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Full text of "The Brontèˆ sisters"

THE  BRONTE  SISTERS                           1J
such unhappy fantasies he received as he thought encourage-
ment, attempted to bring Northangerland into Yorkshire,
and was dismissed with contumely by Mr. Robinson in the
summer of 1845. The poor foolish lad now decayed rapidly
in morals and health; he took to opium and brandy, ran so
gravely into debt that the Sheriff's officer pursued him to
the Parsonage, raved luridly through the nights and dozed
in stupor by day.
His sisters' school project (which in any case had shown
no signs of prospering) had perforce to be abandoned, and
they now all remained at home together, to sustain their
father and each other through this trial. It was during this
period, and thus as a direct consequence of poor BranwelTs
tragedy, that Charlotte 'accidentally lighted on' a manuscript
volume of verse in Emily's handwriting. Of recent years
the sisters had not shown each other what they wrote, and
accordingly Charlotte was intensely struck by the power,
the originality, and the wild melancholy music of Emily's
poems, and thought at once of publication. The reserved
Emily was furious at her sister's intrusion into her private
life, but the gentle Anne produced some of her own verses,
and eventually Charlotte secured Emily's consent to the pub-
lication of a volume of poems by all three sisters. * Averse to
personal publicity', says Charlotte, 'we veiled our own
names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell'. She
explains that these 'ambiguous' names, which might indeed
belong to persons of either sex, were chosen because the girls
had a 'scruple at assuming Christian names positively mascu-
line', yet wished to avoid the condescension or derision with
which reviewers then often treated women writers. Part of
their little legacies from Aunt Branwell paid for the volume,
which was published in the summer of 1846. Except for one
review, which spoke of Ellis Bell's 'evident power of wing',
it was little noticed, and only two copies were sold. Before
transferring the remainder of the edition £to the trunk-
makers' for lining, Charlotte later sent copies to Words-
worth, Lockhart, De Quincey, and Tennyson.