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

THE BRONTE FAMILY 

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO 

PATRICK BRAMELL BRONTE 
VOL. II. 




THE BRONTE FAMILY 



WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO 



PATRICK BRANWELL BRONTE 



BY 



FfiANCIS A. LEYLAND. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 
VOL. II. 




LONDON: 
HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS, 

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET. 

1886. 

All rights reserved. 



CONTENTS 

OF 

THE SECOND VOLUME. 



CHAPTER I. 

The Sojourn in Brussels Resolved upon Why Charlotte 
fixed on Brussels for Higher Education Charlotte 
and Emily take up their Residence with Madame 
Heger A Picture of the Prospect in ' Villette 'At 
the Pensionnat Madame Heger Monsieur Heger 
Charlotte likes Brussels Her Contrast between the 
Belgians and the English Death of Miss Branwell 
Return to Haworth ...... 1 

CHAPTER II. 

Branwell at the Parsonage: his Loneliness ' The Epicurean's 
Song' l Song '-r-Northangerland ' Noah's Warning 
over Methusaleh's Grave' Letter to Mr. Grundy Miss 
Branwell's Death Her Will Her Xephew Remem- 
bered Injustice done to Him in this Matter by the 
Biographers of his Sisters 20 



VI CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER III. 

Christmas, 1842 Branwell is CheerfulCharlotte goes to 
Brussels for another Year Bramvell receives Appoint- 
ment as Tutor Bran well visits Halifax, and meets 
Mr. Grundy there Charlotte's Mental Depression in 
Brussels Mrs. Gaskell attributes it to Branwell's 
Conduct Proofs that it was Not so Charlotte's 
'Disappointment' at Brussels She returns to Haworth 
Branwell's Misplaced Attachment He is sent away 
to New Scenes 38 

CHAPTER IV. 

Bramvell after his Disappointment Parallel for his State of 
Mind in that cf Lady Byron Mrs. Gaskell's Miscon- 
ceptions True State of the Case Charlotte Illustrates 
it in her Poem of ' Preference ' She alludes to Bran- 
well's Condition in ' The Professor ' Mrs. Gaskell 
Compelled to Omit her Account in the Later Editions 
of her Work Branwell's Prostration and Ill-health at 
the Time 53 

CHAPTER V. 

Review of Branwell's past Experiences of Life He seeks 
Relief in Literary Occupation He Proposes to Write 
a Three-volume Novel His Letter on the Subject 
One Volume Completed His Capability of Writing a 
Novel His Letter to Mr Grundy on his Disappoint- 
ment . .... 78 

CHAPTER VI. 

'Real Rest' Comments Spirit of Branwell and Emily 



CONTEXTS. Vll 

Identical Letter to Leyland Branwell Broods 011 
his Sorrows ' Penmaenmawr ' Comments He still 
Searches and Hopes for Employment Charlotte's 
somewhat Overdrawn Expressions The Alleged 
Elopement Proposal Probable Origin of the Story, 

94 

CHAPTER VII. 

The Sisters as Writers of Poetry They Decide to Publish 
Each begins a Novel The Spirit under which the Work 
was Undertaken ' The Professor ' ' Agnes Grey ' 
' Wuthering Heights ' Branwell's Condition A 
Touching Incident ' Epistle from a Father to a Child 
in her Grave' Letter with Sonnet Publication of the 
Sisters' Poems 113 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Death of Branwell's late Employer Branwell's Disap- 
pointment His Letters His Delusion Leyland's 
Medallion of Him Mr. Bronte's Blindness Bran- 
well's Statement to Mr. Grundy in Reference to 
' Wuthering Heights ' The Sisters Relinquish the 
Intention of Opening a School . . . 138 

CHAPTER IX. 

Branwell's Sardonic Humour Mr. Grundy 's Visit to him 
at Haworth Errors regarding the Period of it 
Tragic Description Probable Ruse of Branwell 
Correspondence between him and Mr. Grundy ceases 
Writes to Leyland A Plaintive Verse Another 
Letter 160 



Vlll CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER X. 

* Wuthering Heights' Reception of the Book by the Pub- 
lic It is Misunderstood Its Authorship -Mr. Dear- 
den's Account Statements of Mr. Edward Sloan e and 
Mr. Grundy Remarks by Mr. T. \Vemyss Reid 
Correspondences between ' Wuthering Heights ' and 
Branwell's Letters The 'Carving-knife Episode' 
Further Correspondences Resemblances of Thought 
in Branwell and Emily 178 

CHAPTER XI. 

Statement of Charlotte that her Sister Anne wrote the 
Book in consequence of her Brother's Conduct Sup- 
position of Some that Branwell was the Prototype of 
Huntingdon The Characters are Entirely Distinct 
Real Sources of the Story Anne Bronte at Pains to 
Avoid a Suspicion that Huntingdon was a Portrait of 
Branwell 216 

CHAPTER XII. 

Novel -writing The Sisters' Method of Work Branwell's 
Failing Health and Irregularities ' Jane Eyre ' Its 
Reception and Character It was not Influenced by 
Branwell Letter and Sketches of Branwell, 1848. 

229 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Branwell's Poetical Work Sketch of the Materials which 
he intended to use in the Poem of ' Morley Hall ' 
The Poem The Subject left Incomplete Branwell's 



CONTENTS. IX 

Poem, 'The End of All' His Letter to Leyland 
asking an Opinion on his Poem, ' Percy Hall ' Obser- 
vations The Poem ..... 242 

CHAPTER XIV. 

Charlotte Corresponds on Literary Subjects Novels Con- 
fession of Authorship Branwell's Failing Health He 
Writes to Leyland Branwell and Mr. George Searle 
Phillips Branwell's Intellect Retains its Power His 
Description of ' Professor Leonidas Lyon ' The latter 
Gentleman's Account of his Reading of ' Jane Eyre ' 
Branwell's Remarks on Charlotte and the Work, 264 

CHAPTER XV. 

Branwell's failing Health Chronic Bronchitis and Maras- 
mus His Death Charlotte's allusions to it Correc- 
tion of some Statements relating to it Summary of 
the subsequent History of the Bronte Family . 277 

CHAPTER XVI. 

Branwell's Character in his Poetry The Pious and Tender 
Tone of Mind which it Displays Branwell's Tendency 
to Dwell on the Past rather than on the Future 
Illustrated The Sad Tone of his Mind He is Inclined 
to be Morbid The Way in which Branwell regarded 
Nature Observations on the Character Displayed in 
his Works 287 



vol. ii. 



THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

CHAPTER I. 

CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IN BRUSSELS. 

The Sojourn in Brussels Resolved upon Why Charlotte 
fixed on Brussels for Higher Education Charlotte 
and Emily take up their Residence with Madame 
Heger A Picture of the Prospect in ' Villette ' At 
the Pensionnat Madame Heger Monsieur Heger 
Charlotte likes Brussels Her Contrast between the 
Belgians and the English Death of Miss Branwell 
Return to Haworth. 

IT was more than a month before Charlotte 
received the reply from her Aunt Branwell. 
Meanwhile she had waited patiently, pending 
the anxious discussions at the parsonage, and 
she breathed not a single word of the great 
project to her friend. It was her way to work 
in obscurity, and to let her efforts 'be known by 

. VOL. II. B 

J>\ 



2 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

their results.' But at last, as I have said, consent 
was given to her plan ; the necessary money was 
forthcoming; and it only remained for her to 
make the arrangements for her journey, and 
Emily had arrangements to make also. There 
was much of letter-writing to do, letters to 
Brussels whither Charlotte would of all cities 
prefer to go, and to many other places ; and 
there were clothes to make, and farewells to be 
said. 

It was a great disappointment to Charlotte, 
when, having left her situation at Christmas, 
1841, she came to Haworth to join the family 
circle, that Branwell could not be there, and it 
troubled him very much too. But the plans 
were talked over, the letters were written, and 
Charlotte did not repent her boldness, nay, she 
looked forward confidently to the venture. It 
seems a strange ambitious plan to us, and one 
showing little knowledge of the world, this of 
spending six months in Brussels, in that short 
time to become thoroughly acquainted with 
French, to be improved in Italian, and get a dash 
of German ; and, so provided with accomplish- 
ments, to set up a successful school at Burlington, 



CHARLOTTE AND E^IILY IN BRUSSELS. 3 

for the Dewsbury Moor project had already 
been relinquished. 

Brussels was fixed upon by Charlotte for 
several reasons : because it was a cheap journey, 
because education could be had there at any 
rate as good as at any other place in Europe, 
and perhaps better ; and then, Mary and Martha 

T , her friends, were staying at Brussels at 

the Chateau de Koklebcrg, and Mary, with 
Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the English chaplain, 
would find the desired pensionnat. But there 
was a temporary disappointment : it was report- 
ed that the schools in Brussels were not good ; 
and Charlotte immediately set to work to 
discover another establishment, which was found 
at Lille one that Baptist Noel recommended, 
where the terms were 50 for each pupil. It 
had been at last arranged that Charlotte and 
Emily should journey to this place, about the 
middle of February, 1842, under the escort of 
Madame Marzials, a lady then in London, when 
again the plans were changed. Mrs. Jenkins, 
the chaplain's wife. had discovered, to Charlotte's 
great delight, the establishment of Madame 
Heger in the Rue d'Isabelle, at Brussels, which 



4 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

was greatly eulogized, and thither it was finally 
decided that the two sisters could go. 

Charlotte went to Brussels with a stout heart 
and in perfect confidence, and she left no- 
regrets behind her; but it was not so with 
Emily. The elder sister was cast in a different 
mould from the younger ; there was a spice of 
adventure in her composition, and the pleasure, 
too, of seeing new places was keen. It had 
been said to her by some inward voice, as to 
Lucy Snowe, who is the truest portrait of 
Charlotte, ' Leave this wilderness, and go out 
hence f and she answered the query, ' Where T 
with a sharp determination ; and went out to 
enter into the spirit of the things she met, wher- 
ever her mental constitution would enable her 
to do so. ' For background,' she says of her 
journey in ' Villette,' ' spread a sky, solemn and 
dark blue, and grand with imperial promise,, 
with tints of enchantment strode from north 
to south a God-bent bow, an arch of hope :' but 
that was to be struck out. ' Cancel that, reader 
or rather let it stand, and draw thence a moral 
an alliterative, text-hand copy : 

' " Day-dreams are delusions of the demon." ' 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IN BRUSSELS. O 

So was Charlotte to be disillusioned. -But 
what a fairyland had she fashioned to herself 
of that gay Belgian capital, and what painful 
memories she brought thence ! For, according 
to Mr. Wemyss Reid, and doubtless he is right 
her stay in Brussels with Emily, and after- 
wards alone, was the turning-point in Char- 
lotte's career, and the record of it in < Villette ' 
was wrung from her as her heart's blood, amid 
paroxysms of positive anguish. But of these 
things she knew nothing in the January of 1842 ; 
then the future slept in sunny calm, so sunny, 
indeed, that to part from Haworth, and those 
she knew there, her father and her brother and 
sister, gave her scarcely a pang; and after- 
wards, so far as one can trace, from her letters, 
and from ' Villette,' which expresses even more, 
the troubles of the parsonage were never acute 
troubles to her. Her joys and troubles abroad 
were in fact her own, and they were borne and 
suffered alone. 

But, with Emily, Haworth was no wilderness, 
a paradise rather, and with bitter pain she left 
the moors that the coming summer should cover 
with purple billows. For Emily Bronte was 



6 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

inspired far more than her sister with the influ- 
ences of locality and of her home. Amidst 
the distant Yorkshire hills dwelt, too, her 
father, with Branwell and Anne, whom she 
loved more than all else in the world ; and many 
an hour, sitting in the bare rooms of the 
pensionnat, she pondered on their hopes and 
their sorrows. We cannot say that Emily's 
sojourn in Brussels changed her in any way 
whatever, nor that she was made by it of any 
nearer kinship with the outside world. 

Mr. Bronte accompanied his daughters, and 
Mary and her brother, who travelled with them 
to Brussels. They stayed a day or two in Lon- 
don, at the Chapter coffee-house in Paternoster 
Kow, and a good deal of sight-seeing was done 
before they left for the Belgian capital. In 
' Villette ' Charlotte has told us of her first visit 
to London, and of the travelling to Labassecour,. 
but the actual details refer more probably to 
her second journey thither. Yet we may feel 
sure that it was with the same spirit that she 
saw the metropolis, that she revelled in its 
busy life and in the earnestness that moved it. 
We may imagine her on the dome of St. Paul's 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IN BRUSSELS. 7 

looking over the river with its bridges, and, 
alongside it, the Temple Gardens, and West- 
minster beyond ; and we may see her in the 
classic ground of Paternoster Row. Emily 
has left no record of her feelings on this 
journey, but we may be sure they differed very 
much from Charlotte's. We have an account 
in 'The Professor ' of William Crimsworth's 
feelings when he entered Belgium, and they 
were doubtless Charlotte's also. ' This is Bel- 
gium, reader. Look ! don't call the picture flat 
or a dull one it was neither flat nor dull to me 
when I first beheld it. When I left Ostend on 
a fine February morning, and found myself on 
the road to Brussels, nothing could look vapid 
to me. My sense of enjoyment possessed an 
edge whetted to the finest ; untouched, keen, ex- 
quisite .... Liberty I clasped in my arms for 
the first time, and the influence of her smile and 
embrace revived my life like the sun and the 
west wind.' 

It was proposed at the time that the two 
sisters should remain in the pensionnat until the 
grandes vacances in September, when they were 
to return home. They were in Brussels then to 



8 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

work, and the boisterous schoolgirls found no 
companions in them, for they remained together 
for a long time, and read and studied apart. 
These two sisters did not easily make friends ; 
they were shy, and their companions thought 
them peculiar Charlotte, clad in her plain, 
home-made dress, and Emily, with her gigot 
sleeves and long, straight skirts, walking in the 
garden together. Mrs. Jenkins told Mrs. Gaskell 
that she asked them to spend Sundays and 
holidays with her, but at last she found that 
even these visits gave /them more pain than 
pleasure, and thenceforth they remained away. 
This reserve never passed from Emily entirely, 
but Charlotte afterwards gained confidence and 
made friends. 

There were memories, as Mrs. Gaskell records, 
connected with Madame Heger's house in the 
Rue d'lsabelle, of medieval chivalry and 
romance, which are doubtless reflected in the 
visits of the nun to the grenier and the old 
garden where Lucy Snowe is. From the gay, 
bright Rue Royale four flights of steps lead 
down to the Rue d'lsabelle, and the chimneys of 
its houses are level with one's feet as one stands 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IN BRUSSELS. 9 

at the top of them. The quiet street was called 
the Fosse aux Chiens in the thirteenth century, 
because the ducal kennels were there, on the 
site of Madame Heger's house ; but these gave 
place later to a hospital for the homeless and 
the poor. Afterwards the Arbaletriers du Grand 
Serment had their place there, and noble com- 
pany visited them, and great ceremonials and 
feasts they gave. Later again the street was 
called the Rue d'Isabelle, because the Infanta 
Isabella induced the Arbaletriers to allow a road 
to be made through their grounds, and built 
them in return a noble mansion close by, which 
was afterwards Madame Heger's. 

William Crimsworth saw the establishment. 
' I remember, before entering the park, 1 stood 
awhile to contemplate the statue of General 
Belliard, and then I advanced to the top of the 
great staircase just beyond, and I looked down 
into a narrow back street, which I afterwards 
learnt was called the Rue d'Isabelle. I well 
recollect that my eye rested on the green door 
of a rather large house opposite, where, on a 
brass plate, was inscribed, " Pensionnat de 
Demoiselles." ' 



10 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Madame Heger, the mistress of this pensionnat, 
was a woman of capacity, and understood the 
duties of her position, but apparently Charlotte 
did not get 011 very well with her, and in the 
second year of the residence in Brussels they 
were estranged. It was said that the directrice 
had ' quelque chose de froid et de compasse 
dans son maintien,' which did not prepossess 
people in her favour ; and Charlotte, it appears, 
had little tolerance of her beliefs or her preju- 
dices. Monsieur Heger, unlike his wife, was of a 
quick and energetic nature, choleric and irritable 
in temperament, but withal gentle and bene- 
volent also. It was said that there were few 
characters so noble and admirable as his, that 
he was a zealous member of the Society of St. 
Viacent de Paul, and that, after days occupied 
in arduous educational work, he was wont to 
gather the poor together in order that he might 
amuse and instruct them at the same time. He 
gave up his lucrative position, too, as prefect of 
the studies at the Athenee because he could not 
succeed in introducing religious instruction into 
the curriculum there. Very many traits of Monsieur 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IN BRUSSELS. 11 

Heger's character are reproduced in that of 
Paul Emanuel. 

The school was a large and prosperous one, 
conducted as continental schools usually are, 
and Charlotte, in a short time, was happy in the 
busy life she led there. She has left an admir- 
able picture, a veritable photograph, of the 
establishment in the pages of ' Villette,' which 
indeed contains her mental history during her 
sojourn there. The training through which she 
and Emily were put was different from that of 
the other pupils. Monsieur Heger was quick to 
perceive that they were capable of greater 
things than most people, so he took the bold 
step of putting them to the higher walks of 
French literature, omitting the general work of 
grammar and vocabulary ; and his experiment 
was justified by its success. 

Charlotte and Emily, with one other girl and 
the governante of Madame Heger's children, were 
the only exceptions to the Catholicism of the 
house, and the Brontes found that this differ- 
ence cut them off in sympathy from the rest of 
the inhabitants. ' We are completely isolated 



12 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

in the midst of numbers/ says Charlotte ; but 
she adds, < I think I am never unhappy ; my 
present life is so delightful, so congenial to my 
own nature, compared with that of a governess. 
My time, constantly occupied, passes too rapidly.' 
We do not find that news from home gave her 
trouble, nor that she was particularly uneasy in 
.her absence. ' I don't deny,' she says later, 
that I have brief attacks of home-sickness ; but,, 
on the whole, I have borne a very valiant heart 
so far ; and I have been happy in Brussels, 
because I have always been fully occupied with 
the employments that I like.' 

Charlotte's happiness at this time was in her- 
self. She lived in bright anticipation of the 
time when it should be possible to the sisters 
to open a school, which was to be the reward of 
their arduous studies, and of that love for work 
and that perseverance of which Monsieur Heger 
spoke in his letter to Mr. Bronte, written when 
Charlotte and Emily were called to Haworth. 
Lucy Snowe in ' Villette ' tells of such hopes ; of 
the tenement which she shall take, with its one 
large room and two or three smaller ones ; of the 
few benches and desks, the black tableau, and 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IN BRUSSELS. 13 

the estrade, with its chair, tables, chalks, and 
sponge, where she shall teach the day-scholars. 
' Madame Beck's commencement was as I have 
often heard her say from no higher starting- 
point, and where is she now This was the 
hope which Lucy Snowe repeated to Monsieur 
Paul, and it pleased him, though he called it 
' an Alnaschar dream.' But it was the salt of 
.Charlotte's life during the first months of her 
residence in Brussels. 

Brussels was liked by Charlotte, and she 
calls it a beautiful city ; and she liked the 
country about it, though it differed so much 
from her own hilly Haworth. But she did not 
like its inhabitants ; the Belgians were to her 
people of a lower order ; she could not enter 
into their pleasures, and she did not understand 
them. Charlotte, with her restricted views of 
life, came into the midst of strangers ; she 
found them different from her ideal, and she 
was repulsed by them. The two books in which 
she has recorded her impressions of the Belgians 
are occupied with a frequent contrast of ' the 
daughter of Albion and nursling of Protestant- 
ism ' with ' the foster-child of Rome, the pro- 



14 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

tegee of Jesuitry,' always to the disadvantage 
of the latter. Mesdemoiselles Eulalie, Hortense, 
and Caroline in * The Professor,' and Mesdemoi- 
selles Blanche, Virginie, and Angelique in 
' Villette,' are Charlotte's types of the Belgian 
female heavy, stolid, unimpressionable to good, 
sensual, gross, and unintellectual. The Labasse- 
couriennes were i a swinish multitude,' not to 
be driven by force ; * whenever a lie was neces- 
sary for their occasions, they brought it out with 
a careless ease and breadth, altogether untrou- 
bled by any rebuke of conscience ;' and they 
were cold, animal, and selfish. Nevertheless, 
occupied in her duties, Charlotte was happy, 
even with these companions. We have no 
actual means of knowing what Emily thought 
of them, for her life amongst them was never 
reproduced in her writings, and it made but 
little permanent impression upon her. Charlotte 
said that her sister worked * like a horse,' and 
that she did not get on well with Monsieur 
Heger. 

The two sisters had now friends in Brussels, 
for they sometimes saw Mary and Martha T 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IN BRUSSELS. 15 

who were staying there at the Chateau de 
Kokleberg, and these young ladies had cousins 
in the city, whose house was often a pleasant 
meeting-place. But Emily made little progress 
with these friendships. 

The grandes vacances began in September, 
but Charlotte and Emily did not return home 
then as had been intended; all was well at 
Haworth, and there was no reason why they 
should. Madame Heger made a proposal that 
they should remain six months more, Charlotte 
<is English teacher, and Emily to instruct some 
pupils in music ; and they were to continue their 
studies and have board without payment, but 
they were offered no salary. These terms were 
at last accepted, and the sisters remained 
through the long vacances with a few boarders 
who were also there, and Charlotte, at least, was 
happy. 

But a year later, when the rooms of the 
pensionnat were once more deserted, and Emily 
far away in the parsonage at Haworth, there can 
be no doubt that she became again subject to 
that melancholia which had previously been 



16 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

remarked in her when she was at Miss WoolerV 
The excitement of her first sojourn at Brussels 
wore off, she found no novelty in the things she 
saw, and she was left to solitary reflection 
a great deal. But her melancholy began with 
herself. ' My youth is leaving me,' she said to 
Mary; I can never do better than I have 
done, and I have done nothing yet,' and she 
seemed at such times, according to this friend, 
'to think that most human beings were destined 
by the pressure of worldly interests to lose one 
faculty and feeling after another, till they went 
dead altogether. I hope I shall be put in my 
grave as soon as I'm dead; I don't want to 
walk about so,' she added. Mary advised her 
to go home or elsewhere, when she was in 
this state, for the sake of change, and Char- 
lotte thanked her for the advice, but did not 
take it. 

' That vacation ! Shall I ever forget it ? I 
think not,' says Lucy Snowe . . . . ' My heart 
almost died within me ; miserable longings 
strained its cords. How long were the September 
days! How silent, how lifeless ! How vast and 
void seemed the desolate premises ! How gloomy 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IX BRUSSELS. 17 

the forsaken garden, grey now with the dust 
of a town summer departed !' To Lucy Snowe 
the future gave no promise of comfort; and a 
sorrowful indifference to existence often pressed 
upon her, a < despairing resignation to reach 
betimes the end of all things earthly.' She found 
the future but a hopeless desert : ' tawny sands, 
with no green fields, no palm-tree, no well in 
view.' And these were the thoughts, too, that 
oppressed Charlotte Bronte in Brussels and 
sorely weighed her down. It was in one of these 
fits of depression, overcome with melancholy, 
that she found consolation in the confessional, 
when she poured her tale of solitary sorrow into 
the ear of a priest a Pere Silas, like him in 
' Villette,' who spoke of peace and hope to .Lucy 
Sriowe. 

Troubles of another kind had, however, broken 
in sadly enough on the close of Charlotte's first 
vacances in Brussels in 1842, when she and Emily 
were greatly shocked by the death of Martha 

T at the Chateau de Kokleberg, after a 

very short illness. This was a great grief to the 
little circle in Brussels, for the dead girl had 
been a bright and affectionate companion, 
VOL. II. C 



18 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

bewailed under the name of Jessie in ' Shirley,' 
and she was deeply lamented. But another 
grief awaited the Bronte sisters ; they heard that 
their aunt Bran well was ill, was dead; they 
were wanted at home ; and at once, after very 
hasty preparation, they left Brussels, Emily not 
to return. They came back to the parsonage at 
Haworth, to find the funeral over, and the house 
deprived of one who had been its support and 
guardian for years. 

Thus their stay in Brussels was suddenly cut 
short, and their studies were interrupted ; but 
they had learned a good deal during their stay 
there. Monsieur Heger wrote to console Mr. 
Bronte on his loss ; and said that in another year 
the two girls would have been secured against 
the eventualities of the future. They were being 
instructed, and, at the same time, were acquiring 
the art of instruction : Emily was learning the 
piano, and receiving lessons from the best Belgian 
professors; and she had little pupils herself. 
' Elle perdait done a la fois un reste d'ignorance 
et un reste plus genant encore de timidite.' 
Charlotte was beginning to give French lessons, 



CHARLOTTE AND EMILY IN BRUSSELS. 19 

and to gain ' cette assurance, cet aplomb si 
necessaire dans 1'enseignement.' It was this 
kind letter from Monsieur Heger that afterwards 
induced Mr. Bronte to allow Charlotte to return 
to Brussels. 



c'2 



20 



CHAPTER II. 

OTHER POEMS. 

Branwell at theParsonage : his Loneliness ' The Epicurean's 
Song' ' Song ' Northangerland * Noah's Warning 
over Methusaleh's Grave' Letter to Mr. Grundy Miss 
Branwell's Death Her Will Her Xephew Remem- 
bered Injustice done to Him in this Matter by the 
Biographers of his Sisters. 

DURING the absence of his sisters Charlotte and 
Emily in Brussels, and while Anne was away as 
a governess, Branwell no doubt felt lonely at 
the parsonage at Haworth ; but he appears to 
have sought consolation from his troubles in the 
soothing influences of music and poetry. He 
knew that these employments softened many of 
the difficulties that beset the road of human life, 
and that they introduced men into a purer and 
nobler sphere than that which is called reality. 



OTHER POEMS. 21 

He felt that they led 'the spirit on, in an ecstasy 
of admiration, of sweet sorrow, or of unearthly 
joy, to the music of harmonious, and not wholly 
intelligible words, raising in the mind beauteous 
and transcendent images.' Whatever may have 
been said as to Branwell's proneness to self- 
indulgence, and his enjoyment of society, even 
that of ' The Bull,' and of the corrupt of Ha worth, 
none of his alleged depravity and coarseness of 
disposition disfigured his verses, however 
deficient his early effusions may have been in the 
higher excellencies of the Muse. From the 
general tenor of his writings, which is religious 
and sometimes philosophical, he seems, under his 
misfortunes, which were ever with him in one 
shape or another, to have sought consola- 
tion in the shadowed paths of poetry arid re- 
flection. 

Some lights now and then diversify the 
general gloom of his stanzas ; but, even then, 
an air of sadness still pervades them. More I 
shall find to say on the special features of Bran- 
well's poems in the later pages of the present 
work. 

He wrote the following verses in 1842 : 



22 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

THE EPICUREAN'S SONG. 

' The visits of Sorrow 

Say, why should we mourn ? 
Since the sun of to-morrow 
May shine on its urn ; 

And all that we think such pain 
Will have departed, then 
Bear for a moment what cannot return ; 

1 For past time has taken 

Each hour that it gave, 
And they never awaken 
From yesterday's grave ; 
So surely we may defy 
Shadows, like memory, 
Feeble and fleeting as midsummer wave. 

' From the depths where they're falling 

Nor pleasure, nor pain, 
Despite our recalling, 
Can reach us again ; 

Though we brood over them, 
Nought can recover them, 
Where they are laid, they must ever remain. 

' So seize we the present, 

And gather its flowers, 
For, mournful or pleasant, 
'Tis all that is ours ; 

While daylight we're wasting, 
The evening is hasting, 
And night follows fast on vanishing hours. 



OTHER POEMS. 23 

Yes, and we, when night comes, 

Whatever betide, 
Must die as our fate dooms, 
And sleep by their side ; 

For change is the only thing 
Always continuing ; 
And it sweeps creation away with its tide/ 



Here Branwell, writing, contrary to his custom, 
in a gay mood, forgets the failures of the past, 
diverting his mind from them by seeking serenity 
in the diversions which now and then lighten 
his path. He is perfectly conscious of the fleeting 
nature of earthly things ; and, with that natural 
and felicitous faculty of versification with which 
his images and figures are invariably described, 
he invests the Epicurean with the hopes of the 
Optimist, or with the indifference of the Stoic to 
the shadows which ever and anon dim the 
pleasures of human existence. There is nothing 
assuredly in this lyric of the < pulpit twang,' to 
which Miss Kobinson refers, nor is it a ' weak 
and characterless effusion.' 

To the year 1842 belongs the following song 
which in feeling reminds one of Burns' ' Auld 
Lang Syne.' The subject, however, is distinct, 



24 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and is pervaded by a profound sentiment of 
enduring affection, and is expressive of the 
deepest feeling in reference to it. 

SOXG. 

' Should life's first feelings be forgot, 

As Time leaves years behind? 
Should man's for ever changing lot 
Work changes in the mind'? 

4 Should space, that severs heart from heart, 

The heart's best thoughts destroy ? 
Should years, that bid our youth depart, 
Bid youthful memories die ? 

* Oh ! say not that these coming years 

Will warmer friendships bring ; 
For friendship's joys, and hopes, and fears, 
From deeper fountains spring. 

' Its feelings to the heart belong ; 

Its sign the glistening eye, 
While new affections on the tongue, 
Arise and live and die. 

4 So, passing crowds may smiles awake 

The passing hour to cheer ; 
But only old acquaintance' sake 
Can ever form a tear.' 

Ley land was himself a poet, as I have said, 
and a literary critic of ability and judgment. 



OTHER POEMS. 23 

Branwell submitted sonic poems to him for 
opinion, and he advised his friend to publish 
them with his name appended, rather than under 
the pseudonym of * Northangerland,' for he con- 
sidered them creditable to his genius. But 
Branwell, on July 12th, 1842, writing to Leyland, 
asking some technical questions, says, in a post- 
script, < Northangerland has so long wrought 011 
in secret and silence that he dare not take your 
kind encouragement in the light which vanity 
would prompt him to do.' 

On August 10th, 1842, he wrote to Leyland in 
reference to a monument,which that sculptor had 
recently put up at Ha worth, and he concluded 
by saying : 

* When you see Mr. Constable to whom I 
shall write directly, be kind enough to tell him 
that owing to my absence from home when it 
arrived, and to the carelessness of those who 
neglected to give it me on my return, I have 
only now received his note. Its injunctions shall 
be gladly attended to ; but he would better 
please me by refraining from any slurs on the 
fair fame of Charles Freeman or Benjamin 
Caunt, Esquires.' 



26 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Branwell did not lose his early interest in the 
* noble science,' but continued it with a half- 
serious constancy. Constable and Leyland 
regarded the pugilistic encounters of the * Ring ' 
as brutal and degrading, but Branwell always 
professed to defend its champions with energy 
and zeal ; and in this letter he playfully alludes 
to two of them. Among his literary labours of 
the year 1842 is the following poem. It is 
entitled : 

NOAH'S WARXIXG OVER METHUSALEH'S 
GRAVE. 

* Brothers and men ! one moment stay 

Beside your latest patriarch's grave, 
"While God's just vengeance yet delay, 
While God's blest mercy yet can save. 

* Will you compel my tongue to say, 

That underneath this nameless sod 
Your hands, with mine, have laid to-day 
The last on earth who walked with God T 

1 Shall the pale corpse, whose hoary hairs 

Are just surrendered to decay, 
Dissolve the chain which bound our years 
To hundred ages passed away ? 

' Shall six- score years of warnings dread 
Die like a whisper on the wind ? 



OTHER POEMS. 27 

Shall the dark doom above your head, 
Its blinded victims darker find ? 

4 Shall storms from heaven without the world, 

Find wilder storms from hell within ? 
Shall long-stored, late-come wrath be hurled; 
Or, will you, can you turn from sin ? 

4 Have patience, if too plain I speak, 

For time, my sons, is hastening by ; 
Forgive me if my accents break : . 
Shall / be saved and Nature die ? 

' Forgive that pause : one look to Heaven 

Too plainly tells me, he is gone, 
Who long with me in vain had striven 
For earth and for its peace alone. 

' He's gone ! my Father full cf days, 

From life which left no joy for him ; 
Born in creation's earliest blaze ; 
Dying himself, its latest beam. 

' But he is gone ! and, oh, behold, 

Shown in his death, God's latest sign ! 
Than which more plainly never told 
An Angel's presence His design. 

' By it, the evening beams withdrawn 

Before a starless night descend ; 
By it, the last blest spirit born 
From this beginning of an end ; 

' By all the strife of civil war 

That beams within yon fated town ; 



28 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

By all the heart's worst passions there, 
That call so loud for vengeance down ; 

6 By that vast wall of cloudy gloom, 

Piled boding round the firmament ; 
By all its presages of doom, 

Children of men Repent ! Repent !' 

This poem has also the impress of sadness, but 
the onward sweep and dignity of its verse are 
not ruffled by the turbulent undercurrents of 
Branwell's mood. The idea of the piece is well 
borne out in majestic and suitable language, 
though some instances of that incoherence and 
indefiniteness which, at intervals, distinguish the 
earlier poems of his sisters, may be noticed in it. 

In the latter part of the year 1842 the state 
of Miss Branwell's health became a cause of 
anxiety to the Bronte family. Acquainted as 
they had been, in years gone by, with sickness 
and death, they sorrowed, in anticipation of the 
inevitable loss of the lady, who had been for long 
years as a mother to them. Under the shadow 
which spread over their home, Branwell wrote 
to his friend Mr. Grundy referring to it, saying 
that he was attending the death-bed of his aunt 
who had been for twenty years as his mother. 



OTHER POEMS. 29 

In another letter to Mr. Grundy, of the 29th of 
October, Branwell thus alludes in affectionate 
terms to her death : 

'I am incoherent, I fear, but I have been 
waking two nights witnessing such agonizing 
suffering as I would not wish my worst enemy 
to endure ; and I have now lost the pride and 
director of all the happy days connected with 
my childhood. I have suffered such sorrow since 
I last saw you at Haworth, that I should not now 

care if I were fighting in India or -, since, 

when the mind is depressed, danger is the most 
effectual cure. But you don't like croaking, I 
know well, only I request you to understand 
from my two notes that I have not forgotten 
you, but myself' * 

Charlotte and Emily hurried home from 
Brussels on the death of their aunt, as is stated 
in the last chapter, to find her already interred. 

Mrs. Gaskell, alluding to the death of Miss 
Branwell, has given the following version of that 
lady's will. She says : 

'The small property which she (Miss Branwell) 
had accumulated, by dint of personal frugality 
1 ' Pictures of the Past,' p. 83. 



30 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and self-denial, was bequeathed to her nieces. 
Branwell, her darling, was to have had his share ; 
but his reckless expenditure had distressed the 
good old lady, and his name was omitted in her 
will/ 1 

Miss Robinson, implicitly, and without re- 
flection, following this author, says : 

Miss BranwelFs will had to be made known. 
The little property that she had saved out of her 
frugal income was all left to her three nieces. 
Branwell had been her darling, the only son. 
called by her name; but his disgrace had 
wounded her too deeply. He was not even 
mentioned in her will.' 2 

Miss Elizabeth Branwell had made her will in 
the year 1833 (when her nephew was about 
fifteen years of age), by which she left the 
following items to the children of Mr. Bronte : 

To Charlotte, an Indian Workbox. 

To Emily Jane, a Workbox with China top, and 
an Ivory Fan. 

1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. xi. 
2 'Emily Bronte,' p. 102. 



OTHER POEMS. 31 

To BRANWELL, A JAPANESE DRESSING-CASE. 
To Anne, her AVatch, Eye Glass, and Chain. 

Amongst these three nieces, her rings, silver 
spoons, books, clothes, &c., were to be divided 
as their father should think proper. Her money, 
arising from various sources, she left in trust 
for the benefit of her nieces, Charlotte, 
Emily, and Anne Bronte, and Elizabeth Jane, 
the daughter of her sister, Jane Kingston, to be 
equally divided among them, when the youngest 
should have attained the age of twenty-one 
years. But, if these died, all was to go to her 
niece, Anne Kingston, and if she died, the accu- 
mulated money was to be divided between the 
children of her ' dear brother and sisters.' Had 
Branwell, who was one of these ' children,' sur- 
vived his own sisters, and the cousin referred to 
in the will, he would have been one, if not the 
sole, recipient of the accumulated money in 
question. This contingency was present to Miss 
Branwell's mind when she made the bequest, 
and it was never either altered or revoked. 

It is amazing that so much ignorance should 



32 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

have been displayed on a subject so easily 
capable of being correctly stated ; but it is 
lamentable that this ignorance should have led 
the biographers of the Brontes, by erroneous 
statements, to inflict additional and unmerited 
injury on Branwell. 



33 



CHAPTER III. 

A MISPLACED ATTACHMENT, 

Christmas, 1842 Branwell is Cheerful Charlotte goes to 
Brussels for another Year Branwell receives Appoint- 
ment as Tutor Branwell visits Halifax, and meets 
Mr. Grundy there Charlotte's Mental Depression in 
Brussels Mrs. Gaskell attributes it to Branwell's 
Conduct Proofs that it was Not so Charlotte's 
'Disappointment' at Brussels She returns to Haworth 
Branwell's Misplaced Attachment He is sent away 
to New Scenes. 

THE death of Miss Branwell bad brought Char- 
lotte and Emily home from Brussels; and Anne, 
from her situation, was present on the sad 
occasion. When the Christmas holidays came 
round, the sisters were all at home again. Bran- 
well was with them ; which was always a pleasure 
at that time, and Charlotte's friend, * E,' came to 
see her. Having overcome the first pang of 
grief on the death of their aunt, they enjoyed 
VOL. II. D 



34 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

their Christmas very much together. Branwell 
was cheerful and even merry; and in Charlotte's 
next letter, written in a happy mood to her 
friend, who had just left them, he sent a playful 
message. ' Branwell wants to know,' says 
Charlotte, 4 why you carefully excluded all men- 
tion of him, when you particularly send your 
regards to every other member of the family. 
He desires to know in what he has offended you ? 
Or whether it is considered improper for a young- 
lady to mention the gentlemen of a house T 1 
While they were together, plans for the future 
were talked over with eagerness and hope. 
Charlotte had accepted the proposal of Monsieur 
Heger that she should return to Brussels for 
another year, when she would have completed 
her knowledge of French and be fully qualified 
to commence a school on a footing which was 
yet impossible. Emily was to remain at home 
now to attend to her father's house, and Anne 
was to return to her situation as governess. 

Branwell also found occupation as tutor in the 
same family where Anne had been for some time 

1 ' Unpublished Letters of Charlotte Bronte,' Hours at 
Home, chap, xi., p. l ; 04. 



