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By the same Writer 



Charlotte Bronte 


A Study 







Written at Haworth 

These hills assert imperious sovereignty. 

Lay by (they say), O human soul, lay by 

The claim to live by spirit travail sore. 

Yield and have peace. Our old fierce strength is such 

If thou art strong, art righteous overmuch, 

Lo, Death, the wild storm rider, beats thy door. 

But thou, a sister spirit by thy side, 

Hast weighed and hearkened, anguished, and denied 

Menace of hectoring critic, tyrant fell. 

Bent but enduring, lone by lonely stone 

Thou mad'st the virtue of the moors thine own 

For twofold epic, lived and written as well. 




Preparation 9 

The Coming of Love 26 

Loneliness and Fame • . 56 

Some Unpublished Bronte MSS 83 




Charlotte Bronte in one of her letters says that 
she wishes she had lived in the great times of the 
European War. In connection with this we may re- 
member that the hero of her childhood was the victor 
of Waterloo. There seems therefore some element 
of fitness in making a study of her life at this time, 
when a war has broken out, the combatants in which 
are driven on by Titan forces, angels of darkness or 
of light such as Charlotte and Emily loved to image 
to themselves among their native moors. Charlotte 
was of a spirit to understand to the full that stubborn 
endurance in the trenches which has been the glory 
of our time ; and not less the intensity, the exaltation 
of the hand-to-hand wrestle with death, whether in 
the air, or on the earth, or in the waters beneath. 
Careful students of the Bronte legend, and they are 
many, know well in her letters the oft-repeated note 
of waiting — that steadfast bearing through tedium, 
disappointment, narrowness of outlook, straitness of 
circumstance, multiplied small torment of anxieties, 
which is so seldom seen as the heroic life until it is all 
over, too late for praise to be its antidote, or for the 



consciousness of greatness to send a light through its 

Here is an extract from a letter written to Ellen 
Nussey when Charlotte was in her last situation as 
governess. The Taylors had written to her from 
Brussels, and it is almost a premonition of what life 
awaited her there. 

"I hardly know what swells to my throat as I 
read her (Mary Taylor's) letter : such a vehement 
impatience of restraint and steady work ; such a 
strong wish for wings, wings such as wealth can 
furnish ; such an earnest thirst to see, to know, to 
learn ; something internal seemed to expand bodily 
for a minute. I was tantalised by the consciousness 
of faculties unexercised — then all collapsed and I 
despaired. . . . These rebellious and absurd emotions 
were only momentary ; I quelled them in five 
minutes. . . . 

..." I begin to suspect I am writing to you in a 
strain which will make you think I am unhappy. 
This is far from being the case ; on the contrary, I 
know my place is a favourable one, for a governess. 
What dismays and haunts me sometimes is a con- 
viction that I have no natural knack for my vocation. 
If teaching only were requisite, it would be smooth 
and easy ; but it is the living in other people's houses 
— the estrangement from one's real character — the 
adoption of a cold, rigid, apathetic exterior that is 
painful. ... 

"P.S. — I am well in health; don't fancy I am 
not ; but I have one aching feeling at my heart. (I 
must allude to it though I had resolved not to). It 
is about Anne ; she has so much to endure, far far 
more than I ever had. When my thoughts turn to 
her they always see her as a patient, persecuted 



stranger. I know what concealed susceptibility is in 
her nature, when her feelings are wounded. I wish I 
could be with her to administer a little balm. She is 
more lonely, less gifted with the power of making 
friends even than I am. Drop the subject." 

Many pages could not give the Charlotte of the 
pre-Brussels days as that letter gives her. Suffering, 
despondent, yet grappling with her moods and getting 
herself in hand in five minutes. Self-distrustful, full 
of a sense of duty, determined to do her best. A 
little harsh in phrase — generous and devoted towards 
her sisters, fearful lest sympathy should weaken her, 
yet unable to resist the hunger for self-expression. 
It is trench fighting in that conflict within the soul, 
and there is no discharge in that war. 

This is the revelation of the letters ; but in her 
novels we see the result of profound emotion upon 
this slowly disciplined character. The sullen heat that 
has intensified so slowly breaks out then into a fiery 
glow, which only the finest-tempered blade could bear. 
Liberty, the breath in Charlotte's nostrils through 
days of submission and waiting, incites her now in 
this new time to a freedom, in wide spaces, and to such 
untried paths as only strong spirits dare. In proof 
of this take any of the immortal passages in her 
books — the love scene with Rochester, for instance, 
when she declares her love after the nightingales 
had been singing, his own still unspoken ; or this 
about friendship, in a later passage, when she is 
earning her bread as a village schoolmistress, under 
the protection of St. John Rivvers. 

" Again the surprised expression crossed his face. 
He had not imagined that a woman would dare to 
speak so to a man. For me, I felt at home in this 
sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication 



with strong, discreet and refined m?nds, whether male 
or female, till I had passed the outworks of con- 
ventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of 
confidence, and won a place at their very hearth 

After the interminable hours of restricted oppor- 
tunity, there came to Charlotte Bronte, as to the 
soldier in the trenches, the hour to dare and to do ; 
and, using the pen for sword, she wrought her epic. 

There is some fascination in working out a 
parallel between the struggles and difficulties of 
Charlotte's life, as seen on the spiritual plane, and 
that of Joan of Arc, who at the present day, in this 
hour of her nation's stress, has reached to the fulness 
of honour in the hearts of a grateful people. 

The comparison is not perhaps as inept as it 
may at first appear. For the life of the peasant 
girl of Domremy was not a more striking example 
of the triumph of personality over circumstance 
than was that of the daughter of the moorland 
parsonage. Time and surroundings differed by 
much, temperament perhaps by still more : for 
the Maid saw visions and walked with a pillar of 
fire by night, while Charlotte Bronte moved up- 
wards on a road that demanded equally steadfast 
climbing, with a pillar of cloud to guide her through 
the unromantic day : yet the two women had much 
in common. Both felt themselves marked out for a 
peculiar vocation, the Maid in a sudden flash of 
vision, Charlotte gradually, as the sense of her own 
powers, and of her unlikeness to the ordinary folk 
around her grew upon her. Both had a certain 
austere courage, as far as possible removed from mere 
audacity. Both trusted to the innermost Guide, 
rejecting the safe counsel of public opinion. Both 



had their moments in which to taste man's honour 
and renown. Both knew the gloom of earth's deepest 
valley, the vale of humiliation and the land of the 
shadow of death. Both accomplished a deliverance 
which they did not live to see, the Maid for the land 
of France, Charlotte for the mass of women whom 
her brave life and strong thought inspired to nobility, 
while the force and justice of her ideas proved 
powerful solvents of the enslaving conventions of 
her time. The paradox of Charlotte Bronte's life 
lies in this : that it was essentially a dynamic life, 
while to her it appeared as almost insufferably narrow 
and lacking in outlet. James Hinton, a mystic 
thinker of our own day, has admirably expressed the 
secret of the decrees ruling Charlotte's fate which it 
was so hard for her to discover. To use Hinton's 
terms, the storing up of force is " nutrition," and the 
baffling of our aspirations, the postponement of our 
hopes are the nutrition upon which function, that is, 
the liberating of stored up force, depends. The 
redemption of the world comes through bearing and 
being, not by doing. It was owing to precisely those 
hindrances, those almost impenetrable clouds, those 
tyrannous cares and narrowing claims that Charlotte 
gained her power. By rousing all her will and 
energy to fight such obstacles, she did what others 
dreamed of doing, and left behind her a new road 
open for weaker spirits. For there is many a woman 
conscious of ability that might move the world to 
better things who lacks the stimulus of opposition, 
or the trained capacity for endurance ; and so the 
ability remains potential, and its force is lost among 
domestic cares like a river among sands. Household 
duties, that recur with an unyielding claim, act like 
a brake upon her best energies. Trammeled by 
narrowing circumstance and an empty purse, she is 



sorrowfully conscious that her mind has not the wings 
of its youth. The glory and the dream which for an 
instant, it may be, she caught sight of, have to be 
relinquished to the next generation. For herself 
endurance, resignation, useful work that keeps things 
going merely, and seems altogether undynamic, 
opportunities of a love that is possibly meagre and, 
after the first glow, almost certainly unromantic — 
such must be the compromise she effects with her 
aspiration. Life has bested her ; she has gone 
under ; she is one of the mass. 

Charlotte Bronte unquestionably experienced in 
full measure this sense of a mind at issue with its 
environment, but she was lacking in that common 
submission which after a longer or a shorter struggle 
consents to be crushed. In her earliest novel, The 
Professor, she states this attitude of mind clearly. 
" I would have courage to live out every throe of 
anguish that Fate assigned me," her heroine says, 
" and principle to contend for justice and liberty to 
the last." An eloquent illustration of that plain text 
is afforded by the Life by Mrs. Gaskell, an epic of 
truth which equals even the intensity of Charlotte's 
novels, themselves also epics of truth, because under 
cover of fiction so uniquely autobiographical. Char- 
lotte's circumstances were tough. Victory was not 
going to be easily wrested from them. The strong 
angels of love and death, of despondency, humilia- 
tion, ill-health, solitude, disappointment had all to 
be met, and faced. Some of these dogged her way 
to the last. Yet by force of personality she con- 
quered her circumstances ; and by so doing she 
became, according to an eternal law, one of the 
heroes and pioneers of the race. 

It is probable that the interest felt for the Brontes 
is still far from having reached its height. So much 



intensity is not stored up for one short lifetime, 
but becomes a sort of powder magazine for the 
generations following. Many people are ignorant of 
the clear and courageous thinking done by Charlotte 
and her circle, and expressed by her in passages 
which are passed over at a first reading because of 
the absorption of the story ; but when the novels 
come to be more widely read and re-read we shall 
realise our great debt to Charlotte as the pioneer of 
the woman who lives with her mind as well as her 
heart, and who has grasped the necessity of learning 
to think. The duty of looking at life without blinkers, 
and of cultivating a mental honesty with as much 
enthusiasm as some other more popular virtues, will 
then come home to thousands of women whose lives 
move now nearer to slave levels. Charlotte Bronte 
affects us primarily as being herself free ; she did not 
set out consciously to be a liberator, though out of the 
fulness of her heart she wrote of freedom. She is one 
of the women whose acquaintance is infinitely worth 
making, and it is easy to make it in her own books, 
and in her letters. We see her in these as she actually 
was, with odd little early Victorian mannerisms, some- 
times stiff in phrase, very often sententious, and yet so 
human with it all, so constantly expressing the very 
moods we suffer under, so valiantly sustaining the 
very attacks which under much milder conditions beat 
us down, that it seems the most natural thing in the 
world to be writing many books about her, some of 
them not very illuminating it may be, but all of them 
bearing witness in one way or another that here was 
one of the finer spirits of humanity. The lonely 
woman of the moorland parsonage, isolated from 
intellectual companionship, has many friends now. 
We think of her, with Emily and Anne, in a world 
outside time, enjoying again the stimulating com- 



panionship of her fiery, brusque, chivalrous-hearted 
*' Master " ; but we think of her also as a comrade 
among her comrades the women of to-day, who are 
mute where she could find utterance for her soul, but 
who nevertheless begin as never before to share the 
aspirations which animated her, and to live out on 
the wide levels where she stands. 

Patrick Bronte had given to his children the 
heritage of a keen mind. Though poor, he retained 
the wholesome pride and self-respect of the educated 
man. From youth his children were free of good 
society — that of books. It is- a characteristic of a 
fine mind to feel at home with great people even in 
the midst of entire self-abasement before them. 
Smaller minds shrink away from high company. 
They frankly prefer something more homely. Their 
associates must not expect too much of them, nor 
set standards which are hopelessly high. They say 
in effect: Life is a compromise. Let me read my 
romance comfortably in a novel which represents 
people as ordinary as myself receiving the devotion 
of rich and handsome husbands, or winning beautiful 
maidens, as the case may be ; but in real life I will 
mix with people who, like myself, are more thankful 
for comfort than romance. When any one, who once 
had the fire of youth, descends to this level, calling 
it resignation, or the inexorability of circumstances, 
or what-not, the Cause of Humanity has once again 
been given away. The Bronte girls were not likely 
to join that self-excusing throng ; it was left for poor 
Branwell to make occasionally the best of that worst 
of bad jobs, failure of spirit. The friends the girls 
made in the schoolroom out of books or newspapers 
were of an exalted order. Charlotte may be said to 
have aidhiev^ ,a xiirtain intimacy with the Duke of 



Wellington. Similarly, the fact that she wrote to 
Southey, and felt so intense an admiration for 
Thackeray, implies that she had dwelt with their 
thought, understood what they were really at, to use 
a colloquialism, and was at heart aware that by these 
efforts to understand them she was herself worthy of 
their acquaintance. 

The cost of keeping such company, and of cul- 
tivating the society of that elusive master in the 
house, one's own soul, was of course paid for by an 
almost complete isolation from ordinary people. 

Charlotte and Emily and Anne could not have 
survived quite without friends, but their circle was 
small, and even Ellen Nussey, true and unfailing as 
she was, was hardly felt to be an intellectual com- 
panion. Charlotte in one of her later letters says 
that she finds her companionship at all times satis- 
factory, but owing to her character rather than her 
mind. With the ordinary folk at the neighbouring 
houses and with the poor there was very little inter- 
course. It was too difficult. In earlier years there 
undoubtedly was a certain repellent hardness in the 
Bronte sisters which contributed to their isolation. 
This sprang out of the sense of gifts which set them 
apart, and of higher standards and superior powers 
of mind. Later, perhaps from the time in Brussels 
when Charlotte found her place more accurately, this 
was lessened in her case. Then, too, they were shy 
and, one conjectures, decidedly stiff in their bearing 
when they thought their friends silly or vulgar. 
They were rather precise in phrase, at least Charlotte 
was, and Emily was most uncomfortably silent ; their 
clothes were simple, and their neatness could not 
save them from the reproach of being dowdy ; they 
were known to be poor. Every circumstance com- 
bined to isolate them, and to give them that training 

17 c 


in the deserts which means either greatness or ruin. 
It was well for them that the necessities of life 
obliged their constant attention to household tasks, 
for the domesticities are very humanising when they 
are not allowed to be tyrannous over the mind. In 
Mrs. Gaskell's pages or in their own letters we see 
them with the old servant Tabby, stitching, cooking, 
or tidying up the house, preparing for a visit from 
Ellen Nussey, occupied with some ailment of " Papa." 
Charlotte would be often busily writing letters which 
are full of tiny details, because write she must, and 
there was so little " news " in their life. In these 
the great doings in the schoolroom at night when 
they " made out" together were not related. 

The Brontes' existence on this actual earth as 
opposed to the thought world of which they were 
also free was, until the great move to Brussels, 
a sum of very small and prosaic things. The 
country, however, in which the scene was laid was 
never prosaic. Every one knows now the parsonage 
divided by its garden from the gloomy churchyard 
half paved with long flat tombstones, the solitary 
moors wind-kissed in summer, terrible with storm- 
blasts in winter, where grey stone mill houses and 
cottages stand by the water ; and the heights where 
grey sheep roam among bilberry and heather and 
crags, and loose stone walls divide the high pastures, 
where tumbling becks come singing in the sunshine 
over the rocks to join the streams in the valley. It 
is a country where Nature at times seems stronger 
than man, and they are a rough and hardy race that 
pursue their business in these valleys. 

