Charlotte Brontë wrote these ‘Tales’ at the age of 18. They are part of a series of stories set in the fictional world of Angria, produced by Charlotte and her brother Branwell Brontë between 1829 and 1839.
This volume consists of three sections: ‘The Spell’ and ‘High Life in Verdopolis’ (both novelettes), and ‘The Scrap Book’, a collection of nine prose pieces and two poems. All three sections were written pseudonymously by Charlotte in the persona of Lord Charles Albert Florian Wellesley. Lord Charles’s Angrian stories are generally intended to be exaggerated and vindictive accounts of the bad behaviour of his elder brother, the Duke of Zamorna.
‘High Life in Verdopolis’
Written between February and March 1834, ‘High Life in Verdopolis’ tells of Warner Howard Warner’s search for a wife. However, the main subject is Zamorna’s relationships with his many mistresses: it is said that ‘he humours them, understands every avenue to their hearts, possesses universal influence amongst them but he pays them no deference’. Critics agree that Zamorna is an early model for Rochester in Jane Eyre
(1847), although the characters in Brontë’s published novels are much more skilfully drawn than those in the Angrian sagas.
‘The Spell, an extravaganza’ is the first story in this volume, although it actually dates from June to July 1834, later than ‘High Life in Verdopolis’. Written by Lord Charles as an act of jealous revenge, it reveals that Zamorna has a twin brother, though a spell placed on them at birth determines that both will die if seen together. Zamorna’s wife, Mary, almost brings about the fulfilment of the spell when she comes across a woman who turns out to be the wife of his twin.
‘The Scrap Book’
Written in 1835, ‘The Scrap Book’ declares itself to be ‘A Mingling of Many Things Compiled by Lord C. A. F. Wellesley’. The prose pieces consist of speeches and letters by Zamorna, character sketches, and other scandalous reports on happenings in Angria. There is one poem by Charlotte – entitled ‘Lament’ – and another by Branwell, which is an early draft of the beginning of a poem entitled ‘Misery’.
What is the history of the manuscript?
In her mid twenties Charlotte Brontë took the ‘Tales’ with her to Belgium and left them with her tutor Constantin Heger, the married man with whom she had fallen in love. The inscription on the front of the volume reads, ‘Manuscrits de Miss Charlotte Brontë (Currer Bell)’ – proving that the ‘Tales’ were bound after Brontë became famous as the author Currer Bell. In 1892 a university professor found the volume on a second hand book stall in Brussels: it is not known when or why it left Heger’s possession.