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Full text of "The Brontes"

THE   BRONTES                     139
is said without any intention of under-estimating
Miss Nussey's life-long devotion to the memory
of the Brontes, or her generosity in putting her
store of recollections and Charlotte's letters
at the service of so many writers. The story
of those letters and of the vicissitudes of Miss
Nussey's ownership and plans for the disposal of
them deserves a book to itself which might vie in
interest with the tale of intrigue that went on
round Queen Elizabeth in her last days to get her
to declare a successor to her throne. Loyalty to
Charlotte clashed with a natural wish to make a
profitable deal, while fear and cordial dislike of
Mr. Nicholls, " that wicked man who was the
death of dear Charlotte,55 in whom the copyright
of the letters resided, checkmated her attempts to
publish. She was not an intellectual woman, nor
an imaginative one, but, as Charlotte's friend, she
had often stayed at the Parsonage and was on
affectionate terms with all the sisters and doubt-
less knew Emily as well as anyone outside the
family circle knew that difficult, cranky creature.
No one knew Emily intimately ; not even Anne,
her favourite sister, knew the innermost recesses
of Emily's mind. No record of her, except her
own writings, goes beyond the surface and the
surface impressions do not take us far. There is
Miss Nussey's account of her as a girl of fourteen,
" the tallest person in the house except for her
father . . . with liquid, kindling eyes . . . but she
did not often look at you, she was so reserved."
There are the tributes which Madame Duclaux
drew from villagers, tributes to her kindness,