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Full text of "The Brontes"

28                       THE   BRONTfiS
sisters and brother to see that an impressive utter-
ance was expected of her and replied, oracularly,
when asked what a child like her most wanted :
" Age and experience." All the answers which
were of this kind made a deep impression on Mr.
Bronte, so he told Mrs. Gaskell. He had, he said,
often thought before that the children were un-
usually talented but until then he had evidently
not realised what perfect little echoes of elderly
platitudes his six little pitchers had become.
It must have been soon after the mask experi-
ment that the two elder girls, Maria and Eliza-
beth, then aged ten and nine, were taken by their
father to the Cowan Bridge School where, a few
months later, Charlotte, aged eight, and Emily,
six, were also conducted. The Clergy Daughters
School, to give it its proper name, was partly a
charity school - the small fees being supplemented
by charitable subscriptions - and its presiding
authority, Mr. Cams Wilson, an Evangelical
clergyman, quite evidently held views concerning
the education of the young which deserved the
portrait of him, in Charlotte's Jane Eyre, as " the
black, marble clergyman." The children were
probably no worse looked after and fed than they
would have been in any other similar institution
in those days. Piety of the dreariest kind and in-
difference to physical comforts were the rule in
such places. Lamb and Coleridge had fared no
better at the Bluecoat School twenty years or so
earlier. Maria and Elizabeth arrived at Cowan
Bridge, apparently, scarcely recovered from
measles and whooping-cough and whether, in