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Charlotte Brontë: The Imagination in History$
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Heather Glen

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199272556

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199272556.001.0001

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The Mighty Phantasm

The Mighty Phantasm

(p.5) CHAPTER ONE The Mighty Phantasm
Charlotte Brontë: The Imagination in History

Heather Glen

Oxford University Press

In 1829, at the age of twelve, Charlotte Brontë began to write a ‘history’. The document still survives at Haworth Parsonage — a blotted scrawl on scrap paper, erratically punctuated and spelled. The story whose beginnings are here ‘sketched out’ is now well known. To the motherless children in that Yorkshire parsonage, the soldiers became the original dramatis personae of an imaginary world that was to allure and preoccupy each of the four throughout adolescence and beyond. Seven years later, in uncongenial employment as a teacher of young ladies, ‘sinking from irritation and weariness into a kind of lethargy’, Brontë was to testify to the continuing power of that ‘mighty phantasm’ — ‘conjured from nothing to a system strong as some religious creed’. For the ‘mighty phantasm’ in which those ‘plays’ were elaborated was by no means ‘conjured from nothing’. It was made possible, shaped, and constrained by the specificities of a quite particular culture, one that is a potent presence in ‘The History of the Year’.

Keywords:   Charlotte Brontë, history, Haworth Parsonage, mighty phantasm, plays

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