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' JW . 



CLASS OF 1890 












Bdited by W. Robertson Niooll, LX^.D. 

OARDOTAL NBWMAN. By William Barry, D.D. 
JORH BUNTAN. By W. Hale Wbite. 
BSHB8T RBNAN. By William Barry, D.D. 
OlARbOTTB BRONTB. By Clement K. Shorter. 

R, I, RUTTON. By W. Robertson Niooll. 
QOBTIB. By Bdwaid Dowden. 
■AIUTT. By Louise Imogen Gniney. 

•m^ TttliBt, lUostrated, $i .00 net. Postage xo cts. 

no/Mr. A. B. Nkholh 

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Copyright, 1905, by 

Published, October, 1905 

TNOW omeoTOirr 
rannrma and bookbimnnq oommnt 





The Father of Charlotte Bronte ... i 

The Mother of Charlotte Bronte . . . ii 

Thornton 17 

Childhood at Haworth 25 

Schooldays. 1831-1835 33 

Governess Life 39 





The Pension Heger, Brussels 57 

Poems 73 

Branwell Bronte 83 

The Publications of Mr. Newby . . . .103 


WuTHERiNG Heights ii8 

Anne Bronte 134 

/ Jane Eyre 147 

Shirley 171 





Marriage and Death 215 

The Glamour of the Brontes 229 


Charlotte Bronte (Mrs. Arthur Bell NichoUs) Frontispiece 


The Rev. Patrick Bronte 2 

Charlotte Bronte's Birthplace, Thornton, York- 
shire i8 

The Old Parsonage, Haworth, as It stood at the 
time that the Bronte family occupied it 
(1820-1861) 30 

Haworth Old Church 40 

Patrick Branwell Bronte 96 

The first page of the manuscript of Jane Eyre 160 

M. Paul Heger, the hero of Villette and The 

Professor 198 

The Rev, Arthur Bell Nicholls 224 


This book may seem at first sight only an unto- 
ward 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. 
The Haworth 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 un- 


published material to this little book although this 
will be discerned 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 two kind friends who love the 
Brontes, Mrs. Wilfrid Meynell and Dr. Robert- 
son NicoU, for reading my proof-sheets. 



Patrick Bronte/ or Brunty, the father of 
Charlotte Bronte, was an Irishman. He was bom 
in a humble cottage in Emdale, County Down, on 
St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1777. Although he 
came from the " Black North," from that partic- 
ular part of Ireland where Protestantism flour- 
ishes, largely through the infusion of English and 

^ In the Baptismal Register of Drumballyioney 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 Harts- 
head ''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 genu- 
ine, which I do not believe. A "Frank Prunty" was found by 
Mr. David Martin at Newtonbuder in Co. Fermanagh, and he 
claimed a distant relationship to the Brontes. At Cambridge 
Mr. Bronte signed "Bronte," at Wethersfield "Bronte," at 
Dewsbury Bronte or BrontS or BrontS. Not until he arrived 
at Haworth do we find his signature as Bronte. 


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 m 
a limekiln and work in a comkiln. The book to 
which we owe the only glimpse of Patrick's par- 
entage, The Brontes in Ireland^ by Dr. Wri^t, is 
so full of invention that it is difficult to derive 
therefrom fragments of truth concerning the ear- 
lier Brontes, or Bruntys. It would seem clear, how- 
ever, that Hugh Brunty married one Alice Mc- 
Clory, who had been brought up in the Roman 
Catholic faith, but who, after her marriage in the 
Protestant Church of Magherally, adopted the re- 
ligion of her husband.^ Ten children were bom 
to Hugh and Alice Brunty, and of these Patrick, 
the eldest, alone has any interest for us. 

After such education as the village school af- 
forded, young Patrick Brunty became a weaver, 

^ The Brontes in Ireland, or Facts Stranger than Fiction, by 
Dr. William Wright, 1893. 


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, dur- 
ing his three years of schoolmastering\(it is sug- 
gested that he may have saved the sum of a hun- 
dred pounds or so. This enabled him to leave 
Ireland for Cambridge, where he entered himself 
at St. John's College on October i, 1802, changing 
his name from Brunty to Bronte at this time.^ In 
April of that year another Irishman, Henry John 
Temple, who was also educated at St. John's, suc- 
ceeded 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 

^ Whether the name was assumed in honour of Nelson, who 
about this time became Duke of Bronte, 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. 


peasant were never on speaking terms. Palmer- 
stonwas at St. John's from April, 1803, to January, 

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 influence 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, 
who afterwards became a clergyman. Nunn re- 
newed 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 astonish his 
relatives in County Down with remittances — a 
duty that he fulfilled all his days. 

Mr. Bronte's first curacy was at Wethersfield in 
Essex, where his name is to be found in the church 


books in October, 1 8o6. His vicar was Dr. Jowett 
— a non-resident — ^who published a volume of Fil' 
lage 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. Burden Mrs. Burder was 
the mother of four children, of whom the eldest 
daughter, Mary, was at the time eighteen years 
of age, and the courtship of Irish curate and Essex 
lass was a matter of course. A stem uncle, watch- 
ing over his niece's heritage, interrupted the cor- 
respondence ; there was much heart-break, *doubt- 
less many tears, and finally Mr. Bronte took flight 
from Wethersfield.^ Mary Burder waited long 
for intercepted letters that never came, and she was 
still unwed when her old lover became a widower 
in 1 82 1. She then received by letter a further offer 
of marriage from Mr. Bronte, to which she an- 
swered " No," and thus denied to the Bronte chil- 
dren a kind stepmother. Three years later Mary 

^ Lifi of Charlotte Bronte^ by Augustine Birrell, 1887. 


Burder became Mrs. Silrce, the wife of a Non- 
conformist 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 un- 
pleasant conditions, has communicated with that 
old college friend, John Nunn. Mr. Nunn held 
a curacy at Shrewsbury 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 
applied for and obtained the curacy, and with it 
renewed pleasant intercourse with his old college 
friend. But in a few months everything was 
changed. John Nunn married, and the friendship 
was snapped asunder. Patrick Bronte, with the 
remembrance of Mary Burder's apparent faithless- 
ness 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 Dews- 
bury, however, I may as well recall a pleasant 
sequel to this friendship with Mr. Nunn that be- 
longs 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 
Thomdon, 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 letters and said, 
' These were written by Patrick Bronte. They re- 
late to his spiritual state. I have read them once 
more and now I destroy them.' " 

It was in January 1809 that this Wellington epi- 
sode commenced, and at the end of the same year 
Mr. Bronte began his long association with York- 
shire as curate of Dewsbury. Mr. Bronte always 


seemed to have secured " literary " vicars, and his 
new vicar, Mr. Buckmaster, had some titles to 
fame as a hymn writer and a contributor to the 
magazines of the day. He was, moreover, the suc- 
cessor at Dewsbury to the Rev. Matthew Powley, 
who married the only daughter of Mary Unwin — 
Cowper's " Mary " — and was a regular corre- 
spondent of the poet. 

At Dewsbury Mr. Bronte stayed two years, and 
we may well assume that his vicar's literary activi- 
ties kindled some desire for a similar reputation. 
He wrote verses — ^and published them. In 1 8 1 1 
there was issued at Halifax a volume entitled 
Cottage Poems.^ It contains " An Epistle to the 
Rev. J B while journeying for the recov- 

^ It is an interesting fact that Mr. Bronte was not the first 
of his own family with an inclination for writing. Dr. Douglas 
Hyde, the well known Gaelic scholar, has in his possession a 
manuscript volume in the Irish language, written by one Patrick 
OTrunty in 1763. Patrick OTrunty 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 ^^md there is a 
colophon of which Dr. Douglas Hyde sends me the original and 
a translation; he also saids me the first quatrain of Patrick 
OTninty's poem: — 


ery of his health/' and there is much more of no 
great distinction. Patrick Bronte did not publish 
Cottage Poems until he reached his next curacy 
at Hartshead-cum-Clifton. A slight disagreement, 
the remark of a churchwarden that Mr. Buckmas- 
ter 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 

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^ 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 OTninty, 
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 donn 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. 


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 Hartshead-cum-Clifton 
— and it was here that the young Irishman met 
the woman who was to become his wife — ^the 
mother of Charlotte Bronte. 


Curate then of Hartshcad, 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 
marriage. 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 followed him to the grave in the 
following year. They had one son and six* daugh- 
ters. Mr. Branwell is described as " assistant to 
the corporation," whatever that official's duties may 
have been. He left his daughters not entirely un- 
provided 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 Fen- 
nells. Mr. Morgan was engaged to Maria Bran- 
well's cousin, Jane Fennell. Patrick Bronte speed- 
ily lost his heart. There were a few love-letters 
between the engagement in August 1 8 1 2 and the 
marriage on December 29th of that year, when at 
Guiseley Church Maria Branwell became Mrs. 
Bronte. There was a touch of romance in the very 
wedding. A sister and a cousin of Mrs. Bronte 
were married on the same day, the sister Charlotte 
Branwell in far away Penzance to her cousin Jo- 
seph Branwell, and Jane Fennell to Mr. Morgan. 
Mr. Morgan performed the marriage ceremony 
for Mr. and Mrs. Bronte, and Mr. Bronte in re- 
turn 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 '^ profoundly 
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 giv- 
ing 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 sunshine in the 
married life of her poor mother. Mr. Bronte may 
have been a good husband. On the whole, he was 
doubtless thoroughly 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 

^Letter to the author from the late Miss Branwell, of 


to his wife. But we may be sure 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 Harts- 
head. 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 sad and sweet, to find that 
mind of a truly fine, pure, and elevated order. 
They were written to papa before they were mar- 
ried. There is a rectitude, a refinement, a con- 


stancy, a modesty, a sense, a gentleness In them in- 
describable. 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 succes- 
sion 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 bom to him, 
the first being named Maria and the second Eliza- 
beth. During this period Mr. Bronte became an 
industrious author. 

He published in Halifax, as has already been 

^ Letter to Ellen Nussey. 


said, a little volume of verse entitled Cottage 
Poems in 1811, and in 18 13, about the time when 
his first child was bom, yet another volume, called 
The Rural Minstrel. This did not conclude his 
literary activity during his first five years at Harts- 
head, for a tiny prose volume, called The Cottage 
in the Woody 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, of- 
fered to exchange the living of Thornton for that 
of Hartshead, and the exchange was effected. Mr. 
Atkinson is of interest to us as the godfather of 
Charlotte Bronte. His wife was also her god- 
mother. 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 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 



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 some- 
thing of material good in his desire to be near his 
future wife, with whom he acquired a competency. 
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 plain 
and unpicturesque by the fact that half of its front- 
age has been converted into a butcher's shop. 



Near by there stands a new church, in the regis- 
ters of which are recorded the baptisms of the fa- 
mous 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 Chapeli 
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 of- 
ficiated, and a local magnate, Mr. Firth, and his 
daughter were godfather and godmother, while 
the second godmother was Miss Elizabeth Bran- 
well, who had come from Penzance on her first 
visit to her married sister, staying fully a year at 

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 Charlotte and Emily 
Bronte were both bom in this unpretentious cot- 


tage in Thornton — Charlotte on April 21, 18 16, 
and Emily Jane on July 30, 1 8 1 8. The only boy, 
who was christened Patrick Branwell, was bom 
here on June 26, 18 17. Finally, the sixth and last 
child put in an appearance. This was Anne, who 
was bom January 17, 1820, very shortly before 
her parents removed to Haworth. 

Of the life of Mr. Bronte during those five 
years at Thomton little is recorded. We know in- 
deed that he still wrote verses and prose stories of 
a kind, and that he contributed a sermon on " Con- 
version " to the Pastoral Visitor. He had his 
modest share of recognition 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 instmctive tale," and so late as 
1845, just before his daughters had made him fa- 
mous, one Newsam, in his Poets of Yorkshire, de- 
voted no less than five lines of appreciation (with 
eighteen lines of quotation) to Mr. Bronte as a 
poet.^ Mr. Bronte's work was, however, medio- 

^ "The Poets of Yorkshire, comprising sketches and the 
Lives and Specimens of the writing of those 'Children of Song' 


ere, and would long since have been forgotten wcfo 
it not for his daughter's fame. It ia more pleasi- 
ant to meet him in Thornton as a social rather 
than as a literary luminary, and^ although our 
knowledge of him is scanty in thta respect, it is in- 
teresting 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 18 15, the Rev. Patw 
rick Bronte removed from Hartshead to Thomtoa. 
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 Mangnall' s Questions. That lady was for 
many years a schoolmistress in the neighbourhood 
of Wakefield. Miss Firth made speedy acquaint- 
ance with Mrs. Bronte, and, as we have seen, be- 
came one of the child Elizabeth's godmothers. 
Miss Firth kept a diary, a diary all too scanty. 

who have been natives of, or otherwise connected with, the 
county of York. Commenced by the late William Cartwrig^t 
Newsam, completed and published for the benefit of his family 
by John Holland." Price 5^. 250 copies printed. London: 
Groombridge & Sons. Sheffield: Ridge & Jackson. 1845. 


