The Brontes of Haworth (1973) (mini)




Director:  Marc Miller. 

Starring:  Alfred Burke (Reverend Patrick Bronte), Michael Kitchen (Branwell Bronte), Vickery Turner (Charlotte Bronte), Rosemary McHale (Emily Bronte), Ann Penfold (Anne Bronte).

TV mini-series about the Brontes



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.


Episode One: The Little King


Scene 1. A Birthday Gift.

Mrs. Gaskell, an author herself, is the narrator.

"In the West Riding of Yorkshire there is a moorland village. The street climbs up so steeply that horses of the kind I am speaking of were in constant danger of slipping backwards. The name of the village is Haworth. At the top of the hill where a horse breathes more easily, a lane leads to the church and the sextant’s house and house parsonage."

There lives the parson’s four children: Charlotte (born 1816), Branwell (1817), Emily (1818) and Ann (1820).

"Right before the traveler on this road rises Haworth village; he can see it for two miles before he arrives, for it is situated on the side of a pretty steep hill, with a background of dun and purple moors, rising and sweeping away yet higher than the church, which is built at the very summit of the long narrow street." Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Bronte 1857.

June 5, 1826. Parson Bronte rode the 18 miles to Leeds. There he buys a birthday present for his son Branwell who is nine years of age. When he gets home he gives the present to Branwell without comment. The present is one of twelve wooden soldiers. He immediately runs into the girls’ bedroom and shows the gift to Charlotte and Emily, who are also thrilled by the twelve soldiers.

Aunt Alice gets everyone to the breakfast table. The children’s mother died at the age of thirty-eight in 1821 around a year after Ann’s birth. Then in 1825 the children’s sisters Maria and Elizabeth died. Maria Bronte’s death was especially hard on Branwell because Maria had taken the role of the boy’s mother.

Branwell goes into the empty church and sees a memorial plaque to his mother and two sisters. He breaks down crying thinking about their deaths.

Scene 2. A Natural Phenomenon.

A storm comes up and lightning flashes in the sky. Aunt Alice is not found of lightning and thunder. She really gets a fright when lightning and thunder strike at the same time that the earth shakes. Alice thinks this may be a sign of the coming of the last days, but the Parson says that the shaking of the earth they just experienced was a natural phenomenon and not the end of days.

The children start creating kingdoms in their heads that their twelve wooden toy soldiers could conquer. They made maps of the city they called Great Glass Town. They read all the books in their father’s small personal library. Their father would read to them from the newspaper about the latest goings-on in Parliament and the children loved it.


Scene 3. Career Choices.

Summer of 1835. Branwell is now nearly eighteen years of age and the family talks about what career Branwell shall take up. He has a real flare for portrait painting. He paints a good portrait of his three sisters. The family thought of sending him to the Royal Academy, but the money would have to be raised first. Aunt Alice had some money and then Charlotte was offer a position as teacher at her old school Roe Head. Emily went to Roe Head as a pupil with not fees to be charged her.

Branwell is regarded as the village wise man. At times the local restaurant owner would send his son to bring Branwell to the restaurant when there was need of some conversation with those diners who are for want of company.

Branwell speaks with a lone diner named Bennett. At first he was very shy with Bennett, but after the man buys him some liquor drinks Branwell starts pontificating.


Scene 4. Too Much to Drink.

Branwelle doesn’t come home until the others are in bed and he is terribly drunk. His sisters have to help him to bed. The next day he has a bad hang-over.

Apparently, young Branwell liked the drinking experience so well that he becomes a regular down at the local tavern. He starts boxing others in the tavern, but is not good at it.

Father makes a political speech for the Tory Party that is not well received by the local men, who throw things at him. Branwell gets up and defends his father, but he too gets pelted with various items. Outside the Parsonage House, the men burn Branwell in effigy. This upsets Branwell a great deal.


Scene 5. Sad to Leave Home.

Charlotte must leave for her teaching post at Roe Head and Emily is going with her as a student. Ann will be staying home at the Parsonage House. The two older women are sad to go and this is especially true of Emily. Emily had not travel much at all in her life and now she was going to somewhere brand new and strange to her.

Charlotte was better prepared because she has been educated at Roe Head and she had friends in the neighborhood there: Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor (aka Polly).

Charlotte tells Polly that Emily is not adjusting to the school and she is very afraid for her. In three months she has lost weight and strength and no on really knows the causes. Emily is so homesick that Charlotte feels she could die here if she doesn’t return home. Charlotte is going to write home that Ann come and take Emily’s place at the school.

