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THE   BRONTfiS                     105
He sank into being, not the wildly dissipated
maniac that some writers have portrayed, and that
Charlotte's sweeping references or avoidance of
the subject of him suggest, but that sorriest of
figures, a pathetic failure, prematurely old, chroni-
cally bronchitical, drinking at times, but not con-
tinuously, yet still maintaining for some of his
friends the old fascination of talk, the old charm of
manner that seemed to them to give the lie to the
lurid stories of him that were afterwards spread.
He read, and wrote, spasmodically, dreary
verses ; he was constantly in ihe village, and
according to one account, basked occasionally in
the sunshine of being known to be a brother of
the author of Jane Eyre. Charlotte's statement
that Branwell was never aware that his sisters had
written a line cannot, in view of other evidence,
be accepted. She may have meant by it that she,
personally, had never discussed her books with
him, but even this is open to doubt. That Bran-
well wrote Wuthering Heights, or even had a hand
in writing it, seems quite untenable. Apart from
all external evidence, it is clear from the spirit,
style and construction, both of the novel and
the poems, that Emily wrote the book.