Cover image for The Oxford companion to the Brontës
The Oxford companion to the Brontës
Alexander, Christine (Christine Anne)
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
liii, 586 pages : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR4167.A3 O94 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



The Oxford Reader's Companion to the Brontes aims to provide both comprehensive and detailed information about the lives, works, and reputations of the Brontes - the three sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, together with their father and their brother Branwell - all of whom were publishedwriters. It is the first time so much information relating to the family has been gathered together in a reference book such as this. Over the years the story of the Brontes has become the material of myth: three women living on the wild Yorkshire moors, writing works of weird and wonderful genius. Charlotte Bronte claimed that her sister Emily's novel Wuthering Heights was 'hewn in a wild workshop'. Inspired by a deep love ofnature and an intensely private imaginative world it certainly was, but Emily's novel, like those of her sisters, is engaged with 19th-century issues and debates. The Brontes lived in a thriving woollen-mill town and participated in local activities - the church, education, concerts, elections, exhibitions. They devoured the latest newspapers and journals, and kept abreast of politics. Their reading was wide and eclectic. A central purpose of the Companion isto evoke the milieu in which they lived and worked, revealing the complex interrelation between their lives, writings, and times. Long entries surveying the Brontes lives and works are supplemented by entries on friends and acquaintances, pets, literary and political heroes; on the places they knew and the places they imagined; on their letters, drawings and paintings; on historical events such as Chartism, the PeterlooMassacre and the Ashantee Wars; on exploration, slavery, and religion. Selected entries on the characters and places in the Bronte juvenilia provide a glimpse into their early imaginative worlds, and entries on film, ballet, and musicals indicate the extent to which their works have inspired others.This is a unique and authoritative reference book for the research student and the general reader. The A-Z format, extensive cross-referencing, chronologies, illustrations, and maps, both facilitate quick reference and encourage further exploration. Entries are also designed to explore scholarlytrends and to reflect contemporary directions in literary study. They offer insight into publishing history, biographical studies, collectors and museums, book illustration, and theoretical and critical approaches to the Brontes' writings. This Companion is not only invaluable for quick searches,but a delight to browse, and an inspiration to further reading.

Author Notes

Christine Alexander is Professor of English at the University of New South Wales
Margaret Smith is an Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham, UK, and a Vice-President of the Bronte Society
Carol Bock, University of Minnesota Duluth
Sue Lonoff, Derek Bok Centre, Harvard University
Victor Neufeldt, University of Victoria, British Columbia
Herbert Rosengarten, University of British Columbia
Virginia Rushton, professional singer and voice teacher
Patsy Stoneman, University of Hull, UK
Beverly Taylor, University of North Carolina

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For almost two centuries both general readers and scholars have been intrigued by the writings that sprang from the fertile imaginations of a curate's children raised on the moors of Yorkshire. Covering not only the three Bronte sisters who have attracted the most attention (Anne, Charlotte, and Emily) but also their brother, Branwell, and their father, Patrick, this guide provides a wealth of information about their lives and works and the society in which they lived, as well as historical and critical perspectives on their writings. The more than 1,000 alphabetically arranged entries include lengthy articles on each Bronte and his or her individual works and shorter entries on characters and places in the writings and real people, places, and other entities associated with them. In addition, numerous substantive thematic and topical entries (for example, Art of the Brontes,0 Health and medicine,0 Psychoanalytic approaches0 ) help to elucidate the Brontes' world and their creative output. Bibliographical references generally accompany longer entries, and a selective bibliography appears at the end of the volume. The latter provides no references to relevant Internet sites, an unfortunate omission, since useful tools for studying the Brontes are available on the Web. Additional features include a generous network of cross-references, a number of black-and-white illustrations, a chronology, and a section that identifies dialect and obsolete words in the Brontes' writings. Providing an overview of the entire work is a classified index that arranges entries into topical categories, enabling users to find, for example, all entries relating to adaptations of the Brontes' works or to places where they traveled. As Bronte scholars, Alexander and Smith are highly qualified to have undertaken this project, and they and the seven other contributors have created a valuable compendium of impeccable scholarship. Containing more than twice as many entries as The Brontes: A to Z 0 (Facts On File, 2003), this excellent guide is the most comprehensive and scholarly reference companion to the Brontes now available. It is highly recommended for all academic libraries and larger public libraries. --Marie Ellis Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

The enigmatic and prodigiously literary Brontes continue to be the subject of biographies and critical studies (see, e.g., Juliet Barker's The Brontes: A Life in Letters and Lucasta Miller's The Bronte Myth). In the typically splendid fashion of the Oxford Companions to various literatures, Alexander (The Early Writings of Charlotte Bronte) and Smith (editor, The Letters of Charlotte Bronte) offer a thoroughly detailed and compellingly useful reference book on the Brontes and their age. Arranged alphabetically, the more than 2000 entries range from the lives and writings of the sisters and their brother, Bramwell, to the literary and artistic context of the Brontes. Thus, entries on body snatching, health and medicine, governesses, and divorce laws in the 19th century take their place alongside those on Matthew Arnold, Jane Austen, and Cornhill magazine. Major entries take the form of miniature essays about the individual novels, the critical reception of various works, the juvenilia, and biographies of the sisters and the family as a whole written since 1940. In addition to a classified contents list, the companion contains a useful chronology that sets the history of the Brontes and their writings in their literary and historical contexts. The maps detail places in Ireland and northern England associated with the Brontes as well as places visited by Charlotte and Arthur Nicholls on their honeymoon; also shown are the Glass Town Federation and the kingdom of Angria, from Bramwell's juvenilia. All libraries will want to own this beautifully bound and in-depth companion to the Brontes, which is essential reading for devotees.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Alexander and Smith, both authors of other works on the Brontes (An Edition of the Early Writings of Charlotte Bronte, by Alexander, CH, Oct'92; The Letters of Charlotte Bronte, by Smith, CH, Jul'96, Jan'01) have compiled a highly detailed, extremely comprehensive survey of the Brontes' life and works. Coverage ranges from the most minute details of the family's daily lives (including entries for their pets) to historical details, summaries of schools of criticism (Marxism, feminism), plot summaries of all of their novels with details about their composition, and Victorian criticism of the Brontes. The work intends to "serve the interests of specialists and general readers alike"; one need not know much about the Brontes to find this book useful and informative, but it is detailed enough to appeal to scholars. Because of the depth and breadth of the book's coverage, it displaces all other companions to the Brontes. ^BSumming Up: Essential. General and academic collections. M. E. Miller-Lamb Long Island University

Table of Contents

List of Mapsp. xii
Editors and Contributorsp. xiii
Classified Contents Listp. xv
List of Abbreviationsp. xxvii
Chronologyp. xxix
Mapsp. xlviii
Note to the Readerp. lii
The Oxford Companion to the Brontes A--Zp. 1
Dialect and Obsolete Wordsp. 573
Bibliographyp. 583
Picture Acknowledgementsp. 586