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Reproduction of a sampler made by Charlotte Bronte. Courtesy, 
The Bibliographical Society and Emery Walker. 









All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, must 
not be reproduced in any form without permission. 

Published simultaneously in the Dominion of Canada 


Van Rees Press, New York 



TO TELL again the story of the Brontes is to invite 
the captious eye of the literary historian. That cannot be 
avoided whatever the literary subject may be. The creative 
artist in literature is grist to every critic's mill. But critics 
have made appropriations which have excluded the interest 
of the general reader. This has been the case, and in a larger 
measure, I think, with the Brontes than with any other 
authors, whose lives and works have had such a long and 
familiar influence upon the reading public. 

The tragic drama of the lives of the Bronte family has so 
colored and tempered the qualities and spirit of the Bronte 
novels that, in any appraisal of the writings, it is as difficult 
as it is undesirable to separate them. The fault is not in the 
eager willingness to interweave the realities of the Brontes' 
personal history with their creative and imaginative work, 
but with the injection, arbitrarily and conclusively, of critical 
ideas into the meaning and character of both the facts of 
personal history and the imaginative representations of the 

The general reader who has read the Bronte novels and 
who hasn't? seeking enlightenment about them and their 
authors, is more often than not confused by this welter of 
interpretations and explanations. He wants to know about 
them, but is discouraged from learning when confronted 
with the tangle of subtleties that must be unwound before 
reaching an understanding of the Bronte genius. 



The story herewith told of the Bronte genius has attempted 
to take a straight course. In its biographical and literary 
phases, it is hoped that both the information and interpreta- 
tion has the quality and interest of a narrative. 

The lives of the Bronte sisters are stories as intriguing as 
the stories that made their novels. With every one of the 
three it was a tragic story. The novels reflected this tragedy. 
That is why, I think, it has been important to treat the novels 
with the fullness that has been attempted here. If they over- 
balance the straight biographical material, they may well 
serve to extend the revelations that the private lives of the 
sisters in the Haworth Parsonage yielded with such reluc- 
tance. When we stop to consider that essentially all the facts 
of their lives that have any validity are contained in Char- 
lotte's voluminous correspondence, the novels are as im- 
portant biographically as they are artistically. And Charlotte 
was not above tempering her letters with her imaginative 
emotions while recording the domestic life of the family. 

The story of the Brontes reiterates one overwhelming 
truth, and this is that life is an enigma. With some individuals 
it is easily solved and forgotten. With the four Bronte chil- 
dren it leaves us bewildered as it has for a centuryand only 
sure of the emotions that fired them and the spirit that 
winged them. 

W. S. B. 
New Jork, 1950 



Preface vii 

i. Furor Scribendi 3 

n. The Bruntys of Ahaderg 12 

m. Patrick Brunty into Patrick Bronte 17 

iv. Irish Youth and Cornish Maid 22 

v. On the West Riding 29 

vi. The Wooden Soldiers 33 

vn. Charlotte of Angria 38 

VIH. Emily of Gondal 46 

ix. The Smoldering Interval 51 

x, Charic 58 

xi. Emily 94 

xrr. Branwell 110 

xiii. First Publication: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and 

Acton Bell 119 

xiv. The Professor 125 



xv. Jane Eyre 131 

xvi. Shirley 144 

xvn. Villette 156 

XVHI. Wuthering Heights 167 

xix. Agnes Grey 192 

xx. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 202 

xxi. "Where Did You Get This?" 210 
(A Footnote in the History of Anonymous) 





A Sampler Made by Charlotte Bronte Frontispiece 

Facing page 

The Rev. P. Bronte 18 

The Bronte Sisters 19 

Charlotte Bronte 88 

Emily Bronte 89 

Anne Bronte 112 

Patrick Branwell Bronte 113 

Haworth Parsonage from the Church 116 

Haworth Parsonage 116 

View of the Moors 117 

View near the "Bronte Falls 117 

Haworth Church 148 

Roe Head School 149 

M. Constantin Heger 180 

Emily's Desk and Lamp 181 

Emily's Sofa, on Which She Died 181 

e Villette' School 212 

Bronte Bridge 213 

: ' ' ' ' '. . ' . xi 



DE creative force in man is a fugitive 

one. It rises from some mysterious origin and finds sanctuary 
in the blood and brain of certain individuals. In the early 
Greek civilization the creative faculty was thought to be a 
gift of the gods, a fire that set the imagination aflame, en- 
raged the emotions. It was born of religious faith, and was 
redeemed in tragedy. The poet, sculptor, dramatist of Greece 
practiced his art as an appeasement of the gods ? and was in 
turn touched and transfigured in the light of inspiration. 
Since neither psychology nor aesthetics was known, as we 
know them today, there was no attempt to probe man's 
conscious or subconscious, to plumb the depths of his symbol- 
ism. Aristotle was a very wise man, but even Aristotle left 
this rage, this process of creation, to the gods. He certainly 
would not have attempted to explain the strange phenomenon 
of the Brontes, where the lightning struck many times in the 
same family! Not that we can explain it today, with modern 
methods of scientific investigation at our disposal, and with 
psychiatry itself by way of becoming an exact science. 

For Freudian analysis has thus far failed to clarify the 
enigma. Nor does the Mecanisme Cerebrde of M. Nicolas 
Kostyleff, that genius can be measured by a mathematical 
yardstick, help us in the least. John Livingston Lowes, in his 
remarkable study of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," tries bravely 

,- ; -. ' ' 3 


to capture the elusive answer to what it is that birthmarks 
some men with genius, and by-passes most of us, He goes a 
long way toward solving the riddle. And the poet, William 
Blake, has interpreted it as the difference between the aver- 
age man and the man endowed with the most intense sensi- 
bilities. But this, too, hardly seems to be the complete answer. 
Many an "average" man is possessed of acute sensibility, or 
susceptibility, yet cannot express it through the medium of 
art. In other words, he has not been star-crossed by that fever 
of the blood which heightens imagery to the point where it 
communicates reality by fusing it with insight to make a sym- 
bol which is itself another reality. There are psychological 
factors here which, for all the advances in the practice of 
science, are still fundamentally unexplained. Heredity, ex- 
perience, environment, all play a role i IK ir prop.)i lions being 
difficult to gauge, due in great part to the quantitative and 
qualitative variations in the individuals concerned. While 
one tries to detect the pattern, it falls away in one ? s hands, 
dissolves as one concentrates upon it, like a mist in the sun's 

But most mysterious of all are the instances in which an 
entire family is stricken with genius, a family that seems to 
have drunk at the same Pierian spring. There is no more 
extraordinary example of such a family in all literature than 
that of the Brontes, who lived in the Haworth Parsonage, on 
the West Riding of England's Yorkshire, during the early 
nineteenth century. The parents, Patrick Bronte and Maria 
Branwell, the one from Ireland, the other from Cornwall, 
were ordinary people, but within them lay sparks that 
were to be touched off by the union to give us an explosion, 
so to speak, of furor scribendi in their progeny. 

By inheritance, tradition, and childhood experience, the 


father had traveled down Ireland's folkways. He came from 
the soil; he understood the uninhibited physical appetities 
of the peasant; he was imbued with the spirit of the super- 
natural; he knew the tragedy of poverty that is so often akin 
to comedy, comedy that is close to tragedy. Although he 
rose above his environment and attended one of England's 
great universities, earning a bachelor's degree in the humani- 
ties, his primitive instincts never bowed entirely before the 
discipline and moderation of men of birth. He remained 
illiterate in his marital relations, his belief in the unquestioned 
authority of the male of the species. Even when he became a 
vicar in the Anglican Church, his adopted faith, his intel- 
lectual and emotional attitudes had undergone little change. 
No faith, of whatever kind, appears to have softened his 
crude ambitious nature. He was impervious to the physical 
(and spiritual) needs of his wife and children. What had 
sufficed for his own meager existence as a child could suffice 
for them. He seems to have nourished, even with a kind of 
pride, a scorn of refined living, of all beauty manifest in 
color or texture or workmanship. What was good enough 
for him, he implied, was good enough for his children. Such 
a philosophy, if one can dignify it by such a name, could 
only make a stark and desolate atmosphere, in the home or 
in the heart, for the woman who bore him six children in 
seven years and died of cancer before the youngest could 
call her by the name of mother. And it naturally raised a 
heavy inscrutable barrier between him and the four little 
ones who were to make his name immortal. 

Maria Branwell, on the other hand, was born of a re- 
spectable middle-class family in Penzance, Cornwall. The 
family apparently had pride and tradition, and some sub- 
stance. If their manners perhaps showed a slight hauteur, as 



in the person of "Aunt Elizabeth," Maria's sister, it was be- 
cause the Branwells were accustomed to a position in society. 
The Brontes had no position in Ireland. And, even though 
Patrick was a university graduate when he wooed and won 
Maria, her family undoubtedly felt that he was not her 
equal. As the years passed and they saw her the victim of a 
ruthless helpmate, an unrestrained marriage bed, and dire 
poverty, they must have said, in thought if not in words, 
that it was only to be expected. But even the opportunity to 
upbraid Maria for her foolhardy love, her loyalty and devo- 
tion to a man who gave so little in return, was short-lived. 
Eight years of marriage and Maria Branwell Bronte was 
buried in the little Haworth Church, where her two eldest 
daughters, Elizabeth and Maria, were soon to join her. In- 
deed, Patrick Bronte was to outlive not only his wife but 
all his children. 

The characters of both parents were deeply affected by 
their religious upbringing. Maria Branwell was born and 
raised a Methodist, Patrick Bronte a Presbyterian, yet both 
were united in the Episcopal Church. However, religion 
dealt variously with the temperaments of Patrick and Maria. 
Whereas it made her a woman of strong conscience, God- 
fearing and humble, simple and sincere and uncomplaining, 
in him it produced a hard core of religious zeal and moral 
judgment. He carried out the laws of the Church to the final 
letter. God ordained that man should marry: he had married. 
God ordained that man should create from the seed of his 
loins: this lie had done in full measure. What more was neces- 
sary? It was not required that he sit at his wife's deathbed, or 
visit his (laugh Lcr Anne when she also lay dying in Scar- 
borough by the Sea, or give his daughter Charlotte away in 


Charlotte and Emily Bronte have both given us a some- 
what harsh opinion of an unnatural father, often directly, 
more often under various disguises, as in the first chapters of 
Emily's Wuthering Heights. A poem of Emily's describes him 

bland and kind, 
But hard as hardest flint the soul that lurks behind, 

and she tells us he was a man who "took for granted Original 
Sin and his own supreme authority/' that he was a "hard, 
just judge," just according to the code she knows, unjust ac- 
cording to the code she feels. Edith Ellsworth Kinsley sums 
him up as "a good man, but cold, hard and ambitious. His 

nature had a deep and sunless source If he was displeased, 

no happy reconciliation could be had with him no ruth met 
ruth. ... It is reputed that he never spoke an unkind word to 
his wife, but he did not speak many. He was patient; he 
prided himself on Christian forbearance; he remarked that he 
was not in the habit of cherishing vexation; but his eye was a 
cold blue hem, and he spoke in a tone that mortified pride." 
Roamer Wilson adds, "Emily's portrait [of her father] is per- 
fectly fair." This, then, was the sort of man the gentle Maria 
had chosen for her husband. It was soon obvious to both that 
they were peculiarly unsuited to each other, and each turned 
to his appointed task: Patrick to his study and his vocation, 
Maria to her childbearing and to the management of a grow- 
ing family in a home darkened by illness and privation. 

It is of course probable that Patrick Bronte's nature suf- 
fered a sea change as he saw his own hopes and ambition 
gradually reduced to naught by the exigencies of living. He 
himself had fostered literary "aspirations, and undoubtedly 
the overcrowded household, the disturbance of the children, 



interfered with his writing. Anyway, his literary pursuits 
seemed to come to an abrupt close in 1818 when he published 
his fourth and last book, The Maid of Killarney. How much 
did the four children, born in the cramped rooms behind the 
grocery store in Thornton, who were to startle the world with 
their own literary genius, owe to the ambitious Irish peasant 
with his frustrated desires, and his inheritance of strong 
natural instincts battened down by overwhelming odds in a 
land foreign to his soul? And how much again to the quiet- 
hearted mother who also dreamed of other scenes than these, 
scenes shifting against a curtain of wild sea foam on the 
Cornish coast? Something of both, of course, went into the 
forging of the destinies of these children. From the farthest 
reaches of incompatibility and disparity a man and a woman 
crossed paths, and where they crossed the elements of their 
natures fused to a white-hot flame of creative power, not only 
once but again and again. 

A like power was discernible in every one of the six chil- 
dren. Even Maria and Elizabeth showed signs of possessing 
it, before they fell victim to the dread disease that carried 
them away in childhood, and eventually claimed Emily and 
Anne. These two little girls were the first sacrifices to the in- 
sensibility of the parent to the malnutrition and physical 
hardship, the damp, dark house and unsanitary conditions, 
that continuously endangered the health of the entire family. 
Their mode of living shattered the frail immaturity of all the 
children. It would seem that spirit alone was what kept some 
of them alive to fulfill their appointed destinies: Anne to 
write Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wild-fell Hall, Charlotte 
Jane Eyre and Villette, and Emily the crowning achievement, 
Wuthering Heights. 


Thus, to repeat, we have in the Bronte sisters a case of mul- 
tiple genius that fits no known category of interpretation. 
There were obviously biologic forces unleashed that have no 
adequate explanation, either in medicine or in psychiatry. It 
is possible that the reason so little attempt has been made to 
discover the roots of the Bronte phenomenon is t that biog- 
raphers are fearful lest they should be found to lie in the 
science of pathology. There are clearly disturbing symptoms 
in the "behavior patterns" of any one of the Bronte children 
one cares to name. An exploration into their creative faculties 
is no mere simple analysis of cause and effect. It must entail 
a descent into the realm of the subconscious where, in some 
mystical way, the creative impulses of four members of the 
same family were united in a Gordian knot. And we must 
needs take under observation the strange way in which the 
cords of inspiration were cut at the point where any one of 
them was crossed directly by the world at large. It was as if 
the currents that flowed into creative channels, illuniinating 
the inner mind and spirit, blacked out as surely as if a switch 
had been thrown, when other faces, other places intervened. 

As children, the three sisters and the brother played at 
writing with all the seriousness of adults, and with a strange 
secrecy. They poured into their compositions a mental and 
emotional energy out of all proportion to their scanty physical 
stamina. Even more amazing than the drive itself were the 
character and passion, the naive sophistication, of the tales 
and romances they created. The histories of the Anglian and 
Gondal Empires are tumultuous chronicles of love and revo- 
lution, diplomacy and conquest, cruelty and sacrifice. They 
are dream fabrications fashioned to make possible an accept- 
ance of the misery and loneliness of reality. Yet into these 



tales is woven a web of thought, a mature conception that 
seems primal in its origins, and which can almost be trans- 
lated into a philosophy. The social and psychological impli- 
cations of Charlotte s Jane Eyre or Shirley, of Emily's Wvth- 
ering Heights, or of Anne's The<Tenant of Wildfell Hall have 
their seed in the Anglian and Gondal child's play. Angria and 
Gondal were outlets for forces that could not be contained. 
Although these epics were born of childhood they cannot be 
said to be juvenilia. They seem to explode from an inner com- 
pulsion, atavistic in nature, whose chemistry is obscurely 
buried in time. The Bronte children did not live the normal 
life of childhood and youth. The brief periods they were away 
from home, at Cowan Bridge School, or Roe Head, or the 
Heger Pensionnat in Brussels, or as governesses in the homes 
of Yorkshire families, served only to heighten their desire to 
return to the nest on the moors. Indeed they were alien to 
any other environment than that of the West Riding. They 
were attached, as by an umbilical cord, to the earth, to some- 
thing primeval in nature, and to each other. 

Furor scribendi! It is what possessed Emily, Charlotte, 
Anne, and Branwell Bronte. It is self-explanatory and yet 
erplains nothing. It is a name for a seething brew of spiritual 
and emotional daring and desire. The desire to write came 
as a spontaneous overflow of the imaginationan extraordi- 
nary awareness of light and color, space and motion, love and 
hate. The intensity of concentration needed to transfer the 
imagery to paper is another miracle beyond our comprehen- 
sion. It could only have come from that "crepuscular twilight' 5 
where Henry James traces the subtle motivations of character 
for which he is famous. But though James located this dim 
region where lie the springs of our beings, he was still unable 
to explain the source beyond the source, the source below all 


sources, from which the Bronte children received their 
strength. The wine of creation boiled up from subterranean 
depths we know not of , or what or where or when, and could 
not be stayed short of death. There was no respite till genius 
had run its tide. 



J[ATRICK BRONTE, tlie father of the Bronte 
children, was born in the Parish of Ahaderg, County Down, 
in Northern Ireland, on March 17, 1777. Since March 17 is 
the day of Ireland's patron saint, Saint Patrick, he was nat- 
urally named in the saint's honor. 

The family name has been variously known as Prunty, 
Brunty, and Bronte, Hugh Prunty, Patrick's father, probably 
changed the name to Bronte, although it has been suggested 
that Patrick made the change when he registered at St. 
John's College, Cambridge. 

Hugh Prunty (or Bronte) had ten children, Patrick being 
the eldest They were one and all remarkable for their beauty 
and strength, the girls being as Amazonian as their brothers 
were Herculean. ] The stock was Irish peasant, going back 
many generations in the region north of the river Boyne. The 
story of the family, followed to its dim sources, is filled with 
tales of character and romance. Augustine Birrell, in his study 
of Charlotte, published in 1887, remarked that "nobody has 
even been at pains to discover anything about Charlotte 
Bronte's nine uncles and aunts." Six years later, in 1893, Wil- 
liam Wright published The Brontes in Ireland, or Facts 
Stranger Than Fiction. Here, for the first time, was something 
about Charlotte's forebears, her father and mother, as well as 
her uncles "and her cousins and her aunts/* And, although 


Dr. Wright's book aroused considerable controversy, many of 
his facts proving to be fiction, he is the only biographer who 
has taken the trouble to trace the Bronte ancestry in Ireland. 
All other biographers, including Mrs. Gaskell, have given 
their attention to the Brontes in England. Dr. Wright relates, 
with partisan enthusiasm it must be admitted, the history of 
the Irish Pruntys through the two generations preceding 
Emily's, and there is an atmosphere of extravagance and 
wildness in his memoir which is strongly articulated in her 
Wuthering Heights. In other words, the children of Patrick 
Bronte and Maria Branwell must have been told many tales, 
remembered and half -remembered, of their Irish heritage. 

For instance, the story of Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, 
comes straight from the Prunty household in Ahaderg* 
Prunty's father, the great-grandfather of Emily and Char- 
lotte, was a prosperous farmer and cattle raiser who sold his 
stock in the Liverpool markets. Returning from one of his 
journeys he brought with him a waif, a foundling child, 
whom he proceeded to make a member of the family. Be- 
cause of the boy's swarthy complexion it was believed he 
might have been born in Wales, and he was given the name of 
Welsh. Like Heathcliff, Welsh, when he came of age, ac- 
quired the property of his benefactor, and his foster-brother, 
Hugh, became his ward. And although Welsh promised to 
make Hugh his heir, and give him the education that was his 
due, he sent him away from his home in Drogheda to live 
with an uncle in Ahaderg, where he grew up in misery. The 
bitterness and resentment Hugh Prunty must have felt as a 
result of such injustice undoubtedly affected his character 
adversely in some ways, but it may also have been respon- 
sible for making him a man of strong will and ambitious 



dreams. And in addition he was endowed with a striking 
personality and delightful imagination. 

Although the family was Protestant for generations, Hugh 
Prunty married a Catholic. Alice McClory was the "prettiest 
girl in the county," and Hugh did not let her religion stand in 
the way of his desire to make her his wife. Her family is said 
to have objected strenuously, and the story is that the two 
young people were "the chief figures in a fierce religious 
drama/' They met secretly at a spot known as the Courting 
Bower until betrayed by a servant, whereupon they eloped 
and were secretly married. 

Alice McClory was not only a pretty girl but a very in- 
telligent one, and she passed on her beauty and intelligence 
to her nine sons and daughters. Their first four children were 
boys, Patrick, William, Hugh, and James, and the following 
five were girls, Jane, Mary, Rose, Sarah, and Alice. 

Dr. Wright vividly describes the daughters; "the Bronte 
girls were tall, red-cheeked, fair-haired, with dark eyelashes, 
and very handsome. They were massive strong-minded 
women; and, as they despised men in their own rank of life, 
only one of them married/ 7 His book also contains a sketch, 
written by his friend, Mr. McCracken, who had known the 
Pruntys: "I have seen all the sisters of Patrick Bronte except 
the one that was married. They were fine, stalwart, good- 
looking women, with rather a masculine build and carriage. 
They were not ordinary women. They were essentially 
women of character, and I think men were perhaps a little 
afraid of them." 

The brothers, too, have been described, with typical Irish 

hyperbole, by a neighbor: "I remember seeing them as they 

marched in step across the field. Their style of marching and 

their whole appearance arrested our attention. They were 



dressed alike in homespun and home-knitted garments that 
fitted them closely, and showed off to perfection their large, 
lithe, and muscular forms. They were all tall men, but with 
their close-fitting apparel and erect bearing they appeared 
to be men of gigantic stature. They bounded lightly over all 
the fences that stood in their way, all springing from the 
ground and alighting together; and they continued to march 
in step without apparent effort until they reached the public 
road, and then began in a businesslike way to settle condi- 
tions in preparation for a serious contest. . . . We had never 
seen men like the Irish Brontes, and we had never heard 
language like theirs. The quaint conceptions, glowing 
thoughts, and ferocious epithets, that struggled for utterance 
at their unlettered lips, revealed the original quarry from 
which the vicar's daughters chiselled the stones for their ar- 
tistic castle-building, and closed the original fountain from 
which they drew their pathos and passion. Similar fierce 
originality and power are felt to be present in everything 
produced by the English Brontes; but in their case the inten- 
sity of energy is held in check by the Branwell temperament, 
and kept under restraint by education and culture.' 7 The 
physical attractions of these young men were generously 
bestowed on Branwell, Patrick's only son. Branwell also in- 
herited other, less fortunate, family characteristics. He was 
given to the outbursts of hysteria, wild eloquence, pagan 
revelry, that were so much a part of the Prunty nature. 

It naturally would follow that this Irish ancestry, colorful 
and exciting as it was, would have a strong influence on the 
imagination and writing of Hugh's grandchildren in England, 
who never saw him. It undoubtedly had an effect on their 
literary genius. Emily particularly seems to have drawn on 
this source for much of her material and many of her char- 



acters. Hugh Prunty's tales of his boyhood and youth, of his 
relations with the dark-complexioned Welsh, of the upheaval 
that took place in his life when he was transplanted to Aha- 
derg, of the countless superstitions passed from generation 
to generation, all these came down to the Bronte children in 
the English parsonage through their father's retelling. He 
must have told them of the wars, too, of the Battle of the 
Boyne, and the Battle of Ballynahinch, where his brother had 
fought. The Bruntys (or Pruntys ) were Orangemen of Ulster, 
Protestants, believing in a free Ireland. Violence, then, and 
passionate protest, were in the Bronte blood. 

According to Dr, Wright's record, one figure in particular 
was the villain of the piece. This was Gallagher, an old 
servant and retainer of the family, who came to give his 
entire allegiance to Welsh as Welsh gradually usurped the 
family estate. It was on Gallagher, more than on Welsh, that 
Hugh Prunty poured, as Dr. Wright says, "the copious vials 
of the Bronte satire, scorn and hatred." Gallagher becomes 
a vicious figure of talebearing, religious hypocrisy, and unc- 
tuous service to his master. Gallagher is recreated as Joseph in 
Wuthering Heights. Without a knowledge of Gallagher, it 
would be puzzling to know where Emily, secluded and in- 
experienced as she was, could have conceived the idea of the 
substance and temper of Joseph's character. 

When Patrick Bronte left Ireland for Cambridge he never 
returned to his native land. But he carried with him a fund 
of tradition and story, handed down to him by a father who 
possessed, "like the bards of old," a power of illuminating the 
past, And he succeeded in impressing it upon his own chil- 
dren, so that the English moors of Haworth and the Irish fells 
of Ahaderg became inextricably woven into the fiction and 
poetry of Emily, Charlotte, and Anne. 




WE have said, the nature and charac- 
ter of Patrick Bronte, whatever it may have become later as 
father and husband, was indelibly underscored by the peas- 
ant life from which he sprang. Yet his mind, unlike the minds 
of his young brothers and sisters, must have been filled with 
rebellious thoughts, with a desire to escape a provincial life 
bounded by farming and by tradej As the family gathered 
during the long autumn evenings around the furnace in the 
cabin kitchen, where the oats were roasted for the com- 
munity, Patrick listened to his fathers tales of derring-do, of 
the giants of Irish history, of the deeds of the Pruntys in the 
great wars, and wondered why he shouldn't be a warrior of 
a different kind, Something whispered that knowledge, the 
knowledge obtained from books, could be an open sesame to 
another world. Even this way would be hard and long, since 
there was no money to send him to school. But he would 
earn the money himself. He apparently made up his mind 
about it very young, and he never changed his course. It 
meant that the farm boy, whose horizons had for generations 
been bounded by the river Boyne and the Mourne Mountains., 
was destined to attend one oAe,top greatest English uni- 
versities. He was to become a-mmisi@ in the English Church. 
His rooms would be lined with the books he knew and loved. 



Three of his four children would make original and per- 
manent marks on English literature. 

To earn the money necessary to buy the learning he 
needed, he went to work as a handloom weaver. By the time 
he was sixteen he had become very skillful, and not only was 
producing enough cloth for use at home but was selling it 
lsewhere, And when the production of flax was first intro- 
juced in Ulster he turned to the weaving of linens, and found 
excellent market in the towns nearby, Banbridge and 
wry. He carried his wares as far afield as Belfast in order 
taunt the larger bookstalls, and to meet others who read 
looks and talked about them. 

At last an incident occurred that was definitely the turning 
J)oint in Patrick's life. He was lying on the grass one afternoon 
fat Emdale Fort, reading aloud to the sky from Milton's Para- 
$se Lost, when the Reverend Andrew Harshaw, the village 
minister and schoolteacher, came by. Harshaw was so im- 
pressed by the boy's obvious love of poetry, by his finding 
jaad reading Milton, that he sat down with him then and there 
tod suggested that Patrick do some supervised studying at 
fee parsonage. "During those first years of study," Dr. Wright 
s, "young Bronte never allowed himself more than four 
five hours of sleep at night. He used to sit in his Uncle 
chimney corner reading Ovid and Virgil and Homer 
Herodotus, and working out the problems of Euclid on 
hearthstone with the blackened ends of his half -burnt 
s/'J Before dawn Patrick would visit Mr. Harshaw in his 
Bedroom at the rectory; from there he went to his loom for a 
welvc-hour work day. 

As soon as Mr. Harshaw considered Patrick's studies suffi- 
ciently advanced he secured him a teaching position in the 
GJascar Hill Presbyterian Church School. There was a great 

The Rev. P. Bronte. Photograph by Walter Scott, Copyright, The 
Bronte Society. 

The Bronte Sisters by P. B. Bronte. Copyright, National Portrait 
Gallery, London. 


deal of opposition to the appointment on the part of Presby- 
terian parents, Patrick's mother being Catholic. But Mr. 
Harshaw took matters firmly in hand and Patrick was given 
the job. 

He remained at the Glascar School for some time and was 
very successful with the children, who came from the homes 
of farmers and tradespeople. Dr. Wright reports that "several 
little country boys who began their studies under Bronte suc- 
ceeded in forcing their way to the universities; and some of 
them became professional men of eminence." In the mean- 
time, Patrick continued his own education with Mr. Harshaw; 
and it was during the same period that he began to write 
poetry, intending to give the children pleasure, and inspire 
them to a love of writing as well as reading. Most of the 
poems appearing in Cottage Poems, published in 1811, were 
written then. 

But all was not smooth sailing for Patrick at the Glascar 
School. An unfortunate and unnecessary entanglement with 
a young girl, ona of his pupils, was responsible for the loss of 
his position there. The girl was the daughter of the most 
substantial farmer in the neighborhood. She was red-haired 
and attractive. One of her brothers caught Patrick kissing her 
and reported it at home. "War was instantly declared against 
the 'mongrel' and 'papish brat' who had dared to insult their 
daughter." They produced the love poems Patrick had been 
writing Helen as evidence of her consent to his advances. 
Helen, in the meantime, took his side against her family, 
which only helped to fan the flames of battle. Everyone con- 
cerned in the matter seems to have made himself somewhat 
ridiculous, but it was Patrick Bronte who stood to lose the 
most. Helen's father, being an influential pillar of the Glascar 
church, was able to pursuade the new minister to dismiss the 



young teacher. This was serious enough, but the effect of 
Patrick's folly went even further, for it weakened the friend- 
ship and devotion of Mr. Harshaw, who was severe in his 
censure. Yet Mr. Harshaw's interest in Patrick and his admi- 
ration for the boys intellectual curiosity were so great that he 
eventually helped him obtain another position in the parish 
school at Drumballyroney. At the same time, realizing that 
Patrick was not likely to reach the goal they had both set for 
him a university educationthrough his own Presbyterian 
connections, particularly after the Glascar episode, Mr. Har- 
shaw recommended that Patrick enter the Episcopal Church. 
This was extraordinary advice, considering the time and the 
place, and indicates an amazingly broad viewpoint, a most 
generous nature, on the part of the Reverend Andrew 

The Reverend Thomas Tighe, Episcopal vicar of the united 
parishes of Drumballyroney and Drumgooland, found Mr. 
Harshaw's protege "an enthusiastic and excellent teacher/' 
He was so appreciative of the young man's exceptional ability 
that he trusted him with the tutoring of his own children, and 
he himself continued giving Patrick the instruction he still 
needed for entering the university. So a great deal of credit 
is also due the Reverend Tighe, though of course not in the 
same degree as Mr. Harshaw, for discovering and forwarding 
Patrick Bronte s talents and ambition. The inner drive that 
makes some of us rise above our conditions, our environment, 
is as much a mystery as any other genius we may possess. 
Patrick Bronte had it in full measure. And although Mr. Har- 
shaw and Mr. Tighe were intelligent enough to spot it, and 
generous enough to cultivate it, yet Patrick would have gone 
where he was going by one means or another. However, it is a 
great pity that there are no records of the conversations, ex- 


change of ideas, that must have taken place between Patrick 
and his two mentors. They would be interesting from every 
standpoint, and might be very illuminating in explaining the 
philosophy and attitude of the man Patrick became. For, after 
he settled down at Haworth as vicar, the source of those qual- 
ities which lent enchantment to his nature, force to his 
dreams, seemed to wither away. When life bore down on him 
with relentless tragedies he could summon no inner strength 
to temper them with the gentleness of acceptance, the sweet- 
ness of endurance. Then he seemed to shrink from all human 
warmth and sympathy, and retreat into the lonely solace of 
his faith, which only succeeded in making him a colder and 
more forbidding man. There is nothing to indicate such a 
retreat from life in the accounts, which are very full and 
delightful, of his activities between his coming down from 
Cambridge and his marriage to Maria BranwelL During this 
period of gaiety and hope he seemed well on his way to ful- 
filling the promise that inspired Mr. Harshaw and Mr. Tighe 
to believe in his future, and stirred their hearts to give him 
help and courage. However, in his earlier relations with Mr. 
Harshaw and Mr. Tighe, there may have been indications of 
certain dark wells in his nature that drew their waters from 
the difficulties and sadness, perhaps largely unconscious at 
the time, of leaving his home and his family, and the fields 
and streams of his native land. It is quite possible that such a 
finality could demand a heavy price in later years. 


Chapter iv IRISH YOUTH 


J[ATRICK BRONTE received Ms degree of 
bachelor of arts at St. John's, Cambridge, in the spring of 1806.) 
He must have been duly proud. But Mr. Harshaw and Mr. 
Tighe were undoubtedly just as proud, since their protege 
had now justified the faith and encouragement, the many 
moments of anxiety, the long hours of toil, that Patrick's ad- 
vancement had meant to them. For^t St. John's the boy had 
immediately won honors, and had continued to pay his entire 
tuition and residence with scholarships and fellowships 
throughout his years at the university. Four months after his 
arrival he obtained one of the Hare Exhibitions, established 
by Sir Ralph Hare, for "thirty of the poorest and best dis- 
posed scholars." Less than a year later he was granted one of 
the Duchess of Suffolk's Exhibitions, also established for 
students of poor circumstances, and both these awards were 
continued through 1806 and 1807. In 1805 he won the Good- 
man Exhibition. Over and above these sums from the grants, 
he earned his spending money tutoring his fellow students.) 

There is a complete dearth of material of any kind regard- 
ing Patrick Bronte's years at Cambridge. Perhaps the only 
detail we have concerning his college life is extracurricular: 
since Napoleon was threatening invasion, the undergraduates 
had formed a volunteer training corps, and Patrick found 
himself drilling in company with Henry John Temple (Lord 


Palmerston-to-be) and the young Duke of Devonshire. But 
there is no record that Patrick formed any close friendships 
among his classmates, either then or later, 
In October of 1806, a few months after taking his 

Patrick Bronte entered Holy Orders. He was ordained in the 
Episcopal Church, and straightway became curate in the 
village of Weathersfield in a remote section of Essex County. 
During his three years in Weathersfield it is apparent that he 
was often involved in episodes similar to the unfortunate 
incident that ended his career at the Glascar School. There 
was not only Mary Bruder, whom he met in the home of her 
aunt, Miss Mildred Davey, where he boarded during the first 
months, but, as Mr. Clement Shorter remarks, "gossip had 
much to say concerning the flirtations of its Irish curate/' 
both in Weathersfield and later in Dewsbury. Patrick seems 
to have actually fled before his reputation, from one curacy 
to the other, and, in 1811, he escaped from Dewsbury to 
Hartshead, on the West Riding of Yorkshire. It was indeed 
becoming high time that young Mr. Bronte should meet a 
young lady who would return his sentiments in kind and 
marry him forthwith, interference by fathers, uncles, brothers 
to the contrary. And, fortunately, the right opportunity sud- 
denly materialized, in the summer of 1812, in the person of 
Maria Branwell. The courtship was whirlwind, leading to 
marriage by the consent of all concerned, even an uncle! ) 

Maria Branwell had come to Yorkshire from Penzance, 
Cornwall, to visit her uncle, the Reverend John Fennel She 
was an orphan, but her father had been a well-to-do mer- 
chant, the family well descended and thoroughly respected 
in Penzance. Mrs. Gaskell describes Maria Branwell as "ex- 
tremely small in person; not pretty, but very elegant, and 
always dressed with a quiet simplicity of taste, which ac- 



corded well with her general character. ... Mr. Bronte was 
soon captivated by the little, gentle creature, and declared 
that this time it was for life!" And this time Patrick's love did 
prosper, at least until he had attained his heart's desire. 
Everything conspired to forward the association and rapidly 
deepening affection of the lovers. Their engagement was 
thoroughly approved and blessed by Mr. Fennel, who joined 
his niece in writing her sisters in Penzance, announcing the 
betrothal and praising Mr. Bronte without reserve. There 
were picnics and parties and meetings on the moors-and 
love letters. 

But it is when we come to the love letters that the first 
shadow seems to fall across this bright and hopeful romance. 
For although it is abundantly clear that there was a consider- 
able correspondence between Patrick and Maria during the 
courtship, borne witness to by Maria's own letters and her 
many references to his, there is not a single letter of Patrick 
Bronte's to be found. During the four months of association 
before the marriage Maria wrote nine letters which we have 
intact. Mr. Bronte seems to have preserved these with con- 
siderable care, and many years later he gave them to Char- 
lotte. Since lie was sufficiently interested to make such an 
effort, why did neither Patrick nor Maria treasure the letters 
he wrote her? Did Mr. Bronte deliberately destroy them? Or 
did she? Or were they merely mislaid? 

The nine letters Maria Branwell wrote between August 26 
and December 5 clearly indicate that they were in answer to 
letters received. She was not the first to write, an etiquette 
quite in accord with her character and up-bringing. ''My 
dear Friend," she opens her first letter, "This address is suffi- 
cient to convince you that I not only permit, but approve of 
yours to me I do consider you as my friend/' In her second, 


dated September 5, "My dear Friend" has become "My dear- 
est Friend," and she continues, "I have just received your 
affectionate and very welcome letter, and though I shall not 
be able to send this until Monday, yet I cannot deny myself 
the pleasure of writing a few lines this evening., no longer 
considering it a task, but a pleasure, next to that of reading 
yours/' The third, September 11, begins, "Having spent the 
day yesterday at Miry Shay, a place near Bradford, I had not 
got your letter till my return in the evening, and consequently 
have only a short time this morning to write if I send it by 
this post. You surely do not think you trouble me by writing?" 
However, the last two letters before her marriage do strike 
the first faint notes of warning that all is not well for the 
future; although the first of these, which I quote in full, is an 
expression of spirit and feeling prophetic of the woman who 
would one day be the mother of Emily Bronte. 

My dear Saucy Pat, Now don't you think you deserve 
this epithet far more than I do that which you have given 
me? I really know not what to make of the beginning of 
your last, the winds, and rocks almost stunned me. I 
thought you were giving me the account of some terrible 
dream, or that you had had a presentment of the fate of 
my poor box, having no idea that your lively imagination 
could make so much of the slight reproof conveyed in my 
last. What will you say when you get a real, downright 
scolding? Since you show such a readiness to atone for 
your offenses after receiving a mild rebuke, I am inclined 
to hope you will seldom deserve a severe one. I accept 
with pleasure your atonement, and send you a free and 
full forgiveness. But I cannot allow that your affection is 
more deeply rooted than mine. However, we will dispute 
no more about this, but rather embrace every opportunity 
to prove its sincerity and strength by acting in every 



respect as friends and fellow-pilgrims travelling the same 
road, actuated by the same motives, and having in view 
the same end. I think if our lives are spared twenty years 
hence I shall then pray for you with the same, if not 
greater, fervour and delight that I do now. I am pleased 
that you are so fully convinced of my candour, for to know 
that you suspected me of a deficiency in this virtue would 
grieve and mortify me beyond expression. I do not derive 
any merit from the possession of it, for in me it is consti- 
tutional. Yet I think where it is possessed it will rarely 
exist alone, and when it is wanted there is reason to doubt 
the existence of almost every other virtue. As to the other 
qualities which your partiality attributes to me, although 
I rejoice to know that I stand so high in your good opin- 
ion, yet I blush to think in how small a degree I possess 
them. But it shall be the pleasing study of my future life 
to gain such an increase of grace and wisdom as shall en- 
able me to act up to your highest expectations and prove 
to you a helpmeet. I firmly believe the Almighty has set 
us apart for each other; may we, by earnest, frequent 
prayer, and every possible exertion, endeavour to fulfil 
His will in all things! I do not, cannot, doubt your love, 
and here I freely declare I love you above all the world 
besides. I feel very, very grateful to the great Author of 
all our mercies for His unspeakable love and condescen- 
sion towards us, and desire "to show forth my gratitude 
not only with my lips, but with my life and conversation." 
I indulge a hope that our mutual prayers will be answered, 
and that our intimacy will tend much to promote our 
temporal and eternal interest. 

I suppose you never expected to be much the richer for 

me, but I am sorry to inform you that I am still poorer than 

I thought myself. I mentioned having sent for my books, 

clothes, etc. On Saturday evening about the time you 



were writing the description of our imaginary shipwreck, 
I was reading and feeling the effects of a real one, having 
then received a letter from my sister giving me an account 
of the vessel in which she had sent my box being stranded 
on the coast of Devonshire, in consequence of which the 
box was dashed to pieces with the violence of the sea, and 
all my little property, with the exception of a very few 
articles, swallowed up in the mighty deep. If this should 
prove the prelude to something worse, I shall think little 
of it, as it is the first disastrous circumstance which has 
occurred since I left home, and having been so highly 
favored it would be highly ungrateful in me were I to 
suffer this to dwell much on my mind. 

But in the final letter, written December 5, 1812, one can 
hear the beginning of doubt, misgivings, anxiety, as if, too 
late, Maria BranweU is asking herself whether she is alto- 
gether wise in marrying a man she has known so short a time. 

So you thought that perhaps I might expect to hear 
from you. As the case was so doubtful, and you were in 
such great haste, you might as well have deferred writing 
a few days longer, for you seem to suppose it is a matter of 
perfect indifference to me whether I hear from you or not. 
I believe I once requested you to }udge of my feelings by 
your ownam I to think that you are thus indifferent? I 
feel very unwilling to entertain such an opinion, and am 
grieved that you should suspect me of such a cold, heart- 
less attachment. But I am too serious on the subject; I 
only meant to rally you a little on the beginning of your 
last, and to tell you that I fancied there was a coolness in 
it which none of your former letters had contained." 

Yes, she had truly fathomed the nature of the handsome, 
passionate, determined Irish lad who had spoken her so fair 



at first, but was perhaps already disinterested. Was his love 
the love of a man who only woos to win, and having done so 
turns to pastures new or to his own affairs? If she was dis- 
turbed by such premonitions she was only too rightly 
disturbed. In her attempted gaiety of speech and manner 
there is deep pathos. She had been attracted by the flame as 
others had been before her, both men and women, and had 
flown headlong into it. A few short weeks of happiness, ro- 
mance, dreams that was all she had. Nine years later, having 
borne her husband six children in as many years, and as in 
duty bound, it was all over, for her. Yet the very fact of her 
motherhood has given her name meaning in its proudest 
sense. We all pray that we may be used to advance mankind 
through such creative potentialities as we may possess. Maria 
Bronte stands unique among those who created as it is or- 
dained that women shall create. 




JL.HE WEST RIDING is the most famous part 
of England's largest county, Yorkshire County. Its moors 
rise a thousand feet above the valleys. They run forty miles 
east and west and a hundred and fifty north and south. In 
every direction they seem to roll off and over the edge of 
the world. A mood of desolation, like a waiting bird of prey, 
hovers above them, and never lifts even in bright sunlight. 
There are no woods patching its broad reaches; no blue 
lakes break the surface monotone of gray-green land. There 
are several rivers: the Aire, the Sheaf, and the Don. The big 
cities on the outskirts of the Riding are York, Leeds, and 
Sheffield. They are large industrial cities, using the rivers as 
their source of water power. 