A MISPLACED ATTACHMENT. 35 

employed. He commenced his duties, in his 
new position, after the Christmas holidays of the 
year 1842. On his arrival at the house of his 
employer, he was introduced to the members of 
the family ; and it is not too much to say that 
his new friends were more than satisfied with his 
graceful manners, his wit, and the extent of his 
information. Here Branwell felt himself happy ; 
for, contrary to his expectation, he had found, to 
his mind, a pleasant pasture, with comparative 
ease, where he had only looked for the usual 
drudgery of a tutor's work. His family were 
contented that he was thus respectably and 
hopefully employed. The gentleman, who had 
engaged Branwell as tutor to his son, was a man 
of some literary attainments; he was fond of 
rural sports, and had an urbane disposition, and 
quick perceptions. His wife was a lady of lofty 
bearing, of graceful manners, and kindly con- 
descension ; and, although approaching middle 
age at the time, was possessed of great personal 
attractions. 

If the Brontes were glad at Branwell's appoint- 
ment, the family he had entered were equally 
gratified that they had obtained a teacher whose 

D 2 



36 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

talents they considered to be equalled only by 
his virtues. The time of his master, who was a 
clergyman, was often taken up with the duties 
and engagements of his position, and his lady 
was generally occupied with the cares of home 
and the enjoyments of fashionable country life. 
Branwell was not, therefore, too much harassed 
in the discharge of his duties ; and he found, in 
the family in which he was placed, none of the 
rigid formality which might have rendered his 
position irksome. His occupation was varied by 
many rambles in the neighbourhood with his 
pupil ; and, in the evening, after the duties of 
the day were discharged, when he retired to the 
farmstead where he lived, his time was entirely 
at his own disposal. 

Unlike Anne, Branwell was riot troubled with 
an excess of diffidence. Being naturally of an 
amiable and sociable disposition, he soon formed 
acquaintances in the neighbourhood of his 

sojourn, and among them was Dr. , physician 

to the family in which he was a tutor. Besides 
being possessed of a fund of anecdote, combined 
with an entertaining manner of relating stories, 
that alone made him excellent company, Bran- 









A MISPLACED ATTACHMENT. 37 

well was found to be a thorough musician, for 
he had further cultivated this taste and acquired 
considerable skill in performance. 

Six months goon passed away, and Branwell 
and Anne once more made the parsonage at 
Haworth happy with their presence. One of 
Branwell's first impulses, after his welcome at 
home, was to visit his friends at Halifax ; where, 
on this occasion, he had the, pleasure of meeting 
with Mr. Grundy. On the return of himself and 
his sister to their duties, there is no doubt that he 
continued the exertions he had made to conduct 
himself with 'such prudent diligence and self- 
possession as to ingratiate himself into the good 
favour of the family with whom he resided. 

Charlotte was in the Rue d'Isabelle as English 
teacher; where, having gained a familiarity with 
the French language, though growing home-sick 
and not well, she resolved to remain till the end 
of the year ; and, if possible, to acquire a know- 
ledge of German. 

It was at the beginning of August, as the 
vacances approached, that Charlotte became 
dispirited. The prospect of five weeks of lone- 
liness in a deserted house, in a foreign city, was 



38 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

more than she could bear : the last English 
friend was leaving Brussels : she would have no 
one to whom she could turn her thoughts. < I 
forewarn you, I am in low spirits,' she writes, 
6 that earth and heaven are dreary and empty to 
me at this moment.' For the first time in her 
life she really dreaded the vacation ; < Alas,' she 
says, ' I can hardly write, I have such a dreary 
weight at my heart,; and I do so wish to go 
home. Is not this childish?' Yet she was 
bravely resolved, despite her weakness, to bear 
up, to stay ; but for Charlotte Bronte, as for 
Lucy Snowe, those September days were days 
of suffering. Once, a little later, her resolution 
failed her. She was alone, on some holiday ; 
the other inmates had gone to visit their friends 
in the city ; Charlotte had none there now. She 
was solitary, and felt herself neglected by 
Madame Heger ; she could bear it no longer, so 
she went to madame herself and told her she 
could not stay ; but Monsieur Heger, hearing of 
it, with characteristic vehemence, pronounced 
his decision that she should not leave, and she 
remained. 

Mrs. Gaskell describes her suffering from 



A MISPLACED ATTACHMENT. 39 

depression of mind, arising from ill-health, in her 
second year at Brussels, in gloomy terms, and 
this seems, indeed, to be the main point she is 
aiming to illustrate. She says : ' There were 
causes for distress and anxiety in the news from 
home, particularly as regarded Branwell. In the 
dead of the night, lying awake at the end of the 
long deserted dormitory, in the vast and silent 
house, every fear respecting those whom she 
loved, and who were so far off in another coun- 
try, became a terrible reality, oppressing her 
and choking up the very life-blood in her heart. 
Those nights were times of sick, dreary, wake- 
ful misery, precursors of many such in after 
years.' 1 Mr. T. Wemyss Reid, in his monograph 
on Charlotte, has very properly taken exception 
to the manner in which Mrs. Gaskell has laid 
stress upon and exaggerated the occasional 
depression from which Charlotte suffered ; and, 
certainly, there is nothing to show, in any of 
her letters from Brussels, that there was cause 
for anxiety on Branwell's account. On the 
contrary, there is very good evidence that 
nothing of the kind interfered with his sister's 
1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. xii. 



40 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

peace. Charlotte left Brussels at the end of 
the year 1843, and arrived at Haworth on the 
2nd of January, 1844. Branwell and Anne 
were also at home for the Christmas holidays, 
and Charlotte wrote to her friend ' E ' in these 
words : ' Anne and Branwell have just left us to 

return to ; they are both wonderfully valued 

in their situations.' 1 

It was known, then, that Branwell had given 
satisfaction to his employers, and the happiness 
at this reunion of the family would have been 
complete had it not been for one circumstance. 
Charlotte's friends were now expecting that she 
would commence a school. She desired it, she 
says, above all things. She had sufficient 
money for the undertaking, and hoped she had 
some qualifications for success. Yet she could 
not then enter upon it. ' You will ask me, 
why she writes. It is on papa's account ; 
he is now, as you know, getting old, and it 
grieves me to tell you that he is losing his sight. 
1 have felt for some months that I ought not to 
be away from him ; and I feel now it would be 

1 * Unpublished Letters of Charlotte Bronte,' Hour* at 
Home, xi. 



A DISPLACED ATTACHMENT. 41 

too selfish to leave him (at least so long as 
Branwell and Anne are absent) in order to 
pursue selfish interests of my own.' She appears, 
from an observation in one of her letters, 
written some time after the date at which we 
have arrived, to have regretted having gone to 
Brussels a second time. She says, ' I returned 
to Brussels after aunt's death against my con- 
science, prompted by what then seemed an 
irresistible impulse. I was punished for my 
selfish folly by a total withdrawal for more than 
two years of happiness and peace of mind.' 1 
While Charlotte was still at Brussels she heard 
that some of her friends thought that the ' epoux 
of Mademoiselle Bronte ' must be on the Con- 
tinent, since she had declined a situation of 50 
a year in England, and accepted one at L6, 
.and returned to Belgium. This she appears, in 
n letter to one of them, to deny ; though, 
whether with the intention of piquing her 
friend, or avoiding the question, is not distinct. 
Air. Reid believes that, in this second sojourn at 
Brussels, Charlotte Bronte passed through an 
^experience of the heart which proved the turn- 
1 ' Charlotte Bronte,' by T. \Vemyss Reid, chap. vi. 



42 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

ing-point of her life, and made her what she 
was ; and that it was not the subsequent mis- 
fortunes of her brother, as Mrs. Gaskell asks us 
to believe, that destroyed the happiness of her 
existence. 1 

In the middle of March, when the sisters had 
finished f shirt-making for the absent Branwell,' 
Charlotte took a holiday to visit her friend, by 
which her health was improved. On her return 
she found Mr. Bronte and Emily well, and a 
letter from Branwell, intimating that he and 
Anne were pretty well, too. 

Branwell visited Halifax on the 4th of July 
of this year. His health at that time was not so 
good as formerly, and his sisters noticed that he 
was excitable. Till within two or three months 
of his leaving Luddenden Foot, when he had 
attained his twenty-fifth year, though not 
strong, he had enjoyed good health, his spirits 
having almost always been good. In^his youth, 
unlike Charlotte, he had had no experience of 
severe mental depression, no deep suffering from 
religious melancholy. It was only when he 
turned to reflection that he became serious, and 
1 ' Charlotte Bronte, a Monograph.' 



A MISPLACED ATTACHMENT. 43 

that his thoughts were shaded with the sadness 
evinced in some of his early poems. Now, how- 
ever, his nerve-force was less certain ; and, 
being more easily excited, that exuberance of 
spirit and that elasticity of mind which had 
distinguished him showed symptoms of decay. 
It was not to be expected that he should retain 
his more youthful characteristics through life: 
and Charlotte has told us, about this time, that 
something within herself, which used to be en- 
thusiasm, was tamed down and broken ; she 
longed for an active stake in life. As she was 
unable to leave home, she endeavoured to open a 
School at Haworth Parsonage. Could she have 
obtained the promise of pupils, she proposed to 
build a wing to the house ; but, after meeting 
with more or less encouragement, she found that 
it was quite impossible to induce anyone by 
preference to send children to a place so much 
exposed to wind and weather. The sisters 
were not sorry they had tried ; and, it has been 
unjustifiably suggested, did not regret too much 
that they had failed, because they had fears and 
apprehensions respecting Branwell, and thought 
that the place that might be his abode could 



44 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

scarcely be fitted for the home of the children 
of strangers. Branwell and Anne were at 
home again for the Christmas of 1844, and they 
returned to their duties early in the following 
January. In the course of that month Charlotte 
writes, 

' Branwell has been quieter and less irritable, 
on the whole, than he was in. the summer.' 1 

At this time there was no fear of his leaving 
his employment, and no fear that he would be 
dismissed from it ; but a certain excitability and 
fitful ness of manner, a disposition to pass sud- 
denly from gaiety to moody disquietude, which 
Anne had observed in her brother, had attracted, 
also, as has been seen, the serious attention of 
the other sisters, who were alarmed by it, and 
wondered greatly what the cause might be. 
And, indeed, a change had been coming over 
Branwell, for six months or more, a change 
which in the beginning had scarcely been under- 
stood by himself. A new feeling had impressed 
itself upon his heart that he had never experi- 
enced before, and against which he strove in 
vain. Branwell, in fact, who had never yet 
1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. xiii. 



A MISPLACED ATTACHMENT. 45- 

loved beyond the confines of his own home, had 
conceived an infatuated admiration for the wife 
of his employer, which afterwards, with his warm 
feelings, became a deep affection, and finally 
developed into a fierce and over-mastering 
passion. The lady who had dazzled and con- 
fused his understanding, as will presently appear, 
was unaware of the effect she had thus pro- 
duced on the heart of the tutor, and he began 
to mistake her kindly, condescending manners 
for a return of his affection, an illusion which, as 
the sequel will show, he nursed to the very end 
of his life. Under this peculiar aberration of his 
mind, he cherished the hope that, as his employer 
was in feeble health, he might ere long be in a 
position to marry the widow, whom he believed 
to have already bestowed her affections upon 
him ; when, being in easy circumstances, and 
possessed, as he termed it, of 'the priceless 
affluence of enduring- peace,' he should be able, 
as he often declared, undisturbed by the usual 
perturbations of literary life, to make sure pro- 
gress, and win for himself a name among the 
best authors of the day. 

But at this period of his life Branwell is not 



46 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

known to have written much verse, his mind 
being otherwise occupied. The two following 
beautiful sonnets, however, are from his pen, 
dated May, 1845, and are, together, entitled : 

THE EMIGRANT. 

4 When sink from sight the landmarks of our home, 

And, all the bitterness of farewells o'er, 
We yield our spirit unto ocean's foam, 

And in the new-born life which lies before, 

On far Columbian or Australian shore, 
Strive to exchange time past for time to come : 

How melancholy, then, if morn restore 
(Less welcome than the night's forgetful gloom) 

Old England's blue hills to our sight again, 
When we, our thoughts seemed Aveaning from her sky, 

That pang which wakes the almost silenced pain ! 
Thus, when the sick man lies, resigned to die, 

A well-loved voice, a well-remembered strain, 
Lets Time break harshly in upon Eternity. 

When, after his long day, consumed in toil, 

'Neath the scarce welcome shade of unknown trees, 

Upturning thanklessly a foreign soil, 

The lonely exile seeks his evening ease, 
'Tis not those tropic woods his spirit sees ; 

Nor calms, to him, that heaven, this world's turmoil ; 
Nor cools his burning brow that spicy breeze. 

Ah no ! the gusty clouds of England's isle 
Bring music wafted on their stormy wind, 



A MISPLACED ATTACHMENT. 47 

And on its verdant meads, night's shadows lower, 
While " Auld Lang Syne" the darkness calls to mind. 

Thus, when the demon Thirst, beneath his power 
The wanderer bows. to feverish sleep consigned, 

He hears the rushing rill, and feels the cooling shower.' 

While Branwell's mind was rendered bright 
by the sunny hopes of a happy future, he was 
enabled to write with pathos, coherency, and 
beauty, as is shown in the foregoing sonnets. 
But it was his misfortune that his mind was hung 
too finely upon the balance, and that, as the 
phantasy of his affections grew upon him, he 
became, as will hereafter be demonstrated, the 
victim of an ' overheated and discursive imagi- 
nation,' and at last ' betrayed that monomaniac 
tendency' which Lucy Snowe says she ''has 
ever thought the most unfortunate with which 
man or woman can be cursed.' He became, in 
fact, almost as soon as the new passion had 
taken full possession of his heart, a miserable 
victim to that morbid tendency of the mind 
which, in far lesser degree, characterized his 
sister Charlotte, and of which she seems to have 
lived in occasional dread. It may be noted that 
when Lucy Snowe is seeking wildly the letter, 



48 THE BRONTE FAMILY 

which has been stolen away from her, she accuses* 
herself of monomania. These mental perturba- 
tions grew upon Branwell day by day. 

Time passed on ; and, when he had been with 
his employer some two years and a half, during 
the concluding portion of which the control he 
had exercised over himself was giving way, he 
began to exhibit the strange irregularities of his 
disposition, and the irresistible fervour of his 
long-suppressed and feverish passion. Great 
patience and forbearance were exercised towards 
him by the lady of the house ; and her sincere 
regard for the feelings of his family forbade her, 
on the first blush of the affair, to be the means 
of his dismissal from his employment. He was 
not, indeed, dismissed until the step became an 
absolute necessity. The banishment from his 
post was not, however, long delayed, for Bran- 
well had lost his former self-control ; and his 
imprudence overcame the reluctance of the lady y 
who at length made known to her husband, 
while Branwell was absent at home, on his holi- 
day, in the July of 1845, what his conduct had 
been. A letter was at once sent to him by his em- 
ployer, conveying the intimation of his dismissal. 






A MISPLACED ATTACHMENT. 49 

We have been told much in Charlotte Bronte's 
letters to her friend ' E,' and in the works of Mrs. 
Gaskell arid other writers, concerning this event, 
which laid prostrate the hopes of Bran well, that 
requires both comment and correction. We 
have already seen to what a low state of mind 
and body Bran well was for a time reduced by his 
dismissal from Luddenden Foot ; but his con- 
dition in both was as that of sound health, com- 
pared with his utter prostration on his expulsion 
from his last employment, a condition which 
renders any adequate description impossible. 
He had, indeed, been supremely happy. For 
him, the sun of prosperity had shone with un- 
sullied splendour, and the rivers of hope had 
flowed with music richer and deeper than any 
of earth. The roses that bloomed in the paradise 
of his fervid imagination, were brighter and, as 
he thought, far more lasting than those, far- 
famed, of Suristan, and the green pastures of his 
hopeful aspirations were more fertile and fragrant 
than he had ever thought possible to him in the 
years gone by. But, suddenly, the paradise 
which his poetic and imaginative spirit had 
created, was changed, without a moment's warn- 

VOL. II. E 



50 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

ing, to a region of sleepless nights and wretched 
days, ' eleven continuous nights of sleepless 
horror ' he afterwards speaks of, where his 
mind, dismayed and incoherent, reeled and shook 
in agony intense and ungovernable. 

The distress of the Bronte family on this 
reverse of Branwell's prospects can scarcely be 
conceived in its entirety. So deeply agonizing 
was the then state of his affairs, that they could 
think of nothing else ; and, in their sorrow, had 
no heart to contemplate the future. It was 
under the immediate influence of this misery that 
Anne Bronte wrote her pathetic poem, 'Domestic 
Peace,' in which she deplores the changed con- 
ditions of the family. Charlotte had just returned 
home from a visit to her friend, and found her 
brother in the condition I have described. Thus 
she speaks of it, under the date of July the 31st, 
1845 : ' It was ten o'clock at night Avhen I got 
home. I found Branwell ill. He is so very often, 
owing to his own fault. I was not therefore 
shocked at first. But when Anne informed me 
of the immediate cause of his present illness 1 
was very greatly shocked. He had last Thurs- 



A MISPLACED AFFECTION. ;TL 

day received a note from Mr. , sternly dis- 
missing, him We have had sad work 

with him since. He thought of nothing but 
stunning or drowning his distressed mind. No 
one in the house could have rest, and at last we 
have been obliged to send him from home for a 
week with some one to look after him. He has 
written to me this morning, arid expresses some 
sense of contrition for his frantic folly. He 
promises amendment on his return, but so long 
as he remains at home I scarce dare hope for 
peace in the house. We must all, I fear, prepare 
for a season of distress and disquietude. I cannot 

now ask Miss or anyone else.' 

Branwell's distress had proved so really acute 
at the disgrace which had befallen him that Mr. 
Bronte, becoming alarmed for the consequences, 
decided to send his son away to new scenes in 
the hope of diverting his mind from the subject. 
That this was, to some extent, successful is 
evident from Branwell's letter to his sister, in 
which his natural feelings and repentant dis- 
position found expression. Branwell had remem- 
bered his former visit to Liverpool, and selected 

E 2 



52 THE BROXTK FAMILY. 

that place on this occasion, and sailed thence to 
the coast of Wales. The sad feelings that im- 
pressed him on the voyage were afterwards 
expressed in verse. 



CHAPTER IV. 

' BRANWELL'S FALL,' AS SET FORTH IN THE 
BIOGRAPHIES OF HIS SISTERS. 

Branwell after his Disappointment Parallel for his State of 
Mind in that of Lady Byron Mrs. Gaskell's Miscon- 
ceptions True State of the Case Charlotte Illustrates 
it in her Poem of ' Preference ' She alludes to Bran- 
u ell's Condition in ' The Professor ' Mrs. Gaskell 
Compelled to Omit her Account in the Later Editions 
of her Work Bramvell's Prostration and Ill-health at 
the Time. 

AFTER the first shock to his feelings had been 
sustained, and, by its own intensity, toned down 
to less oppressive anguish and pain, a strange 
calm succeeded in Branwell, more agonizing 
and appalling to his friends than the stormy 
ebullitions which had preceded it. There is 
evidence that his family at this time misunder- 
stood the actual state of his mind, and that their 



54 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

very anxiety about him caused them but more 
especially Charlotte to regard his acts, irre- 
sponsible though they might be, as inveterate 
offences and habitual sins. It has indeed been 
said by some that Charlotte did not afterwards 
speak to him for the space of two years. 

The reproaches of his sister were probably as 
unwise as [they were passionate, unmeasured, 
and, in outward semblance, unfeeling ; yet they 
were censures pronounced in momentary anger, 
utterances of the deep affection she had for her 
brother, and of sincere sorrow for his unhappy, 
hopeless, and insane passion, But Branwell's 
friends and acquaintances saw clearly that on 
one subject, and one only, his mind had given 
way ; and that was in his conception of the 
undoubted love which the lady of his heart bore 
him. They also saw, notwithstanding this mor- 
bid perversion of the ordinary powers of his 
mind in one particular illusion, that he was not 
affected in his faculty of reasoning correctly 
and consistently on all other subjects. They 
knew, if the Bronte family did not, that Bran- 
well's mind, naturally morbid and depressed. 



1 BRAN WELL'S FALL.' 55 

had been unhinged by the sudden and unex- 
pected ruin of his hopes ; and that his heart and 
his intellect had been so far bruised and wound- 
ed, that for many of the acts done, and the things 
said, under the abiding grief which followed it, 
he was irresponsible. This will shortly appear. 
The sisters did not, however, long remain in 
ignorance of the true state of Branwell's mind. 
They became aware that he suffered from mono- 
mania touching the object of his sorrow, and 
the circumstance impressed them exceedingly. 
In several of their novels they have, indeed, 
dwelt upon this condition, and have lamented 
the misery and mental prostration which it 
entails. Lucy Snowe suffers from it severely, 
as I have mentioned. But, in * The Tenant of 
Wildfell Hall,' one of the characters charges 
Gilbert Markham whose circumstances are 
precisely those of Branwell in regard to his love 
for a married lady with monomania in this very 
matter ; and, in < Wuthering Heights,' speaking 
of the events that preceded Heathcliff's death, 
Nelly Dean alleges that he suffers from mono- 
mania in his love for the wife of Edgar Linton. 



56 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

BranwelPs sisters, however, never took the 
tragic view of his conduct that impressed Mrs. 
Gaskell. 

For a time Branwell could talk of nothing 
but of the lady to whom he was attached, and 
he made statements of circumstances regarding 
her which had no foundation but in his own 
heated imagination. The lady, he said, loved 
him to distraction. She was in a state of incon- 
ceivable agony at his loss. Her husband, cruel, 
brutal, and unfeeling, threatened her with his 
dire indignation, and deprivation of every com- 
fort. Branwell, indeed, told his friend W , 

by letter, that, in consequence of this persecution, 
the suffering lady < had placed herself under his 
protection !' and many other stories, equally un- 
founded, extravagant, and impossible, were cir- 
culated. In a word, he went about among his 
friends, telling to each, in strict confidence, the 
woes under which he suffered, and painting in 
gloomy colours the miseries which the lady of 
his love had been compelled to undergo. If all 
other proof were wanting of the unsound state 
of BranwelFs mind on this one point, it would 
be enough, in all conscience, that he proclaim- 



* BRANWELL'S FALL.' 57 

ed abroad, of the lady lie undertook to protect, 
circumstances that must infallibly redound to 
her infamy ; and which, indeed, in the hands of 
injudicious persons, gave rise to the public scan- 
dal of his life, and ultimately made his name, 
and that of the lady whom he had loved and 
traduced in the same breath, of reproach among 
men. 1 

For Branw ell's state of mind at this time, and 
for the circumstances that followed upon it, we 
have an exact parallel in the case of Lady 
Byron, after her separation from her x husband. 
This unhappy lady, living in retirement with 
her friends, had maintained, for more than five 
years after the poet's death, relations of the 

1 The condition into which Branwell fell at this period is 
one very well known to mental physiologists. Thus Car- 
penter speaks of it : ' In most forms of monomania, there is 
more or less of disorder in the ideaiional process, leading to 
the formation of positive delusions or hallucinations^ that is 
to say, of fixed beliefs or dominant ideas which are palpably 
inconsistent with reality. These delusions, however, are 
not attributable to original perversions of the reasoning 
process, but arise out of the perverted emotional state. They 
give rise, in the first place, to misinterpretation of actual 
facts or occurrences, in accordance with the prevalent state 
of the feelings.'' Principles of Mental Physiology, 1 (1874), 
p. G67. 



58 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

most friendly nature with his sister, the Honour- 
able Mrs. Leigh. But, at the end of that 
period, weakened by misfortunes and by brood- 
ing upon particular evils, her mind gave way 
on one point ; and she made, in the full belief of 
their truth, the most horrible of charges against 
her dead husband and his sister. These charges 
were, by some people, believed for a time; but a 
very little reflection showed that Lady Byron's 
mind must have been unhinged, for all the acts 
of her life went to disprove the statements she 
made. It was not in the nature of things 
possible that she could remain on affectionate 
terms with her sister-in-law, had she known as 
in her monomania she asserted she did the utter 
depth of that sister-in-law's imagined infamy. 
But it is not to be supposed that the unhappy 
lady was visibly insane ; she was, on the contrary, 
as all remarked, gifted with a clear and accurate 
observation, with a lucid and logical method of 
thought, and with an expression more than 
ordinarily calm and natural. 

It was precisely the same with Bran well 
Bronte ; for, when the paroxysm of his grief 
was over, though he was ordinarily calm and 



' BRANWELL'S FALL.' 59 

his thoughts always clear and logical, strange 
impressions and misinterpretations of facts grew 
upon him, and he made, with all the certainty 
of belief, statements of circumstances relating 
to the lady of his dearest affections, redounding 
to her shame which, had he been of sound 
mind, he must not only have known to be 
false, but would have carried, had they been 
true, in secrecy to the grave. 

Just, too, as Lady Byron whispered the story 
of her woes in strict faith to many people, so 
did Branwell Bronte make confidants of several 
friends, revealing to each the extent of his 
misfortunes. And, further, just as the story 
circulated by Lady Byron was confided among 
others to good, honest, well-meaning Mrs. 
Beecher Stowe, who, conceiving herself to be 
the chosen champion of oppressed virtue, rushed 
into print, in 'Macmillan' of September, 1869, 
with the literary bonne-bouche she had received ; 
so did Mrs. Gaskell, clad in like panoply, with 
anger far over-riding discretion, publish to 
the world the scandal she had collected from 
the busy gobe-mouches of Haworth, to the utter 
undoing of the fair fame of Patrick Branwell 



60 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Bronte, and of the lady on whom he had fixed 
his hopeless affection. The scandal which was 
spread about Lord Byron, through the delusions 
of his wife, was very soon overthrown ; but that 
with which Branwell was concerned, though 
thirty-seven years have passed over his grave, 
has been republished and is still believed all 
the biographers of his sisters having, with one 
accord, consigned his name to obloquy and 
contempt. 

The stories originated by Branwell lost nothing 
in their circulation, but they gained immensely ; 
and years had made the tales of disappointed 
love into scandals unfit to be detailed, when 
Mrs. Gaskell, eager for information, visited 
Haworth, and collected materials for her work 
from too-willing hands, who added their own 
embellishments to the original statements of 
Branwell. 

In order to show how far Mrs. Gaskell devi- 
ated from the right direction in her account of 
these circumstances, it will be better to place 
before the reader much of what she has said in 
direct reference to it, so that the whole matter 
may be made plain ; and, before he closes this 



BRANWELL'S FALL.' 61 

book, he will probably be convinced that she 
was wholly misled in her version of the story. 

Mrs. Gaskell writes : * All the disgraceful 
details came out. Branwell was in no state to 
conceal his agony of remorse, or, strange to say, 
his agony of guilty love, from any dread of 
shame. He gave passionate way to his feelings ; 
he shocked and distressed those loving sisters 
inexpressibly; the blind father sat stunned, 
sorely tempted to curse the profligate woman 
who had tempted his boy his only son into 
the deep disgrace of deadly crime. 

* All the variations of spirits and of temper 
the reckless gaiety, the moping gloom of many 
months were now explained. There was a 
reason deeper than any mere indulgence of 
appetite, to account for his intemperance; he 
began his career as an habitual drunkard to 
drown remorse. 

'The pitiable part, as far as he was concerned,, 
was the yearning love he still bore to the woman 
who had got so strong a hold upon him. It is 
true, that she professed equal love; we shall see 
how her professions held good. There was a 
strange lingering of conscience, when, meeting 



62 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

her clandestinely by appointment at Harrogate 
some months after, he refused to consent to the 
elopement which she proposed ; there was some 
good left in this corrupted, weak young man, 
even to the very last of his miserable days. The 
case presents the reverse of the usual features : 
the man became the victim ; the man's life was 
blighted, and crushed out of him by suffering, 
and guilt entailed by guilt ; the man's family 
were stung by keenest shame. The woman 
to think of her father's pious name the blood of 
honourable families mixed in her veins her 
early home, underneath whose roof-tree sat those 
whose names are held saint-like for their good 
deeds, she goes flaunting about to this day in 
respectable society; a showy woman for her 
age ; kept afloat by her reputed wealth. I see 
her name in county papers, as one of those who 
patronize the Christmas balls ; and I hear of her 
in London drawing-rooms. Now let us read, 
not merely of the suffering of her guilty accom- 
plice, but of the misery she caused to innocent 
victims, whose premature deaths may, in part, 
be laid at her door.' ] 

1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte, 1 chap, xiii., 1st edition. 



* BRANWELL'S FALL.' 63 

Mrs. Gaskell further states : ' A few months 
later the invalid husband of the woman with 
whom he had intrigued, died. Branwell had 
been looking forward to this event with guilty 
hope. After her husband's death, his paramour 
would be free ; strange as it seems, the young 
man still loved her passionately, and now he 
imagined the time was come when they might 
look forward to being married, and live to- 
gether without reproach or blame. She had 
offered to elope with him ; she had written to 
him perpetually; she had sent him money 
twenty pounds at a time ; he remembered the 
criminal advances she had made; she had braved 
shame, and her children's menaced disclosures, 
for his sake ; he thought she must love him ; 
he little knew how bad a depraved woman 
can be.' l 

As Mrs. Gaskell had formed no conception of 
the possible state of Bran well's mind, she seems 
to have known no reason for doubting the abso- 
lute truth of what she had heard ; and, with an 
overweening confidence, and with no deficient 
expression of righteous indignation,, she deals 
1 'Life of Charlotte Bronte, 1 chap. xiii., 1st edition. 



(54 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

with the episode in this startling manner. 

In support of the charges thus made, Mrs. 
Gaskell refers to the contents of the will of the 
lady's husband, by which, she says, what pro- 
perty he left to his wife was so left on the con- 
dition that she never saw Branwell again ; and 
she adds that, on the death of her husband, the 
lady sent her coachman to Ha worth ; for, at the 
very time when the will was being read, she did 
not know but that Branwell might be on his 
way to her. Mrs. Gaskell furthers says that, 
after the interview with the coachman, Branwell 
was found utterly prostrated by the intimation 
that he must never again even see the lady 
whom he thought he might then marry. 1 

The biographer of Charlotte, having obtained 
her information from the floating rumours of 
Haworth, formed an inconsiderate, erroneous, and 
hasty opinion on this affair and its supposed con- 
sequences. But she found many circumstances 
in the proceedings of Branwell and his sisters 
which failed to corroborate her views, and that 
Avere, in fact, at variance with what would 
naturally have been expected had Branwell's 
1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap, xiii., 1st edition. 



65 

misconduct really been of so deep a dye as she 
states. In order to bring out fully the force of 
\vhat she here says, Mrs. Gaskell had, previously, 
as we have seen, in speaking of Charlotte's stay 
in Brussels eighteen months before, alluded to 
intelligence from home calculated to distress 
Charlotte exceedingly with fears respecting 
Branwell. Yet, in the January of 1844, shortly 
after her return from Brussels, Charlotte told her 
friend ' E ' that Anne and Branwell were * both 
wonderfully valued in their situations.' And 
again, writing of the year 1845, Mrs. Gaskell 
says : ' He was so beguiled by this mature and 
wicked woman, that he went home for his holi- 
days reluctantly, stayed there as short a time as 
possible, perplexing and distressing them all by 
his extraordinary conduct at one time in the 
highest spirits; at another, in the deepest 
depression accusing himself of blackest guilt 
and treachery, without specifying what they 
were ; and altogether evincing an irritability of 
disposition bordering on insanity. Charlotte and 
her sister suffered acutely from his mysterious 

behaviour an indistinct dread was 

creeping over their minds that he might turn 
VOL. II. F 



66 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

out their deep disgrace.' 1 And it must be added 
that, when in the expurgated edition the open- 
ing of this passage was omitted, Mrs. Gaskell 
inserted following where she ascribes to the 
sisters an ' indistinct dread,' these words : 
4 caused partly by his own conduct, partly by 
expressions of agonizing suspicion in Anne's 
letters home.' 2 But we know, from Char- 
lotte's letter to her friend, that, when she 
had returned home and found Branwell ill, 
which she says he was often, she was not 
therefore shocked at first, but, when Anne 
informed her of the immediate cause of his 
present illness, she was very greatly shocked, 
showing clearly enough that Branwell's dis- 
missal and its cause were a complete surprise to 
her w r hen she heard of them. How, then, could 
Anne's letters home have contained expressions 
of ' agonizing suspicion *? 

Mrs. Gaskell found it necessary to summarize 
the portion of Charlotte's letter which contained 
these expressions of surprise, and, in her version, 
significantly enough, the obvious inconsistency 

1 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. xiii.. 1st edition. 
2 ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap, v., 1860 edition. 



' BRAN WELL'S FALL.' 67 

is lost. The succeeding part also lias suffered 
mutilation in Mrs. Gaskell's work, Charlotte's 
allusion to BranwelPs 'frantic folly,' arid the 
sentence, ' He promises amendment on his re- 
turn,' being entirely omitted. Mr. AVemyss 
Keid, in publishing this letter, points out the 
circumstance, and says that ' Mrs. Gaskell could 
not bring herself to speak of such flagrant sins 
as those of which young Bronte had been 
guilty under the name of folly, nor could she 
conceive that there was any possibility of 
amendment on the part of one who had fallen 
so low in vice.' 1 And, if we disregard Mrs. 
Gaskell's view of < what should have been ' Char- 
lotte's feelings, and read the letter with the 
real state of the case before us, we shall at once 
see that, as Bran well had not fallen low in vice, 
the term ' frantic folly,' which his sister em- 
ployed in speaking of his conduct, was precisely 
that which justly described it. 

The simple truth respecting Branwell's con- 
duct is this : he had been too fond of company 
and had not escaped its penalty. Doubtless Anne 
occasionally saw influences upon her brother 
1 ' Charlotte Bronte, a Monograph,' chap. vii. 



68 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

which she would have wished entirely absent. 
Moreover he had, as we have seen, become 
wildly in love. Reluctantly at first, and, from 
what we know of him, he may, probably, in his 
latest vacation have accused himself of ' blackest 
guilt.' But there is reason to believe that on 
this episode, as on others connected with Bran- 
well Bronte, we have been told not a little of 
what must have ensued from a standpoint of 
initial error. 

Of the principal accusations which Mrs. Gas- 

kell brings against Mrs. I shall have to 

speak when I come to consider the consequences 
to Branwell of the final defeat of his hopes ; but 
it may be said here that it is clear the lady 
never wrote letters to Branwell at all. She 
carefully avoided doing anything that might 
implicate her in the matter of Branwell's strange 
passion, and, so far as any provision of the 
husband's will, which was dated near the end of 
the year, is concerned, Branwell Bronte might 
never have existed. Mrs. Gaskell cannot have 
seen the document. 

If any further evidence of the view Charlotte 
Bronte took of Branwell's conduct, and of that 



' BRAXWELL'S FALL.' 69 

of the lady whose character has been so 
much calumniated be needed, her poem en- 
titled ' Preference ' is sufficient. We may indeed 
infer from it that Charlotte herself never be- 
lieved the stories concerning Mrs. which were 

in circulation at the time, and that she has left, 
in this production of her pen, her version of how 
the circumstances truly stood. The lady is 
represented in the poem as censuring the per- 
son who is making advances to her, and who 
is addressed as a soldier for whom she has a 
sisterly regard, while she is devotedly attached 
to one of whom she speaks in the warmest 
terms. 

' Not in scorn do I reprove thee, 

Xot in pride thy vows I waive, 
But, believe, I could not love thee, 
A Vert thou prince, and I a slave.' 

She then tells him that he is deceiving him- 
self in thinking she has secret affection for him, 
and that her coldness towards him is assumed. 
She appeals forcibly to her own personal bear- 
ing as proof that she has no love for him. 

' Touch my hand, thou self -deceiver ; . 
Xay be calru, for I am so ; 



70 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Does it burn ? Does my lip quiver ? 

Has mine eye a troubled glow ? 
Canst thou call a moment's colour 

To my forehead to my cheek ? 
Canst thou tinge their tranquil pallor 

With one flattering, feverish streak ?' 

Declaring that her goodwill for him is sisterly, 
she thus continues : 

' Rave not, rage not, wrath is fruitless, 

Fury cannot change my mind ; 
I but deem the feeling rootless 

Which so whirls in passion's wind. 
Can I love? Oh, deeply truly 

Warmly fondly but not thee ; 
And my love is answered duly, 

With an equal energy. 1 

Then she tells him, if he would see his rival r 
to draw a curtain aside, when he will observe 
him, seated in a place shaded by trees, sur- 
rounded with books, and employing his 6 un- 
resting pen.' Here Charlotte places the 6 rival y 
in an alcove, in the grounds of his mansion, 
privately employing his leisure in the retirement 
of his home ; and makes the lady show her hus- 
band to the soldier who addresses her. She 
says: 



6 BRANWELL'S FALL.' 71 

1 There he sits the first of men ! 

Man of conscience man of reason ; 
Stern, perchance, but ever just ; 

Foe to falsehood, wrong, and treason, 
Honour's shield and virtue's trust ! 

Worker, thinker, firm defender 
Of Heaven's truth man's liberty ; 

Soul of iron proof to slander, 
Eock where founders tyranny.' 

She declares that her faith is given, and 
therefore the person she addresses need not sue ; 
for, while God reigns in earth and heaven, she 
will be faithful to the man of her heart, to 
whom she is immovably devoted ; and who is a 
* defender of Heaven's truth ' her husband. 

No one, perhaps,, would be better acquainted 
than Charlotte with the false and foul calumnies 
on this head, then circulating through the 
village ; and it is well that she has left, in her 
poem of < Preference,' an expression of her 
feeling as to the affairs which caused so much 
injurious gossip at the time. Yet, however 
desirous Charlotte might be, in this poem, to 
clear the character of the lady who has been so 
cruelly aspersed, she appears to have had no 
mercy on her brother, who had been the . 
principal actor in the drama. The following is 



72 THE BKONTE FAMILY. 

the picture of him, in reference to this sad 
episode, which she puts into the mouth of 
William Crimsworth in 'The Professor' : 

' Limited as had yet been my experience of 
life,' he says, * I had once had the opportunity 
of contemplating, near at band, an example of 
the results produced by a course of interesting 
and romantic domestic treachery. No golden 
halo of fiction was about this example ; I saw it 
bare and real ; and it was very loathsome. I 
saw a mind degraded by the practice of mean 
subterfuge, by the habit of perfidious deception, 
and a body depraved by the infectious influence 
of the vice-polluted soul. I had suffered much 
from the forced and prolonged view of this 
spectacle ; those sufferings I did not now regret, 
for their simple recollection acted as a most 
wholesome antidote to temptation. They had 
inscribed on my reason the conviction that un- 
lawful pleasure, trenching on another's rights, 
is delusive and envenomed pleasure its hollow- 
ness disappoints at the time, its poison cruelly 
tortures afterwards, its effects deprave for ever.' 
.It is probable that Charlotte would not have 
wished this passage to be applied literally to her 



' BRANWELL'S FALL.' 73 

brother ; but, unfortunately, this, and similar 
unguarded declarations, have largely biassed 
almost all who have written on the lives and 
literature of the sisters. 

