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Full text of "Charlotte Brontë and her sisters"

LITERARY 
LIVES 



EDITED BY 

W. ROBERTSON 
NICOLL 



CHARLOTTE 

BRONTE 

AND HER 

SISTERS. 



CHARLOTTE 

BRONTE 

AND HER 

SISTERS 

BY CLEMENT K. SHORTER 




MTERARY LIVES 



LONDON: HODDER AND 
STOUGHTON MDCCCCV 



R 

4- 1> 

Cop 



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CONTENTS 

PAGE 
I 

THE FATHER OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE' ... I 

II 

THE MOTHER OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE . . . II 

III 

THORNTON . . . . . . . .18 

IV 

CHILDHOOD AT HAWORTH . 26 



SCHOOLDAYS -34 

VI 
GOVERNESS LIFE 41 

VII 

THE PENSION HEGER, BRUSSELS ... 60 

VIII 
POEMS 77 

v b 



vi Contents 

PAGE 
IX 

BRANWELL BRONTE ..... .87 

X 

THE PUBLICATIONS OF MR. NEWBY . . . 107 

XI 

"WUTHERING HEIGHTS" ..... 122 

XII 
ANNE BRONTE 139 

XIII 
"JANE EYRE" 152 

XIV 
"SHIRLEY" ij(, 

XV 

" VlLLETTE " AND " THE PROFESSOR " . . . 196 

XVI 
MARRIAGE AND DEATH 220 

XVII 
THE GLAMOUR OF THE BRONTES . . . 234 



INTRODUCTION 

THIS book may seem at first sight only 
an untoward accident, due to the 
exigencies of including all well 
known names in a series entitled " Literary 
Lives." Mrs. Gaskell, it may be said, wrote the 
only Life of Charlotte Bronte that everyone 
should read. This is, in a measure, true, but 
much new material has been published since 
Mrs. Gaskell wrote, and this material has not 
in the interval been gathered together into 
one brief narrative. I have to thank Messrs. 
Hodder & Stoughton for any facts of that kind 
previously published in my Charlotte Bronte 
and Her Circle, and Messrs. Smith Elder & Co. 
for the same indulgence with regard to the 
Haworth Edition of Mrs. Gaskell's Life, to 
which I was privileged to add many notes, 
vii 



viii Introduction 

The Ha worth Edition of Mrs. Gaskell's Life 
must for ever hold the field" against others 
by virtue of its mass of documents provided 
by the late Mr. George Smith. I have 
added certain other unpublished material to 
this little book although this will be dis- 
cerned only by the Bronte enthusiast who 
knows the subject, as my friend the late 
Lionel Johnson knew it, in its minutest detail. 

Perhaps I shall best disarm criticism by 
stating that I have tried to let Charlotte 
Bronte tell her own story through the 
letters by her that have been brought to 
light since Mrs. Gaskell wrote. 

I have to thank my friend Mrs. Wilfrid 
Meynell for reading my proof-sheets. 



The Father of Charlotte Bronte 

PATRICK BRONTE, 1 or Brunty, the 
father of Charlotte Bronte, was an 
- Irishman. He was born in a humble 
cottage in Emdale, County Down, on St. 
Patrick's Day, March 17, 1777. Although he 

1 In the Baptismal Register of Drumballyroney the name 
is entered " Brunty " and " Bruntee " ; in the books of 
St. John's College, Cambridge, on Patrick Bronte's admission 
in 1802-3 it is entered as Branty, in the Churchwardens' 
books at Hartshead " Brunty." But there seems to be no 
early signature of Patrick Bronte's extant, and certainly no 
signature of his Irish period, unless the inscription "Patrick 
Brunty, his book " which Dr. Wright saw in an old 
"Arithmetic " may be counted genuine, which I do not 
believe. A " Frank Prunty " was found by Mr. David 
Martin at Newtonbutler in Co. Fermanagh, and he claimed 
a distant relationship to the Brontes. At Cambridge 
Mr. Bronte signed " Bronte," at||Wethersfield " Bronte," 
at Dewsbury Bronte, BrontS or Bronte*. Not until he 
arrived at Haworth do we find his signature as Bronte. 



Charlotte Bronte 



came from the " Black North," from that 
particular part of Ireland where Protestantism 
flourishes, largely through the infusion of 
English and Scots blood, there is no evidence 
that there was a particle of blood other than 
Irish flowing in the veins of Patrick Brunty. 
His parents were of the peasant class, although 
his father, Hugh Brunty, would seem to have 
followed for a long period a number of varied 
occupations, including work in a limekiln and 
work in a corn kiln. The book to which we 
owe the only glimpse of Patrick's parentage, 
The Brontes in Ireland, by Dr. Wright, is so 
full of invention that it is difficult to derive 
therefrom fragments of truth concerning the 
earlier Brontes, or Bruntys. It would seem 
clear, however, that Hugh Brunty married 
one Alice McClory, who had been brought up 
in the Roman Catholic faith, but who, after 
her marriage in the Protestant Church of 
Magherally, adopted the religion of her hus- 
band. 1 Ten children were born to Hugh and 



1 The Brontts in Ireland, or Facts Stranger than Fiction, 
by Dr. William Wright, 1893. 




Born March 17, 1777 Died June 7, 1861 

The Rev. Patrick Bronte 



The Father of Charlotte Bronte 3 

Alice Brunty, and of these Patrick, the eldest, 
alone has any interest for us. 

After such education as the village school 
afforded, young Patrick Brunty became a 
weaver, an industry then, as now, extensively 
cultivated through Ulster. He could not 
have been more than sixteen years of age 
when he took the position of teacher in the 
Glascar Presbyterian School, about a mile 
from the Brunty cottage at Emdale. A 
year or two later Patrick became teacher of 
the parish school of Drumballyroney, and 
there, during his three years of schoolmaster- 
ing, it is suggested that he may have saved the 
sum of a hundred pounds or so. This enabled 
him to leave Ireland for Cambridge, r where 
he entered himself at St. John's College on 
October I, 1802, changing his name from 
Brunty to Bronte at this time. 1 In April of that 
year another Irishman, Henry John Temple, 
who was also educated at St. John's, succeeded 

1 Whether the name was assumed in honour of Nelson 
who about this time became Duke of Bront6, or whether 
his early enthusiasm for Greek guided his change of name 
is not known. His eldest daughter long afterwards signed 
herself in play as Charlotte or rather as Charles Thunder. 



Charlotte Bront'e' 



his father as Viscount Palmerston. Years later 
Mr. Bronte wrote to the popular Minister on 
a local question, but the formality of his reply 
makes it probable that the peer and the 
whilom peasant were never on speaking terms. 
Palmerston was at St. John's from April, 1803, 
to January, 1806. 

We have his own statement, written in a 
copy of Henry Kirke White's Verses^ that 
Bronte knew the unfortunate young poet 
from Nottingham. Kirke White became a 
sizar at St. John's in 1803, through the influ- 
ence of the once famous divine, Charles 
Simeon. The one real friendship of 
young Bronte's college life, however, was 
with an enthusiastic disciple of Dr. Simeon, 
John Nunn, himself afterwards a clergy- 
man. Nunn renewed his acquaintance with 
Patrick Bronte some years later, as we shall 
see. This is pretty well all we know of Mr. 
Bronte at Cambridge, apart from the fact 
that he was very successful in eking out his 
slender means, winning three exhibitions for 
poor scholars attached to St. John's. He was 
thus able not only to support himself, but to 



The Father of Charlotte Bronte 5 

astonish his relatives in County Down with 
remittances a duty that he fulfilled all his 
days. 

Mr. Bronte's first curacy was at Wethers- 
field in Essex, where his name is to be found 
in the church books in October 1806. His 
vicar was Dr. Jowett a non-resident who 
published a volume of Village Sermons. The 
curate had, of course, all the parish work in 
his hands. He lodged at the house of an 
elderly maiden lady, Miss Mildred Davy, and 
this doubtless gave Patrick Bronte his intro- 
duction to the more lively home of Miss 
Davy's widowed sister, Mrs. Burder. Mrs. 
Burder was the mother of four children, of 
whom the eldest daughter, Mary, was at the 
time eighteen years of age, and the court- 
ship of Irish curate and Essex lass was a 
matter of course. A stern uncle, watching 
over his niece's heritage, interrupted the 
correspondence ; there was much heart-break, 
doubtless many tears, and finally Mr. Bronte 
took flight from Wethersfield. 1 Mary Burder 
waited long for intercepted letters that never 

1 Life of Charlotte Bronte, by Augustine Birrell, 1887. 



Charlotte Bronte' 



came, and she was still unwed when her 
old lover became a widower in 1821. She 
then received by letter a further offer of 
marriage from Mr. Bronte, to which she 
answered " No," and thus denied to the 
Bronte children a kind stepmother. Three 
years later Mary Burder became Mrs. Silree, 
the wife of a Nonconformist minister of 
Wethersfield. 

But this is to anticipate. At present we are 
only concerned with a, for the moment, 
heartbroken young curate who, anxious to 
escape from unpleasant conditions, has com- 
municated with that old college friend, John 
Nunn. Mr. Nunn held a curacy at Shrews- 
bury at this time. From him Mr. Bronte 
learnt that there was a vacancy at Wellington, 
not far away. Of this parish John Eyton, the 
famous antiquarian, was Vicar. Bronte ap- 
plied for and obtained the curacy, and with it 
renewed pleasant intercourse with his old 
college friend. But in a few months every- 
thing was changed. John Nunn married, and 
the friendship was snapped asunder. Patrick 
Bronte, with the remembrance of Mary 



The Father of Charlotte Bronte 7 

Burder's apparent faithlessness still very vivid 
was little in the humour for comradeship with 
a married man. He seized the earliest 
opportunity for taking up parish work else- 
where, and this time his destiny took him to 
Yorkshire, which county was to be his home 
for the rest of his life. Dewsbury was his 
next place of sojourn. Before we accompany 
him to Dewsbury, however, I may as well 
recall a pleasant sequel to this friendship with 
Mr. Nunn that belongs to fifty years later. 
It is related in a letter to me from Mr. Nunn's 
niece : 

" In 1857 I was staying with Mr. Nunn at 
Thorndon, in Suffolk, of which place he was 
rector. The good man had never read a 
novel in his life, and of course had never heard 
of the famous Bronte books. I was reading 
Mrs. Gaskell's Life with absorbed interest, 
and one day my uncle said, * I have heard 
lately a name mentioned with which I was 
well familiar. What is it all about ? ' He 
was told, when he added, * Patrick Bronte 
was once my greatest friend.' Next morning 
my uncle brought out a thick bundle of old 



8 Charlotte Bronte 

letters and said, ' These were written by 
Patrick Bronte. They relate to his spiritual 
state. I have read them once more and now 
I destroy them.' ' 

It was in January 1809 that this Wellington 
episode commenced, and at the end of the 
same year Mr. Bronte began his long asso- 
ciation with^-Yorkshire as curate of Dewsbury. 
Mr. Bronte always seemed able to secure 
" literary " vicars, and his new vicar, Mr. 
Buckmaster, had some title to fame as a 
hymn writer and a contributor to the maga- 
zines of the day. He was, moreover, the 
successor at Dewsbufly to the Rev. Matthew 
Powley, who married the only daughter of 
Mary Unwin Cowper's " Mary " and was 
a regular correspondent of the poet. 

At Dewsbury Mr. Bronte stayed two years, 
and we may well assume that his vicar's literary 
activities kindled some desire for a similar 
reputation. He wrote verses and published 
them. In 1811 there was issued at Halifax a 
volume entitled Cottage Poems. 1 It contains 

1 It is an interesting fact that Mr. Bronte was not the 
first of his own family with an inclination for writing. 



The Father of Charlotte Bronte 9 

"An Epistle to the Rev. J B while 

journeying for the recovery of his health," and 
there is much more of no great distinction. 
Patrick Bronte did not publish Cottage 

Dr. Douglas Hyde, the well known Gaelic scholar, has in 
his possession a manuscript volume in the Irish language, 
written by one Patrick O'Prunty in 1763. Patrick 
O'Prunty was, I should imagine, an elder brother of Mr. 
Bronte's father. The little book was called The Adventures 
of the Son of the Ice Counsel, and there is a colophon of 
which Dr. Douglas Hyde sends me the original and a 
translation ; he also sends me the first quatrain of Patrick 
O'Prunty's poem : 

Colophon to the Adventures of the Son of Ice Counsel. 

Guidhim beannocht gach leightheora a n-anoir na Trio- 
noite agas na h-6ighe Muine air an sgribhneoir Padruig 
ua Pronntuidh mhic Neill, mhic Seathain, etc. April 
y e 20, 1763. 

I pray the blessing of each reader in honour of the 
Trinity and of the Virgin Mary on the writer, that is 
Patrick O'Prunty, son of Niall, son of Seathan, etc. April 
ye 20, 1763. 

First Quatrain of Patrick O'Prunty's poem 

Nochad millean failte fior 

Uaim do theachta an airdriogh 

Thainic chugainn anois go mbuaidh 

Na stiughraighthoir os cionn priomhshluagh. 

Ninety millions of true welcomes 
From me to the coming of the high King 
Who is come to us now with victory 
As a guide over the chief-hosts. 



io Charlotte Bronte 

Poems until he reached his next curacy at 
Hartshead-cum-Clifton. A slight disagree- 
ment, the remark of a churchwarden that 
Mr. Buckmaster should not " keep a dog 
and bark himself," in other words, that 
the Vicar should not preach and pay a 
curate for preaching, excited Mr. Bronte's 
anger, for it must be admitted that the curate 
was quick-tempered. He promptly resigned. 
Mr. Buckmaster, however, assisted his irascible 
friend to his next appointment, one of greater 
security of tenure the incumbency of Harts- 
head-cum-Clifton and it was here that the 
young Irishman met the woman who was to be- 
come his wife the mother of Charlotte Bronte. 



II 

The Mother of Charlotte Bronte 

CURATE then of Hartshead, we find 
Patrick Bronte at the age of thirty- 
four, healed, we may believe, of the 
wound inflicted upon his heart by a certain 
Essex romance and with mind bent on mar- 
riage. Here there enters upon the scene a 
quiet and gentle little woman from Cornwall 
Maria Branwell. Miss Branwell is one of a 
large family, fairly prosperous, who reside in 
Penzance. A family vault in St. Mary's 
churchyard in that town records that Thomas 
Branwell died in 1808, and that his wife fol- 
lowed him to the grave in the following year. 
They had one son and six daughters. Mr. 
Branwell is described as " Assistant to the 
Corporation," whatever that official's duties 
may have been. He left his daughters not 



12 Charlotte Bronte 

entirely unprovided for I should judge with 
some thirty pounds a year apiece. Maria 
Branwell came into Yorkshire a year or two 
after her mother's death to see some friends. 
She was in any case to make a prolonged stay 
with her aunt, Mrs. Fennell, her father's 
sister. Mr. Fennell was the Headmaster of 
Woodhouse Green Wesleyan Academy, where 
Maria Branwell's brother was a student. It 
was no doubt his friendship with Mr. William 
Morgan, the curate of the neighbouring 
church of Guiseley, that gave Mr. Bronte his 
introduction to the Fennells. Mr. Morgan 
was engaged to Maria Branwell's cousin, Jane 
Fennell. Patrick Bronte speedily lost his 
heart. The couple were engaged in August, 
1812; there were a few love-letters, and the 
marriage was celebrated on December 29th of 
that year, when at Guiseley Church Maria 
Branwell became Mrs. Bronte. There was an 
added touch of romance in the very wed- 
ding. A sister and a cousin of Mrs. 
Bronte were married on the same days, 
the sister Charlotte Branwell in far away 
Penzance to her cousin Joseph Branwell, and 



The Mother of Charlotte Bronte 1 3 

Jane Fennell to Mr. Morgan. Mr. Morgan 
performed the marriage ceremony for Mr. 
and Mrs. Bronte, and Mr. Bronte in return 
officiated a few moments later to make his 
wife's cousin Mrs. Morgan. 

It was stated by a niece who died a year or 
two ago that all three marriages were " pro- 
foundly happy." * There is no room to doubt 
this, although much ill-natured myth has 
gathered round Mr. Bronte as a husband. 
But there is no disguising the pathos of his 
wife's destiny. For her there were eight years 
of married life in the cold, bleak surroundings 
of Hartshead and Thornton, the giving birth 
to six successive children, and then, all too 
quickly, death in the gaunt, comfortless rectory 
at Haworth. 

It has been said that Mrs. Gaskell exaggerated 
the tragedy of Charlotte Bronte's life, but not 
the most cheery optimist can find much sun- 
shine in the married life of her poor mother. 
Mr. Bronte may have been a good husband. 
On the whole, he was doubtless thoroughly 

1 Letter to the author from the late Miss Branwell, of 
Penzance. 



14 Charlotte Bronte 

kind and considerate. But the best of men 
are prone to blindness in the face of a gentle, 
lonely woman's needs, and one suspects that 
the money spent in publishing his own well- 
nigh worthless verses had better have been 
given to his wife. We may be sure, however, 
that such a thought never entered her head. 
The pathos of Mrs. Bronte's brief married life is 
heightened by the love-letters that the world 
has been privileged to read. Maria Branwell 
at Wood House Grove exchanged letters 
with Patrick Bronte at Hartshead. Patrick's 
letters have not been preserved. Maria's were 
read long years afterwards by her daughter 
Charlotte, who remarked concerning them : 
" A few days since a little incident happened 
which curiously touched me. Papa put into 
my hands a little packet of letters and papers, 
telling me that they were mamma's, and that 
I might read them. I did read them in a 
frame of mind I cannot describe. The papers 
were yellow with time, all having been written 
before I was born ; it was strange now to peruse, 
for the first time, the records of a mind whence 
my own sprang, and most strange, and at once 






The Mother of Charlotte Bronte i 5 

sad and sweet, to find that mind of a truly 
fine, pure, and elevated order. They were 
written to papa before they were married. 
There is a rectitude, a refinement, a con- 
stancy, a modesty, a sense, a gentleness in 
them indescribable. I wish that she had 
lived and that I had known her." * 

The letters of Mrs. Bronte well deserve her 
daughter's eulogy. They are beautiful letters, 
these love-letters of ninety years since, with 
their hopes of the future, their devotion, their 
playful affection. " My dear saucy Pat " is 
the opening line of one letter, which indeed 
continues with the question, " What will you 
say when you get a real right down scolding ? " 
If ever a man secured the love of a good 
woman, one feels that Mr. Bronte was thus 
fortunate. But, as I have said, the sequel is 
not rose-coloured. There came a constant 
succession of little children, and then the 
mother's death a few months after the birth 
of the last child, Anne. 

Mr. Bronte was five years at Hartshead-cum- 
Clifton, and here two children were born to 
1 Letter to Ellen Nussey. 



1 6 Charlotte Bronte 

him, the first being named Maria and the 
second Elizabeth. During this period Mr. 
Bronte became an industrious author. 

He published in Halifax, as has already been 
said, a little volume of verse entitled Cottage 
Poems in 1811, and in 1813, about the time 
when his first child was born, yet another 
volume, called The Rural Minstrel. This 
did not conclude his literary activity during 
his first five years at Hartshead, for a tiny 
prose volume, called The Cottage in the Wood, 
was also issued by him in Halifax before he 
went to Thornton. 

During his married life at Hartshead Mr. 
Bronte lived in a house at the top of Clough Lane, 
Hightown. Then a friend, one Mr. Atkinson, 
offered to exchange the living of Thornton for 
that of Hartshead, and the exchange was effec- 
ted. Mr. Atkinson is of interest to us as the 
godfather of Charlotte Bronte. His wife was 
also her godmother. She was a Miss Walter, 
of Lascelles Hall, near Huddersfield, and it 
was to be near this lady that the young curate 
exchanged with Mr. Bronte. Mr. Atkinson 
remained in possession of the perpetual 



The Mother of Charlotte Bronte i 7 

curacy at Hartshead until 1866, and he lived 
there until 1870. Both he and his wife were 
very kind ]to Mr. Bronte's children, we are 
told. 



Ill 
Thornton 

THORNTON is even to-day a small, as 
it is also a very ugly, village. It is 
some three miles from Bradford in 
Yorkshire. We may assume that Mr. Atkinson, 
in exchanging livings, sacrificed something of 
material good in his desire to be near his 
future wife, with whom he acquired a com- 
petency. Mr. Bronte also may have been 
influenced less by monetary considerations 
than by the nearness of Mr. Morgan, who, it 
will be remembered, was married to his wife's 
cousin, and who about this time became Vicar 
of Christ Church, Bradford. The house to 
which the young mother removed in May 
1815, with her two little children one a babe 
of three months old still stands. It is a 
plain, unpicturesque structure, rendered more 




Photo J. J. Stead 



Charlotte Bronte's Birthplace 

Thornton, Yorkshire, where Mr. Bronte was curate 
from 1816 to 1820 



Thornton 1 9 

plain and unpicturesque by the fact that half 
of its frontage has been converted into a 
butcher's shop. Near by there stands a new 
church, in the registers of which are recorded 
the baptisms of the famous Bronte children. 

Opposite the then "parsonage," if so mean a 
house could ever have been dignified by such 
a name, may be seen the ruin of the Old 
Bell Chapel, where Mr. Bronte preached and 
where five of his children were baptized. A 
baptism of one of them indeed marks the early 
months of Mr. Bronte's sojourn in Thornton. 
Elizabeth, who had been born in Hartshead 
in the previous May, was christened here in 
August. Mr. Fennell officiated, and a local 
magnate, Mr. Firth, and his daughter were 
godfather and godmother, while the second 
godmother was Miss Elizabeth Branwell, who 
had come from Penzance on her first visit to 
her married sister, staying fully a year at 
Thornton. 

That Old Bell Chapel, built as a chapel- 
of-ease to Bradford Parish Church, as was 
also Haworth Church, six miles away, was 
to have still more notable christenings. For 



20 Charlotte Bronte' 

Charlotte and Emily Bronte were both born 
in this unpretentious cottage in Thornton 
Charlotte on April 21, 1816, and Emily Jane 
on July 30, 1818. The only boy, who was 
christened Patrick Branwell, was born here on 
June 26, 1817. Finally, the sixth and last 
child put in an appearance. This was Anne, 
who was born January 17, 1820, very shortly 
before her parents removed to Haworth. 

Of the life of Mr. Bronte during those five 
years at Thornton little is recorded. We know 
indeed that he still wrote verses and prose 
stories of a kind, and that he contributed a 
sermon on " Conversion " to the Pastoral 
Visitor. He had his modest share of recog- 
nition from the critics then and later. His 
friend Mr. Morgan described The Cottage in 
the Wood in the Pastoral Visitor as " a very 
amusing and instructive tale," and so late as 
1845, just before his daughters had made him 
famous, one Newsam, in his Poets of Yorkshire, 
devoted no less than five lines of appreciation 
(with eighteen lines of quotation) to Mr. 
Bronte as a poet. 1 Mr. Bronte's work was, 

1 " The Poets of Yorkshire, comprising sketches and the 



Thornton 



2 I 



however, mediocre, and would long since have 
been forgotten were it not for his daughter's 
fame. It is more pleasant to meet him in 
Thornton as a social rather than as a literary 
personage, and, although our knowledge of him 
is scanty in this respect, it is interesting as far 
as it goes. One Miss Elizabeth Firth, who 
was in 1824 to become the wife of the Rev. 
James Franks, Vicar of Huddersfield, was 
eighteen years of age when, in 1815, the Rev. 
Patrick Bronte removed from Hartshead to 
Thornton. She was living with her father at 
Kipping House, Thornton. She had been, by 
the way, a pupil of Miss Richmal Mangnall, the 
author of the once famous MangnaWs Questions. 
That lady was for many years a schoolmistress 
in the neighbourhood of Wakefield. Miss 
Firth made speedy acquaintance with Mrs. 
Bronte, and, as we have seen, became one of 
the child Elizabeth's godmothers. 

Lives and Specimens of the writing of those ' Children of 
Song ' who have been natives of, or otherwise connected 
with, the county of York. Commenced by the late William 
Cartwright Newsam, completed and published for the 
benefit of his family by John Holland." Price 5/. 250 
copies printed. London : Groombridge & Sons. Sheffield : 
Ridge & Jackson. 1 845 . 



22 Charlotte Bronte 

Miss Firth kept a diary, a diary all too scanty. 
It consisted of the merest notes in a pocket- 
book. " We drank tea at Mr. Bronte's," is one 
day's item, and " Mr. Bronte and Mrs. Morgan 
drank tea here," is another ; and so on through 
the five years. Mr. Bronte is seen as a most 
sociable individual, and constant records of tea- 
drinking are noted. On July 26, 1816, we 
learn that " Miss Branwell returned to Pen- 
zance," so that we know from this and from no 
other source that she was in attendance on 
the young mother when Charlotte was born. 
From one entry we learn that Miss Firth had 
a mind of her own in literature. " Read Old 
Mortality. Didn't like it," she says in her 
diary. But she is kinder to some of Sir Walter 
Scott's later books. 

It is to Miss Firth alone that we are in- 
debted for the actual dates of birth of all 
the Bronte children. On January 17, 1820, 
we find the announcement of another acces- 
sion to the Bronte family. This was the 
day that Anne was born. In that month also 
is the record, " Gave at Anne's christening, 
one pound." Altogether, one sighs over the 



Thornton 2 3 

fact that Mistress Elizabeth Firth was not a 
more voluble person. One real glimpse of 
Mrs. Bronte as she impressed a sister woman, 
one vivid picture of these years relative to the 
birth of Charlotte or Emily, one saying of the 
poor mother pitilessly hurrying to her doom, 
would have been pathetically interesting. 
Two months after Anne's birth we find the 
entry, " Mr. and Mrs. Bronte came to din- 
ner," and so it seems that both husband and 
wife had their share of social life in those 
days, to say nothing of the companionship of 

the sister from Penzance. 

* * * * # 

Let me explain here that Mr. Bronte as 
incumbent of Thornton was called " minister." 
Thomas Atkinson, who preceded Mr. Bronte, 
was " minister," and so also was William 
Bishop, who succeeded him in 1820. Richard 
Henry Heap, who came to Thornton in 1855, 
was the first " vicar," the title that now obtains. 

It may be added that Thornton has a history 
quite apart from the Brontes. With all its 
external sordidness, it has had a wide-reaching 
spiritual activity. Here, a century before 



24 Charlotte Bronte 

Mr. Bronte's arrival had flourished eminent 
divines of Nonconformity, whose ashes rest 
amid the ruins of the Old Bell Chapel. There, 
most notable of all, were Joseph Lister and his 
son Accepted, whose name savours so well of 
the older puritanism. Joseph Lister, indeed, 
in his Autobiography ', a book that has had much 
fame in its day, explains the curious name of 
young " Accepted." His wife was in great 
spiritual depression when the child was born. 
This depression, we are told, was lifted almost 
immediately, and then, as Lister says in the 
quaint language of his age : 

"... the Lord was pleased to shine in upon 
her soul again, to her great satisfaction, and 
she was filled with peace and joy through 
believing ; in consideration of which we 
resolved to give him this name ; and God hath 
made him acceptable to many souls, though it 
pleased the Lord to afflict him with a great 
weakness in his joints . . . 

Mr. Bronte came, then, into an evangelical 
tradition, and his wife's uncle, Mr. Fennell, 
who about this time abandoned Wesleyanism 
and became a clergyman of the Church of 



Thornton 2 5 

England, helped to keep him in toleration for 
all aspects of the evangelical creed. Appar- 
ently he never quarrelled with Nonconformity, 
although at a much later date some of his 
curates at Ha worth did. Vigorous hatred 
of the tenets of the Church of Rome he 
had imbibed from his North of Ireland 
environment, and that sentiment was part of 
the inheritance of his brilliant children, notably 
of his daughter Charlotte. 



IV 
Childhood at Haworth 

CHARLOTTE BRONTE was a little 
girl of six years of age when her 
father exchanged Thornton for 
Haworth. We have no glimpse of her at 
Thornton ; we have little enough glimpse of 
the child and her brother and sisters in the 
first years at Haworth. When Mrs. Gaskell 
wrote, there were people who well remem- 
bered the departure of Mr. Bronte and his 
family the carts laden with the minister's 
furniture, the delicate mother and her six 
little children, the eldest, Maria, only seven 
years of age. The change, if change were 
helpful, was all to that mother's advantage. 
The house was much better situated, at a 
healthier altitude, and pleasantly jutting on 
the glorious moors. Given genuine health, 



Childhood at Haworth 2 J 

Mrs. Bronte could have been happy enough 
at Haworth happier than at Thornton. But 
physical health she had not, nor did her 
children inherit it from her, and therein lay 
more than half the tragedy of their lives, and 
the all too early death of every one of them. 
Mrs. Bronte's stay in that moorland home 
was not a long one. She and her family arrived 
at the vicarage somewhere in April 1820. 
Mr. Bronte, it is true, took the Haworth ser- 
vices from February, but it is clear that he 
left his family behind him then as the guests 
of the Firths, at Kipping House. As a stal- 
wart walker, the journey to and fro could 
never have troubled him. His visits to Thorn- 
ton continue to be recorded in Miss Firth's 
diary many times during this year 1820. In 
September of that year, after less than six 
months of life in Haworth, Mrs. Bronte died. 
If we are to believe gossip, the bereaved 
husband tried in two quarters to find a step- 
mother for his little children. He first ap- 
plied to Mary Burder, of Wethersfield, as we 
have seen, and then to Elizabeth Firth, of 
Thornton. Twice refused, he turned to his 



28 Charlotte Bronte 

wife's sister, Elizabeth Branwell, of Penzance, 
and asked her to come and be housekeeper and 
in a manner a mother to his little ones. The 
duties were accepted and faithfully performed 
for twenty-two years. 

Returning for a moment to Mrs. Bronte, we 
find her life story to be a brief and unques- 
tionably a pathetic one. She is preserved for 
us in her daughter's biography by a number 
of love-letters and by a brief religious essay of 
no particular individuality. 1 Mr. Bronte was 
deeply attached to his wife, and there is no 
reason to accept for a moment the various 
foolish stories of his treatment of her in those 
later days of her life. The value of the scan- 
dalous Haworth stories that have stuck to Mr. 
Bronte, although Mrs. Gaskell was compelled 
to withdraw them from later editions of her 
Life, may be gauged from the fact that Mr. 
Bronte had only, as we have seen, six months 
of married life at Haworth, while at Thorn- 
ton he was in every way inclined to sociability. 

1 The love-letters are in the possession of Mr. A. B. 
Nicholls. The manuscript entitled "The Advantages 
of Poverty in Religious Concerns " is in my library. 



Childhood at Hawortk 2 9 

Some measure of moroseness may, however, 
have come over Mr. Bronte in the period follow- 
ing his bereavement. Taking himself and his 
work seriously, he did not care to let that 
work be interrupted too much by his children. 
They therefore pursued their studies and 
partook of their meals very much under their 
aunt's guidance, their father frequently having 
his meals alone. They met in his study 
on the right-hand side of the doorway as 
you enter the house, for tea, but they saw 
little of him during the rest of the day. 

