Before long, Charlotte was pregnant, suffering what seemed to be ‘morning sickness’. Soon she was ‘completely prostrated with weakness and sickness and constant fever.’ She died on 31 March 1855, aged 38. Arthur stayed at the Parsonage and looked after his father-in-law. He also made possible the publication of Charlotte’s first novel, The Professor. Arthur and Patrick did their best to cooperate with Elizabeth Gaskell, whose Life of Charlotte Bronte was published in March 1857, but Mrs. Gaskell’s view of them both was poisoned by Ellen Nussey, for whom ‘biter and twisted’ seems a reasonable description. When Patrick died in June 1861, his post as curate should have gone to Arthur, who had done most of the parish work for the previous decade. For reasons which remain obscure, the church trustees voted narrowly against him. He retreated to Ireland, where in time he married a cousin but, with his new wife’s acquiescence, maintained their home as a Bronte shrine. Haworth, meanwhile, was also in process of becoming a literary pilgrimage destination second only to Stratford. The opening of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in 1867 linked Haworth to the national rail network, making it much more accessible, and the steam train from Keighley or Oxenhope remains the quintessential way to reach it today. The Parsonage Museum allows us to appreciate something of the family’s domestic situation, and is full of fascinating memorabilia. For a sense of the landscape which inspired all three sisters, but especially Emily, the classic walk out onto the moors and up to Top Withens is a must – but it’s a long walk and you need to go prepared.
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