BRONTES IN IRELAND
facts Stranger tban fiction
DR. WILLIAM WRIGHT
HODDER AND STOUGHTON
27, PATERNOSTER ROW
Printed by Hasell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.
T TRUST it is unnecessary to say that I dis-
* claim all responsibility for the Bronte acts,
opinions, and sentiments recorded in this book.
As no one living could lay claim to Bronte genius,
even in its less-cultured condition, no one should be
held responsible for the eccentricities of that genius.
It is right, however, that I should express my
indebtedness to many for generous encouragement
and unstinted assistance in setting in order these
fragments of an almost forgotten past.
In a very special manner I have to acknowledge
my obligation to Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, whose
sympathy with the Bronte genius is as profound
as his knowledge of the literature is unrivalled.
Dr. Nicoll has the rare power of kindling the
zeal of others at his own torch, and but for his
enthusiasm the story of The Brontes in Ireland
would probably never have been published.
The Rev. J. B. Lusk, M.A., now resident in the
Ballynaskeagh manse, has been indefatigable in
investigating old documents, and in interviewing
old residents, and generally in verifying my accu-
mulated facts. Besides enabling me to study the
history of the Brontes from new standpoints, he
has disposed for ever of the baseless assertion that
the family was called " Prunty " in Ireland.
The Rev. W. John McCracken of Ballyeaston,
Belfast, who knew the Brontes personally, has
placed at my disposal, in written form, his recol-
lections of the family.
The Rev. R. H. Harshaw of Mount Mellick, in
whose grandfather's house Hugh Bronte was once
a hired servant, has kindly supplied me with valu-
The Rev. H. W. Lett, Rector of Aghaderg,
Loughbrickland, to whom we owe the recovery
of the Drumgooland Vestry-book, has generously
given me permission to make use of his summary
of that precious document.
I am much indebted to the Registrar of Cam-
bridge University, and to the Bursar of St. John's
College, for information readily and courteously
given. They have shown that there was no trace
of the name of " Prunty " at Cambridge, as Mr.
Lusk has shown that there was no trace of it in
From Miss Ellen Nussey, the "Miss E." of the
Gaskell biography, and the Caroline Helstone of
SJiirley, I have heard abundant details regarding
the gifted family in England. Miss Nussey is a
close observer and a vivid narrator, and during a
much-appreciated visit to my house in April 1891
she often made the inmates of the Haworth vicarage
Besides Miss Nussey, several other ladies helped
me much ; and to many in humble life in Ireland
I am deeply indebted for information regarding
matters which had fallen within their own obser-
When my many helpers discover in these pages
little trace of the abundant material which they
placed at my disposal, I trust they will remember
that the narrative had to be kept within narrow
limits, and that every bit of information helped
me to come to conclusions on doubtful matters,
and contributed to the general result. Besides,
there are several important incidents which I have
left untold, believing as I do that in such matters
the half is more than the whole.
I must also thank my spirited publishers on
both sides of the Atlantic for the attractive form
in which they have brought out the book.
While acknowledging my great indebtedness to
the living, I must admit that my obligation to the
dead is still greater.
THE HIDDEN SOURCES ..... I 5
The history of the Brontes and the history of the
Nile Investigations mainly on English soil Guess-
work The heart of the mystery in Ireland Mrs.
Gaskell's tribute inadequate Something beyond Mr.
Wemyss Reid's theory Mr. Augustine Birrell's ad-
ditional facts and pointless sarcasm Authors building
on an Egyptian model Mr. Erskine Stuart's prediction.
THE CHIEF SOURCES OF INFORMATION : PRE-
LIMINARY . .... 6 14
Exceptional advantages for telling the tale My nurse's
tales My tutor's recollections His methods Early
screeds of Bronte novels The grain of truth in Bran-
well's boast The facts of Wulhering Heights The Todds
and McAllisters Rev. David McKee, the friend and
adviser of the Brontes The novels first read in his manse
Arrival of Jane Eyre Side lights Collecting facts.
GRANDFATHER BRONTE'S EARLY HOME . 15 18
Hereditary gift of story-telling Miss Ellen Nussey's
testimony The girls hanging on their father's lips
Grandfather Bronte and Jane Eyre Hugh's childhood
An uncle and aunt arrive Laying plans Visions of
paradise A night to be remembered Incidents re-
membered The dressmaker's beverage Last adieux
from brothers and sisters His mother's caresses Out
in the darkness.
THE FOUNDLING AND FOSTER-FRIENDS . . 19 31
The great-great-grandfather of the novelists Home
near Drogheda on the Boyne Dirty child found on a boat
from Liverpool to Drogheda Mrs. Bronte and the infant
Baby taken home and called Welsh Brontes golden-
haired from the third generation Welsh's unhappy lot
Meets cruelty by cunning Clings to great-great-grand-
father Hugh Accompanies him to fairs and markets
The little spy useful The successful cattle-dealer .
Mysterious death of great-great-grandfather Hugh
Position of the family Conference with Welsh Welsh
proposes to marry Mary Bronte, his late masters daughter
Rejected with scorn Welsh's threat Action of the
family Counter-action of Welsh A land agent and
entourage Welsh a sub-agent His business Helps
himself as well as his master His twofold purpose
Meg a female sub-agent Her functions Courtship by
proxy The constant drip Welsh meets Mary Bronte
and carries out his designs Marriage in secret, pro-
claimed on the housetops Welsh secures the farm
The brothers and the agent Law and order Birth of
the tenant-right theory.
THE ADOPTION AND OATH .... 32 34
Eviction and vengeance Burning of the old home
Welsh's repentance Official oaths and family oaths
The lost clue.
A FEARFUL JOURNEY 35 50
Welsh without the mask A child's struggle in the dark
A curse and a blow Dreaming of home The careless
heavens Friendless The tree of knowledge A child's
prayers and doubts Cause of the cruelty A strange
landscape A halt Journey continued The castle
couch Scotch lad and English lady in Arab life Night
journeys and day halts New clothes No deliverance
Drogheda reached At home on the Boyne Sources of
the narrative Hugh Bronte's dramatic eloquence con-
trasted with that of his granddaughters No traces of
the journey Searching for the Bronte house in vain.
A MISERABLE HOME ..... 51 66
A cold welcome Settling conditions Gallagher ap-
proves The Blessed Virgin and saints introduced An
old grievance Meg and her business Destruction of
bastards Joseph in Wuthering Heights typed by
Gallagher Heathcliffe and Welsh New company
Description of the mansion Hugh's illness Friendship
with Keeper Something to live for Cocks Aunt Mary
kind Tells him the Bronte tragedy Returning spring
and health Keeper at work Emily Bronte's Keeper
Irish home love Awaiting his deliverer Outgrowing
his clothes Growing to his surroundings Hard slavery
The spy The devil.
THE CAPTIVE ESCAPES . . . ... 67 75
Welsh's quarrels A bit of bog Land agent An
agrarian battle Welsh worsted Hugh joins the enemy
Second battle of the Boyne and its results Words
of truth and deferred claims Chaff bed and rival heir
Promised chastisement A resourceful ally Presenti-
ment Hugh trounces Gallagher Final leave-taking
Kisses Keeper and plunges into the Boyne A swim
for life Helped on his second great journey.
THE FLIGHT AND REFUGE .... 76 78
On solid ground The fugitive passes through Dun-
leer, Castlebellingham, and Dundalk Turns eastward
towards Carlingford Finds work at Mount Pleasant
Kilns Burning lime New clothes Free labour
Makes a new friend.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT 79 82
Visit to County Down A surprise in store -An Irish
beauty Alice McClory described Hugh's discomfiture
The Protestant bar Hugh's eagerness Alice cold.
TRUE LOVE AND PARTY STRIFE . . . 83 91
Christmas holidays Engagement The Catholics
roused Religious tests The dying Orangeman Perio-
dical party battles I2th of July and I7th of March
Weapons The great religious agitation An Irish priest
Alice and the priest Hugh innocent of religion At-
tempt to disarm prejudice A conference ends in a fight
Contrairyness A dreadful speech Hugh among the
Philistines Saved by Alice Tender good-bye Hugh's
sudden conversion The deepening of true love.
LOVE'S SUBTERFUGES 92 105
Burning lime Hugh's inattention Visits Alice
Secret meetings The Courting Bower Traitors A rival
lover produced Hugh begins his education A plot
Dismissal Hired to James Harshaw as a farm labourer
The Harshaws' kind treatment Hugh's duties
Taught by the children Hugh's doctrines The Martins
Jane Harshaw became the mother of John Martin, M.P.
Martin meets Mitchell Both transported John Martin
and Hugh Bronte's doctrines Palmerston and Martin
Bronte lost sight of Alice takes horse exercise
Communicates with Hugh Burns the rival Marriage
arranged Preparations Wedding party arrived Alice
elopes with Hugh Married in Magherally Church
Burns and the wedding party drink her health The
LOVE IN A COTTAGE ... . 106 113
At home with Red Paddy The cottage in Emdale
Present condition of the cottage Rev. Patrick Bronte's
birthplace The corn-kiln 1 7th of March, 1777 Emdale
and Haworth Happy home Honest poverty Re-
moval to a larger house Increasing family Parish
register Hugh's verses on Alice.
THE DAILY ROUND ..... 114 128
Becking the kiln A primitive kiln Payment in kind
Alice's spinning-wheel Brontes clad in home-spun
Bronte independence Bronte a ditcher Bronte
prosperity MacAdam's discovery Invention worked by
the Brontes Farming and road-making A public-house
Turn of the tide Decadence Drinking habits Rev.
D. McKee begins the temperance cause The sermon
on the Rechabites Dr. Edgar reads The Rechabites
Empties his whiskey down the gutter The temperance
THE IRISH RACONTEUR, OR STORY-TELLER 129 141
The hakkaiiudti His manner His success The
Irish hakkawdti His hearers Baby Patrick Bronte
Hugh Bronte a moral teacher His studies; his books
His superstitions Patrick inherited his father's gifts
Emily Bronte and her father's stories Miss Nussey's
testimony Swinburne's insight Emily's models
Wuthering Heights thoroughly Bronte Emily's art
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-RIGHTER . 142 155
Lecture Bible in hand Bible and Church Protestant
parsons Catholic priests Kings and emperors King
George III. Landlords The peasants Law-making
Land agents and attorneys The Bronte estate Land-
lord art Irish law and justice Obedience Patriotism
His animus Battle of Ballynahinch Hugh's escape
" Every man his own " The cure for turbulence
Sharman Crawford's tenant-right Crawford's views
Councillor Dodd Cruelty to a child and the result.
THE BRONTE FAMILY : GENEALOGICAL . 156 162
Summary Defective records of Drumballyroney
Bronte baptismal register The Bronte girls Rev.
John McCracken's testimony.
THE BRONTES AL FRESCO . . . 163 174
McAllister's story Six Bronte brothers Ball-rolling
Curious phraseology Odd appearance Harvesting
Local report The concert in the Glen Sisters spin-
ningand dancing Brothers fiddling and dancing in turns
The scene The spectators Awe of the Brontes
THE BRONTES, THE DEVIL, AND THE POTATO
BLIGHT 175 184
The potato blight Different kinds of farmers and
farming Housekeeping The lazy poor Bronte in-
dustry Bronte prosperity Good landlord Bronte
paradise blasted Theories Common belief that the
devil blighted the potatoes Vivid recollections Hugh
Bronte's challenge Offering to the fiend Dramatic
MINOR AMUSEMENTS OF THE BRONTES . 185 192
Want of a common holiday Party days Con-
sumption of whiskey Kind of drink Fiery potations
and orations Party fights Party balls Christmas and
New Year's Day Easter Sunday and eggs Shooting
matches Cock-fighting Patrick as a marksman and
sportsman Wakes and funerals Boxing Incident in
Rathfriland fair Gathering may-flowers.
THE GREAT BRONTE BATTLE . . . 193 204
The local Hejira The fight between Sam Clarke
and Welsh Bronte Origin of the battle Peggy Camp-
bell The schoolboys' cruelty Welsh intervenes
Ducking the cripple The duckers ducked -The chal-
lenge The preparations The crowd Public opinion
Clarke's mother Welsh's sweetheart Spartan speech
Long endurance Final command Crushing victory
Peaceful result Traditions Welsh's repentance.
THE BRONTES AND THE GHOSTS . . 205 2l8
The haunted Glen A tragedy Bronte habits The
suicide The headless man Ghost-baiting Hugh
Bronte with sword and Bible Contest in the mill
Strange surmises The wailing child The black horse
Grinning skull Apparitions in Frazer's house Chal-
lenging the ghost The ghost's squeeze and Hugh's
death Hugh Norton's account The headless horseman
Minute description Kaly Nesbit's account A naggin
of whiskey Captain Mayne Reid His Texan tale
Reception in Ballynaskeagh A practical age.
PATRICK BRONTE'S CHILDHOOD AND EARLY SUR-
ROUNDINGS 219 228
Birth Name Early experiences Fed on stories
Poverty Simple living Different kinds of bread
Sowans Luxuries and dainties Tea Young Bronte's
occupation His clothes " Pat the Papish " Tor-
mented by Protestant lads Blacksmith's shop Appren-
ticed to weaving Cultivation of flax His sisters span
The prosperous weaver Book hunger.
PATRICK BRONTE'S SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL-
MASTERS ..... 229 237
A divided mind Milton's attractions A friend in
need The " Stickit Minister " Education of ministers
Patrick and Harshaw Laying plans Bronte's edu-
cation Lights Weaving and learning Incessant ap-
plication overcoming obstacles.
LEARNING AND TEACHING . . . 238 258
The loom abandoned Rival candidates for Clascal
school Appointed teacher to a Presbyterian school
Precentor Attitude of the Orangemen Sensible system
Whipping days Gumption in school Success in
teaching Night-school Amusements English litera-
tare The avenues of education The Episcopal and
Presbyterian ministers Harshaw's guidance Bronte's
attainments His reading Books Recreations Ob-
servations Adventure on Mourne Mountains Skating
Patrick a poet The poetry The Vision of Hell
The characteristic pieces kept back Palmerston and
Devonshire A love affair A kiss and a quarrel
Dismissed from school Harshaw's reproofs Clandes-
tine meetings Helen faithless Harshaw introduces
him to Rector Tighe.
PATRICK BRONTE IN AN EPISCOPALIAN SCHOOL 259 261
Success in school Private tuition Few incidents
The Rev. Thomas Tighe The vicar Minutes of vestry.
PATRICK BRONTE AT ST. JOHN'S, CAMBRIDGE 262 267
Rector Tighe's help Harshaw still his friend Patrick
Bronte matriculates Hare Exhibition Duchess of
Suffolk Exhibitions Goodman Exhibition Remember-
ing his mother Coaching at Cambridge Tutor and
THE IRISH BRONTES AND "JANE EYRE" . 268 274
The novels first read in the Ballynaskeagh manse
Conflicting evidence Patrick's letter to Hugh The
price paid for Charlotte's three novels First editions
in Ireland Author's copies The novels alarmed the
uncles and aunts Books shown to Mr. McKee, who
admired them Uncles pleased Scene in the manse
THE AVENGER IN SEARCH OF THE REVIEWER 275 292
Joy of the Irish uncles and aunts Mr. McCracken's
testimony Mr. McKee's evidence Favourable reviews
of Jane Eyre Public impression The Times The
Edinburgh Review Blackwood 's Magazine Eraser's
Magazine Tails Magazine Incense to the Brontes
The Quarterly Review Effect in Ireland of the attack
McKee as comforter The angry uncles Hugh's vow
Preparing a shillelagh Pickle and polish Hugh starts
for England Arrives at Haworth on Sunday Niece's
curiosity Hugh disappointed with his nieces Bran-
well Prize-fight Robin Hood's helmet at Sir W.
Armitage's Hugh leaves Haworth for London In
lodgings At John Murray's Saw the editor of the
Review Reviewer tried to find out who Currer Bell
was Ceased to admit Hugh at Murray's Hugh with
the publishers A friend at the British Museum A
private dinner Promised assistance in searching for
the reviewer Hugh's resources Opinions of book-
sellers London explored Return to Haworth The
vicarage gloomed Anne's comfort and parting A walk
with Charlotte Final parting The mission a failure.
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW? A WORKING HYPO-
THESIS .' . . . . 293 308
The unsolved question The secret safe in the
house of Murray General detestation of the reviewer
Mrs. Gaskell's opinion Swinburne's attack Augustine
Birrell's onslaught Interpolation in the review Vanity
Fair Becky disposed of, and Thackeray lauded The
reviewer grows moral Specimen of the pagan and
Pharisaic patchwork Difference in style and sentiment
Evidence of sentiment strongest Reviewer guilty of
what he condemns Andrew Lang's views,
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Patrick Bronte's Birthplace ..... Frontispiece
General View of Bronte Neighbourhood . . . . xx
Ballynaskeagh Manse, where the Novels were first read . 1 1
The Courting Bower 93
Map of the Bronte District ........ 107
The Bronte Home . . . . . . . . .121
Plan of the Bronte Homeland 123
The Last of the Brontes' Aunts . . . . . . 157
Patrick Bronte . .159
Charlotte Bronte ......... 161
The Bronte Dancing Green . . . . . . .169
The Ducking Pond . . . . . . .... 195
The Haunted Glen . .211
Glascar School, where Patrick Bronte first taught . . 239
Presbyterian Meeting House, where Patrick Bronte was
Precentor .......... 255
Patrick Bronte's Matriculation Signature .... 263
Patrick Bronte's Signature on proceeding to his Degree . 266
Patrick to Hugh regarding the price paid for the Novels . 269
THE HIDDEN SOURCES
THE history of the Brontes resembles in a small
way the history of the Nile. The great river
was persistently explored, and minutely described
in its meanderings through the fertile delta, and as
far up, by pyramid and temple and tomb, as the
explorers could go. Traveller followed traveller,
each noting the discoveries of his predecessor and
adding a few of his own ; but until recent years
the head secret of the great African river remained
shrouded in impenetrable mystery. Many guesses
were hazarded as to the Egyptian phenomenon,
but the muddy river continued to ebb and flow,
bearing its yearly burden of fertility to Egypt
no one knowing whence. Thanks to modern in-
vestigation, we now know that the mysterious Nile
is the natural outcome of vast lakes and other
natural sources above. Explorers have seen, and
The current of Bronte life and thought has been
faithfully traced and minutely portrayed in its
2 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
lower reaches through the fertile delta of England,
but the higher reaches in Ireland have not been
explored, and the head source has not been dis-
closed. The sources of information regarding the
Brontes within the English area have been
studiously investigated, and everything known
regarding that singular family has been described
with great wealth of literary skill and ingenuity ;
but the explorers stopped short by the English
boundaries, and the eager guesses and surmises as
to what lay beyond have been nearly all wrong.
The Bronte phenomenon has always had fasci-
nating attractions for the generous, the chivalrous,
the unselfish ; but the heart of the mystery could
no more be reached by investigating its English
surroundings than the secrets of the Nile could
be unravelled by the study of its muddy banks
Mrs. Gaskell's Life of CJiarlotte Bronte is an
exquisite tribute from a gifted hand laid on a
sister's grave ; but Mrs. Gaskell's dreary moor-
lands and dismal surroundings are as inadequate
to account for the Bronte genius as the general
picture of suppressed sadness is unwarranted by
the Bronte letters taken as a whole, or by the
living testimony of Miss Ellen Nussey, Charlotte's
lifelong friend. Genius of the Bronte kind would
not be so rare if grey and sombre surroundings
THE HIDDEN SOURCES 3
could produce it, or if it could be stimulated
by chilling repression and cramped circumstances.
The Gaskell biography, however, roused curiosity as
well as sympathy ; and while the reader felt keenly
for the desolate girls in the Yorkshire vicarage, he
also felt that the whole story had not been told :
hence the number of attempts by many hands to
complete a biography which all felt to be only a
Mr. Wemyss Reid has given us a picture of the
Brontes in brighter and truer colours, taken from
the very same material in which Mrs. Gaskell
found her sombre tints ; but Mr. Wemyss Reid's
theory as to the " disillusioning " of Charlotte at
Brussels is a pure assumption, repudiated with
indignation by Miss Nussey, Charlotte's confidante,
unwarranted by the correspondence, and quite in-
capable of supporting the structure which Mr.
Wemyss Reid would build upon it. If Charlotte's
genius required a love-disaster to quicken it, how
shall we account for the kindling of Emily's genius
especially as Emily's simple heart was never ruffled
by a love affair, and as the author of Wuthering
Heights is admitted to be the most Bronte of all the
gifted family ? Or how did it happen that the gentle
Anne was moved to tell the story of Agnes Grey ?
Mr. Wemyss Reid's story stops short on English
soil, and leaves the reader with an anxious desire
to know more.
4 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The Bronte problem attracted Mr. Augustine
Birrell, and his brilliant Life of Charlotte Bronte
contains some additional facts gleaned in England.
The sketch is full of humour and pathos, and
deserves to be read if only for the generous indig-
nation called forth by the Quarterly reviewer who
sought to assassinate the reputation of the author
of Jane Eyre. But Mr. Birrell's sarcasm with
regard to the Irish Brontes loses point when he
is found to be simply following the mistakes of his
Similar excellencies and defects mark the
numerous books which have been written on the
Brontes. We want more than intense enthusiasm,
painstaking investigation, high appreciation, with
only a few guesses thrown in where facts are
needed. The builders of the Bronte fame have
done their best on an Egyptian model, but the
bricks used have been wanting in the Irish straw
that would have given them cohesion, and hence
the various structures are lacking in the elements
of stability and thoroughness.
This feeling of dissatisfaction was felt in some
degree by the writers themselves, but by none
more clearly expressed than by Mr. J. A. Erskine
Stuart, the author of a most useful book, The Bronte
Country. After tracing the Brontes in England
and Ireland as far as their footsteps were known,
Mr. Erskine Stuart adds :
THE HIDDEN SOURCES 5
" For our own part, we desire a fuller biography
of the family than has yet been written, and we
trust, and are confident, that such will yet appear,
and that there are many surprises yet in store for
students of this Celtic circle."*
I now proceed, but not without misgivings, to
justify the confidence expressed by Mr. Erskine
Stuart, and to fulfil the prediction implied so far
as regards the Brontes in Ireland.
* The Bronte Cotmtry, by J. A. Erskine Stuart (Long-
mans, Green & Co.), p. 192.
THE CHIEF SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
I PROPOSE in the following pages to supply
the Irish straws of Bronte history which I have
been accumulating for more than a quarter of a
century, and to lift the curtain that conceals the
origin of the family and the source of their genius.
I have waited in hopes that some more skilful
hand might undertake the task ; but as no one
else, since the death of Captain Mayne Reid,
has the requisite information, the story of the
Irish Brontes must be told by me, or remain
I have had exceptional advantages for under-
taking the task. When a child I came into
contact with the Irish Brontes, and even then I
was startled by their genius, before any literary
work had made their name famous in England.
My first nurse had lived within a quarter of a mile
of their home, and had a rich store of wild tales
THE CHIEF SOURCES OF INFORMATION ^
My first classical teacher was the Rev. William
McAllister of Finard, near Newry. As a child he
had known Patrick Bronte, and he had often heard
his father Hugh, the grandfather of Charlotte, nar-
rate to a spellbound audience the incidents which
formed the groundwork of WutJiering Heights.
Mr. McAllister was a good teacher, though he taught
me more of Bronte lore than of classic minutiae. He
aimed more at interesting his pupils in the story
of Troy than at grounding them in the niceties of
Greek grammar ; for he held that classics should be
taught with the simple view of making the learner
more proficient in the use of his own language.
He declared classical learning to be useful only in
so far as it enriched the mind with new thoughts,
and gave a larger wealth of vocabulary to the
tongue. He taught me to reproduce the classic
stories in English rather than to make translations ;
and sometimes he would give me the plot of such
works as the Hecuba or the A Ices its, and leave me
to fill in the wording in my own way. In accordance
with his theory, he often varied my task by giving
me one of Hugh Bronte's stories to reproduce.
He used to take me for long walks through the
fields, and tell me the story of Hugh Bronte's early
life, or some of his other stories, which he assured me
were just as striking and as worthy to be recounted
as the wrath of Achilles or the wanderings of Pius
These stories I would reproduce, some-
8 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
times in writing, but oftener vivd voce, with as
much spirit as possible, dulness being the one
quality that my tutor would not tolerate.
It thus happened that I wrote screeds of the
Bronte novels before a line of them had been
penned at Haworth ; and I do not think Bran-
well Bronte meant to deceive when he spoke
of writing Wuthering Heights, for the story in
outline must have been common property at
Haworth, as it was largely the story of Grand-
father Bronte, and the children of the vicarage
were all scribblers. However that may have
been, I read the Bronte novels with the feeling
that I had already known what was coming, and
I was chiefly interested in the wording and skilful
manipulation of details, for I had become ac-
quainted with the incidents of old Bronte's career,
as well as with most of his stories, real and
My teacher's relatives lived quite close to the
Brontes. They were freeholders and local gentry
in a small way, and through them I was able to
verify facts and incidents which had come to me
somewhat distorted, and rather artistic, through
the medium of my teacher's brilliant imagination.
The pains then taken to have the facts in their
right proportion and setting have fixed them
indelibly on my mind.
Besides these there were two brothers, John and
James Todd, with whom I was acquainted, who
knew the Brontes, and were brimful of their
At a later period I had still better opportunities
for forming a sound judgment regarding the Irish
Brontes. The pleasantest parts of my under-
graduate holidays were spent at the manse of the
Rev. David McKee of Ballynaskeagh. Mr. McKee
was a great educationalist. He was the instructor
and friend of several hundred students, whom he
prepared for college. Many of these afterwards
occupied prominent places in the Church and at
the Bar, and one of them, Captain Mayne Reid,
dedicated The White Chief to his old teacher.
Mr. McKee not only gave a sound education to
his pupils, but he had the power of inspiring almost
every one of them with something of his own high
moral purpose and chivalric tone.
He was the author of several books, one of which
led to the commencement in Ireland of the tem-
perance movement, which afterwards spread to
Scotland and England. It was a common saying
of his pupils that, had he lived with more favourable
surroundings, he would have enriched the world
with thoughts as brilliant as Carlyle's, but without
This great and noble man, who stood six feet
four inches high, was the friend of the Brontes,
who were his near neighbours. He recognised the
io THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Bronte genius where others only saw what was
wild and unconventional.
The Brontes came to Mr. McKee, as did all his
neighbours, for help, sympathy, and guidance ; and
the first house in Ireland in which the Bronte
novels were read was the Ballynaskeagh manse.
Mr. McKee's home was the centre of mental
activity in that neighbourhood, and the early copies
of the novels that came to the " Uncle Brontes "
were cut, read, and criticised by Mr, McKee, and
his criticisms were forwarded to the nieces in
Great was the joy of the Bronte uncles and
aunts when Mr. McKee's approval was given to
the works of their nieces. The arrival of Jane Eyre
was an event of some importance. It was brought
to the manse by Hugh Bronte before any notice
of it had appeared. He handed it over to the
great man with a doubtful air (of which more
hereafter), as if it were the evidence of a youthful
indiscretion on the part of his niece Charlotte.
That novel was read en famille, and sober work
was suspended till it was finished. When the
last word was read and all rose to disperse, Mr.
McKee said, " That is the greatest novel that has
been written in my time ; but it is Bronte all over,
from beginning to end."
It thus happened that I had opportunities of
becoming acquainted with the Brontes under the
THE CHIEF SOURCES OF INFORMATION 13
most favourable circumstances. Besides these,
several others who knew the Brontes, some of them
still living, have kindly communicated to me the
information they possessed, so that I have had
side lights from many points on the many-sided
I have thought it right to give these personal
details in this place, not only to show the qualifi-
cations I have for undertaking the story of the
Brontes in Ireland, but more especially that I may
not be obliged to interrupt my narrative by quoting
authorities as I proceed, or by explaining how I
came by my information.
I have spared no pains to make my narrative as
complete as possible, although several characteristic
stories will have to be omitted.
During my undergraduate days I once spent a
couple of months in the south of Ireland dressed
as a peasant, trying to trace some of the Bronte
traditions to their sources. I have since made long
journeys with a view to reconciling points that were
at variance, and even during late years I have gone
many times to Ireland to clear up, if possible, small
matters that did not seem consistent with the main
facts. I do not even now pretend to have reached
absolute accuracy on every point referred to in the
following pages, but the statements are as close
approximations to fact as they can be made by
patient industry ; and as I cannot hope for fresh
H THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
light on matters still obscure, I do not see that
anything would be gained by further delay.
I therefore submit this history of the Brontes
in Ireland to the generous consideration of those
who can discern that I have done my best with
a difficult and complicated subject.
GRANDFATHER BRONTE'S EARLY HOME
HUGH BRONTE, the father of Patrick and
grandfather of the famous novelists, first
makes his appearance as if he had stepped out of
a Bronte novel. His early experiences qualified
him to take a permanent place beside the child
Jane Eyre at Mrs. Reed's. The treatment that
embittered his childhood is never referred to by
the granddaughters in their correspondence ; but it
is quite evident that the knowledge of his hardships
dominated their minds and gave a bent to their
imaginations when depicting the misery of young
lives dependent on charity.
Story-telling, as we shall see, was a hereditary
gift in the Bronte family, and Patrick inherited
it from his father. Charlotte's friend, Miss Ellen
Nussey, has often told me of the marvellous
fascination with which the girls would hang on
their father's lips as he depicted scene after scene
of some tragic story in glowing words and with
harrowing details. The breakfast would remain
16 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
untouched till the story had passed the crisis, and
sometimes the narration became so real and vivid
and intense that the listeners begged the vicar to
proceed no farther. Sleepless nights succeeded
story-telling evenings at the vicarage.
Hugh Bronte, according to his own account, be-
longed to a large family of brothers and sisters. His
father lived somewhere in the south of Ireland. He
was a man in prosperous circumstances, and Hugh's
early childhood was spent in a comfortable home.
Some time about the middle of last century,
or a little earlier, the family was thrown into
excitement by the arrival of an uncle and aunt
of whom they had never heard.
The children at first thought the new-comers
very rude and common, and they did not like the
uncle's swarthy complexion and dark glancing
eyes ; but as they remained guests' for a consider-
able time, first impressions wore off.
Hugh believed he was then about five or six
years old. He soon became a great favourite with
the new-comers, who took him with them wherever
they went and had him to sleep with them at
night. The child was their constant companion.
They bought him little things that pleased him,
and when they had completely won his heart they
proposed to him that, as they had no children of
their own, he should go home with them and be
GRANDFATHER BRONTES EARLY HOME 17
Hugh believed, in later life, that the whole matter
had already been arranged between his father and
uncle, but that the uncle was allowed time to over-
come the bad impression produced by his sinister
looks, and to carry out the matter in his own way.
This he did by holding out visions of ponies, and
carriages, and dogs, and guns, and fishing-rods,
until the child's imagination was on fire, and he
pleaded with his father to let him go with his uncle.
Consent was given, and paradise, unguarded by
cherubim or flaming sword, lay open before the
child. He longed for the day when he might
begin to spend his life among ponies and dogs,
and ramble through orchards and among flowers,
and fish for trout in the river Boyne, and be a
great scholar (for that was part of the programme),
with his good uncle and aunt approving, and his
brothers and sisters coming often to see him in
his glory and enjoy the fun. The day, or rather
the night, came soon enough a night to be
Many years later the old man, then beeking a
corn-kiln in County Down, used to tell on winter
nights the story of his early life, but he never failed
to dwell on the simple incidents of that night.
He had waited with impatience the arrival of
a local dressmaker, who brought him late at night
a special suit of clothes to travel in. When the
clothes were fitted on he was raised on a chair to
i8 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
give the dressmaker the beverage of them. The
first kiss in new clothes in Ireland is a special
favour. It is called " the beverage," and is sup-
posed to confer good luck.
Hugh's sisters thronged round him for " second
beverage," but the kiss and squeeze of the dress-
maker remained a lifelong memory. He always
believed that she had a presentiment of the fate
that awaited him, for her voice choked and her
eyes filled with tears as she turned away from him.
Standing on the chair he received the last adieux
of his numerous brothers and sisters. His mother,
who never seemed happy about his going away,
but whose opposition was always borne down,
did not appear for the parting farewell. For the
previous few days she had been . accustomed to
take him into her lap, and with eyes full of tears
heap endearing epithets upon him, such as " My
sweet flower " ; but he always broke away from her,
not being in a mood to appreciate sympathy.
His father lifted him in his arms and carried
him out into the darkness, and placed him gently
between his uncle and aunt on a seat with a raised
back, which was laid across a cart from side to side.
Sitting aloft on the cross-seat of the vehicle, the
prototype of the Irish gig, little Hugh Bronte, with
heart full of childish anticipations, began his rough
journey out into the big world.
THE FOUNDLING AND FOSTER-FRIENDS
WE must now leave little Hugh Bronte with
his new friends until we have a fuller
acquaintance with the uncle to whom he has been
committed. Hugh Bronte's father, the great-great-
grandfather of the novelists, used to live in a farm
on the banks of the Boyne, somewhere above
Drogheda. Besides being a farmer he was a
cattle-dealer, and he often crossed from Drogheda
to Liverpool to dispose of his cattle.
On one of his return journeys from Liverpool
a strange child was found in a bundle in the hold
of the vessel. It was very young, very black, very
dirty, and almost without clothing of any kind./
No one on board knew whence it had come, and
no one seemed to care what became of it. There
was no doctor in the ship, and no woman except
Mrs. Bronte, who had accompanied her husband
The child was thrown on the deck. Some onef
said, " Toss it overboard " ; but no one would touch ^
THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
it, and its cries were distressing. From sheer pity
Mrs. Bronte was obliged to succour the abandoned
On reaching Drogheda it was taken ashore for
food and clothing, with the intention of sending it
back to Liverpool ; but the captain would not
allow it to be brought aboard his ship again. There
was no foundling hospital nearer than Dublin ; and
in those days Dublin was far from Drogheda.
There was a vestry tax at that time for the carriage
of illegitimate children to foundling hospitals, but
as no one in Drogheda had an interest in the child
being removed, it was left in Mrs. Bronte's hands,
and she found it much easier to take it home than
to carry it to Dublin, where it might possibly have
been refused admission among the authorised
foundlings. The Brontes even at that early period
were of a golden hue, and they exceedingly disliked
the swarthy infant ; but " pity melts the heart to
love," and Mrs. Bronte brought it up among her
When the little foundling was carried up out of
the hold of the vessel, it was supposed to be a Welsh
child on account of its colour. It might doubtless
have laid claim to a more Oriental descent, but
when it became a member of the Bronte family
they called it " Welsh."
Little Welsh was a w^aJ,_^eJjcjte^_ajQd__fxetful
thin^and being despised for his colour and origin,
THE FOUNDLING AND FOSTER-FRIENDS 21
and generally pushed aside by the vigorous young
Brontes, he grew up morose, envious, and cunning.
He used secretly to break the toys, destroy the
flower-beds, kill the birds, and stealthily play so
many spiteful tricks on the children that he was
continually receiving chastisement at their hands.
For though they seldom caught him in the
monkeyish acts of which he was accused, they
attributed all the' mischief to him, and detested and
punished him accordingly. On his part he main-
tained a moody, sullen silence, only broken when
Mr. Bronte was present to protect him.
He became a favourite with Mr. Bronte, partly
because he was weak and needed his protection,
and partly because he always came running to
meet him on his return home, as if he were
glad to see him and anxious to render him any
assistance in his power. He followed his master
about while at home with dog-like fidelity, and
he generally managed to tell him everything he
knew to the other children's disadvantage. He
thus succeeded in securing a permanent place
between the children and their father.
Old Bronte took Welsh with him to fairs and
markets, instead of his own sons, as soon as he was
able to go, and he found him of the greatest service.
His very insignificance added to his usefulness.
He would mingle with the people from whom
Bronte wished to purchase cattle, find out from
22 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
their conversation among themselves the lowest
price they would be willing to take, and report to
his master. Bronte would then go to the dealers,
and without the usual weary process of bargaining
offer them straight off a little less than he knew
they wanted, and secure the cattle.
In Liverpool also Welsh would mingle with the
buyers, who no more suspected his business than
they suspected the street dog, and spoke freely
what Welsh had come to hear. Bronte became
a rich and prosperous dealer, and Welsh became
indispensable to him, and followed him like his
shadow by day, and at night was to be found coiled
up beside him like his dog ; but the more Bronte
became attached to Welsh the more his~chlldren
despised and hated the interloper.
As time passed Bronte's affairs passed more and
more into the hands of his assistant, until at last
he had almost the entire management. They were
returning from Liverpool after selling the largest
drove of cattle that had ever crossed the Channel,
when suddenly Bronte died on board. Welsh, who
was with him at the time of his death, professed
to know nothing of his master's money, and as all
books and accounts had been made away with, no
one could tell what had become of the cash received
for the cattle.
The young Brontes, who were now almost men
and women, had been brought up in comparative
THE FOUNDLING AND FOSTER- FRIENDS 23
luxury. Their wants had always been supplied
from their father's purse, they knew not how.
They were well educated, and had been a good
deal in England ; but they neither understood
farming nor dealing, and besides the capital
employed in dealing had been lost, and the land
so neglected that it was not in a condition to
support a family, even if the requisite capital and
skill for its cultivation had been forthcoming.
In this emergency Welsh requested an interview
with the brothers and sisters together. He declared
that he had a proposal to make that would restore
the fallen fortunes of the family. He had been
forbidden the house ; but as it was supposecTTie
was~~gomg to give back the money which he
must have stolen, his request was reluctantly
At the interview Welsh appeared dressed up as
he had never been seen before. He was arrayed
in broadcloth, black and shiny as his well-greased
hair, and in fine linen, white and glistening as
his prominent teeth. The upholstering must have
been costly, but the effect was ludicrous to those
who had known the man all their lives. The
sinister look was intensified by a smile of satis-
faction that gave prominence at once to the cast
in both eyes and to the jackal-like dentals.
When all were assembled he began at once in
the grand cattle-dealer style to express sympathy
24 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
with the family, and to declare that on one
condition he would carry on the dealing, and
supply the wants of the family, as if nothing had
happened. The condition was that the youngest
sister, Mary, should become his wife. The pro-
posal was rejected with a great outburst of
indignant scorn. Many hot and bitter words
were exchanged ; but as Welsh was leaving the
house he turned and said, " Mary_ shall yet _be
my wife, and I will scatter the rest of you like
chaff from this house, which shall be my-iromeA-
With these words he passed out into the darkness.
The interview had two immediate results : it
revealed to the brothers the dangers that threatened
them, and roused them to an earnest effort to
save their home. Welsh had shown his hand, and
must be thwarted. He had robbed them, but he
must not be permitted to ruin and disgrace them.
That his cunning and malignity might be harmless
the boys must bend their necks to the yoke of
labour. They had many friends, and in a short
time the three brothers were employed in remunera-
tive occupations, two of them in England and
one in Ireland. They were able to send home
enough to pay the rent of the farm and to
maintain their mother and sisters in comfort.
But Welsh was also roused to gain his end,
and it was certain he would not scruple to use
any means by which he might carry out his
THE FOUNDLING AND FOSTER-FRIENDS 25
purpose. He did not return to the cattle-dealing,
for which by himself he knew he had no skill ;
but he soon found a post from which he hoped
to avenge past indignities and gratify his greed
The landlord of Bronte's farm was an " absentee."
The estate was administered by an agent. He was
the great man of the district local magistrate,
grand juror, and pasha in general. His real
business was the collection of rent, and for this
purpose a parliament of landlords had given him
despotic powers, absolute and irresponsible in
matters of property, limb, and life. The agent
was served by attorneys, bailiffs, and sub-agents,
the Bashi-bazouks of those days. One of the
offices of sub-agent was open, and Welsh was
appointed to it in return for a large bribe paid to
The business of the sub-agent was to act as
buffer between the tenant and the " squire," as the
agent was always called. The sub-agent was
generally a man without heart, conscience, or
bowels, selected from the basest of the people.
Like the genuine Bashi-bazouk, he had nominal
wages, never paid and never demanded; but he
was generally able to squeeze a good deal out of
the tenants, first by alarming them, and then by
promising to stand their friend with the " rapacious
26 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The sub-agent exaggerated his influence with
the squire, before whom he cringed and grovelled ;
but at the same time he was the chief medium
through which the agent knew the condition of
the tenants and their ability to pay their rent.
One of his duties was to mix with the people in
their festivities, when whiskey had opened their
hearts and loosened their tongues, and discover
if they had any hidden resources from which they
might be able to pay an increased rent.
Welsh's former practices among cattle-dealers,
as well as his natural disposition, gave him great
advantages in carrying out to his agent's satis-
faction this part of his duty. He was the very
man for the post of sub-agent. He had lived by
cunning and served with treachery, and in his new
occupation he had great scope for serving himself
as well as his master. He was a man of great
importance when dealing with the tenants, and
seldom saw them without letting drop the fatal
word "eviction." He was ever arrogant to the
poor on the estate, whom he could have served,
and cringing to the rich, who could serve him.
He was a born sub-agent, and circumstances had
favoured his development.
