Whose line is it anyway? William Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë


When you first look at the manuscript of Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë, you are struck by how messy it is—compare this to her other manuscripts and the difference is quite shocking (for people like me, who live for this stuff). It’s no surprise: Charlotte Brontë, in many ways, was Gaskell’s ultimate challenge. She had never attempted biography; she had never had to contend with real-life characters who threatened to charge her with libel (‘and here’s to you, Mrs Robinson’)* and demanded revisions (Harriet Martineau, I’m lookin’ at you)**. Even before she started writing, Gaskell knew that this was a precarious business—she had been approached by Patrick Brontë to write the biography in response to rumours that were circulating about Charlotte after her death. Continue reading “Whose line is it anyway? William Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë”

Charlotte Brontë and The Author’s Printing and Publishing Assistant

Upon publishing the Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, Charlotte Brontë equipped herself for dealing with the male realm of the literary marketplace—rather as a woman seeks male protection from being conned by a greasy mechanic—by purchasing The Author’s Printing and Publishing Assistant. Published in 1839, the chief aim of this ‘little Work’ is to ‘afford such a view of the Technical details of Printing and Publishing as shall enable Authors to form their own judgment on all subjects connected with the Publication of their Productions.’ The guide was indeed uncommonly enabling; it was not simply aimed at men but addressed itself more broadly to the gender-neutral ‘Author’. Thus, it provided Charlotte Brontë with guidance that authorised her use of a professional tone when dealing with her then-publishers, Aylott and Jones, and allowed her to dictate the material conditions of her text’s transmission. Continue reading “Charlotte Brontë and The Author’s Printing and Publishing Assistant”