Because I learned very little about the Bronte’s imaginary kingdom when I first heard it mentioned in my undergraduate classes, I decided to do a research post on the Brontes and their obsession with the “other,” which began in early childhood.
Apparently, Charlotte and her brother Bramwell were the primary creators of the fictional African colony of “Angria,” while Anne and Emily broke off and wrote primarily about an imaginary island in the South Pacific, entitled “Gondol.” According to this website, Charlotte’s stories about Angria were influenced by current events, and featured complex “political machinations and romantic entanglements.” As this website also says, Bronte was influenced, especially at first, by the “Arabian Nights,” which, of course, makes me think of Said’s “Orientalism.”
It proved surprisingly difficult to find information on “Angria” online, so I turned to JSTOR. According to this article, the tales of Angria began when the children received toy soldiers; Charlotte had hers colonize the country, which she placed “on the coast of Africa, near the Niger river” (495). The article says that Bronte’s colonizers founded a city there, and she has the Duke of Wellington elected ruler. The kingdom subsequently expands under colonization and is peopled by “Byronic heroes.” The article describes how Bronte eventually began transferring her characters to England in subsequent stories set there, “transform[ing] them into ordinary English men and women” (499). Even Rochester and Jane Eyre, it seems, originated in Angrian characters, and “Rochester’s mad wife,” as well as other elements of the plot, also originated in Bronte’s cycle of stories about Angria.
The limited writing about Angria I have found so far praises the stories as evidence of Bronte’s incredible imagination, even from an early age. I hope to do some further research and read some of the stories myself, as Tales of Angria is available on Amazon. Obviously there is a lot of rich information here. My impression about the imaginary country was that Bronte had peopled it with African characters, not with white colonizers. However, she still apparently allows her white colonizers to give way to their passions far more than she does for her English characters in England. Finally, what does it mean for our reading of Bertha, in terms of various potential post-colonial or feminist readings, if the trope of the mad woman in the attic appeared in a previous story, in a different setting and plot? I shall have to investigate.