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Full text of "Life and works of Charlotte Brontë and her sisters; an illustrated ed"

CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 




BOUGHT WITH THE INCOME 
OF THE SAGE ENDOWMENT 
FUND GIVEN IN 1891 BY 

HENRY WILLIAMS SAGE 



Cornell University Library 
PR 4165.A2 1887 
V.7 
Life and works of Charlotte Bronte and 




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The original of this book is in 
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THE HAWORTH EDITION 

THE LIFE OF 
CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

By MRS. GASKELL 

WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES 

BY 

CLEMENT K. SHORTER 

ILLUSTRATED 




NBW YORK AND LONDON 

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 

1900 



J"? 6 

v-7 . 

5 



Copyright, 1900, by Clemkht K. Shoktrb. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

Introduction xvii 

A Bronte Chronology xxxv 

CHAPTEE I 

Description of Keighley and its Neighbourhood — Haworth Parson- 
age and Church— Tablets of the Bronte family 1 



CHAPTER II 

Characteristics of Yorkshiremen — Manufactures of the West Rid- 
ing — Descendants of the Puritans— A characteristic incident — 
Former state of the country — Isolated country houses— Two 
Yorkshire squires— Rude sports of the people — Rev. William 
Grimshaw, Curate of Haworth — His opinion and treatment of 
his parishioners — The 'arvill,' or funeral feasts — Haworth Field- 
Kirk — Church riots at Haworth on the appointment of Mr. 
Redhead as Perpetual Curate — Characteristics of the popula- 
tion — Arrival of Mr. Bronte at Haworth 11 



CHAPTER III 

The Rev. Patrick Bronte — His marriage with Miss Branwell of 
Penzance — Social customs in Penzance — The Branwell family 
, — Letters of Miss Bran well to Mr. Bronte — Marriage of Mrs. 
Bronte — Thornton, the birth-place of Charlotte Bronte — Re- 
moval to Haworth — Description of the Parsonage — The people 
of Haworth — The Bronte family at Haworth — Early training 
of the little Brontes — Characteristics of Mr. Bronte — Death of 
Mrs. Bronte — Studies of the Bronte family — Mr. Bronte's ac- 
count of his children 36 



viii LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

CHAPTER IV 

PAGE 

Miss Branwell comes to Haworth — Account of Cowan Bridge 
School, established by the Rev. Cams Wilson— Originals of 
'Miss Scatcherd,' 'Helen Burns,' and 'Miss Temple' — Out- 
break of fever in the school — Characteristics of the Bronte sis- 
ters — Deaths of Maria and Elizabeth Bronte 61 

CHAPTER V 

The old servant Tabby — Patrick Branwell Bronte — Charlotte 
Bronte's catalogue of her juvenile productions, with specimen 
page — Extracts from the introduction to ' Tales of the Islanders ' 
— 'History of the Year 1829' — Charlotte's taste for art — Ex- 
tracts from other early writings in MS. — Charlotte's mental 
tendencies and home duties — A strange occurrence at the Par- 
sonage — A youthful effusion in verse 82 

CHAPTER VI 

Personal description of Charlotte Bronte — Miss W 's school at 

Roe Head — Oakwell Hall and its legends— Charlotte's first ap- 
pearance at school — Her youthful character and political feel- 
ings — School days at Roe Head — Mr. Cartwright and the Lud- 
dites — Mr. Roberson of Heald's Hall — Chapel scenes and other 
characteristics of Heckmondwike and Gomersall 96 

CHAPTER VII 

Charlotte Bronte leaves school, and returns home to instruct her 
sisters — Studies and books at the Parsonage — Visit from a 
school friend — Letters to a friend visiting London for the first 
time — On the choice of books — On dancing — Character and tal- 
ents of Branwell Bronte — Plans for his advancement — Prospect 
of separation 122 

CHAPTER VIII 

Charlotte as teacher at Miss W 's school — Emily's home-sick- 
ness — Letters indicative of Charlotte's despondency and mel- 
ancholy — The sisters at home — Winter evenings at Haworth — 
Charlotte writes to Southey, and Branwell to Wordsworth — 
Branwell's letter and verses — Prospect of losing the society of a 
friend— Charlotte's correspondence with Southey — Letter writ- 



CONTENTS ix 

Page 
ten in a state of despondency — Accident to the old servant, and 
characteristic kindness of the Brontes — Symptoms of illness in 
A.nne Bronte — Charlotte's first proposal of marriage— Charlotte 
and Anne go out as governesses — Charlotte's experience of gov- 
erness life — Advent of the first Curate at Haworth — A second 
proposal of marriage — A visit to the sea-side 142 

CHAPTER IX 

Branwell Bronte still at home — Miss Branwell and her nieces — 
Plan of keeping a school — Charlotte commences her first story 
— The Curates at Haworth — Charlotte's sentiments on mar- 
riage — She seeks and obtains a situation as governess . . . 188 

CHAPTER X 

Second experience of governess life — Project of a school revived, 

and plans for its realisation — Miss W 's offer of her school 

declined — Arrangements for leaving England 206 

CHAPTER XI 

Mr. Bronte accompanies his daughters to Brussels — The Pension- 
nat of Madame Heger, and its inmates — M. Heger's account 
of Charlotte and Emily Bronte — Charlotte's account of the 
school — Her exercises in French composition — Her impres- 
sions of the Belgians — Arrangements of the pensionnat — Char- 
lotte's conduct as English teacher — Loss of a young friend — 
Death of Miss Branwell, and return to Haworth — M. Heger's 
letters to Mr. Bronte 223 

CHAPTER XII 

Charlotte returns to Brussels — Her account of Carnival and Lent 
— Solitariness of the English teacher in the pensionnat — Her 
devoir ' Sur la Mort de Napoleon ' — Depression, loneliness, and 
home-sickness — Estrangement from Madame Heger, and re- 
turn to Haworth — Traits of kindness — Emily and her dog 
' Keeper • 258 

CHAPTER XIII 

Plan of school-keeping revived and abandoned— Deplorable con- 
duct of Branwell Bronte, and its consequences 283 



LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 
CHAPTER XIV 



FAGX 



Publication of the poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell— Corre- 
spondence with the publishers — Letters to Miss W and 

other friends— Letter of advice to a young friend 298 

CHAPTER XV 

Mr. Bronte afflicted with blindness, and relieved by a successful 
operation for cataract — Charlotte Bronte's first work of fiction, 
'The Professor' — She commences 'Jane Eyre' — Circum- 
stances attending its composition — Her ideas of a heroine — 
Her attachment to home — Ha worth in December — A letter of 
confession and counsel 316 

CHAPTER XVI 

State of Charlotte Bronte's health at the commencement of 1847 — 
Family trials—' Wuthering Heights ' and ' Agnes Grey ' accept- 
ed by a publisher — 'The Professor' rejected — Completion of 
' Jane Eyre,' its reception and publication — The reviews of 
'Jane Eyre,' and the author's comments on them — Her father's 
reception of the book — Public interest excited by ' Jane Eyre ' 
— Dedioation of the second edition to Mr. Thackeray — Corre- 
spondence of Currer Bell with Mr. Lewes on 'Jane Eyre' — 
Publication of ' Wuthering Heights' and ' Agnes Grey ' — Miss 
Bronte's account of the authoress of ' Wuthering Heights ' — Do- 
mestic anxieties of the Bronte sisters — Currer Bell's corre- 
spondence with Mr. Lewes — Unhealthy state of Haworth — 
Charlotte Bronte on the revolutions of 1848 — Her repudiation 
of authorship — Anne Bronte's second tale, ' The Tenant of 
Wildfell Hall ' — Misunderstanding as to the individuality of 
the three Bells, and its results — Currer and Acton Bell visit 
London — Charlotte Bronte's account of her visit — The Chapter 
CofEee-House — The Clergy Daughters' School at Casterton — 
Death of Branwell Bronte — Illness and death of Emily 
Bronte 330 

CHAPTER XVII 

The ' Quarterly Review ' on ' Jane Eyre ' — Severe illness of Anne 
Bronte— Her letter and last verses — She is removed to Scar- 
borough — Her last hours, and death and burial there — Char- 
lotte's return to Haworth, and her loneliness ...... 395 



CONTENTS xi 

CHAPTER XVIII 

PASS 

Commencement and completion of 'Shirley' — Originals of the 
characters, and circumstances under which it was written — 
Loss on railway shares — Letters to Mr. Lewes and other friends 
on 'Shirley,' and the reviews of It — Miss Bronte visits London, 
meets Mr. Thackeray, and makes the acquaintance of Miss Mar- 
tineau — Her impressions of literary men 423 

CHAPTER XIX 

'Currer Bell' identified as Miss Bronte at Haworth and the vi- 
cinity — Her letter to Mr. Lewes on his review of ' Shirley ' — Sol- 
itude, heavy mental sadness and anxiety — She visits Sir J. and 
Lady Kay-Shuttleworth — Her comments on critics, and re- 
marks on Thackeray's 'Pendennis' and Scott's 'Suggestions 
on Female Education ' — Opinions of * Shirley ' by Yorkshire 
readers . . . . * 446 

CHAPTER XX 

An unhealthy spring at Haworth — Miss Bronte's proposed visit 
to London — Her remarks on ' The Leader ' — Associations of 
her walks on the moors — Letter to an unknown admirer of her 
works — Incidents of her visit to London — Letter to her servant 
Martha — Impressions of a visit to Scotland — Portrait of Miss 
Bronte, by Richmond — Anxiety about her father 463 

CHAPTER XXI 

Visit to Sir J. and Lady Kay-Shuttleworth — The biographer's im- 
pressions of Miss Bronte — Miss Bronte's account of her visit to 
the lakes of Westmoreland — Her disinclination for acquaint- 
ance and visiting — Remarks on ' Woman's Mission,' Tenny- 
son's 'In Memoriam,' &c. — Impressions of her visit to Scot- 
land — Remarks on a review in the ' Palladium ' 480 

CHAPTER XXII 

Intended republication of ' Wuthering Heights' and 'Agnes Grey' 
—Reaction after her visit to Scotland — Her first meeting with 
Mr. Lewes — Her opinion of Balzac and George Sand — A char- 
acteristic incident — Account of a friendly visit to Haworth 
Parsonage — Remarks on 'The Roman,' by Sydney Dobell, and 
on the character of Dr. Arnold — Letter to Mr. Dobell . . . 492 



xii LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

CHAPTER XXIII 

PAGE 

Miss Bronte's visit to Miss Martineau, and estimate of her hostess 
—Miss Martineau's anecdotes of her guest— Remarks on Miss 
Martineau's new work and Mr. Ruskin's ' Stones of Venice ' — 
Preparations for another visit to London— Letter to Mr. Sydney 
Bobell : the moors in autumn — Mr. Thackeray's second lecture 
at Willis's Rooms, and sensation produced by Currer Bell's 
appearance there — Her account of her visit to London — She 
breakfasts with Mr. Rogers, visits the Great Exhibition, and 
sees Lord Westminster's pictures — Return to Haworth, and 
letter thence — Her comment on Mr. Thackeray's lecture — 
Counsel on development of character 508 

CHAPTER XXIV 

Remarks on friendship — Letter to Mrs. Gaskell on her and Miss 
Martineau's views of the Great Exhibition and Mr. Thack- 
eray's lecture, and on the ' Saint's.Tragedy ' — Miss Bronte's 
feeling towards children — Her comments on an article in the 
' Westminster Review ' on the Emancipation of Women — More 
illness at Haworth Parsonage — Letter on emigration — Periodi- 
cal returns of illness— Miss Bronte's impressions of her visit to 
London — Progress of 'Villette' — Her increasing illness and 
sufferings during winter — Her letter on Mr. Thackeray's 
' Esmond ' — Revival of sorrows and accession of low spirits — 
Remarks on some recent books — Retrospect of the winter of 
1851-2— Letter to Mrs. Gaskell on ' Ruth ' 545 

CHAPTER XXV 

Miss Bronte revisits Scarborough — Serious illness of her father — 
Her own illness—' Villette ' nearly completed — Further remarks 
on ' Esmond ' and ' Uncle Tom's Cabin ' — Letter respecting 
'Villette' — Another letter about 'Villette' — More remarks on 
'Esmond' — Completion of 'Villette' — Instance of extreme 
sensibility 586 

CHAPTER XXVI 

The biographer's difficulty — Deep and enduring attachment of 
Mr. Nicholls for Miss Bronte — Instance of her self-abnegation 
— She again visits London — Impressions of this visit — Letter 
to Mrs, Gaskell — Reception of the critiques on ' Villette '—Cor- 



CONTENTS xiii 

rum 
respondence with Miss Martineau— Letter on Mr. Thackeray's 
portrait— Visit of the Bishop of Ripon to Haworth Parsonage 
— Miss Bronte's wish to see the unfavourable critiques on her 
works — Her nervous shyness of strangers, and its cause— Let- 
ter on Mr. Thackeray's lectures 602 

CHAPTER XXVII 

Letters to Mrs. Gaskell — The biographer's account of her visit to 
Haworth, and reminiscences of conversations with Miss Bronte 
— Letters from Miss Bronte to her friends — Her engagement to 
Mr. Nicholls, and preparations for the marriage — The marriage 
ceremony and wedding tour — Her happiness in the marriage 
state — New symptoms of illness, and their cause — The two 
last letters written by Mrs. Nicholls — An alarming change — 
Her death 625 

CHAPTER XXVIII 

Mourners at the funeral — Conclusion 654 

INDEX 657 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Portrait of Mrs. Gaskell Frontispiece 

Facsimile of the Title-page of the 

First Edition p. xxxvii 

Haworth Old Church as the Bronte 

Family knew It To face p. 8 

The Parsonage at Haworth .... „ 48 

Facsimile Page of MS. of 'The Secret' „ 84 
The Heger ' Pensionnat/ Eue dTsa- 

belle, Brussels : 

Central Avenue of the Garden . „ 228 

The Forbidden Alley „ 248 

Facsimile of a Letter from Charlotte 

Bronte to Mrs. Smith „ 452 

Portrait of the Rev. Patrick Bronte . „ 496 

Portrait of the Eev. A. B. Nicholls . . „ 642 

The following Illustrations are reproduced from photographs 
taken by Mr. W. R. Bland, of Duffield, Derby, in con- 
junction with Mr. C. Barrow Keene, of Derby : 

Distant View of Haworth To face p. 4 

Haworth Village, Main Street ... „ 30 

xv 



xvi LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

House where the Rev. Patrick Bronte 
resided, at hlghtown, when curate 
of Hartshead-cum-Clifton .... To face p. 38 

Roe Head „ 98 

Haworth Moor — The Bronte Bridge . „ 126 

Haworth Moor — Showing Charlotte 

Bronte's Chair „ 336 

Haworth Old Hall „ 456 



INTRODUCTION 



By universal acclamation the biographies of Johnson 
by Bos well and of Scott by Lockhart are accepted as the 
foremost achievements in English literary biography. 
Between these books and all other literary biographies 
in our language there is a great gulf fixed. Johnson's 
biographer had a subject peculiarly imposing. The 
king of later eighteenth-century literature, the oracle 
of his age, the friend of Burke and of Goldsmith must 
of necessity have made a fascinating topic for succeeding 
times. In his biographer also he was fortunate. A 
literary expert, a friend of years, of boundless zeal 
and enthusiasm, and well-nigh limitless indiscretion, 
Boswell alone in his era had the qualifications, as he 
had also the subject-matter for a perfect biography. 
Scarcely less fortunate are Ave in the ' Life of Scott.' 
The greatest figure in our nineteenth - century litera- 
ture — with the possible exception of Byron — Sir "Walter 
Scott was not only its most successful novelist and one 
of its most popular poets, but he had surveyed many 
fields of learning with amazing skill and industry. He 
had been brought into contact with all the notable men 
of his age. The biographer of Napoleon Bonaparte, the 
historian of Scotland, the editor of Swift and' of Dryden 
— scarcely one of his ninety volumes but still survives 



xviii LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

to charm and instruct. Lockhart, the biographer and 
son-in-law of Scott, had also every qualification for the 
task of biographer. His ' Life of Burns ' still remains 
the most readable book on that poet — at least to the 
Southron. His novels, his criticisms, his many forms 
of literary activity had provided the precise equipment 
for an adequate estimate of Sir Walter Scott. Of Byron 
and of Shelley, of Cowper and of Wordsworth we have 
had many biographies, and shall probably have many 
more as new material concerning one or other of these 
writers is brought together by the enthusiast ; but over 
the biographies of Johnson and of Scott the word 
'finality' is written exceeding large. 

With equal confidence may it be asserted that that 
word ' finality ' is applicable to Mrs. Gaskell's ' Life of 
Charlotte Bronte.' There are those among the critical 
writers of to-day to whom the name of Charlotte Bronte 
conveys no magical significance, who have not been 
thrilled, as Thackeray was thrilled in one generation 
and Mr. Swinburne in another, by the extraordinary 
power and genius of the writer, the pathetically dramatic 
career of the woman. With these it may provoke a 
smile that any comparison should be instituted between 
the biography of Charlotte Bronte and the biographies 
of Johnson and of Scott. Her range of ideas was so 
much more limited, her influence so trivial in comparison, 
her work, in quantity at least, so far less significant. 
When this is admitted the fact remains that Charlotte 
Bronte wrote novels which more than forty years after 
her death are eagerly read; novels which have now 
taken an indisputable place as classics, and classics not 
of a type that is limited to a handful of readers, but 



INTRODUCTION xix 

which still sell in countless thousands and in edition 
after edition. 

Whatever may have been the sorrows ot her life 
Charlotte Bronte was so far fortunate in death in that 
her biography was written by the one woman among 
her contemporaries who had the most genuine fitness 
for the task. The result was to solidify the reputation 
of both. Mrs. Gaskell will live not only by a number 
of interesting novels but also by this memoir of her 
friend. Charlotte Bronte would have lived in any case 
by her four powerful stories; but her fame has been 
made thrice secure through the ever popular biography 
of her from the pen of Mrs. Gaskell, of which we have 
here a new edition. 

If it be granted that Mrs. Gaskell's ' Life of Charlotte 
Bronte ' is a classic, it may be urged with pertinence 
that the rough hand of editor or annotator should never 
be placed upon a classic without apology. Justification 
may, however, be found, it is hoped, in the addition of 
new material unknown to the original author. If an 
apology is due it must be rendered first of all to the 
memory of Mrs. Gaskell and afterwards to her surviv- 
ing friends and relatives. The editor has so far recog- 
nised this in that he has aimed at adding no single note 
or line that Mrs. Gaskell, were she still alive, would not, 
he believes, have cordially approved. He would urge 
further that Boswell's 'Johnson' was edited within a 
few years of its author's death, with the result that no 
edition is now published that lacks the notes of Edmund 
Malone. 1 Malone added new letters and new facts, and 

1 Full recognition has never been rendered to Malone's services. 



xx LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

thereby justified himself. "Within a less lengthy period 
than has elapsed since the ' Life of Charlotte Bronte ' 
was first published Boswell was edited— and, as Ma- 
caulay thought, too much edited— by Croker. It is an 
interesting fact, indeed— although it can have no analogy 
in the present case — that Boswell's ' Johnson ' never sold 
in any considerable numbers until Croker had taken it in 
hand. The first editor thought it matter for congratu- 
lation that ' nearly four thousand copies ' had been sold 
in thirteen years from the date of original publication. » 
Mrs. GaskelPs book has not failed of a large sale, and, 
it may be admitted, does very well as it stands. A jus- 
tification for an annotated edition is not, however, diffi- 
cult. Mrs. Gaskell, writing within., a year or two of 
Miss Bronte's death, was compelled to reticences many 
of which have long ceased to have weight. Documents 
were withheld in many quarters which have since been 
handed to the present writer, and a number of Miss 
Bronte's admirers have written books in which they 
have supplemented in one form or another Mrs. Gas- 
kelPs narrative. Here is a list of the books to which I 
wish to acknowledge some indebtedness : — 



Charlotte Bronte : a Monograph. By T. Wemyss Reid. Macmillan 

& Co., 1877. 
A Note on Charlotte Bronte. By Algernon Charles Swinburne. 

Chatto & Windus, 1877. 
Haworth, Past and Present. By J. Horsfall Turner. Brighouse: 

Jowett, 1879. 



Within a few pages he throws light on Johnson's brother, corrects 
Boswell's carelessly picturesque remark that Johnson married a wife 
double Ms age, and moderates the biographer's disposition to toady to 
Lady Macclesfield. 



INTRODUCTION xxi 

4. Pictures of the Past. By Francis H. Grundy. Griffith & Farran, 

1879. 

5. Emily Bronte. By A. Mary F. Robinson. W. H.Allen & Co. ,1883. 

6. The Birthplace of Charlotte Bronte. By William Scruton. Leeds : 

Fletcher, 1884 

7. An Sour with Charlotte Bronte. By Laura C. Holloway. Funk 

& Wagnalls, 1884. 

8. The Bronte Family, with special reference to Patrick Branwell 

Bronte. By Francis A. Leyland. Hurst & Blackett, 1886. 

9. The Life of Charlotte Bronte. By Augustine Birrell, Q.C., M.P. 

Walter Scott, 1887. 

10. Tlie Bronte Country : its Topography, Antiquities, and History. 

By J. A. Erskine Stuart. Longmans, Green, & Co., 1888. 

11. The Literary Shrines of Yorkshire. By J. A. Erskine Stuart. 

Longmans, Green, & Co., 1892. 

12. The Brontes in Ireland. By William Wright, D.D. Hodder & 

Stoughton, 1893. 

13. The Father of the Brontes. By W. W. Yates. Leeds: F. R. Spark 

& Son, 1897. 

14. Brontiana: tlie Ben. Patrick Bronte, A.B., His Collected Works 

and Life. Edited, &c, by J. Horsfall Turner. Bingley • 
T. Harrison & Sons, 1898. 

15. Tlie Bronte Homeland. By J. Ramsden. The Roxburghe Press, 

1898. 

16. Thornton and the Brontes. By William Scruton. Bradford: 

John Dale, 1898. 

17. Ihe Bronte Society Publications. Edited by Butler Wood. Brad- 

ford : M. Field & Sons, 1895-99. 

To each of the above works I am indebted for certain 
facts incorporated in the notes, and I thank their 
authors accordingly. I have also to thank Mr. George 
Smith, of Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co., for kindly plac- 
ing at my disposal a number of hitherto unpublished 
letters by Miss Bronte addressed either to him or to his 
firm. These new letters should alone, I think, give 
special interest to this new edition. Certain brief ex- 
tracts from my own book 1 on the Brontes will also 

1 Charlotte Bronte and her Circle, by Clement K. Shorter (Hodder 
& Stoughton). 



xxii LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

serve, I trust, to fill in sundry gaps in Mrs. Gaskell's 
singularly fascinating story. 

The life of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Charlotte 
Bronte's biographer, has never been written, and the 
world is the poorer by a pleasing picture of womanliness 
and sympathetic charm in the literary life. A brief 
sketch by Professor A. W. Ward in the 'Dictionary 
of National Biography,' an occasional article by an 
admirer in this or that magazine, and now and again 
some more or less biographical ' Introduction ' to one or 
other of her novels — these sources furnish the few items 
of information that the world has been permitted to 
learn of one who must have been a singularly upright 
and noble-minded woman. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell 
was the daughter of William Stevenson. She was born in 
Chelsea on September 29, 181$ and died at Holybourne, 
near Alton, in Hampshire, November 12, 1865. In 1832 
she married the Eev. William Gaskell, a Unitarian 
minister of Manchester, and she had several children. 
This, in as few words as possible, is all that need be 
said here of her private life, apart from its relation to 
Charlotte Bronte. Of her books the first, 'Mary 
Barton,' was published anonymously in 1848, and 
' Wives and Daughters ' was published in book form 
after her death in 1866. In the interval she had writ- 
ten 'Kuth' (1853), 'Cranford' (1853), 'North and 
South' (1855), 'Lizzie Leigh' (1855), 'Sylvia's Lovers' 
(1863), and 'Cousin Phillis' (1865). It is, however, 
with the ' Life of Charlotte Bronte,' written in 1856 and 
published in 1857, that we have here mainly to do. 

Much of the correspondence which gave rise to Mrs. 



INTRODUCTION xxiii 

Gaskell's biography has already been published,' and it 
is therefore scarcely necessary to recapitulate. The 
letter in which Mr. Bronte definitely requested Mrs. 
Gaskell to undertake a biography of his daughter has, 
however, but just been unearthed." It is an interesting 
contribution to the bibliography of the subject. Charlotte 
Bronte had died on the 3rd of the previous March : — 

TO MRS. GASKELL, MANCHESTER. 

Haworth, near Keighley : June 16, 1855. 
My dear Madam, — Finding that a great many scribblers, 
as well as some clever and truthful writers, have published 
articles in newspapers and tracts respecting my dear 
daughter Charlotte since her death, and seeing that many 
things that have been stated are untrue, but more false 
(sic) ; and having reason to think that some may venture 
to write her life who will be ill-qualified for the undertaking, 
I can see no better plan under the circumstances than to 
apply to some established author to write a brief account 
of her life and to make some remarks on her works. 
You seem to me to be the best qualified for doing what I 
wish should be done. If, therefore, you will be so kind as 
to publish a long or short account of her life and works, 
just as you may deem expedient and proper, Mr. Nicholls 
and I will give you such information as you may require. 

I should expect and request that you would affix your 
name, so that the work might obtain a wide circulation 
and be handed down to the latest times. Whatever profits 
might arise from the sale would, of conrse, belong to yon. 
You are . the first to whom I have applied. Mr. Nicholls 
approves of the step I have taken, and could my daughter 



1 In Charlotte Bronte and Tier Circle. 

' The original is in the possession of Mr. George Smith, of Messrs. 
Smith, Elder, & Co. 



xxiv LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

speak from the tomb I feel certain she would land our 
choice. 

Give my respectful regards to Mr. Gaskell and your 
family, and 

Believe me, my dear Madam, 

Yours very respectfully and truly, 

P. Bkoutb. 

Mrs. Gaskell, it is clear, accepted with zest. She had 
admired Charlotte Bronte as a woman as well as a 
novelist. Miss Bronte had been encouraged by her 
letters before the two had met. Here, for example, are 
extracts from letters by Charlotte to her friend Mr. 
Williams : — 

The letter you forwarded this morning was from Mrs. 
Gaskell, authoress of ' Mary Barton ;' she said I was not to 
answer it, but I cannot help doing so. The note brought 
the tears to my eyes. She is a good, she is a great woman. 
Proud am I that I can touch a chord of sympathy in souls so 
noble. In Mrs. Gaskell's nature it mournfully pleases me to 
fancy a remote affinity to my sister Emily. In Miss Mar- 
tineau's mind I have always felt the same, though there 
are wide differences. Both these ladies are above me— 
certainly far my superiors in attainments and experience, 
I think I could look up to them if I knew them. 1 

The note you sent yesterday was from Harriet Martineau ; 
its contents were more than gratifying. I ought to be 
thankful, and I trust I am, for such testimonies of sym- 
pathy from the first order of minds. "When Mrs. Gaskell 
tells me she shall keep my works as a treasure for her 
daughters, and when Harriet Martineau testifies affectionate 
approbation, I feel the sting taken from the strictures of 
another class of critics. My resolution of seclusion with- 
holds me from communicating further with these ladies at 

1 Letter to W. S. Williams dated November 20, 1849. 



1NTK0DUCTI0N xxv 

present, but I now know how they are inclined to me — I 
know how my writings hare affected their wise and pure 
minds. The knowledge is present support and, perhaps, 
may be future armour. 1 

Miss Bronte and Mrs. Gaskell first met at the house 
of a common friend, Sir James Kay -Shuttle worth, the 
Briery, "Windermere, on August 10, 1850. The friend- 
ship then formed was cemented by an exchange of 
visits. Miss Bronte visited Mrs. Gaskell in her Man- 
chester home first in 1851, and afterwards in 1853, and 
in the autumn of 1853 Mrs. Gaskell stayed at the Par- 
sonage at Haworth. Other aspects of their friendship 
are pleasantly treated of in the ' Life.' 

To trace the growth, bibliographically, of Mrs. Gas- 
kell's famous book is an easy task. From the moment 
that she received Mr. Bronte's request the author of 
' Mary Barton ' set to work with enthusiasm. She wrote 
letter after letter to every friend connected with the 
Bronte story — to Mr. George Smith, the publisher, to 
Mr. Smith Williams, that publisher's literary adviser, to 
Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor, Charlotte Bronte's old 
schoolfellows at Koe Head, to Margaret "Wooler, her old 
schoolmistress, and to Laetitia "Wheelwright, the friend 
of her Brussels life. All the correspondence has been 
preserved, and copies of it are in my hands. It relates 
with delightful enthusiasm the writer's experience in 
biography-making. Her visits to Miss Nussey and Miss 
"Wooler secured to her a number of Miss Bronte's letters. 
She thus acknowledges — on Sept. 6, 1856 — those that 
Miss Nussey lent to her : — 

1 Letter to W. S. Williams dated November 29, 1849. 



xxvi LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

I have read once over all the letters you so kindly en- 
trusted me with, and I don't think even you, her most 
cherished friend, could wish the impression on me to he 
different from what it is, that she was one to study the 
path of duty well, and, having ascertained what it was 
right to do, to follow out her idea strictly. They gave me 
a very beautiful idea of her character. I like the one yon 
sent to-day much. I shall be glad to see any others you 
will allow me to see. I am sure the more fully she — Char- 
lotte Bronte — the friend, the daughter, the sister, the wife, 
is known, and known where need be in her own words, the 
more highly will she be appreciated. 

There are many sentences of this character in the cor- 
respondence. She is particularly pleased with the letters 
to Mr. W. Smith "Williams ; ' They are very fine and genial.' 
' Miss Bronte seems heartily at her ease with him,' she 
says to another friend. ' I like the series of letters 
which you have sent better than any others that I have 
seen,' she writes to Mr. Williams, ' the subjects, too, are 
very interesting. How beautifully she speaks, for in- 
stance, of her wanderings on the moors after her sister's 
death.' 

But Mrs. Gaskell's energy did not confine itself to 
obtaining correspondence. She went to Ha worth again 
and again, staying at the ' Black Bull ' with her hus- 
band. She visited the Chapter Coffee -House in Pater- 
noster Bow, ' where Charlotte and Anne Bronte took 
up their abode on that first hurried rush to London.' ' 
She went to Brussels and had a prolonged conversation 
with M. Heger ' and very much indeed I both like and 
respect him.' Never surely was a more conscientious 

1 The Chapter Coffee-House was destroyed a few months after Mrs. 
Gaskell's visit. 



INTRODUCTION xxvii 

effort to produce a biography in which thoroughness 
and accuracy should have a part with good writing and 
sympathetic interpretation. 

At first, indeed, it seemed as if a perfect success 
crowned Mrs. Gaskell's efforts. The book was published 
in two volumes, under the title of the ' Life of Charlotte 
Bronte,' in the spring of 1857. It went into a second 
edition immediately, .the addition of a single foot note 
concerning ' Tabby ' being the only variation between 
the two issues. Not only the public but the intimate 
relations and friends appeared to be satisfied. Mr. 
Bronte wrote the following letter to Mr. George Smith, 
of Smith, Elder, & Co. :— 

TO GEORGE SMITH, ESQ., CORNHILL, LONDON. 

Ha worth, near Keighley : March 30, 1857. 
Dear Sir, — I thank you and Mrs. Gaskell for the bio- 
graphical books you have sent me. I have read them with 
a high degree of melancholy interest, and consider them 
amongst the ablest, most interesting, and best works of the 
kind. Mrs. Gaskell, though moving in what was to her a 
new line — a somewhat critical matter — has done herself 
great credit by this biographical work, which I doubt not 
will place her higher in literary fame even than she stood 
before. Notwithstanding that I have formed my own 
opinion, from which the critics cannot shake me, I am cu- 
rious to know what they may say. I will thank you, there- 
fore, to send me two or three newspapers containing criti- 
cisms on the biography, and I will remit the price of them 
to you in letter stamps. 

I remain, dear Sir, yours respectfully and truly, 

P. BrontE. 

And to the author of the book he wrote with even 
stronger expressions of satisfaction— 



xxviii LIFE OF CHAKLOTTE BRONTE 

TO MES. GASKELL, MANCHESTEE. 

Haworth, near Keighley : April 3, 1857. 
My dear Madam, — I thank you for the books you have 
sent me containing the Memoir of my daughter. I have 
perused them with a degree of pleasure and pain which 
can be known only to myself. As you will have the opin- 
ion of abler critics than myself I shall not say much in the 
way of criticism. I shall only make a few remarks in uni- 
son with the feelings of my heart. With a tenacity of 
purpose usual with me, in all cases of importance, I was 
fully determined that the biography of my daughter 
should, if possible, be written by one not unworthy of the 
undertaking. My mind first turned to you, and you kind- 
ly acceded to my wishes. Had you refused I would have 
applied to the next best, and so on ; and had all applica- 
tions failed, as the last resource, though above eighty years 
of age and feeble, and unfit for the task, I would myself 
have written a short though inadequate memoir, rather 
than have left all to selfish, hostile, or ignorant scribblers. 
But the work is now done, and done rightly, as I wished it 
to be, and in its completion has afforded me more satis- 
faction than I have felt during many years of a life in 
which has been exemplified the saying that ' man is born to 
trouble, as the sparks fly upwards.' You have not only given 
a picture of my dear daughter Charlotte, but of my dear 
wife, and all my dear children, and such a picture, too, as 
is full of truth and life. The picture of my brilliant and 
unhappy son is a masterpiece. Indeed, all the pictures in 
the work have vigorous, truthful, and delicate touches in 
them, which could have been executed only by a skilful fe- 
male hand. There are a few trifling mistakes, which, 
should it be deemed necessary, may be corrected in the 
second edition. Mr. Nicholls joins me in kind and respect- 
ful regards to you, Mr. G-askell, and your family, wishing 
your greatest good in both the words. 
I remain, my dear Madam, 

Yours respectfully and truly, P. Bronte. 



INTRODUCTION xxix 

Miss Mary Taylor acknowledged the book from her 
home in New Zealand as follows : — 

TO MRS. GASKELL, MANCHESTER. 

Wellington : July 30, 1857. 

My dear Mrs. Gaskell, — I am unaccountably in receipt 
by post of two volumes containing the Life of C. Bronte. 
I have pleasure in attributing this compliment to you ; I 
beg, therefore, to thank you for them. The book is a per- 
fect success, in giving a true picture of a melancholy life, 
and you have practically answered my puzzle as to how you 
would give an account of her, not being at liberty to give a 
true description of those around. Though not so gloomy 
as the truth, it is perhaps as much so as people will accept 
without calling it exaggerated, and feeling the desire to 
doubt and contradict it. I have seen two reviews of it. One 
of them sums it up as 'a life of poverty and self -suppres- 
sion,' the other has nothing to the purpose at all. Neither 
of them seems to think it a strange or wrong state of things 
that a woman of first-rate talents, industry, and integrity 
should live all her life in a walking nightmare of 'poverty 
and self-suppression.' I doubt whether any of them will. 

It must upset most people's notions of beauty to be told 
that the portrait at the beginning is that of an ugly woman. 
I do not altogether like the idea of publishing a flattered 
likeness. I had rather the mouth and eyes had been nearer 
together, and shown the veritable square face and large, 
disproportionate nose. 

I had the impression that Cartwright's mill was burnt in 
1820, not in 1812. You give much too favourable an account 
of the black-coated and Tory savages that kept the people 
down and provoked excesses in those days. Old Eoberson 
said he ' would wade to the knees in blood rather than the 
then state of things should be altered ' — a state including 
Corn law, Test law, and a host at other oppressions. 

Once more I thank you for the book — the first copy, I 
believe, that arrived in New Zealand. 

Sincerely yours, Mart Taylor. 



xxx LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' All the notices that I have seen have been favour- 
able,' wrote Mrs. Gaskell to a friend on April 15, 1857, 
'and some of the last exceedingly so. I have had a con- 
siderable number of letters, too, from distinguished men, 
expressing high approval. 1 Mr. Bronte, too, I am happy 
to say, is pleased.' 

But within a few weeks Mrs. Gaskell found herself in 
a veritable ' hornets' nest ' — as she expressed it. She 
visited Italy the moment her task was completed, and 
during April and May of the year 1857 her publishers 
had to bear the brunt of a considerable number of law- 
yers' letters. Mr. Carus "Wilson commenced an action 
about the Cowan Bridge School ; Miss Martineau wrote 
sheet after sheet regarding the misunderstanding be- 

1 A letter from Charles Kingsley to Mrs. Gaskell is published in his 
Life by Mrs. Kingsley : — 

' Let me renew our long interrupted acquaintance,' he writes from 
St. Leonards, under date May 14, 1857, 'by complimenting you on 
poor Miss BrontB's Life. You have had a delicate and a great work 
to do, and you have done it admirably. Be sure that the book will do 
good. It will shame literary people into some stronger belief that a 
simple, virtuous, practical home life is consistent with high imagina- 
tive genius ; and it will shame, too, the prudery of a not over cleanly 
though carefully white- washed age, into believing that purity is now 
(as in all ages till now) quite compatible with the knowledge of evil. 
I confess that the book has made me ashamed of myself. Jane Eyre I 
hardly looked into, very seldom reading a work of fiction — yours, 
indeed, and Thackeray's are the only ones I care to open. Shirley dis- 
gusted me at the opening, and I gave up the writer and her books witti 
a notion that she was a person who liked coarseness. How I mis- 
judged her 1 and how thankful I am that I never put a word of my 
misconceptions into print, or recorded my misjudgments of one who 
is a whole heaven above me. 

' Well have you done your work, and given us the picture of a 
valiant woman made perfect by suffering. I shall now read carefully 
and lovingly every word she has written, especially those poems, which 
ought not to have fallen dead as they did, and which seem to be (from 
a review in the current Fraser) of remarkable strength and purity. 



INTRODUCTION xxxi 

tween her and Miss Bronte. A Lady Scott (Mrs. Eob- 
inson, of Thorp Green), whose name had been unpleas- 
antly associated with Branwell Bronte on the strength 
of statements in his sisters' letters, wrote through her 
lawyer demanding an apology. The last scandal is dis- 
cussed at length in Miss Mary F. Eobinson's ' Emily 
Bronte,' Mr. Leyland's ' Bronte Family,' and in ' Char- 
lotte Bronte and Her Circle.' It need not be further 
-referred to here, as the modification that its correction 
necessitated in the third edition of the ' Memoir ' in no 
way impaired, but indeed materially improved, the artis- 
tic value of the book. A comparison of the third edition 
with its predecessors, while it reveals on the one side 
omissions amounting to a couple of pages, shows also 
the addition of new letters and of much fresh informa- 
tion. The present publishers have felt, in any case, that 
having once withdrawn the earlier issues of the book as 
containing statements considered to be libellous, they 
could not be responsible for a republication of those state- 
ments. This edition is, therefore, an exact reproduction 
of the third edition, the only changes being the substi- 
tution of the name Ellen for the initial ' E.,' and of ' Miss 
"Wooler' for 'Miss "W.,' changes which, although trifling, 
will, it is believed, save the reader some irritation. In 
the few cases of necessary verification in which a name 
has been added in the text it is placed in brackets. The 
notes, which the Editor has endeavoured to make as few 
as possible, are so printed that they- can be completely 
ignored when desired. C 

Two hitherto unpublished letters of Mr. Bronte's 
fittingly close the correspondence to which Mrs. Gas- 
kell's ' Memoir ' gave rise. 



xxxii LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

TO GEOEGE SMITH, ESQ., 65 COENHILL, LONDON. 

Haworth, near Keighley : Sept. 4, 1857. 
My dear Sir, — I thank you for the books which I have 
just received ; Mr. Nicholls also sends his thanks for those 
you have given to him. As far as I have gone through the 
third edition of the ' Memoir' I am much pleased with it. 
I hope it will give general satisfaction. Should you see 
any reviews worth notice be so kind as to let me have 
them, as I am rather anxious to know what the sage critics 
may deem it expedient in their wisdom to say. I hope that 
by this time Mrs. Smith has fully recovered her health. 
Your anxiety on her account must be very great. Mr. 
Nicholls joins me in kind and respectful regards. 

Yours very respectfully and truly, 
P. Bronte. 

TO GEORGE SMITH, ESQ., 65 CORNHILL, LONDON. 

Haworth, near Keighley : March 26, 1860. 
My dear Sir, — Though writing is to me now something 
of a task I cannot avoid sending you a few lines to thank 
you for sending me the magazines, and for your gentle- 
manly conduct towards my daughter Charlotte in all your 
transactions with her, from first to last. All the numbers 
of the magazines were good ; the last especially attracted 
my attention and excited my admiration. The 'Last 
Sketch ' took full possession of my mind. Mr. Thackeray 
in his remarks in it has excelled even himself. He has 
written, Multum in parvo, dignissima cedro. And what 
he has written does honour both to his head and heart. 
Thank him kindly both in Mr. Nicholls's name and mine. 
Amongst the various articles that have been written in ref- 
erence to my family and me it has pleased some of the 
writers, for want of more important matter, to set up an 
ideal target for me as a mark to shoot at. In their prac- 
tice a few have drawn the long bow with a vengeance, and 



INTRODUCTION xxxiii 

made declensions very ridiculously wide ; others have used 
the surer rifle and come nearer the mark ; but all have 
proved that there is still space left for improvement, both 
in theory and practice. Had I but half Mr. Thackeray's 
talents in giving a photograph likeness of human nature I 
might have selected and might yet select a choice number 
of these practising volunteers, and, whether they liked it 
or not, give their portraits to the curious public. If organ- 
less spirits see as we see, and feel as we feel, in this ma- 
terial clogging world, my daughter Charlotte's spirit will 
receive additional happiness on scanning the remarks of 
her Ancient Favourite. In the last letter I received from 
you you mentioned that Mrs. Smith was in delicate health ; 
I hope that she is now well. I need scarcely request you 
to excuse all faults in this hasty scrawl, since a man in 
his eighty - fourth year generally lets his age plead his 
apology. 

I remain, my dear Sir, 

Yours very respectfully and truly, 

P. Bronte. 



' I did so long to tell the truth,' writes Mrs. Gaskell to 
a friend on her return from Home, ' and I believe now 
that I hit as near the truth as any one could. I weighed 
every line with my whole power and heart, so that 
every line should go to its great purpose of making her 
known and valued as one who had gone through such 
a terrible life with a brave and faithful heart. One 
comfort is that God knows the truth.' 

Clement K. Shoetee. 

March 19, 1900. 

I have to thank Mr. J. J. Stead, of Heckmondwike, 
Yorkshire, and Mr. Butler Wood, of the Free Library, 



xxxiv LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Bradford, for valuable suggestions. I am grateful to Mr. 
Eogbe Ingpbn for giving the book an index for the first 
time, and thereby saving me from the anathema which 
has been passed upon unindexed books. I have, above 
all, to express my obligations to the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, 
Charlotte Bronte's husband, for kind and generous as- 
sistance in this as in my previous attempt to throw new 
light upon his wife's career. 



