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Full text of "The Brontë family, with special reference to Patrick Branwell Brontë"

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I 



THE BRONTE FAMILY 

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO 

PATRICK BRANWELL BRONTE 
VOL. 1. 



THE BRONTE FAMILY 



WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO 



PATRICK BRANWELL BRONTE 



FRANCIS A. LEYLAND. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 
VOL. I. 




LONDON: ' V 

HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS, 

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET. 

1886. 

All rights reserved. 



v.l 



PREFACE. 



IT has long seemed to me that the history 
of the Bronte family is incomplete, and, in 
some senses, not well understood. Those who 
have written upon it as I shall have occasion 
to point out iii these pages have had certain 
objects in view, which have, perhaps necessarily, 
led them to give undue weight to special points 
and to overlook others. Thus it happens that, 
though there are in the hands of the public- 
several able works on the Brontes, there are 
many circumstances relating to them that are 
yet in comparative obscurity. Especially has 
injustice been done to one member of the 
family Patrick Bran well Bronte whose life 
has several times been treated by those who 
have had some other object in view; and, 
through a misunderstanding of the character 
of the brother, the sisters, Anne in particular, 
have been put, in some respects, in a false 



vi PREFACE. 

light also. This circumstance, coupled with 
the fact that I am in possession of much 
new information, and am able to print here 
a considerable quantity of unknown poetry 
from Branwell's hand, has induced me to write 
this work. Those of his poems which are 
included in these volumes are placed in deal- 
ing with the periods of his life in which they 
were written, for I felt that, however great 
7night be the advantages of putting them to- 
gether in a complete form, much more would 
be lost both to the interest of the poems 
and the life of their ' author in doing so. 
Branwell's poems, more, perhaps, than those 
of any other writer, are so clearly expressive 
of his feelings at the time of their writing, 
that a correct view of his character is only 
to be obtained by looking upon them as parts 
of his life-history, which indeed they are. And, 
moreover, when we consider the circumstances 
under which any of these were written, our 
understanding and appreciation of the subject 
must necessarily be much fuller and truer. It 
has not escaped the attention of writers on 
the Bronte story that Branwell had an im- 



PREFACE. vii 

portant influence on his sisters; and, though 
I maintain it to have been essentially different 
from what others allege, it would not be 
possible to do justice either to him or to 
them without saying a good deal about his 
character. 

I have felt it right, in these pages, to some 
extent also, to re-consider the character of the 
Rev. Patrick Bronte, which has, along with 
that of his son, suffered unfair treatment in 
the biographies of his daughters. I have like- 
wise entered upon some account of the local 
circumstances of art and literature which sur- 
rounded the Brontes, an element in their history 
which has hitherto been unknown, but is especi- 
ally necessary to a right understanding of the 
life and work of Branwell Bronte and his 
sisters. These circumstances, and the altered 
view 1 have taken of the tone of the lives 
of Mr. Bronte and his son, have obliged me 
to deal more fully than would otherwise have 
been necessary with the early years of the 
Brontes, but 1 venture to hope that this may 
be atoned for by the new light I have thus 
been enabled to throw on some important 



viii PREFACE. 

points. There are published here, for the first 
time, a series of letters which Branwell Bronte 
addressed to an intimate friend, J. B. Leyland, 
sculptor, who died in 1851, and it is with 
these that a fresh insight is obtained into an 
interesting period of Branwell's life. 

I am largely indebted in some parts of my 
work, especially those which deal with the 
lives of the sisters, to Mrs. Gaskell's fascinating 
' Life of Charlotte Bronte ' ; and it is a source 
of sincere regret to me that I am compelled 
to differ from that writer on many points. I 
am likewise indebted in parts to Mr. T. Wemyss 
Reid's admirable ' Charlotte Bronte : a Mono- 
graph,' a work which has corrected several 
errors and misconceptions into which Mrs. Gas- 
kell had fallen. The reader will perceive that 
I am obliged in several places to combat the 
theories and question the statements of Miss 
A. Mary F. Robinson in her ' Emily Bronte,' 
a book which, nevertheless, so far as its special 
subject is concerned, is a worthy contribution 
to the history of the Brontes. 

I have also found of much use, in writing this 
work, an article entitled 'Branwell Bronte,' which 



PREFACE. ix 

Mr. George Searle Phillips ' January Searle' 
published in the ' Mirror' in 1872. The chapter 
in Mr. Francis H. Grundy's ' Pictures of the 
Past ' on Branwell Bronte, has likewise been of 
the greatest service to me. Both these gentle- 
men were Bran well's personal friends, .and to 
them I gladly acknowledge my indebtedness. 

Among many other sources of informa- 
tion respecting the Brontes, of which I have 
availed myself in writing these pages, I may 
mention Hours at Home, ( Unpublished Letters 
of Charlotte Bronte ' ; Scribner, * Reminiscences 
of Charlotte Bronte ' ; the Athenaeum, ' Notices 
and Letters,' by Mr. A. C. Swinburne, and ' One 
of the Survivors of the Bronte-Bran well Family.' 
To this lady I must also express my obligation 
for her very kind letter to me. 

In the preparation of my work I have been 
greatly assisted by the information, and en- 
couraged by the sympathy, of several who 
had personal knowledge of Patrick Branwell 
Bronte, and who have supported the view I 
have taken of his life and character, and also 
who had like knowledge of the other members 
of the Bronte family. Among these, I have 



X PREFACE. 

to express my sincere thanks to Mr. H. Merrall 
and to Mr. William Wood, who were early 
acquaintances of Brairwell ; also to Mr. William 
Dearden. To Mr. J. H. Thompson and Mrs. 
Thornton I am greatly indebted for informa- 
tion respecting Branwell's sojourn in Bradford. 
I have likewise derived much information from 
the family of the Browns, now all deceased, 
except Mrs. Brown, to whom I have to express 
my obligation. I have also gained much re- 
liable information from Nancy Garrs, now Mrs. 
Wainwright, the nurse of the Brontes, and to 
her I must especially express my thanks. To 
these, I must not omit to add my deep and 
sincere thanks to those who will not permit 
me to mention them by name, for the unwearied 
assistance, counsel, and literary judgment which 
they have as cheerfully, as they have ably, 
rendered. 

F. A. L. 

i 

OAKWOOD, SKIECOAT, HALIFAX, 
October, 1885. 



CONTENTS 

OF 

THE FIEST VOLUME. 



CHAPTER I. 

Bronte Genius Patrick Bronte His Birthplace His 
early Endeavours Ordained Presented to Hartshead 
High Town His Courtship and Marriage Removes 
to Thornton His House Thornton Chapel Mrs. 
Bronte's failing Health Mr. Bronte Accepts the 
Living of Haworth Kudeness of the Inhabitants 
Local Fights between Haworth and Heptonstall 
Description of Haworth Mrs. Bronte dies . 1 

CHAPTER II. 

The Mother of the Brontes Her Character and Personal 
Appearance Her Literary Taste Penzance, her 
Native Place Description of Penzance The Bran- 
well Family Personal Traits of Maria Branwell 
Her Virtues Her Letters to Mr. Bronte Her 
Domestic Experiences ..... 133 



x ii CONTENTS. 



Character of the Rev. P. Bronte Charges against Him 
Serious Allegations of Biographers Injustice of the 
Charges Mr. Bronte's indignant Denial of the Im- 
putationsTestimony of Nancy Garrs Mrs. Bronte 
and the Silk-Dress Episode Mr. Bronte, the sup- 
posed Prototype of Mr. Helstone The Pistol-shots 
Theory Mr. Bronte on Science Knowledge Miss 
Branwell . . ' 41 

CHAPTER IV. 

Girlhood Gravity of Character Charlotte's Description 
of the Elf-land of Childhood The Still and Solemn 
Moors of Haworth influence their Writings The 
Present of Toys The Plays which they Acted 
Mr. Bronte on a Supposed Earthquake The Evi- 
dence of his Care for his Children Grammar School 
at Haworth His Children under the Tuition of the 
Master The Character of the School Cowan-Bridge 
School Charlotte's View of Mr. Cams Wilson's 
Management Deaths of Maria and Elizabeth . 57 

CHAPTER V. 

Reunion of the Bronte Family Branwell is the supposed 
Prototype of Victor Crimsworth That Character 
not a complete Portrait of Branwell His Friendships 
His Visit to the Keighley Feast Its Effect on 
Branwell's Nerves The Wrestle The Lost Spec- 
tacles Fear of his Father's Displeasure Mrs. Gas- 
kell's Story of the ' Black Bull ' Incident Questioned 
Miss Branwell and her Nephew ... 81 



CONTENTS. Xlll 

CHAPTER VI. 

The youthful Compositions of the Brontes Their Charac- 
ter BranwelTa Share in them ' The Secret,' a Frag- 
ment The Reading of the Bronte Children Bran- 
well's Character at this Period .... 93 

CHAPTER VII. 

Charlotte goes to Roe Head Return Home Bramvell at 
the Time The Companion of his Sisters Escorts 
Charlotte on a Visit He becomes Interested in 
Pugilism His Education His Love for Music His 
Retentive Memory His Personal Appearance His 
Spirit 109 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Love of Art in the Youthful Brontes Their elaborate 
Drawings J. B. Leyland, Sculptor Spartacus Mr. 
George Hogarth's Opinion Art Exhibition at Leeds 
Mr. William Robinson, their Drawing-Master 
Bramvell aims at Portrait-Painting J. B. Leyland in 
London Branwell and the Royal Academy He 
visits London 123 

CHAPTER IX. 

Charlotte re turns as a Teacher, with Emily as a Pupil, to Roe 
Head Their Determination to Maintain themselves 
Charlotte's Fears respecting Emily Charlotte's re- 
ligious Melancholy Accuses herself of Flippancy 
She is on the Borders of Despair Anxiety to Know 
more of the World Emily at Law Hill, Halifax, as a 
Teacher Charlotte's Excitability She returns Home 
out of Health 147 



XIV CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER X. 

The Light in which Biographers have regarded Branwell 
Bibliography Mrs. Gaskell The Causes which led her 
into Error Resentment of Branwell's Friends Mr. 
George Searle Phillips Branwell as Depicted by Mr.T. 
Wemyss Reid Mr. F. H. Grundy's Notice of Branwell 
Miss A. Mary F. Robinson's Portrait of Branwell, 

159 

CHAPTER XI. 

Branwell becomes a Freemason His love of Art undi- 
minished Has Instruction in Oil-Painting Com- 
mences Portrait-Painting at Bradford His Com- 
missions His Letter to Mr. Thompson, the Artist 
Miss Robinson's Charges of Misconduct Her Er- 
roneous Statements Branwell's true Character and 
Conduct at Bradford Remarks on his alleged Opium- 
eating there ....... 172 

CHAPTER XII. 

New Inspiration of Poetry Wordsworth Southey, Scott, 
and Byron Southey to Charlotte Bronte Hartley 
Coleridge His Worthies of Yorkshire Poets of the 
West-Riding Alaric A. Watts Branwell's Literary 
Abilities . 134 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Branwell's Letter to Wordsworth, with Stanzas Remarks 
upon it No Reply He Tries Again His Interest 
in the Manchester and Leeds Railway Branwell's 
Literary and Artistic Friends at Bradford and Halifax 



CONTESTS. XV 

Leyland's Works there Bramvell's great Interest 
in them Early Verses Mrs. Gaskell's Judgment on 
his Literary Abilities . . . . . 193 

CHAPTER XIV. 

The Poetical bent of Branwell's Genius ' Caroline's 
Prayer ' ' On Caroline ' ' Caroline ' Spirit of these 
Early Effusions 210 

CHAPTER XV. 

Charlotte's first Offer of Marriage Her Remarks concern- 
ing it A second Offer Declined Anne a Governess 
She Moralizes upon it Charlotte obtains a Situa- 
tion Unsuited to Her She Leaves it Branwell 
takes Pleasure in Scenery He Visits Liverpool with 
his Friends Charlotte goes to Easton Curates at 
Haworth Their Visits to the Parsonage Public 
Meetings on Church Rates Charlotte's Attempt at a 
Richardsonian Novel She sends the Commencement 
of it to Wordsworth for his Opinion Branwell re- 
ceives an Appointment as Private Tutor . 228 

CHAPTER XVI. 

The District of Black Comb Branwell's Sonnet Words- 
worth and Hartley Coleridge Branwell's Letter to 
the ' Old Knave of Trumps ' Its Publication by 
Miss Robinson in her ' Emily Bronte ' Branwell's 
familiar Acquaintance with the People of Haworth 
He could Paint their Characters with Accuracy 
His Knowledge of the Human Passions Emily's 
Isolation 219 



XVI CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XVII. 

Branwell's Appointment at Ulverston ends He gets a 
Situation on the Railroad at Sowerby Bridge Bran- 
well at Luddenden Foot His Friends' Reminiscences 
of him Charlotte and Emily reading French Novels 
Charlotte obtains a Situation Anxious about Anne 
School Project of the Sisters Charlotte's keen Desire 
to visit Brussels Her Letter to her Aunt Branwell, 

264 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

Situation of Luddenden Foot Branwell visits Manchester 
The Sultry Summer He visits the Picturesque 
Places adjacent His impromptu Verses to Mr. Grun- 
dy He leaves the Railway Company Miss Robin- 
son's unjust Comments His three Sonnets His poem, 
' The Afghan War ' Branwell's letter to Mr. Grundy 
His Self-depreciation 287 



THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

CHAPTER I. 

EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE BRONTES. 

Bronte Genius Patrick Bronte His "Birthplace His 
early Endeavours Ordained Presented to Hartshead 
High Town His Courtship and Marriage Removes 
to Thornton His House Thornton Chapel Mrs. 
Bronte's failing Health Mr. Bronte' Accepts the 
Laving of Haworth Rudeness of the Inhabitants 
Local Fights between Haworth and Heptonstall 
Description of Haworth Mrs. Bronte dies. 

NOT many stories of literary success have at- 
tracted so much interest, and are in themselves 
so curious and enthralling, as that of the Bronte 
sisters. The question has often been asked how 
it came about that these children, who were 
brought up in distant solitude, and cut off, in a 
manner, from intellectual life, who had but a 
partial opportunity of studying mankind, and 
VOL. I. B 



2 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

scarcely any knowledge of the ways of the out- 
side world, were enabled, with searching hands, 
to dissect the finest meshes of the passions, to 
hold up in the clearest light the springs of 
human action, and to depict, with nervous 
power, the most masculine and forcible aspects 
of character. The solution has been sought in 
the initiatory strength and inherent mental dis- 
position of the sisters, framed and moulded by 
the weird and rugged surroundings of their 
youth, and tinged with lurid light and vivid 
feeling by the misfortunes and sins of their un- 
happy brother. To illustrate these several 
points, the biographers of Charlotte and Emily 
Bronte have explained, as the matter admitted 
of explanation, the intellectual beginnings and 
capability of the sisters, have painted in sombre 
colours the story of their friendless childhood, 
and lastly, with no lack of honest condemnation, 
have told us as much as they knew of the sad 
history of Patrick Bran well Bronte, their brother. 
It is a curious fact that this brother, who was 
looked upon by his family as its brightest orna- 
ment and hope, should be named in these days 
only in connection with his sisters, and then but 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 3 

with apology, condemnation, or reproach. In 
the course of this work, in which Bran well 
Bronte will be traced from his parentage to his 
death, we shall find the explanation of .this cir- 
cumstance ; but we shall find, also, that, despite 
his failings and his sins, his intellectual gifts, as 
they are testified by his literary promise and his 
remains, entitle him to a high place as a worthy 
member of that extraordinary family. It will 
be seen, moreover, that his influence upon Char- 
lotte, Emily, and Anne was not what has been 
generally supposed, and that other circum- 
stances, besides their own domestic troubles, 
inspired them to write their masterpieces. 

The father of these gifted authors, Patrick 
Bronte, whose life and personal characteristics 
well deserve study, was a native of the county 
Down. He was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1777 ; 
and, after an infancy passed at the house of his 
father, Hugh Bronte, or Brunty, at Ahaderg 
one of the ten children who made a noisy 
throng in the home of his parents he opened, at 
the age of sixteen, a village school at Drumgoo- 
land, in the same county. In this occupation 
he continued after he had attained his majority, 

B 2 



4 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and was never a tutor, as Mrs. Gaskell supposes j 
but, being ambitious of a clerical life, through 
the assistance of his patron, Mr. Tighe, incum- 
bent of Drumgooland and Drumballyroony, in 
the county of Down, he was admitted to St. 
John's College, Cambridge, on the 1st of October 
in the year 1802, when he had attained his 
twenty-fifth year. At Cambridge we may in- 
fer that he led an active life. It is known 
that he joined a volunteer corps raised to be in 
readiness for the French invasion, threatened at 
the time. After a four years' sojourn at his col- 
lege, having graduated as a bachelor of arts, 
in the year 1806, he was ordained, and appoint- 
ed to a curacy in Essex, where he is said not to 
have stayed long. 

The perpetual curacy of Hartshead, in the 
West Riding of Yorkshire, having become va- 
cant, Mr. Bronte received the appointment, on 
the presentation of the vicar of Dewsbury. 

The church of St. Peter, at Hartshead which 
has extensive remains of Norman work, and has 
recently been restored is situated on an emi- 
nence about a mile from the actual hamlet of 
that name ; and, with its broad, low, and mas- 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 5 

sive tower, and its grim old yew-tree, forms a 
conspicuous object for miles around, command- 
ing on all sides extensive and magnificent 
views of the valleys of Calder and Colne, with 
their wooded slopes, and pleasant farms, and 
the busy villages nestling in the hollows. At 
the foot of the hill, the deep and sombre woods 
of Kirklees hide the almost indistinguishable 
remains of the convent, founded by Raynerus 
Flandrensis, in the reign of Henry II., for nuns 
of the order of Citeaux. 

There are interesting circumstances and evi- 
dences concerning Kirklees, its Roman entrench- 
ments being very distinct within the park which 
overlooks the Calder at this point. The priory, 
too, has its curious history of the events which 
attended the cloistered life of Elizabeth de 
Stainton, one of the prioresses, whose monu- 
mental memorial alone remains of all that 
marked the graves of the religious of that house ; 
and there are stories relating to Robin Hood. 
Here still exists the chamber in which tradition 
says the ' noble outlaw ' died, and also the grave, 
at a cross-bow shot from it, where long genera- 
tions of men have averred his dust reposes. The 



6 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

district of Kirklees had an interest for Charlotte- 
Bronte, and she has celebrated it in ' Shirley,' 
under the name of Nunnely, with its old church, 
its forest, its monastic ruins, and ' its man of 
title its baronet.' It was to the house of the 
latter kind gentleman though he was that 
Louis Moore could not go, where he ' would 
much sooner have made an appointment with 
the ghost of the Earl of Huntingdon to meet 
him, and a shadowy ring of his merry men, 
under the canopy of the thickest, blackest, oldest 
oak in Nunnely Forest . . . would rather have 
appointed tryst with a phantom abbess, or mist- 
pale nun, among the wet and weedy relics of 
that ruined sanctuary of theirs, mouldering in 
the core of the wood.' 

Mr. Bronte entered upon his ministrations at 
Hartshead in the year 181.1 ; and there are 
entries in the churchwarden's book of Easter- 
dues paid to him up to 1815. It is curious 
to note that, in this early mention of Mr. 
Bronte, the name is spelled ' Brunty ' and 
4 Bronty.' 

Hartshead being destitute of a glebe house, 
and no suitable residence existing either at this- 
place or at the neighbouring village of Clifton 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 7 

at the time, Mr. Bronte took up his residence at 
High Town, in a roomy and pleasant house at 
the top of Clough Lane, near Liversedge in the 
parish of Birstall, and about a mile from the 
place of his cure. The house, which commands 
beautiful views, is entered by a passage of the 
ordinary width, on the left of which is the draw- 
ing-room, having cross-beams ornamented with 
plaster mouldings, as when first finished. On 
the right of the passage is the dining-room. 
The breakfast-room and kitchen are behind 
them. The house is three stories in height, and 
stands back about two yards from the road, which 
points direct to the now populous towns of 
Liversedge and Cleckheaton, both places of 
considerable antiquity, whose inhabitants, em- 
ployed in various manufacturies, were increasing 
in Mr. Bronte's time. 

Finding himself now in possession of a com- 
petent income and a goodly residence, he felt 
relieved from those anxieties which, in all pro- 
bability, had attended his early struggles ; and, 
resting awhile in his ambition, he turned in 
peace and contentment to poetical meditation. 
His first book was called 'Cottage Poems,' on the 
title-page of which he describes himself as the 



8 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

' Reverend Patrick Bronte, B.A., minister of 
Hartskead-cum-Clifton.' This book was pub- 
lished at Halifax in the year 1811. The 
following are a few of its subjects : ' The Happy 
Cottagers,' 'The Rainbow/ 'Winter Nights' 
Meditations,' 'Verses sent to a Lady on her 
Birthday,' ' The Cottage Maid,' an^ ' The Spider 
and the Fly.' Mr. Bronte thus speaks of himself 
and his work : ' When relieved from clerical 
avocations he was occupied in writing the 
" Cottage Poems ;" from morning till noon, and 
from noon till night, his employment was full 
of indescribable pleasure, such as he could wish 
to taste as long as life lasts. His hours glided 
pleasantly and almost imperceptibly by, and 
when night drew on, and he retired to rest, ere 
his eyes closed in sleep witfh sweet calmness and 
serenity of mind, he often reflected that, though 
the delicate palate of criticism might be dis- 
gusted, the business of the day in the prosecu- 
tion of his humble task was well-pleasing in the 
sight of God, and by His blessing might be 
rendered useful to some poor soul who cared 
little about critical niceties.' Throughout he 
professes to be indifferent to hostile criticism. 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 9 

It is pleasant to find that Mr. Bronte, although 
settled in competence in a picturesque part of 
England, was not forgetful of his parents or of 
the land of his birth. So long as his mother 
lived he sent her twenty pounds a year ; and, 
though we have no record of the occasion, we 
may safely infer that he found opportunity to 
visit Ireland again. He maintained his connec- 
tion with the district of his early life ; and, in 
after years, he appointed a relative of Mr. Tighe 
to be his own curate. One of his 'Cottage 
Poems ' is entitled ' The Irish Cabin,' a verse or 
two from which may here be given : 

' Should poverty, modest and clean, 

E'er please when presented to view, 
Should cabin on brown heath or green, 

Disclose aught engaging to you ; 
Should Erin's wild harp soothe the ear, 

When touched by such fingers as mine, 
Then kindly attentive draw near, 

And candidly ponder each line.' 

He describes a winter-scene on the mountains 
of Morne a high range of hills in the north of 
Ireland and thus alludes to his hospitable re- 
ception in the clean and industrious cabin of his 
verses: 



10 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

' Escaped from the pitiless storm, 

I entered the humble retreat ; 
Compact was the building, and warm, 

In furniture simple and neat. 
And now, gentle reader, approve 

The ardour that glowed in each breast, 
As kindly our cottagers strove 

To cherish and welcome their guest.' 

It is unnecessary to give in this place further 
extracts from this book ; suffice it to say that, 
in all probability, Mr. Bronte lived to see the 
day when he was pained and surprised that he 
had ever committed it to the press. 

Although the poems of Mr. Bronte are inspired 
by the love of a peaceful and contented life, 
free from excitement and care, yet in times of 
trouble and emergency, such as those of the 
Luddite riots which occurred during the period 
of his ministration at Hartshead, he showed 
again the active and resolute spirit which had 
prompted and sustained the efforts of his early 
ambition ; and his ardour in helping to suppress 
the turbulent spirit of the neighbourhood would 
have made him very unpopular with the dis- 
affected people, had they not learned to respect 
the upright and unfailing rectitude of his 



TBEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 11 

conduct. In the energetic character of Mr. 
Bronte's life in these early times, in his persist- 
ent ambition, and in the literary pursuits which 
clearly were dear to him, we may trace those 
factors of working power and literary aspira- 
tion and taste which made up the characteristic 
intellectual force of his children. 

Mrs. Gaskell, in her ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' 
has given some of the particulars of the Reverend 
Mr. Bronte's courtship and marriage, in which 
she appears to have taken a lively interest. 

Mr. Bronte met his future wife, (Miss Maria 
Branwell of whose character I shall speak in 
the next chapter the third daughter of Mr. T. 
Brauwell of Penzance, deceased) for the first 
time about the summer of 1812, when she was 
on a visit to her uncle, the Rev. John Fennel, 
a Methodist minister and head-master of the 
Wesleyan Academy at Woodhouse Grove, near 
Bradford, but who became later a clergyman of 
the Establishment, and was made incumbent 
of Cross-stone, in the parish of Halifax. This 
meeting was soon followed by an engagement,, 
and, says Mrs. Gaskell, there were plans for happy 
picnic-parties to Kirkstall Abbey in the glowing 



12 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

September days, when ' Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin 
Jane ' the last engaged to a Mr. Morgar, 
another clergyman were of the party. 

In the account which Mr. Bronte gives of the 
aim and scope of the work from which I have 
made an extract, and the state of his mind while 
engaged upon it, we have a retrospect of the 
inner life of the father of the Brontes, during 
his sojourn at Hartshead as perpetual curate, 
prior to his marriage with Miss Branwell. In 
this period of his life, he seems to have been 
perfectly happy, no cloud or anticipation of 
future sorrow having obscured or diminished the 
fulness of his peace. The marriage was cele- 
brated on the 29th of December, 1812, at Guise- 
ley, near Bradford, by the Rev. W. Morgan, 
minister of Bierley, the gentleman engaged to 
'Cousin Jane.' It is a very curious circumstance 
that on the same day, and at the same place, 
Mr. Bronte performed the marriage ceremony 
between his wife's cousin, Miss Jane Fennel, only 
daughter of the Mr. Fennel alluded to above, 
a,nd the Rev. W. Morgan, who had just been, as 
described, the officiating clergyman at his own 
wedding. 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 13 

Mr. Fennel would naturally have performed 
the ceremony for his niece and Mr. Bronte, 
had it not fallen to his lot to give the lady 
away. 

When Mr. Bronte found himself settled in 
married life at Hartshead, and with the proba- 
bility of a young family rising around him, he 
felt pleasure in the contemplation of the future. 
Mrs. Bronte, ever gentle and affectionate in her 
household ways, comforted and encouraged him 
in his literary pursuits, and, by her acute observa- 
tion and accurate judgment, directed and aided 
his own. It was at this time that Mr. Bronte 
wrote a book, entitled ' The Rural Ministry,' 
which was published at Halifax, in 1813. The 
work consisted of a miscellany of descriptive 
poems, with the following titles : ' The Sabbath 
Bells,' ' Kirkstall Abbey,' ' Extempore Verses,' 
' Lines to a Lady on her Birthday,' ' An Elegy,' 
' Reflections by Moonlight,' ' Winter,' ' Rural 
Happiness,' ' The Distress and Relief/ ' The 
Christian's Farewell,' * The Harper of Erin.' It 
cannot be doubted that, in consequence of his 
two publications while he was at Hartshead, 
Mr. Bronte became known in the surrounding 



14 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

districts as an aspiring man, and one of literary 
culture and ability. 

Mr. Bronte had taken his bride to his house at 
High Town, and it was there that his daughters 
Maria and Elizabeth were born. Maria was 
baptized on April the 23rd, 1814, and is entered 
in the register as the 'daughter of Patrick Bronte 
and Maria his wife.' The Rev. Mr. Morgan was 
the officiating minister. There is no such entry 
there relating to Elizabeth, for she was baptized 
at Thornton with the other children. 

Mr. Bronte, after having been nearly five 
years minister of Hartshead-cum-Clifton, resigned 
the benefice, and accepted, from the vicar of 
Bradford, the incumbency of Thornton, a per- 
petual curacy in that parish. This, probably, 
on the suggestion of Mr. Morgan, who was then 
incumbent of Christ's Church at Bradford. 

Thornton is beautifully situated on the 
northern slope of a valley. Green and fertile 
pastures spread over the adjacent hills, and 
wooded dells with shady walks beautify and 
enrich the district. The neighbourhood,' says 
Mrs. Gaskell, ' is desolate and wild ; great tracts 
of bleak land, enclosed by stone dykes, sweeping 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 15 

up Clayton Heights.' This disagreeable picture 
of the place, painted by the biographer of Char- 
lotte, is scarcely justified by the actual appear- 
ance of the district. The soil is naturally fertile, 
and the inhabitants are notable for industry and 
enterprise. Hence no barren land, within the 
wide range of hill and vale, is now seen obtruding 
on the cultivated sweep. 

The town is somewhat regularly built. In the 
main street is situated the house where Mr. 
Bronte took up his abode during his stay at 
Thornton. The hall door was reached by several 
steps. There was a dining-room on one side of 
the hall, and a drawing-room on the other. Over 
the passage to the front was a dressing-room, 
at the window of which the neighbours often 
saw Mr. Bronte at his toilet. Above the door of 
the house, on a stone slab, there are still visible 
the letters : 

A. 

J. S. 

1802 

These are the initials of John and Sarah Ash- 
worth, former inhabitants of Thornton; and this 
residence remained as the parsonage until 



16 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

another was built below, nearer to the chapel, 
by the successor of Mr. Bronte. 

The chapel of Thornton is a narrow, con- 
tracted, and unsightly building. The north side 
is lighted by two rows of square cottage windows 
on the south side, five late perpendicular 
pointed windows permit the sun to relieve the 
gloom of the interior. 

The diminutive communion-table is lighted by 
a four-mullioned window, above which, exter- 
nally, in the wall, appears the date 1620. The 
interior is blocked, on the ground floor, with 
high-backed, unpainted deal pews. Two galleries 
hide the windows almost from view, and cast a 
gloom over the interior of the edifice. The area 
under the pews, and in the aisles, is paved with 
gravestones, and a fetid, musty smell floats 
through the damp and mouldering interior. In 
this chapel, Mr. Bronte preached and ministered, 
and from the pulpit, placed high above the 
curate and clerk, whence he delivered his ser- 
mons, he could see his wife and children in a 
pew just below him. 

The new incumbent of Thornton seems to 
have taken active interest in his chapel ; for in 



THEIR EARLY CIHCU.MSTAXCES. 17 

the western screen, which divides a kind of lobby 
from the nave, is painted, on a wooden tablet, 
an inscription recording that in the year 1818 
this chapel was 'Repaired and Beautified,' the 
Rev. Patrick Bronte, B.A., being then minister. 

While at Thornton Mr. Bronte steadily pursued 
his literary avocations, one of his books being a 
small volume entitled, ' The Cottage in the Wood, 
or the Art of becoming Rich and Happy.' This 
is an account of a pious family, consisting of an 
aged couple and a virtuous child, whose appear- 
ance and education qualify her for a higher 
position in the world than that of a cottager's 
daughter. Accident brings to their door a young 
man in a state of almost helpless drunkenness, 
whose habits are the most profligate and dissolute, 
as the sequel discloses; and the object of the 
book is to show the dire consequences of con- 
tinued intemperance. The story is told in prose, 
but Mr. Bronte gives a poetical version of one 
event in the narrative. It is entitled, ' The 
Nightly Revel,' and possesses a dignity of its 
own. The following extract shows considerable 
improvement, in diction and verse, upon the style 
of his small volume published at Halifax, in 1811. 
VOL. I. C 



18 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

For this reason it is well worth reproducing. 

' Around the table polish'd goblets shine, 
FilM with brown ale, or crown'd with ruddy wine ; 
Each quaffs his glass, and, thirsty, calls for more, 
Till maddening mirth, and song, and wild uproar, 
And idly fierce dispute, and brutal fight 
Break the soft slumbers of the peaceful night. 

' Without, within, above, beneath, around, 
Ungodly jests and deep-mouthed oaths resound ; 
Pale Reason, trembling, leaves her reeling throne, 
Truth, Honour, Virtue, Justice, all are flown ; 
The sly, dark -glancing harlot's fatal breath 
Allures to sin and sorrow, shame and death. 
The gaming-table, too, that fatal snare, 
Beset with fiercest passions fell is there ; 
Remorse, despair, revenge, and deadly hate, 
With dark design, in bitter durance wait, 
Till SCARLET MURDER waves his bloody hand, 
Gives in sepulchral tone the dread command ; 
Then forth they rush, and from the secret sheath 
Draw the keen blade and do the work of death.' 

Mr. Bronte also, in 1818, before his appoint- 
ment to Haworth, published his ' Maid of Killar- 
ney.' He had not been long at Thornton, where 
he went about the year 1815, when a considerable 
increase in his family added to his parental 
responsibilities. 

On his acceptance of the living, he probably 
enjoyed a larger stipend than at Hartshead, but 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 19 

the demands of a young family, perhaps, on the 
whole, made him a poorer man. There Charlotte 
Bronte was born in April, 1816 ; Patrick Bran- 
well Bronte in .1817; Emily Jane Bronte in 
1818 ; and Anne Bronte probably just before 
Mr. Bronte's removal to Haworth, which was 
on February 25th, 1820, as we are told by Mrs. 
Gaskell. 

Of the life of the Brontes at Thornton we 
know little. But there were causes of anxiety 
pressing on Mr. Bronte at the time. The state 
of his wife's health was a real sorrow, and al- 
though he derived solace from his literary pur- 
suits and the society of his clerical friends, his 
spirits were damped by the contemplation of 
the season of bereavement and affliction that 
assuredly threatened him at no distant date. 

With six young children, who might soon 
become motherless, Mr. Bronte's future was 
dark and discouraging, and he entertained the 
idea of resigning, at no distant day, the then 
place of his cure. Here, living within a 
reasonable distance of Bradford, he had an 
opportunity of moving in a larger circle of 
friends than at Hartshead, and it was here that 

c2 



20 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

his children received their earliest impressions 
of local life and character. Old inhabitants of 
Thornton remembered them playing in the 
space opposite their father's residence, in the 
village street, and had often seen them carried, 
or their parents lead them by the hand, in the 
lanes of the neighbourhood. They were children 
only when they left Thornton ; yet, on many 
grounds, the inhabitants of that village may 
feel privileged that it was the birthplace of the 
authors of * Jane Eyre,' ' Wuthering Heights,' 
and ' The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.' 

Shortly an opportunity presented itself to Mr. 
Bronte for leaving Thornton, a vacancy having 
taken place at Haworth through the death of 
the curate, Mr. Charnock. The situation of this 
chapelry was blessed with a more bracing air, 
and the curate had a somewhat better stipend 
than Thornton allowed, and so Mr. Bronte ac- 
cepted the presentation from the patron. We 
are .informed, however, that, on visiting the 
place of his intended ministrations, he was told 
that while to him personally the parishioners 
had no objection, yet, as the nominee of the 
vicar of Bradford, he would not be received. 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 21 

He bad no idea that the inhabitants bad a veto 
in the appointment. 

On Mr. Bronte declaring that, it' he had not 
the good-will of the inhabitants, his ministra- 
tions would be useless, the place was presented 
to Mr. Redhead by the patron, and the village 
seems to have become the scene of extraordi- 
nary proceedings. It appears that, after the 
Reformation, the presentation to the curacy of 
Haworth, which had been from time immemorial 
vested in the vicar of Bradford, had become 
subject to the control of the freeholders, and of 
certain trustees who held possession of the 
principal funds from which the stipend of the 
curate proceeded, which they could withhold, 
by virtue of an authority they appear to 
have been empowered with. In effect, they 
could at any time disallow or render void an 
appointment, if disagreeable to themselves, by 
keeping back the stipend. Mr. Bronte, writing 
later of Mr. Redhead, says of this : ' My prede- 
cessor took the living with the consent of the 
vicar of Bradford and certain trustees, in conse- 
quence of which he was so opposed that, after 
only three weeks' possession, he was compelled 



22 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

to resign.' What this opposition and its imme- 
diate effects were, we learn from the pages of 
Mrs. Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' and 
they may be mentioned here as illustrative of 
the pre-eminent resolution and force of charac- 
ter which ever distinguish the inhabitants of the 
West Riding and the dwellers on these rough- 
hewn and storm-beaten elevations. 

During the long illness which preceded the 
death of Mr. Charnock, incumbent of Haworth, 
his assistant curate, Mr. Redhead, had supplied 
his place ; who, on Mr. Bronte's withdrawal, was 
presented, as is stated above, to the vacant 
living by the patron, and he seems to have 
been determined to hold the chapelry, vi et armis, 
in defiance of the inhabitants. But the free- 
holders, conceiving they had been deprived of 
their long established prerogative, or an attempt 
was being made to interfere with it, protested 
against Mr. Redhead's appointment. On the 
first occasion of this gentleman's preaching in 
the church, it was crowded not by worshippers, 
but by a multitude of people bent on mischief. 
These resolved the service should not proceed, or 
that it should be rendered inaudible. To secure 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 23 

this object they had put on the heavy wooden 
clogs they daily wore, except on Sundays, and, 
while the surpliced minister was reading the 
opening service, the stamping and clattering 
of the clogs drowned his voice, and the people 
left the church, making all the noise and up- 
roar that was in their power, which was by no 
means feeble. The following Sunday witnessed 
proceedings still more disgraceful. We are told 
that at the commencement of the service, a man 
rode up the nave of the church on an ass, with 
his face to the tail, and with a number of old 
hats piled on his head. On urging his beast for- 
ward, the screams of delight, the roars of laugh- 
ter, and the shouts of the approving conspira- 
tors completely drowned the clergyman's voice ; 
and he left the chapel, but not yet discomfited. 

Mr. Redhead, on the third Sunday, resolved 
to make a strenuous and final effort to keep the 
ecclesiastical citadel of which he had been 
formally put in possession. For this purpose he 
brought with him a body of cavalry, composed 
of a number of sympathising gentlemen, with 
their horses ; and the curate, thus accompanied 
by his supporters, ascended the village street 



24 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and put up at the ' Bull.' But the enemy had 
been on the alert: the people were exasperated, 
and followed the new-comers to the church, 
accompanied by a chimney-sweep who had, not 
long before, finished his labours at some adja- 
cent chimneys, and whom they had made half 
drunk. Him they placed right before the 
reading-desk, which Mr. Kedhead had already 
reached, and the drunken, black-faced sweep 
nodded assent to the measured utterances of the 
minister. ' At last,' it is said, ' either prompted 
by some mischief-maker, or from some tipsy 
impulse, he clambered up the pulpit stairs, and 
attempted to embrace Mr. Redhead. Then the 
fun grew fast and furious. Some of the more 
riotous pushed the soot-covered chimney-sweeper 
against Mr. Redhead, as he tried to escape. 
They threw both him and his tormentor down 
on the ground in the churchyard where the 
soot-bag had been emptied, and though, at 
last, Mr. Redhead escaped into the " Black Bull," 
the doors of which were immediately barred, 
the people raged without, threatening to stone 
him and his friends.' 1 They escaped from the 

1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. ii. 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 25 

place, and Mr. Redhead, completely vanquished, 
retired from the curacy of Haworth. 

Mr. Bronte, who had made a favourable im- 
pression on the inhabitants, was now accepted 
by them, and the natural kindness of his disposi- 
tion and the urbanity of his manners, secured 
peace and contentment in the village. 

His responsibilities as a pastor were not light, 
though the new scene of his labours, in moral 
condition, was, perhaps, no worse than the 
generality of similar villages in the north of 
England. The special chroniclers of Haworth 
speak of the population of the barren mountains 
west of York as 'rude and arrogant, after the 
manner of their wild country.' This is the 
testimony of James Either, a Yorkshire esquire. 
The celebrated Oliver Haywood, preaching at 
the house of Jonas Foster, at Haworth, on June 
13th, 1672, broke out into lamentations about 
the immorality, corruption, and profanity of the 
place. Mr. Grimshaw, in the last century, while 
curate there, had a conviction that the majority 
of the people were going to hell with their eyes 
open ! Mrs. Gaskell informs us that at Haworth, 
* drinking without the head being affected was 



26 THE BRONTE FAMILY". 

considered a manly accomplishment.' A re- 
markable instance of the loss of reverence and 
the increase of profanity, in those days, is found 
in the observance of Palm Sunday at Hepton- 
stall, a neighbouring village, and at Haworth 
itself this feast was pre-eminently distinguished 
in ancient times by the out-door processions of 
people going from the church and returning to 
it, bearing palm branches and singing the psalms 
and hymns appointed for the special festival. 

