I didn’t read about the Brontës juvenilia until the early 2000’s, more than twenty years after I first read Jane Eyre. I was reading a biography of the Brontë family while vacationing with my own family along the Central Coast of California. My four daughters were still quite young at the time, and had brought along a box of their beloved Neopet figurines to play with in their spare time at our hotels and camp sites. Learning about the outrageous fictional heroes that Charlotte Brontë had created in her youth made me re-think her eccentric character Mr. Rochester. His preposterous behavior didn’t seem so outlandish when compared with the actions of the Duke of Zamorna. The strange plots twists in my favorite novel (the mad wife hidden in the attic, the impetuous wedding that ended at the altar, the broken-hearted voice calling through the wind) each made more sense within the context of this imaginative world that the Brontë siblings had created together when they were young.
After I finished the book, I passed it along to my husband (who had just finished reading the book that he had brought along for the trip). He was a few chapters in and had just started reading about the Brontë kids making up crazy adventures with their tin soldiers, when he threw a glance at our daughters, who were thoroughly engrossed in acting out original adventures with their Neopet toys. Then the two of us shared a smile, because just like the children of the Reverend Patrick Brontë, our daughters also tended to play best with each other and were happiest when they were inventing stories together. My husband laughed and whispered to me, “We’re raising a bunch of Brontës.”
Tracy Neis is the author of the Brontë-inspired novels Mr. R and Restless Spirits which I have previously reviewed on this site. Her latest offering, Wildfell Summer, is available now and waiting for me on my bookshelf.
Edited by Nicola F. a.k.a. The Brontë Babe.
Thanks for reading. I’d love it if you stopped by The Journal of Juvenilia Studies where you can read my essay, “Autobiography, Wish-Fulfilment, and Juvenilia. The ‘Fractured Self’ in Charlotte Brontë’s Paracosmic Counterworld”.
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