By Tom Winnifrith (auth.)
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Extra info for A New Life of Charlotte Brontë
These are our great plays that are not kept secret. Emily's and my bed plays were established, December 1, Writer 33 1827; the others March 1828. '2 Such were the small beginnings for the Brontes' literary endeavours. We know nothing of the bed plays and little of Our Fellows, but the Young Men and Islanders soon merged into a story of a group of English warriors founding a new colony in Africa. The Duke of Wellington featured prominently in this story. He was Prime Minister of England at the time, thirteen years after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.
He called her first letter flighty and thought she wrote under a pseudonym. Clearly Charlotte had tried to unburden her guilt at the way in which poetic inspiration seized her. In her second letter she said that she had 'endeavoured not only attentively to observe all the duties a woman ought to fulfil but to feel deeply interested in them'. This was her father's advice now echoed by Southey. On receiving the second letter Charlotte wrote on the envelope that she was going to keep Southey's advice for ever.
Her two closest friends, Mary Taylor and Ellen Nussey, were themselves distantly related, and they had connections with a great many of the other people whom Charlotte mentions in her letters, some of whom had been or were to be pupils at Roe Head. The background of Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor was perhaps not quite as secure as that of some other pupils, or as some biographers have tried to suggest. The identification of the Taylor family with the Yorkes of Shirley is better established than most of the connections made between Charlotte's fiction and fact, and certainly the unnecessary excursus on the death of Jessie Yorke must be a reflection of the death of Mary Taylor's sister, Martha, in Belgium.