We may imagine, then, these six children 
working the samplers that remain to us, at 
their aunt's knee, reading such little books 
as came into their hands books, we may 
be sure, too " old " for the little people. 
They had the usual experiences of or- 
phan children, much grim kindness from 
aunt and servants. The servants of that 
time, Sarah and Nancy Garrs, were asked 
for their impressions in later life, and then at 
least they were enthusiastic. Never was so 
kind a master as Mr. Bronte, never so clever a 
little child as Charlotte. We may accept 



30 Charlotte Bronte 

such testimony with a grain of salt, but the 
main fact remains that it was a reasonably happy 
home until the educational problem asserted 
itself. Education has always special credentials 
for the self-made man, and Mr. Bronte not 
unnaturally availed himself of the Clergy 
Daughters' School at Casterton, where a good 
subsidized education was provided at fourteen 
pounds a year. Maria, the eldest girl, entered 
the school on July I, 1824, and Elizabeth, 
aged nine, on the same day. Charlotte entered 
on August 10, 1824, and Emily November 25 
of that year, the former being eight years old 
and the latter less than six. The school 
brought no happiness to the four delicate, 
anaemic children. No boarding school of 
that epoch would have done so. Such places 
are only possible for the physically robust. 
But there is not much need to associate too 
closely the sad fate of Maria and Elizabeth 
Bronte both of whom left the school in 1825 
to die with the actual defects of the cheap 
boarding school system of the period. Maria 
left in February, and died in May ; Elizabeth 
left in May, and died on June 1 5 . On June I 



Childhood at Hawortb 3 i 

Charlotte and Emily returned to Haworth. 
Charlotte Bronte long years afterwards was to 
gibbet for all time the worst aspects of our 
inferior girls' schools in " Lowood," of Jane 
Eyre, as Dickens, a little later, was to gibbet 
the inferior boys' schools in " Dotheboys 
Hall" of Nicholas Nickleby. After Miss 
Bronte's death her biographer, Mrs. Gaskell, 
got into trouble for her identification of the 
Lowood of Jane Eyre with the Casterton 
presided over by the Rev. Carus Wilson. A 
very considerable mass of opinion was brought 
together from old pupils to prove that, even 
when the little Brontes were there, Casterton 
was a most exemplary institution. The point 
is scarcely worth disputing over now. Much 
more depends upon health in early childhood 
than at any other time. Food that to one 
child is a torture to eat, to another provides 
a real gratification of appetite ; an environment 
that to one child is hell, to another is paradise. 
The little Bronte girls had fragile constitutions 
and therein, it cannot be too often repeated, 
lay the whole tragedy of their lives. 

There was little of tragedy, but much of 



32 Charlotte Bronte 

happiness, however, in the years immediately 
following their leaving Casterton and the 
death of the two elder sisters. Miss Branwell 
was doubtless a very prim 1 personage, although 
kindly withal. There is no reason to suppose 
but that she did her best for the four orphaned 
children, of whom Charlotte, the eldest, was 
nine years of age when she left Cowan Bridge, 
and fourteen when she entered Roe Head 
School. Those five years were, as I have said, 
fairly happy. There is a copy of The Imita- 
tion of Christ extant, given to Charlotte in 
1826, and there are other books that we know 
the children read during this period, including 
Scott's Tales of a Grandfather. They also com- 
menced to write "original compositions," as 
so many children of precocious tendencies do 
to the joy of fond and ambitious parents. 
But I am not sure that children often cultivate 
the minute handwriting that was affected by 
the Bronte prodigies. There are perhaps a 
hundred little manuscript books in existence, 
principally the work of Charlotte and Branwell, 
some few, however, by Emily and Anne. 
They were compiled in a microscopic hand- 



Childhood at Hawortb 3 3 

writing probably from reasons of economy. 
Pence, we may be sure, were scarce with 
the little ones. The booklets were stitched 
and covered, sugar-paper being in most cases 
used for the wrappers. It is not possible 
to trace any particular talent in these little 
books, many of which bear the date 1829. 
Assuredly hundreds of children who have never 
come to fame have written quite as well. It was 
noteworthy, however, that the little Brontes 
had their heroes, who were also the heroes of 
the hour. They took the victorious Duke of 
Wellington to their hearts, and also the duke's 
sons, the Marquis of Douro and Lord 
Charles Wellesley, who figure largely in their 
tiny pages. It was a life of dreams, of a kind 
that children delight in, that indeed makes 
the life of childhood ever alternately beautiful 
and terrible. On the wild moors behind the 
house there must have been in any case much 
supreme happiness for the little Brontes in those 
early years that preceded the real schooldays 
now opening to them 



Schooldays. 18311835 

IN January 1831, Charlotte Bronte be- 
came a pupil at Roe Head, Dewsbury. 
The headmistress was a Miss Margaret 
Wooler, who survived her famous pupil by 
many long years, dying in 1885. There were 
never more than ten pupils during the year 
and a half that Charlotte was at school, but 
among them were two to whom we owe all of 
most interest concerning Miss Bronte in the 
years before fame came to her. These fellow 
pupils were Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor, 
each of them fourteen years of age, that is to 
say, a year younger than their friend. Of 
both Mary Taylor and Ellen Nussey Miss 
Bronte has left vivid descriptions, full of insight 
and characterization that time was to verify. 
Miss Taylor was business-like, matter-of-fact, 



Schooldays 3 5 

" intellectual " ; Miss Nussey was simply 
pretty and lovable, but hero-worshipping to 
an almost morbid degree. Both girls had to 
undergo great vicissitudes of fortune, their 
families falling on evil days in later years, but 
Miss Taylor was to have the wider experience, 
and the larger outlook upon life. She went 
to New Zealand to " set up shop," as she 
expressed it, only returning to England when 
she had secured a competency. 1 Miss Nussey 
lived to a good old age in the district where 
her childhood had been passed. From 1857, 
when she gave Mrs. Gaskell material assistance 
in her Life, until her death in 1897, she was 
always accessible to the admirers of Charlotte 
Bronte, and she carefully preserved the 
voluminous correspondence of her friend, 
most of which has been published. 2 It is to 

1 Miss Mary Taylor wrote two books, Miss Miles, a 
Tale of Yorkshire Life, and The First Duty of Woman. The 
last thirty years of her life were spent at Gomersal, near her 
early home. Here she died in 1893. Miss Taylor refused 
to say anything about Charlotte Bronte during the twenty 
later years of her life and she destroyed all her friend's letters. 

2 In Mrs. Gaskell's Life, Sir Wemyss Reid's Monograph, 
and in Charlotte Bronte and her Circle. There were over 
five hundred letters in all. 



36 Charlotte Bronte' 

Ellen Nussey that we owe all the best glimpses 
of Charlotte Bronte as she grows to woman- 
hood ; it is to Mary Taylor, however, that 
we owe the first impression of her in these 
years at Roe Head : 

" I first saw her coming out of a covered cart, 
in very old-fashioned clothes, and looking very 
cold and miserable. She was coming to school 
at Miss Wooler's. When she appeared in the 
schoolroom her dress was changed, but just as 
old. She looked a little old woman, so short- 
sighted that she always appeared to be seeking 
something, and moving her head from side to 
side to catch a sight of it. She was very shy 
and nervous, and spoke with a strong Irish 
accent. When a book was given to her she 
dropped her head over it till her nose nearly 
touched it, and when she was told to hold 
her head up, up went the book after it, still 
close to her nose, so that it was not possible 
to help laughing." * 

Mary Taylor goes on to describe the 

1 From a letter written by Mary Taylor from New 
Zealand to Mrs. Gaskell. 



Schooldays 3 7 

growth of her friendship with Miss Bronte, 
the keen political arguments that took place 
for they were at school together in the year 
of the great Reform Bill. This was really a 
very happy time in Charlotte Bronte's life. 
She was devoted to her two friends, kindly dis- 
posed to the rest of her schoolfellows, and 
attached to Miss Wooler. The school was 
small enough for her nervous, shy temperament 
not to give her much concern, her holidays were 
passed at her friends' homes in the neighbour- 
hood, her childhood's griefs, the loss of her 
elder sisters, were too remote, and there was 
at this time no premonition of trouble to come. 
She loved painting and drawing, and there are 
very many specimens of her work extant that 
are of this period. They are not, however, 
of great merit. It was as an artist in 
words that Charlotte Bronte was to excel. 
To Roe Head also she owed a fair knowledge 
of French, as a translation by her of the first 
book of Voltaire's Henriade 1 indicates. With 
French as a spoken language she was to 

1 In the possession of the present writer. 



38 Charlotte Bronte 

become acquainted by-and-by, as we shall see. 
Suffice to say that she went back to Haworth 
and to her family circle with a fairly present- 
able equipment for a girl of sixteen who had 
to " coach " her younger sisters and assist in 
many ways to make the vicar's slender stipend 
go as far as possible. 

In the middle of 1832, then, Charlotte 
Bronte returned to Haworth, and her life 
there is best presented in an extract from a 
letter to Ellen Nussey : 

" You ask me to give you a description of the 
manner in which I have passed every day since 
I left school. This is soon done, as an account 
of one day is an account of all. In the morn- 
ings from nine o'clock to half-past twelve I 
instruct my sisters and draw, then we walk till 
dinner ; after dinner I sew till tea-time, and 
after tea I either read, write, do a little fancy- 
work, or draw, as I please. Thus in one 
delightful, though monotonous course, my life 
is passed. I have only been out to tea twice 
since I came home. We are expecting com- 
pany this afternoon, and on Tuesday next we 



Schooldays 3 9 

shall have all the female teachers of the Sunday 
school to tea." 

This letter was written in 1832, and so three 
years were allowed to pass, their only tangible 
records for us to-day being certain drawings 
that bear the dates of this period, and certain 
little manuscripts not greatly superior to those 
of the earlier childhood years, and giving no 
promise whatever of the literary success that was 
ultimately to come. The manuscripts of these 
later years were mainly written in verse form. 

In 1835 Mr. Bronte and his family appar- 
ently held a committee of ways and means. 
The children were growing up, and a grown- 
up family of three girls and one boy could not 
be expected permanently to occupy the not 
very commodious parsonage. Branwell, more- 
over, was to be an artist, which involved ex- 
pense. He was to go to London to study at 
the Royal Academy Schools, and his sisters 
realized that they also should think of some 
occupation, and thus relieve the family ex- 
chequer. Charlotte's turn came first. In 
July 1835 she returned to Miss Wooler's 



4-O Charlotte Bronte 

school at Roe Head as a governess, the warm 
friendship that she had ever felt for her old 
schoolmistress justifying the supposition that 
here would be the career with the least possible 
chance of failure. 



VI 
Governess Life 

CHARLOTTE returned to Roe Head as 
a governess in July 1835, and she was 
accompanied by her sister Emily, who 
entered the school as a pupil. She writes as 
follows concerning her plans, to her friend Miss 
Nussey : 

" I had hoped to have had the extreme 
pleasure of seeing you at Haworth this summer, 
but human affairs are mutable and human 
resolutions must bend to the course of events. 
We are all about to divide, break up, separate. 
Emily is going to school, Branwell is going to 
London, and I am going to be a governess. 
This last determination I formed myself, know- 
ing I should have to take the step sometime, 
and * better sune as syne ' to use the Scotch 
proverb ; and knowing well that papa would 



42 Charlotte Bronte 

have enough to do with his limited income 
should Branwell be placed at the Royal Aca- 
demy and Emily at Roe Head. Where am I 
going to reside ? you will ask. Within four 
miles of yourself, dearest, at a place neither of 
us are unacquainted with, being no other than 
the identical Roe Head mentioned above. 
Yes, I am going to teach in the very school 
where I was myself taught. Miss Wooler 
made me the offer, and I preferred it to one or 
two proposals of private governess-ship, which 
I had before received. I am sad, very sad, at 
the thought of leaving home, but duty, neces- 
sity, these are stern mistresses who will not 
be disobeyed. Did I not once say, Ellen, you 
ought to be thankful for your independence ? 
I felt what I said at the time, and I repeat it 
now with double earnestness ; if anything 
would cheer me, it is the idea of being so near 
you. Surely you and Polly will come and see 
me ; it would be wrong in me to doubt it ; 
you were never unkind yet. Emily and I leave 
home on the 29th of this month ; the idea of 
being together consoles us both somewhat } 
and in truth, since I must enter a situation, 



Governess Life 43 

' my lines have fallen in pleasant places.' I 
both love and respect Miss Wooler. What did 
you mean, Ellen, by saying that you knew the 
reason why I wished to have a letter from your 
sister Mercy ? The sentence hurt me, though 
I did not quite understand it. My only reason 
was a desire to correspond with a person I 
have a regard for. Give my love both to her 
and to S., and Miss Nussey." 

Charlotte Bronte's governess period is how- 
ever the least pleasant to survey of any aspect 
of her life. She was ill adapted for the task 
of looking after a miscellaneous crowd of 
girls. She hated the work, and she had a bitter 
tongue when facing all the petty discomforts 
of such a position. Still less was she suited 
for her after-position of a nursery governess. 
Great animal spirits, immense self-confidence, 
all the qualities that made this ever arduous 
career possible although rarely pleasant, were 
utterly lacking to this shy, retiring woman. 

Charlotte Bronte was little more than nine- 
teen years of age when she went to Roe Head 
as governess. The year following Miss Wooler 
removed her school to Dewsbury. This was 



44 Charlotte Bronte 

just before the Christmas of 1836. Charlotte 
was but a year at this latter place when she 
returned home, broken in health and spirits. 

Emily, now aged seventeen, went with her 
sister to Roe Head. After three months, 
however, she utterly broke down with this 
constant contact with strangers, and went 
back to Haworth, Anne taking her place in 
the school as a pupil. 

There is nothing to add to what has already 
been printed again and again concerning this 
period. What we know of it we owe to her 
two friends, Helen Nussey and Mary Taylor. 
With both she corresponded regularly, and her 
Sundays were frequently spent at the house of 
one or the other. 

Ellen Nussey had her home at this time and 
until 1837 at The Rydings, near Birstall, a 
beautiful house in its own grounds which young 
Branwell Bronte described when he visited it 
as " paradise." It doubtless meant something 
in her development that at an impressionable 
age Charlotte should have been introduced 
occasionally to a prosperous, and even luxuri- 
ous environment. She loved Ellen Nussey, 



Governess Life 45 

moreover, although she had no common 
ground of intellectual interest. Her letters 
to her are frequent, and they are always affec- 
tionate. But she has herself well described 
the limitations of the friendship in a letter to 
a later friend : 

" True friendship is no gourd, springing up 
in a night and withering in a day. When I 
first saw Ellen I did not care for her ; we were 
schoolfellows. In course of time we learnt 
each other's faults and good points. We were 
contrasts still, we suited. Affection was first 
a germ, then a sapling, then a strong tree 
now, no new friend, however lofty or profound 
in intellect, not even Miss Martineau herself 
could be to me what Ellen is ; yet she is no 
more than a conscientious, observant, calm, 
well-bred Yorkshire girl. She is without 
romance. If she attempts to read poetry, or 
poetic prose, aloud, I am irritated and deprive 
her of the book ; if she talks of it, I stop my 
ears ; but she is good ; she is true ; she is 
faithful, and I love her." 1 

i Letter to W. S. Williams in Charlotte Bronte and Her 
Circle, page 205. 



46 Charlotte Bronte 

Of more importance however in Miss 
Bronte's intellectual growth was her friend- 
ship with Mary Taylor, the " dear Polly " and 
" dear Pag " of many a letter unhappily de- 
stroyed. One would gladly have possessed a 
clearer picture than exists of that other home 
into which Charlotte was welcomed in these 
dreary, governess days. The Taylors are, how- 
ever, well depicted in the Yorkes, of Shirley. 
It was a pleasant house, this at Gomersal, 
and it may still be seen from the road from 
which it is separated by a high brick wall. 
Here Mr. Taylor's family dwelt for many 
years, and when the young governess entered 
the circle we may be sure that argument 
waxed fast and furious. For Charlotte Bronte 
was " Church " to the backbone, and " State " 
as understood by the followers of Wellington 
equally to the backbone, while the Taylor 
family were Dissenters and Democrats. From 
those days onwards it is clear that a larger reli- 
gious toleration, a larger human sympathy than 
she had hitherto known gathered in Charlotte 
Bronte's mind, and Mary Taylor must have 
been mainly instrumental in giving her this. 



Governess Life 47 

" Mary alone," she says in one of her letters, 
"has more energy and power in her nature 
than any ten men you can pick out in the united 
parishes of Birstall and Haworth." Or we may 
take this other picture where she is presented 
as Rose Yorke in Shirley : " Rose is a still, 
and sometimes a stubborn girl now ; her 
mother wants to make of her such a woman as 
she is herself a woman of dark and dreary 
duties ; and Rose has a mind full-set, thick- 
sown, with the germs of ideas her mother never 
knew. It is agony to her often to have these 
ideas trampled on and repressed. She has never 
rebelled yet ; but if hard driven, she will 
rebel one day, and then it will be once for all." 
The Christmas holidays of 1836 were spent 
at home, at Haworth, and even then some kind 
of literary aspirations must have begun with 
the young people, for we find Charlotte cor- 
responding with Southey, then Poet Laureate. 
We find Branwell Bronte also writing letters 
to the Editor of Blackwood? s Magazine begging 
for the insertion of his contributions, and send- 
ing to Wordsworth drafts of his projected 
books. When the Christmas holidays were 



48 Charlotte Bronte 

over Charlotte returned to the inevitable 
"grind," as she called it, not this time to 
Roe Head but to the new school-house at 
Dewsbury Moor. In March of 1837 sne 
obtained a long-delayed answer from Southey 
a kind and considerate letter from a busy 
man to a stranger advising that she should 
not think about literature. A fragment of 
her reply teaches us much : 

" My father is a clergyman of limited though 
competent income, and I am the eldest of his 
children. He expended quite as much in my 
education as he could afford in justice to the 
rest. I thought it therefore my duty, when I 
left school, to become a governess. In that 
capacity I find enough to occupy my thoughts 
all day long, and my head and hands too, with- 
out having a moment's time for one dream of 
the imagination. In the evenings, I confess, 
I do think, but I never trouble any one else 
with my thoughts. I carefully avoid any ap- 
pearance of preoccupation and eccentricity, 
which might lead those I live amongst to sus- 
pect the nature of my pursuits. Following 
my father's advice who from my childhood 



Governess Life 49 

has counselled me, just in the wise and friendly 
tone of your letter I have endeavoured not 
only attentively to observe all the duties a 
woman ought to fulfil, but to feel deeply inter- 
ested in them. I don't always succeed, for 
sometimes when I'm teaching or sewing I 
would rather be reading or writing ; but I try 
to deny myself ; and my father's approbation 
amply rewarded me for the privation. Once 
more allow me to thank you with sincere gra- 
titude. I trust I shall never more feel ambi- 
tious to see my name in print ; if the wish 
should rise, I'll look at Southey's letter, and 
suppress it." * 

At the end of 1837, as the Christmas holidays 
were coming on, Charlotte had a " breeze " 
with Miss Wooler concerning her sister Anne, 
who was still a pupil at the school. Robust in 
health herself, Miss Wooler perhaps took little 
account of the ailments of others. Anne had 
what to the schoolmistress was merely a slight 
cold ; to her devoted sister it was much more, 
and Charlotte was right ; it was doubtless the 

1 See Southey's Life, vol. vi. pp. 329-30, for two letters 
from Southey to Charlotte Bronte. 

4 



50 Charlotte Bronte 

beginning of that consumption which was all 
too soon to end her sister's life. The aliena- 
tion was but temporary, and Miss Wooler and 
her pupil parted the best of friends. Charlotte 
and Anne went home, and the latter did not 
again return to Dewsbury. The three sisters 
were together for a time. Charlotte returned 
alone to Dewsbury after the Christmas holidays, 
but at the beginning of June, 1838, she went 
back to Haworth, " a shattered wreck," as she 
described herself in a letter to one of her friends. 
It was but a few months after this, while still 
at home at Haworth, she received her first 
offer of marriage from a clergyman, Henry 
Nussey, the brother of her friend Ellen. He 
was at this time Curate of Donnington in 
Sussex ; he afterwards became Rector of 
Hathersage in Derbyshire, and here Charlotte 
Bronte spent a memorable three weeks' holiday 
with Ellen Nussey some time later, with the 
result that she was able to introduce an ele- 
ment of Derbyshire scenery into her books. 1 

1 In Hathersage Church is an altar tomb to Robert 
Eyre, who fought at Agincourt, and to his wife, Joan Eyre. 
Hathersage is of course the village of Morton of Jane Eyre. 



Governess Life 5 i 

Charlotte Bronte went to stay at Hathersage l 
with, her friend Ellen while the vicar was on 
his honeymoon, for it did not take him long to 
recover from the blow of Miss Bronte's rejec- 
tion of his suit. He had indeed told her 
frankly enough that he wanted some one to 
look after his housekeeping, and Charlotte had 
sufficient romance in her composition to feel 
that this was not quite an adequate courtship. 
That she had her own strong views on the sub- 
ject is shown by a letter which I print here, 
written soon afterwards to a friend whose 
love affair also came to nothing. It is dated 
November 20, 1840. 

" That last letter of thine treated of matters 
so high and important I cannot delay answer- 
ing it for a day. Now, Ellen, I am about to 
write thee a discourse and a piece of advice 

1 A little earlier in September, 1839 Charlotte had 
her first view of the sea. She paid a short visit with Ellen 
Nussey to Easton, near Bridlington, where the two friends 
stayed with a Mr. John Hudson and his wife. A month 
later she writes to Miss Nussey, " Have you forgotten the 
sea by this time, Ellen ? Is it grown dim in your mind ? 
or can you still see it, dark, blue and green, and foam-white, 
and hear it roaring roughly when the wind is high, or 
rushing softly down when it is calm ? " 



52 Charlotte Bronte 

which thou must take as if it came from thy 
grandmother, but in the first place, before I 
begin with thee, I have a word to whisper in 
the ear of Mr. Lincoln, and I wish it could 
reach him. 

" In the name of St. Chrysostom, St. Simeon 
and St. Jude, why does not that amiable young 
gentleman come forward like a man and say all 
he has to say to yourself personally, instead of 
trifling with kinsmen and kinswomen ? Mr. 
Lincoln, I say, walk or ride over to Brookroyd 
some fine morning, where you will find Miss 
Ellen sitting in the drawing room making a 
little white frock for the Jew's basket, and say, 
' Miss Ellen, I want to speak to you.' Miss 
Ellen will of course civilly answer, ' I'm at 
your service, Mr. Lincoln,' and then when the 
room is cleared of all but yourself and herself, 
just take a chair near her, insist upon her laying 
down that silly Jew basket work, and listening 
to you, then begin in a clear, distinct, deferen- 
tial but determined voice * Miss Ellen, I 
have a question to put to you, a very important 
question will you take me as your husband, 
for better, for worse ? I am not a rich man, 



Governess Life 53 

but I have sufficient to support us, I am not a 
great man, but I love you honestly and truly. 
Miss Ellen, if you knew the world better you 
would see that this is an offer not to be de- 
spised a kind attached heart, and a moderate 
competency.' Do this, Mr. Lincoln, and you 
may succeed ; go on writing sentimental and 
love-sick letters to Henry, and I would not give 
sixpence for your suit. 

" So much for Mr. Lincoln. Now, Ellen, 
your turn comes to swallow the black bolus 
called a friendly advice. Here I am under 
difficulties, because I don't know Mr. Lincoln ; 
if I did I would give you my opinion roundly 
in two words. Is the man a fool ? Is he a 
knave or humbug, a hypocrite, a ninny, a 
noodle ? If he is any or all of these things of 
course there is no sense in trifling with him 
cut him short at once, blast his hopes with 
lightning rapidity and keenness. 

" Is he something better than this ? Has he 
at least common sense, a good disposition, a 
manageable temper ? Then, Ellen, consider 
the matter. You feel a disgust towards him 
now, an utter repugnance, very likely, but be 



54 Charlotte Bronte 

so good as to remember you don't know him, 
you have only had three or four days' acquaint- 
ance with him ; longer and closer intimacy 
might reconcile you to a wonderful extent. 
And now I'll tell you a word of truth at which 
you may be offended or not as you like. From 
what I know of your character, and I think I 
know it pretty well, I should say you will never 
love before marriage. After that ceremony is 
over, and after you have had some months to 
settle down, and to get accustomed to the 
creature you have taken for your worse half, 
you will probably make a most affectionate and 
happy wife, even if the individual should not 
prove all you could wish, you will be indulgent 
towards his little foibles and will not feel much 
annoyance at them. This will especially be 
the case if he should have sense sufficient to 
allow you to guide him in important matters. 
Such being the case, Ellen, I hope you will 
not have the romantic folly to wait for the 
wakening of what the French call ' Une Grande 
Passion? My good girl, * Une grande Passion ' 
is * une grande Folie.' I have told you so be- 
fore, and I tell it you again. Moderation in 



Governess Life 5 5 

all things is wisdom. When you are as old as 
I am (I am sixty at least, being your grand- 
mother) you will find that the majority of 
those worldly precepts, whose seeming cold- 
ness shocks and repels us in youth, are founded 
in wisdom. Did you not once say to me in all 
childlike simplicity, ' I thought, Charlotte, no 
young ladies should fall in love till the offer 
was actually made ' ? I forget what answer 
I made at the time, but I now reply after due 
consideration, ' Right as a glove, the maxim is 
just, and I hope you will always attend to it.' 
I will even extend and confirm it no young 
lady should fall in love till the offer has been 
made, accepted, the marriage ceremony per- 
formed, and the first half-year of wedded life 
has passed away ; a woman may then begin to 
love, but with very great precaution, very 
coolly, very moderately, very rationally. If 
she ever loves so much that a harsh word or a 
cold look from her husband cuts her to the 
heart, she is a fool if she ever loves so much 
that her husband's will is her law, and that she 
has got into a habit of watching his look in 
order that she may anticipate his wishes, she 



56 Charlotte Bronte 

will soon be a neglected fool. Did I not once 
tell you of an instance of a relative of mine who 
cared for a young lady until he began to suspect 
that she cared more for him and then instantly 
conceived a sort of contempt for her ? You 
know to whom I allude never as you value 
your ears mention the circumstance but I 
have two studies, you are my study for the 
success, the credit, and the respectability of a 
quiet tranquil character. Mary is my study 
for the contempt, the remorse, the miscon- 
struction which follow the development of 
feelings in themselves noble, warm, generous, 
devoted and profound, but which being too 
freely revealed, too frankly bestowed, are not 
estimated at their real value. God bless her, 
I never hope to see in this world a character 
more truly noble she would die willingly for 
one she loved, her intellect and her attain- 
ments are of the highest standard. Yet I 
doubt whether Mary will ever marry. 

" I think I may as well conclude the letter, 
for after all I can give you no advice worth re- 
ceiving, all I have to say may be comprised in a 
very brief sentence. On one hand don't accept 



Governess Life 57 

if you are certain you cannot tolerate the man 
on the other hand don't refuse because you can- 
not adore him. As to little William Weightman, 
I think he will not die of love of anybody you 
might safely coquette with him a trifle if you 
were so disposed without fear of having a 
broken heart on your conscience. His rever- 
ence expresses himself very strongly on the 
subject of young ladies saying ' No ' when they 
mean * Yes.' He assures me he means nothing 
personal. I hope not. I tried to find some- 
thing admirable in him and failed. 

" Assuredly I quite agree with him in his 
disapprobation of such a senseless course. It 
is folly indeed for the tongue to stammer a 
negative when the heart is proclaiming an 
affirmative. Or rather it is an act of heroic 
self-denial of which I for one confess myself 
wholly incapable. / would, not tell such a lie 
to gain a thousand pounds. Write to me 
again soon and let me know how it all goes on." 1 

Instead of plunging into matrimony, Char- 
lotte Bronte twice entered upon the duties of 
a governess in a private family. Her first 
1 See Appendix for other letters. 



58 Charlotte Bronte 

' situation," as she calls it, was with a Mrs. Sidg- 
wick, and we find her in June 1839 writing to 
her sister Emily from the Sidgwick family 
mansion at Stonegappe in Yorkshire, explain- 
ing that her life there was thoroughly hateful 
to her. Mr. A. C. Benson, the well-known 
critic and a cousin of the Sidgwicks, has epito- 
mised the situation when he says that she 
clearly had no gifts for the management of 
children ; and also that she was in a very 
morbid condition the whole time she was at 
Stonegappe. 1 

She seems to have been happier when, after a 
few months at home, she took up a second situa- 
tion as governess in the family of Mr. and Mrs. 
White at Upperwood House, Rawdon, York- 
shire, where she had only two pupils, a girl of 
eight and a boy of six ; and where certainly the 
father of the family did his best now and here- 

1 Life of Edward White Benson, sometime Archbishop of 
Canterbury, by A. C. Benson. Mr. Benson asserts that 
one of the children told him that if Miss Bronte" was 
desired to accompany them to church " Oh, Miss Brontg, 
do run up and put on your things, we want to start " 
she was plunged in dudgeon because she was being treated 
as a hireling. If, in consequence, she was not invited to 
accompany them, she was infinitely depressed because she 
was treated as an outcast and a friendless dependent. 



Governess Life 5 9 

after to prove himself a friend to Miss Bronte. 
It was he doubtless who assisted with his ad- 
vice in the scheme for going abroad, the enter- 
prise which was the turning-point in Charlotte 
Bronte's career, and which undoubtedly made 
her the famous author she eventually became. 



VII 
The Pension Heger, Brussels 

IT is in my judgment exceedingly probable 
that had not circumstances led Char- 
lotte Bronte to spend some time in 
Brussels, the world would never have heard 
of her and of her sisters. Charlotte was 
nearly twenty-six years of age when she went 
on the Continent, and she had accomplished 
nothing noteworthy. She had indeed written 
copiously in prose and verse, but her work 
will not bear any critical examination. Let it 
be remembered that she was of an age at which 
Fanny Burney had already won renown with 
Evelina. At twenty- two Jane Austen had 
written Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and 
Sensibility, two supremely great novels. Before 
John Keats had reached these years he had 
written his many immortal poems, and had 
gone to his grave. One has only to compare 



The Pension H^ger y Brussels 61 

with the achievement of many of her peers 
in literature what Miss Bronte had accom- 
plished up to this time, in spite of much 
strenuous literary ambition. Some of her 
earlier work has been printed, not on account 
of its merits, but through the rashness of 
hero-worship, and much of it, still in manu- 
script, may be examined by the curious. 1 Not 
the most lenient of critics can here discover the 
least suggestion of the genius that was to find 
its earliest expression in The Professor, the 
novel in which our author first attempted to 
woo the publishers and in which also she ear- 
liest described the entirely new world wherein 
her soul had been unbound. The sojourn in 
Brussels, I suggest again, made Miss Bronte 
an author. 

It had long been the desire of the three girls 
to set up school on their own account in the 
Haworth Parsonage. Each in turn had found 

1 There are MSS. in the British Museum and in the 
Bronte Museum, Haworth. See also The Adventures of 
Ernest Alembert, a fairy tale by Charlotte Bronte, edited by 
Thomas J. Wise, 1896; and Poems by Charlotte, Emily and 
Anne Bronte, now for the first time printed, Dodd, Mead & Co., 
1902. 



