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The Brontë Myth

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  973 ratings  ·  84 reviews

Following the Brontë sisters through their many reincarnations at the hands of biographers, Lucasta Miller reveals as much about the impossible art of biography as she does about the Brontës themselves. Their first biographer, Mrs Gaskell, transformed their story of literary ambition into one of the great legends of the 19th century, a dramatic tale of three lonely sisters

Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by Anchor (first published March 27th 2001)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  973 ratings  ·  84 reviews

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Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021, library
This was an interesting and enjoyable read mostly about Charlotte and Emily Bronte and how the mythology about the family became the story, and not their incredible writing. The initial Victorian response to their books was horror, a woman couldn’t have written with such passion (and if it was a woman then she’s unfeminine!) and the themes were coarse. Lucasta Miller covers a lot of territory in this book. She discusses initial reactions to the novels and the initial biography by Mrs Gaskell whi ...more
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
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: http://girlwithherheadinabook.co.uk/2...

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
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
V. Briceland
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
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
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
Gillian Brownlee
Aug 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
"One could go even further into the question of why our culture still needs so many of its female icons--from Marylin Monroe to Princess Diana--to suffer and die, as if we want to see them punished for their fame."

This took me a while to get through, but mostly because I'm a slow reader when it comes to non-fiction. My main takeaways from this book were:

1. Everything I thought I knew about the Brontës was a fabrication.
2. I really want to re-read Wuthering Heights.
3. People cannot just accept th
Margery Osborne
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Aug 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
I must be one of the few for which this was a disappointing read. I won't go on and on except to point out a few things:

1) Almost nothing about Anne, who in my estimation was the most talented of the lot. If a writer is going to write about a family like this one, I personally want equal attention paid to all. And that should include Branwell also.

2) Fairly little attention (perhaps for self supporting reasons) paid by the author to those books which have already addressed many of the issues she
Faith B
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bios-memoirs
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
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-books, 2021
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
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably 3.5 - but found it a little repetitive. Nothing on Ann.
Jun 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
From what I can tell, hard evidence of who the Bronte sisters and brother actually were is quite scant; Miller’s book tells the tale of how biographers wove tapestries out of the scraps of material they left behind, often to suit their own agendas. Charlotte Bronte herself had to simultaneously defend and excuse her and her sister Emily’s works, for a variety of reasons. The ur-biography seems to be Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte, more an effort to make the case that women could wr ...more
Jan 24, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
#bookreview The Brontë Myth is a biography of the myth surrounding the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It is a book about the politics of biography writing. I have read only Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. The former is a favourite, one that I have dipped into several times over the years and each time emerged finding something new, intriguing and refreshing. Wuthering Heights, unfortunately, left me underwhelmed mostly because, at 17, I did not understand that ki ...more
Kathy Nealen
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
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