January 2018 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Branwell Brontë's "Odyssey"

This may be the year of Emily Brontë--her bicentenary, that is, with a major exhibition opening at the Brontë Parsonage Museum on February 1--but Forum Auctions has me dreaming about her brother Branwell. At its forthcoming January 25 sale, Forum is offering Branwell's own copy of The Odyssey (Pope's translation, c. 1840). The title page bears an ink inscription: "To P.B.B. from his dear friend J.B.L." P.B.B. being Patrick Branwell Brontë and J.B.L. thought to be his friend, Joseph Bentley Leyland.

Branwell.jpgBranwell has long been considered "the failure of the family," although last year (his bicentenary) there was a push to "tone down the Branwell bashing." He had his flaws and addictions, but, like his sisters, he also had a brilliant mind and a particular talent for art. He is responsible for the only surviving group portrait of his three more famous sisters.       

Branwell 2.jpgIn addition to the inscription noted above, the association copy on offer at Forum also contains an original pen and black ink portrait study on the front pastedown, and a further small portrait sketch on the rear pastedown that bears some similarity to Branwell's portrait of his friend James Fletcher.

The auction estimate of £600-800 ($792-1,056) seems quite affordable for the legion of Brontë buffs out there.

Images courtesy of Forum Auctions