Looking across the moors on a clear day, one can see low 
mountains on the horizon's edge, but the moors themselves 
never lift above smoothly rolling hills. Here and there an 
outcrop of granite breaks at the crest of a hill; it was on such 
cragged promontories that the natives built their villages. 
These moorland towns are bare of orchards and gardens. 
Their stone cottages and church towers rise above lichened 
walls, gray and cold against the colder sky. So the total im- 
pression of the moors, spread out over Yorkshire's West Rid- 
ing, is one of loneliness and indifference, of barren pride, of 
stubborn refusal to submit to fertility, in other words, o 



nature gone underground. They only spring to life when the 
storms break, when rain or snow sweeps across them in 
blinding sheets, when the wind screams in the stone crevices 
and the twisted gullies of the sunken rivers. Then the dwell- 
ers on the moors, few and far between, are even more isolated 
from one another. The winter winds and rains hold them to 
their habitations, and nature takes over. 

However, although the moors are regarded as an extensive 
wasteland, they are not without a muted life of their own. 
There are golden plover and red grouse in the brush; there 
are peewits crying low over the heather; and larks and lin- 
nets sing high above it all, The ground itself holds the moors' 
delicate outlines with carpets of green moss in the uneven 
stream beds, with heather clothing the roll of hills with a 
skintight dress of purple pink. 

The seasons on the moors, except for winter, are no more 
than a promise of perfection. Spring is a "whisper down the 
field," summer is an Indian giver, and autumn has waved 
good-by from the road without corning in. Writing to Sydney 
Dobell, Charlotte Bronte said, "I know nothing of such an 
orchard country as you describe. I have never seen such a 
region. Our hills only confess the coming of summer by grow- 
ing green with young fern and moss, and secret little hollows. 
Their bloom is reserved for autumn; then they burn with a 
land of dark glow, differing, doubtless, from the blush of 
garden blossoms." And when she invited Mrs. Gaskell'to 
visit the parsonage she also warned her, telling her she must - 
only come "in the spirit which might sustain you in case you 
were setting out on a brief trip to the backwoods of America. 
Leaving civilization you must come out to barbarism, loneli- 
ness and liberty." 

Yet by strange contrast the cities of this seemingly desolate 


region, which Charlotte considered uncivilized, were among 
the first to give civilization the implements and goods neces- 
sary for our material progress. Perhaps such "progress" is not" 
civilization! But be that as it may, long before the turn of 
the eighteenth century the West Riding had become a pros- 
perous manufacturing center. Lancaster and Manchester on 
the western edge of the Riding produced enough cotton 
goods for the export trade. To the east, Sheffield and Leeds 
were making leather goods, glass, ironware, earthenware, 
woolens, and cottons. Around Bradford, in the heart of the 
moorland, lay the natural resources, coal, iron, stone, being 
quarried in sufficient amount for foreign trade. All this in- 
dustrial ferment was well under way by the year 1820, the 
year Patrick Bronte moved his family into the parsonage in 
the village of HawortL 

Between York and Sheffield, in the northeast corner of the 
Riding, are clustered twelve or fifteen villages. Their names 
are poetry, and would be poetry whether Emily and Char- 
lotte had rubbed them with Aladdin's lampdust or not. 
Keighley, Stanbury, Hatherage, Withens, Thornton, Birstall, 
Dewsbufy, Cowan Bridge, Rawdon, Stonegappewhat 
names could come more quaintly to an English tongue? 
Haworth was one of them. And Haworth was to be the 
hearthstone where the wild hearts of three girls would make 
a light across the moors, across the world, as far as the written 
word has carried their names. 

On coming down from Cambridge, Patrick Bronte became 
curate at Hartshead, in Yorkshire County, and remained 
there for four years after his marriage. During the following 
four years he was vicar at Thornton, moving to Haworth in 
1820 where he was to remain until his death in 1861. The 
two elder children, Elizabeth and Maria, were born at Harts- 



head, the four younger, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and 
Anne, at Thornton. 

The Bronte family already numbered eight when it moved 
from Thornton to Haworth in May or June of 1820. It was 
only a distance of six miles as the road winds, a distance they 
covered, even in the days of oxcarts, in a matter of a few 
hours. Yet somehow we have come to feel that those six miles 
represent far more than mere lineal distance, that they rep- 
resent two worlds. Perhaps this is because, though the Brontes 
had been faced with the usual hardships of poverty and 
illness that were a part of the life of any poorly paid English 
vicar with a rapidly growing family, they had not met the 
acute sorrows that were to come to them at Haworth. For 
from the day they turned their six carts, filled with children 
and household goods, into the driveway of the Haworth par- 
sonage, and entered the bleak, damp, stone house, darkness 
and death seemed to have entered with them. Yet it was out 
of that same pyre of grief and misfortune that the genius of 
the children was to rise like the phoenix flown, so that what 
was begun one day in Emdale Fort, when Patrick Bronte 
read Paradise Lost to the high heavens, came to its fruition 
in a little English village, a long way and a hard way from 
its Irish birthplace. Paradise had been lost and regained. 



VJLucH of t the secret of the Bronte's genius 
lies in the writing they did as children, when they seriously 
played at being authors/ These earliest stories and poems, 
letters and notes, have been so scattered, even lost, that stu- 
dents of the Brontes have been largely thwarted in their 
desire to get to the root of the creative forces at work in the 
Bronte home during the childhood of the three girls. Biogra* 
phers who had the first access to the early manuscripts failed 
to make the use of them that their subsequent value would 
have inspired. Later the manuscripts were distributed among 
collectors and libraries. For instance, Mr. Clement Shorter, 
in behalf of Thomas J, Wise, an English bibliophile, pur- 
chased from Charlotte s widower, Mr. Arthur Bell Nichols, 
most of the Bronte papers and letters, including a package 
of stories written by the children. These stories and records 
Were known to Mrs, Gaskell when she wrote her life of Char- 
lotte. A considerable portion of this package of stories even- 
tually fell into the hands of Mr. Henry H. Bonnell of Phila- 
delphia, and came to this country. When Mr. Shorter 
disposed of his collection he gave a great deal of it to the 
British Museum, and smaller amounts to other collectors and 
to friends. In the same way, the collection bought by Mr. 
Bonnell, who recently died, was also scattered, the largest 


portion being presented to the Bronte Museum at Haworth, 
and certain manuscripts being sold. 

Fannie E. Ratchford made the first thorough study of the 
youthful writing of the four Bronte children. Her book, The 
Brontes' Web of Childhood, is an illuminating piece of re- 
search among the manuscripts, which include a considerable 
number of tales, dramas, poems, and novelettes, For what 
was at one time being called "ir-Mgni.fLunt juvenilia" has 
since assumed the importance it deserves in an analysis of 
the nature and environment of the Bronte genius. On this 
very attitude of earlier biographers, Miss Ratchford charges: 
"It would seem that neither Mrs. Gaskell nor Mr. Shorter was 
equal to the forbidding and apparently interminable task of 
reading in chronological order the hundreds of pages of mi- 
croscopic hand printing which guarded the secret of Char- 
lotte's childhood and early womanhood. Thus they missed a 
record far more revealing of the mind and genius of their 
subject than the letters which they made the basis for their 
biographies, and a romance more interesting than the specu- 
lations that have gathered around the contradictory revela- 
tions of letters and manuscripts, and chose the more under- 
standable one~the letters/' * 

Miss Ratchford's assertion that something was missed in 
the neglect of these youthful writings, which might throw 
light on the later work, is all too true. For during those forma- 
tive years the Bronte children all seem to have given free 
rein to an imagination that escaped into a world of fancy. 
In spirit they moved away from the sadness and loneliness, 
the loss of a mother to the graveyard across the wall, of a 
father to a library behind closed doors and a closed heart, 

* Reprinted from Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, The Brontes Web of Child- 
hood. Copyright 1941 by Columbia University Press. 



and went into a fairy realm where they played at storytelling 
as simply as other children play with dolls and kites. By this 
very token, that they entered into another world of illusion 
with so much naturalness and joy, with the excitement of 
secrecy and in the manner of playing a game with each other, 
it may be said that we are too prone to call their game an es- 
cape. Psychiatry may have put the word in our mouths, and 
psychiatry could be wrong. 

' Miss Ratchf ord, for one, discounts this accepted interpreta- 
tion of the Brontes' childhood. "In contrast," she writes, "to 
the oft-repeated, tragic picture of the four little Brontes, 
frail, neglected, and prematurely old, crouching in terror 
before the ever-threatening monsters of disease and early 
death, the juvenilia show us singularly happy beings, pos- 
sessed of an Aladdin's lamp through whose magic power they 
transcended time and distance, walked with kings, and 
swayed the destiny of mighty empires/' 

Yet "the tragic picture of the four little Brontes," so often 
told, is a story of fact and not of fancy. Life, and death, were 
too hard and too swift in their attack for children to take. A 
mother, the only individual who could hold the home to its 
spiritual shape, died when her eldest of six children was only 
eight; a father failed to be of solace in their time of need, 
much as he may have wanted to help. The house itself was a 
cheerless, poverty-stricken, unhealthy place, where sunlight 
and beauty never entered. It necessarily follows that these 
"singularly happy beings,'* as Miss Ratchford calls them, 
could not have been happy as children should be happy, run- 
ning and playing and laughing in the love and security of 
parental care and encouragement. Any child of eager sensi- 
bilities, and these children were gifted with the greatest 
sensibility, could scarcely avoid an inward turning to the 



bright warmth of the imagination. Here they find a strength 
that keeps their minds and hearts from breaking. It is a talent 
in which children excel: a need for play finding a way to 
play. It is the parents that go into sanitariums. 

The play within a play, into which the Bronte children 
"escaped/' seems to have been begun on a June day in 1826. 
Mr. Bronte had been to Leeds on business, and when he re- 
turned he brought a present of wooden soldiers for little 
Branwell Branwell shouted to his sisters to come and see the 
wonderful gift. Charlotte snatched a soldier from the box and 
said, "Oh, look, this is the Duke of Wellington. This shall be 
my Duke/' So of course Emily chose a soldier for herself, and 
said it was to he called "Gravey." And Anne said hers would 
be "Waiting Boy." After that Branwell picked his favorite 
and named it "Buonaparte/' From that day on the characters 
of the Duke, Gravey, Waiting Boy, and Buonaparte became 
the pr>la->Mi^h of an ever developing drama, filled with 
romantic enchantment and symbolic significance. "In these 
wooden soldiers/' Miss Ratchford continues, "the children 
had at hand dramatis personae for an ever-lengthening series 
of games. And as the games progressed several conceptions 
tended to run together, and soldiers, literary men, artists, 
prophets, and rogues fused in a complex and representative 
society/' A great deal of their game they secretly confided to 
little slips of paper. Writing the "inventions" down, and pass- 
ing them from one to another when no one was observing 
them, seemed to add greatly to the creative excitement that 
had begun to take fire in the four children. 

They culled many of their characters from their father's 

library. They invented towns and places. There was Dream 

Island, the Glass Town, and the Guinea Coast of Africa. They 

peopled the towns with heroes, famous names of the day. 



The soldiers from which it all sprang took part in every epi- 
sode, were present at every crisis, and were collectively 
called the "Young Men." Eventually the "Young Men" be- 
came the chroniclers, as well as the participants, of many a 
tale. As in The Arabian Nights, the authors became genii 
whose omnipotence gave them power over life and death. 

The Bronte children, before and even during adolescence, 
made this writing into a game in which the materials were 
wholly of the mind and the emotions. The language in which 
they recorded and communicated the experiences of their 
"Young Men" is shot through with the same beauty and flame 
that ultimately was to crystallize into the superb romances 
of Charlotte's Angria" and the Angrians, the epic naturalism 
of Emily's Gondal and the Gondalians. No better practice 
fields could be devised for the writing of such classics as 
Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.] 



jf\j TWENTY-THREE," Miss Ratchford says, 
"Charlotte Bronte emerged from the strangest authorship 
that ever an author served." That apprenticeship was in the 
Angrian romances. Beginning with the Young Mens Play, in- 
spired by the wooden soldiers, through countless ramifica- 
tions of characters, scene, plot, and conflict, including the 
Angrian period, Charlotte had spent thirteen years living 
one Me and writing another. Much of that time she had 
written in collaboration with Branwell, but the Angrian sto- 
ries are almost entirely of her own devising. 

Although Branwell; did not possess the genius his family 
long believed him to have, he fwas a very important part of 
the make-believe that inspired all four children. He had a 
boy's technical and inventive sense, and "wars and rumors 
of wars" were meat and drink to him. jln all BranwelTs con- 
tributions to the Young Mens Play there are battles and 
campaigns, skillful maneuvers, plans of attack and retreat, 
He also created the political issues, the motives and ambi- 
tions, that drive men to war. But his interest did not go 
beyond military problems, action in the field, heroic deeds 
with the sword, slaughter and blood, defeat and victory. 
He was wholly absorbed in active combat. "When he ran out 
of nations to conquer, kingdoms to annex, he simply invented 
new ones^j farther and farther afield. He hadn't named his 


wooden soldier "Buonaparte" for nothing. And it was Bran- 
well, when the possibilities of any further development of 
the Young Mens Play seemed to be exhausted once and for 
all, who had Napoleon Invade the vast stretch of uncivilized 
jungleland lying to the east and southeast of Glass Town/' 
the Young Men's capital. He arranged that an army under 
Arthur Wellesley, Marquis of Duoro, should meet and defeat 
the French Emperor, For this service to his country, Welles- 
ley was to compel his father-in-law, the Earl of Northanger- 
land, to request that the Parliament of Glass Town grant him 
the rich province of Angria, under the titles Duke of Zamora, 
King of Angria, and Emperor Adrian. 

(Angria, this new mythical empire, was located on the 
South Pacific coast of Africa. The idea for its location came 
from the Reverend J. Goldsmith's A Grammar of General 
Geography, a book the children used constantly in plotting 
their kingdoms.": Branwell drew the specifications for the 
seven provinces of Angria, each with its own capital, lord 
lieutenant, and hierarchy of potentates. The Duke of Zamora 
and the Earl of Northangerland were to build Adrianapolis, 
the capital of the largest province and the seat of government 
for the kingdom. Branwell was the deus ex machim. 

, But, according to Miss Ratchford, "Charlotte shows little 
interest in the geography of the new country, its political 
'i-.-nl'.-'jci 1 ! and its financial resources, concerning herself 
solely with the spirit of the people." It might be said that she 
began to part company with Branwell when she wrote the 
"poem" she called "A National Ode for the Angrians." From 
that day she became increasingly more concerned with the 
spirit and destiny of a people, rather than with a nation's mil- 
itary prowess^ The hero of her first Angrian stories was her 
soldier boy, the Duke of Wellington; but as the Angrian Em- 




pire grew and multiplied, she replaced Wellington with, his 
son, Arthur Augustus Adrian Wellesley, Duke of Zamora and 
Marquis of Duora. To give Wellesley a background befitting 
his station in life she wrote a thirty-eight-thousand-word 
prologue, as it were, which bears the title "High Life in Ver- 
dopolis," dealing with its "lords and ladies and squires of 
high degree." Miss Ratchford caUs this "a delightful orgy of 

jit is obvious that Charlotte, as she approached young 
womanhood, was beginning to be more interested in the call 
of romance than in the call to arms. The Duke of Wellington, 
who won in battle, finally yielded to the Duke of Zamora, who 
won in love, Zamora is "irresistible to women." Mary Percy, 
the Queen, Maria Queachi, and Marian Hume, are all sub- 
ject to his spell 4 And in Charlotte's portrayal of the "ladies" 
of Angria, the violence of their passions, the strength of their 
devotion and allegiance to lord and master, one can easily 
trace the descent of Jane Eyre and Villette.^eice are the first 
intimations of a feminine psychology in which sacrifice and 
revolt are made the underlying principles of a woman's be- 
havior when she loves all too well, if not always wisely. 

Charlotte's Angrian "serial story" revolves entirely around 
the stormy emotional life of the Duke of Zamora. His adven- 
tures become so complicated, so intricate and entangled, that 
one doubts if there was any sequence intended. Charlotte 
was obviously not writing, or attempting, the novel form as 
yet. The events are episodic, the characters inconsistent. To 
add to the confusion, the Duke is given a dual personality. 
He is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On one hand he slays the 
women, runs the gamut of the emotional scale from gaiety to 
melancholy, indulges in all the sensuous pleasures of court 
life, is involved in every amorous intrigue that Charlotte can 



imagine for him; on the other, he slays the enemy, is noble 
and patriotic, honored by his subjects for saving his country 
in its hour of need. 

Even Charlotte would appear to have lost her way in the 
maze of incident and counterincident, character and lack of 
character, that takes her <c down the labyrinthine ways" of 
her own mind. Now and then she pauses in the rush of anec- 
dote to try to slraiii^.teii her characters out, as well as her- 
self. One such attempt, "Corner Dishes, Being a Small Col- 
lection of Mixed and Unsubstantial Trifles in Prose and 
Verse," is a hundred thousand words tossed off to explain by 
chapter and verse the true nature of Angria and its aristoc- 
racy. The "upper crust" society of Adrianapolis and the pro- 
vincial capitals, the Duke and his friends, are sketched with 
the same strokes that an artist uses in workftig up to a mas- 
terpiece, the difference being that Charlotte never takes the 
entire responsibility for the sketches. There is always an alter 
ego. Every character, every incident, is described by still 
another character in the narrative itself. By such a method 
the author kills two birds with one stone, giving us a picture 
of the narrator as well as his subject. She brings her early 
heroes and heroines to Angria, but often in name only. Once 
they have become Angrians their personalities may suffer a 
sea change. As, for instance, the Rogue, who was a villain 
in the Glass Town cycle, cruel and treacherous, turns up in 
Angria as Alexander Percy, Earl of Northangerland, father- 
in-law of the Duke of Zamora, and a man of integrity and 
honor as well as substance. 

In the meantime, Charlotte's devotion to BranweH, her 
love and admiration for him, was undergoing a severe strain, 
Branwell was going astray. He was not only becoming a 



familiar of Haworth's Black Bull Tavern, and drinking to 
excess, but in other ways he was indulging in habits that 
were to pave the way to his downfall. Charlotte was dis- 
tressed and worried. No amount of expostulation or threaten- 
ing seemed to move BranwelL In fact he became the more 
perverse as his sisters remonstrated with him. And it may 
easily have been a desire to influence him indirectly that gave 
Charlotte the idea of caricaturing him in her stories. For Pat- 
rick Benjamin Wiggins, met one day by Lord Charles Welles- 
ley (Charlotte's favorite raconteur) as he makes his call on 
the Queen, is quite obviously BranwelL " 'My readers/ de- 
clares Lord Charles, will have recognized Patrick^ Benjamin 
Wiggins, that quizzical little personage whose outre manners, 
and almost insane devotion to all the celebrated characters 
in Verdopolis, have of late absorbed so much of public atten- 
tion. His form is that of a lad of sixteen, his face that of a man 
of twenty-five, his hair is red, his features not bad, for he has 
a Roman nose, small mouth, and well-turned chin; his figure 
too, though diminutive, is perfectly symmetrical, and of this 
he seems not unconscious. A pair of spectacles garnishes his 
nose, and through these he is constantly gazing at Flanagan 
(Zamora's boxing master), whose breadth of shoulder ap- 
pears to attract his sincere admiration, as every now and then 
he touched his own with the tip of his forefinger, and pushed 
out his small contracted chest to make it appear broader/ J> 
Miss Ratchf ord rather doubts that Charlotte is as yet fully 
aware of the "ruinous tendencies of her brother's village asso- 
ciations," since the portrait of him as Patrick Wiggins is done 
"without condemnations, in good-natured, teasing satire/' 

However, the following passage, taken from Lord Charles's 
narration, would indicate that Charlotte was truly concerned 
over her brother's wayward attitude. 


Tm rather thirsty/* Branwell remarks to Lord Charles, 
"and I think 111 call for a pot of porter or a tumbler of 
brandy and water at the public yonder." What he has 
there is tea and bread and butter, but he returns lying 
and boasting: "I feel like a lion now, at any rate. Two 
bottles of Sneachf s Glass Town ale, and a double quart 
of porter,, with cheese, bread and cold beef, have I de- 
voured since I left you, Lord Charles, and I am not a bit 
touched, only light and smart and active. I'd defy all the 
danders in Christendom now that I would! and a hun- 
dred goslings to boot. What were you asking me, sir?" 

"I have asked you where you were born, sir, and now 
I ask what relations you have?" 

"Why, in a way I may be said to have no relations. I 
can't tell you who my father and mother were, no more 
than that stone. I've some people who call themselves 
akin to me in the shape of three girls. They are honored 
by possessing me as a brother, but I deny that they are 
my sisters." 

"What are your sisters' names?" 

"Charlotte Wiggins, Emily Jane Wiggins, and Anne 

"Are they as queer as you?" 

"Oh, they are miserable, silly creatures, not worth talk- 
ing about. Charlotte's eighteen years old, a broad, dumpy 
thing, whose head does not come higher than my elbow. 
Emily's sixteen, lean and scant, with a face the size of a 
penny; and Anne's nothing, absolutely nothing." 

"What! Is she an idiot?" 

"Next door to it." 

"Humph! You're a pretty set/' 

This dialogue is extremely revealing in many ways. It 
cnakes it clear that BranwelTs lack of physical stature may 



have Bad a great deal to do with his becoming a wastrel, and 
particularly with his fondness for drink. For the latter made 
him feel aggressive, bold and pugnacious. It drowned out the 
inferiority complex, the feeling that they were "nobody" as a 
family, and he was "nobody" as a man. The conversation 
discloses, on the other hand, an opposite trait in Charlotte: 
the saving grace that allows her to poke fun at herself. That 
nice balance of nature which makes it possible for us to laugh 
at ourselves, and see ourselves as others see us, is particularly 
necessary in a writer. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne all had it to 
a degree that saved them. Branwell was without it, and he 
paid the price. 

The Angrian cycle draws to a close in 1839. The Duke of 
Zamora is overthrown in the course of a revolution, and, sus- 
pecting the queen of playing a part in the conspiracy that led 
to the rebellion, he murders her. He is promptly exiled. But 
the Angrians rally under Warner Howard Warner, scion of 
an ancient Angrian clan, and defeat the usurpers, restoring 
Zamora to the throne. Whereupon Charlotte introduces a 
new narrator, Charles Townshend, a younger son of the Duke 
of Wellington, and the Angrian cycle ends triumphantly with 
two outstanding narratives, one entitled "Passing Events," 
and the other bearing no name, The last is a long poem writ- 
ten in the stanza form of Byron's Don Juan. It is a glowing 
account of the restoration of the kingdom and Zamora's re- 
turn to the throne, with the late-murdered Queen Mary at 
his side. Mary, Duchess of Zamora, Queen of Angria, has 
been Charlotte's favorite heroine, and she could not leave her 
in the grave! She restores her to life, to the throne, and to her 
husband's love and protection. 

(With the end of the Angrian War," as Miss Ratchf ord 
says, "Charlotte's awakening was complete, and conditions 


set for the maturing of her genius; fancy had given way to 
an intensity of imagination that carried with it a suggestion 
of the supernatural; suffering had changed adolescent roman- 
ticism to passion so strong as to give the stamp of conviction 
to the most impossible situations; and mere fluency of expres- 
sion had developed into a characteristic style." 




JLHE enigma of Emily Bronte's genius 
lies in the Gondal writings, which in turn grew out of the 
same play instinct that she shared in common with her 
brother and sisters. The actual writing is as enigmatic as the 
spirit that produced it. In comparison, Charlotte's progress 
can be followed quite easily as she steadily improved in 
craftsmanship, as she grew in literary stature, from childhood 
through adolescence into young womanhood. The Young 
Mens Play, the "Glass Town" adventures, and the Angrian 
romances spell out her steps. But with Emily we are continu- 
ally baffled by evasions and reservations until we are re- 
warded with the perfected accomplishments of her poetry 
and the novel. 

Most of what we know about Emily as a person, during the 
early years, has had to be gathered at second hand from 
Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell. And all that we know about 
her writing during the same period must be discovered from 
a few slight compositions that were overlooked in the whole- 
sale destruction of her manuscripts. Whether Emily herself 
destroyed them, or Charlotte, as has been claimed, the result 
is devastatingly the same. Nothing is left for us to study but 
a letter, a birthday note, a scrap of diary, and five papers in 
French which she wrote as a class assignment at the Heger 
Pensionnat in Brussels. 


Yet it stands to reason that the novel, Wuthering Heights, 
and the volume of poems, did not spring full-fledged from 
her brain as Minerva from the forehead of Jupiter. Emily in 
all probability wrote as extensively as the other three chil- 
dren. She must have contributed her share to the Young 
Men's Flay and "Glass Town/' And it is perhaps doubly un- 
fortunate that Emily's early contributions to the imaginative 
structure they built should have been lost. The very purpose 
of its destruction could have been the very reason we would 
find it most valuable: that it revealed more truth than make- 
believe, that it explained the Bronte family as Charlotte and 
Branwell were either unable, or unwilling, to unveil it. /An 
analysis of Emily's character, as we get glimpses of it in her 
finished work, would indicate that she must have understood 
the psychological implications in human relationships far 
better than the others. Although younger than Charlotte and 
Branwell, she may have been more touched in spirit by the 
misunderstandings of her parents, her mother's unspoken 
loneliness and untimely death, the loss of the two older sis- 
ters, her father's retirement into "a shell of silence/' and she 
may have been more aware than Charlotte of Branweffs dis- 
integration and defection.! She may even have given Char- 
lotte away, as well as herself, in the matter of their attach- 
ment to M. Heger, "the Professor" of the school in Brussels. 
So that if it was Charlotte who destroyed the evidence, one 
can see how she might have been tempted. But the loss of 
what Emily trusted to paper is a cruel one in terms of literary 

There are many indications that Emily did not see eye to 
eye with the other three in the treatment of character and 
plot in the Young Men's flay and "Glass Town." The puppets 
with which Branwell and Charlotte stuffed their kingdoms 



to overflowing were victims of circumstances in a prescribed 
world, a world of circumstances prescribed by Branwell and 
Charlotte. Through it all Emily appears to have been more 
inclined to ideas, and to the development of ideas into a 
formalized, definite philosophy. While Branwell built cities, 
she charted human values. Emily's nature would seem to be 
rooted in the primal myth of creation, in its divine mystery. 
She was already something of a mystic. 

Emily and Charlotte began to go separate ways, in the 
spiritual sense, once they were launched on their Angrian 
and Gondal "epics/' As Charlotte and Branwell discovered 
Angria, Emily and Anne immediately set up a kingdom of 
their own, possibly in a spirit of rivalry. Gondal, an island 
continent in the North Pacific (Angria was in the South 
Pacific ) , was very similar in many of its physical characteris- 
tics, its wars and conquests, to Angria as was quite natural 
in view of the friendly competition between the Emily- Anne 
Cli.irloiU-^vaMv.c:- 1 ! romances at that time. And there were 
only minor differences in the geographic and economic pat- 
terns of the two empires. Angria, as we have said, was estab- 
lished as an independent state by a Glass Town act of Parlia- 
ment, under the Duke of Zainora, and was made up of seven 
provinces ruled by lord lieutenants of the realm. Gondal, on 
the other hand, had nine kingdoms and provinces, the prov- 
inces being ruled by viceroys. There are revolutions, counter- 
revolutions; thrones fall and are restored; men rise to power 
only to die the death, But beyond this the similarity ends. 
For, although the Queen, Augusta Geraldine Almeda, is a 
female counterpart of the Duke of Zamora, she possesses the 
strange and divine mystery of the earth. The goddess motif 
enters the picture! ! One has a feeling that Greek mythology 
must have had a strong influence on Emily. f 


had very little part in the construction of Gondal, 
and still less in its destiny. Beyond place names, geographic 
locations, and setting up the machinery of government (more 
or less copying Branwell in the process), Anne left the shap- 
ing of incident and character to Emily. As Emily reached 
down into the subconscious, plumbing the dark mysteries 
and bright enchantments that were beginning to seethe in 
her, Anne was left far behind. As Emily's spirit soared above 
mere plot and adventure into the creative imagination that 
shapes life into art, Anne hung more and more on Emily's 
words and wrote less and less herself. Anne remained Emily's 
devoted and admiring apostle, urging Emily not to forget her 
Gondal people, anxiously awaiting the next installment, i 

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1836, Emily's writing took 
still another turn. She began to write the Gondal story in 
verse, in a series of poems filled with intense passion, in 
which love and liberty are the burning symbols. iThere are 
two strands of creative force woven into the action of the 
Gondal poetry. One deals primarily with the life revolving 
in and about the Palace of Instruction, an institution em- 
bodying the social and civic virtues, the social ideals, of 
Gondalian society; the other dealing with the stormy joys 
and sorrows of the royal lovers, Julius Benzaida and Queen 
Augusta Geraldine Almeda, and their enemies Lady Angelica 
and Douglas. Bitter civil strife between two political fac- 
tions, the Royalists and the Republicans, keeps the country in 
constant turmoil. 'And against a brilliant tapestry of love and 
war the character of Queen Almeda, Emily's chief protago- 
nist, changes, declares Miss Ratchford, from that of a beau- 
tiful and richly endowed queen, a generous, happy girl, 
hardening through indulgence of an ardent nature, into a 


selfish, cruel woman ruthlessly feeding her vanity on the souls 

of men." 

The Gondal tale, unfolding as it does by lyric and ballad, 
instead of by narrative verse, has no clear sequence of time 
or event. It is therefore extremely difficult to follow. But actu- 
ally it has ceased to be important, except to the research 
worker who desires to trace the fountain sources of Emily s 
inspiration, whether or not we can read the Gondal poetry 
as a history of Gondal. Because many of the individual poems 
are immortal, they are enough to make the name of Emily 
Bronte immortal. "Remembrance," a dirge for a love long 
dead; "The Wanderer from the Fold," a lament for a moral 
derelict, probably written with Branwell in mind; "No Cow- 
ard Soul Is Mine," an expression of her own indomitable 
courage; "The Visionary" and "The Prisoner," in which the 
mystic speaks from the soul; and many others proving Emily s 
oneness with nature have a permanent place in our literature. 
It is unnecessary for the reader to attempt to comprehend 
the entire Gondal manuscript, which is wholly unintelligible 
in the mass, filled as it is with murder and suicide, captivity 
and betrayal, war and pestilence. Much of it is the dross 
remaining as childhood and adolescence burn away, leaving 
the bright prophetic sparks of pure art. 



JLHE last of Charlotte's Angrian stories, 
written in the year 1839, were "Henry Hastings" and "Caro- 
line Hernon." Anne, in a letter dated 1841, says that she is at 
work on "Solala Vernon's Life/' while all we know of Emily 
at this time, without the evidence of a single extant manu- 
script, is that she had ceased to write the Gondal epic in prose 
and was secretly writing it in verse. Branwell, in the mean- 
time, had quite definitely turned from literature to the art 
that was to prove a dismal failure. 

The three sisters had come through an apprenticeship in 
writing that cannot be matched in literary annals, and with 
no self-consciousness of what it could and would mean for 
their future. Professional authorship as a career was scarcely 
to be hoped for by women, least of all women of their status 
in the English society of that day. However, it seems to have 
crossed Charlotte's mind as early as 1836, as is witnessed by 
her letter to Robert Southey in December of that year. And 
in January, 1837, Branwell wrote to Wordsworth, sending 
him excerpts from a story he expected to develop into a 
long narrative. These letters were a pitiful reaching out for 
attention and encouragement from the contemporary authors 
whom they read and admired from a distance, men already 
appreciated by a large public, But, whatever the Brontes 
hoped the seven years from 1839 to 1846, when the Poems 



were published, were a smoldering interval during which 
the fire of their genius was banked down, though it never 
ceased to burn. May Sinclair says that it was the impressions 
they took in during those years that assured their immor- 

They left Haworth several times during this period, going 
as students to Brussels or as governesses to the manor houses 
of Yorkshire, They were separated from each other, some- 
thing that must have been acutely difficult to bear after the 
close, even mystical, bonds forged between them during the 
years of association in their childhood literary partnership. 
Already they were individuals, uncommonly perceptive, un- 
commonly sensitive, and it is not so strange that the experi- 
ences of tie outside world were to be screened, through what 
one might call a kind of clairvoyance, into an essence of cre- 
ative insight And it is in her voluminous letters to Ellen Nus- 
sey, and her briefer correspondence with Mary Taylor, that 
Charlotte Bronte has left us an extensive record of the im- 
pressions made on her by the places and persons of another 
world than Haworth. 

Emily and Anne were seeing the world, too, through other 
eyes than Charlotte's. Their impressions were colored and 
tempered by the deep imprint the moods and mystery of 
the moors had long since made on their hearts. For the two 
younger sisters felt a stronger kinship to the wild beauty of 
Yorkshire s West Riding than Charlotte had ever felt. Even 
when Charlotte wrote her "prose hymn" to the earth, in 
Shi.'ky, it \vtis Emily speaking through her. It was Emily who 
understood that only freedom of communion with nature can 
establish a bond between the temporal and the eternal. 
During her brief and infrequent absences from Haworth, 
Emily became the more convinced that mankind is what 


fails man; that man must turn inward to his own soul to be 
sustained; that only nature can give him the faith to live; 
that men cannot rely on each other to achieve a common goal 
of happiness. 

During the years 1839 to 1846, as we have said, the yeast 
of experience was beginning to have its effect on the Bronte 
genius, causing it to turn, as it were. There is a distinct 
change in the tone of Charlotte's letters to Ellen Nussey. 
Something creeps into them that is almost fey, a spirit of 
wildness that might burst from its crysaHs at any moment. 
One such letter bears quoting in full for its charming play 
with words: 

"The wind bloweth where it listeth. Thou hearest the 
sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, nor 
whither it goeth." That I believe, is Scripture, though in 
what chapter or book, or whether it be correctly quoted, 
I can't possibly say. However, it behooves me to write a 
letter to a young woman of the name of E., with whom I 
was once acquainted, "in life's morning march, when my 
spirit was young." This young woman wished me to write 
her some time since, though I have nothing to say I e'en 
put it off, day by day, till at last, fearing that she will 
"curse me by her gods/' I feel constrained to sit down and 
tack a few lines together, which she may call a letter or 
not as she pleases. Now if the young woman expects sense 
in this production, she will find herself miserably disap- 
pointed. I shall dress her a dish of salmagundi I shall 
cook a hash compound a stew toss up an omelette 
soufflee & la frangaise, and send it to her with my re- 
spects. The wind, which is very high up in our hills of 
Judea, though I suppose, down in the Philistine flats of B. 
parish it is nothing to speak of, has produced the same ef- 
fects on the contents of my knowledge-box that a quaigh 



of usequebaugh does upon those of most other bipeds. 
I see everything couleur de rose, and am strongly inclined 
to dance a jig, if I knew how. I think I must partake of a 
pig or an ass-both animals are strongly affected by a high 
wind. From what quarter the wind blows I cannot tell, 
for I never could in my life; but I should very much like 
to know how the great brewing-tub of Bridlington Bay 
works, and what sort of yeastly froth rises just now on the 

Of the three sisters, Charlotte had the most worldly ex- 
perience in "the years between/* In 1839 she had two pro- 
posals of marriage. She passed through the crucial and criti- 
cal interlude at the Heger Pensionnat in Brussels. She tasted 
humiliation as a governess in the home of the Sidgwicks at 
Stonegappe, and later with Mrs. White at Rawdon. All this, 
coming so closely after the imaginative saturation in the 
Angrian romances, which were still echoing in her spirit, 
must have affected her powerfully, though perhaps less 
severely than similar experiences were to affect Emily and 
Anne. At least Charlotte (hear Charlotte tell it in her letters! ) 
was never as homesick, as overcome with nostalgia for Ha- 
worth, as were the two younger girls. Ellen Nussey, and 
even Mr. Williams, heard a great deal from Charlotte about 
the unhappiness of Emily and Anne when away from home. 
Their acute misery when cut off from the moors and the 
winds of Yorkshire was as much a subject for Charlotte's 
voluminous letter writing as were her own aches and pains, 
though there is a surplus of the latter, also. Charlotte might 
well be called a hypochondriac, and yet her obsession with 
matters of health is most natural when one considers the 
family's propensity to serious illness. 

Emily was only away from Yorkshire during the eight 


months' stay in Brussels, in 1842. Her school days at Cowan 
Bridge and Roe Head were behind her then, as were the six 
months she spent as a teacher in Halifax. In her preface to 
the posthumous edition of Emily's works, Charlotte describes 
the Brussels experience in its effect on Emily: 

After the age of twenty, having meantime studied 
alone with diligence and perseverance, she went with me 
to an establishment on the continent. The same suffering 
and conflict ensued, heightened by the strong recoil of 
her upright heretic and English spirit from the gentle 
Jesuitry of the foreign and Romish system. Once more 
she seemed sinking, but this time she rallied through the 
mere force of resolution: with inward remorse and shame 
she looked back on her former failure, and resolved to 
conquer, but victory cost her dear. She was never happy 
till she carried her hard-won knowledge back to the re- 
mote English village, the old parsonage-house, and deso- 
late Yorkshire hills. 

I have referred elsewhere to the five essays that Emily 
wrote in French as a class assignment at the Pensionnat. 
These have been lately translated for the first time, and pub- 
lished by the University of Texas. They are, as Miss Ratch- 
ford says in her foreword to the collection, "in a very real 
sense autobiographical, sketching the fullest and clearest 
self-portrait we have of Emily.' 7 In one of %em, "A Letter 
from One Brother to Another," Emily reveals the agony of 
her exile even more poignantly than Charlotte had done it 
for her: 

I have crossed the ocean; I have traveled in several 
countries; I have been the poorest of the poor, ill among 
strangers without being able to offer the works of my 
hands in exchange for the bread that I was eating. Some- 



time I have enjoyed luxuries and all the pleasures that 
they can afford their possessor, but always alone, always 
friendless, with no one to love me. I never thought of 
being reconciled with you, however. I did not want to 
enjoy again that concord of soul, that sweet and calm 
happiness of our childhood. Or if that thought came to 
me sometimes, I drove it out of my mind as unworthy 
and dcra(]m<i weakness. 

At last my soul and body being worn out with wander- 
ing, my bark shaken with so many tempests, I longed to 
gain a harbor. I resolved to end my days where they had 
begun, and I longed to see again the native heath and the 
home so long abandoned.* 

I should like to repeat, and italicize, a sentence from this 
letter which seems to me to express the deepest core of what 
it was that made Emily so miserably unhappy away from 
Haworth: '7 have been ...ill among strangers without being 
able to ofer the works of my hands in exchange for the bread 
that I was eating!' It was the household duties she missed 
most urgently, the work that gave her a sense of usefulness 
and fulfillment in the community, and in the parsonage itself. 
Helping Tabby in the kitchen, kneading bread and peeling 
potatoes, washing and ironing, sweeping and dusting the 
beloved rooms, these were the acts that focused the hands 
and the heart into an excuse for being. It is not strange then 
that in faraway Brussels, as she dreamed of the "remote Eng- 
lish village" and the "desolate Yorkshire hills," all the impres- 
sions that swept upon her in the midst of a busy school life 
in a foreign land should have distilled into the cry, "I long 
to gain a harbor!" She had already mapped and charted a 

* "A Letter from One Brother to Another" by Emily Bronte is reprinted 
from Five Essays by Emihj Bronte with the permission of the Walter Marion 
Manly III Publication Fund. 



harbor on the coast of Eternity, and the craft that was to 
carry her there was built, hull, sails, and compass, out of the 
native heath and home without which she would have been 
lost in the sea of life. 

As for Anne, she was in some ways more responsive to the 
faintest currents of emotion than her sisters. During her im- 
pressionable years, she was for a long time governess at the 
Robinson home in Thorp Green, where Branwell joined her 
as tutor of the Robinson boys. It was here she felt the barbs 
of cruel condescension and callous indifference that were 
to be the motif of her first novel. "She waited in silence and 
resignation," May Sinclair wrote, "and then told her own 
story in Agnes Grey" She was also more hurt, more deeply 
wounded, by BranwelTs failure to live up to all his sisters 
had trusted him to be. It was Anne who took it upon her 
conscience to blame herself, more perhaps than Rranwell, for 
his maladjustment and breakdown. Hence we have The Ten- 
ant of Wild-fell Hall; as if she owed the world an example in 
order that others might steer a better course. Anne had 
schooled herself to a fortitude only matched by Emily's. But 
she had done it in travail, in the secret regions of her soul, 
where she battled with, even against, her destiny. Anne had 
fallen in love with the sea at first sight. It answered some- 
thing fundamental in her character. It was therefore only 
f ! i s ", , . she should die within the sound of its breakers. 


Chapter x CHARLOTTE 

V^HAHLOTTE BKONTE was born at Thornton, 
in the Yorkshire West Riding, on April 21, 1816. When she 
was four years old, Patrick Bronte became curate of Ha- 
worth; and Haworth parsonage was to be Charlotte's home 
for the rest of her life, until her death at thirty-nine. Maria 
Bronte died very shortly after the family moved to Haworth, 
and the six children were, to all intents and purposes, left 
orphans. Mr. Bronte was not a natural father, any more than 
he had been a natural husband. Disappointed in his dreams 
of one day being a name in scholastic and literary pursuits, 
or in the church itself, bound down by the burdens and re- 
sponsibilities of multiple parenthood, while seeming to ex- 
perience none of its joys, Patrick Bronte had become a dour, 
God-fearing man who retired into his lonely study and his 
own thoughts for what cold comfort life still afforded him. 
His motherless children were shut out, silenced, and left to 
grow up as best they could. The eldest, Maria, became the 
"little mother" of the parsonage. She was sweet and good by 
nature, and accepted the overwhelming responsibility of 
caring for the five younger children in a way that would have 
done credit to someone much older. She even taught the little 
ones to read and write. Though Mr. Bronte made some at- 
tempt to hear the children's lessons, die teaching and prep- 
aration fell to Maria. It is reasonable to believe that the work 


and anxiety, the strain and undernourishment, of the years 
following their mother s death paved the way for the tuber- 
culosis that took the two oldest, Maria and Elizabeth, at the 
ages of twelve and eleven, and Emily and Anne at thirty-one 
and thirty. 

