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IO                           THE  BRONTE   SISTERS
Mr. Bronte in his youth had literary ambitions, and
published in Bradford and neighbouring towns two prose
tales, two volumes of poems, three pamphlets and a couple
of sermons. His wife, too, before her marriage wrote with
a view to publication in some periodical an essay entitled
£On the Advantages of Poverty in Religious Concerns'.
Frankly, none of these productions have any intrinsic merit,
but they are important as bringing the idea of writing for
the Press into the Bronte household; the selection of type,
the sight of one's name on the title page, the correction of
proofs were familiar notions to the little Brontes, so that
they Very early cherished the dream of one day becoming
It was his belief in education which caused Mr. Bronte
after his wife's death to send his eldest four children to a
boarding-school for the daughters of clergymen, founded
by a clergyman in the neighbouring county of Westmorland.
The rigorous discipline and harsh discomfort at Cowan
Bridge developed the seeds of consumption latent in Maria
and Elizabeth, and after a year there, in 1825, the poor
children both died. But the notion that the Bronte sisters
were ignorant and unlettered and that their genius flowered
out of nothing, is quite erroneous; Mr. Bronte took in
newspapers and magazines and encouraged his children in
self-culture; they belonged to a circulating library in the
nearest town and read omnivorously. A list of books which
Charlotte at the age of eighteen recommends for a friend's
perusal contains works by Scott, Byron, Wordsworth, and
Southey, as well as Shakespeare, Milton, Goldsmith, Pope,
and many others. It is significant that she says of Pope:
*I don't admire him'. Charlotte and Branwell in their
early twenties wrote to Wordsworth and Southey begging
opinions on their writings, while Branwell similarly ad-
dressed himself to the son of Coleridge. Clearly the young
Brontes were very familiar with the works of the 'Romantic
Movement' writers who had inaugurated the new century,
and found themselves responsive to the ardour and natural-