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Full text of "Charlotte Brontë : 1816-1916, a centenary memorial;"

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. . 
CHARLOTTE BRONTE 


A CEN
rENAR Y MEMORIAL 


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CHAI
LOTTE BRoXTE. 


Frontispiece. 



. . 
CHARLOTTE BRONTE 


1816- 1 9 16 
A CENTENARY MEMORIAL 


PREPARED BY THE BRONTË SOCIETY 
....... 
EDITED BY BUTLER WOOD, F.R.S.L. 
WITH A FOREWORD BY MRS. HUMPHRY WARD 
AND 3 MAPS AND z8 ILLUSTRATIONS 


, 


LONDON 
T. FISHER UNWIN LTD. 
ADELPHI TERRACE 



First PuMis"'4 ;tt 19'7 


( All riglm rll'r'fJtd) 



FOREWORD 


, 


As President of the Brontë Society, I have been 
asked-for my last appearance in that honourable 
place !-to write a few words of Preface to this 
H Centenary Memorial" of Charlotte Brontë. In 
my o\vn paper, which was read at Bradford this 
spring, and is printed in these pages, I have said 
all that the reader of this book will want to hear 
from myself on its ever-enthralling subject. But 
there remains for me the pleasant task of pointing 
such a reader to the variety of Brontë knowledge 
and criticism which the other essays in this volume 
contain. They are no drilled chorus, but the 
fresh impressions and the first-hand research of 
competent writers who have spoken their minds 
both with love and courage. Very different judg- 
ments will be found in them on very important 
points, such as the relati ve rank of the two 
great sisters, or of Charlotte Brontë's three novel
) 
intlr se, or of her relation to her contemporaries. 
This seems to me all to the good. It is by 


5 



Foreword 


difference that we aU think; and "fret our minds 
to an intenser play." 
But what is unanimous, is not so much the 
\varm praise of Charlotte Brontë, in which this 
band of writers, from their various points of 
view, ultimately agree, as the testimony they bear 
to the feeling she still stirs in us-to the delight 
she still gives to this later generation, after more 
than half a century. The security of her fame, 
we see, is'" year I y greater, as her star rises surel y 
and steadily to its place in the nineteenth-century 
heaven. Fluctuations of opinion there have been, 
and must ahvays be, in the case of those who, like 
the Brontës, challenge opinion) and, so to speak, 
" take it by force. n But it seems to me that the 
fluctuations are over, and the verdict given. And 
the nlembers of the Brontë Society, during the last 
twenty
; years, have certainly helped to make it 
what it is. Their unworthy President bids them 
now a gratefu] farewell. 


MARY A. WARD. 


8eplfmber, 19 1 ï. 


ó 



CONTENTS 
f 


.rAGJ: 


FOREWOR.D. By Mrs. Humphry If/ard 


5 


INTRODUCTION I I 
SOME THOUGHTS ON CHARLOTTE BRONTË. By 
Mrs. Humphry Ward. 
A WORD ON CHARLOTTE BRONTË. 
Gosse) C.B. 
CHARLOTTE BRONTË AS A ROMANTIC. 
Chesterton 
CHARLOTTE BRONTË: A PERSONAL SKETCH. By 
Arthur C. Benson 55 
CENTENARY ADDRESS AT HAWORTH. By the 
Right Rev. Bishop lf/el/doll 63 
CHARLOTTE BRONTË IN BRUSSELS. By 1l-I. H. 
Spi
'manll 
 I 
STORY OF THE BRONTË SOCIETY. By H. E. If root 1 I I 
THE PLACE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTË IN NINE- 
TEENTH CENTURY FICTION. By the latt Dr. 
Richard Garnett . 1+9 
7 


13 
By Edmund 
39 
By G. K. 
47 


, 



Contents 


PAM 


CHARLOTTE AND EMILY BRONTË: A COMPARISON 
AND A CONTRAST. By Professor C. E. 
17aughan, M.A. . 173 
CHARLOTTE BRONTË IN LONDON. By Sir Sidney 
Lee., LL.D. . 20 7 
THE SPIRIT OF THE MOORS. By Halliwell 
Sutcliffe . 249 
THE BRONTËS AS ARTISTS AND PROPHETS. By 
J. K. Snowden . 28 5 
A BRONTË ITINERARY. By Butler If/ood. . 3 11 


IN DEX 


· 3 2 7 


8 



ILLUSTRA TIONS 
f 


PORTRAIT OF CHARLOTTE BRONTË 


Frontispiece 


HAWORTH PARSONAGE 
PORTRAIT OF MRS. GASKFI.L 
HAWORTH CHURCH 
PORTRAIT OF REV. A. B. NICHOLLS 


Facing Pal
 
17 
39 
63 
73 


FACSIMILE OF CIRCULAR ISSUED BY THE RRONTË 
SISTERS IN 1844 . I II 
"BLACK BULL" INN, HAWORTH. . 129 


DOG "FLOSS" 
(From Wafer-C%ur Dro.wing bY C. BronÛ.) 
HATHERSAGF. 
HRONTË B IRTHPI ACE, THORNTON 
BRONTË WATERFALL, HAWORTH MOOR . 
QUARRIES ON HAWORTH MOOR . 
THE R YDINGS, B IRST ALL 
OAKWELL HALL, BIRSTALL 
MOORSEATS, HATHERSAGE 


. 133 


. 14 I 
. 161 
. 16 9 
. 17 2 
. 177 
. 177 
. 193 


9 



Illustrations 


PORTRAIT OF MR. GEORGE SMITH 
PONDEN HOUSE (THRUSH CROSS GRANGE) . 
ON HAWORTH MOOR 


DOG "KEEPER" . 
(From W ater-C %ur Drawing by E. Bronti) 
VILLAGE OF STANBURY 
THE WITHINS (WUTHERING HEIGHTS) . 
PORTRAIT OF THE REV. PATRICK BRONTË 
PORTRAIT OF MISS ELLEN N USSEY 
HAWORTH FR01\1 THE MOOR EDGE 
HAWORTH CHURCH 
VIEW FROM HAWORTH MOOR 
FOOT-BRIDGE NEAR BRONTË W ATFRFALL 
HA WORTH FROM THE EAs'r 


MAPS 


"THE HAWORTH COUNTRY 


THE" SHIRLEY" COUNTRY 
l\...IRKBY LONSDALE AND COWAN BRIDGE 


10 


Facing pagt 
. 20 9 
. 225 
. 249 
. 257 


. 273 
. 273 
. 281 
. 281 
. 28 9 
. 28 9 
. 3 0 5 
. 3 0 5 
. 3 1 5 


. 3 1 7 
. 3 1 9 


. j21 



INTRODUCTION 


, 


W HEN the Brontë Society discussed the question of 
celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Charlotte 
Brontë's birthday it was felt that the occasion 
should be marked by something of a more 
permanent nature than the public function which 
had been arranged to be held at Ha worth, and 
it was therefore decided to prepare for publication 
a volume which should serve as a literary souvenir 
of the Centenary year. Steps were thereupon 
immediately taken to this end, and thanks to the 
willing co-operation of some writers of eminence 
who have notable syrnpathy with the objects of 
the Society, it has been Inade possible to bring the 
present work before the public. 
In addition tu contributions written specially 
for the occasion, a selection has been made from 
the 1ransactions of the Society of those articles 
which appear to be appropriate to the purpose of 
the volume. '-rhey include appreciations by the 
late Dr. Richard Garnett, Sir Sidney Lee, Prof. 
I I 



Introduction 


c. E. Vaughan, Halliwell Sutcliffe, and J. Keighley 
Snowden, and are included because it is felt 
that they are well worthy of a more extended 
publicity than it was possible to give them in the 
limited issue of the Transactions of the Society. 
Amongst the illustrations will be found a fac- 
simile of the circular issued by the Brontë sisters 
when contemplating the formation of a Boarding 
School at the Haworth Parsonage in 1844. It 
is reproduced from the only known leaflet now 
existing, which is preserved in the Haworth 
Museum. 
The Council of the Society desire to record 
their gratitude to Mr. A. C. Benson, Master of 
Magdalene College, Cambridge, Mr. M. H. 
Spielo1ann, Mr. Edmund Gosse, Mr. G. K. 
Chesterton, Bishop Welldon, Sir Sidney Lee, 
Mr. J. Keighley Snowden, Mr. Halliwell Sut- 
cliffe, Prof. C. E. Vaughan, and Mr. H. E. 
Wroot, for the help they have generously ren- 
dered; to the Editor of 'fhe Tinzes for permission 
given to reprint Mr. Spielmann's article on 
"Charlotte Brontë in Brussels;" to Mr. M. E. 
Hartley, of Bradford, for preparing the subject 
index, and to the President of the Society, Mrs. 
Humphry Ward, for writing a foreword to 
the volume and for permission to include her 
Centenary Address. 


12 



SOME THOUGHTS 
ON CHARLOTTE BRONTE 


By MRS. HUMPHRY WARD 


t 




SOME THOUGHTS ON CHARLOTTE 
BRONTË 


AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY MRS. HUMPHRY WARD TO THE 
BRONTË SOCIETY, AT BRADFORD, FRIDAY, MARCH 3 0 , 1917. 


A HUNDRED years ago last April, a third daughter 
-Charlotte-was born to the Rev. Patrick 
Brontë and Maria Brontë, his wife, at the 
Yorkshire village of Thornton, in the parish of 
Bradford. The little Charlotte's elder sisters 
Maria and Elizabeth w
re still babies them- 
selves when she appeared, and when not quite 
four years later the whole famil y migrated to 
Haworth, near Keighley, and took up their 
residence in the small parsonage house, on the 
edge of a Yorkshire moor, which is now so 
famous in the history of literature, there were 
six children, of whom the eldest was not much 
more than six years old. Their gentle t refined 
mother, worn-out perhaps by child-bearing, died 
the year after the move, and the six wonderful 
children were left motherless. 
Was there ever such a brood! Think of 
15 


\ 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Memorial 
them in that first year at Haworth! Their 
mother, whom they rarely saw, was dying; 
their father was not fond of children, and 
lived shut up in his study. Maria, aged seven, 
was the mother and teacher of the rest. She 
would shut herself up with a newspaper, in the 
little fireless roon1 upstairs which was called the 
" children's study" -there was no nursery in 
that melancholy house!- and would be able to 
tell the others all kinds of things when she 
came out, about politics and Parliament, about 
"the Duke," Charlotte's particular hero, and 
Bonaparte, the Duke's vanquished foe, now safely 
caged in St. Helena. 
\Vhen the children went for a walk, they went 
out all six together, on the moor behind the 
house, alone, hand in hand, the elder ones help- 
ing the babies. They never made a noise; their 
happiest hours were spent \vhispering to each 
other in the firelight on winter evenings; some- 
how they all learnt to read-how, it is not 
recorded; and books, the moors, and each other 
sufficed them. They had no child friends, 
no children's books, no pretty frocks, no 
children's parties. Presently, their father, who 
never walked with then1, or had a nleal with 
them, began to realize they were not like other 
children; and we have the well-known story of 
his examination of them, when the eldest was 
ten and the youngest four. H
 l1).ad
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16 



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, SonJe 1'houghts 011 Char/otte Brontl 


child wear a mask in turn and speak through 
the mask, so as to give it courage. Anne) the 
baby, was asked what a child like her n10st 
wanted. She answered, Mr. Brontë says-is it 
quite credible ?-" Age and experience." While 
the eldest, Maria, aged ten, when asked what was 
the best mode of spending time, replied :-" By 
laying it out in preparation for a happy eternity." 
A year later, the child who gave that answer was 
dead, after that appalling year at the Cowan 
Bridge School, of which Mrs. Gaskell gives an 
account which has never been substantially shaken. 
Her father left it on record that, long before 
she died, he could talk to her about an y leading 
topic of the day, as though she were a grown 
person. 
But still, she died, poor little motherless 
mother !-and her younger sister, Elizabeth, also 
died. MercifulJy Charlotte and Emily were 
rescued from Cowan Bridge in time, and then 
for nearly five years the marvellous children 
were happy together in their own way. The 
sisters loved each other passionately; they were 
proud of their only brother, who was taught 
by his father and kept at home; they were not 
much interfered with by their aunt, who had 
come to keep the house; they read the Bi ble, 
Shakespeare, Bunyan, Addison, Johnson, Sheridan, 
Cowper) for the past; Scott, Byron, Coleridge, 
W ordiworth, Southey, for the moderns, with 
17 B 



Charlotte BroJJIP: (/ Celllc!/Jtlry AlelJJOlï
11 
Blackwood's Magazine and a fulJ supply of 
newspapers, both Whig and Tory. 
rhey were 
all politicians and desperate 
rories; and the 
record of what they \vrot
-the plays and poems 
and miscellaneous tales and articles, in the "little 
writing)" no\v so eagerly sought for by the 
autograph collector, which most of us can only 
read with a nlagnifying glass-before Charlotte, the 
eldest, was fourteen, is more an1azing even than 
the stories of wonder-children in Evelyn's Diar)', 
or John Stuart Mill's recollections of his own 
performances under the age of five. rrhe mere 
list of Charlotte's childish works, in twenty-two 
MS. volun1es, occupies a page and a half of 
Mrs. Gaskell's biography. 
Yet when Charlotte \vent to Roehead School, 
at fourteen, she seemed at first so ignorant-it 
\vas grammar and geography she was tested in- 
that a kind schoolmistress told her pityingly she 
must be placed with the little ones. Charlotte, 
however, cried so much that a chance \vas given 
her among the bigger girls. And then-stupe- 
faction 1-the child who knew no grammar was 
found to be steeped in literature and history. 
"She looked a Ii ttle old woman" -said the 
schoolfellow, i\1ary Taylor, writing to Mrs. 
Gaskell ;-" so short-sighted that she always 
appeared to be seeking something) and moving 
her head from side to side to catch a sight of 
it. She \vas very shy and nervous, and spoke 
18 



SOnlé' 
rhoughts Oil Charlotte Brol/té. 


with a strong Irish accent. \Ve thought her 
very ignorant! But then she \vould confound us 
by knowing things that \vere out of our range 
altogether!" She told stories out of a "magazine" 
,vritten by herself and her sisters. Once her 
schoolfellows made her try to pIa y some ball 
game with them. She tried, but she could not 
see the balJ, so they" put her out." It was 
pleasanter, she said, to stand under the trees 
in the playground and \vatch the shadows and 
the sky. Son1etimes she would talk politics 
eagerly; and her Radical schoolfellows, reflecting 
the opinions of Radical homes, found it was of 
no use to argue with Charlotte about the Duke 
of Wellington (the Reform Bill of )32 was just 
passing)-for she knew everything about him, 
and "we knew nothing." Her talent for story- 
telling was endless. She and her sisters called 
it "making out." '[he whole family used to 
" 'make out' histories," says Mary Taylor again, 
"and invent characters and events. She picked 
up every scrap of information concerning paint- 
ing, sculpture, poetry, music, etc., as if it were 
gold. She never lost a moment of time! She 
knew she must provide for herself.. '. 
Yet, except for the year at Cowan Bridge, 
Charlotte's childhood was not unhappy. 
The power which overshadowed it, as also 
that of her sisters, brought its own rewards. fhey 
were thelTIselves well aware of its nature. Emily 
19 



Charlotte Rrontë: a Gten/ellary MeJJJorÍul 


in particular has paid it immortal homage. 
.A.gal n and again in those strange poen1s, written 
in the simplest and commonest of metres, 
scarcely one of which is without its touch of 
geni us, while half a dozen belong to the mai n 
poetic treasure of our race, Emily points to the 
force \vhich nlade the bare, spartan life of the 
hleak parsonage house a life of happiness, often 
of joyous exci ten1en t, to the three sisters, so 
long as they had each other to cling to, and 
beforc Branwell's decadence began. 


"Silent is the house; all are laid asleep: 
One alone looks out o'er the snow-wreaths deep, 
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze 
That whirls the wildering drift, and bends 
. . . the groaning trees. 
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 con- 
stancy." 


What \vas the "Strange Power" that Enlil y 
thus invokes? Simply lmagination-Poetry, 
"making out." Emily was possessed by it; 
so in a nlore nornlal degree was Charlotte, 
and even the gen tle and timid Anne. 
In Emily, it was mingled first with a. pas- 
sionate love of home and country, and then 
with ideas of violence and terror, partly sug- 
gested, to her by books-the German Romantics 
20 



Sante Thoughts on Charlottf Brontl 


whom she read at Brussels, or in translations 
printed in Blackwood's 1VIagazine, which carne 
regular 1 y to the parsonage-and part! y by her 
own wild moors, and what she guessed of the 
life around her, divining it fronl a face here, 
and a fragment of talk there, seeing it all under 
a light of storm, lit from the fire of her own 
nature. I t is probable, I think, that the q uick- 
ened pulse of phthisis, of \vhich she died , may 
have had something to do \vith the peculiar 
intensity, the self-devouring strength, of }1
mily's 
genius. I have nlyself watched the effect of 
the continuous fever of phthisis on a literary 
gift, in the case of a great historian; there is 
no doubt that it lent an added fire and energy 
to his work; and I have often thought that the 
same cause partly conditioned Emily Brontë's 
poetic gift, and part! y explains the astonishing 
glow and concentration of Wuthering Heights. 
But it ,vas only an intensifying cause. With 
Charlotte, imagination ,vas a cradle gift no less 
than with Emily; and Anne, in frailer, feebler 
Ineasure, was played on by the sanle power. 
"The faculty of imagination,
' \vrites Char- 
lotte to Mr. Willianls, "lifted me when I was 
sinking, three months ago" (that is, after the death 
of her sister Anne) ; "its active exercise has kept 
my head above water since! " 
And it ,vas imagination of a strong racial 
type. Charlotte at school, says Mary rraylor
 
21 


, 



Charlotte Brontë.. a Centenary 
lel11orial 
spoke with a strong Irish accent. It should 
never indeed be forgotten that the Brontës were 
Irish on their father's side, and Cornish 011 
their mother's. 
rhat is to say, they were 
Celtic by race, and they inherited the Celtic 
gi fts. 
" Never laugh at us Celts! " said Ernest Renan, 
himself a Breton ;-" \ve shall not build the l
ar- 
thenon-marble is not our affair. But we know 
how to seize upon the heart and soul; we have 
a power of piercing which belongs only to us. 
We plunge our hands into the entrails of luau 
and bring them out, like the witches in Macbeth, 
full of the secrets of the infinite. Vv T e have no 
turn for practical life, for chaffering and bar- 
gaining. We are difficult to n10ve. We die 
if you tear us from home. In the heart of our 
race there is a perpetual spring of madness. 
Fairy-land is our domain, the fairy-land that 
only pure lips and faithfuJ hearts can enter! " 
How many of these fan10us phrases suit the 
Brontës! "We shall not build the Parthenon! " 
Noone need look for classical perfection in the 
Brontës. There is a morbid and feverish in- 
equality in much of Charlotte's work, which drew 
down upon her the critics of her own day, and 
made Edward Fitzgerald call her "the Mistress 
of the Disagreeable. U 11he structure, the build- 
ing, both of Shirley and Villette break every 
rule; and Charlotte, \vhen invited by George 
22 



Sonte ThfJugh S Oil Charlotte Brontë 


Henry Lewes to consider the n1ild wisdom 
and artistic perfection of Jane Austen, turned 
almost angrily away. Charlotte and Emily 
are Romantics through and through, and the 
Celts in history and literature are the eternal 
Romantics. For they are not thinking-striv- 
ing to\vards-an artistic whole, in which feel- 
ing, poetry, passion, shall be all brought into 
bondage to a shaping and fastidious instinct, 
\vhich is, in truth, the ultimate thing. 
rhey 
are grasping at poetry and passion for their o\vn 
sakes, careless \vhat happens, so long as they 
can exercise the piercing and arresting power 
they are conscious of possessing. 
Again: "In the heart of our race there rises," 
says Renan, "a spring of madness." And there 
is a note of madness in the Brontë genius; con- 
spicuously in Emily, but to be heard no\v and 
then even in Charlotte. The wonderful chapter in 
Villette describing Lucy Snowe, lonely, n1Íserable, 
and delirious, \vhen she is left forsaken in the 
peJ1sionnat through the sumnler holidays, has in 
it something non-sane; one hears through it 
the footfalJ of one who has known the border- 
lands of the mind, where dream and 111elancholy 
rule, where, for the time, responsibility and 
reflection die. The genius of the poet and 
rhapsodist-and it is essentiaIJy to that category 
that the Brontë genius belongs-has ahvays been 
held, as we know, to involve an element of 
23 



Charlotte Bront!: a Centtnary ]Vfel11orial 


wildness, of something \vhich marks it from the 
ordinary gifts of 111en- 


Faster, faster, 
Oh Circe, goddess, 
Let th
 wild thronging train, 
'rhc bright procession of eddying forms. 
Sweep through my soul! 


It was in a n100d-a state-not far distant from 
this that Charlotte Brontë \vrote the astonishing 
pages at the end of Villette., where Lucy Snowe 
wanders through the tnidnight Brussels en fête, 
unknown, unrecognized-save for that one sharp 
glance from the eyes of Dr. John-herself played 
on by all the various il11pressions of night, crowd, 
colour., fire, and by the different passions and 
interests of the persons she sees; passing through 
them like the very spirit of romance, and render- 
ing scenes and characters in a marvellous language 
-rich, flowing, now wildly and satirically gay, 
no\v grave and quiet like the old Flen1ish streets 
into \vhich she turns fron1 the noise and illumina- 
tion of the park-just as Schumann or Brahms 
would have rendered them in n1usic. 
It is indeed this quality of poetry, sometimes 
piercingly plaintive and touching, at others grin1 
and fiery, with interludes of extravagance or gro- 
tesq ue, that establishes the claim of Charlotte and 
Emil y Brontë to their high place in literature. 
Their claim, of course, is the Romantic claim 
24 



Some Thollghts on Charlotte Bront! 


-the claitl1 of George Sand and Victor Hugo, 
the claim of Coleridge, and in the main the claim 
of Byron. But it was specially conditioned in 
their case first by the Irish-the Cel tic-strai n of 
blood; and secondly by a power of observation, 
shre\vd or ironic, which is just as characteristic 
of the Celt as the power of poetry, the touch 
of madness, the lnelanchol y, the note of fairy- 
land-which Renan claims for his race. Look, 
for instance, at the work of J. M. Synge, or at sante 
of the verse of the nlost modern Irish poets. 
You will find in it exactly the mingling of these 
two elenlents; poetry-that is, the sense of 
nlystery and beauty in the world; together \vith 
an eager interest in the human reality, often in 
its most sordid and tri vial aspects, which is 
subordinate, indeed, to the poetic po\ver, but 
never fails in the end to bring that power to 
the test of truth, even to find a puckish delight 
in doing so. Charlotte, for instance, is eloquent 
in praise of "observation" -she abhors senti- 
nlentalism. Nevertheless, when you present her 
with a realist like Jane Austen, she recoils. And 
she \vould certainly have recoiled still further 
(rorn the realists of to-day. She would have 
found nothing, I believe, to please her in Cla)'- 
h.anger or Kips. The detaiJ in her novels, good 
or bad, is always subordinate to the (( strange 
power" \vhom Emily invoked, to whom Char- 
lotte turned \vhen she was " sinking" under grief. 
25 


II 



Charlotte BrlJntl'.. 0 Centenary Memorial 


The school detail, for instance, in 1ane Eyre, the 
curates and the Y orkes in Shirle.'y; and all that 
marvellous detail in Villette which has for ever 
preserved, in its very habit as it lived, that pen- 
.sionnat of Madame Beck's in the Rue Fossette :- 
one may look upon it all as a good ilJustration of 
a saying of Goethe's. In one of his talks with 
Eckermann he says that the rarest and best kind 
of imagination is that which spends itself on the 
truth near at hand. Many writers, he says, with 
direct reference to the monsters and nlarvels of the 
German Romantic movement, prefer to write of 
strange countries and times, and things they know 
nothing about, and absurdly believe that they 
culti vate their imagination by doing 
o. The 
master in poetry or fiction is he who can give 
significance and beauty to the simplest incidents 
of the life he knows. This is the "truth em- 
bodied in a tale" which conquers the world. 
But the whole question is as to the degree in 
which the poetic faculty can transform and trans- 
mute the detail it takes from reality. 
Emily Brontë possessed the power of trans- 
t11utation to a supreme degree. In spite of the 
apparent realism of Wuthering Heights, its harsh 
or brutal elements, it is passionate poetry-though 
without a trace of "passion" in the ordinary 
sense-from first to last. Charlotte possessed the 
transmuting power less perfectly than Emily. But 
Villette is the supreme example of it in her. All 
26 



SOllIe Thoughts on Charlotte Brantl 


this small detail of a girl's school, of its activiti
s 
and ambitions, of the persons living in it, and the 
forces acting upon them, will live when half the 
books and writers we are accuston1ed to admire 
in this generation are wholly forgotten. The race 
is not to the clever-or the voluble-or the in- 
dustrious-or the ingenious. When nobody ever 
wants to look at 'fhe New Machiavelli again, 
still less at Anne Veronica, Villette wiU be read 
and loved. Why? Not, of course. because of 
its particular detail as con1pared with any other, 
but because of the poetry and personality that 
hold the detail, like the sunny water in \vhich the 
ri ver- weeds swa y transfigured. That" strange 
power" which Emil y invoked has touched it and 
given it immortality. 
But Charlotte was not al \va ys so happy in her 
dealing with detail. The detail of the country 
house scenes in lane Eyre is extravagant and 
absurd-a little vulgar besides. The clerical 
detail of Shirley leaves me uncon1fortable and 
unconvinced. I wish that Charlotte had not, as 
she confessed to Mr. WiJliams, photographed the 
three curates fron1 the life. They have the faults 
of photography, in its cruder stages. They are 
not transn1uted; they remain raw and clumsy. 
And that being so, the magic of art having failed 
them, the moral question raises its head, the ques- 
tion of justification; and one renlembers perhaps, 
with discon1fort, a letter printed by Mr. Shorter, 
27 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Mel1zarÎal 
in which an old friend of Mr. James \\7. Smith, 
the original of the l
ev. Peter Malone-hinlself 
the little Sweeting of the nove]-denounces Char- 
lotte Brontë's "photograph" of Peter Malone 
as "false and cruel." 
The n10ral question may also be raised \vith 
regard to Villette. It is admitted that Madame 
Heger was the original of Madanle Beck. But 
Madan1e Heger had shown Charlotte Brontë 
much kindness, and she was so justly hurt by 
the portrait of Madame Beck that when Mrs. 
Gaskell went over to Brussels in search of 
material for her famous Life, Madd.t11e Heger 
refused to see her. And yet, in time, you have 
the Heger family, as it seems to me, recognizing, 
with a personal magnanimity which is dependent 
on a keen sense of art and literature, that Villette 
is a wonderful book, that it is quite possible to 
vindicate kind and n10therly Madarne Heger 
frorn Charlotte Brontë's misjudgment of the real 
wonlan-but that Villette without Madame Beck 
would have been a shorn n1asterpiece. So that 
artisticall y Charlotte Brontë is justified. 'I'hat is 
to say-thinking of literature-we cannot regret 
it. For-" qui veut la fin, veut les moyens." 
But where the end-of artistic fusion-has not 
been reached, where the material taken from life 
remains crude, where the breath of the" maker t, 
has not passed upon it, there the poet and the 
story-teller hecon1es again an ordinary person to 
28 




10nle 1noltghts all Char/otte BrontE 
he judged by ordinary rules; and although 
Madame Beck is triumphant, the curates in Shirle."v 
may be-at any rate partially--wished away! 
Imagination, then-Celtic imagination-with its 
head in the clouds, its heart on fire, its hands full 
of treasures gathered from the comn10n earth, and 
its feet walking in and loving the wilder, lone- 
lier paths of life-it is so we must conceive 
Charlotte's greatest gift. She is a dreamer who 
observes, who is always observing; and she lives 
precisely because of the mingling of these two 
strains in her-the power of poetry and the power 
of bringing the poetic faculty to bear on the truth 
nearest her, the facts of her own daily life. "I 
have seen so little," she complains once or twice. 
But what she has made of that little! Beside 
Pillette, a novel of a girls' school, how poor and 
. ephemeral-already-do the novels look \vhich 
are half journaJisn1-that is, either rhetoric, or 
information, poured out for other ends than the 
creative, the poetic end, like The New Machia- 
velli, which I have already quoted; or the novels 
which rest on an elaborate " documentation," like 
Zola's Lourdes. Poetry, truth, feeling; and a 
passion which is of the heart, not of the senses- 
these are Charlotte's secrets. They are sin1ple, 
but they are not to be had by everybody for the 
-asking. Loti in the Péclzeur d'Islallde-Barrie 
in The Window in 17zrums-many Russians in 
many books-Victor Hugo in much of Les 
29 



Charlotte Brolltë: (l Centenary MeJJI0rÙlI 
MiJérab/eJ-George Sand in her Berri stories 
and in large sections of Consuela-they, with 
many differences, stand in the sanle literary rank; 
they walk the saine halls in the "House of 
Fanle" with the Brontës. 
There are, of course, other types and voices in 
the House of Fame; but to this race of singers 
and makers at least the golden gates are always 
open; to the passionate, tht: pure in heart, the 
SIncere. 
Well, we have claimed for Charlotte Brontë, the 
artist, imagination, truth, and po\ver. I t is one 
of the strongest grounds of her immortality that 
she was also a loving, faithful, suffering woman, 
with a personal story which, thanks to Mrs. 
Gaskell's Life, will never cease to touch the hearts 
of English folk \vhile literature lasts. That best 
of biographies was given me when I was seven- 
teen by a dear kins\voman-Matthew Arnold's 
youngest sister-now one of the fe\v survivors 
who can renlember the living Charlotte; and 1 
vividly recollect its effect upon me. rrhe story 
of the gifted children in the small grim Y ork- 
shire parsonage, with its graveyard in front and 
its moors behind; their books, their plays, their 
life in dream worlds of their own, nlore real to 
them than the village world outside :-1 knew it 
once by heart. I could see the parlour in the 
firelight, with the three whispering to each other; 
I could hear Martha and Tabby, their two maids, 
3 0 



Some ThouglltJ on Charlotte Brontë 
in the kitchen. rrhe long village street, the high 
moors behind the parsonage, the night winds 
blowing over them, the glory of the heather in 
summer, and the snow that covered them in 
winter; they were all familiar to me through 
Mrs. Gaskell' s art-as to many others--before 
ever I set eyes on the real Haworth. And to 
one who had been fronl her childhood scribbling 
on her own account there was even greater fas- 
cination in the story of the memorable years- 
I 846 and 1 847-which saw the publication of the 
Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, of Jane 
Eyre and Wutherillg Heigh/s. The sudden journey 
of the two sisters to London; their meeting with 
their astonished publisher, to whom their arrival 
first disclosed the identity of Currer Bell, the 
supposed male author of Jane Eyre-that book 
of which all the world was talking-with tht: 
shy, plainly dressed, tiny creature who) with sup- 
pressed excitement, put his own letter received 
from him in Yorkshire the day before into his 
hands as her credential: this too was a tale of 
which I knew every turn. And a year after the 
book was given me, I remember staying with a 
friend in Brunswick Square and dragging her 
out at night, to find Paternoster Rowand the 
site at least of the Chapter Coffee l-Iouse. I had 
never been in the City before, and I remember 
the thrill of the deserted streets, the strong lights 
and shades, th
 great dome hovering darkly over- 
3 1 


. 



Charlotte Brontë.' a G'en/eJltlry Menlo"J
l/ 


head, the darkness and silence of I>aternoster 
Ro\v and Amen Corner; then Fleet Street, with 
its illuminated newspaper offices; and, brooding 
over it all, the sense of history, and of the 
" mighty heart" of London, "lying still." 
I little thought then that twenty years later 
I should n1yself be in daily communication, as 
an author, with the same Mr. George Smith in 
whose hands, on July 16, 1848, Charlotte Brontë 
had placed his o\vn letter as the proof of her 
identity. I can never be grateful enough to 
fortune that "Dr. John" became my constant 
and generous friend, as he had been Charlotte 
Brontë's. When I first knew him in 1886, he 
was no longer indeed the "tall young man" of 
t\venty-three whom Charlotte described in her 
letters from London. But he was still in every 
other respect the same man whose quick intel- 
ligence discovered the Brontë genius; whose 
endless kindness of heart and knowledge of the 
resources of life and science might well, had she 
but known him a few years earlier, have enabled 
Charlotte to save her sisters from premature 
death. When I made acquaintance with him 
he was over sixty, with a full and varied life 
behind him; the publisher of Thackeray and 
Matthew Arnold, of Trollope, Huxley, the 
Brownings, Leslie Stephen, and a score of others. 
The qualities that Charlotte Brontë knew and 
described in the picture of Graham Bretton, 
3 2 



SOIJJe ThlJughts on Charlotte Brol1të 


who becomes the "Dr. John" of Villette, were 
all there, undimmed. The help of them was full y 
gi yen to me through fourteen years of friendship, 
and I shall cherish while I live the memory of 
" I)r. John." 
We often talked of Charlotte Brontë, and he 
spoke once to nle, with a twinkle of humour, of 
the legend that he had proposed to her. Charlotte 
herself, of course, disposes of the notion, to begin 
with. She writes to Ellen N ussey that her young 
publisher and she "understand each other very 
well, and respect each other very sincerely. vVe 
both know the wide breach tin1e has made 
between us; \ve do not embarrass each other, 
or very rarely; nlY six or eight years of seniority, 
to say nothing of the lack of all pretension to 
beauty, are a perfect safeguard." The" tall young 
n1an," like other taIl young men, was indeed-as 
Miss Brontë guessed-very susceptible to beauty. 
'[he \vife whom Charlotte Brontë did not live 
long enough to see, to whom, all her life, George 
Smith was blessing and sunshine, was beautiful 
even as I remember her last, in the year of the 
outbreak of war, 1914, ,vhen she was over eighty. 
But it was George Sn1ith' s gift for friendslzip- 
true, faithful friendship-which nlarked him out 
from others. Charlotte Brontë's short, sad life 
was nlade the happier by it in a score of \vays ; 
and I, brought forty years later into close and 
long relation with the same man, can onl y testify, 
33 C 


. 



Charlotte Brontë.. a Centenary Mel/lorial 


with a hundred others in like case, that success 
and fortune never spoiled" Dr. John." And it 
\vas his peculiar gift to be able to hand on this 
tpadition of friendship in business relations to his 
colleague and successor in the historic firn1 of 
Smith and Elder. The recent death of his son- 
in-law, Mr. Reginald Smith, who married "Dr. 
John's" youngest daughter, and carried on the 
publishing business for sixteen years after George 
Smith's death, has left a gap in the lives of many 
men and women of this literary day, my own 
among them, which will hardly be filled. For 
both he and the great man who preceded him 
belonged to that small band in each generation 
\vho are able to infuse into the daily ways and 
actions of practical life the quality and beauty of 
their own high and beneficent spirit. 
I have some other personal links with Charlotte 
Brontë which I like to think of. rrhe interesting 
letter printed by Mrs. Gaskell as written by a 
" neighbour" in 1850, describing a visit to 
Haworth in that year, \vas written by my aunt 
and godmother, Mrs. W. E. Forster, the wife of 
the Yorkshire member of Parliament who later on 
became the Education Minister of J 870, and 
Irish Chief Secretary, in the terrible years 1880-2. 
Before that visit, however, Charlotte Brontë had 
made friends in the Lake country with my own 
people, the widow and children of Dr. Arnold, 
of Rugby; and last summer I talked over the 
34 



Some ThfJughts on Charlotte Brontë 


VISIt of Charlotte and Miss Martineau to Fox 
How, with Dr. Arnold's youngest daughter and 
only surviving child, who still remembers it. 
Miss Martineau and Charlotte Brontë came over 
to drink tea, and there was a young Oxonian in 
the room, who looked at them with amused and 
cri tical eyes, writing after\vards to a friend :- 
"At seven came Miss Martineau and Miss 
Brontë (Jane Eyre); I talked to Miss Martineau 
(who blasphemes frightfully) about the prospects 
of the Church of England, and, wretched man 
that I am, promised to go and see her cow- 
keeping miracles to-morrow, I who hardly know 
a cow from a sheep. I talked to Miss Brontë 
(past thirty and plain, with expressive grey eyes, 
though) of her curates, of French novels, and 
her education in a school at Brussels, and sen t 
the lions roaring to their dens at half-past nine." 
Miss Brontë, who talked very little, was not 
apparently much drawn to the young author 
of crhe Strayed Reveller, ,,,hich had appeared 
three years earlier. She thought his n1anner 
" foppish," and understood that "his theological 
opinions were very vague and unsettled." But 
she knew that already he was the author of "a 
volume of poems," which, however, she had not 
seen. I wish she had seen it: there are many 
things in that first volume which would have 
spoken to her. And I wish she could have 
foreseen that from that young unknown Matthew 
35 


. 



Charlotte Rro1l i!.. tl Centenary MelJlorÎal 


.L-\rnold, whom she met in the Fox How drawing.. 
roonl, would come that tribute to her great 
sister En1ily, which, long before the Brontë cult 
had risen to anything like its present height, 
bore testimony once again to that freemasonry, 
that quick mutua] divination ,vhich marks the 
"little clan" of poets, to whom, from age to 
age, is left, in Keat's phrase, the carrying on of 
"great verse." But these things were hidden 
fronl the "expressive grey eyes " my uncle 
noticed. Only, as though S0111e prescience of 
thern touched her, as Miss Brontë left the roonl, 
she passed n1Y aunt, then a girl of seventeen, 
\vho was holding the door open, and suddenly 
the little shy, silent woman said: "May I kiss 
you?" and to the girl's astonishment darted 
forward and kissed her. It was a very character- 
istic, a very Brontë-ish, touch. Compunction, 
perhaps, for that strange paralysis, that silence 
benu111bing to herself and other people, which 
often fell upon her in society, and once-as we 
know from an ininlÏtable page of Lady Ritchie's 
-drove Thackeray into letting himself out 
quietly from his own front door, in the very 
nlidst of a party he hinlself had gathered in 
her honour; quick feeling; quick gratefulness 
perhaps for the welcon1e given her by these un- 
known people: there is all this in it and morc. 


"And did you once see Shelley plain, 
And did he stop and speak to you?" 
3 6 



S0111e 1noughts 011 Charlotte Brontë 


I t is with something of the sanIe wistfulness, 
the same suppressed excitement as Browning here 
expresses, that one talks now with one of the 
very few persons in the world \vho ever saw 
Charlotte Bront
. 
Finally, what is it that nlakes the charm? 
Along with the Celtic qualities, as we know, 
she had the Celtic faults-occasional arrogance, 
occasional vulgarity and extravagance. Enlily 
Brontë had none of the loose rhetoric and 
')hallow didactic into which Charlotte often fell. 
But for all that Charlotte wielded a natural 
tnagic of words, as George Sand did. There 
are passages in her letters-especially in those 
describing the deaths of her sisters-that belong 
to the noblest and most moving of English 
prose. To return to the phrase of M. Renan, 
she had the "gift of piercing"; she had been 
in fairy-land and brought back the tones of it- 
tones as often sad as gay; and she possessed in 
fiction an art of representation, especially an art 
of dialogue, which was all her own, instinct 
with poetry and life. Which was the greater, 
she or Enlily? rro my mind, Enlily, by fat-. 
But one is reminded of another saying of 
{;oethe's to Eckennann: "For t\venty years the 
public has been disputing \vhich is the greater, 
Schiller or I-and it ought to be glad that it has 
got a couple of fellows about \vhonl it can dispute." 
Well, Yorkshire too may be proud, I think, 
37 


. 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Men10rial 


that among its moors and heaths were reared 
not one Charlotte Brontë, but such a par nobile 
Ira/rum (to rescue the phrase of Horace from 
its original context) as Currer and Ellis Bell. 
Yorkshire does well to keep their memories 
green; to read, discuss them, and, at need, 
dispute about thenl. 
" What do we mean by originality? " Goethe 
asks again. "As soon as we are born the 
world begins to work upon us, and this goes 
on to the end. And after all, what can we call 
our own except energy, strength, and will?" 
" Energy, strength, and will." As writers, 
Charlotte and Emily possessed them all, to a 
marvellous degree. If you add feeling, fire, 
magic-poetry, in short !-you come as near 
perhaps as you can come to the definition of 
their place in Literature. 


Pale sisters! children of the moorland scree, 
Deep dale and murmuring river, where ye plied 
All household arts, 111eek, passion-taught, and free, 
Kinship your joy, and fantasy your guide!- 
Ah 
 who again 'mid English heaths shal] see 
Such strength in frailest weakness, or so fierce 
Behest on tender women laid. to pierce 
'-rhe world's dull ear with burning poetry? 
Whence was rour spell ?-and at what magic spring, 
Under what guardian Muse, drank re so deep 
'fhat still ye call, and we are listening; 
That still ye plain to us, and we must weep? 
-Ask of the winds that haunt the moors, what breath 
Blows in their storms, outlasting life and death! 
3 8 



l\IW
. GASKELL. 


T
 face p. 38. 


, 


. 



A WORD ON CHARLOTTE 
BRONTE 


By EDMUND GOSSE 



 
" 


\ 



A WORI) ON CHARLOTTE BRONTË 


TH E century which has slipped by since the 
birth of Charlotte Brontë may roughly be divided, 
so far as she alone is concerned, into four equal 
sections which claim our attention. During the 
first of these she ,vas preparing, in conditions 
at once extraordinarily romantic and of the n10st 
painful mediocrity, for her labours as a novelist. 
Another quarter of a century closes in her first 
apotheosis, the publication of Mrs. Gaskell's 
admirable Life of her. Exposed to new currents 
of popular taste, her reputation now began 
slo\vly to decline, till it was thought necessary 
to assert, by way of defence, that her works 
"\vill one day again be regarded as evidences of 
exceptional intellectual power." Throughout a 
final period this n10derate estin1ate has been vastly 
exceeded. The apologist who would now clainl 
for her no n10re praise than that would be 
laughed out of court, and what, in starting in 
a blaze of glory upon her second century, 
Charlotte Brontë most pathetically calls for is, 
not blank appreciation, but some judicious 
'exercise of praise. 


4 1 


\ 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Mel1l0rial 


In the evolution of her fame, her disadvan- 
tages have been transformed into advantages, as 
toads are bewitched into pearls in some old 
fairy-story. The hard, dry atmosphere of Ha- 
worth, in the blast of a perpetual n10ral east 
wind; the narrowness of the stage which the 
three wonderful sisters trod; the ugliness which 
surrounded them; the barrier which divided 
them from the socia] amenities,-all these are 
elements in the miracle of their production, and 
each of these elements has added something to 
the fascination of their books. We read these 
\vith trebled interest because we know what the 
conditions were. But we are in danger of not 
percei ving that they were disad vantageous, of 
supposing that they added a lustre to the genius 
of the sisters, that they were intrinsically valuab]e. 
I t is worse than useless to regret any of the 
facts of literary history, but at least we need not 
exult in them. Among the disadvantages of 
Charlotte I place very high the puritanism which 
surrounded her from her cradle, and which 
entered into her very bones. I t made her use- 
lessly and contentiously austere, and it darkened 
her outlook upon 1ife. That artificial deepen- 
ing of the shadows may render her work more 
picturesque, but it deprives it of harmony. It 
gi ves a certain aspect of the dried or shri veHed 
to Charlotte's books when we compare then1 with 
the serene fulness, the rich and harmonious 
4 2 



A Word 011 Charlotte Brontif 


suavity, the ripeness, of the Inasterpieces of her 
supreme contemporary, George Sand. 
The imagination of Charlotte Brontë, despite 
its prodigious vitality, was a Ii ttle puerile. 
When she trusted to her own ears and eyes 
she was excellent, but the narrow range within 
which observation was possible for her leaves 
us to the last with an impression of her as a 
wonderful young person who never quite grew 
up. She has the impatience, the unreasonable 
angers and revolts, of an unappreciated adolescent. 
When she seems most certainly adult she has 
still her rebellious air of enduring tribulation with 
an angry fortitude. Her ignorance sets traps 
for her, and she falls into them without a 
struggle. Mrs. Humphry Ward has COln- 
mented on the amazing conversations of the 
smart people at Thornfield Hall. Polite writers, 
indulging the snobbishness of literature, think it 
would have been "charming" to talk to Char- 
lotte Brontë. It would probably have been 
disconcerting to the highest degree, and Lad y 
Ritchie's recollection of the London visit should 
be a warning to such lioness-hunters of the 
imagination. 
It is a pity, perhaps, that Charlotte, when the 
hour of unwelcome exile came, did not go to 
Paris instead of to Brussels. What her mind 
and her temperament needed then (in 1842) 
was sunshine, geniality, ease, and breadth. She 
43 


, 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary MeJ110rial 


proceeded on her sordid journey with her nerves 
on edge, her fists clenched, her eyes set with a 
fierce derision. In the Belgium of those days 
there \vas nothing which could be expected to 
soften her asperities or to civilize her moorland 
savagery. There should have been, on the 
other hand, n1uch for her to sympathize with 
in the attitude of her Parisian contemporaries, 
if merel y in the remarkable spectacle of that 
conflict which \vas raging between the romantic 
and the realistic. It \vould have been a whole- 
some thing for Charlotte to have been persuaded 
that there are relations, conditions, aspirations 
in the hun1an soul not dreamed of by Lucy 
Sno\ve or even by Jane Eyre. I do not think 
that her own creations \vould have thrilled us 
Jess, but in the long run probably n1ore, if she 
had studied, with humility and complaisance, 
the processes of the mighty n1ind of Balzac. 
But she was protected against sympathy by a 
moral pride (we should call it arrogance if we 
were not so fond of her) which closed to 
her violent individuality all the pathways of 
instruction. She could only learn what she 
taught herself. 
vV c must admit, even at this n10ment of 
exaltation, that she had faults-faults of know- 
ledge, of temper, of social experience. But her 
errors included none against high feeling. What 
she endured, what she percei ved, she reproduced 
. 44 



A Word 011 Charlotte Brontë 


with the purest intensity, an intensity which 
transfers itself to the reader, who admits that he 
is thrilled, in her own splendid phrase, "to the 
finest fibre of my being, sir! " 
ro this expres- 
sion of concentrated emotion she brought a 
faculty of power in which her work is unique. 
She has a spell by n1eans of which she holds us 
enchanted, while she lays before us the distresses 
and the exasperations of humanity. Her great 
gift, no doubt, Jay in the unconscious courage 
with which she broke up the stereotyped com- 
placency of the age. Her passion swept over 
the pools of Early Victorian fiction and roused 
them to storm; the undulations that it set in 
motion have been vibrating in our literature 
ever since, and perhaps the most wonderful 
fact about Charlotte Brontë is that the en1an- 
cipation of English fiction from the chains of 
conventionality should have been brought about, 
against her own will, by this Jittle provincial 
Puritan. She was, in her own words, " furnace- 
tried by pain, stamped by constancy," and out 
of her fires she rose, a Phænix of poetic fancy, 
crude yet without a rival, and now, in spite of 
all imperfections, to live for ever in the forefront 
of creative English genius. 


EDMUND GOSSE. 


45 


\ 



CHARLOTTE BRONTE AS A 
ROMANTIC 


By G. K. CHES1'ERTON 


9' 


. 




CHARLOTTE BRONTE AS A 
ROMANTIC 


THE genius of Charlotte Brontë is unique in the 
only valuable sense in which the word can be 
applied; the only sense which separates the rarity 
of some gift in a poet from the rarity of some 
delusion in an asylum. However conlplex or 
even grotesque an artistic power may be, it 
must be as these qualities exist in a key, which 
is one of the most complex and grotesque of 
human objects, but \vhich has for its object the 
opening of doors and the entrance into wider 
things. Charlotte Brontë's art was something 
n10re or less than complex: and it was not to 
be described as grotesque; except rarely-and 
unintentionally. But it was temperamental and, 
like an things depending on temperanlent) un- 
equal: and it was so personal as to be perverse. 
I t is in connection with power of this kind, 
however creative, that we have to discover and 
define what distinguishes it from the uncreative 
intensity of the insane. I cannot understand 
what it was that made the Philistines of a former 


49 


D 


, 


. 



