On a grey dismal day, my husband and I walked in to Haworth. The Yorkshire town which was once home to the three Brontë sisters and their brother Branwell Brontë.
There is an upside to the overcast English skies. It lends credence to the imagination. On that dreary noon, I could imagine the polluted and wretched industrial town that Charlotte, Emily and Anne must have lived in. Where the average Haworth resident did not make it beyond the age of 24 and an early grave was the norm – as it was in the rest of the country.
Though when we walked up a steep hill, through rows of charming antique shops, cupcake-only bakeries, cafés and atmospheric pubs that make up the town of Haworth, it was anything but dull. It made me wonder – how would the sisters have reacted if they would have seen their Haworth right here in the middle of the 21st century, prettified beyond what they would have known then in the mid-1800s. And what expressions would have lined their faces when they passed by stores that promised ‘Brontes Burritos’?
When we got to the top of the road and turned back, beyond the town lay the vast Yorkshire moors. Haworth is enviably perched upon the moors.
Born near Bradford (which is just very Pakistani in character with people in brocade suits and skullcaps frequenting the streets) in a Pennine village called Thornton, the Brontë family arrived in Haworth in 1821. Patrick Brontë was appointed the parson at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels and the six children and their mother moved in along with him to the double-fronted Georgian house adjoining the church. Their graves, with the exception of Anne (who was buried in Scarborough), are in the cemetery that lies between the church and the parsonage.
Here is how I found the parsonage which is a museum maintained by the Brontë Society.
We walked into the moors from the cottage following a trail through fields and other cottages. Only the clouds mushrooming in the horizon made us do a turn around. Disappointed that we did not get to walk on the upper moors described by Emily Brontë with such dark overtones in Wuthering Heights, we sat down for a leisurely lunch at the Black Bull. At this old pub, their brother Branwell Brontë, drank his days away and then hopped across to the apothecary across for doses of opium.
The Black Bull, contrary to expectations, serves up mean shammi kebabs that would make you want to return to it, irrespective of all the haunted stories it has accumulated within its 300-year-old walls.
As we left Haworth, I felt more than a twinge of sadness for Charlotte Brontë who outlived all her siblings and died a few weeks short of her 39th birthday. And I could see the bleakness that must have made her observe: “No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure. Happiness is a glory shining far down upon us out of Heaven. She is a divine dew which the soul, on certain of its summer mornings, feels dropping upon it from the amaranth bloom and golden fruitage of Paradise.”