'The Search after Happiness: a tale … ’ was written by Charlotte Brontë when she was 13 years old. The story is set in Glass Town, an imaginary African kingdom which is revealed in a series of related stories and poems written chiefly by Charlotte and her brother Branwell.
What is the story about?
It tells the story of a man named Henry O’Donell who leaves his city to seek happiness and contentment. On his journey he meets a man on a similar quest and they travel to a distant land where they live for many peaceful years. After his companion mysteriously disappears, O’Donell grows increasingly lonely and depressed until one day a Genii (a magical character) appears and grants his wish to return to his long missed home. He is welcomed warmly by the chief of the city and his two sons (characters based on The Duke of Wellington and his sons) and resides there happily ever after.
What can we learn from the manuscript?
The 15 page hand-sewn booklet in brown paper wrappers is mostly written in minute characters, in imitation of print. It contains an elaborately laid out title page which is also intended to mimic that of a printed book. The word ‘happiness’ is spelt incorrectly on the title page, and the text contains many revisions and deletions. The manuscript is one of many tiny handwritten booklets produced by the Brontë children, originally written so that, in the imaginary world the siblings created, they could be read by Branwell's toy soldiers. The size of the books conserved paper, which was expensive at the time; and the miniature script, written in imitation of newspaper print, also enabled the children to keep this world away from prying adult eyes and to create - as their father, Patrick, said - 'a secret society among themselves'.
Why is this tale significant?
The story contains Charlotte’s earliest known poem, ‘In this fairy land of light’. Poetry features a lot in Charlotte’s juvenile writings; however, once she became a published author she largely abandoned it in favour of prose fiction.
A Tale by C
August the seventeenth 1829
THE SEARCH AFTER 2
A TALE BY
PRINTED BY HERSELF
The Persons meant by the Chief of the city & his Sons are the Duke of Wellington the [Marqu?] of Dune & Lord Wellesley the city is the Glass town Henry ODonell [illegible] and Alexander Delancy are Captain [Tammy?] - not-at-home & Monsieur Like-to-live-in-lonely-places
August the 17
A TALE BY 3
The search af CB July 28 1829 ter happiness
NOT many years ago there lived in a certain city a person of the name of Henry ODonell, in figure he was tall of a dark complexion & searching black eye, his mind was strong & unbending his disposition uncusiable & though res-pected by many he was loved by few. the city where he re-sided was very great & magnificent it was governed by a warior & mighty man of valour whose deeds had resoun-ded to the ends of the earth. this soldier had 2 son's who were at that time of the seperate ages of 6 & 7 years Henry - ODonell was a nobleman of great consequence in the city & a peculiar favourite with the governor before whose glance his stern mind would bow & at his comand ODonells selfwill would be overcome & while playing with the young princes he would forget his usual sulleness of demeanour the day's of his childhood returned upon him & he would be a merry as the youngest who was gay indeed. one day at court a quarrel ensued between him & another noble words came to blows & ODonell struck his oponent a violent blow on the left cheek at this the miliatry king started up & commanded ODonell to apologize this he imediatly did, but from that hour [a] spell the of [illegible] seem to have been cast over him & he resolved in his own mind to quit the city. the evening before he put this resolution into practise he had an interview with the King & returned quite an altered man. before he was seemed stern & intractable now he was [only?] meditative & sorrowful as he was passing the inner court of the palace he perceived the 2 young princes at play he called them & they came runing to him. I am going far from this city & shall most likely never see you again said ODonell where are you going? I canot tell then why do you [go?] away from us why do you go from your own house & lands from this great & splendid city to you know not where
because I am not happy here. & if you are not happy here where you [illegible] have every thing for which you can whish do you expect to be happy when you are dying of hunger or thirst in a desert or longing for the society of men when you are thousands of miles of miles From any human being. how do you know that that will be my case? it is very likely that it will. well & if it was I am determined to go. well take [that] this then that you may sometimes remberus when you dwell with only the wild beast[s?] of the desert or the [illegible] of the [illegible] great eagle mountain said they as they each gave him a curling lock of their hair yes I will take it my princes & I shall rember you & your the mighty warrior king your father even when the angel of Death has stretched forth his bony arm. against me and I am within the confines of his dreary kingdom the cold damp grave replied ODonell as the tears rushed to his eyes and he once more embraced the little princess either quitted them it might be
for ever - - - - - - -
THE Dawn of the next morning found ODonell on the sumit of a High mountain which overlooked the city and he had stopped to take a farewell view of the place of his nativity. all along the eastern horizon there was a rich glowing light which as it rose gradually melted into a the pale blue of the sky in which just over the light there was still visible the silver crescent of the moon in a short time the sun began to rise in golden glory casting his splendid radiance over all the face of nature & illuminating the magnificent city in the midst of which towering in silent grandeur there ap-
-peared the Palace where dwelt [illegible great] the mighty Prince of that great city. & beautiful all around the brazen gates & massive walls of which there flowed the majestic stream of the Guadima whose Banks where bordered by splendid palaces & magnificent gardens behind these stretching for many a league were fruitful plains & dark forests whose impenetrable shade [illegible]
him seemed almost impenetrable to a single ray of light while in the distance blue mountains were seen raising their heads to the sky & forming a misty [girdle?] to the plains of [prosper?] DeLancy on the whole of this grand and beautiful [illegible beautiful?]
