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Mother of the Brontës (Paperback)

The Life of Maria Branwell - 200th Anniversary Edition

Local History Yorkshire and Humberside P&S History Social History Women of History

By Sharon Wright
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399018814
Published: 15th November 2021
Expected Re-release Date: 30th January 2022

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Maria Branwell has spent 200 years in the shadow of her extraordinary children, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. Now the first biography of Mrs Brontë appears as a beautiful bicentenary paperback edition in October 2021, with a commissioned portrait of Maria at 38 based on the only two existing images in the Brontë Collection. Sharon Wright’s critically-acclaimed biography reveals Maria’s fascinating life as a Regency gentlewoman who went looking for an adventure and found one. A sudden passion and whirlwind love affair led to the birth of the most gifted literary siblings the world has ever known. From a wealthy home in Penzance, Maria was a contemporary of Jane Austen and enjoyed the social status of a prominent family with secrets. So how did Maria fall for the penniless curate she called ‘My Dear Saucy Pat’ hundreds of miles from the home she loved? And what adventures lead lover Patrick Brontë to their fateful meeting in Yorkshire? What family scandals did Maria leave behind in Cornwall? How did wealthy and independent Miss Branwell of balmy Penzance adjust to life as Mrs Brontë in Yorkshire during the industrial revolution? And what was her enduring legacy in the lives of those world famous daughters and troubled son?

Praise for Mother of the Brontës

‘This impressively researched, crisply written biography gives Maria her rightful place in the Brontë story.’ The Telegraph
‘Beautifully researched and vibrantly written.’ Daily Express
‘Exuberant, fast-paced and deeply moving biography of a remarkable woman.’ Jane Austen Regency Review
‘A haunting and timely portrait of mysterious Maria Brontë, mother of literature’s most gifted siblings. A groundbreaking piece of research - and a poignantly moving story.’ -Claire Harman, author of Charlotte Brontë: A Life
'This is a fine book.' - Brontë Studies

This is an absolutely fascinating read and to be able to read it in her bicentenary year makes it somewhat even more lovely.

NetGalley, Louise Cannon

I really enjoyed this book, for as long as I have remembered I have loved the works of the Brontë's, but I didn't know anything about Maria, their mother. This book was obviously researched in great detail but it also felt very readable and not dry or dense at all. I loved the fact that she came from Cornwall (where my mum's side of the family is from) so I loved reading about old Penzance. A thoroughly enjoyable historical book.

NetGalley, Kate Shotliff

Such a wonderful book. I'm a huge Bronte fan so it was delightful to be able to delve further into the lives of this fascinating family.

NetGalley, Sarah Oakey

I didn't know much about their mother, but she has turned out to be quite an interesting woman. It was interesting to read about her life and how she influenced her children. It's obvious that the book has been well-researched. I really love the letters she exchanged with Patrick, as it portrayed him I think in a way that he's not often portrayed as. Would definitely recommend to anyone interested in the Brontes.

NetGalley, Kirsten Nicole Braza

I give Mother of the Brontës five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!

NetGalley, Michelle Kidwell

Bronte fans will always welcome a new book on the subject and I certainly went away feeling that I had gained another insight.

NetGalley, Sally Hughes

Maria Bronte, nee Branwell, has always been a shadowy figure in the history of that remarkable family, so I was intrigued to read a biography about her. I thought the author gave a very detailed account of the history surrounding Maria's early life in Cornwall. They also brought to the fore different aspects of Maria's personality, aside from the usual pious wife bearing pain with fortitude. It was refreshing to see the passionate lover in her letters to Patrick during their courtship, her enjoyment in being a reader of novels, and even trying her hand at writing a religious article.

Overall, this is a worthy addition to the body of work already compiled on the Bronte family. I enjoyed reading it and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of the Brontes.

NetGalley, Gayle Noble

I initially discovered the Bronte sisters in the school library when I first attended secondary school. Having fallen in love with their novels and back stories at such a tender age, they remain amongst my favourite books. Being a diminutive, bespectacled girl myself, I particularly identified with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and I love it still.

