Brontë juvenilia: 'The History of the Young Men'


‘The History of the Young Men: From Their First Settlement to the Present Time’ is the fictional chronicle of 12 adventurers who set sail for West Africa, where they establish a colony which becomes known as the Glass Town Federation. This manuscript was written by Branwell Brontë at the age of 13, in the persona of Glass Town historian Captain John Bud. 

As Branwell Brontë explains in his introduction, this story was inspired by the box of 12 toy soldiers given to him by his father shortly before his ninth birthday. The four Brontë children, acting as gods – or Genii (as they called themselves) – each chose one of the soldiers to rule his own kingdom within the Glass Town Federation.  

What is the geography of Glass Town?

Branwell drew a map of the Glass Town Federation to illustrate ‘The History of the Young Men’. It shows Wellington’s Land, Parry’s Land, Ross’s Land and Sneaky’s Land, the kingdoms created by Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell, respectively. Though supposedly on the African continent, the four kingdoms have much in common with Britain: Wellington’s Land resembles Ireland, Sneaky’s Land is like Scotland, and Parry’s and Ross’s territories share characteristics of Yorkshire and lowland Scotland. 

Also shown on the map is the main cosmopolitan district containing the capital, the Great Glass Town (later known as ‘Verreopolis’ or ‘Verdopolis’). This grew to be a thriving city of factories, prisons, palaces and dungeons, with a labyrinthine network of caves beneath, harbouring criminals and low life.  

What are the key events in ‘The History of the Young Men’?

On reaching the shores of West Africa, the Twelves (as the company is known) explore the new territory they have claimed and encounter the Genii (four giant monsters representing Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne), who confer their protection on the Young Men. After building their first settlement—Twelves Town—they find themselves embroiled in recurring skirmishes with the native Ashantee tribe for a period of years. The Twelves invariably come off better in these battles, impressing the British Government, which sends a deputation to Glass Town to find a man to lead its troops against the Emperor Napoleon. Arthur Wellesley of the Twelves is selected, defeats Napoleon and returns victorious to Glass Town where he becomes king.

Full title:
'The History Of The Young Men From Their First Settlement To The Present Time'
15 December 1830-7 May 1831, Haworth, Yorkshire
Manuscript / Fair copy / Artwork / Image
Branwell Brontë
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Ashley MS 2468

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