The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte, Paperback Book

The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


As a bold and gifted child, Branwell Bronte's promise seemed boundless to the three adoring sisters over whom his rule was complete.

But as an adult, the precocious flame of genius distorted and burned low.

With neither the strength nor the resources to counter rejection, unable to sell his paintings or publish his books, Branwell became a spectre in the Bronte story, in pathetic contrast with the astonishing achievements of his sisters.Daphne du Maurier concentrates all her biographer's skill on the shadowy figure of Branwell Bronte, and no reader could fail to be intensely moved by Branwell's final retreat into laudanum, alcohol - and death


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: literary
  • ISBN: 9781844080755

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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

This novel gives us a glimpse into the life of Branwell Bronte the only brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, who is often considered to be the failure of the family and who died very young at the age of thirty, a death many have considered to be caused by his excessive use of alcohol and laudanum. I am a very big fan of Daphne du Maurier and reading her books is a treat and something I savor. Also, I was really looking forward to reading this book I, like many fans of the Bronte’s work including the novels they wrote as children have always been fascinated by their lives and the motivations behind their unique ability to create such wonderful thought provoking stories. In my opinion Branwell is one of the biggest mysteries in literary history because I feel like biographers side step him as being a failure to the family, the man whose potential was never achieved and I have always wondered if that is what he was really like. Since we will never know I was excited when I came across this novel by Daphne du Maurier and I was looking forward to reading her interpretations about Branwell’s life. I really enjoyed the writing in this book, as in all of Daphne du Maurier’s books it flows very well and takes on an almost poetic quality. It hardly reads as a biography and more like a novel or story. I have not read the other biographies that Daphne du Maurier wrote so I can’t comment on how this one compares with the others but I really enjoyed reading this. I found her ideas and interpretations of the time to be very unique to other biographies I read on the Brontes, and I enjoyed the way she uses some of Branwell’s poetry to enhance her ideas. I also enjoyed the introduction to this novel by Justine Picardie. I would suggest this book to anyone who is interested in reading about the Brontes as I thought it was a very excellent addition.

Review by

The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte is a brief biography of the least-known of the Bronte siblings: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne’s brother Branwell, believed by his sisters to be the most brilliant of all the siblings. Born the only boy in a family of girls, a lot was expected of Branwell; but tied down by his imagination, which he fueled into the fictional world of Angria, a lack of job prospects, a disastrous affair, and a drug addiction, he died at the young age of 31 and was eventually eclipsed by his sisters. Yet Branwell was a moderately good poet and artist.In this short biography, Du Maurier draws from Branwell’s poems, prose, and letters to giver her reader more of an idea of what he was like. And yet, it’s hard to know, trapped as he was in his own “infernal world,” a phrase that Du Maurier uses way too many times in the book but which is as good as any to describe how much Branwell’s mind disturbed him. It’s hard to get a good idea of what any of the Bronte siblings was like, since they were so introverted, but Du Maurier does a good job here of painting a rough portrait. I liked the fact that she addressed the rumors that Branwell helped to author Wuthering Heights. Branwell was a highly imaginative and emotional person, and its possible that he might have contributed ideas for it.I think, though, that there’s a lot of speculation, especially over what happened at Thorp Green with his dismissal from the Robinsons’ employ. Du Maurier hints at, but does not say explicitly or prove, inappropriate behavior on the part of Branwell towards the Robinsons’ son Edmond. But since Du Maurier only hints at it, the reader is left to come to her own conclusions about what she might have meant—a sexual relationship? Or did Branwell allow Edmund to see him under the influence of drugs? Despite the ambiguity of this point, I did like the way that she portrayed Emily Bronte, my favorite of the sisters—aloof, undemonstrative, often misunderstood by those who didn’t know her well.

Review by

An exercise for the reader who has a passing familiarity with both the life of Branwell Brontë and the writing of Daphne du Maurier: just imagine for a moment what you think a biography of Branwell Brontë written by Daphne du Maurier might be like. This book is pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to be: full of feeling, sometimes ridiculous and overreaching, morbid, with occasional lurid speculations and unexpected psychological conjectures. Still, for the right person there's something enjoyable about it.<br/><br/>She is comically hard on most of Branwell's writing, in a way that suggests that she takes his failure very personally: "fourth-rate stuff," "a Sunday School child of seven could have done better," "lame couplets," "interminable elegy," etc. It's a little much.<br/><br/>The best parts of the book are the details of the supposed conversation with George Searle Phillips indicating that Branwell knew Charlotte was the author of <i>Jane Eyre</i>, and Branwell's correspondence with sculptor Joseph Leyland.<br/><br/>It's hard to know what to think of Branwell: one one hand he was such a burden and a liar and a fuck-up. On the other hand, he really suffered, and it's hard not to sympathize with someone of whom greatness is expected, who has talent but not strength, whose dreams and ambitions are larger than his world. "I only know that it is time for me to be something when I am nothing."<br/><br/>One thing Daphne du Maurier and I agree about is that "Peaceful Death and Happy Life" is a powerful and awesome poem:<br/><br/>Why dost thou sorrow for the happy dead<br/>For if their life be lost, their toils are o'er<br/>And woe and want shall trouble them no more,<br/>Nor ever slept they in an earthly bed<br/>So sound as now they sleep while dreamless, laid<br/>In the dark chambers of that unknown shore<br/>Where Night and Silence seal each guarded door:<br/>So turn from such as these thy drooping head<br/>And mourn the <i>'dead alive'</i> - whose spirit flies -<br/>Whose life departs before his death has come -<br/>Who finds no Heaven beyond Life's gloomy skies,<br/>Who sees no Hope to brighten up that gloom;<br/>Tis HE who feels the worm that never dies -<br/>The REAL death and darkness of the tomb.

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