It oonsisted the merest notes in a pocket-bode. 
"We drank tea at Mr. Bronte's,*' is one day*s 
item, and ^' Mr. Bronte and Mrs. Morgan drank 
test bene," is another; and so on through the five 
years. Mr. Bronte is seen as a most sociable in- 
dividual, and constant records of tea-drinking are 
noted. On July 26, 18 16, we learn that "Miss 
Branwell returned to Penzance," so that we know 
from this and from no other source that she was 
in attendance on the young mother when Charlotte 
was bom. 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 indebted 
for the actual dates of birth of all the Bronte chil- 
dren. On January 17,18 20, we find the announce- 
ment of another accession to the Bronte family. 
This was the day that Anne was bom. In that 
month also k the record, '' Gave at Anne's chris- 
tening, one pound." Altogether, one sighs over 
the 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 Char- 
lotte or Emily, one saying of the poor mother piti- 
lessly hurrying to her doom, would have been pa- 
thetically interesting. Two months after Anne's 
birth we find the entry, " Mr. and Mrs. Bronte 
came to dinner," 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 incum- 
bent of Thornton was called " minister." Thomas 
Atkinson, who preceded Mr. Bronte, was " min- 
ister," and so also was William Bishop, who suc- 
ceeded 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 exter- 
nal sordidness, it has had a wide-reaching spiritual 


activity. Here, a century before Mr. Bronte's ar- 
rival had flourished eminent divines of Noncon- 
formity, 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 bom. 
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 tra- 
dition, and his wife's uncle, Mr. Fennell, who 
about this time abandoned Wesleyanism and be- 


came a dergyman of the Church of England, 
helped to keep hhn in toleration for all aspects of 
the evangelical creed. Apparently he never quar- 
relled with Nonconformity, although at a much 
later date some of his curates at Haworth 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. 



Charlotte Bronte was a Utde 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 remembered the departure 
of Mr. Bronte and his family — die 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 alti* 
tude, and pleasantly jutting on the glorious moors. 
Given genuine health, Mrs. Bronte could have been 
happy enough at Haworth — hapiner than at 
Thornton. Bat 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 services from Feb- 
ruary, but it is clear that he left his family behind 
him then as the guests of the Firths, at Kipping 
House. As a stalwart walker, the journey to and 
fro could never have troubled him. His visits to 
Thornton continue to be recorded in Miss Firth's 
diary many times during this year 1820. In Sep- 
tember 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 stepmother for his little children. 
He first applied to Mary Burder, of Wethers- 
field, as we have seen, and then to Elizabeth Firth, 
of Thornton. Twice refused, he turned to his 
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 twen- 
ty-two years. 

Returning for a moment to Mrs. Bronte, we find 
her life story to be a brief and unquestionably a 
pathetic one. She is preserved for us in her daugh- 
ter's biography by a number of love-letters and by 
a brief religious essay of no particular individual- 
ity.* 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 
scandalous 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 Ha- 
worth, while at Thornton he was in every way in- 
clined to sociability. ' Some measure of moroseness 
may, however, have come over Mr. Bronte in the 
period following his bereavement. Taking him- 

* The love-letters are in the possession of Mr. A. B. NichoUs. 
The manuscript entitled "The Advantages of Poverty in Re- 
ligious Concerns" is in my library. 


self and his woric 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 guid- 
ance, their father frequently haying his meals 
alone. They met in his study — ^the parlour— cmi 
the right-hand side of the doorway as you enter 
the house, for tea, but they saw little of him dur- 
ing the rest of the day. 

We may imagine, then, these six children work- 
ing 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 
orphan children, much grim kindness from aunt 
and servants. The servants of that time, Sarah 
and Nancy Garrs, were asked for their impres- 
sions in later life, and then at least they were enthu- 
siastic. Never was so kind a master as Mr. 
Bronte, never so clever a little child as Charlotte. 
We may accept such testimony with a grain of salt, 
but the main fact remains that it was a reasonably 
happy home until the educational problem asserted 


ttsdf. Educatiofi has alwa3rs special credentials 
for the self<4nade man, and Mr. Bronte not un- 
naturally 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 Jiily 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 physi- 
cally robust. But there is not much need to asso- 
ciate too closely the sad fate of Maria and Eliza- 
beth 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 15. On June 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 Lo- 
wood of Jane Eyre with the Casterton presided 
over by the Rev. Cams Wilson. A very consider- 
able mass of opinion was brought together from 
old pupils to prove that, even when the little 
Brontes were there, Casterton was a most exem- 
plary institution. The point is scarcely worth dis- 
puting 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 pro- 
vides a real gratification of appetite; an environ- 
ment that to one child is hell, to another is para- 
dise. The little Bronte girls had fragile constitu- 
tions and therein, it cannot be too often repeated, 
lay the whole tragedy of their lives. 

There was little of tragedy, but much of happi- 
ness, however, in the years immediately following 
their leaving Casterton and the death of the two 


elder sisters. Miss Branwell was doubtless a very 
prim personage, although kindly withal. There 
is no reason to suppose but that she did her best 
for the four orphaned children, of whom Char- 
lotte, 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 
Imitation 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 commenced 
to write " original compositions," as so many chil- 
dren of precocious tendencies do— to the joy of 
fond and ambitious parents. But I am not sure 
that children often cultivate the minute handwrit- 
ing that was affected by the Bronte prodigies. 
There are perhaps a hundred little manuscript 
books in existence, principally the work of Char- 
lotte and Branwell, some few, however, by Emily 
and Anne. They were compiled in a micro- 
scopic handwriting probably from reasons of econ- 
omy. Pence, we may be sure, were scarce with the 


little ones. The booklets were stitched and cov- 
ered, 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 Welling- 
ton 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 alter- 
nately 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. 1831— 1835. 

In January 1831, Charlotte Bronte became 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, " intellectual " ; Miss Nussey was simply 
pretty and lovable, but hero-worshipping to an al- 



most 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 out- 
look 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.^ 
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 assist- 
ance in her Life, until her death in 1897, she was 
always accessible to the admirers of Charlotte 
Bronte, and she carefully preserved the volumi- 
nous correspondence of her friend, most of which 
has been published.^ It is to Ellen Nussey that we 
owe all the best glimpses of Charlotte Bronte as 

^ 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 Gromersal, 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. 

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


she grows to womanhood; 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 shortsighted 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 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. 

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


This was really a very happy time in Charlotte 
Bronte's life. She was devoted to her two friends, 
kindly disposed to the rest of her schoolfellows, 
and attached to Miss Woolen 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 neighbourhood, 
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 paint- 
ing and drawing, and there are very many speci- 
mens 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 knowl- 
edge of French, as a translation by her of the first 
book of Voltaire's Henriade^ indicates. With 
French as a spoken language she was to 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 presentable equipment 
for a girl of sixteen who had to " coach " her 

^ In the possession of the present writer. 


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 mornings 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 company 

this afternoon, and on Tuesday next we shall have 

all the female teachers of the Sunday school to 


This letter was written in 1832, and so three 
years were allowed to pass, their only tangible rec- 
ords for us to-day being certain drawings that bear 


the dates of this period, and certain little manu- 
scripts 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 apparently 
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 permanent- 
ly to occupy the not very commodious parsonage. 
Branwell, moreover, was to be an artist, which in- 
volved expense. He was to go to London to study 
at the Royal Academy Schools, and his sisters real- 
ized that they also should think of some occupa- 
tion, and thus relieve the family exchequer. Char- 
lotte's turn came first. In July 1835 she returned 
to Miss Wooler's school at Roe Head as a govern- 
ess, 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. 


Charlotte returned to Roe Head as a govern- 
ess 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 go- 
mg to be a governess. This last determination I 
formed myself, knowing I should have to take the 
step sometime, and * better sune as syne * to use the 
Scotch proverb ; and knowing well that papa would 
have enough to do with his limited income should 
Branwell be placed at the Royal Academy and 
Emily at Roe Head. Where am I going to reside ? 



you will ask. Within four miles of yourself, dear- 
est, at a place neither of us are unacquainted with, 
being no other than the identical Roe Head men- 
tioned 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, necessity, these are stem 
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, ' 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 rea- 
son 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 however 

^he least pleasant to survey of any aspect of her 

*ife. She was ill adapted for the position of look- 

^'^g after a miscellaneous crowd of girls. She hated 

^l>e work, and she had a bitter tongue when facing 

^U the petty discomforts of such a position. Still 

less was she suited for her after-position of a nur- 

^ery governess. Great animal spirits, immense 

^elf-confidence, all the qualities that made this ever 

Arduous career possible although rarely pleasant, 

^ere utterly lacking to this shy retiring woman. 

Charlotte Bronte was little more than nineteen 
years of age when she went to Roe Head as gov- 
erness. The year following Miss Wooler removed 
her school to Dewsbury. This was 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 
as we have stated. 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, 
Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. With both she 
corresponded regularly, and her Sundays were fre- 
quently spent at the house of one or the other. 

Ellen Nussey had her home at this time and un- 
til 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 prosper- 
ous, and even luxurious environment. She loved 
Ellen Nussey, moreover, although she had no 
common ground of intellectual interest. Her let- 
ters 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 schoolfel- 
lows. 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 sap- 
ling, then a strong tree — ^now, no new friend, how- 
ever 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 ro- 
mance. 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." ^ 

Of more importance however in Miss Bronte's 
intellectual growth was her friendship with Mary 
Taylor, the *' dear Polly " and " dear Pag " of 
many a letter unhappily destroyed. One would 

^ Letter to W. S. Williams in Charlotte Bronie and Her Circle^ 
page tos. 


gladly have possessed a clearer picture than exists 

of that other home into which Charlotte was wel- 

} corned in these dreary, governess days. The Tay- 

^ lors are, however, 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 
j Charlotte Bronte was " Church " to the backbone, 

[ and " State " as understood by the followers of 

) Wellington equally to the backbone, while the Tay- 

; lor family were Dissenters and Democrats. From 

; those days onward it is clear that a larger religious 

I toleration, a larger human sympathy than she had 


I hitherto known gathered in Charlotte Bronte's 

mind, and Mary Taylor must have been mainly in- 
strumental in giving her this. " Mary alone," she 
says in one of her letters, ^^ has more energy and 
] power in her nature than any ten men you can pick 

i out in the united parishes of Birstall and Ha- 

worth." Or we may take this other picture where 


^e IS presented as Rose Yorke in Shirley: — 
^ * Rose Is a still, and sometimes a stubborn girl 
xiow; her mother wants to make of her such a 
"woman as she is herself — a woman of dark and 
<lreary 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 re- 
belled 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 lit- 
erary aspirations must have begun with the young 
people, for we find Charlotte corresponding with 
Southey, then Poet Laureate. We find Branwell 
Bronte also writing letters to the Editor of Black- 
wood's Magazine begging for the insertion of his 
contributions, and sending to Wordsworth drafts 
of his projected books. When the Christmas holi- 
days were 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 she obtained a long- 


delayed answer from Southey — a kind and consid- 
erate letter from a busy man to a stranger — advis- 
ing that she should not think about literature, A 
fragment of her reply is worth printing : — 

" My father is a clergyman of limited though 
competent income, and I am the eldest of his chil- 
dren. 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 oc- 
cupy my thoughts all day long, and my head and 
hands too, without having a moment's time for one 
dream of the imagination. In the evenings, I con- 
fess, I do think, but I never trouble any one else 
with my thoughts. I carefully avoid any appear- 
ance of preoccupation and eccentricity, which 
might lead those I live amongst to suspect the na- 
ture of my pursuits. Following my father's ad- 
vice — ^who from my childhood 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 interested in them. I don't always sue- 


ceed, for sometimes when Fm 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 gratitude. I trust I 
shall never more feel ambitious to see my name in 
print; if the wish should rise, Fll 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 her- 
self. Miss Wooler perhaps took little account of 
the ailments of others. Anne had what to the 
schoolmistress was merely a slight cold ; to her de- 
voted sister it was much more, and Charlotte was 
right; it was doubtless the beginning of that con- 
sumption which was all too soon to end her sister's 
life. The alienation was but temporary, and Miss 
Wooler and her pupil parted the best of friends. 
Charlotte and Anne went home, and the latter did 

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


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 Ha worth, " 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 element of Derbyshire scenery into her books.^ 
Charlotte Bronte went to stay at Hathersage with 
her friend Ellen while the vicar was on his honey- 
moon, for it did not take him long to recover from 
the blow of Miss Bronte's rejection of his suit. 
He had indeed told her frankly enough that he 

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


wanted some one to look after his housekeeping, 
and Charlotte had sufficient romance in her com- 
position to feel that this was not quite an adequate 
courtship. That she had her own strong views on 
the subject 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 answering it for 
a day. Now, Ellen, I am about to write thee a 
discourse and a piece of advice 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 gentle- 
man 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 Brookny some fine morning, 
where you will find Miss Ellen sitting in the draw- 


ing 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, deferential 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, 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 bet- 
ter 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, be- 


cause 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 hypo- 
crite, 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 manage- 
able temper? Then, Ellen, consider the matter. 
You feel a disgust towards him now, an utter re- 
pugnance, very likely, but be so good as to remem- 
ber you don't know him, you have only had three 
or four days' acquaintance 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 suffi- 
cient to allow you to guide him in important mat- 
ters. Such being the case, Ellen, I hope you will 
not have the romantic folly to wait for the waken- 
ing of what the French call * Une Grande Passion J 
My good girl, * Une grande passion ' is * une 
grande Folic.' I have told you so before, and I 
tell it you again. Moderation in all things is wis- 
dom. When you are as old as I am ( I am sixty at 
least, being your grandmother) you will find that 
the majority of those worldly precepts, whose 
seeming coldness 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 performed, 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 hus- 
band'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 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 
diaracter. Mary is my study — for the contempt, 
the remorse, the misconstruction 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 attainments 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 receiving, 
all I have to say may be comprised in a very brief 
sentence. On one hand don't accept if you are 
certain you cannot tolerate the man— on the other 
hand don't refuse because you cannot adore him. 

As to little Walter M , 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 reverence expresses himself very strongly on 
the subject of young ladles saying ' No ' when they 
mean * Yes.' He assures me he means nothing per- 
sonal. I hope not. I tried to find something ad- 
mirable In him and failed. 


