Genius Sacrificed for Failure
Wliilam N. Brown
During my youth in America’s Appalachian mountains, I learned that farmers preferred sons over daughters，largely because boys were better at heavy farm labor (though what boys anywhere could best the tireless Hui’an girls in the fields of Fujian!)
With only 3% of Americans in agriculture today，brain has supplanted brawn, yet cultural preferences, like bad habits，are easier to make than break. But history warns repeatedly of the tragic cost of dismissing too casually the gifts of the so-called weaker sex.
About 150 years ago，a village church vicar in Yorkshire, England，had three lovely，intelligent daughters but his hopes hinged entirely on the sole male heir, Branwell, a youth with remarkable talent in both art and literature.
Branweir s father and sister hoarded their pennies to pack him off to London' s Royal Academy of Arts, but if art was his calling, he dialed a wrong number. Within weeks he hightailed it home, a penniless failure.
Hopes still high, the family landed Branwell a job as a private tutor, hoping this would free him to develop his literary skills and achieve the success and fame that he deserved. Failure again.
For years the selfless sisters squelched their own goals， farming themselves out as teachers and governesses in support of their increasingly indebted brother, convinced the world must eventually recognize his genius. As failures multiplied, Branwell turned to alcohol，then opium，and eventually died as he had lived: a failure. So died hope in the one male8 _ but what of the three anonymous sisters?
During Branwell ’ s last years，the girls published a book of poetry at their own expense (under a pseudonym，for fear of reviewer’ s bias against females). Even Branwell might have snickered: they sold only 2 copies.
Undaunted, they continued in their spare time, late at night by candlelight, to pour out their pent-up emotion，writing of 9 what they knew best, of women in conflict with their natural desires and social condition — in reality, less fiction than autobiography! And 19th century literature was transformed by Anne ’ s Agnes Grey, Emily， s Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte ’ s Jane Eyre.
But years of sacrifice for Banwell had taken their toll. Emily took ill at her brother’s funeral and died within 3 months, aged 29; Anne died 5 months later, aged 30; Charlotte lived only to age 39. If only they had been nurtured instead of sacrificed.
No one remembers Branwell ’ s name， much less his art or literature，but Bronte sister' s tragically shot lives teach us even more of life than of literature. Their sacrificed genius cries out to us that in modem society we must value children not by their physical strength or sexual gender, as we would any mere beast of burden, but by their integrity, strength, commitment, courage—spiritual qualities abundant in both boys and girls. China，a nation blessed by more boys and girls than any nation，ignores at her own peril 10 the lesson of the Bronte tragedy.
Patrick Bronte fathered Branwell，but more importantly, he fathered Anne, Emily and Charlotte. Were he alive today he would surely urge us to put away our passe 11 prejudices and avoid his own tragic and irrevocable error of putting all of his eggs in one male basket!