July 25, 2012 by jamesessj
You don’t know me. So allow me to introduce myself. No, on second thought, allow me to introduce my sisters: Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. The first two you’ve never heard of; they died at the ages of eleven and nine, respectively. Consumption — tuberculosis — the affliction de ma famille.
Charlotte and Emily you have heard of, and, though it’s unlikely, possibly Anne as well. Charlotte was responsible for Jane Eyre, a Barbara Cartland potboiler that preceded Barbara Cartland by a good fourscore-and-seven, and the (lesser?) effort Villette, in addition to a few other things not read by any but English majors of the female persuasion. Emily was responsible for Wuthering Heights, a great book if you take pleasure in not being able to keep the characters straight, not to mention a darkly melancholic tone that makes Edgar Allen Poe read like Beatrix Potter. Anne, the baby of the brood, whom you may have heard of if you’re a male English major, was responsible for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, a protofeminist screed that, on the whole, is about as readable as anything else that carries the label “protofeminist screed.”
Yes, my three sisters. Brilliant authoresses, all of them. Even Maria and Elizabeth, had they lived, would undoubtedly have penned such marvels as the nineteenth century had never seen, and likely would have suppressed or censored. My sisters were a lively lot, intellectually. In person, not so much. Certainly they could whip up a sentence, but ask for a roast beef sandwich and you’d count yourself lucky if what they brought you was roasted, contained beef, or was between two slices of bread. If you got two of the three, you called it haute cuisine.
And me? Who am I, who was born the sole male of the Brontë clan, the singular man of the ancestral home in Haworth, the one and only outie in a household o’erflown with innies?
Branwell, I’m called, though my true name is Patrick, after my father, scion of the dynasty, and a nastier man you never met, outside of a cockfight. He was a vicious old cur, hard on the girls, aye, but how much harder on me! I never wanted his name, therefore I went by Branwell, until the day I (faked having) died of consumption (why not, everyone else was) in 1848 at the tender age of thirty-one.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, Did you, Branwell Brontë, ever achieve the lofty literary heights achieved by your two (and a half, if we throw in Anne) ever-so-gifted sisters?
Well, now, I don’t know…let’s see…what did I write, during my brief span? Oh! Now I remember! Only the Bible!
* * *
Yes! I wrote the Bible! Every word of it, from Genesis to the Revelation of St. John! Oh, you may say, but, Branwell, old cock, you only lived from 1817-1848! And we know the Bible to have been around long before 1817!
Ah, but what you are not factoring into your equation, my friend, is another little surprise I have for you: I, Branwell Brontë, have been around since the year 1723 B.C. The events I witnessed I recorded first-hand, from the days of Adam and Noah to the days of John the Apostle.
How can this be?
Search me. It just is.
* * *
Know what the best part of having written the Bible is? It’s sitting by the fire with my three sisters and saying, as if on a whim, “Shall I read a brief passage of scripture?” and of course what else are they going to say but “Yes, dear brother,” and so I’ll open my Bible — though I hardly need to, since I wrote it, every word — and I’ll read from its pages while they listen with rapt attention.
And when I’m finished, an hour or two later, I’ll turn to Charlotte and say, “How do you think the story of Samson and Delilah compares with your own tale of Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre?” And naturally Charlotte must say, “Oh, but the story of Samson and Delilah far exceeds my own meager creation!”
And I laugh!
And then I will turn to Emily and say, “And how does the star-crossed love of David and Bathsheba stand up against that of Heathcliff and Catherine, sister mine?” And she will say, as she must, “But the tale of David and Bathsheba can never be bettered!”
And I cover my mouth with my hand to hide my glee, for little does poor Emily suspect that her brother Branwell is responsible not only for the tale of David and Bathsheba, but also the tales of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rebecca, Mordecai and Esther, Joseph and Mary, and Paul and Timothy and Peter and Jesus!
Ha ha ha!
* * *
We are a talented clan. My sisters have wrought classic works that may or may not stand the ultimate test of time. They’ve done their best with the gifts they were given. Good for them!
As for me, I am often asked what else I wrote. Or was the Holy Bible my one and only masterwork?
No, my friends. Heavens, no. Ever hear of a little number called the Koran?