6 2 Charlotte Bronte 

her work as governess a position of absolute 
misery. Anne had held two such situations, 
Emily one, and Charlotte, as we have seen, 
also two. To Emily the thing must have been 
an unmitigated tragedy, and to all of them 
it was clearly unendurable. It was during this 
time that the school project was first mooted, 
and Charlotte wrote to her friend Ellen 
Nussey 

" You will not mention our school scheme 
at present. A project not actually commenced 
is always uncertain. ... I have one aching 
feeling at my heart (I must allude to it, though 
I had resolved not to). It is about Anne ; 
she has so much to endure : far, far more than 
I have. When my thoughts turn to her, 
they always see her as a patient, persecuted 
stranger. I know what concealed susceptibility 
is in her nature when her feelings are wounded. 
I wish I could be with her, to administer a 
little balm. She is more lonely, less gifted 
with the power of making friends, even than 
I am." 

There would be more freedom in a home 



The Pension Htger, Brussels 63 

school, but then every one, with candid friend- 
ship, called attention to the fact that without 
" languages " an independent position as school- 
mistress was out of the question. Some of 
their old school friends had been to Brussels. 
Two of them, Mary and Martha Taylor, 
were there at the time, but meanwhile there 
were those who strongly advised an " Institu- 
tion " at Lille. Finally, however, Brussels was 
decided on. A little earlier, writing from her 
governess post at Mrs. White's, Charlotte had 
made an urgent appeal to the aunt to advance 
them some money. Miss Branwell had already 
promised her nieces the loan of ^100 from her 
savings for the school project, in order that 
furniture might be bought, circulars printed, 
and so on. Why not, Charlotte asks her aunt, 
advance the money to help us in Brussels ? 
" In half a year," she says, " I could acquire 
a thorough familiarity with French. I could 
improve greatly in Italian, and even get a dash 
of German." The end of the letter is worth 
quoting in full 

" I feel an absolute conviction that, if this 
advantage were allowed us, it would be the 



64 Charlotte Bronte 

making of us for life. Papa will perhaps 
think it a wild and ambitious scheme ; but 
who ever rose in the world without ambition ? 
When he left Ireland to go to Cambridge 
University, he was as ambitious as I am now. 
I want us all to go on. I know we have talents, 
and I want them to be turned to account. 
I look to you, aunt, to help us. I think you 
will not refuse. I know, if you consent, it shall 
not be my fault if you ever repent your 
kindness." 

Finally Miss Branwell acceded to her 
niece's appeal ; the Maison d'Education of 
Madame Heger in the Rue d'Isabelle, Brussels, 
was decided on, and Charlotte and Emily 
went there in February, 1842, staying for 
two days in London on the way. Mr. Bronte 
accompanied his children on this expedition, 
giving himself his first and only visit to the 
Continent, while it gave his daughters their 
first view of London. Mr. Bronte stayed 
but one night in Brussels. The next morning 
he returned to England and to Haworth, 
and his daughters devoted themselves strenu- 
ously to their work. 



The Pension He'ger^ Brussels 65 

They found themselves in a school once 
again, but now as pupils not as teachers ; 
and in a way they were fairly happy during 
their first six months in Brussels. There were 
forty day pupils, and twelve boarders. All 
the boarders slept in one long room, which, 
with its rows of little beds, and its passage 
between, after the fashion of the wards of a 
hospital, may still be seen ; and indeed the place 
had its sprinkling of English pupils until quite 
recent years. There are several Englishwomen 
still living who were pupils of Madame Heger 
in the generations that followed the Brontes. 
The present writer has spent more than one 
pleasant hour in a drawing-room in Bayswater 
where he has heard three amiable and culti- 
vated gentlewomen recall with full hearts their 
old memories of the Pension nat Heger. They 
were the daughters of a Dr. Wheelwright 
residing in Brussels for his health. One of 
them, Laetitia, became very intimate with 
Charlotte, another and younger sister Sarah 
Anne, was able to remember certain music 
lessons when Emily was her instructor, and 
proved, as the child thought, not too kindly 

5 



66 Charlotte Bronte 

a teacher to the little girl who indeed as an 
adult has clearly none of the admiration for 
Emily that she gave to Charlotte. 

There were two other English girls in Brussels 
at the time who have their place in this story. 
Mary and Martha Taylor. The old school- 
fellows of Dewsbury, were not at the same 
school as Charlotte, but at a more expensive 
establishment, the Chateau de Koekelberg. 
Here Martha fell ill and died, and but a few 
weeks later Charlotte and Anne were hastily 
summoned home by the illness of the aunt to 
whose generosity they owed their few months 
in Brussels. 

Miss Branwell died on October 29, 1842. 
Her two nieces did not reach Haworth until 
the beginning of November. They found 
themselves monetarily the richer by their 
aunt's death. The three girls inherited some 
five hundred pounds apiece of the old lady's 
careful investments, not enough to enrich the 
household much, but sufficient to make things 
easier as far as the school project was concerned. 
Now they need not go to Bridlington, as was 
contemplated earlier. They might alter the 



The Pension Htger, Brussels 67 

parsonage a little, utilize their aunt's bedroom, 
and take at least two or three pupils as 
boarders. 

But meanwhile Anne had still a " situation " 
that had in it many advantages. She was 
governess to the daughters of a clergyman 
Mr. Robinson, of Thorpe Green. Why not, 
it was thought, let Emily keep house and 
Charlotte be allowed to spend yet another 
year at Brussels in order to make herself more 
thoroughly proficient ? 

M. Heger had taken the keenest interest in 
his pupils and had written to their father 
expressing regret at their hasty departure 
from the school. He suggested that one or 
both of them might wish to return in a 
position of perfect independence as English 
governess. 

It was this offer that Charlotte determined 
to accept, and in January, 1843, she set out, 
this time alone, on her fateful journey, leaving 
Haworth on Friday morning, and reaching 
Brussels on Sunday evening. Here a new life 
began. She was now a governess Mademoi- 
selle Charlotte with many special privileges, 



68 Charlotte Bronte 

working hard in her own time at German, 
and conducting the English class besides 
superintending other classes at times. To 
the native governesses she found herself in 
antagonism in fact, it must be admitted 
that Mesdames Blanche, Sophie, and Hausse, 
her three colleagues, were not merely not 
tolerated, but were hated very cordially. 
There were compensations, however. She had 
the Wheelwright family and a certain Mary 
Dixon for friends in the city. She had also at 
the first the good will not only of M. Heger, 
but of his wife. " Whenever I turn back," 
she writes, " to compare what I am with 
what I was, my place here with my place 
at Mrs. Sidgwick's, or Mrs. White's, I am 
thankful. " 

Then will seem to have come a change. 
Writing to her brother Branwell, she 
says 

" Among 1 20 persons which compose the 
daily population of this house, I can discern 
only one or two who deserve anything like 
regard. This is not owing to foolish fastidious- 
ness on my part, but to the absence of decent 



The Pension Htger^ Brussels 69 

qualities on theirs. They have not intellect 
or politeness or good-nature or good-feeling. 
They are nothing. I don't hate them hatred 
would be too warm a feeling. They have no 
sensations themselves, and they excite none. 
But one wearies from day to day of caring 
nothing, fearing nothing, liking nothing, 
hating nothing, being nothing, doing nothing 
yes, I teach, and sometimes get red in the 
face with impatience at their stupidity. But 
don't think I ever scold or fly into a passion. 
If I spoke warmly, as warmly as I sometimes 
used to do at Roe Head, they would think 
me mad. Nobody ever gets into a passion here. 
Such a thing is not known. The phlegm that 
thickens their blood is too gluey to boil. 
They are very false in their relations with 
each other, but they rarely quarrel, and 
friendship is a folly they are unacquainted 
with. The black Swan, M. Heger, is the only 
sole veritable exception to this rule (for 
Madame, always cool and always reasoning, 
is not quite an exception). But I rarely speak 
to Monsieur now, for not being a pupil I 
have little or nothing to do with him. From 



jo Charlotte Bronte 

time to time he shows his kind-heartedness 
by loading me with books, so that I am still 
indebted to him for all the pleasure or amuse- 
ment I have. Except for the total want of 
companionship I have nothing to complain 
of." 1 

Still more melancholy was her condition by 
September when she wrote to her sister Emily 
the letter which told of her confession to a 
priest of the Roman Catholic Church, an 
incident so skilfully made use of in her novel 
Villette 

" Yesterday I went on a pilgrimage to the 
cemetery, and far beyond it on to a hill where 
there was nothing but fields as far as the 
horizon. When I came back it was evening, 
but I had such a repugnance to return to the 
house, which contained nothing that I cared 
for, I still kept threading the streets in the 
neighbourhood of the Rue d'Isabelle and 
avoiding it. I found myself opposite to Ste. 
Gudule, and the bell, whose voice you know, 
began to toll for evening salut. I went in, 
quite alone (which procedure you will say 
1 Charlotte Brontf and her Circle. 



The Pension Hfger^ Brussels 71 

is not much like me), wandered about the aisles 
where a few old women were saying their 
prayers, till vespers began. I stayed till 
they were over. Still I could not leave the 
church or force myself to go home to school 
I mean. An odd whim came into my head. 
In a solitary part of the cathedral six or seven 
people still remained kneeling by the con- 
fessionals. In two confessionals I saw a priest. 
I felt as if I did not care what I did, provided 
it was not absolutely wrong, and that it served 
to vary my life and yield a moment's interest. 
I took a fancy to change myself into a Catholic 
and go and make a real confession to see what 
it was like. Knowing me as you do, you will 
think this odd, but when people are by them- 
selves they have singular fancies. A penitent 
was occupied in confessing. They do not go 
into the sort of pew or cloister which the 
priest occupies, but kneel down on the steps 
and confess through a grating. Both the 
confessor and the penitent whisper very low, 
you can hardly hear their voices. After I had 
watched two or three penitents go and return 
I approached at last and knelt down in a 



72 Charlotte Bronte 

niche which was just vacated. I had to kneel 
there ten minutes waiting, for on the other 
side was another penitent invisible to me. 
At last that went away, and a little wooden door 
inside the grating opened, and I saw the priest 
leaning his ear towards me. I was obliged 
to begin, and yet I did not know a word of the 
formula with which they always commence 
their confessions. It was a funny position. 
I felt precisely as I did when alone on the 
Thames at midnight. I commenced with 
saying I was a foreigner, and had been brought 
up a Protestant. The priest asked if I 
was a Protestant then. I somehow could not 
tell a lie, and said ' yes.' He replied that in 
that case I could not ' jouir du bonheur de la 
confesse ' ; but I was determined to confess ; 
and at last he said he would allow me because 
it might be the first step towards returning to 
the true Church. I actually did confess a 
real confession. When I had done he told me 
his address, and said that every morning I 
was to go to the rue du Pare to his house 
and he would reason with me, and try to con- 
vince me of the error and enormity of being a 



The Pension Htger^ Brussels 73 

Protestant ! I promised faithfully to go. 
Of course, however, the adventure stops there, 
and I hope I shall never see the priest again. 
I think you had better not tell papa of this. 
He will not understand that it was only a 
freak, and will perhaps think I am going to 
turn Catholic." * 

Her morbidness increased, and at the end 
of the year she resolved to go home, her 
father's increasing tendency to blindness forti- 
fying her resolution. Armed with a certificate 
from M. Heger that told of her qualifications 
for teaching the French language, she started 
for England, and was again in Haworth at 
the beginning of January 1844. j, 

A few days later she wrote to a friend 
" Every one asks me what I am going to do, 
now that I am returned home ; and every 
one seems to expect that I should immediately 
commence a school. In truth, it is what I 
should wish to do. I desire it above all things. 
I have sufficient money for the undertaking, 
and I hope now sufficient qualifications to give 
me a fair chance of success ; yet I cannot 
1 Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle. 



74 Charlotte Bronte 

permit myself to enter upon life to touch 
the object which seems now within my reach, 
and which I have been so long straining to 
attain. You will ask me why. It is on papa's 
account ; he is now, as you know, getting old, 
and it grieves me to tell you that he is losing 
his sight. I have felt for some months that 1 
ought not to be away from him ; and I feel 
now that it would be too selfish to leave him 
(at least as long as Branwell and Anne are 
absent), in order to pursue selfish interests 
of my own. With the help of God I will 
try to deny myself in this matter, and to 
wait. 

" I suffered much before I left Brussels. I 
think, however long I live, I shall not forget 
what the parting with M. Heger cost me ; it 
grieved me so much to grieve him, who has 
been so true, kind and disinterested a friend. 
At parting he gave me a kind of diploma 
certifying my abilities as a teacher, sealed 
with the seal of the Athenee Royal, of which 
he is professor. I was much surprised also 
at the degree of regret expressed by my Belgian 
pupils, when they knew I was going to leave. 



The Pension Heger ^ Brussels 75 

I did not think it had been in their phlegmatic 
nature. . . ." 

I have said that Brussels episode was the 
turning-point of Charlotte Bronte's career. 
To what extent this was due to the personal 
influence of M. Heger, the first man of any 
real cultivation she had so far met for Mr. 
Bronte's Cambridge career left him essentially 
illiterate, and his curates were worse it is not 
easy to say. M. Heger kindled her intellectual 
impulses, and that was no small thing. That 
he won any very great control over her moral 
nature there is no reason to believe. Surely 
one takes the nature of an artist too pedantically 
to assume that her heroes in Villette and The 
Professor are primarily biographical. 

It is sufficient that M. Heger knew good 
literature from bad, that he had a sense 
of proportion, and that his teaching, his 
criticism, his loans of books, all made for a 
sound education. Charlotte Bronte, despite 
her genius, could not, one may believe, have 
" arrived " had she not met M. Heger. She 
went to Brussels full of the crude ambitions, 
the semi-literary impulses that are so common 



7 6 Charlotte Bronte 

on the fringe of the writing world. She left 
Brussels a woman of genuine cultivation, of 
educated tastes, armed with just the equip- 
ment that was to enable her to write the books 
of which two generations of her countrymen 
have been justly proud. 



VIII 
Poems 

THE idea of starting a school which had 
been the primary motive for the 
Brussels enterprise naturally gathered 
shape when Charlotte rejoined her sisters at 
Haworth in the beginning of 1844. As a first 
step applications were made to one or two 
friends to Mrs. White, for example, in whose 
family Charlotte had been a nursery governess 
before she left for Brussels. But these friends 
had already arranged for their children's educa- 
tion elsewhere, and there was nothing for it but 
advertisement. A circular was printed, offer- 
ing board and education for ^35 per annum, 
with sundry " extras," including the French 
and German that it had taken the girls so much 
trouble and expense to acquire. All was in 
vain, however. " Every one wishes us well, 



77 



78 Charlotte Bronte 

but there are no pupils to be had," Charlotte 
writes to a friend. Yet a little later she writes 
again : " We have made no alterations yet in 
our house. It would be folly to do so, while 
there is so little likelihood of ever getting 
pupils." 

So a year rolled on and still another in the 
quiet Yorkshire parsonage. Time made it clear 
that not only were there no pupils to be had 
but that they were not even desirable. Bran- 
well, the once much loved brother was at 
home, hopelessly wrecking his life with dram 
drinking and drugs, the father fighting his son's 
malady as best he could, sleeping in the same 
room with him. " The poor old man and I 
have had a terrible night of it," Branwell is 
reported to have been heard to mutter one 
morning ; " he does his best, the poor old man, 
but it is all over with me." 

" Meanwhile, life wears away," Charlotte 
writes in March, 1845 ; " I shall soon be 
thirty ; and I have done nothing yet." But 
before that year had closed the three sisters 
were busy in the always exhilarating occu- 
pation of preparing a book for the press. 



Poems 7 9 

This was a volume of poems. Charlotte has 
herself recorded the circumstances under 
which she, Emily and Anne published this 
little volume, through which they hoped to 
climb the ladder of fame. She has told us 
that in the autumn of 1845 she accidentally 
lighted upon a MS. volume of verse in Emily's 
handwriting which she considered to be " con- 
densed and terse, vigorous and genuine." " It 
took hours," Miss Bronte tells us, " to recon- 
cile her to the discovery I had made, and days 
to persuade her that such poems merited 
publication." 

An interesting glimpse is here given 
by Charlotte of Emily's remarkable aloof- 
ness. So shy was she that " on the recesses 
of her mind not even those nearest and 
dearest to her could, with impunity, in- 
trude unlicensed." Anne, less painfully 
reticent, speedily produced her compositions, 
" intimating that, since Emily's had given me 
pleasure, I might like to look at hers." " I 
could not," Charlotte continues, " but be a 
partial judge, yet I thought that those verses, 
too, had a sweet, serene pathos of their own." 



8o Charlotte Bronte 

The three sisters determined to publish. 
To find a publisher on any terms was, however, 
not easy. Many to whom they applied did 
not even trouble to answer. Finally they 
arranged with two young booksellers and 
stationers of Paternoster Row Aylott & Jones 
who did but little publishing, but who, a few 
years later, were to give their imprint to the 
four parts of The Germ, that interesting adven- 
ture of the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren. From the 
correspondence with Aylott & Jones which has 
been preserved, we learn that the three sisters 
paid 36 lew. for the printing and binding, 
and yet another .10 or 12 for advertising 
the book. Ten years later, when Charlotte 
had made a reputation with 'Jane Eyre, her 
publishers, Smith, Elder, gave her .24 for the 
copyright, and they reissued the book with a 
new title page, using up the old sheets. Even 
then there was no call for a second edition. 

The little book of less than 200 pages duly 
appeared. 1 It was reviewed in the Athenaeum, 
where the critic discovered that Ellis possessed 

1 Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, London. Aylott 
and Jones, 1846. " 4*. " marked on binding. 



Poems 8 1 

" a fine quaint spirit " and " an evident power 
of wing, that may reach heights not here 
attempted." There is a letter from Charlotte 
extant in which she thanks the editor of 'The 
Dublin University Magazine for " the indul- 
gent notice " that appeared in his last issue. 1 
As an outcome of it all, but two copies only 
were sold. Undismayed at the world's cold- 
ness, Charlotte " used up " some of the copies 
by sending them to the leaders of contem- 
porary literature to Wordsworth, Tennyson, 
Lochkart, and De Quincey among others, a 
letter of precisely similar wording accom- 
panying each volume. 

There were nineteen poems by Currer Bell 
in the little volume, twenty-one by Ellis, and 
the same number by Acton. Charlotte has 
said the last word on the collection when 

in the preface to her sister's Remains'* she 
said : 

" The book was printed ; it is scarcely 
known, and all of it that merits to be known 

1 It is given in full in a note to the Haworth Edition of 
Mrs. Gaskell's Life. 

a In the introduction to the 1850 edition of Wuthering 
Heights and Agnes Grey. 

6 



82 Charlotte Bronte 

are the poems of Ellis Bell. The fixed con- 
viction I held, and hold, of the worth of these 
poems has not indeed received the confirmation 
of much favourable criticism ; but I must 
retain it notwithstanding." 

Ellis Bell, indeed, was the poet. Currer 
was to give one out of many demonstrations of 
the fact that a writer may be a most forcible and 
effective master of prose, and yet have no 
capacity whatever for verse that deserves to 
be called poetry. Anne Bronte, however, or 
" Acton Bell," wrote verse that has at least 
found its way into some hymn-books. It is 
a distinction that would probably have pleased 
her more than any other kind of literary 
fame. 

Ellis Bell was, it will ever be acknowledged, 
the one poet of a family many members of 
which attempted verse. The lines in this 
little volume entitled "The Old Stoic" 
will certainly keep their place in English 
literature for all time : 

Riches I hold in light esteem ; 

And love I laugh to scorn ; 
And lust of fame was but a dream 

That vanished with the morn : 



Poems 8 3 



And if I pray, the only prayer 
That moves my lips for me 

Is, " Leave the heart that now I bear, 
And give me liberty ! " 

Yes, as my swift days near their goal, 

'Tis all that I implore ; 
In life and death, a chainless soul, 

With courage to endure. 



In the " Selections " from the poems by 
Ellis and Acton Bell that Charlotte Bronte 
added to the 1850 edition of Wuthering 
Heights, there is contained a biographical 
fragment that is unapproachable in its simple 
pathos. No biographer would be well advised 
to try to paraphrase what is here said, or 
indeed to change it by a line : 

" My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers 
brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest 
of the heath for her ; out of a sullen hollow 
in a livid hill-side her mind could make an 
Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many 
and dear delights ; and not the least and 

best-loved was liberty. 

***** 

" After the age of twenty, having meantime 



84 Charlotte Bronte 

studied alone with diligence and perseverance, 
she went with me to an establishment on the 
Continent : the same suffering and conflict 
ensued, heightened by the strong recoil of 
her upright, heretic and English spirit from 
the gentle Jesuitry of the foreign and Romish 
system. Once more she seemed sinking, but 
this time she rallied through the mere force 
of resolution : with inward remorse and shame 
she looked back on her former failure, and 
resolved to conquer in this second ordeal. 
She did conquer ; but the victory cost her 
dear. She was never happy till she carried 
her hard-won knowledge back to the remote 
English village, the old parsonage-house, and 
desolate Yorkshire hills. A very few years 
more, and she looked her last on those hills, 
and breathed her last in that house, and under 
the aisle of that obscure village church she 
found her last lowly resting-place. Merciful 
was the decree that spared her when she was 
a stranger in a strange land, and guarded her 
dying bed with kindred love and congenial 
constancy." 

In those " Selections " also Charlotte Bronte 



Poems 8 5 

has preserved for us a poem of supreme worth, 
a poem that will take its place as one of the 
very best in all literature written by a woman. 
" They were," her sister tells us, " the last 
lines that Emily ever wrote " : 

No coward soul is mine, 
No trembler in the world's storm- troubled sphere : 

I see Heaven's glories shine, 
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear. 

O God within my breast, 
Almighty, ever-present Deity ! 

Life that in me has rest, 
As I undying Life have power in Thee ! 

Vain are the thousand creeds 
That move men's hearts : unutterably vain ; 

Worthless as withered weeds, 
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main, 

To waken doubt in one 
Holding so fast by Thine infinity ; 

So surely anchored on 
The steadfast rock of immortality. 

With wide-embracing love 
Thy spirit animates eternal years, 

Pervades and broods above, 
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears. 

Though earth and man were gone, 
And suns and universes ceased to be, 

And Thou wert left alone, 
Every existence would exist in Thee. 



86 Charlotte Bronte 

There is not room for Death, 
Nor atom that his might could render void : 

Thou THOU art Being and Breath, 
And what THOU art may never be destroyed. 

Not less memorable perhaps are the stanzas 
that accompany the "Last Lines," and will be 
preserved with them in all competent an- 
thologies of English poetry : 

Often rebuked, yet always back returning 

To those first feelings that were born with me, 

And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning 
For idle dreams of things which cannot be : 

To-day, I will seek not the shadowy region ; 

Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear ; 
And visions rising, legion after legion, 

Bring the unreal world too strangely near. 

I'll walk, but not in old heroic traces, 

And not in paths of high morality, 
And not among the half distinguished faces, 

The clouded forms of long-past history. 

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading : 
It vexes me to choose another guide : 

Where the gray flocks in ferny glens are feeding, 
Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side. 

What have those lonely mountains worth revealing ? 

More glory and more grief than I can tell : 
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling 

Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell. 



IX 
Branwell Bronte 

BRANWELL, or Patrick Branwell 
Bronte, was twenty - nine years of 
age when his three sisters issued 
their volume of poems, and he died two years 
later without, as Charlotte tells us, ever having 
known that his sisters had published a line, 
although Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, The Tenant 
of Wildfell Hall, and Wuthering Heights had all 
appeared before his death. In after years, 
when the whole family had become extinct, a 
rumour grew up, which found its origin in 
Haworth gossip, to the effect that Branwell wrote 
Wuthering Heights that he hadclaimed to have 
done so. Such a rumour is discredited for any 
intelligent person by Charlotte's disclaimer 
which was conveyed in a letter to her friend, 



87 



8 8 Charlotte Bronte 

Mr. W. S. Williams, announcing Branwell's 
death : 

" My unhappy brother never knew what his 
sisters had done in literature he was not aware 
that they had ever published a line. We could 
not tell him of our efforts for fear of causing 
him too deep a pang of remorse for his own 
time misspent and talents misapplied." 

It is discredited further, if that were necessary, 
from the fact that Branwell, with an " itch " 
for writing, seems never to have produced 
prose or poetry of any distinction. Char- 
lotte's letters are always full of character, Bran- 
well's always ineffective, and his many little 
books that I have read in manuscript, some of 
them written long after he was twenty years of 
age, are singularly feeble. The braggadocio of 
the entirely worthless young man, anxious to 
shine and constantly talking of his literary 
talents of what he was always going to achieve, 
could easily account for the fact that, looking 
backwards, some of his old friends and cronies 
would be persuaded that Branwell had actually 
assured them that he wrote the book which 
was only published ten months before his 



Branwet! Bronte 89 

death. at a time when he was in the lowest 
depths of alcoholism. When he died Wuther- 
ing Heights had probably not sold a hundred 
copies, and its authorship was certainly an 
entire secret to these friends who did not say- 
one word about the son's claims until his father 
had died thirteen years later. 

The growth of the legend as to Bran well's 
authorship is indeed amazing. We find for 
example that Mr. January Searle, writing in 
The Mirror, gives a most circumstantial account 
of conversations with Branwell concerning a 
story he had written, and indeed he is made 
to discuss pretty freely Charlotte's novel as 
well. Another acquaintance, Newman Dear- 
den, contributed to the Halifax Guardian of 
1867 some "facts," as he called them, whence 
we learn [that Branwell read to this and other 
friends, a large part of the story in manuscript 
exactly as it reads in Wuthering Heights. Yet 
another witness, Edward Sloane, of Halifax, 
made similar statements, and Francis Grundy 
is even more explicit, as the following passage 
indicates : 

" Patrick Bronte declared to me, and what 



9 o Charlotte Bronte 

his sister said bore out the assertion, that he 
wrote a great portion of Wuthering Heights 
himself. Indeed, it is impossible for me to 
read that story without meeting with many 
passages which I feel certain must have come 
from his pen. The weird fancies of diseased 
genius with which he used to entertain me in 
our long talks at Luddendenfoot reappear in 
the pages of the novel, and I am inclined to 
believe that the very plot was his invention 
rather than his sister's." * 

All this " evidence " causes little commotion 
in the mind of any one who has watched how 
legends grow and gather force. Branwell 
could not have written a line of Wuthering 
Heights, although he did doubtless furnish 
phrases for the mouth of this or that example 
of human wreckage flitting so tragically through 
its pages. His last two years of life, the years 
of his three sisters' greatest literary activity, were 
spent by him in utter debasement entirely 
outside all intellectual interests. He was the 
author of his sisters' books only so far as he was 
the shameful cause of their intense isolation 
1 Memories of the Past, by Francis H. Grundy. jj 



Branwell Bronte 91 

during this period. " Branwell still remains at 
home, and while he is here you shall not come. 
I am more confirmed in that resolution the 
more I know of him," writes Charlotte to her 
friend, Ellen Nussey, in November 1845, and 
thence to his death, in September 1848, things 
grew worse and worse. 

Yet Branwell had started with high hopes 
and higher dreams on the part of his sisters, 
who began by thinking him so much 
more richly endowed than themselves. A 
letter written by Charlotte to her brother in 
1832, when Branwell was fifteen years of age 
and she was sixteen, commences with the in- 
timation that " as usual " she addresses her 
weekly letter to him, " because to you I find 
the most to say." This intimate affection 
seems to have prevailed until the time when 
Branwell took his flight from the nest. How 
much he was the spoilt child of the Haworth 
circle, the favourite in particular of the aunt, 
who would necessarily think more of him than 
of all her nieces put together, is shown by refer- 
ence to Anne Bronte's novel, The Tenant of 
Wildfell Hall, the book in which we have more 



92 Charlotte Bronte 

glimpses than in any other of the Bronte home 
life ; Mrs. Markham, in that story, is obviously 
a picture of Miss Branwell, and precisely as 
Gilbert Markham's sisters thought of their 
mother's partiality would BranwelPs sisters 
think about the treatment meted out to their 
brother by his affectionate aunt : 

" I was too late for tea : but my mother had 
kindly kept the tea-pot and muffin warm upon 
the hob, and, though she scolded me a little, 
readily admitted my excuses ; and when I com- 
plained of the flavour of the overdrawn tea, she 
poured the remainder into the slop-basin, and 
bade Rose put some fresh into the pot, and 
reboil the kettle, which offices were performed 
with great commotion, and certain remarkable 
comments. 

" * Well ! if it had been me now, I should 
have had no tea at all if it had been Fergus, 
even, he would have to put up with such as 
there was, and been told to be thankful, for it 
was far too good for him ; but you we can't 
do too much for you. It's always so if there's 
anything particularly nice at table, mamma 
winks and nods at me, to abstain from it, and if 



Branwell Bronte 93 

I don't attend to that, she whispers, " Don't 
eat so much of that, Rose ; Gilbert will like it 
for his supper " I'm nothing at all. In the 
parlour, it's " Come, Rose, put away your 
things, and let's have the room nice and tidy 
against they come in : and keep up a good fire ; 
Gilbert likes a cheerful fire." In the kitchen 
" Make that pie a large one, Rose ; I dare say 
the boys'll be hungry ; and don't put so much 
pepper in, they'll not like it, I'm sure," or 
" Rose, don't put so many spices in the pudding ; 
Gilbert likes it plain," or, " Mind you put 
plenty of currants in the cake, Fergus likes 
plenty." If I say, " Well, mamma, I don't," 
I'm told I ought not to think of myself "you 
know, Rose, in all household matters, we have 
only two things to consider, first, what's proper 
to be done, and, secondly, what's most agree- 
able to the gentlemen of the house anything 
will do for the ladies." 

" ' And very good doctrine too,' said my 
mother, ' Gilbert thinks so I'm sure.' ' 

Branwell's life story in its concluding chapters 
is not exhilarating. He was intended for a 
painter, and there were dreams in the Ha- 



94 Charlotte Bronte 

worth parsonage of great fame to be acquired 
after study at the Royal Academy Schools. He 
had already shown some moderate talent in this 
direction under the tuition of WiUiam Robinson, 
a portrait painter of Leeds, at a time when it 
will be remembered every town had its portrait 
painter and no photographer, when every 
sitting-room was decorated or disfigured by 
huge canvases, representing the heads of the 
family. Branwell had certainly as much talent 
for portrait painting as many of these " artists,*' 
and so to London he went with high hopes. 
But London, it is clear, taught him nothing 
that was of value to him ; perhaps it gave the 
first impulse in his demoralization. In any 
case life in London was too costly for the son 
of a poorly paid village priest, and the boy 
returned home. This was in 1835. For the 
next three years he would have seemed to have 
done little but loaf about the village, nominally 
a portrait painter, actually the secretary of the 
Masonic Lodge at Haworth " The Lodge of 
the Three Graces," and the boon companion 
of every one who enjoyed conviviality, a most 
unfortunate life for a young man of twenty. 