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

Instead of plunging into matrimony, Charlotte 
Bronte twice entered upon the duties of a govern- 
ess in a private family. Her first " situation," as 
she calls it, was with a Mrs. Sidgwick, and we find 
her in June 1839 writing to her sister Emily from 
the Sidgwick family mansion at Stonegappe in 
Yorkshire, explaining that her life there was thor- 
oughly hateful to her. Mr. A. C. Benson, the 
well-known critic and a cousin of the Sidgwicks, 
has epitomised the situation when he says that 
she clearly had no gifts for the management 
of children ; and also that she was in a very mor- 

^ See Appendix for other letters. 


bid condition the whole time she was at Stone- 

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, Yorkshire, 
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 hereafter to prove him- 
self a friend to Miss Bronte. It was he doubtless 
who assisted with his advice in the scheme for go- 
ing abroad, the enterprise which was the turning- 
point in Charlotte Bronte's career, and which un- 
doubtedly made her the famous author she event- 
ually became. 

^ Life of Edward White Benson^ sometime Archbishop of 
Canterhuryy by A. C. Benson. Mr. Benson asserts that one of 
the children told him that if Miss Bronte was desired to accom- 
pany them to church — "Oh, Miss Bronte, 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 de- 
pressed because she was treated as an outcast and a friendless 



It is in my judgment exceedingly probable that 
had not circumstances led Charlotte 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 noth- 
ing 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 al- 
ready 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 with the 
achievement of many of her peers in literature what 



Miss Bronte had accomplished 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-wor- 
ship, and much of it, still in manuscript, may be 
examined by the curious.* 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 she 
also first described the entirely new world wherein 
her soul had been unbound. The sojourn in Brus- 
sels, 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 her work as 
governess a position of absolute tragedy. Anne 
had held two such situations, Emily one, and 
Charlotte, as we have seen, also two. To Emily 

1 Xhere are MSS. in the British Museum and in the Bronte 
Kuseum» Haworth. See also The Adventures of Ernest Alem- 
ItrU t faiiy tale by Charlotte Bronte, edited by Thomas J. Wise, 
tirt5* and Poems by Charlotte^ Emily and Anne Bronte^ now for 
^fffttime frintedy Dodd, Mead & Q)., 1902. 


the thing must have been an unmitigated tragedy, 
and to all of them it was clearly unendurable. It 
xiras 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 al- 
ways uncertain. • • • I have one aching feeling 
at my heart ( I must allude to it, though I had re- 
solved 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 pa- 
tient, persecuted stranger. I know what concealed 
susceptibility is in her nature when her feelings are 
wounded. I wish I could be with her, to adminis- 
ter 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 school, 
but then every one, with candid friendship, 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 Mar- 
tha Taylor, were there at the time, but meanwlule 
there were some who strongly advised an '^ Institu- 
tion " at Lille. Finally, however, Brussels was de- 
cided on. A little earlier, writing from her gover- 
ness 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 £ioo 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 ad- 
vantage were allowed us, it would be the 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 
Iiave talents and I want them to be turned to ac- 
count. 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 Feb- 
ruary, 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 re- 
turned to England and to Haworth, and his daugh- 
ters devoted themselves strenuously to their work. 
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 lltde 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 re- 
cent years. There are several Englishwomen still 
living who were pupils of Madame Heger In the 
generations that followed the Brontes. The pres- 
ent writer has spent more than one pleasant hour 
in a drawing-room in Bayswater where he has 
heard three amiable and cultivated gentlewomen 
recall with full hearts their old memories of the 
Pensionnat Heger. They were the daughters of 
a Dr. Wheelwright residing in Brussels for his 
health. One of them, Laetitia, became very inti- 
mate 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 a teacher to the 
little girl who indeed as an adult has clearly none 
of the admiration for Emily that she gave to 

There were two other English girls In Brussels 
at the time who have their place in this story: 


Mary and Martha Taylor. The old schoolfellows 
of Dewsbury were not at the same school as Char- 
lotte, 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 begin- 
ning of November. They found themselves mon- 
etarily 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, as the aunt's income 
had died with her, but sufficient to make things 
easier as far as the school project was concerned. 
Now they need not go to Bridlington, as was con- 
templated earlier. They might alter the parson- 
age a little, utilize their aunt's bedroom, and take 
at least two or three pupils. 

But meanwhile Anne had still a " situation " 
that had in it many advantages. She was govern- 


ess to the daughters of a clergyman — Mr. Robin- 
son, of Thorpe Green. Why not let Emily keep 
house and Charlotte be allowed to spend yet an- 
other 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 eventful journey, leaving Haworth 
on Friday morning, and reaching Brussels on Sun- 
day evening. Here a new life began. She was 
now a governess — Mademoiselle Charlotte — ^with 
many special privileges, 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 antag- 
onism — in fact, it must be admitted that Mes- 
dames Blanche, Sophie, and Hausse, her three col- 


leagues, 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. Sidg- 
wick's, or Mrs. White's, I am thankful." 

Then will seem to have come a change. Writ- 
mg to her brother Branwell, she says — 

" Among 120 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 fastidiousness on my part, but to 
the absence of decent 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, hat- 
ing nothing, being nothing, doing nothing — ^yes, I 


teach, and sometimes get red in the face with im- 
patience 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 excep- 
tion 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 time to time he shows his kind-heartedness 
by loading me with books, so that I am still indebt- 
ed to him for all the pleasure or amusement I have. 
Except for the total want of companionship I have 
nothing to complain of." * 

Still more melancholy was her condition by Sep- 
tember when she wrote to her sister Emily the let- 

^ Charlotte Bronte and her Circle* 


ter 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 cem- 
etery, 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 repug- 
nance to return to the house, which contained noth- 
ing 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 is not much like 
me), wandered about the aisles where a few old 
women were saying their prayers, till vespers be- 
gan. 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. Know- 
ing me as you do, you will think this odd, but when 
people are by themselves they have singular fan- 
cies. 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 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 one went away, and a little wooden door 
inside the grating opened, and I saw the priest lean- 
ing 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 morn- 
ing I was to go to the rue du Pare — to his house — 
and he would reason with me, and try to convince 
me of the error and enormity of being a Protes- 
tant! 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 under- 
stand that it was only a freak, and will perhaps 
think I am going to turn Catholic." ^ 

This morbidness increased, and at the end of the 
year she resolved to go home, her father's increas- 
ing tendency to blindness fortifying her resolution. 

^ Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, 


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 
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 qual- 
ifications to give me a fair chance of success ; yet I 
cannot 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 I 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, Idnd 
and disinterested a friend. At parting he gave me 
a kind of diploma certifying my abilities as a teach- 
er, 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. I 
did not think it had been in their phlegmatic 

nature. . . ." 

I have said that Brussels episode was the turn- 
ing-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 80 far met — for Mr. Bronte's Cambridge ca- 
reer left him essentially illiterate, and his curates 
were worse — it Is not easy to say. M. Heger kin- 
dled 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 pedan- 
tically to assume that her heroes in Villette and 
The Professor are primarily biographical. 

It is sufficient that M. Heger knew good litera- 
ture from bad, that he had a sense of perspective, 
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 be- 
lieve, 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 on 
the fringe of the writing world. She left Brussels 
a woman of genuine cultivation, of educated tastes, 
armed with just the equipment that was to enable 
her to write the books of which two generations 
of her countrjmien have been justly proud. 



The idea of starting a school which had been 
the primary motive for the Brussels enterprise nat- 
urally 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 be- 
fore she left for Brussels. But these friends had 
already arranged for their children's education 
elsewhere, and there was nothing for it but adver- 
tisement. A circular was printed, offering 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, but there are no pupils to be 
had," Charlotte writes to a friend. Yet a little 



later she writes again : " We have made no alter- 
ations yet in our house. It would be folly to do 
so, while there is so little likelihood of ever getting 

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. Branwell, the once much 
loved brother was at home, hopelessly wrecking his 
life with dram drinking and drugs, the father fight- 
ing 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 re- 
ported 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 5 "^ 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 occupation of preparing a book for 
the press. This was a volume of poems. Char- 
lotte 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 au- 
timin of 1845 ^^^ accidentally lighted upon a MS. 
volume of verse in Emily's handwriting which she 
considered to be " condensed and terse, vigorous 
and genuine." " It took hours," her sister tells 
us, " to reconcile her to the discovery I had made, 
and days to persuade her that such poems merited 

An interesting glimpse is here given us by 
Charlotte of Emily's remarkable aloofness. So 
shy was she that " on the recesses of her mind not 
even those nearest and dearest to her could, with 
impunity, intrude unlicensed." Anne, less pain- 
fully 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." 

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 
adventure of the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren. From 
the correspondence with Aylott & Jones, which has 
been preserved, we learn that the three sisters paid 
£36 10^. for the printing and binding, and yet an- 
other £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 ap- 
peared. It was reviewed in the Athenaeum^ where 
the critic discovered that Ellis possessed ^^ 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 indulgent notice '* that ap- 
peared in his last issue.^ As an outcome of it all, 
but two copies only were sold. Undismayed at the 
world's coldness, Charlotte " used up " some of 
the copies by sending them to the leaders of con- 
temporary literature — ^to Wordsworth, Tennyson, 
Lockhart, and De Quincey among others. 

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

Ellis Bell, indeed, was the poet. Currer was to 
give one out of many demonstrations of the fact 

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

^ In the introduction to the 1850 edition of fFutbering Heights 
and Agnes Grey, 


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 lit- 
erary fame. 

Ellis Bell was, it will ever be acknowledged, the 
one poet of a family many members of which at- 
tempted verse. The lines in this little volume en- 
titled ** 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 scom; 
And lust of fame was but a dream 

That vanished with the mom: 

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 fVuthering Heights, there Is 
contained a biographical fragment that is unap- 
proachable 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 
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 for- 
eign 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 knowl- 
edge 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 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 Theel 

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, 
Eveiy existence would exist in Thee. 

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 pre- 


served with them in all competent anthologies of 
English poetry: — 

Often rebuked, yet always back returning 
To those first feelings that were bom 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-disdnguished faces, 

The clouded forms of long-past histoiy. 

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. 


Branwell, or Patrick Branwell Bronte, was 
twenty-nine years of age when his three sisters is- 
sued 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, al- 
though Jane Eyre^ Agnes Grey, The Tenant of 
fVildfell Hall, and Wuthering Heights had all ap- 
peared 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 had claimed to have done so. Such a 
rumour is discredited for any intelligent person by 
Charlotte's disclaimer which was conveyed in a let- 
ter to her friend, Mr. W. S. Williams, announcing 
Branwell's death : — 

" My unhappy brother never knew what his sis- 



tcrs 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. Charlotte's letters are 
always full of character, Branwell's always inef- 
fective, 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, look- 
ing backwards, some of his old friends and cronies 
would be persuaded that Branwell had actually as- 
sured them that he wrote the book which was only 
published ten months before his death — at a time 
when he was in the lowest depths of alcoholism. 
When he died fVuthering 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 Branwell's au- 
thorship is indeed amazing. We find for example 
that Mr. January Searle, writing in The Mirror^ 
gives a most circumstantial account of conversa- 
tions with Branwell concerning a story he had writ- 
ten, and indeed he is made to discuss pretty freely 
Charlotte's novel as well. Another acquaintance, 
Newman Dearden, 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 manu- 
script 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 his 
sister said bore out the assertion, that he wrote a 
great portion of Wuthering Heights himself. In- 


deed, it is impossible for me to read that story with- 
out meeting with many passages which I feel cer- 
tain 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 in- 
clined to believe that the very plot was his inven- 
tion 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 lit- 
erary activity, were spent by him in utter debase- 
ment 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 
during this period. " Branwell still remains at 
home, and while he is here you shall not come. 

^ Memories of the Past^ by Francis H. Grundy. 


I am more confirmed in that resolution the more 
I know of him," writes Charlotte to her friend, 
Ellen Nussey, in November 1845, ^^^ 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 
intimation that ^' as usual " she addresses her week- 
ly letter to him, " because to you I find the most 
to say." This intimate affection seems to have pre- 
vailed 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 reference to Anne Bronte's novel. The Tenant 
of Wildfell Holly the book in which we have more 
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 par- 
tiality would Branwell's sisters think about the 
treatment meted out to their brother by his affec- 
tionate 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 complained 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 commo- 
tion, and certain remarkable comments. 

" * Well 1 — 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 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'U 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, Fer- 
gus 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 
agreeable 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 Haworth 
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 William Robinson, a portrait painter 
of Leeds, at a time when it will be remembered 
every town had its portrait painter and no photog- 
rapher, 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. 
He did, however, continue his art studies under 


Robinson at Leeds, and painted many portraits 
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 Branwell 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 dis- 
position. His wife is a quiet, silent and amiable 
woman, and his sons are two fine spirited lads." * 

^ Leyland's Bronte Family, 


Branwell did not lodge with the family, but with 
a surgeon in the town. His tutorship was probably 
a dire failure, although Mr. Leyland 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 Branwell'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 Sower- 
by Bridge Station, on the Leeds and Manchester 
Railway. Hence he was transferred after a few 
months to Luddendenfoot, 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 fore- 
head, nearly half the size of the whole facial con- 
tour ; small ferrety eyes, deep-sunk, and still further 


hidden by the never removed spectacles ; prominent 
nose, but weak lower features. Small and thin of 
person, he was the reverse of attractive at first 
sight." 1 

Mr. Heaton apparently had a great admiration 
for the railway clerk, unless, as we suspect, this 
came like so many of the reminiscences of Bran- 
well, as a sentiment born of after knowledge 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 throughout Yorkshire, and in- 
deed everjrwhere. 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 HudibraSj in such a manner 
as often made me wish I had been a scholar, as 
he was." ^ 

If he were a " scholar," Branwell, unhappily, 

^ Pictures of the Past^ by Francis H. Grundy, 1879. 
2 The Bronte Familyy by Francis A. Leyland, 1886. 


lacked the practicality that would have made a 
competent railway booking-clerk, and after twelve 
months at Luddendenfoot he was dismissed by 
the Company, it having been found that the ac- 
counts at this station were in utter confusion. Pre- 
liminary to leaving he had to appear before some 
of the directors, when his most intimate friend, 
William Weightman — Mr. Bronte's curate at Ha- 
worth at the time — accompanied him. 

