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The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors (1994)

de Juliet Barker

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7371522,466 (4.22)84
The story of the tragic Bronte family is familiar to many: the half-mad, repressive father, the drunken, drug-addicted wastrel of a brother, wild, romantic Emily, unrequited Anne and poor Charlotte. However, these are imaginary stereotypes, created by amateur biographers, such as Mrs Gaskell, who were primarily novelists and were attracted by the tale of an apparently doomed family of genius. Later biographers still repeat Mrs Gaskell's mistakes and have relied on bowdlerised texts published by T.J. Wise, a forger.… (mais)
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Een biografie over de familie Bronte
  eww1402 | Apr 10, 2019 |
Te herlezen nav lezing van Jolien Janzing auteur van 'Het meester - de geheime liefde van Charlotte Brönte', bib Puurs 17.11.2016 http://www.librarything.nl/work/13839302/reviews
  Baukis | Nov 18, 2016 |
The repeating word to describe The Brontes is "thorough". Because of its length, over 1,000 pages, many readers are filled with trepidation at the thought of even starting such a behemoth. They should know there is nothing to fear. While the narrative might be dense it is far from boring or solely didactic. One does have to keep in mind, however, that this is about the Bronte family and not just the famous sisters. With limited information, Barker tries her best to also include father Patrick, mother Maria and brother Branwell. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Apr 8, 2016 |
Nearly 1,000 pages of brilliance!

This thorough account is by far the best biography that I’ve read about the Brontë family. Here we have an extensive opening focusing on Patrick before his famous and not-so-famous children enter the world.

The book doesn’t end with Charlotte’s death like with the other biographies I’ve read. This one follows Patrick life to its end, and briefly mentions what happened to all the main people connected to the family.

The author also discusses the effect that Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Life of Charlotte Brontë” had on the book-reading nation – this is the first time I’ve ever read a biography that covers another biography on the same topic.

I read Mrs Gaskell’s account a few years ago. Although I enjoyed it, I now realise after reading this heavy tome that “Life” features many inaccuracies.

The most absorbing chapters in Ms Barker’s great work are those that flit between the lives of the four of the six Bronte siblings who survived into adulthood. Sadly, little info exists on Emily or Anne, but a large amount of Charlotte’s letters have survived after her death, as have a number of Branwell’s. While Emily & Anne’s juvenilia are lost to the world, much of Charlotte and Branwell’s have survived. Must admit, having previously read these early writings, I’m not a fan of them; however, it’s interesting to read them just the same. It also gives an insight to their lives.

It’s a shame that Branwell failed where his sisters succeeded. That said, he did have numerous poems printed in papers, which is better than nothing. Branwell’s character is an interesting one. Such a shame that unrequited love ruined the last few years of his short life.

Emily’s character comes across as quite selfish in some ways but I can forgive her this seeing as she was and is a genius. Pity she only had one novel published. It’s a shame “Wuthering Heights” wasn’t appreciated for its full worth during Emily’s lifetime. It certainly went on reach dizzy heights of success but nobody even knew the author’s true identity until after Emily’s sad early exit from life. Another great pity is that it’s believed that she’d written another novel but seemingly, as it was unfinished or perhaps considered too “course”, it was destroyed – probably by Charlotte.

Charlotte herself was accused of being a coarse writer, which seems ludicrous to the reader of today. Thankfully she produced three novels in her lifetime, plus her originally rejected first offering saw the light of day after Charlotte’s sad demise. I prefer her writing to Emily’s, though of course with only one novel to compare against four, my opinion may have been very different if fate hadn’t been so cruel to this talented family. “Villette” is my favourite work by Charlotte.

Regarding Charlotte’s personality, she often comes across as being difficult to deal with. Sometimes she seems awkward just for the sake of it.

She was very dismissive towards Anne’s abilities, patronising towards her in general, treating her as nothing more than a baby sister even when she was in her late twenties. Charlotte was also chief among those who criticized Anne’s masterpiece, “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”, arguably causing it to disappear from the public eye for many years.