Branwell is really looking forward to going to London. His body even trembles as he thinks about it. He will be studying art at the Royal Academy.

Branwell goes to London but finds himself completely out of his element. He did not make contacts with the people he said he wanted to know. He was repelled and frightened. He did not show his letters of introduction or his specimen drawings to the school.


Scene 6. Meeting the Locals.

And he starts again drinking a lot of liquor. When he gets a bit drunk he can mix well with the people at the tavern. He gets carried away and orders drinks for everyone in the tavern.

When he awakens in his bed, he examines his money purse and only one coin falls out of it. So, Branwell has to go home. He lies and says that his purse was stolen. He starts crying, saying: "I failed you." Father does not approve of his crying and he tells him: "Childishness."

Alone, Emily tells Branwell: "We both failed." She is very down on herself also. She sees the two other sisters as stronger than her. And now, she says: "I pine away’’

Charlotte has little patience with her students because, compared to her and her family, most of the students are just "fat-headed oafs". In some ways, she’s as miserable as the two "failures".




Episode 2. Home and Abroad.

Scene 1. A Visitor.

1840. All the Brontes are at home. Parson Bronte’s eye-sight is getting much worse. Aunt Alice reads the newspaper to him. Radical Mary Taylor is coming to stay with Charlotte for awhile. Last time Mary visited, Branwell was very taken with Mary. Father says that Branwell must get a way to make a living before he can think about Mary Taylor seriously.

Branwell is down at the pub again talking with some friends. A railway man he met in London shows up in Haworth. Branwell asks him what king of job could he get on the railway? He could get a clerk’s job at any new station opening up. And he would have enough time to work on his writing too while on the job.

Charlotte tells Polly about a proposal of marriage she received after a man visited her one time. He wrote her a letter professing his love and asked her to marry her. Charlotte is not in the least interested in the man.

Speaking of men, father has a new curate who is rather good-looking. Polly is anxious to meet this Mr. Waiteman. Suddenly, the curate arrives and comes in to meet Polly. The three Bronte women teased the curate mercilessly, but the curate is a good sport about it.

Polly tells Branwell that he is being pretty stand-offish toward her. She says last time she visited they had some nice conversations.

Emily takes the groups on a little hike around the hills. She has some favorite spots she wants to show everyone.


Scene 2. Order and Harmony.

Branwell tells a friend that he has applied for a clerking job at the Salisbury Bridge Station. He adds that this is only way out of his miserable present condition. He is a bit tired of being at home all the time. And his family is always complaining that he drinks too much.

He says he recently read The Opium Eater where the author praises the joys of cocaine as compared to alcohol. It gives the taker order and harmony.

The Parson has been working with the local politicians on getting a better water supply for the villagers. "There’s too much illness in the village. The danger of typhus fever or cholera haunts me."

Branwell tells his father he got his railway job for which he applied.

Five months later and Branwell gets a promotion, which is father is relatively happy about. The girls are thinking about opening their own school for girls. Ann goes away to be a governess for Mrs. Robinson. [She stayed there from May 1840 to June 1845.]

The family has four children, three girls and one boy. They appear to be a bit spoiled and haughty. It’s not long before Ann is crying about her situation. She also cries because she left her luggage outside the door and no one has brought it to her.

She finally gets to meet Mrs. Robinson in the drawing room.


Scene 3. The Rules.

Mrs. Robinson says hello to Ann. She says she has not been satisfied with the work of the governesses she has employed. If the children start getting out of hand send one of them to her and she will rebuke the children as a group. Mr. Robinson is an invalid and she won’t be seeing him.

Anne doesn’t say a word nor was she ever asked to by the cold lady of the house. She turns and leaves after she had heard the rendition of the house rules.

Mary Taylor is in Brussels and Charlotte writes home to Aunt Alice that before setting up a school she should have some months on the continent of Europe. She wants to go to Brussels and she wants Emily to come with her. She says she knows they have talent and they want to employ it to good use.

The Parson says: "My dear, I don’t like these calls on your generosity." Aunt Alice is willing to give the money, but she has her doubts. She says: "The continent. Really such a leap in the dark." She will have to give this very careful thought.

Branwell tries to write poetry at his job, but without much success. He hates the sounds of the trains coming into the station.

