One can only imagine what was going through Charlotte Brontë’s mind the day she knelt by the fireplace in Haworth Parsonage, her family home, with her late sister’s unfinished manuscript Emily in her hands. Did she look at that deliberately tiny, yet passionately scrawled handwriting, and did she feel tears come to her eyes? Did it remind you of the countless afternoons she and her three brothers, now all “gone as dreams,” spent writing stories about the imaginary worlds of her childhood? Were the flour-fingerprinted papers from Emily’s never-idle hands the product of the writer-housekeeper busily moving back and forth from desk to kitchen to desk again? >
whatever charlotte brontë was thinking, whatever was present in those pages, they followed the path of the rochester family home: on fire.
This sad Victorian scene is not entirely a work of fiction. there is some truth in it. Emily Brontë, the author of the English literary classic Wuthering Heights, died tragically young, leaving a second novel unfinished. A letter from Emily’s editor, Thomas Cautley Newby, dated February 15, 1848, proves this. The letter is part of the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s collection of family correspondence. reads:
I am very grateful for your kind note and will have great pleasure in arranging for your second novel. I wouldn’t rush to finish it, because I think you’re absolutely right not to let it go before the world until you’re satisfied with it, since a lot depends on your new job if it’s an improvement on the first one…
Some scholars speculate that this letter was actually intended for Anne Brontë, who also had a second novel, The Lodger of Wildfell Hall, in progress. But how could this be, when the letter was addressed specifically to Ellis Bell, Emily’s pen name? Anne’s was Acton Bell. even the most disorganized editors could tell the difference between the two.
Whether Charlotte actually burned the manuscript of Emily’s second novel has never been proven or confirmed, but the myth has some basis. Charlotte’s notoriously poor management of her sisters’ literary estates after her death bordered on malice. The Brontës’ biographer, Juliet Barker, certainly seems to lean towards the idea that Charlotte disposed of the manuscript. Barker theorizes that Charlotte may have feared the public reaction that Emily’s bold prose incited from the start, and that the content of the second novel may have been even more shocking and daring than Wuthering Heights:
had newby received the manuscript, he would no doubt have published it, so the obvious inference is again that charlotte, upon finding and reading emily’s second novel, decided that its subject was also “a complete mistake” and not it would enhance the reputation of “ellis bell”. in such circumstances, she must have felt justified in destroying the manuscript.
What happened to the manuscript will likely remain a mystery, though it is a certainty that Charlotte took the secret of its contents to her grave. How could she not know what the novel was about, when the three Brontë sisters lived together, wrote together around the same table and shared their work with each other? Centuries later, followers of Brontë can only wonder and guess what Emily’s lost masterpiece would be about.
There is no doubt that Emily’s chosen setting for her second book would have been the moors. The wild, windy, open land that surrounded Haworth Parsonage was Emily’s favorite place in real life, the one place she ever wanted to be. the novelist abhorred crowded cities. She resented being dragged to London and then Brussels by Charlotte so they could study languages at a private school in preparation for one day opening their own.
Art museums, opera houses, fancy restaurants, and grand cathedrals failed her, longing for animals, home-cooked meals, fresh air, and the simple English Protestant peasant life. Ella Emily was not interested in being a travel writer, to put it lightly. it is highly unlikely that she would have presented cosmopolitan metropolises in her novels, as did charlotte en villette and the professor. if she had, the city would have been a place where her protagonist suffered from chronic homesickness and shyness, as she did to emily in brussels:
His demeanor in this foreign land was even more painfully lonely than before.
in wuthering heights, emily presents the moors as a welcoming haven for the free spirits of catherine and heathcliff, outcasts faced with a stern and unforgiving small community that has no place for them (unless they conform to their rules) . The moors are where Catherine flees to when the stresses and restrictions of marital domestic life, impending motherhood and separation from Heathcliff prove too much for her. The moors are where Emily fled to when the Brontë family was overwhelmed by financial insecurity and the relentless crises of Ella’s brother Ella Branwell. her sisters often joined her, and they also understood. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre also sought refuge on the moors when she had nowhere to go.
emily, being the homebody that she was, was also fascinated by ancestral homes, abodes where several generations of a family stayed and never left unless necessary. To Emily, this idea must have seemed like paradise, and not one, but two of those houses that serve as key story locations on Wuthering Heights: the haunted house after which the book is named, and thrushcross grange.
