THE most significant manuscript by Charlotte Brontë to be discovered for decades has sold for a record £690,000 – thwarting hopes it would return to the author’s former home in Yorkshire.
The Brontë Society had amassed a six-figure sum to bid for the tiny manuscript, which was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London yesterday – but an English treasure was snapped up by the French. It had been hoped the manuscript, or “little book”, would come back to the writer’s former home in Haworth in West Yorkshire, the home of the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
But the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris bought the second issue of Young Men’s Magazine for £690,850. The manuscript, which is due to go on display in January, sold for more than twice the pre-sale estimate of as much as £300,000 – a record at auction for a manuscript by any of the Brontë sisters.
Brontë Society president Bonnie Greer spoke of her bitter disappointment, but paid tribute to the supporters of the bid, including the National Heritage Memorial Fund which gave £613,140.
She added: “This ‘little book’ puts down in luminous prose not only the daydreams of a little Yorkshire girl, but it also contains the seed of the work of one of the greatest writers in the English language, Charlotte Brontë.
“Its presence there would have placed it not only at the heart of the proud community in which she was born and raised, but would have brought full circle a Yorkshire story, a Northern story, a British story, a world story.”
The 20-page manuscript contains more than 4,000 words of tiny script, produced by Charlotte Brontë in 1830 when she was aged just 14. It is part of the series of The Young Men’s Magazines, inspired by a set of toy soldiers bought for Branwell Brontë by his father, Patrick, in 1826. Four of the six little books are already in the Parsonage Museum’s collection, with the final one still untraced.