In church the young curate keeps stealing glances at Anne. At home Charlotte mentions this to Emily in a critical voice and Emily asks her not to criticize the curate when Anne comes back. When Anne enters the room, Charlotte talks about the trip to Brussels and says that father is going to make the trip with them. He has his heart set on seeing the battlefield at Waterloo, which lies south of Brussels.

Charlotte says she wishes Ann was happier in her governess position. Ann says she is a little happier, but her employer certainly does not have a warm heart. Then Ann tells Charlotte that she is going to right a real novel called Passages in the Heart of an Individual. Charlotte is shocked a bit: "Ann, you are stealing the march on us."


Scene 4. Journeys.

February 8, 1842. The long journey to Belgium begins. They stayed in London for two or three days and then crossed to Ostende, Belgium on the steam packet.

In Brussels they meet with the person who runs the school. She tells the three Brontes that they were so struck with the tone of Charlotte’s letter that they felt they must help the sisters in their desire eventually to run a school for girls in England.

She says her husband wanted to meet the Brontes today, but he is tied up with his teaching here at the school. He is the professor of rhetoric. Charlotte says the professor has a good mind but his nature is very choleric and irritable.

Emily objects to one of his teaching methods. The professor goes into a long rant. This upsets Emily. Charlotte speaks up and says something in French for having respect for the thoughts of others. So now the professor speaks in English to explain his position, but Charlotte feels like he is just humoring her and Emily.


Scene 5. A Deficiency.

A man comes to the railway station to check on Branwell’s books. He find that the books are missing an amount somewhat over eleven English pounds. They young man gets very angry at any accusation that he might have misappropriated the funds to himself. He asks for an apology. The accountant asks him if he ever leaves the station unguarded. Branwell says he lets the porter watch the station sometimes when he’s out. The accountant says that could be the source of the problem. The porter was left here alone.

Branwell is discharged from the railroad. Father is very upsets. He tells the curate that Branwell was accused of constant carelessness. He goes on to say that Branwell has been in such a serious state of depression that he fears for his sanity. He tries to lessen his pain by imbibing more spirits. And now the Parson asks for the curate’s help. He wants the curate to come and visit with Branwell to help keep his spirits up.

The curate comes in to see Branwell. He asks if he is interrupting his thoughts? Branwell replies: "I wish you could interrupt me. They’re destroying me." The curate says that he is missed at the church organ, but Branwell protests: "I can’t help that. I just can’t face sitting up there in front of them all."

Branwell says: "You can never imagine, Waiteman, what awful places there are in the mind." Waiteman tries to cheer him up, but it is of little use. The young man says: "Nothing seems to mean anything. There was magic in the world once, but it’s turned malignant."

The curate finally asks Branwell to come out with him on a walk through the moors. Branwell likes that idea.

Mrs. Robinson is defending herself against her eldest daughter’s outrage that mother would open and read her letters. When Anne comes in Mrs. Robinson starts blaming her, but the daughter speaks up and says that Miss Bronson knows nothing about this and neither would her mother know "if she hadn’t been criminal". The daughter shoves the doors closed as she leaves.

Mrs. Robinson says she is heart-broken over these love letters that this young actor has been sending to her daughter. She asks Anne to make sure that no love letters go back and forth between Lydia and the actor. Anne says Lydia is not like to listen to her, a governess, but she will try to calm her. She will not, however, be a spy for Mrs. Robinson.

Mrs. Robinson is a completely self-absorbed woman. She asks Anne if everything is okay at home, but then doesn’t even listen when Anne tells her that things are not good back home because there is an outbreak of cholera there.


Scene 6. "Get Well".

The curate is very sick and Branwell is terribly upset. He begs his friend to get well because they desperately need him. He also says that Waiteman was the best friend he ever had.

Charlotte comes into the class room with the bad news. Emily can see that she is upset but thinks the news is concerning the death of the curate. No, it’s not. Now Aunt Alice is very ill. They must go back to England. Emily is happy to go back to England, but, of course, is upset by the news of their aunt. Emily says to Charlotte: "Anne loved Waiteman, though you refuse to see it."

And, indeed, Anne is very torn up by the loss of Waiteman.

Charlotte and Emily say goodbye to the professor and his wife. The professor says he has just written a letter to Parson Bronte saying that the girls can come back in the next semester free of cost and will be paid for their teaching English and music. Charlotte seems very touched by this gesture. Emily says she herself won’t be coming back. Charlotte, however, is desperate to come back. She says it is most important to her. She sounds so desperate that it makes one wonder if she has not grown very attached to the professor.



