Charlotte Bronte poem: $47,000 an inch

Charlotte Bronte, who wrote more than 200 poems, penned "I've Been Wandering in the Greenwoods" when she was just 13 years old.
(Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

A tiny poem written by a teenage Charlotte Bronte has sold for more than $140,000, the Guardian reports. Called “I’ve Been Wandering in the Greenwoods,” the poem, composed when Bronte was 13 years old, is handwritten on a piece of paper just three inches square. It is difficult to read without a magnifying glass.

The manuscript is dated Dec. 14, 1829, and signed “C. Bronte.” Written in a minuscule hand on the scrap of paper (easy to hide, one imagines, from one’s siblings or clergyman father) is a sweet little poem about a doleful walk along a mountain stream. It’s clearly the work of a serious child -- the flowers primrose and asphodel symbolizing youth and death, respectively -- and one who already had an ear for rhythm.

“I’ve Been Wandering in the Greenwoods” appeared in print in the Young Man’s Intelligencer, the literary magazine that Charlotte, Emily, Branwell and Anne Bronte wrote and edited themselves as children. The year the poem was written was also the year Charlotte took over as editor from her brother Branwell. Besides “Jane Eyre,” the novel for which she is best known, Charlotte would go on to write more than 200 poems.

This one, being judged “extremely rare” by Bonhams auction house, ended up selling for twice its estimated price, fetching $141,000 (92,450 British pounds), or about $47,000 per square inch. It’s one of the very few Bronte manuscripts still in private hands. Was it worth it? Judge for yourself -- magnifying glass not required -- below.


I’ve Been Wandering in the Greenwoods

By Charlotte Bronte

I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods
And mid flowery smiling plains
I’ve been listening to the dark floods
To the thrushes thrilling strains

I have gathered the pale primrose
And the purple violet sweet
I’ve been where the Asphodel grows
And where lives the red deer fleet


I’ve been to the distant mountain
To the silver singing rill
By the crystal murmering fountain,
And the shady verdant hill

I’ve been where the poplar is springing
From the fair Inamelled ground
Where the nightingale is singing
With a solemn plaintive sound


Emily and Herman and Lillian and Dash and ...


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