John Lennon – the reincarnation of Branwell Brontë?

Branwell Bronte John Lennon 3

A reincarnational case study featuring two notable personalities.

I have just read the wonderful autobiographical past-life book All You Need Is Loveby Canadian Jewelle St. James. I have reviewed the whole book in a separate post, but here I want to focus on a particular insight.

Near the end of the book, in 1995 or thereabouts, the author has an encounter with a lady called Herma, a budding psychic (one of many in the book!). To help test Herma’s psychic abilities, Jewelle presents her with a picture of a young woman from the 19th century and simply asks Herma to say what comes to mind (not disclosing the fact that it is actually a portrait of the writer Emily Brontë).

The psychic immediately blurts out “John Lennon was her brother… In another of John Lennon’s lives, he had been this lady’s brother.”

Branwell Brontë

Now, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë did indeed have a brother.

Self-caricature by Branwell Brontë

Branwell Brontë (1817–1848), the only son of the Brontë family, was a painter and poet whose life ended in tragedy. Of the four Brontë siblings who survived into adulthood, Branwell seems to have been regarded within the family as the most talented, at least during his childhood.

As a young man, he was trained as a portrait painter and worked at this in Bradford in the late 1830s. His most famous portrait is actually of his three sisters.

Portrait of the Brontë sisters, by Branwell Brontë

Portrait of the Brontë sisters, by Branwell Brontë

(He seems to have painted himself out of the picture for some reason, replacing his portrait with a blank “pillar” or “column”, though a recent theory is that Charlotte, disgusted with Branwell’s scandals and failures, painted him out after his death. [1])

The Mrs. Robinson Affair

Later, Branwell worked alongside his sister Anne at Thorp Green Hall near York. Anne was already employed there as a tutor to the children of the Robinson family. Now, it seemed appropriate that while Anne tutored the Robinsons’ daughters, Branwell could tutor their son.

So far so good.

Mrs Lydia RobinsonHowever, things began to fall apart after a secret affair between Branwell and the lady of the house was exposed. It appears that Mrs. Lydia Robinson (shown right) appreciated rather more about Branwell than just his tutoring abilities.

(Incidentally, this affair with the seductive “Mrs. Robinson” has peculiar similarities to the storyline of The Graduate, the 1967 movie based on a novel by Charles Webb.)

Branwell was in love, or at least lust, and even entertained thoughts of becoming Lydia’s future husband.

Branwell (large)But it was not to be. Branwell (right) was dismissed as soon as the affair was discovered, and was perhaps even paid to keep his silence. Mrs. Robinson abandoned Branwell when it mattered most, and when her husband died a short while later she rejected Branwell’s hopeful advances.

Branwell was devastated. He thereafter became an alcoholic, spending more and more time at the Black Bull Inn. He also appears to have become addicted to opium. (Laudanum containing 10% opium was relatively cheap and easy to buy.) His behaviour became increasingly irrational and self-destructive.

Branwell’s addictions, unfortunately, masked the onset of tuberculosis. His family did not even realise that he was seriously ill until he collapsed outside the house. He died a short while later, miserable that he had done nothing with his life.

As the only son in the family, there must have been a lot of pressure on Branwell to succeed and become the future breadwinner. Both he and Charlotte alike felt that he had utterly failed.

Emily Brontë also died of tuberculosis three months after Branwell, as did Anne Brontë the following May.

Branwell medallionBranwell seems to be regarded as a bit of a bad boy, or at least a promising lad gone bad. There is a biography of Branwell by Daphne du Maurier entitled: The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë(1960). Likewise, there was recently an exhibition of his work, called Sex, Drugs and Literature – The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë, at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth.

Spot The Similarity

In the Jewelle St. James book, the author notes the similarities between Branwell Brontë and John Lennon:

Branwell, like John, was an artist and a poet. Branwell drank and did drugs, actually he did more than doing drugs, he was an addict. Branwell, like John, lost his mother at an early age, and had sisters but no brothers. Oh, and Branwell had good friends in Liverpool. … Branwell and John both drew caricatures, depicting aspects of their lives. [And finally – ] Branwell’s self portraits are the image of John Lennon! The nose, the glasses, everything.

Unfortunately, the book neglects to include photos to illustrate the point, so here we go, internet to the rescue!

There aren’t that many pictures of Branwell Brontë to go by, but of those we have, the similarities with John Lennon are indeed striking, right down to the glasses.