It is known, indeed, that this feast was attended 
by the inhabitants of the surrounding hills and 
valleys in those times; and, at the period of 
which I speak, the attendance of the people 
was not diminished, but increased, though they 
came for another object. It is a singular fact 
that local feuds, if we may call them such, were 
kept up between the villages of the West 
Riding. And thus challenges were given alter- 
nately by Haworth to Heptonstall, and by 
Heptonstall to Haworth, for struggles between 
the champions of the respective villages, to 
be fought out on Palm Sunday. The inhabit- 
ants of these places, therefore, met to pound 
and pummel each other without any civil or 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 27 

religious cause to give bitterness to the fray: 
greed of triumph and brutal indifference to- 
injuries inflicted characterized these hostile 
meetings. On such occasions, at Heptonstall, 
amidst great drunkenness and rioting, there 
were ' stand-up ' fights from the church-gates 
to the ' Buttress,' a steep part of the road, 
near the bridge which crosses the river at the 
foot of Heptonstall Bank nearly a mile in 
extent. On one of these feasts, a Haworth 
belligerent, unwilling to return home, although 
night was drawing on, and looking extremely 
dissatisfied, when asked by his wife what ailed 
him, answered, 'Aw 'annot fawhten wi' onny 
body yet, an' aw'll nut gooa whom till aw dun 
summat.' His affectionate spouse replied, 'Then 
gooa, an' get fawhten' an' ha' done wi' it, for 
we mun gooa.' The West Riding police, on 
their institution, put an end to these disagrace- 
ful proceedings. 

Haworth, the new place of Mr. Bronte's in- 
cumbency, which has been well and very fully 
described by many writers, is situated on the 
western confines of the parish of Bradford, and 
stands on a somewhat lofty eminence. It is, 



28 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

however, protected in great measure from the 
Avestern storms by still higher ground, which 
consists of irreclaimable moors and morasses. 

The church in which he, for the remainder of 
his life, performed his religious services, and in 
which his more gifted children repose, after 
their brief but memorable lives, was of ancient 
date. A chantry was founded there at the 
beginning of the reign of Edward III., where 
a priest celebrated daily for the repose of the 
soul of Adam de Battley, and for the souls of 
his ancestors, and for all the faithful departed. 
The church, which is dedicated to the glory of 
God, in honour of St. Michael the archangel, 
has been recently, to a great extent, re-edified. 
The old structure retained traces of one still 
older, of the early English style. Invested as 
it was with the evidences of the periods of taste 
good and bad through which it had passed, and 
with the associations which attach to old and 
familiar internal arrangements, it was endeared 
to the inhabitants. Of such associations the 
present church though an architectural gain 
upon its predecessor is necessarily destitute, 
and the world-wide interest with which the 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 29 

former structure was invested through the 
genius of the Brontes has been almost de- 
stroyed by the substitution of an edifice in 
which they never prayed, and which they never 
saw; though their remains repose, it is true, 
under its pavement, as is indicated by memorial 
tablets. 

During the existence of the old church, 
Haworth was visited by continuous streams of 
people; but, on its removal, little was left to 
a1 tract pilgrims from afar, and there was a 
manifest diminution of visitors to the village. 

In the recent alterations, the parsonage also, 
in which the children of the Eev. Patrick Bronte 
lived and won for themselves enduring fame in 
the path of literature, has undergone consider- 
able changes. It has been found necessary to 
add a new wing to the house, in order to obtain 
larger accommodation, and, to beautify the par- 
sonage still further, the old cottage panes, 
through which light fell on precious and in- 
valuable pages of elaborate manuscript, as they 
passed through delicate and gifted hands, have 
given way to plate-glass squares. Altogether 
the house, both inside and out, presents a very 



30 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

different appearance from that which it did in 
the time of the Brontes. 

The chapehy at Haworth, when Mr. Bronte 
accepted the perpetual curacy, was much more 
populous and important than that of Thornton. 
The stipend of 170 per annum, with a fair 
residence attached, and a sum of 27 13s. for 
maintenance, made the change a desirable one 
on pecuniary grounds ; and, with Mrs. Bronte's 
annuity of 50 a year, anxiety on this head was 
no doubt allayed. 

The population of the district was about four 
thousand seven hundred, and, in the first ten 
years of Mr. Bronte's incumbency, increased by 
nearly twelve hundred souls. The chapelry in- 
cluded within its bounds the townships or hamlets 
of Stanbury and Near and Far Oxenhope, with 
the extensive moors and scattered houses stretch- 
ing to the borders of Lancashire. The curacy of 
Stanbury, a place one mile west of Haworth, 
with 100 per annum, was in the gift of Mr. 
Bronte ; and there was also the interest on 600, 
with a house, for the maintenance of a free 
school at that place, and a sum of 90 per 
annum for a like purpose at Haworth. In the 



THEIR EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES. 31 

year 1849, while Mr. Bronte was still incumbent, 
the chapelry of Haworth was divided, a church 
having been erected at Oxenhope at a cost of 
1,500, the curacy there being valued at 150 
per annum. 

Among the considerations which had weight 
with Mr. Bronte in his determination to accept 
the curacy of Haworth was, in all probability, 
the delicate state of his wife's health, and the 
not over-robust constitutions of his children. 
He knew, that though from the smoke-laden 
atmosphere of the busy centres of West Riding 
industry, Keighley and Haworth were not wholly 
exempt, yet the winds which prevailed from the 
west and the south-west for a great part of the 
year, and swept over the moorlands from whose 
heights the Irish Channel itself was visible, 
would, by their purity, give that invigoration 
of which his family stood in need. It is quite 
possible, indeed, that by Mr. Bronte's removal 
to Haworth, which gave an almost illimitable 
range of wild, heathery hills for his children to 
wander over, an extension of their short lives 
may have been attained. Mrs. Bronte, however, 
derived little or no benefit from the change. 



32 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

She had suffered for some time under a fatal 
malady an internal cancer of which, about 
eighteen months after her arrival at Haworth, 
she died. 



33 



CHAPTER II. 

MRS. BRONTE. 

The Mother of the Brontes Her Character and Personal 
Appearance Her Literary Taste Penzance, her 
Native Place Description of Penzance The Bran- 
well Family Personal Traits of Maria Branwell 
Her Virtues Her Letters to Mr. Bronte' Her 
Domestic Experiences. 

THE mother of the Brontes whose death, in 
September, 1821, deprived her children of the 
affectionate and tender care which, for the short 
period of her married life, she had bestowed 
upon them would, had she been spared, have 
moulded their characters by her own meek, 
gentle, and maternal virtues. Mrs. Bronte is 
said to have been small in person, but of grace- 
ful and kindly manners ; not beautiful, yet 
comely and ladylike, and gifted with great 
discrimination, judgment, and modesty. Mrs. 
VOL. I. D 



34 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Gaskell says she ' was very elegant, and always 
dressed with a quiet simplicity of taste which 
accorded well with her general character, and 
of which some details call to mind the style of 
dress preferred by her daughter for her favourite 
heroines.' Mrs. Bronte was also gifted with 
literary ability and taste. She had written an 
essay entitled, ' The Advantages of Poverty in 
Religious Concerns,' with a view to publication 
in some periodical ; and her letters were charac- 
terized by elegance and ease. Her relations in 
Penzance spoke of her as ' their favourite aunt, 
and one to whom they, as well as the family, 
looked up as a person of talent and great 
amiability of disposition ;' and again, as ' possess- 
ing more than ordinary talents, which she 
inherited from her father.' 

Mrs. Bronte, as has been said, was a native of 
Penzance, a corporate town in the county of 
Cornwall, and also a sea-port. Penzance is 
situated in the hundred of Penwith, and is the 
most westerly town in England. The climate 
is distinguished by great mildness and salubrity, 
and the land is remarkable for its fertility, and 



MRS. BRONTK. 35 

the beauty of its meads and pastures. Its mari- 
time situation, however, had, in former times, 
exposed it to the descents of foreign invaders, 
the last of which appears to have been that of 
the Spaniards in the year 15i>5. The account 
given of this event is that the invaders, being 
masters of Bretagne, sent four vessels manned 
with a force sufficient to occupy the Cornish 
coast. They landed near Mousehole a well- 
known place on the western side of Mount's 
Bay and entered the town, which they set on 
fire, the inhabitants fleeing before them. At a 
later date the town became .very pleasant, and 
many of the houses were large and respectable, 
while the streets were well paved. Generally 
the people enjoyed long lives, and some attained 
the patriarchal age : one of these Dolly Pen- 
treath, who died in her one hundred and second 
year, and who had made the * Mousehole ' her 
residence was known as the last who spoke 
Cornish. On account of the gentleness of the 
climate, many suffering from pulmonary corn- 
plaints took up their residence there. 

Peuzance was a town surrounded by places of 

D2 



36 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

great interest to the historian and the antiquary, 
which are fully described by Borlase and others. 
The trades carried on at the place were of con- 
siderable extent in tin and the pilchard fishery, 
as well as in copper, earthenware, clay, and in 
other objects of manufacture and merchandise. 
In one of the local industries, Mr. Thomas Bran- 
well was engaged. He had married a lady 
named Carne, and they had four daughters and 
one son. Maria was their third daughter. The 
families of Mr. and Mrs. Branwell were well 
connected, and moved in the best society in 
Penzance. They were Wesleyan Methodist in 
religion, and the children were brought up in 
that persuasion. Mr. Branwell relieved the cares 
of business by the delights and consolations of 
music, in the performance of which he is said to 
have had considerable ability. He and his wife 
lived to see their children grown up ; and died, 
Mr. Branwell in 1808, and his wife in 1809. 

Maria Branwell visited her uncle, Mr. Fennel, 
at the beginning of the summer of 1812, as is 
stated above, and, for the first time, saw Mr. 
Bronte. A feeling of mutual admiration sprang 
up between them, and something like the 



MRS. BRONTE. 37 

beginning of an engagement took place. When 
she returned home, a correspondence opened 
between the two, and Mr. Bronte preserved the 
letters. These have been referred to by the 
biographer of his daughter, and we learn that 
the communications of Miss Bran well were 
characterized by singular modesty, thoughtful- 
ness, and piety. She was surprised to find herself 
so suddenly engaged, but she accepted with 
modest candour the proffer of Mr. Bronte's 
affection. The future was determined by mutual 
acquiescence. On Miss Branwell, nature had 
bestowed no great personal attractions, yet, as 
has been said, she was comely, and lady-like in 
her manners ; and her innate grace drew irresisti- 
bly to her the esteem of all her acquaintances. 
Little is known respecting her beyond the 
personal traits already mentioned ; and as to the 
circumstances and events of her life, unmarried 
or married, which was one of an extremely even 
and uneventful kind, little or nothing can be 
recorded beyond the ordinary routine of domes- 
tic duties well and affectionately performed, and 
of obligations in her sphere religiously observed. 
Blameless in her conduct, loving in her charge, 



33 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and patient in the sufferings she was called 
upon to endure, she was a pattern of those ex- 
cellencies which are the adornments of domestic 
life, and make the hearth happy and content- 
ed. It cannot be doubted that she ordered 
her household with judgment, and expended her 
husband's income with frugality and to the best 
advantage. 

Mrs. Gaskell was enabled to give an extract 
from one of her letters written to Mr. Bronte 
before her marriage, which displays in an excel- 
lent manner her calm sensibility and under- 
standing. She says : ' For some years I have 
been perfectly my own mistress, subject to no 
control whatever ; so far from it that my sisters, 
who are many years older than myself, and even 
my dear mother, used to consult me on every 
occasion of importance, and scarcely ever 
doubted the propriety of my opinions and actions; 
perhaps you will be ready to accuse me of vanity 
in mentioning this, but you must consider that I 
do not boast of it. I have many times felt it a 
disadvantage, and although, i thank God, it has 
never led me into error, yet, in circumstances of 



MRS. BRONTE. 39 

uncertainty and doubt, I have deeply felt the 
want of a guide and instructor.' l 

The usual preparations, which Mrs. Gaskell has 
particularized, were made for the wedding ; but 
during the arrangements a disaster happened, 
to which the following letter to Mr. Bronte 
refers : 

'I suppose you never expected to be much 
richer for me, but I am sorry to inform you that 
I am still poorer than I thought myself. I men- 
tioned having sent for my books, clothes, &c. 
On Saturday evening, about the time when you 
were writing the description of your imaginary 
shipwreck, I was reading and feeling the effects 
of a real one, having then received a letter from 
my sister, giving me an account of the vessel in 
which she had sent my box being stranded on 
the coast of Devonshire, in consequence of which 
the box was dashed to pieces with the violence 
of the sea, and all my little property, with the 
exception of a few articles, being swallowed up 
in the mighty deep. If this should not prove 

I 1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. iii. 



40 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the prelude to something worse, I shall think 
little of it, as it is the first disastrous circumstance 
which has occurred since I left home.' 1 

The wedding took place at Guiseley, on 
December 29th, 1812, as is stated in the pre- 
vious chapter. 

1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. iii. 



41 



CHAPTER III. 

THE REV. PATRICK BRONTE. 

Character of the Rev. P. Bronte Charges against Him 
Serious Allegations of Biographers Injustice of the 
Charges Mr. Bronte's indignant Denial of the Im- 
putations Testimony of Nancy Garrs Mrs. Bronte 
and the Silk-Dress Episode Mr. Bronte, the Sup- 
posed Prototype of Mr. Helstone The Pistol-shots 
Theory Mr. Bronte on Science Knowledge Miss 
Bramvell. 

THE character of the Rev. Patrick Bronte, who 
was responsible, after the death of his wife, for 
the education of his children, if we may believe 
the accounts given of it by those who have 
admired their genius, had many deplorable pecu- 
liarities. It would be difficult, indeed, to find 
anywhere the record of such passionate out- 
breaks, such unreasoning prejudices, and such 
unbending will as are revealed in the stories 
which are told of him. But we shall see pre- 



42 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

sently that most of these charges have no 
foundation in fact, while others are, probably, 
the result of total misconception. 

Mrs. Gaskell gives an account of these pecu- 
liarities. On one occasion, she tells us, after 
the children had been out on the wet moors, 
the nurse had rummaged out certain coloured 
boots given to them by the Rev. Mr. Morgan, 
who had been sponsor for Maria at Hartshead, 
and had arranged them before the fire. Mr. 
Bronte observing this, and thinking the bright 
colours might foster pride, heaped the boots 
upon the coals, and filled the house with a 
very strong odour of burnt leather. 'Long 
before this,' she says, ' some one had given 
Mrs. Bronte a silk gown . . . she kept it trea- 
sured up in her drawers. One day, however, 
while in the kitchen, she remembered that she 
had left the key in the drawer, and, hearing 
Mr. Bronte upstairs, she augured some ill to 
her dress, and, running up in haste, she found 
it cut into shreds . . . He did not speak when 
he was annoyed or displeased, but worked off 
his volcanic wrath by firing pistols out of the 
back-door in rapid succession . . . Now and 



THE REV. PATRICK BRONTK. 43 

then bis anger took a different form, but still 
was speechless. Once he got the hearth-rug, 
and, stuffing it up the grate, deliberately set 
it on fire, and remained in the room in spite of 
the stench until it had smouldered and shrivelled 
away into uselessness. Another time he took 
some chairs, and sawed away at the backs till 
they were reduced to the condition of stools.' 1 

Mr. Wemyss Reid, who implicitly adopts the 
' pistol shots ' and ' pretty dress ' stories, while 
paying a high tribute to Mr. Bronte's rectitude, 
and to his just pride in the celebrity of his 
daughters, says of him, 'He appears to have 
been a strange compound of good and evil. 
That he was not without some good is acknow- 
ledged by all who knew him. He had kindly 
feelings towards most people ... But through- 
out his whole life there was but one person 
with whom he had any real sympathy, and that 
person was himself.' He was ' passionate, self- 
willed, vain, habitually cold and distant in his 
demeanour towards those of his own house- 
hold.' His wife ' lived in habitual dread of her 
lordly master ... It would be a mistake to 
1 Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap, iii, 1st edition. 



4-i THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

suppose that violence was one of the weapons 
to which Mr. Bronte habitually resorted . . . 
his general policy was to secure his end by 
craft rather than by force.' 1 

Miss Robinson, without hesitation, repeats tha 
censures on Mr. Bronte published by Mrs. Gas- 
kell and Mr. Reid, asking, * Who dare say if 
that marriage was happy ? Mrs. Gaskell. writ- 
ing in the life and for the eyes of Mr. Bronte, 
speaks of his unwearied care, his devotion in 
the night-nursing. But, before that fatal illness 
was declared, she lets fall many a hint of the 
young wife's loneliness ... of her patient suf- 
fering, of his violent temper.' 2 

It will thus be seen that the disposition of 
Mr. Bronte must have been a sad one indeed, 
if all these statements are true ; and marvel- 
lous that, with ' such a father,' the young and 
sterling faculties of the 'six small children' 
should have been so admirably directed and 
trained that, of the four who lived to later 
years, three at least occupy an exalted and 

1 ' Charlotte Bronte, a Monograph,' pp. 20, 21, 22. 
2 ' Emily Bronte,' by A. Mary F. Robinson, 1883, p. 16. 



THE REV. PATRICK BRONTE. 45 

prominent position among women of letters in 
the present century. And it would be still 
more strange that these children were espe- 
cially distinguished for the gentleness of their 
dispositions, and the refinement of their ideas. 
It may be hoped that the readers of this volume, 
with their additional knowledge of the affection- 
ate, but often wayward, Bran well, will sympa- 
thize with the sentiment which Monsieur Heger 
expressed in his letter to Mr. Bronte, that, en 
jugeant un pere de famille par ses enfants on ne 
risque pas de se tromper. For we can scarcely 
doubt that the characteristics of the children, 
which I have named, were due, in fact, in great 
measure, to Mr. Bronte's affectionate supervision 
and education of them. He had graduated at 
St. John's College, Cambridge, as we have seen ; 
and the culture and tone of the university were 
brought under the roof of his house, where his 
children more especially Branwell were sub- 
jected to its influence. Moreover, whatever may 
be thought of Mr. Bronte's intellectual gifts, or 
of the talent he displayed in his poems and prose 
writings, we may be sure that he possessed, in a 



46 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

marked degree, a deep sympathy with a higher 
mental training, and with the truth and simplicity 
of a pastoral life. 

After the allegations against Mr. Bronte had 
appeared in the first edition of the life of his 
daughter Charlotte, he never ceased to deny the 
scandalous reflections upon his character in that 
work. 'They were,' he said to me, 'wholly 
untrue.' He stated that he had ' fulfilled every 
duty of a husband and a father with all the 
kindness, solicitude, and affection which could be 
required of him.' And Mrs. Bronte herself had 
said, as quoted by Mrs. Gaskell, 'Ought I not to 
be thankful that he never gave me an angry 
word T thus openly declaring that, whatever 
might have been the peculiarities of Mr. Bronte's 
temper, his wife, at least, never suffered the 
consequences. The children also ever looked 
up to their father with reverence, gratitude, and 
devotion. 

In a conversation I had with Mr. Bronte on 
the 8th of July, 1857, he spoke of the unjustifiable 
reflections upon himself which had been made 
public, and he said, ' 1 did not know that I had 
an enemy in the world, much less one who would 



THE REV. PATRICK BRONTE. 47 

traduce me before iny death, till Mrs. Gaskell's 
"Life of Charlotte" appeared. Every thing in that 
book which relates to my conduct to my family 
is either false or distorted. I never did commit 
such acts as are there ascribed to me.' At a later 
interview Mr. Bronte explained that by the word 
* enemies,' he implied, 'false informants and 
hostile critics.' He believed that Mrs. Gaskell 
had listened to village scandal, and had sought 
information from some discarded servant. 

Let us then examine the source of these 
allegations. Mrs. Gaskell tells us that her 
informant was ' a good old woman,' who had 
been Mrs. Bronte's nurse in her illness. Now it 
is known that, whatever good qualities this 
person may be supposed to have had, her con- 
scientiousness and rectitude, at least, were not 
of the first order, and she was detected in pro- 
ceedings which caused Mr. Bronte to dismiss her 
at once. With the double effect of explaining 
her dismissal and injuring Mr. Bronte, this person 
gave an account of his temper and conduct, 
embellished with the stories which I have quoted 
from the first edition of the ' Life of Charlotte,' 
to a minister of the place ; and it was in this way 



48 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

that Mrs. Gaskell became acquainted with her 
and them. Nancy Garrs, a faithful youn g woman 
who had been in Mr. Bronte's service at Thorn- 
ton, who continued with the family after the 
removal to Haworth, and who still survives a 
widow, Mrs. Wainwright at an advanced age, a 
well-known inhabitant of Bradford, informs me 
that the ' silk dress ' which Mr. Bronte is said to 
have torn to shreds was a print dress, not new, 
and that Mr. Bronte, disliking its enormous 
sleeves, one day, finding the opportunity, cut 
them off. The whole thing was a joke, which 
Mrs. Bronte at once guessed at, and, going up- 
stairs, she brought the dress down, saying to 
Nancy, ' Look what he has done ; that falls to 
your share.' Nancy declares the other stories 
to be wholly unfounded. She speaks of Mr. 
Bronte as a ' most affectionate husband ; there 
never was a more affectionate father, never a 
kinder master ;' and ' he was not of a violent 
temper at all ; quite the reverse.' 

This view of these slanderous stories is fortu- 
nately also confirmed out of the mouth of Char- 
lotte Bronte. In the fourth chapter of ' Shirley/ 
speaking of Mr. Helstone whose character, 



THE REV. PATRICK BRONTE. 49 

though not absolutely founded on that of her 
father, is yet unquestionably influenced by her 
knowledge of his disposition, and of some inci- 
dents in which he had been concerned, she says 
that on the death of his wife, ' his dry-eyed and 
sober mourning scandalized an old housekeeper, 
and likewise a female attendant who had waited 
upon Mrs. Helstone in her sickness .... they 
gossiped together over the corpse, related anec- 
dotes with embellishments of her lingering 
decline, and its real or supposed cause ; in short, 
they worked each other up to some indignation 
against the austere little man, who sat examin- 
ing papers in an adjoining room, unconscious 
of what opprobrium he was the object. Mrs. 
Helstone was hardly under the sod when ru- 
mours began to be rife in the neighbourhood 
that she had died of a broken heart; these 
magnified quickly into reports of hard usage, 
and, finally, details of harsh treatment on the 
part of her husband : reports grossly untrue, but 
riot less eagerly received on that account.' It 
will thus be seen that the character of Mr. Hel- 
stone becomes in part a defence of Mr. Bronte. 
On the occasion above referred to, Mr. Bronte 
VOL I. E 



50 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

went on to say that, ' while duly acknowledging 
the obligations he felt himself under to Mrs. 
Gaskell for her admirable memoir of his daugh- 
ter, he could not but regard her uncalled-for 
allusions to himself, and the failings of his son 
Bran well, as the excrescences of a work other- 
wise ably earned out.' He appeared, on this 
occasion, to be consoled by the thought that, 
owing to the remonstrances he had made, the 
objectionable passages would be expunged 
from the subsequent editions of the work, and 
that he would ultimately be set right with the 
public. He concluded with these words : ' 1 
have long been an abstraction to the world, and 
it is not consoling now to be thus dragged 
before the public ; to be represented as an un- 
kind husband, and charged with acts which I 
never committed.' 

The story of the pistol-shots admits of ready 
explauation. It is known that Mr. Bronte, like 
Helstone, had a strange fascination in military 
affairs, and he seems to have had almost the 
spirit of Uncle Toby. He lived, too, in the 
troublous times of the Luddites, and had kept 
pistols for defence as Mr. Helstone did. That 



THE REV. PATRICK BRONTE. 51 

gentleman, it will be remembered, had two pairs 
suspended over the mantel-piece of his study, in 
cloth cases, kept loaded. As I have reason to 
know, Mr. Bronte, having been accustomed to 
the use of fire-arms, retained the possession of 
them for safety in the night ; but, fearing they 
might become dangerous, occasionally dis- 
charged them in the day-time. 

Mr. Bronte's remonstrances and denials, and 
his refutation of the scandals attributed to him, 
had their effect ; and the charges complained of 
were entirely omitted in the edition of the ' Life 
of Charlotte,' published in the year 1860. Mr. 
Bronte was in his eighty-fourth year when this 
tardy act of bare justice was done to him. It 
may be added that the people of Haworth, when 
they saw in print Mrs. G ask ell's exaggerated and 
erroneous statements, loudly expressed their dis- 
approbation. Mr. Wood, late churchwarden of 
Haworth, also denied the stories of the cutting 
up of Mrs. Bronte's dress, and the other charges 
just referred to. 

The truth about Mr. Bronte appears to be this : 
that though, like Mr. Helstone many of the 
traits of whose character were derived from that 



52 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

of the incumbent of Haworth be might have 
missed his vocation, like him he was ' not dia- 
bolical at all,' and that, like him, also, ' he was a 
conscientious, hard-headed, hard-handed, brave r 
stern, implacable, faithful little man : a man al- 
most without sympathy, ungentle, prejudiced, 
and rigid : but a man true to principle honour- 
able, sagacious, and sincere.' Possibly we should 
not be wholly mistaken in saying that, like the 
parson in ' Shirley,' Nature never intended him 
' to make a very good husband, especially to a 
quiet wife.' He lacked the fine sympathy and 
delicate perception that would have enabled 
him to make his family entirely happy ; and 
when brooding over his politics, his pamphlets, 
and his sermons, like Mr. fielstone, he probably 
locked ' his liveliness in his book-case and study- 
desk.' Yet Mr. Helstone is neither brutal nor 
insane, ' neither tyrannical nor hypocritical,' but 
' simply a man who is rather liberal than good- 
natured, rather brilliant than genial, rather 
scrupulously equitable than truly just if you 
can understand such superfine distinctions T 

It would not have been necessary, in this 
work, to defend at such length the character of 



THE REV. PATRICK BRONTE. 53 

the Rev. Patrick Bronte, had it not happened, 
unfortunately, that recent works, which have 
treated admirably of the writings of his daugh- 
ters, have also acquiesced in, and to a great 
extent reiterated, the serious charges made 
against him. Moreover, it can never be a use- 
less thing to retrieve a character which has been 
thoughtlessly taken away. This defence has 
now been made, and it may be hoped that the 
* six motherless children ' had a more amiable 
and affectionate father than is generally sup- 
posed, and that he paid careful and anxious 
attention to their bringing-up and to their 
education. Indeed, of this there need be no 
doubt. The death of his wife had placed them 
in his hands, he being their only support on 
earth, and it surely is not too much to say that 
he knew his duty, and did it well, as the lives of 
his children prove, on the ground of natural 
affection, and, perhaps, of higher motives also. 

The following extract from a letter written 
by Mr. Bronte a few years later, in reference 
to scientific knowledge, is sufficiently charac- 
teristic. He says : ' In this age of innovation 
and scepticism, it is the incumbent duty of 



54 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

every man of an enlarged and pious mind to 
promote, to the utmost extent of his abilities, 
every movement in the variegated, complex 
system of human affairs, which may have either 
a direct, indirect, or collateral tendency to purify 
and expand the naturally polluted and circum- 
scribed mind of fallen nature, and to raise it to 
that elevation which the Scriptures require, as 
well as the best interests of humanity.' 

Upon the death of his wife, Mr. Bronte felt 
the need of some one to superintend the affairs 
of his household, and assist him in this import- 
ant charge of the bringing-up of his children ; 
and so, towards the end of the year 1822, an 
elder sister of the deceased lady, Miss Elizabeth 
Branwell of Penzance, came to reside with him. 
She is represented to have been, in personal 
appearance, of low and slight proportions ; prim 
and starched in her attire, which was, when 
prepared for the reception of visitors, invariably 
of silk ; and she wore, according to the fashion 
of the time, a frontal of auburn curls, grace- 
fully overshadowing her forehead. She took 
occasionally, through habit, a pinch from her 
gold snuff-box, which she had always at hand. 



THE REV. PATRICK BRONTE. 55 

When she had taken up her residence at bleak, 
wild, and barren Haworth, she is said to have 
sighed for the flower-decked meads of sunny 
Peuzance, her native place. Miss Branwell's 
affectionate regard for her dead sister's chil- 
dren caused her to take deep interest in every- 
thing relating to them, their health, the comfort 
and cleanliness of their home, and the sedulous 
culture of their minds. In the management of 
of Mr. Bronte's household she was materially 
assisted by the faithful and trustworthy Tabby, 
who, in 1825, was added to the family as a 
domestic servant. By a long and faithful ser- 
vice of some thirty years in the Bronte family, 
Tabby gained the respect and confidence of 
the household. She had been born and nurtured 
in the chapelry of Haworth, at a time when 
mills and machinery were not, when railways 
had not made the inhabitants of the hills and 
valleys familiar with the cities and towns of 
England; and, moreover, before the ancient 
dialect, so interesting philologically to the 
readers of King Alfred's translations of Oro- 
sius and Bede, and the like, came to be con- 
sidered rude, vulgar, and barbarous. Tabby 



56 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

used the dialect rightly, without any attempt 
to improve on the language of her childhood 
and of her fathers; and she was original and 
truthful in this, as in all her ways. It was 
from Tabby, principally, that the youthful Brontes 
gained the familiarity with the Yorkshire Doric, 
which they afterwards reproduced with such 
accuracy in ' Shirley,' * Wuthering Heights,' and 
others of their writings. 



57 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE GIRLHOOD OF THE BRONTE SISTERS. 

Girlhood Gravity of Character Charlotte's Description 
of the Elf -land of Childhood The Still and Solemn 
Moors of Ilaworth influence their Writings The 
Present of Toys The Plays which they Acted 
Mr. Bronte on a Supposed Earthquake The Evi- 
dence of his Care for his Children Grammar School 
at Haworth His Children under the Tuition of the 
Master The Character of the School Cowan-Bridge 
School Charlotte's View of Mr. Carus Wilson's 
Management Deaths of Maria and Elizabeth. 

THE childhood of the Brontes in the parsonage 
of Haworth has been pictured to us as a very 
strange one indeed. We have seen them de- 
prived in their early youth of that maternal 
care which they required so much, and left in 
the hands of a father unfamiliar with such a 
charge, who was filled with Spartan ideas of 
discipline, and with theories of education above 
and beyond the capacity of childhood. There 



58 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

was probably little room in the house of Mr. 
Bronte for gaiety and amusement, very little 
tolerance for pretty dress, or home beauty, and 
small comprehension of childish needs. Rigid 
formality, silent chambers, staid attire, frugal 
fare, and secluded lives fell to the lot of these 
thoughtful and gifted children. It was no 
wonder that they grew up ' grave and silent 
beyond their years ;' that, when infantine re- 
laxation failed them, they betook themselves to 
reading newspapers, and debating the merits of 
Hannibal and Cassar, of Buonaparte and Wel- 
lington ; or that, when they were deprived of 
the company of the village children by the 
' Quis ego et quis tu ?' which was forced too 
early upon them, they fled for silent companion- 
ship with the moors. Yet this childhood, stern 
and grim though it was, where we look in vain 
for the beautiful simplicity and sunny gladness 
which should ever distinguish the features of 
youth, had a beauty and a joy of its own ; 
and it had a merit also. Charlotte Bronte 
herself has left us one of the most beautiful 
pictures which can be found in English litera- 
ture of the pleasures of childhood, that elf-land 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 59 

which is passed before the shores of Reality- 
have arisen in front ; when they stand afar off, 
so blue, soft, and gentle that we long to reach 
them ; when we ' catch glimpses of silver lines, 
and imagine the roll of living waters,' heedless 
of * many a wilderness, and often of the flood of 
Death, or some stream of sorrow as cold and 
almost as black as Death ' that must be crossed 
ere true bliss can be tasted. So the Brontes, 
trooping abroad on the moors, revelling in the 
freedom of Nature, while their faculties expand- 
ed to the noblest ends, lived also in the heroic 
world of childhood, ' its inhabitants half-divine 
or semi-demon ; its scenes dream-scenes ; darker 
woods and stranger hills ; brighter skies, more 
dangerous waters ; sweeter flowers, more tempt- 
ing fruits ; wider plains ; drearier deserts ; sun- 
nier fields than are found in Nature.' Can we 
doubt that the Bronte children, endowed, as the 
world was afterwards to know, with keener 
perceptions, more exalted sympathies, and nobler 
gifts than other children, enjoyed these things 
more than others could? And the merit of 
their childhood was this : that it impressed them 
in the strongest form with the influence of 



60 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

locality, with the boundless expanse of the 
moors, and with the weird and rugged charac- 
ter of the people amongst whom they lived, 
and whom they afterwards drew so well. Such 
influences as these are a quality more or less 
traceable in the works of every author, but they 
are very apparent in the productions of the 
Brontes. These writers could not have pro- 
duced ' Jane Eyre,' ' Shirley,' and ' Wuthering 
Heights ' without them, any more than Gold- 
smith could have written his ' Vicar of Wake- 
field' if his early years had not been passed in 
the pleasant village of Lissey. The moors, 
clothed with purple heather and golden gorse 
,in billowy waves, were certainly all in all to 
Emily Bronte ; and she and her sisters, and the 
youthful Branwell with his ready admiration 
and brilliant fancy, escorted by Tabby, enjoyed 
to the full the free atmosphere of the heights 
around Haworth. The rushing sound of their 
own waterfall, and the shrill cries of the grouse, 
which flew up as they came along, were to 
them friendly voices of the opening life of Nature 
whose potent influence inspired them so well. 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 61 

Of other companionship in their early years 
they had hardly any; and being unable to 
associate much with children of their own age 
and condition, or to play with their young and 
immediate neighbours in childish games, Mr. 
Bronte's son and daughters grew up amongst 
their elders with heads older than their years, 
and spoke with a knowledge that might have 
sprung from actual experience of men and 
manners. They were, in fact, ' old-fashioned 
children.' Their extraordinary cleverness was 
soon observed, and the servants were always on 
their guard lest any of their remarks might be 
repeated by the children. Notwithstanding 
this, the little Brontes were children still, and 
and took pleasure in the things of childhood. 
Up-grown men will not whip a top on the 
causeways, nor trundle a hoop through the 
streets, nor play at ' hide-and-seek ' at dusk as 
of yore ; but the Bronte children in their youth- 
ful days did all these things, and they entered 
at times with ardour, despite their precocious 
gravity, into the simple joys and amusements of 
childhood, as is testified by the eager delight 



62 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

with -which they regarded the presents of the 
toys they received. 

The earliest notice we have of Branwell 
Bronte is that Charlotte remembered having 
seen her mother playing with him during one 
golden sunset in the parlour of the parsonage at 
Haworth. Later, we are informed that Mr. 
Bronte brought from Leeds on one occasion a 
box of wooden soldiers for him. The children 
were in bed, but the ' next morning,' says 
Charlotte, in one of her juvenile manuscripts, 
* Branwell came to our door with a box of 
soldiers. Emily and I jumped out of bed, and I 
snatched up one and exclaimed, " This is the 
Duke of Wellington ! This shall be the duke !" 
When I had said this, Emily likewise took up 
one and said it should be hers ; when Anne 
came down she said one should be hers. Mine 
was the prettiest of the whole, and the tallest, 
and the most perfect in every part. Emily's 
was a grave-looking fellow, and we called him 
" Gravey." Anne's was a queer little thing much 
like herself, and we called him " Waiting-boy." 
Branwell chose his, and called him "Buona- 
parte."' So Charlotte relates these glad iuci- 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 63 

dents of their childhood with pleasure, and 
places on record the joy they inspired. 

Mr. Bronte says, ' When mere children, as 
soon as they could read and write, Charlotte 
and her brother and sisters used to invent and 
act little plays of their own, in which the Duke 
of Wellington, my daughter Charlotte's hero, 
was sure to come off conqueror ; when a dispute 
would not infrequently arise amongst them re- 
garding the comparative merits of Buonaparte, 
Hannibal, and Caesar.' 

In acting their early plays, they performed 
them with childish glee, and did not fail at times 
to ' tear a passion to tatters.' They observed 
that Tabby did not approve of such extraordi- 
nary proceedings; but on one occasion, with 
increased energy of action and voice, they so 
wrought on her fears that she retreated to her 
nephew's house, and, as soon as she could regain 
her breath, she exclaimed, ' William ! yah muu 
gooa up to Mr. Bronte's, for aw'm sure yon chil- 
der's all gooin mad, and aw darn't stop 'ith 
hause ony longer wi' 'em ; an' aw'll stay here 
woll yah come back!' When the nephew 
reached the parsonage, ' the childer set up a 



64 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

great crack o' laughin',' at the wonderful joke 
they had perpetrated on faithful Tabby. 

Mr. Bronte like other parents and friends of 
precocious and gifted children, who, in after- 
life have become celebrated in religion, art, 
poetry, literature, politics, or war, and who have 
given out in childhood tokens of brilliant and 
sterling gifts which have been recorded in their 
biographies saw in his own children evidences 
of that mental power, fervid imagination, and 
superior faculty of language and expression, 
which were developed in them in after-years. 
He often fancied that great powers lay in his 
children, and it cannot be doubted that he 
sometimes looked forward to and hoped for a 
brilliant future for his offspring. It was this 
hope that cheered him, and he gave to Mrs. 
Gaskell, for publication, all the evidences of 
genius in his son and daughters, as children, 
Avhich he could remember. But, from the in- 
formation he imparted to that writer, we can 
scarcely gather, I fear, sufficient to justify the 
inference he drew, or appears to have drawn, 
for the particulars given border too much on 
the trivial and unimportant. Perhaps Mr. 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 65 

Bronte failed to remember the special evi- 
deuces he had observed of what he intended 
to convey at the actual moment of communi- 
cation. Be this as it may, no doubt remained 
on his mind that genius was apparent in his 
children above and apart from their eager read- 
ing of magazines and newspapers, nor that other 
, schemes and objects occupied their thoughts 
than the interests and contentions of the poli- 
tical parties of the hour. 

' When my children were very young/ says 
Mr. Bronte, ' when, as far as I can remember, 
the oldest was about ten years of age, and the 
youngest about four, thinking that they knew 
more than I had yet discovered, in order to 
make them speak with less timidity, I deemed 
that, if they were put under a sort of cover, I 
might gain my end ; and, happening to have a 
mask in the house, I told them all to stand and 
speak boldly from under cover of the mask. I 
began with the youngest (Anne, afterwards 
Acton Bell), and asked what a child like her 
most wanted ; she answered, " Age and ex- 
perience." I asked the next (Emily, afterwards 
Ellis Bell) what I had best do with her brother 
VOL. 1. F 



66 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Branwell, who was sometimes a naughty boy ; 
she answered, " Reason with him, and, when he 
won't listen to reason, whip him. 1 ' I asked 
Branwell what was the best way of knowing 
the difference between the intellects of man 
and woman ; he answered, " By considering the 
difference between them as to their bodies." ' 
In answer to a question as to which were the 
two best books, Charlotte said that ' the Bible,' 
and after it the ' Book of Nature,' were the 
best. Mr. Bronte then asked the next daughter, 
' What is the best mode of education for a 
woman ;' she answered, ' That which would 
make her rule her house well.' He then asked 
the eldest, Maria, ' What is the best mode of 
spending time ;' she answered, ' By laying it 
out in preparation for a happy eternity.' He 
says he may not have given the exact words, 
but they were nearly so, and they had made a 
lasting impression on his memory. 1 

But the intellectual pabulum of Mr. Bronte's 
children, for some time, consisted, for the most 
part, as we are told, of magazines and news- 
papers. As these took the place of toy-books 

1 Mrs. Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. iii. 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. G7 

and fairy tales, their young minds were attracted 
by such moral subjects and entertaining stories 
as were treated of in the serials of the day ; and 
their attention was also largely engaged in the 
political questions which were then debated in 
the Houses of Parliament. Imbibing from their 
father their religious and political views and 
opinions, they became strong partizans and sup- 
porters of the leading Conservatives in the House 
of Lords and the House of Commons. They had 
often heard conversations between their father 
and aunt 011 these subjects ; they listened with 
interested attention, and obtained information aa 
to the outer world and its pursuits. By their 
surroundings their minds were soon raised above 
the thoughts, desires, and interests of childhood 
in general; and, under the circumstances, though 
it may seem odd, it is not extraordinary that 
wooden soldiers should thus be made, by these 
talented children, to represent the two great 
opposing warriors of the present age. 

In addition to the general bringing-up of his 
children at home, and the formal tasks which 
Mr. Bronte set them, magazines and other pub- 
lications were thrown about, and Maria, being 

F2 



68 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the eldest, was wont to read the newspapers 
when she was less than nine years old, and 
reported matters of home and foreign interest, 
as well as those relating to the public characters 
and current affairs of the day, to her young 
brother and sisters. Indeed, so earnest was her 
relevancy on such occasions in these unchildish 
and grave questions, that she could talk upon 
them with discriminating intelligence to her 
father, whose interest in his children thus grew, 
as their faculties expanded. The young Brontes, 
though still in childhood's years, were soon no 
longer children in intellect : they touched, in 
fact, the ' Shores of Reality' at an earlier age 
than most children ; and, though interested 
sometimes, perhaps momentarily, in trivial 
matters, they seem to have turned almost every- 
thing to literary account. Even Branwell's toys, 
which they all received so gleefully, gave rise to 
the ' Young Men's Play.' 

