The Completion of Charlotte Brontë’s Unfinished Manuscript
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
In the months prior to Charlotte Brontë’s marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte began to pen a story, familiar in theme, about a small, plain girl in a school. Charlotte only completed two chapters of this manuscript and gave it the working title of Emma (similar to Jane Austen’s 1815 novel!) If not for her death in March of 1855, Charlotte most likely would have completed Emma and would have introduced yet another remarkable work of literature to the world.
Clare Boylan, who interestingly enough shares the same initials and birthday as Charlotte Brontë, felt herself inspired and propelled to complete this unfinished manuscript. Ms. Boylan finishes this work of fiction employing and expounding upon themes such as women in society, independence/dependence, morality, and social consciousness that will be familiar to readers of Charlotte Brontë’s novels. In addition, Ms. Boylan’s tale, which takes place in London, emphasizes the social and working conditions of the poor during the Victorian Era, a situation that greatly interested and distressed Charlotte Brontë during her visits to that great city. The result is this dark, mysterious, and heartrending tale titled: Emma Brown.
A young teenage girl (Emma) is brought to a pretentious finishing school called Fuchsia Lodge. She is bedecked with a wardrobe for an heiress and given the name Matilda Fitzgibbon. She cannot remember her past or where she came from, but she is convinced that she is a wicked person who has done unspeakable things. While she is favored and cosseted by her teachers, Emma (Matilda) is despised and discarded by her peers. Poor wretched and frightened Emma lives in a world of misery and isolation until two dear and kind souls take an interest in her: Mr. Ellin and Mrs. Chalfont. Mr. Ellin, an affable gentleman of leisure, hides secret sorrows of an abused childhood and can sympathize with Emma’s harsh past. Mrs. Chalfont, a lonely childless widow, endeavors to provide a comfortable and secure home for Emma when she is exposed as a fraud.
Though it may not appeal to everyone, Emma Brown, is a praiseworthy completion of Charlotte Brontë’s manuscript. Brontë admirers will appreciate Ms. Boylan’s meticulous research, reverence towards Charlotte Brontë, and her gentle nods to Jane Eyre and Villette. I recommend it!