I have read several biographies of the Bronte sisters over the years, but this is the first that I have read that is specifically about their mother, Maria Branwell. I was fascinated to learn how this intelligent, well to do young woman from Cornwall ended her life as the impoverished wife to an eccentric clergyman in Yorkshire.

The author has clearly completed extensive research for this book and as a result has been able to produce this informative volume, and to demonstrate Maria's progression both geographically and socially. I very much enjoyed reading the letters that Maria wrote and sent to Patrick prior to their marriage. Sadly, these letters are one-sided as only Maria's letters survive but the author was able to ascertain information about Patrick based on Maria's responses.

Ms. Wright has written an informative, elucidating and illuminating book about the mother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte. It is a very accessible and easy to read biography which I very much enjoyed.

NetGalley, Anna Elliott

Before reading this biography, I knew virtually nothing about Maria Bronte, the mother of the famous Bronte siblings - and only a tiny amount about her husband Patrick. This book is published in the bicentenary year of Maria Bronte's death.

This was an interesting read, and I feel I learned a lot from it - not only about the Brontes and their connections to Cornwall, but about the period in history that they grew up in from a "social history" point of view.

The book includes extracts from letters, and testimonies obtained from those who knew the family, as well as some of Patrick's poetry, so again, was interesting from that point of view. Maria was clearly a cultured and intelligent woman, and her financial means (before and after her marriage) helped her to retain a certain standing in society.

Sharon Wright is obviously very knowledgeable about the family, and has woven together an interesting mix of known facts, history, and impressions of the life and times of the family and how they lived.

NetGalley, Julie Waugh

This was a very fantastic biography of Maria Branwell, mother of the Bronte Sisters. We get an insight look to her early life In Cornwall and a history lesson of her time which made the book even more interesting and informative.

Wright did an amazing job tying together what its known and written about Maria and the unknown. If you’re Bronte fan or interested in women’s lit, this would be a great read.

NetGalley, Mayda Madrid

Before reading this I knew exactly nothing about Maria Branwell, other than her name, of course. Now, after reading this biography, I feel as though I know everything there is to know!

Wright’s book truly does do the subject matter justice. Armed with ample amounts of speculation on bits we don’t know for sure, perfectly sized chapters and in depth discussions surrounding Branwell’s life, it’s the perfect book for those hungry to know more about the Brontë’s.

NetGalley, teleri :-)

Overall, Wright’s biography is a well needed publication which brings to life and reveals more about the celebrated Brontë family. She successfully argues the case that without Maria, there would not be the Brontë literature we know and love today. It was wonderful to discover Maria’s own joy for writing and yet her tragic death cast a shadow on the whole family.

Read the full review here

Historian Ellis

There is an extensive bibliography and a useful index, making this a book that can be easily followed up from additional sources. I was pleased to see Maria Brontë being given a place in the lives of the famous writers – a place that resonates with life through Sharon Wright’s commitment to her as an interesting woman as well as mother and wife.

NetGalley, Robin Joyce

Sitting back in my English classes, I used to wonder what the authors of the books we were reading were like but I never thought I'd be glad I know more about what the mother of the famous Brontë sisters was like. This biography covers the entire life of Maria Branwell, from her birth in 1783 to her sickness and death at the age of 38. You'll learn about her upbringing in Penzance to a working-class family (with some interesting stories about her family's ties to the smuggling trade). You'll get to hear about the books she read as she started approaching spinsterhood, which includes some Jane Austen. You'll be inspired by her likely dangerous journey to join her aunt and uncle in Yorkshire to help them run their school and pleasantly surprised when it led to a romance with a handsome Irishman, the school's external classics examiner, Patrick Brontë. After they were married, Maria followed Patrick and his career as a priest, giving birth to future famous authors along the way. Eventually, Patrick was offered a difficult post at Hayworth (a setting that would eventually inspire Wuthering Heights) and you'll feel bad for how badly Maria and Patrick must have wanted the congregation to accept them. And when Maria gets sick later, your heart will break for the children she will leave behind, who will write stories featuring characters without mothers or characters with unique connections to their mothers.

For me, the best part was getting to read her words. She created authors people have studied in schools for years. She helped to shape the early years of writers that would someday grace hundreds of must-read classic novel lists. There's not much surviving of Maria Branwell, which the author notes could be why we never had a biography for her until now. But now you can read the pieces that are surviving: several letters she wrote to Patrick and a religious tract that she wrote but wasn't able to get published.

One thing I really appreciate is that in every part of Maria's life, the author takes the time to explain things about the culture or society in that day that could be helpful to know. You can tell that this was incredibly well-researched, not only because the author was told there wasn't enough information about Maria Branwell to create a full biography for her, but because she genuinely wanted to tell the story of the mother of the Brontës.

NetGalley, Danica Barnett

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a quick easy read and one I really enjoyed as I love the Bronte sisters and this is such an interesting story of the mother of these very artistic and intelligent girls/women.

It is well researched, well written and brings life to a part of the Bronte's story and makes them seem so much more real. It told life stories, family stories and it transported me to a time and place so that I could then fully understand the lives this family lived.

It is history but it isn't boring, it is a wonderful and as I said it does bring the whole family to life not just the girls.

I highly recommend this book to any Bronte fans as well as fans of the times/eras that they lived in.

NetGalley, Donna Robinson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thought I knew quite a lot about the Brontë family only to realise I knew next to nothing about the beginning....
Both parents, Maria and Patrick went literally a long way before they met! Mainly a biography about Maria, I was taken aback as to her origins, as to her own parents and as to her interesting and strong personality! I adored reading about her voyage through adulthood, from being an independent, educated woman to her becoming a prolific mother....
This biography appears very well researched. At the end of the book you can read Maria's letters to Patrick before they got married giving a lively voice to the mother of four genial children. Highly recommended!

NetGalley, Christine Boos

Given how much I've read around the lives of the Bronte's, having grown up not too far from Haworth, I realised I'd never really been able to read much about Maria. The woman who is mentioned so frequently as a cause of heartbreak in all of her children's lives, but particularly Charlotte's. Reading this biography really rounded out the history of the Bronte's as a whole, and allowed a particularly interesting view of Patrick earlier in his life when he met Maria and demonstrating the legacy and impact Maria left through her children.
Overall, this is such a beautifully written biography, it's an engaging and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

NetGalley, Deanna Howley

The book "Mother of the Brontes" is a biography of Maria Branwell, mother of the most gifted literary siblings the world has ever known. Sharon Wright has taken a giant step to present before the readers a literary piece that's worth reading. Author's real triumph lies in bringing out this master piece as a 200th Anniversary special. The book will be most interesting for those eager to read and make a career in Literature.

NetGalley, Anuradha Sowmyanarayanan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The literary Brontë family has a fascinating yet tragic history. All six children and their mother, Maria, died far too early which would have been crushing for Patrick (who made up his surname, by the way). To wonder about their potential had they lived longer is natural. As a young girl I grew up with a love for Charlotte's, Emily's and Anne's writing, along with several other Regency authors. This book is super informative, compelling and full of heart. I knew next to nothing about Maria but now feel I have a much better understanding of her personality, values and character, not to mention her husband and children.

Maria Branwell's prominent and upstanding family lived in Penzance. She was brought up in comfort but no amount of comfort could possibly compensate for the horrendous deaths of five of her siblings as babies. Her parents suffered unspeakable sorrow.

Maria and Patrick (Pat), a poor Irish curate, met and fell in love deeply and quickly and both believed they were each other's helpmeet though they were from different classes. They had six children in very quick succession and became published authors. They moved fairly often and pinched pennies, though occasionally bought themselves luxuries. If the couple hadn't met there would be no Charlotte, Emily or Anne. If they knew how venerated they are still, two hundred years later, they would be shocked and likely a bit mortified.

The author includes many historical details such as clothing, Wesleyan religion (Maria met Wesley at the tender age of six), the beautiful sampler Maria created (I embroider samplers), Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell bits, Thomas' secret, the description of Maria's smelling salts bottle and vicarage living (not all roses). But my favourite aspect is the inclusion of Maria's heartfelt letters which give such insight into her thoughts and perspectives. I like that she spoke her mind and had a sense of adventure!

