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Leisure and play: Brontë Juvenalia

(Added 17 October 2007)

Cover and frontspiece, Fairies, handmade book, E.M. Rothwell, senior fourth, Queen Victoria School, circa. 1920

A literary mystery of near mythological proportion has developed about the Brontë family. How could modest, unworldly lady authors depict the violent Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights stories of fervent, obsessive love?

After the death of their older sisters in 1825, the Brontë children, working in pairs, began a process of collaborative writing -producing historical fantasies, poems, plays and miniature books based on imaginary worlds. Emily and Anne Brontë, invented a world called “Gondal”, Charlotte and Bronwell Brontë recorded the saga of “Angria”. The settings of these imagined locations were lush and exotic, populated by extravagant, impetuous characters with names like “Zenobia” and “Zamorna”.

Through these shared fantasies the young Brontës, “constructed their own world of fantasy and pleasure. So enthralling were the tales they spun that as a young adult Charlotte Brontë found it difficult to leave them behind for the mundane world of daily domestic routine. To her they represented the thrilling romance of hidden desires, couched in glamourous language and settings.”(Susan Ostrov Weisser, p.xvii-xix)

Source-Susan Ostrov Weisser, Introduction and notes to Jane Eyre, New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003

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