Literary Locations: Haworth

This small town on the Yorkshire moors has become synonymous with one of Britain’s greatest literary families, for it was here that three young women from a clergyman’s house came to write some of the most brilliant novels of the 19th Century.

In 1820, Patrick Brontë, father of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, arrived to take up the incumbency of Haworth Parsonage with a wife and six children. It was a harsh life, yet the three surviving girls and their brother Branwell managed to create for themselves a fantasy world which would sustain and inspire them. Branwell squandered his early promise to alcohol and opium and died in 1848, but his sisters lived to see their work in print, although originally under male pseudonyms.

Charlotte and Anne published novels, some based upon their experiences as governesses, with Charlotte’s Jane Eyre being her best known. Anne, less revered these days but in my opinion equally as talented, wrote Agnes Grey and showed the influence of her surroundings in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. This also drew on the character of her brother.

It was Emily, however, in her one and only published novel, Wuthering Heights, who was most inspired by the wild expanse of rugged terrain where she rambled, creating one of English literature’s best loved romances. Heathcliff, its protagonist, is as wild, cruel and rugged as his environment. The novel’s themes of devotion and love lost give it an atmosphere as haunting as Cathy’s spirit which screams at the window. Several local places have been cited as the origins of the famous fictional building, and it may well be an amalgamation of them all.

Visit Haworth today and you will find a picturesque village, still with its aforementioned parsonage and churchyard. It is a place which exploits its connection with the Brontës, unsurprisingly. But look past the postcards and fridge magnets and you will still see the same bleak and forbidding landscape which inspired some of the greatest works of fiction ever written.

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I have been working for Oxford Open Learning since 2010 and love helping my students with their English and History courses. As a teacher and personal tutor, I have taught pupils from all around the world, aged from three to adult. I am often to be found with my head in a book and sometimes I have four or five on the go at the same time. I love learning about History and Art and am passionate about literature.

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