BRONTË (REV PATRICK) Autograph letter signed ("P. Brontë"), to the Haworth stationer John Greenwood, 1850
Lot 16
BRONTË (REV PATRICK) Autograph letter signed ("P. Brontë"), to the Haworth stationer John Greenwood, 1850
Sold for £1,250 (US$ 2,101) inc. premium
Lot Details
Autograph letter signed ("P. Brontë"), to the Haworth stationer John Greenwood, asking him to order Dr Cumming's Sermon before the Queen and the Churchman's Almanack for 1851, one page, lightly browned overall, a little wear, marginal nicks, but nevertheless still in attractive condition overall, oblong 8vo, Haworth, 5 December 1850


  • PATRICK BRONTË FACES THE THREAT OF PAPAL TYRANNY. This letter was written by the Rev Patrick Brontë, while living alone with his surviving child, Charlotte, at Haworth Parsonage, Branwell having died on 24 September 1848, Emily on 19 December 1848, and Anne on 28 May 1849: although by now he had perhaps some inkling of the fame that was to be accorded to all three of his daughters; for Charlotte had managed to wrest control of her sisters' novels from their original publisher Thomas Newby, and Smith Elder were due to publish Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey five days after the date of this letter, on 10 December 1850. Charlotte was to escape the confines of Haworth Parsonage a few days later, going to stay with her friend Harriet Martineau at the Knoll in Ambleside on 16 December – see the adjacent lot.

    Patrick Brontë's tastes did not run to fiction however: along with the almanac, he is here ordering A Sermon preached in the Parish Church of Crathie, Balmoral, before Her Majesty the Queen, on Sunday, Sept 22d, 1850 by the fashionable preacher John Cumming, a luminary of the Presbyterian Church of England and keen opponent of both Tractarians and Papists. While greatly admired by the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland (of clearances fame), Cumming found much less favour in intellectual circles: 'Tennyson, whose mother held Cumming's books as her favourite reading, thought him a mountebank, and satirized him in the poem 'Sea Dreams'. Thackeray believed him to be 'a bigot, a blasphemer ... the world would be horrible if he and his could have his way' (Ray, 3.439). But the most remarkable critique of Cumming and his works came from George Eliot, who published a withering article in the Westminster Review of October 1855. In it she condemned the "bigoted narrowness", "unscrupulosity of statement", and "lack of charity" towards his religious opponents which Cumming exhibited in his literary works' (Rosemary Mitchell, ODNB).

    This was a period when anti-Catholic feeling ran especially high, following the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on 29 September 1850 and the Pope's appointment of Wiseman as first Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster. Patrick Brontë himself had written 'A Tract for the Times' published in the Leeds Intelligencer on 23 November 1850, where he proclaimed that 'the whole fabric of our establishment is shaken to its very centre, and threatens to fall'; while his daughter Charlotte's 'loathing of Catholicism, which had been deepened by her own susceptibility to it in Brussels, was fanned to a white heat by these events' (Barker, The Brontës, p.662).

    John Greenwood, the letter's recipient, was the Haworth stationer who five years later was take it upon himself to inform Charlotte Brontë's famous friends, such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Harriet Martineau, of her death: 'Selling papers as a sideline, he had been encouraged by the patronage of the Brontë family (who must have singlehandedly kept him in business), and Charlotte, in particular, had gone out of her way to help him extend into the bookselling trade by ensuring that her publishers supplied him with the cheap editions of her books to sell. Clearly he knew the family, though no better than many others in the township, but he had literary pretensions himself and therefore highly prized his connections with "Currer Bell"' (Barker, p.774).

    This note is not printed in The Letters of the Revd Patrick Brontë, edited by Dudley Green (2005); although Green does print a few similar documents, such as those at pp. 199 and 203.
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