Skip to main content

The Brontës' Childhood

Little books of the Brontë children

Very small books containing the Brontë children's writings, about 2 inches high and 1.5 inches thick.

Perhaps there is no better evidence that the authors of 1847 and 1848 were reading and drawing upon each other's works than authors' direct mention of and admiration for other writers of the period.  At the time Vanity Fair appeared in monthly parts, fellow writer Charlotte Brontë, under the name Currer Bell, published Jane Eyre in October 1847 followed by two subsequent editions in 1848.  Brontë dedicated the second edition to Thackeray, writing in her preface:  “There is a man in our own days whose words are not framed to tickle delicate ears: who, to my thinking, comes before the great ones of society...who speaks truth as deep, with a power as prophet-like and as vital" (Jane Eyre 2).  Charlotte clearly appreciated Thackeray's honest portrayal and "truth" about Victorian society and storytelling abilities, which all three Brontë sisters practiced during their childhood.

Map of the Glass Town Confederacy

Map of Glass Town, one of the Brontës' imaginary kingdoms (Branwell Brontë, age 14).

The Brontë children, including Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and brother Branwell, were avid readers of tales. The children’s encounters with such stories inspired them to reenact voyages to fictitious islands and explore exotic locales as shipwrecked adventurers.  When Charlotte was twelve years old, she and her siblings began writing what has been collectively called “the juvenilia,” which comprises sagas about invented kingdoms, including Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal. The Brontës’ juvenilia compensated for a childhood spent at their father’s isolated parsonage in Haworth, a fragmented family life, and limited schooling; writing became the children’s means of forging their own identities. It was these creative endeavors, along with reading other authors' works in the periodical press, that enabled the Brontë sisters, especially Charlotte and Emily, to become such great storytellers about domestic realities in Victorian life.