Branwell Bronte 95 

He did, however, continue his art studies under 
Robinson at Leeds, and painted many por- 
traits there and at Bradford. There is a very 
human picture of him in one of Charlotte's 
letters to a friend, dated 1838, when Branwell 
was twenty-one. Her friends, Mary and 
Martha Taylor, were visiting her : 

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

The beginning of January 1840 saw Bran- 
well at Broughton-in-Furness, as tutor in the 
family of a Mr. Postlethwaite, concerning which 
experience of his all we know is from a letter 
which says : 

" I am fixed in a little retired town by the 
sea-shore, among the wild woody hills that rise 
around me huge, rocky, and capped with 
clouds. My employer is a retired county 
magistrate, a large landowner, and of a right 
hearty and generous disposition. His wife is a 
quiet, silent and amiable woman, and his sons 
are two fine spirited lads." * 

1 Ley land's Bronte Family. 



96 Charlotte Bronte 

Branwell did not lodge with the family, but 
with a surgeon in the town. His tutorship 
was probably a dire failure, although Mr. Ley- 
land declares that it ended at Mr. Bronte's 
instigation in June, that is, after five months. 
It is scarcely probable that Mr. Bronte could 
have desired that his son should once more enter 
upon the loafing life at Haworth, nor can Bran- 
well's next effort to earn a living be con- 
sidered a rise in social position. In October 
1840, he obtained a situation as clerk-in-charge 
at Sowerby Bridge Station, on the Leeds and 
Manchester Railway. Hence he was trans- 
ferred after a few months to Luddenden Foot, 
on the same line. Here we have pictures of 
him from two quarters Mr. Francis Grundy 
and Mr. William Heaton. The former was a 
railway engineer stationed in the district, who 
thus describes Branwell at this time : 

" Insignificantly small ; a mass of red hair, 
which he wore brushed high off his forehead 
to help his height, I fancy ; a great, lumpy, 
intellectual forehead, nearly half the size of the 
whole facial contour ; small ferrety eyes, deep- 
sunk, and still further hidden by the never re- 




Born 1817 



Died 18 



Patrick Branwell Bronte 
From a Silhouette in the possession of the Rev. A . B. Nicholls 



Branwell Bronte 97 

moved spectacles ; prominent nose, but weak 
lower features. Small and thin of person, he 
was the reverse of attractive at first sight." * 

Mr. Heaton apparently had a great admira- 
tion for the railway clerk, unless, as we suspect, 
this came, like so many of the reminiscences of 
Branwell, as a sentiment born of after know- 
ledge of the genius of the family, when to have 
known any one of the dead and gone Brontes 
was to reap a kind of reflected glory through- 
out Yorkshire, and indeed everywhere. That 
Branwell should have been able to quote 
scraps of popular poetry was, we see, a sign 
of power to this admirer : 

" His talents were of a very exalted kind. 
I have heard him quote pieces from the Bard 
of Avon, from Shelley, Wordsworth and Byron, 
as well as from Butler's Hudibras, in such a 
manner as often made me wish I had been a 
scholar, as he was." a 

If he were a "scholar," Branwell, unhappily, 
lacked the practicality that \vould have made 
a competent railway booking-clerk, and after 

1 Pictures of the Past, by Francis H. Grundy, 1879. 
> 'The Bronte Family, by Francis A. Leyland, 1886. 

7 



9 8 Charlotte Bronte 

twelve months at Luddenden Foot he was 
dismissed by the Company, it having been 
found that the accounts at this station were 
in utter confusion. Preliminary to leaving he 
had to appear before some of the directors, 
when his most intimate friend, William Weight- 
man Mr. Bronte's curate at Haworth at the 
time accompanied him. 

It was at this period, early in 1842, that a de- 
finite deterioration took place in Branwell. His 
sisters Charlotte and Emily were in Brussels, 
Anne was in a situation as governess, the aunt 
was dying. Branwell was spending all his time 
in the village inn. One last effort he made to 
earn a livelihood. He was engaged as tutor in 
the family where Anne was] a governess her 
second position of the kind. This was with Mr. 
Edmund Robinson, a wealthy clergyman not 
holding'any living, but residing at Thorp Green, 
Little Ouseburn, in Yorkshire. Here began 
in 1842 the sordid " romance," concerning 
which too much has been written. Branwell 
became enamoured of his employer's wife 
and persuaded himself and all his friends 
that he had received encouragement. That 



Branwell Bronte 99 

Mrs. Robinson, many years younger than her 
husband, did feel a certain kindliness for the 
eccentric youth is undoubted. Anne Bronte, 
who was on the spot, clearly felt that she was 
considerably to blame. But that she was entirely 
guiltless of any serious wrong may now be 
accepted as indisputable. The legend that 
grew up in the Haworth home had no basis but 
in the perfervid imagination of the now thor- 
oughly debased Branwell, who talked con- 
tinuously of his wrongs after Mr. Robinson had 
turned him out of the house, and who declared 
that the woman loved him and would marry 
him when her fast-failing husband died. Mr. 
Robinson died, and Branwell spread the further 
legend that the widow would marry him had 
her husband not made a will which would 
render her penniless did she do so. The will 
of Mr. Robinson, who died in May 1846, 
demonstrates that he put no restraint whatever 
upon the future action of his wife. Branwell 
succeeded in disgusting his sisters, and entirely 
alienating them, but at the same time they 
accepted too easily his own account of the 
affair. Mrs. Gaskell and Miss Nussey, for 



ioo Charlotte Bronte 

example, were both persuaded that Branwell 
Bronte's disastrous end was due to a wicked 
intrigue. So entirely had Mrs. Gaskell 
caught Charlotte Bronte's own view of her 
brother's end that she told Miss Nussey of 
her intention to avenge him upon the 
" wicked woman." Throwing all discretion 
to the winds, she ventured, in the first 
edition of her Life of Charlotte Bronte upon an 
attack on Mrs. Robinson that is surprising in 
its vehemence and its libellousness. That she 
escaped with an apology and the withdrawal 
of the offending passages in later editions of 
the Life must be counted for greater good 
fortune than she recognised. 

Meanwhile let us turn to Branwell as we see 
him in his last days in his sister's correspond- 
ence. Writing to Ellen Nussey, in April 1846, 
Charlotte says : 

" Branwell stays at home, and degenerates 
instead of improving. It has been lately inti- 
mated to him, that he would be received 
again on the railroad where he was formerly 
stationed if he would behave more steadily, but 
he refuses to make an effort ; he will not work ; 



Branwell Bronfe* 101 

and at home he is a drain on every resource 
an impediment to all happiness." 

A year later things are no better, there is the 
same story of wreckage and powerlessness of 
will. In May 1847 she writes : 

" Branwell is quieter now, and for a reason : 
he has got to the end of a considerable sum of 
money, and consequently is obliged to restrict 
himself in some degree." 
' In yet another year it is the same, for in 
July 1848 we have the following : 

" Branwell is the same in conduct as ever. 
His constitution seems much shattered. Papa, 
and sometimes all of us, have sad nights with 
him : he sleeps most of the day, and conse- 
quently will lie awake at night." 

Then, in September 1848 came the end, as 
one of Charlotte's letters describes it : 

" ' We have hurried our dead out of our 
sight.' A lull begins to succeed the gloomy 
tumult of last week. It is not permitted us to 
grieve for him who is gone as others grieve for 
those they lose. The removal of our only 
brother must necessarily be regarded by us 
rather in the light of a mercy than a chastise- 



102 Charlotte Bronte' 

ment. Branwell was his father's and his sisters' 
pride and hope in boyhood, but since manhood 
the case has been otherwise. It has been our 
lot to see him take a wrong bent ; to hope, 
expect, wait his return to the right path ; to 
know the sickness of hope deferred, the dismay 
of prayer baffled ; to experience despair at last 
and now to behold the sudden early obscure 
close of what might have been a noble career. 

" I do not weep from a sense of bereavement 
there is no prop withdrawn, no consolation 
torn away, no dear companion lost but for the 
wreck of talent, the ruin of promise, the un- 
timely dreary extinction of what might have 
been a burning and a shining light. My 
brother was a year my junior. I had aspira- 
tions and ambitions for him once, long ago 
they have perished mournfully. Nothing re- 
mains of him but a memory of errors and suffer- 
ings. There is such a bitterness of pity for his 
life and death, such a yearning for the empti- 
ness of his whole existence as I cannot describe. 
I trust time will allay these feelings. 

" My poor father naturally thought more of 
his only son than of his daughters, and, much 



Branwell Brontg 103 

and long as he had suffered on his account, he 
cried out for his loss like David for that of 
Absalom my son ! my son ! and refused at 

first to be comforted. 

***** 

" When I looked upon the noble face and 
forehead of my dead brother (nature had 
favoured him with a fairer outside as well as a 
finer constitution than his sisters) and asked 
myself what had made him go ever wrong, tend 
ever downwards, when he had so many gifts to 
induce to, and aid in, an upward course, I 
seemed to receive an oppressive revelation of 
the feebleness of humanity of the inadequacy 
of even genius to lead to true greatness if un- 
aided by religion and principle. In the value, 
or even the reality, of these two things he would 
never believe till within a few days of his end ; 
and then all at once he seemed to open his heart 
to a conviction of their existence and worth. 
The remembrance of this strange change now 
comforts my poor father greatly. I myself, 
with painful, mournful joy, heard him praying 
softly in his dying moments ; and to the last 
prayer which my father offered up at his bed- 



104 Charlotte Bronte 

side he added, ' Amen.' How unusual that 
word appeared from his lips, of course you, 
who did not know him, cannot conceive. Akin 
to this alteration was that in his feelings towards 
his relations all the bitterness seemed gone. 

" When the struggle was over, and a marble 
calm began to succeed the last dread agony, I 
felt, as I had never felt before, that there was 
peace and forgiveness for him in Heaven. All 
his errors to speak plainly, all his vices 
seemed nothing to me in that moment : every 
wrong he had done, every pain he had caused, 
vanished ; his sufferings only were remembered ; 
the wrench to the natural affections only was 
left. If man can thus experience total oblivion 
of his fellow's imperfections, how much more 
can the Eternal Being, who made man, forgive 
His creature ? 

" Had his sins been scarlet in their dye, I 
believe now they are white as wool. He is at 
rest, and that comforts us all. Long before he 
quitted this world, life had no happiness for 
him." 1 

1 Extracts from two letters to W. S. Williams, in 
Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle. 



Branwell Bronte' 105 

A very substantial literature has been devoted 
to Branwell Bronte, a circumstance that can 
only be accounted for from the fact that he had 
so considerable an influence upon the life and 
work of his sisters. On that account alone we 
cannot say with Mr. Augustine Birrell, that we 
have " no use for this young man." Quite 
a collection of documents concerning him 
are to be found in a book by Mr. Francis Ley- 
land, called The Bronte Family. Mr. Leyland's 
two volumes were principally taken up with ex- 
tracts from Branwell's writings, and he appeared 
to see in these indications of a genius which 
is certainly not there. Branwell must have 
had an interesting personality before his final 
deterioration, at least compared with the type 
of people among whom he was thrown ; but 
he was not endowed with gifts of a very 
high order. Had it not been for the literary 
successes of his sisters his name would long 
since have been forgotten. We do not owe to 
him a single memorable line. For the three 
or four years before his death he succeeded in 
making every one in his home profoundly miser- 
able. Whether that was a gain to art or not 



106 Charlotte Bronte 

cannot easily be decided ; but even taking into 
consideration the indirect service to his sisters 
by the unconscious suggestion of " copy," one 
may yet say with unqualified emphasis that it 
would have been better for poor Branwell Bronte 
and for every one connected with him if he 
had never been born. 



X 

The Publications of Mr. Newby 

IT was in April 1846 that Charlotte Bronte 
wrote the first letter that gave indica- 
tions that the little village of Haworth 
had in its midst three young women whose 
hearts were palpitating with ambition to shine 
in prose composition as well as in poetry. This 
letter was addressed to Aylott and Jones, the 
booksellers who had engaged to issue for Char- 
lotte and her sisters a little volume of poems. 
It was thus she wrote, signing her own name : 
" C. E. and A. Bell are now preparing for 
the press a work of fiction consisting of three 
distinct and unconnected tales, which may 
be published either together, as a work of 
three volumes of the ordinary novel size, or 
separately as single volumes, as shall be deemed 
most advisable." 

107 



io8 Charlotte Bronte 

The authors, Miss Bronte explained, still 
maintaining the pleasant fiction that she was 
acting for three young men in her father's 
parish, were not prepared to publish at their 
own expense. Would Aylott and Jones, she 
asked, consider the MSS., and would they 
publish in the event of thinking its contents 
such as to warrant the expectation of success ? 
Messrs. Aylott and Jones courteously replied 
that they did not wish to enter upon publish- 
ing ventures of this kind, but they gave advice 
as to the methods of approaching the various 
London houses which issued fiction, and for 
this Charlotte Bronte thanked them cordially 
in a later letter. 

The three novels that the sisters then cher- 
ished the hope of publishing were The Professor 
by Charlotte, Wuthering Heights by Emily, and 
Agnes Grey by Anne. The precise manner in 
which The Processor became detached from 
the books by Emily and Anne has never been 
made clear. All three sisters sent their books 
travelling from publisher to publisher, and 
Charlotte, in the hour of her success, more 
than once referred to the unfortunate journey 



The Publications of Mr. Newby 109 

of The Professor, which, it may be added, 
reached Smith and Elder in a wrapper that 
bore other tell-tale addresses. To Mr. George 
Henry Lewes she wrote years later : 

" My work (a tale in one volume) being 
completed, I offered it to a publisher. He said 
it was original, faithful to nature, but he did 
not feel warranted in accepting it ; such a 
work would not sell. I tried six publishers in 
succession ; they all told me it was deficient 
in ' startling interest ' and ' thrilling excite- 
ment,' that it would never suit the circulating 
libraries, and as it was on those libraries the 
success of fiction mainly depended, they could 
not undertake to publish what would be over- 
looked there." * 

Mrs. Gaskell records that some of the re- 
fusals were not over-courteously worded. Then 
came the oft-recorded triumph when the firm 
of Smith and Elder, in rejecting The Professor, 
declared that a work in three volumes would 
meet with careful attention and Jane Eyre 
was accepted. At a much later date Charlotte 
tried, more than once, to persuade her pub- 
1 Mrs. Gaskell, Haworth Edition, May 20, 1847. 



no Charlotte Bronte 

Ushers to print The Professor, and being refused, 
wrote half angrily, half reproachfully, to her 
friend Mr. George Smith, declaring that the 
book had now been refused nine times by " The 
Trade," three of the refusals having come from 
the house that had been so willing to publish 
her later books. " My feelings," she continued, 
" can only be paralleled by those of a doting 
parent towards an idiot child," Mr. Williams 
sharing with her, she declared, the distinc- 
tion of being the only person who saw merit 
in it. 1 

But all this is to anticipate yet it was a 
curious irony of fate that left the work of the 
one of the three sisters who was to obtain any 
substantial popularity thus stranded while the 
work of Emily and Anne found itself at least 
printed, although not published. It is clear 
that Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey also 
" travelled," but it is probable that The Pro- 
fessor was being retained for consideration at 
some other publisher's when the other stories 
fell into the hands of Mr. Newby. Miss 
Bronte afterwards said that they were accepted 

1 Mrs. Gaskell's Life, Haworth Edition, page 516. 



The Publications of Mr. Newby 1 1 1 

" on terms somewhat impoverishing to the 
two authors." In any case Charlotte speedily 
caught up in the race. Thus she writes to 
Mr. W. S. Williams on November 10, 1847 : 

" A prose work, by Ellis and Acton, will soon 
appear ; it should have been out, indeed, long 
since, for the first proof sheets were already in 
the press at the commencement of last August, 
before CurrerBell had placed the MS. oijane 
Eyre in your hands. Mr. Newby, however, does 
not do business like Messrs. Smith and Elder ; 
a different spirit seems to preside at Mortimer 
Street to that which guides the helm at 65, 
Cornhill. . . . My relations have suffered from 
exhausting delay and procrastination, while 
I have to acknowledge the benefits of a man- 
agement at once business-like and gentleman- 
like, energetic and considerate, I should 
like to know if Mr. Newby often acts as he 
has done to my relations, or whether this is 
an exceptional instance of his method. Do 
you know, and can you tell me anything 
about him ? " 

Mr. Newby, who thus accepted Wutkering 
Heights and Agnes Grey, the only novel by 



112 Charlotte Bronte 

Emily Bronte, and the first novel by Anne, 
appears to have belonged to the order of pub- 
lishers described by Robert Louis Stevenson 
when he said of the late Mr. Kegan Paul, 
" Kegan is a good fellow, but Paul is a d d 
scoundrel." There would however appear to 
have been little of the " good fellow " about 
Newby, for although professing to be shocked 
at Wuthering Heights, he published it for a 
consideration, and when Jane Eyre had taken 
the world by storm, he gave out that his books 
by the Bells were by the same author, and 
promptly accepted another novel by Anne 
The Tenant of WiUjell Hall on the fly-leaf of 
which he inserted an advertisement of Wuther- 
ing Heights and Agnes Grey, containing 
" Opinions of the Press." The Spectator 
declares that " the work bears affinity to 
Jane Eyre" John Bull, that it is " written 
with considerable ability." Douglas Jerrold's 
Journal that " the work is strangely original. 
It reminds us of Jane Eyre. The author is a 
Salvator Rosa with his pen. We strongly re- 
commend all our readers who love novelty to 
get this story, for we can promise them they 



The Publications of Mr. Newby 113 

never read anything like it before. It is like 
Jane Eyre" " It is a colossal performance," 
said the Atlas. 

In this connexion it is well worth while 
repeating the review in the Athenaeum 
for December 25, 1847. There is surely 
something very fascinating about old re- 
views of books that afterwards become 
classics : 

" Wuthering Heights, by Ellis Bell ; Agnes 
Grey, by Acton Bell ; 3 vols. 

"Jane Eyre, it will be recollected, was edited 
by Mr. Currer Bell. Here are two tales so 
nearly related to Jane Eyre in cast of thought, 
incident and language as to excite some curi- 
osity. All three might be the work of one 
hand, but the first issued remains the best. 
In spite of much power and cleverness, in spite 
of its truth to life in the remote nooks and 
corners of England, Wuthering Heights is a dis- 
agreeable story. The Bells seem to affect 
painful and exceptional subjects : the misdeeds 
and oppressions of tyranny, the eccentricities 
of ' woman's fantasy.' They do not turn 
away from dwelling upon those physical acts 

8 



H4 Charlotte Bronte 

of cruelty which we know to have their warrant 
in the real annals of crime and suffering, but the 
contemplation of which true taste rejects. The 
brutal master of the lonely house on Wuthering 
Heights a prison which might be pictured 
from life has doubtless had his prototype in 
those ungenial and remote districts where 
human beings, like the trees, grow gnarled and 
dwarfed and distorted by the inclement climate; 
but he might have been indicated with far 
fewer touches, in place of so entirely filling the 
canvas that there is hardly a scene untainted 
by his presence. It was a like dreariness, a 
like unfortunate selection of objects, which 
cut short the popularity of Charlotte Smith's 
novels, rich though they be in true pathos and 
faithful descriptions of nature. Enough of 
what is mean and bitterly painful and degrad- 
ing gathers round every one of us during the 
course of his pilgrimage through this vale of 
tears to absolve the artist from choosing his 
incidents and characters out of such a dismal 
catalogue ; and if the Bells, singly or collect- 
ively, are contemplating future or frequent, 
utterances in fiction, let us hope that they will 



7 he Publications of Mr. Newby 115 

spare us further interiors so gloomy as the one 
here elaborated with such dismal minuteness. 
In this respect Agnes Grey is more acceptable 
to us, though less powerful. It is the tale of a 
governess who undergoes much that is in the 
real bond of a governess's endurance ; but the 
new victim's trials are of a more ignoble quality 
than those which awaited 'Jane Eyre. In the 
house of the Bloomfields the governess is sub- 
jected to torment by terrible children (as the 
French have it) ; in that of the Murrays she 
has to witness the ruin wrought by false indul- 
gence on two coquettish girls, whose coquetries 
jeopardise her own heart's secret. In both 
these tales there is so much feeling for char- 
acter, and nice marking of scenery, that we 
cannot leave them without once again warning 
their authors against what is eccentric and un- 
pleasant. Never was there a period in our 
history of Society when we English could so 
ill afford to dispense with sunshine." 

But to return to Mr. Newby, who published, 
as we have seen, from Mortimer Street, Caven- 
dish Square, and later (from 1850 to i8'/4) in 
Welbeck Street. He seems to have cared only 



1 1 6 Charlotte Bronte 

for making money out of his authors nothing 
at all for the literary honours of the business. 
One of his own brothers said to Mrs. Riddell, 
the novelist " Were I you I would not say 
that Newby had published anything for me." 
Altogether Newby published nine volumes 
for the Brontes, and these original nine volumes 
are before me as I write. Three volumes con- 
taining The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne 
Bronte, and three further volumes form a 
second edition of that book. To this Anne 
wrote a Preface. Far more valuable are the 
three volumes containing Wuthering Heights 
and Agnes Grey. A catalogue at the end of 
these volumes indicates that Mr. Newby had at 
any rate many good authors on his lists. There 
we find a book by George Grote Letters on 
the Recent Politics of Switzerland a book by 
Leopold von Ranke, A History of the Roman 
Monarchy and Captain Medwin's Life of Shelley. 
But for the most part the books are now long- 
forgotten novels ; association with Wuthering 
Heights would probably be Mr. Newby's one 
literary distinction to-day were it not that 
one only remembers that he added additional 



The Publications of Mr. Newby 117 

bitterness to the always essentially unhappy 
life of Emily Bronte. 

In 1848 Charlotte Bronte frankly tells her 
friends of Smith and Elder, who were 
prepared to publish Ellis and Acton as well as 
Currer Bell, that her sisters are pledged to 
Newby for their next novels, that being one 
of his conditions for publication of their first 
works. It was however a letter from Newby 
to an American firm, stating that to the best of 
his belief the three Bells were all one person, 
that made Charlotte and Anne start for Lon- 
don to disclose their separate identities to 
Charlotte's own publishers. 

The best account of that visit is contained 
in a letter that Charlotte wrote to her friend 
Mary Taylor, then in New Zealand. It is 
dated September 4, 1848, and in it she tells her 
friend that her sister Anne had published 
another book called The Tenant of Wildfell 
Hall, for which 25 had been paid ; and 
she adds, " that as Acton Bell's publisher 
is a shuffling scamp I expect no more." She 
does not say, as she might have done, that the 
book was selling solely on account of the enor- 



1 1 8 Charlotte Bronte 

mous success of Jane Eyre, but she does tell 
Miss Taylor of Newby's assertion that Jane 
Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The 
Tenant of Wildfell Hall were all the pro- 
ductions of one writer. " This," she adds, 
" is a lie, as Newby had been told repeatedly 
that they were the productions of three 
different authors." A letter from Smith 
and Elder stating their troubles in the matter 
led to the experience which is best detailed 
in the following passage : 

" The upshot of it was that on the very day 
I received Smith and Elder's letter Anne and 
I packed up a small box, sent it down to Keigh- 
ley, set out ourselves after tea, walked through 
a snowstorm to the station, got to Leeds, and 
whirled up by the night train to London, with 
the view of proving our separate identity to 
Smith and Elder, and confronting Newby with 
his lie. 

" We arrived at the Chapter Coffee-house 
(our old place, Polly ; we did not well know 
where else to go) about eight o'clock in the 
morning. We washed ourselves, had some 
breakfast, sat for a few minutes, and then set 



The Publications of Mr. Newby 119 

off in queer inward excitement to 65, Cornhill. 
Neither Mr. Smith nor Mr. Williams knew we 
were coming ; they had never seen us ; they 
did not know whether we were men or women, 
but had always written to us as men." 

The recognition at 65, Cornhill, was very 
dramatic, and the pleasant gossip with Mr. 
Smith and with his manager Mr. Williams, is 
related in detail. Then came visitors in the 
evening to that modest inn in Ivy Lane, Pater- 
noster Row, Mr. Smith in evening dress 
and his sisters, " two elegant young ladies in 
full dress," the goal being the opera, where 
Charlotte, with a sick headache, was intensely 
self-conscious of what she called her " clown- 
ishness," while Anne " was calm and gentle as 
she always is." 

The following day Mr. Williams took the 
two sisters to church, and in the afternoon Mr. 
Smith went with his carriage to take them to 
dine with his mother at Bayswater. " The 
rooms, the drawing-room especially, looked 
splendid to us." On Monday came another 
round of pleasure, and on Tuesday the sisters 
returned to Haworth. This letter concludes 



I2O Charlotte Bronte 

with the statement, " We saw Mr. Newby ; 
but of him more another time." 

It is a pity we have not that further letter, 
but there are other glimpses of Mr. Newby and 
his dealings. We learn, for example, that a 
further 25 was paid by Mr. Newby on The 
Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but no more. W utter- 
ing Heights and Agnes Grey were published on 
condition that the authors shared the risks with 
the publisher, and they advanced .50 accord- 
ingly. There is no doubt that the other books 
sold sufficiently well to give more than that 
amount of author's profit largely on the 
strength of the success of 'Jane Eyre, and the 
current belief that they were by the same 
author yet Newby would seem never to have 
returned the 50, although Charlotte tried to 
extract it from him. " Do not give yourself 
much trouble about Mr. Newby," Charlotte 
writes later, " I have not the least expecta- 
tion that you will be able to get anything 
from him. He has an evasive shuffling 
plan of meeting, or rather eluding, such de- 
mands, against which it is fatiguing to con- 
tend " ; and to the same correspondent, her 



The Publications of Mr. Newby 121 

friend Mr. George Smith, she writes still later : 
" As to Mr. Newby, he charms me. First 
there is the fascinating coyness with which he 
shuns your pursuit ..." and she goes on to 
animadvert in a similar strain to the way in 
which she considered Mr. Newby had robbed 
her sisters, pretending he had spent all the 
profits of Wuthering Heights in advertizing it. 
There pretty well one may leave Mr. Newby, 
and pass on to the books the publication of 
which gave him his only distinction. 



XI 
" Wuthering Heights " 

EMILY BRONTE has been called the 
Sphinx of our modern literature. 
Among English novelists she must 
always hold a position of eminence, although 
by virtue only of one book Wuthering Heights. 
That book has a place by itself. There are 
greater novels doubtless, novels replete with 
humour and insight qualities that it has not. 
But there is no book that has so entirely 
won the suffrage of some of the best minds 
of each generation since it appeared. This 
recognition began with Sydney Dobell, the 
author of Balder; it was continued by Mr. 
Matthew Arnold, whose oft-quoted lines will 
be remembered, written concerning one : 

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



" Wuthering Heights " 123 

Praise culminated in the splendid elo- 
quence of Mr. Swinburne, who places it with 
King Lear, the Duchess of Malfi, and The Bride 
of Lammermoor* the well-weighed utterances of 
Mrs. Humphry Ward, to whom Emily Bronte's 
book is " pure mind and passion." 2 and of 
Maurice Maeterlinck, 3 whose tribute is the 
more interesting in that Belgium was the 
only country that Emily Bronte visited. 
Sydney Dobell's criticism has naturally the most 
interest because it happens to be one of those 
contemporary verdicts which posterity has en- 
dorsed. In the Palladium of September 1850, 
Mr. Dobell declared " that there were passages 
in Wuthering Heights of which any novelist, past 
or present, might be proud." " There are 
few things in modern prose to surpass these 
pages for native power," Mr. Dobell says 
of the first part of Wuthering Heights. 

The critic who treats of contempor- 
aries almost always hesitates and halts in the 
dispensing of praise unless supported by 

1 The Athenaeum, June 16, 1883. 

a The Haworth Edition of Wuthering Heights. Intro- 
duction by Mrs. Humphry Ward. 

3 Wisdom and Destiny, by Maurice Maeterlinck 



124 Charlotte Bronte 

popular applause. There was little enough of 
popular applause to greet Wuthering Heights 
at its first advent, and Mr. Dobell proved him- 
self a good judge of literature in saying as much 
as he did. He scarcely accepted, it is true, 
Currer Bell's repudiation of identity with Ellis. 
But he clearly felt that Ellis's work was a thing 
apart. He hinted, indeed, that Wuthering 
Heights was an earlier work by the author of 
Jane Eyre, but he evidently had grave doubts 
concerning his own suggestion. To decide 
on the merits of a book of prose is, he urged, 
very much a matter of time. Does it remain 
in our memories ? Do those who come after 
us find it equally unforgettable ? 

Sydney Dobell quoted certain passages 
when he wrote of Wuthering Heights to 
demonstrate his point that when one had once 
read some of its descriptions one never forgot 
them. He selected for example that amazing 
account of Lockwood's disturbed night, the 
child's face at the window : 

" Terror made me curse ; and, finding it 
useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I 
pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and 



" fluttering Heights " 125 

rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down 
and soaked the bed-clothes : still it wailed 
* Let me in ! ' and maintained its tenacious 
gripe, almost maddening me with fear." 

This and also the description of HeathclifPs 
anguish when Lockwood tells him of his night- 
mare are instanced by Dobell as unforgettable 
passages, and time has proved that his instinct 
was sound. Writing later concerning this re- 
view which concerned itself with 'Jane Eyre as 
well, Charlotte Bronte said to Miss Martin- 



eau : 




One passage in it touched a deep chord. 
I mean when allusion is made to my sister 
Emily's novel Wuthering Heights ; the jus- 
tice there rendered comes indeed late, the 
wreath awarded drops in a grave, but no 
matter I am grateful." 

Yet, when everything is said, the fact re- 
mains that it is Charlotte Bronte's own tribute 
to her sister's novel that is the best of all : 

" Wuthering Heights was hewn in a wild 
workshop, with simple tools, out of homely 
materials. The statuary found a granite block 
on a solitary moor ; gazing thereon he saw how 



126 Charlotte Bronte 

from the crag might be elicited a head, savage, 
swart, sinister ; a form moulded with at least 
one element of grandeur power. He wrought 
with a rude chisel, and from no model but the 
vision of his meditations. With time and 
labour the crag took human shape ; and there 
it stands colossal, dark and frowning, half- 
statue, half-rock ; in the former sense, terrible 
and goblin-like ; in the latter, almost beautiful, 
for its colouring is of mellow grey, and moor- 
land moss clothes it ; and heath, with its 
blooming bells and balmy fragrance, grows 
faithfully close to the giant's foot." 



The silent and perhaps rather grim Emily 
took no part in the Sunday School and social 
work at Haworth that occupied her two 
sisters ; she shrank away with her dogs from 
all human companionship whenever possible, 
roaming over those moors which brought 
her the only happiness and joy that she ever 
knew. She made no friends at Brussels, no 
single " comrade " at Miss Wooler's school. 



" Wuthering Heights " 127 

When she died before her thirtieth birth- 
day she was as isolated from all com- 
panionship but that of her sister Anne as she 
had been twenty years before. 

Scarcely a scrap of self-revelation did Emily 
leave behind, two colourless letters to a friend 
of Charlotte's being well nigh the only 
memorials in her handwriting that have 
been preserved. 1 Her book also reveals 
nothing. Anne's novels were transparent 
transcripts from her narrow life. Charlotte 
transferred every incident of her experience 
into her books. Emily was never more aloof 
than in her great novel. It is dramatic, it is 
vivid and passionate, but it is never self-reveal- 
ing. Emily learned German when in Brussels, 
and must have read the weird tales of Hoff- 
mann ; she had, it may be, heard her father tell 
stories from Irish tradition as Dr. Wright and 
Miss Mary Robinson both assert. She had nearer 
home not only her own brother's miserable story 
with its mock heroics, but many other uncanny 
traditions of a kind to which Yorkshire is cer- 

1 These are apparently lost. The letters were given 
by Ellen Nussey to the late Lord Houghton, but have 
never been seen by his son the present Earl of Crewe. 



128 Charlotte Bronte 

tainly as prone as County Down. Did she 
use any of these things ? No one can say. 

