Patrick Brontë

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Patrick Brontë
Brontë circa 1860
Patrick Brunty

(1777-03-17)17 March 1777
Rathfriland, County Down, Ireland
Died7 June 1861(1861-06-07) (aged 84)
Haworth, Yorkshire, England
OccupationTeacher, Clergyman
Spouse(s)Maria Branwell (1783–1821)
ChildrenMaria (b. 23 April 1813, d. 6 May 1825(1825-05-06) (aged 12)
Elizabeth (b. 8 February 1814, d. 15 June 1825(1825-06-15) (aged 11)
Charlotte (b. 21 April 1816, d. 31 March 1855(1855-03-31) (aged 38)
Branwell (b. 26 June 1817, d. 24 September 1848(1848-09-24) (aged 31)
Emily (b. 30 July 1818, d. 19 December 1848(1848-12-19) (aged 30)
Anne (b. 17 January 1820, d. 28 May 1849(1849-05-28) (aged 29)

Patrick Brontë (/ˈbrɒnti/, commonly /-t/;[1] born Patrick Brunty; 17 March 1777 – 7 June 1861) was an Irish Anglican priest and author who spent most of his adult life in England. He was the father of the writers Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, and of Branwell Brontë, his only son. Patrick outlived his wife, the former Maria Branwell, by forty years, by which time all of their children had died as well.


Brontë married Maria Branwell at St. Oswald's Church, Guiseley in 1812.

Brontë was born Patrick Brunty at Drumballyroney, near Rathfriland, County Down, the eldest of the ten children of "farmhand, fence-fixer and road-builder"[2] Hugh Brunty and Elinor Alice (née McClory).[3][4] The family was "large and very poor", owning four books (including two copies of the Bible) and subsisting on "porridge, potatoes, buttermilk and bread" which "gave Patrick a lifetime of indigestion".[2]

In adult life, Patrick Brunty formally changed the spelling of his name to Brontë; while the reason for this change remains unclear there are a number of prominent theories to explain it.[5][6]

He had several apprenticeships (to a blacksmith, a linen draper, and a weaver) until he became a teacher in 1798. He moved to England in 1802, having won a scholarship[7] to study theology as a sizar[8][9] at St John's College, Cambridge, and received his BA degree in 1806. He was then appointed curate at Wethersfield, near Braintree in Essex, where he was ordained a deacon of the Church of England in 1806, and into the priesthood in 1807.[10]


Memorial plaque to Patrick Brontë at Dewsbury Minster in West Yorkshire

Brontë's first post as curate was at St Mary Magdalene Church, Wethersfield, Essex with the vicar being Joseph Jowett, Regius Professor of Law at Cambridge. Here in 1807 he met and fell in love with Mary Burder. After a disagreement and an undisclosed insult, with Burder's father's brother, her legal guardian, Mary was shipped out of town and Patrick decided it was best to take a new curacy.[11] It was shortly after this period his first poetry was published.

In 1809, he became assistant curate at Wellington, Shropshire, and in 1810 his first published poem, the 256 line Winter Evening Thoughts, appeared in a local newspaper, followed in 1811 by a collection of moral verses, Cottage Poems. He moved to the West Riding of Yorkshire as a curate at All Saints, Dewsbury (now Dewsbury Minster) in December 1809. The area was undergoing an evangelical revival under the incumbent vicar John Buckworth. Brontë taught reading and writing at Dewsbury's Sunday School and was deputised by Buckworth to attend twice weekly meetings of the Church Mission Society on his behalf. A memorial plaque to Brontë can be found on the South Aisle of Dewsbury Minster.[12]

Buckworth appointed Brontë as an assistant curate to the Church of St Peter, Hartshead, a daughter church of Dewsbury in 1811.[12] He served at Hartshead until 1815.[10] In the meantime (1812) he was appointed a school examiner at a Wesleyan academy, Woodhouse Grove School, near Guiseley. In 1815 he moved again on becoming perpetual curate of Thornton.[10]


At Guiseley, Brontë met Maria Branwell (1783–1821), whom he married on 29 December 1812. They moved into a house on Halifax Road, Liversedge where their first two children, Maria (1813–1825[13]) and Elizabeth (1814–1825) were born. Their remaining children Charlotte (1816–1855), Patrick Branwell (1817–1848), Emily (1818–1848) and Anne (1820–1849) were born after they moved to Thornton.

Brontë was offered the perpetual curacy of St Michael and All Angels' Church, Haworth in June 1819, and he took the family there in April 1820. His sister-in-law Elizabeth Branwell (1776–1842), who had lived with the family at Thornton in 1815, joined the household in 1821 to help to look after the children and to care for Maria Brontë, who was ill, possibly suffering the final stages of what may have been uterine cancer or ovarian cancer. Elizabeth decided to move permanently to Haworth to act as housekeeper.