Mrs. Gaskell, under threat of ulterior proceed- 
ings, on the advice of her friends, published the 
edition of 1860, omitting the charges referred to, 
as well as those against .Air. Bronte. She did 
not, however, allow the effect of her first assump- 
tion of guilt, or the moral of the tale, to be lost. 
She inserted a few sentences intended to 
convey to the reader that something of the 
kind had gone wrong with Branwell in the 
place where his sister Anne w r as governess. 
Under the circumstances, therefore, I have felt 
it necessary to deal with the subject at large. 

It may be remarked here that the indignation 
of the injured lady knew no bounds, and that she 
was only dissuaded from carrying the matter to 
a trial by the earnest desire of her friends, who 
represented that Mrs. Gaskell could not sub- 
stantiate her statements, and that, as the book 
could not therefore be reprinted as it stood, and 
its circulation was consequently limited, it were 
better to let the matter rest, rather than incur 



74 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the wide-spread reports of the newspaper press 
when the trial should be before the public ; and, 
moreover, that those who knew her did not 
believe a word of Mrs. Gaskell's unfounded alle- 
gations. This had its effect, and the lady fret- 
fully acquiesced. 1 

In Miss Robinson's ' Emily Bronte,' the stories 
which Charlotte's biographer was compelled to 
omit, have been substantially reproduced ; and 
this writer, in supporting similar views to those 
of Mrs. Gaskell, has found it necessary to quote 
her version of the letter containing Charlotte's 
account of Branwell's disgrace, and has also 
considerably enlarged upon the supposed con- 
tents of the letters of Anne. Much diffidence 
has been felt in dealing with this subject so 
closely; but, after the discussion of it in the 
public prints, consequent on the issue of Miss 
Robinson's book, it is thought the time has come 

1 A gentleman with whom I have recently conversed, who 
knew this lady personally, on seeing the first edition of 
Mrs. Gaskell's 4 Life of Charlotte Bronte,' expressed his 
astonishment at the 'gross form of the libel,' of which he 
had had no conception. He had good reason for entirely 
disbelieving the stories, for which Mrs. Gaskell was respon- 
sible, relating to the lady in question. 



* BRANWELL'S FALL.' 75 

for exposing the groundlessness of the stories. 
The reader will therefore observe that I have 
borne this matter in mind throughout the present 
work. 

The distraction that overwhelmed Branwell 
on his dismissal from his late employment having 
caused him eleven nights of ' sleepless horror,' 
his wild attempt to drown his sorrow brought 
on an attack of delirium tremens. On one of 
these nights, in all likelihood, suddenly falling 
asleep, he overturned the candle and set the bed- 
clothes on fire. The smell of burning attracted 
attention, and the sisters rushed into the room to 
extinguish the smouldering material. This 
accident would, doubtless, have been lost sight 
of, had it not been for the researches of Miss 
Robinson, to whom the public is indebted for an 
account of the circumstance, which closely 
reminds us of the rescue of Mr. Rochester in 
' Jane Eyre,' and of the removal of Keeper,' by 
Emily, from the best bed in which he had settled 
himself. It will be remembered also that, on the 
night when Mr. Lockwood stayed at Wuthering 
Heights, a similar accident befel him, through the 
candle falling against the books he was trying 
to read. 



76 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

On his return from Wales Branwell wrote to 
his friend Leyland, who had to visit Haworth 
professionally, pressing him to come to the 
parsonage. Thus he writes in the midst of 
his distress. The vision of his hopes had 
become a haunting picture of misery, the pros- 
pect of the lady becoming free to marry him had 
not arisen to his mind in his confusion ; he would 
never see her again, he would be forgotten ; he 
must communicate with her. 

' Haworth, August 4, 1845. 

' DEAR SIR, 

* I need hardly say that I shall 
be most delighted to see you, as God knows I 
have a tolerably heavy load on my mind just 
now, and would look to an hour spent with one 
like yourself, as a means of at least, temporarily, 
lightening it. 

4 1 returned yesterday from a week's journey 
to Liverpool and North Wales, but I found 
during my absence that, wherever I went, a cer- 
tain woman robed in black, and calling herself 
" MISERY/' walked by my side, and leant on my 
arm, as affectionately as if she were my legal 
wife. 



' BRANWELL'S FALL.' 77 

' Like some other husbands, I could have spared 
her presence. 

' Yours most sincerely, 

'P. B. BRONTE.' 

There are in one or two of Charlotte Bronte's 
letters, written during this month, allusions to her 
brother. She tells us that things are not very 
bright as regards him, though his health, and 
consequently his temper, have been somewhat 
better this last day or two, because he is now 
'forced to abstain.' And again, on the 18th, ' My 
hopes ebb low indeed about Branwell. I some- 
times fear he will never be fit for much. The 
late blow to his prospects and feelings has quite 
made him reckless.' 

On the 19th, Branwell sends a short note to 
Ley land, in which he says, * As to my own 
affairs, I only wish I could see one gleam of light 
amid their gloom. You, I hope, are well and 
cheerful.' 



78 



CHAPTER V. 



BRAN WELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 



Review of Branwell's past Experiences of Life He seeks 
Relief in Literary Occupation He Proposes to Write 
a Three -volume Novel His Letter on the Subject 
One Volume Completed His Capability of Writing a 
Novel His Letter to Mr Grundy on his Disappoint- 
ment. 

BRANWELL bad now attained his twenty-eighth 
year. The reader has seen in the early part of 
this work the intellectual promise of his opening 
career, the evidences of his genius, his versatility, 
and his mental power, and has marked the paths 
by which he, who was expected to be the crown- 
ing light of that remarkable family, had been 
brought, step by step, to the very depths of 
misery. 

During the few short years of his life, Branwell 



BRANWELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 79 

Bronte, having tasted the sweets of a noble 
ambition, and surrendered himself to the 
influences of love, had suffered the agonies of his 
disappointment and disgrace, and was now feel- 
ing the very bitterness of despair. Such 
influences as these, shaking the soul with their 
tempestuous breath, cast their sad glamour on 
the imagination ; and he who lias felt the spell 
is impressed thenceforth more deeply with the 
wondrous story of life, with the struggle of being, 
and with the fulness of emotion, and has a far 
deeper insight into the mysteries of human 
nature. It was in this way that Byron, when 
he had passed through his greatest misfortunes, 
and had abandoned for ever the shores of 
England, was fired with the gloomy glory of 
' Manfred ' and of ' Cain.' This storm and stress 
of the feelings, when the imagination receives a 
higher consciousness, is as the Eddaic struggle 
of Sigurd with Fafnir, the drinking of the mon- 
ster's blood, that taught to the dragon-slayer 
the mystic language of the birds. The reader 
will see how these influences told on Branwell 
Bronte, and how sad the voices of the birds were 
for him; how his muse was inspired with the 



80 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

note of misery, and his longing was for peace 
alone. There seemed, indeed, to be no hope in 
those days. 

However, there came at times to Branwell 
Bronte, as there must come to all men in his 
circumstances, a reaction from the consuming 
sorrow of despair, a longing for action, for men- 
tal stimulus, to divert his mind from the woe he 
should never be able to forget. And, with this 
change in his methods of thought, there grew 
upon him another feeling, engendered of his 
broken sympathy with the actions of his kind : 
he learned to look upon human affairs as a 
spectator, rather than as one who felt any per- 
sonal interest in them. It was in this way that 
his experience seemed to him to have unveiled 
the hidden springs of the actions of men ; and, 
in recognizing the selfishness of them, he be- 
came himself something of a cynic. 

Branwell was in this frame of mind when he 
resolved, soon after a visit to his friend Leyland, 
whom he found engaged upon a tomb and 
recumbent statue of the late Doctor Stephen 
Beckwith, a benefactor to several public institu- 
tions in York, to be erected in the Minster there, 



BRAN WELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 81 

to make an effort to arouse himself. With the 
desire, then, of finding an absorbing occupation 
for his mind, by which he might be able to lay 
the tempest of the heart, the whirlwind of 
wounded vanity, of injured self-esteem, and of 
blighted hope, which swept through his mind in 
hours of reflection, and drove him to distraction 
or desperation, he turned, with the resolution of 
a new-born energy, engendered of despair, to 
literary composition. He proposed to himself to 
depict, as best he could, in a fictitious form, and 
as an ordinary novel, which should extend to 
three volumes, the different feelings that work 
in the human soul. The necessary labour 
which this undertaking involved, gave a stimu- 
lus to his ambition, which for a time was sus- 
tained ; and he evidently hoped that he might 
yet be able to make a place for himself in the 
busy world of letters. At this time the novels 
of his sisters were not in existence, and probably 
had scarcely been dreamed of. Charlotte had 
not yet lighted on the volume of verse in the 
handwriting of Emily, and the literary future 
of the sisters had still to dawn upon them. Yet 
Branwell, whose behaviour had given them 
VOL. II. G 



82 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

cause enough for disquietude, and whose sorrows 
were embittering his mind, had now braced himself 
tip for an object which they had not attempt- 
ed, and to the accomplishment of which he 
looked forward with something like confidence. 
In the following letter to his friend Ley land, he 
discloses his design ; and it is probable that in 
this wo have almost all the direct light upon it 
which can be found : 

< Haworth, Sept. 10th, 1845. 

' MY DEAR SIR, 

' I was certainly sadly disappointed 
at not having seen you on the Friday you 
named for your visit, but the cause you allege 
for not arriving was justifiable with a ven- 
geance. I should have been as cracked as my 
cast had I entered a room and seen the labour 
of weeks or months destroyed (apparently not, 
1 trust, really) in a moment. 1 

4 That vexation is, I hope, over ; and I build 
upon your renewed promise of a visit ; for no- 
thing cheers me so much as the company of one 

1 Branwell here speaks of an accident which had hap- 
pened to one part of the monument referred to above. 



BRANWELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 83 

whom I believe to be a man,- and who has 
known care well enough to be able to appre- 
ciate the discomfort of another who knows it 
too well. 

* Never mind the lines I put into your hands, 
but come hither with them, and, if they should 
have been lost out of your pocket on the way, 
I won't grumble, provided you are present to 
apologize for the accident. 

6 1 have, since I saw you at Halifax, devoted 
my hours of time, snatched from downright 
illness, to the composition of a three-volume 
novel, one volume of which is completed, and, 
along with the two forthcoming ones, has been 
really the result of half-a-dozen by-past years of 
thoughts about, and experience in, this crooked 
path of life. 

4 1 felt that I must rouse myself to attempt 
something while roasting daily and nightly over 
a slow fire, to while away my torments ; and I 
knew that, in the present state of the publishing 
and reading world, a novel is the most saleable 
article, so that where ten pounds would be 
offered for a work, the production of which 
would require the utmost stretch of a man's 

G 2 



84 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

intellect t\vo hundred pounds would be a 
refused offer for three volumes, whose composi- 
tion would require the smoking of a cigar and 
the humming of a tune. 

1 My novel is the result of years of thought ; 
and, if it gives a vivid picture of human feelings 
for good and evil, veiled by the cloak of deceit 
which must enwrap man and woman ; if it re- 
cords, as faithfully as the pages that unveil man's 
heart in "Hamlet" or "Lear," the conflicting feel- 
ings and clashing pursuits in our uncertain path 
through life, I shall be as much gratified (and as 
much astonished) as I should be if, in betting 
that I could jump over the Mersey, i jumped 
over the Irish Sea. It would not be more 
pleasant to light on Dublin instead of Birkenhead, 
than to leap from the present bathos of fictitious 
literature to the firmly-fixed rock honoured by 
the foot of a Smollett or a Fielding. 

' That jump 1 expect to take when I can model 
a rival to your noble Theseus, who haunted my 
dreams when I slept after seeing him. But, 
meanwhile, I can try my utmost to rouse myself 
from almost killing cares, and that alone will be 
its own reward. 



BRANWELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 85 

'Tell me when I may hope to see you, and 
believe me, dear sir, 

4 Yours, 

P. B. BRONTE/ 

A spirited sketch in pen-and-ink concludes 
this letter: it represents a bust of himself thrown 
down, and the lady of his admiration holding 
forth her hands towards it with an air of pity, 
while underneath it is the sentence : 'A cast, 
cast down, but not cast away I' 1 

We have in this letter an instance of BranwelFs 
general coherency under his disappointment, in 
which the elegance and freedom of his style of 
composition are combined with a consequent and 
logical arrangement of the various parts of his 
subject ; but he cannot help concluding his 
letter with a direct allusion to the lady, whom 
he believes, all evidence to the contrary not- 
withstanding, to love him with undiminished 
devotion. Under this fascination he still hopes 
for the prosperity and happiness of which he had 
before spoken to his friends. 

1 Charlotte Bronte told her friend ' Mary,' that Branwell 
had appropriated Cowper's poem, ' The Castaway.' 



86 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Moreover it will be seen, from BranwelTe 
letter, that he had seriously undertaken, in the 
midst of sorrow, suffering, and ill-health, 
though, I have reason to believe, that he had 
sketched some part of it during his tutorship 
the production of a novel, one volume of which 
he had completed. He does not seem to have 
looked upon it as a great mental effort, but 
rather as the natural outcome of a painful 
experience, and the proper alleviation of a 
present misery. Yet he designed to give avi\ 7 id 
picture of human nature ; and, with the strength 
of experience and the consciousness of power, 
he evidently hoped that it would be a better 
work than those productions of the day, of whose 
composition he speaks so lightly. His experience 
had, indeed, been such as would well enable one 
of his quick perception to grasp the character,, 
feelings, and motives of those around him. Hi 
knowledge of the country people of the West- 
Riding was very great ; for, sitting, the admired 
of all observers, in the * Black Bull,' at Haworth, 
he had met representatives of all classes of them. 
By the parlour fire, in the long winter evenings, 
he had had opportunities enough of entering into 



BRANWELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 87 

the spirit of the people; indeed, his letter to John 
Brown has shown us how he reviewed some of 
them. It was not merely for the enjoyment of 
an hour that he came to their company: he had 
longed for a glimpse of other life than that lived 
at the parsonage. And the Yorkshire peasants 
whom he nevertheless held at their true value 
to those who know their dialect, and can enter 
into their pursuits, as Branwell did and could, 
disclose a fund of shrewd observation, a sharp 
understanding, and a free and natural wit ; and 
they delight in telling the stories of all the 
country side. But they must be understood 
before they can be appreciated. Branwell, too, 
had been a gues't at the homesteads of the 
farmers, in the neighbourhood where he had 
latterly resided, who were always pleased to see 
him, when he visited them. But he had had 
experience of more fiery emotions than those of 
peasants ; he had longed to know something 
of the deeper life of London, and had found it, 
at last, in the company of pugilists and their 
patrons. 

When the mood was upon him, all these 
varied experiences flowed with voluble elo- 



88 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

quence frorn his lips ; and the brightness of his 
wit and the brilliance of his imagination made 
him, at such times, a most enjoyable companion. 
But he delighted above all things, as has been 
seen, to spend his evenings, when possible, with 
the little band of literati which, in those times, 
characterized that district ; and, in the society of 
Storey the poet of Wharfe, James the historian 
of Bradford, George Searle Phillips, Leyland 
the sculptor, and others, he found emulation 
and stimulus to better things. But the uses to 
which, under such influences, he put his experi- 
ences of life, and the colour that was given to 
them through his maddening misfortunes so 
far as his novel is concerned can probably 
never be told. His experience in 4 this crooked 
path of life,' during his last half-dozen years, 
had been sufficiently varied ; and an instructive 
story he could doubtless have based upon it. 
But, what became of the volume he wrote, possi- 
bly no one can tell; and his intention of writing 
two more was probably not carried out. 

From the following letter which Bran well 
wrote to Mr. Grundy in the October of 1845, 
we learn something of the condition of mind 



BRANWELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 89 

under which he must have written ; and, from 
an allusion which it contains, we may, probably, 
infer that he had abandoned his intention of 
writing the two other volumes of his novel. 1 
He says : 

* I fear you will burn my present letter on 
recognising the handwriting ; but if you will 
read it through, you will perhaps rather pity 
than spurn the distress of mind which could 
prompt my communication, after a silence of 
nearly three (to me) eventful years. While 
very ill and confined to my room, I wrote to 
you two months ago, hearing you were resident 
engineer of the Skipton Railway, to the inn at 
Skipton. I never received any reply, and as 
my letter asked only for one day of your 
society, to ease a very weary mind in the com- 
pany of a friend who always had what I always 
wanted, but most want now, cheerfulness, I am 
sure you never received my letter, or your heart 
would have prompted an answer. 

1 Mr. Gruncly has assigned the date of this letter to 
within a few months of January, 1818 ; but, from internal 
evidence, it is clear that it belongs really to the period I 
have named. 



!>() THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

' Since I last shook hands with you in Halifax, 
two summers ago, my life, till lately, has been 
one of apparent happiness and indulgence. 
You will ask, " Why does he complain, then ?" 
I can only reply by showing the under-current 
of distress which bore my bark to a whirlpool, 
despite the surface waves of life that seemed 
floating me to peace. In a letter begun in the 
spring of 1845 and never finished, owing to 
incessant attacks of illness, I tried to tell you 

that I was tutor to the son of , a wealthy 

gentleman whose wife is sister to the wife of 

, M.P. for the county of , and the 

cousin of Lord . This lady (though her 

husband detested me) showed me a degree of 
kindness which, when I was deeply grieved one 
day at her husband's conduct, ripened into 
declarations of more than ordinary feeling. My 
admiration of her mental and personal attrac- 
tions, my knowledge of her unselfish sincerity, 
her sweet temper, and unwearied care for others, 
with but unrequited return where most should 
have been given .... although she is seven- 
teen years niy senior, all combined to an attach- 
ment on my part, and led to reciprocations 



BRANWELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 91 

which I had little looked for. During nearly 
three years I had daily " troubled pleasure, soon 
chastised by fear." Three months since I 
received a furious letter from my employer, 
threatening to shoot me if I returned from my 
vacation, which I was passing at home ; and 
letters from her lady's-maid and physician in- 
formed me of the outbreak, only checked by her 
firm courage and resolution that whatever harm 
came to her, none should come to me .... I 
have lain during nine long weeks, utterly 
shattered in body and broken down in mind. 
The probability of her becoming free to give 
me herself and estate never rose to drive away 
the prospect of her decline under her present 
grief. I dreaded, too, the wreck of my mind 
and body, which, God knows ! during a short- 
life have been severely tried. Eleven continu- 
ous nights of sleepless horror reduced me to 
almost blindness ; and, being taken into Wales 
to recover, the sweet scenery, the sea, the 
sound of music caused me fits of unspeakable 
distress. You will say, " What a fool!" but if 
you knew the many causes I have for sorrow, 
which I cannot even hint at here, you would 



92 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

perhaps pity as well as blame. At the kind 
request of Mr. Macaulay and Mr. Baines, I have 
striven to arouse my mind by writing something 
worthy of being read, but I really cannot do so. 
Of course you will despise the writer of all this. 
L can only answer that the writer does the 
same, and would not Avish to live if he did not 
hope that work and change may yet restore 
him. 

6 Apologizing sincerely for what seems like 
whining egotism, and hardly daring to hint 
about the days when, in your company, I could 
sometimes sink the thoughts which " remind me 
of departed days," I fear departed never to 
return, I remain, etc.' 

In this letter we see that Branwell details to 

Mr. Grundy the story about Mrs. , which he 

Avas publishing whenever he could obtain a 
hearing. He speaks, too, of his ill-health, the 
shattering of body and the breaking down of 
mind, which at the time prostrated him. Char- 
lotte seems scarcely to have credited Branwell's 
representations of the bodily condition into 
which he had fallen ; for she says, in one of her 
letters, a little later, ' Branwell offers no pros- 



BRANWELL'S PROJECTED NOVEL. 93 

pect of hope : he professes to be too ill to think 
of seeking employment.' 1 There are passages 
of a like tendency in others of Charlotte's letters 
about this time ; but we shall see presently that, 
whatever might be his condition of health, he 
was by no means so unsolicitous for employ- 
ment, or so heedless of the future, as she sup- 
posed. 

1 ' Unpublished Letters of Charlotte Bronte,' Hours at 
Home, xi. 



91 



CHAPTER VI. 

< REAL REST.' l PENMAENMAWR.' 

; Real Rest ' Comments Spirit of Branwell and Emily 
Identical Letter to Leyland Branwell Broods on 
his Sorrows ' Penmaenmawr ' Comments He still 
Searches and Hopes for Employment Charlotte's 
somewhat Overdrawn Expressions The Alleged 
Elopement Proposal Probable Origin of the Story. 

THOUGH Branwell Bronte was so feeble in 
health that, despite his wishes, he found physi- 
cal labour impossible, and though the reaction 
from utter despair through whose impetus he 
completed one volume of his novel had been 
followed by a condition which led him to think 
worthy literary work beyond his power, we find 
him, almost at the same time, writing two of 
the finest poems which remain from his hand. 
It has been seen, in the letter addressed to Mr. 



6 REAL REST ' < PENMAEXMAWR ' 95 

Grundy, how he declares that, owing to the 
state of his mind, he is unable to undertake any 
literary work worth reading. But we have 
certain knowledge of an immediate movement 
of his genius, and that it found expression in 
verse, which gave a free course to his feelings. 
In the following poem we have perhaps the 
most powerful and weird expression of inconso- 
lable sorrow ever penned. A strange calm had 
now succeeded the storms of feeling its author 
had passed through. 

REAL REST. 

1 1 see a corpse upon the waters lie, 
"With eyes turned, swelled and sightless, to the sky, 
And arms outstretched to move, as wave on wave 
Upbears it in its boundless billowy grave. 
Not time, but ocean, thins its flowing hair ; 
Decay, not sorrow, lays its forehead bare ; 
Its members move, but not in thankless toil, 
For seas are milder than this world's turmoil ; 
Corruption robs its lips and cheeks of red, 
But wounded vanity grieves not the dead ; 
And, though those members hasten to decay, 
No pang of suffering takes their strength away. 
With untormented eye, and heart, and brain, 
Through calm and storm it floats across the main ; 



96 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Though love and joy have perished long ago, 

Its bosom suffers not one pang of woe ; 

Though weeds and worms its cherished beauty hide, 

It feels not wounded vanity nor pride ; 

Though journeying towards some far-off shore, 

It needs no care nor gold to float it o'er ; 

Though launched in voyage for eternity, 

It need not think upon what is to be ; 

Though naked, helpless, and companionless, 

It feels not poverty, nor knows distress. 

' Ah, corpse ! if thou couldst tell my aching mind 
What scenes of sorrow thou hast left behind, 
How sad the life which, breathing, thou hast led, 
How free from strife thy sojourn with the dead ; 
I would assume thy place would long to be 
A world- wide wanderer o'er the waves with thee ! 
I have a misery, where thou hast none ; 
My heart beats, bursting, whilst thine lies like stone ; 
My veins throb wild, whilst thine are dead and dry ; 
And woes, not waters, dim my restless eye ; 
Thou longest not with one well loved to be, 
And absence does not break a chain with thee ; 
No sudden agonies dart through thy breast ; 
Thou hast what all men covet, REAL REST. 
I have an outward frame, unlike to thine, 
"Warm with young life not cold in death's decline ; 
An eye that sees the sunny light of Heaven, 
A heart by pleasure thrilled, by anguish riven 
But, in exchange for thy untroubled calm, 
Thy gift of cold oblivion's healing balm, 



6 REAL REST ' < PENMAENMAWR ' 97 

I'd give my youth, my health, my life to come, 
And share thy slumbers in thy ocean tomb.' 

Here the poet, his soul longing for freedom 
from mortality, his crushed and wounded spirit 
hovering above the salt and restless wave, con- 
templates the pale and ghastly body that floats 
thereon, and, holding communion with it, touches 
in melancholy and beautiful words its isolation 
and oblivion. Accompanying the dead in its 
watery wanderings, he sees, with keen sympathy, 
its utter disseverance from the world it has left, 
and contrasts with its condition the hopeless 
sorrow of his own disappointed youth. He 
delineates, in words of singular power and 
felicity, this weird and lonely picture ; and, as an 
artist and a poet, paints wildly, but beautifully, 
the decay of the drowned in the ocean, and of 
the living, through the effects of long-continued 
woe. Branwell had loved, indeed, however 
unfortunately ; and the misery of his passion 
caused him to turn his reflections within upon 
himself. As with the ' Wandering Jew,' who 
sees in every rock, in every bush, in every cloud, 
without hope of alleviation from his abiding woe, 
the via crucis of his suffering Lord every 

VOL. II. H 



98 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

thought of Braiiwell's gifted mind, every con- 
ception of his fertile brain, every aspect, to him, 
of ocean, earth, and sky, was, in one way or 
other, instinct with his own initial and irre- 
pressible affection. Apart, however, from the 
illusions respecting the lady of his heart, under 
which he laboured, and which drove him to 
madness, there was a tendency to gloom and 
despondency implanted in his very nature, a dis- 
position of mind in which his sister Emily largely 
resembled him. To such an extent was this the 
case that, in her poem of ' The Philosopher,' 
written in the October of 1845, she not only gives 
expression to similar weird thoughts and desires, 
but one might think there had been some inter- 
change of ideas between the two, that, perhaps, 
she had read his ' Heal Rest,' and wrote the fol- 
lowing words in half-censure of its tendency. 
She is speaking of an enlightening spirit : 

' Had I but seen his glorious eye 

Once light the clouds that wilder me ; 

I ne'er had raised this coward cry 
To cease to think, and cease to be ; 

I ne'er had called oblivion blest, 

Nor stretching eager hands to death, 



* REAL REST ' < PENMAENMAWR ' 99 

Implored to change for senseless rest 
This sentient soul, this living breath 

Oh, let me die that power and will 
Their cruel strife may close ; 

And conquered good and conquering ill 
Be lost in one repose !' 

It is noteworthy that Charlotte, also, in the 
second part of her poem c Gilbert,' has used the 
incident of a corpse floating upon the waters, 
which is seen by the unhappy man in his vision, 
not, indeed, to give him the calm of oblivion, 
but rather, in contrast to BranwelFs poem, to 
wake in him the pains of sorrow and remorse. 

Again, on the 25th of November, 1845, Bran- 
well wrote to Leyland. He could not free himself 
from the unfortunate ideas which had perverted 
his understanding, but on every other subject he 
wrote justly. 

< Haworth, 
4 Bradford, Yorks. 
' MY DEAR SIR, 

< 1 send you the enclosed, and 
1 ought to tell you why I wished anything of so 
personal a nature to appear in print. 

'I have no other way, not pregnant with 



100 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

danger, of communicating with one whom I 
cannot help loving. Printed lines, with my usual 
signature, " Northangerland," could excite no 
suspicion as my late unhappy employer shrank 
from the bare idea of my being able to write 
anything, and had a day's sickness after hearing 
that Macaulay had sent me a complimentary 
letter ; so he won't know the name. 

4 1 sent through a private channel one letter of 
comfort in her great and agonizing present 
afflictions, but I recalled it through dread of the 
consequences of a discovery. 

' These lines have only one merit, that of 
really expressing my feelings, while sailing under 
the Welsh mountain, when the band on board 
the steamer struck up, " Ye banks and braes!" 
God knows that, for many different reasons, 
those feelings were far enough from pleasure. 

6 1 suffer very much from that mental exhaus- 
tion which arises from brooding on matters use- 
less at present to think of, and active employ- 
ment would be my greatest cure and blessing, 
for really, after hours of thoughts which business 
would have hushed, I have felt as if I could not 
live, and, if long continued, such a state will 



< REAL REST ' < PENMAENMAWR ' 101 

bring oil permanent affection of the heart, 
which is already bothered with most uneasy pal- 
pitations. 

' I should like extremely to have an hour's 
sitting with you, and, if I had the chance, I would 
promise to try not to look gloomy. You said 
you would be at Haworth ere long, but that " ere " 
has doubtless changed to "ne'er;" so I must wish 
to get to Halifax some time to see you. 

fc 1 saw Murray's monument praised in the 
papers, and I trust you are getting on well with 
Beckwith's, as well as with your own personal 
statue of living flesh and blood. 

4 Mine, like your Theseus, has lost its hands 
and feet, and 1 fear its head also, for it can 
neither move, write, nor think as it once could. 

i I hope I shall hear from you on John Brown's 
return from Halifax, whither he has gone. 
' I remain, &c., 

< P. B. BRONTE/ 

The poem enclosed was entitled : 

PENMAENMAWR. 

* These winds, these clouds, this chill November storm 
Bring back again thy tempest-beaten form 



102 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

To eyes that look upon yon dreary sky 

As late they looked on thy sublimity ; 

When I, more troubled than thy restless sea, 

Found, in its waves, companionship with thee. 

'Mid mists thou frownedst over Arvon^ shore, 

'Mid tears I watched thee over ocean's roar, 

And thy blue front, by thousand storms laid bare, 

Claimed kindred with a heart worn down by care. 

No smile had'st thou, o'er smiling fields aspiring, 

And none had I, from smiling fields retiring ; 

Blackness, 'mid sunlight, tinged thy slaty brow, 

I, 'mid sweet music, looked as dark as thou ; 

Old Scotland's song, o'er murmuring surges borne, 

Of " times departed, never to return," 

Was echoed back in mournful tones from thee, 

And found an echo, quite as sad, in me ; 

Waves, clouds, and shadows moved in restless change, 

Around, above, and on thy rocky range, 

But seldom saw that sovereign front of thine 

Changes more quick than those which passed o'er mine. 

And as wild winds and human hands, at length, 

Have turned to scattered stones the mighty strength 

Of that old fort, whose belt of boulders grey 

Roman or Saxon legions held at bay ; 

So had, methought, the young, unshaken nerve 

That, when WILL wished, no doubt could cause to swerve, 

That on its vigour ever placed reliance, 

That to its sorrows sometimes bade defiance 

Now left my spirit, like thyself, old hill, 

With head defenceless against human ill ; 



' REAL REST ' ' PENMAENMAWR ' 103 

And, as tliou long hast looked upon the wave 
That takes, but gives not, like a churchyard grave, 
I, like life's course, through ether s weary range , 
Never know rest from ceaseless strife and change. 

' But, PENMAENMAWR ! a better fate was thine, 
Through all its shades, than that which darkened mine; 
No quick thoughts thrilled through thy gigantic mass 
Of woe for what might be, or is, or was ; 
Thou hadst no memory of the glorious hour 
When Britain rested on thy giant power ; 
Thou hadst no feeling for the verdant slope 
That leant on thee as man's heart leads on hope ; 
The pastures, chequered o'er with cot and tree, 
Though thou wert guardian, got no smile from thee ; 
Old ocean's wrath their charms might overwhelm, 
But thou could'st still keep thy unshaken realm 
While I felt flashes of an inward feeling 
As fierce as those thy craggy form revealing 
In nights of blinding gleams, when deafening roar 
Hurls back thy echo to old Mona's shore. 
I knew a flower, whose leaves were meant to bloom 
Till Death should snatch it to axiom a tomb, 
Now, blanching 'neath the blight of hopeless grief, 
With never blooming, and yet living leaf ; 
A flower on which my mind would wish to shine, 
If but one beam could break from mind like mine. 
I had an ear which could on accents dwell 
That might as well say " perish !" as " farewell !" 
An eye which saw, far off, a tender form, 
Beaten, unsheltered, by affliction's storm ; 



104 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

An arm a lip that trembled to embrace 
My angel's gentle breast and sorrowing face, 
A mind that clung to Ouse's fertile side 
While tossing objectless on Menai's tide ! 

4 Oh, Soul ! that draw'st yon mighty hill and me 
Into communion of vague unity, 
Tell me, can I obtain the stony brow 
That fronts the storm, as much unbroken now 
As when it once upheld the fortress proud, 
Now gone, like its own morning cap of cloud ? 
Its breast is stone. Can I have one of steel, 
To endure inflict defend yet never feel ? 
It stood as firm when haughty Edward's word 
Gave hill and dale to England's fire and sword, 
As when white sails and steam-smoke tracked the sea, 
And all the world breathed peace, but waves and me. 

* Let me, like it, arise o'er mortal care, 
All woes sustain, yet never know despair ; 
Unshrinking face the grief I now deplore, 
And stand, through storm and shine, like moveless 
PENMAENMAWK !' 

These lines are shadowed, like all his other 
writings, with the grief that day and night op- 
pressed him. Throughout the theme, his eager 
yearning for mental quiet is finely expressed ; 
and in it he contrasts the strength and cairn of 
the everlasting hill in its chequered history, and 



4 REAL REST ' ' PEXMAENMAWR ' 105 

in the ceaseless changes, and the lights and 
shadows that fall upon it, with his own wild and 
stormy existence ; the lady, whose charms have 
bewildered his imagination, supplying him with 
a subject for sorrowful recollections. The giant 
hill is the mighty image with which his per- 
turbed soul communes, and he implores for 
strength to enable him to rise superior to his 
misfortunes, and to face, like ' moveless Pen- 
maenmawr,' the storm, adversity, and ruin that 
threaten him. But there was little likelihood of 
the lady seeing these lines. 

We find Bran well, at the time, making efforts 
to obtain some employment that would divert 
him from useless brooding upon the unfortunate 
circumstances that destroyed his peace. Scarce- 
ly, also, was he less anxious to be away from 
home, for his presence there had been his 
greatest humiliation when his family knew of 
his disgrace ; yet, with a method of which he 
was master, he appears to have kept silence 
there on the subject his madness made him so 
ready to repeat to others. However his sisters 
Emily and Anne might regard him, Charlotte, 
at least, looked upon him as one of the fallen. 



106 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

She thus writes to her friend concerning him on 
the 4th of November, 1845: <I hoped to be 
able to ask you to come to Haworth. It almost 
seemed as if Branwell had a chance of getting 
employment, and I waited to know the result 

of his efforts in order to say, dear , come 

and see us. But the place (a secretaryship to a 
railway committee) is given to another person. 
Branwell still remains at home ; and while lie 
is here, you shall not come. I am more confirm- 
ed in that resolution the more I see of him. 
I wish I could say one word to you in his 
favour, but I cannot. I will hold my tongue. 
We are all obliged to you for your kind sugges- 
tion about Leeds ; but I think our school 
schemes are, for the present, at rest.' Again, she 
says on December olst of the same year : ' You 

say well, in speaking of , that no sufferings 

are so awful as those brought on by dissipation ; 
alas! I see the truth of this observation daily 

proved. and must have as weary 

and burdensome a life of it in waiting upon 
their unhappy brother. It seems grievous, 
indeed, that those who have not sinned should 



' REAL REST ' PENMAENMA WR ' 107 

puffer so largely.' l Charlotte also, writing to 
Nancy Garrs, who at times assisted at the par- 
sonage, complained of the conduct of her 
brother ; but, later, requested that the letter 
should be destroyed. Her wish was complied 
with. 

It is, indeed, an almost impossible task to 
convey to the reader, in the pages of a bio- 
graphy, an idea which will, in an adequate 
degree, approach the intimate acquaintance 
which those who lived, saw, and spoke with its 
subject possessed. And, yet, how necessary is 
such knowledge to the right understanding of 
anyone's letters! But with what chance of a 
true insight, then, shall we read the letters of 
Branwell Bronte and his sister, if we have an 
incorrect view of his character? 

Miss Robinson has confidently concluded, 
from certain depreciatory references to himself, 
in his letters to Mr. Grundy, that, at this period, 
' he was manifestly, and by his own confession, 
too physically prostrate for any literary effort/ 
with how much accuracy the reader has seen 
1 Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. xiii. 



108 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and will further see. And Mr. Wemyss Reid, 
with respect to the character of Mr. Bronte, 
adopting much of Mrs. G ask ell's view of him, 
and relying upon his children's letters, has 
produced a portrait of him to which, as he 
allows, ' some of those who knew him in his 
later years, including one who is above all 
others entitled to an opinion on the subject, 
have objected as being over-coloured.' We 
must not read, then, too literally all that we 
find in the letters. It would be folly to take 
word for word Charlotte's account of her father's 
anger when she announced to him a proposal of 
marriage which had been made to her, and 
which did not accord with his wish; or to 
believe that ' compassion or relenting is no more 
to be looked for from papa than sap from fire- 
wood,' when we know that he afterwards volun- 
tarily gave way, and sacrificed his own opinion. 
Nor would it be right to accept any exaggerated 
confession of Charlotte about herself, in a literal 
sense. And thus it does not sound well in Mrs. 
Gaskell, after completing her account of the 
outward events of Branwell's life, to say, 'All 
that is to be said more about Branwell Bronte 



< REAL REST ' PENMAENMAWR ' 100 

shall be said by Charlotte herself, not by me ;' 
and then to proceed to extract such portions of 
the sister's letters as condemned him, and to 
summarize or repress anything favourable. But 
Miss Robinson has gone further. She, by ex- 
tracting a few censures from various letters, 
apart in date, and leaving out all mention of the 
chance of the secretaryship in the letter of 
November the 4th, and the words < to him ' in 
another, has left her reader under the impression 
that, after his dismissal, Bran well would not 
seek employment. ' Such was not his intention,' 
she says. But Branwell's efforts to obtain the 
secretaryship, to which Charlotte alludes, are- 
sufficient evidence of a contrary disposition in 
him ; and we shall find that he exerted himself 
in other directions also. 

The failure of the school-keeping has likewise 
been duly laid to his charge, although, as we 
have seen, Mr. Bronte's oncoming blindness, in 
the first place, and the difficulty of procuring 
pupils at Haworth, were the causes of its 
failure. To the reason why no attempt was 
made to open a school elsewhere, I shall have 
further to allude. 



110 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

We have been told by Mrs. Gaskell that, some 
months after Branwell's dismissal, he met the 
wife of his former employer clandestinely by 
appointment. ' There was,' she says, * a strange 

lingering of conscience, when he refused 

to consent to the elopement which she proposed.' ] 
Miss Robinson, who adopts this report, thinks 
that the phrase ' herself and estate,' in the letter 
he sent to Mr. Grundy, throws quite a new light 
upon Mrs. GaskelFs opinion that there were any 
remains of conscience left in Branwell Bronte. 
She says he counselled ' a little longer waiting,' 
that he might become possessed of the property, 
on the death of the lady's husband. But if this 
incident of the proposed elopement had actually 
taken place, the delay suggested by Branwell 
should surely be held as proof that anything 
positively dishonourable was repulsive to him. 
The lady, too, had an ample fortune of her own, 
of which, had she proposed an elopement, she 
would have informed him. But, if we consider 
the possible sources from which such a story as 
this could arise, we may surmise that Mrs. Gas- 
kell, who first gave it to the public, and on 
1 'Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap, xiii,, 1st edition. 