It is not my purpose to go over again in detail 
ground which is well known to every casual Bronte 
student, but the main outline of Charlotte's life up to 
early womanhood may here be briefly summarised. 



Mrs. Bronte, a gentle and refined, but delicate 
woman, died the year following her husband's 
removal to Haworth as incumbent of the parish, 
leaving five little girls and one boy. Three years 
later the two elder girls, Maria and Elizabeth, left the 
care of their father and aunt for the harsh circum- 
stances of the school for clergymen's daughters at 
Cowan Bridge. In the May and June of the following 
year both little girls succumbed to consumption, or 
speaking more accurately, to the ruthless grind of 
a machine upon sensitive spirits, coupled with a lack 
of proper nutriment and care which was admirably 
ordained for the elimination of the unfit. Charlotte 
and Emily went to the same school a little later 
in the year, 1824, in which the elder pair entered 
it. Charlotte, a child of stronger spirit and of 
stronger frame, has left us in the early pages of 
Jane Eyre an imperishable picture of the martrydom 
of her sisters. She left the school when she was nine, 
so that we must not look in her descriptions for the 
sober judgment of an older observer. There must 
have been a shameful neglect of the children's real 
interests which the excellent head mistress was 
powerless to overcome, since it originated with the 
clergyman whom Charlotte gibbeted as Mr. Brockle- 
hurst, the founder and patron ; but of intentional 
unkindness, of course, there was none. There is indeed 
a tragedy in this desire for active benevolence in the 
unimaginative mind of a man who might better have 
left household details to those qualified by experience 
and motherly qualities to decide upon them. Perhaps 
his wife was not such an one. We may be thankful 
that the head mistress made light in a dark place for 
the suffering little girls. 

After the fever which ended Charlotte's and Emily's 
stay at Cowan Bridge, came a period of happiness 

19 c 2 


and intellectual activity at home, with their aunt, Miss 
Branwell, as teacher of lessons, Tabby as instructor of 
household arts, and with freedom of spirit in which to 
give play to mental activities unconnected with lessons. 
These years were perhaps in some ways the most 
fruitful of Charlotte's youth. In them the habit of 
writing stories was formed, and joy in the creative gift 
first tasted ; in them love of home and of the moors 
around was planted deep. Ideas of duty and truth- 
telling and — more rare — truth-tMnktn^;- in the sense 
of facing out conclusions wherever they might lead, 
were established. The rut was formed which should 
keep Charlotte and Emily from mingling too freely 
with their fellows, which would have caused a 
weakening of the power that had to force itself an 
outlet through art ; and the deep convictions were 
imbibed which stood both women in good stead when 
they faced death and desolation — and in Charlotte's 
case the stress of passion, in years to come. 

This period of training lasted for six years, and 
then came Charlotte's entrance to the school at Roe 
Head, which gave her as her best possession the 
friendship of Ellen Nussey, true and staunch until 
the earth had fallen upon Charlotte's grave. It is to 
her chiefly that we owe Mrs. Gaskell's biography, for 
it was she who was so anxious that justice should be 
done to the memory of her friend, and it was she who 
treasured by far the larger portion of the corre- 
spondence which has made our own generation the 
admiring intimates of the Haworth circle. 

The Taylor sisters were also met and appreciated 
at this school, to which Charlotte returned as teacher 
in 1835. Miss Woolner's influence upon Charlotte' 
during the period that she worked under this 
motherly and able woman should not be under- 
estimated. She performed the great task of all 



school mistresses in imprinting upon the minds of 
her pupils an indelible picture of what a gentlewoman 
should be, beyond reproach in conduct, sensitive, 
kindly and just, keen in educational matters, but 
full of human interests, and ready to follow the 
fortunes of her children with interest, whatever their 
lot in after life. An important letter of Charlotte's 
breathes admirably the sane and wholesome spirit 
which Miss Woolner had encouraged in a pupil who 
already, as a child, had possessed considerable strength 
of character and a practical spirit of self-discipline. 
It was written after the experiences in Brussels, but 
breathes no word of them — those Charlotte kept to 
pour out to her secret page. Neither does it utter 
the sadness or despondency which sometimes reached 
the faithful Ellen's ear. She says : " I have already 
got to the point of considering that there is no more 
respectable character upon this earth than an un- 
married woman who makes her own way through 
life quietly and perseveringly, without the support 
of husband or mother, who having attained the age 
of forty-five or upwards retains in her possession a 
well-regulated mind, a disposition to enjoy simple 
pleasures, fortitude to support inevitable pains, sym- 
pathy with the sufferings of others, and willingness 
to relieve wants as far as her means extend." 

This letter, which reflects, we may be sure, Miss 
Woolner's own teaching, and by no means Charlotte's 
deepest experiences, was written when Charlotte was 
in her thirtieth year. It has the sententious ring of 
many of her utterances, but subdued by the strong 
common sense and vigour of mind which it breathes. 
We have to remember that the writer of it was 
considerably nearer the days of the Old Maid than 
we are now. There were not then, as there are 
to-day, a multitude of women who were enjoying the 



dignity due to lives lived in complete fulfilment of this 
programme ; but that there were even then a number 
of unmarried women, probably most of them of the 
governess class, who could claim the well-regulated 
mind as well as the sense of a useful, happy existence, 
though no husband had part or lot in it, is plain from 
the example of Miss Woolner herself. It is, I think, 
also clear that the fiery and artistic side of Charlotte's 
nature had been strongly repressed by the atmosphere 
of Miss Woolner's school. Genius requires other 
food. Passion stirs sometimes uneasily amid the 
well-regulated heart-beats of such excellent, though 
unimaginative, women. It was well that Charlotte 
should go out to see the world. 

The letters about this time make as light-hearted 
reading as any that the sisters penned. Charlotte, of 
course, has her fits of despondency, her musings upon 
religion, sometimes in morbid vein, but there is a 
good deal of jesting about curates and suitors to 
lighten the troubles. Henry Nussey's proposal to her, 
which she had the good sense to reject, conscious of 
her developing intellectual powers, came in 1839. In 
the same year she went as governess to a family in 
Harrogate. The children were spoilt, the lady of the 
house was vulgar. Charlotte was neither happy nor 
well, and was thankful to get home again after a few 
months' stay. A proposal of marriage from an Irish 
curate followed, after an evening of gaiety, and upon 
the briefest of acquaintances. It was possibly not 
meant to be taken seriously, but Charlotte, who was 
never without the desire to please, nor without regret 
at her own plainness of feature, must have appreciated 
the compliment. In the meanwhile writing is going 
forward in the old schoolroom. A double life has 
developed. The sensible pupil of Miss Woolner, so 
keen to live an industrious and respectable life, here 



with her sisters is poet and feeling woman. This 
second and higher existence to which Charlotte 
returned after her governancing, had been going on 
for some years now. Charlotte's moving letter to 
Southey is dated 1837, but we learn from Mrs. 
Gaskell that the project of publishing a united 
volume of verse had been mooted a year earlier. 
Charlotte writes : 

" Sir, — I most earnestly entreat you to read and 
pass your judgment upon what I have sent you, 
because from the day of my birth to this, the nine- 
teenth year of my life, I have lived among secluded 
hills, where I could neither know what I was or what 
I could do. I read for the same reason that I ate or 
drank, because it was a real craving of nature. I 
wrote on the same principle as I spoke, out of the 
impulses and feelings of the mind, nor could I help it, 
for what came out came out, and there was an end 
of it." 

Later in the letter she says that it is not poetry 
alone that she proposes, but " sensible and scientific 
prose, bold and vigorous efforts in my walk in life, 
would give a further title to the notice of the world 
. . . what I send you is the prefatory scene of a much 
longer subject in which I have striven to develop 
strong passions and weak principles struggling with 
a high imagination and acute feelings, until as youth 
hardens towards age, evil deeds and short enjoyments 
end in mental misery and bodily ruin. . . ." Char- 
lotte's Victorian sense of what is respectable is here, 
of course, very strong. Branwell is possibly in mind, 
though the letters published by Mr. Shorter prove 
that she was on very friendly and confiding terms 
with him as late as her stay in Brussels, and his 
debased period had not yet set in ; but the letter is 



perhaps chiefly interesting for the impression of 
vigour it conveys which is so characteristic of Char- 
lotte. Never was a woman less bound by the every- 
day duties, or the humdrum fetters of financial needs, 
or of indifferent health. Her whole heart, her whole 
will, is to live. She throws herself outwards. Strong 
passions appeal to her because she is half conscious 
herself of something untamed beating beneath the 
decorum of her manner, and the moral precepts 
which form a manner to her mind. Strong passions 
unsubdued and leading to ruin form her first theme. 
The story of a woman's heart emancipated from 
convention, while obeying its own law and true to 
its highest instincts, a woman whose will is to cross 
the stormy ocean to a new haven, rather than to 
lie for ever within the narrow horizons of port, is to 
be the prophetic picture which shall constitute her 
life's work, and be her gift to the women of the 
coming day. 

Charlotte's second governess-ship, also uncon- 
genial — she calls • it " dreary solitary work " — took 
place in 1841. She returned home in July to look 
after Anne, whose health was causing anxiety, and 
the plan of keeping school at the parsonage, and 
so preserving the home life that all three sisters 
valued so intensely, was then eagerly discussed. Its 
result was Charlotte's determination to improve her 
qualifications by going abroad to finish her education. 
She was twenty-three years of age, and now of 
formed character, with her imagination quickened and 
developed by her literary work, but with her heart 
untouched, and as yet occupied in its innermost 
chambers by the dear figures of the home circle 
alone. As woman and genius she had yet to ex- 
perience emotions and trials which should shake her 
to the heart's core, bring her face to face with her 



very soul, and put her in touch with the throbbing 
heart of humanity, until her love of " respectability " 
should be a far different thing from that which she 
had acquired passively from her environment. The 
word indeed, one suspects, she kept always for such 
friends as Miss Woolner. To her own soul, in which 
was growing a hatred of crystallised respectability 
which we call convention, she must have spoken 
of moral right and wrong, that inner law which God 
ordains, and man's heart embraces or rejects in a 
profound solitude where no other human being can 




Much has been written, and will no doubt continue 
to be written, concerning Charlotte's relations with 
the Hegers in Brussels. The outward facts are 
simple, and are to be found both in the novels and 
the letters, though considerably worked up in the 
former for purposes of art ; but it is to Vilktte that 
we must chiefly look for the inner history of this time. 
In the earliest of her books. The Professor, Charlotte 
relates under the guise of fiction some of her own ex- 
periences in that strange foreign world, together with 
her vigorous insular condemnation of the religion and 
habits of her new associates ; we know by compar- 
ing the letters that this is so. But in Tlie Professor 
Charlotte is still very reserved. Her experiences 
were still recent ; some of them she could hardly 
yet bear to recall. She had not fitted everything in 
together and pondered deeply upon the story of her 
heart ; therefore, although that book is extraordinarily 
interesting to a student of Charlotte Bronte, it is not 
nearly so revealing as the book which she wrote last, 
and which gives us in the form of a compelling story 
surely the most remarkable piece of autobiography 
that ever was written. Try as she might to alter 
and to conceal, there is no reasonable doubt that 
Lucy Snowe represents Charlotte Bronte, and M. Paul 



Emanuel M, Heger, while Madame is to the life 
the able manager of that well-conducted establish- 
ment, a past mistress in the art of espionage, usually 
most successful in the business of estimating and 
managing those with whom she had to deal. Char- 
lotte, as was perhaps not surprising considering that 
she was a genius and therefore sui generis, upset the 
calculations of Madame Heger, and so, little by little, 
that lady's appreciation of the English girl turned to 
dislike. It is small wonder that when at last she came 
to read Charlotte's ruthless picture of herself, dislike 
seems to have been exchanged for actual hatred. 
Madame Heger that time had caught a fish altogether 
too large for her net. 

Before setting out upon this adventure of life in a 
foreign educational establishment, Charlotte's mind 
had been much occupied with practical problems. 
The idea of a school at the parsonage originated 
with her, and the Brussels scheme, which was carried 
out when she was twenty-five, had its root entirely in 
the need to improve her qualifications before issuing 
a prospectus for this undertaking. But a study of 
the letters in Mrs. Gaskell's Life and in Mr. Clement 
Shorter's collection proves that during these years, as 
was natural at that age, Charlotte had been thinking 
a good deal upon the subject of love and marriage, 
and not only of love in its ordered, but also in its 
more irregular and passionate aspect. She had 
written to a friend in 1840 the following words 
upon the subject : 

" I think if you can respect a person before 
marriage moderate love at least will come after ; 
and as to intense passion, I am convinced that that 
is no desirable feeling. In the first place, it seldom 
or never meets with a requital ; and in the second 



place, if it did, the feeling would be only temporary 

Certainly this would be the case on the man's side ; 
and on the woman's— God help her if she is left to 
love passionately and alone." 

It is interesting to compare with this letter what 
Mr. A. C. Benson has to say of Charlotte in a 
singularly illuminating address delivered in Dews- 
bury in January, 191 5, on the occasion of the twenty- 
first annual meeting of the Bronte Society. He 
said : 

"Two writers of the nineteenth century, Robert 
Browning and Charlotte Bronte, did a very definite 
and wonderful thing. They above all others empha- 
sised the true worth of human passion, the relation 
of man and woman ; but whereas many other writers 
presented this sort of passion as an emotion which, 
at supreme moments, could blaze up into a tremen- 
dous conflagration of experience and joy, Browning 
and Charlotte Bronte showed that it could be a 
permanent, continuous, dominating emotion which . . . 
could glow as purely and sacredly hour by hour and 
year by year as it did in its first fine rapture and 

If that is indeed true of Charlotte Bronte, as I 
think no one acquainted with Jane Eyre could doubt 
for an instant, then something of supreme importance 
must have happened to the sombre-minded young 
woman who in 1840 wrote the letter we have just 
quoted. At the same time we feel instinctively that 
there is more than a mere lack of natural optimism 
in these lines, there is an indistinct prevision of 
coming sorrow, a sorrow which has a peculiar pathos 
when it falls to the woman's lot — " God help her if she 
is left to love passionately and alone." Apart from 



that ending sentence, the paragraph almost irritates 
us by its air of finality. This clear-eyed and decisive 
girl of twenty-three is, we feel, unconsciously inviting 
Fate to put her to the test by making her a victim 
and not merely an observer of love. The opinion of 
men that the letter suggests is not high. The Brown- 
ing romance has not yet made a glory in a public 
place among the commonplaces of marriage followed 
by a settling down and a growing indifference, which 
no doubt will be easily observed phenomena as long 
as the world lasts. 

In a book recently published, The Life and Letters 
of a Macaroni, we have incidentally preserved for us 
an admirable story of two Yorkshire lovers who met 
as boy and girl not a great while before Charlotte's 
day, and loved each other romantically and without 
abatement until death. Charlotte's nature, which by 
no means inclined her to looking at the brighter side, 
would not allow her to be influenced by such cases 
as these in stating her generalisations. An exception 
herself in the circle of society to which she belongs, 
she is mournfully conscious that exceptions are rare 
to meet ; and she forgot that important truth, that 
races and classes of men must always be judged by 
their best. There were many waters to pass through 
before the richness of her nature and the fairness and 
force of her judgment could have free play unhampered 
by prejudice, pessimism, or convention. In the 
meanwhile she was going to leave her native heath 
for the first time. She and Emily set out in the 
February of 1842 under the escort of their father 
for the Pension Heger in Brussels. 