Shortly after Mrs. Bronte's death, Tabitha Ackroyd, a 
middle-aged woman from Haworth village, came into the 
household to help with the menial tasks. This was the famous 
Tabby, the Tabby who appears under various guises Nelly 
Dean, Rachel, Mrs. Pryor-in the novels of Emily, Charlotte, 
and Anne. Charlotte and her sisters truly loved Tabby. They 
had a great respect for Aunt Elizabeth, Maria's sister, who 
came eventually to live with them, but they did not love her 
as they loved Tabby. Aunt Elizabeth was not their kind. 
She could never understand how her nieces could prefer 
books to pretty clothes, running on the moors to the society 
of other children. She was painstaking in her attempts to 
teach them sewing and embroidery and knitting. And in 
these homely arts Charlotte was her most apt pupil, acquir- 
ing a skill that stood her in great stead in later years when 
she went out in service, as governess or companion. 

Charlotte's childhood, until she went to school at Cowan 
Bridge in 1824, in no way differed outwardly from that of 
her sisters and brother. She listened, as they did, to Maria's 
reading aloud of tie Leeds Intelligencer, and discussed pub- 
lic affairs, and the important names of the day, with a gravity 
beyond her years. N Though there were books in their father s 
study which the children were allowed to read, and the 
Leeds newspaper and Blacktoootfs Magazine came to the 
parsonage regularly, there were no toys, no dolls or art ma- 
terials-until the advent of the wooden soldiers-to waken 
childish fancies or stir creative activities. Beauty, of color or 



shape, was lacking in the dark house. What the children 
found of these was on the moors. The wild countryside was 
their true nursery. Their father completely discouraged as- 
sociation with the village children, for what reason it is 
difficult to say. Was it because, remembering his own peasant 
childhood, he wanted to avoid contact with it? Did he feel 
he had so risen above his class that he preferred his children 
never to know its vulgarity, its ignorant prejudice and super- 

In 1824, Charlotte and Emily followed Maria and Eliza- 
beth in attendance at the Reverend Carus Wilson's School at 
Cowan Bridge, founded for the daughters of poor clergymen. 
The bad conditions of the school, sanitary and dietary, 
brought the older girls down with fevers, which their frail 
constitutions could not overcome, and soon after their with- 
drawal in the spring of 1825, both Maria and Elizabeth died. 
Charlotte remained at the school for less than a year, but it 
left an indelible impression on the child of eight, as we know 
from her description of Lowood School in Jane Eyre. It is 
inteiostinjr that her school report is still extant: "She writes 
indifferently. Ciphers a little and works neatly. Knows noth- 
ing of 'T./ivi iv. geography, history, or accomplishments. 
Altogether clever for her age, but knows nothing system- 

After the tragic illness and death of Maria and Elizabeth, 
which were largely due, as noted above, to the desperately 
unhealthy and miserable conditions at Cowan Bridge, Mr. 
Bronte withdrew Charlotte and Emily in June of 1825, and 
for the next six years Charlotte studied at home under her 
father and Aunt Elizabeth, At fif teen she again went away to 
school, this time to Miss Wooler's School at Roe Head, which 
lies between Leeds and Huddersfield, less than twenty miles 


from Haworti^, Mrs. Gaskell describes Charlotte at that time as 
"a quiet, thoughtful girl, very small in figure ( 'stunted' was the 
word she applied to herself), but her limbs and head were in 
just proportion to her slight, fragile body." She had "soft, 
thick brown hair, and peculiar eyes/ 7 Mrs. Gaskell goes on 
to say, "which I find it difficult to describe. They were large 
and well-shaped, their color a reddish brown, but if the iris 
was closely examined it appeared to be composed of a va- 
riety of tints. The usual expression was one of quiet, listening 
intelligence, but now and then, on some just occasion for 
vivid interest or wholesome indignation, a light would shine 
out, as if some spiritual lamp had been kindled, which 
glowed behind those expressive orbs. I never saw the like in 
any human creature. As for the rest of her features, they 
were plain, large and ill-set, but unless you began to cata- 
logue them you were hardly aware of the fact, for the eyes 
and power of the countenance over-balanced every physical 
defect; the crooked mouth and the large nose were forgotten, 
and the whole face arrested the attention Her hands and 
feet were the smallest I ever saw. When one of the former 
was placed in mine it was like the soft touch of a bird in the 
middle of my palm. The delicate long fingers had a peculiar 
fineness of sensation, which was one reason why all her 
handiwork, of whatever kind writing, sewing, knittingwas 
so clear and minute. She was remarkably neat in her whole 
personal attire., dainty as to the fit of her shoes and gloves." 
(At Miss Wooler's School, Charlotte made her first friends 
outside the family' circle, two of them, Ellen Nussey and 
Mary Taylor, becoming lifelong friends.jThe voluminous cor- 
respondence resulting from these friendships, particularly 
with Ellen Nussey, has been the one most important means 
whereby we discover Charlotte as she thought and felt in the 



obscure years of her childhood and adolescence. Miss Wooler 
herself, though beginning as Charlottes teacher, was to 
prove, in affection and devotion, more a mother than anyone 
Charlotte had known since the loss of her own. 

Charlotte spent the better part of a year and a half at Miss 
Wooler's School, and her shortcomings, as recorded on the 
Cowan Bridge report card, were quickly observed at Roe 
Head. Both Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor, in after years, 
were to comment on her lack of rudimentary and systematic 
knowledge, but they said she had a fund of general informa- 
tion, a wide reading in literature, a familiarity with public 
affairs, that were the envy of her fellow students. She also 
won a reputation as a storyteller, revealing her Irish heritage 
in a slight brogue remarked by Mary Taylor. As Mary wrote 
Mrs. Gaskell: 

We thought her very ignorant, for she had never learnt 
grammar at all, and very little geography. ... But she 
would confound us by knowing things that were out of 
our range altogether. She was acquainted with most of 
the short pieces of poetry that we had to learn by heart; 
would tell us the authors, the poems they were taken 
from, and sometimes repeat a page or two. She had a 
habit of writing in italics (printing characters), and said 
she had learnt It by writing in their magazine. They 
brought out a "magazine" once a month, and wished it 
to look as like print as possible. She told us a tale out of 
it. No one wrote in it, and no one read it, but herself, her 
brother, and two sisters. She promised to show me some 
of these magazines, but retracted afterwards, and would 
never be persuaded to do so. In our play hours she sate, 
or stood still, with a book if possible. Some of us once 
urged her to be on our side in a game at ball. She said she 
had never played, and could not play. We made her try, 


but soon found that she could not see the ball, so we 
put her out. She took all our proceedings with pliable in- 
difference, and always seemed to need a previous resolu- 
tion to say "no" to anything. She used to go and stand 
under the trees in the playground, and say it was pleas- 
anter. She endeavoured to explain this, pointing out the 
shadows, the peeps of sky, etc. We understood but little 
of it. She said that at Cowan Bridge she used to stand in 
the burn, on a stone, to watch the water flow by. I told 
her she should have gone fishing; she said she never 
wanted to. She always showed physical feebleness in 
everything. She ate no animal food at school. It was about 
this time I told her she was very ugly. Some years after- 
wards, I told her I thought I had been very impertinent. 
She replied, "You did me a great deal of good, Polly, so 
don't repent of it!" 

Charlotte left Roe Head in June of 1832, and her corre- 
spondence with Ellen Nussey began as soon as she had re- 
turned to Haworth parsonage. Mrs. Gastell remarks on the 
absence of hope which, she says, forms "such a strong charac- 
teristic in Charlotte." In a letter dated July 21, 1832, Char- 
lotte describes her daily life: "An account of one day is an 
account of all. In the morning, from nine o'clock till half past 
twelve, I instruct my sisters, and draw; then we walk till 
dinner-time. After dinner I sew till tea-time, and after tea I 
either write, read, or do a little fancy work, or draw, as I 
please. Thus, in one delightful, though somewhat monoto- 
nous course, my life is passed. I have been only out twice to 
tea since I came home. We are expecting company this after- 
noon, and on Tuesday next we shall have all the female 
teachers of the Sunday School to tea." One cannot but be 
struck by the omission of any reference to what she was writ- 



ing, for we do know that the Joung Mens Play and the 
Angrian romances, in which she had been engaged before 
going to Roe Head, had been resumed as soon as she re- 
turned, and were to be continued during the next three years 
until her return to Miss Wooler's School as a teacher. 

When Charlotte did return to Miss Wooler's School, this 
time to teach, Emily accompanied her as a pupil. But Emily 
only remained three months. She was desperately unhappy 
and homesick during this brief interlude away from the par- 
sonage, and was rapidly failing in health and spirit when 
Charlotte fortunately intervened to have her called home. 
Writing of the episode, though in retrospect, Charlotte 
showed a concern and affection for her younger sister that is 
most admirable and most touching/It does, in fact, reveal a 
quality of Charlotte's character that is essential in an under- 
standing of her whole nature, and therefore bears quoting: 

My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than 
the rose bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her; 
-out of a sullen hollow in a livid hill-side, her mind could 
make an Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many and 
dear delights; and not the least and best-loved was lib- 
erty. Liberty was the breath of Emily s nostrils; without 
it she perished. The change from her home to a school,- 
and from her own very noiseless, very secluded, but un- 
restricted and unartificial mode of life, to one of disci- 
plinary routine (though under the kindest auspices), was 
what she failed in enduring. Her nature proved here too 
strong for her fortitude. Every morning, when she woke, 
the vision of home and the moors rushed on her, and 
darkened and saddened the day that lay before her. No- 
body knew what ailed her but me. I knew only too well. 
In this struggle her health was quickly broken: her white 



face, attenuated form, and failing strength, threatened 
rapid decline. I felt in my heart she would die, if she did 
not go home, and with this conviction obtained her recall. 

It is clear that at nineteen Charlotte was already assuming 
the family leadership. Someone certainly needed to step 
into a breach that had never been satisfactorily filled since 
the death of Mrs. Bronte. Charlotte felt that the need was 
there, and tried her best to remedy the situation. It made 
her overly anxious, and overly aggressive, for her age. For 
instance, this first important step into taking family affairs 
into her own hands produced a crisis that almost ended her 
great friendship with Miss Wooler. After seeing that Emily 
was taken home, she brought Anne to the school instead. 
But Anne also became very ill there, and Charlotte thought 
Miss Wooler took her illness far too lightly. If it had not been 
for Miss Wooler's good sense, and mature emotional under- 
standing of Charlotte's attitude, there would undoubtedly 
have been an end of a fine relationship, the sort of rela- 
tionship Charlotte herself needed in all its aspects. But even 
though there was a reconciliation of sorts^ there was never 
again the same warmth of trust that had previously existed. 
Charlotte s championship of Anne, her anger over Miss 
Woole/s apparent neglect of a serious matter, burned so 
deeply that it was to be the cause, much later, of Charlotte's 
refusal to take the school when Miss Wooler wished to retire. 
Her letter to Ellen Nussey at the time of the misunderstand- 
ing indicates how deeply she was affected: 

You were right in your conjectures respecting the cause 
of my sudden departure, Anne continued wretchedly ill, 
neither the pain nor the difficulty of breathing left her, 
and how could I feel otherwise than very miserable. I 
looked on her case in a different light to what I could 



wish or expect any uninterested person to view it in. 
Miss Wooler thought me a fool, and by way of proving 
her opinion treated me with marked coolness. We came 
to a little eclaircissement one evening. I told her one or two 
rather plain truths, which set her a-crying; and the next 
day, unknown to me, she wrote papa, telling him that I 
had reproached her bitterly, taken her severely to task, 
etc. Papa sent for us the day after he had received her 
letter. Meantime I had formed a firm resolution to quit 
Miss Wooler and her concerns for ever; but just before I 
went away, she took me to her room, and giving way to 
her feelings, which in general she restrains far too rigidly, 
gave me to understand that in spite of her cold, repulsive 
manners, she had a considerable regard for me, and 
would be very sorry to part with me. If any body likes me, 
I cannot help liking them; and remembering that she had 
in general been very kind to me, I gave in and said I 
would come back if she wished me. So we are settled 
again for the present, but I am not satisfied. I should have 
respected her far more if she had turned me out of doors, 
instead of crying for two days and two nights together. 
I was in a regular passion; my "warm temper" quite got 
the better of me, of which I don't boast, for it is a weak- 
ness; nor am I ashamed of it, for I had reason to be angry. 
Anne is now much better, though she still requires a 
great deal of care. However, I am relieved from my worst 
fears respecting her. I approve highly of the plan you 
mention, except as it regards committing a verse of the 
Psalms to memory. I do not see the direct advantage to 
be derived from that. We have entered on a new year. 
Will it be stained as darkly as the last with all our sins, 
follies, secret vanities, and uncontrolled passions and 
propensities? I trust not; but I feel in nothing better, 
neither humbler nor purer. It will be three weeks next 


Monday to the termination of the holidays. Come to see 
me, dear Ellen, as soon as you can; however bitterly I 
sometimes feel towards other people, the recollection of 
your mild, steady friendship consoles and softens me. I 
am glad you are not such a passionate fool as myself. 

Meanwhile, Emily had taken a teaching position at Law 
Hill, near Halifax, where her general duties were so difficult 
as to make her, in Charlotte's opinion, *a slave." Also the 
anxiety over BranwelTs future was becoming critical, so that 
when Charlotte left Miss Wooler's she made up her mind to 
put the family exchequer on a substantial footing. How else, 
except by what they earned, could Branwell achieve his des- 
tiny? Charlotte's faith in BranwelTs genius was as yet unim- 
paired. But for the daughters of a poor clergyman in the 
early Victorian era the field of employment was definitely 
limited. One could be a teacher or a governess, a governess 
or a teacher. A governess was a combination of nursemaid, 
seamstress, and teacher. But she had tried teaching, and 
though many of the associations at Miss Wooler's had been 
pleasant and beneficial, yet she was wearied in spirit by the 
attempt to inculcate the young with knowledge, infuse them 
with ambition. So she now decided to try the only other al- 
ternative, that of being a governess in a family, although she 
had an intense dislike for very young children where disci- 
pline was a necessary part of the routine. 

In April, 1839, she sent Anne off to Mirfield to be governess 
in the home of Mrs. Blake of Blake Hill. Emily came back 
from Law Hill to take care of things at home. And she her- 
self went as governess to the Sidgwicks at Stonegappe, Her 
experiences as a governess were for the most part shattering 
to Charlotte's nature. From the parsonage doorstep she had 
gone forth to school and employment a dreamer, her head 



full of wishful thinking. When the dreams came in direct 
contact and conflict with reality, she was filled with the aches 
of doubt and frustration, and these in turn made a rebel of 
her. She rebelled, first of all, against the attitude of employer 
toward employee. She did not understand that such a tone of 
social superiority was not directed against her personally, 
that it was the conventional one of the period. She felt hu- 
miliated, and she struck back. Her opinion of the Sidgwicks 
is succinctly expressed in a letter to Emily: 

I have striven hard to be pleased with my new situa- 
tion. The country, the house, and the grounds are, as I 
have said, divine. But, alack-a-day! there is such a thing 
as seeing all beautiful around you and not having a free 
moment or a free thought left to enjoy them in. The chil- 
dren are constantly with me, and more riotous, perverse, 
unmanageable cubs never grew. As for correcting them, 
I soon quickly found that was entirely out of the ques- 
tion: they are to do as they like. A complaint to Mrs. Sidg- 
wick brings only black looks upon oneself, and unjust, 
partial excuses to screen the children. I have tried that 
plan once. It succeeded so notably that I shall try it no 
more. I now begin to find that she does not intend to 
know me, that she cares nothing in the world about me 
except to contrive how the greatest possible quantity of 
labour may be squeezed out of me, and to that end she 
overwhelms me with oceans of needlework, yards of cam- 
bric to hem, muslin night-caps to make, and, above all 
things, dolls to dress. I do not think she likes me at all, 
because I can't help being shy in such an entirely novel 
scene, surrounded as I have hitherto been by strange and 
constantly changing faces. I see now more clearly than I 
have ever done before that a private governess has no 
existence, is not considered as a living and rational being 



except as connected with the wearisome duties she has 
to fulfil. While she is teaching the children, working for 
them, it is all right. If she steals a moment for herself 
she is a nuisance, Nevertheless, Mrs. Sidgwick is uni- 
versally considered an amiable woman. Her manners are 
fussily affable. She talks a great deal, but as it seems to 
me not much to the purpose. Perhaps I may like her 
better after a while. At present I have no call to her, Mr. 
Sidgwick is, in my opinion, a hundred times better less 
profession, less bustling condescension, but a far kinder 
heart. It is very seldom that he speaks to me, but when he 
does I always feel happier and more settled for some min- 
utes after. He never asks me to wipe the children's smutty 
noses or tie their shoes or fetch their pinafores or set 
them a chair. One of the pleasantest afternoons I have 
spent here indeed, the only one at all pleasantwas 
when Mr. Sidgwick walked out with his children, and I 
had orders to follow a little behind. As he strolled on 
through his fields, with his magnificent Newfoundland 
dog at his side, he looked very like what a frank, wealthy, 
Conservative gentleman ought to be. He spoke freely and 
unaffectedly to the people he met, and though he in- 
dulged his children and allowed them to tease himself 
far too much, he would not suffer them grossly to insult 

Vnd, a week later, she writes to Ellen Nussey: 

I must not bother you too much with my sorrows, of 
which, I fear you have heard an exaggerated account. If 
you were near me, perhaps, I might be tempted to tell 
you all, to grow egotistical, and pour out the long history 
of a private governess's trials and crosses in her first situ- 
ation. As it is, I will only ask you to imagine the miseries 
of a reserved wretch like me thrown at once into the 



midst of a large family, proud as peacocks and wealthy 
as Jews, at a time when they were particularly gay, when 
the house was filled with company-all strangers: people 
whose faces I had never seen before. In this state I had a 
charge given of a set of horrid children, whom I was ex- 
pected constantly to amuse, as well as instruct. I soon 
found that the constant demand on my stock of animal 
spirits reduced them to the lowest state of exhaustion; at 
times I felt-and, I suppose seemed-depressed. To my 
astonishment, I was taken to task on the subject by Mrs. 
Sidgwick, with a sternness of manner and a harshness 
of language scarcely credible. Like a fool, I cried bitterly. 
I could not help it; my spirits quite failed me at first. I 
thought I had done my best, strained every nerve to 
please her; and to be treated that way, merely because I 
was shy and sometimes melancholy, was too bad. At 
first I was for giving all up and going home. But after a 
little reflection, I determined to summon what energy I 
had, and to weather the storm. I said to myself, "I had 
never y e t quitted a place without gaining a friend; adver- 
sity Is a good school; the poor are born to labour, and the 
dependent to endure/ 7 1 resolved to be patient, to com- 
mand my feelings, and to take what came; the ordeal, I 
reflected, would not last many weeks, and I trusted it 
would do me good. I recollected the fable of the willow 
and the oak; I bent quietly and now I trust the storm is 
blowing over. Mrs. Sidgwick is generally considered an 
agreeable woman; so she is, I doubt not, in general so- 
ciety. Her health is sound, her animal spirits good, con- 
sequently she is cheerful in company. But oh! does this 
compensate for the absence of every fine feeling, of every 
gentle and delicate sentiment? She behaves more civilly 
to me now than she did at first, and the children are a 
little more manageable; but she does not know my char- 


acter, and she does not wish to know it I have never had 
five minutes conversation with her since I came, except 
when she was scolding me. I have no wish to be pitied 
except by yourself. 

Charlotte had left the Sidgwicks, and little wonder, by the 
midsummer of 1839, but the experience, as Mr. Shorter says, 
"rankled for many a long day." 'It is not necessary to assume 
any very serious inhumanity on the part of the Sidgwicks/* 
he added. "Hers was hardly a temperament adapted for that 
docile part; and one thinks of the author of Villette, possessed 
of one of the most vigorous prose styles in our language, con- 
demned to a perpetual manufacture of night-caps, with 
something like a shudder." But it is quite possible that Char- 
lotte would not have become the great novelist she became 
unless she had cut her teeth on the rough edges of personal 
friction. The shrewd analyses of character growing out of her 
associations at Miss Wooler's, the Sidgwicks, the Whites 
(where she went for a short term after her service at the 
Sidgwicks), all contributed a quantity of grist to Charlotte's 
creative mill Her relationship to others forced upon her a 
keen sense of self, giving her an aptitude for self-analysis that 
also added greatly to her genius. For instance, she wrote 

I have some qualities that make me very miserable, 
some feelings that you can have no participation in-that 
few, very few people in the world can at all understand. 
I don't pride myself on these peculiarities. I strive to con- 
ceal and suppress them as much as I can, but they burst 
out sometimes, and then those who see the explosion 
despise me, and I hate myself for days afterwards. . . . 
You have been very kind to me of late, and have spared 
me all those little sallies of ridicule, which, owing to my 



miserable and wretched touchiness of character, used for- 
merly to make me wince, as if I had been touched with a 
hot-iron; things that nobody else cares for enter my mind 
and rankle there like venom. I know these feelings are 
absurd, and therefore I try to hide them, but they only 
sting the deeper for concealment. . 

f Rebellious and passionate, endowed with a blazing imagi- 
aation and sensitive perceptions, Charlotte Bronte found it 
difficult to curb her headstrong nature, which had a tendency 
to become vindictive when too directly crossed. 

It is always futile to speculate on what might have been 
if so-and-so had happened instead of such-and-such. Yet one 
cannot but suppose that Charlotte's life would have turned 
out quite differently had she married at the first opportunity. 
If she had married in 1839, she would have escaped much of 
the travail that beset her during the following years, and yet 
she would have had to sacrifice the very things that were to 
be her salvation. For all her unstable emotional make-up, 
Charlotte was calculating and wise when it came to her 
deep-rooted ambitions. Somewhere at the outer fringes of 
her consciousness she felt that one or another of the Brontes, 
perhaps Emily or Branwell, even possibly herself, was fated 
to make the name of Bronte a name to be conjured with. 
While love was one thing she craved, with a pure and exalted 
idea of its completeness, she did not intend to compromise 
either her love or her future by becoming just another poor 
curate's wife in order to have a roof over her head, or to 
escape being a spinster.) 

Charlotte's first proposal came from Ellen Nussey's 

brother, Henry Nussey, the curate at Bonnington. Mr. Nus- 

sey proposed by letter, as did her second suitor, Mr. Price, 

a young Irish clergyman, not long from Dublin University, 



and who was also a curate of the neighborhood. This method 
of communicating one's fondest hopes to the object of 
one's affections seems to have been the custom of the day. 
I suppose it was intended to give the young lady in question 
an opportunity to marshal her thoughts and phrase accept- 
ance or refusal in terms that would do both of them justice. 
Certainly Charlotte took full advantage of the opening to 
express herself with due consideration for Mr. Nussey, and 
for his sentiments, at the same time making her own argu- 
ment for the opposition quite effective. The letter she wrote 
him bears quoting in full: 

My dear sir, Before answering your letter I might 
have spent a long time in consideration of its subject; 
but as from the first moment of its reception and perusal 
I determined on what course to pursue, it seemed to me 
that delay was wholly unnecessary. You are aware that I 
have many reasons to feel grateful to your family, that 
I have peculiar reasons for affection towards one at least 
of your sisters, and also that I highly esteem yourself- 
do not therefore accuse me of wrong motives when I say 
that my answer to your proposal must be a decided nega- 
tive. In forming this decision, I trust I have listened to the 
dictates of conscience more than to those of inclination. 
I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with 
you, but I feel convinced that mine is not the sort of dis- 
position calculated to form the happiness of a man like 
you. It has always been my habit to study the characters 
of those amongst whom I chance to be thrown, and I 
think I know yours and can imagine what description of 
woman would suit you for a wife. The character should 
not be too marked, ardent, and original, her temper 
should be mild, her piety undoubted, her spirits even and 
cheerful, and her personal attractions sufficient to please 



your eyes and gratify your just pride. As for me, you do 
not know me; I am not tlie serious, grave, cool-headed in- 
dividual you suppose; you would think me romantic and 
eccentric; you would say I was satirical and severe. How- 
ever, I scorn deceit, and I will never, for the sake of 
attaining the distinction of matrimony and escaping the 
stigma of an old maid, take a worthy man whom I am 
conscious I cannot render happy. Before I conclude, let 
me thank you warmly for your other proposal regarding 
the school near Bonnington. It is kind in you to take so 
much interest about me; but the fact is, I could not at 
present enter upon such a project because I have not the 
capital necessary to insure success. It is a pleasure to me 
to hear that you are so comfortably settled and that your 
health is so much improved. I trust God will continue His 
kindness towards you. Let me say also that I admire the 
good-sense and absence of flattery and cant which your 
letter displayed. Farewell. I shall always be glad to hear 
from you as a friend. 

And to Ellen, who wrote asking whether she had received 
her brother's letter, she also wrote an explanation: 

I have, about a week since. The contents, I confess, did 
a little surprise me, but I kept them to myself, and unless 
you had questioned me on the subject, I would never 
have adverted to it. Now, my dear Ellen, there were in 
this proposal some things which might have proved a 
strong temptation, I thought if I were to marry Henry 
Nussey, his sister could live with me, and how happy I 
should be. But again I asked myself two questions: Do 
I love him as much as a woman ought to love the man she 
marries? Am I the person best qualified to make him 
happy? Alas! Ellen, my conscience answered no to both 
these questions. I felt that though I esteemed, though I 


had a kindly leaning towards him, because lie is an ami- 
able and well-disposed man, yet I had not, and could not 
have, that intense attachment which would make me will- 
ing to die for him; and, if ever I marry, it must be in that 
light of adoration that I will regard my husband. Ten to 
one I shall never have the chance again; but nimporte. 
Moreover, I was aware that Henry knew so little of me 
he could hardly be conscious to whom he was writing. 
Why, it would startle him to see me in my natural home 
character; he would think I was a wild, romantic en- 
thusiast indeed. I could not sit all day long making a 
grave face before my husband. I would laugh, and sat- 
irise, and say whatever came into my head first. And if 
he were a clever man ? and loved me, the whole world 
weighed in the balance against his smallest wish should 
be light as air. Could I, knowing my mind to be such 
as that, conscientiously say that I would take a grave, 
quiet young man like Henry? No, it would have been de- 
ceiving him, and deception of that sort is beneath me. 

The second proposal, from Mr. Price, Charlotte took 
lightly, as was only natural, since it came after a single call 
at the parsonage in which the young curate had accom- 
panied his vicar on a visit to Mr. Bronte. And telling Ellen 
of the incident, she dismissed matrimony from her life once 
and for all! 

A few days after, I got a letter, the nature of which 
puzzled me, it being in a hand I was not accustomed to 
see. Evidently it was neither from you nor Mary, my only 
correspondents. Having opened and read it it proved to 
be a declaration of attachment and proposal of marriage 
from the sapient young Irishman! I hope you are laugh- 
ing heartily. This is not like one of my adventures, is it? 
It more nearly resembles Martha's. I am certainly doomed 



to be an old maid. Never mind, I made up my mind to 
that fate ever since I was twelve years old. Well! I 
thought, I have heard of love at first sight, but this beats 
all. I leave you to guess what my answer would be, con- 
vinced you will not do me the injustice of guessing wrong. 

By 1841 there was little hope that Branwell would make a 
way for himself, or be anyone that his sisters could turn to 
for either moral or financial support. Charlotte insisted that 
he seek employment, and he did attempt a clerkship in the 
railway, a job which turned out to be a dismal failure. Poor 
Charlotte was at her wit's end to devise a plan whereby she 
and Emily and Anne could remain together and yet gain 
sufficient livelihood to keep body and soul together. She 
herself no longer wanted to work as a governess, and teach- 
ing, at least tinder such conditions as she had previously en- 
countered, was also to be avoided if possible. Anne's health 
was no better, and Charlotte was constantly worried about 
her, particularly while Anne was enduring such drudgery 
and hardship at the Robinsons, where she had gone after 
two years with the Blakes at Mirfield. At this point it oc- 
curred to Charlotte that the three of them might open a 
school of their own; and Miss Wooler, who remained in close 
touch with Charlotte, and who had been considering retire- 
ment for some time, now offered to step down in her favor. 
Charlotte was coolly appreciative of the offer, in her de- 
tached way, but was not ready to accept it, apparently hav- 
ing other plans already formulated. "I am not going to 
Dewsbury Moor," she wrote Ellen, "as far as I can see at 
present. It was a decent proposal on Miss Wooler's part, and 
cancels all or most of her little foibles, in my estimation; but 
Dewsbury Moor is a poisoned place to me; besides I burn 
to go somewhere else. I think, Nell, I see a chance of getting 


to Brussels." If she was going to conduct a school of her own, 
one can only suppose she felt the need for further training in 
French, and possibly German. If she could raise the money 
necessary for taking over the school at Dewsbury Moor she 
could certainly raise a sufficient amount to go abroad, even 
take Emily along. 

With the thought of going to Belgium we find Charlotte in 
a mood of delighted anticipation quite alien to her usual 
lack of hope. The idea had been suggested by Martha Tay- 
lor, Mary's sister, who was herself at school in Brussels. But 
now the question was, where to raise the money for the un- 
dertaking. Aunt Elizabeth had been ready to help financially 
in the acquisition of Miss Wooler's School Could she be 
made to see that it was as important, possibly more impor- 
tant, to invest money in furthering her niece's education? 
She would have to be persuaded. Charlotte had her heart 
set on going abroad. She wrote Aunt Elizabeth, and the 
letter is a self-portrait of Charlotte as she was that day, Sep- 
tember 29, 1841, when her hopes were at the crossroads of 
their fulfillment. Mr. Clement Shorter published the letter 
for the first time from the original, which was in possession 
of Charlotte's widower, Arthur Bell Nichols; I reproduce it 

Dear Aunt, I have heard nothing of Miss Wooler yet 
since I wrote to her intimating that I would accept the 
offer. I cannot conjecture the reason of this long silence, 
unless some unforeseen impediment has occurred in con- 
cluding the bargain. Meantime, a plan has been suggested 
and approved by Mr. and Mrs. White, and others, which 
I wish now to impart to you. My friends recommend me, 
if I desire to secure permanent success, to delay com- 
mencing the school for six months longer, and by all 



means to contrive, by hook or crook, to spend the inter- 
vening time in some school on the continent. They say 
schools in England are so numerous, competition so great, 
that without some such step towards superiority we shall 
probably have a very hard struggle, and may fail in the 
end. They say, moreover, that the loan of one hundred 
pounds, which you have been so kind as to offer us, will, 
perhaps, not be all required now, as Miss Wooler will lend 
us the furniture; and that, if the speculation is intended 
to be a good and successful one, half the sum, at least, 
ought to be laid out in the manner I have mentioned, 
thereby insuring a more speedy repayment both of in- 
terest and principal. 

I would not go to France or to Paris. I would go to 
Brussels, in Belgium, The cost of the journey there, at 
the dearest rate of travelling, would be five pounds; liv- 
ing there is little more than half as dear as it is in Eng- 
land, and the Lc il lies for education are equal or superior 
to any other place in Europe. In half a year, I could ac- 
quire a thorough familiarity with French. I could improve 
greatly in Italian, and even get a dash of German, L e., 
providing my health continued as good as it is now. 
Martha Taylor is now staying in Brussels, 'at a first-rate 
establishment there. I should not think of going to the 
Chateau de Knockleberg, where she is resident, as the 
terms are much too high; but if I wrote to her, she, with 
the assistance of Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the British 
Consul, would be able to secure me a cheap and decent 
residence and respectable protection. I should have the 
opportunity of seeing her frequently, she would make me 
acquainted with the city; and, with the assistance of her 
cousins, I should probably in time be introduced to con- 
nections far more improving, polished, and cultivated, 
than any I have yet known. 



There are advantages which would turn to vast ac- 
count, when we actually commenced a school and, if 
Emily could share them with me, only for a single half- 
year, we could take a footing in the world afterwards 
which we can never do now. I say Emily instead of Anne; 
for Anne might take her turn at some future period, if 
our school answered. I feel certain, while I am writing, 
that you will see the propriety of what I say; you always 
like to use your money to the best advantage; you are not 
fond of making shabby purchases; when you do confer a 
favor, it is often done in style; and depend upon it fifty 
pounds, or one hundred pounds, thus laid out, would be 
well employed. Of course, I know no other friend in the 
world to whom I could apply on this subject except 
yourself. I feel an absolute conviction that, if this advan- 
tage were allowed us, it would be the making of us for 
life. Papa will perhaps think it a wild and ambitious 
scheme; but who ever rose in the world without ambi- 
tion? When he left Ireland to go to Cambridge Univer- 
sity, he was as ambitious as I am now. I want us all to go 
on. I know we have talents, and I want them to be turned 
to account. I look to you, aunt, to help us. I think you will 
not refuse. I know, if you consent, it shall not be my 
fault if you ever repent your kindness. With love to all, 
and the hope that you are well, Believe me, dear aunt, 
your affectionate niece. 

Aunt Elizabeth generously granted the loan, and in Feb- 
ruary, 1842, Mr. Bronte accompanied Charlotte and Emily 
to Brussels, entering them in the Pensionnat Heger, in the rue 
dlsabelle. The pensionnat was in the charge of Madame 
Heger, but her husband conducted the classes in literature, 
and taught Latin at the Royal Athenee, a boy's school nearby. 

The six months at the Heger Pensionnat were the happiest 



months of Charlotte's life. Her spirit rose to its brightest; her 
understanding of others developed to its fullest extent; she 
made friends widely. Among her closest friends were num- 
bered Mrs. Jenkins., wife of the British Consul, Dr. Wheel- 
wright and his two daughters, and of course Martha Taylor, 
who had inspired Charlotte to come to the pensionnat, being 
a pupil there herself. Dr. Wheelwright was in Brussels for 
his health, and his daughters were day students at the school. 
One of them, Letitia Wheelwright, became a lasting friend. 
Emily, unfortunately, held aloof from these outside pleasures 
and associations; in fact, Charlotte's friends were shocked at 
her lack of sociability. But Emily was homesick, besides 
which, she had come abroad to study and would not be di- 
verted Mr. Shorter says that both sisters went to Brussels to 
learn, and that "they did learn, with energy. But it was their 
first experience of foreign travel, and it came too late in life 
for them to enter into it with that breadth of mind, and tol- 
erance of the customs of other lands, lacking which the 
Englishman abroad is always an offense." 

Aunt Elizabeth died in October of 1842, and Charlotte and 
Emily hurriedly returned to Haworth. They found that Aunt 
Elizabeth's will, after distribution of all personal belongings, 
divided an estate of fifteen hundred pounds among her four 
nieces: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte, and Elizabeth 
Jane Kingston, the daughter of another sister. With this leg- 
acy, Charlotte and her sisters were to enjoy their first eco- 
nomic freedom. And it meant that Charlotte, only a few 
months later, returned as on wings to the Heger Pensionnat. 

This second journey to Brussels has, as everyone knows, led 

to the wildest controversy. Mr. Shorter has preferred to say 

that it gave rise to "speculation, some of it not of the pleas- 

antest kind/' though he agrees with May Sinclair that it is 



ridiculous to assume that Charlotte was in love with M. 
Heger. Not even Charlotte's own words had been able to 
convince Mr. Shorter and Miss Sinclair: "I returned to Brus- 
sels after Aunt's death against my conscience, prompted by 
what then seemed an irresistible impulse. I was punished for 
my selfish folly by a total withdrawal, for more than two 
years, of happiness and peace of mind." To what else could 
this refer except to an attachment that drew her as a flame 
draws a moth, and for which she payed with a burning heart. 
We know that on returning to Haworth, in December of 
1843, she entered a period of anguished sufferings, when 
longing and pride battled within. There were nights of sleep- 
lessness and torture, days of hope for the letters that never 
came, long talks with Emily, her only confidante. Charlotte 
was, as Esther Chadwick says, 'wrestling with the experi- 
ence that caused her to leave Brussels for the last time." Yet, 
even as she wrestled with her conscience, she continued to 
write to M. Heger. M. Heger, meanwhile, carelessly disposed 
of her letters * in the waste-paper basket, from which they 
were surreptitiously rescued by Madame Heger and pre- 
served in her jewel box. Had Charlotte not become a famous 
novelist her letters to M. Heger, as those to Ellen Nussey or 
Mary Taylor, would have been gone with the wind. But as 
it was, M. Heger's son, Paul, into whose hands the letters 
ultimately fell, preserved them as a national treasure, and 
finally presented them to the British Museum. They were 
published in the London Times of July 29, 1913. 

No one at Haworth except Emily was aware that Char- 
lotte had left at least a half of herself behind in Brussels, 
that she had been torn from someone she loved. But, as 
usual, she communicated her grief to Ellen: 

* See Appendix. 



I suffered much before I left Brussels. I think, however 
long I live, I shall not forget what the parting with M. 
Heger cost me. It grieved me so much to grieve him who 

had been so true, kind, and disinterested a friend 

I do not know whether you feel as I do, but there are 
times now when it appears to me as if all my ideas and 
feelings, except a few friendships and affections, are 
changed from what they used to be: something in me ? 
which used to be enthusiasm, is tamed down and broken. 
I have fewer illusions; what I wish for now is active exer- 
tiona stake in life. Haworth seems such a lonely, quiet 
spot, buried away from the world. I no longer regard my- 
self as young indeed, I shall soon be twenty-eight; and 
it seems as if I ought to be working and braving the rough 
realities of the world, as other people do. It is, however, 
my duty to restrain this feeling at present, and I will 
endeavor to do so. 

The "active exertion" that was to win her "a stake in life" 
was actually just around the corner. Fate, having played 
havoc with her heart, was now to set her feet on the path of 
fame. In 1845 the fever of creative energy that had used to 
warm them as children was again to seize upon Charlotte, 
Emily, and Anne. The result was an explosion of genius 
unparalleled in literary annals. From Charlotte's pen came 
The Professor, from Emily's Wuthering Heights, and from 
Anne's Agnes Grey. 

Charlotte's first novel, The Professor, was rejected by a 
number of the publishers, but it paved the way for the pub- 
lication of Jane Eyre, which followed in rapid succession. Yet 
even with Jane Eyre in print it was some little time before 
there was any personal triumph of success. In the first place, 
the novel appeared under Charlotte's earlier pseudonym, 


Currer Bell, used for the poetry. Even Ellen Nussey and Mary 
Taylor were unaware o their friend's authorship. Only Emily 
and Anne knew the truth. Branwell was to die without ever 
knowing. And it was not until the book was by way of being 
what we would today call a best seller, critics to the contrary, 
that Mr. Bronte was informed of his daughter's achievement. 
The conversation between father and daughter is given by 
Mrs. Gaskell in her biography: 

When the demand for the work had assured success to 
Jane Eyre, her sisters urged Charlotte to tell their father 
of its publication. She accordingly went into his study one 
afternoon, after his early dinner, carrying a copy of the 
book, and two or three reviews, taking care to include an 
adverse notice. 

She informed me that something like the following 
conversation took place between them. (I wrote down 
her words the day after I heard them, and I am pretty 
sure they are quite accurate. ) 

"Papa, I've written a book." 

"Have you, my dear?" 

"Yes; and I want you to read it." 

"I am afraid it will try my eyes too much.** 

"But it is not in manuscript; it is printed," 

"My dear! you've never thought of the expense it will 
be! It will be almost sure to be a loss, for how can you 
get a book sold? No one knows you or your name/* 

"But papa, I don't think it will be a loss; no more will 
you, if you will just let me read you a review or two, and 
tell you more about it" 

So she sat down and read some of the reviews to her 
father; and then giving him a copy of Jane Eyre that she 
intended for him, she left him to read it. When he came in 



to tea, lie said, "Girls, do you know Charlotte has been 
writing a book, and it is much better than likely?" 

Charlotte began her third novel in the first flush of Jane 
Eyres success, but it was while she was writing Shirley 
that death again came on terrible wings and took three more 
of the Bronte family! It seems truly incredible that any one 
family could have been so singled out for both tragedy and 
immortality, the two extremes of our scale of human values. 
As fame flew in one window of the parsonage the souls of 
Branwell, Emily, and Anne left by another. ;BranwelTs last 
two years had been so fraught with illness, despair, delusions 
and ravings, he had been so wasted and bitter, that death 
was almost welcome. Charlotte had ceased to be interested 
in what happened to him. She continued to pity him in a 
way, but her disappointment in him, and her aggravation 
over his follies and uselessness, far exceeded her sympathy 
with his suffering. ! 

It was quite another matter when it came to the loss of 
Emily and Anne. Here agony of soul descended upon Char- 
lotte, and it was only by a miracle of fortitude and spiritual 
strength that she rose to continue her appointed tasks ; \No 
more than three months after Branwell's death, Emily was 
prey to the tuberculosis that had in all probability been lying 
dormant in every Bronte child since the sad days when Maria 
and Elizabeth had been its victims.) And Emily had no more 
than been laid in the crypt under the aisle of the church next 
door when Anne began to fail. In a desperate effort to save 
her, Charlotte took her to the sea at Scarborough. But it was 
too late. Anne was also gone before the spring of 1849 had 
passed. After her death Charlotte was close to collapse, and 
in order to recuperate, went to stay with a friend, a Mrs. Hud- 


son, at Easton. And it was here, after a period of rest in 
pleasant and happy surroundings, that she went back to her 
writing, picking up Shirley where she had left off the year 
before. But the return to Haworth was inevitable; again she 
was swept down by the memories, by desuetude of spirit 
and searing grief. Her heroism in the face of adversity re- 
mained with her, for she wrote Ellen Nussey a letter of sur- 
passing sadness, yet sustained with the will to survive: 

I do not much like giving an account of myself. I like 
better to go out of myself, and talk of something more 
cheerful. My cold, wherever I got it, whether at Easton 
or elsewhere, is not vanished yet. It began in my head, 
then I had a sore throat, and then a sore chest, with a 
cough, but only a trifling cough, which I still have at 
times. The pain between my shoulders likewise amazed 
me much. Say nothing about it, for I confess I am much 
disposed to be nervous. This nervousness is a horrid phan- 
tom. I dare communicate no ailment to Papa; his anxiety 
harasses me inexpressibly. 

My life is what I expected it to be. Sometimes when I 
wake in the morning, and know that Solitude, Remem- 
brance, and Longing are to be almost my sole compan- 
ions all day through that at night I shall go to bed with 
them, that they will long keep me sleepless that next 
morning I shall wake to them again, sometimes, Nell, I 
have a heavy heart of it. But crushed I am not, yet; nor 
robbed of elasticity, nor of hope, nor quite of endeavour. 
I have some strength to fight the battle of life. I am 
aware, and can acknowledge, I have many comforts, 
many mercies. Still I can get on. But I do hope and pray,, 
that never may you, or any one I love, be placed as I am. 
To sit in a lonely room the clock ticking loud through a 
still house and have opened before the mind's eye the 



record of the last year, with its shocks, sufferings, losses- 
is a trial I write to you freely, because I believe you will 
hear me with moderation that you will not take alarm 
or think me in any way worse off than I am. 