A BRONTE CHRONOLOGY 

Patrick Bronte born March 17, 1777 

Maria Bronte born 1783 

Patrick leaves Ireland for Cambridge 1802 

Degree of A.B 1806 

Curacy at Wethersfleld, Essex 1806 

Wellington, Salop 1809 

" Dewsbury, Yorks 1809 

" Hartsbead-cum-Clifton 1811 

Publishes 'Cottage Poems' (Halifax) 1811 

Married to Maria Branwell December 29, 1812 

"JTirst Child, Maria, born 1813 

Publishes ' The Rural Minstrel ' 1813 

-Elizabeth born 1814 

Publishes the 'Cottage in the Wood' 1815 

Curacy at Thornton 1816 

- Charlotte Bronte born at Thornton .... April 21, 1816 
Patrick Branwell Bronte born 1817 

-Emily Jane Bronte born July 30, 1818 

' The Maid of Killarney ' published 1818 

-"Anne Bronte\born January 17, 1820 

Removal to Incumbency of Haworth . . . February 1820 

Mrs. Bronte died September 15, 1821 

Maria and Elizabeth Bronte at Cowan Bridge . . . July 1824 
Charlotte and Emily " " , . September 1824 

Leave Cowan Bridge 1825 

Maria Bronte died May 6, 1825 

Elizabeth Bronte died June 15, 1825 

Charlotte Bronte at School, Roe Head. . . . January 1831 

Leaves Roe Head School 1832 

First Visit to Ellen Nussey at The Rydings . . September 1832 
Returns to Roe Head as governess .... July 29, 1835 

Branwell visits London i 1835 

Emily spends three months at Roe Head, when Anne takes her 

place and she returns home 1835 



xxxvi LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Miss Wooler's School removed to Dewsbury Moor . . . 1836 
Emily at a School at Halifax for six months (Miss Patchett of 

Law Hill) 1836 

First Proposal of Marriage (Henry Nussey) . . March 1839 
Anne Bronte becomes governess at Blake Hall, Mrs. Ing- 
ham's April 1839 

Charlotte governess at Mrs. Sidgwick's at Stonegappe, and 

at Swarcliffe, Harrogate 1839 

Second Proposal of Marriage (Mr. Bryce) 1839 

Charlotte and Emily at Haworth, Anne at Blake Hall . . 1840 
Charlotte's second situation as governess with Mrs. White, 

Upperwood House, Rawdon .... March 1841 



February 1842 

October 29, 1842 

November 1842 

January 1843 

January 1844 

. 1845 

. 1845 

. 1845 



Charlotte and Emily go to School at Brussels 

Miss Branwell died at Haworth . 

Charlotte and Emily return to Haworth 

Charlotte returns to Brussels 

Returns to Haworth .... 

Anne and Branwell at Thorp Green . 

Charlotte visits Mary Taylor at Hunsworth 

Visits Ellen Nussey at Brookroyd 

Publication of Poems by Gurrer, Ellis, and Acton Bell . . 1846 

Charlotte Bronte visits Manchester with her Father for him to 

see an Oculist August 1846 

'Jane Eyre' published (Smith, Elder & Co.) . . October 1847 
' Wuthering Heights ' and ' Agnes Grey ' (Newby) . December 1847 

Charlotte and Anne visit London June 1848 

' Tenant of Wildfell Hall' 1848 

Branwell died ....... September 24, 1848 

Emily died December 19, 1848 

Anne Bronte died at Scarborough .... May 28, 1849 

'Shirley' published 1849 

Visit to London, first meeting with Thackeray . . November 1849 
Visit to London, sits for Portrait to Richmond .... 1850 
Third Proposal of Marriage (James Taylor) .... 1851 

Visit to London for Exhibition . 1851 

' Villette ' published 1853 

Visit to London 1853 

Visit to Manchester to Mrs. Gaskell 1853 

Marriage June 29, 1854 

Death March 31, 1855 

Patrick Bronte died June 7, 1861 



Facsimile of the Title-page of the First Edition 

THE LIFE 



OT 



CHARLOTTE BRONTE, 



AUTHOR OF 



-JANE EYRE," "SHIELEY," « VTLLETTE," fta 



BY 

E. C. GASKELL, 

AUTHOR OP " MART BARTON," " BUTH," &C, 



' Ob my God, 
■ Thou hast knowledge, only Thou, 



How dreary 'tis for women to sit still 

On winter nights by solitary fires 

And hear the nations praising them tor off." 

AoRoa* Lean, 



IN TWO VOLUMEa 
VOL. L 



LONDON: 

SMITH, ELDER & CO., 65, CORNHILL. 

1857. 
[ Tht right of Translation is reserved.] 



LIFE 

OF 

CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

CHAPTER I 

The Leeds and Skipton railway runs along a deep valley 
of the Aire ; a slow and sluggish stream, compared with 
the neighbouring river of Wharfe. Keighley station is on 
this line of railway, about a quarter of a mile from the 
town of the same name. The number of inhabitants and 
the importance of Keighley have been very greatly in- 
creased during the last twenty years, owing to the rapidly 
extended market for worsted manufactures, a branch of 
industry that mainly employs the factory population of 
this part of Yorkshire, which has Bradford for its centre 
and metropolis. 

Keighley 1 is in process of transformation from a popu- 
lous old-fashioned village into a still more populous and 

'The population of Keighley was 13,378 in 1841, 21,859 in 1861, 
and 30,810 in 1891. Keighley is now a borough and is growing very 
rapidly. The old narrow streets have disappeared to a far greater ex- 
tent than at the time when Mrs. Gaskell visited the town. Keighley 
at present boasts many wide and handsome thoroughfares. There are 
several extensive machine works and two public parks. A large 
educational institute has grown out of the old Mechanics' Institute, 
from which the Brontes were accustomed to borrow books. The sta- 
tion is no longer 'about a quarter of a mile from the town,' the inter- 
vening space being now covered with houses. 
1 



2 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

flourishing town. It is evident to the stranger that, as the 
gable-ended houses, which obtrude themselves corner-wise 
on the widening streets, fall vacant, they are pulled down 
to allow of greater space for traffic and a more modern style 
of architecture. The quaint and narrow shop-windows of 
fifty years ago are giving way to large panes and plate-glass. 
Nearly every dwelling seems devoted to some branch of 
commerce. In passing hastily through the town, one hard- 
ly perceives where the necessary lawyer and doctor can live, 
so little appearance is there of any dwellings of the pro- 
fessional middle-class, such as abound in our old cathedral , 
towns. In fact, nothing can be more opposed than the 
state of society, the modes of thinking, the standards of 
reference on all points of morality, manners, and even poli- 
tics and religion, in such a new manufacturing place as 
Keighley in the north, and any stately, sleepy, picturesque 
cathedral town in the south. Yet the aspect of Keighley 
promises well for future stateliness, if not picturesqueness. 
Grey stone abounds, and the rows of houses built of it have 
a kind of solid grandeur connected with their uniform and 
enduring lines. The framework of the doors and the lin- 
tels of the windows, even in the smallest dwellings, are 
made of blocks of stone. There is no painted wood to re- 
quire continual beautifying, or else present a shabby aspect; 
and the stone is kept scrupulously clean by the notable 
Yorkshire housewives. Such glimpses into the interior as a 
passer-by obtains reveal a rough abundance of the means of 
living, and diligent and active habits in the women. But 
the voices of the people are hard, and their tones discordant, -f 
promising little of the musical taste that distinguishes the 
district, and which has already furnished a Carrodus ' to the 
musical world. The names over the shops (of which the 
one just given is a sample) seem strange even to an inhab- 
itant of the neighbouring county, and have a peculiar 
smack and flavour of the place. 

'John Tiplady Carrodus (1836-95), a famous violinist, born at 
Braithwaite, near Keighley. 



KEIGHLEY AND HA WORTH 3 

The town of Keighley never quite melts into country on 
the road to Haworth, although the houses become more 
sparse as the traveller journeys upwards to the grey round 
hills that seem to bound his journey in a westerly direction. 
First come some villas, just sufficiently retired from the 
road to show that they can scarcely belong to any one liable 
to be summoned in a hurry, at the call of suffering or dan- 
ger, from his comfortable fireside ; the lawyer, the doctor, 
and the clergyman live at hand, and hardly in the suburbs, 
with a screen of shrubs for concealment. 

In a town one does not look for vivid colouring ; what 
there may be of this is furnished by the wares in the shops, 
not by foliage or atmospheric effects ; but in the country 
some brilliancy and vividness seems to be instinctively ex- 
pected, and there is consequently a slight feeling of disap- 
pointment at the grey natural tint of every object, near or 
far off, on the way from Keighley to Ha worth. The distance 
: is about four miles ; and, as I have said, what with villas, 
great worsted factories, rows of workmen's houses, with 
'here and there an old-fashioned farmhouse and outbuild- 
ings, it can hardly be called ' country' any part of the way. 
'For two miles the road passes over tolerably level ground ; 
distant hills on the left, a ' beck' flowing through meadows 
on the right, and furnishing water power, at certain points, 
to the factories built on its banks. The air is dim and 
lightless with the smoke from all these habitations and 
places of business. The soil in the valley (or ' bottom,' to 
use the local term) is rich ; but as the road begins to ascend 
the vegetation becomes poorer ; it does not flourish, it 
merely exists ; and instead of trees there are only bushes 
'and shrubs about the dwellings. Stone dykes are every- 
where used in place of hedges ; and what crops there are, 
on the patches of arable land, consist of pale, hungry-look- 
ing, grey -green oats. Right before the traveller on this 
road rises Haworth village ; l he can see it for two miles be- 

l ' Haworth had a population of 6,303 in 1841. It had declined to 
>,896 in 1861, but contained a population of 8,023 in 1891. 



4 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

fore he arrives, for it is situated on the side of a pretty steep 
hill, with a background of dun and purple moors, rising and 
sweeping away yet higher than the church, which is built at 
the very summit of the long narrow street. All round the 
horizon there is this same line of sinuous wave-like hills, 
the scoops into which they fall only revealing other hills 
beyond, of similar colour and shape, crowned with wild 
bleak moors — grand from the ideas of solitude and loneli- 
ness which they suggest, or oppressive' from the feeling 
which they give of being pent up by some monotonous and 
illimitable barrier, according to the mood of mind in which 
the spectator may be. 

For a short distance the road appears to turn away from 
Haworth, as it winds round the base of the shoulder of a 
hill ; but then it crosses a bridge over the ' beck,' and the 
ascent through the village begins. The flagstones with 
which it is paved are placed endways, in order to give a 
better hold to the horses' feet ; and even with this help they 
seem to be in constant danger of slipping backwards. The 
old stone houses are high compared with the width of the\ 
street, which makes an abrupt turn before reaching the 
more level ground at the head of the village, so that the 
steep aspect of the place, in one part, is almost like that of 
a wall. But this surmounted, the church lies a little off 
the main road on the left ; a hundred yards or so and the 
driver relaxes his care, and the horse breathes more easily, 
as they pass into the quiet little by-street that leads to Ha- 
worth Parsonage. The churchyard is on one side of this 
lane, the schoolhouse and the sexton's dwelling' (where the 
curates formerly lodged) on the other.. 

The parsonage stands at right angles to the road, facing 
down upon the church ; so that, in fact, parsonage, chnieh, 
and belfried schoolhouse form three sides of an irregnlar 
oblong, of which the fourth is open to the fields and moors 
that lie beyond. The area of this oblong is filled up by a 
crowded churchyard, and a small garden, or court in front 
of the clergyman's house. As the entrance to this from the 



HAWORTH PARSONAGE AND CHURCH 5 

road is at the side, the path goes round the corner into the 
little plot of ground. Underneath the windows is a narrow 
flower-border, carefully tended in days of yore, although 
only the most hardy plants could be made to grow there. 
"Within the stone wall, which keeps out the surrounding 
churchyard, are bushes of elder and lilac ; the rest of the 
ground is occupied by a square grass - plot and a gravel 
walk. The house is of grey stone, two stories high, heav- 
ily roofed with flags, in order to resist the winds that might 
strip off a lighter covering. It appears to have been built 
about a hundred years ago, and to consist of four rooms on 
each story ; the two windows on the right (as the visitor 
stands with his back to the church, ready to enter in at the 
front door) belonging to Mr. Bronte's study, the two on the 
left to the family sitting-room. Everything about the place 
tells of the most dainty order, the most exquisite cleanli- 
ness. The doorsteps are spotless ; the small old-fashioned 
window-panes glitter like looking-glass. Inside and outside 
of that house cleanliness goes up into its essence, purity. 1 

The church lies, as I mentioned, above most of the 
houses in the village ; and the graveyard rises above the 
church, and is terribly full of upright tombstones. The 
chapel or church claims greater antiquity than any other in 
that part of the kingdom ; but there is no appearance of 
this in the external aspect of the present edifice, unless it 

1 An entirely different aspect is afforded to-day. Trees have been 
planted, much money has been spent in careful gardening, and a 
large dining-room, extending from back to front, has been built in the 
side of the house nearest the road. There was a gateway, now bricked 
up, but traceable at the end of the garden, from which the churchyard 
could be entered, but this gateway was only opened for the carrying 
out of the dead. It was opened for Mrs. Bronte, Miss Branwell, 
Patrick, Emily, Charlotte, and their father successively. 

The incumbency of Haworth, after Mr. Bronte's death in 1861, 
passed to the Rev. John Wade, who occupied the parsonage until 
1898, when he resigned and was succeeded by the Rev. T. W. Storey, 
who up to that time had been senior curate of the Bradford Parish 
Church. 



6 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

be in the two eastern windows, which remain unmodern- 
ised, and in the lower part of the steeple. Inside, the 
character of the pillars shows that they were constructed 
before the reign" of Henry VII. It is probable that there 
existed on this ground a ' field-kirk,' or oratory, in the ear- 
liest times ; and, from the Archbishop's registry at York, it 
is ascertained that there was a chapel at Haworth in 1317. 
The inhabitants refer inquirers concerning the date to the 
following inscription on a stone in the church tower : — 

' Hie fecit Csenobium Monachorum Auteste fundator. A.D. sexcen- 
tissimo.' 

That is to say, before the preaching of Christianity in 
Northumbria. Whitaker says that this mistake originated 
in the illiterate copying out, by some modern stonecutter, 
of an inscription in the character of Henry VIII. 's time on 
an adjoining stone : — 

' Orate pro bono statu Eutest Tod.' 

'Now every antiquary knows that the formula of prayer "bono 
statu " always refers to the living. I suspect this singular Christian 
name has been mistaken by the stone-cutter for Austet, a contraction 
of Eustatius, but the word Tod, which has been mis -read for the 
Arabic figures 600, is perfectly fair and legible. On the presumption 
of this foolish claim to antiquity, the people would needs set up for 
independence, and contest the right of the Vicar of Bradford to nomi- 
nate a curate at Haworth.' 

I have given this extract in order to explain the imagi- 
nary groundwork of a commotion which took place in 
Haworth about five-and-thirty years ago, to which I shall 
have occasion to allude again more particularly. 

The interior of the church is commonplace ; * it is neither 

1 The church as the Brontes knew it dated only from 1755, when it 
was built by the Rev. William Grimshaw, who also built a now de- 
molished Wesleyan chapel at Haworth. In 1879 a certain Michael 
Merrell offered five thousand pounds towards the rebuilding of the 
church, it having been urged that the accommodation was insufficient 
for the would-be worshippers. The offer was too tempting for the 
then incumbent, Mr. Wade, to resist. Bronte enthusiasts were volu- 



TABLETS OF THE BRONTE FAMILY 1 

old enough nor modern enough to compel notice. The 
pews are of black oak, with high divisions ; and the names 
of those to whom they belong are painted in white letters 
on the doors. There are neither brasses, nor altar-tombs, 
nor monuments, but there is a mural tablet 1 on the right- 
hand side of the Communion table, bearing the following 
inscription : — 

herb - 

lie the remains of 
MARIA BRONTE, WIFE 

OF THE 

REV. P. BRONTE, A.B., MINISTER OF HA WORTH. 

HER SOUL 

DEPARTED TO THE SAVIOUR, SEPT. 15TH, 1821, 

IN THE 39TH TEAR OF HER AGE. 

' Be ye also ready : for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of 
Man cometh.' — Matthew xxiv. 44. 

ble, but they did not answer the incumbent's challenge that they 
should first raise money and then make a counter-proposal. Articles 
and letters of protest appeared in the London Standard (throughout 
April 1879) and in the Leeds Mercury (April 3, April 80, June 20, 1879); 
and a public meeting was held at Haworth, at which a resolution 
condemning the proposed destruction of the church was carried by a 
large majority. The advocates of demolition triumphed, however. 
The Consistory Court for the Diocese of Ripon, with which the ulti- 
mate decision lay, decided for rebuilding, and what might have been 
to-day a pathetic memorial of a remarkable family was doomed to de- 
struction. It would have been easy to find a fresh site for a new 
church, and to retain the old one, as has been done at Shaftesbury 
and in many other English towns, but the church in which Mr. Bronte 
preached and his daughters worshipped for so many years has been 
entirely destroyed. The tower — the only genuinely old portion of 
the structure — was preserved. The closing services at Haworth Old 
Church took place on September 14, 1879, and the new church was 
consecrated on February 22, 1881. 

1 The mural tablet here referred to was probably broken up at the 
time of the destruction of the old church. Sundry pew doors, lamp 
brackets, and other mementos of the old church, after having been 
long in the possession of » dealer, were disposed of by auction at 
Sotheby's sale rooms in London on July 2, 1898. 



8 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ALSO HERB LIB THE REMAINS OF 

MARIA BRONTE, DAUGHTER OP THE AFORESAID; 

SHE DIED ON THE 

6TH OF MAT, 1826, IN THE 12TH YEAR OF HER AGE ; 

AND OF 

ELIZABETH BRONTE, HER SISTER, 

WHO DIED JUNE 15TH, 1826, IN THE 11TH YEAR OF HER AGE. 

' Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as lit- 
tle children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.'— Mat- 
thew xviii. 3. 

HERE ALSO LIB THE REMAINS OF 

PATRICK BRANWELL BRONTE, 

WHO DIED SEPT. 24TH, 1848, AGED 30 YEARS ; 
AND OF 

EMILY JANE BRONTE, 

WHO DIED DEC. 19TH, 1848, AGED 29 YEARS, 

SON AND DAUGHTER OF THE 

REV. P. BRONTE, INCUMBENT. 

THIS STONE IS ALSO DEDICATED TO THE 

MEMORY OF ANNE BRONTE, 1 

YOUNGEST DAUGHTER OF THE REV. P. BRONTE, A.B. : ,i 

SHE DIED, AGED 27 YEARS, MAY 28TH, 1849, 
AND WAS BURIED AT' THE OLD CHURCH, SCARBORO'. 

1 A reviewer pointed out the discrepancy between the age (twenty- 
seven years) assigned, on the mural tablet, to Anne Bronte* at the time 
of her death in 1849, and the alleged fact that she was born at Thornton, 
from which place Mr. Bronte removed on February 25, 1820. I was 
aware of the discrepancy, but I did not think it of sufficient conse- 
quence to be rectified by an examination of the register of births. Mr. 
Bronte's own words, on which I grounded my statement as to the time 
of Anne Bronte's birth, are as follows : — 

' In Thornton Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily Jane, and Anne 
were born.' And such of the inhabitants of Haworth as have spoken 
on the subject say that all the children of Mr. and Mrs. Bronte were 
born before they removed to Haworth. There is probably some mis- 
take in the inscription on the tablet. — Note by Mrs. Qashell. 



TABLETS OF THE BRONTE FAMILY 9 

At the upper part of this tablet ample space is allowed 
between the lines of the inscription ; when the first me- 
morials were written down, the survivors, in their fond af- 
fection, thought little of the margin and verge they were 
leaving for those who were still living. But as one dead 
member of the household follows another fast to the grave 
the lines are pressed together, and the letters become small 
and cramped. After the record of Anne's death there is 
room for no other. 

But one more of that generation — the last of that nursery 
of six little motherless children — was yet to follow, before 
the survivor, the childless and widowed father, found his 
rest. On another tablet, below the first, the following rec- 
ord has been added to that mournful list : — 

ADJOINING LIE THE BBMAINS OP 

CHARLOTTE, WIFE 

OF THE 

REV. ARTHUR BELL NICHOLLS, A.B., 

AND DAUGHTER OF THE REV. P. BRONTE, A.B., INCUMBENT. 

SHE DIED MARCH 31ST, 1855, IN THE 39TH 

TEAR OF HER AGE. 1 



1 In the month of April 1858 a neat mural tablet was erected within 
the Communion railing of the Church at Haworth, to the memory of 
the deceased members of the Bronte family. The tablet is of white 
Carrara marble on a ground of dove-coloured marble, with a cornice 
surmounted by an ornamental pediment of chaste design. Between 
the brackets which support the tablet is inscribed the sacred mono- 
gram I.H.8 in Old English letters. 

This tablet, which corrects the error in the former tablet as to the 
age of Anne Bronte, bears the following inscription in Roman letters, 
the initials, however, being in Old English : — 

'In Memory of 

'Maria, wife of the Rev. P. Bronte, A.B., Minister of Haworth. 
She died Sept. 15th, 1821, in the 39th year of her age. 
' Also of Maria, their daughter, who died May 6th, 1825, in the 12th 
year of her age. 



10 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

■ Also of Elizabeth, their daughter, who died June 15th, 1825, in the 

11th year of her age. 
' Also of Patrick Branwell, their son, who died Sept. 24th, 1848, aged 

31 years. 
' Also of Emily Jane, their daughter, who died Dec. 19th, 1848, aged 

30 years. 
'Also of Anne, their daughter, who died May 28th, 1849, aged 29 

years. She was buried at the Old Church, Scarborough. 
' Also of Charlotte, their daughter, wife of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, 

B.A. She died March 31st, 1855, in the 39th year of her age. 
' "The sting of death is sin ; and the strength of sin is the law. But 
thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord 
Jesus Christ."— I Cok. xy. 56, 57.'— Note by Mrs. Oaskell. 

None of the birthdays are given, it will be seen, on either tablet. 
There was no register of births at the time, only of christenings, and 
hence exact dates are not obtainable in the case of Mrs. Bronte and 
her son. 

Maria BrontS, the mother of Charlotte Bronte, was born at Pen- 
zance, 1782. 

Maria Bronte, the sister of Charlotte, was born at Hartshead, April 
16, 1813. 

Elizabeth Bronte, the second sister of Charlotte, was born at Harts- 
head, July 27, 1814. 

Charlotte Bronte was born at Thornton, April 21, 1816. 

Patrick Branwell Bronte was born at Thornton. He was baptised 
July 23, 1817. 

Emily Jane Bronte was born at Thornton, July 30, 1818. 

Anne Bronte was born at Thornton, January 17, 1820. 

The tablet to which Mrs. Gaskell refers as having been erected in 
1858 contains the additional inscription, which was, of course, added 
after the Life was written — 

'Also of the aforenamed Revd. P. Bronte, A.B., who died June 7, 
1861, in the 85th year of his age ; having been incumbent of Haworth 
for upward of 41 years.' 

There is also a brass tablet over the Bronte grave in the church with 
the following inscription: — 

' In memory of Emily Jane Bronte, who died December 19, 1848, 
aged thirty years ; and of Charlotte Bronte, born April 21, 1816, and 
died March 31, 1855.' 

/ 



CHAPTEE II 

For a right understanding of the life of my dear friend, 
Charlotte Bronte, it appears to me more necessary in her 
case than in most others that the reader should be made 
acquainted with the peculiar forms of population and so- 
ciety amidst which her earliest years were passed, and from 
which both her own and her sister's first impressions of 
human life must have been received. I shall endeavour, 
therefore, before proceeding further with my work, to pre- 
sent some idea of the character of the people of Haworth 
and the surrounding districts. 

Even an inhabitant of the neighbouring county of Lan- 
caster is struck by the peculiar force of character which 
the Yorkshiremen display. 1 This makes them interesting 
as a race ; while, at the same time, as individuals the re- 
markable degree of self-sufficiency they possess gives them 
an air of independence rather apt to repel a stranger. I 
use this expression ' self-sufficiency ' in the largest sense. 
Conscious of the strong sagacity and the dogged power of 
will which seem almost the birthright of the natives of the 
West Riding, each man relies upon himself, and seeks no 
help at the hands of his neighbour. From rarely requiring 
the assistance of others, he comes to doubt the power of 
bestowing it; from the general success of his efforts, he 
grows to depend upon them, and to over-esteem his own 

1 ' Some of the West Ridingers are very angry,' Miss Nussey wrote 
to Mrs. Gaskell a few months after the first edition of the ' Memoir' 
was published, ' and declare they are half a century in civilisation 
before some of the Lancashire folk, and that this neighbourhood is a 
paradise compared with some districts not far from Manchester.' 



12 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

energy and power. He belongs to that keen yet short- 
sighted class who consider suspicion of all whose honesty 
is not proved as a sign of wisdom. The practical qualities 
of a man are held in great respect ; but the want of faith 
in strangers and untried modes of action extends itself 
even to the jnanner in which the virtues are regarded: and 
if they produce no immediate and tangible result, they are 
rather put aside as unfit for this busy, striving world, es- 
pecially if they are more of a passive than an active char- 
acter. The affections are strong and their foundations lie 
deep : but they are not — such affections seldom are — wide- 
spreading ; nor do they show themselves on the surface. 
Indeed, there is little display of any of the amenities of life 
among this wild rough population. Their accost is curt, 
their accent and tone of speech blunt and harsh. Some- 
thing of this may, probably, be attributed to the freedom 
of mountain air and isolated hillside life ; something be de- 
rived from their rough Norse ancestry. They have a quick 
perception of character, and a keen sense of humour; the 
dwellers among them must be prepared for certain uncom- 
plimentary, though most likely true, observations, pithily 
expressed. Their feelings are not easily roused, but their 
duration is lasting. Hence there is much close friendship 
and faithful service ; and for a correct exemplification of 
the form in which the latter frequently appears, I need 
only refer the reader of '"Wuthering Heights' to the 
character of ' Joseph.' 

From the same cause come also enduring grudges, in 
some cases amounting to hatred, which occasionally has 
been bequeathed from generation to generation. I remem- 
ber Miss Bronte once telling me that it was a saying round 
about Haworth, ' Keep a stone in thy pocket seven year ; 
turn it, and keep it seven year longer, that it may be ever 
ready to thine hand when thine enemy draws near.' 

The West Riding men are sleuth-hounds in pursuit of 
money. Miss Bronte related to my husband' a curious 

1 William Gaskell (1805-1884). Mr. Gaskell was a Unitarian min- 



MEN OF THE WEST RIDING 13 

instance illustrative of this eager desire for riches. A man 
that she knew, who was a small manufacturer, had engaged 
in many local speculations which had always turned out 
well, and thereby rendered him a person of some wealth. 
He was rather past middle age, when he bethought him of 
insuring his life; and he had only just taken out his pol- 
icy when he fell ill of an acute disease which was certain 
to end fatally in a very few days. The doctor, half hesitat- 
ingly, revealed to him his hopeless state. ' By jingo !' 
cried he, rousing up at once into the old energy, ' I 
shall do the insurance company ! I always was a lucky 
fellow ! J 

These men are keen and shrewd ; faithful and persever- 
ing in following out a good purpose, fell in tracking an 
evil one. They are not emotional : they are not easily 
made into either friends or enemies; but once lovers or 
haters, it is difficult to change their feeling. They are a 
powerful race both in mind and body, both for good and 
for evil. 

The woollen manufacture was introduced into this dis- 
trict in the days of Edward III. It is traditionally said 
that a colony of Flemings came over and settled in the 
West Riding to teach the inhabitants what to do with their 
wool. The mixture of agricultural with manufacturing 
labour that ensued and prevailed in the West Riding up to 

ister. He was the son of a manufacturer, and was born at Latchford, 
near "Warrington. He studied at Glasgow, where he graduated M. A. 
in 1824. After a period as divinity student at Manchester College, 
York, he became minister of Cross Street Chapel, Manchester, in 
1838, and this position he occupied until his retirement. He was pro- 
fessor of English history and literature at Manchester New College 
from 1846 to 1853, and he held many other appointments from time to 
time. Although perhaps best known to the world as the husband of 
the novelist, he himself wrote a considerable number of hymns, ser- 
mons, and controversial pamphlets. He died at his residence, Plym- 
outh Grove, Manchester, June 11, 1884, and was buried beside his 
wife (who had died in 1865) at Knutsford. (The Kev. Alexander Gor- 
don, in the Dictionary of National Biography.) 



14 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

a very recent period, sounds pleasant enough at this dis- 
tance of time, when the classical impression is left, and 
the details forgotten, or only brought to light by those who 
explore the few remote parts of England where the custom 
still lingers. The idea of the mistress and her maidens 
spinning at the great wheels while the master was abroad 
ploughing his fields, or seeing after his flocks on the pur- 
ple moors, is very poetical to look back upon ; but when 
such life actually touches on our own days, and we can 
hear particulars from the lips of those now living, there 
come out details of coarseness — of the uncouthness of the 
rustic mingled with the sharpness of the tradesman — of ir- 
. regularity and fierce lawlessness — that rather mar the vision 
of pastoral innocence and simplicity. Still, as it is the 
exceptional and exaggerated characteristics of any period 
that leave the most vivid memory behind them, it would 
be wrong, and in my opinion faithless, to conclude that 
such and such forms of society and modes of living 
were not best for the period when they prevailed, although 
the abuses they may have led into, and the gradual prog- 
ress of the world, have made it well that such ways and 
manners should pass away for ever, and as preposterous to 
attempt to return to them as it would be for a man to re- 
turn to the clothes of his childhood. 

The patent granted to Alderman Cockayne, and the fur- 
ther restrictions imposed by James I. on the export of un- 
dyed woollen cloths (met by a prohibition on the part of 
the States of Holland of the import of English-dyed cloths), 
injured the trade of the West Eiding manufacturers con- 
siderably. Their independence of character, their dislike 
of authority, and their strong powers of thought predis- 
posed them to rebellion against the religious dictation of 
such men as Laud and the arbitrary rule of the Stuarts; 
and the injury done by James and Charles to the trade by 
which they gained their bread made the great majority of 
them Commonwealth men. I shall have occasion after- 
wards to give one or two instances of the warm feelings 



DESCENDANTS OF THE PURITANS 15 

and extensive knowledge on subjects of both home and for- 
eign politics existing at the present day in the villages ly- 
ing west and east of the mountainous ridge that separates 
Yorkshire and Lancaster, the inhabitants of which are of 
the same race and possess the same quality of character. 

The descendants of many who served under Cromwell at 
Dunbar live on the same lands as their ancestors occupied 
then ; and perhaps there is no part of England where the 
traditional and fond recollections of the Commonwealth 
have lingered so long as in that inhabited by the woollen 
manufacturing population of the West Riding, who had 
the restrictions taken off their trade by the Protector's 
admirable commercial policy. I have it on good authority 
that, not thirty years ago, the phrase ' in Oliver's days ' 
was in common use to denote a time of unusual prosperity. 
The class of Christian names prevalent in a district is one 
indication of the direction in which its tide of hero-worship 
sets. Grave enthusiasts in politics or religion perceive not 
the ludicrous side of those which they give to their chil- 
dren ; and some are to be found, still in their infancy, not 
a dozen miles from Haworth, that will have to go through 
life as Lamartine, Kossuth, and Dembinsky. And so there 
is a testimony to what I have said, of the traditional feel- 
ing of the district, and in fact that the Old Testament 
names in general use among the Puritans are yet the prev- 
alent appellations in most Yorkshire families of middle or 
humble rank, whatever their religious persuasion may be. 
There are numerous records, too, that show the kindly 
way in which the ejected ministers were received by the 
gentry, as well as by the poorer part of the inhabitants, 
during the persecuting days of Charles II. These little 
facts all testify to the old hereditary spirit of indepen- 
dence, ready ever to resist authority which was conceived 
to be unjustly exercised, that' distinguishes the people of 
the West Riding to the present day. 

The parish of Halifax touches that of Bradford, in which 
the chapelry of Haworth is included ; and the nature of the 



16 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ground in the two parishes is much of the same wild and 
hilly description. The abundance of coal, and the num- 
ber of mountain streams in the district, make it highly 
favourable to manufactures ; and accordingly, as I stated, 
the inhabitants have for centuries been engaged in making 
cloth, as well as in agricultural pursuits. But the inter- 
course of trade failed, for a long time, to bring amenity 
and civilisation into these outlying hamlets, or widely 
scattered dwellings. Mr. Hunter, in his ' Life of Oliver 
Heywood,' 1 quotes a sentence out of a memorial of one 
James Either, living in the reign of Elizabeth, which is 
partially true to this day : — 

' They have no superior to court, no civilities to practise : 
a sour and sturdy humour is the consequence, so that a 
stranger is shocked by a tone of defiance in every voice, 
and an air of fierceness in every countenance.' 

Even now a stranger can hardly ask a question without 
receiving some crusty reply, if, indeed, he receives any at 
all. Sometimes the sour rudeness amounts to positive in- 
sult. Yet if the 'foreigner' takes all this churlishness 
good-humouredly, or as a matter of course, and makes good 
any claim upon their latent kindliness and hospitality, they 
are faithful and generous, and thoroughly to be relied upon. 
As a slight illustration of the roughness that pervades all 
classes in these out-of-the-way villages, I may relate a 
little adventure which happened to my husband, and my- 
self, three years ago, at Addingham — 



1 Oliver Heywood (1630-1702), Nonconformist divine, third son of 
Richard Heywood, yeoman, by his first wife, Alice Critchlaw, was 
born at Little Lever, near Bolton, Lancashire. His parents were Pur- 
itans. He was educated at Bolton Grammar School and Trinity 
College, Cambridge. In 1650 he became preacher at Coley Chapel, 
in the village of Northowram, in the parish of Halifax, West Riding, 
at a salary of SOI. a year. Oliver Heywood was a Royalist Presby- 
terian. The London Agreement of 1691 between the Presbyterians 
and Congregation alists, known as the ' Happy Union,' was introduced 
mainly through his influence. 



DESCENDANTS OF THE PURITANS 17 

* From Penigent to Pendle Hill, 
From Linton to Long- Addingha/m 
And all that Craven coasts did till,' <&c. — 



one of the places that sent forth its fighting men to the 
famous old battle of Flodden Field, and a village not many- 
miles from Haworth. 

We were driving along the street, when one of those 
ne'er-do-weel lads who seem to have a kind of magnetic 
power for misfortunes, having jumped into the stream that 
runs through the place, just where all the broken glass and 
bottles are thrown, staggered naked and nearly covered 
with blood into a cottage before us. Besides receiving an- 
other bad cut in the arm, he had completely laid open the 
artery, and was in a fair way of bleeding to death — which, 
one of his relations comforted him by saying, would be 
likely to 'save a deal o' trouble.' 

When my husband had checked the effusion of blood with 
a strap that one of the bystanders unbuckled from his leg, 
he asked if a surgeon had been sent for. 

' Yoi,' was the answer ; 'but we dinna think he'll come.' 

« Why not ?' 

' He's owd, yo seen, and asthmatic, and it's up-hill.' 

My husband, taking a boy for his guide, drove as fast as 
he could to the surgeon's house, which was about three- 
quarters of a mileoff, and met the aunt of the wounded lad 
leaving it. 

'Is he coming ?' inquired my husband. 

'Well, he didna' say he wouldna' come.' 

' But tell him the lad may bleed to death.' 

'I did.' 

' And what did he say ?' 

' Why, only " D n him ; what do I care ?" ' 

It ended, however, in his sending one of his sons, who, 

though not brought up to 'the surgering trade,' was able to 

do what was necessary in the way of bandages and plasters. 

The excuse made for the surgeon was that ' he was near 

2 



18 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

eighty, and getting a bit doited, and had had a matter o' 
twenty childer/ 

Among the most unmoved of the lookers-on was the 
brother of the boy so badly hurt ; and while he was lying 
in a pool of blood on the flag floor, and crying out how 
much his arm was 'warching,' his stoical relation stood 
coolly smoking his bit of black pipe, and uttered not a 
single word of either sympathy or sorrow. 

Forest customs, existing in the fringes of dark wood which 
clothed the declivity of the hills on either side, tended to 
brutalise the population until the middle of the seventeenth 
century. Execution by beheading was performed in a sum- 
mary way upon either men or women who were guilty of 
but very slight crimes ; and a dogged, yet in some cases 
fine, indifference to human life, was thus generated. The 
roads were so notoriously bad, even up to the last thirty 
years, that there was little communication between one vil- 
lage and another ; if the produce of industry could be con- 
veyed at stated times to the cloth market of the district, 
it was all that could be done ; and, in lonely houses on the 
distant hillside, or by the small magnates of secluded ham- 
lets, crimes might be committed almost unknown, certainly 
without any great uprising of popular indignation calcu- 
lated to bring down the strong arm of the law. It must 
be remembered that in those days there was no rural con- 
stabulary ; and the few magistrates left to themselves, and 
generally related to one another, were most of them in- 
clined to tolerate eccentricity, and to wink at faults too 
much like their own. 

Men hardly past middle life talk of the days of their 
youth, spent in this part of the country, when, during the 
winter months, they rode up to the saddle girths in mud ; 
when absolute business was the only reason for stirring be- 
yond the precincts of home ; and when that business was 
conducted under a pressure of difficulties which they them- 
selves, borne along to Bradford market in a swift first-class 
carriage, can hardly believe to have been possible. For in- 



STATE OF THE ROADS IN YORKSHIRE 19 

stance, one woollen manufacturer says that, not five-and- 
twenty years ago, he had to rise betimes to set off on a 
winter's morning in order to be at Bradford with the great 
wagon-load of goods manufactured by his father ; this load 
was packed over-night, but in the morning there was a great 
gathering around it, and flashing of lanterns, and examina- 
tion of horses' feet, before the ponderous wagon got under 
way ; and then some one had to go groping here and there, 
on hands and knees, and always sounding with a staff down 
the long, steep, slippery brow, to find where the horses 
might tread safely, until they reached the comparative 
easy-going of the deep-rutted main road. People went on 
horseback over the upland moors, following the tracks of 
the pack-horses that carried the parcels, baggage, or goods 
from one town to another between which there did not hap- 
pen to be a highway. 

But in winter all such communication was impossible, 
by reason of the snow which lay long and late on the bleak 
high ground. I have known people who, travelling by the 
mail coach over Blackstone Edge, had been snowed up for 
a week or ten days at the little inn near the summit, and 
obliged to spend both Christmas and New Year's Day there, 
till, the store of provisions laid in for the use of the land- 
lord and his family falling short before the inroads of the 
unexpected visitors, they had recourse to the turkeys, 
geese, and Yorkshire pies with which the coach was laden ; 
and even these were beginning to fail, when a fortunate 
thaw released them from their prison. 

Isolated as the hill villages may be, they are in the world, 
compared with the loneliness of the grey ancestral houses 
to be seen here and there in the dense hollows of the moors. 
These dwellings are not large, yet they are solid and roomy 
enough for the accommodation of those who live in them, 
and to whom the surrounding estates belong. The land has 
often been held by one family since the days of the Tudors ; 
the owners are, in fact, the remnants of the old yeomanry 
— small squires — who are rapidly becoming extinct as a 



20 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

class, from one of two causes. Either the possessor falls 
into idle, drinking habits, and so is obliged eventually to 
sell his property: or he finds, if more shrewd and advent- 
urous, that the 'beck' running down the mountain-side, 
or the minerals beneath his feet, can be turned into a new 
source of wealth; and leaving the old plodding life of a 
landowner with small capital, he turns manufacturer, or 
digs for coal, or quarries for stone. 

Still there are those remaining of this class — dwellers in 
the lonely houses far away in the upland districts — even at 
the present day, who sufficiently indicate what strange ec- 
centricity — what wild strength of will — nay, even what un- 
natural power of crime was fostered by a mode of living in 
which a man seldom met his fellows and where public opin- 
ion was only a distant and inarticulate echo of some clearer 
voice sounding behind the sweeping horizon. 

A solitary life cherishes mere fancies until they become 
manias. And the powerful Yorkshire character, which was 
scarcely tamed into subjection hy all the contact it met 
with in 'busy town or crowded mart,' has before now 
broken out into strange wilfulness in the remoter districts. 
A singular account was recently given me of a landowner 
(living, it is true, on the Lancashire side of the hills, but 
of the same blood and nature as the dwellers on the other) 
who was supposed to be in receipt of seven or eight hun- 
dred a year, and whose house bore marks of handsome an- 
tiquity, as if his forefathers had been for a long time peo- 
ple of consideration. My informant was struck with the 
appearance of the place, and proposed to the countryman 
who was accompanying him to go up to it and take a nearer 
inspection. The reply was, ' Yo'd better not ; he'd 
threap yo' down th' loan. He's let fly at some folks' legs, 
and let shot lodge in 'em afore now, for going too near to 
his house.' And finding, on closer inquiry, that such was 
really the inhospitable custom of this moorland squire, the 
gentleman gave up his purpose. I believe that the savage 
yeoman is still living. 



CHARACTERS OF YORKSHIRE SQUIRES 21 

Another squire, of more distinguished family and larger 
property — one is thence led to imagine of better education, 
but that does not always follow — died at his house, not many 
miles from Haworth, only a few years ago. His great 
amusement and occupation had been cock-fighting. When 
he was confined to his chamber with what he knew would 
be his last illness, he had his cocks brought up there, and 
watched the bloody battle from his bed. As his mortal 
disease increased, and it became impossible for him to turn 
so as to follow the combat, he had looking-glasses arranged 
in such a manner, around and above him, as he lay, that he 
could still see the cocks fighting. And in this manner he 
died. 

These are merely instances of eccentricity compared with 
the tales of positive violence and crime that have occurred 
in these isolated dwellings, which still linger in the memo- 
ries of the old people of the district, and some of which 
were doubtless familiar to the authors of 'Wuthering 
Heights' and 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.' 

The amusements of the lower classes could hardly be 
expected to be more humane than those of the wealthy and 
better educated. The gentleman who has kindly furnished 
me with some of the particulars I have given remembers 
the bull-baitings at Rochdale, not thirty years ago. The 
bull was fastened by a chain or rope to a post in the river. 
To increase the amount of water, as well as to give their 
workpeople the opportunity of savage delight, the masters 
were accustomed to stop their mills on the day when the 
sport took place. The bull would sometimes wheel sud- 
denly round, so that the rope by which he was fastened 
swept those who had been careless enough to come within 
its range down into the water, and the good people of 
Rochdale had the excitement of seeing one or two of their 
neighbours drowned, as well as of witnessing the bull bait- 
ed, and the dogs torn and tossed. 

The people of Haworth were not less strong and full of 
character than their neighbours on either side of the hills. 



22 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

The village lies embedded in the moors, between the two 
counties, on the old road between Keighley and Colne. 
About the middle of the last century it became famous in 
the religious world as the scene of the ministrations of the 
Rev. William Grimshaw, 1 curate of Haworth for twenty 
years. Before this time it is probable that the curates 
were of the same order as one Mr. Nicholls, a Yorkshire 
clergyman, in the days immediately succeeding the Refor- 
mation, who was ' much addicted to drinking and company- 
keeping,' and used to say to his companions, ' You must 
not heed me but when I am got three feet above the earth,' 
that was, into the pulpit. 

Mr. Grimshaw's life was written by Newton," Cowper's 
friend ; and from it may be gathered some curious particu- 
lars of the manner in which a rough population were 
swayed and governed by a man of deep convictions and 
strong earnestness of purpose. It seems that he had not 
been in any way remarkable for religious zeal, though he 
had led a moral life, and been conscientious in fulfilling 
his parochial duties, until a certain Sunday in September 
1744, when the servant, rising at five, found her master al- , 
ready engaged in prayer. She stated that, after remaining 
in his chamber for some time, he went to engage in re- 

1 "William Grimshaw (1708-1763) was born at Brindle, Lancashire. 
He was educated at the grammar schools of Blackburn and Hesketh, 
and at Christ's College, Cambridge. Grimshaw became curate of 
Rochdale in 1731 and removed to Todmorden the same year. He was 
appointed to the perpetual curacy of Haworth in 1743, and there he 
encouraged the Methodist revival to such an extent that the Wesleys 
and Whitefield occupied his pulpit. He spent many years in ener- 
getic work, associating, to the scandal of some of his clerical brethren, 
with every phase of Nonconformist effort, and he assisted to build a 
Methodist chapel at Haworth. He died at Haworth and was buried 
in Luddenden Church in the neighbourhood. His published works 
consisted of four religious pamphlets. (The Rev. Canon Overton, in 
the Dictionary of National Biography.) 

' John Newton (1725-1807). After being engaged for some years in 
the African slave trade he became in 1764 curate of Olney, and in 1779 
rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, London. 



MR. GRIMSHAW OF HAWORTH 23 

ligious exercises in the house of a parishioner, then home 
again to pray ; thence, still fasting, to the church, where, 
as he was reading the second lesson, he fell down, and, 
on his partial recovery, had to be led from the church. 
As he went out he spoke to the congregation, and told 
them not to disperse, as he had something to say to them, 
and would return presently. He was taken to the clerk's 
house, and again became insensible. His servant rubbed 
him, to restore the circulation ; and when he was brought 
to himself ' he seemed in a great rapture,' and the first 
words he uttered were, ' I have had a glorious vision 
from the third heaven.' He did not say what he had 
seen, but returned into the church, and began the ser- 
vice again, at two in the afternoon, and went on until 
seven. 

