Patrick Branwell Brontë
Branwell Brontė - medallion portrait (1845)
Self-portrait (c.1840)Patrick Branwell Brontë  (1817 - 1848)

Branwell was Anne's only brother. Ironically, despite the abundance of artistic talent that existed between the Brontë siblings, there are no 'high quality' portraits of him known to exist. Only this 'life size' medallion portrait (extreme left), created in 1845 by the Halifax sculptor and Branwell's friend, J. B. Leyland, remains to give us an accurate impression of his appearance. Leyland's brother stated that 'the likeness was perfect'. The original is on display in the Brontë Parsonage Museum. The smaller picture shows Branwell's self-portrait of around 1840.

Branwell was born on 26 June 1817, a little over a year after Charlotte. He grew into a very talented young man, sharing his sisters' literary prowess, and had artistic talents that even surpassed theirs; but he was of a very emotional and erratic nature, and had a 'moral weakness' - to use Juliet Barker's words46  - which made him prone to dissolute ways. He could not settle to focus his skills in any one area. Almost every venture he attempted finished in disaster, as did his affair with his employer's wife, Lydia Robinson, at Thorp Green in 1845; and this last encounter proved to be the final nail in the coffin lid. He immediately sank into a deep state of depression, turned heavily to drink and became increasingly dependant on opium. In the last few years of his life, Emily regarded him as 'a hopeless being'.47n  His health gradually deteriorated, though his death, which occurred on the morning of Sunday 24 September 1848, still came as a shock to the family.48  He was aged just 31. The cause of his death was recorded as 'Chronic bronchitis - Marasmus'; though, through his recorded symptoms, it is now believed that he also had consumption.

Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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