THE ROAD TO HAWORTH: The Story of the Brontës' Irish Ancestry by John Cannon

THE ROAD TO HAWORTH: The Story of the Brontës' Irish Ancestry

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KIRKUS REVIEW

History, traditions, and legends of the Brontë clan, from its murky origins around 1710 (in Warrenpoint, County Down) to 1820, when the Rev. Patrick Brontë (born Brunty, or Branty, or Prunty) brought his gifted brood to Haworth parsonage in Yorkshire: an agreeable little study that sheds light on various subjects, notably the genesis of Wuthering Heights, but also, and more importantly, makes for a fine tale in its own right. And tale is the word for it--much of Cannon's material ultimately comes from Hugh Brunty, Patrick's father, whose spellbinding family chronicles were retold and remembered by later generations. In broadest outline, the story begins with Old Hugh Brunty, a character somewhat resembling Emily Brontë's Mr. Earnshaw, who found and adopted a waif resembling Heathcliff. Welsh Brunty, as the dark-skinned child was called, eventually had a violent break with his brothers, although when one of them died he adopted one of the fatherless children. This was Young Hugh Brunty, a stouthearted, passionate soul who ran away from home at 16, married and raised ten children--and who seems to have been a major source of his granddaughters' narrative genius. While Hugh was barely literate, his son Patrick doggedly worked his way to St. John's College, Cambridge, and cherished literary ambitions, which not he but his tragically short-lived daughters managed to fulfill. Cannon's account makes it abundantly clear how much the Brontë sisters were beholden to the Irish side of the family (their mother was Cornish) both for their artistic instincts and for all the earthy lore that enriched their narrow, sheltered lives. What Cannon does not make clear is just how much of the book he owes to William Wright's unreliable but indispensable The Brontës in Ireland (1894), and how much he dug up on his own. He is in any case an ingratiating writer, and anyone with the slightest interest in the Brontës should look into this homey, colorful piece of scholarship.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Viking