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Artwork of Branwell Brontë’s letters: 'Alas! poor Caunt!'

Branwell Bronte letter fragment
Explore the Brotherton Collection of letters written by Branwell Brontë.
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Branwell Bronte - Myself crop
University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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Page 3, Branwell Brontë, Letter addressed from 'Haworth, Bradford, Yorks'; with pen and ink sketch entitled 'Our Lady of Grief'
Short biographies of Branwell Bronte's correspondents. Part of the Brontë collection at the University of Leeds Special Collections.
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Branwell Bronte – Alas! Poor Caunt!
Short biography of Branwell's life over the period of Letters from 1842-1848. Part of the Brontë collection at the University of Leeds Special Collections.
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Pen and Ink Sketch by Branwell
Description of Branwell's Artwork in his letters from 1842-1848. Part of the Brontë collection at the University of Leeds Special Collections.
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Branwell Bronte - Paradise and Purgatory drawing
Description of Branwell's Artwork in his letters from 1842-1848. Part of the Brontë collection at the University of Leeds Special Collections.
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Page 2, Branwell Brontë, letter to Joseph Bentley Leyland
Description of Branwell's Artwork in his letters from 1842-1848. Part of the Brontë collection at the University of Leeds Special Collections.
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Portrait of Joseph Bentley Leyland
Description of Branwell's Artwork in his letters from 1842-1848. Part of the Brontë collection at the University of Leeds Special Collections.
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Branwell Bronte - John Brown letter
Description of Branwell's Artwork in his letters from 1842-1848. Part of the Brontë collection at the University of Leeds Special Collections.
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Letter accompanied by a pen and ink sketch of a grave stone inscribed with the word 'Resurgam'; addressed from 'Haworth nr Bradford'.
University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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Letter addressed from 'Haworth nr Bradford'; letter bearing broken seal, Bradford and Halifax post marks and penny postage stamp
University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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Letter addressed from 'Haworth, Bradford, Yorks'; letter bearing remains of seal, Bradford and Halifax post marks and penny postage stamp
University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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'Northangerland' pen and ink sketch
University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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Letter signed 'Northangerland'.
University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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University of Leeds Library Special Collections, Letters from Branwell Brontë
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Bibiography and relevant literature for the Bronte and Leyland Manuscripts. Part of the Brontë collection at the University of Leeds Special Collections.
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The second drawing, 'Alas! poor Caunt!' is found at the end of Letter 8: addressed to Leyland and dated 10 September 1845 (BC MS 19c Brontë/02/01/08).

The full note to the drawing begins: 'Bendigo "taking a sight"'.

William Thompson ('Bendigo', 1811-1880) and Ben Caunt (1815-1861) were well-known boxers whose final fight took place on 9th September 1845. Bendigo was declared the dubious winner after 93 rounds.

Branwell had experience of boxing and read the sporting papers, but Christopher Heywood, in his article 'Alas! Poor Caunt': Branwell's Emancipationist Cartoon, suggests this drawing is also inspired by the Brontës' interest in the Abolitionist and Emancipation movements.

Drawn in black ink and with his hands in chains, Caunt closely resembles Josiah Wedgwood's 'Kneeling Slave' (1787) - an emblem of Anti-Slavery campaigns in both Britain and the U.S. Although officially abolished in 1833 in the UK, slavery continued to be a current topic in Britain with condemnation over U.S. and British practices overseas.

Closer to Haworth, similar terminology was used to debate the conditions of mill-workers, in newspapers including the Leeds Mercury. During the 1840s campaigners for the 'ten hours bill'; (to reduce the length of shifts) drew comparisons with slavery to argue their position.

Heywood suggests that in Branwell's drawing slave and slave-driver are used to convey concerns about contemporary boxing. This was largely unregulated and another arena in which profit rather than human welfare was the primary concern.

'Alas! Poor Caunt!' refers to Hamlet's graveside speech which begins 'Alas, poor Yorick' (Hamlet, V, i, l. 178). In Letter 8, which the drawing accompanies, Branwell hopes that his new novel will 'unveil man's heart' as faithfully as Shakespeare.

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