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Christine Alexander
Associate Professor of English
University of New South Wales
Australia


1996-1997

My major area of research is the early writings and art works of the Brontës. At present I am completing several projects that required work on the original Brontë manuscripts in the Princeton University Library, especially on material in the Morris L. Parrish and Robert Taylor collections. A short-term visiting fellowship allowed me to undertake this research during May/June 1996 and I am most grateful to the Friends of the Princeton University Library for this opportunity and support.

The Robert H. Taylor collection includes Charlotte Brontë's novelette 'Mina Laury' which will be included in my final volume of An Edition of the Early Writings of Charlotte Brontë, Volume III, Part 1 and Part 2: The Angrian Legend 183~1839 (Oxford, UK. & Cambridge, Mass.: (Basil Blackwell Publisher). I had already made a preliminary transcription of this MS from microfilm and was able to check punctuation and difficult readings beside the original while at Princeton. Those who are familiar with the minuscule script of the Brontë juvenilia will know that it is impossible to rely on copies of Brontë MSS. if an accurate transcription is to be made.

I am also completing a selection of Brontë juvenilia for the Oxford University Press World Classics series. This includes not only prose pieces by all the Brontës but also poetry by Emily and Anne relating to their Gondal Saga. Again, the Taylor collection includes a number of their poems that I was able to transcribe from the original manuscripts. I was particularly excited to find the manuscripts of three poems that I thought no longer existed. I had worked on transcriptions of these poems in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas, but if I had not actually visited Princeton I would not have known the whereabouts of the originals. I found that the early transcriptions in Texas are inaccurate; my new edition will now include an accurate transcription of these poems based on the original manuscripts. In particular, I was able to decipher several lines in one of Emily Brontë's poems that have previously been represented in editions simply by dots (indicating that they are illegible).

I have two other major projects which are still at an early stage: the Oxford Reader's Companion to the Brontës (co-authored with Margaret Smith) and a book entitled Charlotte Brontë and the Visual Arts. I was able to use material in both the Parish and Taylor collections to check details for these volumes. I hope to return to the Library in a few years time when research for these books is well underway.

During the evenings when the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections was closed, I made use of the wonderful collections in the main part of the Firestone Library. I was able to find texts I had not found elsewhere, and therefore to write my keynote address for a conference in the U.K. on literary juvenilia.

During my visits I was offered every courtesy by the library staff and was pleased to renew my acquaintance with Mr Mark Farrell, whom I had met (together with Robert H. Taylor himself) many years earlier. Ms Peggy Sherry, in particular, looked after me; her expert knowledge of the collections and willingness to chat to me after hours made my visit a real pleasure. My thanks, too, to Alice Clark for helping me acquire photographs of a manuscript poem. I was pleased that I was able to contribute to Library life by giving a lecture one evening on my latest work on the drawings and paintings of the Brontës. I hope to contribute an. article on this topic to the Princeton Library Journal, based on Brontë artwork in the Taylor collection.



 


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