The Self and the World

  • Barbara Prentis


One of those stories of the Bronte childhood that have proved irresistible to biographers is that of the ‘mask’ incident, disclosed by the Reverend Patrick in a letter to Mrs Gaskell dated 30 July 1855.1 Suspecting, he said, that his children knew more than he had yet discovered, he decided to test them in a way that would encourage complete freedom of expression: ‘happening/ he said, ‘to have a mask in the house, I told them all to stand and speak boldly from under the cover of the mask.’ In the event, the questions were banal, but the ploy was prophetic in a way and to an extent which the Reverend Patrick could hardly have foreseen. He could not have guessed that in the years ahead three of those children would adopt a series of metaphorical ‘masks’ and speak with a freedom of expression that would shock many of their contemporaries and ensure the three a major place in English literature into the incalculable future.


Ethical Philosophy Woman Writer Woman Question Perfect Expression Woollen Industry 
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© Barbara Prentis 1988

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  • Barbara Prentis

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