Charlotte Brontë and Bedlam March 25, 2013
Did novelist Charlotte Brontë ever visit the notorious madhouse of Bedlam?
In the past year, I’ve visited it twice myself—at least, what’s left of it, in the archives at the Royal Bethlem Hospital in Kent, England. The facility itself is now a National Health Service hospital occupying the grounds of a former estate in the suburbs of London.
During my first visit, I told archivist Colin Gale about a fascinating little puzzle I’d encountered. While skimming Charlotte Brontë’s collected letters, I found that in 1853, she’d planned a research trip to Bedlam. Did she make it?
The archives provided no clue, and I grew obsessed with this tiny mystery glimmering at the edges of history. What I found is detailed in two guest blogs (here and here) I wrote for Colin Gale on the Bethlem Hospital website, a minor piece of literary detective work.
And while you’re at it, you might want to have a look at Colin Gale’s fascinating e-book about the many eminent inmates of Bethlem Hospital over the years.
Illustrious Company: Authors, Artists and Other Adventurers in Bethlem Royal Hospital is available on Amazon.