: But, as I looked, descended summer's sun, And did not its descent my hopes deride? The sky though blue was soon to change to grey -- I, on that day, next year must own no smile --

And as those waves, to Humber far away, Were gliding -- so, though that hour might beguile My Hopes, they too, to woe's far deeper sea, Rolled past the shores of Joy's now dim and distant isle."


Charlotte would call Robinson "that bad woman who corrupted Branwell Brontë."

Final Years

After this rejection from Robinson in 1846, Branwell quickly spiralled into an intense depression fuelled by addiction. His life, for all intents and purposes, was ruined once he returned to Haworth. Upon returning, his relationships with his family members were strained. He had had to explain to his father why he had returned, and he knew that his father was ashamed. All of his sisters had returned home, and Anne had grown to feel resentment towards her brother. After all, he had been the reason why she had to leave her position as a governess.

Charlotte, though she loved her brother, was not as close with him as she had once been. She still believed that Branwell could still change his life and return to painting. As time went on, she knew that it had become more and more unlikely he ever would. She would write in a letter to her friend, "I wish I could say anything more favourable -- but how can we be more comfortable so long as Branwell stays at home and degenerates instead of improving... he will not work -- and at home he is a drain on every resource -- an impediment to all happiness."

A portrait of Emily Brontë, painted by Branwell in 1833.

As Branwell got worse, Emily was often the one left to take care of him. Branwell still remained some of the man he once was, though. At Emily's encouragement, he continued to write and publish poetry. He also wrote a book called "And the Weary are at Rest", which was never published. Emily herself got some creative inspiration from her brother. While it is believed that all three of the sisters got some inspiration from Branwell (Charlotte with Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, and Anne with Arthur Huntingdon in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights is believed to have been directly inspired by the ailing Branwell. Both Branwell and Heathcliff followed the same path in life, starting off with promise but slowly falling into nothing but their own misery. The angry outbursts of a lovelorn Heathcliff were not unlike the drunken outbursts of the emotional brother Emily knew. In Wuthering Heights though, Emily seems to find a happy ending for her protagonist. After a difficult life filled with sin, she gives Heathcliff peace when he finally joins his lost lover in eternal paradise. Seeing her brother in his condition, it is not hard to see why she would have wanted Heathcliff to have a happy ending.

One of the poems Branwell wrote during this time was entitled Real Rest, it follows:


"I see a corpse upon the water lie, With eyes turned, swelled and sightless, to the sky. And arms outstretched to move, as wave on wave Upbears it in its boundless billowy grave. Not time, but ocean, thins its flowing hair; Decay, not sorrow, lays its forehead bare; Its members move, but not in thankless toil. For seas are milder than this world's turmoil; Corruption robs its lips and cheeks of red, But wounded vanity grieves not the dead; And, though these members hasten to decay. No pang of suffering takes their strength away. With untormented eye, and heart and brain, Through calm and storm it floats across the main; Though love and joy have perished long ago, Its bosom suffers not one pang of woe; Though weeds and worms its cherished beauty hide. It feels not wounded vanity nor pride; Though journeying towards some far-off shore. It needs no care nor gold to float it o'er; Though launched in voyage for eternity, It need not think upon what is to be; Though naked, helpless, and companionless It feels not poverty, nor knows distress. Ah, corpse! if thou could'st tell my aching mind What scenes of sorrow thou hast left behind, How sad the life which, breathing, thou hast led, How free from strife thy sojourn with the dead; I would assume thy place -- would long to be A world-wide wanderer o'er the waves with thee! I have a misery, where thou hast none; My heart beats, bursting, whilst thine lies stone; My veins throb wild, whilst thine are dead and dry; And woes, not waters, dim my restless eye; Thou longest not with one well loved to be, And absence does not break a chain with thee; No sudden agonies dart through thy breast; Thou hast what all men covet -- real rest. I have an outward frame, unlike to thine. Warm with young life -- not cold in death's decline An eye that sees the sunny light of Heaven -- A heart by pleasure thrilled, by anguish riven -- But, in exchange for thy untroubled calm. Thy gift of cold oblivion's healing balm, I'd give my youth, my health, my life to come. And share thy slumbers in thy ocean tomb."


