Brontë ‘thank you’ letter to fetch £12,000

Charlotte Bront�'s letter to pharmacist David Waldie expresses her gratitude for his admiration of her classic book Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bront�'s letter to pharmacist David Waldie expresses her gratitude for his admiration of her classic book Jane Eyre
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A “thank you” note written and signed by Charlotte Brontë to a fan of her classic work Jane Eyre is expected to fetch up to £12,000 when it goes under the hammer in the Capital.

The letter, which was written on January 19, 1853, seven years after the publication of the novel, was addressed to David Waldie Esq, the Linlithgow-born pharmacist who is credited with first suggesting the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic.

Brontë wrote: “The sincere affection of a reader’s gratification is – I scarcely need to say – one of the much acceptable favours in which an author can be repaid for his labours. I shall be glad if any future work of mine gives you equal pleasure to that you speak of having found in ‘Jane Eyre’.”

The letter will be auctioned next Tuesday as part of the manuscript section of Lyon and Turnbull’s Rare Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photographs sale.

It has been given a reserve price of between £10,000 and £12,000.

Cathy Marsden, a spokeswoman for Lyon and Turnbull, said: “Although the letter is fairly short, it really depicts Charlotte Brontë as a gracious and thoughtful person, thanking Waldie, the recipient, for a gift of “little books” and his kind words regarding Jane Eyre.

“It is not only the fact that the letter is in Brontë’s hand and that it is signed by her that makes it special, but also that it mentions Jane Eyre – a book with enduring popularity, for which Charlotte Brontë is perhaps best known.”

Waldie was born in Linlithgow on February 27, 1813 and attended Linlithgow Grammar before moving to Edinburgh to study medicine. After qualifying in 1831 he practised as a surgeon and apothecary in his home town before giving up medicine and moving to Liverpool to work as a chemist in 1839. It was there he first encountered chloroform, which he synthesized into a purer form before suggesting in 1847 that it would be a suitable anaesthetic.

“Obviously, the tie with David Waldie and Linlithgow gives the letter a special, local connection,” said Ms Marsden.

Brontë had first published Jayne Eyre under the pseudonym “Currer Bell”, while sisters Emily and Anne wrote under the names Ellis and Acton Bell, preserving their initials while hiding their gender.

Charlotte explained the reason for this in a bibliographical note in her sister Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights, saying: “Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. While we did not like to declare ourselves women . . . we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.”

However, though she refers to herself in the masculine pronoun in her letter to Waldie, who was living in Liverpool at the time, the letter is signed “C. Brontë”, as she and her sisters had revealed their true identities and genders to their publisher following the publication of Jane Eyre in 1847.