But Welsh, while serving the squire, and recoup-
ing himself off the tenants for the bribe he had
paid him, never for a moment forgot that he had
sought the office of sub-agent for the double pur-
THE FOUNDLING AND FOSTER-FRIENDS 27
pose of getting hold of his late master's farm and
with it the person of Mary Bronte. He at once
drew the agent's attention to the derelict condition
of the farm, and to the likelihood of the rent falling
into arrears, and in the interest of the estate
declared himself willing to undertake the burden
of his late master's desolate homestead. He could
not bear to see the family rudely evicted, or the
place to pass into the occupation of strangers !
The agent promised that the farm should be
transferred to Welsh on payment of a certain sum
in case the Brontes were unable to pay the rent ;
but the rent did not fall into arrears. On the
contrary, the agent's demands were regularly and
punctually met, and besides considerable sums of
money were spent in decorating the house and
improving the land.
Welsh pointed out to the agent that the Brontes
were earning good wages in England, and the
rent was accordingly raised ; but the increased
rent was paid on the day it fell due, and again
raised in consequence.
Welsh, finding himself foiled in his short cut to
his master's homestead, and considering that in
future he might have to pay the increased rent
himself, resolved to change his tactics, and turn
his attention to the other object of his quest,
In the neighbourhood there lived a female sub-
28 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
agent called Meg, as base and unprincipled as
himself. Her chief duty was the secret removal
of illegitimate children to the foundling hospital
in Dublin. Her services were utilised in many
ways. She was useful in conveying bottles of
whiskey to farmers' wives who were getting into
drinking habits, and in aiding farmers' sons and
daughters to dispose of eggs and apples and meal
purloined from their parents, in return for trinkets
and ornaments which they wished to possess. She
had also great skill in furthering the wicked designs
of rich but immoral men. She was the spey-
womari) who used to tell the fortunes of servant-
girls and lure them to their destruction.
Like the male sub-agents, such women were
generally supposed to possess the black art, and
to have sold themselves to the devil.
Welsh employed this vile harpy to be his go-
between with Mary. She was to say that he loved
her to distraction ; that he was dying to speak to
her ; that he was now passing rich, and in great
favour with the landlord, who was likely soon to
make him chief agent ; that he would be local magis-
trate, grand juror, and, in fact, magnate and squire
of the district. In support of these forecasts Welsh
used to drive past the Brontes' house in a carriage
borrowed for the occasion from a gentleman-farmer
whose rent was in arrears.
The spey-wonian came often to tell the servants'
THE FOUNDLING AND FOSTER-FRIENDS 29
fortunes, and she had many opportunities of telling
Mary of Welsh's love and goodness. She told how
for several years he had restrained the agent by his
entreaties from evicting them from their home, and
that he had yearly paid large sums to the agent to
prevent him from carrying out his designs. All
this seemed incredible to the simple-minded girl,
but the harpy was able to show the receipts for
the money on the same official form in which
they were accustomed to receive the receipts for
After a time Mary listened to the vile woman's
tales. Welsh could not be so bad as they believed
him to be ! Flowers taken from the gardens of
tenants found their way in great profusion to
Mary's room. Trinkets wrung from anguish-
stricken tenants in fear of eviction were laid on
Mary's dressing-table, for the servants had been
drawn into the conspiracy. At length Mary
agreed to meet Welsh in a lone plantation on the
farm, in company with the harpy, that she might
express to him her gratitude for protecting the\
dear old home. That meeting sealed Mary's fate.
She felt she could never again look any decent
man in the face, so she consented to marry Welsh
to cover her shame. The marriage was secretly \
performed by one of the buckle-beggars of the time,
and then publicly proclaimed. Welsh was now
the husband of one of the ladies on the farm, and
30 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
for a substantial fine the agent accepted him as
The brothers, on hearing the news, which travelled
slowly in those days, hurried back to the old home,
but arrived too late.
The agent received them with great courtesy.
They reminded him that their ancestors had re-
claimed the place from mere bog and wilderness ;
that their father had expended several thousand
pounds on building the houses and draining the
land ; that even within the last few years they
themselves had expended large sums on the place,
and had submitted to several raisings of the rent
without demur ; and that now their old home with
all these improvements had been confiscated with-
out cause or notice, and handed over to the man
who had robbed and degraded the family.
The agent seemed greatly pained. He was very
sorry for the family, but of course he was only an
agent, and obliged to do whatever the landlord
desired, however unreasonable he might in his
private capacity consider the landlord's views.
Everybody knew that the landlord was a resolute
man, and he could hold out no hope of being able
to prevail on him to change his determination.
Failing to get redress from the agent, the brothers
unfortunately took the law into their own hands,
and were arrested for trespass and assault. They
were tried before the agent, who, with unruffled
THE FOUNDLING AND FOSTER-FRIENDS 31
courtesy and sympathetic demeanour, sent them to
He spoke of the pain with which he was obliged
to vindicate " law and order," and gently reproached
them for their lack of gratitude to the chivalrous
gentleman who had relieved them of the burden
of a neglected farm and made it a home for their
Thus the man Welsh, who afterwards assumed
the name Bronte, carried out his purpose of
possessing his late master's farm and with it the
person of his youngest daughter.
His threat of vengeance was also carried out
mother, sisters, brothers were scattered abroad, and
so effectively that I have not been able, after much
searching, to find a single trace of them.
This sordid transaction, which was an ordinary
affair in Ireland, was fraught with far-reaching
consequences to landlordism. It gave birth to
a tenant-right theory, of which we shall hear
something in a subsequent chapter.
THE ADOPTION AND OATH
WE must now return to little Hugh Bronte,
whom we last saw passing out into the
darkness from his father's house, seated between
his uncle and aunt. In Hugh's newly discovered
relatives we recognise Welsh and Mary Bronte.
Many years had passed since the events recorded
in the last chapter. The agent there referred to
had fallen by the hand of an assassin after a bout
of heartless evictions, and almost simultaneously
the house from which the Brontes had been driven
was burnt to the ground, and all Welsh's ill-gotten
riches perished in the conflagration. He was left
a poor and ruined man, unable to propitiate the
newly appointed agent with a satisfactory bribe,
and hence he had to relinquish the sub-agency so
congenial to his tastes.
Welsh was always able to subordinate his pride
to his interests, and through his wife he succeeded
in opening correspondence with one of her brothers,
a prosperous man settled in Ireland.
THE ADOPTION AND OATH 33
Welsh expressed deep penitence for all the
wrongs he had inflicted on the family, and declared
his earnest desire, if forgiven, to make amends.
He and Mary were then childless. They were
getting on in years, and they professed to be
troubled at the prospect of the farm, for lack of an
heir, passing to strangers. They offered to adopt
one of their numerous nephews, and to bring him
up as their own son.
Conditions of adoption were agreed on, including
such matters as education ; but the chief item was
a solemn oath, by which the father agreed never
to visit or communicate with his son in any way,
and Welsh and Mary Bronte bound themselves on
their part never to let the child know where his
The family oath in Ireland was regarded with
superstitious awe, and bound like destiny. Few
of the peasantry ever considered official oaths in
law courts binding. With them the formal kissing
of the Book, at the command of a brusque and
contemptuous official, had none of the sanctions
of religion, superstition, or justice. The court oath
had come to be recognised as simply a screw in
the wheel of the oppressor. But the family covenant
was a different instrument, and the man who broke
it was perjured and abandoned beyond all hope of
salvation here or hereafter. The infringement of
the sacred oath shut for ever the gates of mercy.
THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The Bronte covenant was faithfully kept, and
even when Mary visited Hugh in County Down,
some time about the beginning of this century, she
could neither be coaxed nor compelled to give him
either directly or indirectly a clue or hint by which
he might discover the home of his childhood.
It thus happened that Hugh Bronte was never
able to retrace his steps to his father's house after
the darkness closed around him, perched aloft on
the cross-seat of a country cart between his uncle
A FEARFUL JOURNEY
IT was a cold night, and the child, coming from
the bright and warm house, crept close under
his aunt's wing for warmth. Soon the little full
heart overflowed, and he began to prattle in his
childish way, as he had done with his new friends
for several days.
Suddenly a harsh torrent of corrosive words
burst from Welsh, commanding him to stop
gabbling and not to let another sound pass his
lips. For a moment the child was stunned
and bewildered. He had never heard any words
escape his uncle's lips except words of kindness
and approval, but the fierce stern violence of the
angry order fell like a blow. The young Bronte
blood could not, however, rest passively in such a
crisis. Hugh, disentangling himself from his aunt's
shawl, drew towards his uncle and said, " Did you
speak those unkind words to me ? "
" I'll teach you to disobey me, you magnificent
whelp ! " rasped out Welsh, and suiting the action
36 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
to the word brought his great hand down with a
sharp smack on the little fellow's face. Hurt
and angry, little Bronte sprang from the seat into
the bottom of the cart, and facing the cruel uncle
shouted, " I won't go with you one step farther !
I will go back and tell my father what a bad old
monster you are." And then, clutching at the reins,
he screamed, " Turn the horse round and take me
home ! " He saw the lights of home shining out
warm into the darkness, but he felt a heavy hand
grasping him and choking the voice out of him.
Light flashed from his eyes, and he felt blood
flowing from his nose, and he was conscious that
he was being shaken and knocked against the
bottom and sides of the cart, and sworn at, and
that he was neither able to escape nor to speak.
Several hours later he woke up, and found him-
self lying in damp straw at the back end of the
cart, behind the seat on which his uncle and aunt
were riding. He felt sick and sore and hungry.
He had been dreaming that he was attacked by a
fierce, wild monster ; but his father had come and
slain the monster and saved him, and he lay awake
listening for his father's footsteps and voice. He
waited long, but his father did not come. Every
jolt of the springless cart pained him, as there was
little straw between him and the bare boards.
It was a moonlight night, with occasional showers.
He watched the watery moon racing behind the
A FEARFUL JOURNEY 37
clouds, and the stars following in the same head-
long career, sometimes hiding behind dark masses,
and again shooting brightly and freely across open
spaces. He had never seen the sky look so strange.
He had always known things as friendly to him.
He loved to look up at night, and he had always
thought that the heavens smiled lovingly back on
him ; but on that night he perceived that the cloud
racks and careering stars were selfishly following
their own courses and cared nothing for him.
He turned on his side and watched the two
figures on the seat above him, riding along side
by side in silence and caring nothing for him. A
few hours before he had loved them with all the
romantic and passionate love of his young heart
Now the whole current was changed, and he hated
them to loathing. He felt the utter desolation
of loneliness. His thoughts rushed home as he
remembered the comforts and kindness he had
left behind, and believed then, child though he was,
that he had lost that home for ever. He had tasted
the fruit of the tree of knowledge that night, and
had grown in experience of good and evil.
That was the first night he ever remembered on
which he had neglected to say his prayers. His
mother had taught him to pray, and when he
prayed he believed that God heard him and took
care of him in the darkness. Was it because he
had forgotten to say his prayers that God had left
38 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
him alone with the unsympathising moon and stars,
and with the cruel man and woman who had him
at their mercy ? He rose to his knees, put up his
little folded hands, and said the prayer by which
children come to their heavenly Father the only
prayer he knew.
When he came to the words, " Bless father and
mother, and my good uncle and aunt," he felt the
unsuitableness of his simple liturgy for his present
need ; " good uncle and aunt " stuck in his throat,
and he could not proceed. He was seized with
great terror lest he had spoiled his prayer, and he
wondered what would come of it, if God did not
hear it. While he was perplexed with this thought
the black cloud of scepticism for the first time
darkened his little mind and obscured his simple
faith, and he feared that God would not hear him.
And then the forlorn and desolate child slid a
little lower on the down grade, and the awful
doubt came to him, he knew not whence, that
perhaps there was no God at all, and in his
distress he sobbed out, " O God, if there be a
God, let me die ! "
The sobbing sound startled the uncle. He
turned suddenly round, and with his whip struck
the kneeling child and prostrated him. Little
Hugh did not see the blow coming, and for an
instant he thought God had answered has prayer
and killed him ; but the blow was followed by
A FEARFUL JOURNEY 39
a hurricane of oaths and threats which left no
doubt that it came from his uncle.
The child was badly hurt. The weal raised by
the whip burned like a cord of fire. He did not
cry, however. The philosophy of patient, passive
resistance grew up in him, and he would not let
his bad uncle know that he was suffering from
Seventy years after that night Hugh Bronte
used to tell the story with great vividness, dwelling
on his own feelings in their sequence, and in
repeating the narrative he scarcely ever forgot
a sentence or varied a word. He would say, " I
grew fast that night : I was Christian child, ardent
lover, vindictive hater, enthusiast, misanthrope,
sceptic, atheist, and philosopher in one cruel hour.
Undeserved blows from a hand we once loved
fall heavy, and lead to many thoughts."
The child's mind was filled with a great tumult
of feelings. His atheism was merely a spasm of
the heart, and as he lay on the straw he wondered
if God would let him die, and then, like a true
Bronte, he prayed that his life might be spared
until he should be avenged on his inhuman uncle.
Then he was a child again. His mother's form
rose up before him ; he remembered how he had
prayed at her knee, and slept safely. He remem-
bered also the sad eyes which she had bent upon
him during the past few days, and the sweet and
40 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
gentle manner in which she had caressed him,
and, while his thoughts were thus occupied, he
imagined that he was again safe on her lap, and
When he awoke it was broad day. He lay
perfectly still, and heard an altercation going on
between Welsh and his wife about fifty pounds.
He did not then fully understand the subject of
the quarrel, but he learned afterwards that Welsh
expected Mary to prevail on her brother to pay
$o per annum in return for Hugh's prospects
and bringing up.
The bitter wrangle closed by Welsh declaring
he would murder both his wife and nephew and
throw them into the river. Long silence followed
this announcement, and then they began to pass
a bottle of whiskey between them. Noticing that
Hugh was awake, they passed it to him and
ordered him to drink. He was thirsty, and put
the bottle to his lips, but could not drink ; he had
never tasted whiskey before, and it burnt him.
His uncle, in taking back the bottle from him,
spoke savagely, but did not strike him.
After a while he sat up in the straw and looked
over the sides of the cart. He was in a strange
and unknown land. On the west rose a mountain
abloom with heather. The rising sun shone upon
it, and gave a golden tint to the ruby heath. On
the east, bordered by the sea, stretched a level
A FEARFUL JOURNEY 41
plain composed of barren bog and rocky scrub-
land. The morning sky was perfectly unclouded,
and the sun, which had just risen out of a blood-
red sea, was touching with silver the dewy grass and
wet stones and gossamer cobwebs on the bushes.
There was no sign of human being within sight.
Crows flew overhead, wheat-ears on the rocks
flashed their white-ringed tails, hawks poised in the
air over their prey ; but the land was desolate, and
even the track on which the cart jogged heavily
along could scarcely be called a road. As the
wheels jolted from hole to hole the child felt
his whole frame shaken almost to pieces. He was
hungry and cold and in pain, but he was glad
that God did not take him at his word and let
him die in the darkness. Then he remembered
the loving home that was receding farther and
farther from him, and having repeated the simple
prayer that his mother had taught him to say
every morning, the weary, home-sick child sobbed
himself again to sleep.
When he awoke the sun was shining hot in his
face. He was alone in the cart, out of which the
horse had been taken. At first his alarm was
great, as he found he had been deserted by the
people from whom he longed to escape ; but he
found his aunt's heavy shawl spread over him,
and he knew that she could not be very far away.
The cart had been drawn up close to a little
42 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
thatched cottage, which comprised under the same
roof a grocer's shop and a public-house. He saw a
loaf in the window and some apples, and he tried
to get out of the cart, but was unable to do so.
A blacksmith, whose smithy stood on the other
side of the road, seeing his fruitless efforts, came to
him and lifted him down ; and just as he was
beginning hurriedly to tell the blacksmith the story
of his wrongs, his aunt, who had approached him
from behind, caught his arm and led him gently
into the cottage. He had there some potatoes
and buttermilk, and slept on a settle bed by the
kitchen fire till late in the afternoon. He had not
been permitted to speak to any one, and no one
had spoken to him.
He was still dreaming of home when he was
roughly pulled off the bed and told to mount the
cart again. Heavy imprecations fell on his aunt,
who detained him a little to wash the blood-stains
off his face and make him ready to continue the
journey. A penny bap was put into his hand, and
he was allowed to buy apples with the few pence
that had been put by his brothers and sisters into
the pockets of his new clothes as hansel. " It was
ten years," said old Bronte, " before I fingered
another penny that I could call my own."
The bright promise of the morning was not
fulfilled. As the shades of evening began to gather
the journey was continued in a drizzling rain. A
A FEARFUL JOURNEY 43
bottle of fresh straw had been added to the hard
bed on which little Hugh was to spend the night.
Adapting himself to his circumstances, he arranged
the straw under the cross-seat on which his uncle
and aunt sat, so as to be sheltered from the rain.
Then, placing his heap of apples and the bap beside
him, he settled down in comparative comfort for
the night, so soon does the human animal accom-
modate itself to its surroundings.
On the coast of Syria I once arranged with a
ragged, rascally-looking Arab for a row in his boat.
My companion was a Scotch Hebrew professor. It
was a balmy afternoon, and we enjoyed and pro-
tracted our outing. We talked a little to our
Arab in Arabic, and much about him of a not
very complimentary character in our own tongue.
I happened to drop some sympathetic words re-
garding the .poor wretch, and suddenly his tongue
became loosed in broad Scotch, and he told us his
story. It was very simple.
Twenty years before, the English ship on which
he served as a lad had been wrecked at Alex-
andretta, on the northern coast of Syria. He
swam ashore, lived among the people of the coast
till he had become one of themselves, and at the
time we met him he was the husband of a common
Arab woman and the father of a dusky progeny.
He was content with his squalid existence, and
never again wished to see his native heather.
44 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
I knew a lady in the Syrian desert, the devoted
wife of a petty Arabian sheikh. She drew her
blood from the bluest strain in England. She had
gone down to dinner in the Palace on the arm
of Wellington, and had been considered the belle
and beauty of the Court. She had been wife to
an English Lord Chancellor, a great Governor-
general of India, and had moved in the highest
rank of the society of her time. But she was
content and happy to endure the privations of
Bedawi life, and isolation from civilising influences,
for the society of a husband who was not very
clean or kind.
Comparing small things with great, we need not
wonder, then, when we see little Hugh Bronte
arranging his straw divan, and settling down
soberly beside his frugal repast. His couch was
his castle for the time.
The night was long, the rain was incessant ; the
horse stumbled and splashed through the mud,
and the harsh uncle varied the monotony by some-
times whipping the horse into a trot, and then
swearing at it when it did trot. By ten o'clock
the next morning a large village was reached ;
but Hugh Bronte in after-years was never able to
identify it, nor have I been able to conjecture after
much searching its probable position.
In the village there was an inn of considerable
importance. The child was carried stiff and cold
A FEARFUL JOURNEY 45
from the cart to a little room in the inn, in which
he was put to bed. No one but his aunt had been
allowed to come near him. After placing some
bread and milk beside him, she took away his
clothes and locked the door of the little room.
In the afternoon she returned, bringing with her
a suit of bottle-green corduroy with shining brass
buttons. The clothes were much too large for him,
and the trousers were so stiff that he could scarcely
sit down. He was hurried into the corduroys, of
which he hated the smell, and after having some
more bread and milk the journey was resumed. He
never again saw his own warm, woollen garments,
which had been exchanged for the corduroys and
a horsecloth. The horse-cover became his coverlet
by night, and beneath it he slept more comfortably
than before on his straw couch.
On the following morning at an early hour,
while Hugh was still asleep, they reached another
large town. As usual the cart was drawn up at
an inn, where the travellers passed the day. During
the day, while Welsh was out in the town and his
aunt dozing by the fire, Hugh slipped quietly to
the innkeeper, and tried to tell him the story of
his wrongs ; but the man could not comprehend
w r hat he said, and he could not understand what
the man said owing to the brogue. The child's
earnestness drew a little crowd round him, and he
was just beginning to make himself understood,
46 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
when the uncle returned suddenly and whisked
him off to the cart, where he was obliged to spend
the long afternoon, until at nightfall they resumed
He heard angry words between his uncle and
the innkeeper, but no deliverance came, and his
heart once more sank within him. He passed
another miserable night, and on the forenoon of
the following day they arrived at Drogheda.
After a short pause at Drogheda, during which
he was not permitted to descend from the cart or
communicate with any stranger, the journey was
resumed, and the party arrived at Welsh's home
on the banks of the Boyne late in the afternoon.
Such is the story of Hugh Bronte's journey from
his father's home to Welsh's. It was first told me
by my old tutor, the Rev. William McAllister,
and confirmed subsequently by several of his
friends who were men of education and intelligence.
I was careful to get the details of the different
nights' march as fully as possible, in hopes that
they might give some clue to the route. By four
independent narrators the account was repeated to
me. The narrations differed in certain details, but
all were agreed on the main incidents as I have
given them. I have omitted several striking
incidents of the journey on which all four were not
agreed. Even in details the narrators did not differ
greatly, but all were at one as to the four nights
A FEARFUL JOURNEY 47
spent on the road, the villages and towns passed
through, the appearance of the country on the
first morning of the journey, and other leading facts.
I have given a mere outline of Hugh Bronte's
thrilling tale, without any attempt to reproduce
his style. The experience of the boy on that
dreadful journey was told by the man with dramatic
power and pent-up passion, such as never failed to
hold his listeners spellbound.
Nothing was wanting to give colour and reality
to Hugh Bronte's eloquence. He spoke of the
stunted trees on the wind-swept mountains, and
ghostly shadows on the moon-bleached plains.
He described the desolate bogs on the waysides,
and the interminable stretches of road leading over
narrow bridges and through shallow fords ; and
sometimes he would thrill his audience by a de-
scription of the heavens on fire with stars, or the
autumn stricken into gold by the setting sun.
He possessed the rare faculty of seeing as well as
thinking what he was speaking of. He made his
listeners see and feel as well as hear.
Mr. McAllister had heard most of the orators
of his time, including O'Connell and Cooke and
Chalmers, but no man ever touched or roused and
thrilled him by the force of eloquence as old Hugh
Bronte had done.
It may be questioned if any tale ever told
by Hugh Bronte's granddaughters equalled those
48 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
which he narrated in wealth of imagination, or
picturesque eloquence, or intensity of human feel-
ing, or vividness of colouring, or immediate effect.
The grandfather had few of the cultured literary
touches of the novelists, but he was generally the
hero of his own romances, and narrated them with
a rugged pathos and ferocious energy which went
straight to the heart, but cannot be transferred to
Welsh Bronte travelled by night partly for the
sake of economy in saving the expenses of lodgings,
but more especially that little Hugh should see
no landmarks by which his footsteps might ever be
guided home. In both respects he was thoroughly
successful. He was able to doze all day long in
public-houses without charge ; and Hugh, though
he believed he had come from the south, never had
the slightest idea as to where his father's house
Do the incidents of the journey give us any
clue by which to discover the region where Hugh
Bronte's father lived ? The journey occupied four
whole nights of an average of from thirteen to
fifteen hours each. The rate of progress on the
bad roads would not much exceed two and a
quarter miles per hour, and the whole distance
traversed might be fairly supposed to be some-
where about a hundred or a hundred and twenty
A FEARFUL JOURNEY 49
With these facts in view I spent the two months
of my undergraduate holidays in trying to find
the early home of Hugh Bronte. I went about
my work dressed in the ordinary clothes of an
Irish peasant. I lived with the people, and enjoyed
their hospitality and fun. Everybody was willing
to aid me in my researches after a lost home and
friends, but with every assistance I could find no
trace or tradition of a Bronte family south of the
Boyne. I did not then altogether abandon my
quest, and I have since written hundreds of letters
on the subject to correspondents in various parts
of Ireland. But unless some document, now un-
known to me, comes to light, the early home of
Hugh Bronte will never be known.*
What is of more importance is the fact that
the ancient home of the Brontes, where Hugh's
grandfather the great-great-great-grandfather of
the novelists lived, was on the north side of the
river Boyne, between Oldbridge and Navan, not
far from the spot where William of Orange won
the famous battle of the Boyne.
Some thirty-five years ago the place where the
Bronte house once stood was pointed out to me.
The potato blight and other calamities have been
* It is quite possible I may have been on the wrong track.
Mr. McCracken assures me that Hugh Bronte spoke with a
distinctly Scotch accent. His journey, after all, may have
been from the north, and the child may have mistaken the
waters of a lake for the sea.
50 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
steadily removing landmarks in Ireland, and I
fear that the local tradition has now faded from
In this there is nothing surprising or unusual.
Few families in Ireland of the rank of the Brontes
could trace their pedigree to the sixth or seventh
generation.* That the ancestors of the Brontes
lived on the banks of the Boyne six or seven
generations back is beyond all doubt. Hugh's
account of the place was precise and definite, and
his daughter Alice distinctly remembered the aunt
Mary, Welsh's widow, coming from the neighbour-
hood of Drogheda to visit Hugh and his family
in County Down. Indeed, she referred to the fact,
in a short interview in 1890 with the Rev. J. B.
Lusk, when she was on her deathbed.
* With the exception of Alice, with whom I was in corres-
pondence, directly and indirectly, up to her death, none of the
Irish Brontes knew anything of the early history of the family.
I visited most of them, and the vague information they had to
communicate was merely an echo from the English biogra-
phies. Even Alice mixed up different events in a way some-
times that made it difficult to disentangle them.
A MISERABLE HOME .
HUGH BRONTE arrived at his uncle's house
hungry, weary, and numbed with cold. He
was also suffering acute pain from the incessant
jolting of the springless cart in which he had lain,
and from his uncle's blows and shakings. He was
a little mite in stiff corduroys, of which he loathed
the smell and touch ; but he learned to be less
On his arrival his uncle had a short conversation
with him, with a view to a right understanding as
to their future relations and duties.
Seizing his little nephew and ward firmly by the
two shoulders, and looking fiercely in his face,
Welsh informed him that his father was a mean
and black-hearted scoundrel. Welsh, according to
his own account, had agreed to make Hugh his heir,
and give him the " education of a gentleman," and
in consideration of these advantages Hugh's father
had promised to pay Welsh a sum of .50 ; but the
spalpeen and deceiver had only paid 5, and Hugh
52 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
would have to work for his bread and go without
education. These grave decisions were emphasised
by a series of very strong words, which Hugh
always repeated, but which my reader does not care
to hear. Are they not written in the records of
Wuthering Heights ?
There was present at this family interview a
tall, gaunt, half-naked savage, called Gallagher, who
seemed to know all about the matter under dis-
cussion, as he expressed audible approval of every-
thing Welsh said, and when he had finished called
on the Blessed Virgin and all the saints to blast
Hugh's father and protect his uncle. Encouraged
on these lines, he submitted for Hugh's consideration
the utter absurdity of a boy with such a father
hoping for happiness here or for heaven hereafter,
especially as he would have all the blessed saints
This sanctimonious individual was the steward of
Welsh's house. He had been very useful to Welsh
as a spy when he was sub-agent of the estate. He
would mix with the lowest strata of the people at
fairs and markets, make them drunk, and extract
their secrets. He thus succeeded in sounding
depths to which the sub-agent could not descend.
He also frequented dances, wakes, and funerals ;
and as he had a great power of turning on the
outward signs of sympathy and sorrow, he became
Welsh's most valuable ally. In fact, he was indis-
A MISERABLE HOME 53
pensable to the office in the successful management
of the estate.
Hugh's father had once denounced Gallagher as
a spy at a public gathering, and he was ignomini-
ously ejected, and in return Gallagher had supplied
the evidence false evidence which led to the
conviction and imprisonment of the three brothers.
On the murder of the agent and burning of the
Bronte house, Welsh and his spy fell together, and
they continued to hold together as master and
Gallagher had been of service to Welsh in other
ways. He was the associate of Meg, and had aided
her in the schemes which led to Mary Bronte
becoming Welsh's wife. He was present with Meg
as a witness in the plantation on that fatal night
when Mary consented to wed Welsh. She was
given to understand that if she refused her shame
would be trumpeted all over the land by Meg and
Gallagher on the following day.
Gallagher was a partner with Meg in the
foundling business, and they had more effective
ways of dealing with superfluous children than have
yet been discovered by our modern baby farmers.
The children were supposed to be carried to the
Dublin Foundling Hospital ; but no questions were
asked and no receipts given, and the guilty parents
were only too well pleased that their offsprings
should go " where the wicked cease from troubling."
THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Gallagher and Meg knew their employers well,
and acted in accordance with their wishes. The
two confederates were closely bound together by
their trade secret and by the common danger of
exposure ; for although those were the palmy days
of landlord " law and order," it was always possible
that some meddlesome magistrate might so far
deflect the law from its primary purpose the
extraction of rent as to bring it to bear on the
wholesale murder of bastards. The thing feared
came to pass, and Gallagher and Meg were trans-
ported ; but it came out in the evidence that
Welsh, in the period of his prosperity, had so
taken advantage of his opportunities, that he might
have had a houseful of heirs but for the friendly
intervention of Meg and Gallagher.
Gallagher was the original from whom Emily
Bronte drew her portrait of Joseph in Wuthering
Heights. He was one of Hugh Bronte's chief
characters. On him he used to pour out the
copious vials of Bronte satire, scorn, and hatred.
Everybody who knew anything of Hugh Bronte's
stories must have heard of Gallagher. In fact,
the name became of common use in the neigh-
bourhood of Ballynaskeagh as a nickname for
objectionable persons, and I think it is so used
still. At present I know a County Down family
in London who often employ the sobriquet in
jest, though with a basis of seriousness. To my
A MISERABLE HOME 55
mind it is just as certain that Joseph is the lineal
descendant of Gallagher as that Heathcliffe is
modelled on Welsh. In neither case is there
room for reasonable doubt.
Joseph's hypocrisy is of the stern Protestant
type, Gallagher's of the wily Catholic type.
Joseph raked the Bible promises to himself, and
left the threatenings to his enemies ; Gallagher
took " the Blessed Virgin and all the saints " into
his service, and arrayed them against his foes.
Visitations which were calamities to Gallagher and
his friends were judgments on his enemies. Joseph,
like Gallagher, used language of unfathomable and
indefinite virulency, and in all respects he follows
the outline of his prototype, but he is not the very
image of the man.
In Emily Bronte's hands, Joseph, the English
villain, is less selfish, less cunning, less criminal, less
dastardly than the Irish. Joseph, the ideal creation,
is not a lovable character, but he is less hateful than
the real Gallagher. It was to the companionship
of this inhuman monster that Welsh committed
his little nephew and ward.
As soon as Welsh and Gallagher had left off
speaking, Hugh looked round the mansion to
which he had become presumptive heir. A happy
pig with a large and happy family lay in one side
of the room in which he stood. Smouldering
ashes on a hearth, under a great open chimney,
56 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
indicated that the house was a place of human
habitation. A stack of peat was heaped up on
the other side of the fire from that devoted to the
rnother-pig and her progeny. A broad, square bed-
stead stood in the end of the room farthest from the
fire, raised about a foot from the ground. The damp,
uneven, earthen floor was unswept. There were a
few chairs upholstered with straw ropes, and on
the backs of these a succession of hens took their
places in turn, preliminary to a loftier flight to the
cross-beams close up to the thatch. It was a low
room, so they had not to make a great effort to
reach their perches. A lean, long-backed, rough-
haired/yellow dog stood by the boy's side smelling
him, but in a neutral frame of mind, and showing
no signs of welcome.
Hugh had heard the hard, rasping words regard-
ing his father's treachery, and about his own duties
and prospects ; but he did not take in fully the
situation, and he simply by way of reply said,
" Are you going home soon ? "
" You are at home now," replied his uncle.
" This is the only home you shall ever know, and
you are beholden to me for it. No airs here, my
fine fellow ! Your father was glad to be rid of you,
and this is the gratitude you show me for taking
you to be my heir. Get to bed out of my way,
and I'll find you something to do in the morning to
keep you from becoming too great for the position.''
A MISERABLE HOME 57
But in the morning the child was unable to leave
the hard, damp bed, in which he had lain down with
loathing. He had been obliged to lie across the
foot of the bed at his uncle and aunt's feet, but his
slumbers were disturbed by the grunting pig, and
squealing young, which seemed to keep up an
incessant struggle and contest for choice places.
There were also two cocks, nearly over his head,
that had several bouts of crowing in rivalry during
the night, the hens occasionally expressing approval.
The uncle rose early to let out the hens to
find the early worm, and the great mother-pig
to take an airing. He then dragged little Hugh
out of bed, doubtless that he might get early into
training for the coming responsibilities of heirship.
But the child, unable to stand, tottered on to the
floor. His uncle at first thought him shamming,
but fierce imprecations could not exorcise fever
and delirium, and for many weeks little Hugh
lingered between life and death.
No doctor saw him, but he remembered his hair
being cut off, and he did not forget the unfailing
two-milk posset with which his aunt kept him
supplied. He remained weak and unable to go
out during the winter, but he made many friends.
The pig had been allowed to depart as soon as
she was considered convalescent and competent
to manage her large family. The rough dog had
proved a warm friend dogs were always steadfast
58 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
friends to the Brontes. He used to lie across
the bed, beside the child, all day long, licking his
face and hands, and waiting with patient fidelity
his restoration to health. At night he would lie
on the bare ground by the bedside, but as soon as
the elders had vacated the bed in the morning
he would take the empty place beside his little
The dog's delight seemed to know no bounds
when the child began to get out of bed for a few
hours daily. He would make various kinds of
inarticulate sounds to express his pent-up feelings,
and cut uncouth capers all round, sometimes rush-
ing outside the house and barking furiously, as if to
decoy the invalid beyond the threshold into the
open air. Then he would sit with him, and lie with
him on the sheepskin by the fire, and with dog-like
constancy and affection watch every movement of
his little hero.
And the child in return loved the great shaggy
creature with all the strength of his little crushed
heart. Hugh Bronte used to say that at first he
passionately longed for death, that he might escape
from his squalid surroundings and from his tor-
mentors ; but with his growing love for the dog
he earnestly desired to live, and he believed that
but for the dog he should have died.
He also came to long for the crowing of the cocks
in the morning. There were two of them ; one a
A MISERABLE HOME 59
bantam, and the other a great barn-door bird with
flaming comb and splendid tufts of feathers like
a guardsman's helmet. The great cock tried to
thrill the lady hens by a voice that should have
struck terror into the hearts of bantams ; but the
bantam retorted by a little piping, perliteful
crow, that seemed to deprecate the vulgarity of
seeking popularity by loud and pompous ways.
In the long, weary days the fowls became his
attached friends. He used to save a few crumbs
from his own scanty allowance, and they would
feed from his hands without hurting him. Better
still, his aunt Mary during his illness conceived a
great affection for him, and loved him as if he
were her own child. When Welsh was not present
she would let him have an egg, or a little fresh
butter, from the meskin that was prepared for the
market, or, what was much more prized, a cup of
peppermint-tea, the forerunner of the universal
Over the peppermint-tea Aunt Mary became
communicative, and then, and in after-years, she
told him secretly the tragic story of the Bronte
family. It brought him no immediate relief at
first, but in after-years it was a great source of
satisfaction to him to know that the cowardly
and tyrannical uncle was no Bronte at all, and not
even an Irishman.
On the subject of Welsh's nationality Hugh
60 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Bronte's fiery patriotism was wont to appear. He
would denounce the foreigner as the blighter of his
life and the curse of his country. The denunciation
of the foreign element was always productive of
mixed sentiments in County Down, where a large
proportion of the people were descendants of either
English or Scotch settlers ; but Hugh Bronte's
convictions seemed always to grow more decisive
in the face of opposition, and from the crucible of
contradiction his words flowed like red-hot lava.
His aunt's husband had been a dastardly despot
as well as a base-born bully, and he held that all
foreigners were like him.
The spring came early that year, and with it
health and vigour. Hugh revelled in the fresh air
with his faithful dog Keeper. His aunt had told
him of the burning of the old Bronte house. He
saw the extensive ruins, and he kept away as much
as possible from Welsh's inhabited hovel, which
consisted simply of one of the large rooms with a
roof thrown over the charred and crumbling walls.
The squalor and wretchedness of the home into
which so many things crept at night, compared
with the ruins of the house in which his father
had been brought up, made a lasting impression on
But he was not long left to such reflections. As
soon as he was able to go he was sent to herd the
cattle, which were housed at night in other ruined
A MISERABLE HOME 61
rooms of the burnt edifice. Hugh's duty was to
prevent the cows and sheep from passing over a
low fence from their pasture to growing corn on
the other side of the fence.
The days were long, but he enjoyed them.
Keeper was a famous ratter, and there was much
for him to do in that line ; but in his laborious
efforts to exterminate the rats he never forgot
his higher duties, and he would stop in the heat
and excitement of an ardent hunt to head off any
of the cattle that seemed disposed to trespass on
forbidden ground. Keeper sometimes rewarded
his master by capturing a rabbit, and then there
would be a feast for both boy and dog.
Emily Bronte's love for her dog, which was
actually called " Keeper," was a weak platonic
affair, a girlish whim or lingering family tradition,
compared with the deep, strong tie of interest and
affection that bound the desolate boy and friendless
dog to one another. Keeper had at first scanned
the newly arrived child with a critical eye, and as a
kind of rival had given him a cold welcome ; but
he had watched by him in sickness as only a dog
could, and adapted himself to every mood of his
returning strength and growing spirit, never be-
coming too buoyant or boisterous until his health
was completely restored. It was an affection based
on common interests and mutual esteem, and
required no treaty or covenant to render it binding.
62 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The dog for years never lost sight of his master.
Absence was not needed to make the heart grow
fonder. He lay close to him at night, dreaming of
happy morrows, and awoke to joy in his master's
love and fellowship.
When Keeper received a kick, as he often did,
the child showed sullen resentment, at the risk of
being treated in the same humane fashion himself ;
and when little Bronte was being scolded or beaten
by Welsh or Gallagher, which was a matter of
almost daily occurrence, the dog showed dangerous
signs of springing at the throat of the common
In no land has attachment to home so firm a
grip of the heart as in Ireland. Hugh Bronte
was a mere child when he passed from the light of
his father's home into the darkness of night and
servitude ; but his heart never ceased to ache for
the home of his childhood, and the friends he had
lost. He used to watch every well-dressed man
that appeared on the road passing the farm, in
hope that he might be his father and deliverer, but
his hopes were always blighted, as the traveller
passed by on his own errand. He often started at
night in bed, believing that he had heard familiar
voices at the door ; but the voices were not repeated
to his waking ears.
Year followed year in slow procession and ever-
varying form. Now it passed clad in the virgin
A MISERABLE HOME 63
robes of spring, accompanied by the joyous min-
strelsy of birds ; now decked in the bridal array
of autumn, russet and gold, with yellow grain and
rosy apples ; and now it settled in the snowy
shroud of death. Each season had its charms
for the Bronte child. The silent awaking of spring,
the storm-bent trees roaring like a sea rushing
on the beach, the brattling thunder and blue skies,
the lashing hail and silent snow, seemed a part
of the boy shut out to their companionship. He
grew up in solitariness, and looked on the elements
as friends ; but his heart never ceased to yearn
for the lost friends of his old home.
His corduroy suit soon became too small, but
it was pieced and patched until the original had
all been supplanted. When his boots became
unwearable he was obliged to go barefooted.
There was no comb, and little soap, among the
domestic arrangements of his uncle's home ; but
the boy enjoyed his rough, free life, revelling in
unkempt and unwashed nature. His highest enjoy-
ment was to be away with his dog, beyond the
espionage of Gallagher and the rasping blasphemy
of Welsh. But his idle days with Keeper among
the bees in the clover soon gave place to sterner
duties. He had to gather potatoes after the
diggers in sleet and rain, collect stones off the
fields in winter to drain bog-land, take his part
in all the drudgery of an ill-cultivated farm from
64 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
sunrise to sunset, and then thresh and winnow
grain in the barn till near midnight
He had grown too big to sleep across the bed
at the feet of his uncle and aunt, and he had to
lie on a sack of chaff in the half-roofed barn. His
uncle hated him with a fierce and bitter hatred.
In fact, he never saw his uncle's face but it was
ugly with anger, or heard his voice except in
accents of reproach ; and he had come to expect
nothing else, for his uncle once told him he could
never beat him when he did not deserve it, for
like a goat he was always going to mischief or
coming from it.
Hugh had no one but Gallagher to whom he
could speak during his working hours, and he
found the cunning malignity of Gallagher harder
to endure than the harsh cruelty of his uncle.
He always felt the eye and shadow of the spy
upon him. The boy's clear instinct told him
Gallagher was a bad man, but sometimes the
pent-up heart would overflow, and the sealed lips
babble to the one human being near him ; and
then Gallagher would feign sympathy and extract
from the boy all his secrets, even those that his
aunt had communicated to him in confidence.
He would also lead him on by the memory of
cruel wrongs to give expression to the passionate
resentment that slumbered in him.
When Gallagher had got all the secrets that
A MISERABLE HOME 65
were in the boy's heart he would denounce him
to his uncle, setting forth each item in the manner
that would best stir up his cruelty. Sometimes
Gallagher would mock and jeer at the rags and
destitute condition of the boy, and tell him that
all his evils came upon him from the blessed saints
and because of his father's sins, and he would
assure him that the devil would carry him away
from the barn some night, as he had often taken
bad men's sons.
