Lost Charlotte Brontë short story to be published
A short story Charlotte Brontë wrote for a married teacher with whom she fell in love is to be published for the first time after it was found in a museum.
The work entitled L'Ingratitude is penned in grammatically incorrect French and is the first known piece of homework set by her Belgian tutor Constantin Heger.
Brontë, who studied under Heger in Brussels alongside her sister Emily, became infatuated with the married tutor, writing several love letters to him after returning to England.
The manuscript was discovered by Brian Bracken, a Brussels-based archivist and Brontë expert, in Belgium’s Musée Royal de Mariemont.
The story was last heard of in 1913, when it was given to a wealthy Belgian collector by Heger's son, Paul, Mr Bracken said.
Writing in the London Review of Books, which will publish the story this week, Mr Bracken said: “By all accounts a gifted and dedicated teacher, [Heger] gave Emily and Charlotte homework … based on texts by authors they had studied in class.
“They were to compose essays in French that echoed these models, and could choose their own subject matter.
“It [L'Ingratitude] was finished a month after Charlotte arrived in Brussels and is the first known ‘devoir’ of 30 the sisters would write for Heger.
"It contains a number of mistakes, mainly misspellings and incorrect tenses … he [Heger] often returned their essays drastically revised – sadly, there are no comments on this copy of L'Ingratitude."
The story is dated March 16, 1842 and is about a thoughtless young rat who comes a cropper after escaping his father's protective care and heading off into the countryside in search of adventure.
The fable compares and contrasts the father’s devotion with the recklessness of his ungrateful offspring.
Bracken suggests it may have been inspired by the works of the celebrated French fabulist, Jean de La Fontaine.
The Brussels period is recognised by Brontë scholars as being pivotal in the careers of both sisters.
Brontë, who stayed in Brussels during the early 1840s, is believed to have drawn inspiration for her novel Villette from her relationship with Heger.
Her feelings for her tutor were disclosed in 1913 with the publication of love letters she sent to him.
"Charlotte's novel Villette, published in 1853, reworks her experiences in Brussels, with the difference that the teacher returns the heroine's love," Bracken said
Teacher/pupil relationships receive further attending in her novel The Professor, written shortly after her return from Belgium which was published posthumously.