The Northville Review
an online literary journal
The Brontës’ Disdain for Crowds: Their 21st Century Letters

Catherine Walder

“Scarborough Fair”
Anne to Emily

Dear Emily,

I really wish you would come and visit me here. I need to be with someone familiar. I have been to the seaside again today to collect more pebbles and to clear my thoughts. There is not much chance for the latter. The Fair is still on for a few more weeks and there are throngs of people everywhere. Some are even singing a daft song about rosemary and thyme at the top of their lungs.

Sometimes I do wish I was back at the Parsonage, with you and Charlotte and Branwell, playing with the toy soldiers and immersing ourselves in Angria and Gondal or just running on the moor. Or that it is winter again, the cold, the snow that masks the brutality of the stories that we create…


“Wuthering Heights Tour”
Emily to Anne

Dear Anne,

You wouldn’t want to be back, believe me. I am not pleased that they named everything after us. Now everybody is looking for my nooks. The Brontë Bridge. The Brontë Waterfall. The Brontë Chair. “Halloa, Emily!” A visitor passing by hollered to me. “We’ve just been to Top Withens. You do walk a lot don’t you? It’s bloody miles away from your home.”

I was bemused. I haven’t even been to Top Withens myself and people just made an assumption. They put English and Japanese signs for the hike up to the farmhouse that they believe to be my inspiration for the Heights. I wouldn’t have minded so much if they didn’t pass my waterfall. Today Tabby and I took Keeper out for a walk. I asked her if she could help me steal the signs. We hid them around the first kissing gate (don’t tell anyone) on a mound of dead heather (to be honest, I prefer dead, rather than blossoming, heather – it seems more romantic, haunting, surrounded by an air of melancholy). We also destroyed all the dock leaves we could find so anyone stung by nettles won’t have so much hope. The moors are no longer mine.

Every single day I’m avoiding the hundreds of people trying to get my signature. Somehow they constantly manage to get hold of me and so I reach out for their reproduction of the ill-fated book and sign, sign, sign. I’ve shifted to ballpoint pens, as it happens, as they’re much easier to use. There are even strangers who trespass just to have a look at the Parsonage, asking if it is open to the public. Father had to put anti-climb paint over the fence. I told a neighbour yesterday that Shibden Hall is the inspiration for Thrushcross Grange and what do you know, all the Japanese tourists are standing in line up there now.

Branwell is paying court to a visitor from the Continent. He’s been in the Black Bull more frequently than ever. Last night he was high on opium and drink and I as usual had to drag him back to the house.


“Bank Holiday Weekend”
Charlotte to Ellen Nussey

My dear, kind Ellen

+ 41

Emily and I wanted to return to Brussels for the Bank Holiday weekend but the heavily-packed train carriages prevented us from doing so. I am not really happy that bank employees like me would get to share this holiday with people who don’t even work at the bank. How unfair is that. Please do not think ill of me for not responding sooner to your last letter. I should explain about the bank. So many things happened since our last correspondence. I left my post with the Sidgwicks and took a new job. It is short of exciting, just counting sterling. The only positive aspect is the post is so straightforward I find more time for my writing. Still, after counting all day I couldn’t help but incorporate my counting skills to whatever I’m doing.

Whereas I should think it divine to walk on wet grass to the postbox on this bright clear day, I’m making a fuss over the possibilities of posting this Large Letter. Should I use first class (66p) or second (51p)? I’m not in a hurry for this to reach you, so second class will do. But of course this also depends on the availability of stamps in my writing desk. I just checked and found I don’t have Large Letter stamps so for the first class Large, I’ll waste 7p – 41p first Small plus 32p second Small equals 73p, seven more than what I want to achieve. For second class Large, I’ll use two second class Small, a total of 64p. I’ll waste 13p and it’s only 2p short of first class Large. I can’t even choose ‘special delivery’ for it will defeat the purpose of using the stamps and tossing it into a postbox. With special delivery it will mean I’ll have to go to the post office to fill in some form. And then I’ll meet people I am not in the least fond of on the way.

I’m almost tempted to send you an e-mail.


“At the Black Bull”
Branwell’s e-mail to a lady at the pub

Respected Miss

I am in possession of qualities superior to those of any of your previous lovers. I grow my own vegetables in an allotment from the council. I can play a little piano, not the kind who plays at the Royal Albert Hall but my pieces are acceptable.

Now, Miss, all I ask of you is – click reply and send. I am not much of a good conversationalist with the state I’m usually in after a pub crawl (literally) so e-mail is a much better option. This is not about you. I would ask of the same from another woman. Your reply would be most appreciated and will save us any embarrassment.

Do you feel yourself so complete, so perfect you won’t give me the time of day? Just because you used to be paramour of a Baron’s son doesn’t mean you couldn’t aim for anything less. You were merely lucky to have had a good start in this business of coupling and now you would only settle for nobility. If not for that first and only affair you wouldn’t even be noticed. It is like a curriculum vitae isn’t it, now that you’re through with him, you would entertain only the Baron’s son’s friends. Believe me, you need someone fresh, new. Speak, miss!

About the author

Catherine Batac Walder's writing has been published in her native Philippines and abroad, most recently in Fine Books and Collections and Philippines Free Press. She moved across Norway, Finland and Portugal from 2005 - 2007 for a European MPhil. scholarship and then worked as a research group administrator at the Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London. She lives in a Victorian home in South East England and is now a full-time wife, mother and boat sweeper. Visit her blog at