Shirley was finished in September, 1849, and Mr. James 
Taylor, of the editorial department of Smith, Elder, visited 
Haworth to pick up the manuscript. His visit was to be the 
beginning of another romance for Charlotte, again one-sided, 
which led to several urgent proposals on the part of the per- 
sistent Scotchman. If Mr. Taylor had not been sent to Bom- 
bay to open a branch office for his firm, it is quite possible 
that Charlotte might have one day surrendered, for, after 
nine months of remembrance, Charlotte could say of him, 
"This little Taylor is deficient neither in spirit nor sense." That 
was high recommendation from Charlotte! 

The publication of Shirley and the interest stirred by Jane 
Eyre made Charlotte somewhat of a literary celebrity. She 
was invited to London and was given a little social whirl, 
becoming acquainted with the artistic life of the great 
metropolis. She went up to town at least four times during 
the next months, and was always the house guest of Mr. 
George Smith, the head of Smith, Elder, and his mother, at 
their houses on Gloucester Terrace, Bishop's Place, and West- 
bourne Place, Hyde Park. It was in their home that Charlotte 
first met Thackeray, whom she so greatly admired, having 
said that he possessed a ''Titan of a mind." And when she 
discovered that Harriet Martineau, author of Deerbrook, was 
the Smiths' nearby neighbor, she sent her a copy of Shir- 
ley and was invited to tea in consequence., The incident was 
the beginning of a short friendship between them which 
went on the rocks after Miss Martineau criticized Shirley too 


severely. However, before the break, Charlotte was to visit 
Miss Martineau at Ambleside in the Lake District, and 
thereby have the opportunity of meeting Mrs. Thomas 
Arnold, widow of the famous headmaster of Rugby, and 
her son, Matthew Arnold. She was not well impressed by 
either. "Mrs. Arnold's manner/' she wrote James Taylor, "on 
introduction disappointed me sensibly, as lacking that gen- 
uineness and simplicity one seemed to have a right to expect 
in the chosen life-companion of Dr. Arnold. On my remark- 
ing as much to Mrs. Gaskell and Sir J. K. Shuttleworth, I was 
told for my consolation that it was a 'conventional manner/ 
but that it vanished on closer acquaintance; fortunately this 
last assurance proved true. It is observable that Matthew 
Arnold, the eldest son, and author of the volume of poems 
to which you allude, inherits Ms mother's defect. Striking and 
prepossessing in appearance, his manner displeases from its 
seeming foppery. I own it caused me at first to regard him 
with regretful surprise; the shade of Dr. Arnold seemed to 
frown on his young representative/* 

Charlotte made another visit to the Lake Country when 
she went to stay a week with Sir James K. Shuttleworth and 
his wife. The Shuttleworths lived at Gawthorpe Hall, a fine 
mansion seven or eight miles across the moors from Haworth. 
They had been much impressed by Charlotte's novels, and 
had called at the parsonage to express their admiration. Their 
interest so pleased Mr. Bronte, who was partial to the at- 
tentions of society, that he urged Charlotte to accept their 
invitations, though she was most reluctant to be under obli- 
gation to them. Ilie result was that she went to their summer 
home in Westmoreland, and it was on this occasion that she 
met Mrs. GaskeE for the first time. As we know, the meeting 



was to bear fruit to Charlotte's lasting advantage, since Mrs. 
Gaskell proved to be one of the best-informed and most 
painstaking biographers of the Bronte family. 

Of Charlotte's visits to London, the most important took 
place in 1850. She was entertained by Thackeray, attended 
the opera, and sat for her portrait by George Richmond, R A. 
George Smith arranged for the picture, and it is considered a 
splendid likeness. The artist attributed his success largely to 
an incident that took place during the sittings. When Char- 
lotte arrived at the studio one afternoon he told her that had 
she come a little earlier she would have met the aged Duke of 
Wellington. Charlotte's face, he claimed, was so transformed 
by the mere mention of Wellington, particularly in the ex- 
pression of the eyes, that he was able to capture the mood 
and quality that made the portrait so remarkable a likeness. 

It was also concerning the 1850 interlude in London that 
a controversy has arisen. Did Charlotte secretly leave Lon- 
don at this time, and if she did, where did she go? With 
whom (was it George Smith?) and to see whom (was it ML 
Heger in Brussels? ) . She wrote a note to Letitia Wheelwright, 
who lived in London, that she expected to be out of town a 
few days, and would see her on her return. She wrote Ellen 
Nussey saying she had "business to transact," but said 
nothing about going out of London to transact it. And a 
letter to her father, written at the same time, refers neither to 
an absence from the Smiths, with whom she was staying, nor 
to any business to be done elsewhere. Mrs. George Smith said 
she was not aware that her son had gone to Brussels with 
Charlotte at any time whatever. But, according to Miss 
Chadwick, the business Charlotte had to tend to on the Con- 
tinent derived from what appears to have been a plagiarism 


of Jane Eyre by M. Eugene Sue in his story entitled "Kitty 
Bell, the Orphan." Miss Chadwick's opinion is that the story 
was actually written by Charlotte, a preliminary sketch of 
the early chapters of Jane Eyre, either when she was in 
Brussels in 1843, or later. In which case the Hegers may have 
had a copy in their possession, given them at the time, or sent 
to them, by Charlotte herself. Possibly it fell into the hands 
of Eugene Sue, who did little to alter it before presenting it 
under his own name. Mr. George Smith might have consid- 
ered it necessary for Charlotte to threaten suit against M. 
Sue, hence the "power of attorney" for which Charlotte paid 
Mr. Smith a known fee. There are much doubt and confu- 
sion and conflicting evidence with regard to these missing 
days in Charlotte's life, yet the balance of opinion would 
lead one to feel that she did go to Paris or Brussels, or both, 
and that, though she may not have seen M. Heger, yet re- 
visiting the old scenes affected her so poignantly that Villette 
literally poured itself from her reawakened heart. 
( In 1851 Charlotte made three journeys from home. She 
visited Mrs. Gaskell in Manchester, accompanied the Smiths 
to Scotland, and was once more in London for some little 
time. During the London visit she heard Thackeray lecture, 
and was greatly impressed with his simple and easy manner 
of delivery jshe saw Mme. Rachel act, and was "transfixed with 
wonder," though repelled by "the tremendous force with 
which she expresses the very worst passions in their strongest 
essence." In a letter to her father dated June 26, 1851, she 
gave an account of her days which is indicative of a certain 
confidence existing between father and daughter. Also, in 
the mere fact that it includes "Mr. Nichols" among the few to 
whom she sent her best regards, it presaged the friendship 
which was to lead to Charlotte's marriage. 



Dear Papa,- I have not yet been able to get away 
from London, but if all be weU I shall go to-morrow, 
stay two days with Mrs. Gaskell at Manchester, and re- 
turn home on Monday 30th without fail During this week 
or ten days I have seen many things, some of them very 
interesting, and have also been in much better health 
than I was during the first fortnight of my stay in Lon- 
don. Sir James and Lady Shuttleworth have really been 
very kind, and most scrupulously attentive. They desire 
their regards to you, and send all manner of civil mes- 
sages. The Marquis of Westminster and the Earl of Elle- 
mere each sent me an order to see their private collection 
of pictures, which I enjoyed very much. Mr. Rogers, the 
patriarch-poet, now eighty-seven years old, invited me to 
breakfast with him. His breakfasts, you must understand, 
are celebrated throughout Europe for their peculiar re- 
finement and taste. He never admits at that meal more 
than four persons to his table: himself and three guests. 
The morning I was there I met Lord Glenelg and Mrs. 
Davenport, a relation of Lady Shuttleworth's, and a very 
beautiful and fashionable woman. The visit was very in- 
teresting; I was glad that I had paid it after it was over. 
An attention that pleased and surprised me more than I 
think than any other was the circumstance of Sir David 
Brewster, who is one of the first scientific men of his day, 
coming to take me over the Crystal Palace and pointing 
out and explaining the most remarkable curiosities. You 
will know, dear papa, that I do not mention these things 
to boast of them, but merely because I think they will 
give you pleasure. Nobody, I find, thinks the worse of 
me for avoiding publicity and declining to go to large 
parties, and everybody seems truly courteous and re- 
spectful, a mode of behaviour which makes me grateful, 
as it ought to do. Good-bye till Monday. Give my best 



regards to Mr. Nichols, Tabby, and Martha, and- Believe 
me, your affectionate daughter. 

The following year, 1852, seems to have been another sad 
and trying one for Charlotte. Grief and loneliness swept back 
upon her, possibly because she was not well, but also because 
she was engaged in writing Vittette, a book that brought 
back every poignant memory to stab her heart, particularly 
those with Brussels. Also she felt obligated to make a pil- 
grimage to Scarborough to see that the stone over Anne*s 
grave was properly refaced and relettered. But she wrote 
constantly throughout the summer and fall, and when 
Villette was finished in November, she wrote George Smith, 
"You will see that Villette touches on no matter of public 
interest. I cannot write books handling topics of the day; it 
is of no use trying. Nor can I write a book for its moral. Nor 
can I make up a philanthropic scheme, though I honour phi- 
lanthropy." This she said despite her stated theory that "a 
work of fiction ought to be a work of creation; that the red 
should be sparingly introduced in the pages dedicated to the 

Meanwhile, another curate had fallen in love with Char- 
lotte, and this time she made up her mind to marry, love or 
no love. Arthur Bell Nichols, Mr. Bronte's curate, had long 
nursed his feelings for Charlotte in secret, but the day came 
when he had to speak. Mr. Nichols was a good but unimag- 
inative man, conscientious in his duties, and of great help to 
Mr. Bronte. In spite of all this, Mr. Bronte never liked him. 
And there is no question as to how Charlotte felt, She re- 
spected him, seeing in this quiet, sturdy man a protection 
and refuge from the tragic memories and solitary thoughts, 
but she did not love him. 



When Mr. Nichols went to Mr. Bronte with the request 
for his daughter's hand in maniage, Mr. Bronte flew into a 
violent temper and gave him to understand that he was most 
unacceptable as a son-in-law. The poor man left the parson- 
age utterly reduced, and standing by the gate bowed his 
head and wept, with Charlotte of course observing from the 
window. Mr. Nichols immediately resigned his curacy, and 
again broke down before the assembled congregation when 
giving Charlotte the sacrament for the last time before leav- 
ing. By this time Charlotte pitied him with all her heart, and 
pity must have played a large part in her determination to 
marry him. After several scenes with her father, who con- 
tinued to protest that Mr. Nichols was in no way her equal, 
she finally persuaded him to relent. Mr. Nichols returned to 
Haworth as curate and they were married June 29, 1854. But 
the night before the wedding, when Charlotte went to her 
father's study to bid him good night, he informed her that he 
did not intend to be present at the ceremony next morning. 
Charlotte was not only deeply hurt and humiliated, but there 
was the vital question of who was to give her away, par- 
ticularly at such short notice. She discussed the question with 
Miss Wooler and Ellen Nussey, who had already arrived, and 
after consulting the Bible they discovered that the service 
could be performed by a woman. So it was Miss Wooler who 
stood tip with Charlotte, and not her own father, rector of the 
church where she was married. 

Mr. Nichols took his bride to Ireland on their honeymoon. 
They visited relatives and friends, and made tours of Kil- 
larney, Klengariff, Tarbert, Tralae, Cork, and Charlotte was 
truly enchanted with the Irish scenery. 

Back at Haworth, Charlotte's husband took over many of 
the parish duties, greatly relieving Mr. Bronte; and now, as 


wife and mistress of the parsonage, Charlotte found her 
days full of pleasant activities. It is told that on one occa- 
sion she played hostess to some five hundred of the parish- 
ioners: scholars, teachers, churchringers, and singers. But 
Charlotte's health, as we know, was not sturdy, and once 
again we find death lurking on the moors, always eager to 
find a fresh victim in the Bronte household. 

Late in the fall of 1854, Charlotte took a long walk over the 
moors, against her better judgment, but urged on by a sense 
of duty, not wishing to appear unwilling or too frail to ac- 
company her husband. But rain came on, and by the time she 
reached home she was chilled to the bone and deeply ex- 
hausted. It is quite possible that she was already with child, 
which would have made the illness that followed more acute. 
For shortly after we have Mrs. Gaskell reporting that she 
"was attacked by new sensations of perpetual nausea, and an 
ever-recurring faintness." She became so weak and ill that 
she was unable to retain the smallest amount of food, and her 
death, on March 31, 1855, was due, as Mr. Shorter has said, 
"to an illness incidental to childbirth.1 

Just before the end, in a moment of lucidity, she realized 
that her husband was praying beside her, and looking on his 
face worn with grief, she whispered, "Oh, I am not going to 
die, am I? He will not separate us, we have been so happy/* 


Chapter xi EMILY 

"The earth that wakes one human "heart to feeling 
Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell" 



I MILY," wrote Charles Morgan, "had two 
lives. It was the essence of her genius that they were distinct. 
One, the superficial, life, the life of the daughter at the par- 
sonage, which she is commonly praised for having led with 
dutiful heroism, was not in her eyes heroic. It was the activity 
in the midst of which she learned how to feed upon the spirit 
within her." * 

The child who romped over the Haworth moors, whose 
reticence and withdrawal kept her apart from schoolmates, 
and whose domestic labors in the parsonage fell like a cur- 
tain between the two worlds of her nature, turned out, by 
virtue of a few poems and a strange puzzling novel, to have 
been a pagan, a mystic, and a passionate woman. Biograph- 
ical data, of a strictly circumstantial variety, is conspicu- 
ously lacking in Emily s case. Yet of the Bronte sisters, it is 
Emily with whom the critics and biographers have been 
most concerned, particularly as regards her romantic attach- 
ments, whatever those may have been. Here the controversy 
over Emily becomes passionate. Was there a man, or men, 
in Emily s life? And here we cannot but be reminded of 
similar questions respecting another Emily, the Nun of Am- 
herst Speculation about the men who influenced Emily 
Bronte involves one to three. Virginia Moore says there was 

* From The Great Victorians by H. J. Massingham 



a Louis Parensell, whom Emily met at Miss Patchefs School 
at Law Hill. The name was found on the manuscript of one 
of the poems written there, but the handwriting is supposed 
to be Charlotte's. What that tends to prove, one wouldn't 
know exactly. But Roamer Wilson, in order to confirm Mr. 
Parensell, groups a number of poems written at Law Hill 
under the title, Poems of Guilt. Then there is the rather subtle, 
if tenuous, case that Miss Chadwick makes out for Emily's 
affections being directed, together with her sister's, toward 
M. Heger of Brussels. M. Heger was, according to Miss 
Chadwick, "the first man to approach Emily Bronte's ideal/' 
and she gives us a poem, written by Emily on May 17, 1842, 
"which helps to prove she had had a vision of perfect love 
in Brussels." Again may we say "yes, possibly." But the third 
alternative is more farfetched than either of these. The third 
is Branwell, Of course it can be fully admitted that there was 
a particular bond of sympathy and imderstaMilinir between 
brother and sister. And it is perfectly true that when Char- 
lotte and Anne became thoroughly exasperated with Bran- 
well's behavior, realizing that he had progressed too far 
along the road to perdition ever to be reclaimed, Emily stood 
by. It was Emily who sat waiting night after night until 
Branwell returned from the tavern, often in a mood no 
woman likes to reckon with. It was Emily who saved Bran- 
well with her own hands from the burning bed he had inad- 
vertently, in a drunken stupor, set afire. But neither is it in 
the least necessary to accept Miss Kinsley s evidence, set 
forth in her shrewd but too shrewd book, Pattern of Genius, 
in which she attempts to prove the incestuous relationship by 
using their own written words from novel and poem as wit- 
ness against them. "It was an awful and inexplicable com- 
munion/' Miss Kinsley claims, "never to be explained and 



never to be wholly broken, a communion in the fourth 
dimension which existed between them as long as they lived." 
It is far better, I think, to accept Charles Morgan's sane and 
sensible comment on the subject: * 

Let us, then, examine the works without seeking to 
prove in them either that Emily was in love with her 
brother or with any other man, or that she was incapable 
of bodily desire. It is unnecessary to proceed to either of 
these extremes, for the poems do not require them, and, 
though the closeness of Emily's later association with 
Branwell is deeply relevant to the authorship of Wuther- 
ing Heights, there is no just cause for assuming or sus- 
pecting that her love for him, if she loved him, was ab- 
normal, except in the sense in which all emotional states 
were, by intensification and a disease of secrecy, made 
abnormal within the walls of Haworth. It is true that 
Charlotte's behavior to Branwell, her envenomed exclu- 
sion of him from her life during the period in which 
Wuthering Heights was being written, is not fully ac- 
counted for either by his pleasures of the inn or by the 
suggestion that, having been herself denied in her pas- 
sion, she was made morally indignant and resentful by 
her brother's disgrace at Thorpe Green. Charlotte had 
many faults, but she was not a petty, spiteful spinster: 
there must have been better reasons than these for the 
long continuance of her hatred. It is true, also, that she 
displayed an extraordinary eagerness to obliterate all 
traces of her sister's private life, and that there is a hint 
of baffled terror in her reticences when she writes of 
Emily. On these and other indications it might be possible 
to build up a theory that the relationship of Branwell and 
Emily was one that displeased Charlotte, and that she 

c From The Great Victorians by H. J. Massingfiam. 



wished to conceal the nature of it. But the evidence is all 
conjectural and reacts against itself. We shall be wise to 
put this theory out of mind, and to proceed, for lack of 
available proof, on the assumption that it is altogether 

Whatever the exact explanation of the passionate spirit 
of Emily Bronte, biographers and commentators alike agree 
that she burned with an insatiable hunger. But what did she 
hunger for? Again it is common agreement that, whatever it 
was, it was beyond the reach of mortal flesh. The poetry and 
the novel blaze with the symbols of love and liberty, per- 
sonal needs with universal significance. Charles Morgan 
believes that during her adolescent years Emily Bronte 
tasted the ecstasy of an exalted experience, and spent the 
rest of her days attempting to recapture it. She sought to 
possess the Absolute, and failing that would not be assuaged. 
And it is out of the abstraction of Emily s ideal that Roma 
Wilson has created her theory of a Demon Lover. Certainly 
some such demon pursued Catherine and Heathcliff in 
Wuthering Heights. In spite of Emily's outward calm, her 
stoical endurance, and stubborn, reserved disposition, she 
carried a tortured spirit within. Her real life existed only in 
her poetry. She cared nothing for fame or appreciation. She 
wrote to release the moods, the thoughts, that she could not 
wholly contain in her fragile body. She was a mystic, as we 
have said. Emily Bronte and William Blake were alike in one 
respect they were unconcerned with individual salvation, 
but sought to bring mankind into harmony with the will and 
purpose of the Creator. To them human love and liberty 
are the roots we throw down, ever more firmly, into the uni- 
versal mind, into "a mutual immortality,'* as she expressed it 
in the closing lines of "I See Around Me Tombstones Grey": 



We all, in life's departing shine, 
Our last dear longings blend with thine; 
And straggle still and strive to trace 
With clouded gaze, thy darling face. 
We would not leave our native home 
For any world beyond the Tomb. 
No rather on thy kindly breast 
Let us be laid in lasting rest; 
Or waken but to share with thee 
A mutual immortality. 

For all source of knowledge, Emily drew upon her own 
comprehending spirit. Miss Sinclair says, "There was in the 
great genius of Emily Bronte a dark unconscious instinct of 
primitive nature-worship. That was where she was so poised 
and so complete, where she touches earth and heaven, and 
is at once intoxicated with the splendor of the passion for 
living. It is what holds her spirit in security and her heart 

in peace And this woman, destitute, so far as can be 

known, of all metaphysical knowledge, reared in the narrow- 
est and least metaphysical of creeds, did yet contrive to ex- 
press in one poem ... all the hunger and thirst after the 
'Absolute that ever moved a human soul, all the bewilder- 
ment and agony inflicted by the unintelligible spectacle of 
existence, the intolerable triumph of evil over good, and did 
conceive an image and a vision of the transcendent reality 
that holds, as in a crystal, all the philosophies that are worthy 
of the name." * 

* Introduction by May Sinclair from The Tenant of Wild-field Hall and 
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, Everyman's Library, E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 
N. Y. Introduction by May Sinclair from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. 
Everyman's Library, E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., N. Y. By permission J. M. 
Dent & Sons Ltd., London, and E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., New York. 



"The Philosopher" 

**Enough of Thought, Philosopher; 
Too long hast thou been dreaming 
Unenlightened, in this chamber drear 
While summer's sun is beaming 
Space-sweeping soul, what sad refrain 
Concludes thy musings once again? 

**O for the time when I shall sleep 
Without identity., 

And never care how rain may steep 
Or snow may cover me! 

"No promised Heaven, these wild Desires 
Could aU or half fulfil; 

No threatened Hell, with quenchless fires, 
Subdue this quenchless will!" 

So said I, and still say the same; 
Still to my Death will say- 
Three Gods within this little frame 
Are warring night and day. 

Heaven could not hold them all, and yet 
They all are held in me 
And must be mine till I forget 
My present entity. 

O for the time when in my breast 
Their struggles will be o'er; 
O for the day when I shall rest, 
And never suffer more; 



"I saw a Spirit standing, Man, 
Where thou dost stand an hour ago; 
And round his feet, three rivers ran 
Of equal depth and equal flow 

"A golden stream, and one like blood, 
And one like Sapphire, seemed to be, 
But where they joined their triple flood 
It tumbled in an inky sea. 

"The Spirit bent his dazzling gaze 
Down on that Ocean's gloomy night, 
Then kindling all with sudden blaze, 
The glad deep sparkled wide and bright- 
White as the sun; far, far more fair 
Than the divided sources were!'* 

And even for that Spirit, Seer, 
IVe watched and sought my lifetime long; 
Sought Him in Heaven, Hell, Earth, Air, 
AJI endless search and always wrong! 

Had I but seen His glorious eye 
Once light the clouds that 'wilder me, 
I ne'er had raised this coward cry 
To cease to think and cease to be 

I ne'er had called oblivion blest, 
Nor stretching eager hands to Death 
Implored to change for lifeless rest 
This sentient soul, this living breath. 

O let me die, that power and will 
Their cruel strife may close, 
And vanquished Good, victorious 111 
Be lost in one repose. 


This Absolute Emily yearned for, and sought with such 
passionate desire, has been called, by some, her Demon 
Lover, by others, her Angel Lover. Out of the search for sign 
or image of her love springs the ecstasy between captive 
flesh and liberated spirit: 

"The Visionary" 

What I love shall come like visitant of air, 
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare; 
Who loves me, no word of mine shall e'er betray, 
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay. 

Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear- 
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air: 
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me; 
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy. 

The two stanzas above quoted have been taken, by editors, 
as a separate poem, from the "sequel" to the Gondal epic, one 
of Emily's longest and finest examples of sustained emotion. 
The entire poem bears the title, as in the manner of so 
many of the Gondal poems, Julian M. and A. G. Rochelle. 
Miss Sinclair says that this poem is constantly reminding her 
of "one of the most marvelous poems of Divine Love, 'En 
Una Noche Escura,' by St. John of the Cross." In the follow- 
ing stanzas the lady addresses Lord Julian: 

"I cannot wonder now at aught the world will do, 
And insult and contempt I lightly brook from you, 
Since those, who vowed away their souls to win my love. 
Around this living grave like utter strangers move! 



"Nor has one voice been raised to plead that I might die, 
Not buried under earth but in the open sky; 
By ball or speedy kaif e or headsman's sldlf ul blow 
A quick and welcome pang instead of lingering woe! 

''Yet, tell them, Julian, all, I am not doomed to wear 
Year after year in gloom and desolate despair; 
A messenger of Hope comes every night to me, 
And offers, for short life, eternal liberty. 

"He comes with western winds, with evening's wandering 


With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars; 
Winds take a pensive tone, and stars a tender fire, 
And visions rise and change which kill me with desire 

"Desire for nothing known in my maturer years 
When joy grew mad with awe at counting future tears; 
When, if my spirit's sky was full of flashes warm, 
I knew not whence they came, from sun or thunderstorm; 

"But first a hush of peace, a soundless calm descends; 
The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends; 
Mute music soothes my breast unuttered harmony 
That I could never dream till earth was lost to me. 

"Then dawns the Invisible, the Unseen its truth reveals; 
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels 
Its wings are almost free, its home, its harbour found; 
Measuring the gulf it stoops and dares the final bound! 

"Oh, dreadful is the check intense the agony 
When the ear begins to hear and the eye begins to see; 
When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again, 
The soul to feel the flesh and the flesh to feel the chain! 


"Yet I would lose no sting, would wish no torture less; 
The more that anguish racks the earlier it will bless; 
And robed in fires of Hell, or bright with heavenly shine, 
If it but herald Death, the vision is divine.'* 

"The soul to feel the flesh and the flesh to feel the chain!" 
It was this bondage, the struggle and agony it meant, that 
kept Emily on a rack of torture. She pursued the vision with 
reverent devotion until it bathed her soul in the reflected 
radiance of truth* The very essence of that radiance is what 
she poured into one of the most familiar of her poems, "No 
Coward Soul Is Mine": 

No coward soul is mine, 

No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere: 

I see Heaven's glories shine, 

And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear. 

O God within my breast 

Almighty ever-present Deity 

Life, that in me hast rest 

As I Undying Life, have power in Thee 

Vain are the thousand creeds 

That move men's hearts: unutterably vain; 

Worthless as withered weeds, 

Or idlest froth amid the boundless main, 

To waken doubt in me 
Holding so fast by Thine infinity; 
So surely anchored on 
The steadfast rock of Immortality 



With wide-embracing love 

Thy spirit animates eternal years 

Pervades and broods above, 

Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears. 

Though Earth and moon were gone, 
The suns and universes ceased to be, 
And Thou wert left alone 
Every Existence would exist in Thee 

There is not room for Death, 

Nor atom that his might could render void: 

Thou Thou art Being and Breath 

And what Thou art may never be destroyed 

Emily's love of nature, her sense of being one with the di- 
urnal turn of the earth, of being a living part of the moor 
and its mists and winds, sunsets and sunrises, moods of grie? 
and joy, give her poetry universal significance. It also ex- 
plains why Emily was torn asunder when she was away from 
Haworth. It explains the fierce nostalgia that weakened even 
her body when she was cut off from the sweet harmony of 
life on the barren, heather-blue hills. Emily Bronte deprived 
of her beloved countryside was as Samson shorn of his locks. 
A poem that expresses the homesickness and longing that 
swept over her in alien climes is one she wrote either at Miss 
Patchet's School at Law Hill, in 1838, which is the date Mr. 
Hatfield claims for it, or during the desolate months in Brus- 

"A Little While, A Little While" 

A little while, a little while, 
The noisy crowd are barred away; 
And I can sing and I can smile 
A little while IVe 


Where wilt thou go, my harassed heart? 
Full many a land invites thee now; 
And places near and far apart 
Have rest for thee, my -weary brow. 

There is a spot 'mid barren hills 
Where winter howls and driving rain, 
But if the dreary tempest chills 
There is a Hght that warms again. 

The house is old, the trees are bare 

TSbg- moonless bends the misty dome 
But what on earth is half so dear, 
So longed for as the hearth of home? 

The mute bird sitting on the stone, 
The dank moss dripping from the wall, 
The garden-walk with weeds overgrown, 
I love them how I love them all! 

Shall I go there? or shall I seek 
Another clime, another sky, 
Where tongues familiar music speak 
In accents dear to memory? 

Yes, as I mused, the naked room, 
The flickering firelight died away 
And from the midst of cheerless gloom 
I passed to bright, unclouded day 

A little and a lone green lane 
That opened on a common wide; 
A distant, dreamy, dim blue chain 
Of mountains circling every side; 



A heaven so clear, an earth so calm, 
So sweet, so soft, so hushed an air 
And, deepening still the dream-like charm, 
With moor-sheep feeding everywhere- 
Uncounted hours have been spent by students and critics 
alike in the attempt fully to recover, transcribe, arrange 
chronologically, and adjudicate the poetry of Emily Bronte. 
It was natural that all Emily's manuscripts, after her death, 
should have fallen into the hands of Charlotte, and later into 
those of Arthur Bell Nichols, Charlotte's widower. Mr. 
Nichols made an attempt to transcribe them, which was pos- 
sibly a serious mistake, since he has been found guilty of 
many errors; and these might indicate others never checked 
for lack of the original manuscripts concerned. Mr. Clement 
Shorter, for instance, in editing the first collection of the 
poems that bear any claim to being definitive, repeats many 
of the errors for which Charlotte and Mr. Nichols are re- 
sponsible. It is to Miss Fannie Ratchford that credit is due 
for her patient and perceptive work, her collations and tran- 
scriptions made directly from the texts of the scattered manu- 
scripts, which laid the groundwork for the complete volume 
of the poems, edited by Mr. C. W. Hatfield and published in 
1941. This volume gives the world at last, after nearly a cen- 
tury of groping research, Emily Bronte's full stature as a 
poet. There has been altogether too much attempt to extract 
biographical data from poetry that deserves to be treated as 
literature. There has always been someone hunting the key 
to Emily in her written words, since the facts of her life are 
so few and far between. But it is an unremunerative task 
the student has set himself, particularly since, in Emilys 
case, her life was entirely in the spirit, and had so little direct 


relation to reality. Whereas, if the reader, whether scholar 
or poet, would aHow himself to be led into the spirit with 
her, to taste its joy and pain, a classification of the men in 
Emily's life would seem a kind of sacrilege. Emily's reality 
was not in this world. And, as Charles Morgan has so well 
said, "to one who had known this reality all other failure was 
less than the failure to recapture it, and over such a one the 
world had no power* Death appeared to her, in one aspect, 
as an end of the blissful torture she would not have lessened; 
in another aspect, as a possible reversal of her failures an op- 
portunity to be really in and with' the supreme familiar 
spirit. She did not know whether to dread death as a cessa- 
tion or to desire it as an opportunity. She did not know 
whence her familiar spirit came, from heaven or from hell; 
she did not know whether, in the Christian view, her blisses 
were evil or good; she was not certain that, in going from 
this world, she might take her ecstasy with her." 

One cannot but wonder how much this doubt and desire 
explains Emily's own death, which took place three months 
after BranwelTs. From the day of his death she never set 
foot outside the parsonage. In October (Branwell had died 
in late September), she contracted a severe cold and devel- 
oped a stubborn cough. Charlotte was deeply concerned, and 
in writing to Ellen expressed her anxiety: *1 fear she has a 
pain in the chest, and I sometimes catch a shortness in her 
" -i < . t - : : : <; when she has moved at all quickly. She looks very, 
very thin and pale. Her reserved nature occasions me great 
unhappiness of mind. It is useless to question her-you get no 
answers. It is still more useless to recommend remedies- 
they are never adopted." 

The agony persisted for two more months. Day after day 
Emily insisted on going about her household tasks. She re- 



fused to take medicine or see a doctor. Charlotte and Anne 
stood by in helpless anguish. Once, in desperation, Charlotte 
sent for a doctor, but when he came Emily refused to see him. 
She would not allow her sisters to refer to her condition. She 
grew steadily worse. She had often claimed she had no fear 
of death. Was she trying to prove it? Was she inwardly 
exultant that she would soon have the opportunity to taste 
the ecstasy of her reunion with the spirit? As Emily said 
when she was only twenty-two: 

Riches I hold in light esteem 
And love I laugh to scorn 
And lust of Fame was but a dream 
That vanished with the morn 

And if I pray, the only prayer 
That moves my lips for me 
Is-"Leave the heart that now I bear 
And give me liberty ." 

Yes, as my swift days near their goal 
*Tis all that I implore- 
Through life and death, a chainless soul 
With courage to endure! * 

On Tuesday, the nineteenth of December, Emily came 
downstairs and went about the usual household chores. By 
noon she was so weak she was unable to speak above a whis- 
per. She sat by the open grate trying to comb her hair, but 
her hand was too feeble to hold the comb and it fell to the 
hearthstone. Charlotte went out on the moor to find "a linger- 

* Above poems reprinted from The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Bronte, 
edited by C. W. Hatfield. Copyright 1941 by Columbia University Press. 



ing spray of heather" with which to cheer her sister, but 
Emily was already beyond recognizing external objects. They 
moved her to a couch. She opened her eyes then, and whis- 
pered to Charlotte, "If you will send for a doctor, I will see 
him now/ 7 But when she closed her eyes again it was for the 
last time. There had died, that bleak December day, 1848, 
in the lonely parsonage of Haworth, the spirit that had 
bewitched it. 

Emily's dog, Keeper, followed the coffin across the church- 
yard, into the church, and up the aisle; and when she was 
laid beneath the stone floor he returned to the parsonage, and 
lay down across the threshold of her room, refusing to be 


Chapter xn BRAN WELL 


IT is probable," writes Esther Alice Chad- 
wick, "that no character in literature has been made to 
suffer more for supposed misdeeds than Branwell Bronte. 
Whatever was wrong in the Bronte household, or the Bronte 
novels, has been generally attributed to Branwell, but he has 
been more sinned against than sinning." Of the women who 
have expressed themselves with regard to Branwell, Miss 
Chadwick is the most charitable, for most of them have 
treated him with considerable severity, fully sympathizing 
with his three sisters. The men on the other hand, including 
Francis Grundy and Francis Leyland, have been far more 
tolerant. They no doubt understood him better, judging by 
men's standards in a man's world. 

We ask ourselves, was Branwell Bronte a genius without 
the will to express it? Yet true genius does not lack the will, 
labor being the essence of will. Branwell did not labor. 
Therefore was the idea of his inherent genius a family illu- 
sion, born in the hearts of bis adoring sisters and a doting 
father, in whose eyes he could do no wrong, so that when he 
disappointed them the consciousness of failure was a boom- 
erang that destroyed him? "He was half poet/' says Edith 
Kinsley, "when he was not a maniac; he might have been a 
prophet had he not become a profligate. He had an electric 
temper which emitted ominous sparks, which his father said 


was 'spirit,' and must not be curbed." An only son, spoiled 
by a too-indulgent yet indifferent father, idolized by three 
temperamental sisters, restrained from all association with 
boys of his own age who might have succeeded in beating 
his wayward nature to its knees, Branwell was more or less 
doomed to go on the rocks. Given a chance, psychiatry would 
only have predicted the worst! 

Branwell was born at Thornton in 1817. When the family 
moved to Haworth. he was three years old, and during the 
succeeding years, his education was what he had received 
at home; outside associations were frowned upon, and he 
was regarded as a priceless jewel which would one day 
shine for the honor and glory of the Bronte name. How 
this was to be accomplished seems to have been left to 
fate, since in all the records of the Bronte family there is 
none to indicate that Branwell was to get even a university 
degree. When one considers in what high esteem a degree 
was held, and what travail Mr. Bronte endured to win the 
honor himself, it is difficult to understand the omission in 
BranweH's case. Aunt Elizabeth would assuredly have seen 
the wisdom of giving her nephew such a start in life. Here 
was an only son, and many dependents. Yet the ^career" 
finally decided upon for Branwell was that of an artist; and 
what career is less lucrative unless the artist has more than 
his share of ambition, concentration, and genius. Branwell, 
his family to the contrary, had none of these in marked de- 
gree. All the children showed an inclination to drawing, 
Branwell as well as his sisters. But it was for Branwell that 
Mr. Bronte engaged a drawing teacher. And it was Branwell, 
at the age of eighteen, who was sent up to London to study 
at the Royal Academy. 



The money advanced for the academy was quickly lost in 
the gambling that had already become Branwells weakness, 
and he was soon back in Havvorth without a penny to his 
name. Mr, Bronte even refused to pay the debts his son had 
incurred. However, since it was clearly impossible to allow 
Branwell to become the ne'er-do-well of Haworth village, 
as he was apparently quite willing to do, having joined a 
convivial club, the "Lodge of the Three Graces/ 7 meeting at 
the Black Bull Tavern, it was decided that he should set up 
a studio in Bradford. There was the hope that through 
friends he might receive portrait commissions. But it was 
not to be. As Miss Kinsley says, "at the foot of his studio 
stairs was a public house, The George, where a group of 
artists consorted ... to chat, eat, and get rid of the evening 
damp with a few cheerful drinks, Branwell, as before at The 
Black Bull Tavern, now found himself secure of attention at 
The George in the role of public entertainer. On the other 
hand, his ideas and his work were indifferently regarded. 
Therefore, he sought The George only as he had sought The 
Bull, for specious consolation to his vanity." 

The Bradford studio experiment having thus failed mis- 
erably, Branwell next took a position as clerk in charge of 
the Sowerby Bridge station of the Leeds and Manchester 
Railway. After a year at Sowerby Bridge he was transferred 
to the station at Luddenden Foot; but here an act of negli- 
gence caused his dismissal Some years later, referring to this 
period in a letter to Francis Grandy, he wrote, "My conduct 
there, lost as I was to all that I like or had hoped for, was 
marked by a malignant and yet cold debauchery, a determi- 
nation to find how far mind could carry body, without both 
being chucked into hell-it was a nightmare." 

"Lost as I was to all that I like or had hoped for!" What a 

Anne Bronte. Painted by her sister, Charlotte, June 17, 1834 
This is the only known portrait of Anne in existence. Photograph 
by Walter Scott Copyright, The Bronte Society. 

Patrick Branwell Bronte, The only known portrait. Photograph 
by Walter Scott. Copyright, The Bronte Society. 


death knell the words sound. One cannot but have a rending 
sympathy for Branwell, whose life went so terribly askew, 
and by no means entirely due to his own shortcomings. It 
becomes obvious, as we follow Branwell down the rapid 
decline of his youth, that he was cut out to be more scholar 
than artist. Almost his only claim to literary ability, for in- 
stance, over and above the famous Knave of Hearts epistle, 
which immortalizes the name of the church sexton, John 
Brown, rests in his translations of Horace. Before taking the 
Job with the Leeds Railway, he had sent a few of these trans- 
lations to Hartley Coleridge, with a letter from which I take 
the following excerpt: 

Since my childhood, I have been wont to devote the 
hours I could spare from other and very different employ- 
ments to efforts at literary composition, always keeping 
the results to myself, nor have they in more than two or 
three instances been seen by any other. But I am about 
to enter active life, and prudence tells me not to waste 
the time which must make my independence; yet, sir, I 
like writing too well to fling aside the practice of It with- 
out an effort to ascertain whether I could turn it to ac- 
count, not in wholly iriu/ : Jr.".:- myself, but in aiding 
my maintenance, for I do not sigh after fame, and am not 
ignorant of the folly of the fate of those who, without 
ability, would depend for their lives upon their pens; but 
I seek to know, and venture, though with shame, to ask 
from one whose word I must respect: whether, by peri- 
odical or other writing, I could please myself with writ- 
ing, and make it subservient to living. 

Apparently Hartley Coleridge was sufficiently interested 
to send for him, and Branwell spent a day with Coleridge 
at Ambleside a few weeks later. How much praise or advice 



he received on this occasion is not clear, but it was appar- 
ently sufficient to encourage Branwell to pursue the subject: 

I have, I fear most negligently, and amid other very 
different employments-striven to Translate two books, 
the first of which I have presumed to send you. And will 
you, sir, stretch your past kindness by telling me whether 
I should amend and pursue the work or let it rest in peace. 

Great corrections I feel it wants, but till I feel that the 
work might benefit me, I have no heart to make them; 
yet if your judgment prove in any way favourable, I will 
re-write the whole, without sparing labour to reach per- 

I dared not have attempted Horace but that I saw the 
utter worthlessness of all former translations, and thought 
that a better one, by whomsoever executed, might meet 
with some little encouragement. I long to clear up my 
doubts by the judgment of one whose opinion I should 
revere, andbut I suppose I am dreaming one to whom 
I should be proud indeed to inscribe anything of mine 
which any publisher would look at, unless, as is likely 
enough, the work would disgrace the name as much as 
the name would honour the work. 

Obviously Hartley Coleridge let the matter drop. Per- 
haps he was too busy to become involved in the hopes and 
future of a young unknown. Perhaps he honestly did not see 
that the work was in the least important. Whatever the 
cause, the result was that Branwell passed beyond hope and 
gave himself over to the demons of bitterness and waste. The 
translations of Horace were discovered, about twenty-five 
years ago, by the English poet, John Drinkwater, who edited 
and privately printed them. In a foreword Mr. Drinkwater 
states that the translations could hardly be improved: "There 


are passages of clear, lyrical beauty, and something of the 
style that comes from spiritual understanding, apart from 
merely formal knowledge of great models/ 7 

In December, 1842, Branwell again tried work, this time 
teaching. He went as tutor to the son of the Reverend Ed- 
mund Robinson at Thorpe Green. Anne, as we have seen, 
was governess in the same household. Once more fate dealt 
Branwell a cruel blow. The Robinson household was not 
the place for a young man of BranwelTs egotism and attitude 
of mind. Mr. Robinson was ill and not expected to live; Mrs. 
Robinson, young, vivacious, and extremely sophisticated, was 
not averse to carrying on a flirtation to pass the time of day 
with a brilliant young man, charming in manner, eloquent in 
speech, and attractive to look upon. He appealed to her fancy 
and her vanity. She was looking for amusement, but Branwell 
fell madly in love. She encouraged him without reciproca- 
tion, or at least without sincerity. 

Mr. Robinson could hardly be said to have savored the 
situation, which was all too apparent to both himself and 
Anne, and proceeded to dismiss Branweil in peremptory 
fashion. So again Branwell returned to Haworth under a 
cloud, and took up his familiar routine; drinking at The 
Black Bull Tavern, and lolling about the parsonage where 
he was the cause of the greatest consternation and dismay. 
But until Mr. Robinson s dealt he appeared to believe that 
Mrs. Robinson, once a widow, would call him back. If Mrs. 
Robinson ever had the idea in mind, she quickly dismissed it 
when, soon after her husband s demise, she was courted by 
Lord Scott, and went up to London to marry that gentleman. 
Charlotte and Anne tried as long as possible to keep the 
news of Mrs. Robinsons "betrayal" from reaching Branwell, 
loiowing what it would do to him under the circumstances. 