From this time he devoted himself, with the fervour of a 
Wesley, and something of the fanaticism of a Whitefleld, 
to calling out a religious life among his parishioners. They 
had been in the habit of playing at football on Sunday, us- 
ing stones for this purpose ; and giving and receiving chal- 
lenges from other parishes. There were horse races held 
on the moors just above the village, which were periodical 
sources of drunkenness and profligacy. Scarcely a wed- 
ding took place without the rough amusement of foot 
races, where the half-naked runners were a scandal to all 
decent strangers. The old custom of 'arvills,' or funeral 
feasts, led to frequent pitched battles between the drunken 
mourners. Such customs were the outward signs of the 
kind of people with whom Mr. Grimshaw had to deal. 
But, by various means, some of the most practical kind, 
he wrought a great change in his parish. In his preaching 
he was occasionally assisted by Wesley and Whitefleld, and 
at such times the little church proved much too small to 
hold the throng that poured in from distant villages or 
lonely moorland hamlets ; and frequently they were obliged 
to meet in the open air : indeed, there was not room enough 
in the church even for the communicants. Mr. White- 



24 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

field' was once preaching in Haworth, and made use of 
some such expression as that he hoped there was no need 
to say much to this congregation, as they had sat under so 
pious and godly a minister for so many years ; ' whereupon 
Mr. Grimshaw stood up in his place, and said with a loud 
voice, "Oh, sir! for God's sake do not speak so. I pray 
you do not flatter them. I fear the greater part of them 
are going to hell with their eyes open."' But if they were 
so bound it was not for want of exertion on Mr. Grimshaw's 
part to prevent them. He used to preach twenty or thirty 
times a week in private houses. If he perceived any one 
inattentive to his prayers, he would stop and rebuke the 
offender, and not go on till he saw every one on their 
knees. He was very earnest in enforcing the strict ob- 
servance of Sunday, and would not even allow his parish- 
ioners to walk in the fields between services. He some- 
times gave out a very long psalm (tradition says the 119th), 
and while it was being sung he left the reading-desk, and 
taking a horsewhip went into the public-houses, and flog- 
ged the loiterers into church. They were swift who could 
escape the lash of the parson by sneaking out the back 
way. He had strong health and an active body, and rode 
far and wide over the hills, 'awakening' those who had 
previously had no sense of religion. To save time, and be 
no charge to the families at whose houses he held his 
prayer-meetings, he carried his provisions with him; all 
the food he took in the day on such occasions consisting 
simply of a piece of bread-and-butter, or dry bread and a 
raw onion. 

The horse races were justly objectionable to Mr. Grim- 
shaw ; they attracted numbers of profligate people to Ha- 

1 George Whitefleld (1714-1770). Born at Gloucester ; he became a 
servitor at Pembroke College, Oxford. Took deacon's orders in 1736, 
and preached in Gloucester Cathedral. Joined Wesley in Georgia in 
1738, and became associated with him in revivalist work. Separated 
from Wesley on the question of predestination in 1741. He died near 
Boston, Massachusetts, when on a preaching tour in America. 



'ARVILLS' AT HA WORTH 25 

worth, and brought a match to the combustible materials 
of the place, only too ready to blaze out into wickedness. 
The story is that he tried all means of persuasion, and even 
intimidation, to have the races discontinued, but in vain. 
At length, in despair, he prayed with such fervour of 
earnestness that the rain came down in torrents, and del- 
uged the ground, so that there was no footing for man or 
beast, even if the multitude had been willing to stand such 
a flood let down from above. And so Haworth races were 
stopped, and have never been resumed to this day. Even 
now the memory of this good man is held in reverence, and 
his faithful ministrations and real virtues are one of the 
boasts of the parish. 

But after his time I fear there was a falling back into 
the wild, rough, heathen ways, from which he had pulled 
them up, as it were, by the passionate force of his individ- 
ual character. He had built a chapel for the Wesleyan 
Methodists, and not very long after the Baptists established 
themselves in a place of worship. Indeed, as Dr. Whitaker 
says, the people of this district are ' strong religionists ;' 
only, fifty years ago their religion did not work down into 
their lives. Half that length of time back the code of 
morals seemed to be formed upon that of their Norse ances- 
tors. 1 Revenge was handed down from father to son as an 
hereditary duty ; and a great capability for drinking with- 
out the head being affected was considered as one of the 
manly virtues. The games of football on Sundays, with the 
challenges to the neighbouring parishes, were resumed, 
bringing in an influx of riotous strangers to fill the pub- 
lic-houses, and make the more sober-minded inhabitants 
long for good Mr. Grimshaw's stout arm and ready horse- 
whip. The old custom of ' arvills' was as prevalent as ever. 
The sexton, standing at the foot of the open grave, an- 

1 This suggestion of Norse ancestry has been called in question by 
the inhabitants of the Haworth district. They claim to be purely of 
Saxon origin, the Danish and Norwegian settlers never having come 
as far east as Haworth. 



26 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

nounced that the « arvill' would be held at the 'Black Ball/ 
or whatever public-house might be fixed upon by the friends 
of the dead ; and thither the mourners and their acquaint- 
ances repaired. The origin of the custom had been the 
necessity of furnishing some refreshment for those who 
came from a distance to pay the last mark of respect to a 
friend. In the ' Life of Oliver Hey wood ' there are two 
quotations which show what sorb of food was provided for 
'arvills' in quiet Nonconformist connections in the seven- 
teenth century; the first (from Thoresby) tells of 'cold 
possets, stewed prunes, cake, and cheese ' as being the arvill 
after Oliver Hey wood's funeral. The second gives, as rather 
shabby, according to the notion of the times (1673), ' noth- 
ing but a bit of cake, a draught of wine, a piece of rose- 
mary, and a pair of gloves.' 

But the arvills at Haworth were often far more jovial 
doings. Among the poor the mourners were only expected 
to provide a kind of spiced roll for each person ; and the 
expense of the liquors — rum, or ale, or a mixture of both 
called 'dog's nose' — was generally defrayed by each guest 
placing some money on a plate, set in the middle of the 
table. Richer people would order a dinner for their friends. 
At the funeral of Mr. Oharnock (the next successor but one 
to Mr. Grimshaw in the incumbency) above eighty people 
were bid to the arvill, and the price of the feast was is. 6d. 
per head, all of which was defrayed by the friends of the 
deceased. As few * shirked their liquor,' there were very 
frequently 'up-and-down fights' before the close of the 
day ; sometimes with the horrid additions of ' parsing/ 
and ' gouging,' and biting. 

Although I have dwelt on the exceptional traits in the 
characteristics of these stalwart West Ridingers, such as 
they were in the first quarter of this century, if not a few 
years later, I have little doubt that in the everyday life of 
the people so independent, wilful, and full of grim humour, 
there would be much found even at present that would shock 
those accustomed only to the local manners of the south ; 



PRESENTATION TO THE LIVING OF HA WORTH 27 

and, in return, I suspect the shrewd, sagacious, energetic 
Yorkshireman would hold such 'foreigners' in no small 
contempt. 

I have said it is most probable that where Haworth 
Church now stands there was once an ancient ' field kirk,' 
or oratory. It occupied the third or lowest class of ecclesi- 
astical structures, according to the Saxon law, and had no 
right of sepulture, or administration of sacraments. It was 
so called because it was built without enclosure, and open 
to the adjoining fields or moors. The founder, according 
to the laws of Edgar, was bound, without subtracting from 
his tithes, to maintain the ministering priest out of the re- 
maining nine parts of his income. After the Reformation 
the right of choosing their clergyman, at any of those 
chapels of ease which had formerly been field kirks, was 
vested in the freeholders and trustees, subject to the ap- 
proval of the vicar of the parish. But, owing to some neg- 
ligence, this right has been lost to the freeholders and trus- 
tees at Haworth ever since the days of Archbishop Sharp ; 
and the power of choosing a minister has lapsed into the 
hands of the Vicar of Bradford. So runs the account, ac- 
cording to one authority. 

Mr. Bronte says, ' This living has for its patrons the 
Vicar of Bradford and certain trustees. My predecessor 
took the living with the consent of the Vicar of Bradford, 
but in opposition to the trustees ; in consequence of which 
he was so opposed that, after only three weeks' possession, 
he was compelled to resign.' A Yorkshire gentleman, who 
has kindly sent me some additional information on this 
subject since the second edition of my work was published, 
writes thus : — 

'The sole right of presentation to the incumbency of 
Haworth is vested in the Vicar of Bradford. He only can 
present. The funds, however, from which the clergyman's 
stipend mainly proceeds are vested in the hands of trus- 
tees, who have the power to withhold them, if a nominee 
is sent of whom they disapprove. On the decease of Mr. 



28 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Charnoek, the Vicar first tendered the preferment to Mr. 
Bronte, and he went over to his expected cure. He was 
told that towards himself they had no personal objection, 
but as a nominee of the Vicar he would not be received. 
He therefore retired, with the declaration that if he could 
not come with the approval of the parish, his ministry 
could not be useful. Upon this the attempt was made to 
introduce Mr. Bedhead. 

' When Mr. Redhead was repelled a fresh difficulty arose. 
Some one must first move towards a settlement, but a 
spirit being evoked which could not be allayed, action be- 
came perplexing. The matter had to be referred to some 
independent arbitrator, and my father was the gentleman 
to whom each party turned its eye. A meeting was con- 
vened, and the business settled by the Vicar's conceding 
the choice to the trustees, and the acceptance of the 
Vicar's presentation. That choice forthwith fell on Mr. 
Bronte, whose promptness and prudence had won their 
hearts.' 

In conversing on the character of the inhabitants of the 
West Riding. with Dr. Scoresby, who had been for some time 
Vicar of Bradford, he alluded to certain riotous transac- 
tions which had taken place at Haworth on the presenta- 
tion of the living to Mr., Redhead, and said that there had 
been so much in the particulars indicative of the character 
of the people, that he advised me to inquire into them. I 
have accordingly done so, and, from the lips of some of 
the survivors among the actors and spectators, I have 
learnt the means taken to eject the nominee of the Vicar. 

The previous incumbent had been the Mr. Charnoek 
whom I mentioned as next but one in succession to Mr. 
Grimshaw. He had a long illness which rendered him un- 
able to discharge his duties without assistance, and Mr. 
Redhead gave him occasional help, to the great satisfaction 
of the parishioners, and was highly respected by them during 
Mr. Charnock's lifetime. But the case was entirely altered 
when, at Mr. Charnock's death in 1819, they conceived that 



CHURCH RIOTS AT HA WORTH 29 

the trustees had been unjustly deprived of their rights by 
the Vicar of Bradford, who appointed Mr. Redhead as per- 
petual curate. 

The first Sunday he officiated Haworth Church was 
filled even to the aisles, most of the people wearing the 
wooden clogs of the district. But while Mr. Redhead was 
reading the second lesson the whole congregation, as by 
one impulse, began to leave the church, making all the noise 
they could with clattering and clumping of clogs, till, at 
length, Mr. Redhead and the clerk were the only two left to 
continue the service. This was bad enough, but the next 
Sunday the proceedings were far worse. Then, as before, 
the church was well filled, but the aisles were left clear ; not 
a creature, not an obstacle was in the way. The reason for 
this was made evident about the same time in the reading 
of the service as the disturbances had begun the previous 
week. A man rode into the church upon an ass, with his 
face turned towards the tail, and as many old hats piled 
on his head as he could possibly carry. He began urging 
his beast round the aisles, and the screams, and cries, and 
laughter of the congregation entirely drowned all sound 
of Mr. Redhead's voice, and, I believe, he was obliged 
to desist. 

Hitherto they had not proceeded to anything like per- 
sonal violence; but on the third Sunday they must have 
been greatly irritated at seeing Mr. Redhead, determined 
to brave their will, ride up the- village street, accompanied 
by several gentlemen from Bradford. They put up their 
horses at the 'Black Bull' — the little inn close upon the 
churchyard, for the convenience of arvills as well as for 
other purposes — and went into church. On this the people 
followed, with a chimney-sweeper, whom they had employed 
to clean the chimneys of some out-buildings belonging to 
the church that very morning, and afterward plied with 
drink till he was in a state of solemn intoxication. They 
placed him right before the reading-desk, where his black- 
ened face nodded a drunken, stupid assent to all that 



30 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BEONTE 

Mr. Bedhead said. At last, either prompted by some mis- 
chief-maker or from some tipsy impulse, he clambered up 
the pulpit stairs, and attempted to embrace Mr. Bedhead. 
Then the profane fun grew fast and furious. Some of the 
more riotous pushed the soot -covered chimney-sweeper 
against Mr. Bedhead, as he tried to escape. They threw 
both him and his tormentor down on the ground in the 
churchyard where the soot -bag had been emptied, and 
though, at last, Mr. Bedhead escaped into the 'Black 
Bull,' the doors of which were immediately barred, the 
people raged without, threatening to stone him and his 
friends. One of my informants is an old man, who was the 
landlord of the inn at the time, and he stands to it that such 
was the temper of the irritated mob that Mr. Bedhead was 
in real danger of his life. This man, however, planned an 
escape for his unpopular inmates. The 'Black Bull' is 
near the top of the long, steep Haworth street, and at the 
bottom, close by the bridge, on the' road to Keighley, is a 
turnpike. Giving directions to his hunted guests to steal 
out at the back door (through which, probably, many a 
ne'er-do-weel has escaped from good Mr. Grimshaw's horse- 
whip), the landlord and some of the stable boys rode the 
horses belonging to the party from Bradford backwards 
and forwards before his front door, among the fiercely ex- 
pectant crowd. Through some opening between the houses 
those on the horses saw Mr. Bedhead and his friends creep- 
ing along behind the street; and then, striking spurs, they 
dashed quickly down to the turnpike ; the obnoxious cler- 
gyman and his friends mounted in haste, and had sped some 
distance before the people found out that their prey had 
escaped, and came running to the closed turnpike gate.'a 
This was Mr. Bedhead's last appearance at Haworth'lor 

1 Mr. Redhead's son-in-law wrote to Mrs. Gaskell remonstrating with 
her concerning these pages, and indeed denying this account of his 
father-in-law's Haworth associations, but giving another as true, ' in 
which,' writes Mrs. Gaskell to a friend, ' I don't see any great differ- 
ence.' 




HAWORTH VILLAGE — MAIN STREET. 



CHURCH RIOTS AT HA WORTH 31 

many years. Long afterwards he came to preach, and in 
his sermon to a large and attentive congregation he good- 
humonredly reminded them of the circumstances which I 
have described. They gave him a hearty welcome, for they 
owed him no grudge ; although before they had been ready 
enough to stone him, in order to maintain what they con- 
sidered to be their rights. 

The foregoing account, which I heard from two of the 
survivors, in the presence of a friend who can vouch for the 
accuracy of my repetition, has to a certain degree been con- 
firmed by a letter from the Yorkshire gentleman whose 
words I have already quoted. 

C I am not surprised at your difficulty in authenticating 
matter of fact. I find this in recalling what I have heard, 
and the authority on which I have heard anything. As to 
the donkey tale, I believe you are right. Mr. Redhead and 
Dr. Ramsbotham, his son-in-law, are no strangers to me. 
Each of them has a niche in my affections. 

'I have asked, this day, two persons who lived in 
Haworth at the time to which you allude, the son and 
daughter of an acting trustee, and each of them between 
sixty and seventy years of age, and they assure me that the 
donkey was introduced. One of them says it was mounted 
by a half-witted man, seated with his face towards the tail 
of the beast, and having several hats piled on his head. 
Neither of my informants was, however, present at these 
edifying services. I believe that no movement was made 
in the church on either Sunday until the whole of the 
authorised reading - service was gone through, and I am 
sure that nothing was more remote from the more re- 
spectable party than any personal antagonism towards Mr. 
Redhead. He was one of the most amiable and worthy of 
men, a man to myself endeared by many ties and obliga- 
tions. I never heard before your book that the sweep 
ascended the pulpit steps. He was present, however, in 
the clerical habiliments of his order. ... I may also add 
that among the many who were present at those sad 



32 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Sunday orgies the majority were non-residents, and came 
from those moorland fastnesses on the outskirts of the 
parish locally designated as " ovver th' steyres," one stage 
more remote than Haworth from modern civilisation. 

'To an instance or two more of the rusticity of the 
inhabitants of the chapelry of Haworth I may introduce 
you. 

'A Haworth carrier called at the office of a friend of 
mine to deliver a parcel on a cold winter's day, and stood 
with the door open. " Robin ! shut the door !" said the 
recipient. " Have you no doors in your country ?" " Yoi," 
responded Robin, " we hev, but we nivver steik 'em." I 
have frequently remarked the number of doors open even in 
winter. 

'When well directed, the indomitable and independent 
energies of the natives of this part of the country are in- 
valuable ; dangerous when perverted. I shall never forget 
the fierce actions and utterances of one suffering from 
delirium tremens. Whether in its wrath, disdain, or its 
dismay, the countenance was infernal. I called once upon 
a time on a most respectable yeoman, and I was, in language 
earnest and homely, pressed to accept the hospitality of the 
house. I consented. The word to me was, " Nah, maister, 
yah mun stop an' hev sum te-ah, yah mun, eah, yah mun." 
A bountiful table was soon spread ; at all events time soon 
went while I scaled the hills to see " t' maire at wor thretty 
year owd, an' t' foil at wor fower." On sitting down to the 
table, a venerable woman officiated, and after filling the 
cups she thus addressed me: "Nah, maister, yah mun 
loawze th' taible " (loose the table). The master said, 
" Shah meeans yah mun sey t' greyce." I took the hint 
and uttered the blessing. 

'I spoke with an aged and tried woman at one time, 
who, after recording her mercies, stated, among others, her 
powers of speech, by asserting, " Thank the Lord, ah niwer 
wor a meilly-meouthed wumman." I feel particularly at 
fault in attempting the orthography of the dialect, but must 



HAWORTH CHARACTERISTICS 33 

excuse myself by telling you that I once saw a letter in 
which the word I have just now used (excuse) was written 
"ecksqueaize" ! 

' There are some things, however, which rather tend to 
soften the idea of the rudeness of Haworth. No rural dis- 
trict has been more markedly the abode of musical taste 
and acquirement, and this at a period when it was difficult 
to find them to the same extent apart from towns in advance 
of their times. I have gone to Haworth and found an 
orchestra to meet me, filled with local performers, vocal and 
instrumental, to whom the best works of Handel, Haydn, 
Mozart, Marcello, &c. &c, were familiar as household words. 
By knowledge, taste, and voice they were markedly separate 
from ordinary village choirs, and have been put in extensive 
requisition for the solo and chorus of many an imposing 
festival. One man ' still survives, who, for fifty years, has had 
one of the finest tenor voices I ever heard, and with it a 
refined and cultivated taste. To him and to others many 
inducements have been offered to migrate ; but the loom, 
the association, the mountain air have had charms enow to 
secure their continuance at home. I love the recollection 
of their performance ; the recollection extends over more 
than sixty years. The attachments, the antipathies, and 
the hospitalities of the district are ardent, hearty, and 
homely. Cordiality in each is the prominent characteris- 
tic. As a people, these mountaineers have ever been ac- 
cessible to gentleness and truth, so far as I have known 
them ; but excite suspicion or resentment, and they give 
emphatic and not impotent resistance. Compulsion they 
defy. 

' I accompanied Mr. Heap on his first visit to Haworth 

after his accession to the vicarage of Bradford. It was on 

Easter Day, either 1816 or 1817. His predecessor, the 

; venerable John Crosse, known as the " blind vicar," had 



i » This ' one man ' was Thomas Parker (1787-1866), ' the Yorkshire 
Braham,' who was buried at Oxenhope, near Haworth. 
3 



34 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

been inattentive to the vicarial claims. A searching in- 
vestigation had to be made and enforced, and as it pro- 
ceeded stout and sturdy utterances were not lacking on 
the part of the parishioners. To a spectator, though rude, 
they were amusing, and significant, foretelling what might 
be expected, and what was afterwards realised, on the ad- 
vent of a new incumbent, if they deemed him an intruder. 

'From their peculiar parochial position and circum- 
stances, the inhabitants of the chapelry have been prompt, 
earnest, and persevering in their opposition to church rates. 
Although ten miles from the mother church, they were 
called upon to defray a large proportion of this obnoxious 
tax — I believe one-fifth. 

' Besides this they had to maintain their own edifice, &e. 
&c. They resisted, therefore, with energy, that which they 
deemed to be oppression and injustice. By scores would 
they wend their way from the hills to attend a vestry meet- 
ing at Bradford, and in such service failed not to show less 
of the suaviter in modo than the fortiter in re. Happily 
such occasion for their action has not occurred in many 
years. 

' The use of patronymics has been common in this 
locality. Inquire for a man by his Christian name and sur- 
name, and you may have some difficulty in finding him; 
ask, however, for " George o' Ned's/' or " Dick o' Bob's," 
or "Tom o' Jack's," as the case may be, and your difficulty 
is at an end. In many instances the person is designated 
by his residence. In my early years I had occasion to in- 
quire for Jonathan Whitaker, who owned a considerable 
farm in the township. I was sent hither and thither, until 
it occurred to me to ask for " Jonathan o' th' Gate." My 
difficulties were then at an end. Such circumstances arise 
out of the settled character and isolation of the natives. 

' Those who have witnessed a Haworth wedding, when 
the parties were above the rank of labourers, will not easily 
forget the scene. A levy was made on the horses of the 
neighbourhood, and a merry cavalcade of mounted men and 



HAWORTH CHARACTERISTICS 35 

women, single or double, traversed the way to Bradford 
Church. The inn and church appeared to be in natural 
connection, and, as the labours of the Temperance Society 
had then to begin, the interests of sobriety were not al- 
ways consulted. On remounting their steeds they com- 
menced with a race, and not unfrequently an inebriate or 
unskilful horseman or woman was put hors de combat. A 
race also was frequent at the end of these wedding expe- 
ditions, from the bridge to the toll-bar at Haworth. The 
racecourse you will know to be anything but level.' 

Into the midst of this lawless yet not unkindly popula- 
tion Mr. Bronte brought his wife and six little children, in 
February 1820. There are those yet alive who remember 
seven heavily laden carts lumbering slowly up the long 
stone street, bearing the 'new parson's' household goods 
to his future abode. 

One wonders how the bleak aspect of her new home — 
the low oblong stone parsonage, high up, yet with a still 
higher background of sweeping moors — struck on the 
gentle, delicate wife, whose health even then was failing. 



CHAPTBE III 

The Eev. Patrick Bronte is a native of the County Down 
in Ireland. 1 His father, Hugh Bronte, was left an orphan 
at an early age. He came from the south to the north of 
the island, and settled in the parish of Ahaderg, near 
Loughbrickland. There was some family tradition that, 
humble as Hugh Bronte's ' circumstances were, he was the 
descendant of an ancient family. But about this neither 
he nor his descendants have cared to inquire. He made 
an early marriage and reared and educated ten children on 
the proceeds of the few acres of land which he farmed. 
This large family were remarkable for great physical 
strength and much personal beauty. Even in his old age 
Mr. Bronte is a striking-looking man, above the common 
height, with a nobly shaped head and erect carriage. In 
his youth he must have been unusually handsome. 

He was born on Patrickmas Day (March 17) 1777, and 
early gave tokens of extraordinary quickness and intelli- 
gence. He had also his full share of ambition ; and of his 

1 Hugh Bronte's father ' used to live in a farm on the banks of the 
Boyne, somewhere above Drogheda' (Dr. William Wright, T/w Brontes 
in Ireland). The late Dr. Wright (1837-1899) added some valuable 
facts to the history of the Irish Brontes, but his speculations concern- 
ing their origin and their influence on the novelists, Charlotte and 
Emily, were, for the most part, pure Action. 

2 Hugh Bronte was married in 1776, in the parish church at Mag- 
herally, to Alice McClory, of Ballinasceaugh. Patrick Bronte was 
born in a cottage at Emdale, ' in the parish of Drumballyroney, and 
not in the parish of Ahaderg, or Aghaderg, as has been incorrectly 
stated ' (Wright). The nine other children were named William, 
Hugh, James, Welsh, Jane, Mary, Rose, Sarah, and Alice.' 



THE REV. PATRICK BRONTE 37 

strong sense and forethought there is a proof in the fact 
that, knowing that his father could afford him no pecun- 
iary aid, and that he must depend upon his own exertions, 
he opened a public school at the early age of sixteen ; and 
this mode of living he continued to follow for five or six 
years. 1 He then became a tutor in the family of the Rev. 
Mr. Tighe, rector of Drumgooland parish. Thence he 
proceeded to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he was 
entered in July 1802, being at the time five-and-twenty 
years of age. After nearly four years' residence he ob- 
tained his B.A. degree, and was ordained to a curacy in 
Essex, whence he removed into Yorkshire. The course of 
life of which this is the outline shows a powerful and 
remarkable character, originating and pursuing a purpose 
in a resolute and independent manner. Here is a youth — a 
boy of sixteen — separating himself from his family, and de- 
termining to maintain himself ; and that not in the hered- 
itary manner by agricultural pursuits, but by the labour of 
his brain. 

I suppose, from what I have heard, that Mr. Tighe be- 
came strongly interested in his children's tutor, and may 
have aided him not only in the direction of his studies, but 
in the suggestion of an English University education, and 
in advice as to the mode in which he should obtain en- 
trance there." Mr. Bronte has now no trace of his Irish 

1 The statement in the text is not quite accurate. Patrick Bronte 
began life as a hand -loom weaver. At sixteen he was appointed 
teacher of Glascar School, attached to Glascar Hill Presbyterian 
Church, and some two years later he became master of the parish 
school of Drumballyroney, attached to the Episcopalian Church, of 
which the Rev. Thomas Tighe was rector, as also of the allied parish 
of Drumgooland for forty-three years. 

2 Dr. Wright suggested that it was probably with his own savings 
as teacher at Drumballyroney that Patrick Bronte proceeded to St. 
John's College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, where he was entered in 
October 1802, he obtained one of the Hare Exhibitions, one of the 
Duchess of Suffolk's Exhibitions, and the Goodman Exhibition. Hje 
took his B.A. degree in April 1806. At College he knew Henry 



38 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

origin remaining in his speech ; he never could have shown 
his Celtic descent in the straight Greek lines and long oval 
of his face ; but at five-and-twenty, fresh from the only.jjjg 
he had ever known, to present himself at the gates of If. 
John's proved no little determination of will and scorai of 
ridicule. 1 

While at Cambridge he became one of a corps of volun- 
teers, who were then being called out all over the country 
to resist the apprehended invasion by the French. I have 
heard him allude, in late years, to Lord PalmerstoSfias 
one who had often been associated with him then in the 
mimic military duties which they had to perform. 

We take him up now settled as a curate at Hartshead, 
in Yorkshire — far removed from his birthplace and all his 
Irish connections ; with whom, indeed, he cared little to 
keep up any intercourse, and whom he never, I believe, re- 
visited after becoming a student at Cambridge." 

Kirke White (1785-1806), the poet, who was a sizar at St. John's 
at the same time. 

1 Mr. Bronte's first curacy was at Wethersfield, in Essex, in 1806 ; 
his second was at Wellington, Salop, in 1809 ; his third at Dewsbury, 
in 1809 ; his fourth at Hartshead-eum-Clifton, near Huddersfield, in 
1811. In 1815 he removed to Thornton, near Bradford, where his 
younger children Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily Jane, and 
Anne were born, and in 1820 he became perpetual incumbent of 
Haworth. 

8 Patrick Bronte regularly sent money to his family in Ireland 
from the moment he had any to send. Some of the money obtained 
from his scholarship went to his mother, and Dr. Wright declares 
(Brontes in Ireland) that she always had twenty pounds a year from 
him. In his will Patrick Bronte says, ' I leave forty pounds to be 
equally divided amongst all my brothers and sisters, to whom I gave 
considerable sums in times past ; and I direct the same sum of forty 
pounds to be sent for distribution to Mr. Hugh Bronte, Ballinasceaugh, 
near Loughbrickland, Ireland.' He certainly sent a copy of the fourth 
edition of Jane Eyre to his brother Hugh, although I doubt the sug- 
gestion which has been made that a copy of the first edition of that 
book was sent by Charlotte Bronte to her Irish relatives. In any case 
Mr. Bronte visited Ireland at least once. Soon after his ordination 
he preached in Ballyroney Church. 



MR. AND MRS. BRANWELL 39 

Hartshead is a very small village, lying to the east of 
Huddersfield and Halifax ; and from its high situation — on 
a mound, as it were, surrounded by a circular basin — com- 
manding a magnificent view. Mr. Bronte resided here for 
five years ; and, while the incumbent of Hartshead, he 
wooed and married Maria Branwell. 

She was the third daughter of Mr. Thomas Branwell, 
merchant, of Penzance. Her mother's maiden name was 
Oarne ; and, both on father's and mother's side, the Bran- 
well family were sufficiently well descended to enable them 
to mix in the best society that Penzance then afforded. 
Mr. and Mrs. Branwell would be living — their family of 
four daughters and one son, still children — during the ex- 
istence of that primitive state of society which is well de- 
scribed by Dr. Davy in the life of his brother. 1 

' In the same town, when the population was about 2,000 
persons, there was only one carpet, the floors of rooms were 
sprinkled with sea sand, and there was not a single silver 
fork. 

' At that time, when our colonial possessions were very 
limited, our army and navy on a small scale, and there was 
comparatively little demand for intellect, the younger sons 
of gentlemen were often of necessity brought up to some 
trade or mechanical art, to which no discredit, or loss of 
caste, as it were, was attached. The eldest son, if not al- 
lowed to remain an idle country squire, was sent to Oxford 
or Cambridge, preparatory to his engaging in one of the 
three liberal professions of divinity, law, or physic ; the 
second son was perhaps apprenticed to a surgeon or apothe- 
cary, or a solicitor ; the third to a pewterer or watchmaker ; 
the fourth to a packer or mercer, and so on, were there 
more to be provided for. 

' After their apprenticeships were finished the young men 
almost invariably went to London to perfect themselves in 

1 Dr. John Davy's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Humphry Davy, Bart., 
was published in 1836. 



40 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

their respective trade or art ; and on their return into the 
country, when settled in business, they were not excluded 
from what would now be considered genteel society. Visit- 
ing then was conducted differently from what it is at pres- 
ent. Dinner parties were almost unknown, excepting at 
the annual feast time. Christmas, too, was then a season 
of peculiar indulgence and conviviality, and a round of 
entertainments were given, consisting of tea and supper.- 
Excepting at these two periods, visiting was almost entirely 
confined to tea parties, which assembled at three o'clock, 
broke up at nine, and the amusement of the evening was 
commonly some round game at cards, as Pope Joan, or 
Commerce. The lower class was then extremely ignorant, 
and all classes were very superstitious ; even the belief in 
witches maintained its ground, and there was an almost 
unbounded credulity respecting the supernatural and mon- 
strous. There was scarcely a parish in the Mount's Bay that 
was without a haunted house, or a spot to which some story 
of supernatural horror was not attached. Even when I was 
a boy, I remember a house in the best street of Penzance 
which was uninhabited because it was believed to be haunt- 
ed, and which young people walked by at night at a quick- 
ened pace, and with a beating heart. Amongst the middle 
and higher classes there was little taste for literature, and 
still less for science, and their pursuits were rarely of a 
dignified or intellectual kind. Hunting, shooting, wrest- 
ling, cock-fighting, generally ending in drunkenness, were 
what they most delighted in. Smuggling was carried on to 
a great extent ; and drunkenness, and a low state of morals, 
were naturally associated with it. Whilst smuggling was 
the means of acquiring wealth to bold and reckless advent- 
urers, drunkenness and dissipation occasioned the ruin of 
many respectable families.' 

I have given this extract because I conceive it bears some 
reference to the life of Miss Bronte, whose strong mind and 
vivid imagination must have received their first impres- 
sions either from the servants (in that simple household 



MISS BRANWELL'S LETTERS 41 

almost friendly companions during the greater part of the 
day), retailing the traditions or the news of Haworth vil- 
lage ; or from Mr. Bronte, whose intercourse with his chil- 
dren appears to have been considerably restrained, and 
whose life, both in Ireland and at Cambridge, had been 
spent under peculiar circumstances ; or from her aunt, Miss 
Branwell, who came to the parsonage, when Charlotte was 
only six or seven years old, to take charge of her dead sister's 
family. This aunt was older than Mrs. Bronte, and had 
lived longer among the Penzance society, which Dr. Davy 
describes. But in the Branwell family itself the violence 
and irregularity of nature did not exist. They were 
Methodists, and, as far as I can gather, a gentle and sincere 
piety gave refinement and purity of character. 1 Mr. Bran- 
well, the father, according to his descendants' account, was 
a man of musical talent. He and his wife lived to see all 
their children grown up, and died within a year of each 
other — he in 1808, she in 1809, when their daughter Maria 
was twenty-five or twenty-six years of age. I have been 

1 Investigation at Penzance will not now throw much new light on 
the Branwells. They are burled in a vault in the churchyard of St. 
Mary's, and initials only mark the last resting-place of Charlotte 
Bronte's maternal grandfather and grandmother. The vault is marked 
' T. B. 1808,' and is near the front door of the south aisle of the 
church. When the vault was opened in 1897 the sexton copied the 
names from various coffins — 'Benjamin,' 'Johanna,' 'Maria,' 'Eliza- 
beth,' ' Jane' — and there were other Branwells there. Thomas Bran- 
well, who is described as Assistant of the Corporation, was buried on 
April 8, 1808. His wife was Anne Came, and they were married at 
Madron — the Mother Church of Penzance — on November 28, 1768. 
Mrs. Branwell was buried on December 22, 1809. Mr. and Mrs. 
Thomas Branwell had one son and six daughters. The name is still 
not uncommon in Cornwall and even in Penzance, but the last surviv- 
ing relatives, two or three years ago, appeared to be a Miss Charlotte 
Branwell and her brother, Thomas Bronte Branwell. The former, 
who died in 1898, had named her house ' Shirley,' after one of the 
works of her remote cousin. Miss Branwell possessed some interest- 
ing miniatures of Thomas Branwell and his wife, and of Maria Bronte, 
and Elizabeth Branwell, the aunt of the Bronte children who died at 
Haworth. 



42 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

permitted to look over a series of nine letters, which were 
addressed by her to Mr. Bronte during the brief term of 
their engagement in 1812. They are full of tender grace of 
expression and feminine modesty; pervaded by the deep 
piety to which I have alluded as a family characteristic. I 
shall make one or two extracts from them, to show what 
sort of a person was the mother of Charlotte Bronte" : but 
first I must state the circumstances under which this 
Cornish lady met the scholar from Ahaderg, near Lough T 
brickland. In the early summer of 1812, when she would 
be twenty-nine, she came to visit her uncle, the Reverend 
John Fennell, who was at that time a clergyman- of the 
Church of England, living near Leeds, but who had pre- 
viously been a Methodist minister. 1 Mr. Bronte was the 
incumbent of Hartshead ; and had the reputation in the 
neighbourhood of being a very handsome fellow, full of Irish 
enthusiasm, and with something of an Irishman's capability 
of falling easily in love. Miss Branwell was extremely small 
in person ; not pretty, but very elegant, and always dressed 
with a quiet simplicity of taste, which accorded well with her 
general character, and of which some of the details call to 
mind the style of dress preferred by her daughter for her 
favourite heroines. Mr. Bronte was soon captivated by the 
little, gentle creature, and this time declared that it was for 
life. In her first letter to him, dated August 26, she seems 
almost surprised to find herself engaged, and alludes to the 
short time which she has known him. In the rest there 
are touches reminding one of Juliet's 

But trust me, gentleman ; I'll prove more true 
Than those that have more cunning to be strange. 

There are plans for happy picnic parties to Kirkstall 
Abbey, in the glowing September days, when * Uncle, Aunt, 

1 Mr. Fennell was at this time head-master of "Woodhouse Grove 
Wesleyan Academy. He afterwards joined tho Church of England, 
and was for a short time curate for the Rev. John Crosse, vicar of 
Bradford. He died at Cross Stones Vicarage, near Todmorden. 



MISS BRANWELL'S LETTERS 43 

and Cousin Jane' — the last engaged to a Mr. Morgan, 1 an- 
other clergyman — were of the party; all since dead, ex- 
cept Mr. Bronte. There was no opposition on the part of 
any of her friends to her engagement. Mr. and Mrs. Fennell 
sanctioned it, and her brother and sisters in far-away Pen- 
zance appear fully to have approved of it. In a letter 
dated September 18 she says : — 

' For some years I have been perfectly my own mistress, 
subject to no control whatever ; so far from it that my sis- 
ters, who are many years older than myself, and even my 
dear mother, used to consult me on every occasion of im- 
portance, and scarcely ever doubted the propriety of my 
opinions and actions : perhaps you will be ready to accuse 
me of vanity in mentioning this, but you must consider 
that I do not boast of it. I have many times felt it a dis- 
advantage, and although, I thank God, it had never led me 
into error, yet, in circumstances of uncertainty and doubt, 
I have deeply felt the want of a guide and instructor.' In 
the same letter she tells Mr. Bronte that she has informed 
her sisters of her engagement, and that she should not see 
them again so soon as she had intended. Mr. Fennell, her 
uncle, also writes to them by the same post in praise of 
Mr. Bronte. 

The journey from Penzance to Leeds in those days was 
both very long and very expensive ; the lovers had not 
much money to spend in unnecessary travelling, and, as 
Miss Branwell had neither father nor mother living, it ap- 
peared both a discreet and seemly arrangement that the 
marriage should take place from her uncle's house. There 
was no reason either why the engagement should be pro- 
longed. They were past their first youth ; they had means 
sufficient for their unambitious wants ; the living of Harts- 
head is rated in the ' Clergy List ' at 2021. per annum, and 
she was in the receipt of a small annuity (501., I have been 

1 The Rev. William Morgan (1789-1858), the first vicar of Christ 
Church, Bradford, and the author of several devotional works. He 
married Miss Fennell, the cousin of Mrs. Bronte. 



44 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

told) by the will of her father. So, at the end of Septem- 
ber, the lovers began to talk about taking a house, for I 
suppose that Mr. Bronte up to that time had been in lodg- 
ings ; and all went smoothly and successfully with a view 
to their marriage in the ensuing winter, until November, 
when a misfortune happened, which she thus patiently and 
prettily describes : — 

' I suppose you never expected to be much the richer for 
me, but I am sorry to inform you that I am still poorer 
than I thought myself. I mentioned having sent for my 
books, clothes, &c. On Saturday evening, about the time 
when you were writing the description of your imaginary 
shipwreck, I was reading and feeling the effects of a real 
one, having then received a letter from my sister giving 
me an account of the vessel in which she had sent my box 
being stranded on the coast of Devonshire, in consequence 
of which the box was dashed to pieces with the violence of 
the sea, and all my little property, with the exception of 
a very few articles, being swallowed up in the mighty 
deep. If this should not prove the prelude to something 
worse, I shall think little of it, as it is the first disas- 
trous circumstance which has occurred since I left my 
home.' 

The last of these letters is dated December 5. Miss 
Branwell and her cousin intended to set about making the 
wedding cake in the following week, so the marriage could 
not be far off. She had been learning by heart a ' pretty 
little hymn ' of Mr. Bronte's composing ; and reading Lord 
Lyttelton's 'Advice to a Lady/ on which she makes some 
pertinent and just remarks, showing that she thought as 
well as read. And so Maria Branwell fades out of sight: 
we have no more direct intercourse with her ; we hear of 
her as Mrs. Bronte, but it is as an invalid, not far from 
death ; still patient, cheerful, and pious. The writing of 
these letters is elegant and neat ; while there are allusions 
to household occupations — such as making the wedding 
cake — there are also allusions to the books she has read> 



MRS. BRONTE 45 

or is reading, showing a well-cultivated mind. Without 
having anything of her daughter's rare talents, Mrs. 
Bronte must have been, I imagine, that unusual charac- 
ter, a well-balanced and consistent woman. The style of 
the letters is easy- and good, as is also that of a paper from 
the same hand, entitled 'The Advantages of Poverty in 
Religious Concerns,' which was written rather later, with 
a view to publication in some periodical. 1 

She was married from her uncle's house in Yorkshire, 
on December 29, 1812 ; a the same day was also the wed- 
ding day of her younger sister, Charlotte Branwell, in dis- 
tant Penzance. I do not think that Mrs. Bronte ever re- 
visited Cornwall, but she has left a very pleasant impres- 
sion on the minds of those relations who yet survive ; they 
speak of her as 'their favourite aunt, and one to whom 
they, as well as all the family, looked up, as a person of 
talent and great amiability of disposition;' and, again, as 
'meek and retiring, while possessing more than ordinary 
talents, which she inherited from her father ; and her piety 
was genuine and unobtrusive.' 

Mr. Bronte remained for five years at Hartshead, in the 
parish of Dewsbury. There he was married, and his two 



1 The letters from which Mrs. Gaskell quotes the most interesting 
passages are printed in full in Charlotte Bronte and her Circle. One 
of them commences, 'My dear saucy Pat.' The essay, which is in 
my possession, consists of three sheets of quarto paper in a very neat 
handwriting, written on both sides of the page. It is signed ' M.' On 
the blank page at the end Mr. Bronte has endorsed the manuscript, 
'The above was written by my dear wife, and sent for insertion in one 
of the periodical publications. Keep it as a memorial of her.' 

8 The following announcement will be found in the Gentleman's 
Magazine for 1813, Vol. LXXXIII., Part I., p. 179, under Marriages:— 

'Lately at Guiseley, near Bradford, by the Rev. W. Morgan, min- 
ister of Bierley, Rev. P. Bronte, B.A., minister of Hartshead-cum- 
Clifton, to Maria, third daughter of the late T. Bromwell, Esq. (sic), 
of Penzance. And at the same time, by the Rev. P. Bronte, Rev. W. 
Morgan to the only daughter of Mr. John Fennell, head - master of 
the Wesleyan Academy, near Bradford.' 



46 



LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 



children Maria and Elizabeth were born. 1 At the expira- 
tion of that period he had the living of Thornton, in Brad- 
ford parish. Some of those great West Riding parishes 
are almost like bishoprics for their amonnt of population 
and number of churches. Thornton Church' is a little 
episcopal chapel of ease, rich in Nonconformist monu- 
ments, as of Accepted Lister and his friend Dr. Hall. The 
neighbourhood is desolate and wild ; great tracts of bleak 
land, enclosed by stone dykes, sweeping up Clayton heights. 
The church itself looks ancient and solitary, and as if left 
behind by the great stone mills of a nourishing Indepen- 
dent firm, and the solid square chapel built by the mem- 
bers of that denomination. Altogether not so pleasant a 
place as Hartshead, with its ample outlook over cloud- 
shadowed, sun-flecked plain, and hill rising beyond hill to 
form the distant horizon. 

Here, at Thornton, Charlotte Bronte was born, on April 
21, 1816. Fast on her heels followed Patrick Branwell, 
Emily Jane, and Anne. After the birth of this last 
daughter Mrs. Bronte's health began to decline. It is hard 
work to provide for the little tender wants of many young 

1 Here is the copy of the registration of Maria Bronte's baptism at 
Hartshead cum-Clifton. Elizabeth was baptised at Thornton:— 



When 
Bap- 
tised 


Child's 

Christian 

Name 


Parents' Name 


Abode 


Quality, 
Trade, or 
Profession 


By whom the 

Ceremony was 

Performed 


Christ- 
ian 


Sur- 
name 


1814, 

April 

23 


Maria, 

daughter 

of 


The Rev. 
Patrick 
minister 
of this 
church, 
and , 
Maria, 
his wife 


Bronte 






William 
Morgan, 
officiating 

Minister 



2 The Old Bell Church at Thornton, in which Mr. Bronte preached, 



THE BRONTE BAPTISMAL REGISTER 



47 



children where the means are bnt limited. The necessaries 
of food and clothing are much more easily supplied than 
the almost equal necessaries of attendance, care, soothing, 
amusement, and sympathy. Maria Bronte, the eldest of 
six, could only have been a few months more than six years 
old when Mr. Bronte' removed to Haworth, on February 25, 
1820. Those who knew her then describe her as grave, 
thoughtful, and quiet, to a degree far beyond her years. 



is now a ruin. A new church exactly opposite contains the registers 
of the baptisms of the Bronie children, as follows : 

' Baptisms solemnised in the Parish of Bradford and Ohapelry of 
Thornton, in the County of York. 



