James Tully The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte

ISBN 13: 9780786707423

The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte

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9780786707423: The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte
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Using fiction to explore further his investigation into the Brontės' lives, noted true-crime author James Tully creates a murder mystery darker than anything produced by their imaginations and reveals a hidden side to their literary myth. In 1845, Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls came to Haworth Parsonage to be the new curate. His arrival ignited the passions beneath the four Brontė siblings' isolated life on the Yorkshire moors. Within two years, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey were published. Two years after that, Branwell, Emily, and Anne were dead. By 1855, Charlotte was also dead, after barely a year of marriage to Nicholls. The causes of their demise have never been fully investigated but simply incorporated into the Brontė myth. Told through the parsonage maid, Martha Brown, The Crimes of Charlotte Brontė penetrates the claustrophobic world where the Brontė sisters wrote their stories of tumultuous passions and twisted love.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

True-crime writer Tully (Prisoner 1167: The Madman Who Was Jack the Ripper, 1997) branches out in this tediously overargued first novel: a highly speculative fictionalization of the lives and sins of the ill-fated, notorious English-Irish literary brood. Subtitled ``The Secrets of a Mysterious Family,'' Tully's fanciful look at the Bronts takes a dual narrative form that mimics that of (middle sister) Emily's classic Wuthering Heights: a lawyer named Charles Coutts presents a recently discovered manuscript containing the ``confession'' of Martha Brown, employed by Reverend Patrick Bront of Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire, as housemaid serving himself and his four adult childrenand appends to it his own (quite serious) interpolated comments on Martha's (often risibly ingenuous) disclosures. It's a lurid tale of sexual irregularity and homicide whose several interlocking premises are (pay close attention now): that scapegrace brother Branwell, traditionally viewed as a natural genius manqu, conceived the plot of Wuthering Heights (which Emily stole''), when not occupied with drink, drugs, and the nubile adolescent son of a family servantnot to mention threatening to reveal Emily's affair with Reverend Arthur Nicholls, the ambitious cleric who was Reverend Bront's assistant, who would later marry Bront sister Charlotte. Conveniently (and incredibly), Arthur confided to Martha his many nefarious deeds, which included poisoning, first, the unstable Branwell, thenin succession, as each in turn learned too muchAnne (in this envisioning, the sanest of the clan), romantic Emily, and, after his failed attempt ``to ensure [the distressingly homely] Charlotte's continuing silence . . . by marrying her,'' this last remaining witness to his crimes. The obedient Martha, Coutts deduces, kept her silence because the indefatigable Arthur found her the most to his liking (and, in Martha's words, once those potential troublemakers were, all removed, ``I found out how much better it was in a bed''). Literary scholarship may never be the same, but the heart quickens at the thought of what John Cleese and his fellow Pythons might have made of Tully's feverish plot. It could have been one of their classics. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

"My name is Martha Brown, and for over 20 years I was servant to the Bront? family at Haworth Parsonage." So begins a deposition in this provocative if melodramatic novel by crime writer Tully (Prisoner 1167: The Madman Who Was Jack the Ripper). The story begins in modern times when solicitor Charles Coutts discovers Brown's deposition hidden in his 200-year-old law firm's antique-filled attic in Yorkshire. Coutts becomes fascinated by Brown's claim that the Bront?s were likely murdered and that elder sister Charlotte both knew and approved of Anne's death. To propel this doubtful scenario, Tully weaves together historical research and speculation to produce a revisionist, sinister picture of the Bront? clan. The chief villain here is not the accepted cause of fatalityAthe ravages of advanced tuberculosisAbut their father's associate, Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls. Tully posits that Nicholls had a Svengali-like hold on the sisters, which likely inspired the creation of their novels Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. A decade after the publications of their books, all three sisters are dead (along with their brother, Branwell, and their father) and Brown's detailed plot involves manipulative envy, property acquisition and poison. Brown's deposition falters stylistically in that it neither reconstructs Victorian language nor produces a modern equivalent, but the mystery it unravels will intrigue or vex readers familiar with the Bront? legacy. Coutts's comments suggest that the "authorized" version of this legacy is romanticized and mythic, a pure pastoral tale of three brilliant sisters languishing in the English countryside. Instead, Tully sees plagiarism, sexual indiscretions and a murder plot alongside religious fervor and burning literary ambitions. Just as interesting are the harsh details of servant Brown's daily struggles and her fly-on-the-wall perspective.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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