At this life juncture Brontë sought out Mary Burder, his first love, and inquired after her hand in marriage; Burder declined.[11] After several attempts to seek a new spouse, Patrick came to terms with widowhood at the age of 47, and spent his time visiting the sick and the poor, giving sermons, communion, and extreme unction,[14] leaving the three sisters Emily, Charlotte, Anne, and their brother Branwell alone with their aunt and a maid, Tabitha Aykroyd (Tabby), who tirelessly recounted local legends in her Yorkshire dialect while preparing the meals.[15]

Brontë was responsible for the building of a Sunday school in Haworth, which he opened in 1832. He remained active in local causes into his old age, and between 1849 and 1850 organised action to procure a clean water supply for the village, which was eventually achieved in 1856.

In August 1846, Brontë travelled to Manchester, accompanied by Charlotte, to undergo surgery on his eyes. On 28 August he was operated upon, without anaesthetic, to remove cataracts. Surgeons did not yet know how to use stitches to hold the incision in the eye together and as a consequence the patient was required to lie quietly in a darkened room, for weeks after the operation. Charlotte used her time in Manchester to begin writing Jane Eyre, the book which was to make her famous.[16]

After the death of his last surviving child, Charlotte, nine months after her marriage, he co-operated with Elizabeth Gaskell on the biography of his daughter. He was also responsible for the posthumous publication of Charlotte's first novel, The Professor, in 1857. Charlotte's husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls (1819–1906), who had been Brontë's curate, stayed in the household until he returned to Ireland after Brontë's death, at the age of 84, in 1861. Brontë outlived not only his wife (by 40 years) but all six of his children.


Winter Evening Thoughts, (1810). Cottage Poems, (1810). The Rural Minstrel: A Miscellany of Descriptive Poems, (1813). The Cottage In The Wood, (1816). The Maid Of Killarney, (1818). The Signs Of The Times, (1835)[17]


  • Alfred Burke portrayed Patrick Brontë in The Brontës of Haworth (1973)


  1. ^ As given by Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature (Merriam-Webster, incorporated, Publishers: Springfield, Massachusetts, 1995), p viii: "When our research shows that an author's pronunciation of his or her name differs from common usage, the author's pronunciation is listed first, and the descriptor commonly precedes the more familiar pronunciation." See also entries on Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, pp 175–176.
  2. ^ a b Ellis, Samantha (11 January 2017). "The Brontës' very real and raw Irish roots". Irish Times. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  3. ^ Dickins, Gordon (1987). An Illustrated Literary Guide to Shropshire. Shropshire Libraries. p. 9. ISBN 0-903802-37-6.
  4. ^ "Banbridge, Culture Northern Ireland". Archived from the original on 9 June 2008.
  5. ^ "Brunty to Bronte...all thanks to Nelson!". BBC. 2005.
  6. ^ Graham, Claire (3 January 2016). "Charlotte Brontë: How a County Down father helped shape the famous author". BBC News.
  7. ^ Barker 1995, pp. 3–14 (details of the education of Patrick Brontë).
  8. ^ "Light shining out of darkness".
  9. ^ Alumni Cantabrigienses, part II, 1752-1900, Volume I, Abbey-Challis, ed. J. A. Venn, Cambridge University Press, 1940, p. 392
  10. ^ a b c "Brontë, Patrick (BRNT802P)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  11. ^ a b "The Essex Connection | Bronte Parsonage Museum". Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Patrick Bronte". Dewsbury Minster. Archived from the original on 16 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  13. ^ Patricia Ingham (2006): The Brontës (Oxford University Press), xii–xiii.
  14. ^ Barker, Juliet R.V. (1995). The Brontës. Phoenix House. pp. 241–242.
  15. ^ Smith Kenyon, Karen (2002). The Brontë Family: Passionate Literary Geniuses. Lerner Publications. p. 27.
  16. ^ Carpenter, Mary Wilson. "A Cultural History of Ophthalmology in Nineteenth-Century Britain". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Reverend Patrick Brontë | Bronte Parsonage Museum". Retrieved 18 July 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Letters of the Reverend Patrick Brontë Edited by Dudley Green Foreword by Asa Briggs (Nonsuch Publishing Ltd 2005)
  • A Man of Sorrow: The Life, Letters, and Times of the Rev. Patrick Brontë, John Lock and Canon W.T. Dixon, (1965)
  • The Brontës, Juliet Barker (1995)
  • Charlotte Brontë: Evolution of Genius Winifred Gerin,(1967)
  • The Letters of Charlotte Brontë (3 vols, edited by Margaret Smith), (1995–2003)

External links[edit]