' REAL REST ' ' PENMAENMAWR ' 111 

whose authority it alone remains, obtained it, 
with the many other incidents she has pub- 
lished, from the current scandal of Haworth, 
where else could she have heard it ? and 
when we remember that the rumours of the 
village, though magnified a hundred-fold, had 
their origin in the infatuated belief and wild 
statements of Branwell himself, possibly we shall 
not be wrong if we conclude that it had no 
foundation whatever in fact. Certainly there is 
no sufficient evidence for it. And the story is in 
itself inherently improbable, for it alleges that 
the lady had been not only regardless of her repu- 
tation, but had cast to the winds all thoughts of 
those pecuniary considerations which, a little 
later, upon the death of her husband, are stated 
to have prevented her from marrying in honour 
the supposed object of her affections. 

I have, earlier in this work, spoken of a poem 
on one of the traditions of Lancashire, by Mr. 
Peters, entitled : < Leyland's Daughter/ which is 
the story of a romantic elopement. Branwell, 
early in 1846, proposed to write a poem on 
Morley Hall, in the parish of Leigh, where the 
elopement took place in the reign of Edward VI., 



112 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

in which he also would touch upon the incident. 
This tradition, and Bran well's intended work 
011 the subject, became often a topic of conversa- 
tion both at Haworth and Halifax : and, it is not 
improbable that, some ten years afterwards, 
when Mrs. Gaskell was searching at the former 
place for materials for her work, the story of this 
ancient elopement had become mixed with the 
stories of the village respecting Branwell and 
the lady of his late employer, and thus, with 
them, was ready for Mrs. Gaskell's hand, additions- 
having been made as to time and place. 



113 



CHAPTER 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. BRANWELL'S 
LITERARY OCCUPATIONS. 

The Sisters as Writers of PoetryThe}' Decide to Publish 
Each begins a Novel The Spirit under which the Work 
was Undertaken ' The Professor ' ' Agnes Grey ' 
' Wuthering Heights ' Bran well's Condition A 
Touching Incident ' Epistle from a Father to a Child 
in her Grave ' Letter with Sonnet Publication of the 
Sisters' Poems. 

IF Branwell Bronte had devoted himself to 
literature under the impulse of his misfortune, 
his sisters were not long unoccupied ere they also 
entered upon its pursuit. ' One day, in the 
autumn of 1845,' says Charlotte, * I accidentally 
lighted on a MS. volume of verse in my sister 
Emily's handwriting.' The elder sister was not 
surprised, knowing that the younger could and 
did write verse ; but she thought these were no 
VOL. II, I 



114 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

common effusions. * To my ear,' she says, * they 
had also a peculiar music wild, melancholy, and 
elevating. My sister -Emily was not a person of 
demonstrative character, nor one on the recesses 
of whose mind and feelings even those nearest 
and dearest to her could, with impunity, intrude 
unlicensed ; it took hours to reconcile her to the 
discovery I had made, and days to persuade her 
that such poems merited publication.' Charlotte 
Bronte here grasped, with unfailing precision, the 
very secret spell which we find in Emily's 
poetry ; the strange, wild, weird voice, with 
which it speaks to us, spoke first of all to her, 
and she felt the heather-scented breath, even as 
we do, of the moorland air on which its music 
was borne. Anne also produced verses, which 
had * a sweet, sincere pathos of their own ;' and 
the three sisters, believing, after anxious delibera- 
tion, that they might get their respective pro- 
ductions accepted for publication in one volume, 
set on foot inquiries on the subject, and now 
adopted the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and 
Acton Bell, which were afterwards to become so 
famous. It was not, however, to be expected 
that the effusions of inexperienced and unknown 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 115 

writers would be of such value as to induce any 
publisher to take them on his own risk. In- 
deed, Miss Bronte says 'the great puzzle lay 
in the difficulty of getting answers of any kind 
from the publishers to whom we applied.' She 
wrote to Messrs. Chambers, of Edinburgh, asking 
advice, and received a brief and business-like 
reply, upon which the sisters acted, and at last 
made way. 

On the 28th of January, 1846, Charlotte, as 
we have been informed, wrote to Messrs. Aylott 
and Jones, asking if they would publish a one- 
volume, octavo, of poems ; if not at their own 
risk, on the authors' account. Messrs. Aylott 
and Jones did not hesitate to accept the latter 
proposal. 

It must have been when the sisters became 
aware that publishers would not accept the 
poetry of unknown writers on any other terms, 
that they turned their thoughts to prose com- 
position. Branwell, in his dire distress, had fixed 
his attention on the writing of a three-volume 
novel, principally as a refuge from mental dis- 
quiet ; but his sisters, now, with very different 
feelings, each set to work on a one-volume tale. 

i2 



116 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

It had occurred to them, we are told, that by 
novel-writing money was to be made. They 
were, in fact, influenced by precisely the view of 
the profit to be derived from fiction which Bran- 
well had propounded in his remarkable letter to 
his friend Leyland. ' Ill-success,' says Charlotte, 
' failed to crush us : the mere effort to succeed 
had given a wonderful zest to existence ; it must 
be pursued. We each set to work on a prosfr 
tale : Ellis Bell produced " Wuthering Heights," 
Acton Bell, "Agnes Grey," and Currer Bell also 
wrote a narrative in one volume.' 

The business-like way in which the sisters 
went about their novel-writing, forbids us to 
believe that they brooded very much on the 
conduct of their brother when the literary fervour 
was upon them; but Miss Robinson leads her 
readers to think that his character and failings 
had much to do with the tone which their works 
assumed. Writing under this belief, and with 
this intention, as might have been expected, 
she has found it necessary to paint every circum- 
stance relating to him, and the inmates of the 
parsonage, in the darkest colours, and often has 
arrived at conclusions widely different from the 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 117 

actual facts. Moreover this writer, in supporting 
her views, has fallen into the serious error of 
placing the event which completed Branwell's 
disappointment, and its consequences to him, 
four months earlier than they occurred. 

The novels which the sisters wrote under the 
influence of these troubles do not, indeed, bear 
any marked traces of them. ' The Professor,' 
Charlotte's story, which was not published until 
long after, is the direct outcome of her personal 
experiences in Brussels, and the few shadows 
that one finds in it are the record of such troubles 
as she had there. In this book, Currer Bell 
describes the life of endeavour, which seemed to 
her the most honourable, the treading of those 
paths in the outer world whose pleasures and 
pains she had found so keen. Already, in the 
March of 1845, she had written to a friend telling 
her that she was no longer happy at Haworth, 
though it was her duty to remain there. ' There 
was a time when Haworth was a very pleasant 
place to me ; it is not so now. I feel as if we 
were all buried here. I long to travel; to work ; 
to live a life of action.' Thus ' The Professor ' is 
the story of the work and of the life of action 



118 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

for which the author herself was pining. William 
Crimsworth, neglected by his rich relations, cut- 
off by his brutal brother, seeks his fortune in 
Brussels, and obtains a place as professor of 
English in a school there. He leads a life that 
Charlotte knows well ; he is in the place she has 
learned to love ; and he describes, with close 
observation, the character and the routine to 
which she is so well accustomed. Pelet, his 
master, is an original, as Paul Emanuel is, and 
Zora'ide Reuter is the prototype of Madame 
Beck. These characters are forcibly conceived, 
as is that of Mademoiselle Henri ; but the book 
bears the traces of a novice's hand. Thus, how 
unnatural does the proposal which Crimsworth 
makes to Frances read to us, where, while asking 
her to be his wife, demanding of her what regard 
she has for him, he says not a word of his own 
devotion to her ; and where, even when she 
grants him all he has been hoping for so long, 
his sole remark is, ' Very well, Frances !' But a 
stronger point of interest for us in the book is the 
spirit which moves Crimsworth in his endeavours, 
where he struggles with might and main, just as 
Charlotte herself wished to do, for a competency ; 



119 

and there is the school, too, which his wife designs 
and establishes, the very pattern of that which 
was in Charlotte's own mind. It is instructive and 
singular that in this book we find Crimsworth 
suffering from the hypochondria which beset its 
author, and that, too, at the time when he should 
have been happiest. 

' Man,' he says, * is ever clogged with his 
mortality, and it was my mortal nature which 
now faltered and plained ; my nerves, which 
jarred and gave a false sound, because the soul, 
of late rushing headlong to an aim, had over- 
strained the body's comparative weakness. A 
horror of great darkness fell upon me ; I felt 
my chamber invaded by one I had known 
formerly, but had thought for ever departed. I 
was temporarily a prey to hypochondria. She 
had been my acquaintance, nay, my guest, once 
before in boyhood; I had entertained her at, bed 
and board for a year ; for that space of time I 
had her to myself in secret ; she lay with me, she 
ate with me, she walked out with me, showing 
me nooks in woods, hollows in hills, where we 
could sit together, and where she could drop her 
drear veil over me, and so hide sky and sun, 



120 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

grass and green tree ; taking me entirely to her 
death-cold bosom, and holding me with arms of 
bone.' This was the phantom that visited Char- 
lotte also. Of the effect of her brother's conduct 
on her I have found but two passages in ' The 
Professor,' that which I have quoted respecting 
the youth of Victor Crimsworth earlier in this 
volume, and that, in Chapter xx., where William 
Crimsworth leaves Pelet's house lest a ' practical 
modern French novel ' should be in process 
beneath its roof. It was Charlotte's design, in 
writing ' The Professor,' to lend it no charm of 
romance. Her hero was to work his way through 
life, and to find no sudden turn to endow him 
with wealth, for he was to earn every shilling he 
possessed, and he was not even to marry a 
beautiful girl or a lady of rank in the end. ' In 
the sequel, however,' says Charlotte, ' I find that 
publishers in general scarcely approved of this 
system, but would have liked something more 
imaginative and poetical ;' and for this reason, 
probably, the book did not find a publisher so 
soon as ' Agnes Grey,' and 4 \Vuth ering Heights,' 
which were sent from the parsonage with it. 
' Agnes Grey,' Anne Bronte's story, like ' The 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 121 

Professor,' is the picture of things its author had 
known, painted almost as she saw them. Anne's 
experience as a governess had made her 
acquainted with certain phases of life, which she 
could 4 not but reproduce. Hence Agnes Grey 
is thrown into the sphere of the careless and 
selfish family of the Bloomfields ; and afterwards, 
with the Murrays at Horton Lodge, she sees a 
kind of personal character and social life which, 
on account of its coldness and worklliness, greatly- 
repelled Anne Bronte, with her warm and sym- 
pathetic nature. She teaches the same lesson of 
the folly of manages de convenance, and of the 
wrong of subjecting the affections, and bartering 
happiness for the sake of worldly position, which 
she afterwards dwells upon more strongly in 
< The Tenant of Wildfell Hall/ It is in this 
fictitious parallel of Anne Bronte's own experience, 
if anywhere in her writings, that we might 
expect to find some reflection of the recent his- 
tory of her brother's fall. Mr. Reid has asserted 
that this formed the dark turning-point in her 
life, for ' living under the same roof with him 
when he went astray,' she ' was compelled to be 
<i closer and more constant witness of his sins 



122 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

and his sufferings than either Charlotte or Emily/ 
Her letters home, it has been stated, conveyed the 
news of her dark forebodings. But, all the same, 
the story she wrote, almost under the shadow of 
her brother's disgrace, is the simple, straightfor- 
ward, humorous narrative of the gentle and 
pious Anne Bronte, revealing not so much as a 
suspicion of vice or thought of evil ; and, in this 
respect, it presents a contrast to her second work. 
There is evidence that when the sisters wrote 
their novels they had already attributed mono- 
mania to Branwell, and could thus explain his 
history for themselves. It was not in the nature 
of * Agnes Grey ' to be successful as a novel, but 
we find in it that Anne possessed a faculty which 
scarcely appears in Charlotte's writings, that of 
humour. Look, for instance, at the way in which 
she sketches so forcibly, and with such droll per- 
ception, the character of the youthful Bloomfields, 
and, afterwards, of Miss Matilda Murray, with 
her equine propensities and masculine tastes. 

< Wuthering Heights/ the work which Emily 
Bronte sent from the parsonage at the same 
time, incomparably finer in its powers than either 
6 The Professor' or 'Agnes Grey,' is a dramatic 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 123 

story of passion and tragic energy that astonished 
the world, and with which it has been said 
Branwell's life in those days had much concern. 
Inferentially, it is contended that, without the 
darkening effect on her understanding of Bran- 
well's misfortunes, without the neighbourhood of 
the ' brother of set purpose drinking himself to 
death out of furious thwarted passion for a mis- 
tress he might not marry,' Emily Bronte could 
not have conceived it. It will, then, perhaps be 
better to defer the study of Emily's production 
till something more has been said of the period 
in which it was written ; and until some new 
light has been thrown upon Branwell's character 
and career, and upon the anachronistic impro- 
prieties of previous writers. 

Mrs. Gaskell passes over the period in which 
the sisters betook themselves to novel writing 
with little comment. But she keeps in remem- 
brance the presence of Branwell while their 
literary labours continued, ' the black shadow 
of remorse lying over one in their home.' What 
it was that the biographer of Charlotte supposed 
stung Branwell's conscience is well known ; but, 
if there had been this cause for it in one of a 



124 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

naturally remorseful disposition, as his was, we 
must have met with some expression of it in his 
letters or poems, for 

' The Mind, that broods o'er guilty woes, 
Is like the Scorpion girt by fire.' 

Yet, perhaps, one of the most significant 
points to be observed in BrairvvelPs writings, 
and in studying his conduct, is the absence of 
any such remorse. He encouraged himself 
after the first shock of his disappointment with 
the hope that time would bring him the happi- 
ness he wished ; and, as some believe, with good 
and sufficient reason. He was unhappy when 
he thought of the supposed ill-health and suffer- 
ings of the lady. 

It is noteworthy that something inconsequent, 
in putting down Branwell's conduct entirely to 
remorse in this way, was the feature of Mrs. 
Gaskell's work, to which so great an analyzer of 
motives as George Eliot, as shown by her letters 
published quite recently, took exception, and 
regretted. 1 

1 ' George Eliot's Life, as related in her Letters and 
Journals,' arranged and edited by her husband, J. W. 
Cross, 1885, vol i., p. 441. 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 

If we believe Branwell to have been subject 
to hallucination, we may then, perhaps, gain an 
idea of the true cause of the wretchedness he 
endured when he fell back on his own reflec- 
tions. His life had been one of severe disappoint- 
ment. Those early aims in art, for which he 
had spent so much preparation, and from which 
he hoped so much, had fallen away before him ; 
his first efforts as usher and tutor had come to 
nothing; then followed the lapse which ended 
his stay with the railway company ; and, lastly, 
the infatuation which had seized him in his late 
employment, with its vision of future opulence, 
and rest from all former change and trouble, 
ending in dismissal, distraction, and disgrace. 
All these things, rushing back upon his mind in 
moments of reflection, were more than he could 
bear, and he sought, in various ways, some 
honourable to him, to divert himself from the- 
subject, but sometimes in a manner that gave 
cause for complaint at home, and resulted in 
moodiness and irritability of temper. On the 
other hand, he seems to have felt himself 
aggrieved by a want of sympathy on the part 
of his family in sufferings they did not compre- 
hend. 



12 1) THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Mr. George Seaiie Phillips, with whom Bran- 
well became acquainted at Bradford, and who 
visited him at Haworth, says that he complained 
sometimes of the way in which he was treated 
at home ; and, as an instance, relates the 
following : 

4 One of the Sunday-school girls, in whom he 
and all his house took much interest, fell very 
sick, and they were afraid she would not live. 
" I went to see the poor little thing," he said ; 
* J sat with her half-an-hour, and read a psalm to 
her, and a hymn at her request. I felt very like 
praying with her too," he added, his voice trem- 
bling with emotion; "but, you see, I was not 
good enough. How dare I pray for another, 
who had almost forgotten how to pray for my- 
self I I came away with a heavy heart, for I 
felt sure she would die, and went straight home, 
where I fell into melancholy musings. I wanted 
somebody to cheer me. I often do, but no 
kind word finds its way even to my ears, much 
less to my heart. Charlotte observed my de- 
pression, and asked what ailed me. So I told 
her. She looked at me with a look I shall never 
forget if I live to be a hundred years old 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 127 

which I never shall. It was not like her at all. 
It wounded me as if some one had struck me a 
blow in the mouth. It involved ever so many 
things in it. It was a dubious look. It ran over 
me, questioning, and examining, as if I had 
been a wild beast. It said, ' Did my ears deceive 
me, or did I hear aright?' And then came the 
painful, baffled expression, which was worse 
than all. It said, ' I wonder if that's true ?' 
But, as she left the room, she seemed to accuse 
herself of having wronged me, and smiled kindly 
upon me, and said, ( She is my little scholar, and 
I will go and see her.' I replied not a word. I 
was too much cut up. When she was gone, I 
came over here to the ' Black Bull,' and made a 
note of it in sheer disgust and desperation. 
Why could they not give me some credit when 
I was trying to be good?" 51 

At the beginning of March, Charlotte return- 
ed from a visit to a friend, and we hear that she 
found it very forced work to address her brother 
when she went into the room where he was ; 
but he took no notice, and made no reply ; he 
was stupefied; she had heard that he had got a 
1 * The Mirror,' 1872. 



1 28 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

sovereign while she was away, on pretence of 
paving a pressing debt, and had changed it, at 
a public-house, with the expected result. 

Again Charlotte says, on March 31st, 1846 : 'I 
am thankful papa continues pretty well, though 
often made very miserable by Branwell's wretch- 
ed conduct. There there is no change but for 
the worse.' 

At this time Bran well wrote the following 
beautiful ode, somewhat incomplete in its ex- 
pression, yet characteristic of his genius, which 
seems to have been inspired by the outcast 
feelings of which he spoke to Mr. Phillips, and 
to contain some reproach to those who thought 
him deficient in natural affection. It bears 
date April 3rd, 1846 : 

EPISTLE FROM A FATHER TO A CHILD 
IX HER GRAV 7 E. 

' From Earth, whose life-reviving April showers 
Hide withered grass 'neath Springtide's herald flowers,. 
And give, in each soft wind that drives her rain, 
Promise of fields and forests rich again, 
I write to thee, the aspect of whose face 
Can never change with altered time or place ; 
Whose eyes could look on India's fiercest wars 
Less shrinking than the boldest son of Mars ; 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AXD NOVELS. 129 

Whose lips, more firm that Stoic's long ago, 
Would neither smile with joy nor blanch with woe ; 
Whose limbs could sufferings far more firmly bear 
Than mightiest heroes in the storms of war ; 
Whose frame, nor wishes good, nor shrinks from ill, 
Nor feels distraction's throb, nor pleasure's thrill. 

' I write to thee what thou wilt never read, 
For heed me thou wilt not, howe'er may bleed 
The heart that many think a worthless stone, 
But which oft aches for some beloved one ; 
Nor, if that life, mysterious, from on high, 
Once more gave feeling to thy stony eye, 
Could'st thou thy father know, or feel that he 
Gave life and lineaments and thoughts to thee ; 
For when thou died'st, thy day was in its dawn, 
And night still struggled with Life's opening morn ; 
The twilight star of childhood, thy young days 
Alone illumined, with its twinkling rays, 
So sweet, yet feeble, given from those dusk skies, 
Whose kindling, coming noontide prophesies, 
But tells us not that Summer's noon can shroud 
Our sunshine with a veil of thundercloud. 

' If, when thou freely gave the life, that ne'er 
To thee had given either hope or fear, 
But quietly had shone ; nor asked if joy 
Thy future course should cheer, or grief annoy ; 

' If then thoud'st seen, upon a summer sea, 
One, once in features, as in blood, like thee, 

VOL. II. K 



130 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

On skies of azure blue and waters green, 
Melting to mist amid the summer sheen, 
In trouble gazing ever hesitating 
? Twixt miseries each hour new dread creating, 
And joys whate'er they cost still doubly dear, 
Those " troubled pleasures soon chastised by fear ;" 
If thou had'st seen him, thou would'st ne'er believe 
That thou had'st yet known what it was to live ! 

* Thine eyes could only see thy mother's breast ; 
Thy feelings only wished on that to rest ; 
That was thy world ; thy food and sleep it gave, 
And slight the change 'twixt it and childhood's grave. 
Thou saw'st this world like one who, prone, reposes, 
Upon a plain, and in a bed of roses, 
With nought in sight save marbled skies above, 
Nought heard but breezes whispering in the grove : 
I thy life's source was like a wanderer breasting 
Keen mountain winds, and on a summit resting, 
"Whose rough rocks rose above the grassy mead, 
"With sleet and north winds howling overhead, 
And Nature, like a map, beneath him spread ; 
Far winding river, tree, and tower, and town, 
Shadow and sunlight, 'neath his gaze marked down 
By that mysterious hand which graves the plan 
Of that drear country called " The Life of Man." 

' If seen, men's eyes would loathing shrink from thee, 
And turn, perhaps, with no disgust to me ; 
Yet thou had'st beauty, innocence, and smiles, 
And now hast rest from this world's woes and wiles, 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 131 

While I have restlessness and worrying care, 
So sure, thy lot is brighter, happier far. 

' So let it be ; and though thy ears may never 
Hear these lines read beyond Death's darksome river, 
Not vainly from the borders of despair 
May rise a sound of joy that thou art freed from care !' 

On the 6th of April of this year, Charlotte 
wrote to Messrs. Aylott & Jones, informing them 
that ' the Messrs. Bell ' were preparing for the 
press a work of fiction, consisting of three dis- 
tinct and unconnected tales, which might be 
published either together, as a work of three 
volumes of the ordinary novel size, or separate- 
ly, as single volumes. It was not their inten- 
tion to publish these at their own expense, and 
they wished to know if Messrs. Aylott would be 
likely to undertake the work, if approved. 

The novels must have been well on towards 
completion before the sisters ventured on these 
inquiries. The firm thus addressed kindly 
offered advice, of which Charlotte glady avail- 
ed herself to ask some questions. These were 
respecting the difficulty which unknown authors 
find in obtaining assistance from publishers ; 
and Charlotte has indeed informed us that the 



132 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

three tales were going about among them 'for 
the space of a year and a half.' But ' Wuther- 
ing Heights' and 'Agnes Grey 'at last found 
acceptance in the early summer of 1847. 

A friendly compact had been made between 
Bran well and Leyland that the latter should 
model a medallion of his friend, and that Bran- 
well should write the poem ' Morley Hall,' to 
which I have had occasion above to allude a 
subject in which the sculptor was much inter- 
ested. Shortly after his sister made the in- 
quiries from Messrs. Aylott, Branwell visited 
Halifax to sit for his medallion ; and, on the 28th 
of April, he wrote the following letter to his 
friend : 

* Haworth, Bradford, 
' Yorks. 

' MY DEAR SIR, 

' As I am anxious though my 
return for your kindness will be like giving a 
sixpence for a sovereign lent to do my best in 
my intended lines on Morley, I want answers to 

the following questions If I learn 

these facts, I'll do my best, but in all I try to- 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 133 

write I desire to stick to probabilities and local 
characteristics. 

4 1 cannot, without a smile at myself, think 
of my stay for three days in Halifax on a business 
which need not have occupied three hours ; but, 
in truth, when I fall back on myself, I suffer so 
much wretchedness that I cannot withstand any 
temptation to get out of myself and for that 
reason. I am prosecuting enquiries about situa- 
tions suitable to me, whereby I could have a 
voyage abroad. The quietude of home, and the 
inability to make my family aware of the nature 
of most of my sufferings, makes me write : 

' Home thoughts are not with me, 

Bright, as of yore ; 
Joys are forgot by me, 

Taught to deplore ! 
My home lias taken rest 
In an afflicted breast, 
Which I have often pressed. 

But may no more. 

' Troubles never come alone and I have 
some little troubles astride the shoulders of the 
big one. 

' Literary exertion would seem a resource ; but 



134 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the depression attendant on it, and the almost 
hopelessness of bursting through the barriers of 
literary circles, and getting a hearing among 
publishers, make me disheartened and indifferent, 
for 1 cannot write what would be thrown unread 
into a library fire. Otherwise, I have the 
materials for a respectably sized volume, and, if I 
were in London personally, I might, perhaps, try 

, a patronizer of the sons of rhyme ; 

though I daresay the poor man often smarts for 
his liberality in publishing hideous trash. As I 
know that, while here, I might send a manuscript 
to London, and say good-bye to it, I feel it folly 
to feed the flames of a printer's fire. So much 
for egotism ! 

* I enclose a horribly ill-drawn daub clone to 
while away the time this morning. I meant it 
to represent a very rough figure in stone. 

' When all our cheerful hours seem gone for ever, 
All lost that caused the body or the mind 
To nourish love or friendship for our kind, 

And Charon's boat, prepared, o'er Lethe's river 

Our souls to waft, and all our thoughts to sever 

From what was once life's Light ; still there may be 
Some well-loved bosom to whose pillow we 

Could heartily our utter self deliver ; 



THT SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 135 

And if, toward her grave Death's dreary road 
Our Darling's feet should tread, each step by her 

"Would draw our own steps to the same abode, 
And make a festival of sepulture ; 

For what gave joy, and joy to us had owed, 

Should death affright us from, when he would her restore? 

* Yours most sincerely, 
<P. B. BRONTE/ 

The sketch, referred to in this letter, is in 
Indian-ink, and is of a female figure, with clasped 
hands, streaming hair, and averted face. We 
need not entertain a doubt as to whom it is 
intended to represent. It is inscribed, in Spanish, 
' Nuestra Seilora de la Pena ' Our Lady of 
Grief which also appears on a headstone in the 
sketch. 

The sonnet, which concludes this letter to 
Leyland, is beautiful as it is sad, and not only 
possesses the musical cadences, and completeness 
of theme, so essential in this mode of expression, 
but exhibits the high culture of Bran well's mind, 
and the direction in which the irrepressible emo- 
tions of his heart are moved. 

Bran well, in this communication, makes no 
further mention of his novel. Yet the experience 



136 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

of his sisters with their poems had only confirmed 
the judgment he expressed six months before, 
that no pecuniary advantage was to be obtained 
by publishing verse. The sisters had expended, 
on their little volume, over thirty pounds ; but 
they valued it rightly as an effort to succeed. It 
was issued from the press early in May. 

Charlotte had conducted the negotiations with 
the publishers in a very business-like way. She 
had directed them as to the copies to be sent for 
review, and as to the advertisements, on which 
she wished to expend little. The book appeared, 
and the world took little note of it : it was 
scarcely mentioned anywhere ; but the sisters at 
Haworth waited patiently, and they were not 
dismayed that they waited in vain ; for they had 
new-born hope in their other literary venture of 
the three prose stories. ' The book,' says Char- 
lotte of the Poems, ' was printed : it is scarcely 
known, and all of it that merits to be known are 
the poems of Ellis Bell. The fixed conviction I 
held, and hold, of the worth of these poems has 
not indeed received the confirmation of much 
favourable criticism ; but I must retain it not- 
withstanding.' 



THE SISTERS' POEMS AND NOVELS. 137 

In his letter Bramvell expresses himself as 
still anxious for employment; and wise in the 
direction in which he seeks it. A total change 
of scene and circumstance would have been, at 
this time, his best cure and greatest blessing. 
Unhappily, he failed in the attempt ; and we find 
him again writing to Mr. Grundy, inquiring for 
.some kind of occupation. 



138 



CHAPTER VIII. 

DESPONDENCY. BRANWELI/S LETTERS. 

Death of Bran well's late Employer Branwell's Disap- 
pointment His Letters His Delusion Leyland's 
Medallion of Him Mr. Bronte's Blindness Bran- 
well's Statement to Mr. Grundy in Keference to 
'Wuthering Heights 'The Sisters Relinquish the 
Intention of Opening a School. 

AN event occurred, in the early summer of 
1816, which plunged Branwell into a despair, 
wilder, and more distracting than the one from 
which he had partially recovered. This result- 
ed from the death of his late employer. No 
doubt, during the interval which had elapsed 
between his dismissal from his tutorship, and 
the event last named, he had encouraged him- 
self, it might be unconsciously for the most part, 
with the hope that, on the death of her husband. 



DESPONDENCY. 13$ 

the lady on whom he doted would many him. 
In this frame of mind, when his illusion was in- 
tensified by the clearance of the path before 
him, and his self-control unbridled, it may not 
be a subject of wonder, if he became trouble- 
some to the inmates of the dwelling afflicted by 
death. 

The following story, with variations, has been 
told as having reference to some actual or 
intended act of indiscretion of Branwell's at the 
time. It has been said that, at this juncture, a 
messenger was sent over to Haworth by Mrs. 

, forbidding Branwell < ever to see her again, 
as, if he did, she would forfeit her fortune.' 1 
It will be seen shortly that no such provision: 
was made in her husband's will, and that the 
fortune she had secured to her could not be for- 
feited by any such act of Branwell's. The whole 
story, therefore, to which Mrs. Gaskell and Miss 
Robinson have devoted so much space may well 
be discredited. But Mrs. Gaskell says absolutely 

that Mrs. ' despatched a servant in hot 

haste to Haworth. He stopped at the " Black 
Bull," and a messenger was sent up to the par- 
1 Gaskcll's 'Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap, xiii., 1st. edit. 



140 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

sonage for Branwell. He came down, &c; * 
Miss Robinson, twenty-five years later, amplifies 
the story. She says : ' two men came riding to 
the village post haste. They sent for Branwell, 
and when he arrived, in a great state of excite- 
ment, one of the riders dismounted and went 
with him into the " Black Bull," ' 2 Without 
inquiring into Branwell's excitement, or into 
the variations in the two accounts for there 
is but one point in the story on which the two 
authors are perfectly agreed, viz., that Branwell, 
on the occasion, ' bleated like a calf!' there can 
be little doubt that this case, on such evidence, 
could not get upon its legs before any country 
jury impanelled to try petty causes. But Bran- 
well himself, in his letter to Mr. Grundy, given 
below, says the coachman came to see him, not 
that the lady sent him ; and we may justly infer 
if ever he came at all that he come on his 
own account, having been personally acquaint- 
ed with Branwell when he was tutor at - . 
But, can it be believed that, supposing Mrs. - 
to have been enamoured of Branwell, as assert- 

1 Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap, xiii., 1st. edit. 
2 Robinson's ; Emily Bronte,' p. 145. 



DESPONDENCY. 141 

eel, she could find no other confidant than her 
* coachman/ as a means of communicating her 
sorrows and lamentations to the distracted object 
of her devotion ? There is, in this story, the in- 
consistency of madness. And it must be borne 
in mind that the other stories, relating to Bran- 
well at the time of his tutorship at , which 

appear to have so much interested the bio- 
graphers of Charlotte and Emily, have their 
paternity at Haworth, and are not the more 
trustworthy on that account. 

I regret to trouble the reader still further with 
the errors of fact, and the exaggerated state- 
ments into which Mrs. Gaskell has fallen respect- 
ing this event. She says of Mrs. : ' Her 

husband had made a will, in which ivhat property 
he left her was bequeathed solely on the condition 
that she should never see Branwell Bronte again.^ 
(The Italics are my own.) Mrs. Gaskell's postu- 
lations concerning this will are quite as errone- 
ous as that she made in reference to Miss Bran- 
well's, so far as it related to her nephew. In- 
deed, like her other allegations respecting this 
most painful epoch of Branwell's life, she de- 
1 Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap, xiii., 1st edit. 



142 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

rived the information on which they were based, 
more from hearsay than from respectable or 
documentary evidence. It is clear she never 
saw the wills about which she speaks witli so 
much assurance. 

4 

Mrs. - , by virtue of an indenture and a 
certain marriage settlement, was put into posses- 
sion of an income that would, after her hus- 
band's death, have enabled her to live for the 
term of her life with Branwell in comparative 

plenty. To his wife, Mr. , in addition to 

this, left the interest arising from his real and 
personal estate. She was also principal trustee, 
executor, and guardian of his children. More- 
over, he enjoined upon her co-trustees always 
to regard the wishes and interests of his wife, 
and to do nothing without consulting her about 
the administering of his affairs. But all this 
and it is quite usual was to continue only dur- 
ing her widowhood; and this common arrange- 
ment, let it be borne in mind, was no more 
directed against Branwell than anyone else. 
What then, it may well be asked, becomes of 
Mrs. Gaskell's assertion that the property left 
to Mrs. was bequeathed solely on the con- 



DESPONDENCY. 143 

dition that 'she should never see Branwell 
Bronte' again ' ? Whatever Mrs. Gaskell and 
her followers may have asserted respecting Mr. 

's will, it was made without the slightest 

reference to Branwell, who bimself misconceived 
its character, and whose very existence is un- 
known to it, its provisions being made without 
the most distant allusion to the affair that 
worried the unfortunate tutor day and night. 

If the widow's love for Branwell had not 
been a mere figment of his wounded humanity, 
but the real affection which he fervently be- 
lieved it to be, she had now the opportunity, 
with a sufficient income for the residue of her 
days, of enjoying with him an honourable and 
peaceful life. But the affection that makes 
sacrifices light, where they present themselves, 
was not there to call for them on behalf of 
Branwell, even had they now been needed. 
Moreover, there is no evidence worth the name 
that Mrs. ever committed the acts in rela- 
tion to him attributed to her ; on the contrary, 
the sincere affection and touching reliance on 
his wife, manifested throughout his will, is proof 
enough that her husband had had no cause to 



144 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

call her fidelity in question. It is. indeed, true 
that, while the lady's reputation was unblem- 
ished in the wide circle of her friends in the 
neighbourhood of her residence, she was being 
traduced, misrepresented, and belied at Haworth 
and its vicinity alone. This was all known to 
Charlotte Bronte when she wrote her poem of 
' Preference.' 

The state of Branwell's mind, and the extent 
of his hallucinations under their last phase, may 
be observed in the following letters, written in 
the month of June, 1846, the first being to Mr, 
Grundy. 1 

' Haworth, Bradford, 

'York. 
'DEAR SIR, 

' I must again trouble you with ' (Here 
comes another prayer for employment, with, at 
the same time, a confession that his health alone 
renders the wish all but hopeless.) Subsequent- 
ly he says, ' The gentleman with whom I have 
been is dead. His property is left in trust for 
the family, provided I do not see the widow ; 

J ' Pictures of the Past,' p. 89. 



DESPONDENCY. 145 

and if I do, it reverts to the executing trustees, 
with ruin to her. She is now distracted with 
sorrows and agonies ; and the statement of her 
case, as given by her coachman, who has come 
to see me at Haworth, fills me with inexpressi- 
ble grief. Her mind is distracted to the verge 
of insanity, and mine is so wearied that I wish 
I were in my grave. 

' Yours very sincerely, 

P. B. BRONTE.' 

He also wrote to Leyland in great distrac- 
tion. 

6 1 should have sent you " Morley Hall " ere 
now, but I am unable to finish it at present, 
from agony to which the grave would be far 

preferable. Mr. is dead, and he has left 

his widow in a dreadful state of health 

Through the will, she is left quite powerless. 
The executing trustees ' (the principal one of 
whom, as we have seen, was the very lady 
whose hopeless love for him he was deploring) 
' detest me, and one declares that, if he sees ine, 
he will shoot me. 

< These things I do not care about, but I do 

VOL. II. L 



146 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

care for the life of the one who suffers even 
more than I do 

' You, though not much older than myself, 
have known life. I now know it, with a venge- 
ance for four nights 1 have not slept for three 
days I have not tasted food and, when I think 
of the state of her I love best on earth, I could 
wish that my head was as cold and stupid as 
the medallion which lies in your studio. 

' 1 write very egotistically, but it is because 
my mind is crowded with one set of thoughts, 
and I long for one sentence from a friend. 

' What shall I do? I know not I am too 
hard to die, and too wretched to live. My 
wretchedness is not about castles in the air, 
but about stern realities ; rny hardihood lies in 
bodily vigour ; but, dear sir, my mind sees only 
a dreary future, which I as little wish to enter 
on as could a martyr to be bound to a stake. 

' I sincerely trust that you are quite well, and 
hope that this wretched scrawl will not make 
me appear to you a worthless fool, or a thorough 
bore. 

' Believe me, yours most sincerely, 

' P. B. BRONTE.' 



DESPONDENCY. 147 

AVitli this letter was enclosed a pen-and-ink 
sketch of Branwell bound to the stake, his 
wrists chained together, and surrounded by 
flames and smoke. The rigidity of the muscles, 
the fixed expression of the face, and the mani- 
fest beginning of pain are well portrayed. 
Underneath the drawing, in a constrained hand, 
is written, ' Myself.' 

Again he writes to Leyland a letter in which 
he dwells on his unavailing grief, and vividly 
points out its effects upon him. He says, allud- 
ing to the lady of his distracted thoughts, 
* Well, my dear sir, I have got my finishing 
stroke at last, and I feel stunned into marble 
by the blow. 

* I have this morning received a long, kind, 
and faithful letter from the medical gentleman 

who attended in his last illness, and who 

has since had an interview with one whom I 
can never forget. 

' He knows me well, and pities my case most 

sincerely It's hard work for me, clear 

sir ; I would bear it, but my health is so bad that 
the body seems as if it could not bear the 
mental shock .... My appetite is lost, my 

L2 



148 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

nights are dreadful, and having nothing to do 
makes me dwell on past scenes, on her own 
self her own voice her person her thoughts 
till I could be glad if God would take me. 
In the next world I could not be worse than I 
am in this.' 

On June the 17th, Charlotte writes : 
' Branwell declares that he neither can nor 
will do anything for himself; good situations 
have been offered him, for which, by a fort- 
night's work, he might have qualified himself, 
but he will do nothing except drink and make 
us all wretched.' 1 

It would seem that the sisters were unaware 
of the depth of his present misery, and in part 
misunderstood the disturbed condition of their 
brother's mind at this juncture. But Branwell r 
although suffering great mental prostration 
under the infliction of any sudden and unex- 
pected disappointment, was possessed of con- 
siderable recuperative power; and, after a 
period of brooding melancholy over his woes r 
he appeared to take renewed interest in the 
events that were passing around him. This 
1 Gaskell's * Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. xiv. 



DESPONDENCY. 149 

seems to have been the case even under his 
late circumstances ; there was, in the depth of 
his own heart, a woe from which he endeavoured 
to escape by engaging in the pursuits and 
pleasures of his friends. 

On the 3rd of July, having, to all appearance, 
.somewhat recovered from this disappointment, 
Branwell wrote to his friend the sculptor : 

' DEAR SIR, 

' John Brown told me that you had 
<a relievo of my very wretched self, framed in 
your studio. 

4 If it be a duplicate, I should like the carrier 
to bring it to Haworth ; not that I care a fig 
for it, save from regard for its maker, but my 
sisters ask me to try to obtain it ; and I write 
in obedience to them. 

4 1 earnestly trust that you are heartier than 
I am, and I promise to send you " Morley Hall " 
as soon as dreary days and nights will give me 
leave to do so. 