Hugh was not much alarmed by day at the
prospect of satanic visitations, but he used to lie
awake at night in the utmost terror of the fiend.
He used to cover his head for fear of seeing him,
and when he slept he dreamt of being chased and
carried off by demons.
Owing to Gallagher's words the peaceful nights,
in which he used to forget his griefs, became more
dreaded by him than the day.
It is very probable that Hugh may have con-
veyed to his sons something of his own early vivid
conceptions of a personal devil, for, as we shall see,
one of them used to go forth to actual physical
conflict with the fiend.
Gallagher used to drive Hugh almost wild by
telling him stories of the beatings he had adminis-
tered to his father when they were both boys, the
facts having been quite the other way ; and indeed
the cruelties practised on the boy were Gallagher's
66 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
base revenge for the whippings that Hugh's father
used to administer to him.
Gallagher employed every means that his cunning
and malignity could devise to render the boy's life
miserable. He would purloin eggs, and break the
farming tools, and maim the cattle, in order to have
him beaten by his uncle. And he always managed
to be present when Hugh was beaten, and he
would on these occasions assure him that the
punishment came to him from " the blessed saints."
THE CAPTIVE ESCAPES
THE uncle was an ill-tempered, ill-conditioned
man in all transactions with strangers as well
as in his domestic relations. In fairs and markets
he had many quarrels, and often came home bear-
ing marks of violence. He had a standing quarrel
with a neighbour about a piece of exhausted bog.
Nothing in Ireland is supposed to test a man's
honesty like a piece of waste land lying contiguous
to his own land. " If a man escape with honour as
a trustee, try him with a bit of bog," is an Irish
proverb. The temptation had come in Welsh's
way when he was a sub-agent with great facilities
for helping himself at the expense of the tenants.
He had robbed the Brontes of their farm, why
should he hesitate to add a slice of bog to it ? Of
course he had more land than he could cultivate,
but his neighbour's bog was just needed to round
off his ill-gotten possession.
The owner was known by the office as a foolish
and objectionable tenant, who actually had the
68 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
audacity to vote at elections contrary to the con-
scientious convictions of his landlord, and under
the circumstances the agent would be easily pre-
vailed upon to let Welsh have what he wanted.
There was not likely to be any trouble over the
matter, for the bog was of little use to any-
body ; all the turf had been removed, and only
a swamp remained covered with star-grass, and
tenanted by water-hens, coots, and snipe.
The agent offered to let Welsh have his neigh-
bour's bog for a consideration. Welsh paid the
sum, but the tenant, being a cantankerous person,
did not fall in pleasantly with the arrangement.
Difficulties of a magnitude out of all proportion to
the insignificance of the matter were raised.
The plundering of the Brontes had been watched
by the neighbours with sullen indignation, but
when it became known that the objectionable sub-
agent was about to lay hands on the property of
another farmer the smouldering fire burst into
conflagration. Attempts to transfer the bog were
frustrated, and while matters were in this un-
satisfactory condition the agent was murdered and
Welsh's house was burned to the ground.
The ownership of the bog remained in that
doubtful condition so profitable to those in
authority. Welsh had lost his official position, and
for years the new agent gave fair promises to both
claimants and accepted presents from both. The
THE CAPTIVE ESCAPES 69
landlord would of course decide the matter, but
he was always in foreign parts, and could not be
troubled with such a small detail till he returned
Meanwhile both paid rent for the bog and
fought for the useless star-grass. Welsh was
persistent in maintaining his claim to the coveted
possession. He would wade into the swamp up
to his waist to cut the sapless star-grass, and one
day, after many hot words with the owner, blows
ensued, and he was badly beaten.
He called on Hugh, who was then a large boy
of fifteen, to help ; but he called in vain, for Hugh
had listened to a full and detailed account of his
uncle's crimes before the battle began. He was
accused to his teeth of murdering old Bronte for
his money, and betraying his daughter in order to
rob the family of their estate. The misery he had
brought to many homes was clearly set forth, and
in Welsh's attempt to take possession of his neigh-
bour's property Hugh believed that he was utterly
in the wrong, and deserved the beating he received ;
besides, the neighbour (whose name has escaped
me) had always treated Hugh kindly, and on
several occasions had shared with him the collation
of bread and milk that had been brought to him
in the fields in the afternoon.
This battle led to important issues. The uncle
was carried home, bruised and bleeding, by
70 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Gallagher and Hugh and put to bed. On the
following morning he sent for Hugh. In a
choking passion he demanded why he had not
helped him in the fight Hugh replied that he
considered his uncle was in the wrong, but that
in any case it would have been unfair for him to
The uncle stormed as usual, but was unable to
get out of bed to chastise his nephew. Hugh now
found an opportunity that he had long been
waiting for to press deferred claims.
He reminded his uncle of the false promises he
had made to his parents and himself when taking
him from his home ; of his failure to send him to
school, or even to provide him with clothes to
wear ; and he reproached him with the fiendish
manner in which he had always treated him. He
ended his harangue by a fierce demand that he
would let him return home, or else that he would
provide him with clothes and send him to school.
Hugh, having found the use of his tongue in his
uncle's presence, pleaded his case with a courage
that surprised himself. He told his uncle that he
was a false and cruel bully, and that he thoroughly
deserved the beating at the hands of the man he
had tried to rob ; and then, carried away by his
rising passion, he told him he knew he was not a
true Bronte, but a gutter-monster who had stolen
the name ; he defiantly added that he hoped
THE CAPTIVE ESCAPES 71
before long to be able to avenge his ancestors
for the desecration of their name by thrashing him
Having delivered this speech, Hugh became
conscious that another crisis in his life had arrived.
Even the chaff bed in the half-roofed barn would
cease to be for him. His uncle's house was no
longer childless. A son and heir had come on the
scene a twelvemonth before, and Hugh knew he
had nothing to expect but the same harsh treat-
ment either in the present or the future. He could
not even hope, in the event of his uncle's death, to
inherit the old Bronte home and restore its fallen
fortunes, for a legal heir had arrived and was well
in possession. His uncle also had promised to
punish him once for all as soon as he got well.
A severe beating was his immediate prospect, for
Welsh seldom failed in carrying out his evil
In a few days the uncle was out of bed and able
to move about, his head wrapped in bandages and
his two eyes draped in mourning. As he grew
stronger he fixed the day on which he would
chastise his nephew. Hugh saw that the time had
come for him to shift for himself. He first resolved
to fight his uncle, but on consideration he concluded
that even if he should be victorious, victory would
only make his position in the house more un-
endurable. Then he resolved on flight ; but where
72 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
could he fly ? He would certainly be followed and
brought back, and then his state with his uncle
would be worse than ever.
Besides, he was almost naked, and the few
rags that hung around him left his body visible
at many points. He could not consult Gallagher
in his emergency, for during the suspense he
never ceased to keep him in mind of his coming
chastisement, and to assure him that it was the will
of the saints that he should suffer for his father's
sins. Keeper was his sole friend, but to escape
with Keeper would lead to certain discovery.
Hugh was now in a state of rebellion, and in his
desperation he went to his uncle's enemy.
People in their death-and-life struggle for free-
dom do not scrutinise too closely the credentials
of those willing to assist them.
Hugh's neutrality during the battle must have
commended him to the enemy, who indeed owed
him something for not joining in the fight at a
critical moment, when by stone or stick he might
have turned the fortune of war in his uncle's
favour. He told his uncle's chastiser the full tale
of his sorrows, and found him a sympathising and
The day on which Hugh was to get his great
beating arrived. Everybody except Gallagher
awaited it in gloomy silence ; even Keeper seemed
to know what was coming. The uncle had pro-
THE CAPTIVE ESCAPES 73
vided himself with a stout hazel rod, which he
playfully called "the tickler." Aunt Mary's eyes
were, as usual, red with weeping.
Preparation was made deliberately, and the
chastisement was to be administered when the
cattle were brought home at midday. Hugh and
Gallagher spent that morning weeding in a field
of oats, in a remote corner of the farm. Hugh
was silent ; but Gallagher was loquacious and
exasperating. He devoted the whole morning to
jeers and taunts and mockery.
As the hour arrived for Hugh to go for the cows,
Gallagher surpassed all his previous brutality by
telling him that he had once been his mother's
lover. He was proceeding to develop his false but
cruel tale, when Hugh, stung to the quick, and
blind with passion, sprang upon his mother's
defamer like a tiger. There was a short, fierce
struggle, and Hugh had his tormentor on the
ground, and was beating his face into a jelly, while
at the same time Keeper was engaged in tearing
the ruffian's clothes into shreds.
Hugh's fury cooled when Gallagher no longer
resisted, and throwing his tliistle-hooks on the top
of him as he lay prostrate in the corn, he walked
into the house. He bade his aunt, who was baking
bread, good-bye, kissed the baby, and then left to
bring home the cattle to be milked.
Keeper, who had laid aside his melancholy in
74 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
the encounter with Gallagher, responded to his
master's whistle, and ran round him in wide circles
barking and gambolling as if to keep his spirits up.
As Hugh turned to take a last look at the old
Bronte house, he saw Gallagher approaching Welsh,
who was waiting near the cowshed, evidently enjoy-
ing the pleasures of the imagination.
The cattle were grazing on the banks of the
Boyne, near the spot where a wing of William's
army crossed, on that era-making day, in 1690.
Hugh proceeded to the river, and deliberately
divested himself of his rags preparatory to a plunge,
as was his wont. He laid his tattered garments in
a heap, and told Keeper to lie down upon them.
Then, throwing himself down naked beside his
faithful friend, he took him in his arms and kissed
him again and again, and starting up with a sob
he plunged headlong into the river.
The clothes were placed in a little hollow behind
a ridge, from which Keeper could not see his master
enter the water, or mark the direction in which
he had gone.
Hugh swam swiftly down the river. It was a
swim for life. The current soon carried him oppo-
site the farm of his uncle's enemy, who awaited
his approach in a clump of willows by the water's
edge. He had brought with him an improvised
suit of clothes to further the boy's escape. The
pockets of the coat were stuffed with oat-bread,
THE CAPTIVE ESCAPES 75
and there were a few pence in the pockets of the
trousers. Hugh hurried on the garments, which
were much too large for him, and thrust his feet,
the first time for seven years, into a pair of boots,
and with a heart full of gratitude to his helper,
and a final squeeze of his hand, unaccompanied
by words from either, Hugh Bronte, about fifteen
years old, started on his race for life and freedom.
THE FLIGHT AND REFUGE
WE have now reached more solid ground in
the life of Hugh Bronte, and from this point
onward his career, and that of his descendants, lie
before us within well-defined geographical limits.
With glad heart and buoyant spirits Hugh sped
forward on the road to Dunleer, which town he
passed through without pausing, and continuing
his flight struck straight for Castlebellingham. To
his latest days he spoke of the intoxication of joy
with which he almost flew along the road, a boot
in either hand. He did not know where the road
led to, or whither he was going ; but he believed
there was a city of refuge somewhere before, and
his pace was quickened by the lurking fear that
the avenger might be on his heels.
As he approached Castlebellingham he heard
a jaunting-car coming after him. He hid behind
the fence till it had passed. It was laden with
policemen, but in the summer evening light he
eould see that his uncle was not on the car.
THE FLIGHT AND REFUGE 77
He reached Dundalk at an early hour, and after
a short sleep in the shelter of a hayrick, continued
his journey, not by the public road, for freedom was
too sweet to run any risks of being overtaken, but
eastward through level fields, along the shore, where
now runs the Dundalk and Greenore Railway. In
a small public-house he was able to spend his
last copper on a little food, and then he started for
Carlingford, which he heard of from the publican
as an important town behind the mountain.
When he had wandered by the shore for a couple
of hours, he saw smoke rising on his left, and he
turned inland from the sea and came upon lime-
kilns at a place called Mount Pleasant. These
kilns came to be known as Swift McNeil's, and
people went from great distances to purchase lime
as well for agriculture as for building purposes.
When Hugh arrived at the kilns there were
thirty or forty carts from Down, Armagh, and Louth
waiting for their loads, and there were not enough
hands employed to keep up the supply. Lime-
stone had to be quarried and wheeled to the kilns,
then broken, and thrown in at the top with layers
of coal. After burning for a time, the lime was
drawn out from the eye of the kiln into shallow
barrels and emptied into carts, the price being so
much per barrel.
Here Hugh Bronte found his first job, and
regular remuneration for his free labour. In a
78 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
short time he had earned enough money to provide
himself with a complete suit of clothes, the first he
had had since he was six years of age, and he
had now reached sixteen. His wages more than
sufficed for his wants, and he had a great deal
to spare for personal adornment. Being steady
and much better dressed than the other workers,
he was advanced to the responsible position of
Hugh became a favourite with the people who
came for lime, as well as with his employers.
Among the most regular customers were the Todds
and the McAllisters of Ballynaskeagh and Glascar
in County Down. Their servants were often accom-
panied by a youth called McClory, who drove his
own cart. McClory and Bronte, who were about
the same age, resembled each other in the fiery
colour of their hair. They became fast friends,
and it was arranged that Bronte should visit
McClory in County Down during the Christmas
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
THE visit to McClory's house in County Down
was another momentous step in the life of
Hugh Bronte. He had shaken off the nightmare
of cruel slavery. His work, mostly in the open air,
suited him. He was well paid, had good food and
clothing, and in two years the starved and ragged
boy had become a large, handsome, well-dressed
man. Like most handsome people, Hugh knew
that he was handsome, and the resources of Dundalk
were taxed in those days to the utmost to set off
to perfection his manly and stately figure.
On Christmas Eve Hugh Bronte drove up
furiously in a Newry gig to the house of McClory
in Ballynaskeagh. He was becoming a somewhat
vain man, and fond of admiration ; and no doubt, as
he approached McClory's thatched cottage, with his
pockets full of money, and with the self-confidence
which prosperity breeds, he meant to flutter the
house with his magnificence.
But a surprise was in store for him. The cottage
8o THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
door was opened in response to his somewhat
boisterous knock by a young woman of dazzling
beauty. Hugh Bronte, previous to his flight, had
seen few women except his aunt Mary, and in the
days of his freedom he had become acquainted
only with lodging-house keepers, and County Louth
women, who carried their fowls and eggs to
Dundalk fairs and markets. He had scarcely ever
seen a comely girl, and never in his life any one
who had any attractions for him.
The simply dressed, artless girl who opened the
door was probably the prettiest girl in County
Down at the time. On this point there is absolute
unanimity in all the statements that have reached
me. The words " Irish beauty and pure Celt " have
often been used in describing her.
Her hair, which hung in a profusion of ringlets
round her shoulders, was luminous gold. Her fore-
head was Parian marble. Her evenly set teeth
were lustrous pearls, and the roses of health
glowed on her cheeks. She had the long dark-
brown eyelashes that in Ireland so often accom-
pany golden hair, and her deep hazel eyes had
the violet tint and melting expression which in
a diluted form descended to her granddaughters,
and made the plain and irregular features of the
Bronte girls really attractive. The eyes also con-
tained the lambent fire that Mrs. Gaskell noticed
in Charlotte's eyes, ready to flash indignation and
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT 81
scorn. She had a tall and stately figure, with head
well poised above a graceful neck and well-formed
bust ; but she did not communicate these graces
of form to her granddaughters. There are people
still living who remember the stately old woman
" Ayles " Bronte, as she was called by her neighbours
in her old age.
Hugh Bronte was completely unmanned by
the radiant beauty of the simple country girl who
appeared before him. He stood awkwardly staring
at her with his mouth open, fumbling with his hat,
and trying in vain to say something. At last he
stammered out a question about Mr. McClory, and
the girl, who was Alice McClory, told him that her
brother would soon be home, and invited him into
He entered blushing and feeling uncomfortable,
but the unaffected simplicity of Alice McClory's
manner soon put him at his ease, and before the
brother Patrick, known afterwards as " Red Paddy,"
had returned home Hugh was madly and hopelessly
in love with his sister.
Like his son the Rev. Patrick Bronte in England,
and like the Irish curate who proposed marriage to
Charlotte on the strength of one night's acquaint-
ance, Hugh, dazzled by beauty and blinded by
love, declared his passion before he had discovered
any signs of mutual liking, or had any evidence
that his advances would be agreeable.
82 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Alice, in a simple but cold and business-like
manner, told him that she did not yet know him,
but that, as he was a Protestant and she a Catholic,
there was an insuperable bar between them. Hugh
urged that he himself had no religion, never having
darkened a church door, and that he was quite
willing to be anything she wished him to be.
Alice met his earnest pleadings with playful
sallies, which disconcerted him, and little by little
she led him to the story of his life, episodes of
which she had heard from her brother. Sympathy
leads to love, and Alice was moved greatly by
Hugh's simple narrative.
TRUE LOVE AND PARTY STRIFE
THE Christmas holidays passed pleasantly
under the hospitable roof of the McClory
family. The chief amusement of the neighbour-
hood was drinking in a shebeen, or local public-
house ; but Hugh declined to accompany Paddy to
the sJiebeen, preferring to share his sister's solitude.
Before the holidays had come to a close Hugh
and Alice had become engaged, but the course of
true love in their case was destined to the pro-
verbial fate. All Miss McClory's friends were
scandalised at the thought of her consenting to
marry a Protestant.
Religion among Catholics and Orangemen in
those days consisted largely of party hatred. He
was a good Protestant who, sober as well as drunk,
cursed the Pope on the I2th of July, wore orange
colours, and played with fife and drum a tune
known as the Battle of the Boyne ; and he was a
good Catholic who, in whatever condition, used
equally emphatic language regarding King William.
84 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
No more genuine expression of religious feeling
was looked for on either side.
There is a story told in the McClory district which
illustrates the current religious sentiment. Two
brother Orangemen, good men after their lights,
had long been fast friends. They seldom missed
an opportunity, in the presence of Catholics, of
consigning the Pope to the uncomfortable place
to which he himself has been wont to consign
It happened that one of the two Orangemen fell
sick, and when he was at the point of death his
friend became greatly concerned about his spiritual
state and visited him. He found him in an un-
conscious condition and sinking fast, and, putting
his lips close to the ear of his sick friend, he asked
him to give him a sign that he felt spiritually
happy. The dying man, with a last supreme
effort, raised his voice above a whisper, and in the
venerable and well-known formula cursed the Pope.
His friend was comforted, believing that all was
Whether this gruesome story be true or not,
it goes to illustrate the fact that blasphemous
bigotry had largely usurped the place of religion.
But bitter party feeling did not end with mere
words. Bloody battles between Orangemen and
Catholics were periodically fought on the I2th of
July, the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne,
TRUE LOVE AND PARTY STRIFE 85
and on the i/th of March, St. Patrick's Day.
Within six miles of McClory's house more than
a dozen pitched battles were fought, sometimes
with scythes tied on poles, and sometimes with
firearms. One of these murderous onsets, known
as the battle of Ballynafern, took place within
sight of McClory's house.
At Dolly's Brae a battle was fought in 1849
in presence of a large body of troops and con-
stabulary, who remained neutral spectators of the
conflict till the Catholics fled, and then the
constabulary joined with the victors in firing on
the flying foe.
The scenes of these struggles, such as Tillyorier,
Katesbridge, Hilltown, the Diamond, etc., are classic
spots now. Each has had its poet, and ballads are
sung to celebrate the prowess of the victors, who
were uniformly the Orangemen, inasmuch as they
used firearms, while the Catholics generally fought
with pikes and scythes.
Hugh Bronte had not yet discovered the deep
and wide gulf that yawned between Protestants
and Catholics, and so he made light of the religious
objections of which he had heard so much from
But the Catholic friends of Miss McClory, who
had heard the Pope cursed by Protestant lips
almost every day of their lives, could not stand by
and see a Catholic lamb removed into the Protestant
86 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
shambles. They came to look on Bronte as a
Protestant emissary, more influenced by a fiendish
desire to plunder the Catholic fold than by love
for their beautiful relative.
Hugh Bronte in his eager simplicity wanted to
supersede all opposition by getting married im-
mediately, but so great a commotion ensued that
he had to return to the kilns at Mount Pleasant,
leaving his matrimonial prospects in a very un-
Troops of relatives invaded the McClory house
daily, and ardent Catholics tried in vain to argue
down Alice McClory 's newly kindled love. All
the Roman Catholic neighbours joined in giving
copious advice, and little was talked of at fairs and
markets and chapel but the proposed marriage
of Alice McClory to an unknown Protestant
The priest also, as family friend, was drawn
into the matter. In those days Irish priests were
educated in France or Italy, and were generally
men of culture. and refinement. Their horizon had
been widened. They had come in contact with
the language, literature, and social habits of other
peoples, and they had become courteous men of
the world. They had to some extent got out of
touch with the fierce fanaticism of Irish party
The priest called on Miss McClory. Everybody
TRUE LOVE AND PARTY STRIFE 87
knew that he had, and awaited the result ; but
Alice's beauty and simplicity and tears made
such an impression on the kind-hearted old priest,
that his chivalrous instinct was aroused, and he
was almost won to the lady's side. The centre of
the agitation then shifted from McClory's cottage
to the priest's manse, and so hot was the anger of
the infuriated Catholics that the good-natured priest
promised, sorely against his will, that he would not
consent to marry the pair.
Hugh Bronte was nominally a Protestant, but he
had not been in a church of any kind from the
time he was five or six years of age ; he had
received no religious instruction ; he could not
read the Bible for himself, and no one had ever
read it to him ; and he was as innocent of any
religious bias or bigotry as a savage in Central
Africa. Suddenly he found himself the chief
figure in a fierce religious drama.
At first he was greatly amused, and laughed at
the very suggestion of his religion being considered
a stumbling-block. From the time he left his
father's house he had seldom heard the Divine name
pronounced except in some form of malediction,
and religion had brought no consolation to his
He had never presumed to think that he had
any relationship to the Church, its priests were so
gorgeous and its people so well-to-do. Gallagher
88 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
had made him familiar with the dread powers of
the infernal world, and with "the Blessed Virgin
and the saints " in their malevolent capacity ; but
the malignant hypocrisy of Gallagher was quite as
repulsive to him as the vindictive blasphemy of
his uncle. In fact, he had lived in an atmosphere
untouched by the light or warmth of religion.
Hugh's bondage and suffering had made him
neither cringing nor cruel, and his freedom had
come in time to permit the full development of
a large and generous heart in a robust and healthy
body. In his simplicity of heart he prevailed
on Alice to invite her friends to meet him. He
would soon remove their dislike with regard to his
religion. Under the impulse of his enthusiasm he
thought he could disarm prejudice by a frank
and open avowal of his absolute indifference to
'Nothing perhaps in the whole history of the
Brontes exceeded in interest that meeting. A
dozen wily Ulster Catholics gathered round simple-
hearted Hugh Bronte in Paddy McClory's kitchen.
How the Orange champions would have trembled
for the Protestant cause if they had been aware
of Hugh's danger !
The preliminary salutations over, a black bottle
was produced and a glass of whiskey handed
round. Hugh had never learned to drink whiskey,
and at that time detested the very smell of it.
TRUE LOVE AND PARTY STRIFE 89
His refusal to drink with McClory's friends was
the first ground of offence, but the whiskey had not
yet brought the drinkers into the quarrelsome
When several bottles of McClory's whiskey had
been drunk, and the temperature of the guests
had risen proportionately, the religious question
was approached. Bronte was urged in peremptory
tones to abjure Protestantism. He had his answer
ready. He was no more a Protestant than they
were, and he had no Protestantism to abjure.
" Will you then curse King William ? " said a fiery
little man who had taken much liquor, and seemed
to be the spokesman of the party.
There is a principle in human nature which has
been taken far too little account of by both philo-
sophers and peasants. It has been the dominant
principle in many of the important decisions that
have sealed the fate of nations as well as of indi-
viduals. The principle is expressed by a word
which is always pronounced in one way by the
cultured, and in quite a different way by the un-
lettered. The word in its illiterate use is " con-
tra/Vyness," and but for the principle expressed by
this word the Bronte girls would never have made
their mark in literature, and this history would
never have been written.
" Curse King William ! " shouted the fiery little
man, supported by a hoarse echo from the other
90 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
half-tipsy guests, all of whom had turned fierce
and glowing eyes on the supposed Protestant.
" I cannot curse King William," replied Hugh,
smiling. " He never did me any harm ; besides,
he is beyond the region of my blessings and
cursings ; but," he added, warming with his subject,
" I should not mind cursing the Pope, if he is the
author of your fierce and besotted religion."
Alice first saw the danger, and uttered a sharp
cry. Suddenly the family party sprang upon
Hugh as the ambushed Philistines once flung
themselves on Samson ; but he shook them off,
and left them sprawling on the floor. Alice drew
him from the house, bleeding and dishevelled, and
after a tender parting in the grove beside the
stream he started on foot for Mount Pleasant.
Two immediate results followed that conflict :
Hugh Bronte became a furious Protestant and a
frantic lover. There was no lukevvarmness or
indifference as to his Protestantism. The Bronte
contrairyness had met the kind of opposition to
give it a stubborn set, and he there and then
became a Protestant double-dyed in the warp and
in the woof.
The process of his conversion, such as it was,
was prompt, decisive, effectual. It was in its early
stages Orange in hue and militant in fibre, and
was a genuine product of the times.
Hugh's love for Alice was fanned into a fierce
TRUE LOVE AND PARTY STRIFE 91
flame by the events of that night. When he first
met her he had been dazzled by her rare beauty.
He had seen few women, and never one like Alice.
For the first time he had come under the spell
of a simple and beautiful girl. They were young,
shy lovers ; very happy in each other's company,
but each sufficiently self-possessed to be happy
enough in self.
From the furnace of contradiction on that
night the jewel love had leaped forth. Each was
drawn out from the self-centre in which each had
been concentrated in self ; he to declare his love
in the face of relentless foes, and she to cling to
him and protect him when bruised and torn by
Beneath the pines that night they pledged with
mingling tears undying love. They parted, but
their hearts were one ; and persecution, poverty,
and bereavement only welded them more closely
together in the changing years.*
* For much that is vivid in this scene I am indebted to a
younger Paddy McClory. He was an old, and most in-
telligent servant of Mr. McKee's, and died some years ago at
a very great age. He was a Roman Catholic, and had a son
killed in the battle of Ballynafern.
HUGH returned to the Mount Pleasant Kilns,
but his heart was no longer in his work.
The burning of lime requires incessant care. The
limestones must be broken to a proper size, layers
of coal in due proportion must be added, and
there must be constant watchfulness lest the fires
should die out. Farmers' sons and servants started
generally from County Down about midnight,
and after travelling all night arrived at the kilns
for their loads about dawn. A badly burnt kiln
of lime was a grave loss to the owners, as well
as a serious disappointment to the customers, and
likely to result in loss of custom.
There were many complaints as to the character
of the lime immediately after Christmas, and the
farmers on several occasions found on slaking
their loads at home that only the surface of the
stones was burnt, and that they had paid for and
imported heaps of raw limestone.
LOVE'S SUBTERFUGES 93
Hugh's thoughts were not in his business. He
had made several Sunday journeys to Ballynas-
keagh to have secret meetings with Alice. They
met in the grove by the brook, in a spot still
THE COURTING BOWER.
pointed out as the " Lover's Arbour " or " Courting
Bower," and there, under willows festooned with
ivy and honeysuckle and sweetbriar, they spent
lonely but happy Sundays.
They were at last betrayed by a Catholic servant,
94 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
who had been entrusted with a letter to Alice.
Then began a system of espionage and petty
persecution, and all the forces of the McClory
clan were united in an effort to compel Alice to
marry a Catholic neighbour called Joe Burns.
At this time Hugh began to learn to read and
write, and he succeeded so far by the light from
the eye of the kiln at night as to be able to write
love-letters which Alice was able to read. He
also about the same time succeeded in spelling his
way through the New Testament.
News from the north had reached his fellow-
workers that he was a Protestant firebrand, that he
had cursed the Pope, and made a savage attack on
some harmless Catholics. At the kilns his manner
had changed, and he had become moody and
morose. Besides, he was constantly reading a little
book by the light of the burning lime at night,
instead of telling stories and singing songs, as in
former times. The book was said to be the Bible ;
but it was, in fact, the New Testament.
A plot was immediately hatched to get rid of so
dangerous a colleague. One of the Catholics under-
took, as usual, to look after the kilns while Hugh
made an expedition to County Down ; but he
not only failed to charge the kilns properly, but
sent for the owner on Monday morning early that
he might see for himself the condition of things.
The northern carts arrived by dawn, to find
LOVE'S SUBTERFUGES 95
that there was nothing for them but unburnt lime.
While the matter was being explained Hugh
arrived, haggard and weary after his night's
journey, and was peremptorily dismissed, without
any explanation from either side being tendered or
I have no record of Hugh's proceedings imme-
diately after his dismissal, but he must have been
reduced to considerable straits, for he went to the
hiring ground in Newry, and engaged himself as a
common servant-boy to a farmer who resided in
Donoughmore. As a farm labourer in those days
he would receive about 6 per annum, with board
and lodging ; but, then, he was near his Alice, and
that made every burden light.
Hugh's new master, James Harshaw, was not an
ordinary farmer. The Harshaws had occupied the
farm from early in the fifteenth century, and James,
who had received the education of a gentleman,
had behind him the traditions of an old and re-
spectable family. In the Harshaws' home shrewd
and steady industry was brightened by culture and
refinement. The wheel of fortune had brought
Hugh Bronte into a family where mental alacrity
had full play.
Bronte seems to have been treated with con-
sideration and kindness by the Harshaws, who
probably recognised in him something superior to
the ordinary farm-servant. At any rate, in thoss
96 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
days the walls of class distinction were not raised
so high as now, and the Harshaw children taught
him to read.
Hugh was much with the family. He drove
them to Donoughmore Presbyterian Meeting House
on Sundays, and sat with them in their pew, and he
accompanied them to rustic singing parties and
such local gatherings. He used to drive them in
the summer-time to Warrenpoint and Newcastle,
and other watering-places, and remain with them
as their attendant.
In such treatment of a servant there was nothing
unusual, and Mr. John Harshaw, the present pro-
prietor of the ancestral home, has no very decisive
information regarding this particular servant. He
says : " The probability is that Hugh Bronte hired
with my grandfather, whose land touched the Lough ;
but I fear it is too true that he passed through my
grandfather's service and left no permanent record
I think it is more than probable that Bronte
repaid his young masters and mistresses for their
teaching by telling them stories. Under Harshaw's
roof he found not only work and shelter, but a home
and comfort ; and it is inconceivable that under
those circumstances he allowed the gift that was
in him of charming by vivid narration to lie
As long as he lived he spoke of the Harshaws
LOVE'S SUBTERFUGES 97
with gratitude and affection, and I do not believe
he could have been so glad and happy without
contributing to the general enjoyment.
In the latter part of the last century the raconteur
occupied the place in Ireland now taken by the
modern novel, and I believe Hugh Bronte dropped
doctrine into the minds of the young Harshaws
which produced far-reaching results. Such was
the fixed conviction of my old teacher, the Rev.
It happened that the Martins, another ancient
family, lived quite near to the Harshaws. The
land of the two families enclosed Loughorne Lough
round. The Martins were rich and somewhat aris-
tocratic; but the two families were thrown much
together, and Samuel Martin, the son of the one
house, married Jane Harshaw, the daughter of the
She was a deeply religious and resolute woman,
with a stern sense of duty. One of her nephews,
the Rev. R. H. Harshaw, tells me she always
conducted family worship after the death of her
husband. She died of a fever, caught while
ministering to the dying, in accordance with her
high sense of Christian duty. Her life was given
for others, and at her funeral the Rev. S. J.
Moore summed up her character as "a woman
who knew her duty, and did it."
Her second son, John Martin, inherited his
98 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
mother's great mental capacity and strong sense
of duty. At school in Newry he met young John
Mitchell, and inspired him with something of his
own enthusiasm, and the two youths came to
the conclusion that it was their duty to put right
Ireland's wrongs. John Mitchell was sent to penal
servitude for fifteen or twenty years, and then
John Martin stepped into the place vacated by his
friend, and was transported to Van Diemen's Land
for ten years.
The conviction of " honest John Martin " gave
a blow to the old system in Ireland from which
it has never recovered. Even his enemies were
shocked at the severity of the sentence ; but, then,
he had written a pamphlet under the text, " Your
land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is
desolate" (Isa. i. 7). He had proclaimed from the
housetops Hugh Bronte's tenant-right doctrines, of
which more anon. He had attacked the sacred
rights of landlordism, and he was sent to a safe
and distant place for quite a different offence, called
" treason felony."
John Martin was a man of large property, but
he devoted his life and all his income to what he
considered the good of others. He had taken his
B.A. degree at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied
medicine, and for many years he gave advice and
drugs gratuitously to all who came to him. The
poor were passionately attached to him.
LOVE'S SUBTERFUGES 99
I remember seeing him and speaking to him
after he had received a free pardon and become
a member of Parliament. No one could have
looked on the fine capacious head, and the hand-
some benevolent face, without questioning the
system that had no better use for such a man than
sending him to rot in penal servitude.
Lord Palmerston beheld the ex-convict with
profound admiration, and expressed deep sympathy
with him as the victim of a bad system.
John Martin preached and suffered for the very
doctrines that Hugh Bronte enunciated with such
passionate conviction. Where did he get those
doctrines? I think there is no doubt that John
Martin's beliefs and principles grew from seeds
sown by Hugh Bronte, the servant-boy, in the
sympathetic mind of his mother.
Jane Harshaw, however she got them, carried
the doctrines into the Martin family. They
mingled with and strengthened her strong sense
of duty, and they added passion to her zeal for
justice and the thing that was right.
With her son John the feeling of obligation to
break the ban of Ireland's curse became irresistible.
He was dowered with an inexhaustible grace of
pity for all sufferers, and the impulse to redress the
wrongs of the oppressed overpowered him, and led
him to acts of impatience and imprudence which
gave his cool-headed enemies the opportunity they
ioo THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
were ready enough to embrace. But the revolu-
tionary doctrines for which John Martin suffered
came from the same seed that produced Charlotte
Bronte's radical sentiments, and it is interesting
to note that in both cases the seed produced its
fruit about the same period (1847 1848).
I must now leave these historical speculations,
however plausible and probable they may be, and
return to the direct narration of known facts.
Hugh Bronte had disappeared for ever from the
Mount Pleasant Kilns. Those who had plotted
his dismissal exaggerated every foible of his life,
and invented others after he was gone, until by
a spiteful blending of fact and fancy they made
him into a monster.
The farmers' sons and servants who carted lime
from Mount Pleasant to County Down brought
with them wonderful tales of his misdeeds and dis-
grace, and Alice McClory's guardians believed that
he had disappeared for ever into the distant south
whence he had emerged. They never suspected
that he was actually living in their neighbourhood,
and that he and Alice had met at Warrenpoint,
Newcastle, and elsewhere.
Under restraint Alice had drooped and pined,
but now that Bronte had left the country she was
permitted to ride about the neighbourhood quite
alone. She enjoyed horse exercise greatly, but no
matter in what direction she left home her way lay
LOVE'S SUBTERFUGES 101
always through Loughorne. Perhaps the roads
were better in that direction, but she always
exchanged salutations with a handsome working
man by the expanse of water in Loughorne.
When he was not about she was wont very
humanely to take her horse down to the lake to
drink, and from a hole in an old tree she used to
remove a scrap of paper, leaving something instead.
The tree used to be pointed out as " Bronte's post-
box"; but the lake has recently been drained,
and the tree has, I believe, disappeared.
Everything that could be done was done to
please Miss McClory, but no opportunity was
missed to further Farmer Burns's suit. He was a
prosperous man. He had a good farm, a good
house, plenty of horses and cows and pigs, and was
a very desirable husband for Alice. He was also a
Catholic. Bronte had shown that he did not care
for her by going away and never thinking of her
more. The priest joined with Alice's female friends
in pleading for Burns. At length by dogged
perseverance they prevailed on her to consent to
marry Burns and forget Bronte. The incessant
drip had made an impression at last, and the
crafty relatives had gained their end.
There was joy in the Catholic camp when it was
publicly announced that Miss McClory and Mr.
Burns were soon to be married. McClory's house
was thatched anew, and whitewashed and renovated
102 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
throughout, the roses were nailed up round the
windows, the street was strewn with fresh sand,
new window-blinds and bed-curtains were provided,
and pots and pans were burnished.
Never before had McClory's house been subjected
to such an outburst of sweeping and brushing and
washing and scouring ; the whole place became
redolent of potash and suds. It was spring-clean-
ing in excel sis.
The local dressmaker, Annie McCabe, whose
great-granddaughter of the same name is now dress-
maker of the same place, assisted by Miss McClory's
female relatives, was busily engaged on the bridal
dress. Burns used to look in daily on the incessant
preparations, his countenance beaming with joy ;
but Alice would not permit him to destroy the
pleasures of imagination by approaching near to
her. She would lift her finger coyly, and warn him
off if he presumed on any familiarities ; but she
allowed him to sit on the other side of the kitchen
fire from that graced by herself.
At length the wedding day arrived. Such signs
of feasting had never before been seen in Bally-
naskeagh. New loaves had been procured from
Newry, fresh beef from Rathfriland, whiskey
from Banbridge ; a great pudding, composed of
flour and potatoes, and boiled for many hours over
a slow fire with hot coals on the lid of the oven,
had been prepared ; two of the largest turkeys
LOVE'S SUBTERFUGES 103
had been boiled, and laid out on great dishes, with
an abundant coating of melted butter ; and a huge
roll of roast beef was served up as a burnt-offering.
Signs of abundance stood on table and dresser and
hob, while rows of bottles peeped from behind the
window curtains, and neither envy nor spite could
say that Paddy McClory was not providing a
splendid wedding for his sister.
The morning rose glorious, and as the custom
then was, Burns and his friends, mounted on their
best horses, raced to the house of the bride for tJie
broth, first in being the winner. On such occasions
crowds of neighbours crowned the hill-tops. The
cavalcade was greeted with ringing cheers as it
swept in a cloud of dust down the road from the
Knock Hill. Several riders were unhorsed, but
the steeds arrived in McClory's court champing
their bits and covered with foam.
A covered car from Newry stood near the house
on the road to take Alice to the chapel ; but she
was to ride away from the chapel mounted on the
pillion behind her husband.
There was an unexpected pause, no one knew
why. Some dismounted, and stood by their
stirrups, ready to mount when the bride had
entered her carriage. Glasses of whiskey were
handed round, and then the pause became more
awkward and the suspense more intense.
At last it became known that Alice, who had been
104 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
up nearly all night finishing her new gowns, had felt
weary, and, fitting on her wedding dress, had gone
out on her mare for a spurt to shake off drowsi-
ness. Messengers were sent in different directions
to search for her, but they had not returned.
Some accident must have befallen her.
Burns, who rode a powerful black horse and
who had won the broth, galloped off wildly towards
Loughbrickland. The other cavaliers scoured the
country in different directions ; but while all kinds
of surmises were being hazarded, a messenger on
foot from Banbridge with dainties for the feast
arrived, and reported that he had met Miss McClory
and a tall gentleman galloping furiously towards
the river Bann near Banbridge.
There was great excitement among the wedding
party, and whiskey and strong language with-
out measure. After a hurried consultation the
mounted guests agreed to pursue the fugitives
and bring Miss McClory back ; but while they
were tightening their girths and getting ready
for a gallop of five or six miles, a boy rode up
to the house on the mare that had been ridden
by Alice, bearing a letter to say she had just been
married to Hugh Bronte in Magherally Church. She
sent her love and grateful thanks to her brother,
hoped the party would enjoy the wedding dinner,
and begged them to drink her health as Mrs. Bronte.
The plucky manner in which the lady had
LOVE'S SUBTERFUGES 105
carried out her own plan, outwitting the coercionists
by her own cleverness, called forth admiration in the
midst of disappointment, and the cheery message
touched every heart. The calamity that had be-
fallen Burns did not weigh heavily on the hearts of
the guests in presence of the splendid dinner before
them, and especially as it was now clear that the
lady was being forced to marry him against her will.
At this juncture the kind and courteous old
priest rose, and with great skill and good humour
talked about the events of the day. He brought
into special prominence the humorous and heroic
episode in a manner that appealed to the chivalry
of his hearers, and then with tender pathos, referring
to the beautiful daughter of the house, called upon
the guests to drink her health. The toast was
responded to with a hearty, ringing cheer.
Burns, who has left a good reputation behind
him, promptly proposed prosperity to the new
married couple ; and Red Paddy, always kind and
generous, promised to send the united good wishes
of the whole party to the bride and bridegroom,
and to assure them of a hearty welcome in which
the past would be forgotten. Paddy, as we shall
see, kept his word. Thus the grandfather and
grandmother of the great novelists were married in
1776 in the Protestant Church of Magherally, the
clergyman who officiated pronouncing the bride
the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
LOVE IN A COTTAGE
AFTER a brief honeymoon spent at Warren-
point, Alice Bronte returned, on her brother's
invitation, to her old home, and Hugh went back
to complete his term of service in Loughorne.
