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18 June 2014
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Myths and Legends
Sex, Drugs, Poetry and Prose

Self-protrait of Branwell
Branwell Bronte caricature self portrait c.1840
© The Bronte Society
So few primary, trustworthy sources exist about this man it is hard to come to any kind of conclusion about his character. His letters are frequently boastful and steeped in hyperbole, whilst other’s memories are all tainted with a personal viewpoint. If we were to write about him in today’s ‘addiction acceptance’ climate then we would see him as a troubled young man, who should be allowed to express himself, and if that gets to dangerous, book him straight into the nearest Priory clinic.

An interesting point however, is that this kind of debate about his life is possible. Much of our knowledge of him comes from oral history, which makes for a colourful montage of his life. The letters and few pieces of primary evidence provide a solid framework for us to hang the more interesting gossip about him on.
The Church
The church at Haworth
Today however, should we really wish to research anyone, to disseminate fact from fiction, it would be perfectly possible. One glance at someone’s bank records would depict just exactly how much money had been spent in the Black Bull, or Met Bar, on a Friday night. And on what. Could this be a surfeit of fact? Do we actually benefit, socially, from being able to read several accounts of someone’s life and discuss and debate what we uphold to be true? No longer will we rely on celebrity biographers, we will be able to search on the internet to see exactly who did what, with whom, and when. And we will lose the interest and intrigue of legends, because we will be able to have the facts, and I am not sure this will really benefit anyone – apart from perhaps Mrs Robinson…

Further Reading Edward Chitham - 'A Brontë Family Chronology'


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