Episode 3: Delusion’s Song.


Scene 1. Caught in a Spell.

1843. The Christmas holidays are over. Charlotte is back in Brussels and Anne is back to her job as a governess. And Branwell has gone with Anne to be Edmund Robinson’s male tutor. Emily is content for the moment with house work with the older maid Tabby keeping her company.

Emily tells Tabby that Charlotte’s last letters makes her sound so disillusioned with the school and Brussels. She does not feel as welcome now compared to before.

Father comes home and Emily is all over him with questions. He went to visit his children at the Robinsons’ place.

The professor comes in to see Charlotte. He says that his wife told him that Charlotte is thinking of returning to England. Charlotte asks him if he wants her to stay at the school. He tells her that she is very good with her students. She replies: "You make me feel of service to you, sir. If that is so, I have no heart or will to oppose you." He says that is better. He leaves.

Branwell reads poetry to Mrs. Robinson at night. She praises Branwell’s readings saying that at times his readings almost cause her to cry. She says he has a lot of spirit in him for being a young man. He must have had many trials he had to over come in his youth because he has such deep feelings for the poems.

Branwell returns the compliment say he has never meet a person "who had such perception and generosity as you have." He says she is all he ever thought a woman should be: kind, passionate and beautiful. She asks him if he does not have some girl locked away in his heart and he says he has meet none that can compare to Mrs. Robinson.

And now Mrs. Robinson’s lets out her warm feelings for Branwell. She says that what happens between them in this room will be their secret. He kneels at her feet and rests his head on her chest and she lays her face on his head and grabs the back of his head with her left hand.


Scene 2. Very Lonely

Charlotte is back at the French school in Brussels. She comments: "And I really don’t pretend to care a fig for anybody else in the establishment." And she feels that the professor’s wife does not like her. And, perhaps influenced by his wife, the professor seems to be leaving her alone to herself.

She describes her life as being one of a Robinson Crusoe condition. Very lonely.

Emily walks on the moors. When she gets home she has a letter from Charlotte. She tells father that Charlotte is coming home and show him the letter. She mentions that her body is alright but her mind is a little shaken by lack of comfort.

Emily says that now they should draw up the prospectus for their new school.

They send out letters of advertisements, but very few students respond. Charlotte is very disappointed but Emily says they tried and she is not going to feel bad if the students can’t or won’t come.

Charlotte does not to hold her tongue. She is terrible bored at the talk of Curate Smith talking with Curate Nichols and her father. Smith goes on and on without letting anybody says much of anything. Charlotte rebukes the man bitterly. So bitterly that her father is shocked at her tone.

Charlotte says her goodbye and says she will leave the men alone to congratulate themselves. The men don’t know what to say to that.


Scene 3. Thoughts of Love.

Anne is putting away her clothes in the dresser drawers. Young Lydia Robinson is very happy today. She is all dressed up and comes into Anne’s room to twirl around in her pretty dress. She wants to make the other girls envious and to stupefy the men. And she still talks of love for her actor Mr. Roxby.

Anne tells her as way of advice: "I would say that it is possible to live with the denials that life asks of us. And life may know better than our hearts what the good way is." Lydia says that she is not going to break Mr. Roxby’s heart for that would be wicked.

And if her mother tries to stop her, she is going to tell about her and Branwell. Anne immediately wants to know what about Mrs. Robinson and Branwell? She tells Anne not to pretend that she doesn’t know that Branwell and her mother are lovers.

Anne is so upset that she pushes Lydia out of her room saying that she has said so many nasty things while she has work here that she has to get out before she stabs Lydia. She cries while closing the door. She cries and says: "I’m sick of mankind."

Anne is back home. Charlotte comes into the room saying that Emily’s recent poems are terrific. Anne protest Charlotte’s reading of the poems. Charlotte replies: "They’re much too good to be hidden away. They’re strong and true."

Emily comes in and condemns Charlotte’s actions. She says it’s stealing and it unforgivable. Charlotte says that she does not regret her reading the poems for they are so good that she must not keep them a secret. They must be published. Her sister responds that she would rather burn them. She starts crying and shouts as she leaves the room: "It’s a damnable world if you can’t even be left alone in your own thoughts."