Mr. Bronte, though interested deeply in the 
gradual development of the mental gifts of his 
children, did not fail, after his wife's death, to 
promote and protect their health, and he availed 
himself of the means which the chapelry of 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 69 

Haworth afforded. For this object he encouraged 
recreation on the moors at suitable times, and 
subjected the young members of his family to 
the pure and exhilarating breeze that, redolent 
of heather, breathed over them from the sea, 
during the summer and autumnal months. 

, On Tuesday, September the 2nd, 1824, a 
severe thunderstorm, and an almost unprece- 
dented downfall of rain which resembled, in 
volume, a waterspout, caused the irruption of 
an immense bog, at Crow Hill, an elevation, 
between Keighley and Colne, and about one 
thousand feet above the sea-level. The mud, 
mingled with stones, many of large size, rolled 
down a precipitous and rugged clough that 
descended from it. Reaching the hamlet of 
Pondens, the torrent expanded and overspread 
the corn-fields adjoining to the depth of several 
feet, with many other devastating consequences. 
Mr. Bronte regarded this as the effect of an 
earthquake, and he sent a communication to the 
'Leeds Mercury,' in which he says : ' At the time 
of the irruption, the clouds were copper-coloured, 
gloomy, and lowering, the atmosphere was 
strongly electrified, and unusually close.' In 



70 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the same month on Sunday, September 12th, 
1824 he preached a sermon on the subject, in 
Ha worth Church, in which he informed his 
hearers that, the day of disaster being exceed- 
ingly fine, he had sent his little children, who- 
were indisposed, accompanied by the servants, 
to take an airing on the common, and, as they 
stayed rather longer than he expected, he went 
to an upper chamber to look out for their return. 
The heavens over the moors were blackening 
fast ; he heard the muttering of distant thunder, 
and saw the frequent flashes of lightning. 
Though, ten minutes before, there was scarcely 
a breath of air stirring, the gale freshened rapidly 
and carried along with it clouds of dust and 
stubble. ' My little family,' he continued, ; had 
escaped to a place of shelter, but I did not know 
it.' These were Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and 
Anne. Their sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were 
then at Cowan Bridge. 

When Mr. Bronte accepted the living of 
Haworth, he had found existing there a Gram- 
mar School, and he took in it a special and per- 
sonal interest, for it was an old institution, was 
endowed, and had recently been renovated. It 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 71 

was his policy to show that he took an interest 
in it ; so that, by adding his support to that of 
the trustees, he might possibly confirm their 
favourable opinion of him, and secure their con- 
tinued good feeling. This was essential at the 
time, as any appearance of coldness on his part 
towards their cherished foundation would have 
perhaps evoked a spirit akin to that which 
caused the compulsory resignation of Mr. Red- 
head, or have induced an estrangement between 
himself and the trustees. It is stated, with re- 
gard to this Grammar School, that one Christo- 
pher Scott by will, dated the 4th of October, 
loth of Charles 1., gave a school-house which he 
had built adjoining the church-way ; and or- 
dained that there should be a school-master 
who should be a graduate at least, a bachelor, 
if not a master of arts, and who should teach 
Greek and Latin. The school had been en- 
larged in 1818, when the Bronte family were 
still at Thornton, and a new house was then 
erected for the master by the trustees. 

As this foundation was designed to provide a 
classical education for its students, it was one 
to which the better classes in the neighbourhood 



72 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

need not have hesitated to entrust their children 
for superior instruction than could possibly be 
had in the ordinary schools of the district. The 
school was situated close to the parsonage, a 
lane only intervening, and it was commodious 
and lightsome. But Mr. Bronte, on his arrival, 
found that it had not for some time been main- 
tained as a regular Grammar School : that there 
was little or no demand for the advantages of a 
classical education for their children among the 
inhabitants of the chapelry. 1 Yet the master 
who received the appointment from the trustees 
at the Midsummer of 1826, although not even a 
graduate of either of the universities, was stated 
to be competent to teach Latin, and was a man 
of considerable attainments, instructing both 
boys and girls in every essential branch of 
knowledge. In this the tutor differed nothing 
from some of his immediate predecessors. But, 
though education of this sort was thus imme- 
diately at hand, Mr. Bronte does not appear to 
have availed himself of it for his daughters, or 
his son Branwell, for any great length of time. 
Mrs. Gaskell says, indeed, that their regular tasks 
1 James's ' History of Bradford,' p. 358. 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 73 

were given by himself. Mr. Bronte, however, 
probably heard his children repeat early lessons 
set by the master in order to ascertain with what 
facility they had learned them. At a later date, 
Branwell and his sisters took a larger interest in 
the Grammar School, and they became active 
and willing teachers in the Sunday-school, 
which was connected with it. They were, in- 
deed, often seen, as is yet remembered, in the 
processions of the scholars. 

Although Mr. Bronte had taken vigilant and 
affectionate care to promote the health of his 
children, he was well aware that though he could 
strengthen their constitutions in some sort, deli- 
cate by nature as they were, he could not ward 
off with certainty the diseases and sufferings 
incident to childhood, from which his chil- 
dren were, indeed, unfortunately destined to 
suffer. Solicitude therefore came upon the 
parsonage when Maria and Elizabeth were 
attacked by measles and whooping-cough. Re- 
covering partially from these attacks, it was 
thought desirable to send them perhaps partly 
for change of air to a school which had some- 
what recently been established at Cowan Bridge, 



74 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

a hamlet on the coach-road between Leeds and 
Kendal, which was easily reached from Haworth, 
as the coach passed daily. This school was 
especially established for the board and educa- 
tion of the daughters of such clegymen of the 
Establishment as required it. 'It was begun, as 
we know from Mrs. Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte 
Bronte,' by the Rev. William Carus Wilson ; and 
we are aware also that severe and unqualified 
censures were passed upon its situation and 
management by the author of 'Jane Eyre,' in 
after years, under the description of Lowood, and 
that the Ellen Burns of the story was no other 
than Maria Bronte. Readers of ' Jane Eyre * 
became indignant, and the Cowan Bridge School 
was execrated, denounced, and condemned by 
the public, to the utter distress and pain of its 
founder and patron. 

In reference to this affair, Charlotte indeed 
said to her future biographer that ' she should 
not have written what she did of Lowood in 
" Jane Eyre " if she had thought the place would 
have been so immediately identified with Cowan 
Bridge, although there was not a word in her 
account of the institution but what was true at 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 75 

the time when she knew it. She also said that 
she had not considered it necessary in a work of 
fiction to state every particular with the imparti- 
ality that might be required in a court of justice, 
nor to seek out motives, and make allowances 
for human failings, as she might have done, if 
dispassionately analyzing the conduct of those 
who had the superintendence of the institution.' 
Mrs. Gaskell believes Charlotte ' herself would 
have been glad of an opportunity to correct the 
over strong impression which was made upon 
the public mind by her vivid picture, though 
even she, suffering her whole life long both in 
heart and body from the consequences of what 
happened there, might have been apt, to the 
last, to take her deep belief in facts for the facts 
themselves her conception of truth for the 
absolute truth.' 1 

But it is only just to Mr. Wilson to say that 
the low situation of the premises fixed upon, 
the arrangement of the school-buildings, and 
the inefficient management of the domestic de- 
partment, do not appear to have been so fatal 
to the boarders, even if we admit all the alleged 
1 Gaskell's ' Charlotte Bronte,' chap. iv. 



76 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

severities of the regimen. For, when a low 
fever, or influenza cold, which was not regarded 
by Dr. Batty as ' either alarming or dangerous,' 
broke out at the school, and some forty of the 
pupils fell more or less under its influence, none 
died of it at Cowan Bridge, and only one, Mrs. 
Gaskell informs us, from after consequences at 
home ; and, though delicate, the Bronte chil- 
dren entirely escaped the attack. Mrs. Gaskell 
has, however, entered at considerable length 
into a detailed account of the alleged misman- 
agement of the school, the severities exercised 
over the pupils especially by one of the re- 
sponsible tutors, Miss Scatcherd,' the cooking 
and insufficiency of food, the general neglect 
of sanitary regulations in the domestic depart- 
ment, and the utter unfitness of the place itself 
for the continued health and comfort of the 
inmates. But the biographer of Charlotte 
Bronte in after-years considerably modified the 
severe strictures which her heroine had thought 
fit to describe in 'Jane Eyre,' an admir- 
able work of fiction, though not necessarily 
one of fact and she says, speaking of Char- 
lotte's account of the Cowan Bridge School : 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 77 

' The pictures, ideas, and conceptions of char- 
acter received into the mind of the child of 
eight years old were destined to be reproduced 
in fiery words a quarter of a century afterwards. 
She saw but one side of Mr. Wilson's character; 
and many of those Avho knew him at the time 
assure me of the fidelity with which this is 
represented, while at the same time they regret 
that the delineation should have obliterated, as 
it were, nearly all that was noble and conscien- 
tious.' It appears also that Mr. Wilson had 
' grand and fine qualities ' which were left 
unnoticed by Charlotte of which the bio- 
grapher had received ' abundant evidence.' 1 Of 
these Mr. Bronte seems to have been aware, as 
Charlotte and Emily were sent back to Cowan 
Bridge after the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth. 
Mrs. Gaskell wonders Charlotte did not remon- 
strate against her father's decision to send her 
and Emily back to the place, knowing, as we 
may suppose she did, of the alleged inflic- 
tion which her dead sisters had endured at the 
very school to which she and Emily were re- 
turning. Surely such a very miserable state of 
1 Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. iv. 



78 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

things as is described in ' Jane Eyre ' could not 
nave existed at the time to impress on Char- 
lotte's mind such a dread as we are asked to 
believe she had, and Mr. Bronte could not be 
aware that any serious objections to the school 
existed. Indeed, the true condition of the 
institution at the period is apparent from the 
testimony of the noble and benevolent Miss 
Temple of ' Jane Eyre,' whose husband thus 
writes : ' Often have I heard my late dear wife 
F.peak of her sojourn at Cowan Bridge ; always 
in terms of admiration of Mr. Carus Wilson, his 
parental love to his pupils, and their love for 
him ; of the food and general treatment, in 
terms of approval. I have heard her allude to 
an unfortunate cook who used at times to spoil 
the porridge, but who, she said, was soon 
dismissed.' 

While at Cowan Bridge, Maria's health had 
suddenly given way, and alarming symptoms 
declared themselves. Mr. Bronte was sent for. 
He had known nothing of her illness, and was 
terribly shocked when he saw her. He ascended 
the Leeds coach with his dying child. Mrs. 
Gaskell says, 'the girls crowded out into the 



THE GIRLHOOD OF THE SISTERS. 79 

road to follow her with their eyes, over the 
bridge, past the cottages, and then out of sight 
for ever.' 

The poignancy of Mr. Bronte's grief on this 
occasion was profound, and all but insupport- 
able. Here was his first-born, the early joy of 
his home at Hartshead, the intelligent and bril- 
liantly gifted companion of the first few years 
of his widowed life dying before him! She, 
whose innocent and thoughtful converse had 
cheered his solitary moments, and whose merry 
laugh had often made the hearth glad, whose 
affectionate care of her little brother and sisters, 
disinterested as it was incessant, supplied for 
them the offices of their deceased mother was 
fading from his sight ! Arriving at Haworth, 
they were received with sincere and tearful 
sympathy by Miss Branwell, and with childish 
alarm and dread by Branwell and Anne. Every 
care which affection could provide was bestowed 
on the sinking child, but she died, a few days 
after her arrival, on May 6, 1825. 

Elizabeth, too, struck down with the same 
fatal disease, came home to die of consumption 
on June 15 in the same year, but a month and 



80 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

a few days after her sister. These sorrowful 
events were never forgotten by Branwell, and 
the impressions made upon his mind by the 
deaths and funeral rites he had witnessed be- 
came the theme of some of his later and more 
mournful effusions. 

The early recollection of Maria at Cowan 
Bridge was that she was delicate, and unusually 
clever and thoughtful for her age. Of Elizabeth 
Miss Temple writes: 'The second, Elizabeth, is 
the only one of the family of whom I have a vivid 
recollection, from her meeting with a somewhat 
alarming accident ; in consequence of which I 
had her for some days and nights in my bed- 
room, not only for the sake of greater quiet, but 
that I might watch over her myself .... Of 
the two younger ones (if two there were) I have 
very slight recollections, save that one, a darling 
child under five years of age, was quite the pet 
nursling of the school.' 

' This last,' says Mrs. Gaskell, ' would be 
Emily. Charlotte was considered the most 
talkative of the sisters a " bright, clever little 
child." '' 

1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. iv. 



81 



CHAPTER V. 

BRANWELL'S BOYHOOD. 

Reunion of the Bronte Family Branwell is the supposed 
Prototype of Victor Crimsworth That Character 
not a complete Portrait of Branwell His Friendships 
His Visit to the Keighley Feast Its Effect 011 
Branwell's Nerves The Wrestle The Lost Spec- 
tacles Fear of his Father's Displeasure Mrs. Gas- 
kell's Story of the ' Black Bull ' Incident Questioned 
Miss Branwell and her Nephew. 

UPON the return of Charlotte and Emily from 
Cowan Bridge, the youthful Brontes, whom 
death had spared, were united again ; and, for 
some years more, followed their pursuits together, 
until Charlotte went to school at Roe Head in 
1831. Branwell was the constant companion 
of his sisters during these childish years, and 
they all looked upon him with pride and affec- 
tion. Charlotte, in those days, was a sympathetic 
VOL. I. G 



82 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

friend to him ; and, in his later years, he felt it a 
source of deep regret that she was somewhat 
estranged. But the gentle Emily after the 
death of Maria was his chief companion, and a 
warm affection never lost its ardour between 
them. The sisters were quick to perceive the 
Promethean spark that burned in their brother, 
and they looked upon Branwell, as indeed did 
all who knew him, as their own superior in 
mental gifts. In his childhood even, Branwell 
Bronte showed great aptitude for acquiring 
knowledge, and his perceptive powers were 
very marked. He was, too, gifted with a 
sprightly disposition, tinged at times with great 
melancholy, but he acquired early a lively and 
fascinating address. There was a fiery ardour 
and eagerness in his manner which told of his 
abundant animal spirits, and he entered with 
avidity into the enjoyments of the life that lay 
before him. Charlotte, who knew well the 
treasures of her brother's opening faculties, his 
ability, his learning, and his affection, saw also 
many things that alarmed her in his disposition. 
She saw the abnormal and unhealthy flashing 
of his intellect, and marked that weakness and 



BRANWELI/S BOYHOOD. 83 

want of self-control which left Branwell, when 
subjected to temptation, a prey to many de- 
structive influences, whose effect shall hereafter 
be traced. There is reason to believe that 
Charlotte pictures this period of Bran well's life in 
' The Professor,' where she describes the child- 
hood of Victor Crimsworth ; and, though the 
extract is rather long, it is given here as valu- 
able, because it furnishes a full record of the 
early powers of Branwell, and of the manner in 
which his sister by the light of subsequent 
events looked upon them and upon his failings, 
and it will be seen that towards the latter she is 
somewhat inflexible. 

* Victor,' she makes William Crimsworth say, 
' is as little of 'i pretty child as I am of a hand- 
some man .... he is pale and spare, with 
large eyes .... His shape is symmetrical 
enough, but slight .... I never saw a child 
smile less than he does, nor one who knits such 
a formidable brow when sitting over a book 
that interests him, or while listening to tales of 
adventure, peril, or wonder .... But, though 
still, he is not unhappy though serious, not 
morose ; he has a susceptibility to pleasurable 

G 2 



84 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

sensations almost too keen, for it amounts to 
enthusiasm .... When he could read, he 
became a glutton of books, and is so still. His 
toys have been few, and he has never wanted 
more. For those he possesses he seems to have 
contracted a partiality amounting to affection ; 
this feeling, directed towards one or two living 
animals of the house, strengthens almost to a 
passion .... I saw in the soil of his heart 
healthy and swelling germs of compassion, 
affection, fidelity. I discovered in the garden 
of his intellect a rich growth of wholesome 
principles reason, justice, moral courage, pro- 
mised, if not blighted, a fertile bearing . . . She 
(his mother) sees, as I also see, a something in 
Victor's temper a kind of electrical ardour and 
power which emits, now and then, ominous 
sparks ; llunsden calls it his spirit, and says it 
should not be curbed. I call it the leaven of 
the offending Adam, and consider that it should 
be, if not tvhipped out of him, at least soundly 
disciplined ; and that he will be cheap of any 
amount of either bodily or mental suffering which 
will ground him radically in the art of self- 
control. Frances (his mother) gives this some- 



BRAXWELI/S BOYHOOD. 85 

tldng in her son's marked character no name ; 
but when it appears in the grinding of his teeth, 
in the glittering of his eye, in the fierce revolt 
of feeling against disappointment, mischance, 
sudden sorrow, or supposed injustice, she folds 
him to her breast, or takes him to walk with her 
alone in the wood ; then she reasons with him 
like any philosopher, and to reason Victor is ever 
accessible ; then she looks at him with eyes of 
love, and by love Victor can be infallibly subju- 
gated. But will reason or love be the weapons 
with which in future the world will meet his 
violence ? Oh, no ! for that flash in his black eye 
for that cloud on his bony brow for that com- 
pression of his statuesque lips, the lad will some 
day get blows instead of blandishments, kicks 
instead of kisses ; then for the fit of mute fury 
which will sicken the body and madden his soul ; 
then for the ordeal of merited and salutary 
suffering out of which he will come (1 trust) a 
wiser and a better man.' 

The natural adornments and defects of Bran- 
well's mind in boyhood, which may to some 
extent be traced in Charlotte's picture of Victor 
Orimsworth, in ' The Professor,' must not be 



86 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

regarded otherwise than as possessing a general 
resemblance to those which are found in that 
character. Physically, Branwell and Crimsworth 
were dissimilar, though mentally there is a por- 
traiture ; but even here, Charlotte, having him 
in her mind when she sketched the character of 
Victor, exaggerated therein, as she had done in 
other instances, the actual defects of her brother. 
It is true, nevertheless, that those who knew 
Branwell Bronte in early life could see in him 
the original of Victor Crimsworth. 

In the following pages the greatness of Bran- 
well's genius may be observed, great, though 
marred by the errors and misfortunes of his life, 
as well as by the sorrows which his impulsive, 
kindly, and affectionate nature brought upon 
himself, sorrows thus sadly set forth by his sister 
as the outcome of his passions, and described 
by her as the penalty of his future years. 

In Branwell Bronte, the ' leaven of the offend- 
ing Adam' might now and then certainly be 
observed, but it was largely modified by the 
ameliorating influences of his home ; and, al- 
though, from the failings common to humanity, 
the children of Mr. Brontii could not be free, his 



BRAXWELI/S BOYHOOD. 87 

early waywardness and petulance were, by the 
influence of sex, more forcibly expressed than 
such failings could be in his sisters. Between 
the children of Mr. Bronte, however, there existed 
even more than the ordinary affections of child- 
hood. At this period of their lives, they were 
ignorant of the wiles of corrupt human nature, 
and Branwell, with all the lightsome exuberance 
of his boyhood, returned without stint the ardent 
and deep affection of his sisters. But, when a 
few years had rolled on, he awoke to the sunny 
morning of youth ; and, in the absence of a 
brother, sought companionship with certain 
youths of Haworth, and made them playmates. 
Amongst them was one, the brother of some 
friends of his sisters, who became to him a per- 
sonal associate, and it was with this companion 
that he was wont to sport on the moors, across 
the meadows, and, with joyous laugh, along the 
streets of the village. 

The survivor of these two fiiends gives me an 
incident that occurred at the time of the annual 
Feast at Keighley, which the youths visited. 
The town was, as is usual on such occasions, 
crowded with booths and shows, and various 



88 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

places of entertain ment. Players and riders, 
men and women, clothed in gay raiments, ren- 
dered brilliant with spangles, paced backwards 
and forwards along their platforms to the sound 
of drums, organs, and Pandean pipes, cymbals, 
tambourines, and castanets. There were stalls, 
too, weighted with nuts and various confection- 
aries, and there were also rockiug-boats and 
merry-go-rounds, with other amusements. 

As the evening advanced, and the shows were 
lighted up, Branwell's excitement, hilarity, and 
extravagance knew no bounds : he would see 
everything and try everything. Into a rocking- 
boat he and his friend gaily stepped. The rise 
of the boat, when it reached its full height, gave 
Branwell a pleasant view of the fair beneath ; 
but, when it descended, he screamed out at the 
top of his voice, ' Oh ! my nerves ! my nerves ! 
Oh ! my nerves !' On each descent, every nerve 
thrilled, tingled, and vibrated with overwhelm- 
ing effect through the overwrought and delicate 
frame of the boy. Leaving the fair, the two 
proceeded homeward ; and, reaching a country 
spot, near a cottage standing among a thicket 
of trees, Branwell, still full of exuberant life, 



BRANWELL'S BOYHOOD. 89 

proposed a wrestle with his companion. They 
engaged in a struggle, when Branwell was 
overthrown. It was not uiitil reaching the vil- 
lage, and seeing the lights in the windows, with 
considerably enlarged rays, that he became 
aware he had lost his spectacles, for Branwell 
was, like his sister Charlotte, very near-sighted. 
This was, indeed, no little trouble to him, as he 
was in great fear lest his father should notice 
his being without them, and institute unpleasant 
inquiries as to what had become of them. He 
told his fears to his companion ; but, after a 
sleepless night for both, Branwell's friend was 
early on the spot in search of the missing specta- 
cles, when the woman living in the cottage 
close by, seeing a youth looking about, came 
to him, and, learning for what he sought, 
brought out the glasses which she had picked 

up from the ground just before he came. M , 

glad of the discovery, hastened to the parsonage, 
which he reached to find Branwell astir, who 
was overjoyed on receiving the missing specta- 
cles, as the danger of his father's displeasure 
was avoided. 

Mrs. Gaskell has written an account of the 



yO THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

brother of the Bronte sisters, but from what 
source I am unable to ascertain. After giving 
him credit for those abilities in his boyhood of 
which evidence is given in these pages, she 
says that : ' Popular admiration was sweet to 
him, and this led to his presence being sought at 
Arvills, and all the great village gatherings, 
for the Yorkshiremen have a keen relish for 
intellect ; and it likewise procured him the un- 
desirable distinction of having his company re- 
commended by the landlord of the " Black Bull " 
to any chance traveller who might happen to 
feel solitary or dull over his liquor. " Do you 
want some one to help you with your bottle, 
sir ? If you do, I'll send up for Patrick " (so the 
villagers called him to the day of his death, 
though, in his own family, he was always Bran- 
well). And, while the messenger went, the laud- 
lord entertained his guest with accounts of the 
wonderful talents of the boy, whose precocious 
cleverness and great conversational powers were 
the pride of the village.' This account of the 
landlord being accustomed to send to the par- 
sonage for Branwell to come down to the ' Bull ' 
at Haworth on these occasions is denied by 



BRAN WELL'S BOYHOOD. 91 

those who knew Bramvell at the time, as well 
as by the landlord. The latter always said that 
he never ventured to do anything of the kind. 
It would have been a vulgar liberty, and an 
unpardonable offence to the inmates of the par- 
sonage had he done so. Besides, the message 
would, in all probability, have been delivered 
to a servant, or perhaps to Mr. Bronte himself, 
or to one of his daughters, and Branwell would 
have been forbidden, for the credit of the family, 
to lend himself for such a purpose at the public- 
house below. 

Branwell in these early days was not only the 
beloved of the household, but the special favour- 
ite of his aunt. This good lady was proud of 
her family and name, a name which her 
nephew bore to her infinite satisfaction, so that 
his sometimes rough and noisy merriment made 
his aunt glad, rather than grieved, because it 
was the true indication of health of mind and 
body. She easily pardoned his boyish defects : 
and at times, as she parted his auburn hair, she 
looked in his face with fondness and affection, 
giving him moral advice, consistent with his age, 
and showing him how, by sedulously cultivating 



$2 THE BRONTE. FAMILY. 

the abilities with which God had blessed him, 
he would attain an excellent position in the 
world. It was this gentle and disinterested 
guide that Providence had placed in the stead 
of his mother, to impart to her son the good 
maxims she would herself have given him. 



93 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE LITERARY TASTES OF THE CHILDREN. 

The youthful Compositions of the Brontes Their Charac- 
ter Branwell's Share in them ' The Secret,' a Frag- 
ment The Reading of the Bronte Children Bran- 
well's Character at this Period. 

MR. BRONTK, perhaps, made use of a slight hyper- 
bole when he said that, as soon as they could read 
and write, Charlotte and her brother and sisters 
used to invent and act little plays of their own ; 
but it is certain that, at an early period of their 
lives, they took pleasure and pride in seeing their 
thoughts put down in the manifest form of 
written words. Charlotte, indeed, gives a list of 
the juvenile works she had composed. They 
filled twenty-two volumes, and consisted of 
Tales, Adventures, Lives, Meditations, Stories, 
Poems, Songs, &c. Without repeating all the- 



94 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

titles which Mrs. Gaskell and others have pub- 
lished, it may be said that the productions mani- 
fested extraordinary ability and industry. Bran- 
well, Emily, and Anne partook of the same spirit, 
and displayed similar energy according to the 
leisure they could command. 

Before Charlotte went to Roe Head, in January, 
1831, Bran well worked with his sisters in pro- 
ducing their monthly magazine, with its youthful 
stories. 1 Mrs. Gaskell has quoted Charlotte's 
introduction to the ' Tales of the Islanders,' one 
of these 'Little Magazines,' dated June, 182P, 
from which it appears that a remark of Branwell's 
led to the composition of the play of that name, 
and that he chose the Isle of Man as his territory, 
and named John Bull, Astley Cooper, and Leigh 
Hunt as the chief men in it. Charlotte gives 
the dates of most of their productions. She says : 
' Our plays were established, " Young Men," 
June, 1826; "Our Fellows," July, 1827; 
"Islanders," December, 1827. These are our 
three great plays that are not kept secret. 
Emily's and my best plays were established the 

1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. v. 



THEIR LITERARY TASTES. 95 

1st of December, 1827 ; the others March, 1828. 
Best plays mean secret plays ; they are very nice 
ones. All our plays are very strange ones. Their 
nature I need not write on paper, for I think I 
shall always remember them. The " Young 
Men's" play took its rise from some wooden 
soldiers Branwell had ; " Our Fellows" from 
"JEsop's Fables;" and the "Islanders" from 
several events which happened.' ] 

It would be difficult to arrive at a correct 
understanding of the literary value of these pro- 
ductions of the youthful Brontes, but it would be 
interesting to know what kind of assistance 
Branwell was able to give in the work, as well 
as what was the general merit of these early 
compositions. Mrs. Gaskell makes some mention 
of Branwell's literary abilities in his youth. It is 
certain, from all we know, that his mind was as 
much occupied in these matters as his sisters', 
and that his ambition corresponded with theirs. 
It has, indeed, been placed on record by Mrs. 
Gaskell that he was associated with his sisters 
in the compilation of their youthful writings. 

1 GaskelTs ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap v. 



9(3 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

This author says, also, that their youthful occu- 
pations were ' mostly of a sedentary and intel- 
lectual nature.' 1 

Among the youthful stories of which Charlotte, 
as has been already mentioned, wrote a catalogue 
or list, there was one, of which Mrs. Gaskell has 
published a fragment in fac-simile, written in a 
small, elaborate, and cramped hand so small, 
indeed, as to be of little use to the general 
reader. In the 'Life of Charlotte Bronte,' this 
was inserted as a specimen of the hand-writing. 
It shows truly the literary ability, dramatic skill, 
and force of imagination of the children at the 
period of their lives of which I speak, and affords 
an interesting specimen of the character of these 
early works. A few extracts from it may be 
given here : 

THE SECRET. 
CHAPTER I. 

A dead silence had reigned in the Home 
Office of Verdopolis for three hours in the morn- 
ing of a fine summer's day, interrupted only by 
such sounds as the scraping of a pen-knife, the 

1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. v. 



THEIR LITERARY TASTES. 97 

dropping of a ruler, or an occasional cough ; or 
whispered now and then some brief mandate, 
uttered by the noble first secretary, in his com- 
manding tones. At length that sublime person- 
age, after completing some score or so of 
despatches, addressing a small slightly-built 
young gentleman who occupied the chief situa- 
tion among the clerks, said : 

' Mr. Rymer, will you be good enough to tell 
me what o'clock it is ?' 

' Certainly, my lord !' was the prompt reply 
as, springing from his seat, the ready underling, 
instead of consulting his watch like other people, 
hastened to the window in order to mark the 
sun's situation; having made his observation, he 
answered : ' 'Tis twelve precisely, my lord.' 

' Very well,' said the marquis. ' You may all 
give up then, and see that all your desks are 
locked, so that not a scrap of paper is left to litter 
the office. Mr. Rymer, I shall expect you to take 
care that my directions are fulfilled.' So saying, 
he assumed his hat and gloves, and with a stately 
tread was approaching the vestibule, when a 
slight bustle and whispering among the clerks 
arrested his steps. 

VOL. I. H 



98 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

' What is the matter ?' asked he, turning 
round. ' I hope these are not sounds of con- 
tention I hear !' 

'1 and ' said a broad, carrotty-locked young 
man of a most pugnacious aspect, but but 
your lordship has forgotten that that ' 

That what ?' asked the marquis, rather im- 
patiently. 

'Oh! merely that this afternoon is a half- 
holiday and and ' 

'I understand,' replied his superior, smiling, 
4 you need not tax your modesty with further 
explanation, Flanagan ; the truth is, I suppose, 
you want your usual largess, and I'm obliged to 
you for reminding me will that doT he con- 
tinued, as, opening his pocket-book, he took 
out a twenty-pound bank bill and laid it on the 
nearest desk. 

* My lord, you are too generous,' Flanagan 
answered ; but the chief secretary laughingly 
laid his gloved hand on his lips, and, with a 
condescending nod to the other clerks, sprang 
down the steps of the portico and strode hastily 
away, in order to escape the noisy expressions 
of gratitude which now hailed his liberality. 



THEIR LITERARY TASTES. 99 

On the opposite side of the busy and wide 
-street to that on which the splendid Home 
Office stands, rises the no less splendid Colonial 
Office ; and, just as Arthur, Marquis of Douro, 
left the former structure, Edward Stanley Syd- 
ney departed from the latter : they met in the 
centre of the street. 

' Well, Ned,' said my brother, as they shook 
hands, ' how are you to-day ? I should think 
this bright sun and sky ought to enliven you if 
anything can.' 

' Why, my dear Douro,' replied Mr. Sydney, 
with a faint smile, such lovely, genial weather 
may, and I have no doubt does, elevate the 
spirits of the free and healthy ; but for me, 
whose mind and body are a continual prey to 
all the heaviest cares of public and private life, 
it signifies little whether sun cheer or rain damp 
the atmosphere.' 

' Edward,' replied Arthur, his features at the 
same time assuming that disagreeable expres- 
sion which my landlord denominates by the 
term ' scorney ;' ' now don't begin to bore me, 
Ned, with trash of that description, I'm tired of 
it quite : pray have you recollected that to-day 

H2 



100 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

is a half-holiday in all departments of the 
Treasury ?' 

1 Yes ; and the circumstance has cost me some 
money ; these silly old customs ought to be 
abolished in my opinion they are ruinous.' 

'Why, what have you given the poor 
fellows V 

' Two sovereigns ;' an emphatic hem formed 
Arthur's reply to the communication. 

They had now entered Nokel Street, and 
were proceeding in silence past the line of mag- 
nificent shops which it contains, when the sound 
of wheels was heard behind them, and a smooth- 
rolling chariot dashed up and stopped just where 
they stood. One of the window-glasses now 
fell, a white hand was put out and beckoned 
them to draw near, while a silvery voice said, 

' Mr. Sidney, Marquis of Douro, come hither 
a moment.' 

Both the gentlemen obeyed the summons, 
Arthur with alacrity, Sidney with reluctance. 

< What are your commands, fair ladies T said 
the former, bowing respectfully to the inmates 
of the carriage, who were Lady Julia Sidney 
and Lady Maria Sneaky. 



THEIR LITERARY TASTES. 101 

' Our commands are principally for your com- 
panion, my lord, not for you,' replied the 
daughter of Alexander the First ; * now, Mr. 
Sidney,' she continued, smiling on the senator, 
' you must promise not to be disobedient.' 

' Let me first know what I am required to 
perform,' was the cautious answer, accompanied 
by a fearful glance at the shops around. 

* Nothing of much consequence, Edward,' said 
his wife, ' but I hope you'll not refuse to oblige 
me this once, love. I only want a few guineas 
to make out the price of a pair of earrings I have 
just seen in Mr. Lapis's shop.' 

' Not a bit of it,' answered he. * Not a far- 
thing will I give you : it is scarce three weeks 
since you received your quarter's allowance, 
and if that is done already you may suffer for 
it.' 

With this decisive reply, he instinctively 
thrust his hands into his breeches' pockets, and 
marched off with a hurried step. 

' Stingy little monkey !' exclaimed Lady Julia, 
sinking back on the carriage-seat, while the 
bright flush of anger and disappointment crim- 
soned her fair cheek. ' This is the way he 



102 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

always treats me, but I'll make him suffer for 
it!' 

' Do not discompose yourself so much, my 
dear,' said her companion, ( my purse is at your 
service, if you will accept it.' 

' I am sensible of your goodness, Maria, but 
of course I shall not take advantage of it ; no, 
no, I can do without the earrings it is only a 
fancy, though to be sure I would rather have 
them.' 

' My pretty cousin,' observed the marquis, 
who, till now, had remained a quiet though 
much-amused spectator of the whole scene, ' you 
are certainly one of the most extravagant 
young ladies I know : why, what on earth 
can you possibly want with these trinkets ? To 
my knowledge you have at least a dozen differ- 
ent sorts of ear-ornaments.' 

' That is true ; but then these are quite of 
another kind ; they are so pretty and unique that 
I could not help wishing for them.' 

* Well, since your heart is so much set upon 
the baubles, I will see whether my purse can 
compass their price, if you will allow me to 
accompany you to Mr. Lapis's.' 



THEIR LITERARY TASTES. 103 

' Oh ! thank you, Arthur, you are very kind,' 
said Lady Julia, and both the ladies quickly 
made room for him as he sprang in and seated 
himself between them. 

In a few minutes they reached the jeweller's 
shop. Mr. Lapis received them with an obse- 
quious bow, and proceeded to display his glit- 
tering stores. The pendants which had so 
fascinated Lady Julia were in the form of two 
brilliant little humming-birds, whose jewelled 
plumage equalled if not surpassed the bright 
hues of nature .... 

This gay and pleasant fragment of a story, in 
which the characters and scenes are so freshly 
drawn, may well be imagined as one of the 
best, if not the best, of these productions of the 
Bronte children. We may, indeed, regard the 
spirit and style of these early stories as the out- 
come of their eager and observant reading of 
the magazine and newspaper articles within 
their reach when their plastic minds would re- 
ceive indelible impressions, from which they, 
perhaps without knowing it, acquired the know- 



104 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

ledge and practice of accurate literary composi- 
tion, and of how to clothe their thoughts in fit- 
ting words. Their retentive memories, and their 
intuitive faculty of putting things, brought 
them thus early to the threshold of the re- 
public of letters. Mrs. Gaskell states that these 
works were principally written by Charlotte in 
a hand so small as to be t almost impossible to 
decipher without the aid of a magnifying glass.' 
The specimen she gives is written in an upright 
hand, and was an attempt to represent the 
stories in a kind of print, as near as might be to 
type. If, however, Charlotte and Emily ever 
accustomed themselves in these early works to 
this diminutive type-like writing, they threw it 
off completely in after years. This, Branwell 
never did, and Mrs. Gaskell's fac-simile page is 
not without some resemblance to one of his 
ordinary pages of manuscript reduced in size. 

Mr. T. Wemyss Reid observes that Mrs. Gas- 
kell, in speaking of the juvenile performances of 
the Bronte children, ' paid exclusive attention to 
Charlotte's productions.' * All readers of the 
Bronte story,' he says, ' will remember the 
account of the play of " The Islanders/' and 



THEIR LITERARY TASTES. 105 

other remarkable specimens, showing with what 
real vigour and originality Charlotte could 
handle her pen while she was still in the first 
years of her teens.' And he adds that ' those few 
persons who have seen the whole of the juvenile 
library of the family bear testimony to the fact 
that Branwell and Emily were at least as in- 
dustrious and successful as Charlotte herself.' 1 

Even at this early period the youthful Brontes 
had read industriously. ' Blackwood's Magazine ' 
had, as early as the year 1829, asserted itself to 
Charlotte's childish taste as 'the most able 
periodical there is,' and ever afterwards the 
whole family looked with the greatest pleasure 
for the brilliant essays of Christopher North and 
his coterie. Of other papers they s"aw ' John 
Bull ' and the ' Leeds Intelligencer,' both un- 
compromising Conservatives, and the ' Leeds 
Mercury,' of the opposite party. The youthful 
Brontes were also readers of the ' British Essay- 
ists,' ' The Rambler,' ' The Mirror,' and The 
Lounger,' and they were great admirers of 
Scott. 

1 ' Charlotte Bronte, a monograph,' p. 27. 



106 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

But the advice which Charlotte afterwards 
gave to her friend * E,' with regard 'to books for 
perusal, shows that their reading had been 
much wider : Shakespeare, Milton, Thomson, 
Goldsmith, Pope, Byron, Campbell, and Words- 
worth ; Hume, Rollin, and the ' Universal History ; r 
Johnson's 'Poets,' Bos well's 'Johnson,' Southey's 
* Nelson,' Lockhart's ' Burns,' Moore's ' Sheridan,' 
Moore's ' Byron,' and Wolfe's ' Remains ;' and for 
natural history, she recommends Bewick, Andu- 
bon, White, and, strangely enough, Goldsmith. 
Branwell's favourite poets were Wordsworth 
and the melancholy Cowper, whose ' Castaway ' 
he was always fond of quoting. The Brontes, 
in their young years, obtained much of their in- 
tellectual food from the circulating library at 
Keighley. 

The extraordinary literary activity which 
prompted these children never afterwards left 
them ; and Branwell, along with his sisters, was, 
as we have seen, the author of many effusions 
of remarkable character. But, as time passed 
on, and experience was gained, his literary pro- 
ductions began to acquire more vigour and 
polish. Yet the tone of his mind, however joy- 



THEIR LITERARY TASTES. 107 

ous it might be at times, recurred, when the 
immediate occasion had passed, to that pensive 
melancholy which, throughout his life, was his 
most marked characteristic. 

Mr. Bronte looked with supreme pleasure on 
the growing talents of his children ; but his 
principal hope was centred in his son, who, as 
he fondly trusted, should add lustre to and per- 
petuate his name. The boy, in these years, Avas 
precocious and lively, overflowing with humour 
and jollity, ready to crack a joke with the 
rustics he met, and all the time gathering in, 
with the quickest perception, impressions, both 
for good and ill, of human nature. Mr. Bronte 
sedulously, to the utmost of his power, attend- 
ing to the education of Branwell, did not see the 
instability of his son's character, or did not 
apprehend any mischief from the acquaintances 
he had formed. 

The incumbent of Haworth had distinct liter- 
ary leanings, and it delighted him to find that 
his sou had manifested literary capacity. It 
has been urged as somewhat of a reproach 
against Mr. Bronte that he did not send Bran- 
Avell to a public school, but relied solely upon 



108 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

his own tutorship for his son's education. Situ- 
ated as Mr. Bronte was, such a step as that 
said to have been recommended to him was 
unnecessary. The Grammar School adjoining 
was under the snperintendance of a master who 
was well qualified to give a higher education 
to his pupils, if required ; and Mr. Bronte him- 
self was equally well able to do the same, but 
his daily duties within his chapelry left him 
little or no time to take upon himself the entire 
education of his son : all he could do was to 
watch and ascertain occasionally how he was 
progressing. Mr. Bronte, indeed, might have 
given the finishing touches to his son's instruc- 
tion. Those, however, who knew the brilliant 
youth in the ripeness of his early manhood, 
recognized the extent of the knowledge he 
had acquired, and felt, too, that he had been 
sufficiently well-trained to know how to put 
it to good use. 



109 



CHAPTER 

YOUTH. 



Charlotte goes to Roe Head Return Home Branwell at 
the Time The Companion of his Sisters Escort* 
Charlotte on a Visit He becomes Interested in 
Pugilism His Education His Love for Music His 
Retentive Memory His Personal Appearance His 
Spirit. 