There is little doubt that there was in Charlotte's 
soul from very early days a capacity for contempt 
and a sense of superiority in which probably Emily 
joined ; they seem to have made little attempt to 



break free from these prejudices. Arriving in this 
frame of mind, Charlotte, one feels, may have been 
unduly severe in her judgments upon her companions. 
As we read that unpleasant picture in The Professor, 
in which nothing is spared, neither the dulness of 
brain, the desire for flirtation, nor even the lack of 
sufficient washing which shocked her very British 
sense in some of her fellow-pupils, we feel that really 
there must have been something more to be said for 
one or two than she manages to say. It will be 
remembered that the good and hard-working girl of 
the collection is destined for the convent, and there- 
fore, Charlotte says, has neither will nor judgment of 
her own. 

All lovers of Villette are as familiar with the 
Parisian mistress and Madame herself, both cold and 
calculating, as with people they have themselves met. 
One person remained of the little society of school for 
Charlotte to study and to write about, this one a man. 

That small, eagle-eyed, Spanish-faced professor, 
fiery to the point of absurdity, brilliantly clever, 
furiously alive, unrestingly interested in human 
character and development, and at heart tender and 
reverential and good — how brilliantly he holds the 
stage in which all other characters have been thrown 
into the shade for his benefit ! Is he a member of 
that church which was in Charlotte's eyes so debased } 
It is no matter, he is excused. Does he know of 
Madame's espionage } Her pettiness serves but to 
reveal his greatness of soul, though indeed he had 
his own little tricks of opening desks and such-like. 
Amazing story, which can keep us for chapter after 
chapter breathless and absorbed in the doings and 
sayings of a little schoolmistress holding her own in 
a place made hard by petty tyranny, poverty, and 
difference of race and creed ; and in an erratic, un- 



tidy professor, whose deep concern is in the doings 
of his girls ! Strange destiny of Charlotte, thus 
finding the stimulus and guidance she had craved 
from a mind keen in analysis and capable of eager 
interest in literature ; strange destiny, in writing 
themes and correcting exercises, to stumble head- 
long into one of the great passions of the age. 

The first year passed off quietly. Charlotte and 
Emily kept together and mixed as little as possible 
with their companions. The Taylors and Wheel- 
wrights were in Brussels, and the Bronte sisters 
received invitations and enjoyed their outings, though 
Emily's extreme shyness must have been a bar to 
much social intercourse for either of them. The 
death of Miss Branwell in October caused their 
sudden return home before the school year was 
finished ; but upon the news that they could not 
return to Brussels as they had originally intended 
for a second year, M. Heger wrote to Mr. Bronte 
the charming letter of praise of his daughters, printed 
by Mrs. Gaskell, in which he declares that he looks 
upon them as members of his own family. This 
served to turn the balance in favour of Charlotte's 
return to enjoy the great advantage of further 
training, and the study of German which she thought 
necessary to her teaching scheme. Thus, after a 
happy Christmas at home, brightened by visits paid 
to, and from, Ellen Nussey, Charlotte's most vital 
year of life opened with the January of 1843. The 
return to Brussels began with an adventure well 
known to readers of Villette and the Letters. Char- 
lotte was late arriving in London, and rather than 
seek out by herself the coffee-house where she had 
stayed with her father and Emily, she drove down 
alone in the dark to the dock, and after some diffi- 
culty succeeding in finding a boatman to convey 



herself and her luggage out over the dark waters 
to the packet, which she boarded to the surprise of 
the stewardess. The incident illustrates admirably 
both Charlotte's strong sense of convention at this 
time, and also her capacity for going through with 
things that were difficult or disagreeable. The ex- 
perience made a vivid impression upon her, and she 
wrote of it more than once. The sight of St. Paul's 
looming above the houses, and of London seen 
in the grey of the morning from the boat, remained 
till the end of her life among the unfading pictures in 
her mind. 

In the Rue d'Isabelle she was now on a different 
footing, being raised to the status of teacher with the 
munificent salary of £i6 a year, out of which she had 
to pay for her German lessons. For part of the time 
M. Heger and his brother-in-law were her pupils in 
English, and thus she herself prepared him to read 
Villette. Point by point we find the experiences of 
this year returning to Charlotte's mind almost as 
vividly as when she lived through them, when she 
sits down to write her last story. Lucy Snowe's 
determination to manage the girls herself, in spite 
of her humble position, by sheer force of character 
without any assistance from the principal was un- 
doubtedly the same as Charlotte's own. We know 
from her letters that the walks in I'Allee d6fendue 
during term time, and also the rambles during 
holidays in the city and far into the country, were 
Charlotte's way of easing the pains of solitude before 
they were her heroine's. The garden that plays so 
large a part in the love story was the green spot 
symbolising a fertile oasis in Charlotte's own arid 
life. The pert and lively bonne Rosine, the half- 
witted cretin, her sole companion during that terrible 
vacation — these and many other characters making 



excellent copy, she developed from life. One of the 
most thrilling incidents in Villettey Lucy Snowe's 
confession to a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, 
also had its original in Charlotte's own experiences 
in Brussels. Mr. Clement Shorter has given the 
letter in his collection of letters to which constant 
reference is made here, now published by Messrs. 
Dent in the Wayfarers' Library under the title of T/te 
Brontes and their Circle. Charlotte writes to Emily 
under date September 2, 1843 : 

"... I should inevitably fall into the gulf of low 
spirits if I stayed always by myself here without a 
human being to speak to, so I go out and traverse 
the Boulevards and streets of Bruxelles sometimes for 
hours together. Yesterday I went on a pilgrimage 
to the cemetery (readers of The Professor will remem- 
ber the meeting of the two lovers there), and far 
beyond it on to a hill where there was nothing but 
fields as far as the horizon. When I came back it 
was evening, but I had such a repugnance to return 
to the house, which contained nothing that I cared 
for, I still kept threading the streets in the neighbour- 
hood 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 like me), wandered about the aisle where a few 
old women were saying their prayers till Vespers 
begun. 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 confessionals. 
In two confessionals I saw a priest. I felt as if I did 
not care what I did provided that it was not absolutely 

33 D 


wrong, and that it served to vary my life and yield a 
moment's interest. I took a fancy to turn myself 
into a Catholic and go and make a real confession to 
see what it was like. Knowing me as you do you 
will think this odd, but when people are by themselves 
they have singular fancies. A penitent was occupied 
in confessing. . . . 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 leaning his 
ear towards me. I was obliged to begin, and yet I 
did not know a word of the formula with which they 
always commence their confessions. It was a funny 
position. I felt precisely as I did when alone 
on the Thames at midnight. I commenced with 
saying I was a foreigner and had been brought 
up a Protestant. The priest asked if I was a 
Protestant then. I somehow could not tell a lie, and 
said 'Yes.' He replied that in that case I could not 
' jouir du bonheur de la confesse ' ; but I was deter- 
mined 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 true 
confession. When I had done he told me his address, 
and said that every morning I was to go to the Rue 
du Pare — to his house — and he would reason with me 
and try to convince me of the error and enormity of 
being a Protestant. I promised faithfully to go. Of 
course, however, the adventure stops there, and I 
hope I shall never see the priest again. . . ." 

This letter is one of the most interesting that 
Charlotte ever wrote, for several reasons. First of 



all it admirably illustrates the fundamental strength 
and sanity of her mind. It was written in that 
terrible time during which the horrors of loneliness, 
of dread of the future, of ill health and inability to 
sleep, coupled with an agony of mind which she kept 
out of her letters, make any sensitive reader of 
Villette shiver with a lively sympathy. Here is a 
passage in which, with the greater freedom that 
distance in time and the veil of fiction gives, Charlotte 
looks back to those September days : 

" While wandering in solitude (for the critin had 
now been fetched away) I would sometimes picture 
the present probable position of others of my acquaint- 
ance. There was Madame Beck at a cheerful 
watering place with her children, her mother (Charlotte 
no doubt inserted in her own mind ' her husband ') and 
a whole troop of friends who had sought the same 
cheerful relaxation. Zelie St Pierre was at Paris 
with her relatives ; the other teachers were at their 
homes ... I too felt those autumn suns and saw 
those harvest moons, and I almost wished to be 
covered in with earth and turf deep out of their sight 
and influence, for I could not live in their light, nor 
make them comrades, nor yield them affection. . . . By 
True Love was Ginevra followed ; never could she be 
alone. . . ." 

There follows after this cry of a woman's heart 
for love, the description of her fearful dream when 
in her state of nervous fever in the empty dormitory 
she dreams that the well-loved dead met her elsewhere 
with alienated looks. Then follows in the novel the 
account of the confession. Charlotte commits to her 
friendly paper some particulars under the protection 
of the fictitious Lucy Snowe which are omitted from 

35 D 2 


the calm account she sent to her sister and dearest 

" I said I was perishing for a word of advice or an 
accent of comfort. I had been living for some weeks 
quite alone ; I had been ill ; I had a pressure of 
affliction on my mind of which it could hardly any 
longer endure the weight." 

"'Was it a sin, a crime ? ' he inquired, somewhat 

" I reassured him on this point, and as well as I 
could I showed him the mere outline of my 

She repeats the very kind and thoughtful words 
of the priest that followed as to the impossibility 
of the world to satisfy natures such as hers ; the 
reminder that after the bread and water of affliction 
which are their portion here recompense will come 
hereafter. He ends with the advice to her to join 
his church, and the assurance that he did not wish 
to lose sight of her, which Charlotte thought not too 
private to relate to Emily. She adds in Villette to 
her remark that she went near him no more, two 
lines which show how much sorrow had enriched her 
nature in later years, for they are noticeably lacking 
in her letter to Emily : 

" He was kind when I needed kindness ; he did 
me good. May Heaven bless him." 

I think that all thoughtful readers will agree that 
there is more in these passages than meets the eye. 
We recall Charlotte's vehement hatred of everything 
Catholic ; her stringent criticism upon the effect of the 
confessional upon the character of her class mates. 
What then had happened that there should have 



awakened in her own heart that very impulse, old as 
man, to meet which the system of the private con- 
fessional arose ? 

It was evidently something which she could not 
write of to Emily. Loneliness, dreadful as it is, was 
hardly sufficient to account for the mental agonies of 
that vacation so vividly described, or to have aroused 
the heartfelt emotion of that longing for love, when 
only the moon was near for companionship. What 
sort of a love was this that Charlotte so hungered 
for .'' No hysterical person she, to write that calm 
letter, so apparently open, so careful in its self-con- 
cealment. And why did she suffer even in a dream 
the peculiar agony of thinking that her nearest and 
dearest turned from her in another world, having 
loved her so well in this ? What could they have 
learned in the clearer light of eternity that they 
would not guess at while here below ? Was there 
indeed some secret that Charlotte, the calm, proud, 
independent Charlotte, must at all costs pour into 
some human ear, like any weak deluded child of the 
church she despised .-' 

There is a letter to Ellen Nussey later, in which, 
referring to this second stay in Brussels, Charlotte 
says : 

" I went to Brussels after my aunt's death against 
my conscience, prompted by what seemed then an 
irresistible impulse. I was punished for my selfish 
folly by a total withdrawal for more than two years of 
happiness and peace of mind." 

Ellen Nussey would doubtless read this as one 
of Charlotte's fits of morbid self-reproach on the 
score of leaving her father and sister. She had 
not seen the letters to M. H6ger written during 
those two years which caused so great a stir 



upon their publication in TJte Times in 191 3. With 
the further facts before us, I take this to mean 
that on looking back Charlotte saw clearly the 
nature of the impulse which had drawn her back to 
the Rue dTsabelle, but it is unlikely that at the 
time she was more than half aware of what was 
hidden in the depths of her heart. It was not all at 
once, more especially while Emily was still beside her, 
that she would feel how much the clear brain of the 
man who had discovered her to herself meant in her 
life ; and then she had to learn further that his 
personality, his presence, were more even than the 
magic stimulus of his mind. It is only after the second 
return that jealousy seems to have entered Madame 
H6ger's mind. Before that she had undoubtedly 
liked and admired Charlotte, and had added much 
pleasure to the English girl's lonely existence by her 
appreciation and kindliness. 

Yet what an extraordinary note of bitterness there 
is in all that Charlotte writes about Madame H6ger. 
In The Prof essor she makes the woman who represents 
her employer not only underhand, but in a measure 
coldly sensual. Charlotte, I think, in her revolt from 
the evil attributed to her — whose temptations she 
had with such passion flung behind her back — believes 
that only out of an evil heart could such suspicions 
have become possible. The Madame Beck of 
Villette is also without a redeeming trait, unless a 
certain interested justice and kindliness can be so 
called ; but these qualities are made subordinate in 
that calculating character to the vice of insincerity 
which all readers loathe with Charlotte herself. It is 
astonishing how the two characters of Madame Beck 
and M. Paul Emanuel are contrasted. He too has 
his little tricks for finding out things, his un-English 
ways, but in him they are only lovable ; and this too 



by her intensity and by her art Charlotte makes us 
feel with her. The unlovableness of the woman, 
the lovableness of the man, are revealed on almost 
every page. 

Here, for instance, is her character of Madame, 
after a paragraph of laboured praise for her "good 
sense," her "sound opinions," her care for the physical 
well-being of the girls. 

" Interest was the master key of Madame's nature, 
the mainspring of her motives, the alpha and omega 
of her life. I have seen her feelings appealed to, and 
I have smiled in half pity, half scorn at the appellants. 
None ever gained her ear through that channel or 
swayed her purpose by that means. On the contrary, 
to attempt to touch her heart was the surest way to 
arouse her antipathies, and to make of her a secret 
foe. It proved to her that she had no heart to be 
touched ; it reminded her where she was impotent 
and dead. ... In philanthropic schemes for the 
benefit of society at large she took a cheerful part ; 
no private sorrow touched her. . . . Not the agony 
in Gethsemane, not the death on Calvary, could have 
wrung from her eyes one tear. 

** I say again, Madame was a very great and a very 
capable woman. . . ." 

Assuredly Charlotte Bronte strove to be just 
to the living woman she had before her mind as 
she wrote these pages ; but is there anywhere 
in literature an exposure of one woman by another 
so direct, so balanced, so crushing as this ? 
Consciously or unconsciously the little English 
governess revenged herself to the full upon the 
estimable presiding genius of the Pension Heger, 
who had first taken her up, and then smeared her 
very soul with dirty fingers with the meanness of 



suspicions Charlotte could not have formed, to her- 
self, and with the soil of half lies. 

But M. Paul Emanuel — there was if anything an 
excess of heart about him. He was always having 
to conceal and control (and so deliciously ineffectual 
he is about it !) ; his absurd delight in kindness, his 
interest in the souls and in the material circumstances 
of his girls. This interest is sometimes curiosity — 
and yet, no ; one protests it never is, since it springs 
so plainly from that well of good-will which made 
him .the secret benefactor of an ugly and ungrateful 
old woman, the faithful lover of the dead who had 
been far below his ideal of her. Here is one of the 
earlier pictures of M. Paul. 

"No sooner was the play over, and well over, 
than the choleric and arbitrary M. Paul underwent 
a metamorphosis. His hour of managerial respon- 
sibility past, he at once laid aside his magisterial 
austerity ; in a moment he stood among Qs, vivacious, 
kind, and social, shook hands with us all round, 
thanked us separately, and announced his determi- 
nation that each of us should in turn be his partner in 
the coming ball." 