It soon became desirable that his wife should
have a home of her own, and he took a cottage
in Emdale in the parish of Drumballyroney, with
which Drumgooland was united at the time.
The house stands near cross-roads leading to
important towns. In a direct line it is about three
and three-quarters statute miles from Rathfriland,
seven and three-quarters from Newry, twelve from
Warrenpoint, and five and a quarter from Banbridge.
The map shows the position of the house on the
north-west side of the old road, leading in Hugh
Bronte's day to Newry and Warrenpoint. Almost
opposite on the other side of the road there was
a blacksmith's shop, which still continues to be a
blacksmith's shop. The Bronte house remains,
though partially in ruins. I have given a photo-
LOVE IN A COTTAGE 109
graph of it taken from the Banbridge side. It
stands as frontispiece.
The house is now used as a byre, but its dimen-
sions are exactly the same as when it became
the home of Hugh Bronte and his bride. The
rent then would be about sixpence per week, and
would in accordance with the general custom be
paid by one day's work in the week, the work
being given in the busy seasons.
The house consisted of two rooms. That over
which the roof still stands was without chimney
and was used as bedroom and parlour ; and the
outer room, from which the roof has fallen, was
used as a corn-kiln and also as kitchen and recep-
A farmer's wife, whose ancestors lived close to
the Bronte house long before the Brontes were
heard of in County Down, pointing to a spot in
the corner of the byre opposite to the window, said,
" There is the very spot where the Rev. Patrick
Bronte was born." Then she added, " Numbers of
great folk have asked me about his birthplace, but,
och ! how could I tell them that any dacent man
was ever born in such a place ! " This feeling on
the part of the neighbours will probably account
for the fact that everything written thus far regard-
ing Patrick Bronte's birthplace is wrong, neither
the townland nor even the parish of his birth being
no THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
In the lowly cottage in Emdale, now known as
" The Kiln," and used as a cowshed, Patrick Bronte
was born on the I7th of March, 1777. Men have
risen to fame from a lowly origin ; but few men
have ever emerged from humbler circumstances
than Patrick Bronte.
Many a reader of Mrs. Gaskell's life of Charlotte
Bronte has been saddened by the picture of the
vicar's daughters amid their narrow and grim
surroundings ; but the grey vicarage of Haworth
was a palace compared with the hovel in which
the vicar himself was born and reared.
Besides, the Haworth vicarage was never really
as sombre as Mrs. Gaskell painted it, for Miss
Ellen Nussey was a constant visitor, and she
assures me that the girls were bright and happy
in their home, always engaged on some project of
absorbing interest, and always enjoying life in their
own sober and thoughtful way.
The Bronte cottage in Emdale was very poor,
but it was brightened with the perennial sun-
shine of love. It was love in a cottage, in which
the bare walls and narrow board were golden in
the light of Alice Bronte's smile. It was said
in the neighbourhood that Mrs. Bronte's smile
" would have tamed a mad bull." And on her
deathbed she thanked God that her husband had
never looked upon her with a frown.
In their wedded love they were very poor, but
LOVE IN A COTTAGE in
very happy. Hugh's constant, steady work pro-
vided for the daily wants of an ever-increasing
family, but it made no provision for the strain of
adverse circumstances. In fact, the Emdale Brontes
lived like birds, and as happy as birds.
Hugh Bronte was one of the industrious poor.
The salt of his life was honest, manly toil. He
had forgotten the luxury of his childhood's home,
and he did not feel any degradation in his lowly
In our artificial civilisation we have come to
place too much store on the accident of wealth.
Our blessed Saviour, whom the rich and luxurious
as well as the poor call " Lord," was born in as
lowly a condition of comfortless poverty as Patrick
Bronte. Cows are now housed in Bronte's birth-
place, but our Lord was born among the animals
in the caravanserai. And yet in our social
code we have reduced the Decalogue to the one
commandment, " Thou shalt not be poor."
Hugh Bronte did not choose poverty as his lot,
but being a working man, like the Carpenter of
Nazareth, he did the daily work that came to his
hand, and then side by side with Alice he found
the fulness of each day sufficient for all its wants.
The happy home was soon crowded with children,
and the family removed to a larger and better
house in the townland of Lisnacreevy.
The following verses have always been known
H2 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
as the product of Hugh Bronte's muse. I am
inclined to think they may have, in an original
form, been produced by Hugh, and smoothed
down by his son Patrick ; and perhaps in the
refining process they have lost in strength more
than they have gained in sound.
I do not think old Hugh would have known
anything at first hand of the " peach-bloom," or of
" blood-red Mars." The poem forty years ago had
many variations, but there is one line of special
interest, as it shows that the verses were known
to Charlotte Bronte. The verse with a slight
variation is put into the mouth of Jane Eyre.
Rochester says, " Jane suits me: do I suit her?"
Jane answers, " To the finest fibre of my nature,
"ALICE AND HUGH.
" The red rose paled before the blush
That mantled o'er thy dimpled cheek ;
The peach-bloom faded at the flush
That tinged thy beauty ripe and meek.
11 Thy milk-white brow outshone the snow,
Thy lustrous eyes outglanced the stars ;
Tliy cherry lips, with love aglow,
Burned ruddier than the blood-red Mars.
' Thy sweet, low voice waked in my heart
Dead memories of my mother's love ;
My long-lost sister's artless art
Lived in thy smiles, my gentle dove.
LOVE IN A COTTAGE 113
Dear Alice, how thy charm and grace
Kindled my dull and stagnant life !
From first I saw thy winning face
My whole heart claimed thee for my wife.
I thought you'd make me happy, dear,
I sought you for my very own ;
You clung to me through storm and fear,
You loved me still, though poor and lone.
' My love was centred all in self,
Thy love was centred all in me ;
True wife above all pride and pelf,
My life's deep current flows for thee.
1 The finest fibres of my soul
Entwine with thine in love's strong fold,
Our tin cup is a golden bowl,
Love fills our cot with wealth untold."
THE DAILY ROUND
HUGH BRONTE and his wife could not live
wholly on love in a cottage, and Hugh had
to bestir himself. He was an unskilled labourer,
though he understood the art of burning lime.
There was no limestone, however, in that part of
County Down to burn, and as he could not have
a lime-kiln he resolved to have a corn-kiln.
At the beginning of this century a corn-kiln
in such a district in Ireland was a very simple
affair. A floor of earthenware tiles, pierced nearly
through from the under side, was arranged as a
kind of platform or loft. Beneath there was a
furnace, which was heated by burning the rough,
dry seeds, or outer shelling, which had been ground
off the oats. In front of the furnace there was a
hollow, called the " logic-hole," in which the kiln-
man sat, with the shelling, or seeds, heaped up
within arm's length around him, and with his right
hand he beeked the kiln by throwing, every few
seconds, a sprinkling of seeds on the flame. In this
THE DAILY ROUND 115
way he kept up a warm glow under the corn till
it was sufficiently dry for the mill.
Such was the simple character of the ordinary
corn-kiln in County Down at the beginning of
the century. But I have been assured, by old
men of the neighbourhood, that Hugh Bronte's
kiln was of a still more primitive structure. The
platform, or corn-floor, was constructed by laying
down iron bars across unhewn stones set up on
end. On these bars straw matting was placed, and
on the matting the corn was spread to dry. Such
a structure was the immediate precursor of the
pottery-floored kiln. The design was the same
in both, but the matting was always liable to
catch fire, and required careful attention.
The kiln was erected in the part of the Bronte
cottage now roofless, and, like the cottage itself,
must have been a very humble erection. It has been
suggested that the kiln may have stood elsewhere ;
but it is now established beyond all doubt, by the
investigations of the Rev. W. J. McCracken, and the
unanimous testimony of the inhabitants, that the
Bronte kiln stood in the ruined room of the Bronte
cottage, and, in fact, it is known by the name of
" Bronte's kiln."
Within those walls, now roofless, the grandfather
of Charlotte Bronte began, in 1776, to earn the
daily bread of himself and his bride by roasting
his neighbours' oats. His wage was known by
n6 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
the name of mutJier, and consisted of so many
pounds of fresh oats taken from every hundred-
weight brought to him to be kiln-dried. The
miller, too, was paid in kind ; but his muther was
taken by measure after the shellings, or seeds, had
been ground off the grain.
When Hugh Bronte had accumulated a sackful
of muther, he dried it on his kiln, took it to the
mill, and paid his mutJier in turn to the miller to
have it ground into meal. The meal, when taken
home, was stored in a barrel, and with the produce
of the rood of potatoes which Hugh had sod on
his brother-in-law's farm, became the food of him-
self and family.
As the Brontes could not consume all the mutJier
themselves, the surplus would be sold to provide
clothing and other necessaries ; and though there
remains no trace of pigsty or fowl-house around the
cottage, there can be little doubt that Mrs. Bronte
would have both pigs and fowl to eke out her
Mrs. Bronte was a famous spinner, and she handed
down the art to her daughters. She had always
a couple of sheep grazing on her brother's land.
She carded and span the wool, her spinning-wheel
singing all day beside her husband as he beeked
the kiln. Then, during the long dark evenings,
when they had no light but the red eye of the
kiln, she knitted the yarn into hose and vests and
THE DAILY ROUND 117
shirts, and even headgear, so that Hugh Bronte,
like his sons in after-years, was almost wholly clad
in " home-spun."
This probably had something to do with the
general impression, which still remains in the
neighbourhood, of the stately and shapely forms
of the Bronte men and women. The knitted
woollen garments fitted close, unlike the fantastic
and shapeless habiliments that came from the
hands of the local tailors in those days.
Alice Bronte also span nearly all the garments
which she wore, and her tall and comely daughters
after her were dressed in clothes which their own
hands had taken from the fleece.
From choice as well as from necessity the Brontes
wore woollen garments, and the vicar carried the
same taste with him to England, where his dislike
of everything made of cotton was attributed by
his biographer to dread of fire.
The absurd servant's gossip as to his cutting up
and destroying his wife's silk gown had possibly a
grain of truth in it, owing to his preference for
woollen garments ; but the atrocity manufactured
out of the gossip by Mrs. Gaskell was probably
an exaggeration of an innocent act. At any rate,
the old vicar characterised the statement, I believe
truly, by a small but ugly word.
All the Brontes, father, mother, sons, and
daughters, to the number of twelve, were clad
ii8 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
in wool, and they were said to be the " healthiest,
handsomest, strongest, heartiest family in the whole
country." They were a standing proof of the
excellency of the woollen theory ; and it is inter-
esting to note how Hugh Bronte's theory and
practice have received approval in our own day.
For a time the Brontes had to look to others to
weave their yarn into the blankets and friezes that
they required ; but Patrick was taught to weave,
and then his father's household manufactured for
themselves out of the raw staple everything they
wore, from the drugget petticoat to the fine and
Even the scarlet mantle, for which " Ayles "
Bronte is still remembered in Ballynaskeagh,
was carded, spun, knitted, and dyed by Mrs.
Bronte's own hands. The spirit of independence
manifested by the Brontes in England was a
survival of a still sturdier spirit that had its origin
in one of the humblest cabins in County Down.
As time passed Hugh Bronte became a famous
ditcher. There is a very old man called Hugh
Norton living in Ballynaskeagh who remembers
him making fences and philosophising at the same
time. It is very probable that the introduction
of corn-kilns constructed of burnt pottery may
have left him without custom for his straw-mat
kiln, just as the introduction of machinery at a
later period left the country hand-looms idle.
THE DAILY ROUND 119
In Hugh Bronte's time more careful attention
began to be given to the land. Bogs were drained,
fields were fenced, roads constructed, bridges made,
houses built, with greater energy than had ever
been known before ; and although the landlord
generally raised the rent on every improvement
effected by the tenant, the wave of prosperity
and improvement continued.
Hugh Bronte was a good steady workman, and
found constant employment, and at that time
wages rose from sixpence per day to eightpence
The sod fences made by him still stand as a
monument of honest work, and there are few
country districts where huntsmen would find greater
difficulty with the fences than in Emdale and
As Hugh Bronte advanced in life he continued
to prosper. He removed, as we have said, from
the Emdale cottage to a larger house in Lisna-
creevy, and from there he and his family went home
to live with Red Paddy, Mrs. Bronte's brother.
On the Ballynaskeagh farm the children found
full scope for their energies, and they continued
to prosper until they were in very comfortable
The Brontes were greatly advanced in their
prosperity by a discovery made by John Loudon
MacAdam. He wrote several treatises on road-
120 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
making of a revolutionary character. His proposal
was to make roads by laying down layers of
broken stones, which he said would become
hardened into a solid mass by the traffic passing
For a time he was the subject of much ridicule,
but he persevered, and proved his theory in a
practical fashion. The importance of the invention
was subsequently acknowledged by a grant from
the Government of 10,000, which he accepted,
and by the offer of a baronetcy, which he declined.
He lived to see the world's highways improved by
his discovery, and the English language enriched
by his name.
The old, unscientific road-makers were too con-
servative to engage in the construction of mac-
adamised roads ; but the Brontes were shrewd
enough to see the value of the new method, and
they tendered for county contracts, and their
tenders were accepted. Then the way to fortune
lay open before them. They opened quarries on
their own land, where they found an inexhaustible
supply of stones easily broken to the required
size, With suitable stone ready to their hands
they had a great advantage over all rivals, and for
a generation the macadamising of the roads in the
neighbourhood was practically a monopoly in the
1 remember the excellent carts and horses
THE DAILY ROUND
employed by the Brontes on the roads, and I also
distinctly recollect that the names painted on the
carts were spelled " Bronte," the pronunciation
THE BRONTE HOME.
being " Brunty," never " Prunty," as has been
With the lucrative monopoly of road-making,
added to their farm profits, the Brontes grew in
wealth. They raised on their farm the oats and
fodder required by the horses ; and as the brothers
122 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
did a large amount of the work themselves, and
had nothing to purchase, the money received for
road-making was nearly all profit.
In those days the Brontes added field to field,
until they owned a considerable tract of land,
which they held from a model landlord called
Sharman. That was the period at which the two-
storied house, shown in the picture, was built ; and
there were other houses occupied by the Brontes
from the two-storied house down to the thatched
cottage. In fact, the house of Red Paddy McClory,
in which Alice was born and reared, stood about
half-way between the two-storied house and a
cabin a little to the south of it. The foundations
of the house in which Charlotte Bronte's Irish
grandmother was born are still visible.
Shortly after the death of old Hugh, and in the
time of the Bronte prosperity, one of the brothers,
called Welsh, opened a public-house in the thatched
cabin referred to, and from that moment, as far as
I have been able to make out, the tide of the
Brontes' prosperity turned.
Everything the Brontes did in those days was
genuine. Their whiskey was as good in quality as
their roads, and I fear it must be added that they
were among the heartiest customers for their own
commodities. They ceased to work on the roads,
and their hard-earned money slipped through
their fingers, and the public-house became the
THE DAILY ROUND
meeting-place for the fast and wild youth of the
Then another brother, called William, but known
Devil's Dining Room
Hugh Bronte's Ho. ]
Paddy McClory's Ho.
Welsh Bronte's Ho.,
THE BRONTE HOMELAND.
as Billy, opened on the Knock Hill another public-
house, which also became a centre of demoralisation
to the young men of the district, and a source of
124 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
degradation to the keeper. I remember both these
pests in full force. They were much frequented
by Orangemen, who, when tired of playing " The
Protestant Boys," used to slake their thirst and
fire their hatred of the Papishes by drinking
In those days everybody drank. At births, at
baptisms, at weddings, at wakes, at funerals, and
in all the other leading incidents of life, intoxicating
liquors were considered indispensable. If a man
were too hot he drank, or if he were too cold he
drank. He drank if he were in sorrow, and he
drank when in joy. When his gains were great
he drank, and he drank also when crushed by
losses. The symbol of universal hospitality was
the black bottle.
Ministers of the gospel used to visit their people
quarterly. On those visitations the minister was
accompanied by one of his deacons or elders. Into
whatever house they entered they were immedi-
ately met by the hospitable bottle and two glasses,
and they were always expected to fortify them-
selves with spirituous draughts before beginning
their spiritual duties, and they did. As the visitors
called at from twelve to twenty houses on their
rounds, they must have been " unco' fu' " by the
close of the day.
It is interesting to remember that when the
drinking habits of the country were at their height,
THE DAILY ROUND 125
the temperance reformation was begun in Great
Britain * by -the best friend the Brontes had, the
Rev. David McKee. It is of still greater interest,
in our present investigation, to know that Mr.
McKee was moved to the action which has resulted
in the great temperance reform, by the Bronte
public-houses at his door, and by the demoralisation
they were creating.
The little incident which has led to such momen-
tous results came about in this way. The Rev.
David McKee of Ballynaskeagh was the minister
of the Presbyterian Church of Anaghlone. He
had built his church, and he was largely inde-
pendent of his congregation. One Sunday he
thought fit to preach on the Rechabites. In the
* " Ireland spoke first, by the Rev. Dr. Edgar of Belfast, an
able Presbyterian professor in the Theological College. He
was visited in 1829 by the Rev. Joseph Penney, an Irish
Presbyterian minister and old friend returned from America,
who told him of what was doing there. This probably gave
the start in Europe. But while Mr. Penney gave the actual
start, Dr. Edgar had been prepared for it shortly before by
the Rev. David McKee, a Presbyterian minister near Belfast,
who preached a sermon on the Rechabites and drinking habits,
which so disturbed his congregation that a crowd of them
came to his house next morning requiring him to recant and
apologise next Sunday. He replied by printing his sermon,
which went far and wide, for his commanding talents were
well known. He had taught both Edgar and Penney when
boys." The Early History of the Temperance Movement, and
the Practical Lessons it Teaches us, by John M. Douglas, Esq.,
126 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
sermon he ridiculed and denounced the drinking
habits of the time. The sermon fell on the con-
gregation like a thunderbolt from a cloudless sky.
Blank amazement in the audience was succeeded
by hot indignation.
On the following morning an angry deputation
from the congregation waited on Mr. McKee. He
listened to them with patient courtesy while they
urged that the sermon should be immediately
burnt, and that an apology should be tendered to
the congregation on the following Sunday.
When the deputation had exhausted themselves
and their subject, Mr. McKee began quietly to
draw attention to the happy homes which had
been desolated by whiskey, the brilliant young men
whom it had ruined, the amiable neighbours whom
it had hurried into drunkards' graves ; and then
he pointed to the Brontes as an example of the
baneful influence of the trade on the sellers of the
The deputation, some of them Orangemen, were
in no mood to listen to radical doctrines subversive
of their time-honoured customs, and they began to
Mr. McKee, who was six feet four inches high,
and of great muscular power, drew himself up to
his full stature, and calling to his servant, then at
breakfast in the kitchen, told him to saddle his
best mare, as he wished to ride in haste to Newry
THE DAILY ROUND 127
to publish his sermon in time for circulation at
church on the following Sunday. Then, turning
to the deputation, he thanked them for their early
visit, which he hoped would bear fruit, and bowed
them out of his parlour.
He rode the best horse in the district, and he
never drew rein till he reached the printing office
in Newry, and he had the sermon ready for circu-
lation on the following Sunday, and handed it
himself to his people as they retired. Hundreds of
thousands of copies have been since issued, and it
is still in circulation.
In 1798 Mr. McKee, then a youth, watched from
a hill in his father's land the battle of Ballynahinch.
He had in his arms at the time a little nephew,
who had been left in his charge. The little nephew
became the famous Dr. Edgar of Belfast, who used
to boast playfully that he was " up in arms " at the
battle of Ballynahinch.
Mr. McKee sent a copy of The RecJiabites to his
eloquent nephew. Dr. Edgar read the sermon, and
then rising from his seat proceeded swiftly to carry
all the whiskey he had in the house into the street
and empty it into the gutter. With that drink-
offering Dr. Edgar inaugurated the great temper-
ance reform. From Ireland he passed to Scotland,
and from Scotland to England. The whole
kingdom was mightily stirred, and the temperance
cause has ever since continued to flourish. The
128 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
little seed, stimulated at first by the Bronte public-
houses, has become a great tree, the branches of
which extend to all lands.
We have now seen the Brontes in the daily round
of their common pursuits. In the next chapter
we shall see old Hugh in the light of his Bronte
THE IRISH RACONTEUR, OR STORY-TELLER
THE liakkawati is the Oriental story-teller,
the man who, beyond all others, relieves the
tedium and wearisomeness of Oriental life. I have
often watched the Oriental hakkawati, seated in
the centre of a large crowd, weaving stories with
subtle plots and startling surprises, using pathos
and passion and pungent wit, and always inter-
spersing his narratives with familiar incidents, and
laying on local colour to give an appearance of
vraisemblancc, or reality, to the wildest fancies.
The Arabian hakkawati generally tells his
stories at night when the weird and wonderful are
most effective. He has always a fire so arranged
as to light up his countenance with a ruddy glow,
so that the movements and contortions of a mobile
face may add support to the narrative. He some-
times proceeds slowly, stumbling and correcting
himself as Disraeli used to do, as if his one great
desire were to stick to the literal truth.
Without any apparent effort to please, the
130 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
liakkawati keeps his finger on the pulse of his
audience. Should they show signs of weariness,
he makes them smile by some pleasantry ; and as
the Arab holds that smiles and tears are in the
same kliurg, or wallet, he brings something of
great seriousness on the heels of the fun, and
works himself into a white heat of passion over it,
the veins rising like cords on his forehead and his
whole frame convulsed and throbbing, the rapt
audience following in full sympathy with every
I have seen the Arabs shivering and pale with
terror as the hakkawdti narrated the fearful deeds
of some imaginary Jann ; and I have seen them
feeling for their daggers, and ready to spring to
their feet, to avenge some dastard act of imaginary
cruelty, and a few seconds after I have seen them
melted to tears at the recital of some fanciful
tale of woe. I never wearied of listening to the
hakkawdti, or in watching the artlessness of his
consummate art ; and I have always looked on him
as the most interesting of all Orientals, a positive
benefactor to his illiterate countrymen.
Hugh Bronte was an Irish hakkawati, almost
the last of an extinct race. I knew several men
who had heard him when he was at his best. He
would sit long winter nights in the logic-hole of his
corn-kiln, in the Emdale cottage, telling stories to
an audience of rapt listeners who thronged around
THE IRISH RACONTEUR, OR STORY-TELLER 131
him. Mrs. Bronte plied her knitting in the outer
darkness of the kitchen, for there was no light
except from the furnace of the kiln, which lighted
up old Hugh's face as he beeked the kiln and told
The Rev. W. McAllister, from whom I got most
details as to Bronte's story-telling, had heard his
father say that he spent a night in Bronte's kiln.
Bronte's fame was then new. The place was
crowded to suffocation. At that time he reserved
a place near the fire for Mrs. Bronte, and Patrick,
then a baby, was lying on the heap of seeds from
which the fire was fed, with his eyes fixed on his
father, and listening like the rest in breathless
Hugh Bronte seems to have had the rare faculty
of believing his own stories, even when they were
purely imaginary ; and he would sometimes conjure
up scenes so unearthly and awful that both he
and his hearers were afraid to part company for
the night. Frequently his neighbours could not
face the darkness alone after one of Hugh's
gruesome stories, and lay upon the shelling seeds
till day dawned.
The farmers' sons of the whole neighbourhood
used to gather round Bronte at night to hear his
narratives, and he continued to manufacture
stories of all descriptions as long as he lived.
I have always understood that Hugh Bronte's
132 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
stories, though sometimes rough in texture, and
interspersed with emphatic expletives, after the
manner of the time, had always a healthy, moral
bearing. As a genuine Irishman, he never used
an immodest word, or by gesture, phrase, or
innuendo, suggested an impure thought. On this
point all my informants were unanimous. He
neither used unchaste words himself, nor permitted
any one to do so in his house. Tyranny and
cruelty of every kind he denounced fiercely.
Faithlessness and deceit always met condign
punishment in his romances ; and in cases where
girls had been betrayed, either the ghost of the
injured woman or the devil himself in some
awful form wreaked unutterable vengeance on the
Hugh Bronte was a moral teacher, and a power
for good as far as his influence extended. There
are still some old men living in his neighbourhood
who never understood him, and who are disposed
to think he was in league with the devil.
It is always at his peril that any man dares to
live before his time, or to leave the beaten track
of the commonplace. The reformers have all
without exception been mad, or worse, in the eyes
of dull conservatism. Bronte dared to teach his
neighbours by allowing them to see as well as
hear, and those who were too stupid to understand
were clever enough to denounce. By a very great
THE IRISH RACONTEUR, OR STORY-TELLER 133
effort Hugh Bronte learned to read late in life.
He began at Mount Pleasant, with no higher aim
than that of being able to write letters to Alice
McClory when he could no longer visit her. He
made rapid strides in learning under the tutelage
of his master's children when he lived in Loughorne,
and when he went to live in Emdale he knew the
sweetness and solace of a few good books ; and he
had always a book on his knee, which he read by
the light of the kiln fire when he was alone. He
knew the Bible, the Pilgrim's Progress, and Burns's
poems well. Those were bookless days. The
newspaper had not yet found its way to the people,
and in a neighbourhood of mental stagnation it
was something to have one man who could hold
the mirror up to nature and lead his illiterate
visitors into enchanted ground.
Many of Hugh's stories were far removed from
the region of romance ; but he had the literary art
of giving an artistic touch to everything he said,
which added a charm to the narration independent
of the facts which he narrated. The story of his
early life which I have tried to reduce to simple
prose was delivered in the rhapsodic style of the
ancient bards, but simple enough to be understood
by the most unlettered plough-boy. And I have
always understood that none of Bronte's stories
were so acceptable as the plain record of his early
134 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Mingled with all his stories shrewd maxims for
life and conduct were interwoven ; but in his
oration on tenant-right he broke new ground, and
showed that, under different circumstances, he might
have been an advanced statesman, and saved his
country from unutterable woe.
Hugh was superstitious, but while his super-
stitious character descended to all his children, the
faculty of story-telling was inherited, as far as I
have been able to ascertain, by Patrick alone. All
the sons and daughters talked with a dash of
genius ; but I have never heard of any of them
except Patrick trying to tell a story.
Patrick at the age of two or three used to lie on
the warm shelling seeds, and listen to his father's
entrancing stories as if he understood what was
being said, and he seems to have caught some-
thing of his father's gift and power. Miss Nussey
has often told me of Patrick's power to rivet
the attention of his children, and awe them with
realistic descriptions of simple scenes. All the
girls used to sit in breathless silence, their pro-
minent eyes starting out of their heads, while their
father unfolded lurid scene after scene ; but the
greatest effect was produced on Emily, who
seemed to be unconscious of everything else
except her father's story, and sometimes the de-
scriptions became so vivid, intense, and terrible,
that they had to implore him to desist.
THE IRISH RACONTEUR, OR STORY-TELLER 135
Miss Nussey had opportunities for observing the
Bronte girls that no other person had. She became
Charlotte's friend at school when both were home-
sick and needed friends. She continued to be her
fast friend through life. Gentle Annie Bronte
died in her arms, and she was Charlotte's true
consoler when the heroic Emily passed swiftly
away. She early discovered the ring of genius in
Charlotte's letters, and preserved every scrap of
them, and it is chiefly through those letters that
the Brontes are known in England. She was
Charlotte's confidante in all private transactions
and love matters, and she might have been a nearer
friend still had Charlotte not refused an offer of
marriage from her brother, an incident in the
novelist's life here for the first time, I believe,
Miss Nussey was not only Charlotte's devoted
friend, but she was a constant visitor at Haworth,
and a keen observer. She had a great power of
discernment in literary matters, and a very con-
siderable literary gift herself. She had not to wait
till Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were published
to learn that Charlotte and Emily were endowed
with genius. We owe it to her penetrating sagacity
that we know so much of the vicar's daughters.
She watched their growth of intellect, and every-
thing that ministered to it, and she believes firmly
that the girls caught their inspiration from their
136 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
father, and that Emily got not only her inspiration,
but most of her facts from her father's narratives.*
" The dirty, ragged, black-haired child " brought
home by Mr. Earnshaw from Liverpool is none other
than the real dirty, naked, black-haired foundling
discovered on the boat between Liverpool and
Drogheda, and taken home by Charlotte's great-
great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother to
the banks of the Boyne. The artist, however, is not
a mere copyist, and hence, while the story starts from
* Swinburne, in his Note on Charlotte Bronte, says :
" Charlotte evidently never worked so well as when painting
more or less directly from nature. ... In most cases
probably the design begun by means of the camera was
transferred for completion to the canvas." In contrasting
Charlotte with her sister, he says: "Emily Bronte, like
William Blake, would probably have said, or at least pre-
sumably have felt, that such study after the model was to
her impossible an attempt but too certain to diminish her
imaginative insight, and disable her creative hand." Surely
the highest imaginative insight and deftest creative hand
work from the model, nature, though the result may not be a
mere portrait of the model !
No author has so narrowly missed understanding Emily
Bronte's character as Miss A. Mary F. Robinson. In her
book Emily Bronte, one of the "Eminent Women" Series,
she declares that, "While the West Riding has known
the prototype of nearly every person and nearly every
place in Jane Eyre and Shirley, not a single character in
Wuthering Heights ever climbed the hills round Haworth."
Here Miss Robinson was on the way to the mystery, and she
comes still nearer to it when she narrates how the Rev.
Patrick Bronte used to " entertain the baby Emily with his
Irish tales of violence and horror." She turned her back on
THE IRISH RACONTEUR, OR STORY-TELLER 137
existing facts and follows the general outline of
the real, it is not the very image of the real, and
makes deviations from the original facts to meet
the exigencies of art.
There is no difficulty in recognising the original
of the "incarnate fiend" Heathcliffe in the man
Welsh who tormented Hugh Bronte, Patrick's
father, in the old family home near Drogheda.
Had Welsh never played the demon among the
the truth, however, when she gave currency to the silly theory
that Emily, in Wuthering Heights, was simply making printer's
copy of her brother's shame, "a chart of proportions by
which to measure, and to which to refer, for correct investiture,
the inspired idea." Nor was Miss Robinson altogether innocent
in placing such a stigma on the memory of Emily Bronte, for
she writes, " Emily cared more for fairy tales, wild, unnatural,
strange fancies, suggested, no doubt, in some degree by her
father's weird Irish stories. . . . Mr. Bronte loved to relate
fearful stories of superstitious Ireland, or barbarous legends
of the rough dwellers in the moors. . . . Emily, familiar
with all the wild stories of Haworth for a century back,
and nursed on grisly Irish horrors, tales of 1798, tales of
oppression and misery, Emily, with all this eerie lore at
her finger-ends, would have the less difficulty in combining
and working the separate motives into a consistent whole."
It is a pity that an excellently written book has been vitiated
by an unworthy hypothesis. Miss Nussey, from whom
Miss Robinson got most of her information, gave no counte-
nance to her theory. Emily Bronte never looked on her
brother with a frown. The more commonplace Charlotte
sulked and complained ; but no word of reproach ever passed
Emily's lips, and no power in the universe could have drawn
from her one syllable of censure for thoughtless gossip to
138 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Brontes, Emily Bronte had never placed on canvas
Heathcliffe, " child neither of Lascar nor gipsy,
but a man's shape animated by demon life a
ghoul, an afreet."
Nelly Dean, the benevolent but irresolute medium
of romance and tragedy, is Hugh's Aunt Mary,
clear-eyed as to right and duty, but ever slipping
down before the force of circumstances. And old
Gallagher on the banks of the Boyne, with the
" Blessed Virgin and all the saints " on his side,
is none other than the original of the old hypo-
crite Joseph. Gallagher is Joseph speaking the
And Edgar Linton is the gentle and forgiving
brother of Alice, our friend Red Paddy McClory,
who took his sister home after her runaway marriage
with a Protestant, and finally took the whole
Bronte family under his roof and gave them all
he possessed. Even Isabella Linton's flight and
marriage had solid foundation in fact, either in
Alice Bronte's romantic elopement with Hugh,
or in the more tragic circumstances of Mary
Bronte's marriage with Welsh.
It is not credible, I again assert, that Patrick
Bronte in his story-telling moods never narrated
to his listening daughters the romance of their
grandfather and grandmother. It is true Miss
Nussey never heard any reference to the story,
nor did the Brontes ever in her presence refer to
THE IRISH RACONTEUR, OR STORY-TELLER 139
their Irish home or friends or history, though at
the very time she was visiting Haworth they
were in constant communication with their Irish
relatives, and, as we shall see, one of the uncles
actually visited them as Charlotte's champion, and
one of them had visited Haworth at an earlier
The Brontes were too proud to talk even to their
most intimate friends of their Irish home, much less
to expose the foibles of their immediate ancestors
to phlegmatic English ears ; but Patrick Bronte
would not omit to tell his daughters the thrilling
adventures of their ancestors ; and the girls, having
brooded over the incidents, reproduced them in
variant forms, and in the sombre setting of their
The originals lived and died, acted and were
acted upon in Louth and Down ; but on the steeps
of Wuthering Heights they strut again, speaking
with the Yorkshire brogue and braced by the tonic
air of the northern downs. None of the stories
betray their origin so clearly as WutJiering Heights,
just as none of the novelists were so fascinated
with their father's tales as Emily. But the stories
are all Bronte stories, an echo of the thrilling
narratives related by old Hugh, and retold to
his children, I believe, a hundred times by
Of course all the stories are made to live again
1 40 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
under new forms, each writer giving the stamp of
her own character to the new creations, and each
adding the necessary rouge which fiction requires to
make up for fact. Artists of the Bronte stamp are
not portrait painters nor mere reproducers. They
never were content to be mere lackeys of nature.
They were above nature, and everything without
and within themselves they placed under contribu-
Even the rough and rugged characters that have
come from the hands of Emily show the work
of the artist. She added to the repulsive Heath-
cliffe qualities of her own. She is perfectly serious
when she puts into Lockwood's mouth the following
words : " Possibly, some people might suspect him
(Heathcliffe) of a degree of underbred pride. 1
have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it
is nothing of the sort. I know, by instinct, his
reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays
of feeling, to manifestations of mutual kindliness.
He'll love and hate equally under cover, and esteem
it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated
again. No : I'm running on too fast ; I bestow my
own attributes over liberally on him."
Knowing the model from which Emily Bronte
worked, there are few passages that throw more
light on the artist than this.
Catherine Linton was modelled on the lovely
Alice McClory, who bequeathed to her clever
THE IRISH RACONTEUR, OR STORY-TELLER 141
granddaughters all the personal attractions they
possessed ; but here again Emily bestows attributes
of herself and sisters on her stately and lily-like
grandmother : -
" She (Catherine) was slender, and apparently
scarcely past girlhood : an admirable form, and
the most exquisite little face that I have ever had
the pleasure of beholding ; small features, very
fair ; flaxen ringlets, or rather golden, hanging
loose on her delicate neck ; and eyes, had they
been agreeable in expression, that would have
The picture is neither that of a Bronte of the
Haworth vicarage, nor is it a portraiture of the
flower plucked in Ballynaskeagh by Hugh
Bronte ; but it is Alice McClory diluted with an
infusion of the Penzance Branwells, and the effect
is a perfect and beautiful picture, more pleasing
indeed than a lifelike portrait with all the radiant
beauty of the charming Alice when she rode off
to Magherally Church with the dashing Hugh
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-RIGHTER
HUGH BRONTE worked up to his tenant-
right doctrines by a series of assertions,
negative and positive, on religious, political, and
economic questions. His address in which he set
forth his views on such matters, approximated to
the form of a lecture more nearly than any of his
other talks, which were generally in the narrative
form. The following are the chief points of the
discourse as given to me by my old tutor and
friend, and the propositions were never varied,
except in the mere wording, although the state-
ment had never, I believe, except by myself, been
formally written out.
Hugh Bronte always began with a little black
Bible in his hand or on his knee, and his first
negative assertion was :
I. THE CHURCH is NOT CHRIST'S.
Laying his hand on the little book he would
declare that he found grace in the Bible, but in
the Church only greed. Once, and only once, he
had appealed to a parson. He was hungry, naked,
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-LIGHTER 143
and bleeding ; but the great double-chinned, red-
faced man had looked on him as if he were a rat,
and without hearing his story had him driven off
by a grand-looking servant in livery, who cracked
a whip over his head and swore at him.
In Hugh Bronte's eyes the parsons got their
livings for political services, and not for learning
or goodness. Enormous sums were paid to them
to do work that they did not do. They rarely
visited their parishes, and their duties were per-
formed by hungry and ill-paid curates. When
they did return occasionally to their livings, they
were heard of at banquets, where they ate and
drank too freely, and at other resorts, where they
gambled recklessly. They were seen riding over
the country after foxes and hounds, and sitting
in judgment on the men whose grain they had
trampled down, and sending them to penal servi-
tude for trapping hares in their own gardens.
They were said to be ignorant, but they were
known to be immoral, irreligious, arrogant, and
cruel. They acted as the ministers of the gentry,
before whom they were very humble ; and they
utterly despised the people who paid for their
luxuries and supported their own priests besides.
They gave the sanction of the Church to
violence, craft, and crime in high places, and they
were as far removed as men could be, in origin,
position, and practice, from the Apostles of the
144 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
New Testament. And yet, he added, they claimed
in the most haughty manner that they, and they
alone, were the successors of the Apostles, although
they showed no signs of apostolic spirituality or
Hugh Bronte declared that he could not submit
to the Protestant parson who despised him because
he was poor, and could not aid in his promotion ;
nor could he yield obedience to the Catholic priest
who demanded utter subjection and prostration of
both body and mind, and enforced his Church's
claims by a stout stick. With these views it is
not to be wondered at that Hugh Bronte did not
belong to any Church.
To us now, who know the high character of the
Irish clergy, his statements appear exaggerated
and sweeping ; but it must be remembered that he
spoke of them generally, in the closing decades of
the last century. He expressed himself fiercely
regarding the parsons, and in return they dubbed
His second negative assertion was :
II. THE WORLD is NOT GOD'S.
He knew from the Bible that God had made all
things very good, and that He loved the world ;
but he held that a number of people had got in
between God and His world and made it very
bad and hateful. They were known as kings and
emperors and rulers, and they had seized on the
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-RIGHTER 145
world by fraud and force. They lived on the best
of everything that the land produced, and when
they disagreed among themselves they sent their
people to kill each other on their account, while
they sat at home in peace and luxury.
These usurpers not only held sway over the
possessions and lives of men, but they decreed the
very thoughts men were to entertain concerning
God, and the exact words they were to speak
regarding Him, and when men presumed to obey
God rather than men they were tied to stakes and
burnt to death as blasphemers. For such senti-
ments as these Hugh Bronte was denounced as a
socialist, a very bad and dangerous name at the
beginning of the present century.
His third negative proposition was :
III. IRELAND is NOT THE KING'S.
He understood that King George III. was not a
wise man, but that he was a humane man. Ireland
was not governed by King George III., but by a
gang of rapacious brigands. They constantly in-
voked the King's name, but only to serve more fully
their own selfish ends. By the King's authority
they carried out their policy of systematic outrage,
until he hated the very name of the King whom he
always wished to love.
The chief business of the King's representatives
was to plunder His Majesty's poorer subjects. For
this purpose the country was parcelled out, and
146 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
divided among a number of base and greedy
adventurers in return for odious services. Each
of these adventurers became petty king, or landlord,
in his own district, and lived on the wretched
natives. Every meskin of butter made on the
farm, every pig reared in the cabin, every egg laid
by the hens that roosted in the kitchen went to
support the landlord-king.
The cottages were mud hovels ; the land was
bog and barren waste ; the men and women were
in rags ; the children were hungry, pinched, and
barefooted. But the landlord carried off every-
thing except the potato crop, which was barely
sufficient to sustain life.
The landlord was a very great man. He lived
in London near the King in more than royal
splendour, or he passed his time in some of the
great cities of Europe, spending as much on gay
women as would have clothed and fed all the
starving children on his estate.
In English society his pleasantries were said to
be most entertaining regarding the poverty, misery,
and squalor of his tenants whom he fleeced ; but
he took care never to come near them, lest his fine
sensibilities should be shocked at their condition.
His serious occupation was the making of laws to
increase his own power for rapacity, and to take
away from the people every vestige of right that
they might have inherited.
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-RIGHTER 147
" The landlord takes everything, and gives
nothing," was Hugh Bronte's simple form of the
fine modern phrase regarding landlords' privileges
Hugh Bronte maintained that the landlord was
a courteous gentleman, graced with polished
manners, and that if he had lived among his
people he might in time have developed a heart.
At least, he could hardly have kept up a gentlemanly
indifference in the presence of squalor and misery.
But he kept quite out of sight of his tenantry,,
or he could hardly have made so much merriment
about the pig which was being brought up among
the children to pay for his degrading extravagances.
The landlord's place among the people was taken
by an agent, an attorney, and a sub-agent. The
agent was a local potentate whose will was law -
the attorney's business was to make the law square
with the agent's acts ; and the under-agent was
employed to do mean and vile and inhuman acts
that neither the agent nor the attorney could
The duty of the three was to find out by public
inspection and by private espionage the uttermost
farthing the tenants could pay, and extract it from
them legally. In getting the landlord's rent each
got as much as he could for himself. The key of
the situation was the word " eviction." Then Hugh
told the story of his ancestors' farm.