Charlotte wonders if her sister will reconcile with her after what she’s done? Anne says she’s sure that Emily will reconcile. She gives Charlotte a kiss on the head and tells her not to worry.

Father’s eyesight is gone now and he feels down. She’s glad that Anne is not going back to her governess job. Anne says she tried to convince Branwell to stay home, but he is going back to Mrs. Robinson. Charlotte asks her sister to talk about her experiences as a governess in the Robinson house.

Anne changes the topic by saying that she has written some poems and would Charlotte want to look at them. Charlotte immediately says yes. And now Charlotte admits that she has written some poems too. Anne asks her sister if she thinks they can get their poems published? Charlotte says she is determined to have them published.

Emily finally agreed to have all three sets of poems published as long as they are published under the pseudonyms: Cora, Ellis and Acton Bell.

Branwell is home now. The mail is delivered and there is a letter for father, Branwell and the three sisters from a publisher. The publisher suggests that they apply to smaller presses specializing in, among other things, religious poems.

They are suddenly stopped by screams coming from Branwell in his bedroom.



Scene 4. A Double Agony.

Branwell writhes on his bed filled with mental anxiety. Emily scolds Branwell for not acting like a man. He is upset about something he has read from the Robinson family. He says he can’t stand the thought of Mrs. Robinson suffering along with that "devil". Emily reminds him that "devil" is her husband and the father of her children.

Anne comes to the room and Emily gives her the letter to Branwell. She closes the door after Anne leaves. Now she is angry and in a rough voice she demands that Branwell get up and off his bed and stand up.

The Parson is concerned over the fierce tones of voice he hears. Anne comes into her father’s office to tell him that Branwell has received a terrible letter from Mr. Robinson. It’s a letter of dismissal. Mr. Robinson threatens to shoot Branwell if he ever sees around the neighborhood of the Robinson home.

Anne says she blames Mrs. Robinson because she played on his weaknesses. She goes and and father is absolutely shocked. He says: "Branwell with the wife of his employer? . . . It cannot be as you say." He wants to find out from Branwell himself, but right now Branwell is virtually running out of the house. He hears her father tells him to talk to him, but he continues on his way.

Emily writes to her former French professor in Brussels. She grieves over the fact that she cannot have full control over her emotions about him. The emotions have a mind of their own and sometimes allow no room for forgetting.

Emily got bitten on the wrist by a stray dog she was trying to feed. She took a hot iron and cauterized the wound leaving her with a nasty scar.

Branwell says he has a terrible toothache. At the pharmacy the pharmacist tells Emily that her brother should have the tooth extracted because the opium she gave him only fights the pain for a little while.

Charlotte receives four books in the mail. They are copies of their poems just published. Charlotte says that they must not say a thing to Branwell about the publication. It would hurt him deeply. Emily says that no one should be told.

Branwell rushes into the room and throws down a copy of the newspaper. He says that he is heading for the Robinson home now. The news is of the death of Mr. Robinson at age 46. Emily watches out the window and sees Branwell jumping up and over the graves in the cemetery on his way to see Mrs. Robinson. But first he stops at the local tavern. The Robinson driver is there and Branwell says he is ready to go with him to the house. Mr. Gouch tells Branwell that is not going to be possible.

Mr. Robinson put a codicil on his will that Mrs. Robinson is to loose everything if she ever communicates with Branwell again. Even the children would be taken away from her and put in the care of the trustees.

Branwell starts to fall apart. He says now he wishes he had never known Mrs. Robinson.


Scene 5. Desperation.

Branwell has fallen in the tavern and writhes in pain. A waitress hears him and calls for help.

A month later. The sisters complain about Branwell’s conduct since his collapse. Charlotte says: " It’s hardly possible to stay in the same room with him."

Branwell has been drinking heavily and he is constantly brow-beating his father for the money. Father tries to resist these onslaughts, but Branwell cries and threatens suicide, so he gives in.

Charlotte is down in the dumps about the slow progress of the sisters’ literary success. They have now sent in their stories for publication. Anne stays more positive and tries to buoy up Charlotte’s spirit. With her head held down, Emily comes into the room and says about Branwell: "He’s a hopeless being."

Charlotte talks with father about taking him to Manchester to have cataract surgery. Father says how can he go for an operation when Branwell is in such bad shape. Charlotte tells him that they can leave Emily in charge of Branwell and she will do very well handling him.