And then we see him with sufficient force of 
character (had M. H^ger that ? — in view of later events 
it seems doubtful) to overpower even the wishes of 
Madame herself. " He, this school autocrat, gathered 
all and sundry reins into the hollow of his one hand ; 
he irefully rejected every colleague ; he would not 
have help. Madame herself, who evidently rather 
wished to undertake the examination in geography — 
her favourite study which she taught well — was 
forced to succumb." 

He has another virtue besides forcefulness, which 


appeals to those of us who love Lucy Snowe (or 
Charlotte Bronte) almost as much as it did to herself 
— he discovers what is hidden beneath that subdued 
exterior by his own intuition. When others " think 
that a pale, colourless shadow has gone by " he has 
become aware that fire has shot into her glance, " not 
mere light, but flame." And M. Heger deserves all 
praise for his perceptiveness if indeed he too dis- 
covered the capacity in Charlotte for spiritual passion — 
flame. If he did — and to the writer at least M. Heger, 
the passive recipient of some of the most moving 
letters ever penned, remains an enigma — but if he 
did, then it was through profound affinities, and those 
differences that best bring understanding and make 
perfect unions possible, 

For you must love her ere to you 
She will seem worthy of your love, 

was most certainly true of the little English governess 
in the Rue Isabelle. 

Here is another scene which is so lifelike that in 
view of the close correspondence Charlotte's letters 
prove to so many incidents in the novel, it is hard not 
to take it as a transcript from life : 

" It was time to soothe him a little if possible (the 
girls had not been speaking clearly, and M. Paul, 
angry, declared that it was all Lucy Snowe's fault). 

" ' Mais, Monsieur,' said I, ' I would not insult you 
for the world. I remember too well that you once 
said we should be friends.' 

" I did not intend my voice to falter, but it did — 
more I think through the agitation of late delight 
than in any spasm of present fear." 

The passage is too long to quote in full. One 


feels in reading it how often Charlotte herself had 
longed for a word more than was spoken — longed 
naturally and innocently for the little more that 
means so much. In this case Lucy wept, and M. Paul 
produced a handkerchief That was all. But later, 
when in the warmth of heart induced by receiving a 
letter from Dr. John, she makes a ball of the hand- 
kerchief, " the game was stopped by another hand 
than mine — a hand emerging from a paletot sleeve 
and stretched over my shoulder. It caught the 
extemporised plaything and bore it away with these 
sullen words, ' Je vols bien que vous vous moquez de 
moi, et de mes effects ' " (how Charlotte, to the end, 
loved French phrases, and loved to recall the very 
words her " Master " had used). 

" Really that little man was dreadful." But 
jealousy is akin to love, or rather a morbid symptom 
of it. Did he not feel just something of the for ever 
unsayable .-* Did he not ? 

Here is a last extract. It is from the summer 
excursion which celebrated M. Paul's birthday in 
May, a day hot as June. The party had gone out 
into the country to breakfast. 

" With what a pleasant countenance he stood on 
the farm kitchen hearth looking on ! He was a man 
whom it made happy to see others happy. He liked 
to have movement, animation, abundance, enjoyment, 
around him. ... At the worst it was only his nerves 
that were irritable, not his temper that was radically 
bad. Soothe, comprehend, comfort him, and he was 
a lamb ; he would not harm a fly. Only to the very 
stupid, perverse, unsympathising, was he in the 
slightest degree dangerous." 

There is Charlotte, always clear-minded, always in 


command of her analytical powers ; but if this 
passage is contrasted with the one about Madame the 
world of difference of outlook will be at once apparent. 
Here the very weaknesses are referred to almost 
caressingly. They were lovable in her eyes. So 
thoroughly did she know the man of whom she wrote, 
and the way to soothe him, that her trust rings as 
to the impossibility of a misunderstanding between 
them. Villette was written long after Charlotte was 
in Brussels. If she was, as she certainly was, angry 
and sore at first, yet by this time she had utterly 
and fully excused and forgiven. 

"Mindful always of his religion, he made the 
youngest of the party say a little prayer before we 
began breakfast, crossing himself as devoutly as a 
woman. I had never seen him pray before, or 
make that pious sign. He did it so simply, with 
such childlike faith I could not help smiling 
pleasurably as I watched. His eyes met my smile. 
He just stretched out his kind hand, saying, ' Donnez- 
moi la main ! I see we worship the same God in the 
same spirit though by different rites.' 

" Most of M. Emanuel's brother professors were 
emancipated free-thinkers, infidels, atheists, and many 
of them men whose lives would not bear scrutiny. 
He was more like a knight of old — religious in his 
way, and of spotless fame. Innocent childhood, 
beautiful youth, were safe at his side. He had vivid 
passions, keen feelings, but his pure honour and 
his artless piety were the strong charm that kept the 
lions couchant." 

— A wonderful passage, in which Charlotte uttered 
the very heart of her admiration. We feel as we 
read that he fulfilled all her high ideals of what 



a man should be. He was the perfect knight 
that every woman knows of in her heart, but he 
combined with that the unique charm of the in- 
dividual destined to be perfectly understood by one 
alone. We feel as we read that it is some French 
saint that is being described, having the attractive 
sensibility of his race added to his virtue. How, in 
view of this passage, Miss May Sinclair can believe 
that M. Heger gave his wife any real ground for 
jealousy, even if slight, it is difficult for me to see. 
For if ever Charlotte drew from the life, and we know 
past any dispute that she constantly did so, she seems 
here to be dwelling upon a well-loved character, 
recalling the highest human influence, Emily not 
excluded, that her life had known. 

Mrs. Gaskell found Charlotte "gentle," but she 
did not like Emily. The portrait in the Bronte 
Museum at Haworth, supposed to be a variant of the 
Richmond one, shows Charlotte gentle, with a certain 
appealing charm. Whatever she was, the Miss 
Bronte who first crossed the sea to the Pension 
H6ger, and who described in The Professor her 
fellow-students with pen dipped in scorn, was not 
gentle. The Protestant Englishwoman seeing only 
ill in an alien church was not gentle. But the friend 
of M. Paul Emanuel, who understood so perfectly 
how to soothe and comfort him, has suffered a sea 
change already at heart, and its results are seen in 
such a passage as this, written long after, when 
death and sorrow had wrought their fruitful work ; 
until at last that charming Charlotte who was not 
just, merely, but generous, self-forgetful, passionately 
loyal where one man was concerned, came to have 
this quality of gentleness as a characteristic visible 
to all. 

Was Charlotte true to the promise of Lucy Snowe, 


in answer to that sudden announcement of the coming 
separation ? 

" * Petite soeur,' said he, ' how long could you 
remember me if we were separated ? ' 

" ' That, Monsieur, I can never tell, because I do 
not know how long it will be before I shall cease to 
remember everything earthly.' " 

Villette is the proof of how Charlotte kept her 
promise. Whatever of love and devotion her marriage 
to Mr. Nicolls represented, it did not represent a 
dimming of that bright image of the Master of her 
youth, that is plain. Did the Professor remember? 
It would seem that he forgot. But then he kept 
those letters. And in any case I do not believe that 
Charlotte ever heard him say just those wistful tender 
words, nor call her "petite soeur." And yet — I hope 
she did. 

An interesting point to notice is the way in which 
M. Paul is forced into the part of hero of Villette against 
Charlotte's deliberate intention, which was to make 
Mr. Smith the hero under the guise of Dr. John. Truth 
was part of Charlotte's very nature. She could not 
make a heroine who, with whatever surface differences, 
represented herself, absorbed in Dr. John, while the one 
unforgettable figure was painted in as a minor per- 
sonage. It could not be. And so the story follows the 
path of real life. The interest at first centres in the 
strange life, in Madame and her astounding espionage, 
in Ginevra and her shallow disappointing character, in 
the mistresses, in Dr. John, and other outside friends. 
And then presently, one hardly knows how, just as 
no doubt Charlotte hardly knew how, the book has a 
new source of vitality ; the preparatory part is over, 
the real hero has appeared, from henceforward until 
the end to hold the stage. Gradually the friendship 



between the oddly assorted pair deepens. The man's 
warm true heart wins trust, while his oddities capture 
her attention, and his intellectual gifts charm and 
stimulate the splendid powers of the heroine's own 

We see Madame grow more watchful, interfering 
with more than one pleasant tcte-a-tite, insisting more 
and more upon the differences of religion which 
separate the English girl from themselves ; and so at 
last we come to the utter withdrawal of companion- 
ship, with the opening of that unspeakable vacation, 
and to Charlotte's realisation of the truth. Of what 
truth ? Surely of this — that no man could ever again 
give her so perfect a sense of companionship, of 
mutual understanding, as M. Heger had done. That 
whatever might be her future, no other man could 
waken her soul and her heart, for that is done once in 
a lifetime, and it had fallen to the husband of Madame 
Heger to do it. It is a truth of utmost importance, 
short only of the awakening to a knowledge of God, 
in every individual human life. For all of us, parent, 
friend, or lover plays the part of supreme human 
influence, yet less as the loving than as the loved. It 
was an innocent awakening in Charlotte, a discovery 
pure in proportion to the purity of the heart that 
made it, and yet it was something, Charlotte seems 
to have felt, that Emily might not understand, might 
even shrink from, for Emily had never loved like this. 
And he was more to her even than Emily — the letters 
to Brussels written after her home-coming make that 
plain ; and that Emily must never know. As early 
as April Charlotte had written to her sister, in answer 
to some remark of hers : 

" So the future epoux of Mdlle. Bronte is on the 
Continent. These people are wiser than I am, 



They could not believe that I have crossed the sea 
merely to return as teacher to M. Heger's ! I must 
forsooth have some remote hope of entrapping a 
husband somehow or somewhere. If these charitable 
people knew the total seclusion of the life I lead, and 
that I never exchange a word with any other man 
than M. Heger, and seldom indeed with him, they 
would perhaps cease to suppose any such chimerical 
and groundless motive had influenced my pro- 

It is possible that Emily wondered why, if Char- 
lotte had really no thoughts beyond her studies, 
she should have been so bitter about it all ; but 
with the key in our hands we need not wonder. 
Charlotte had not then faced her own heart, but she 
was aware already of something of which she must 
let no hint escape even to Emily. How carefully she 
writes. What an absence of that note of intensity 
and passion which makes of the novel in which she 
let herself go, so wonderful a human document. 
Charlotte was on dangerous ground, and as we should 
expect, she walked warily. But the slow months 
saw her under the flail of the strongest of the powers 
that rule in human life, and the confession in Ste. 
Gudule marks the high-water mark alike of struggle 
and self-realisation. 

The sense of being unattractive, and of being, as 
it were, missed — her qualities undiscovered because 
of her plainness, which Charlotte several times in- 
directly expresses — give way after this time to a 
nobler, sweeter outlook upon the world. Into her 
starved and barren life there has come one fitted 
both by aflSnities and by opposites to satisfy her 
need of love, though divided from her by the 
strongest bar which exists on earth. Charlotte's 



education during the first year at the Pensionnat 
Heger, and the consequent development of her full 
womanhood, had brought her to the point when she 
was ready to give herself to that love she had 
generalised about, but whose power upon herself 
had been as yet untried. When she arrived in 
Brussels her heart beneath its rigid and possibly 
frigid manner was warm, but it was empty. The 
passionate side of her nature after Emily left, away 
from the religious influences of home, and the curb 
of staid friends such as Miss Woolner, inevitably 
stirred her now to a sense of the possibilities which 
life holds for those who can love to the uttermost. 
To such an awakening, fraught with danger even to 
a more shallow nature, and doubly so to one of 
Charlotte's intensity, was added the trial of long 
hours of solitary brooding after the constant inter- 
course with a mind that keenly appreciated the unusual 
quality of her own, and with a heart full of natural 
goodness expressed by a manner increasingly full 
of kindness to herself. M. Heger's mind was un- 
doubtedly of a brilliant order, clear and eminently 
stimulating. His personality was refreshing and 
unusual. His character, if we are to apply to him 
all that Charlotte says of M. Paul Emanuel, was full 
of delicate traits of generosity and a chivalrous good- 
ness. His faults were surface ones, and were just 
those which in any other Charlotte would have 
despised. She in her primness needed contact with 
such a vehement irritable nature. In her tendency 
to self-righteousness, she needed the touch of passion 
to save her from becoming a clear-sighted but acid 
old maid. She must love, if her gifts of mind and 
character were to become available for the help of 
her fellow-creatures ; nay more, we might almost say 
that she must sin, or at the least stand upon the brink 



of sinning ; she must realise, appalled, that the strong, 
well-ordered soul of Charlotte Bronte belonged indeed 
to our common humanity, and could be driven near 
the edge of a precipice to which many of those she 
despised would not even be tempted to approach, 
before she could hope to be a guide and a pioneer 
towards true freedom of spirit for the yet unborn. 
In the account she has herself given of that hour of 
spiritual stress, we watch with awe and emotion Charlotte 
the woman undergo as best she might, with only the 
help of her God, the agony of realising a love that 
could never be fulfilled on earth. If Charlotte had 
not possessed a secret which she hardly dared breathe 
to herself, much less to her friends, she might have 
occupied her mind during those dreary summer days 
with study, or by writing poetry or prose ; some few 
verses she did write, if those given in The Professor 
belong, as seems natural to suppose, to the period in 
her own life to which the story corresponds ; but 
Love is jealous, and not even Art may dispute its 
dominion when the day of its triumph has dawned. 

Charlotte's soul was cast into the furnace, seven 
times heated for one destined to greatness. In a 
world far more easily outraged in its moral sense 
than is our own, she could not expect even those who 
loved her best to believe that, though love may, and 
must have its way in the heart, yet that a righteous 
will and the instinct of prayer may carry its possessor 
safe through the reign of terror and of ecstasy. It 
is idle to speculate upon what would have happened 
had the tragedy been complicated by any disposition 
to infidelity upon the part of M. H^ger. The 
simplest reading of the matter is that he liked and 
esteemed Charlotte, but did not experience any 
warmer emotion. When her letters from home 
betrayed her, he took the most sensible if not the 

49 E 


most generous course, and deliberately starved a 
passion which must be convinced of its hopeless- 
ness. It is no doubt in regard to his letters 
that Charlotte writes so bitterly, when she says in 
Villette that the letters Lucy received from Dr. John 
were so eagerly read and seemed such treasures at 
first ; but after, when silence grew so long and so 
cruel and she re-read her treasures, it was to find 
only kindness in them where she at first read a real 
affection. Yet brotherly affection, had she received 
it, would have satisfied Charlotte's heart as little as 
the apparent forgetfulness of her Master. Lucy 
Snowe, in Villette, observes that she would not mind 
M. Paul Emanuel calling her his sister, so long as he 
did not ask her to be a sister also to his wife. Mr. 
Shorter very rightly observes that there are many 
kinds of love ; but the love of a man for a woman and 
of a woman for a man is a thing apart. It cannot be 
mistaken for something quite different from itself; 
and these words of Charlotte's just quoted contain 
the note of that love which can take nothing less 
than complete possession if it is to be satisfied. It 
gives all for all. In Charlotte's case it was given 
where her higher nature forbade her to wish, much 
less to act so as to attract, a response. It had to be 
first felt to the very heart's core, and then wrestled 
with with tears of blood, and finally subdued. 