ODonells gaze was long & fixed but his last look was to the palace of the 4
King & a tear stood in his eye as he said ernestly may he be preserved from all evil may good attend him & may the cheif Geni spread their broad sheild of protection over him all the time of his [illegible] in this wearisome world. then turning round he began to decend the mountain he pursued his way till the sun began to wax hot when he stopped & sitting down he took out some provisions which he had brought with him & which consisted of a few biscuits & dates while he was eating a tall man came up & acosted him ODonell requests him to sit beside him & offered him a biscuit this he refused & taking one out of a small bag which he carried he sat down & they began to talk. In the course of conversation ODonell learnt that this mans name was Alexander Delancy that he was a native of France & that he was engaged in the same pursuit with himself [i-e?] the search of happines they talked together for along time & at last agreed to travel together then rising they pursued their journey towards night fall they lay down in the open air & slept soundly till morning when they again set off & thus they continued till the 3day when about 2 hours after noon they aproached an old castle which they entred & as they were examining it they discovered a subteaneous passage which they could not see the end of [&?] Let us follow where this passage leads us & perhaps we may find happiness here said ODonell Delancy agreed & the 2 stepped into the opening & imedia[tely?] they a great stone was rolled to the mouth of the passage with a noise like thunder and which shut out all but a single ray daylight. “what is that? exclaimed ODonell “I cannot tell," replied DeLancy “but never mind replied I supose it is only some genius playing tricks” “well it may be so returned ODonell and they proceeded on their way after traveling for a long time [illegible] they could reckon about 2 days they perceived & silvery streak of light on the walls of the passag something like the light of the moon in a short time they came to the end of the passage and leaping out of the opening which [illegible] they entred a new world they where at first so much bewildred by the different objects which struck
their senses that they almost fainted but at length recovering they had time to see every thing around them they were upon the top of a rock which was more than a thousand fathoms high, all beneath them was liquid Mountains tossed to & fro with horrible compulsion confusion & roaring & raging with such a most tremendous noise & crowned with waves of foam all above them was a mighty firmament in one part covere with black clouds from which darted huge & terrible sheets of lightning in another part an imense globe of Light like silver was hanging in the sky and several smaller globes which spakled exceedingly surrounded it. in a short time the [?tempest] which was dreadful beyond description ceased the [dark?] black clouds cleared away the silver globes vanished & another globe whose light was of a gold coulour appeared it was far larger than the former & in a little time it became so intensely bright that they could no longer gaze on it so after looking around them for some time rose & they pursued their journey. they had travelled [illegible] a long [illegible] way when they [illegible] came [illegible] a forest the trees of which bore a large fruit of a deep purple colour of which they tested & found that it was fit for food, they they journeyed in this forest for three days & on the 3 day they entred a valley or rather a deep glen surounded on [illegible] each side by tremendous rocks whose tops where lost in the clouds in this glen they continued for some time & at last came in sight of a mountain which rose so high that the could not see the sumit though the sky was quite clear. at the foot of the mountain there flowed a river of pure water border by trees, which had flowers of a beautiful rose coulour .. [?] except these trees nothing was to be see[nb]ut black forests & huge rocks rising out of a wilderness which bore the terrible aspect of devastation & which stretched as far as the eye could reach in this desolate land no sound was to be heard, not even cry of the eagle or the scream of the Curlew but a silence like the silence of the grave reigned over all the [illegible] face of nature unbroken except by the [murmer?] of the river as it slowly followed wound its course in through the desert
CHAPTER THE III 5