And Charlotte, though fiercely critical of Branwell for his 
folly and stupidity in the whole matter, was equally incensed 
at die treatment Mrs. Robinson had accorded her brother, 
*1 suppose the affair was conducted as such affairs usually 
are," she wrote. "Branwell offered .Mrs. Robinson his youth 
and his talents, such as they were, in exchange for her posi- 
tion and money. Love did not enter into the account. She 
was older than he and, Anne says, not beautiful. The lady ? 
having no chance at the moment of making a better bargain, 
was inclined to come to terms with Branwell. Then Lord 
Scott, a flourishing and handsome nobleman, stepped in with 
a higher bid." 

It was the outcome of this affair that lit the fuse of 
BranwelTs mental illness. He had no further regard for any- 
thing except his own personal indulgence. Drugs rapidly be- 
came a habit and, added to the drinking, reduced him to a 
condition bordering on insanity. He resorted to every petty 
trick, every ignoble excuse, to obtain opium. He wheedled 
the money for the purpose from his father who, rather than 
face the violence of BranwdTs moods, gave the money while 
praving for BranwelFs soul He became involved in debts 
that brought the bailiff to the house, and fearing the indig- 
nity of their brother's arrest the sisters paid the amount 
owing, keeping the disgrace from Mr. Bronte. 

But such self-destruction was bound to have an end. IB 
the summer of 1848, Branwell had his first attacks of delirium 
tremeBS, described by Mrs. Gaskell as "most frightful ia 
character.*' The young man's constitution was completely 
broken, and the last phase was inevitable. Mr. Bronte con- 
tinually urged the consolation and redemption of prayer, but 
his son would hear none of It. With wild bravado lie insisted 
he would die on his feet, cursing his fate. However, to Mr. 


Bronte's great comfort, they prayed together at the end. 
Branwell died on the twenty-fourth of September, 1848. 
Charlotte's letter to Mr. Williams, written a week after his 
death, is fitting epitaph to her brothers brief and blighted 
life. When all is said and done, there was no one like Char- 
lotte for looking things straight in the eye, and summing 
them up wdth a radiant perception of the truth, regardless 
of the emotional implications. 

We have hurried our dead out of our sight. A lull begins 
to succeed the gloomy tumult of last week. It is not per- 
mitted us to grieve for him who is gone as others grieve 
for those they lose. The removal of our only brother must 
necessarily be regarded by us rather in the light of mercy 
than a chastisement. Branwell was his father's and his 
sisters' pride and hope in boyhood, but since manhood the 
case has been otherwise. It has been our lot to see him 
take a wrong bent; to hope, expect, wait his return to the 
right path; to know the sickness of hope deferred, the 
dismay of prayer baffled; to experience despair at last 
and now to behold the sudden early obscure close of what 
might have been a noble career, 

I do not weep from a sense of bereavement there is no 
prop withdrawn, no consolation torn away, no dear com- 
panion lost but for the wreck of talent, the ruin of prom- 
ise, the untimely dreary extinction of what might have 
been a burning and a shining light. My brother was a year 
my junior. I had aspirations and ambitions for him once, 
long ago-they have perished mournfully. Nothing re- 
mains of him but a memory of errors and sufferings. There 
is such a bitterness of pity for his life and death, such a 
yeaniing for the emptiness of his whole existence as I 
cannot describe. I trust time will aUay these feelings. 

My poor father naturally thought more of his only son 


than of his daughters, and, much and long as he had suf- 
fered on his account, he cried out for his loss like David 
for that of Absalom-my son! my son!-and refused at first 
to be comforted. And then when I ought to have been 
able to collect my strength and be at hand to support 
him, I fell ill with an illness whose approaches I had telt 
for some time previously, and of which the crisis was 
hastened by the awe and trouble of the death-scene-the 
first I had ever witnessed. The past has seemed to me a 
strange week. Thank God, for my father's sake, 1 am 
better now, though still feeble. I wish indeed I had more 
general strength-the want of it is sadly in my way. I 
cannot do what I would do for want of sustained animal 
spirits and efficient vigour. 

My unhappy brother never knew what his sisters had 
done in literature-he was not aware that they had ever 
published a line. We could not tell him of our efforts for 
fear of causing him too deep a pang of remorse for his 
own time, and talents misapplied. Now he will never 
know. I cannot dwell longer on the subject at present-it 
is too painfuL 





IN THE preface to a new edition of Wuth- 
ering Heists and Agnes Grey, published in 1850, Charlotte 

One day, in the autumn of 1845, 1 accidentally lighted 

on a MS. of verse in my sister Emily's handwriting, Of 
course, I was not surprised, knowing that she did and 
could write verse, I looked it over, and something more 
than surprise seized me a deep conviction that these 

were not common effusions, nor at all like the poetry 
women write. I thought them condensed and terse, vig- 
orous and genuine. To my ear they had also a peculiar 
music, wild, melancholy, and elevating. My sister Emily 
was not a person of demonstrative character, nor one on 
the recesses of whose mind and feelings even those near- 
est and dearest to her could, with impunity, intrude un- 
licensed. It took hours to reconcile her to the discovery I 
had made, and days to persuade her that such poems 
merited publication/* 

Perhaps Charlotte did come across the poems accidentally. 
Or perhaps she suspected their existence and went looking 
for them. Emily's apparent anger might indicate the latter. 
However, it would have been like Emily to be displeased at 
this invasion of her privacy, even supposing Charlotte had 



found the poems by chance. And Charlotte, knowing her 
sister's feelings about personal matters, particularly writing, 
should have returned the poems to their hiding place and 
said nothing to Emily about them. Instead, Charlotte seems 
to have been struck with an idea as soon as she realized the 
unusual quality of the poems themselves. Why not publish 
them! All three sisters had "early cherished the dream/' as 
Charlotte says, <s of one day being authors." Perhaps one (or 
two or three) of them would become famous. How wonder- 
ful that would be. And now here was some writing that 
Charlotte, at least, felt convinced, after a single reading, 
was worthy of meeting the public eye. 

As Charlotte said, it was not so easy to convince Emily. 
How she succeeded in breaking down Emily's objections, 
what arguments she used, she doesn't say. But she had no 
more than persuaded Emily that she must try publication 
than Anne "quietly produced," some poems of her own, and : 
Charlotte confessed, she had been writing poetry, too. What 
a coincidence! All three sisters, it seems, had been indulging 
in verse writing, more or less in secret. Now it was out in the 
open, and enough for a book done in collaboration. Publica- 
tion seemed the only logical answer. 

It was Charlotte who took the initiative in making the 
necessary arrangements, preparing the material in proper 
form, and sending it to a publisher. They all agreed that 
"authoresses are liable to be looked upon with prejudice," 
and so decided to conceal themselves by "assuming Christian 
names positively masculine." Such a subterfuge would also 
relieve them of the embarrassment of publicity, which was 
something that young ladies of the day felt it a duty to es- 
chew. The names chosen were Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 


pseudonyms for Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte respec- 

The next step was to find a publisher who would bring 
the book out, if not at his own risk, at least at the authors'. 
Charlotte wrote Messrs, Chambers of Edinburgh. Failing to 
receive any answer whatsoever, she next approached Messrs, 
Aylott and Jones of Paternoster Row, London. Aylott and 
Jones eventually agreed to bring out the book at a cost of 31 
pounds 10 shillings. One might wonder where the sisters 
obtained such a sum of money, which, though not large, was 
still a great deal for a family of small means to invest. 
It came from the modest legacy left them by Aunt Elizabeth, 
the same Aunt Elizabeth who had, before her death, loaned 
them the money which enabled Charlotte and Emily to attend 
school in Brussels. They had used the legacy to buy railroad 
shares, and these provided enough to pay the costs of publi- 

During the proofreading and printing, which took consid- 
erable time, a rather voluminous correspondence developed 
between Charlotte and the publishers, and these letters can 
be found in Mr. Clement Shelter's Charlotte Bronte and 
Her Circle. Charlotte had taken pains to inform herself on 
typography and format, and had no hesitation in making sug- 
gestions. She estimated that the book would run to 200 or 
250 pages, and she wished it to be an octavo volume resem- 
bling Moxon's latest edition of Wordsworth. When told that 
the manuscript would not require such a large volume, Char- 
lotte writes, "The MS. will certainly form a thinner volume 
than I had anticipated, I cannot name another model which 
I would like it precisely to resemble; yet 3 I think, a duo- 
decimo form, and a somewhat reduced, though still clear 
type, would be preferable. I only stipulate for clear type. 



not too small, and good paper." She always signed herself 
C. Bronte, and, since there was no meeting between author 
and publisher, the Messrs. Aylott and Jones must have been 
somewhat mystified as to the identity of Currer, Ellis, and 

Acton Bell. Charlotte's only explanation had been, "You will 
perceive that the poems are the work of three persons, rela- 
tivestheir separate pieces are distinguished by their re- 
spective signatures." One imagines that the publishers may 
have decided that he signatory was a wealthy patron of 
letters who thought he had discovered genius. 

Toward the end of May, 1846, Poems by Currer, Ellis and 
Acton Bell was published, having "stolen into life" as Mrs. 
Gaskell describes it. It may be said to have stolen out also. 
For almost a year later Charlotte, still keeping in character 
as Currer Bell, confessed in a letter to Thomas de Quincy that 
only two copies of the book had been sold outright. With the 
letter went a presentation copy, possibly in the hope that Mr. 
de Quincy might be moved to speak favorably of the booK 
in the press, or by return post. She wrote: 

Sir-, My relatives, Ellis and Acton Bell, and myself, 
heedless of the repeated warnings of various respectful 
publishers, have committed the rash act of printing a 
volume of poems. 

The consequences predicted have, of course, overtaken 
us. Our book is bound to be a drug; no man needs it or 
heeds it, In the space of a year our publisher has disposed 
but of two copies, and by what painful efforts he suc- 
ceeded in getting rid of these two, himself only knows. 

Before transferring the edition to the trankmakers, we 
have decided on distributing as presents a few copies of 
what we cannot sell; and we beg to offer you one in 
acknowledgement of the pleasure and profit we have 



often and long derived from your works. I am, yours very 
respectfully, Currer Bell. 

But, although there was the heartbreaking fact that only 
two people in England had been brave enough to buy a 
book of poetry by three unknown writers, there were certain 
compensations for this rash act of publishing. Reviews ap- 
pearing in the Critic and Athenaeum were sufficiently favor- 
able to tempt the Messrs. Bell into spending an additional ten 
pounds for advertising. The advertisements were to include 
a quotation from the Critic: "They in whose hearts are 
chords strung by nature to sympathise with the beautiful and 
true, will recognize in these compositions the presence of 
more genius than it was supposed this utilitarian age had de- 
voted to the loftier exercises of the intellect* And three 
months later Charlotte wrote an appreciative letter to 
the editor of the Dublin University Magazine thanking him 
for the generous review the magazine had given the book. 

Sir, I thank you in my own name and that of my 
brothers, Ellis and Acton, for the indulgent notice that ap- 
peared in your last number of our Brst humble efforts in 
literature; but I thank you far more for the essay on mod- 
ern poetry which preceded that notice-an essay in which 
seems to me to be condensed the very spirit of truth and 
beauty. If all or half of your other readers shall have de- 
rived from its perusal the delight it afforded myself and 
my brothers, your labors have produced a rich result 

After such criticism an author may indeed be smitten 
at first by a sense of his own insignificance, as it were, but 
on a second and third perusal he finds a power and beauty 
therein which stirs him to a desire to do more and better 
things, It fulfills the right end of criticism. Without abso- 
lutely crushing, it corrects and rouses. I again thank you 



heartily, and beg to subscribe myself > Your constant and 
grateful reader, Currer Bell 

There is a sincere humility in such a letter, and no bitter- 
ness at all. There is not even an appeal for pity, or any 
note of self-pity. Actually, the sisters felt none. The publi- 
cation of their book had fulfilled the dream they had cher- 
ished of one day being authors. To them the fact that a book 
of theirs was in print made them authors. They did not go 
beyond that, even to doubt the publishers' enterprise in hav- 
ing done no better in sales promotion. They doubted the 
value of the writing instead. In the same preface to the 1850 
edition of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey referred to 
above. Charlotte says, "The book was printed; and all o| it 
that merits to be known are the poems of Ellis Bell The fixed 
conviction I held, and hold, of the worth of these poems has 
not, indeed, received the confirmation of much favorable 
criticism; but I must retain it not withstanding," 

Charlotte was right, as usual. Posterity would one day 
prove how right she was. But both sisters were sensible 
enough to take a first failure with calm good nature, without 
prejudice, and with malice toward none. They had scarcely 
thought of consigning the unsold copies of Poems by Currer, 
Ellis and Acton Bell to the trankmaker than they were hard 
at work on their first novels. Charlotte on The Professor, 
Emily on Wuthering Heights, and Anne on Agnes Grey. 


Chapter xiv THE PROFESSOR 


JL lie Professor was the first of the four 
novels writen by Charlotte Bronte, though It was not pub- 
lished until two years after her death. It is regarded as the 
least representative of her genius. And yet its qualities are, 
one feels, entirely within the scale of her intention. She tells 
the story, not so much with an eye to values, as with an earnest 
concern for characteristics. The setting and the circum- 
stances, these are what compelled her. How were the charac- 
ters moved by environment and incident, she asked herself. 
The effect is a tapestry done in dull shades, but the lines, 
though thin, are clear and unwavering. She made no attempt 
to get under the skin of her characters. The Professor is a 
story of exteriors. Here and there she came close to dipping 
below surfaces to passionate abandon. But something held 
her in check, a certain fear of letting go. Therefore the novel 
is more intellectual than it is psychological or emotional. 
Which is, of course, what has caused Rebecca West to say, 
"Color is lent to the suspicion that Charlotte Bronte is not an 
artist but a sub-artist, that she does not analyze experience, 
but weaves fantasies to hang between man and his painful 
experience by the frequent use of the sub-artisfs chosen 
weapon, sentimental writing. Charlotte Bronte was a su- 
preme artist; and yet she was very nearly not an artist at 
alL" And one wonders why it is that sentimentality, as it 



seeps through the pages of The Professor, and flattens, as 
must be admitted, many pages of Jane Eyre and Shirley, has 
so damaged Charlotte Bronte s reputation, when, with many 
another great author, it is a forgiven indulgence. 

There is a great difference of opinion with regard to The 
Professor. Is it a work of art, worthy of the woman who was 
to write Jane Eyre and Vilktte? I think so. I think it gives 
more than a hint of the later power, and I think the manner 
of writing was well intended. Charlotte was not "giving a 
loose to her soul" until she had perfected the mold into which 
to pour it. She was still a prey to her habitual caution; she 
dared not let out the rein. May Sinclair claims that it was only 
after Charlotte had seen the manuscript of Emily's Wither- 
ing Heights that she threw caution to the winds and gave her 
imagination full sway. The result was Jane Eyre. 

My opinion is that The Professor deserves more praise, a 
wider audience, than it has received, in spite of the senti- 
mentality which we grant is there in too large a measure. 
The characters of Frances Henri and William Crimsworth are 
drawn with very deft and subtle touches and, though she 
has not penetrated to any passionate depths, she has re- 
deemed them from bathos. They are not types, but personali- 
ties. And The Professor contains superb passages of descrip- 
tion, as fine as Charlotte ever wrote. 

Charlotte herself did not think ill of her first novel. Neither 
did she ask "indulgence for it on the plea of a first attempt, 
for that," she declared, "it certainly was not, as the pen that 
wrote it had been previously worn in practice of some years. 1 * 
She was naturally referring to the practice in writing she had 
had during the voluminous chapters of the Young Men's 
Phy and the Angrian romances. Such early and vigorous 
discipline at least justifies her in affirming: "I had got over 


any such taste as I might have had for ornamented and 
decorated composition, and come to prefer what was plain 
and homely/ 7 This was the choice that explains the charac- 
ters of The Professor, a choice that made her argue with 
Emily and Anne that a heroine need not be beautiful to be 
both worthy and interesting, and that the aspiration and for- 
titude of the spirit are more important than fascination and 
charm of feature. Yes, Charlotte knew what she was doing 
in her art as she knew what she was doing in life! If The 
Professor has a major fault it is that her calculation shows 
through the material, as it doesn't in her later work. 

The Professor grew out of Charlotte Bronte's experiences 
in Brussels, as did Villette, the greater of the two books, 
which dealt with a heroine tossed on the seas of passion and 
suffering. But Frances Henri was the forerunner of Lucy 
Stowe, as William Crimsworth was, to a certain degree, of 
M. Paul Emanuel. The Professor is a novel of two parts, the 
scene of the first being laid in England, and that of the sec- 
ond in Brussels. The plot is also somewhat divided. In Eng- 
land the story revolves about the lives of two brothers, un- 
like each other in every way. Edward, the elder, operates a 
mill in which William, the younger, works. But the occupa- 
tion and environment are completely at variance with 
William's tastes and interests, so that a strong antagonism 
develops between the brothers. Eventually there is a final 
break, and William departs for Brussels, where he becomes a 
teacher in M. Pelefs school for boys. And in Brussels he 
meets Frances Henri, and falls in love. The remainder of the 
book is the story of their romance against the foreign back- 
ground that had so deeply affected Charlotte. 

We are not led to expect passion from the contained spirit, 
the calin intelligence, of Frances Henri. And she does not 



waken it in William Crimsworth. Yet there is a kind of idyllic 
appeal in the love affair of these two, which springs from 
what Charlotte describes as the "delicious solidarity" of the 
young lady, and the decorous reserve of her lover. And the 
scene in which William, having come into a small compe- 
tence, indicates his wish to marry Frances, is expressive of 
Charlotte's own philosophy of matrimony: 

"Think of marrying you to be kept by you, Monsieur! 
I could not do it; and how dull my days would be! You 
would be away teaching in close, noisy schoolrooms, from 
morning till evening, and I should be lingering at home, 
unemployed and solitary. I should get depressed and 
sullen, and you would tire of ine." 

"Frances, you could yet read and study two things you 
like so well" 

"Monsieur, I could not, I like a contemplative life, but 
I like an active better; I must act in some way, and act 
with you, I have taken notice, Monsieur, that people who 
act only in each others' company for amusement, never 
really like each other so well, or esteem each other so 
highly, as those who work together, and perhaps suffer 

"You speak God's truth [Crimsworth replies], and you 
shall have your own way, for it is the best way/' 

The Professor has no plot in the conventional sense. It 
might more properly be said to be a series of vignettes. The 

dialogue makes them that: an arrangement of tableaus or 
scenes. They are meant to illustrate the relationship between 
the lovers rather than to interpret their feelings. One receives 
a certain delight from the deft flourishes of the pen, whether 
in conversation or in description, but the strokes are at their 
best in the descriptive passages. These last give us Charlotte's 


poetic spirit in its true colors. Her own poetry was mediocre, 
for she was unable, as Emily, to fit matter to form with her 
sister's genius; but given the unhampered freedom of prose, 
her poetic imagination took flight. Her word painting is ex- 
quisite. Such descriptive passages as the one we quote lift 
the story into literature, in spite of the qualities it lacks as a 

Already the pavement was drying; a balmy and fresh 
breeze stirred the air, purified by lightning: I left the 
west behind me, where a spread sky like opal, azure 
inmingled with crimson; the enlarged sun, glorious in 
Tynan dyes, dipped his brim already; stepping, as I was, 
eastward, I faced a vast bank of clouds, but also I had 
before me the arch of an even rainbow; a perfect rain- 
bow-high, wide, vivid. I looked long; my eye drank in the 
scene, and I suppose my brain must have absorbed it; for 
that night, after tying awake in pleasant fever a long 
time, watching the silent sheet-lightning, which still 
played among the retreating clouds, and flashed silvery 
over the stars, I at last fell asleep; and then in a dream 
was reproduced the setting sun, the bank of clouds, the 
mighty rainbow. I stood, methought, on a terrace; I 
leaned over a parapeted wall; there was space below me, 
depth I could not fathom, but hearing an endless splash 
of waves, I believed it to be the sea; sea spread to the 
horizon; sea of changeful green and intense blue; all was 
soft in the distance; all vapour-veiled. A spark of gold 
glistened on the line between water and air, floated up, 
appeared, enlarged and changed; the object hung mid- 
way between heaven and earth, under the arch of the 
rainbow; the soft but dark clouds diffused behind. It hov- 
ered as on wings; pearly, fleecy, ir!canii:ig air streamed 
like raiment round it; light, tinted with carnation, col- 



cured what seemed face and limbs; a large star shoiie 
with still lustre on an angel's forehead. 

Yet no publisher would take The Professor. It went the 
heartbreaking rounds from office to office. This journey of 
the manuscript best illustrates a certain naivete in Charlotte 
that she never outgrew, with all her shrewd arrangement of 
life. She never took the trouble to change the wrapping on 
the bundle of sheets in which they were returned from the 
latest publisher! She would merely erase as best she could, 
and send it forth again. Such a purity of intention, whereby 
there is no attempt to conceal one's failures in order to fur- 
ther one's success, is a tribute to the character and integrity 
of a great nature. Emily and Anne possessed the same virtue 
to an even higher degree. It is a quality the world could well 
emulate in these days of propaganda. 

When the manuscript reached Smith, Elder, Mr. Williams 
of the firm's editorial stal also rejected it, not for lack of 
merit, he said, but because it was too short for the average 
three-volume novel. It was a period when the longer the 
better, the reader demanding his money's worth in number 
of pages and volumes. This rejection, however, established a 
correspondence between Charlotte and Mr. Williams that led 
to his becoming her friend and literary mentor, and to the 
publication of Jane Eyre by the firm of Smith, Elder. 

"To come to Jane Eyre after The Professor, declares May 
Sinclair, <e is to pass into another world of feeling and vision." 
But the two worlds are linked by the symbol of the rue d'lsa- 
belle, that was like a river of dreams flowing through Char- 
lotte's heart bearing strange crafts of human experience. 


Chapter xv JANE "EYRE 


March, 1847, shortly before her thirty- 
first birthday, Charlotte Bronte wrote her friend Ellen Nus- 
sey, "I shall be thirty-one next birthday. My youth is gone 
like a dream; and very little use have I even made of it 
What have I done these last thirty years? Precious little." 
Yet, only a few months later, she was to realize in full what 
those years had meant. For in the first week of October, 1847, 
an unknown novelist by the name of Currer Bell gave the 
world a story called Jane Eyre. 

When, as we previously noted, Mr. Williams of Smith, 
Elder turned down The Professor, he was cordially regretful, 
and expressed the hope that Currer Bell would grant him 
the pleasure of examining any future work, particularly if it 
was of greater length. Charlotte, nothing daunted by what 
might have appeared merely a kind way of giving her the 
brush-off, as we say today, took him at Ms word, and wrote 
immediately to say she had a three-volume novel in the mak- 
ing which she hoped to finish within a month. When the 
completed Jane Eyre reached Mr. Williams, Be is said to have 
given it his entire attention, to the exclusion of all else, until 
he finished it. "He was so powerfully struck by the character 
of the tale," Mrs. Gaskell writes, **that he reported his im- 
pression in very strong terms to Mr, Smith, who appears to 
have been much amused by the admiration excited. "You 



seem to have been so enchanted, that I do not know how to 
believe you/ he laughingly said. But when a second reader 
(the Mr. Taylor who later proposed to Charlotte), a clear- 
headed Scotchman not given to enthusiasm, had taken the 
MS. home in the evening, and become so deeply interested in 
it as to sit up half the night to finish it, Mr. Smith's curiosity 
was sufficiently excited to prompt him to read it for himself; 
and great as were the praises which had been bestowed upon 
it, he found that they had not exceeded the truth." So Mr. 
Smith of Smith, Elder promptly published it, and thereby 
was responsible for turning a page in the history of the novel, 
and, more than that, in the history of womankind. 

Nothing like this novel had ever come from the hand of a 
woman, in English, or any other, literature. Her predeces- 
sors, Fanny Burney, Ann Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth, Jane 
Porter, and Jane Austen, her contemporaries Mrs. Oliphant, 
Mrs. Gaskell, and George Eliot, had enriched English fiction 
to be sure, but not with the electrifying dramatic effect pro- 
duced by Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte shot her bolt at the 
very heart o Victorian complacency and opened up a seeth- 
ing subconscious of feminine revolt against convention, of 
suppressed humiliations and resentments, that women had 
been nourishing in their breasts far too long. And it was not 
merely the individual that it probed, exposing, like a sur- 
geon's knife, the quivering nerves of the passionate anatomy 
of woman's nature, but the institutions that had imprisoned 
her for their own security and survival. 

One of the extraordinary things about the reception of 
Jane Eyre was that it fascinated, at the same tune that it re- 
pelled, the mind and sense of its generation. As popukr en- 
tertainment its reception was tremendous, overriding all 
critical censure and disapproval. It swept the emotions of 


its readers before it in a flood of sensations that had previ- 
ously been kept in the dark, in more ways than one, if felt 
at all. Its realism challenged the professional critics. The 
public had not had its feelings so ruthlessly stirred since 
Byron gave them romantic passion in his narrative verse, 
Previously, when anyone wished to lay bare the soul of man, 
he resorted to the safer smokescreen of poetry. But lately the 
novel had begun to realize its power to investigate the inner 
conflicts, the capacities for joy and grief, love and hate, that 
human flesh is heir to. Charlotte Bronte, largely because she 
was blissfully unaware of the depths below her, went over- 
board. The result was furiously controversial, in and out of 
the press. 

Of course the critics, being male, or women who, like Miss 
Rigby, prided themselves on going one step further in re- 
pudiating their own sex, felt it their bounden duty to be 
shocked at the moral and social aspects involved. That Jane 
Eyre, not only a woman, but a woman of low degree, should 
attempt to probe the human frailties of men and women, 
the qualities of character that are elected by the relationship 
between the sexes, and particularly the passion that is as 
much a right of women as men this was too much for the 
male ego to accept without protest. God forbid that women 
should be encouraged to follow in Jane's footsteps, or that 
such a fantastic emotional outburst should be mistaken for 
real life. The possibility must be nipped in the bud. Not 
that the pleasure of nipping it in the bud wasn't given fresh 
impetus by the necessity for reading the book. Naturally 
one has to read what one censors-even in Boston! 

One of die earliest and most venomous attacks appeared 
in The Quarterly Review. John T. Lockhart, editor of the 
C ,/,' "-" I--- had sent a review copy of Jane Eyre to Miss Bigby 



(who later became Lady Eastlake), together with Thacke- 
ray's Vanity Fair and a treatise on schools entitled Govern- 
esses. The letter he wrote, enclosing them, is most interesting 
in view of what had happened previously, and of the events 
that were to occur: 

About three years ago I received a small volume of 
Foems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, and a queer little 
note by Currer Bell who said the book had been pub- 
lished a year, and just two copies sold, so they were to 
bum the rest, but distributed a few copies, mine being 
one. I find what seems rather a fair review of that tiny 
tome in the Spectator of this week; pray look at it. 

I think the poems of Currer much better than those of 
Acton and Ellis, and believe his novel is vastly better 
than those which they have more recently put forth. 

I know nothing of the writers, but the common rumor 
is that they are brothers of the weaving order in some 
Lancashire town. At first it was generally said Currer was 
a lady, and Mayf air circumstantialised by making her the 
chere amie of Mr. Thackeray. But your skill in "dress" 
settles the question of sex. I think, however, some woman 
must have assisted in the school scenes of Jane Eyre, 
which have a striking air of truthfulness to me an igno- 
ramus, 1 allow, on such points. 

I should say you might well glance at the novels by 
Acton and Ellis Bell Withering Heights is one of them.- 
If you have any friend about Manchester, it would, I sup- 
pose, be easy to learn accurately as to the position of these 

Whether Miss Rigby actually wrote the review which re- 
sulted from this assignment is somewhat questionable. There 
is a possibility, vouched for by Mr. Andrew Lang, that a cer- 
tain Mr. Broeklebanfc, "a black-marble clcrgvman," either 


wrote the article or collaborated with Miss Rigby. And it 

would seem highly probable that Mr. Lang was right. The 
hand of the clergy appears to be discernible in the harsh 

tones of the denunciation. After all, the attitude would have 
the approval of such an eminent authority of the cloth as 
Charles Kingsley, whose word for Jane Eyre was "coarse." 

We have said [writes Miss Rigby (or Mr. BrocHe- 
bank)] that this was a picture of a natural heart. This, to 
our view, is the great and crying mischief of the book. 
Jane Eyre is throughout the personification of an unre- 
generate and undisciplined spirit the more dangerous to 
exhibit from that prestige of principle and self-control 
which is liable to dazzle the eye too much for it to observe 
the insufficient and unsound foundation on which it rests. 
It is true that Jane does right, and exerts great moral 
strength, but it is the strength of a mere heathen mind, 
which is a law unto itself. No Christian grace is percep- 
tible upon her. She has inherited in the fullest measure 
the worst sin of our fallen nature, the sin of pride. Jane 
Eyre is proud,~aad therefore she is ungrateful too. It 
pleased God to make her an orphan, friendless and penni- 
less, and yet she thanks nobody, least of all the friends, 
companions, and instructors of her helpless youth, for the 
food and raiment, the care and education, vouchsafed to 
her till she was capable in mind and fit to provide for 
herself. Altogether the autobiography of Jane Eyre is 
pre-eminently an anti-Christian composition. There is 
throughout it a murmuring against the comforts of the 
rich and the privations of the poor, which, so far as each 
individual is concerned, is a murmuring against God's 
appointment. There is a proud and perpetual asserting 
of the rights of man for which we find no authority in 
God's Word or His Providence. There is that pervading 



tone of ungodly discontent which is at once the most 
prominent and the most subtle evil which the law and the 
pulpit, which all civilized society, in fact, at the present 
day has to contend with. 

The Quarterly also was of two minds as to the sex of the 
author of Jane Eyre. Was Currer Bell man or woman? "No 
woman," the reviewer states emphatically, "trusses game, 
garnishes dessert dishes with the same hands, or talks of doing 
so in the same breath. Above all, no woman attires another in 
such fancy dresses as Jane's ladies assume. Miss Ingram com- 
ing down irresistible in a morning robe of sky-blue crepe, a 
gauze azure scarf twisted in her hair! No lady, we under- 
stand, when suddenly aroused in the night, would think of 
hurrying on "a frock/ They have garments more convenient 
for such occasions, and more becoming, too!" Obviously be- 
lieving that the author is not only a man, but a dangerous and 
fanatic radical as well, the reviewer continues: "We do not 
hesitate to say that the tone of mind and thought which has 
overthrown authority, and violated every code, human and 
divine, abroad, and fostered chartism and rebellion at home, 
is the same which has also written Jane Eyre!' And 'Tie" goes 
on to make what Miss May Sinclair calls "an infamous and 
immoral utterance": "If we ascribe the book to a woman at 
all, we have no alternative but to ascribe it to one who has, 
for some sufficient reason, long forfeited the society of her 
own sex." 

What was this story that stirred such passions in the hearts 
of its readers? Where did it spring from, whether from the 
heart of man or woman, out of what travail and faith? Actu- 
ally the fictional character of Jane Eyre is a tangled web of 
autobiographical counterpoint. Jane Eyre's recital of her life, 


and of her love for the master of Thornfield, was drawn di- 

rectlv from the reaKties of Charlotte Bronte's life. The atmos- 


phere was one she had known and absorbed; the situations 

were those she had observed intimately, suffered, and not 
accepted; the characters had many of them been ripening 
through the long apprenticeship of the Angrian cycle. Char- 
lotte's sources and resources were so rich and varied it is not 
surprising she sometimes became embarrassed in the use of 
them when attempting the novel form. She had always freely 
piled incident on incident, character on character, in hap- 
hazard abandonment to imaginative impulses. Now incident 
and character must be harnessed tandem to a vehicle she had 
never ridden. So that while her creative genius easily trans- 
formed the illusions of Angria to the realities of Thomfield, 
it still could fail to keep the course of action in proper focus 
and perspective. From the exteriors and intellectual refine- 
ments of The Professor, she leaped with a sudden and direct 
force into the interiors and passions of Jane Eyre; and, dazed 
by the transition, she had difficulty to keep her narrative in 
balance, her values defined. Her fortitude, however, sus- 
tained her, and she persisted until the essence of passion, and 
it was a profoundly spiritual passion, yielded its strong magic 
to flavor the crises in the love of Jane and Rochester. As May 
Sinclair says in her introduction to the 1905 edition of Jane 
Eyre, published by J. M. Dent, London: 

Passion was Charlotte Bronte^ secret. She gave a new 
meaning to the word. She was the Erst novelist .to handle 
the thing, the real thing. Jjaae Austen 1 was not alone in 
her ignorance of it. None of the older novelists had 
treated it adequately. For Scott it was simply a high, 
vague, romantic feeling that hung round his characters 
like a dress. Kichardson got somewhere near it in Clarissa 



Harlowe without knowing it. His vision was impaired by 
tht damp fog of sentiment in which he loved to live. To 
Fielding passion meant animal passion, and as such he 
rightly held it unimportant. 

For Thackeray, too, it is a sharp fever of the senses, to 
be treated with the brevity its episodic and accidental 
character deserves. 

None of these novelists understood by passion what 
Charlotte Bronte understood. And the comfortable, senti- 
mental, thoroughly prosaic Early Victorians who de- 
voured Jane Eyre did not understand it either and were 

! .;" / ^ as the orphan child with the Reeds at Gates- 
head, where her spirit was wounded by the frightful experi- 
ence of the Red Room, to the finding of the blind and broken 
Rochester, and the atonement of her marriage to him, Jane 
Eyre tells her story in a series of poignant crises. As a child 
of ten, she confesses, "I was a discord at Gateshead." This is 
the motif of an autobiography. Jane was out of step with life, 
she was a discord in the harmony of love and convention, 
off-key in her adjustment to society, so-called. Yet all these 
discordant notes were to be resolved in what Miss Sinclair 
calls a "truth beyond reality/* 

I think one is first made aware of the symbolic significance 
of certain episodes, that weave an oft-repeated melody 
throughout the whole, at the first meeting of Jane and Roch- 
ester. Eight years after Jane leaves the infamous school at 
Lowood, and goes out into the world to make a living, we 
find her at Thornfield as governess to Adele Varens, the half- 
French half -English ward of Rochester. Rochester has been 
absent from Thornfield at the time Mrs. Fairfax, the house- 
hold manager, engaged her. When he returns, he meets with 


an accident on the icy path approaching the house, spraining 
an ankle. Jane goes to his assistance, and though he is a 
strong, heavy man, leaning on her frail body he is safely 

helped indoors. Here, from the first, we have the interplay, 
the juxtaposition, of the forces that make the novel so power- 
ful and stimulating: the superior power of the spirit, particu- 
larly when it is aflame with love, over the instability of 
matter. Charlotte clearly conceived this idea as being the 
guiding thread that held together and unified the novel, not 
as incidents in a consciously "invented" plot, but as abstrac- 
tions released from the secret frustrations of the heart 

There are four such crises in Jane Eyre, rising like snow- 
capped peaks lit by the rays of a setting sun. By way of these, 
the soul of Jane, as in Pilgrims Progress, reaches successive 
heights of self-sacrifice and redemption, gains a discipline 
over the turbulent spirit, attains ultimate happiness and rest. 
The first of these, already referred to, was the terror she expe- 
rienced as a child in the Red Room at Gateshead; the second 
was the severe trial her love for Rochester suffered at his 
hands at Thornfield; the third, the telepathic exchange be- 
tween them that impelled their meeting, the spirit of each 
yearning for revelation; and, finally, Jane's triumph over 
temptation when it became clear she could not marry Roch- 
ester. Charlotte Bronte, in her handling of these episodes, 
seems to be exercising her most rigid Calvinisttc convictions 
to catechize the waywardness of the human heart. Yet when 
she discovers that man's seeming desire to break the laws of 
nature is really only his need to break die laws of man, 
she grants her characters mercy and salvation. The "values" 
of Gateshead were conventions, she discovers, not the kws 
that should underlie the obligations of both domestic and 
Christian life. Although the intolerable conditions at Lowood 



were a sin against Christian principles, the worst that could 
be said of them was that they were mistaken, yet they had 
foundation in the creed in which Charlotte believed: it is 
God's will to chasten with trial and pain those whom He most 

As I have said, there is so much in Jane Eyre that is subject 
to symbolic interpretation. And it is all encompassed by the 
great house at Thornfield, whose destruction by fire is itself 
an emblem. The whole drama of Jane's love is played out in 
this house. Through its rooms wander the brutal spirit of 
Rochester's cruel deception; the delicate charm and inno- 
cence of Adele, the illegitimate child; the tipsy ogre; Grace 
Poole; Bertha, the mad wife, confined to her chamber of 
horrors; and the gentle, graceful Mrs. Fairfax. The child 
Adele is perhaps the most symbolic of all Charlotte Bronte's 
characters. Adele is the symbol of that purity which sin may 
beget but cannot harm, when the sin is an accident of man's 
nature caught in the grip of natural law that force which is 
an expression of God's will to create. As the symbol of the 
expiation of such "sin," Charlotte's Adele is the first in fiction, 
to be followed closely by Pearl in The Scarlet Letter. But 
Charlotte's portrait is perhaps even more vivid, and certainly 
as beautiful, as Hawthorne's. 

Furthermore there are whole conversations that are, in 
themselves, an interpretation, a symbolic representation, of 
an idea. Take, for instance, the conversation that follows 
Jane's discovery of Rochester's philandering with Blanche 

"I grieve to leave Thornfield [says Jane], I love Thorn- 
field: I love it because I have lived in it a full and de- 
lightful life, momentarily, at least. I have not been 
trampled on. I have not been petrified. I have not been 



buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every 
glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic 
and high. I have talked, face to face, with what I rev- 
erence; with what I delight in with an original, a vigor- 
ous, an expanded mind. I have known you, Mr. Rochester; 
and it strikes me with terror and anguish to feel I abso- 
lutely must be torn from you for ever. I see the necessity 
of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of 

"Where do you see the necessity?" he asked, suddenly. 

"Where? You, sir, have placed it before me." 

"In what shape?"' 

"In the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautifttl 
woman, your bride/* 

"My bride! What bride? I have no bridel* 

"But you will have/* 

"Yes;-I will!" He set his teeth, 

"Then I must go: you have said it yourself." 

"No; you must stay! I swear it and the oath shall be 

"I tell you I must go!" I retorted, roused to something 
like passion. "Do you titnnk I caa stay to become nothing 
to you? Do you think I am an automaton? a machine 
without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of 
bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water 
dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, 
obscure, plain, little, I am soulless and heartless? You 
think wrong! I have as much soul as you, and full as 
much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty, 
and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you 
to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not 
talking to you now through the medium of custom, con- 
ventionalities, or even of mortal flesh : it is my spirit that 
addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed tihrough 



the grave and we stood at God's feet equal, as we are!" 
"As we are!" repeated Mr. Rochester. 

The critics have been immensely disturbed by this pas- 
sage, objecting to its psychology and its histrionics. Char- 
lotte herself was interested in neither. She knew nothing of 
the former, and cared nothing for the latter. Her concern 
was entirely with the moralities of love and passion, those 
emotions that compel man to reach the most exalted place 
life can hold or to sink to its most despicable depths; and her 
principle of morality was not found in any system devised by 
man, as Miss Sinclair said, but came from a divine source 
which embraces the whole of creation. In this dialogue she 
gave vent to that pride which was considered the unpardon 
able sin of the orphaned and the helpless. It was Charlotte's 
mission to tumble the mighty from their seats, and exalt the 
lowly and meek. The meek shall have pride, she says, if it is 
purified with the emotions that are the common heritage of 
all menand women. She also was moved by an immense 
sympathy for the suffering of the human soul, heart, and 
mind. Whereas Becky Sharpe, of Vanity Fair, has lost much 
of her original glamour, having been made an object of dis- 
like and satire by her creator, Jane Eyre has emerged steadily 
brighter, due to the pity and understanding that Charlotte's 
conscience, incapable of ethical infidelity, poured upon her. 
To quote again from Miss Sinclair; 

What, after all, was the passion that Charlotte tinder- 
stood? It is not any blind, unspiritual instinct. Her Jane's 
upward gaze is "the very sublime of faith, truth and devo- 
tion." She has not only shown in Jane the power of pas- 
sion. She was the first to vindicate its essential purity; the 
first woman to divine that a woman's passion, when com- 



plete, is two-fold, she being destined supremely for 
maternity. In Charlotte Bronte's hands passion becomes a 
thing of strange innocences and tendernesses and terrors, 
rejoicing in service and the sacrifice of self. A thing su- 
perbly unaware of animal instinct; a profound and tragic 
thing' that bears at its heart the prescience of suffering 

and of death. 

Because of this quality in her, little Jane, in spite ot 
her quaint and somewhat alienating precision, and her 
tendency to refer to herself as a "dependent," remains to 
this day young and splendid and modern to her finger- 


Chapter xvi SHIRLEY 


CHARLOTTE BRONTE'S novels are all stud- 
ies of women against the Victorian background of England, a 
background not so much of a period as of a convention. 
But whereas Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe are presented sub- 
jectively, autobiographically, Shirley Keeldar is an objective 
portrayal. Charlotte holds Shirley off, as it were, for scrutiny, 
and for that reason Shirley is spared the brush strokes of 
sentimentality that sometimes dull the canvas of Jane Eyre. 
Also the atmosphere of place, the Yorkshire scene, exerts a 
more vital influence on the whole picture of Shirley. Indeed, 
scene is greatly responsible for Shirley's attractive per- 
sonality, for the fascination she has for everyone who comes 
to know her. And I agree with the critics who say that the 
fj M: '; reason for Shirley's character being what it is, 
her steadfast soul and its oneness with steadfast nature, is 
that Emily was the model Charlotte used. I do not agree 
that the character of Shirley is a failure because it is only a 
partly realized delineation of Emily, as some have said, for 
it seems to me that what there is of Emily in Shirley is a 
phantom spirit that emerges in those rare moments when the 
girl is transported by the supreme beauty in nature. Charlotte 
herself says that she thought of Emily as she wrote of Shirley. 
But the question remains, did she tave Emily in mind from 
the * i : : '. or did Emily find her way into the book as 


she progressed? The latter seems more likely, since the writ- 
ing was begun before Emily's death. It would seem that, later 
in the book, memories of her sister were what gave the char- 
acter of Shirley its poignant qualities, its spiritual signifi- 
cance. As Miss Ratchford says, Shirley Keeldar is what Emily 
"might have been had she known health and prosperity/ 7 

It was during the writing of Shirley that Charlotte passed 
through "The Valley of the Shadow of Death/* to use the 
title of her twenty-fourth chapter, taken in turn from Pil- 
grim's Progress. She had the novel about half completed 
when Emily became mortally ill, and her death was followed 
swiftly by Anne's. Charlotte had laid the manuscript aside 
during this tragic period of illness and death. She had taken 
Anne to Scarborough in the hope that the sea air would be 
a healing influence. But the tuberculosis, that scourge of the 
Bronte family, again took its toll, and Charlotte returned to 
the empty parsonage at Haworth bowed with grief and lone- 
liness. "I felt that the house was all silent,* 7 she wrote Ellen 
Nussey, "the rooms were all empty. I remembered where the 
three were laidin what dark narrow dwellingsnevermore 
to reappear on earth The agony that was to be under- 
gone, and was not to be avoided, came on, I underwent it, 
and passed a dreary evening and night, and a mournful mor- 
row/* It is difficult to conceive such tragedy visited upon 
one so young, so solitary, and so isolated. 