To me this is criminal. “Wildfell Hall” is my favourite work of fiction. I can forgive Charlotte for any of her faults apart from her attitude towards this magnificent book. In fact, I like Charlotte the “person” a lot. With so many of her letters extant you get a real picture of her unique character. Her letters are a treat to read, much more so than her pre-famous fiction.

Anne is not only my favourite Brontë but she’s also my favourite female author – perhaps favourite overall; can’t quite decide between her and Robert E. Howard.

The image we get of Anne from what few letters she penned and from the few extant sources about her is that of a quiet, caring, selfless, responsible, intelligent woman. You only have to read her two novels to realise she’s a genius. Yet again, though, during her own lifetime Anne’s unique talent went by unnoticed, even by fellow genius Charlotte.

Many people over the years have referred to Anne as “the other one”, whereas to me she’ll always be “the best one”. Fate has a lot to answer for in taking this wonderful, gifted woman away at the age of 29 when she had so much more to offer as a writer and as a person.

Thanks to Juliet Barker, as “The Brontës” is the ultimate tome for anyone wanting to know more about this fascinating family that deserved much more from life than they received.

A superb read. ( )
1 vote PhilSyphe | Feb 4, 2016 |
I've been reading this 1000+ page biography of the Bronte family for months. I found it alternately utterly fascinating and excruciatingly boring so I'm not sure how to review it. I'll start by saying that it is as complete and detailed picture of all the Brontes (father Patrick, children Branwell, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) as you can get with the source material available. Barker includes lots of the juvenelia of all of the children and while this is interesting for a while it got really old for me. She also seems to have worked most of the biography around refuting the picture of Charlotte and particularly Branwell and Patrick that Elizabeth Gaskell painted in her biography, The Life of Charlotte Bronte which I read several years ago. She does this well, creating a more well rounded portrait of the subjects, including each persons good and bad sides.

She spends a lot of time on Patrick Bronte and some of these sections detailing his work in the church and his political activity kind of dragged to me, though some might find it interesting. I also was disappointed to find that even this detailed, long biography that left no stone unturned really can't tell me what Emily Bronte was like. She is the sister that really intrigues me most and I have never been able to wrap my head around how a person who wrote the fantastical, dark, brooding Wuthering Heights could have been utterly unwilling to ever leave her house. I still don't get what she would have been like. Charlotte, on the other hand, I have a picture of, but one I really don't like! So whiny and complaining and unwilling to work. And constant headaches and "woe is me". My dislike of her also slowed me down in reading this biography. I love her novels, but her - not so much! I do like what I know of Anne - she comes across as the most normal of the children but I feel had an inner strength that is often overlooked.

For any lover of the Bronte sisters who also loves a detailed biography, this is the book for you and is well worth the many, many hours you'll spend reading it. I would not recommend it to anyone who isn't a bit obsessed though - it's a bit daunting and not an easy read. ( )
2 vote japaul22 | May 10, 2014 |
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Introduction
Yet another biography of the Brontës requires an apology, or at least an explanation.
Chapter One
An Ambitious Man

On the first day of October 1802 a twenty-five-year-old Irishman walked through the imposing gateway of St John's College, Cambridge.
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The Brontes and The Brontes: A Life in Letters are NOT the same work; the former is a biography and the latter is a collection of the sisters' letters. Please do not combine them.
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The story of the tragic Bronte family is familiar to many: the half-mad, repressive father, the drunken, drug-addicted wastrel of a brother, wild, romantic Emily, unrequited Anne and poor Charlotte. However, these are imaginary stereotypes, created by amateur biographers, such as Mrs Gaskell, who were primarily novelists and were attracted by the tale of an apparently doomed family of genius. Later biographers still repeat Mrs Gaskell's mistakes and have relied on bowdlerised texts published by T.J. Wise, a forger.

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