Though the coronavirus pandemic has brought on tough times for many, the ensuing lockdowns have been especially hard on museums and arts institutions. Once such struggling organization was the Brontë Parsonage Museum, a space dedicated to the famed Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.
However, the museum, once in danger of closing its doors permanently, is now experiencing some relief. According to The New York Times, the Brontë Museum, located in Haworth, northern England, is able to stay up and running due to a donation from none other than T.S. Eliot's estate. Last week, when the museum reopened after six months of closure, the famed author's estate donated 20,000 pounds (or approximately $26,000).
The donation came with little notice or fanfare—it simply appeared on the museum's crowdfunding campaign site. Rebecca Yorke, the head of communications and marketing at the Brontë Society told The Times, "Realizing that it was from the T.S. Eliot estate was a very special moment."
According to the estate, the donation was made possible due to royalties from Cats, the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on Eliot's 1939 poetry collection, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." Cats was one of the longest running musicals on Broadway and was recently adapted into a 2019 feature film.
Perhaps part of the reasoning behind the Eliot estate's donation was due to the special connection between Eliot and the Brontë sisters. According to The Times, Sir James Roberts, who is thought to appear in Eliot's famous poem "The Waste Land" as the "Bradford millionaire," donated Haworth Parsonage, once the home of the Brontë sisters, to the Brontë Society, which operates the museum. Roberts knew Eliot, as he was a customer at the bank where Eliot worked, and was a longtime friend of the Brontë family. This mutual friend possibly established a connection between the authors, and one that still remains strong all these years later.
The Eliot estate's donation will help sustain the museum, which relies mostly on admission, events, and retail for funding, all of which has been curtailed due to COVID-19 lockdowns. The parsonage, once home to the Brontë sisters, houses the largest collection of Brontë manuscripts and memorabilia in the world and usually attracts more than 70,000 visitors per year. Both Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights were written there.
Though the museum still faces an uphill battle in paying off its deficit, the Eliot estate's donation helped make some headway. As York told The Times, "We are very grateful for the support and are pleased that there is still a connection between Eliot and the Brontës all these years later."
Donate to the Brontë Parsonage Museum here.
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