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facts Stranger tban fiction 




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- 
able details. 

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 
live again. 

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. 



October 1893. 





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. 


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. 


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 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. 


Eviction and vengeance Burning of the old home 
Welsh's repentance Official oaths and family oaths 
The lost clue. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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 
fugitives forgiven. 

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 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 
Bronte attributes. 





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. 


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 



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 


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 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 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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


Success in school Private tuition Few incidents 
The Rev. Thomas Tighe The vicar Minutes of vestry. 


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 
colleagues Signature. 


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 
McKee's verdict. 






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. 


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, 



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 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 
we know. 

The current of Bronte life and thought has been 
faithfully traced and minutely portrayed in its 



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 
in Egypt. 

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 


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. 


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 : 


" 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. 



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 
regarding them. 



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- 


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 
Carlyle's bile. 

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 


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 


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 
Bronte phenomenon. 

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 


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. 



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 



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 
their son. 


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 



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. 



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 

to Liverpool. 

The child was thrown on the deck. Some onef 
said, " Toss it overboard " ; but no one would touch ^ 



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 
own children. 

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, 


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 


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 


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 
acceded to. 

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 


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 


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 
and lust. 

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 agent. 

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 


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- 


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, 
Mary Bronte. 

In the neighbourhood there lived a female sub- 


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' 


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 
their rent. 

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 


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 


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 
penniless sisters. 

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. 



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. 


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 
father lived. 

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 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 
and aunt. 



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 



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 


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 


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 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 
the blow. 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 


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 


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, 


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 
their journey. 

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 


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 


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 
was located. 

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 


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. 



steadily removing landmarks in Ireland, and I 
fear that the local tradition has now faded from 
the district. 

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. 



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 



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 
against him. 

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- 


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." 



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 


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, 


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.'' 


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 


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 


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 


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 
Hugh's mind. 

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 


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. 


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 


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 


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 


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 



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 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 



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 


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 
to Ireland. 

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 


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 
have interfered. 

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 


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 


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 
resourceful ally. 

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- 


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 


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, 


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. 



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. 



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 


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 



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 


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 


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 
the house. 

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. 



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. 



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. 


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, 


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 


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- 
satisfactory condition. 

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 


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 
hard life. 

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 


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 
all religions. 

'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. 


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 


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 


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 
her friends. 

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. 



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 


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, 


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 


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 


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 
behind him." 

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 


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. 
William McAllister. 

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 



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. 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 



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- 



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 
correctly given. 


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 


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 


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, 


" 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. 


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." 



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 



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 


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 
husband's earnings. 

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 


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 


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 
gracefully-fitting corset. 

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. 


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 
and tenpence. 

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- 


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 
over them. 

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 
Bronte family. 

1 remember the excellent carts and horses 


employed by the Brontes on the roads, and I also 
distinctly recollect that the names painted on the 
carts were spelled " Bronte," the pronunciation 


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 


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 



meeting-place for the fast and wild youth of the 

Then another brother, called William, but known 

"by Hugh;Bronte 

Devil's Dining Room 

Hugh Bronte's Ho. ] 

Paddy McClory's Ho. 
Welsh Bronte's Ho., 


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 


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 
Bronte's whiskey. 

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 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., 


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 
stuff themselves. 

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 


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 


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 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 
129 9 


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 


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 
his yarns. 

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 


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 


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 


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. 


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, 
made public. 

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 


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 


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 
work upon. 


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 
Yorkshire dialect. 

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 


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 
own surroundings. 

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 


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 


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 
been irresistible." 

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 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 : 


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, 



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 


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 
apostolic service. 

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 
him atheist. 

His second negative assertion was : 


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 


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 : 


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 



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. 


" The landlord takes everything, and gives 
nothing," was Hugh Bronte's simple form of the 
fine modern phrase regarding landlords' privileges 
and duties. 

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 
conveniently do. 

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. 


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 
England, etc. 

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 : 


He expressed regret that he was unable to 
respect the laws of the country. According to 


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 : 

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 
was : 


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 


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 


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 
troublous times. 

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 


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 


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 
were subject." 


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 


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." 



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 
different members. 

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. 



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, 


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 


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 
take him." 

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 


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. 


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, 
was destroyed. 

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. 



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. 



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. 



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 



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 


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- 


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 


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 
low brushwood. 

" 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 


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 
to each. 

" 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- 


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 


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 


" 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 
gathering darkness." 

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 


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 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 


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 


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 



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. 


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 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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. 



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 


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 


himself to the suspicion of being little better than 
a PapisJi. 

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. 


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 
of union. 

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- 


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. 


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 
summer months. 

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- 


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 


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 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, 
i93 13 


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 


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 
mutual defiance. 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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- 


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 


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.' 


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 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 




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- 
lished songs, 

" 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 


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 


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 


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. 



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 


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. 


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 
mere shadows. 

" I juked down behind a hedge of broom, and 
as I hunkered in the shadow, he came on in the 


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 
have been. 

" 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 
sensitive condition. 


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 
Headless Horseman. 

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, 


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 


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. 



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 


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 
elders say. 

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. 


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 


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 


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 
milk porridge. 

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 


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 


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 



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. 


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 


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 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 


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. 


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 


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 


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, 


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 


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 


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. 


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 



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 




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. 


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 


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 


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 



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 


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 
young teacher. 

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 


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 
English literature. 

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 


life, have entered on a course of eight years' 
study, with a view to becoming a minister of the 
Presbyterian Church. 

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- 


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 


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, 


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 


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. 


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 
follows : 

" 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 
by heart. 

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 


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. 



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. 


"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. 


" ' 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. 


" 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 



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- 


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 


felt bound to remain loyal to her so long as she 
held out 

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. 


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 
patron's favour. 

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 



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. 



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 


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 
past him. 

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. 


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. 



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. 



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 


friend Harshaw. Indeed, Harshaw had been his 
only teacher up to the time he reached the Cam- 
bridge University. 

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 


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 


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. 



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 



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'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 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 



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? ^ ?&#*> 

-^%^^^5^ ^T 

.y y X*. ^ti-^t* t-^'^X r .y X_*_ - Z^^ 


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. 


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. 


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 
letter : 

" Oct. 26th, 1847. 
" Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co. 
" Gentlemen, 

" 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, 

"C. BELL." 

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 


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 
was necessary. 

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 


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- 



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 
fascinating story. 

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. 



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 



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 
aunts' hands. 

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 heather. 

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 
reviews appeared." 


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 
transparent narrative. 

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 
romantic literature." 


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 


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. 


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 
her kind. 

The neighbours of the Brontes had very vague 
ideas as to what the Quarterly might be ; but I am 


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 


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. 


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 
is slow. 

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 


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 
was ready. 

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 


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, 


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 


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." 


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 


who may have been Lockhart ; but Hugh told him 
he could only communicate to the reviewer his 
secret message. 

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 
Bell was. 

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 



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 ; 


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 

o o 

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 


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. 



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 
third generation. 



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 


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 
and kind. 

" 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 



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 


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 


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 


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- 
ceeds : 

"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 


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 
sudden affliction." 

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 


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 


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 


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. 


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 
a situation." 

" 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 


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." 



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 


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. 


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. 







Wright, William 

The Bronte's in Ireland