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Lost Charlotte Bronte novel to be published

29th February 2012

A lost short story by Charlotte Bronte has been uncovered in a Belgian museum and will be published for the first time.

L'Ingratitude is written in French and was initially a piece of homework set by Bronte's Belgian tutor, Constantin Heger, while she and Emily were being educated in Brussels in the early 1840s.

The period is regarded as a vital one in the sisters' literary development, particularly for Charlotte, who was 25 at the time and infatuated with her tutor, according to Brian Bracken, a Brussels-based archivist and Bronte expert who found the manuscript in the Musee Royal de Mariemont.

He explained that the tale, about a rat who escapes his father's care to explore the countryside, is one of 30 pieces the siblings wrote for Heger under his tutorship and contains a number of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

'It was finished a month after Charlotte arrived in Brussels and is the first known devoir the sisters would write for Heger. He often returned their essays drastically revised - sadly, there are no comments on this copy of L'Ingratitude,' Bracken added.

Charlotte's infatuation with Heger was not publicly known until 1913 when Paul Heger, son of the tutor, agreed to the publication of four letters in which Bronte revealed she was clinging to the hope of being united with her former teacher.

The relationship between tutor and student was also explored in Bronte's 1853 novel Villette, a reworking of her earlier novel The Professor, which draws on her experiences in Brussels.

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