Charlotte Brol1të.' a Centenary MeJJ10rial 


generation regard Jane Eyre as morally unsound; 
probably it was its almost exaggerated morality. 
But if they had regarded it as mentally unsound, 
I could have understood their prejudice, while 
perceiving the nature of their error. Jane Eyre 
is, among other things, one of the finest detective 
stories in the world; and for anyone artistic all y 
attuned to that rather electric atmosphere, the 
discovery of the n1ad wife of Rochester is, as that 
type of artistic sensation should always be, at once 
startling and suitable. But a stolid reader, trained 
in a tamer school of fiction, tnight be excused, I 
think, if he came to the conclusion that the wife 
was not very much madder than her husband, and 
that even the governess herself was a little queer. 
Such a critic, however, would be ill-taught, as 
people often are in tame schools; for the mildest 
school is anything but the most moral. The 
distinction between the liberating violence that 
belongs to virtue, as distinct from the merely 
burrowing and self-burying violence that belongs 
to vice, is something that can only be conveyed 
by metaphors; such as that I have used about 
the key. Some may feel disposed to say that the 
Brontë spirit \vas not so much a key as a battering- 
ram. She had indeed some command of both 
instruments, and could use the more domestic 
one quietly enough at times; but the vital point 
is that they opened the doors. Or it might be 
said that Jane Eyre and the n1ad woman lived in 
50 



Charlotte Brontë as a ROJnantic 


the san1e dark and rambling house of mystery, 
but for the maniac all doors opened continually 
inwards, while for the heroine all doors, one after 
the other, opened outwards towards the sun. 
One of these universal values in the case of 
Charlotte Brontë is the light she throws on a 
very fashionable æsthetic fallacy: the over- 
lterated contrast between realiS111 and romance. 
They are spoken of as if they were two alternative 
types of art, and sometimes even as if they were 
two antagonistic directions of spiritual obligation. 
But in truth they are things in two different 
categories; and, like all such things, can exist 
together, or apart, or in any degree of c0111bina- 
tion. Romance is a spirit; and as for realism, 
it is a convention. To say that S0111e literary 
work is realistic, not romantic, is to be as 
inconseq uent as the man \vho said to me once 
(and it is heart-breaking to reflect how many 
scores of equally inconsequent people have said 
it), "The Irish are warm-hearted, not logical." 
He, at any rate, was not logical, or he wou1d 
have seen that his statement \vas like saying that 
somebod y was red-haired rather than athletic. 
There is no kind of reason why a man with 
strong reasoning power should not have strong 
affections; and it is rny experience, if anything, 
that the man who can argue clearly in the 
abstract generally does have a generosity of 
blood and instincts. But he rnay not have it ; 
51 



Charlotte BroJ1të.' a Centenary Memorial 


for the things are in different categories. This 
case of an error about the Irish has some appli- 
cation to the individual case of Charlotte Brontë, 
who was Irish by blood, and in a sense, all the 
n10re Irish for being brought up in Yorkshire. 
An Irish friend of mine, \vho suffers the same exile 
in the san1e environn1ent, once n1ade to me the 
suggesti ve remark that the towering and over- 
masculine h3.rbarians and lunatics, who dominate 
the Brontë novels, simply represent the in1pres- 
sion produced by the rather boastful Yorkshire 
manners upon the more civilized and sensitive 
Irish temperament. But the wider application 
is that romance is an atmosphere, as distinct as 
a separate dimension, which co-exists with and 
penetrates the whole work of Charlotte Brontë ; 
and is equally present in all her considerable 
tri umphs of realism, and in her even greater 
triumphs of unreality. 
Realisn1 is a convention, as I have said: it 
is generally a matter of external artistic form, 
when it is not a n1atter of mere fashion or con- 
venience, how far the details of life are given, 
or how far they are the details of the life we 
know best. It nlay be rather more difficult to 
describe a winged horse than a war horse: but 
after all it is as easy to count feathers as to 
count hairs; it is as easy and as dull. The 
story about a hero in which the hairs of his 
horse were all numbered would not be a story 
52 



Charlotte Brontë as a RlJnlantic 


at all; the line must be drawn a long while 
before we come to anything like literal reality; 
and the question of whether we give the horse 
his \vings, or even trouble to mention his colour, 
is merely a question of the artistic form we have 
chosen. It is the question bet\veen casting a 
. horse in bronze or carving him in marble; not 
the question between describing a horse for the 
purposes of a zoologist or for the purposes of a 
bookie. But the spirit of the \vork is quite 
another thing . Works of the wildest fantasti-. 
cality in form can be filled with a rationalistic 
and even a sober spirit: as are some of the works 
of Lucian, of Swift and of Voltaire. On the 
other hand, descriptions of the most humdrum 
environments, told with the most homely inti- 
macy, can be shot through and through with 
the richest intensity, not onl y of the spirit of 
sentiment but of the spirit of adventure. Few 
\vilJ be inl pelIed to call the household of Mr. 
Rochester a humdrum environment; but it is none 
the less true that Charlotte Brontë can fill the 
quietest rooms and corners with a psychological 
romance ,vhich is rather a matter of temperature 
than of time or place. After all, the sympathetic 
treatment of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre is 
not more intrinsically romantic and even exag- 
gerative than the sympathetic treatment of Mr. 
Paul Emanuel in Villette; though the first 
may be superficially a sort of demon and the 
53 



Charlotte Brontë.. a Centenary Menlorlal 


second more in the nature of an imp. To 
present Mr. Emanuel sympathetically at all 
was something of an arduous and chivalric 
adventure. And Charlotte Brontë was chivalric 
in this perfectly serious sense; perhaps in too 
serious a sense, for she paid for the red-hot 
reali ty of her romance in a certain insufficiency 
of humour. She was ad venturous, but in an 
intensely individualistic and therefore an in- 
tensely \vomanly way. It is the most feminine 
thing about her that we can think of her as a 
knight-errant, but hardly as one of an order or 
round table of knights-errant. Thackeray said 
that she reminded him of Joan of Arc. But 
it is one of the fascinating elenlents in the long 
ronlance of Christendom that figures like Joan 
of Arc have an existence in romance apart {ron1, 
and even before, their existence in reality. This 
vision of the solitary virgin, adventurous and in 
arms, is very old in European literature and 
mythology; and the spirit of it went with the 
little governess along the roads to the dark 
mansion of madness as if to the castle of an 
ogre. The same tale had run I ike a silver thread 
through the purple tapestries of Ariosto; and 
we may willingly salute in our great country- 
woman, especially amid the greatest epic of our 
country, something of that nobility which is in 
the very name of Bri tomart. 
G. K. CHESTERTON. 
54 



CHARLOTTE BRONTE: 
A PERSONAL SKETCH 


By ARTHUR C. BENSON 


9' 




. . 
CHARLOTfE BRON1
E: A PERSONAL 
SKETCH 


CHARLOTTE BRONTË was born a century ago, 
on April 2 I , I 8 16; and she died on March 
3 I, 1855 . Yet in those short years, years of 
bleak and hard nurture, much depressing ill- 
health, tragic sorrow, such as fall to the lot of 
but few human beings, and with a temperanlent 
so highly strung and sensitive that the simplest 
situations of life over\vhelmed her with nervous 
terrors, she attained an enduring fan1e, which 
has increased and broadened every year. But 
not onl y that. There are certain figures of 
undeniable genius, whose work remains as a 
substantial and venerated contribution to human 
thought, but \vhose personality becomes absorbed 
and folded into the past. On the other hand, 
there are men and W0111en, the fascination of 
\vhose personality and life seems even stronger 
than that of their books. The smallest details 
of their career are cherished, and contemporary 
records are ransacked for traces of their words 
and acts. This is undeniably the case with 
57 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Menlorial 
Charlotte Brontë. She was not one of those 
,vho put the whole of themselves into their books, 
leaving their lives silent and featureless. Rather 
her books were just the natural outcome and 
expression of her inmost self. The qualities 
which her deepI y seated diffidence prevented her 
from displaying in daily life, her humour, her 
penetrating insight, her delicate fancy, her 
liveliness, her passionate affections, her noble 
scorn of all that was cold or mean, all these 
flashed into life on her pages. 
When her first great book, Jane Eyre, 
appeared in 1847, it provoked attention and 
speculation by its daring, its unconventional 
standards, its realistic sensationalisn1, and its 
austere and beautiful rendering of natural scenes. 
But it was hardly realized at first that it contained 
tnore than a novel kind of sentiment, bolder, 
more natural, more self-revealing than the 
orthodox and homely pieties of current fiction. 
It evoked, it is true, both protest and even in- 
dignation by a frankness which was confused with 
indelicacy. But the later books, Shirley and 
Villette, less romantic, more restrained, more 
n1ature, brought home to their readers that a 
new philosophy of love, fro1l1 the woman's point 
of view, was here resolutely depicted. It was 
not a revolt against tame and formal conven- 
tions so much as a new sense of right and dignity, 
a manifesto, so to speak, of the equality of noble 
58 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Personal Sketch 


love. Compare the conception of love, from 
the woman's standpoint, in the novels of Dickens 
and Thackeray, with Charlotte Brontë's concep- 
tion. In Dickens and Thackeray love is at 
best a re\vard, a privilege, graciously tendered 
and rapturously accepted; and the highest con- 
ception of wifely love is one of fidelity and 
patience and unselfish tendance gently rendered 
by a domestic angel, whose glory is self-repres- 
sion, and whose highest praise is to afford an 
uncritical haven of repose to an undisputed 
master. 
But in Charlotte Brontë's books it is far other- 
wise. 'fhe woman does not look upon marriage 
as the door of escape fron1 obscurity into activity. 
Her love is rather a noble surrender, only to be 
won by a surrender no less noble. Marriage is 
not submission, but a free and glowing partner- 
ship, in which man and woman alike have to do 
their best, in tenderness and reverence and grati- 
tude, to maintain their love undimmed and ardent. 
The man is not to decline into a conlfortable 
supremacy surrounded by delicate attentions, with 
full freedom to indulge his hun10urs. It is rather 
to be a sacred and impassioned relationship, in 
which both alike have to do their utmost to keep 
the t11utual ideal of loyalty and duty fresh and 
pure. Passionate as the affection is which draws 
Charlotte Brontë's lovers together-was ever the 
incredible thrill of human contact, the blankness 
59 



Charlotte Brontë.- a Centenary Memorial 


of separation, the joy of meeting drawn with so 
bold an outspokenness ?-yet there is ahvays 
present in her love-affairs the germ of a deep 
and tender friendship, sure to broaden and de- 
velop, as the years go on, into a perfect trust 
and union. Whatever happens, the two are 
always to be thenlselves, not a faint and sym- 
pathetic copy of each other, but strong and 
independent, linked together in a joyful and 
grateful service. That is, I believe, the message of 
Charlotte Brontë's books-the high equalityof love. 
Let us think for a n10ment of the background 
upon which this great and noble creed outlined 
itself. A bleak and wind-swept vicarage, between 
the hill-village and the moor. The mother fades 
early out of life; the father lives in a fiery and 
impotent seclusion. The children live their own 
lives, doing much of the house-work, and in- 
dulging in endless plays and romances. They 
go off to school, and two of the delicate creatures 
fall victims to hard and insanitary conditions. 
rrhe four who remain are drawn closely together, 
a brother of amazing brilliance, one sister, Emily, 
a poetess of high genius, but with a horror of the 
intrusive \vorld, a younger sister, Anne, of tender 
if sombre piety, and Charlotte herself. All their 
little adventures, school-teaching and governess- 
ships, are poisoned by shyness and h0111e-sickness. 
But in the sojourn of Charlotte and Emily in 
Brussels, at a girls' school, where they are half 
60 



'Charlotte Brontë: a Personal Sketch 


pupils and half teachers, Charlotte Brontë's heart 
and mind awake in an unconscious passion for a 
teacher, M. Heger, a man of insight, mental 
power, intellectual and moral stimulus. That 
was really the moulding influence of Charlotte 
Brontë's genius. It gave her an unrequited devo- 
tion, but initiated her into the mystery of love, 
while it gave her mind its firm and fine maturity. 
rrhen the tragedy deepens and thickens; the 
brother comes to hopeless grief, and saddens the 
house by his dreary and base excesses. He dies 
at last, and the other sisters follow him swift! y 
to the gr
ve. But it was then, in solitude and 
sorrow, that Charlotte Brontë's mind flowered 
in her noblest book, Villette; and then, too, at 
last she found her own ha ven in the deep and 
wholesome love of a strong, tender and simple 
n1an, her father's curate; she kne\v for once the 
full delight of being needed, depended upon, and 
cherished. 
But we cannot make a greater mistake than to 
think of Charlotte Brontë as in any sense a senti- 
mentalist. F or all her diffidence and ill-health 
and her high dreams and visions, she had a nature 
almost relen tlessl y strong. There never was an y- 
one with a more unflinching sense of duty. Her 
judgments of other people are not mild and in- 
dulgent. She had a scorn for all that was base 
and mean and feeble. She made no excuses for 
herself and she did not excuse weakness in others. 
61 


" 


, 



Charlotte Brollté.: a Centenary MeJJ10rial 
All the practical steps ever taken by the house- 
hold were planned and executed by her. When 
she was harshly and insolently criticized, she was 
not crushed by it; her in1pulse was to n1ake 
sharp and spirited reply. She went on \vith her 
work without fear or deference; she made no 
concessions or compromises. She was not meekly 
religious, accepting sorrow and defeat with mild 
forbearance. She looked upon life as a probation, 
a chance of learning great truths and large experi- 
ences. She had a certain fear of life, but she 
looked it firn11 y in the face, interrogated it, defied 
it to harm her, laid hands upon its secret. Like 
Jacob of old, she said to the stern visitant, "I 
will not let thee go, until thou bless n1e." She 
never craved for flight or for repose. She had a 
sublime faith in God, believing that He had set 
her in her place to endure, and wrestle, and to 
say her say, and she knew that He would not 
allo,v her to be worsted. It is by this wonderful 
union of unconquerable courage and passionate 
tenderness that she has won the affection and 
worship of so many hearts, the lonely hearts that 
suffer and would fain be beloved, as well as the 
strong hearts that recognize in her a gallant 
comrade in a stern battle. She is the champion 
of strength in weakness as well as of love in 
loneliness and the fame that resounds about her 
, 
grave is but the echo of gratitude and honour 
and love. 


AR 1
HUR C. BENSON. 
62 




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CENTENARY ADDRESS AT 
HA WORTH 


By THP: RIGHT REV. BISHOP WELLDON 


r 



CEN1 1 EN ARY .i\DDRESS AT 
I-IA WORTH I 


I f is with a deeply reverential feeling that I 
have accepted the privilege of speaking a few 
words, such as may not, I hope, be altogether 
unsuitable to the nlemories which cling around 
this House of God, in connection \vith the 
Centenary year of Charlotte Brontë's birth. 
She ,vas born, as you know, at Thorn ton on 
.L
pril 2 I, 18 I 6. She was baptized in Thornton 
Church on June 29th of the same year. She 
died on March 3 I, I 855. 'rhus the associations 
of living men and won1en \vith her life are 
rapidly dying, if they are not now aln10st 
dead. For me, the last of thenl "vas broken 
by the death of my friend, Miss Margaret 
l
n1ily Gaskell, the "Meta" of Charlotte 
Brontë's letters, in October 19 I 3. So long as 
Miss Gaskell lived, her house, so well kno\vn 
to the literary and philanthropic \vor1d of Man- 
chester, was the abiding link \vith Charlotte 
Brontë. For it was there that Charlotte Brontc: 


I Deli\crcd in Haworth Parish Church, June 17, 19 16 . 
65 E 



Charlotte Brol1të: a Centenary Menlorial 


stayed on her visits to Manchester; there that, 
in the stately and rather sombre drawing-room, 
scarcel y altered between her own death and 
Miss Gaskell's, she hid behind the curtains on 
the sudden announcement of a strange visitor; 
there, too, that her biography was written by 
Mrs. Gaskell. Now, alas! that house in Ply- 
n10uth Grove is closed, and the citizens of 
Manchester look back, through an ever length- 
ening and darkening vista, to the great nan1es 
of Mrs. Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë. 
The year 18 16 may be said to unite Charlotte 
Brontë with the great generation 'v hich was 
born in the first and second decades of the 
nineteenth century. It ,vas a year memorable 
in the achieven1ents of literary genius. For in 
that year-just one hundred years ago-Scott 
published The Antiquary, Byron the third Canto 
of Childe Harold's Pilgrin'Jage, and Goethe the 
first part of his ltalienische Reise. 
No student of Charlotte Brontë's or her 
sisters' writings would, perhaps, think of placing 
them, as equals or compeers, in the sanle class 
with these three illustrious authors. The sect, 
or church, of the Brontë-worshippers is com- 
parati vely smal1. But it n1ay be doubted 
whether any votaries in the history of literature 
have pursued their cult with more passionate 
or pathetic feelings than they-shall I not say 
we ?-\vho gather in spirit, and to-day in 
66 



Centenary Address at Haux}rth 


person, around the graves of Charlotte Brontë 
and so many other nlen1bers of her family. 
If it be asked why our feelings are so deep, 
as though we were mourning, in Charlotte 
Brontë especially, not only a writer, ho\vever 
bright she nlay have shone in the firnlament of 
literature, but a friend in whose Ii fe ,ve \vould, 
if we might, claim a sympathetic share, no doubt 
the reason lies, to some extent, in the 111ystery, 
I had almost said the tragedy, of the Brontës. 
Never, it nlay be, has human genius asserted 
itst:lf so suddenly and surprisingly as in the 
three daughters of the Reverend Patrick Brontë. 
Never has such genius been so suddenly and so 
ruthlessl y extinguished by the Angel of Death. 
Anne Bronte was t\venty-nine years of age at 
her death, Emily only thirty years, Charlotte, 
the nlost famous of clll the sisters, only thirty- 
eight. T\vo other sisters there were-Elizabeth 
and Maria-who died, one in the eleventh, and 
the other in the twelfth, year of her age. Their 
one brother-the unhappy BranwelI-\vhose gifts 
were clouded by such errors and failings as cast 
a shadow upon his whole fanlily, did not live 
beyond his thirty-first year. Their mother died- 
"departed to the Saviour" as the inscription upon 
her grave tells-when her eldest child was only 
six years old. Their father outlived his whole 
family, and, after having been c, incumbent of 
Haworth for upward of forty-one years," died 
67 


" 



Charlotte Brontë: {I Centenary MeJJJorial 
in the eighty-fifth year of his age-more than 
six years after his daughter Charlotte's death. 
It is the thought of genius so prenlaturely cut 
oft
 as men count days and deeds, of Charlotte 
Brontë's especially, that inspired Matthew 
.L-\.rnold's well-known lines upon Haworth 
Churchyard. 


Strew with laurel the grave 
Of the early dying! Alas! 
Early she goes on the path 
To the silent country, and leaves 
Half her laureJs unwon, 
Dying too soon! Yet green 
Laure15 she had, and a course 
Short, but redoubled by fame. 


F or of Charlotte Brontë it was true-if I 
ma y quote the sacred words--that she "being 
nlade perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long 
time." " We live in deeds, not years," says 
the author of "fer/us, ,vhose own centenary year 
coincides \vith hers; he was born, I think, 
onl y one day after her. 


We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not br
aths ; 
Tn feelings, not in figures on a dia1. 
We should count time by heart-throbs; h
 most lives 
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, and acts the best. 


Yet ,vas there ever a honle 'vhich might have 
seemed to be so improbable a birth-place of 
68 



Centenary Address at Hawortll 


literary works destined to affect the nlind and 
the heart of the English-speaking world, as the 
Parsonage of Haworth? \Vhen I was thinking 
of nlY address, I could not but recall the 
confession of hinl who was "no prophet, 
neither a prophet's son," but only "an herds- 
nlan and a gatherer of sycamore fruit"; yet 
the Lord took him, "as he followed the 
flock," and bade him "Go, prophesy unto My 
people Israel." It is always, or often, in the 
most unlikely places that hunlan genius lifts 
its head. The three hundred years which have 
elapsed since Shakespeare's death, if they have 
at all drawn aside the veil which has happily 
saved him from much desecrating criticism, 
have only accentuated the contrast between his 
parentage, his domestic life, his local and social 
environnlents and hinlself. There can be no 
more fatal nlistake on earth than the prej udice, 
whether local or personal, \vhich lies in the 
question, "Can there any good thing come 
out of Nazareth? " For out of Nazareth 
can1e the Highest and the Holiest of the 
children of men, and the lesson of His birth 
illumines and ennobles the possibilities of every 
town and every age all the world over. 
Still, it is possible that the history of human 
literature affords no parallel to the life of the 
Brontës at I-Iaworth Parsonage. The family 
lived in their little home, cut off not only, at 
ll 
69 



Charlotte Brol1të.. a Centenary Memoria! 


times, fronl the great world, but for 111any weeks 
or months from the neighbouring to\vns like 
Leeds or Bradford, and even from Keighley. 
They enjoyed few opportunities, if indeed any, 
of social and intellectual culture. They saw no 
friends, or hardly any; and until the name of 
Brontë became famous, the arrival of a passing 
visitor \vas itself an event. Their daily walks 
took thenl across the bleak moors. I t ,vas, as 
Charlotte Brontë herself said, "only the brief 
flower-flush of August on the heather, or the 
rare sunset-smlle of June, JJ which came as a relief 
from the ever-present gloom of the moorland. 
Below their home, as you see to-day, stood the 
church, with the churchyard, which was possibly 
the source of their frequent illnesses, lying in 
part above it. The father of the three sisters 
and their wayward brother was a recluse. How 
nluch of their literary genius they owed to him 
it is difficult to say. He too was, although he 
is not generally known to have been, an author, 
and a poet; but in his Cottage Poems there 
is not perhaps a single stanza worth preserving. 
Even if Mrs. Gaskell's stories of his eccentricity, 
as shown by his habit of carrying a loaded pistol 
\vith hinl by day and laying it on his dressing- 
table at night, are discarded, yet he was an invalid, 
generall y Ii ving, and even taking his nleals, by 
himself; and never dreaming of all that was 
going on, \vhen he had retired to bed, in the 
70 



Centenary Address at Haworth 
little schoolroom of his house. Yet the story 
of the way in \vhich Charlotte Brontë revealed 
to him the publication of 1ane Eyre does not 
forbid the thought of a tender sympathy between 
father and daughter. The mother died, as I 
have said, when all her children were young. 
'[he aunt who took, or tried to take, the 
nlother's place was always pretty well a stranger 
to her nephew and nieces, and she spent the last 
years of her life very n1uch in her own roon1. 
Nothing could well exceed the loneliness of their 
days. N or was it sensibly relieved by the 
experiences they gained, whether as pupils, or as 
teachers, in schools, or in M. Heger's Pensionnat 
at Brussels. There is a world of meaning in 
the note which Charlotte Brontë appended to 
her sister Anne's poem, "Lines Vv'" ritten from 
Home," when she said, "My sister Anne had 
to taste the cu p of life as it is mixed for the 
class termed 'Governesses.'" It has been some- 
times held that Mrs. Gaskell's well-known Life 
of Charlotte Bron/e" conveys an overdra\vn 
impression of deep sadness. I do not think 
that criticism will be passed by anyone \vho has 
read the POe11lS by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 
or even the later poems of the three sisters; 
for unless I anI wrong, there is among them 
all one poenl, and one only, which is not tinged 
by the sombre hue of melancholy. But what 
faith, what courage was theirs! It was little 
7 1 


\ 



Charlotte Brontë.. fl Centenary MeJJI0rial 


that they suffered the disappointment of seeing 
their early n1anuscripts tossed from publisher to 
publisher. That has been the fate of most, or of 
many, authors \vho have attained celebrity in 
letters. It is difficult indeed to escape the feeling 
of astonishnlent at the blindness of so many 
publishers to the writings of unknown genius. 
Few however can be the writers \vho, some 
time after the publication of their book, have 
learnt that the copies of it which have been sold 
\vere only two. It was, as is well known, on 
the very day when Charlotte Brontë kne\v 
the rejection of CJ:he Professor, the day too 
when she was nursing her father after the 
operation upon his eyes at Manchester, that she 
began the writing of Jane Eyre. 
I anl not called to pass a literary judgment 
upon the three sisters, or upon Charlotte, the 
most famous of thein, to-day. [hat would be 
the office of another place and another time 
than this. All that you will ask of nle is 
some brief estimate of the part which religion 
plays in the circumstances of her life. It is, 
of course, true that she ,vas spiri tuall y the child 
of the Church of England and of a clerical 
home within that Church. She and her sisters 
are striking figures in the long gallery of the 
n1en and won1en distinguished, not only in 
letters but in all aspects of public life, \vho have 
been born and bred in the parsonages and 
7 2 



..., 


, 


A. B. 
ICHOLLS.
 
FlOffi a photograph taken about I8úI. 


" 


'\ 


\.. 


To face p. 73. 


, 




Centenary Address at Haworth 
manses of England, Scotland, and Wales. Her 
loyalty to her Church was one source of her 
unhappiness in the strictly Roman Catholic 
school to which she ,vas sent at Brussels. She 
was the daughter of a clergyman, she was the 
wife of a clergyman. It does not seen1 that, fron1 
first to last, any doubt of Christianity or of her 
own national Church fell as a cloud upon her 
sensItive SpIrit. If she \vas happy anywhere, 
she was happy in her religion. 
(;od gave her her genius, and she ackno\v- 
ledged it as His gift. Many blessings there are 
,vhich are born of inheritance or environment 
or education; but the greatest of gifts, such as 
beauty or genius, God keeps in His own hands. 
Charlotte Brontë cannot ,yen have \vritten 
seriously \vhen she told her lifelong friend, 
Ellen N ussey, that the text which she quoted 
in one of her letters, "1'he wind blo\veth 
\vhere it listeth. '[,hou hearest the sound thereof, 
hut canst not tell \vhence it cometh, nor ,vhither 
it goeth," was, she believed, Scripture, though 
in \vhat chapter or book, or whether it ,vas 
correctly quoted, she could not possibly say. 
\Vhethcr she kne\v it or not, it was true of her 
f:1nlily and herself. 


very one who has read the story of Charlotte 
13rontë and her sisters is aware how much they 
o\ved, in their ,vritings, to the events and 
experiences of their o\vn Ii Yes. Few Ii ves 
73 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Memorial 


indeed, so strangely limited as theirs, can have 
afforded so much material for literature. The 
Professor, Shirley, Villette, and even Jane 
Eyre in its central motive, ,vere inspired by 
circumstances of her own life, or circumstances 
which had con1e to be kno\vn to her in her 
life. It is a curious tribute to the vivid effect 
of her portraiture that she was criticized for 
inaccuracy in some details of her characters, as 
though she had meant her characters to be actual 
photographs of real men and women. But genius 
is nowhere more clearly seen than in the use 
which it makes of such incidents as common 
humanity passes by. 
If Charlotte Brontë owed much to her own 
life, most of all did she owe to its sadness. A 
fe\v months of peace God granted her at the 
last, but the r
st ,vas silent tragedy. So great 
a poet as Shelley has said that 


. . . most wretched men, 
Are cradled into poetry by wrong, 
'rhey learn in suffering what they teach in song. 


Charlotte Brontë was not embittered by the 
pains, the losses, and the disappointnlents of her 
life. 'rhey only quickened her insight and 
her sympathy. But it nlay \vell be doubted if 
she could have written her books with such 
pathetic intensity, if she had not passed through 
the deep waters of affliction. 
74 



Centenary Address at Haworth 


She was no prophet, nor was she, in an y 
literary sense, a prophet's daughter, but the 
Lord took her as she followed the flock, and 
He bade her "Go, prophesy unto My people." 
The charge of irreligion or itnmorality in her 
writings may fall from her, I think, unanswered 
and unheeded, because it is wholly undeserved. 
Very touching are the poems of the three 
sisters in their religious character. Emily was, 
I believe, the truest poet, and the last lines 
which she ever wrote were quoted not long 
ago by a high living authority for their sub- 
lime expression of an aln10st pantheistic faith 
in God. 


rrhough earth and men were gone, 
And suns and universes ceased to be, 
And Thou wert left alone, 
Every existence would exist in Thee. 
There is no 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. 


But more touching are the last lines of Anne 
Brontë, \vho so soon followed her sister Emily 
to the grave, the lines \vhich have just been 
sung in this ser\7ice. For they were \vritten 
upon her deathbed, and as her sister Charlotte 
said, U These lines written, the desk \vas closed, 
the pen laid aside for ever." 
75 


. 



Charlotte Bronti!: a Centenary Memorial 


[f Thou shouI&;t bring me back to life, 
More hunlbled I should be ; 
More wise, more strengthened for the Hrit
, 
More apt to lean on Thee. 
Shou Id death be standing at the gate, 
'rhus should I keep my vow; 
But, Lord, whatever be my fate, 
o let me serve Thee now! 


'fhis is the inmost spirit of Charlotte Brontë 
also. I t was understood by the wisest of her 
contemporaries. I know not if all her admirers, 
who listen to me now, are acquainted with an 
article \vhich fhackeray, her o\vn literary hero, 
\vrote in the Cornhill Magazine of April, 1860, 
under the title" rrhe Last Sketch," as an intro- 
duction to the fragment, which she left behind 
her at her death, of a new novel to be cailed 
Emma. It is worth reading, worth remembering 
too; for he speaks in it of his own brief per- 
sonal intercourse with her, and of the impres- 
sion which she left upon his memory. " A 
great and holy reverence of right and truth," 
he says, "seenled to be \vith her ahvays." 
It will be well perhaps, in this Centenary yeclr 
since her birth, to take leave of her with these 
\vords of one whom she so greatly adn1Ìred. 
She dedicated to hinl, as you know, the second 
edition of 1 ane E
'Vre. His appreciation of her 
literary \vork she valued, I think, above all 
other re\vards. 


7 6 



CeJ1te/Jar)l Adtlress at Ha7.Dorth 


y 
t, we cannot take leave of her, above all 
in the village where she lived and died, and 
in this holy place where she often worshipped, 
without asking \vhat her feelings would be if 
she were living no\v in the agony of an almost 
world-wide war. Certainly she would have felt 
for the great soldier, whose death has saddened 
of late the \vhole British Empire, something of 
the admiration which she lavished upon the 
Duke of \Vellington. Certainly she would have 
honoured the gallant seat11en and soldiers \vho 
have died for their country and their Empire in 
the spirit of these lines of hers-not generalJ y 
known-which I am courteousl y pern1Ïtted to 
quote. 


Weep for the Dying Martyr, \Veep. 
And the soldier, laid on the battle-plain 
Alone at the close of night, alone. 
'rhe passing off of S01TIe warlike-strain 
Blcnt with his latest moan; 
His thoughts all for his fatherland, 
His feeble heart, his unnerved hand 
StiIl q:IÍveringly upraised to wield 
Once more his bright sword on the field, 
While wakes his fainting energy 
To gain her yet one victory; 
As he lies bleeding cold and low, 
As life's red tide is ebbing slo\\', 
Lament for fallen bravery. 


For, alas! the world seems to have beconle 
all a house of mourning. The stain of blood- 
77 


. 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Menlorial 


shed is seen everywheïe, except, methinks, upon 
the lintels of the houses when the Angel ot 
Death passes by . Yet there is comfort, if there 
is sorrow, in the retrospect of one hundred years. 
When Charlotte Brontë ,vas born, the victory 
of Waterloo had just been won. But it ,vould 
be a historical error to think of that victory as 
at once inaugurating an era of national peace 
and prosperity. It was in 1816 that the 
Luddite agitation assumed its most threatening 
character. She has herself told the story of it 
in Shirley. All over England the evils of 
scarcity resulting from a bad harvest, of distress 
in the manufacturing area, of commercial bank- 
ruptcy, of unemploynlent, of discontent, and of 
frequent rioting, ,vere felt to be portents of a 
conling revolution. They pointed the \vay to 
great social and political reforms, of which she 
herself lived to be the witness-such as the 
Reform Act, Roman Catholic Emancipation, and 
the Abolition of the Corn Laws. But there are 
some endowmènts of hunlan life which rise above 
all social vicissitudes. One of these is literature; 
another, I think, is religion. Charlotte Brontë, 
an1Ídst the troubles of her time, pursued her way 
undeviatingly to her appointed goal. She gave 
herself to literature and to love. Few among 
men and women can there have been who have 
done less to stain the chrisoms of their baptism 
than she. Yet like the saints, of whom the 
7 8 



Centenary Address at Haworth 


anthem appointed for this nlen10rial service tells, 
she had "come out of great tribulation," she 
had "washed her robe and nlade it \vhite in the 
blood of the Lamb. " " Therefore are they "-and 
she, as we hunlbly believe-" before the throne 
of God, and serve Hin1 day and night in His 
tetnple: íl:nd He that sitteth on the throne 
shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no 
more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the 
sun light on then1 nor any heat. F or the Lanlb 
which is in the midst of the throne shall feed 
them, and shall lead them unto living fountains 
of waters: and God shall wipe a \va y all tears 
from their eyes." 


J. E. C. IP ELLDOlv. 


79 




CI-IARLOTTE BRONTË IN 
BR USSELS 


ßy M. H. SPIELMANN 


f 


, 


F 


. 




CI-IARLOTTE BRONTE IN BRUSSELS 


DU1"1llg the Charlotte Bron;'; Ct1ltenQlY wuk this Pap
r "[vas Pllhlisltd in 
The Times Literary Supplement (13 April 19 I 6), and is Jure 
republirh
d, by permission, with numerous emendations and aJdititms. 


I 


FEW novelists have been so n1uch the outcome 
of their surroundings as Charlotte Brontë; fe\v 
ha ve been more autobiographical under cover of 
fiction, few have depended more for their 11'tÍse- 
en-scène, down to veriest details and n1icroscopic 
touches, on the localities adopted as the back- 
ground of their plots. Wherefore the gan1e of 
localizing places, streets, and houses tnentioned 
in her books, as also of identifying, tant bien que 
'JjJal, the personages of her stories, has been 
played with rare enjoyment hy an ever-increasing 
body of enthusiasts. 1'he sport has become a 
cult, and Brontë literature is fast swelling into 
a library of respectable dimensions. 
Even the most zealous of the explorers must 
be aware that whether Miss Brontë nleant to 
reproduce this place or that with absolute 
fidelity, or whether she was only fashioning the 
characteristics of her backgrounds into a 
83 


, 



Chûrlofte Bronti!.o 1I Centenary MelnorÙ11 


sufficiently convincing h set," is a nlatter of 
minor interest and of minimun1 literary inl- 
portance. But the spot in \vhich so nlany 
fruitful months of her life were passed- 
inasmuch as they laid their inlpress so UJ1- 
Inistakably upon her art and upon her character 
and her life's happiness, tearing her heart 
and awakening her soul, as appears again and 
again in her human comedy, vivifying some of 
her most poignant scenes and prompting her 
most trenchant utterances-this stands in a 
different category. Of this pregnant spot, this 
sheltered nook, we have had descriptions in 
The Professor and in Villette, in Mrs. Gaskell's 
Life, and in the books of Mr. Clement Shorter, 
Mrs. Chadwick, Mrs. lYlacdonald, Mr. W root, 
and others, and we have seen photographs of 
the exterior of the school and of the ancient 
garden it embraced. But the whole hudget ex- 
plains but inconlpletely the surroundings wherein 
were played out the little life dramas of Paul 
Emanuel and Lucy Snowe, of William Crimsworth 
and Frances Henri, and at least one palpitating 
scene of Charlotte Brontë's own experience, in 
the matter of the half unwitting and wholly 
unresponsi ve Professor Constantin Heger. 
For that reason, a few months before the War 
broke out, I presumed on friendship to beg 
MademoiseUe Louise Heger to draw for me a 
plan of the school-house and the surrounding 
84 



Charlotte Brontë in Brussels 


premises \vhere a great part of her life had been 
passed, with all the accuracy which her cultivated 
artist-memory would permit. Her suggestive 
sketch, the result of gracious conlpliance, fornls 
the basis of the map which-with certain obvious 
errors in scale and numerous details added-\vas 
duly drawn and printed, illustrating main build- 
ings, routes, and points of interest connected \vith 
the novels ånd with the author herself. Readers 
may therefore realize henceforward with greater 
ease the Brontë theatre and the stage, and the 
exits and the entrances of the players. 
Mademoiselle Heger, it will be remembered, 
was the little Georgette of Pi//ette; she 
loved Charlotte Brontë as the story-child loved 
Lucy Snowe \vi th a love that was returned ; and 
she still bears Miss Brontë's face and figure 
clearly imprinted on her memory. 
Hither, in 1842, the Rev. Patrick Brontë 
brought his daughters Charlotte and En1ily, 
and left the young W0t11en, soberly and earnestly 
hopeful, in the charge of the motherly Madanle 
Heger and her mercurial husband; and hither, 
a year later, worn out by a trying journey in 
foul \veather, Charlotte returned alone, drawn by 
an irresistible attraction to continue her schemed- 
out studies and to pursue her teaching. 
When the weary traveller arrived in the Rue 
d'Isabelle she reached the nursery of her genius. 
Cradle assuredly it was not. Her genius had 
85 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Memorial 


long since quickened in Haworth, tended by 
her father in her earliest years. In Brussels 
1t was trained) developed, nurtured, and directed 
by M. Heger, but inspired at least as much hy 
her own thought and suffering as oy her master's 
care. It would have blossomed in any case; yet 
but for him-apart from that Romance which the 
poor girl's letters so touchingly and so beautifuI1y 
revealed-it assuredly would have blossomed into 
a different flower) a bloom of another gro\vth, 
less cultivated, perhaps less vivid in colour) less 
rich) less s,veet) and less pungent in its perfume. 
'"[he Charlotte Brontë we know and honour) 
whose faculty was forced into the particular 
luxuriance by which it is recognized through her 
experiences in the Pensionnat, was, greatly in 
her art and to SOl11e degree in her emotion, the 
product of the Rue d'Isabelle. 
In Villette) then) Miss Brontë pictures Lucy 
Sno\ve's arrival in Brussels much as it occurred 
to herself on her second visi t. N o\v let us follow 
her, step by step-for the first time-to her 
predestined hon1e. "Having left behind us the 
l11iry Chaussée "-that is to say) the Chaussée 
de Gand-the diligence rattled over the pave- 
ment, passed through the l)orte de Flandre, 
and stopped at the bureau. Hence Dr. John 
Bretton courteously conducted Miss Snowe along 
the houlevards, on foot, through darkness, fog, 
anò rai 11, pa.st the AlJée Verte-at that time 
86 



Charlotte Brontë in Brusst!r 


almost a civic pleasaunce, referred to in The 
Professor, but now an arid waste of sand and 
stone, a mere eastern quay to the Canal de 
Willebroeck-until by the Rue Ducale or the 
Rue de la Loi the north-east gate of the Park 
,vas reached, and the park "crossed" to an 
opening into the Rue Royale opposite the 
Montagne du Pare, which descends to the Lower 
Town. Here her guide left her, after having 
instructed her how to reach a decent inn bv 
descending the Belliard steps. 
It has been supposed that this \vould in 
reality have been too long a walk; but in the 
author's eyes it n1ust have been a mere rarnble, 
for in The Professor the newly affianced Crinls- 
worth and Frances Henri celebrate their engage- 
ment by making "a tour of the city by the 
Boulevards "-a jaunt of twice the distance \vhich 
tired the lady but "a little." 
Lucy's progress frorn this point to the 
Pensionnat has created some difficulty in readers' 
tninds, yet it is clear enough. Misunderstanding 
her instructions, she missed the Belliard steps I 
to the Rue d'Isabelle, wherein, at its junction with 
the Rue des I)ouze Apôtres and the Rue Je Ie!. 
Chancellerie \vas supposed to stand the inn of 


1 The opening in the Rue Royale would not reveal to 
the passer-by, particularly at night-time, the existence of 
the BeHiard steps, because th
 head of the stairway is masked 
by the pedestal of the General's statue. 
87 


, 



Charlotte Brolltë.. a Centt?Jlar.y MefJlorÎal 


\vhich she ,vas in search, and \vandered straight 
on along "the magnificent street and square "- 
no other than the Rue and the I>]ace Royale- 
passed the great church (St. Jacques sur 
Caudenberg) until, turning along the south side, 
she was distnayed by being accosted by "two 
Inoustachioed men \vho came sudden] y fronl 
behind the pillars." What piUars were these? 
The truth is that at the time when Miss Brontë 
was in Brussels, as is shown by contemporary 
maps, the Rue de la Régence had not yet 
pierced the side of the square; the Place \vas 
still shut in, and in the nliddle of it was a narrow 
\vay flanked with pillars kno\vn as the Passage 
des Colot1nes. I twas fronl this sinister recess 
that the rascals en1erged and talked to the 
frightened young WOnl:ln \vhile keeping pace 
with her. They were moustachioed villains- 
a delightfully feminine touch, ren1ind ing us of 
those Early Victorian days when moustaches and 
beard were datllning attributes, concrete synlbols 
of the depravity natural to a foreigner, and 
rarely, save in a fe\v deplorable instances, affected 
by any but the most hardened Englishlnen. 1 


I It may be recalled how, in the 'Forties, the editor of 
the Art Journ,z/, shocked and incrcd ulous, declined to accept 
as wholly tru
 a newspaper report to the effect that an artist, 
U wearing a mou:ìtache," had been arrested for some: minor 
misdemeanour at Canterbury and had c1aimed to be an 
Englishman! The outraged editor, Mr. Samuel Carter HaIl, 
88 



Charlotte Brontë ill BrllSJe!.r 


What wondt:r, then, that these two n1t:n, \vith 
"faces looking out of tht: forest of hair, 
n1oustache, and whisker," afterwards turned out 
to be the very same two evil-minded dand y pro- 
fessors of the college, MM. Rochen10rt and Bois- 
sec [shockingly significant names - thoroughly 
appropriate to the hateful bearers of thetn J, who 
basely doubted to Monsieur Paul the genuineness 
of Lucy Snowe's devoir. 
She fled-darting either along the Rue du 
Musée and so on down the Rue Ravenstein, or by 
the Montagne de la Cour and the Rue Ravenstein, 
or the Rue Villa Hermosa. In any case she de- 
scended the steps in which tern1Ïnates either of these 
parallel lanes-nlistaking then1 for the BelJiarJ 
steps--and found herself in the Rue r erarken. 
Following the street to the right she walked 011 
into the "Rue Fossette" (the Rue d'lsabelle), 
and fetcheJ. up at the Pensionnat of Madame 
Beck opposite the foot of the Belliard stairway. 
Before this house stood the faltering Lucy Snowe. 
All idea of an inn, thanks to directing if exhaust- 
ing fate, had been renounced, forgotten; she 
pleaded for adnlittance, and by good fortune 
found it. Her real life in Villette ,vas begun. 
These sanle Belliard steps, it ,vill be ren1enl- 
hered, attracted young \Villian1 Crimsworth in 


refused to believe that an Englishman and an artist would 
so debase himsel f as to appear in pub] ic "i n the c harac ter 
of a French poodle." 


89 


, 



Charlotte Brr;ntë.. a Centenary Memorial 
The Professor. Fron1 the Rue Royale, oppo- 
site the spot occupied in the seventeenth century 
by the DOlll us Isabellæ-by the Sovereign after 
\vhom the street below was called-he ,( con- 
templated the statue of General Belliard " (due 
to the chisel of one of the brothers Geefs and 
set up very shortly before Charlotte Brontë's 
arrival) "and then I advanced to the top of the 
great staircase beyond, and I looked down into a 
narrow back street, which I afterwards learned 
'vas called the Rue d'lsabelle. I well recollect 
that my eye rested on the green door of a rather 
large house opposite, where, on a brass plate, was 
inscribed, 'Pensionnat de Demoiselles.' " It is 
natural that one endowed with such excellent gift 
of vision should have described so accurately the 
locality in which he was to play an important 
rôle. 
Thus by her talent Miss Brontë transmogrifies 
and develops into a dramatic incident her calm 
arrival in Villette. Is it certain, by the \vay, 
that this felicitous rechristening of Brussels was 
from the first the author's intention ? We know 
ho\v she changed names \vhich she had originalJ y 
adopted and bettered then1 by that change. We 
know how "The Master" became "The Pro- 
fessor "; and how "Lucy Snowe" ,vas tenl- 
porarily altered into the equally "cold name" 
of "l..ucy Frost," and then turned back again. 
"J should 11 ke the alteration to be nlade nov/ 
9 0 



Charlotte Brontë in Brussels 


throughout the MS.," she wrote to Mr. Willianls 
at her publishers'. \Vas it perhaps a sinlilar 
after-thought that caused her to adopt " Villette" 
1 n preference to a first idea of "Choseville"? 
"
rhe carriage-wheels made a tremendous rattle 
over the flinty Choseville pavement," she says 
in chapter t\venty-seven, retaining, perhaps by 
an oversight, the uncorrected name, when Lucy 
Snowe brings Ginevra F anshawe back to the 
school and administers" a sound moral drubbing" 
on the way. We remenlber that this same flighty 
Ginevra when asked some months before at what 
place she is going to stay, had replied, " Oh! at 
-chose." " 'Chose,' however, I found in this 
instance, stood for Villette," says Lucy. 1'he 
germ of the idea may perhaps be here, revealing 
the fallible hand of the careless retoucher. But, 
unless I am mistaken, Charlotte Brontë was not 
the first \vriter to use the name "Villette." 
The aspect of the Rue d'lsabelle, no\v, alas, 
demolished, is wen known, with its school-houses, 
its loftier dwelling-house of the Directress, and 
beyond the row of eight cottages which, in 
the seventeenth century, housed nlembers of 
the aristocratic Guild of Crossbowmen, and 
which now were o,vned by the circumspect 
Madame Heger lest they should be occupied by 
undesirable neighbours. At the farthest end of 
their property was a I)orte Monumentale built by 
the Infanta Isabella as a gate\vay to the .L\rba- 
9 1 


\ 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Memorial 


létriers' practice-ground, hut dismantled in 19 10 
and removed by the Brussels municipality for 
re-erection at some future time in the Museum. 
Within stood the old Galerie, with its dated 
sixteenth-century fire-back, used as a place of 
recreation by Madanle and the pupils. All these 
faced the Rue d'Isabelle-called by Miss Brontë 
the Rue Fossette, after the F ossé aux Chiens 
\vhich in more ancient days occupied the spot.' 


II 


Facing the Belliard sters, then, ,vas the main 
doorway of the IJirectress's house, from the 
lofty roof of ,vhich Monsieur Heger, when a 
youth taking his share in the struggle in \vhich 
Belgium won her independence-a strange four 
days' battJe during which the combatants amiably 
adjourned for refreshn1ents-fired into the park. 
'rhis was in 1830, before he knew the lad y 
\vho six years Jater \vas to become his wife. 
To the right extended the school buildings- 
three sides of a sq uare, with the addition of a 
cross" galerie " or corridor which forn1ed a quad, 
or " cour." Opposite the windows of the private 
house \vas the Première Classe-the classroom 


I It should be ren1embered that when the road was con- 
structed in order that the Archduchess might have a direct 
private \'vay from the Court to Ste. Gudule, it opened into the 
space now occupied by the Place Royale. 
9 2 



Charlotte Bronti! ill Brussels 


of the highest form-the southern doors of which 
led straight out into the" Grand Berceau," and 
the narrow continuation called the " Allée 
Défendue," I skirting the long parapet wall 
that rose above the retaining wall of the Athénée 
playing-ground many feet below. 2 This is the 
wall which Genevra's elegant and dapper lover, 
the resourceful Comte ...t\.lfred de Hamal, would 
scale in order to reach the great acacia-tree. 
rrhis tree "shadowed the Grand Berceau and 
rested some of its branches on the roof of the 
first classe." By climbing this, too, he reached 
the "Grande Salle," and even tuall y the arms of 
the girl he wooed, first assuming for precaution's 
sake the habit of the terrible Dryad, the ghostly 
Nun. It may well be believed that the tree- 
climbing performance was founded upon a true 
incident, for use has been made of it by both 
sisters-by Charlotte here in Villette, and by 
Emily in WUlhering Heights, when Catherine, 
whom the maniacal Heathcliff was keeping 
prisoner, effected her escape. " Luckily, light- 
ing on her mother's [chamber], she got easily 
out of its lattice, and on to the ground, by means 
I U Through the glass door [of the Première Classe] and 
the arching berceau, I commanded the deep vista of the 
Al1ée Défendue" (Pille/te, chap. xxxvi). 
2 Cf. the reference in The Professor to "a bare gravelled 
court, with an enormous pa! de géant in the middle, and 
the monotonous walls and windows of a boys' school-house 
round " (chap. vii). 


