Rev. Patrick Brontë. Right: "From a photograph," Source: Gaskell, facing p. 296. Left: Reid, frontispiece — this engraving is clearly derived either from the original photograph or (more likely) from the portrait in Gaskell's book.

Patrick Brontë's reputation, which took a battering from Mrs Gaskell in her biography of Charlotte, has now recovered. Gaskell had taken her ideas largely from Martha Wright, the nurse whom he had called in to help care for his wife during her last illness, and whom he later dismissed as unsatisfactory in some way. She is thought to have channelled her resentment into stories of his eccentric and harsh behaviour towards his motherless children. As Dudley Green writes, however:

In recent years, more detailed study of Patrick’s life and correspondence has revealed a strikingly different picture of him. He is seen to have been a loving father with a deep concern for his children's education, a dedicated clergyman who took a keen interest in the affairs of his parishioners and an intelligent observer of political and religious affairs, making frequent observations in the local press on matters of contemporary interest.

Although it was natural that during their mother's illness the young Brontë children should have been quiet and subdued, there is evidence to show that they generally lived normal, happy and boisterous lives. A detailed picture of the children’s home life after their mother‘s death was given many years later by their nursemaid. Sarah Garrs. She stated that they were given plain but abundant fond and, after lessons with their father in the morning, revelled in walks on the moors when "their fun knew no bounds" and "they enjoyed a game of rornps, and played with zest." It is also clear that, far from being the remote father depicted by Mrs Gaskell, Patrick took an active part in his children's upbringing.... [39]

Green goes on to give well-documented evidence of Patrick's involvement in parish life, and his stance on wider issues like capital punishment and Catholic emancipation, as well as his encouragement of, and provision for, his own family.

Image scans and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer or person who scanned the images, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one. [Click on the images for larger pictures.]


Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn. The Life of Charlotte Brontë. New York and London: Harper & Bros., 1900. Internet Archive. Contributed by the Library of Congress. Web. 2 December 2017.

Green, Dudley. "The Father of the Brontës." In The Brontës in Context, ed. Marianne Thormählen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 36-43.

Reid, T. Wemyss. Charlotte Brontë: A Monograph. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan, 1877. Internet Archive. Contributed by Cornell University Library. Web. 2 December 2017.

Created 2 December 2017