When 
Bap- 
tised 


Child's 

Christian 

Name 


Parents' Name 


Abode 


Quality, 
Trade, or 
Profession 


By whom the 

Ceremony was 

Performed 


Christ- 
ian 


Sur- 
name 


1815, 

August 
26 


Elizabeth 


Patrick 

and 

Maria 


Bronte 


Thorn- 
ton 


Minister 


J. Fennell, 
officiating 
Minister 


1816, 

June 

29 


Charlotte, 

daughter 

of 


The Rev. 
Patrick 

and 
Maria 


Bronte 


Thorn- 
ton 


Minister 

of 
Thorn- 
ton 


Wm. Morgan, 

Minister of 

Christ Church, 

Bradford 


1817, 

July 

23 


Patrick 

Bran well, 

son of 


Patrick 

and 
Maria 


Bronte 


Thorn- 
ton 


Minister 


Jno. Fennell, 

officiating 

Minister 


1818, 

August 

20 


Emily 

Jane, 

daughter 

of 


The Rev. 
Patrick 

and 
Maria 


Bronte, 
A.B. 


Thorn- 
ton 

Parson- 
age 


Minister 

of 
Thorn- 
ton 


Wm. Morgan 

Minister of, 

Christ Church, 

Bradford 


1820, 

March 

25 


Anne, 

daughter 

of 


The Rev. 
Patrick 

and 
Maria 


Bronte' 


Minister 

of 
Haworth 




Wm. Morgan, 

Minister of 

Christ Church, 

in Bradford ' 



48 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

) 
Her childhood was no childhood ; the cases are rare in 
which the possessors of great gifts have known the bless- 
ings of that careless, happy time ; their unusual powers 
stir within them, and, instead of the natural life of per- 
ception—the objective, as the Germans call it — they begin 
the deeper lifo of reflection — the subjective. 

Little Maria Bronte was delicate and small in appearance, 
which seemed to give greater effect to her wonderful pre- 
cocity of intellect. She must have been her mother's 
companion and helpmate in many a household and nursery 
experience, for Mr. Bronte was, of course, much engaged 
in his study ; and, besides, he was not naturally fond of 
children, and felt their frequent appearance on the scene 
both as a drag on his wife's strength and as an' interruption 
to the comfort of the household. 

Haworth Parsonage is, as I mentioned in the first chapter, 
an oblong stone house, facing down the hill on which the 
village stands, and with the front door right opposite to 
the western door of the church, distant about a hundred 
yards. Of this space twenty yards or so in depth are occu- 
pied by the grassy garden, which is scarcely wider than the 
house. The graveyard lies on two sides of the house and 
garden. The house consists of four rooms on each floor, 
and is two stories high. When the Brontes took possession 
they made the larger parlour, to the left of the entrance, the 
family sitting-room, while that on the right was appropri- 
ated to Mr. Bronte as a study. Behind this was the kitchen ; 
behind the former, a sort of flagged store room. 1 Upstairs 
were four bed-chambers of similar size, with the addition 
of a small apartment over the passage, or 'lobby,' as we 
call it in the north. This was to the front, the staircase 
going up right opposite to the entrance. There is the 
pleasant old fashion of window seats all through the house ; 
and one can see that the parsonage was built in the days 

1 The ' flagged store room ' was converted into a study for Mr. 
Nicholls during his brief married life. It reverted to its earlier pur- 
pose during the incumbency of Mr. Wade. 



ME. BRONTE'S EXCLUSIVENESS 49 

when wood was plentiful, as the massive stair banisters, 
and the wainscots, and the heavy window frames tes- 
tify. _ 

This little extra upstairs room was appropriated to the 
children. Small as it was, it was not called a nursery ; in- 
deed, it had not the comfort of a fireplace in it ; the ser- 
vants — two affectionate, warm-hearted sisters, who cannot 
now speak of the family without tears — called the room the 
'children's study.' The age of the eldest student was 
perhaps by this time seven. 

The people in Haworth were none of them very poor. 
Many of them were employed in the neighbouring worsted 
mills ; a few were millowners and manufacturers in a small 
way ; there were also some shopkeepers for the humbler and 
everyday wants ; but for medical advice, for stationery, 
books, law, dress, or dainties the inhabitants had to go to 
Keighley. There were several Sunday schools ; the Bap- 
tists had taken the lead in instituting them, the Wesleyans 
had followed, the Church of England had brought up the 
rear. Good Mr. Grimshaw, Wesley's friend, had built a 
humble Methodist chapel, but it stood close to the road 
leading on to the moor ; the Baptists then raised a place of 
worship, with the distinction of being a few yards back 
from the highway ; and the Methodists have since thought 
it well to erect another and larger chapel, still more retired 
from the road. Mr. Bronte was ever on kind and friendly 
terms with each denomination as a body ; but from individ- 
uals in the village the family stood aloof, unless some direct 
service was required, from the first. 'They kept them- 
selves very close,' is the account given by those who re- 
member Mr. and Mrs. Bronte's coming amongst them. I 
believe many of the Yorkshire men would object to the 
system of parochial visiting; their surly independence 
would revolt from the idea of any one having a right, from 
his office, to inquire into their condition, to counsel or to 
admonish them. The old hill spirit lingers in them which 
coined the rhyme, inscribed on the under part of one of the 



50 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

seats in the sedilia of Whalley Abbey, not many miles from 
Haworth — 

Who mells wi' what another does 
Had best go home and shoe his goose. 

I asked an inhabitant of a district close to Haworth 
what sort of a clergyman they had at the church which he 
attended. 

' A rare good one,' said he : 'he minds his own business, 
and ne'er troubles himself with ours.' 

Mr. Bronte was faithful in visiting the sick and all those 
who sent for him, and diligent in attendance at the schools; 
and so was his daughter Charlotte too; but, cherishing and 
valuing privacy themselves, they were perhaps over-deli- 
cate in not intruding upon the privacy of others. 

From their first going to Haworth their walks were 
directed rather out towards the heathery moors, sloping 
upwards behind the parsonage, than towards the long 
descending village street. A good old woman, who came 
to nurse Mrs. Bronte in the illness — an internal cancer— 
which grew and gathered upon her, not many months after 
her arrival at Haworth, tells me that at that time the six 
little creatures used to walk out, hand in hand, towards 
the glorious wild moors, which in after days they loved 
so passionately ; the elder ones taking thoughtful care for 
the toddling wee things. 

They were grave and silent beyond their years ; subdued, 
probably, by the presence of serious illness in the house; 
for, at the time which my informant speaks of, Mrs. Bronte 
was confined to the bedroom from which she never came 
forth alive. ' You would not have known there was a child 
in the house, they were such still, noiseless, good little 
creatures. Maria would shut herself up' (Maria, but 
seven !) ' in the children's study with a newspaper and be 
able to tell one everything when she came out ; debates in 
Parliament, and I don't know what all. She was as good 
as a mother to her sisters and brother. But there never 



THE BRONTE CHILDREN 51 

were such good children. I used to think them spirit- 
less, they were so different from any children I had ever 
seen. They were good little creatures. Emily was the 
prettiest.' 

Mrs. Bronte was the same patient, cheerful person as we 
have seen her formerly; very ill, suffering great pain, but 
seldom if ever complaining ; at her better times begging 
her nurse to raise her in bed to let her see her clean the 
grate, ' because she did it as it was done in Cornwall ;' f de- 
votedly fond of her husband, who warmly repaid her affec- 
tion, and suffered no one else to take the night-nursing ; but, 
according to my informant, the mother was not very anxious 
to see much of her children, probably because the sight of 
them, knowing how soon they were to be left motherless, 
would have agitated her too much. So the little things 
clung quietly together, for their" father was busy in his 
study and in his parish, or with their mother, and they 
took their meals alone ; sat reading, or whispering low, in 
the 'children's study,' or wandered out on the hillside, 
hand in hand. 

The ideas of Rousseau and Mr. Day 1 on education had 
filtered down through many classes, and spread themselves 
widely out. I imagine Mr. Bronte must have formed some 
of his opinions on the management of children from these 
two theorists. His practice was not half so wild or extraor- 
dinary as that to which an aunt of mine was subjected by 
a disciple of Mr. Day's. She had been taken by this gen- 
tleman and his wife, to live with them as their adopted 
child, perhaps about flve-and-twenty years before the time 
of which I am writing. They were wealthy people and 
kind-hearted, but her food and clothing were of the very 
simplest and rudest description, on Spartan principles. A 
healthy, merry child, she did not much care for dress or 
eating ; but the treatment which she felt as a real cruelty 

1 Rousseau (1713-78) published Emile in 1762. Thomas Day (1748- 
89) published The History of Sandford and Merton in 1783-89. 



52 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

was this : They had a carriage, in which she and the fa- 
vourite dog were taken an airing on alternate days ; the 
creature whose turn it was to he left at home being tossed 
in a blanket — an operation which my aunt especially 
dreaded. Her affright at the tossing was probably the 
reason why it was persevered in. Dressed-up ghosts had 
become common, and she did not care for them, so the 
blanket exercise was to be the next mode of hardening her 
nerves. It is well known that Mr. Day broke off his inten- 
tion of marrying Sabrina, the girl whom he had educated for 
this purpose, because, within a few weeks of the time fixed 
for the wedding, she was guilty of the frivolity, while on a 
visit from home, of wearing thin sleeves. Yet Mr. Day 
and my aunt's relations were benevolent people, only 
strongly imbued with the crotchet that by a system of train- 
ing might be educed the hardihood and simplicity of the 
ideal savage, forgetting the terrible isolation of feelings 
and habits which their pupils would experience in the 
future life which they must pass among the corruptions 
and refinements of civilisation. 

Mr. Bronte wished to make his children hardy, and in- 
different to the pleasures of eating and dress. In the lat- 
ter he succeeded, as far as regarded his daughters. 

His strong, passionate Irish nature was, in general, com- 
pressed down with resolute stoicism ; but it was there not- 
withstanding all his philosophic calm and dignity of de- 
meanour ; though he did not speak when he was annoyed 
or displeased. Mrs. Bronte, whose sweet nature thought 
invariably of the bright side, would say, ' Ought I not to 
be thankful that he never gave me an angry word?" 

1 There was much discussion rife concerning Mr. Bronte during 
the years immediately following the publication of Mrs. Gaskell's Me- 
moir. Certain aspects of his character were dealt with in a singularly 
unflattering way by Mrs. Gaskell in the first edition, but, owing to 
Mr. Bronte's remonstrances, the prejudicial statements were with- 
drawn. One of Mrs. Gaskell's informants clearly had an undue prej- 
udice against the old incumbent of Haworth, but the unfavourable 



THE FATHER OP THE BRONTES 53 

Mr. Bronte was an active walker, stretching away over 
the moors for many miles, noting in his mind all natural 
signs of wind and weather, and keenly observing all the 
wild creatures that came and went in the loneliest sweeps 
of the hills. He has seen eagles stooping low in search of 
food for their young; no eagle is ever seen on those moun- 
tain slopes now. 

He fearlessly took whatever side in local or national pol- 
itics appeared to him right. In the days of the Luddites 
he had been for the peremptory interference of the law, at a 
time when no magistrate could be found to act, and all the 
property of the West Riding was in terrible danger. He 
became unpopular then among the mill-workers, and he 
esteemed his life unsafe if he took his long and lonely walks 
unarmed ; so he began the habit, which has continued to 
this day, of invariably carrying a loaded pistol about with 
him. It lay on his dressing-table with his watch ; with his 
watch it was put on in the morning ; with his watch it was 
taken on* at night. 1 

view was not shared by others who have been heard since Mrs. Gaskell 
wrote. Mr. Bronte in any case won the kindly judgment of his son- 
in-law, Mr. Nicholls, and the servant — Martha Brown— who lived with 
him until his death. Both asserted, and Mr. Nicholls is still alive to 
assert, that Mr. BrontS, with some hastiness of temper, was a good 
husband and father. Sir Wemyss Reid, however (Nineteenth Century, 
November 1896), whose recollections of the Bronte traditions go fur- 
ther back than those of any one else who has writteu on the subject, 
declares that Mrs. Gaskell had abundant ground for her estimate, 
and that Mr. Bronte ' in his youth and early manhood ' was ' an ex- 
tremely difficult person to live with.' But so also are many estimable 
men who, not being the parents of children of genius, succeed in pass- 
ing out of life without the world's condemnation. 

1 Mr. Nicholls declares that Mr. Bronte's pistol-shooting was merely 
the harmless recreation of a country clergyman. There are traces of 
a bullet shot on the old tower at Ha worth, but this, although pointed 
out as Mr. Bronte's exploit, would seem to have been the frolic of a 
curate. After the fashion of most of his contemporaries he frequently 
carried a pistol or a gun for his protection at night, and Nancy Garrs 
declared that at most he might have tried his skill as a marksman by 



54 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Many years later, during his residence at Haworth, there 
was a strike ; the hands in the neighbourhood felt them- 
selves aggrieved by the masters, and refused to work : Mr. 
Bronte thought that they had been unjustly and unfairly 

firing at his own pigeons. The matter is dealt with at length in an in- 
terview with Nancy Garrs, one of the Haworth servants (Seckmond- 
toike Herald and Courier, September 22, 1882): — 

' Those who have read Mrs. Gaskell's book (and who in this locality 
has not ?) will remember the extraordinary stories she tells of Mr. 
Bronte's inflammable temper — of his tearing into shreds a silk dress 
belonging to his wife, which he did not approve of her wearing ; of his 
sawing off chair-backs and firing off pistols in the back yard in his tre- 
mendous fits of passion. They will remember also her account of the 
more than Spartan rigour with which he ruled his household, and bis 
cold and unsympathetic conduct towards his gifted children. It is 
rather singular that Nancy denies nearly all the sensational stories told 
by the imaginative lady, and maintains strongly that Mr. BronlS had a 
calm and even tern perament, and, though somewhat of a recluse, regard- 
ed with the most affectionate solicitude every member of his family, 
and was always kind and considerate to the humblest of his household. 
The story of the cutting of Mrs. Bronte's silk dress into shreds, which 
is repeated in Mr. T. "Wemyss Reid's book, is stoutly denied by Nancy, 
who lived in the house at the time, and therefore, as she energetically 
observed to us, knew " all about it better than any book-writer." The 
story given by this eye-witness is as follows : Mrs. Bronte had bought 
a buff print dress, which was made up by her dressmaker in the then 
fashionable style, with balloon sleeves and a long waist. When Mr. 
Bronte came in to dinner and saw this new article of dress, which 
would doubtless strike his unsophisticated mind as being fearfully and 
wonderfully made, he began to banter his wife good-humouredly con- 
cerning it, commenting with special awe and wonder on the marvel- 
lous expanse of sleeve. Mrs. Bronte took all the raillery in good part, 
and the meal passed off pleasantly enough. In the afternoon the dress 
was changed and left in the room. In going into the apartment soon 
after Mrs. Bronte found the offending garment where she had left it, 
but, alas ! the beautiful balloon sleeves had disappeared. Remember- 
ing the badinage which had passed a few hours before, she was quite 
aware who had done the ruthless deed, but she does not appear to have 
bewailed the departed glories of her dress very much, for she soon re- 
appeared in the kitchen with it, and laughingly held it out to view, 
exclaiming, "Look, Nancy, what master has done 1 Never mind, it 
will do for you," and so she handed the beautiful buff print to her de- 



THE EEV. MR. BRONTE 55 

treated, and he assisted them by all the means in his power 
to 'keep the wolf from their doors,' and avoid the incubus 
of debt. Several of the more influential inhabitants of 
Haworth and the neighbourhood were mill-owners ; they 
remonstrated pretty sharply with him, but he believed that 
his conduct was right, and persevered in it. 

His opinions might be often both wild and erroneous, his 
principles of action eccentric and strange, his views of life 
partial, and almost misanthropical ; but not one opinion 
that he held could be stirred or modified by any worldly 
motive : he acted up to his principles of action ; and, if any 
touch of misanthropy mingled with his view of mankind in 
general, his conduct to the individuals who came into per- 
sonal contact with him did not agree with such view. It 
is true that he had strong and vehement prejudices, and 
was obstinate in maintaining them, and that he was not 
dramatic enough in his perceptions to see how miserable 
others might be in a life that to him was all-sufficient. 
But I do not pretend to be able to harmonise points of 
character, and account for them, and bring them all into 
one consistent and intelligible whole. The family with 
whom I have now to do shot their roots down deeper than 
I can penetrate. I cannot measure them, much less is it 
for me to judge them. I have named these instances of 
eccentricity in the father because I hold the knowledge of 
them to be necessary for a right understanding of the life 
of his daughter. 

lighted Abigail, who would doubtless find the abseace of the balloon 
sleeves a decided advantage. Soon after Mr. Bronte entered the kitchen 
with a parcel containing a new silk dress, which he had been over to 
Keighley to buy, and which he presented to his wife, in place of the 
one whose monstrous development of sleeve had so strongly moved to 
action his organ of destructiveness; and thus the tragic business ended, 
in a manner that would, no doubt, be pleasing to all concerned. Our 
readers, we are sure, will agree with us in thinking that Nancy's 
version is decidedly more pleasing than Mrs. Gaskell's, and as she actu- 
ally saw the occurrence, which is more than either that writer or her 
informant can say, we are inclined to think it is more probable also.' 



56 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Mrs. Bronte died in September 1821, and the lives of 
those quiet children must have become quieter and lonelier 
still. Charlotte tried hard, in after years, to recall the 
remembrance of her mother, and could bring back two or 
three pictures of her. One was when, some time in the 
evening light, she had been playing with her little boy, 
Patrick Bran well, in the parlour of Haworth Parsonage. 
But the recollections of four or five years old are of a very 
fragmentary character. 1 

Owing to some illness of the digestive organs Mr. Bronte 
was obliged to be very careful about his diet ; and, in order 
to avoid temptation, and possibly to have the quiet neces- 
sary for digestion, he had begun, before his wife's death, 
to take his dinner alone — a habit which he always retained. 
He did not require companionship ; therefore he did not 
seek it, either in his walks or in his daily life. The quiet 
regularity of his domestic hours was only broken in upon 
by church - wardens, and visitors on parochial business ; 
and sometimes by a neighbouring clergyman, who came 
down the hills, across the moors, to mount up again to 
Haworth Parsonage, and spend an evening there. But, 
owing to Mrs. Bronte's death so soon after her husband 
had removed into the district, and also to the distances, 
and the bleak country to be traversed, the wives of these 

1 There are two interesting reminiscences of Mrs. Bronte extant ; 
one isacopyof 'Thomas it Kempis,' John Wesley's abridgment. It is 
inscribed ' M. Branwell, July 1807.' This book was evidently brought 
by Mrs. Bronte from Penzance. On the fly-leaf Charlotte Bronte has 
written as follows : — • 

' C. Bronte's book. This book was given to me in July 1826. It is 
not certainly known who is the author, but it is generally supposed 
that Thomas & Kempis is. I saw a reward of 10.000Z. offered in the 
Leeds Mercury to any one who could find out for a certainty who is the 
author.' 

The other relic is a sampler containing the usual alphabet that chil- 
dren work or worked, and the text, ' Flee from sin as from a serpent, 
for if thou comest too near to it it will bite thee : the teeth thereof are 
as the teeth of a lion to slay the souls of men, 'followed by the name:— 
Ma/ria Branwell ended her sampler April 15, 1791. 



THE HA WORTH SERVANTS 57 

clerical friends did not accompany their husbands ; and 
the daughters grew up out of childhood into girlhood be- 
reft, iu a singular manner, of all such society as would 
have been natural to their age, sex, and station. 

But the children did not want society. To small infan- 
tine gaieties they were unaccustomed. They were all in 
all to each other. I do not suppose that there ever was 
a family more tenderly bound to each other. Maria read 
the newspapers, and reported intelligence to her younger 
sisters which it is wonderful they could take an interest in. 
But I suspect that they had no 'children's books,' and 
that their eager minds 'browsed undisturbed among the 
wholesome pasturage of English literature/ as Charles 
Lamb expresses it. The servants of the household appear 
to have been much impressed with the little Brontes' ex- 
traordinary cleverness. In a letter which I had from him 
on this subject their father writes, ' The servants often said 
that they had never seen such a clever little child' (as 
Charlotte), ' and that they were obliged to be on their 
guard as to what they said and did before her. Yet she 
and the servants always lived on good terms with each 
other.' 

These servants are yet alive ; elderly women residing in 
Bradford. 1 They retain a faithful and fond recollection of 

1 The servants were Sarah and Nancy Garrs, Martha Brown, and 
Tabitha. Nancy Malone, born Garrs, or de Garrs, was the daughter 
of a shoemaker of Bradford. At twelve years of age she was engaged 
by Mrs. Bronte, then at Thornton, as nurse -girl, aDd she nursed 
Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Anne. She accompanied the family 
to Haworth, and remained there as cook, her younger sister, Sarah, 
taking her place as nurse. She remained with the Brontes until she 
married and became Mrs. Wainwright. At a later date she married John 
Malone, a workingman. She died in 1886 in the Bradford workhouse 
in her eighty - second year. Her sister Sarah also married, and, as 
Mrs. Newsome, is still alive in Iowa City, U.S.A. Nancy Malone 
disliked all disparaging references to Mr. Bronte, and declared that ' a 
kinder master never drew breath.' Martha Brown was a native of 
Haworth and servant with the Brontes from her tenth year, when she 
went to assist 'Tabby.' She became housekeeper at the parsonage 



58 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Charlotte, and speak of her unvarying kindness from the 
'time when she was ever such a little child,' when she 
would not rest till she had got the old disused cradle sent 
from the parsonage to the house where the parents of one 
of them lived, to serve for a little infant sister. They tell 
of one long series of kind and thoughtful. actions from this 
early period to the last weeks of Charlotte Bronte's life; 
and, though she had left her place many years ago, one of 
these former servants went over from Bradford to Haworth 
on purpose to see Mr. Bronte, and offer him her true sym- 
pathy, when his last child died. I may add a little anec- 
dote as a testimony to the admirable character of the like- 
ness of Miss Bronte prefixed to this volume. 1 A gentleman 
who had kindly interested himself in the preparation of 
this memoir took the first volume, shortly after the publi- 
cation, to the house of this old servant, in order to show 
her the portrait. The moment she caught a glimpse of the 
frontispiece, ' There she is,' she exclaimed. ' Come, John, 
look !' (to her husband) ; and her daughter was equally 
struck by the resemblance. There might not be many to 
regard the Brontes with affection; but those who once 
loved them loved them long and well. 
I return to the father's letter. He says : — 
' When mere children, as soon as they could read and 
write, Charlotte and her brother and sisters used to invent 
and act little plays of their own, in which the Duke of 
Wellington, my daughter Charlotte's hero, was sure to 
come off conqueror; when a dispute would not unfre- 
quently arise amongst them regarding the comparative 

from Charlotte's death in 1855 until the death of Mr. Bronte in 1861. 
She died at Haworth, January 19, 1880, and is buried in Haworth 
Churchyard. For 'Tabby,' or Tabitha Aykroyd, see notes on pp. 61 
and 169. 

1 The portrait of Charlotte Bronte which has hitherto accompanied 
Mrs. Gaskell's biography, and is prefixed to the 'Jane Eyre' of the 
present edition, is that by George Richmond — the only authentic 
likeness extant. The original is in the possession of Mr. A. B. 
Nicholls, and is destined by him for the National Portrait Gallery. 



MR. BRONTE'S ACCOUNT OF HIS CHILDREN 59 

merits of him, Buonaparte, Hannibal, and Caesar. When 
the argument got warm, and rose to its height, as their 
mother was then dead, I had sometimes to come in as ar- 
bitrator, and settle the dispute according to the best of 
my judgment." Generally, in the management of these con- 
cerns, I frequently thought that I discovered signs of ris- 
ing talent, which I had seldom or never before seen in any 
of their age. ... A circumstance now occurs to my mind 
which I may as well mention. When my children were 
very young, when, as far as I can remember, the oldest was 
about ten years of age, and the youngest about four, think- 
ing that they knew more than I had yet discovered, in 
order to make them speak with less timidity, I deemed 
that if they were put under a sort of cover I might gain 
my end ; and happening to have a mask in the house, I 
told them all to stand back and speak boldly from under 
cover of the mask. 

' I began with the youngest (Anne, afterwards Acton 
Bell), and asked what a child like her most wanted ; she 
answered, " Age and experience." I asked the next (Emily, 
afterwards Ellis Bell) what I had best do with her 
brother, Branwell, who was sometimes a naughty boy ; she 
answered, " Reason with him, and when he won't listen to 
reason whip him." I asked Branwell what was the best 
way of knowing the difference between the intellects of 
man and woman ; he answered, " By considering the dif- 
ference between them as to their bodies." I then asked 
Charlotte what was the best book in the world ; she an- 
swered, "The Bible." And what was the next best; she 
answered, " The Book of Nature." I then asked the next 
what was the best mode of education for a woman ; she an- 
swered, "That which would make her rule her house well." 
Lastly, I asked the oldest what was the best mode of spend- 
ing time ; she answered, " By laying it out in preparation 
for a happy eternity." I may not have given precisely their 
words, but I have nearly done so, as they made a deep and 
lasting impression on my memory. The substance, how- 
ever, was exactly what I have stated.' 



60 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

The strange and quaint simplicity of the mode taken by 
the father to ascertain the hidden characters of his chil- 
dren, and the tone and character of these questions and 
answers, show the curious education which was made by 
the circumstances surrounding the Brontes. They knew 
no other children. They knew no other modes of thought 
than what were suggested to them by the fragments of 
clerical conversation which they overheard in the parlour, 
or the subjects of village and local interest which they 
heard discussed in the kitchen. Each had its own strong 
characteristic flavour. 

They took a vivid interest in the public characters, and 
the local and foreign as well as home politics discussed in 
the newspapers. Long before Maria Bronte died, at the 
age of eleven, her father used to say he could converse with 
her on any of the leading topics of the day with as mnch 
freedom and pleasure as with any grown-up person. 



CHAPTER IV 

About a year after Mrs. Bronte's death an elder sister, as 
I have before mentioned, came from Penzance to superintend 
her brother-in-law's household and look after his children. 
Miss. Branwell 1 was, I believe, a kindly and conscientious 

1 Elizabeth Branwell, by maDy supposed — although altogether 
wrongly — to have been the original in some aspects of Mrs. Reed in 
Jane Eyre, would seem to have been genuinely devoted to her nieces. 
Among relics of her that survive are the work-boxes that she left in 
her will to Charlotte and Anne, and a sampler doubtless brought among 
her modest treasures from Penzance to Haworth. Miss Ellen Nussey's 
descriptions of the aunt and of ' Tabby ' the servant are the best that 
I have seen : — 

' Miss Branwell was a very small, antiquated little lady ; she wore 
caps large enough for half a dozen of the present fashion, and a front 
of light auburn curls over her forehead. She always dressed in silk. 
She talked a great deal of her younger days, the gaieties of her native 
town, Penzance, in Cornwall, the soft warm climate, &c. She very 
probably had been a belle among her acquaintances ; the social life of 
her younger days she appeared to recall with regret. She took snuff 
out of a very pretty little gold snuff-box, which she sometimes pre- 
sented with a little laugh, as if she enjoyed the slight shock and aston- 
ishment visible in your countenance. In summer she spent most of 
her afternoons in reading aloud to Mr. Bronte, and in the winter even- 
ings she must have enjoyed this, for she and Mr. Bronte had some- 
times to finish their discussions on what she had read when we all met 
for tea ; she would be very lively and intelligent in her talk, and tilted 
argument without fear against Mr. Bronte. 

'"Tabby," the faithful, trustworthy old servant, was very quaint 
in appearance, very active, and in those days was the general servant 
and factotum. We were all " children " and " bairns " in her estima- 
tion. She still kept to her duty of walking out with the "children " if 
they went any distance from home, unless Branwell were sent by his 
father as protector. In later days, after she had been attacked with 



62 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

woman, with a good deal of character, but with the some- 
what narrow ideas natural to one who had spent nearly all 
her life in the same place. She had strong prejudices, and 
soon took a distaste to Yorkshire. Prom Penzance, where 
plants which we in the north call greenhouse flowers grow 
in great profusion, and without any shelter even in the 
winter, and where the soft warm climate allows the inhab- 
itants, if so disposed, to live pretty constantly in the open 
air, it was a great change for a lady considerably past forty 
to come and take up her abode in a place where neither 
flowers nor vegetables would nourish, and where a tree of 
even moderate dimensions might be hunted for far and 
wide ; where the snow lay long and late on the moors, 
stretching bleakly and barely far up from the dwelling 
which was henceforward to be her home ; and where often, 
on autumnal or winter nights, the four winds of heaven 
seemed to meet and rage together, tearing round the 
house as if they were wild beasts striving to find an en- 
trance. She missed the small round of cheerful social vis- 
iting perpetually going on in a country town ; she missed 
the friends she had known from her childhood, some of 
whom had been her parents' friends before they were hers; 
she disliked many of the customs of the place, and partic- 
ularly dreaded the cold damp arising from the flag floors 
in the passages and parlours of Haworth Parsonage. The 
stairs, too, I believe, are made of stone ; and no wonder, 
when stone quarries are near and trees are far to seek. I 
have heard that Miss Branwell always went about the 
house on pattens, clicking up and down the stairs, from 
her dread of catching cold. For the same reason, in the 
latter years of her life, she passed nearly all her time, and 

paralysis, she would anxiously look out for such duties as she was still 
capable of. The postman was her special point of attention ; she did 
not approve of the inspections which the younger eyes of her fellow 
servant bestowed on his deliveries ; she jealously seized them (when 
she could), and carried them off with hobbling step and shaking head 
and hand to the safe custody of Charlotte.' 



COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL 63 

took most of her meals, in her bedroom. The children re- 
spected her, and had that sort of affection for her which is 
generated by esteem ; but I do not think they ever freely 
loved her. It was a severe trial for any one at her time of 
life to change neighbourhood and habitation so entirely as 
she did ; and the greater her merit. 

I do not know whether Miss Branwell taught her nieces 
anything besides sewing 1 anrl tho household arts in which 
Charlotte afterwards was such an adept. Their regular 
lessons were said to their father ; and they were always in 
the habit of picking up an immense amount of miscella- 
neous information for themselves. But a year or so before 
this time a school had been begun in the North of England 
for the daughters of clergymen. The place was Cowan 
Bridge, a small hamlet on the coach road between Leeds 
and Kendal, and thus easy of access from Haworth, as the 
eoach ran daily, and one of its stages was at Keighley. 
The yearly expense for each pupil (according to the en- 
trance rules given in the Report for 1842, and I believe 
they had not been increased since the establishment of the 
school in 1823) was as follows: — 

' Rule II. The terms for clothing, lodging, boarding, and 
educating are 14?. a year ; half to be paid in advance, when 
the pupils are sent ; and also 11. entrance money, for the 
use of books, &c. The system of education comprehends 
history, geography, the use of the globes, grammar, writ- 
ing and arithmetic, all kinds of needle work, and the nicer 
kinds of household work, such as getting up fine linen, 
ironing, &c. If accomplishments are required an addi- 
tional charge of 31. a year is made for music or drawing, 
each.' 

Rule III. requests that the friends will state the line of 

1 Charlotte's gifts of sewing were marked. Her friend Miss Lse- 
titia Wheelwright possesses a beautifully worked bag which Miss 
Bronte made for Mrs. Wheelwright when on a visit to London. A 
neatly worked bead purse, also the outcome of her skill, was sold at 
Sotheby's in 1898. 



64 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

education desired in the case of every pupil, having a re- 
gard to her future prospects. 

Rule IV. states the clothing and toilette articles which 
a girl is expected to bring with her ; and thus concludes : 
' The pupils all appear in the same dress. They wear plain 
straw cottage bonnets ; in summer white frocks on Sun- 
days, and nankeen on other days ; in winter, purple stuff 
frocks, and purple cloth cloaks. For the sake of uniform- 
ity, therefore, they are required to bring 31. in lieu of 
frocks, pelisse, bonnet, tippet, and frills, making the 
whole sum which each pupil brings with her to the school — 

71. half-year in advance. 
11. entrance for books. 
11. entrance for clothes.' 

The 8th rule is, 'All letters and parcels are inspected 
by the superintendent ;' but this is a very prevalent regu- 
lation in all young ladies' schools, where I think it is gen- 
erally understood that the schoolmistress may exercise this 
privilege, although it is certainly unwise in her to insist 
too frequently upon it. 

There is nothing at all remarkable in any of the other 
regulations, a copy of which was doubtless in Mr. Bronte's 
hands when he formed the determination to send his 
daughters to Cowan Bridge School ; and he accordingly 
took Maria and Elizabeth thither in July 1824. ' 

1 The Journal of Education for January 1900 contained the following 
extracts from the school register of the Clergy Daughters' School at 
Casterton : — 

' Charlotte Bronte. Entered August 10, 1834. Writes indifferently. 
Ciphers a little, and works neatly. Knows nothing of grammar, 
geography, history, or accomplishments. Altogether clever of her 
age, but knows nothing systematically (at eight years old !). Left 
schooljune 1, 1825. — Governess.' 

The following entries may also be of ^interest: — 

' Marie Bronte, aged 10 (daughter Of" Patrick Bronte, Haworth, near 
Keighley, Yorks). July 1, 1824.' Reads tolerably. Writes pretty 
well. Ciphers a little. Works badly. Very little of geography of 



COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL 65 

I now come to a part of my subject which I find great 
difficulty in treating, because the evidence relating to it on 
each side is so conflicting that it seems almost impossible 
to arrive at the truth. Miss Bronte more than once said 
to me that she should not have written what she did of 
Lowood in ' Jane Eyre/ if she had thought the place would 
have been so immediately identified with Cowan Bridge, 
although there was not a word in her account of the insti- 
tution but what was true at the time when she knew it ; 
she also said that she had not considered it necessary, in a 
work of fiction, to state every particular with the impar- 
tiality that might be required iu a court of justice, nor to 
seek out motives, and make allowances for human failings, 
as she might have done, if dispassionately analysing the 
conduct of those who had the superintendence of the in- 
stitution. I believe she herself would have been glad of an 
opportunity to correct the over-strong impression which 
was made upon the public mind by her vivid picture, 
though even she, suffering her whole life long, both iu 
heart and body, from the consequences of what happened 
there, might have been apt, to the last, to take her deep 
belief in facts for the facts themselves — her conception of 
truth for the absolute truth. 

In some of the notices of the previous editions of his 
work it is assumed that I derived the greater part of my m- 

history. Has made some progress in reading French, but knows 
nothing of the language grammatically. Left February 14, 1825, in 
ill-health, and died May 16, 1825.' 

(Her father's accouut of her is : — ' She exhibited during her illness 
many symptoms of a heart under Divine influence. Died of decline.') 

'Elizabeth Bronte, age 9. (Vaccinated. Scarlet fever, whooping 
cough.) Reads Utile. Writes pretty well. Ciphers none (sic). Works 
very badly. Knows nothing of grammar, geography, history, or ac- 
complishments. Left in ill-health, May 31, 1825. Died June 13, 
1825, in decline.' 

'Emily Bronte. Entered November 25, 1824, aged 5f. Reads very 
prettily, and works a little. Left June 1, 1825. Subsequent career. — 
Governess.' 
5 



66 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

formation with regard to her sojourn at Cowan Bridge from 
Charlotte Bronte herself. I never heard her speak of the 
place but once, and that was on the second day of my 
acquaintance with her. A little child on that occasion ex- 
pressed some reluctance to finish eating his piece of bread 
at dinner ; and she, stooping down, and addressing him in 
a low voice, told him how thankful she would have been at 
his age for a piece of bread ; and when we — though I am 
not sure if I myself spoke — asked her some question as to 
the occasion she alluded to, she replied with reserve and 
hesitation, evidently shying away from what she imagined 
might lead to too much conversation on one of her books. 
She spoke of the oat cake at Cowan Bridge (the clap-bread 
of Westmoreland) as being different from the leaven-raised 
oat cake of Yorkshire, and of her childish distaste for it. 
Some one present made an allusion to a similar childish 
dislike in the true tale of 'the terrible knitters o' Dent,' 
given in Southey's ' Commonplace Book ; ' and she smiled 
faintly, but said that the mere difference in food was not 
all : that the food itself was spoilt by the dirty careless- 
ness of the cook, so that she and her sisters disliked their 
meals exceedingly ; and she mentioned her relief and glad- 
ness when the doctor condemned the meat, and spoke of 
having seen him spit it out. These are all the details I 
ever heard from her. She so avoided particularising that 
I think Mr. Carus Wilson's name never passed between us. 

I do not doubt the general accuracy of my informants— 
of those who have given, and solemnly repeated, the de- 
tails that follow — but it is only just to Miss Bronte to say 
that I have stated above pretty nearly all that I ever heard 
on the subject from her. 

A clergyman, living near Kirby Lonsdale, the Reverend 
William Cams Wilson, 1 was the prime mover in the estab- 

1 William Carus Wilson (1792-1859) lived at Casterton Hall, near 
Kirby Lonsdale. Wrote Sermons, 1825 ; Life of Mrs. Dawson, 1828 ; 
Youthful Memoirs, 1828 ; Flam, for Building Churches and SelwoU, 
1842 ; Sermons, 1842; Christ Revealed, 1849; Child's First Tales, 1849; 



COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL 67 

lishment of this school. He was an energetic man, spar- 
ing no labour for the accomplishment of his ends. He saw 
that it was an extremely difficult task for clergymen with 
limited incomes to provide for the education of their chil- 
dren; and he devised a scheme, by which a certain sum 
was raised annually by subscription, to complete the 
amount required to furnish a solid and sufficient English 
education, for which the parents' payment of Ul. a year 
would not have been sufficient. Indeed, that made by the 
parents was considered to be exclusively appropriated to 
the expenses of lodging and boarding, and the education 
provided for by the subscriptions. Twelve trustees were 
appointed ; Mr. Wilson being not only a trustee, but the 
treasurer and secretary; in fact, taking most of the busi- 
ness arrangements upon himself; a responsibility which 
appropriately fell to him, as he lived nearer the school 
than any one else who was interested in it. So his char- 
acter for prudence and judgment was to a certain degree 
implicated in the success or failure of Cowan Bridge 
School; and the working of it was for many years the 
great object and interest of his life. But he was appar- 
ently unacquainted with the prime element in good admin- 
istration — seeking out thoroughly competent persons to fill 
each department, and then making them responsible for, 
and jndging them by, the result, without perpetual inter- 
ference with the details. 

So great was the amount of good which Mr. Wilson did, 
by his constant, unwearied superintendence, that I cannot 
help feeling sorry that, in his old age and declining health, 
the errors which he was believed to have committed should 
have been brought up against him in a form which received 
such wonderful force from the touch of Miss Bronte's 
great genius. No doubt whatever can be entertained of ■ 
the deep interest which he felt in the success of the school. 

Soldier's Cry from India, 1858. He also issued two serials, the Friend- 
ly Visitor and the Children's Friend. He was buried in Casterton 
Church. 



68 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

As I write I have before me his last words on giving tip 
the secretaryship in 1850 : he speaks of the ' withdrawal, 
from declining health, of an eye, which, at all events, has 
loved to watch over the school with an honest and anxious 
interest;' — and again he adds 'that he resigns, therefore, 
with a desire to be thankful for all that God has been 
pleased to accomplish through his instrumentality (the in- 
firmities and unworthiness of which he deeply feels and 
deplores). 

Cowan Bridge is a cluster of some six or seven cottages, 
gathered together at both ends of a bridge, over which the 
highroad from Leeds to Kendal crosses a little stream, 
called the Leek. This highroad is nearly disused now; 
but formerly, when the buyers from the West Riding man- 
ufacturing districts had frequent occasion to go up into 
the North to purchase the wool of the Westmoreland and 
Cumberland farmers, it was doubtless much travelled ; and 
perhaps the hamlet of Cowan Bridge had a more prosperous 
look than it bears at present. It is prettily situated ; just 
where the Leek fells swoop into the plain ; and by the 
course of the beck alder trees and willows and hazel bushes 
grow. The current of the stream is interrupted by broken 
pieces of grey rock ; and the waters flow over a bed of large 
round white pebbles, which a flood heaves up and moves on 
either side out of its impetuous way till in some parts they 
almost form a wall. By the side of the little, shallow, 
sparkling, vigorous Leek run long pasture fields, of the 
fine short grass common in high land ; for though Cowan 
Bridge is situated on a plain, it is a plain from which there 
is many a fall and long descent before you and the Leek 
reach the valley of the Lune. I can hardly understand how 
the school there came to be so unhealthy ; the air all round 
about was so sweet and thyme-scented when I visited it 
last summer. But at this day every one knows that the 
site of a building intended for numbers should be chosen 
with far greater care than that of a private dwelling, from 
the tendency to illness, both infectious and otherwise, 



COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL 69 

produced by the congregation of people in close prox- 
imity. 

The house is still remaining that formed part of that 
occupied by the school. It is a long bow-windowed cottage, 
now divided into two dwellings. It stands facing the Leek, 
between which and it intervenes a space, about seventy 
yards deep, that was once the school garden. This original 
house was an old dwelling of the Picard family, which they 
had inhabited for two generations. They sold it for school 
purposes, and an additional building was erected, running at 
right angles from the older part. This new part was devoted 
expressly to schoolrooms, dormitories, &c. ; and after the 
school was removed to Casterton it was used for a bobbin 
mill connected with the stream, where wooden reels were 
. made out of the alders which grow profusely in such ground 
as that surrounding Cowan Bridge. This mill is now de- 
stroyed. The present cottage was, at the time of which I 
write, occupied by the teachers' rooms, the dining-room and 
kitchens, and some smaller bedrooms. On going into this 
building I found one part, that nearest to the highroad, 
converted into a poor kind of public-house, then to let, and 
having all the squalid appearance of a deserted place, which 
rendered it difficult to judge what it would look like when 
neatly kept up, the broken panes replaced in the windows, 
and the rough-cast (now cracked and discoloured) made 
white and whole. The other end forms a. cottage, with the 
low ceilings and stone floors of a hundred years ago ; the 
windows do not open freely and widely ; and the passage 
upstairs, leading to the bedrooms, is narrow and tortuous: 
altogether, smells would linger about the house, and damp 
cling to it. But sanitary matters were little understood 
thirty years ago ; and it was a great thing to get a roomy 
building close to the highroad, and not too far from the 
habitation of Mr. Wilson, the originator of the educational 
scheme. There was much need of such an institution ; 
numbers of ill-paid clergymen hailed the prospect with joy, 
and eagerly put down the names of their children as pupils 



?0 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

when the establishment should be ready to receive them. 
Mr. Wilson was, no doubt, pleased by the impatience with 
which the realisation of his idea was anticipated, and opened 
the school with less than a hundred pounds in hand, and 
with pupils the number of whom varies according to different 
accounts, Mr. W. W. Cams Wilson, the son of the founder, 
giving it as seventy, while Mr. Shepheard, the son-in-law, 
states it to have been only sixteen. 

Mr. Wilson felt, most probably, that the responsibility of 
the whole plan rested upon him. The payment made by 
the parents was barely enough for food and lodging ; the 
subscriptions did not flow very freely into an untried scheme; 
and great economy was necessary in all the domestic ar- 
rangements. He determined to enforce this by frequent 
personal inspection, carried, perhaps, to an unnecessary 
extent, and leading occasionally to a meddling with little 
matters, which had sometimes the effect of producing ir- 
ritation of feeling.' Yet, although there was economy in 
providing for the household, there does not appear to have 
been any parsimony. The meat, flour, milk, &c, were 
contracted for, but were of very fair quality ; and the di- 
etary, which has been shown to me in manuscript, was 
neither bad nor unwholesome ; nor, on the whole, was it 
wanting in variety. Oatmeal porridge for breakfast; a 
piece of oat cake for those who required luncheon; baked 
and boiled beef, and mutton, potato pie, and plain homely 
puddings of different kinds for dinner. At five o'clock, 
bread and milk for the younger ones ; and one piece of 
bread (this was the only time at which the food was lim- 
ited) for the elder pupils, who sat up till a later meal of 
the same description. 

