Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will at The Morgan Library & Museum, September 9, 2016 – January 2, 2017

“To you I am neither Man nor Woman – I come before you as an Author only – it is the sole standard by which you have a right to judge me – the sole ground on which I accept your judgment.” — Charlotte Brontë

“Like Jane Eyre, the unforgettable narrator who declares herself “a free human being with an independent will,” Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855) took bold steps throughout her life in pursuit of personal and professional fulfillment. This exhibition, presented on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of Brontë’s birth, traces her creative path from imaginative teenager to reluctant governess to published poet and masterful novelist. From Brontë’s earliest literary works—written in a minuscule hand designed to mimic the printed page—to her explosive novel Jane Eyre, it presents a portrait of an ambitious author through the material traces she left behind.” — Introductory Wall Text

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Exhibition entrance. Photograph by Corrado Serra for Arts Summary.

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Two-piece printed delaine dress (of cotton and wool), ca. 1850, worn by Charlotte Brontë. Brontë Parsonage Museum. Photography by Gareth Gardner photography + journalism. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Stone Cross on the Yorkshire Moors, watercolor drawing, undated, found inside Charlotte Brontë’s school atlas and possibly her own work. The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

MA 2696.14 Moore, J. Haworth parsonage Haworth : [s.n., 18--]

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–1865), Engraved view of Haworth parsonage and churchyard, Frontispiece to The Life of Charlotte Brontë, vol. 2, London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1857, Gift of the publisher, on Gaskell’s behalf, to Laetitia Wheelwright, a classmate and friend of Charlotte Brontë. The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

Russell, J. C. Russell's general atlas of modern geography / London : Baldwin & Cradock, [ca. 1836] sketch of an unnamed girl, PML 129886

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855). Pencil sketch, possibly a self-portrait, on a blank page in her school atlas (J. C. Russell’s General Atlas of Modern Geography, London: Baldwin & Cradock, ca. 1830s). The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), Lycidas, watercolor drawing, March 4, 1835, copied from a print after painting by Henry Fuseli. Brontë Parsonage Museum. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), Story beginning “There once was a little girl and her name was Ane [sic],” Brontë’s earliest surviving miniature manuscript book with watercolor drawings, ca. 1828. Brontë Parsonage Museum. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), Lady Jephia Bud, December 6, 1829, Wash over pencil drawing. The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Detail of Section II: Imagination. Photograph by Corrado Serra for Arts Summary.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), The Poetaster: A Drama by Lord Charles Wellesley, part II, Miniature manuscript booklet in a minuscule hand, June 8–July 12, 1830. The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Charlotte Brontë’s portable paintbox, with cakes of watercolor, porcelain saucers, and paintbrushes Brontë Parsonage Museum. Photograph by Corrado Serra for Arts Summary.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), The Roe Head School, conté crayon drawing, ca. 1831–32, inscribed by Patrick Brontë By my D[ea]r Daughter Charlotte / P Bronté Min[iste]r of Haworth. Brontë Parsonage Museum. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), Study of Noses, pencil drawing, ca. February 1831. Brontë Parsonage Museum. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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View of Section III: Work and Section IV: Writing. Photograph by Corrado Serra for Arts Summary.

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Branwell Brontë (1817–1848), Portrait of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë, oil on canvas, ca. 1834. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (pseudonyms of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë), Two copies of Poems, Dark binding: London: Aylott & Jones, 1846, Light binding: 1848 reissue by Smith, Elder, & Co. The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Detail of Section IV: Writing. Photograph by Corrado Serra for Arts Summary.

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George Richmond (1809–1896), Charlotte Brontë, chalk, 1850. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), Jane Eyre, An Autobiography, manuscript, 1847. © The British Library Board, Add. MS 43475, f.176. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), Jane Eyre, An Autobiography, edited by Currer Bell, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1848 (first American edition). The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), Jane Eyre, An Autobiography, edited by Currer Bell, London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1847 (first edition), Charlotte Brontë’s presentation copy to her friend Mary Taylor. The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Graham S. Haber. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855), Letters to William S. Williams and Ellen Nussey, dated 1848-49, about the death of her brother, Branwell, and the final illness of her sister Anne. The Morgan Library & Museum. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

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Memorial card for Charlotte Brontë, 1855. Brontë Parsonage Museum. Courtesy The Morgan Library.

Exhibition was organized in collaboration with The Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth, West Yorkshire and The National Portrait Gallery, London. It was curated by Christine Nelson, the Morgan’s Drue Heinz Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts.