February 4, 2020

A rare tiny book penned by Charlotte Brontë goes on display Saturday


This is Charlotte Brontë, but the book being described in this article is much smaller than the one pictured here.

Remember that story we were spinning about Charlotte Brontë, Judi Dench, books the size of a sensible portion of cheese, a man whose guilty brain is on fire?

Ringing any bells? No?

Let me catch you up quickly: Charlotte Brontë spent her on-brand but nonetheless distressingly gothic youth putting together tiny little books, which she (confusingly) referred to as The Young Men’s Magazines. There are six known mini books, and right now, all but one of them are owned by the Brontë society, the fifth having been acquired this past November.

The book, which The Guardian describes as “the size of a matchbox” (fair enough, 1 oz cheese, matchbox, potatoe, potahtoh) will be going on display at the Brontë Parsonage Museum on Saturday, and it is quite an emotional event for the museum and ancillary Brontë Society.

Ann Dinsdale, the curator at the museum, told The Guardian:

“We had a welcome committee of staff who’d made a point of being in the museum to see it arrive. It was like a historic occasion … Some of us felt a little tearful. So much effort and passion had gone into bringing it to Haworth and we’d worked so long and so hard to make it happen.

“It seemed extraordinary that there had been this huge interest in such a tiny item.”

But the little item is full of unexpected treasures. We previously wrote about one of the stories contained therein. It apparently describes a murderer who is tormented by his victim’s memory while a fire burns in his head—and catches his curtains on fire. Experts have cited this as a clear precursor to Edward Rochester’s brush with death towards the end of Jane Eyre shortly before the eponymous heroine reader-I-marries him.

Apparently, there are more stories in the tiny volume. Two to be exact, although this time, only one other synopsis has leaked. The Guardian reports: “Another is a fantasy about fine dining and aristocratic living.”

Piqued as I am, there is no way of knowing what on earth this can possibly mean without descending on West Yorkshire myself with a magnifying glass. Might anyone help a book blogger out and let her know what exactly is the plot of the second and third story within the little book? And whatever happens to the murderer whose brain is on fire? Does anyone marry him??



Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.