Mr. Wilson himself ordered in the food, and was anxious 
that it should be of good quality. But the cook, who had 
much of his confidence, and against whom for a long time 
no one durst utter a complaint, was careless, dirty, and 
wasteful. To some children oatmeal porridge is distaste- 
ful, and consequently unwholesome, even when properly 



COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL 71 

made ; at Cowan Bridge School it was too often sent up, 
not merely burnt, but with offensive fragments of other 
substances discoverable in it. The beef, that should have 
been carefully salted before it was dressed, had often be- 
come tainted from neglect; and girls, who were school- 
fellows with the Brontes during the reign of the cook of 
whom I am speaking, tell me that the house seemed to be 
pervaded, morning, noon, and night, by the odour of ran- 
cid fat that steamed out of the oven in which much of 
their food was prepared. There was the same carelessness 
in making the puddings; one of those ordered was rice 
boiled in water, and eaten with a sauce of treacle or sugar ; 
but it was often uneatable, because the water had been 
taken out of the rain tub, and was strongly impregnated 
with the dust lodging on the roof, whence it had trickled 
down into the old wooden cask, which also added its own 
flavour to that of the original rain water. The milk, too, 
was often ' bingy,' to use a country expression for a kind 
of taint that is far worse than sourness, and suggests the 
idea that is caused by want of cleanliness about the milk 
pans, rather than by the heat of the weather. On Satur- 
days a kind of pie, or mixture of potatoes and meat, was 
served up, which was made of all the fragments accumu- 
lated during the week. Scraps of meat, from a dirty and 
disorderly larder, could never be very appetising; and I 
believe that this dinner was more loathed than any in the 
early days of Cowan Bridge School. One may fancy how 
repulsive such fare would be to children whose appetites 
were small, and who had been accustomed to food, far sim- 
pler perhaps, but prepared with a delicate cleanliness that 
made it both tempting and wholesome. At many a meal 
the little Brontes went without food, although craving 
with hunger. They were not strong when they came, hav- 
ing only just recovered from a complication of measles 
and^hooping- cough. Indeed, I suspect they had scarcely 
recovered ; for there was some consultation on the part of 
the school authorities whether Maria and Elizabeth should 



72 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

be received or not, in July 1824. Mr. Bronte came again 
in the September of that year, bringing with him Charlotte 
and Emily to be admitted as pupils. 

It appears strange that Mr. Wilson should not have been 
informed by the teachers of the way in which the food was 
served up ; but we must remember that the cook had been 
known for some time to the "Wilson family, while the 
teachers were brought together for an entirely different 
work — that of education. They were, expressly given to 
understand that such was their department ; the buying 
in and management of the provisions rested with Mr. Wil- 
son and the cook. The teachers would, of course, be un- 
willing to lay any complaints on the subject before him. 

There was another trial of health common to all the girls. 
The path from Cowan Bridge to Tunstall Church, where 
Mr. Wilson preached, and where they all attended on the 
Sunday, is more than two miles in length, and goes sweep- 
ing along the rise and fall of the unsheltered country, in a 
way to make it a fresh and exhilarating walk in summer, 
but a bitterly cold one in winter, especially to children like 
the delicate little Brontes, whose thin blood flowed languid- 
ly in consequence of their feeble appetites rejecting the 
food prepared for them, and thus inducing a half-starved 
condition. The church was not warmed, there being no 
means for this purpose. It stands in the midst of fields, 
and the damp mist must have gathered round the walls, and 
crept in at the windows. The girls took their cold dinner 
with them, and ate it between the services, in a chamber 
over the entrance, opening out of the former galleries. The 
arrangements for this day were peculiarly trying to delicate 
children, particularly to those who were spiritless and long- 
ing for home, as poor Maria Bronte must have been ; for 
her ill health was increasing, and the old cough, the 
remains of the^hooping-cough, lingered about her. 

She was far superior in mind to any of her playfellows 
and companions, and was lonely amongst them from that 
very cause ; and yet she had faults so annoying that she 



COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL 73 

was in constant disgrace with her teachers, and an object 
of merciless dislike to one of them, who is depicted as 'Miss 
Scatcherd ' in ' Jane Eyre/ and whose real name I will be 
merciful enough not to disclose. I need hardly say that 
Helen Burns is as exact a transcript of Maria Bronte as 
Charlotte's wonderful power of reproducing character could 
give. Her heart, to the latest day on which we met, still 
beat with unavailing indignation at the worrying and the 
cruelty to which her gentle, patient, dying sister had been 
subjected by this woman. Not a word of that part of ' Jane 
Eyre ' but is a literal repetition of scenes between the pupil 
and the teacher. Those who had been pupils at the same 
time knew who must have written the book from the force 
with which Helen Burns's sufferings are described. They 
had, before that, recognised the description of the sweet 
dignity and benevolence of Miss Temple as only a just 
tribute to the merits of one whom all that knew her appear 
to hold in honour ; but when Miss Scatcherd was held up 
to opprobrium they also recognised in the writer of ' Jane 
Eyre' an unconsciously avenging sister of the sufferer. 

One of their fellow pupils, among other statements even 
worse, gives me the following : The dormitory in which 
Maria slept was a long room, holding a row of narrow little 
beds on each side, occupied by the pupils ; and at the end 
of this dormitory there was a small bedchamber opening 
out of it, appropriated to the use of Miss Scatcherd. Maria's 
bed stood nearest to the door of this room. One morning, 
after she had become so seriously unwell as to have had a 
blister applied to her side (the sore from which was not 
perfectly healed), when the getting-up bell was heard, poor 
Maria moaned out that she was so ill, so very ill, she wished 
she might stop in bed ; and some of the girls urged her to 
do so, and said they would explain it all to Miss Temple, 
the superintendent. But Miss Scatcherd was close at hand, 
and her anger would have to be faced before Miss Temple's 
kind thoughtfulness could interfere ; so the sick child be- 
gan to dress, shivering with cold, as, without leaving her 



74 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

bed, she slowly put on her black worsted stockings over her 
thin white legs (my informant spoke as if she saw it yet, 
and her whole face flushed out undying indignation). Just 
then Miss Scatcherd issued from her room, and, without 
asking for a word of explanation from the sick and fright- 
ened girl, she took her by the arm, on the side to which the 
blister had been applied, and by one vigorous movement 
whirled her out into the middle of the floor, abusing her 
all the time for dirty and untidy habits. There she left 
her. My informant says Maria hardly spoke, except to beg 
some of the more indignant girls to be calm ; but, in slow, 
trembling movements, with many a pause, she went down- 
stairs at last — and was punished for being late. 

Any one may fancy how such an event as this would 
rankle in Charlotte's mind. I only wonder that she did not 
remonstrate against her father's decision to send her and 
Emily back to Cowan Bridge after Maria's and Elizabeth's 
deaths. But frequently children are unconscious of the 
effect which some of their simple revelations would have in 
altering the opinions entertained by their friends of the 
persons placed around them. Besides, Charlotte's ear- 
nest, vigorous mind saw, at an unusually early age, the 
immense importance of education, as furnishing her with 
tools which she had the strength and the will to wield, 
and she would be aware that the Cowan Bridge education 
was, in many points, the best that her father could provide 
for her. 

Before Maria Bronte's death that low fever broke out, in 
the spring of 1825, which is spoken of in ' Jane Eyre.' Mr. 
Wilson was extremely alarmed at the first symptoms of this. 
He went to a kind motherly woman, who had had some 
connection with the school — as laundress, I believe — and 
asked her to come and tell him what was the matter with 
them. She made herself ready, and drove with him in his 
gig. When she entered the schoolroom she saw from 
twelve to fifteen girls lying about ; some resting their ach- 
ing heads on the table, others on the ground ; all heavy- 



COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL 75 

eyed, flushed, indifferent, and weary, with pains in every 
limb. Some peculiar odour, she says, made her recognise 
that they were sickening for ' the fever ;' and she told Mr. 
Wilson so, and that she could not stay there for fear of 
conveying the infection to her own children ; but he half 
commanded and half entreated her to remain and nurse 
them ; and finally mounted his gig and drove away, while 
she was still urging that she must return to her own house, 
and to her domestic duties, for which she had provided no 
substitute. However, when she was left in this uncere- 
monious manner, she determined to make the best of it ; 
and a most efficient nurse she proved : although, as she 
says, it was a dreary time. 

Mr. Wilson supplied everything ordered by the doctors, 
of the best quality and in the most liberal manner ; the in- 
valids were attended by Dr. Batty, a very clever surgeon 
in Kirby, who had had the medical superintendence of the 
establishment from the beginning, and who afterwards be- 
came Mr. Wilson's brother-in-law. I have heard from two 
witnesses besides Charlotte Bronte that Dr. Batty con- 
demned the preparation of the food by the expressive ac- 
tion of spitting out a portion of it. He himself, it is but 
fair to say, does not remember this circumstance, nor does 
he speak of the fever itself as either alarming or danger- 
ous. About forty of the girls suffered from this, but none 
of them died at Cowan Bridge ; though one died at her 
own home, sinking under the state of health which fol- 
lowed it. None of the Brontes had the fever. But the 
same causes, which affected the health of the other pupils 
through typhus, told more slowly, but not less surely, 
upon their constitutions. The principal of these causes 
was the food. 

The bad management of the cook was chiefly to be 
blamed for this ; she was dismissed, and the woman who 
had been forced against her will to serve as head nurse 
took the place of housekeeper ; and henceforward the food 
was so well prepared that no one could ever reasonably 



76 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

complain of it. Of course it cannot be expected that a 
new institution, comprising domestic and educational ar- 
rangements for nearly a hundred persons, should work 
quite smoothly at the beginning. 

All this occurred during the first two years of the es- 
tablishment, and in estimating its effect upon the charac- 
ter of Charlotte Bronte we must remember that she was a 
sensitive, thoughtful child, capable of reflecting deeply, if 
not of analysing truly ; and peculiarly susceptible, as are all 
delicate and sickly children, to painful impressions. What 
the healthy suffer from but momentarily, and then forget, 
those who are ailing brood over involuntarily and remember 
long — perhaps with no resentment, but simply as a piece of 
suffering that has been stamped into their very life. The 
pictures, ideas, and conceptions of character received into 
the mind of the child of eight years old, were destined to be 
reproduced in fiery words a quarter of a century afterwards. 
She saw but one side of Mr. Wilson's character ; and many 
of those who knew him at that time assure me of the fidel- 
ity with which this is represented, while at the same time 
they regret that the delineation should have obliterated, 
as it were, nearly all that was noble or conscientious. And 
that there were grand and fine qualities in Mr. Wilson I have 
received abundant evidence. Indeed, for several weeks past 
I have received letters almost daily, bearing on the sub- 
ject of this chapter ; some vague, some definite ; many 
full of love and admiration for Mr. Wilson, some as full 
of dislike and indignation ; few containing positive facts. 
After giving careful consideration to this mass of conflict- 
ing evidence, I have made such alterations and omissions 
in this chapter as seem to me to be required. It is but just 
to state that the major part of the testimony with which I 
have been favoured from old pupils is in high praise of Mr. 
Wilson. Among the letters that I have read there is one 
whose evidence ought to be highly respected. It is from 
the husband of ' Miss Temple.' She died in 1856, but he, 
a clergyman, thus wrote in reply to a letter addressed to 



THE BRONTE SISTERS 77 

him on the subject by one of Mr. Wilson's friends : ' Often 
have I heard my late dear wife speak of her sojourn at 
Cowan Bridge ; always in terms of admiration of Mr. Carus 
Wilson, his parental love to his pupils, and their love for 
him ; of the food and general treatment, in terms of ap- 
proval. I have heard her allude to an unfortunate cook, 
who used at times to spoil the porridge, but who, she said, 
was soon dismissed.' 

The recollections left of the four Bronte" sisters at this 
period of their lives, on the minds of those who associated 
with the*ii, are not very distinct. Wild, strong hearts and 
powerful minds were hidden under an enforced propriety 
and regularity of demeanour and expression, just as their 
faces had been concealed by their father under his stiff, un- 
changing mask. Maria was delicate, unusually clever and 
thoughtful for her age, gentle, and untidy. Of her fre- 
quent disgrace from this last fault — of her sufferings, so 
patiently borne — I have already spoken. The only glimpse 
we get of Elizabeth, through the few years of her short life, 
is contained in a letter which I have received from ' Miss 
Temple.' 'The second, Elizabeth, is the only one of the 
family of whom I have a vivid recollection, from her meet- 
ing with a somewhat alarming accident, in consequence of 
which I had her for some days and nights in my bedroom, 
not only for the sake of greater quiet, but that I might 
watch over her myself. Her head was severely cut, but she 
bore all the consequent suffering with exemplary patience, 
and by it won much upon my esteem. Of the two younger 
ones (if two there were) I have very slight recollections, 
save that one, a darling child, under five years of age, was 
quite the pet nurseling of the school.' This last would be 
Emily. Charlotte was considered the most talkative of the 
sisters — a ' bright, clever little child.' Her great friend was 
a certain 'Mellany Hane' (so Mr. Bronte spells the name), 
whose brother paid for her schooling, and who had no re- 
markable talent except for music, which her brother's cir- 
cumstances forbade her to cultivate. She was ' a hungry, 



78 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

good-natured, ordinary girl ;' older than Charlotte, and 
ever ready to protect her from any petty tyranny or en- 
croachments on the part of the elder girls. Charlotte al- 
ways remembered her with 'affection and gratitude. 

I have quoted the word ' bright ' in the account of Char- 
lotte. I suspect that this year of 1825 was the last time it 
could ever be applied to her. 1 In the spring of it Maria 
became so rapidly worse that Mr. Bronte was sent for. 
He had not previously been aware of her illness, and the 
condition in which he found her was a terrible shock to 
him. He took her home in the Leeds coach, the girls 
crowding out into the road to follow her with their eyes 
over the bridge, past the cottages, and then out of sight 
for ever. She died a very few days after her arrival at 
home. Perhaps the news of her death falling suddenly 
into the life of which her patient existence had formed a 
part, only a little week or so before, made those who re- 
mained at Cowan Bridge look with more anxiety on Eliza- 

This suggestion that all ' brightness ' went out of Charlotte Bronte's 
life thus early is one that has been vigorously disputed. Mr. (now Sir) 
Wemyss Reid (Charlotte Bronte : a Monograph) brought together, in 
1877 — twenty years after Mrs. Gaskell had written — a number of de- 
tails and fragments of at that time unpublished correspondence, in 
order to demonstrate that Mrs. Gaskell had pitched her work in too 
sombre a key. ' If the truth must be told,' said Mr. Reid, ' the life of 
the author of Jane Eyre was by no means so joyless as the world now 
believes it to have been. ... On the contrary, her letters show that, 
at any rate up to the time of her leaving for Brussels, she was a happy 
and high-spirited girl, that even to the very last she had the faculty of 
overcoming her sorrows by means of that steadfast courage which 
was her most precious possession.' Sir Wemyss Reid, by judiciously 
quoting certain passages omitted by Mrs. Gaskell from the correspon- 
dence, may be said to have proved his case, or rather to have effectively 
presented the other side of the shield. To understand Charlotte Bronte 
on that side is to understand her inheritance from her father of a dis- 
tinctly Celtic temperament — the temperament of alternate high spirits 
and boundless exhilaration followed by long periods of depression and 
melancholy. Charlotte Bronte was a woman of moods that many a 
placid Englishwoman would have found unaccountable. 



THE BRONTE SISTERS 79 

beth's symptoms, which also turned out to be consumptive. 
She was sent home in charge of a confidential servant of 
the establishment ; and she, too, died in the early sum- 
mer of that year. Charlotte was thus suddenly called into 
the responsibilities of eldest sister in a motherless family. 
She remembered how anxiously her dear sister Maria had 
striven, in her grave, earnest way, to be a tender helper 
and a counsellor to them all ; and the duties that now fell 
upon her seemed almost like a legacy from the gentle little 
sufferer so lately dead. 

Both Charlotte and Emily returned to school after the 
midsummer holidays in this fatal year. But before the 
next winter it was thought desirable to advise their re- 
moval, as it was evident that the damp situation of the 
house at Cowan Bridge did not suit their health.' 

1 With regard to my own opinion of the present school, I can only 
give it as formed after what was merely a cursory and superficial in- 
spection, as I do not believe that I was in the house above half an 
hour; but it was and is this: that the house at Casterton seemed 
thoroughly healthy and well kept, and is situated in a lovely spot ; 
that the pupils looked bright, happy, and well, and that the lady su- 
perintendent was a most prepossessing-looking person, who, on my 
making some inquiry as to the accomplishments taught to the pupils, 
said that the scheme of education was materially changed since the 
school had been opened. I would have inserted this testimony in the 
first edition, had I believed that any weight could be attached to an 
opinion formed on such slight and superficial grounds. — Note by Mrs. 
Gaskell. 

There was much controversy respecting Mrs. Gaskell's identification 
of Cowan Bridge with the Lowood of Jane Eyre. The matter was 
discussed at infinite length in the Yorkshire papers, even Mr. A. B. 
Nicholls, Charlotte Bronte's husband, contributing two letters to the 
Halifax Guardian in defence of his wife's general accuracy. A 
pamphlet was also published with the following title-page: — 

A Vindication of the Clergy Daughters' School and the Men. W. Carus 
Wilson from the Remarks in ' The Life of Charlotte Bronte,' by the 
Rev. H. Shepheard, M.A. London : Seeley, Jackson, andHalliday, 1857. 

This pamphlet contained the following letter from 'A. H.,' who 
was a teacher at Cowan Bridge during the time of the residence of 
the little Brontes there : — 



80 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' In July 1824 the Kev. Mr. Bronte arrived at Cowan Bridge with 
two of his daughters, Maria and Elizabeth, 12 and 10 years of age. 
The children were delicate ; both had but recently recovered from the 
measles and hooping-cough — so recently, indeed, that doubts were en- 
tertained whether they could be admitted witli safety to the other 
pupils. They were received, however, and went on so well that in 
September their father returned, bringing with him two more of his 
children — Charlotte, 9 [she was really but 8], and Emily, 6 years of 
age. During both these visits Mr. Bronte lodged at the school, sat at 
the same table with the children, saw the whole routine of the estab- 
lishment, and, so far as 1 have ever known, was satisfied with every- 
thing that came under his observation. 

' " The two younger children enjoyed uniformly good health." Char- 
lotte was a general favourite. To the best of my recollection she was 
never under disgrace, however slight ; punishment she certainly did 
not experience while she was at Cowan Bridge. 

'In size Charlotte was remarkably diminutive ; and if, as has been 
recently asserted, she never grew an inch after leaving the Clergy 
Daughters' School, she must have been a literal dwarf, and could not 
have obtained a situation as teacher in a school at Brussels, or any- 
where else ; the idea is absurd. In respect of the treatment of the 
pupils at Cowan Bridge, I will say that neither Mr. Bronte's daughters 
nor any other of the children were denied a sufficient quantity of food. 
Any statement to the contrary is entirely false. The daily dinner con- 
sisted of meat, vegetables, and pudding, in abundance ; the children 
were permitted, and expected, to ask for whatever they desired, and 
were never limited. 

' It has been remarked that the food of the school was such that 
none but starving children could eat it ; and in support of this state- 
ment reference is made to a certain occasion when the medical attend- 
ant was consulted about it. In reply to this let me say that during 
the spring of 1825 a low fever, although not an alarming one, prevail- 
ed in the school, and the managers, naturally anxious to ascertain 
whether any local cause occasioned the epidemic, took an opportunity 
to ask the physician's opinion of the food that happened to be then 
on the table. I recollect that he spoke rather scornfully of a baked 
rice pudding; but as the ingredients of this dish were chiefly rice, 
sugar, and milk, its effects could hardly have been so serious as has 
been affirmed. I thus furnish you with the simple fact from which 
those statements have been manufactured. 

' I have not the least hesitation in saying that, upon the whole, the 
comforts were as many and the privations as few at Cowan Bridge as 
can well be found in so large an establishment. How far young or deli- 
cate children are able to contend with the necessary evils of a public 



COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL 81 

school is, in my opinion, a very grave question, and does not enter 
into the present discussion. 

' The younger children in all larger institutions are liable to be op- 
pressed ; but the exposure to thi9 evil at Cowan Bridge was not more 
than in other schools, but, as I believe, far less. Then, again, thought- 
less servants will occasionally spoil food, even in private families; 
and in public schools they are likely to be still less particular, unless 
they are well looked after.' 

A book published by Mr. Carus Wilson in 1831, six years after the 
little Brontes had left the school, serves to throw an interesting light 
on the retentiveness of Charlotte Bronte's memory of the place and 
of her capacity for making every detail serve. The book is entitled : — 

Memoir of a Beloved and Long Afflicted Sister, by William Carus 
Wilson, M.A., Rector of Whittington and Chaplain to his Royal High- 
ness the Duke of Suffolk. Kirkby Lonsdale : Printed and sold by A. 
Foster. Sold in London by L. B. Seeley and Sons. 1831. 

Here we have, day by day, the trivial diary of an invalid woman, 
and we learn, incidentally, that one of her brothers bore the name of 
Edward, and that in 1824, during the Bronte sojourn at Cowan Bridge, 
he became engaged and married to a ' Jane .' As there are no Ed- 
wards and Janes mentioned in Charlotte Bronte's correspondence, it 
is fair to suppose that the hint for the Christian names of her hero and 
heroine in Jane Eyre was derived from this early memory. There 
is also a Mrs. Beade mentioned in the diary, probably a further sugges- 
tion. There are many prayerful references to the inquiry into the 
school management, and his sister hopes that ' dear William ' may 
' speak in such a manner as may confound his enemies and redound 
to the glory of God.' 



CHAPTEK V 

Foe the reason just stated, the little girls were sent home 
in the autumn of 1825, when Charlotte was little more 
than nine years old. 

About this time an elderly woman of the village came to 
live as servant at the parsonage. She remained there, as 
a member of the household, for thirty years ; and from the 
length of her faithful service, and the attachment and re- 
spect which she inspired, is deserving of mention. Tabby 
was a thorough specimen of a Yorkshire woman of her 
class, in dialect, in appearance, and in character. She 
abounded in strong practical sense and shrewdness. Her 
words were far from flattery ; but she would spare no deeds 
in the cause of those whom she kindly regarded. She 
ruled the children pretty sharply ; and yet never grudged 
a little extra trouble to provide them with such small treats 
as came within her power. In return, she claimed to be 
looked upon as a humble friend; and, many years later, 
Miss Bronte told me that she found it somewhat difficult 
to manage, as Tabby expected to be informed of all the 
family concerns, and yet had grown so deaf that what was 
repeated to her became known to whoever might be in or 
about the house. To obviate this publication of what it 
might be desirable to keep secret, Miss Bronte used to take 
her out for a walk on the solitary moors, where, when 
both were seated on a tuft of heather, in some high lonely 
place, she could acquaint the old woman, at leisure, with 
all that she wanted to hear. 

Tabby had lived in Haworth in the days when the pack- 
horses went through once a week, with their tinkling bells 



1825 THE OLD SERVANT TABBY 83 

and gay worsted adornment, carrying the produce of the 
country from Keighley over the hills to Colne and Burnley. 
What is more, she had known the ' bottom/ or valley, in 
those primitfTC days when the fairies frequented the margin 
of the 'beck' on moonlight nights, and had known folk 
who had seen them. But that was when there were no 
mills in the valleys, and when all the wool-spinning was 
done by hand m the farmhouses round. 'It wur the fac- 
tories as had driven 'em away,' she said. No doubt she 
had many a tale to tell of bygone days of the country-side; 
old ways of livings former inhabitants, decayed gentry, who 
had melted away, and whose places knew them no more; 
family tragedies and dark superstitious dooms ; and, in tell- 
ing these things, without the least consciousness that there 
might ever be anything requiring to be softened down, 
would give at full length the bare and simple details. 

Miss Branwell instructed -the children at regular hours 
in all she could teach, converting her bedchamber into their 
schoolroom. Their father was in the habit of relating to 
them any public news in which he felt aD interest ; and from 
the opinions of his strong and independent mind they 
would gather much food for thought ; but I do not know 
whether he gave them any direct instruction. Charlotte's 
deep, thoughtful spirit appears to have felt almost painfully 
the tender responsibility which rested upon her with refer- 
ence to her remaining sisters. She was only eighteen months 
older than Emily ; but Emily and Anne were simply com- 
panions and playmates, while Charlotte was motherly friend 
and guardian to both ; and this loving assumption of duties 
beyond her years made her feel considerably older than she 
really was. 

Patrick Branwell, their only brother, was a boy of re- 
markable promise, and, in some ways, of extraordinary 
precocity of talent. Mr. Bronte's friends advised him to 
send his son to school ; but, remembering both the strength 
of will of his own youth and his mode of employing it, he 
believed that Patrick was better at home, and that he him- 



84 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

self could teach him well, as he had taught others before. 
So Patrick — or, as his family called him, Bfcanwell — re- 
mained at Haworth, working hard for some Jiours a day 
with his father ; but, when the time of the laUft' was taken 
up with his parochial duties, the boy was thrown into 
chance companionship with the lads of the village — for 
youth will to youth, and boys will to boys, j 

Still, he was associated in many of his sifters' plays and 
amusements. These were mostly of a sedentary and intel- 
lectual nature. I have had a curious ^packet confided 
to me, containing an immense amount of, fiaanuscript, in an 
inconceivably small space — tales, dramas, poems, romances, 
written principally by Charlotte, in a hand which it is al- 
most impossible to decipher without' the aid of a magnify- 
ing glass. 

Among these papers there is a list of her works, which I 
copy, as a curious proof how early the rage for literary 
composition had seized upon her : — 

' CATALOGUE OF M,Y" BOOKS, WITH THE PERIOD OF THEIR 
COMPHETIOK, UP TO AUGUST 3, 1830. 

'Two romantic tales in one volume, viz. The Twelve 
Adventurers and the Adventures in Ireland, April 2, 1829. 

* The Search after Happiness, a Tale, August 1, 1829. 

' Leisure Hours, a Tale, and two Fragments, July 6, 
1829. 

' The Adventures of Edward de Crack, a Tale, Feb. 2, 
1830. 

' The Adventures of Ernest Alembert, a Tale, May 26, 
1830. 

' An interesting Incident in the Lives of some of the most 
Eminent Persons of the Age, a Tale, June 10, 1830. 

'Tales of the Islanders, in four volumes. Contents of 
the 1st Vol. : — 1. An Account of their Origin ; 2. A De- 
scription of Vision Island ; 3. Batten's Attempt ; 4. Lord 
Charles Wellesley and the Marquis of Douro's Adventure ; 



TAC SIMILE OF A PACE OF M S 



»4 '• 




1830 JUVENILE WORKS IN MANUSCRIPT 85 

completed June 31, 1829. 2nd Vol. :— 1. The School Rebel- 
lion ; 2. The Strange Incident in the Duke of Wellington's 
Life ; 3. Tale to his Sons ; 4. The Marquis of Douro and 
Lord Charles Wellesley's Tale to his Little King and 
Queen; completed Dec. 2, 1829. 3rd Vol. :— 1. The Duke 
of Wellington's Adventure in the Cavern ; 2. The Duke 
of Wellington and the Little King's and Queen's Visit to 
the Horse Guards ; completed May 8, 1830. 4th Vol. :— 
1. The Three Old Washerwomen of Strathfieldsaye ; 2. 
Lord C. Wellesley's Tale to his Brother ; completed July 
30, 1830. 

' Characters of Great Men of the Present Age, Dec. 17, 
1829. 

' The Young Men's Magazines, in Six~Numbers, from 
August to December, the latter months double number ; 
completed December 12, 1829. General Index to their 
Contents : — 1. A True Story ; 2. Causes of the War; 3. A 
Song ; 4. Conversations ; 5. A True Story, continued ; 6. 
The Spirit of Cawdor ; 7. Interior of a Pothouse, a Poem ; 
8. The Glass Town, a Song ; 9. The Silver Cup, a Tale ; 
10. The Table and Vase in the Desert, a Song ; 11. Con- 
versations ; 12. Scene on the Great Bridge ; 13. Song of 
the Ancient Britons ; 14. Scene in my Tun, a Tale ; 15. 
An American Tale ; 16. Lines written on seeing the Gar- 
den of a Genius; 17. The Lay of the Glass Town; 18. 
The Swiss Artist, a Tale; 19. Lines on the Transfer of this 
Magazine ; 20. On the Same, by a different hand ; 21. Chief 
Genii in Council ; 22. Harvest in Spain ; 23. The Swiss 
Artists, continued; 24. Conversations. 

' The Poetaster, a Drama, in 2 volumes, July 12, 1830. 

' A Book of Rhymes, finished December 17, 1829. Con- 
tents : — 1. The Beauty of Nature ; 2. A Short Poem ; 3. 
Meditations while Journeying in a Canadian Forest; 4. A 
Song of an Exile ; 5. On Seeing the Ruins of the Tower of 
Babel ; 6. A Thing of Fourteen Lines j 7. Lines written on 
the Bank of a River one Pine Summer Evening ; 8. Spring, 
a Song ; 9. Autumn, a Song. 



86 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' Miscellaneous Poems, finished May 30, 1830. Con- 
tents : 1. The Churchyard; 2. Description of the Duke of 
Wellington's Palace on the Pleasant Banks of the Lusiva ; 
this article is a small prose tale or incident; 3. Pleasure; 
4. Lines written on the Summit of a High Mountain of 
the North of England ; 5. Winter ; 6. Two Fragments, 
namely, 1st, The Vision ; 2nd, A Short untitled Poem ; 
The Evening Walk, a Poem, June 23, 1830. 

' Making in the whole twenty-two volumes. 

' C. Bronte, August 3, 1830.' 

As each volume contains from sixty to a hundred pages, 
the amount of the whole seems very great, if we remember 
that it was alL written in about fifteen months. So much 
for the quantity ; the quality strikes me as of singular 
merit for a girl of thirteen or fourteen. Both as a speci- 
men of her prose style at this time, and also as revealing 
something of the quiet domestic life led by these children, 
I take an extract from the introduction to ' Tales of the 
Islanders,' the title of one of their ' Little Magazines :' — 

' June the 31st, 1829. 
' The play of the " Islanders " was formed in December 
1827, in the following manner: One night, about the time 
when the cold sleet and stormy fogs of November are suc- 
ceeded by the snowstorms, and high, piercing night winds 
of confirmed winter, we were all sitting round the warm 
blazing kitchen fire, having just concluded a quarrel with 
Tabby concerning the propriety of lighting a candle, from 
which she came off victorious, no candle having been pro- 
duced. A long pause succeeded, which was at last broken 
by Branwell saying, in a lazy manner, " I don't know what 
to do." This was echoed by Emily and Anne. 
* Tabby. " Wha, ya may go t' bed." 
' Branwell. " I'd rather do anything than that." 
'Charlotte. "Why are you so glum to-night, Tabby? 
Oh! suppose we had each an island of our own." 



1830 A WINTER EVENING CONVERSATION 87 

' Branwell. "If we had I would choose the Island of 
Man." 

' Charlotte. "And I would choose the Isle of Wight." 

'Emily. "The Isle of Arran for me." 

'Anne. "And mine shall be Guernsey." 

' We then chose who should be chief men in our islands. 
Branwell chose John Bull, Astley Cooper, and Leigh Hunt ; 
Emily, Walter Scott, Mr. Lockhart, Johnny Lockhart ; 
Anne, Michael Sadler, Lord Bentinck, Sir Henry Halford. 
I chose the Duke of Wellington and two sons, Christopher 
North and Co., and Mr. Abernethy. Here our conversa- 
tion was interrupted by the, to us, dismal sound of the 
clock striking seven, and we were summoned off to bed. 
The next day we added many others to our list of men, 
till we got almost all the chief men of the kingdom. After 
this, for a long time, nothing worth noticing occurred. In 
June 1828 we erected a school on a fictitious island, which 
was to contain 1,000 children. The manner of the build- 
ing was as follows : The Island was fifty miles in circum- 
ference, and certainly appeared more like the work of 
enchantment than anything real,' &c. 

Two or three things strike me much in this fragment ; 
one is the graphic vividness with which the time of the 
year, the hour of the evening, the feeling of cold and dark- 
ness outside, the sound of the night winds sweeping over 
the desolate snow-covered moors, coming nearer and nearer, 
and at last shaking the very door of the room where they 
were sitting — for it opened out directly on that bleak, 
wide expanse — is contrasted with the glow and busy bright- 
ness of the cheerful kitchen where these remarkable chil- 
dren are grouped. Tabby moves about in her quaint coun- 
try dress,, frugal, peremptory, prone to find fault pretty 
sharply, yet allowing no one else to blame her children, we 
may feel sure. Another noticeable fact is the intelligent 
partisanship with which they choose their great men, who 
are almost all staunch Tories of the time. Moreover they 
do not confine themselves to local heroes ; their range of 



88 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

choice has been widened by hearing much of what is not 
usually considered to interest children. Little Anne, aged 
scarcely eight, picks out the politicians of the day for her 
chief men. 

There is another scrap of paper, in this all but illegible 
handwriting, written about this time, and which gives some 
idea of the sources of their opinions. 

"THE HISTORY OF THE TEAR 1829.' 

' Once papa lent my sister Maria a book. It was an old 
geography book ; she wrote on its blank leaf, " Papa lent me 
this book." This book is a hundred and twenty years old ; 
it is at this moment lying before me. While I write this I 
am in the kitchen of the Parsonage, Haworth ; Tabby, the 
servant, is washing up the breakfast things, and Anne, my 
younger sister (Maria was my eldest), is kneeling on a chair, 
looking at some cakes which Tabby had been baking for us. 
Emily is in the parlour, brushing the carpet. Papa and 
Branwell are gone' to Keighley. Aunt is upstairs in her 
room, and I am sitting by the table writing this in the 
kitchen. Keighley is a small town four miles from here. 
Papa and Branwell are gone for the newspaper, the "Leeds 
Intelligencer," a most excellent Tory newspaper, edited by 
Mr. Wood, and the proprietor, Mr. Henneman. We take two 
and see three newspapers a week. We take the " Leeds In- 
telligencer," Tory, and the "Leeds Mercury," Whig, edited 
by Mr. Baines, and his brother, son-in-law, and his two sons, 
Edward and Talbot. We see the " John Bull ; " it is a high 
Tory, very violent. Dr. Driver lends ns it, as likewise 
" Blackwood's Magazine," the most able periodical there is. 
The editor is Mr. Christopher North, an old man seventy- 
four years of age ; the 1st of April isliis birthday ; his com- 
pany are Timothy Tickler, Morgan O'Doherty, Macrabin 
Mordecai, Mullion, Warnell, and James Hogg, a man of most 
extraordinary genius, a Scottish shepherd. Our plays were 
established : " Young Men," June 1826 ; "Our Fellows," 
July 1827 ; " Islanders," December 1827. These are our 



1830 HER 'HISTORY OF THE YEAR 1829' 89 

three great plays that are not kept secret. Emily's and my 
best plays were established December 1, 1827 ; "the others 
March 1828. Best plays mean secret plays ; they are very 
nice ones. All our plays are very strange ones. Their 
nature I need not write on paper, for I think I shall al- 
ways remember them. The " Young Men's " play took its 
rise from some wooden soldiers Branwell had ; " Our Fel- 
lows " from " Jilsop's Fables ; " and the " Islanders " from 
several events which happened. I will sketch out the ori- 
gin of our plays more explicitly if I can. First, "Young 
Men." Papa bought Branwell some wooden soldiers at 
Leeds ; when papa came home it was night, and we were in 
bed, so next morning Branwell came to our door with a 
box of soldiers. Emily and I jumped out of bed, and I 
snatched up one and exclaimed, " This is the Duke of 
Wellington ! This shall be the Duke !" "When I had said 
this Emily likewise took up one and said it should be hers ; 
when Anne came down she said one should be hers. Mine 
was the prettiest of the whole, and the tallest, and the 
most perfect in every part. Emily's was a grave-looking 
fellow, and we called him " Gravey." Anne's was a queer 
little thing, much like herself, and we called him " Wait- 
ing-boy." Branwell chose his and called him " Buona- 
parte."' 1 

The foregoing extract shows something of the kind of 
reading in which the little Brontes were interested ; but 
their desire for knowledge must have been excited in many 
directions, for I find a ' list of painters whose works I wish 
to see' drawn up by Charlotte when she was scarcely 
thirteen — 

' Gaido Reni, Julio Romano, Titian, Raphael, Michael 
Angelo, Oorreggio, Annibal Oaracci, Leonardo da Vinci, 
Fra Bartolomeo, Carlo Cignani, Vandyke, Rubens, Barto- 
lomeo Ramerghi.' 

' Dated on the original ' March 13, 1829.' Mrs. Gaskell copied the 
manuscript with two trivial variations. 



90 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Here is this little girl, in a remote Yorkshire parson- 
age, who has probably never seen anything worthy of the 
name of a painting in her life, studying the names and char- 
acteristics of the great old Italian and Flemish masters, 
whose works she longs to see some time, in the dim future 
that lies before her ! There is a paper remaining which 
contains minute studies of, and criticisms upon, the en- 
gravings in ' Friendship's Offering for 1829/ showing how 
she had early formed those habits of close observation, and 
patient analysis of cause and effect, which served so well in 
after-life as handmaids to her genius. 

The way in which Mr. Bronte made his children sym- 
pathise with him in his great interest in politics must have 
done much to lift them above the chances of their minds 
being limited or tainted by petty local gossip. I take the 
only other remaining personal fragment out of ' Tales of 
the Islanders ;' it is a sort of apology, contained in the in- 
troduction to the second volume, for their not having been 
continued before ; the writers had been for a long time too 
busy, and latterly too much absorbed in politics. 

' Parliament was opened, and the great Catholic question 
was brought forward, and the Duke's measures were dis- 
closed, and all was slander, violence, party spirit, and con- 
fusion. Oh, those six months, from the time of the King's 
Speech to the end ! Nobody could write, think, or speak on 
any subject but the Catholic question, and the Duke of 
Wellington, and Mr. Peel. I remember the day when the 
Intelligence Extraordinary came with Mr. Peel's speech in 
it, containing the terms on which the Catholics were to be 
let in ! With what eagerness papa tore off the cover, and 
how we all gathered round him, and with what breathless 
anxiety we listened, as one by one they were disclosed, and 
explained, and argued upon so ably, and so well ! and then 
when it was all out, how aunt said that she thought it was 
excellent, and that the Catholics could do no harm with 
such good security ! I remember also the doubts as to 
whether it would pass the House of Lords, and the proph- 



1830 FIRST IMAGINATIVE WRITING 91 

ecies that it would not; and when the paper came which 
was to decide the question, the anxiety was almost dreadful 
with which we listened to the whole affair : the opening of 
the doors ; the hush ; the royal dukes in their robes, and 
the great Duke in green sash and waistcoat ; the rising of 
all the peeresses when he rose ; the reading of his speech — 
papa saying that his words were like precious gold ; and 
lastly, the majority of one to four (sic) in favour of the 
Bill. But this is a digression,' &c. &c. 

This must have been written when she was between thir- 
teen and fourteen. 

It will be interesting to some of my readers to know what 
was the character of her purely imaginative writing at this 
period. While her description of any real occurrence is, 
as we have seen, homely, graphic, and forcible, when she 
gives way to her powers of creation her fancy and her 
language alike run riot, sometimes to the very borders of 
apparent delirium. Of this wild, weird writing a single ex- 
ample will suffice. It is a letter to the editor of one of the 
' Little Magazines.' 

' Sir, — It is well known that the Genii have declared that 
unless they perform certain arduous duties every year, of 
a mysterious nature, all the worlds in the firmament will 
be burnt up, and gathered together in one mighty globe, 
which will roll in solitary grandeur through the vast wilder- 
ness of space, inhabited only by the four high princes of 
the Genii, till time shall be succeeded by Eternity ; and the 
impudence of this is only to be paralleled by another of their 
assertions, namely, that by their magic might they can re- 
duce the world to a desert, the purest waters to streams of 
livid poison, and the clearest lakes to stagnant waters, the 
pestilential vapours of which shall slay all living creatures, 
except the bloodthirsty beast of the forest, and the raven- 
ous bird of the rock. But that in the midst of this desola- 
tion the palace of the Chief Genii shall rise sparkling in the 
wilderness, and the horrible howl of their war cry shall 



92 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

spread over the land at morning, at noontide and night; 
but that they shall have their annual feast over the bones 
of the dead, and shall yearly rejoice with the joy of victors. 
I think, sir, that the horrible wickedness of this needs no 
remark, and therefore I haste to subscribe myself, &c. 
' July 14, 1829.' 

It is not unlikely that the foregoing letter may have had 
some allegorical or political reference, invisible to our eyes, 
but very clear to the bright little minds for whom it was 
intended. Politics were evidently their grand interest; the 
Duke of Wellington their demigod. All that related to 
him belonged to the heroic age. Did Charlotte want a 
knight-errant, or a devoted lover, the Marquis of Donro, or 
Lord Charles Wellesley, came ready to her hand. There is 
hardly one of her prose writings at this time in which they 
are not the principal personages, and in which their ' august 
father' does not appear as a sort of Jupiter Tonans, or Dens 
ex Machina. 

As one evidence how Wellesley haunted her imagination 
I copy out a few of the titles to her papers in the various 
magazines. 

' " Liffey Castle," a Tale by Lord C. Wellesley. 

' " Lines to the River Aragua," by the Marquis of Douro. 

' "An Extraordinary Dream," by Lord C. Wellesley. 

'"The Green Dwarf, a Tale of the Perfect Tense," by 
the Lord Charles Albert Florian Wellesley. 

'"Strange Events," by Lord C. A. P. Wellesley." 

1 The packet iu which Mrs. Gaskell found these numerous treasures 
of childhood was returned by her to Mr. Bronte. It was carried by 
Mr. Nicholls to Ireland after Mr. Bronte's death, and was opened forty 
years afterwards in response to my inquiry for new material concern- 
ing the Bronte children. In Charlotte Bronte and, her Circle I have 
printed a list, for the benefit of the curious, of these little books more 
complete than that given here ; but Mrs. Gaskell, with an artist's eye 
for essentials, has seized upon sufficiently representative material. She 
does not, however, note the fact that a considerable number of these 
little books are in the handwriting of Branwell Bronte, and scarcely 



1830 YEARS OF CHILDHOOD 93 

Life in an isolated village, or a lonely country house, 
presents many little occurrences which sink into the mind 
of childhood, there to be brooded over. No other event 
may have happened, or be likely to happen, for days, to 
push one of these aside, before it has assumed a vague and 
mysterious importance. Thus children leading a secluded 
life are often thoughtful and dreamy : the impressions 
made upon them by the world without — the unusual sights 
of earth and sky — the accidental meetings with strange 
faces and figures (rare occurrences in those out-of-the-way 
places) — are sometimes magnified by them into things so 
deeply significant as to be almost supernatural. This pe- 
culiarity I perceive very strongly in Charlotte's writings 
at this time. Indeed, under the circumstances, it is no 
peculiarity. It has been common to all, from the Chal- 
dean shepherds-^-' the lonely herdsman stretched on the 
soft grass through half a summer's day' — the solitary monk 
— to all whose impressions from without have had time to 
grow and vivify in the imagination, till they have been re- 
ceived as actual personifications, or supernatural visions, 
to doubt which would be blasphemy. 

To counterbalance this tendency in Charlotte was the 
strong common sense natural to her, and daily called into 
exercise by the requirements of her practical life. Her 
duties were not merely to learn her lessons, to read a cer- 
tain quantity, to gain certain ideas ; she had, besides, to 
brush rooms, to run errands up and down stairs, to help in 
the simpler forms of cooking, to be by turns playfellow 
and monitress to her younger sisters and brother, to make 
and to mend, and to study economy under her careful aunt. 
Thus we see that, while her imagination received vivid im- 
pressions, her excellent understanding had full power to 
rectify them before her fancies became realities. On a 

any of them in the handwriting of Emily and Anne. Charlotte Bronte 
had doubtless destroyed the similar booklets belonging to her sisters 
after their death, probably in response to some explicit request on 
their part that all their private papers should be burnt. 