93 



Charlotte Brolltë: a G1 e /lte/lilry .lvlelJJoriai 
of the fir-tree close by." It is unlikely that 
either sister would have plagiarized from the 
other, but a circumstance known to both could 
by both be used. 
In the great arbour, "vast and vine-draped," 
known as the Grand Berceau, Mme. Beck 
would teach on sun1mer afternoons; Lucy, 
too, would hold her class, and Monsieur l
aul 
\vould do his gardening. Miss Brontë's taste was 
for the greater privacy of the Allée Défendue, 
the secluded branch-tunnelled alley forbidden 
to pupils bt:cause its low wall flanked the Athénée 
boys' playground some fifteen or twenty feet below. 
She found it a charming retreat for conten1plation, 
and it is the scene of many an incident alike in 
Villette and 'ine J)rofessor. At its southern 
extremity Charlotte places the aged, half-dead 
pear-tree-the mighty patriarch "Methuselah" 
that stood sentinel over the nun's torture-grave 
(as the author invented it). In the hole at its 
root Lucy Sno,ve buried her treasured letters 
fron1 Dr. Bretton, and returned to it to 
n10urn her sad a\vakening, when she was joined 
by Monsieur Paul in poignant interview, and 
with him witnessed yet again the passing of the 
N un. It \vas here, too, that the casket was 
dropped which Dr. Bretton rushed in to reclaitl1, 
thrown from a window of \vhich more must 
presently be said; and it was fron1 here that 
the love passage between M. Pelet and Mlle. 
94 



Charlotte BroJltë in Brussels 


Reuter rose to the ears of Crin1sworth seated at 
the lattice above. 
Below in this \vall,I and at its foot, may still 
be seen-for the destruction of this neighbour- 
hood is not yet so complete as has been repre- 
sented-two doorways entered from the level 
of the Athénée courtyard and playground below. 
1'hat nearest to "Methuselah" may be identified 
with the door of communication through which, 
declared Monsieur Paul to Lucy Snowe, he ll1ade 
secret entrance frorn the colJege to the Pensionnat 
by way of the tool-shed in the upper garden- 
the same tool-shed whence Lucy brought slate 
and mortar to set by way of tombstone on her 
letters' grave. 2 


J The parapet remains, with the coping-stones clamped 
on, in consequence of their having once been shifted through 
the hurricane violence of a storm such as Lucy Snowe 
describes. 
2 In my Notes on the Brontë-Heger letters published in 
The Times I made the suggestion that the burying of the 
Bretton letters as described with such realistic detail by 
Lucy Snowe might have been inspired by Miss Brontë having 
similarly treated Professor C. Heger's letters at Haworth. 
Thereupon Mr. Percy A. Fielding wrote to Tht Times to 
point out that he had made the like suggestion to the Brontë 
Society a few months before, and drew attention to the 
fact that in her letters of June IS and July 3 0 , 1850, 
"there is a reference to certain re-roofing operations that 
were taking place at Haworth Parsonage, and from this 
one may suppose that both slates and material for mortar 
were being used on the premises." It has, I believe, been 


95 



Charlotte Brol1të: tl Centenary Me1Jl0ria/ 


Miss Brontë's descriptions of the garden are 
remarkable in their fidelity to fact, and alleys 
and plantations all aid the development of the 
story. Chief of all is that "alley bordered by 
enormous old fruit trees down the middle," 
many tinles alluded to, in blossonl and in fruit. 
l
hese trees, says Mrs. Gaskell, fornled part of 
the orchard that had stood here even before 
the crossbo\vnlen's day. Ancient pear-trees they 
were, fanled far beyond the borders of Belgi urn, 
and visited by fructiculturists frol11 all parts by 
reason of their marvellous qualities. They 
yielded a rich seasonal harvest that was stored 
in cellars extending below the Belliard steps; 
and for months in each year they regaled the 
inhabitants of the school, who numbered not 
fewer than one hundred and thirty persons at 
the tinle when "little Georgette" had grown 
to be fruit-keeper and visited the cellars with 
her father to select and fetch the accustonled 
dessert. 


III 


Here we must introduce a new personage, a 
new "original," to Brontë readers and Brontë 
students. This is no other than Monsieur Pelet, 
a leading character in :the Professor. This 
shown that no such opportunity for letter-burying-so får 
as a tree is concerned-ever offered itself in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the Parsonage. But the moors? 
9 6 



Charlotte Brontë in Brussels 


character seems to have puzzled every con1- 
mentator. One of them awards him the title-rôle 
in the book. Son1e see in hin1 a distorted portrait 
of M. Heger, or at least an individual based 
upon his personality. Others declare his school 
"without disguise, the Athénée" or eJse place 
it in the Rue d'Isabelle. Others, again, pro- 
nounce M. Pelet, this Fenchnlan, a fign1ent of 
the author's brain, and write hin1 down in con- 
sequence "unconvincing," and a conlparative 
failure, as n1ight be expected in a figure not 
inspired by the life. Everyone of these con- 
jectures is incorrect. Mrs. Hun1phry Ward 
came nearest to the truth when she recognized 
reality in the portrait, and applauded it as "an 
extremel y clever sketch." It is strange, indeed, 
that the existence of M. Pelet's school should 
have remained unsuspected among the students 
who have exan1ined Miss Brontë's works under 
the literary microscope, for the bell-ringing 
incident related t1.rther on affords the necessary 
cl ue. 
As a matter of fact, M. Pelet was not only 
drawn from life-he was depicted with startling 
veracity so far as externals are concerned; and 
J am assured by those who kne\v hinI that no 
character in the Brussels chapters of the two 
books has been presented \vith greater truth as 
to appearance and sty Ie. M. Pelet was no other 
tha!l Monsieur Lebel, who is still remen1bered 


97 


G 


, 



Char/ollt Bronti!.- a Centenary Menloria/ 


with respect in Brussels, where he long resided, 
and who towards the end, I believe, returned to 
France. He was the French refugee school- 
master, the man distinguished in air, quiet in 
method, Parisian in characteristics, suave and silky 
in manner_Parisian, indeed, to the finger tips, 
almost elegant in his easy assumption of superi- 
ority which others were made to feel-he was 
exactly as Charlotte Brontë has presented him. 
M. Lebel's school-house for boys stood on 
the north side of the Rue Terarken, beside 
some of the Athénée buildings. The back of 
it, partly veiled by tall shrubs, was pierced by 
a single casement in a lower storey, whence, after 
it had been un boarded, Crimsworth, now one 
of M. Pelet's teachers (and before he had 
developed into a professor at the Athénée itself), 
looked into the garden of the Pensionnat, [ and 
whence, too, M. Paul Emanuel, cynical psycho- 
logist as he was, instructed by the Jesuit priest, 
the Père Silas, watched his girl pupils at play 
and at quarrel, and probed the phenomena of 
feminine character in their persons and in the 
persons, too, of the several mistresses, even, 
of the Directress herself: for which purpose, 
indeed, he had hired it. If Miss Brontë brings 
out this point, is it not to show that the building 


J d I shall now at last see the mysterious garden : I shall 
gaze both on the angels and their Eden" (The Profil1or, 
chap. viii). 


9 8 



Charlotte Brontë in Brussels 


could not have belonged to the Athénée, other- 
wise the leading professor of that Royal college 
would have taken possession of this post of 
observation as by right of privilege and not of 
leasehold? It was, as we are told in f/illette, 
merely a "boarding-house of the neighbouring 
college, and not the Athénée itself." From an 
"attic toophole high up, opening from the 
sleeping-room" of a servant, there dropped the 
casket intended for Ginevra but delivered by 
fate into the hands of Lucy Snowe. 
M. Lebel does not reappear in Pillette. The 
author had used him up in her earlier picture of 
Brussels life. She had done with him and he 
had no part in the new dralna of which M. 
Paul was the hero; there \vas no room for two 
col1ege directors here. 


IV 


To the west of the Pensionnat of the Rue 
d'lsabelle stood the Athénée Royale, on a level 
considerably lower. Its buildings, especially at 
their northern extremity, came in contact with 
the Heger School, but the only material and social 
link between the two establishments was the 
common well, still to be seen ruined and 
uncovered. Indeed, laid \vaste though the site 
now is-for the Athénée has long since been 
removed to the Rue du Chêne and its old 
99 



Charlotte Brontë: a Celltenary Me!Jlorial 


buildings have been razed-almost unrecog- 
nizable as is the quarter by reason of wholesale 
demolition and vast roadway construction, we 
can at this very moment trace a good nlany of 
the old landmarks. In the retaining-waU there 
still remain the two large niches which accommo- 
dated the Professor on his estrade-one at each 
end. One of these is beside the old well, to the 
north of it; the other is where, at the southern 
extremity, we recognize the site of a denlolished 
class-room. 
Such was the island of garden and buildings 
which daily met the eyes of Charlotte Brontë 
as the reflective, contemplative English girl trod 
the paths or took refuge for recueillement in her 
small berceau or in the allée déftndue. It was here 
that she evolved her thoughts and meditations: 
in the classroon1 she learned how to form, to 
order, and to express them. It was truly the 
nursery of her genius, where she was taught that 
nothing is too insignificant for treatment in 
literary expression. Thus the natural acuteness 
of her observation was sharpened; she nlissed 
little or nothing; she acquired the power 
of taking literary advantage of even the most 
trivial incidents and utilizing them with curious 
effect. 
Here are two examples, which will be new to 
the reader, still spoken of in the Heger and the 
Errera families. 


100 



Charlotte Brontë in Brussels 


At the corner of the Rue Royale and the 
opening to the Belliard steps stands the splendid 
nlansion formerly occupied by the well-known 
banker, M. Errera, no\v belonging to his widow. 
It is noteworthy enough in its exterior aspect, 
but exceptionally beautiful within, exquisitely 
designed, and famous for its occupation by the 
Napoleonic chief during the French ascendancy 
in Brussels. The basement of it was on a level 
with an upper floor of the Pensionnat Heger 
and separated from it but by the \vidth of the 
street and the houses on its hither side. In 
this basement during the absence of the family 
one of the footmen would freq uently exercise 
his exceptional talent on the French horn. 
rrhis trivial circumstance, always remembered in 
the Heger household, was utili zed by Miss 
Brontë \vith much effect in rrhe Professor, 
without, of course, revealing its very donlestic 
source :-" Here a strain of music stole in upon 
111Y monologue," says Crims\vorth, "and sus- 
pended it; it was a bugle, very skilfully played, 
in the neighbourhood of the park, I thought, 
or un the Place Royale. . . . The strain retreated, 
its sound waxed fainter and fainter, and \-vas 
soon gone; 111Y ear prepared to repose on the 
absolute hush of 111idnight once more. nAnd 
when he listened again it ,vas the love-talk of 
Mlle. Reuter and M. Pelet of \vhich he \vas 
the unwilling auditor. 


101 



G'harlotte Brolltë.. a Centenary Memorial 


The bell-ringing incident, again, as has already 
been said, has its importance :- 
At the conclusion of Crimsworth's first lesson 
at Mlle. Reuter's pensionnat, "a bell clanging 
out in the yard announced the moment for the 
cessation of school labours. I heard our own 
bell at the same time, and that of a certain 
puhlic college immediately after"; that is to 
say, the first bell sounded was at Mlle. Reuter's 
in the Rue d'lsabelle; the second was at 
M. Pelet's, where Crin1sworth was in residence; 
and the third at the f\.thénée Royale-the usual 
order. Later on, the incipient flirtation between 
Mlle. Reuter and her young English professor 
Crims\vorth is broken short by the dinner-bell 
which rang out "both at her house and M. 
P I ' " 
e et s. 


v 


Beyond these inlmediate confines we may note 
the historic Maison Ravenstein; next, the former 
Court Chapel hard by the entrance to the present 
Musée Moderne,I where Crimsworth sought for 
his lost Frances Henri; the Palais des Académ ies, 
which seems to be indicated as the scene of the 
Athénée prize-giving, where the little finale of 


1 Here are held the Art Exhibitions which Lucy Snowe 
criticized with such clear and just perception. Her views on 
art were marked by freedom and sanity unusual in Early 
Victorian days, especially in the provinces. 
102 



Charlotte Brontë in Brussels 


M. Paul's "qu'en dites-vous?" to Lucy Snowe 
after his lecture is a little maliciously adapted 
from Thackeray's similar question to Miss Brontë 
after his own address. And in the Rue Royale 
stood the old Hôtel Mengelle (formerly a great 
apartment-house and now rebuilt into a modern 
hotel of the smartest and most elegant order) 
which Brontë critics by common consent aver is 
identical with a house of importance in the story 
-the Hôtel Crécy of the Rue Crécy. 
In this view, when all the circumstances are 
taken into account, it is impossible to acquiesce. 
Those who have been fan1iliar with the old 
Hôtel MengeIle, and who retain a clear recollec- 
tion of its construction, its general aspect and 
architecture, cannot, surel y, recognize in it " the 
sumptuous Hôtel Crécy," where lived the little 
Countess Pau1ina de Bassompierre with her father, 
even though every allowance be made for some 
decline from pristine splendour. When Ginevra 
Fanshawe elopes with the Comte de Hamal and 
their carriage dashes northwards (as is den1on- 
strable) along the Rue des Douze Apôtres, \ve 
are told that "neither the Hôtel Crécy nor the 
Château de la Terrasse lies in that direction." 
This could not be said of the Hôtel Mengelle 
in the Rue Royale. Moreover, we are told as 
\vell of a Boulevard de Crécy with its Car1nelite 
con'vent, and of a Porte de Crécy, all details of 
l11atter-of-fact topography. \Vhere, then, are 
10 3 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centellary Me1J10rial 
these? What is there to correspond with 
them? The answer is clear, and should, I think, 
be final. 
The in-dwellers of Brussels will tell you- 
what Charlotte Brontë practically tells us her- 
self-that the most probable solution of the puzzle 
(a solution to satisfy every point raised) is to be 
found not in the Rue Royale at aU, but in the 
Boulevard de Waterloo with its occasional fine 
, 
houses, its Petits Carmes can vent and its Eglise 
des Carmes, the Porte de Hal, and, opposi te to 
it, the Chaussée de Waterloo, which led towards 
the picturesque outskirts a mile and more away 
that might well provide the locale of the Bret- 
tons' hon1e, "La Terrasse.)) Here, then, you 
have the Boulevard, the town gate, the 
Carmelite convent, and the direction all a
 
indicated. Moreover, in the Rue Crécy l..ucy 
Snowe takes her German lessons. Would 
honest Fräulein Anna Braun have found lodg- 
nlent in the "palatial" Rue Royale? And 
to reach it would Lucy and Paulina have taken 
the "nearest ,vay" by the Place Royale and 
entered the park ? 
rhe reiteration of the name 
should he some indication. What is more inl- 
portant is the close connexion of idea between 
the two epoch-making victories, Crécy and 
Waterloo. Mrs. Gaskell tells us that Charlotte 
"worshipped the Duke of Wellington," that the 
Duke "had been her hero from childhood." 
10 4 



Charlotte Bronti! in Brussels 


Her admirable devoir, "Sur la mort de N apo- 
léon," we remember, contained a passionate yet 
reasoned eulogy on the victor at the expense of 
the fallen Emperor. Charlotte Brontë's relative 
silence on the subject, alike in her letters and in her 
novels, has been the subject of remark; here, at 
least, is reason to believe that she had Waterloo 
in her mind-she who had lived so long close to 
the battlefield where the struggle was fought out 
the year before she was born-but was debarred 
by her scheme of pseudonymity fron1 mentioning 
it by name. So Crécy became an irreproachable 
substitute, offering a mystery not too obscure for 
solution. At the time when Villette was being 
written the Duke was sinking, and died in 
September 1852: the event may likely enough 
have given a turn to the author's thoughts and 
influenced her choice of venue. Surely, as to the 
identity of the Boulevard de Waterloo, the Car- 
melite convent should settle the matter definitely. 
Within the space of a few hundred square 
yards, with her mind's eye manifestly fixed upon 
a lnap such as has si nce been devised and puh- 
lished, Miss Brontë could depict a scene as 
hrilliant and varied as that of the l)atriotic Fête 
in the park and build up one of the tllost in1- 
portant and significant chapters in the book, all 
the \vhile accounting to herself for every step 
taken by the narrator. By the Rue l"'erarken, 
up the steps of the H.ue Villa Herlnosa, across 
10 5 


, 



Charlotte Brontë.- a Centenary Memorial 
the Place Royale walks Lucy Snowe, and, passing 
through the gate opposite the Hôtel Bellevue (the 
frontage of the hostelry pitted with bullet-holes), 
she enters the park-then and for some years later 
surrounded by a mere palisade and not by its 
present imposing iron railing. Her passage from 
spot to spot is described too clearly to be mistaken. 
She seeks to wend her way to one of the two 
"stone basins," with its clear green water-pro- 
bably the one nearer to the Royal Palace; and 
she is here recognized by M. Miret-a genuine 
character, by the way, sketched with great 
accuracy from the excellent bookseller to the 
Pensionnat Heger. She passes along the alleys, 
wanders to the " green knoll "-the raised ground 
crowned by a seat \vhich was shadowed by " three 
fine tall trees gro\ving close" -the spot where 
the "secret junta" unwittingly reveals to the 
listening Lucy the answer to the riddle hitherto 
unsolvable. Then she quits the park, descends 
the dimly lighted Montagne du Parc I C' only 
one street lies between me and the Rue 
Fossette "-necessarily the Rue des Douze 
Apôtres and no other), when the eloping Ginevra 
thunders past, as already recounted; and so home 
-to. find the Nun's "ghost" deposited in her 
bed. 


I Where lived the priest of Ste. Gudule to whom Miss 
Brontë confessed. rrhis presumably should be the Rue des 
Mages of f/lIlette-a set-off to the real Rue des 1Vlinimes. 
106 



Charlotte Brontë in Brussels 


This is but a type of Charlotte Brontë's 
method, and it may suffice. Thus did she work 
up her backgrounds and plan her goings and 
comings, lavishing upon them as much care and 
deliberation as upon the stories she constructed 
and set against them. The method is sound in 
relation to her talent, for while it imparts to 
her incidents an aspect of stereoscopic relief, her 
art subdues the over-insistence on the cold fact 
of the décor, so that the reality \vhich is evolved 
grips us as a quietly convincing truth. 


VI 


Later inquirers have not always understood 
that the premises in the Rue d'lsabelle were not 
left unchanged after the Brontë sisters' departure. 
In 1857 important alterations were effected in 
the dwelling-house, but the school-house wa
 
left pretty much as it was. The institution had 
already become a place of pilgrimage to hoth 
English and Americans. The devotees ,vho 
could scarcely have been very welcome to the 
misrepresented and injured chiefs of the school, 
were courteously received, notwithstanding, and 
shown al1 the points of interest concentrated in 
Charlotte ßrontë's pages. "And this," they 
would ask, "is this really the Carré? -this the 
Réfectoire ? "-or what not; and then some- 
times a whitening head would thrust itself forth 
10 7 


\ 


. 



Charlotte Brontë.: a Centenary Melnori'al 
from a suddenly opened door and snap out, but 
not angrily, "Qui !-et moi je suis Monsieur 
Paul! " 
And now, where this busy little world that 
hummed with life in the educational centre of 
the Rue d'Isabelle and helped to form and 
develop characters which have stood the test in 
these later days of trial is a scene of cruel 
desolation. Houses and school buildings have 
gone. Rubblc stre\vs the ground, and a broken 
branch, thrusting its torn limb through the 
rubbish here and there, is all that is left of the 
historic garden. Yet the destruction, as has here 
been said, is not entirely complete, and (where 
the encroachments of the vast new works have 
not wholl y covered up or overturned it) suffi- 
cient evidence still remains for the practised 
explorer to reconstitute, in part at least, the old 
flourishing institutions and buildings that clustered 
round the spot. Even the first out of the 
four flights of steps of the Escalier Belliard may 
yet be seen, though they, too, are to be swal- 
lowed up, as soon as may be, \vhen peace returns 
to heroic Belgium, by the rising road nlount- 
ing to the Rue Royale. A pictorial record of 
some fullness will doubtless one day be issued 
illustrating the temporary home of the honoured 
sisters, for the m3.terial for it exists. Brontë- 
Heger-land is not destined to pass unpictured 
and forgotten; its scenes will live for us and 
108 



Charlotte Brontë in Brussels 


bring nearer to us the more tutored genius of 
Charlotte Brontë, to whom, on the centenary 
of her birth, the tribute of our hon1age is paid 
to-da y. 


M H. SPIELMANN. 


109 



([:þe 
íggtt) 15ronte'!) Q!;tHab(ígþment 


FOR 


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BOARD A
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tory, Grammar, Gcography, anù Needle 'York, pcr 35 0 0 
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German, . . cach !)Cr Quartcl) 1 0 
Latin 
Music, } cach pcr Quarter, 1 1 0 
Drawing,. . . . Use of Piano Forte, pcr Quarter, .. 0 5 0 
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Eac1. Young Laùy to I.Jc proviùcù with One Pair oi Sheets, Pillow Cases, Four Towels, 
.\ Dessert and Tea-spoon. 


A (Juartcr's N oticc, or a Quartcr's Board, is l"cquircù previous to the 
Rcmoval of a Pupil. 


FACSDIlLE OF A CIHCt.:L.\H IS
CED UY TilE JHWXTE SISTERS I
 18-1--1-. 


To CaCe p. 110. 


, 



THE BRONTË SOCIETY AND ITS 
WORK 


By HERBERT E. WROOT 



 
,- 


, 




TI-IE BRONTË SOCIE
rY AND ITS 
WORK 


I N the ear] y days of this Great War, \vhen no 
one had thought for literary anniversaries, there 
passed unnoticed the twenty-first birthday of 
the Brontë Society. It is a rare event in literary 
history for such an association to attain to its 
"coming of age." rrhe mortality of infancy 
and adolescence is high among litcrary societies; 
or perhaps it should be considered that since, 
like the" flies of latter spring," they come full y 
equipped and in the maxim of energy into their 
little world, it is but the course of nature that 
their days are short. They 


lay their eggs, and sting and sing, 
And weave their pretty cells and die. 


A good many societies have been founded in 
England with purpose akin to that of the 
Brontë Society, with very diverse fields to cuI. 
tivate, yet only one-the Chaucer Society-has 
attained to such length of years; and in that 
113 H 



Charlotte Brol1/
.. n Centenary MelJlorial 
case, brilliantly exceptional, the longevity of the 
society was rather evidence of the inexhaustible 
youthfulness of its founder and vital spirit, the 
late Dr. Furni vall, than of its own inherent 
virility. With good reason Furnivall called it 
"nlY Chaucer Society," and it endured and 
laboured nearly thirty years in the strength of 
his \vilI, till he pernlitted it to sing its Nunc 
di1nittis over the great Oxford edition of the 
"master dear and father reverent" of English 
poets, the production of which its studies had 
rendered possi ble. 
Even though they had an inexhaustible 
nlountain in \vhich to quarry, the two Shake- 
spere Societies fell far short of this record. 
The original society, sustained by the industry 
of Halliwell-Phillipps and the enthusiasrn-the 
sot11ewhat intemperate enthusiasm, as was un- 
happily proved-of John Payne Collier, lasted 
from 1841 to 1853- The New Shakespere 
Society, another of Dr. Furnivall's literary 
children, strong in purpose, prolonged its exist- 
ence to some eighteen years, yet was its strength 
labour and sorrow ere it was" cut off." Other 
co-operative efforts of literature have all been 
comparatively transient. The Wordsworth 
Society endured as "a bond of union amongst 
those who are in sympathy with the general 
teaching and spirit of Wordsworth" for not 
quite six years; and, whether it be true or not) 
114 



l'he Brontë Society and its Work 


as Dean Church grumbled, that cc W ords- 
worthians" fared rather badly at the hands of 
the VV ordsworth Society 
 the syn1pathetic souls 
had d\vindled to the secretary and another- 
the industrious Professor Knight and one patient 
con1mittee-n1an-before the Society n1ade up its 
l11ind that Grasmere and the mountains consti- 
tuted, after all, a stronger and 1110re enduring 
bond of union. The Shelley Society fared even 
worse. I t was late in the field. The name of 
Shelley had, as Lord Houghton exulted, been 
alread y raised by the youth of Oxford from 
"the obscurity and even the infamy" which 
had attached to it in earlier days, and there was 
not much work to do. The society survived, 
however, long enough to consecrate, under the 
leadership of Tennyson, a library as memorial 
and shrine at the poet's birthplace at Horshanl, 
but otherwise left little mark in history. The 
Browning Society existed but a dozen years- 
from 188 I to 1893. Perhaps some local Brown- 
ing Societies less fatally authoritative attained to 
a mellower age in different parts of the country 
-their number was at one time considerable; 
but it is sad to remember that the young ladies 
of Girton exhausted Browning-or themselves- 
even during the poet's lifetime. In 1886 they 
dissol ved their Browning Societf, and by vote 
of the members spent the accumulated balance 
of funds upon chocolates. pro some poets such 
liS 


\ 



Charlotte Broll/ë.' a Centenary Me1110rial 


desertion of high intellectuality for the sensuous 
pleasures which cloy (and spoil the digestion) 
might have been as heart-breaking as a Quarterly 
Revie.w attack. But Browning had a sense of 
humour. How his eyes must have twinkled! 
Perhaps some day some philosophic bookworm, 
some twentieth-century Isaac D'Israeli, sym- 
pathetic with the calamities which beset litera- 
ture on its co-operative and corporate side as well 
as in its inòi vid ualistic aspect, wiU set himself to 


find out the cause of this effect, 
Or rather say the cause of this defect, 
For this effect defective comes by cause. 


Unless in these latter days the art of keeping 
a diary has becon1e as atrophied as the art of 
writing letters, there ought to be on record 
some\vhere, and well worthy of coJlection, much 
pungent anecdotage concerning literary associa- 
tions. Meanwhile, perhaps no one has come 
closer to an analysis of the centrifugal forces 
which disperse such organizations than Mr. 
Max Beerbohm, whose caustic caricature of 
U Mr. Browning taking tea with the Browning 
Society" needs no single word of comment. 
No imagination, even. Mr. Max Beerbohm's 
own, has risen to the conception of Charlotte 
or Emily or Anne Brontë serving tea at Haworth 
Parsonage to the members of the Brontë Society. 
116 



The BrfJlltë Society and its Work 


Emily would have resented the intrusion, but 
of Charlotte one is not so sure. Though 
Charlotte confessed to a cold sweat when 
Martha Bro\vn, the l)arsonage servant - \vho 
was promptly snubbed-proclaimed her discovery 
that the n1istress had "been and \vritten the 
grandest books that ever were seen" and inti- 
mated that a n1eeting was to be held at the 
Mechanics' Institute to settle about ordering 
them, one can hardly doubt that she would 
have faced the situation with the calm courage 
wi th \vhich she adn1inistered a "comfortable 
cup of tea" to Mr. Donne-the curate of 
Shirley, who did not like Yorkshire folk-while 
she sat on guard) ready at a n1oment's notice 
to "have it out with him." But the right to 
existence of such a society is not the attitude 
in which \ve may fancy it confronted by the 
author it studies, but its usefulness in its own 
day. "It is for my generation and myself 
that I want the Society in being)" said one of 
the founders of the Browning Society at its 
inauguration ; and every lover of the works of 
the Brontës) and every reader whose heart has 
been touched and q nickened at the story of the 
Brontës, has had reason to congratulate himself 
and his generation that the ,york of the Brontë 
Society has been carried forward \vith so n1uch 
enthusiasm and'industry during these twenty-on
 
years. 


!I7 


, 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Me,norial 


The Brontë Society had its origin in a con- 
versation which took place towards the end 
of the year I 893 in the private office of 
Mr. Butler Wood, the chief Ii brarian of the 
Bradford Public Libraries. 'fhe incident is 
unrecorded in the archives of the Society, but 
Mr. Wood's n1en10ry is that there took part in 
it Mr. J. Horsfall Turner, of Idle, near 
Bradford, Mr. W. W. Yates, of Dewsbury, 
and Mr. (after\vards Sir) John Brigg, M.P., of 
Kildwick. 


11he first suggestion can1e fron1 Mr. Horsfall 
rrurner. Mr. Horsfall '[urner was an anti- 
l}uary of rare energy, who has left in our libraries 
a whole shelf-ful of memorials of his enter- 
prise. 1
he Brontë episode he took almost in 
his stride from Saxon charters to modern politics 
of a characteristically vigorous idiosyncrasy. But 
Charlotte Brontë was nevertheless a particular 
interest of his, and enjoying as he did excep- 
tional ad vantages at one period of his life, 
through his friendship with Miss Ellen Nussey- 
Charlotte's lifelong friend and confidant-he 
denlonstrated the depth of his enthusiasm by 
preparing and printing in their entirety that 
precious series of letters which Miss N ussey 
had the prescience to preserve. Unluckily for 
himself, Mr. Turner's enterprise took insuffi- 

ient account of the tran1mels of the law of 
1)8 



The Brontë Society and its Work 
copyright, and the whole edition printed had 
to be destroyed. So that a copy of Mr. Horsfall 
Turner's Story of the Brontis is now among the 
rarest of bibliographical curiosities. It was, how- 
ever, a literary calanlity nlodified by some con- 
solation, for the suppression left the field clear 
for the fuller collection of the Brontë letters 
to many correspondents which in due season 
Mr. Clement Shorter gave to us in his two 
fine volumes, The Brontfis: Life and Letters. 
And those readers \vho cherish the format as 
well as the matter of a book will congratulate 
themselves that they have in Mr. Shorter's fair 
print and paper books worthy of the story 
they tell. Mr. Turner's books unfortunately 
revealed him as austerely .Puritan in artistic 
nlatters as the seventeenth-century divines who 
-beside the Brontës-were his literary heroes. 
Mr. Turner's original conception for a Brontë 
Club-as he called it-was strictly utilitarian, 
and was free of any tinge of what critics of 
the Browning Society reproved as idolatry. 
He proposed a snlall body strictly lin1Ïted in 
numbers, and in the main composed of those 
who had \vritten on the Brontës-headed, as 
he hoped, by Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Birrell, Sir 
Leslie Stephen, and Sir Wemyss Reid; and the 
programnle of work which he projected \vas 
mainly the preparation of a cOlnplete and 

xhaustiv
 bibliography of Brontë literature, 
119 



Charlotte Brontf.. a Celltenary Melnorial 


and as a secondary object the preservation of 
such traditions of the Brontës as might still be 
current in the dales and n100rlands of the 
Worth valley. 
Mr. Butler Wood accords the credit for the 
\vider lines upon vvhich the idea developed to 
Mr. Yates, though it may bc suspected that 
his o\vn literary tastes had something to do 
\vith thc Inatter. Mr . Yates attached great 
weight to the personal traditions yet to be 
collected. His keen devotion to his own town 
of Dc\vsbury made the Brontë episode in J. 
sense a chapter of the local history, since it 
\vas as curate of the church of that ancient 
parish that the father of the Brontës first appeared 
in Yorkshire. Mr. Yates fa voured also the 
idea of establishing a Brontë Museum-an insti- 
tution in which n1Ïght be brought together 
such relics as were interesting of the ren1ark- 
able family, and all that n1Ïght be gathered of 
their literary remains. And it was an organiza- 
tion on these lines which ultimately came to 
birth. One n1ay say here, anticipating the 
rnarch of events son1ewhat, that while the 
Society may ,veIl look to these t\VO tnen, 
Mr. HorsfaJl r[urner and Mr. Yates, \vith 
filial respect, it honours also with especial ten- 
derness among those whose services it has lost 
by death the n1en10ry of Sir John Brigg. Sir 
John Brigg was nati ve to the soil he long 
120 



The Brontë Society and its Work 


represented in Parliament: he had grown up 
in the very atmosphere in \vhich the Brontës 
moved and had their being. Where few had 
kno\vn the Brontës in anything more than 
externals, he had known about them fronl his 
earliest days. So that it \vas lllore than his 
keen Yorkshire intellect and his literary taste 
which made hinl an untiring reader and a 
devoted admirer of the great books which came 
do\vn from Ha\vorth through Keighley to the 
,vorld. The Brontë Society, then, \vas nursed 
and nourished by Sir John Brigg fronl its infancy, 
though his part in its development was achieved 
so unostenta60usly that few outside the Council 
of the Society realized the energy he put into the 
Society's affairs. They \vere glad occasionally 
after a moorland ramble at Haworth to take 
tea at the liberally spread tables over which he 
presided as host, but Sir John Brigg's services 
to the Society were far nlore intinlate than all 
that alone implies. 
The first public step \vas the issue in the 
nanle of the then Mayor of Bradford (the late 
Alderlnan Jonas Whitley) of invitations to a 
conference, upon December 16, 1893, at the 
Bradford Town Hall, "to consider the advis- 
ability of forming a Brontë Society and Museunl." 
The Rev. W. l-I. Keeling, for nlany years head- 
master of the Bradford Granlmar School, \vas 
voted to the chair, and it may be interesting to 
12J 



Charlotte Brontë.. a Centenary Memorial 


record the names of those present. They were: 
Messrs. E. Alexander, F. C. Barrans, G. Bell; 
Hugh Bingham (Oakenshaw) ; Alderman (after- 
wards Sir) John Brigg (Kildwick) ; J. J. Brigg 
(Keighley); W. M. Brookes; John Clough, j un. 
(Steeton); the Rev. J. "V. Dunne (Létisterdyke) ; 
C. A. Federer, George Field, W. T. Field; 
Geddes (Liverpool); J. A. (afterwards Sir Arthur) 
Godwin; James Gordon; Herbert Hardy 
(Earlsheaton); H. Hartley (Morton); T. H. 
Horsfall; the Rev. W. T. Keyworth (Halifax) ; 
H. F. Killick, Edmund Lee, W. T. McGowen, 
Town Clerk of Bradford; Frank Peel (Heck- 
nlondwike); Collingwood Pollard (l
nornton) ; 
John Popplewell (long Chairman of the Bradford 
Free Libraries Committee); Percival Ross; 
W. Scruton; A. B. Smith (Keighley); J. J. 
Stead (Heckmond\vike); J. A. Erskine Stuart 
(Batley); J. H. 
rattersfield (Mirfield); Robert 
Thornton (Heckmondwike) ; J. Horsfall Turner 
(Idle); S. P. Unwin (Shipley); C. Watson, 
F. Denby Wheater (Haworth); Butler Wood, 
W. W. Yates (Dewsbury), Miss Yates. En- 
couraging letters and messages were also received 
from Messrs. W. Ackroyd (Birkenshaw); the 
Rev. Canon Bardsley (Vicar of Bradford); 
Jonathan Caldwell (Brig house); the Rt. Rev. 
Dr. Boyd Carpenter, Bishop of Ripon; the 
Rev. Canon Lowther Clarke (Vicar of Dewsbury 
and afterwards Bishop of Melbourne); the Misse
 
122 



The Brontë Society and its Work 
Cockshott (Oakworth); Alderman (afterwards 
the Right Hon.) C. Milnes Gaskell (Wakefield) ; 
Mr. (afterwards Sir) Mark Oldroyd, M.P.; 
Mr. Asa H. Pyrah (Mayor of Dewsbury); 
Mr. W. E. B. (afterwards Sir William) Priest- 
ley; Mr. (afterwards Sir) T. Wen1Yss Reid, 
Mr. George Smith, the veteran head of the 
firm of Smith, Elder & Co.-Char1otte Brontë's 
publishers; Mr. William Smith (Morley); 
Mr. Harry Speight (Bingley); Mrs. C. E. 
Sugden (Haworth); Mrs. Stevenson (Market 
Harborough); Mr. W. Douglas Walker (New 
York); Mr. A. H. Wall (Shakespere Museunl, 
Stratford-on-A von); Mr. Josiah Winn (Hali- 
fax); Mr. (afterward Sir) Joseph Woodhead 
(Huddersfield). 
Encouraged with the promise of success in 
numbers and influence-so much beyond the 
expectation of the original promoters-the meet- 
ing proceeded in high spirits to resolve- 


That a Brontë Society be and is hereby formed, and 
that the objects of such Society be, amongst other 
things, to establish a Museum to contain not only 
drawings, manuscripts, paintings, and other personal 
relics of the Brontë family, but all editions of their 
works, the writings of authors upon these works, or 
upon any member of the family, together with photo- 
graphi of places or premises with which the family 
was associated. 


Upon this basis the Hrontë Society canle Into 
12 3 


\ 


. 



CharlfJtte Brontë.' a Centenary MelnfJrÎal 


existence. It continued to work upon these 
simple lines as a literary association, until the 
growing wealth of its collections and a conse- 
quent sense of responsibility rendered the Council 
appointed to deal with the Society's affairs 
anxious that the existence and purpose of their 
organization should in due form be nlade known 
to the law of the land. Consequently in 1902 
the Society secured a certificate of Incorporation 
under the Corn panies Act, I 862. 
In its primary task of estahlishing a Museum 
of Brontë relics the Society has had a great 
nleasure of success. The first question which 
arose was that of situation. The literary pilgrim 
may well think that the question settles itself, and 
that only amid the "heath-clad showery hills" 
of Ha\vorth \vhere those " unquiet souls" found 
themselves would such an institution be in its 
true atmosphere. But there were difficult ques- 
tions of acconlmodation and guardianship to be 
arranged, and sonle members of the Council 
thought the permanence of the institution and 
appeal to the widest possible circle of readers 
dictated the establishment of the collection in 
one of the larger to\vns or cities of the West 
Riding. Mr . Yates urged the claims of Dews- 
bury-others thought Bradford a quite natural 
as well as convenient centre, for \vere not the 
Brontë sisters born in Thornton, within the 
boundaries of the old parish and the modern 
1 2 4 



1ne Brol1të Society and its IJ 7 0rk 
city of Bradford? Haworth, of \vhom hard 
things have in the past most unjustly been 
said, was not unmindful of its own. Haworth 
Brontë lovers-and they ever were numerous 
-took a good part in the organ ization of the 
Society, and the governing body of the district, 
wi th local patriotism, pressed the claims of their 
little moorland town. It was, however, only 
upon a divided vote of six to four that Ha\vorth 
was chosen-though the minute-book of the 
Society takes note of the fact that before the 
voting was reached the Haworth members of 
the Council had trustfully left to catch their 
train. There has never been a moment of doubt 
since that the decision was wise. 
The ideal locality for the Museum comme- 
morating the Brontës would obviously be the 
Parsonage-house consecrated by the romance 
and tragedy of their lives. Precedents as well 
as sentiment pointed a finger in that direction. 
The chief shrine of Shakesperians at Stratford- 
on-Avon is naturally the poet's birthplace; that 
of lovers of Milton the little Buckinghamshire 
Eottage, wreathed in sweetbrier and vine and 
the twisted eglantine, which must ever have 
remained in the inward eye of the poet in his 
days of blindness as the very picture of rural 
delight. The Scottish literary pilgrim turns to 
the little thatched clay biggin of but and ben on 
the road to Alloway, where Burns first saw the 
12 5 



Charlotte BroJJtë: a Centenary MenJOrÙ,1 


light, with even greater charm perhaps than to 
the pretentious but (let it be confessed) rather 
clumsy magnificence of Abbotsford. And there 
are in this land of ours sin1ple homes richly 
" humanized "-as Mrs. Browning put it-with 
cherished associations, standing as memorials 
of Bunyan, Carlyle, Stevenson, and Barrie, of 
Co\vper the poet, of Borrow and }.'itzgerald. 
Above all in appeal, perhaps, is the Dove 
Cottage at the rrown End of Grasmere-that 
"little nook of n10untain ground" - " the 
loveliest spot that man hath ever found" -which 
is inseparably associated \vith \tv ordsworth's days 
of poverty and genius. rrhe difficulties in the 
way of securing the Haworth Parsonage to house 
the Brontë Society's collections have hitherto 
proved insuperable. The building is vested in 
the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and they are 
bound to administer their estates on the strictest 
business principles without fear, favour, or literary 
sentiment. The difficulties are primarily thus 
a matter of finance, and then perhaps of red 
tape. rrhe red tape would probably be easy to 
cut, but for the present the Society has not 
felt itself in a financial position to go to the 
Commissioners with a proposal for the purchase 
or the leasing of the old Parsonage. '1 'he 
securing of that building, so rich in memories, 
is, however, an ideal by no n1eans lost 
sight of. 


126 



1ne Brontë Society find its 1f 7 ork 


In other roonls-pren1ises without romance 
but with convenience enough for the present 
and just at the head of the steep village street 
by the church-the little Museum has been 
arranged. I t is to be supposed, of course, that 
the officers of a society formed to do honour to 
the Brontës would be gratified to find the Brontës 
already high in honour \vith the collectors, but 
the circumstances must have been also just a 
little embarrassing. Even if the American 
millionaires had not commenced to lay up for 
themselves treasures of a literary character, 
prices for the more desirable of Brontë manu- 
scripts might reasonably be fran1ed on a consider- 
able scale. Emily's and Anne's autographs are 
not very n1uch more numerous than those 
of Shakespere himself, for after their deaths 
Charlotte destroyed nearly all within her reach; 
and Charlotte's own, though not rare, are almost 
always so characterful that the slightest scrap 
of her writing is sure to be cherished as of 
interest. With her, of course, the autograph 
collector knows nothing of the mere common- 
places of life, the uninspiring acceptances of 
invitations to dinner or excuses for their refusal, 
and the like, which mark the course through the 
world of most successful authors. So that the 
Society's representative has had to bite his lip 
when collections of letters and even single docu- 
ments have been offered in the sale-roo111s and 
1 2 7 



Charlotte Bront?: a Centenary Mel/Jorial 
have attracted bids altogether beyond the Society's 
resources to com pete. 
Such esteen1 in the market has brought other 
dangers. That apt and versatile rascal the 
literary forger has been ten1pted to try his hand 
at supplying the den1ands, and there have been 
from time to tin1e at least a few proved forgeries 
of Brontë documents put before the public, and 
others much to be suspected. Even a great 
institution like the National Portrait Gallery, 
for all the learning and critical acumen of its 
staff, has not been proof against these dangers, as 
the unlucky picture of "Charlotte Brontë" 
"wearin' of the green H bought in 1906 proved. 
Moreover the Brontë Museum is not merely a 
collection of literary and artistic objects, the 
genuineness of which n1ay be tested, but it 
includes objects of domestic association with the 
family. As may be imagined, these present 
frequent difficulties of provenance, due not to 
dishonesty but (shall one say?) to the charitable 
disposition of the owner to give his rather doubt- 
ful treasure all the benefit of the doubt. Thus 
some curious facts have come to light. For 
instance, there are extant no fewer than five 
pianos from the Brontë household. Who would 
have supposed that a household so small, with 
so little money for superfluities, and in musical 
matters of no particular virtuosity, could have 
had use for that number of instruments? 
128 



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The Brontë Society and its Work 


Spectacles worn by the Rev. Patrick Brontë are 
in the hands of dealers in such matters as 
numerous as though some melnber of the fan1ily 
of the incumbent of Haworth had, like the un- 
lucky heir of his neighbour the Vicar of \" ake- 
field, bought a bargain lot at the fair. It is 
only just to say, however, that StIch relics of 
unequivocal authenticity are rather nun1erous. 
Indeed, three pairs have been admitted to the 
Museum. 
Steering a cautious way amid these dangers, the 
Council of the Society has laid the foundation 
of an excellen t and most interesting collection. 
No doubt now that, when the pern1anence of the 
organization and the evergreen freshness of the 
Brontë story in the public mind have been proved 
by time, Brontë collectors who have collected 
for love and not for "an investlllent" will 
appreciate the opportunity of handing to the 
Society's guardianship treasures which they do 
not choose to imagine scattered to the winds in 
the sordid profanation of the auction. Already 
at least one distinguished American Brontë 
enthusiast, and n10re than one on this side of the 
l\.tlantic, has intimated pri vatel y to the Council 
of the Society an intention to "remember in his 
\viJl" the little institution at Haworth. 
Little space need here be devoted to a review 
of the collection, for then; has been issued among 
the Society's publications an annotated and illus- 
129 I 



Charlotte Brolltë: a Centenary Menlorial 
trated catalogue of the Museum, compiled by the 
Hon. Secretary, Mr. W. T. Field. The Brontë 
student, it may, however, be said, wiIJ feel that 
all goes well and upon the right lines. Already 
the series of portraits is fairly full. No one, of 
course, will grudge the fact that Richmond's 
drawing of Charlotte Brontë is here only in 
reproduction. The original is in the National 
Portrait Gallery-where it ought to be; and 
Branwell Brontë's portrait, too, of his sister Emily, 
for all its technical imperfections, sustains, not 
without dignity, a great name among her peers 
in the national collection. l
he Brontë Society 
has, however, a number of pencil sketches by 
Branwell of his sisters and a water-colour of 
Emily which is probably by him, though it has 
come to be attributed to Charlotte's own hand. 
But Charlotte certainly drew a portrait of her 
sister Anne which is very welcome here. Anne 
was the beauty of the family, and the picture 
suggests a sweet expression of countenance, though 
her neck is hardly "in drawing, U as an artist 
would say. But we must remember that the 
"Books of Beauty U of the tinle favoured for 
ladies a peculiar elongation of neck. Tom 
Moore set forth the ideal throat for a lady as 
" swan-like," and the ideal has evidently affected 
the real in Charlotte's picture. As for Branwell 
himself, there is here a silhouette-a work not 
without a great deal of character-and a large 
13 0 



The Brontë Society and its if/ork 
and we]} modelled medallion by Ley land of 
Halifax, who \vas one of his associates in the 
days when BralHvell's optin1Ïsm foresa\v fame and 
fortune as a painter. The original daguerreo- 
type of the father, hea vi I y stocked, and grimmer 
in expression than the worst gossip of Haworth 
ever made him in reality, is here, and beside it 
is a water-colour picture by a professional like- 
ness-maker of Mrs. Brontë, endorsed laconically 
by the old man "This is my wife. tt Mr. Brontë 
did not wear his heart on his sleeve. Of those 
who can1e within the Brontë orbit a very good 
series has been accumulated. l
here are gaps 
yet to be fiJIed, but the institution has become 
the natural depositary for the portraits of the 
notabilities of the country-side, and n1any of those 
who figure in the novels or are named in the 
letters are represented. Of personal souvenirs of 
the Brontës there are many. Charlotte's hus- 
band, the Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls, who had so 
brief a married life after his long and patient 
waiting for her hand, preserved his wife's denlure 
wedding-dress and bridal bouquet, and they are 
here. From his keeping, hal f a century after 
Charlotte's death, came also toys from the 
Haworth nursery, painting appliances, and inti- 
mate treasures like desks and work-boxes, which 
apparently had never been opened since Charlotte 
herself closed the lids. In one of them, among 
other cherished trifles, was found the silver medal 
13 1 



Charlotte BrfJntë.' a Centenary Melnorial 
which Charlotte gained at Miss W ooler's school 
at Roe Head. l\1iss N ussey has told the story 
of this relic. l'he medal was a trophy at the 
school, to be \vorn for the time being by the girl 
who most distinguished herself in "the fulfiln1ent 
of duties." Charlotte won it in her first half- 
year at school, and never had to pass it on to a 
n10re exemplary companion, so that upon her 
leaving the school the medal was presented to her. 
One feels that such a relic is in its proper place 
in the Museum. There are pencil and \vater- 
colour dra\vings by almost every n1en1ber of the 
family-very nun1erous examples by Charlotte, 
including a really spirited dra\ving of her dog 
Floss, but n10st of then1 are precise and painful 
reproductions of steel engravings or lithographs. 
Their interest is mainly their disclosure of an 
imaginative interest in the Haydon and Stotharù 
type of composition hardly tolerable to the 
modern generation of art-lovers. A drawing by 
Emily of her faithful and n1uch loved bull-dog 
Keeper-who himself played his part in Shirley, 
and is remembered as having broken-heartedly 
followed his young mistress's coffin into the very 
church-this is priceless. 
The budding literary amhition is represented 
by the microscopic n1agazines written by the 
children in the Haworth nursery-those queer 
little compositions in which they practised their 
'prentice hands in \vild poetry, and \vilder prose, 
13 2 



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II 



The Bronti'" Society find its Work 


A good many of Branwell's compositions are in 
the collection. Those of the sisters have pro- 
duced such prodigious prices in the sale-rooms 
that the Society has had to content itself with a 
specimen and await the generosity of its friends. 
Then, of course, there are d ul y represented the 
hooks by which fame came.-the poems and then 
the novels. Most of these are in modern editions 
or translations. First editions will no doubt 
con1e some day. The first step in the ladder of 
fan1e is represented here, and one rejoices in the 
circunlstance that it has been preserved. Every 
one remenlbers that of the little book of poems 
on the publication of which the sisters expended 
a bequest from their aunt only two copies were 
sold. One of these somehow came into the hands 
of Frederick Enoch, the author of the song, once 
famous, "My s \veetheart \vhen a boy." Hi s 
perception was sufficiently acute to recognize 
genius in the work, and he \vrote to the unknown 
poetesses for their autographs. Here is the sheet 
of demurely written signatures-" Currer Bell," 
"f]lis Bell" and "Acton Bell "-in hands Ull- 
n1Ïstakably felninine, which was sent in response 
to the request, hut cautiously posted in London, 
through the instrumentality of their publishers, 
lest their anonymity should be conlpron1ised. 
At the opening of the exhihition the Society 
\vas privileged to have awhile on loan the 
original manuscripts of Jane Eyre and Villette- 
133 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Memorial 


out of the almost inexhaustible store of treasures 
belonging to the firm of Messrs. Smith, Elder & 
Co., the original publishers of the novels. But 
as a permanent possession, of course, such relics 
are beyond hope. The only one of the manu- 
scripts which did not pass into the possession of 
the firm-that of 11ze Professor, or, as it was 
originally caBed, The Master-is now in the col- 
lection of Mr. Pierpont Morgan in New York. 
But already the series of letters by Charlotte is 
rich in interest. A few have been bought, but 
for the most part the Society looks with gratitude 
to Mr ']'. J. Wise, the well-known collector, 
for the gift of docuInen ts of the tenderest interest. 
Among them, bound sumptuously, are those last 
faint lines in pencil, almost too sacred for full 
publication in print, which Charlotte wrote to 
her friend Ellen N ussey from "my weary bed" 
within a few hours of her death. These are 
where they should be-in the keeping of those 
who will reverence theln. 
A few manuscripts of Mrs. Gaskell, of Mr. 
Nicholls, and of Mr. Brontë are included, among 
them being an elaborate list of French phrases 
compiled by Mr. Brontë for his own use during 
his t:xpedition to Brussels in 1842 to deposit 
his daughters in the famous school in the Rue 
d'lsabelle. Space forbids that the review of the 
little coBection of treasures should be carried 
farther. Suffice it to say that Brontë lovers 
134 



1ne Brontë Society and its Work 


and even the casual public have found encourage- 
ment and reward for frequent visits to the 
Museum. During the twenty-one years it has 
been open there have paid for admission n10re 
than 54,000 persons. This takes no account of 
the members of the Society, who are admitted 
freely and whose visits and revisits are unrecorded. 
The first publication issued by the Society- 
in January 189 5-was an extensive "Biblio- 
graphy of the Works of the Brontë Family: 
including a list of books and magazine articles 
on the Brontës, together with a notice of works 
relating to Haworth." It was prepared by Mr. 
Butler Wood, who early in the Society's work 
had been marked out by the Council to act as 
Bibliographical and Publication Secretary. This 
first effort was followed two and a half years 
later by a suppleInentary list. Sonle evidence 
of the interest which successive generations of 
readers and wri ters have taken in the Bron tës 
and their books, is afforded by the fact that 
these two bibliographical lists enumt:rated nearly 
seven hundred items. And they are now 
twenty years or more old. Since the Society's 
work initiated a new era of widespread interest, 
a positive flood of literature discussing the 
ßrontës has proceeded from the press, and it is 
quite probable that a second supplement to the 
Bibliography could be corn piled as extensive as 
both the prt:vious lists taken together. I t is 
135 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Memorial 


a task for the future. Meanwhile one n1ay 
note that the cosmopolitan character of the 
reputation of the novels is indicated by the fact 
that beside the nUInerous reprints which have 
appeared in England, Scotland, the United 
States of America, Canada, and Australia, trans- 
lations of one or more have been published in 
France, Russia, Germany, and Austria, and 
dramatized versions have been printed in the 
United States, France, Germany, Italy, and 
Denmark. Jane Eyre has most commended 
itself to the foreign taste. Mr. G. K. Chester- 
ton once shocked the Society by commending 
Jane Eyre as the best "penny dreadful," the 
most thrilling detective-story ever written in 
English, and he lamented that it alone of the 
novels of Charlotte Brontë followed the true 
n1elodramatic sequence. Whatever may be 
thought of Mr. Chesterton's striking and un- 
expected way of putting things, the truth which 
he was emphasizing (or over-emphasizing) no 
doubt lies at the root of the popularity of Jane 
Eyre in a foreign dress. Shirley, despite those 
qualities-or perhaps because of them-which 
make it most typical and photographically real 
of all Yorkshire novels ever written, has also 
found some acceptance in France and Germany. 
But, curiously, Villette, which many English 
readers would be disposed to regard as the 
most delightful, the most powerful of the series, 
13 6 



1Ïze Brontë Society and its Work 


has never found a French translator-and that 
notwithstanding its brilliantly drawn background 
of the little city of Brussels. Perhaps the main 
reason is that the point of view is so singularly 
individual, so rernote and perhaps so incompre- 
hensible to the Continental mind; for the original 
reason \vhich prevented its translation - the 
desire to spare the feel ings of persons all too 
easily to be identified-can have little weight 
when after this lapse of years all who were con- 
cerned have passed away. 
I t is a little curious, too, that on the Continent 
the name of " Brontë" is still altnost unknown, 
and the works of the sisters still bear only their 
early pseudonyms, " Currer BeIJ," "Ellis Bell," 
and" Acton Bell." It is only within the last few 
years that, in the pages mainly of the Abbé 
Dimnet, there has reached Continental readers 
some echo of the pathetic story which surrounds 
the production of the novels and some fragrance 
of the peat-smoke of the old homesteads of 
the Haworth moors and hillsides. Even M. 
Maeterlinck's contribution to Brontë literature 
is rather a study of Wuthering Heights in vacuo. 
I Ie divined son1ething of the truth, hut did not 
really con1prehend its author-she 


whose soul 
Knew no fellow for might, 
Passion, vehemence, grief
 
Daring, since Byron Jied. 
137 



Charlotte Brontë.' a CeJJteJJary Menloria/ 
In the earlier days of the Society a good 
deal of labour was devoted to the task of 
searching out the originals of the places which 
Charlotte Brontë drew in her novels and of the 
characters with which she peopled those scenes. 
Charlotte Brontë's genius was curiously objective. 
Qui te as much as any of the writers of her 
generation she was "subjective" in her themes. 
Just as n1uch as Wordsworth, though without 
a trace of his egotism, she was interested-and 
interested her readers-in the working of her 
own mind and of her own emotions. Except 
in that single and splendid instance when she 
allowed her fancy to conceive what might have 
been had Nature endowed the stalwart spirit 
of her sister Emily with a healthy body and 
the social opportunities of a lady of a nlanor, 
Charlotte herself was her o\vn heroine, and her 
spiritual adventures were, \vith singularly little 
translation and imaginative extension, the pur- 
pose of her work. It is this realism which 
appeals to the soul of the reader; but it is 
supported by an appeal to the mind through a 
precision of observation and meticulous delinea- 
tion of the objects and the people around her, 
such as one finds in equal degree in few other 
writers. If the Celt \vithin her indulged in the 
building of castles of romance, the Y orkshire- 
woman saw to it that they were constructed uf 
sound materials and firm based as solid earth 
13 8 



The Brontë Society and its Work 
-the rough rock of mind and heart which 
she found in the men and women about her, 
the picturesque and enduring gritstone and oak 
of the Pennine homesteads, or maybe the brick 
and stucco of her Belgian schooldays. 
Thus Yorkshire folk recognized even in the 
backgrounds of the drama a phase of interest 
lost to the stranger-or only unconsciously 
enjoyed-that interest in familiar things pictured 
which is of universal appeal. The examination 
of origins did not, of course, imply blindness or 
numbness to the greater purpose-the psycho- 
logical drama, but was the development of a further 
charm for those who could share it. One need 
not stay here to defend this research, though 
it has been denied that the admirer of a work of 
art has any right to peep behind the veil \vhich 
hides the artist in his studio, to ask any questions 
about his models, or to analyze his palette. 
That attitude was hardly possible even as a 
monastic ideal, and generations far removed 
from one another in other points of view ha ye 
agreed in treasuring even indifferent pictures 
when they could recognize Dante, or Raphael, 
or the young Keats drawn to the life in figures 
in the background, and to accept even the 
faultless craftsn1anship of a Millais as enhanced 
in interest by the knowledge that his picture \vas 
something more than a fancy out of Boccaccio 
or Chaucer, but gave us veritable likenesses of his 
139 


. 



Charlotte Bronti!.' a Centenary Memorial 
kindred spirits in the Pre-Raphaelite Brother- 
hood. 
I t is true this work of identifying originals 
in the novels of Charlotte Brontë was commenced 
a little too soon for the authoress's own peace of 
mind, and, as is the way of a gossip-loving \vorld, 
it was nlostly the least complimentary features 
which were recognized-Cromwell's wart rather 
than his massive brow and far-seeing eye-and 
was in consequence resented. But one could 
\vish that it had entered into the heart of one of 
Charlotte's contemporaries to have annotated her 
novels, for much that bears the convincing 
sirnilitude of realism in personality and cir- 
cumstance is not now to be connected with its 
orIgin. 
'fhe first volume of the Transactions of the 
Society contained valuable aids to the study of 
the topography of the novels. Dr. J. A. ]-
rskine 
Stuart, who had been perhaps the first to give 
the subject earnest study, read to the Society in 
1894 a suggestive paper on the Brontë Nomen- 
clature. 
The Rev. T. Keyworth and Mr. J. J. Stead 
in 1896 put before the Society clear evidence 
for the identification of the Morton of lane Eyre 
with the little Derbyshire viJIage of Hathersage, 
the home of the Rev. Henry Nussey, brother of 
Charlotte's friend, Ellen N ussey-a zealous young 
clergyman \vho ,vas beyond question the model 
14 0 



L 



 



 



 
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E-< 



 
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...,-: 

 

 
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The Bronti' Society and its Work 


for the strongly individual character of St. John 
Rivers in the novel. Mr. Stead also compiled in 
1896, for an excursion of the Society to the 
country about Birstall depicted in Shirley, a precise 
little guide-book-if it may be so called--which 
has been very useful and was reprinted by the 
Society, with additions and excellent illustrations, 
ten years later. And the late Mr. P. F. Lee 
recounted some associations of Charlotte with 
Bridlington \vhich threw a little light on some 
passages i 11 the novels and much more upon a 
pleasant episode of Charlotte's life. In a series 
of parts of the 'lransactions of the Society- 
constituting the third volume-the writer of 
these lines was permitted to bring together a 
n10re exhaustive account, from published and 
unpublished sources, of 1ne Persons and Places 
of the Bronie" Novels. 
In the san1e spirit, though less directly associated 
with the Brontës and their writings, have been 
the studies of the local history of Haworth and 
of Thornton which the n1embers have received 
through the instrumentality of the Society. The 
former was originally written by Mr. J. Frederick 
Greenwood, of Haworth, to be put into the 
hands of the melnbers of the British Association 
for the Advancement of Science, on the occasion 
of the Bradford meeting in 1900, when an 
excursion to Haworth was included among the 
relaxations from tht sterner labours of the lecture- 
14 1 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Menlorial 
r00111S. Rightly judging the work to be of too 
much permanent interest to be lost sight of in 
the casual papers of that meeting, the Council of 
the Society secured permission to reprint it, and 
it now takes its place in the second volume of the 
'rransactions. The historical sketch of Thornton 
entitled Thornton and the Bronfis was issued as 
a separate publication by Mr. William Scruton, 
the author of man y historical studies of Bradford 
and its neighbourhood, and by the generosity of 
Sir William Priestley, M.P., a copy was presented 
to each n1ember of the Society. The work is of 
special interest to Brontë students not only for 
its careful presentation of the remote little village 
in which the Brontës were born-an environment 
which affected the novels themselves in many 
ways-but also because there are embodied in 
it the impressions of several of those who had 
personal association with the Brontës in their 
own home. 
1"'he Society has also manifested its interest in 
the topographical side of Brontë studies by 
organizing each summer an excursion to one 
place or another associated with the Brontës and 
their books. Ha worth, of course, has claimed 
most attention, and assemblies there have been 
numerous-sometimes to visit the Museum, 
sometin1es to enjoy the scent of the heather on the 
moors, sometin1es to push farther afield to the 
old homesteads Ponden and Wycoller, which were 
14 2 



7Ïze Brontë Society and itJ Work 


fami liar scenes to the sisters and find SQlne 
reflection in the scenery of the novels. Several 
visits have been made to Oakwell I-Iall-the 
principal scene of Shirley -and to other spots of 
interest in its vicinity-to the Kirkby Lonsdale 
district on the borders of Westmorland and the 
Derbyshire village of Hathersage painted in 1ane 
Eyre, and on one occasion it ,vas proposed to 
undertake a visit to Brussels. Unluckily the 
enterprise was postponed, and before another 
opportunity arose the Rue d'lsabelle and the old 
school buildings themselves had been whoJI y 
swept away in the grandiose preparations for the 
erection of a Central railway station. 
1
he reading of papers) a form of activity which 
has been disparaged as the ploughing of sands, 
was, as will have been noticed, not the prime and 
supreme object of the Brontë Society as it was 
\vith the Wordsworth, Browning, and similar 
societies. But the men1bers have very gladly 
listened to all who had a "message." It nlay be 
confessed that it was with the hope of securing 
for the Brontës a place in that noble series of 
addresses on literary suhjects, for which Lord 
Rosebery secured the gratitude of book-lovers, 
that the members at the outset of the Society 
elected his lordship as their president. Lord 
J{osebery was at the monlent engrossed with 
the labours of the Foreign Office, and very soon 
afterwards was to become Premier. Apparently 
143 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary MeJJlori'al 


he hesitated; he sent the Society an encouraging 
assurance of his interest in their \vork, but 
ultimately declined the office. I..ord Houghton, 
after\vards the Marquis of Crewe) himself a poet 
and the son of a Yorkshire poet) accepted the 
position of president, but though he held it for 
twelve years he was unhappily prevented fronl 
taking any part in the work of the Society. He 
was succeeded in 1906 by Sir John Brigg, M.I
., 
who remained president till his death in 191 I, 
when Mrs. Hun1phry Ward acceded to the 
request of the Society to undertake the duties. 
Of Sir John Brigg's part in the affairs of the 
Society something has already been said, and 
Mrs. \Vard has on one or two occasions found 
it possible to encourage the Society by her 
presence and speech. 
Other distinguished students of literature have 
fron1 time to tinle addressed the Society. Sir 
T. WenlYss Reid, who was, after Mrs. Gaskell, 
the first to raise the veil for \vorshippers at the 
Brontë shrine, was only prevented by illness 
fronl formally opening the Museun1 in 1895, 
and a paper which he prepared for that occa- 
sion, and an address he delivered to the Society 
in 1898, are printed an10ng the Society's Trans- 
actions. Mr. Swinburne and Mr. J\ugustine 
BirreJl could never be persuaded to add any- 
thing by \vay of personal encouragement to the 
Society beyond the stinlulus afforded by 
heiJ: 
144 



1ïze Brontë Society and lis Work 


admirable contributions to Brontë literature. 
But Mr. Shorter, the editor of the letters-to 
vvhom aU Brontë students are suprell1el y grate- 
ful-and Sir W. Robertson Nicoll were early 
in their assistance and couns,=l. rrhe literary 
problems of the Brontës, their genius, their place 
in the history of the 
:nglish nove], have been 
very suggestively discussed by Dr. !{. Garnett, long 
of the British Museulll, Mr. G. K. Chesterton 
and Mr. .A.. C. Benson-who devoted themselves 
particularly to the \vork of Charlotte Brontë; by 
Lord I--laldane and Mr. J. Fotheringhan1-who 
dealt specifically with Emily Brontë ; and aspects 
of the subject have been treated n10re generally 
by Professor G. Saintsbury, Mr. Edmund Gosse, 
Mr. Ernest de Sélincourt, Professor C. E. 
Vaughan, and Mr. 'rholnas Seccombe. Mr. 
Halliwell SutclifFe, who has enriched the Ha\vorth 
district and the wild country beyond by an 
assiduous collection and a skilled literary treat- 
ment of a mass of tradition untouched by the 
Brontës, dealt almost lyrically of" The Spirit 
of the Moors" in one address to the Society; and 
Mr. Keighley Snowden, another novelist native 
to the soil who has found yet other sources of 
local inspiration, has been among those who 
have paid tribute to the genius of the Brontë 
family. 'T'he contributions of Sir Sidney Lee, 
of the Right Rev. J. E. C. Welldon (Dean of 
Manchester), and of Mrs. l
:Ilis H. Chadwick 


145 


K 



Charlotte Broil!?: a Centenory Me1JI0ria/ 


have been of a biographical character. Sir 
Sidney Lee related Inany interesting retlliniscences 
still current in the family of the late Sir George 
Smith, concerning Charlotte Brontë's relations 
with the fÏ.rnl of Snlith, EJder & Co., and of 
her visits to London. Bishop vVelldon dealt 
with certain Manchester literary associations, for 
it will he relnelnbered that it was w hiJst at 
Manchester that Charlotte Brontë c0l11menced 
to write Jane 1!...yre. These and other addresses 
have nluch enriched the Society's Transactions. 
})ioneer work in the study of material untouched 
hitherto-the J uveniJia-has been carried out by 
Dr. George Edwin MacLean, the forn1er head' 
of the UnIversity of Io\va, in the United States, 
and he has shown that there exists here a profit- 
able fieJd which it may be hoped will continue 
to be cultivated. One n1ust not forget in this 
brief review of the Society's publications that 
through the generosity of Mr. John Waugh- 
an enthusiastic Brontë collector-the Society was 
enabled to reprint for the members' use the 
adnlirable article which rv1iss Nusser wrote in 
Scribner's Magazine as long ago as 187 I, pre- 
serving most valuable renliniscences of her life- 
long friend. Miss N ussey had attai ned a very 
ad vanced age before the Society came into 
existence, and she could never be persuaded to 
leave the seclusion with which she ever sur- 
rounded herself to take a part in the Society's 
14 6 



1ne Brontë Societ)' and its Work 


affairs, but she n1anifested the keenest interest 
in its "vork, and many of the relics which she 
had preserved find a place in the Museum. 
From the beginning the Society has been 
fortunate in its officers. The duties of Secretary 
were at the outset carried out by Mr. J. Hors- 
fall Turner. On his retirement Mr. Butler 
Wood was elected as Bibliographical Secretary 
and Mr. vVilliam T. F
ield as Corresponding 
Secretary, and it is fair to say that the Society 
owes much of its success to their enthusiastic 
energy and caution. The Treasurers of the 
Society have been the late F. G. Galloway, of 
Bradford (I 894 to his death in 1896); the late 
Alfred Newboult, of Bradford (1896 to his death 
in 1897); Mr. J. J. Stead, of Heckmondwike 
(1898-1906); Mr. Frederick A. T. Mossman, 
of Bradford (1906-1915); and Mr. W. Robert- 
shaw (since 1915). Though the membership of 
the Society has been drawn from practically all 
parts of the English-speaking world, it has been a 
matter of convenience that the members of the 
Council of the Society have principally been 
residents within easy reach of Haworth and 
Bradford, and it is satisfactory that there has 
never been a moment when interest in the 
Society's affairs has flagged. The following 
ha ve acted as chairmen of the Council :-Sir 
John Brigg, M.P. (1894-1896); Mr. J. J. 
Brigg, of Keighley (1897); Mr. J. F. Green- 
147 



Charlotte Brol1ti!: a Centenary MelJ10rin! 
wood, of Haworth (1898-1900); Mr. W. W. 
Yates, of Dewsbury (1901); Mr. S. P. Unwin, 
of Shipley (1902-1905); Mr. Butler Wood, of 
Bradford (I 906- I 908) ; Mr. J. J. Stead, of Heck- 
mondwike (1909-1910); Miss Cockshott, of Oak- 
worth (191 I) ; Mr. W. de Witt Blackstock, of 
Chapel-en-le-Frith (1912); Mr. John Watkin- 
son, of Huddersfield (1913); Mr. George Day, 
of Oewsbury (1914) ; and Mr. Frederick A. T. 
Mossman, of Bradford (1915-1916). 


14 8 



THE PLACE OF CHARLOTTE 
BRONTË IN NINETEENTH 
CENTURY FICTION 


By DR. RICHARD GARNETT, C.B. 


AN ADDRESS DELIVERED TO THE BRONTË SOCIETY AT KEIGHLEY, 
ON JANUARY 23, 19 0 4- 


, 




THE PLACE OF CHARI
OTT'E BRON1'Ë 
IN NINETEENTH CEN1"'UI{Y FIC1'ION 


THE invitation to address, on the subject of 
Charlotte Brontë, an audience of Charlotte 
ßrontë's country people, who, if her life could 
have been prolonged to the present day, would 
have been her friends and neighbours, and 
failing that are her sincere venerators and ad- 
mirers, may well be regarded as both an honour 
and a pleasure by any to \vhose lot it nlay fall. 
In nlY case it is attended with peculiar gratifica- 
tion, inasmuch as, though not a native or an 
inhabitant of the Brontë country, I Jnay clain1 
sonIC affinity with it. My ancestors, when I 
first encounter then1, are found dwelling in 
the little n100rland halnlet of Eldwick, in the 
neighbourhood of Bingley, and I was tHyself 
baptized in Bingley Parish Church. The possi- 
hility of walking fronl Bingley to Ha\vorth and 
back in a long sumn1er morning was, whcn I 
was younger and more active than I anl now, 
victoriousl y demonstrated by tnyself. I feel, 
therefore, that I anI not altogether anlong 
15 1 



Charlotte Brollti:": a Centenary Me1JlorÎal 


strangers, and that I t11ay clainl sonIe little parti- 
cipation in the honour which the birth of 
Charlotte Brontë at Haworth reflects upon the 
district. Happy the district which does possess 
a nlinor tutelary divinity, or at least a local 
hero or heroine! Daniel Webster, addressing 
the citizens of Rochester in the State of New 
York, a place celebrated for its lofty waterfaJl, 
informed thenl that no people had ever lost 
their liberties "vho had a "vaterfall forty feet 
high. 

 tan statement; taller, some think, 
than the \vaterfall. But it is perfectly true that 
a conlmunity with a great nlenlory of person 
or event to \vhich it can and does look up is 
more certain than a cot11munity less fortunate 
in this particular of retaining its self-respect. 
The very fact, ho\vever, that I share in the 
patriotic feeling which has founded and which 
nlaintains the Brontë Society, admonishes nle to 
be cautious in my treatnle!lt of Charlotte Brontë. 
Among the reports of the proceedings of previous 
nleetings which have been kindJ y sent nle for 
p
rusal 1 observe an excellent remark, not 
emanating fronl a distinguished visitor but fronl 
one of yoursel ves, that there is a danger attend- 
ing all societies fornled for the study and 
celebration of particular authors, the danger, 
namely, that the author in question may conle 
to be regarded as the centre, so to speak, of a 
solar systenl, around whonl all other authors 
15 2 



Charlotte Brontë ill Nineteenth Century Fiction 


revolve like Ininor lutninaries. 
rhis would be 
a \vrong position even for a Shakespeare or a 
Dante, or a Goethe, not to say a Spenser or a 
Chaucer. "[here is no centre for the uni verse 
of Literature but the ideal of Literature her- 
self, the light that never was on sea or land. 
Especially is this danger aggravated when, as in 
our case, patriotic fervour blends \vith æsthetic 
adn1Ïration. vVithin due lilnits this fervour is 
a t110st excellent thing. It supplies warmth and 
colour; to vary slightly a saying of Emerson's, 
it sets criticist11 aflanle \vith emotion: nay, it 
aids to the shortconling of the critical faculty. 
As so finely said by Shelley, "Love \vhere 
Wisdon1 fails makes Cythna wise." But, carried 
to excess, it affixes a note of provincialisn1 upon 
the admirers, and, which is lnuch worse, upon 
the object of their adnliration also. '[his inl- 
putation of provincialisnl may be extrelnely 
unjust, but so long as it adheres it is fatal, and 
rightl y so, for provincialisnl in the sense in which 
laIn en1ploying the term denotes a stratunl ot 
n1Ïnd below the region of the highest excellence, 
pernlanent) y and irremediahly at a lower level. 
It is not like a stain upon a fine stuff, it is a 
stuff of inferior texture throughout; and in 
worse plight than material stuff inasnluch as it 
cannot be converted into a finer Inaterial by 
mechanical procêss, as Sir John Cutler's worsted 
stockings becalne silk stockings by assiduous 
153 



Charlotte _Brontë: a Centenary Memorial 
darning. I will not say that it cannot be dyed 
to look for awhile like the better quality, but 
such dyes are deficient in permanence, and you 
cannot dye a second-rate author once a fortnight, 
Eke a Persian's beard. We could not do Charlotte 
Brontë a greater disservice than to fix the note 
of Provincialism upon her. I nstead, therefore, 
of devoting my paper to an encomium upon 
her, which might be perilous, I shall compare 
her \vith those great, and, as I frankly admit, 
in nlany respects greater, authors of her time 
\vith \VhOnl she admits of comparison, and 
endeavour to show that she has a sphere of her 
own independent of any of theirs, which she 
occupies with as much mastery as any of them 
occupy their own, and which but for her would 
have remained unoccupied by any first-class 
writer. The sphere I nlean is a sphere of sub- 
jective feeling in the narrowest sense of the 
tern1. I aln not comparing Charlotte Brontë 
with \vriters like George Eliot, who delineate 
subjective enlotion fronl the outside as creators 
or observers, and paint states of feeling nlost 
alien to their own, inspired by passions of which 
they thernselves have had no experience. Such 
a nlethod is a blending of the objective and 
subjective; it is subjective in so far as it deline- 
ates mental states, and only uses incident as a 
means of producing those states; but it is 
objective in so far as it describes conditions 
L54 



Charlotte Brontë in Mneteenth Century Fiction 


external to the author, and unshared by hin1. 
The subjectivity of Charlotte Brontë is that more 
intense subjectivity of which, when fictitious 
narrative is its medium, Byron is perhaps the 
most conspicuous example in our literature, 
where fictitious narrative is merely the means 
of expressing the writer's own personality, and, 
substantially, story and character and reflection 
are but the externa] projection of his own being. 
In making the round of Charlotte Brontë and 
those of her contemporaries \vho have pretensions 
to stand in the first rank, I think \ve shall find 
that she is the only one who absolutely conforms 
to this model : and if so, she has a sphere of her 
own; and if this is the case, and if she fills this 
sphere wi th no less power and mastery than her 
most eminent contemporaries fill theirs, she is 
no less entitled to the first-class rank than they 
are, even though her sphere may be considerably 
more restricted. Of course she was very far 
from having the field of subjective fiction of the 
intenser type entirely to herseJf. The number 
of novels of this type published in the Early 
and Middle Victorian periods was very great, 
and nlany of them were very excellent fictions, 
but I do not think that there are any besides hers 
for which anyone at the present day would be 
disposed to clain] the attribute of genius. One 
result of this method of treatment Inust be that 
we shan have Jess to say of Charlotte Brontë: 
155 


, 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary JvlenllJrial 


herself and more of her contemporaries than 
might be expected in a discourse of which she 
is the professed subject. But it is well in her 
own interest to turn aside for awhile from the 
direct contemplation of her as an isolated literary 
phenomenon, and note ho\v she stands with refer- 
ence to those kindred geniuses who share with 
her the admiration of posterity. If she appeared 
as the satellite of any of these she would have to 
be content \vith a secondary position. But I 
think it will appear that she occupies quite a 
distinct position of her o\vn, and fills a place to 
which they do not pretend. I do not, of course, 
intend by this a merely local position as the 
laureate of the nloorlands, or even as the literary 
representative of the great West Riding of Y ork- 
shire. It is here that the caution which I have 
ventured to give against provincialism is applic- 
able. The West Riding may and should glory 
in her; but if she is to rank among great writers, 
it nlust be shown that her West Riding tales are 
as fit for universal humanity as George Sand's 
id yIls of Berrichon country life, no less steeped 
in local colouring than Charlotte Brontë's novels, 
but readable fronl China to Peru. 

rhe great novelists of the early and middle 
divisions of the Victorian era, who constitute the 
constellation of which we maintain Charlotte 
Brontë to have been a bright particular star, are 
Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Kingsley
 
1$6 



Charlotte BroJ1/if ÙI Nineteenth Century Fiction 
Anthony Trollope, Mrs. Gaskell, Bulwer, Borrow, 
and Disraeli. The list is rigidly framed, exclud- 
ing writers so exceJJent in their respective styles 
as Mrs. Oliphant, Miss Y onge, and Wilkie 
Collins. I think it will be allowed that the 
quality of genius may be predicated of them all. 
Some doubts might possibly arise respecting the 
claims of Bulwer and Trollope to this di vine 
attribute: but, even if the n1en were not in the 
strictest sense geniuses, their talent appears all 
the more prodigious, and their productiveness 
renders them more conspicuous in our literature 
than writers of finer endowments whose spheres 
were more limited and partial. 
Dickens and Thackeray, though each had too 
much good taste to depreciate the other openly, 
neither admired nor sympathized with each other 
as they might have done. Nevertheless, their 
names are as intimately coupled in our literature 
as are in German literature the names of the two 
poets whose union in mind and heart was most 
perfect, Goethe and Schiller, and for the same 
reason, not merely because they were iJlustrious 
contemporaries, but because they are both the 
contrasts to and the complements of each other. 
Dickens is the prose poet, Thackeray the con- 
summatt: master of prose. Dickens is the great 
painter of the teeming life of the humbler orders 
of society: Thackeray of the higher and of the 
upper middle classes and those parasitic growths 
157 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary lYfeJllorial 


of humbler origin-the valet, the biJJ discounter, 
the toady, and the like-which insinuate then1- 
selves into their sphere. Dickens is the unsur- 
passed master of broad hun10ur whether jovial 
or grotesque; Thackeray of humour in its more 
refined n1anifestations. Thackeray is a most 
adn1Ïrable \vriter both of humorous and pathetic 
verse, but you can scarcely call him a poet: 
Dickens is rarel yother than a poet, though much 
beside, but his n1etrical performances are insig- 
nificant. Neither touch Charlotte Brontë any- 
where, they leave the field entirely open for her 
peculiar gift: and, notwithstanding her enthusi- 
astic adn1iration for Thackeray, she \vould have 
\vritten as she has written if he had not existed. 
It is scarcely needful to discuss the relation of 
Anthony Trollope and George Eliot to Charlotte 
Brontë, as they both came after her, and had 
there oeen any question of borrowing or of 
influence, thèy would evidently have been the 
indebted parties. In fact no such question arises: 
hut it is impossible, in however brief a survey 
of Charlotte Brontë's position in the literature of 
her time, to pass over the strong affinity between 
her work and a portion of George Eliot's. At 
first sight this is not so apparent, owing to the 
great dissimilarity of atmosphere and en viron- 
ment. George Eliot never came into Yorkshire, 
or resided at Brussels, or was brought up at a 
sen1i-charity school, or shared the hard lot of 
15 8 



Charlotte Bronti! tÌl M.J/cteellth Century Fiction 


private-school teachers or governesses. Charlotte 
13rontë kne,,, little about the Midland counties, 
or Florence, or political agitations, or foreign 
gaming tables. Nevertheless there is one fibre 
almost identical, or if distinction there be it is 
that in Charlotte Brontë's case the fibre is the 
whole woman, while in George Eliot's it is hut 
one string of a most ample harp. I mean the 
fibre of passion. Passion is the dominant note 
of Charlotte Brontë's, nay it is more, it is the 
music. Take away this ardent, i01petuous, some- 
times tempestuous feeling, and Ii ttle remains. 
But it exists equally in the rich nature of George 
Eliot, only in conlpany with so Inany other 
e010tions as to be o1uch less conspicuous. Take, 
however, the character of Maggie rrulliver, and 
you will see passion fully as intense and fully as 
genuine as any that Charlotte Brontë ever de- 
picted: only surrounded with such a crowd of 
circumstances in to which passion ùoes not enter, 
but which are represented with equal mastery, 
that it does not produce the same overwhelming 
effect. You cannot well think of Maggie Tul- 
liver without the three aunts coming to mind 
also. The point for us, however, is that there 
is no trace of any direct influence of Charlotte 
Brontë upon George Eliot. Both drew from the 
book of Nature, both oheyed the precept: Look 
into thy heart and write. There can be no douht 
that Maggie is a closer portrait ,of George Eliot 
159 



Charlotte Bronti!.. a Centenary MeJ110rÙ11 


than any of her other personages, but she is only 
one aspect of a various and opulent nature, while 
Jane Eyre and Caroline Helston and Lucy 
Snowe are substantially Charlotte Brontë herself. 
Hence their surpassing force; they gain in in- 
tensity \vhat they lose in breadth. In truth to 
nature and in the interest of person and situation, 
there is nothing to choose between Charlotte and 
her successor. It is worthy of remark that Char- 
lotte Bront
 o\ves much of her energy of repre- 
sentation to her custom of writing in the first 
person. Two of her three novels are so com- 
posed, and hence emotion comes straight from 
author to reader without the interposition of an y 
medium. 'fhis method has its disadvantages, 
but is excellent for the subjective writer whose 
forte is passion. 1ne Sorrows of Werther could 
not other\vise have been made impressive, but 
when Goethe came to give a picture of general 
society he dropped it: nor is it a usual method 
with the novelists who have given us entire 
worlds of personages, Scott and Dickens, and 
George Eliot. I might almost add Anthony 
Trollope, though perhaps the bulk of the latter's 
work might be more correctly described as con- 
stituting not a world but a panorama. A mar- 
vellous panorama it is of " all sorts and conditions 
of men," and if wanting the creative breath 
which pervades Dickens it o1ay at least be said 
that rrollope's observation sometimes aids him 
160 





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Charlotte Brontë in Nineteenth Century Pictioll 


where Dickens's deserts hirn. Dickens is a poet, 
and a poet cannot work unless he be in some 
degree in syo1pathy with his subject. Dickens's 
sympathy apparently abandoned him \vhen he 
came to deal with the higher classes, and his 
portraits of these are little better than caricatures. 
He is the painter, whose ability to render faith- 
fully what he sees distinctly may be impaired by 
the state of his nerves, or anyone of a thousand 
accidents. But Trollope is like a camera ; fit the 
instrun1ent up properly, bring the object to it or 
it to the object, and you may be sure of a faith- 
ful rendering, though it may depend much upon 
the state of the atmosphere whether bright or 
prosaic. I t is evident therefore that he can have 
little in C001010n with Charlotte Brontë, and that 
each is far froo1 encroaching on the other's sphere. 
In truth, three out of the four novelists who 
have been mentioned are parted from Charlotte 
Brontë by a wide and deep gulf. They are 
objective-that is, they describe scenes and create 
characters external to themselves: \vhile she is 
subjective-that is, almost everything she writes 
is related not n1erely artistically but vitally to 
herself, and has in some sense been lived over 
by her. George Eliot is to a certain extent in 
the same category as Charlotte Brontë, but so 
wide is her range that the portion of the work 
of which this can be affirmed appears but small 
in comparison with that which lies outside of 
161 L 


, 


. 



Charlotte Brontë.' tl Centenary Me//lorial 


Charlotte's sphere: she cannot, therefore, be 
regarded as the especial representative of sub- 
jective passion. There is also strong evidence 
of a desire to n1ake her fictions operate upon the 
world, and contribute to its amelioration, a feeling 
entirely absent from Charlotte Brontë, as it must 
be from every purely subjective writer. I do 
not think that George Eliot has carried it to any 
inartistic length: but this is more than can be 
said of the next distinguished novelist upon our 
list, Charles Kingsley. Kingsley's earliest novels 
are written to recommend the ideas of Christian 
socialism: his Hypatia and 1"Ywo Years Ago are 
manifestos of Broad Church theology; Westward 
Ho! endeavours the revival of the age of 
Elizabeth. All approach perilously near the 
region of the tract: but all are saved by the 
writer's energy and marvellous gift of picturesque 
description, as well as the fine moral tone and the 
translation of the ideas of Carlyle into ordinary 
speech. They have this much in common with 
Charlotte Brontë's novels that they are works of 
intense passion, but hers is the passion of an 
individual and his the enthusiasm of humanity. 
A novelist of equal genius, but who appears at 
first sight at the opposite pole fron1 Kingsley- 
Disraeli-resembles him in the extent to which 
he writes with a direct purpose. Long before 
Charlotte Brontë's. time Vivian Grey had been 
written to satirize the politics of the day, and 
162 



Char/ott
 Brontë ÙI NÙleteellth Century Pictio1l 


point out the possibility of the formation of a 
new party: and Contarini Flenzing to idealize 
Disraeli hinlself in the character of poet, to which 
he then sincerely thought he had a clain1. During 
the period of Charlotte's literary activity Disraeli 
produced three novels with the most unn1Ístakable 
political purpose, and therefore not touching 
at all upon her peculiar domain. Contarini 
Fleming in some measure does so, and the 
contrast of method is instructi vel We see 
Charlotte representing the heroines who in1per- 
son ate her conception of herself in the simplest 
manner, with the least possible diversity of 
circumstances fronl her own; in a word, painting 
herself as she really was. Disraeli, on the 
contrary, envelops his childhood with picturesque- 
ness and magnificence, places himself in ideal 
surroundings and in an ideal atmosphere, and, 
while not unfaithful to his own conception of 
his own character, makes his environment not 
what it was, but what he would have wished 
it to have been. This fundamental difference 
of method places even his subjective' work in 
quite a different category from Charlotte Brontë's. 
Borrow presents a curious combination of 
objective and subjective tendencies. No writer 
can possibly be more vivid in description, or more 
interested in things external to himself: on the 
other hand his works are pervaded by his own 
personality, and, while most graphic in depicting 
16 3 


, 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary J\;Iemorial 


salient traits of character, he gives us no whole 
man except himself. 111 both these character- 
istics he differs from Charlotte Brontë, upon 
\vhom he can have exerted no influence. There 
remain two authors of singular versatility, Bulwer 
and Mrs. Gaskell. Bulwer's passion was literary 
fame; in pursuit of this he accomnlodates 
hinlself \vith unrivalled dexterity to the taste of 
the day, but you never can be sure of having his 
real mind, unless perhaps when his novels turn 
upon occult studies. He cannot, therefore, be 
compared with Charlotte Brontë. The last great 
novelist on our list, Mrs. Gaskell, not the least ot 
whose titles to fame is her admirable and classical 
biography of her heroine Charlotte, ,vas, like 
Bulwer, though from different motives, so versatile, 
that it is hard to say where the real manifestation 
of her individuality is to be found. All her books 
are masterly, but no two are alike. It is difficult, 
therefore, to parallel her with an authoress so 
thoroughly self-consistent as Charlotte Brontë. 
This hasty and imperfect review of the 
characteristics of the chief writers of Charlotte 
Brontë's period who have any claim to be 
accounted her rivals should at all events suffice 
to establish that she occupies a niche of her own, 
and cannot be classified with any of them. This 
is enough to rescue her from the charge of 
provincialism. She is not merely the repre- 
sentative of a particular district, but occupies a 
16 4 



Charlotte Brontë ill M'lleteenth Century Fiction 


place in the great Pantheon of English literature 
which but for her would have remained unfiJIed. 
I f I were now writing a history of English 
literature it would be needful to define this place, 
and vindicate by examples her right to hold it. 
This is unnecessary on the present occasion, 
when I am addressing an audience well read in 
her writings and patrioticaJly interested in them, 
and which has, moreover, frequently had the 
advantage of hearing them discussed by critics 
of eminence. We may assume as generally 
adn1Ítted that the predominant characteristic of 
Charlotte Brontë's writings is Passion-whether 
the passion of love or the passion of hate, or local 
or patriotic enthusiasm, or any other by \vhich 
her intense and indomitable nature n1Ïght at the 
time be actuated. None of her contemporaries 
are open to the impressions of powerful feeling 
in an equal degree, and none are so exclusivel y 
possessed by them. Her sphere, therefore, while 
it has many points of contact \vith theirs, 
tspecially with George Eliot's, is nevertheless 
dissimilar. This is to say that she is original, 
and indeed I can hardly think of any \vriter of 
her day, except Borrow and Browning, of \VhOnl 
absolute originality can be so unequivocally pre- 
dicated. j\ considerable affinity to Byron 111ay 
be traced. Like him she possessed 


a faun t of fiery life 
Whjch ':Iervcd for a Titanic strife. 
16 5 


. 



Charlotte Brolltë.' a Centenary MemOr1tll 
But while Byron marred splendid work by 
frequent affectation and insincerity, nothing is 
more characteristic of Charlotte Brontë than her 
absolute truthfulness. Some of her pictures) 
especially of the schools where she was pupil and 
teacher, have been taxed with inaccuracy. This 
may be the fact, but none can doubt that she 
described them as they appeared to herself. She 
would not for the world have debased her art to 
a manufacture, or put pen to paper in the absence 
of a definite call. Once, indeed) she was prevailed 
upon to lengthen by an episode a novel which 
had fallen short of the regular three-vol ume 
quantum, but the episode is one of the best things 
in the book. As this austere conscientiousness 
is one of her glories, so it is correlated with her 
principal shortcoming, not a shortcoming which 
in any way detracts fronl the merits of the novels 
which she has given us, hut one which prevented 
her from giving us Inany more. She is deficient 
in invention and creative inlagination : she can 
onl y speak of what she has realized by her 
personal experience. Hence aU three novels are 
mainly autobiographica1. She is indeed fully 
capable of Jra\ving portraits of persons external 
and even distasteful to herself with startling effect, 
\vitness the wonderful picture of Madame Beck 
in Villette, but they must be people she has 
knovrn, and who have come within her own 
sphere. She cannot create a character by sheer 
166 



Charlotte Brolltë ill Nineteenth Century Piction 


force of imagination, nor can she devise a set of 
circumstances out of which to construct a story. 
The consequence was a great limitation in her 
powers of production. She had by no means 
worn her mind out, but she had exhausted her 
materia]; and as she would not condescend with 
man y another novelist to use the old material 
over again, it is probable that even if her life 
had been prolonged she would have written little 
more. If, like George Sand, \vhile retaining 
uninlpaired the passion which first set her pen 
in motion, she had been able to devise an endless 
series of novel scenes and incidents, she might, 
with life and health, have filled a prodigious place 
in our literature. As it is, her praise must be the 
reverse to have produced a greater effect than 
almost any other novelist \vhose production is 
limited to three books. 
It is not easy to speak of Currer Bell without 
naming Ellis and Acton. Anne Brontë lives 
by her sisters; a single lyric reveals the poetess. 
Some distinguished critics have preferred Emily 
to Charlotte. I should deprecate the com- 
parison: their genius and their spheres are 
dissimilar. Charlotte is not a poet, and Emily 
is not an artist. l'he apology for the savage 
repulsi veness) tempered by the deepest tender- 
ness, of her Wu/lzering Heights is that save in 
fonn it is a lyric, a \,york of poetical inspiration. 
It came to her, she did not plan or scheme it. 
16 7 


. 



Charlotte Bronti!: a Centenary Menlorial 


The same is true of her better poems, especialJ y 
of her masterpiece, the lines beginning, " No 
coward soul is mine," one of the very few 
exalnples of the sublime in English poetry of 
the Victorian era, and in intensity of feeling and 
magnificence of expression surpassing every other 
lyric of an English poetess. Had she lived and 
had this inspiration continued to be vouchsafed 
to her, whether in prose or verse, her place must 
have been high indeed. But it was fitful and 
capricious, independent of her own will, and 
might never have revisited her. In any case, 
neither with it nor without it, would she have 
emulated the more disciplined genius of her 
sister) anymore than the latter would have 
rivalled her as a poetess. 
I an1 about to concI ude my discourse by 
reading an anecdote of Charlotte Brontë from 
a book which, being privately printed, is probably 
unknown to you, supplemented by some reflec- 
tions and reminiscences by the writer, a man 
of the most delightful nature and the highest 
culture. I-Ie is the late William Johnson Cory, 
dear to son1e few as a poet, appreciated by still 
fewer as an historian, though without a rival 
in pregnancy and conciseness; the most efficient 
J1-':ton n1aster of his day and the best nlodern 
writer of Latin verse; the refornler of King's 
College, Calnbridge, in conj unction \vi th Henry 
ßradsha w; and who nevertheless, with all 
168 



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Charlotte Brontë ill Mneteenth Century Fiction 


these titles to distinction, has remained almost 
unknown. I will endeavour to make him 
known here as an admirer of Charlotte Brontë. 
He says in the privately printed book to 
which J have alluded, the Extracts froni his 
Letters and Journals, printed after his death, 
describing a visit paid to Haworth in 1867:- 


Went to Haworth with the three Butlers. Glad to 
find Arthur Butler thinking as I do about Shirley, the best 
of books. They told me what Richmond told them about 
Charlotte Brontë's portrait. She \vas very shy, and for t\VO 
sittings he was out of hope; but the third time she met the 
Duke of Wellington's servant leaving the house, \vhich made 
Richmond say, " If you had been here a quarter of an hour 
sooner you would have seen the Duke of Wellington." 
Whereupon she broke out into eager asking about the Duke; 
and so the painter caught the eager expression given in his 
portrait, of which J bought a photograph in Keighley. 
When Richmond was getting on well with the portrait she 
stood behind him looking at it : he heard a sob-she said, 
"Excuse me-it is so like my Ûster Emily." 


Mr. Cory visited the 
descri bes as a n1Ïserable 
adds :- 


parsonage, which 
homestead, and 


he 
he 


Out of that p'rison the little Charlotte put forth a hand 
to feel for the world of human emotion, I wish she would 
come back to us, and count up the myriads to whom she 
has given new souls. 
Now I remember reading Jane Eyre straight through at 
a sitting in my home drawing-room, and again on the black, 
16 9 



Charlotte Bronti!: a Centenary Me/florial 


gnarled wreathed rocks of Bude (1850) where there was a 
lowering stormcloud and a sunset on a distant sail, and a 
hollow roar in the reefs, and the reading broken off by 
a queer rattle of shingle which turned out to be a sheep 
tàllen from the cliff: the last summer holidays spent with 
my mother. 


There is a peculiar propriety In Mr. Cory's 
record of his having read 1ane Eyre upon the 
cliffs at Bude, for you will renlenlber that Charlotte 
Brontë's mother was a Cornish WOll1an. I do 
not think, however, that her Cornish ancestors 
were, like her father's family, Celtic. Much of 
her genius may be traced with probability to 
the happy rnixture of blood, connected with 
the environment of her youth) peculiar, inde- 
pendent, original, but much less rough than Mrs. 
Gaskell ll1ade it out to be. I \vill not suppress 
Mr. Cory's pretty cOlnpliment to the fair sex of 
these parts. "The women," he says, "talk 
n10st musically." \\Then he speaks of having 
read Jane Eyre straight through at a sitting, we 
must conclude that he had the day before him 
vvhen he began. 1'his is not quite my experience. 
\Vhen I first read 1aJ1e Eyre my days \vere given 
to official work, and I could read only in the 
evening. I renlembcr how the book kept nle 
up to two o'clock in the morning, and ho\v I 
closed it at the end of that thrilling passage 
where Jane proves to Mr. Rochester that an evil 
thing has reall y been near her by showing hin1 
170 



Charlotte Brontp ill MÍ1eteenth Ce11tury Fiction 
that her veil has been torn from the top to the 
bottom. Fame might be founded on this incident 
alone: but it is a stronger proof of Charlotte
s 
genius that her work and life as a whole should 
he able to awaken intense interest in readers so 
cultured and refined, so tender and manly and 
sweet-natured as Mr. Cory's letters and journals 
show him to have been. 
Will she retain this power? I think so. It 
is a remark of Aubrey, writing three quarters 
of a century after Shakespeare, that Shakespeare's 
dramatic contemporaries, frequently preferred to 
him in his own age, are already out of date 
because they merely depict contemporary manners, 
while Shakespeare depicts universal manners. 
This is just what Charlotte Brontë does in her 
far more limited sphere; she gives us the 
emotions which will be always true, always living, 
and her work owes little or nothing to the merely 
accidental and temporary. Works which repro- 
duce "the very form and pressure of the time,U 
and deal with the questions, momentous as these 
may be, which principally interest the time, are 
inevitably doomed to dwindle in attractiveness- 
although, if true works of genius, they cannot 
die-until their abiding worth comes to be mainly 
historical. They n1ay in this stage be compared 
to fossils, the in1posing skeletons of grand and 
gigantic creatures whose softer parts have under- 
gone deconlPosition: while the simply subjective 
171 


. 



Charlotte Brontë.. a CeJJtenary Me1l10rial 


romance, derived from a source of perennial 
feeling, reaches posterity like the pebble, which 
the everlasting roll of Time
s ocean has only 
served to polish. 



 


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17 2 



CHARLOTTE & EMILY BRONTË: 
A COMPARISON AND A CON- 
TRAST 


By PROF. C. E. VAUGHAN, M.A. 


AN ADDRESS DELIVERED TO THE BRONTË SOCIETY AT KEIGHLEY, 
ON JANUARY 20, 1912. 