148 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The Brontes had occupied a piece of forfeited
land, with well-defined obligations to a chief or
landlord. Soon the landlord succeeded in re-
moving all legal restraints which in any way
interfered with his absolute control of the place.
Remonstrance and entreaty were alike unavailing.
The alterations in title were made by the authority
of George III., by the grace of God King of
Hugh's grandfather drained the bog and im-
proved the land at enormous expense. Every
improvement was followed by a rise in the rent.
His grandfather built a fine house on the land by
money made in dealing, and again the rent was
raised on the increased value given to the place
by the tenant's improvements. Then the vilest
creature in human form having ingratiated himself
with the agent by vile services, the place was
handed over to him, without one farthing of com-
pensation to the heirs of the man whose labour had
made the place of value. All these things were
done in the name of George III., though the King
had no more to do with the nefarious transactions
than the child unborn.
From this conclusion Hugh Bronte proceeded
to his fourth negative proposition :
IV. IRISH LAW is NOT JUSTICE.
He expressed regret that he was unable to
respect the laws of the country. According to
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-RIGHTER 149
his views the laws were made by an assembly of
landlords purely and solely to serve their own
rapacious desires, and not in accordance with any
dictates of right and wrong. As soon might the
lambs respect the laws of the wolves as the people
of Ireland respect the laws of the landlords.
From this point he naturally arrived at his fifth
negative proposition :
V. OBEDIENCE TO LAW is NOT A DUTY.
He said it might be prudent to obey a bad law
cruelly administered, because disobedience might
entail inconvenient consequences ; but there was
no moral obligation impelling a man to obey a law
which outraged decency, and against which every
righteous and generous instinct revolted. Human
laws should be the reflection of Divine laws ; but
the landlord-made laws of Ireland had neither the
approval of honest men nor the sanction of Divine
Hugh's sixth and last negative proposition
VI. PATRIOTISM is NOT A VIRTUE.
He held that every man should love his country,
and that every Irishman did ; but he could not do
violence to the most sacred instincts of his nature
by any zeal to uphold a system of government
which dealt with Ireland as the legitimate prey of
In other lands men were patriotic because they
ISO THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
loved their country. He loved his country too
well to be a patriot. Love of country more than
any other passion had prompted to the purest
patriotism ; but who would do heroic acts to main-
tain a swarm of harpies to pollute and lacerate
his country? who would have his zeal aglow
to maintain the desolators of his native land ?
Hugh Bronte gave out his views with a warmth
that betrayed animus arising from personal injury.
He was therefore declared to be disloyal, and that
at a time when there was danger in disloyalty.
About the time Hugh Bronte was enunciating
these sentiments the rising of the United Irishmen
took place, and the pitched battle of Ballynahinch
was fought in 1798.
It has always seemed to me strange that he
should have passed through those times in peace,
for the " Welsh Horse " devastated the country far
and wide after the battle, and hundreds of inno-
cent people were shot down like dogs. Besides,
William, his second son, was a United Irishman
and present at the battle of Ballynahinch. After
the battle he was pursued by cavalry, who fired
at him repeatedly, but he led them into a bog and
Hugh Bronte lived in a secluded glen ; but the
Welsh Horse " visited his house, and after a short
parley with his wife, in which neither understood
the other, one of the soldiers struck a light into
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-RIGHTER 151
the thatch. Hugh suddenly appeared, and spoke
to the Welsh soldiers in Irish, which it was supposed
they understood as being akin to their own
language, and they joined heartily with him in
extinguishing the flames. They join'ed still more
heartily with Hugh in disposing of his stock of
whiskey. The inability of Hugh's neighbours to
communicate with the Welsh may account for the
fact that a man well known for such advanced
and disloyal views passed safely through those
Having completed his negative assertions or
paradoxes, Hugh Bronte proceeded to state his
theories, or positive conclusions. He laid it down
as an axiom that justice must be at the root of
all good government, and he declared emphatically,
what O'Connell and agent Townsend have since
maintained, that the Irish were the most justice-
loving people in the world. He also held that
unjust laws were the fruitful source of nearly all
the turbulence and crime in Ireland.
Justice, he said, was nothing very grand. It
meant simply that every man should have his own
by legal right. This definition brought him to
his tenant-right theory. In illustration he returned
to the story of his ancestral home and the wrongs
of his ancestors. He maintained that when his
forefathers drained the bog and improved the land,
they were entitled to every ounce of improvement
152 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
they had made. The landlord had done nothing
for the land. He never went near it, and had
never spent one farthing upon it ; and he should
not have been entitled to confiscate to his own
profit the additional value given it by the labour of
He further declared that a just and wise legisla-
tion should secure to every man, high and low, the
fruits of his own labour ; and he maintained that
such simple natural justice would produce con-
fidence in Ireland, and that confidence would beget
content and industry, and that a contented and
industrious people would soon learn to love both
King and country, and make Ireland happy and
England strong. Just laws would silence the
agitator and the blunderbuss, and range the people
on the side of the rulers.
Hugh Bronte preached his revolutionary
doctrine of simple justice in the cheerless east
wind ; but a little seed, carried I know not how,
took root in genial soil, and the revolutionary
doctrine of " Every man his own" at which the
political parsons used to cry " Anathema " and
the short-sighted politicians used to shout " Con-
fiscation," has become one of the commonplaces
of the modern reformation programme of fair
The doctrine of common honesty enunciated by
Hugh Bronte has lately received the approval of
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-RIGHTER 153
Liberal and Conservative governments in what is
known as " Tenant-right," or the " Ulster Custom."
And here it is interesting to note that Hugh
Bronte was a tenant on the estate which came into
the possession of Sharman Crawford,* a landlord who
first took up the cause of Irish tenant-right, and after
spending a long life in its advocacy bequeathed its
defence to his sons and daughters.
The Crawfords, like the Johnsons and Sharmans,
their predecessors in title, were never absentee-
landlords, and as men of high Christian character
they always took a personal interest in their
tenants, and would not, I believe, have failed to
note any special intellectual activity among them.
It is certain, moreover, that the Sharman Craw-
fords, father and son in succession, spent their lives
largely in the propagation of Hugh Bronte's views,
both in the House of Commons and throughout
the country ; and it seems to me not only probable
and possible, but morally certain, that Bronte's
* I knew the late W. Sharman Crawford, M.P., well ; and I
once talked with him of Hugh Bronte's tenant-right theories,
of which he was thoroughly aware. I did not ask him if his
father had got his views from Bronte, as I had no doubt of
the fact. Miss M. Sharman Crawford writes me : " My father
certainly originated tenant-right as a public question, though
no doubt, long before the period when he strove to amend the
position of Irish tenants, many thoughtful minds like his must
have protested against the legalised injustice to which they
154 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
eloquent and passionate arguments dropped into
the justice-loving minds of the Crawfords, and
were the primary seeds of the great agrarian
harvest which, on the lines of equity and with the
full sanction of the legislature, is now being reaped
by the tenant farmers in Ireland.*,
Great results have thus flowed from the inhuman
treatment of a child. Had little Bronte been left in
the luxury of his father's home, it is not likely he
would ever have been shaken up to original and inde-
pendent thought ; but the iron of cruel wrong had
entered into his soul, and he felt that all was not
well. He owed no gratitude to the existing order
of things, and had no compunction in denouncing
it ; and having thought out and formulated a new
* In 1833 W. Sharman Crawford published a pamphlet
embodying Hugh Bronte's doctrines, and making additional
suggestions for the good government of Ireland. The
pamphlet was republished by Dr. W. H. Dodd, Q.C., in 1892.
Sergeant Dodd is an old pupil of the Ballynaskeagh school.
He received his early education from Mr. McKee, the friend
of the Brontes, and he was acquainted as a student with
Charlotte Bronte's uncles. The following is his summary of
the political portion of the pamphlet :
" Mr. Crawford anticipates, as the probable result of
refusing self-government to Ireland, the growth of secret
societies, the influence of agitation, and the necessity of
resorting to force in the government of the country. He
touches upon the question of private bill legislation, of a
reform of the grand jury system of county government.
" He points out that the creation of county councils without
having a central body to control them is not desirable. And
HUGH BRONTE AS A TENANT-RIGHTER 155
theory, he proclaimed it with the strong conviction
of an apostle who sees salvation in his gospel alone.
The daring character of Hugh Bronte's specu-
lations in their paradoxical form, combined with
the fierce energy of his manner in making them,
secured for him an audience and an amount of
consideration to which as an uneducated working
man he could have had no claims. Indeed, Hugh
Bronte's revolutionary doctrines were known far
beyond his own immediate neighbourhood ; and
while many said he was mad, some declared that
he only saw a little clearer than his contem-
he suggests the creation of a local legislature for Irish affairs,
combined with representation in the Imperial Parliament,
as the true method of preserving the Union, as the surest
bond of the connection between the two countries, and as
essentially necessary to tranquillity in Ireland.
" He refers, among other measures, to the disestablishment
of the Irish Church, and the reform of the relations between
landlord and tenant as being pressing.
" The arguments against his views are met and answered.
One would think he had read some of the speeches lately
delivered, so apt is his reply.
" It is curious to note the length of time Ireland has had
to wait for the reforms he thought urgent ; and it is sad to
reflect how much suffering has been endured, and how much
blood has been shed, because the men of his time would not
listen to his words."
THE BRONTE FAMILY : GENEALOGICAL
IT is desirable here, at the risk of repetition, to
take a general survey of the Bronte family
before proceeding to specific details regarding the
Shortly after the events which in 1688 rendered
the Boyne memorable, Hugh Bronte (i) the elder
occupied, as we have already seen, a house and
farm on the banks of that river. It is not impro-
bable that he received his possession for imperial
services rendered in those turbulent times.
As we have also already seen, disaster befell
Bronte's children through the artifices of the found-
ling called Welsh, who had been brought up in the
family. He was supposed to have murdered and
robbed old Hugh, and he finally possessed himself
of his farm and of his youngest daughter, Mary.
The rest of the family were scattered abroad
and disappeared ; but a young Hugh (2), a son of
one of the dispersed brothers, came to live with
his aunt Mary and her husband Welsh, who had
assumed the name of Bronte.
THE BRONTE FAMILY: GENEALOGICAL 157
This young Hugh was the grandson of the
Hugh Bronte whom we first met by the banks of the
Boyne, and he became the grandfather of the famous
novelists. He had a son, Hugh (3). "the Giant."
Hugh, having escaped from Welsh's bondage,
THE LAST OF THE BRONTLS AUNTS.
married Alice McClory of Ballynaskeagh, a Catholic
beauty ancj a pure Celt. They were married in
the parish church of Magherally in 1 776.
Regarding Hugh's appearance, Alice Bronte, the
last of his family, speaking to the Rev. J. B. Lusk
only a few days before her death, said : " My
father came originally from Drogheda. He was
158 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
not very tall, but purty stout ; he was sandy-
haired, and my mother fair-haired. He was very
fond of his children, and worked to the last for
them. My mother died after my father."
Hugh Bronte went to live with his bride in the
little Emdale cottage, and there on the i/th of
March, 1777, Patrick, who became the vicar of
Haworth and father of the novelists, was born.
Mary Bronte outlived her husband Welsh, and
in after-years visited her nephew Hugh in County
Down. There is a tradition that she was a very
beautiful woman at the time of her visit ; but as she
must have been old then, there may be a reference
to her daughter, who accompanied her.
Alice, speaking of this visit, said : " She came to
see him in Emdale. Tarrible purty she was. A
shopkeeper in Rathfriland courted her. . . . After
she went home he sent after her, but she would not
The Emdale cottage is in the parish of Drum-
ballyroney, and not in the parish of Aghaderg,
as has always been incorrectly stated ; but the
part of the register in which Patrick's baptism was
entered is lost*
* The register of the parish has lately been discovered
in Banbridge by the Rev. H. W. Lett of Lough brickland.
Originally there were two volumes, and they were sold as
waste paper for a mere trifle. One of the volumes was bought
for fourpence, and used to paper up soap, candles, and such
THE BRONTE FAMILY: GENEALOGICAL 159
William, the second son of the family, was
baptised on the i6th of March, 1779; Hugh, the
third son, was baptised on the 27th of May, 1781 ;
James, the fourth son, was baptised on the $rd
of November, 1783 ; Welsh, the fifth son, was
baptised on the I9th of February, 1786 ; Jane, the
eldest daughter and sixth child, was baptised on the
things. The other document rescued by Mr. Lett contains the
minutes of the vestry meetings of Drumballyroney from 1789
to 1828. The baptismal register is complete from 1779 to
1791, and contains the registration of six of Patrick Bronte's
brothers and sisters.
160 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
1st of February, 1789 ; Mary, the second daughter
and seventh child, was baptised on the ist of May,
1791. The register containing the names of Patrick,
Rose, Sarah, and Alice, the remainder of the family,
Of the ten children, Patrick, the eldest, was born
in Emdale, in the parish of Drumballyroney ; and
Alice, the youngest, in Ballynaskeagh, in the parish
of Aghaderg ; and the remaining eight, four boys
and four girls, were born in the house in Lisna-
The Bronte girls were tall, red-cheeked, fair-
haired, with dark eyelashes, and very handsome.
They were massive, strong-minded women ; and,
as they despised men in their own rank of life,
only one of them got married. Mr. McCracken
writes thus of them : " With regard to the sisters
of Patrick Bronte, I have seen them all except
the one that was married. The rest lived and
died unmarried. They were fine, stalwart, good-
looking women, with rather a masculine build
and carriage. Their lives were unstained by a
single blot. They were not ordinary women.
They were essentially women of character, and I
think men were perhaps a little afraid of them."
William, or, as he was called, Billy, was a
United Irishman. The story of his adventures at
the battle of Ballynahinch forms an interesting
chapter, for which I regret I have no space here.
THE BRONTE FAMILY: GENEALOGICAL
He kept late in life a shebeen on the Knock Hill.
Many stories, probably the exaggerations of his
enemies, are told of his powers in the use of strong
language and strong drink. He is said to have
occasionally cleared out his own stock, and then
to have spent the next six months in repent-
ance and close application to business. He finally
retired from the public-house on the advice of Mr.
McKee, and went and lived with a prosperous son
in Ballyroney. He had six sons, all of whom got
on well in life.
1 62 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Jamie worked sometimes as a shoemaker, made
single-soled boots, and was a great favourite with
children. He visited Patrick at Haworth, where
he spent some time. Alice, speaking of Jamie,
said, " He took a hand at everything, and he was
very smart and active with his tongue." When
he returned from Haworth he said, " Charlotte is
tarrible sharp and inquisitive."
" Hugh and Welsh," she said, " were great fiddlers,
and very industrious. They made a great deal of
money by macadamising roads."
Hugh, who was called the Giant, was a religious
man in his youth ; but towards the close of his life
he lost his faith and grew superstitious. He was
said to be great in religious controversy.
Welsh was the most gentlemanly of the brothers.
Late in life he set up a sJiebeen in the little house
in Ballynaskeagh. He had two sons ; one of them
was drowned and swept away by a water-spout
flood when he was crossing the river Bann. The
other son, brought up in the shebeen, became a
drunkard, and after a swift career of debauchery,
compared with which Branwell's vices sink into
insignificance, the kindly earth covered the pestilent
thing out of sight.
There are now in Ireland a number of the
descendants of the Brontes, who are industrious,
prosperous, and in every way most exemplary.
There are two or three in a destitute condition.
THE BRONTES AL FRESCO
I PROCEED with this chapter in the first
person, though the story came to me at second
hand. My tutor narrated it to me in the words in
which he had heard it from a young cousin of his,
and I am able to give it almost in the same words,
and in the form in which I wrote it out at the
The scene described does not, however, rest on
the authority of Mr. McAllister or his friend alone,
but on the testimony of all who knew the Brontes in
their home life. Similar scenes have been described
to me by old men whose memory extended back
to matters in the last century ; and quite recently
when visiting the place Mr. RatclifTe pointed out
the exact spot where he himself had witnessed the
Brontes engaged in their amusements. The story
is so characteristic that I give it in extenso, and
with all details as I got it :
"In 1812 I made," said McAllister's friend
" my first great journey out into the big world
164 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
accompanied by my elder brother. We were then
very young. The nature of our business obliged
us to go on foot, and the distance traversed was
two or three miles.
" Our errand brought us into the midst of the
Brontes ; and as we had to remain there six or
seven hours, we had an opportunity of seeing under
various aspects that extraordinary and unique
family whose genius came to be revealed a few
years later by three little girls on English soil.
"We first saw a group of the Bronte brothers
together. I think there were six of them, and they
were marching in step across a field towards a level
road. Their style of marching and their whole
appearance arrested our attention. They were
dressed alike in home-spun and home-knitted
garments that fitted them closely, and showed off
to perfection their large, lithe, and muscular forms.
They were all tall men, but with their close-
fitting apparel and erect bearing they appeared
to be men of gigantic stature. They bounded
lightly over all the fences that stood in their way,
all springing from the ground and alighting
together ; and they continued to march in step
without an apparent effort until they reached the
public road, and then began in a businesslike way
to settle conditions in preparation for a serious
" A few men and boys watched the little group
THE BRONTES AL FRESCO 165
of Brontes timorously from a distance ; but curiosity
drew my brother and myself close up to where
they were assembled. They did not seem to
notice us, or know that we were present, but pro-
ceeded with a match of hurling a large metal ball
along the road. The ball seemed to be about
six pounds weight, and the one who made it roll
farthest along the road was declared the winner.
" The contest was to them an earnest business.
Every ounce of elastic force in the great muscular
frames was called into action, and there was a
profusion of strange strong language that literally
made our flesh to creep and our hair to stand on
end. The forms of expression which they used
were as far from commonplace as anything ever
written by the gifted nieces ; and as the uncles'
lives were on a lower plane of civilisation, and
their scant education had not reduced their tongues
to the conventional forms of speech, they gave
utterance to their thoughts with a pent-up and
concentrated energy never equalled in rugged
force by the novelists.
" We had never seen men like the Irish Brontes,
and we had never heard language like theirs.
The quaint conceptions, glowing thoughts, and
ferocious epithets, that struggled for utterance at
their unlettered lips, revealed the original quarry
from which the vicar's daughters chiselled the
stones for their artistic castle-building, and dis-
1 66 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
closed the original fountain from which they drew
their pathos and passion. Similar fierce originality
and power are felt to be present in everything
produced by the English Brontes ; but in their
case the intensity of energy is held in check by the
Branwell temperament, and kept under restraint
by education and culture.
" The match over, and the sweepstakes secured,
the brothers returned to their harvest labour as
they went, clearing like greyhounds every fence
that stood in their way. At that time no fame
attached to the Bronte name, but the men that
we had come upon were so different from the local
gentry, farmers, flax-dressers, and such-like people
who lived around them, that we became all at once
deeply interested in them.
" From a distance we watched their shining
sickles flashing among the golden grain, and
caught snatches of songs which we afterwards found
to be from Robert Burns. Our interest, however,
in the Brontes was shared by no one. They were
then neither prophets nor heroes in their own
country, and they were regarded with a kind of
superstitious dread by their neighbours rather
than with interest or curiosity.
" Young as we then were, we persevered with
our inquiries, and our curiosity was rewarded. We
learnt that the Brontes had a brother, a clergyman
in England, ' a fine gentleman,' then on a visit to
THE BRONTES AL FRESCO 167
them, and that the Bronte family were in the
habit of holding an open-air concert every favour-
able afternoon in a secluded glen below their
house. I remember wondering if the clergyman
ever broke out in the vigorous vernacular of his
kith and kin ; but we were especially interested in
the open-air concert.
" My brother and I by the nature of our errand
could not return home till late in the evening, and
as we were at leisure we made up our minds to
assist at the concert. On pretence of gathering
blackberries we explored the glen and discovered
the place. No one would accompany us, and we
were told with uneasy looks that it would be at
our peril if we went to the concert, as the brothers
had 'the black art,' and were all men to be
avoided. We resolved, notwithstanding, to go as
spectators, and waited with impatience till the
day's work should be over.
" About six o'clock a horn was blown, and the
reapers suddenly dropped their sickles and strolled
down leisurely to the Concert Glen. We had
already preceded them, and taken our places on
a high ridge bordering on the Glen in a thicket of
" Three sisters were the first to arrive on the
scene. They brought a spinning-wheel, a supply
of oat-bread and buttermilk, and a green satchel,
which contained a violin. The men sat astride
168 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
the trunk of a prostrate tree, and disposed of their
afternoon collation in an incredibly short space of
time, one wooden bowl, or noggin, supplying milk
" Scarcely had the frugal meal been ended, when
one of the brothers began to thrum the fiddle, and
quick as lightning two of the sisters and the other
brothers were whirling and spinning airily over
the grass. The other sister was busily plying her
spinning-wheel and \vatching the moving scene.
In turns each of the sisters took her place at the
wheel, and the one relieved instantly plunged into
the mazes of the dance.
" The girls were tall like their brothers, and pic-
turesque in their red tippets. Like their brothers,
they were handsome and graceful. They were
mature maidens, but they had not lost their elegant
figures or their fresh red-and-white complexions.
Their home-made dresses, though of plain woollen
material and simply made, fitted them well, and
were in perfect harmony with their rustic sur-
roundings. Their hair hung in ringlets round
their shoulders, and they moved with unconscious
grace, whirling over the greensward as if they
scarcely touched it, or mazing through a ' country
dance,' or an ' eight point reel,' or waltzing round
and round in a manner to make the onlooker
" There was nothing in the performance suggest-
THE BRONTES AL FRESCO 171
ive of the rough peasant or the country clown ; all
was exquisite grace and courtesy. The musician
was also relieved from time to time, each of the
brothers taking his turn at the violin.
" The scene was of the most weird and romantic
character. The place selected for the family dance
was in a secluded widening of the Glen, down
which flows a little stream that makes a murmuring
noise as it tumbles over stones and among the
roots of alder and willow. It was wide enough to
give full scope for extended gallops, and sufficient
for all the exigencies of Sir Roger de Coverley
The ground was thickly carpeted with grass, and
surrounded by large trees with overhanging
branches ; the trees were festooned with ivy and
honeysuckle, sweet briar and wild roses overflowed
the hedges in great profusion, and ' flowering
Sally ' in pink bunches fringed the brook.
" The sun was sinking in the west, throwing
dark shadows down the sides of the Newry mount-
ains, and shedding a pale glory on Slieve Donnard
and the other lofty peaks of the Mourne Range.
Close by stood the Knock Hill, generally sombre
and unpicturesque ; but on that occasion it glowed
in the parting rays. The little valley as it dipped
downward opened out to the west, and through
the opening the setting sun poured a rich flood
of light on the animated group, mating each dancer
with a long dark shadow, and apparently doubling
172 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
the number of figures that tripped lightly over the
" As the sun dropped behind the ridge of
Armagh the concert came to an end, after a long
bout of Scotch jigs, in which two and two in a
row danced opposite each other, chased by their
tall unearthly shadows.
" The closing scene was a great effort of endur-
ance, but none seemed to weary, and with a few
skips into the air, the arms raised in curves above
the head, and the fingers of the men being made
to crack, all was still.
" There were four spectators of this wonderful
family gathering : my brother and myself ; a goat
that was quietly barking a tree beside us, and
pausing occasionally to look at the frantic display ;
and, on the other side of the valley from where
we were, the clergyman brother, who walked to
and fro, in solemn black, apparently in meditation,
and taking no notice of the gleeful recreation of
his brothers and sisters.
" There was no dawdling when the dance was
over. Each of the brothers bowed with an air
of gallantry to each of the sisters, and then one
of the brothers caught up the spinning-wheel, and,
poising it on his shoulder, strode up the home-
ward side of the Glen. All followed smartly, and
disappeared in company with the sober figure in
THE BRONTES AL FRESCO 17$
" We slipped out of the bovver, where we had
sat entranced, and hurried homeward, with feelings
of uncertainty as to the reality of things in the
This is the most complete account I have ever
heard of the summer evening concerts held by the
Brontes. Others had often seen the same large-
limbed, sinewy children of Anak dancing on the
green with their flying shadows ; but they had
failed to appreciate the sylph-like motions of the
maidens or the stately curvetting of the gigantic
brothers, and looked on the whole exhibition as
something uncanny, and as tending to confirm the
popular belief that the Brontes had dealings with
the powers of the nether world.
The unique forms and forceful language of the
, Brontes were lost on their commonplace neighbours,
who looked on them as strange and dangerous
people. In fact, they were not regarded with
much favour by the people of the district, from
whom they carefully held aloof; and the belief
that they were in league with the devil received
a certain amount of confirmation, as we shall see
When I first began to take an interest in the
Brontes, I was admonished in a mysterious manner
to have nothing to do with such people. I was
advised to keep out of their way, lest I should hear
their odious language ; and it was even hinted that
174 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
they might, in some satanic way, do me bodily
I am bound to say that matters in this respect
have not altered much since for the better. My
attempts recently to get accurate information on
special points regarding the Brontes and their ways
have been looked upon by some as a kind of craze,
out of which, I have been assured, I was never
likely to reap much credit. And even educated
people, when replying to my inquiries on matters
of fact, have sometimes felt called on to remind
me that I was taking much pains with regard to
a dangerous and outlandish family. In fact, the
Brontes paid the usual penalty for being a little
cleverer than the people with whom they came in
contact and with whom they never associated.
The Brontes looked down on people in their .
own rank of life, and permitted no familiarities of
any kind ; and the only person who ever joined in
their dances, as far as is known, was Farmer Burns.
As they held aloof from everybody, they were only
known by their strange language and odd ways.
Imagination filled up the unknown, and gossip,
as usual, made the most of every little circum-
stance. The fact that Mrs. Bronte had once been
a Catholic prejudiced in no small degree the minds
of Protestants against the children.
THE BRONTES, THE DEVIL, AND THE POTATO
THE Concert Glen and romantic brook wit-
nessed very different ceremonies from that
just described. At one period an awful drama
took the place of lissom glee, when Hugh Bronte,
" the giant," in wild passion, sought to come into
actual bodily conflict with the devil.
The potato blight fell as a crushing blow on the
hopes of the Brontes, and proved the turning-point
of their fortunes. They were growing in pros-
perity, and had enlarged their farm by the savings
of many years. Through industry and frugality
they had added field to field until their material
success seemed to be assured ; but while they
were rejoicing in the position to which they had
attained, the potato crop blackened and melted
away before their eyes.
Ireland at that time had two kinds of tenant
farmers. One resembled the drowsy Oriental, who
basks in the sun, and seems content not to live
but to exist. A few wizened olives, a little black
176 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
bread, and a very small quantity of rancid oil,
suffice to maintain the existence of the lazy
Oriental. In fact, no Oriental ever died of hunger,
except in times of general famine. The maximum
of indolent existence can be had in the East for
the minimum of toil.
In Ireland a large number of people on the land
simply existed in those days. They knew that if
they drained or improved their farms, the landlords
would raise their rents, so as to sweep away the
entire profits arising from their improvements.
They were well aware that any enlargement or
brightening of their homesteads would cause the
agent to scent superfluous money, and put on the
screw, for a tenant would be more likely to make
an effort to hold on to a comfortable house than
to an uncomfortable one. Every staple of thatch
put upon the leaky roof, or bucket of whitewash
brushed into the sooty walls of the cabin, gave the
landlord a new hold on the tenant, and supplied
the agent with a new pretext for increasing the
rent for his master, or securing a present for him-
self. And there were agents so kindly disposed
towards the miserable tenants, that they preferred
one pound as a present to themselves to two
pounds added to the landlord's rent-roll.
Under these circumstances tenants of the in-
dolent type did not drain their land or improve
the appearance of their houses, and if they had
THE BRONTES AND THE POTATO BLIGHT 177
thriving cattle they kept them concealed in remote
fields when the agent was about ; and when they
were obliged to meet either agent or landlord, they
decked themselves out like Jebusites in ragged and
squalid garments. It thus happened that landlords
and land agents never saw the tenantry except
in rags, and thus the tenants contrived to order
themselves lowly and reverently to their betters.
The land of the thriftless brought. forth potatoes
in plenty. A little lime and dyke scourings mixed
together sufficed for manure. The potato seed
was planted on the lea-sod, and covered up in
ridges four or five feet wide. The elaborate pre-
paration for planting potatoes in drills was then
unheard of. Cabbage plants were dibbled into the
edges of the ridges, and the potatoes and cabbages
grew together. Abundant supplies of west-reds
and yellow-legs and copper-duns, with large savoy
and drumhead cabbages, only needed to be dug
and gathered to maintain existence.
Oats, following the potato crop, provided rough,
wholesome bread, and little rats of Kerry cows
supplied milk. Great, stalwart men and women
lived on potatoes three times a day, with bread
and buttermilk and an occasional egg. Sometimes
in the autumn a lean and venerable cow would be
fed for a few weeks on the after-grass (flesh put
on in a hurry being considered more tender), and
then killed, salted, and hung up to the black balk
1 78 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
in the kitchen for family use. This piece de resist-
ance was almost the only meat ever known in the
homes of such people.
Two pigs fattened yearly on potatoes, and a
few lambs taken from the early clover, met the
demands of the landlord. The wool of the sheep,
spun and knitted and woven at home, supplied scant
but sufficient wardrobes. For fuel they had whins,
or furze, cut from the fences and turf from the
bogs. The fire was preserved by raking a half-
burnt turf every night in the ashes ; but a coal
to light the fire was occasionally borrowed in the
morning from more provident neighbours, and
carried with a pair of tongs from house to house.
Matches were unknown in those days.
The men broke stones by the road-sides on
warm days for pocket-money or tobacco, and the
women obtained their little extras by the produce
of their surplus eggs, which they carried to market
in little osier hand-baskets.
Existence in such homes flowed smoothly, one
year being exactly like another. The people had
no prospects, no hopes, no ambitions. They lived
from hand to mouth, and, while all went well,
the produce of each day was sufficient for their
simple wants. In their diurnal rounds they
gathered their creels of potatoes, and drove their
Kerry cows to the fields, golden with tufted rag-
weeds and purple with prickly thistles.
THE BRONTES AND THE POTATO BLIGHT 179
Such people seldom had their rents raised or
their improvements confiscated, for the simple
reason that they never made improvements, and
never sought, through sustained effort, to better
their condition. They had no margin beyond the
bare necessaries of life, no resources to fall back
upon in case of calamity. With barely enough to
supply their daily wants and no more, they lived
on the verge of starvation, and when the famine
came they starved.
Such people were not ashamed to accept out-
door relief, or even to enter the most degrading
of prisons, Irish workhouses ; but to many of the
thriftless poor the potato blight was a sentence of
death. The feeble staff on which they leant was
stricken from their hands, and they sank without
a struggle, to rise no more.
The Brontes were people of a different fibre.
They would not succumb without a struggle.
They had advanced from the Emdale cabin to the
Lisnacreevy cottage, and thence to the house and
farm in Ballynaskeagh. The primitive corn-kiln,
with its insignificant and precarious profits, had
been abandoned for the lucrative occupation of
macadamising roads and cultivating the land.
The Brontes worked hard, and were frugal
as well as industrious. They had hoarded the
savings of many years, and invested all in a
new farm, and they felt that they had a right to
i8o THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
look forward to a condition of prosperity and in-
The class to which the Brontes belonged differed
widely from the inert and feckless farmers that
encumbered many a bankrupt estate. They did
not live from hand to mouth, spending each day's
efforts on each day's wants, and passing the sum-
mer in an easy doze. No people on earth slaved so
hard as Irish tenant farmers. They worked late
and early. Their wives and daughters and little
children rose with the sun and laboured the live-
long day. Every good thing raised on the farm
went to market to meet the landlord's exactions
and to add to the little store. Butter, bacon, fowl,
eggs, and such-like, raised by the laborious house-
wife, were sacred to the landlord and to the hoards
accumulated against the rainy day.
Such tenant farmers improved their lands and
their houses, and consequently the landlords raised
their rents in proportion to their improvements.
For such slaves there was little recreation except
the half-holiday on Christmas Day, and the party
displays on the I2th of July or the i/th of March.
No toil, however, could crush out of them the
desire to better their lot ; but their moiling and
slaving seldom resulted in anything more brilliant
than a five-pound note to pay a son's passage
to America, or a twenty-pound portion for a
daughter when she passed from the dreary drudgery
THE BRONTES AND THE POTATO BLIGHT 181
of her father's home to the abiding bondage of
her husband's yoke.
The industry of the Brontes was not in vain.
They lived under the best landlord that Ireland
has ever produced. "The Sharman Estate," now
known as the " Sharman Crawford Property," has
always been blessed with a succession of Christian
landlords, who have recognised that landed property
has duties as well as privileges, and who have made
it their life-work to propagate their doctrines by
peaceful persuasion. Had Sharman Crawford been
listened to in the House of Commons when he
pleaded for the tenant farmers, there would have
been no agrarian crime in Ireland ; but his was "a
voice crying in the wilderness " ; he preached his
gospel like " a linnet piping in the wind."
On the Sharman estate the Brontes had a fair
field for their industries. They worked in absolute
harmony as far as appeared to the outside world.
They were a loving family, in their way, but with-
out the shows of love. Their home was all the
world to them, and they clung to it in early life,
with something of the affectionate attachment that
Emily Bronte and her sisters afterwards manifested
towards the sombre parsonage at Haworth. They
held aloof in a stoical manner from all neighbours,
and neither sought nor accepted sympathy. They
were healthful, hopeful, and happy in their farm,
with the growing signs of plenty around them.
182 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
At this juncture the potato blight which cracked
the framework of Ireland's economic arrangements
blasted the Bronte paradise. The affection of the
farmer towards his growing crops is in proportion
to the solicitude with which he has watched over
them ; but the Brontes only learned fully what a
treasure the potato crop had been to them when
it was taken away. Never had their farm seemed
so beautiful or the potatoes appeared so bountiful,
but in a night the fields were smitten black, and
the stench of rotting leaves filled the air. The
tubers became rotten and repulsive instead of being
white and floury.
Many theories were advanced to account for the
calamity that had befallen the most important and
indispensable product of the country. Pamphlets
were published and sermons preached to show that
national disaster had followed on the heels of
national wrong-doing. Seasons for humiliation and
fasting and prayer were set apart to supplicate
Almighty God to take away the awful judgment.
The Bronte mind never ran smoothly with the
common current. To them the evil appeared to
be simply the work of the devil. The Brontes held
the simple old Zoroastrian creed that everything
beneficent was the work of God, and everything
maleficent the work of the evil one.
Such opinions were not confined to the Brontes.
As children we were given to understand that
THE BRONTES AND THE POTATO BLIGHT 183
frosted blackberries were clubbed by the devil,
who had blown his breath upon them as he passed
by, and of course we all knew that the old enemy
with the club foot lurked in the -blackberry bushes.
Servants and common labourers; held to the be-
lief, no doubt prompted and fortified by the action
of the Brontes, that the' devil went bodily from
potato field to potato field in his work of destruc-
tion ; and many reports got into circulation that he
had been actually seen among the potatoes in the
form of a black dog or black bull, but that he always
vanished in a flash of lurid light when challenged.
I have very vivid recollections of the feelings of
awe with which at night, when the wind moaned
among the trees, I listened to these inflated stories,
and also of the venturesome and prying scepticism
with which I probed and pricked the bladders of
superstition by day. No shadow of scepticism
regarding the immediate cause of the blight ever
crossed the minds of the Brontes, and so far as
Hugh, the representative of the family, was con-
cerned, he repaid the common foe by insult and
Hugh Bronte no more doubted that the devil
in bodily form had destroyed the potato crop than
he doubted his own existence. He saw the prop
stricken from under the family by a malignant
enemy, and he would not tamely submit to the
personal injury. It was both cruel and unjust that
1 84 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
the devil, who never did any work, should pollute
the fruits of their toil. He would shame the fiend
out of his foul work, and for this purpose he would
go deliberately to the field and gather a basketful
of rotten potatoes. These he would carry solemnly
to the brink of the Glen, and standing on the edge
of a precipice call on the fiend to behold his foul
and filthy work, and then with great violence dash
them down as a feast for the fetid destroyer. This
ceremony of feasting the fiend on the proceeds of
his own foul work was often repeated with fierce
and desperate energy, and the " Devil's Dining-
room " is still pointed out by the neighbours.
I knew a man who witnessed one of these scenes.
He spoke of Hugh Bronte's address to the devil
as being sublime in its ferocity. With bare, out-
stretched arms, the veins in his neck and forehead
standing out like hempen cords, and his voice
choking with concentrated passion, he would apos-
trophise Beelzebub as the bloated fly, and call on
him to partake of the filthy repast he had provided.
The address ended with wild, scornful laughter as
Bronte hurled the rotten potatoes down the bank.
The dramatic power of the ceremony was so
real, the spell of Bronte's earnestness was so con-
tagious, that my informant, who was not a super-
stitious man, declared that for a few seconds after
Bronte's challenge was given, he watched in terror
expecting the fiend to appear.
THE MINOR AMUSEMENTS OF THE BRONTES
IRELAND has always lacked the civilising and
humanising influences of a common holiday.
There is no day throughout the rolling year on
which the people can meet as brethren, and no
recurring seasons fraught with memories of good-
will to all.
The two great holidays in Ireland fall on the
1 2th of July and the I7th of March. The I2th
of July was celebrated by the Orangemen, not so
much to do honour " to the glorious, pious, and
immortal memory of William III.," who crossed
the Boyne on that day, as to hurl defiance at their
Catholic neighbours. St. Patrick's Day, the i/th
of March, though kept in honour of a national saint
whom Protestants and Catholics alike claim, had
come to be regarded as a counter-blast to the
Orange defiance, and in the minds of Orangemen
generally was associated with disloyalty in politics
and idolatry in religion.
The approach of these two great holidays was
186 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
signalised by the scouring of rusty old guns and
pikes, and the casting of bullets and preparation
of cartridges. The morning opened with the beat-
ing of drums and firing of guns. As the day wore
on large bodies of men, decked out fantastically
with orange sashes and orange lilies, or with green
sashes and shamrocks, marched in procession to
meet other processions at a given point, where
fiery orations awaited them.
On such days there was a large consumption of
spirituous liquors, or rather of fiery water. It was
made up of vitriol, and blue-stone, and copperas,
and other corrosive ingredients, and was flavoured
with potheen. The beverage was prepared in great
plenty and sold cheap.
Ordinary Irishmen are not, as a rule, either
drinkers or drunkards. Drink has never yet come
to be looked upon in Ireland as necessary food.
Occasionally at fairs and markets Irishmen drink
to excess, generally for good fellowship ; but when
the drunken bout is over they become strict total
abstainers till some circumstance calls them again
to social hilarity.
To drink on the I2th of July and on St.
Patrick's Day was part of the celebration. I can
speak from personal observation of the I2th of
July. To drink was to be loyal, and to drink
deeply was to be a good Orangeman. The man
who did not drink on the I2th of July exposed
THE MINOR AMUSEMENTS OF THE BRONTES 187
himself to the suspicion of being little better than
There was no fastidiousness as to the stuff that
was drunk. The more pungent and fiery the
liquor, it was considered the more excellent and
palatable ; and I often witnessed the contortions
of countenance with which not only boys and girls,
but even strong men, swallowed the potations that
burnt down to the stomach and flushed up to the
The fiery orations were furnished by clergymen
who were supposed to be ministers of religion, and
the maddening drinks by the keepers of roadside
shebeens. An orange flag always floated on the
steeple of Rathfriland Episcopalian Church during
the whole month of July, and the sJiebeen windows
were ablaze with orange lilies throughout the same
The processions on their homeward march had
many staggerers and stragglers. Their minds filled
with acrid eloquence, and their brains addled with
corrosive whiskey, the processionists became ex-
citable and quarrelsome, and when the common
enemy did not appear they often fought among
themselves. But sometimes the enemy did appear,
and then a pitched battle would ensue. Guns and
pistols blazed forth furiously all along the line of
march, but firearms in the hands of tipsy swaggerers
were more dangerous to friends than to foes.
188 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
With one solitary exception, and he was a McClory,
I never knew any one killed or wounded in those
noisy encounters except by his own weapon. The
chief result of the party processions was an access
of party hatred.
Orange and Catholic balls, held in country barns,
were conducted on the same party lines, and, like
the processions, created additional bad blood among
neighbours. The elated revellers were sometimes
attacked as they reeled homeward. In fact, the
people saw each other only through the haze of
party passion, and seldom came into sufficiently
peaceful relations to discover that they were
brothers. So much easier is it to fight for religion,
than to live as Christians.
Even Christmas Day did not provide a common
holiday on which the people might mingle peace-
fully together. To most of the Presbyterians the
Christmas holiday appeared as a remnant of super-
stition. New Year's Day was kept as a holiday
instead of Christmas Day by the Puritan party,
but it was a sign of division rather than a bond
Easter Sunday was a Catholic festival chiefly
distinguished by the enormous quantities of eggs
that were eaten on that day. But though the
Protestants objected to the holiday, as being bor-
rowed from the Church of Rome, they joined
heartily in the general consumption of eggs. How-
THE MINOR AMUSEMENTS OF THE BRONTES 189
ever poor the house, the table was heaped with
boiled or fried eggs on Easter Sunday morning.
