Wednesday, 28 December 2011

More on the manuscript...

Colin Randall (ex-Daily Telegraph, contributor to Abu Dhabi's The National, lives in France) has written a full and clear account of the events at Sotheby's for his France Salut blog:

It seems that the the French museum would be very willing to lend the little book to the Parsonage for an exhibition at some time in the future, and that it would have been willing to go up to a million pounds...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Manuscript will not come home

News Release from the Parsonage:

The Brontë Society has been thwarted in its attempts to return an important Charlotte Brontë manuscript to the writer’s home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum.

The manuscript, which went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on Thursday 15 December, was previously untraced and unpublished. It was expected to fetch between £200,000 - £300,000, though in the end sold for £580,000. The Society had been awarded a grant of £613,140 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), the UK’s fund of last resort for saving great heritage at risk. There was also support from the John Murray Archive, who pledged £20,000, the Friends of National Libraries, £10,000, and many donations in response to a public appeal launched by the Society. 

Unfortunately, this was not enough on the day as the hammer price plus the significant buyer’s commission took the final price to above the amount of money we could raise.

The miniature manuscript, or ‘little book’, measures just 35 x 61mm, but its 20 pages contain more than 4000 words of tiny script, produced by the young Charlotte Brontë in September 1830 when she was 14 years old. It is part of the second series of ‘The Young Men’s Magazines’ inspired by a set of toy soldiers bought for Branwell Brontë by his father in 1826. The series consists of six ‘little books’ four of which are already in the museum’s collection with the final one still remaining untraced.  

Bonnie Greer, President of the Brontë Society, said:

This 'Little Book' puts down in luminous prose not only the daydreams of a little Yorkshire girl, but it also contains the seed of the work of one of the greatest writers in the English language, Charlotte Brontë. It will not be going home, back to the place where it all began, the Parsonage at Haworth. 

Its presence there would have placed it not only at the heart of the proud community in which she was born and raised, but would have brought full circle a Yorkshire story, a Northern story, a British story, a world story. We are hugely grateful to all those who supported our bid to bring this wonderful manuscript back to Haworth, especially the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

These remarkable miniature manuscripts are amongst the most popular of exhibits with visitors to the Brontë Parsonage Museum, but also of great scholarly interest. In particular, they chart Charlotte Brontë’s development as a writer and reveal how many of her early themes carry over into her published novels. The first piece in this manuscript recounts how a murderer is 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, prefiguring the well-known scene in Jane Eyre, in which Rochester’s insane wife sets light to his bed curtains.

Andrew McCarthy, Director, Brontë Parsonage Museum, said:

This is unquestionably the most significant Brontë manuscript to come to light in decades and an important part of our broader literary heritage. It belongs in Haworth and we are bitterly disappointed that scholars and members of the public may now not have the opportunity to study and enjoy it as part of our public collection. We very much hope that we will be able to establish contact with the new owner.

* The manuscript was acquired by Le Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, which is situated at 222, Boulevard St Germain in Paris. Apparently, there are plans to put it on display in January.