, 


. 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY BRONTË: A 
COMPARISON AND A CONTRAST 


I H A V E called my lecture this evening "Char- 
lotte and Emil y Brontë: a Comparison and a 
Contrast." I shall make no atten1pt to keep 
the bounds between the comparison and the 
contrast scrupulously exact. In the main, how- 
ever, I shall begin by indicating what I con- 
ceive to be the points of resen1blance between 
the sisters; and in the main, I shall devote the 
latter part of the lecture to those points of 
contrast between them ,vhich can hardly fail 
to strike us. With this saving condition, let 
us pass at once to some points of resen1blance 
which suggest themselves at the first glance. 
Both sisters-we shall feel this the moment we 
enter on a serious stud y of their writings-both 
sisters strike the note of passion. And I think 
we shall never do com plete justice to their 
genius unless we bear in mind that they were 
among the first English novelists to do so. 
Thin k of the great names among the novelists 
\vho had gone before. Think of Fielding and 
175 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary JvlemfJrial 
of Sterne. Think of Miss Burney and Miss 
Austen. Think of the utter lack of passion in 
the whole generation of Early Victorian novelists, 
until Charlotte and Emily Brontë appeared. 
Think, above all, of the two novelists who 
were at the height of their fanle when the 
sisters published their first works, Thackera y 
and Dickens. Then, and then on] y, you will 
see what an enormous service they rendered to 
the novel in this country by striking this note 
of passion; and striking it with a depth and 
clearness that has seldon1 been equalled, and 
still n10re seldom, if ever, surpassed. 
In order to do justice to their precursors, one 
has indeed to remember that alTIOng thenl were 
two men who came near to forestalling the 
Brontës in this matter; and that these t\VO 
nlen are an10ng the greatest. rrhey are Richárd- 
son and Scott. In Clarissa you will hear some- 
thing not far removed fronl the note of passion. 
It would be a gross injustice to deny it. Yet, 
after all, the fate of Clarissa, great as is the 
po\ver with \vhich it is brought before us, is 
rather the fate of passive suffering than the 
fate of a won1an under the spell and doonl of 
passion. She is the victim of wrongs done by 
others. She has not the \vill and the sweep of 
energy that \ve associate with passion. In the 
B ride of Lam1JZerlnOor, again you have some- 
thing that yet more nearly approaches \vhat J 
17 6 



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Charlotte and Ell1ily Brol1të: a Comparison 
should call the unn1istakable note of passion. 
But, even there, you will find a difference \vhich 
it is not well to overlook. Scott, as you 
n1ight have expected from his nature and genius, 
confines himself entirely to action. In him 
there is nothing of that subtle analysis, that 
power of tracing the inn10st workings of the 
soul, which is conspicuous in the Brontës, par- 
ticularly in Charlotte. There we see, we follow 
step by step, the growth and swell of passion, 
its conflict \vith the abiding instincts of the 
soul. We watch the storm sweep over the very 
heing of the hero or heroine and rush them to 
suffering and despair. In Scott aU, or some, 
of this may perhaps be implied. It may, if the 
imagination of the reader be keen and observ- 
ant, without n1uch difficulty be possibly inferred. 
But it is certainl y not in the picture which he 
actually paints. It is not in the story as he 
tells it. With the Brontës, on the other hand, 
at any rate with Charlotte, it forms the then1e 
of the whole work. And what writer, I would 
like to know-what writer, at any rate in our 
own country-can be compared with them for 
supreme mastery of this inner note of passion? 
Then again, there is in both sisters what I 
think we should all agree to call the lyric cry. 
But it takes a different form in each. In Emily 
Brontë it is diffused through the whole story. 
In Charlotte, it gathers itself together in one 
177 M 



Charlotte Brontë.. a Centenary MelJ10ria/ 


or two magnificent scenes. Emily, no doubt, 
sometimes allows it to flash upon us in a single 
phrase, a single image, or chain of images, as 
in those where the heroine of Wuthering Heights 
paints her identity of soul with Heathcliff. The 
passage will be in the memory of many of us, 
but there can be no harm in repeating it: "I 
love him . . . because he's more myself than I 
am. \Vhatever our souls are made of, his and 
mine are the same: and Linton's is as different 
as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire. 
My love for Linton is like the foliage in 
the \voods: tinle will change it, I'm well aware, 
as winter changes the trees. My love for 
Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: 
a source of little visible delight, but necessary. 
I am Heathcliff! he's always, always in my 
mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am 
ahvays a pleasure to myself, but as my own 
being. " 
Still, such passages are rare. And in Emily 
Brontë the lyric note is more comnlonly to be 
heard as an undertone than as a melody. With 
Charlotte, it is exactly the reverse. And when 
we think of the lyric cry in her, we think, 
I suppose, first and foremost) of two or three 
great scenes: the scene, for instance, in which, 
when her marriage has been dashed into pieces 
before her eyes, Jane Eyre shuts herself in her 
room and fights out her duty with herself and 
17 8 



Charlotte find EJJu./y Bronfi:: fl Compariso1l 


God alone; the scene where, like a hunted 
hare, she takes refuge upon the summer moor; 
the scene where, months after\vards, when her 
faith wavers and she is about to yield to the 
insistence of her un worth y sui tor, the voice of 
Rochester suddenly thrills upon her ear, calling 
" Jane! Jane!" we again recall, largely, the 
rapture of Louis Moore as he looks out upon 
the wind-swept radiance of the moon, or the lyric 
passion which reigns through the closing pages 
of Pillelte-surely amongst the nlost magnificent 
prose lyrics ever conceived by the imagination 
of a poet. I 
Then again, 
common to both sisters is what 
I would call the cry of revolt. And that, like 
the two qualities of which I have already spoken, 
was, so far as the novel is concerned, a ne\v 
thing in the literature of England. Yet here 
again, between the two the difference is very 
marked. Emily is a rebel so convinced that it 
never enters her mind to argue about the matter. 
She takes revolt for granted, and there is 
no more to be said. Char lotte, on the other 
hand-perhaps less sure of her ground, certainly 
less extreme in her conclusions-stands by us 
at every step to justify and explain it. Emily 
tacitly assumes a world in which Society with its 


1 Time forbade me to say anything of the Brontë Poems. 
I deeply regret this, as it inevitably results in an injustice 
to Emily. 


179 



Chtlrlotle Bronti!: a Centenary Me1l10rial 


con ventions is nothing, in which the indi vidual, 
the passionate individual, stands alone, unques- 
tioning and unquestioned. That, I think, is the 
conception we can hardly fail to recognize 
throughout the whole of Wuthering Heights. 
Turn to Jane Eyre or Villette, and you will find 
something curiously different. There we have 
the rebel in the very torrent and tempest of 
revolt. Be it Rochester or Jane Eyre, be it Lucy 
Snowe or Paul Emanuel, they are brought before 
us in the very act of tearing do\vn the con ven- 
tions, of breaking through the barriers, which 
public opinion-the opinion of the sluggish and 
the timorous-has set up. And the \vriter exults 
in showing us how those barriers give \vay 
before that strong will; how nothing-nothing 
but the counteraction of the san1e will-can 
check hero or heroine in the fulfilment of their 
purpose. 
I t has sometimes been denied that we can 
speak of either sister-and in particular of Char- 
lotte-as being in revolt against the conventions 
of Society. I must say that) to my mind, that 
denial rests upon a very curious misapprehension. 
It is, I think, impossible to deny that they are 
both in revolt against the conventions of Society 
unless, in a very arbitrary \vay, you limit those 
conventions down to one-to the marriage law. 
Against the marriage law it is) of course, perfectly 
true that Charlotte, at any rate, is in no sense 
180 



Charlotte and BJJllïy Brolltë: a CfJlnparison 
in revolt. The whole scheme of Jane Eyre, its 
central idea, would rise in protest against any 
such belief as that. But surely it is a delusion, 
and a very dull delusion, to say that, unless it 
be against the marriage law, nothing shall count 
with us for revolt. It is, I suppose, nothing but 
the example of the French novel that has led 
us to put such a strange1 y narrow construction 
upon the term "revolt." And it seen1S to nle 
abundantl y clear that when we thro\v aside 
all such arbitrary and accidental interpretations, 
both sisters are) and it is the glory of both 
sisters to have been, eternal rebels. Both are 
fired by the conviction that the individual is 
here, that each soul is here on earth, not to 
follow the prescriptions and the rules laid down 
for it by others, but to obey the best 
pronlptings of its own nature, and, when they 
clearly point in one direction, entirely to dis- 
regard all the traditional barriers, all the human 
conventions, that would drive it in another. And 
it is the force with which both of them gave 
utterance to that conviction, the imaginative 
genius with which they clothed it, that is one 
of the chief glories of the Brontës. 
I need not waste words in proving this of 
Emily. But do you remenlber SOt1le very strik- 
ing words that Charlotte wrote to her friend, 
Mr. Williams, one of the firm \vho published 
for her? '[hey are as follows: "If you knew 
181 


.. 



Charlotte Brolltë: a Centenary Atlemorial 
the dreams that absorb me, the fiery imagina- 
tion that at times eats me up and makes Ole 
feel Society as it exists wretched] y insipid) then 
you would pity and, I dare say, despise me." 
Let us hope that Mr. Williams neither pitied 
nor despised her. There was certainly no need. 
But I will ask you-with these words in your 
ear, with all that corresponds to then1 in the 
novels present to your mind-can you doubt 
for a moment that among the faiths \vhich lay 
nearest to the heart of Charlotte Brontë-as it 
was also among those which fired the imagination 
of Emily-was the faith that under certain 
circumstances-circumstances which at one time 
or other are bound to confront the life of each 
one of us-rebellion against the established code 
is the first duty, revolt against the tyranny of 
social custom the one thing needful? It may 
be a right faith, or a wrong faith. For myself, 
I believe that, in the n1ain, it is a right one. 
But that it was the faith of Charlotte and Emily 
Brontë) I have no doubt whatsoever. 
Up to this moment I have been speaking of 
what may seem to be rather abstract matters. 
.L
nd there has been little, perhaps too little) to 
remind you that these two great women \vere, 
above alJ, great imaginati ve wri ters, great 
novelists and great artists. That being so, it 
is only what we should expect when we find 
that all these characteristics of which 1 have 
J82 



Charlotte and Emily Brontë: a ConlParison 
been speaking to you hitherto are summed up 
and gathered together) and crystallized) in the 
characters which move through the pages of 
their stories. The note of passion, the lyric cry) 
the cry of revolt-all these are embodied, are 
they not? in the figures of Catherine and Heath- 
cliff) of Rochester and Jane Eyre, of Lucy 
Snowe and Paul Emanuel. They are so again, 
though certainly under a less nlarked and obvious 
form, in the figure of Shirley. And it is the 
greatness of these two writers that there is 
nothing vague or abstract about their creations ; 
that everything did present itself to them in a 
concrete shape; that all these ideas) instincts, 
convictions which were surging through their 
minds-all could be, and all were) embodied by 
them in figures of flesh and blood. 
So far as this applies to En1ily Brontë, I think 
the statement justifies itself. No one surely 
can read Wuthering Heights without adn1Ïtting 
it on the spot. I t is none the less true of the 
finest work of Charlotte. It is true at any 
rate of 'Jane Eyre) and it is true of Villette. 
There) too) it is no abstract thing \vith which 
we are concerned. There, too, it is round the 
central figures of her story that the whole of 
our interest is gathered. 
1
hink for a monlent how new and how 
original was the conception at the time \vhen 
it was first flashed upon this world. Think 
18 3 



Charlotte Brontë." a Centenary lvlelJlorial 


what would have been the effect if the imaginary 
characters of whonl we have been speaking had 
suddenly, in very flesh and blood, been shown 
into an Early Victorian drawing-roon1. I 
imagine that the horsehair chairs and sofas 
\vould at once have disjointed themselves, that 
the waHs would have been shattered in pieces 
and the ceilings, with all their prisnlatic pend- 
ants, have flown to the four quarters of the 
sky. They are figures of a larger build and 
of a bigger nlake, they are souls of more fire 
and energy than those to which the men and 
women of that day were accustomed. And this 
again is one of the glories of the Brontës. Here 
again, here above all, they throw all conven- 
tion to the winds. They refuse to follow the 
beaten track of fashion and prescription, to 
paint men and women as dwarfed and mangled 
by social pressure and tradition. They have 
courage to present human nature, not as they 
\vere told to presetlt it, not as they were taught 
to conceive it, not even as experience, their 
own very limited experience, might have led 
them to suppose it; but as they knew it-I 
\vould rather say, as they divined it-in their 
own heart, their own inlagination, their own 
unconq uerable wiU. 
This courage is splendid in itself. It is still 
more precious in its imaginative results. For as 
we read, we feel that a breath from the outer 
J84 



Charlotte and Enlily Brontë: a Comparison 


wor Id, a breeze from the moors and the eternal 
hills, is sweeping over us; ,ve know that a new 
vigour and a new force has come into our lives, 
or might come if \ve were only wise enough to 
make it our own. I reckon this one of the 
greatest services a writer can render to the 
world. 
But, as you are well aware, it is just this 
pronounced conception of character which has 
called down the thunder of the critics. It gave 
great offence in certain quarters at the time; 
it has continued to do so ever since. The 
critics, even the friendly critics, were disposed 
to find great fault with Charlotte Brontë for 
painting character in this fashion. George 
Henry Lewes, for instance, who ought to have 
known better, took her roundly to task on this 
account. " Why," he asked in effect, "why do 
you go outside all the limits of your own 
experience? why do you insist on creating men 
and \vomen out of your own heart and your 
own soul? why do you not follow in the steps 
of that great woman, Miss Austen? why don't 
you observe the wise precepts which beam fron1 
her mild eyes?" 
Incidentally) I n1ay say that the last phrase 
seems to me one of the worst judged, the nlost 
misleading, I have ever read. Have you ever 
seen a portrait of Miss Austen? Have you ever 
looked into those "mild eyes"? If you have, 
18 5 


. 



Charlotte Brontt.' a Centenary Menlorial 
you will have seen the most cutting pair of 
eyes ever created. I can assure you that, wh
n 
I look at them, I am left to wonder how it was 
that any man, woman, or child ever ventured 
to open their lips in the owner's presence. So 
much for the mildness of Miss Austen's eyes, 
and the sharpness of Mr. Lewes's. 
Well, Charlotte Brontë, as might ha ve been 
predicted, \vould have none of such preposterous, 
such impertinent advice. She roundly declared 
that every author has not only the right, but 
the duty, to follow the bent of his own genius; 
and she hinted pretty plainly that, in her own 
conviction, however much she might be inferior 
to Miss Austen in observation, in delicacy of 
touch, in the artist's power of adapting means to 
ends, yet in imagination, in poetry, in all the 
higher and deeper qualities of genius, the posi- 
tions were reversed. And ho\vever deeply we 
may admire Miss Austen-\vithin her own 
lin1its it is impossible to admire her too deeply 
or too warmly-can we doubt that Charlotte 
Brontë was in the right? 
Here are two paragraphs from the letter in 
which she thrust the well-meant patronage of 
George Lewes indignantly aside:- 
"Imagination is a strong, restless faculty 
which claims to be heard and exercised. Are 
we to be quite deaf to her cry and insensate 
to her struggles? When she shows us bright 
186 



Charlotte and Emily Brontë: a Comparison 


pictures, are we never to look at them, or try 
to reproduce them? And when she is eloquent 
and speaks rapidly and urgently in our ear, are 
we not to write to her dictation? . . . \Vhen 
authors write best, or at least when they write 
nlost fl uentl y, an infl uence seems to waken in 
them \vhich becomes their nlaster; which will 
have its own way; putting out of view alJ 
behests but its own, dictating certain words and 
insisting on their being used, whether vehement 
or measured in their nature; ne\v-nloulding 
characters, giving unthought-of turns to inci- 
dents, rejecting carefully elaborated old ideas) 
and suddenly creating and adopting new ones." 
In yet another letter to Mr. Willianls, she 
sums up the whole matter in a dozen words: 
"I must have my own way in the matter of 
writing. " rrhat, I think, is the last word upon 
the subject. It is, it ought to be, the last word 
from the side of the author. It ought to be, 
if it is not, the last word to the conscience of 
the critic. Genius has its o\vn law, and is 
bound to follow it-that is the first principle 
on which the author ought to act; it is the 
first principle by which the critic ought to judge. 
And it was because Charlotte Brontë had the 
courage of her own convictions, because she 
was resolved that nothing should n1ake her turn 
aside from the dictates of her own genius that 
she has cast, and has deserved to cast, so strong 
18 7 



Charlotte Bro17të: a Centenary MelJlorial 


a spell upon the heart and the in1agination of 
her readers. Fron1 Emilv \ve have no such 
, 
declaration. Her portion, during her short life 
as an author, \vas not criticism, but neglect. Yet 
had she been challenged on the subject, had she 
received the same stupid advice as that inflicted 
on her sister, we all know how she would have 
met it. At the first breath, she would ha ve 
brushed it aside with a gesture still more con- 
temptuous than Charlotte's. 
I have said that this conlplaint against Char- 
lotte-the complaint is, if you please, that she 
was too original-is sometinles renewed in our 
own day. Once n10re the critics are there to 
tell us that she ought to have followed, that 
she ought to have anticipated, such or such 
models in her craft; that she ought to have 
treated her theme like Richardson, that she 
ought to have treated it like Balzac; that she 
ought to have pointed the way to Gustave FJau- 
bert, that she ought to have pointed it to 
Meredith. N ow I nlust decline to stand by while 
a great writer is thus draped in the white sheet. 
Once start upon this crooked path, once adopt a 
notion so crude as that one writer should take 
another for his model, and heaven only knows 
where you are going to stop. You \vill find 
yourself driven to ask Milton, U Why did you 
not follow Shakespeare?" or Heine, "Why do 
you not follow Goethe? " or Boccaccio, " Why do 
188 



Charlotte and Enll/y Brontë: a COlJ1pariso1J 
you not follow Dante?" And then, \vhen you 
have got to the end of your list, I see no reason 
why you should not begin it again, by the simple 
process of turning the tables upon Shakespeare, 
Goethe, Dante, and as many other authors as 
your memory, on the spur of the moment, may 
supply. The whole thing rests, in fact, upon an 
absolute miscol1ception-I would rather say, a 
fatal ignorance-of the very first principles upon 
which both authorship and criticism are based. 
The first thing the critic has to make up his 
mind to is that genius is its own law. And if 
he makes bold to ten a man or woman of genius 
that they are to follow rules and copy models, 
he not only makes himself ridiculous-that may 
be a small loss, it may easily be a positive gain- 
but, unless he can count upon resistance as 
steadfast as that of the Brontës, he runs the risk 
of being listened to and of throttling genius at 
its birth. It is fortunate for us that Charlotte 
Brontë had the wisdon1 and firmness to thrust 
aside all such impertinent suggestions and to 
trust her own genius against the world. 
I t is, of course, perfectly t
ue that, writing as 
she did out of her own genius and her own soul, 
she was sometimes betra yed into unfortunate 
mistakes. But that was only when she strayed 
into a field that \vas not hers, and essayed a task 
for which her own genius did not fit her. 1'hus, 
when she set herself, as she did in 'Jane Eyre, to 
18 9 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary MelJlorial 


paint the manners of sn1art Society-the manners 
of what Horace Walpole called the "great 
vulgar "--shè painted something which was not 
in the least like the original and, so far, must 
be admitted to have failed. Fortunately, this is 
but one short episode in the book, and the core 
of the novel remains entirely untouched. The 
critic, however, is equal to the occasion. He 
catches hold of that one episode, he sees nothing 
but that single blemish, and cheerily pronounces 
that the genius which could have been guilty of 
such an error n1ust have been radically unsound. 
What may be the nature of such a critic's genius, 
I will refrain from asking. I would really rather 
not. 
Seeing that so much has been made of this 
particular error, I would wish, if I may, to say 
a word by way of defence. 1 cannot, and wilJ 
not, say that I do not consider it an error. 
But I will say that I hold it to have been 
n1agnified beyond all reason; and I think there 
may be some instruction in tracing it to its 
source. 
In judging, as she clearly did judge, the tone, 
the fashions and many of the personages of what 
we call high society to be inherently vulgar, 
Charlotte Brontë was certainly in the right. But 
when she came to paint these things, she made 
the rather fatal n1istake of painting the wrong 
sort of vulgarity; of attributing to them a 
19 0 



Charlotte and Elnily Brol1të.' a COJnpariSol1 


vu1garity which may be better or worse than 
what you actually find in them, but \vhich, 
whether better or worse, is certainly of a very 
different kind. However, even the mistakes of 
a great writer often throw an instructive light 
upon its genius. And this particular error brings 
us hack once more to the fact that, an10ng her 
many other qualities, Charlotte Brontë was 
essentially a novelist of revolt. 
In painting the high society, the county 
families of Jane Eyre, I suppose there was a 
certain ferment of personal mortification working 
in her mind. She was, so to speak, taking 
vengeånce for the humiliations she had passed 
through during the months in which she acted 
as governess in families of pretension. And 
perhaps there is a little too much of that spice of 
personal pique to be altogether pleasant. J think 
there is. But it is very characteristic that she 
should have taken hold of that part of her 
experience and have worked it into her novel 
in this way. It shows on the one hand that, 
keen as she was to observe, her observation was 
too much at the mercy of her personal feelings, 
above all of her antipathies. And if one instance 
of this is not enough, we may cite her handling 
of Mr. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre, and of the 
curates in Shirley, as a second and a third. It 
proves on the other hand, if further proof were 
needed, how wrong-headed was the advice of 
19 1 


.. 



Charlotle Bronte.' a Ce11tenary MelJ10riill 
Lewes when he strove to bind her down to 
observation, for which her talent was so limited 
and uncertain, and to frighten her away from 
the work of creation in which she has seldon1 
been approached. 
Yet the very defect, of which this is an 
instance, is only the other side of a quality which 
lies at the very heart and centre of her genius. 
Figures like Blanche Ingram may be mere 
parodies of what they were meant to be. But 
at least they faithfully represent the feelings of 
the woman who had chafed under the vulgar 
contempt of those who thought themselves her 
betters, but who, for all who had eyes to see, 
were immeasurably beneath her. They may be 
false as portraits of others. But, in a sense which 
you will readily catch, they are a true reflection 
of Charlotte Brontë herself, and of the type of 
woman she best loved to take as heroine of her 
tales. And the creation of that type, let us never 
forget it, was among her most marked and 
original contributions to the novel of her day 
and country. 
Charlotte Brontë, I suppose, was the first 
English novelist to bring upon the stage a figure 
long familiar to the French novelist, the [emlf/C 
incomprise, the misunderstood woman; the woman 
who has great thoughts in her soul, who is 
capable of great deeds and of deep sympathies, 
but who, for one reason or another, meets with 
192 



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Charlotte and Enlily Brolltë.' a Conlparison 
little but scorn and neglect fronl the \vorld and 
those who slavishly accept the judgments of the 
world. We know that Charlotte had strong 
feelings on this matter . We know that she 
reproached her sisters with clinging to the old 
tradition that the heroine of a novel is necessarily 
born with beauty and all kinds of feminine 
attractions. I \vill take, she said, a heroine 
who has no looks and no attraction, and I will 
show that she can be made as interesting, as 
full of charm, as any doll in the nursery 
of fiction. And one almost hears Charlotte, 
as she writes) saying to herself, or rather 
speaking through the lips of her heroine to 
her own employers of the past: "I am little 
and puny, and insignificant in comparison with 
you. Quite true; in the body I cut a very 
poor figure by your side. But, if you could 
look within, you would find a spirit, before 
which yours would shrivel like a parched scroll, 
and you would know that I dwell habitually in 
regions where you dare not soar, not even for 
an instant." There is all that-is there not r- 
in the mood and temper which is stamped so 
strongly on Jane Eyre, but which, it is welJ 
to remember, fades out of her later novels- 
those written when her character had softened 
and her genius mellowed. You will find little 
of it in Shirley, some stray touches to the 
contrary; you will find still less of it in Villette. 
193 N 



Char/otlt Brontë.' a Ctlltenary Mflnorial 
So far, 1 have dealt mainly with the qualities 
which the two sisters have in COmnlOl1. I now 
pass to speak very short! y of the points in which 
they differ. And first and foremost, it is, I 
suppose, clear to all of us that of the two, the 
spirit of Emily is, beyond doubt, the more 
intense. This is her great glory. I know of 
nothing in the English novel so intense, so 
absolutely the spontaneous creation of a strong 
and fiery spirit, as the characters of Catherine 
and Heathcliff. It is futile to say that nothing 
like them has ever been seen, or ever will be 
seen, upon the earth. How do we know? It 
is far more probable that beings, who under 
favouring conditions might have grown to some- 
thing of their form and stature, have existed, 
now and again, from the beginning, and will 
continue to do so tilJ the end. An that Emily 
has done is to supply such conditions and let 
them work their will upon natures who, without 
them, wou1d ha ve remained the starved and 
stunted creatures that are within the experience 
of us an. This is the privilege of the creative 
artist; the method by which the supreme poets 
ha ve achieved some of the greatest of their 
triumphs-the method by which Milton created 
Satan: and Æschylus, Clytemnestra, and Victor 
Hugo, Gilliatt or Jean Valjean. Emily Brontë 
is not on the same scale as these great figures, 
but she may claim the same defence. 
194 



Charlotte an{1 Emily BrfJJ/të.' a COlnparl
fon 


Enlily, then, 15 nlore intense in spirit than her 
sister) but, after all, Charlotte follows not very 
far behind. \Ve will not look beyond the 
t:nglish novel; and in the English novel, where 
will you find anything conlparable, in this matter, 
to Wutltering Heights, unless in such figures as 
Jane Eyre and Rochester, as Paul Emanuel and 
Paulina ? For myself, I should wish to add 
Shirley and, in her inspired moments, Lucy 
Snowe also to the list. In all these there is a 
softened echo-and the echo is not so soft either 
-of the cry that rings from Catherine and 
l-Ieathcliff. The difference is one not of kind 
but of degree. '"[he two sisters inhabit the 
same world, though they may dwell in different 
regions of it; they have the freedonl of the 
same city, though their homes may be in different 
quarters. It is the difference not between the 
vegetation of the tenlperate zone and that of 
the tropics, but between the vegetation imme- 
diatel y under the equator and that of a degree or 
two farther north or a degree or two farther south. 
And I dwell upon this because I think that 
Charlotte has often perhaps hardly had justice 
done to her in the matter. She invites, she 
chal1enges comparison with her sister; and on 
that c0t11parison every man with eyes in his 
head must admit that, in this particular point, 
Emily is the stronger; I will not say far 
stronger, but yet stronger and yet more intense. 
195 


\ 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenar)' lVIenzfJrial 


1 take a second poin t : There is, I think, a 
very marked contrast, a very clear distinction, 
between the ways in which the two sisters worked 
upon their nIaterials, in which they went about 
to create the various characters of their stories. 
Emily created purely and simply out of her own 
soul and her own genius. Observation counted 
for nothing at all; it is the spontaneous outflow 
of her genius, or it is nothing. Now with Char- 
lotte, although there are obvious affinities to this 
process, still there is no less obvious difference. 
One gathers-and I think the evidence is pretty 
clear upon tht: point-that she was nlost at her 
ease when she could take the first hint frot11 
some one she had seen; from some l11an or 
\VOnlan with whonl she had been brought into 
contact, if only for a monlent; fronl some hUlnan 
being on whom her eye had actually rested. 
1
he most n1arked instance of this-and it is 
absolutely authentic - is her creation of the 
character of Helston, the "old Cossack" who 
rules the roost in Shirley. She tells us herself 
that she saw the old Cossack once only with her 
bodily eyes when she \vas at the mature age of 
ten. As it was at the consecration of a church, 
he can hardly then, I imagine, have been per- 
forming Cossack duties. But the curve of 
his nose and the eagle glance of his eye struck 
hon1e at once to her imagination; and out of 
that fleeting vision, a vision that can hardly have 
19 6 



Charlotte antI El1Uïy Brontë.- a C0111parÎS0l1 


lasted for more than-well, sermons were long 
j n those days, shall we say two hours? -she 
constructed that extraordinarily vivid 'character, 
that masterpiece of a clerical dragoon: and all 
this, close on thirty years after she had seen 
him. 
So again we are told, and it certainly seems 
probable, that the greatest of all her triumphs, 
Paul Emanuel in Villette, is wrought out of hints 
-hints faint and fugitive in the extreme-drawn 
from her old instructor in Brussels, M. Heger. 
That would seem to be a1 most beyond doubt. 
But, if I had met M. Heger, I an1 perfectly 
certain that I at any rate should not have seen, 
and I greatly doubt whether a single soul but 
Charlotte Brontë wouid have seen, the amazing 
combination of qualities which Inake Monsieur 
Paul one of the most striking and surely quite 
the most lovable, of all the characters in English 
fiction; and an this, relnember, was the pure 
act of the genius of Charlotte, working upon 
materials which 111 amount \vere absolutely 
beggarly and which to no eye but hers would 
have meant anything at all. 
To start from a hint of experience or obser- 
vation, to let her own instincts freely \vork upon 
it, her own imagination transform it out of all 
knowledge-this, then, was the distinctive method 
of Charlotte Brontë, the pecul iar channel along 
\vhich her genius most naturally flowed. [he 
197 



Charlotte Brolltë: a Centenary Melnorial 


most pathetic instance of this, I think, is to 
be found in the character of Shirley . You will 
all remember that. She took her sister Elnily 
and created out of her, not what Emily was 
in her brief life of sorrow and suffering and 
anguish, but what she might have been, what 
she would have been if her circun1stances had 
been less grievous, if an ampler atmosphere had 
been around her, if there had been son1e gleams 
of sunshine to break the almost unrelieved glooln 
and sadness of her days. rrhat surely is very 
beautiful. And what n10nunlent to the great 
spiri t \vho had been snatched from her side 
could have been nobler than this tribute, this 
vision of what n1ight have been, that Charlotte 
thus laid upon her grave? 
I take one other point which can hardly fail 
to suggest itself to us, as we consider the \vork 
of the two sisters. I n width of genius, in extent 
and range of po\vers, I think it must be adn1itted 
that Charlotte was the richer of the two. rrhis, 
I think, is partly because, as \ve have just seen, 
observation enters far Blore largely into her \vork 
than into Emily's. And, \vhen used as her genius 
prompted her to use it, when used not as a lin1it 
iOlposed from without, but as a suggestion to 
set her imagination \vorking f.'on1 within, this 
gave a variety and richness to her creations, a 
command of many ditrerent types of character, 
which apparent! y \vas denied to Eo1Íl y, and which 
19 8 



Charlotte and E1J1ily Brontë.' a C01Jlparison 
I doubt whether Emily would have taken even 
at a gift. 
But, closely connected with this, there is 
another gift \vhich, above all others, went to 
widen the range of Charlotte. I mean the gift 
of humour. In her latest work at any rate, in 
Pillette, she showed herself to possess a fund of 
humour, of which her earlier books had offered 
comparatively little promise, of which there is no 
trace in the solitary \vork of Emil y, and to which 
I do not believe that Elnil y could ever have 
attained. You may say that Joseph Smith in 
Wuthering Heights is a humorous character. 
So he is, but surely not in the same rare and 
deep-reaching sense in \vhich we say this of 
Paul Emal)uel. The elements are in themselves 
coarser, and they are nlore coarsel y mingled. 
There is nothing in him of the fire and radiance, 
nothing of the human kindliness and far-flashing 
tenderness which, by their weird contrasts, move 
us at once to tears and laughter in the master- 
piece of Charlotte. And I can hardly conceive 
that Emily had it in her to create a character 
like this. 
'I'he little Professor in {/illette is, no doubt, 
the supreme instance of Charlotte Brontt's 
humour. But he is by no nleans the only one. 
rrhe character of Hortense Moore, in the early 
part of Shirley, is unfortunately little more than 
a sketch. But, sketch though it be, it is full 
199 



Charlotte BroJltë: fl Centenary Menlorial 
of humour; humour of the genial kind, the 
kind that we associate with Fielding, and even 
with Shakespeare; or, to take a name less im- 
posing, the kind in which Mrs. Gaskell, on her 
more modest scale, \vas mistress unsurpassed. 
And I shall never cease to regret that, after 
chalking that brilliant sketch in her open- 
ing pages, Charlotte should afterwards, for 
exigencies of her own, have allowed the kindly 
but rigid champion of all the domestic decencies 
to fade silently out of the story, and we see 
her no more. 
I return, however, to the figure of Monsieur 
Paul, as one of the greatest triumphs which 
human genius, in this field, has ever won. 
Where, 1 should like to know, where shall we 
find anything that goes more swiftly and more 
deepl y to the heart than the figure of this little 
man, that strange blending of reason and un- 
reason, of strength and of sweetness, of wilful- 
ness and self-abasement, of fury and of tender- 
ness, who slowly works himself into our affections 
but, when once he has found his home there, \vill 
never again be surrendered, so long as we live? 
Finally, one word must be said about the style 
of these t\VO writers. And here again we are 
met with a curious, not to say a startling, 
contrast. The style of Emily, as we all know, 
is severely simple. Nothing could be more so. 
It is the rarest thing for her to allow herself an 
200 



Charlotte and Emily BroJ1të.. a ConlParison 


image, a set picture, of any kind. Pictures there 
are in plenty \vhich burn themselves upon the 
imagination. But you will find, I think, that 
they commonly do so in virtue of the sheer power 
and vividness with which the circumstances are 
conceived and rendered, that they commonly owe 
little to tone or colour, still less to any literary 
elaboration of style. So it is in the passage to 
which the Chairman I referred in his opening 
words: the passage describing the haunted dream 
of the man who tells the story, near the beginning 
of Wuthering Heights. So it is in a score of 
other passages, on which it would be a pleasure 
to linger, if time allowed. Once and again, 
however, Emily breaks through the rigid limits 
which she would seem habitually to have laid 
upon herself. And then at one stroke she shows 
herself a master. An in1age, perhaps a succession 
of inlages, is flashed upon our vision; and the 
very austerity of the setting makes it all the 
more radiant and unforgettable. One instance 
of this is offered by the words of Catherine 
about Heathcliff, which I have already quoted. 
Another, and it is the last to which I will refer, 
is that which describes Heathcliff as he stands 
beneath the window of the woman he loved, 
waiting in Inotionless agony until her tortured 
spirit should at last be set free. The servant, you 
will remember, goes out and finds him there, 
I Mr. Halliwell Sutcliffe was Chairman at this meeting. 
201 



Charlotte Brolltë.. a Centenary MenlorÎal 
the strong man propped against a tree in the 
dripping rain; and she knows he has been stand- 
ing there like a stone for hours, because there 
were t,vo ouzels flying backwards and forwards 
in front of him, gathering Inaterial for their 
nest, his presence nlaking no more difference to 
them than if he had been a stock or bush, like 
the rest. That is a magnificent image, and it 
is one that none but a great poet could have 
conceived, none but a great stylist have cut anJ 
fashioned. It is, however, an exception, and, 
generally speaking, I am sure you will agree with 
me that the style of Emily is severely simple. 
The style of Charlotte, on the other hand, I 
think it must be said, is anything but simple. 
She has, in fact, a strong vein-I do not use 
the word in any unpleasant sense-of literary 
rhetoric and, as you know, the critics have 
fastened upon this and have counted it for an 
unpardonable offence. For rnyself I must say 
that I think these objections are very finicking, 
and it seems to me that for some years past 
-1 hope the blight is at last beginning to blow 
over-there has been a tendency to judge style 
hy a false standard. The only qualities of style 
that some critics are prepared to re:;cognize are 
such qualities as urbanity and plainness and 
simplicity. Now, I am not going to deny the 
merits of all these, but after all-and it conles 
back to the same train of thought which has 
202 



Charlotte anti Elnily Brolltë.' a Comparison 


alread y confronted us in considering the Brontës' 
method of handling character-after all, steadi- 
ness, demureness, propriety may be very excellent 
qualities in a duenna, a governess, or a valet, but 
they are not exactly the qualities which I should 
be most anxious to find in a writer of genius, 
which I should be apt to consider the surest 
test of genius. Anyhow it is quite certain that 
Charlotte Brontë would have none of them. It 
is quite certain also, though I doubt whether 
this has been sufficiently recognized, that she 
was in no small measure under the speJl of a 
very great figure in con tem porary literature, the 
greatest writer of the time, the French poet, 
Victor Hugo. 
Now, I will not deny that, with all his genius, 
Victor Hugo is in some ways a perilous model. 
I will not deny that, in following this model, 
Charlotte sometimes allowed herself to be be- 
trayed into extravagance. But for all that, it 
remains true that Victor Hugo himself: in style 
as in all other q uali ties of the poet, was a Titan, 
and, although Charlotte may not have been his 
equal-I do not for a moment suppose she was 
his equal-still that in no way proves that she 
too, in style, as in nlan yother points of supreme 
importance, was not a c0111manding figure, a spirit 
of genius. I am confident that she was, and in 
style, as in matters (if indeed there be such) yet 
lnore vital, this declares itself, as I must think, 
20 3 


\ 



Charlotte BroJJtë.. a Centenary Memorl
11 
beyond dispute. This is true, above all, of those 
passages where it is evident that she herself was 
deeply moved. Then all that betrays labour and 
effort, aU that elsewhere wakes the suspicion that 
she is striving for effect, vanishes upon the instant 
and we hear the very music, the fiery n1elody of 
her soù1. I might appeal to a score of passages 
scattered through the pages of Jane Eyre and 
Shirley, but I would recall to your memory as 
the crowning instance of it, the closing passage 
of Villette. You will remember the circum- 
stances. The heroine has betrothed herself to 
Paul En1anuel, whom she passionately loves. 
Immediately after the betrothal, Emanuel has 
had to leave her on a self-denying errand of three 
years in the service of others, and at the n10ment 
when the book closes, the three long years of 
separation are at last over and Lucy is awaiting 
her lover's return. :For the sake of eXplaining 
one allusion, I may remind you that the cry of 
the Banshee, the spirit that moves in the stornl, 
has been heard once before by the heroine, at the 
very beginning of the story, and that on that 
occasion it had heen the warning of an approach- 
ing death. 


'fhc sun passes the equinox; the days shorten, the leav

 
grow sere; but-he is coming. 
Frosts appear at night; November has sent his fogs in 
advance; the wind takes its autumn moan; but-he is 
comIng. 


20 4 



Charlotte and Elnlïy Brontë.. a Cr.J1Jlpariron 


The skies hang full and dark-a rack sails from the west; 
the clouds cast themselves into strange forms-arches and 
broad radiations ; there rise resplenden t mornings-glorious, 
royal, purple as monarch in his state; the heavens are one 
flame; so wild are they, they rival battle at its thickest- 
so bloody, they shame victory in her pride. I know some 
signs of the sky; I have noted them ever since childhood. 
God watch that sail! Oh! guard it! 
The wind shifts to the we:>t. Peace, peace, Banshee- 
U keening" at every window! It win rise-it will swell- 
it shrieks out long: wander as I may through the house this 
night, I cannot lull the blast. The advancing hours make 
it strong: by midnight, all sleepless watc hers hear and fear 
a wild south-\vest storm. 
That storm roared frenzied for seven days. It did not 
cease till the Atlantic \vas strewn with wrecks: it did not 
lul] till the deeps had gorged their ful] of sustenance. Not till 
the destroying angel of tempest had achieved his perfect 
work, would he fold the wings whose waft was thunder- 
the tremor of whose plumes was stornl. 
Peace, be still! Oh! a thousand weepers, praying in 
agony on waiting shores, listened for that voice, but it was 
not uttered-not uttered till, when the hush came, some 
could not feel it : till, when the sun returned, his light was 
night to some! 


That is a highl y-\vrought passage. I an1 not 
concerned to deny it. On the contrary, I insist 
on it and I exult in it. And I will t
ll you that, 
in the whole range of English prose, there are 
few passages which I \vould sooner have written 
than that. And I say this not onl y because the 
style, as a mere arrangement of words, is 
supremely beautiful; but also, and far more, 
20 5 


\ 


...... 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Memorial 


because it reflects, and reflects with the mastery 
that genius alone could give, that unforced, that 
mysterious, blending of sorrow and of triun1ph.. 
\vhich constitutes the very essence and spirit of 
great tragedy. 
Neither in drama nor in novel do I know of 
anything which seems to me n10re accurately) 
more consummately, to reflect that spirit, as 
Milton for instance understood it, than the clos- 
ing passage of Villette. In its whole tone and 
in its whole tenor, it reminds me of that blended 
cry of anguish and exultation which rings out 
at the end of his own supreme drama, Samson 
Agonistes :- 


Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail 
Or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt, 
Dispraise or blame; nothing but well and fair, 
And what may quiet us in a death so noble. 


Yes; "calm of mind, aU passion spent "-those 
are the words, the last words of Milton himself, 
which at once leap into our thoughts; that is the 
tone, the deep organ tone, which peals upon our 
ears in the closing passage of Pillelte. 


(J, E, f/ AUGHAN. 


206 



CHARLOTTE BRONTE IN 
LONDON 


By SIR SIDNEY LEE, D.LITT., LL.D. 


AN ADDRESS DELIVERED TO THE BRONTË SOCIETY, AT 
HARROGATE, ON JANUARY 23, 1909. 


Rtprinted from the "Cornhill Magazine" by permission if 
Messrs. Smith, Elder f;f Co. 


, 





 il
 


; I
 


To face p. %083 


. 




CHARLOTfE RRONTË IN LONDON 


:FOR nearer forty than thirty years I have been 
a whole-hearted admirer of Charlotte Brontë's 
genius. I have a distinct nlenlory of reading 
Jane Eyre as a boy. l'he weirdness of the 
mystery and the fiery glow of the language 
worked like magic on my youthful olind, and 
the impression has never faded fronl me. 
Nor did my juvenile enthusiasm for Charlotte 
Hront
 stop \vith her ,york. Mrs. Gaskell's 
sensitive pen taught me the grey pathos of the 
novelist's donlestic distresses, which had a gloomy 
fascination for my early thought. In my young 
days, long before the Brontë Society was con- 
templated, I made a solitary pilgrimage to 
Haworth; I drained a glass to Charlotte Brontë's 
memory at the Black BuH Inn, sat there in the 
ill-starred Branwell's chair, and wandered in 
Charlotte Bront
's footsteps across the windy 
moor. I well remember ho\v my interest was 
stimulated by reading on their first appearance Mr. 
Swinburne's impassioned " Note JJ and Sir Wemyss 
Reid's sober monograph, both of which came out 
209 0 



Charlotte BroJltë: a Centenary Melnorial 
in 1877. I nlake no claim to have kept abreast 
of the vast sequel of critical and biographical 
literature which has since circled round Charlotte 
Brontë's head. I respect the untiring labours 
of recent explorers; I have 
ssayed no excava- 
tions on my o\vn account. Myoid enthusiasm 
has been checked neither by independent research 
nor by close study of the ever-expanding com- 
mentary. Zeal, which is untutored by the new 
learning, olay seen1 a poor credential for one 
who speaks to a hand of learned disciples. In 
arrest of judgment on what may appear pre- 
suolption, I oftèr t\VO pleas of justification. 
In the first place, I happen to be, for the tiole 
heing, through the indulgence of my colleagues, 
the chairnlan of the rfrustees of Shakespeare's 
Birthplace at Stratford-on-A von. Comparison 
bet\veen Shakesoeare and Charlotte Brontt: is 
.. 
profitless. I merely urge that Shakespeare's 
Birthplace Trust has in a very general sense 
an aiol in COOlmon with the Brontë Society. 
Both institutions endeavour to keep alive national 
interest in an that survives of two homes of 
genius. rrhe problem of genius is insoluble, 
and speculation has as yet failed to account for 
the miracle of its birth. It comes into being in 
nlost unexpected places) more often in the cottage 
than in the palace, more often in the house of 
the poor parson than in the mansion of the 
rich merchant. Its manifestations are rare and 
210 



Charlotte Brontë III London 


mysterious. But \vith all ernphasis should it 
be said that, at whatever hearth it take living 
shape, it is to the spiritual benefit of nlen and 
women to sanctify the place. It is good for 
every human being to recognize the obligation 
to reverence genius, and that sense of reverence 
\vill always be stimulated-at any rate in matter- 
of-fact minds) which are in the majority-by 
preserving haunts which genius has illumined. 
IIaworth and Stratford-on-Avon may well be 
mentioned in the same breath, because the care 
locall y bestowed on surviving memorials of their 
native heirs of genius draws visitors to both 
places from afar. The Brontë Society and the 
Trustees of Shakespeare's Birthplace engage in 
cognate work, in the \vork of quickening the 
national reverence for inspired writers. I am 
glad of the opportunity of offering a greeting 
to the Guardians of the Brontë Museum from 
the Trustees at Stratford-on-A Yon. 
My second justificatory plea descends to a 
somewhat lower plane of argument. On March 
31st next, fifty-four years will have passed away 
since Charlotte Brontë died. I The number of 
persons who saw her face to face is now small; 
her intiolate associates are now dead. Those 
who can boast acquaintance with her at second 
hand, who have heard of her from her personal 
friends, are happily still numerous. Many beside 
1 Written January 23, 1909. 
211 



Charlotte BroJ/të: a Centenary Menloria/ 
myself have learnt something of her from those 
who spoke with her and grasped her hand. 
But it was nlY good fortune to enjoy through 
great part of twenty years close relations with 
one who not merely presided over Charlotte 
Brontë's short feast of fame, but was the uncon- 
scious nlodel of the most attractive of all the 
full-length portraits of men in her great gallery. 
Mr. George Sn1Ïth) Charlotte Brontë's publisher, 
closed a long and honoured life nearly eight 
years ago. His publishing acti vities fiJled near 
six decades. Charlotte Brontë's friendly relations 
with hinl synchronized with the first decade 
only; my relations belonged to the last two. 
An amply filled interval of thirty years and 
upwards divides the publication of Jane Eyre 
from the planning of the Dictionary of N aJÍonal 
Biography. But Mr. Smith's powers of memory 
throughout his career were alert and vivid. 
In the comparatively recent period of my 
association with him, I gathered much from 
him of his early experience. Nor did his vigour 
know change or decay in his later years. In 
all essential features he was, I am persuaded, the 
same manly, keen-nlinded, sympathetic figure 
in my day as in Charlotte Brontë's. I therefore 
believe that I may without immodesty bring 
some personal knowledge and impressions of 
my own to bear on those classical episodes in 
the story of Charlotte Brontë's life and work 
212 



Charlotte Brontë in London 


In which Mr. George Smith played a foremost 
part. 
Another friend of mine \vho sa\v Charlotte 
Brontë and talked \vith her is the daughter of 
the great novelist, Thackeray. Lad y Ritchie, 
Thackeray's daughter, is still in all the vigour 
of a sympathetic personality, which speaks 
illuminatingly of her tàther's genius. Concern- 
ing the impressions which Charlotte Brontë gave 
and received when in London, I can cite testimony 
which I owe to two first-hand witnesses, Lady 
Ritchie and Mr. George Smith. There are no 
higher authorities on the topic. I have no 
secrets to divulge. In all its main features the 
story of Charlotte Brontë in London has often 
been told before. But it has features of perennial 
interest, and perhaps I ma y be able to ten 
it again in a sOlnewhat different1y refracted 
light. 
Much has been written by Charlotte Brontë's 
biographers of her friendship with Mr. George 
Smith, her publisher. Less has been said of 
the place which that incident fills either in 
Mr. Smith's biography or in literary history. 
Yet J to take the last aspect first, it throws 
a very broad and healthy light on an iOl- 
portant tract of literary territory. I have 
elsewhere styled Mr. Snlith's association ,vith 
Charlotte Brontë "a publishing idyll." It is 
rare that the epithet "idyllic" figures in tht: 
21 3 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary 1vle1Jlorial 
joint chronicles of publishing and authorship. 
Publishers and authors are usually held to be 
linked together by no tie more sentimental than 
desire to make nIoney out of one another. There 
are notable exceptions; but experience bears 
witness that few publishers and authors of enlin- 
ence have throughout their working days been 
bound together in firm unbroken links of amity 
and trustfulness. It is a common failing on the 
part of publishers and authors to regard each 
other as nlutual foes and preys. Yet the facts 
of Charlotte Brontë's connection with Mr. Smith, 
her publisher, show with convincing harrnony that 
there is nothing in the natur.e of the publisher's 
or the author's vocation to set thenl at variance. 
The conditions of amity may be difficult of attain- 
ment. But my present parable plainly points the 
moral that, given on the one hand a publisher 
of high principle, of alert human sympathy, of 
capacity to appreciate great literature, and given 
on the other hand an author of genius, of 
modesty, of shrewdness, of frankness, and of 
honesty, there is no room for any sentin1ent 
between the two save genuine regard. 
The manner in which Charlotte Brontë first 
made Mr. Sn1Ïth's acquaintance is too wen-worn 
a topic to merit repetition here. But for the 
sake of clearness a brief reference must be made 
to the episode. Everybody knows how Charlotte 
Brontë and her t\VO younger sisters, while they 
21 4 



Charlotte Brontë ÙI Lonllon 


w
re in their teens, filled reams of paper with 
poems and novels. Survi ving specinlens show 
a sti]ted juvenility of the vaguest promise. The 
domestic griefs of adult years stimulated rather 
than slackened the three ladies' literary energies, 
but their first youth seems to have passed before 
the anlbition seized them to see themselves in 
print. It \vas not till 1846, \vhen Charlotte was 
thirty years old, that she and her sisters conl- 
missioned a London pub]isher to publish at their 
o\vn expense a first vol un1e-a collection of poems. 
The book had no success. But the sisters had 
tasted blood, and they now each offered a novel 
to a London firm. 'I'he aim of Charlotte's sister 
took effect. Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey 
were accepted. But her own efFort of 1Ï1e 
Professor was rejected ,vithout thanks. The 
failure did not daunt her pertinacity. Five tinles 
she re-addressed her man uscri pt to London 
publishers, only to meet with as nlany rebuffs. 
A seventh trial bore different fruit. rrhe ill- 
fated manuscript reached a sympathetic har- 
bourage in the office of Smith, Elder & Co., of 
65 Cornhi]I. 'rhere it attracted the notice of 
the firm's reader, Mr. Sn1Îth Williatns, a 
thoughtful critic, a student of fine taste. 
Williams detected the promise of 1ïze Professor, 
and, while declining its publication, inviteJ \vith 
kindly encouragen1ent another specilllen of the 
author's \vork. lane Eyre ,vas despatched on 
2IS 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Melnorial 


August 24, 1847. 1" he result is universally 
known. 
The tnanuscript fascinated Smith Williams. 
Mr. Smith read it one Sunday from end to end 
in the little study of his mother's house at 
\Vestbourne Place. It absorbed him from early 
tnorning till late at night. He could not tear 
himself from it to keep the day's engagements or 
even to take his meals. 1"he book was q uickl y 
sent to press. Within a fe\v weeks, on October 
16, 1847, Charlotte Brontë's genius \vas reveal
d 
to the world. I 
F e\v will need to be renlinded that Charlotte 
Brontë addressed the firm under the masculine 
pseudonyn1 of "Currer Bell," and represented 
herself as a man in aU her early correspondence. 
Fron1 the first Mr. Smith saw through the 
disguise. His shrewd instinct convinced hinl 
that "Currer Bell, Esq.," was a woman. 
In the early n10nths of 18+8 some friendly 
correspondence passed bet\veen Mr. Snli th and 


I Nlr. Smith has noted the small circumstance that 
Char10tte Brontë in sending to his firnl the manuscript of 
Ja!u Eyrt apologized for her inability to prepay at Haworth 
the cost of carriage. She asked the firm to let her know the: 
amount which should be charged on delivery, and promised 
to remit the sum in postage stamps. The simple req uest 
showed innocent anxiety lest the author's high hopes might 
be thwarted by a trifling accident, and points to obsolete 
perils of cOlnmunication between writers living in remot<; 
p]aces and London publishers. 
2.6 



Charlotte Brontë Ùz London 


Charlotte Brontë in her assun1ed name, but they 
did not meet till July, nine months after the 
publication of ] ane Eyre. The inlmediate cause 
of the meeting need only be briefly indicated. 
Charlotte Brontë began Shirley very soon after 
she had finished Jane Eyre. At the same tirne 
hcr sister ...t\nne had just COOl pleted her second 
novel, The '/ènal1t of jf/ildftll flail) and \vas 
arranging to publish it under the accepted 
pseudonym of "Acton Bell," \vith Mr. Newby, 
the publisher of her first book, 11gnes Grey. Mr. 
Newby informed Smith, Elder & Co. of an 
unfounded suspicion that Acton and Currer Bel I 
were one person. Charlotte Brontë deemed it 
a point of honour to prove their separate 
identities. Suddenly she resolved that she and 
her sister Anne should reveal themselves in person 
to Mr. Sn1Ïth in London. They arrived late one 
Friday night in July 18+8) and next 1110rning 
presented themselves at 65 Cornhill. Mr. SnlÌth 
\vas busily occupied, and was for a moment 
puzzled by the intrusion. Charlotte drew frool 
an envelope inscribed "Currer Bell, J
sq.," a 
letter \vhich she declared that the firm had sent 
her. Mr. Smith asked with some coolness what 
was it. wOll1an's title to a comnlunication \vhich 
the firm had addressed to a Inan. The needful 
explanation followed, and there and then was 
formed that chivalric friendship which only 
death terruinated. 