The sisters have been debating the issue of their having to always make their heroines beautiful. Emily and Anne tell Charlotte: "We think it’s not possible to make a heroine interesting on any other terms." Charlotte remarks: "I will prove to you that you’re wrong. I will show you a heroine as plain and as small as myself. And she shall be as interesting as any of yours." Jane retorts: "Then I give you my second name to call her by. You may call her Jane. It’s the plainest name I know."

The sisters’ manuscripts have come back to them again. Emily accepts the news as though she has grown used to rejection. She does get excited over a letter from Manchester. The doctor has said that father’s eyes are ready for an operation which will begin soon. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they will have to stay in Manchester for a month.

The operation goes on without anesthetics. Father held up well through the operation.


Scene 6. Endurance is Occupation.

Anne worries about her recovering father and wonders how he is handling it mentally. Emily tells her: "Endurance is a kind of occupation." Charlotte had her novel returned to her on the morning of the operation. Anne tells Emily that she is starting another story that which be much more difficult to write than her not-as-yet published novel Agnes Grey [published in December1847, while Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was published in October 1847.]

Anne goes upstairs to get the first chapter of her next novel when she smells smoke coming from Branwell’s room. She opens the door, sees the smoke and calls for Emily to come help her. Anne tries to pull the sleeping Branwell out of the bed but he’s too heavy for her. Emily arrives with a bucket of water. The two women pull Branwell to safety and then Emily throws water on the fire.

Father may now sit in a chair. Charlotte has a bad tooth ache. Charlotte sits down to write her novel Jane Eyre.



Episode 4. Rewarding Destiny.

Scene 1. Confident.

Smith & Elder have declined to publish Charlotte’s latest manuscript. Nevertheless, they say that a work in three volumes would be publishable. Charlotte says she can finish that in another month. Jane Eyre came out on October 16th. In December the rush was on for copies of the book.

Charlotte decides to give her real name as the author of Jane Eyre. She gives a copy of the book to her father to read. Later at night dad comes in and asks Emily and Anne if they are away that Charlotte has come out with a new book? The sisters smile and laugh a little.

Branwell is still racked with great anxiety. His father comes to see him. He tells his son: "Don’t persecute yourself like this." He also says: "Branwell, I beg you to listen and believe. We are never truly cast out for what we truly repent of."

Branwell seems beyond help. He is just a mental wreck.


Scene 2. Identities Revealed.

The pseudonym problem has become a real problem for the women. Charlotte complains that reviewer Newby has claimed that the author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is by the same hand that wrote Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Furthermore, he claims, that Courier, Ellis and Acton Bell are all the same man.

Charlotte says they are going to have to go to London and prove to the publisher Mr. Smith that they are three authors and not one. Emily says: "Not if you took a horse whip to me." So Charlotte says he she and Anne can go to London.

The two women walk through a storm on their journey to London. When the two arrive at Mr. Smith’s office he becomes overjoyed when he realizes there are three Bronte sisters who are the authors. This resolves many mysteries about the Bell brothers. Mr. Smith says there are many people who want to meet them. He wants the two women to make his home as the headquarters for handling all the publicity that will be coming their way. His mother and sisters would be absolutely delighted if they accepted. They are big fans of the novels.

When the two women get back to Haworth, they have so much to tell Emily about their grand reception. Emily does not look inspired.

Charlotte goes into Branwell’s room to talk to him. Branwell is just about completely out of it and Charlotte can’t get anything through to him.


Scene 3. Expectations.

It’s 1848. Emily and Anne decide not to write another letter setting out what they will have accomplished within the next three years. Emily remarks: "It’s better not to measure the years passing. We’re freer without expectations."

The Parson comes to see a Mr. Grundy, an old friend of Branwell’s. Father tells the man that his son Branwell is very weak and confused and broken in health. He adds: ‘Oh, Mr. Grundy, if you can bring any comfort to my unhappy son, I shall be your debtor." Father turns and leaves.

Branwell is up and dressed, but has a terribly slow descent to the ground floor of the house. He holds onto the one stair railing with both hands. He picks up a knife in the kitchen and takes it with him.

Grundy really acts friendly and warm to Branwell. He offers some food to Branwell, who says that he has given up eating food. Grundy says one has to eat to stay alive, but Branwell wonders does he have to stay alive? Life is a misery to him.


Scene 4. A September Day.

Mr. Grundy says goodbye to a drunken Branwell, gets on his horse and rides away. Branwell has to lean himself upon a gate to remain upright. A man comes out to help him. Emily arrives and they take Branwell up to his bedroom.