What this "agony to be undergone" did to Charlotte was 
to force her to reconceive her novel, and make of the second 
part a memorial to her sister Emily. There is no doubt that 
she set herself resolutely to finish Shirley, as a means of sur- 
cease from sorrow and pain. Beginning with the twenty- 
fourth chapter, "The Valley of the Shadow of Death," she 
writes of Caroline Hektoae's illness, the tender nursing of 


THE Bi:\\nci;i-:i) PARSONAGE 

Mrs, Pryor, and the revelation of their relationship as mother 
and daughter. And it is at this point in the book that May 
Sinclair says, "Charlotte's level strength deserts her. Ever 
after, she falls and soars, and falls, and soars again/' A mind 
divided., or rather a heart divided, between life and the grave 
-what could one expect! Yet it is in the second part of the 
book that Emily emerges as an element-like wind or rain or 
sunlight-in the character of Shirley herself. And it is the 
second part, with all its faltering and inequality, its soaring 
and falling, that is the most stimulating and uplifting, often 
the most intense, due to the character of Shirley Keeldar. 

Furthermore, any fluctuation in the artistic qualities of 
Shirley does not rob it of the idea, the concept, that Char- 
lotte Bronte had for the novel. She was concerned with the 
heralding of a new industrial era, the coming in of the "in- 
dustrial age/' in which the use of machinery was already 
beginning to have its effect on labor. While the new inven- 
tions, and their effect on the working man, served as Char- 
lotte's protagonist in the industrial drama fust commencing, 
she also introduced the political crisis, brought about by the 
Napoleonic war, which had caused the government to pro- 
hibit the products of British mills from being sold to neutral 
countries. And in Shirley we have Robert Moore caught on 
the horns of the economic dilemma thus precipitated. 

Robert Moore was fighting to maintain his business sol- 
vency against political restrictions with the use of labor- 
saving devices; his rigid, unsympathetic attitude toward the 
workers, antagonistic to begin with because of his foreign 
extraction, made the conflict a class war as well as an eco- 
nomic. Into this struggle Shirley Keeldar stepped, supporting 
Moore's industrial investment with money of her own, at the 
same time reconciling her conscience by assisting the dissi- 


dent working class with practical charity and human sympa- 

As can be seen, Shirley Keeldar is Charlotte's new concept 
of womanhood. She is drawn, not so much as a rebel against 
the strictures society had imposed upon her sex, as a proph- 
ecy of woman's coming equality with man in his participa- 
tion in the world of affairs. The development of Shirley's 
character is masterfully accomplished through action and 
scene, a composite of the two. We get it through the wooing 
of Sir Philip Nunnely; the angry discussions between Shirley 
and her uncle when she refuses to marry Sir Philip; the diary 
of Louis Moore, who loves Shirley on paper until the end of 
the book; the walks with Caroline Helstone on the heath 
when Shirley talks of all earthly beauties; the conversation 
between the two women as they watch the workers* riot in 
the night: 

"They come on!" cried Shirley. "How steadily they 
march in! There is discipline in their ranks-I will not say 
there is courage; hundreds against tens are no proof of 
that quality; but (she dropped her voice) there is suffer- 
ing and desperation amongst themthese goads will 
urge them forward." 

"Forwards against Robert-and they hate him. Shirley, 
is there much danger they will win the day?" 

"We shall see. Moore and Helstone are of earth's first 
blood no bunglers no cravens" 

A crash-smash-shiver-stopped their whispers. A si- 
multaneously-hurled volley of stones had saluted the 
broad front of the mill, and with all its windows; and now 
every pane of every lattice lay shattered and pounded 
fragments. A yell followed this demonstration a rioters* 
yeE-a north-of-England-a Yorkshire a West Riding a 



West Riding-clothing-district-of-Yorkshire rioters' yell. 
You never heard that sound, perhaps, reader? So much 
the better for your ears perhaps for your heart; since, if 
it rends the air in hate to yourself, or to the men or prin- 
ciples you approve, the interests to which you wish well, 
Wrath wakens to the cry of Hate: the Lion shakes his 
marie, and rises to the howl of the Hyena: Caste stands 
up, ireful, against Caste; and the indignant, wronged 
spirit of the Middle Rank bears down in zeal and scorn 
on the famished and furious mass of the Operative Class. 
It is difficult to be tolerant difficult to be justin such 

Caroline rose; Shirley put her arm round her; they 
stood as still as the straight stems of two trees. That yell 
was a long one, and when it ceased, the night was yet full 
of the swaying and murmuring of a crowd. 

"What next?" was the question of the listeners. Nothing 
came yet. The mill remained mute as a mausoleum. 

<c He cannot be alone!" whispered Caroline. 

"I would stake all I have, that he is as little alone as 
he is alarmed/' responded Shirley. 

This final declaration of Shirley's under the stress of the 
violence which the two girls were witnessing, is the key to 
the spirit of Shirley Keeldar, reflecting that of Emily Bronte, 
drawing its strength from mystical powers. For Shirley and 
Caroline were speaking of a man they both loved, Caroline 
with a tender devotion but with an uncomprehending inno- 
cence, Shirley with a mystic power of plumbing the human 
soul; Caroline in deadly fear for Robert's life, Shirley with 
courage for his soul. When she said tibat Robert Moore, 
menaced as he was by the angry mob, was as little alone as 
he was alarmed, she was stating the case for God. The magic 


of Shirley's personality had come to burn with a steady flame 
under her complex and unpredictable behavior. 

In Shirley, Charlotte Bronte leaves the parsonage and the 
classroom and goes out into the world of business, into the 
affairs of men. Many men play important roles in Shirley's 
life, in her public life as well as her private life. She is sur- 
rounded by men; and she holds her own among them, from 
the standpoint both of intellect and of integrity. It seems to 
me to be one of the mysterious aspects of Charlotte's genius 
that at so young an age, and living the secluded and penuri- 
ous life of a minister's daughter, she could give us the men 
she has drawn in Shirley. All of them are recognizably iesh 
and blood, no mere figments of a girl's imagination. Her men 
are sturdy and strong, with all the virtues and faults of human 
beings. They do not stand on pedestals. She skillfully satirizes 
the insipid weakness of the curates, Messrs. Malone, Sweet- 
ing, and Donne; and yet the rector, Mathew Helstone, is a 
cleric of determined political principles, a Tory, a skeptic 
where women are concerned (and particularly where his 
niece Shirley is concerned), who fearlessly and manfully de- 
fends the law against the rioters. Robert Moore, Hiram Yorke, 
Joe Scott, Mr. Sykes, even the hypocritical dissenters, Moses 
Barraclough and Michael Hartley, are all realities. In Hiram 
Yorke, Charlotte has been said to have created her most 
powerful male character. A native of Yorkshire, with cultural 
refinements acquired from foreign travel and wide associa- 
tions, with an uncompromising yet understanding attitude 
toward human frailty, Hiram Yorke is done with a power and 
unerring penetration that makes him memorable in the roster 
of Charlotte s creations. Hiram's racy Yorkshire dialect, ex- 
pressing such wise insight, is done with a true ear for the 
tang of originality of expression. The wisdom may be harsh, 



but it is lit by such a spirit of sweet intelligence and faith as 
to soften the sting. Although his part in the story is com- 
paratively minor, he gives the impression of a major force, 
outweighing the rigid financial obsessions of Robert Moore, 
or the ineffectual, though noble, aspirations of his brother, 
Louis Moore, And, speaking of Louis Moore, it must have 
been in a moment of impulse that Charlotte chose him, of 
them all, to become Shirley's husband. Perhaps because, hav- 
ing made the problems of society, rather than romance, her 
"leading men," she was not so deeply concerned with Shirley's 
affairs of the heart as she had been with Jane's and Lucy's. 
She could thus give Shirley away to any one of several men, 
provided they were worthy aspirants. 

Shirley's relation to Caroline is extremely interesting, in 
view of the relationship of Emily, Anne, and Charlotte. Caro- 
line might well have been Anne, as Shirley was Emily. 
Shirley sees with patient and loving understanding, with 
compassionate sympathy, the gnawing hunger of love for 
Robert Moore that is eating Caroline's heart away. She her- 
self feels irresistibly drawn into the flame of Robert Moore s 
dynamic personality, his vigor and drive, yet she doesn't 
allow the faintest intimation of her own feelings to shadow 
her friendship for Caroline. Caroline sinks under the burden 
of her unrequited love, and becomes very ill Shirley sends 
her own governess-companion, the mysterious Mrs. Pryor, to 
nurse Caroline; it is then that Caroline discovers that Mrs. 
Pryor is her mother. For all the danger invited by such a 
reunion for one of Charlottes lapses into sentimentality, 
this is one of the tenderest and most moving scenes in any 
of the novels. 

What makes Shirley endearing, and a triumph of Char- 
lotte s imagination, is that she is a symbol of the unity 


between the human spirit and the profound realities of na- 
ture. Shirley, like Emily, knew how to break through the 
facade of man's creation to worship at the altars of those 
truths. In Shirley, Charlotte Bronte used to greatest advan- 
tage her familiarity with the Yorkshire background. The first 
part of The Professor, and certain parts of Jane Eyre, find 
her painting the scene she knew by heart, but in neither of 
these novels does she weave such a pattern of natural and 
psychological details, giving the temper and substance of a 
place and its people, as she does in Shirley. In Shirley her 
love of the Haworth country is transfigured by the spirit of 
Emily and takes on a new significance. In one incomparable 
passage, which May Sinclair has called a "great prose hymn," 
Shirley utters a paean of adoration of Earth that is Incom- 
parable in its ecstatic fervor; 

"How pleasant and calm it is!" said Caroline, 
"And how hot it will be in the church!" responded Shir- 
ley: "and what a dreary long speech Dr. Boultby will 
make! and how the curates will hammer over their pre- 
pared orations! For my part, I would rather not enter.** 
"But uncle will be angry, if he observes our absence." 
"I will bear the brunt of his wrath: he will not devour 
me. I shall be sorry to miss his pungent speech. I know 
it will be all sense for the Church, and all Causticity for 
Schism: hell not forget the battle of Royd-lane. I shall 
be sorry also to deprive you of Mr. Hall's sincere friendly 
homily, with its racy Yorkshireisms; but here I must stay. 
The gray church and grayer tombs look divine with this 
crimson gleam on them. Nature is now at her evening 
prayers: she is kneeling before those red hills. I see her 
prostrate on the great steps of her altar, praying for a 
fair night for mariners at sea, for travellers in the deserts, 



for lambs on moors, and unfledged birds in woods. Caro- 
line, I see her! and I will tell you what she is like: she is 
like what Eve was when she and Adam stood alone on 

"And that is not Milton s Eve, Shirley." 

"Milton's Eve! Milton's Eve! I repeat. No, by the pure 
Mother of God, she is not! Gary, we are alone: we may 
speak what we think. Milton was great; but was he good? 
His brain was right: how was his heart? He saw heaven: 
he looked down on hell. He saw Satan, and Sin his daugh- 
ter, and Death their horrible off-spring. Angels serried 
before him their battalions: the long lines of adamantine 
shields flashed back on his blind eyeballs the unutterable 
splendour of heaven. Devils gathered their legions in 
his sight: their dim, discrowned, and tarnished armies 
passed rank and file before him. Milton tried to see the 
first woman; but } Gary, he saw her not!" 

"You are bold to say so, Shirley." 

"Not more bold than faithful It was his cook that he 
saw; or it was Mrs. Gill, as I have seen her, making cus- 
tards, in the heat of summer, in the cool dairy, with rose- 
trees and nasturtiums about the latticed window, pre- 
paring a cold collation for the rectors, preserves, and 
'dulcent creams'puzzled 

What choice to choose for delicacy best; 
What order so contrived as not to mix 
Tastes, not well-joined, inelegant; but bring 
Taste after taste, upheld with kindliest change." 

**A11 very well too, Shirley.'' 

"I would beg to remind him that the first men of the 
earth were Titans, and that Eve was their mother: from 
her sprang Saturn, Hyperion, Oceanus: she bore Prome- 



"Pagan that you are; what does that signify?" 
"I say, there were giants on the earth in those days: 
giants that strove to scale heaven. The first woman's 
breast that heaved with life on this world yielded the dar- 
ing which could contend with Omnipotence: the strength 
which could bear a thousand years of bondage, -the 
vitality which could feed that vulture death through 
uncounted ages, the unexhausted life and uncorrupted 
excellence, sisters to immortality, which, after niilleniums 
of crimes, struggles, and woes, could conceive and bring 
forth a Messiah, The First woman was heaven-bom: vast 
was the heart whence gushed the well-spring of the blood 
of nations; and grand the undegenerate head where 
rested the consort-crown of creation." 

"She coveted an apple, and was cheated by a snake; 
but you have got such a hash of Scripture and mythology 
into your head that there is no making any sense of you. 
You have not yet told me what you saw kneeling on those 

"I saw I now see a woman-Titan: her robe of blue 
air spreads to the outskirts of the heath, where yonder 
flock is grazing; a veil white as an avalanche sweeps from 
her head to her feet, and arabesques of lightning flame 
on its borders. Under her breast I see her zone, purple like 
that horizon: through its blush shines the star of evening. 
Her steady eyes I cannot picture; they are clear they are 
as deep as lakes they are lifted and full of worship they 
tremble with the softness of love and the lustre of prayer. 
Her forehead has the expanse of a cloud, and is paler than 
the early moon, risen long before the dark gathers: she re- 
clines her bosom on the ridge of Stilbro* Moor; her mighty 
hands are foined beneath it. So kneeling, face to face she 
speaks with God. That Eve is Jehovah's daughter, as 
Adam was his son.** 



"She is very vague and visionary! Come, Shirley, we 
ought to go into church." 

"Caroline, I will not: I will stay out here with my 
mother Eve, in these days called Nature. I love her- 
undying, mighty being! Heaven may have faded from 
her brow when she fell in paradise; but all that is glorious 
on earth shines there still She is taking me to her bosom, 
and showing me her heart. Hush, Caroline! you will see 
her and feel as I do, if we are both silent." 

It is therefore little wonder that Shirley Keeldar, with her 
freed spirit that went straight to God and asked no "middle 
man," should have stirred the wonder and admiration of the 
Yorkshire folk, from the hardheaded business executive, 
Robert Moore, to the simple laborer, William Farren, touch- 
ing their lives with a beauty they knew not of. The insight 
that Shirley possessed, and that Caroline called visionary, 
was supported by a creed, call it pagan if you will. It had 
the power to magnetize men to action, though it needed no 
doctrinal exhortation to work its effect. It was accomplished 
by a smile, a word, a service rendered, starlighted with some 
divine fire of the senses. 

"I have spent the afternoon and evening at Fieldhead," 
Louis Moore writes in his diary. "Some hours ago she passed 
me, coming down the oak-staircase-window, looking at the 
frost-bright constellations. How closely she glided against 
the bannisters! How shyly shone her large eyes upon me! 
How evanescent, fugitive, fitful, she looked slim and swift as 
a Northern Streamer! I followed her into the drawing-room. 
Mrs. Pryor and Caroline Helstone were both there. She 
summoned me to bear her company for awhile. In her eve- 
ning dress; with her long hair flowing full and wavy; with 
her noiseless step, her pale cheek, her eye full of night and 


lightening, she looked, I thought, spirit-Hke-a thing made of 
an element-the child of a breeze and a flame-the daughter 
of ray and raindrop a thing never to be overtaken, arrested, 
fixed . . . Once I only saw her beauty, now I feel it" 

That was the secret of Shirley's power over all who knew 
her. They saw her great external beauty, her charm of man- 
ner, but as these became more and more familiar, they began 
to feel her innate qualities, and suddenly found themselves 
in labyrinths of emotion from which they had no desire to 
extricate themselves. Clearly it was the spirit of Emily 
Bronte, immortalized by her sister Charlotte Bronle, that 
had led them into her inner sanctum. 


Chapter xvn VILLETTE 


CRITICAL opinion seems to be agreed 
that Villette Is Charlotte Bronte s masterpiece. She poured 
into this novel, her fourth and last to be completed before her 
own untimely death at the age of thirty-nine, all the poetry 
and music of love as her passionately poetic nature conceived 
love to be. (She began a fifth novel, entitled Emma, that was 
destined to remain a fragment.) Her heroine, Lucy Snowe, 
is among the finest creations in English literature, and she is 
made so out of the depths of Charlotte's own heart. A glow- 
ing ardor holds the story to a high pitch of emotional excite- 
ment. Villetfe does not "soar and fall, soar, and fall again," 
as does Shirley in its later pages. It rises quickly to a level 
that is sustained throughout. No psychological or political 
implications confuse the issue, as in Jane Eyre and Shirley, 
and, whereas many of the incidents could have weighted the 
book with tragedy, it is rescued by the saving grace of a 
delicate and exquisite comedy, which gives the story a certain 
wistful pathos. The extraordinarily adept mingling of comedy 
ami pathos is a constant source of delight to the reader. "It is 
this utter purity," Miss Sinclair says, "this transparent sim- 
plicity., that makes Villette great." One is tempted, in speak* 
ing of Villette, to use a cliche, and say that it was indeed 
written in the white heat of inspiration. 

The action of Villette occurs within a very narrow range. 


It all takes place at a girls' school In Villette (Brussels)-, 
with a few excursions in and out of the city. There is no 
question, nor was one obviously intended, that the school is 
the school Charlotte attended in Brussels in 1842 and 1843, 
when she and Emily were sent abroad for a few brief months 
of study. How much further the similarity goes has become a 
matter of almost legendary conjecture. As in the case of Emily 
Dickinson, and her journey to Philadelphia, there has been 
endless controversy as regards what happened when Char- 
lotte first went forth into the world. Is the story of Villette, 
in other words, the result of Charlotte's frustrated love for 
M. Heger of the Heger Pensionnat? Did she really fall in 
love with her teacher, or was she in love with love, or did 
she merely feel the first stirrings of infatuation for someone 
of the opposite sex whom she admired as her intellectual 
superior? Whatever the emotion, was it reciprocated, or 
frustrated, or quickly sublimated? Several things lend cre- 
dence to the theory that Charlotte was deeply stirred, and 
that she did not conceal the fact from M. Heger. For one 
thing, her letters to him, after her return to England, indicate 
an urgent desire to receive letters in return ultfr/jgh the de- 
sire would appear to be for a correspondence between two 
minds that thought in unison rather than two hearts that 
beat as one. For another, Mrs. Gaskell was refused an audi- 
ence by Madame Heger when she went to Brussels seeking 
information. But then this could have been because Madame 
Heger considered such a visit impertinent and uncalled for. 
Or perhaps, as Miss Sinclair says, "Madame did not under- 
stand these Platonic relations between English students and 
their French professors.** Yet how Platonic was it? Charlotte 
herself did not want Villette translated into French. Back- 
ward and forward the argument swings, yes aad no, no and 



yes. How important such a controversy becomes in the con- 
sideration of Vittette as a work of art seems to me unimpor- 
tant, even to the literary interpreter, and even though Char- 
lotte may have "given herself hopelessly away." But what if 
she did give herself away? The love, if it was there, died a 
natural death from lack of response and propinquity. Why 
should we, a hundred years later, take its name constantly 
in vain? If what Charlotte felt for M. Heger awakened her 
romantic imagination, and gave her the key to unlock the 
souls of Jane and Shirley and Lucy, we should be only too 
thankful to M. Heger, and let Charlotte's predicament rest 
in peace. If, as I say, Villette is somewhat the fruit of experi- 
ence (as why shouldn't it be, and how could it help being), 
it is better to let the romantic background of that experience, 
whether Platonic or otherwise, pass into history, and only 
consider the use Charlotte Bronte made of it. Far better to 
be grateful for the miracle wrought, somehow, somewhere, 
in Charlotte's soul that gave her the power to reveal love in 
the heart of Lucy Snowe. 

We find Lucy Snowe, an orphan, living at the home of her 
godmother, Mrs. Bretton, in the ancient English village of 
Bretton. In the same household is the delightful child, Polly 
Home, daughter of the austere but mysterious Scotchman 
who turns up later, in Villette, as the fabulous Comte de 
Bassompierre, Charlotte has never lost her childhood habit 
of coincidental reincarnations! The Comte is one of them. 
And Mrs. Bretton's son, Graham, is another, since he also 
materializes later in the book as Dr. John. Lucy, with no 
security in view, leaves the Bretton home to make her way in 
the world, rather than be beholden. She goes up to London, 
where, seized by an impulse, she boards a ship for Brussels, 
or rather Villette. On board she becomes acquainted with a 


young girl, Ginevra Fanshawe, who is returning as a pupil 
to Madame Beck's pensionnat in Belgium. Learning that 
Lucy is seeking employment, Ginevra introduces her to 
Madame Beck ? and she becomes first governess and then 
teacher at the school. 

The years pass, until at last, suddenly, Lucy Is swept into 
the wild, unpredictable currents of life in Villette. It all 
began that day she was taken desperately ill in the street 
and was found by Dr. John. Dr. John (the erstwhile Graham 
Bretton), now a doctor in Villette, takes her home to be 
nursed by his mother, who has, of course, followed her 
adored and adoring son to the Continent. From this moment 
Lucy becomes dramatically, and aB but fatally, involved in 
conflicting streams of adventure, one of which has its source 
in the harassed and uncertain life in the Beck pensionnat; 
another in the affectionate and lively intercourse of the Bret- 
ton menage, where the English of the foreign colony make 
themselves at home; and still a third in the lavish and fantas- 
tic apartments of the Gomte de Bassompierre at the Hotel 
Crecy. Lucy is tossed about on these currents, and is con- 
stantly brought to the brink of disaster in her attempt to get 
a footing OB the shifting sands of social instability in a foreign 
country. It is to Dr, John that she goes, as to a confessional, 
with every tale of woe, until she is finally so overwhelmed by 
hopelessness and yearning that she enters the very church 
she had been reared to condemn. Yet even this refuge fails 
her, as everything fails her, until M. Paul Emamiel, the little 
professor at the pensionnat, comes to her rescue with the love 
that passeth uziderstandfrg. 

The relationship of Lucy Snowe to these two men* Dr, 
John and M. Paul Emanuel, is the only attempt at plot to be 
found in Villette, and even that is mere skeleton. Critics 



have accused Charlotte of too easily transferring Lucy's love 
from Dr. John to M. Paul Emanuel. Yet, in my opinion, what 
Lucy felt for Dr. John was scarcely love at all. It was the 
warm affection of a young woman for an understanding 
masculine friend, growing out of their early associations in 
England, when they are thrown together, as on an island, in 
an alien atmosphere of suspicion and criticism. Though he 
Is an admirable man in some ways, Dr. John's temperament 
is too placid to have stirred Lucy to any degree of passion. 
And whatever Lucy s feelings may have been toward him, 
Dr. John had neither the will nor the power to respond in 
kind. As strong a man as he appears to be outwardly, with 
certain appealing masculine virtues, Lucy seemed to feel 
that she could not depend on him in the final analysis. And 
her instinct did not in the end betray her, for she saw Dr. 
John quietly slipping into the harbor of Paulina de Bassom- 
pierre's love with no consciousness whatever that he was de- 
serting her. On the other hand, M. Paul Emanuel, full of 
paradoxes as his temperament was, harbored under his 
tyrannical egotism a tender and kindly nature that was ca- 
pable of winning Lucy's deepest admiration and respect. And 
it is on such a final bedrock of integrity that love is anchored. 
Mr. Augustine Birrell makes an admirable comparison be- 
tween lie two men who so deeply affected the pattern of 
events in which Lucy Snowe found herself emotionally 
tangled: "Though M. Paul may have had an actual counter- 
feit, the original was a long way back in Miss Bronte's life 
experience. It is a memory picture hence in its mellowness, 
its idealization, it approaches a true creation. When we com- 
pare it with Dr. John, whose counterfeit was close at hand, 
we perceive the advantages of distance. M. Paul rises mys- 
teriously from the depths of his author's mind, and brings 


with him tokens of what had so long been his romantic rest- 
ing-place, whereas the doctor, apart from Lucy Snowe's 
rhapsodies about him, does but bob up and down the surface 
like a painted cork/* 

Possibly the most intriguing chapter in Villette, certainly 
one that has roused most comment, is "The Long Vacation." 
It describes a distraught Lucy, sick at heart, wandering the 
streets, seeking what she could not find nor had any hope of 
finding, finally to be overtaken by the unaccountable impulse 
to seek the confessional of the church. Lucy exclaims: 

That vacation! Shall I ever forget it? I think not. 
Madame Beck went, the first day of the holidays, to join 
her children at the sea-side; ail the three teachers had 
parents or friends with whom they took refuge; every pro- 
fessor quitted the city; some went to Paris, some to Boue- 
Marine; M. Paul set forth on a pilgrimage to Rome; the 
house was left quite empty, but for me, a servant, and a 
poor deformed and imbecile pupil, a sort of cretin, whom 
her stepmother in a distant province would not allow to 
return home. 

My heart almost died within me; miserable longings 
strained its chords. How long were the September days! 
How silent, how lifeless! How vast and void seemed the 
desolate premises! How gloomy the forsaken garden- 
grey now with the dust of a town-summer departed. 
Looking forward at the commencement of those eight 
weeks, I hardly knew how I was to live to the end. My 
spirits had been gradually sinking; now that the prop of 
employment was withdrawn, they went down fast. Even 
to look forward was not to hope: the dumb future spoke 
no comfort, offered no promise, gave no inducement to 
bear present evil in reliance on future good. A sorrowful 
indifference to existence often pressed on me a despair- 



ing resignation to reach betimes the end of all things 
earthly. Alas! When I had full leisure to look on life as 
life must be looked on by such as me, I found it but a 
hopeless desert; tawny sands, with no green field, no 
palm-tree, no well in view, The hopes which are dear to 
youth, which bear it up and lead it on, I knew not and 
dared not know. If they knocked at my heart sometimes, 
an inhospitable bar to admission must be inwardly 
drawn. When they turned away thus rejected, tears sad 
enough sometimes flowed; but it could not be helped: I 
dared not give such guests lodging. So mortally did I 
fear the sin and weaknes of presumption. 

It is then that Lucy seeks the priest, and tells him of her 

I said I was perishing for a word of advice or an accent 
of comfort. I had been living for some weeks quite alone; 
I had been ill; I had a pressure of affliction on my mind 
of which it would hardly any longer endure the weight. 

"Was it a sin, a crime?" he inquired, somewhat startled. 

I assured him on this point, and, as well as I could, I 
showed him the mere outline of my experience. 

He looked thoughtful, surprised, puzzled. "You take me 
unawares," he said. "I have not had such a case as yours 
before: ordinarily we know our routine, and are pre- 
pared; but this makes a great break in the common course 
of confession. I am hardly furnished with counsel fitting 
the circumstances/' 

Lucy has assured the priest that her problem involves 

neither sin nor crime, which would appear to rule out the 

possibility that she could be speaking for Charlotte, since 

Charlotte would certainly consider her love for M. Heger a 



sin, M. Heger being a married man. Whereas if she is speak- 
ing for herself, and referring to her feeling for Dr. John as a 
sin of "weakness and presumption/' it would be natural for 
the priest, used to instructing those who covet their neigh- 
bors" wives, to say that her request for counsel made a great 
break in the common course of confession. He can do little 
for her, and Lucy goes forth again into streets swept with 
storm and chilled with the night. Fatigue and cold and 
misery bring her to the point of collapse, when by good for- 
tune Dr. John finds her and carries her to his home. 

As Lucy recovers consciousness she finds herself in a 
strange room, but it is filled with furnishings that are some- 
how familiar. Everything is bewildering, real and yet not 
real, present and yet illusory. Her predicament is symbolic of 
Charlotte Bronte's deepest philosophy of life. To Charlotte 
love in the heart of a woman is as Lucy in that room in Dr. 
Bretton's house; "Of all these things," says Lucy, "I could 
have told the peculiarities, numbered the flaws and cracks, 
like any clairvoyant. But where was I? Not only in what spot 
of the world, but in what year of our Lord? For all these 
objects were of past days, and of a distant country. Ten 
years ago I bade them good bye; since my fourteenth year 
they and I have never met. I gasped audibly, 'where am I?' " 

She is drugged to sleep by a potion, and on waking finds 
Mrs. Bretton at her bedside. There is recognition, and re- 
union, in the course of which Lucy admits that she has 
known from the first that Dr. John was the Graham Bretton 
of those long-ago days in the English village. How pathetic 
is Lucy's " . " r T- ". . * - 1 . -^beyond friendship she seems 
never to have hoped-in that she could be so grateful for the 
acknowledged reunion with the Brettons* mother aad son. 



When I had said my prayers [she says], and when I was 
undressed and laid down, I felt that I still had friends. 
Friends, not professing vehement attachment, not offer- 
ing the tender solace of well-matched and congenial rela- 
tionships; on whom, therefore, but moderate demand of 
affection was to be made, of whom but moderate ex- 
pectation formed. "Do not let me think of them too often, 
too much, too fondly," I implored: "let me not run athirst, 
and apply passionately to its welcome waters; let me not 
imagine in them a sweeter taste than earth's fountains 
know. Oh! would to God I may be enabled to feel enough 
sustained by an occasional, amicable intercourse, rare, 
brief, unengrossing and tranquil; quite tranquil!" 

Still repeating this word, I turned to my pillow; and 
stitt repeating it, I steeped that pillow with tears. 

But this was the turning point in Lucy Snowe's life. She 
had reached such depths of unhappiness that the only way 
out was up. Her purgation had been complete, and her 
spirit emerged indestructible. She could say, "A new creed 
became mine a belief in happiness." This creed stood her 
in good stead many times thereafter. It is put to test again 
and again, before Lucy finds serenity in the haven of M. Paul 
Emanuel's loving care. It had to bear with Paulina de Bas- 
sompierre when Paulina confides in her the secret love she 
has bestowed on Dr. John; with Paulina's father in an at- 
tempt to reconcile him to what he considers his daughter's 
misplacement of her affections; with Pere Salas, who misrep- 
resents M. Paul Emanuel's "past" in order to turn her against 
him; with the hoax perpetrated by Ginevra Fanshawe and 
the Comte de Hamal; with, above all else, the long and diffi- 
cult task of penetrating the shell of petty egotism covering 
the passionate charity of M. Paul Emanuel's soul. 


M. Paul, In his turn, is the touchstone that transforms 
Lucy Snowe from the plain little English girl, adrift in a 
world of uncertainty, doubt, and despair., into the fine-tem- 
pered, sane woman, who conies to be mistress of the house in 
Faubourg Clotilde: "External de demoiselles, Numero 7, 
Faubourg Clotilde. Directrice, Mademoiselle Lucy Snowe." 
M. Paul will perhaps always remain an enigma to the stu- 
dents and critics of Charlotte Bronte. If Charlotte did draw 
on reality for the materials that go into M, Paul's character, 
she gave them a significance beyond that of reality. It takes 
a close and sympathetic scrutiny, a study of the finest lines 
Charlotte ever drew, to understand M. Paul, The under- 
standing must come as slowly as it came to Lucy herself. For, 
!;cgi:.: ::.:; with the chapter, "Monsieur's Fete," we follow the 
unfolding of M. Paul's love, concealed as it has been under 
the eccentricities that have heretofore been deceptive, even 
annoying. On the day of the fete Lucy saw him being hon- 
ored by his friends and by the school, and she felt a first im- 
pulse of true affection for him. She warns the reader, 
however, "Do not be in any hurry with kindly conclusions, or 
to suppose, with an over-hasty charity, that from that day M. 
Paul became a changed character easy to live with, and no 
longer apt to flash danger and discomfort around him. No; he 
was naturally a little man of unreasonable moods. When 
overwrought, which he often was, he became acutely irrit- 
able; and, besides, his veins were dark with a livid beladonna 
tincture, the essence of jealousy. I do not mean merely the 
tender jealousy of the heart, but that sterner, narrower senti- 
ment whose seat is in the mind.** 

How could it happen that such opposing dispositions as 
those of Lucy and M. Paul could have been eventually re- 
solved into a single force, a single purpose? Charlotte 



Bronte's genius has accomplished the feat of bringing i1 
about. From that "narrower sentiment whose seat is in the 
head/' a fire of passion rises up and spreads until it envelops 
Lucy and Paul in a single pinnacle of flame. In the trans- 
formation of Lucy and M. Paul from friends into lovers. 
Charlotte has revealed the mystery of the power of a 
woman's heart to transfigure and fuse the nature of man. She 
had gone a long way toward such a clarification in both Jane 
Eyre and Shirley y but in Villette she has achieved a revelatior 
of the synthesis of the actual and the imaginary, the visible 
and the invisible, the present and the beyond, in human love 
as it is known on earth. 




BRONTE Is the most Inscrutable 
Bgure in English literature. Of the three Bronte sisters she 
is the most difficult to analyze, her genius the most extraordi- 
nary and mysterious. Charlotte may have been complex and 
neurotic, but she is understandable, her nature is compara- 
tively transparent. Her experiences as a girl and as a woman 
are clearly revealed in her novels. Her letters are autobio- 
graphical Even Anne, shy and simple though she was, speaks 
as though in the first person in her fiction. Agnes Grey is 
Anne Bronte. But when we come to Emily we have no per- 
sonal record. Charlotte supplied., and possibly destroyed, 
all we wiH ever know about Emily in the biographical sense. 
Yet the Bronte genius is most powerful, most intense, in the 
poetry and prose of Emily. The secret by which she became 
possessed of such power and intensity is still a secret. No one, 
not even her sister, has been able to push aside the veil that 
shrouds her creative impulses, to offer an explanation for the 
dazzling manifestation of the tragic vision with which Emily 
penetrated the human spirit. Explaining it with the one word 
"genius" only brings us back to where we started, to the 
question, "What is genius?" Why and when does it strike, 
whom does it choose? 

Whence, for instance, comes the story of Withering 
Heights? Perhaps Miss Hinkley, in her study of the novel, 



has given us as good an answer as any: "Emily Bronte got 
her ideas from the wide, primitive, half-savage little squires 
around Haworth. She got them from hearing, at Miss Patch- 
ett's, the story of a man who obtained a property by marry- 
ing successively a mother and daughter. She got them from 
tales of her Irish grandfather, who was brought up by a 
harsh uncle. She got them from such a book or such a maga- 
zine The genius lies in the combination." 

Yes, the genius surely lies in the combination. But the com- 
bination of what? Here is such a fusion of imagination and 
reality, of extravagance and truth, that many a metaphor, 
simile, symbol has been devised to interpret that strange 
wild story named Wuthering Heights. Again it is Charlotte, 
the loyal and admiring sister, so brilliant in her own right, 
who makes a great symbol of the story. "It was/' she says, 
"hewn in a wild workshop, with simple tools, out of homely 
materials. The statuary found a granite block on a solitary 
moor; gazing thereon he saw how from the crag might be 
elicited a head, savage, swart, sinister; a form moulded with 
at least one element of grar.t!(Mi:---]>(wcr. He wrought with 
a rude chisel, and from no model but the vision of his medi- 
tations. With time and labor the crag took human shape; and 
there it stands colossal, dark and frowning, half -statue, half- 
rock; in the former sense, terrible and goblin-like; in the 
latter, almost beautiful, for its coloring is pf mellow grey, and 
moorland moss clothes it; and heath, with its blooming bells 
and balmy fragrance, grows faithfully close to the giant's 


The secret of Wuthering Heights lies very simply in the 

power to bring nature and man into passionate focus. As 

Virginia Woolf says, when Emily wrote of thunder she made 

it roar, of the wind, she made it blow. The moors gave her 



the thunder and the wind until the earth with all its mysteries 
became a revelation. Humanity gave her its pitiful sadness, 
its frustrations and anguish. Relating the two she plumbed 
the very depths of love and passion. 

Professor Wilbur Cross declares that Wuthering Heights is 
unquestionably a novel of vengeance, Many critics share 
this opinion. On the other hand there are those who consider 
it a tale of retribution. Both points of view are essentially 
true. Vengeance and retribution, as Emily uses them, are 
symptoms of a passion that has escaped the discipline and 
control necessary to society. The acts of vengeance, and the 
inevitability of retribution, are the results of disobeying nat- 
ural laws; and the inverted loves of Heathcliff and Catherine 
are just such a disobedience. While on earth these two were 
compelled to pay the penalties of vengeance, accept the pun- 
ishment of retribution, redemption, in their union after 
death, is the ultimate answer. Emily has left us in no doubt 
about that meeting in eternity, for Cathy is made to say, "I 
am Heathcliff. He's always in my mind; not as a pleasure, 
any more than 1 am always a pleasure to myself, but as my 
own being. So don't talk of our separation again; it is im- 
practicable." And Heathcliff, parting from her as she dies, 
cries out in a paroxysm of unrestrained yearning, "Oh, God, 
it is unutterable. I cannot live without my life. I cannot live 
without my soul." 

The structure of the novel may be poor. One hardly no- 
tices, since the total impression is one of unsurpassed unity 
of purpose. There is no letdown after the pace is set. The 
faltering opening chapters suddenly run together into a 
single stream of forces unleashed by uncontrolled emotion; 
the pounding and crashing of the diabolical engine which is 
HeathclifFs soul, tearing and rending every relationship in 



its path in pursuit of the pure soul of Catherine Earnshaw. 
By all standards of morality Heathcliff is a man of revolting 
greed, of bestial habits, inhuman cruelty. Yet his one supreme 
aspiration, enraged though it is by being thwarted, has all 
the constancy and force of a spiritual ideal. Heathcliff is an 
anomaly, as much so as the fair flower blooming from the bed 
of offal. 

It has been stated that Emily has drawn no portraits in 
Wuthering Heights, that all her characters are abstractions. 
Granted that most of them are, or at least that Heathcliff and 
Catherine Eamshaw are the symbols of vengeance and ret- 
ribution, yet it cannot be denied that several of them bear a 
striking resemblance to people she knew, or are a composite 
of people she knew, heard about, or read about. It was a 
facet of her genius that she could fuse the characteristics of 
various persons into a single idea. She recreated them in the 
terms of her own vision. She transformed realities into sym- 
bols. She worked with a magic that makes identification of 
tfie originals largely a matter for the academicians, the 

It is supposed, for instance, that Mr. Joshua Taylor, father 
of Charlotte's school friends, Mary and Martha Taylor, was 
Emily's model for HeathcHff-as he certainly was Charlotte's 
for Mr. Rochester, Hiram Yorke, and Yorke fiunsden. Inde- 
pendent of mind, harsh in manner, a, rebel against accepted 
institutions, Mr, Taylor half-frightened, half-shocked those 
who came in contact with him. It was said that an early dis- 
appointment in love had made him a dour man and a hard 
one, and this lent ascertain glamour to his stem behavior. 
However, I personally consider that* Emily owed less to 
Joshua Taylor, in her delineation of HeatibcBff, than to 
Welsh, her grandfather's harsh uncle who exiled him from 



his home in Ahaderg. Heatfacliff, Ike Welsh, was a strange 
dark-skinned waif brought into a home where he wreaked 
emotional havoc from start to finish. Like Welsh, Heathclii 
grew up to be a cruel, conniving man, obtaining control of 
his benefactors property. Between Welsh and Mr. Taylor, 
Emily had ample material with which to make Heathcliff a 
character goaded to his doom by violent obsessions and an 
incorrigible obstinacy. 

In Catherine Eamshaw it is quite possible, as has been 
often suggested, that Emily was thinking of Charlotte's 
schoolmate in Brussels, Charlotte's Ginevra Fanshawe. But 
again it seems to me that Catherine, certainly in her passion- 
ate defiance, more nearly resembles Emily's own Augusta 
Geraldine Almeda of the Gondal epic. I also feel that in the 
scenes where Catherine is most vital, in sensibility and in 
spirit, it is Emily herself who is speaking. 

The fact that, in this novel, there is a "narrator" is a clear 
indication that Emily is still under the spell of her childhood 
and adolescent writing. It was an old Bronte custom, so to 
speak, to have the story told by one who takes little or no 
part in the action concerned. In Withering Height the 'cus- 
tom is continued in the persons of Lockwood and Nelly 
Dean. It has been suggested 'that Lockwood bears a re- 
semblance to BranweH, but this I cannot see. Lockwood is a 
mere artifice; no more. The moving story of Catherine Earn- 
shaw's life, the malevolent influence of HeathcMffs power, 
has no real effect on Lockwood. They merely produce in him 
a half-cynical, contemptuous interest that sees him through 
a tedious period of convalescence in the country. He bestows 
neither color nor empliasts on the tale. From Nelly Dean, the 
old housekeeper, who was herself a part o a! that hap- 
pened, we get the moods, the suffering, the crises, through 



which the lovers passed. And In spite of her impatient and 
censorious attitude toward Catherine, her bitter hatred of 
the savage Heathcliff, she draws us irresistibly to her by 
voice and gesture as she talks. Emily must have realized, 
after the first chapters, that Lockwood was not man enough 
to be the narrator and so turned the task over to Nelly Dean, 
reducing Lockwood to a bed of illness! 

This might also explain the weakness of the opening pages 
indeed, it is a far more logical explanation than the one 
put forward by several critics, that Branwell himself wrote 
the first four chapters. There are said to have been witnesses 
who testified that Branwell read these chapters at a tavern, 
from sheets he pulled from his coat pocket, as his contribu- 
tion to a literary evening with his boon companions. A 
nephew of Francis Leyland (author of a book extolling 
BranwelTs superior capabilities and gifts), being present at 
this occasion, claims to have recognized the chapters when 
Wuthering Heights was published. And several Bronte au- 
thorities have gone so far as to claim that seventeen chapters 
of the book were the work of Branwell. Such a contention 
is not only absurd but easily refuted by the evidence of style 
and development obtaining after the fourth chapter. It there- 
fore seems to me obvious that Emily's creative inspiration 
took fire as soon as she took the narration out of the hands of 
the dull Mr. Lockwood and put it in the hands of the colorful 
Nelly Dean. 