All speculation as to sources of inspiration 
is far beside the mark in appraising Emily 
Bronte's genius. Wuthering Heights is a 
book by itself, with less indebtedness to 
earlier literature than most great novels. In 
my judgment it is the greatest book ever 
written by a woman. Those who have read 
it again and again and have found that it 
gripped them more forcibly at each succeeding 
reading have put it to a test indeed. 
Quotation from the book conveys little idea 
of its sustained power, although to quote 
such a passage as the one where Catherine 
Linton is in the incoherencies of her death- 
bed is to recall sentences that stand out 
boldly in the records of English fiction : 

" * That's a turkey's,' she murmured to her- 
self, 'and this is a wild duck's, and this is a 
pigeon's. Ah, they put pigeons' feathers in 
the pillows no wonder I couldn't die ! Let 
me take care to throw it on the floor when I 
lie down. And here is a moorcock's ; and this 
I should know it among a thousand it's a 



" Wutbermg Heights " 129 

lapwing's. Bonny bird, wheeling over our 
heads in the middle of the moor. It wanted 
to get to its nest, for the clouds had touched 
the swells, and it felt rain coming. This fea- 
ther was picked up from the heath, the bird 
was not shot ; we saw its nest in the winter, 
full of little skeletons. Heathcliff set a trap 
over it, and the old ones dare not come. I 
made him promise he'd never shoot a lapwing 
after that, and he didn't. Yes, here are more ! 
Did he shoot my lapwings, Nelly ? Are they 
red, any of them ? Let me look.' 



" ' I see in you, Nelly,' she continued dreamily, 
' an aged woman ; you have grey hair and bent 
shoulders. This bed is the fairy cave under 
Peniston Crag, and you are gathering elf-bolts 
to hurt our heifers ; pretending while I am 
near that they are only locks of wool. That's 
what you'll come to fifty years hence ; I know 
you are not so now. I'm not wandering ; 
you're mistaken, or else I should believe you 
really were that withered hag, and I should 
think I was under Peniston Crag ; and I'm con- 

9 



130 Charlotte Bronte 

scious it's night, and there are two candles on 
the table making the black press shine like 
jet.' 

***** 

" * One time, however, we were near quarrel- 
ling. He said the pleasantest manner of spend- 
ing a hot July day was lying from morning till 
evening on a bank of heath in the middle of the 
moors, with the bees humming dreamily about 
among the bloom, and the larks singing high 
up over head, and the blue sky, and bright sun 
shining steadily and cloudlessly. That was his 
most perfect idea of heaven's happiness mine 
was rocking in a rustling green tree, with a west 
wind blowing, and bright, white clouds flitting 
rapidly above ; and not only larks, but throstles 
and blackbirds, and linnets, and cuckoos pour- 
ing out music on every side, and the moors 
seen at a distance, broken into cool dusky dells ; 
but close by great swells of long grass undulat- 
ing in waves to the breeze ; and woods and 
sounding water, and the whole world awake 
and wild with joy. He wanted all to lie in an 
ecstasy of peace ; I wanted all to sparkle, and 
dance in a glorious jubilee.' ' 



" tt^uthering Heights " 131 

These passages and many like them may be 
read again and again, but indeed I know of no 
novel that may be read repeatedly with more 
satisfaction. The whole group of tragic figures 
pass before us, and we are moved as in the 
presence of great tragedy. Emily Bronte was 
quite a young woman when she wrote this 
book. One almost feels that it was necessary 
that she should die. Any further work from 
her pen must almost have been in the nature of 
an anti-climax. It were better that Wuthering 
Heights should stand, as does its author, in 
splendid isolation. 

Let us picture for a moment, as well as we 
are able, the author of this remarkable novel. 
We meet her as a child of five at the Clergy 
Daughters' School at Casterton, where 
attached to her name inscribed in the books 
we are told that she " reads very prettily " ; 
after that her home was all in all to her 
for many years, with a brief interval of 
three unhappy months at Miss Wooler's 
school. Then came certain miserable months 
as a governess at Law Hill, near Hali- 



132 Charlotte Bronte 

fax, 1 and a happier interval of a year in Brussels. 
Very scanty, indeed, is the record of these 
episodes. Only when her sisters had per- 
suaded her to face the world in print does the 
picture become clearer. Take for example the 
following from a letter of Charlotte's to Mr. 
Williams : 

" I should much very much like to take 
that quiet view of the i great world ' you allude 
to, but I have as yet won no right to give my- 
self such a treat : it must be for some future 
day when, I don't know. Ellis, I imagine, 
would soon turn aside from the spectacle in 
disgust. I do not think he admits it as his 
creed that ' the proper study of mankind is 
man ' at least not the artificial man of cities. 
In some points I consider Ellis somewhat of a 
theorist : now and then he broaches ideas 
which strike my sense as much more daring 

1 Charlotte writes from Dewsbury Moor (October 2, 
1836) : " My sister Emily is gone into a situation as teacher 
in a large school of near forty pupils, near Halifax. I have 
had one letter from her since her departure it gives an 
appalling account of her duties. Hard labour from six in the 
morning until near eleven at night, with only one half-hour 
of exercise between. This is slavery. I fear she will never 
stand it." Mrs. Gaskell's Life. 



" Wuthering Heights" 133 

and original than practical ; his reason may be 
in advance of mine, but certainly it often 
travels a different road. I should say Ellis 
will not be seen in his full strength till he is seen 



as an essayist. " 



And this sadder passage from a letter to 
Miss Ellen Nussey : 

" I feel much more uneasy about my sisters 
than myself just now. Emily's cold and cough 
are very obstinate. I fear she has pain in the 
chest, and I sometimes catch a shortness in her 
breathing, when she has moved at all quickly. 
She looks very, very thin and pale. Her re- 
served nature occasions me great uneasiness of 
mind. It is useless to question her you get 
no answers. It is still more useless to recom- 
mend remedies they are never adopted." 

And again to Mr. Williams : 

" I would fain hope that Emily is a little 
better this evening, but it is difficult to ascer- 
tain this. She is a real stoic in illness : she 
neither seeks nor will accept sympathy. To 
put any questions, to offer any aid, is to annoy ; 
she will not yield a step before pain or sickness 
till forced ; not one of her ordinary avocations 



134 Charlotte Bronte 

will she voluntarily renounce. You must look 
on and see her do what she is unfit to do, and 
not dare to say a word a painful necessity for 
those to whom her health and existence are as 
precious as the life in their veins. When she is 
ill there seems to be no sunshine in the world 
for me. The tie of sister is near and dear in- 
deed, and I think a certain harshness in her 
powerful and peculiar character only makes 
me cling to her more. But this is all family 
egotism (so to speak) excuse it, and, above all, 
never allude to it, or to the name Emily, when 
you write to me. I do not always show your 
letters, but I never withhold them when they 
are inquired after." * 

Then we have the remarkable passage in a 
further letter to Mr. Williams : 

" The North American Review is worth 
reading ; there is no mincing the matter there. 
What a bad set the Bells must be ! What 
appalling books they write ! To-day, as Emily 
appeared a little easier, I thought the Review 
would amuse her, so I read it aloud to her and 
Anne. As I sat between them at our quiet 

1 Charlotte Bronte and, her Circle. 



" Wuthering Heights " 135 

but now somewhat melancholy fireside, I 
studied the two ferocious authors. Ellis, the 
* man of uncommon talents, but dogged, 
brutal, and morose,' sat leaning back in his easy 
chair drawing his impeded breath as he best 
could, and looking, alas ! piteously pale and 
wasted ; it is not his wont to laugh, but he 
smiled half-amused and half in scorn as he 
listened. Acton was sewing, no emotion ever 
stirs him to loquacity, so he only smiled too, 
dropping at the same time a single word of calm 
amazement to hear his character so darkly 
pourtrayed. I wonder what the reviewer 
would have thought of his own sagacity could 
he have beheld the pair as I did. Vainly, too, 
might he have looked round for the masculine 
partner in the firm of ' Bell & Co.* How I 
laugh in my sleeve when I read the solemn 
assertions that Jane Eyre was written in part- 
nership, and that it ' bears the marks of more 
than one mind and one sex.' 

" The wise critics would certainly sink a 
degree in their own estimation if they knew 
that yours or Mr. Smith's was the first mascu- 
line hand that touched the MS. of Jane Eyre, 



136 Charlotte Bronte 

and that till you or he read it no masculine eye 
had scanned a line of its contents, no masculine 
ear heard a phrase from its pages. However, 
the view they take of the matter rather pleases 
me than otherwise. If they like, I am not 
unwilling they should think a dozen ladies and 
gentlemen aided at the compilation of the 
book. Strange patchwork it must seem to 
them this chapter being penned by Mr., and 
that by Miss or Mrs. Bell ; that character or 
scene being delineated by the husband, that 
other by the wife ! The gentleman, of course, 
doing the rough work, the lady getting up the 
finer parts. I admire the idea vastly." 

And the final scene in a letter written Decem- 
ber 25, 1848. Emily having died on the I9th : 
" Emily is nowhere here now, her wasted 
mortal remains are taken out of the house. We 
have laid her cherished head under the church 
aisle beside my mother's, my two sisters' 
dead long ago and my poor, hapless brother's. 
But a small remnant of the race is left so my 
poor father thinks. 

" Well, the loss is ours, not hers, and some 
sad comfort I take, as I hear the wind blow and 



" Wuthering Heights ' 137 

feel the cutting keenness of the frost, in know- 
ing that the elements bring her no more suffer- 
ing ; their severity cannot reach her grave ; 
her fever is quieted, her restlessness soothed, 
her deep, hollow cough is hushed for ever ; we 
do not hear it in the night nor listen for it in 
the morning ; we have not the conflict of the 
strangely strong spirit and the fragile frame 
before us relentless conflict once seen, never 
to be forgotten. A dreary calm reigns round 
us, in the midst of which we seek resignation. 

" I will not now ask why Emily was torn 
from us in the fullness of our attachment, rooted 
up in the prime of her own days, in the promise 
of her powers ; why her existence now lies like 
a field of green corn trodden down, like a tree 
in full bearing struck at the root. I will only 
say, sweet is rest after labour and calm after 
tempest, and repeat again and again that Emily 
knows that now." * 

To add anything to these words of Charlotte 
Bronte's would be little less than sacrilege 
Emily died young, but she left behind her 

1 Letter to Mr. W. S. Williams in Charlotte Bronte and 
her Circle. 



138 Charlotte Bronte 

some imperishable poems and an equally im- 
perishable novel, of which Mr. Swinburne has 
written : " It may be true that not many will 
ever take it to their hearts ; it is certain that 
those who do like it will like nothing very much 
better in the whole world of poetry or prose." 



XII 
Anne Bronte 

THOSE who write or talk as if books live 
only by their intrinsic merits, ignore 
the fact that a very slight accident 
may often cause the survival of a work of very 
moderate power. There cannot be a doubt, 
for example, but that the novels of Anne 
Bronte would scarcely have maintained 
their place had their author been an 
isolated writer unsupported by the envir- 
onment that Mrs. Gaskell's biography has 
made familiar to us all. Such books as Jane 
Eyre and Villette, Shirley and Wuihering 
Heights must in any case have been certain of 
a permanent place in literature, but Anne 
Bronte's Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wild- 
fell Hall would almost undoubtedly have died. 
There seems, if we examine them carefully, 



139 



140 Charlotte Bronte' 

less reason for their survival than for the works 
of Mrs. Marsh and Miss Kavanagh, books that 
had a very great vogue in the " forties " and 
" fifties." Let us grant then that Anne 
Bronte's stories are not great books ; they 
nevertheless attract us by virtue of their auto- 
biographical character, and they make pleasant 
unpretentious reading even to-day. Agnes 
Grey, the first of them, was, as we have seen, 
bound up with Wuthering Heights, and such is 
the frequent futility of contemporary criticism 
that it is not surprising that many reviewers 
found it preferable to the titanic story that 
accompanied it. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 
had indeed one very frank critic who loved its 
author. It was pronounced "scarcely worth 
republication " by Anne's devoted sister Char- 
lotte when she wrote a preface to a new edition 
of it. Yet such is the " glamour " of the 
Brontes, that edition after edition of the book 
has been issued and sold in our time, the 
exhaustion of the copyright forty-two years 
after first publication having given occasion 
for at least four or five new issues by separate 
publishers. Here then it is clearly imperative 



Anne Bronte 141 

to recognize the potency of the personal 
element in literature. 

Both the novels of Anne Bronte are tran- 
scripts of the life she knew and little more. This 
is the factor that differentiates the man or wo- 
man of genius from the merely average writer. 
Anne was not capable of transmuting experi- 
ence through that wonderful crucible that pro- 
duces the highest truth of literature, that 
subtle presentation which carries conviction to 
our souls and makes us say here is great art. 
She had no genius, no passion. The photo- 
graphic quality that she possessed has however 
its value. We go to Anne Bronte more readily 
than to Charlotte and Emily for a picture of 
what life was like for a nursery governess in the 
forties, and we find her pictures in Agnes Grey 
thoroughly interesting in consequence ; we may 
go to her also for a very clear impression of 
the family circle at Haworth, and of the life 
she saw and heard of outside the rectory 
walls, when we read The Tenant of Wildfell 
Hall. If there is little imagination, there is at 
least a clear narrative of her brother's escapades 
as far as she had comprehended them, adding 



142 Charlotte Bronte 

thereto, as she doubtless did, sundry episodes 
in the lives of others that scandal had conveyed 
to her. 

But it is scarcely necessary to take the novels 
of Anne Bronte too seriously, even were criti- 
cism the province of this little biography, 
which it is not. It suffices that she was a soft- 
ening, benign atmosphere in a house where 
father, aunt and elder sisters, whatever their 
other fine qualities, would seem to have lacked 
softness and benignity. The father was ever an 
egoist, the aunt the embodiment of kindness, 
but severe, Charlotte, as we know, was strenuous, 
and Emily profoundly melancholy. But Mr. 
Nicholls, writing fifty years after her death, re- 
called the " gentle " Anne ; and that influence 
of gentleness must have run like a silken cord 
through the somewhat tumultuous lives of the 
two clever sisters, both of whom had hearts 
ever aflame, imaginations ever alert for action 
outside the narrow walls of that simple prosaic 
home. 

Emily, we are told, was inseparable from 
Anne in the years during which the elder sister 
Charlotte seemed to lean upon some friend 



Anne Bronte 143 

from the outer world Ellen Nussey, Mary 
Taylor, or Laetitia Wheelwright. Charlotte 
had a gift for friendship which stood her in 
good stead when she found herself alone in the 
world. Her sisters had not this gift, and were 
thrown back upon one another's company. 

Anne Bronte, as we have seen, was carried as 
a baby from Thornton to Haworth while her 
mother's life, was ebbing away. Perhaps this 
was why she was her aunt's favourite, always 
by her side in her earliest years. Later she and 
Emily were inseparable. We know next to 
nothing of Anne's experiences as governess, 
first with Mrs. Ingham of Blake Hall, and next 
with Mrs. Robinson at Thorp Green. In- 
deed it is only from Charlotte's letters that 
we learn anything of material importance, 
concerning Anne, although Miss Nussey writes 
of the youngest sister as so much the 
" prettiest " of the three, with " light 
brown hair, violet blue eyes and pencilled 
eyebrows, and an almost transparent com- 
plexion." One would have liked to have 
heard Anne's version of that sordid drama at 
Thorp Green, where Branwell was, or professed 



144 Charlotte Bronte 

to be, carrying on a flirtation with the mistress 
of the house. Anne must have seen something 
to vex her innocent soul, or she would on her 
return to Haworth have insisted that Bran- 
well's " love story " was purely imaginary. It 
was the attitude of Anne on this subject that 
persuaded Mr. Nicholls, with whom I dis- 
cussed the question, thatBranwell was not en- 
tirely to blame, that there had at least been 
some indiscreet flirtation, calculated to dis- 
arrange further an already ill-balanced mind. 

Writing in her diary in July, 1845, Anne says, 
recalling what she had written four years 
earlier : 

" How many things have happened since it 
was written some pleasant, some far other- 
wise. Yet I was then at Thorp Green, and 
now I am only just escaped from it. I was 
wishing to leave it then, and if I had known 
that I had four years longer to stay how wretch- 
ed I should have been ; but during my stay 
I have had some very unpleasant and undreamt- 
of experience of human nature. Others have 
seen more changes. Charlotte has left Mr. 
White's and been twice to Brussels, where she 



Anne Bronte 145 

stayed each time nearly a year. Emily has 
been there too, and stayed nearly a year. Bran- 
well has left Luddenden Foot, and been a tutor 
at Thorp Green, and had much tribulation and 
ill health. He was very ill on Thursday, but 
he went with John Brown to Liverpool, where 
he now is, I suppose ; and we hope he will be 
better and do better in future. This is a dis- 
mal, cloudy, wet evening. We have had so far 
a very cold wet summer. Charlotte has lately 
been to Hathersage, in Derbyshire, on a visit 
of three weeks to Ellen Nussey. She is now 
sitting sewing in the dining-room. Emily is 
ironing upstairs. I am sitting in the dining- 
room in the rocking-chair before the fire with 
my feet on the fender. Papa is in the parlour. 
Tabby and Martha are, I think, in the kitchen. 
Keeper and Flossy are, I do not know where. 
Little Dick is hopping in his cage. When the 
last paper was written we were thinking of 
setting up a school. The scheme has been 
dropt, and long after taken up again and dropt 
again because we could not get pupils. Char- 
lotte is thinking about getting another situa- 
tion. She wishes to go to Paris. Will she go ? 

10 



1 4.6 Charlotte Bronte 

She has let Flossy in, by-the-by, and he is now 
lying on the sofa. Emily is engaged in writing 
the Emperor Julius's life. She has read some 
of it, and I want very much to hear the rest. 
She is writing some poetry, too. I wonder 
what it is about ? I have begun the third vol- 
ume of Passages in the Life of an Individual. 
I wish I had finished it. This afternoon I be- 
gan to set about making my grey figured silk 
frock that was dyed at Keighley. What sort 
of a hand shall I make of it ? " 1 

This is but a fragment of the published diary, 
but it contains many points of interest. The 
" very unpleasant and undreamt-of experience 
of human nature " must have referred to the 
trouble between her brother and the mother 
of her pupils. The speculation as to Char- 
lotte's going to Paris is noteworthy. Instead 
of that, Charlotte and her sisters published 
poems and novels, with the result that we all 
know. The Poems appeared the follow- 
ing year, Jane Eyre in October, 1847, and 
Agnes Grey in December. The two editions 
of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall appeared in 
1 Charlotte Bront? and Her Circle. 



Anne Bronte 147 



1848, the year that Branwell and Emily died, 
and Anne followed her brother and sister in 

1849. As we have traced Emily's pathway 
to the grave, so we may trace Anne's in her 
sister's melancholy letters : 

" Anne and I sit alone and in seclusion as 
you fancy us, but we do not study. Anne can- 
not study now, she can scarcely read ; she 
occupies Emily's chair ; she does not get well. 
A week ago we sent for a medical man of skill 
and experience from Leeds to see her. He ex- 
amined her with the stethoscope. His report 
I forbear to dwell on for the present even 
skilful physicians have often been mistaken in 
their conjectures. 

" My first impulse was to hasten her away 
to a warmer climate, but this was forbidden : 
she must not travel ; she is not to stir from the 
house this winter ; the temperature of her 
room is to be kept constantly equal. 

; ' When we lost Emily I thought we had 
drained the very dregs of our cup of trial, but 
now when I hear Anne cough as Emily coughed, 
I tremble lest there should be exquisite bitter- 
ness yet to taste. However, I must not look 



148 Charlotte Bronte 

forwards, nor must I look backwards. Too 
often I feel like one crossing an abyss on a nar- 
row plank a glance round might quite un- 
nerve. 

" Anne is very patient in her illness, as 
patient as Emily was unflinching. I recall one 
sister and look at the other with a sort of rever- 
ence as well as affection under the test of 
suffering neither has faltered. 

" Anne continues a little better the mild 
weather suits her. At times I hear the re- 
newal of hope's whisper, but I dare not listen 
too fondly ; she deceived me cruelly before. 
A sudden change to cold would be the test. I 
dread such change, but must not anticipate. 
Spring lies before us, and then summer surely 
we may hope a little ! " 

But hope was slight indeed, as a letter to 
Ellen Nussey, describing a projected visit to 
Scarborough, indicated. Anne had been to 
Scarborough three or four times during her 
governess days, and wished to see the place 
again. After stating that they had secured 
rooms on the cliffs with a sea view, she con- 
tinues : 



Anne Bronte' 149 

" If Anne is to get any good she must have 
every advantage. Miss Outhwaite, her god- 
mother, left her in her will a legacy of ^200, 
and she cannot employ her money better than 
in obtaining what may prolong existence, if it 
does not restore health. We hope to leave 
home on the 23rd, and I think it will be advis- 
able to rest at York, and stay all night there. 
I hope this arrangement will suit you. We 
reckon on your society, dear Ellen, as a real 
privilege and pleasure. We shall take little 
luggage, and shall have to buy bonnets and 
dresses and several other things either at York 
or Scarboro' ; which place do you think would 
be best ? Oh, if it would please God to 
strengthen and revive Anne, how happy we 
might be together ! His will, however, must 
be done, and if she is not to recover, it remains 
to pray for strength and patience." 

Then we have a letter from Scarborough to 
Mr. Smith Williams : 

" I am thankful to say we reached our de- 
stination safely, having rested one night at 
York. We found assistance wherever we needed 
it ; there was always an arm ready to do for 



150 Charlotte Bronte 

my sister what I was not quite strong enough 
to do : lift her in and out of the carriage, 
carry her across the line, etc. 

" It made her happy to see both York and 
its Minster, and Scarboro' and its bay once 
more. There is yet no revival of bodily 
strength I fear indeed the slow ebb continues. 
People who see her tell me I must not expect 
her to last long but it is something to cheer 
her mind. 

" Our lodgings are pleasant. As Anne sits 
at the window she can look down on the sea, 
which this morning is calm as glass. She says 
if she could breathe more freely she would be 
comfortable at this moment but she cannot 
breathe freely. 

" My friend Ellen is with us. I find her 
presence a solace. She is a calm, steady girl 
not brilliant, but good and true. She suits 
and has always suited me well. I like her, 
with her phlegm, repose, sense, and sincerity, 
better than I should like the most talented 
without these qualifications." 

And then the scene closes with this last little 
note, written to her friend Mr. Williams : 



Anne Bronte 151 

" MY DEAR SIR, My poor sister is taken 
quietly home at last. She died on Monday. 
With almost her last breath she said she was 
happy, and thanked God that death was come, 
and come so gently. I did not think it would 
be so soon." 

Anne Bronte is buried in Scarborough 
Churchyard, where the inscription on her 
tomb runs as follows : 

" Here lie the remains of Anne Bronte, 
daughter of the Rev. P. Bronte, Incumbent of 
Haworth, Yorkshire. She died, aged 28, May 
28th, 1849." 

She also left behind her some " last verses," 
which have found their way into the hymno- 
logies of many of the Churches : 

I hoped that with the brave and strong 

My portioned task may lie, 
To toil amid the busy throng 

With purpose pure and high. 



XIII 
"Jane Eyre" 

CHARLOTTE BRONTE was thirty-one 
years and six months old when "Jane 
Eyre was published. The passing of 
her first novel from publisher to publisher has 
already been noted. In a fortunate hour the 
manuscript of The Professor fell into the hands 
of Mr. Smith Williams the " reader " to Smith, 
Elder & Co. Mr. Williams, who was born in 
1800 and died in 1875, possessed a genuine 
literary faculty. He was the brother-in-law 
of Charles Wells, the author of Joseph and his 
Brethren. When Keats left England for an early 
grave in Rome it was Mr. Williams who saw him 
off. Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Thackeray and Ruskin 
valued highly his judgment. He compiled a 
volume of Selections from Mr. Ruskin's writings 
which is still much prized by the curious. The 
publisher's " reader " or book-taster is but 



163 



" Jane Eyre '' 153 

human, and often makes mistakes. Certainly 
the five readers of the five publishing houses 
which sent back The Professor with curt re- 
fusals had reasons for regretting their mistake in 
this instance even from a merely commercial 
point of view, 1 and perhaps more from the 
point of view of glory. 

Mr. Williams recognized the undoubted 
ability of The Professor, but those were the 
days when the three-volumed novel was a 
fetish. We have seen the way in which Mr. 
Newby bound up Wuthering Heights and Agnes 
Grey in order to make them look like a single 
three-volumed book. By no possibility could 
The Professor have been made to stretch to 
more than two volumes. Besides this, although 
Mr. Williams liked it, another influential mem- 
ber of the staff, Mr. James Taylor, did not, and 
after both had reported to their " chief," Mr. 
George Smith, the letter went forth from the 

1 The total sum paid for the entire copyright of Charlotte 
Bronte's four novels was 1,750 500 each for Jane Eyre, 
Shirley and Villette, and 250 for The Professor. Mr. 
George Smith was once offered 500 for the manuscript 
of Jane Eyre. 



154 Charlotte Bronte 

office in Cornhill which was to bring yet another 
refusal to the mysterious but ever persever- 
ing Mr. Currer Bell at Haworth. But Currer 
Bell afterwards declared in print that this 
refusal was " couched in language so delicate, 
reasonable and courteous, as to be more cheering 
than some acceptances." It assigned a lack of 
varied interest in the tale as well as the length 
as the cause of rejection, and thereupon Currer 
Bell replied that he had nearly completed a 
novel in three volumes, and this Mr. Williams 
asked to see. 

On August 24, 1847, the manuscript of 
"Jane Eyre was sent to Cornhill, and then 
there was no hesitation. The author was 
reading proof sheets during September, and in 
the middle of October the book was published. 1 

1 Charlotte Bronte was staying in Manchester during 
August and September of 1846, with her father, Mr. 
Bronte having gone to Manchester to consult an oculist, 
as he was in danger of losing his eyesight. Father and 
daughter stayed at 59, Boundary Street, off Oxford Road. 
When Charlotte Bronte wrote from there the place was 
called 83, Mount Pleasant; the house still stands, and 
here, Mrs. Gaskell tells us, Jane Eyre was commenced, " in 
those grey, weary, uniform streets, where all faces, save 
that of her kind doctor, were strange and untouched with 
sunlight'to her." 



" Jane Eyre " 155 

The critics were enthusiastic, the public more 
so. " The most extraordinary production that 
has issued from the press for years," said the 
Weekly Chronicle. " Decidedly the best novel 
of the season," said the Westminster Review. 
In looking through these old reviews one is 
struck by their judgment and insight. If there 
was good creative work produced in the forties 
and fifties, there was also good criticism. 

Miss Bronte enjoyed to the full the burst of 
sympathetic and appreciative criticism that 
came to her. Perhaps the critique that de- 
lighted her most was one by Eugene Forcade 
in the Revue des Deux Mondes, the one that gave 
her actual and indeed deep-rooted pain the 
article by Miss Rigby in the Quarterly Review. 
" The subtle-thoughted, keen-eyed, quick- 
feeling Frenchman " is her judgment of For- 
cade, and his notice of Jane Eyre is " the most 
acceptable to the author of any that has yet 
appeared." * As for the review of Jane Eyre 
in the Quarterly, it is not too much to say 
that it almost made Charlotte Bronte repent 
its authorship. Yet Miss Rigby wrote with no 
1 Letter to W. S. Williams, November 16, 1848. 



156 Charlotte Bronte 

desire to be other than fair. She was a 
staunch Conservative, and the book seemed to 
her to be wildly Radical. She believed the 
author to be a man as her editor did 1 for in 
her world no woman was so ignorant of the 
daintier aspects of life : the fitting garment 
for this or that occasion, the delicacies 
of refined cookery ! How could Miss Rigby 
have guessed that it was the timid, sensitive 
daughter of a country clergyman, herself a 
warm adherent of Church and State, who 
had written this extraordinary book ! The 
author she thought was clearly a man, and if it 

1 Lockhart, her editor, writes as follows to his 
contributor, Miss Rigby, after he had received the first 
part of her review : "I know nothing of the writers, 
but the common rumour is that they are brothers of 
the weaving order in some Lancashire town. At first 
it was generally said Currer was a lady, and Mayfair 
circumstantializes by making her the chere amie of 
Mr. Thackeray. But your skill in " dress " settles the 
question of sex. I think, however, some women must 
have assisted in the school scenes of Jane Eyre, which 
have a striking air of truthfulness to me. I should say 
you might as well glance at the novels by Acton and Ellis 
Bell Wuthering Heights is one of them. If you have any 
friend about Manchester, it would, I suppose, be easy to 
learn accurately as to the position of these men." Journals 
and Correspondence of Lady Eastlake, edited by her 
nephew, Charles Eastlake Smith, 1895. 



" y ane Eyre" 157 

had been a man the sentence that so pained 
Miss Bronte the suggestion that if the author 
were a woman it must be one " who had for- 
feited the society of her sex " would have 
fallen harmless. The sentence was not more 
cruelly personal than every author was liable 
to suffer from in those days. A certain great 
historian did not, we may be sure, enjoy being 
called " Mr. Babbletongue Macaulay " by 
The Times. In any case, many compensa- 
tions for a young writer might have been 
found in the Quarterly article had not the 
author criticized been the sensitive Charlotte 
Bronte. The " equal popularity " of Jane Eyre 
and Vanity Fair is referred to, and the reviewer 
admits that the book is " remarkable." It is 
true that she adds that " we have no remem- 
brance of another containing such undoubted 
power with such horrid taste." Certainly 
judged by the standards the Conservative 
standards of those days, when the majority 
of well-nurtured women were brought up on 
strictly conventional lines, the taste of the 
book was bound to be called in question, and 
the critic who did so was not necessarily a 



158 Charlotte Bronte 

" nauseous hypocrite," as Mr. Augustine 
Birrell rather extravagantly calls her. A 
generation that has been brought up upon 
" sex " novels has other standards of taste. 
It was its very unconventionality which 
made the book so popular sixty years since. 
What is it that makes the book's appeal to us 
to-day ? 

To those who take no account of the quali- 
ties of style, imagination and " point of view " 
in literature, Jane Eyre would now make no 
appeal. To such, Hamlet would make no 
appeal. Is not the whole story of the mur- 
dered king, the son who feigns madness to re- 
venge his father's murder, all set down for us 
in Saxo Grammaticus, the Danish chronicler ? 
In the actual incidents, in the plot of Jane 
Eyre there is but little originality. It is called 
" an autobiography," and in one sense it is, 
as are all Miss Bronte's books, a very de- 
tailed autobiography of the writer of her 
reading life as well as of her actual life. The 
period during which Jane Eyre was at Lowood 
School was but a reflection of Charlotte Bronte's 
actual experiences at Cowan Bridge, at any 



" J am Eyre" 159 

rate of her idea of the school as it came back 
to her after an interval of more than twenty 
years. 

