Parsonage Librarian Ann Dinsdale spoke to Richard Wilcocks about her just-published book The Brontës at Haworth:
The book came about because Anne Fraser from the publisher Frances Lincoln saw the Parsonage Guide in the summer of 2004, which I had co-authored. She was so impressed with its general quality that she contacted me and Simon Warner and we took it from there.
The title? Simple and straightforward, I think. Lincoln wanted something a little more highfalutin, but I didn’t feel comfortable with their suggestions. It has such a strong focus on Haworth, so the name had to be in it. It’s simple but it sums it all up.
For research I didn’t have to stir beyond the library here, which of course contains the best collection of Brontë material in the world. I had access to parish records, contemporary accounts, newspapers, everything. After seventeen years I am quite familiar with what there is.
The people who have commented so far have been complimentary - for example Jane Sellars read the Art section and Steve Wood read the parts on social conditions in Haworth. My colleague Steve Whitehead told me he was impressed by the book’s range.
After all my time here dealing with visiting researchers I have got an idea of what people want to know, so I have tried to address relevant concerns. There are no footnotes because the book is not aimed merely at a university audience.
I am very happy with the wonderful photos by Simon Warner, which complement the text so well.
Some new or little-known items might stick in the reader’s mind, for example some of the contemporary views of the Brontë novels. One reviewer said that Wuthering Heights would ‘live a short and brilliant life and then die and be quickly forgotten’.
Then there’s the transcript of the account book of the local joiner William Wood, a good name for a joiner I think. He made coffins. His spelling gives an idea of how he spoke.
When ‘Miss Branwell’ died in 1842, her ‘coffen’ cost £5.12s.6d. When Branwell died in 1848 the ‘coffen & scroud making’ totalled only £3.15s. Then there is this:
Emlea Jane Bronty. Died Dec 19th 1848 in the 30 year of hir Age. Coffen 5ft 7” long 16” broad.
The Brontës at Haworth by Ann Dinsdale, with photographs by Simon Warner, is published by Frances Lincoln. ISBN 0711225729
To purchase it, contact the Parsonage shop using the link on the right.
Photo - Ann Dinsdale in the Parsonage Library