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142                     THE   BRONTES
to write, through a period of intense depression
and physical weakness, her greatest work, Vilktte.
She visited London many times ; she met celebri-
ties ; she made new friends. But timidity and
self-consciousness of a morbid kind and an old-
maidish primness never left her nor did Romance
ever come her way. She refused at least another
offer of marriage and eventually, in fear and tremb-
ling, but determined, engaged herself to her father's
curate, Mr. Nicholls. In that marriage, she found,
if not a twin soul, at least a husband who was in
love with her and whose misery at her first rejec-
tion of him had aroused a " Now or never " com-
motion in her heart. She was settling down into
a comfortable, if uninspiring, domesticity at the
Parsonage, when she died, in pregnancy, after
three weeks of sickness, on March 30th, 1855.
There have been few essentially sadder lives than
Charlotte Bronte's and perhaps the most pathetic
aspect of it lies in the fact that she was probably
happier during her nine months of marriage to a
good but dull husband than she had ever been
before. Her life was one of " short commons " :
she was physically weak, her liver was always get-
ting out of order, her " animal spirits " were in-
variably low. She saw her brother and sisters die
in tragic succession : she was bereft of all family
companionship and though she lived to be famous,
her life, until she married, was pitiful. The picture
of Mr. Bronte as a violent eccentric is now known
to have been exaggerated and there is plenty of
evidence of his quite ordinary behaviour and of
the respect in which he was held in Haworth.