... is very much on my mind this evening, partly because I am gathering my thoughts before doing an event at the Bronte Parsonage Museum on Friday (with Lady Tessa Montgomery, Daphne du Maurier's daughter, who went with her to Haworth in the 1950s). And also because he remains such a shadowy, enigmatic figure. Alice -- who commented on the previous post -- has done some very interesting research into Branwell, as you'll see if you read what she's just written.
But no one has yet found "the novel in three volumes" that Branwell referred to writing in a letter to a friend. It's possible he never finished it -- that his writing was fragmentary, clouded by alcohol and opiates. And yet he showed such promise in his early writing in the Angrian Chronicles -- the imaginary landscape that he constructed with his sister Charlotte -- that you can see why Daphne du Maurier was so hopeful of proving his literary worth, and rehabilitating him with her biography.
As for Branwell's affair with Mrs Robinson, the wife of his employer, when he was working as a tutor, alongside his sister Anne, at Thorp Hall -- well, there are a number of differing views on this. Du Maurier believed it was a fantasy -- as colourfully imagined as an Angrian romance. Juliet Barker -- who is usually the definitive authority on all things Bronte -- says that the evidence does point to Branwell having an affair. Me? I can't make my mind up, even after spending several years reading around the subject. It's this uncertainty that continues to make Branwell a tantalisingly mysterious figure; and it's also why I'm guessing -- or should that be hoping? -- that there will be other manuscripts by Branwell that turn up in the next few years.