One of the wonders of literature is how the Bronte Sisters managed to unearth such marvels from relatively shallow lives. But the life of the imagination is a back-tale unto itself, and – with the right quill and under the right gaze – the lines on one solitary face can be made to outlive those on any topographic offering you care to choose.
Writing about her Sister Emily, the gift is neatly summarised by Charlotte of the Clan: ‘…this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master – something that at times strangely works for itself. (…‘be the work grim or glorious, dread or divine‘!)’
For many, the Bronte’s small world in and around Haworth shall be forever lit by the power of their combined artistic genius. But whenever I wander amongst the gravestones, that pave some of the way between Haworth Church and the Parsonage which furnished their glory days, I forever feel the greatest tragedy was Patrick Bronte’s own. Having to bury one child must be pain enough, but to outlive all six children and the wife who bore them might be a novel too far for even the Russians.
Haworth’s reflected fame inevitably brings twee gifts, as well as some undoubtedly hard working local arts and craftsmen. But special mention has to be made of Rose & Co Apothecary, which is a gem designed to perfectly fit the setting, and it isn’t hard to imagine dipsomanic Bramwell Bronte, shuttling back and forth between the Black Bull boozer and the Apothecary, to get a twin fix of the poisons that cut him woefully short.
‘Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living’, as Wuthering Heights’ Mrs Dean may tell you. And if you want to meet with the spirit of the Bronte’s (away from the books that is their true home), your best chance is in wild Winter, especially in the twilight of a dawn or dusk. For in relative solitary you might encounter shades of a past no longer present. And for Emily at least, the colder the wilder the windier the better.
When to go?
If you want to join on at the end of the Japanese tour bus, then go at noon on a midsummer’s day. But for a feel for Haworth’s past, even early morning’s in Summer will happily avoid these massed ranks. However, there is a wildness about Winter that suits the small patch of Haworth surrounding the Parsonage, which is forever Bronte.
And if you happen their in Spring, may a ‘handful of golden crocuses‘ complete your day.