It is quite clear that her wonderful memory 
enabled her to reproduce much of that child 
life of hers, in a manner for the accuracy of 
which credit has scarcely been given until quite 
recently. A student of the Bronte story, Mr. 
Angus Mackay, has however unearthed some 
of the actual literary efforts of the Reverend 
Carus Wilson, the prototype of Mr. Brockle- 
hurst. 1 This critic has been studying the wri- 
tings of Mr. Wilson, particularly certain books 
for the young by him, which Charlotte Bronte 
could never have seen. There was one called 
Youthful Memoirs, published in 1828, full of 
deathbed scenes of little children, all of whom 
were made to be singularly in love with death. 
One little boy of three or four years of 
age, for example, when asked whether he 
would choose death or life, replied, " Death 
forme. I am fonder of death." Mr. Brockle- 
hurst says to Jane Eyre, " Children younger 
than you die daily. I buried a little child 

1 Mr. J. Angus Mackay, in the Bookman. 



160 Charlotte Bronte 

five years old only a day or two since, a 
good little child, whose soul is now in Heaven." 
Mr. Wilson's Youthful Memoirs is full of the 
deathbeds of these good little children. He 
says to Jane Eyre, " You have a wicked heart, 
and you must pray God to change it, to give 
you a new and clean heart, to take away your 
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." 
Almost these exact words occur in three of the 
stories ; one of the little girls here says to a 
naughty companion that " she must humble 
her pride and pray to God, and He would be 
sure to take away her heart of stone and give 
her a heart of flesh." Mr. Brocklehurst says, 
" I have a little boy younger than you who 
knows six psalms by heart." There are a num- 
ber of such little boys in Youthful Memoirs. 
At the close of the interview with Jane Eyre, 
Mr. Brocklehurst gives her a tract entitled, 
" The Child's Guide ; containing an account 
of the awfully sudden Death of Martha G., a 
naughty child addicted to falsehood." One 
of Mr. Wilson's little stories is actually entitled 
An Awful History. Altogether, the student 
of this unsavoury literature, Mr. Angus Mackay, 




/& 




The first page of the Manuscript of "Jane Eyre" 



The Manuscript is in the possession of the publishers, 

Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co. Mr. George Smith 

refused 500 for this MS., the actual sum 

paid for the original novel 



Eyre" 161 



has proved up to the hilt, long after the con- 
troversy is dead and buried, that Miss Bronte's 
description of the mental attitude of Mr. Carus 
Wilson was substantially accurate, however 
much she may have exaggerated the dements 
of the place itself; and in spite of the fact 
that the original of the heroic Miss Temple, 
a Mrs. Harben, would seem to have repudiated 
the description altogether. 

It was the same with Miss Bronte's governess 
life, a hundred disagreeable incidents of which 
are reflected in Jane Eyre's experiences of Mrs. 
Reed. We know that a youthful Sidgwick 
threw a Bible at Miss Bronte on one occasion, 
as John Reed threw a copy of Bewick's Birds 
at Jane Eyre. It is little to the point that Mrs. 
Sidgwick may have been one of the kindest 
and best of women. Miss Bronte found her 
insufferable. Well-nigh every place and every 
person in the history of Jane Eyre has been 
identified with a prototype in the life story of 
Charlotte Bronte. In her letters Miss Bronte 
writes of the dark face, the sardonic humour, 
the masterful manner of M. Paul Heger ; in 
her book she attributes these qualities to Fair- 

II 



1 62 Charlotte Bronte 

fax Rochester. The author spends three 
weeks at Hathersage in Derbyshire, and to that 
neighbourhood she turns for much of the 
scenery of her novel. Morton, in Jane Eyre, is 
easily identified with Hathersage ; the one is 

ten miles from " S ," the other twenty 

miles from Sheffield. All the villagers are en- 
gaged in the manufacture of needles, as are 
those of Hathersage to-day. Thornfield Hall, 
the seat of Mr. Rochester, has been easily iden- 
tified with Norton Conyers near Ripon, which 
was in Miss Bronte's day the seat of Mr. Green- 
wood, the father of Mrs. Sidgwick. Miss 
Bronte visited the house when staying with her 
pupils at Swarcliffe, Mr. Greenwood's summer 
residence. Mr. Rochester's other house, where 
Jane Eyre found him in his blindness, Fern- 
dean Manor, is Wycollar Hall near Colne, a 
hall which is now a ruin, but which has attached 
to it the story of a madwoman having set it on 
fire ; and also the tradition that the original 
owner, Squire Cunliffe, had some of the traits 
associated with Rochester. Moor House, 
where the Rivers family lived, has been iden- 
tified with Moor Seats near Hathersage. 



Eyre ' : 163 



Gateshead Hall, where Mrs. Reed lived, has 
been identified with Stonegappe near Skipton, 
where, as we have seen, Charlotte Bronte was 
governess to the Sidgwicks. So we might go 
on for every village and every house mentioned 
in the novel. As it is with place-names, so it 
is with persons. For the raw material of her 
book Miss Bronte went to material available 
to all the world. Some time ago there ap- 
peared in the Saturday Review a letter calling 
attention to a little book entitled Gleanings in 
Craven ; or, The Tourists' Guide. In this book 
may be found the names of Sir Ingram Clifford, 
of Skipton Castle ; of Miss Richardson Currer, 
of Eshton Hall ; and many other names and 
places familiar to every resident in the West 
Riding of Yorkshire. I do not for a moment 
doubt but that Miss Bronte had read this little 
guide-book, a very discursive and ineffective 
production, although for the name of Ingram 
she need not have gone further than to the 
family doctor to Haworth Parsonage, Dr. In- 
gram. To describe Gleanings in Craven as a 
" key " to Jane Eyre is, however, to ignore any 
number of other " keys " provided by the long 



164 Charlotte Bronte' 

years of apprenticeship to novel-writing. I 
am not disinclined to think indeed that whereas 
she had often heard of Miss Currer, the name 
of Bell may really have been suggested to her 
by the little book on Craven, where there is a 
reference to " the celebrated lawyer and one 
of his late Majesty's Counsels, the late John 
Bell, Esqr." It has been stated that she took 
the name of Bell from the second name of Mr. 
Arthur Bell Nicholls, who was afterwards to 
become her husband ; but I have Mr. Nicholls's 
assurance that this was not the case. 

I have said that there are many " keys " to 
'Jane Eyre. One may find, for example, in 
Defoe's Moll Flanders a book which Miss 
Bronte had of course read a parallel in- 
cident to that where Jane hears the voice of 
Rochester calling her, although he is many 
miles away. 

Moll calls in distress to Jemmy, her " Lan- 
cashire husband," and Jemmy hears the cry. 
Moll, it will be remembered, burst into a fit of 
crying, calling him by his name, " O Jemmy ! 
come back, come back." The husband re- 
turned and told her that twelve miles off 



"Jane Eyre " 165 

in Delamere Forest he had heard her calling 
to him aloud, and that he had heard her voice 
calling " O Jemmy ! O Jemmy ! come back, 
come back." This is not the only point in 
common between Moll Flanders and 'Jane Eyre, 
because Moll has a lover at Bath who has a 
" distempered," insane wife, and begs Moll not 
to let that be a bar to a marriage ; a little later, 
she is wooed by a bank clerk whose wife is un- 
faithful, and this man begs Moll Flanders to 
marry him without waiting for his divorce. 
Such parallels have a certain literary interest, 
although they in no way reflect upon the essen- 
tial originality of Jane Eyre. Charlotte 
Bronte's love of the preternatural would have 
induced her to remember that incident in M oil 
Flanders, although Mrs. Gaskell records that 
Miss Bronte once referring to Jane hearing 
Rochester's voice from a distance of many miles, 
replied, " But, it is a true thing ; it really 
happened ! " Did she mean by that, that it 
happened in Defoe's apparently true narrative, 
or that it came within her experience ? It is 
quite possible that it did come within her ex- 
perience, and in any case she had probably 



1 66 Charlotte Bronte' 

forgotten her reading of M oil Flanders when 
she sat down to write Jane Eyre. 

Certainly she must have read from the 
Keighley Library A Sicilian Romance, by Mrs. 
Radcliffe, where it will be remembered Count 
Mazzini shuts up his wife in a castle 
for fifteen years, although the fact is un- 
known to the rest of the inhabitants, who 
periodically hear noises and see strange things. 
Miss Bronte refers to Ann Radcliffe in 
Shirley, where Rose Yorke may be found 
reading The Italian. In addition to these 
one acute critic 1 has found traces of Richard- 
son's Pamela and Harriet Martineau'sZ)^r&r00&. 

The real power of Jane Eyre is quite un- 
affected by such small points as these, or even 
the, to me, more interesting point as to the 
original of St. John Rivers, one of the most 
striking characters in the book. Mrs. Gaskell 
started the idea that Rivers was intended, for 
Mr. Henry Nussey, a clergyman of the Church 
of England, who held the living of Hathersage 
for a time, and was the brother of Charlotte 
Bronte's great friend, Ellen Nussey. Mr. 
1 Dr. Robertson Nicoll in his Introduction to Jane Eyre. 



"Jane Eyre" 167 

Nussey, we know, offered marriage to Charlotte 
Bronte, influenced it would seem more by a 
keen desire for a housekeeper who would look 
after the schools and attend to the coal and 
blanket funds, than from any deep-seated 
affection ; but there is no real resemblance 
between Rivers and Mr. Nussey. I have 
had the advantage of reading a volume 
of Mr. Nussey's Diary and, Sermons. 1 Mr. 
Nussey has one point at least in common 
with Rivers, in that during his days at 
Cambridge he more than once records in his 
diary that he has heard Mr. Simeon preach ; 
and Simeon was the great Evangelical light of 
that epoch. Mr. Nussey certainly did not lack 
for rigour, for even when an undergraduate he 
recalls with satisfaction, " This evening at a 
full meeting Mr. Heald exhorted from 2 Cor- 
inthians vi. 14, on the action of a member 
having married a worldly-minded man " ; on 
another occasion, that " Stayed to supper ; 
never asked to take family prayers nor to say 
grace. Much hurt that they did not see the 

1 This volume is in MSS., and is in the possession of Mr. 
J. J. Stead, of Heckmondwike, Yorks, to whose courtesy I 
am indebted for a perusal. 



1 68 Charlotte Bronte 

propriety and feel the necessity of this line of 
conduct " ; and once more, Mr. Nussey writes 
in his diary : " Friday, 1 1 June, 1839. Obtained 
an advance of ji from Mr. Wakeford, a farmer 
and coal-merchant in Earnley, with whom I 
spent the evening at his house. He unfor- 
tunately became offended at something Mr. 
Browne once uttered in the pulpit, and there- 
upon left the Church and joined the Dissenters 
at Chichester, where he still continues. There 
seem some good traits in the man, and I think 
he errs through ignorance rather than wilful- 
ness. May he be brought back again, wander- 
ing sheep ! " Side by side with such quota- 
tions as these we have Mr. Nussey's matter-of- 
fact attempts to get a wife. He first asked the 
daughter of his former vicar, Lutwigge, whom 
he characterizes as " a steady, intelligent, sen- 
sible and, I trust, good girl, named Mary " ; 
she refused him, and we have the following lines 
in his diary : " On Tuesday last received a 
decisive reply from M. A. L.'s papa ; a loss, 
but I trust a providential one. Believe not her 
will, but her father's. All right, but God 
knows best what is good for us, for His church, 



Eyre " 169 



and for His own glory. Write to a Yorkshire 
friend, C. B." A little later on, March 8, 1839, 
we find the record " Received an unfavour- 
able reply from ' C. B.' The will of the Lord 
be done." " C. B.," of course, is Charlotte 
Bronte, and some might find satisfaction in the 
fact that the marriage which this matter-of- 
fact individual attained to a very few months 
later should have turned out unhappily. In 
Mr. Nussey, however, we have not in the least 
Charlotte Bronte's creation, St. John Rivers. 
There are a few references to missionary work 
in Mr. Nussey's diary, but on the whole it is 
the diary of a dull, uninspired person, with not 
sufficient brains to be a high-souled fanatic ; 
and it is a high-souled fanatic that Miss Bronte 
depicts in her book. That is why I am in- 
clined to think that the real prototype of 
Rivers existed for her not in life but in litera- 
ture ; that she had read from the Keighley 
Library Sargent's Memoir of Henry Martyn, 
that devoted missionary from Cornwall, of 
whom her aunt must have constantly spoken 
to her, and her father also, for he was practically 
contemporaneous with him at St. John's Col- 



170 Charlotte Bronte 

lege, Cambridge, a fact which probably led her 
to give Rivers his Christian name of St. John. 
It was Charles Simeon again, her father's 
favourite preacher, who led Martyn to become 
a missionary. Martyn, it will be remembered, 
translated the New Testament into Hindus- 
tani. There are points also in the relations 
with Miss Lydia Grenfell, who he had hoped 
to take back with him to India when he died of 
the plague, that unquestionably recall St. John 
Rivers. Martyn has been described by Sir 
James Stephen as " the one heroic name which 
adorns the Church of England from the days 
of Queen Elizabeth to our own." * 

* * * * * 

We may readily thrust aside, however, all 
these inquiries as to " keys " to Jane Eyre, and 
go to the real heart of the book, which is quite 
independent of plot and of prototype. It is in 
reality as original a novel as was ever submitted 
to the judgment of the reading public. Here 
indeed was a work of extraordinary power. In 

1 Curiously enough, Henry Martyn has been made the 
hero of a novel called Her Title of Honour, published in 
1871 by Holm Lee. 



" Jane Eyre " 171 

the first place, the writer had a style, a vigorous, 
forcible style ; a style full of picturesque 
phraseology, characterized by that intense sin- 
cerity which is ever one of the greatest things 
in literature. No other poet has better described 
the impressions made upon his mind by the sky, 
the air, the sea. " Mistress of some of the most 
great and simple prose of all this century " is 
the criticism of a distinguished woman critic of 
our day upon the work. 1 One might make an 
anthology of the fine passages from her four 
books, as for example : 

" I looked at my love ; it shivered in my 
heart like a suffering child in a cold cradle." 

" To see what a heavy lid day slowly lifted, 
what a wan glance she flung upon the hills, 
you would have thought the sun's fire quenched 
in last night's floods." 

" Not till the destroying angel of tempest 
had achieved his perfect work would he fold 
the wings whose waft was thunder, the tremor 

of whose plumes was storm." 

***** 

1 Alice Meynell, in the Pall Mall Magazine, May 24, 1899. 



172 Charlotte Brontg 

" The night is not calm ; the equinox still 
struggles in its storms. The wild rains of the 
day are abated ; the great single cloud dis- 
parts, and rolls away from Heaven, not passing 
and leaving a sea of sapphire, but tossing buoy- 
ant before a continued, long-sounding, high- 
rushing moonlight tempest. . . . No Endy- 
nion will watch for his goddess to-night : there 
are no flocks on the mountains." 



But style alone does not add to the perma- 
nent forces of literature. It is but that quality 
added to the passionate sincerity of the writer 
that will make each succeeding generation read 
'Jane Eyre. For here we have a book in which 
are crowded all the deepest experiences of the 
human soul, a frank courageous attitude upon 
life, and death, and duty. Charlotte Bronte 
had read multitudes of books, and she had been 
an observer of the humanity around her, in that 
little world of rough, rude men and common- 
place women. To her had come dreams of a 
wider, freer life, of profound love, of heroic 
sacrifice. She had thought out all the possi- 



Eyre" 173 



bilities of a great passion in which love was 
king. In her own life she was the most self- 
suppressed of human beings. She saw her de- 
based brother and her much-loved sisters taken 
from her and buried within a stone's throw of 
the house which was her home. Yet she clung 
to that home, and to the father who had so per- 
emptorily attempted to prevent her marriage : 
finally she married to retain to her father the 
occupancy of the melancholy house which she 
might reasonably have hated and desired to 
quit for ever. A dull, prosaic life she had 
mapped out for herself, at the call of duty ; but 
meanwhile her imagination ran riot, and love, 
passionate love, a reckless throwing off of con- 
ventions, was a part of her dreams, the impart- 
ing of which was to throw English society into 
a fever of interest. After the current novels of 
her day, Jane Eyr e was a model of outspoken- 
ness, a veritable volcano. No wonder Miss 
Rigby said hard things about it, things which 
caused critics who wrote a generation later to 
be indignant. But really the little Jane was 
upsetting the conventional standards of her 
day, by sitting on Rochester's knees. What 



174 Charlotte Bronte 

would another Jane who wrote a generation 
earlier have said ? The fair Elizabeth Bennet 
of Miss Austen's imagination could never have 
caught the wealthy Mr. Darcy by such means. 
But Charlotte Bronte had been fed on strong 
literary food. She had been allowed to 
" browse " in a library pretty indiscriminately, 
a thing which did not often happen to young 
girls in the first half of last century. The books 
that she obtained from Keighley must have 
included the works of such essentially frank 
writers as Swift and Defoe. Then, again, in her 
own home there was doubtless not too much dis- 
crimination, so far as the men were concerned, 
as to the borderline. Her father was, after all, 
a peasant, and in the habit of calling a spade a 
spade. If we may judge from some of the 
letters unpublished and unpublishable of the 
brother, Branwell Bronte, we see also that his 
mind was of essentially coarse fibre. Alto- 
gether, it is not in the least difficult to com- 
prehend that Miss Bronte was able to take the 
attitude she did, and to write with a frankness 
which was somewhat new in her day and gen- 
eration. As a matter of fact, the criticism 



Eyre" 175 



of the Quarterly * was most to be regretted, 
in that it frightened her, and tended to 
make her conventional. The bad influences 
of this criticism is traceable in Shirley, which 
would otherwise probably have been a very 
much greater book than it actually is. 

1 The article is called Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, and 
Governesses, and appeared in the Quarterly for Decem- 
ber, 1848. 



cc 



XIV 
Shirley 



IN taking up a copy of Charlotte Bronte's 
Shirley we find ourselves in an atmo- 

sphere more easy of interpretation than 
that of any other book written by the three 
sisters. Birstall, near Batley, in Yorkshire, is 
the real centre of the story ; not very far away 
you may come to Oakwell Hall, the " Field- 
head " where Shirley lived, and within easy 
reach also the Red House at Gomersall, known 
in the book as " Briarmains," where the family 
of Yorke lived. The school teacher, Miss 
Wooler, as Mrs. Gaskell tells us in detail, was in 
the habit of relating her memories of the great 
mill riots at the beginning of the century. The 
attack on Hollow's Mill in the book is but a 
picturesque record of an actual event in April 

, 1 when an assault by some hundreds of 



1 Her original idea was to call her story Hollow's Mill and 
not Shirley. 

176 



"Shirley" 177 

starving cloth-dressers, armed with, pistols, 
hatchets and bludgeons, was made upon the 
factory of Mr. Cartwright at Rawfolds, be- 
tween Huddersfield and Leeds. Mr. Cart- 
wright, like Mr. Moore, had foreign blood in 
his veins, dark eyes and complexion ; and Mr. 
Cartwright's successful defence of his mill was 
but retold in picturesque form in Shirley. 
Then in Mr. Helstone we have the prototype 
of a Mr. Hammond Robertson of Heald's Hall, 
who built a handsome church at Liversedge 
a fine old Tory who was intimate with Cart- 
wright, and armed himself and his household in 
his defence. It is he of whom it is told in 
Shirley that he put the sweetheart of one of his 
servants under the pump ; " Fanny " is the 
servant in Shirley ; it is " Betty " in Mrs. Gas- 
kell's relation of the actual circumstance. Al- 
most every incident in the book, as for example 
the meeting of the rival Dissenting and Church 
of England schools in a narrow lane, has its 
counterpart in the tradition or the actual ex- 
periences of Charlotte Bronte's life in her York- 
shire home. 

Equally plain is the presentation of the vari- 

12 



i 7 8 



Charlotte Bronte 



ous characters. Not only Matthew Helstone 
and Mr. Cartwright are real, but far more 
sharply denned are the three curates and 
the Yorke family. Mr. Donne, the curate of 
Whinbury, for example, has been easily iden- 
tified as Mr. Grant of Oxenhope ; Mr. Malone, 
the curate of Briarfield, as Mr. Smith of Ha- 
worth ; while Mr. Sweeting, the curate of 
Nunnerley, was Mr. Bradley of Oakworth 
the only one of the three who is still living. 1 

1 " The very curates, poor fellows ! show no resentment," 
says Miss Bronte in one of her letters, "each character- 
istically finds solace for his own wounds in crowing over 
his brethren. Mr. Donne was, at first, a little disturbed ; 
for a week or two he was in disquietude, but he is now 
soothed down ; only yesterday I had the pleasure of making 
him a comfortable cup of tea, and seeing him sip it with 
revived complacency. It is a curious fact that since he 
read Shirley, he has come to the house oftener than ever, 
and been remarkably meek and assiduous to please. Some 
people's natures are veritable enigmas ; I quite expected to 
have had one good scene at least with him ; but as yet nothing 
of the sort has occurred." 

Mr. Donne or Joseph Brett Grant was the master of the 
Grammar School at the time. He became curate and after- 
wards vicar of Oxenhope, where he died immensely esteemed 
a quarter of a century later. Peter Augustus Malone, who 
was James William Smith in real life, was for two years curate 
to Mr. Bronte at Haworth. He had graduated at Trinity 
College, Dublin, and after a two years' curacy at Haworth 



"Shirley"' 179 

The interesting Mr. Yorke who lived at Briar- 
mains was Mr. Joshua Taylor, and his daughters 
Mary Taylor and Martha Taylor, are presented 
respectively as Rose and Jessie Yorke. Mrs. 
Pryor is Miss Margaret Wooler. As for the 
heroine, Shirley, Mrs. Gaskell recalls a conver- 

he became curate of the neighbouring parish of Keighley. 
In 1847, his family having suffered frightfully from the Irish 
famine, he determined to try and build up a home for them 
in America, and sailed for Canada. The last that was heard 
of him was from Minnesota, where he was cutting down 
trees for lumbermen ; and he probably perished on his way 
to the goldfields of California.* 

David Sweeting, the third curate, was the Rev. James 
Chesterton Bradley (who had been educated at Queen's 
College, Oxford),from the neighbouring parish of Oakworth, 
to which he had been curate since 1845. He went in 1847 
to All Saints', Paddington ; in 1856 he went to Corfe Castle, 
Dorset, and in 1863 he became rector of Sutton-under- 
Brayles, Warwickshire, a living which he held until 1904, 
when he retired ; and is still living at an advanced age at 
Richmond, Surrey. Mr. Bradley has always found great 
pleasure in recalling the fact that he was the prototype of 
Mr. Sweeting in Shirley, although he declares that the meet- 
ings of the curates at each other's lodgings were exclusively 
for a series of two-hours readings of the Greek fathers, and 
not for the drunken orgies described in Shirley. 

* See A Well Known Character in Fiction, the true story 
of Mr. Peter Malone in Shirley, by his nephew, Robert 
Keating Smith, in The Tatler, April 2, 1902. 



i8o Charlotte Bronte' 

sation with Charlotte in which she stated that 
the character was meant for her sister Emily. 1 
She said that the presentation of Shirley was an 
attempt to draw Emily, as she would have been 
if placed in circumstances of health and pros- 
perity. As to Caroline Helstone, there is some 
discrepancy as to the prototype. Miss Ellen 
Nussey believed herself to have been intended 
for Caroline Helstone, while on the other hand 
Miss Bronte's husband declared that his wife 
had distinctly denied this to him. Miss Bronte 
in one of her letters, says : 

" I regret exceedingly that it is not in my 
power to give any assurance of the substantial 
existence of Miss Helstone. You must be 
satisfied if that young lady has furnished your 
mind with a pleasant idea ; she is a native of 
Dreamland." 

We may fairly assume that there was some- 
thing of Ellen Nussey, something of Anne 
Bronte, a fragment of herself, and something 
also of dreamland in " Caroline." " You are 
not to suppose any of the characters in Shirley 
intended as literal portraits," she writes to 
1 Life, Haworth Edition, page 30. 



"Shirley" 181 

a friend. " It would not suit the rules of art, 
nor of my own feelings, to write in that style. 
We only suffer reality to suggest, never to 
dictate. The heroines are abstractions, and 
the heroes also. Qualities I have seen, loved 
and admired are here and there put in as 
decorative gems, to be preserved in that setting 
. . . since you say you could recognize the 
originals of all except the heroines, pray whom 
did you suppose the two Mooresto represent ? " 
It is not easy to give an answer to that ques- 
tion as regards Robert Moore, although Mrs. 
Gaskell remarks that from the sons of the Tay- 
lor family Miss Bronte drew " all that there 
was of truth in the character of the heroes of 
her first two works." Robert Gerard Moore 
is obviously a very composite character, but his 
brother Louis has, I think, most of the charac- 
teristics of Monsieur Heger, who indeed appears 
in each novel in succession. He is Professor 
Crimsworth, Fairfax Rochester, Louis Moore, 
and Paul Emanuel, under different conditions. 
The critics who have made much of the enthusi- 
asm with which Charlotte Bronte regarded her 
1 Mrs. Gaskell's Life, page 232, Haworth Edition. 



1 82 Charlotte Bronte 

Brussels master and friend, might well take note 
that in Shirley she not only attempted to de- 
pict what her sister Emily would have been had 
fortune endowed her with a good estate, but 
also permitted her fancy to conceive what 
could have taken place had M. Constantin 
Heger chanced to have been a tutor exiled from 
Belgium and placed by accident in the com- 
fortable home of his remarkable pupil. M. 
Heger, we know, admired Emily Bronte very 
much more than he did her sister, and rated 
her genius higher. The suggestion of the ex- 
istence of a wild and undisciplined passion for 
M. Heger, which has been more than once 
hinted at, might be rejected by any thoughtful 
reader of Shirley, recognizing as he will that 
Monsieur Heger and his counterpart Louis 
Moore have as many points in common as have 
Emily Bronte and Shirley. 

Mrs. Humphry Ward has demurred to Moore 
as a poor effort of creation, and quotes Miss 
Bronte's own confession : " When I write 
about women I am sure of my ground in the 
other case, I am not so sure." Mr. Swin- 
burne is equally contemptuous. Nevertheless 



"Shirley" 183 

the book only attains to real distinction 
when Louis Moore appears on the scene. 
The earlier half of it is too didactic, too 
much concerned with the author's crude 
theories of social life, and not very profound 
conceptions of the social problem, of the 
relation of capital to labour. Not until she 
resumes the story after the death of her two 
sisters, not in fact until we reach the chapter 
entitled " The Valley of the Shadow of Death," 
do we find the writer on firm ground. It is well 
to get away from the somewhat cheap satire 
on the curates, from the tiresome and insipid 
Caroline, to the various episodes of Shirley's 
quaint courtship the interesting facing of 
the problem of a man's attitude to the woman 
he loves when she has means and he has none. 

Shirley was written under painful circum- 
stances. The first and second volumes were 
finished while her brother and two sisters were 
living, the third was begun and the book com- 
pleted after all three were gone from her. The 
earlier volumes, written in the turmoil of hope 
deferred, of melancholy anticipation of the 
inevitable, hpw a great falling off from the 



184 Charlotte Bronte 

power of Jane Eyre ; but the last volume, 
written in the unutterable loneliness of bereave- 
ment, is quite masterly. " The two human 
beings who understood me, and whom I under- 
stood, are gone," she writes. Yet with the 
quiet fortitude that was ever her characteristic, 
she brought her task to a conclusion. The pub- 
lishers in Cornhill were entirely satisfied, and 
the book was published in October 1849. 
Again, as with Jane Eyre, the criticism that she 
most appreciated came from Eugene Forcade 
in the Revue des Deux Mondes. " With that 
man," she writes, " I would shake hands if I 
saw him. I would say, * You know me, Mon- 
sieur ; I shall deem it an honour to know you. J 
I could not say so much of the mass of the Lon- 
don critics." At the end of November she 
paid her fourth visit to London the first that 
had in it anything of a social character. She 
was the guest of her publisher, Mr. George 
Smith, then a young bachelor living with his 
mother at Westbourne Place, Bishop's Road. 
Before leaving Haworth she had had a copy of 
her book sent to Harriet Martineau with the 
following note enclose^ ; 



"Shirley" 185 

" Currer Bell offers a copy of Shirley to Miss 
Martineau's acceptance, in acknowledgment of 
the pleasure and profit -ske (sic) he had derived 
from her works. When C. B. first read Deer- 
brook he tasted a new and keen pleasure, and 
experienced a genuine benefit. In his mind 
Deerbrook ranks with the writings that have 
really done him good, added to his stock of 
ideas and rectified his views of life." * 

Miss Martineau replied, addressing her letter 
to " Currer Bell, Esq.," but beginning it 
" Dear Madam." On December 8 she received 
a letter signed " Currer Bell," saying that the 
writer was in town and desired to see her. 
Miss Martineau has left an amusing account of 
the interview, the arrival of a male visitor six 
feet high, whom some of her friends believed 
to be the new author, and finally the appear- 
ance of " Miss Bronte," whom the footman 
announced as " Miss Brogden." " I thought her 
the smallest creature I had ever seen, except at 
a fair," was Miss Martineau's first impression. 
Miss Bronte saw others of her literary idols, 
Thackeray in particular, to whom the second 

1 Harriet Martineau's Autobiography, vol. ii. 



1 86 Charlotte Bronte 

edition of 'Jane Eyre was dedicated, and with 
whom as " A Titan of mind " she felt " fear- 
fully stupid." In John Forster, afterwards to 
become known to all as the biographer of 
Dickens, she discovered a " loud swagger." 
The best account of the visit is contained in a 
letter to her friend, Miss Wooler * : 

" Ellen Nussey, it seems, told you I spent a 
fortnight in London last September ; they 
wished me very much to stay a month, alleging 
that I should in that time be able to secure a 
complete circle of acquaintance, but I found a 
fortnight of such excitement quite enough. 
The whole day was usually spent in sight- 
seeing, and often the evening was spent in 
society ; it was more than I could bear for a 
length of time. On one occasion I met a party 
of my critics seven of them ; some of them 
had been very bitter foes in print, but they were 
prodigiously civil face to face. These gentle- 
men seemed infinitely grander, more pompous, 
dashing, showy, than the few authors I saw. 
Mr. Thackeray, for instance, is a man of quiet 

1 From Charlotte BrontZ and Her Circle, where the letter 
is wrongly dated. 



"Shirley" 187 

simple demeanour ; he is however looked upon 
with some awe and even distrust. His conver- 
sation is very peculiar, too perverse to be plea- 
sant. It was proposed to me to see Charles 
Dickens, Lady Morgan, Mesdames Trollope, 
Gore, and some others, but I was aware these 
introductions would bring a degree of notoriety 
I was not disposed to encounter ; I declined, 
therefore, with thanks." 

Taking up the thread of her life once more 
at Haworth, Charlotte Bronte found the situa- 
tion well nigh intolerable. Something of the 
mental anguish that she presents so powerfully 
as an episode in the life of Lucy Snowe in Vil- 
lette would seem to have visited her at this time, 
and she was not without her tribulations arising 
out of the attitude of friends who had taken 
their cue from the Quarterly Review article, or 
similar pronouncements. There was her own 
kindly but strait-laced governess, for example : 

" I had a rather foolish letter from Miss 
Wooler the other day. Some things in it 
nettled me, especially an unnecessary earnest 
assurance that, in spite of all I had done in the 
writing line, I still retained a place in her es- 



1 8 8 Charlotte Bronte 

teem. My answer took strong and high ground 
at once. I said I had been troubled by no 
doubts on the subject ; that I neither did her 
nor myself the injustice to suppose there was 
anything in what I had written to incur the just 
forfeiture of esteem. I was aware, I intimated, 
that some persons thought proper to take ex- 
ceptions at 'Jane Eyre, and that for their own 
sakes I was sorry, as I invariably found them 
individuals in whom the animal largely pre- 
dominated over the intellectual, persons by 
nature coarse, by inclination sensual, whatever 
they might be by education and principle." 

