The Brontes-The Teenage Years-Part 2

The Napoleonic wars were a major inspiration for the imaginary worlds of the Brontes, and the Duke of Wellington and his brother Arthur Wellesley, lightly disguised, were among the characters deployed. Romantic themes were as important as the military and political, and Charlotte’s male avatar the Duke of Zamorna was a cynical Byronic adulterer. Needless to say, in imaginative games children always envisage themselves as the leaders of society, powerful, wealthy, aristocratic and above convention – and this was the end of the Regency period, after all, when for male aristocrats, and not a few females, sexual freedom was the norm. It was Wellington himself who, approached by a blackmailer with a kiss-and-tell-story, replied ‘Publish and be damned!’ In the 1820’s, only the merchant classes tried to hide such things. Victorian prudery had yet to make its impact. If imaginary world role-play continues beyond childhood, the constraints of real life may perhaps be felt as tiresome, unpleasant or deeply unfair. Patrick Bronte himself did not approve of make-believe worlds, or indeed of novels, and in one of his own moralistic published stories wrote: The sensual novelist and his admirer are beings of depraved appetites and sickly imaginations, who having the art of self-tormentingare diligently and zealously employed in creating an imaginary world, which they can never inhabit, only to make the real world, with which they must necessarily be conversant, gloomy and insupportable.