From the poems Branwell published, he earned a small amount of money. Robinson also sent him small payments every once in a while, but Branwell remained virtually penniless. All of this money immediately went to support his addictions. When he ran out, he took money from his father. His sisters had begun to earn their own income by this point, having published Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Agnes Grey by 1847. But it is believed that Branwell had no knowledge of his sister's work. It was the only way they could stop him from begging for their money. Their father eventually got to a point where he would no longer give Branwell money, so Branwell quickly racked up a debt. At one point, it was so severe that debt collectors came to the parsonage threatening legal action.

By the start of 1847, Branwell was mostly a shut-in. The only times he would leave the parsonage was to go to Haworth's local pub, the Black Bull. When he was not there, he could also be found at the local chemist buying laudanum. If Branwell did go out, then he would be gone for hours, leaving his family to worry. Branwell could not find another job, not that he could have held one if he had. His addictions got worse, and with it, so did his mental health. At times, his anxiety could be so bad that he would make himself physically sick.

Soon, Branwell began to suffer from the side effects of his alcoholism after he developed delirium tremens (DT). DT is caused by the sudden lack of alcohol coming into an alcoholics' body, which Branwell would have experienced since he was frequently unable to fund his addiction. DT often causes hallucinations, and Branwell frequently experienced this. It was followed by severe nightmares that left Branwell unpredictable during the night. One night, while the rest of his family were asleep, Branwell set his own bed on fire. If Emily and Anne had not rushed in and saved their brother, then he surely would have died and the whole parsonage would have gone up in flames. After this, his father never let him sleep alone again.

This drawing by Branwell depicts the skeleton of death coming for a dead figure, likely meant to be Branwell, while the Haworth church looms in the background. It was drawn in 1848, the same year Branwell died.

In the summer of 1848, Branwell became sick with consumption. He knew what that meant after watching his sisters die of the same disease. Consumption was easily the most feared disease of the 19th century. It was awful to have to suffer through, for both the infected and those who had to watch them die. For months, it would slowly kill the infected person. Consumption takes over the lungs, making breathing difficult as bacteria slowly erodes the lung tissue. Even today, it is difficult to cure. But in the 19th century, once someone was infected with it, there was nothing they could do but wait to die.

That was all Branwell could do. For months, he suffered through consumption. In his last few days, Branwell became unusually quiet, and an eerie calm was described as having fallen over the parsonage. Knowing the end was near for his son, his father encouraged him to repent. It is unclear if Branwell did. On September 24th, 1848, Branwell died. He was only 31. Among Branwell's final words were "All my life I have done nothing either great or good."

Several days later, on September 28th, he was laid to rest and buried in the family vault. Consumption had a bad habit during the 19th century, though. Once it had infected one person in a family, it would have already infected the other members before anyone knew they had it. In December, consumption would kill Emily. The following May, it would kill Anne. Charlotte lived until 1855, but likely died of the same disease. Their father would not join his family in their vault until 1861.

Conclusion

Branwell spent his life moving from place to place, never able to find the joy he wanted. The only joy he did find was in the bottle, though it never brought him what he needed or could have had. Whenever something good did come Branwells way, it only found him wallowing in his own misery.

It was all in Branwell's pursuit of success, though. Throughout his life, Branwell wanted nothing more than to be successful, whether it was through publishing a famed novel or becoming a prized artist. In the end, he got that, just not in the way he had ever expected.

Branwell is truly forever immortalized. He lives on as characters in his sister's books, even if it is through thinly veiled depictions of the darkest points of his life. Similarly, Branwell's most famed painting hangs in the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Hundreds of visitors see it each day, though they will never see Branwell. Not as he wanted to be seen, at least.

Branwell was a talented man with a brilliant mind, just like his sisters. He spent his life trying to prove that, and spent his final years wasting it. He once said of himself, "In the next world I could not be worse than I am in this". If he truly was anything like Heathcliff, then hopefully he was right and he found his own peace.


Further Resources

  • The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë, a biography by Daphne du Maurier from 1961. Du Maurier was regarded as an accomplished biographer, and this book is a good representation of her skills.

  • Branwell: A Novel of the Brontë Brother by Douglas A. Martin is a poetically written biography following the life of Branwell that examines the effect he had on English literature.

  • To Walk Invisible is a two-part BBC special about the publishing of the Brontë sisters lives and their struggle to cope with their brother in both his final years.


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