after they had contemplated this scene for some time ODonell exclaimed “ALEXANDRA Let us abide here what need have we to travel father let us make this our place of rest”! “we will” replied DeLancy & “this shall be our abode” added he pointing to a cave at the foot of the mountaine “it shall” returned - ODonell as they entred it. in this country they remained for many long years & passed their time in a maner which made them completely happy sometimes they would sit upon a high rock & listen to the hoarse thunder rolling through the sky & making the mountains to echo & the deserts to ring with its awful voice, sometimes they would watch the lightning darting across [thick?] black clouds & shivering huge fragments of rock in its terrible passage sometime they would watch witness the great glorious [illegible] gold sink behind the far distant mountains which girded the horizon & then watch the advance of grey twilight & the little stars coming forth in beauty & the silver moon arising in her splendour till the cold dews of night began to fall and then they would retire to their bed in the cave with hearts full of joy & thankfulness. one morning Alexandra Delancy one evening they were seated in this cave by a large Blazing fire of turf which cast red its lurid light to the high arched roof and illuminated the tall & stately pillars cut by the hand of nature out the stony rock with a cheerful & red glare that appeared strange in this desolate land which which no fires had ever before visited except those of heaven's long feirce flames of death which flash from the [illegible] heavens when robed in the dreadful majesty of thunder. they were seated in this cave then listening to the howling night wind as it swept in mournful [illegible] through the trees of the forest which grew encircled the foot of the mount[ain?] & bordered the stream which flowed round it. they were quite silent silent & their thoughts were ocupied by those that were afar off & whom it was their fate most likely never more to behold [but?] ODonell was thinking of his noble master and his young Princes of the thousands of miles which
intervened between him and them & the sad silent tear rushed forth as he ruminated on the happiness of those times when his master frowned not when the gloom of care gave place to the smile of freindship when he would talk to him & laugh with him & be to him not as a brother no no but as a mighty warrior who relaxing from his haughtiness would now and then converse with his high officers in a strain of vivacity [illegible] & playful humour not to be equalled. next he viewed him in his minds eye at the head of his army [?haughtily illegible viewing the ?distant ranks of the illegible] he heard in the ears of his imagination the buzz of expectation of hope & supposition which humed round him penetrating as his eye with a still keeness of expression was fixed on the distant ranks of the enemy then he heard his authorative voice [penetrating?] [illegible sons of freedom?] [illegible] onward to the battle & lastly his parting words to him “in prosperity or, in [illegible] misery, in sorrow or in joy in populous cities or in desolate wildernesses my prayer shall go with you” darted across his mind with such painful distinctness that he at length gave way to his uncontrollable greif and be at the thought that he should never behold his beloved & mightly comander more & burst into a flood of tears. what is the matter Henry exclaimed Delancy O nothing [illegible] nothing was the reply & they were resuming their [illegible] talk thinking when a voice was heard outside the cavern which broke strangely upon the desolate silence of that land which for thousands of years had heard no sound save the howling of the wind in through the forest the echoing of the thunder among mountains or the solitary murmuring of the river if we except the prescence of ODonell & Delancy. Listen ! cried ALEXANDER listen ! what is that. it is the sound of a mans voice replied Henry & then snatching up a burning torch he rushed to the mouth of the cave followed by Delancy when they had got there they saw the figure of a very old man sitting on the damp wet ground moaning & complaining bitterly they went up to him at their approach herose & said are you human or supernatural beings? they assured him that they were
human. he went on. Then why have you taken up your abode in this land of the grave? ODonell answered that he would relate to him all the particulars if he would he would take shelter for the night with them the old man consented & when they were all assembled round the cheerful fire again ODonell fulfilled his promise & then requested the old man to [relate?] tell to them how he came to be travelling there he complied & began as follows - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
CHAPTER the IV 6
I was the son of a respectable merchant in moussoul my father intended to bring me up to his own trade but I was idle & did not like it one day when as I was playing in the street a very old man came up to me & asked me if I would go with him I asked him where he was going he replyed that if I would go with him he would show me very wonderful things this raised my curiosity & I consented he imediatly took me by the hand & hurried me out of the [illegible] city of Moussoul so quickly that my breath was almost stopped & it seemed as if we were glided along in the air for I could hear no sound of our footsteps we continued on our course for a long time till we came to glen surrounded by very high mountains how we passed over those mountains I could never tell, in the middle of the glen there was a small fountain of very clear water my conducter directed me to drink of it this I imediatly did & imediatly I found myself in a palace the glory of which far exceeds any description which I can give the tall stately pillars reaching from heaven to earth were formed at the times & pured diamonds the pavement sparkling with gold & precious stones & the mighty dome mausolem & awful by its stupendous magnitude was of a single emerald in the midst of this grand & magnificent palace was [almost?] which like the sun the radiance of which made all the palace to flash & glitter with an almost [illegible] fearful [splendour?] grandeur the ruby sent [illegible] forth of crimson light the top [illegible] gold the saphire [illegible] purple & from the [illegible] dome poured a flood of deep clear splendour which overcame all the other gaudy lights by its wild [illegible] [illegible] glory
