Sunday, 20 April 2008
In the library at the Bronte Parsonage
So, here we are in the library at the Bronte Parsonage. The bookcases are full of treasures, and Tessa Montgomery, Daphne's daughter, is looking at the manuscripts of Branwell's poems that her mother bought from Symington, and subsequently donated to the Parsonage, after she had finished writing "The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte".
It's 50 years since Tessa was in Haworth with Daphne -- and she says the Parsonage looks almost exactly the same. The only disappointment is that she remembers being fascinated by the Bronte childrens' handwriting on the walls of their bedroom; but now, on this return visit, Juliet Barker (standing behind us in the picture, with the blonde bob) has revealed the rather less romantic news that the Bronte 'handwriting' was faked at the turn of the century by a local decorator, working in the Parsonage at the time.
You can also see Ann Dinsdale in this picture -- she is the collections manager at the Parsonage, and like Juliet Barker (a former curator), was immensely helpful to me when I was researching "Daphne".
Anyone who has read the book will know that the library is the setting for an episode in the modern narrative strand, when Rachel 'borrows' the Symington papers that are kept locked away here, decades after he was dismissed from his job as curator and librarian, after various Bronte manuscripts and relics went missing. In fact, as I explained during my talk at the Parsonage on Friday evening, I didn't emulate either Rachel (or Symington before her) by turning into a thief! I was allowed to spend a day reading through the Symington file, which revealed, amongst other things, that he had been the last person to have the Honresfeld manuscript -- the lost notebook of Emily Bronte's handwritten poems.
I'm hoping that someone will read "Daphne", follow the clues within the story, and finally track down that elusive, priceless notebook.
Good luck to any of you who are already on the trail!