The Brontes, owing to their mixed origin, held
aloof generally from the party demonstrations and
squabbles that were so common around them. But
on Christmas Day they organised a great yearly
shooting match in the Glen. The prizes were
game-cocks. Each of the competitors put down
a penny. A small piece of paper was pasted on
a barrel lid, which was propped up against a turf-
stack, and whoever put most grains of shot into
the paper was the winner.
A dozen game-cocks would be shot for and won,
and then in the afternoon the same birds would
be fought in the Cock-pit. I do not think there
was much betting on the results of the contests.
" They were fought for the fun of the thing," as a
Bronte once said to me.
The Cock-pit, which was close to the " Devil's
Dining-room," was well chosen to permit of a
large number of people seeing what was going on.
Cock-fighting was not merely a pastime resorted to
on Christmas afternoon ; it became a passion with
the Brontes in their decadence, and crowds often
assembled round the Bronte Cock-pit on Sunday
afternoons to watch the spirited little creatures
destroying each other. In those days no par-
ticular disgrace seems to have attached to the cruel
amusement which was very common.
190 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Shooting matches were not limited by the
Brontes to the great match on Christmas Day.
They were the most common amusements of the
Brontes. The brothers used to practise firing
across the Glen at a mark fixed against a turf-
stack throughout whole summer days, and weekly
matches were got up with neighbours during the
The Rev. Patrick Bronte was said to be a good
shot, and when on visits to Ireland he used to
practise pistol -firing for hours together, and when
matches were on he always joined in them.
When he won prizes he always handed them
over to be shot for again, and he also gave prizes
to be competed for. He was passionately fond of
shooting birds, and of practising with a pistol at
a mark ; and I have no doubt that the pistol-firing
at Haworth of which Mrs. Gaskell and others have
made so much was a perfectly innocent trial of
The Brontes had no equals in putting the
" shoulder stone " and " drawing stone," and they
were often engaged on summer evenings in hurling
a metal ball along the road, a practice that
became so common and dangerous that the police
got instructions to stop it.
In the times of the Brontes wakes might be
considered as among country recreations. People
from far and near thronged to the houses of mourn-
THE MINOR AMUSEMENTS OF THE BRONTES 191
ing, and sat even in the room where the corpse was.
Clay pipes with long handles were handed round,
and abundance of tobacco ; but the chief attraction
was the unlimited supply of whiskey that was
served out. Any shortcomings in hospitality at
wakes were remembered for a generation.
Fighting was one of the minor amusements of
the Brontes. The fame of Welsh's great fight with
Sam Clarke covered the family with glory, and
other youths who were proud of their agility and
strength were anxious to try conclusions with the
stalwart brothers. It thus came to pass that they
were often drawn into scrapes in fairs and markets,
but they generally came off victorious.
An amusing incident occurred one day in Rath-
friland fair. A man had offended Hugh Bronte,
and Hugh knocked him down. Soon the man's
son appeared on the scene, and hearing what had
befallen his father became greatly enraged. He
stripped off his outer garment as if for a fight,
and marched up and down the fair, waving his
arms in the most truculent manner, and shouting,
" VVher's the man that struck me faether ? "
When he had paraded the streets in triumph for
a while, Hugh Bronte stepped up to him and said,
" I'm the man that struck yer faether : what d'ye
want wi' me?"
The furious person eyed Bronte deliberately for
a little, his ardour cooling during the pause, and
192 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
then he very meekly replied, " Heth, man, ye giv
him a sevendable slap." And so the matter
There was one pretty custom that the Brontes
delighted in once a year namely, the gathering of
the may-flowers on May eve. On the last after-
noon in April the brothers and sisters used to
wander along the banks of the Glen, and gather
the may-flowers that grew by the edge of the
stream. On those occasions the sisters were decked
out in the brightest colours at their disposal. The
golden flowers were collected in posies and laid
upon the greensward in the Glen, and then the
brothers and sisters like fauns and satyrs danced
around them. Towards the close of the dance
they pelted each other with the flowers, and when
night fell they gathered up all the bunches, and,
bearing them home, scattered them on the roof
of the house and around the door.
THE GREAT BRONTE BATTLE
THE fight between Welsh Bronte and Sam
Clarke of Ballynaskeagh was an era-making
event The contest took place long before my
time ; but I had a precise and full account of the
battle from two eye-witnesses, John and James
Todd. No encounter of the kind in County Down
ever made such a noise or left such a lasting im-
pression. Like the flight of Muhammed or the
founding of Rome, it became a fixed point around
which other events ranged themselves. It was a
local Hejira in the current calendar.
Women would speak of their children as born
or their daughters married so many years before
or after the fight, and old men in referring to their
ages would tell how they had been present when
Welsh Bronte licked Sam Clarke, and that they
must have been of such an age at the time. It
was one of those famous encounters which only
required the pen of Pentaur to give it immortality
in epic form.
The history of the affair; which I here submit,
194 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
embodies the conclusions at which I have arrived
after comparing twenty or thirty versions ; but I
am specially indebted to the late Mr. John Todd
of Croan, who was present at the battle with his
brother James, and who narrated the incidents of
the contest with many picturesque details. I should
add, however, that the Todds were friends of the
Brontes, and told the story with the warmth of
Welsh Bronte had a sweetheart called Peggy
Campbell, and she had a little, delicate, deformed
brother who used to go to Ballynafern school on
crutches. Some of the big healthy boys thought-
lessly amused themselves by tormenting the little
cripple. He often arrived home with his clothes
torn and daubed with mud, and sometimes showing
in his person the signs of ill-treatment. After the
manner of schoolboys he would never " tell on "
his tormentors. Welsh's sweetheart, however, had
discovered the cowardly and cruel treatment to
which her little brother had been subjected, and
appealed to Welsh to protect him.
Welsh had, no doubt, often heard the story of
his father's wrongs when a child, and at a hint
from Peggy constituted himself the champion of
the injured boy. He went to Sam Clarke, who
was a near relative of the chief offenders, and
begged him to interfere.
Clarke, who was said to be something of a
THE GREAT BRONTE BATTLE 197
bully, advised Bronte to mind his own business,
and Bronte replied that that was the exact thing
he was doing ; and then he added, as a threat >
that unless Clarke restrained his brutal relatives he
would chastise them himself. Hot words ensued,
and Bronte and Clarke parted with expressions of
Welsh Bronte's blood was up. His sense of
justice was roused on behalf of an ill-used child*
and his feelings of chivalry impelled him to become
the champion of his sweetheart's brother.
Meanwhile the boys were meditating vengeance
on their victim, who, in addition to the crime of
meek endurance, had, they believed, proved a sneak
and a dashbeg by telling of their misdeeds.
Welsh Bronte resolved to watch the children on
their way home from school on the following day.
He took up his position in a clump of trees some-
where near the Glen. He waited long, but the
school-children did not appear, and, thinking that
perhaps they had returned home by another path,
he left his ambush to resume his work. Suddenly
he heard hilarious cheering and piteous cries, and
hurrying toward the spot whence the noise came,
he found the school engaged in the ceremony of
ducking the clashbeg, or talebearer.
They had taken the poor little cripple's crutches
from him, and had placed him in the middle of a
pond of water up to his neck, and then, having
198 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
taken hands, they danced in a circle round the
pond, chanting, " Clashbeg ! clashbeg ! clashbeg ! "
Welsh Bronte took in the situation at a glance,
and captured the two biggest Clarkes before they
knew he was near. He then compelled them to
wade into the pond and support their victim gently
to the edge. When they had placed him on the
dry ground he was so exhausted that he could
neither stand nor support himself on his crutches,
and Bronte obliged the Clarkes to carry him home
on their backs, time about, the water dripping from
their clothes. They did as Bronte directed them,
but only after considerable chastisement.
The other children had fled home in alarm, and
had given a highly coloured description of the
inhuman manner in which Bronte was treating
the Clarkes. Some of them reported that he had
actually drowned them in the pond. On that
night a challenge from Sam Clarke reached Welsh
Bronte, and was instantly accepted.
The time for angry words had gone, and all
preliminary formalities were carried out according
to rule and with perfect courtesy. Seconds were
appointed, and the day was fixed, and a pro-
fessional pugilist, who resided at Newry, was
engaged to act as referee. Both men went into
close training, and the event was awaited with the
most intense excitement for ten miles round.
The appointed time at last arrived, and it proved
THE GREAT BRONTE BATTLE 199
to be a charming summer day. A crowd number-
ing probably ten thousand, some estimated the
number at from thirty to fifty thousand, assembled.
They came together from Newry, Banbridge,
Rathfriland, Dromore, Hilltown, Warrenpoint,
Loughbrickland, and other country towns and
districts. Such an assemblage of the scoundrelism
of that region had never been drawn together
before. But they were not all scoundrels, for
public opinion had not at that time affixed the
stamp of infamy indelibly to the brutal exhibi-
tions of the ring ; and it was said that a number
of sporting clergymen and country gentlemen were
present, undisguised and unashamed.
Many circumstances rendered the field famous.
The mothers of the combatants had fed their sons
for the fray like game-cocks. Oat-bread and new
milk were the staple food, which were supposed to
give muscle, strength, and endurance.
Shortly before the fight Clarke's mother, when
giving him his last meal before the encounter,
addressed him in the following words : " Sam,
my son, may you never get bit nor sup from me
more, if you do not lick the mongrel."
This Spartan speech spread like wildfire through
the field, and such was the code of honour on that
occasion that the exhortation was much blamed,
and led to a strong current of popularity in favour
of Bronte. The word " mongrel," referring to the
200 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
fact that her son's antagonist had a Catholic mother,
was considered unfitting to be used in connection
with the noble encounter that was about to take
place. The words had wings, and flew over the
whole field, and the spectators indignantly dis-
approved of them.
The ring was roped off in the hollow of a green
field, and the multitude stood on the rising ground
around, and all could see the entire ring. Three
or four hundred men were enrolled as " special
order preservers," and stood in a circle round the
ring two or three deep. The seconds and referee
and umpire were in their places at the opposite
sides of the ring.
The hour fixed to begin was twelve o'clock, and
prompt to the minute the two combatants strode
down leisurely through the crowd, each with his
sweetheart leaning on his arm. Their mothers
already occupied seats of honour outside the ring.
Clarke was an older and maturer man than
Bronte, and much bigger. Beside him Bronte, in
his tight-fitting home-spun, looked slender and
youthful and over-matched.
In consequence of the ungenerous and unguarded
words spoken by Clarke's mother, sympathy, as
we have seen, was already on Bronte's side, and
this was greatly increased by the natural feeling
that prompted the generous to take the weaker
THE GREAT BRONTE BATTLE 201
As far as I have been able to ascertain, the
original cause of the quarrel was wholly lost sight
of before the fight began. No one seemed to give
a thought to the circumstance that Bronte had got
into the affair by espousing the cause of a helpless
boy. And, in this respect, did not the Bronte
battle resemble most of our modern wars in which
the rights and wrongs of the cause, and even the
cause itself, are lost sight of in the strife ? After
listening to an account of the fight from some old
man who had witnessed it, I have often asked what
it was about ; and I have generally got for answer,
" Oh, it was just a fight," my question being
evidently deemed irrelevant and somewhat silly.
What was the cause of the Crimean war ? It was
just a war.
The champions stepped into the ring, and their
sweethearts with them. As each stripped he
handed his clothes to his future wife, and these
two women stood, each with her lover's garments
on her arm, till the matter was decided.
Time was not accurately kept, but the battle
was said to have lasted three or four hours. At
first Clarke had the advantage in strength and
weight ; but Bronte, who had long arms, was lithe
and active and wiry, and did not seem to weary as
the day wore on. On the contrary, Clarke began
to show signs of fatigue ; but the spectators thought
he was simply husbanding his strength. Through-
202 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
out the whole contest not a word was heard.
Suddenly Miss Campbell's voice rang out clear in
the silence, " Welsh, my boy, go in and avenge
my brother, and the mongrel."
The minutes must have seemed hours to the
girls, as they watched their future husbands
struggling for victory on that summer day.
Peggy Campbell, by her woman's instinct, dis-
cerned that the hour for the final effort and
victory had come.
Welsh responded like a lightning flash. A few
awful moments followed. The spectators held
their breath, and some fainted, others covered
their eyes with their hands or averted their faces.
Terrific crushing and crashing blows resounded
all over the field, and when the blows ceased to
resound Sam Clarke was lying a motionless heap
in the ring.
The crowd, after the long suspense and hushed
silence, lost all control of themselves, and wanted
to rush in and chair the victor ; but the special
order preservers held the ring, and the sea of
human beings surged against them in vain.
Welsh Bronte declined to receive congratulations
until he had deposited his antagonist safely at
home in bed. The fight was followed by no evil
consequences, and Sam Clarke and Welsh Bronte
became fast friends from that day forth.
From all accounts the fight seems to have been
THE GREAT BRONTE BATTLE 203
a marvellous display of skill and endurance, very
different from the sordid and brutal gambling
contests patronised now by the roughs of all
classes. Both of the combatants fought with the
most chivalrous courtesy and utmost bravery, and
the crowd awaited the result with imperturbable
No word above a whisper had been heard
during the long afternoon, till Bronte's sweetheart
sang out her decisive commands, which in County
Down rank with Wellington's " Up, guards, and at
them ! "
All were agreed as to the closing scene. During
the last few seconds the fight became so fierce and
furious that the blood of the spectators ran cold.
Nothing like it for wild fury and titanic ferocity
had ever been witnessed by the crowd, and no
such battle has ever since or before been fought
in County Down.
The Rev. W. J. McCracken closes a vivid account
of this battle with the following incident :
" I can bear my personal testimony to the gratify-
ing fact that Welsh Bronte lived to regret the
fight. The only time I ever heard him refer to
it was one day in my father's house. An old
man chanced to come in who hadn't seen Welsh
for a long time. He approached Bronte with a
great ' How-do-ye-do?' adding, ' Och, Welsh, God
be wi' the times when you licked Sam Clarke.'
204 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The old flatterer evidently thought that Welsh
would be hugely pleased ; but the only answer he
gave him was in these words : ' All (pronounced aal}
folly, all folly, all folly ; but folk won't see their
folly in time.'
" Bronte's answer, I remember, raised him a
thousandfold in my esteem, while it snuffed out
the old chap completely.
" Welsh Bronte was the perfection of manly
beauty. Although an utterly uneducated man, he
had the bearing and courtesy of a gentleman. In
amiability and courtesy he was far in advance of
any of his brothers, with whom I was acquainted.
" He had a strong, sensible way of putting a
thing, and spoke in a low, kindly, pretty quick, and
full voice." *
* The Rev. J. B. Lusk writes me that Mr. Frazer, now
ninety-two years of age, was present at the encounter, eighty-
two years ago. The meadow in which the affair took place
belongs to the farm of Mr. John Barr of Ballynafern.
THE BRONTES AND THE GHOSTS
THE Glen on the edge of which the Brontes
lived lay secluded among hills, remote from
the more frequented thoroughfares of the country.
It was a beautiful and romantic spot by day, but
lonesome and desolate at night. For miles round
it had the reputation of being haunted, and few
passed that way after dark. Those who were
obliged to do so heard unnatural splashes in the
stream, and rustlings among the bracken, and
strange moanings and sobbings among the trees
that swayed and tossed their branches, as if agitated
by a hurricane when there was not a breath of air
stirring. Strange and fitful cries were said to be
heard in the Glen, and doleful wailings as of some
one in agony.
Long ago, according to tradition, a woman had
been murdered in the Glen by her false lover and
betrayer. Hugh Bronte had told the story, with
minute details and local colour, till everybody who
frequented the gatherings at the Kiln knew it by
206 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The villain had enticed his victim to Rathfriland
fair on pretence of getting the wedding ring. He
had there attempted to strangle her, but she had
escaped from his grasp, and was making her way
home to her mother, through fields and by-ways,
when, according to one of Patrick Bronte's unpub-
" Over hedges and ditches he took the near way,
Until he got before her on that dismal day."
He waylaid her in the lonely Glen, and murdered
her under circumstances of great atrocity. On that
night the ghost of the murdered woman rushed
upon the assassin, and with a wild scream dragged
him from his bed, and through the window of his
cabin, and down, down, down with unearthly yells
to the bottomless pit. The whole story was told
in rude ballad style, I believe, by Patrick Bronte >
and sung to a sad air at local gatherings. The
following is a verse :
" This young man he went to his bed, all in a dreadful fright,
And Kitty's ghost appeared to him ; it was an awful sight :
She clasped her arms (a-rums] round him saying, ' You're a
false young man,
But now I'll be avenged of you, so do the best you can.' "
The punishment was, according to local senti-
ment, well deserved ; but both were doomed to
walk the earth for a thousand years. They had
made their abode in the Glen, and hence the doleful
THE BRONTES AND THE GHOSTS 207
and dismal voices that rendered night so fearsome
in the neighbourhood of the Brontes.
Another circumstance added to the horror with
which the Glen was regarded at night. It was said
that, at a remote period, a man who had been
robbed committed suicide at a crossing of the
brook. He was still living when found with his
throat cut, and up to his last breath he continued
to moan, with a gurgling sound, " There were ten
tenpennies in my pocket at the river." This story,
told at night in a deep, guttural voice, each word
long drawn out, and the last word pronounced
re-e-ever, had a wonderful power of inspiring awe
and making the blood run cold.
I believe the story was founded on fact. A man
had committed suicide under the circumstances
narrated, but in quite a different part of the country.
The deed, however, had come to be located in the
Bronte Glen, and increased the superstitious awe
with which the place had come to be regarded. A
snipe frequented the spot at night, and as people
attempted to cross, it would start with a sudden
screech from almost beneath their feet. The bird
with the unearthly yell was supposed to be the
spirit of the unfortunate man.
It was said that on one occasion Hugh Bronte
was riding home with a neighbour. When they
reached the Glen a headless horseman appeared
on the road in front of them. The neighbour's
208 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
horse stood shivering as if rooted to the ground ;
but Bronte's horse, without any appearance of fear,
walked up to the dreadful object, and Bronte,
unmoved and without pause or word, simply
cracked his whip at it, and it disappeared in a
flash of light.
Ghost-baiting became a passion with the Brontes ;
and though they were too proud to associate with
their neighbours, they were not averse to being
stared at and talked of by them.
The mill at the lower end of the Glen, where now
stand Mr. Ratcliffe's dwelling-house and offices, was
haunted. Lights flitted through it at night, and no
one would go near it after sunset. When the terror
was at its height Hugh Bronte armed himself with
a sword and a Bible, and went alone to encounter
the ghost, or devil, or whatever it might be.
The neighbours, who saw Bronte marching to his
doom, stood afar off in the darkness and awaited
the result. Unearthly noises were heard, and it
was clear that a serious contest was proceeding.
After a long delay Bronte returned, bruised and
battered and greatly exhausted ; but he would give
no account of what had transpired.
His secrecy regarding his adventure increased
the terror of the superstitious, for it was given out
and believed that Bronte, having been worsted in
the encounter, saved himself by making some
compact with the fiend or ghost ; and some even
THE BRONTES AND THE GHOSTS 209
believed that he was ever after in league with the
powers of darkness.
This awe-inspiring theory seemed to be confirmed
by Hugh Bronte's subsequent action. One dark and
dismal night the ghost in the Glen began to wail
like a child in distress. The people barred their
doors and covered their heads in bed with their
blankets, and stopped their ears to keep out the
unearthly sounds ; but Hugh Bronte went down
quietly to the Glen and soothed the ghost, until by
little and little its moaning died away. On several
occasions it was believed that Hugh Bronte was
actually seen in the Glen, standing with his hand
on the mane of a magnificent black horse ; but when
any neighbour drew near the black horse dwindled
into a great black cat, which kept purring around
Bronte and rubbing itself against his legs. As soon
as the neighbour withdrew, the cat would again
develop into the large black horse, and Bronte was
often seen riding up and down upon it over
precipices and ravines where there was no path.
There was also supposed to be a white-sheeted
figure that used to frequent the Glen, carrying a
little child in her arms. It was said that she was
in the habit of asking for a night's lodging, but
never seemed disposed to accept it. She generally
kept her face covered or averted ; but when it was
exposed it proved to be a toothless, grinning skull,
with a light shining from each eyeless socket.
210 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
One of the Bronte sisters and her daughter lived
in a house near by in which a man called Frazer
had hanged himself. The house was declared to
be haunted. Apparitions appeared in it both by
day and night, but especially at night. Noises
were heard, and rumblings in the rooms during
the hours of darkness. When the inmates slept at
night, something like a huge frog with claws used
to rush up the clothes from the foot of the bed, and
settle on their chests and almost suffocate them.
Hugh went to his sister's house one night, taking
his gun with him. He upbraided Frazer's ghost for
his ungallant and mean conduct in frightening lone
women, and then called on him to come out like
a man and face him. But nothing appeared, the
ghost evidently declining to face a loaded musket.
Bronte was importunate in his challenge, taunting
the ghost with all kinds of sarcastic gibes and
accusations, that he might irritate it into appearing ;
but the ghost would not be drawn. Then he fired
off his gun, and challenged the ghost to meet him
face to face, using every scornful and reproachful
epithet to drive it into a passion, but all in vain.
On the following night Hugh returned to the
haunted house with a fiddle, and tried to coax the
ghost to appear in response to the music. The
ghost, however, remained obdurate, regardless alike
of threats, reproaches, and blandishments.
Bronte returned home that night in a state of
THE BRONTES AND THE GHOSTS 213
wild excitement. All the way he incessantly
called on Frazer to come and shake hands with
him and make up their quarrel. He retired to
bed in a delirium of frenzy, and during the night
the ghost appeared to him and gave him a terrific
squeeze, from which he never recovered. He died
shortly after in great suffering, upbraiding Frazer
for his heartless cruelty and cowardice, and he
declared on dying that when he reached the land
of shadows he would take measures to prevent
Frazer from haunting his sister and niece. After
Hugh's death the rumblings and apparitions ceased
to trouble his sister's house any more.*
The great horror, however, of the haunted glen
was the headless horseman. The phantom generally
made its appearance among thickets of tangled
bushes which no horse could penetrate, and glided
silently over uneven and broken ground where no
horse could have gone.
It always appeared to be ridden and guided by
a man in flowing robes, whose feet were firmly in
the stirrups, and whose hands held the bridle, but
whose head had been chopped off, leaving only a
red and jagged stump.
* Hugh Norton, now about ninety years of age, remembers
the whole matter, and has given me both a verbal and written
account of it. He says Hugh when dying gave orders that no
whiskey should be served out at his wake, and threatened to
return and destroy the company if his orders were disregarded.
2I 4 ' THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The ghastly spectacle was so minutely described
by the Bronte's that others carried the picture of it
in their imaginations, and it is not to be wondered
at if many thought they saw the spectre among
the shimmering shadows of the trees.
A neighbour of the Brontes, Kaly Nesbit, once
gave to a number of us a vivid account of the
apparition. He told the story with great earnest-
ness, and with apparent conviction as to its truth.
I give his account as nearly as I can in his own
quaint language :
"I heerd the horse nichering in the glen. It
was not the voice of a horse, but of a fiend, for it
came out of the bowels of the earth, and shook
the hills and made the trees quake.
" Besides, there was no room for a horse on the
steep bank and among the bushes and brablach.
I had just had a drap of whiskey, about a naggin,
and I wasn't a bit afeard of witch or warlock, ghost
or divil, and so I stept' into the Glen to see for
myself whatever was to be seen. At first I could
not see any inkling of a horse, but I heerd the
branches swishing along his sides at the lower end
of the Glen. Then I saw a large dark object, as
big as a haystack, coming nixt me, and walking
straight through trees and bushes, as if they were
" I juked down behind a hedge of broom, and
as I hunkered in the shadow, he came on in the
THE BRONTES AND THE GHOSTS 215
slightly dusk light. The horse was as big as four
horses, and at a distance I thought the rider was a
huge blackaviced man ; but when he came fornenst
me, the moon fell full upon him through a break
in the trees, and then I saw that he was crulged
up on the saddle, and that only a red stump stuck
up between his shoulders where his head should
" I escaped unseen, but just as the tarrible thing
passed me it nichered again horribly, and I saw
sparks of fire darting out of its mouth.
" It then turned and cut triangle across the valley,
passing over the Cock-pit, and walking upon the air
as it emerged into the moonlight. It walked up
straight against the steep edge of the quarry-pit,
and vanished into the bank. I saw it vanishing by
degrees, like a shadow, at first black, then growing
lighter and lighter till it entirely disappeared, and
there was nothing on the high bank where it
stopped but the bright moonlight."
Kaly Nesbit had the reputation of being a very
good old man. 1 knew him pretty well, especially
as a near relative of his had been my kind old
nurse, who imparted to me much Bronte lore. I
am sure he believed the fascinating story he told ;
but a " naggin " of whiskey is a rather indefinite
quantity, and Kaly Nesbit on that night may
have had his faculties for hearing and seeing in a
216 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
However that may have been, his sober and
earnest account of the monstrous spectre, confirm-
ing as it did the wildest stories of the Brontes,
created a profound impression.
Captain Mayne Reid was then a student in
Mr. McKee's school. Ghost stories were entirely
in young Reid's line, and he took great delight
in finding out and piecing together the different
accounts of those who had been frightened by the
supernatural visitors of the haunted Glen. He
sometimes mingled his own yarn with the Bronte
tales, and he finally ended by producing a Texan
tale, called after the Brontes' crack ghost T/ie
Captain Mayne Reid's stories were received with
wild excitement in the old school from which he
had gone forth. The WJiite Chief, The War Trail,
The Scalp Hunters, were looked upon as the most
wonderful tales that had ever been told ; but when
The Headless Horseman appeared on a mustang
without a scrap of mystery or element of the super-
natural, all felt that the real headless horseman
had been degraded to base ends, and that Captain
Mayne Reid had become a fumbler in his art. I
do not think his old chums ever delighted in any-
thing he wrote afterwards.
The palmy days of the Glen ghosts had passed
before my day. Familiarity with the scenes and
stories had to some extent bred contempt. Perhaps,
THE BRONTES AND THE GHOSTS 217
too, I belonged to a less imaginative and more
realistic set ; but I well remember the awful feeling
of dread that used to settle down on me in silence
and at night.
In Mayne Reid's school days ghost-hunting was
a dissipation as much in vogue as slumming is now
in London. Reid, I have heard, was brave enough
by day in the ghostly regions ; but, like the rest of
his companions, he had no desire to approach the
haunted Glen at night.
The ghosts of the Bronte Glen have, however,
fallen on commonplace times. The younger gene-
ration now living in the same romantic region
have perhaps never even heard of them ; or if
they have, they push the report aside as " Bronte
rubbish." If one of the young farmers who now
cultivate the same fields should happen to meet
a ghost horse in the Glen, he would run it into
his stable for the night without a superstitious
thought, and clap it to the plough on the morrow.
No gallivanting ghosts would now be tolerated.
Fifty or sixty years ago or earlier the numerous
unearthly apparitions, or rather the accounts of
them, used to darken young lives, and render the
silent and solitary hours hideous with dread appre-
hensions ; and I can say for myself that the keenest
mental distress I have ever endured arose from
the dread of hobgoblins and other such monsters
of the imagination and the darkness. I think by
218 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
the time I was three or four years of age, certainly
at the age of five, I had become acquainted with
the whole hierarchy of ghosts and goblins ; but of all
the dreadful creatures of the imagination brought
under my notice, the most real, and hence the most
awful, were those of the Bronte Glen.
PATRICK BRONTE'S CHILDHOOD AND EARLY
T)ATRICK BRONTE first saw the light in the
^- little Emdale cottage in the parish of Drum-
goolandon the i/th of March, 1777. That day was
Ireland's great national holiday, and the child was
named Patrick as a tribute to the national senti-
ment, and a compliment to his uncle Patrick, known
as " Red Paddy." There was a touch of Ulster
shrewdness in starting the child in life with a name
so comprehensive, that it did honour at the same
time to Ireland's patron saint and to his own richest
The Bedawi child, when born in the desert tent,
stares at the sun and wonders. The first object
that must have attracted the attention of baby
Patrick was the red eye of the corn-kiln in the
kitchen. The little fellow used to roll about, not
much encumbered with garments, on the heap of
dry seeds from which his father beeked the kiln.
From the earliest moment of intelligence the
220 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
child had an opportunity of becoming acquainted
with his father's tales, and even before he could
take in the meaning of the narrative he used to
listen with the rest, for a child will listen to a
good story-teller when he does not apprehend the
drift of the story, and as a rule young children
get too little credit for understanding what their
By the time he was six or seven years of age
he must have known all his father's stories, which,
in romantic interest and as a mental stimulant,
were equal to a considerable library. Hugh Bronte
was a man of two books. He was a constant
reader of the Bible and of Bunyan's Pilgrim's
Progress, and by the time Patrick was eight he
would know all the stories in both books in outline.
Patrick was not long the only child in the cot-
tage. Every second year a brother or a sister
succeeded, until the family numbered ten.
There was no luxurious living in Hugh Bronte's
cottage, and Patrick never regretted the want of
it, for he sought to conduct his own household
on lines of simple frugality. Possibly he erred in
trying to bring up his delicate little girls in the
Spartan style in which he himself had been reared ;
but there is reason to believe that in this matter,
as in many others, Mrs. Gaskell exaggerated the
facts, to add to the sombre character of the picture
which she chose to produce.
PATRICK BRONTE'S CHILDHOOD 221
The style of living in the cottage was very
simple. Patrick's breakfast, about nine o'clock,
consisted of porridge and milk, furnished in a
wooden noggin and eaten with a wooden spoon.
For dinner, about twelve o'clock, a quantity of
potatoes boiled in their skins was emptied on
a table within a wooden hoop which kept them
from rolling off. The poorest peasant in Ireland
knows how to boil potatoes, so that when turned
out on the table they appear " laughing out of their
skins." Any moisture that may have remained in
the vessel with the potatoes either dripped from
the table on to the earthen floor or evaporated.
The children sat round the table, peeled the
potatoes with their fingers, and ate them with
pepper and salt, and sometimes with a supply
of buttermilk. " Sweet milk " from the cow then
cost a halfpenny per quart, and buttermilk six
quarts a penny. As, however, the Brontes lived
near their uncle Paddy, they would probably be
well supplied with milk, and after a time they
had a cow of their own. " Piece-time," eagerly
awaited, arrived about four o'clock in the afternoon,
and each child received a piece of home-made
bread and a small noggin of buttermilk.
There were at that time three kinds of home-
made bread : oat-bread, much thicker and coarser
than the same article at the present day ; then
there was fadge, made of the potatoes remaining
222 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
over from dinner and oatmeal mashed up well
together, and rolled out in the form of thick cakes ;
then there was slim, made of potatoes broken up
very fine and mixed with flour and butter. The
raised soda bap, or scone, came later. All these
kinds of bread were baked on a griddle, or girdle,
which was hung over an open fire. The baking
process was called " naming," and the mashing up
of the potatoes with meal and flour into cakes was
called " baking."
Of these three kinds of bread, the mainstay of
the Bronte family was the fadge. It was rough
and plenteous, and the sturdy little people throve
well upon it, and they were not fastidious.
It was often followed by heartburn or waterbrasJi,
which the sufferers had not learnt to call by the
fine Greek name "dyspepsia."
Supper, which was served by six or seven o'clock,
consisted in Patrick Bronte's childhood of potatoes,
and was a stereotyped repetition of the dinner,
except that the quantity was less, and the meal
was not treated in so serious a fashion.
About the same time, " boiled milk," as it was
called, began to alternate with potatoes for supper.
It consisted of thin porridge made with milk
instead of water. The boiled milk was greatly
appreciated, but it was a step on the road to
A new kind of porridge known as sowans was
PATRICK BRONTE'S CHILDHOOD 223
also discovered ; it was sometimes called flummery.
Sowans was produced by placing the seeds sifted
from the meal in an earthenware crock, and pouring
hot water on them till they were thoroughly
saturated. That was called the steeping process.
After twelve hours the seeds were wrung out of
the water, and the fluid which remained, and which
had become almost like milk, was strained into a
pot, which was placed over a fire and stirred in-
cessantly with a potstick till it thickened. Sowans
was only sufficiently cooked when on lifting the
potstick it ran down from it, attenuated like a
thread, " fine enough to thread a needle."
A supper of sowans was considered a great
delicacy, and was supposed to be good for delicate
people ; but the children always preferred the boiled
On certain important days, such as Christmas
Day and Easter Sunday, meat would find a place
in the domestic economy. Uncle Paddy killed an
aged cow yearly, and the beef, when salted, was
hung up to the black rafters in the kitchen. Some-
times also a pig was killed, and salted for home
use, and portions of such dainties found their way
to the Bronte children. Eggs, too, were introduced
at dinner instead of milk, and, beaten up with
mashed potatoes in noggins, were eaten raw.
The greatest of all dainties, however, accessible
at that period to people like the Brontes was
224 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
peppermint-tea. Peppermint and horehound were
cultivated, cut, dried, and hung up to the rafters
in little bunches, and a few stalks, infused with
abundant milk and sugar, provided the family tea.
But the new beverage was much condemned as a
luxury, and it marred a girl's matrimonial prospects
to have it said of her that she was a " tea-drinker."
By-and-by peppermint-tea came to be used at
piece-time in the harvest field, and harvesters used
to stipulate to have it supplied to them, as servants
now bargain for beer. But even then, and for long
after, farmers and workmen continued to regard
" tea-drinking girls " as likely to prove extravagant
Young Patrick would be occupied in gathering
peppermint in the Glen and cultivating it in the
garden. It would be his share of the work to cut
it and care for it. He would go to the grocer-
house for sugar, then very dear. He would fetch
milk from Uncle Paddy's, and he would gather
the ducks' eggs, which were generally to be found
in the furze bushes. He would have a hand in
" harning " the bread and stirring the sowans, and
he would bear a large share in tending the other
children. He would fetch water in a bucket from
the well, and sweep the floor ; and in the constant
round of home errands his young life must have
been brimful of domestic duties.
By the time Patrick had reached the age of nine
PATRICK BRONTE'S CHILDHOOD 225
he had to take his share in the important agricul-
tural operation of gathering potatoes. The work
for children is very hard, and requires a quick eye,
prompt decision, and great nimbleness and endur-
ance. Potato-gathering is of two kinds : gathering
" to the spade," or " pitched out." In gathering to
the spade, one gatherer accompanies each digger.
When the digger drives his spade into the ground
behind the potato plant, the gatherer darts forward,
seizes the tops of the potato, then springs back as
the plant is dug up, shakes the tubers from the
stalks, throws the tops into a heap on the ridge and
the potatoes into a basket, and then springs for-
ward again, seizes the tops of the next potato about
to be dug, and goes through the same process.
It is a pretty sight to see a healthy, active boy
skipping over the ground gathering potatoes ; but
when the work continues throughout a long day
it is a severe task. A boy can gather the pitched-
out potatoes dug by two men ; but he does not
attend closely on the spades.
In potato-gathering the boys are barefooted. In
the summer-time the work is hard and detested by
boys ; but potatoes have generally to be gathered
in the dreary months of September and October,
often in the rain and sleet ; and it is a piteous sight
to see the poor little barefooted children shivering,
with feet and hands blue with cold, and sometimes
bleeding, as they follow the diggers from grey dawn
226 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
to set of sun. Patrick took his part in potato-
gathering till he had reached the age of fourteen.
Up to that age it is not likely that he ever had
a pair of shoes on his feet. It is just possible that
kind Uncle Paddy may have provided his namesake
with a pair ; but if so they would not be intended
for common use ; and if he went on an errand, say
to Rathfriland, he would carry the shoes in his
hand till he reached the town, and take them off his
feet again on leaving for home. Shoes were worn
in those days by such boys as Bronte chiefly as
ornaments. Had Patrick gone to church, he would
most probably have carried his shoes in his hands
to the church door, and have put them on before
entering ; unlike the Arabs, who always remove
their shoes before going into a place of worship.
During those years young Bronte was always clad
in home-spun. Most of his garments were knitted
by his mother, and were very enduring and excel-
lent in every way. They were warm, fitted neatly,
and set off his lithe figure to perfection.
To the eyes of boys in tailor-made habiliments
he looked a guy, and his odd appearance was sup-
posed to have some connection with his mongrel
origin. In his tights he looked taller and slenderer
than he really was ; and as he became the subject
of constant ridicule and jeering, he was often
engaged in the operation of chastising boys who
looked twice as robust as himself.
PATRICK BRONTE'S CHILDHOOD 227
His youth was harassed with perpetual strife.
The Protestant lads never lost an opportunity of
calling him " Mongrel Pat," or " Pat the Papish,"
and the odium of his mother's early religion clung to
him until he got clear of Ireland. Indeed, the slur
which was cast upon him on account of his mother's
religion was the determining cause which led finally
to his decision to leave his native country.
At the age of fourteen it was thought desirable
to put him to some trade. He had spent much of
his time about the Emdale blacksmith's shop. He
used to blow the bellows, and he became very
expert in welding scrap-iron. He also got so far
as to be able to make horseshoes and nails from
Swedish iron ; but he could not become a black-
smith without being bound as an apprentice for
five years, and his father was too much of a radical
to submit to such an absurd arrangement.
The trade of weaver also demanded an ap-
prenticeship, but only of two years' duration, and
Robert Donald, a friend of the Brontes, consented
to take Patrick as a learner without the usual
formalities. He made good progress in acquiring
skill in his art, and before long he was able to
supply the Bronte home with all the blankets and
druggets and tweeds that were needed.
About that period flax began to be extensively
cultivated and manufactured in Ulster, and Patrick
learned to weave linen, and used to carry his webs
228 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
when finished to Banbridge, where he found a ready
sale. Those were war times. Flax cost a pound
per stone then, which would be worth five or six
shillings now. Linen became correspondingly dear,
and young Bronte became prosperous. But his
prosperity led to a change of occupation.*
The weaver boy used to visit bookstalls in
Banbridge and Newry, and on one occasion he
took his web to Belfast, and returned laden with
books. His father's tales created in the lad a
hunger for literature, a passion easily kindled in a
Celtic boy, and he learned to weave and read at the
same time, with his book propped up before him.
* Mr. Frazer, now over ninety-two years of age, assures the
Rev. J. B. Lusk that the Brontes were for a time Catholics.
He gives the following account of Patrick's conversion : " He
was weaving in the house of Robert Donald, a Presbyterian,
and a very pious man. Donald conducted family worship
every morning and night. Patrick overheard him reading and
praying. He became interested, asked questions, and finally
ended by becoming a Protestant." I cannot reconcile this
with other facts.
Mr. Frazer is the oldest living witness as to the name
Bronte, which he never saw spelled differently from the
ordinary way. There is also a lease of a farm given by Joseph
Frazer to Hugh Bronte, signed by Hugh Bronte and James
Bronte in the usual orthography. He is, I believe, the only
survivor of the multitude who witnessed the Bronte battle
eighty-two years ago.
PATRICK BRONTE'S SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL-
MASTERS LEARNING AND WEAVING
PATRICK BRONTE at the age of fifteen or
sixteen appeared to be permanently fixed in
his profession as a weaver. The foundations of
the Ulster linen trade were then being laid. Flax
seed from Riga and Amsterdam had begun to be
imported into Nevvry and Belfast, and the farmers
were gradually learning to grow and manufacture
flax for the markets. The meadows on the banks
of the river Bann were being turned into bleach-
greens, and the holmes of Down began to gleam
white with webs spread out to bleach.
Patrick Bronte was a good weaver. He flew the
shuttle and decked the sleys with deftness and
skill, and he was able to earn good wages at his
trade. A small matter, however, turned the whole
current of his career, just as circumstances with
small beginnings had led his father from the lime-
kilns of Louth to the corn-kiln of County Down.
He had become so expert a weaver that he
230 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
was able to attend to both loom and book at the
same time. And the more he read his appetite
for book lore increased the more. His earnings
enabled him by the acquisition of books to indulge
his growing thirst for knowledge. He had secured
a small copy of Milton's Paradise Lost. He had
never come under the spell of such a book before,
and he read and re-read it incessantly. The type
was very minute, and as he was absorbed in the
subject of the epic he failed in his attention to
the work he had in hand.
He had got a commission from a Banbridge
linen merchant to weave him a number of webs of
unusual fineness. The merchant had provided him
with a fine reed, and supplied him with the yarn ;
and young Bronte, as a skilled weaver, seemed to
be on the road to success, as the pay for very fine
work was much above that paid for ordinary
weaving. He was, however, a few days beyond
contract time in delivering his second web, and
when it was handed in it was found to be unsatis-
In those days linen was classified and registered
according to its texture, its quality being regulated
by the number of threads to the inch. When the
merchant placed his magnifying-glass on Patrick's
web, he found that the warp had not been regularly
and evenly driven home, and he fined him heavily
for imperfect work.
PATRICK BRONTE'S SCHOOLS 231
The young weaver returned home disgraced and
crestfallen. He could not and would not give up
his reading ; but he felt that he could not carry
on his trade with a divided mind. He resolved
therefore that he would give a part of each day
to reading and a part to weaving, and endeavour
to concentrate his attention on each task while
engaged upon it.
