PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review Blog
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Vahni Capildeo The Boisterous Weeping of Margery Kempe Paul Muldoon The Fly Sinead Morrissey Put Off That Mask Jane Yeh Three Poems Sarah Rothenberg Poetry and Music: Exile and Return

This article is taken from PN Review 212, Volume 39 Number 6, July - August 2013.

Vestiges 3: Patrick Brontë Adam Crothers
Picture of The Cottage in the Wood
Reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge. Patrick Brontë studied theology at St John's, 1802-1806

While his title threatens quaintness, Patrick Brontë expresses at the opening of The Cottage in the Wood (1815) his determination not to patronise the rural poor. He scorns the 'sensual novelist' who portrays palaces as 'the certain abodes of misery' and cottages as 'the never-failing sources of happiness'; such notions are rooted in material wealth, ultimately immaterial to the question of one's soul.

But well-worn fictions are apparently useful: having railed against the clichés of the noble poor and the corrupt rich, Brontë writes of William Bower - the drunken, licentious and rich atheist pictured here in the 1818 edition's frontispiece - ultimately finding God and happiness via Mary, the strong-willed and 'interesting' daughter of the Cottage's Christian household. (This, sweetly, from an author whose daughters could not be called uninteresting.) Bower's religious awakening - his conversion from an opportunist of the boudoir (bower) to a humbled (bowed) addition to the Cottage (bower) family - comes when he loses his money, and while he and Mary are financially secure when married, the suggestion remains that one must find happiness in poverty in order to possess it when rich.

By not mattering, the material world matters; Brontë finds literary and theological value in accepting, reluctantly, this paradox. Poems follow the prose, and in 'The Pious ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image