in this palace were thousands and th tens of thousand of faires & geni some of whom flitted lightly at among the blazing lamps to the sound of unearthly music which dyed & swelled in a [illegible] of wild grandeur suited to the words they sung -
in this fairy land of light
no mortal ere has been
and the dreadful granbeau of this sight
by them hath not be seen
t'would strike them shudering to the earth
like the flash from a thunder cloud
it would quench their light & joyous mirth
and fit them for the shroud
the rising of our palaces
like visions of the deep
and the glory of their structure
no mortal voice can speak
the music of our songs
and our mighty trumpets swell
& the sounding of our silver harps
no mortal tongue can tell
of us they know but little
save when the storm doth rise
and the mighty waves are tossing
agains the arched skys
then oft they see us striding 7
then oft they see us striding
o'e'r the billows snow white foam
or hear us speak in thunder
when we stand in grandeur lone
on the darkest of the thunder clouds
which veil the pearly mighty moon
around us lightning flashing
[till morning at the gloom?] - - -
nights blackness to illume
chorus the music of our songs
and our mighty trumpets
swell & the sounding of our silver
harp no mortal tong we can tell
when they had finished their was a dead silence for about half an hour & then the palace began slowly & gradualy to vanish till it disapeared intirely & I found myself in the glen surounded by high mountains [.?] the [p f? mountain] illuminated by the cold light of the moon springing up in the middle of the valley & standing close by was the old man who had conducted me to this enchanted place he turned round & I could see that his face [illegible] had an expression of strange severity which I had not before observed. Follow me he said I obeyed & we began to ascend the mountain it would be needless to trouble you with a repititon of all my adventures suffice it to say that after two months time we arrived at a large temple of black marble we entred it the interior as well as the outside had a very gloomy and ominous aspect being intirly built of black marble the old man suddenly seized me & dragged me to an altar [illegible] at the upper end of the temple then forcing me down on my knees he made me swear that I would be his servant forever this promise I faithfully kept notwithstanding the dreadful scenes of magic of which every day of my life I was forced to be a witness
one day he told me that he would discharge me from the oath I had taken & comanded me to leave his service I obeyed & after wandering about the world for many years I one evening laid myself down on a little bank by the roadside intending to pass the night there suddenly I felt myself raised in the air by invisible hands in a short time I lost sight of the earth and continued on my course throug the clouds till I became insensible & when I recovered from my swoon I found myself lying outside this cave what may be my future destiny I know not ------------------------
[illegible] CHAPTER the V
When the old man had finished his tale ODonell & Delancy thanked him for the velation adding at the same time that they had never heard anything half so wonderful then as it was very late they all retired to rest for the night next morning ODonell awoke very early & looking round the cave he perceived the bed of leaves on which the old man had lain to be empty the rising [showery?] [stary?] clouds except those in the east whose edges were [tinged?] with the bright rays of the rising morning sun as they strove to hide its glory with their [stark veil?] of vapours now all beauty & radiance by the golden line of light which sreaked their [illegible] gloomy surface beneath this storm portending sky & far off to the westward [illegible] rose two tremendous rocks whose sumit were enveloped with black clouds rolling one above and another with an awful magnificence which [was?] [illegible] to the land of wilderness & mountain which which they canopied gliding along in [gliding along in the air between illegible] these two rocks was a chariot of light & in the chariot sat a figure the expression of of whose [countenance?] was that of the old man armed with the majesty & might of a spirit ODonell stood at the mouth of the cave wating for it till it vanished & then calling Delancy he related the circumstance to him [he related the illegible circumstance?]