He was not very successful in adjusting the
claims of his intellectual and mechanical occu-
pations, for Milton's good and bad angels kept
running over the thread stretched out before him,
and he was always waking up to find that he had
been plying the shuttle in a reverie, and that serious
defects had escaped his notice, and were already
rolled on the cloth beam.
While he was in this condition of double-minded-
ness, he was lying one summer day prone on the
grass in Emdale fort, reading the Paradise Lost.
The Rev. Andrew Harshaw, who happened to
pass that way, drew near and stood over the reader,
and remained listening to him for a considerable
time. Patrick was reciting aloud bits of Milton in
a kind of absent-minded frenzy, and making com-
ments as he read with great energy. Suddenly
looking up, he became conscious that a man was
standing over him. He sprang to his feet blush-
ing, and apparently overwhelmed with shame.
Harshaw spoke kindly to the youth, and entering
232 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
into intelligent conversation with him about the
passage he had read, led him on to tell him of the
manner in which he was neglecting his work, and
of his inability to keep his mind fixed on his task.
Harshaw and young Bronte, deeply engaged in
serious conversation, walked arm in arm round
the Emdale fort, the remains of which are still
visible. As Bronte listened to his new friend he
felt as if his whole life had become transformed.
Harshaw opened up a vista of possibilities to
the depressed youth, who in his kindling enthu-
siasm saw everything in the light of his own
glowing imagination. In his eyes the drab and
dull earth had become instinct with life and colour,
and seemed bathed in a divine light never seen
before. The lingering snow that streaked the
Mourne Mountains appeared to glow with a
roseate hue, and even the sombre summit of the
Knock Hill was lighted up with golden gorse.
Never before to Bronte's ears had the thrush in
the Glen sung so sweetly, or the lark flooded the
skies with such rapturous music. Even the hum-
ming of the bees among the clover was sweetly
melodious, and the monotonous echoes of the
cuckoo from the leafy sycamore sounded as notes
of courage and hope.
Who was the Rev. Andrew Harshaw ? He was
related in a remote way to the Harshaws of Lough-
orne, who had been so kind to old Hugh, Patrick's
PATRICK BRONTE'S SCHOOLS 233
father. They certainly had a family likeness, and
the Brontes, father and son, owed an incalculable
debt of gratitude to the Harshaws, to whom English
literature also is under an abiding obligation.
The Rev. Andrew Harshaw was what was com-
monly called a " stickit minister." He had been
educated and trained for the ministry of the Presby-
terian Church ; but as the ministers of that Church
were called by the free suffrages of the people to
whom they were to minister, and as he lacked pulpit
power, he failed to gain a pastorate.
He was said to have been the first Irish Presby-
terian minister who wrote out and read his sermons,
and no congregation would in those days have
dreamt of calling a man who took a written sermon
with him to the pulpit. " If he cannot remember
what he is going to tell us," said an old lady,
" when he has all the week to think about it, how
could he expect us to remember it on hearing it
only once drawled out from his copy-book ? "
Mr. Harshaw was, however, a first-rate scholar
and a godly man. He had completed an under
graduate course of four years with distinction, and
he had afterwards passed some six years in theo-
logical studies, in addition to a long preparatory
school training. In fact, his school and college
career had been singularly brilliant ; but the work
of absorbing knowledge is very different from that
of giving it out in effective and eloquent words,
234 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
and so the performance of his manhood fell far
short of the promise of his youth.
There are few sadder sights than that of the
brilliant student of the university trying to live
up to the standard of his early achievements and
reputation, but passed in the race by men on
whom he had looked down at college, and forgotten
in a utilitarian age, which recks little of brilliant
scholastic traditions, and tests everything by its
effectiveness. Harshaw, besides being an excellent
classical and mathematical scholar, was deeply read
in English literature. He had outlived his ambi-
tions, and settled down patiently to teach a little
school in Ballynafern. The school is there to this
day, but I believe the schoolhouse has been rebuilt
and enlarged. It stands on a high hill, not far
from where the Brontes lived, and commands a
splendid view of the surrounding country.
I believe Harshaw had a farm close to the
school, and it is not unlikely that he preferred the
learned leisure of attending to his school and farm,
to the incessant preparation of sermons and the
stated visitation of families involved in a country
pastorate. I have always understood that he was
an indolent dreamer, although a contemplative
Patrick Bronte was just the kind of youth to
draw out the full sympathy of this unappreciated
scholar. He was helpless and unhappy in his sordid
PATRICK BRONTE'S SCHOOLS 235
surroundings. He was hungering for knowledge.
His aspirations were high, but he was chained by
the exigencies of life to the monotonous existence
of a common weaver. He was in revolt against the
task by which he earned his daily bread because
it allowed no time to feed his mind. From Har-
shaw he learned how he might exchange the
earthen vessel of the weaver for the golden bowl
of the scholar. Before Harshaw and Bronte parted
on that summer day plans were laid for the youth's
future career. Harshaw agreed to lend him books
and to teach him. Bronte was to cultivate his loom,
not as a rival to learning, but as its auxiliary and
handmaid. He returned to his weaving with some-
thing of the spirit in which Jacob laboured to win
the beauteous Rachel ; and though, like Jacob, he
often found himself clasping the blear-eyed Leah,
he worked on in the teeth of disappointment, and
never bated heart or hope until he had secured the
highest objects of his ambition.
Artificial lights within reach of the Brontes were
in those days very poor. Rushlights were simply
the pith of peeled rushes dipped in melted tallow.
They gave a very dim light, and burnt quickly.
The more common lights were rosin-sluts. These
were also manufactured at home. A few pounds
of rosin were melted in a deep pan called a kam,
and long strings held at the two ends were dipped
in the hot melted rosin. The wick was turned
236 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
round in the rosin until it had taken on a sufficient
quantity, and then with the attached fluid was rolled
by the palms of the hands on a table until it became
round like a candle. The rosin-sluts gave better
light than the rushlights, but they sputtered a good
deal, required constant snuffing, and were otherwise
objectionable as lights to weave by.
Besides these there were splits made from bog
fir ; but they had to be held in the hand while
burning, and rubbed against each other to remove
the black burnt part. Most of the reading in
farmhouses in those days was done by the firelight,
assisted by splits ; but a weaver could not cany on
his work dependent on such precarious light.
As Bronte could not \veave fine linen by any of
those lights, his work at the loom was limited to
the hours of daylight. He wove incessantly, and
with his whole heart in his work, from grey dawn
to dusky eve. The remainder of his time he had
at his disposal for rest and study. He rose early
and sat up late, and studied assiduously by the
light of splits.
During his first years of study young Bronte
never allowed himself more than five hours' sleep
at night, and in the dark hours he used to sit in his
uncle Paddy's chimney corner reading Ovid and
Virgil and Homer and Herodotus, and working out
the problems of Euclid on the hearthstone with the
blackened end of his half-burnt splits.
PATRICK BRONTE'S SCHOOLS 237
A couple of hours before dawn he went to Har-
shaw, who received him in his bedroom, and taught
him by the light of a rosin-slut free of all charge.
Harshaw often taught his pupil leaning on his
elbow in bed ; but he always insisted that he should
be at his loom in time to begin his work as soon
as daylight permitted.
Patrick Bronte worked like a man determined
to conquer all his disadvantages. Perhaps those
were his happiest days. While he studied he con-
centrated all the powers of his intellect on his
lessons, and he put into the weaving all the skill
of which he was capable.
Harshaw praised his ability, and predicted a
brilliant career for the student, and the merchant
had no further cause to complain of slovenly
LEARNING AND TEACHING
PATRICK BRONTE had laboured heroically
-*- at his two tasks for about a year, when his
Banbridge employer suddenly died, and he was
thrown out of work. None of the Banbridge
merchants wanted linen of such fine texture, and
Bronte did not care to fall back on coarse and
ill-paid work. He had saved money, and was able
for a time to give all his hours to study. Harshaw
saw that he had reached a period when he might
safely give up his loom altogether, and live for the
future by education.
At that time a teacher was wanted for the
school in connection with Glascar Hill Presby-
terian Church. Harshaw applied for the school
for his pupil Bronte ; but the managers did not
consider a youth whose mother was a Roman
Catholic a suitable person to teach Presbyterian
children. Besides this there was some danger
that the Orange party would not send their
children to be taught by a Bronte. Another
LEARNING AND TEACHING
candidate was appointed to the post, but some-
thing prevented him from accepting the situation,
and in the hour of disappointment the minister
of the congregation, the Rev. Alexander Moore,
appointed Bronte teacher on his own responsibility.
GLASCAR SCHOOL, WHERE PATRICK BRONTE? FIRST TAUGHT.
The Brontes, who lived less than a mile from the
Glascar school, were known as people who went
regularly to no place of worship on Sundays.
Occasionally some of them dropped into Glascar
Meeting House at the time of public worship ; but
such casual attendance did little to remove the
240 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
stigma of living like the heathen. They seldom
repeated their visits, for they were proud people,
and did not like to be stared at as reprobates.
From the time of his appointment young Bronte
attended regularly at the Presbyterian service, and
assisted in conducting the music. His brothers
and sisters also became regular worshippers at
Glascar, and he himself became soon a favourite
both in the school and in the Church, except with
a few extreme Orangemen, who never missed an
opportunity of reminding him of his mother's
It is still remembered that " Master Bronte "
studied the characters of his pupils, and dealt with
each one according to his abilities. In this matter
he differed widely from the ordinary school teacher,
who makes no difference between clever boys and
dull boys, and labours like a drill sergeant to make
all march by the same line and rule. There is no
profession in the world in which one sees learning
and common sense so absolutely divorced as in that
of the school teacher.
The little boy with the bright eye and massive
head of the scholar is at the top of the class with
scarcely an effort, while the leaden-eyed, sloping-
headed scion of a race of dunces is toiling with his
featherweight of brains at the bottom of the class.
The boy with ten talents is praised and petted, and
rewarded for doing the work that the boy with one
LEARNING AND TEACHING 241
talent is expected to do ; and the boy with one
talent is bullied and punished for not doing the
same lesson as the boy with ten talents.
Those were the good old whipping days, only
the taws fell on the wrong palms. The teachers
should have been whipped for beating dull boys
because they could not learn lessons thai they had
neither brains nor heart to learn.
Patrick Bronte began on a different plan. He
found out what each pupil could do and liked to do,
and he endeavoured to educate them on the lines
of their own gifts and qualifications. By education
he sought to draw out and develop the faculties
with which they were endowed. Teaching on these
lines, he had no occasion to exercise physical force.
He brought common sense or " gumption " to his
work, and he required no taws.
The pupils of Glascar school were largely the
children of farmers and workpeople. When the
master came upon a child preternaturally dull, he
did not harass him as a blockhead, or make his life
miserable as a dunce. He never let the school, or
even the boy himself, suspect that he was dull ; but
he put him to easy lessons that were necessary to
qualify him for the narrow sphere in which his life
would in all probability be cast, and the pupil
worked at these with hearty goodwill and intelli-
But when he found a clever student he let him
242 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
have full swing in the higher branches, and several
little country boys who began their studies under
Bronte succeeded in forcing their ways to the
universities, and some of them became professional
men of eminence.
To all the pupils who came under his influence
he communicated a taste for learning in their own
spheres, which they never forgot ; and some of them
who were unable to reach the university themselves
were careful to let their children have the advantages
that they had missed.
During the short time he was teacher at Glascar,
Master Bronte put new life into the school. He
became the friend of all his pupils, and visited their
parents to advise as to their careers. The dull
pupils he sent home to help their parents ; but
he established a night-school in which they might
practise what they had learnt, and learn more if
they were so inclined.
At the night-school amusement was added to
lessons, and there was no difficulty in drawing
pupils. Before the classes broke up, the young
people were put through a series of gymnastics,
and a number of Church tunes were sung, each pupil
repeating the words he wished to be sung, and
raising his own tune. Bronte thus sought to quicken
intelligence in the dull pupils, for whom the night-
school was principally intended.
But when Bronte found really bright pupils he
LEARNING AND TEACHING 243
was loth to part with them, and so earnestly did
he plead with their parents that many of them
permitted their children to remain at school longer
than they otherwise would have done, that they
might enjoy the training of their enthusiastic
On this subject the Rev. W. J. McCracken of
Ballyeaston writes me as follows :
" My mother was a pupil of Patrick Bronte when
he taught the school at Glascar Hill. I heard her
say so many a time. She was also a favourite
scholar with him ; for when she was withdrawn
from school to help in household work, she being
the eldest of a large family, Patrick Bronte came
to her father's house, and besought them to send
her back and keep at home another sister, whom
he considered a dull girl. Patrick must have been
teaching this school about the beginning of the
century, as my mother was six years old at the
time of the rebellion."
Many such traditions still linger in the Glascar
district. Master Bronte did not limit his pupils to
the ordinary school-books. The despotic system
of competitive examinations on the Chinese model
had not then been established in country schools,
and children were not treated simply as smooth
bores, and charged to the muzzles with text-books,
to be belched forth on testing days, leaving nothing
behind but wasted residuum. They could touch
244 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
subjects of interest that did not tell in examinations,
and so the young teacher introduced them to
Milton's Paradise Lost, and other masterpieces of
They took the teacher's book home at night in
turn, copied out their pieces, and then recited
them at the close of school hours, or at the night-
school. The young people's minds were thus stored
with noble forms of speech and glowing thoughts,
and the wave of intelligence and literary taste set
in motion at Glascar in the closing years of last
century cannot be said to have quite died away.
Mr. Harshaw continued to teach and advise
young Bronte, although the Glascar school had
become a formidable rival to that of Ballynafern.
He saw that his pupil had capacity for a higher
sphere than that of school teacher at Glascar, where
each pupil paid one penny per week for education,
and brought one turf every Monday morning
towards the heating of the school.
Education opened three doors to young men like
Patrick Bronte in those days. He might have
continued a teacher, and by ability, humility, and
patronage, have risen in time to command a salary
of 30 or 4.0 per annum ; or he might with
great perseverance, spending years as a chemist's
assistant, have worked through a medical curriculum
and obtained an easy M.D. at Glasgow University ;
or he might, regardless of the limitations of human
LEARNING AND TEACHING 245
life, have entered on a course of eight years'
study, with a view to becoming a minister of the
Mr. Harshaw, as a Presbyterian minister, might
have been expected to guide the youth to the gate
from which he himself had emerged, trailing clouds
of glory ; but he was an honest man, and he did
not. He knew that Bronte was a youth of ability,
and of enthusiastic temperament ; but he knew that
the Presbyterian Church demanded graces as well
as gifts in her ministers, and had testing ques-
tions on the subject, and he did not believe that
Bronte's spiritual nature had ever been kindled or
quickened. He therefore advised him to choose
as a profession the Episcopal ministry.
Those were the days of moderatism and frigid
formalism in the Irish Episcopal Church. The
clergy had to maintain the status and perform
the duties of country gentlemen. They had little
sympathy with the people, and when they read
their little homilies to their flocks the hungry
sheep looked up and were not fed.
There were in the ranks of the Irish clergy, even
in those days of spiritual death, noble Christian
ministers, who did not neglect the poor to pay
court to the rich ; but such men were a small
minority. The duties of the holy office were not
supposed to stand in the way of a man who wished
to devote himself to business pursuits or to amuse-
246 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
ments, or even to the common dissipations of the
rich, so long as they did not lead to open scandal.
With many brilliant exceptions, the Episcopal
ministry was largely recruited, in the north of
Ireland, from men who had found the way into the
Presbyterian ministry too long, and the gate too
narrow. The Episcopal Church was an open haven
for those who had failed in their examinations,
either at the hands of the Presbytery or of the
University. And many a young man in a hurry
had reason to thank the strict old Presbyterian
minister who stuck him in his examination for not
knowing something about Moses and Peter.
The pluckt youth disappeared, but after an
absence of about three years reappeared in the
neighbouring parish in all the latest feathers of his
profession, and remained a country gentleman and
magistrate, the finest social figure in the district,
except the land agent. A change for the better
has taken place, arid the minister of the Disestab-
lished Episcopalian Church in Ireland would now
compare favourably in gifts, graces, scholarship,
and effectiveness with the ministers of any Church
in the kingdom.
Harshaw, during his long undergraduate course,
had had to fight his upward way unaided. He had
spent several years as a tutor in England, and he
strongly advised his brilliant pupil to seek orders
in the Church of England. A college course of
LEARNING AND TEACHING 247
three or four years, instead of eight, would
He assured him that he would find the English
a fair-minded people, who would value him for his
work ; and that as a clergyman he would have
plenty of honest work to do in teaching and
preaching and visiting, as well as plenty of honest
leisure for self-improvement and the authorship
to which he looked forward. Above all, he would
escape for ever from the cry of " Mongrel " and
" Papish Pat " that every Protestant urchin shouted
after him on account of his mother's maiden
Perhaps, indeed, the circumstance that more than
any other determined Bronte to seek an asylum in
England was the fact that his beautiful and loving
mother had, when a girl, belonged to the Roman
Catholic Church, and the odium attaching to the
circumstance could never, among a bigoted people,
be lived down, since the fact could not be altered.
The mixed character of Patrick Bronte's origin
was a fact kept well before his mind every day of
his life in Ireland by the youths with whom he
mingled. At first the insult led to battles, but his
assailants were numerous, and brave in proportion
to the superiority of their numbers, and a man
with " black papish blood " in him was a common
Bronte seldom emerged from the strife victorious,
-248 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
and so he schooled himself to bear the stinging
gibes and bigoted insolence in sullen silence ; and
sometimes, as in the Glascar school, he made
friends even of his enemies.
Bronte's speculations as to his future career
gave wings to his imagination and spurred him in
his studies, and after three years' close application
he had mastered all the classical and mathematical
books in Harshaw's library. He continued to
teach the school with great zeal, and to read and
re-read all the ancient and modern literature he
could lay his hands on.
About this period he made the acquaintance of
the Rev. David Barber, Presbyterian minister of
Rathfriland, and from him he was able to borrow
such books as Spenser's Faerie Queene, the Spec-
tator, Hume's History of England, and, above all,
Shakespeare's works. To a youth like Bronte these
volumes brought great joy.
At Glascar school it was not "all work and no
play." The master led his pupils, two and two, on
Saturdays to visit the different places of interest
in the neighbourhood, and on those expeditions he
tried to make them see the beauty of the landscape.
He would stop them on the way, and draw their
attention to the lights and shadows chasing each
other over the fields, to the curves of hills and
mountains, to the different ways in which birds
flew, and to the hidden beauties of the common
LEARNING AND TEACHING 249
flowers that bloomed by the waysides. Some of
the pupils said he was mad, but others received
sight to discern the unnoticed beauties of the
things that lay around them.
During the summer holidays he organised more
ambitious expeditions. On several occasions he
led the older boys and some of their elder brothers
to explore the Mourne Mountains. On one of
those trips the party got separated on Slieve
Donnard, and a thick mist having overspread the
mountain the explorers lost their way ; and as they
did not return home at the appointed time, much
alarm was caused to their families.
It was several days before they all reached home,
footsore and exhausted, but rich with romantic
stories of hairbreadth escapes and thrilling adven-
tures, which served as travellers' tales for the
remainder of their lives.
Skating expeditions to Loughorne and Lough-
brickland gave scope for daring feats and startling
adventures. On one occasion the water had
been drawn off from the lough, and when the
party were in the middle of it, and far from land,
the ice broke with a roar like thunder ; but Bronte
kept cool, and steered his whole party safe to the
While teaching in Glascar Bronte blossomed
into poetry. Most of the pieces published in 1811
among his Cottage Poems were written in Glascar.
250 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
One of them, which referred to the adventure on
the Mourne Mountains, was learnt and recited in
the school, and gained for the author a great name
as a poet. Some of the lines, which are probably
still remembered in the neighbourhood, ran as
" Escaped from the pitiless storm,
I entered the humble retreat ;
Compact was the building and warm,
In furniture simple and neat.
And now, gentle reader, approve
The ardour that glowed in each breast,
As kindly our cottagers strove
To cherish and welcome their guest."
" The Irish Cabin," which also appeared in
Cottage Poems, was very popular, and much recited
by the pupils and their friends ; and there were
other poems, such as " The Cottage Maid " and
" The Happy Cottager," which were copied out by
the scholars from Bronte's manuscript and learned
In those days the young master was a most
voluminous poet, and I have little doubt that most
of the pieces which were published in 1811 took
form in Glascar about 1 797, and were touched up
in after-years in England for publication.
The Cottage Poems have recently been subjected
to severe criticism ; but it should be remembered
that they were really the work of a weaver lad,
who was just then awakening to the pleasures of
LEARNING AND TEACHING 251
literature, and that they were written for the children
of farmers and labourers in a poor country school.
Besides, the poems published are only such as a
prudent clergyman should have given to the world.
They were pure in sentiment, kindly in tone, flowing
in rhyme, and contained nothing extreme that could
have startled a patron. But Bronte left out other
poems in which his distinctive genius had had full
scope. Such pieces as " The Devil in the Glen,"
" The Emigrant's Lament," and " Kitty's Revenge "
were charged with Bronte passion, and were not
lacking in poetic fire.
He had, however, eaten the bread of a sizar at
Cambridge ; he had taken his full share of the
duties and recreations that make up University
life ; he had got his foot on the ladder of pro-
motion, and his eyes on the dispensers of livings ;
and so he published in 1811 his weak moral
musings, and kept back the fierce and fiery shrieks
of his newly awakened genius.
Moreover, Bronte had come to know the English
people, and he had found them fair and just, and
his temper had lost the hot fire and keen edge
which oppressing circumstances had given it. Like
many another Irish Samson, the locks of his strength
were shorn in the lap of the English Delilah ; or
rather, the old neglected truth had another illustra-
tion in the case of Bronte namely, that kindness
and courtesy breed love and gentleness.
THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
I have hesitated as to whether I should give a
characteristic specimen of Patrick Bronte's ferocious
poetry, and I here with some reluctance insert his
" Vision of Hell," written in Glascar. I feel that
I must at least give one sample, if the readers of
this book are to have full material for coming to a
correct judgment as to the Bronte genius, and the
antecedent influences that led to the production of
the Bronte novels, especially of Wuthering Heights.
"VISION OF HELL.
"AT midnight, alone, in the lonely dell,
Through a rent I beheld the court of hell ;
I stood struck dumb by the horrid spell
Of the tide of wailing that rose and fell.
"The devil sat squat on a fine-winged throne ;
Before him in ranks lay his victims prone ;
In anguish they praised him with sullen groan,
Like an ocean that never ceased to moan.
" At a signal they sprang from their burning bed,
And through sulphurous flames, by devils led,
In mazy dances they onward sped,
As they followed the devils who danced ahead.
" ' Enough ! ' yelled the fiend from the fire-winged throne,
' Of posture-praise from my subjects prone,
Of torture, shrieks, and of sullen moan,
Of mazy dances and stifled groan.
" ' Each to his post in my burnished state.
Ye clergy, who fed the fires of hate,
Neglected the poor, and cringed to the great,
Ye shall roast in honour within my grate.
LEARNING AND TEACHING 253
" ' I dread no foe but the Christ of God ;
Through you, His clergy, I feared His rod ;
But you took His pay and obeyed my nod,
And you drove the poor from their native sod.
" ' Ye landlords can only have second place,
In devilish deeds ye were first in the race ;
But no treason to Christ mixed with your disgrace,
Ye were mine from the first, and in every place.
" ' Attorneys and agents, I love you well,
But you throng with your numbers the courts of hell ;
Bastard-bearers and bailiffs need place as well,
For their hellish deeds no tongue can tell.'
" The clergy aloft on a burning floor
Sat slaking their thirst with bastards' gore,*
And gnawing the bones of the murdered poor,
The evicted who died on the silent moor.
" The landlords were penned in a fiery fold,
And drank from a furnace of molten gold
The rent they had wrung from their tenants of old,
Who had laboured and died in hunger and cold.
* This refers to the fact that taxes were levied by the clergy
and their Church officers for the transport of illegitimate
children to the foundling hospital in Dublin. The "bastard-
bearers " were vile creatures who pocketed their pay, and
dropped their burdens into bog-holes. Bog water has astrin-
gent qualities that prevent decay, and the remains of
infants were very often dug up in bogs by turf-cutters. The
vestry minutes of Drumballyroney Church show that the tax
was still levied on the people at the time that Patrick Bronte
taught there. The deportation of illegitimate children was
almost a wholesale system of murder, and Patrick Bronte in
his early years laid the blame at the door of those who levied
the tax and superintended the system. The poem, which was
much longer, was written about 1796 or 1797.
254 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
" And the men who had paid for love by lust,
And were false in return for confiding trust,
In a slimy pit they were downward thrust,
Through a scum that was foul with a fetid crust.
" And a cry arose like the thunder's roar
As the devil stood forth on the burning floor,
And the fiends with a shout stood up to adore,
And the earth-rent closed and I saw no more."
Bronte's teaching in Glascar came to an abrupt
termination in a very characteristic manner. There
was a mature maiden in the school with hair as red
as his own. She was the daughter of a substantial
farmer with aristocratic tendencies, as he had more
acres and more cattle than most of his neighbours.
Patrick, as " the master," had always been welcome
at the farmhouse. The girl and her brothers had
been allowed to remain longer than usual at school
at his special request, and as they were studying
advanced subjects he helped them in the evening
with their lessons.
One afternoon, on approaching the farmer's
house, the master met his red-haired pupil among
the corn-stacks and kissed her. The tender incident
was observed by one of the brothers, who imme-
diately reported the result of his observations at
headquarters. War was instantly declared against
the " mongrel " and " papish brat " who had dared to
kiss their Helen. The allied brothers proceeded
directly to chastise Bronte ; but the affair became
LEARNING AND TEACHING
complicated by the fiery-headed Helen, teterrima
causa belli, rushing in and espousing Bronte's cause
with great spirit and vigour.
When the storm of battle had cleared away, it
was discovered that teacher and pupil were des-
PRESBYTERIAN MEETING HOUSE, WHERE PATRICK BRONTE
perately in love with each other, and that opposition
had only fanned the flame. Helen's pockets and
desk were found to be full of Patrick's amatory
poetry, and both claimed the right to act as they
pleased. It was understood that the first tender
advances had been on the lady's part, and her lover
256 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
felt bound to remain loyal to her so long as she
There were many versions of the incident, from
which it would be difficult to weave one consistent
narrative, nor is it a matter of much importance.
One thing is certain, namely, that all the parties
concerned made great fools of themselves, of whom
the greatest was Patrick Bronte.
Helen's father was an important officer in the
Glascar Presbyterian Church, to which a young
minister, John Rogers, had just been called. The
new minister was wholly unacquainted with Bronte,
or with the merits of the difficulty into which he
had got ; but on the representation of so influential
a member of his congregation he consented to the
closing of the school and the dismissal of the master.
Thus Patrick Bronte, by his own folly, found himself
without employment or the prospect of employment
in the memorable but miserable years of 1797 and
Bronte by his imprudence had not only lost his
situation and the golden-haired damsel ; but what
was even more serious, he had lost his friend and
Mr. Harshaw was a sternly just man, as well
as thoroughly unselfish. He upbraided Bronte
for taking advantage of his position to gain an
unwarrantable influence over one of his pupils
without the consent or knowledge of her parents.
LEARNING AND TEACHING 257
Bronte responded with indignant anger ; in fact,
he had one of his ungovernable fits, when the veins
in his forehead and neck seemed ready to burst,
and teacher and pupil parted in anger.
For a year, or perhaps less, Bronte worked on
his Uncle Paddy's farm, and was often to be seen
walking up and down the Glen with a book in his
hand. During those weary days he was in the
habit of meeting Helen clandestinely, as his father
used to meet Alice McClory ; but Helen differed
widely from Alice. She soon wearied of the
derelict schoolmaster who had nothing to do but
loaf about Red Paddy's farm. The brilliant student
and romantic poet was a very different lover from
the unhappy youth without prospects. To Helen's
eyes the gold had gone off the gingerbread and the
romance had ceased to thrill, and so she became
the wife of an honest farmer, and the mother of a
numerous fiery-headed progeny.
Bronte's first love affair having come to an end,
he went back to his old and true friend Harshaw.
He admitted his dishonourable conduct, apologised
for his rudeness, and was taken once more into his
Harshaw immediately set to work to secure for
his pupil another situation. The parish school of
Drumballyroney was then vacant ; but it was known
that only a Churchman would have any chance of
being elected to the post. The appointment was
THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
in the hands of the Rev. Thomas Tighe, the rector.
Harshaw sought an interview with Mr. Tighe, and
told him Patrick Bronte's history, not omitting the
love scene and penitence.* The vicar agreed to see
Bronte, and the interview led to his appointment
as teacher at a higher salary than he had had
in Glascar. This engagement marked another
important stage in the career of Patrick Bronte.
* I purposely abstain from giving Helen's family name, as
the almost forgotten story might give pain. Her descendants
are among the most respected people of the neighbourhood.
PATRICK BRONTE IN AN EPISCOPALIAN SCHOOL
IT was, I believe, in the autumn of 1798 that
Patrick Bronte entered on his duties at Drum-
ballyroney. The school, which had dwindled almost
to extinction under the previous teacher, revived
and flourished under Bronte's care and energy.
In addition to the day-school, he had a class for
private tuition, that met in the vicar's drawing-
room. The class consisted of Mr. Tighe's children
and the children of another local magnate. The
tuition fees added to Bronte's salary as school-
master amounted to a sum that encouraged him to
look forward once more to a University career.
I have heard of few noteworthy incidents of
Bronte's life while acting as schoolmaster in Drum-
ballyroney. He seems to have been so happy that
he manufactured little or no history. If he were
the hero of any very heroic or tragic exploits, they
have never been recorded, and are never likely to
be brought to light.
One little affair showed the metal of which he
260 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
was made. He was leading the united Sunday and
day-school out for a holiday's amusement. The
bully of the neighbourhood, a Roman Catholic,
stood in the middle of a narrow path, and obliged
the children to go down into a muddy ditch to get
Patrick was coming behind with Mr. Tighe, but
on observing the conduct of the bully, he broke
away from the vicar regardless of remonstrance,
and, seizing the offender by the neck and leg, flung
him down the hill into the ditch and left him
there. This incident formed the groundwork of the
story told by Charlotte in Shirley, where Helstone
precipitated a similar obnoxious person into the
Mr. J. A. Erskine Stuart * tells, on the authority
of Mr. Yates, an almost similar story of an event
that took place on Whit-Tuesday 1810 at Earls-
heaton. I am inclined to believe that the simple
and sudden collision in Drumballyroney was the
genuine original of all the later versions.
The Rev. Thomas Tighe was the vicar of the
united parishes of Drumballyroney and Drum-
gooland for forty-three years. He seems to have
found Bronte useful in the parish school as well
as in his own family, and it is exceedingly likely
* Mr. J. A. Erskine Stuart was the first to challenge the
groundless assertion that Patrick Bronte on coming to England
changed his name from Prunty to Bronte.
PA TRICK BRONTE IN AN EPISCOPALIAN SCHOOL 261
that he employed the handsome and brilliant youth
in many ways in the two large parishes.
In a busy life Bronte would have less leisure for
cultivating the romantic side of his character, and
fewer opportunities for coming into collision with
the stubborn conventionalities of the district. But
though we have little positive personal information
regarding Bronte at Drumballyroney, we have
very full information regarding the parish and the
period of his sojourn in it in the volume of minutes
discovered by Mr. Lett.
PATRICK BRONTE AT ST. JOHN'S, CAMBRIDGE
FROM a glance at the minutes kept by Rector
Tighe, it is clear that he was a vigorous
administrator at a time when vigour was needed,
and that he was an educationalist when education
was at a low ebb. Having found Patrick Bronte
an enthusiastic and excellent teacher, he not only
appreciated his services, but guided him in his
efforts to obtain a University education for himself.
There is no ground for assuming, as has been
done, that Bronte received pecuniary assistance
from Mr. Tighe to enable him to enter the Uni-
versity. He had a good salary as school teacher,
and to this was added a considerable sum as tuition
fees. Like many other Irish students who taught
during the summer months and studied at the
University during the winter, he would save every
penny he received beyond what was absolutely
necessary for his support, and after three years in
Drumballyroney he would have saved from ^100
to ^130, a sum amply sufficient to launch him
fairly at St. John's.
PATRICK BRONTE AT ST. JOHN'S, CAMBRIDGE 263
Mr. Tighe doubtless gave him full information
as to the exhibitions and bursaries at St. John's,
and the steps to be taken by him as a candidate
for honours ; and such important information
would be all that the youth required. He spent
all his spare time in study, and on Saturdays he
reviewed all the week's work with his old and true
PATRICK BRONTE S MATRICULATION SIGNATURE.
friend Harshaw. Indeed, Harshaw had been his
only teacher up to the time he reached the Cam-
Patrick Bronte entered St. John's College,
Cambridge, on the ist of October, 1802, and com-
menced residence on the fourth day of the same
month. In the following February, 1803, four
264 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
months after entering the College, he obtained one
of the Hare Exhibitions, which he continued to
hold till March 1806.
These exhibitions had been founded by Sir
Ralph Hare " for thirty of the poorest and best-
disposed scholars " ; but, notwithstanding the terms
of the trust, the paramount consideration was
scholarship, then as now, in awarding the prizes.
The Duchess of Suffolk had also left a sum to
St. John's, to establish exhibitions for four poor
scholars. At Christmas 1803 Bronte won one of
these, and continued on the foundation as Duchess
of Suffolk exhibitioner till Christmas 1807. Be-
sides these, he von and held the Goodman Exhi-
bition for one year from 1805.
Bronte's savings were ample to carry him over
his first few months at Cambridge, and the Hare,
Suffolk, and Goodman Exhibitions were quite suffi-
cient afterwards for all his wants as a student. His
friends at home, however, understood that he was
living at college by coaching other students, and
it was doubtless from the money earned by teach-
ing that he forwarded the sum of 20 to his
mother every year. Indeed, his first letter to his
mother from Cambridge announcing his admission
to St. John's contained a half-sovereign under the
seal, and during her life he never failed to write
regularly to her, both while he was at Cambridge
and afterwards, and, whatever his circumstances
PATRICK BRONTE AT ST. JOHN'S, CAMBRIDGE 265
may have been, she always had her 20 regularly.
It is interesting to see the weaver boy of Bally-
naskeagh, who never received a lesson except from
the Rev. Andrew Harshaw of Ballynafern, carry-
ing off prizes for proficiency at Cambridge, and
instructing others whose advantages must have
been a thousand times superior to his own.
The educational arena is a great leveller of arti-
ficial and accidental distinctions. The name pre-
ceding Bronte's in the admission register is that
of John Prettyman, son of the Venerable Arch-
deacon Dr. John Prettyman of Lincoln, and the
name that follows Bronte's is that of Charles
Sampson of Middlesex. Bronte's tutor was James
Wood, who afterwards became master of St. John's.
As the handsome youth and distinguished scholar
drilled shoulder to shoulder with his countryman,
Lord Palmerston, and with the late Duke of Devon-
shire, few could have suspected his humble origin
in Emdale, or the titanic struggle by which he had
gained a foothold at the University.
Mr. R. T. Scott, the registrar of St. John's, has
most kindly furnished me with all the information
at his disposal. From the Term Register we learn
that Patrick Bronte commenced residence on the
4th of October, 1802; kept the succeeding eleven
University terms; took the B.A. degree the 23rd of
April, 1806 ; and that his name was removed from
the boards the 26th of May, 1808.
THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Mr. J. Willis Clarke, the registrar of the Uni-
versity, has furnished me with photographs of
Bronte's matriculation and graduation signatures.
The first was evidently written by the registrar, as
PATRICK BRONTE'S SIGNATURE ON PROCEEDING TO HIS DEGREE.
it is in the same handwriting as the three signa-
tures that precede it. The second is Bronte's own
writing, and I reproduce here the photograph of
the page which contains it.
PATRICK BRONTE AT ST. JOHN'S, CAMBRIDGE 267
Patrick Bronte's footsteps have been so carefully
traced, and his movements so fully accounted for,
throughout the ecclesiastical by-ways of England,
that I need not follow him beyond the walls of the
University.* The ardent student was eclipsed in
the country parson, but again appeared in the
reflected light of his daughters.
* It has been persistently affirmed that Patrick Bronte
ceased to visit his Irish home after he went to England ; but,
as I have already shown, the assertion is absolutely ground-
less. He was a visitor not only on holiday occasions, but in
times of trouble. The only time I ever saw him was on one
of his visits.
He preached one of his first sermons to his old friends
and neighbours, in Ballyroney Church. His youngest sister,
Alice, told the Rev. J. B. Lusk of that sermon in the follow-
ing words at their last interview : " Patrick came home after
lie was ordained, and preached in Ballyroney. All our friends
and neighbours were there, and the church was very full.
. . . He preached a gran' sermon, and never had anything
in his han' the whole time " (i.e., he had no manuscript).
THE IRISH BRONTES AND "JANE EYRE"
THE Bronte novels were first read and admired
in the Ballynaskeagh manse. This statement
I am able to make with fulness of knowledge. Jane
Eyre was read, cried over, laughed over, argued
over, condemned to the lowest depths, exalted
to the loftiest heights, by the Rev. David McKee
and his brilliant children and numerous pupils,
before the author was known publicly in England,
or a single review of the work had appeared.
Were I not able definitely to settle this question
now, the future historian would arrive at a very
different conclusion. And I am myself able to
submit documentary evidence which seems to prove
in the most decisive manner the very opposite of
what I have asserted. I have now in my possession
a copy of the fourth edition of Jane Eyre, presented
by Charlotte Bronte's father to Hugh, his eldest
brother, apparently in the firm belief that the Irish
Brontes had never seen the book.
The volume, which is considerably worn, contains
an inscription worth quoting for many reasons. It
THE IRISH BRONTES AND "JANE EYRE" 269
is a memorandum in Patrick's hand, and it refutes
the calumny that he forgot the old home after
settling in England. It also reveals the price that
Charlotte got for the copyright of her three novels ;
but it assumes that the uncles and aunts of the
novelist had never seen the first editions of their
^SS*r*fc? ^ ?&#*>
.y y X*. ^ti-^t* t-^'^X r .y X_*_ - Z^^
PATRICK TO HUGH REGARDING THE PRICE PAID FOR THE NOVELS.
niece's works. The memorandum, which is written
on the page over the " note to the third edition,"
is as follows :
"To Mr. Hugh Bronte, Ballynaskeagh, near
Rathfriland, Ireland. This is the first work pub-
lished by my daughter, under the fictitious name
of ' Currer Bell,' which is the usual way at first by
authors, but her real name is everywhere known.
270 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
She sold the copyright of this and her other two
works for fifteen hundred pounds ; so that she has
to pay for the books she gets, the same as others.
Her other two books are in six volumes, and would
cost nearly four pounds. This was formerly in
three volumes. In two years hence, when all
shall be published in a cheaper form, if all be well,
I may send them. You can let my brothers and
sisters read this.
" P. BRONTE, A.B.,
" Incumbent of Haworth, near Keighley.
"Jan. 20th, 1853."
At the time when Patrick Bronte sent to his old
home the copy of the fourth edition of Jane Eyre,
the Irish Brontes were already in full possession
of the first editions of Charlotte's three novels. I
have in my possession the copies of the three-
volume first editions of Shirley and Villette, which
they had in hand, and I distinctly remember the
three volumes of the first edition of Jane Eyre,
which I fear is now lost.
The explanation of this seeming difficulty is
simple enough. In addition to the ^"500* that
* It has been often said that Smith, Elder, & Co. paid a
small annuity to the last of the Bronte aunts ; but this is not
correct. An annuity of 20 per annum was granted by
the Trustees of Pargeter's Charity on the representation of
one of the Trustees, the Rev. D. Maginnis. The grant was
made to Alice in March 1882, and lapsed with the death of
the annuitant on the i$th of January, 1891.
THE IRISH BRONTES AND "JANE EYRE" 271
Smith, Elder, & Co. paid Charlotte Bronte for the
copyright of each of her novels, they would, as the
custom is, allow her a number of copies for friends.
They sent half a dozen copies direct to herself at
first. The book was published on the i6th of
October, and ten days later Charlotte acknow-
ledged receipt of the copies in the following
" Oct. 26th, 1847.
" Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co.
" The six copies of Jane Eyre reached
me this morning. You have given the work every
advantage which good paper, clear type, and a
seemly outside can supply ; if it fails, the fault will
lie with the author you are exempt. I now await
the judgment of the press and the public.
" I am, gentlemen,
" Yours respectfully,
Charlotte Bronte's friends were not numerous,
and she was most anxious that none of the few
should find out that she was the author. In the
distribution of even her six copies she would
certainly send one to her friends in Ireland. Her
father would be in absolute ignorance of the
transaction, for though he wrote home regularly
his brothers seldom wrote to him ; and hence the
272 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
presentation of the copy of the cheap fourth edition,
preserving to us the very precious inscription.
When the volumes arrived in Ireland there was
no room for doubt as to the authorship of Jane Eyre.
