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Full text of "The Brontèˆ sisters"

THE BRONTE  SISTERS                           15
that lifelong friendship with a West Riding girl, Ellen
Nussey, to which we owe the hundreds of Charlotte's
letters which tell the story of the Brontes. Here, too,
Charlotte discovered her own ability to learn and teach,
and the opportunities of earning a living by teaching offered
by this industrial world where the new middle class eagerly
sought genteel education for their children, Thenceforward
the Bronte sisters for a space often years (1835-45) made
valiant efforts to gain their livelihood by teaching. Charlotte
was twice, and Anne twice, governess in private families,
where their experiences furnished material for poignant
scenes in their future novels. Even Emily, who had been
obliged to leave Miss Wooler's because absence from the
moors broke her health, taught in a girls' school for six
agonizing months before giving up the struggle. Since
they found themselves wretched when away from home
and separated from each other, they determined to establish
a school of their own, and it was to secure additional
qualifications for this that Charlotte and Emily went in
1842 to Brussels, to the Pensionnat de Demoiselles of M. and
Mme Heger, to study French and German.
Just preceding this adventure, the youngest sister, the
quiet, gentle, pious Anne, underwent one of the formative
experiences of her life. Mr. Bronte applied successfully for
a grant from the Pastoral Aid Society, and his second curate,
Mr. William Weightman, came to Haworth in 1840. This
lively, kindly, clever young fellow flirted light-heartedly
with all the girls in the neighbourhood, including the
Brontes. Anne loved him, and Charlotte gives an amusing
account of his looking out of the corners of his eyes' at
her in church, which shows that he certainly paid her
attention. He died of consumption in 1842 while the elder
girls were absent in Brussels; some of Anne's poems reveal
her quiet mourning for his loss.
In Brussels Charlotte and Emily found the difference in
religion and customs from those of Evangelical Yorkshire
difficult, and though they made excellent progress in French