UK:     Viking, 1997: ISBN: 0-670-87212-1
Viking, 1998: ISBN: 0-670-87867-7
The Folio Society, 2006:
Audiobook: Penguin Audiobooks, 1997: read by Sean Barrett, Susan Jameson, Siân Thomas and Patience Tomlinson: ISBN: 0-14-086614-0

US:     Overlook Press, 1998: ISBN: 0-87951-838-3
Overlook Press, [1999]: ISBN: 1-58567-152-5

Sweden: Familjen Brontë en Brevbiografi Albert Bonniers Förlag, [1999]:  
ISBN: 91-0-010312-8

Juliet says: "One of the great pleasures of writing my biography of the Brontës was that I had so many wonderful letters to draw upon. Charlotte, especially, was a fantastic letter-writer whose correspondence has all the immediacy and intimacy of her novels. There were two frustrations for me as a biographer. The first was that anything I could say they had usually already said much better themselves. The second was that, despite having so much unpublished material at my disposal, I could not possibly include it all in The Brontës. This book was therefore my solution to those problems. I modelled it on the popular nineteenth-century format for biography which was basically an edition of the subject’s letters interspersed with editorial comment. The idea was to let the Brontës tell their own story in their own words with the minimum of guidance from me. As a biographer it had been my job not only to select the material but also to interpret it and use it to shape the narrative. As an editor it was simply to present as accurate a transcript of the letters, diary papers and other autobiographical documents as possible. The advantages of this approach are that it allows the reader to become the biographer, drawing his or her own conclusions about the Brontës’s lives from own words and, because the sources are presented chronologically, to live the Brontës’s lives as they did, without the benefit of hindsight."  

What the cover says: The Brontë story has been written many times but rarely as compellingly as by the Brontës themselves. In this selection of letters and autobiographical fragments we hear the authentic voices of the three novelist sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, their brother, Branwell, and their father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë. We share in their progress over the years: the exuberant childhood, absorbed in wild, imaginative games; the years of struggling to earn a living in uncongenial occupations before Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall took the literary world by storm; the terrible marring of that success as, one by one, Branwell, Emily and Anne died tragically young; the final years as Charlotte, battling against grief, loneliness and ill health, emerged from anonymity to take her place in London literary society and, finally, found an all too brief happiness in marriage to her father’s curate.  

            Juliet Barker, author of the highly acclaimed biography The Brontës has used her unrivalled knowledge of the family to select extracts from letters and manuscripts, many of which are appearing here in print for the first time. Charlotte was a letter-writer of supreme ability, ranging from facetious notes and homely gossip to carefully composed pages of literary criticism and, most movingly of all, elegiac tributes to her beloved brother and sisters. Emily and Anne remain tantalizingly evasive. Very few of their letters are extant. Emily’s are mere businesslike notes, though these have been supplemented by her more revealing diary papers; Anne’s letters are equally frustrating, but only because their quality makes us regret their paucity.

            Branwell emerges as distinctly as Charlotte from his letters. Whether trying to impress William Wordsworth with his literary abilities, showing off to his artistic friends or finally coming to terms with a life of failed ambition, his character is laid bare on every page. The Reverend Patrick Brontë’s devotion to his children and passionate advocacy of liberal causes are equally well illustrated in what can only be a small selection from his voluminous correspondence.

            The Brontë letters are supplemented by extracts from other contemporary sources, which allow us to see the family as their friends and acquaintances saw them. A brief narrative text guides the reader through the letters and sets them in context. By allowing the Brontës to tell their own story, Juliet Barker has not only produced an innovative form of biography but also given us the unique privilege of participating intimately in the lives of one of the most famous and best-loved families of English literature.

  Reviews of The Brontës: A Life in Letters:  

‘Juliet Barker’s knowledge of the family is unrivalled and she has already written a magnificent composite biography … Here, with an equal degree of sensitivity and with the addition of a wealth of previously unpublished material, she sets the family before us in their own words’
Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times  

‘Thrilling and engrossing … This book is alive with voices, affectionate, witty, sorrowful, fantastical, spiritual, mischievous and full of grief’  
Jane Dunn, The Observer           

‘By her careful excerpting and excellent narrative insertions, Juliet Barker reprises the extraordinary success of her The Brontës … It is not easy to hold all the voices together … but Barker combines them magnificently, getting closer than anyone to the sound of everyday life at Haworth’
Kathryn Hughes, The Daily Telegraph

‘Letters like these allow the reader a fleeting intimacy with another’s life … Juliet Barker has laid her brilliant selection before the reader in chronological order, explaining any significant gaps in the story and introducing new friends and acquaintances … a deft and revealing book’
The Guardian

‘A gripping documentary chronicle of this extraordinary brilliant and insular family’  
The New York Times Book Review  

‘No biography can match the immediacy of the Brontës’ letters and papers which record childhood in a Victorian parsonage and the maturing of their well guarded and fiercely experienced inner lives … This selection of material is skilful, informative and balanced’ Elizabeth Buchan, The Mail on Sunday       

Links: Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth & Brontë Society: