Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), Emily Brontë (1818-1848), and Anne Brontë (1820-1849) constituted a literary community within the bounds of one family. Growing up in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire, England, the three sisters and their brother Branwell shared ideas and emotions in highly personal manuscripts full of poetry, fantasy, alter-egos, and in-jokes.

The exhibited Brontë manuscripts were collected by Robert H. Taylor (1908-1985), Class of 1930. Each of the works was doomed to await posthumous publication. Three of them are from the authors' juvenalia, while the fourth preserves the final chapters written by the last surviving Brontë sister.

Beginning in 1847, each of the Brontë sisters would publish revolutionary novels under masculine pseudonyms bearing corresponding initials: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, respectively. A letter written by Charlotte Brontë, signed as "Currer Bell," exemplifies the remoteness of her dealings with her publishers; similarly, she signed the exhibited copy of Jane Eyre under the guise of her initials.

Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855). The Violet: a Poem, with several smaller pieces by The Marquess of Douro, Member of the Society of Antiquarians, President for 1830 of the Literary Club, Honorary Member of the Academy of Artists, Treasurer to the Society for the Spread of Classical Knowledge, Chief Secretary of the Confederate Hundred for Promoting Gymnastic Exercises &c. &c. &c. Published by Seargeant Tree and Sold by All Other Booksellers in the Chief Glass Town, the Duke of Wellingtons Glass Town, Paris, Parry’s Glass Town, Ross’s Glass Town &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. Manuscript on paper. [Haworth, West Yorkshire, England], signed 14 November 1830. Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930.

Bound in a recycled Epsom salts wrapper, this is one of three Charlotte Brontë manuscripts in the Taylor Collection concerning the fictional African kingdom of Angria, invented by Charlotte and Branwell Brontë as part of the “Glass Town” series. These juvenalia, including “Lines on Seeing the Portrait of ___,” “Vesper,” “Matin,” “Lines Sent with My Portrait,” “Reflections on the Fate of Neglected Genius” and “Serenade,” were not published until 1916.

Emily Brontë (1818–1848). “All Day I’ve Toiled, but not with Pain.” Manuscripts on paper, [ca. 1837]. “Mild the Mist upon the Hill.” Manuscript on paper, dated 27 July 1839. Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930.

The author of Wuthering Heights (1847) was the outstanding poet of the family. Several years before the three sisters found a publisher for the Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell (1846), young Emily Brontë jotted down these verses for her own reflection; they were not published until 1910. “All Day I’ve Toiled” evokes the contentment and solitude that followed the domestic work she described in her diary in 1837.

Anne Brontë (1820–1849). Verses by Lady Geralda. Manuscript on paper. [Mirfield, Roe Head School(?)], July–6 October 1837. Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930.

The future author of Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), Anne Brontë was still a seventeen-year-old student at the Roe Head School when she completed the Verses of Lady Geralda. These poems, including “The Voice from the Dungeon,” gave voice to a deeply despairing heroine from Gondal, the imaginary kingdom that neighbored Angria. Unpublished until 1934, these are believed to be the author’s earliest surviving works.

Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855). Jane Eyre. An Autobiography. By Currer Bell. 3 vols. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1847. The Morris L. Parrish Collection.

Charlotte Brontë’s first published novel explored the conflicted experiences, individual perspectives, and inner development of its female narrator in ways that transformed the English novel. Princeton’s copy of the first edition “three-decker” features a pasted-in slip of paper that Brontë agreed to sign at her publisher Alexander Elder’s request. However, the author concealed her true identity and gender behind the initials of her pseudonym: “With C. B.’s kind regards.”

Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855). Autograph letter, signed “C. Bell,” addressed to the London publishers Smith, Elder and Co. [Haworth], 19 October 1847. The Morris L. Parrish Collection.

Brontë wrote to her publishers on the day Jane Eyre appeared:


The six copies of “Jane Eyre” reached me this morning. You have given the work every advantage which good paper, clear type and a seemly outside can supply – if it fails, the fault will lie with the author – you are exempt. I now await the judgment of the press and the public.

I am gentlemen

yours respectfully


Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855). Emma. Autograph manuscript. [Haworth], dated 27 November 1853. Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930.

William Makepeace Thackeray called these ten leaves “the last fragmentary sketch from the noble hand which wrote Jane Eyre.” They comprise the first two chapters of Charlotte Brontë’s unfinished novel about a richly-dressed schoolgirl who turns out to have no family, no money, and no story. The author died within two years of making this start, leaving behind one of the most compelling mysteries in English literature – who was Emma?