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The Brontë Myth

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  868 ratings  ·  66 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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3.90  · 
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 ·  868 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
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
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 Bradham
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Charlotte Potter
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Bit of a strange structure which meant quite a lot of repetition between chapters, and not much direction within each section. However, clearly thoroughly researched and very interesting for Bronte enthusiasts who want to learn more about how Charlotte and Emily have been reimagined for each subsequent generation. It's quite a good study on the art of biography, and how it relates to cultural myth making. Anne was disappointingly sildelined as usual.
Jul 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Bronte Myth is sort of a biography of the Bronte sisters, but it's not just about them, it's about how they have been portrayed by other biographers, playwrights, novelists, etc. and where all the romantic ideas about them came from (the author calls it a "metabiography"). I never realized what celebrities they were, albeit after they died (for Emily & Anne), or how controversial their work was at the time it was written. I had read Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte but didn't unde ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started the All About the Brontës Challenge I went to look for books about them, this one seemed intriguing and I couldn’t resist picking it up when I happened upon it.

The Brontë Myth is about what has been written through the years about the Brontë sisters and their work. Miller first discusses how they were seen by their contemporaries, how their work was received and the need they felt to hide themselves behind their pseudonyms of Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell. Considering how their wor
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nicely accessibly literary criticism, regarding how the mythology of the Brontes was created by Elizabeth Gaskell and how it has both flourished and fluctuated since. There is, naturally, more focus on Charlotte, particularly as some of her correspondence survives (especially the notorious Heger letters), but sadly Anne remains, as always in the shadows. It's a shame that Anne is so neglected; her 'Tenant of Wildfell Hall' should be as renowned as the more famous (and inferior) 'Jane Eyre' and i ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women-s-studies
I found this book to be fascinating. I have never read a biography of any of the Brontes, and only remember reading Jane Eyre in High School and this book is not really a biography. It is a literary criticism, if you will, of biographies, both 'real' and fictional, of mainly Charlotte and to a lesser extent Emily Bronte. But while it discusses the weaknesses and strengths of the various biographies it elicits a broader perspective. By discussing the various works, the author, knowingly or not, r ...more
Emily Williams
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A biography of mostly ill-conceived Bronte biographies. Miller is examining how decades upon decades of media, spin, misinterpretation, rumors, literary theory and hero worship has skewered the true identity of the sisters and their work. After spending the majority of my waking memory living within that myth (to which my Mother is ultimately to thank - she introduced me to the 1939 film when I was 5 years old), it was refreshing to gain a new perspective on three lives I thought I knew so well. ...more
Nov 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love reading books that I learn from. This book was incrediblly well thought out, well researched and well written. There is so much we simply don't/can't know about the past. This book in addition to pointing out the egregious misrepresentations of the Brontes through the years also provides an interesting history of the evolution of briography as a genre. Even a thoughtful biographer colors a biography with thier own expereince and thier own interpretation of events and people.

What I found
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting look at the way that popular perceptions of the Bronte sisters informs a reading of their work (and vice versa). However it's kept from "5 star" status because it feels incomplete. Approximately half of the book is dedicated to Charlotte, and half to Emily. Anne earns about a paragraph. In doing this Miller not only misses out on the chance to explore why she's considered the "forgotten" sister and is not as widely read. She also falls into the same trap of so many others in forge ...more
Nadine Feldman
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book that dispels myths about the Bronte sisters spread primarily by Charlotte's biographer Elizabeth Gaskell. Attempts to fill in the blanks of Emily's life led to her representation as the "spiritual" Bronte, also a myth. Charlotte herself, sadly, was complicit in creating myths about her sisters, mainly to defend them against their critics. Both Emily and Anne's books were considered "coarse" and "immoral," and Charlotte represented her sisters as being ignorant of what ...more
Michelle Prendergast
A competent biography that works to eradicate the misconceptions propagated by previous biographers and in some cases Charlotte Bronte herself. It became repetitive in its focus on how the sisters and their work have been misrepresented by Victorian mores. In addition, its almost exclusive emphasis on Charlotte became redundant; even in the chapters whose titles indicate that Emily is the subject, Charlotte is pushed to the forefront and Anne is all but forgotten although with extant scholarship ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very readable and thorough discussion of the afterlives of Charlotte and Emily Bronte in cultural artifacts such as biographies, movies, and even the kind of literary criticism that drew on their life stories as much as their novels and poems. I am a Bronte fan and have read a number of the biographies so it was fun to see them analyzed. I thought the author was often on target in her assessments, except about Elizabeth Gaskell. I read Gaskell as being more conscious of what she was doing in her ...more
Nov 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a meticulously researched and interesting march through the biographical and literary representations of Charlotte & Emily Bronte, starting with Charlotte's own effort to save her reputation and that of her sisters (including Anne). Miller spends two chapters on Gaskell's seminal "Life of CB," and moves on through the centuries. She is a bit repetitive at times, making me wonder where her editor was. In fact, it seems like she didn't expect readers to have read the entire book and so ...more
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