|Charlotte Brontë by George Richmond, 1850. (National Portrait Gallery, London)|
My story begins, dear reader, with a description of a not-so-distant journey that took me through the sky to the isle of Manhattan, and ultimately inside the workings of a most extraordinary intellect. The destination was that seat of high repute and learning, the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. I entered through its glassy doors off Madison Avenue as the autumnal sky above streaked plum and apricot, the colours dancing rich and vibrant on the shadowy walls. After perusing the rare gilt-edged books and illuminated manuscripts lining what had once been banker J.P. Morgan's private library, I ascended to the second storey aboard a chrome elevator. Turning right, I spied a treasure of a different stripe, a simple cotton and wool dress, patterned over with the petals of pale blue flowers. It guarded the entrance of Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will, a unique collaboration between the Morgan and the Brontë Parsonage Museum in England. Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the author's birth in 1816, the intimate exhibition closed in January, but not without creating a lasting impression.