In all this, Charlotte's native sense of right and 
the strict atmosphere in which she had been brought 
up served as armour. Pride also, and the sense of 
the hopelessness of any return came to her aid. No 
one who reads Villette with attention can fail to see 
that throughout there is a of aloofness. The 
force that rules the destinies of mankind draws two 
parallel lines nearer, but they never even seem to 
meet. It was impossible for Charlotte to make 



M. Paul Emanuel marry Lucy Snowe, for there 
was no happy ending to that story. The love- 
making of The Professor, similarly, seems in its 
warmest moments to have about it an air of detach- 
ment. Charlotte simply cannot forget that this part 
of her story is untrue. As we get near to what 
should be the denouement, the sense of impassable 
obstacles, of oppression and sorrow and heart-break, 
deepens. It is just this atmosphere of passion 
restrained, of the heart's desire refused in secret for 
no lower motive than the sake of right, that gives to 
the tale the sense of a clean, re-invigorating moorland 
air sweeping through places where the cobwebs of 
petty intrigue and material-minded and shallow 
attachments have prevailed. 

Breathless we watch Charlotte's love deepened 
and purified, until at last she can write in her novel 
of that farewell interview which we know from her 
letters cost her a pain she felt her friends could not 
understand. "I loved him well — too well not to 
smite out of his path even jealousy herself when she 
would have obstructed a kind farewell." Charlotte 
had lived and had loved — readers of Villette will 
remember that the quotation occurs. She had been 
in a place of darkness and in the deep, and using the 
very words of the psalms, she had trusted to God 
that He would deliver her. Her self-righteousness 
had been burnt out of her ; her respectability was 
laid aside. She knew herself of kin to the other 
women ; she knew that but for the grace of God she 
might have been as frail as they. But in the furnace 
of temptation and fiery loss she learnt that love is in 
its nature eternal, selfless, pure ; and henceforth all 
her life goes to a nobler music. To endeavour out 
of loyalty to Charlotte to say that she never felt any 
real love for M. Heger at all, but only guessed at it 

51 E 2 


by her artist intuitions, is to wish for Joan of Arc 
that she had never entered the battle. The measure 
of this woman's passion, suffering, and ultimate 
victory is to be found in the life that lay ahead, with 
its terrible tests, and in those three great books 
in which at length she poured out her soul. The 
reality of her passion stands revealed in the higher 
levels to which she attained after this Brussels 
experience which changed her from girl to woman ; 
but it is also written for us in letters from a lonely 
parsonage before whose heart-hunger the most in- 
different and careless must stand touched and awed. 

" Otherwise I should write a book, and I should 
dedicate it to my literature master — to the only 
master I ever had, to you. . . . 

" I have not begged you to write to me soon as 
I fear to importune you — but you are too kind to 
forget that I wish it all the same — yes, I wish it 
greatly. Enough ; after all, do as you wish, Monsieur. 
If then I received a letter, and I thought you had 
written it out of pity, I should feel deeply wounded. . . . 

" Day and night I find neither rest nor peace. If 
I sleep I am disturbed by tormenting dreams in which 
I see you always severe, always grave, always incensed 
against me. 

"Forgive me. Monsieur, if I adopt the course of 
writing to you again. How can I endure life if I make 
no effort to ease its sufferings .-' I know that you will 
be irritated when you read this letter. You will say 
once more that I am hysterical — that I have black 
thoughts, etc. So be it, Monsieur ; I do not seek to 
justify myself. I submit to every sort of reproach. 
All I know is that I cannot, that I will not resign 
myself to lose wholly the friendship of my Master. I 
would rather suffer the greatest physical pain than 



always have my heart lacerated by smarting regrets. 
If my Master withdraws his friendship from me 
entirely I shall be altogether without hope ; if he 
gives me a little — ^just a little — I shall be satisfied, 
happy ; I shall have a reason for living on, for 
working. Monsieur, the poor have not need of much 
to sustain them — they ask only for the crumbs that 
fall from the rich man's table. But if they are refused 
the crumbs they die of hunger. Nor do I either need 
much affection from those I love. I should not know 
what to do with a friendship entire and complete — I 
am not used to it. But you showed me of yore a 
little interest when I was your pupil in Brussels, and I 
hold on to the maintenance of that little interest — I 
hold on to it as I would hold on to life." 

And again, in the famous postcript in English to 
the next letter : 

" Truly I find it difficult to be cheerful so long as 
I think I shall never see you more. . . . 

" I have never heard French spoken but once 
since I left Brussels — and then it sounded like music 
in my ears — every word was most precious to me 
because it reminded me of you ; I love French for 
your sake with all my heart and soul. 

" Farewell, my dear Master ; may God protect you 
with special care and crown you with peculiar 

That Charlotte was sensitive as to what might be 
said by anyone (Madame, for instance) reading this 
letter, other than the person to whom it is addressed 
is abundantly clear, not only from what we know of 
her, but from the sentence above in which she speaks 
of some people — "cold and common sense, reading it 
and saying ' she is talking nonsense.' " This makes the 



more remarkable what she did say — words welling up 
from the heart which could and would find some way 
out, just as water, though carefully repressed, will 
find a way out if it is anyhow possible. When we 
remember, along with these wonderful letters, that 
the term ' my dear Master ' is the tenderest her 
heroines can use to their lovers, both in The Professor 
and in Jane Eyre ; that two of her books were laid 
as to scene at the Pensionnat Heger, with a difference 
of nationalities in the lovers ; that in Shirley, where 
the scene is wholly Yorkshire, the young men are 
half French ; and that in Jane Eyre, Rochester has 
been much in Paris, we may see, I think, how in- 
evitable it seemed to Charlotte Bronte, in the earlier 
part of her life at all events, that a great passion, that 
is to say her own great passion (for no novelist can so 
far escape from his or her own personality) required 
that there should be French blood on one side ; and 
we need not shirk the conclusion that in the 
fiery little Professor, husband of Madame Heger, who 
first opened her cramped mind and revealed her truly 
to herself, the lonely Englishwoman, strong alike in 
principle and in genius, recognised her mate. There 
is a single passage in which Charlotte seems to speak 
as though she could feel that the future life must 
bring to true lovers what this life often forbids. In 
that thought, let us trust, she found her comfort. For 
her, as for the poet Christina Rossetti, also unhappy 
in love, 

Much may be to suffer, much to do 
Before this life be past, 

but Charlotte gradually won to serenity over her 
tragedy not only of unfulfilled but of unrequited love 
Passion is no crime. The crime begins when passion 
takes the reins and drives on, careless of the hurt 



involved to innocent sufferers bound up in the same 
bundle of life with the lovers. All things can be 
explained except a proud and a pure heart, and that 
too, Charlotte was to prove, can be revealed by- 
genius in its own time and in its own way. But to 
the circle around the sufferer the bare word must be 
its own justification, the character long known and 
tried its own sufficient testimony. " I love," Charlotte 
cried in effect from her lonely home to the man 
across the sea, with whose image she dwelt in a 
secret world of the heart ; but to none other, not 
even to Emily, we think, did she risk the misunder- 
standing and pain that the relief to herself of speaking 
that word might give. She was content to tell the 
world in her books, and to go from dark to dark, out 
to the light that lies beyond the grave at last, in 
silence and in hope. 



There are multitudes of people who go through life 
without any sort of understanding of what loneliness 
means. Sometimes they confuse it with solitude, for 
which in a full and busy life they long, and they 
wonder how any can complain of so great a boon. 
But while solitude is an essential to all natures that 
would come to full development, loneliness is, or 
seems to those who really experience its pangs, a 
kind of sentient death, the more agonising and 
horrible because it is not the body, but the soul, the 
heart, the finer powers of the mind that seem to be 
withering and decaying from a lack of all the vital 
elements. Someone has pointed out that solitude 
either makes great, or destroys. Even this is not 
quite true of loneliness, for there are victims who 
suffer it without apparently entering into the fruits of 
their suffering, hungry folk who do seem slowly to 
perish for want of companionship, as their bodies 
might perish for want of bread. It is such cases, 
whether they really are or only seem to be, that lend 
point to the terror in the sufferer's own mind. Shall I 
at last become even as they ? Out of this wilderness 
with no water there is one way of escape, and one 
alone, upwards towards that Omnipresent Spirit 
Who dwells in the clear air and in the hearts of men. 



The two elder of the Bronte sisters, and perhaps 
Anne when away from home, knew much of the 
horrors of loneliness, even before Charlotte was left 
to be tested almost beyond human endurance, after 
the grave had closed upon the last beloved sister ; 
but from the beginning Charlotte experienced it the 
most acutely. Emily perhaps never felt it when 
she was at Haworth. She lived with Anne in a 
world peopled with all sorts of romantic and secret 
beings. And as she grew older she found and rested 
in that all-satisfying Presence into which she was 
gathered up upon the lonely moor. Up there, " 
among the living things whom she passionately loved, 
nesting birds, or birds soaring high above her, creep- 
ing things, the bilberry and the heather, and the 
stream that trickled among its roots to slide out into 
the open among the grey crags in the gorge — she did 
not lack sympathy and high intercourse, she did not 
hunger for limited human minds. Enough for her 
that at home there were some to love. Up here 
where time was not, the Absolute above and around, 
and Mother Earth beneath her were all-sufficing. 

It is one of the strangest touches in Miss Sinclair's 
brilliant book on the Bronte sisters that she seems 
always to be trying to make of Charlotte a sort of lesser 
Emily. It is difficult indeed to agree to this concep- 
tion. It is not to dispute Emily's greatness, nor to 
miss the attraction of her virgin inaccessible heart, to 
say that she lacked humanity. If the greatest of 
these is love, then Charlotte's reaching out from her 
reserve and her prejudices and disappointments in 
her neighbours, towards her kind, shows a richer 
nature even than Emily's sure touch upon reality, her 
intuitive perception of the Infinite. At the present 
moment it is the fashion to place Emily above her 
sister, but the fame of the author of Wuthering 



Heights must always rest upon other grounds than 
that of Charlotte. Truth and sincerity Charlotte had 
as few other writers. These are not qualities we 
should especially distinguish in Emily, perhaps 
because only she could tell how true to the wild 
moors her drawing was. But there is in Charlotte's 
work evidence of a gentle heart, and in the end the 
higher revelation of the Divine is to be found in the 
eye that pierces to the soul of goodness in things 
evil and observingly distils it out ; and that lovingly 
dwells upon what is pure and lovely and of good 
report. Charlotte's nature was the richest in its 
humanity. She had developed a sort of motherhood 
towards the younger sisters, but before that, she had 
experienced the passionate desire to champion the 
weak and the good oppressed by wicked men, as 
typified by her sister Maria, whose sufferings she 
related in Jane Eyre. And so it came about that as 
she had more need of her fellows, she suffered more 
than the others in the isolation of Haworth, and from 
the vulgarity and meanness of mind of some of their 
few neighbours. Ellen Nussey and the Taylors were 
especially Charlotte's friends. Emily had Charlotte, 
Anne, the animals and the moors, She wanted no 
other, and could not expand when other possibilities 
opened. Brussels, which to Charlotte spelled living 
in a new sense, meant pining like a caged bird to 
Emily. Certainly Charlotte was no lesser Emily, but 
a temperament differing widely, and differing most in 
this, that it had in it a wider though certainly not 
a more intense capacity for love. It is wonderful, it 
is terrible to see Emily dying before the eyes ot the 
devoted sister, and refusing from that loving hand 
the simplest services, the smallest easing ; but it is 
more terrible even than wonderful that in face of 
death Emily should not have experienced the desire 



to know " what peace there is in giving," what 
graciousness there may be in receiving from another 
whose heart aches to bless. But Charlotte was from 
the beginning fundamentally different. She poured 
out her love upon her father, and it was to her he 
always looked ; upon her friends, whom she suffers 
to say all kinds of things to her, to give her advice 
even upon matters of the soul, where one simply 
cannot conceive that Emily would ever have tolerated 
the very faintest intrusion. She is humble to mor- 
bidity upon the state of her inner life. Above all, 
she early developed that trust in a Personal God 
which Anne shared with her, as apart from the calm 
reliance upon the Absolute of Emily, which to Miss 
Sinclair's eyes makes her strong and admirable where 
Charlotte and Anne, with their more definitely 
Christian tone, are merely weak and ordinary. It is 
all a question, no doubt, of the point of view. 
Certainly Charlotte had this humility which belongs 
to the Christian ethic, and it brings her nearer to 
ordinary folk. Moreover, as a plain fact, it served her 
better, for it held her up through black hours when 
the bitterness of death itself was outpassed. In that 
letter which is surely one of the finest pieces of 
literature in the language, written on the day that 
Emily died, after a moment in which bitterness and 
despair seem to hover by her pen, Charlotte writes : 
" She died in a time of promise. We saw her taken 
from life at its prime." Then she goes on, not in the 
outburst we almost seem to expect, questioning 
whether there be a good God or no : 

" It is God's will, and the place where she is gone 
is better than that she has left. God has sustained 
me, in a way that I marvel at, through such agony 
as I had not conceived . . . Try to come. I never 
so much needed the consolation of a friend's presence." 



This appeal was to that most faithful friend, who 
was afterwards to stand beside her while Anne slipped 
away out of life. If Charlotte's Christianity had a 
Calvinistic touch, it was yet that only type which is 
recognised as the real thing by all men of good will. 
In spite of herself she had been forced to acknowledge 
that a " verrai parfait gentil knight " could come out 
of the despised Roman Church ; and I think from the 
time of her great unhappy love, and of the removal 
of Emily's strong influence which tended to separation 
and perhaps to a certain attitude of scorn which they 
seem to have shared in early years, Charlotte moves 
on rapidly in that Way in which loving the brother 
is set before even the conscientious performance of 
duty, or the acceptance of suffering, which had played 
so large a part in the more disciplinary period of 
her life. 

" As ever in my great Taskmaster's eye " was 
indeed as much the motto of the daughter of the 
Yorkshire parsonage as it was of the great Puritan ; 
and at the end an outcast girl wept passionately for a 
friend and sister removed, and a blind girl begged to 
be led across the moor to hear spoken over Charlotte 
the promise of the resurrection from the dead. It is 
the miracle of the change of attitude as between the 
hard, clear-cut, contemptuous judgments, and the 
lyric passage quoted in the last chapter about the 
man she loved. Faith Charlotte had from the 
beginning, and love ; but the love was quickened 
a thousand-fold and the faith intensified by an ex- 
perience which made her know all men of kin. The 
kind wife of good Mr. NicoUs might have helped an 
erring girl, but we may feel that the woman who 
had once knelt in her despair at the confessional 
of an alien church had kept a secret of touch upon 
the sacred, shrinking human soul which belonged not 



to Mrs. Nicolls, and which had in it the very spirit of 
Him Who said to a woman — "Her sins which are 
many are forgiven her, for she loved much." 

Charlotte had gone to Brussels with the lines of 
her character already formed. She was a girl dis- 
ciplined, generous, upright ; but also, as we have 
seen, narrow in vision, crude in judgment, and virgin 
in heart. She returned a woman upon whose soul 
and imagination there had been played such music 
as only one power can evoke in human life. The 
blossoms that open on the moors have a sweetness 
and vigour all their own ; and Charlotte's heart-cries 
have this very sweetness and vigour in them. Her 
love's wild splendour, clear from first to last, belongs 
to the solitudes, set amid such storm-wrack as is 
known upon the moors, with death and sorrow and 
pain and glory, surrounded by the great silences, 
and winning out of them healing, energy, fruition, 
and at the last peace. 

