Auctions | February 28, 2013

Rare Early Poem by 13-Year-Old Charlotte Bronte at Bonhams

The manuscript of Charlotte Brontë’s poem, “I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods,” written when she was just 13, is to be sold on 10 April in Part I of the sale of The Roy Davids Collection Part III: Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets at Bonhams, New Bond Street.  It is estimated at £40,000 - 45,000.


The poem is signed C Brontë and dated by her 14 December 1829.  It is written on a small slip of paper 3x3 inches in size and cannot be read easily without a magnifying glass. Although Charlotte Brontë wrote around 200 poems, the vast majority of the manuscripts are in institutions. There are perhaps no more than four in private hands, making this poem extremely rare.

The Brontë children were famously precocious and started writing at an early age, producing literary magazines for their private enjoyment. I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods appeared in The Young Man’s Intelligencer which had been edited by Charlotte’s brother Branwell until 1829 when she took over the editor’s chair. The printed version of the poem is based on this manuscript with some minor grammatical variations.


All the Brontë children wrote in a tiny hand probably because paper was expensive and in short supply. They were also short sighted so, while they would have been able to see what they were writing, their work would have been illegible to their father and their aunt who lived with the family following the death of their mother in 1821.  


Poetry: Poetical  Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets, is the fruit of 40 years of collecting by the poet and scholar Roy Davids and is the finest collection of poetry ever to come to auction. In Mr David’s own words, “it would now be impossible for the present collection to be even approximately replicated.”