LITTLE more of interest seems to be known 
concerning the Bronte's prior to the year 1831 r 
but it is very apparent that Mr. Bronte ex- 
ercised a large influence in the formation of his 
children's habits and characters. He, for in- 
stance, had a study in which he spent a con- 
siderable portion of his time. The children had 
their study also. Mr. Bronte had written poems 
and tales, and was wont to tell strange stories 
at the breakfast-table. The children imitated 
him in these things. Mr. Bronte took an en- 



110 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

thusiastic interest in all political matters ; and 
here the children followed him also. In short, 
they copied him in almost everything. After- 
wards, he was accustomed to hold himself up as 
an example for their guidance, and to tell them 
how he had struggled and worked his way to 
the position he held ; and there is no doubt 
that his children had a great admiration for his 
career. 

Miss Branwell's influence was altogether dis- 
tinct from that of Mr. Bronte. While taking pride 
in the mental ability of her nephew, she aimed 
at making his sisters into good housewives 
and patterns of domestic and unobtrusive virtue. 
With this object, turning her bed-chamber into 
a school-room, she taught them to sew and to 
embroider; and they occupied their time in 
making charity clothing, a work which she 
maintained ' was not for the good of the recipi- 
ents, but of the sewers ; it was proper for them 
to . do it.' Under Miss Branwell they likewise 
learned to clean, to wash, to bake, to cook, to 
make jams and jellies, with many other domes- 
tic mysteries ; and here, as in everything else, 
they were apt pupils. 



YOUTH. Ill 

But, towards the end of the year 1830, it was 
decided that Charlotte should seek a wider train- 
ing elsewhere ; and a school, kept by Miss 
Wooler, at Roe Head, between Leeds and Hud- 
dersfield, was fixed upon. It was a quaint, old- 
fashioned house, standing in a pleasant country, 
which had an interest for Charlotte, for it lay 
not far from Hartshead, where her father's first 
Yorkshire curacy had been. This circumstance, 
together with the proximity of the remains of 
Kirklees priory which had their traditions of 
Robin Hood and the strange local stories she 
heard from Miss Wooler, led her afterwards to 
make this district the scene of her novel of 
* Shirley.' Miss Wooler was a kind, motherly 
lady who took an interest in each one of her 
pupils. She had long been a keen observer, 
and knew well how to put her knowledge to 
use in tuition. In this school, Charlotte, a girl 
of sixteen, was an indefatigable student, scarce- 
ly resting in her pursuit of knowledge. She 
was not exactly sociable, and sat often alone 
with her book in play-hours a thin fragile girl, 
whose brown hair overshadowed the page on 
which her eyes, ' those expressive orbs,' were 



112 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

so intently fixed. Her companions remarked at 
that time that she had a great store of out-of- 
the-way knowledge, while on some points of 
general information she was comparatively ig- 
norant. But when Charlotte left Roe Head, in 
June, 1832, she returned to the parsonage at 
Haworth with more expanded ideas, and with 
wider knowledge, and possessing, perhaps, a 
keener relish for the delights of the literary 
world. At Roe Head Charlotte made the ac- 
quaintance of her life-long friend ' E,' and also 
of Mary and Martha ' T.' 

The family of Bronte appears, about this time, 
to have been in perfect peace. Charlotte had 
corresponded with Bramvell when she was at 
Roe Head, as a .pupil of Miss Wooler ; and Mrs. 
Gaskell has published portions of a letter sent 
from that place to him on May 17th, 1832, when he 
was in his fifteenth year, in which she showed her 
old political leanings wherein Branwell shared. 
It runs : ' Lately I had begun to think that I had 
lost all interest which I used formerly to take in 
politics ; but the extreme pleasure I felt at the 
news of the Reform Bill's being thrown out by 
the House of Lords, and of the expulsion, or 



YOUTH. 113 

resignation, of Earl Grey, &c., convinced me that 
I have not as yet lost all my penchant for politics. 
I am extremely glad that aunt has consented to 
take in "Fraser's Magazine;" for though I know 
from your description of its general contents it 
will be rather uninteresting when compared with 
" Blackwood," still it will be better than remaining 
the whole year without being able to obtain a 
sight of any periodical whatever ; and such 
would assuredly be the case, as, in the little wild 
moor-land village where we reside, there would 
be no possibility of borrowing a work of this 
description from a circulating library. I hope 
with you that the present delightful weather 
may contribute to the perfect restoration of our 
dear papa's health ; and that it may give aunt 
pleasant reminiscences of the salubrious climate 
of her native place.' 1 

Charlotte's political principles were strongly 
Conservative, as were those of her father, brother, 
and eisters, and these principles were inten- 
sified in them all by their religious opinions. 
They held, consistently enough, the cherished 
political convictions of their party, and they 
1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. vi. 



114 THE BROXTii FAMILY. 

looked upon every concession made to liberal 
clamour as an inroad on the very vitals of the 
Constitution. Hence the jubilation of Charlotte 
when the Reform Bill was rejected by the House 
of Lords on October 7th, 1831. But the march 
of events, in after years, modified their political 
opinions considerably. 

Branwell at this period, while still under 
tuition at home, was the constant companion of 
his sisters, and frequently accompanied them on 
their visits to the moors and picturesque places 
in the neighbourhood. 'E,' writing in ' Scribuer,' 
says : ' Charlotte's first visit from Haworth was 
made about three mouths after she left school. 
She travelled in a two-wheeled gig, the only 
conveyance to be had in Haworth except the 
covered-cart which brought her to school. Mr. 
Bronte sent Branwell as an escort; .he was then 
a very dear brother, as dear to Charlotte as her 
own soul ; they were in perfect accord of taste 
and feeling, and it was a mutual delight to be 
together. Branwell had probably never been 
from home before ; he was in wild ecstacy with 
everything. He walked about in unrestrained 
boyish enjoyment, taking views in every direc- 



YOUTH. 115 

tion of the turret-roofed house, the fine chestnut- 
trees on the lawn (one tree especially interested 
him because it was iron-girthed, having been 
split by storms, but still flourishing in great 
majesty), and a large rookery, which gave to the 
house a good background all these he noted 
and commented upon with perfect enthusiasm. 
He told his sister he was leaving her in Paradise, 
and if she were not intensely happy she never 
would be ! Happy, indeed, she then was in him- 
.self, for she, with her own enthusiasm, looked 
forward to what her brother's great promise and 
talent might effect. He would be, at this time, 
between fifteen and sixteen years of age. 1 

In the June of 1833, when Branwell was about 
this age, we learn that he drove his sisters with 
great delight in a trap, or dog-cart, to Bolton 
Bridge, to meet their friend ' E,' who waited for 
the young Brontes in a carriage at the ' Devon- 
shire Arms.' 2 This was a visit to the ancient 
abbey and immemorial woods and vales of 
Bolton. We may well imagine from the time 
of the year the 'leafy month of June,' when 

1 Scribner, ii., 18, ' Reminiscences of Charlotte Bronte.' 
* Reid's ' Charlotte Bronte, a Monograph,' p. 29. 

i 2 



116 THE BROXTE FAMILY. 

all nature would be glad, and the deep woods 
gay with varied leaves, while the Wharfe, of 
amber hue, foamed and rushed impetuously 
down its rocky channel, from the moorland hills 
above historic Barden, to the peaceful meads of 
the ruined abbey that the hearts of the Brontes 
rejoiced, enchanted and impressed by these 
glorious and stately solitudes. 

It cannot but be regretted that, while his 
sisters could confer in confidence and familiarity 
together, and enjoy a community of interests in 
secrecy and affection, Branwell had no brother 
whose sympathetic counsel he could embrace ; 
but, thrown back upon himself, was led to seek 
the society of appreciative friends, who made 
him acquainted with the manners and customs 
of the world, and the vices of society, before his 
time had yet come to know much concerning 
them. It was, indeed, unfortunately, no infrequent 
circumstance to see the plastic, light-hearted, 
unsuspecting Branwell listening to the coarse 
jokes of the sexton of Haworth the noted John 
Brown while that functionary was employed in 
digging the graves so often opened in the church- 
yard, under the shadow of the parsonage. 



YOUTH. 117 

It was the kind of society iu which he sought 
relaxation at Haworth that led him to take an 
interest, which he long retained, in the pugilistic 
ring. The interest in pugilism and the ' noble 
art,' it must, however, be remembered, had been 
made fashionable by wealthy, influential, and 
titled people, amongst whom was Lord Byron, 
and by the fops and dandies of an earlier period. 
Jackson, the noted professor, was a great friend 
of the poet, and, on several occasions, visited 
him at Newstead. Early in this century, too, 
many men about town were accustomed to 
assemble for practice at the academy of Angelo 
and Jackson. Branwell, also, read with eager- 
ness the columns of ' Bell's Life in London,' and 
other sporting papers of the day. The names 
and personal appearance of the celebrated pugil- 
ists who, at that time, to the delight of the elite 
of society, pounded each other till they were un- 
like anything human for the applause of the 
multitude, and the honour of wearing the 
4 Champion's Belt,' were familiar to him. ' Bell's 
Life ' was taken in by an innkeeper at Haworth ; 
aud the members of the village boxing-club, one 
of whom was Branwell, were posted up in all 



118 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

public matters relating to the * noble art of self- 
defence.' They had sundry boxing-gloves, and r 
at intervals, amused themselves with sparring in 
an upper room of a building at Haworth. These 
practices, at the time of which we speak, were 
but boyish amusements, and were no doubt 
congenial to the animal spirits and energetic 
temperaments of those who entered into them, 
and they were so more especially to Branwell, 
who had abundance of both. But it may be- 
that here he became acquainted with young- 
men whose habits and conduct had a deleterious 
influence upon him at the very opening of his 
career. If, however, Branwell's high spirit 
allowed him sometimes to be led away by his> 
companions, his natural goodness of heart 
brought a ready and vehement repentance. The 
respect he felt for his father's calling, magnified,, 
in his eyes, any fault of his own who ought to 
have been more than ordinarily good and, ex- 
aggerating his failings, he would lament his 
' dreadful conduct ' in deep distress. Such un- 
mistakable evidences of sincerity and truthful- 
ness procured him a ready pardon. He was 
necessarily his aunt's favourite ; but he attached 



YOUTH. 119 

himself to all about him with so much readiness 
of affection that it is quite evident, whatever 
his youthful faults, they were of a superficial 
character only. 

The studies which Branwell pursued in his 
youth were noticed by his literary friends, in 
after years, to bear a considerable fruit of 
classical knowledge. He possessed then a 
familiar and extensive acquaintance with the 
Greek and Latin authors. He knew well the 
history and condition of Europe, and of this 
country, in past and present times ; and his con- 
versational powers on these, and the current 
literature of the day, were of the highest order. 
Mr. Bronte had obtained musical tuition for his 
son and daughters, and Branwell was enthusi- 
astically fond of sacred music, and could play 
the organ. He was acquainted with the works 
of the great composers of recent and former 
times ; and, although he could not perform their 
elaborate compositions well, he was always so 
excited when they were played for him by his 
friends that he would walk about the room 
with measured footsteps, his eyes raised to the 
ceiling, accompanying the music with his voice 



120 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

in an impassioned manner, and beating time 
with his hand on the chairs as he passed to and 
fro. He was an enthusiastic admirer of the 
oratorio of ' Samson,' which Handel deemed 
equal to the 'Messiah,' and of the Mass-music of 
Haydn, Mozart, and others. Religion had, in- 
deed, been deeply implanted in Branwell's 
breast ; but, whenever he heard sacred music like 
this, his devotional impressions were deepened, 
and even in times of temptation, indulgence, 
and folly the influence of early piety was never 
effaced. Among his minor accomplishments, he 
had acquired the practice of writing short-hand 
with facility, and also of writing with both hands 
at the same time with perfect ease, so that he 
possessed the extraordinary power of writing 
two letters at once. His hand-writing was of 
an upright character. Branwell, too, had a 
wonderful power of observation, and a most re- 
tentive memory. It is on record that, before he 
visited London, he so mastered its labyrinths, by 
a diligent study of maps and books, that he 
spoke with a perfect knowledge of it, and 
astonished inhabitants of the metropolis by his 
intimate acquaintance with by-ways and places 



YOUTH. 121 

of which they even had never heard. In person 
he was rather below the middle height, but of 
refined and gentleman-like appearance, and of 
graceful manners. His complexion was fair and 
his features handsome ; his mouth and chin were 
well-shaped; his nose was prominent and of the 
Roman type ; his eyes sparkled and danced 
with delight, and his fine forehead made up a 
face of oval form which gave an irresistible 
charm to its possessor, and attracted the admira- 
tion of those who knew him. Added to this, his 
address was simple and unadorned, yet polished ; 
but, being familiar with the English language in 
its highest form of expression, and with the 
Yorkshire and Hibernian patois also, he could 
easily make use of the quaintest and broadest 
terms when occasion called for them. It was, 
indeed, amazing how suddenly he could pass 
from the discussion of a grave and lofty subject, 
or from a deep disquisition, or some exalted 
poetical theme, to one of his light-hearted and 
amusing Irish or Yorkshire sallies. He could be 
sad and joyful almost at the same time, like the 
sunshine and gloom of April weather ; exhibit- 
ing, by anticipation, the future lights and 



122 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

shadows of his own sad, short, and chequered! 
existence. In ;i word, he seemed at times even 
to be jocular and merry with gravity itself. 

It is known also that Bran well, at that period 
of his young life when manhood with its hopes 
and joys, its enterprises and aspirations, its 
affections and its responsiblities, stretched before 
him was also busily laying, to the best of his 
ability, the foundations, as he trusted, of a 
brilliant literary or artistic future. 



123 



CHAPTER VIII. 

ART-AIMS OF THE BRONTES. 

Love of Art in the Youthful Brontes Their elaborate 
Drawings J. B. Leyland, Sculptor Spartacus Mr. 
George Hogarth's Opinion Art Exhibition at Leeds 
Mr. William Robinson, their Drawing-Master 
Branwell aims at Portrait-Painting J. B. Leyland in 
London Branwell and the Royal Academy He 
visits London. 

THE biographers of the Bronte sisters have 
pointed out especially the artistic instinct of 
Charlotte and Emily ; and the originality and 
fidelity of their written descriptions, and the 
beauty of the composition and * colour ' of their 
word-paintings, have formed an inexhaustible 
theme for the various writers on the excellencies 
of Bronte genius. The appreciation of art 
possessed by the members of this family, 
whether in drawing, painting, or sculpture, 



124 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

was manifested early ; but, though highly gifted 
in felicity and aptness of verbal expresssion in 
describing natural scenery, and in the delinea- 
tion of personal character, they were not endow- 
ed, in like degree, with the faculty of placing 
their ideas weird and wild, or beautiful and 
joyous as they might be in that tangible and 
fixed shape in which artists have perpetuated 
the emanations of their genius. The devotion of 
Charlotte and Branwell to art was, nevertheless, 
so intense, and their belief was so profound, at one 
time, that the art-faculty consisted of little more 
than mechanical dexterity, and could be obtained 
by long study and practice in manipulation, that 
the sister toiled incessantly in copying, almost line 
for line, the grand old engravings of Woollett, 
Brown, Fittler, and others till her eyesight was 
dimmed and blurred by the sedulous application ; 
and Branwell, with the same belief, eagerly 
followed her example. Great talent and per- 
severance they undoubtedly had ; and, although 
we are not possessed of any original drawings 
by Charlotte of striking character, we know 
that Branwell drew in pen-and-ink with much 
facility, humour, and originality. His produc- 



THEIR ART- AIMS. 125 

tions, in this manner, will be inoro particularly 
noticed in the course of this work. Charlotte's 
drawings were said to be pre-Raphaelite in detail, 
but they had no approach to the spirit of that 
school ; and Branwell's pictures, however meri- 
torious they might be as likenesses of the individ- 
uals they represented, lacked, in every instance, 
that artistic touch which the hand of genius al- 
ways gives, and cannot help giving. While at 
school at Roe Head, Charlotte had been noticed 
by her fellow-pupils to draw better and more 
quickly than they had before seen anyone do, 
and we have been told by one of them that ' she 
picked up every scrap of information concerning 
painting, sculpture, poetry, music, &c., as if it 
were gold.' The list she drew up a year or 
two earlier of the great artists whose works she 
wished to see, shows us that her interest in art, 
even in her thirteenth year, led her to read of 
them and their productions. 

On her return home in 1832, Charlotte wrote 
on the 21st July respecting her course of life 
at the parsonage : ' In. the morning, from nine 
o'clock till half-past twelve, I instruct my sisters, 
and draw ; then we walk till dinner-time. After 



126 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

dinner I sew till tea-time, and after tea I either 
write, read, or do a little fancy-work, or draw 
as I please.' Charlotte also told Mrs. Gaskell 
'that, at this period of her life, drawing, and 
walking with her sisters, formed the two great 
pleasures and relaxations of her day.' 

Mr. Bronte, observing that his son and 
daughters took pleasure in the art of drawing, 
and believing this to be one of their natural 
gifts that ought to be cultivated, perhaps as an 
accomplishment which they might some time 
find useful in tuition, obtained for them a draw- 
ing-master. But he also observed that Bran- 
well excelled his sisters in the art, while 
he likewise painted in oils, and he may at times 
have had some hope that his son would become 
a distinguished artist. 

It is apparent, indeed, that drawing not only 
engaged much of Charlotte's leisure, but that it 
formed a part of home-education. Her sisters 
as well as herself underwent great labour in 
acquiring the art in these early years, and 
Branwell also was not behind them in industri- 
ous pursuit of the same object. Charlotte even 
thought of art as a profession for herself; and 



THEIR ART- AIMS. 127 

so strong was this intention, that she could 
scarcely be convinced that it was not her true 
vocation. In short, her appreciative spirit al- 
ways dwelt with indescribable pleasure on works 
of real art, and she derived, from their contem- 
plation, one of the chief enjoyments of her life. 
' To paint them, in short,' says Jane Eyre, speaking 
of the pictures she is showing to Mr. Rochester, 
'was to enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I 
have ever known.' 1 The love the Brontes thus 
cherished for art became, as time passed on, a 
passion, and its cultivation a pressing and sensi- 
ble duty. They were not aware that their in- 
dustry in, and devotion to it, as they under- 
stood it, were a misdirection of their genius. 
How far this love of it, and this eagerness to 
acquire a knowledge of the mysteries, of compo- 
sition and analysis, and to bo possessed of 
art-practice and art-learning, may have been 
excited and encouraged by the success that 
had bsen achieved by others with whom they 
were familiar, in the same direction, may be 
surmised. 

In the year of Mr. Bronte's appointment to 
1 ' Jane Eyre,' chap. xiii. 



128 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Hartshead, there was born, at Halifax, an artist,. 
Joseph Bentley Leyland, who was destined to 
become the personal friend and inspirer of Mr. 
Bronte's son, Bran well. Leyland, in his early boy- 
hood, showed, by the ease and faithfulness with 
which he modelled in clay, or sketched with 
pencil, the objects that attracted his attention,, 
the direction of his genius. The sculptor, as he 
grew in years, treated, with artistic power, 
classical subjects Avhich had not hitherto been 
embodied in sculpture. At the age of twenty-one 
he modelled a statue of Spartacus, the Thracian r 
a general who, after defeating several Roman 
armies in succession, was overthrown with his 
forces by Crassus the praetor, and slain. The 
dead leader was represented at that moment 
after death before the muscles have acquired 
extreme rigidity. The statue, which was of 
colossal size, was modelled from living subjects,, 
and was, in all respects, a production far beyond 
the sculptor's years. It was the most striking- 
work of art at the Manchester Exhibition in the 
year 1832, and was favourably noticed in the 
* Manchester Courier,' on November the 3rd of 
that year. Such notices were productive of 



THEIR ART- AIMS. 129 

increased exertion, which soon became manifest 
in the creation of other more lofty and success- 
ful works. Among these was a colossal bust of 
Satan, some six feet in height, which was pro- 
nounced to be ' truly that of Milton's " Arch- 
angel ruined." ' Mr. George Hogarth, the father- 
in-law of Charles Dickens a gentleman of 
literary power and knowledge was the editor 
of the 'Halifax Guardian' at the time, and 
visited the artist's small studio, where he saw, in 
one corner, under its lean-to roof, for the first 
time, the bust of Satan. He was astonished at its 
merit, and published his criticism of the work in 
the paper on May the 24th, 1834. Leyland was 
then strongly urged to forward the bust to 
London, which he did, with some others he had 
modelled ; and the critics were invited to visit 
his studio. The favourable opinion which Mr. 
Hogarth published, in the paper of which he was 
editor, was endorsed, but in more flattering- 
terms, in the ' Morning Chronicle ' of December 
2nd, 1834. But there was held at Leeds, in these 
years, the Annual Exhibition of the Northern 
Society for the Encouragement of the Fine 
Arts ; and Leyland, before he sent his work to 
VOL. I. K 



130 THE BRONTii FAMILY. 

London, included it in his contributions to the 
exhibition at Leeds. 

The oil-paintings and water-colour drawings 
that were hung there, in the summer of 1834, 
appear to have formed a fine and varied collec- 
tion. There were beautiful landscapes in water- 
colour by Copley Fielding, and in oil by Alex- 
ander Nasmyth, John Linnel, Robert Macreth ; 
and others were well represented, while historical 
paintings by H. Fradelle, sea-pieces by Car- 
michael, and animal paintings by Schwanfelder, 
always good, were highly creditable to these 
well-known names. A number of fine portraits 
by William Bewick and William Robinson 
added interest and beauty to the galleries. The 
reader may conceive, if he will, the Brontes 
Charlotte and Bran well, and, it may be, Mr. 
Bronte and Emily enjoying to the full the 
paintings and sculptures which were before 
them. He may fancy the suddenly expressed, 
'Look, Charlotte!' as some newly discovered 
picture flashed as a keen delight on the eager 
fancy of Branwell's appreciative spirit. He 
may imagine the ready criticism of Charlotte, 
and the attempts which she and her brother 



THEIR ART-ADIS. 131 

made to divine how much thought had gone to 
make up the composition of a work. The young 
Bronte critics, as they looked on the colossal 
head of Satan on the stern and inflexible firm- 
ness of the features ' whose superhuman beauty 
is yet covered with a cloud of the deepest 
inelancholy ;' on the representation ' of the great 
and glorious being sunk in utter despair,' might 
ponder, perhaps, whether an ideal has dawned 
upon the imagination of the artist, and so been 
wrought from no model, but from the vision of 
his meditations, or whether success is, after all, 
but the evidence of painful elaboration. At any 
rate, it was just on such an exhibition of paint- 
ings and works of art that Charlotte and Bran- 
well delighted to dwell in intelligent and 
educated observation. 

That a new impetus and a new meaning were 
given to their art practice about this time is 
certain, and it was probably not long after this 
date that Mr. Bronte engaged, for the instruction 
of his son and daughters, an artist of Leeds, the 
Mr. William Robinson I have mentioned as having 
contributed a number of portraits to tho 
exhibition. The object of the Brontes was now 

K2 



132 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

to practise painting, and this able instructor was 
consequently engaged. 

Mr. Robinson was a native of Leeds, who had, 
by natural talent and steady perseverance, ac- 
quired something more than a local reputation. 
His early love of art had been such that the 
wishes of his friends failed to divert him from its 
pursuit, and he received lessons from Mr. 
Rhodes, sen., of Leeds, an admirable painter in 
water-colours. But Mr. Robinson had a strong 
predilection for portrait-painting, to which he had 
devoted his powers, at the same time availing 
himself of every opportunity for improving in its 
practice. In the year 18-0, he visited the metro- 
polis, taking with him an introduction to Sir 
Thomas LaAvrence, who received him with great 
kindness, and he became a pupil of this eminent 
artist. Sir Thomas, however, with noble gener- 
osity, declined any remuneration whatever, and 
Robinson assisted his master in his work. He 
was introduced to Fuseli, and gained the privilege 
of studying at the Royal Academy, his work 
being characterized by the requisite merit. He 
was stimulated to renewed exertion by this much 
desired success. In 1824, he had returned to his 



THEIR ART-AIMS. 133 

native town, where he procured numerous com- 
missions. He was subsequently introduced to 
Earl de Grey, of whom he painted portraits, as 
also of his family. Mr. Robinson, in addition, 
painted four portraits for the United Service 
Club, one of which was of the Duke of Welling- 
ton, who honoured him with several sittings. 
Besides these, amongst his other works, was a 
portrait of the Princess Sophia, and a copy of 
one of the Duke of York for the Duchess of 
Gloucester. It was from this gentleman that 
Branwell Bronte and his sister received a few 
lessons in portrait-painting at the time of which 
1 speak, and a knowledge of the master's career 
did not a little to fire the mind of the enthusiastic 
Branwell with ardour to aim in the same 
direction, while the contemporary efforts of others 
added fuel to the fire. 

At this time there were certain artists of the 
neighbourhood who were trying their fortunes 
in London, and who were known to Branwell 
Bronte by reputation : C. H. SchTranfelcler, the 
animal painter, and John W. Rhodes, the son of 
the artist under whom Mr. Robinson had studied. 
'The father of the latter had endeavoured to 



1 34 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

dissuade him from making' art bis profession, but 
all to no purpose : the bent of his genius could 
not be curbed. He painted in water-colour and 
oil with great beauty and fidelity ; the green 
lane, the wild flower hanging from an old wall, 
were his subjects. His works met with well- 
deserved encomiums in the London press, and 
with praise wherever they were exhibited ; but, 
when full of aspiring hopes, he was attacked, 
like Girtin, Liversedge, and Bonnington, by in- 
flammation in the eyes, and ill health. He died at 
the early age of thirty-three, and a memoir of him 
appeared in ' The Art Journal' of March, 1843. 
The determination of Charlotte and Branwell to 
take, as it were, the Temple of Art by forcible 
possession, was, it may be conceived, due also, 
in r some measure, to the growing celebrity of 
Leylaiid ; for, in literature and art, Halifax was 
nearer to the Brontes than any of the surrounding 
towns. The praise of Ley land's works, moreover,, 
had been re-published from the London press in 
all the papers of his native county, and poetic 
eulogies appeared in the 'Leeds Intelligencer' 
and in the 'Leeds Mercury;' and, therefore, that 



THEIR ART-AIMS. 135 

they were eager to emulate his works and to 
equal his success seems very probable. 

I have felt it necessary to mention these 
influences, as they alone serve to explain how it 
was that Branwell and his sister were led to 
think of, and as regards the brother to persist 
for a time in making a profession of painting for 
which they had no special aptitude. Branwell, 
in fact, designed to become himself a portrait- 
painter, and he conceived that a course of 
instruction at the Royal Academy afforded the 
best means of preparation for that profession. 

Being gifted with a keen and distinct obser- 
vation, combined with the faculty of retaining 
impressions once formed, and being an excellent 
draughtsman, he could with ease produce admir- 
able representations of the persons he portrayed 
on canvas. But it is quite clear that he never 
had been instructed either in the right mode of 
mixing his pigments, or how to use them when 
properly prepared, or, perhaps, he had not been 
an apt scholar. He was, therefore, unable to 
obtain the necessary flesh tints, which require so 
much delicacy in handling, or the gradations of 



136 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

light and shade so requisite in the painting of a 
good portrait or picture, Had Branwell possessed 
this knowledge, the portraits he painted would 
have been valuable works from his hand ; but 
the colours he used have all but vanished, and 
scarcely any tint, beyond that of the boiled oil 
with which they appear to have been mixed, 
remains. Yet, even if Branwell had been for- 
tunate in his work, he would only have attained 
the position, probably, of a moderate portrait- 
painter. His ambition, however, took a higher 
range, and he prepared himself for the venture, 
hoping that the desiderata which Haworth could 
not supply would be amply provided for him in 
London, when the long-desired opportunity 
arrived. 

At Haworth he had been industrious, for he 
had painted some portraits of the members of his 
family, and of several friends. One of these is 
well described by Mrs. Gaskell, and her account 
is worth giving here : ' It was a group of his 
sisters, life-size, three-quarters length . . . the 
likenesses were, I should think, admirable. I 
only judge of the fidelity with which the other 
two were depicted, from the striking resemblance 



THEIR ART-AIMS. 137 

which Charlotte, upholding the great frame of 
canvas, and consequently standing right behind 
it, bore to her own representation, though, it 
must have been ten years and more since the 
portraits were taken. The picture was divided, 
almost in the middle, by a great pillar. On the 
side of the column which was lighted by the 
sun stood Charlotte, in the womanly dress of 
that day of gigot sleeves and large collars. On 
the deeply shadowed side was Emily, with 
Anne's gentle face resting oil her shoulder. 
Emily's countenance struck me as full of power ; 
Charlotte's of solicitude; Anne's of tenderness. 
The two younger seemed hardly to have attained 
their full growth, though Emily was taller than 
Charlotte ; they had cropped hair and a more 
girlish dress. I remember looking on these two 
sad, earnest, shadowed faces, and wondering 
whether I could trace the mysterious expression 
which is said to foretell an early death. I had 
some fond superstitious hope that the column 
divided their fate from hers who stood apart in 
the canvas, as in life she survived. I liked to 
see that the bright side of the pillar was towards 
Jier that the light in the picture fell on her. I 



138 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

might more truly have sought in her presentment 
nay, in her living face for the sign of death 
in her prime.' 1 

From Mrs. Gaskell's description of this one 
picture, it is apparent that Branwell possessed, 
not only the faculty, as we have seen, of obtain- 
ing excellent portraits, but that he had the 
ability to impress the faces of his sisters with 
thought, intelligence, and sensibility ; and to 
invest them with the habitual expressions they 
wore, of power, solicitude, and tenderness. The 
deep reflection which Branwell bestowed on this 
picture, and the care he lavished on its mysterious 
composition, show unquestionably the aptitude 
and capacity of his own mind, which enabled 
him to obtain these essential expressions ; and it 
is evident that his peculiarity of thought invested 
his picture with that sadness and gloom which, 
in after times, tinctured the poems he wrote 
under the solemn-sounding pseudonym of 
' Northangerland.' This picture is only one 
among many others he painted in preparing 
himself for his intended studies at the Royal 
Academy ; and the old nurse, Nancy Garrs, tells- 
1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. vii. 



THEIR ART-AIMS. 

me that he often wanted to paint her portrait, 
but she told him that she did not think herself 
' good-looking* enough.' 

At a later date Branwell related to Mr. George 
Searle Phillips the story of his artistic hopes. 1 
He spoke of the great fondness for drawing 
manifested by the whole family ; and declared 
that Charlotte, especially, was well read in art- 
learning, and knew the lives of the old masters, 
whose works she criticized with discrimination 
and judgment. But he said that she had ruined 
her eyesight by making minute copies of line- 
engravings, on one of which she was occupied 
six mouths. He also spoke of his own passionate 
love of art, and of the bright and confident 
anticipations with which he had looked forward 
to his projected studies at the Royal Academy, 
which had been the cherished hope of his family 
and himself. 

Leylaud had visited London in the December 
of 1833, when he obtained from Stotbard a letter 
of introduction to Ottley, the curator of the 
Elgin Marbles, to allow him to study the marbles 
in the British Museum. Permission was readily 
1 ' The Mirror,' 187 



140 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

granted, and the sculptor availed himself of it. 
A year later Leyland took up his residence in 
the metropolis. He was received in a friendly 
manner by Chantrey and Westmacott, the latter 
inviting him to dinner, and afterwards showing 
him his foundry at Pimlico, and his works in 
progress, among which was the statue of the 
Duke of York. He was also introduced to, and 
enjoyed the friendship of Nasmyth the father 
of the eminent engineer whose story has recent- 
ly been given to the world and of Varley : one 
a landscape-painter of celebrity, and the other 
famed as an artist in water-colour. The latter, 
who had considerable faith in astrology, per- 
sisted in drawing the younger sculptor's horo- 
scope. Among others, he became known to 
Haydon, under whom he subsequently studied 
anatomy. This lamented artist was a genuine 
friend, and it was under his instructions that 
Leyland perfected his natural perception of the 
grand and beautiful in art. While here he 
modelled, in life-size, a figure of ' Kilmeny,' in 
illustration of the passage in Hogg's ' Queen's 
Wake,' where the sinless maiden is awakened 
by Elfin music in fairy-land. It was a success- 



THEIK ART-AIMS. 141 

ful work, and was favourably noticed by the 
critics. It was subsequently purchased for the 
Literary and Philosophical Society of his native 
town. 

It was while Leyland was in the metropolis- 
that Charlotte wrote, on the 6th July, 1835 : 

* We are all about to divide, break up, separ- 
ate. Emily is going to school, Branwell is 
going to London, and I am going to be a 
governess. This last determination I formed 
myself, knowing that I should have to take the 
step sometime, "and better sune as syne," to 
use the Scotch proverb ; and knowing well that 
papa would have enough to do with his limited 
income, should Branwell be placed at the Royal 
Academy, and Emily at Roe Head.' 

While this project was warmly engaging the 
attention of the Bronte family, Leyland was 
living in London, at the house of Mr. Geller, 
a mezzotiuto engraver, who was a native of 
Bradford ; and, at the time, the sculptor model- 
led a group of three figures illustrative of a 
passage in Maturin's tragedy of 'Bertram,' which 
represented the warrior listening to the prior 
reading. The work was engraved by Geller. 



142 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

This group was said to be conceived in the 
< true spirit of Maturin,' and met with the favour- 
able notice of the London periodicals of the 
year 1835, the year of Branwell's visit to the 
metropolis. The reviews were also re-produced 
in most of the Yorkshire papers. 

The design of putting Branwell forward as 
an artist, arid of giving him the opportunity and 
the means of beginning and continuing his 
studies, where he might be imbued with the 
spirit of the great sculptors and painters who 
have left imperishable names, and whose works 
are stored in the public art-galleries of London, 
had at last been determined upon. The sacri- 
fices the Bronte family were prepared to make 
in order to secure this object require but a 
passing notice here. Branwell was a treasured 
brother ; and they would feel, no doubt, a 
sincere happiness in promoting his interests, 
in furthering his views, and in bringing his 
artistic abilities before the world. It would, 
however, seem scarcely possible that the dif- 
ficulties attending Branwell's admission as a 
student at the Royal Academy had been duly 
considered. He could not be admitted without 



THEIR ART-AIMS. 143 

n preliminary examination of his drawings from 
the antique and the skeleton, to ascertain if 
his ability as a draughtsman was of such an 
order as would qualify him for studentship ; 
and, if successful in this, he would be re- 
quired to undergo a regular course of educa- 
tion, and to pass through the various schools 
where professors and academicians attended to 
give instruction. No doubt it was wished that 
Branwell should have a regular and prolonged 
preparation for his professional artistic career; but 
it would have lasted for years, and the pecuni- 
ary strain consequent upon it would, per- 
haps, have been severely felt, even if Branwell's 
genius had justified the outlay. But there is 
no evidence that he ever subjected himself to 
the preliminary test, or made an application 
even to be admitted as a probationer. 

It would seem that, so far as Mr. Bronte was 
concerned, his promotion of the wishes of his 
children arose rather from a desire to gratify 
them. It does not appear that he had any over- 
sanguine expectation that Branwell could carry 
out his ardent intention of becoming an artist. 
Mr. Bronte's own wish was, indeed, that his son 



144 THE BROXTii FAMILY. 

should adopt his profession, but the mercurial 
youth was probably little attracted by the func- 
tions of the clergyman's office. 

To London Brauwell, however, went, where,, 
without doubt, his object was to draw from the 
Elgin Marbles, and to study the pictures at the 
Royal Academy and other galleries, with a per- 
fectly honest intention. Whatever impression 
he may have received of his own powers as an 
artist, when he saw those of the great painters of 
the time, we have no certain knowledge ; but it 
does not exceed belief that he was discouraged 
when he looked upon the brilliant chef d'ceuvresof 
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough, Sir Thomas 
Lawrence, and others; and that, when he 
reflected on the immeasurable distance between 
his own works and theirs, his hopes of a brilliant 
artistic career were partially dissipated. Whether 
it was due to these circumstances, or that he had 
become more fully aware of the early struggles 
that meet all who attempt art as a profession, or 
that his courage failed him at the contemplation 
of the unhappy lot which falls to those who, 
either from lack of talent or through misfortune, 
fail to make their mark in the artistic world ; or 



THEIR ART- AIMS. . 145 

whether it was because his father was unable to 
support him in London during the years of 
preparation and study for the professional career, 
the requirements of which had not been 
sufficiently considered, is not now accurately 
known. Branwell, during his short stay in 
London, visited most of the public institutions ; 
and, among other places, Westminster Abbey, 
the western faade of which he some time after- 
wards sketched from memory with an accuracy 
that astonished his acquaintance, Mr. Grundy. 

Before he left the metropolis, Branwell could 
not resist a visit to the Castle Tavern, Holborn, 
then kept by the veteran prize-fighter, Tom 
Spring, a place frequented by the principal 
sporting characters of the time. A gentleman 
named Woolven, who was present through the 
same curiosity which led Branwell there, noticed 
the young man, whose unusual flow of language 
and strength of memory had so attracted the 
attention of the spectators that they had made 
him umpire in some dispute arising about the 
dates of certain celebrated battles. Brauwell 
and he became personal friends in after years. 
Brauwell returned to the parsonage a wiser 
VOL. I. L 



146 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

man. His disappointment that he was not to do 
as others were doing, whom he wished to emu- 
late, was very great, but he was not yet finally 
discouraged. We shall see subsequently to what 
purpose Bran well put his artistic 'knowledge. 
The failure of the hopes regarding his academical 
career in art was keenly felt by his family. It 
was grievous as it was humiliating, but it was 
borne with exemplary patience and resignation. 
"When these painful experiences had impressed 
the Bronte sisters with the hopelessness of high 
artistic study for Branwell, and when their eyes 
were opened to the consciousness that their large 
gifts did not include art, Charlotte wrote, in her 
novel of ' Villette,' under the character of Lucy 
Snowe: 'I sat bent over my desk, drawing 
that is, copying an elaborate line-engraving, 
tediously working up my copy to the finish of 
the original, for that was my practical notion of 
art; and, strange to say, I took extreme pleasure 
in the labour, and could even produce curiously 
finished fac-similes of steel or mezzotinto plates 
things about as valuable as so many achieve- 
ments in worsted work, but I thought pretty 
well of them in those davs.' 



147 



CHAPTER IX. 

CHARLOTTE AT ROE HEAD. 

Charlotte returns as a Teacher, with Emily as a Pupil, to Roe 
Head Their Determination to Maintain themselves 
Charlotte's Fears respecting Emily Charlotte's re- 
ligious Melancholy Accuses herself of Flippancy 
She is on the Borders of Despair Anxiety to Know 
More of the World Emily at Law Hill, Halifax, as a 

, Teacher Charlotte's Excitability She returns Home 
out of Health. 

' WE are all about to divide, break up, separate,' 
Charlotte said, when conveying to her friend the 
news of the Academy project, and of her deter- 
mination to enter upon life as a governess. If 
BranwelTs ambition had encouraged her own, its 
failure made no change in her plans. She was 
* sad,' she says, ' very sad,' at the thoughts of 
leaving home ; yet she was going back to the 
school of Miss Wooler, whom she both loved and 

L2 



148 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

respected, to live at Roe Head, this time to teach r 
it is true, instead of to be taught. But her 
sister Emily was to accompany her, as a pupil of 
the school, and that they would be together was 
a consolation to both sisters; and Charlotte, too, 
would be near the homes of the friends she had 
made when she was herself a pupil there. It was 
a pleasure to think she would be able to see 
them sometimes. 

At the end of July, then, the two proceeded 
to Roe Head. This was the first of those adven- 
turous moves which the sisters, from time to 
time, made. One of the strongest features, in- 
deed, in their lives is the persistency with which 
they essayed to maintain themselves, even when 
no apparently pressing necessity impelled them. 
Yet we may not doubt that one sad reflection 
sometimes moved them, and it was that their 
father's stipend ceased with his life; that they had 
no other resource beyond their own endeavours ; 
and that, such was the uncertainty -of all human 
concerns, they might at any moment be deprived 
of home, support, and shelter. It behoved them 
then to secure by their personal energies, while 
they were able, the very means of subsistence. 



CHARLOTTE AT ROE HEAD. 149 

When Mr. Bronte saw his young family around 
him, and when he enjoyed the comfort of his 
hearth, the contingency of his death, and the 
consequent helplessness of his children, often 
struck him with apprehension and sadness. But 
he had the alleviation that they inherited, in 
a marked degree, his own adventurous and 
energetic disposition, whose successful career 
Avas always before them as an example and 
incentive to honourable endeavour. 

Mr. Bronte looked back with just satisfaction 
on the early sacrifices he had made to advance 
himself in the world. His children were familiar 
with the story of his exertions. They, however, 
with far higher talents, were not possessed of 
the physical strength and powers of endurance 
which had aided his progress; and Charlotte 
and Emily, when any unusual strain was cast 
upon them, soon felt their strength exhausted, 
and they suffered depression of spirits as the 
consequence. Home-sickness was the great 
trouble of the younger sister, and, before she 
had been long at school, Emily grew pale and ill. 
Charlotte felt in her heart that, if she remained, 
.she would die ; and, at the end of three months, 



150 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

she returned to Haworth, where, alone among 
the moors, with all the wild things of nature, 
which had inspired so deep an interest in her 
feelings, she could be contented. But the 
youngest sister, Anne, came to Roe Head in 
her place, and she and Charlotte seem to have 
been very happy there for some time ; but a tend- 
ency to religious melancholy had been developing 
in the elder sister's mind, imperceptibly, out of 
her deep religious feeling, and it increased upon 
her. 

