Artwork of Branwell Brontë’s letters: 'Resurgam'
Many of Branwell Brontë's letters include striking examples of his artwork.
The first drawing in the series titled 'Resurgam' is attached to Letter 1, addressed to Joseph Bentley Leyland and dated 15th May 1842 (BC MS 19c Brontë/02/01/01). The drawing is of a tombstone, headed by a skull and crossbones, with the single word 'Resurgam' (Latin: 'I shall rise again') written on it.
Earlier in May, Branwell's father Patrick had conducted a funeral for Thomas Andrew. Andrew, a family friend and the Haworth surgeon for over twenty years, had distinguished himself in the treatment of typhus. Branwell proposed Leyland should make Andrew's memorial and in this letter invites him to meet the headstone committee, whose 'gothic ignorance and ill-breeding' he apologises for in Letter 2 (BC MS 19c Brontë/02/01/02).
A stone tablet with the single word 'Resurgam', marks the grave of Rosamond Wellesley in Charlotte Brontë's Captain Henry Hastings (1839), written three years prior to the letter. Henry Hastings – based on Branwell – was a character from Charlotte and Branwell's imaginary world called 'Angria'. A similar headstone marks the grave of Helen Burns in Jane Eyre (1847) – 'but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name and the word "Resurgam".'
In The Art of the Brontës Christine Alexander suggests that one source for Branwell's drawing may have been the 'tail-pieces' engraved by Thomas Bewick in his History of British Birds – a book which also appears in Jane Eyre, and with which the Brontës were familiar.