In Nelly Dean she had discovered the perfect instrument 
for her purpose for Nelly is obviously Tabby. And there was 
no single individual in Emily's life, with the possible excep- 
tion of Anne, whom she knew and loved so well as Tabby, 
the faithful old servant of the parsonage. Nelly Dean (or 
Tabby) is a shrewd matron of Yorkshire heritage, above her 


station in intelligence, opinionated, gruff but loving to those 
she loves, downright prejudiced against those she doesn't 
She is Catherine's confidante, and being in a continual fer- 
ment of opposition to the girl's capricious outpourings of her 
passion for Heathcliff, her mind and spirit and tired old body 
become a battleground for the conflicts of Wuthering 
Heights. Any excess of feeling was histrionics to Nelly Dean: 
"Catherine paused and hid her face in the folds of my gown; 
but I jerked it forcefully away. I was out of patience with 
her folly/' This very attitude is what makes Nelly Dean the 
hub of the wheel about which revolve the dark spokes of 
tragedy and pain that make the story of W tethering Heights 
so poignant 

Another character in Wuthering Heights whose origin is 
clearly indicated is that of Heathcliffs sanctimonious, hypo- 
critical servant, Joseph. Obviously Joseph began in Emily's 
memories of her father's description of Gallagher; the des- 
picable Gallagher, w^hose cunning malignity had terrorized 
the miserable boyhood of her grandfather in Ireland; the 
Gallagher who stood by while Welsh beat Hugh Pranty 
unmercifully for the misdemeanors that Gallagher had him- 
self perpetrated; the Gallagher who quoted the Bible to 
prove that such punishment was ordained by the Blessed 
Saints, The Joseph of Wuthering Heights, mouthing the 
scriptures, is just as diabolically callous to the suffering of 
the boy Heathcliff at the hands of the Eamshaws, and of 
Hareton at the hands of Heathcliff. No doubt Yorkshire had 
its share of such ranters as Joseph, as offensive to an orthodox 
churchman as to Emily. However, it was not so much the 
pretensions to church dogma that Emily attacks with such 
contemptuous scorn. Her desire seems to have been to expose 
the hypocrite claiming virtues that are nonexistent in the 



soul of the pretender. The local dissenters of the period, if 
we take the character of Moses Barraclough in Charlotte's 
Shirley as an example, had some justification in their repug- 
nance for the easy living and self-righteous preaching of the 
clergy, but Joseph is the personification of an evil spirit, quot- 
ing tie text of Christianity while practicing the arts of the 
Devil incarnate. 

The house Wuthering Heights stood on the summit of 
Haworth Hill, and was once a house of fine proportions, built 
by a Hareton Earnshaw in the sixteenth century. All its early 
grandeur has been erased by time and weather, the rise and 
fall of many generations, and at the opening of Emily's story 
has become no more than an ill-conditioned farmhouse, re- 
duced by the poverty and shif tlessness of Hindley Earnshaw. 
It is in such condition that Lockwood finds it when he calls 
on Heathcliff, having come down from London and rented 
Thrushcross Grange, former home of the Lintons, now Heath- 
cliff's, for a few months' rest And the temper of the story is 
immediately set by the night of horror and mystery which 
Lockwood, caught by a blizzard, is forced to spend in Heath- 
cliffs home, occupying "the unused chamber/' the "haunted" 
chamber, where Catherine Earnshaw's ghost terrifies him 
to such a point that he rouses Heathcliff with his cries for 

Heathcliff stood near the entrance, in his shirt and 
trousers: with a candle dripping over his fingers, and his 
face as white as the wall behind him. The first creak of 
the oak startled him like an electric shock! the light 
leaped from his hold to a distance of some feet, and his 
agitation was so extreme, that he could hardly pick it up. 

"It is only your guest, sir," I called out, desirous to 
spare him the humiliation of exposing his cowardice fur- 



ther. "I had the misfortune to scream in my sleep, owing 
to a frightful nightmare. Tin sorry I disturbed you/' 

"Oh, God confound you, Mr. Lockwood! I wish you 

were at the 7J commenced my host, setting the candle 

on a chair 5 because he found it impossible to hold it 
steady. "And who showed you tip into this room?'* he 
continued, crushing his nails into his palms, and grinding 
his teeth to subdue the maxillary convulsions. "Who was 
it? I've a good mind to turn them out of the house this 

"It was your servant, Zillah^ I replied, flinging myself 
on to the floor, and rapidly resuming my garments. "I 
should not care if you did, Mr. Heathcliff; she richly de- 
serves it, I suppose that she wanted to get another proof 
that the place was haunted, at my expense, WeB, it is 
swarming with ghosts and goblins! You have reason in 
shutting it up, I assure you. No one will thank you for 
a doze in such a den!" 

"What do you mean?" asked Heathcliff "and what are 
you doing? Lie down and finish out the night, since you 
are here; but, for Heaven's sake! don't repeat that horrid 
noise; nothing could excuse it, unless you were having 
your throat cut! 5 * 

"If the little fiend had got in at the window, she prob- 
ably would have strangled me!" I returned. Tra not going 
to endure the persecutions of your hospitable ancestors 
again. Was not the Reverend Jabes Branderham akin to 
you on the mothers side? And that minx, Catherine 
Linton, or Earnshaw, or however she was called she 
must have been a changeling wicked little soul! She told 
me she had been walking the earth those twenty years: 
a just punishment for her mortal transgressions, Tve no 

Scarcely were these words uttered, when I recollected 



the association of HcathcIirTs with Catherine's name in 
the book, which had completely slipped from my mem- 
ory, till thus awakened. I blushed at my inconsideration; 
but, without showing further consciousness of the of- 
fence, I hastened to add-'The truth is, sir, I passed the 
first part of the night in ?> -Here I stopped afresh-I was 
about to say "perusing those old volumes/' then it would 
have revealed my knowledge of their written, as well as 
their printed contents; so, correcting myself, I went on, 
"in spelling over the name scratched on that window- 
ledge. A rionoroncus occupation, calculated to set me 
asleep, like counting, or* 

"What can you mean talking in this way to me?" thun- 
dered Heathcliff with savage vehemence, "How how 
dare you, under my roof? God! he's mad to speak so!" 
And he struck his forehead with rage. 

I did not know whether to resent this language or pur- 
sue my explanation; but he seemed so powerfully af- 
fected that I took pity and proceeded with my dreams; 
affirming I had never heard the appellation of "Catherine 
Linton * before, but reading it often over produced an 
impression which personified itself when I had no longer 
mv imagination under control. Heathcliff gradually fell 
back into the shelter of the bed, as I spoke; finally sitting 
down almost concealed behind it. I guessed, however, by 
his irregular and intercepted breathing, that he struggled 
to vanquish an excess of violent emotion. Not liking to 
show him that I had heard the conflict, I continued my toi- 
lette rather noisily, looked at my watch, and soliloquised 
on the length of tie night: "Not three o'clock yet! I could 
have taken oath it had been six. Time stagnates here: we 
must surely have retired to rest at eight!" 

"Always at nine in winter, and rise at four," said my 
host, suppressing a groan: and, as I fancied by the motion 


of his arm's shadow, dashing a tear from his eyes. "Mr. 
Lockwood," he added, "you may go into my room: you'll 
only be In the way, coming downstairs so early; and your 
childish outcry has sent sleep to the devil for me," 

"And for me, too/* I replied. Til walk in the yard till 
daylight, and then 111 be off; and you need not dread a 
repetition of my intrusion. Fra now quite cured of seeking 
pleasure in society, be it country or town. A sensible man 
ought to find sufficient company in himself . ?> 

"Delightful company!*' muttered Heathcliff. "Take the 
candle, and go where you please. I shall join you directly. 
Keep out of the yard, though, the dogs are unchained; 
and the house June mounts sentinel there, and nay, you 
can only ramble about the steps and passages. But, away 
with you! Ill come in two minutes!'* 

I obeyed, so far as to quit the chamber; when, ignorant 
where the narrow lobbies led, I stood still, and was wit- 
ness, involuntarily, to a piece of superstition on the part 
of my landlord, which belied, oddly, his apparent sense. 
He got on to the bed, and wrenched open the lattice, 
bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion 
of tears. "Come in! come in!" he sobbed. "Cathy, do 
come. Oh do once more!" The spectre showed a spectre's 
ordinary caprice: it gave no sign of being; but the snow 
and wind whirled wildly through, even reaching my sta- 
tion, and blowing out the light. 

There was such an anguish in the gush of grief that 
accompanied this raving, that my compassion made me 
overlook its folly, and I drew off, half angry to have lis- 
tened at all, and vexed at having related my ridiculous 
i,LgMr,iarc. since it produced that agony; though why, 
was beyond my comprehension. I descended cautiously 
to the lower regions, and landed in the back kitchen, 
where a gleam of fire, raked compactly together, enabled 



me to rekindle my candle. Nothing was stirring except a 
brindled, grey cat, which crept from the ashes, and sa- 
luted me with a querulous mew. 

Lockwood's curiosity is naturally aroused, to say the least! 
He cannot rest until he learns the story behind the reappear- 
ance of Catherine Earnshaw, or is it Catherine Linton? And 
the story of Wuthering Heights now begins, at the point 
where Heathcliff, a Tittle dark thing, harbored by a good 
man to his bane/* is brought home by the master and set 
down in the kitchen at Wuthering Heights. The squire soon 
displays an affection for this odd creature far exceeding 
Ms love for his own children. His son, Hindley, comes to hate 
the newcomer with a passionate and jealous fury, and Heath- 
cliff passes a wretched childhood persecuted by his foster 
brother. Although Mrs. Earnshaw is often a witness to her 
son's cruelty, she never interferes in behalf of her husband's 
strange prot6ge. Thus wife is set against husband, father 
against son. 

But Heathcliff finds solace in the friendship of little Cath- 
erine, Hindley's younger sister. Catherine is & lively tempera- 
mental child, .with aji affectionate ^nature. Her Heart is 
touched by the unhappy, brooding boy, and she attaches 
herself to him as his only comforter, and companion-in-arms 
against the whole wide world. * The greatest punishment we 
could invent for her/ " Nelly Dean tells Mr. Lockwood, " was 
to keep her separate from Heathcliff. . . . Certainly she had 
ways with her such as I never saw a child take up before; 
and she put all of us past our patience fifty times and of tener 
in a day; till the hour she came downstairs till the hour she 
went to bed, we hadn't a minute's security that she wouldn't 
be in mischief. Her spirits were always at high-water mark, 


her tongue always goir.g-sir^ing. laughing, and plaguing 
everyone who would not do the same. A wild, wicked slip 
she was; but she had the bonniest eye, the sweetest smile, 
and the lightest foot in the parish. And after all I believe she 
meant no harm; for, when once she made you cry in good 
earnest, it seldom happened that she wouldn't keep you 
company, and oblige you to be quiet that you might com- 
fort her. In play she liked exceedingly to act the little 
mistress, using her hands freely and commanding her com- 
panions.' " N 

Here, in their childhood together, their sharing of confi- 
dences, their combined forces against trouble, the trouble 
shared, love had its roots. They loved before they knew what 
love meant, what it would mean to them. So that tragedy 
struck before they were ready to guard against it. For it was 
when Catherine fell in love, or thought she had fallen in love, 
with Edgar Linton, that the fuse was lit for all the agony 
that was bound to follow. Already, Heathcliff and Catherine, 
had they but realized it, were inextricably and inexorably 
united. Catherine's marriage to Linton actually tore their 
souls asunder as surely as if they had been one soul Cath- 
erine found that out too late. 

Accident had thrown Catherine into the path of the Linton 
family at Thrushcross Grange, the ne mansion across the 
moors where "the gentfe-folk* lived. Coming to know the 
Lintons, being flattered and loved by them, was her undoing. 
When she returned to Wuthering Heights, after several 
weeks in the Linton home, she was already a young lady 
seeing everything about her, including Heathcliff, in a new 

Ca% [said Nelly Eton, telling Lockwood of this 
iomeconujigl, catching a glimpse of her friend (Heatfa- 



cliff) in his concealment, flew to embrace him; she be- 
stowed seven or eight lasses on his cheek within the sec- 
ond, and then stopped, and drawing back burst into a 
laugh, exclaiming, "why, how very black and cross you 
look! and how how funny and grim! But that's because 
I'm used to Edgar and Isabella Linton. Well, Heathcliff, 
have you forgotten me?" But the boy made no responsive 
move to Catherine's effusive greeting and was admon- 
ished by Hindley to shake hands, condescendingly as- 
suring him that "once in a way, that is permitted!" 

"I shall not," replied Heathcliff. "I shall not stand to be 
laughed at. I shall not bear it." After saying this he tried 
to escape, but Cathy, seizing him, explained, "I did not 
mean to laugh at you," she said, "I could not hinder my- 
self. Heathcliff, shake hands at least. What are you sulky 
for? It is only that you looked odd. If you wash your face 
and brush your hair, it will be all right; but you are so 

From this moment such fair currents as there had been in 
the lives of these two were lost in wild waters, in a stormy 
sea. What happiness Heathcliff had known as Cathy's play- 
mate died with her laughter, while his love for her, instead 
of being weakened, went on to float on a tide of evil and 
vengeance. Everything that happened, from this day on, 
nourished his desire to destroy himself if by so doing he 
could destroy Catherine. 

Since the death of the squire, some time previously, 
Hindley had increased his maltreatment of Heathcliff. But 
now Hindley's wife, to whom he was deeply attached, died 
following the birth of a son, and Hindley took out his grief 
in excessive drinking, gambling, and debauchery, eventually 
becoming an easy prey to HeathclifFs plans for vengeance on 

M. Constantin Heger. Photograph by Walter Scott. Copyright, 
The Bronte Society 

Emily's desk and lamp, with a letter from the publishers addressed 
to Currer Bell. Photograph by Walter Scott. Copyright, The 
Bronte Society. 

Emily's sofa, on which she died. Photograph by Walter Scott. 
Copyright, The Bronte Society. 


the entire family. He sank to a condition of degradation that 
put him at the mercy of one who had been, so shortly before, 
the victim of his own hatred. At about the same time Edgar 
Linton began his courtship of Catherine, inspiring in her a 
new ambition for the refinements of wealth, making her cap- 
tious and petulant where Heathcliff was concerned, particu- 
larly since she had begun to be aware of HeathcliiFs passion 
for her, and to realize that she was bound to Heathcliff by a 
bond no will or fate could break. She confessed to Nelly, "I've 
no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in 
heaven; and if the wicked man in there [meaning Hindley] 
had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought 
of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he 
shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's 
handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. 
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the 
same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from light- 
ning, or frost from fire/' Heathcliff, sitting noiselessly on a 
bench out of view, heard her say it, and stole away, but not 
so quietly but that Catherine was suspicious. " *Oh,' she whis- 
pered, lie couldn't overhear me at the door! Give me Hareton 
[Hindley's baby son], while you get supper, and when it is 
ready ask me to sup with you. I want to cheat my uncomfort- 
able conscience, and be convinced that Heathcliff has no 
notion of these things. He has not, has he? He does not know 
what being in love is?' " 

So Cathy married Edgar Linton and Heathcliff disap- 
peared from Wuthering Heights, only to return in three 
years* time to make a tragic shambles of all their lives. "He 
had grown," said Nelly Dean, "into a tall, athletic, well- 
formed man; beside whom my master seemed quite slender 
and youth-like. His upright carriage suggested the idea of 



his having been in the army. His countenance was much 
older in expression and decision of feature than Mr. Linton's; 
it looked intelligent, and retained no marks of former degra- 
dation. A half-civilized ferocity lurked yet in the depressed 
brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued; and his 
manner was quite dignified; quite divested of roughness, 
though too stern for grace. My master's surprise equalled or 
exceeded mine: he remained for a minute at a loss how to ad- 
dress the ploughboy, as he had called him." 

With the reappearance of Heatheliff, Emily ignites a flame 
of passion that consumes everything in its course. The disso- 
lute Hindley falls an easy prey to his hands. What Hindley 
had been to him as a boy, tormentor and brutalizer, he is 
now to Hindley s son, Hareton. He seizes the property of 
Wuthering Heights through mortgage foreclosures. And all 
the while his love for Cathy, and hers for him, is mounting 
to a new crescendo of burning frenzy. He cannot forgive her 
for marrying Edgar Linton, lie could curse her forever. Yet 
he is more fiendishly delighted at seeing her despair and 
suffering than tortured with grief at his own loss. His satis- 
factions are sadistic. He takes delight in degrading Hareton 
Earnshaw with treatment more inhuman than had ever been 
applied to himself. But the destinies that overtake these 
people-the disillusioned, brow-beaten Isabella Linton, with 
her sordid death in London; Hindley Earnshaw, and his ruin 
and degraded end; Edgar Linton, and his aching, helpless en- 
durance of his shattered loveare no more tragic than the 
destiny that is in store for Catherine and Heathcliff. Never 
had two people whose passion for each other transcended 
every human obstacle been so cruel to one another. Never 
had two people, so exultant in the ecstasy of love, been so 
walled around with the darkest miseries of mortal flesh. The 


climax to the unutterable beauty and despairing sorrow of 
this love is given in a chapter in which angels and demons 
compete to be heard above the howl of winds on the York- 
shire moors. As Catherine, expecting a child, lies desperately 
ill, Heathcliff writes, by way of Nelly, asking permission to 
see her; and on a Sunday morning, in early spring, as the 
Gimmerton chapel bells are calling the people to worship, 
the crisis of Emily Bronte's powerful novel is enacted. Let 
Nelly Dean tell it in her own words: 

There was a startled and a troubled gleam of recollec- 
tion, and a struggle to arrange her ideas. She lifted the 
letter, and seemed to peruse it; and when she came to the 
signature she sighed; yet still I found she had not gath- 
ered its import, for, upon my desiring to hear her reply, 
she merely pointed to the name, and gazed at me with 
mournful and questioning eagerness. 

"Well, he wishes to see you,** said I, guessing her need 
of an interpreter, "He's in the garden by this time, and 
impatient to know what answer I shall bring. 5 ' 

As I spoke, I observed a large dog lying on the grass 
beneath raise its ears as if about to bark, and then smooth- 
ing them back, announce, by a way of the tail, that some 
one approached whom it did not consider a stranger. Mrs. 
Linton bent forward, and listened breathlessly. The min- 
ute after a step traversed the hall; the open house was 
too tempting for Heathcliff to resist walking in: most 
likely he supposed that I was inclined to shirk my prom- 
ise and so resolved to trust to his own audacity. With 
straining eagerness Catherine gazed towards the entrance 
of her chamber. He did not hit the right room directly, 
she motioned me to admit him, but he found it out ere I 
could reach the door, and in a stride or two was at her 
side, and had her in his arms. 



He neither spoke nor loosed his hold for some five min- 
utes, during which period he bestowed more kisses than 
ever he gave in his life before, I dare say; but then my 
mistress had kissed him first, and I plainly saw that he 
could hardly bear, for downright agony, to look into her 
face! The same conviction had stricken him as me, from 
the instant he beheld her, that there was no prospect of 
recovery there she was fated, sure to die. 

"Oh, Cathy! Oh, my life! how can I bear it?" was the 
first sentence he uttered, in a tone that did not seek to 
disguise his despair. And he stared at her so earnestly that 
I thought the very intensity of his gaze would bring tears 
into his eyes; but they burned with anguish: they did 
not melt. 

"What now?" said Catherine, leaning back, and return- 
ing his look with a suddenly clouded brow: her humour 
was a mere vane for constantly varying caprices. "You 
and Edgar have broken my heart, Heathcliff! And you 
both come to bewail the deed to me, as if you were the 
people to be pitied! I shall not pity you, not L You have 
killed me-and thriven on it, I think. How strong you 
are! How many years do you mean to live after I am 

Heathcliff had knelt on one knee to embrace her; he 
attempted to rise, but she seized his hair, and kept him 

"I wish I could hold you," she continued bitterly, "till 
we were both dead! I shouldn't care what you suffered. I 
care nothing for your sufferings. Why shouldn't you suf- 
fer? I do! Will you forget me? Will you be happy when 
I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence, 
'That's the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved her 
long ago, and was wretched to lose her; but it is past. IVe 
loved many others since; my children are dearer to me 



than she was; and at death, I shall not rejoice that I am 
going to her; I shall be sorry that I must leave them!' 
Will you say so, HeathclifF?" 

"Don't torture me till I am as mad as you yourself," 
cried he, wrenching his head free, and ,. " :V-- ; his teeth. 

The two, to a cool spectator, made a strange and fearful 
picture* Well might Catherine deem that heaven would 
be a land of exile to her, unless with her mortal body she 
cast away her moral character also. Her present counte- 
nance had a wild vindictiveness in its white cheek, and a 
bloodless lip and scintillating eye; and she retained in 
her close fingers a portion of the locks she had been grasp- 
ing. As to her companion, while raising himself on one 
hand, he had taken her arm with the other; and so inade- 
quate was his stock of gentleness to the requirements of 
her condition, that on his letting go I saw four distinct 
impressions left blue in the colorless skin. 

"Are you possessed with a devil," he pursued savagely, 
"to talk to me in that manner when you are dying? Do 
you reflect that all those words will be branded on my 
memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left 
me? You know you lie to say I have killed you : and, Cath- 
erine, you know that I could as soon forget you as my 
existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, 
that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments 
of hell?" 

"I shall not be at peace," moaned Catherine, recalled 
to a sense of physical weakness by the violent, unequal 
il io1?1iM-'j[ of her heart, which beat visibly and audibly 
under this excess of agitation. She said nothing further 
till the paroxysm was over; then she continued more 

"I'm not wishing you greater torment than I have, 
Heathcliff. I only wish us never to be parted: and should 



a word of mine distress you hereafter, think I feel the 
same distress underground, and for my own sake, forgive 
me! Come here and kneel down again! You never harmed 
me in your life. Nay, if you nurse anger, that will be worse 
to remember than my harsh words! Won't you come here 
again? Do!" 

Heathcliff went to the back of her chair, and leant over, 
but not so far as to let her see Ms face, which was livid 
with emotion. She bent round to look at him: he would 
not permit it: turning abruptly, he walked to the fire- 
place, where he stood, silent, with his back towards us. 
Mrs. Lintons glance followed him suspiciously: every 
moment woke a new sentiment in her. After a pause and 
a prolonged gaze, she resumed; addressing me in accents 
of indignant disappointment, 

"Oh, you see, Nelly, he would not relent a moment to 
keep me out of the grave. That is how I'm loved! Well, 
never mind. That is not my Heathcliff. I shall love mine 
yet; and take him with me; he's in my soul. And," she 
added musingly, "the thing that irks me most is this 
shattered prison, after all. I'm tired of being enclosed 
here. I'm wearying to escape into that glorious world, 
and to be always there: not seeing it dimly through tears, 
and yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart; 
but really with it, and in it. Nelly you think you are better 
and more fortunate than I; in full health and strength: 
you are sorry for me very soon that will be altered. I 
shall be sorry for you. I shall be incomparably beyond 
and above you all. I wonder he won't be near me!" She 
went on to herself. "I thought he wished it. Heathcliff, 
dear! you should not be sullen now. Do come to me, 

In her eagerness she rose and supported herself on the 
arm of the chair. At that earnest appeal he turned to her, 



looking absolutely desperate. His eyes, wide and wet, at 
last flashed fiercely on her; his breast heaved convulsively. 
An instant they held asunder, and then how they met I 
hardly saw } but Catherine made a spring, and he caught 
her, and they were locked in an embrace from which I 
thought my mistress would never be released alive: in 
fact, to my eyes, she seemed directly insensible. He flung 
himself into the nearest seat, and on my approaching 
hurriedly to ascertain if she had fainted, he gnashed at 
me, and foamed like a mad dog, and gathered her to him 
with greedy jealousy. I did not feel as if I was in the com- 
pany of a creature of my own species: it appeared that 
he would not understand, though I spoke to him; so I 
stood off and held my tongue in great perplexity. 

A movement of Catherine's relieved me a little pres- 
ently: she put her hand to clasp his neck, and bring her 
cheek to his as he held her; while he, in return, covering 
her with frantic caresses, said wildly 

"You teach me now how cruel youVe been cruel and 
false* Why did you despise me? Why did you betray 
your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. 
You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may 
Mss me, and cry; and wring out my kisses and tears: 
they'll blight youthey'll damn you. You loved me then 
what right had you to leave me? What right answer me 
for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery 
and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or 
Satan ( :~^ " .1 ( I \ - ; M"! have parted us, you, of your own 
will, did it. I have not broken your heart you have 
broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So 
much the worse for me, that I am strong. Do I want to 
live? What kind of living will it be when you oh, God! 
would you like to live with your soul in the grave?" 

"Let me alone. Let me alone," sobbed Catherine. "If I 



have done wrong, I'm dying for it. It is enough! You left 
me too: but I won't upbraid you! I forgive you. Forgive 

"It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel 
those wasted hands/' he answered. "Kiss me again; and 
don't let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done 
to me* I love my murderer but yours! How can I?" 

They were silenttheir faces hid against each other, 
and washed by each other's tears. At least, I suppose the 
weeping was on both sides; as it seemed Heathcliff could 
weep on a great occasion like this. 

I grew very uncomfortable., meanwhile; for the after- 
noon wore fast away, the man whom I had sent off re- 
turned from his errand, and I could distinguish, by the 
shine of the western sun up the valley, a concourse 
thickening outside Gimmerton chapel porch. 

"Service is over/' I announced, "My master will be here 
in half-an-hour!" 

Heathcliff groaned a curse, and strained Catherine 
closer; she never moved. 

Ere long I perceived a group of the servants passing up 
the road towards the kitchen wing. Mr. Linton was not 
far behind; he opened the gate himself and sauntered 
slowly up, probably enjoying the lovely afternoon that 
breathed as soft as summer. 

"Now he is here/ 7 I exclaimed. "For Heaven's sake, 
hurry down! Youll not meet anyone on the front stairs. 
Do be quick; and stay among the trees till he is fairly in." 

"I must go, Cathy/' said Heathcliff, seeking to extricate 
himself from his companion's arms. "But if I live, 111 see 
you again before you are asleep. I won't stray five yards 
from your window/' 

"You must not go!" she answered, holding him as firmly 
as her strength allowed. "You shall not, I tell you." 



"For one hour," he pleaded earnestly. 

"Not for one minute/' she replied. 

"I must Linton will be up immediately," persisted the 
alarmed intruder. 

He would have risen, and unfixed her fingers by the 
actshe clung fast, grasping: there was mad resolution 
in her face. 

"No!" she shrieked. "Oh, don't, don't go. It is the last 
time! Edgar will not hurt us. Heathcliff, I shall die! I shall 

"Damn the fool! There he is," cried Heathcliff, sinking 
back into his seat "Hush, my darling! Hush, hush, Cath- 
erine! Ill stay. If he shot me so, I'd expire with a blessing 
on my lips." 

And there they were fast again. I heard my master 
mounting the stairs the cold sweat ran from my fore- 
head: I was horrified. 

"Are you going to listen to her ravings?" I said passion- 
ately. "She does not know what she says. Will you ruin 
her, because she has not wit to help herself? Get up! You 
could be free instantly. That is the most diabolical deed 
that ever you did. We are all done for master, mistress, 
and servant/' 

That night Cathy's seven months child was born, and 
death quietly sealed her earthly anguish of body and soul. 
All night under the trees he waited for Nelly's promised word 
which he anticipated when it came: 

"She's dead!" he said; Tve not waited for you to learn 
that. Put your handkerchief away don't snivel before me. 
Damn you all! she wants none of your tears!" 

"Yes, she's dead!" I answered. ". . . her sense never re- 
turned; she recognized nobody from the time you left 
her she lies with a sweet smile on her face; and her 



latest ideas wandered back to pleasant early days. Her 
life closed in a gentle dream may she wake as kindly in 
the other world." 

"May she wake in torment!" cried Heathcliff, with 
frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in 
a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. "Why, she's 
a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there not in heaven 
not perished where? Oh, you said you cared nothing 
for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer I repeat it till 
my tongue stiffens Catherine Earnshaw, may you not 
rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you haunt 
me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I be- 
lieve. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be 
with me always take any form drive me mad! Only do 
not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you. Oh, 
God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I 
cannot live without my soul!" 

Yet Heathcliff lives. He cannot die, much as he wishes to 
die. No, he lives on for many years at Wuthering Heights, 
doing unspeakable harm to all those closely associated with 
him, carrying vengeance into the next generation. Realiz- 
ing that poor, silly Isabella Linton has fallen in love with him, 
and that she will be her brother's heir, he elopes with her. 
She leaves him soon enough, taking her child, Linton, with 
her, and dies a miserable death in London. Linton is brought 
back to the moors by his uncle Edgar, and turned over to 
his father. He is a pathetic boy, ill and neurotic. Heathcliff is 
determined that he shall marry Catherine's daughter, young 
Cathy, so that he may feel a consummation denied to him 
and the girl's mother. But Linton dies of grief and frustra- 
tion and illness before Heathcliff has his wish. And Cathy 
marries Hareton, Hindley's son, giving him something of the 


happiness he had never known; for Hareton, too had taken 
the brunt of Heathcliffs inverted hate. Until, at long last, all 
too long, Heathcliff himself dies, and the tale ends with two 
ghosts on the moors instead of one. 

He solicited the society of no one more. At dusk, he 
went into his chamber. Through the whole night, and far 
into the morning, we heard him groaning and murmur- 
ing to himself. Hareton was anxious to enter; but I bade 
him fetch Dr. Kenneth, and he should go in and see him. 
When he came, and I requested admittance and tried to 
open the door, I found it locked; and Heathcliff bid us be 
damned. He was better, and would be left alone; so the 
doctor went away. 

The following evening was very wet: indeed it poured 
down till day-dawn; and, as I took my morning walk 
round the house, I observed the master's window swing- 
ing open, and the rain driving straight in. He cannot be 
in bed, I thought: those showers would drench him 
through. He must either be up or out. But 111 make no 
more ado, 111 go boldly and look. 

Having succeeded in obtaining entrance with another 
key, I ran to unclose the panels, for the chamber was va- 
cant; quickly pushing them aside, I peeped in. Mr. Heath- 
cliff was there laid on his back. His eyes met mine so 
keen and fierce, I started; and then h6 seemed to smile. I 
could not think him dead: but his face and throat were 
washed with rain; the bedclothes dripped, and he was 
perfectly still. The lattice, flapping to and fro, had grazed 
one hand that rested on the sill; no blood trickled from 
the broken skin, and when I put my fingers to it, I could 
doubt no more: he was dead and starkl 


Chapter xix AGNES GREY 


LISTORY would appear to have granted 
Anne Bronte a place in literature only because she was the 
sister of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, She has never been 
really allowed to stand on her own. It is explained that if it 
had not been for Charlotte's loyal defense of Anne, the world 
would have accorded her very little notice. Even Miss Sin- 
clair,, who makes an honest effort to give Anne her due, 
introducing a new edition of Agnes Grey and The Tenant 
of Wildfell Hall, writes that "if we respect the pieties of 
tradition, it is right and fitting that the novels of Anne Bronte 
should follow Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. The Brontes 
created that tradition; they clung together; they refuse to be 
separated. Charlotte may be said to have thrust the words 
of her younger sister upon the public that had acclaimed her 
own with such violent enthusiasm and accepted Emily's 
somewhat reluctantly at her hands. And even now, in the 
second decade of the twentieth century, it is as if she still kept 
her hold on the frail Anne." 

I dare say this hypothesis cannot be denied, but it actually 
has little bearing on the essential character of Anne's writing. 
Certainly Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall show 
nothing of the genius and intensity ofVillette or Wuthering 
Heights, but how many novels are comparable in that re- 
spect? And where does one find, even in Emily or Charlotte, 


or any other contemporary novelist, such an attitude toward 
the social problems of the day, and of mankind on the whole, 
as are to be found in Anne's two novels? We cannot grant 
that Anne had genius, as her sisters had it, but we can 
assuredly say that she had great talent And for the good of 
society talent, though not as powerful as genius, can some- 
times be more useful. Anne's writing is often dull, to the point 
of boredom; as pointing a moral is sometimes extremely dull, 
while at the same time effective in bringing about necessary 
reforms in the social system and in human behavior. The 
moralities were what interested Anne. While her sisters kept 
them in the realm of abstractions, powerful only in the soul, 
repudiated by the flesh, inspiring yet confounding, Anne per- 
sonified them, and in doing so produced types rather than 
characters. Her people are coat racks on which she hangs out 
her spiritual wares. Whereas in Charlotte and Emily the emo- 
tions are strong and ungovernable, in Anne they are muted; a 
gentle sensibility takes the place of desire; a strong undeviat- 
ing will is in control. 

Yet, with all her limitations, Anne's novels deserve better 
than they have received. As Miss Sinclair goes on to say, 
"Anne attacks her problem with a freedom and audacity 
before which her sisters' boldest enterprises seem cowardly 
and restrained There is nothing like these fragile re- 
pressed and tremulous women when a deed of daring is to be 
done. Anne does it with a naivete, a demure insouciance, 
unknown to women of robust humour and the habit of un- 
fettered speech. She is apparently unaware that she is doing 
it; that her behaviour is the least unusual, not to say revolu- 
tionary," And Charlotte, in a letter to Mr. \\ : '!i:i:iis, tells him 
that 'Agnes Grey is the mirror of the mind of the writer." The 
same may be said of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Anne, be- 



"They can talk the best about the things in which she 
is most interested/* I replied. 

"Well! that is a strange confession, however, to come 
from her governess! Who is to form a young lady's tastes, 
I wonder, if the governess doesn't do it? I have known 
governesses who have so completely identified themselves 
with the reputation of their young ladies for elegance and 
propriety in mind and manners that they would blush to 
speak a word against them; and to hear the slightest 
blame imputed to their pupils was worse than to be cen- 
sured in their own personsand I really think it very 
natural, for my part." 

"Do you, ma'am?" 

"Yes, of course: the young lady's proficiency and ele- 
gance is of more consequence to the governess than her 
own, as well as to the world. If she wishes to prosper in 
her vocation she must devote all her energies to her busi- 
ness: all her ideas and all her ambition will tend to the 
iiccTOnVslimc'iEs of that one object When we wish to 
decide^upon the merits of a governess, we naturally look 
at the young ladies she professes to have educated, and 
judge accordingly. The judicious governess knows this: 
she knows that, while she lives in obscurity herself, her 
pupils' virtues and defects will be open to every eye; and 
that, unless she loses sight of herself in their cultivation, 
she need not hope for success. You see, Miss Grey, it is 
just the same as any other trade or profession: they that 
wish to prosper must devote themselves body and soul to 
their calling; and if they begin to yield to indolence or 
self-indulgence they are speedily distanced by wiser com- 
petitors: there is little to choose between a person that 
ruins her pupils by neglect, and one that corrupts them 
by example. You will excuse my dropping these little 
hints; you know it all for your own good. Many ladies 



would speak to you much more strongly; and many would 
not trouble themselves to speak at all, but quietly look 
out for a substitute. That, of course, would be the easiest 
plan: But I know the advantages of a place like this to a 
person in your situation; and I have no desire to part with 
you, as I am sure you will do very well if you will only 
think of these things and try to exert yourself a little more; 
then, I am convinced, you would soon acquire that deli- 
cate tact which alone is wanting to give you a proper 
influence over the mind of your pupil." 

I was about to give the lady some idea of the fallacy of 
her expectations; but she sailed away as soon as she had 
concluded her speech. Having said what she wished, it 
was no part of her plan to await my answer: it was my 
business to hear, and not to speak. 

It can be seen that the gentle and fragile Anne Bronte, 
in spite of her quiet and unassuming appearance, could shoot 
a pretty straight arrow, and an arrow with a barb of scorn. 
The Murrays of this world should have been moved to sit 
up and take notice. And when the Agnes Greys became the 
Mrs. Westons of England, there could only have been a 
sweeter and more wholesome respect for the individual, 
whether servant or wife. 

Anne had, as we know, worked as a governess herself. Both 
Anne and Charlotte had "gone into service/' and both knew, 
at first hand, the arduous duties, the discriminatory insolence, 
the contemptuous complaints, heaped on women who were 
forced, by penury, to seek employment. The two girls had 
borne these humiliations with the greatest patience and gen- 
tleness. Yet Anne could scarcely be expected to forego the 
human need to give a vicarious vent to suppressed emotions 
when it was Agnes Grey who suffered! Nor was it less than 



natural that she should also permit Agnes Grey to fulfill many 
of the dreams and aspirations she herself was never to see 
fulfilled. It is probable that Anne had felt a romantic attach- 
ment to the curate of Haworth, Mr. Weightman, whose death 
she mourned in a tender poem: 

Yes, thou art gone! and never more 
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me; 

But I may pass the old church door, 
And pace the floor that covers thee, 

May stand upon the cold, damp stone 

Ajid think that, frozen, lies below 
The lightest heart that I have known, 

The kindest I shall ever know. 

Yet, though I cannot see thee more, 

'Tis still a comfort to have seen; 
And though thy transient life is o'er, 

TTis sweet to think that thou hast been; 

To think a soul so near divine, 

Within a form so angel fair, 
United to a heart like thine 

Has gladdened once our humble sphere. 

If so, she was impelled to bring Agnes Grey and the curate, 
Edward Weston, to a happy ending, to the love and marriage 
she was denied in life. 

Agnes Grey is indeed a comedy of manners. There are 
engaging conversations, piquant situations, delightfully sa- 
tirical incidents, throughout the book. There is the Bloomfield 
family, father and mother, and their ill-mannered children. 
Having been summarily dismissed by Mrs. Bloomfield, Agnes 
finds re-employment at Horton Lodge, the home of the 


Hurrays. There are four Murray offspring, Rosalie, Matilda, 
John, and Charles. Their behavior and disposition are pre- 
sented with a keen sense of detail. The girls, Rosalie and 
Matilda, are courted by men who are drawn with equal skill- 
Mr. Hatfield, the rector; and the baronets, Sir Thomas Ashby 
and Sir Harry Meltham. Miss Matilda is the most refractory 
member of the Murray establishment. She is a "veritable 
hoyden," cut somewhat after the pattern of Charlotte's 
Ginevra Fanshawe, and is a wicked trial to parent and gov- 
erness alike. Agnes has to confess that, "as a moral agent, 
Matilda was reckless, head-strong, violent, and unamenable 
to reason. One proof of the deplorable state of her mind was 
that from her father's example she had learned to swear like 
a trooper." And therefore it is not surprising to detect a fear 
creeping into Anne's heart that she may have exposed her 
heroine to the dangerous influences of the people for whom 
she worked: 

As I could not make my companions better, I feared 
exceedingly lliat ihey \\oulcl make me worse would grad- 
ually bring my feelings, habits, capacities, to the level of 
their own; without, however, imparting to me their light- 
heartedness and cheerful vivacity. 

Already I seemed to feel my intellect deteriorating, my 
heart petrifying, my soul contracting; and I trembled lest 
my very moral perceptions should become deadened, my 
distinctions of right and wrong confounded, and all my 
better faculties be sunk, at last, beneath the baneful in- 
fluence of such a mode of life. The gross vapours of earth 
were gathering around me, and closing in upon my in- 
ward heaven; and thus it was that Mr. Weston rose at 
length upon me, appearing like the morning-star in my 
horizon, to save me from the fear of utter darkness; and 



I rejoiced that I had now a subject for contemplation that 
was above me, not beneath. I was glad to see that all the 
world was not made up of Bloomfields, Murrays, Hat- 
fields, Ashbys, etc.; and that human excellence was not a 
mere dream of the imagination. When we hear a little 
good and no harm of a person, it is easy and pleasant 
to imagine more: in short, it is needless to analyse all my 
thoughts; but Sunday was now a day of peculiar delight 
to me (I was now almost broken in to the back corner in 
the carriage), for I liked to hear him and I liked to see 
him, too; though I knew he was not handsome, or even 
what is called agreeable, in outward aspect: but, cer- 
tainly, he was not ugly. 

Anne Bronte drenches her quiet story in atmosphere, an 
attractive quality which came to be more and more a part 
of Victorian fiction, particularly among the minor novelists. 
She caught the moods and shades of the moors until they 
laid a dreamlike mantle over the people who passed along 
their winding roads, who entered the lowly cottages on the 
heath or the fine houses on the crests of the dark hills. 
Whether it is Mr. Weston, the curate, or Nancy Brown, the 
cripple, all are touched with the same magic that comes up 
from the bosom of the earth at sunset and sunrise, summer 
and winter, as nature turns on the wheel of time. The effect 
is indefinable, yet real, and is the element that can be traced 
in all the Brontes, whether Emily, Charlotte, or Anne, as the 
irresistible power of the moors, of the Haworth witchery, to 
effect its mysterious consummation. 

Anne's intentions may have been, as Miss Sinclair says, 

beyond her capacity to realize in full. But the inability to 

shape a novel to a novelist's last, or to fill the shape with the 

elixir of genius, is often made a matter of less importance by 



the author's appealing sincerity, her crystal-clear motives, her 
gentle wit, so that the reader is led beyond the failures of 
style and conception and completes the image for himself. 
For, in a considerable measure, Anne Bronte attempted in 
Agnes Grey the very thing that Ethel Sidgewick and E. M. 
Delafield have achieved with such subtle and disciplined 
artistry nearly a hundred years later. 




JL HERE is nothing in English literature 
that quite resembles Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell 
Hall. It is truly a curious piece of fiction, seemingly without 
roots or precedent. The title suggests mystery, even horror. 
Before the reader has turned a page, he has already conjured 
up an ancestral curse, flight from justice, secret passages, 
dungeons, perhaps a ghost in the tower room! Actually there 
is a fugitive spirit in Wildfell Hall, for Helen Huntington has 
fled there to escape her husband. But Helen Huntington 
herself is far from being exotic or romantic. She is a creature 
obsessed with stern principles, intellectual prudery, moral 
preachings. If ever a novel was written for a purpose, to set 
forth certain precepts of man's behavior, it is The Tenant of 
Wildfell Hall. Anne intended that Helen should merely be 
the mouthpiece for lessons of piety, for chastising the wicked. 
As Mrs. Humphrey Ward has said, "Anne wrote The Tenant 
under the bitter mandate of conscience," 

It has been asked so often, whence came the fountain of 
passion and power that gave the world Wuthering Heights? 
Few have asked what brought The Tenant from the pen of 
Anne Bronte. How could Anne, so gentle and good, so young 
and inexperienced, write convincingly of the sordid side of 
life? Charlotte felt moved to try to explain the paradox, but 
we are even baffled by her explanation. Anne's own preface 


to the second edition of the novel is also an attempt to an- 
swer her critics, and justify herself for writing a tale of such 
unrelieved corruption. "I would not be understood to sup- 
pose," she writes, "that the proceedings of the unhappy scape- 
grace, with his few profligate companions I have introduced, 
are a specimen of the common practices of society the case 
is an extreme one, as I trusted none would fail to perceive; 
but I know that such characters do exist, and if I have warned 
one rash youth from following in their steps, or prevented one 
thoughtless girl from falling into the very natural error of 
my heroine, the book has not been written in vain." 

