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The Bronte Myth

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  942 ratings  ·  77 reviews
This afterlife explores one of the great legends of literary history, beginning with Charlotte Bronte's first attempts to mould her own and her sisters' public image, and following the Brontes through their many reincarnations at the hands of their biographers. ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 27th 2001 by Jonathan Cape
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  942 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bronte Enthusiasts
I was twelve the first time I picked up Wuthering Heights. I read it twice in a row, and afterwards felt as if I had been changed is some inexplicable way- for better or worse I couldn’t quite say, but I knew I was affected nonetheless. After my journey through the moors was complete, I flipped to the front of the book and read the introduction. And yes, I was fascinated to read an analysis of Wuthering Heights, but what really caught my attention was Emily. Her supposedly dark and dreary childh ...more
Moira Russell
Jun 01, 2009 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Moira by: Elizabeth most recently, Margaret earlier I think, lots of people really
I'd had this book for years (the flyleaf indicates I bought it in 2004) and have been looking forward to reading it for such a long while I suppose it's only natural to be a little disappointed in it. I wish it had been more exhaustive and scholarly, but by the same token it's thankfully free of academic jargon. The style is fresh and engaging, if too colloquial at times. The book is roughly divided into two parts, detailing the posthumous reputations of first Charlotte and then Emily. Anne is c ...more
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chandra, Abigail, Bronwyn, Kelly Jo, and anyone else I'm forgetting on Kindred Spirits
The Brontes were like Elvis in their day. I realize this comparison isn't the best, but I make it because, like people who claim to spot the "King's" ghost to this day and visit Graceland as if it's Eden, literary fans through the past three centuries have apparently spoken to the Bronte sisters through seances and continue to flock to Haworth Parsonage like it's their personal Mecca.

What made three very simple clergyman's daughters reach the status of myth in Western culture? Lucasta Miller ex
Girl with her Head in a Book
Review originally published here:

When I wrote my guest post for the start of this week, I wanted to examine the way in which the Brontës had come to be perceived down the centuries. I named my topic "The Brontë Myth". Shortly afterwards, I discovered through my reading that Lucasta Miller had written an acclaimed book with the same title back in 2002. Predictably, I decided to Find Out More. What I discovered was a compelling and concise account of Brontë
Kathleen Flynn
This is a well-written, erudite, informative and often very funny book. It was one of the earliest I read back in 2013 when I first had a notion of writing something about the Brontes. It's still one of the best.

Is there such a thing as metabiograhy? If so, this is a fine example. It discusses not so much the Brontes (primarily Charlotte and Emily; sorry, Anne) per as as the history of how they have been written about in the century and a half since their death. It explores many of the wackier
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, bronteana
It took me quite literally two years to hunker down and read this book, but I am glad I finally got around to it.

There's a lot of Bronte-stuff floating around, books, plays, movies, weird things on Etsy, and I am very guilty of loving of all of them. But in this book Lucasta Miller goes to great lengths to detail how reactions to the Brontes were shaped, and how they have evolved through the changes from the Victorian era to modernity. She writes with very accessible prose very effectively abou
This excellent literary biography succeeds in its bold attempt to debunk the myth surrounding the lives of Brontë family - the myth which was created by Charlotte Brontë herself, and later embellished and perpetuated by her friend Elizabeth Gaskell in her classic, though very misleading biography: The Life of Charlotte Brontë.

Miller confidently reveals the motivations behind the genesis of the myth and how it came to and still to some extent continue to cloud our perception of the "real" Brontës
Apr 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

I picked this book up thinking it would be an accurate biography of the Bronte sisters, instead it's a critique of every biography written about Charlotte and Emily (nobody seems to care much about Anne) from just after Charlotte's death to almost the date of publish.

I thought I knew something about Charlotte but most of a what I knew was incorrect. They were outright lies and misdirections deliberately spread around by her first biographer.

Later biographers twisted the sisters in every way
The Brontë Myth is a "metabiography", a book about biography, in which Miller examines the myths and mysteries which have developed around the Brontë sisters, from Elizabeth Gaskell's seminal biography of Charlotte, which portrayed her as a Victorian saint, to the more recent conception of Emily as "the mystic of the moors". It's fascinating stuff, starting with Charlotte's shaping of herself and of her sisters through her comments on their books, her rewriting of Emily's poems, and the stories ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This biography about the Brontes, brings forth how the prejudice of their time has kept them from being understood at the great writers they are. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are unique, original masterpieces that the Victorians were unwilling to accept as written by women and if they were, that there was something horribly wrong with them.
Charles Matthews
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review originally ran in the San Jose Mercury News on January 25, 2004:

You probably think of ''Jane Eyre'' as the kind of novel you'd feel safe in recommending to a 12-year-old girl (if you know a 12-year-old girl who'd read a novel about a Victorian governess instead of the latest dish about Paris Hilton).

But as the British critic Lucasta Miller tells us in her provocative history of the reputation of the Bronte sisters and their work, when Charlotte Bronte's novel was published in 1847,
Sep 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is The Correct Book to Read Next when you've read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and one or two biographies of any or all of the Brontës and you're thinking about reading more and maybe even visiting Haworth if you ever get a chance. (If you have already been to Haworth and have read more of the Brontës' writing and more writing about the Brontës, and you haven't read The Brontë Myth yet, it is still The Correct Book to Read Next.)

