Picture this. You’re a child, sitting in your room. You’re with your two sisters and your brother just got a toy soldier set from your father. You and your sisters create an imaginary land for these soldiers, and you decide to create little miniature books for the toy soldiers to read. You’re an aspiring author. Does this sound familiar at all?
image via stephanie mitchell / harvard university
If it doesn’t, that’s ok. That image I just painted came from a real moment in life, roughly 190 years ago to be exact, from the Brontë children. Charlotte Brontë, and her two sisters, Emily and Anne Brontë, created a miniature land called the Glass Town Federation for their brother’s, Branwell Brontë, toy soldiers to reign. This prompted Charlotte to create a series of six books in 1830 called “The Young Men’s Magazine,” which were to be read by the toy soldiers.
At the time, Charlotte was only 13, and Branwell was 12. The miniature books, six written by Charlotte and three written by Branwell, measure less than 1 inch by 2 inches and were created by hand with scraps of paper. Emily and Anne also wrote miniature books for the toy soldiers, but they were lost with time, unfortunately.
The Brontë kids created worlds in these tiny books called Angria and Glass Town. In an article by BBC, a fifth little book by Charlotte was auctioned in Paris for $777,000 back on November 18, 2019. It was finally acquired by the Brontë Parsonage Museum after being outbid for the book by the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in 2011. Actress Dame Judi Dench helped fund the museum so they could buy the fifth Brontë book. As the president of the Brontë society, she said she always had an interest in the little books the Brontës created when they were children.
image via caroline bonarde ucci
As the BBC article states, part of the book “describes a murderer driven to madness after being haunted by his victims, and how “an immense fire” burning in his head causes his bed curtains to set alight.” Sounds a bit like The Telltale Heart! There is certainly a gothic influence in the young Charlotte’s writing. Even more interesting is what an expert at the Brontë Parsonage Museum had to say in the BBC article: “the story is “a clear precursor” of a famous scene between Bertha and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre.
The stories in the Brontës’ little books are considered “juvenilia,” which is a term for works produced by an author or artist while they are still young. These works basically offer an insight into the development and inspirations of a very young author’s or artist’s work. In this case, we see the beginnings of Charlotte Brontë’s writing, before her first novel, Jane Eyre.
If you’re interested in taking looking at the Brontës’ little books, you can access them through an article posted by The Harvard Gazette!
featured image via stephanie mitchell / harvard university
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