Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bronte siblings bicentenary plans announced

Brontë sisters Image copyright PA
Image caption The Bronte sisters - Charlotte, Anne and Emily - were born between 1816 and 1820

The bicentenaries of the births of the Bronte siblings are to be marked with a five-year programme of events.

Charlotte Bronte will be celebrated in 2016, the brother Branwell in 2017, Emily in 2018 and Anne in 2020, while 2019's events focus on father Patrick.

Events include a new exhibition by author Tracy Chevalier and a short film by playwright and critic Bonnie Greer.

The Bronte Society and Bronte Parsonage Museum revealed the plans on what would have been Charlotte's 199th birthday.

Titled "I Shall Go Off Like a Bombshell", the exhibition by Girl With a Pearl Earring author Chevalier focuses on Charlotte Bronte's work and is due to open in February at the museum, which is based in the literary family's home in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

'Knitted Jane Eyre'

Chevalier is also editing a collection of short stories influenced by Charlotte's writing for publication next spring. It will feature writers including Helen Dunmore, Susan Hill, Emma Donoghue, Audrey Niffenegger and Jane Gardam.

"I have long loved Charlotte Bronte and am thrilled to be involved in the upcoming celebration of her bicentenary," she said.

"The Parsonage is a unique house. It's incredible to see the place where so much creativity arose. I'm hoping to sprinkle some surprises in amongst the dresses and writing desks - including a Twitter tour of the house and exhibition, and even a knitted Jane Eyre."


The Bronte siblings

Charlotte - born on 21 April 1816, she was the eldest of the siblings to reach adulthood but the last to die. She wrote Jane Eyre, Shirley and Villette, and died on 31 March 1855, aged 38.

Branwell - born in 1817, was the only Bronte brother. He was a writer and painter and died in 1848, aged 31.

Emily - born on 30 July 1818, wrote Wuthering Heights but died of tuberculosis aged 30 in December 1848, two months after the same illness killed her brother.

Anne - born on 17 January 1820, wrote Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She died in May 1849, aged 29.

They had two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who died during childhood.

Source: BBC History.


A touring exhibition titled "Celebrating Charlotte" is also planned and will run at the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

The society said its president Bonnie Greer was "developing an award named after Patrick Bronte" - the siblings' father, who outlived all his children, dying in 1861 at the age of 84 - and was also working on an initiative with Bradford Council to commemorate Branwell Bronte.

The playwright was also making a short promotional film with the museum to "invite people to come to Haworth during the bicentenary celebrations" and planning a "Jane Eyre fan fiction" workshop in London.

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