The Brontes-The Teenage Years-Part 1

For the next five years there was no more schooling, other than that provided by Patrick and Aunt Branwell. The make-believe worlds became even more important, with Branwell and Charlotte immersed in ‘Glasstown’ and then ‘Angria’, and Emily and Anne in ‘Gondal’. In the course of their imaginings they produced a huge number of miniature books, in a tiny script based on print. Much of the content was highly derivative, based on their voracious reading of novels, poetry and periodicals such as Blackwell’s Magazine. These collaborative imaginative games continued even into their adult lives, especially in the case of Emily. It was simultaneously a strength and a weakness, the way in which they learned the writer’s craft but perhaps also a way of fending off reality. If as adults they ignored their neighbours while out walking, it was probably not because they were rude (though Charlotte was certainly a snob) but because they were totally engaged in another world, an imaginative world fuelled by authors we no longer read, such as Scott, Byron, ‘Monk’ Lewis and the German Romantic writers. Other people, in the ‘real’ world, simply did not exist. Gondal and Angria had the same kind of hold over them as computer worlds have on some teenagers today. They might even have been familiar with the avatar. Walter Scott described Napoleon escaping from St. Helena as ‘a third avatar of this singular emanation of the Evil Principle’.

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