21 7 



Charlotte Brontë.. tl Centenary Me1l10rial 


A visit to London was always for Charlotte 
Brontë a stirring venture. From girlhood, long 
before she made personal acquaintance with the 
city, the nan1e thrilled her \vith a sense of 
mysterious wonder. Reports of its splendours 
at once attracted and repelled her youthful mind. 
It was her Babylon, her Nineveh, her ancient 
Rome. When her friend, Ellen N ussey, spent 
a few days there in 1834, Charlotte's letters 
vibrated vicariously with excitement over the 
dread experience. Ellen wrote carelessly of the 
first sight of the capital. Charlotte in reply 
confessed, by \vay of rebuke, "'astonishn1ent" and 
" awe" at the in1agined marvels of St. Paul's 
Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The 
mention of St. J an1es' s Palace filled her with 
U intense and ardent interest." The thought of 
meeting heroes like the Duke of \tV ellington, 
Sir Robert Peel, and Daniel O'Connell in the 
London streets stirred her deepest feelings. 
At the same time she was femininely inquisitive 
about the Court and its ceremonies. An1Íd the 
dithyrambics with \vhich she plied her fortunate 
friend on her first London sojourn, she asked 
\vith a comical bathos for "the number of 
performers in the King's military band." "fhe 
smallest details of London life moved her eager 
curiosity. 
London was indeed a word to conj ure with 
among all the dwellers in I-Iaworth parsonage. 
218 



Charlotte Brontë in London 


The dissolute, art-loving brother Branwell craved 
in boyhood for a sight of the metropolis of art and 
sport. He gratified it for a few unlucky nlonths 
at the end of 1835, after studying at home under 
his sister's eyes every thoroughfare marked on 
the map of the City. Charlotte's conception of 
London was first put to the test of experience in 
February 1842, when she was twenty-six. On 
her way \vith her sister Emily to M. Heger's 
school at Brussels, she then spent her first night 
and day in London. Her father acconlpanied 
them. rrhe three visitors stayed at an old- 
fashioned ta verJ1 in an alley off Paternoster Row, 
at the Chapter Coffee House, in the very heart 
of the City, within view, through a narrow 
passage, of St. Paul's Cathedral. That object of 
her early a,ve with its chimes and its dome-" a 
solemn orbed mass, dark blue and dim "- 
dominated on her arrival her mind and heart. 
With passionate impressiveness she t\vice 
described her first nocturnal sensations of St. 
Paul's, in 'rhe Professor, and again in fuller detail 
in Villette. Next lllorning "the spirit of this 
great London" roused her to ecstasy. ".llt a 
hound," she said, she got into the heart of City 
) ife. She dared the perils of crossi ngs wi th a 
light heart. rrhe West End, the parks, the fine 
sq uares which she knew better at a later date 
left her cold. But the earnestness of the City 
held her spellbound. "Its business, its rush, its 
21 9 


\ 



Charlotte Bro/ltë.' a Centenary Me1JlorÎal 


roar were such serious themes and sights and 
sounds. ., 
Glimpses of London even more fleeting were 
caught during the next two years. She slept 
again in the City on her return fronl Brussels to 
I-Iaworth in the autun1n of 1842. On her second 
visit to Brussels early next year (I H43) she drove 
straight from Euston Railway Station to London 
Bridge Wharf and spent the night, an unwelconle 
passenger, on the Ostend packet, an incident 
which she vividly sketched in 1.he Professor. 
Nor does her stay in London seenl to have been 
prolonged beyond a night and a day, when she 
finally quitted Brussels for Haworth at the 
extreme end of the year 1843. However great 
its passing fascination at this period of her life, 
she found no further opportunity of personal 
scrutiny. London was still a hazy dream of 
glorious possibilities when she paid her memorable 
visit to Mr. Sn1Ïth at Cornhill in July 1848. 
Then, for the first time, her sojourn lasted tor 
Jll0re nights than one. She and her sister Anne 
remained in the City for three full days. Their 
headq uarters were still the Chapter Coffee House, 
off Paternoster Row. Two of their evenings 
\vere spent at the West End of the town, at No. 
4 Westbourne Place, where Mr. Smith resided 
with his mother and sisters. Mr. Smith did 
not see Anne Brontë again. She died in less 
than a year, on May 28, 1849. 
220 



Charlotte Brontë in London 


There quickly follo\ved, during the next 
four years, four visits which finally brought 
London within Charlotte Brontë's full com- 
prehension. During all these visits, she was 
Mr. Smith's guest beneath his mother's roof. 
It was under his auspices and in his society 
that she realized her long-cherished ambition of 
familiarizing herself with London-its thrilling 
"themes and sights and sounds." 
Only three months of her thirty-nine years 
were devoted to the City of her early hopes 
and fears. But those three months provided, 
as she acknowledged, sonle of the most stirring 
momen ts in her career. She taxed her strength 
by her persistency as a sightseer. Her courage 
was often tried by social in tercourse with her 
literary compeers to whom Mr. Smith intro- 
duced her. . She nerved herself for the encounters 
with the self-questioning rebuke: "Who but 
a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets?" 
But her spirit often quailed. Yet her study of 
hunlan character gained in subtlety and generosity 
under the varied ordeals of the great City. In 
her maturest novel, Villette, she garnered the 
fruit of the broadened outlook on human 
nature which she owed to her London experi- 
ence. 
Mr. Smith was" the guide, philosopher, and 
friend" of Charlotte Hrontë's London days. 
For full two-thirds of the nineteenth century he 
221 


\ 



Charlotte Bronti!.' a Centenary MelJlorial 
played an interesting and important part on the 
literary stage apart from her and her work. 
His association with her was but one link in 
a long chain of achievement. Yet studen ts of 
Charlotte Brontë's history and work have an 
especiall y good right to ask \v hat manner of 
man he was as she knew him. 
Miss Brontë's junior by eight years, Mr. 
Smith had lately passed his t\venty-fourth birth- 
day \vhen she, at the age of thirty-t\vO, first 
introduced herself to him at his office in Corn- 
hil1. London-born, a child of Scottish settlers, 
he had already lived from boyhood a busy life, 
and had sho\vn that large-minded spirit, that 
keen intuition, that sense of responsibility, that 
mercantile aptitude which characterized his re- 
111aining three-and-fifty years. In 18 I 6, the 
year of Charlotte Brontë's birth, his father, a 
native of Eiginshire, had opened (with a partner, 
Alexander Elder, a native of Banff) a booksellers' 
and stationers' shop in Fenchurch Street. 
" Booksellers" and "publishers" were then 
convertible terms, and Smith & Elder were 
publishers on a modest scale from early days. 
Soon moving to Cornhill, the partners grafted 
on their existing business an East India Agency, 
and for more than thirty years the firnl pursued 
in ever-increasing volume the joint work of 
publishers and East India agents. Young Smith 
entered the t\vin business at the age of thirteen, 
222 



Charlotte Brontë in London 


and at first took nlore kindly to the publishing 
than to the East Indian branch. His pupilage 
was brief. When he was no more than twenty 
-in I844-his father's retirement, owing to 
failing health, flung on him the responsible 
charge of the gro\ving concern, and circunlstances 
quickly constituted him sole proprietor and 
director. His father soon died. Encouraged 
by his mother, from whom he inherited much 
of his firm and sanguine spirit, he \veathered 
fornlidable initial difficulties, and under his 
control Smith, Elder & Co. became the chief 
East India agents and one of the leading pub- 
lishing houses in London. 
Mr. Sn1Ïth had been only four years the 
firm's responsible chief when Charlotte and 
Anne Brontë called on him. A period of pros- 
perity was opening for hin1 in all directions, and 
hefore long he was to become the publisher of 
the fJo\ver of contemporary literature. The firm 
was already acting for Ruskin, then an unknown 
man under thirty, and with Ruskin Mr. Smith 
was already intimate. But at present the only 
novelist of any repute with whom Smith, Elder 
& Co. had been nearly associated was the gran- 
diloquent writer of blood-curdling romance, 
G. P. R. James. 
Of the first impressions that Mr. Smith made 
on Charlotte Brontë she has left a frank record 
in her letters. She wrote there of his youth, of 
223 


. 



Charlotte Bronti!.. fl Centenary Mel/JorÎal 


his practical instinct, his caution, his sense of 
honour, his enterprise, his quiet raillery. But 
her final and comprehensive study of his char- 
acter was made in the medium of fiction. There 
are grounds for regarding Villette as her crown- 
ing achievement in literature. The book is to 
a large extent a recension of her early effort 
The Professor. But her touch had grown far 
firo1er, and her outlook on life had widened 
since she made that first atten1pt. The old 
canvas \vas painted anew. Characters, of which 
she had no previous conception, were brought 
into the foreground. Bright colour for the first 
tinle illuminated the settled gloonl. The cause 
of the cloud-lifting is not far to seek. The 
radiance was clearly caught from the character 
of Mr. Smith, from her close study of London 
sights under his surveillance, and from the cheer- 
ful hospitality which she enjoyed in his London 
home. Dr. John Grahan1 Bretton, and his 
n1other, Mrs. Bretton, \vho shed on the novel 
its warmest glo\v, are Miss Brontë's full and 
candid interpretations of the personalities of her 
London host and hostess. She bequeathed to 
posterity no more delightful gifts. 
Miss Brontë has been charged with transcrib- 
ing in all her novels her private experience 
somewhat too literally to satisfy the best canons 
of art. Of that charge I will speak briefly 
before I close. In Villette, at any rate, she 
224 



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Charlotte Brolltë in LfJndon 


paints with curious fidelity man y portrai ts of 
those with whom she had been in living contact 
both before and after she grew familiar with 
London. Villette is Brussels; her own sojourn 
at M. Heger's school and her companions there 
form the staple of her argument. But with an 
ingenuity that may be fairly styled felicitous 
she weaves into her canvas all the brightest 
threads of her London life. 
No one who either knew Mr. Smith or heard 
him speak of his mother can fai I to detect their 
two likenesses in Mrs. Bretton and Dr. John. 
To the portrayal of the son Charlotte Brontë 
hrought her keen power of observation in its 
fullest blossom. The mother is sketched n10re 
lightly, but no less surely. No sign of either 
is given in the first sketch of the book in 17ze 
Professor. 
Some idealization is inseparable from fictitious 
portraiture even ,vhen the artist draws the 
lineaments directly from life. In the setting of 
Dr. John in medical practice at Villette there 
is nothing which reflects any phase of Mr. 
Smith's career. Dr. John's environrnent is either 
imaginary or assimilates gleanings from another 
household. It may be difficult here and there 
to reconcile a feature in the counterfeit present- 
ment with one's own impression of the original. 
But the discrepancies are negligible. F or those 
who knew Mr. Smith, Dr. John is a speaking 
225 p 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Melnoriol 


portrait. Nor does the resemblance end with 
the graphic presentment of character and out- 
ward aspect. In spite of divergence from actual 
fact in the surroundings, Dr. John and Lucy 
Snowe, the heroine of Villette, are involved in 
some digressive adventures identical with ex- 
periences which jointly befell Charlotte Brontë 
and Mr. Smith when the writer was visiting 
London. 
In personal appearance Dr. John vividly recalls 
his prototype. The well-proportioned figure, 
the handsome and n1anly face and brow, the 
imposing height, the - blue eyes, the hair worn 
rather long, which are precisely described in the 
novel, come straight from the unn1istakable 
model. There is an unusual flicker of humour 
in the stress laid on the indetertninate hue of 
the hero's hair.-such as friends did not venture 
to specify except as the sun shone on it" when 
they called it golden." 
It is in psychological analysis of her friend 
and publisher's temperament that Miss Brontë 
shows her full strength. Admiringly sympa- 
thetic as is her prevailing tone, she \vas too 
critical and too honest an artist to indulge in 
unqualified panegyric. "Strong and cheerful, 
firm and courteous, not rash yet valiant," are 
the salient notes of her picture, and none who 
kne\v Mr. Smith can question the justice of these 
epithets' application. "M uch feeling spoke in 
226 



Charlotte Brontë 1n London 


his features and nlore sat silent in his eye. " 
Of Dr. John's "gay and sanguine" tempera- 
ment, of his generosity, his good nature, his 
amenity, Miss Brontë's pages do not lack the 
proof. But to her penetrating vision " Dr. John 
was not perfect any more than I am perfect." 
She declined to credit him with th
 attributes 
of "a god." She had no intention, she wrote 
to Mr. Smith himself, of keeping Dr. John 
c, supremely worshipful" -" a being unlike reat 
life, .inconsistent with real truth, at variance 
with probability." u Human fallibility leaven
d 
him throughout." Hut the shadows are not 
dark. They add value to the portrait almost 
as much froIn the light they shed on th
 
painter's idiosyncrasies as frolTI any inherent 
value that attaches to them in the \vay of 
portrai ture. 
Charlotte Brontë's sen
e of hUluour was not 
strong. '[hough no stranger to the playful l11ood, 
she strictly checked its working. She was 
usuall y too serious and too earnest to approve 
any tendency to levity. Raillery or gentle 
ridicule she suspected of insincerity or \vorse. 
lnnocent fun lay outside the normal scope of her 
intuition. Pritnness \vas intertwined with her 
pa,sionate fibre. Hence came the main mis- 
givings of her friend and publisher. In Mr. 
Smith's letters and conversation she noted hints 
of a playful disposition which puzzled her. 
227 



Charlottt Brontë.. a Centenary M
lnorial 


\Vith charact
ristic frankn
ss she wrote to him 
thus :- 


J will tdl you a thing to be noted often in your letters and 
almost always in your conversation, a psychological thing and 
not a matter pertaining to style or intdlect-l mean an 
undercurrent of quiet raillery, an inaudible laugh to yourself, 
a not unkindly, but somewhat subtle, playing on your corre- 
spondent or companion for the time being-in short, a sly 
touch of a M ephistophdes with the fiend extracted. 


She contessed that she was at titnes half afraid 
of the enigmatic smile of questioning rebuk
 to 
which Mr. Smith's features lent then1selves in 
her eyes. 
[)r. John is invested with the like traits) and 
she dissects then1 aln10st mercilessly. " One 
could not in a hurry n1ake up one's n1ind," 
she writes in one chapter of Pillette) "as to the 
descriptive epithet it [i.e. Dr. John's smile] 
merited. \Vhile it pleased it brought surging 
up into the mind alJ one's foibles and \\'eak 
points." The sentence is an eloquent confession 
of the writer's own sensitiveness. })r. John's 
ct mischievous half-smile" at other times seemed 
to her to betray either "masculine vanity elate 
and tickled," or an U unconscious roguish arch- 
ness,,, \vhich dashed the observer's equanimity. 
More subtle failings suggested themselves as 
her brush worked over the canvas. She \vas 
inclined to blao1e her hero for a lighthearted 
228 



Charlotte Brontë in London 


absorption in the pleasure of the moment and 
for a masculine self-esteem, which hovered in 
her judgment between a vice or virtue. While 
she amply ackno\vledged his consideration for 
others) she sometimes imputed to him slowness 
to apprehend the felicity of unsolicited benevo- 
lence. 


'I'hough a kind, generous man, with fine feding, he was 
not quick to seize or apprehend another's fec:1ings. Make 
your need known, his hand was open; put your grief into 
words, he turned no deaf ear; expect refinements of per- 
ception, miracles of intuition, and realize disappointment. 


Censure so searching bears \vitness to the exacting 
terms which the author imposed on her beau-ideal. 
Every side of Mr. Smith's character was 
conscientiously surveyed under cover of Dr. 
John. With graphic literalness Dr. John's 
attributes reflect Mr. Smith's magnificent capa- 
city for work and his Inethodical precision. 
\Vhile Charlotte Hrontë was the guest of his 
nlother in London, the calls of his heavy and 
incessant labours at Cornhill were often reckoned 
more than one rnan could sustain. It is obvious 
what Charlotte Brontë had in her mind when 
she made Lucy Snowe renlark of ))r. John :- 


I can hardly tell how he mana
ed his engagemenb. 
fhey were numerous; yet by dint of system he classed 
(hem in an order which left him a daily period of liberty. 
229 



Charlotte Brontë.' (/ C
nt
J1ary Menlorial 


I often saw him hard-worked, yet seldom over-driven, and 
never irritated, confused, or oppressed. What he did was 
accomp1ished with the ease and grace of all-sufficing strength; 
with the bountiful cheerfulness of high and unbroken 
energIes. 


Nor does Charlotte Brontë depart a hair's 
breath from her circumambient text when she 
describes how Dr. John, despite his professional 
preoccupations, found time to gratify the heroine's 
taste for sightseeing. There is son1ething like 
irrelevancy and inconsistency in the emphasis, 
which is laid in l/illelle on Dr. John's perfect 
kno,,"ledge of the poi nts of j nterest in that 
}
'rench to\vn where, according to the fiction, he 
\vas an alien d\veller. Mr. Stnith's exhaustive 
acquaintance with London, and his own accounts 
of the watchful care with which, at her instance, 
he conducted Miss Brontë through the laby- 
rinth of its wonders, supply the key to the 
riddle. 
rheatres, opera-houses) picture galleries, 
ne\vspaper offices, prisons, banks, hospitals, 
Parlian1ent house, were al1 open to her \vith 
hin1 as her guide. "[he chief object of her 
adoration, the Duke of Wel1ington, becan1e to 
her a familiar figure, owing to Mr. Smith's 
ingenious pursuit of hinl at church or in street. 
\'Tell might I-Jucy Snowe say of Dr. John: 
"Of every object worth seeing he seemed to 
possess the Open, sesatne! . . . He took nle to 
places of interest in the to\vn, whose names I 
23 0 



Charlotte BroJJtP in London 


had not before so much as heard." It was in 
one "happy fortnight" that Dr. John revealed 
to Lucy Snowe "more of Villette, its environs 
and inhabitants," than months could have shown 
her with a less efficient escort. Villette and 
London (as discovered to Charlotte Brontë by 
Mr. Smith) are here convertible terms. 
Dr. John's minutest characteristics as cicerone 
are scrutinized with the same transparent signi- 
ficance. Dr. John would leave Lucy Snowe in a 
picture gallery or museum to study or meditate 
alone for two or three hours, and call for her 
\vhen his business set him free. He did not 
oppress her with his own comment, nor pretend 
to connoisseurship which he did not possess. 
"He spoke his thought, which \vas sure to he 
fresh. H His sensible criticism came from his 
own resources. It was not borro,ved nor stolen 
fron1 books, nor decked out with dry facts or 
trite phrases or hackneyed opinions. Pertinent 
details interested him. r-rhere was no superfi- 
ciality about his power of observation. His talk 
was neither cold nor vague. "He never 
prosed. " 
A touching charm envelops all the relations 
\vhich the book allots to })r. John and his 
lllother. Mrs. Bretton has practicaJJy no charac- 
teristics which tradition fails to trace in Mr. 
Smith's mother, and rnany of Mrs. Bretton's 
phrases arc known to have fallen from Mrs. 
23 1 


, 


. 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Memorial 
Smith's lips. On her first introduction to 
Miss Brontë, Mrs. Smith was fifty-one years 
old, and had been a widow less than two years. 
Her youthful spirit was undimmed, and her son, 
as he often remarked, owed to her shrewdness, 
vivacity, and sanguine temper a large measure 
of the confidence with which he faced and con- 
quered the heavy and complicated responsibilities 
that devolved on his young shoulders when his 
father died. The perfect understanding which 
linked mother and son together Charlotte Brontë 
transferred to her canvas with rare Iun1Ïnosity. 
In a letter to a friend Miss Brontt: gave her 
earliest impression of Mrs. Smith as "a portly, 
handsome woman of her age," and of her younger 
children as U all dark-eyed, dark-haired, and 
having clear, pale faces." This is how Mrs. 
Bretton was first brought to the reader's notice' 
in Villette:- 


She was not young as I remember her, but she was still 
handsome, tall, well made, and though dark for an Engli5h- 
woman, yet wearing always the clearness of health ia her 
brunette cbeek, and its vivacity in a pair of fine cheerful 
blac k eyes. 


"rhroughout the book Mrs. Bretton is credited 
at fifty with U the alacrity and strength of five- 
and-twenty," with a self-reliant mood and a 
decided bearing. She never, we are told, Inade 
a fuss over trifles, and \vas ahvays self-possessed 
23 2 



Charlotte BroJ/të tÌl London 


in the presence of anxiety. Though she could 
be peremptory and commanding in manner, 
cheerfulness and benevolence possessed her being. 
Her son, who honoured her counsel, called her 
II old lady." His affectionate regard for her 
mingled at their hearth with a playful spirit 
of camaraderie. Hints are given in the book 
of a difficult pecuniary situation in the affairs of 
the family, which Mrs. Bretton and her son 
boldly met side by side. The reference to the 
half-told episode ends in Villette with these words: 
"So courageous a mother, with such a champion 
in her son, was well fitted to fight a good fight 
with the world, and to prevail ultimately." None 
can doubt that Miss Brontë here was reproducing 
some confidences given her by Mr. Smith or 
his mother of the cia ys when he first took the 
helm at Cornhill. 
The best tribute that one can pay to Mrs. Smith 
is that no more charming type of matronhood 
than Mrs. Hretton is known to fiction. Charlotte 
ßrontë's final judgment on the hospitality \vhich 
mother and son offered her in London is found 
in these fine sentences :- 


There are human tempers-bland, glowing, and genial- 
within whose influence it is as good for the poùr in spirit 
to live, as it is for the tèeble in frame to bask in the glow 
uf noon. Of the n umber of these choice natures were 
certainly both Dr. Bretton's and his mother's. 1'hey liked 
to communicate happiness, as some like to occasion misery. 
233 


\ 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Menlorial 


They did it instinctive1y, without fuss, and apparently with 
little consciousness; the means to give pleasure rose spon- 
taneously in their minds. Every day, while I 3tayed with 
them, some little plan was proposed which resulted in 
beneficial enjoyment. 


'-[here are incidents in Villette which are 
digressions from the nlain path of the story. 
Most of them are memories of Charlotte 
ßrontë's sojourns in her publisher's London 
household. They at times il11peril the just per- 
specti ve of the novel. Yet they have intrinsic 
interest from the mode of presentation, and 
bear eloquent testimony to the depth of the 
impression that her London experience left on 
her. 
rhe n1Ïnute description of the concert at 
the conservatoire in Villette is alive with touches 
derived from Charlotte's attentive hearing and 
observation of music recitals in London. It 
\vill be. remembered that Mrs. Bretton causes 
her guest, Lucy Snowe, some alarm by suddenly 
bidding her to a concert at which royalty was 
expected, and that the girl's lack of suitable 
apparel \vas instantaneously met by her hostess's 
provision of a new pink dress. I have heard 
that the incident, in all the minuteness of its 
detail, is true of an identical experience of 
Charlotte Brontë at Mrs. Smith's Bayswater 
home. Very familiar is the glowing description 
of Lucy's visit to the Villette theatre to see 
and hear the great tragic actress \T ashti. The 
234 



Charlotte Brontl' in London 


heroine telJs how she was bewitched by that 
magician of genius, who drew her heart out of 
its wonted orbit, "who disclosed power like a 
deep swollen winter river, thundering in cataract, 
and bearing the soul, like a leaf, on the steep 
and steely sweep of its descent." Few more 
fervid tributes have been paid the histrionic art. 
The whole passage is Miss Brontë's reminiscence 
of the impersonations of the great French actress 
Rachel, which the writer witnessed in Mr. 
Smith's company at the London theatre in 
Covent Garden. 
'fhe Vashti chapter is long and highly strung. 
I t closes with a vivid description of an outbreak 
of fire in the playhouse. In the panic, Dr. John, 
\vith his look of "colnely courage and cordial 
calm," does an heroic deed of rescue, which 
ultimate! y brings him a wife. The episode is 
a curious idealization of a personal experience, 
not of Charlotte Brontë, but of Mr. Smith, who 
narrated the circumstances to her in a letter. 
Charlotte Brontë had been, while in London, 
escorted by Mr. Smith to one of those famous 
amateur performances at the Duke of Devon- 
shire's house in Piccadilly, in which Charles 
I }ickens, .J ohn Forster, Wilkie Collins, and 
other men of letters were wont occasionally to 
take part. The theatre scene owes nothing-the 
concert scene in the conservatoire in Villetlt 
possibl V o\ves something-to this dramatic enter- 
235 



Charlotte BrOll!{I: a Centenary Memorial 


tainn1ent which Charlotte witnessed with Mr. 
Smith. Soon, however, after Charlotte left for 
Haworth, Mr. Smith was again present at the 
Devonshire House theatricals with his sister and 
a lady friend. On this occasion some scenery 
on the stage caught fire, and for a few seconds 
a panic threatened. Mr. Smith gripped his two 
con1panions by the wrist and with all his force 
held them to their seats. They complained 
bitterly of his roughness, but he helped thereby 
to stem the alarm. The smouldering flame was 
extinguished and confidence was restored. Mr. 
Smith wrote of the episode to Charlotte Brontë, 
and his story of the happily slender accident 
and of his own conduct bred in her throbbing 
tnind the shocks and perils of the burning play- 
house in Villette. 
'[he last illustration which I gi ve here of 
Charlotte Brontë's literary use of her London 
visits concerns not Mr. Smith alone, but also 
and more immediately l'hackeray, the most 
eminent of the authors \vhom he made person- 
all y known to his guest. 
Thackeray's fame was finally assurcd by the 
publication of Vanity Fair in 1847, a fe\v Inonths 
hefore the appearance of Jane Eyre. 'l
hackeray's 
n1asterpicce filled Miss Brontc: with enthusiastic 
ad miration, and the author bccame at once an 
adored hero. She dedicated to him the second 
edition of Jane 
)rt ear] y in 1848. It was \vhile 
23 6 



Charlotte BrfJntë in LondfJn 


Thackeray's second great novel Pendenl1tS \vas 
nearing the close of its original tTIonthly issue 
that Miss Brontë gratified one of her cherished 
ambitions by meeting Thackeray in person. 
The occasion was a dinner given by Mrs. Smith 
and her son in I 849, when Miss Brontë was 
paying then} a second visit. The thrilling event 
proved for her a more trying ideal than she 
anticipated. " In company," she \vrote in Villette, 
"a wretched idiosyncrasy forbade me to see or 
feel anything. . . . I never yet sa\v the welJ- 
reared child, much less the educated adult, \vho 
could not put me to shalne by the sustained 
intelligence of its demeanour" in social inter- 
course. When she first saw Thackeray face to 
face her shyness was invincible. "Excitement 
and exhaustion n1ade savage work of me that 
evening," she wrote; "\vhat he thought of me 
1 cannot tell." Thackeray long renlen1bered 
U the trembling little frame, the little hand, the 
great honest eyes." Other meetings foJIo\ved 
bet\veen the t\VO; but though Miss Brontë lost 
her first sense of speechless dread, the personal 
association never proved quite congenial on either 
side. 'rhackera v and Miss Brontë reverenced 
each other's genius \vith genuine sincerity. Hut 

rhackeray's easy half-cynical conversation ruffled 
her austerity. "-[0 him she presented herself as 
"a little austere Joan of _\.rc, nlarching in upon 
llS and rebuking our easy Ii ves and our easy 
237 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary MeJnorial 


morals." His personality would seem to have 
both attracted and repelled her. On a morning 
can which Thackeray made her at Mr. Sn1Îth's 
house, she improved the occasion by reproaching 
him with his shortcomings. Mr. Smith has 
vivaciousl y described his own unheralded entry 
on u the queer scene." The little lady hardly 
reached Thackeray's elbow, but she plied the 
giant \vith a raking fire of invective before 
peace was restored. Miss Bron të declared that 
Thackeray behaved on the occasion "like a great 
l
urk and heathen; his excuses were worse than 
his crimes." 
The peculiar1 y severe standard by which she 
judged Thackeray has left a curious trace on 
Villette. In May [ 85 I, Mr. Smith and his 
mother took her to Willis's Rooms to hear 
the novelist deliver the second of his lectures 
on the Humourists. He recognized her in the: 
audience, and after the lecture playfully intro- 
duced her to his mother as Jane Eyre, the title 
of her passionate heroine. Mr. Smith has re- 
corded that she warmlv resented the mode of 
" 
address. But she was even more embarrassed 
by Thackeray's frank appeal to her to tell him 
how she enjoyed his performance. So natural 
a request disturbed her equanimity, and she had 
no word to offer. This slight fleeting encounter 
was enshrined a few months later in Villette. 
The Professor, Paul Emanuel, there gives, amid 
23 8 



CharlfJtte Brontë 111 LfJndon 


applause, a lecture in the Villette Athénée, at 
\vhich the heroine, Lucy Snowe, is present. Of 
the Professor's subsequent demeanour Charlotte 
Brontë writes thus in her rôle of Lucy Snowe :- 


As our party left the Hall, he stood at the entrance ; h
 
saw and kn
w me, and lifted his hat; he offered his hand 
in passing, and uttered the words "Qu'en dites-vous?"- 
qu
stion eminently characteristic, and reminding me, ev
n 
in this his moment of triumph, of that inquisitive restless- 
n
ss, that absence of what I considered desirable self-control 
which were among his faults. He should not have cared 
just th
n to ask what I thought, or what anybody thought; 
but he did care, and he was too natural to conceal, too 
impulsive to repress, his wish. Wen! if I blamed his over- 

agerness, r liked his naÏveli. r would hav
 praised him: 
I had plenty of praise in my heart; but, alas! no words 
cam
 to my lips. Who tas words at the right mom
nt! 
I stammered some lame expressions, but was truly glad 
when other people, coming up with profuse congratulations, 
covered my deficiency with their redundancy. 



rhe scene of May 185 I in Willis's H.oom5 
IS here faithfully recorded. 
Another scene, in which Charlotte Brontë 
and Thackeray were the protagonists, was enacted 
in Thackeray's house the following month. The 
author of ]/ i/lettc found no place for this second 
ad venture in her fiction. But all the details 
still live freshly in the men10ry of Lady Ritchie, 
Thackeray's daughter, who herself played a part 
in the incident, and from her lips I learned a 
little more than I knew a week or two ago. 
239 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Memorial 
Both sh
 and Mr. Smith have already described 
the chief features of the episode with vivacity 
in print. But the points of interest, whether 
new or old, are varied enough to excuse mention 
of it here. 
It was one evening in June 1851, when both 
novelists were at the zenith of their high repu- 
tations, that the giant author of PaltÏty J-I 1 air 
gave at his house in Young Street, Kensington J 
a small evening party in honour of the 1 i ttle 
authoress of 1ane Eyre and Shirley. She \vas 
on her longest visit to Mr. Smith and his n10ther 
across the Park, and Mr. Smith accolnpanied 
her to 
rhackera y' s house. Lad y Ritchie. has 
written of the excitement with which her father, 
her sister, and herself awaited in the hall the 
great little lady's arrival. Dressed in a little 
barège dress \vith a pattern of faint green moss, 
the tiny and delicate woman entered the drawing- 
roon1, hanging on her host's arm, "in 111ittens, 
in silence, and in seriousness." To meet the 
celebrated writer there were gathered, as Ladr 
Ritchie lately reminded me, wonlen of the Jnost 
brilliant intellect and speech in London. 1"'here 
\vert: Mrs. Carlyle, the witty and sardonic wife 
of 
rhonlas Carlyle; Mrs. Brookfield, the clever 
,vife of the fashionable preacher; Mrs. Procter, 
overflowing in good spirits and shrewdness, 
wife of Charles Lamb's friend and biographer, 
Barry Cornwall. All were anxiou
 to sho
: 
24 0 



Charlott
 Bronti' ill L011don 


resp
ct for the distinguished guest, and were 

xhilarated by the expectation of gr
eting 
her. But Miss Brontë was under a nervous 
spell, and her mental lassitude spread through 
the room. A blight settled on the assembly. 
Charlotte repulsed the ladies' advances. Mrs. 
Brookfield opened conversation with the expres- 
sion of a hope that Miss Brontë liked London. 
The skirmish ended with the novelist's curt reply) 
u I do and I don't. u rrhe gloom thick
ned; 
the lamp began to smoke; Thackeray's native 
gaiety drooped ; all hearts grew chill. The host, 
unable to cope with the silence, as his daughter 
tells us, furtively on tiptoe made for the street 
door, and sought the consolation of his club. 
His daughter, mystified by his retreat, suggested 
to the party in the drawing-room that he would 
be back soon; but he did not return till his 
guests had departed. To Lady Ritchie's memory 
Charlotte still presents herself as a shy and prim 
little governess who regarded children like her- 
self and her sister with a freezing severity. Mr. 
Smith, Charlotte's companion at Thackeray's 
memorable party, said that as she drove back 
with him to his mother's house, she spoke acidly 
of the two little girls.- 


I I am informed by Miss Millais, daughter of the late Sir 
John Everett Millais, President of the Royal Academy, that 
her father was among Thackeray's guests at the party givell 
in Charlotte Brontf's honour. Millais, then a youne man of 


24 1 


Q 



Charlotte Brolllë: tl Celllellary MenJorial 
One's sympathy goes out to this visitor to 
London drawing-rooms fron1 the Yorkshire 
n100rs. Seasoned Londoners could at a first 
glance find little in her that was prepossessing, 
and many probably acquiesced in George Henry 
Le\ves's ungalJant designation of her as "a little 
plain, provincial, sickly-looking old maid." In 
her first draft of f/jilet/e, which emhodied so Inuch 
of her London experience, she gave herself 
(\vho is the heroine) the surname of " Frost," 
altering it to "Snowe n in the final version. 
But her coldness was superficial. No good and 
charitable judges could misconceive the \varm 
enchantment of her genius, and her manner 
yielded most of its self-conscious crudity and 
asperity to the sympathetic influence of Mr. 
Smith's hospitality. 
The publication of Villette in January 1853, 


(wo-and-twenty, had already made considerable reputation as 
a painter. U 1 wish," Miss Millais writes to me on Februarr 
28, 1909, "I had written down my father's recollections or 
Miss Brontë. He saw her several times in 1851, and must 
hav
 been introduced to her at the party, which Lady Ritchie 
describes wonderfuHy as being so painfu1. He told me very 
much the same thing, and said he was taken up by Thackeray, 
and Miss Brontë spoke to him. He said her eyes were: 
quite remarkable, and afterwards Miss Brontë remained in 
appearance his idea of a woman genius. The little lady 
, looked tired with her own brains.' He met her afterwards 
at Mrs. Procter's, where she was not so shy, and he was 
anxious to do a drawing of her, but tound she was alr
ady 
engaged to sit to G
orge Richmond." 
24 2 



Charlotte BroJ1tf ;11 London 


brings Charlotte Brontë's relations with London 
to a fitting close. The book was begun early 
in 185 I, after she had twice-for some weeks 
in each of the preceding t\VO years-enjoyed 
the hospitality of Mrs. Smith and her son. The 
manuscript occupied her at intervals until the 
autumn of 1852. When she for\varded at that 
season the greater portion to Mr. Smith, her 
correspondence gives many signs of anxiety lest 
her bold transcription of his character should 
cause him discontent. But the wise publisher 
kept his counsel, and she as prudently made no 
excuses. He pronounced in general terms a 
highly favourable verdict. Some of his criticisn1 
on details she neglected, and he did not press 
thenl. He hinted at some "discrepancy, U "a 
want of perfect harmony" in the conception of 
Dr. John. There came, too, a suggestion from 
London that Dr. John should in the closing 
chapters marry Lucy Snowe. Hut no such 
intention found place In Charlotte Brontë's 
design. "Lucy," she wrote to Mr. Smith, 
U must not marry Dr. John: he is far too 
youthful, handsome, bright-spirited, and sweet- 
tempered; he is a curled darling of nature and 
fortune, and must draw a prize in life's lottery. 
His wife must be young, rich, pretty: he must 
be made very happy indeed. U In the book 
Dr. John is mated elsewhere, and he passes out 
of Lucy Snowe's life without the exchange of 
243 


, 



Charlotte Brontë: (l Centfnary Memorial 
any confidence of the heart. The hetùine's 
passion is centred on the grim, great-hearted 
professor, Paul Emanuel, who dies shipwrecked 
in the Atlantic Ocean. The knell. of death, 
not "vedding bells, sounds the epilogue. 
When in January 1853 the printing of 
Villelte \vas on the point of completion, Miss 
ßrontë stayed a fourth and last time under the 
Smiths' roof in London. For a crowded fort- 
night, sight-seeing was continued under Mr. 
Sn1Ïth's escort with all the old ardour. Miss 
Brontë was still Mr. Smith's guest on the day 
of Pillette's publication, and she was at hand to 
hear the burst of unqualified applause with 
which London greeted this last of the works to 
he published in' her lifetime. Early in February 
1853 she left for Haworth, and Mr. Smith did 
not meet her again. Later in the year their 
t\VO lives underwent almost simultaneously a 
momentous change. Mr. Smith became engaged 
to the lady whom he married on February I I, 
1854, and Miss Brontë accepted the long-urged 
suit of her father's curate, Mr. Nicholls. Mr. 
Smith and Charlotte Brontë exchanged notes of 
mutual congratulation, and with her warm ex- 
pressions of good wishes for Mr. Sn1ith's married 
happiness Miss Brontë's correspondence with her 
publisher seems to have closed. Her own quiet 
wedding took place a few months later (June 
29, 18 54), and she died on March 3 1 , 1855. 
244 



Charlotte Brontf in London 


Mr. Smith lived on till April 6, 1901. Many 
and vast were the new interests which absorbed 
him in the long interval bet\veen Charlotte 
Brontë's death and his own. Many \vere the 
new titles he acquired to fame and affection in 
rnidd]e life and in age. He has numerous claims 
to live in literary history. He lives there as 
the friend of authors so ilJ ustrious as Thackeray 
and Browning, whose works he published after 
he became Miss Brontë's publisher. He lives 
there as the founder of the Cornhill Magazi11e 
and of the Pall Mall Gazette, and even more 
conspicuously as the public-spirited projector and 
proprietor of the Dictionary of Natio,!al Bio- 
graphy. But whatever recognition is due to these 
achievements, it should never be forgotten by the 
literary historian any more than by Charlotte 
Brontë's disciples that he was in youth the 
original of her sound-hearted, manly, and 
sensible Dr. John, who ranks with the most 
cheering portaits of masculine virtue that the 
hand of genius has drawn. 
That tendency, which Charlotte Brontë so 
signally exemplifies in Dr. John and Mrs. 
Bretton, of interpreting in her novels nlen and 
women with whon1 she came into personal con- 
tact, is often reckoned a defect in her art. It 
is complained, too, that she indulged overn1uch 
in self-portraiture, and that her heroines, Jane 
Eyre and Lucy Snowe, present with too little 
245 



Charlotte Brontl.' a Centenary Memorial 
qualification her own outlook on life as she 
records it in her private correspondence. The 
links that bind her fictitious personages to herself 
and her living associates cro,vd, indeed, upon th
 
student of her life, and this " audacious fidelity," 
as one critic tenns it, has been cited as proof of 
limitation in her power of invention. But the 
point against her may easily be pressed too far. 
Every novelist presents in his work something of 
himself and his relations \vith kinsfolk, friends, 
and acquaintances. Fielding, Miss Austen, Scott, 
Thackeray, all faithfully transcribe much of them- 
selves and of the life around them. Yet Miss 
Brontë's censors, even when they admit the 
question to be one only of degree, aver that she 
depends more directly and to a larger extent than 
any novelists in the first rank 011 the immediate 
suggestion of her own sensation and environment. 
Neither Sterne's Uncle Toby nor Thackeray's 
Colonel Newcome, we are reminded, has an 
identifiable model. Both, as far as are known, 
were cOlupounded in the crucible of their creators' 
imagination. On the other hand, Paul Emanuel, 
Miss Brontë's most complex and nlost finished 
presentlnent of human nature, is commonly 
reckoned a portrait from the life; Dr. John, her 
most radiant picture of mankind, is an avowed 
delineation of Mr. Smith. 
Broadly speaking, the argunlent \vould seent 
to merit less attention than has been paid it. 
24 6 



Charlottt Brant' in London 


After all, it matters little whence Charlott(: 
Brontë gleaned her material compared with th
 
uses to which she put it. No artist in fiction 
can reach a higher level of achievement than that 
of producing an irresistible illusion of life with 
its throbbing emotion, its elations, its depressions, 
its hopes and fears. A novelist's records of fact 
and observation come to little unless they are 
clothed in the habiliments of genuine feeling. 
In the absence of adequate inlagination, tnen and 
women, whence-soever they come, lllove on the 
printed page like lay figures. Miss Brontë'g 
imaginative endo,vment has been excelled in 
breadth and intensity. But her imaginative grip 
was strong enough to transmute her studies fronl 
the life into breathing entities of flesh and blood. 
!)enetrating insight lent "a colossal phlegnl and 
force" to the measure of creative faculty \vithin 
her scope and the fiery glow of her language 
leaves an abiding conviction that, whatever else 
she closely studied, she was deeply versed in the 
human heart. At any rate she was unflinching 
in her pursui t of the truth about her tèllow- 
creatures, and it was her patient and honest 
scrutiny of Mr. Smith \vhich discovered for her 
Dr. John's hunlane and cheery heroisnl. 


SIDNEY. LEE. 


247 



\ I 


O
 HAWOlaH MUOH. 


11". R. Blal/d. 
. 


To (ilce p. 248. 



THE SPIRIT OF THE MOORS 


By HALLIWELL SUTCLIFFE 


AN ADDRESS DELIVERED TO THE BRONTË SOCIETY, AT 
MORLEY, ON JANUARY 18, 19oz. 


, 



FOREWORD 


"THE Spirit of the Moors," written long ago, 
roused odd feelings when I came to it afr
sh. 
The years have gone, with their \vear and tear; 
but I can find nothing to add, nothing to take 
away. None but those who are bone of the 
" 
moor's bone-bred of the heath, reared on its 
sun and sleet and tempests-can understand 
what we of the free lands know, \vhat no way- 
faring, save the Last Adventure, can ever 
change. And on the far side of that Adventure 
there will be, one thinks, a richer purple on the 
heather, colours even nlore mystical and changeful 
than the old days gave when sundown canle to 
swart old Haworth Moor. In outlying farm- 
steads of the heath there are peat-fires burning 
still that have been alight for centuries. Night 
by night the good ,vife has banked them up, 
dusted away the ashes, and come do\vn next day 
to stir the dying embers into heat again. I t is 
so with the heart of the heath-bred man. His 
fires may seen1 to slumber, with dull, grey ash 
above thern; but at the core there is a red and 
quiet heat, generations old, that cannot die. 
25 1 



Charlottt Brontl: a Centenary Mtmorial 
Out of it all-the moor's splendour and its 
storm-its man's strength and woman's coquetry, 
and the little, ferny glens that are like children 
singing as they gather posies-there was born a 
spirit caged by human flesh. It was a hard life 
Emily Brontë had, and her body \vould have been 
too weak to bear it, if it had.. not been for this 
fire at her heart that would not die. Whenever 
she was away fronl Haworth Moor, she sickened 
for the homeland; it \vas not the ins-and-outs 
of parish life she needed, but the spaces of the 
heath that swung out, free and faithful, to 
Bouldsworth and the further crest of Pendle 
Hill. 
Out of her travail Wuthering HeightJ was born, 
and she died of the adventure. And it was weIJ 
,vorth while. She gave her life for that one book, 
and it lives on among us-as Shakespeare lives) 
who asked for no knighthood but remembrance. 
When the dusk comes down on Haworth 
Moor, and I walk among remelnbered farmsteads, 
and scent the lusty fragrance of the byres, thert 
is one scene in WUJhering Heights that returns 
to me with the strength and grace of an older 
da y. There is little Cathy tapping at the windo\v 
of W uthering Heights, asking to be let in, 
because it is cold in the Further Lands until her 
mate joins her. And there is Heathcliff, dying 
hard and sullenl y, with no faith in the Beyond 
to help him through the time of separation. 
2
2 



'The Spirit oj' 1M Moors 


At the end of all, there are primroses, dewy- 
eyed with hope and faith in the long hereafter. 
As long as there is a strip of Northern soil 
untouched by mills and smoke-as long as the 
heather-lands roam wide and free, a sanctuary for 
the souls that reach out and beyond the crude 
din of macl :nery-there will be the tapping of 
little Cathy at the window, and smell of the 
heath, and the magic of old dreams. 


HALLIl ELL SUTCLIFFE. 


Jill, 19 16 . 


