Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: The Brontë sisters— Anne, Emily, and Charlotte—are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publishers for their poetry, each sister hopes to write a full-length novel that will thrill the reading public. They’re also hoping for a new case for their fledgling detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers and Company solicitors. On a bitterly cold February evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Scar Top House, an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family. A set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the ancient home.
Tabby says it's bad doings, and dark omens for all of them. The rattled housekeeper gives them a warning, telling the sisters of a chilling rumour attached to the family. The villagers believe that, on the verge of bankruptcy, Clifton Bradshaw sold his soul to the devil in return for great riches. Does this have anything to do with the bones found in the Bradshaw house? The sisters are intrigued by the story and feel compelled to investigate. But Anne, Emily, and Charlotte soon learn that true evil has set a murderous trap and they've been lured right into it...
I’ve been a big fan of the Bronte sisters since I was a little girl, and as soon as I had my own budget to spend on books, I began to collect various editions of the Bronte novels, biographies and any book that had a connection to their lives or work.
At first, I collected new books (for example I still have my 1990s edition of Jane Eyre that I used at university) and then I began to pick-up second-hand editions, at first in second hand books shops but now on ebay, abebooks, Instagram, anywhere I see them! I have over a 1000 Bronte themed books, more than a hundred editions of Jane Eyre which is my favourite, but nearly just as many of Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Shirley and Villette, plus about a dozen copies of the Elizabeth Gaskell biography of Charlotte Bronte.
Editions in my collection date from the 1850s to the present day, but what I love most about second hand books is that they so often come with another story attached to them, the story of the person that owned before me. In a great many of the books I collect I find hidden treasures, inscriptions inside the book, newspaper clippings and sometimes even forgotten notes, letters and pressed flowers. Every time I find something like this, I am reminded of the huge network of the Bronte lovers that spans over generations.
Recently I acquired a fairly ordinary copy of ‘In The Steps of the Brontes,’ by Ernest Raymond. First published in the 1940s it’s a lovely book following the sisters lives in and around Haworth. But inside I also found several fliers from Bronte themed trips taken, a hand written list of the all the real houses that the fictional houses in the Bronte works were based on, a receipt for a life time membership, and more. Through these details I was able to find out that the lady that had first owned the book married an RAF pilot just before WW2, who was shot down and killed in North Africa. She never remarried, but she obviously took a great deal of joy from the works of the Brontes, and I imagine made many friends that way. I love to think that I am looking after her memories, as well as her book in my collection.
I’ve traced mill owner’s daughters, distinguished earls and a young girl who went on to be mother to a famous 20th century artist this way. One of my favourites is a copy of ‘The Life and Eager Death of Emily Bronte’ by Virginia Moore. I bought a copy I found on Abe books and it turned out not only to be signed by Virginia Moore, but the very copy owned by the woman she dedicated it to, Russian Princess Pierre Troubetzkoy! I had a lot of fun finding out about her, she was quite extraordinary.
One of the wonderful things about all books is how they create a community out of strangers, uniting us in our passions over particular titles and authors. What I love to do, when I can is to turn those long lost strangers that once owned my books into something like good friends.