She had struggled as only the strong know how ; 
she had renounced as only the pure can. Was she 
then to have nothing .'' Not even those crumbs 
claimed and awarded in the Gospel story .-' Her 
very sense of justice seems to cry out in these letters 
to M. Heger during the year after her return. 
Surely she may have what she may. The end 
cannot be utter loss. Friendship — yes, friendship 
may be retained across the dividing sea. " Why 
cannot I have just as much friendship for you as 
you for me, neither more nor less ? " she wrote to 
him. Charlotte is still inexperienced enough to 
suppose that Madame, who was always persistent, 
implacable, unsleeping when her suspicions had been 
aroused, would suffer friendship to continue between 
her husband and the now hated English teacher. 
Life, we may easily imagine, would not have been 



worth living for M, H6ger had he tried Charlotte's 

His own attitude baffles all conjecture. He had 
been kind to Charlotte, that is certain. She had 
brought out his gentlest side, for we see its reaction 
upon herself. There had been an understanding 
between them, not as to their relation to one another, 
certainly never that, but as to their sympathies. 
He admired, he did not patronise. He could allow 
that there might be good in Charlotte's religion, 
though she saw none in his. He was certain that 
they both served the same God. The mystery 
perhaps will remain forever unsolved. Was it a 
sensitive conscience that made him deaf to Charlotte's 
cries ? Did his duty to his wife, his too great con- 
sciousness of the sympathy between himself and the 
ardent mind and heart he had awakened, make him 
refuse for them both the pleasure of a correspondence 
that would have brightened the desolation at Haworth 
with such morning beams ? Or was it after all dis- 
cretion, that ugly virtue, that withheld him ? Playing 
for safety ; fear of consequences, the evil consequences 
not of a friendship between a man and woman of 
honour, which could not have produced real evil, but 
the consequences of Madame's suspicions, of jealous 
chatter, of perpetual friction ? In any case he was 
wise ; probably he was right. Perhaps he saved 
Charlotte worse pain and trouble in the end. But I 
like to think that something truly great was in the 
soul of the man whom Charlotte Bronte delighted to 
honour with the uttermost of her genius ; and that, in 
the phrase of the French she loved, to know all was 
to forgive all at last. 

Charlotte's healing at this time came from three 
sources, all life-giving — the love of her sisters, the 
joy of work, and contact with Nature. When TAe 



Professor was finished, there v^z.s Jane Eyre — handled 
with a large freedom which must have brought the 
keenest joy to its creator, after the self-imposed 
placidity of the first attempt. Any writer knows 
the impossibility of handling indirectly for purposes 
of fiction an event of moving interest in his own life. 
The Professor is surely tame, primarily because 
Charlotte fears self-betrayal ; but the reading of 
Wuthering Heights, that tale of flame and dew, of 
heather and stone, no doubt, as Miss Sinclair bril- 
liantly suggests, had its effect upon her, and helped 
to set her genius free. What delightful hours of work 
in company, of comparison and hope ! And then 
there was the joy of seeing their poems in print, 
the work of the Bells before the public eye ; it is a 
secondary matter to any poet whether there are large 
sales or not, as it is secondary to any parents whether 
their child is popular and in request. They want it. 
They appreciate it. It has lived. And after absence, 
after the heat and aridity of a long summer vacation 
in Brussels, it would be almost solace enough for 
Charlotte at moments, when hope was dying down 
in the long June days, to lie among the heather and 
bilberry, perhaps up there by the waterfall associated 
with her name, looking down upon the little stone 
footbridge over the beck in the ghyll below, and 
feeling part of all life, for ever and ever. In summer, 
indeed, there are few lovelier spots, with the sky 
clear blue above the fell, and the deep green of the 
sycamore trees showing against the dark stone line 
of houses in Stanbury village clinging to its ridge 
on the right ; with the snipe and the peewits winging 
by, and the mountain sheep grey as the half-buried 
crags cropping peacefully where they can find pas- 
ture. An ideal place in which to meditate upon 
gains and losses ; to learn to wait for the Day ; to 



let go bitterness. A place solitary and secret for all 
its apparent open-heartedness, just as the human 
soul, for all self-utterance, and for all reverend inquiry 
of those who love and admire, must remain solitary 
and secret still. But a place where God seems near 
in the silence and the brooding heat. Not the God 
of jarring sects, with their buzzing of urgent disagree- 
ments, but the God Who is Nature's soul, and the 
pitiful Christ Who prayed on the hilltops and moved 
among the wild flowers, a Shepherd of the souls of 
men. Man should be worthy of an epic among the 
moors ; and there Wtithering Heights, supreme 
achievement, sprang alive. From that source Jane 
Eyre and Shirley gathered their intensity, their truth, 
their keenness of vision. The Spirit upon the moors 
made it possible for Charlotte to introduce the epic 
touch into a tale of a boarding-school, inspired Emily's 
poetry, and taught them both to love life well, and to 
look at death closely, till they could see beyond its 
shadow — terrible as that shadow was. For no dweller 
among the moors could forget in summer the winter 
that was past, and that was to come. Then the 
gulleys, filled with colour and scent now, would be 
death-traps deep in snow for any who erred from the 
stone-laid path. The wind would cry with tales of 
human sorrows ; loneliness and desolation would 
make pathless and unfamiliar all the loved places 
on the mist-wrapped hills. The stones in the church- 
yard, now shut out by trees which had not been 
planted in the Brontes' time, would force themselves 
again upon the imagination ; and the straitness of 
the way to freedom would make that freedom itself 
that they tasted so fully in their heritage in summer- 
time, seem far off. It would not be true to sup- 
press that note of weariness and deadness to hope 
which is Charlotte's reaction from passion. A well- 



known letter written about this time contains the 
passage : 

*' I have fewer illusions ; what I wish for now is 
active exertion, a stake in life. Haworth seems such 
a quiet lonely spot, buried away from the world. I no 
longer regard myself as young." 

And again, with a bitter memory of wounding 

"Ten years ago I should have laughed at your 
account of the blunder you made in mistaking the 
bachelor doctor for a married man. Now ... I know 
that if women wish to escape the stigma of husband- 
seeking they must act and look like marble or clay. 
. . . Never mind. Well-meaning women have their 
own consciences to comfort them after all." She 
adds the excellent advice : " Do not condemn your- 
self to live only by halves, because if you showed too 
much animation some pragmatical thing in breeches 
might take it into his pate to imagine that you 
designed to dedicate your life to his inanity. I feel 
rather fierce and want stroking down." 

If people still supposed Charlotte had had marriage 
in view in going to Brussels, and said so, we can 
imagine that any such impertinences would sting now 
as never before. 

In January of 1845, the year after her return, 
when Charlotte was very depressed and unwell, she 
paid that visit to the Taylors at Gomersall during 
which she felt so out of things. Mary Taylor 
described it after Charlotte's death. 

" She told me she thought that there must be 
some possibility for some people of having a life of 
more variety and more communion with human kind, 
but she saw none for her. I told her very warmly 

65 F 


that she ought not to stay at home . . . such a dark 
shadow came over her face when I said : ' Think of 
what you'll be five years hence,' that I stopped and 
said, 'Don't cry, Charlotte.' She did not cry, but 
went on walking up and down the room, and said in 
a little while, ' But I intend to stay, Polly.' " 

Mary Taylor does not strike us as an intuitive 
person. She was excellent, bracing, downright, and 
it is not surprising that she could not come to 
Charlotte's help, and supply her own lack of belief in 
her star with a forecast of what actually did happen. 
For in five years' time, Charlotte was in London 
paying her first visit to Thackeray, tasting the first 
sweets of fame — alas, alone. The promise of a dawn 
was what she needed to throw some ray upon the 
inky waters, but Mary could only give the watch- 
man's answer, " The night cometh " — " and also the 
morning " was withheld from Charlotte's ears. 

In April we learn from letters in Mrs. Gaskell's 
collection that Charlotte dreaded blindness for her- 
self as well as for her father. As the days lengthened, 
new shadows rose, lest the sisters should have too 
much happiness in love and air and dreams. Branwell 
was home, disgraced and ill, and the house must 
hold him and them. Yet all this time Charlotte is 
struggling against memory and heart-hunger. In 
the latest of the letters now in the British Museum 
from which I have quoted above a sentence about 
friendship, writing on November i8, 1845, she says : 

"The summer and autumn seemed very long to 
me ... I tell you frankly that I have tried meanwhile 
to forget you, for the remembrance of a person whom 
one thinks never to see again, and whom, nevertheless, 
one greatly esteems, frets the mind too much ; and 



when one has suffered that kind of anxiety for a year 
or two one is ready to do anything to recover one's 
peace. I have done everything ; I have sought 
occupation, I have denied myself absolutely the 
pleasure of speaking about you, even to Emily ; but 
I have not been able to overcome either my regrets 
or my impatience." 

Here is Charlotte after nine months of that self- 
repression, in which she had been trained for so long, 
revealing her soul, unknowing. I do not think any 
one yet has dwelt upon the achievement of personality 
involved in her recovery from the abyss into which 
her life and all her hopes had been cast by M. Heger's 
refusal of letters. There are passages describing her 
feelings when letters came and afterwards ceased to 
come to Lucy Snowe from Dr. John which it is 
difficult not to associate with M. H^ger, " Dr. John, 
you pained me afterwards. Forgiven be every ill, 
freely forgiven, for the sake of that one dear 
remembered good " — this is the letter which was 
" kind." 

It was a long fight ; and it is as arresting, and 
more inspiring because more human, than Emily's 
wrestle with death. Charlotte emerged from it, not 
an embittered old maid broken in health, narrowed 
in sympathies, but rather strengthened to endure 
the further suffering of watching Emily die refusing 
human help, of mothering Anne along that same sad 

It is not my purpose to dwell upon the almost 
intolerable days of distress that began with Branwell's 
dying, and were lengthened to the climax of tragedy 
when Emily laid aside that comb still treasured at 
the Haworth Museum, and without any special word 
for the devoted sister, went out and on into im- 

6^ F 2 


mortality. The gate, never opened but for funerals, 
made way for her body to be carried through from 
the garden to the church vault, where Charlotte's 
should in due time be laid. Anne's gentle, long- 
drawn-out dying is almost as well-known, and the 
final scene at Scarborough, where Charlotte and 
Ellen Nussey watched her go, and would not disturb 
the landlady at her dinner. Charlotte returned home 
not to desolation utter and complete, but to a 
desolation which was caused by having no sharer of 
her fame. Perhaps it is fancy, but she always seems 
to me from this time on to be at once more gentle 
and more prim, walled up behind her new identity 
of successful author, spending too much of her time 
inditing admirable epistles to My dear Sir (Mr. 
Williams) about books or his daughters, and to that 
little man, Mr. James Taylor, who was a "decorous 
reliable personage," according to her own account, and 
therefore not suited to our fiery-hearted Miss Prim. 
The most interesting letters at this time are remini- 
scent, — Charlotte is dull when discussing current 
literature. For instance, the one given by Mrs. 
Gaskell, dated May 22, 1850. 

" For my part I am free to walk on the moors ; 
but when I go out there alone, everything reminds 
me of the times when others were with me, and then 
the moors seem a wilderness, featureless, solitary, 
saddening. My sister Emily had a particular love 
for them, and there is not a knoll of heather, not a 
branch of fern, not a young bilberry leaf, not a 
fluttering lark or linnet, but reminds me of her. The 
distant prospects were Anne's delight, and when I 
look round she is in the blue tints, the pale mists, the 
waves and shadows of the horizon. In the hill- 
country silence their poetry comes by lines and 



stanzas into my mind. Once I loved it, now I dare 
not read it. . . ." 

It is a wonderful phrase that of Charlotte's, " In 
the hill-country silence." And she, so lonely there, 
comes now more than any of the three to the minds 
of many friends. 

The friendship of the Kay Shuttleworths was a 
feature of Charlotte's life at this time. They brought 
to her many intellectual interests and acquaint- 
ances, and introduced her two friends, Mrs. Gaskell 
and Miss Martineau. Nothing illustrates better the 
generosity and increasing gentleness, as well as that 
old loyalty in Charlotte's character, than her attitude to 
Miss Martineau. The summer at Bowness when she 
had first met her at the Kay Shuttleworths had 
been a happy time, and Charlotte's liking for Miss 
Martineau was strongly rooted. The book expressing 
her atheism, though it gave Charlotte her first shock, 
did not change her attitude of admiration for the 
writer. Mrs. Gaskell observes that the contemptuous 
tone used towards this book by the critics " made her 
(Charlotte) more indignant than almost any circum- 
stance during my acquaintance with her." Charlotte's 
own letters bear this out. When Miss Martineau 
unexpectedly fell foul of Villette, Charlotte had only 
shortly before refused to break off friendship with 
her for her unbelief — a grievous offence at that time. 
Her letter is utterly beautiful : — 

" I believe if you were in my place and knew Miss 
Martineau as I do — if you had shared with me the 
proofs of her genuine kindliness, and had seen how 
secretly she suffers from abandonment — you would be 
the last to give her up ; you would separate the 
sinner from the sin, and feel as if the right lay rather 
in quietly adhering to her in her strait, while that 



adherence is unfashionable and unpopular, than in 
turning on her your back when the world sets the 
example." Charlotte has well learned at last that it 
is not the profession of a dogma, or a fashion of 
worship that makes the Christian. Mrs. Gaskell 
speaks of their "short and sorrowful" misunder- 
standing, and calls them " faithful friends." 

She tells us also how sensitive Charlotte was to 
the last as to any suggestion of impropriety or 
immorality in Jane Eyre. She who knew her own 
heart cannot have over-estimated the value of outside 
opinion ; yet it does seem as if this sensitiveness may 
in part have sprung from a hidden cause, the un- 
forgotten secret in her heart, so long buried, so 
rigidly guarded. She who had been strong to 
forbear speaking even to Emily of her Master, who 
had kept the secret of the novels from her most 
intimate friend, had, we are sure, kept this other 
secret, the secret of those letters M. Heger had 
preserved but not answered, secure from all approach. 
Something wrong — so harmful to others, so painful 
to herself, so unjust, so untrue, might when suggested 
on more than one side lead to a prying where prying 
must be intolerable to any living woman. Charlotte 
must indeed have felt at times as though she had 
said so much that any moment the hounds might be 
baying upon the track of her most innocent, most 
unhappy love. 

The friendship with Mrs. Gaskell, and Charlotte's 
ever-deepening appreciation of the delicacy of her 
mind, of the nobility of her character, were assuredly 
one of the greatest joys of her life at this time. 
Mrs. Gaskell's enthusiastic account of her visit to 
Havvorth is one of the happiest pictures that her 
book contains. 



