And I must now conclude this Introduction already too long with saying, that what is contained in this History is a statement of what Myself, Charlotte, Emily and Anne really pretended did happen among the 'Young Men' (that being the name we gave them) during the period of nearly 6 years.
Thus the thirteen-year-old Branwell recorded, with an acute sense of historical momentousness, his acquisition of various sets of toy soldiers, the 'Young Men', who were destined to have such an adventurous afterlife in the Brontë children's writings. The first set was given to him in 1824, the year in which four of his sisters, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily, left home for school. If the soldiers were meant to keep him company in the absence of all except the four-year-old Anne, the acquisition of three more sets in the following two years may have retained a connection with more traumatic losses: the deaths, in 1825, of his older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth. When, in 1826, Charlotte, Emily and Anne pounced with delight on a new set of soldiers and each chose for herself the one who would become the projection and object of her special 'genius', the children had lost not only their mother, Maria Branwell, in 1821, but also these two sisters. The history of what the survivors 'really pretended did happen' to those toy soldiers carries the intensity of a story won, in part, from the harsh facts of childhood bereavement. Both a writing network and an imaginative safety net, the sagas of Angria and Gondal were the product of a collaborative sibling creativity which also included, like a ghostly memory, the ones who were dead. The poetry of the four Brontë children took root in those narratives.
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