4 Believe me, 

4 Yours most sincerely, 
' P. B. BRONTE.' 



150 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

This was a life-size medallion of him, head 
and shoulders, which Leyland had modelled. 
The work was in very high relief, and the like- 
ness was perfect. It was inserted in a deep 
oval recess, lined with crimson velvet, and this 
was fixed in a massive oak frame, glazed. It 
projected, when hung up in the drawing-room 
of the parsonage at Haworth, some eight inches 
from the wall ; this was the one Mrs. Gaskell 
saw, of which she says: 'I have seen Bran- 
well's profile ; it is what would be generally 
esteemed very handsome ; the forehead is mas- 
sive, the eye well set, and the expression of it 
fine and intellectual ; the nose, too, is good ; but 
there are coarse lines about the mouth, and the 
lips, though of handsome shape, are loose and 
thick, indicating self-indulgence, while the 
slightly retreating chin conveys an idea of 
weakness of will.' 1 Mrs. Gaskell had only an 
imperfect view of the work she describes, for it 
was hung on the wall directly opposite to the win- 
dows, so that it was destitute of any side-light. 

Again Branwell writes to Leyland, on the 

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



DESPONDENCY. .151 

] 6th of July, now more himself, and anxious to 
see his friends : 

4 1 enclose the accompanying bill to tempt you 
to Haworth next Monday .... 

' For myself, after a fit of horror inexpressible, 
and violent palpitation of the heart, I have 
taken care of myself bodily, but to what good ? 
The best health will not kill acute, and not ideal, 
mental agony. 

'Cheerful company does me good till some 
bitter truth blazes through my brain, and then 
the present of a bullet would be received with 
thanks. 

' I wish I could flee to writing as a refuge, 
but I cannot ; and, as to slumber, my mind, 
whether awake or asleep, has been in incessant 
action for seven weeks.' 

Branwell wrote also to Mr. Grundy. l 

' Since I saw Mr. George Gooch, 1 have 
suffered much from the accounts of the declin- 
ing health of her whom I must love most in the 
world, and who, for my fault, suffers sorrows 
which surely were never her due. My father, 

1 ' Pictures of the Past,' p. 89. 



152 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

too, is now quite blind, and from such causes 
literary pursuits have become matters I have 
no heart to wield. If I could see you it would 
be a sincere pleasure, but .... Perhaps your 
memory of me may be dimmed, for you have 
known little in me worth remembering ; but I 
still think often with pleasure of yourself, though 
so different from me in head and mind.' 

6 1 invited him,' says Mr. Grundy, ' to come 
to me at the Devonshire Hotel, Skip ton, a 
distance of some seventeen miles, and in reply 
received the last letter he ever wrote.' Bran- 
well says, 

4 If I have strength enough for the 
journey, and the weather be tolerable, I shall 
feel happy in visiting you at the Devonshire 
on Friday, the 31st of this month. The sight 
of a face I have been accustomed to see and 
like when I was happier and stronger, now 
proves my best medicine/ 

Mr. Grundy, supposing these letters to have 
been written in the year 1848, is in error in 
stating this to have been the last Branwell ever 
wrote. The Friday Branwell mentions must 
have been the one that fell on the 31st of July, 



DESPONDENCY. 153 

1846. About the close of that month, Charlotte 
and Emily went to Manchester to consult Mr. 
Wilson, the oculist, who, later, removed the 
cataract from Mr. Bronte's eyes. Under these 
circumstances, Branwell failed in his intended 
journey to Skipton. 

The cataract had slowly increased as the 
summer advanced, till at last Mr. Bronte was 
(]uite blind. This gradual disappearance from 
his vision of the things he knew had necessarily 
a very depressing effect upon him. The thought 
would sometimes come to him that, if his sight 
were permanently lost, he would be nothing in 
his parish ; but he supported himself, for the 
most part, under his affliction with his accus- 
tomed stoicism of endurance. His great trouble 
was that, when his sight became so dim that he 
could barely recognize his children's faces, and 
when he was debarred from using his eyes in 
reading, he was shut off from the solace of his 
books, and from the sources the periodical 
press of his knowledge of the current affairs of 
the outside world, wherein he took such intense 
interest. He was, then, left dependent on the 
information of others, or on his children, who 



154 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

read to him in such time as they could spare 
from literary and household occupations. Yet 
there was hope hope of an ultimate restoration 
of sight, and Mr. Bronte was still able to preach, 
even when he could not see those to whom he 
spoke. It was remarked that even then his 
sermons occupied exactly half-an-hour in deliv- 
ery. This was the length of time he, with his 
ready use of words, had always found sufficient, 
and he did not exceed it now. 

Every inquiry had been made from private 
friends that might throw light upon the chances 
of success in any possible operation, and it was 
in view of this object that the sisters visited 
Manchester. There they met with Mr. Wilson, 
who was, however, unable to say positively 
from description whether the eyes were ready 
for an operation or not. He proposed to extract 
the cataract, and it was accordingly arranged 
that Mr. Bronte should meet him. 

Charlotte took her father to Manchester on 
the 16th of August, and, writing a few days later, 
she says to her friend, ' I just scribble a line to 
you to let you know where I am, in order that 
you may write to me here, for it seems to me 



DESPONDENCY. 155 

that a letter from you would relieve me from the 
feeling of strangeness I have in this big town. 
Papa and I came here on Wednesday ; we saw 
Mr. Wilson, the oculist, the same day ; he pro- 
nounced papa's eyes quite ready for an operation, 
and has fixed next Monday for the performance 
of it. Think of ns on that day ! We got into our 
lodgings yesterday. I think we shall be comfort- 
able ; at least, our rooms are very good .... 
Mr. Wilson says we shall have to stay here for a 
month at least. I wonder how Emily and Anne 
will get on at home with Bran well. They, too, 
will have their troubles. What would I not give 
to have you here ! One is forced, step by step, 
to get experience in the world; but the learning 
is so disagreeable. One cheerful feature in the 
business is that Mr. Wilson thinks most favourably 
of the case.' 

Charlotte's fears respecting her brother happily 
proved to be unfounded; he was himself anxious 
about his father's recovery ; and, on her return. 
Charlotte, says Mrs. Gaskell, expressed herself 
thankful for the good ensured, and the evil 
spared during her absence. 

From Charlotte's next letter we learn that the 



15t> THE BRONTK FAMILY. 

operation was over. 'Mr. Wilson performed it; two 
other surgeons assisted. Mr. Wilson says be 
considers it quite successful ; but papa cannot 
yet see anything. The affair lasted precisely a 
quarter-of-an-hour ; it was not the simple opera- 
tion of couching, Mr. C. described, but the more 
complicated one of extracting the cataract. Mr. 
Wilson entirely disapproves of couching. Papa 
displayed extraordinary patience and firmness ; 
the surgeons seemed surprised. I was in the 
room all the time, as it was his wish that I should 
be there ; of course, I neither spoke nor moved 
till the thing was done, and then I felt that the 
less I said, either to papa or the surgeons, the 
better. Papa is now confined to his bed in a 
dark room, and is not to be stirred for four days; 
he is to speak and be spoken to as little as 
possible.' No inflammation ensued, yet the 
greatest care, perfect quiet, and utter privation 
of light were still necessary to complete the 
success of the operation; and Mr. Bronte remained 
in his darkened room with his eyes bandaged. 
Charlotte thus speaks of her father under these 
trying circumstances. ' He is very patient, but, 
of course, depressed and weary. He was allowed 



DESPONDENCY. IT) 7 

to try his sight for the first time yesterday. He 
could see dimly. Mr. Wilson seemed perfectly 
satisfied, and said all was right. I have had bad 
nights from the toothache since I came to Man- 
chester.' But, when the danger was over, daily 
progress was made, and Mr. Bronte and his help- 
ful daughter were able to return to Haworth at 
the end of September, when he was fast regaining 
his sight. 

It was probably during the six weeks when Mr. 
Bronte and Charlotte were absent in Manchester 
that Mr. Grundy resolved to visit Branwell. He 
says : * As he never came to see me, I shortly 
made up my mind to visit him at Haworth, and 
was shocked at the wrecked and wretched 
appearance he presented. Yet he still craved 
for an appointment of any kind, in order that he 
might try the excitement of change ; of course 
uselessly,' l 

It must, it seems, have been on this occasion, 
in the course of conversation at the parsonage, 
that Branwell made a statement' respecting his 
novel, to Mr. Grundy, which has acquired con- 

1 ' Pictures of the Past,' p. 90. 



158 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

siderable interest. I give it iu the words in 
which Mr. Grundy recalls the incident. ' Patrick 
Bronte declared to me, and what his sister said 
bore out the assertion, that he wrote a great por- 
tion of" Wuthering Heights" himself.' It should 
be remembered, in connection with this occur- 
rence, that, when Mr. Grundy talked with Bran- 
well and Emily at Ha worth, the three novels 
which the sisters had completed a few months 
before, had met only with repeated rejection, 
and, perhaps, they felt little confidence in the 
ultimate publication of them. 4 The Professor,' 
indeed, had come back to Charlotte's hands, 
curtly rejected, on the very day of the operation. 
Doubtful of ever finding a publisher willing to 
take this tale, or, at any rate, undaunted, she had 
commenced, while her father was confined to his 
darkened room at Manchester, the three-volume 

story which was afterwards to become famous 
i 

as-' Jane Eyre;' Anne, too, since she had finished 
' Agnes Grey,' had been busily writing 'The 
Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' also meant to be a 
three-volume story. So absorbed had the sisters 
become in novel writing, that a suggestion made 
by a friend, at this period, of a suitable place for 



DESPONDENCY. 159 

opening a school, met only with aii evasive 
answer. 

' Leave home !' exclaims Charlotte, in her 
reply. * I shall neither be able to find place 
nor employment ; perhaps, too, I shall be quite 
past the prime of life, my faculties will be 
rusted, and my few acquirements in a great 
measure forgotten. These ideas sting me keen- 
ly sometimes ; but, whenever I consult my 
conscience, it affirms that I am doing right 
in staying at home, and bitter are its upbraid- 
ings when I yield to an eager desire for release. 
I could hardly expect success if I were to 
err against such warnings. I should like to 

hear from you again soon. Bring to the 

point, and make him give you a clear, not a 
vague, account of what pupils he really could 
promise ; people often think they can do great 
things in that way till they have tried ; but 
getting pupils is unlike getting any other sort 
of goods.' 



160 



CHAPTER IX. 

BRANWELL'S LETTERS AND LAST INTERVIEW 
WITH MR. GRUNDY. 

Branwell's Sardonic Humour Mr. Grundy's Visit to him 
at Haworth Errors regarding the Period of it 
Tragic Description Probable Kuse of Branwell 
Correspondence between him and Mr. Grundy ceases 
Writes to Leyland A Plaintive Verse Another 
Letter. 

BRANWELL, having shared the family anxiety, 
as the time drew near for the operation which 
restored his father's sight, experienced a sense 
of deep relief when all went well ; moreover, 
the keenness of his disappointment had had 
time to soften, and now a grim and sardonic 
humour began to characterize his proceedings 
and his correspondence. In this frame of mind 
he wrote to Leyland, early in October, 1846, 



BRANWELL'S LETTERS. 161 

a letter illustrated by some of his most spirited 
pen-and-ink sketches, in black and outline. It 
was headed by a drawing of John Brown, who 
had been engaged in lettering a monument, 
and who was represented under two different 
aspects. These are in one sketch, divided in 
the middle by a pole, on which is placed a skull. 
In the first compartment, the sexton is ex- 
hibited in a state of glorious exultation, kicking 
over the table and stools, while the chair he 
occupies is falling backwards. He holds a 
tumbler in his right hand, and swears, in his 
Yorkshire dialect, that he is ' King and a 
haufl' under this, the word 'PARADISE' is 
inscribed. The second tableau represents John 
Brown commencing his work. On a table- 
tomb, the sexton's maul and chisels are placed. 
Being in uncertainty as to how, or where, 
to begin, he exclaims, ' Whativver mun I 
do In the corner, is a drawing of the western 
elevation of Haworth Church, and, near to 
Brown, a head-stone, with skull and cross-bones, 
inscribed, ' Here lieth the Poor.' Underneath 
the subject is the word PURGATORY.' The 
following is the letter : 

VOL. IT. M 



1G2 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

< MY DEAR SIR, 

* Mr. John Brown wishes me to tell 
you that, if, by return of post, you can tell him 
the nature of his intended work, and the time it 
will probably occupy in execution, either him- 
self or his brother, or both, will wait on you 
early next week. 

4 He has only delayed answering your com- 
munication from his unavoidable absence in a 
pilgrimage from Rochdale-on-the-Rhine to the 
Land of Ham, and from thence to Gehenna, 
Tophet, Golgotha, Erebus, the Styx, and to the 
place he now occupies, called Tartarus, where 
he, along with Sisyphus, Tantalus, Theseus, and 
Ixion, lodge and board together. 

' However, I hope that, when he meets you, 
he will join the company of Moses, Elias, and 
the prophets, " singing psalms, sitting on a wet 
cloud," as an acquaintance of mine described 
the occupation of the Blest. 

4 " Morley Hall " is in the eighth month of her 
pregnancy, and expects ere long to be delivered 
of a fine thumping boy, whom his father means 
to christen Homer, at least, though the mother 



JBRAXWELL'S LETTERS. 163 

suggests that " Poetaster " would be more suit- 
able ; but that sounds too aristocratic. 

' Is the medallion cracked that Thorwaldsen 
executed of AUGUSTUS C^SAR To this ques- 
tion is appended a drawing of a coin, about the 
size of an ordinary penny, with the head of 
Branwell an excellent likeness around which 
the name of the emperor is placed. He con- 
tinues : 

' I wish I could see you ; and, as Haworth 
fair is held on Monday after the ensuing one, 
your presence there would gratify one of the 
FALLEN.' Here he represents himself as 
plunging head foremost into a gulf. 

'In my own register of transactions during 
my nights and days, I find no matter worthy 
of extraction for your perusal. All is yet with 
me clouds and darkness. I hope you have, at 
least, blue sky and sunshine. 

* Constant and unavoidable depression of mind 
and body sadly shackle me in even trying to 
go on with any mental effort, which might 
rescue me from the fate of a dry toast, soaked 
six hours in a glass of cold water, and in- 

M2 



164 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

tended to be given to an old maid's squeamish 
cat.' 

Here is a sketch of the cat, distracted between 
a tumbler on each side held by an attenuated 
hand. 

4 Is there really such a thing as the ftiws Sar- 
donicus the sardonic laugh? Did a man ever 
laugh the morning he was to be hanged?' 

The tail-piece to this letter is a drawing of a 
gallows, a hand holding forth the halter to the 
culprit, who is John Brown, and an excellent 
portrait, grinning at the rope that is to terminate 
his existence ! 

Mr. Grundy 'very soon' visited Haworth 
again. But I must premise, to the account of 
his visit which Mr. Grundy has published, some 
observations respecting the period at which it 
occurred. Mr. Grundy, having attributed the 
later letters, which Branwell Bronte addressed to 
him, to the year 1848 though they really 
belong to 1846 has, with some appearance of 
consistency, produced the following picture of 
his friend, under the impression that ' a few days 
afterwards he died.' But the circumstances that 
Mr. Grundy's journey to Haworth arose out of 



BRANWELL' s LETTERS. 165 

the wish to see him, which Branwell had ex- 
pressed in a letter written at the time when his 
father was ' quite blind,' and that, as Mr. Grundy 
says his visits followed shortly after Branwell 
had failed to go to Skipton, are themselves 
sufficient evidence as to the question of date. 

Mr. Grundy says of his final interview : ' Very 
soon I went to Haworth again to see him, for 
the last time. From the little inn I sent for 
him to the great, square, cold-looking Rectory. 
I had ordered a dinner for two, and the room 
looked cosy and warm, the bright glass and 
silver pleasantly reflecting the sparkling fire- 
light, deeply toned by the red curtains. Whilst 
I waited his appearance, his father was shown 
in. Much of the Rector's old stiffness of manner 
was gone. He spoke of Branwell with more 
affection than I had ever heretofore heard him 
express, but he also spoke almost hopelessly. 
He said that when my message came, Branwell 
was in bed, and had been almost too weak for 
the last few clays to leave it ; nevertheless, he 
had insisted upon coming, and would be there 
immediately. We parted, and I never saw him 
again. 



166 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

' Presently the door opened cautiously, and a 
head appeared. It was a mass of red, unkempt, 
uncut hair, wildly floating round a great, gaunt 
forehead; the cheeks yellow and hollow, the 
mouth fallen, the thin white lips not trembling 
but shaking, the sunken eyes, once small, now 
glaring with the light of madness all told the 
sad tale but too surely. I hastened to my 
friend, greeted him in the gayest manner, as I 
knew he best liked, drew him quickly into the 
room, and forced upon him a stiff glass of hot 
brandy. Under its influence, and that of the 
bright, cheerful surroundings, he looked fright- 
ened frightened of himself. He glanced at me 
a moment, and muttered something about leav- 
ing a warm bed to come out into the cold night. 
Another glass of brandy, and returning warmth, 
gradually brought him back to something like 
the Bronte of old. He even ate some dinner, a 
thing which he said he had not done for long ; 
so our last interview was pleasant, though 
grave. I never knew his intellect clearer. He 
described himself as waiting anxiously for death 
indeed, longing for it, and happy, in these his 
sane moments, to think that it was so near. He 



BRANWELL'S LETTERS. 167 

once again declared that that death would be 
due to the story I knew, and to nothing else. 

* When at last I was compelled to leave, he 
quietly drew from his coat sleeve a carving- 
knife, placed it on the table, and holding me by 
both hands, said that, having given up all 
thoughts of ever seeing me again, he imagined 
when my message came that it was a call from 
Satan. Dressing himself, he took the knife, 
which he had long had secreted, and came to 
the inn, with a full determination to rush into 
the room and stab the occupant. In the excited 
state of his mind he did not recognise me when 
he opened the door, but my voice and manner 
conquered him, and " brought him home to him- 
self," as he expressed it. I left him standing 
bareheaded in the road, with bowed form and 
dropping tears. A few days afterwards he died. 
.... His age was twenty-eight.' l 

Mr. Grundy's account of this interview is in- 
consistent in itself. Of course, if his friend had 
really been so far gone as he represents, it is 
incredible that Mr. Bronte would have been 
privy to his son's visit to the inn. It is quite 
1 ' Pictures of the Past,' pp. 90-92. 



168 THE BROXTE FAMILY. 

clear that Mr. Grundy's recollection of the inter- 
view, and of Branwell's appearance, at this distance 
of time, with Mrs. Gaskell's account before him, 
has received a new significance. I incline to 
the belief that the truth of the matter is this : 
that, in the spirit of his letters to Leyland, Bran- 
well acted a part, and imposed this ruse upon 
his friend to gratify the peculiar humour that 
was then upon him, an episode which the latter, 
with his erroneous impression as to the date, has 
been led to depict in somewhat lurid colours. 
It is most probable, indeed, that, like Ham- 
let, he ' put an antic disposition on.' Some- 
thing confirmatory of this view will appear 
in the next chapter. Among his friends, as I 
know, Branwell would now and then assume an 
indignant, and sometimes a furious mood, and 
put on airs of wild abstraction from which he 
suddenly recovered, and was again calm and 
natural, smiling, indeed, at his successful im- 
personation of passions he scarcely felt at the 
time. The absence of further correspondence 
between Branwell and Mr. Grundy, and the 
fact that the Skipton and Bradford railway, for 
which that gentleman was resident engineer, 
was fully opened more than a year before Bran- 



BRANWELL S LETTERS. 



169 



well's death, seem to indicate that further inter- 
course ceased between the two at this date. 
It would not, perhaps, have been necessary to 
trouble the reader with these explanations, had 
not Mr. Grundy's narrative of his last evening 
with Branwell appeared to receive some sort of 
confirmation through its republication by Miss 
Robinson, in her picture of the brother of Emily 
Bronte shortly before his end. 

Again Branwell wrote to Leyland : 

DEAR SIR, 

4 1 had a letter written, and intend- 
ed to have been forwarded to you a few days 
after I last left the ensnaring town of Halifax. 

' That letter, from being kept so long in my 
pocket-book, has gone out of date, so I have 
burnt it, and now send a short note as a pre- 
cursor to an awfully lengthy one. 

4 1 have much to say to you with which you 
would probably be sadly bored ; but, as it will 
be only asking for advice, I hope you will feel 
as a cat does when her hair is stroked down to- 
wards her tail. She purrs then ; but she spits 
when it is stroked upwards. 

' 1 wish Mr. of would send me my 



170 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

bill of what I owe him, and the moment that I 
receive my outlaid cash, or any sum that may 
fall into my hands, I shall settle it. 

' That settlement, I have some reason to hope, 
will be shortly. 

< But can a few pounds make a fellow's soul 
like a calm bowl of creamed milk ? 

1 If it can, I should like to drink that bowl dry. 

' I shall write more at length (Deo Volente) 
on matters of much importance to me, but of 
little to yourself. 

* Yours in the bonds, 
' SANCTUS PATRICIUS BRANWELLIUS BRONTEIO.' 

With the foregoing letter, Branwell enclosed 
a page containing three spirited sketches. The 
first is a scene in which the sculptor and Bran- 
well are the principal actors. They are seated 
on stools, facing one another, each holding a 
wine glass, and, between them on the ground, 
is a decanter. Behind the sculptor is placed 
the mutilated statue of Theseus. A copy of 
Cowper's ' Anatomy ' is open at the title-page ; 
and, leaning over it. is a figure of Admodeus, 
Setebos, or some other winged imp, taking 



BRANWELL'S LETTERS. 171 

sight at ike two. The second sketch is of 
Branwell himself, represented as a recumbent 
statue, resting on a slab, under which are the 
following mournful lines : 

4 Thy soul is flown, 
And clay alone 

Has nought to do with joy or care ; 
So if the light of light be gone, 
There come no sorrows crowding on, 

And powerless lies DESPAIR.' 

The third drawing is a landscape, having in 
the foreground a head- stone, with a skull and 
crossbones in the semi-circular head. On the 
stone are carved the words, mo JACET. Dis- 
tant peaked hills bound the view. Two pines 
are to the right of the picture, and the crescent 
moon, which represents a human profile, is ac- 
commodated with a pipe. Underneath it is 
inscribed the sentence : 

1 MARTINI LUIGI DIPLOBA ETERNA QUIETE !' 

The following letter, written to Leyland a 
little later, shows again the stormy perturba- 
tions of Branwell's mind. He still clings to 
the fond imagination that he is the object of 



172 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the lady's unwavering devotion ; and, with the 
incoherency of the monomania with which he 
-continues to be afflicted, he solemnly declares 
to the sculptor that he had said to no one 
what he is then saying to him ; while, in 
truth, he was telling the story of his disappoint- 
ed hopes to all who would hear the recital. 
The theme is that of a wild, eager, and un- 
availing love whose joys and sorrows he tells 
in vivid words which he believes to be re- 
turned with equal energy and passion. 

' MY DEAR SIR, 

4 1 am going to write a scrawl, for 
the querulous egotism of which I must entreat 
your mercy; but, when I look upon my past, 
present, and future, and then into my own self, 
I find much, however unpleasant, that yearns 
for utterance. 

' This last week an honest and kindly friend 
has warned me that concealed hopes about one 
lady should be given up, let the effort to do so 

cost what it may. He is the , and was 

commanded by , M. P. for , to return 

me, unopened, a letter which I addressed to 



BRANWELL'S LETTERS. 173 

, and which the Lady was not permitted to 

see. She too, surrounded by powerful persons 
who hate me like Hell, has sunk into religious 
melancholy, believes that her weight of sorrow 
is God's punishment, and hopelessly resigns 
herself to her doom. God only knows what it 
does cost, and will, hereafter, cost me, to tear 
from my heart and remembrance the thousand 
recollections that rush upon me at the thought 
of four years gone by. Like ideas of sunlight 
to a man who has lost his sight, they must be 
bright phantoms not to be realized again. 

' I had reason to hope that ere very long I 
should be the husband of a Lady whom I loved 
best in the world, and with whom, in more than 
competence, I might live at leisure to try to 
make myself a name in the world of posterity, 
without being pestered by the small but count- 
less botherments, which, like mosquitoes, sting 
us in the world of work-day toil. That hope 
and herself are gone she to wither into patient- 
ly pining decline, it to make room for drud- 
gery, falling on one now ill-fitted to bear it. 
That ill-fittedness rises from causes which I 
should find myself able partially to overcome, 



174 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

had I bodily strength ; but, with the want of 
that, and with the presence of daily lacerated 
nerves, the task is not easy. I have been, in 
truth, too much petted through life, and, in my 
last situation, I was so much master, and gave 
myself so much up to enjoyment, that now, 
when the cloud of ill-health and adversity has 
come upon me, it will be a disheartening job to 
work myself up again, through a new life's bat- 
tle, from the position of five years ago, to that 
from which I have been compelled to retreat 
with heavy loss and no gain. My army stands now 
where it did then, but mourning the slaughter 
of Youth, Health, Hope, and both mental and 
physical elasticity. 

' The last two losses are, indeed, important to 
one who once built his hopes of rising in the 
world on the possession of them. Noble writings 
works of art, music, or poetry, now, instead of 
rousing my imagination, cause a whirlwind of 
blighting sorrow that sweeps over my mind 
with unspeakable dreariness ; and, if I sit down 
and try to write, all ideas that used to come, 
clothed in sunlight, now press round me in 
funereal black ; for really every pleasurable ex 



BRANWELI/S LETTERS. 175 

citement that I used to know has changed to 
insipidity or pain. 

* I shall never be able to realize the too san- 
guine Jiopes of my friends, for at twenty-nine I 
am a thoroughly old man, mentally and bodily 
far more, indeed, than 1 am willing to ex- 
press. God knows I do not scribble like a 
poetaster when I quote Byron's terribly truthful 
words 

< " No more no more oh ! never more on me 

The freshness of the heart shall fall like dew, 
Which, out of all the lovely things we see, 
Extracts emotions beautiful and new !" 

' I used to think that if I could have, for a 
week, the free range of the British Museum the 
library included I could feel as though I were 
placed for seven days in Paradise ; but now, 
really, dear sir, my eyes would rest upon the 
Elgin marbles, the Egyptian saloon, and the 
most treasured columns, like the eyes of a dead 
cod-fish. 

' My rude, rough acquaintances here ascribe 
my unhappiness solely to causes produced by 
my sometimes irregular life, because they have 
known no other pains than those resulting from 
excess or want of ready cash. They do not 



176 THE BROXTi; FAMILY. 

know that I would rather want a shirt than want 
a springy mind, and that my total want of 
happiness, were I to step into York Minster 
now, would be far, far worse than their w#nt of 
a hundred pounds when they might happen to 
need it ; and that, if a dozen glasses, or a bottle 
of wine, drives off their cares, such cures only 
make me outwardly passable in company, but 
never drive off mine. 

'I know only that it is time for me to be 
something, when I am nothing, that my father 
cannot have long to live, and that, when he 
dies, my evening, which is already twilight, 
will become night; that I shall then have a 
constitution still so strong that it will keep me 
years in torture and despair, when I should 
every hour pray that I might die. 

' I know that I am avoiding, while I write, 
one greatest cause of my utter despair ; but, by 

G j sir, it is nearly too bitter for me to 

allude to it !' Here follow a number of refer- 
ences to the subject, with which the reader is 
already familiar, and therefore it is unnecessary 
to repeat them here. Then Branwell con- 
tinues : 



BRANWELL'S LETTERS. 177 

' To no one living have I said what I now 
say to you, and I should not bother yourself 
with my incoherent account, did I not believe 
that you would be able to understand some- 
what of what I meant though not all, sir ; for he 
who is without hope, and knows that his clock 
is at twelve at night, cannot communicate his 
feelings to one who finds his at twelve at noon/ 



VOL. II. N 



178 



CHAPTER X. 

BRAN\YELL BRONTE AND ' WQTHERING HEIGHTS.' 

* Withering Heights' Reception of the Book by the Pub- 
lic It is Misunderstood Its Authorship Mr. Dear- 
den's Account Statements of Mr. Edward Sloane and 
Mr. Grundy Remarks by Mr. T. Wemyss Reid 
Correspondences between '"Wuthermg Heights' and 
Bran well's Letters The ' Carving-knife Episode ' 
Further Correspondences Resemblances of Thought 
in Bran well and Emily. 

WE have now become acquainted with the 
principal features of Bran well's career, have 
obtained some insight into his character, and 
learned much respecting his genius. We have 
gained also some knowledge of the history of 
the Bronte sisters in that most crucial period of 
their lives, when, they returned again to litera- 
ture with the new earnest which led them to 
fame. 



4 WUTHERING HEIGHTS.' 179 

We have seen that it was Branwell who first 
seriously undertook the production of a novel, 
and we have noticed Mr. Grundy's statement 
concerning the authorship of ' Wuthering 
Heights.' Here, then, is the proper place in 
which to say something on this question; for 
there have not been wanting others also to 
assert that Branwell was, in great part, the 
writer of it. Miss Robinson, in her Emily 
Bronte,' dismisses the assertion as altogether 
untrue ; but she rightly says, as all will agree, 
that ' in the contemptuous silence of those who 
know their falsity, such slanders live and thrive 
like unclean insects under fallen stones.' It 
cannot, therefore, be inappropriate, in such a 
work as the present, to record, as clearly and 
succinctly as may be, what has been said on the 
subject, and to make a suggestion for it is 
nothing more as to what is the truth of the 
matter. 

When 'Wuthering Heights,' after its slow 
progress through the press, was given to the 
world in the December of 1847, neither the 
critics nor the public were very well able to 
grasp its meaning. Reviewers, to quote Char- 

N2 



180 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

lotte Bronte, ' too often remind us of the mob 
of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers 
gathered before the " writing on the wall," and 
unable to read the characters or make known 
the interpretation.' In 4 Wuthering Heights * 
they found the subject disagreeable, the char- 
acters brutal, the conception crude, and the 
object of the work wholly unintelligible. The 
most that could be made of it, was that some 
rude soul in the north of England, burning 
with spite against his species, had set himself, 
with intent little short of diabolical, to lay open 
the most vicious depths of selfishness and crime,, 
which he had embodied in the actions of char- 
acters so lost and revolting, that the mind re- 
coiled with a shudder from the perusal of the 
monstrosity he had created. One critic, who 
dwelt at some length on the want of ' tone ' 
and polish in the book, surmised that the writer 
of it had suffered, ' not disappointment in love r 
but some great mortification of pride,' which 
had so embittered his spirit that he had pre- 
pared this stinging story in vengeance on his 
species, and had flung it, crying, ' There, take 



181 

that !' with cynical pleasure, in the very teeth 
of humankind. 

This writer even felt it his duty to caution 
young people against the book. ' It ought to 
be banished from refined society,' he says. 
4 The whole tone of the book smacks of low- 
ness.' ' A person may be ill-mannered from 
want of delicacy of perception or cultivation, 
or ill-mannered intentionally ; the author of 
Wuthering Heights" is both.' 4 But the taint 
of vulgarity in our author extends deeper than 
mere snobbishness ; he is rude, because he pre- 
fers to be so.' I quote these remarks, as an 
extreme instance, to show that a critic, who 
could recognize the great imaginative power, 
the subtlety, the keen insight, and the fine 
dramatic character of ' Wuthering Heights,' yet 
felt such a strong repugnance to its unknown 
author that he thought him unfit to associate 
wiih his fellow-men. It never crossed the minds 
of the critics in those times that the book could 
be by any but a man of strong personal char- 
acter, and one with a wide experience of the 
dark side of human nature. 



1 82 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

However, a feeling speedily grew up that 
i Wuthering Heights' was an earlier and im- 
mature production, attempted to be palmed off 
upon the public, of the author of ' Jane Eyre,' 
against whom a charge of bad faith was there- 
by virtually made ; and even Sydney Dobell 
(in the 'Palladium' of September, 1850), the 
first critic who had sympathy enough with 
genius to discern the nature and comprehend 
the significance of the book, did not escape 
this error. It is not necessary here to repeat 
the unfortunate consequences of this misunder- 
ing, which caused Charlotte eventually to throw 
off the disguise, arid declare openly that * Wu- 
thering Heights ' was the work of her sister 
Emily. ' Unjust and grievous error !' says Char- 
lotte. < We laughed at it at first, but I deeply 
lament it now.' In the face of her statement, 
further remark on the authorship was naturally 
silenced ; but, from time to time, when the 
book was discussed, much astonishment wa.s 
manifested that a simple and inexperienced girl, 
like Emily Bronte, had been able to draw, with 
such nervous and morbid analysis, so sombre 
a picture of the workings of passions which she 



'WUTHERTNG HEIGHTS.' 183 

could never have actually known, and of natures 
'so relentless and implacable, of spirits so lost 
and fallen,' as those of Heath cliff and Hindley 
Earnshaw. 

A writer in the ' Cornhill Magazine 51 who 
attributes to Emily Bronte the distinction that 
she has written a book ' which stands as com- 
pletely alone in the language as does "Paradise 
Lost," or the " Pilgrim's Progress," ' thus speaks 
of it : * Its power,' he says, ' is absolutely Titanic; 
from the first page to the last it reads like the 
intellectual throes of a giant. It is fearful, it 
is true, and perhaps one of the most unpleasant 
books ever written : but we stand in amaze at 
the almost incredible fact that it was written by 
a slim country girl, who would have passed in 
a crowd as an insignificant person, and who had 
had little or no experience of the ways of the 
world. In Heathcliff, Emily Bronte has drawn 
the greatest villain extant, after lago. He has 
no match out of Shakespeare. The Mephis- 
topheles of Goethe's " Faust " is a person of 
gentlemanly proclivities compared with Heath- 
cliff But " Wuthering Heights '' is a 

1 Vol. xxviii, p. 54. 1873. 



184 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

marvellous curiosity in literature. We challenge 
the world to produce another work in which 
the whole atmosphere seems so surcharged with 
suppressed electricity, and bound in with the 
blackness of tempest and desolation.' 

Perhaps this same grim and Titanic power 
of 4 Wuthering Heights' is one reason why 
many readers do not understand it fully. ' It 
is possible,' Mr. Swinburne says, * that, to take 
full delight in Emily Bronte's book, one must 
have something by natural inheritance of her 
instinct, and something by earlier association 
of her love of the special points of earth the 
same lights, and sounds, and colours, and odours, 
and sights, and shapes of the same fierce, free 
landscape of tenantless, and fruitless, and fence- 
less moor.' 

But the composition of Wuthering Heights ' 
was in great part incomprehensible to Charlotte 
herself, though she endeavours to account for 
it by a consideration of her sister's character 
and circumstances. For, as we have seen, she 
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 



'WUTHERING HEIGHTS.' 185 

the country people who sometimes pass her 
-convent gates.' 

'"Wuthering Heights,'" to quote Charlotte 
Bronte's Preface to the new edition of it, ' was 
hewn in a wild workshop, with simple tools, 
out of homely materials. The statuary found 
n granite block 011 a solitary moor ; gazing 
thereon, he saw how from the crag might be 
elicited a head, savage, swart, sinister; a form 
moulded with at least one element of grandeur 
power. He wrought with a rude chisel, from 
no model but the vision of his meditations. 
With time and labour, the crag took human 
shape ; and there it stands colossal, dark, and 
frowning, half statue, half rock : in the former 
sense, terrible and goblin-like ; in the latter, 
almost beautiful, for its colouring is of mellow 
grey, and moorland moss clothes it ; and heath, 
with its blooming bells and balmy fragrance, 
grows faithfully close to the giant's foot.' 

Many years ago, a writer in the 'People's 
Magazine,' speaking of the authorship of ' Wu- 
thcring Heights,' said: 'Who would suppose 
that Heathcliff, a man who never swerved from 
his arrow-straight course to perdition from his 



186 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

cradle to his grave, . . . had been conceived 
by a timid and retiring female? But this was 
the case.' The perusal of this sentence led 
Mr. William Dearden author of the * Star Seer* 
and the ' Maid of Caldene ' who was acquainted 
with Branwell Bronte, to communicate to the 
' Halifax Guardian,' in June, 1867, some facts, 
within his personal knowledge, touching the 
question, which he extracted from the MS. 
preface to his poem entitled, * The Demon 
Queen,' not then published. 

It appears, from this account, that Branwell 
and Mr. Dearderi had entered into a friendly 
poetic contest. Each was to write a poem in 
which the principal character was to have a real 
or imaginary existence before the Deluge. They 
met, on the occasion, at the ' Cross Roads,' a 
hostel a little more than a mile from Haworth 
on the road to Keighley, where an evening was 
spent in the reading of their respective produc- 
tions. Leyland was to decide upon the merits 
of the poems. In reference to this meeting Mr. 
Dearden says, 

'We met at the time and place appointed 
. 1 read the first act of the ' ; Demon 



< WUTHER1NG HEIGHTS.' 187 

Queen ;" but, when Branwell dived into his hat 
the usual receptacle of his fugitive scraps 
where he supposed he had deposited his MS. 
poem, he found he had by mistake placed there 
a number of stray leaves of a novel on 
which he had been trying his " prentice hand." 
Chagrined at the disappointment he had caused, 
he was about to return the papers to his hat, 
when both friends earnestly pressed him to 
read them, as they felt a curiosity to see how 
he could wield the pen of a novelist. After 
some hesitation, he complied with the request, 
and riveted our attention for about an hour, 
dropping each sheet, when read, into his hat. 
The story broke off abruptly in the middle of a 
sentence, and he gave us the sequel, viva voce, 
together with the real names of the prototypes 
of his characters ; but, as some of these person- 
ages are still living, I refrain from pointing 
them out to the public. He said he had not 
yet fixed upon a title for his production, and 
was afraid he should never be able to meet 
with a publisher who would have the hardi- 
hood to usher it into the world. The scene of 
the fragment which Branwell read, and the 



188 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

characters introduced in it so far as then 
developed were the same as those in " With- 
ering Heights," which Charlotte Bronte confi- 
dently asserts was the production of her sister 
Emily.' 

Another friend of Branwell Bronte also, Mr. 
Edward Sloaiie of Halifax, author of a work 
entitled, ' Essays, Tales, and Sketches,' (1849) 
declared to Mr. Dearden that Branwell had 
read to him, portion by portion, the novel as it 
was produced, at the time, insomuch that he 
110 sooner began the perusal of ' Wuthering 
Heights,' when published, than he was able to 
anticipate the characters and incidents to be 
disclosed. 1 Thus Mr. Dearden and the late 

1 It should be stated, perhaps, that one recent newspaper 
writer, possibly with the intention of discrediting any 
claim that might be set up for Bran well's authorship of 
Wuthering Heights,' has drawn from the depths of his 
memory, or, possibly, of his imagination, a story that 
Branwell had read to him, as his own, the plot of ' Shirley.' 
But, since ' Shirley ' was not commenced very many months 
before Branwell's death, and since he had been in his 
grave a year when it was published, it is obviously im- 
possible that he can ever have desired to draw to himself 
the praise which was bestowed upon it. And this ingeni- 
ous writer has adopted, curiously enough, almost the 



< WCJTHERIXG HEIGHTS.' 