253 



THE SPIRJ'f OF 'fHE MOORS 


J T has been well said that \vhen truth left the 
valleys, it took refuge on the hills. From times 
of old the hills have been the mothers of con- 
q uering sons ; from times of old the hills have 
sheltered every primitive virtue, of loyal love 
and worthy hate, of mothers' tenderness and 
fathers' pride; from of old the soldiers of the 
\vorld have gone do\vn from the hill-tops and 
have prevailed. This is true of the hills \vhere 
cattle graze, and sheep clip the springy grass; 
it is truer still of the moorland spaces \vhere 
grass is hard in the winning, where ling and rush 
and bilberry fight hand-to-hand with the acres 
wrested from the heath. 
Consider! Flodden Field-that last decisive, 
desperate fight-was won by hill-fed thew and 
sinew of our Craven men. It is the same through 
history. The race has not been to the swift; 
the victors have been slow farmer-fellows, who 
have learned endurance fronl wind and rain and 
cutting sleet, who have been taught the exquisite, 
long lesson of patience under heavy odds. In 
254 



'1 he Spirli of the Moors 



kil1 of arms alone the farmer stands supreme- 
the world's history is his history, and seed and 
growing blade and harvest-time have been with 
him, like a benediction, when the ploughs hare 
shaped itself into a pike, and the sickle straight- 
ened itself into a broad and hilted sword. 
Patience, infinite patience. Toil, infinite toil. 
Faith beyond the limits of bread, which is oft- 
times doubtful. These are the moorland virtues. 
rrhe very ling, the crowberry, the late-budding 
bracken, show the same tough fibre; the men 
of the moors, the plants of the moors, are one 
in spirit and endurance. What would come to 
the ling and the bracken, if they had no heart to 
Ineet the winter storms? What \vould chance 
to the moorland farmers if they sank, as lesser 
n1en would do, beneath the weight of cold in 
winter, of drought in summer, of peevish autumn 
storms? Life is a fight to the moor-man always, 
and for this reason he is staunch in hatred, loyal 
in love, quick to bear arms against the adversary. 
He is no saint, this man of the moors. He 
is no sinner. He feels the wind in his teeth, 
and he fights it; and now and then he is answer- 
able for dread deeds, which lesser folk can nei ther 
understand nor judge. One knows of midnights 
-historic now, so far as country tales can 
Inake them-when the Squire drank level with 
the poacher, and battered faces smiled at recol- 
lection of some moon-mad prank played long 
255 


, 



Charlott
 Bronli'.. a C
nl(llary Mt1110rial 


ago. We know of superstitions which set the 
hair on end when passing lonely heaths. There 
is the glamour and the terror of the Dog on 
all the moonlit wastes of heath that lie between 
Haworth and old Bouldsworth Hill. It is a 
land of strength, and fear, and witchery. 
And yet the voice of grouse and plover, of 
snipe and moor-fowl, was stronger than man's 
voice till Emily Brontë came. The outer world 
knew nothing of the storm and fret of Haworth 
Moor till Wuthering Heights was born. 1-' he 
ling had bloomed in purple glory-the crow- 
berry had ripened its black-purple berries-dawn 
and sunset had weaved glory from the waste- 
and none had told the world how sweet these 
things can be. And then she came, and gave 
us lf7uthering Heights, and died before the song 
in her had reached its deepest compass. 
These things of the heath are hard to speak 
about; religion of any type is hard in the 
telling to one who holds the faith; and to 
attempt praise of Emily Brontë is to praise the 
purple of dawn, the gold and red of sunset, the 
full and satisfying glory of nature in her highest 
moods. She came at a time when the novel 
was at last the true expression of mind and soul 
and heart; she came also at a time when the 
older traditions still held a dying power, when 
the green hue of sentimentality sicklied o'er the 
live passions of bare human nature; yet she 
25 6 



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The Spirit if the MlJors 


knew what she knew, and never once did she 
waver in the expression of her faith. 
Emily Brontë is the Joan of Arc of literature. 
Joan of Arc had all the trappings of evident 
romance. She rode in armour to the fray, and, 
a woman, fought \vith men in open battle. She 
is a picture in history such as the populace Jove; 
she has the limelight on her always, and it is 
easy for us all to applaud her heroism. Emily 
Brontë had none of these things; she was a 
pale, great-boned, unhappy girl who shunned her 
fellows; she had no single outward gift that 
could appeal to a man's senses; she knew no 
lover; yet, with it all, she has dra\vn for us so 
stupendous a picture of hun1an love, of human 
hate, of hùman yearning after the impossible, 
that 111en and women, who have known passion, 
know also that she held passion's secret in her 
pen. Whence can1e it? Whence comes the 
pregnant sap in springtinle trees, whence comes 
the unalterable n10therhood of kine, of birds at 
mating-time, of women in their happiness? 
None can tell. I t is God-given, and that is all 
we know. 
We who have been playnlates with the heath, 
and bedfellows to the whistling winds and rain 
and winter snow of Haworth Moor, kno\v that 
the dullest line of Wutheril1g Heights has that 
deepest interest of all-the interest of naked 
passion and naked truth. It is the one book 


257 


R 



Charlottt Brontë: a Centtnary Mtmorial 


of the world, in that it could not, in a single 
word, have been written otherwise. It is the 
one book of the world, in that it shows the moor- 
Jife, as it were, reflected in a tarn of crystal 
clearness. It has no morality, it advocates no 
creed ; its teaching is the teaching of the wind 
as it sweeps from Lancashire across old Haworth 
Moor; it is built upon the rock of Nature, 
who is pitiless and tender, angelic and demoniac, 
all in the one breath. The wor Jd has bowed a.t 
the shrine of many conquerors-Cæsar, AJex- 
ander, and the rest-but there is one Heathcliff, 
and one only. Not Alexander at his greatest- 
when he was sighing for f
esh worlds to conquer 
-could have imagined a hero of Heathcliff's 
fibre. Not Cleopatra at her softest could hav
 
pictured a heroine so tender, so illusive, and so 
com plete, as Cathy. The thing is wi tchery. 
Take 11:eathcliff frotn his surroundings, and 
what have \ve? A morose, self-cen tred savage, 
who loves his fleshly idol with a passion scarcely 
decent. But set Heathcliff in the midst of bog 
and heath and \vaving bracken, and he's a man 
framed after the likeness of a god. He knows 
no la\v, save of the wind and the whistling 
plover; he knows no obstacle to love, save of 
the woman's heart; he is complete, a man in 
the swiftness and the surety of his passions- 
and yet a superhuman creature, in that he is 
never less than himself, never false by word or 
25 8 



'The Spirit qf' the MIJOY.f 


deed to the past that lies behind him, to the 
fate that lies ahead. 
Indeed, it is this completeness of each character 
in the book that makes Wuthering Heights a 
masterpiece of art. The natural truth-of scene- 
drawing and of the play of passion-alone would 
have held us spellbound; but by its art-a 
delicacy of art surprising in so rough a tale- 
it clainls our quieter love upon a second-nay, 
a twentieth reading. The very looseness of the 
narrative, the casual cooling of a stranger to the 
moors, and his interrupted sittings with the 
teller of the tale, all help to conceal the st
ady 
handling of a story such as no brain but Emily 
Brontë's could have conceived, such as no pen 
but hers could have set down. It is not Heath- 
cliff only who satisfies us; it is not Cathy only; 
it is each actor in this moorside dran1a, whether 
a farm hind or a nurse, a Squire of the valley- 
lands, or a hulking ploughboy of the uplands. 
Joseph, Pharisee, farm-hand, and misanthrope, 
\vho thrives on a sort of rough-edged joy in his 
own righteousness and in the sins of other folk, 
is as much a bit of Haworth Moor as the rocks 
that underlie its heather and the sleeting wind 
that whistles from the wastes of Stanbury. NeJJie 
the nurse, a little prim, a little hard in the shell 
and vastly soft in the kernel, full of housewife's 
maxims and the bustling, tart satisfaction with 
things as they are, which distinguishes the woman 
259 


\ 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary MemfJrial 
of her hands-she, too, is ready at this day to 
grer:t you and to bre\v a cup of tea for you in 
that happy, storm-swept land which lies between 
the edge of Yorkshire and the edge of Lan- 
cashire. 
And what of Cathy? .L\.h, there's the south- 
west wind about her! "rhe south-west wind, 
that comes in sunln1er down the \vooded denes 
and clefts of our grim moorland, the wind that 
has the softness of the flowering ling about it, 
the bitter-sweet of peat and bogland, the nameless 
scents that are born every year, clean, sharp and 
fragrant) when the tnoorland flowers awake, 
and the primrose blo\vs in sheltered hollows, 
and every n1Ïstal, shouldering green fields, gives 
out its witching odour of the kine. She is just 
this, the heroine of Wuthering Heights, and we 
might as well criticize the wind of summer as 
take her character to pieces, bit by bit, as is our 
modern fashion, and set a price upon each word 
and action. Like Heathcliff, she is above 
praise or censure; her \viJJ is the will of the 
moor-top and the sky, and \ve are satisfied. 
Weare more; we are enamoured, and IV utheri1Jg 
Heights is at war with wonlankind in that we 
ciare not, j n our ideal of her sex, stoop lower 
than this Cathy, with her strange eeriness and 
stranger warmth of breathing flesh and blood, 
with her perverseness that is sinless and her 
passion that is strained-as it were i through 
260 



The Spirit of the Moors 


gossamer threads of fairy-weaving-untiJ it 
seems, not passion, but clear water from the 
well which is needed to dilute the rough-edged 
wine of Heathcliff's frenzy. She is a woman 
to make men lightly sell their birthright-and 
seJl it with a laugh upon their lips. .L\.11 feeling 
comes back ultimately to odours, and Cathy is 
to us what lavender is at flowering time, what 
rosemary is, with all its s\veetness of remetllbrance, 
what wild-roses are ,vhen they flower between 
th
 drooping tendrils of the honeysuckle. 
Perhaps she is the truest note in all the book, 
as possibly the short-lived sun1n1er of the up- 
lands is the interpreter of storn1S that have 
gone before, of tempests that wiJ1 surely follo\v. 
Amid the roughness, the violence, the blows 
and oaths and hardships of the tale, as ,ve get 
these brief, ensnaring g1impses of the girl, as 
we hear the pulse of Heathcliff beat high and 
strong, and see the love-look in his gipsy eyes, 
we are aware of sunshine and the scent of hay. 
Heathcliff, for his part, ,vas not born of the 
n10ors, and in this, too, there is a strange 
surety of instinct. Had he been I11oor-born, he 
would have: been tied bv old tradition; as it 
was, he came, a nameless ,vaif picked up in 
Liverpool, and ran wild about the heath with 
no responsibility to forbears or to famil y pride. 
How that picture of his con1Ìng to the Heights 
lives \vith us! 1"\ swarthy slip of Pagandom, 
261 



Charlotte Brontl': a C
JJtenary Me1l10rial 
brought home on a dark night beneath the 
master's cloak. Even at this first monlent of 
our seeing him, we feel the tragedy of after- 
years loom mistily ahead; from the first he is 
at war with alJ upon the moor, except little Cathy 
and the doting master; from the first he is 
acquiescent under ill-treatnlent, so long as he 
wins his point at last; from the first, too, he 
takes up the thread of that passion for Catherine 
Earnshaw which is to gro\v to hitter fruit one 
day. He grows fronl inch to inch-good bone 
and muscle, all of it-and lives upon the nloors, 
and sucks the nleaning of the \vind and storm as 
other lads suck lollipops. Nothing affrights hinl, 
except grace and gentleness; when he and Cathy 
roan1 down to Linton Manor-a well-matched 
pair of fly-by-nights--and the dog fixes its curved 
teeth in the girl's ankle, he is afraid, lad as he: 
is, only for her pain, and tries, with a cool eye 
for ways and means which older men might 
envy, to force open the foam-licked jaws with 
the nearest lunlp of rock. \Vhen he is beaten, 
bruised by the tnaster's jealous son, he never 
whimpers-nor forgets. He is daunted only 
,vhen Cathy-little Cathy, who had been his 
guardian angel and his scapegrace playmate- 
comes back after a five-\veeks' visit to the Lintons) 
all dainty in her frippery, and ll1inded to play 
the great lady as only a child can play it. fhen, 
for the first time, Heathcliff is afraid, as a man 
262 



'Yhe Spirit 
l. tht Moors 


is afraid of crushing a flower beneath his thick, 
nailed boots; for the first time he is jealous, with 
a premonition that she will nevermore be to him 
what she has been. The rift grows wider. On 
one side is the girl, dainty, generous, headstrong; 
on the other is the lad, who has never learned 
that even flower-like lassies are to be won. by 
long endurance. He is as the wind and God's 
moorland made him; so long as he is free to blow 
whither he listeth, he is musical and gay; but, 
soon as he is thwarted, his note turns to sullen 
wildness, as of tempest beating on thick, hill-top 
\valls. Wider the rift grows and wider; he sees 
the gentler folk from the valleys con1e mincing 
and smirking into that grim house of W uthering 
Heights which asked for sterner visitors; he sees 
his Cathy grow daily fonder of soft speeches, 
and soft clothing, and soft ways; small wonder 
that he fled into that dismal prison-house called 
" Self," and showed the sullen bars of hate to 
all intruders, even to Cath y of the flower-like: 
face and dancing heart. 
Our love for Heathcliff would have gon
 had 
he done otherwise. 'rhe girl loved him-yes, 
even in those days sht loved hin1 I-and she 
played with her love as \vomen will play with 

pple-bloom in Spring, forgetful that they are 
robbing earth of her just harvest. Because her 
love was in blossom only, not in fruit, she chost: 
to play with it ; and afterwards the dead petals 
26 3 


, 


" 



Charlotte Brontë.- a Centenary Memorial 


showered about her, and she wondered, all in a 
maid's way, \vho had shaken the branches of 
that Tree of Love. And Heathcliff, mean- 
while-blunt, a man-did not ask whether this 
were sport or earnest; all things were earnest 
to him-blows, and winter snow, and promise 
of the harvest-and he thought that Cathy was 
forgetting. He had a right to think so; and 
there was none at W uthering Heights well-versed 
enough in trickery to tell him of the gulf that 
lies between what a woman feels and what she 
shows. His misery turned inward, like a 
malignant growth ; he must have al I or nothing 
-so much the moors had taught this gipsy-and, 
since he had lost some of Cathy, he would forfeit 
all that lay between herself and him. He ceased 
to wash-he did not speak when company was 
forced upon him-he did not trouble to un-arch 
his sullen, gipsy brows, nor to let his heart speak 
out of the dark, gipsy eyes. And most of all 
he showed those outward signs of inward misery 
when Cathy, mistress of his fate, was near. And 
she, who had learned no lesson such as Eve 
learned after her girlhood was over and done 
with, must flout him for a boor. And so the 
gulf widened, deepened, and Edgar Linton-a 
toy-terrier of a nlan-can1e walking dovrn her 
side of the valley. 
She n1arried Linton. It was inevitable, pre- 
destined. And she repented; that, too, was 
26 4 



'l'he Spirit 
f the Moors 


predestined and inevitable. No throstle in its 
wicker cage was ever wilder with its wings against 
the bars than Catherine Linton when she learned 
what wedded life must be henceforward. She had 
known the winds and the rains, even as Heathcliff 
had known them; she had lived with men, who, 
it is true, swore hard upon occasion, but who 
understood what is written upon the naked heart 
of life; and yet she was mated with one who, 
if he had gentler manners, had also a vastly 
tender skin. Heathcliff-her woman's instinct 
told her that-had loved her with a man's passion; 
her husband loved her as a petted spaniel loves 
its mistress. 
And so a second rift grew wide and wider, 
and surely the wife was not to blame. Linton 
should have mated in the valleys; he had no 
place with such as Catherine. True he came out 
in braver colours later, but over-late to convince 
us ; and that, too, is a triumph of character- 
drawing, for the author never meant that we 
should see any mate but Heathcliff for Catherine 
of the Heights. Like the wind, his only tutor J 
Heathcliff disappears after Cathy's marriage; like 
the wind he reappears, and woos the sister of his 
rival; like the wind that riots in the autumn, 
he overthrows well-garnered stacks, and \vhile 
he woos the sister of his enemy, he snatches a 
wild meeting fron1 his enen1Y's wife-from Cathy, 
who was his by all laws of fellowship and love- 
265 


" 



Charlotte Brontë: a L'elJtellary MtlJlOriai 
and leaves poor Edgar Linton, with a flicker of 
late-found bravery, to marshal his gardener and 
.his stable-boys in battle array. And through it 
all the author's mind is clear-she knows that 
Heathcliff was robbed of his mate, and she deals 
out the punishment, even as fat
 deals out its 
punishment, to innocent and guilty. Never, 
perhaps, in any book has there been less regard 
for obvious and untrue conclusions; there is no 
moralizing, no appeal to blind maxims and blinder 
powers of vengeance, because Heathcliff comes to 
claim his own; the facts are stated-facts inevit- 
able as the storms that lay the hard-won harvest 
low-and we are left to gather in our fingers the 
threads of a story inevitable, true, and therefore 
just. What temptation would have beset a 
writer of weaker fibre to point, at this juncture:t 
a moral so trite as to be wearison1e! The toy 
terrier of a husband might have been set in a 
frame of martyrdom, and all his weakness for- 
gotten amid a lurid tale of all his wrongs and all 
poor Heathcliff's villanies. But Emily Brontë 
is ahovt: such meannesses: she tells what is, and 
in her heart, as we have said, she knows that 
Heathcliff is the worthier man. As for Cathy- 
unhappy, ill-n1ated, full of bodily weakness and 
aware of a new life in her, a life that is not hers 
and Heathcliff's, but hers and Linton's-Cathv 
knows not what to say when her gipsy-lover 
comes and shatters, \vith a single kiss, the 
266 



The Spirit of tht Moors 
mockery of wedded life which she has scarcely 
attempted to render real. Cathy knows not what 
to say; women rarely do if there is anything 
at stake; but what she feels is rendered clear by 
a hundred subtle touches. 
Oh, it is wrong, according to straight lines 
and maxims ordered like a figure of geometry ! 
Yet she had as little power to help her gladness 
as the thrush has, when for a moment it sees 
its cage door opened and feels the singing wind 
of heaven come beating in. Heathcliff was hers, 
and she was his; they had wedded long ago, 
with the hill-tops for their church, with laverock, 
grouse, and plover for their choir; and no 
haphazard marriage of the flesh could alter that. 
Mark the clean way of it. This scene with 
J-Ieathcliff, who C0l11eS to supplant the lawful 
husband; there's never a touch of squalor or 
of sin in it; it is no vulgar intrigue between a 
woman tired of constancy and a nlan who preys 
upon his neighbour's property; it is a scene of 
natural tempest, of unavoidable, clean storm, 
as when the clouds, full-charged with lightning, 
and weary, like the kine at milking-time for 
c:asing of their burden, break out in rain and 
shattered tempest-wrack. 'rht: man and the: 
\VOnlan do not halt to ask if they love each 
other; as well might they question the number 
of their linlbs, or the knowledge that they lived. 
l'his one scene is the triumph and the key- 
26 7 



Charlotte Brolltë.. a CentelJa,.y Melnorial 
note of the book; and after it is done, after 
Heathcliff has vanished, gipsy-like, into the larger 
spaces of th
 moor, after Cathy lies down upon 
a narrow bed and courts deliri urn, we realize 
the \vonder and the witchery of this passion 
which is truth. Cathy has lost what little sense 
of \vor1dly prudence she has known; she lies 
there in her weakness, and her heart is given 
to us, naked, plain to be read. And over that 
suffering, wilful, madly beating heart, there is 
\vritten, across and across, the one name Heath- 
cliff. When she remembers her husband, she 
despises and is weary of him; and again she 
goes over well-remembered scenes that she and 
Heathcliff have lived through together. What 
they dreamed, of fairies and of hobgoblins on 
l}enistone Crag; how they had listened to the 
wind as it blew through the stark old house 
of W uthering Heights; little snatches of moor- 
lore, learned long ago in company \vith her nlate. 
Perhaps none but a moor-man can understand 
the feeling that one passage from this drama 
always wakes in one. It is after Cathy has lain 
long abed, fasting and fevered; she takes the 
piJ10w between her little teeth and tears it into 
shreds-hut the scene cannot be described in 
any other \vords but Emily Brontë's. 


Tossing about, she increased her feverish bewild
rInent to 
madness, and tore the pillow with her teeth ; then raising 
268 



The Spirit of the ]VIoors 


herself up all burning, desired that I would open the window. 
We were in the middle of winter, the wind blew strong from 
the north-east, and I objected. 
Both the expressions flitting over her face, and the changes 
of her moods, began to alarm me terribly; and brought to 
my recollection her former illness, aud the doctor's injunction 
that she should not be crossed. 
A minute previously she was violent: now, supported on 
one arm, and not noticing my refusal to obey her, she seemed 
to find childish diversion in pulling the feathers from the 
rents she had just made, and ranging them on the sheet 
according to their different species: her mind had strayed to 
other associations. 
" That's a turkey's," she murmured to her5elf; "and this 
is a wild duck's; and this is a pigeon's. Ah, they put 
pigeons' feathers in the pillows-no wonder I couldn't die! 
Let me take care to throw it on the floor when I lie down. 
And here is a moorcock's; and this-I should know it among 
a thousand-it's a lapwing's. Bonny bird; wheeling over 
our heads in the n1Ïddle of the moor. It wanted to get 
to its nest, for the clouds touched the swells, and it felt rain 
coming. This feather was picked up from the heath, the 
bird was Hot shot-we saw its nest in the winter, full of little 
skeletons. Heathcliff set a trap over it, and the old ones 
dare not come. T made him promise he'd never shoot a 
lapwing after that, and he didn't. Yes, here are more! 
Did he shoot my lapwings, Nellie? Are they red, any of 
them? Let me look." 
u Give over with that baby-work 
" I interrupted, drag- 
ging the pillow away, and turning the holes to\\iards the 
mattress, for she was removing its contents by handfuls. 
Ie Lie down and shut your eyes; you're wandering. There's 
a mess! The down is flying about like snow." 


That gives us all the past in half a dozen 
lines. The latent cruelty of Heathcliff, .the 
26 9 


, 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Memorial 


power of Cathy over his cruelty, the intimate, 
deep knowledge of the moors they shared-all 
are brought before us as the scent of heather 
brings back forgotten scenes, forgotten hopes, 
forgotten lessons taught us by our mother, 
Nature. That mention of the lapwing-it is 
almost weird in its very fitness, like the keystone 
of a graceful arch. The peewit is a well-nigh 
sacred bird to the moor-folk, for it voices their 
own feelings; and Heathcliff, untrammelled 
by tradition, is restrained in cruelty by the 
voice of one who has learned, from the far-off 
fathers, the sanctity of the shrill-piping lap- 
wing. 
What is the charm this heath-born girl holds 
in her pen-point? She cannot go astray; 
whether she pictures the strength of passion, the 
weakness of glad self-surrender, the least first 
signs of springtime or of storm upon the heath, 
she always satisfies. She knows, and she is 
true to knowledge; she gives us an the things 
that are, and passes by the things that valJey- 
folk count worthy, with a courage scarcely 
human. 
They tell us Emil y Brol1të never mixed with 
her fellows. Her own sister gravely states that 
she knew as little of the world's life as a nun 
knOW5 of the folk who pass her convent gate. 
Yet they forget that smoke betokens fire, that 
Wuthering Heights could never have been 
270 



Th
 Spirit oj" th
 Moors 


written by one who did not know th
 s
cret 
places and the secret passions of the n100r; they 
forget, too, that Emily Brontë, even in death, 
,vas solitary, reliant, and alone. Her own family 
-they have confessed it-feared to skirt the 
fence that she had raised between herself and her 
own class; yet they did not guess that she 
sought her own companionship in her own way, 
and that the farmer-folk of Ha\vorth were more 
to her than all the genteel worldlings who gather 
round a parsonage. She did not care for 
parochiaJ life; the buzz of scandal, the clatter 
of tea-cups, all the polite instruments that we 
have devised for destroying our neighbours' 
happiness and our own, had neither interest nor 
attraction for her. She was silent, unapproach- 
able, amid such matters; but, once her feet 
\vere set upon that narrow and that lone green 
way which led towards the heath, she was her- 
self. Proof, beyond the pages of W uthering 
Heights, is not needed to convince us that she 
knew, as a native knows 1 t, that wilder world 
of ling, and peat, and marsh, and lone farm- 
steading, which lies beyond and above the world 
of little folk. Her dialect alone is witness to 
her knowledge; it is true to the old folk-speech 
of Haworth and Stanbury Moor, in the days 
before steam and all its million evils came to 
undo the primitive, straight honesty of the hill- 
IDen. Her knowledge of the springs of thought 
27 1 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Memorial 


is true. Her instinct of the things that matter, 
as apart from the things that serve to pass an 
idle hour, is direct as a north wind blowing over 
winter snow. 
It is part of fate's hunlour that truth should 
be late-born; it is part of fate's humour that 
Charlotte Brontë should have written, almost 
wholly in apology, her preface to If/uthering 
Heights. 
rhe 'prentice hand pleaded for leniency 
towards his master's work, and what was 
written in flame and snloke of a soul's travail 
,vas sent out to the world with a foreword 
written by one who, great in her own way, had 
yet no intimacy with the deeper springs of life, 
of passion and of destiny. 
The book itself, by grace of fortune, is still 
with us. "[he spirit of the nloors is still with 
us, though, like the Covenanters of old, it 
hides among the highest hill-tops. Perhaps it 
would be well to finish here, with these as our 
last words; yet someho\v there is something 
left still to be said of Wutllering lIeights-and 
something, too, of that hapless brother of Emily 
Brontë's who has found few kindly judges in 
the \vorld. 
Again the book must speak for itself, as a 
weaker page cannot speak. Soon after the crucial 
scene \vith Heathcliff, soon after those wild 
memories of da ys gone by, wt:. fi.nd. Edga,: 
Linton in his wife's chamber. 
27 2 




 
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THE WITHIX:::i (WUTHERIXG HEIGHTS). 


To f.lee p, l72. 




'The Spirit of the Moors 


At first sh
 gav
 him no glance of recognition; he was 
in visible to her abstracted gaze. 
The delirium was not fixed, however; having weaned her 

yes from contemplating the outer darkness, by degrees she 
centred her attention on him, and discovered who it was 
that held her. 
"Ah! you are come, are you, Edgar Linton?)) she said 
with angry animation. " You are one of those things which 
are ever found when least wanted, and when you are wanted, 
never! J suppose we shall ha\Te plenty of lamentations now 
-1 see we shall-but they can't keep me from my narrow 
home out yonder: my resting-place, where I'm bound before 
Spring is over! There it is: not among the Lintons, mind, 
under the chapel roof, but in the open air with a headstone; 
and you may please yourself whether you go to them or 
come to me! " 
"Catherine, what have you done?" commenced the 
master. "Am I nothing to you any more? Do you love 
that wretch Heath-" 
"Hush!" cried Mrs. Linton. "Hush, this moment! 
You mention that name and ] end the matter instantly, by 
a spring from the window! What you touch at present you 
may have; but my soul will be on that hill-top before you 
lay hands on me again. I don't want you, Edgar: I'm 
. " 
past wanting you. 


Again the true note is struck. "What you 
touch at present you may have; but my soul will be 
on that hill-top before you lay your hands on me 
again!" There we have the expression of wifely 
duty-of bodily duty, that is, because she had 
never had more to promise Edgar Linton. 1-' here 
we have the yearning for the hiJl-tops, always the 
heathery, curlew-haunted hill-tops. There, too, 
273 s 



Charlotte BroJJtë: a Centenary M(lllOriai 


we have that choice of burial ground which 
afterwards, and in a cruder fashion, was to mark 
the last moments of Heathcliff. Even in death 
they were not divided, so far as the soul and 
aching heart went; and their n1arriage, so far 
as this world went, was to be consummated up 
yonder on tht: heights, when clay met clay 
against the riven coffin boards. Ah, surely this 
was love-love of the old fashion, that dreaded 
neither storm nor charnel-house. We have 
gro\vn too weak for such strong nleat perhaps; 
yet surely the dullest ears can hear the music 
of it, and the truth. As \vell deny the wind's 
power, or the sun's; this love of Catherine and 
Heathcliff falls upon us, note by note, with a 
persuasion which is neither man's nor Vroman's, 
but which belongs to the singing wind, and the 
big, wild voice of a Nature who will have her 
way. 
If Nature did not lead Emily Brontë-nay, 
rather go hand in hand with her-\vho did? 
Follow the after-plot of Wuthcring Heigh/s, 
and mark its conclusion, inevitable, satisfying. 
Cathy dies, and henceforth there is the one big 
figure in the book-the figure of Heathcliff, 
who remembers-remembers,. as better men 
forget. There is no second love for him; there 
could be none; and again it is inevitable that 
he should grow soured beyond belief, savage 
beyond conception, when all that spells the world 
274 



The Spirit of the Moors 


to hinl is gone. His gaze is upon this world, 
not upon the promise of the next; lose Cathy 
in the flesh, and he loses her for ever, is Heath- 
cliff's guiding thought; and agai n he snarls, 
and growls, and curses, just as the north wind 
does bet\veen the bleak wall-crevices of Haworth 
Moor. 
Yet in Heathcliff, too, there is that stuff of 
soul \vhich ranges out heyond the coffin, the 
mould, the blind wornl that hides beneath the 
sod. \Ve are all of us, just now and then, a 
little greater than the flesh that hems us in; 
and Heathcliff, stronger I to the last than we 
poor folk can be, is greatest at the moment of 
his death. 
We wilI not pry upon those final scenes; we 
wiJI not dissect them, nor profane; enough 
that, amid such gruesonle odours of the coffin 
and the flesh dissolving into earth, we still hear 
that clear, triumphant note which Cathy sounded 
long ago. Their souls are on the hill-top
 
still-hers and Heathcliff's - while Linton's 
crouches in the valley-lands, away out of sight 
of the woman he married, of the lover he had 
robbed of his true mate. Again and again, in 
these last scenes, there is that weird insistence of 
the spiritual, that plain, unswerving treatment of 
the flesh which is our prison-house. Heathcliff 
-Heathcliff the morose, the cruel, the Ishmael 
anlong his kind-confesses to his faith in ghosts. 
275 


. 



Cilarlotte Brolltë.' a G"entellary Me1l10rial 
So does every nlan who has walked lonely on the 
lonely heath, who has felt the fret of spirit 
underlying the palpable, cold bluster of the 
stornl. Heathcliff has faith in ghosts; he has 
faith that spirits stalk this cruder earth; above 
aU, he has faith that souls can marry, though 
hodies have been long kept asunder. He dies, 
and is laid to rest, with the gorse and the 
waving bracken and the tough, sweet-scented 
hay above him, beside the body of his mate. 
And so this book of gloom and tragedy ends 
happily; it ends, as the \vorld of heath revolves 
beneath the s'tars, inevitably; it ends with a 
sense of the world's injustice, and the hope of 
recompense; and our hearts go out in yearning 
for the happiness of Heathcliff the misunder- 
stood, and of Cathy, who is the daintiest heroine 
of fiction or of fact. 
A lesser artist would have stayed here, content 
with her own triumph. But Enlily Brontë goes 
farther. She has finished her book; and, yet, 
by quiet and quieter movements of her music 
she leads us into that atmosphere of peace in 
which she knows her favourites - Heathcliff 
and Cathy-must rest. Again we are con1pelled 
to reverence, not the conception alone, not the 
development alone, of W uthering Heights, but 
the sure courage that will not stoop to end 
where recognized laws say" end "-which goes 
forward to the true, inevitable finish. Lower 
27 6 



The Spirit of the MlJlJrs 


and lower sounds the music; gentler and gentler 
grows the voice of that wild tempest which has 
wrecked the peace of Haworth Moor; till, at 
the last, we have a passage that is but a whisper 
of the summer breeze among the bells of heath. 
"I lingered-" 
So the book ends, and there's never a word 
too much, never a word too little, in the \vhole 
of it. 
Etnily Brontë! What is there more to say 
of her? The bravest and the s\veetest soul that 
ever saw the truth and \vrote it down. She is 
neither man nor won1an; a woman could never 
have conceived the book, a lllan could never 
have wrought such subtle lines of tenderness, 
and truth, and purity, as she has done. Like 
Heathcliff himself, she is above and beyond us; 
she is a creature of the moors, a foster-daughter, 
as it were, of Nature; and hers are the secrets 
that running waters murmur as they wash their 
peaty banks-the secrets that the lapwing shares 
-the secrets of things old and unalterable, 
hidden deep beneath the outer fret and struggle 
of what we call the world of progress. 
She must, we are sure, have kept always a 
warm heart for her brother Branwell. She was 
not one to blatne lightly, for she had \vatched 
the hill-top thorn gro\v crooked under stress of 
western gales, and she understood, as few can 
\1nderstand, the great prilneval forces that shape 
277 



Char/ott
 Brolltë.' Ll CenteJlary Mtnzorial 
both trees and men into the final mould. Talent 
this unhappy lad possessed; it may be genius; 
but he was cursed by waywardness, and drifted, 
like one lacking oars and rudder, across the 
waters of his days- drifted, and left a ripple 
here and there to nlark his going, and vanished 
into silence. Yet he, too, has his place as a 
foundation-stone of aU his sister's work. It \vas 
Emily's part to be steadfast, to sufter and be 
strong; it was Branwell's to riot and be weak; 
yet had there been no Bran well Brontë, to give 
a human meaning to the \vild traditions, the 
wilder stories, on which his sister fed, there had 
been no Wuthering l-Ieights. Branwell is dead, 
and the time to judge his faults is past; unhappy, 
sinning, seeking he knew not \vhat by tangled 
and by miry paths, his nlemory has still for us 
some magic, some touch of spoiled romance. 
Nor was his life in vain; for out of his very 
sins and follies his sister olade Olore threads than 
one, from which to weave the finished piece called 
Wuthering Heiglzts. 
And now to finish. To say in a word what 
defies the intrusion of any spoken word. 1'0 
talk of that "Spirit of the Moors" which is 
strong as rock, yet airy as a dream. It is a little 
corner of the world, this heath that lies between 
WycoJJer and Oxenhope, between Haworth and 
old Hebden Brigg; yet somehow it is the touch- 
stone of all ronlance, and spaciousness, and 
27 8 



:rht Spirit of tht Moors 


glamour. Never a swart farm-bigging, shoulder- 
ing the lonely hill-top, but has its story; never 
a wrinkled slope of pasture but knows a Saga- 
tale, of hunters who hunted the forbidden hare, 
of keepers who c2ttue to fight, of battles that 
,vere fierce, and fair, and truculent; never a 
sheltered dene but smiles at n1emories of lad and 
lass, and the ways and songs of mating tinles 
long-dead. Out yonder is W ycoller Dene, 
whither the \vooers used to \valk, once upon a 
day, frorn distant Oxenhope, for the Dene was 
full of bonnie maids as a ,vinter thorn is full 
of haws; and in Wycoller we have as much 
of legend as would fill a country-side in an y 121nd 
less favoured than our Craven. 'fhe Cunliffes 
who lived, and feasted, and were merry in that 
dismantled hall-the Cunliffe who lay a-d ying, 
and ordered his favourite pair of fighting-cocks 
to be brought to the bed-foot, and died cheering 
on the winning bird-that other far-off Cunliffe 
who rides on the West wind of stormy nights, 
rides, a ghost on a ghostly horse, all down the 
Dene, and bet\veen the guardian ho]]ies of the 
doorway, and up the stone steps into the bed- 
roonl of the wife he loved and wronged and 
killed three centuries ago or so. These things 
are fronl of old, and from of old the wind brings 
back to us, as we stand beside Wycoller's stream, 
the fragrance and the strength of happier days. 
The violets blew softer then, the primroses looked 
279 


\ 


. 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Menlorial 


outward from their nooks with a deeper a.nd 
more wistful look in their great eyes; the blood 
ran redder in men" s veins, for love or hate, and 
women were as full of panting life as thorn-set 
roses are when the sun is in their hearts. For- 
gotten no,v, as a dead man out of mind, is old 
WycoHer Dene; so much the better, for we have 
time-as love has time aOlong the ruins-to sit 
and dreanl, and let that old-time madness of the 
blood rise once again and take us captive. 11he 
crowded ways of men-the street's confusion, 
the statesman's harvest of clapping hands, the 
hard-,von ease of houses bigger than our needs 
-an these are blown away like smoke by the 
winds of W ycoller , an d our eyes are opened. 
and we know. Winter, or pride of sunlmer, all 
is one. There is never a day so stark, so sleety. 
or so dread, in W ycoJIer l)ene, but has its 
stcady sunshine-the sunshine of Romance, \vho 
is man's best friend on earth. 
Yet we can leave Wycoller, and go east across 
the pathless moor, and yet have witchery with 
liS Ii ke a constant friend. Here the moor-fowl 
nested yester-year, and there the bog has tales of 
death to tell, if it could but open its dunlb t 
greed y tnouth; up yonder, w,here the heather 
hugs the sky, there was treasure hid when Prince 
Charlie came marching west of Pendle Hill, and 
when the Stanbury folk \vere doubtful lest he 
and his Hielandnlen should COlne nearer still. 

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Yonder again, where the sunset flames, and pales, 
and flanles again, there is the dreary tavern 
whence a man went outward to his death, the 
murderers stealing shadow-like behind him. 
Here the old Squire fought with his own keepers, 
and worsted them for sport; down in the hollo\v 
there, where oak-fern trenlbles in the breeze, 
there was a great and tender passion brought to 
ri peness; in yonder strip of intake, hard won 
from the heath, a nlan worked lonely, worked 
eagerly, worked till he dropped in his own paces, 
faithful to the labour he had set himself. See 
the deep cleft there, hidden by its beard of ling 
and bilberry; go back a space of fifty years or 
so, and count the poachers as they come-ten, 
t,venty, thirty-grim-visaged men and dour, who 
nlarch together, their will the wind's will, to 
forage where they list. The Squire has keepers 
-true, but over.-few to nlatch these stalwart 
enemies of written law. The Squire, the l:>arson, 
and the Lawyer may drink their wine below there 
in the sheltered valley-lands; but the poachers 
are the n1agistrates on Haworth Moor, and the 
un\vritten law they follow says that all which flies, 
or swims, or runs upon four legs, is any man's 
to take. 
Watch then1 go up and up, their dogs beside 
thenl. Watch the last flicker of the dying n100n 
light up their swarthy faces. Then let the still- 
ness fall, the starshine and the silence, broken only 
28
 



Char/oilt Bronl
.' a Ctnttnary Mt"lorial 
by the bark of fanners' dogs, the fretful protest 
of the grouse. Sit down awhile upon a clump 
of ling-the season of the year is dry enough- 
and let the past and present mingle, with the reek 
of hay and mistal-sweets to help the reverie. 
About you, where you sit, is Haworth Moor, 
ripe-rich in story before the Brontës knew it. 
About you are the old, unconquerable tales, the 
old, unconquerable roughness of the heath; and 
truth, like a wistful, honleless maid, sits hand- 
in-hand with you. Yet about you, as you sit, 
there is the nearer presence of the Bront
s. 
Visions come and go upon the stnooth night-wind 
-of Emily striving to endure, and to perfect her 
masterpiece-of the old father, querulous amid 
the genius he has begotten-of Branwell, escaping 
from the tavern window with a skin too full of 
wine and foolishness. 
It is enough. Let the dreanls die down, clnd 
hearken to the lowing of the kine, and sup the 
satisfying fragrance of the nlistals and the heath. 
This is Haworth Moor, and until tinle is not, 
and the world is crumpled into primeval space, 
the moor-born heart \vi 11 neither waver nor 
forget. 
Listen again, now that the peevish wind gets 
up to scatter peace. What is the cry that comes 
across the bracken and the ling? It is the cry 
of Cathy, beating with frail hands against the 
window-bars. U I want to come in. I'm come 

82. 



The Spirit of the Moors 


hom
. I lost my \vay on the moor. L
t m
 
come in! " 
l
ouder the wind grows, and )oud
r still. it 
is Heathcliff's voice. He is lying prone in the 
little chamber, sobbing his heart out, and crying 
on the ghost that once was flesh and blood. 
Again the wind dies do\vn. And fron1 a 
neighbouring n1istal conIes the honey-hearted 
scent of kine. 


28" 

 


, 



. . 
THE BRONTES AS .L
RTISTS AND 
AS PROPHETS 


By J. KEIGHLEY SNOWDEN 


AN ADDRI:SS DELIVERED TO THE BRONTË SOCIETY, AT 
SHHFFIELD, JANUARY 18, J 908 


t 


, 



THE BRONTËS AS ARTIsrrS AND AS 
PROPHF
rrS 


TH E reluctance that has drawn from your extreme 
courtesy a third invitation to address the Brontë 
Society is part of what one tèels in being called 
upon to deal, in any critical way, with young 
and splendid writers who were dear women. 
Were? Isn't it better to say, are? }i'or me, 
Emil y and Charlotte Brontë are not dead, but 
alive. It is as if they might hear us. . . . I do 
not attribute this daunting sense of them to 
imagination. It is real-an effect of their work's 
vitality. This is their triumph. The sensitive 
passionate souls of the sisters passed into what 
they wrote. and still confront us, defiant, delicate; 
it is almost reasonable to say, conscious. Well, 
one must either speak the truth about their 
writings as one sees it, Of be silent; and, now 
that their fame is established, now that nothing 
matters, I would rather have kept silence, rever- 
ently. 
However, it has occufred to me that the 
ßrontë Society may be wondering if its u
efulness 
28 7 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary Memorial 


is not near an end for the san1e reason. The 
Societyt s main purpose in the beginning was to 
establish their fame more surely. Its main pur- 
pose now is of course educational. Is an interest 
in the Brontës adequate for any society as an 
educational purpose? Perhaps not. But one 
may state the causes of its intensity and endur- 
ance, and try to see, clearly, what the fiery spirit 
of their work should mean to the world. 'fest 
it in all ways first. They sit here listening, with 
sincere, pathetic eyes. But those eyes have never 
quailed; and, after all, the pure gold of any 
literature is not to be had and \veighed but after 
a fierce assay. 'fhey know this, fearlessly. 
What, then, has criticism to say of the work 
they did so young, with such sincerity? I-Iard 
things. I suppose there are not four other 
classical novels in the world that have been 
found unsatisfactory from so n1any points of vie,,' 
as Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette, and WUJhering 
He'ights. The critic who holds that any fair 
and sane estin1ate of life is humorously 
balanced may reject them all but Villette, and 
say of even this that it lacks warmth or that 
the balance is due to a sense of justice more 
than to humour. The others fret him with 
passionate intention, and with c
rtain frank 
narrownesses. The realist-by whom I under- 
stand the critic insisting that, whatever stress 
there be of imagination and feeling, people in 
288 



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H..\\VOR1'H CUCH
H IX 
H.H
LUTTE BHOXTF's TDIE. 


To face p. 2EB. . 