It was at this period, early in 1842, that a defi- 
nite deterioration took place in Branwell. His sis- 
ters 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 
Thorpe 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 Mrs. Rob- 
inson, 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 
thoroughly debased Branwell, who talked contin- 
uously of his wrongs after Mr. Robinson had 
turned him out of the house, 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. Bran- 
well succeeded in disgusting his sisters, and en- 
tirely alienating them, but at the same time they 


accepted too easily his own account of the affair. 
Mrs. Gaskell and Miss Nussey, for 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. Robin- 
son that is surprising in its vehemence and its libel- 
ousness. 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 correspondence. 
Writing to Ellen Nussey, in April 1846, Char- 
lotte says : — 

" Branwell stays at home, and degenerates in- 
stead of improving. It has been lately intimated 
to him that he would be received again on the rail- 
road where he was formerly stationed if he would 

trick Branwell BroMi 


behave more steadily, but he refuses to make an 
effort ; he will not work ; and at home he is a drain 
on every resource — an impediment to all hap- 

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 consequently 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 chastisement. 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, ex- 
pect, 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 untimely dreary 
extinction of what might have been a burning and 
a shining light. My brother was a year my junior. 
I had aspirations and ambitions for him once, long 
ago— they have perished mournfully. Nothing 
remains 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 emptiness 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 and long 
as he had suffered on his account, he cried out for 
his loss like David for that of Absalom — ^my son 1 
my son I — and refused at first to be comforted. 

" When I looked upon the noble face and fore- 
head of my dead brother (nature had favoured 
him with a fairer outside as well as a finer consti- 
tution 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 oppres- 
sive revelation of the feebleness of humanity— of 
the inadequacy of even genius to lead to true great- 
ness if unaided 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 com- 
forts my poor father greatly. I myself, with pain- 
ful, mournful joy, heard him praying softly in his 
dying moments; and to the last prayer which my 
father offered up at his bedside he added, * Amen.' 
How unusual that word appeared from his lips, of 
course you, who did not know him, cannot con- 
ceive. Akin to this alteration was that in his feel- 
ings 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 expe- 
rience 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." ^ 

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 con- 
siderable 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 docu- 
ments concerning him are to be found in a book 
by Mr. Francis Leyland, called The Bronte Fam- 
ily. Mr. Leyland's two volumes were principally 
taken up with extracts 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 

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


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 suc- 
ceeded in making every one in his home profound- 
ly miserable. Whether that was a gain to art or 
not 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 bom. 


It was in April 1846 that Charlotte Bronte 
wrote the first letter that gave indications 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 
& Jones, the booksellers, who had engaged to is- 
sue for Charlotte 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 vol- 
umes, as shall be deemed most advisable." 

The authors. Miss Bronte explained, still main- 



taining 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 & Jones, she asked, consider the MSS., 
and would they publish in the event of thinking its 
contents such as to warrant the expectation of sue- 
cess? Messrs. Aylott & Jones courteously re- 
plied that they did not wish to enter upon piiblish- 


ing ventures of this kind, but they gav^ 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 cherished 
the hope of publishing were The Professor by 
Charlotte, fFuthering Heights by Emily, and 
Agnes Grey by Anne. The precise manner in 
which The Professor 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 of The Professor, which, it 
may be added, reached Smith and Elder in a wrap- 


per that bore other tell-tale addresses. To Mr. 
George Henry Lewes she wrote years later : — 

" My work (a tale in one volume) being com- 
pleted, I offered it to a publisher. He said it was 
original, faithful to nature, but he did not feel war- 
ranted 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 * thrill- 
ing excitement,' that it would never suit the circu- 
lating libraries, and as it was on those libraries the 
success of fiction mainly depended, they could not 
undertake to publish what would be overlooked 
there." ^ 

Mrs. Gaskell records that some of the refusals 
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 care- 
ful attention — and Jane Eyre was accepted. At a 
much later date Charlotte tried, more than once, 
to persuade her publishers to print The Professor, 
and being refused, wrote half-angrily, half-re- 

^ Mrs. Gaskell, Haworth Edition, May 20, 1847. 


proachfully, to her friend Mr. George Smith, de- 
claring that the book had now been refused nine 
times by " The Trade," three of the refusals hav- 
ing 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. Will- 
iams sharing with her, she declared, the distinction 
of being the only person who saw merit in it.^ 

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 pop- 
ularity thus stranded, while the work of Emily and 
Anne found itself at least printed, although not 
published. It is clear that fVuthering Heights and 
Agnes Grey also " travelled," but it is probable 
that The Professor vf2iS being retained for consid- 
eration at some other publisher's when the other 
stories fell into the hands of Mr. Newby. Miss 
Bronte afterwards said that they were accepted 
" on terms somewhat impoverishing to the two 
authors." In any case Charlotte speedily caught 

^ Mrs. Gaskell, Haworth Edition, page 516. 


up in the race. Thus she writes to Mr. W. S. Will- 
iams 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 Cur- 
rer Bell had placed the MS. of Jane Eyre in your 
hands. Mr. Newby, however, does not do busi- 
ness like Messrs. Smith and Elder; a different spirit 
seems to preside at Mortimer Street to that which 
guides the helm at 65, Cornhill. . . . My re- 
lations have suffered from exhausting delay and 
procrastination, while I have to acknowledge the 
benefits of a management 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 excep- 
tional instance of his method. Do you know, and 
can you tell me anything about him ? " 

Mr. Newby, who thus accepted JVuthering 
Heights and Agnes Grey^ the only novel by Emily 
Bronte, and the first novel by Anne, appears to 
have belonged to the order of publishers 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 ac- 
cepted another novel by Anne — The Tenant of 
fVildfell Hall — on the fly-leaf of which he insert- 
ed an advertisement of Wuthering Heights and 
Agnes Grey, containing " Opinions of the Press." 
The Spectator declares that " the work bears affin- 
ity 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 recommend all 
our readers who love novelty to get this story, for 
we can promise them they never read anything like 
it before. It is like Jane Eyre.^^ " It is a colos- 
sal performance," said the Atlas. 



In this connection it is well worth while repeat- 
ing the review in the Athenaeum for December 25, 
1847. There is surely something very fascinating 
about old reviews 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 curiosity. All three 
might be the work of one hand, but the first issued 
remains the best. In spite of much power and clev- 
erness, in spite of its truth to life in the remote 
nooks and comers of England, Wuthering Heights 
is a disagreeable story. The Bells seem to affect 
painful and exceptional subjects: the misdeeds and 
oppressions of tyranny, the eccentricities of ' wom- 
an's fantasy.' They do not turn away from dwell- 
ing upon those physical acts 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 fVuthering 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 cli- 
mate; but he might have been indicated with far 
fewer touches, in place of so entirely filling the can- 
vas that there is hardly a scene untainted by his 
presence. It was a like dreariness, a like unfortu- 
nate selection of objects, which cut short the popu- 
larity of Charlotte Smith's novels, rich though they 
be in true pathos and faithful descriptions of na- 
ture. Enough of what is mean and bitterly pain- 
ful and degrading 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 collectively, 
are contemplating future or frequent utterances in 
fiction, let us hope that they will 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 power- 


ful. It is the tale of a governess who undergoes 
much that is in the real bond of a governess's en- 
durance ; 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 govern- 
ess is subjected to torment by terrible children (as 
the French have it) ; in that of the Murrays she has 
to witness the ruin wrought by false indulgence on 
two coquettish girls, whose coquetries jeopardise 
her own heart's secret. In both these tales there is 
so much feeling for character, and nice marking 
of scenery, that we cannot leave them without once 
again warning their authors against what is eccen- 
tric and unpleasant. 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, Cavendish 
Square, and later (from 1850 to 1874) in Wel- 
beck Street. He seems to have cared only for mak- 
ing 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 containing 
The Tenant of Wtldfell 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 
fVuthering 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 Ro- 
man Monarchy and Captain Medwin's Life of 
Shelley. But for the most part the books are now 
long forgotten novels; association with fFuthering 
Heights would probably be Mr. Newby's one lit- 
erary distinction to-day were it not that one only 
remembers that he added additional bitterness to 
the always essentially unhappy life of Emily 


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 publi- 
cation 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 
London 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 Septem- 
ber 4, 1848, and in it she tells her friend that her 
sister Anne had published another book called The 
Tenant of Wild fell 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 enormous success 
of Jane Eyre, but she does tell Miss Taylor of 
Newby's assertion that Jane Eyre, fFuthering 


Heights, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell 
Hall were all the productions 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 Keighley, 
set out ourselves after tea, walked through a snow- 
storm 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 off in queer inward ex- 
citement to 65, Comhill. Neither Mr. Smith nor 
Mr. Williams knew we were coming; they had 


never seen us ; they did not know whether wc were 
men or women, but had always written to us as 


The recognition at 65, Comhill, was very dra- 
matic, and the pleasant gossip with Mr. Smith and 
with his manager Mr. Williams, is related in de- 
tail. Then came visitors in the evening to that 
modest inn in Ivy Lane, Paternoster 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 
" clownishness," 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 Mon- 
day came another round of pleasure, and on Tues- 
day the sisters returned to Haworth. This letter 
concludes 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. Wuthering Heights 
and Agnes Grey were published on condition that 
the authors shared the risks with the publisher, and 
they advanced £50 accordingly. 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 au- 
thor — ^yet Newby would seem never to have re- 
turned the £50, although Charlotte tried to extract 
it from him. " Do not give yourself much trouble 
nbout Mr. Newby," Charlotte writes later, "I have 
not the least expectation that you will be able to 
act anything from him. He has an evasive, shuf- 
ting plan of meeting, or rather eluding, such de- 
mands, against which it is fatiguing to contend " ; 
nnd to the same correspondent, her friend Mr. 
iJwrgc Smith, she writes still later: " As to Mr. 
X<irbyi he charms me. First there is the f ascinat- 


ing coyness with which he shuns your pursuit 
..." and she goes on to animadvert In a simi- 
lar 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 ad- 
vertising it. There pretty well one may leave Mr. 
Newby, and pass on to the books the publication 
of which gave him his only distinction. 



Emily Bronte has been called the Sphinx of 
our modem literature. Among English novelists 
she must always* hold a position of eminence, al- 
though 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 suf- 
frage of some of the best minds of each genera- 
tion 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 concern- 
ing one : — 

. . . whose soul 

Knew no fellow for might, 

Passion, vehemence, grief. 

Daring, since Byron died. 


It culminated in the splendid eloquence of Mr. 
Swinburne, who places it with King Lear, the 
Duchess of Malfi, and The Bride of Lammer" 
moor^ the well-weighed utterances of Mrs. Hum- 
phry Ward, to whom Emily Bronte's book is 
" pure mind and passion," ^ and of Maurice Mae- 
terlinck,^ whose tribute is the more interesting in 
that Belgium was the only country that Emily 
Bronte visited. — Sydney Dobell's criticism has nat- 
urally the most interest because it happens to be 
one of those contemporary verdicts which pos- 
terity has endorsed. In the Palladium of Septem- 
ber 1850, Mr. Dobell declared " that there were 
passages in Wuthering Heights of which any nov- 
elist, past or present, might be proud." 

" There are few things in modem prose to sur- 
pass these pages for native power," Mr. Dobell 
says of the first part of Wuthering Heights. The 
critic who treats of contemporaries almost always 
hesitates and halts in the dispensing of praise un- 

^ The Athenaeum^ June i6, 1883. 

2 The Haworth Edition of Wuthering Heights. Introdttcdon 
by Mrs. Humphry Ward. 

3 Wisdom and Destiny^ by Maurice Maeterlinck. 


less supported by popular applause. There was lit- 
tle enough of popular applause to greet Wuthering 
Heights at its first advent, and Mr. Dobell proved 
himself 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 de- 
scriptions one never forgot them. He selected for 
example that amazing account of Lockwood's dis- 
turbed 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 rubbed it to and 


fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bed- 
clothes : still it wailed ' Let me in 1 ' and maintained 
its tenacious grip, almost maddening me with 

This and the description of Heathcliff's anguish 
when Lockwood tells him of his nightmare are in- 
stanced by Dobell as unforgettable passages, and 
time has proved that his instinct was sound. Writ- 
ing later concerning this review which concerned 
itself with Jane Eyre as well, Charlotte Bronte 
said to Miss Martineau : — 

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

Yet, when all is said 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 work- 
shop, with simple tools, out of homely materials. 
The statuary found a granite block on a solitary 
moor; gazing thereon he saw how from the crag 
might be elicited a head, savage, swart, sinister; a 


form moulded with at least one element of grand- 
cur — 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 moorland moss 
clothes it; and heath, with its blooming bells and 
balmy fragrance, grows faithfully close to the 
giant's foot." 