Anne nearly quotes from a James Thompson poem to Charlotte: "When a September day really tries, there’s nothing more comforting."

A man named John Brown comes to see Branwell. During the meeting, Branwell feels not at all well. Brown goes and gets his sisters and father. Father prays over his son laying in bed. Branwell tries to get up and falls backwards dead.

A funeral is held for Branwell. Emily is unwell, but insists on attending the service.


Scene 5. No Help Wanted.

The house is freezing cold. The winds howls outside. Emily looks a mess. She is very sick, but she still makes sure that the dogs are fed. Emily doesn’t want any one fretting over her. A young maid tries to go up and help Emily, but the poorly woman just rejects the aid. The young woman comes crying to Charlotte asking her why won’t Emily let her help her to dress and other things?

Emily is breathing heavily and uses the walls as support.

Charlotte takes a walk out on the snow covered moor looking for some trace of heather with which to cheer Emily.

Emily looks like she is about to collapse. She finally tells Charlotte: "You’ll send for a doctor, I’ll see him now." Emily collapses onto a couch.

Father says a silent prayer over Emily. Charlottes brings what little she found out on the moors to give to Charlotte. Emily dies and the plant falls from her right hand onto the floor.


Scene 6. At Rest.

A funeral is held for Emily.

Charlotte tries to keep the family’s spirits up, but she feels she is not up to the task. So she writes a letter to Ellen Nussey asking her to please come visit them. She writes: "Could you now come to us for a few days. You will, I trust, find us tranquil. Try to come. I never so much needed the consolation of a friend’s presence."

Ellen comes to the Parsonage House. She sits in the kitchen talking with Tabby. Charlotte comes down after talking to the doctor. She tells her friend that the doctor has said that they must send Ellen away for the condition is contagious. It’s consumption in both lungs. There is nothing that can be done.

In a sad voice, Charlotte says to Ellen: "We are vanishing now. We are vanishing."





Episode 5.  Silent is the House.


Scene 1. The Sea and Air.

Mr. Nicholls asks Charlotte how is her sister doing? She says he is a little better. The two sisters are going to Scarborough to take advantage of the sea and the air. He says he could accompany them on their journey, but Charlotte says Miss Nussey is accompanying them on their trip.

At the sea beach Anne takes a ride in a car pulled by a donkey. She sees a curate and imagines that it is Mr. Waiteman.

Anne tells her sister that she would like to die here by the sea. She praises the sunset and says they have never seen another to match it. She adds: "Don’t be fearful for me." She sits for awhile and then says: "I feel a change. I’ve lived long enough now."

Charlottes moves her to a couch inside the house. There she dies.

Anne was buried at Scarborough.

After three weeks at Scarborough Charlotte returns home. She feels that all of the rooms are empty. She applies herself to finishing a book she had put off.


Scene 2. A Declaration.

Mr. Nicholls comes in to see Charlotte. He looks so serious that Charlotte asks him if there is anything wrong? He says he has been suffering for months and he wants to say something to her. "For more than a year, I have loved you. Deeply, deeply Miss Bronte. I’ve tried to subdue my feelings. I’ve desperately tried and desperately failed. If I fail not to speak to you, I shall go mad. Is it possible for you to give me some hope?"

Charlotte is touched by Mr. Nicholls’ words. She asks if he has spoken to her father on this? No, he hasn’t. Then she wants time to talk it over with her father and she promises that Mr. Nicholls will have his answer next morning. She hurries him out the door.

She goes to speak to father, saying about Mr. Nicholls: "He had declared himself, papa. He has asked me to marry him." Father is absolutely scandalized by Nicholls’ behavior and says all sorts of nasty things about him. Charlotte says that father is being unjust.

Charlotte is shocked, but does says that Nicholls shall have a very distinct refusal tomorrow.

Charlotte attends church. With her there poor Mr. Nicholls can barely get through the service.


Scene 3. Grateful.

Mr. Nicholls is leaving. He shows the Parson the materials he is leaving behind for his replacement, such as the deeds to the National School. At least father says some nice words on parting from Nicholls.

A Mrs. Gaskell, an author herself, comes to visit the Brontes. At age 77, father tells the visitor that he has really enjoyed Charlotte’s fame. The two women talk about famous writers they have met, especially Thackeray.

