• Genii of the Moors: Exploring the Imaginary and Imaginative Spaces in the Brontës juvenilia’s geographical fantasy worlds of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal, and its domestic resurgence in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

      Pickett, Danielle J. (University of Chester, 2017)
      The story of the Reverend Patrick Brontë’s gift of twelve wooden soldiers to his twelve-year-old son Branwell in June 1829 is a much repeated one among scholars of the Brontë juvenilia. Renamed affectionately The Twelves, the toy soldiers provided the catalyst for the Young Men’s plays that grew into the Glass Town, Angria and Gondol sagas, and would continue to fuel the four youngest Brontë siblings’ imagination for the next twenty years. And yet, despite this early education of authorship and world play, Elizabeth Gaskell in The Life of Charlotte Brontë gave little attention to the ‘wild weird writing’ of her subject’s formative years,1 instead enshrining Charlotte in a domestic home ‘of the most dainty order, [and] the most exquisite cleanliness’.2 Resorting to same superlatives that she does in her treatment of the juvenilia, Christine Alexander’s assertion that ‘Nineteenth-century biographers…generally gave no more than a cursory glance at an author’s juvenilia, if indeed they acknowledged it at all’ fails to account for Gaskell’s censorship, and implies a more deliberate motive for the (dis)use of her language.3 This study locates Gaskell’s uneasiness in the conflict between Charlotte the writer, and Charlotte the woman. Accepted as her writing was in adulthood, it is Charlotte’s juvenilia and the imaginary worlds of Glass Town and Angria she created in childhood but continued well into adulthood, that disrupts the demarcation between what was acceptable as a professional woman author, and what was not. If the nature of the freedom of play in childhood is meant to be temporary, the transgressive nature of the Brontës’ was that it was not. For Charlotte, prolonged immersion in her fantasy world began to affect her reality, and it is the conflict between reality and her imaginary world that is evident in Jane Eyre, which this study examines as a full-length version of her last contribution to her juvenilia and read as ‘A [Final] Farwell to Angria’.