4t ♦ ♦ ♦ 4t 4t 

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 
$hc ever knew. She made no friends at Brussels, 
no single " comrade " at Miss Wooler's school. 
When she died — ^before her thirtieth birthday — 
^ was as isolated from all companionship but that 
^ her sister Anne as she had been twenty years 


Not one scrap of self-revelation did Emily leave 
behind, two colourless letters to a friend of Char- 
lotte's being well nigh the only memorials in her 
handwriting that have been preserved.^ Her book 
also reveals nothing. Anne's novels were trans- 
parent 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 pas- 
sionate, but it is never self-revealing. Emily 
learned German when in Brussels, and must have 
read the weird tales of Hoffman ; she had, it may 
be, heard her father tell stories from Irish tradition 
as Dr. Wright and Miss Mary Robinson both as- 
sert. She had nearer home not only her own broth- 
er's miserable story with its mock heroics, but many 
other uncanny traditions of a kind to which York- 
shire is certainly 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 gen- 

^ 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. 


ius. 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 deathbed is to recall sentences that stand out 
boldly in the records of English fiction : — 

" * That's a turkey's,' she murmured to herself, 
* 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 I 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 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 feather 
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 I Did he shoot my lapwings, 
Nelly ? Are they red, any of them ? Let me look.' 

4t 4c 4t 4s 4s 4t 

" • 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 Penis- 
ton 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 conscious it's night, and there are two candles 
on the table making the black press shine like jet.' 

4c 4s 4t 4t 4s 4s 

" * One time, however, we were near quarrel- 
ling. He said the pleasantest manner of spending 
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 pouring 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 
undulating 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.' " 

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 trag- 
edy. Emily Bronte was quite a young woman 


when she wrote this book. One aknost feels that 
it was necessary that she should die. Any further 
work from her pen must almost have been in the 
nature of an anteclimax. It were better that 
fVuthering Heights should stand, as does its au- 
thor, 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 govern- 
ess at Law Hill, near Halifax,^ and a happier in- 

^ Qiarlotte writes from Dewsbuiy 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 ac- 
count of her duties. Hard labour from six in the morning until 
near eleven at night, with only one half-hour of exercise be- 
tween. This is slavery. I fear she will never stand it.** — 
Mrs. Gaskell's Life. 


terval of a year in Brussels. Very scanty, indeed, 
is the record of these episodes. Only when her sis- 
ters had persuaded her to face the world in print 
docs the picture become clearer. Take for ex- 
ample the following from a letter of Charlotte's 
to Mr. Williams : — 

" I should much — ^very much — like to take that 
quiet view of the ' great world ' you allude to, but 
I have as yet won no right to give myself 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 and 
orig^al than practical; his reason may be in ad- 
yznct of mine, but certainly it often travels a dif- 
ferent road. I should say Ellis will not be seen in 
lus full strength till he is seen as an essayist." 

And this sadder passage from a letter to Miss 

Lilian Whiting* s New Book 


By Lilian Whiting, author of " The World 

ful," " The Spiritual Significance," " Boston Days," 

etc. i6mo. Decorated cloth, $i.oo net White 

and gold, $1.25 net. 

THE OUTLOOK BEAUTIFUL " is to some degree the 
outgrowth of thought suggested by hundreds of letters 
from strangers referring to convictions expressed in several 
of her preceding books — letters vital in their intense interest 
regarding the mystery of death and the relations between the 
life that now is and that which is to come. As a church- 
woman Miss Whiting naturally turns first of all to the 
teaching of the Divine Master, and her argument is that 
faith, alone, is enough for the supremest reliance on immor- 
tality ; but that if to faith be added the larger extension of 
knowledge, revealed by modern science and by psychic 
research, the religious faith is thereby only informed to a 
more complete and reverent grasp of spiritual truth. Miss 
Whiting regards all human relations as being practically 
divine relations, friendship being, as Emerson so well says, 
'* for aid and comfort in all the passages of life and death '' ; 
and she endeavors to portray the natural continuity of all 
these sweet relations beyond that change which we call 
death, but through which is really entered the " life more 
abundant." The theme is as universal as is life itself, and the 
same winning magnetism of personal relation between the 
writer and the reader, that so signally characterizes many 
of the previous books of Lilian Whiting, will be recognized 
in "The Outlook Beautiful." 

Contents: The Delusion of Death; Realize the Ideals; 
Friendship a Divine Relation; The Ethereal Realm; The 
Supreme Purpose of Jesus; An Inward Stillness; The 
Miracle Moment. 

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers, Boston 
Ihe tie 01 »i»»'*'* *- 


think a certain harshness in her powerful and pe- 
culiar character only makes me cling to her more. 
But this is all family egotism (so to speak)— ex- 
cuse it, and, above all, never allude to it, or to the 
name Emily, when you write to me. I do not al- 
ways show your letters, but I never withhold them 
when they are inquired after." * 

Then we have the remarkable passage in a fur- 
ther letter to Mr. Williams : — 

** The North American Review is worth read- 
ing ; there is no mincing the matter there. What a 
bad set the Bells must be I What appalling books 
they write 1 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 but now somewhat melancholy 
fireside, I studied the two ferocious authors. Ellis, 
the ' man of uncommon talents, but dogged, bru- 
tal) and morose,' sat leaning back in his easy chair 
drawing his impeded breath as he best could, 
and looking, alas I piteously pale and wasted ; it is 
not his wont to laugh, but he smiled half-amused 

^ Charlotte Bronte and her Circle. 


and half in scorn as he listened. Acton was sew- 
ing, 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 portrayed. 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 partnership, 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 masculine hand that 
touched the MS. of Jane Eyre, 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 Nfr., 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 December 
25, 1848. Emily having died on the 19th: — 

" Emily is nowhere here now, her wasted mor- 
tal remains are taken out of the house. We have 
laid her cherished head under the church aisle be- 
side 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 

" Well, the loss is ours, not hers, and some sad 
comfort I take, as I hear the wind blow and feel 
the cutting keenness of the frost, in knowing that 
the elements bring her no more suffering ; their se- 
verity 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 con- 


flict 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 com 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 some imperish- 
able poems and an equally imperishable 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." 

^ Letter to Mr. W. S. Williams m Cbarhm BroiOS and ber 



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 unsupport- 
ed by the environment that Mrs. Gaskell's biogra- 
phy has made familiar to us all. Such books as 
Jane Eyre and Fillette, Shirley and JVuthering 
Heights must in any case have been certain of a 
permanent place in literature, but Anne Bronte's 
Agnes Grey and The Tenant of JVildfell Hall 
would almost undoubtedly have died. There 
seems, if we examine them carefully, 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 autobiographical character, and they make 
pleasant unpretentious reading even to-day. Agnes 
Grey, the first of them, was, as we have seen, 
bound up with JVuthering Heights, and such is the 
frequent futility of contemporary criticism that it 
is not surprising that many reviewers found it pref- 
erable to the titanic story that accompanied it. 
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall had indeed one very 
frank critic who loved its author. It was pro- 
nounced " scarcely worth republication " by Anne*s 
devoted sister Charlotte 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 ex- 
haustion 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 to recognize the po- 
tency of the personal element in literature. 

Both the novels of Anne Bronte are transcripts 


of the life she knew and little more. This is the 
factor that differentiates the man or woman of 
genius from the merely average writer. Anne was 
not capable of transmuting experience through 
that wonderful crucible that produces 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 photographic 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 JVildfell Hall. If there is little 
imagination, there is at least a clear narrative of 
her brother's escapades as far as she had compre- 
hended them, adding 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 criticism 
the province of this little biography, which it is not. 
It suffices that she was a softening, benign atmos- 
phere in a house where father, aunt and elder sis- 
ters, 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. NichoUs, writing fifty years after her death, 
recalled 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, im- 
aginations 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 from the outer 
world — ^EUen Nussey, Mary Taylor, or Laetitia 
Wheelwright. Charlotte had a gift for friendship 
which stood her In good stead when she found her- 


self alone in the world. Her sisters had not this 
gift, and were thrown back upon one another's 

Anne Bronte, as we have seen, was carried as a 
baby from Thornton to Haworth while her moth- 
er'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 in- 
separable. We know next to nothing of Anne's 
experiences as governess, first with Mrs. Ingram 
of Blake Hall, and next with Mrs. Robinson at 
Thorpe Green. Indeed it is only from Charlotte's 
letters that we learn anything of material impor- 
tance concerning Anne, although Miss Nussey 
writes of the youngest sister as so much the " pret- 
tiest " of the three, with " light brown hair, violet 
blue eyes and pencilled eyebrows, and an almost 
transparent complexion." One would have liked to 
have heard Anne's version of that sordid drama at 
Thorpe Green, where Branwell was, or professed 
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 Branwell's 
** love story " was purely imaginary. It was the 
attitude of Anne on this subject that persuaded 
Mr. NichoUs, with whom I discussed the question, 
that Branwell was not entirely to blame, that there 
had at least been some indiscreet flirtation, calcu- 
lated to disarrange further an already ill-balanced 

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 otherwise. Yet 
I was then at Thorpe 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 wretched I should have been; 
but during my stay I have had some very unpleas- 
ant 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 
stayed each time nearly a year. Emily has been 
there too, and stayed nearly a year. Branwell has 


left Luddendenfoot, and been a tutor at Thorpe 
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 sup- 
pose ; and we hope he will be better and do better 
in future. This is a dismal, cloudy, wet even- 
ing. We have had so far a very cold wet summer. 
Charlotte has lately been to Hathersage, in Derby- 
shire, 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 din- 
ing-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. Lit- 
tle Dick is hopping in his cage. When the last pa- 
per was written we were thinking of setting up a 
school* The scheme has been dropped, and long 
after taken up again and dropped again because we 
could not get pupils. Charlotte is thinking about 
getting another situation. She wishes to go to 
F*ri$% Will she go ? She has let Flossy in, by-the- 
|qr« and she is now lying on the sofa. Emily is en- 


gaged 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 won- 
der what it is about? I have begun the third 
volume of Passages in the Life of an Individual. 
I wish I had finished it. This afternoon I began 
to set about making my grey figured silk frock 
that was dyed at Keighley. What sort of a hand 
shall I make of it?"^ 

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 Charlotte's going to Paris is note- 
worthy. Instead of that, Charlotte and her sisters 
published poems and novels, with the result that 
we all know. The Poems appeared the following 
year, Jane Eyre in October, 1847, ^^^ Agnes Grey 
in December. The two editions of The Tenant of 
JVildfell Hall appeared in 1848, the year that 
Branwell and Emily died, and Anne followed her 

^ Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, 


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 cannot 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 examined her with the steth- 
oscope. 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 bitterness yet to taste. 
However, I must not look forwards, nor must I 
look backwards. Too often I feel like one cross- 


ing an abyss on a narrow plank — a glance round 
might quite unnerve. 

" 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 reverence as well as 
affection — ^under the test of suffering — ^neither has 

" Anne continues a little better — ^the mild 
weather suits her. At times I hear the renewal 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 1 " 

But hope was slight indeed, as a letter to Ellen 
Nussey, describing a projected visit to Scarbor- 
ough, 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 continues : — 

" If Anne is to get any good she must have 
every advantage. Miss Outhwaitey her godmoth- 


er, left her in her will a legaqr 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 advisable 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 Scar- 
boro*; 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 wiU, 
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 destina- 
tion safely, having rested one night at York. We 
found assistance wherever we needed it ; there was 
alwaj's an arm ready to do for 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 pres- 
ence a solace. She is a calm, steady girl — ^not bril- 
liant, but good and true. She suits and has always 
suited me well. I like her, with her phlegm, re- 
pose, 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 : — 

" My dear Sir, — My poor sister is taken quiet- 
ly home at last. She died on Monday. With al- 
most 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 Church- 
yard, where the inscription on her tomb runs as 
follows : — 

" Here lie the remains of Anne Bronte, daugh- 
ter 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 hjrnmologies 
of many of the Churches : — 

I hoped that with the hrave and strong 

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

With purpose pure and high. 



Charlotte Bronte was thirty-one years and 
SIX months old when Jane Eyre was published. The 
passing of her first novel from publisher to pub- 
lisher 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 bom in 
1800 and died in 1875, possessed a genuine liter- 
ary 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 val- 
ued 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 human, and often 



makes mistakes. Certainly the five readers of the 
five publishing houses which sent ba(^ The Pro- 
fessor with curt refusals had reasons for regret- 
ting their mistake in this instance — even from a 
merely commercial point of view,^ 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 Wuth- 
ering 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 
member of the staff, Mr. James Taylor, did not, 
and after both had reported to their " chief," 

^ 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. In the year 
1860— twelve years after the publication of Jane Eyre — the 
publishers admitted to having made a clear profit of £10,000. 
Mr. George Smith was once offered £500 for the manuscript 
of Jane Eyre, 


Mr. George Smith, the letter went forth from the 
office In Comhill which was to bring yet another 
refusal to the mysterious but ever persevering Mr. 
Currer Bell at Haworth. But Currer Bell after- 
wards declared in print that this refusal was 
'^ couched in language so delicate, reasonable and 
courteous, as to be more cheering than some ac- 
ceptances." It assigned a lack of varied interest in 
the tale as well as the length as the cause of rejec- 
tion, therefore Currer Bell replied that he had 
nearly completed a novel in three volumes, and 
this Mr. Williams asked to see. 

On August 24, 1847, ^he 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. The critics were enthu- 
siastic, the public more so. " The most extraordi- 
nary 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 ** for- 
ties " 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 delighted 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 Forcade, 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 al- 
most made Charlotte Bronte repent its authorship. 
Yet Miss Rigby wrote with no 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 ^ — for in her world no woman was so ignorant 

^ Letter to W. S. Williams, November i6, 1848. 

