Friday, 13 May 2022

iMovie: Branwell Brontë in Broughton-In-Furness, The Lake District, Cumbria

Branwell Brontë (1818 - 1848) was the brother of the famous Victorian literary sisters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne. He appeared just as talented a writer and artist as his better known sisters, but sadly he squandered his talents through becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs, which resulted in his untimely demise at the age of 31. 

There are a few Brontë connections in the Lake District, the most significant probably being the one of Broughton-In-Furness, a small historic town on the Duddon estuary in the southern part of the Lake district. Branwell Brontë lived and worked here in the first half of 1840. This is what Branwell said about Broughton in a letter to a friend, John Brown: "I am fixed in a little retired town by the sea-shore, among woody hills that rise round me - huge, rocky and capped with clouds". 

Branwell worked as a tutor to two small boys for the Postlethwaite family who lived in Broughton House, a large, impressive building which is used as offices today. In the letter to John Brown he says about his employer: "a large landowner, and of a right, hearty and generous disposition"; his wife "a quiet, silent and amiable woman", and the two boys, aged 10 and 12, "fine, spirited lads". Branwell did not live in, but he took up lodgings at High Syke House located on a hill above the village. His landlord was Dr. Edward Fish, one of local surgeons. After just six months of service, Branwell was dismissed from his post in the summer of 1840, the reasons being unconfirmed, but likely to be excessive drinking and negligence to his charges. 

Whilst at Broughton Branwell had met with the poet Hartley Coleridge, the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who invited him to Nab Cottage, his home on the shore of Rydal Water. The meeting and interaction is certain to have boosted Branwell's poetry writing and given it a new vigour.

The drawing of Brouhgton Church by Branwell Brontë shows a view of the east end of the church which has been altered greatly since Branwell's drawing.

There is a speculation that while in this post, Branwell may have fathered a child with a servant girl and that the child died at a young age.

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