Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Philatelic Look at Bronte, Gaskell, Eliot

In looking for images of Charlotte Bronte with Elizabeth Gaskell for the blog tour on September 29, I found this wonderful image with information on Book and Authors on Postage Stamps.

This particular series was done in 1980, and I would absolutely love to have a sheet, or even a strip, of these. I Googled a little, but have no real idea how to go about finding them nor do I have any idea how much they would go for these days, but I think they are just lovely.

To further whet your appetite for the Gaskell 200th Birthday Bash, here's my favorite passage from Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Here Charlotte and her sisters reveal to their father, Patrick Bronte, that they have been writing novels, and have met with some success. These anecdotes and recreated conversations were based on discussions Gaskell had with Charlotte herself and later, after her death, with Patrick Bronte.

The sisters had kept the knowledge of their literary ventures from their father, fearing to increase their own anxieties and disappointment by witnessing his; for he took an acute interest in all that befell his children, and his own tendency had been towards literature in the days when he was young and hopeful. It was true he did not much manifest his feelings in words; he would have thought that he was prepared for disappointment as the lot of man, and that he could have met it with stoicism; but words are poor and tardy interpreters of feelings to those who love one another, and his daughters knew how he would have borne ill-success worse for them than for himself. So they did not tell him what they were undertaking. He says now that he suspected it all along, but his suspicions could take no exact form, as all he was certain of was, that his children were perpetually writing - and not writing letters. We have seen how the communications from their publishers were received under cover to Miss Bronte." Once, Charlotte told me, they overheard the postman meeting Mr. Bronte, as the latter was leaving the house, and inquiring from the parson where one Currer Bell could be living, to which Mr. Bronte replied that there was no such person in the parish. This must have been the misadventure to which Miss Bronte alludes in the beginning of her correspondence with Mr. Aylott.

Now, however, when the demand for the work had assured success to 'Jane Eyre,' her sisters urged Charlotte to tell their father of its publication. She accordingly went into his study one afternoon after his early dinner, carrying with her a copy of the book, and one or two reviews, taking care to include a notice adverse to it.

She informed me that something like the following conversation took place between her and him. (I wrote down her words the day after I heard them; and I am pretty sure they are quite accurate.)

"Papa, I've been writing a book."

"Have you, my dear?"

"Yes, and I want you to read it."

"I am afraid it will try my eyes too much."

"But it is not in manuscript: it is printed."

"My dear! you've never thought of the expense it will be! It will be almost sure to be a loss, for how can you get a book sold? No one knows you or your name.

"But, Papa, I don't think it will be a loss; no more will you, if you will just let me read you a review or two, and tell you more about it."

So she sat down and read some of the reviews to her father; and then, giving him the copy of 'Jane Eyre' that she intended for him, she left him to read it. When he came in to tea, he said, "Girls, do you know Charlotte has been writing a book, and it is much better than likely?"


  1. Wow - my partner may have those stamps, he collected the Royal Mail Postage Stamp first editions for quite a few years - many people do. When we were moving I opened the first page of one collection for the first time ever as I was filing it away and was amazed at just how beautiful some of those stamp series are. (and it's been decades since the ha'penny went out of circulation - good job too).

  2. I know nothing of stamp collecting, but if more were like this I might have to pursue the hobby. Good luck finding them!

  3. I know a guy that does a great job framing things--he's done stamps for me and they look so cool when they are exhibited as works of art.

  4. I know nothing about stamps per se either. Those are absolutely gorgeous!

  5. If you google British First Day Covers you will find them in the author series. I think these are very expensive. I could buy stamps like this very cheaply from a local stamp shop which has sadly closed. I must have a look to see what I do have.
    You could try ebay!

  6. What lovely stamps! I really must read that biography, I really enjoyed the excerpt. Thanks!

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