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"That Kingdom of Gloo": Charlotte Brontë, the Annuals, and the Gothic

Christine Alexander
Nineteenth-Century Literature
Vol. 47, No. 4 (Mar., 1993), pp. 409-436
DOI: 10.2307/2933782
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2933782
Page Count: 28
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"That Kingdom of Gloo": Charlotte Brontë, the Annuals, and the Gothic
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Abstract

While Charlotte Brontë has been hailed as a writer of the "New Gothic," hers is not an isolated revision of so-called "old" Gothic but one that sprang naturally from a variety of contemporary source material in the period. This article examines the Brontë juvenilia and its sources in order to show that this change was as much a continuum in the history of literature as a new departure. The article focuses on the periodical literature of the early nineteenth century, in particular the Annuals that were introduced to the English market in 1822 and that continued to print Gothic tales and fragments well into the 1850s. From the Annuals Brontë learned not only to imitate but to parody the Gothic form: her early writings show that the Gothic allowed her to indulge in the exotic, the licentious, and the mysterious while at the same time assuming that anti-Gothic stance that is so characteristic in her novels. Moreover, her use of the Gothic doppelgänger allowed her to probe the psychological contradictions of her heroes Percy and Zamorna. Here we see Brontë's first step toward examining those "terrors that lie deep in the human soul." The deliberately complicated narrative can also be read as Gothic: it is a maze distorter by rival narrators and constructed chiefly from literary and visual models with the intention to confuse and amuse not only her siblings but her imagined audience. The Gothic provided basic material in this "play": a set of conventions that could be used first as raw material, then as the chief ingredient of parody, and finally-though gradually-as a means to explore the riddles of our thought and feeling.

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