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THE   BRONTES                       27
discharge it, but as he had been a curate in dis-
tricts where there had been Luddite disturbances
this was not surprising, added to which he seems
always to have taken a schoolboyish delight in
fire-arms. He did, on one occasion, snip out the
sleeves of one of his wife's dresses because they
were not to his taste, but he forthwith purchased
silk for a new dress in the place of the one he had
spoiled and Mrs. Bronte apparently took the
matter as a joke. He may not have been a lovable
father : he was not warm-hearted (nor were any
of his children) but, according to his lights and
temperament, he was not unkind. He held
narrow views, he thought dancing and card-
playing were sinful—but so did so many people
in those days, and no doubt the atmosphere of
the Parsonage was much more repressive and
didactic than sympathetic and stimulating to
those six small children whose " innocent prattle 5>
Mr. Bronte found so distressing after his wife's
death. He was no child lover ; his pride and aim
were to make the children into little grown-ups
as soon as possible and he succeeded. Long before
Maria, the eldest, died at the age of eleven, her
father, according to Mrs. Gaskell, " could con-
verse with her on any of the leading topics of the
day with as much freedom and pleasure as with
any grown-up person " and, in the often quoted
account of how it occurred to Mr. Bronte to test
the children's knowledge by making each of them
in turn answer questions under cover of a mask
(which, he thought, would conquer their shy-
ness), Anne, a mite of four, was as quick as her