^ Lockhait, 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 diat 




of the daintier aspects of life : the fitting garment 
for this or that occasion, the delicacies of refined 
cookery I How could Miss Rigby have guessed 
that it was the timid, sensitive daughter of a coun- 
try clergyman, herself a warm adherent of Church 
and State, who had written this extraordinary 
book I The author she thought was clearly a man, 
and if it 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 forfeited 
the society of her sex " — ^would have fallen harm- 
less. The sentence was not more cruelly personal 
than every author was liable to suflEer from in those 
days. A certain great historian did not, we may 

they are brothers of the weaving order in some Lancashire town. 
At first it was generally said Currer was a lady, and Mayfair 
circumstandalizes by making her the cbere amie of Mr. Thack- 
eray. 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." — Jour- 
nds and Correspondence of Lady Eastlake, edited by her nephew, 
Charles Eastlake Smith, 1895. 


be sure, enjoy being called " Mr. Babbletongue 
Macaulay " by The Times. In any case, many 
compensations 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 remembrance of another con- 
taining 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 " nauseous hypo- 
crite," as Mr. Augustine Birrell rather extrava- 
gantly calls her. A generation that has been 
brought up upon " sex " novels has other stand- 
ards 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 qualities of 
style, imagination and " point of view " in litera- 
ture, Jane Eyre would now make no appeal. To 
such, Hamlet would make no appeal. Is not the 
whole story of the murdered king, the son who 
feigns madness to revenge 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 detailed au- 
tobiography of the writer — of her reading life as 
well as of her actual life. The^period during 
which Jane Eyre was at Lowood Schaal- was but 
a reflection of Charlotte Bronte's actual expe- 
riences at Cowan Bridge, at any rate of her idea 
of the school as it came back to her after an in- 
terval 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 Cams Wilson, the proto- 
type of Mr. Brocklehurst.^ This critic has been 
studying the writings of Mr. Wilson, particularly 
certain books for the young by him, which Char- 
lotte 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 for me. I 
am fonder of death." Mr. Brocklehurst^ says to 
Jane Eyi'e, " Children younger than you die daily. 
I buried a little child 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 chil- 
dren. 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." 

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


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 number of such little boys in Youth- 
ful Memoirs. At the close of the interview with 
Jane Eyre, Mr. Brocklehurst gives her a tract 
entitled "The Child's Guide; containing an ac- 
count of the awfully sudden Death of Martha 
G., a naughty child addicted to falsehood." One 
of Mr. Wilson's little stories is actually entitled 
Jn Awful History. Altogether, the student of 
this unsavoury literature, Mr. Angus Mackay, 
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. Ca- 
ms Wilson was substantially accurate, however 
much she may have exaggerated the demerits 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 de- 
scription 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 hu- 
mour, the masterful manner of M. Paul Heger; 
in her book she attributes these qualities to Fairfax 
Rochester. The author spends three weeks at 
Hathersage in Derbyshire, and to that neighbour- 
hood 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 engaged in the manufacture 
of needles, as are those of Hathersage to-day. 
Thornfield Hall, the seat of Mr. Rochester, has 
been easily identified with Norton Conyers near 
Ripon, which was in Miss Bronte's day the seat of 
Mr. Greenwood, 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, Ferndean 
Manor, is WycoUar 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 
Cunliife, had some of the traits associated with 
Rochester. Moor House, where the Rivers fam- 
ily lived, has been identified with Moor Seats near 
Hathersage; 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 Brcmte went to material available to all the 
worl(L Some time ago there appeared in the Sat" 
urday Review a letter calling attention to a little 
book entitled Gleanings in Craven; or, The Tour- 
isti 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 
litde 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. Ingram. To 
describe Gleanings in Craven as a " key " to Jane 
Eyre is, however, to ignore any number of other 
" keys " provided by the long years of apprentice- 
ship 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 NichoUs, 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 incident to that where 
Jane hears the voice of Rochester calling her, al- 
though he is many miles away. 

Moll calls in distress to Jemmy, her " Lanca- 
shire husband," and Jemmy hears the cry. Moll, 
it will be remembered, burst into a fit of crying, 
calling him by his name, " O Jemmy 1 come back, 
come back." The husband returned and told her 
that twelve miles off 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^ be- 
cause Moll has a lover at Bath who has a " distem- 


pcrcd,'* 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 unfaithful, 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 essential originality of ]ane Eyre. 
Charlotte Bronte's love of the preternatural would 
have induced her to remember that incident in 
Moll Flandersj 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 hap- 
pened ! " 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 experience, and in any 
case she had probably forgotten her reading of 
Moll Flanders when she sat down to write Jane 

Certainly she must have read from the Keighley 
Library J Sicilian Romance^ by Mrs. Radcliffe, 
where it will be remembered Count Mazzini shuts 


— « «!f*^ 4<1_ 

fc.-^ ^c^ »»- — 1^ :- -^ A-L~^ . 1 — , , ^ .i, -ta-fiS 

of Jane Eyre 


up his wife in a castle for fifteen years, although 
the fact is unknown to the rest of the inhabitants, 
who periodically hear noises and see strange 
things. Miss Bronte refers to Ann Radcliffe in 
Shirley J where Rose Yorke may be found reading 
The Italian. In addition to these one acute critic ^ 
has found traces of Richardson's Pamela and Har- 
riet Martineau's Deerbrook. 

The real power of Jane Eyre is quite unafiFcctcd 
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. 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 af- 

^ Dr. Robertson NicoU in his Introduction to Jane Eyre. . 


fection; but there is no real resemblance between 
Rivers and Mr. Nussey. I have had the advan- 
tage of reading a volume of Mr. Nussey's Diary 
and Sermons} 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 satis- 
faction, ** This evening at a full meeting Mr. 
Heald exhorted from 2 Corinthians 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 propriety and feel the necessity of this line of 
conduct " ; and once more, Mr. Nussey writes in 
his diary: ** Friday, 11 June, 1839. Obtained an 
advance of £1 from Mr. Wakeford, a farmer and 

^ This volume is in MSS., and is in the possession of Mr. 
J. J. Stead, of Heckmondwike, York, to whose courtesy I am 
indebted for its perusal. 


coal-merchant in Earnley, with whom I spent the 
evening at his house. He unfortunately became 
offended at something Mr. Browne once uttered 
in the pulpit, and thereupon 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 wilfulness. May he be brought back again, 
wandering sheep I " 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, sensible 
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, 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 unfavourable reply from * C. B.' The will of 


the Lord be done." ** C. B.," of course, is Char- 
lotte 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 Char- 
lotte 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 inclined to think that 
the real prototype of Rivers existed for her not 
in life but in literature; that she had read from 
the Keighley Library Sargent's Memoir of Henry 
Martyriy 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 College, 
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 Hindustani. There are points also 
in the relations with Miss Lydia Grenf ell, whom 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 indepen- 
dent 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 the first place, 
the writer had a style, a vigorous, forcible style; 
a style full of picturesque phraseology, character- 
ized by that intense sincerity which is ever one of 

^ Curiously enough, Henry Mart3ni has been made the hero 
of a novel called Her Title of Honour^ published in 1 871 by 
Holm Lee. 



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.^ 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." 

3|e 3|e % % 4c 4c 

" 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 ir* last 
night's floods." 

4c 4c 4c 4c 4c 4c 

" 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." 

4c 4c 4c 4c 4c 4c 

" The night is not calm ; the equinox still strug- 
gles in its storms. The wild rains of the day are 

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


abated; the great single cloud disparts, and rolls 
away from Heaven, not passing and leaving a sea 
of sapphire, but tossing buoyant before a con- 
tinued, long-sounding, high-rushing moonlight 
tempest. . . . No Endymion will watch for his 
goddess to-night : there are no flocks on the moun- 


But style alone does not add to the permanent 
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 j 
duty. Charlotte Bronte had read multitudes of 1 
books, and she had been an observer of the hu- 
manity around her, in that little world of rough, 
rude men and conmionplacc women. To her had 
come dreams of a wider, freer life, of profound 
love, of heroic sacrifice. She had thought out all 
the possibilities 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 debased 
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 peremptorily attempted to 
prevent her marriage: finally she married to re- 
tain 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 imparting 
of which was to throw English society into a fever 
/ of interest. After the current novels of her day, 
' Jane Eyre was a model of outspokenness, a veri- 
table 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 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 nappen 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 discrimination 
so far as the men were concerned as to the border- 
line. 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. Altogether, it is not in the least difficult 
to comprehend 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 of the 


Quarterly^ was most to be regretted, in that it 
frightened her, and tended to make her conven- 
tional. The bad influences of this criticism is 
traceable in Shirley^ which would otherwise prob- 
ably have been a very much greater book than it 
actually is. 

^ The article is called Vanity Fair^ Jane Eyre^ and Govern^ 
esseSf and appeared in the Quarterly for Decemher, 1848. 



In taking up a copy of Charlotte Bronte's 
Shirley we find ourselves in an atmosphere more 
easy of interpretation than that of any other book 
written by the three sisters. Birstall in Yorkshire, 
near Batley, is the real centre of the story; not 
very far away you may come to Oakwell Hall, 
the " Fieldhead " 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, 1812,^ when an 

^ Her original idea was to call her stoiy Hollow's Mill and 

not Shirley. 



assault by some hundreds of starving cloth- 
dressers, armed with pistols, hatchets and blud- 
geons, was made upon the factory of Mr. Cart- 
wright at Rawfolds, between Huddersfield and 
Leeds. Mr. Cartwright, like Mr. Moore, had 
foreign blood in his veins, dark eyes and com- 
plexion; and Mr. Cartwright's successful defence 
of his mill was but retold in picturesque form in 
Shirley. Then in Mr. Helstone we have the pro- 
totype of a Mr. Hammond Roberson 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. Gaskell's relation 
of the actual circumstance. Almost every inci- 
dent 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 experiences of Charlotte 
Bronte's life in her Yorkshire home. 


Equally plain is the presentation of the vari- 
ous characters, not only of Matthew Helstone as 
we have seen, and Mr. Cartwright, but far more 
sharply defined are the three curates and the Yorke 
family. Mr. Donne, the curate of Whinbury, for 
example, has been easily identified as Mr. Grant 
of Oxenhope; Mr. Malone, the curate of Briar- 
field, as Mr. Smith of Haworth; while Mr. Sweet- 
ing, the curate of Nunnerley, was Mr. Bradley of 
Oakworth — ^the only one of the three who is still 
living.^ The interesting Mr. Yorke who lived 

^ "The very curates, poor fellows! show no resentment,'* 
says Miss Bronte in one of her letters, "each characteristically 
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 yes- 
terday 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 centuiy later. Peter Augustus Malone, who 
was James William Smith in real life, was for two years curate 


at Briarmains was Mr. Joshua Taylor, and his 
daughters Mary Taylor and Martha Taylor, arc 
presented respectively as Rose and Jessie Yorke. 
Mrs. Pryor is Miss Margaret Wooler. As 
for the heroine, Shirley, Mrs. Gaskell recalls a 

to Mr. Bronte at Haworth. He had graduated at Trinity Col- 
lege, Dublin, and after a two years' curacy at Haworth he be- 
came curate of the neighbouring parish of Keighley. In 1847, 
his family having suffered frightfully from the Irish famine, he 
determined to tiy 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 cutdng 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 Ches- 
terton 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 unril 1904 when he retired; and is still living 
at an advanced age at Richmond, Surrey. Mr. Bradley has al- 
ways found great pleasure in recalling the fact that he was the 
prototype of Mr. Sweeting in Shirley y although he declares that 
the meetings of the curates at each other's lodgings were exclu- 
sively 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. 


conversation with Charlotte in which she stated 
that the character was meant for her sister Emily .^ 
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 prosperity. 
As to Caroline Helstone, there is some discrepancy 
as to the prototype. Miss Ellen Nussey believed 
herself tp have been intended for Caroline Hel- 
stone, while on the other hand Miss Bronte's hus- 
band 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 pleas- 
ant 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 sup- 
pose any of the characters in Shirley intended as 

^ Lifff Haworth Edition, pag^ 30. 


literal portiaits»'* she writes to a friend. *^ It 
would not suit the roles 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 Moores to represent? '' 

It is not easy to g^ve an answer to that question 
as regards Robert Moore, although Mrs. Gaskell 
remarks that from the sons of the Taylor family 
she drew " all that there was of truth in the char- 
acter of the heroes of her first two works." ^ 
Robert Gerard Moore is obviously a very compos- 
ite character, but his brother Louis has clearly most 
of the characteristics of Monsieur Heger, who in- 
deed appears in each novel in succession. He is 
Professor Crimsworth, Fairfax Rochester, Louis 
Moore, and Paul Emanuel, under different con- 
ditions. The critics who have made much of the 

^ Mrs. Gaskeirs Life^ page 232, Haworth Edition. 


enthusiasm with which Charlotte Bronte regarded 
her 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 comfortable home of his re- 
markable pupil. M. Heger, we are told, admired 
Emily Bronte very much more than he did her 
sister, and rated her genius higher. The sugges- 
tion of the existence of a wild and undisciplined 
passion for M. Heger, which has been more than 
once hinted at, might be rejected by any thought- 
ful 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. Swinburne is equally 
contemptuous. Nevertheless 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 con- 
ceptions of the social problem, of the relation of 
capital to labour. Not imtil 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 Shir- 
ley'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 circumstances. 
The first and second volumes were finished while 
her brother and two sisters were living, the third 
was begun and the book completed after all three 
were gone from her. The earlier volumes, writ- 
ten in the turmoil of hope deferred, of melancholy 


anticipation of the inevitable, show a great falling 
off from the power of Jane Eyre; but the last 
volume, written in the unutterable loneliness of 
bereavement, 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 publishers 
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. Monsieur ; I shall deem it an 
honour to know you.' I could not say so much 
of the mass of the London critics." At the end 
of November she paid her fourth visit to London 
— ^the first that had in it anything of a social char- 
acter. 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 Martmean with the fol- 
lowing note enclosed: — 

** Currer Bell offers a copy of SMHey to Miss 
Martineau*s acceptance, in acknowledgment of 
the pleasure and profit {sic) he had deriyed from 
her woiks. When C. B. first read Deerbr€>ok he 
tasted a new and keen pleasure, and experienced 
a genuine benefiL In his mind Deerhrook ranks 
with the writings that have really done him good, 
added to his stodc of ideas and rectified his views 
of life." 1 

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 appearance of " Miss Bronte," whom 
the footman announced as " Miss Brogden." " I 
thought her the smallest creature I had ever seen, 

^ Harriet Mardneau's Autobiography^ vol. 2. 


except at a fair," was Miss Martineau's first im- 
pression. Miss Bronte saw others of her literary 
idols, Thackeray in particular, to whom the second 
edition of Jane Eyre was dedicated, and with 
whom as " A Titan of mind " — she felt " fear- 
fully stupid." In John Forster, afterwards to be- 
come known to all as the biographer of Dickens, 
she discovered a " loud swagger." The best ac- 
count of the visit is contained in a letter to her 
friend. Miss Wooler ^ : — 

" Ellen Nussey, it seems, told you I spent a fort- 
night 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 sightseeing, 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 

^ From Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle^ where the letter is 
wrongly dated. 

