The Brontë Parsonage Museum is much more than the modest West Yorkshire home of a minor clergyman in a remote English parish. It was here that two, and arguably three, of the most important figures in English literature grew up and spent most of their lives. Today it's a fascinating museum that offers insight into a family of literary geniuses.
The Brontës for a New Generation
Generations of readers and film-goers have been enthralled by the passionate, destructive romance of Heathcliffe and Cathy in Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights" and by the strength and loyalty of Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre".
These enduringly romantic and sexually charged love stories were so shocking when published, more than 150 years ago, that the sisters who wrote them pretended to be men - publishing under the pseudonyms of Currer and Ellis Bell.
In 2011, two new films introduced a new generation to these classic stories. "Jane Eyre", directed by Cary Fukunaga, features Mia Wasikowska, who was in "Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland", as the independent, highly moral Jane whose goodness eventually saves the tragic Mr.Rochester from himself.
But at this writing, the one we're all waiting for in the UK is the new "Wuthering Heights", featuring unknown (and in some cases non-professional) actors and directed by Oscar-winner Andrea Arnold. Here's what critic Xan Brooks wrote in the Guardian after the film opened at the Venice Film Festival:
"Emily Brontë's windblown romance is stripped of its period frills and sweeping score. It comes caked in grime and damp with saliva. The script is salted with profanities, while the plot finds room for brief moments of nudity and an animalistic al-fresco sex scene. Heathcliff, the Byronic forefather of English romantic fiction, is black."
The Reclusive Sisters
It's hard to imagine a story like that being created by a shy and reclusive spinster who lived at home. Emily Brontë's brief foray away,as a governess ended abruptly because of her homesickness. Emily, who died young,never even knew she had written a masterpiece passion and repressed sexuality. Only Charlotte, the oldest daughter and the only one to marry, achieved fame and success in her lifetime.
The Brontë home, in the West Yorkshire Village of Haworth, is now open to the public, offering insights into the lives of Emily, Charlotte and their sister Anne Brontë (author of "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" Buy Direct) along with their dissolute brother, artist and poet Branwell, and their father, Anglo Irish clergyman Patrick, a published author himself.
The Parsonage Museum is maintained by the Brontë society. Visitors can see the simple, spartan lifestyle that the family led; find out how the home-schooled Brontë children's creativity was nurtured by the imaginary childhood worlds of "Angria" and "Gondal" that they wrote about together, and see the dining room table where all three sisters wrote.