Anne wished to tell the truth, and hoped, as she says, that 
it would "convey its own moral to those who are able to 
receive it." It takes courage to tell such truths; it took courage 
to write The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Anne did not possess 
the imaginative powers, the artistry of execution, of her 
sisters, but she shared one important quality with them that 
made them kin; an intellectual and emotional daring. She 
dared as completely in her representation of sin as they in 
theirs of passion and desire. The genius of all the Brontes was, 
in great part, a certain lack of inhibitions that made them 
fearless in the best sense of the word. Their acquaintance 
with the world, its conventions and restrictions, was so slight, 
so distant, that it had not yet taught them "diplomacy." Like 
children, they still saw no reason why what they knew to be 
the truth should not be told. 

"As the story of Agnes Grey? Anne writes, "was accused 
of extravagant over-coloring in those very parts that were 
carefully copied from life, with a most scrupulous avoidance 
of all exaggeration, so, in the present work, I find myself cen- 
sured for depicting con amore with 'a morbid love of the 
coarse and the brutal,' those scenes which, I venture to say, 



have not been more painful for the most fastidious of my 
critics to read than they were for me to describe. I may have 
gone too far; in which case I shall be careful not to trouble 
myself or my readers in the same way again; but when we 
have to do with vice, and vicious characters, I maintain that 
it is better to depict them as they really are than as they 
would wish to appear. To represent a bad thing in its least 
offensive light is, doubtless, the most agreeable course for a 
writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the 

So we must take Anne very much at her word when she 
says that in both Agnes Grey and The Tenant she "carefully 
copied from life." She undoubtedly did. As I have intimated 
before, the dissolute Arthur Huntington has been universally 
accepted as a portrait of Branwell It was surely the pain and 
anxiety caused by BranwelTs defection, the gradual degrada- 
tion of a brother who had been so loved and admired by his 
three sisters, that drove Anne to writing a horror story of 
moral degeneration, in the hope that it might, as she says, 
warn "one rash youth" from following in Branwell's footsteps. 
Naturally, since Branwell never married, Anne could not have 
depended upon him for the scenes of marital life she has 
drawn with such an unerring eye and ear for the inflections 
of domestic disharmony. Yet it is probable that in this also 
her sources lay in actual experience. There is reason to sup- 
pose, for instance, that she was fully aware of the unhappi- 

ness and discord in the family of Mr. C , a clergunan in 

the nearby parish, whose conduct was so reprehensible that 
his wife was constantly seeking solace from Mr. Bronte. It is 
no more than natural that many of the case histories of Mr. 
Bronte's parishioners should have been known intimately to 
his daughters. Their curiosity alone would have seen to that 


While even though Patrick Bronte had become a rigid and 
lonely man, aloof from the normal exchange of confidences 
that should have been a part of such a household of mother- 
less children, yet he must have now and then sought his 
daughters' advice and counsel in the course of his daily round 
of parish duties. 

In the meanwhile, although the critics might continue to 
cavil as to the point at which Anne Bronte had "gone too 
far/' The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was selling extremely well. 
Even Mr. Clement Shorter remarks that it was a great sur- 
prise to him that the book went into a second printing within 
the year. One hopes that this was a comfort to Anne, since, 
between the critics' attack and Charlotte's statement that 
the book was "an entire mistake/' Anne had very little en- 
couragement of any kind. What a satisfaction it would have 
been if she could have looked forward a half-century and 
known that a sound literary judgment was going to admit 
that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall had been much underrated. 
It would also have gladdened her to know that she was 
eventually to be praised for creative skill as well as moral 
courage, and that Miss Sinclair would one day write, "There 
are scenes, there are situations, in Anne's amazing novel 
which for sheer audacity stand alone in mid-Victorian litera- 
ture, and would hold their own in the literature of revolt that 
followed/' This courage is a fever of the spirit, a wild fire 
springing from the soul itself, that burns through any lack 
of craftsmanship in all the Bronte novels. The sisters shared 
it in common. It seemed to be both hereditary and contagious. 
It is what gives the scenes and situations of The Tenant, that 
Miss Sinclair found so amazing, much of the same pungent 
flavor that is to be found in Wuthering Heights or Shirky. 

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall bears other resemblances to 



Wuthering Heights, particularly in the manner of narration. 
As in Wuthering Heights, where the plot is unfolded by 
Nelly Dean's retelling of the story of Heathcliff and Cath- 
erine, so, in The Tenant, the narration follows the course of a 
diary explaining the mysterious tenant of Wildfell Hall, 
Helen Huntington. 

It is a sordid story that the diary tells. A young girl, Helen 
Lawrence, brought up by an uncle and aunt, falls madly in 
love with a profligate young man, Arthur ITunliiigtou. Noth- 
ing can persuade her that he is as dissipated and evil as he 
is, or as hopeless of reform: 

"*A few unprincipled mothers/" her aunt expostulates, 
" may be anxious to catch a young man of fortune without 
reference to his character; and thoughtless girls may be glad 
to win the smiles of so handsome a gentleman, without seem- 
ing to penetrate beyond the surface; but you, I trusted, were 
better informed than to see with their eyes, and judge with 
their perverted judgment/ 

"'Nor do I, aunt/" Helen Lawrence replies, ***but if I 
hate the sins, I love the sinner, and would do much for his 
salvation, even supposing your suspicions to be mainly true, 
which I do not and will not believe.' " 

Helen becomes sadly disillusioned in the course of mar- 
riage. It is difficult to find, in the whole range of English 
fiction, a wife who suffered such torment at the hands of a 
husband so utterly reprobate. But neither can one have too 
much sympathy for Helen, who is portrayed as a cold, un- 
emotional, intellectual snob. Her moral self-sufficiency tends 
to have the same irritating effect on the reader as on her 
husband. She endures her husband's abuse, the ribaldry of 
his drunken companions, his vile habits, with a complacency 
that only aggravates the condition. There is a child born of 


the union, the boy Arthur, and it is for Ms sake, to preserve 
him from corruption, that she finally runs away and goes into 
seclusion in Wildfell Hall. As Helen writes the story in her 
diary, there is a steady mounting crescendo of resentment 
and revolt against oppression, against what a woman has to 
put up with in a society that demands that she stay married, 
mistake or no mistake, and bear whatever trials her lord and 
master imposes upon her. A climax is finally reached when 
she shuts the door in her husband's face and flees the house. 
And yet, when Arthur Huntington is about to die, a wretch- 
edly broken man, a coward in the face of death, Helen 
returns to ease his last hours with the assurance of God's 
mercy and forgiveness. 

"How could I bear to think/' she writes in her diary, "that 
that poor trembling soul was hurried away to lasting tor- 
ment? It would drive me mad. But, thank God, I have hope- 
not only from the vague dependence on the possibility that 
penitence and pardon might have reached him at last, but 
from the blessed confidence that, through whatever purging 
fires the erring spirit may be doomed to pass whatever fate 
awaits it still it is not lost, and God, who hateth nothing 
that he hath made, will bless it in the end." 

Here again, in these words, we have another example of 
the courage and revolt of Anne Bronte, the gentle Anne. 
To express any doubt of the inevitability of eternal damna- 
tion was heresy to the Victorian orthodoxy. And here is the 
daughter of Haworth parsonage saying that God does not 
hate, and that it would be madness to assume that he could 
condemn a soul to lasting torment. Just as Emily did not 
believe that any creed was a guarantee of salvation, so Anne 
rejected that most appalling religious dogma, belief in dam- 
nation. The true Bronte ferment of rebellion was at work in 



Anne, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was no less a dis- 
turbing threat to the security of Victorian tradition than 
were the more brilliant Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. 

It is only natural, Anne's philosophy being what it was, 
that both Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall should 
end "happily ever after." In the one, the little governess, 
Agnes Grey, and the good rector, Edward Weston, are united 
in wedlock; and, in the other, Helen Huntington, after her 
husband's death, finds happiness with Gilbert Markham. 
Though much of the passion that splashes the pages of the 
novels of her sisters is lacking in Anne's, yet they are tinted 
with an emotional excitement of their own. They are not in 
the least dull, and they are not sentimental. There was a hard 
core of purpose in Anne around which the threads of her 
moral ideals were smoothly wound, and as she unwound 
them they never became knotted or tangled in her hands. Or, 
to use Anne's own metaphor and symbol, "since the priceless 
treasure too frequently hides at the bottom of a well, it needs 
some courage to dive for it, especially as he who does so will 
be likely to incur more scorn and obliquy for the mud and 
water into which he has ventured to plunge than thanks for 
the jewel he procures/ 3 Anne plunged, and procured the 
jewel again and again from the depths beneath her own 
limpid-clear nature. It is therefore only fust that she should 
be given a small niche of her own in the Hall of Fame, not 
always remain tucked in beside Charlotte or Emily. 

The poetic genius among the three Bronte sisters was 
Emily. The world has recognized this fact for the best part of 
a century, and that recognition has granted her a foremost 
place in the glorious line of English poets. All that can be 
claimed for Charlotte in her experience with the muse is that 
she never rose above the level of a competent versifier. Poetry 


was not her forte. But of Anne something can be said for her 
talent. She had a genuine, if fragile gift, in which sentiment 
and piety combined to produce a pleasing song. Her gentle 
note of reverence and devotion was imbued with a singular 
flame that sprung from her sincerity. This slender, but per- 
suasive gift of song has, paradoxically, carried her name to 
more human hearts than the more powerful genius of her two 
sisters: two of her poems are included in church hymnals and 
sung by the faithful throughout the English-speaking world. 
How familiar to many who had never read or heard of Agnes 
Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, are the two verses that 
begin, "O God, if this indeed be all," and "I hope that with 
the brave and strong." It was quite in keeping with Anne's 
gentle nature that her fame and immortality should triumph 
in the quiet sanctuary of peace and meditation* 


Chapter xxi "WHERE DID YOU 

(A Footnote in the History of Anonymous} 

L HAVE retained, from the chapter on Char- 
lotte Bronte s life, a particular incident that seems to me so 
interesting and dramatic that it deserves a small niche of its 
own in this biography. It concerns the day when Charlotte 
and Emily and Anne decided to reveal their true identity to 
publisher and public, and no longer camouflage themselves 
under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. No living 
soul except Mr. Bronte knew the secret of this anonymity. 
But the popularity of Jane Eyre, the critical furore over 
Wuthering Heights, had roused the literary world and the 
general reader to eager conjecture as to who the authors might 
be. Were the Bells men or women? Where did they live? 
What walk of society did they frequent? Were they one and 
the same person? Were they well-known figures in the lit- 
erary world, masquerading under assumed names? Jane Eyre, 
in its handling of social problems, its insight into feminine 
psychology, and Wuthering Heights, with its stoical phi- 
losophy, its violent human passions, would seem to indicate 
experienced writers, wise in the ways of mankind and skilled 
in craftsmanship. Indeed, speculation was running high, 
wide, and handsome, when Charlotte decided it was time to 
make themselves known in their true colors. After all, she 


had only taken the path of concealment because she felt 
women were handicapped, by the very reason of their sex, 
in the practice of any art. She had also known that Jane Eyre 
and Wuthering Heights were strong meat for anyone's dish ? 
reader or critic, and that if it were known in advance that 
the authors were "ladies" there would be an uproar of 
shocked protest. So Charlotte, whose instincts were always 
so unerring in practical affairs, took the precaution of putting 
men's names to work that would have done any man credit. 

A letter from the publishers, Smith, Elder, received on 
July 5, 1848, brought matters to a head. It arrived by post, 
protesting a rumor that had reached their ears concerning the 
acquisition of the American rights to the next work by the 
author of Jane Eyre. Another London firm appeared to be 
selling these rights to an American publisher, and the whole 
transaction was contrary to the arrangements agreed upon 
between the author of Jane Eyre and Smith, Elder. According 
to the letter, the affair hinted of double dealing on the part 
of Currer BelL That was enough for Charlotte! She was stung 
to the quick by a suspicion of this nature, so completely un- 
founded. There was nothing to do but act immediately, and 
in the open. Smith, Elder must not be allowed to doubt the 
integrity of the Bells or the Brontes, The authors themselves 
must journey to London straightway and set the matter right! 

It was decided that Charlotte and Anne would go, leaving 
Emily in charge at home. In fact, Emily was not in favor of 
the idea at all. The other two packed their satchels that 
day, and sent them by oxcart to the station at Keighly, sev- 
eral miles distant, where they would pick them up later as 
they took the night train for Leeds and London. Such a 
journey was quite an undertaking for two young women who 
had traveled so little. Charlotte and Emily had stopped off 



for a few hours in London, going and coming from Brussels. 
But for Anne it was a first visit there, and, sadly enough, 
would prove to be her last. The walk to Keighly, a distance 
of four miles from Haworth, was taken in the cool of the 
evening. A thunderstorm broke upon the sisters before they 
reached Keighly. It is significant that this should happen. The 
rage of the elements was in harmony with their own spirits, 
and they were neither afraid nor sought shelter from the 


The uncomfortable night ride in the coach from Leeds to 
London must have been a strange one, filled with thoughts of 
the past, anxiety for the morrow. Their spirits, as well as their 
bodies, could only have arrived somewhat the worse for 
the cramping night journey. They came into the city early 
Saturday morning, July 6, and went directly to the Chapter 
Coffee House, in Paternoster Row, where Charlotte had 
settled that they should stay. Mr. Bronte had taken Charlotte 
and Emily there for an overnight stay when he accompanied 
them to Brussels. The Chapter Coffee House had a past, 
having been a famous ^alliorintj place for critics and writers 
during its heyday in the early eighteenth century. Chatterton 
had written of it to his mother when he wanted to delude her 
about his well-being in London since it was the consort of 
famous men of letters. Now it was no more than a shabby, 
run-down inn, in the care of a slatternly couple, and 
patronized only by men. It was not the place for Charlotte 
and Anne to sleep, but they knew of no other. They were 
made as comfortable as possible in a long, low room with 
high windows, on the second story, where book-trade meet- 
ings had once been held. After freshening up from the night's 
journey, they breakfasted, and lingered a moment to decide 
what to do next in getting to Smith, Elder's in CornhilL 


From Paternoster Row, the narrow street running north of 
St. Paul's Churchyard, famed for its memories of the great 
bookshops and publishing houses, but now crowded with 
warehouses, it was only a short walk to Cornhill, where the 
offices of Smith, Elder were located. Charlotte and Anne 
emerged from the dim, dingy doorway of the Chapter Coffee 
House into the business bustle and ferment of Paternoster 
Row. They decided to economize by not taking a convey- 
ance, though it might have been safer to rely on a driver for 
directions, and made the dome of St. Paul's a guiding star in 
the confusion and complexity of the innumerable crooked 
streets and alleys. But St. Paul's was not always in sight. 
Surely, they must have asked a stranger the way. And how 
little he knew that he was directing Apollo's anointed. Two 
young country women, attired in plain black homemade 
gowns, one of them possessed of strange, compelling, reddish- 
brown eyes, the other of a pale fragile face touched with the 
loveliness of a white flower, had asked their way to Cornhill 
that was all he knew. 

Perhaps a little breathless with haste and uncertainty, but 
no doubt grateful that they had come thus far with no un- 
toward experience, the two sisters arrived at the offices of 
their publishers. With what timidity did Charlotte ask to see 
Mr. George Smith, and with what puzzled amusement did 
the receptionist convey the request to his employer? Two 
simple maidens, he thought, but how extraordinarily f roward 
in asking to see the head of the firm! Or was it naivet6? Yet 
there must have been something in Charlotte's eyes, in her 
upright carriage and clear voice, that commanded instant 
respect, for the attendant announced her to Mr. George 
Smith without more ado. And so they came into the greal 
publisher's presence. He must have gazed at them in wonder. 



ment at the old-fashioned severity of toilet, at the dresses 
and bonnets that had certainly never been purchased at 
any Bond Street shop. Charlotte and Anne, as they stood 
quietly under his slightly austere scrutiny, were alien to any- 
thing he was accustomed to meet in the literary world. There 
was absolutely nothing about these two frail daughters of a 
Yorkshire clergyman, so out of their physical element in a 
London publisher s office, that would convey an inkling to 
Mr. George Smith of the creative fire he was playing with- 
unless perhaps it was a certain dignity and simple lack of 
pretension. He stood there, innocently unperceiving, on the 
brink of a startling discovery for which he was totally un- 
prepared. Then Charlotte, with no word of explanation, 
handed him a letter. The dye was cast. George Smith glanced 
at the letter, and back at the open faces before him, for he 
recognized it as a letter he had written. And one quick, half- 
accusing, half-puzzled question slipped from George Smith's 
tongue: "Where did you get this?" 
And Charlotte must have answered, "Why, you sent it to 


Mr. Smith's unspoken response to that one may well have 
been, "And who the devil are you?" but he undoubtedly 
restrained the impulse and replied with courteous doubt, "I 
did? And are you acting in behalf of Mr, Bell?" 

When Charlotte made it clear who she was, and also the 
silent sister beside her, as well as the absent sister whom they 
could not persuade to leave the Haworth moors, and who to- 
gether made the trinity of Bells, George Smith's ears must 
have vibrated with Olympian laughter! There was the letter 
in his hand, convincing evidence of the truth Charlotte had 
uttered. And George Smith rose magnificently to the oc- 


THIS HAS not been (it was not meant to be) a book 
to fan the flames of controversy that still, and possibly wiU 
ever, burn like grass fire across the Haworth moors, in the 
attempt to "hole" some weary problem of truth or falsehood. 
True, there are several questions that haunt the biographers 
and critics of the fate-driven family of Brontes, as has been 
thoroughly illustrated by the many attempts to clarify their 
lives, but it has not been my purpose to re-examine the evi- 
dence pro and con. 

The controversies I refer to include, among others, the 
question as to whether M. Heger encouraged Charlotte's in- 
fatuation, and even the question we ask ourselves: to what 
depths of passion did Charlotte herself descend? It would 
certainly appear, after reading the six letters that remain 
from those she wrote to M. Heger (possibly they were all 
she wrote), that she was sure she had been indelibly 
wounded, that her agony was mortal! Yet she did recover, 
as we know. And she not only survived this despair of the 
heart, but she was the one who eventually married. Further- 
more, Charlotte was so fortunate as to live to see, as so few 
have ever done, literary fame reach heights undreamed of 
by any one of the sisters. Her four novels, even before her 
death, had achieved the reputation of being unique, even 
"classical." She was certainly one of the most important 
women of the mid-nineteenth century. That, in itself, must 



have been the greatest source of satisfaction and joy to a 
woman of Charlotte's nature, for she was, in so many ways, 
much more worldly and practical than Anne or Emily. Nor 
were the critics of her day mistaken. Her reputation has suf- 
fered little, if any, decline since her death. It might even be 
defended that she is constantly more assured of a place 
among the immortals. No one has left us, for instance, such a 
vivid portrayal of a moment in history: that industrialization 
of England, beginning as it did in the northern cities, and 
affecting as it did the country and the country people from 
Liverpool to Glasgow, and inaugurating a new era. And no 
one, until recent times, unless perhaps Arnold Bennett, has 
given us heroines of such living flesh and blood. Indeed, the 
women, the "little governesses/' of Charlotte and Anne, are 
more realistic, withal so chaotic and romantic, than the 
women of such novelists as Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot, Mere- 
dith, Galsworthy. They are extraordinarily "modern" women. 
They have brains. They do things. They behave, to a startling 
degree, as if the single standard had already been invoked by 
the female sex. 

I have not gone deeply into another question, also one of 
controversy, which throws doubt on the extent to which 
BranweE was involved with Mrs. Robinson. BranwelTs own 
lurid accounts of his devotion and the lady's betrayals have 
many of the earmarks of pathological .untruth, and it is quite 
possible that Mrs. Robinson has been much maligned. 

Nor have I been too greatly concerned with a matter that 
is perhaps even more violent in its breech of opinion, the 
delineation of the character of Mr. Bronte. We have, on the 
one hand, those who paint this gentleman of the cloth with 
severest censure; who see him as cruel and cold, a man with 
no slightest flicker of human feeling, lacking the simplest 


understanding of Ms pathetic wife, Maria, and of his eight re- 
markable children; who starved them spiritually and physi- 
cally; and who was to see them all die without visible 
suffering or remorse. While, again, we have some few bi- 
ographers who, while admitting Patrick Bronte's severity and 
rigid religious discipline, yet believe that he could well 
have done worse by the glowing coals of genius he had inad- 
vertently kindled; who point at the intellectual play of minds 
that early went on between father and daughters, at the re- 
markable library to which the children had access at all 
times (they were reading indiscriminately; the Bible, Shake- 
speare, Bunyan, Addison, Johnson, Sheridan, Cowper, Scott, 
Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Blackwoods Magazine, and 
important London and provincial newspapers), and at the 
freedom allowed for the wing spread of imagination across 
the moors of Haworth; and who excuse the physical miseries, 
and the psychological blunders, as the ignorance of a man 
of Patrick Brontes own upbringing, together with the re- 
ligious bigotry of his day. Perhaps Patrick Bronte actually 
falls somewhere between these two extremes of portraiture. 
Certainly he was not loved by Emily and Charlotte as they 
grew older and were able to judge him. He spoiled and mis- 
understood his son, wrecking his life. And yet one cannot find 
it possible to be utterly harsh with Patrick Bronte. After all, 
he once lay in the sun and read Paradise Lost. Somewhere he, 
too, lost his Paradise. But he did something more for his 
children than merely conceive them. He gave them liberty, 
though it was, in the last analysis, "the liberty to die" that 
Emily Dickinson once asked for herself. A strange and awe- 
some paradox! 

Lastly, I have not attempted to dissect Emily, a task that 
has often led down confused and, it seems to me, futile paths 



of failure. Emily was Emily, one of the most extraordinary 
and mysterious beings who ever lived; mysterious, and yet 
simplicity itself, as God is simple: 

The soul can split the slcy in two 
And let the face of God shine through.* 

Emily Bronte is the proof positive that what we call nec- 
essary experience pales to insignificance when placed in 
contrast to inner knowledge. She was a spirit that emerged 
independent of the material event. Perhaps no better descrip- 
tion of her has been given than Maurice Maeterlinck's in 
Wisdom and Destiny: 

Not a single event ever paused as it passed by her 
threshold; yet did every event she could claim take place 
in her heart, with incomparable force and beauty, with 
matchless precision and detail. We say that nothing ever 
happened; but did not all things really happen to her 
much more directly and tangibly than with most of us, 
seeing that everything that took place about her, every- 
thing that she saw or heard, was transformed, within her 
thoughts and feelings, into indulgent love, admiration, 
adoration of life 

Of her happiness, none can doubt. Not in the soul of 
the best of all those whose happiness has lasted longest, 
been the most active, diversified, perfect, could more im- 
perishable harvest be found than in the soul Emily 
Bronte lays bare. If to her came nothing of all that passes 
in love, sorrow, passion, and anguish, still did she possess 
all that abides when emotion has faded away. 

Emily's soul was forever innocent, forever completely 
knowing. Its beauty was beyond our words to touch. "And all 

* "Renascence," by Edna St. Vincent MiHay. 



through" as May Sinclair has said, "an intangible presence, 
something mysterious, but omnipotently alive; something 
that excited these three sisters; something that atoned, but 
not only consoled for suffering and solitude and bereave- 
ment, but that drew its strength from these things; something 
that moved in their books like a soul; that they called 
'genius/ " 

Genius! It is the word that brings us back full circle to the 
spell of mystery and enchantment that caused me to write 
again (may my readers forgive me) the story of the "be- 
witched parsonage" of Haworth; back to the inexplicable 
flame, the wild chemistry of Celt and Cornish bloods, and, 
above all, the furor scribendi that seized these frail children 
and stretched them for a few shining seconds between the 
nodes of earth and sky. 





I am well aware that it is not my turn to write to you, but 
as Mrs. Wheelwright is going to Brussels and is kind enough 
to take charge of a letterit appears to me that I ought not 
to neglect so favourable an opportunity of writing to you. 

I am very pleased that the school-year Is nearly over and 
that the holidays are approaching I am pleased on your ac- 
count, Monsieur for I am told that you are working too 
hard and that your health has suffered somewhat in conse- 
quence. For that reason I refrain from uttering a single 
complaint for your long silence I would rather remain six 
months without receiving news from you than add one grain 
to the weight, already too heavy, which overwhelms you. I 
know well that it is now the period of compositions, that it 
will soon be that of examinations and later on of prizes and 
during all that time you are condemned to breathe the sti- 
fling atmosphere of the class-roomto spend yourself to 
explain, to question, to talk aE day, and then in the evening 
you have all those wretched compositions to read, to correct, 
almost to re-write Ah, Monsieur! I once wrote you a letter 
that was less than reasonable; because sorrow was at my 

* These letters were printed for the first time in the London Times, July 
29, 1913. The caption above them reads: CHARLOTTE BRONTE'S "TRAGEDY.** 




heart; but I shall do so no more.-I shall try to be selfish no 
longer; and even while I look upon your letters as one of the 
greatest felicities known to me I shall await the receipt of 
them in patience until it pleases you and suits you to send 
me any. Meanwhile I may well send you a little letter from 
time to time: you have authorized me to do so, 

I greatly fear that I shall forget French, for I am firmly 
convinced that I shall see you again some day-I know not 
how or when-but it must be for I wish it so much, and then I 
should not wish to remain dumb before you it would be 
too sad to see you and not be able to speak to you. To avoid 
such a misfortune I learn every day by heart a half a page of 
French from a book written in a familiar style: and I take 
pleasure in learning this lesson, Monsieur; as I pronounce the 
French words it seems to me as if I were chatting with you. 

I have just been offered a situation as first governess in a 
large school in Manchester, with a salary of 100 (i.e. 2,500 
francs) per annum. I cannot accept it, for in accepting it I 
would have to leave my father, and that I cannot do. Never- 
theless I have a plan (when one lives retired the brain goes 
on working; there is the desire of occupation, the wish to 
embark on an active career). Our vicarage is rather a large 
house with a few alterations there will be room for five or 
six boarders. If I could find this number of children of good 
family I should devote myself to their education. Emily does 
not care much for teaching but she would look after the 
housekeeping and although something of a recluse, she is 
too good hearted not to do all she could for the well-being 
of the children. Moreover she is very generous, and as for 
order, economy, strictness and diligent work all of them 
things very essential in a school I willingly take that upon 


That, Monsieur, is my plan, which I have already explained 
to my father and which he approves. It only remains to find 
the pupils rather a difficult thing for we live rather far 
from towns and one does not greatly care about crossing the 
hills which form as it were a barrier around us. But the task 
that is without difficulty is almost without merit; there is 
great interest in triumphing over obstacles. I do not say I 
shall succeed the effort alone will do me good. There is 
nothing I fear so much as idleness, the want of occupation, 
inactivity, the lethargy of the faculties: when the body is 
idle, the spirit suffers painfully. 

I should not know this lethargy if I could write. Formerly 
I passed whole days and weeks and months in writing, not 
wholly without result, for Shelley and Coleridge two of our 
best authors, to whom I sent certain manuscripts were good 
enough to express their approval; but now my sight is too 
weak to write. Were I to write much I should become blind. 
This weakness of sight is a terrible hindrance to me. Other- 
wise do you know what I should do, Monsieur? I should 
write a book and I should dedicate it to my literature-master 
to the only master I ever had to you Monsieur. I have 
often told you in French how much I respect you how much 
I am indebted to your goodness, to your advice; I should like 
to say it once in English. But that cannot be it is not to be 
thought of. The career of letters is closed to me only that of 
teaching is open. It does not offer the same attractions; never 
mind, I shall enter it and if I do not go far it will not be from 
want of industry. You too, Monsieur you wished to be a 
barrister destiny or Providence made you a professor; you 
are happy in spite of it 

Please convey to Madame the assurance of my esteem* I 
fear that Marie, Louise and Claire have already forgotten 



me. Prospere and Victorine never knew me well; I remember 
well all five of them, especially Louise. She had so much 
character so much naivete in her little face. 
Goodby, Monsieur. 
Your grateful pupil 
C. Bronte 

July 24. 

I have not begged you to write to me soon as I fear to 
importune you but you are too kind to forget that I wish it 
all the same yes, I wish it greatly. Enough; after all, do as 
you wish, Monsieur. If, then, I received a letter and if I 
thought that you had written it out of pity I should feel 
deeply wounded. 

It seems that Mrs. Wheelwright is going to Paris before 
going to Brussels but she will post my letter at Boulogne. 
Once more goodbye, Monsieur; it hurts to say goodbye even 
in a letter. Oh, it is certain that I shall see you again one day- 
it must be so for as soon as I shall have earned enough 
money to go to Brussels I shall go there and I shall see you 
again if only for a moment 


[Addressed, on the back: 
Monsieur Heger 
No. 32 Rue dlsabefle 


I am in high glee this morning and that has rarely hap- 
pened to me these last two years. It is because a gentleman of 
my acquaintance is going to Brussels and has offered to take 
charge of a letter for you which letter he will deliver to you 


himself, or else, his sister, so that I shall be certain that you 
have received it. 

I am not going to write a long letter; in the first place, I 
have not the time it must leave at once; and then, I am 
afraid of worrying you, I would only ask of you if you heard 
from me at the beginning of May and again in the month of 
Au<mst? For six months I have been awaiting a letter from 
Monsieur six months' waiting is very long, you know! How- 
ever, I do not complain and I shall be richly rewarded for a 
little sorrow if you will now write a letter and give it to this 
gentleman or to his sister who will hand it to me without 

I shall be satisfied with the letter however brief it be-only 
do not forget to tell me of your health, Monsieur, and how 
Madame and the children are, and the governesses and the 

My father and my sister send you their respects. My 
father's infirmity increases little by little. Nevertheless he is 
not yet entirely blind. My sisters are well, but my poor 
brother is still ill. 

Farewell, Monsieur; I am depending on soon having youi 
news. The idea delights me for the remembrance of your 
kindnesses will never fade from my memory, and as long as 
that remembrance endures the respect with which it has in- 
spired me will endure likewise. 

Your very devoted pupil 
C. Bronte 

I have just had bound all the books you gave me when I was 
at Brussels. I take delight in contemplating them; they make 
quite a little library. To begin with, there are the complete 
works of Bernardin de St. Pierre-the Pensees de Pascal-a 



book of poetry, two German books-and (worth all the rest) 
two discourses of Monsieur le Professor Heger, delivered at 
the distribution of prizes of the Athenee Royal 
Octb. 24th 1844 


[Addressed, on the back: 
Monsieur Hegfcf 
No. 32 Rue dlsabelle 

Mr. Taylor has returned. I asked him if he had a letter for me. 
"No; nothing." "Patience," said I- c< his sister will be here 
soon." Miss Taylor has returned. "I have nothing for you 
from Monsieur Heger," says she; "Neither letter nor mes- 

Having realized the meaning of these words, I said to my- 
self what I should say to another similarly placed: "You must 
be resigned, and above all do not grieve at a misfortune 
which you have not deserved." I strove to restrain my tears, 
to utter no complaint. 

But when one does not complain, when one seeks to" 
dominate oneself with a tyrant's grip, the faculties start into 
rebellion and one pays for external calm with an internal 
struggle that is almost unbearable. 

Day and night I find neither rest nor peace. If I sleep I 
am disturbed by tormenting dreams in which I see you al- 
ways severe, always grave, always incensed against me. 

Forgive me then, Monsieur, if I adopt the course of writing 
to you again. I cannot endure life if I made no effort to ease 
its sufferings. 


I know that you will be irritated when you read this letter. 
You will say once more that I am hysterical (or neurotic) 
that I have black thoughts, &e. So be it, Monsieur; I do not 
seek to justify myself; I submit to every sort of reproach. All 
I know is, that I cannot, that I will not, resign myself to lose 
wholly the friendship of my master. I would rather suffer the 
greatest physical pain than always have my heart lacerated 
by smarting regrets. If my master withdraws his friendship 
from me entirely I shall be altogether without hope; if he 
gives me a lil lie just a little I shall be satisfiedhappy; I 
shall have a reason for living, for working, 

Monsieur, the poor have not need of much to sustain them 
they ask only for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's 
table. Nor do I, either, need much affection from those I 
love. I should not know what to do with a friendship entire 
and complete I am not used to it. But you showed me of 
yore a little interest, when I was your pupil in Brussels, and I 
hold on to the maintenance of that little interest I hold on to 
it as I would Bold on to life. 

You will tell me perhaps "I take not the slightest interest 
in you, Mademoiselle Charlotte. You are no longer an in- 
timate of my House: I have forgotten you." 

Well, Monsieur, tell me so frankly. It will be a shock to me. 
It matters not. It could be less dreadful than uncertainty. 

I shall not reread this letter. I send it as I have written it 
Nevertheless, I have a hidden consciousness that some 
people, cold and common-sense, in reading it would say 
"She is talking nonsense." I would avenge myself on such 
persons in no other way than by wishing them one single day 
of the torment which I have suffered for eight months. We 
should then see if they would not talk nonsense too. 

One suffers in silence so long as one has the strength so to 



do, and when that strength gives out one speaks without too 
carefully measuring one's words. 
I wish Monsieur happiness and prosperity. 

Jany 8th Haworth. Bradford. Yorkshire. 


The six months of silence have run their course. It is now 
the 18th of Now.; my last letter was dated (I think) the 
18th of May. I may therefore write to you without failing in 
my promise. 

The summer and autumn seemed very long to me; truth 
to tell, it has needed painful efforts on my part to bear hith- 
erto the self-denial which I have imposed upon myself. You, 
Monsieur, you cannot conceive what it means; but suppose 
for a moment that one of your children was separated from 
you 160 leagues away, and that you had to remain six months 
without writing to him, without receiving news of him, with- 
out hearing him spoke of, without aught of his health, then 
you would understand easily all the harshness of such an 
obligation. I tell you frankly that I have tried meanwhile to 
forget you, for the remembrance of a person whom one thinks 
never to see again, and whom, nevertheless, one greatly 
esteems, frets too much the mind; and when one has suffered 
that kind of anxiety for a year or two, one is ready to do any- 
thing to find peace once more. I have done everything; I 
have sought occupations; I have denied myself absolutely 
the pleasure of speaking about youeven to Emily, but I 
have been able neither to conquer my regrets nor my impa- 
tience. That, indeed, is humiliating-to be unable to control 


one's own thoughts, to be the slave of a regret, of a memory, 
the slave of a fixed and dominant idea which lords it over 
the mind. Why cannot I have just as much friendship for 
you, as you for me neither more, nor less? Then should I be 
so tranquil, so free I could keep silence then for ten years 
without an effort. 

My father is well but his sight is almost gone. He can 
neither read nor write. Yet the doctors advise waiting a few 
months before attempting an operation. The winter will be a 
long night for him. He rarely complains; I admire his pa- 
tience. If Providence wills the same calamity for me, may He 
at least vouchsafe me as much patience with which to bear it! 
It seems to me, Monsieur, that there is nothing more galling 
in great physical misfortunes than to be compelled to make 
all those about us share in our sufferings. The ills of the soul 
one can hide, but those which attack the body and destroy 
the faculties cannot be concealed. My father allows me now 
to read to him and write for him; he shows me too, more con- 
fidence than he has ever shown before, and that is a great 

Monsieur, I have a favour to ask of you: when you reply 
to this letter, speak to me a little of yourself, not of me; for I 
know that if you speak of me it will be to scold me, and this 
time I would see your kindly side. Speak to me therefore of 
your children. Never was your brow severe when Louise and 
Claire and Prosper were by your side. Tell me also something 
of the School, of the pupils, of the Governesses. Are Mes- 
demoiselles Blanche, Sophie and Justine still at Brussels? 
Tell me where you travelled during the holidays did you go 
to the Rhine? Did you visit Cologne or Coblentz? Tell me, in 
short, mon maitre, what you will, but tell me something. To 
write to an ex-assistant-governess (No! I refuse to remember 



my employment as assistant-governess I repudiate it) any- 
how, to write to an old pupil cannot be a very interesting oc- 
cupation for you, I know; but for me it is life. Your last letter 
was stay and prop to me nourishment to me, for half a 
year. Now I need another and you will give it me; not be- 
cause you bear me friendship you cannot have suchbut 
because you are compassionate of soul and you would con- 
demn no one to prolong suffering to save yourself a few mo- 
ments' trouble, To forbid me to write to you, to refuse to 
answer me would be to tear from me my only joy on earth, to 
deprive me of my last privilege-a privilege I shall never 
consent willingly to surrender. Believe me, mon maitre, in 
writing to me it is a good deed that you will do. So long as I 
believe you are pleased with me, so long as I have hope of re- 
ceiving news from you, I can be at rest and not too sad. But 
when a prolonged and gloomy silence seems to threaten me 
with the estrangement of my master-when day by day 1 
await a letter and when day by day disappointment comes to 
fling me back into overwhelming sorrow,-and the sweet 
delight of seeing your handwriting and reading your counsel 
escapes me as a vision that is vain, then fever claims me I 
lose appetite and sleep I pine away. 

May I write to you again next May? I would rather wait a 
year, but it is impossible it is too long. 

C. Bronte 

I must say a word to you in English I wish I could write to 
you more cheerful letters, for when I read this over, I find it 
to be somewhat gloomy but forgive me my dear master, do 
not be irritated at my sadness according to the words of the 
Bible: "Out of the fulness of the heart, the mouth speaketh," 
and truly I find it difficult to be cheerful so long as I think I 
shall never see you more. You will perceive by the defects in 


this letter that I am forgetting the French language I read 
all the French books I can get, and learn daily a portion 
by heart but I have never heard French spoken but once 
since I left Brussels and then it sounded like music in my 
ears every word was most precious to me because it re- 
minded me of you I love French for your sake with all my 
heart and soul. 

Farewell my dear master may God protect you with spe- 
cial care and crown you with peculiar blessings. 

C. B. 

Novr. 18th Haworth. Bradford. Yorkshire. 
NOTE: It is on the edge of this letter that Professor Heger 
made some commonplace notes in pencil one of 
them the name and address of a shoemaker. 
The Heger letters are reprinted through the courtesy of 
Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., and the Bibliographical Society. 


Athenaeum, no. 975, July 4, 1846, p. 682. 
Poems by C. E. and A. Bell 

The second book on our list furnishes another example of a 
family in whom appears to run an instinct of song. It is 
shared, however, by the three brothers as we suppose them 
to be in very unequal proportions; requiring in the case of 
Acton Bell the indulgences of affection ... to make it music, 
and rising, in that of Ellis into an inspiration, which may 
yet find an audience in the outer world. A fine quaint spirit 
has the latter, which may have things to speak that men will 
be glad to hear, and an evident power of wing that may 
reach heights not here attempted. [Extracts follow from "The 



Philosopher," "Song," and a poem beginning "Hope was but 
a timid friend."] The Muse of Currer Bell walks half way 
between the level of Acton's and the elevation attained by 
Ellis. It is rarely that the whole of one of his poems is up 
to the scale registered by parts. A bit here and there from 
the 'Monologue of the Teacher'. . . may give the tone and 
manner of his singing. [Extract follows,] 

Frasers Magazine, Vol. 36, July-December, 1847, pp. 690-694. 

Review of Jane Eyre 

. . . we wept over Jane Eyre. This, indeed, is a book after 
our own heart; and, if its merits have not forced it into 
notice by the time this paper comes before our readers, let 
us, in all earnestness, bid them lose not a day in sending for 
it. The writer is evidently a woman, and, unless we are 
deceived, new in the world of literature. But, man, or woman, 
young or old, be that as it may, no such book has gladdened 
our eyes for a long while. Almost all that we require in a 
novelist she has: perception of character, and power of 
delineating it; picturesqueness; passion; and knowledge of 

life The book closed, the enchantment continues. . . 

Reality deep, significant reality is the great characteristic 
of the book. It fe an autobiography ? ~not, perhaps, in the 
naked facts and circumstances, but in the actual suffering 

and experience There are some defects in it There 

is, indeed, too much melodrama and improbability, which 
smack of the circulating library we allude particularly to 
the mad wife and all that relates to her, and to the wander- 
ings of Jane when she quits Thornfield. . . . Jane herself is 

a creation A creature of flesh and blood, with very fleshly 



infirmities, and very mortal excellencies; a woman, not a 

pattern Mr. Rochester is also well drawn, and from the 

life; but it is the portrait of a man drawn by a woman, and 
is not comparable to the portrait of Jane. 

Extract from The Times, December 7, 1849, 
Shirley-by the Author of Jane Eyre 

. . . Struck, however, as we could not but be by the raciness 
and ability of the work [i.e., Jane Eyre], by the independent 
sway of a thoroughly original and unworn pen, by the 
masculine current of noble thoughts ... we perused the last 
words of the story with the conviction that the second effort 

of the author would not surpass the first Currer Bell, 

whomsoever that name may represent, during two-thirds of 
her performance [i.e., the first two volumes of Jane Eyre] 
obeyed the impulses and necessities of her mind, and her 
genius enabled her to command success; for the remaining 

third she was the mere bond slave of the booksellers 

Eager to extend renown, she starts from the point where she ' 
left off ... and presents us with ... a novel made up of third 
volumes [le., Shirley], a book to be read on the strength of 

the book that was formerly devoured Shirley is very 

clever as a matter of course. It could not be otherwise. The 
story of Shirley may be told in a couple of pages, yet a more 
artificial and unnatural history cannot be conceived; and 
what is true of the plot is even more applicable to the 
dramatis personae. The characters, from Shirley Keeldar 
down to the smallest boy in the narrative, are manufactured 
for the occasion. . . . Shirley is at once the* most high-flown 
and the stalest of fictions. 



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Bronte Society Transactions, Bradford, England, 1894. 




122 14.1