•^ - n ■ : - 


prodi^oiisly civQ fzcc to face. These 
ycmrd infinitely grander, more pcxnpons, dashm^ 
showy, than the few authors I saw. \Ir. Thack- 
eray, for instance, is a man of quiet simpk de- 
meanour; he is however looked upon with some 
awe and even distrust. His conversation is very 
peculiar, too perverse to be pleasant. It was pro- 
posed to me to see Charles Dickens, Lady Mor- 
gan, Mesdames Trollope, Gore, and some others, 
but I was aware these introducticms would bring 
a degree of notoriety I was not disposed to en- 
counter; I declined, therefore, with thanks." 

Taking up the thread of her life once more at 
Haworth, Charlotte Bronte found the situation 
well nigh intolerable. Something of the mental 
anguish that she presents so powerfully as an epi- 
sode in the life of Lucy Snowe in Villette would 
seem to have visited her at this time, and she was 
not without her tribulations arising out of the at- 
titude of friends who had taken their cue from the 
Quarterly Review article, or similar pronounce- 
ments. 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 esteem. 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 exceptions at Jane Eyre^ and that 
for their own sakes I was sorry, as I invariably 
found them individuals in whom the animal largely 
predominated 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 Edinburgh 
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-Shuttleworth at Gaw- 
thorpe Hall, Lancashire. In June of this year 
(1850) she was again in London, and saw the 
Duke of Wellington, the hero of her girlhood, 
" a real grand old man," received a morning call 
from Thackeray — " I was moved to speak to him 
of some of his shortcomings," and had an inter- 
view with Lewes, whose face reminded her of her 
sister Emily's and " almost moved me to tears.** 
This holiday 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 Ex- 
hibition 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 some- 
what, but not quite so badly as before." 

During this stay in London she sat to George 
Richmond for the only portrait of her 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 like- 
ness " and " a graphic representation." ^ 

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 momentous friendships 
in her destiny. " I was truly glad of her com- 

^ 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 Galleiy of London. 


panionship. She is a woman of most genuine 
talent, of cheerful, pleasing and cordial manners, 
and I believe of a kind and good heart." ^ 

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 says, " to bear the canker of 
constant solitude." In the interval, however, at 
Haworth, she busied herself by editing her sister's 
Remmns. The task laid a great strain upon her, 
" The reading over of papers, the renewal of re- 
membrances, brought back the pang of bereave- 

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

" I have read Tennyson's In Memoriam^ or rather part of it; 
I closed the book when I got about half-way. It is beautiful; 
it is mournful; it is monotonous. Many of the feelings ex- 
pressed 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 monument 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. 


ment, 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 achieve- 
ments. This book was published on December 10, 
1850, and a week later she was with Miss Mar- 
tineau 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 displeases from 
its seeming foppery," and whose theological opin- 
ions were, she regretted, " very vague and unset- 
tled." Miss Bronte did not live to read Literature 
and Dogma and God and the Bibky nor could she 
have anticipated that the finest recognition of her 
and her sisters that poetry had to offer would 
come from the foppish 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, 185I9 Miss Bronte is again 
in London — the time for her longest and most en- 
joyable visit — tempted thither by Mrs. Smith 
on account of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park 
— ^the Crystal Palace, as it was called. She much 
enjoyed listening to one of Thackeray's lectures 
in Willis's Rooms. Here she was introduced 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 " marvel- 
lous, stirring and bewildering sight, but it is not 
much in my way." She enjoyed more her later 
visits, particularly 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 Villette 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 of the life 
she has left and the life she is living. " Yet even 
Haworth Parsonage docs not look gloomy in this 
bright summer weather." 

Altogether, the years 1850 and 185 1, 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 hench- 
men, Williams and Taylor, had put her in pos- 
session of a great quantity of modem literature. 


not perhaps as helpful as the old romances and 
biographies 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 fol- 
lowing years, indeed, her letters to these and other 
London friends deal entirely with the books she 
had borrowed from them, and they are consequent- 
ly far more interesting letters than those written in 
the period of obscurity to the friends of her girl- 
hood. Ruskin's Stones of Venice^ Thackeray's 
Esmond^ Sorrow'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 eflFect 
upon the crowning literary achievement of Char- 
lotte Bronte's life — ^the writing of Villette. 



Some ten years ago I visited the scene of Fil- 
lette, the Pensionnat Heger at Brussels. The 
school had just been removed to another quarter 
of the city, and the house was in an entirely dis- 
mantled condition. This enabled me to make a 
perhaps more intimate acquaintance with the build- 
ing than I could otherwise have done. It per- 
mitted 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 in detail in Villette. Here 
was the dormitory, now dismantled of its long 
succession of beds, in one of which at the further 
end, Lucy Snowc was frightened by the supposed 
ghost of a nun. Then we came to the oratory, 
with the niche no longer holding a crucifix. Fi- 
nally we 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 actu- 
ally the old pear-trees, the same vine-clad berceau ; 
everything indeed 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, includ- 
ing the most magnificent law courts in Europe. 

It is truly wonderful how vegetation renews it- 
self year by year in much the same form for in- 
calculable periods. Those paths, and grass-plats, 
could have undergone practically no change what- 
ever in the long interval that separates the day 
when Charlotte and Emily Bronte walked arm in 
arm through them, 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 1 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 pro- 
fessor, 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 an- 
other 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 Fillet te. I 
found her kindly and communicative, and she gave 
me some interesting 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 un- 
doubtedly genuine. The attitude of the 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 numbers 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 indispu- 
tably cruel is the portrait of Madame Beck of 
Villette and Mile. Reuter of The Professor. We 
have undeniable 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 Charlotte 
Bronte's " Madame " than the portrait of Mrs. 


Reed in Jane Eyre resembled Mrs. Sidgwick, 
whom the writer also doubtless had in her mind. 
Genius is so frequently cruel in its portraiture, 
and with a certain ostrich-like quality superadded. 
It never knows that it is cruel and it never antic- 
ipates identification. Charles Dickens frequently 
denied that he had intended Harold Skimpole to 
represent Leigh Hunt, and he must have been as- 
tonished and aggrieved that his friends should in- 
sist upon a recognition. Charlotte Bronte was in 
no similar danger because there was no French 
translation of Villette 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. Yet if only we can forget its essential 
cruelty, the portrait grips us. The clever, schem- 
ing schoolmistress, watching all the threads of her 
large establishment with a Napoleonic energy, 
holds one breathless. 


But biography insists upon identification, espe- 
cially 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 per- 
sistence 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 subject,* 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 mo- 
ment from the path of strict moral action, that her 

* The Brontes — Fact and Fiction, by Angus MacKay, 1897. 


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 noth- 
ing more to be said on that point. If Madame 
Heger had had a taste for fiction and had been 
a governess say in Miss Margaret Wooler's school 
at Roehead, she could have made just as unami- 
able a portrait of Charlotte 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 uncon- 
genially mated, that she may at times have al- 
lowed herself to contemplate the might-have- 
beens, the possibility of this man as her own hus- 
band had circumstances willed it, or as her sister 
Emily's husband, 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 in- 
consistent with a very strict moral code. Certainly 
she is very fond of a situation 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 

But surely the critics have made rather too much 
of the autobiographic nature of Villette, They 
have not sufficiently grasped the fact that an 

M. Paul Hittr 


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 miser- 
able 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 actually 
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 


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 broad- 
ened doubtless with the years. The age of Tenny- 
son in poetry, Ruskin and Carlyle in prose, a 
period when what was called the Broad Church 
had captured some of the best minds in the Estab- 
lished Religion, could not but have influenced her 
as she began late in her career to read modem 
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 as- 
sumed 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 imbibed in her childhood, and were of 


that thoroughly Orange complexion which her 
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 absent. A violent 
hatred of Roman Catholicism, indeed, character- 
izes her first novel. The Professor^ and her last 
novel, Vtllette. Her girl pupils in Brussels had 
an art of " bold, impudent flirtation, or a loose, 
silly leer." " I am not a bigot in matters of 
theology," she continues, " but I suspect the root 
of the precocious 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 dis- 
covered that the root of the matter is elsewhere 
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/' is her ac- 
count of one of the pupils in this same novel. The 
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 
VillettCy things are even worse, or better as the 
reader may choose to interpret it Methodism 
receives little more favour. Her Dissenters are 
nearly all ^' engrained rascals," as she calls one 
of them. 

But how unimportant it all is, although inter- 
esting in a way. Every great writer in every age 
has been very much in harmony with his environ- 
ment, and a later age with other views of tolera- 
tion cares for none of these things, but asks only 
of the artistic achievement. Two widely diflfercnt 
contemporary writers, Charlotte Bronte and 
George Borrow were at one in their hatred of 
Romanism. Yet both have received 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 '' confessed " in a Roman Catholic 

4c 4( ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Villette is one of the great novels of literature. 
Mrs. Bretton and Dr. John — ^pictures to some ex- 
tent of Mr. George Smith and his mother — Gin- 
evra 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 intensity, 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 pub- 
lishers three times during her lifetime declined 
Miss Bronte's request to publish The Professor. 
Apart from its size — ^the impossibility of produc- 
ing it as a three-volumed novel, there were many 
elements of crudity. Young Cumsworth would 
scarcely have been ten years at Eton, and would 
certainly not have carried hence 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 re- 
peated in both stories, and Madame Beck and 
Mile. Renter indulge in much the same manoeuvres 
with their scholars. Nevertheless The Professor ^ 
is full of good things, and Frances Henri is per- 
haps the only woman character in Charlotte 
Bronte's novels of real charm. 

Villette was commenced at the beginning of 
185 1, 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 diat visit 
I have already referred. At this time we find her 
engaged in quite a copious correspondence, now 

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



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 infinitely 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 meeting. 
" He came swimming into the room, smiling, sim- 
pering and bowing like a fat old lady, and looked 
the picture of a sleek hypocrite. The Cardinal 
spoke In a smooth whining manner, just like a 
canting Methodist preacher," 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 
publication, 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 con- 
dition that the last number was written before the 
first came out." Her loyalty to her publisher was 
extreme, for in yet another letter she expresses 
her deep regret that it was quite impossible for 
her to oblige him over this question 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 certainly 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 Providence 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 oppor- 
tunity 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 such circum- 
stances," she said, " nor were two-thirds of Shir- 
ley. '^^ 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 interests. 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 die 
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 any- 
body it must be the Professor — a man in whom 
there is much to forgive, much to ' put up with/ 
But I am not leniently disposed towards Miss 
Frost: from the beginning I never meant to ap- 
point her lines in pleasant places. The conclusion 
of this third volume it still a matter of some 

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 how- 
ever 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, Fil- 


lette was finished. " The book, I think," she says, 
in sending it away, " will not be considered pre- 
tentious, nor is it of a character to excite hostility." 

After this a week was spent with Ellen Nussey 
at Brookroyd, a fortnight with Harriet Mar- 
tineau at Ambleside, and in January the follow- 
ing year she was again in London, staying with 
her publishers, and correcting the 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 philan- 
thropic 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. Near- 
ly all the reviews were favourable, the principal 
exception being one written by Miss Martineau 
in the Daily News. Miss Martineau'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, truth- 
ful, unselfish in this earth, as I comprehend recti- 
tude, nobleness, fidelity, truth and disinterested- 
ness." In February she writes from Haworth to 
thank Mr. George Smith for sending her an en- 
graving of Thackeray's portrait by Lawrence. 
At this time interest in her personality was grow- 
ing steadily. The Bishop of the diocese came to 
see Mr. Bronte, and spent the night in the vicar- 
age. 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 Manchester, 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; nothing disturbs the 
deep repose; hardly a voice is heard; you catch 
the ticking of the clock in the kitchen, or the buzz- 
ing of a fly in the parlour 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 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 sweep- 
ing moors; the heather bloom had been blighted 
by a thunderstorm a day or two before, and was 
all of a livid brown colour, instead of the blaze 
of purple glory it ought to-feave been. Oh 1 those 
high, wild, desolate moors, up above the whole 
world, and the very realms of silence 1 Hpme 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 prevailing colour of the 
room is crimson, to make a warm setting for the 
cold grey landscape without. There is her likeness 
by Richmond, and an engraving from Lawrence's 
picture of Thackeray; and two recesses, on each 
side of the high, narrow, old-fashioned mantel- 
piece, 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 parlour 
to the left, and there I found Miss Bronte, stand- 
ing in the full light of the window, and I had am- 
ple opportunity of fixing her upon my memory, 
where her image is vividly present to this hour. 
She was diminutive in height, and extremely frag- 


ile. Her hand was one of the smallest I ever 
grasped. She had no pretensions to being con- 
sidered 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. Al- 
together she was as unpretending, undemonstra- 
tive, 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 blending 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 not- 
ing of Lavaterish physiognomical 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 en- 


forced absence, and, as she did so, she looked 
right through me. There was no boldness in the 
gaze, but an intense, 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." 

