Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Bronte: The Garden of Death

Posted by on Oct 7, 2020 in Unmowed Authors | 0 comments

The Bronte sisters grew up surrounded by the bleak and beautiful moors of Yorkshire, England. But they lived in a cozy little parsonage, with a warm kitchen, pleasant parlor, and cheerful front yard filled with lilacs, cornflowers and black current bushes. A nice place to grow up, it would seem. But all around the little island of house and lawn was (and is) a huge cemetery. Tombstones are packed so tightly you can hardly walk between them.

The sisters grew up surrounded by these vivid reminders that life is all too short. Funerals were much more frequent than parties in their melancholy childhoods. To escape, they retreated into their imaginations, and wrote and enacted thousands of hours of drama in a Game of Thrones-style fantasy kingdom, peopled with lords, ladies, castles, jewels, treasure, and plenty of gore.

The parsonage is at the top of a hill, near the church and completely surrounded by the graveyard. This was typical, as from time immemorial burial grounds were often placed on hills just outside of town. Tragically, two key modern-day scientific concepts had not dawned on those who chose to place decomposing corpses on the top of a hill: germs and groundwater.

Bacteria and germs percolated downwards into the aquifer from which the oblivious inhabitants of the Parsonage drew their drinking water. Even the lovely, well-tended garden was watered with water teeming with all sorts of deadly microscopic life. The whole town of Haworth, below the Parsonage, was affected: the average life expectancy in that peaceful pastoral village was 25 years.

The immensely creative Bronte family died young and with depressing regularity, weakened if not outright killed by their toxic water. All except for their father, whose immune system was perhaps strengthened by sheer crankiness, and who lived to the ripe old age of 84. Charlotte, Anne, and Emily all died with so many unwritten masterpieces inside their heads. If only they had known then what we understand now: that clean water is a treasure beyond price.

 

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