" All the small table arrangements had the same 
dainty simplicity about them. Then we rested, and 
talked over the clear bright fire." That clear bright 
fire, so typical of Charlotte's spirit and of Emily's — 
though Emily's is rather a fire out of doors — is worth 
a thousandfold ; and tells us as perhaps nothing else 
could all the sensitive understanding, all the apprecia- 
tion and love that Mrs. Gaskell offered to Charlotte 
before she took up the pen on her behalf. Sister 
authors, sister women, they understood one another. 
" Whereupon I said I disliked Lucy Snowe, and we 
discussed M. Paul Emanuel," says Mrs. Gaskell, and 
is silent. Did she remember some flash in Char- 
lotte's eye, some note in her voice which made her 
feel it impossible ever to tell whether Charlotte had 
supposed him her masterpiece, or whether she didn't ; 
whether from M. Paul Emanuel the conversation had 
turned for a word or two, just a word or two, after 
the long silence — with death so near — upon " mon 
Maltre" at the Pension H^ger. We do not know. 
Only this we know, that after Mrs. Gaskell had gone 
to her room about ten she heard Charlotte come down 
and walk up and down for an hour or so. On that 
visit, too, it was they had that conversation about some 
people being born to sorrow and some to happiness. 
This was Charlotte's theory — Mrs. Gaskell was for 
believing in the law of compensation. But Charlotte 
would have it that some must just cultivate patience 
and resignation " and try to moderate their expecta- 
tions." " She was trying to school herself against 
ever anticipating any pleasure ; it was better to be 
brave and submit patiently." At this time her father 
was still set against the marriage with Mr. Nicolls. 
Was her marriage the pleasure Charlotte must school 
herself against anticipating ? Possibly it was ; yet 
one remembers that she had had her mind absorbed 



lately with Villette, and that she had been talking to 
her friend about Lucy Snowe and M. Paul Emanuel. 
Perhaps, after all, the desire to have a mystery cleared, 
and to hear again, to see again the unforgotten 
and still living dead, and also to see her sisters was 
even more urgent for Charlotte to school herself 
against. We do not and shall not know. But 
we do know that she was well acquainted with 
the character of Mr. Nicolls, that she trusted him 
and found restfulness and content in his warm true 
affection, and that she was very happy as his wife — 
and we rejoice to know it. For Charlotte's was not 
a nature ever to be satisfied without love. She 
enjoyed being author, she enjoyed her books, she 
enjoyed her letter-writing, she enjoyed her friend- 
ships ; but from first to last she thought of herself as 
one bom to sorrow, as one who must wait to know 
" in time " the good reason of it all. And it is as a 
woman, generous, much-enduring, passionate-hearted 
that the moors keep her image. Married, yet sister 
to Emily the wild and shy in deepest bond ; married, 
yet keeping a memory of love as different from the 
slow and pleasant waters of ordinary marriage as the 
moor top is from the town. One man awakened her 
soul, and revealed her to herself, with her passion 
and her power. Another man sustained her in fame, 
comforted her in loneliness, strengthened her in 
death. To both she owed much, but when we think 
of that love which Cathy Earnshaw and Jane Eyre 
experienced, we know that Charlotte Bronte owed 
most to the man who left her to fulfil her own 
premonitory prayer — " God help the woman who is left 
to love passionately and alone ! " 

And since this is not a biographical study, but 
an attempt to understand a woman's story which in 
its simplest outline consists of preparation, a love 



affair, and its forthtelling, I make no excuse for 
returning last of all to that major episode which, as 
we have seen, Charlotte dwelt upon so much near 
the close of her life, before her marriage to Mr. 

The final word upon Charlotte's love story, apart 
from Villette, shall come from herself 

It is to be found in the collection of poems by the 
three sisters and by Branwell, which Mr. A. C. Benson 
has edited. The book was not in my hands when 
the earlier chapters of this were written, and the 
significance of these verses seemed therefore the 
more striking. They are not dated, and are num- 
bered 9 and 12 in the collection of Charlotte's poems. 
Charlotte, no doubt, hid them most carefully from 
human eyes during her lifetime. But if she had felt 
she could never suffer them to see the light I think 
she would have destroyed them. It is certain that 
she, with every writer, had moments when she longed 
to confide to the great unknown public secrets which 
weighed upon her mind, but were too intimate to be 
shared with those whom she met every day. No. 9 
seems from internal evidence to belong to some time 
after she had ceased to write letters to M. Heger, 
before she had begun Jane Eyre. Perhaps it was 
written as a counterbalance to the calmness of The 
Professor. Love for the moment is overmastered by 
a bitterness of spirit which is the aftermath of the 
humility, entreaty, patience and heart hunger that her 
unanswered letters had revealed. Neither bitter- 
ness nor reproach were Charlotte's final attitude. 
She was too great for that. Even now, in this 
moment of disillusionment, the sorrowful woman can 
turn away quickly from earth to heaven, from the 
man's timidity to her own bold avowal of what 
perhaps hitherto she had hardly dared to call by 



its true name. Most of Charlotte's poems are un- 
interesting enough, even when there is deep feeling 
behind them, as a glance at the poem called " Presenti- 
ment " will illustrate. 

As poetry it fails to reach us, though Charlotte 
almost died with Emily. But No. 9 has an even 
deeper passion behind it, and for once it has given to 
Charlotte an utterance equivalent to that which she 
has in prose. There appear to have been few, if any, 
comments upon it at present, but I cannot but think 
that it will come later to be recognised as a fine and 
vital confession that the winds are God's ministers 
blowing as well through the spaces of human con- 
sciousness as over the tree-tops of earth. 

I quote four verses, but the whole should be 

He saw my heart's woe, discovered my soul's anguish, 
How in fever, in thirst, in atrophy it pined, 

Knew he could heal, yet looked and let it languish, 
To its moans spirit-deaf, to its pangs spirit-blind. 

He was mute as is the grave, he stood stirless as a tower, 
At last I looked up and saw I prayed to stone ; 

I asked help of that which to help had no power, 
I sought love where love was utterly unknown. 

In dark remorse I rose. I rose in darker shame. 

Self-condemned I withdrew to an exile from my kind. 
A solitude I sought, where mortals never came, 

Hoping in its wilds forgetfulness to find. 

He (God) gave our hearts to love, He will not love despise, 
Even if the gift be lost, as mine was long ago. 

He will forgive the fault, will bid the offender rise, 

Wash out with dews of bliss the fiery brand of woe. 

The opening verse here is an exact and accurate 
summary of Charlotte's condition of mind as revealed 



in those of her letters which deal with the period 
following the return from Brussels. No. 12 may 
have been written in Brussels, in the terrible vacation. 
It is called " Frances," the name of the heroine of 
The Professor, who wrote verses, and it refers clearly 
to the garden, the " alcove in that shade screening a 
rustic seat and stand." This must refer to I'Allee 

Unloved I love ; unwept I weep, 

For me the universe is dumb. 
Stone deaf, and blank and wholly blind ; 

Life I must bound, existence sum 
In the strait limits of one mind. 

That is a wonderful verse Perhaps the lover's 
longing for the fusion of two minds has never been 
more vividly expressed. 

It is noticeable that in spite of the circumstances 
and in spite of the times she lived in, with their 
confusion between morality and convention worse 
than that which prevails to-day, Charlotte refuses to 
call her love evil. Rather she names it boldly as 
love only when she brings it out in the face of high 
Heaven, before angels and men. She speaks as one 
who has fulfilled a great spiritual adventure, whose 
soul has been already purged in the furnace of fire. 
For her, from this time on, there could be no shirking 
the issue. Love, the subject of a thousand investiga- 
tions since her day by varying types of mind, had by 
Charlotte at length been seen in its true sphere. She 
saw it, as the saints and the poets have seen it, 
among the eternities, and she declared, as great 
hearts have done before her, that lovers could only 
be judged by their peers. She had proved that it 
introduces to a new plane, and she knew that its law 
is the paradox of Ama et fac quod vis, just because 
the high liberty of love cannot by its very nature be 



licence. The vulgar find marriage to He in circum- 
stance, Charlotte uses all her genius to declare that 
marriages are first made on a plane above circum- 
stances, and that therefore in certain cases, such as 
that in which Charlotte found herself, circumstances 
are beside the point, having no more worth than 
mere obstacles to prove the strength of love. When 
the question reaches the lower levels of morality and 
behaviour, then she neither faltered nor paused. 
Madame Heger she certainly thought of as no true 
mate to the man she loved ; but though she seems 
ready to accept friendship with love veiled and 
waiting behind it, Charlotte had no notion at all of 
inviting disloyalty to Madame Heger. The planes 
were different. Possibly she was unaware of the 
difficulties of translating such theories into fact, but 
the essential rightness of her position for the higher 
type of humanity can scarcely be questioned. In 
Jane Eyre Charlotte emphasises the situation for 
literary effect. The wife of Rochester is not merely 
no helpmeet for him, she is not even his wife in 
anything but name. She is, in fact, no longer human, 
but she still lives. The higher type of humanity as 
portrayed in Jane Eyre has then but one way of 
honour, and she fled at heroic cost. Charlotte, I 
think, always looked upon her own sudden departure 
from Brussels, however well covered by good excuses, 
as partly in the nature of a flight from temptation. 
It would have been interesting to see what she would 
have made of the same situation varied by a partner 
uncongenial but not base. But this Charlotte could 
not handle. She tried, I think, to make M. Paul's 
dead love someone who might have drawn more even 
with Lucy Snowe. But she could not picture her 
Master except with someone spiritually much inferior 
standing in that relation to him. Her strength de- 



parted directly she ventured far from her personal 
experiences, and she seems to have given up the 

It is pleasant to picture Emily thrusting her 
manuscript into Charlotte's hand. Did she know or 
did she guess the extent of Charlotte's experiences .-• 
We know that Charlotte had laid it upon herself not 
to talk of M. Heger to Emily. Emily's powers as a 
seer were not small, but we cannot tell if she loved 
Charlotte well enough to be a diviner here. Be that 
as it may, Charlotte's emotions must indeed have 
been intense as she found her own ideas, so carefully 
withheld from the tame pages of The Professor, 
glowing in WiUhering Heights, with an elemental 
poetry that not even she herself could equal. We 
may picture her either listening with hidden face 
while Emily read, as their custom seems to have 
been ; or reading the love passages alone on the 
moor or in the empty study, to the beat of her 
heart-throbs. Surely Emily had been writing for 

" Whatever our souls are made of," says Cathy 
Earnshaw of Heathcliff, " his and mine are the same, 
and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from 
lightning, or frost from fire." . . . 

" Who is to separate us, pray } Not so long as 
I live, Ellen, for no mortal creature ... I cannot 
express it, but surely you and everybody have a 
notion that there is, or should be an existence of yours 
beyond you. What were the use of my creation if I 
were entirely contained here } My great miseries in 
this world are Heathcliff's miseries . . . my great 
thought in living is himself . . . Nelly, I am Heath- 

Injaue Eyre, Charlotte said practically the same 


thing with only less vividness, through the lips of a 
woman possibly less in psychic perception, but far 
greater in mentality, and in the moral force which 
comes through self-rule. 

When the gods arrive 
The half gods go. 

That, crystallised in Emerson's phrase, is the 
message of both sisters. Get back to the primal 
simplicities, the great elemental things before you can 
know if you are strong or weak, true or false. Leave 
the twilight for morning sunshine over the pathless 
hills. Leave the town for a solitude where you must 
overcome, since you can no longer flee from, your 
own thought. Mrs. Grundy, creature of an hour, is 
the upholder of the ever-new wrong, the enslaver of 
the weak, the thief of life. But in every age there 
are Pioneers who lead the way back to true morality 
and true religion, upon which time makes no change, 
in spite of what some loudly tell us. It is these who 
wrestle with the half gods, and by suffering overcome 
on behalf of the weak and the fearful, on behalf of 
those whose dreams are not of Eden, nor their labours 
to restore Jerusalem. The captives of convention 
stand in the airless dark calling upon the half gods 
to slay the impious who contest their sovereignty ; but 
outside, the Pioneers — and among that band you may 
discern the faces of these two sisters — stand wounded 
but beautiful, under the storms and the sunlight of 
heaven, calling the prisoners back to life. 

One question we may ask, to close. Charlotte 
could and did pour burning scorn upon those who 
peeped and pryed into the secrets of her heart. 
What measure would she mete now to those who seek 
to disentangle the threads of this tale of the lonely 



indomitable heroine, which she has and has not told 
us herself? 

I have already referred to the portrait in the 
Bronte Museum. In that I find my answer. For 
there is something so living in the expression that I 
cannot but think we have there the real Charlotte. 
Loss and attainment have softened her, but left an 
appeal half- shy, half-young in her eyes. The smile 
that grows as you watch seems to have in it more 
than its humanity. It seems to suggest to the many 
friends who come to see her there, that after her 
lonely days, Charlotte is glad to receive good after 
sorrow from so many men and women of good will. 

None knew better than Charlotte, in the end, that 
the genius and the sufferings of man or woman are 
not for themselves alone, and it is therefore with all 
reverence but in all confidence that I lay this little 
essay beneath her portrait. 





The verses given beneath were written by Charlotte 
when she was sixteen, just after she had returned to 
Haworth from Roe Head School. Her occupations 
at the time she herself describes in a letter to Ellen 
Nussey as " instructing her sisters, drawing, and 
walking on the moors." Charlotte preserved all her 
life a vivid pleasure at receiving new books, and the 
measure of her capacity for appreciating the treasures 
of other minds is revealed in this joy. These verses 
are full of it. Bewick's book on birds meant days 
of happiness in the parsonage. The references to 
Charlotte's days of childhood — expressed in the form 
natural to sixteen who feels already so grown up, are 
interesting as showing that she had bright memories 
as the dominant ones, and the usual blessed faculty 
of remembering best the happiest things. The verses 
do credit to her by their smoothness, and occasionally 
a line or a phrase gives promise of the command of 
language which was to come to her later. 

The verses have never before been printed in a 
book, and are included here by kind permission of 
Mr. Hall, bookseller at Haworth, who copied them 
from the original manuscript. 

83 G 2 


Lines on the Celebrated Bewick, written by Char- 
lotte Bronte in her sixteenth year, just after 
LEAVING Roe Head School. 

The cloud of recent death is past away, 

But yet a shadow lingers o'er his tomb 
To tell that the pale standard of decay 

Is reared triumphant o'er life's sullied bloom. 

But now the eye undimmed by tears may gaze 

On the fair lines his gifted pencil drew, 
The tongue unfalt'ring speak its meed of praise 

When we behold those scenes to Nature true — 

True to the common Nature that we see 

In England's sunny fields, her hills and vales, 

On the wild bosom of her storm-dark sea 
Still heaving to the wind that o'er it wails. 

How many winged inhabitants of air, 

How many plume-clad floaters of the deep. 

The mighty artist drew in forms as fair 
As those that now the skies and waters sweep, 

From the great eagle, with his lightning eye, 
His tyrant glance, his talons dyed in blood, 

To the sweet breather-forth of melody, 
The gentle merry minstrel of the wood. 

Each in his attitude of native grace 

Looks on the gazer life-like, free and bold. 

And if the rocks be his abiding place 

Far off appears the winged marauder's hold. 

But if the little builder rears his nest 

In the still shadow of green tranquil trees. 

And singing sweetly 'mid the silent blest 
Sits a meet emblem of untroubled peace, 

" A change comes o'er the spirit of our dream " — 

Woods wave around in crested majesty, 
We almost feel the joyous sunshine's beam 

And hear the breath of the sweet south go by. 


Our childhood's days return again in thought, 

We wander in a land of love and light, 
And mingled memories, joy — and sorrow — fraught 

Gush on our hearts with overwhelming might. 

Sweet flowers seem gleaming 'mid the tangled grass 
Sparkling with spray drops from the rushing rill, 

And as these fleeting visions fade and pass 

Perchance some pensive tears our eyes may fill. 

