|Emma Butcher Photo by Richard Wilcocks|
The aftermath of the Napoleonic wars seems to have been much more drawn-out and traumatic than a glance at standard histories might convey: the young Brontës were developing when many returned soldiers were still at a loose end, on reduced pay - "it was no easy ride for them back in Yorkshire", we were told. French soldiers too - thousands of prisoners of war were turned out of their prisons, to wander about the country in a state of confusion, picking up small jobs where they could. And did Charlotte and Emily ever get to see that famous battlefield at Waterloo, not far from Brussels - possible, probable... highly likely? Certainly, Charlotte was given a fragment of Napoleon's coffin - it's in the exhibition. And the children and their Wellington-fixated father had plenty of access to military news and reminiscences in newspapers and magazines.
|Terror by Branwell 1830|
It was not just the 1829 gift of toy soldiers to Branwell: the children were surrounded by real, close-to-home conflicts and memories of recent atrocities - the Luddites, the deadly attack on civilians by sabre-equipped yeomanry at Peterloo. Their juvenile fantasies were well-fed.
"The violent, masculine landscapes of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre can be traced back to the Brontës' early engagement with militarism and warfare," we were told. A strong case was made.