THEY were a collection of letters, written by a girl to her best friend from their schooldays in Mirfield.
But now that rare collection of letters from Charlotte Brontë to Ellen Nussey has gone under the hammer at a London auction.
And they are heading back to West Yorkshire.
The letters between the friends, who met at the former Roe Head School near Mirfield, were sold at Sotheby’s by a private collector to The Brontë Society yesterday.
The collection of letters was estimated to achieve a price of between £100,000 and £150,000, but in the end sold for £185,000.
The first letter, dated not long after the friends left school in 1832, follows Brontë’s first visit to Nussey’s home and is written in French.
Another, written in 1836 after the author returned to Roe Head as a teacher, reveals her despair and frustration during this period of her life.
A later letter, dated 1847, was written while Brontë was working on Jane Eyre, although Nussey was not aware of this at the time.
The Society was able to acquire the letters thanks to support of £198,450 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), the UK’s fund of last resort for saving the nation’s most important treasures at risk.
Now they will be displayed in the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire.
Charlotte Brontë and her two sisters Anne and Emily all attended the school, which is now home to the Hollybank Trust.
A Hollybank Trust spokesperson said: “We are very aware of the history of the Brontë sisters and their association with the school.
“We are very proud of the history and know that all three of the sisters attended the school at some point.
“The Hollybank Trust is trying to carry on the spirit of the sisters, by allowing its residents to be creative and independent.”
The collection consists of six letters written by Charlotte to Ellen Nussey, her closest friend. Their lifelong friendship began in 1831 when they both became pupils at Miss Wooler’s school at Roe Head, near Mirfield.
After leaving school in 1832, the two friends wrote to each other regularly and it is thanks to Ellen that Charlotte’s letters, upon which so much of Brontë scholarship is based, have survived.
Ann Dinsdale, Collections Manager at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, said: “These are amongst the most significant Brontë letters to come to light in decades.
“They belong in Haworth and we are delighted that both scholars and members of the public will now have the opportunity to study and enjoy them, either here at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, or through our on-line resources.”
CHARLOTTE Brontë attended Roe Head School in Mirfield from January, 1831.
She returned as a teacher in 1835 to work at the same school.
Charlotte Brontë has two younger sisters, Emily and Anne.
Charlotte was born on April 21, 1816, Emily on July 30, 1818 and Anne on January 17, 1820 all in Thornton, Bradford.
All three sisters were employed at various times as teachers and governesses.
In May 1846, the sisters published at their own expense a volume of poetry. They all went on to publish novels, with differing levels of success.
Anne published Agnes Grey and Charlotte published Jane Eyre in 1847. Emily published Wuthering Heights in 1848.