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Full text of "The Brontèˆ sisters"

THE BRONTE SISTERS

Introduction
IHE Bronte sisters form a curious and interesting
phenomenon in English literature, in that during
the hundred years since their death not only has
critical appreciation of their work continually heightened,
but also what amounts to a popular cult has grown about
their name. The number of works of criticism on the
Bronte writings is only exceeded, I believe, by those on.
Shakespeare, while statistics from libraries and publishers
reveal that when the great English novelists of the past are
placed in order of present reading popularity, the Brontes
veer between second and third place. During the last two
decades many plays, novels, and films, of varying type and
accuracy, have been founded on their fictions and their lives.
The Bronte Society, established in 1893 for the preservation
of Bronte relics and study of Bronte works, flourishes
strongly and publishes yearly Transactions containing fresh
pieces of Bronte research. Most striking fact, perhaps, of
all: in 1947, centenary of the first publication of Bronte
fiction, more than fifty thousand persons visited the not
very easily accessible Haworth Parsonage, now a Bronte
Museum, and since then the attendances have increased.
Nor is this cult confined to England. The extent of
Bronte reading and study conducted in other languages is
quite remarkable. I myself receive correspondence on
Bront'e subjects from many diverse nations. The Brontes
seem to appeal alike to the student of literature, the poet,
the mystic, the moralist, and the novel-reader in search of
popular entertainment.
How can this be ? What qualities attract this interest, so
exceptional in both intensity and range ?
There are two aspects of a writer's work with which
readers need to be familiar before they can fully grasp
its significance: the essential nature of the work and the