So early as the letter to E,' July 6th, 1835, 
she had spoken of ' duty, necessity, these are 
stern mistresses,' as controlling her action in 
seeking; a situation. Her friend Mary went to 

/ 

see her, and in her letter to Mrs. Gaskell she 
says : ' I asked her how she could give so much 
for so little money, when she could live without 
it. She owned that, after clothing herself and 
Anne, there was nothing left, though she had 
hoped to be able to save something. She con- 
fessed it was not brilliant, but what could she 
do ? I had nothing to answer. She seemed 
to have no interest or pleasure beyond the 
feeling of duty, and, when she could get, used 



CHARLOTTE AT ROE HEAD. 151 

to sit alone and "make out." She told me 
afterwards, that one evening she had sat in 
the dressing-room until it was quite dark, and 
then, observing it all at once, had taken sudden 
fright.' Some relaxation was gained by the 
Midsummer holidays of the year 1830. All the 
family were at home, and their friend ' E ' visited 
them, so that a pleasant period of mental diver- 
sion was secured. But, after her return to her 
school, despondency came upon her again, and 
crowded her thoughts ; and she wrote respecting 
her feelings in religious concerns : ' I do Avish 
to be better than I am. I pray fervently some- 
times to be made so. I have stings of con- 
science, visitings of remorse, glimpses of holy, 
of inexpressible things, which formerly I used 
to be a stranger to ; it may all die away, and 
I may be in utter midnight, but I implore a 
merciful Redeemer, that, if this be the dawn 
of the Gospel, it may still brighten to perfect 
day. Do not mistake me do not think I am 
good ; I only wish to be so. I only hate my 
former flippancy and forwardness. Oh ! I arn 
no better than ever I was. I am in that state 
of horrid, gloomy uncertainty that, at this mo- 



152 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

ment, I would submit to be old, grey-haired, to 
have passed all my youthful days of enjoyment, 
arid to be settling on the verge of the grave, 
if I could only thereby insure the prospect of 
reconciliation to God, and a redemption through 
His Son's merits. I never was exactly careless 
of these matters, but I have always taken a 
clouded and repulsive view of them ; and now, 
if possible, the clouds are gathering darker, and 
a more oppressive despondency weighs on my 
spirits. You have cheered me, my darling ; for 
one moment, for an atom of time, I thought I 
might call you my own sister in the spirit ; but 
the excitement is past, and I am now as wretch- 
ed and hopeless as ever.' 

Let us not uuder-estimate the mental suffer- 
ing which could dictate this confession. Hap- 
pily, this was not constantly present, nor her feel- 
ings always so acutely wrought upon. Even in 
the same letter from which the above is taken, 
she wishes her friends should know the thrill of 
delight which she experienced when she saw 
the packet of her friend thrown over the wall 
by the bearer, passing in his gig to Hudders- 
field Market. She persevered in her place, the 



CHARLOTTE AT ROE HEAD. 153 

whole tendency of her exaggerated reasoning 
forbidding her to seek that ease and relaxation 
which she needed so much ; but she was not 
incapacitated for her duties, and probably her 
family were quite unaware of her troubles : so 
she remained. 

Brauwell and Emily were resolved not to be 
behind their sister in their endeavours, and they 
were full of anxiety to know more of the world 
than they could meet with at Haworth. Emily 
obtained a similar situation to Charlotte's, in a 
large school at Law Hill, near Halifax, where 
she found her duties far from light. Her ex- 
treme reserve with strangers is remembered by 
one who knew her there, but she was not at all 
of an unkindly nature ; on the contrary, her 
disposition was generous and considerate to 
those with whom she was on familiar terms: 
her stay at Law Hill terminated at the end 
of six months. The place of her sojourn is 
a lofty elevation, overlooking Halifax. Emily 
would find the situation of the school agreeable 
to her taste, and to her delight in the weird 
and grand as presented by the solemn heath- 
grown heights of the West Riding: besides, 



154 THE BROXTii FAMILY. 

the air was as pure as that of Haworth, and 
Law Hill commanded finer views, among which 
the range of Oxenhope moors, in her father's 
chapelry, was visible. In the other direction,, 
she could overlook the more cultivated district 
of Hartshead and Kirldees, and could see Roe 
Head, where her sisters Charlotte and Anne 
resided. Branwell also, emulating his sisters, 
obtained the situation of usher in the locality, 
which he retained for a few months. 

Some adventures with their literary produc- 
tions interested them at the close of this year, 
of which I shall have further to speak. Miss 
Wooler's removal of her school to Dewsbury 
Moor was, in some respects, unfortunate for the 
sisters, as the situation was less healthy than 
the former one, and, when Charlotte and Anne 
returned home at Christmas, in the year 1837 r 
neither was well. Charlotte's nerves were over- 
strung, and Anne was suffering from chest 
affections, which conjured up anew their recol- 
lection of the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth 
from consumption. To add to their troubles, 
Tabby fell on the ice in the lane, and fractured 



CHARLOTTE AT ROE HEAD. 155 

her leg. The consequence of this was, that 
they had to forego the expected pleasure of 
a visit from their friend ' E,' through their at- 
tendance on the old servant, whom they were 
unwilling should be removed to her friends, how- 
ever desirable this might be on many grounds. 
They even went so far as to refuse to eat at 
all, till their aunt, who had arranged the mat- 
ter to the satisfaction of all concerned, except her 
nieces, should give up her intention of removing 
Tabby. They succeeded, and Tabby remained at 
the parsonage, where in time she became con- 
valescent, and Charlotte was enabled to visit her 
friends before she resumed her occupation. 

Charlotte again returned to her accustomed 
duties, her nervousness increasing, not the less ; 
and Mrs. Gaskell says : * About this time she 
would turn sick and trembling at any sudden 
noise, and could hardly repress her screams 
when startled.' Through Miss Wooler's ur- 
gency, she was induced to consult a medical 
man, who advised her immediate return to 
Haworth, where quiet and rest had become 
for her imperatively necessary. Then her father 



156 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

sought for her the companionship of her two 

friends, Maiy and Martha T , than whose 

society Charlotte had never known a more rous- 
ing pleasure. They came to stay at the par- 
sonage, and their cheerful converse and agree- 
able manners greatly improved Charlotte's 
health and spirits. We obtain an interesting 
picture of the young party in the following 
letter that Charlotte addressed to her friend 
* E,' which Mrs. Gaskell has published : 

' Ha worth, 

' June 9th, 1838. 

' I received your packet of despatches on 
Wednesday; it was brought me by Mary and 
Martha, who have been staying at Haworth 
for a few days; they leave us to-day. You 
will be surprised at the date of this letter. 
I ought to be at Dewsbury Moor, you know ; 
but I stayed as long as I was able, and at 
length I neither could nor dared stay any 
longer. My health and spirits had utterly 
failed me, and the medical man whom I con- 
sulted enjoined me, as I valued my life, to 
go home. So home I went, and the change 



CHARLOTTE AT ROE HEAD. 157 

has at once roused and soothed me. I am 
now, I trust, fairly in the way to be myself 
again. 

'A calm and even mind like yours cannot 
conceive the feelings of the shattered wretch 
who is now writing to you, when, after weeks 
of mental and bodily anguish not to be describ- 
ed, something like peace began to dawn again. 
Mary is far from well. She breathes short, has 
a pain in her chest, and frequent flushings of 
fever. I cannot tell you what agony these 
symptoms give me ; they remind me so strong- 
ly of my two sisters, whom no power of medicine 
could save. Martha is now very well ; she has 
kept in a continual flow of good humour during 
her stay here, and has consequently been very 
fascinating . . . 

' They are making such a noise about me, I 
cannot write any more. Mary is playing on 
the piano ; Martha is chattering as fast as her 
little tongue can run ; and Branwell is standing 
before her, laughing at her vivacity/ 

Branwell, in these days, was well enough, 
and could be lively enough, when occasion 



1 58 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

-served. He had his hopes, his enthusiasm yet : 
but, in after years, he was to fall into a yet 
deeper and more serious depression than that 
through which Charlotte had passed. 



159 



CHAPTER X. 

ERANWELL BRONTE AND HIS SISTERS'. BIOGRAPHERS. 

The Light in which Biographers have regarded Branwell 
Bibliography Mrs. Gaskell The Causeswhichledher 
into Error Resentment of Branwell's Friends Mr. 
George Searle Phillips Branwell as Depicted by Mr.T. 
Wemyss Reid Mr. F. II. Grundy's Notice of Branwell 
Miss A. Mary F. Robinson's Portrait of Branwell. 

IT will be well here before we reach the periods 
of Branwell's life that have been misunderstood 
to pause, in our sketch of the Bronte family, in 
order to consider certain circumstances regarding 
him, which it will bo impossible for any future 
writer on the Brontes to disregard. It is 
especially necessary to consider them in a book 
which while dealing with the Bronte sisters, 
their lives and their works proposes, as a special 
aim, to make Branwell's position clear. When 



ItIO THE BROXTii FAMILY. 

Derwent Coleridge wrote the short biography of 
his father, which is prefixed to the poet's works,, 
he approached the subject in a somewhat regret- 
ful way, asking if the public has a right to 
inquire as to that part of a poet's life which does 
not influence his fellow-men after death, and 
declaring that the privacy of the dead is sacred. 
He felt too keenly that the sanctity of Cole- 
ridge's life had been broken in upon by those 
who lacked both accurate knowledge and just 
discretion. It is a source of sincere regret to the 
writer of this volume that he, too, is compelled 
by circumstances to treat a part of his work 
almost in a deprecatory spirit, and sometimes to 
assume the position of defence. For, if the 
failings of Coleridge have been discovered and 
fed upon by those whose curiosity leads them to 
delight in such things, what shall we say of 
Patrick Bran well Bronte, whose misdeeds have 
not only been sought out with a persistency 
worthy of a better cause, but have also been 
exaggerated and misrepresented to a great 
degree, and whose whole life, moreover, has 
been contorted by writers who have endeavoured 
to find in it some evidence for their own 



THEIR BIOGRAPHERS. 161 

hypotheses V It has beeii the misfortune of 
Brauwell that his life has, to some extent, been 
already several times written by those who have 
had some other object in view, and who, conse- 
quently, have not been studious to acquire a 
correct view of the circumstances of it. These 
writers, it will be seen, have therefore, perhaps 
unavoidably, fallen into many grievous errors 
regarding him, so that his name, at this day, has 
come to be held up as a reproach and even as a 
token of ignominy. If it be remembered that 
Mrs. Gaskell, in her * Life of Charlotte Bronte,' 
describes him as a drunkard and an opium-eater, 
as one who rendered miserable the lives of his 
sisters, and might very well have shot his father; 
that Mr. T. WemyssReid,in his 'Charlotte Bronte, 
a Monograph,' has spoken of him as ' this lost 
and degraded man ;' that Miss Robinson, in her 
'Emily Bronte,' has called him a 'poor, half- 
demented lonely creature,' and has moralized 
upon his 'vulgar weakness,' his 'corrupt and 
loathsome sentimentality,' and his ' maudlin 
Micawber penitence ;' and lastly that Mr. Swin- 
burne, in a notice of the last-named work in the 
' Athenteum,' has said, ' of that lamentable and 
VOL. I. M 



162 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

contemptible caitiff contemptible not so much 
for his common-place debauchery as for his 
abject selfishness, his lying pretension, and his 
nerveless cowardice there is far too much in 
this memoir;' it may well appear that we have 
here a strange subject for a biography. 

But, since the publication of Miss Robinson's 
< Emily Bronte,' in which Bran well is specially 
degraded, it has been felt by many admirers of 
the Brontes that it was desirable his life should 
be treated independently of the theories and 
necessities of his sisters' biographers, and in a 
spirit not unfriendly to him ; for there are many 
people who believe that Brauwell's genius has 
never been sufficiently recognized, and there 
are a few who know that, notwithstanding 
his many failings and misdeeds, the charges 
made against him are, not a few of them, wholly 
untrue, while many more are grossly exaggerated, 
and that his disposition and character have been 
wholly misrepresented. Having in my possession 
many of his letters and poems, and having been 
personally acquainted with him, I have under- 
taken the task of telling the story of his life in 
connection with the lives of his sisters, for I think 



THEIR BIOGRAPHERS. H'3 

that there is much in his strange and sad history 
that ought to be known, while sufficient evidence 
exists of his mental power to prove that he was 
a worthy member of the intellectual family to 
which he belonged. It may not be amiss here, 
in order to illustrate circumstances that will be 
alluded to in parts of this work, to touch slightly 
upon the bibliography of Branwell's life, and 
endeavour to discover the causes which have 
contributed to the ill-repute in which he is 
generally held. 

Mrs. Gaskell, who became acquainted with 
Charlotte Bronte after the deaths of her brother 
and sisters, when all that was most sorrowful in 
her life had been enacted, saw, or thought she 
saw, in her the evidences of a deep dejection, 
the result of a life passed under circumstances of 
misery and depression. In her 'Life of Charlotte 
Bronte,' this writer's endeavour to trace the suc- 
cessive influences of the trials of Charlotte's life 
upon her, and to find in them the explanation of 
what was, perhaps, in some measure, an idiosyn- 
crasy of character, has led her, in the strength of 
her own preconception, to interpret many circum- 
stances to the attestation of her theory. Such, 

M 2 



164 THE BROXTE FAMILY. 

at all events, is the explanation which Mr. T. 
Weymss Keid has offered, in his ' Charlotte Bronte, 
a Monograph,' of the partial manner in which Mrs. 
Gaskell has dealt with certain of Miss Bronte's 
letters. If we conceive Mrs. Gaskell writing 
with this preconception, tending to give undue 
weight to all that was unhappy in the history of 
her heroine, we need feel little surprise that her 
account of the lives of the Brontes is too often a 
gloomy one, that their isolation at Ha worth,, 
their poverty, and their struggles have been 
exaggerated, or that, in order to throw in a 
sombre background to her picture, she was 
unduly credulous in listening to those imfounded 
stories with which she made Mr. Bronte to 
appear, in act, at least, diabolical, and which have- 
helped to depict the career of Patrick Branwell 
Bronte in such dark and tragic colours. She had 
heard at Ha worth the story of his disgrace, his 
subsequent intemperance, and his death. Herein 
she believed was the great sorrow of the sisters r 
minds, the care which had induced a morbid 
peculiarity in their writings, and cast a shadow 
upon their lives. Mrs. Gaskell seems to have 
thought it devolved upon her, not merely to 



THEIR BIOGRAPHERS. 165 

picture beginnings of evil in the brother, and 
trace them to his ruin ; but, also, to punish the 
lady whom she held responsible for what has 
been termed ' BranwelFs fall.' To this end she 
thought it right to lay at the lady's door, in part, 
the premature deaths of the sisters; and, in sus- 
taining the idea that the effect on them of the 
brother's disgrace was what she believed it to 
be, she was led to employ partial versions of the 
letters, and exaggerate the whole course of 
Branwell's conduct. Her book was read with 
-astonishment by those whose characters were 
made to suffer by it, and she was obliged, in 
later editions, to omit the charges against the 
lady ; and also those against Mr. Bronte. But 
Mrs. Gaskell still maintained that, whatever the 
cause, the effect was the same. 

It was not believed at the time, by some, that, 
because Mrs. Gaskeli had been obliged to with- 
draw the statements complained of, in the later 
editions of her work, they were necessarily 
untrue. Mr. Thackeray had said that the life 
was 'necessarily incomplete, though most touch- 
ing and admirable,' and the original edition was 
still in circulation, and was pirated abroad. 



166 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

The friends of Branwell Bronte, those who 
from actual acquaintance knew his mental power 
and real disposition, resented greatly the wrong 
that had been done to his memory ; and several 
representations were made in his favour. One 
of these was in an article entitled : ' A Winter's- 
Day at Haworth,' published in ' Chambers'^ 
Journal/ 1869. Mr. George Searle Phillips, in 
the ' Mirror/ of 1872, also published some valu- 
able reminiscences which tended to show Bran- 
well's true elevation of character and gentleness 
of disposition. 

The publication of Mr. Wemyss Reid's ' Char- 
lotte Bronte, a Monograph/ in the year 1877, 
while it called attention to the original view of 
Branw ell's life and character, did not aim to 
remove it. Mr. Reid repudiated, with success, the 
idea that the effect of Branwell's career upon 
Charlotte and Emily was what Mrs. Gaskell 
represented it to have been, without expressing 
any dissent from the story itself. This writer 
does not, indeed, appear to have suspected that 
the explanation was to be found in the fact that 
Branwell was not so bad as he had been made 
to appear, or that Mrs. Gaskell had fallen 'into- 



THEIR BIOGRAPHERS. Ki7 

other errors besides those of the letters which 
he corrected. But, though Mr. Reid carefully 
avoided the reproduction of the details of Mrs. 
Gaskell's account of Branwell's life, what 
reference is made to him in the ' Monograph/ 
after the period of his youth, is always in terms 
of reprobation, which have done nothing to dis- 
courage belief in the suppressed scandal. More- 
over, Mr. Reid revived some of the charges 
against Mr. Bronte, and painted a sinister portrait 
of him. 

It was under these circumstances that Mr. F. 
H. Grundy, C.E., another friend of Branwell's, 
in his ' Pictures of the Past ' (1879), endeavour- 
ed to do some justice to his memory, and de- 
clared, notwithstanding his great failings, that 
his abilities were of a very high order, and his 
disposition one that should be admired. I have 
found Mr. Grundy's materials of use in this 
work. But, unfortunately, this friend of Bran- 
well's wrote from recollection, and made sucli 
great mistakes in the chronology of his life that 
his account did not give a true interpretation 
of actual circumstances. Mr. Grundy, too, had 
evidently refreshed his memory with a perusal 



168 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

of Mrs. Gaskell's volume, and so his information 
was considerably tinctured with that writer's 
misconceptions. This notice had the very op- 
posite effect to that which was intended, and 
has since been largely used by writers whose 
purpose has led them to rank Branwell with the 
fallen. 

In Miss Robinson's recently published ' Emily 
Bronte,' the scandal of Branwell's life, which 
Mrs. Gaskell laid before the reading world, has 
been reproduced, and her evil report of his 
character greatly increased. ' Why,' it might 
well be asked, ' should it be necessary to pub- 
lish the records of a brother's misdeeds as a 
conspicuous feature in a sister's memoir? 
Why revive a scandal that has been so long 
suppressed?' Miss Robinson has, indeed, given 
her reason, in that Branwell's sins had so large 
a share in determining the bent of his sister's 
genius, that 'to have passed them by would 
have been to ignore the shock which turned 
the fantasy of the "poems" into the tragedy 
of " Wuthering Heights,"' and here, probably, is 
the only adequate purpose that could have 
been found in doing so ; but it is scarcely suf- 



THEIR BIOGRAPHERS. 169 

ficient to explain why Miss Robinson Las, almost 
from her first mention of Branwell Bronte to 
her remarks on his death, treated every act 
of his life with contumely, censure, and con- 
tempt, or that she has, in opposition to every 
previous opinion, represented his abilities as 
almost void. While Mr. Reid suggested that 
Emily Bronte, in writing her novel, must have 
obtained some of her impressions from her bro- 
ther's conduct, Mr. Grundy had made a state- 
ment tending to show that Branwell had written 
a portion of the story himself. If Branwell's 
abilities were no better than Miss Robinson says 
they were, she has disposed of Mr. Grundy's 
assertion at once; but not the less does she 
employ other reasons for that end, and the 
degradation she has thought it necessary to 
show in Branwell, answers quite as much to 
prove the impossibility of his having written 
the work, as to picture the cause of brooding 
in Emily, under which she produced the tragedy 
of ' Wuthering Heights.' 

With views similar to those with which Mrs. 
Gaskell wrote, Miss Robinson, in following the 
biographer of Charlotte, has fallen into the same 



170 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

errors. In order to make it clear that the part 
Bvanwell had in the production of ' Wutheriug 
Heights,' by his sister, was subjective, this 
writer has found it necessary to show in his 
life much of what is worst in the characters of 
the story. So completely has Miss Robinson 
carried out this portion of her work, that Mr. 
Swinburne was led to say, in his notice of it, 
that ' Emily Bronte's tenderness for the lower 

animals was so vast as to include 

even her own miserable brother.' 1 But Miss 
Eobinson has not succeeded so far without 
much unfairness to the victim of her theory, 
in omissions and errors of fact. I shall have 
occasion to treat at some length, later, Bran- 
well's relationship both to ' Wuthering Heights f 
and ' The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.' 

1 hope, indeed, to be able to prove that Bran- 
well was (as all who personally knew him aver him 
to have been) a man of great and powerful in- 
tellectual gifts, to relieve his memory of much 
of the obloquy that has been heaped upon it r 
and to clearly show the remarkable individu- 
ality of his character. I shall find it necessary,. 
1 'Athenaeum,' June ICth, 1883, p. 7G2. 



THEIR BIOGRAPHERS. 171 

in doing so, to take exception to the portions 
of Mrs. Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte * 
which deal with her brother, as to some extent 
I had to do to those which refer to Mr. Bronte. 
More especially, however, will it be necessary 
to deal with the fuller statements in the first 
edition of the work, and with their repetition and 
amplification in the more recent volumes of 
Mr. Reid and Miss Robinson. 

I have thought it necessary to introduce these 
remarks in this place, in order that the reader, 
when he comes to the consideration of certain 
statements made by previous writers concerning 
Branwell, and his relationship with his sisters, 
may have a clear understanding of the views 
with which the works containing these state- 
ments have been written. 



172 



CHAPTER XI. 

BRANWELL AT BRADFORD. 

Branwell becomes a Freemason His love of Art undi- 
minished Has Instruction in Oil-Painting Com- 
mences Portrait-Painting at Bradford His Com- 
missions His Letter to Mr. Thompson, the Artist 
Miss Robinson's Charges of Misconduct Her Er- 
roneous Statements Branwell's true Character and 
Conduct at Bradford Remarks on his alleged Opium- 
eating there. 

WHEN Branwell returned from London it was 
not without sin cere satisfaction that his acquain- 
tances welcomed their gifted and versatile friend 
back to Haworth, certain of whom induced him 
to become a freemason. Thus Branwell was 
brought into closer connection with the convivial 
circles of the village. 

There was held at Haworth, at the time, 
' The Lodge of the Three Graces.' In this 



BRANWELL AT BRADFORD. 

lodge Branwell was proposed as a brother, 
and accepted on the 1st of February, 1836, 
initiated February the 29th, passed March 
the 28th, and raised April the 25th of that 
year, John Brown being the 'Worshipful Master/ 
Branwell was present at eleven meetings in 
1836, the minutes of one of these Septem- 
ber the 18th being fully entered by him. 
On December the 20th of the same year, he 
fulfilled the duties of 'Junior Warden ;' and, at 
seven meetings of the lodge, from January 
the 16th to December the llth, 1&37, he was 
secretary, and entered the minutes. He also, 
on Christmas Day of the same year, officiated 
as organist. 1 In addition to his duties in con- 
nection with the Masonic Lodge, he likewise 
undertook the secretaryship of the local Temper- 
ance Society, of which he was a member. 

Bran well's love of art had been too strong, 
and his interest in its practice too intense, to 
allow even such a check as that whicl^ his aspira- 
tions had received in the failure of the Academy 
project to finally discourage him. Hence it 
was, I suppose, when he had relinquished his 
1 Riley's ' History of the Airedale Lodge,' p. 48. 



174 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

place of usher that his passionate desire of 
becoming an artist, still cherished under dis- 
appointment, revived. He conceived, as the 
project of studying at the Royal Academy had 
not proved feasible, that, if he had a full course 
of instruction from Mr. Robinson, he could, in 
that way, qualify himself, perhaps as well, to 
adopt the profession of a portrait-painter, more 
valuable in those days, when photographers were 
not, than now ; and Mr. Bronte, leaning to his 
son's wish, was induced to sanction the proposal, 
as it might provide Branwell with an alterna- 
tive occupation to that of tutor, the only other 
that seemed open to him. 

Mr. Robinson's charge, on the few occasions 
of his lessons at Haworth parsonage, had been 
two guineas for each visit. But it was IIOAV 
arranged that Branwell should receive instruc- 
tion from the artist at his studio in Leeds. In 
this way he would not only have better oppor- 
tunities of acquiring the art, but the cost would 
be much less. For this purpose, he stayed at 
an inn in Briggate, but occasionally took his 
master's pictures to Haworth to copy. Under 
this kind of tuition he continued for some 



BRAN WELL AT BRADFORD. 175 

months, -when, having completed his studies, 
he resolved upon turning the instruction he 
had received, probably through the kindness 
of his aunt, to profitable account. With this 
professional intention, he engaged private apart- 
ments in Bradford, and took up his residence 
as a portrait-painter, under the interest of his 
mother's relative, the Rev. William Morgan, of 
Christ Church. Among others, he painted por- 
traits of this gentleman, and of the Rev. Henry- 
Heap, the vicar. For some months Branwell 
was successful in maintaining himself by these 
praiseworthy efforts ; but it was scarcely to 
be expected that he could succeed sufficiently 
well in competition with the older and more 
experienced artists of the neighbourhood. 

Among his other pictures, were portraits of 
Mrs. Kirby, his landlady, and her two children. 
One of these, a beautiful little girl, was his 
special favourite. At his frequent request, she 
dined with him in his private sitting-room, her 
pleasant smiles and cheerful prattling always 
charming him. 

It may be mentioned here that, when Bran- 
well had entered upon his studies under Mr. 



176 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Robinson, he formed an acquaintance with a 
fellow-student, Mr. J. H. Thompson, who was 
a portrait-painter at Bradford. A close friend- 
ship grew up between them ; and this artist,, 
being more experienced than Branwell, gave, 
now and then, finishing touches to the pro- 
ductions of his young friend. 

Soon after Branwell gave up his profession 
as an artist at Bradford, he wrote to Mr. 
Thompson, in reference to some misunderstand- 
ing which had arisen between himself and his 
landlady. The letter is dated from ' Ha worth, 
May the 17th, 1839.' 

DEAR SIR, 

' Your last has made me resolve on a 
visit to you at Bradford, for certainly this train 
of misconceptions and delays must at last be 
put a stop to. 

'I shall (Deo volente) be at the "Bull's 
Head" at two o'clock this afternoon (Friday), 
and do be there, or in Bradford, to give me 
your aid when I arrive ! 

* I am astonished at Mrs. Kirby. I have no 
pictures of hers to finish. But I said that, if I 



BRANWELL AT BRADFORD. 177 

returned there, I would varnish three for her ; 
and also I do not understand people who look 
on a kindness as a duty. 

' Once more my heartfelt thanks to you for 
your consideration for one who has none for 
himself. 

' Yours faithfully, 

' P. B. BRONTE/ 

Mrs. Kirby had not been quite satisfied with 
the pictures before-mentioned ; but, on hearing 
Mr. Thompson's favourable opinion, she at once 
gave way. Although Branwell ceased his 
residence at Bradford for the reasons assigned, 
he afterwards painted portraits occasionally at 
Haworth ; but also frequently visited his friends 
at the former place, having become acquainted 
with the poets and artists of the neighbourhood, 
as we shall presently see. 

Miss Robinson has undertaken to draw Bran- 
well's portrait at this juncture of his affairs, 
when she says he had attained the age of 
twenty years, though in fact he was twenty- 
two ; and the following is the labour of her 
hands : ' He went to Bradford as a portrait- 

VOL. I. N 



178 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

painter, and so impressive is audacity actu- 
ally succeeded for some months in gaining a 
living there .... His tawny mane, his pose of 
untaught genius, his verses in the poet's corner 
of the paper could not for ever keep afloat this 
untaught and thriftless portrait-painter of twenty. 
Soon there came an end to his painting there. 
He disappeared from Bradford suddenly, heavily 
in debt, and was lost to sight until, unnerved, 
a drunkard, and an opium-eater, he came back 
to home and Emily at Haworth.' 1 

These statements are simply untrue. I have 
the positive information of one who knew Bran- 
well in Leeds, and who resided in Bradford 
at the time when he was there, that he 
did not leave that town in debt ; that he cer- 
tainly was not a drunkard ; and that, if he took 
anything at all, it was but occasionally, and 
then no more than the commonest custom would 
permit. I would rather believe if all other 

1 ' Emily Bronte,' p. 64. It may be noted here, to show 
in some sort what amount of credibility attaches to these 
representations, that Miss Robinson has placed BraiiwelTs 
portrait-painting at Bradford subsequent to his tutorship 
at Broughton-in-Furness, though really he did not go there 
until a year later. 



BRAXWELL AT BRADFORD. 179 

evidence were wanting the account of Bran- 
well given by the friends who knew him per- 
sonally, and who, at the moment in which I 
write, are still living on the spot where he 
exerted himself to gain a living by the labour 
of his own hands, than the unfair, unjust, and 
exaggerated charges quoted above. But Bran- 
well's letter to his friend disposes at once of 
the assertion that he * disappeared from Brad- 
ford suddenly, heavily in debt, and was lost to 
sight.' And, as to the statement that he was 
unnerved and a drunkard, one should surely 
rather accept the evidence of those who knew 
him, that he was, on the contrary, as they 
unhesitatingly say, ' a quiet, unassuming young 
man, retiring, and diffident, seeming rather of 
a passive nature, and delicate constitution, than 
otherwise.' And, moreover, his visits to Brad- 
ford, after he had given up his profession there, 
were frequent, for his literary tastes, his artistic 
pursuits, and his musical abilities had secured 
him many friends in that town. Assuredly the 
biographer of Emily has been very unfortunate, 
to say the least, in her account of Branwell's 
honest, upright, and honourable endeavour to 

N2 



180 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

make his living by the profession of art at 
Bradford. 

Miss Robinson asserts that Branwell was 
an opium-eater ' of twenty,' in addition to 
the other baneful habits she ascribes to 
him. There is, however, no reliable evidence 
that, at this period of his life, he was any 
such thing ; and, considering the fact that 
the biographer of Emily has assigned Bran- 
well's art-practice at Bradford to a period sub- 
sequent to his tutorship at Broughton-in-Fur- 
ness, one may, perhaps, be permitted to suspect 
that she is equally in error in her assertions as 
to his opium-eating so young. Branwell did r 
indeed, later, fall into the baneful habit, and 
suffered at times in consequence ; but there is 
no reason to believe that he became wholly 
subject to it, or was greatly injured by the 
practice, either in mind or body. We can only 
surmise as to the original cause of his use of 
opium ; but, when we consider the extraordin- 
ary fascination which De Quincey's wonderful 
book had for the younger generation of literary 
men of his day, we shall recognize that Bran- 
well, who read the book, in all probability fell 



BRAN WELL AT BRADFORD. 181 

under its influence. Let us remember, more- 
over, that the young man's two sisters had died 
of consumption, and that De Quincey declares 
the use of the drug had saved him from the 
fate of his father who had fallen a victim 
to the same scourge. Lastly, it should not be 
forgotten that, in the first half of this century, 
the use of opium became, in some sort, fashion- 
able amongst literary men, and that many ad- 
mirers of De Quincey and Coleridge deemed that 
the practice had received a sufficient sanction. 
But the former of these writers had used the 
drug intermittently, and we have reason to 
believe that Branwell, who followed him, did 
likewise. Let us, then, imagine the young 
Bronte, revelling in the realm of the dreamy 
and impassioned, and hoping fondly that con- 
sumption might be driven away, resolving to 
try the effect of the * dread agent of unimagin- 
able pleasure and pain,' a proceeding from which 
many less brave would have shrunk. Branwell 
had doubtless read, in the ' Confessions of an 
English Opium-eater,' that the drug does not 
disorder the system; but gives tone, a sort of 
health, that might be natural if it were not for 



182 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the means by which it is procured. He would 
believe that in one under this magic spell, that 
is 'the diviner part of his nature is paramount, 
the moral affections are in a state of cloudless 
serenity; and high over all the great light of 
the majestic intellect.' Mrs. Gaskell describes 
the operation of opium upon herself. She says : 
' I asked her ' (Charlotte) ' whether she had ever 
taken opium, as the description of its effects, 
given in " Villette," was so exactly like what 
I had experienced vivid and exaggerated pre- 
sence of objects of which the outlines were 
indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc.' 1 Bran- 
well could not have tasted these stronger effects 
of the drug when he first made use of it ; but 
it should be remembered that he several times 
recurred to the practice, and suffered the con- 
sequent pains and penalties. 

After his portrait-painting at Bradford, he 
never again resided there, and it was about 
the period of his leaving that place that he 
began to see the artistic career he had chosen 
was a mistake, and he determined to give it 
up as a profession. Moreover, other influences,. 
1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap, xxvii. 



BRANWELL AT BRADFORD. 185 

as we sHall see, had been, and were still, at 
work upon him which caused him to turn once 
more to literature. From the period of his 
acquaintance with the drawing-masters, he had 
become associated with the literary as well as 
the artistic circles of the neighbourhood; and 
he anticipated the literary future of his sisters. 



184 



CHAPTER XII. 

LITERARY INFLUENCES AND ASPIRATIONS. 

New Inspiration of Poetry Wordsworth Southey, Scott, 
and Byron Southey to Charlotte Bronte Hartley 
Coleridge His Worthies of Yorkshire Poets of the 
West-Riding Alaric A. Watts Branwell's Literary 
Abilities. 

IN the early part of the present century, the 
spirit of poetry began to make itself felt in 
quarters where previously it had never been 
known. The pedantic affectation of the Delia 
Cruscan school gave place, in the works of a 
passionate lover of Nature like Wordsworth, to 
a fresher and purer inspiration, that delighted 
in familiar themes of domestic and rural beauty, 
which were often both humble and obscure. 
It was Wordsworth, indeed, who ' developed 
the theory of poetry,' as Branwell Bronte well 



LITERARY ASPIRATIONS. 185 

knew that has worked a greater change in 
literature than has, perhaps, been known since 
the period of the Renaissance. In his endeav- 
our to solve the difficulty of ' fitting to metrical 
arrangement a selection of the real language 
of men in a state of vivid sensation,' Words- 
worth had prepared the way for a natural out- 
burst of poetic feeling, occupied with familiar 
and simple topics. The writers of the so-called 
' Lake School ' of poets, and especially Words- 
worth, Coleridge, and Southey, were, in fact, 
the leaders of the new movement; and, speedi- 
ly, responsive to the free note of genius un- 
curbed, there arose from many an unknown 
place in England the sweet sound of poetic 
voices not heard before. At the same time, 
the touch of romanticism, which was imparted 
by Scott and Byron, had a. great influence on 
many of the younger poets of the new school. 
It is evident, to anyone who has studied the 
local literature of that time, that the works 
produced under such inspiration were often of 
great and permanent merit. Southey, writing 
to Charlotte Bronte in 1837, indeed says, 'Many 
volumes of poems are now published every year 



186 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

without attracting public attention, any one of 
which, if it had appeared half-a-century ago,, 
would have obtained a high reputation for its 
author.' 

Nowhere, probably, in England was the in- 
fluence of the poets of Westmoreland felt more 
deeply than in the valleys of the West-Riding 
of Yorkshire. Indeed, a young publisher of 
that district, Mr. F. E. Bingley, had sufficient 
appreciation of genius, and enterprise enough, 
to bring him to Leeds for the purpose of pub- 
lishing works from Hartley Coleridge's hand. 
The younger Coleridge besides the prestige 
of his father s name had already become known 
as an occasional contributor to 'Blackwood's 
Magazine,' wherein first appeared his poem of 
' Leonard and Susan,' so much admired. Mr. 
Bingley entered into an engagement to enable 
him to publish two volumes of poems, and a 
series of ' Biographical notices of the Worthies 
of Yorkshire and Lancashire,' which Hartley 
Coleridge was to write. One of the volumes 
of poems was issued from the press in 1833, 
and was well received. ' The Worthies ' pro- 
ceeded to the third number, forming an octavo- 



LITERARY ASPIRATIONS. 187 

volume of six hundred and thirty-two pages, 
when circumstances compelled Mr. Bingley to 
sell the remainders to another publisher, who 
issued a second edition of this well-known work, 
with a new title, in the year 1836. From the 
same press there came, in 1834, ' Cyril, a Poem 
in Four Cantos ; and Minor Poems,' by George 
Wilson. C. F. Edgar, who was editor of the 
' Yorkshire Literary Annual,' the first volume 
of which appeared in 1831, was also the author 
of a volume of poems, published by Mr. Bingley 
in the succeeding year; and other poetical 
works followed from the Leeds press. 

But, in those days, there was scarcely a 
locality in the populous West-Riding of York- 
shire without its poet, and that poet, too, a 
man of no mean powers. Nicholson, the Aire- 
dale poet, had, previously to the time of which 
I speak, published his 'Airedale, and other 
Poems,' and his 'Lyre of Ebor.' His poetical 
talents were really excellent, and his versatility,. 
and the happy character of his effusions, made 
Nicholson very popular in the West-Riding. 
He died in 1843. The gifted poet of Gargrave, 
Robert Story, had published, in earlier years,. 



188 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

many songs and poems in the local papers ; 
and he issued, in 1836, a volume, entitled, ' The 
Magic Fountain.' This was followed, in 1838, 
by ' The Outlaw/ and by ' Love and Literature,' 
in the year 1842. This poet was an ardent 
partizan of the Conservatives, and his lyrical 
abilities were devoted with unflagging energy 
to their cause. His ' Songs and Poems,' and his 
' Lyrical, and other Minor Poems,' were sub- 
sequently published. His political songs were 
vigorous, and his pastoral ones were redolent 
of pastures, meadows, and moors, breathing all 
the freshness of nature in its happiest time. 
Thomas Crossley, the ' Bard of Ovenden,' like 
Story, possessed of lyrical talents of the highest 
order, was a frequent contributor to the county 
papers ; and he published, in 1837, an admirable 
and delightful volume, entitled, ' The Flowers 
of Ebor.' In the same year, William Dearden, 
the ' Bard of Caldene,' the possessor of high 
gifts, published his 'Star Seer; a Poem in 
Five Cantos,' which was distinguished by great 
power, originality, and loftiness of conception. 
It was largely influenced by the spirit of roman- 
ticism, and flowed with the sweetest diction. 



LITERARY ASPIRATIONS. 189 

This also was the age of ' Souvenirs,' ' Keep- 
sakes/ 'Forget-me-nots,' and 'Annuals,' which 
sold very largely, and contained much that was 
really good. Heath, the proprietor of the 
'Keepsake,' as we are told by Southey, sold 
fifteen thousand copies in one year, and used 
four thousand yards of watered-silk for the next 
issue ; for these volumes were always resplen- 
dent in silk and gold. Alaric A. Watts, who 
published, in 1822, his 'Poetical Sketches' (a 
fourth edition of which, enlarged and exquisitely 
illustrated with designs by Stothard and Nes- 
field, was required), became, in the same year, 
editor of the 'Leeds Intelligencer,' which he 
conducted with much spirit and ability. He 
afterwards established the ' Manchester Courier,' 
which he for some time edited, and was well 
known in the northern shires. In 1828 and 
1829 appeared his 'Poetical Album,' 'Scenes 
of Life, and Shades of Character/ in 1831 ; and 
from 1825 to 1834 he produced his ' Literary 
Souvenir; a Cabinet of Poetry and .Romance/ 
with great and deserved success. It is more 
than likely that the great popularity of his 
venture led to the publication of 'The ^^ ^ hite 



190 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Eose of York,' a similar volume, which was 
brought out at Halifax in. the year 1834. This 
work was edited by George Hogarth, and, in 
addition to the authors already mentioned who 
were, with the exception of Nicholson, the Aire- 
dale poet, and the Leeds authors, contributors 
to it were F. C. Spencer, author of ' The Vale 
of Bolton,' a volume of poems; Henry Ingram, 
author of a volume entitled, ' Matilda ' ; Henry 
Martin, editor of the ' Halifax Express ' ; John 
Roby, author of ' The Traditions of Lancashire ; ' 
and others. There was also in the work a 
contribution, entitled ' Moiiey Hall,' treating 
of a legend of the last-named county by C. 
Peters, the subject of which also exercised the 
abilities of the author of ' The Flowers of Ebor ' ; 
and subsequently interested Branwell Bronte in 
a similar manner his friend Leyland having 
modelled a scene from the story, in clay. 

