London: Smith Elder, 1899-1902. Haworth Edition. Contemporary half calf with top edges gilt, finely bound by Hatchards Piccadilly. Spines a bit faded, but in all a lovely, square set that presents well. Light scattered foxing to preliminaries, else internally clean and complete. The Haworth Edition, so named for the family parsonage that became The Bronte Parsonage Museum, is illustrated throughout and contains works by all three Bronte sisters: Jane Eyre, Villette, The Professor, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and a final work in biography, The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell.
The moorlands surrounding Haworth Parsonage "had a profound influence on the writing of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte...at their home the children created a rich imaginary world. Any books that came their way were eagerly devoured, and they produced their own books as well" (Bronte Society). As the sisters rose to adulthood, their novels began to focus on the complex emotional lives of women from all walks of life -- from orphans to governesses to heiresses -- but with the greatest emphasis on those whose educations and livelihoods most reflected their own. With clear-sightedness, they used their knowledge of gendered, economic, and social constraints to develop their best material. Again, the moorlands of their upbringing affected their writing. Anne's work was like a still day before a storm. And "if Charlotte's novels keep up a stiff wind, Emily's one novel is a thunderstorm. Their characters...have such a gust of life that they transcend reality" (Dean). Publishing under gender neutral pseudonyms of Currer Bell, Ellis Bell, and Acton Bell, the three talented authors were able to release their works to the public without the kind of critcism that fell on women of the time. It was with the publication of Anne's second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, that the women were forced to reveal their true identities when an unscrupulous publisher attempted to use Currer Bell's name to sell another, less successful author's works. The literary fame that came with the Brontes' revelation led only to a shortlived happiness, as all three died at early ages. Mrs. Gaskell's biography of her friend, Charlotte, came out soon after the last of the three passed. This biography, included in the seven-volume set with their best-loved novels, "has become a key source for interpretations of the family, and has ensured that the story of the Brontes' lives continues to exert as much fascination as their fiction" (Bronte Society). Near Fine (Item #2777)