The Three Brontës eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 276 pages of information about The Three Brontës.

[Footnote A:  Serially in the London Journal in 1850; in volume form in Paris, 1851.  It is possible, but not likely, that Eugene Sue may have seen the manuscript of The Professor when it was “going the round".]

Then there is that other “sensational discovery” of the Heger portrait, that little drawing (now in the National Portrait Gallery) of Charlotte Bronte in curls, wearing a green gown, and reading Shirley.  It is signed Paul Heger, 1850, the year of Shirley’s publication, and the year in which Charlotte sat to Richmond for her portrait.  There are two inscriptions on the back:  “The Wearin’ of the Green; First since Emily’s death”; and below:  “This drawing is by P. Heger, done from life in 1850.”  The handwriting gives no clue.

Mr. Malham-Dembleby attaches immense importance to this green gown, which he “identifies” with the pink one worn by Lucy in Villette.  He says that Lady Ritchie told him that Charlotte wore a green gown at the dinner-party Thackeray gave for her in June, 1850; and when the green gown turns out after all to be a white one with a green pattern on it, it is all one to Mr. Malham-Dembleby.  So much for the green gown.  Still, gown or no gown, the portrait may be genuine.  Mr. Malham-Dembleby says that it is drawn on the same paper as that used in Mr. George Smith’s house, where Charlotte was staying in June 1850, and he argues that Charlotte and M. Heger met in London that year, and that he then drew this portrait of her from the life.  True, the portrait is a very creditable performance for an amateur; true, M. Heger’s children maintained that their father did not draw, and there is no earthly evidence that he did; true, we have nothing but one person’s report of another person’s (a collector’s) statement that he had obtained the portrait from the Heger family, a statement at variance with the evidence of the Heger family itself.  But granted that the children of M. Heger were mistaken as to their father’s gift, and that he did draw this portrait of Charlotte Bronte from Charlotte herself in London in 1850, I cannot see that it matters a straw or helps us to the assumption of the great tragic passion which is the main support of Mr. Malham-Dembleby’s amazing fabrication.

APPENDIX II

Leyland’s theory is that Branwell Bronte wrote the first seventeen chapters of Wuthering Heights.  It has very little beyond Leyland’s passionate conviction to support it.  There is a passage in a letter of Branwell’s to Leyland, the sculptor, written in 1845, where he says he is writing a three-volume novel of which the first volume is completed.  He compares it with “Hamlet” and with “Lear”.  There is also Branwell’s alleged statement to Mr. Grundy.  And there is an obscure legend of manuscripts produced from Branwell’s hat, before the eyes of Mr. Grundy, in an inn-parlour.  Leyland argues freely from the antecedent probability suggested

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The Three Brontës from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.