An address to children by Patrick Brontë, father of the Brontës

Pamphlet

Description

English

This is a preface to a poem by Patrick Brontë, clergyman, author and father of novelists Emily, Charlotte and Anne. The Phenomenon was intended as a reward for children who excelled in their Sunday School classes. From early on in his life, Patrick had written and published a range of poetry and sermons, although none ever achieved critical acclaim.

Across these two pages, Brontë sets out a harsh, unforgiving lesson about what and how children should read: 

If you read the Scriptures and other good books only, your souls will be edified and comforted; but if you read every tract that is put into your hands by cunning and designing people, or eagerly search out for, and peruse such tracts and books as you know before to be bad, then you are sure to be corrupted and misled, and your talent of reading will become a source of sin and misery to yourselves and others 

This moralistic view strikes us as odd when compared with what we know of his children’s reading experiences. They not only read freely, but their juvenilia is made up of richly imaginative, often dark and violent stories. In fact, as described by Christine Alexander in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

Unlike most middle-class Victorian households, there was little censorship of reading in the Brontë parsonage. The Bible was staple fare; yet Patrick Brontë also encouraged an eclectic diet of Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Bunyan, Milton, Pope, Johnson, Gibbon, Cowper, Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Southey, and Byron…

Full title
The Phenomenon ; or, an Account in verse of the extraordinary disruption of a bog, which took place in the moors of Haworth, on the 12th day of September, 1824 ; intended as a reward-book for the higher classes in Sunday-Schools
Published
1824 , Haworth, Yorkshire
Format
Pamphlet
Creator
Patrick Brontë
Held by
British Library
Usage Terms
Free from known copyright restrictions
Shelfmark
C.117.c.1.

Related articles

Jane Eyre and the rebellious child

Article by
Sally Shuttleworth
Themes: 
Childhood and children's literature, The novel 1832 - 1880

Drawing on children’s literature, educational texts and Charlotte Brontë’s own childhood experience, Professor Sally Shuttleworth looks at the passionate and defiant child of Jane Eyre.

Related collection items

Related works

Jane Eyre

Created by: Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë’s (1816 – 1855) iconic novel of 1847 is subtitled ‘An Autobiography’. ...