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Rose’s PhD Diaries No. 1

My name is Rose Gant and I have been a member of SBL since 2021 and a committee member since earlier this year. Outside of the Book League I work part-time at Christchurch Mansion (and Ipswich Museum prior to it closing for redevelopment) where I get to share my love of history with visitors as well as help look after our extensive museum collection. Mostly though, my time is occupied with reading and researching as I have recently undertaken a new adventure of doing a PhD in English Literature. I have been a researcher for several years now and am a graduate from the BA English course and the MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Suffolk, so continuing my academic journey was an easy decision as it allows me to continue doing what I love!

I am still very early on my PhD journey, only beginning my project in June, but I am very excited about developing my research and sharing snippets of my journey here, in Book Talk. For today though, I thought I should share an overview of my research.

The working title for my PhD is ‘Grief, Loss and Hero-worship in the Works of Branwell Brontë’. For readers who are unfamiliar with Branwell, he is the brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and like his sisters he too was a writer, and an artist, largely working in portraiture with his works including the famous ‘Pillar Portrait’ of the three Brontë sisters. Branwell largely wrote poetry and was published in several local newspapers during his lifetime but is often remembered today for his struggles with addiction. Contemporary depictions of Branwell are often traced to the seminal Brontë biography, The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell. As a friend of Charlotte, Gaskell paints Branwell as the black sheep of the family, emphasising his mental struggles as detrimental to the sisters, which disregards the reality that the four siblings were very close. As teenagers, the four Brontë siblings grew their creativity together, writing stories in shared fantasy worlds, remnants of which would stay with them throughout their lives and writing.

My research focuses on Branwell’s writing, exploring his construction of self as seen through his poems and characters, which are largely autobiographical. This attempt to reconstruct his identity through his own words will offer an alternative depiction of Branwell to those constructed by Victorian biographers like Gaskell.

The two leading strands to my research are the impact of both grief and the Victorian concept of hero-worship. Branwell’s experiences of grief are isolated from his sisters, despite the continuous trail of loss they all suffered in their short lives. Branwell was also largely influenced by other leading literary figures of the period, such as Lord Byron, and sought to emulate him, amongst others, in his own writing. I am currently writing about and researching Branwell’s early writing, looking specifically at his characters and how they revealed his desires for his future and the influence of the literary figures that he hero-worshipped. Recently I was lucky enough to visit the research library at the Brontë Parsonage Museum and was able to handle Branwell’s early manuscripts. I will share more about these in the next issue of BookTalk, after I return from my second research trip where I will also be volunteering at the Brontë Festival of Women’s Writing.

I am always happy to chat all things Brontë (or Branwell!) so, please, come and chat with me at any Book League event or drop me an email at

Rose Gant


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