When Walt Disney famously said, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot,” he probably didn’t mean to suggest that a precious object would actually be tucked between the pages of a book.
But that is exactly what happened when an American family discovered, folded into a book it had owned for nearly 100 years, a previously unknown poem and short story by English writer Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855).
The volume in question, a biography of 18th century British poet Henry Kirke White, had once belonged to Brontë’s mother and was recovered from a boat that shipwrecked off England’s Devonshire coast in 1812.
The book was sold after the death of Charlotte’s father in 1861 and has remained with the same American owners since 1916.
The recently discovered manuscripts revolve around Angria, the fantasy world that Charlotte and her brother Branwell imagined in childhood. Brontë wrote the 77-line poem when she was 17.
The manuscripts, as well as the book in which they had been hidden, are now being purchased for $300,000 by The Brontë Society in the UK, an organization that runs the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, once the home of Charlotte and her family.
This literary discovery comes just in time for the Brontë Bicentennial to be celebrated in 2016. Also marking the forthcoming 200th anniversary of the author’s birth is a new biography entitled Charlotte Brontë: A Life by British writer Claire Harman.
Released at the end of October and already critically acclaimed, the book contains many anecdotes detailing the Brontës’ notorious eccentricities—for instance, Charlotte’s father, who was a priest, routinely carried a loaded pistol.
And even though the biography mentions that, as a youngster, Charlotte was so unpopular that other children threw stones at her, she had grown up to become one of the most prominent novelists of the Victorian era.
At this time, we don’t know whether the newly discovered manuscripts will be published in the near future. But we can paraphrase the words of Brontë’s most famous heroine, Jane Eyre, and say, “Reader, we found it!”