94 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

scrap of paper she has written down the following re- 
lation: 

' June 22, 1830, 6 o'clock p.m. 

' Haworth, near Bradford. 

'The following strange occurrence happened on June 
22, 1830 : — At the time papa was very ill, confined to his 
bed, and so weak that he could not rise without assist- 
ance. Tabby and 1 were alone in the kitchen, about half- 
past nine ante-meridian (sic). Suddenly we heard a knock 
at the door ; Tabby rose and opened it. An old man ap- 
peared, standing without, who accosted her thus : 

' Old Man. " Does the parson live here ?" 

'Tabby. "Yes." 

' Old Man. " I wish to see him." 

' Tabby. " He is poorly in bed." 

' Old Man. "I have a message for him." 

'Tabby. ", Who from ?" 

' Old Man. "From the Lord." 

' Tabby. " Who ?" 

' Old Man. " The Lord. He desires me to say that the 
Bridegroom is coming, and that we must prepare to meet 
Him ; that the cords are about to be loosed, and the golden 
bowl broken ; the pitcher broken at the fountain." 

' Here he concluded his discourse, and abruptly went his 
way. As Tabby closed the door I asked her if she knew 
him. Her reply was that she had never seen him before, 
nor any one like him. Though I am fully persuaded that 
he was some fanatical enthusiast, well-meaning perhaps, 
but utterly ignorant of true piety, yet I could not forbear 
weeping at his words, spoken so unexpectedly at that par- 
ticular period.' 

Though the date of the following poem is a little uncer- 
tain, it may be most convenient to introduce it here. It 
must have been written before 1833, but how much earlier 
there are no means of determining. I give it as a specimen 
of the remarkable poetical talent shown in the various 



1831 HER POETICAL TALENT 95 

diminutive writings of this time, at least in all of them 
which I hare been able to read: 



THE WOUNDED STAG. 

Passing amid the deepest shade 

Of the wood's sombre heart, 
Last night I saw a wounded deer 

Laid lonely and apart. 

Such light as pierced the crowded boughs 

(Light scattered, scant, and dim) 
Passed through the fern that formed his couch, 

And centred full on him. 

Pain trembled in his weary limbs, 

Pain filled his patient eye ; 
Pain-crushed amid the shadowy fern 

His branchy crown did lie. 

Where were his comrades ? where his maje ? 

All from his death bed gone 1 
And he, thus struck and desolate, 

Suffered and bled alone. 

Did he feel what a man might feel, 

Friend-left and sore distrest 1 
Did Pain's keen dart, and Grief's sharp sting 

Strive in his mangled breast ? 

Did longing for affection lost 

Barb every deadly dart ; 
Love unrepaid, and Faith betrayed, 

Did these torment his heart ? 

No ! leave to man his proper doom ! 

These are the pangs that rise 
Around the bed of state and gloom, 

Where Adam's offspring dies ! 



CHAPTEE VI 

This is perhaps a fitting time to give some personal de- 
scription of Miss Bronte. In 1831 she was a quiet, thought- 
ful girl, of nearly fifteen years of age, very small in figure 
— ' stunted ' was the word she applied to herself — but, as 
her limbs and head were in just proportion to the slight, 
fragile body, no word in ever so slight a degree suggestive 
of deformity could properly be applied to her ; with soft, 
thick brown hair, and peculiar eyes, of which I find it dif- 
ficult to give a description, as they appeared to me in her 
later life. They were large and well shaped ; their colour 
a reddish brown ; but if the iris was closely examined it 
appeared to be composed of a great variety of tints. The 
usual expression was of quiet, listening intelligence; but 
now and then, on some just occasion for vivid interest or 
wholesome indignation, a light would shine out, as if some 
spiritual lamp had been kindled, which glowed behind those 
expressive orbs. I never saw the like in any other human 
creature. As for the rest of her features, they were plain, 
large, and ill set ; but, unless you began to catalogue them, 
you were hardly aware of the fact, for the eyes and power 
of the countenance overbalanced every physical defect ; the 
crooked mouth and the large nose were forgotten, and the 
whole face arrested the attention, and presently attracted 
all those whom she herself would have cared to attract. Her 
hands and feet were the smallest I ever saw ; when one of 
the former was placed in mine, it was like the soft touch of 
a bird in the middle of my palm. The delicate long fingers 
had a peculiar fineness of sensation, which was one reason 
why all her handiwork, of whatever kind — writing, sewing, 



1831 PERSONAL DESCRIPTION OF MISS BRONTE 97 

knitting — was so clear in its minuteness. She was remark- 
ably neat in her whole personal attire ; but she was dainty 
as to the fit of her shoes and gloves. 

I can well imagine that the grave, serious composure 
which, when I knew her, gave her face the dignity of an 
old Venetian portrait, was no acquisition of later years, but 
dated from that early age when she found herself in the 
position of an elder sister to motherless children. But in 
a girl only just entered on her teens such an expression 
would be called (to use a country phrase) 'old-fashioned;' 
and in 1831, the period of which I now write, we must 
think of her as a little, set, antiquated girl, very quiet 
in manners, and very quaint in dress ; for besides the 
influence exerted by her father's ideas concerning the 
simplicity of attire befitting the wife and daughters of a 
country clergyman, her aunt, on whom the duty of dress- 
ing her nieces principally devolved, had never been in 
society since she left Penzance, eight or nine years before, 
and the Penzance fashions of that day were still dear to 
her heart. 

In January 1831 Charlotte was sent to school again. 
This time she went as a pupil to, Miss W ,' who lived 

1 In the first and second editions Mrs. Gaskell printed tbe name in 
full, 'Miss Wooler.' But it would seem clear that Miss Wooler had 
disliked the introduction of herself by name into the biography, and 
it became ' Miss W ' in later editions. As, however, she after- 
wards handed her letters from Charlotte to a friend for publication, 
she must have outlived this feeling of reticence. Margaret Wooler 
(1792-1885) was the eldest of a large family. She was assisted at dif- 
ferent times by her three sisters, Susan, Katherine, and Eliza, in her 
schools at Eoe Head and Dewsbury Moor. Susan Wooler became 
the wife of the Rev. E. N. Carter, vicar of Heckmondwike, who pre- 
pared Charlotte Bronte for confirmation when he was a curate at 
Mil-field Parish Church. After Margaret Wooler had given up school- 
keeping she lived first at Heckmondwike with her sister Susan (Mrs. 
Carter), and afterwards at Gomersal, near Leeds, where she died at 
the age of ninety-two. She was described by a pupil as ' short and 
stout, but graceful in her movements, very fluent in conversation, 
and with a very sweet voice.' She was buried in Birstall churchyard, 
7 



98 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

at Koe Head, a cheerf ul, roomy country house, standing a 
little apart in a field, on the right of the road from Leeds 
to Huddersfield. Three tiers of old-fashioned semicircular 
bow windows run from basement to roof ; and look down 
upon a long green slope of pasture landj ending in the 
pleasant woods of Kirklees, Sir George Armitage's park. 
Although Roe Head and Haworth are not twenty miles 
apart, the aspect of the country is as totally dissimilar as 
if they enjoyed a different climate. The soft, curving and 
heaving landscape round the former gives a stranger the 
idea of cheerful airiness on the heights, and of sunny 
warmth in the broad green valleys below. It is just such 
a neighbourhood as the monks loved, and traces of the old 
Plantagenet times are to be met with everywhere, side by 
side with the manufacturing interests of the West Riding 
of to-day. There is the park of Kirklees, full of snnny 
glades, speckled with black shadows of immemorial yew 
trees ; the grey pile of building, formerly a ' House of pro- 
fessed Ladies;' the mouldering stone in the depth of the 
wood, under which Robin Hood is said to lie ; close outside 
the park, an old stone -gabled house, now a roadside inn, 
but which bears the name of the ' Three Nuns,' and has a 
picture sign to correspond. And this quaint old inn is fre- 
quented by fustian-dressed mill-hands from the neighbour- 
ing worsted factories, which strew the highroad from Leeds 
to Huddersfield, and form the centres round which future 
villages gather. Such are the contrasts of modes of living, 
and of times and seasons, brought before the traveller on 
the great roads that traverse the West Riding. In no 
other part of England, I fancy, are, the centuries brought 
into such close, strange contact as in the district in which 
Roe Head is situated. Within six miles of Miss Wooler's 
house — on the left of the road, coming from Leeds— lie 
the remains of Howley Hall, now the property of Lord 

where her epitaph runs as follows : — 'Margaret Wooler. Bom June 
10, 1792. Died June 3, 1885. " By Thy Gross and Passion, good Lord, 
deliver us." ' 




a 

a 

a 

B 
O 



1831 NEIGHBOURHOOD OF ROE HEAD 99 

Cardigan, but formerly belonging to a branch of the Sav- 
iles. Near to it is Lady Anne's Well ; ' Lady Anne,' ac- 
cording to tradition, having been worried and eaten by 
wolves as she sat at the well, to which the indigo-dyed fac- 
tory people from Birstall and Batley woollen mills would 
formerly repair on Palm Sunday, when the waters possess 
remarkable medicinal efficacy ; and it is still believed by 
some that they assume a strange variety of colours at six 
o'clock on the morning of that day. 

All round the lands held by the farmer who lives in the 
remains of Howley Hall are stone houses of to-day, occu- 
pied by the people who are making their living and their 
fortunes by the woollen mills that encroach upon and 
shoulder out the proprietors of the ancient halls. These 
are to be seen in every direction, picturesque, many- 
gabled, with heavy stone carvings of coats of arms for he- 
raldic ornament ; belonging to decayed families, from whose 
ancestral lands field after field has been shorn away, by the 
urgency of rich manufacturers pressing hard upon neces- 
sity. 

A smoky atmosphere surrounds these old dwellings of 
former Yorkshire squires, and blights and blackens the 
ancient trees that overshadow them ; cinder paths lead up 
to them; the ground round about is sold for building 
upon ; but still the neighbours, though they subsist by a 
different state of things, remember that their forefathers 
lived in agricultural dependence upon the owners of these 
halls, and treasure up the traditions connected with the 
stately households that existed centuries ago. Take Oak- 
well Hall, for instance. It stands in a pasture field, about 
a quarter of a mile from the highroad. It is but that dis- 
tance from the busy whirr of steam engines employed in 
the woollen mills at Birstall ; and if you walk to it from 
Birstall Station about meal-time you encounter strings of 
mill hands, blue with woollen dye, and cranching in hun- 
gry haste over the cinder paths bordering the highroad. 
Turning off from this to the right, you ascend through an 



100 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

old pasture field, and enter a short by-road, called the 
'Bloody Lane' — a walk haunted by the ghost of a certain 
Captain Batt, the reprobate proprietor of an old hall close 
by, in the days of the Stuarts. Prom the ' Bloody Lane,' 
overshadowed by trees, you come into the field in which 
Oakwell Hall is situated. It is known in the neighbour- 
hood to be the place described as 'Field Head/ Shirley's 
residence. The enclosure in front, half court, half gar- 
den ; the panelled hall, with the gallery opening into the 
bedchambers running round ; the barbarous peach-coloured 
drawing-room ; the bright look-out through the garden door 
upon the grassy lawns and terraces behind, where the soft- 
hued pigeons still love to coo and strut in the sun — are 
described in 'Shirley.' The scenery of that fiction lies 
close around ; the real events which suggested it took place 
in the immediate neighbourhood. 

They show a bloody footprint in a bedchamber of Oak- 
well Hall, and tell a story connected with it, and with the 
lane by which the house is approached. Captain Batt was 
believed to be far away ; his family was at Oakwell ; when 
in the dusk, one winter evening, he came stalking along the 
land, and through the hall, and up the stairs, into his own 
room, where he vanished. He had been killed in a duel 
in London that very same afternoon of December 9, 1684. ' 

The stones of the Hall formed part of the more ancient 
vicarage, which an ancestor of Captain Batt had seized in 
the troublous times for property which succeeded the Refor- 
mation. This Henry Batt possessed himself of houses and 
money without scruple, and at last stole the great bell of 
Birstall Church, for which sacrilegious theft a fine was im- 
posed on the land, and has to be paid by the owner of the 
Hall to this day. 

But the Oakwell property passed out of the hands of the 
Batts at the beginning of the last century ; collateral de- 

1 Oliver Heywood in his Northowram Register has this entry : 1684, 
'Mr. Bat of Okewell, a young man, slain by Mr. Gream at Barne(t), 
near London ; buried at Birstall, Dee. 30.' 



1831 SCHOOL AT ROE HEAD 101 

scendants succeeded, and left this picturesque trace of their 
having been. In the great hall hangs a mighty pair of 
stag's horns, and dependent from them a printed card, re- 
cording the fact that on September 1, 1763, there was a 
great hunting match, when this stag was slain ; and that 
fourteen gentlemen shared in the chase, and dined on the 
spoil. in that hall, along with Fairfax Fearneley, Esq., the 
owner. The fourteen names are given, doubtless 'mighty 
men of yore;' but, among them all, Sir Fletcher Norton, 
Attorney-General, and Major-General Birch were the only 
ones with which I had any association in 1855. Passing on 
from Oakwell there lie houses right and left, which were 
well known to Miss Bronte, when she lived at Roe Head, 
as the hospitable homes of some of her schoolfellows. Lanes 
branch off for three or four miles to heaths and commons 
on the higher ground, which formed pleasant walks on hol- 
idays, and then comes the white gate into the field path, lead- 
ing to Roe Head itself. 

One of the bow-windowed rooms on the ground floor, 
with the pleasant look-out I have described, was the draw- 
ing-room ; the other was the schoolroom. The dining-room 
was on one side of the door, and faced the road. 

The number of pupils, during the year and a half Miss 
Bronte was there, ranged from seven to ten ; and as they 
did not require the whole of the house for their accommo- 
dation, the third story was unoccupied, except by the ghost- 
ly idea of a lady, whose rustling silk gown was sometimes 
heard by the listeners at the foot of the second flight of stairs. 

The kind, motherly nature of Miss Wooler and the small 
number of the girls made the establishment more like a 
private family than a school. Moreover she was a native 
of the district immediately surrounding Roe Head, as were 
the majority of her pupils. Most likely Charlotte Bronte, 
in coming from Haworth, came the greatest distance of all. 
' E.'s ' home ' was five miles away ; two other dear friends 

' 'E.' was Ellen Nussey (1817-97), a girl of fourteen when she first 
met Charlotte Bronte. Her home was at this time and until 1837 at 



102 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

(the Rose and Jessie Yorke of ' Shirley') lived still nearer; 
two or three came from Huddersfield ; one or two from 
Leeds. 

I shall now quote from a valuable letter which I have 
received from ' Mary,' ' one of these early friends ; distinct 
and graphic in expression, as becomes a cherished associ- 
ate of Charlotte Bronte. The time referred to is her first 
appearance at Roe Head, on January 19, 1831. 

'I first saw her coming out of a covered cart, in very 

The RydiDgs, Birstall, Yorks. From 1837 until long after Charlotte 
Bronte's death she lived at Brookroyd, in the same district. The 
Rydings served in part for ' Thornfield ' in Jane Eyre. Charlotte 
Bronte's friendship for Miss Nussey was enthusiastic and based upon 
gratitude for many kindnesses. Miss Nussey was probably from the 
first an ardent hero-worshipper of her more gifted friend — her senior 
by a year. In the period that succeeded Charlotte Bronte's death thig 
hero-worship became little less than idolatry, and Miss Nussey in her 
later years received numerous visitors who were anxious to learn 
something of the Bronte sisters. To these visitors she was always 
ready to give courteous consideration, although she was able to. add 
but little to the information which in the days when memory was 
most acute she had imparted to Mrs. Gaskell. She, however, inspired 
Sir Wemyss Reid, as has been stated, to write twenty years later his 
Charlotte Bronte : a Monograph. Miss Bronte denied, however — to her 
husband, Mr. Nicholls — that she had intended Caroline Helstone as a 
presentation of her friend. The whole collection of Charlotte Bronte's 
letters to Ellen Nussey was privately printed by Mr. J. Horsfall 
Turner, of Idle, Torks, apparently under the misapprehension that 
the letters written to a person are the owner's property for publica- 
tion, which legally they are not. These letters were reprinted, in 
almost complete form, by permission of Mr. Nicholls, Miss Bronte's 
husband and executor, in Charlotte Bronte and her Circle. Mrs. Gas- 
kell had seen the correspondence, and made her selection with abso- 
lute discernment of essentials. The original letters, most of which 
are now the property of Mr. Thomas Wise, of London, are valuable 
for the identification of names, which were necessarily omitted by Mrs. 
GaskelLat a time when many of the people referred to were still 
alive. Miss Nussey died at Birstall, Yorkshire, and was buried in 
Birstall churchyard, where her tomb is inscribed, 'Ellen Nussey, 
youngest daughter of the above - named John Nussey, who died 
November 26, 1897, aged 80 years.' 
1 Mary Taylor, the Rose Yorke of Shirley. See p. 108. 



1881 IMPRESSIONS OF A SCHOOLFELLOW 103 

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

This was the first impression she made upon one of 
those whose dear and valued friend she was to become in 
after-life. Another of the girls recalls her first sight of 
Charlotte, on the day she came, standing by the school- 
room window, looking out on the snowy landscape, and 
crying, while all the rest were at play. ' E.' was younger 
than she, and her tender heart was touched by the appar- 
ently desolate condition in which she found the oddly 
dressed, old - looking little girl that winter morning, as 
' sick for home she stood in tears,' in a new strange place, 
among new strange people. Any over-demonstrative kind- 
ness would have scared the wild little maiden from Haworth ; 
but ' E.' (who is shadowed forth in the Caroline Helstone 
of ' Shirley ') managed to win confidence, and was allowed 
to give sympathy. 

To quote again from ' Mary's ' letter — 

' We thought her very ignorant, for she had never learnt 
grammar at all, and very little geography.' 

This account of her partial ignorance is confirmed by 
her other schoolfellows. But Miss Wooler was a lady of 
remarkable intelligence and of delicate, tender sympathy. 
She gave a proof of this in her first treatment of Charlotte. 
The little girl was well read, but not well grounded. Miss 
Wooler took her aside and told her she was afraid that she 
must place her in the second class for some time, till she 



104 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

could overtake the girls of her own age in the knowledge 
of grammar, &c; but poor Charlotte received this an- 
nouncement with so sad a fit of crying that Miss Wooler's 
kind heart was softened, and she wisely perceived that, 
with such a girl, it would be better to place her in the first 
class, and allow her to make up by private study in those 
branches where she was deficient. 

' She would confound us by knowing things that were 
out of our range altogether. She was acquainted with 
most of the short pieces of poetry that we had to learn by 
heart; would tell us the authors, the poems they were 
taken from, and sometimes repeat a page or two, and tell 
us the plot. She had a habit of writing in italics (print- 
ing characters), and said she had learnt it by writing in 
their magazine. They brought out a " magazine " once 
a month, and wished it to look as like print as possible. 
She told us a tale out of it. No one wrote in it, and no 
one read it, but herself, her brother, and two sisters. She 
promised to show me some of these magazines, but re- 
tracted it afterwards, and would never be persuaded to do 
so. In our play hours she sat or stood still, with a book, 
if possible. Some of us once urged her to be on our side 
in a game of ball. She said she had never played, and 
could not play. We made her try, but soon found that 
she could not see the ball, so we pat her out. She took 
all our proceedings with pliable indifference, and always 
seemed to need a previous resolution to say " No " to any- 
thing. She used to go and stand under the trees in the 
playground, and say it was pleasanter. She endeavored 
to explain this, pointing out the shadows, the peeps of 
sky, &c. We understood but little of it. She said that at 
Cowan Bridge she used to stand in the burn, on a stone, to 
watch the water flow by. I told her she should have gone 
fishing; she said she never wanted. She always showed 
physical feebleness in everything. She ate no animal food 
at school. It was about this time I told her she was very 
ugly. Some years afterwards I told her I thought I had 



1833 IMPRESSIONS OF A SCHOOLFELLOW 105 

been very impertinent. She replied, " You did me a great 
deal of good, Polly, so don't repent of it." She used to draw- 
much better, and more quickly, than anything we had seen 
before, and knew much about celebrated pictures and paint- 
ers. Whenever an opportunity offered of examining a pict- 
ure or cut of any kind, she went over it piecemeal, with her 
eye3 close to the paper, looking so long that we used to ask 
her " what she saw in it." She could always see plenty, 
and explained it very well. She made poetry and drawing 
at least exceedingly interesting to me ; and then I got the 
habit, which I have yet, of referring mentally to her opin- 
ion on all matters of" that kind, along with many more, re- 
solving to describe such and such things to her, until I 
start at the recollection that I never shall/ 

To feel the full force of this last sentence — to show how 
steady and vivid was the impression which Miss Bronte 
made on those fitted to appreciate her — I must mention 
that the writer of this letter, dated January 18, 1856, in 
which she thus speaks of constantly referring to Charlotte's 
opinion, has never seen her for eleven years, nearly all of 
which have been passed among strange scenes, in a new 
continent, at the antipodes. 

' We used to be furious politicians, as one could hardly 
help being in 1832. She knew the names of the two Min- 
istries ; the one that resigned, and the one that succeeded 
and passed the Eeform Bill. She worshipped the Duke of 
Wellington, but said that Sir Bobert Peel was not to be 
trusted ; he did not act from principle, like the rest, but 
from expediency. I, being of the furious Eadical party, 
told her, " How could any of them trust one another ? 
they were all of them rascals !" Then she would launch 
out into praises of the Duke of Wellington, referring to his 
actions ; which I could not contradict, as 1 knew nothing 
about him. She said she had taken interest in politics 
ever since she was five years old. She did not get her 
opinions from her father — that is, not directly — but from 
the papers, &c, he preferred.' 



106 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

In illustration of the truth of this I may give an extract 
from a letter to her brother, written from Roe Head, May 
17, 1832 :— ' Lately I had begun to think that I had lost all 
the interest which I used formerly to take in politics ; but 
the extreme pleasure I felt at the news of the Reform Bill's 
being thrown out by the House of Lords, and of the ex- 
pulsion, or resignation, of Earl Grey, &c, convinced me 
that I have not as yet lost all my penchant for politics. I 
am extremely glad that aunt has consented to take in 
" Praser's Magazine ; " for, though I know, from your de- 
scription of its general contents, it will be rather uninter- 
esting when compared with " Blackwood," still it will be 
better than remaining the whole year without being able to 
obtain a sight of any periodical whatever ; and such would 
assuredly be our case, as, in the little wild moorland vil- 
lage where we reside, there would be no possibility of bor- 
rowing a work of that description from a circulating li- 
brary. I hope with you that the present delightful weather 
may contribute to the perfect restoration of our dear papa's 
health ; and that it may give aunt pleasant reminiscences 
of the salubrious climate of her native place/ &C. 1 

To return to ' Mary's ' letter — 

' She used to speak of her two elder sisters, Maria and 
Elizabeth, who died at Cowan Bridge. I used to believe 
them to have been wonders of talent and kindness. She 

1 This letter commenced as follows : — 

' Dear Bran well, — As usual I address my weekly letter to you, be- 
cause to you I find the most to say. I feel exceedingly anxious to 
know how and in what state you arrived at home after your long and 
(I should think) very fatiguing journey. I could perceive when you 
arrived at Roe Head that you were very much tired, though you re- 
fused to acknowledge it. After you were gone many questions and 
subjects of conversation recurred to me which I had intended to men- 
tion to you, but quite forgot them in the agitation which I felt at the 
totally unexpected pleasure of seeing you.' And it ended, ' With 
love to all, believe me, dear Branwell, to remain your affectionate 
sister, 

* Charlotte.' 



1832 HER SCHOOL DAYS AT ROE HEAD 107 

told me, early one morning, that she had just been dream- 
ing : she had been told that she was wanted in the drawing- 
room, and it was Maria and Elizabeth. I was eager for her 
to go on, and when she said there was no more, I said," But 
go on ! Make it out! I know you can." She said she would 
not ; she wished she had not dreamed, for it did not go on 
nicely ; they were changed ; they had forgotten what they 
used to care for. They were very fashionably dressed, and 
began criticising the room, &c. 

'This habit of "making out 1 " interests for themselves, 
that most children get who have none in actual life, was 
very strong in her. The whole family used to " make out " 
histories, and invent characters and events. I told her 
sometimes they were like growing potatoes in a cellar. She 
said, sadly, " Yes ! I know we are !" 

'Some one at school said she "was always talking about 
clever 'people — Johnson, Sheridan," &c. She said, " Now 
you don't know the meaning of clever. Sheridan might be 
clever ; yes, Sheridan was clever — scamps often are — but 
Johnson hadn't a spark of cleverality in him." No one 
appreciated the opinion ; they made some trivial remark 
about "cleverality," and she said no more. 

' This is the epitome of her life. At our house she had 
just as little chance of a patient hearing, for though not 
school-girlish we were more intolerant. We had a rage for 
practicality, and laughed all poetry to scorn. Neither she 
nor we had any idea but that our opinions were the 
opinions of all the sensible people in the world, and we used 
to astonish each other at every sentence. . . . Charlotte, 
at school, had no plan of life beyond what circumstances 
made for her. She knew that she must provide for herself, 
and chose her trade ; at least chose to begin it once. Her 
idea of self -improvement ruled her even at school. It was 
to cultivate her tastes. She always said there was enough 
of hard practicality and useful knowledge forced on us by 
necessity, and that the thing most needed was to soften 
and refine our minds. She picked up every scrap of infor- 



108 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTfi 

mation concerning painting, sculpture, poetry, music, &c, 
as if it were gold.' 

What I have heard of her school days from other sources 
confirms the accuracy of the details in this remarkable let- 
ter. 1 She was an indefatigable student: constantly reading 
and learning ; with a strong conviction of the necessity and 
value of education, very unusual in a girl of fifteen. She 
never lost a moment of time, and seemed almost to grudge 
the necessary leisure for relaxation and play hours, which 
might be partly accounted for by the awkwardness in 
all games occasioned by her shortness of sight. Yet, in 
spite of these unsociable habits, she was a great favourite 
with her schoolfellows. She was always ready to try and 
do what they wished, though not sorry when they called 
her awkward and left her out of their sports. Then, at 

1 This letter, which Mrs. Gaskell calls ' remarkable,' was written by 
a remarkable woman. Mary Taylor (1817-1893), the Rose Torke 
of Shirley, who is referred to by Mrs. Gaskell as ' Mary,' was with 
her sister Martha — the Jessie Yorke of Shirley— -at Roe Head with 
Charlotte Bronte. She received much additional education at Brus- 
sels, where Martha died and was buried in the Protestant cemetery. 
Reverses coming to her family — whose characteristics ran much upon 
the same lines as those of the Yorkes of Shirley — Mary Taylor emi- 
grated to Wellington, New Zealand, where she started a small drapery 
store. This and other letters to Mrs. Gaskell are written from Wel- 
lington. All her letters show remarkable intellectual powers, and in- 
deed it would not be too much to say that until Miss Bronte attained 
to literary fame Mary Taylor was the only human being of a high or- 
der of intelligence with whom she had come in contact apart from her 
own family circle. Miss Taylor's two books, however, published 
upon her return to England, had no special significance. One of them, 
Miss Miles : a Tale of Yorkshire Life Sixty Years Ago, was published 
so late as 1890, while The First Duty of Women : a Series of Articles 
reprinted from the ' Victorian Magazine, 1865 to 1870,' was published 
in 1870. The last thirty years of her life were passed in a house built 
for her by a brother at High Royd, near Gomersal, Yorks, and here 
she died in March 1893, aged seventy-six. Her tomb in Gomersal 
churchyard is inscribed, ' In affectionate remembrance of Mary Tay- 
lor of High Royd, Gomersal'. Born February 26, 1817. Died March 
1, 1893.' 



1832 HER SCHOOL DAYS AT ROE HEAD 109 

night, she was an invaluable story-teller, frightening them 
almost out of their wits as they lay in bed. On one occa- 
sion the effect was such that she was led to scream out 
aloud, and Miss Wooler, coming upstairs, found that one 
of the listeners had been seized with violent palpitations 
in consequence of the excitement produced by Charlotte's 
story. 

Her indefatigable craving for knowledge tempted Miss 
Wooler on into setting her longer and longer tasks of read- 
ing for examination ; and towards the end of the year and 
a half that she remained as a pupil at Roe Head she received 
her first bad mark for an imperfect lesson. She had had a 
great quantity of Blair's ' Lectures on Belles-Lettres ' to 
read, and she could not answer some of the questions upon 
it; Charlotte Bronte had a bad mark. Miss "Wooler was 
sorry, and regretted that she had set Charlotte so long a 
task. Charlotte cried bitterly. But her schoolfellows were 
more than sorry — they 'were indignant. They declared that 
the infliction of ever so slight a punishment on Charlotte 
Bronte was unjust — for who had tried to do her duty like 
her ? — and testified their feeling in a variety of ways, until 
Miss Wooler, who was in reality only too willing to pass 
over her good pupil's first fault, withdrew the bad mark ; 
and the girls all returned to their allegiance except ' Mary,' 
who took her own way during the week or two that re- 
mained of the half-year, choosing to consider that Miss 
Wooler, in giving Charlotte Bronte so long a task, had 
forfeited her claim to obedience of the school regulations. 

The number of pupils was so small that the attendance 
to certain subjects at particular hours, common in larger 
schools, was not rigidly enforced. When the girls were 
ready with their lessons they came to Miss Wooler to say 
them. She had a remarkable knack of making them feel 
interested in whatever they had to learn. They set to their 
studies, not as to tasks or duties to be got through, but 
with a healthy desire and thirst for knowledge, of which 
she had managed to make them perceive the relishing 



110 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

savour. They did not leave off reading and learning as 
soon as the compulsory pressure of school was taken away. 
They had been taught to think, to analyse, to reject, to 
appreciate. Charlotte Bronte was happy in the choice 
made for her of the second school to which she was sent. 
There was a robust freedom in the out-of-doors life of her 
companions. They played at merry games in the fields 
round the house : on Saturday half-holidays they went long 
scrambling walks down mysterious shady lanes, then climb- 
ing the uplands, and thus gaining extensive views over the 
country, about which so much had to be told, both of its 
past and present history. 

Miss Wooler must have had in great perfection the 
French art 'conter/to judge from her pupil's recollections 
of the tales she related during these long walks, of this old 
house, or that new mill, and of the states of society conse- 
quent on the changes involved by the suggestive dates of 
either building. She remembered the times when watchers 
or wakeners in the night heard the distant word of com- 
mand and the measured tramp of thousands of sad, desperate 
men receiving a surreptitious military training, in prepara- 
tion for some great day which they saw in their visions, 
when right should struggle with might and come off victo- 
rious ; when the people of England, represented by the 
workers of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Nottinghamshire, 
should make their voice heard in a terrible slogan, since 
their true and pitiful complaints could find no hearing in 
Parliament. We forget nowadays, so rapid have been the 
changes for the better, how cruel was the condition of num- 
bers of labourers at the close of the great Peninsular war. 
The half-ludicrous nature of some of their grievances has 
lingered on in tradition ; the real intensity of their suffer- 
ings has become forgotten. They were maddened and des- 
perate ; and the country, in the opinion of many, seemed to, 
be on the verge of a precipice,from which it was only saved 
by the prompt and resolute decision of a few in authority. 
Miss Wooler spoke of those times ; of the mysterious nightly 



1832 MR. CART WRIGHT AND THE LUDDITES 111 

drillings ; of thousands on lonely moors ; of the mattered 
threats of individuals too closely pressed upon by necessity 
to be prudent ; of the overt acts, in which the burning 
of Cartwright's mill took a prominent place ; and these 
things sank deep into the mind of one, at least, among her 
hearers. 

Mr. Cartwright was the owner of a factory called Raw- 
folds, in Liversedge, not beyond the distance of a walk from 
Roe Head. He had dared to employ machinery for the 
dressing of wollen cloth, which was an unpopular measure 
in 1812, when many other circumstances conspired to make 
the condition of the mill-hands unbearable from the press- 
ure of starvation and misery. Mr. Cartwright was a very 
remarkable man, having, as I have been told, some foreign 
blood in him, the traces of which were very apparent in his 
tall figure, dark eyes and complexion, and singular though 
gentlemanly bearing. At any rate he had been much 
abroad, and spoke French well, of itself a suspicious circum- 
stance to the bigoted nationality of those days. Altogether 
he was an unpopular man, even before he took the last step 
of employing shears, 1 instead of hands, to dress his wool. 
He was quite aware of his unpopularity, and of the probable 
consequences. He had his mill prepared for an assault. 
He took up his lodgings in it ; and the doors were strongly 
barricaded at night. On every step of the stairs there was 
placed a roller, spiked with barbed points all round, so as 
to impede the ascent of the rioters, if they succeeded in 
forcing the doors. 

On the night of Saturday, April 11, 1812, the assault was 
made. Some hundreds of starving cloth-dressers assembled 
in the very field, near Kirklees that sloped down from the 
house which Miss Wooler afterwards inhabited, and were 
armed by their leaders with pistols, hatchets, and bludgeons, 
many of which had been extorted, by the nightly bands that 

1 This should have been ' cropping machines ; ' shears were em 
ployed in dressing cloth by hand. Nor was it unspun wool, but cloth, 
over which the Luddites rioted. 



112 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

prowled about the country, from such inhabitants of lonely 
nouses as had provided themselves with these means of 
self-defence. The silent, sullen multitude marched in the 
dead of that spring night to Rawf olds, and, giving tongue 
with a great shout, roused Mr. Cartwright up to the 
knowledge that the long-expected attack was come. He 
was within walls, it is true ; but against the fury of hun- 
dreds he had only four of his own workmen and five sol- 
diers to assist him. These ten men, however, managed to 
keep up such a vigorous and well-directed fire of musketry 
that they defeated all the desperate attempts of the multi- 
tude outside to break down the doors, and force a way into 
the mill ; and, after a conflict of twenty minutes, during 
which two of the assailants were killed and several wound- 
ed, they withdrew in confusion, leaving Mr. Cartwright 
master of the field, but so dizzy and exhausted, now the 
peril was past, that he forgot the nature of his defences, 
and injured his leg rather seriously by one of the spiked 
rollers, in attempting to go up his own staircase. His 
dwelling was near the factory. Some of the rioters vowed 
that, if he did not give in, they would leave this, and go to 
his house, and murder his wife and children. This was a 
terrible threat, for he had been obliged to leave his family 
with only one or two soldiers to defend them. Mrs. Cart- 
wright knew what they had threatened ; and on that 
dreadful night, hearing, as she thought, steps approach- 
ing, she snatched up her two infant children, and put them 
in a basket up the great chimney, common in old-fashioned 
Yorkshire houses. One of the two children who had been 
thus stowed away used to point out with pride, after she 
had grown up to woman's estate, the marks of musket shot 
and the traces of gunpowder on the walls of her father's 
mill. He was the first that had offered any resistance to 
the progress of the 'Luddites,' who had become by this 
time so numerous as almost to assume the character of an 
insurrectionary army. Mr. Cartwright's conduct was so 
much admired by the neighbouring mill-owners that they 



1833 MR. ROBERSON OF HEALD'S HALL 113 

entered into a subscription for his benefit, which amounted 
in the end to 3,000Z.i 

Not much more than a fortnight after this attack on 
Rawfolds, another manufacturer who employed the ob- 
noxious machinery was shot down in broad daylight, as he 
was passing over Orossland Moor, which was skirted by a 
small plantation in which the murderers lay hidden. The 
readers of 'Shirley' will recognise these circumstances, 
which were related to Miss Bronte years after they oc- 
curred, but on the very spots where they took place, and 
by persons who remembered full well those terrible times 
of insecurity to life and property on the one hand, and of 
bitter starvation and blind, ignorant despair on the other. 

Mr. Bronte himself had been living amongst these very 
people in 1812, as he was then clergyman at Hartshead, not 
three miles from Rawfolds ; and, as I have mentioned, 
it was in these perilous times that he began his custom 
of carrying a loaded pistol continually about with him. 
For not only his Tory politics, but his love and regard for 
the authority of the law made him despise the cowardice 
of the surrounding magistrates, who, in their dread of the 
Luddites, refused to interfere so as to prevent the destruc- 
tion of property. The clergy of the district were the 
bravest men by far. 

There was a Mr. Roberson, of Heald's Hall, a friend of 
Mr. Bronte, who has left a deep impression of himself on 
the public mind. He lived near Heckmondwike, a large, 
straggling, dirty village, not two miles from Roe Head. It 
was principally inhabited by blanket weavers, who worked 
in their own cottages ; and Heald's Hall is the largest 
house in the village, of which Mr. Roberson was the vicar. 
At his own cost he built a handsome church at Liversedge, 
on a hill opposite the one on which his house stood, which 
was the first attempt in the West Riding to meet the wants 

1 Cartwright was buried in Liversedge churchyard. The inscrip- 
tion on his tomb runs, ' Wm. Cartwright, of Rawfolds, died April 15, 
1839, aged 64 years.' 
8 



114 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

of the overgrown population, and made many personal sac- 
rifices for his opinions, both religious and political, which 
were of the true old-fashioned Tory stamp. He hated 
everything which he fancied had a tendency towards 
anarchy. He was loyal in every fibre to Church and 
King ; and would have proudly laid down his life, any 
day, for what he believed to be right and true. But he 
was a man of an imperial will, and by it he bore down op- 
position, till tradition represents him as having something 
grimly demoniac about him. He was intimate with Cart- 
wright, and aware of the attack likely to be made on his 
mill; accordingly, it is said, he armed himself and his 
household, and was prepared to come to the rescue, in the 
event of a signal being given that aid was needed. Thus 
far is likely enough. Mr. Roberson had plenty of warlike 
spirit in him, man of peace though he was. 

But, in consequence of his having taken the unpopular 
side, exaggerations of his character linger as truth in the 
minds of the people ; and a fabulous story is told of his 
forbidding any one to give water to the wounded Luddites, 
left in the mill yard, when he rode in the next morning to 
congratulate his friend Cartwright on his successful de- 
fence. Moreover, this stern, fearless clergyman had the 
soldiers that were sent to defend the neighbourhood bil- 
leted at his house ; and this deeply displeased the work- 
people, who were to be intimidated by the red-coats. Al- 
though not a magistrate, he spared no pains to track out 
the Luddites concerned in the assassination I have men- 
tioned ; and was so successful in his acute, unflinching 
energy that it was believed he had been supernaturally 
aided ; and the country' people, stealing into the fields sur- 
rounding Heald's Hall on dusky winter evenings, years after 
this time, declared that through the windows they saw Par- 
son Roberson dancing, in a strange red light, with black 
demons all whirling and eddying round him. He kept a 
large boys' school, and made himself both respected and 
dreaded by his pupils. He added a grim kind of humour to 



1832 MR. ROBERSON OF HEALD'S HALL 115 

his strength of will ; and the former quality suggested to his 
fancy strange, out-of-the-way kinds of punishment for any 
refractory pupils : for instance, he made them stand on one 
leg in a corner of the schoolroom, holding a heavy book in 
each hand ; and once, when a boy had run away home, he 
followed him on horseback, reclaimed him from his parents, 
and, tying him by a rope to the stirrup of his saddle, made 
him run alongside of his horse for the many miles they 
had to traverse before reaching Heald's Hall. 

One other illustration of his character may be given. He 
discovered that his servant Betty had ' a follower ;' and, 
watching his time till Richard was found in the kitchen, he 
ordered him into the dining-room, where the pupils were 
all assembled. He then questioned Richard whether he 
had come after Betty ; and on his confessing the truth, Mr. 
Roberson gave the word, ' Off with him, lads, to the pump !' 
The poor lover was dragged to the courtyard, and the pump 
set to play upon him ; and, between every drenching, the 
question was put to him, 'Will you promise not to come 
after Betty again ?' For a long time Richard bravely re- 
fused to give in, when ' Pump again, lads !' was the order. 
But, at last, the poor soaked ' follower ' was forced to yield, 
and renounce his Betty. 1 

The Yorkshire character of Mr. Roberson would be in- 
complete if I did not mention his fondness for horses. He 
lived to be a very old man, dying some time nearer to 1840 
than 1830 ; and even after he was eighty years of age he 
took great delight in breaking refractory steeds ; if neces- 
sary, he would sit motionless on their backs for half an hour 
or more to bring them to. There is a story current that 
once, in a passion, he shot his wife's favourite horse, and 

1 There is another side to this story, if a tradition, thus recorded by- 
Mr. Erskine Stuart, is to be relied on : — 

' Two can play at practical jokes, and the half-drowned swain and 
a few kindred spirits paid a midnight visit to Roberson's yard, de- 
stroyed all the milk pans, and poured their precious contents on the 
ground as a libation to their god, Revenge.' 



116 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

buried it near a quarry, where the ground, some years after, 
miraculously opened and displayed the skeleton ; but the 
real fact is, that it was an act of humanity to put a poor old 
horse out of misery ; and that, to spare it pain, he shot it 
with his own hand, and buried it where, the ground sink- 
ing afterwards by the working of a coal-pit, the bones came 
to light. The traditional colouring shows the animus with 
which his memory is regarded by one set of people. By 
another, the neighbouring clergy, who remember him rid- 
ing, in his old age, down the hill on which his house stood, 
upon his strong white horse — his bearing proud and digni- 
fied, his shovel hat bent over and shadowing his keen eagle 
eyes — going to his Sunday duty, like a faithful soldier that 
dies in harness — who can appreciate his loyalty to con- 
science, his sacrifices to duty, and his stand by his religion 
— his memory is venerated. In his extreme old age a ru- 
bric meeting was held, at which his clerical brethren gladly 
subscribed to present him with a testimonial of their deep 
respect and regard. 1 

This is a specimen of the strong character not seldom 
manifested by the Yorkshire elergy of the Established 

1 Hammond Roberson (1757-1841), bom at Cawston, Norfolk, was a 
student of Magdalen College, Cambridge. He was curate of Dews- 
bury, Yorks, for nine years from 1779. In 1788 he resigned his curacy 
and took up his residence at Squirrel Hall, Dewsbury Moor. Here he 
remained and began a successful career as a teacher. In 1795 he par- 
chased Heald's Hall, Liversedge, and shortly afterwards became in- 
cumbent of Hartshead-cum-Clifton, resigning in 1800. In 1813 he 
delivered a sermon — afterwards published — at the laying of the founda- 
tion stone of a church at Liversedge, which he was largely instrumental 
in building. It was completed in 1816. A memorial window to him 
in Liversedge Church bears the inscription — 

' To the glory of God, and in memory of the Sev. Hammond Roberson, 
M.A., Founder of this Church in 1816, and its first Incumbent, who died 
Wh August, 1841, aged 84 years;' 

and his tombstone in the churchyard bears the following inscripT 
tion : — 

' T!ie Rev. Hammond Boberson, Founder of this Ohurch in 1816, died 
August 9th, 1841, aged 84.' 



1832 SCENES AT HECKMONDWIKE CHAPELS 117 

Church. Mr. Eoberson was a friend of Charlotte Bronte's 
father ; lived within a couple of miles of Roe Head while 
she was at school there ; and was deeply engaged in trans- 
actions, the memory of which was yet recent when she 
heard of them, and of the part which he had had in them. 

I may now say a little on the character of the Dissenting 
population immediately surrounding Koe Head; for the 
' Tory and clergyman's daughter/ ' taking interest in pol- 
itics ever since she was five years old/ and holding frequent 
discussions with such of the girls as were Dissenters and 
Radicals, was sure to have made herself as much acquainted 
as she could with the condition of those to whom she was 
opposed in opinion. 