Through the closing months of 1853 and the 
early part of 1854 Miss Bronte, living quietly at 
Haworth, was principally occupied in nursing 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 


" 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 experience had certainly been excep- 
tionally 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 described 
in Shirleyj 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 similar fashion, and received in return 
much good advice as to choosing a wife which, as 
we have seen, he quickly took — in a fashion. 
Miss Bronte had become famous when the next 
proposal 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 Haworth 
for the manuscript of Shirley^ and her reply gave 
an interesting glimpse of her peculiarly isolated 
life. She told Mr. W. S. Williams that she could 
not offer any male society as companions in the 
neighbourhood, that her father " without being in 
the least misanthropical or sour-natured, habit- 
ually prefers solitude 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 Athe- 
naum which formed the singular medium of this 
quaint courtship. There are many 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 resem- 
blance to her brother Branwell. 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.^ When he returned to Eng- 
land in 1856 Charlotte Bronte was dead. 

Miss Bronte's fourth and this time successful 
lover was Mr. Arthur Bell NichoUs, 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. Bom in 18 17, he was a Scot by origin, 
an Irishman of Co. Antrim by birth. He was edu- 
cated at the Royal School at Banagher by his 
uncle, the Rev. Alan Bell, the headmaster. From 

^ In Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle. 


Trinity College, Dublin, he passed in 1 844 to the 
curacy of Haworth, in succession to Mr. Smith, 
the " Malone " of Shirley. In that novel, written, 
it will be remembered, in 1849, ^^ ^^ pictured as 
Mr. Macarthey : — " 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. 
NichoUs. '' 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 tri- 
umph, as we have seen, when Shirley appeared, 


and thereon Miss Bronte wrote to her friend 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 char- 
acter." Two years later Mr. NichoUs appeared in 
a more tragic role. He asked his vicar's daughter 
to marry him. This was in December, 1852. 
The incident, indispensable in the life story of 
Charlotte Bronte, is best told in her own words :-=— 
" On Monday evening Mr. NichoUs was here 
to tea. I vaguely felt without clearly seeing, as 
without seeing I have felt for some time, the mean- 
ing 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 for- 
'^et it. Shaking from head to foot, looking deadly 


pale, speaking low, vehemently) yet with difficulty, 
he made me for the first time feel what it costs 
a man to declare aflfection where he doubts 

'^ The spectacle of one ordinarily so statue-like 
thus trembling, stirred, and overcome, gave me 
a kind of strange shock. He spoke of sufferings 
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. Agita- 
tion and anger disproportionate to the occasion 
ensued ; if I had loved Mr. NichoUs 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 haste to promise that Mr. NichoUs should 
on the morrow have a distinct refusal. 

" You must understand that a good share of 
papa's anger arises from the idea, not altogether 
groundless, that Mr. NichoUs has behaved with 
disingenuousness in so long concealing 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 degradation, that I should be throwing myself 
away, that he expects me, if I marry at all, to do 
very diflferently; in short, his manner of viewing 
the subject is on the whole far from being one in 
which I can sympathize. My own objections arise 
from a sense of incongruity and uncongeniality 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 sus- 
picion of wanting a wife for her intellectual at- 
tainments or literary achievements. Whatever un- 
congeniality there may have been in these par- 


dollars was more than atoned for by 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, 
who had betaken himself to another curacy at 
Kirk-Smeaton by May of 1853, 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 se- 
cured from trouble. To a man, very old and 
very nearly blind, this was well-nigh an unanswer- 
able 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 ceremony. Miss 
Wooler giving the bride away, and Miss Ellec 
Nussey being the only bridesmaid. 


The honeymoon was passed in Ireland — in a 
run through Kerry and Cork Counties, and a stay 
with her husband's relatives at Banagher in Kings 
Co. " I must say I like my new relations," 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 enabled to repay as I ought 
the affectionate devotion of a truthful, honourable 


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 married women 
who indiscriminately urge their acquaintances to 
marry, much to blame. For my own part, I can 
only say with deepest sincerity and fuller signifi- 
cance what I always said in theory, ' Wait God's 
will.' Indeed, indeed, Nell, it is a solenm 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. NichoUs b? He 
looks quite strong and hale; he gained twelve 
pounds during the first four weeks in Ireland. To 
see this improvement in him has been a mam 
source of happiness to me, and to speak truth, a 
subject of wonder too." 

The letters that follow clearly indicate that love 
had followed respect and esteem, as had been her 
'' theory " of marriage, and that she was becom- 
ing 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 happiness in any robust sense and 
the writing of works of imagination are synony- 
mous terms. The months that Charlotte Bronte 
was writing her books were probably the most 
unhappy of her life. Now she took on 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 

The Rev. Arthur Bell Nlcholls 








% l.i 


March 31, 1855. In a letter to a friend from her 
deathbed she writes, ^ I want to gnre yoo an as- 
surance which I know will comfort yoo: diat is 
that I find in my husband the 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 brokm ni^ts/' 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 

The present writer first met Mr. Nicholls in 


1895. ^^ ^^^ o^ ^^ anniversary of the great 
novelist's death-day — March 31 — fifty years ear- 
lier. Mr. Nicholls met me at Banagher station, 
as I alighted from the Dublin train. Banagher 
in Kings Co. is situated on the Shannon. It has 
been inunortalized by a phrase — '' That bangs 
Banagher." At the end of the village, near by the 
Protestant Church, stood the pleasant farm-house 
in which the former curate of Haworth was pass- 
ing his declining years. The house was singularly 
interesting 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 in- 
teresting, Emily's picture of her dog " Keeper " 
and Anne's " Flossy." On the staircase was a por- 
trait 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 Yorkshire. 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 soon after marriage, and indeed had stayed 
in this very house. 

But what of Mr. NichoUs ? 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 per- 
sonification of loyalty to the memory of her dear 
friend, was nevertheless not kindly disposed to 
Mr. NichoUs. From her Mrs. Gaskell had im- 
bibed a prejudice that is expressed in more than 
one letter I have seen. Mr. NichoUs had his 
idiosyncrasies, as have most of us, and no one 
could face the life of a country village without 
incurring prejudice and misunderstanding. The 
author of Cranford might well realize that. In 
any case time, we may assume, had softened 
down many angularities in Mr. NichoUs, as it 
softens them with most men, and 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, 
with no remnants in his nature of that intolerance 
and pedantry that may or may not have 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 recog- 
nition of his wife's genius, and greatly apprecia- 
tive of the homage that was now offered on all 

^ Mr. NichoUs 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 oc- 
casions. He thought the earlier opposition to his marriage not 
unnatural in a man who had learnt to value his daughter veiy 
highly. "I had less than a hundred a year at the time/' he 



Just as a love of Milton's Lycidas has been 
proclaimed to be a touchstone of taste in poetry, 
so I think may an appreciation of the Bronte 
novels be counted as a touchstone of taste in prose 
literature. This is more particularly the case 
so far as Emily Bronte's fVuthering Heights is 
concerned. Not to realize the high qualities of 
that masterpiece of fiction is to be blind indeed to 
all the conditions which go to make a great book. 
fVuthering Heights is indeed unique in modem 
literature ; it is entirely independent of all the fic- 
tion that had gone before. Because Emily Bronte 
learnt German and doubtless read many an eerie 
German 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 boy- 



hood, it has been claimed that here was the ma- 
terial upon which she worked. Not one of these 
suppositions will bear examination. The only ex- 
ternal 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 childhood she constantly kept 
solitary conununion 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 revela- 
tion of character, the non-existence even of a por- 
trait 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 thousands of her fellow 
countrywomen that were bom into the world in 
these same days of the first quarter of the last 
century — all these, combined with the fact that 
every critic without exception that has been 
brought into contact with her poetry and prose has 
found it glorious, and you have here at least one 


element that provides a glamour to the story of 
the Brontes. 

A second element of this glamour is furnished 
by the circumstance of the very existence 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 Charlotte is of itself an unique cir- 
cumstance in English literature. Emily the reti- 
cent, whose pages give forth not one single scrap 
of self-revelation, who is as impersonal as Shak- 
spere, 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 subject. Here is 
indeed no lack whatever of self-revelation, and 
very piquant it all is. We know Charlotte 
Bronte's attitude on the relation of capital and 


labour, on the virtues of revealed religion, by 
which she usually meant the tenets of the Church 
of England, on books 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 un- 
der 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 correspondence 
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 In issuing the Bronte 
novels, and from Inquiries I have made I am satis- 
fied 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 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 limita- 
tions 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 char- 
acters 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 litera- 
ture will not find it essential to make the acquaint- 
ance of this famous gallery of creations, that filled 
so large a space in the reading of an earlier genera- 
tion. 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 stem sense of duty 


that belongs to them, the soom of all meanness 
and trickeryi the wonderful grasp of the hard facts 
of life, of the stem facts of our being. ^* Life is 
a battle," she said. " God grant that we may all 
be able to fight it well." They 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 books we find the passionate devo- 
tion of one human being to another, growing more 
intense with time, based partly on intellectual sym- 
pathy, partly on spiritual affinity, and yet again 
upon absorbing passion. Most of our writers 
love only to depict the casual devotion based 
on a pretty face or a charming disposition. 
Further, they have not dared to go until our 
own time when the sex novelist has gone too 

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: — 

" About five years ago," wrote Miss Bronte in 
1850, "my two sisters and myself, after a pro- 
longed period of separation, found ourselves re- 
united, and at home. Resident in a remote district, 
where education had made little progress, 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 child- 
hood upwards lay in attempts at literary composi- 
tion. We had very early cherished the dream 
of becoming 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 re- 
solve. We agreed to arrange a small selection of 


our poans, and, if possible, get them printed. 
Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own 
names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton 
Bell ; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort 
of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian 
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 prejudice; we had noticed 
how critics sometimes use for their chastisement 
the weapon of personality 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 prepared 
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 favour- 
able 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." 

And then that final tribute to her sisters' memo- 
ries: — "I may sum up all by saying that for 
strangers they were nothing; for superficial ob- 
servers less than nothing; but for those who had 
known them all their lives in the intimacy of close 
relationship, they were genuinely good, and truly 

Some six years after this tribute had been paid, 
there came that splendid recognition by Mrs. Gas- 
kell, an accomplished writer who has added more 
than one book of enduring reputation to our liter- 
ature. With so fine an imagination it was only 
natural that she should write a beautiful book, a 
book calculated still further to kindle popular in- 
terest. It is not too much to say that Mrs. Gas- 
kell's Life of Charlotte Bronte has received as en- 
thusiastic 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, however, a visit to 
Mr. Bronte's successor at Haworth,^ in which that 
gentleman, after courteously showing me over the 
house, in which he had made many marked im- 
provements, and to which he had added many ma- 
terial comforts, took down from a shelf his copy 
of Mrs. Gaskell's book and pointed out the old- 
fashioned engraving of the parsonage as the 
Brontes knew it. " Is that anything like the 
place?" he asked triumphantly, wishing to em- 
phasise what he considered the exaggeration of 
its dreariness. 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 Tay- 
lor 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 

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


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 picture 
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 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 Entnta^ to the readers of the Cornhill 
Magazine, ^'I fancied an austere little Joan of 
Arc marching in upon us and rebuking our easy 
lives, our easy morals I She gave me," he tells us, 
" the impression of being a very pure, and lofty, 

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


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 simplicity, the In- 
dignation at wrong, the eager sjonpathy, the pious 
love and reverence, the passionate honour, so to 
speak, of the woman? What a story Is that of 
the family of poets In their solitude yonder on the 
gloomy Yorkshire moors I " 


The following letters written to the brother 
of the friend whose marriage was under ccmtem- 
plation are interesting. The first is from Upper- 
wood House, Rawdon: — 

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

'^ I have just seen my little noisy charges depos- 
ited snugly in their cribs — and I am ^tting alone in 
the schoolroom with the quiet of a Sunday evening 
pervading the grounds and gardens outside my 
window. I owe yon a letter— can I choose a hetr 
ter time than the present for paying my ddrt? 



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 de- 
clined 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 individual with whom I am 
personally so little acquainted as I am with your- 
self — ^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 gov- 
erness 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 unattractive to strangers, 
but to me it contains what I shall find nowhere 
else in the world — the profound and intense affec- 
tion which 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 af- 
fection ought to comfort us under all difficulties — 
if the God on whom we must all depend will but 
vouchsafe 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 con- 
tented ; a governess must often submit to have the 
heart-ache. My employers, Mr. and Mrs. White, 
are kind, worthy people in their way, but the chil- 
dren are indulged. I have great difficulties to con- 
tend with sometimes — ^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 con- 
cerns and feelings. It is true they are interesting 
to me, but it is wholly impossible they should be 
so to you, and therefore 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 Brookwyd 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 aslced 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, and I dare- 
say 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 understand there is a Mr., 


Mrs., and Miss Barwick — ^the name in pronuncia- 
tion 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 Brookwyd and his late declaration that some 
impediment had occurred to prevent his proceed- 
ing 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 com- 
petency of fortune. Your description of Mr. 
Lincoln seems to promise all these things ; there is 
but one word in it that appears exceptionable — 
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 Eam- 
ley.' 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 is a good, honour- 
able, and respectable man, take him, even though 
you should not at present feel any violent affec- 
tion 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 com- 
plain of, and which induces some young ladies to 
say * 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- 
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."