Mrs. Gaskell asks if Mr. Nicholls still has hope to be with Charlotte? Yes. She did not answer his first six letters, but then finally broke down and wrote him. "But, my dear Mrs. Gaskell, it was like hearing an animal caught in a snare. I couldn’t pretend not to hear." She says she will gather the courage to tell her father that she is writing to Nicholls.


Scene 4. Walking on Alone.

Mrs. Gaskell writes that Charlotte now walks on alone.

Charlotte speaks to her father. It concerns Mr. Nicholls. He has been writing to her and she has replied to him. And again father goes on a vicious rant against the poor man.

She finally has to remind her father that she is a grown woman. And she hopes she has good judgment. She wants his acceptance of her seeing Mr. Nicholls now and then. Dad says he has no more patient for this topic and shuts down.

Nicholls waits for Charlotte on the moors. He is very glad to see her and she him. She has some good news. Father says he will receive a visit from Mr. Nicholls. Their shared words are very carefully and kindly phrased.

The wedding day is set for June 29, 1854.


Scene 5. Relying on Understanding.

Father tells Charlotte not to be distressed, but he will not be in the church tomorrow. Charlotte is upset by the news.

There is just a handful of people at the church. But there are people waiting outside for the married couple. The couple goes to Ireland for her honeymoon.

They went to Killarney. They went horse riding with a guide, but her horse started becoming very unruly. All of a sudden, the horse rears up and throws Charlotte off his back. Luckily, she was not hurt in the fall.

Charlotte is now at home.

Mrs. Gaskell and other friends of Charlotte’s are very glad that after so many personal tragedies, Charlotte is finally tasting some real happiness. And, for sure, Mr. Nicholls is sky high with joy.


Scene 6. In Bad Health.

Charlotte and Mr. Nicholls walk over to the waterfall. It began to rain when they were watching the water fall over the rocks.

1855. Charlotte is stricken with sickness. The doctor comes and finds that she is pregnant. That’s good news, but the sickness does not slacken. Arthur Nicholls is very worried about her and she is worried too. She asks him: "I’m not going to die, am I? They will not separate us. We have been so happy." She closes her eyes and dies.

Now father has lost his wife and all his children, all six of them. And now he will walk on alone.

He says: "I do not deny that I am somewhat eccentric. I had been numbered amongst the calm, sedate, concentric men of the world. I should not have been as I now am. And I should in all probability never have had such children as mine have been."



Geographical Setting:

In north central England is the Pennines, a north-south range of hills, separating Lancashire and the North West of England from Yorkshire and the North East.

West Yorkshire consists of five metropolitan boroughs (City of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, City of Leeds and City of Wakefield).

Haworth is a small historic town in the City of Bradford metropolitan borough of West Yorkshire, Yorkshire, England, ten miles west of Bradford. Haworth is situated in the Worth Valley.  The village is 212 miles (341 km) north of London and 43 miles (69 km) west of York,. amid the Pennine moors.  [A moor is a broad area of open land, often high but poorly drained, with patches of heath and peat bogs.]



You know my wife and I had given up on this story of the Bronte family some years ago.  But in the interim, my wife was waiting so many hours in waiting rooms for doctor's appointments for her elderly mother, that she took up reading again.  She read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and then we watched two films each based on each book.    We both enjoyed the films.  So I started getting more interested in the Brontes and decided to go back to the film about the story of the Brontes.  I had thought the film so deadly boring with most of the action occurring within one house, their house.  It is a bit tough going at first, but as I continued on I saw that there were a lot of interesting things that happened to the family.  There were interesting mile posts in their lives. 

What amazed me was just how close the three sisters and the brother were.  As children, they created a imaginary country all their own  --  all stemming from Bramnwell's birthday gift of twelve wooden soldiers.  And they continued adding to the stories about their imaginary country even into their adulthood.  They were all so creative and intelligent.  Perhaps, however, they enjoy each other's company too much as they hated to be parted from the family.  They were all shy around strangers and new visitors.  And all the children were very sensitive people, in mind and body.   As a result, they struggles with a great many emotionally down periods.  And poor Mr. Bronte outlived his wife and his six children.  That had to have been hard on the man, but he kept his spirits up and went on. 

Their rich childhoods and their impoverished adulthoods helped create three great Irish-English women writers.  The sisters encouraged each other and were there also to provide some good criticisms for the works of the sisters. 

Anyway, it was a long film (mini-series) but worth a watch.  I thought the acting was good all around. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)