The 54-line, three-page letter, which is not listed in The Letters of Charlotte Brontë (Clarendon Press, 1995), headlines PBA Galleries’ Rare Books & Manuscripts auction with an estimate of $40,000- 60,000.
Dated July 27, 1850, Brontë wrote the letter to the man whose firm, Smith, Elder, & Co, accepted the manuscripts for the debut novels of all three Bronte sisters. All had submitted them under the masculine pen names of Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily) and Acton (Anne) Bell.
At the time she wrote the letter, Charlotte was the sole survivor of the three, having lost Emily and Anne to tuberculosis in 1848 and 1849, respectively, at the painfully young ages of 30 and 29.
Also, by late July of 1850 the true identities of all three sisters had been revealed.
Charlotte begins with a nod to the era when she and her sisters needed to masquerade in print as men, saying: “My dear Sir, The long and interesting letter you sent me reminded me of the old days – (they seem old days now) when you wrote to me as ‘Currer Bell Esq’…”
Later she speaks of a portrait she sat for (with ‘Mr George Richmond’) but had yet to see, and shares an opinion on rural life “where there is so little of human and social interest to give a lasting charm”.
She goes on to say: “In Scotland, for instance, though the narrowness and prejudice of which you complain, may indeed be found, yet that stagnation of ideas, that insensibility to natural beauties, that extreme pettiness of feeling scarcely, I should think, exist. I am bound, however, to confess that all these weeds grow rank enough in the cold, Moorish soil of the North of England…”
The letter is housed in a 1920s green leather folder that bears the armorial bookplate of Max Aitken, the first Lord Beaverbrook and publisher of The Daily Express.