John Lennon(L) and Branwell Brontë (R)

John Lennon(L) and Branwell Brontë (R)

John Lennon-Branwell Bronte

John Lennon(L) and Branwell Brontë (R)

Branwell Bronte John Lennon

Branwell Brontë (L) and John Lennon (R)


Branwell Brontë (L) and John Lennon (R)

Branwell was described as having an unruly mop of red hair. He wore round spectacles and had those mutton-chop whiskers so fashionable in Victorian England. There were certainly times in John Lennon’s life when he could almost have been a Branwell Brontë impersonator:

John Lennon Hey Bulldog

John Lennon (a still from the Hey Bulldog video)

Below, photos of John Lennon are compared with the medallion portrait of Branwell Brontë (sans spectacles) created in 1845 by Branwell’s friend, the sculptor J. B. Leyland.

Branwell Bronte John Lennon 1

The following pictures of Branwell Brontë are a bit of an oddity. Again, there is a striking similarity with John Lennon. But in this case, the portraits of Branwell were made intuitively by an American artist (and Brontë fan) in 2000!

Sketch by B.J. Tanke (L), John Lennon (R)

Sketch of Branwell Brontë by B.J. Tanke (L), John Lennon (R)

Branwell Bronte John Lennon 3

Sketch of Branwell Brontë by B.J. Tanke (L), John Lennon (R)

I have contacted the artist, Barbara Tanke, to find out where she got her inspiration. She specialises in painting likeness of famous faces from the past, particularly the Brontës. She tells me that the portraits are actually her intuitive interpretation of Branwell after reading The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë. She made no conscious association with John Lennon.

Finally, towards the end of his life, poor Branwell did this sketch of himself hanging from a noose.

Branwell hanging sketch

John Lennon’s expression in some photos is eerily similar:

Top left: Branwell’s sketch of himself hanging.

As with the Michael Jackson / Mozart connection, the pattern of the early lives is similar enough to be almost a repeat attempt. If indeed these are the same soul, then as Branwell Brontë, the soul seems to have felt that it failed in making the most of its artistic and inspirational potential. As John Lennon, perhaps it sought to correct or complete the same life task without getting diverted or meeting an early demise.

More on Mrs. Robinson

I think I may have identified Branwell’s Mrs Robinson in John Lennon’s life. See my post Cynthia Lennon – the original Mrs Robinson? for details.


[1] “Branwell’s group portrait of his sisters in the National Portrait Gallery, posthumously titled the ‘Pillar’ group, includes a self-portrait that has been obscured by the eponymous pillar. Although this item has been attributed to Branwell, its technical, pictorial and symbolic features distinguish it sharply from his output in graphics and oils. The three readily visible portraits in the picture lack the beginner’s errors in the use of oils that have led to the browning (tobacco) of the column’s pigments, its semi-transparency, and the surfacing of the self-portrait (bleeding). The provenance and technical characteristics of the picture lead to the conclusion offered here, that the pillar was painted by Charlotte as part of her effacement of her disgraced brother from the image of her family that she presented to Elizabeth Gaskell.” — Heywood, Christopher: ‘The Column in Branwell’s ‘Pillar’ Portrait Group’. Bronte Studies, Volume 34, Number 1, March 2009, pp. 1-19(19).

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10 thoughts on “John Lennon – the reincarnation of Branwell Brontë?

  1. Hello, Reincarnation tales of famous folk are always fun but generally suspect. An immediate point in the Bronte Lennon link that strikes me is why should there be any physical resemblence in reincarnated souls? I see no reason why human form, gender, circumstance should be similar in a soul`s progression. Indeed, why a geographical connection, in this case North East England?
    As a point of interest, did the psychic in the book actually identify Emily Bronte which would have been rather more impressive than suggesting a link with John Lennon?

    • Why should there be physical resemblance? I don’t know, there just is, even when there is a change of gender and race. It’s not a physical resemblance in terms of stature, say, or hair colour, but in facial expression. There are many many examples in Walter Semkiw’s books. I guess our facial expression forms as a reflection of the character we carry from life to life, and will slowly change as we evolve. As Carolyn Myss puts it, our biography becomes our biology – our experience, choices and attitudes become etched into our physical appearance.

      There is also a function of soul type – all warrior souls, for example, have certain similarities in their physicality.

      Did the psychic spot Emily Bronte? I have been in touch with the author on this very point and all I can say is that, without going into reasons, she deliberately chose not to elaborate further on it.


  2. Hello Barry, Thanks for your reply. Interesting and well crafted site on a fascinating concept. I will keep watching, Steve.

  3. Fascinating! I first dreamt of Merlin four years prior to meeting and awoke thinking that I had just shared a rather lucid astral plane dream encounter with John Lennon… ha!

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