Patrick Brontë: Father of Genius

Written by Dudley Green
Review by Susan Higginbotham

Father of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, as well as their wastrel brother Branwell, Patrick Brontë had the misfortune to outlive all of his children, three of whom died within an eight-month period. Worse, with the publication of Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of the recently dead Charlotte, Patrick acquired a reputation as a half-mad eccentric that he has found hard to live down.

In this biography, Green, who previously published an edition of Patrick’s letters, presents a much more balanced and appealing picture of Patrick, whose abilities allowed him to make the extraordinary social leap from Irish schoolmaster to Cambridge graduate before beginning his long career as perpetual curate of Haworth. A published author himself, he was a keen letter writer on issues of the day. Even in the midst of family tragedy and old age, he was active in parish and local affairs. An affectionate father, he was most concerned about correcting the misconception that he had denied his children meat for their meals (a charge of which Green also clears him).

Green has researched his subject meticulously and has an obvious respect for him. The result is a thorough, well-written, absorbing, and sympathetic biography of the patriarch of one of the most important, and surely one of the most unlikely, literary families of Victorian England.