The bulk of the population were Dissenters, principally 
Independents. In the village of Heckmondwike, at one end 
of which Roe Head is situated/ there were two large chapels 
belonging to that denomination, and one to the Methodists, 
all of which were well filled two or three times on a Sun- 
day, besides having various prayer meetings, fully attended 
on weekdays. The inhabitants were a chapel-going peo- 
ple, very critical about the doctrine of their sermons, tyran- 
nical to their ministers, and violent Radicals in politics. 
A friend, well acquainted with the place when Charlotte 
Bronte was at school, has described some events which oc- 
curred then among them : — 

'A scene, which took place at the Lower Chapel, at 
Heckmondwike, will give you some idea of the people at 
that time. When a newly married couple made their ap- 
pearance at chapel, it was the custom to sing the Wedding 
Anthem, just after the last prayer, and as the congregation 
was quitting the chapel. The band of singers who per- 
formed this ceremony expected to have money given them, 
and often passed the following night in drinking; at 
least so said the minister of the place ; and he determined 
to put an end to this custom. In this he was supported by 

1 Roe Head is more than two miles from Heckmondwike. 



118 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

many members of the chapel and congregation; but so 
strong was the democratic element, that he met with the 
most violent opposition and was often insulted when he 
went into the street. A bride was expected to make her 
first appearance, and the minister told the singers not to 
perform the anthem. On their declaring they would he 
had the large pew which they usually occupied locked ; 
they broke it open. From the pulpit he told the congrega- 
tion that, instead of their singing a hymn, he would read a 
chapter ; hardly had he uttered the first word, before up 
rose the singers, headed by a tall, fierce - looking weaver, 
who gave out a hymn, and all sang it at the very top of 
their voices, aided by those of their friends who were in 
the chapel. Those who disapproved of the conduct of the 
singers, and sided with the minister, remained seated till the 
hymn was finished. Then he gave out the chapter again, 
read it, and preached. He was just about to conclude with 
prayer, when up started the singers and screamed forth 
another hymn. These disgraceful scenes were continued 
for many weeks, and so violent was the feeling that the 
different parties could hardly keep from blows as they came 
through the chapel - yard. The minister, at last, left the 
place, and along with him went many of the most tem- 
perate and respectable part of the congregation, and the 
singers remained triumphant. 

'I believe that there was such a violent contest respect- 
ing the choice" of a pastor, about this time, in the Upper 
Chapel at Heckmondwike, that the Riot Act had to be read 
at a church meeting." 

Certainly, the soi-disant Christians who forcibly ejected 
Mr. Redhead at Haworth ten or twelve years before, held 
a very heathen brotherhood with the soi-disant Christians 
of Heckmondwike, though the one set might be called 

1 This story was very much resented by the Heckmondwike, Non- 
conformists. Mr. J. J. Stead, of Heckmondwike, informs me that the 
pastor of the Upper Chapel was elected in 1823 by an unanimous vote, 
and he remained there until his death in 1862. 



1883 THE HECKMONDWIKE 'LECTURE' 119 

members of the Church of England and the other Dis- 
senters. 

The letter from which I have taken the above extract 
relates throughout to the immediate neighbourhood of the 
place where Charlotte Bronte spent her school-days, and 
describes things as they existed at that very time. The 
writer says, 'Having been accustomed to the respectful 
manners of the lower orders in the agricultural districts, I 
was, at first, much disgusted and somewhat alarmed at the 
great freedom displayed by the working classes of Heck- 
mondwike and Gomersal to those in a station above them. 
The term "lass" was as freely applied to any young lady 
as the word " wench " is in Lancashire. The extremely 
untidy appearance of the villagers shocked me not a little, 
though I must do the housewives the justice to say that the 
cottages themselves were not dirty, and had an air of rough 
plenty about them (except when trade was bad), that I had 
not been accustomed to see in the farming districts. The 
heap of coals on one side of the house door, and the brewing 
tubs on the other, and the frequent perfume of malt and 
hops as you walked along, proved that fire and " home- 
brewed" were to be found at almost every man's hearth. 
Nor was hospitality, one of the main virtues of Yorkshire, 
wanting. Oat cake, cheese, and beer were freely pressed 
upon the visitor. 

' There used to be a yearly festival, half religious, half 
social, held at Heckmondwike, called " The Lecture." ' I 

» 
1 This ' Lecture ' is still continued, and is held on the Tuesday and 
Wednesday after the second Sunday in June. It was started in 1761 
by the Rev. James Scott, then Congregational minister at Heckmond- 
wike, who had inaugurated an Academy for the training of ministers, 
which was the nucleus of the Airedale and the Rotherhara Colleges, 
now the United Independent College, Bradford. Finding himself an- 
noyed by the interruptions caused by the frequent visitAf the friends 
and relatives of the students, he decided to appoint one day in the 
year, and provided a plain dinner for them ; and, in order that they 
might be profitably entertained, he secured some noted preacher to 
give a lecture or conduct a service, which institution has continued 



120 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

fancy it had come down from the times of the Nonconform- 
ists. A sermon was preached by some stranger at the 
Lower Chapel on a week-day evening, and the next day 
two sermons in succession were delivered at the Upper 
Chapel. Of course the service was a very long one, and as 
the time was June, and the weather often hot, it used to 
be regarded by myself and my companions as no pleasura- 
ble way of passing the morning. The rest of the day was 
spent in social enjoyment ; great numbers of strangers 
flocked to the place ; booths were erected for the sale of toys 
and gingerbread (a sort of "Holy Fair"); and the cot- 
tages, having had a little extra paint and whitewashing, as- 
sumed quite a holiday look. 

'The village of Gomersal' (where Charlotte Bronte's 
friend 'Mary' lived with her family), ' which was a much 
prettier place than Heckmondwike, contained a strange- 
looking cottage, built of rough unhewn stones, many of 
them projecting considerably, with uncouth heads and 
grinning faces carved upon them ; and upon a stone above 
the door was cut, in large letters, "Spite Hall." It was 
erected by a man in the village, opposite to the house of 
his enemy, who had just finished for himself a good house, 
commanding a beautiful view down the valley, which this 
hideous building quite shut out.' 

Fearless — because this people were quite familiar to all 
of them — amidst such a population, lived and walked the 
gentle Miss Wooler's eight or nine pupils. She herself 
was born and bred among this rough, strong, fierce set, and 
knew the depth of goodness and loyalty that lay beneath 

unto this day. Now there are services at the three large Congrega- 
tional chapels in the town. On the Tuesday evening two sermons are 
preached at Westgate (formerly Lower) Chapel ; next morning two 
at the Uppe'FChapel, and in the evening one at George Street Chapel, 
the services being attended by ministers and people of all denomina- 
tions, who come from miles around ; and the chapels are packed to 
their utmost capacity, for the preachers are generally the leading men 
of the day.. 



1832 THE HECKMONDWIKE 'LECTURE' 121 

their wild manners and insubordinate ways. And the girls 
talked of the little world around them, as if it were the 
only world that was ; and had their opinions and their 
parties, and their fierce discussions like their elders — pos- 
sibly their betters. And among them, beloved and re- 
spected by all, laughed at occasionally by a few, but always 
to her face, lived, for a year and a half, the plain, short- 
sighted, oddly dressed, studious little girl they called 
Charlotte Bronte. 



CHAPTBK VII 

Miss Beontb left Koe Head in 1832, having won the af- 
fectionate regard both of her teacher and her schoolfellows, 
and having formed there the two fast friendships which 
lasted her whole life long ; the one with ' Mary,' who has 
not kept her letters ; the other with ' E.,' ' who has kindly 
intrusted me with a large portion of Miss Bronte's corre- 
spondence with her. This she has been induced to do by 
her knowledge of the urgent desire on the part of Mr. 
Bronte that the life of his daughter should be written, and 
in compliance with a request from her husband that I 
should be permitted to have the use of these letters, with- 
out which such a task could be but very imperfectly exe- 
cuted. In order to shield this friend, however, from any 
blame or misconstruction, it is only right to state that, be- 
fore granting me this privilege, she throughout most care- 
fully and completely effaced the names of the persons and 
places which occurred in them ; and also that such infor- 
mation as I have obtained from her bears reference solely 
to Miss Bronte and her sisters, and not to any other in- 
dividuals whom I may find it necessary to allude, to in 
connection with them. 

In looking over the earlier portion of this correspond- 
ence I am struck afresh by the absence of hope, which 
formed such a strong characteristic in Charlotte. At an 
age when girls, in general, look forward to an eternal 

1 'B.' as haa been said, was Ellen Nussey, whom it will be more 
convenient henceforth to refer to as 'Ellen.' She received altogether 
about five hundred letters from Charlotte Bronte and two from Emily. 
See p. 101. 



1832 LIFE AT THE PARSONAGE 123 

duration of such feelings as they or their friends enter- 
tain, and can therefore see no hindrance to the fulfilment 
of any engagements dependent on the future state of the 
affections, she is surprised that Blleu keeps her promise to 
write. In after-life I was painfully impressed with the 
fact, that Miss Bronte never dared to allow herself to look 
forward with hope ; that she had no confidence in the 
future ; and I thought, when I heard of the sorrowful 
years she had passed through, that it had been this press- 
ure of grief which had crushed all buoyancy of expecta- 
tion out of her. But it appears from the letters that it 
must have been, so to speak, constitutional ; or, perhaps, 
the deep pang of losing her two elder sisters combined with 
a permanent state of bodily weakness in producing her hope- 
lessness. If her trust in God had been less strong, she 
would have given way to unbounded anxiety at many a 
period of her life. As it was, we shall see, she made a 
great and successful effort to leave 'her times in His 
hands.' 

After her return home she employed herself in teach- 
ing her sisters, over whom she had had superior advan- 
tages. She writes thus, July 21, 1832, of her course of 
life at the parsonage : — 

' An account of one day is an account of all. In the 
morning, from nine o'clock till half-past twelve, I instruct 
my sisters, and draw; then we walk till dinner time. 
After dinner I sew till tea time, and after tea I either 
write, read, or do a little fancy work, or draw, as I please. 
Thus, in one delightful, though somewhat monotonous 
course my life is passed. I have been out only twice to 
tea since I came home. We are expecting company this 
afternoon, and on Tuesday next we shall have all the fe- 
male teachers of the Sunday school to tea.' ' 

1 This letter concludes : — 

' I do hope, my dearest Ellen, that you will return to school again for 
your own sake, though for mine I would rather that you would remain at 
home, as we shall then have more frequent opportunities for correspond- 



134 ' LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

I may here introduce a quotation from a letter "which I 
have received from 'Mary' since the publication of the 
previous editions of this memoir. 

'Soon after leaving school she admitted reading some- 
thing of Cobbett's. " She did not like him," she said ; "but 
all was fish that came to her net." At this time she wrote 
to me that reading and drawing were the only amusements 
she had, and that her supply of books was very small in 
proportion to her wants. She never spoke of her aunt. 
When I saw Miss Branwell she was a very precise person, 
and looked very odd, because her dress, &c, was so ut- 
terly out of fashion. She corrected one of us once for 
using the word "spit" for "spitting." She made a great 
favourite of Branwell. She made her nieces sew, with 
purpose or without, and as far as possible discouraged 
any other culture. She used to keep the girls sewing 
charity clothing, and maintained to me that it was not 
for the good of the recipients, but of the sewers. "It 
was proper for them to do it," she said. Charlotte never 
was "in wild excitement" that I know of, When in 
health she used to talk better, and indeed when in low 
spirits never spoke at all. She needed her best spirits 

ence with each other. Should your friends decide against your returning 
to school, I know you have too much good sense and right feeling not to 
strive earnestly for your own improvement. Your natural abilities 
are excellent, and" under the direction of a judicious and able friend 
(and I know you have many such) you might acquire a decided taste 
for elegant literature, and even poetry, which, indeed, is included un- 
der that general term. I was very much disappointed by your not 
sending the hair ; you may be sure, my dearest Ellen, that I would 
not grudge double postage to obtain it, but I must offer the same 
excuse for not sending you any. My aunt and sisters desire their love 
to you. Remember me kindly to your mother and sisters, and accept 
all the fondest expressions of genuine attachment from your real 
friend, Chaelottb Bronte. 

' P.S. — Remember the mutual promise we made of a regular corre- 
spondence with each other. Excuse all faults in this wretched scrawl. 
Give my love to the Miss Taylors when you see them. Farewell, my 
dear, dear, dear Ellen-' 



1833 LIFE AT THE PARSONAGE 125 

to say what was in her heart, for at other times she had 
not courage. She never gave decided opinions at such 
times. . . . 

' Charlotte said she could get on with any one who had 
a bump at the top of their heads (meaning conscientious- 
ness). I found that I seldom differed from her, except 
that she was far too tolerant of stupid people, if they had 
a grain of kindness in them.' 

It was about this time that Mr. Bronte provided his 
children with a teacher in drawing, who turned out to be 
a man of considerable talent, but very little principle. 1 
Although they never attained to anything like proficiency, 
they took great interest in acquiring this art ; evidently, 
from an instinctive desire to express powerful imagina- 
tions in visible forms." Charlotte told me that, at this pe- 
riod of her life, drawing, and walking out with her sisters, 
formed the two great pleasures and relaxations of her 
day. 

The three girls used to walk upwards toward the ' purple- 
black ' moors, the sweeping surface of which was broken 
by here and there a stone quarry ; and if they had strength 
and time to go far enough they reached a waterfall, where 
the beck fell over some rocks into the 'bottom.' They 
seldom went downwards through the village. They were 
shy of meeting even familiar faces, and were scrupulous 
about entering the house of the very podrest uninvited. 
They were steady teachers at the Sunday school, a habit 

1 This was William Robinson, a native of Leeds, who had attained 
to some success as a portrait painter. According to Leyland (The 
Bronte Family) Robinson painted four portraits for the United Ser- 
vice Club. He was for a short time a pupil of Sir Thomas Lawrence, 
and afterwards of Fuseli. He died in Leeds in 1839. His friends re- 
sented the statement in the text as to his lack of principle. 

5 Charlotte Bronte materially injured her eyesight, necessitating the 
wearing of spectacles, by her laborious efforts at copying old line 
engravings. Many of these minute copies are still extant. Branwell 
told George Searle Phillips (the Mirroi; 1872) that his sister had spent 
six months over one of these copies. 



126 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

which Charlotte kept up very faithfully, even after she was 
left alone; but they never faced their kind voluntarily, 
and always preferred the solitude and freedom of the 
moors. 

In the September of this year Charlotte went to pay her 
first visit to her friend Ellen. It took her into the neigh- 
bourhood of Roe Head, and brought her into pleasant con- 
tact with many of her old schoolfellows. 1 After this visit 
she and her friend seem to have agreed to correspond in 
French, for the sake of improvement in the language. But 
this improvement could not be great, when it could only 
amount to a greater familiarity with dictionary words,,ahd 
when there was no one to explain to- them that a'verbal 
translation of English idioms hardly constituted French 
composition ; but the effort was laudable, and of itself 
shows how willing they both were to carry on the educa- 
tion which they had begun under Miss Wooler. I will 
give an extract which, whatever may be thought of the 
language, is graphic enough, and presents ns with a happy 
little family picture ; the eldest sister returning home to 
the two younger, after a fortnight's absence. 

' J'arrivait a Ha worth en parf aite sauvete sans le moin- 
dre accident ou malheur. Mes petites sceurs couraient hors 
de la maison pour me rencontrer aussit6t que la voiture se 
fit voir, et elles m'embrassaient avec autant d'empressement 
et de plaisir comme si j'avajs ete absente pour plus d'an. 
Mon Papa, ma Tante, et le monsieur dont mon frere avoit 
parle, furent tons assembles dans le Salon, et en peu de 
temps je m'y rendis aussi. C'est sonvent l'ordre du Ciel 
que quand on a perdu un plaisir il y en a un autre pr6t a 
prendre sa place. Ainsi je venois de partir de tres chers 
amis, mais tout a l'heure je revins a des parens aussi chers 
et bon dans le moment. Mime que vous me perdiez (ose-je 
croire que mon depart vous etait un chagrin ?) vous atten- 
dees l'arrivee de votre frere, et de votre sceur. J'ai donne 

1 This was at The Rydings, where Ellen Nussey was staying with 
an elder brother. 





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1832 BOOKS AT THE PARSONAGE 127 

a mes sceurs les pommes que vous leur envoyiez avec tant 
de bonte ; elles disent qn'elles sont sur que Mademoiselle 
B. est tres aimable et bonne ; l'une et l'autre sont extrSme- 
ment impatientes de vous voir ; j'espere qu'en pen de mois 
elles auront ce plaisir.' 

But it was some time yet before the friends could meet, 
and meanwhile they agreed to correspond once a month. 
There were no events to chronicle in the Haworth let- 
ters. Quiet days, occupied in teaching, and feminine 
occupations in the house, did not present much to write 
about ; and Charlotte was naturally driven to criticise 
books. 

Of these there were many in different plights, and, ac- 
cording to their plight, kept in different places. The well- 
bound were ranged in the sanctuary of Mr. Bronte's study ; 
but the purchase of books was a necessary luxury to him, 
but as it was often a choice between binding an old one and 
buying a new one, the familiar volume, which had been 
hungrily read by all the members of the family, was some- 
times in such a condition that the bedroom shelf was con- 
sidered its fitting place. Up and down the house were to 
be found many standard works of a solid kind. Sir Walter 
Scott's writing, Wordsworth's and Southey's poems were 
among the lighter literature ; while, as having a character 
of their own — earnest, wild, and occasionally fanatical — 
may be named some of the books which came from the 
Branwell side of the family — from the Cornish followers of 
the saintly John Wesley — and which are touched on in 
the account of the works to which Caroline Helstone had 
access in 'Shirley :' — 'Some venerable Lady's Magazines, 
that had once performed a voyage with their owner, and 
undergone a storm ' (possibly part of the relics of Mrs. 
Bronte's possessions, contained in the ship wrecked on the 
coast of Cornwall), 'and whose pages were stained with 
salt water ; some mad Methodist Magazines full of mira- 
cles and apparitions and preternatural warnings, ominous 
dreams, and frenzied fanaticisms ; and the equally mad 



128 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

letters of Mrs. Elizabeth Rowe from the Dead to the 
Living/ ' 

Mr. Bronte encouraged a taste for reading in his girls ; 
and though Miss Branwell kept it in due bounds, by the 
variety of household occupations, in which she expected 
them not merely to take a part, but to become proficients, 
thereby occupying regularly a good portion of every day, 
they were allowed to get books from the circulating library 
at Keighley ; and many a happy walk up those long four 
miles must they have had, burdened with some new book, 
into which they peeped as they hurried home. Not that 
the books were what would generally be called new ; in the 
beginning of 1833 the two friends seem almost simulta- 
neously to have fallen upon ' Kenilworth/ and Charlotte 
writes as follows about it : — 

' I am glad you like "Kenilworth;" it is certainly more 
resembling a romance than a novel : in my opinion, one of 
the most interesting works that ever emanated from the 
great Sir "Walter's pen. Varney is certainly the personifi- 
cation of consummate villany ; and in the delineation of 
his dark and profoundly artful mind Scott exhibits a won- 
derful knowledge of human nature, as well as a surprising 
skill in embodying his perceptions, so as to enable others 
to become participators in that knowledge.' 

1 Four books that are extant belonging to an earlier period than this 
are — 

I. The Imitation of Christ, inscribed 'M. Branwell,' to which refer- 
ence has already been made. See p. 56, note. 

II. Scott's Tales of a Grandfather, 1828, 3 vols., and inscribed in 
Miss Branwell's handwriting — 

' These volumes were written by Sir Walter Scott, and the Hugh Little 
John mentioned in them is Master Lockhart, grandson to Sir Walter. 

' A New Tear's Gift by Miss. E. B. to her dear little nep7tew and nieces 
Patrick, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte, 1828.' 

III. Goldsmith's Essays and Poems, 1824, 1 vol., inscribed— 

' French Prize, adjudged to Miss Bronte, and presented with the Miss 
Wooler's kind love.' 

IV. T/ie Book of Common Prayer, 1823, inscribed — 

' Miss Outhwaite to her goddaughter Anne Bronte, Feb. 13, 1827.' 



1833 'ELLEN'S' VISIT AT THE PARSONAGE 129 

Commonplace as this extract may seem, it is noteworthy 
on two or three accounts : in the first place, instead of 
discussing the plot or story, she analyses the character of 
Varney; and next, she, knowing nothing of the world, both 
from her youth and her isolated position, has yet been so ac- 
customed to hear ' human nature ' distrusted as to receive 
the notion of intense and artful villainy without surprise. 

What was formal and set in her way of writing to ' El- 
len ' diminished as their personal acquaintance increased, 
and as each came to know the home of the other ; so that 
small details concerning people and places had their interest 
and their significance. In the summer of 1833 she wrote 
to invite her friend to come and pay her a visit. ' Aunt 
thought it would be better,' she says, 'to defer it until about 
the middle of summer, as the winter, and even the spring sea- 
sons, are remarkably cold and bleak among our mountains.' 

The first impression made on the visitor by the sisters of 
her school friend was, that Emily was a tall, long-armed 
girl, more fully grown than her elder sister ; extremely 
reserved in manner. I distinguish reserve from shyness, 
because I imagine shyness would please, if it knew how ; 
whereas reserve is indifferent whether it pleases or not. 
Anne, like her eldest sister, was shy ; Emily was reserved. 

Branwell was rather a handsome boy, with ' tawny ' hair, 
to use Miss Bronte's phrase for a more obnoxious colour. 
All were very clever, original, and utterly different from 
any people or family ' Ellen ' had ever seen bef oi'e. But, on 
the whole, it was a happy visit to all parties. Charlotte 
says, in writing to 'Ellen' just after her return home, 
' Were I to tell you of the impression you have made on 
every one here, you would accuse me of flattery. Papa 
and aunt are continually adducing you as an example for 
me to shape my actions and behaviour by. Emily and 
Anne say "they never saw any one they liked so well as 
you." And Tabby, whom you have absolutely fascinated, 
talks a great deal more nonsense about your ladyship than 
I care to repeat. It is now so dark that, notwithstanding 
9 



130 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

the singular property of seeing in the night-time, which the 
young ladies at Roe Head used to attribute to me, I can 
scribble no longer.' 

To a visitor at the parsonage it was a great thing to have 
Tabby's good word. She had a Yorkshire keenness of per- 
ception into character, and it was not everybody she liked. 

Haworth is built with an utter disregard of all sanitary 
conditions : the great old churchyard lies above all the 
houses, and it is terrible to think how the very water- 
springs of the pumps below must be poisoned. But this 
winter of 1833-4 was particularly wet and rainy, and there 
were an unusual number of deaths in the village. A 
dreary season it was to the family in the parsonage : their 
usual walks obstructed by the spongy state of the moors 
— the passing and funeral bells so frequently tolling, and 
filling the heavy air with their mournful sound — and, when 
they were still, the ' chip, chip ' of the mason, as he cut the 
grave-stones in a shed close by. In many, living, as it were, 
in a churchyard, and with all the sights and sounds con- 
nected with the last offices to the dead things of everyday 
occurrence, the very familiarity would have bred indiffer- 
ence. But it was otherwise with Charlotte Bronte. One 
of her friends says, ' I have seen her turn pale and feel faint- 
when, in Hartshead church, some one accidentally remarked 
that we were walking over graves. Charlotte was certainly 
afraid of death. Not only of dead bodies, or dying people. 
She dreaded it as something horrible. She thought we did 
not know how long the "moment of dissolution" might 
really be, or how terrible. This was just such a terror as 
only hypochondriacs can provide for themselves. She told 
me long ago that a misfortune was often preceded by the 
dream frequently repeated which she gives to "Jane Eyre," 
of carrying a little wailing child, and being unable to still 
it. She described herself as having the most painful sense 
of pity for the little thing, lying inert, as sick children do, 
while she walked about in some gloomy place with it, such 
as the aisle of Haworth church. The misfortunes she men- 



1834 ON A VISIT TO LONDON 131 

tioned were not always to herself. She thought such sensi- 
tiveness to omens was like the cholera, present to susceptible 
people — some feeling more, some less.' 

About the beginning of 1834 ' Ellen ' went to London for 
the first time. The idea of her friend's visit seems to have 
stirred Charlotte strangely. She appears to have formed 
her notions of its probable consequences from some of the 
papers in the ' British Essayists/ the ' Kambler,' the ' Mir- 
ror,' or the ' Lounger,' which may have been among the 
English classics on the parsonage book-shelves ; for she evi- 
dently imagines that an entire change of character for the 
worse is the usual effeot of a visit to ' the great metropolis,' 
and is delighted to find that ' Ellen ' is ' Ellen ' still. And, 
as her faith in her friend's stability is restored, her own 
imagination is deeply moved by the idea of what great won- 
ders are to be seen in that vast and famous city. 

'Haworth: February 20, 1834. 
'Your letter gave me real and heartfelt pleasure, min- 
gled with no small share of astonishment. Mary had pre- 
viously informed me of your departure for London, and 
I had not ventured to calculate on any communication 
from you while surrounded by the splendours and novelties 
of that great city, which has been called the mercantile 
metropolis of Europe. Judging from human nature, I 
thought that a little country girl, for the first time in a situa- 
tion so well calculated to excite curiosity and to distract 
attention, would lose all remembrance, for a time at least, 
of distant and familiar objects, and give herself up entirely 
to the fascination of those scenes which were then pre- 
sented to her view. Your kind, interesting, and most 
welcome epistle showed me, however, that I had been both 
mistaken and uncharitable in these suppositions. I was 
greatly amused at the tone of nonchalance which you 
assumed while treating of London and its wonders. Did 
you not feel awed while gazing at St. Paul's and Westmin- 
ster Abbey ? Had you no feeling of intense and ardent in- 



132 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

terest when in St. James's yon saw the palace where so 
many of England's kings have held their courts, and beheld 
the representations of their persons on the walls ? You 
should not be too much afraid of appearing country-lred; 
the magnificence of London has drawn exclamations of 
astonishment from travelled men, experienced in the world, 
its wonders and beauties. Have you yet seen anything of 
the great personages whom the sitting of Parliament now 
detains in London — the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert 
Peel, Earl Grey, Mr. Stanley, Mr. O'Connell ? If I were 
you, I would not be too anxious to spend my time in read- 
ing whilst in town. Make use of your own eyes for the 
purposes of observation now, and, for a time at least, lay 
aside the spectacles with which authors would furnish us.' 
In a postscript she adds — 

' Will you be kind enough to inform me of the number 
of performers in the King's military band ?' 

And in something of the same strain she writes on 

' June 19. 

' My own dear Ellen, — I may rightfully and truly call 
you so now. You have returned or are returning from 
London — from the great city which is to me as apocryphal 
as Babylon, or Nineveh, or ancient Rome. You are with- 
drawing from the world (as it is called), and bringing with 
you — if your letters enable me to form a correct judgment 
— a heart as unsophisticated, as natural, as true, as that 
you carried there. I am slow, very slow, to believe the 
protestations of another ; I know my own sentiments, I can 
read my own mind, but the minds of the rest of man and 
woman kind are to me sealed volumes, hieroglyphical scrolls, 
which I cannot easily either unseal or decipher. Yet time, 
careful study, long acquaintance, overcome most difficul- 
ties ; and, in your case, I think they have succeeded well 
in bringing to light and construing that hidden language, 
whose turnings, windings, inconsistencies, and obscurities 
so frequently baffle the researches of the honest observer 



1834 ON A VISIT TO LONDON 133 

of human nature. ... I am truly grateful for your mind- 
fulness of so obscure a person as myself, and I hope the 
pleasure is not altogether selfish ; I trust it is partly de- 
rived from the consciousness that my friend's character is 
of a higher, a more steadfast order than I was once perfectly 
aware of. Few girls would have done as you have done — 
would have beheld the glare, and glitter, and dazzling dis- 
play of London with dispositions so unchanged, hearts so 
uncontaminated. I see no affectation in your letters, no 
trifling, no frivolous contempt of plain and weak admira- 
tion of showy persons and things.' 

In these days of cheap railway trips, we may smile at 
the idea of a short visit to London having any great effect 
upon the character, whatever it may have upon the intel- 
lect. But her London — her great apocryphal city — was 
the ' town' of a century before, to which giddy daughters 
dragged unwilling papas, or went with injudicious friends, 
to the detriment of all their better qualities, and some- 
times to the ruin of their fortunes ; it was the Vanity Fair 
of the ' Pilgrim's Progress ' to her. 

But see the just and admirable sense with which she can 
treat a subject of which she is able to overlook all the 
bearings. 

' Ha worth : July 4, 1834. 

' In your last yon request me to tell you of your faults. 
Now, really, how can you be so foolish!? I won't tell you 
of your faults, because I don't know them. What a creat- 
ure would that be who, after receiving an affectionate and 
kind letter from a beloved friend, should sit down and 
write a catalogue of defects by way of answer ! Imagine 
me doing so, and then consider what epithets you would 
bestow on me. Conceited, dogmatical, hypocritical little 
humbug, I should think, would be the mildest. Why, 
child ! I've neither time nor inclination to reflect on 
your faults when you are so far from me, and when, 
besides, kind letters and presents, and so forth, are con- 
tinually bringing forth your goodness in the most promi- 



134 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

nent light. Then, too, there are judicious relations al- 
ways round you, who can much better discharge that 
unpleasant office. I have no doubt their advice is com- 
pletely at your service ; why then should I intrude mine ? 
If you will not hear them, it will be vain though one 
should rise from the dead to instruct you. Let us have 

no more nonsense, if you love me. Mr. is going to be 

married, is he ? Well, his wife elect appeared to me to be 
a clever and amiable lady, as far as I could judge from the 
little I saw of her, and from your account. Now to that 
flattering sentence must I tack on a list of her faults ? You 
say it is in contemplation for you to leave Rydings. I am 
sorry for it. Rydings is a pleasant spot, one of the old 
family halls of England, surrounded by lawn and wood- 
land, speaking of past times, and suggesting (to me at 
least) happy feelings. Mary thought you grown less, did 
she ? I am not grown a bit, but as short and dumpy as 
ever. You ask me to recommend you some books for 
your perusal. I will do so in as few words as I can. If 
you like poetry, let it be first-rate ; Milton, Shakespeare, 
Thomson, Goldsmith, Pope (if you will, though I don't 
admire him), Scott, Byron, Campbell, Wordsworth, and 
Southey. Now don't be startled at the names of Shake- 
speare and Byron. Both these were great men, and their 
works are like themselves. You will know how to choose 
the good, and to avoid the evil ; the finest passages are 
always the purest, the bad are invariably revolting; you 
will never wish to read them over twice. Omit the come- 
dies of Shakespeare, and the "Don Juan," perhaps the 
" Cain " of Byron, though the latter is a magnificent poem, 
and read the rest fearlessly; that must indeed be a de- 
praved mind which can gather evil from " Henry VIII.," 
from "Richard III.," from "Macbeth," and "Hamlet," 
and "Julius Caesar." Scott's sweet, wild, romantic poetry 
can do you no harm. Nor can Wordsworth's, nor Camp- 
bell's, nor Southey's — the greatest part at least of his; 
some is certainly objectionable. For history, read Hume, 



1884 CHOICE OF BOOKS 135 

Bollin, and the "Universal History," if you can; I never 
did. For fiction, read Scott alone ; all novels after his are 
worthless. For biography, read Johnson's "Lives of the 
Poets," Boswell's "Life of Johnson," Southey's "Life of 
Nelson," Lockhart's "Life of Burns," Moore's "Life of 
Sheridan," Moore's "Life of Byron,'.' Wolfe's "Kemains." 
For natural history, read Bewick and Audubon, and Gold- 
smith, and "White's History of Selborne." For divinity, 
your brother 1 will advise you there. I can only say, ad- 
here to standard authors, and avoid novelty.' 

From this list, we see that she must have had a good 
range of books from which to choose her own reading. It 
is evident that the womanly consciences of these two cor- 
respondents were anxiously alive to many questions dis- 
cussed among the stricter religionists. The morality of 
Shakespeare needed the confirmation of Charlotte's opin- 
ion to the sensitive ' Ellen ;' and, a little later, she in- 
quired whether dancing was objectionable when indulged 
in for an hour or two in parties of boys and girls. Char- 
lotte replies, 'I should hesitate to express a difference of 
opinion from Mr. Atkinson, or from your excellent sister, 
but really the matter seems to me to stand thus : It is 
allowed on all hands that the sin of dancing consists not in 
the mere action of shaking the shanks ' (as the Scotch say), 
( but in the consequences that usually attend it ; namely, 
frivolity and waste of time ; when it is used only, as in the 
case you state, for the exercise and amusement of an hour 
among young people (who surely may without any breach 
of G-od's commandments be allowed a little light-hearted- 
ness), these consequences cannot follow. Ergo (according 
to my manner of arguing), the amusement is at such times 
perfectly innocent.' 

Although the distance between Haworth and Birstall 
was but seventeen miles, it was difficult to go straight 
from the one to the other without hiring a gig or vehicle 

1 Henry Nussey, then in training for the Church. 



136 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

of some kind for the journey. Hence a visit from Char- 
lotte required a good deal of prearrangement. The Ha- 
worth gig was not always to be had ; and Mr. Bronte was 
often unwilling to fall into any arrangement for meeting at 
Bradford or other places which would occasion trouble to 
others. The whole family had an ample share of that sen- 
sitive pride which led them to dread incurring obligations, 
and to fear ' outstaying their welcome' when on any visit. I 
am not sure whether Mr. Bronte did not consider distrust 
of others as a part of that knowledge of human nature on 
which he piqued himself. His precepts to this effect, 
combined with Charlotte's lack of hope, made her always 
fearful of loving too much ; of wearying the objects of her 
affection ; and thus she was often trying to restrain her 
warm feelings, and was ever chary of that presence so in- 
variably welcome to her true friends. According to this 
mode of acting, when she was invited for a month she 
stayed but a fortnight amidst 'Ellen's' family, to whom 
every visit only endeared her the more, -and by whom she 
was received with o kind of quiet gladness with which they 
would have greeted a sister. 

She still kept up her childish interest in politics. In 
March 1835 she writes, ' What do you think of the course 
politics are taking ? I make this inquiry because I now 
think you take a wholesome interest in the matter ; for- 
merly you did not care greatly about it. B., 1 you see, is 
triumphant. Wretch ! I am a hearty hater, and if there 
is any one I thoroughly abhor, it is that man. But the Op- 
position is divided, Red-hots and Luke -warms; and the 
Duke (par excellence the Duke) and Sir Robert Peel show 
no signs of insecurity, though they have been twice beat ; 
so ''courage, mon amie," as the old chevaliers used to say 
before they joined battle.' 

1 Henry, Lord Brougham (1778-1868). He was Lord Chancellor in 
Earl Grey's Ministry of 1830. He was not, however, contrary to ex- 
pectation, offered the seals in Lord Melbourne's Ministry when it took 
office in 1835. 



1835 A GREAT FAMILY PLAN 137 

In the middle of the summer of 1835 a great family plan 
was mooted at the parsonage. The question was, to what 
trade or profession should Branwell be brought up ? He 
was now nearly eighteen ; it was time to decide. He was 
very clever, no doubt ; perhaps, to begin with, the greatest 
genius in this rare family. The sisters hardly recognised 
their own or each other's powers, but they knew Ms. The 
father, ignorant of many failings in moral conduct, did 
proud homage to the great gifts of his son ; for Branwell's 
talents were readily and willingly brought out for the en- 
tertainment of others. Popular admiration was sweet to 
him. And this led to his presence being sought at 'arvills' 
and all the great village gatherings, for the Yorkshiremen 
have a keen relish for intellect ; and it likewise procured 
him the undesirable distinction of having his company rec- 
ommended by the landlord of the ' Black Bull ' to any 
chance traveller who might happen to feel solitary or dull 
over his liquor. ' Do you want some one to help you with 
your bottle, sir ? If you do I'll send for Patrick' (so the 
villagers called him till the day of his death, though in his 
own family he was always 'Branwell'). And while the 
messenger went the landlord entertained his guest with 
accounts of the wonderful talents of the boy, whose pre- 
cocious cleverness, and great conversational powers, were 
the pride of the village. The attacks of ill health to which 
Mr. Bronte had been subject of late years rendered it not 
only necessary that he should take his dinner alone (for 
the sake of avoiding temptations to unwholesome diet), 
but made it also desirable that he should pass the time 
directly succeeding his meals in perfect quiet. And this 
necessity, combined with due attention to his parochial 
duties, made him partially ignorant how his son employed 
himself out of lesson time. His own youth had been spent 
among people of the same conventional rank as those into 
whose companionship Branwell was now thrown; but he had 
had a strong will, and an earnest and persevering ambition, 
and a resoluteness of purpose which his weaker son wanted. 



138 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

It is singular how strong a yearning the whole family 
had towards the art of drawing. Mr. Bronte had been very 
solicitous to get them good instruction ; the girls them- 
selves loved everything connected with it — all descriptions 
or engravings of great pictures 5 and, in default of good 
ones, they would take and analyse any print or drawing 
which came in their way, and find out how much thought 
had gone to its composition, what ideas it was intended to 
suggest, and what it did suggest. In the same spirit they 
laboured to design imaginations of their own ; they lacked 
the power of execution, not of conception. At one time 
Charlotte had the notion of making her living as an artist, 
and wearied her eyes in drawing with pre-Raphaelite mi- 
nuteness, but not with pre-Raphaelite accuracy, for she 
drew from fancy rather than from nature. 

But they all thought there could be no doubt about Bran- 
well's talent for drawing. I have seen an oil painting of 
his, done I know not when, but probably about this time. 
It was a group of his sisters, life size, three-quarters length ; 
not much better than sign-painting, as to manipulation ; but 
the likenesses were, I should think, admirable. I could only 
judge of the fidelity with which the other two were depicted 
from the striking resemblance which Charlotte, upholding 
the great frame of canvas, and consequently standing right 
behind it, bore to her own representation, though it must 
have been ten years and more since the portraits were taken. 
The picture was divided, almost in the middle, by a great 
pillar. On the side of the column which was lighted by the 
sun stood Charlotte in the womanly dress of that day of 
gigot sleeves and large collars. On the deeply shadowed 
side was Emily, with Anne's gentle face resting on her 
shoulder. Emily's countenance struck me as full of power ; 
Charlotte's of solicitude ; Anne's of tenderness. The two 
younger seemed hardly to have attained their full growth, 
though Emily was taller than Charlotte ; they had cropped 
hair, and a more girlish dress. I remember looking on 
those two sad, earnest, shadowed faces, and wondering 



1835 PORTRAITS OP THE SISTERS 139 

whether I could trace the mysterious expression which is 
said to foretell an early death. I had some fond, superstitious 
hope that the column divided their fates from hers, who 
stood apart in the canvas, as in life she survived. I liked 
to see that the bright side of the pillar was towards her — that 
the light in the picture fell on her: I might more truly have 
sought in her presentment — nay, in her living face — for the 
sign of death in her prime. They were good likenesses, 
however badly executed. 1 From thence I should guess his 
family argued truly that, if Branwell had but the oppor- 
tunity, and, alas ! had but the moral qualities, he might 
turn out a great painter. 

The best way of preparing him to become so appeared to 
be to send him as a pupil to the Royal Academy. 2 I dare 

1 This portrait group, which for some years stood at the top of the 
staircase at the Haworth parsonage, exactly facing the door of the lit- 
tle room that bad been the children's nursery, was removed by Mr. A. 
B. Nicholls to his home in Ireland when he left Haworth. He thought 
so poorly of the portraits of his wife and of Anne Bronte that he cut 
them out of the canvas and destroyed them. He retained, however, 
the portrait of Emily, and this he gave to Martha Brown, the Brontes' 
servant, on one of her several visits to him in Ireland. Martha Brown 
took it back with her to Haworth, but it has long since disappeared. 
Fortunately, however, a photograph of the family group was made from 
another picture by Branwell at Haworth, and this photograph has 
been identified by Mr. A. B. Nicholls as containing a good portrait of 
Emily. The volume of Wuthering Heights in this series of the Bronte 
novels contains a beautiful reproduction of this portrait — the only at- 
tempt at a presentation of Emily Bronte's appearance that we shall 
ever know. 

2 Branwell wrote as follows to the Secretary of the Royal Academy 
(only this fragment of his letter remains) : — 

' Sir,— Having an earnest desire to enter as probationary student in 
the Royal Academy, but not being possessed of information as to the 
means of obtaining my desire, I presume to request from you, as Sec- 
tary to the Institution, an answer to the questions — 

' Where am I to present my drawings ? 

' At what time ? 
and especially, 

' Can I do it in August or September ?' 



140 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

say he longed and yearned to follow this path, principally 
because it would lead him to that mysterious London — 
that Babylon the great — which seems to have filled the im- 
aginations and haunted the minds of all the younger mem- 
bers of this recluse family. To Bran well it was more than 
a vivid imagination, it was an impressed reality. By dint 
of studying maps he was as well acquainted with it, even 
down to its byways, as if he had lived there. Poor misguided 
fellow ! this craving to see and know London, and that 
stronger craving after fame were never to be satisfied. He 
was to die at the end of a short and blighted life. But in 
this year of 1835 all his home kindred were thinking how 
they could best forward his views, and how help him up to 
the pinnacle where he desired to be. What their plans 
were let Charlotte explain. These are not the first sisters 
who have laid their lives as a sacrifice before their brother's 
idolised wish. Would to God they might be the last who 
met with such a miserable return ! 

'Haworth: July 6, 1835. 
' I had hoped to have had the extreme pleasure of seeing 
you at Haworth this summer, but human affairs are muta- 
ble, and human resolutions must bend to the course of 
events. We are all about to divide, break up, separate. 
Emily is going to school, Bran well is going to London, and 
I am going to be a governess. This last determination I 
formed myself, knowing that I should have to take the 
step some time, "and better sune as syne," to use the 
Scotch proverb ; and knowing well that papa would have 
enough to do with his limited income, should Branwell be 
placed at the Royal Academy, and Emily at Roe Head. 
Where am I going to reside ? you will ask. Within 
four miles of you, at a place neither of us is unacquainted 
with, being no other than the identical Roe Head men- 
tioned above. Yes ! I am going to teach in the very school 
where I was myself taught. Miss Wooler made me the 
offer, and I preferred it to one or two proposals of private 
governess-ship, which I had before received. I am sad— 



1885 PROSPECT OF SEPARATION 141 

very sad — at the thoughts of leaving home ; but duty — 
necessity — these are stern mistresses, who will not be dis- 
obeyed. Did I not once say you ought to be thankful for 
your independence ? I felt what I said at the time, and I 
repeat it now with double earnestness; if anything would 
cheer me, it is the idea of being so near you. Surely you 
and Polly ' will come and see me ; it would be wrong in me 
to doubt it ; you were never unkind yet. Emily and I 
leave home on the 27th of this month ; the idea of being 
together consoles us both somewhat, and, truth, since I 
must enter a situation, " my lines have fallen in pleasant 
places." I both love and respect Miss Wooler.* 

1 Mary Taylor. 



CHAPTER VIII 

Ok July 29, 1835, Charlotte, now a little more than nine- 
teen years old, went as teacher to Miss Wooler's. Emily 
accompanied her as a pupil ; but she became literally ill 
from home-sickness, and could not settle to anything, and 
after passing only three months at Eoe Head returned to 
the parsonage and the beloved moors. 

Miss Bronte gives the following reasons as those which 
prevented Emily's remaining at school, and caused the 
substitution of her younger sister in her place at Miss 
Wooler's : — 

'My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter 
than the rose bloomed in the bluckest of the heath for her ; 
out of a sullen hollow in a livid hillside her mind could 
make an Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many and 
dear delights ; and not the least and best loved was — liberty. 
Liberty was the breath of Emily's nostrils ; without it she 
perished. The change from her own home to a school, and 
from her own very noiseless, very secluded, but unrestricted 
and unartificial mode of life, to one of disciplined routine 
(though under the kindest auspices) was what she failed in 
enduring. Her nature proved here too strong for her for- 
titude. Every morning, when she woke, the vision of 
home and the moors rushed on her, and darkened and sad- 
dened the day that lay before her. Nobody knew what 
ailed her but me. I knew only too well. In this struggle 
her health was quickly broken : her white face, attenuated 
form, and failing strength threatened rapid decline. I . 
felt in my heart she would die if she did not go home, and 
with this conviction obtained her recall. She had only 
been three months at school ; and it was some years before 



1835 FROM HOME 143 

the experiment of sending her from home was again vent- 
ured on.' 

