William Wright

(1837—1899) missionary and author

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DD, FRGS; born at Finnard, County Down; editorial superintendent of the British and Foreign Bible Society from 1876, and author of The Brontës in Ireland or Facts Stranger than Fiction (1893, 1894). Wright gives few facts, and much hearsay embroidered with romantic detail. To provide an Irish source of the Brontë family's genius, he retails stories involving a Heathcliff-like character. Patrick's father Hugh Brontë becomes a heroic figure, ill-treated as a child by his Aunt Mary's husband, Welsh, a sinister foundling discovered in the hold of a ship returning to Ireland from Liverpool, and adopted by Hugh's grandfather. Later, Welsh persuades Hugh's parents to let him adopt the child, on condition that they are never to seek him. Wright adorns his story with accounts of violent feuds and heroic fights, and describes Hugh's clandestine courtship of the allegedly Catholic ‘Alice’ McClory. Angus Mason Mackay attacked the book in ‘A Crop of Brontë Myths’, Westminster Review (Oct. 1895), and The Brontës: Fact and Fiction (1897). Joseph Horsfall Turner revealed more of Wright's inaccuracies and inconsistencies in Brontëana (1898), 267–304, concluding charitably that ‘we are persuaded he has been very much misled’ (p. 301). In his preface Wright acknowledged details regarding the Brontës in England given to him by Ellen Nussey in 1891. He had been given Ellen's address by Horsfall Turner, and toyed with the idea of jointly editing Ellen's Brontë letters or providing an essay on the Brontës' Irish connections for Scribner's. He also offered to place the letters temporarily in his safe or in the Bible House strong room, and then buy them from her for £50, arrange them, and return ‘compromising’ ones for her to destroy. Ellen's early enthusiasm for his help waned, and on 16 April 1892 he accepted with relief her refusal of his offers. Edward Chitham defends some of Wright's notions in The Brontës’ Irish Background (1986).

From The Oxford Companion to the Brontes in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century).

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