Why? Because ever since readers first started speculating a
Margery Osborne
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I thought the way the author traced the changing 'myth' of the Brontes lives, within the historical and cultural/moral context over time was really interesting. The chapters on Emily were particularly good. Also I had forgotten how *great* Cold Comfort Farm is and I think I will be rereading that this weekend. I am glad, though (back to The Bronte Myth), I read Juliet Barker's The Brontes before this book. ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, along with Janet Malcolm's The Silent Woman, should show you everything you need to know about the difficulties of accurate biographies of writers. ...more
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Between them, the three Brontë sisters of Yorkshire, Charlotte (1816-1855), Emily (1818-1848), and Anne (1820-1849) wrote a joint volume of poetry and several novels that granted them immortality in English literature. However, due to a variety of factors, the sisters themselves became objects of exaggeration and legend, and this nonfiction work explores how that development came about, and how the sisters are still seen, not as they really were, but as the ever-evolving myth presents them.

In 18
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a powerful book that surely requires more study than just reading through it once. Miller writes in an inviting, narrative style, especially in the beginning chapters when she's chronicling a time when Charlotte is still alive and then when her acquaintance Elizabeth Gaskell starts her biography. It's somewhat ironic, though, for this book to feel inviting at all, because one of the things it struggles with is how difficult it is to actually "know" the Bronte sisters. There's just so few ...more
V. Briceland
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Miller's book isn't a biography—all the Brontes are dead and buried by the end of chapter two. Instead, it's an examination of the ways in which a manufactured and tweaked familial biography has informed and, at times, overshadowed the literary accomplishments of the three Bronte sisters.

Miller chronicles how, after the shocked and repulsed reaction of their contemporaries to the collected pseudonymous works of Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell, Charlotte Bronte immediately began fabricating a publi
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For years, the myth of the Brontes, three lonely spinsters writing in the middle of the wild Yorkshire moors, surrounded by open heathland, has been perpetuated. Elizabeth Gaskell may be blamed for her initial romanticised biography, but blame must also be shared with early Victorian society. Whilst praising the "fine writing" of 'Jane Eyre', contemporary critic Elizabeth Rigby denounced its protatgonist as "a decidedly vulgar-minded woman" and called the novel "an anti-Christian composition". O ...more
Faith B
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bios-etc
A very good, thorough biography, I thought. I learned many new things, which is always good. But I did think that she rather harped on how much biographers have misrepresented the Brontes -which is true, of course- and didn't seem to take into account that SHE'S a biographer and could be doing the same thing. And Anne was rather neglected ... Miller remarks on how Anne is so often overlooked, and then promtly overlooks her herself, giving Anne less than a chapter and giving Emily and Charlotte t ...more
Colleen O'Neill Conlan
This book explores the nature of biography, and how the biographer's agenda shapes our perception of the subject. The Bronte sisters have been written about so many times since their early deaths in the mid 1800s. Their lives and work have been interpreted and reinterpreted hundreds of times, beginning with Mrs. Gaskell's effort shortly after Charlotte's death. Each new version serves as a corrective, of sorts, for the ones that came before. Part biography, part literary criticism, interesting a ...more
Courtney Doss
The Bronte sisters (for they are often depicted as a group rather than as individuals) have long captured the hearts - and imaginations- of the general public. As three androgynous pseudonyms whose novels breached the limits of Victorian propriety, they were a novelty to the public. When their true identities became known, three spinster sisters, the interest the public took in them skyrocketed to new heights. The distinct undercurrent of sexual passion in their novels, the topics of alcoholism ...more
Kristin Boldon
Fascinating and detailed account of how the personal Bronte myths have often detracted or apologized for the works themselves. Despite attempts and wishes to the contrary, they were not lonely uneducated victimized doomed mystics but scholarly and skilled writers who produced masterworks.
Jun 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A real tour-de-force that encompasses just about everyone who ever wrote about the Brontës in the nineteenth and twentieth century (with a new introduction (January 2020) that adds a few from the twenty-first.

The basic premise, as one who has followed the story, and lived in Haworth for a couple of years in the hospitality trade well knows, is that far more people are interested in the story of the Brontes than have ever read the writings and of these, far more are interested in one or more of t
Kathy Nealen
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book should have been called “The Bronte Myths”. The author traces many different phases in the interpretation of the Bronte novels, family and individual family members, mostly Charlotte and a great deal on the reclusive Emily, given the limited information about her. As usual Anne gets the least attention, probably even less than Branwell, the troubled, addicted, low achiever. I thought I was unusual in my interest in their family; but, there have been many people interested in th ...more
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engagingly and accessibly written. Miller charts the growth and permutations of the mythology surrounding the Bronte sisters, from the landmark biography of Charlotte written shortly after her death by novelist Elizabeth Gaskell to various biographies, films, novels, and pilgrimmages. Interesting both for the light it sheds on the Brontes and for its perspective on the relative knowableness-unknowableness of any biographical subject.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably 3.5 - but found it a little repetitive. Nothing on Ann.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lucasta Miller fails - despite the book's description - to pay Anne any attention, which is rather disappointing. ...more
Kevin Brianton
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining survey of the responses to the novels of the Bronte sisters.
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
Actually, I am cheating. I just read the parts about Charlotte Brontë. Will finish one day, really.
Erion Prometheus
if you are a Brontephile, you'd probabaly love this book ...more
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