Mr. Sloane claimed to have knowledge of 
' Wuthering Heights ' as the work of Branwell, 
before it was issued from the press; and w< 
have seen that Mr. Grundy declares Branwell 
to have said, with the consent of his sister, 
that he had written ' a great portion of " Wuth- 
ering Heights" himself,' a statement which, 
remembering the ' weird fancies of diseased 
genius' with which Branwell had entertained 
him at Luddenden Foot, inclined Mr. Grundy to 
believe * that the very plot was his invention 
rather than his sister's.' 1 

The evidence for the original ascription of 
authorship is simple in the extreme. Charlotte- 
Bronte has told us in the Biographical Notice, 
as well as in the Preface, which she has pre- 
fixed to 'Wuthering Heights,' that the book 
was the work of Ellis Bell; and clearly no 
shadow of doubt was on her mind at the time 
as to the accuracy of this statement ; nor had 

phraseology of Mr. Dearden's account, published eighteen 
years ago, saying, ' he took from his hat, the usual recep- 
tacle, &c.,' which suggests an impression of unconscious 
plagiarism. 

1 'Pictures of the Past,' by Francis H. Grundy, C.E. 
1879, p. 80. 



190 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the publisher of the book any uncertainty as 
to the matter. Moreover, the servant Martha 
is said to have seen Emily Bronte writing it. 
We are told, also, that it is impossible that the 
upright spirit of the gentle Emily could resort 
to the miserable fraud of appropriating a work 
which was not her own. And, lastly, modern 
critics have not found it difficult to believe that 
a woman might be the author of ' Wuthering 
Heights.' They see nothing incongruous or 
impossible in the possession, by a feminine 
intellect, of such a searching knowledge of 
sinister propensities as are developed in that 
book, nor of its descending to those chaotic 
depths of black moral distortion, where it is 
possible for Hindley Earnshaw, with hideous 
blasphemy, to drink damnation to his soul, that 
he may be able to * punish its Maker,' and 
where the life-long vengeance of Heathcliff is 
drawn out, with wondrous power, to its ghastly 
arid impotent end. 

How far Charlotte's statement is weakened 
by the fact that, up to the time when she dis- 
covered the volume of verse, and the three 
.sisters commenced their novels at which period 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS.' 191 

it will be remembered one volume of Branwell's 
work was written they had made no com- 
munication to one another of the literary work 
which each had in progress, is, perhaps, a matter 
for personal opinion. The declaration of Martha 
would probably be of little value, unless we 
knew that what Emily was writing was entirely 
independent of Branwell's work. And, again, 
those who have sought to defend Ellis Bell from 
the charge of fraud, have perhaps been over 
hasty ; for, so far as I know, that charge has 
never been either made or implied. 

As to the capability of Branwell to write 
* Wuthering Heights,' not much need be said 
here. Those who read this book will see 
that, despite his weaknesses and his follies, Bran- 
well was, indeed, unfortunate in having to bear 
the penalty, in ceaseless open discussion, of ' une 
fanfaronnade des vices qu'il n'avait pas, ' and 
that, moreover, his memory has been darkened, 
and his acts misconstrued, by sundry writers, 
who have endeavoured to find in his character 
the source of the darkest passages in the works 
of his sisters. 

Far from being hopelessly a ' miserable fel- 



192 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

low," an ' unprincipled dreamer,' an 4 unnerved 
and garrulous prodigal,' as we have been told 
he was, he had, in fact, within him, an abund- 
ance of worthy ambition, a modest confidence 
in his own ability, which he was never known 
to vaunt, and a just pride in the celebrity of 
his family, which, it may be trusted, will remove 
from him, at any rate, the imputation of a lack 
of moral power to do anything good or forcible 
at all. 

Those who have heard fall from the lips 
of Bran well Bronte and they are few now 
all those weird stories, strange imaginings, and 
vivid and brilliant disquisitions on the life of the 
people of the West Riding, will recognize that 
there was at least no opposition, but rather an 
affinity, between the tendency of his thoughts 
and those of the author of ' Wuthering Heights.' 
And, as to special points in the story, it may 
be said that Bran well Bronte had tasted most 
of the passions, weaknesses, and emotions there 
depicted; had loved, in frenzied delusion, as 
fiercely as Heathcliff loved ; as with Hindley 
Earnshaw, too, in the pain of loss, 'when his 
ship struck ; the captain abandoned his post ;. 



4 WUTHERING HEIGHTS/ 

and the crew, instead of trying to save her, 
rushed into riot and confusion, leaving no hope 
for their luckless vessel.' He had, too, indeed, 
manifested much of the doating folly of the 
unhappy master of the ' Heights ' ; and, finally, 
there is no doubt that he possessed, neverthe- 
less, almost as much force of character, deter- 
mination, and energy as Heathcliff himself. 

The following extract from a lecture by Mr. 
T. Wemyss Reid, will show the opinion of that 
gentleman which he applies to prove that 
Branwell was in part the subject of his sister's 
work that there is a distinct correspondence 
in the feelings and utterances of Heathcliff and 
Branwell in this book, which, as he observes, 
critics have again and again declared to be like 
the dream of an opium-eater, which we have seen 
that Branwell was. Mr. Reid states : i I said 
that, perhaps, the most striking part of " Wu- 
thering Heights " was that which deals with the 
relations of Heathcliff and Catherine, after she 
had become the wife of another. Whole pages 
of the story are filled with the ravings and 
ragings of the villain against the man whose 
life stands between him and the woman he 

VOL. II. 



194 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

loves. Similar ravings are to be found in all 
the letters of Branwell Bronte written at this 
period of his career ; and we may be sure that 
similar ravings were always on his lips, as, 
moody and more than half mad, he wandered 
about the rooms of the parsonage at Ha worth. 
Nay, I have found some striking verbal coinci- 
dences between Branwell's own language and 
passages in " Wuthering Heights." In one of 
his own letters there are these words in refer- 
ence to the object of his passion : " My own 
life without her will be hell. What can the 
so-called love of her wretched, sickly husband 
be to her compared with miue?" Now, turn to 
" Wuthering Heights," and you will read these 
words : " Two words would comprehend my 
future death and hell: existence, after losing 
her, would be hell. Yet I was a fool to fancy 
for a moment that she valued Edgar Linton's 
attachment more than mine. If he loved with 
all the powers of his puny being, he couldn't 
love as much in eighty years as I could in a 
day.'" 1 

If Mr. Reid had quoted the beginning of this 
1 Lecture by Mr. T. Wemyss Reid. 



WUTHERIXG HEIGHTS.' 195 



paragraph, another point of correspondence 
would have been perceived between the feel- 
ings manifested in it and those which had actu- 
ated Bran well Bronte. Heathcliff is speaking : 
'"You suppose she has nearly forgotten me?" 
he said. " Oh, Nelly ! you know she has not ! 
You know as well as I do, that for every thought 
she spends on Linton, she spends a thousand 
on me ! At a most miserable period of my life, 
I had a notion of the kind : it haunted me on 
my return to the neighbourhood last summer ; 
but only her own assurance could make me 
admit the horrible idea again. And then, Lin- 
ton would be nothing, nor Hindley, nor all the 
dreams that ever I dreamt I" ' 

We have seen that, in the summer of 1845, 
Branwell lost his employment, and returned to 
the neighbourhood of Haworth, and that he, 
too, at that most miserable period of his life, 
when he wrote his novel, and ' Real Rest,' and 
' Penmaenmawr,' had had a notion that the lady 
of his affections had nearly forgotten him. 

It may be observed that Catherine Earnshaw, 
in an earlier part of the book, uses a like 
antithesis to that quoted by Mr. Reid. ' What- 

02 



196 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

ever our souls are made of,' says she, speaking 
of Heathcliff and herself, ' his and mine are the 
same ; and Linton's is as different as a moon- 
beam from lightning, or frost from fire.' Though 
it is not strictly accurate that in all Bran well's- 
letters at this period there are similar ravings, 
or that such were always on his lips, there are, 
at all events, other coincidences of thought and 
expression to be found in his letters and poems 
with certain features and passages in ' Wuth- 
ing Heights,' which are not less striking. A 
few instances will illustrate much in that work 
which it is not easy to believe could have 
been transcribed by the writer from the utter- 
ances of another. Even so early as his letter 
to John Brown, we have seen with what force 
Branwell could express himself when he chose. 
He speaks in that letter of one who ' will be 
used as the tongs of hell,' and of another ' out 
of whose eyes Satan looks as from windows/ 
Let us turn to where Heathcliffs eyes are 
described, in Chapter vii. of the novel, as * that 
couple of black fiends, so deeply buried, who 
never open their windows boldly, but lurk 
glinting under them, like devil's spies ;' and, in 



4 WUTHERIXG HEIGHTS.' 197 

Chapter xvii., where Isabella Heathcliff says of 
them : ' The clouded windows of hell flashed a 
moment towards me ; the fiend which usually 
looked out, however, was so dimmed and 
drowned that I did not fear to hazard another 
sound of derision.' 

We have noticed how Branwell plays upon 
the word castaway at the close of his letter on 
his novel. Charlotte has said they all had a 
leaning to Cowper's poem, ' The Castaway,' and 
appropriated it in one way or another ; she told 
Mrs. Gaskell that Branwell had done so. The 
word is used twice in < Wuthering Heights.' 
Heathcliff is described as having been a ' little 
Lascar, or an American or Spanish castaway,' 
and the younger Catherine addresses pious 
Joseph, oddly -enough, and by a coincidence 
singular enough, remembering Branwell's allu- 
sion in his letter, in these words : i No, repro- 
bate ! you are a castaway be off, or I'll hurt 
you seriously ! I'll have you all modelled in 
wax and clay.' 

Mention may also be made here, with refer- 
ence to the occurrence of the names * Linton ' 
and ' Hareton ' in < Wuthering Heights,' that, 



] 98 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

somewhat before the time of the writing of his 
novel, Branwell was accustomed frequently to 
visit a place of the former designation, arid that 
he had, as we have seen, when he was in 
Broughton-in-Furriess, a friend of the name of 
Ayr ton. 

In the above letter on his novel it will be 
remembered, in speaking of the character of 
his work, that Branwell says he hopes to leap 
from the present bathos of fictitious literature 
to the firmly fixed rock honoured by the foot of 
a Smollett or a Fielding, and speaks of reveal- 
ing man's heart as faithfully as in the pages of 
4 Hamlet ' or i Lear.' In the first four chapters 
of * Wuthering Heights/ which serve as prelude 
to the darker portions of the story, we are 
introduced to the inmates of the farm that 
gives its name to the novel. Mr. Lock wood, 
who has rented Thrush cross Grange of Heath- 
clifF, and has come to reside there, relates his 
experience of two visits he pays to his landlord 
at the ' Heights.' In the excellent humour of 
this portion of the story we are certainly re- 
minded of Branwell Bronte, and perhaps of 
Smollett and Fielding too. The succeeding 



< WUTHERING HEIGHTS.' 191) 

chapters are related in a manner more subdued, 
proper to the narration of the housekeeper. 
There is just one mention of 'King Lear' in 
' Wuthering Heights,' on the second of these 
visits, when, at last, Mr. Lockwood, after he has 
been knocked down by the dogs, addresses the 
inmates of the ' Heights,' ' with several incoher- 
ent threats of retaliation, that, in their infinite 
depth of virulency, smacked of " King Lear." ' 
More than once have this story and Shak- 
speare's great tragedy been named in kinship, 
and Miss Robinson, unaware of Branw ell's 
observation on his own prose tale, gives a 
second place, with King Lear,' to ' Wuthering 
Heights.' 

It is impossible to read ' Wuthering Heights* 
without being struck with the part which con- 
sumption and death are made to play in the 
progress of the story. Scarcely a character is 
there depicted in whom we do not recognize 
some trait, some weakness, remotely or more 
closely, indicating deep-seated phthisis ; and evi- 
dences of a true and certain observation, in the 
writer, are to be found in the pictures of its 
power there delineated. In Branw ell's poem 



200 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

on ' Caroline,' we have already seen with what 
certain touch he depicts her death from that 
disease; and how deeply, and almost morbidly, 
he broods on its ravages ; and, in one of his later 
poems, we have a second and more striking; 
picture of decline. In Emily's verse anything 
of the kind is entirely wanting; and, indeed, 
it is what we miss in her poems, even more 
than what we find in Branwell's, that must ever 
surprise us when we look for the author of 
' Wutliering Heights.' Branwell, in his writ- 
ings, is often engaged with subjects of real and 
personal interest, and the scheme of his work is 
apparent. Several of his poems, indeed, when 
once read, leave an impress on the memory 
which is evidence enough of the power and 
originality by which they are inspired. For the 
most part, Emily's poems are impersonal, ima- 
ginative, and ideal. 

It will be remembered that Mr. Grundy, in his 
' Pictures of the Past,' has given an account of 
his last interview with Branwell, which he de- 
clares took place but a few days before Bran- 
well died. I have shown conclusively that the 
interview is ascribed by Mr. Grundy, and by 



WUTHERIXG HEIGHTS/ 201 

Miss Robinson following him, to a wrong date, 
and that it took place, in fact, in 184(), when the 
manuscript was still in the author's hands, perhaps, 
indeed, undergoing revision at the time. Bran- 
well, according to his friend, had concealed in 
his coat sleeve, on this occasion, a carving-knife, 
with which, in his frenzy, he designed to kill the 
devil, whose call, he supposed, had summoned 
him to the inn ; and he was surprised to find Mr. 
Grundy there instead. I have surmised that, when 
this grotesque episode occurred, Branwell was 
but jesting with his friend, who, in his surprise, 
took him altogether au st'rieux ; and, remember- 
ing that Mr. Grundy says Branwell had declared 
to him before that ' Wuthering Heights' was in 
great part his own work, it will be seen that 
there are passages in the novel which seem to 
lend probability both to this surmise as to 
Branwell's intention, and also to Mr. Grundy's 
statement. Thus, in Chapter ix., Hindley Earn- 
shaw returns to the house in a state of frenzied 
intoxication, and, finding Nelly Dean stowing 
away his son in a cupboard, he flies at her with 
a madman's rage, crying : ' By heaven and hell, 
you've sworn between you to murder that 



202 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

child ! I know how it is, now, that he is always 
out of my way. But, with the help of Satan, 
I shall make you swallow the carving-knife, 
Nelly! You needn't laugh ; for I've just cram- 
med Kenneth, head-downmost, in the Blackhorse 
marsh ; two is the same as one and I want to 
kill some of you : I shall have no rest till I do !' 
To which Nelly Dean replies, 'But I don't like the 
carving-knife, Mr. Hindley; it has been cutting 
red herrings. I'd rather be shot, if you please/ 
Again, in Chapter xvii., when Isabella's taunts 
have stung Heathcliff to retaliation, he snatches 
up a dinner-knife and flings it at her head ; and 
she is struck beneath the ear. We may believe, 
then, that when Bran well appeared in this 
strange guise before his friend, he was but jest- 
ingly rehearsing in act, with an ' antic disposi- 
tion ' such incidents as he had recently described 
in the volume he had mentioned to Mr. Grundy. 
Miss Robinson, in her 'Emily Bronte ' (p. 95), 
has some sarcastic remarks about Bran well's 
pride in his family name. Proud of his name !' 
she writes : ' He wrote a poem on it, " Bronte," 
an eulogy of Nelson, which won the patronizing 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS.' 203 

approbation of Leigh Hunt, Miss Martineau, and 
others, to whom, at his special request, it was 
submitted. Had he ever heard of his dozen 
aunts and uncles, the Pruntys of Ahaderg ? Or 
if not, with what sensations must the Vicar (sic) 
of Haworth have listened to this blazoning forth 
and triumphing over the glories of his ancient 
name T Branwell's pride in the name of Bronte 
would have been foolish enough if it had been 
of the nature Miss Robinson supposes; but per- 
haps it had another meaning. At any rate 
Nelly Dean pats pride of birth in quite a differ- 
ent light in ' Wuthering Heights,' where she 
gives good advice to HeathclifF. 'You're fit for 
a prince in disguise,' she says even to the ' little 
Lascar,' the 'American or Spanish castaway.' 
'Who knows but your father was Emperor 
of China, and your mother an Indian queen, 
each of them able to buy up, with one week's 
income, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross 
Grange together? And you were kidnapped 
by wicked sailors and brought to England. 
Were I in your place, I would frame high 
notions of my birth ; and the thoughts of what I 



204 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

was should give me courage and dignity to 
.support the oppressions of a little farmer !' This 
was exactly what Bran well. Bronte did. 

There are two other points in which I will 
indicate correspondences between the phrase- 
ology and ideas of i Wuthering Heights' and 
those of Branwell Bronte. In one of his letters 
here published, Branwell, sketching a criminal 
grinning with the halter round his neck, asks 
the question: 'Is there really such a thing as 
the Risus Sardonicus ? Did a man ever laugh 
the morning he was to be hanged ?' Now, in 
the novel, Isabella Heathcliff says : ; I was in the 
condition of mind to be shocked at nothing : in 
fact, I was as reckless as some malefactors show 
themselves at the foot of the gallows.' Lastly, 
Heathcliff declares, speaking of Hindley Earn- 
shaw : ' Correctly, that fool's body should be 
buried at the cross-roads, without ceremony of 
uny kind.' Now Branwell was not only familiar 
with the traditions of suicides buried at the 
cross-roads near Haworth, as well as at similiar 
-cross-roads, but he was accustomed, in his 
perambulations through the district, when in 
this direction, to visit the ancient hostel at that 



WUTHERIXG HEIGHTS.' 



205 



place : and, indeed, it was this house he fixed 
upon for the reading* of the poem he had writ- 
ten, and where he read, as we have seen, in 
lien of it, the portion of his novel, surmised to 
be ' Wuthering Heights,' to Mr. Dearden and 
his other friend. It would be tedious to in- 
dicate all the minor similarities of expression 
in the novel to those in Bran well's letters. 

Yet there are two or three points noticeable 
in ' Wuthering Heights,' which are marked in 
Emily's verse. Emily's love of Nature., of be 
m o ors; her deep br nr> ^ l ' n g l on ^in myntrry of 
led hex_jtp look on the calm of 



death as an assurance of future rest for all, 
are to be found in her poetry ; and, in a lesser 
degree, also in ' Wuthering Heights.' Thus 
we read, in Chapter xvi. of the story, of 
Linton and his dead wife : ' Next morning 
bright and cheerful out of doors stole softened 
in through the blinds of the silent room, and 
suffused the couch and its occupant with a 
mellow, tender glow. Edgar Linton had his 
head laid on the pillow, and his eyes shut. 
His young and fair features were almost as 
deathlike as those of the form beside him, and 



206 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

almost as fixed : but Jus was the hush of ex- 
hausted anguish, and hers of perfect peace. 
Her brow smooth, her lids closed, her lips wear- 
ing the expression of a smile ; no angel in 
heaven could be more beautiful than she ap- 
peared. And I partook of the infinite calm 
in which she lay : my mind was never in a 
holier frame than while I gazed on that un- 
troubled image of Divine rest. I instinctively 
echoed the words she had uttered a few hours 
before : " Incomparably beyond and above us 
all ! Whether still on earth or now in heaven, 
her spirit is at home with God !" ' 

The reflections suggested to Nelly Dean by 
the spectacle of repose presented by the dead 
Catherine seem to Mr. Reid to be characteristic 
of Emily, speaking ' out of the fulness of her 
heart.' ' I don't know if it be a peculiarity in 
me,' says the narrator in the story, ' but I am 
seldom otherwise than happy while watching 
in the chamber of death, should no frenzied 
or despairing mourner share the duty with me. 
I see a repose that neither earth nor hell can 
break, and I feel an assurance of the endless 
and shadowless hereafter the Eternity they 



* WUTHERING HEIGHTS.' 207 

have entered where life is boundless in its 
duration, and love in its sympathy, and joy 
in its fulness. I noticed on that occasion how 
much selfishness there is even in a love like 
Mr. Linton's, when he so regretted Catherine's 
blessed release ! To be sure, one might have 
doubted, after the wayward and impatient exist- 
ence she had led, whether she merited a haven 
of peace at last. One might doubt in seasons 
of cold reflection ; but not then, in the presence 
of her corpse. It asserted its OW T II tranquillity, 
which seemed a pledge of equal quiet to its 
former inhabitants.' But Mr. Lockwood is made 
to say, speaking of the housekeeper's anxiety 
to know if he thinks such people are happy in 
the other world, ' I declined answering Mrs. 
Dean's question, which struck me as something 
heterodox.' The story also concludes, speaking 
of the head-stones of Edgar Lin ton, Heathcliff, 
and Catherine : < T lingered round them, under 
that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering 
among the heath and harebells, listened to 
the soft wind breathing through the grass, and 
wondered how any one could ever imagine un- 
quiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet 



208 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

earth.' But there is in these very points a 
remarkable coincidence of feeling between 

o 

Bran well and Emily also. Indeed, in the expres- 
sion of these thoughts, Bran well's verse is well- 
nigh more powerful than Emily's. We have 
known his desire for the oblivious peace of 
4 Real Rest ' ; and, in his letters, he has sketched 
many head-stones, on one of which are the 
words : ' I implore for rest ' ; and, in the ' Epistle 
to a Child in her Grave,' he has told us of the 
freedom from ill of that quiet and painless 
sepulchre. Here are a few stray lines of Bran- 
well's, which will serve as illustration of this 
coincidence : 

' Think not that Life is happiness, 
But deem it duty joined with care ; 

Implore for hope in your distress, 
And for your answers, get despair , 

Yet travel on, for Life's rough road 
May end, at last, in rest with God /' 

Again we may ask : did Branwell Bronte 
write ' Wuthering Heights,' or any part of it ? 
The evidence that he did so is, probably, in- 
sufficient. But let it be remembered that, as 
stated in his letter to Leyland, he had clearly 



< WUTHERIXG HEIGHTS.' 209 

undertaken a three-volume novel, arid, in one 
way or other, had written a volume of his 
story. The charge of falsehood brought against 
Bvanwell in his statement to Mr. Grundy will 
not now probably be renewed; but there may 
not be wanting some to say that Mr. Grundy 
is in error in connecting what his friend said to 
him about his own novel with some allusion of 
his sister's to 'Wuthering Heights,' and that 
those gentlemen who believe the novel Bran- 
well read to them to be the same as that attri- 
buted to Emily are in error also. It has been said 
that, on the rare occasions on which the father 
or brother entered the room where the sisters 
were writing their novels, nothing was said of 
the work in progress. But it must be confessed 
that these views meet with little encouragement 
from what we know of the history of that period. 

We have seen that, prior to the autumn of 
1845, Branwell had been employed in writing 
his novel ; a little later, we have reason to sus- 
pect that he is not going on with it, and we 
find him writing a poem with the same theme 
as a contemporary one of Emily's. We then 
find the sisters taking up novel-writing with 

VOL. IL P 



210 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

precisely Branwell's views of the profit to be 
derived from it. When he writes to Ley land 
on the 28th of April, 1846, shortly before the 
poems of his sisters were published, and while 
they are finishing their novels, Branwell has 
ceased to speak [of his, but says that, if he 
were in London personally, he would try a 
certain publisher with his poems. Now it 
was an edition of Wordsworth by this same 
publisher that Charlotte had, four months ear- 
lier, fixed upon as a model for the sisters' own 
volume of poems. Branwell, then, however 
strained his relations with his sister Charlotte 
might be at this late date, must have known 
that his sisters were writing their tales. Why, 
then, the change in his aims ? Why is he, who 
had propounded that view of the superior ad- 
vantages of prose over poetic writing, which 
afterwards determined the sisters to write 
novels, silent about his own, and thinking of 
publishing his poems ? and never again do we 
hear of any attempt on his part to finish his 
novel, though he lived a year after his sisters' 
works were published. What had become of 
his novel in the interim ? 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS/ 211 

Perhaps there is evidence, then, to warrant 
us in throwing out a suggestion that there may 
have been some measure of collaboration be- 
tween Branwell and his sister, that he origin- 
ated the idea, moulded the characters, and wrote 
the earlier portion of the work, which she, 
taking, revised, amended, completed, and im- 
bued with enough of an individual spirit to 
give unity to the whole. In support of this 
view, it may be noted that, though there is no 
break in the style of 6 Wuthering Heights,' yet 
all the interests of the original story are, in a 
manner, completed in the seventeenth chapter 
that is, something more than half-way through 
the book. In that first portion of it we trace 
the vehement passion of HeathclifF for Catherine 
up to her death. We see his enmity to Edgar 
Linton, which is satisfied by his possession of 
Linton's sister, whom he hates and despises, 
but who is the mother of a child to be heir to 
Thrushcross Grange, and we see the death of 
this unhappy wife. In this first portion of the 
novel is unrolled also the gradual growth of 
Heathcliff's hatred of Earnshaw, from the time 
when he says : ' I'm trying to settle how I shall 



212 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

pay Hinclley back. I don't care how long I 
wait, if I can only do it at last. I hope he will 
not die before I do,' up to the death of that 
miserable character, whose son remains an ig- 
norant dependent, because his drunken father 
has been lured to make away with his wealth 
at the gaming-table to his Mephistophelian 
pursuer. Here is depicted that dark and male- 
volent spirit which ranks Heathcliff with the- 
demons, as where he says : * I have no pity I 
have no pity! The more the worms writhe, the 
more I yearn to crush out their entrails. It is a 
moral teething, and I grind with greater energy 
in proportion to the increase of pain.' 

In the second part of the story, opening with 
the eighteenth chapter, we are occupied with 
the fates of the children of Lin ton, Earnshaw, 
and Heathcliff. We learn how the latter trains 
up his miserable, puling son for the purpose of 
marrying the daughter of Linton, which he 
forcibly brings about, and thus completes his 
possession of the Grange ; how he endeavours 
to pervert the youthful Hareton Earnshaw, to 
6 see if one tree won't grow as crooked as an- 
other with the same wind to twist it ;' and in 



' WUTHERIXG HEIGHTS. ' 213 

the end how his vengeance is completely 
thwarted. Thus there are two distinct parts in 
' Wuthering Heights/ one being the completion 
and complement of the other. 

As some evidence for the view here thrown 
out, I may mention that, in reading ' Wuthering 
Heights ' in order to discover what correspond- 
ences there might exist between it and Bran- 
well's writings, in letters, etc., I was very much 
struck with the fact that, for every five of such 
-correspondences which I discovered in the first 
part of the novel, I could find only one in the 
latter. We need not, therefore, be surprised if, 
in the concluding half of ' Wuthering Heights,' 
Branwell lias stood to the author as model for 
some details of character, though these can be 
very few. Yet Nelly Dean does say of Heath- 
cliff's love for Catherine : ' He might have had 
a monomania on the subject of his departed 
idol ; but on every other point his wits were as 
sound as mine.' 1 

The collaboration which I have mentioned 
would by no means imply unfair action on the 
part of Emily Bronte : she was ever a kind, 
1 ; Wuthering Heights, 1 chap, xxxiii. 



214 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

gentle, and faithful friend to Branwell, and had 
looked forward, perhaps more anxiously than her 
sisters, to his success in the world. There would 
be nothing extraordinary, then, in Branwell 
handing over to his favourite sister, to whom he 
was always grateful for her abiding affection, 
the work which he had begun, and which he, 
perhaps, felt himself dissatisfied with, or unable 
to complete, or in his supplying her with a plot, 
and assisting her with his experience in the 
delineation of the characters in any story she 
might wish to produce. To have done so would 
be quite consistent with what we know of him ; 
and he never claimed the authorship, so far as I 
know, after the occasion of Mr. Grundy's visit 
to the parsonage twelve months before the pub- 
lication of the novel ; and he read it to two or 
three personal friends only, and to these, if my 
supposition be correct, perhaps before his sister 
had taken up the work. 

One other circumstance, besides the disappear- 
ance of Branwell's novel, finds explanation in 
this view of the matter : that Emily, who never 
undertook a second novel, produced, not only 
the most original and powerful of the contem- 



* WUTHERING HEIGHTS.' 215 

porary tales of the sisters, but one that is also 
a much longer story than < The Professor,' by 
Charlotte, and half as long again as < Agnes Grey,' 
by Anne. Here, then, must probably remain the 
question of the origin of * Wuthering Heights.' 



216 



CHAPTER XL 

BRANWELL BRONTE AND 'THE TENANT OF WILDFELL 
HALL.' 

Statement of Charlotte that her Sister Anne wrote the 
Book in consequence of her Brother's Conduct Sup- 
position of Some that Branwell was the Prototype of 
Huntingdon The Characters are Entirely Distinct 
Real Sources of the Story Anne Bronte at Pains to 
Avoid a Suspicion that Huntingdon was "a Portrait of 

Branwell. 

/ 

CHARLOTTE BRONTE, who never dreamed of 
attributing the production of so dire a story as 
* Wutheriiig Heights,' by her sister Emily, to 
brooding on Branwell's misfortunes, has, how- 
ever, in her remarks on Anne Bronte's second 
novel, 4 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' meant by 
its author as a tale of warning against the evils 
of intemperance, intimated that it was canied 
out as a duty by Anne, in consequence of the 
impression made upon her by her brother's con- 



4 THE TENANT OF WILD FELL HALL.' 217 

duct ; and certain writers, questioning the state- 
ment of Charlotte that the characters are ficti- 
tious, have concluded that, in Arthur Hunting- 
don, we have ' a picture ' and a k portrait ' of 
Branwell Bronte. It seems to me, rightly con- 
sidered, a cruel thing to Anne Bronte to believe 
that she has given us a portrait of her brother in 
the character of the perfidious Huntingdon. Had 
her brother been thus vile, she could not have 
borne to write over the details of his character ; 
were he not like Huntingdon, she could not have 
libelled him so. 

As none of the biographers of the Bronte 
sisters ever knew Branwell, it is probable that 
the Branwell Bronte of the biographies owes 
more to the supposed Branwell of the novels, 
than the characters in the novels do to the 
brother of the Brontes. It is Huntingdon's wit, 
superficial as it is, that has connected him with 
the ideal of Branwell Bronte. A few traits of 
his, indeed, there may be in Huntingdon, but 
they are not the worst of those depicted in that 
character. The contempt for gambling which 
Huntingdon expresses may be taken as an 
instance. 



218 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

We shall, however, look in vain for any true 
resemblance between the characters of Arthur 
Huntingdon and Branwell Bronte, and, certainly, 
in almost every respect, one is a direct contrast to 
the other. The biographer of Emily Bronte says, 
indeed, that Branwell ' sat to Anne sorrily enough 
for the portrait of Henry (sic) Huntingdon ;' but I 
would ask where that portraiture lies ? Hunting- 
don, be it marked, is not only a drunkard, but he 
is a libertine, a man who has even the callous 
brutality to recount to his trusting wife, as she 
sits by him on the sofa, endeavouring to amuse 
him, the ' stories of his former amours, always 
turning upon the ruin of some confiding girl, or 
the cozening of some unsuspecting husband ; 
and when I express my horror and indignation/ 
she says, ' he lays it to the charge of jealousy, 
and laughs till the tears run down his cheeks/ 
But it was different with Branwell, against whom 
it has never been charged that he sank to these 
low depths of criminal debauchery, indulgence, 
aud treachery ; and even those who have re- 
counted the story of his passion for the wife of 
his employer, are compelled to say that he re- 
mained pure, and shrank in horror from the 



6 THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL.' 219 

advances which they suppose she made. Hunt- 
ingdon's vicious disposition, too, is so sunk in 
selfishness, and there is in him such a cold 
brutality, as where on many an occasion he 
triumphs over his powerless wife, that he is 
placed in absolute contrast to Branwell, with his 
confiding, considerate, open-hearted, and gener- 
ous nature. 

It is but necessary to allude to Huntingdon's 
hypocrisy to establish a further difference be- 
tween his character and Branwell's; and it is, 
moreover, very distinctive of Huntingdon's 
mind that he is, throughout, utterly irreverent 
and irreligious, to such an extent that he jests 
at sacred things, and declares that his wife's 
piety is enough to make him jealous of his 
Maker. Again he says, when he places her hand 
on the top of his head, and it sinks in a bed of 
curls, < rather alarmingly low, especially in the 
middle ;' * if God meant me to be religious, why 
didn't He give me a proper organ of veneration T 
This irreverence he carries with him into 
domestic life, and he invades the sanctity of 
human affection, and the places the heart keeps 
holy, with his gross and insensate brutality. 



220 THE BRONTE FAMIL\ T . 

How different is this from Branwell Bronte, in 
whose character reverence and affection, above 
all things, were strong ! Can we imagine Hunt- 
ingdon dwelling so fondly in the affection of 
the long departed, as Branwell does in his 
poems of ' Caroline ;' can we imagine him vene- 
rating as a precious possession to his dying 
day the sacred memories of his early years, as 
his supposed prototype did ? What ' swell of 
thought,' seeming to fill ' the bursting heart, the 
gushing eye ' with the memories of bygone 
years, could flood the shallow brain of the selfish 
and unfeeling Huntingdon ? And Huntingdon, 
too, is afflicted with that well-known complaint 
of the continual drinker ; he loses all interest in 
the affairs of life, and exists in perpetual levity. 
4 There is always a "but" in this imperfect 
world,' says his wife, ' and I do wish he would 
sometimes be serious. I cannot get him to 
write or speak in real, solid earnest. I don't 
much mind it now, but if it be always so what 
shall I do with the serious part of myself T I 
would ask when Branwell Bronte displayed this 
unseemly levity ? if he did not always write and 
speak in solid earnest ; if, indeed, he did not 



'THE TEXAXT OF "\YILDFELL HALL/ 221 

live in the very midst of that storm and stress 
of acute feeling which Huntingdon's wretched 
nature was incapable of experiencing at all ? 

Lastly, Helen Huntingdon tells us that her 
husband is impenetrable to good and lofty 
thoughts, that he never reads anything but 
newspapers and sporting magazines, that she 
wishes he would take up some literary study, 
or learn to draw or play ; and that, when 
deprived of his friends, his condition is comfort- 
less, unalleviated as it is by the consolations of 
intellectual resources, and the answer of a good 
conscience towards God. What, then, were 
Branwell's mental resources'? His thoughts, on 
the contrary, were good and lofty enough ; he 
was a student of literature, and especially a 
reader of the great poets ; he had, indeed, taken 
up literary work ; and he could and did both 
draw, and play on the organ ; and when he was 
deprived of society, or cast into trouble, he 
found his consolation in his literary labours, and 
we have seen that, for the very purpose of 
obtaining alleviation in distress, he had written 
a volume of his novel. In short, he was, as far 
as his intellectual character and habits were- 



222 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

concerned, exactly what Helen Huntingdon 
wished her husband might be. 

If, then, there is no resemblance between 
Branwell Bronte's disposition, character, and 
capabilities and those of Huntingdon in the 
novel, we might, after what has been said, 
surely expect to find that, in the unique point 
in which there is a correspondence of fact their 
indulgence in drink there would be some 
similar traits. But here, again, the resemblance 
is of the faintest, while the differences are 
radical. Huntingdon, for instance, is a con- 
tinual and inveterate drinker ; Branwell drank 
but occasionally, and had long periods of tem- 
perance : Huntingdon drinks for the love of 
drink ; Branwell drank in order to drown his 
sorrows. It is, moreover, made a special point 
by the Bronte biographers that part of Bran- 
well's intemperance was in taking opium, but 
this feature does not exist in Huntingdon, though 
Anne was clearly acquainted with the practice, 
for she mentions in the novel that Lord Low- 
borough at one time took it. 

But, for the character of Huntingdon, we must 
look elsewhere. The account Charlotte gave of 



' THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL.' 223 

one whom the Brontes had known well, will 
show from what sources Arine drew her plot. 

' You remember Mr. and Mrs. ? Mrs. 

came here the other day, with a most 

melancholy tale of her wretched husband's 
drunken, extravagant, profligate habits. She 
asked papa's advice; there was nothing, she 
said, but ruin before them. They owed debts 
which they could never pay. She expected 

Mr. 's instant dismissal from his curacy; 

she knew, from bitter experience, that his vices 
were utterly hopeless. He treated her and her 
child savagely ; with much more to the same 
effect. Papa advised her to leave him for ever, 
and go home, if she had a home to go to. She 
said this was what she had long resolved to 
do ; and she would leave him directly, as soon 

as Mr. B dismissed him. She expressed 

great disgust and contempt towards him, and 
did not affect to have the shadow of regard in 
any way. I do not wonder at this, but I do 
wonder she should ever marry a man towards 
whom her feelings must always have been 
pretty much the same as they are now. I am 
morally certain no decent woman could ex- 



224 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

perience anything but aversion towards such a 

man as Mr. . Before I knew, or suspected 

his character, and when I rather wondered at 
his versatile talents, I felt it in an uncontrollable 
degree. I hated to talk with him hated to look 
at him ; though, as I was not certain that there 
was substantial reason for such a dislike, and 
thought it absurd to trust to mere instinct, I 
both concealed and repressed the feeling as 
much as I could ; and, on all occasions, treated 
him with as much civility as I was mistress of. 
I was struck with Mary's expression of a similar 
feeling at first sight ; she said, when we left 
him, " That is a hideous man, Charlotte !" I 
thought, u He is indeed." 51 

And here is another case known to the 
Brontes. 'Do you remember my telling you 
or did I ever tell you about that wretched 

and most criminal Mr. ? After running 

an infamous career of vice, both in England 
and France, abandoning his wife to disease and 
total destitution in Manchester, with two chil- 
dren and without a farthing, in a strange lodg- 
ing-house? Yesterday evening Martha came 
1 Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. ix. 



< THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL/ 225 

upstairs to say that a woman "rather lady- 
like," as she said wished to speak to me in 
the kitchen. I went down. There stood Mrs. 

, pale and worn, but still interesting-looking 

and cleanly and neatly dressed, as was her little 
girl who was with her. I kissed her heartily. I 
could almost have cried to see her, for I had 
pitied her with my whole soul when I heard of 
her undeserved sufferings, agonies, and physical 
degradation. She took tea with us, stayed 
about two hours, and frankly entered into a 
narrative of her appalling distresses . . . She 

does not know where Mr. is, and of course 

can never more endure to see him. She is now 

staying a few days at E with the s, 

who, I believe, have been all along very kind 
to her, and the circumstance is greatly to their 
credit.' 1 

It was with cases like these before them that 
the Brontes wrought the infelicity of Heathcliff 
and Isabella, of Huntingdon and Helen. They 
felt themselves compelled to represent life as it 
appeared to them, they said. 

1 T. Wemyss Reid's ' Charlotte Bronte, a Monograph/ 
chap, vii., p. 83. 

VOL. II. Q 



226 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Consumption and intemperance, the curses of 
our island and our climate, are found not the 
less in the West-Riding of Yorkshire. A cold 
and humid atmosphere, like poverty and want, 
begets a recourse to stimulants, and, with some 
natures, the bounds of moderation are soon 
passed. The prevalence of the latter evil had 
entered deeply, into Anne's thoughts. Her 
brothers occasional indulgence had made it 
familiar to her; but we should clearly commit 
an error, as well as a great injustice to her, 
in supposing that, in the character of Hun- 
tingdon, she wished to present his failings to 
the public. 