Tht Brontës as Artists and as Prophets 
novels should act and speak as people would 
in life-the realist sides with the humorist; and 
for him Villette, though true, is not a great book 
as nlodern novels go. Its realism seems to have 
quenched something. Wutlzering Heights con- 
forms to the letter of his law, but is greatly 
false to the spirit. In Shirley the heroine and 
Caroline Helstone often talk like writing stylists, 
and so does Rose Yorke, rebuking her mother 
at twelve years of age. Jane Eyre argues with 
a melodramatic Rochester in the same précieuse 
diction, for which there is only this to be said, 
that it fits with her deportment. Weare pre- 
pared for it by a school-girl conversation in 
which Miss Helen Burns, who is thirteen, re- 
marks with great precociousness and elegance: 
u I have been wondering how a man who wished 
to do right could act so unj ustl y as Charles the 
First sometimes did; and I thought what a pity 
it was that, with his integrity and conscientious- 
ness, he could see no further than the preroga- 
ti yes of the Crown." At thirteen, Helen Burns 
laments her "wretchedly defective nature," and, 
in a passage of pulpit eloquence that any clergy- 
man might envy, tells how U the pale human 
soul" shal1 "brighten to the seraph. " In 
conception and execution alike, the story is naïve. 
For the critic who demands what is nowada ys 
called a yarn, 1ane Eyre, however, puts into the 
shade all else that either sister wrote; and he, 
289 T 


, 



CharlfJtte _Brontë: a Ctnttl10ry M
nll)ri(]1 
for his part, cannot imagine that Charlotte- 
who produced it for the market-returned to 
sober studies of her own free will: she must have 
listened fat all y to George Henry Lewes. Caring 
Jess for humour and realism in a novel than for 
the romantic, this critic finds that Charlotte's 
powers declined; and that Emily's never attained 
to that mellowness of smooth performance which 
is agreeable to those who love a story for its 
own sake. 
Nor may we dismiss the critics as mutually 
destructive. "[hey will not presently, like th
 
Kilkenny cats, have done. Each teJIs a part 
of the adverse truth, and the novel
 have to 
face the sum of these parts, not a difference or 
a quotient. Fron1 any technical point of view, 
however large, faults enough may be seen in 
each of the Brontë books to l11ake o1aterial for 
an instructive essay. A volunle of such essays 
might be terrible. 
There is, however, another sort of critic, 
whose judgments are not technicaL 
rhere is 
the publisher's reader. He tries to estimate 
selling value in the manuscripts he handles. 
We]), you kno\v the history of Wuthering 
Heights, The crc1Jant of Wildftll Holl, and 'l'he 
Professor. It is nothing out of the way. 
And, times having changed, and books with 
them, it is interesting to ask oneself if either 
of the four important books we are consider- 
290 



The Bront's as Artists and as Prophts 


ing would be at once accepted n O\V, as a first 
novel ? 
To myself, as a working writer, the acceptance 
of Charlotte's books at all, as they stand, is 
strangely hard to imagine. I will tell you why 
in a moment. Certainly, in these days of an 
overcrowded market, the publisher who should 
risk his money on even an unknown 1 ane E.yre 
would feel that he was indulging a rashness. 
1ane Eyre has unmistakably what is known as 
selling value; once fairly under way, it is a 
great yarn; but it starts too slowly, and is too 
much more than a yarn, to please the sort of 
publisher who would like it n10st on that 
account; is at once too ingenuous d.nd too 
stilted for a publisher \villing to admit 
quality. In any case he would want it to 
begin at the twelfth chapter. You nlust plunge 
in medias res. Shirley moves so quietly and so 
naturally, a panorama of real life without con- 
structive principle or visible plot, that I suppose 
no professional reader could nowada ys feel 
anything but despair of its appeal-a despair 
intensified, not relieved, by the searching truth 
of its psychology and the wealth of its exq uisite 
literary beauties. These are not " seJJing 
qualities," and the publication of Shirley as a first 
book would be a quixotism. As for f/illet/e-in1- 
possible! It is a novel for bilingual readers, 
and he would find it tame. Moreover, one hunts 
291 



Charlotte Brontë.' tl Centenary Meml}rial 


on a fal
e scent for a hero, and in the end is 
disappointed-faults not now excused. I
mily 
Brontë's n1asterpiece might, on the other hand- 
I think it \vould--have an easier birth and 
kinder welcome no\v than killed her young 
ambition. Its energy is modern and tremendous. 
Its direct unhalting nlarch is nlodern. But the 
temperamental strangeness of its attnosphere and 
people looks nlore morbid than it can have 
looked in those days of romanticisnl; and there 
is a great deal of dialect. J n all likelihood, 
IVuthering Heights would have to go the round. 
\Vhat does it signify? The imnlediate sale- 
ability of a book was never a measure of its 
true value; never can be: it is only a nleasure 
of culture and alertness in the reading public. 
\V orse novels are published every year by 
thousands, not all of them at the author's cost 
or risk. Novels illiterate and vicious pass the 
selling standard; hanal and vulgar novels are 
sold by the hundred thousand copies. But is 
there nothing, then, in the judgment of a 
publisher's reader? No author who is wise 
wiU say so. It does uphold against the new- 
comer some artistic C,lnons of the time, if only 
because they happen to be canons of success. 
They have been arrived at in a keen competition 
of craftsmen. fhe art of making novels in 
all kinds has been so developed by this com- 
petition since the Brontës wrote, that Que is 
29 2 



':the Bron/lls as Artists and as Prophets 


obliged to adlnit the existence, in many classics, 
of defects from which the most trivial piece 
of work in the same kind is nowadays exempt. 
rrhey endure, it seems, by virtue of qualities 
that override craftsmanship. 
Such classics are like the works of certain 
old masters of painting, clumsy in design, or 
strange in colour, or faulty in drawing, but 
big with some human worthiness to which design, 
colour, and drawing are secondary. In adn1iring 
them welJ, what is our mental attitude ? We 
do not blink their weaknesses: that would be 
to pay false worship and to harm ourselves and 
art: for \ve discern their strength truly when 
most critical. Whoever should say that Tintoret 
painted trees well would make us doubt that 
he had any true sense of the master's imagination 
and depth of soul. frees are painted better 
by English art students. If Tintoret were 
painting nowadays with such unequal and rude 
execution, he would never become famous: 
probably Tintoret \vould starve, or take to 
screeving. What of that? If \ve ever have 
a re-incarnation of '[intoret in fact, his genius 
\vill of course assimilate the art of the new 
age, and produce trees nearly as good as any- 
body's. 
But, with 
no\vadays an 
novels; and, 


many fine exceptions, there is 
immense manufacture of worthless 
I an1 concerned at Jeast as nluch 


293 



Charlotte Bl'ontë: a CenttJ10ry Memorial 


for the art of fiction as for a just apprecIatIon 
of the Brontës, when I attempt to judge their 
work by the best canons of the tinle. Consider 
frankJy its defects of craftsmanship, and so 
arrive at a firm and illuminating estimate of 
its actual merits. It wiU be found, I think, 
that these are poetic and ethical rather than 
artistic. 
Charlotte Brontë's estimate of Jane Austen 
helps us to our estimate of herself. Mr. Lewes 
has commended to her that placid worker as 
i. One of the greatest artists . . . with the nicest 
sense of means to an end, that ever lived." She 
allows the nice sense of means to an end; hut 
"Can there be a great artist without poetry?" 
she demands-and Mr. Lewes has no rejoinder. 
He should have written, she \vould say, "One 
of the greatest craftsmen." Her conception of 
a great artist is right; and if her own use of 
means to an end be wanting in skill, or if her 
purpose be something other than artistic, the 
poetry is always there. Emily's use of means 
to an end is masterly, and in its rude compelling 
fashion unsurpassed. Moreover, Emily's purpose 
is artistic, not at all didactic or controversial. 
If Mr. Lewes had had the tact and insight to 
write to the other sister a letter of respectful 
homage on her strength of handling, \ve should 
have thought more highly of his critical acumen, 
though he had said with Charlotte that Wuthering 
294 



1'k Brolltfs as Artists and as Prophtts 


Heights was sinister, dark and goblin-like. In 
Emily, at least, he might have recognized a 
great artist, a craftsman who was also a poet, 
a savage Michael Angelo of letters. But she 
wrought too much in the realm of imagination 
to be appraised by Mr. Lewes. 
Let that pass. Charlotte's artistry is now in 
question as it appears to novelists and critics of 
this generation. She wrote two kinds of stories- 
what is known as the romantic "yarn," and 
the story of real life. Her preference was for 
the latter. Her first approach to a publisher 
was made with an example of it, 1n( Professor, 
and she returned to it. She is best known for 
a single example of the romantic yarn. When 
The Professor was rejected and she began ]alJf 
Eyre, it was because, as she says a little con- 
temptuously, the publishers wanted "something 
more imaginative and poetical-something more 
consonant with a highly wrought fancy, with 
a taste for pathos." The story notion of a mad 
wife or relative confined in a secret chamber 
was in vogue: it Jnay be found in one of the 
clever and forgotten novels of Miss J ewsbury. 
the friend of Mrs. Carlyle. Charlotte made 
the very most of it-with a depth and pure 
intensity of feeling that no writer of the time 
could match. It was a story notion strictly: in 
actual life, no such secret could be kept frorn 
the household, and nobody would suppose it 
295 


\ 



Charlotte Brontë: a Centenary Menlorial 
could. This is what Leslie Stephen had in mind 
when he called Jane Eyre a baseless nightmare. 
Charlotte herself must have been very well aware 
of the flaw when she wondered u if the analyses 
of other fictions read as absurdly as that of Jane 
Eyre always does" ; and, in Villette, the paralJel 
episode of the pseudo-ghost is handled with a 
strict regard for what is possible. But see how 
much more finely the nightmare is invested with 
proper circuolstance and human meaning than 
that of The Castle of Otranto or Frankenstein. 
What modern art has to say against this fantastic 
order of romance is not that it was naïve-art 
sometimes is-but that in spirit and execution 
alike it was bound to be in a measure insincere. 
Charlotte Brontë came nearest of anyone to 
being wholly serious with it; she made a step 
backward frolll Scott, however, and the wonder 
is that she is so little blamed for doing so. The 
true apostolical succession in roman tic fiction is 
from Scott to Stevenson and Weyman and 
Hewlett. l'he true practice of the art is based 
upon a ronlantic way of seeing real events. It 
selects, distorting nothing, eschewing improba- 
bilities. It selects romantic deeds and personages, 
paints romantic scenes with poetry and passion, 
but has a care that every scene and stroke of 
the detail shall be convincing. It is a practice 
much more difficult-more masculine. 
How is the art of Jane Eyre at outs with it ? 
29 6 



'the Brolltës as Artists and as Prophets 


I have mentioned Helen Burns's impossible pre- 
cocity. I do not think it open to dispute that 
some of the conversations between Jane and 
Rochester are still more ludicrous. They have 
a schoolgirl air of mingled propriety and awful- 
ness that is nowhere to be matched in any book 
accepted as a classic. Mr. de Selin court has alread}' 
said this. But more; the propriety is often 
priggish on Jane's part, and passion in the most 
tempestuous moments speaks in polished phrases. 
7 ane Eyre is a very "young" book. That 
this fact does not explain all its imperfections, 
and that these were mainly due to Miss Brontë's 
following bad models with her critical faculty 
asleep or silenced, appears to n1e plain from the 
truth and fine womanliness of SIzirley, which 
came but two years later. Plain, too, from The 
Proftssor, which is not so girlish either, though 
it came first. And I an1 very sure that Charlotte 
Brontë never desired to pin her reputation upon 
the only novel that commends itself to Mr. 
Chesterton. She indeed regarded Jane Eyre as 
an attack upon conventionality; and the relent- 
less study of bigotry in St. John Rivers, the 
strong plea that love is greater than an y human 
doctrines, and the rehabilitation of the governess, 
nlust have made her glad, to the last, that she 
had written it. But she knew its faults as well 
as anyone, I think. In Villelte there are no 
seventeenth-century bookish conversations. In 
297 


, 



Charlotie Brontë.' (.l Centenary Meln 0 ria I 
either V'ltlette or Shirley there is not an improba- 
hi1ity that matters. 
Those who believe that Charlotte Brontë's 
greatest gift was the power to write a fascinat- 
ing story hold that, in doing these later books, 
she had missed her way. Well, she chose with 
her eyes open. I think she was true to her 
character in the choice, if not to a purely artistic 
ideal; and I doubt very n1uch if a resolve to 
spin yarns for their own sake, even in a modern 
realistic manner, could have given us the 
spontaneous and splendid self-realization of 
Shirley, a book to which Mr. Meredith and 
the \vhole fen1inist moven1ent owe much of their 
inspiration. But, says Mr. Chesterton, ]anl 
liyre is the unique novel in English literature of 
the nineteenth century" where the dangerous 
life of a good person was thoroughly expressed." 
I do not know that "thoroughly" is the best 
word; "exorbitant! y " seems to me a better 
one; hut I do suppose that Mr. Chesterton 
puts a finger there upon the secret of the book's 
popularity and very life. The heroine is good 
beyond all expectation. She is so good, that, 
if Rochester had not been vain egregiously, as 
well as an unlicked cub grown rather n10nstrous- 
or if he had even been convincingly presented fron1 
the first, his secret told us-the popular verdict 
to-day must have been that she is righteous 
overn1uch. His look of undesirability balances 
29 8 



The BrontëI as Artists and as Propkts 


Jane's priggishness and school propriety; other- 
wise the terrible plight of the man, chained to 
a vampire, and loving Jane at last with his 
whole despairing nature, would have made even 
the prudes aware that what is called a woman's 
h goodness" may in certain crises be selfish and 
petty. One is tempted to quote the preface: 
" Conventionality is not morality; self-righteous- 
ness is not religion." But, for the sake of the 
yarn, Jane acts conventionally in the crisis. She 
runs away, leaving Rochester to his intolerable 
tàte; and there is even a suggestion that hii 
blindness, the consequence of an act of splendid 
heroism, was meant by Providence to "chasten" 
him for infidelity to the vampire. Was it so 
meant by Charlotte Brontë, the Providence who 
arranged it? Absurd! It is part of the yarn. 
I f, as she held, pure love is greater than 
human doctrines, it is greater, too, than human 
laws; and Jane Eyre's goodness would have 
been far nobler, if less popular, had she done 
what love in its highest expression must always 
make us do-forget ourselves for another. 
Wh}' is Rivers introduced, but to bring this 
knowledge home to us? }1
ven in it missionary 
enterprise she cannot forget herself for hi111; 

nd, called by a supernatural voice, she goes 
hack to her lover. But the conventions are still 
respected, the vampire wife having by that 
time perished. It is a vastly ingenious plot on 
299 



Charlotte Brontë.' a Centenary 1vlel110rial 


melodramatic lines; and, as I have said, it is 
wrought out with extraordinary feeling and 
imagination. These give to the story a certain 
greatness. But these, by themselves, are never 
passports to popularity. In the case of ]ant 
Eyre, they do not seeln to have been passports 
even to realism; and my own judgn1ent of this 
story is that its naïvetés and unnatural notes 
n1ight have ultimately killed it in spite of all, if 
it had not said so much for "goodness." The 
bold attack upon a certain type of bigot, sincere 
in every word of it, is only incidental; yet it 
is the content most characteristic of Charlotte 
Bron të as a moralist. 
Let me not be thought contemptuous of 
selling value in a 
ork of fiction. It is another 
term for readableness. The first business of a 
novel, whether yarn or story of common life, 
work of art or work of Inorals, is to get itself 
read. But there are various kinds of attractive- 
ness. Turn now from 7ane Eyre to Shirley 
and Villelle, and see ho\v modern canons are 
applied to judge the selling value of these. 
For a story of common life the canons are 
stricter than for a yarn. Its intc=rest must 
depend wholly upon treatlnent, and therefore, in 
rnodern practice, such a story con1monl y begins 
In a striking way, so as to (:nlist our interest 
at onCe in its chief character or characters, and 
to distinguish these from the rest. fhey are 
3 00 



'['he Brontës as Artists anti as Prophets 


seen passing through some definite phase or 
experience. .L\.ll the incidents, all subordinate 
figures, all detail, are introduced and ordered 
with a view to the definite purpose. They Inake 
for a definite ending. It has been found possible, 
by these means, to arrest and keep attention for 
studies of life that are true to the most norma] 
experience, and that point their own morals. 
But in Charlotte Brontë's time there was 
no such craftsmanship of realism; and, in 
differing ways, Shirley and Villette fail to con- 
sult the ease and pleasure of the reader by such 
means. Villette is autobiographical; Shirley I 
have called a panorama. We go to thelTI first 
either because we have been assured that it is 
very welJ worth our while, or because we are 
honestly studious. They are caviare to the 
general. 
But what a feast for the lover of literature is 
Shirley! Its fresh outlook and its beauty of 
feeling are priceless. And what a ,vise and 
graceful mind informs the story of Lucy Snowe ! 
More craftsmanship might have made then1 better 
known, and especiall y sixty years back; but now 
that they are accepted classics, the lack of it is 
not complained of. fhe craftsmanship, such as 
it is, has the great Inerit of being characteristic, 
like that of all spontaneous art. Wh y is the hero 
slow to appear, and slo\ver stiU to reveal himself 
completeJy? Because Charlotte Brontë was not 
3 01 



Charlotte Brontë.o a Centenary Memorial 


a woman who loved at sight, hut had first to see 
her lover critically, and then to esteem hin1. 
Why, indeed, do all her people grow upon us in 
the same way? As she a vowed) her sense of 
character was not quite intuiti
e, not rash; and 
I believe her interest in exact and full apprecia- 
tions was one of the main causes why she wrote. 
However, in a book, the method of slow reve- 
lation has drawbacks unless it be used for 
some particular purpose of a plot. I t fogs the 
undiscerning reader, suspends and baffles his 
sy mpathies, and has led poor critics to say that 
Charlotte Brontë's men were not weJl seen by 
herself. Mr. Chesterton prefers the superficial 
pen of Jane Austen in this respect. Mr. de 
Selincourt, while sensible that Charlotte's "con- 
ception of her drama/is personæ is nearly always 
true," thinks that the manner she chooses to 
reveal then1 is not only crudely inartistic but false 
to life. The manner, I think, is true to life. 
That is why it is inartistic. In the case of 
Rochester, which Mr. de SeJincourt has especially 
in mind, that fantastic look of the man is due to 
his false position, which is unknown to the ïeader. 
We have not, in English literature, a novelist 
whose grasp of his drama/is personæ is more 
absolute than Charlotte Brontë's. Their inmost 
secret, their subtlest mutabilities of Inood and 
action, are known to that searching gaze, as 
welJ as their outward aspect and the effects 
3 02 



'the Brontës as 


rtists and as Prophets 


they make upon each other. l"hey are not, 
all of them, known synlpathetically; the means 
her scrutiny has used are often coldly ana- 
lytical; but you must trust her insight. The 
mischief is that you are required to do so; the 
undiscerning reader sees a character behave 
inexplicably, or provokingly; and, of all Char- 
lotte Brontë's faults of craftsmanship, this is the 
most damaging. [he early and decorative fault 
of endowing people with artificial speech is by 
comparison venial. Happily, we have consented 
to look at life without misgivings as she 
pictures it. 
Why, again, has Shirley no structure, no real 
story plot? Because Charlotte Brontë's way, in 
life itself, is to be a quiet observer, letting life 
go by: she is satisficd passively to interpret 
its hidden passions, to feel its beauty, and to 
meditate its meanings. Emily of the masculine 
will and imagination works equally in her own 
lnanner, a very different one. The truth is, these 
Brontë sisters are so interesting as women that 
one is best pleased to have it so. The interest 
in their books is autobiographical chiefly; and 
they are true to thenlselves in craftsmanship and 
all things. It is the secret of their greatness. 
All the faults we can find help us to prize what 
remains impeccable. 
Well, what do they nlean to us? What IS 
the Brontë Society's educational stock? 
3 0 3 



Charlotte Brontë.. a Centenary Memorial 

rhere is all they had to say for women. . . . 
In this connection I think it fair to dissociate 
Charlotte Brontë from the tnilitant sisterhood 
\vho someti mes claim her as a prophetess and 
leader. Her attitude to our sex is critical, but 
passive ahvays. Shirley Keeldar calIs herself 
U Captain," and takes her o\vn way with a pretty 
air of nIannishness, but she is never unfenIinine 
for a tTIoment, never stormy, or egregious, or 
ungraceful. And Shirley, the liveliest type of 
womanl y independence in the hooks, is not 
Charlotte herself, hut "Emily in happier cir- 
cumstances." In respect of sex attitude, Char- 
lotte's habit is rather Seen in Jane Eyre and 
Lucy Sno\ve. She wrote Shirley in chi valrous 
defence of womanhood against misprizing egotis- 
tical nIan, who in those days, and in Yorkshire, 
stood very much in need of her satiric handling; 
and there is one figure at least, that of Mr. 
Sympson, who, being seen from the outside only, 
and in a state of mind that Atnericans know as 
(C hopping mad," has an air of caricature. But 
she accepts Robert Moore after all. And she 
utterly submits, in Villette, to the kind-hearted 
tyrannies of M. Paul Emanuel, \"hich are even 
more eccentric than Mr. Synlpson's. It is not 
for a notion of equality in the sexes that Char- 
lotte Brontë contends. I think she tried to set 
us far too high. " Nothing ever charms me 
more," says Shirley, "than when I tr1.
e
 my 
3 0 4 



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, 



'7he Brontës as Artisls alld as Prophets 


superior. l"'he higher above me, so much the 
better; it degrades to stoop: it is glorious to 
look up:' And of man in the abstract, "I 
would scorn to contend for empire with hinl- 
I would scorn it. Shall my left hand dispute for 
precedence with n1Y right?" No: we go to 
Charlotte Brontë ' s hooks to see ourselves with 
the clear eyes of a conscientious woman, for 
whom love is the greatest good in life but who 
can only love where she esteems highly. Her 
glance is piercing, and for injustice, folly, or 
humbug it is quite inexorable:: she breathes 
defiance oftener than she sparkles fun : hut she 
does us good like a medicine, and threatens 
nothing harmful. 
I do not say she is judicial. Charlotte Brontë 
frankly takes the side of her sex. But, for a 
jarti pris, it is fairly taken. 'fhe writing quality 
forfeited in some degree by chan1pionship is 
humour, and that loss is nearly all we have to 
regret in it. Some poverty of humour, a 
strenuous note of seriousness, at times a certain 
want of good spirits and happy tolerance, cause 
her realism to be classed below that of the 
greatest writers of fiction. It is sad to find no 
downright hearty laughs; her very smile, when 
it is not beautiful with pity, has an air of quiet 
malice; she does not Ii ve so warmly as to feel 
perfectly indulgent. For her supreme gift is to 
feel keenly, as Emily's is. A fuller and more 
3 0 5 U 



Charlotte Bro1J/é": tl G'e/ltt/Jary Melnorial 
diversified contact with life than Emily's has 
compelled her to find accommodations; but 
this, alas! while dulling poetry has not made 
her quite serenely optimist. She needed happi- 
ness: happiness of a kind came too late. To 
Emily, whose need was even greater, it never 
came. 
'fhe cry for happiness, h
ard in all their work 
as an undertone, and uttercd frankly in many 
passages of great beauty, seems to n1e to be verv 
specially a Brontë note; and I think it is the 
tragic contrast between their capacity for it and 
the incon1pleteness of their lives that has won for 
them so many lovers. The cry hag a sharpness 
as if they had foreseen the end. We feel an 
ache of tenderness for them, greater than for 
either Keats, or Shelley, or Chatterton. It 
makes critical estimates a heavy business, to be 
done reluctant! y. When I consider the absence 
of any such joy of labour in Villette as abounds 
in Shirley, and remember the disenchantments and 
the griefs endured before it was written, and 
that nothing followed it, Charlotte Brontë's last 
years appear extremely grey. One likes to 
think that .she did know happiness before 
she died. But it was terribly brief, and, how- 
ever consoling, it had not the ecstasy of her 
imagination. As for her work, its vital force 
had ebbed as it had gained sobriety, balance, and 
technical t:xcellence. The fiery and pure spirit 
3 06 



ThfÞ BrolltëI as Artists and as Prophtts 


seems to have burned its frail envelope J as 
Emily's had done seven years earlier. 
What have they left to us, these rare spirits a 
exquisitely young? "V ork so sincere that 
we are as near to them as lovers can be ever. 
rrheir very faults-Emily's her aloofness; 
Charlotte's her bias, and Puritanisnl, and preach- 
ing seriousness-their very faults endear them. 
We see these faults as the defects of noble 
q uali ties. They are women who ha ve suffered 
much because the world will not arrange itself 
to the great pattern of their ideals and sharp 
desires; and doubtless they and all of us were 
happier if we smiled at it. But is the world 
to be without its martyrs and its prophets? 
rrheirs is a divine discontent, by which we are 
to learn how the world may be made a habitation 
easier to smile in. fhey suffer for our sakes. 
These dear women, delicate and passionate 
idealists, have done what I take to be a priceless 
thing for an age in which conventional faiths 
were to crumble fast away. They put us in con- 
tact with great N ature-a Book of Revelations of 
which the glory is imperishable and the comfort- 
able promise sure ;-and they have done this 
in passages of pure and musica] English, poetic 
and searching prose, that persuade us of the 
truth of their meaning by its very beauty. It is 
not a message to those who are happy and sure 
already. It is not a message to the Philistines. 
3 0 7 


\ 



Charlotlt Brontë: a Centfnary ..t"Jefl1orial 


I t is an auricular sweet message to the chosen. 


in doubt and in adversity. 
Nature has sunny tears and a 
Emily, that n1ystery of spiritual 
assures her that nothing dies, 
explicable. 


For Charlotte. 
soft lap; for 
meaning which 
nothing is in- 


Vain are the thousand creeds 
That move men'
 hearts: unutterably VaIn: 
Worthless as withered weeds, 
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main, 
To waken doubt in one 
Holding so fast by Thine infinity. 


So much poetry is nowhere else, in English 
writers of fiction, to be found with such an 
unsparing critical outlook and such sincerity of 
self-expression as in the Brontës. Remark, that 
sincerity and the critical spirit put them in 
touch with modern thought inseverably; and 
then consider, if you please, the question I asked 
at first, and whether their educational force is 
likel y to be soon exhausted. Their note, as 
Dr. Robertson Nicoll feels it, is U fortitude." 
Well, freedom and perfect honesty of thought, 
scorn of untruth and of injustice, demand that 
note in all who see the shams and cruelties of 
men and yet keep faith in beauty, honour, love. 
and a grea
 design. The demand will not abate. 
I t grows. I am glad that no horn-eyed person 
has attempted a synthesis of Charlotte Brontë'i 
3 08 



crhe Brontës as Arti.rts anti as Proph
ts 


intolerances and prepossessions, her scepticisms 
and her beliefs, with a view to claim her for 
this or that political class or sect of Christian 
worshippers in her tinle. It nlay yet be done, 
doubtless. They are probably not reconcilable, 
these prejudices, and in any case the attempt 
would be unintelligent. What we honour and 
prize, alike in her anà in her stronger sister, is 
the fearless, dainty spirit, true to itself as \vell 
as to the higher hope. Freedonl's battle is 
bequeathed to ourselves. 
Lyrical and heroic souls, in their own day 
they stood in the van of that battle, to give 
succour and to fight with eq ua] helpfulnes
. 
This is why they will not be forgotten. l"his 
is the reason for a cult of Brontë worshippers, 
who keep their praise ali ve and spread their 
spirit. 


J. KEIGHLEY SNOII/DEN. 


309 


II 



A BRONTE ITINERARY 
By BUTLER WOOD 


r 




-\ RRONTË ITINERARY 


ALTHOUGH much has been \vritten on the 
topography of the novels and other places con- 
nected \vith the Brontë family, as far as I am 
aware no attempt has hitherto been made to work 
out an Itinerary which may be followed by those 
who \vish to make a systematic tour of the dis- 
tricts concerned. For the present purpose it wilt 
not be necessary, nor is it desirable, to enter into 
any detailed account of the places mentioned; 
particulars of these must be looked for in such 
works as Dr. Stuart's" Brontë Country," 1888, 
and H. E. W root's "Persons and l)laces of the 
Bront
 Novels," 1906. Many articles on separate 
places have also appeared fron1 time to time in 
the '/"ra1lsactions of the Brontë Society and in 
magazines and newspapers. These, and others 
mentioned in the Bibliographies issued by the 
Society, n1a y be consulted for further information. 
For the sake of convenience the areas are 
arranged into four divisions, covering all the 
ground with the exception of Brussels, which 
is ably dealt with by Mr. M. H. Spielmann in 
3 1 3 



Char!ott
 Brontl: a Ctnttnary Mtmo,.ial 
another part of this volume. These are as 
follows :- 


The Haworth Country, U Shirley" Coun- 
try, Cowan Bridge and Kirkby Lonsdale, 
and Hathersage. 


HAWORTH COUNTRY 
If we draw, say on the one-inch ordnance 
map, a line cutting through Skipton, Colne, 
Hebden Bridge, Halifax, Bradford, Keighley, 
tlnd thence back to Skipton, we shall roughly 
enclose the ared made c]assic ground by Jane 
Eyre and Wutherillg Heights, and which will 
ever remain sacred as the land wherein the 
ßrontë family passed the greater part of their 
lives; for within it lie Thornton, where Char- 
lotte, Emily, Anne, and BranwelJ were born, and 
Haworth, where all except Anne are buried. 
The greater part consists of the moorland ridge 
which separates the West-Riding from Lanca- 
shire, and \vhich happily has changed little in 
aspect since the Brolltë days. If the reader could 
stand on the western side of the Nab, a bold 

scarpment of millstone grit \vhich dominates 
the Worth Valley at a height of 1,450 feet 
above the sea-level, he would be able to take 
in with one sweep of the eye the whole of 
the moorland tract which surrounds the Brontë 
home. Beyond the reaches of heather stretching 
3 1 4 



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awa y to the west are Boulsworth and Pendle 
Hill. On the north-west the Keighley moors 
rise in brown masses to the Lancashire border, 
while the suave contours of Rombald's Moor 
fill up the view on the north. Southward, the: 
eye ranges along those billowy hills of brown 
and purple which ron away into Derbyshire and 
end in the magnificent mass of Kinder Scout. 
Readers familiar with Jane Eyre will remenlber 
with what a loving hand the moorlands are de- 
scribed in the twenty-eighth chapter and other 
portions of the book, but Emily's feeling to- 
wards them, as revealed in Wuthering Heights, was 
nothing less than a passion. Charlotte says of 
her that "she had a particular love for them; 
there is not a knoll of heather, not a branch of 
fern, not a young bilberry leaf, not a fluttering 
lark or linnet, but reminds nle of her." 
Those who wish to explore this region should 
take train to Keighley, which is on the Midland 
main line-nine miles from Bradford and six- 
teen miles from Leeds. Fron1 thence a branch 
line runs up the Worth Valley to Haworth, 
which is approached fron1 the station by a steep 
rise of half a n1ile. At the top of the tortuous, 
narrow street are situated the Black Bull Inn 
and the Brontë Museun1, and within a short 
distance the Church and Vicarage. 1'he inn, 
too much frequented by the unfortunate Brallwell, 
contains a replica of the chair in which he wai 
3 1 5 


, 



Charlotte Brontl.' a Centtnory Menzorial 


wont to sit on these occasions. Immediately 
opposite is the Brontë Museum, wherein will be 
found many interesting memorials of the family. 
With the exception of the tower, the whole of 
the old church was pulled down and a new build- 
ing erected between 1879 and 188 I. Within 
lie the remains of al J the members of the family 
except Anne, who was buried at Scarborough. 
.l-\ Brontë memorial tablet is placed on a wall 
in the old tower, and in the south aisle of the 
church is a stained-glass window in memory of 
the Brontës, placed there by an American citizen. 
l'he Brontë grave lies at the south end of the 
communion-rail, and is n1arked by a brass tablet 
bearing the names of Charlotte and Emily Brontë. 
Visitors should not omit to inspect the registers 
containing entries relating to members of the 
family. 

rhe Vicarage, standing immediately behind the 
church, remains unchanged, except that an addi- 
tional wing has been built since the time it was 
occupied by the Rev. l}atrick Brontë. 
.AJter inspecting these places the visitor will 
no\v be free to wander on the moor lying west 
of the village. Proceeding along West Lane the: 
moor road leading past the cemetery comes into 
view, and if this be followed a distance of 2i 
Iniles to the waterfall he will get a typical 
example of West-Riding moorland scenery. On 
the left arc the Haworth and Stanbury Moors) 
3 16 



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A Brontë Itinerary 
and to the right is the Sladen V alley, acro
s which 
the village of Stanbury can be seen perched on 
the hill-top. This is the " Vale of Gimmerton" 
described in Wuthering Heights. When nearing 
the waterfall the path slopes down the valley side 
to the Sladen Beck, into which the stream runs 
from the fall. Here will be seen a stone foot- 
bridge, and also a large boulder known as 
Charlotte Brontë's chair. 
A mile and a half west from this point rises 
Withen's Height, 1,500 feet above the sea, on 
the eastern slope of which stands a small farm- 
house which local tradition identifies as "Wuther- 
ing Heights." The situation may be that 
described by Emily, but the house itself bears no 
resemblance to that of the story; the probability 
being in favour of a composition suggested by 
High Sunderland, near Halifax and Ponden 
House. The latter is situated three miles from 
Haworth, near the road leading from that place 
to Colne. It is a seventeenth-century structure 
built by the Heatons of Ponden, and was often 
visited by the Brontë sisters. Still following 
this road, which now begins to rise rapidly up 
to the moors, we shaH have an opportunity 
of visiting Wycoller Hall, 6! miles from 
Haworth. This is the 
"'erndean Manor of 1 ant 
Eyre. It is situated in Wycoller village, the 
nearest approach to which is by a rough track 
branching to the left from the road about a 
3 1 7 


, 



Charlotte Brontë.- a Centenary Men/fJrial 
quarter of a n1ile before reaching Top of Heather 
Inn. The building is now in ruins, and was built 
in the latter part of the sixteenth century by a 
member of the Cunliffe fan1ily. 
From Keighley the visitor can proceed to 
Stonegappe, the Gateshead Hall of Jane Eyre, 
where the early action of the story takes place, 
and where Charlotte acted as governess in 1839. 
I t is a substantial building situated about two miles 
\vest of Kild wick station, which is on the Midland 
main line five miles north-west of Keighley. 
1'he village of Thornton, four miles west of 
Bradford, is now included within the boundary 
of this city. "fhe house in which the Brontë 
children were born is situated in the High Street, 
nearly opposite the Mechanics' Institute. It is 
now used as a house and shop, but during the 
Rev. Patrick Brontë's sojourn it served as the 
Vicarage. There is a tablet on the wall indicating 
its connection with the family_ The Old Church 
\vhere the Rev. Patrick Brontë officiated is now 
in ruins; it lies on the left of the road just before 
entering the village, which may be reached by 
tram-car from the ci ty. 


l'HE "SHIRLEY" COUNTR Y 


The locality in which the action of Shirley took 
place has greatly altered since Charlotte Brontë's 
day. It is known as the "Heavy Woollen 
3 18 



, 
To lace P.3.1. 




A Brontë Itinerary 


District," for it is no\v the centre of the textile 
industry devoted to the production of cloth 
and blankets. In the early part of last century 
the mills were sparsely scattered in a smiJing 
landscape: to-day the area is teeming with large 
factories and populous villages, but although 
the landscape has suffered from this industrial 
developnlent, it still retains much of the charm 
of the earlier days. 
The town of Heckmondwike, seven miles 
from Bradford, lies abou t the centre of the 
district, but for the purpose of a circular tour 
it will be best to alight at Drighlington station 
on the Great Northern line, from \vhence a field 
path leads down to Oakwell Hall, which is the 
" Fieldhead Jt of the story, the distance being 
half a mile. It is a good example of the West- 
Riding type of manor-house, and was built 
in 1583 by one Henry Batt. 'fhe building is 
minutely described in Shirley. Half a mile 
farther is the village of Birstall (Briarfield). 
Like that of Haworth, the church existing in 
Charlotte Brontë's time has been demolished 
wi th the exception of the tower, and replaced 
by a new structure. The Rev. W. Margetson 
Heald, vicar fro 111 180 I to 1836, was the 
prototype of the Rev. Cyril Hall. Close by 
stands " The R ydings," where Miss Ellen N ussey 
lived when Charlotte first knew her, and where 
the author was a frequent visitor between 1832 
3 1 9 


\ 



Charlotte BronIP.' a Centenary MelJJOrial 


and 1837. The exterior answers to the descri p- 
tion of Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, but it is 
fairly certain that Norton Conyers, near Ripon, 
served as a picture of the interior of Rochester's 
mansion. From Birstall the visitor should 
proceed to Gomersal, lying half a mile farther 
west, where Red House (Briarmains) is situated. 
This was the residence of Joshua Taylor, a 
sturdy and enterprising manufacturer, who 
figures in the story as Hiran1 Yorke. His two 
daughters, Mary and Martha (Rose and Jessie 
Yorke), were Charlotte's school companions at 
Roe Head. Close by Red House is a joiner's 
shop which was formerly a dissenting place of 
worship, and it was from this building that 
the author heard the weird groanings and 
chantings described in the ninth chapter of the 
story. 
By following the road from Gomcrsal to 
Heckmond wike for a distance of I! miles 
Heald's Hall will be reached. This was the 
residence of the Rev. Hammond Roberson 
(Rev. Matthewson Helstone) who kept a 
boarding-school there in Charlotte Brontë's 
time. About a mile to the west of this 
place is Liversedge Church, built at Mr. 
Roberson's own expense, and of which he was 
vicar. A quarter of a mile beyond this stands 
the house where the Rev. Patrick Brontë lodged 
when appointed to the living of Hartshead in 
3 20 




 
 
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A Brol1të Itinerary 


181 I, and ,vhere his daughters Maria and 
Elizabeth were born. Going still farther west 
for a mile in the direction of Hightown, the 
road takes a sharp bend to the south towards 
Hartshead Church, which is three-quarters of a 
mile from Hightown village. The structure pos- 
sesses a fine Norman porch, and other remains 
of this period are to be found in the chancel. 
This is the N unnely Church of the story. 
From the churchyard can be seen that extensIve 
prospect as described in the twelfth chapter of 
the book. Roehead, the school where Charlotte 
attended from 183 I to 1835, is reached by 
passing through Hartshead village for a mile 
on the road to Mirfield. Miss W oolJer, then 
the mistress, figures as Mrs. Prior in the story. 


COWAN BRIDGE AND KIRKBY LONSDALE 
This locality is associated \vith the trying 
school experiences of the Brontë children, so 
graphically described in Mrs. Gaskell's "Life," 
and which are reproduced with such painful 
fidelity in the early chapters of Jane Eyre. 
To those who approach the district by the 
Midland Railway, Ingleton will be found a 
convenient starting-point, as conveyances can be 
hired for a circular tour to Tunstall Church, 
Kirkhy Lonsdale, Casterton, Cowan Bridge and 
back again to lngleton. The road passes through 
32l X 



Charlotte Bronti:".. a Centenary Me1JI0ria! 


Burton, 2! miles from Ingleton. Three n1Ïles 
beyond, Thurland Castle is reached, and a mile 
farther stands TunstaJJ Church, near the river 
Lune. This is the Brocklebridge Church of 
Jane Eyre. The follo\ving passage from the 
story describes the experiences of the pupils 
of Lowood School at this place: " We had 
to \valk two n1iles to Brocklebridge Church, 
\vhere our patron officiated. We set out 
cold, we arrived at the church colder; during 
morning service we became almost para- 
lysed. It was too far to return for dinner, and 
an allowance of cold meat and bread, in the 
same penurious proportion observed in our 
ordinary nleals, was served round between the 
services. At the close of the afternoon service 
we returned by an exposed and hilly road, wherc 
the bitter wintry wind, blowing over a range 
of snowy summits to the north, almost flayed 
the skin fron1 our faces. t, 
'[he room where the children had their mid- 
day meal is imnlediately over the church porch. 
Franl l'unstall the road now runs due north to 
Kirkby Lonsdale, a distance of 3} miles. This 
place, the Lowton of the story, is beautifully 
situated on the fight bank of the Lune. The 
church, with its architectural features of Norlnan 
date, is well \vorth a visit. The view up the 
Lune Valley from the churchyard \vas considered 
by Ruskin to be one of the finest in England. 
3 22 



A Brolltë ItÙlerary 
From here the visitor will proceed to Casterton, 
crossing the river by the famous Devil's Bridge, 
and passing Casterton Hall, which lies on the left 
of the road a quarter of a n1ile before reaching the 
village. This was the residence of the Rev. Carus 
Wilson (Rev. Mr. Brocklehurst), who took an 
active part in the management of Cowan Bridge 
Clergy Daughters' School during the Brontë 
period. The school was removed to Casterton in 
1833, and since that time has done excellent educa- 
tional work. There is accommodation for I 12 
girls. Leaving Casterton the road now runs 
south, intersecting the track of the Roman road at 
Kirkby Lonsdale railway station, and from thence 
south-east to Cowan Bridge, the Lowood of 
1ane Eyre. The Leck Beck runs through the 
village, which is 2! miles from Casterton. The 
old school was close to the bridge, but only a 
part of the original premises remains. This 
consists of two long, bow-windowed cottages, 
formerly used by the teachers, and where the 
school kitchen was situated. The schoolrooms 
and dormitories are not now in existence. 
I t was opened in I 824 for the purpose 
of providing an inexpensive education for the 
daughters of poor clergymen, who paid part of 
the cost, the remainder being provided by sub- 
scriptions. On the gable-end facing the road a 
tablet is fixed, indicating the connection of the 
Brontës with the institution. 
3 2 3 


\ 



Charlotte Brolltë.. a Centenary Mt1110rlal 


The tour is completed on returning to 
Ingleton, four nliles from Co\van Bridge. 
Visitors making Kirkby Lonsdale a centre can 
go round by TunstaJ, Cowan Bridge, and 
Casterton, or vice-versa. 


HATHERSAGE 


It was not until 1882 that this place began 
to be associated with the village of Morton in 
1 ane Eyre, and even then there \vas no direct 
evidence in support of the conjecture. The 
matter was settled, however, by Mr. Clement 
Shorter in his Charlotte Bronfe" and ller Circle, 
published in 1896. It is therein recorded that 
Charlotte spent three weeks at this place in 
the summer of 1845 with her friend Miss 
Nussey, whose brother became vicar of Hather- 
sage in 1844, and there can be no doubt that 
Charlotte had this district in mind when she 
described the village of Morton and the sur- 
rounding moorlands. Mr. J. J. Stead's article 
on Hathersage in Part IV of the Brontë Society's 
Transactions should be consulted by those who 
intend to visit this interesting locality. 
The village is on the Dore and Chinley 
branch ot the Midland Railway, and nlay be 
approached fron1 Sheffield ( I 2 miles) or from 
Manchester (30 miles). It is beautifully situated 
in the Derwent V alley, and is surrounded by 
3 2 4 



A Brontë Itinerary 


moorland very sin1Ïlar to that in the Haworth 
district. The visitor should see the church, the 
burial-place of the Eyre family, whose name 
suggested the title of the novel. Here Robin 
Hood's Little John is supposed to be buried. 
Close by is the Vicarage, l11entioned in the fol- 
lowing passage: "In crossing a field I saw the 
church spire before nle; I hastened towards it. 
Near the church, and in the middle of a garden, 
stood a well-built though small house, which I 
had no doubt was the Parsonage." The house 
has, ho\vever, been enlarged since Charlotte 
Brontë's time. 
The home of the Rivers family, Moor House, 
has been identified in a building called Moor 
Seats, situated three-quarters of a n1Ìle fronl the 
village, and lies not tãr frot11 the edge of the 
l11oor. 
In the romantic description of Jane Eyre's 
flight from Thornfield Ban she leaves the 
coach on the road leading across the open nloors 
at \Vhitcross. This would be on the high-road 
from Sheffield which Charlotte and Miss N ussey 
traversed on their visit to Hathersage in 1845. 
"Mr. Oliver's grand Hall in Morton Vale" 
is easily recognized in Brookfield Manor, an 
ancient nlansion situated in a fine park about 
a nlile to the north of the village. 


BU1'LER If/ODD. 


3 2 5 



INDEX 


Agnts Grey, publication of, 215 
Arnold, Matthew- 
Meeting with Charlotte Bront
, 35 
Poem on "Haworth Churchyard," 
68 


" Bell, Currer," Identity r
v
aled, 31, 
21 7 
"Bell, Currer, Ellis and Acton," 
poems by, 3 I, 7 1 
Benson, A. C., Charlotte Brontë, a 
personal sketch, 57 
Birstall, 319, 320 
Blackstock, W. de W., 148 
Boulsworth, 315 
Bradford, 314 
Bradford, Centenary address at, by 
Mrs. Humphry Ward, 15 
" Bretton, Dr. John," see Smith, George 
" BriarfieJd," of Shirley, 319 
" Briarmain's," of Shirley, 320 
Brigg, Sir John, President of Brontë 
Society, 118, lZO, 144, 147 
Brigg, J. J., 147 
"Brocklebridge," of Jan
 .Eyr
, 322 
"Brocklehurst, Rev. Mr.," 323 
Brontë, Anne, 67 
As poet, 75 
Last lines, 75 
Drontë, Charlotte- 
As rom:mtic, 23, 49 
Birth, IS, 57, 65 
Centenary addres5
, 15, 65 
Death, 57 


Brontë, Charlotte (continued)- 
In Brussels, 60, 8J 
I n London, 209 
In Manchester, 66 
I rish origin, 52 
Meeting with Arnold, 35 
Meeting with Thackeray, 2J7 
Novels, comparison \\ ith Dickens 
and Thackeray, 59 
Personal sketch, 57 
Place in nineteenth century fiction, 
15 1 
School life at Cowan Bridg
, 3 Z 1 
School life at Roehead, 19 
Some thoughts on, 15 
Word on,41 
ßrontë, Elizabeth, 15, 67, 321 
Brontë, Emily, in Brusie1s, 60 
Poetic gift, 20, 75 
Power of transmutation, 26 
Brontë, Maria, 15, 67, 3 21 
Brontë, Mrs. Maria, 15 
Brontë, Rev. Patrick, ïO 
Dea th, 67 
Eccentricity, 70 
Brontë, Patrick Branwdl, 6"', 219 
Brontë family portraits, 1]0 
Brontë Sisters- 
As artists and prophets. 287 
Charlotte and 
mily, :I comparisoD 
an(1 a contrast, 17S 
Celtic origin, 22, 25, 2<), 37 
Juvenile writings ot
 18, 1 J2, 146 
..\'u also Bell 


3 2 7 



llrontë- Heger letters in Timts, 95 
Brontë bibliography, 135 
Birthplace, 3 18 
Itinerary, 3 I J 
Museum, 121, 128, 315 
Novels, foreign translations. I 
 6 
Persons and places of, 141 
Society, origin, I 18, 123 
Society story of, 113 
Brookfield Manor, 325 
Brussels, Charlotte ßrontë in, 83 
Heger Prnsionnat, ï I, 8 
 
Burton, 322 


C asterton, 32 1 
Centenary aridres
 at Haw,)rth, by 
Bishop WelldQn, 65 
Address at Bradford, by Mrs. 
Humphry Ward, 15 
Chadwick, Mrs. Ellis H., 84, 145 
Chesterton, G. K., 136 
On Charlotte Brontë as a romantic, 


49 
Clergy Daughters' School, Cowan 
Briilge, 32.3 
Cockshott, Miss, 148 
Colne, 314 
"Cottage Poems;' of Rev. Patrick 
Brontë, 70 
Cory, W. J., vigit to Ha\'.orth, 168 
I mpressions of Jant! F.yrr, 170 
Cowan Bridge, 17, 19, 32.1 
Crewe, Marquis of, sr
 Houghton, 
Lord 
Curates in Shirlry, 27 


Day, G., 148 
Dimnet, E., 137 


" Emma," Set " Last Sketch" 
Eyre family, 325 


Index 


U Ferndean Manor," of Jane Eyrr, 
3 1 7 
Field, W. T., 122,130,14" 
" Fieldhead," of Shirle.J" 3 19 
Fitzgerald, Edward, 22 
Fotheringham, J., 145 


Galloway, F. C., 147 
Garnett, Richard, Place of Charlotte 
Brontë in Nineteenth Century 
Fiction, 1 5 I 
Gaskell, Margaret Emily (" Meta "), 
65 
Gaskell, Mrs., Ii, ,8, 66, 71 
U Gateshead Hall," of Jallr EY'r, 318 
Gomersal, 320 
Gosse, Edmund, A W orJ on Charlotte 
Brontë, 41 
Greenwood, J. F., I.p, 14- 


Haldane
 Lord, 145 
Halifax, 314 
" Hall, Rev. Cfril," 319 
Hartshead, 320 
Hathersage (" Morton U of Janr Eyrr), 
14 0 , I4J, 3 2 4 
Haworth, 315 
Centenary address at, by Bishop 
WeUdon,65 
Parsonage, 69, 3 16 
U Haworth Churchyard," Arnold'i 
poem on, 68 
Heald, Rev. W. M., 3'9 
Heald's Hall, 320 
Hebden Bridge, 314 
Heckmondwike, 319 
Heger Family, 28, 83-96 
Pensionnat, 92 -96 
Heger-Brontë letters in Timrs, 95 
" Helstone, Rev. M.," 320 
High Sunderland, 317 
Hightown, 321 
3 28 



Houghton Lord (Marquis of Crewe), 
President of Brontë Society, 144 


Ingleton, 321 
Itinerary of Brontë novels, 313 


J an
 Eyr. begun, 7 2 
Publication of, 58,216 
Second edition dedicated to Thac- 
keray, 76 
Juvenile writings of the Brontë sisters, 
18, 132., 146 


Keighley, 3 J4, 3 J 8 
Keyworth, Rev. T., 140 
Kildwick, 318 
Kirkby Lonsdale, 32 J 


" Last Sketch" (" Emma "), In Corn- 
hill Maga'Zin
, 76 
Lee, P. F., 141 
Lee, Sir Sidney, Charlotte Brontë In 
London, 209 
Lewes, George Henry, 23, 185 
Liversedge church, 320 
London, Charlotte Brontë in, 209 
"Lowood School," of Jane Eyre, 32.2. 
U Lowton," of Jane Eyre, 3 2 2. 
Luildite agitation, ;8 


Macdonald, Fredericka, 84 
Maeterlinck, M., 137 
Manchester, visit of Charlotte Brontë 
to, 66 
" Meta," see Gaskell, M. E. 
"Mistress of the Disagreeable," 2.2 
"Moor House," of Jane Eyrf!, 325 
Moor seats, 325 
Moon, Spirit of, 2 S 1 
Morton, see Hathersage 
Mossman, F. A. T., 147, 148 


Newboult, A., 147 


Index 


Newby, T. C., 217 
Nicholls, Rev. A. B., 131 
Nicoll, Sir W. R., 145 
Norton Conyers, 320 
"Nunnely," of Shirley, 32 [ 
Nusser, Ellen, 33, 118, 132" 14 6 , 
3 I 9, 3 2 4 


Oakwell Hall, 319 


Peel, F., 122 
Pendle Hill, 3 1 S 
Place-names of Brontë novels, see 
Itinerary, 313-325 
"Poems by Currer, Eliis, anri Acton 
Bell," 3 1 , 71 
Ponden House, 317 
Priestley, Sir William, 142 
" Prior, M n.," 3 2 I 
Professor, Rejection of, 7 2 , 215 


Red House, 32.0 
Reid, Sir T. Wemyss, 144 
Richmond, George, Portrait of Char- 
lotte Brontë, 169 
Ritchie, Lady, 2{0 
"Rivers" Family, 325 
Roberson, Rev. H., po 
Robertshaw, W., 147 
Roehead School, 18, 321 
Romantic, Charlotte Brontë a'i, 23, 49 
Rombald's Moor, 3 1 S 
"Rydings" of Shirley, 319 


Saintsbury, G., 145 
Scruton, W., 122., 142 
Seccombe, T., 145 
Sélincourt, E. de, 145 
Shirley, 303-4 
Country, 141, JI8 
Curates of, 27 
Luddite agitation, is 


3 2 9 


y 


\ 



Shorter, Clement K., 84, 119 
Skipton, 314 
Smith, George, marriage of, 244 
Death of, 245 
Meets Charlotte Brontë, 214 
Prototype of "Dr. John Bretton," 
3 2 , 225-35 
Smith, Mrs. George, 33 
Smith, Reginalil, 34 
Snowden, J. K., Brontës as artists 
:1Od prophets, 1.87 
Spielmann, M. H., Charlotte Brontë 
in Brussels, 83 
Stanbury, 316 
Stead, J. j., 122, 14 0 , 147, 14 8 
Stonegappe, 318 
Stuart, J. A. E., 122 
S\ltcliffe, Halliwell, Spirit ofthe moors, 
25 1 


Taylor, Joshua, 320 
Taylor. Mary, 18, 19, 21 
Tenant 
f fYi/dfell Hall published, 217 
Thackeray, W. M., meetings with 
Charlotte Brontë, 237-241 
Dedication of Jilne Eyre to, 76 
"Thornfield Hall" of Jilne F.yre,43, 
3 20 , ]25 
Thornton, 65, 3 1 4-, 318 
Thurland Castle, 322 
TimEs, Brontë-Heger ldters in, 9S 
Tunstall, 32 I 
TUller, J. Hor!faU, lIa, 122, 147 


Ua"iR, S. P., J....a 


Index 


" Vale of Gimmerton" of Wuthering 
Heights, 317 
Vaughan, C. E., Charlotte and Emily 
Brontë: a comparison and a COD- 
trast, I 75 
Pillette, 23, 24, 84, 86, 93 
Publication of, 242 


Ward, Mrs. Humphry, A Foreword, v 
Centenary address at Bradford, 15 
President of Brontë Society, 144 
Watkinson, J., 14 8 
Welldon, Bishop, Centenary addresa 
at Haworth, 65 
Wellington, Duke of, 31 Brontë hero, 
16, 19, 77 
Whitcrols, 325 
Williams, Smith, 21. 215 
Wilson, Rev. Carus, 323 
Wise, J. T., 134 
Withen's Height, 317 
Wood, Butler, 118, 120, 122, 135, 
147. 14 8 
Brontë itinerary, 313 
Wooler, Miss, 321 
Worth Valley, 314 
Wroot, H. E, 84 
Story of the Brontë Society, 113 
H'uthering Htights, place-name, 317 
Publication of, 21 S 
Wyc:oller, 280, 317 


Yates, W. W., 118, 120, 122, 124, 
14 8 
"Yorke, Hiram," 320 


330 



Printed in GTtat BrItain by 
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WOKl."\JG AND LONDON 




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