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THE   BRONTES                      12Q
gentlest and, though pretty, the most ordinary-
looking. Charlotte's smallness was noticeable and
Emily's tall figure invariably dressed in lank,
unfashionable clothes, and dumb aloofness must
have marked her out. But in this biographical
notice Charlotte was burying her sisters with
solemn honours. In those days, one could not
write of the beloved dead in a living way. Im-
pressions had to be subdued into grave sentences ;
from the past tense with its absolute finality there
was no escape. The gulf between life and death
was greater then than it is now. The souls of the
dead were with God and for mourners to write
naturally about them was not in keeping with the
sense of private loss.
So it happened that Emily's personality was
shrouded as no doubt Emily herself would have
said defiantly that she wished it should be. Char-
lotte's Preface remained for over thirty years the
only biographical account of Emily and it is still,
and must always be, the outstanding source of
knowledge of her life and character. But it is
painfully short and reserved. What would we
not have given if Mrs. Gaskell had written down
all that Charlotte told her about Emily, of whom,
says Mrs. Gaskell, " she was never tired of talking,
nor I of listening," or if Charlotte, instead of
writing Shirley, who was meant to be Emily as she
might have been in prosperity, had written a
story about Emily as she was in obscurity and un-
success ! After Emily's death, Charlotte was
haunted by recollections of her. She was con-
stantly seeing likenesses to Emily in people whom