The reviews of Shirley moreover were not all 
enthusiastic. Mr. George Henry Lewes, had 
a not too favourable word to say in the Edin- 
burgh Review^ which hurt her, and The Times 
review she described as " acrimonious." In a 
letter to Lewes she demanded to be judged as 
an author, not as a woman. However she was 
able about this time to escape from Haworth 
and to be the guest of Sir James Kay-Shuttle- 
worth at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire. In 
June of this year (1850) she was again in Lon- 
don, and saw the Duke of Wellington, the hero 



"Shirley" 189 

of her girlhood, " a real grand old man," re- 
ceived a morning call from Thackeray " I was 
moved to speak to him of some of his short- 
comings," and had an interview with Lewes, 
whose face reminded her of her sister Emily's 
and " almost moved me to tears." This holi- 
day began at the Smiths', and concluded at the 
Wheelwrights', her Brussels friends. 

Writing to a friend from Mrs. Smith's new 
house at Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park, she 
says : 

" Here I feel very comfortable. Mrs. Smith 
treats me with a serene, equable kindness which 
just suits me. Her son is, as before, genial 
and kindly. I have seen very few persons, and 
am not likely to see many, as the agreement was 
that I was to be very quiet. We have been to 
the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, to the 
Opera, and the Zoological Gardens. The 
weather is splendid. I shall not stay longer 
than a fortnight in London. The feverishness 
and exhaustion beset me somewhat, but not 
quite so badly as before." 

During this stay in London she sat to 
George Richmond for the only portrait of her 



190 Charlotte Bront'e' 

that has any real value or authenticity a 
crayon drawing presented by Mr. George Smith 
to her father, and pronounced by Mr. Bronte 
to be " a correct likeness " and " a graphic re- 
presentation." i 

Then followed a short trip to Scotland, Mr. 
George Smith and his sister being of the party. 
A few weeks at Brookroyd with her friend Miss 
Nussey and at Haworth, and she was again on 
her travels, this time to be the guest of Sir 
James Kay-Shuttleworth at his house, " The 
Briery," near Bowness. Here she met Mrs. 
Gaskell, thus forming one of the most momen- 
tous friendships in her destiny. " I was truly 
glad of her companionship. She is a woman 
of most genuine talent, of cheerful, pleasing 
and cordial manners, and I believe of a kind and 
good heart." a 

1 This portrait, which has been many times reproduced, 
occupied the position of honour in the parlour at Haworth 
until Mr. Bronte's death. It is now hanging in the drawing- 
room of Mr. Nicholls in his house in Ireland. He has kindly 
destined it for the National Portrait Gallery of London. 

2 To Mrs. Gaskell she wrote upon her return to Haworth 
a letter containing an interesting critique Mr. Swinburne 
calls it " inept " uponTennyson's newly-published poem : 



"Shirley" 191 

Miss Martineau was away at the time, but 
Miss Bronte promised her a visit which was 
paid in December of this same year, 1850. She 
was glad to escape from her own morbid moods, 
and was quite unable, as she %ays, " to bear the 
canker of constant solitude." In the interval, 
however, at Haworth, she busied herself by 
editing her sister's Remains. The task laid a 
great strain upon her, " The reading over of 
papers, the renewal of remembrances, brought 
back the pang of bereavement, and occasioned 
a depression of spirits well-nigh intolerable." 
The " Introduction " that she wrote to the 
second edition of Wuthering Heights is one of 
the most striking of her literary achievements. 
This book was published on December 10, 1850, 
and a week later she was with Miss Martineau 

" I have read Tennyson's In Memoriam, or rather part of 
it ; I closed the book when I got about half-way. It is beau- 
tiful ; it is mournful ; it is monotonous. Many of the feel- 
ings expressed bear, in their utterance, the stamp of truth ; 
yes, if Arthur Hallam had been something nearer Alfred 
Tennyson, his brother instead of his friend, I should have 
distrusted this rhymed, and measured, and printed monu- 
ment of grief. What change the lapse of years may work 
I do not know ; but it seems to me that bitter sorrow, while 
recent, does not glow in verse." 



192 Charlotte Bronte 

at Ambleside. " She is both hard and warm- 
hearted, abrupt and affectionate, liberal and 
despotic " such was Miss Bronte's sufficient 
estimate of her hostess. At Ambleside she 
met Matthew Arnold, " whose manner dis- 
pleases from its seeming foppery," and whose 
theological opinions were, she regretted, " very 
vague and unsettled." Miss Bronte did not 
live to read Literature and, Dogma and God and 
the Bible, nor could she have anticipated that 
the finest recognition of her and her sisters that 
poetry had to offer would come from the fop- 
pish youth she then met for the first and only 
time. However she tells her friend Miss 
Wooler, who had an interest in Dr. Arnold, 
that during this visit she had seen much of the 
Arnold family, " and daily admired in the 
widow and children of one of the greatest and 
best men of his time, the possession of qualities 
the most estimable and enduring." 

At the end of May 1851, Miss Bronte is 
again in London the time for her longest and 
most enjoyable visit tempted thither by Mrs. 
Smith on account of the Great Exhibition in 
Hyde Park the Crystal Palace, as it was called. 



"Shirley" 193 

She much enjoyed listening to one of Thackeray's 
lectures in Willis's Rooms. Here she was intro- 
duced to Lord Houghton and other notable 
contemporaries, and after the lecture she was 
mobbed by a crowd of admirers as she passed 
trembling and agitated to the doors. The 
Exhibition proved a " marvellous, stirring and 
bewildering sight, but it is not much in my 
way." She enjoyed more her later visits, par- 
ticularly one with Sir David Brewster, but she 
was most at home in hearing D'Aubigne 
preach ; " it was pleasant, half sweet, half sad, 
to hear the French language once more." How 
much Rachel, the great French actress then 
in London thrilled her every reader of Vil- 
lette will recall " she is not a woman, she is a 
snake." Then she was present at one of 
Samuel Rogers's famous breakfasts, which in 
writing to her father, who loved to hear 
of her recognition, she tactfully says are 
" celebrated throughout Europe for their 
peculiar refinement and taste." Returning 
from this visit she spent two days with Mrs. 
Gaskell at Manchester, and when back at home 
writes to Mrs. Smith, referring to the contrast 

13 



194 Charlotte Bronte 

of the life she has left and the life she is living. 
" Yet even Haworth Parsonage does not look 
gloomy in this bright summer weather." 

Altogether, the years 1850 and 1851, in 
which she wrote no single novel, were full of 
interesting impressions for Charlotte Bronte. 
With all its depressing moods, her life was no 
longer given up to " darning a stocking, or 
making a pie in the kitchen of an old parsonage 
in the obscurest of Yorkshire villages," as she 
had once described it. She corresponded with 
all her brothers and sisters of letters, in whose 
work she was interested : she had met most of 
them on equal terms. Moreover the kindness 
of George Smith and his two henchmen, Wil- 
liams and Taylor, had put her in possession of 
a great quantity of modern literature, not per- 
haps as helpful as the old romances and bio- 
graphies that she had borrowed so continuously 
from the Keighley Library, but none the less 
abounding in a new kind of interest for her ever 
alert intelligence. Throughout this and the 
following years, indeed, her letters to her 
London friends deal entirely with the books 
she had borrowed from them, and they 



cc 



Shirley " 195 



are consequently far more interesting letters 
than those written in the period of obscurity 
to the friends of her girlhood. 'Ruskin's Stones 
of Venice, Thackeray's Esmond, Borrow's Bible 
in Spain, and many other books of importance 
are read and criticized with judgment. This 
last phase of her intellectual development 
could not but have had some effect upon the 
crowning literary achievement of Charlotte 
Bronte's life the writing of Villette. 



XV 
"Villette" and The Professor." 

SOME ten years ago I visited the scene 
of Villette^ the Pensionnat Heger at 
Brussels. The school had just been 
removed to another quarter of the city, and the 
house was in an entirely dismantled condition. 
This enabled me to make a perhaps more in- 
timate acquaintance with the building than I 
could otherwise have done. It permitted my 
walking through the various rooms, and tracing 
in minute detail every aspect of the place that 
had been so vividly described, partly in The 
Professor, but more intimately in Villette. Here 
was the dormitory, now dismantled of its long 
succession of beds, in one of which at the fur- 
ther end, Lucy Snowe was frightened by the 
supposed ghost of a nun. Then one came to 
the oratory, with the niche no longer holding 

196 



" Villette " and" The Professor "197 

a crucifix. Finally one passed into the pleasant 
garden, with its avenue of trees, and also the 
" allee defendue " forbidden to all but the 
teachers, because it was overlooked by the 
neighbouring boys' school. 

A visit to this house in the Rue d'Isabelle 
enabled one to gauge the minuteness with 
which Charlotte Bronte had followed every 
detail of locality during her two years' sojourn 
in the city she has called " Villette." There were 
still to be seen the old pear-trees, the same vine- 
clad berceau ; everything remained seemingly 
unchanged during half a century in this quiet 
retired street in a city which has made huge 
strides in other directions during that period, 
which indeed has since then raised in its midst 
many stately buildings, including the most 
magnificent law-courts in Europe. 

It is truly wonderful how vegetation renews 
itself year by year in much the same form for 
incalculable periods. Those paths, and grass- 
plats, could have undergone practically no 
change whatever in the long interval that 
separates the day when Charlotte and Emily 
Bronte walked arm in arm through them, 



198 Charlotte Bronte 

strangely isolated from the mass of their fellow- 
pupils, yet what changes have taken place in 
the great world since those days in 1 842 ! 

But here in the Brussels that I visited there 
were many living links with that long ago. I 
called upon M. Heger, who with his wife had 
kept this school for so many years. The old 
professor, who was eighty-five years old at this 
time, was too ill to see me, and he died two years 
later. His wife has already been dead for five 
years. But all his children were flourishing in 
Brussels, the son as a doctor of distinction, the 
daughters still retaining the old school, just 
removed to another building, which must for 
ever be associated with the Bronte story. It 
was my privilege to hold a long conversation 
with Mile. Heger, the youngest child, the 
" Georgette " of Villette. I found her kindly 
and communicative, and she gave me some in- 
teresting memorials of Charlotte and Emily 
exercise books which it was wonderful should 
have survived from these pupils more than 
from hundreds of others that had attended the 
Pensionnat before and after, but which were 
undoubtedly genuine. The attitude of the 




Born 1809 



M. Paul Heger 

The Hero of " Villette " and " The Professor ' 



Died 1896 



" Villette" and "The Professor " 199 

Heger family had not always been so tolerant 
as I found it, and truly it may be admitted that 
Villette was a hard and a cruel blow, as they and 
their friends may well have thought. It had 
been translated into French and read by num- 
bers of acquaintances in Brussels who without 
being as malicious as the author implied that 
all Belgians were, yet could not have failed of 
an inclination to recognize and to identify. 

Thus one is not surprised to hear that when 
Mrs. Gaskell went to Brussels in order to search 
out material for the Life, Madame Heger de- 
clined to see her, although M. Heger " was 
kind and communicative." M. Heger assuredly 
had less to forgive than his wife. But how 
indisputably cruel is the portrait of Madame 
Beck of Villette and Mile. Reuter of The Pro- 
fessor. We have indisputable evidence that 
Madame Heger was a good wife, that she was 
surrounded even to her death by a circle of 
friends who esteemed her. We have no reason 
to suppose that the picture of the Brussels 
schoolmistress in Villette was any more a 
moral counterpart of Madame Heger than 
the portrait of Mrs. Reed in Jane Eyre 






2OO Charlotte Bronte 

resembled Mrs. Sidgwick, whom the writer also 
doubtless had in her mind. 

Genius is so frequently cruel in its portrait- 
ure, and with a certain ostrich-like quality 
superadded. It never knows that it is cruel 
and it never anticipates identification. Charles 
Dickens frequently denied that he had intended 
Harold Skimpole to represent Leigh Hunt, and 
he must have been astonished and aggrieved 
that his friends should insist upon a recognition. 
Charlotte Bronte was in no similar danger be- 
cause there was no French translation of 
Fillette in her lifetime, but had this not been 
so she would probably have urged, as is the way 
with authors, that here as elsewhere was merely 
a composite picture and not a portrait of an 
individual. If only such identifications could 
be thrust aside, our enjoyment and interest in 
the presentation would be the greater, but 
that is not possible. But if only we can 
forgive its essential cruelty now the portrait 
grips us. The clever, scheming schoolmistress, 
watching all the threads of her large establish- 
ment, with a Napoleonic energy, holds one 
breathless. 



"Villette" and "The Professor" 201 

But biography insists upon identification, 
especially when the writer is pre-eminently a 
satirist, and if Charlotte Bronte was cruel 
artistically cruel to a woman whom she did 
not love, that woman has been more than 
avenged by the persistence with which Miss 
Bronte's own life has been identified with her 
heroine Lucy Snowe. A ruthless criticism has 
punished her in assigning to her own nature, in 
all outward things so strong, so firm, so full of 
self-reliance, the sufferings of her heroine when 
brought face to face with Paul Emanuel. A 
substantial book has been devoted to this sub- 
ject, 1 and it would be absurd to ignore it. 
Hint and innuendo do more harm than a candid 
facing of the facts. Was Charlotte Bronte 
then in love with M. Heger ? Was she in every 
respect the counterpart of Lucy Snowe, 
or Lucy Frost as in the original manuscript she 
is many times called ? Many critics^ have 
urged the point while carefully qualifying their 
position by an insistence that Charlotte Bronte 
never swerved for a moment from the path of 

1 'The Bront?s Fact and Fiction, by Angus Mackay, 
1897. 



202 Charlotte Bronte 

strict moral action, that her life will bear the 
severest searching of the most censorious. But 
such writers are anxious to prove too much. 
From Dante to our day poets have cultivated 
a kind of moral hysteria side by side with a well- 
balanced common-sense outlook upon life. 
Charlotte Bronte was the first woman writer 
to whom the problem of sex appealed with all 
its complications. Her mood was morbid if 
you will. She thought much on the question 
of love, and dwelt continually on the problem 
of the ideal mate. M. Heger was the only man 
she had met with real individuality and power, 
real culture and capacity. The very fact that 
he recognized Emily Bronte's genius speaks 
volumes for his perspicuity. It is certain that 
no other man at that time had the slightest 
inkling of it. 

Charlotte Bronte did not like Madame 
Heger ; theirs were antipathetic natures, and 
there is nothing more to be said on that point. 
If Madame Heger had had a taste for writing 
fiction and had been a governess say in Miss 
Wooler's school at Roehead, she could have 
made just as unamiable a portrait of Charlotte 



" Villette " and " The Professor "203 

as the latter did of her. There is however no 
derogation of the fair fame of Charlotte Bronte 
in the assumption of her critics, that she did 
think of M. Heger as uncongenially mated, that 
she may at times have allowed herself to con- 
template the might-have-beens, the possibility 
of this man as her own husband had circum- 
stances willed it, or as her sister Emily's hus- 
band, as we see she did in Shirley. There was 
nothing wrong in all this, nothing that Mrs. 
Grundy's most sour disciple could possibly 
object to. If Charlotte Bronte preaches one 
thing more than another, it is that we are to 
conquer all inclinations that are the slightest 
degree inconsistent with a very strict moral 
code. Certainly she is very fond of a situa- 
tion of the type that her critics have assigned 
to her. Jane Eyre, for example, it will be 
remembered, falls in love with ''a man whom 
she finds too late belongs to another, and so also 
does Lucy Snowe, in the case of John Bretton. 
Both heroines promptly crush their in- 
clinations. 

But surely the critics have made rather too 
much of the autobiographic nature of Villette 



204 Charlotte Bronte 

They have not sufficiently grasped the fact that 
an artist cultivates emotions in order to make 
good copy out of them. It is nothing to the 
point that these emotions made Charlotte 
Bronte very miserable at times. The real 
artist is always a creature of moods. It is quite 
another thing however to suggest that when 
at Brussels, and suffering, as we know she 
did suffer, Charlotte Bronte was in anguish 
because she was not and could not be the wife 
of M. Heger. He was, it is perfectly clear, 
happily married. No one however has for a 
moment suggested that Miss Bronte ever at- 
tempted to draw from Madame Heger the love 
of her husband, and really all the letters that 
have come to light bearing upon that year at 
Brussels which commenced in the January of 
1843, seem to show that she was far from seeing 
much of M. Heger, and that she was really 
frightfully lonely. She tells Branwell that she 
only sees M. Heger once a week or so, and she 
informed Emily that he had scolded her for her 
want of sociability, and so concludes : 

" He has already given me a brief lecture on 
universal bienveillance, and, perceiving that I 



" Villette " and " The Professor "205 

don't improve in consequence, I fancy he has 
taken to considering me as a person to be let 
alone left to the error of her ways." 



Yet another point has agitated the critics of 
Villette Charlotte Bronte's religion. She 
broadened doubtless with the years. The age 
of Tennyson in poetry, Ruskin and Carlyle in 
prose, a period when what was called the Broad 
Church had captured some of the best 
minds of the day, could not but have 
influenced her as she began late in her career to 
read modern writers. It is clear that her youth 
was formed upon the older authors, her father's 
theological guides and her own selection of 
books from the library at Keighley, where it 
may safely be assumed new books were seldom 
forthcoming. Not until W. S. Williams and 
George Smith began to send her books from 
London did her mind take on a new aspect of 
truth. But of this there are few traces in her 
novels. These reflect the views she had im- 
bibed in her childhood, and were of that 
thoroughly Orange complexion which her 



206 Charlotte Bronte 

father had brought with him from Co. Down. 
When she insists that people should hold by 
what is " purest in doctrine and simplest in 
ritual " it is clear that she implies that purity 
is only to be obtained when ornateness is ab- 
sent. A violent hatred of Roman Catholicism, 
indeed, characterizes her first novel, The Pro- 
fessor, and her last novel, Villette. Her girl 
pupils in Brussels had an art of " bold, impu- 
dent flirtation, or a loose, silly leer." " I am 
not a bigot in matters of theology," she con- 
tinues, " but I suspect the root of the preco- 
cious impurity, so obvious, so general in Popish 
countries, is to be found in the discipline, if not 
the doctrines of the Church of Rome." If she 
had been able to contrast impartially the moral 
atmosphere of, let us say, an Irish village and a 
Yorkshire village, then or now she might have 
discovered that the root of the matter is else- 
where to seek. Even her father's parish had 
more than one scandal in her own day. Not 
even ordinary truthfulness is credited to the 
religion of the rival communion. " She is even 
sincere, so far as her religion would permit her 
to be so," in her account of one of the pupils in 



" Villette " and " 7$ Professor "207 

this same novel, T/><? Professor, and her heroine 
is made to say that she longs " to live once more 
among Protestants ; they are more honest than 
Catholics : these all think it lawful to tell lies." 
When we come to Villette, things are even 
worse, or better as the reader may choose to 
interpret it. Methodism receives little more 
favour. Her Dissenters are nearly all " en- 
grained rascals," as she calls one of them. 

But how unimportant it all is, although in- 
teresting in a way. Every great writer in every 
age has been very much in harmony with his 
environment, and a later age with other views 
of toleration cares for none of these things, but 
asks only of the artistic achievement. Two 
widely different contemporary writers, Char- 
lotte Bronte and George Borrow were at one in 
their hatred of Romanism. Yet both have re- 
ceived some of their most eloquent appreciation 
from members of that Church, and in any case 
it must not be forgotten that Charlotte Bronte's 
most impressive hero, Paul Emanuel, was a 
Roman Catholic, and that she herself " con- 
fessed " in a Roman Catholic church. 



2 o 8 Charlotte Bronte 

Villette is one of the great novels of literature. 
Mrs. Breton and Dr. John pictures to some 
extent of Mr. George Smith and his mother 
Ginevra Fanshawe and Paulina de Bassompierre 
are very subordinate to the three characters 
who play their fierce and spirited part on this 
tiny stage. It is the novel of greatest inten- 
sity, of most genuine passion, of most satiric 
strength in the period in which it appeared. 
The book will always rank as the principal 
achievement of its writer. 

It is not difficult to understand why her 
publishers three times during her lifetime de- 
clined Miss Bronte's request to publish The 
Professor. Apart from its size the impossi- 
bility of producing it as a three-volumed novel, 
there were many elements of crudity. Young 
Crimsworth could more easily have been 
ten years at Eton then than now, but 
he would certainly not have carried thence 
a great capacity for reading and writing 
French and German. In any case Villette 
was in many particulars but a rewriting 
of The Professor. The incident of shutting an 
unruly pupil up in a cupboard is repeated in 



" Villette" and" The Professor "209 

both stories, and Madame Beck and Mile. 
Reuter indulge in much the same manoeuvres 
with their scholars. Nevertheless The Pro- 
fessor * is full of good things, and Frances Henri 
is perhaps the only woman character in Char- 
lotte Bronte's novels of real charm. 



Villette was commenced at the beginning of 
1851, but not before she had felt compelled to 
bow before a third and final refusal of her pub- 
lisher to accept The Professor, a story for which 
she had evidently a peculiar affection. In May 
she pays yet another visit to London, this time 
to see the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. To 
that visit I have already referred. At^is time 
we find her engaged in quite a copious corre- 
spondence, now with her old friends, and now 
again with her new friends in London. She 
writes for example to Ellen Nussey, describing 
a visit to Leeds for the purchase of a bonnet. 
" I got one which seemed grave and quiet there 
among all the splendours, but now it looks in- 

1 The original manuscript, now in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas Wise, discloses that the book was first called The 
Master. 



2 I o Charlotte Bronte 

finitely too gay with its pink lining. I saw 
some beautiful silks of pale, sweet colours, but 
had not the spirit nor the means to launch out 
at the rate of five shillings per yard, and went 
and bought a black silk at three shillings after 
all." While to Mr. Smith she writes enthu- 
siastically concerning Mr. Ruskin's Stones of 
Venice ', which she had just read through. She 
heard Cardinal Wiseman address a small meet- 
ing. " He came swimming into the room, 
smiling, simpering and bowing like a fat old 
lady, and looked the picture of a sleek hypo- 
crite. The Cardinal spoke in a smooth whining 
manner, just like a canting Methodist preach- 
er," she added. We hear nothing about 
authorship until September, when in reply to 
a suggestion by Mr. George Smith that she 
should give him her next book for serial pub- 
lication, she replied that " were she possessed 
of the experience of a Thackeray, or the animal 
spirit of a Dickens it might be possible, but even 
then she would not publish a serial except on 
condition that the last number was written 
before the first came out." Her loyalty to her 
publisher was extreme, for in yet another letter 



" Villette" and" The Professor "211 

she expresses her deep regret that it was quite 
impossible for her to oblige him over this ques- 
tion of a serial. At the close of the year there 
came a long and serious illness, and as she was 
recovering she stayed for a time with Ellen 
Nussey. " The solitude of my life I have cer- 
tainly felt very keenly this winter," she writes 
to a friend, " but every one has his own burden 
to bear, and when there is no available remedy 
it is right to be patient and trust that Provi- 
dence will in His own good time lighten the 
load." The first few months of the year 1852 
Miss Bronte was struggling back to health. In 
June of that year she went alone to Filey, on 
the Yorkshire coast, and took the opportunity 
of looking at the tombstone of her sister Anne 
in the churchyard of the old church at Scar- 
borough. Then came a serious illness of her 
father, and work on her novel was again post- 
poned. We do not hear more about Villette 
until the October of 1852, when she is able to 
send her publisher the first half of the book. 
She is agitated because there is no one to whom 
she is able to read a single line, or ask a word of 
counsel. " Jane Eyre was not written under 



212 Charlotte Bronte 

such circumstances," she said, " nor were two- 
thirds of Shirley" She would have liked it to 
be published anonymously, or under some 
other pseudonym than that of " Currer Bell," 
but gave way when told by her publishers that 
it would very much interfere with their in- 
terests. Writing to her publisher a little later, 
she expresses a regret that Villette touches no 
matter of public concern. " I cannot write 
books handling the topics of the day ; it is of 
no use trying," she said. " Nor can I write a 
book for its moral." She is pleased that her 
publisher likes the opening sections of the 
book, and discusses with him its later stages, 
as follows : 

" Lucy must not marry Dr. John ; he is far 
too youthful, handsome, bright-spirited, and 
sweet-tempered ; he is a * curled darling ' of 
Nature and of Fortune, and must draw a prize 
in life's lottery. His wife must be young, rich, 
pretty ; he must be made very happy indeed. 
If Lucy marries anybody it must be the Pro- 
fessor a man in whom there is much to for- 
give, much to ' put up with.' But I am not 
leniently disposed towards Miss Frost : from 



" Villette" and" The Professor" 213 

the beginning I never meant to appoint her 
lines in pleasant places. The conclusion of 
this third volume is still a matter of some 
anxiety." 

As a matter of fact it would seem that the 
conclusion of the book gave her considerable 
trouble. Her father, to whom she read it, was 
very anxious that it should end well, and that 
she should make her hero and heroine marry 
and live happily ever after. Her imagination 
had however been seized with the idea that 
Paul Emanuel should lose his life at sea, hence 
the somewhat ambiguous ending to the book. 
She did not wish to hurt her father's feelings, 
but on the other hand she did not wish to go 
against her artistic conscience. At the end of 
November 1852, Villette was finished. " The 
book, I think," she says, in sending it away, 
" will not be considered pretentious, nor is it 
of a character to excite hostility." 

After this a week was spent with Ellen 
Nussey at Brookroyd, a fortnight with Harriet 
Martineau at Ambleside, and in January the 
following year she was again in London, stay- 
ing with her publishers, and correcting the 



214 Charlotte Bronte 

proof-sheets of her novel, the publication of 
which she deferred until the end of the month 
in order to give Mrs. Gaskell's Ruth the start in 
the papers ; and on this matter she writes to 
her friend, Mrs. Gaskell, to the effect that 
" Villette has no right to push itself before 
Ruth ; there is a goodness, a philanthropic 
purpose, a social use in the latter to which the 
former cannot for an instant pretend." 

Villette was published on January 24, 1853, 
and was received with general acclamation. 
Nearly all the reviews were favourable, the 
principal exception being one written by Miss 
Martineau in the Daily News. Miss Martin- 
eau's points of disagreement were twofold 
she disagreed with the author on the question 
of love, and she thought her unfair to the 
Roman Catholic Church. On the first point, 
at any rate, Miss Bronte's reply to her friend 
was sufficiently effective " I know what love 
is, as I understand it, and if man or woman 
should be ashamed of feeling such love, then is 
there nothing right, noble, faithful, truthful, 
unselfish in this earth, as I comprehend recti- 
tude, nobleness, fidelity, truth and disinter- 



" Villette" and" The Professor" 2 i 5 

estedness." In February she writes from 
Haworth to thank Mr. George Smith for send- 
ing her an engraving of Thackeray's portrait 
by Lawrence. At this time interest in her 
personality was growing steadily. The Bishop 
of the diocese came to see Mr. Bronte, and 
spent the night in the vicarage. Miss Mulock, 
the author of John Halifax, Gentleman, and 
other correspondents wrote to her for further 
particulars as to the fate of Paul Emanuel. In 
April she was again with Mrs. Gaskell at Man- 
chester, and in September Mrs. Gaskell visited 
her at Haworth, and we owe to her quite the 
best description of Miss Bronte's home in these 
last years of her life. 

" I don't know that I ever saw a spot more 
exquisitely clean ; the most dainty place for 
that I ever saw. To be sure the life is like 
clockwork. No one comes to the house ; no- 
thing disturbs the deep repose ; hardly a voice 
is heard ; you catch the ticking of the clock in 
the kitchen, or the buzzing of a fly in the par- 
lour all over the house. Miss Bronte sits alone 
in her parlour, breakfasting with her father in 
his study at nine o'clock. She helps in the 



2 1 6 Charlotte Bronte' 

house work ; for one of their servants, Tabby, 
is nearly ninety, and the other only a girl. 
Then I accompanied her in her walks on the 
sweeping moors ; the heather bloom had been 
blighted by a thunderstorm a day or two be- 
fore, and was all of a livid brown colour, in- 
stead of the blaze of purple glory it ought to 
have been. Oh ! those high, wild, desolate 
moors, up above the whole world, and the very 
realms of silence ! Home to dinner at two. 
Mr. Bronte has his dinner sent in to him. All 
the small table arrangements had the same 
dainty simplicity about them. Then we 
rested, and talked over the clear bright fire ; it 
is a cold country, and the fires gave a pretty 
warm dancing light all over the house. The 
parlour has been evidently refurnished within 
the last few years, since Miss Bronte's success 
has enabled her to have a little more money to 
spend. Everything fits into, and is in harmony 
with, the idea of a country parsonage, possessed 
by people of very moderate means. The pre- 
vailing colour of the room is crimson, to make 
a warm setting for the cold grey landscape 
without. There is her likeness by Richmond, 



" Villette" and " The Professor" 217 

and an engraving from Lawrence's picture of 
Thackeray ; and two recesses, on each side of 
the high, narrow, old-fashioned mantelpiece, 
filled with books books given to her, books 
she has bought, and which tell of her individual 
pursuits and tastes ; not standard books." 

Not less interesting is the account of a mere 
stranger's visit to Miss Bronte at Haworth in 
these days of lonely success : 

" I was shown across the lobby into the par- 
lour to the left, and there I found Miss Bronte, 
standing in the full light of the window, and I 
had ample opportunity of fixing her upon my 
memory, where her image is vividly present to 
this hour. She was diminutive in height, and 
extremely fragile. Her hand was one of the 
smallest I ever grasped. She had no preten- 
sions to being considered beautiful, and was as 
far removed from being plain. She had rather 
light brown hair, somewhat thin, and drawn 
plainly over her brow. Her complexion had 
no trace of colour in it, and her lips were pallid 
also ; but she had a most sweet smile, with a 
touch of tender melancholy in it. Altogether 
she was as unpretending, undemonstrative, 



2 i 8 Charlotte Bronte 

quiet a little lady as you would well meet. 
Her age I took to be about five-and-thirty. 
But when you saw and felt her eyes, the spirit 
that created Jane Eyre was revealed at once to 
you. They were rather small, but of a very 
peculiar colour, and had a strange lustre and 
intensity. They were chameleon-like, a blend- 
ing of various brown and olive tints. But they 
looked you through and through and you felt 
they were forming an opinion of you, not by 
mere acute noting of Lavaterish physiognomi- 
cal peculiarities, but by a subtle penetration 
into the very marrow of your mind, and the 
innermost core of your soul. Taking my hand 
again, she apologised for her enforced absence, 
and, as she did so, she looked right through me. 
There was no boldness in the gaze, but an in- 
tense, direct, searching look, as of one who had 
the gift to read hidden mysteries, and the right 
to read them. I had a feeling that I never 
experienced before or since, as though I was 
being mesmerised." 1 

Through the closing months of 1853 and the 
early part of 1854 Miss Bronte, living quietly 

1 John Stores Smith in The Free Lance, March 14, 1868. 



cc 



Villette" and" The Professor" 219 

at Haworth, was principally occupied in nurs- 
ing her father, who was getting very old and 
very blind. In April however she was able to 
announce to her friends that she was engaged 
to be married to her father's curate, and on 
June 29 of this year, 1854, Charlotte Bronte 
became Mrs. Arthur Bell Nicholls. 