It is beyond question that these literary in- 
fluences, which stirred the depths of feeling in 
Yorkshire, had a profound effect on the earlier 
writings of the Brontes, and probably were 
their original inspiration. All the local papers 
were filled with the news of the literary move- 



LITERARY ASPIRATIONS. 191 

ment; and the busy brains in the parsonage 
of Haworth could not but be raised to emula- 
tion by the tidings. Branwell, especially, who 
knew personally many of the workers in the 
new field whom I have named, and was never 
so happy as when he could enjoy their com- 
pany, was soon moved, in the midst of his art- 
aspirations, to partake in their literary labours. 
At this time, the tastes of the Brontes in this 
direction, and their progress in poetical and 
prose composition, began to inspire them with 
hopes and anticipations of the brightest char- 
acter. From childhood their attempts at literary 
composition had formed, according to Charlotte 
herself, the highest stimulus, and one of the 
liveliest pleasures they had known. They be- 
gan to find out that their genius was not artis- 
tic, but literary, and to pursue its bent with 
increasing ardour and the warmest interest. 

It cannot be doubted that Branwell, greatly 
influenced, perhaps, by his sisters, or they, more 
probably, by him for they ever regarded his 
genius as greater than their own was soon 
employing his pen as often, and more success- 
fully, than his pencil. Mr. Bronte's daughters 



192 THE BROXTii FAMILY. 

were possessed largely of discriminating and 
critical powers, sufficient to enable them to- 
judge accurately of the abilities of their bro- 
ther ; and Mrs. Gaskell allows that, to begin 
with, he was perhaps the greatest genius of 
this rare family, and this more even in a literary 
than in an artistic sense. Their favourable 
judgment was based on evidence they had 
before them. They were not ignorant of his 
poetical and prose compositions ; and that these 
showed great beauty of thought and much 
felicity of expression, as well as considerable 
power, originality, and freshness of treatment, 
the evidences will appear in the subsequent 
pages. 



193 



CHAPTER XIII. 

EARLY POEMS. 

BranwelTs Letter to Wordsworth, with Stanzas Remarks 
upon it No Reply He Tries Again His Interest 
in the Manchester and Leeds Railway BranwelTs 
Literary and Artistic Friends at Bradford and Halifax 
Leyland's Works there Branwell's great Interest 
in them Early Verses Mrs. Gaskell's Judgment on 
his Literary Abilities. 

BRANWELL, even while working at art with 
great energy, was not, as I have said, oblivious 
of his literary power. While, however, the 
work of his sisters was to be conducted with 
great earnestness of purpose, it was unfortunate 
that the scintillations of Branwell's genius were 
too often fitful, erratic, and uncertain : his mind, 
indeed, even at this time, was unstable. 

It may be noted, as characteristic of all Mr. 
Bronte's children, that, united with sterling gifts 

VOL. I. O 



194 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

of intellectual power and literary acumen, there 
was always some mistrust as to the merit of 
their own productions, especially of poetical 
ones. They seem to have felt themselves like 
travellers wandering in mist, or struggling 
through a thicket, or toiling on devious paths 
with no reliable information at hand, until they 
arrived at a point where progress looked im- 
possible, until they had obtained a guide in 
whom they had confidence. It appeared, indeed, 
to the Brontes that, without an opinion on their 
work, time might be altogether wasted on what 
was unprofitable. Charlotte, therefore, in the 
December of 1836, determined to submit some 
of her poems to the judgment of Southey ; and 
it would seem that she also consulted Hartley 
Coleridge. 

Before, however, Southey had answered his 
sister's letter, Branwell ventured, in a similar 
spirit, to address Wordsworth, for whose writings 
he had a great admiration. The following is 
his letter ; and, although it has been previously 
published, it must not be omitted here. 1 

1 Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. viii. 



EARLY POEMS. 195 

' Haworth, near Bradford, 

'Yorkshire, January 19th, 1837. 

'SIR, 

' I most earnestly entreat you to read 
and pass your judgment upon what I have sent 
you, because from the day of my birth, to this 
the nineteenth year of my life, I have lived 
among secluded hills, where I could neither 
know what I was, or what I could do. I read 
for the same reason that I ate or drank be- 
cause it was a real craving of nature. I wrote 
on the same principle as I spoke out of the 
impulse and feelings of the mind ; nor could 
I help it, for what came, came out, and there 
was the end of it. For as to self-conceit, that 
could not receive food from flattery, since to 
this hour not half-a-dozen people in the world 
know that I have ever penned a line. 

' But a change has taken place now, sir ; and 
I am arrived at an age wherein I must do some- 
thing for myself: the powers I possess must 
be exercised to a definite end, and as I don't 
know them myself I must ask of others what 
they are worth. Yet there is not one here to 

o2 



196 THE BRONTE FAMILY 

tell me ; and still, if they are worthless, time- 
will henceforth be too precious to be wasted 
on them. 

' Do pardon me, sir, that I have ventured to 
come before one whose works I have most 
loved in our literature, and who most has been 
with me a divinity of the mind, laying before 
him one of my writings, and asking of him a 
judgment of its contents. I must come before 
some one from whose sentence there is no ap- 
peal ; and such a one is he who has developed 
the theory of poetry as well as its practice, and 
both in such a way as to claim a place in the 
memory of a thousand years to come. 

'My aim, sir, is to push out into the open 
world, and for this I trust not poetry alone 
that might launch the vessel, but could not 
bear her on ; sensible and scientific prose, bold 
and vigorous efforts in my walk in life, would 
give a further title to the notice of the world ; 
and then, again, poetry ought to brighten and 
crown that name with glory ; but nothing of 
all this can be ever begun without means, and 
as I don't possess these, I must in every shape 
strive to .gain them. Surely, in this day, when 



EARLY POEMS. 197 

there is not a writing poet worth a sixpence, 
the field must be open, if a better man can step 
forward. 

' What I send you is the Prefatory Scene of 
a much longer subject, in which I have striven 
to develop strong passions and weak principles 
struggling with a high imagination and acute 
feelings, till, as youth hardens towards old age, 
evil deeds and short enjoyments end in mental 
misery and bodily ruin. Now, to send you the 
whole of this would be a mock upon your 
patience ; what you see, does not even pretend 
to be more than the description of an imagina- 
tive child. But read it, sir ; and, as you would 
hold a light to one in utter darkness as you 
value your own kind-heartedness return me an 
answer, if but one word, telling me whether I 
should write on, or write no more. Forgive 
undue warmth, because my feelings in this mat- 
ter cannot be cool ; and believe me, sir, with 
<leep respect, 

' Your really humble servant, 

P. B. BRONTE.' 

Mrs. Gaskell gives the following six stanzas, 



198 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

which are about a third of the whole, and 
declares them not to be the worst part of the 
composition : 

' So where He reigns in glory bright, 
Above those starry skies of night, 
Amid His Paradise of light, 

Oh, why may I not be ? 

' Oft Avhen awake on Christmas niorn, 
In sleepless twilight laid forlorn, 
Strange thoughts have o'er my mind been borne 
How He has died for me. 

' And oft, within my chamber lying, 
Have I awaked myself with crying, 
From dreams, where I beheld Him dying 
Upon the accursed tree. 

' And often has my mother said, 
While on her lap I laid my head, 
She feared for time I was not made, 
But for Eternity. 

' So " I can read my title clear 

To mansions in the skies, 
And let me bid farewell to fear, 
And wipe my weeping eyes." 

' I'll lay me down on this marble stone, 

And set the world aside, 

To see upon her ebon throne 

The Moon in glory ride.' 

BranwelFs letter to Wordsworth is, for the 
most part, well written, and breathes an eager 



EARLY POEMS. 199 

spirit, which shows the anxiety he was under 
to know the opinion of a high and competent 
judge as to how he stood Avith the Nine. It 
tells us the ardour with which he read and 
wrote, the ambitious turn of his mind, and the 
special aims which he then had in the literary 
world. But the verses, although imbued with 
a fervent spirit of early piety, were such as 
AVords worth could not justly review without 
giving discouragement, and it seems probable 
he preferred to keep silence rather than, by an 
open avowal, to give pain if pain must be 
given as the lesser evil of the two. Or, per- 
haps, he took amiss the ready frankness and 
apparent self-esteem which, notwithstanding the 
disavowal, would probably seem present to him 
in the letter of the young stranger who address- 
ed him, without sending any evidence of the 
powers of which he expressed himself so con- 
fidently. But, at any rate, Mrs. Gaskell in- 
forms us that the letter and verses were pre- 
served by the poet till the Brontes became 
celebrated, and that he gave the communication 
to his friend, Mr. Quillinan, in 1850, when the 
real name of ' Currer Bell ' became known. 



200 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

It must not be overlooked that, in the verses 
which Mrs. Gaskell has printed, we have no 
opportunity of studying Branwell's dramatic 
powers, which apparently found scope in the 
poem he had written. In them is no develop- 
ment of the effect of the passionate feelings 
-which Branwell describes : ' struggling with a 
high imagination and acute feelings,' and ending 
* in mental misery and bodily ruin.' 

However, discouraged by long waiting, or 
assisted by friendly advice and criticism, he 
toiled on in silence at his literary work, as he 
did at art. The year 1837 turned out an 
important one for Charlotte. In March, she at 
last received the answer from Southey, which 
she considered a ' little stringent,' and from 
which she declared she had derived good. She 
says, in her reply to the Laureate, ' I trust I 
shall never more feel ambitious to see my name 
in print .... That letter is consecrated; no 
one shall ever see it, but papa, and my brother 
and my sisters.' 

It would seem that Branwell, notwithstanding 
the failure of his first venture with Wordsworth, 
tried again, at a later date, with some other, 



EARLY POEMS. 201 

and more matured, compositions, Avhich he sub- 
mitted to that poet and to Hartley Coleridge, 
4 who both,' says Mrs. Gaskell, ' expressed kind 
and laudatory opinions.' But, perhaps, the fact 
that, to the letter quoted above, Wordsworth 
sent no answer, and did not tell him whether 
he should ' write on, or write no more,' dis- 
couraged Branwell for a time; and he may 
have been led to suspect that his productions 
were worthless, and that time might 'hence- 
forth be too precious to be wasted upon them.' 
In this way, perhaps, he was induced to turn 
with greater energy to his profession of art, as 
a means of getting on, of which I spoke 
in a former chapter, though we shall see that 
he did not abandon his literary work. 

Branwell also now found opportunities of 
making himself acquainted with the grand and 
wild scenery of the mountainous borders of the 
counties of York and Lancaster, a wider dis- 
trict than his sisters could well survey. 

The Manchester and Leeds Railway was, at 
the time, in course of construction below Little- 
borough, passing through the picturesque and 
romantic vale of Todmorden. Branwell be- 



202 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

came greatly interested in the work ; and as 
stores, and other things for the completion of 
the line to Hebden Bridge, were forwarded 
from Littleborough by canal, having been pre- 
viously sent to that place from Manchester by 
train, he soon ingratiated himself with the boat- 
men, and was frequently seen in their boats, 
It was 011 one of these occasions that Mr, 
Woolven, previously mentioned, who was offici- 
ally employed on the works, recognized at once 
the clever young man who had surprised the 
company at the ' Castle Tavern,' Holborn, and 
entered into conversation with him. These 
incidents led to a friendly intercourse between 
them, which continued for some years. 

Among his Bradford acquaintances, Branwell 
numbered, in addition to Geller, the mezzotinto- 
engraver, previously mentioned, Wilson Ander- 
son, an admirable landscape painter, whose pro- 
ductions are valued as truthful pictures of the 
places they represent, and on account of the 
skilfulness of their manipulation and colouring; 
and also Richard Waller, a well-known and 
excellent portrait painter. To these may be 



EARLY POEMS. 203 

added Edward Collinson, a local poet ; Robert 
Story; and John James, the future historian 
of Bradford. All these were personal acquaint- 
ances of Branwell, as well as of Leyland, and 
the intercourse between them was frequent. 
For more than twenty years a party of these 
friends was accustomed to meet, from time to 
time, at the ' George Hotel,' Bradford, under 
the auspices of Miss Rennie, who greatly prided 
herself on seeing at her house, in their hours 
of leisure, the artistic and literary celebrities of 
the neighbourhood. Leyland was at Halifax, 
being there to erect certain monuments, which 
he had executed in London for various patrons 
in his native town. While there, he modelled, 
in the upper room of an ancient house, his 
colossal group of ' African Bloodhounds,' his 
model being a living specimen of the breed ; 
and the group, which was exhibited in London, 
was favourably noticed. Landseer regarded it 
as the ' noblest modern work of its kind.' It 
is now in the Salford Museum. The progress 
of this group intensely interested Branwell and 
his Bradford friends ; and they frequently visited 



204 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Leyland's temporary studio. It also formed the 
subject of a poem by Dearden. 1 Finding this 
studio of insufficient height for a great work 
he contemplated a colossal group of ' Thracian 
Falconers ' Leyland afterwards took a suitable 
place in another part of the town, which, like- 
wise, became a meeting-place of the local literati. 
The new work was to consist of three figures, 
the centre one being seated, and having upon 
his right fore-finger a hawk ; while his left hand 
rested on the shoulder of a youth just roused, as 
if by some sudden sound ; and, on his right, was 
a similar youth, half-recumbent, and also in a 
listening attitude. The centre figure was alone 
completed, and is now in the Salford Museum. 

Branwell, on his visits to the artist's studio, 
often lamented the dissipation of his high artis- 
tic hopes, and confessed that he saw with pain 
how misplaced his confidence in his own powers 
had been. But the sculptor was a poet also, 
and thus Branwell and he worked in the same 
field. Many of Leyland's poems were published 

1 ' The Death of Leyland's African Bloodhound,' by 
William Dearden, author of 'The Star-Seer.' London, 
1887. (Longmans.) 



EARLY POEMS. 205 

in the Yorkshire papers, and also in the ' Morn- 
ing Chronicle,' and were always considered to 
be of true poetic excellence. Branwell relied 
much on the artist's judgment in literary mat- 
ters, and often submitted his productions to 
him. 

Although Bronte had, as we have seen, 
abandoned the hope of a high artistic career, 
he still clung to the practice of portrait-paint- 
ing, and this gave him leisure to court the muse. 
The following are the earliest of his poems, of 
which the MSS. are in my possession ; and these 
are fragments only. The first is a verse of 
eleven lines, dated January 23rd, 1838, which 
originally concluded a poem of sixty ; 

' There's many a grief to shade the scene, 

And hide the starry skies ; 
But all such clouds that intervene 

From mortal life arise. 
And may I smile God ! to see 
Their storms of sorrow beat on me, 

When I so surely know- 
That Thou, the while, art shining on ; 
That I, at last, when they are gone, 
Shall see the glories of Thy throne, 

So far more bright than now.' 

This fragment, written by Branwell at the 



206 THE BRONTE FAMILY". 

age of twenty-one, is characteristic of the early 
tone of his mind. His naturally amiable and 
susceptible disposition had soon become imbued 
with the spirit of Christian piety which sur- 
rounded his life. He was, too, at the time, full 
of noble impulses and high aspirations ; but the 
shade of melancholy implanted in his constitu- 
tion had begun to influence his writings. The 
following, which is the beginning of another 
poem, must have been written in some such 
thoughtful mood, though the title is not borne 
out in the portion I am able to give. 

DEATH TRIUMPHANT. 

MAY, 1838. 

' Oh! on this first bright Mayday inoru, 

That seems to change our earth to Heaven, 
May my own bitter thoughts be borne, 

With the wild winter it has driven ! 
Like this earth, may my mind be made 

To feel the freshness round me spreading, 

No other aid to rouse it needing 
Than thy glad light, so long delayed. 

Sweet woodland sunshine ! none but thee 

Can wake the joys of memory, 
Which seemed decaying, as all decayed. 

* ! may they bud, as thou dost now, 
With promise of a summer near ! 



EARLY POEMS. 207 

Nay let me feel my weary brow 

Where are the ringlets wreathing there ? 
Why does the hand that shades it tremble? 

Why do these limbs, so languid, shun 

Their walk beneath the morning sun ? 
Ah, mortal Self ! couldst thou dissemble 

Like Sister-Soul ! But forms refuse 

The real and unreal to confuse. 
But, with caprice of fancy, She 
Joins things long past with things to be, 
Till even I doubt if I have told 

My tale of woes and wonders o'er, 
Or think Her magic can unfold 

A phantom path of joys before 
Or, laid beneath this Mayday blaze 
Ask, " Live I o'er departed days ?" 
Am I the child by Gambia's side, 
Beneath its woodlands waving wide ? 
Have I the footsteps bounding free, 
The happy laugh of infancy ?' 

Ill this beautiful fragment we have the first 
passionate out-pouring of the self-imposed woes, 
which, proceeding from within, were thereafter 
to overspread and tincture with darkest colours 
every thought of Branwell's mind. We see him 
here for a moment, standing in incipient melan- 
cholia, in what appears to him to be a desert 
of mental despondency ; but, turning back with 
a fond affection for the past, and recalling, in 



208 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

plaintive words, the joys of ' departed days.' 
He seems here, indeed, to seek in the mysteries 
of the soul those pleasures and hopes which his 
mortal self cannot afford him. Branwell never 
appears to have forgotten, as I have previously 
suggested, the sad circumstances of the death 
of his sisters; and his solitary broodings over 
these visitations gave a morbid tone to his 
writings. It was in 1838 that he adopted the 
pseudonym of ' Northangerland.' His earlier 
poems, although occasionally showing some 
power, were not sufficiently gifted to add to 
the lustre of Bronte literature. 

Mrs-. Gaskell, alluding to Branwell's literary 
abilities about this time, says : ' In a fragment 
of one of his manuscripts which I have read, 
there is a justness and felicity of expression 
which is very striking. It is the beginning of 
a tale, and the actors in it are drawn with much 
of the grace of characteristic portrait-painting, 
in perfectly pure and simple language, which 
distinguishes so many of Addison's papers in 
the " Spectator." The fragment is too short to 
afford the means of judging whether he had 
much dramatic talent, as the persons of the 



EARLY POEMS. 209 

story are not thrown into conversation. But, 
altogether, the elegance and composure of style 
are such as one would not have expected from 
this vehement and ill-fated young man. He 
had,' continues Mrs. Gaskell, ' a stronger desire 
for literary fame burning in his heart than even 
that which occasionally flashed up in his sisters'.' 
She says also that, ' He tried various outlets for 
his talents and he frequently con- 
tributed verses to the " Leeds Mercury." ' The 
latter statement, however, is incorrect, for no- 
thing of Branwell's appears in that journal. 



VOL. I. 



210 



CHAPTER XIV. 

POEMS ON 'CAROLINE.' 

The Poetical bent of Branwell's Genius ' Caroline's 
Prayer ' ' On Caroline ' ' Caroline ' Spirit of these 
Early Effusions. 

WHILE Branwell was occupying his leisure as 
stated in the last chapter, and otherwise em- 
ploying himself in a desultory way, he pursued 
the poetic bent of his genius, and sought the 
improvement of his diction and verse. Among 
the earliest of his poetical productions, the 
following are, perhaps, the best. They are 
distinguished by a similar train of thought and 
reflection, and by similar sentiments of piety 
and devotion, as also by the same gloom and 
sadness of mood, which pervade the poems of 
his sisters. Indeed, without knowing they were 



POEMS OF CAROLINE. 211 

actually Branwell's, we might easily believe 
them to be from the pen of Charlotte, Emily, 
or Anne. 

The three following poetical essays are on 
'Caroline,' under which name Branwell indicates 
his sister Maria ; and, in two of them, he records 
his reminiscences of her death and funeral obse- 
quies. The first of the three, which he has 
framed in the sentiments and words of a child, 
is entitled : 

CAROLINE'S PRAYER, 

OR THE CHANGE FROM CHILDHOOD TO WOMANHOOD. 

' My Father, and my childhood's guide ! 
If oft I've wandered far from Thee ; 
E'en though Thine only Son has died 
To save from death a child like me ; 

' ! still to Thee when turns my heart 

In hours of sadness, frequent now 
Be Thou the God that once Thou wert, 
And calm my breast, and clear my brow. 

' I'm now no more a little child 

O'ershadowed by Thy mighty wing ; 
My very dreams seem now more wild 
Than those my slumbers used to bring. 

p2 



212 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

' I further see I deeper feel 

With hope more warm, but heart less mild ;. 
And former things new shapes reveal, 
All strangely brightened or despoiled. 

' I'm entering on Life's open tide ; 

So farewell childhood's shores divine ! 
And, oh, my Father, deign to guide, 
Through these wide waters, Caroline !' 

The second is : 

ON CAROLINE. 

' The light of thy ancestral hall, 

Thy Caroline, no longer smiles : 
She has changed her palace for a pall, 

Her garden walks for minster aisles : 
Eternal sleep has stilled her breast 

Where peace and pleasure made their shrine ; 
Her golden head has sunk to rest 

Oh, would that rest made calmer mine ! 

' To thee, while watching o'er the bed 

Where, mute and motionless, she lay, 
How slow the midnight moments sped ! 

How void of sunlight woke the day ! 
Nor ope'd her eyes to morning's beam, 

Though all around thee woke to her ; 
Nor broke thy raven-pinioned dream 

Of coffin, shroud, and sepulchre. 



POEMS ON CAROLINE. 213 

Why beats thy breast when hei's is still ? 

Why linger'st thou when she is gone? 
Hop'st thou to light on good or ill ? 

To find companionship alone ? 
Perhaps thou think'st the churchyard stone 

Can hide past smiles and bury sighs : 
That Memory, with her soul, has flown ; 

That thou canst leave her where she lies. 

1 No ! joy itself is but a shade, 

So well may its remembrance die ; 
But cares, life's conquerors, never fade, 

So strong is their reality ! 
Thou may'st forget the day which gave 

That child of beauty to thy side, 
But not the moment when the grave 

Took back again thy borrowed bride.' 

Here Branwell, though he has changed the 
form of expression and the circumstance of the 
loss, is still occupied with the same theme of 
family bereavement, with which Charlotte herself 
was so much impressed. 

The following was intended as the first canto 
of a long poem. It also is entitled, * Caroline ;' 
and is the soliloquy of one ' Harriet,' who 
mourns for her sister, the subject of the poem, 
calling to mind her early recollection of the 
death and funeral of the departed one. It is 



2 14 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

extremely probable that Branwell made * Har- 
riet' a vehicle of expression for Charlotte or 
Emily, as he had adopted the name of ' Caro- 
line ' for Maria. 

CAROLINE. 

' Calm and clear the day declining, 

Lends its brightness to the air, 
"With a slanted sunlight shining, 

Mixed with shadows stretching far : 
Slow the river pales its glancing, 
Soft its waters cease their dancing, 
As the hush of eve advancing 

Tells our toils that rest is near. 

' Why is such a silence given 

To this summer day's decay ? 
Does our earth feel aught of Heaven ? 

Can the voice of Nature pray ? 
And when daylight's toils are done, 
Beneath its mighty Maker's throne, 
Can it, for noontide sunshine gone, 

Its debt with smiles repay ? 

' Quiet airs of sacred gladness 

Breathing through these woodlands wild,. 
O'er the whirl of mortal madness 
Spread the slumbers of a child : 



POEMS ON CAROLINE. 215 

These surrounding sweeps of trees 
Swaying to the evening breeze, 
With a voice like distant seas, 
Making music mild. 

' Woodchurch Hall above them lowering 

Dark against the pearly sky, 
With its clustered chimneys towering, 

Wakes the wind while passing by : 
And in old ancestral glory, 
Round that scene of ancient story, 
All its oak-trees, huge and hoary, 

Wave their boughs on high. 

' 'Mid those gables there is one 

The soonest dark when day is gone 
Which, when autumn winds are strongest, 

Moans the most and echoes longest : 
There with her curls like sunset air, 
Like it all balmy, bright, and fair 
Sits Harriet, with her cheek reclined 

On arm as white as mountain snow ; 
While, with a bursting swell, her mind 

Fills with thoughts of " Long Ago." 

' As from yon spire a funeral bell, 
Wafting through heaven its mourning knell, 
Warns man that life's uncertain day 
Like lifeless Nature's must decay ; 
And tells her that the warning deep 



216 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Speaks where her own forefathers sleep, 
And where destruction makes a prey 

Of what was once this world to her, 
But which like other gods of clay 

Has cheated its blind worshipper : 
With swelling breast and shining eyes 
That seem to chide the thoughtless skies, 
She strives in words to find relief 
For long-pent thoughts of mellowed grief. 

'"Time's clouds roll back, and memory's light 
Bursts suddenly upon my sight ; 
For thoughts, which words could never tell, 
Find utterance in that funeral bell. 
My heart, this eve, seemed full of feeling, 
Yet nothing clear to me revealing ; 
Sounding in breathings undefined 
jEolian music to my mind : 

Then strikes that bell, and all subsides 
Into a harmony, which glides 
As sweet and solemn as the dream 
Of a remembered funeral hymn. 

This scene seemed like the magic glass, 
Which bore upon its clouded face 
Strange shadows that deceived the eye 
With forms defined uncertainly ; 
That Bell is old Agrippa's wand, 
Which parts the clouds on either hand, 
And shows the pictured forms of doom 
Momently brightening through the gloom : 



POEMS ON CAROLINE. 217 

I 
Yes shows a scene of bygone years 

Opens a fount of sealecl-up tears 
And wakens memory's pensive thought 
To visions sleeping not forgot. 
It brings me back a summer's day, 
Shedding like this its parting ray, 
With skies as shining and serene, 
And hills as blue, and groves as green. 



"Ah, well I recollect that hour, 

When I sat, gazing, just as now, 
Toward that ivy-mantled tower 

Among these flowers which wave below ! 
No not these flowers they're long since dead, 

And flowers have budded, bloomed, and gone, 
Since those were plucked which gird the head 

Laid underneath yon churchyard stone ! 
I stooped to pluck a rose that grew 

Beside this window, waving then ; 
But back my little hand withdrew, 

From some reproof of inward pain ; 
For she who loved it was not there 

To check me with her dove-like eye, 
And something bid my heart forbear 

Her favourite rosebud to destroy. 
Was it that bell that funeral bell, 

Sullenly sounding on the wind? 
Was it that melancholy knell 

Which first to sorrow woke my mind ? 



218 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

I looked upon my mourning dress 

Till my heart beat with childish fear, 
And frightened at my loneliness 

I watched, some well-known sound to hear. 
But all without lay silent in 

The sunny hush of afternoon, 
And only muffled steps within 

Passed slowly and sedately on. 
I well can recollect the awe 

With which I hastened to depart ; 

And, as I ran, the instinctive start 
With which my mother's form I saw, 
Arrayed in black, with pallid face, 

And cheeks and 'kerchief wet with tears, 
As down she stooped to kiss my face 

And quiet my uncertain fears. 

' " She led me, in her mourning hood, 

Through voiceless galleries, to a room, 
'Neath whose black hangings crowded stood, 
With downcast eyes and brows of gloom, 
My known relations ; while with head 
Declining o'er my sister's bed 
My father's stern eye dropt a tear 
Upon the coffin resting there. 
My mother lifted me to see 
What might within that coffin be ; 
And, to this moment, I can feel 
The voiceless gasp the sickening chill 
With which I hid my whitened face 
In the dear folds of her embrace ; 



POEMS ON CAROLINE. 219 

For hardly dared I turn my head 
Lest its wet eyes should view that bed. 

' But, Harriet,' said my mother mild, 
' Look at your sister and my child 
One moment, ere her form be hid 
For ever 'neath its coffin lid !' 

I heard the appeal, and answered too ; 
For down I bent to bid adieu. 
But, as I looked, forgot affright 
In mild and magical delight. 

'"There lay she then, as now she lies 

For not a limb has moved since then 
In dreamless slumber closed, those eyes 

That never more might wake again. 
She lay, as I had seen her lie 

On many a happy night before, 
When I was humbly kneeling by 

Whom she was teaching to adore : 
Oh, just as when by her I prayed, 

And she to heaven sent up my prayer, 
She lay with flowers about her head 

Though formal grave-clothes hid her hair ! 
Still did her lips the smile retain 

Which parted them when hope was high, 
Still seemed her brow as smoothed from pain 

As when all thought she could not die. 
And, though her bed looked cramped and strange, 

Her too bright cheek all faded now, 
My young eyes scarcely saw a change 



220 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

From hours when moonlight paled her brow. 
And yet I felt and scarce could speak , 

A chilly face, a faltering breath, 
When my hand touched the marble cheek 

Which lay so passively beneath. 
In fright I gasped, ' Speak, Caroline !' 

And bade my sister to arise ; 
But answered not her voice to mine, 

Nor ope'd her sleeping eyes. 
I turned toward my mother then 

And prayed on her to call ; 
But, though she strove to hide her pain, 

It forced her tears to fall. 
She pressed me to her aching breast 

As if her heart would break, 
And bent in silence o'er the rest 

Of one she could not wake : 
The rest of one, whose vanished years 

Her soul had watched in vain ; 
The end of mother's hopes and fears, 

And happiness and pain. 

'"They came they pressed the coffin lid 

Above my Caroline, 
And then, I felt, for ever hid 

My sister's face from mine ! 
There was one moment's wildered start 

One pang remembered well 
When first from my unhardened heart 

The tears of anguish fell : 



POEMS OX CAROLINE. 221 

That swell of thought which seemed to fill 

The bursting heart, the gushing eye, 
While fades all present good or ill 

Before the shades of things gone by. 
All else seems blank the mourning march, 

The proud parade of woe, 
The passage 'neath the churchyard arch, 

The crowd that met the show. 
My place or thoughts amid the train 
I strive to recollect, in vain 

I could not think or see : 
I cared not whither I was borne : 
And only felt that death had torn 

My Caroline from me. 

4 " Slowly and sadly, o'er her grave, 
The organ peals its passing stave, 
And, to its last dark dwelling-place, 

The corpse attending mourners bear, 
While, o'er it bending, many a face 

'Mongst young companions shows a tear. 
I think I glanced toward the crowd 

That stood in musing silence by, 
And even now I hear the sound 

Of some one's voice amongst them cry 
' I am the Resurrection and the Life 

He who believes in me shall never die !' 

' "Long years have never worn away 
The unnatural strangeness of that day, 
When I beheld upon the plate 
Of grim death's mockery of state 



222 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

That well-known word, that long-loved name, 
Now but remembered like the dream 
Of half -forgotten hymns divine, 
My sister's name my Caroline ! 

Down, down, they lowered her, sad and slow, 
Into her narrow house below : 
And deep, indeed, appeared to be 
That one glimpse of eternity, 
Where, cut from life, corruption lay, 
Where beauty soon should turn to clay ! 
Though scarcely conscious, hotly fell 
The drops that spoke my last farewell ; 
And wild my sob, when hollow rung 
The first cold clod above her flung, 
When glitter was to turn to rust, 
' Ashes to ashes, dust to dust !' 

'"How bitter seemed that moment when, 

Earth's ceremonies o'er, 
We from the filled grave turned again 

To leave her evermore ; 
And, when emerging from the cold 

Of damp, sepulchral air, 
As I turned, listless to behold 

The evening fresh and fair, 
How sadly seemed to smile the face 

Of the descending sun ! 
How seemed as if his latest race 

Were with that evening run ! 
There sank his orb behind the grove 



POEMS ON CAROLINE. 223 

Of my ancestral home, 
With heaven's unbounded vault above 

To canopy his tomb. 
Yet lingering sadly and serene, 

As for his last farewell, 
To shine upon those wild woods green 

O'er which he'd loved to dwell. 

'"I lost him, and the silent room, 

Where soon at rest I lay, 
Began to darken, 'neath the gloom 

Of twilight's dull decay ; 
So, sobbing as my heart would break, 

And blind with gushing eyes, 
Hours seemed Avhole nights to me awake, 

And day as 'twould not rise. 
I almost prayed that I might die 

But then the thought would come 
That, if I did, my corpse must lie 

In yonder dismal tomb ; 
Until, methought, I saw its stone, 

By moonshine glistening clear, 
While Caroline's bright form alone 

Kept silent watching there : 
All white with angel's wings she seemed, 

And indistinct to see ; 
But when the unclouded moonlight beamed 

I saw her beckon me, 
And fade, thus beckoning, while the wind 

Around that midnight wall, 



224 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

To me now lingering years behind 
Seemed then my sister's call ! 

' "And thus it brought me back the hours 

When we, at rest together, 
Used to lie listening to the showers 

Of wild December weather ; 
Which, when, as oft, they woke in her 

The chords of inward thought, 
Would fill with pictures that wild air, 

From far-off memories brought ; 
So, while I lay, I heard again 

Her silver-sounding tongue, 
Rehearsing some remembered strain 

Of old times long agone ! 
And, flashed across my spirit's sight, 

What she had often told me 
When, laid awake on Christmas night, 

Her sheltering arms would fold me 
About that midnight-seeming day, 

Whose gloom o'er Calvary thrown, 
Showed trembling Nature's deep dismay 

At what her sons had done : 
When sacred Salem's murky air 

Was riven with the cry, 
Which told the world how mortals dare 

The Immortal crucify ; 
When those who, sorrowing, sat afar, 

With aching heart and eye, 
Beheld their great Redeemer there, 

'Mid sneers and scoffings die ; 



POEMS ON CAROLINE. 225 

i 

When all His earthly vigour fled, 
When thirsty faintness bowed His head, 
When His pale limbs were moistened o'er 
With deathly dews and dripping gore, 
When quivered all His worn-out frame, 
As Death, triumphant, quenched life's flame, 
When upward gazed His glazing eyes 
To those tremendous-seeming skies, 
When burst His cry of agony 
' My God ! my God ! hast Thou forsaken me !' 

My youthful feelings startled then, 
As if the temple, rent in twain, 
Horribly pealing on my ear 
With its deep thunder note of fear, 
Wrapping the world in general gloom, 
As if her God's were Nature's tomb ; 
While sheeted ghosts before my gaze 
Passed, flitting 'mid the dreary maze, 
As if rejoicing at the day 
When death their king o'er Heaven had sway. 

In glistening charnel damps arrayed, 
They seemed to gibber round my head, 
Through night's drear void directing me 
Toward still and solemn Calvary, 
Where gleamed that cross with steady shine 
Around the thorn-crowned head divine 
A flaming cross a beacon light 
To this world's universal night ! 
It seemed to shine with such a glow, 
And through my spirit piercing so, 

VOL. I. Q 



226 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

That, pantingly, I strove to cry 
For her, whom I thought slumbered by, 
And hide me from that awful shine 
In the embrace of Caroline ! 

I wakened in the attempt 'twas day ; 
The troubled dream had fled away ; 
'Twas day and I, alone, was laid 
In that great room and stately bed ; 
No Caroline beside me ! Wide 
And unrelenting swept the tide 
Of death 'twixt her and me !'' 

There paused 
Sweet Harriet's voice, for such thoughts caused ' 

This poem springs from the deepest feelings, 
and from sorrows the most poignant. The 
respective images, tinctured with grief and 
despondency, pass before us with weird and 
vivid reality; and many of the passages are 
imbued with great tenderness, beauty, and 
pathos. The painful, and, perhaps, too morbid 
intensity of some of the pictures, whether of 
dreams or realities, is painted here with the skill 
of no common artist, whatever youthful defects 
may be observed in the composition. The poem 
is one more notable for tender sweetness than 
any other that remains from Branwell ; but it 



POEMS ON CAROLINE. 227 

lacks in places the vigour and power of his 
later compositions, and is, in several parts, of 
unequal merit. In the earlier portion of it, 
where he assumes the iambic measure, it is not 
difficult to perceive the influence of Byron on 
his diction. In this work Branwell again recurs 
to the time when tears of anguish flowed from 
his yet ' unhardened heart,' whose present woes 
are forgotten in the swelling thoughts of ' things 
gone by.' We recognize Avith what pathetic 
feeling he paints in Caroline all the qualities 
of instructress, guardian, and friend, which had 
characterized his sister Maria. Long afterwards 
Charlotte Bronte, inspired by similar feelings, 
devoted the first chapters of ' Jane Eyre ' to a 
delineation, in the character of Helen Burns, of 
the disposition of her dead sister, whose death, 
a few days after her return from Cowan Bridge, 
she could scarcely ever either forget or forgive. 



228 



CHAPTER XV. 

EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 

Charlotte's first Offer of Marriage Her Remarks concern- 
ing it A second Offer Declined Anne a Governess 
She Moralizes upon it Charlotte obtains a Situa- 
tion Unsuited to Her She Leaves it Bramvell 
takes Pleasure in Scenery He Visits Liverpool with 
his Friends Charlotte goes to Easton Curates at 
Haworth Their Visits to the Parsonage Public 
Meetings on Church Rates Charlotte's Attempt at a 
Richardsonian Novel She sends the Commencement 
of it to Wordsworth for his Opinion Branwell re- 
ceives an Appointment as Private Tutor. 

AFTER the return of Charlotte and Anne from 
Dewsbury Moor, whither Miss Wooler had re- 
moved her school, the three sisters were at 
home together for some months, and, in this 
happy, unrestrained intercourse, with their 
literary relaxations and their plans for the 
future, Charlotte's mind expanded, and her 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 229 

strength returned. There was Branwell, too, 
to think about ; his venture at Bradford and his 
progress with his portraits. Then they would 
have to go and see the likeness of Mr. Morgan ; 
and, on such occasions, Branwell would have 
much to say of art and literature, and, acquaint- 
ances. But Branwell was usually at Haworth 
on Sundays, and then he would hear of Char- 
lotte's visits to her friends, and her adventures 
on these occasions. It was shortly before the 
date of Branwell's return from Bradford, in the 
spring of 1839, that Charlotte received her first 
offer of marriage. A young clergyman, who 
had, as Mrs. Gaskell thought, some resem- 
blance to the St. John in the last volume of 
' Jane Eyre,' had evidently been attracted by 
Charlotte Bronte ; but matrimony does not seem, 
at the time, to have seriously entered into her 
thoughts. In some respects the proposal might 
have had strong temptations for her, and she 
thought how happy her married life might be. 
However, it was not the way with Charlotte 
Bronte to take the path of smoothness and com- 
fort, and leave the thorny one untrod ; and she 
asked herself if she loved the clergyman in 



230 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

question as much as a woman should love her 
husband, and whether she was the one best 
qualified to make him happy. ' Alas !' she sa ys r 
' my conscience answered " No " to both these 
questions.' She knew very well that she had a 
' kindly leaning ' towards him, but this was not 
enough for her, for it was impossible that she 
could ever feel for him such an intense attach- 
ment as would make her sacrifice her life for 
him. Short of such a devotion awakened in 
herself, she would never marry anyone. Her 
comment is characteristic : ' Ten to one I shall 
never have the chance again ; but Jiimporte.' 

Charlotte Bronte felt that there was a want 
of sympathy between the young clergyman and 
herself, for he was a ' grave, quiet young man ;* 
and she knew that he would be startled, and 
would think her a wild, romantic enthusiast, when 
she showed her character, and laughed, and sa- 
tirized, and said whatever came into her head. 
Nor was her next offer any more to her taste j 
for, within a few months, a neighbouring curate,, 
a young Irishman, fresh from the Dublin Uni- 
versity, made her a proposal. The circumstance 
amused Charlotte, for it was, on his part, a case- 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 231 

of love at first sight. He came with his vicar 
to be introduced to the family, and was speedily 
struck with Mr. Bronte's daughter. Charlotte 
was never troubled at home with the mauvaise 
honte that troubled her abroad ; and so she talk- 
ed and jested with the clergyman, and was 
much amused at the originality of his character. 
A pleasant afternoon was spent, for he made 
himself at home, after the fashion of his coun- 
trymen, and was witty, lively, ardent, and 
clever ; but, withal, wanting in the dignity and 
discretion of an Englishman. As the evening 
dreAv on, Charlotte was not much pleased with 
the spice of Hibernian flattery with which he 
began to season his discourse, and, as she 
expresses it, she ' cooled a little.' The vicar and 
his curate went away ; but what was Charlotte's 
astonishment to receive a letter next morning 
from the latter containing a proposal of mar- 
riage, and filled with ardent expressions of 
devotion ! ' I hope you are laughing heartily,' 
she says to her fiiend. ' This is not like one of 
my adventures, is it ? It more nearly resembles 
Martha's. I am certainly doomed to be an old 
maid. Never mind. I have made up my mind 



232 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

to that fate ever since I was twelve years old. 
Well! thought I, I have heard of love at first 
sight, but this beats all ! 1 leave you to guess 
what my answer would be, convinced that 
you will not do me the injustice of guessing 
wrong.' 

Although the married state does not appear, 
from Charlotte's letters at this time, to have 
had many attractions for her, we know, from 
those she wrote later, and, perhaps, more 
than all from the concluding chapters of ' Jane 
Eyre,' that she could enter into the joys and 
sacrifices of domestic life, that she had a correct 
view of the affections, and knew how to appre- 
ciate conjugal love at its true value. But, in 
the present instances although, at a later 
period of her life, when she was on the Contin- 
ent, she is believed to have felt the full force of 
that ' passion of the heart ' which those about 
whom she wrote had failed to evoke she de- 
clined to sever herself from the contented 
circumstances that surrounded her, and in 
which she was mistress, for a condition of 
doubtful peace and certain obedience. Char- 
lotte's decision was not discordant with the 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 233 

i 

feelings of .her family ; for, as she had determined 
to continue at home, their plans for the future 
would not be disconcerted. 

