This is Charlotte Brontë’s earliest known effort at writing, a short story written for her sister Anne, the baby of the family. It it also the first of the little books made by the Brontë children and, as such, it does not reach the level of technical sophistication that they were later to achieve. The writing is a clumsy longhand, there is no title page or contents list and no attempt is made to imitate magazine format.The compensations, on the other hand, are enormous. The book is delightfully illustrated throughout with tiny watercolour vignettes and it still retains its original covers made from a piece of grey-flowered wallpaper. At the back there is evidence that the children were beginning to invent their ‘Young Men’s’ adventures, the stories based on the toy soldiers given to Branwell by Mr Brontë. There is a map, carefully divided into four provinces (one for each of the children), and two lists of places, one of those belonging to Wellington and one of those belonging to Parry. As Wellington was Charlotte’s ‘Young Man’ and Parry Emily’s, this suggests that the two girls already had a writing partnership despite the dominant role played by Branwell who was later to assume a monopoly on Charlotte’s writing time. As Charlotte tells us in her History of the Year that she and Emily shared secret ‘bed plays’, this confirms the fact that a partnership of the imagination already existed between the two girls. The use of the names ‘Wellington’ and ‘Parry’ suggest that the little book dates from at least 1826 when the toy soldiers acquired these names and not as early as 1824, the date to which it is usually assigned.
Credit: Juliet R V Barker, Sixty Treasures (Keighley: Brontë Society, 1988)
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