Correspondents in the letters of Branwell Brontë
Joseph Bentley Leyland (1811—1851)
A sculptor from Halifax, England who was a good friend of Branwell Brontë. His brother was the Halifax antiquarian and publisher Francis A Leyland, who designed the seal for Halifax Corporation and the Coat of Arms of Halifax. He was also an early biographer of the Brontë family.
Leyland was a leading figure among the artists and writers who would meet at the George Hotel in Bradford and other drinking-places in the area. The group included John Wilson Anderson the landscape painter, Skerrit the actor, John Nicholson the Airedale poet, and Brontë. Leyland's medallion portrait of Brontë (1846, plaster) hangs at the parsonage at Haworth.
Leyland's life followed a similar path of destruction to that of Brontë. Constantly in debt, given to heavy drinking and subject to ill health, he had difficulties in completing commissions. Mary Leyland described him as ‘self-opinionated, sarcastic, and unreliable, scornful of religion and of anyone who disagreed with him, only working when the spirit moved him.’
His famous works include:
• A memorial to Stephen Beckwith in York Minster.
• African blood-hounds: a large group which Edwin Landseer described as "the noblest modern work of its kind," which was presented to Salford Museum after the sculptor's death and subsequently destroyed.
Francis Grundy (b. 1822?)
A friend of Branwell Brontë’s from his employment at Luddenden Foot station. Grundy was a railway engineer and lodged in Halifax with a nephew of railway engineer George Stephenson. He was the son of a minister and supposedly participated in Brontë’s excesses.
He kept in touch during Brontë’s long decline, asking to meet him in Skipton in the summer of 1846, and going to Haworth to see him, shockingly altered, in his last days.
His book Pictures of the Past (1879) gives a lively if inaccurate account of Brontë, quoting misdated and garbled extracts from his letters.
John Brown (1804-1855)
Haworth sexton and stonemason who was Branwell Brontë's friend and confidant despite the disparity in their ages and social standing. He was 16 when the Brontës arrived in Haworth, almost 14 years older than Branwell Brontë.
Brown was an experienced stonemason who worked on a number of memorials and other commissions with the sculptor Joseph Leyland. Both heard the story of Brontë's relations with Mrs Robinson.
In July 1845, Brontë was sent under Brown's care to Liverpool to give the family relief from Brontë's binge drinking following the ‘affair’ with Mrs Robinson. They took a steamer trip along the Welsh coast, where Brontë sketched Penmaenmawr mountain from the sea, later writing a poem inspired by it.
Brown is said to have been well read, yet sharing in much of Brontë's unruly behaviour, aiding and abetting his worst habits.