Anne was now resolved on making a trial of 
the life of a governess for herself, she having 
completed her education, and being wishful to 
exert herself as her sisters had done. Inquiries 
were made, and at length a situation was ob- 
tained. Anne continued in this kind of employ- 
ment during the next six years, and it was her 
experience that suggested to her the subject of 
her first novel, 'Agnes Grey.' If we may sup- 
pose that she has recounted her own experience 
at this time, where her heroine describes the 
circumstances of her preparation and departure 
for her first situation, it would appear that she 
had some difficulty in convincing her friends of 
the wisdom of her purpose. Agnes Grey says, 
after she has made the suggestion to her family : 

' I was silenced for that day, and for many 
succeeding ones; but still I did not wholly 
relinquish my darling scheme. Mary got her 
drawing materials, and steadily set to work. 
I got mine too ; but, while I drew, I thought 
of other things. How delightful it would be 



234 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

to be a governess ! To go out into the world ; 
to enter upon a new life ; to act for myself ; 
to exercise my unused faculties ; to try my 
unknown powers ; to earn my own mainten- 
ance, and something to comfort and help my 
father, mother, and sister, besides exonerating 
them from the provision of my food and cloth- 
ing ; to show papa what his little Agnes could 
do ; to convince mamma and Mary that I was 
not quite the helpless, thoughtless being they 
supposed. And then, how charming to be en- 
trusted with the care and education of children ! 
AVhatever others said, I felt I was fully com- 
petent to the task : the clear remembrance 
of my own thoughts in early childhood would 
be a surer guide than the instructions of the 
most mature adviser. I had but to turn from 
my little pupils to myself at their age, and I 
should know at once how to win their con- 
fidence and affections ; how to waken the con- 
trition of the erring; how to embolden the 
timid arid console the afflicted; how to make 
virtue practicable, instruction desirable, and 
religion lively and comprehensible.' 1 
1 ' Agues Grey,' chap. i. 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 235 
i 

Anne Bronte was of a milder and more cheer- 
ful temperament than her sisters ; she had not 
the fire, the morbid feeling, or the mental force 
that characterized Charlotte, yet she had more 
of the initiatory faculty than she had hitherto 
received credit for. But her gentle nature, her 
confiding piety, her more equable temper, en- 
abled her to succeed better in the circum- 
stances she had chosen. She had her troubles, 
her timidity, and her diffidence to contend with, 
but she made life supportable and even happy. 
' Agnes Grey ' thus speaks of her departure, 
which we cannot doubt is the experience of 
Anne Bronte : 

' Some weeks more were yet to be devoted 
to preparation. How long, how tedious those 
weeks appeared to me ! Yet they were happy 
ones in the main, full of bright hopes and ardent 
expectations. With what peculiar pleasure I 
assisted at the making of my new clothes, and, 
subsequently, the packing of my trunks ! But 
there was a feeling of bitterness mingling with 
the latter occupation too ; and when it was 
done when all was ready for my departure 
on the morrow, and the last night at home 



236 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

approached a sudden anguish seemed to swell 
my heart. My dear friends looked sad, and 
spoke so very kindly, that I could scarcely keep 
my heart from overflowing ; but I still affected 
to be gay. I had taken my last ramble with 
Mary on the moors, my last walk in the gar- 
den and round the house ... I had played 
my last tune on the old piano, and sung my 
last song to papa, not the last, I hoped, but 
the last for what appeared to me a very long 
time.' 1 

Charlotte and Emily made themselves busy 
in assisting Anne with her preparations for de- 
parture, and they were very sad and apprehen- 
sive when she left them on Monday, April 15th, 
1839. She went alone, at her own wish, think- 
ing she could manage better if left to her own 
resources, and when her failings were unwit- 
nessed by those whose hopes she wished to 
sustain. However, she wrote, expressing satis- 
faction with the place she had secured, for the 
lady of the house was very kind. She had two 
of the eldest girls under her charge, the children 

1 ' Agnes Grey,' chap. L 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 237 

being confined to the nursery, with which she 
had no concern. 

Charlotte, although remarking in a letter to 
her friend on the cleverness and sensibility with 
which Anne could express herself in epistolary 
correspondence, had some fear that, such was 
the natural diffidence of her manner, her mis- 
tress would sometimes believe her to have an 
impediment in her speech. 

Charlotte's eagerness to obtain a situation 
was now so great that she does not seem to 
have considered well the step she was about 
to take, and she obtained one that was not 
satisfactory to her. It was in the family of a 
wealthy Yorkshire manufacturer ; and we may 
well believe that the stylish surroundings of 
her employers differed materially from those 
of the family at Haworth. Here a large 
quantity of miscellaneous work was thrown 
on Charlotte, which displeased her and de- 
stroyed her comfort. In a letter to Emily, 
she says she -is ' overwhelmed with oceans of 
needlework; yards of cambric to hem, muslin 
night-caps to make, etc.' She found the out- 
side attractions of the house beautiful in ' plea- 



233 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

sant woods, white paths, green lawns, and blue, 
sunshiny sky ;' but these surroundings did not 
compensate for the humiliations which her situa- 
tion imposed upon her, and her mistress and 
she did not like each other; so Charlotte did 
not return to the place after the July holidays 
of 1839. 

Branwell was as yet unemployed, arid he 
sought, and took much pleasure in the scenery, 
the events and circumstances of the hills and 
valleys of the West-Riding of Yorkshire, and was 
frequently from home. He went about the 
country, associating with the people, and revell- 
ing in their ready wit, which enabled him after- 
wards, by such observations and experience, to 
give vivid pictures of life and character. At the 
time of the Haworth ' Rushbearing,' of July, 
1839, he visited Liverpool with one or two 
friends, and, while there, in compliance with an 
injunction of his father, made a stenographic 
report, at St. Jude's church, of a sermon by the 
Rev. H. McNeile, the well-known evangelical 
preacher. Here, a sudden attack of Tic com- 
pelled him to resort to opium, in some form, as 
an anodyne, whose soothing effect in pain he 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 230 

bad previously known. Subsequently, passing 
a music shop, in one of their rambles through 
the town, Bran well's attention was arrested by 
a copy of the oratorio of ' Samson,' by Handel, 
displayed in the window, the performance of 
which had always excited him to the highest 
degree, and he eagerly besought his friend to 
purchase it, as well as some Mass, and various 
oratorio music, which was done. 

On their return from Liverpool, Branwell, 
being under some obligation to his friend, 
proffered to paint his portrait, to which Mr. 

M agreed. A sitting once a week was 

decided upon, to be in the room at the parsonage 
where Branwell studied and painted. On his 

visits, Mr. M invariably noticed a row of 

potatoes, placed on the uppermost rib of the 
range to roast, Branwell being very fond of 
them done in this way, even as Jane Eyre was 
in the novel. ' That night,' she says, ' on going 
to bed, I forgot to prepare, in imagination, the 

Barmecide supper of hot roast potatoes 

with which I was wont to amuse my inward 

cravings.' When Mr. M paid his weekly 

visits to the parsonage he always heard some 



240 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

one speaking aloud in the room adjoining Bran- 
well's studio ; and, at last, his curiosity being 
excited, he inquired whom it was. Branwell 
answered that it was his father committing his 
Sunday's sermon to memory. When the portrait 

was ready for the finishing touches, Mr. M 

discovered that Branwell had painted the names 
of Johanii Sebastian Bach, Mozart, Haydn, and 
Handel at each corner of the canvas respectively. 
He remonstrated, but Branwell was firm, main- 
taining that, as his friend was an accomplished 
musician, and could perform the most elaborate 
and difficult compositions of these immortal men, 
with expression and ease, he was, in every way, 
worthy of being associated with them in the 

manner he designed. Mr. M complied. 

When the portrait was finished, Branwell pressed 
his friend to take a glass of wine; and, while 
the two were chatting over the affair, Mr. Bronte 
and his daughters entered the room to view 
BranweH's work on its completion. They were 
pleased with it, and praised it as a truthful like- 
ness and an excellent picture. 

We may well imagine the enthusiasm with 
Avhich Branwell would recount his experience of 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 241 

Liverpool. How much he would have to tell 
of the wonders of the Mersey, the great ships 
that rode upon its surface, and its commerce with 
the new world, out across the ocean ! His visit 
seems to have originated a proposal that the 
family should spend a week or a fortnight at 
that seaport, but, almost at the same moment, 
Charlotte's friend suggested to her that they 
should visit Cleethorpes together, a suggestion 
that pleased her very much. 

' The idea of seeing the sea,' she says, 'of being 
near it watching its changes by sunrise, sunset, 
moonlight, and noon-day in calm, perhaps in 
storm fills and satisfies my mind. I shall be 
discontented at nothing. And then I am not 
to be with a set of people with whom I have 
nothing in common who would be nuisances 
and bores.' 

The visit of Charlotte to the sea-side seems to 
have been put off again and again, by often- 
recurring obstacles. The irresolution of her 
family in regard to the Liverpool project, and 
the manifest unwillingness that she should leave 
home on a visit anywhere else, put off, from time 
to time, the pleasure she had anticipated for her- 

YOL. I. K 



242 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

self ; but at last she decided to go. Her box was 
packed and everything prepared, but no con- 
veyance could be procured. Mr. Bronte objected 
to her going by coach, and walking part of the 
way to meet her friend, and her aunt exclaimed 
against 'the weather, and the roads, and the 
four winds of heaven,' so Charlotte almost gave 
up hope. She told her friend that the elders of 
the house had never cordially acquiesced in the 
measure, and that opposition was growing more 
open, though her father would willingly have 
indulged her. Even he, however, wished her 
to remain at home. Charlotte was ' provoked ' 
that her aunt had deferred opposition until 
arrangements had been made. In the end ' E ' 
was asked to pay a visit to the parsonage. 

Owing to the circumstances indicated, Char- 
lotte's visit to the sea-coast was put off until the 
following September, when an opportunity occurr- 
ed favourable to the project, which does not seem 
to have been entirely abandoned ; and she and 
her friend visited Easton where they spent a 
fortnight. Here for the first time Charlotte 
beheld the sea. 

Afterwards she wrote, 'Have you forgotten 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 243 

the sea by this time, E.? Is it grown dim 
in your mind ? Or can you still see it, dark, 
blue and green and foam-white, and hear it 
roaring roughly when the wind is high, or 
rushing softly when it is calm?' The Liver- 
pool journey appears to have been finally 
abandoned. 

It was in a letter, written about this time that 
Mrs. Gaskell found the first mention of a 
succession of curates who henceforth revolved 
round Haworth Parsonage. Three years earlier 
Mr. Bronte had sought aid from the ' Additional 
Curates' Society,' or some similar institution, 
and was provided at once with assistance. The 
increasing duties of his chapelry had rendered 
this step necessary. It would seem also that a 
curate was appointed to Stanbury, while another 
became master of the National or Grammar School. 
These gentlemen were not infrequent in their 
visits to the parsonage, and they varied the life 
of its inmates, sometimes one way and some- 
times another. This circumstance, at the same 
time, provided Charlotte Bronte with those liv- 
ing studies which she did not fail afterwards to 
remember in her delineation of the three curates 

R2 



244 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

in ' Shirley/ Emily, on the other hand, invari- 
ably avoided these gentlemen. 

The arrival of the curates at Haworth was 
the occasion of increased activity in the affairs 
of the chapelry ; and, the church-rate question 
being uppermost at this juncture, the new-comers 
entered into a crusade against the Dissenters 
who had refused to pay church-rates. Charlotte 
wrote a long letter in which she spoke of a 
violent public meeting held at Haworth about 
the affair, and of two sermons against dissent 
one by Mr. W. a ' noble, eloquent, high-church, 
apostolical-succession discourse, in which he 
banged the Dissenters most fearlessly and 
unflinchingly;' the other by Mr. C., a 'keener, 
cleverer, bolder, and more heart-stirring har- 
angue,' than Charlotte, perhaps, had ever heard 
from the Haworth pulpit. She, however, did 
not entirely agree with either of these gentle- 
men, and thought, if she had been a Dissenter, 
she would have ' taken the first opportunity of 
kicking or of horse- whipping both.' 

In the winter of 1839 40, Charlotte em- 
ployed her leisure in the composition of a story 
which she had commenced on a scale commen- 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 245 

eurate with one of Richardson's novels of seven 
or eight volumes. Mrs. Gaskell saw some 
fragments of the manuscript, written in a very 
small hand : but she was less solicitous to deci- 
pher it, as Charlotte had herself condemned it 
in the preface to ' The Professor.' Branwell, to 
whom she submitted it, seems to have under- 
stood, at the time, that in its florid style of 
composition she was working in opposition to 
her genius, and he told her she was making a 
mistake. It appears not unlikely that Branwell 
was himself similarly engaged on prose writing 
when he gave her this opinion. A few months 
later, however, Charlotte resolved to send the 
commencement of her tale to Wordsworth, and 
that an unfavourable judgment was the result, 
for which she was not altogether unprepared, 
may be gathered from the following letter she 
addressed to the poet : 

' Authors are generally very tenacious of their 
productions, but I am not so much attached to 
this but that I can give it up without much 
distress. No doubt if I had gone on I should 
have made quite a Richardsonian concern of it 
... I had materials in my head for half-a-dozen 



246 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

volumes .... Of course it is with considerable 
regret I relinquish any scheme so charming as 
the one I have sketched. It is very edifying 
and profitable to create a world out of your own 
brains, and people it with inhabitants who are 
so many Melchisedecs, and have no father or 

mother but your own imagination I am 

sorry I did not exist fifty or sixty years ago, 
when the "Ladies' Magazine "was flourishing 
like a green bay-tree. In that case, I make 110 
doubt, my aspirations after literary fame would 
have met with due encouragement, and I should 
have had the pleasure of introducing Messrs. 
Percy and West into the best society, and 
recording all their sayings and doings in double- 
columned, close-printed pages ... I recollect,, 
when I was a child, getting hold of some anti- 
quated volumes, reading them by stealth with 
the most exquisite pleasure. You give a correct 
description of the patient Grisels of these days. 
My aunt was one of them ; and to this day she 
thinks the tales of the "Ladies' Magazine" 
infinitely superior to any trash of modern litera- 
ture. So do I ; for I read them in childhood, 
and childhood has a very strong faculty of 



EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE. 247 

admiration, but a very weak one of criticism 
... 1 am pleased that you cannot quite decide 
whether I am an attorney's clerk or a novel- 
reading dressmaker. I will not help you at 
all in the discovery . . .' 

In the midst of their literary endeavours, their 
efforts were not relaxed to obtain new places. 
Charlotte was obliged by circumstances to give 
up her subscriptions to the Jews, and she deter- 
mined to force herself to take a situation, if one 
could be found, though she says, ' I hate and 
abhor the very thoughts of governess-ship.' An 
alternative which the sisters talked over in these 
holidays was the opening of a school at Haworth, 
for which an enlargement of the parsonage 
Avould be required. 

Branwell was more successful in his pursuit 
of employment than Charlotte, having procured 
the place of a tutor ; and he was to commence 
his duties with the new year. Charlotte says 
of this event, ' One thing, however, will make 
the daily routine more unvaried than ever. 
Branwell, who used to enliven us, is to leave 
us in a few days, and enter the situation of a 
private tutor in the neighbourhood of Ulverston. 



248 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

How he will like to settle remains yet to be 
seen. At present he is full of hope and resolu- 
tion. I, who know his variable nature, and his 
strong turn for active life, dare not be too 
sanguine.' 

Branwell seems to have paid a farewell visit 
to the ' Lodge of the Three Graces ' on the 
Christmas Day of this year, when he acted as 
organist. This is the only occasion on which 
he is recorded as having attended at the meet- 
ings of the Lodge in 1839, and it is the last on 
which his name appears in the minute book of 
the Haworth masonic body. 



249 



CHAPTER XVI. 

BRANWELL AT BROUGHTON-IN-FURNESS. 

The District of Black Comb BranwelFs Sonnet Words- 
worth and Hartley Coleridge Branwell's Letter to 
the ' Old Knave of Trumps ' Its Publication by 
Miss Robinson in her 'Emily Bronte' Branwell's 
familiar Acquaintance with the People of Haworth 
He could Paint their Characters with Accuracy 
His Knowledge of the Human Passions Emily's 
Isolation. 

BRANWELL, being as desirous of employment as 
his sisters, had sought for, and obtained, a situa- 
tion as tutor in the family of Mr. Postlethwaite, 
of Broughtou-in-Furness. He entered upon his 
new duties ou the 1st of January, 1840. 

Now that he found himself resident near the 
English lake district, consecrated as it is by 
so many poetic memories, and dear to him as the 
home of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey 



250 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

lie naturally felt an intense interest in all that 
surrounded him; and, when he was not en- 
gaged in teaching the sons of his employer, he 
took occasion to visit such places as had any 
attraction for him. On one of his pedestrian 
excursions, he had stepped into a wayside inn, 
and was seated musing before the parlour fire, 
when a young gentleman entered the room. 
Branwell turned round, and recognized at once 
a friend of the name of Ayrton, whose acquaint- 
ance he had formed in Leeds. The surprise 
and delight at this unexpected meeting was 
mutual ; and Bran well's friend, who was driving 
about the country, requested his company for 
some distance on the journey, for the purpose 
of prolonging the interview, and of continuing 
the conversation that had been begun. The 
young tutor drove some ten miles with his 
friend, utterly regardless of the long return 
walk to Diversion. 

Branwell delighted in the writings of the 
' Lake Poets,' and was much influenced by 
Southey's prose works. He read the 'Life of 
Nelson,' and was himself moved to write a poem 
illustrative of the life of that great naval hero. 



BRANYv T ELL AT BROUGHTON-IN-FURNESS. 251 

He also read the ' Colloquies on Society,' and 
others of South ey's works. But it was Words- 
worth who at this moment, was the object of 
Branwell's chief admiration. He revelled in 
that poet's fine description of the view from 

the top of Black Comb, and, perhaps, knew the 

i 

lines written by his ' deity of the mind ' on 
a stone on the side of the mountain, and pro- 
bably had himself looked from its summit. But 
Bran well certainly knew Black Comb from afar. 
Five miles away he could see it ; and he cele- 
brated it in the following sonnet : 

BLACK COMB. 

' Far off, and half revealed, 'mid shade and light, 

Black Comb half smiles, half frowns ; his mighty form 
Scarce bending into peace more formed to fight 
A thousand years of struggles with a storm 
Than bask one hour, subdued by sunshine warm, 
To bright and breezeless rest ; yet even his height 
Towers not o'er this world's sympathies, he smiles 
While many a human heart to pleasures' wiles 
Can bear to bend, and still forget to rise 
As though he, huge and heath-clad, on our sight, 
Again rejoices in his stormy skies. 
Man loses vigour in unstable joys. 
Thus tempests find Black Comb invincible, 
"While we are lost, who should know life so well !' 



'252 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

It was doubtless while Branwell was living 
at Ulverston that he obtained the favourable 
opinion of Wordsworth on some poems which 
he submitted for criticism. Probably he found 
opportunity to visit the writer whose works he 

' loved most in our literature,' and it would be 



on some similar excursion that he obtained an 
encouraging expression of opinion from Hartley 
Coleridge. The author of ' The Northern Wor- 
thies ' was not unknown to the circle at 'The 
George,' at Bradford, and was acquainted with 
Branwell Bronte and Leyland. 

The master of the 'Lodge of the Three 
Graces,' at Haworth, did not, however, long 
permit Branwell to forget his old acquaintance 
there ; for this worthy soon addressed to him a 
communication which provoked a reply that 
Branwell dated from Broughton-in-Furness on 
the 13th of the March following his arrival. This 
imfortunate response, in which Branwell ad- 
dressed the masonic sexton of Haworth, with 
sarcastic humour, as ' Old Knave of Trumps,' is 
the one which Miss Robinson has been so ill 
advised as to publish in her 'Emily Bronte;' and 
which has done not a little to draw down on the 



BRANWELL AT BROUGHTOX-IX-FURNESS. 253 

head of Bran well the full and unmitigated 
volume of Mr. Swinburne's vocabulary of abuse. 
And, in fact, if this letter could be taken as the 
proper and natural expression of an abject pro- 
fligate, altogether shameless and unredeemed, 
he could find a defender neither here nor else- 
where. But there are good reasons for hoping 
that it was otherwise. We have seen that Bran- 
well had been led to join the rude village society 
of Ha worth, where, on account of his brilliance, 
and of his position as the incumbent's son, he 
was not a little looked up to. It was natural, 
then, that he should be led, foolishly enough, to 
endeavour to stand well with the friends he had 
selected, and his knowledge of character was 
sufficiently good to enable him to know what 
kind of letter would best suit the tastes and 
inclinations of many of his companions of the 
' Lodge of the Three Graces.' He assumed in 
fact, that bravado of vice, that air of diablerie, 
which was thought by many people, in those 
days, and is so yet by not a few, to be the best 
proof of manhood, because it betokened a know- 
ledge of the world. Yet, at the end of the 
letter, the passage is not given by Miss Robin- 



254 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

son Brairwell appears to take it as a matter of 
course that the sexton, will not show it, and he 
begs him, for ' Heaven's sake,' to blot out the 
lines scored in red. Bran well knew the 'Old 
Knave of Trumps' well, and he was certain that 
his letter would cause no little amusement 
among his immediate friends to whom the sexton 
was sure to read it. He was ashamed of certain 
passages in it, which is evidence enough 
that it was not the outcome of a depraved and 
shameless nature, but rather the expression of 
the acted character of a vicious and blase world- 
ling. And it is, moreover, inconceivable that a 
young man, who was of the sensitive nature 
betokened by the contemporary poems we have 
published, could, at the same time, have been 
a hardened and cynical profligate. Indeed, it is 
evident that the objectionable allusions were 
not of his origination, but were called forth by 
the remarks of others, for whom Branwell does 
not fail to show his contempt. 

It has, however, been the misfortune of Bran- 
well Bronte, that a letter which he wrote in 
folly, for the eyes of personal friends alone, has 



BRANWELL AT BROUGHTON-IN-FURNESS. 25,5 

been published to the world as the token and 
evidence of his infamy. One use, at any rate, 
flows from the publication of it, for it shows us 
the quick and vivid grasp of character, and the 
incisive mode of composition which now began, 
in his more vigorous moods, to distinguish its 
author. The letter is as follows : 

, ; Broughton-in-Fumess, 
March 13, 1840. 

' OLD KNAVE OF TRUMPS, 

* Don't think I have forgotten 
you, though I have delayed so long in writing 
to you. It was my purpose to send you a yarn 
as soon as I could find materials to spin one with, 
and it is only just now that I have had time to 
turn myself round and know where I am. If 
you saw me now, you would not know me, and 
you would laugh to hear the character the people 
give me. Oh, the falsehood and hypocrisy of 
this world ! I am fixed in a little retired town 
by the sea-shore, among wild woody hills that 
rise round me huge, rocky, and capped with 
clouds. My employer is a retired county magis- 



256 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

trate, a large landowner, and of a right hearty 
and generous disposition. His wife is a quiet r 
silent, and amiable woman, and his sons are two 
fine, spirited lads. My landlord is a respectable 
surgeon, and six days out of seven is as drunk 
as a lord ! His wife is a bustling, chattering, 
kind-hearted soul ; and his daughter! oh! death 
and damnation! Well, what am I? That is,, 
what do they think I am ? A most calm, sedate, 
sober, abstemious, patient, mild-hearted, virtuous,, 
gentlemanly philosopher, the picture of good 
works, and the treasure-house of righteous 
thoughts. Cards are shuffled under the table- 
cloth, glasses are thrust into the cupboard, if I 
enter the room. I take neither spirits, wine, nor 
malt liquors. I dress in black, and smile like a 
saint or martyr. Everybody says, " What a good 
young gentleman is Mr. Postlethwaite's tutor !" 
This is fact, as I am a living soul, and right com- 
fortably do I laugh at them. I mean to continue 
in their good opinion. I took a half year's fare- 
well of old friend whisky at Kendal on the night 
after I left. There was a party of gentlemen at 
the Royal Hotel, and I joined them. We ordered 
in supper and whisky-toddy as " hot as hell !" 



BRANWELL AT BROUGHTON-1N-FURNESS. 257 

They thought I was a physician, and put me in 
the chair. I gave sundry toasts, that were 
washed down at the same time, till the room 
spun round and the candles danced in our eyes. 
One of the guests was a respectable old gentle- 
man with powdered head, rosy cheeks, fat 
paunch, and ringed fingers. He gave " The 
Ladies," . . . after which he brayed off with a 
speech ; and in two minutes, in the middle of a 
grand sentence, he stopped, wiped his head, look- 
ed wildly round, stammered, coughed, stopped 
again, and called for his slippers. The waiter 
helped him to bed. Next a tall Irish squire 
and a native of the land of Israel began to 
quarrel about their countries ; and, in the 
warmth of argument, discharged their glasses, 
each at his neighbour's throat instead of his 
own. I recommended bleeding, purging, and 
blistering ; but they administered each other a 
real " Jem Warder," so I flung my tumbler on 
the floor, too, and swore I'd join " Old Ireland !" 
A regular rumpus ensued, but we were tamed 
at last. I found myself in bed next morning, 
with a bottle of porter, a glass, and a corkscrew 
beside me. Since then I have not tasted any- 
VOL. I. S 



258 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

thing stronger than milk-and-water, nor, I hope, 
shall, till I return at Midsummer ; when we will 
see about it. I am getting as fat as Prince 
William at Springhead, and as godly as his 
friend, Parson Winterbotham. My hand shakes 
no longer. I ride to the banker's at Ulverston 
with Mr. Postlethwaite, and sit drinking tea and 
talking scandal with old ladies. As to the 
young ones ! I have one sitting by me just now 
fair-faced, blue-eyed, dark-haired, sweet 
eighteen she little thinks the devil is so near 
her! 

' I was delighted to see thy note, old squire, 
but I do not understand one sentence you 
will perhaps know what I mean . . . How are 
all about you ? I long to hear and see them 
again. How is the " Devil's Thumb," whom 
men call , and the " Devil in Mourn- 
ing," whom they call . How are 

, and , and the Doctor; and him 

who will be used as the tongs of hell he whose 
eyes Satan looks out of, as from windows I mean 

, esquire ? How are little , 

" Longshanks," , and the rest of 

them ? Are they married, buried, devilled, and 



BRANWELL AT BROUGHTOX-IN-FURNESS. 259 

damned ? When I come I'll give them a good 
squeeze of the hand ; till then I am too godly 
for them to think of. That bow-legged devil 
used to ask me impertinent questions which I 
answered him in kind. Beelzebub will make of 
him a walking-stick ! Keep to thy teetotalism, 
old squire, till 1 return ; it will mend thy old 
body .... Does " Little Nosey " think I have 
forgotten him ? No, by Jupiter ! nor his clock 
either. 1 I'll send him a remembrancer some of 
these days ! But I must talk to some one 
prettier than thee ; so good-night, old boy, and 
' Believe me thine, 

'THE PHILOSOPHER. 

'Write directly. Of course you won't show 
this letter ; and, for Heaven's sake, blot out all 
the lines scored with red ink.' 

This letter, as I have intimated, was never 
intended for more than a moment's amusement, 
at most, to a small circle of acquaintances at 

1 The clock mentioned by Branwell was one that stood 
in a corner of the ' Snug ' at ' The Bull,' inside the door 
of which the landlord ' Little Nosey ' used to chalk up 
the ' shots ' of his guests. 

s2 



260 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Hawortb, and was not to exist after having 
been read. But John Brown kept the letter, 
which I saw and copied. It is a curious 
circumstance, illustrating the hold which 
it obtained over the Haworth circle, that, 
though the original was lost so long since as 
1874, the brother of the sexton knew it by 
heart, and could repeat it with considerable 
accuracy. In this way it has been several times 
written down. No allusion would have been 
made to the letter in the present work, if Miss 
Robinson strange to say had not thought it 
a fitting embellishment for her ' Emily Bronte/ 
If Branwell had known its fate at the moment 
he wrote it, it would never have reached the 
' Worshipful Master of the Lodge of the Three 
Graces,' but would have been committed to the 
flames by his own hand ; for, as we have seen, 
he was ashamed of some expressions scored in 
red, which he begged might be obliterated. 

This letter, Jaowever, is valuable ; inasmuch 
as it shows what Branwell, at this young period 
of his life, knew about human nature, and the 
depths to which it can descend. He had pene- 
trated into the passions, feelings, and disposi- 



BRANWELL AT BROUGHTOX-IX-FURXESS. 261 

tions of his acquaintances by frequent intercourse, 
by keen perception, and by familiar conversation. 
He had heard them, noticed them, and could 
paint their characters with unerring precision 
-and vivid colouring. He was acquainted with 
the ways of society, and the customs of domestic 
life. The world was to him a picture-gallery, 
arid all living things in it were studies of the 
deepest interest. His knowledge of men and 
manners, of the hard, implacable, and selfish, 
and also of the soft, tender, and gentle natures 
of men and women, enabled him to cast their 
stories of sorrow and gladness faithfully and 
well. 

At the time when he had attained manhood, 
when his intellects were reaching their full 
development, he had already been drawn into 
society, and indoctrinated into the mysteries of 
Haworth life ; and had become acquainted with 
the excesses of men older and harder than 
himself. It cannot be wondered at that, if he 
had learned more than is usual in youth, he did 
not escape the temptations attendant on the 
peculiar knowledge he had acquired. But, 
while he was thus passing through the crooked 



262 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

ways and reckless deviations of the world, ob- 
taining a large crop of experiences, good and 
bad, his sisters were, for the most part, at home, 
living like recluses, and, when away, were still 
in similar seclusion. Of Emily, Charlotte says, 
'I am bound to avow that she had scarcely 
more practical knowledge of the peasantry 
amongst whom she lived, than a nun has of the 
country people who sometimes pass her convent 
gates. My sister's disposition was not natur- 
ally gregarious; circumstances favoured and 
fostered her tendency to seclusion ; except to go 
to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely 
crossed the threshold of home. Though her 
feeling for the people round her was benevolent, 
intercourse with them she never sought, nor, 
with very few exceptions, ever experienced. 
And yet she knew them, knew their ways, their 
language, their family histories ; she could hear 
of them with interest, and talk of them with 
detail, minute, graphic, and accurate ; but with 
them she rarely exchanged a word.' 1 But 
Branwell walked and held personal intercourse, 
as we have seen, with the people whom Emily 

1 Charlotte Bronte. Memoir prefixed to ' Wuthering Heights.* 



BRANWELL AT BROUGHTON-IN-FURNESS. 2ti3 

shunned ; and his personal knowledge, and his 
unquestionable genius combined, enabled him 
to grasp and appreciate, to dissect with pene- 
trating skill, and to estimate and define the 
tendency of the strong and marked character 
of the people around him. It is, therefore, 
doubly unfortunate that, from Branwell, we have 
little remaining in the way of graphic descrip- 
tion, and that tlje rich treasures of observation 
which he outpoured have, for the most part, left 
their impressions only in the memories of those 
who were privileged to hear him discourse. 



264 



CHAPTER XVII. 

BRANWELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. CHARLOTTE'S 
EXERTIONS. 

Branwell's Appointment at Ulverston ends He gets a 
Situation on the Railroad at Sowerby Bridge Bran- 
well at Luddenden Foot His Friends' Reminiscences 
of him Charlotte and Emily reading French Novels 
Charlotte obtains a Situation Anxious about Anne 
School Project of the Sisters Charlotte's keen Desire 
to visit Brussels Her Letter to her Aunt Branwell. 

IF the performance of the responsible duties of 
his appointment at Mr. Postlethwaite's, which 
ended, at his father's wish, in the June of 1840, 
had been felt by Branwell as a banishment 
from the cheerful company of his Ha worth ac- 
quaintances, it had been still greater from his 
artistic and literary friends in the neighbour- 
hood of Bradford and Halifax. Hence he 
sought, with a perseverance amounting to 



BRANWELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 265 

anxiety, to obtain a post on the Leeds and 
Manchester Railway, to the opening of which 
he had looked forward with concern at some 
place in the valley of the Calder, near Halifax ; 
and he received the appointment of clerk in 
charge, at the station at Sowerby Bridge. 
Charlotte says of BranwelFs determination : ' a 
distant relation of mine, one Patrick Branwell, 
has set off to seek his fortune in the wild, wan- 
dering, adventurous, romantic, knight-errant-like 
capacity of clerk on the Leeds and Manchester 
Railroad.' 1 Branwell commenced his new occu- 
pation at Sowerby Bridge on the 1st of October, 
1840, just before the opening of the line from 
Hebden Bridge to Normanton. 

As has been already seen, an acquaintance had 
existed between Branwell and Leyland ; but now 
that the former had become a resident in the 
immediate neighbourhood, after his visits to the 
artist's studio had been interrupted for six 
months, or more, by his stay at Broughton-in- 
Furness, a more frequent intercourse followed 
between the two. It was on a bright Sunday 
afternoon in the autumn of 1840, at the desire 
1 Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronto,' chap. ix. 



266 THE BRONTii FAMILY. 

of my brother, the sculptor, that I accompanied 
him to the station at Sowerby Bridge to see 
Branwell. The young railway clerk was of 
gentleman-like appearance, and seemed to be 
qualified for a much better position than the 
one he had chosen. In stature he was a little 
below the middle height ; not ' almost insignifi- 
cantly small,' as Mr. Grundy states, nor had he 
' a downcast look ;' neither was he ' a plain 
specimen of humanity.' 1 He was slim and 
agile in figure, yet of well-formed outline. His 
complexion was clear and ruddy, and the ex- 
pression of his face, at the time, lightsome and 
cheerful. His voice had a ringing sweetness, 
and the utterance and use of his English were 
perfect. Branwell appeared to be in excellent 
spirits, and showed none of those traces of 
intemperance with which some writers have 
unjustly credited him about this period of his 
life. 

My brother had often spoken to me of Bran- 
well's poetical abilities, his conversational powers,, 
and the polish of his education ; and, on a per- 

1 ' Pictures of the Past,' by Francis H. Grundy, C.E. 
(1879) p. 75. 



BRAN WELL AT SOWERBT BRIDGE. 267 

sonal acquaintance, I found nothing to question 
in this estimate of his mental gifts, and of his 
literary attainments. 

Branwell stayed at Sowerby Bridge some 
months, whence he was transferred, in 1 841, to- 
Luddenden Foot, a place about a mile further 
up the valley, where a station had been recently 
fixed. Mr. Grundy, who was an assistant-en- 
gineer on the line, became acquainted with 
Branwell at the latter place; and says of -it, 
' there was no village near at hand,' and that, 
'had a position been chosen for this strange 
creature, for the express purpose of driving him 
several steps to the bad, this must have been 
it.' 1 

Mr. Grundy must have spoken from memory 
only. The ancient village of Luddeuden Foot, 
within two minutes' walk of the station, with its 
population employed in the mills and manu- 
factories of the neighbourhood, together with 
its two old hostelries of the ' Red Lion,' and the 
' Shuttle and Anchor,' was surely sufficient to 
banish all solitude and wiklness from the neigh- 
bourhood of Branwell's sojourn. Yet the change- 

1 ' Pictures of the Past,' p. 75. 



268 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

r was scarcely a desirable one, and doubtless 
helped to disgust Bran well with his employ- 
ment. It is to be regretted that the respective 
occupations of Branwell and Mr. Grundy were 
of such a nature as to prevent a regular and 
continual intercourse, and that distance of time 
and place have so far dimmed Mr. Grundy's re- 
miniscences of his friend, that, valuable though 
the letters he has wisely preserved are, many in- 
accuracies have entered into his recollections of 
him, and Mrs. Gaskell's exaggerated account 
has had undue weight in the picture he has 
drawn. 

Mr. William Heaton, author of a minor volume 
of poems entitled the ' Flowers of Caldervale,' 
knew Branwell Bronte well when he was at Lud- 
denden Foot. He wrote to me a letter in which 
occurred the following description of his mind 
and character, and also of his conversation when 
at one of the village inns, where they sometimes 
met : 

' He was,' says Heaton, ' blithe and gay, but 
at times appeared downcast and sad ; yet, if the 
subject were some topic that he was acquainted 
with, or some author he loved, he would rise from 



BRANWELL AT SOWKRBY BRIDGE. 269 

his seat, aud, iu beautiful language, describe the 
author's character, with a zeal and fluency I had 
never heard equalled. His talents were of a 
very exalted kind. I have heard him quote 
pieces from the bard of Avon, from Shelley, 
Wordsworth, and Byron, as well as from 
Butler's " Hudibras," in such a manner as often 
made me wish I had been a scholar, as he 
was. At that time I- was just beginning to 
write verses. It is true I had written many 
pieces, but they had never seen the light ; and, 
on a certain occasion, I showed him one, which 
he pronounced very good. He lent me books 
which I had never seen before, and was ever 
ready to give me information. His temper was 
always mild towards me. I shall never forget 
his love for the sublime and beautiful work's of 
Nature, nor how he would tell of the lovely 
flowers and rare plants he had observed by the 
mountain stream and woodland rill. All these 
had excellencies for him ; and I have often heard 
him dilate on the sweet strains of the nightin- 
gale, and on the thoughts that bewitched him 
the first time he heard one.' 

During Branwell's twelvemonths' stay at 



270 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Ludclenden Foot, he formed new acquaintances, 
but the avocations, tastes, and pursuits of the 
well-to-do inhabitants did not accord with his ; 
and he, perhaps, more frequently than was com- 
patible with his duties, visited Halifax to seek 
the intellectual enjoyment which his own narrow 
occupation and the society of Luddenden Foot 
did not afford. 

While he was occupied in the service of the 
railway company at this place, we hear nothing 
relating to him, of moment, in Charlotte's corre- 
spondence. Happy that he was employed, his 
sisters engaged eagerly and earnestly in devising 
schemes for obtaining a livelihood that might 
enable them to work together for their mutual 
assistance in literary labour. 

Charlotte was still at home with Emily, read- 
ing French novels, of which, we learn, she had 
got another bale, ' containing upwards of forty 
volumes.' 'I have read about half,' she says. 
' They are like the rest, clever, wicked, sophis- 
tical, and immoral. The best of it is, they give 
one a thorough idea of France and Paris, and 
are the best substitute for French conversation.' 
We scarcely recognize, in this employment, the 



BRANWELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 271 

Charlotte Bronte of three years before, whose 
religious mania was driving her to despair, un- 
less, indeed, it be in the force with which she 
pursues the new bent of her inclination. She has 
read twenty volumes of this, the second, batch, 
and was proposing to read twenty more. It 
was her expectation that, by this process, she 
would become sufficiently familiar with the 
language to enable her to teach it to 
others. 

In the letter in which she announced that 
Branwell had gone to his post on the railway 
written in good spirits, when she saw every- 
thing couleu)'-de-rose, which, however, she at- 
tributes to the high wind blowing over the 
* hills of Judea ' at Haworth she says : ' A wo- 
man of the name of Mrs. B , it seems, wants 

a teacher. I wish she would have me; and 
I have written to Miss Wooller to tell her so. 
Verily, it is a delightful thing to live at home, 
at full liberty to do just what one pleases. But 
I recollect some scrubby old fable about grass- 
hoppers and ants, by a scrubby old knave, 
yclept /Esop ; the grasshoppers sang all the 
summer, and starved all the winter.' 



272 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Branwell was proving himself no grasshopper, 
for, if he sang, he was anxious to exert himself 
in a practical way at the same time; and, so 
far, he was doing well at Luddenden Foot. 
Charlotte, too, was resolved to be employed, 

but the negotiation with Mrs. B failed. The 

lady expressed herself pleased with the frank- 
ness with which Charlotte stated her qualifica- 
tions, but she required some one who could 
undertake to give instruction in music and 
singing. This Miss Bronte could not do. She 
does not appear to have had the musical taste 
which her brother and sisters had inherited 
from the Branwell family. She resembled her 
father, perhaps, more closely than did any of 
the other children. At last, however, in March, 
1841, she entered her second situation as a 
private governess. 'I told you, some time 
since/ she writes to her friend, ' that I meant 
to get a situation, and, when I said so, my 
resolution was quite fixed. I felt that, however 
often I was disappointed, I had no intention 
of relinquishing my efforts. After being severe- 
ly baffled two or three times after a world of 
trouble, in the way of correspondence and in- 



BRAN WELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 273 

terviews I have at length succeeded, and am 
fairly established in my new place.' 