A careful study of the question has, indeed, 
convinced me, not only that Huntingdon is no 
portrait of Bran well Bronte, but that he is 
distinctly and designedly his very antitype. 
The author of ' Wildfell Hall ' could scarcely 
have created a character so completely differ- 
ent from Branwell, unless she intended to do 
so ; for, otherwise, writing under the influence 
of circumstances, and the inspiration of the 
moment, something of his strong personality 
must surely have found its way into the book. 



1 THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL.' 227 

It is pleasant to be thus able to record, as an 
act of justice to Anne Bronte, that, though she 
had been compelled to witness the results of 
intemperance both in Branwell and in others, 
she purposely conveyed her lesson of these 
evils in the acts and thoughts of a character 
utterly distinct from her brother. Indeed, she 
was at considerable pains which .have unfor- 
tunately availed little to prevent even a sus- 
picion that her brother was the prototype of 
Huntingdon ; for, to remove that impression, 
she has placed the hero of the story, Gilbert 
Markham, to a considerable extent, in Bran- 
well's very circumstances. There is no re- 
semblance between Markham's character and 
Bran well's, beyond that of an ardent and 
generous temperament; but it should be ob- 
served that exactly as with Branwell Mark- 
ham is enamoured of a married woman, the 
death of whose husband he anxiously awaits ; 
that this passion is attributed to him as a mono- 
mania 'A monomania,' says his brother Fergus, 
' but don't mention it ; all right but that;' and. 
lastly, that Markham, too, thinks, as Branwell 
did, that the deceased husband of the lady 

Q2 



228 THE BRONTE FAMILY 

' might have so constructed his will as to place 
restrictions upon her marrying again.' 

It should likewise be observed that ' Wildfell 
Hall ' is just as much a protest against manages- 
de convenance, as it is against intemperance ; 
but what had this to do with the family cir- 
cumstances of the Brontes? It had far more 
to do with such instances as that of 'Mr. and 

Mrs. / quoted above from Charlotte's letter, 

where infelicity was combined with intemper- 
ance, as it is in the case of Arthur and Helen 
Huntingdon. 



229 



CHAPTER XII. 

BRANWELL'S FAILINGS. PUBLICATION OF 
'JANE EYRE.' 

Novel-writing The Sisters' Method of Work Braiuvell's 
Failing Health and Irregularities ' Jane Eyre ' Its 
Reception and Character It was not Influenced by 
Bran well Letter and Sketches of Branwell, 1848. 

BUT, at this time, neither ' Wuthering Heights' 
nor < The Tenant of Wildfell Hall ' was before 
the public. It was not, indeed, till the summer 
of 1847 that the former, with ' Agnes Grey,' was 
accepted for publication. Meanwhile Anne 
was toiling away at her second book, and 
Charlotte was writing ' Jane Eyre,' under spells 
of inspiration. 

Mrs. Gaskell has told us that the sisters were 
wont to put away their work at nine o'clock, 
and to walk about the sitting-room, talking over 



230 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

the plots of their stories, and discussing the 
incidents of them. Once or twice a week 
each was accustomed to read to the others 
what she had written, and hear the opinions 
they passed upon it. Mr. Bronte retired early 
to rest, and was in ignorance of the nature of 
the work going on, for his daughters never 
spoke to him of it, any more than they did to 
their friends. The writing of the sisters was, 
in fact, a secret shared only by their brother 
Branwell, who unquestionably gave his advice 
upon it, and instructed them on many points, 
besides, of practical value in their dealings with 
publishers and literary men, which their small 
knowledge of the world caused them to over- 
look. 

But, at the time, Branwell's health was visi- 
bly failing, and it became evident that, though 
naturally stronger than his sisters, he was not 
exempt from the consumptive tendency of his 
family. All his endeavours to obtain employ- 
ment had proved futile. His physical health 
had long been giving way, and this soon ren- 
dered him incapable of sustained exertion. 
Much of his strange conduct arose probably 



BRANWELL'S FAILINGS. 231 

from the reaction of this weakness on a mind 
endowed with so much intellectual power. 

In most winters on these Yorkshire hills there 
are spells of severe frost and cold, and these 
were always times of suffering to the Brontes. 
Influenza would become epidemic at Haworth, 
and seldom neglected the inmates of the par- 
sonage, close by the churchyard as the house 
was. Mr. Bronte had struggled hard to have 
proper drainage introduced into the village, but 
in vain. There was, indeed, ' such a series of 
North-pole days ' in the December of 1846, as 
Charlotte did not remember ; the sky looked 
like ice, and the wind was as keen as a two- 
edged blade. The consequence was that all 
the house was laid up with coughs and colds. 
Anne suffered from asthma ; Mr. Bronte and 
Branwell had influenza and cough. Anxiously 
must they have watched every indication of 
change in the wind, and longed for the south- 
west breezes that, even in winter, sometimes 
came over the moors with all the softness of 
spring ; and, on this occasion, they were not long 
disappointed, and Anne became much better. The 
novel-writing went on as before. Branwell's 



232 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

weakness and failings sometimes broke in upon 
this employment, but we do not find that, dur- 
ing the year 1847, he gave such trouble as 
would be likely to influence his sisters' work. 
Of course he had little or no money at hand, 
and we know that he had contracted some 
small obligations during the period of distrac- 
tion of the previous year. The result of this 
was that a sheriffs-officer arrived at Haworth, 
and BranwelPs debts had to be paid, whereat 
his sister Charlotte seems to have been very 
angry, for she appears afterwards to accuse her- 
self of being ' too demonstrative and vehement.' 
About three months later Charlotte was again in 
doubt about Bran well ; she says his behaviour 
was ' extravagant,' and that he dropped ' mys- 
terious hints,' which led her to believe that he 
had contracted further debts. In this, however, 
she was mistaken. 

In the May of 1847, Charlotte invited < E.' to 
visit her, and said that Branwell was quieter, for 
the good reason that he had got to the end of a 
considerable sum of money he became possessed 
of in the spring, and was obliged to restrict him- 
self in some degree. ' You must,' she continues, 



BRANWELL'S FAILINGS. 233 

* expect to find him weaker in mind, and the 
complete rake in appearance. I have no appre- 
hension of his being uncivil to you; on the 
contrary, he will be as smooth as oil/ It would 
appear that he had had some sum laid out, 
which he then recovered ; but, as we have seen, 
he had got into debt before, and, in his alarm 
at the prospect of imprisonment in York Castle, 
it is said, told his friends, in the neighbourhood 
where he had been tutor, of his straits ; 
upon which the widow of his late employer 
sent him money in kindness of heart, through 
a third person. At this period he expended 
much of his time at home in reading, and he 
wrote several poems. 

At the end of July, Charlotte, as we have 
been told, consulted her brother as to the 
reason why Messrs. Smith and Elder, to whom 
she had sent ' The Professor,' did not reply. 
He at once set it down to her not having 
enclosed a postage stamp. On the 2nd of Au- 
gust, she wrote again, and promptly received 
the considerate answer which encouraged her 
to send to them, on the twenty-fourth of the 
same month, her three-volume work, 'Jane 



234 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Eyre.' This was accepted, and given to the 
world in the following October. Meanwhile, 
in the beginning of August, * E.' had paid 
her visit to the parsonage, and the friends had 
enjoyed the glorious weather in walking on 
the moors. Charlotte had returned the visit 
almost immediately, and the proofs of 'Jane 
Eyre ' were corrected by her during her ab- 
sence, sitting even at the same table with her 
friend, to whom, curiously enough, she said not 
a word about the work in hand. Upon her 
return to Ha worth, she wrote : ' I reached home, 
and found all well. Thank God for it.' < \Vu- 
thering Heights ' and < Agnes Grey ' still lin- 
gered in the hands of the publisher, from whom 
the authors had obtained but impoverishing 
terms ; < a bargain,' says Mrs. Gaskell, in men- 
tioning the circumstance, * to be alluded to 
further.' Nothing more, however, appears in 
the ' Life of Charlotte ' on the subject ; and 
we may hope that the celebrity which the 
novels of the Messrs. Bell ' soon acquired, made 
a substantial difference in the first terms of 
the agreement. During the next three months, 
Charlotte was in correspondence with Messrs. 



BRANWELL'S FALLINGS. 235- 

Smith and Elder, Mr. G. H. Lewes, and Mr. 
W. S. Williams, in respect of the reviews of 
' Jane Eyre,' which were then appearing: 

' Jane Eyre ' came upon the reading world 
of 1847 as a veritable revelation. It was a 
tragic story of the feelings, so different in char- 
acter from the trite affectations of the common- 
place novel of the day ; it was informed w r ith 
such a passionate energy, and filled with sucb 
soul-absorbing interests, that it was received at 
once as a monument of great and undoubted 
genius. Reading the book to-day, we can 
easily understand why Charlotte Bronte gain- 
ed such a mastery over the spirits of her time, 
and earned for herself an imperishable renown. 
She would clo the same now. The strange, 
lonely, unfriended childhood of Jane Eyre, the 
experiences she undergoes at Gateshead, and 
at the Lowood School, and her confidence and 
self-reliance through them all, mark the story 
as vitally true ; but, when this plain little per- 
sonage manifests the depths of her feelings, and 
calls forth our human sympathies in her hopes 
and her sorrows; when we read the terrific 
tragedy of her relationship with Rochester, and 



236 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

-are 8haken with the storm and stress of the 
feelings that move her; when, above all, we 
see her come out from the shadow, with her 
nobility and purity unsullied, though once more 
she is friendless and alone, we are carried be- 
yond ourselves in admiration of the genius who 
has painted a picture at once so truly human 
and so very strange. 

'Jane Eyre,' the book, was the natural and 
unforced outcome of its author's personality, 
and, though Jane Eyre, the character, is not 
Charlotte Bronte in the sense in which Lucy 
Snowe is, yet in Charlotte Bronte were all the 
powers and capabilities that moved Jane Eyre. 
This book, then, came upon people in 1847 as 
a revelation ; they felt themselves in the hands 
of a very Titan, and were carried on by an 
uncontrollable stream. But there were some 
amongst them who struggled against itsinfluence, 
when they found that the shallow bounds of 
conventionality had been far overpassed, and 
when they saw that its author was little skilled 
in the ways of the world. These revolted 
against the power that made them, perforce, 
interested in a character, in Rochester, who had 



BRANWELL'S FAILINGS. 237 

fallen away from the high Christian ideal. 
Hence arose that outcry against what was 
termed the 'immorality' of the book, against 
its * coarseness,' its ' laxity of tone,' and the 
'heathenish doctrine of religion' that filled it, 
which gave such pain, in the parsonage at 
Haworth, to the simple-minded girl, its author, 
against whom the dictum of the ' Quarterly 
Review ' was written : 'If we ascribe the book 
to a woman at all, we have no alternative but 
to ascribe it to one who has for some sufficient 
reason long forfeited the society of her own sex. 
But such critics as these forgot that the 
people whom we love most in life, are not 
those who are supremely noble, absolutely 
perfect, superhuman, and angelic ; but those 
who are beautiful and true in spite of their 
failings, and though clogged with all the faults 
with which our humanity has laden them ; those 
who, like the child in Wordsworth's ode, live 
trailing clouds of glory' with them from 
divinity, in the midst of the shame and sin of the 
world. These are the lights which illumine 
* Jane Eyre,' with a loveliness that is truly and 
perfectly human. So the book made its way, 



238 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

after the wild fervour of its first reception, to a 
pinnacle in English literature where it must ever 
remain, as the work of a great and original genius, 
and, as we new know, of a true and noble 
woman. 

Small need was there, then, that Mrs. Gaskell 
should seek to explain those features of Char- 
lotte's genius, which brought down upon < Jane 
Eyre ' and its author such expressions of blame 
as these, by references to her brother's character 
and history, as she understood them. Whatever 
may have been the case with the novels of Emily 
and Anne, those of Charlotte were clearly the 
outcome of her own nature and of her own 
experience, and were uninfluenced in one way or 
other by her brother. If she takes a suggestion 
from his affairs at all, she deals with it coldly or 
sternly. Take for instance that passage I have 
quoted from 6 The Professor/ where William 
Crimsworth speaks of his recollection of an in- 
stance of domestic treachery. 

In December, 1847, appeared the works of 
Ellis and Acton Bell. The Christmas of that 
year found the three sisters noted in the world 
of authors Currer Bell, famous. Not often can 



BRANWELL'S FAILINGS. 239 

so much be recorded of a family. Branwelt 
seems to have been considerably elated by their 
success, and the festivities of the season were 
indulged in by him to his injury. His feeble 
health was soon affected by things that would 
have had little influence upon ordinarily strong 
men, and he suffered the consequences. On the 
llth of January, 1848, Charlotte writes : < We 
have not been very comfortable here at home 
lately. Bran well has, by some means, continued 
to get more money from the old quarter, and has 
led us a sad life .... Papa is harassed day 
and night ; we have little peace ; he is always 
sick ; has two or three times fallen down in fits ; 
what will be the ultimate end, God knows. But 
who is without their drawback, their scourge, 
their skeleton behind the curtain? It remains 
only to do one's best, and endure with patience 
what God sends.' In this month the second 
edition of ( Jane Eyre ' appeared. 

It must have been in reference to this period 
that Mrs. Gaskell has said it might well have 
happened that Branwell had shot his father. 
But the statement is an exaggeration ; and, in- 
deed, I have been told, both by Martha Brown 



240 THE BROXTE FAMILY. 

and Nancy AVainwright, that Branwell was not 
nearly so bad as Mrs. Gaskell has made him 
appear. ' If he had wanted to shoot his father,' 
says my informant, 'he could easily have 
done it, for there were loaded guns and pistols 
hung over the bed-room door constantly.' She 
relates that, on one occasion, she was occupied 
in tidying up the bed-room, and had just taken 
down the fire-arms to dust, when Mr. Bronte 
entered the room in great consternation, for- 
bidding her, at any time thenceforth, on any 
account whatever, to meddle with them, for they 
were loaded even then, and might have been 
accidentally discharged to her own danger. He 
again hung up the arms himself. Mr. Bronte 
carried on this singular practice, and could not 
be induced to discontinue it ; and, as the reader 
is aware, Branwell and his father occupied this 
bed-room. 

Branwell himself was very conscious of his 
failings at this time, and somewhat ashamed of 
them. He writes to Leyland during the January 
of 1848: 'I was really far enough from well 
when I saw you last week at Halifax; and, if you 
should happen to see Mrs. of , you would 



BRANWELL'S FAILINGS. 241 

greatly oblige me by telling her that I consider 
her conduct towards me as most kind and 
motherly, and that, if I did anything during 
temporary illness, to offend her, I deeply regret 
it, and beg her to take my regret as my apology 
till I see her again ; which I trust will be ere 
long.' He continues, speaking in general terms 
of his literary work, and his poems, mentioning 
especially the poem of ' Caroline,' which he had 
written a long time before, and concludes by 
promising a longer letter later on. 

There is prefixed to this letter a drawing, one 
of the strangest that Bran well ever made, which 
he advises his friend to destroy, a portrait of 
himself, head and shoulders, vigorously executed 
with the pen, and an admirable likeness too, in 
profile, grave and thoughtful, wearing his spec- 
tacles, but a portrait of Branwell in what a 
plight! For, just as the martyrs of old are 
represented with the knife planted in their breast, 
and the rope placed round their neck, so has 
Branwell pictured himself, with the halter 
about his throat, in the morbid martyrdom of his 
feverish imagination. 

VOL. II. R 



242 



CHAPTER XIII. 
BRANWELL'S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 

Branvvell's Poetical Work Sketch of the Materials which 
he intended to use in the Poem of ' Morley Hall ' 
The Poem The Subject left Incomplete BranwelFs 
Poem, 'The End of All 'His Letter to Leyland 
asking an Opinion on his Poem, * Percy Hall ' Obser- 
vations The Poem. 

BRANWELL'S poetical work in this period, when 
his health was failing, is incomplete, for there 
remain two pieces from his hand, both of which 
are fragments only. The first of these ' is 
* Morley Hall,' which he was writing for his 
friend Leyland, but which he never lived to 
finish. He designed it to be an epic, in several 
cantos, dealing with a succession of romantic 
episodes, of which an elopement that actually 
took place, as I have previously had occasion 
to mention, was the chief feature. The part 



BRAXWELL'S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 243 

lie completed was the introductory canto, or 
rather a portion of it, which is given below ; 
but, since this was a work into which he entered 
with much spirit, and which would have been 
a long and important one, had it been com- 
pleted, it may not be amiss here to sketch 
briefly the materials with which he proposed to 
work. 

Morley Hall, or all that remains of it, is 
situated in the parish of Leigh, in the county 
of Lancaster ; and was the residence of two 
families in succession, which became allied by 
marriage, and attained some celebrity. The 
first family was that .of Leyland, originally of 
the place of that name in Lancashire, and after- 
Avards, for many generations preceding the 
reign of King Henry VIII., residing at Morley 
Hall. 

In Henry VIII.'s time the mansion was owned 
by Sir William Leyland, or L eland, whose 
family consisted of Thomas, his son and heir, 
and his daughters Anne and Elizabeth, by his 
marriage with Anne, daughter and heiress of 
Allan Syngleton of Whitgill, in Craven, Esq. 
Living in great opulence at Morley, Sir William 



244 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

was visited by the learned antiquary, his friend, 
and probably his relative, John L eland. This 
writer says of his visit: 'Gumming from Mari- 
chestre towards Morle, Syr William Lelande's 
howse, I passid by enclosid grounde, . . . leving 
on the left hand a mile and more of, a fair place of 
Mr. Langforde's caulledAgecroft . . . Morle, Mr. 
Lelande's Place, is bm'ldid, saving the Funda- 
tion, of stone squarid that risith within a great 
Moote a vi foot above the water, al of tymbre, 
after the commune sort of building of Houses of 
the Gentilmen for most of Lancastreshire. Ther 
is as much Plesnr of Orchardes, of great Varite 
of Frute and fair made Walkes and Gardines as 
ther is in any Place of Lancastreshire.' 1 

Sir William was succeeded by Thomas, his 
son, who had married Anne, daughter of Sir 
John Atherton, and had issue Robert, his son 
and heir, 2 and two daughters, Anne and Alice. 
Anne married Edward Tyldesley, of Tyldesley,. 
with whom the legend, versified by Mr. Peters, 
and on which Branwell intended to write at 

1 Itinerary, vol. 5, p. 83. 

2 Inquisition post mortem of Thomas Leyland of the 
Morleys, co. Lane., Esq. (Yorkshire lands) taken at Brad- 
ford, co. York, llth Sept., C Eliz. 



BRANWELL'S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 245 

greater length, alleges that she eloped. The 
tradition of this event still lingers at Morley 
Hall. It is said that when the attachment 
sprang up between Anne, the eldest daughter 
of Thomas Leyland, and Edward Tyldesley, the 
connection was forbidden by the lady's father. 
It is further said that, regardless of this prohi- 
bition, a night was fixed upon for an elopement, 
and that, when the inmates of the house were 
buried in sleep, it was arranged she should 
tie a rope round her waist, the loose end of 
^vhich she should throw across the moat to 
Tyldesley, who was to be in waiting, and, with 
another, should lower herself into the water, 
and be drawn to the land by him. The legend 
says this was successfully accomplished, and 
that the marriage was celebrated before the 
elopement was known to the family. 1 

It is remarkable that, while Thomas Leyland 
had a legitimate son and heir in Robert Ley- 
land, the manor-house of Morley and its de- 
mesnes passed into the family of Tyldesley by 
marriage alone, as if there had been no such 
person. 

1 ' The White Rose of York,' 1834, pp. 226229. 



246 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

There are other stories relating to this family, 
of wild and weird interest, with which Branwell 
was acquainted ; but this passing allusion is all 
that the scope of the present work will allow. 

Of the family of Tyldesley of Moiiey was the 
brave Sir Thomas, a major-general in the royal 
army, who was slain at Wigaii on the 25th of 
August, 1651. To this circumstance Branwell 
alludes in his poem. The fragment is as- 
follows : 

MORLEZ HALL, 

LEIGH LANCASHIRE. 

' When Life's youth, overcast by gathering clouds 
Of cares that come like funeral-following crowds, 
Wearying of that which is, and cannot see 
A sunbeam burst upon futurity, 
It tries to cast away the woes that are 
And borrow brighter joys from times afar. 
For what our feet tread may have been a road 
By horses' hoofs pressed 'neath a camel's load ; 
But what we ran across in childhood's hours 
Were fields, presenting June with May-tide flowers : 
So what was done and borne, if long ago, 

Will satisfy our heart, though stained by tears of woe. 

' When present sorrows every thought employ, 
Our father's woes may take the garb of joy, 



BRANWELL'S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 247 

And, knowing what our sires have undergone, 
Ourselves can smile, though weary, wandering on. 
For if our youth a thunder-cloud o'ershadows, 
Changing to barren swamps Life's flowering meadows. 
"We know that fiery flash and bursting peal 
Others, like us, were forced to hear and feel ; 
And while they moulder in a quiet grave, 
Robbed of all havings worthless all they have 
We still, with face erect, behold the sun 
Have bright examples in what has been done 
By head or hand and, in the times to come, 
May tread bright pathways to our gate of doom. 

' So, if we gaze from our snug villa's door, 
By vines or honeysuckles covered o'er, 
Though we have saddening thoughts, we still can smile 
In thinking our hut supersedes the pile 
Whose turrets totter 'mid the woods before us, 
And whose proud owners used to trample o'er us ; 
All now by weeds and ivy overgrown, 
And touched by Time, that hurls down stone from stone. 
We gaze with scorn on what is worn away, 
And never dream about our own decay. 
Thus, while this May-day cheers each flower and tree, 
Enlivening earth and almost cheering me, 
I half forget the mouldering moats of Leigh. 

* Wide Lancashire has changed its babyhood, 
As Time makes saplings spring to timber wood ; 
But as grown men their childhood still remember, 
And think of Summer in their dark December, 



248 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

So Manchester and Liverpool may wonder, 
And bow to old halls over which they ponder, 
Unknowing that man's spirit yearns to all 
Which once lost prayers can never more recall. 
The storied piles of mortar, brick, and stone, 
"Where trade bids noise and gain to struggle on, 
Competing for the prize that Mammon gives 
Youth killed by toil and profits bought with lives 
Will not prevent the quiet, thinking mind 
From looking back to years when Summer wind 
Sang, not o'er mills, but round ancestral halls, 
And, 'stead of engine's steam, gave dews from waterfalls. 

' He who by brick-built houses closely pent, 
That show nought beautiful to sight or scent, 
Pines for green fields, will cherish in his room 
Some pining plant bereft of natural bloom ; 
And, like the crowds which yonder factories hold, 
Withering 'mid warmth, and in their spring-tide old, 
So Lancashire may fondly look upon 
Her wrecks fast vanishing of ages gone, 
And while encroaching railroad, street, and mill 
On every side the smoky prospect fill, 
She yet may smile to see some tottering wall 
Bring old times back, like ancient Morley Hall. 
But towers that Leland saw in times of yore 
Are now, like Leland's works, almost no more 
The antiquarian's pages, cobweb-bound, 
The antique mansion, levelled with the ground. 

* When all is gone that once gave food to pride, 
Man little cares for what Time leaves beside ; 



BRANWELI/S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 249 

And when an orchard and a moat, half dry, 
Eemain, sole relics of a power passed by, 
Should we not think of \vhat ourselves shall be, 
And view our coffins in the stones of Leigh. 
For what within yon space was once the abode 
Of peace or war to man, and fear of God, 
Is now the daily sport of shower or wind, 
And no acquaintance holds with human kind. 
Some who can be loved, and love can give, 
While brain thinks, pulses beat, and bodies live, 
Must, in death's helplessness, lie down with those 
Who find, like us, the grave their last repose, 
When Death draws down the veil and Night bids 
Evening close. 

' King Charles, who, fortune falling, would not fall, 
Might glance with saddened eyes on Morley Hall, 
And, w r hile his throne escaped misfortune's wave, 
Remember Tyldesley died that throne to save/ 

Bvanwell's next poem of this period is entitled 
the ' End of All,' which is complete, and is one 
of the most pathetic he ever wrote. It consti- 
tutes a true picture of his mood, arid illustrates, 
at this time, the sombre and troubled nature of 
his thoughts. He pourtrays, in shades of great 
depth, his reflections on the death of one dear 
to him, whose loss leaves his soul a blank and 
desolate void, an evil which nothing can alle- 



250 THP] BRONTE FAMILY. 

viate or remove. But he dreams for a moment 
that a life of peril in far-off lands, and in battle, 
strife, and danger, that the 'stony joys' of 
solitary ambition, may shrine the 'memory of 
sorrows which cannot be destroyed. Yet, even 
from this cold dream, this cruel opiate of the 
heart, he is recalled by the groans of her who is 
dying, to the consciousness that, with her de- 
parture, all will go. The bereaved is Branwell 
himself, and his ' Mary ' is doubtless the lady of 
his misplaced affection, over whose loss he still 
broods in melancholy and afflicted language, 
each pathetic chord vibrating with intense 
mental anguish, as he contemplates the future 
years of desolation in which he is left to wander 
tombward unaided and alone. Here, as in his 
other poems, the rhythmic sweetness of Bran- 
well's verse flows on in words well chosen to 
express the idea he intends to convey, which 
itself is worked out with great suggestiveness of 
power. 

THE END OF ALL. 
4 In that unpitying Winter's night, 

When my own wife my Mary died, 
I, by my fire's declining light, 

Sat comfortless, and silent sighed, 



BRANWELI/S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 251 

While burst unchecked grief's bitter tide, 
As I, methought, when she was gone. 

Not hours, but years, like this must bide, 
And wake, and weep, and watch alone. 

4 All earthly hope had passed away, 

And each clock-stroke brought Death more nigh 
To the still-chamber where she lay, 

With soul and body calmed to die ; 

But mine was not her heavenward eye 
When hot tears scorched me, as her doom 

Made my sick heart throb heavily 
To give impatient anguish room. 

"<Oh now," methought, "a little while, 

And this great house will hold no more 

Her whose fond love the gloom could while 
Of many a long night gone before !" 
Oh ! all those happy hours were o'er 

When, seated by our own fireside, 
I'd smile to hear the wild winds roar, 

And turn to clasp my beauteous bride. 

' I could not bear the thoughts which rose 

Of what had been, and what must be, 
And still the dark night would disclose 

Its sorrow-pictured prophecy; 

Still saw 1 miserable me 
Long, long nights else, in lonely gloom, 

With time-bleached locks and trembling knee 
Walk aidless, hopeless, to my tomb. 



252 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

' Still, still that tomb's eternal shade 

Oppressed my heart with sickening fear, 

When I could see its shadow spread 
Over each dreary future year, 
Whose vale of tears woke such despair 

That, with the sweat-drops on my brow, 
I wildly raised my hands in prayer 

That Death would come and take me now ; 

* Then stopped to hear an answer given 

So much had madness warped my mind 
When, sudden, through the midnight heaven, 

With long howl woke the Winter's wind ; ' 

And roused in me, though undefined, 
A rushing thought of tumbling seas 

Whose wild waves wandered unconfined, 
And, far-off, surging, whispered, <; Peace." 

* I cannot speak the feeling strange, 

Which showed that vast December sea, 
Nor tell whence came that sudden change 

From aidless, hopeless misery ; 

But somehow it revealed to me 
A life when things I loved were gone 

Whose solitary liberty 
Might suit me wandering tomb ward on. 

' 'Twas not that I forgot my love 

That night departing evermore 

'Twas hopeless grief for her that drove 

My soul from all it prized before ; 

That misery called me to explore 



BRANWELI/S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 253- 

A new-born life, whose stony joy 

Might calm the pangs of sorrow o'er, 
Might shrine their memory, not destroy. 

' I rose, and drew the curtains back 

To gaze upon the starless waste, 
And image on that midnight wrack 

The path on which I longed to haste, 

From storm to storm continual cast, 
And not one moment given to view ; 

O'er mind's wild winds the memories passed 
Of hearts I loved of scenes I knew. 

4 My mind anticipated all 

The things my eyes have seen since then ; 
I heard the trumpet's battle-call, 

I rode o'er ranks of bleeding men, 

I swept the waves of Norway's main, 
I tracked the sands of Syria's shore, 

I felt that such strange strife and pain 
Might me from living death restore. 

' Ambition I would make my bride, 

And joy to see her robed in red, 
For none through blood so wildly ride 

As those whose hearts before have bled ; 

Yes, even though t/wu should'st long have laid' 
Pressed coldly down by churchyard clay, 

And though I knew thee thus decayed, 
I might smile grimly when away ; 

* Might give an opiate to my breast, 

Might dream : but oh ! that heart-wrung groan: 



254 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

Forced from me with the thought confessed 

That all would go if she were gone ; 

I turned, and wept, and wandered on 
All restlessly from room to room 

To that still chamber, where alone 
A sick -light glimmered through the gloom. 

4 The all-unnoticed time flew o'er me, 

While my breast bent above her bed, 
And that drear life which loomed before me 

Choked up my voice bowed down my head. 

Sweet holy words to me she said, 
Of that bright heaven which shone so near, 

And oft and fervently she prayed 
That I might some time meet her there ; 

' But, soon enough, all words were over, 

When this world passed, and Paradise, 
Through deadly darkness, seemed to hover 

O'er her half-dull, half-brightening eyes ; 

One last dear glance she gives her lover, 
One last embrace before she dies ; 

And then, while he seems bowed above her, 
His Mary sees him from the skies.' 

Another poem of Branwell's of this date, the 
last he ever wrote, is entitled 'Percy Hall/ 
which he did not live to complete. The first 
draft was sent for Leyland's opinion, with the 
following letter : 



BRANWELL'S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 255 

' Haworth, Bradford, 

'Yorks. 

' MY DEAR SIR, 

'I enclose the accompanying fragment, 
which is so soiled that I would have transcribed 
it, if I had had tko heart to exert myself, only 
in order to get from you an opinion as to whe- 
ther, when finished, it would be worth sending 
to some respectable periodical, like "Black- 
wood's Magazine." 

'I trust you got safely home from rough 
Haworth, and am, 

6 Dear Sir, 

' Your most sincerely, 

P. B. BRONTE.' 

At the foot of the page on which the letter 
is written, is drawn, in pen-and-ink, a low, 
massive, stone cross, inscribed with the word, 
4 POBRE !' standing on the top of a bleak hill, 
with a wild sky behind; and Branwell says 
of it below : ' The best epitaph ever written. 
It is carved on a rude cross in Spain, over a 
murdered traveller, and simply means " Poor 
fellow !" : It will be remembered, in connec- 



256 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

tion with this idea of Branwell's, that Lord 
Byron, in one of his letters, describes the im- 
pression produced upon him by seeing the 
inscription, ' Implora pace !' upon a tomb at 
Bologna, The poet says : ' When I die, I 
should wish that some friend would see these 
words, and no other, placed above my grave 
" Implora pace !''* : The perusal of this remark 
induced Mrs. Hemans to write her pathetic little 
poem which has the Italian epitaph for its title. 

This letter of Branwell's is particularly in- 
teresting, because it shows us that, even in the 
last year of his life, and when dealing with the 
last uncompleted poem he ever wrote, he 
preserved the ambition of appearing in the 
literary world as a poet ; and because he again 
speaks of ' Blackwood's Magazine,' whose value, 
it will be remembered, had impressed itself 
upon the youthful minds of himself and his 
sisters. 

The fragment, 'Percy Hall,' which was en- 
closed with the letter to Leyland, though still 
morbid, is one of the most exquisite its author 
wrote. Here, by a strange and beautiful co- 
incidenceif coincidence it be we find Bran- 



BRANWELL'S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 257 

well, in his latest work, as in his youthful ones, 
given in the earlier part of this work, occu- 
pied with the dread study of a consumptive 
decline ; we find him, in short, tinctured with 
the shadows of his later career, telling again 
of the death of that sister, whose memory he 
cherished with a life-long affection ; and per- 
haps, too, with a deeper insight than the other 
members of his family possessed, he foretells 
the end that awaited his sisters Emily and Anne, 
from that disease, whose poison was working 
in his own slender frame. The treatment of 
the subject, indeed, is truly characteristic of 
Branwell's feelings at the time, and of his im- 
pressions engendered by the mournful malady 
with which his family was afflicted. This poem, 
like some of those already noticed in the former 
pages of the present work, is distinguished by 
images, scenes, and conceptions, almost invari- 
ably animated by the instinctive power and 
originality of genius. His descriptions of the 
condition of the lady, of the way in which 
weakness has schooled her to regard the future 
the natural expression doubtless of Branwell 
at the time of the influences that < forbade her 
VOL. II. S 



258 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

heart to throb, her spirit to despond/ and of 
the agonized feelings of the survivor, are all 
instinct with the living breath of reality ; they 
have the sublime dignity of truth, springing, 
as they do, from a knowledge far too intimate 
with the sorrows which inspired the poem. Per- 
haps, in the gaiety of the affectionate Percy, 
Branwell depicts, in some sort, his own dis- 
position, though it has never been charged 
against him that he was beguiled by * syren 
smiles,' or seduced by the delights of 'play.' 
It seems to me that Branwell's poetical genius 
is as much higher than that of his sister Emily 
as hers was superior to the talents of Charlotte 
and Anne, in their versified productions. Beau- 
tiful, wild, and touching, like strains from the 
harp of ^Eolus, as are the emanations of Emily's 
poetical inspiration, they lack the force, depth, 
and breadth of Branwell's more expansive power 
of imagination, as displayed in his best produc- 
tions; though even Branwell's poetical remains 
contain rather the evidence of power than the 
full expression of it. 



BRANWELL'S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 259 



PERCY HALL. 

The westering sunbeams smiled on Percy Hall, 

And green leaves glittered o'er the ancient wall 

Where Mary sat, to feel the summer breeze, 

And hear its music mingling 'mid the trees. 

There she had rested in her quiet bower 

Through June's long afternoon, while hour on hour 

Stole, sweetly shining past her, till the shades, 

Scarce noticed, lengthened o'er the grassy glades ; 

But yet she sat, as if she knew not how 

Her time wore on, with Heaven-directed brow, 

And eyes that only seemed awake, whene'er 

Her face was fanned by summer evening's air. 

All day her limbs a weariness would feel, 

As if a slumber o'er her frame would steal ; 

Nor could she wake her drowsy thoughts to care 

For day, or hour, or what she was, or where : 

Thus lost in dreams, although debarred from sleep, 

While through her limbs a feverish heat would creep, 

A weariness, a listlessness, that hung 

About her vigour, and Life's powers unstrung 

She did not feel the iron gripe of pain, 

But thought felt irksome to her heated brain ; 

Sometimes the stately woods would float before her, 

Commingled with the cloud-piles brightening o'er her, 

Then change to scenes for ever lost to view, 

Or mock with phantoms which she never knew : 

Sometimes her soul seemed brooding on to-day, 

And then it wildly wandered far away, 



260 THE BROXTE FAMILY. 

Snatching short glimpses of her infancy, 
Or lost in day-dreams of what yet might be. 

4 Yes through the labyrinth-like course of thought 
Whate'er might be remembered or forgot, 
Howe'er diseased the dream might be, or dim, 
Still seemed the Future through each change to swim,. 
All indefinable, but pointing on 
To what should welcome her when Life was gone ; 
She felt as if to all she knew so well 
Its voice was whispering her to say " farewell ;'' 
Was bidding her forget her happy home ; 
Was farther fleeting still still beckoning her to come. 

' She felt as one might feel who, laid at rest, 
With cold hands folded on a panting breast, 
Has just received a husband's last embrace, 
Has kissed a child, and turned a pallid face 
From this world with its feelings all laid by 
To one unknown, yet hovering oh ! how nigh ! 

1 And yet unlike that image of decay 
There hovered round her, as she silent lay, 
A holy sunlight, an angelic bloom, 
That brightened up the terrors of the tomb, 
And, as it showed Heaven's glorious world beyond r 
Forbade her heart to throb, her spirit to despond. 

' But, who steps forward, o'er the glowing green, 
With silent tread, these stately groves between? 
To watch his fragile flower, who sees him not, 
Yet keeps his image blended with each thought, 
Since but for him stole down that single tear 



BRAN WELL'S LATER POETICAL WORKS. 261 

From her blue eyes, to think how very near 
Their farewell hour might be ! 

' With silent tread 

Percy bent o'er his wife his golden head ; 
And, while he smiled to see how calm she slept, 
A gentle feeling o'er his spirit crept, 
Which made him turn toward the shining sky 
With heart expanding to its majesty, 
While he bethought him how more blest its glow 
Than that he left one single hour ago, 
Where proud rooms, heated by a feverish light, 
Forced vice and villainy upon his sight ; 
Where snared himself, or snaring into crime, 
His soul had drowned its hour, and lost its count of 
time. 

* The syren-sighs and smiles were banished now, 
The cares of " play " had vanished from his brow ; 
He took his Mary's hot hand in his own, 
She raised her eyes, and oh, how soft they shone! 
Kindling to fondness through their mist of tears, 
Wakening afresh the light of fading years ! 
He knew not why she turned those shining eyes 
With such a mute submission to the skies ; 
He knew not why her arm embraced him so, 
As if she must depart, yet could not let him go ! 

' With death-like voice, but angel-smile, she said, 
" My love, they need not care, when I am dead, 
To deck with flowers my capped and coffined head ; 



262 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

For all the flowers which I should love to see 
Are blooming now, and will have died with me : 
The same sun bids us all revive to-day, 
And the same winds will bid us to decay ; 
When Winter comes we all shall be no more 
Departed into dust next, covered o'er 
By Spring's reviving green. See, Percy, now 
How red my cheek how red my roses blow ! 
But come again when blasts of Autumn come ; 
Then mark their changing leaves, their blighted bloom; 
Then come to my bedside, then look at me, 
How changed in all except my love for theef 

' She spoke, and laid her hot hand on his own ; 
But he nought answered, save a heart- wrung groan ; 
For oh ! too sure, her voice prophetic sounded 
Too clear the proofs that in her face abounded 
Of swift Consumption's power ! Although each day 
He'd seen her airy lightness fail away. 
And gleams unnatural glisten in her eye ; 
He had not dared to dream that she could die, 
But only fancied his a causeless fear 
Of losing something which he held so dear ; 
Yet now when, startled at her prophet-cries, 
To hers he turned his stricken, stone-like eyes, 
And o'er her cheek declined his blighted head. 
He saw Death write on it the fatal red 
He saw, and straightway sank his spirit's light 
Into the sunless twilight of the starless night ! 

