The Brontë Family History

The Reverend Patrick Brontë, his wife Maria and six children moved to Haworth Parsonage in 1820. Within five years Maria and the two eldest daughters had died from cancer and tuberculosis. This triple tragedy led the good reverend to keep his remaining family close to him, and for the next few years the children were home-schooled in a highly creative environment.

The children conjured up mythical heroes and fantasy lands, and produced miniature homemade books, a couple of which are on show in the parsonage museum. It was an auspicious start, at least for the three girls, Charlotte, Emily and Anne. The lone boy, Branwell, was more of a painter, but lacked his sisters' drive and discipline. After a short stint as a professional artist, he ended up spending most of his days in the Black Bull pub, drunk and stoned on laudanum obtained across the street at Rose & Co Apothecary – now the Cabinet of Curiosities shop.

While the three sisters were setting the London literary world alight with the publication of three superb novels – Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey – in one extraordinary year (1847), Branwell was fading quickly and died of tuberculosis in September 1848. The family was devastated, but things quickly got worse. Emily fell ill with tuberculosis soon after her brother's funeral; she never left the house again, and died on 19 December. Anne, who had also been sick, was next; Charlotte took her to Scarborough to seek a sea cure, but she died on 28 May 1849. Charlotte was the only child to make it past their 31st birthday.

The remaining family never recovered. Despite her growing fame, Charlotte struggled with depression and never quite adapted to her high position in literary society. Despite her misgivings, she eventually married, but died in the early stages of pregnancy on 31 March 1855. All things considered, it's hardly surprising that poor old Patrick Brontë spent the remainder of his life going steadily insane. He died in Haworth in 1861 at the ripe old age of 84.