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THE   BRONTES                       69
Secretary of the Royal Academy, announcing his
" earnest desire to enter as a probationary
student" there and asking when he ought to pre-
sent his drawings, in order to qualify for entrance ;
but there is no evidence of his admission or that
he ever entered for the preliminary examination.
He certainly went to London and he saw some
of the " sights/' but he soon returned to Haworth,
presumably having concluded that an artist's
career in London was beyond him, having regard
to his lack of training and the time and expense
that studentship at the Royal Academy would
have involved. He had no training beyond
lessons in portrait painting from a Leeds painter,
William Robinson ; it is not surprising that his
work had no technical merit. The well-known
specimens of it - the portraits of his sisters, now
in the National Portrait Gallery - seem to show
a power of bringing out character, but it may be
the very crudity of the painting which gives that
impression to searching eyes. From boyhood he
had had great fondness for drawing, as had also
his sisters - Charlotte strained her sight seriously
by prolonged efforts to produce exact copies of
old engravings - and all at one time had drawing
lessons from Mr. Robinson. When Ellen Nussey
paid her first visit to Haworth, Branwell, then
aged sixteen, was painting in oils and the family
appear to have taken for granted that he would
succeed as a painter. He never came near success
as everyone knows, but as few would have known
or been concerned to enquire about, if Mrs.
Gaskell, and other writers who took their cue