November 19, 2019

Success! Charlotte Brontë mini book secured by the Brontë Society


Eyeball it! A 1 oz serving size of cheese is about the size of a Charlotte Brontë mini book! (Photo by Andrea Goh, CC BY 2.0)

As we’ve previously discussed, a small piece of juvenalia by a 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë recently came back on the market, and the Brontë Society, who support and operate the Brontë Parsonage Museum, have succeeded in their bid to acquire it.

Last seen when a private collector bought it in 2011, this so-called “little book,” is part of a set which the author titled “The Young Men’s Magazines.” They sound awfully cute at only 20 pages and dimensions of 35 mm by 61 mm. (If you need help approximating small book sizes in metric units, we helpfully learned that this is just about the dimensions of a USDA recommended serving size of cheese.)

Be that as it may, they are not in fact a cute bit of juvenalia, but rather the sort of gothic and demented stuff we should know to expect from Charlotte Brontë. According to the BBC, this newly acquired book apparently:

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.

It makes you wonder how much she was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, doesn’t it.

The Brontë Society (whose president is Dame Judi Dench of all people?) had been keen on buying this little book as soon as it got back on the market. There are 6 known little books by Charlotte Brontë—one has been off the map since around 1930. The four other surviving small books were already with the Brontë Society, meaning as of right now they are as close to a full deck as theoretically possible.

As we previously mentioned, Dame Judi Dench was instrumental in securing the funding to buy the little book, but a groundswell of public support brought in an additional 85,000 GBP which won them the auction. Isn’t that nice? This is an altogether more heartwarming end to a story than flippantly marrying an employer who keeps his wife locked up in his attic after a protracted, demeaning, and cold flirtation!



Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.