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this stupendous and memorable book. All Brontë fans would enjoy learning more about their lives and the Regency period. I am so glad I read it.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An excellent biography. The author gives life to Maria Branwell Bronte as a person of interest, in her own right and not just as the mother of such renowned authors as the Bronte sisters. Well researched without labouring references and evidence in a way which disrupts pace, the author presents a very readable biography which could almost do as well as a work of fiction, so engaging is it.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I missed this book when it was first published. I’m pleased that an anniversary edition has been produced as hopefully it will revive interest in this little known story. I’ve read a few books about the Brontë family; most have concentrated on the daughters, a couple on Branwell and the father, but none have featured Mrs Brontë. Hers is probably the most interesting story of all and Sharon Wright does an excellent job of bringing this sidelined lady to life.

Her research appears to be meticulous and she has drawn a very compelling portrait of the lady from letters between Mr and Mrs Brontë prior to their marriage. There is little hard evidence, but from the facts, the reader learns that Marie Branwell came from Cornwall to Yorkshire to help at a school. She and her husband to be were from very different backgrounds, but it was clear that there was an attraction and their union gave the world a unique heritage it the literary daughters.

I really enjoyed this account. It gives more context to the background of this remarkable family and there are moments of genuine joy and sadness in the book. It’s short, but packed with detail and a truly fascinating slice of social history.

NetGalley, Anita Wallas

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fabulously researched book which I absolutely loved!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical biography of Maria Bronte (mother of the famous Bronte sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) from her birth and childhood in Cornwall to her travels to Yorkshire and meeting Patrick, their marriage. parenthood, family life, and finally her long illness.

The author's comments regarding women's diaries and their importance in understanding what everyday life was like at the time captivated me. The official history was written by men of the time, but they hardly ever took the time to record the small nuances that help us bring a particular era to life. It is always interesting to hear about HERstory!

If you have the slightest interest in literature, history, herstory or the Brontes - this is a MUST read! I'd totally recommend this book.

NetGalley, Shar Daws

Wright is an engaging and down-to-earth writer. It struck me that her early admission that she had come to Brontë fandom slightly later in the game was perhaps one of the reasons why Wright was able to offer such a refreshing perspective. The Mother of the Brontës does not get dragged into the controversies which have so dogged the fandom down the centuries. Where she encounters them, she offers her own theory and moves on. But more than anything, Wright's book left me feeling such sadness for the family that they lost this woman so young. You get the feeling that everything could have been different. With Maria's annuity, the family's finances could have been easier. While Aunt Branwell was a dutiful substitute, she had hoped so much to be able to return to Cornwall. Perhaps the girls would not have been sent to Cowan Bridge to lighten her load. More pertinently, it seems that Maria had had a track record of smoothing any feathers which her husband might ruffle. Patrick might have been an easier man to know. There are so many question marks but the Brontë story would have definitely been very different. The Mother of Brontës is a wonderful tribute to a lady who was clearly both loving and loved. Essential reading for all Brontë fans!

Read the full review here

NetGalley, Susannah Perkins

About Sharon Wright

Sharon Wright is an author, journalist and playwright. She has worked as a writer, editor and columnist for magazines, newspapers and websites including The Guardian, Daily Express, BBC, Glamour, Red, The Lady and New York Post. Her first book, Balloonomania Belles, was serialised in The Mail on Sunday and Sharon was a guest on BBC Woman's Hour. The revised and updated paperback The Lost History of the Lady Aeronauts is out April 2021. She is also the author of critically acclaimed plays performed in London and Yorkshire.


For further information please contact Sharon Wright sharonwrightauthor@gmail.com or Lucy May at Pen & Sword History promotions@pen-and-sword.co.uk

The death of Maria Brontë

15th September 1821

Maria Brontë (née Branwell), mother of novelists Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, died on 15 September 1821 in Haworth, Yorkshire. 2021 marks 200 years since her death.


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