Revealed: Brontë sisters’ grandfather ‘had links to murderous Cornish smugglers and his dirty money allowed Emily, Anne and Charlotte to publish their classic novels’

Revealed: Brontë sisters’ grandfather ‘had links to murderous Cornish smugglers and his dirty money allowed Emily, Anne and Charlotte to publish their classic novels’

  • Merchant Thomas Branwell was the grandfather of the famous Brontë sisters
  • He was said to have been a well-regarded members of the community
  • New research suggests he had been involved with murderous smugglers
  • Money he made is said to have helped fund classics such as Jane Eyre  

New research has revealed that Thomas Branwell (pictured above) had been involved with smugglers

Classic novels penned by the Brontë sisters could have been funded by ‘dirty money’ from their grandfather Thomas Branwell who was said to have ‘traded in tea among other things’.

Branwell had always been portrayed as a gentleman and a well-regarded figure in his Cornish community.

New research has now revealed that romantic classics such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights may have only been published due to the fact that he had been involved with murderous smugglers.

Before the birth of the Brontë sisters, Custom House records from 1778 show that Branwell had been indicted for ‘obstructing the Customs Officers in searching his dwelling’.

According to researcher Sharon Wright, other documents also showed that he had been in business with men who were wanted for murder.

Thomas Branwell was father to Maria Branwell – who went on to have Charlotte, Emily and Anne. 

While researching a new book on Branwell’s daughter Charlotte, who went on to marry Patrick Brontë, Wright said that a 1791 report described Branwell’s acquaintances as ‘the most notorious smugglers in that part of the kingdom’.

The Brontë sister pictured above with their brother Branwell Brontë who was the parsonage at Haworth

The Brontë sister pictured above with their brother Branwell Brontë who was the parsonage at Haworth

Speaking to the Observer, Wright said that Branwell, who died in 1808, had always been seen as a ‘Penzance bigwig’, who owned an inn run by his brothers, and who traded tea among other goods.

Wright said it was these illegal dealings that provided a legacy that enabled his grandchildren to pay for the publication of their novels.

‘We wouldn’t have Wuthering Heights or Agnes Grey without their grandfather’s involvement in the well-armed and even murderous smuggling operations running out of Penzance. The family money left to Emily and Anne … paid for these works of genius to appear in print for the first time.

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