These soon are wiped away, again we turn 

With fresh delight to the enchanted page 
Where pictured thoughts that breathe and speak and burn 

Still please alike our youth and riper age. 

There rises some lone rock all wet with surge 
And dashing billows glimmering in the light 

Of a wan moon, whose silent rays emerge 

From clouds that veil their lustre, cold and bright. 

And there 'mongst reeds upon a river's side 
A wild bird sits, and brooding o'er her nest 

Still guards the priceless gems, her joy and pride, 
Now ripening neath her hope-enlivened breast. 

We turn the page, before the expectant eye 
A traveller stands lone on some desert heath, 

The glorious sun is passing from the sky 
While fall his farewell rays on all beneath. 

O'er the far hills a purple veil seems flung, 
Dim herald of the coming shades of night, 

E'en now Diana's lamp aloft is hung, 

Drinking full radiance from the fount of light. 

O, when the solemn wind of midnight sighs, 
Where will the lonely traveller lay his head ? 

Beneath the tester of the star-bright skies 
On the wild moor he'Jl find a dreary bed. 

Now we behold a marble Naiad placed 
Beside a fountain on her sculptured throne, 

Her bending form with simplest beauty graced, 
Her white robes gathered in a snowy zone. 



She from a polished vase pours forth a stream 

Of sparkling water to the waves below 
Which roll in light and music, while the gleam 

Of sunshine flings through shade a golden glow. 

A hundred fairer scenes these leaves reveal, 

But there are tongues that injure while they praise ; 

I cannot speak the rapture that I feel 
When on the work of such a mind I gaze. 

Then farewell, Bewick, genius' favoured son, 
Death's sleep is on thee, all thy woes are past, 

From earth departed, life and labour done, 
Eternal peace and rest are thine at last. 

C. Bronte. 
November 2y thy 1832. 

The author has also had the pleasure of going 
through the letters sent to the trustees by applicants 
for the living of Haworth at the time of Mr. Bronte's 
appointment, through the kindness of Mr. Charles 
Bairstow, of the Manor House, Stanbury, who is con- 
nected with the Taylor family. These Taylors must 
not be confused with the Taylors at Gomersall, who 
were also friends of the Bronte girls, and who are better 
known. The little note of Charlotte's given below was 
written to Mrs. Taylor at Stanbury, the mother of Mary 
Anne and Elizabeth. It owes its preservation, doubt- 
less, to the recipe for chilblains on the back ! It is a 
thin scrap of paper, brown with age, in C.'s fine hand. 

Dear Mrs. Taylor, — I have asked Mr. and Mrs. 
Rand and Mrs. Bacon to take tea with us on Friday 
afternoon — and should be glad if you and Miss 
Taylor would come and meet them. Have the 



goodness to send word by Martha if Friday will be a 
convenient day for you. Yours truly, 

C. Bronte. 

Wednesday morning. 


Salve Spermaceti 

And Sweete Oile 

as a cure for Chilblanes. 

The difficulty of combining pure disinterestedness 
with strong effort to obtain the living on the part of 
the worthy clerics makes this bundle of old letters 
one of the most entertaining possible. One is sure 
that his preaching will be sufficient to make him the 
chosen candidate ; another, presumably less golden- 
tongued in his own estimation, expresses the opinion 
that preaching is of little account in a clergyman's 
work. A certain Mr. Tunnicliffe writes a most 
beautiful copper-plate hand, with masterly flourishes, 
on behalf of his cousin Parkin who was classical 
teacher at the Free School at Bradford, and had 
intended to be a missionary to Canada, since he felt 
the confinement of the school. One wonders if the 
Brontes at Thornton had heard of this good man, and 
if he could have had anything to do with St. John 
Rivvers in Jane Eyre. Then there is a letter from as 
far away as Alfriston, Sussex. The writer, a friend 
of the late incumbent, has heard from him that the 
same view of divine things as he held is likely to be 
acceptable. Another writes as follows : — 

" Since my return I have thought much of 
Haworth. I may say it has been on my mind 



both sleeping and waking. It has been the subject 
of my conversation ; it has been the theme of my 
prayers . . . ." (We cannot follow the reverend 
gentleman through all his metaphors which were not 
all of a " polite nature.") He goes on : " I am assured 
that if I come to Haworth I shall be brought by a 
way that I know not, and led in paths that I have 
not known." 

Mr. Blyth of Long Preston is unaccountably brief. 
He announces that he is coming on the Saturday, to 
take the Sunday duty which was required of all the 
candidates ; and that as two sermons have not been 
mentioned, he will only be prepared with one. 

The most prolific writer of letters and sender of 
testimonials is a certain Mr. Thomas Blackley of 
Rotherham. In one letter he says : " By some means 
it was known, or rather conjectured, for what I went 
from home, and of course numerous regrets on the 
occasion." In another he " longs " for a letter from 
his friendly trustee as to the progress of " our " plans ; 
and he never fails to send kind regards to " your dear 
son." It is surprising that such persistent effort, 
backed so well at Haworth, failed. One shares the 
mortification of Mr. Blackley, the more for those 
numerous regrets ; but no doubt his congregation 

Another gentleman sends no less than two dozen 
sermons, with the remark that the recipient is to use 
his own judgment in lending them to the trustees in 
general or to particular friends ; but in no case are 
they to be copied. He expresses the hope that while 
they will convince his friend that he preaches his own 
sentiments in his own language, he will peruse them 
with forbearance, and receive them in the spirit of 
Christian candour and affection. 



Mr. Bronte, in the course of a mercilessly prosy- 
letter, contrives to refer both to Providence and 
propriety. He informed Mr. Taylor that he was 
educated at Cambridge, "that first of Universities," 
and that he was " a good deal conversant with the 
affairs of mankind." He had been something of a 
gay dog for a curate, as we know, with his Irish 
temperament, and perhaps this hint might have won 
upon the trustees in thinking of the future sermons 
they would have to listen to (George and John 
Taylor of Stanbury were prominent among them) 
to decide for Mr. Bronte, and, though they knew it 
not, for conferring imperishable lustre upon Haworth. 
As a matter of fact, however, the choice of Mr. Bronte 
appears to have been a compromise with the Vicar of 
Bradford. The decision must have been difficult, 
when, according to the modest self-laudations of each, 
the preaching possibilities were so scintillating from 
some dozen other good men who had the welfare of 
Haworth at their heart, and who were all ready to be 
led there by ways that they knew not. 

The following is a quotation from Mr. Bronte's 
sermon at Haworth, to improve the occasion of the 
movement of a bog beyond Stanbury. He alone, it 
seems, attributed it to an earthquake, and he seems to 
have stuck to his own explanation. 

The quotation is taken from A History of Stan- 
bury, by Mr. Joseph Craven. 

The Crow Hill Flood 

** On Tuesday, September 2, 1824, an extra- 
ordinary eruption of the bog at Crow Hill took 
place. The water ran thick under Tonden Bridge 
beyond Stanbury." 



Mr. Bronte improved the occasion in his sermon 
on Sunday, from which the following extract is taken : 

" I would avail myself of the advantages now 
offered for moral and religious improvements by the 
late earthquake and extraordinary disruption which 
lately took place about four miles from this very 
church in which we are assembled. You all know 
that at about 6 o'clock in the afternoon two portions 
of the moors in the neighbourhood sunk several 
yards during a heavy storm of thunder and lightning 
and rain, and there issued forth a mighty volume 
of mud and water, which spread alarm and astonish- 
ment and danger along its course of many miles. 
As the day was exceedingly fine I had sent my little 
children, who were indisposed, accompanied by the 
servants, to take an airing on the common, and as 
they stayed rather longer than I expected I went to 
an upper chamber to look for their return. The 
heavens over the moors were blackening fast ; I 
heard the muttering of distant thunder, and saw the 
frequent flash of the lightning, though ten minutes 
before there was scarcely a breath of air stirring ; 
the gale freshened rapidly and carried along with it 
clouds of dust and stubble, and by this time some 
large drops of rain clearly announced an approaching 
heavy shower. My little family had escaped to a 
place of shelter, but I did not know it. The house 
was perfectly still. Under these circumstances I 
heard a deep distant explosion, and I perceived a 
gentle tremor in the chamber." 

Mr. Bronte perhaps never wrote better. It is a 
fine passage, and would not have disgraced Jane 
Eyre. Maria and Elizabeth had a few weeks before 
been sent to Cowan Bridge School, so the children 
were Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. 



Mr. Bronte also wrote a long piece in rhyming 
couplets called " The Phenomenon of the Extra- 
ordinary Disruption of a Bog," by the Rev. P. Bronte, 
A.B. It begins : 

The glowing East in lovely hues was drest 

And twilight grey had sunk beneath the West ; 

Star after star had vanished from the sight, 

Quench'd in the beams of morning's kindling light. 

The genial sun his blazing orb uprear'd ; 

And fast emerging, his vast orb appear'd 

In all its glory ! Clouds and vapours flew, 

All was gold and deep ethereal blue ; 

The cackling moorcock o'er the common flew ; 

The milkmaid blithe sung o'er her glowing pail, 

The lowing cattle gamboll'd through the vale ; 

and so on, working up in Miltonic vein to all about 
Adam and Eve. 

One deadly tree in Eden only grows ; 
Now every heart its tree of knowledge shews. 
Ten thousand fallen Eves allurements try ; 
Ten thousand Adams daily eat and die. 

After about forty lines of this, we get on to the 

Yet signs there were to philosophic eyes. 
Prognostications sure that storms should rise 
Ere day's dark close. Late in the previous night 
The reeling stars shot down with slanting light 
Or said, or seemed to say to all, " Beware ! " 

The sprightly lark ascending, hailed the morn, 
The linnet caroll'd in the dewy thorn ; 
The blackbird's whistle echoed in the wood. 
The sportive fishes darted through the flood ; 



The scudding hare brushed off the twinkling dew 

Now kawing rooks on rapid pinions move, 
For their loved home, the safe sequestered grove. 
Far inland scream the frightened seagulls loud, 
High the blue heron sails along the cloud. 

This reveals either a strong love of Nature, or a 
study of Bewick ; in any case, it serves to reveal the 
undoubted literary ability of the father of the Brontes. 

The little children gone with the servants through 
the stone stiles and moorland fields that separate the 
Haworth parsonage from the open moor is as clear 
a picture as we can ask. Disruption of a bitterer 
kind was to separate each from each, and finally 
sweep those four little children away, leaving an old 
father in chambers grown very still. 

Finally, through the kindness of Mr. Bairstow, I 
am able to give two letters from Mr. Bronte which 
are of interest, and which have never yet seen the 


October i^h^ 1843. 

Dear Sir, — When you see John Crabtree, you 
will oblige me by desiring Him to pay the debt which 
he owes. Since you and Mrs. Greenwood call'd on 
me, on a particular occasion, I have been particularly, 
and more than ever guarded. Yet notwithstanding 
all I have done, even to the injury of my health, they 
keep propagating false reports — I mean to single out 
one or two of these slanderers, and to prosecute them, 
as the Law directs. I have lately been using a lotion 
for my eyes, which are very weak, and they have 
ascribed the smell of that, to a smell of a more 
exceptionable character. These things are hard, but 



perhaps under Providence, I may live to overcome 
them all. With all our kindest regards to you and 
your Family, I remain, Dear Sir, 

Yours, very truly, 

P. Bronte. 


February 2<^th^ 1844. 

My Dear Sir, — I doubt not you have heard of 
Mr. Enoch Thomas's very severe and great affliction, 
one of the greatest that can fall to our human nature. 
In consequence of this, I requested him to come up 
here, this morning, and when he came, I gave him 
the most consolatory advice within my power. But 
what can console a man under his circumstances .<* I 
am aware that you have kindly sent for him, and 
given him good advice, but I wish you to have a 
tea-party, soon, and to invite him among the number 
of the guests ; his mind which is in a very disordered 
state, should be diverted as much as possible from 
his present way of thinking. He is a good well- 
meaning and honest man, and in many respects unfit 
for his present arduous situation. Yet still his friends 
ought to do for him all that lies within their power. 
I have understood that your son and heir has met 
with an accident. For this I am very sorry and as 
soon as the snow goes away, I shall do myself the 
pleasure of seeing how you all are. As my eyes are 
very weak, I cannot very well go out whilst the snow 
is on the ground. With my kind respects to you, 
Miss Parrot, and your Family, 

I remain, My Dear Sir, 
Yours Most Respectfully and truly, 

P. Bronte. 


The slanders to which he refers are that he was in 
the habit of drinking too much, a tale which Mrs. 
Gaskell had heard, and hints at. 

Mr. Bronte's naive belief in a tea-party as a 
cure for "the greatest affliction that can befal our 
human nature " is very delightful, and sets him in a 
kindly light. This letter should stand beside his own 
account of his watch for the children, if we would get 
at the fresh and feeling nature of the man under those 
formalities of speech and thought and behaviour 
which a divine of the period wore as inevitably and 
more continuously than his linen bands. 

I have seen Stanbury Manor, a pleasant stone 
house on the high street, with a great barn where the 
Bronte children may well have spent many happy 
hours when taking tea with the Taylors. This barn 
now houses the remains of the old three-decker from 
which Patrick Bronte improved the occasion, and 
exhorted the faithful at Haworth. 

Inside the house there are many things with 
which Charlotte was familiar. Especially, a beautiful 
print of the Duke of Wellington, which hangs over 
the chimney-piece in the drawing-room. There is 
a plant which belonged to her, and a horse-hair 
rocking-chair in which she often sat. And upstairs, 
most interesting of all, in one of the bedrooms is 
some fine oak panelling which does not belong in 
its present situation, but was probably once part of a 
shut-in bed. I cannot help thinking that this it is 
that Emily had in mind when she wrote of that 
haunted bed at Wuthering Heights which had the 
books scrawled over with Cathy's name, the bed on 
which Heathcliff died, and at which a ghost came 
crying in the night to the afifrighted Lockwood to 
open the casement and let her in. 

In conclusion, I should like to express my in- 


debtedness (i) to Mr. and Mrs. Bairstow for their 
kindness in giving information about the Taylors of 
Stanbury, and for the opportunity they afforded to 
study the unpublished letters from which I have 
quoted above ; (2) to Mr. Clement Shorter for allow- 
ing me to quote from his book, The Brontes and Their 
Circle ; and (3) to the Rev. W. T. Elliott, for his great 
help in reading the proofs and deleting some of the 
errors of this book. 





Telephone: Regent 2936. 4A^ CORK STREET, 

Telegrams: 'Verbaliser, Reg, London." LONDON, W. 




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Vineleaves : Being some Two Hundred Simple Obser- 
vations on the Laws of Life. By ARTHUR Lewis. 
"These maxims start the mind on very pleasant paths . . . piijiy 
and excellent." — Ot>sen>er. 

Songs of Brittany. By Theodore Botrel (Chan- 
sonnier aux Armees), done into English by G. E. 
Morrison, with Foreward by Edgar Preston. 

"By great good luck he has in Mr. Morrison a translator who 
has put nothing into his thirty translations which is not in the originals 
— anyhow, the sincerity and simplicity of the French have been 
reproduced by some power of psychical mimicry which is quite 
inexplicable. " — Morning Post. 

Calendarium Londinense: or the London Almanack 
for 1916. With a fine etched plate, " The Royal Horse 
Guards," by William Monk, R.E. 15i x Wl. 
2s. 6d. net. 


iondon; printeu by wili.iam clowes and sons, limited. 


A 000 677 020 o