The Brontes had no other friend in England to
send them books ; and even their friends would not
have sent them great bulky expensive novels unless
they were the authors of them themselves. The
Brontes in Ireland neither wrote nor read romances.
They lived them.
It was well known to the family that the clever
brother in England had very clever daughters.
Their habits of study, their wonderful composi-
tions, their education in Brussels, were steps in the
ascending gradation of the girls, minutely com-
municated by the vicar to his only relatives, and
fairly well understood in Ballynaskeagh. Some-
thing was expected.
That ' something caused blank disappointment.
C(urrer) B(ell) was a thin disguise for C(harlotte)
B(ronte) ; but it did not deceive the relatives.
Why concealment, if there were nothing dis-
creditable to conceal ? A very little reading
convinced the uncles and aunts that concealment
The book was not good, like Willison's Balm of
Gilead, or like Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. It
was neither history like Goldsmith, nor biography
like Johnson, nor philosophy like Locke, nor
THE IRISH BRONTES AND "JANE EYRE" 273
theology like Edwards ; but " a parcel of lies : the
fruit of living among foreigners."
The Irish Brontes had never seen a book like
Jane Eyre before three volumes of babble that
would have taken a whole winter to read. They
laid the work down in despair; but after a little
Hugh resolved to show it to Mr. McKee, the one
man in the whole district whom he could trust.
The reputation of his nieces in England was
dearer to Hugh Bronte than his own.
He tied up the three volumes in a red handker-
chief, and called with them at the manse. Contrary
to his usual custom, he asked if he could see Mr.
McKee alone. The interview, of which my infor-
mation came from an eye-witness, took place in a
large parlour which contained a bed and a central
table, on which Mr. McKee's tea was spread out.
Hugh Bronte began in a low, mysterious whisper
and with a regretful air to unfold his sad tale to Mr.
McKee, as if his niece had been guilty of some
serious indiscretion. Mr. McKee comforted him
by suggesting that the book might not have been
written by his niece at all. At this point Hugh
Bronte was prevailed upon to draw up to the table
to partake of the abundant tea that had been
prepared for Mr. McKee, while the latter proceeded
to examine the book.
Both gentlemen devoted themselves to the task
in hand. Bronte settled down in the most self-
274 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
denying manner to dispose of the heap of bread
and butter and the pot of tea, while Mr. McKee
went galloping over the pages of the first volume
of Jane Eyre, oblivious of everything else but the
The afternoon wore on, and Bronte sat still at
the table, watching the features of the reader, as
they changed from sombre to gay, and from flinty
fierceness to melting pathos.
When the servant went in to remove the tea-
things and light the candles both men were sitting
silent in the gloaming. Mr. McKee, roused from
his state of abstraction, observed Bronte sitting by
the debris and empty plates.
" Hughey," he said, breaking the silence, " the
book bears the Bronte stamp on every sentence
and idea, and it is the grandest novel that has
been produced in my time " ; and then he added,
" The child Jane Eyre is your father in petticoats,
and Mrs. Reed is the wicked uncle by the Boyne."
The cloud passed from Hugh Bronte's brow, and
the apologetic tone from his voice. He started up
as if he had received new life, wrung Mr. McKee's
hand, and hurried away comforted, to comfort
others. Mr. McKee had said the novel was
" gran'," and that was enough for the Irish Brontes.
THE AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF THE
THERE was joy in the Bronte house when
Hugh returned, and reported to his brothers
and sisters what Mr. McKee had said about Jane
Eyre. They needed no further commendation, for
they knew no higher court of appeal on such a
matter ; nor was there. They had all been alarmed
lest Charlotte had done something to be ashamed
of ; but on Mr. McKee's approval, pride and elation
of spirit succeeded depression and sinking of heart *
* The Rev. W. J. McCracken, an old pupil of the Bally-
naskeagh manse, writes me on this point : " You have no
doubt often heard Mr. McKee's opinion as to the source of
Charlotte's genius. When Charlotte Bronte published one of
her books, there was always an early copy sent to the uncles
and aunts in Ballynaskeagh. As they had little taste for such
literature, the book was sent straight over to our dear old
friend Mr. McKee. If it pleased him, the Brontes would be
in raptures with their niece, and triumphantly say to their
neighbours, ' Mr. McKee thinks her very diver.' I well
remember Mr. McKee reading one of Charlotte's novels, and
in his own inimitable way making the remark, 'She is just
276 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Mr. McKee's opinion of Jane Eyre did not long
remain unconfirmed. The reviews of the work
which appeared in English magazines were quoted
in the Newry paper, probably sent by Mr. McKee,
and found their way quickly into the uncles' and
The publication of the book created a profound
impression generally. It was felt in literary circles
that a strong nature had broken through conven-
tional restraints, that a fresh voice had delivered
a new message. Men and women paused in the
perusal of the pretty, the artificial, the inane, to
listen to the wild story that had come to them,
with the breeze of the moorland and the bloom of
The tragic pathos of human passion, working out
its destiny and doom, entranced and thrilled the
her uncle Jamie over the world. Just Jamie's strong, power-
ful direct way of putting a thing.' "
Mrs. McKee, writes me from New Zealand : " My
husband had early copies of the novels from the Brontes,
and he pronounced them to be Bronte in warp and woof,
before ' Currer Bell ' was publicly known to be Charlotte
Bronte. He held that the stories not only showed the Bronte
genius and style, but that the facts were largely reminiscences
of the Bronte family. He recognised many of the characters
as founded largely on old Hugh's yarns polished into literature.
When Jane Eyre came into the hands of the uncles, they
were troubled as to its character ; but they were very grateful
to my husband for his good opinion of its ability. He pro-
nounced it a remarkable and brilliant work before any of the
AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF REVIEWER 277
English-reading race. The self-evidencing sim-
plicity of the narrative disarmed incredulity, and
the fit proportion maintained, between the things
said and the manner of saying them, disenchanted
prejudice and suspicion. There was no apparent
art, but sincere truth ; there was no palpable style,
but the mechanism of nature. The vehement
energy and tempestuous frankness were as real
as the lightning and the hurricane ; and the playful
fancy and glowing heart brightened and warmed,
like the sunlight silvering the leaves or silently
ripening the corn.
The tears were sad and joyless, but genuine ; the
smiles were brimful of mirth. Men and women
saw the smiles and the tears, as clearly as they saw
the summer-lit moor. And so exquisite was the
gift of thought blended with the art of artless
expression, that only the facts appeared in the
With a few memorable exceptions, the favourable
verdict of the press was not only hearty but
The Timss declared Jane Eyre to be a " remarkable
production. . . . Freshness and originality, truth and
passion, singular felicity in the description of natural
scenery and in the analysation of human thought,
enable this tale to stand boldly out from the mass,
and to assume its own place in the bright field of
278 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The Edinburgh Review proceeded as follows :
" For many years there has been no work of
such power, piquancy, and originality. . . . From
out the depths of a sorrowing experience, . here is
a voice speaking to the experience of thousands.
It is a book of singular fascination."
It was reviewed in Blackwood's Magazine thus :
"Jane Eyre is an episode in this workaday
world ; most interesting, and touched at once by
a daring and delicate hand. It is a book for the
enjoyment of a feeling heart and vigorous under-
In Frazers Magazine Mr. G. H. Lewes expressed
his verdict : " The book closed, the enchantment
continues ; your interest does not cease. Reality,
deep, significant reality, is the characteristic of the
book. It is autobiography not perhaps in the
naked facts and circumstances, but in the actual
suffering and experience. This gives the book its
charm : it is soul speaking to soul ; it is utterance
from the depths of a struggling, suffering, much-
enduring spirit ; suspira de profundisT
Taifs Magazine declared : "Jane Eyre has already
acquired a standard renown. The earnest tone, deep
fervour, and truthful delineation of feeling and nature
displayed in its pages must render it a general
The Examiner, the AtJienceum, and the Literary
Gazette followed in the same strain ; while the
AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF REVIEWER 279
Daily News spoke with qualified praise, and only
the Spectator, according to Charlotte, was " flat."
The club coteries paused, and the literary log-
rollers were nonplussed, and Thackeray sat reading
instead of writing.
The interest in the story was intensified, inas-
much as no one knew whence had come the voice
that had stirred all hearts, or the hand that had
led them out to see heights and depths in lowly
lives undreamt of before.
Nor did the interest diminish when the mystery
was dispelled. On the contrary, it was much
increased when it became known that the author
was not one of the great literary fraternity, who
had assumed an alias to escape from the restraints
of custom ; but a little, shy, bright-eyed, Yorkshire
maiden of Irish origin, who could scarcely reach
up to great Thackeray's arm, or reply unmoved to
his simplest remark.
The Irish Brontes read the reviews of their
niece's book with intense delight. To the uncles
and aunts the paeans of praise were successive
whiffs of pure incense. They had never doubted
that they themselves were superior to their
neighbours, and they felt quite sure that their niece
Charlotte was superior to every other writer.
The praise bestowed upon her was her due, and
as it reflected some lustre on themselves they
treasured it in their hearts.
2 8o THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
But the Brontes were not content to enjoy
silently their niece's triumph and fame. It is
difficult to carry the full cup with steady dignity.
Their hearts were full, and overflowed from the
lips. The silent, self-contained Brontes had reached
the period of their decadence, and as they had
begun to imbibe a good deal of whiskey they were
often heard boasting of the illustrious Charlotte.
Sometimes even they would read to uninterested
and unappreciative listeners scraps of praise cut
from the Newry papers, or supplied to them from
English sources by Mr. McKee. The whole
heaven of Bronte fame was bright and cloudless ;
suddenly the proverbial bolt fell from the blue.
The Quarterly onslaught on Jane Eyre appeared,
and all the good things that had been said by the
other great magazines were forgotten. The news
travelled fast, and reached Ballynaskeagh almost
immediately. The neighbours who cared little for
what the Times, Frazer, Blackwood, and such
periodicals said had got hold of the Quarterly
verdict in a very direct and simple form. The
report went round the district like wild-fire, and
it became the common talk that the Quarterly
Review had said Charlotte Bronte, the vicar's
daughter, was a bad woman, and an outcast from
The neighbours of the Brontes had very vague
ideas as to what the Quarterly might be ; but I am
AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF REVIEWER 281
afraid the one bad review gave them more piquant
pleasure than all the good ones put together.
There is a tendency in human nature to resent the
sudden rise to eminence of near neighbours and
common acquaintances. That they have reached
fame and you have not is sufficient proof that all
is not as it should be.
In the changed atmosphere the uncles and aunts
assumed their old unsocial and taciturn ways.
When their acquaintances came, with simpering
smiles, to sympathise with them, their gossip was
cut short by the Brontes, who judged rightly that
the sense of humiliation pressed lightly on their
In their sore distress they went to Mr. McKee.
He was able to show them the review itself. The
reviewer had been speculating on the sex of Currer
Bell, and, for effect, assumed that the author was a
man ; but, he added, " whoever it be, it is a person
who, with great mental power, combines a total
ignorance of the habits of society, a great coarse-
ness of taste, and a heathenish doctrine of religion.
For if we ascribe the work 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."
Mr. McKee's reading of the review and words of
comment gave no comfort to the Brontes. I am
afraid his indignation at the cowardly attack only
282 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
served to fan the flame of their wrath. The sun of
his sympathy, however, touched their hearts, and
their pent-up passion flowed down like a torrent of
The uncles of Charlotte Bronte always expressed
themselves, when roused, in language which com-
bined simplicity of diction with depth of significance.
Hugh was the spokesman. White with passion,
the words hissing from his lips, he vowed to take
vengeance on the traducer of his niece. The
language of malediction rushed from him, hot and
pestiferous, as if it had come from the bottomless
pit, reeking with sulphur and brimstone.
Mr. McKee did not attempt to stem the wrathful
torrent. He hoped that the storm would exhaust
itself by its own fury and be followed by a calm, or
that the outburst would clear away the dregs of
anger, as a charge of gunpowder, exploded in the
flues of the copper, scatters the accumulated soot.
But in the case of Hugh Bronte the anger was
not a mere thing of the passing storm. The
scoundrel who had spoken of his niece as if she
were a strumpet must die. Hugh's oath was
pledged, and he meant to perform it. The brothers
recognised the work of vengeance as a family duty.
Hugh had simply taken in hand its execution ; and
though his brothers and sisters were moody and
silent, they felt that the Bronte honour was safe in
the hands of the Avenger.
AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF REVIEWER 283
Hugh Bronte set about his preparation with the
calm deliberation befitting such a tremendous
enterprise. Like Thothmes the Great, his first
concern was with regard to his arms. Irishmen
at that time had one national weapon. What the
blood mare is to the Bedawi, or his sling was to
King David, that was the shillelagh to Hugh
Bronte the Avenger.
Irishmen have since proved their superiority as
marksmen with long-range rifles, and they have
always had a reputation for expertness at " the
long bow " ; but the blackthorn cudgel has always
been the hereditary weapon around which their
affections were entwined, and at the touch of which
their courage rose.
The shillelagh was not a mere stick picked up for
a few pence, or cut casually out of the common
hedge. Like the Arab mare, it grew up to maturity
under the fostering care of its owner, and in the
hour of conflict it carried him to victory.
The shillelagh, like the poet, is born, not made ;
though, like the poet, it is developed and polished.
Like the poet, too, it is a choice plant, and its growth
Among ten thousand blackthorn shoots, perhaps
not more than one is destined to become famous ;
but one of the ten thousand appears of singular
fitness among its gnarled companions. As soon
as discovered it is marked and dedicated for future
284 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
service. Everything that might hinder its well-
balanced development is removed from its vicinity,
and any offshoot likely to detract from the perfect
growth of the main stem is skilfully cut off.
With constant care it grows thick and strong, and
the bulbous root can be shaped into a handle
which in an emergency can be used as a club.
Hugh Bronte was a man who looked before and
hastened slowly. In early life he planted two oak
trees by the edge of the Glen to supply wood for his
coffin. They have become large trees, and they
were pointed out to me by the nearest neighbour,
Mr. Christopher Radcliffe, on the occasion of my
last visit to the Bronte Glen.
Hugh had for many years been watching over
the growth of a young blackthorn sapling, as if it
had been an only child. It had arrived at maturity
about the time the diabolical article appeared in
the Quarterly. The supreme moment of his life
had arrived, and the weapon on which he depended
Hugh Bronte returned home from the manse
with his whole heart and soul set on avenging his
niece. His first act was to dig up the blackthorn
carefully, so that he might have enough of the
thick root to form a lethal club. Having pruned
it roughly, he placed the butt end in warm ashes
night after night to season. Then when it had
become sapless and hard he reduced it to its final
AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF REVIEWER- 285
dimensions. Afterwards he steeped it in brine,
or " put it in pickle," as the saying goes ; and when
it had been a sufficient time in the salt water, he
took it out and rubbed it with shamois and train oil
for hours. Then came the final process. He shot
a magpie, drained its blood into a cup, and with
the lappered blood polished the blackthorn till it
became glossy black with a mahogany tint.
The shillelagh was then a beautiful, tough, for-
midable weapon, and when tipped with an iron
ferrule was quite ready for action. It became
Hugh's trusty companion, esteemed and loved for
its use as well as for its beauty. No Sir Galahad
ever valued his shield, or trusted his spear, as
Hugh Bronte cherished and loved his shillelagh.
When the shillelagh was ready, other prepara-
tions were quickly completed. Hugh made his
will by the aid of a local schoolmaster, leaving
everything of which he was possessed to his
maligned niece ; and then, decked out in a new
suit of broadcloth in which he felt stiff and awk-
ward, he departed on his mission of vengeance.
He set sail from Warrenpoint for Liverpool by
a vessel called the Sea-Nymph, and walked from
Liverpool to Haworth. His brother James had
been over the route a short time previously, and
from him he had received all necessary directions
as to the way. He reached the vicarage on a
Sunday when all, except Martha the old servant,
286 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
were at church. At first the faithful old Yorkshire
woman looked upon him as a tramp, and refused
to admit him into the house ; but when he turned
to go down to the church, road-stained as he was,
she saw that the honour of the house was involved,
and she agreed to allow him to remain till the
family returned. Under the conditions of the truce,
he was able to satisfy Martha as to his identity,
and then she rated him soundly for journeying on
the Sabbath day.
Hugh's reception at the vicarage was at first
chilling ; but soon the girls gathered round him, and
inquired about the Glen, the Knock Hill, Emdale
Fort, and the Mourne Mountains, but especially
with reference to the local ghosts and haunted
houses. On all these topics Hugh had much to
say that not only confirmed what they already
had heard, but stimulated their curiosity to hear
Hugh was bitterly disappointed to find his niece
so small and frail. His pride in the Bronte
superiority had rested mainly on the thews and
comeliness of the family, and he found it difficult
to associate mental greatness with physical little-
ness. On his return home he spoke of the vicar's
family to Mr. McKee as "a poor frachther" a term
applied to a brood of young chickens. He did
not babble of such matters, except to the one man
whom he knew he could trust. From his brother
AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF REVIEWER 287
Jamie, Hugh had heard that Branwell had some-
thing of the spunk he had expected from the family
on English soil ; but he was too small and fantastic,
and a chatterer, and could not drink more than
two glasses of whiskey at the Black Bull without
making a fool of himself. In fact, Jamie, during a
visit, had to carry Branwell home more than once
from that refuge of the thirsty.*
The declaration of Hugh's mission of revenge was
received by Charlotte with incredulous astonish-
ment. But gentle Anne sympathised with him, and
wished him success. Had it not been for Anne's
enthusiastic encouragement, Hugh would have
returned straight home from Haworth in disgust.
Patrick, as befitted a clergyman, condemned
the undertaking, and did what he could to amuse
Hugh, and to draw his mind from its fierce intents.
He was careful that Hugh's entertainments should
be to his taste, and he took him to see a prize
fight. His object was to show him "a battle
that would take the conceat out of him." It
had the contrary effect. Hugh thought the
combatants were too fat and lazy to fight, and he
always asserted that he could have "licked them
* Rosey Heslip, a cousin of Charlotte Bronte, told the
Rev. J. B. Lusk that she heard her mother say that Jamie,
on his return from England, declared "that Charlotte had
eyes that looked through you."
288 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
The vicar also took him to Sir John Armitage's,
where he saw a collection of arms, some of which
were exceedingly unwieldy. Hugh was greatly
impressed with the heaviness of the armour, and
especially with Robin Hood's helmet, which he
was allowed to place on his head. He admitted
that he could not have worn the helmet or wielded
the sword ; but he maintained at the same time
that he " could have eaten half a dozen of the men
he saw in England " in fact, taken them like a
dish of whitebait.
When Hugh Bronte had exhausted the wonders
of Yorkshire, to which the vicar looked for moral
effect, he started on his mission to London. A
. full and complete account of his search for the
reviewer would be most interesting, though some-
what ludicrous ; but the reader must be content
with the scrappy information at my disposal.
Through an introduction from a friend of Bran-
well's, he found cheap and suitable lodgings with
a working family from Haworth. They lived near
the river. As soon as Hugh had got fairly settled,
he went direct to John Murray's publishing house
and asked to see the reviewer. He declared him-
self an uncle of Currer Bell, from whom he had
come direct, and he said he wished to give the
reviewer some specific information.
He had a short interview at Murray's with a man
who said he was the editor of the Quarterly, and
AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF REVIEWER 289
who may have been Lockhart ; but Hugh told him
he could only communicate to the reviewer his
He continued to visit Murray's under a promise
of seeing the reviewer ; but he always saw the same
man, who pressed him greatly to say who Currer
Hugh declined to make any statement except
into the ear of the reviewer ; but as the truculent
character of the avenger was probably very
apparent, his direct and bold move did not succeed.
They ceased to admit him at Murray's.
Having failed at Murray's, he went to the
publishers of Jane Eyre, and told them plainly he
was the author's uncle, and that he had come to
London to chastise the Quarterly Review critic.
They treated him civilly without furthering his
quest ; but he got from them an introduction to
the reading-room of the British Museum and to
some other reading-rooms.
In the reading-rooms he was greatly disgusted to
find how little interest was taken in the matter that
absorbed his whole attention. He met, however,
one kind old gentleman in the British Museum,
who thoroughly sympathised with him, and took
him home with him several times. On one occa-
sion he invited a number of people to meet him at
dinner. The house had signs of wealth such as he
had never before seen or dreamt of. Everybody
290 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
was kind to him. After dinner he was called on
for a speech, and when he sat down they cheered
him and drank his health.
They all examined his shillelagh, and before
parting promised to do their best to aid him in
discovering the reviewer ; but his friend afterwards
told him at the Museum that all had failed, and that
they considered Hugh's undertaking hopeless.
He tried other plans of getting on the reviewer's
track. He would step into a bookshop, and buy a
sheet of paper on which to write home, or some
other trifling object. While paying for his small
purchase he would take up the Quarterly Review,
and casually ask the bookseller who wrote the
attack on Jane Eyre.
He always found the booksellers communicative,
if not well-informed. Many told him the absurd
story then current connecting Jane Eyre with
Thackeray. None of them seemed able to bear
the thought of appearing ignorant of anything.
It was quite well known, they assured him, that
Thackeray had written the review ; " in fact, he had
admitted that he was the author of the review."
Some declared that Mr. George Henry Lewes was
the author ; others said it was Harriet Martineau ;
and some even assured him that Bulwer Lytton,
or Dickens, was the critic. These names were
given with confidence, and with circumstantial
details which seemed to create a probability ;
AVENGER ON THE TRACK OF REVIEWER 291
but his friend whom he met daily at the Museum
assured him that they were only wild and absurd
Hugh Bronte failed to find the reviewer of his
niece's novel, but in his earnest quest he explored
London thoroughly. He saw the Queen, but was
better pleased to see her horses and talk with her
He saw reviews of troops, and public demon-
strations, and cattle shows, and the Houses of
Parliament, and ships of many nations, that lay
near his lodging ; and he visited the Tower, and
other objects of interest ; and when his patience
was exhausted and his money spent, he returned
to Haworth on his homeward journey.
Thus ended one of the strangest undertakings
within the whole range of literary adventure.
His stay at the vicarage was brief. During his
absence consumption had been rapidly sapping the
life of the youngest girl. The house was gloomed
with bereavement and dismal with forebodings,
and yet the gentle Anne received him with the
warmest welcome, and talked of accompanying
him to Ireland, which she spoke of as " home." At
parting she threw her long, slender arms round his
neck, and called him her noble uncle ; and the great
giant felt amply rewarded for his fruitless efforts,
and never after referred to the circumstance with-
out his eyes filling with tears. Charlotte took him
292 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
for a walk on the moor, asked a thousand questions,
told him about Emily and Branwell, and slipping
a few sovereigns into his hand, advised him to
hasten home. On the following day he parted for
ever from the family that he would have given his
life to befriend.
No welcome awaited him at home, because he
had failed in his mission. He gave to Mr. McKee
a detailed account of his adventures in England ; *
but I do not think any other stranger ever heard
from him a single word regarding the sad home at
* A daughter of Mr. McKee's told me that more than once
she tried to get this story from Hugh Bronte at first hand, but
always in vain. He would talk freely enough about what he
had seen in England, but grew silent, and dangerous-looking,
when pressed as to the subject of his journey. On one
occasion she said she had already heard the story from her
father. He looked vexed, as if his secret had been betrayed,
but he simply replied, "Then you don't need to hear of it
from me." I often talked with Hugh of his adventures in
England, but the conversation always came to an abrupt
termination if I referred to Haworth, or the object of his
Jamie's visit to Haworth may have been before the publi-
cation of Jane Eyre, but it took place during the time that
Branwell was drinking himself into the grave. Hugh's visit
was a little before the death of Anne. For prudential reasons,
Hugh's mission was at first kept secret, and after its failure
pride would not permit a reference to it. The adventure was
known only to Mr. McKee, and the brothers and sisters at
home. Those who were not at home never heard of it.
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW ? A WORKING
THE December number of the Quarterly Review
of 1848 is perhaps the most famous of the
entire series. Its fame rests on a mystery which
has baffled literary curiosity for close on half a
century. " Who wrote the review of Jane Eyre ? "
is a question that has been asked by every
contributor to English literature since the critique
appeared ; but up till September last year the
question was asked in vain, and all guesses were
wide of the mark.
The descendant and namesake of the eminent
projector and proprietor of the Quarterly does not
feel at liberty to solve the mystery by revealing
the writer. I admire the loyalty of John Murray
to a servant whose work has attained an evil pre-
eminence. It is interesting to know in these prying
and babbling times that in the house of Murray
the secret of even a supposed ruffian is safe to the
294 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Like the fracturer of the Portland vase, and the
assassins of eminent men who have gained notoriety
in connection with the greatness that they sought
to destroy, the Quarterly reviewer is inseparably
linked with Jane Eyre, on account of the diabolical
attempt to shatter the novel and blast the character
of its author. The pretence of religion and morality
under which the dastardly deed was attempted
has given point to the detestation with which it
has been regarded ; and even now the reviewer is
looked on with something like hatred as a common
enemy. The verdict of condemnation with regard
to the review has been unanimous, and sentence
has been passed on the unknown criminal in
language anything but judicial.
Mrs. Gaskell referred to the article as " flippant,"
and added : " But flippancy takes a graver name
when directed against an author by an anonymous
writer ; we call it then cowardly insolence." Then
she closes a long-drawn-out rhetorical passage,
calling on the reviewer to " pray with the publican
rather than judge with the Pharisee."
Swinburne, in his Note on Charlotte Bronte, deals
with the review in a passage which is without a
parallel in the English language :
" It is of infinitely small moment that we know
only by its offence the obscffe animal now nailed
up for this offence by the ear, though not by name,
its particular name being as undiscoverable as
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW? 295
its generic designation is unmistakable, to the
undecaying gibbet of immemorial contempt.
" When a farmer used to nail a dead polecat on
the outside of his barn door, it was surely less from
any specific personal rancour of retaliatory animo-
sity towards that particular creature than by way
of judicial admonition to the tribe as yet untrapped,
the horde as yet unhanged, which might survive to
lament if not to succeed the malodorous malefactor.
No mortal can now be curious to verify the name
as well as the nature of the typical specimen which
then emitted in one spasm of sub-human spite at
once the snarl and the stench proper to its place
" But we know that from the earlier days of
Shelley onwards to these latter days of Tennyson,
whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are
honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever
things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report, become
untrue, dishonest, unjust, impure, unlovely, and
ill-famed, when passed through the critical crucible
of the Quarterly Review?
Mr. Augustine Birrell's Life of Charlotte Bronte
is worth reading for his onslaught on the reviewer.
He drops on " the base creature " as " the detestable
hypocrite who wrote the review in the Quarterly"
He refers to " the male ruffianism " of the reviewer
who recognised the "tragic power" and "moral
THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
sublimity " of the book ; " yet mindful of his bargain,
true to his guineas," he sought, by circulating what
he himself calls " the gossip of Mayfair," to destroy
the reputation and fair fame of the author. Mr.
Birrell concludes as follows :
" If it be said that such nauseous and malignant
hypocrisy as that of the Quarterly reviewer ought
not to be republished : the answer is, that it is
impossible to rejoice with due fervour over exter-
minated monsters until we have gazed in museums
upon their direful features. It is a matter of
congratulation that such a review as the one we
have quoted from is now impossible. It is also
convenient that the name of the reviewer is un-
known, so that no one can arise and say, ' 1 loved
that man ! '
" It was judgments like those of the reviewer
that tempted people to forswear respectability
altogether to break up house, and live in the
tents of Bohemia since remaining respectable
and keeping house exposed them to the risk of
meeting, actually meeting, the reviewer himself
and other members of his family."
Who was " the detestable hypocrite " and " base
creature " ? Or how did the " male ruffianism "
take form ? I believe 1 am able now to show that
these matters are no longer secrets.
There is nothing clearer to my mind than that
the composition of the article is the work of different
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW > 297
hands. Of the thirty-two pages of the review three
or four pages stand like bits of drugget set into
a Persian carpet, or like patches of Paisley on a
Cashmere shawl. The difference between fustian
and silk is not greater in substance, texture, and
tone, than that which exists between the original
article and the interpolations, which were intended
to make it palatable to conventional and common-
place minds. The scissors as well as the pen were
used in bringing the original review to the required
standard, and one can only wonder that certain
parts were allowed to stand.
The notorious article deals with three subjects,
but chiefly with Vanity Fair and Jane Eyre. The
reviewer begins with Vanity Fair, which fairly
takes his breath away. He is lost in admiration :
" We must discuss Vanity Fair first, which, much
as we were entitled to expect from its author's pen,
has fairly taken us by surprise." The novel is
dealt with as a work up to the reviewer's standard.
He writes about it in the measured style of a cen-
sorious man of the world. He lauds Becky Sharpe,
but he hands her over to destruction with a light
heart. He compares her to one of Bunyan's
pilgrims, " only," he adds, " unfortunately this one
is travelling the wrong way. And we say un-
fortunately merely by way of courtesy, for in
reality we care little about the matter." She is an
admirable piece of art, but that her back is turned
298 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
to heaven and her face towards hell is only a
matter for pleasantry.
Having thus jauntily handed Becky Sharpe
over to reprobation without compunction or regret,
the critic tells us : " She came into the world with-
out the customary letters of credit upon the two
great bankers of humanity, heart and conscience ;
and it was no fault of hers if they dishonoured all
her bills. All she could do in this dilemma was
to establish the firmest connection with the inferior
commercial branches of sense and tact, who
secretly do much business in the name of the head
concern, and with whom her fine frontal de-
velopment gave her unlimited credit. . . . She
practised the arts of selfishness and hypocrisy like
everybody else in Vanity Fair, only with this
difference, that she brought them to their highest
possible pitch of perfection. ... At all events,
the infernal regions have no reason to be ashamed
of little Becky, nor the ladies either ; she has at
least all the cleverness of her sex."
Becky and her sex having been thus disposed
of, and Thackeray sufficiently lauded, the censorious
man of the world has a sarcastic fling at the " stern
moralist " and the reader of " good books " :
" Poor little Becky is bad enough to satisfy the
most ardent student of ' good books.' Wicked-
ness beyond a certain pitch gives no increase of
gratification even to the sternest moralist ; and
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW? 299
one of Mr. Thackeray's excellencies is the sparing
quantity he consumes."
" Upon the whole," he adds, " we are not afraid
to own that we rather enjoy her ignis-fatuus
course, dragging the weak and vain and the
selfish through much mire after her, arid acting all
parts, from the modest rushlight to the gracious star,
just as it suits her, clever little imp that she is."
The reviewer turns from Vanity Fair, which
he has found up to his taste, with its pack of
reprobates, to Jane Eyre, and the character, style,
and tone of the article changes. The nonchalant
Gallio of morals suddenly becomes a " stern
The style becomes mixed. In one of the first
sentences there is an interpolation, throwing the
sentence off its balance, and necessitating specific
illustration, which is done by a feeble hand. Two
hands are now at work on the composition a
pagan hand, and a would-be Christian. Here is
a good specimen. The reviewer, speaking of Jane
Eyre after her great disappointment, thus pro-
"A noble, high-souled woman, bound to us by
the reality of her sorrow, and yet raised above us
by the strength of her will, stands in actual life
before us. ... Let us look at Jier in the first
recognition of Jier sorrow after the discomfiture of
her marriage. True it is not the attitude of a
300 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
Christian who knows that all things work together
for good to those who love God ; but it is a splendidly
drawn picture of a natural heart, of high power,
intense feeling, and fine religious instinct, falling
prostrate, but not grovelling before the blast of
Let the reader go through this passage, first
omitting the part in italics, which are mine, and
then read the whole with the italics, and he will
see how the jumble is made up.
The styles are as different as the sentiments,
but the pagan hand is clearly the stronger. If
internal evidence as to styles is admissible, in this
case it is overwhelming and decisive.
But the case is much stronger as regards diver-
sity of sentiment. It is so patent that it requires
no finding out. It has not to be brought to light,
it stands revealed. Could the parts in italics have
been written by the frivolous pagan who cheered
Becky Sharpe with courtesy, but without care, on
her way to the bottomless pit, and who jeered at
the " stern moralist " and the reader of " good
books " only a few pages earlier ? If the question
cannot be satisfactorily settled by the parts already
quoted, let us read what follows :
" We have said that this was a picture of the
natural heart. This, to our view, is the great and
crying mischief of the book. Jane Eyre is through-
out the personification of an unregenerate and
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW? 301
undisciplined spirit the more dangerous to exhibit
from this prestige of principle and self-control,
which is liable to dazzle the eye too much for it
to observe the insufficient and unsound foundation
on which it rests. It is true Jane does right, and
exerts great moral strength ; but it is the strength
of a mere heathen mind, which is a law unto itself.
No Christian grace is perceptible upon her. She
inherited in fullest measure the worst sin of our
fallen nature, the sin of pride. Jane Eyre is proud,
and therefore she is ungrateful too. It pleased
God to make her an orphan, friendless, and penni-
less ; and yet she thanks nobody, least of all the
friends, companions, and instructors of her helpless
youth, for the food and raiment, the care and
education vouchsafed to her, till she was capable
in mind and fit to provide for herself. Alto-
gether the autobiography of Jane Eyre is pre-
eminently an anti-Christian composition. There
is throughout it a murmuring against the comforts
of the rich and the privations of the poor, which,
so far as each individual is concerned, is a murmur-
ing against God's appointment. There is a proud
and perpetual asserting of the rights of man for
which we find no authority in God's Word or in
His providence. There is that pervading tone of
ungodly discontent which is at once the most
prominent and the most subtle evil which the law
and the pulpit, which all civilised society has, in
302 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
fact, at the present day to contend with. We do
not hesitate to say that the tone of mind and
thought which has overthrown authority, and
violated every code human and Divine abroad,
and fostered charterism and rebellion at home, is
the same which has written Jane Eyre."
It is not necessary to say whether the judgment
expressed in this passage is correct or not. It is
enough for my purpose to point out that it is
entirely out of harmony with all that has gone
before in the Review, and still more in direct
conflict with all that comes after. The entire
passage is an interpolation.
The reviewer who was fascinated with Becky
Sharpe, who had neither heart nor conscience, and
of whom " the infernal regions had no reason to
be ashamed," could hardly be the same who
deplores Jane Eyre's " natural heart " and " unre-
generate spirit," lack of grace and gratitude, fulness
of pride and original sin.
There are three or four pages only of this kind
of stuff, and then for the remaining nine pages of
the article the reviewer is in full accord with Jane
Eyre, and pleads with great earnestness for the
better treatment of governesses.
He dwells on their qualifications, their troubles,
the fictitious barriers raised between them and their
employers, " the perpetual little dropping-water
trials," all of which embitter the lives of these
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW? 303
ill-used ladies, whom the servants detest, and the
children may love, but not befriend.
But the reviewer goes farther. He who was
supposed to have declared Jane Eyre pre-eminently
an anti-Christian composition, " on account of the
assertion of the rights of man and discontent with
poverty," becomes guilty of the very thing he was
supposed to have denounced on the previous page.
He strikes out fiercely at the Christian mothers
who take advantage of destitute ladies' helplessness
to pay them starvation wages :
" There is something positively usurious in the
manner with which the misfortunes of the indi-
vidual are nowadays constantly taken advantage
of to cut down the stipend of the governess to
the lowest ratio which she will accept."
The same article which declared God's Word and
Providence on the side of wealth, and condemned
discontent in misery, goes far beyond Jane Eyre
in democratic discontent and socialistic levelling.
Charlotte Bronte, with her Tory sentiments and
democratic instincts, simply removes the mask from
the face of hypocrisy. The work of Wellington's
little adorer is made into a bogey, and held up as
the spirit responsible for revolution abroad, for
charterism and rebellion at home ; but a few pages
farther on the bogey is forgotten, and the language
of the review far outstrips " the tone of mind and
thought " of the little Tory governess.
304 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
On the part of the reviewer there is no mere
lifting of the veil from the face of hypocrisy. He
goes direct for the transgressors. " That service,
not the abundance of supply of female labour,
should be the standard of pay," is the canon which
he lays down. But he declares, "The Christian
parent lowers the salary because the friendless
orphan will take anything rather than be without
" This," he exclaims, " is more oppressive than
the usurious interest of the money-lender, because
it weighs not upon a selfish, thoughtless, and ex-
travagant man, but upon a poor, patient, industrious
The reviewer has here dropped the flippant tone
and become fiercely in earnest. He almost flies
in the face of constituted authority. " Workmen
may rebel, tradesmen may combine," but the poor
friendless governess is left to the uncovenanted
mercies of the English matron.
The simple explanation of these inconsistencies
is this. The reprobated article was written with
a generous appreciation of Jane Eyre, which the
writer recognised as the work of a " great artist " ;
but the passages that are out of harmony with
the article were inserted by the editor or by his
Lockhart was editor of the Quarterly at the
time, and he was responsible for " the tone of mind
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW? 305
and thought " of the articles that were inserted.
Propriety in the eyes of the Quarterly readers was
outraged by the manner in which the new hand
had broken through the crusts of things held
sacred, and hence the three or four pages out of
thirty-two, of maudlin sentimentality and insincere
There was nothing unusual in such treatment of
articles in those days. The ablest writers of the
time were obliged to submit to such editing.
Southey and Thackeray, and even Carlyle, had
their works pared and polished and padded to suit
the demands of the public taste.
A magazine was a commercial speculation, and
it was the duty and business of the editor to shape
its contents to please the reader and profit the
If my hypothesis * is right, it matters little who
wrote the article, though there is no longer any
secret with regard to the matter. In wealth of
knowledge, felicity of expression, appreciation of
good work, and lofty superiority of tone, it is in
* Since the above was in type Mr. Andrew Lang has
written me that he "accidentally came across the Quarterly
Review, and saw at once that the article was interpolated."
He also informs me that he published his views on the
subject in the Daily News some time in 1889-92. He
generously adds : "I don't want to boast of my priority of
discovery, but the coincidence increases the probability that
we are right."
306 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
the main a typical Quarterly article. But with
all its excellence, it would have been forgotten
had not the sugary, vinegary, watery morsel been
inserted in the middle of it.
The question, then, " Who supplied the palatable
pabulum to the Quarterly!" admits of but one
answer. The entire responsibility lies at Lockhart's
door ; and whether the work was done by his sub-
editor, or by Elwin, or by his own hand, the blame
in future must be considered his, and his alone.
Nor need we use again, in this connection, such
phrases as "spiteful and malignant hypocrisy."
It is not likely that there was anything either
spiteful or malignant in the matter. In fact, it
was largely a business transaction of supply and
demand. The editor merely did what he was
expected to do, and what under the circumstances
he was used to do.
Assuming the editor's responsibility for the
incriminated interpolations, who wrote the article
itself? Secrets are having a bad time of it in our
day, and the authorship of the article is no longer
a secret. As has been generally suspected, the
writer was a woman, and that woman was Miss
Rigby, the daughter of a Norwich doctor, and
better known as Lady Eastlake.
The well-kept secret was brought to light by
Dr. Robertson Nicoll in the Bookman of Sep-
tember 1892. Dr. Nicoll found the key to the
WHO WROTE THE REVIEW? 307
mystery in a letter v/ritten on the 3 1st of March,
1849, by Sara Coleridge to Edward Quillinan,
Wordsworth's son-in-law, and published in the
Memoirs and Letters of Sara Coleridge* The
following is the passage in Sara Coleridge's letter
referring to the matter :
" Miss Rigby's article on Vanity Fair was
brilliant, as all her productions are. But I could
not agree to the concluding remark about gover-
nesses. How could it benefit that uneasy class
to reduce the number of their employers, which, if
high salaries were considered in all cases indispen-
sable, must necessarily be the result of such a state
of opinion ? "
The Quarterly article on Vanity Fair dealt also
with Jane Eyre and with the Report of the Gover-
nesses' Benevolent Institution for 1847, and it is
without doubt the article referred to by Sara
On this matter Sara Coleridge was not likely
to be under any mistake. Miss Rigby was her
intimate friend, and not likely to conceal from her
so important a literary event as the production of
a Quarterly review. Besides, Sara Coleridge had
private information regarding the Quarterly, for
in the same letter she says, " I am awaiting with
some curiosity the arrival of the Quarterly, in
which Mr. Lockhart has dealt with Macaulay."
* Vol. ii., p. 223.
3o8 THE BRONTES IN IRELAND
I am also, informed that Mr. George Smith, the
publisher of Jane Eyre, declares without hesitation
or doubt that he had always known that Lady
Eastlake was the author of the Quarterly article,
and that he had declined to meet her at dinner
on account of it.
The fact that the brilliant Miss Rigby was the
writer of the review greatly strengthens my inter-
polation theory. To me it seems beyond the
range of things probable, that the pharisaic part
of the article could have come from the same
source as Livonian Tales and the Letters front the
Shores of the Baltic.
The article is therefore of a composite character.
It was written by Miss Rigby the year before her
marriage with Sir Charles Lock Eastlake.
I know it will be said that the genial Lockhart
would not have added the objectionable fustian to
the superior material supplied by Miss Rigby ; but
I repeat that it lay with him as a mere matter of
business, and a purely editorial affair, to maintain
the traditional tone of the Review.
Printed by Hagell, Watson, <S* Viney, Ld., London and Aylesuury.
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