XVI 
Marriage and Death 

I THINK he must be like all the curates 
I have seen," Charlotte Bronte writes 
of one of them. " They seem to me 
a self-seeking, vain, empty race." Her ex- 
perience had certainly been exceptionally wide, 
for until she went to Brussels at twenty-six 
years of age she had met but few other men in 
her father's house. Curates there had been 
in abundance. To the three individuals de- 
scribed in Shirley, one may add at least six 
others, and two of them desired to marry Miss 
Bronte Mr. Bryce and Mr. Nussey. Mr. 
Bryce proposed by letter after one meeting, 
Mr. Nussey also declared himself in almost 
similar fashion, and received in return much 
good advice as to choosing a wife which, as 
we have seen, he quickly took. Miss Bronte 
had become famous when the next pro- 



Marriage and Death 221 

posal of marriage came to her. This was from 
Mr. James Taylor, who was in the employment 
of her publishers. The firm suggested to Miss 
Bronte that Mr. Taylor should come to Ha- 
worth for the manuscript of Shirley, and her 
reply gave an interesting glimpse of her pecu- 
liarly isolated life. She told Mr. W. S. Wil- 
liams that she could not offer any male society 
as companions in the neighbourhood, that her 
father " without being in the least misanthro- 
pical or sour-natured, habitually prefers soli- 
tude to society." Under these circumstances 
Miss Bronte suggests that if Mr. Taylor still 
desires to come for the manuscript, he should 
only stay the one day. Mr. Taylor came, and 
it is clear quickly lost his heart, and showed, 
moreover, much more persistency than earlier 
lovers. He began to lend her newspapers and 
books, and went so far as to half propose, only 
to be snubbed into silence for a period of nine 
months, when he reappeared, or rather his 
favourite newspaper, which came once again 
through the post to Haworth. It was the 
Athen&um which formed the singular medium 
of this quaint courtship. There are many 



222 Charlotte Bronte 



references in Charlotte Bronte's letters to her 
friend Ellen Nussey which seem to indicate 
that with still a little more persistency James 
Taylor " the little man," as she calls him 
might have won his suit, the more particularly 
as he had a strong ally in her father, and 
touched her by a certain resemblance to her 
brother BranweH. However his firm sent him 
to India, and he accepted as final Miss Bronte's 
definite refusal. He wrote to her occasionally 
from Bombay, and her letters to him have been 
published. 1 When he returned to England in 
1856 Charlotte Bronte was dead. 

Miss Bronte's fourth and this time successful 
lover was Mr. Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's 
curate : one of that detested race which she 
had satirized so bitterly in Shirley, and made so 
many contemptuous references to in her letters. 
Of Mr. Nicholls, however, she had early formed 
a kindly judgment. Born in 1817, he was a 
Scot by origin, an Irishman of Co. Antrim by 
birth. He was educated at the Royal School 
at Banagher by his uncle, the Rev. Alan Bell, 
the headmaster. From Trinity College, Dub- 
1 In Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, 



Marriage and Death 223 

lin, he passed in 1844 to the curacy of Ha worth, 
in succession to Mr. Smith, the " Malone " of 
Shirley. In that novel, written, it will be 
remembered, in 1849, he is pictured as Mr. 
Macartney : " I am happy to be able to in- 
form you with truth that this gentleman did as 
much credit to his country as Malone had done 
it discredit. . . . He laboured faithfully in 
the parish : the schools, both Sunday and day- 
schools, flourished under his sway like green 
bay-trees. Being human, of course he had his 
faults ; these however were proper, steady- 
going clerical faults, which many would call 
virtues : the circumstance of finding himself 
invited to tea with a Dissenter would unhinge 
him for a week. . . ." 

In 1846 Miss Bronte repudiated her friend's 
suggestion that she was going to marry Mr. 
Nicholls. " He and his fellow curates," she said, 
" regard me as an old maid, and I regard them, 
one and all, as highly uninteresting, narrow and 
unattractive specimens of the coarser sex." 

Mr. Nicholls however had his moment 
of triumph, when Shirley appeared, and 
thereon Miss Bronte wrote to her friend 



224 Charlotte Bronte 

that he had greeted the book with " roars 
of laughter." " He would read all the 
scenes about the curates aloud to papa. He 
triumphed in his own character." Two years 
later Mr. Nicholls appeared in a less 
successful role. He asked his vicar's daughter 
to marry him. This was in December 
1852. The incident is best told in Miss 
Bronte's own words : 

" On Monday evening Mr. Nicholls was here 
to tea. I vaguely felt without clearly seeing, 
as without seeing I have felt for some time, the 
meaning of his constant looks, and strange, 
feverish restraint. After tea I withdrew to the 
dining-room as usual. As usual, Mr. Nicholls 
sat with papa till between eight and nine 
o'clock ; I then heard him open the parlour 
door as if going. I expected the clash of the 
front door. He stopped in the passage ; he 
tapped ; like lightning it flashed on me what 
was coming. He entered ; he stood before 
me. What his words were you can guess ; his 
manner you can hardly realize, nor can I forget 
it. Shaking from head to foot, looking deadly 





The Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls 

The husband of Charlotte Bronte, to whom she was married 
June 29, 1854 



Marriage and Death 22 $ 

pale, speaking low, vehemently, yet with diffi- 
culty, he made me for the first time feel what 
it costs a man to declare affection where he 
doubts response. 

" The spectacle of one ordinarily so statue- 
like thus trembling, stirred, and overcome, gave 
me a kind of strange shock. He spoke of suffer- 
ings he had borne for months, of sufferings he 
could endure no longer, and craved leave for 
some hope. I could only entreat him to leave 
me then, and promise a reply on the morrow. 
I asked him if he had spoken to papa. He said 
he dared not. I think I half led, half put him 
out of the room. 

" When he was gone I immediately went to 
papa, and told him what had taken place. 
Agitation and anger disproportionate to the 
occasion ensued ; if I had loved Mr. Nicholls 
and had heard such epithets applied to him as 
were used, it would have transported me past 
my patience ; as it was, my blood boiled with 
a sense of injustice. But papa worked himself 
into a state not to be trifled with : the veins 
on his temples started up like whip-cord, and 
his eyes became suddenly bloodshot. I made 

id 



226 Charlotte Bronte 

haste to promise that Mr. Nicholls should on 

the morrow have a distinct refusal. 

***** 

" You must understand that a good share of 
papa's anger arises from the idea, not alto- 
gether groundless, that Mr. Nicholls has be- 
haved with disingenuousness in so long con- 
cealing his aim. I am afraid also that papa 
thinks a little too much about his want of 
money ; he says the match would be a degra- 
dation, that I should be throwing myself away, 
that he expects me, if I marry at all, to do very 
differently ; in short, his manner of viewing 
the subject is on the whole far from being one 
in which I can sympathize. My own object 
tions arise from a sense of incongruity and un- 
congeniality in feelings, tastes, principles." 

Here clearly was the first lover who realized 
in a measure the ideal of love that Charlotte 
Bronte had pictured in her dreams and in her 
stories a passionate man full of devotion, 
above all suspicion of wanting a wife for her in- 
tellectual attainments or literary achievements. 
Whatever uncongeniality there may have been 
in these particulars was more than atoned for by 



Marriage and Death 227 

her father's action. A woman hates injustice 
to a man who pays her the compliment of being 
in love with her, and she is nearly always in love 
with love. As a natural consequence a few 
months found Charlotte Bronte deeply devoted 
to Mr. Nicholls. The gentleman had meanwhile 
betaken himself to another curacy at Kirk- 
Smeaton, after five months of difficulty and 
unpleasantness with Mr. Bronte. His successor 
did not please, and to the complaints of her 
father Miss Bronte had a ready retort. She 
loved Mr. Nicholls, and corresponded with 
him. If she married him they could live at 
the rectory, and Mr. Bronte's old age would 
be secured from trouble. To a man, very old 
and very nearly blind, this was well-nigh an 
unanswerable appeal, and Mr. Bronte relented. 
Mr. Nicholls exchanged back to Haworth, and 
the wedding took place at Haworth Church on 
June 29, 1854, Mr. Sutcliffe Sowden, one of 
Mr. Nicholls' friends, performing the cere- 
mony, Miss Wooler giving the bride away, and 
Miss Ellen Nussey being the only bridesmaid. 
The honeymoon was passed in Ireland in 
a run through Kerry and Co. Cork, and a 



228 Charlotte Bronte 

stay with her husband's relatives at Banagher 
in King's Co. " I must say I like my new re- 
lations," she writes ; " my dear husband, too, 
appears in a new light in his own country. 
More than once I had deep pleasure in hearing 
his praises on all sides. ... I pray to be en- 
abled to repay as I ought the affectionate devo- 
tion of a truthful, honourable man." 

And upon her return to Haworth she writes : 
" Dear Nell, during the last six weeks the 
colour of my thoughts is a good deal changed : 
I know more of the realities of life than I once 
did. I think many false ideas are propagated, 
perhaps unintentionally. I think those mar- 
ried women who indiscriminately urge their 
acquaintances to marry, much to blame. For 
my own part, I can only say with deepest sin- 
cerity and fuller significance what I always 
said in theory, ' Wait God's will.' Indeed, in- 
deed, Nell, it is a solemn and strange and 
perilous thing for a woman to become a wife. 
Man's lot is far, far different. . . . Have I told 
you how much better Mr. Nicholls is ? He 
looks quite strong and hale ; he gained twelve 
pounds during the first four weeks in Ireland. 



Marriage and Death 229 

To see this improvement in him has been a 
main source of happiness to me, and to speak 
truth, a subject of wonder too." 

The letters that followed clearly indicated 
that love had followed respect and esteem, as 
had been her "theory" of marriage, and that she 
was becoming entirely devoted to her husband. 
These few months of married life were, it is 
certain, quite the happiest of her life. We 
hear little, indeed, of authorship but they 
know little of authorship who think that happi- 
ness in any robust sense and the writing of 
works of imagination are synonymous terms. 
The months that Charlotte Bronte was writ- 
ing her books were probably the most unhappy 
of her life. Now she took to domestic duties. 
" The married woman can call but a very small 
portion of each day her own," she writes. 

But her end was approaching. Charlotte 
Bronte had been but nine months a wife when 
she died of an illness incidental to childbirth 
on March 13, 1855. In a letter to a friend 
from her deathbed she writes, " I want to give 
you an assurance which I know will comfort 
you : that is that I find in my husband the 



230 Charlotte Bronte 

tenderest nurse, the kindest support, the best 
earthly comfort that ever woman had. His 
patience never fails, and it is tried by sad days 
and broken nights." Then came the last words 
to her husband surely as pathetic as any in the 
whole range of literary biography. " I am not 
going to die, am I ? He will not separate us, 
we have been so happy." 



Charlotte Nicholls was buried beside her 
mother, her brother Branwell, and her sister 
Emily in the family vault in Haworth Church. 
For the six years that followed his wife's death 
Mr. Nicholls stayed on at Haworth. At the 
death of Mr. Bronte he removed to Ireland, 
gave up the Church as a profession, and engaged 
in farming an occupation he has pursued for 
nearly fifty years. 

The present writer first met Mr. Nicholls in 
1895. It was on the anniversary of the great 
novelist's death-day March 31 fifty years 
earlier. Mr Nicholls met me at Banagher 
station, as I alighted from the Dublin 
train. Banagher is situated on the Shan- 



Marriage and Death 231 

non. It has been immortalized by a phrase 
" That bangs Banagher." At the end of 
the village, near by the Protestant Church, I 
found the pleasant farm-house in which the 
former curate of Haworth was passing his de- 
clining years. The house was singularly in- 
teresting in its multitude of Bronte relics. On 
the walls of the drawing-room were Richmond's 
portrait of Charlotte Bronte, the engravings of 
Thackeray and Wellington that so delighted 
her heart, water-colour drawings by all three 
sisters, perhaps most noticeable, crude but not 
the less interesting, Emily's picture of her dog 
" Keeper " and Anne's " Flossy." On the stair- 
case was a portrait of Branwell. I noted the two 
rocking-chairs so frequently occupied by the 
younger sisters in their last illness in fact the 
whole house abounded in pathetic memories of 
that strangely different life in far away York- 
shire. It almost seemed as if the wraiths of 
the immortal sisters had revisited the land of 
their fathers a land which with all its romance 
and poetry had made no impression upon them 
when they lived, although, as I have said, 
Charlotte Bronte spent some happy weeks there 



2 32 Charlotte Bronte 

soon after marriage, and indeed had stayed in 
this very house. 

But what of Mr. Nicholls ? I had almost 
been prepared for a narrow-minded, limited, 
austere man. I had read estimates of him that 
inclined to this view. Miss Ellen Nussey, the 
very personification of loyalty to the memory 
of her dear friend, was nevertheless not kindly 
disposed to Mr. Nicholls. From her Mrs. 
Gaskell had imbibed a prejudice that is ex- 
pressed in more than one letter I have seen. 
Mr. Nicholls had his idiosyncrasies, as have most 
of us, and no one could face the life of a country 
village without incurring prejudice and misun- 
derstanding. The author of Cranford might well 
have realized that. In any case time, we may 
assume, had softened down many angularities 
in Mr. Nicholls, as it softens them with most 
men; Certainly the genial man who shook hands 
with me at Banagher station, carried me off 
in his jaunting car to his pleasant home and 
introduced me to his kindly family circle was an 
entirely benign and liberal-minded man. There 
were no remnants in his nature of that intoler- 
ance and pedantry that may or may not have 



Marriage and Death 233 

been in his nature half a century earlier. He 
was keenly interested in everything that was 
going on in the great world, very gratified at 
the universal recognition of his wife's genius, 
and greatly appreciative of the homage that 
was now offered on all sides. 1 



1 Mr. Nicholls was full of kindly memories of old Mr. 
Bronte. He denied the many rumours that had so long 
flourished about his eccentricities, while admitting that he 
had a temper on occasions. He thought the earlier opposi- 
tion to his marriage not unnatural in a man who had learnt 
to value his daughter very highly. " I had less than a hun- 
dred pounds a year at the time," he remarked. 



XVII 
The Glamour of the Brontes 

JUST as a love of Milton's Lycidash&s been 
proclaimed to be a touchstone of taste 
in poetry, so I think may an apprecia- 
tion of the Bronte novels be counted as a touch- 
stone of taste in prose literature. This is more 
particularly the case so far as Emily Bronte's 
Wuthering Heights is concerned. Not to real- 
ize the high qualities of that masterpiece of 
fiction is to be blind indeed to all the conditions 
which go to make a great book. Wuthering 
Heights is indeed unique in modern literature ; 
it is entirely independent of all the fiction that 
had gone before. Because Emily Bronte learnt 
German and doubtless read many an eerie Ger- 
man story, it has been suggested that this was 
a literature that influenced her materially ; 
because she had an Irish father, who may or 
may not have told tales by the fireside recalling 
his boyhood, it has been claimed that here was 

234 



The Glamour of the Bronte's 235 

the material upon which she worked. Not one 
of these suppositions will bear examination. 
The only external influence that would seem 
to have made this wonderful book were those 
wild and silent moors that the writer loved so 
well, and where we are sure from earliest child- 
hood she constantly kept solitary communion 
with all the weird phantasies of her brain. 

This element of mystery in all that concerned 
Emily Bronte, the absence of a single line from 
her to any correspondent furnishing some re- 
velation of character, the non-existence even 
of a portrait bearing the faintest resemblance 
to her, the few casual glimpses of a personality 
that loved dogs more than human beings, of a 
nature that was quite unlike to many thou- 
sands of her fellow countrywomen that were 
born into the world in these same days of the 
first quarter of the last century all these, 
combined with the fact that every critic with- 
out exception that has been brought into con- 
tact with her poetry and prose has found it 
glorious, and you have here at least one ele- 
ment that provides a glamour to the story of 
the Brontes. 



236 Charlotte Bronte 

A second element of this glamour is fur- 
nished by the circumstance of the very exist- 
ence of a family of four children, all of them 
with a taste for writing, and all of them destined 
to die young. Branwell and Anne are but 
quite minor figures in this strange drama, but 
that one family should have produced two 
young girls of the calibre of Emily and Char- 
lotte is of itself an unique circumstance in Eng- 
lish literature. Emily the reticent, whose 
pages give forth not one single scrap of self- 
revelation, who is as impersonal as Shakspere, 
revealed only in certain poems that hers was on 
the whole a sombre pagan outlook upon life, in 
which the riddle of the universe is found to be 
insoluble. Charlotte on the other hand offering 
us an entire contrast, taking us so abundantly 
into her confidence alike in her letters and her 
books. She has an opinion upon every sub- 
ject. Here is indeed no lack whatever of self- 
revelation, and very piquant it all is. We 
know Charlotte Bronte's attitude on the rela- 
tion of capital and labour, on the virtues of 
revealed religion, by which she usually meant 
the tenets of the Church of England, on books 



The Glamour of the Bronte's 237 

and on men ; there was not a single human 
being, with the exception of her own father, 
that she did not permit herself to criticise with 
the utmost frankness. Her girl friends, and 
the literary friends of later years, every casual 
acquaintance indeed, equally came under that 
satiric touch. The personal note was not 
quite as common in literature then as it is to- 
day, and that is why Charlotte Bronte's corre- 
spondence will always have an attraction of its 
own. Added to this, it is indisputable that she 
was a singularly great novelist. It has recently 
been suggested that the popularity of her books 
is on the wane. The idea probably arises from 
the experiences of one or two publishers, but a 
dozen publishers at least are at present engaged 
on issuing the Bronte novels, and from inquiries 
I have made I am satisfied that while not, and 
rightly, holding the same vogue as do Scott, 
Dickens and Thackeray, she comes next to them 
in general acceptance among the English 
novelists of the past. 

It is true she has limitations, most obvious in 
Shirley, but to be found in a measure in all her 
books ; a kindly benevolent outlook upon life 



238 Charlotte Bronte 

there is not. Some of her pictures of men and 
women were grotesque even when written ; 
they are doubly grotesque to-day without being 
far enough away from us to enable us to feel 
that she is giving us a picture of a bygone era. 
But when all limitations are conceded, there 
still remain to us great books, full of interest, of 
imperishable character drawing. Jane Eyre 
and Lucy Snowe, Rochester and Paul Emanuel, 
with a number of minor characters are all 
drawn with a master touch, and while new 
books must necessarily ever displace the old 
with the majority of readers, there will never, 
we may be sure, be a time when a student of 
literature will not find it essential to make the 
acquaintance of this famous gallery of creations, 
that filled so large a space in the reading interests 
of an earlier generation. These books must be 
read if only for their style, if only for their fine 
passionate phrases, they must be read still more 
for their fine moral and intellectual qualities, 
for the stern sense of duty that belongs to them, 
the scorn of all meanness and trickery, the 
wonderful grasp of the hard facts of life, of the 
stern facts of our being. " Life is a battle," 



The Glamour of the Brontes 239 

she said. " God grant that we may all be able to 
fight it well." These books will be read above all 
because more truly than any other writer in our 
fiction, Charlotte Bronte has pictured an ideal 
of love which will always make its appeal to 
many hearts. In her stones we find the pas- 
sionate devotion of one human being to an- 
other, growing more intense with time, based 
partly on intellectual sympathy, partly on 
spiritual affinity, and yet again upon absorbing 
passion. Most of our writers love only to de- 
pict the casual devotion based on a pretty face 
or a charming disposition. Further, they had 
not dared to go until our own time when the 
sex novelist has gone too far. 

Finally in considering this question of the 
glamour of the Brontes, we come again to the 
point of vivid interest that they have been able 
to excite through their own personality. What 
could be more marked in this way than the note 
that Charlotte Bronte wrote five years before 
she died, concerning her sisters, some passages 
from which have already been quoted in this 
little book, and another and longer passage may 
well be quoted here : 



240 Charlotte Bronte 

" About five years ago," wrote Miss Bronte 
in 1850, " my two sisters and myself, after a 
prolonged period of separation, found ourselves 
reunited, and at home. Resident in a remote 
district, where education had made little pro- 
gress, and where, consequently, there was no 
inducement to social intercourse beyond our 
own domestic circle, we were wholly dependent 
on ourselves and each other, on books and study, 
for the enjoyments and occupations of life. 
The highest stimulus, as well as the liveliest 
pleasure, we had known from childhood up- 
wards lay in attempts at literary composition. 
We had very early cherished the dream of be- 
coming authors. This dream, never relin- 
quished, even when distance divided and 
absorbing tasks occupied us, now suddenly 
acquired strength and consistency. It took 
the character of a resolve. We agreed to 
arrange a small selection of our poems, and, if 
possible, get them printed. Averse to personal 
publicity, we veiled our own names under 
those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell ; the am- 
biguous choice being dictated by a sort of 
conscientious scruple at assuming Christian 



The Glamour of the Brontes 241 

names positively masculine, while we did not 
like to declare ourselves women, because 
without at that time suspecting that our mode 
of writing and thinking was not what is called 
' feminine ' we had a vague impression that 
authoresses are liable to be looked on with pre- 
judice ; we had noticed how critics sometimes 
use for their chastisement the weapon of per- 
sonality and for their reward a flattery which 
is not true praise. The bringing out of 
our little book was hard work. As was to 
be expected, neither we nor our poems were 
at all wanted ; but for this we had been pre- 
pared at the outset. Though inexperienced 
ourselves, we had read the experience of others. 
Through many obstacles a way was at last 
made, and the book was printed ; it did not 
obtain much favourable criticism, and is 
scarcely known ; but ill-success failed to 
crush us ; the mere effort to succeed had 
given a wonderful zest to existence ; it must 
be pursued. We each, therefore, set to work 
on a prose tale." 



16 



242 Charlotte Bronte 

And then that final tribute to her sisters' 
memories : " I may sum up all by saying that 
for strangers they were nothing ; for super- 
ficial observers less than nothing ; but for 
those who had known them all their lives in the 
intimacy of close relationship, they were genu- 
inely good, and truly great." 

Some six years after this tribute had been 
paid, there came that splendid recognition by 
Mrs. Gaskell, an accomplished writer who has 
added more than one book of enduring reputa- 
tion to our literature. With so fine an imagi- 
nation it was only natural that she should 
write a beautiful book, a book calculated still 
further to kindle popular interest. It is not 
too much to say that Mrs. Gaskell's Life of 
Charlotte Bronte has received as enthusiastic 
praise from the critics as any one of her own 
novels, or even the novels of the friend whose 
fame she was to assist so largely. There are 
those who have read that biography who have 
never read the novels, and have found in its 
pathetic story, so effectively told, a charm which 
pertains to few biographies. 

I recall a visit to Mr. Bronte's successor at 



The Glamour of the Brontes 243 

Haworth, 1 in which that gentleman, after 
courteously showing me over the house, in which 
he had made many marked changes, and to 
which he had added many material comforts, 
took down from a shelf his copy of Mrs. Gas- 
kell's book and pointing out the old-fashioned 
engraving of the parsonage as the Brontes 
knew it, asked triumphantly, wishing to em- 
phasize what he considered the exaggeration 
of its dreariness. " Is that anything like the 
place ? " It is not much like the Haworth 
of to-day, but it is not unlike the spot as 
the Bronte children knew it, and indeed, 
Mary Taylor/writing to thank Mrs. Gaskell for 
" a true picture of a melancholy life," declared 
that it was " not so gloomy as the truth," and 
that her friend Charlotte Bronte, " a woman 
of first-rate talents, industry and integrity," 
had lived all her life " in a walking nightmare 
of ' poverty and self-suppression.' ' 

Following upon Mrs. Gaskell's notable pic- 
ture of the life of the Bronte sisters, we have had 
not a few brilliant criticisms of their books. A 
long succession of able men and women have in 

1 The Rev. John Wade, who was incumbent of Haworth 
from 1861 to 1898. 



244 Charlotte Bronte 

the succeeding years offered homage at this 
shrine. Mr. Swinburne has described Charlotte 
Bronte as " a woman of the first order of 
genius," and has not hesitated to place Emily 
still higher. But perhaps, after all, the finest 
tribute to the genius of Charlotte Bronte 
comes from Thackeray, who after her death 
introduced a fragment of her work called Emma i 
to the readers of the Cornbill Magazine. " I 
fancied an austere little Joan of Arc marching 
in upon us and rebuking our easy lives, our easy 
morals ! She gave me," he tells us, " the im- 
pression of being a very pure, and lofty, and 
high-minded person. A great and holy rever- 
ence of right and truth seemed to be with her 
always. Who that has known her books has 
not admired the artist's noble English, the 
burning love of truth, the bravery, the sim- 
plicity, the indignation at wrong, the eager sym- 
pathy, the pious love and reverence, the passion- 
ate honour, so to speak, of the woman ? What a 
story is that of the family of poets in their soli- 
tude yonder on the gloomy Yorkshire moors ! " 

1 There were only some three small fragments of manu- 
script left at Miss Bronte's death, all apparently written after 
Fillette, but not one of them of any real significance. 



Appendix 

THE following letters written to the 
brother of the friend whose marriage 
was under contemplation are inter- 
esting as a continuation of the correspondence 
on pages 49-5 5 : 

" I am about to employ part of a Sunday 
evening in answering your letter. You 
will perhaps think this hardly right, and yet I 
do not feel that I am doing wrong. Sunday 
evening is almost my only time of leisure, no one 
would blame me if I were to spend this spare 
time in a pleasant chat with a friend. Is it 
worse to spend it in writing a friendly letter ? 

" I have just seen my little noisy charge 
deposited snugly in their cribs and I am 
sitting alone in the schoolroom with the 



24.6 Charlotte Bronte 

quiet of a Sunday evening pervading the 
grounds and gardens outside my window. I 
owe you a letter can I choose a better time 
than the present for paying my debt ? Now 
you need not expect any gossip or news, I have 
none to tell you even if I had I am not at 
present in the mood to communicate them 
you will excuse an unconnected letter. If I 
had thought you critical or captious I would 
have declined the task of corresponding with 
you. When I reflect indeed it seems strange 
that I should sit down to write without a 
feeling of formality and restraint to an indi- 
vidual with whom I am personally so little 
acquainted as I am with yourself but the fact 
is, I cannot be formal in a letter ; if I write at 
all, I must write as I think. It seems your 
sister has told you that I am become a gover- 
ness again as you say, it is indeed a hard 
thing for flesh and blood to leave home, 
especially a good home not a wealthy or 
splendid one my home is humble and un- 
attractive to strangers, but to me it contains 
what I shall find nowhere else in the world 
the profound and intense affection which 



Appendix 247 

brothers and sisters feel for each other when 
their minds are cast in the same mould, their 
ideas drawn from the same source when they 
have clung to each other from childhood and 
when family disputes have never sprung up to 
divide them. 

" We are all separated now, and winning 
our bread amongst strangers as we can my 
sister Anne is near York, my brother in a 
situation near Halifax, I am here, Emily is the 
only one left at home, where her usefulness 
and willingness make her indispensable. Under 
these circumstances, should we repine ? I 
think not our mutual affection ought to 
comfort us under all difficulties if the God 
on whom we must all depend will but vouch- 
safe us health and the power to continue in 
the strict line of duty, so as never under any 
temptation to swerve from it an inch we 
shall have ample reason to be grateful and 
contented. 

" I do not pretend to say that I am always 
contented ; a governess must often submit 
to have the heart-ache. My employers, Mr. 
and Mrs. White, are kind, worthy people in 



248 Charlotte Bronte' 

their way, but the children are indulged. I 
have great difficulties to contend with some- 
times perseverance will perhaps conquer 
them and it has gratified me much to find 
that the parents are well satisfied with their 
children's improvement in learning since I 
came. But I am dwelling too much upon 
my own concerns and feelings. It is true 
they are interesting to me, but it is wholly 
impossible they should be so to you, and there- 
fore I hope you will slip the last page, for I 
repent having written it. 

" A fortnight since I had a letter from your 
sister urging me to go to Brookroyd for a single 
day. I felt such a longing to have a respite 
from labour and to get once more amongst 
( old familiar faces ' that I conquered diffidence 
and asked Mrs. White to let me go. She 
complied, and I went accordingly and had a 
most delightful holiday. I saw your mother, 
your sisters, and brothers ; all were well. 
Ellen talked of endeavouring to get a 
situation somewhere. I did not encourage 
the idea much I advised her rather to go to 
you for a while. I think she wants a change, 



Appendix 249 

and I daresay you would be glad to have her 
as a companion for a few months. 

" I inquired if there was any family of the 
name of Barrett in this neighbourhood, but 
I cannot hear of any such, though I under- 
stand there is a Mr., Mrs., and Miss Barwick 
the name in pronunciation sounds very 
similar. 

" My time is out. With sincere good 
wishes for your welfare and kind love to your 
sister." 

" I think I told you I had heard something of 
Mr. Lincoln's affair before, but I thought from 
the long interval that had elapsed between 
his visit to Brookroyd and his late declara- 
tion that some impediment had occurred to 
prevent his proceeding further. I own I 
am glad to hear that this is not the case, for I 
know few things that would please me better 
than to hear of Ellen's being well married. 
This little adverb well is, however, a condition 
of importance ; it implies a great deal 
fitness of character, temper, pursuits, and 
competency of fortune. Your description of 



250 Charlotte Bronte 

Mr. Lincoln seems to promise all these things ; 
there is but one word in it that appears excep- 
tionable you say he is eccentric. If his 
eccentricity is not of a degrading or ridiculous 
character if it does not arise from weakness 
of mind I think Ellen would hardly be 
justified in considering it a serious objection ; 
but there is a species of eccentricity which, 
showing itself in silly and trifling forms, often 
exposes its possessor to ridicule this, as it 
must necessarily weaken a wife's respect for 
her husband, may be a great evil. I have 
advised Ellen as strongly as my limited 
knowledge of the business gives me a right to 
do, to accept Mr. Lincoln in case he should 
make decided proposals. In consequence of 
this advice, she seems to suspect that I have 
had some hand in helping ' to cook a certain 
hash which has been concocted at Earnley.' 
I use her own words, which I cannot inter- 
pret, for I do not comprehend them you can 
clear me of any such underhand and meddling 
dealings. What I have had to say on the 
subject has been said entirely to herself, and 
it amounted simply to this : ' If Mr. Lincoln 



Appendix 251 

is a good, honourable, and respectable man, 
take him, even though you should not at 
present feel any violent affection for him 
the folly of what the French call " une grande 
passion " is not consistent with your tranquil 
character ; do not therefore wait for such a 
feeling. If Mr. Lincoln be sensible and good- 
tempered, I do not doubt that in a little while 
you would find yourself very happy and 
comfortable as his wife.' 

" You will see by these words that I am no 
advocate for the false modesty which you 
complain of, and which induces some young 
ladies to say l No ' when they mean ' Yes.' 
But if I know Ellen, she is not one of this 
class she ought not therefore to be too closely 
urged ; let her friends state their opinion and 
give their advice, and leave it to her own sense 
of right and reason to do the rest. It seems 
to us better that she should be married but 
if she thinks otherwise, perhaps she is the best 
judge. We know many evils are escaped by 
eschewing matrimony, and since so large a 
proportion of the young ladies of these days 
pursue that rainbow-shade with such unre- 



2 $2 Charlotte Bronte 

mitting eagerness, let us respect an exception 
who turns aside and pronounces it only a 
coloured vapour whose tints will fade on a 
close approach." 



Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London. 



Literary Lives 
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