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Full text of "The Brontes"

THE   BRONT&S                      89
the tremendous experience of which that story
tells. The experience is the advent of love (the
word advent suits Charlotte's religious view of
this emotion), much longed for but almost des-
paired of, into an emotionally starved life. Only
a pent-up soul, such as Charlotte's was, under the
lock and key. of principles as strong as the ardent
nature they imprisoned, could have poured that
one, sincere, lofty, all-pervasive spirit into the
facts, on the face of them as dull as ditch-water,
of a priggish, unlovable and unloving governess's
career in a foreign town. The artless, straight-
forward course of the narrative, the clear-cut
distinctness of the sketches and portraits, the
prompt, unhesitating judgments contained in
them, not unjust, certainly, but lacking in kindli-
ness,1 show the almost wilful aloofness of the
narrator from the world she is confronting, reveal,
too, the real, though unacknowledged, raison d'etre
of her being there, namely an intense, hungry
quest for personal happiness which, consciously,
of course, she has dismissed as a vain hope. Char-
lotte's observation is remarkable, but it is an
observation nearly always of deficiencies from her
own very narrow, rigidly held standards of con-
duct, dictated by personal soreness and the be-
haviour she had subconsciously assumed to cover
that soreness up. She cannot even look at a
1 Charlotte was extremely suspicious of kindly feelings in her-
self. The reader of Villette comes across the following sentence
with surprise and amusement. Lucy is talking of Paulina and
says: " I liked her. It is not a declaration I have often made
concerning my acquaintance in the course of this book; the
reader will bear with it for once." The reader is indeed happy
to bear with it.