Nicola here. Today I’m musing on sisters, real, literary and fictional. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationships between siblings. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have any full siblings that I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister. Would we be very close, or different and distant? Would there be sibling rivalry between us or the sort of secrets you come across in books? What would it have been like growing up with brothers and sisters?
Today is the anniversary of the birth in 1817 of Branwell Bronte, the only boy amongst literary siblings Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Originally there were six Bronte children, five of whom were girls, so Branwell’s unique status as the only son of the family promised him more freedom and perhaps led to his being more indulged. Whilst the girls were sent away to school, in some cases most unhappily, Branwell was educated by his father at home (pictured above). The two older Bronte sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in childhood and their deaths made a big impression on all their siblings. Maria in particular showed all the signs of developing the same literary talents as her younger sisters. One wonders what might have happened had she survived and also whether Elizabeth, who was said to most resemble Anne, would also have grown up to be an author. Branwell, meanwhile, was a writer and an artist – one of his pictures is on the right – but he never achieved the literary success his sisters did, nor was he particularly successful with his paintings.