' While he sat, shaken by his sudden shock, 
Again and with an earnestness she spoke, 



26.3 



As if the world of her Creator shone 

Through all the cloudy shadows of her own : 

" Come grieve not darling o'er my early doom ; 

'Tis well that Death no drearier shape assume 

Than this he conies in well that widowed age 

"Will not extend my friendless pilgrimage 

Through Life's dim vale of tears 'tis well that Pain 

Wields not its lash nor binds its burning chain, 

But leaves my death-bed to a mild decline, 

Soothed and supported by a love like thine !" ' 

My copy of the poem is illustrated with a por- 
trait, by J. B. Leyland, in pen-and-ink, of the 
ideal Percy. The drawing is bold and effective ; 
and, though not intended for an exact portrait of 
Branwell, bears some resemblance to him in 
general character. The sketch is signed, 
'Northangerland,' at the top; and, at the bottom, 
* Alexander Percy, Esq. ;' while the artist's name 
is discerned among the shadows which fall from 
the figure of Percy. 



264 



CHAPTER XIV. 

FAME AT HAWORTH. 

Charlotte Corresponds on Literary Subjects Novels Con- 
fession of Authorship Branwell's Failing Health He 
Writes to Leyland Branwell and Mr. George Searle 
Phillips Branwell's Intellect Retains its Power His 
Description of 'Professor Leonidas Lyon' The latter 
Gentleman's Account of his Reading of ' Jane Eyre 7 
Branwell's Remarks on Charlotte and the Work. 

THE early months of the year 1848 proved a 
severe trial for the Brcnte family, as they did to 
the whole of the Ha worth villagers. Influenza 
and other ailments were prevalent, and the sisters 
did not escape the former: Anne, indeed, suffered 
from a severe cough, with some fever, and her 
friends became alarmed. The position of the 
parsonage in relation to the churchyard rendered 
it unhealthy ; but, at the instance of Mr. Bronte, 
a new grave-yard was opened in another place. 



FAME AT HAWORTH. 

He did not, however, succeed in his attempt to 
get a good supply of water laid on to each 
house. 

Charlotte, at the time, was still in correspond- 
ence with Mr. Lewes and Mr. Williams, about the 
review of 'Jane Eyre' in 'Fraser's Magazine, 1 and 
about other literary subjects. She was still 
keeping the secret of the authorship of her book 
from her friends, putting off 'E.' with evasive 

letters, and wishing her to * laugh or scold A 

out of the publishing notion/ ' Wuthering 
Heights ' had not been received by the public 
with much favour, and we do not hear of any 
further literary work by Emily. But Charlotte 
was writing Shirley,' and Anne was going on 
with ' The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' despite a 
consumptive listlessness that Avas upon her, such 
as Branwell describes in the wife of ' Percy ;' 
and, in her letter written in January, Anne 
told ' E.' that they had clone nothing ' to speak 
of since she was at Haworth ; yet they contrived 
to be busy from morning till night. In the spring, 
however, when this friend visited the Brontes 
again, full confession of authorship was made, 
and the poems and novels were shown to her. 



266 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

The identity of Mr. Bronte's daughters with the 
4 Messrs. Bell,' had, however, been known to some, 
in connection with the poems, at an earlier date, 
and was occasionally spoken of, though the fact 
was not made public. Branwell himself was at 
home, quieter, but still failing in health and 
strength, for the constitutional taint, aided by his 
low spirits, and a bronchitis which had become 
chronic, was telling upon him. 

' The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' was submitted 
to the publisher of ' Wuthering Heights ' and 
4 Agnes Grey/ and accepted by him in the June 
of this year. If the first works of Ellis and Acton 
Bell were undervalued because they were 
believed to be the earlier productions of the 
author of * Jane Eyre,' Acton's new volume 
derived enhanced importance from being thought 
to be a production of the same hand. ' Jane 
Eyre ' had had a great run in America, and a 
publisher there had offered Messrs. Smith and 
Elder a high price for early sheets of the next 
work of its author, which they accepted. But 
the publishers of < The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' 
believing that Acton Bell was but a second name 
assumed by Currer Bell, made a similar offer to 



FAME AT HAWORTH. 267 

another American house. This circumstance led 
to questions and explanations ; and Charlotte 
and Anne determined to visit London, in order 
to assure Messrs. Smith and Elder that they were 
indeed distinct persons. The publishers were 
very much astonished to see the two delicate 
ladies, and they made them very welcome. 
Charlotte and Anne went to the Opera, they went 
to the Royal Academy and the National Gallery, 
and they visited Mr. Smith and Mr. Williams 
before returning to Haworth. 

They found Branwell at home, physically the 
same as when they left him, gradually failing 
from the chronic bronchitis which had lasted 
through the summer, and with the perceptible 
wasting away of decline. Writing to his friend 
Leyland on July 22nd, he speaks of ' five months 
of utter sleeplessness, violent cough, and frightful 
agony of mind.' ' Long have I resolved/ he- 
continues, ' to write to you a letter of five or six 
pages, but intolerable mental wretchedness and 
corporeal weakness have utterly prevented me/ 
The letter is signed, ' Yours sincerely, but nearly 
worn out, P. B. Bronte.' Charlotte attributed 
his illness to indulgence solely, and she had no 



268 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

suspicion that the end was but two months 
away. She writes on July 28th : ' Branwell is 
the same in conduct as ever. His constitution 
seems much shattered. Papa, and sometimes 
all of us, have sad nights with him. He sleeps 
most of the day, and consequently will lie 
awake at night. But has not every house its 
trial ? n But Branwell's condition of health 
was not such as to keep him within doors, and 
there were revivals, as in Anne's case also, 
which permitted him to visit his friends. I 
spoke to him once in Halifax at the time, and 
he was often seen in the village of Ha worth. 

An interesting episode occurred in August or 
September, for an account of which we are in- 
debted to Mr. George Searle Phillips. 2 We 
learn from it that, in the midst of physical de- 
cay and mental distress, Bran w ell's intellect 
retained its power to the last ; and we learn 
-also what pride he took in the works of his 
sisters, and in the reputation they had made. 
I can myself, from personal knowledge, endorse 

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

' Branwell Bronte.' The Mirror, a reflex of the 
World's Literature, 1872. 



FAME AT HA WORTH. 

all that Mr. Phillips says as to Bran well's bril- 
liancy of intellect at this time. When Charlotte 
and Anne went to London, they had assumed 
the name of Brown ; but their real name and 
the place of their residence were communicated 
to some people, and it was not long before it 
became cpietly known. Then began the stream 
of pilgrims to the shrine of genius at Haworth, 
which has continued from that day to this, and 
will for many more. One gentleman, indeed, 
at the time, stayed three days at Haworth, 
maintaining a close intimacy with Branwell, 
and we know, from Mr. Phillips' narrative, in 
what light Branwell looked upon the first- 
comers. 

' Branwell,' says his friend, ' during the latter 
part of my acquaintance with him, was much 
altered for the worse, in his personal appear- 
ance ; but if he had altered in the same direc- 
tion mentally, as his biographer says he had, 
then he must have been a man of immense and 
brilliant intellect. For 1 have rarely heard more 
eloquent and thoughtful discourse, flashing so 
brightly with random jewels of wit, and made- 
more sunny and musical with poetry, than that 



270 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

which flowed from his lips during the evenings 
I passed with him at the " Black Bull," in the 
village of Haworth. His figure was very slight, 
and he had, like his sister Charlotte, a superb 
forehead. But, even when pretty deep in his 
cups, he had not the slightest appearance of the 
sot that Mrs. Gaskell says he was. " His great 
tawny inane " meaning thereby the hair of his 
head was, it is true, somewhat dishevelled; 
but, apart from this, he gave no sign of intoxi- 
cation. His eye was as bright, and his features 
were as animated, as they very well could be ; 
and, moreover, his whole manner gave indica- 
tions of intense enjoyment.' 

Branwell described some of the characters in 
the novels, and talked much about his sisters, 
and especially about Charlotte, whose celebrity, 
he said, had already attracted more strangers to 
the village than had been known before ; and 
Mr. Phillips gives the following account of the 
visit of one gentleman, an enthusiastic admirer 
of ' Jane Eyre,' whose somewhat eccentric per- 
sonality he has veiled under the style and title 
of ' Leonidas Lyon, Professor of Greek in the 
London University ' : 



FAME AT HA WORTH. 271 

4 One evening, as we sat together in the little 
parlour of the Inn, the landlord entered, and 
asked Branwell if he would see a gentleman 
who wanted to make his acquaintance. 

' " He's a funny fellow," said the landlord ; 
" and is somebody, I dare swear, with lots of 
money." 

< As the landlord spoke, a squat little dapper 
fellow, with a white fur hat on his head, an 
umbrella under his arm, and a pair of blue 
spectacles on his nose, strutted into the room 
ficms ccremonie. He approached the table in a 
very fussy and excited manner, exclaiming : 

{ " Landlord, bring us some brandy. I must 
have the pleasure of drinking a glass with the 
brother of that distinguished lady, who wrote 
the great book that made London blaze. Three 
glasses, landlord do you hear? And you, sir, 
are the great lady's brother, I presume ? Pro- 
fessor Leonidas Lyon, sir, has the honour of 
introducing himself to your distinguished 
notice." 

' Branwell responded, gravely : 

'" Patrick Branwell Bronte', sir, has the honour 



272 THE BROXTE FAMILY. 

of welcoming you to Haworth, and begging you 
to be seated." 

* Whereupon the little man bowed and scrap- 
ed, and laughed a good-humoured laugh all 
over his good, round face, and said it was an 
honour he could not have hoped for, to sit as a 
guest at the same board, as he might say, " with 
the brother, the very flesh and blood, of the 
great lady who wrote the book." 

* Here the brandy and water came in, and the 
little man grew merrier still, and more com- 
municative. He was a Professor of Greek at 
the London University, and, chancing to be at 
Smith's, the London publisher's, whose friend 
Williams was a " wonderful man of letters a 
very wonderful man indeed F' Williams asked 
the Professor if he had seen the book of the 
season "the immense book," he called it 
which was going to make one good reputation, 
and half a dozen fortunes. Mr. Williams 
praised it so highly that he (the Professor) grew 
wild about it, and asked where it could be got. 
Upon this, he threw a sovereign to pay for it, 
and ran home without his change, to read it, 
<; It was prodigious, sir," he exclaimed.' 



FAME AT HA WORTH. 273 

The Professor went on in high praise of ' Jane 
Eyre,' and told Bramvell and Mr. Phillips that 
his bed-time was ten o'clock, but that, when 
reading the book, he had sat on, completely ab- 
sorbed, until six o'clock in the morning, when 
the housemaid came. Then he had retired to 
his own room, but, instead of going to bed, had 
sat on the edge of it, until he finished the story 
at ten A.M. Branwell said this history of a Pro- 
fessor's reading of ' Jane Eyre ' made him laugh 
'as if he would split his sides.' And when 
he told Charlotte about it the next day, she 
laughed heartily, too, as did the other sisters, 
when she went up stairs to tell them, and 
their laughter moved Branwell to renewed 
merriment. 

4 When the Professor's story was ended,' con- 
tinues Mr. Phillips, ' he tried to cajole Branwell 
into introducing him to the " great lady " who 
wrote the book. He was dying to see her, he 
said, and had come all the way down into York- 
shire, from London, in the fond hope of getting 
a glimpse of her, and perhaps of touching the 
hem of her garment. When he found tha 
Branwell fought shy of the proposition he actual- 

VOL. ii. T 



274 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

ly offered him a large sum of money, and then, 
taking from his fob a valuable gold watch, laid 
it on the table, and said he would throw that in 
to boot, if he would only let him see her and 
shake hands with her 

'Poor Bran well spoke of his sister in most 
affectionate terms, such as none but a man of 
deep feeling could utter. He knew her power, 
and what tremendous depths of passion and 
pathos lay hid in her great surging heart, long 
before she gave expression to them in " Jane 
Eyre." When she wrote the first chapters of 
her Richardsonian novel, he condemned the 
work as in opposition to her genius which is 
good proof of his discrimination and critical 
judgment. But when " The Professor " was 
written, he said that was better, but that she 
could do better still; and, although it is not 
equal to " Jane Eyre," yet it is a work of great 
originality and dramatic interest. 

' <; I know," said Branwell, after speaking of 
Charlotte's talents, " that I also had stuff enough 
in me to make popular stones ; but the failure of 
the Academy plan ruined me. I was felled, like 
a tree in the forest, by a sudden and strong 



FAME AT HA WORTH. 275 

wind, to rise no more. Fancy me, with my 
education, and those early dreams, which had 
almost ripened into realities, turning counter- 
jumper, or a clerk in a railway-office, which last 
was, you know, my occupation for some time. 
It simply degraded me in my own eyes, and 
broke my heart." 

'It was useless/ says Mr. Phillips, 'to 
remonstrate with him, and yet I could not 
help it, and did my best to rouse the sleeping 
energies within him to noble action once 
more. 

' " It is too late," he said ; Ci and you would say 
so, too, if you knew all." He used to be the 
oracle of the secluded household in earlier days 
before the love of drink mastered him. His 
opinion was invariably sought for upon the 
literary performances of his sisters ; but at the 
time I am now speaking of, he was a cipher in 
the house.' 

Such is the account given by Mr. Phillips of 
his friend ; so different in its character from that 
which Mr. Grundy, and, following him, Miss 
Robinson, offer, in the incredible episode of the 
carving-knife and the slaying of the devil, un- 

T 2 



276 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

less we believe the incident which that gentle- 
man states to have taken place at this period, 
how erroneously we have seen to have been 
acted, as is most probable, in grotesque humour. 
During the last two months of his life, Braii- 
well became the object of much interest and 
received some homage ; for, his sisters living se- 
cluded lives, he was generally the only member 
of the family accessible to the public. When 
he met with strangers, he invariably comported 
himself with becoming dignity, and did not lay 
himself open to the effects of their curiosity. Those 
who made his acquaintance were impressed, as 
Mr. Phillips was, with his great mental calibre, 
and with the grace and wit of his conversation. 
One gentleman himself at the present time in 
the first place in one of the professions who 
knew Branwell intimately, declares to me that 
he always believed the abilities of Charlotte's 
brother were such as might have placed him in 
the very front rank of literature. 



277 



CHAPTER XV. 

DEATH OF BRANWELL. 

Branwell's failing Health Chronic Bronchitis and Maras- 
mus His Death Charlotte's allusions to it Correc- 
tion of some Statements relating to it Summary of 
the subsequent History of the Bronte Family. 

THE spring and summer of the year 1848 were 
wild, wet, and unfavourable, and the fine wea- 
ther in August was of little benefit to Bran.well. 
His appetite was diminished, and he was weaker. 
He was suffering, in addition to his chronic 
bronchitis, from marasmus, a consumptive wast- 
ing away, arising from hereditary tendency, as 
well as from mental agony and the effects of 
irregular life. However, neither himself nor his 
family, nor his medical attendants had any 
anticipation of immediate danger. 



278 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

He was not, indeed, altogether confined to 
the house, and he was in the village only two 
days before his death ; but, on that occasion, 
his strength failed before he reached his home, 
William Brown, the sexton's brother, found him' 
in the lane which leads up to the parsonage, 
quite exhausted, panting for breath, and unable 
to proceed. He was helped to the house, which' 
he never again left alive. 

In the last few days of his life, Branwell was 
more reconciled, more subdued, and better feel- 
ings filled his mind. The affection of his family 
returned undiminished, and they watched with 
intense anxiety the end of their cherished bro- 
ther. The strange madness that had clouded 
his mind for so many months, left him now, and 
the simple thoughts and feelings of his early 
years came back to him again. He died on 
the morning of Sunday, September the 24th. 
He had talked through the night of his mis- 
spent life, his wasted youth, and his shame, with 
compunction. He was also filled with the 

' Sense of past youth and manhood come in vain, 
Of genius given, and knowledge won in vain.' 



DEATH OF BRANWELL. 271) 

His natural love likewise came out in beautiful 
and touching words, that consoled and satisfied 
those he was about to leave for ever. 

Some time before the end, John Brown en- 
tered Branwell's room, and they were alone. 
The young man, though faint and dying, spoke 
of the life they had led together. He took a 
short retrospect of his past excesses, in which 
the grave-digger had often partaken ; but in 
it he made no mention of the lady whose image 
had distracted his brain. He appeared, in the 
calmness of approaching death, and the self- 
possession that preceded it, to be unconscious 
that he had ever loved any but the members 
of his family, for the depth and tenderness of 
which affection he could find no language to 
express. But, presently, seizing Brown's hand, 
he uttered the words : ' Oh, John, I am dying !' 
then, turning, as if within himself, he murmured : 
'In all my past life I have done nothing either 
great or good.' Conscious that the last moment 
was near, the sexton summoned the household ; 
and retreated to the belfry. It was about nine 
in the morning when the agony began. Bran- 



280 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

well's struggles and convulsions were great, 
and continued for some time : in the last gasp, 
he started convulsively, almost to his feet, and 
fell dead into his father's arms. 

Mrs. Gaskell says, of this event : ' I have 
heard, from one who attended Branwell in his 
last illness, that he resolved on standing up to 
die. He had repeatedly said, that as long as 
there was life, there was strength of will to do 
what it chose ; and, when the last agony began, 
he insisted on assuming the position just men- 
tioned.' This account does not accord with 
that given to rne by the Browns, and, perhaps, 
it arose from some exaggeration of what actually 
took place. 

On October the 9th, Charlotte writes thus of 
her brother's end : ' The past three weeks have 
been a dark interval in our humble home. 
BranwelFs constitution has been failing fast all 
the summer; but still neither the doctors nor 
himself thought him so near his end as lie 
was. He was entirely confined to his bed but 
for one single day, and was in the village two 
days before his death. He died, after twenty 
minutes' struggle, on Sunday morning, Sep- 



DEATH OF BRANWELL. 281 

t ember 24th. He was perfectly conscious till 
the last agony came on. His mind had under- 
gone the peculiar change which frequently 
precedes death, two days previously ; the calm 
of better feelings filled it; a return of natural 
affection marked his last moments. He is in 
God's hands now ; and the All-Powerful is like- 
wise the All-Merciful. A deep conviction that 
he rests at last rests well after his brief, erring. 
suffering, feverish life fills and quiets my mind 
now. The final separation, the spectacle of 
his pale corpse, gave me more acute, bitter 
pain than I could have imagined. Till the last 
hour comes, we never know how much we can 
forgive, pity, regret a near relative. All his 
vices were and are nothing now. We remember 
only his woes. Papa was acutely distressed at 
first, but, on the whole, has borne the event 
well/ 1 

A few days later she wrote to another friend, 
speaking of her brother's death. ' The event to 
which you allude came upon us indeed with 
startling suddenness, and was a severe shock to 

us all I thank you for your kind 

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



282 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

sympathy. Many, under the circumstances, 
would think our loss rather a relief than other- 
wise ; in truth, we must acknowledge, in all 
humility and gratitude, that God has greatly 
tempered judgment with mercy; but, yet, as 
you doubtless know from experience, the last 
earthly separation cannot take place between 
near relations without the keenest pangs on the 
part of the survivors. Every wrong and sin is 
forgotten then ; pity and grief share the hearts 
and the memory between them. Yet we are 
not without comfort in our affliction. A most 
propitious change marked the last few days of 

poor Bran well's t life and this change 

could not be owing to the fear of death, for 
within half-an-hour of his decease he seemed 
unconscious of danger.' 

Charlotte concludes by referring to her 
own health, which had given way under the 

strain. 1 

Branwell was buried in the grave in which 

the remains of his sisters Maria and Elizabeth 
lay, and his name is placed next after theirs on 

1{ Charlotte Bronte: a Monograph,' by T. Wemyss 
Eeid, p. 90. 



DEATH OF BRANWELL. 283 

the tablet. Thus, after twenty-three years, 
he joined in the dust those from whom in 
life he had never been separated in affec- 
tion. 

It would have been well if, when the grave 
closed over his mortal remains, it had buried in 
oblivion the memory of his failings and his 
sorrows. Charlotte, as we have seen, when her 
brother was gone, remembered nothing but his 
woes ; and, if the biographers of herself and 
her sister Emily had consulted the feelings of 
those on whom they wrote which have been 
so touchingly and tearfully expressed by Char- 
lotte they would have drawn the veil over 
whatever offences Branwell, as mortal, might 
have committed. But, amongst Mrs. Gaskell's 
other statements regarding him, there is one, 
relating even to his death, which cannot be 
passed over in silence here, since, though she 
had been compelled to omit it, with her other 
charges, from the second edition of her work, 
Miss Robinson has reproduced it recently in her 
f Emily Bronte.' The statement was to the effect 
that, when Branwell died, his pockets were filled 
with the letters of the lady whom he had ad- 



284 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

mired. 1 To this bold statement Martha Brown 
gave to me a flat contradiction, declaring that 
she was employed in the sick-room at the time, 
and had personal knowledge that not one letter, 
nor a vestige of one, from the lady in question 
was so found. The letters were mostly from a 
gentleman of Branwell's acquaintance, then 
living near the place of his former employment. 
Martha was indignant at the misrepresentation. 
It may not be amiss here, in the briefest pos- 
sible way, to give an outline of the subsequent 
history of the Bronte family. Emily's health 
began rapidly to fail after Branwell's death, 
which was a great shock to her, and she never 
left the house alive after the Sunday succeeding 
it. Her cough was very obstinate, and she was 
troubled with shortness of breath. Charlotte 
saw the danger, but could do nothing to ward 
it off, for Emily was silent and reserved, gave 
no answers to questions, and took no remedies 
that were prescribed. She grew weaker daily, 
and the end came on Tuesday, December the 
19th. At the same time Anne was slowly fail- 
ing, but she lingered longer. ' Anne's decline,' 
1 Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' chap. xvi. 1st Eel. 



DEATH OF BRANWELL. 285 

said Charlotte, 'is gradual and fluctuating; but 
its nature is not doubtful.' Unlike Emily, she 
looked for sympathy, took medicines, and did 
her best to get well. It was arranged at last 
that Charlotte and she should go to Scarbor- 
ough, hoping the change of air might invigor- 
ate her, and they left the parsonage on May the 
24th, 1849. But the change had no beneficial 
effect, and Anne died on May the 28th, at Scar- 
borough, where she was buried. 

After this the more purely literary portion of 
Charlotte's life commenced. She completed 
'Shirley' early in September, 1849, and it was 
published on October the 26th. Her real name, and 
the neighbourhood in which she resided, became 
now generally known. The reviews showered 
rapidly; but Charlotte thought that one the best by 
Eugene Forade,in the 'Revue des deux Mondee.' 
The cloud now passed away from her, and she- 
visited London, made the acquaintance of 
Thackeray, Miss Martineau, and others, and 
entered eagerly into the occupations of literary 
life. 'Villette' was completed in November, 
1852. Charlotte married the Rev. Arthur Bell 
Nicholls, who had long been her father's curate, 



286 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

on June the 29th, 1854, and she died on Saturday, 
March the 3 1st, 1855. The Rev. Patrick Bronte, 
whom I knew, a fine, tall, grey-haired, and 
venerable old man, survived all his children, and 
died at Haworth on January 7th, 1861. 



287 



CHAPTER XVI. 
BRANWELL'S CHARACTER. 

Branwell's Character in his Poetry The Pious and Tender 
Tone of Mind which it Displays Branwell's Tendency 
to Dwell on the Past rather than on the Future 
Illustrated The Sad Tone of his Mind He is Inclined 
to be Morbid The Way in which Branwell regarded 
Nature Observations on the Character Displayed in 
his Works, j 

IT has often been observed that the life of a poet 
may best be learned from the works he has left 
behind him. We may fall into error in dealing 
with the circumstances of his external life, and 
may make mistakes as to chronology or facts, 
and, in this way, may be led often to form a false 
estimate of his character; but, if we discover the 
personality concealed in his writings, if we can 
grasp the hidden spirit by which they are in- 



288 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

formed, we shall be enabled to follow his heart 
in its cherished affections, to understand the 
characteristic tendency of his thoughts, and to 
comprehend even the very psychology of his 
soul. This enquiry, it is true, is often difficult in 
the extreme ; one cannot always unravel the 
tangled mysteries in which natural expression 
is wrapped up, nor fully pierce the cloudy medium 
of conventionality or affectation through which 
it may be dimly revealed; it is especially difficult, 
also, to follow it in the works of a writer of a 
school like that of the Euphuists, or of Pope, 
where the medium is one of exaggerated refine- 
ment, or of classical and formal preciseness. 

But, with the writings of Branwell Bronte, 
the case is entirely different ; and for a very 
simple reason, viz., that everything he wrote 
proceeded from a personal inspiration, and was 
the direct expression of the fulness of emotion, 
and of vivid thoughts or feelings which could 
scarcely be hidden ; because, in short, he wrote 
in the true artistic spirit of having something 
to say. 

If Branwell's affectionate nature led him to 
dwell upon the memories of his earlier years, 



BRANWELL'S CHARACTER. 289 

and upon the thoughts of those dead sisters 
whom he had loved so much, he spoke in the 
voice of Harriet weeping for the departed 
Caroline; it needed but his remembrance of 
the fell disease that had deprived him of his 
sisters, and the fearful havoc which it was 
yet to work in his family, to inspire him with 
the sad fancy of his Percy Hall/ If he sank 
into the depths of morbid melancholy, and was 
filled with a consciousness of the worthlessness of 
ambition, the folly of pride, and the universality 
of sorrow, his sonnets were a natural expression, 
in which he found both relief and consolation. 

In his case it requires no Pheidian hand to 
bring out the statue from the marble, but only 
a sympathetic spirit, a heart filled with the 
affections of humanity, and a mind attuned to 
thoughts somewhat sad, to enable one to enter 
into every mood in which Branwell wrote, and 
to understand the moral and tender pathos that 
fills his works. It is because Branwell's poems 
are so fully expressive of his feelings at the 
time when they were written that they are so 
separately placed in this work. But, before 
we conclude it, it will be well to sum up, in a 
VOL. II. U 



290 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

slight sketch, a few of the most characteristic 
features of his writings, and, in so doing, we shall 
arrive at a correct estimate of his disposition 
and of his poetry together. 

The first thing, then, that strikes one in Bran- 
well's verse, beginning at its youthful period, is 
the tone of piety that distinguishes it. The sim- 
ple stanzas which he sent to Wordsworth, even, 
however worthless as poetry, are valuable, be- 
cause they show us the early bent of his mind; 
and the beautiful lines which he wrote a year 
later, in 1838, where he first manifests that con- 
sciousness of the vanity of earthly things, which 
his sister Anne also versified, tell us of the hope 
of a heavenly future, which is contrasted, in its 
serenity, with the evils of mortal life. The poem 
entitled < Caroline's Prayer,' and the one ' On 
Caroline ' also, simple though they are, are evi- 
dence of a devotional turn of mind ; and mark 
again, in the longer poem of ' Caroline,' how 
Harriet finds divine consolation in the calm of 
Nature : 

' Quiet airs of sacred gladness 

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



BRAN WELLS CHARACTER. 

and how tenderly she remembers the pious 
lessons which her dead sister had drawn from 
the sufferings of the Saviour of man, a recollec- 
tion, let it be remembered, which Branwell him- 
self preserved. A little later, we find Branwell 
occupied upon a long poem, of which we possess 
only a fragment, wholly sacred in its character, 
and moral in its purpose, ' Noah's Warning- 
over Methusaleh's Grave.' Here Noah, before 
the universal Deluge, in the presence even ot 
the cloudy wall ' piled boding round the firma- 
ment,' harangues the people, bidding them 
withdraw from sin, ere it be too late. It is 
true, however, that in the later poems, when 
Branwell's mind is cast into its deepest gloom, 
this disposition is not so prominent, and, per- 
haps, can be gathered only from an abundance 
of tender touches, which could proceed from 
nothing but a devotional spirit ; and thus we 
may infer that, though he might have lost some 
of his early piety, he never lost the effect of it. 
There is, besides, throughout Branwell's work, 
the evidence of a justly balanced morality, in 
that he nowhere exalts depraved passions, or 
manifests impiety, or, more than all, corrupts 

u2 



292 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

his readers with the painting of sensuous ideas,, 
or the description of sensuous incidents. And I 
would ask the reader, in connection with this 
admirable characteristic of his poetry, to remem- 
ber that he has never been charged with indul- 
gence of the kind that has lured away too many 
men of genius and mental power. 

The next thing that strikes me in Branwell's 
poetry is the strong love that he manifests for 
the past, which he seems to value more than 
the present, and whose pleasures he deems 
sweeter and purer than any the future can have 
in store. This tone of thought could be very 
well understood if we had regard to circum- 
stances of the later period of his life, when 
despair had cut off hope ; but it is just as promi- 
nent in the earliest poems he wrote. It would 
seem that, to the pensive mind of Bran well, all 
the thoughts of childhood, all the joys of youth 
and its affections, became, as years passed on, 
hallowed and exalted in the golden halo of 
recollection. There were places in the sanctity 
of the past where the roses of Bendemeer grew, 
unchanging ever ; places to which he turned for 
the joys of memory, when solitude inclined him 



BRANWELL'S CHARACTER. 293 

to reflection. These pleasures of memory were 
often of a pensive order, for they were connect- 
ed with sorrowful events, or they were joys 
turned sorrowful, as joys will turn, when they 
have been long enough departed. In BranwelTs 
letter to Wordsworth, and in his other letters, 
he expresses plenty of honest ambition, and 
talks bravely of work in the future ; and he 
spoke in the same way also. But I have 
received from his poems the impression that 
this ambition grew from the requirements of cir- 
cumstances, and from literary emulation ; that, 
in fact, the constitution of Branwell's mind was 
of the gentle reflective nature to which the 
pleasures of ambition appear hollow and in- 
sufficient in themselves. At least it is clear that 
he dwelt with more satisfaction on the past than 
on the future. So far, indeed, as his poetry is 
concerned, we saw, in ' The End of All,' that it 
was only when loss made the past too painful 
for thought, that he turned to the stony joys of 
solitary ambition and personal fame. This 
seems to me to be a very tender trait in his 
character, however little it might fit him to fight 
the battle of life with those who looked for the 



294 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

joys of the future, rather than turned to pleasures 
they could actually taste no more. 

In Branwell's thoughtful moods, it required 
but the woodland sunshine, perhaps, or the 
sound of the distant bells, to bring back 
memories to him, as they brought back to 
Harriet, in the poem of ' Caroline,' many a 
scene of bygone days, opening the fount .of 
tears, and waking memory to the thought 

* Of visions sleeping not forgot.' 

Thus, under the pensive influence, there passed 
over her 

* That swell of thought, which seems to fill 

The bursting heart, the gushing eye, 
While fades all present good or ill 
Before the shades of things gone by.' 

It called up in her, also, the hours when 
Caroline, too, listening to the wild storms of 
winter, had filled the nights with pictures and 
feelings 

' From far-off memories brought.' 

These treasures of memory, to which Branwell 
refers in many of his poems, were to him of 
a sacred nature, and might not be profaned*. 



BRAN WELL'S CHARACTER. 295 

He tells us, indeed, in one of his sonnets, that 
the tears of affection are dried up by the 
growth of honours, and by the interests and 
pursuits of life, which 

' Dim or destroy those holy thoughts which cling 
Round where the forms we loved lie slumbering.' 

For the past was thus hallowed by Branwell, 
because in it lay his earliest affections, and his 
most poignant sorrows. I have had occasion, 
in speaking of several of the poems in this 
volume, to point out the love which he shows 
for his dead sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, and 
how he mourned them up to the last year of 
his life. For his disposition was of a deeply 
affectionate order. He has, indeed, painted for 
us too vividly, in both the poems of ( Caroline ' 
and ' Percy Hall,' the pangs of separation, and 
the cheerless void that remains when the loved 
one has departed, to leave us any doubt as 
to the sensitiveness of his nature. 

It will not have escaped the reader's atten- 
tion that Branwell's muse sings often morbidly 
enough, and that, like some spirit that cannot 
forsake the scene of its mortal sorrows, and 
haunts the place of its affliction he dwells 



296 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

frequently upon details of a painful kind, that 
others would gladly have relegated to oblivion. 
In the poem of < Caroline,' the picture of his 
mother, clad in black, is still before his eyes ; 
he remembers even the grave-clothes of his 
.sister in her coffin, and 

' Her too bright cheek all faded now ;' 

the closing of the coffin lid, arid the lowering 
of it into its narrow bed are yet before his eyes ; 
and painfully he remembers his feeling at the 
grave-side : 

' And wild my sob, when hollow rung 
The first cold clod above her flung.' 

Later, though he was occupied with different 
subjects, Branweli could not entirely free him- 
self from a morbid and painful analysis of the 
physical effects of the disease he dreaded so 
much ; and very beautifully does he suggest 
the picture of consumptive decline and early 
decay. 

This tone of thought, and the many misfor- 
tunes and gloomy forebodings that attended 
Branwell's later years, had a natural effect in 
giving a mournful cast to almost every emana- 



BRANWELL' s CHARACTER. 297 

tion of his muse ; and we find, in effect, through- 
out the poems here collected, that, save in one 
instance 'The Epicurean's Song' which we 
feel to be the production of a moment of elation, 
there is scarcely a line that does not breathe a 
consciousness of sad regret, or of cruel and 
bitter sorrow. 

He was filled with the sense of the futility of 
human joy, and the abiding presence of woe : 

' Ko ! joy itself is but a shade, 

So well may its remembrance die, 
But cares, Life's conquerors, never fade, 
So strong is their reality.' 

These sorrows, as years went by, grew so 
terrible in their crushing weight, that the mind 
could barely withstand them, and Branwell felt, 
in that period when his cry was for peace in 
death, that, when the light of life is gone, 

' There come no sorrows crowding on, 
And powerless li^s Despair.' 

With Branwell, indeed, as with Mary in his 
poem of ' Percy Hall,' * thought felt irksome to 
the heated brain.' 

It was then that oblivion became to him a 
coveted relief from immediate woe, and that he 
envied the dreamless head of the wandering, 



298 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

water-borne corpse, whose rolling bed seemed 
calmer than the turmoil of the world. 

This figure of the body rocked by the waves 
of ocean, brings me to a consideration of the 
way in which Branwell regarded Nature, which 
had something very noteworthy in it. It was 
always remarked by his friends that the young 
poet was a great observer, and took an especial 
pleasure in the works of Nature. It is, therefore, 
somewhat surprising, at first sight, that, in his 
poems, he does not dwell upon them descriptive- 
ly or in a marked manner, and that we have to 
infer, from certain suggestive touches and pic- 
tures which do, indeed, speak more plainly 
than words could that he observed them at all. 
But we learn that the works of Nature had for 
Branwell a deeper significance than for most 
people, that he conceived they had some mys- 
terious sympathy or unspeakable connection 
with human affections, and were, in a man- 
ner, the expression or immediate reflection of 
the Deity. Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge 
had already looked upon Nature somewhat in 
this wise ; but it would be a mistake to suppose 
that Branwell imitated them : his thoughts flow 



BRANWELL'S CHARACTER. 299 

too swiftly and impetuously to admit of such a 
conclusion. It is possible that, if his life had 
passed calmly, he might have dwelt upon the 
simple beauties of Nature, and found in them 
a homely harmony with familiar ideas ; Charlotte 
and Anne in their poetry scarcely get beyond 
this ; but it was different with Emily and Bran- 
well. Emily, with her reserved, passionate 
nature, had a sympathetic spell in the solitary 
moorland; and Branwell, labouring with his 
sorrows, found, in the wildest storms, a being 
with whom he must battle, or saw, in the mighty 
mountains, an image of unbroken strength and 
everlasting fortitude, such a power as he must 
strive after and make his own. But, in Bran- 
well's earlier poems, this influence is not so 
marked, and his muse is simply attuned to the 
saddened thoughts in which Nature participates. 
Thus Wordsworth had sung: 

' Fancy, who leads the pastimes of the glad, 
Full oft is pleased a wayward dart to throw ; 
Sending sad shadows after things not sad, 
Peopling the harmless fields with signs of woe : 
Beneath her sway, a simple forest cry 
Becomes an echo of man's misery.' 

And thus we see, in Bran well's ' Caroline,' 



300 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

how, even in its calmness, the beautifully 
suggested picture of eve when the sunlight 
slants, and the waters cease their motion, and 
the calm and hush tell of rest from labour' is 
made to harmonize with the plaintive thoughts 
of Harriet. But then comes the more signifi- 
cant question : 

1 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?' 

What, in short, is the harmonious and sympa- 
thetic spell that breathes through Nature ? 

The wild places of the earth, mountains and 
moorlands, where the storms raged, and the 
great winds blew, were nearest akin to the 
Titanic genius of Branwell and Emily. Thus, 
in the sonnet, the everlasting majesty of Black 
Comb was held up by Branwell as an example 
to man, and as a contrast to human feebleness ; 
and later, when his woe was most acute, he was 
drawn into a ' communion of vague unity ' with 
Penmaenmawr, comparing the living, beating 
heart of man with the stony hill, and begging, 

' Let me, like it, arise o'er mortal care, 
All woes sustain, yet never know despair, 



BRANWELL'S CHARACTER. 301 

Unshrinking face the griefs I now deplore, 
And stand through storm and shine like moveless 
Penmaenmawr.' 

And, lastly, in the ' Epistle from a Father to 
a Child in her Grave,' we find him comparing 
himself with one in the midst of wild mountains : 

' I, thy life's source, was like a wanderer breasting 
Keen mountain winds, and on a summit resting, 
Whose rough rocks rise above the grassy mead, 
With sleet and north winds howling overhead.' 

It will be seen from this short inquiry that 
the poetry of Branwell Bronte was entirely 
introspective, having, almost to the last line, 
some direct reference to his own thoughts or 
feelings ; and that it may thus be read as an 
actual part of the story of his life. The dis- 
position it reveals, though often hidden, as the 
readers of this book know, through the effects 
of folly and indulgence, was one of a singularly 
gentle, affectionate, and sympathetic character ; 
passionate and unstable, it is true, but a disposi- 
tion, nevertheless, that has been frequently mis- 
understood, and not seldom wronged. One of the 
aims of this book has been to set Patrick Bran- 
well Bronte right with the public ; an attempt, 
not to clear him from follies and weaknesses 



302 THE BRONTE FAMILY. 

that really were his which the public, but for 
the mistakes of biographers, would never have 
known but to show that, at any rate, his 
nature was one rather to be admired than con- 
demned. It has aimed also, by the publication 
of his poetical writings, to demonstrate that his 
genius is not unworthy to be ranked with that 
which made his sisters famous. Yet it may, 
perhaps, be held that the poems here published 
contain more of rich promise than of real fulfil- 
ment, rather the earnest of literary success than 
the actual accomplishment of it. But, in read- 
ing the poetry of Branwell Bronte, which is so 
uniformly sad, it may be well to remember what 
Mr. Swinburne has said, in speaking of Mr. 
Browning, that ' to do justice to any book 
which deserves any other sort of justice than 
that of the fire or waste-paper basket, it is 
necessary to read it in a fit frame of mind.' 



THE END. 



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