Charlotte found her residence not very large, 
but the grounds were fine and extensive. She 
had made some sacrifice to secure comfort, as 
she says, not good living, but cheerful faces 
and warm hearts. Her pupils were two in 
number, one a girl of eight, and the other a 
boy of six. Though always more or less afflict- 
ed with home-sickness, whenever she was at 
a distance from her father's house, with its 
familiar and affectionate ways, she enjoyed, in 
her new place, considerable relief from it, owing 
to the spontaneous generosity and kindliness 
of her employers. She says, indeed, * My earn- 
est wish and endeavour will be to please them. 
If I can but feel that I am giving satisfaction, 
and if, at the same time, I can keep my health, 
I shall, I hope, be moderately happy. But no 
one but myself can tell how hard a gover- 
ness's work is to me for no one but myself 
is aware how utterly averse my whole mind 
and nature are for the employment. Do not 
think that I fail to blame myself for this, or 
that I leave any means unemployed to conquer 

VOL. I. T 



274 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

this feeling. Some of my greatest difficulties 
lie in things that would appear to you com- 
paratively trivial. I find it so hard to repel the 
rude familiarity of children. I find it so difficult 
to ask either servants or mistress for anything 
I want, however much I want it. It is less 
pain for me to endure the greatest inconveni- 
ence than to go into the kitchen to request its 
removal. I am a fool. Heaven knows I cannot 
help it' 

Charlotte found matters a little easier after 
the first month of her stay, and her home-sick- 
ness became less oppressive. Though her time 
was much occupied, great kindness was shown 
towards her, and her father and her friend were 
invited to come to see her. 

In June she wrote, in the absence of her 
employer, ' You can hardly fancy it possible, I 
dare say, that I cannot find a quarter-of-an-hour 
to scribble a note in ; but so it is ; and when a 
note is written, it has to be carried a mile to the 
post, and that consumes nearly an hour, which 

is a large portion of the day. Mr. and Mrs. 

have been gone a week. I heard from them this 
morning. No time is fixed for their return, but 



BRAN WELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 275 

I hope it will not be delayed long, or I shall miss 
the chance of seeing Anne this vacation. She 
came home, I understand, last Wednesday, and 
is only to be allowed three weeks' vacation, 
because the family she is with are going to 
Scarborough. / should like to see her, to judge 
for myself of the state of her health. I dare not 
trust any other person's report, no one seems 
minute enough in their observations. I should 
very much have liked you to have seen her. I 
have got on very well with the servants and 
children so far ; yet it is dreary, solitary work. 
You can tell as well as me the lonely feeling of 
being without a companion.' 1 

The delicate Anne, struggling with all the 
troubles, the indignities, of the life of a governess, 
was a picture that was naturally distressing 
enough to Charlotte, ever anxious, ever watchful 
over the welfare of her youngest sister, and she 
would, perhaps, be apt, in her imagination, to 
exaggerate her sister's difficulties in the light of 
her own. In truth the sisters had qualities of 
mind and heart which did much to unfit them 
for the enjoyment of content or happiness 
1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte.' chap. x. 

T 2 



276 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

amongst strangers. Charlotte, in particular, with 
a nature, sensitive, observant, and tenacious ; an 
imagination highly wrought, active, and fertile,, 
but too often morbid; with a will, powerful, yet 
constrained by the nervous weakness of an excit- 
able constitution, could with difficulty conform 
inclination to the necessities of such a career ; 
she longed for freedom. It was not surprising, 
then, that when Charlotte reached Haworth 
which she did before Anne's return there was a 
revival of the project I have before mentioned 
of the opening of a school, wherein they could 
enjoy the liberty of home. 

Mr. Bronte and Miss Branwell were not un- 
favourably disposed towards the project, and 
they conversed now and then, at the breakfast 
table or in the evenings, as to how they could 
best help the girls into the position they so much 
coveted. The sisters must always have had a 
friend in their father in these matters ; he could 
not but be pleased and interested in struggles 
and expectations which reproduced so closely 
the hopeful days of his own early life, and we 
learn, as the result of the deliberations of the 
elders, that the aunt offered a loan, or intimated 



BRANWELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 277 

that she would, perhaps, offer one, in case her 
nieces could give some assurance of the solidity 
-of their plans in the shape of a situation decided 
upon and of pupils promised. The East-Riding 
was thought to be not so well provided with 
schools as the West, and the favourite idea of 
the sisters was to open their projected academy 
in the neighbourhood of Burlington, where the 
health, both of themselves and of their pupils, 
might be hoped for. But there was a question 
how much their aunt would be disposed to 
advance them. Charlotte did not think she 
would sink more than 150 in such a venture, 
and she doubted if this Avould be a sufficient sum 
with which to establish a school and commence 
house-keeping, on however modest a scale. 
These were reflections which damped a little the 
excitement of hopeful expectation in which the 
sisters, especially Charlotte, revolved these plans. 
She anxiously awaited the coming of her friend, 
on the day she was expected to visit them 
during their holidays at the parsonage, wearying 
her eyes with watching from the Avindow, eye- 
glass in hand, and, sometimes, spectacles on 
nose, eager to talk over her schemes with some 



278 THE BROXTE FAMILY. 

one else than her sisters and to hear a new 
opinion. But her friend could not come, and 
she says, ' a hundred things I had to say to you 
will now be forgotten, and never said.' Char- 
lotte began to fear some time must elapse before 
her plans could be executed, and she resolved 
not to relinquish her situation till something was 
assured. But this expectation of keeping a 
school, cherished through long years, was never 
realized by the sisters ; ever and anon the shift- 
ing sands of circumstance, the changing currents 
of life, moved them away, even while they 
believed themselves approaching the goal of 
their hopes. 

Charlotte returned to her situation, and she 
tells her friend, in a letter dated August the 7th, 
1841, that she < felt herself again. Mr. and Mrs. 
were from home, and she takes the oppor- 
tunity of saying that to be solitary there was 
to her the happiest part of her time. She 
enters into particulars of the household : the 
children were under decent control, and the 
servants were observant and attentive to her ; 
she says of herself, moreover, that the absence 
of the master and mistress relieved her from the 



BRANWELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 279 

duty of always putting on the appearance of 
being cheerful and conversable. 

Her friends, Martha and Mary T , were 

enjoying great advantages on the Continent, 
where they had gone to stay a month with their 
brother. Charlotte had had a long letter from 
Mary, and a packet enclosing a handsome black 
silk scarf, and a pair of beautiful kid gloves 
bought in Brussels as a present. She was 
pleased with them, and that she had been re- 
membered so far off, amidst the excitement of 
' one of the most splendid capitals of Europe.' 
Mary's letters spoke of ' some of the pictures 
and cathedrals she had seen pictures the most 
exquisite, cathedrals the most venerable.' Some- 
thing swelled to the throat of Charlotte as she 
read this account. She was seized with a 
' vehement impatience of restraint and steady 
work; such a strong wish for wings wings 
such as wealth can furnish ; such an urgent thirst 
to see, to know, to learn ; something internal 
seemed to expand bodily for a minute.' She 
was tantalized for a time by the consciousness 
of faculties unexercised; then all collapsed. 
She considered these emotions, momentary as 



280 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

they were, rebellious and absurd, and they were 
speedily quelled by the resolute spirit they had 
disturbed. She hoped they would not revive, 
as they had been acutely painful. The school 
project, instead of at all fading, was gaining 
strength, and the three sisters kept it in view 
as the pole-star round which all their other 
schemes, as of lesser importance, revolved. To 
this they looked in their despondency. Char- 
lotte was haunted, sometimes, and dismayed, at 
the conviction that she had no natural knack 
for her occupation. She says that, if teaching 
only were requisite, all would be smooth and 
easy ; and she adds, ' but it is the living in 
other people's houses the estrangement from 
one's real character the adoption of a cold, 
rigid, apathetic exterior, that is painful.' 

It appears that Miss Wooler was about this 
time intending to give up her school at Dews- 
bury Moor, and had offered it to the Misses 
Bronte. One or two disadvantages had to be 
set against the favourable terms on which they 
might have the school. The situation could not 
commend itself to Charlotte, anxious as she 
was concerning Anne's health ; the number of 



BRAN WELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 281 

pupils had also diminished, and it would be 
necessary to offer special advantages in the way 
of education before they could hope to have a 
prosperous establishment so their friends ar- 
gued. But Charlotte had resolved to take the 
school. The sisters, however, could not feel 
confident that their qualifications were such as 
would render success certain. Hence, a sug- 
gestion that was made to Charlotte which would 
provide her with the necessary powers, was at 
once taken up with all the energy of her nature ; 
she thus writes to her aunt, on whom all must 
depend : 

' September 29th, 1841. 

1 DEAR AUNT, 

' I have heard nothing of Miss 
Wooler yet since I wrote to her, intimating 
that I would accept her offer. I cannot conjec- 
ture the reason of this long silence, unless some 
unforeseen impediment has occurred in con- 
cluding the bargain. Meantime apian has been 

suggested and approved by Mr. and Sirs. ' 

(the father and mother of her pupils) ' and 
others, which I wish now to impart to you. My 
friends recommend me, if I desire to secure per- 



282 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

manent success, to delay commencing the school 
for six months longer, and by all means to con- 
trive, by hook or by crook, to spend the inter- 
vening time in some school on the continent. 
They say schools in England are so numerous, 
competition so great, that without some such 
step towards attaining superiority, we shall 
probably have a very hard struggle, and may 
fail in the end. They say, moreover, that the 
loan of 100, which you have been so kind as 
to offer us, will, perhaps, not be all required 
now, as Miss Wooler will lend us the furniture ; 
and that, if the speculation is intended to be a 
good and successful one, half the sum, at least, 
ought to be laid out in the manner I have 
mentioned, thereby insuring a more speedy 
repayment both of interest and principal. 

' I would not go to France or to Paris. I 
would go to Brussels in Belgium. The cost of 
the journey there, at the dearest rate of travel- 
ling, would be 5 ; living there is little more 
than half as dear as it is in England, and the 
facilities for education are equal or superior to 
any other place in Europe. In half a year, I 
could acquire a thorough familiarity with 



BRANWELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 285 

French. 1 could improve greatly in Italian, 
and even get a clash of German ; i.e., provided 
my health continued as good as it is now. 
Mary is now staying at Brussels, at a first-rate 
establishment there. I should not think of 
going to the Chateau de Kokleberg, where she 
is resident, as the terms are much too high; 
but if I wrote to her, she, with the assistance 
o Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the British Chap- 
lain, would be able to secure me a cheap, decent 
residence and respectable protection. I should 
have the opportunity of seeing her frequently : 
she would make me acquainted with the city ; 
and, with the assistance of her cousins, I should 
probably be introduced to connections far more 
improving, polished, and cultivated, than any I 
have yet known. 

' These are advantages which would turn to 
real account, when we actually commenced 
a school ; and, if Emily could share them with 
me, we could take a footing in the world 
afterwards which we can never do now. 1 
say Emily instead of Anne ; for Anne might 
take her turn at some future period, if our 
school answered. I feel certain, while I arn 



284 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

writing, that you will see the propriety of what 
I say. You always like to use your money 
to the best advantage. You are not fond of 
making shabby purchases ; when you do con- 
fer a favour, it is often done in style ; and 
depend upon it, 50 or 100, thus laid out, 
would be well employed. Of course I know 
no other friend in the world to whom I could 
apply on this subject except yourself. I feel 
an absolute conviction that, if this advantage 
were allowed us, it would be the making of 
us for life. Papa will, perhaps, think.it a wild 
and ambitious scheme ; but whoever rose in 
the world without ambition 1 ? When he left 
Ireland to go to Cambridge University, he 
was as ambitious as I am now. I want us 
all to get on. I know we have talents, and 
I want them to be turned to account. I look 
to you, aunt, to help us. I think you will 
not refuse. I know, if you consent, it shall not 
be my fault if you ever repent your kindness.' 

Charlotte had some time to wait for an an- 
swer, but it came at last ; her enthusiasm had 
carried the day. The answer was favourable : 
she and Emily were to go to Brussels. 



BRAN WELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE. 285 

At times, during his stay with the railway 
company, Branwell would drive over from Lud- 
denden Foot to visit his family at the Haworth 
parsonage, having hired a gig for the purpose. 
Mr. Grundy sometimes accompanied him, and 
they would escape to the moors together, or 
pay curious visits to the old fortune-teller, with 
the curates. Then, says his friend, he was ' at 
his best, and would be eloquent and amusing, 
though, on returning sometimes, he would burst 
into tears, and swear he meant to mend.' This 
last statement is favourable to Branwell's calm 
judgment upon himself. Few and Branwell 
was one of the last drift deliberately into 
wrong-doing. He was, like most other men, 
often placed under influences which a habit of 
attention and self-control would have enabled 
him to resist. He knew, perhaps, in a desultory 
way, what he ought to do, and what he ought 
not; but, owing to his inattention to conse- 
quences, he might, now and then, go wrong, 
sometimes yielding to whatever illusion was 
paramount within, acting in concert with what- 
ever was most alluring without ; yet he could 
draw his mental forces together, and review 



236 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

his past actions with keen and painful accuracy. 
Hence he was not destitute of the faculty of 
analyzing his acts in the light of their moral 
quality, and, when his sober judgment enabled 
him to see them in their true bearing, he ex- 
hibited a due contrition. 

On Branwell's visits home, he learned much 
of the exertions, the projects, and the resolves of 
his sisters. He was aware of their aims, and 
how important were the steps being taken to 
qualify them the better for teaching others, 
more especially in perfecting their knowledge 
of the French language and of music. He 
also knew of the ultimate hope of his sisters 
that, were the future secure, they would have 
leisure to realize their early dream of one day 
becoming authors, never relinquished, even when 
distance divided, and when absorbing tasks oc- 
cupied them. He had the highest appreciation 
of their genius ; and, although he had his times 
of hilarity, indulgence, and enjoyment, he was 
certainly never forgetful of his own hopes and 
aspirations in the same direction. 



287 



CHAPTER XVIII. 
BKANWELL'S POETRY, 1842. 

Situation of Luddenden Foot Branwell visits Manchester 
The Sultry Summer He visits the Picturesque 
Places adjacent His impromptu Verses to Mr. Grun- 
dy He leaves the Railway Company Miss Robin- 
son's unjust Comments His three Sonnets His poem 
' The Afghan War ' BramvelFs letter to Mr. Grundy 
His Self -depreciation. 

LUDDEXDEN FOOT the second place of Bran- 
well Bronte's appointment as clerk in charge on 
the Leeds and Manchester Railway was a 
village about equi-distant between Sowerby 
Bridge and Mytholmroyd, situated in a fertile 
and moderately-wooded valley, on the left bank 
of the Calder as it descends from its source in 
Cliviger Dean. The cultivated hills rise to a 
considerable height on both sides of the river, 



288 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and are very romantic in character. Among 
the manufacturers and gentry of the neighbour- 
hood, Branwell found few to welcome him, and 
from these he turned to the artists and literary 
men he had previously known at Halifax. 

But Branwell, in addition, made excursions 

up the valley (Mr. W , his fellow-assistant,. 

acting for him in his absence) in the direction 
of Hebden Bridge, Heptonstall, the Ridge, Tod- 
morden, and the heights of Wads worth. There 
were, indeed, many places of marvellous beauty 
and interest near, that have long been the theme 
of artists and poets, with which he did not fail 
to make himself acquainted. 

The huge, rounded- hills, which border this 
valley, are intersected in places by lovely cloughs 
and glens, whose peat-stained streams rush over 
their rocky beds, from the elevated grouse-moors 
around, to pour their waters into the Calder. 
From Luddenden Dean, between the townships 
of Warley and Midgley, a brook makes its way 
to Luddeuden Foot, through a glen on whose 
verdant slopes stand several ancient houses of 
architectural and historic interest. Among these 
are Ewood Hall, where Bishop Farrer was born, 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 289 

and Kershaw House, a beautiful Jacobean man- 
sion. Crag Valley, which descends to the 
Calder on the opposite bank, a mile or more 
from Luddenden Foot, is deeper and more 
thickly wooded. On one hand lies Sowerby 
with Haugh End, the birthplace of Archbishop 
Tillotson and, on the other, Erringden, which 
was a royal deer-park in the days of the 
Plantagenets. But the loveliest of the valleys 
through which the confluent streams of the 
Calder run, is that of Hebden, a romantic glen, 
winding between the wooded and precipitous 
slopes of Heptonstall crowned with the ancient 
and now ruined church of St. Thomas a Becket 
and of Wadsworth, with its narrow dell of 
Crimsworth, which gave Charlotte Bronte a 
name for the hero of the earliest of her novels. 
Between these solemn heights the stream flows 
beneath the huge crags of Hardcastle, and roars 
over many a rocky obstruction in its channel 
before it reaches the Calder at Hebden Bridge. 
This was a district to which picnic-parties 
from Haworth often came, there being a direct 
road over the hills. 

Branwell also visited Manchester on one occa- 
VOL. I. U 



290 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

sion ; and, on his return, he gave an account to a 
young clergyman, then living in the neighbour- 
hood of Mytholmroyd, who sometimes went to 
his wooden shanty at Luddenden Foot to hear 
his conversation, of how he had been impressed 
with the architecture of the parish church at 
Manchester, as he stood under the arched 
portal, and beheld the long 'lines of pillars and 
arches, and the fretted roof, the lightsome 
details of which had charmed him. He went 
forward on that occasion to the choir of the 
church, and saw the Lady Chapel which still 
retained its beautiful screen, with its Perpen- 
dicular tracery and shafts of that period 
occupied by - the gravedigger's implements, 
which reminded him of the ' Worshipful Master 
of the Lodge of the Three Graces,' consisting 
of crowbar, mattock, spade, barrow, planks 
and ropes ; for the Lady Chapel had been 
made a convenient receptacle for these dismal 
chattels. 

The summer of 1841 was a somewhat mono- 
tonous time for Branwell and his friend at the 
quiet station. Here, in the intervals of the 
trains, scarcely anything was heard except the 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 291 

occasional hum of a bee or a wasp, or the 
drone of a blue-bottle, while the almost vertical 
rays of a summer sun darted down on the roof 
of the wooden hut, and made the place unen- 
durable. It was in moments of weary lassitude, 
or in hours of drowsy leisure, that Branwell 
whiled away the time by sketching carelessly 
on the margins of the books for the amusement 
of himself and his friend free-hand portraits 
of characters of the neighbourhood, and of the 
celebrated pugilists of the day. 

But about Hebden Bridge there were people 
known to Branwell, and he did not fail to visit 
them. His sister, Charlotte, in after years, some- 
times came to Hanging Royd, Hebden Bridge, 
the house of my late friend, the Rev. Sutcliffe 
Sowden, then incumbent of Mytholm the 
gentleman who afterwards performed the mar- 
riage ceremony between the gifted lady and 
Mr. Nicholls. The friendship of the latter and 
Mr. Sowden dated from earlier years, and to 
them Branwell was known when he was at 
Luddenden Foot. He had, indeed, sometimes 
clerical visitors at his ' wooden shanty ' to hear 
his conversation. Mr. Sowden was an enthu- 

u2 



292 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

siastic lover of scenery, and the sphere of his 
duties abounded in moors, wilds, crags, rivers, 
brooks, and dells, which he often visited. Bran- 
well's tastes accorded with his, but these attrac- 
tions clearly drew Branwell's attention, too 
often and too far, from the imperative duties of 
his situation, comparatively light though they 
were. As might be expected, therefore, the 
work of this talented but changeful young man 
was found unsatisfactory, and explanations were 
demanded. About the time of the close of his 
twelve months' official duties at Luddenden 
Foot, an examination of his books was made, 
and they were found to be confused and incom- 
plete. The irregularity and the defects of his 
returns had also been remarked, and an inquiry 
was set on foot respecting them. The officials, 
in looking over the books, discovered the pen- 
and-ink sketches on the margins of the pages, 
which I have already mentioned; and these 
were taken as conclusive evidence of careless- 
ness and indifference on the part of the unfor- 
tunate Branwell in the performance of his duties 
and the keeping of his accounts. 

He had been made aware, by unwelcome 



BRANWELL' s POETRY. 293 

inquiries and remonstrances, that his position 
with the railway company was precarious, and 
he was filled with apprehension as to the ulti- 
mate consequences. He was requested finally 
to appear at the audit of the company, and his 
friend \Y accompanied him. 

It was at the Christmas of 3841, thnt the 
Brontes expected to meet at home together, in 
anticipation of Charlotte and Emily's journey to 
Brussels; but Charlotte had not found her 
brother there in the January of 1842, for she 
writes on the 20th of. that month and year : 
* I have been every week, since I came home, 
expecting to see Branwell, and he has never 
been able to get over yet. We fully expect 
him, however, next Saturday.' 1 Branwell cer- 
tainly returned home, but only when it had been 
intimated to him that his services were no 
longer required by the railway company. How 
far he had felt the duties of his post irksome, 
and the power of perseverance required incon- 
sistent with his tastes and pursuits, does not 
appear, though the inference that they were so 
will scarcely be doubted. But the humiliation 
1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. x. 



294 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and sorrow lie felt on the loss of his employ- 
ment plunged him, for a time, into despair ; and 
the natural gloom of his disposition, caused him 
to magnify the common pleasures and enjoy- 
ments of his leisure hours into crimes and omis- 
sions of duty of no ordinary magnitude. But 
the erroneous recollections of Mr. Grundy, re- 
specting the situation of the station at Lud- 
denden Foot, and its supposed deleterious 
influence on Branw ell's manners and obliga- 
tions, may justify a doubt as to the particu- 
lar accuracy of many of his reminiscences of his 
friend. 

The folio wing incident of Branw ell's stay at that 
place, which Mr. Grundy gives, maybe regarded 
as affording a valuable contribution to his writ- 
ings ; for, although impromptu, the verses show 
that he could, .even on unexpected occasions,, 
bring into play his innate faculty of verse with 
no mean grasp of his subject, and a certain 
harmony of rhythmical expression. 

Mr. Grundy says, ' On one occasion he 
(Branwell) thought I was disposed to treat him 
distantly at a party, and he retired in great 
dudgeon. When I arrived at my lodgings the 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 295 

same evening, I found the following, necessarily 
an impromptu : 

' "The man who will not know another, 
Whose heart can never sympathize, 

Who loves not comrade, friend, or brother, 
Unhonoured lives unnoticed dies : 

His frozen eye, his bloodless heart, 

Nature, repugnant, bids depart. 

' " O, Grundy ! born for nobler aim, 
Be thine the task to shun such shame ; 
And henceforth never think that he 
AVho gives his hand in courtesy 
To one who kindly feels to him, 
His gentle birth or name can dim. 

' " However mean a man may be, 
Know man is man as well as thee ; 
However high thy gentle line, 
Know he who writes can rank with thine ; 
And though his frame be worn and dead, 
Some light still glitters round his head. 

' " Yes ! though his tottering limbs seem old, 
His heart and blood are not yet cold. 
Ah, Grundy ! shun his evil ways, 
His restless nights, his troubled days ; 
But never slight his mind, which flies, 
Instinct with noble sympathies, 
Afar from spleen and treachery, 
To thought, to kindness, and to thee. 

"P. B. BUOXTE." ' 

1 ' Pictures of the Past,' pp. 7879. 



296 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Brauwell's extreme sensibility caused him, 
indeed, to exaggerate both, the lights and the 
shadows of his existence. He was gleeful, as I 
found, full of fun, jest, and anecdote, in social 
circles, or where literature and art were the 
theme ; and then, almost involuntarily, would 
rise to his feet, and, with a beaming counten- 
ance, treat the subject with a vivid flow of 
imagination, displaying the rich stores of his 
information with wondrous and enthralling 
eloquence. But, under disappointment or mis- 
fortune, he fell a prey to gloomy thoughts, and 
reached a state often near akin to despair. It 
was at such moments that he usually took up 
his pen to express, in poetry, the fulness of his 
feelings and the depth of his sorrow ; and it is 
to this fact that the pathetic sadness of most of 
his writings is due. I have had occasion already 
to speak of the melancholy tone which charac- 
terized also the minds of his sisters. 

The worth of Branwell's poetic genius about 
this time, the year of 1842, has been unfairly 
commented upon. Miss Robinson, questioning 
the judgment of the Bronte sisters, undertakes 
to doubt if Branwell's mental gifts were any 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 297 

better than his moral qualities, and says : ' It is 
doubtful, judging from Branwell's letters and 
his verses, whether anything much better than 
his father's " Cottage in the Wood " would have 
resulted from his following the advice of James 
Montgomery. Fluent ease, often on the verge 
of twaddle, with here and there a bright felicitous 
touch, with, here and there a smack of the con- 
ventional hymn-book and pulpit twang such 
weak and characterless effusions are all that 
is left of the passion-ridden pseudo-genius of 
Ilaworth.' l 

Miss Robinson's ignorance of Bran well's more 
matured poems and writings has caused her, in 
company with others, to fall into very grave 
eiTors regarding him; and she, with extreme 
bitterness, it must be said, has embellished her 
biography of Emily with elaborate censures 
of his misdeeds, and with accounts of his im- 
puted glaring inferiority to his sisters in intel- 
lectual power. It is pitiable, indeed, that Miss 
Robinson, and not she alone, in the want of 
Bran well's true life and remains, with nothing 
to set against the primary errors of Mrs. Gaskell, 
' ' Emily Bronte,' p. 97. 



298 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

should have joined the hue and cry against 
him, and have essayed, almost as of set purpose, 
to write down the gifted brother of the author 
whose life she was giving to the world. 

In 1842 Branwell began to feel more per- 
ceptibly the development of his intellectual 
powers, and to discern more clearly his natural 
ability to define, in poetic and felicitous language, 
his thoughts, feelings, and emotions. While 
under the depression and gloom consequent upon 
his disgrace, and the recent loss of his employ- 
ment, he wrote the three following sonnets. The 
profound depth of feeling, expressed with mourn- 
ful voice, which pervades them, the full con- 
sciousness of woe by which they are informed, 
leave nothing wanting in their expression of 
pathetic beauty ; and they are distinguished by 
much sweetness of diction. These sonnets 
favourably show the poetical genius of Branwell. 
His soul is carried beyond his frail mortality;, 
but sadness and sorrow, enshrouding his imagi- 
nation, bind it to the precincts of the tomb. 
Here, with pessimistic and gloomy philosophy, 
he bids us, impressed Avith the slender sum of 
human happiness, to recognize the constant 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 299 

recurrence of the misery to which we are born, 
and to discern how little there is beneficent in 
nature or mankind. 

SONNET I. 
ON LANDSEER'S PAINTING. 

' The Shepherd's Chief Mourner ' A Dog Keeping Watch at 
Twilight over its Master's Grave. 

The beams of Fame dry up affection's tears ; 

And those who rise forget from Avhom they spring ; 

Wealth's golden glories pleasure's glittering wing 
All that we follow through our chase of years 
All that our hope seeks all our caution fears, 

Dim or destroy those holy thoughts which cling 

Round where the forms we loved lie slumbering ; 
But, not with thee our slave whose joys and cares 

We deem so grovelling power nor pride are thine, 
Nor our pursuits, nor ties ; yet, o'er this grave, 
Where lately crowds the form of mourning gave, 

I only hear thy low heart-broken whine 

I only see thee left long hours to pine 
For Am whom thou if love had power would'st save ! 

SONNET II. 
ON THE CALLOUSNESS PRODUCED BY CARE. 

Why hold young eyes the fullest fount of tears "? 
And why do youthful hearts the oftenest sigh, 
When fancied friends forsake, or lovers fly, 

Or fancied woes and dangers wake their fears ? 



300 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

All ! he who asks has known but spring-tide years, 

Or Time's rough voice had long since told him why! 

Increase of days increases misery ; 
And misery brings selfishness, which sears 

The heart's first feelings : 'mid the battle's roar, 
In Death's dread grasp, the soldier's eyes are blind 

To comrades dying, and he whose hopes are o'er 
Turns coldest from the sufferings of mankind ; 

A bleeding spirit oft delights in gore : 
A tortured heart oft makes a tyrant mind. 

SONNET III. 
ON PEACEFUL DEATH AND PAINFUL LIFE. 

Why dost thou sorrow for the happy dead ? 

For, if their life be lost, their toils are o'er, 

And woe and want can trouble them no more ; 
Nor ever slept they in an earthly bed 
So sound as now they sleep, while dreamless laid 

In the dark chambers of the unknown shore, 

Where Night and Silence guard each sealed door. 
So, turn from such as these thy drooping head, 

And mourn the Dead Alive whose spirit flies 
Whose life departs, before his death has come ; 

Who knows no Heaven beneath Life's gloomy skies, 
Who sees no Hope to brighten up that gloom, 

'Tis lie who feels the worm that never dies, 
The real death and darkness of the tomb. 

It is painful to find the writer of these sad 
beautiful sonnets spoken of in terms of 



BRAN 7 WELL'S POETRY. 301 

reprobation, as being, at the time he wrote 
them, and when asking Mr. Grundy's aid while 
seeking a situation, ' sunk and contemptible.' 

* Alas,' says Miss Robinson, ' no helping hand 
rescued the sinking wretch from the quicksands 
of idle sensuality Avhich slowly engulfed him I' 1 
Let us look further. 

The Afghan "War, which commenced in 1838, 
and had secured for the English arms what 
seemed at the time a complete conquest, was 
followed by the conspiracy of Akbar Khan, the 
sou of Dost Mohammed, which occurred at the 
beginning of winter, when help from India was 
hopeless. There was an uprising at Cabul, 
and several officers and men were slain, which 
compelled Major Pottinger to submit to humili- 
ating conditions. The British left Cabul; and 
the disastrous retreat to India, through the 
Khyber Pass, which commenced on January 
6th, 1842, will long be sadly remembered. 
Of sixteen thousand troops accompanied by 
women and children to the number of ten 
thousand more who were continually harassed 
by hostile tribes on the way, and benumbed by 
1 ' Emily Bronte,' p. 99. 



302 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the severity of the winter,onlyoiie mart, Doctor Bry- 
Jon, survived to tell the tidings. Branwell, over- 
whelmed by these horrors, published the folio wing 
powerful and impressive poem in the ' Leeds In- 
telligencer,' on May the 7th of the same year. 

THE AFGHAN WAR. 

' Winds within our chimney thunder, 

Rain-showers shake each window-pane, 
Still if nought our household sunder 

We can smile at wind or rain. 
Sickness shades a loved one's chamber, 

Steps glide gently to and fro, 
Still 'mid woe our hearts remember 
We are there to soothe that woe. 

x Comes at last the hour of mourning, 

Solemn tolls the funeral bell ; 
And we feel that no returning 

Fate allows to such farewell : 
Still a holy hope shines o'er us ; 

We wept by the One who died ; 
And 'neath earth shall death restore us ; 
As round hearthstone side by side. 

* But when all at eve, together, 

Circle round the flickering light, 
While December's howling weather 
Ushers in a stormy night : 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 303 

When each ear, scarce conscious, listens 

To the outside Winter's war, 
When each trembling eyelash glistens 

As each thinks of one afar 

* Man to chilly silence dying, 

Ceases story, song, and smile ; 
Thought asks " Is the loved one lying 

Cold upon some storm-beat isle ?" 
And with death when doubtings vanish, 

When despair still hopes and fears 
Though our anguish toil may banish, 

Rest brings unavailing tears. 

4 So, Old England when the warning 

Of thy funeral bells I hear 
Though thy dead a host is mourning, 

Friends and kindred watch each bier. 
But alas ! Atlantic waters 

Bear another sound from far ! 
Unknown woes, uncounted slaughters, 

Cruel deaths, inglorious war ! 

4 Breasts and banners, crushed and gory, 

That seemed once invincible ; 
England's children England's glory, 

Moslem sabres smite and quell ! 
Far away their bones are wasting, 

But I hear their spirits call 
" Is our Mighty Mother hasting 
To avenge her children's fall*?" 



304 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

' England rise ! Thine ancient thunder 

Humbled mightier foes than these ; 
Broke a whole world's bonds asunder, 

Gave thee empire o'er the seas : 
And while yet one rose may blossom, 

Emblem of thy former bloom, 
Let not age invade thy bosom 

Brightest shine in darkest gloom ! 

' While one oak thy. homes shall shadow, 

Stand like it as thou hast stood ; 
"While a Spring greets grove and meadow, 

Let not Winter freeze thy blood. 
Till this hour St. George's standard 

Led the advancing march of time ; 
England ! keep it streaming vanward, 

Conqueror over age and clime !' 

In this poem Branwell prefaces his subject 
with a picture of domestic suffering one with 
which he is familiar and compares the con- 
solation which accompanies the affectionate 
attentions of those present, with the hopeless 
fate and untended deaths of such as perish in 
the storms and wars of distant places, far away 
from their homes and fiiends. In the true, loyal, 
and national spirit which animates him, his 
manly appeal to England, comprised principally 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 305 

in the last two verses, is perhaps one of the 
noblest and most vigorous ever written. 

In the May of 18 12, Leyland was commissioned 
to execute certain monuments for Haworth and 
its neighbourhood ; and, on the 15th of that 
month, Branwell wrote to him, in reference 
to a design for a monument which he had sent 
for submission to a committee of which the 
Ilev. P. Bronte was chairman, and invited him 
to the parsonage on the 20th of the month, being 
sure his father would be pleased to see him. 
Leyland visited Haworth and partook of Mr. 
Bronte's hospitality; and in the evening, accom- 
panied by the incumbent and his son, appeared 
before the monument committee. 

Branwell also wrote an interesting letter to 
Mr. Grundy on May 22nd, 1842, which that gen- 
tleman erroneously assigns to 1845. 1 In it he 
says that he cannot avoid the temptation, 
while sitting alone, all the household being at 
church, and he being the sole occupant of the 
parsonage, to scribble a few lines to cheer his 
spirits. He alludes to the extreme pain, illness, 

1 ' Pictures of the Past,' p. 84. 
VOL. I. X 



306 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and mental depression he has endured since- 
his dismissal. He describes himself, while at 
Luddenden Foot, as a ' miserable wreck,' as 
requiring six glasses of whisky to stimulate 
him, as almost insane ! And he feels his re- 
covery from this last stage of his condition to 
be retarded by 'having nothing to listen to 
except the wind moaning among old chimneys 
and older ash trees, nothing to look at except 
heathery hills, walked over when life had all to 
hope for, and nothing to regret.' He reproaches 
himself, in bitter terms, with seeking indulgence, 
while at Luddenden Foot, in failings which 
formed, he declares, the black spot on his char- 
acter. His sister Charlotte's mind appears to 
have been cast in the same gloomy mould ; for, 
when suffering under bodily ailment, or the de- 
spondency and hopelessness which overshadow- 
ed her soul, she was impelled, as we have seen, 
to make confessions to her friend 'E' of her 
* stings of conscience,' her ' visitings of remorse.' 
She hates her { former flippancy and forward- 
ness.' She is in a state of ' horrid, gloomy 
uncertainty,' and clouds are ' gathering darker/ 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 307 

and a more depressing despondency weighs 
upon her spirits. 1 

In another letter to her friend, Charlotte 
says she is 'in a strange state of mind 
still gloomy, but not despairing. I keep trying 
to do right .... I abhor myself, I despise my- 
self.' And again, later, she wonders if the 
new year will be ' stained as darkly as the last 
with all our sins, follies, secret vanities, and 
uncontrolled passions and propensities,' saying 
* I trust not ; but I feel in nothing better, neither 
humbler nor purer.' 2 

Branwell, however, while making, in a like 
tone, his unnecessarily exaggerated confession 
to his friend, sets forth his renovation of soul 
and body. He has, at length, acquired health, 
strength, and soundness of mind far superior to 
anything he had known at Luddenden Foot. 
He can speak cheerfully, and enjoy the com- 
pany of another, without his former stimulus. 
He can write, think, and act, with some appar- 

1 Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. viii. 
2 ' Unpublished letters of Charlotte Brontci,' Hourn at 
Home, vol. xi. 

x2 



308 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

ent approach to resolution, and he only wants 
a motive for exertion to be happier than he has 
been for years. He has still something left in 
him which might do him service. He thinks he 
ought not to live too long in solitude, as the 
world soon forgets those who wish it ' Good- 
bye.' Then, although ashamed of it, he ask 
for answers to some inquiries he had made about 
obtaining a new situation, evidently thinking 
Mr. Grundy's influence of importance in the 
matter. 

This letter must receive a passing notice. 
It shows Bran well's mind vigorous and healthy, 
although it had been disordered by physical 
illness accompanied by brooding melancholy. 
His picture of the lonely parsonage and the 
solitude of the surrounding country, combined 
with the expression of his own sad emotions, is 
graphic enough. His sisters wrote with the 
same power and the same artistic feeling. The 
occasion of his writing this letter to Mr. Grundy 
was his wish to obtain some employment in con- 
nection with the railway, and he made this 
overdrawn confession of his habits and indul- 
gences when at Luddenden Foot, and contrast- 



BRANWELL'S POETRY. 309 

ed them with the great mental, moral, and bodily 
improvement he had acquired since he left. It 
was his hope that by this contrast he might 
make a favourable impression, and that Mr. 
Gruudy's position with the Messrs. Stephenson 
might be a means of helping him to some em- 
ployment suited to his tastes and abilities. But 
Mr. Grundy could not aid him in this object, 
which he pursued with all the feverish eagerness 
of his urgent and impetuous nature. With 
great vigour of expression he declares, ' I would 
rather give my hand than undergo again the 
grovelling carelessness, the malignant yet cold 
debauchery, the determination to find how far 
mind could carry body without both being 
chucked into hell.' 

But Branwell, at the time of which I speak, 
was full of energy and industry; indeed, he 
could not be idle. He wrote another letter in 
reply to one he had received from Mr. Gruudy, 
dated June the 9th, 1842. From this we learn 
that his friend had either not entertained his 
applications, or was unable to further his inter- 
ests in the quarter from which employment 
could come, for he had given discouraging 



310 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

answers. Bramvell felt the disappointment 
keenly, but says that it was allayed by Mr. 
Grundy's kind and considerate tone. His friend 
had asked why he did not turn his attention 
elsewhere. To this Bran well replies that most 
of his relations [ are clergymen, and others of 
them, by a private life, removed from the busy 
world. As for the church, he declares he has not 
one mental qualification, ' save, perhaps, hypo- 
crisy,' which might make him ' cut a figure in its 
pulpits.' He informs Mr. Gruncly that Mr. James 
Montgomery and another literary gentleman, 
who had lately seen something of his work, 
wished him to turn his attention to literature. 
He declares that he has little conceit of himself, 
but that he has a great desire for activity. He 
is somewhat changed, yet, although not possessed 
of the buoyant spirits of his friend, he might, in 
dress and appearance, emulate something like 
ordinary decency. 

In Leyland's art commissions at Haworth, 
Branwell took great interest, and in his corre- 
spondence considerable activity and industry 
appear. He wrote, on June the 29th, 1842, to 
the sculptor, a letter, in which he alludes to the 



BRAWELL'S POETRY. 311 

conduct of some gentlemen of the committee at 
1 la worth, who had acted in an unfair way to his 
friend on a professional matter. He says : 

' I have not often felt more heartily ashamed 
than when you left the committee at Haworth ; 
but I did not like to speak on the subject then, 
and I trusted that you would make that allow- 
ance, which you have perhaps often ere now had 
to do, for gothic ignorance and ill breeding; 
and one or two of the persons present after- 
wards felt that they had left by no means an 
enviable impression on your mind. 

' Though it is but a poor compliment, I long 
much to see you again at Haworth, and forget 
for half-a-day the amiable society in which I am 
placed, where I never hear a word more musical 
than an ass's bray. When you come over, bring 
with you Mr. Constable, but leave behind Father 
Matthew, as his conversation is too cold and 
freezing for comfort among the moors of 
Yorkshire.' 

At the bottom of the sheet on which this 
letter is written, Branwell has drawn a pen-and- 
ink sketch of rare merit. The weird w r aste, 
which stretches to the horizon, may represent 



312 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

well the lonely wilds of Haworth, overshadowed 
by the clouds of approaching night, and inter- 
spersed with streaks of fading day, among which 
the crescent moon appears. In the foreground 
is a group of monuments, one a tomb sunk on 
its side ; and, of the head-stones, one is inscribed 
with the word * Resurgam.' Branwell was no m ean 
draughtsman, and that his hand did not shake 
with the excesses he is represented to have gone 
through at this period of his life, the delicacy 
of this elaborate drawing is sufficient proof. 

Mr. Constable, mentioned in the letter, was an 
acquaintance of the sculptor, a gentleman of 
considerable ability in art and poetry. The 
conviviality, which Branwell did not consider 
altogether a dereliction of moral duty, led him 
to make his quiet and humorous allusion to 
Father Matthew. 



END OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 



LONDON: PRINTED BT DUNCAN MACDONALD, BLKNHKIM HOCSfc. 



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Leyland, Francis A. 
The Bronte family 



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