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FOUND TEXT: Charlotte Brontë "The Search After Happiness" by Charlotte Brontë THE SEARCH AFTER HAPPINESS/ Charlotte Brontë Introduction THE BRONTES—Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—were a literary family whose accomplishments streaked across the sky of the 1840s, but only Charlotte lived long enough to briefly enjoy celebrity. The sisters began publishing their poetry and fiction at a time when life at home was dismal. Brother Branwell was declining into alcohol and opium addiction. An attempt by Emily and Charlotte to start a school had failed, and Charlotte had apparently had an unhappy love affair with a married man while under his tutelage in Belgium. Back at home, Charlotte happened to discover Emily's poetry, then Anne got out hers, and the sisters published a combined volume under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Soon Emily's novel, Wuthering Heights, and Anne's Agnes Grey were published together. The Professor, by Charlotte, was initially rejected, but Jane Eyre was published in 1847. When Charlotte published Shirley in 1849, the true identities of the authors were made public, but by then tuberculosis had left only Charlotte and her father in what had been a family of eight. During their brief period of publishing, Charlotte and Emily wrote two of the most important novels of mid-nineteenth-century English literature. They absorbed the animus of the Romantic period and sang its swan song in passionate, violent, distinctly female voices. Even Anne's Agnes Grey is a sturdy book—an unadorned, realistic story of the life of a governess. Of the four Brontë children who survived beyond childhood, only Branwell achieved no literary recognition, despite early promise and a lifetime of trying. Their successes were not accidents of publishing. From the time they were quite young, the Brontë children had been at play, dramatizing and eventually writing a vast and intricately connected saga of romantic characters and landscapes. The early writings of the Brontë children are a fascinating study in literary precocity and the development of young writers' minds. Jane Austen rendered her own equally interesting juvenilia into fair, self-edited copies when she was a mature author, in three neatly done volumes, but the Brontë material remained in the condition that the children left it. This made it a more The Missouri Review · 223 authentic record of their early writing than Jane Austen's, but it also made it less accessible. The lack of fair copies is one of the reasons that the Brontë juvenilia long resisted the efforts of scholars.* The intriguing manuscripts were initiaUy noted in 1857, when Charlotte's first biographer, Mrs. GaskeU, visited the author's widower, Reverend Arthur Bell NichoUs (Charlotte had been briefly married to her father's curate, before dying of pregnancy toxemia). NichoUs refused to part with her manuscripts, but Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, who had accompanied the biographer, purloined a bundle of them under the reluctant widower's nose. The material, while too extensive for her to absorb, forced Mrs. Gaskell to rewrite the early parts of her biography before returning the manuscripts to Reverend NichoUs. In the biography she notes, "I have had a curious packet confided to me, containing an immense amount of manuscript, in an inconceivably small space; tales, dramas, poems, romances, written principally by Charlotte, in a hand which it is almost impossible to decipher without the aid of a magnifying glass." These early childhood stories had been composed in miniature, in tiny booklets scarcely larger than postage stamps. They disappeared from notice for forty years and eventually were scattered among collectors and libraries. The shape of the manuscripts, the challenge of reading them, the complexity of authorship (Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne)—all conspired to make them a daunting job to comprehend and edit. Unlike most children of their time, particularly girls, the Brontes were allowed full access to their father's Ubrary, including the writings of Byron. Their father, Patrick Brontë, was a poor clergyman at Haworth, West Riding of Yorkshire, who had gone to St. John's College, Cambridge, a few years after Wordsworth. Patrick read widely, wrote three books, and contributed often to magazines. He ascribed to the romantic idea of the healing and moral...


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