some years after this Alexander went out one morning to in search of the [illegible] of the fruit on which they subsisted noon came & he had not returned evening & still no tiding of him ODonell began to be alarmed & set out in search of him but could no where find him one whole day he spent in wandering about the rocks and mountains and in the evening he came back to his cave weary and faint with hunger & thirst days weeks months passed away & no Delaney apeared ODonell might now be said to be truly miserable he would sit on a rock for hours together and cry out Alexander Alexander but receive no answer except the distant echoing of his voice among the rocks sometimes he fancied it was another person answering him and then he would listen ernestly till it dyed away then sinking into utter despair again he woul sit till the dews of night began to fall when he would retire to his cave to pass the night in [illegible] broken slumbers or in thinking of his beloved commander whom he could never see move in one of these dreadful [illegible] intervals he took up a small parcel & opening it he saw lying before him two locks of soft culy hair shing like - burnished gold he gazed on them for a moment little & thought of the last words of those who gave [them?] to him - take this then that you may rember [the illegible] [of illegible] us when you dewll with only the wild beast of the desert as & the great eagle of the mountain he burst into a flood of tears he wrung his hands sorrow [illegible] anguish & in the anguish of the moment he wished that he could once more see them & the mighty warrior King their father if it cost him his life just at that instant a loud clap of thunder shook the roof of the cave a sound like the rushing of the wind was heard & a mighty genius stood before him I know thy wish cried he with a loud and terrible voice [but will part?] it in 2 months time thou returned to the
castle wence thou camest [illegible] hither & surrenderest thyself power ODonell promised that he would & instantly he found himself at the door of the old castle & in the land of his birth he pursued his journey for three days & on the 3 day he arrived at the mountain which overlooked the city it was a beautiful evening in the month of September & the full moon was shedding her traquil light on all the face of nature the city was lying in its splendour & magnificence [illegible] surrounded by the broad stream of the Guadima the palace was majestically towering in the midst of it and all its pillars & battlements [illegible] eemed in the [realm?] light of the moon as if they were transformed into silver by the touch of a fairys wand ODonell staid not long to contemplate this beautiful scene but decending the mountain he soon crossed the fertile plain which led to the city & entering the gates he quickly arrived at the palace without speaking to any one he entred the iner court of the palace by a seecret way with which he was acquainted & then going up the flight of steps [which led illegible] & crossing a long gallery he arrived at the kings private apartment & the door was half open he looked and beheld a very handsome young man sitting together & reading he instantly recgonized them & was going to step forward when the door opened & the Great Duke entred ODonell could contain himself no longer but rushing in he threw himself at the feet of his Grace ODonell is this you exclaimed the Duke [of which illegible] it is my most noble master [illegible] answered ODonell almost choking with joy the [illegible] young princes instantly [embraced?] him while he almost smothered them with
caresses after a while they became tranquil & then ODonell at the request of the Duke related all his adventures since he parked with them not omiting the condition . on which  he was now in the palace when he had ended a loud voice was heard saying that he was free from his promise & might spend the rest of his days in his native city some time after this as ODonell was walking in the streets he met a gentleman who he thought he had seen before but could not recolect where or under what circumstances after a little conversation he discovered that he was Alexander Delaney that he was now a rich merchant in the city of Paris & high in favour with the emperor Napoleon as may be suposed they both were equally delighted at the discovery they ever after lived [illegible] hapily in the city their seperate cities & so ends my little tale.
C Bronte August the 17
. . . .
Chap I character of ODonell cause of his travels
Chap II set out meeting Delancy coming to the old castle
entreing the new world description .......................................
Chap III coming to the cave maner of life arrival of the old man
Chap VI old mans tale .............................................................
Chap V Departure of the old man disapearance of Delancy
transportation of ODonell his arrival at the city his arrival
at the palace, & his interview with his cheif he finds
- Article by:
- Carol Atherton
- The novel 1832–1880
Dr Carol Atherton explores how Charlotte Brontë mixes fantasy with realism in Jane Eyre, making use of fairytale and myth and drawing on the imaginary worlds she and her siblings created as children.