The business of property inheritance also caught the attention of the author. In the year 1838, Ella Emily worked as a teacher at a school called Law Hill. a mile from the school loomed walterclough hall. This imposing old mansion had a dark history of its own: dissipation, a sibling rivalry turned deadly, and revenge, all of which Emily borrowed for the plot of her first and only full-length novel. Emily is unlikely to have lost interest in these topics. By contrast, the second novel likely had a spooky old house, one that Emily would have filled with the ghosts of former inhabitants who, like her, never wanted to leave home.
emily, like her three literary siblings, was fascinated by Byronic anti-heroes. They didn’t always have to be cute, but they had to be brooding, secretive, dangerous, and most importantly, sexually attractive—impossible for a heroine to resist. All the siblings had unlimited access to her father Patrick Brontë’s book collection. They all obsessively read Lord Byron’s works, and his influence on their tastes, achievements, and even his personalities was so strong that he was almost like a second father to them.
emily produced an iconic byron archetype in the form of heathcliff, and was probably in the process of producing another. Helen Brown’s “Byron’s Influence on Emily Brontë” insists that Byron’s hold on Emily’s dark and creative spirit was ironclad, to the point of affecting her mood as well as her poetry and novel writing:
That his imagination was naturally gloomy is the simplest and most obvious explanation, but it is not entirely satisfactory: one feels that even the most tragic of imaginations must have been encouraged by something external to produce this orgy of guilt and misery.
If Charlotte burned the manuscript of Emily’s second novel, she might well have extinguished another Heathcliff before it could begin its life of heartbreak and savagery, tormenting heroines and lovesick readers alike.
other likely candidates for this missing cast of characters would likely have been: an overbearing but occasionally indulgent father, like patrick brontë, a governess-teacher just trying to get by, like titular ladies jane eyre and agnes grey, and a loyal servant , like nelly dean in wuthering heights.
nelly is a unique commodity in the novel in that she is not only an active character, but also a narrator and narrator. Here Emily was lovingly playing Tabitha Aykroyd, the house servant of the Brontë family, and it is likely that another similar tribute would have appeared in the second novel. Despite James Hafley’s negative opinion of Nelly, the Brontë Scholar acknowledges Emily’s success and ability to turn her into a complex, three-dimensional character:
however, it is precisely that sense fully embodied in the drama of ellen dean, which constitutes one of her [emily’s] main artistic resources.
Anne Brontë also inserted Tabitha into the tenant of Wildfell Hall as Rachel, who helps her lover escape an abusive marriage. Charlotte splits Tabitha into three separate servant characters in Jane Eyre: Mrs. fairfax, grace poole and bessie lee, all indispensable to her employers. this respect that the brontë sisters accorded to the maids in their fiction was unusual for the time. all three brontë women knew how to write fully developed characters, but the names of those who appeared in emily’s second novel have been lost forever.
At the time Emily was plotting her second novel, the Brontë family was in crisis. Branwell Brontë, once the golden son of the house on whom all hopes were pinned, had fallen from grace in a spectacular way that was, itself, impeccably Byronic. He had not only been fired from his job as a teacher, but had also been brutally rejected by the married woman he was having an affair with. his addictions to opium and alcohol had left him homebound, sick and uncontrollable.
Charlotte and Anne drew inspiration from this well for Jane Eyre and the tenant of Wildfell Hall. both books featured themes of addiction, mental illness, adulterous romances, and underappreciated women having to pick up the slack. There is no doubt that Emily’s second novel covered exactly the same themes, especially since Emily herself had taken over many of the nursing duties for her sick brother. I suppose the second novel would have given readers a surprisingly intimate account of these experiences, shocking enough, that is, to prompt Charlotte to throw the manuscript into the fire, so no one would see it. we could have had a heroine nursing a bedridden byron, the pages full of innuendo. Victorian readers would have been horrified on the outside and delighted on the inside.
There’s a limit to how far readers can invade a family’s privacy, even brontës. The artistic differences between Charlotte and Emily often clashed, and the end product of this complicated sibling relationship was Charlotte’s insistence on preserving Emily’s reputation and never letting her sister’s wickeder side seep to the outside world. . As brontë scholar emily rena-dozier points out in her own critical reading of the sisters’ works, charlotte, being the cautious and conservative early feminist that she was, understood emily’s style and vision in her fiction, but never accepted them for granted. complete:
emily brontë created horrors without realizing it. but charlotte brontë of all people must have known that the literary sister of the angel in the house is the madwoman in the attic.
I for one remain convinced that charlotte destroyed the second manuscript not to annoy emily, but to protect her, even at the cost of literary history. We Brontë fans can only speculate on the subject of the book, but at least we can feel grateful for the existence of Wuthering Heights, arguably the greatest masterpiece of the 19th century, and at least one wonderfully well-rounded novel.
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