This physical suffering on Emily's part when absent 
from Haworth, after recurring several times under similar 
circumstances, became at length so much an acknowledged 
fact, that whichever was obliged to leave home, the sisters 
decided that Emily must remain there, where alone she 
could enjoy anything like good health. She left it twice 
again in her life ; once going as teacher to a school in Hali- 
fax for six months, and afterwards accompanying Charlotte 
to Brussels for ten. When at home she took the principal 
part of the cooking upon herself, and did all the household 
ironing ; and after Tabby grew old and infirm it was Emily 
who made all the bread for the family ; and any one pass- 
ing by the kitchen door might have seen her studying 
German out of an open book, propped up before her, as 
she kneaded the dough ; but no study, however interesting, 
interfered with the goodness of the bread, which was 
always light and excellent. Books were, indeed, a very 
common sight in that kitchen ; the girls were taught by 
their father theoretically, and by their aunt practically, 
that to take an active part in all household work was, in 
their position, woman's simple duty ; but in their careful 
employment of time they found many an odd five minutes 
for reading while watching the cakes, and managed the 
union of two kinds of employment better than King Alfred. 
Charlotte's life at Miss Wooler's was a very happy one, 
until her health failed. She sincerely loved and respected 
the former schoolmistress, to whom she was now become 
both companion and friend. The girls were hardly stran- 
gers to her, some of them being younger sisters of those 
who had been her own playmates. Though the duties of 
the day might be tedious and monotonous, there were al- 
ways two or three happy hours to look forward to in the 
evening, when she and Miss Wooler sat together — some- 
times late into the night — and had quiet, pleasant conver- 
sations, or pauses of silence as agreeable, because each felt 



144 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

that as Boon as a thought or remark occurred which they 
wished to express there was an intelligent companion 
ready to sympathise, and yet they were not compelled to 
' make talk.' 

Miss Wooler was always anxious to afford Miss Bronte 
every opportunity of recreation in her power ; but the diffi- 
culty often was to persuade her to avail herself of the invi- 
tations which came, urging her to spend Saturday and 
Sunday with ' Ellen ' and ' Mary ' in their respective homes, 
that lay within the distance of a walk. She was too apt to 
consider that allowing herself a holiday was a dereliction 
of duty, and to refuse herself the necessary change, from 
something of an over-ascetic spirit, betokening a loss of 
healthy balance in either body or mind. Indeed, it is clear 
that such was the case, from a passage, referring to this 
time, in the letter of ' Mary ' from which I have before 
given extracts. 

' Three years after ' (the period when they were at 
school together) ' I heard that she had gone as teacher to 
Miss Wooler's. I went to see her, and asked how she could 
give so much for so little money, when she could live with- 
out it. She owned that, after clothing herself and Anne, 
there was nothing left, though she had hoped to be able to 
save something. She confessed it was not brilliant, but 
what could she do ? I had nothing to answer. She seemed 
to have no interest or pleasure beyond the feeling of duty, 
and, when she could get the opportunity, used to sit alone, 
and "make out." She told me afterwards that one evening 
she had sat in the dressing-room until it was quite dark, 
and then observing it all at once had taken sudden fright.' 
No doubt she remembered this well when she described a 
similar terror getting hold upon Jane Eyre. She says in the 
story, 'I sat looking at the white bed and overshadowed 
walls — occasionally turning a fascinated eye towards the 
gleaming mirror — I began to recall what I had heard of 
dead men troubled in their graves. ... I endeavoured to 
be firm ; shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted my head 



1835 DESPONDENCY 145 

and tried to look boldly through the dark room.; at this 
moment, a ray from the moon penetrated some aperture in 
the Hind. No ! moonlight was still, and this stirred . . . 
prepared as my mind was for horror, shaken as my nerves 
were by agitation, I thought the swift-darting beam was a 
herald of some coming vision from another world. My 
heart beat thick, my head grew hot ; a sound filled my 
ears which I deemed the rustling of wings ; something 
seemed near me.' ' 

' From that time/ Mary adds, ' her imaginations became 
gloomy or frightful ; she could not help it, nor help think- 
ing. She could not forget the gloom, could not sleep at 
night, nor attend in the day. 

' She told me that one night, sitting alone, about this 
time, she heard a voice repeat these lines : 

'Come, thou high and holy feeling, 
Shine o'er mountain, flit o'er wave, 
Gleam like light o'er dome and shieling. 

There were eight or ten more lines which I forget. She 
insisted that she had not made them, that she had heard a 
voice repeat them. It is possible that she had read them, 
and unconsciously recalled them. They are not in the 
volume of poems which the sisters published. She re- 
peated a verse of Isaiah, which she said had inspired them, 
and which I have forgotten. Whether the lines were recol- 
lected or invented, the tale proves such habits of sedentary, 
monotonous solitude of thought as would have shaken a 
feebler mind.' 

Of course the state of health thus described came on 
gradually, and is not to be taken as a picture of her con- 
dition in 1836. Yet even then there is a despondency 
in some of her expressions, that too sadly reminds one of 
some of Cowper's letters. And it is remarkable how deep- 
ly his poems impressed her. His words, in verses, came 
more frequently to her memory, I imagine, than those of 
any other poet. 

1 Jane Eyre. 



14:6 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

'Mary' says, 'Cowper's poem, "The Castaway," was 
known to them all, and they all at times appreciated, or 
almost appropriated it. Charlotte told me once that 
Branwell had done so ; and though his depression was 
the result of his faults, it was in no other respect differ- 
ent from hers. Both were not mental but physical ill- 
nesses. She was well aware of this, and would ask how 
that mended matters, as the feeling was there all the same, 
and was not removed by knowing the cause. She had a 
larger religious toleration than a person would have who 
had never questioned, and the manner of recommending 
religion was always that of offering comfort, not fiercely 
enforcing a duty. One time I mentioned that some one 
had asked me what religion I was of (with the view of get- 
ting me for a partisan), and that I had said that that was 
between God and me. Emily (who was lying on the hearth- 
rug), exclaimed, " That's right." This was all I ever heard 
Emily say on religious subjects. Charlotte was free from 
religious depression when in tolerable health ; when that 
failed her depression returned. You have probably seen 
such instances. They don't get over their difficulties; 
they forget them, when their stomach (or whatever organ 
it is that inflicts such misery on sedentary people) will let 
them. I have heard her condemn Socinianism, Calvinism, 
and many other " isms " inconsistent with Church of Eng- 
landism. I used to wonder at her acquaintance with such 
subjects.' 

' May 10, 1836. 

' I was struck with the note you sent me with the um- 
brella; it showed a degree of interest in my concerns 
which I have no right to expect from any earthly creature. 
I won't play the hypocrite ; I won't answer your kind, gen- 
tle, friendly questions in the way you wish me to. Don't 
deceive yourself by imagining I have a bit of real goodness 
about me. My darling, if I were like you, I should have 
my face Zionward, though prejudice and error might occa- 
sionally fling a mist over the glorious vision before me— 



1836 RELIGIOUS DEPRESSION 147 

but I am not like you. If you knew my thoughts, the 
dreams that absorb me, and the fiery imagination that at 
times eats me up, and makes me feel society, as it is, 
wretchedly insipid, you would pity and I dare say despise 
me. But I know the treasures of the Bible; I love and 
adore them. I can see the Well of Life in all its clear- 
ness and brightness ; but when I stoop down to drink 
of the pure waters they fly from my lips as if I were Tan- 
talus. 

' You are far too kind and frequent in your invitations. 
You puzzle me. I hardly know how to refuse, and it is 
still more embarrassing to accept. At any rate I cannot 
come this week, for we are in the very thickest milee of the 
Repetitions. I was hearing the terrible fifth section when 
your note arrived. But Miss Wooler says I must go to 
Mary next Friday, as she promised for me on Whit Sun- 
day; and on Sunday morning I will join you at church, if 
it be convenient, and stay till Monday. There's a free 
and easy proposal ! Miss Wooler has driven me to it. She 
says her character is implicated.' 

Good, kind Miss Wooler ! however monotonous and try- 
ing were the duties Charlotte had to perform under her 
roof, there was always a genial and thoughtful friend 
watching over her, and urging her to partake of any little 
piece of innocent recreation that might come in her way. 
And in those midsummer holidays of 1836 her friend ' El- 
len ' came to stay with her at Haworth, so there was one 
happy time secured. 

Here follows a series of letters, not dated, but belonging 
to the latter portion of this year ; and again we think of 
the gentle and melancholy Oowper. 

' My dear dear Ellen, — I am at this moment trembling all 
over with excitement, after reading your note ; it is what 
I never received before — it is the unrestrained pouring out 
of a warm, gentle, generous heart. ... I thank you with 



148 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

energy for this kindness. I will no longer shrink from an- 
swering yonr questions. I do wish to be better than I am. 
I pray fervently sometimes to be made so. I have stings of 
conscience, visitings of remorse, glimpses of holy, of inex- 
pressible things, which formerly I used to be a stranger to ; 
it may all die away, and I may be in utter midnight, but I 
implore a merciful Redeemer that, if this be the dawn of 
the gospel, it may still brighten to perfect day. Do not 
mistake me — do not think I am good ; I only wish to be so. 
I only hate my former flippancy and forwardness. Oh ! I 
am no better than ever I was. I am in that state of horrid, 
gloomy uncertainty that, at this moment, I would submit 
to be old, grey-haired, to have passed all my youthful days 
of enjoyment, and to be settling on the verge of the grave, 
if I could only thereby ensure the prospect of reconcilia- 
tion to God, and redemption through His Son's merits. I 
never was exactly careless of these matters, but I have al- 
ways taken a clouded and repulsive view of them; and now, 
if possible, the clouds are gathering darker, and a more 
oppressive despondency weighs on my spirits. You have 
cheered me, my darling ; for one moment, for an atom of 
time, I thought I might call you my own sister in the 
spirit ; but the excitement is past, and I am now as wretch- 
ed and hopeless as ever. This very night I will pray as 
you wish me. May the Almighty hear me compassionate- 
ly ! and I humbly hope He will, for you will strengthen my 
polluted petitions with your own pure requests. All is 
bustle and confusion round me, the ladies pressing with 

their sums and their lessons If you love me, do, do, do 

come on Friday: I shall watch and wait for you, and if 
you disappoint me I shall weep. I wish you could know 
the thrill of delight which I experienced when, as I stood 

at the dining-room window, I saw ,' as he whirled past, 

toss your little packet over the wall. 3 

Huddersfield market day was still the great period for 
1 'your brother George." 



1836 CORRESPONDENCE WITH 'ELLEN' 149 

events at Roe Head. Then girls, running round the corner 
of the house and peeping between tree stems, and up a 
shadowy lane, could catch a glimpse of a father or brother 
driving to market in his gig ; might, perhaps, exchange a 
wave of the hand ; or see, as Charlotte Bronte did from the 
window, a white packet tossed over the wall by some swift, 
strong motion of an arm, the rest of the traveller's body 
unseen. 

' Weary with a day's hard work ... I am sitting down 
to write a few lines to my dear Ellen. Excuse me if I say 
nothing but nonsense, for my mind is exhausted and dis- 
pirited. It is a stormy evening, and the wind is uttering 
a continual moaning sound, that makes me feel very melan- 
choly. At such times — in such moods as these — it is my 
nature to seek repose in some calm, tranquil idea, and I 
have now summoned up your image to give me rest. There 
you sit, upright and still in your black dress, and white 
scarfs and pale, marble-like face — just like reality. I wish 
you would speak to me. If we should be separated — if it 
should be our lot to live at a great distance, and never to 
see each other again — in old age, how I should conjure up 
the memory of my youthful days, and what a melancholy 
pleasure I should feel in dwelling on the recollection of my 
early friend ! . . . I have some qualities that make me very 
miserable, some feelings that you can have no participation 
in — that few, very few people in the world can at all un- 
derstand. I don't pride myself on these peculiarities. I 
strive to conceal and suppress them as much as I can ; but 
they burst out sometimes, and then those who see the ex- 
plosion despise me, and I hate myself for days afterwards. 
... I have just received your epistle and what accom- 
panied it. I can't tell what should induce you and your 
sisters to waste your kindness on such a one as me. I'm 
obliged to them, and I hope you'll tell them so. I'm 
obliged to you also, more for your note than for your present. 
The first gave me pleasure, the last something like pain.' 



150 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

The nervous disturbance, which is stated to have troubled 
her while she was at Miss Wooler's, seems to have begun 
to distress her about this time ; at least, she herself speaks 
of her irritable condition, which was certainly only a tem- 
porary ailment. 

' You have been very kind to me of late, and have spared 
me all those little sallies of ridicule which, owing to my 
miserable and wretched touchiness of character, used for- 
merly to make me wince, as if I had been touched with a 
hot iron ; things that nobody else cares for enter into my 
mind and rankle there like venom. I know these feelings 
are absurd, and therefore I try to hide them, but they only 
sting the deeper for concealment.' 

Compare this state of mind with the gentle resignation 
with which she had submitted to be put aside as useless, or 
told of her ugliness by her schoolfellows, only three years 
before. 

' My life since I saw you has passed as monotonously and 
unbroken as ever; nothing but teach, teach, teach, from 
morning till night. The greatest variety I ever have is 
afforded by a letter from you, or by meeting with a pleasant 
new book. The " Life of Oberlin," ' and Legh Richmond's 
"Domestic Portraiture," " are the last of this description. 
The latter work strongly attracted and strangely fascinated 
my attention. Beg, borrow, or steal it without delay; and 
read the "Memoir of Wilberforce" — that short record of 
a brief, uneventful life ; I shall never forget it ; it is beau- 
tiful, not on account of the language in which it is written, 
not on account of the incidents it details, but because of 
the simple narrative it gives of a young talented, sincere 
Christian.' 

1 The Life of Oberlin was entitled Brief Memorials of Oberlin. Sims 
was the name of the author, and it was published in 1830. Johann 
Friedrich Oberlin, an Alsatian pastor, was a pioneer of education. 
He was born at Strasburg in 1740, and died in 1826. 

3 Legh Richmond (1772-1827) was one of the most popular authors 
of his day. His Dairyman's Daughter is still read. Domestic Por- 
traiture was published in 1833. 



1836 GOVERNESS LIFE 151 

About this time Miss Wooler removed her school from 
the fine, open, breezy situation at Eoe Head to Dewsbury 
Moor, only two or three miles distant. ' Her new residence 
was on a lower site, and the air was less exhilarating to one 
bred in the wild hill village of Haworth. Emily had gone 
as teacher to a school at Halifax, where there were nearly 
forty pupils. 

'I have had one letter from her since her departure/ 
writes Charlotte on October 2, 1836 : 'it gives an appalling 
account of her duties ; hard labour from six in the morn- 
ing to eleven at night, with only one half-hour of exercise 
between. This is slavery. I fear she can never stand it.' a 

When the sisters met at home in the Christmas holi- 
days they talked over their lives, and the prospect which 

1 It must have been after the holidays of Christmas 1836 that the 
removal to Dewsbury took place, as there is a memento of that date in 
the form of a copy of Watts on tlie Improvement of the Mind and Educa- 
tion of Youth (Dove's English Classics, 1826). It is inscribed in Miss 
Wooler's handwriting, ' Prize for good conduct. Presented to Miss A. 
Bronte with Miss Wooler's kind love. Roe Head, December 14, 1836.' 

'Singularly little is known of Emily's stay at Miss Patchett's school, 
Law Hill, Southowram, near Halifax. She was a teacher there from 
September 1836 to March or April 1837. The house still stands, but it 
was larger than at present in Emily's time. Mr. Thomas Keyworth, 
writing in the Bookman (March 1893), informs us on the authority of 
a resident in the neighbourhood that : — ' It was a famous school. The 
Miss Patchetts kept it as far back as I can remember anything, and I 
was born in 1818. There were two sisters, Elizabeth and Maria. Miss 
Maria was very gentle, but Miss Elizabeth was stately and austere. 
We always understood she knew how to keep things in order. Miss 
Maria got married, and went to live at Dewsbury. I think that would 
be previous to 1836. Then Miss Elizabeth kept on the school for a 
few years, but not for long. She married Parson Hope, the vicar of 
St. Anne's, at Southowram, and the school was given up.' ( 

Mr. Keyworth contends that Law Hill was the original Wuthering 
Heights of Emily's novel. It is clear, however, that Ponden House, 
near Haworth, did duty for at least the interior of Wuthering 
Heights, and that Oldfield, in the same district, was Thrushcross 
Grange. 



152 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

they afforded of employment and remuneration. They felt 
that it was a duty to relieve their father of the burden 
of their support, if not entirely of that of all three, at 
least that of one or two ; and, naturally, the lot devolved 
upon the elder ones to find some occupation which would 
enable them to do this. They knew that they were never 
likely to inherit much money. Mr. Bronte had but a 
small stipend, and was both charitable and liberal. Their 
aunt had an annuity of 50?., but it reverted to other^ at 
her death, and her nieces had no right, and were the last 
persons in the world to reckon upon her savings. What 
could they do ? Charlotte and Emily were trying teaching, 
and, as it seemed, without much success. The former, it 
is true, had the happiness of having a friend for her em- 
ployer, and of being surrounded by those who knew her 
and loved her ; but her salary was too small for her to 
save out of it ; and her education did not entitle her to a 
larger. The sedentary and monotonous nature of the life, 
too, was preying upon her health and spirits, although, 
with necessity ' as her mistress/ she might hardly like to 
acknowledge this even to herself. But Emily — that free, 
wild, untameable spirit, never happy nor well but on the 
sweeping moors that gathered round her home — that hater 
of strangers, doomed to live amongst them, and not mere- 
ly to live but to slave in their service — what Charlotte 
could have borne patiently for herself she could not bear 
for her sister. And yet what to do ? She had once hoped 
that she herself might become an artist, and so earn her 
livelihood ; but her eyes had failed her in the minute and 
useless labour which she had imposed upon herself with a 
view to this end. 

It was the household custom among these girls to sew 
till nine o'clock at night. At that hour Miss Branwell 
generally went, to bed, and her nieces' duties for the day 
were accounted done. They put away their work, and be- 
gan to pace the room backwards and forwards, up and 
down — as often with the candles extinguished, for econ- 



1836 LETTER TO SOUTHEY 153 

omy's sake, as not, — their figures glancing into the fire- 
light, and out into the shadow, perpetually. At this time 
they talked over past cares aud troubles ; they planned for 
the future, and consulted each other as to their plans. In 
after years this was the time for discussing together the 
plots of their novels. And again, still later, this was the 
time for the last surviving sister to walk alone, from old 
accustomed habit, round and round the desolate room, think- 
ing sadly upon the 'days that were no more.' But this 
Christmas of 1836 was not without its hopes and daring 
aspirations. They had tried their hands at story-writing, 
in their miniature magazine, long ago ; they all of them 
' made out ' perpetually. They had likewise attempted to 
write poetry, and had a modest confidence that they had 
achieved a tolerable success. But they knew that they 
might deceive themselves, and that sisters' judgments of 
each other's productions were likely to be too partial to be 
depended upon. So Charlotte, as the eldest, resolved to 
write to Southey. I believe (from an expression in a letter 
to be noticed hereafter) that she also consulted Coleridge ; 
but I have not met with any part of that correspondence. 

On December 29 her letter to Southey was despatched, 
and, from an excitement not unnatural in a girl who has 
worked herself up to the pitch of writing to a Poet Laureate 
and asking his opinion of her poems, she used some high- 
flown expressions, which, probably, gave him the idea that 
she was a romantic young lady, unacquainted with the 
realities of life. 

This, most likely, was the first of those adventurous letters 
that passed through the little post-office of Haworth. Morn- 
ing after morning of the holidays slipped away, and there 
was no answer ; the sisters had to leave home, and Emily 
to return to her distasteful duties, without knowing even 
whether' Charlotte's letter had ever reached its destination. 

Not dispirited, however, by the delay, Branwell deter- 
mined to try a similar venture, and addressed the following 
letter to Wordsworth. It was given by the poet to Mr. 



154 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Quillinan 1 in 1850, after the name of Bronte had becpm 
known and famous. I have no means of ascertaining whs 
answer was returned by Mr. Wordsworth ; but that he coi 
sidered the letter remarkable may, I think, be inferre 
both from its preservation and its recurrence to his memor 
when the real name of Ourrer Bell was made known to th 
public. 2 

' Haworth, near Bradford, 
Yorkshire : January 19, 1837. 

' Sir, — I most earnestly entreat you to read and pass you 
judgment upon what I have sent you, because from th 
day of my birth to this the nineteenth year of my life 
have lived among secluded hills, where I could neithe 
know what I was or what I could do. I read for the sam 
reason that I ate or drank, because it was a real craving o 
nature. I wrote on the same principle as I spoke — out o 
the impulse and feelings of the mind ; nor could I help it 
for what came, came out, and there was the end of it. Fo 
as to self-conceit, that could not receive food from flattery 
since to this hour not half a dozen people in the world knov 
that I have ever penned a line. 

' But a change has taken place now, sir ; and I am ar 
rived at an age wherein I must do something for myself 
the powers I possess must be exercised to a definite end. 
and as I don't know them myself I must ask others whal 
they are worth. Yet there is not one here to tell me ; and 

1 Edward Quillinan (1791-1851) came of an Irish family, but was 
born at Oporto. Entered the British army as cornet of a cavalry regi- 
ment. Wrote a satirical pamphlet in verse entitled The Ball Boom 
Votaries, and in 1814 Dunluce Castle, and Stanzas by the Author of 
' Dunluce Castle.' The Retort Courteous appeared in 1821, and a three- 
volume novel, The Conspirators, in the same year. Quillinan contrib- 
uted to Blackwood and the Quarterly. He is remembered now mainly 
by his marriage with Dorothy Wordsworth, the daughter of the poet. 
She was married to Quillinan in 1841, and died at Rydal Mount in 1847. 

2 Somewhat earlier Branwell had begun to write appealing letters 
to the editor of Blackwood's Magazine, one bearing date January 9, 
1837. Three of his letters are printed in Mrs. Oliphant's William Black- 
wood and his Sons. 



1837 LETTER TO WORDSWORTH 155 

still, if they are worthless, time will henceforth be too pre- 
cious to be wasted on them. 

'Do pardon me, sir, that I have ventured to come before 
one whose works I have most loved in our literature, and 
who most has been with me a divinity of the mind, laying 
before him one of my writings, and asking of him a judg- 
ment of its contents. I must come before some one from 
whose sentence there is no appeal ; and such a one is he 
who has developed the theory of poetry as well as its prac- 
tice, and both in such a way as to claim a place in the mem- 
ory of a thousand years to come. 

' My aim, sir, is to push out into the open world, and for 
this I trust not poetry alone ; that might launch the vessel, 
but could not bear her on. Sensible and scientific prose, 
bold and vigorous efforts in my walk in life, would give a 
further title to the notice of the world ; and then again 
poetry ought to brighten and crown that name with glory. 
But nothing of all this can be ever begun without means, 
and as I don't possess these I must in every shape strive to 
gain them. Surely, in this day, when there is not a writing 
poet worth a sixpence, the field must be open, if a better 
man can step forward. 

' 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, till, as youth hardens towards age, evil deeds 
and short enjoyments end in mental misery and bodily ruin. 
Now, to send you the whole of this would be a mock upon 
your patience ; what you see does not even pretend to be 
more than the description of an imaginative child. But 
read it, sir ; and, as you would hold a light to one in utter 
darkness — as you value your own kind-heartedness — return 
me an answer, if but one word, telling me whether I should 
write on, or write no more. Forgive undue warmth, be- 
cause my feelings in this matter cannot be cool ; and be- 
lieve me, sir, with deep respect, your really humble servant, 

<P. B. Bbonte. 5 



156 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

The poetry enclosed seems to me by no means equal to 
parts of the letter; but, as every one likes to judge for 
himself, I copy the six opening stanzas — about a third of 
the whole, and certainly not the worst. 

So where He reigns in glory bright, 
Above those starry skies of night, 
Amid His Paradise of light, 
Oh, why may I not be? 

Oft when awake on Christmas morn, 
In sleepless twilight laid forlorn, 
Strange thoughts have o'er my mind been borne, 
How He has died for me ; 

And oft, within my chamber lying, 
Have I awaked myself with crying 
From dreams, where I beheld Him dying 
Upon the accursed Tree ; 

And often has my mother said, 
While on her lap I laid my head, 
She feared for Time I was not made, 
But for Eternity. 

So 'I can read my title clear 

To mansions in the skies, 
And let me bid farewell to fear, 

And wipe my weeping eyes.' 

I'll lay me down on this marble stone, 

And set the world aside, 
To see upon her ebon throne 

The Moon in glory ride. 

Soon after Charlotte returned to Dewsbnry Moor she 
was distressed by hearing that her friend Ellen was likely 
to leave the neighbourhood for a considerable length of 
time. 

' February 20. 

' What shall I do without you ? How long are we likely 
to be separated ? Why are we to be denied each other's 



1837 AT DEWSBURY MOOR 157 

society ? It is an inscrutable fatality. I long to be with 
you, because it seems as if two or three days, or weeks, 
spent in your company would beyond measure strengthen 
me in the enjoyment of those feelings which I have so lately 
begun to cherish. You first pointed out to me the way in 
which I am so feebly endeavouring to travel, and now I 
cannot keep you by my side I must proceed sorrowfully 
alone. Why are we to be divided ? Surely it must be be- 
cause we are in danger of loving each other too well — of 
losing sight of the Creator in idolatry of the creature. At 
first I could not say "Thy will be done !" I felt rebellious, 
but I knew it was wrong to feel so. Being left a moment 
alone this morning, I prayed fervently to be enabled to re- 
sign myself to every decree of God's will, though it should 
be dealt forth by a far severer hand than the present dis- 
appointment ; since then I have felt calmer and humbler, 
and consequently happier. Last Sunday I took up my 
Bible in a gloomy state of mind : I began to read — a feel- 
ing stole over me such as I have not known for many long 
years — a sweet, placid sensation, like those I remember, 
which used to visit me when I was a little child, and, on Sun- 
day evenings in summer, stood by the open window read- 
ing the life of a certain French nobleman, who attained a 
purer and higher degree of sanctity than has been known 
since the days of the early martyrs.' 

' Ellen's ' residence was equally within a walk from Dews- 
bury Moor as it had been from Roe Head ; and on Saturday 
afternoons both ' Mary ' and she used to call upon Charlotte, 
and often endeavoured to persuade her to return with them, 
and be the guest of one of them till Monday morning ; but 
this was comparatively seldom. Mary says, '' She visited 
us twice or thrice when she was at Miss Wooler's. We 
used to dispute about politics and religion. She, a Tory and 
clergyman's daughter, was always in a minority of one in 
our house of violent Dissent and Radicalism. She used to 
hear over again, delivered with authority, all the lectures I 



158 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

had been used to give her at school on despotic aristocracy, 
nrercenary priesthood, &c. She had not energy to defend 
herself ; sometimes she owned to a little truth in it, but 
generally said nothing. Her feeble health gave her her yield- 
ing manner, for she could never oppose any one without 
gathering up all her strength for the struggle. Thus she 
would let me advise and patronise most imperiously, some- 
times picking out any grain of sense there might be in what 
I said, but never allowing any one materially to interfere 
with her independence of thought and action. Though 
her silence sometimes left one under the impression that 
she agreed when she did not, she never gave a flattering 
opinion, and thus her words were golden, whether for praise 
or blame.' 

' Mary's ' father was a man of remarkable intelligence, 
but of strong, not to say violent prejudices, all running in 
favour of Republicanism and Dissent. Ho other county 
but Yorkshire could' have produced such a man. His 
brother had been a detenu in France, and had afterwards 
voluntarily taken up his residence there. Mr. T. 1 himself 
had been much abroad, both on business and to see the 
great Continental galleries of paintings. He spoke French 
perfectly, I have been told, when need was ; but delighted 
usually in talking the broadest Yorkshire. He bought 
splendid engravings of the pictures which he particularly 
admired, and his house was full of works of art and of 
books ; but he rather liked to present his rough side to any 
stranger or new-comer; he would* speak bis broadest, bring 
out his opinions on Church and State in their most startling 
forms, and, by-and-by, if he found his hearer could stand 

1 Joshua Taylor (died 1840), the Mr. Yorke of Shirley, lost his money 
in his latter days; but all his financial engagements were met by his 
son Joshua, the ' Matthew Yorke ' of Shirley, and, as we have seeD, his 
surviving daughter, Mary, went to New Zealand to earn her living. 
The house of the Taylors was called the Red House, Gomersal. It 
stands on the highway from Gomersal to Bradford, a low wall with 
palisades separating its pleasant garden from the road. 



1837 A REPUBLICAN FAMILY 159 

the shock, he would involuntarily show his warm, kind heart, 
and his true taste, and real refinement. His family of four 
sons and two daughters were brought up on Republican 
principles; independence of thought and action was en- 
couraged; no 'shams 5 tolerated. They are scattered far 
and wide: Martha, the younger daughter, sleeps in the 
Protestant cemetery at Brussels ; Mary is in New Zealand ; 
Mr. T. is dead. And so life and death have dispersed the 
circle of 'violent Radicals and Dissenters' into which, 
twenty years ago, the little, quiet, resolute clergyman's 
daughter was received, and by whom she was truly loved 
and honoured. 

January and February of 1837 had passed away, and still 
there was no reply from Southey. Probably she had lost 
expectation and almost hope when at length, in the begin- 
ning of March, she received the letter inserted in Mr. C. C. 
Southey's Life of his father, vol. iv. p. 327. 1 

After accounting for his delay in replying to hers by the 
fact of a long absence from home, during which his letters 
had accumulated, whence 'it has lain unanswered till the 
last of a numerous file, not from disrespect or indifference 
to its contents, but because in truth it is not an easy task 
to answer it, nor a pleasant one to cast a damp over the high 
spirits and the generous desires of youth,' he goes on to 
say, 'What you are I can only infer from your letter, which 
appears to be written in sincerity, though I may suspect 
that you have used a fictitious signature. Be that as it 
may, the letter and the verses bear the same stamp, and I 
can well understand the state of mind they indicate. 



'It is not my advice that you have asked as to the 
direction of your talents, but my opinion of them, and 

1 Robert Southey (1774-1843), Poet Laureate. Id 1837 he was in 
trouble, as he had just lost his wife. His Life and Correspondence, 
by his sod Cuthbert, was published in 1849-50. Cuthbert Southey 
died in 1889. 



160 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

yet the opinion may be worth little, and the advice much. 
You evidently possess, and in no inconsiderable degree, 
what Wordsworth calls the "faculty of verse." I am 
not depreciating it when I say that in these times it is 
not rare. Many volumes of poems are now published 
every year without attracting public attention, any one of 
which, if it had appeared half a century ago, would have 
obtained a high reputation for' its author. Whoever, 
therefore, is ambitious of distinction in this way ought 
to be prepared for disappointment. 
, ' But it is not with a view to distinction that you should 
cultivate this talent, if you consult your own happiness. I, 
who have made literature my profession, and devoted my 
life to it, and have never for a moment repented of the 
deliberate choice, think myself, nevertheless, bound in 
duty to caution every young man who applies as an as- 
pirant to me for encouragement and advice against tak- 
ing so perilous a course. You will say that a woman has 
no need of such a caution ; there can be no peril in it for 
her. In a certain sense this is true ; but there is a danger 
of "which I would, with all kindness and all earnestness, 
warn you. The day dreams in which you habitually in- 
dulge are likely to induce a distempered state of mind ; 
and, in proportion as all the ordinary uses of the world 
seem to you flat and unprofitable, you will be unfitted for 
them without becoming fitted for anything else. Litera- 
ture cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought 
not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, 
the less leisure will she have for it, even as an accomplish- 
ment and a recreation. To those duties you have not yet 
been called, and when you are you will be less eager for 
celebrity. You will not seek in imagination for excite- 
ment, of which the vicissitudes of this life, and the anxie- 
ties from which you must not hope to be exempted, be 
your state what it may, will bring with them but too much. 
'But do not suppose that I disparage the gift which you 
possess, nor that I would discourage you from exercising it. 



1837 LETTER FROM SOUTHEY 161 

I only exhort you so to think of it, and so to use it, as to 
render it conducive to your own permanent good. Write 
poetry for its own sake ; not in a spirit of emulation, and 
not with a view to celebrity ; the less you aim at that the 
more likely you will be to deserve and finally to obtain it. 
So written it is wholesome both for the heart and soul ; it 
may be made the surest means, next to religion, of soothing 
the mind and elevating it. You may embody in it your 
best thoughts and your wisest feelings, and in so doing 
discipline and strengthen them. 

' Farewell, madam. It is not because I have forgotten 
that I was once young myself that I write to you in this 
strain, but because I remember it. You will neither doubt 
my sincerity nor my good-will ; and however ill what has 
here been said may accord with your present views and 
temper, the longer you live the more reasonable it will ap- 
pear to you. Though I may be an ungracious adviser, you 
will allow me, therefore, to subscribe myself, with the best 
wishes for your happiness here and hereafter, your friend, 

' Robert Southey.' 



I was with Miss Bronte when she received Mr. Cuthbert 
Southey's note, requesting her permission to insert the fore- 
going letter in his father's Life. She said to me, 'Mr. 
Southey's letter was kind and admirable ; a little stringent, 
but it did me good.' 

It is partly because I think it so admirable, and partly 
because it tends to bring out her character, as shown in the 
following reply, that I have taken the liberty of inserting 
the foregoing extracts from it. 

' March 16. 
' Sir, — I cannot rest till I have answered your letter, 
even though by addressing you a second time I should ap- 
pear a little intrusive ; but I must thank you for the kind and 
wise advice you have condescended to give me. I had not 
ventured to hope for such a reply ; so considerate in its tone, 
11 



162 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

so noble in its spirit. I must suppress what I feel, or you 
will think me foolishly enthusiastic. 

' At the first perusal of your letter I felt only shame and 
regret that I had ever ventured to trouble you with my 
crude rhapsody ; I felt a painful heat rise to my face when 
I thought of the quires of paper I had covered with what 
once gave me so much delight, but which now was only a 
source of confusion ; but after I had thought a little, and 
read it again and again, the prospect seemed to clear. 
You do not forbid me to write ; you do not say that what 
I write is utterly destitute of merit. You only warn me 
against the folly of neglecting real duties for the sake of 
imaginative pleasures ; of writing for the love of fame; for 
the selfish excitement of emulation. You kindly allow 
me to write poetry for its own sake, provided I leave un- 
done nothing which I ought to do, in order to pursue that 
single, absorbing, exquisite gratification. I am afraid, sir, 
you think me very foolish. I know the first letter I wrote 
to you was all senseless trash from beginning to end ; but 
I am not altogether the idle dreaming being it would seem 
to denote. My father is a clergyman of limited though 
competent income, and I am the eldest of his children. 
He expended quite as much in my education as he could 
afford in justice to the rest. I thought it therefore my 
duty, when I left school, to become a governess. In that 
capacity I find enough to occupy my thoughts all day long, 
and my head and hands too, without having a moment's 
time for one dream of the imagination. In the evenings, 
I confess, I do think, but I never trouble any one else with 
my thoughts. I carefully avoid any appearance of preoc- 
cupation and eccentricity, which might lead those I live 
amongst to suspect the nature of my pursuits. Following 
my father's advice — who from my childhood has coun- 
selled me, just in the wise and friendly tone of your letter 
— I have endeavoured not only attentively to observe all 
the duties a woman ought to fulfil, but to feel deeply in- 
terested in them. I don't always succeed, for sometimes 



1887 LETTER FROM SOUTHEY 163 

when I'm teaching or sewing I would rather be reading or 
writing ; but I try to deny myself; and my father's appro- 
bation amply rewarded me for the privation. Once more 
allow me to thank you with sincere gratitude. I trust I 
shall never more feel ambitious to see my name in print; if 
the wish should rise, I'll look at Southey's letter, and sup- 
press it. It is honour enough for me that I have written to 
him, and received an answer. That letter is consecrated ; 
no one shall ever see it but papa and my brother and sis- 
ters. Again I thank you. This incident, I suppose, will 
be renewed no more ; if I live to be an old woman, I shall 
remember it thirty years hence as a bright dream. The 
signature which you suspected of being fictitious is my real 
name. Again, therefore, I must sign myself 

'C. Bronte.' 

C P.S. — Pray, sir, excuse me for writing to yon a second 
time ; I could not help writing, partly to tell you how 
thankful I am for your kindness, and partly to let you 
know that your advice shall not be wasted, however sor- 
rowfully and reluctantly it may at first be followed. 

<C. B.' 

I cannot deny myself the gratification of inserting 
Southey's reply : — 

' Keswick : March 32, 1837. 

' Dear Madam, — Your letter has given me great pleasure, 
and I should not forgive myself if I did not tell you so. 
You have received admonition as considerately and as 
kindly as it was given. Let me now request that, if you 
ever should come to these Lakes while I am living here, 
you will let me see you. You would then think of me 
afterwards with the more good - will, because jou would 
perceive that there is neither severity nor moroseness in 
the state of mind to which years and observation have 
brought me. 

'It is, by God's mercy, in our power to attain a degree 
of self-government, which is essential to our own happi- 



164 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ness, and contributes greatly to that of those around us. 
Take care of over - excitement, and endeavour to keep a 
quiet mind («ven for your health it is the best advice that 
can be given you): your moral and spiritual improvement 
will then keep pace with the culture of your intellectual 
powers. 

' And now, madam, God bless you ! 

' Farewell, and believe me to be your sincere friend, 

'ROBEBT SOUTHET.' 

Of this second letter, also, she spoke, and told me that 
it contained an invitation for her to go and see the poet 
if ever she visited the Lakes. ' But there was no money 
to spare/ said she, ' nor any prospect of my ever earning 
money enough to have the chance of so great a pleasure, 
so I gave up thinking of it.' At the time we conversed 
together on the subject we were at the Lakes. But Southey 
was dead. 

This 'stringent' letter made her put aside, for a time, 
all idea of literary enterprise. She bent her whole energy 
towards the fulfilment of the duties in hand ; but her 
occupation was not sufficient food for her great forces of 
intellect, and they cried out perpetually, 'Give, give,' 
while the comparatively less breezy air of Dewsbury Moor 
told upon her health and spirits more and more. On 
August 27, 1837, she writes : — 

'I am again at Dewsbury, 1 engaged in the old business- 
teach, teach, teach. . . . When will you come home? Make 
haste ! You have been at Bath long enough for all pur- 

1 Miss "Wooler's school was called Heald's House, Dewsbury Moor. 
It was near Squirrel Hall, where Hammond Roberson had his first 
residence and school. The house is rather a noteworthy one, having 
been used by the followers of George Fox as a meetiug-place, and it 
was the birthplace of the Rev. W. M. Heald, who shared with his 
son some of the characteristics of the Rev. Cyril Hall of Shirley {The. 
Bronte Country, by J. A. Erskine Stuart). 



1837 HOME-SICKNESS 165 

poses ; by this time yon have acquired polish enough, I am 
sure ; if the varnish is laid on much thicker, I am afraid 
the good wood underneath will be quite concealed, and 
your Yorkshire friends won't stand that. Come, come. I 
am getting really tired of your absence. Saturday after 
Saturday comes round, and I can have no hope of hearing 
your knock at the door, and then being told that " Miss 
Ellen is come." Oh, dear ! in this monotonous life of mine 
that was a pleasant event. I wish it would recur again ; 
but it will take two or three interviews before the stiffness 
• — the estrangement of this long separation — will wear 
away. 5 ' 

About this time she forgot to return a work-bag she had 
borrowed, by a messenger, and in repairing her error she 
says, ' These aberrations of memory warn me pretty intel- 
ligibly that I am getting past my prime.' ^Etat. 21 ! And 
the same tone of despondency runs through the following 
letter : — 

'I wish exceedingly that I could come to you before 
Christmas, but it is impossible ; another three weeks must 
elapse before I shall again have my comforter beside me, 
under the roof of my own dear quiet home. If I could 
always live with you, and daily read the Bible with you — 
if your lips and mine could at the same time drink the 
same draught, from the same pure fountain of mercy — I 
hope, I trust, I might one day become better, far better 
than my evil, wandering thoughts, my corrupt heart, cold 
to the spirit and warm to the flesh, will now permit me 
to be. I often plan the pleasant life which we might lead 
together, strengthening each other in that power of self- 
denial, that hallowed and glowing devotion, which the first 

1 Another extract from the same letter was as follows : — 
' Miss Eliza Wooler and Mrs. Wooler are coming here next Christ- 
mas. Miss Wooler will then relinquish the school in favour of her sis- 
ter Eliza, but I am happy to say worthy Miss Wooler will continue 
to reside in the house. I should be sorry indeed to part with her.' 



166 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

saints of G-od often attained to. My eyes fill with tears 
when I contrast the bliss of such a state, brightened by 
hopes of the future, with the melancholy state I now live 
in, uncertain that I ever felt true contrition, wandering in 
thought and deed, longing for holiness, which I shall never, 
never obtain, smitten at times to the heart with the convic- 
tion that 1 ghastly Calvinistic doctrines are true — darkened, 
in short, by the very shadows of spiritual death. If Chris- 
,tian perfection be necessary to salvation, I shall never be 
saved ; my heart is a very hotbed for sinful thoughts, and 
when I decide on an action I scarcely remember to look 
to my Redeemer for direction. I know not how to pray ; 
I cannot bend my life to the grand end of doing good ; I go 
on constantly seeking my own pleasure, pursuing the grat- 
ification of my own desires. I forget God, and will not 
God forget me ? And, meantime, I know the greatness of 
Jehovah; I acknowledge the perfection of His word; I 
adore the purity of the Christian faith; my theory is right, 
my practice horribly wrong.' 

The Christmas holidays came, and she and Anne re- 
turned to the parsonage, and to that happy home circle in 
which alone their natures expanded ; amongst all other 
people they shrivelled up more or less. Indeed, there 
were only one or two strangers who could be admitted 
among the sisters without producing the same result. 
Emily and Anne were bound up in their lives and inter- 
ests like twins. The former from reserve, the latter from 
timidity, avoided all friendships and intimacies beyond 
their family. Emily was impervious to influence ; she 
never came in contact with public opinion, and her own 
decision of what was right and fitting was a law for her 
conduct and appearance, with which she allowed no one 
to interfere. Her love was poured out on Anne, as Char- 

1 In the original letter the name is erased, but it stands ' 'a 

ghastly Calvinistic doctrines.' 



1837 TABBY'S ILLNESS 167 

lotte's was on her. But the affection among all the three 
was stronger than either death or life. 

'Ellen' was eagerly welcomed by Charlotte, freely ad- 
mitted by Emily, and kindly received by Anne, whenever 
she could visit them ; and this Christmas she had prom- 
ised to do so, but her coming had to be delayed on account 
of a little domestic accident detailed in the following let- 
ter : — 

' December 29, 1837. 

' I am sure you will have thought me very remiss in 
not sending my promised letter long before now ; but I 
have a sufficient and very melancholy excuse in an acci- 
dent that befell our old faithful Tabby, a few days after 
my return home. She was gone out into the village on 
some errand, when, as she was descending the steep street, 
her foot slipped on the ice, and she fell : it was dark, and 
no one saw her mischance, till after a time her groans at- 
tracted the attention of a passer-by. She was lifted up 
and carried into the druggist's near ; and, after the exam- 
ination, it was discovered that she had completely shatter- 
ed and dislocated one leg. Unfortunately, the fracture 
could not be set till six o'clock the next morning, as no 
surgeon was to be had before that time, and she now lies 
at our house in a very doubtful and dangerous state. Of 
course we are all exceedingly distressed at the circum- 
stance, for she was like one of our own family. Since the 
event we have been almost without assistance — a pdrson 
has dropped in now and then to do the drudgery, but we 
have as yet been able to procure no regular servant ; and 
consequently the whole work of the house, as well as 
the additional duty of nursing Tabby, falls on ourselves. 
Under these circumstances I dare not press your visit here, 
at least until she is pronounced out of danger ; it would 
be too selfish of me. Aunt wished me to give you this 
information before, but papa and all the rest were anxious 
I should delay until we saw whether matters took a more 
settled aspect, and I myself kept putting it off from day to 



168 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

day, most bitterly reluctant to give up all the pleasure I 
had anticipated so long. However, remembering what you 
told me, namely, that you had commended the matter to a 
higher decision than ours, and that you were resolved to 
submit with resignation to that decision, whatever it might 
be, I hold it my duty to yield also, and to be silent ; it may 
be all for the best. I fear, if you had been here during 
this severe weather, your visit would have been of no ad- 
vantage to you, for the moors are blockaded with snow, 
and you would never have been able to get out. After this 
disappointment I never dare reckon with certainty on the 
enjoyment of a pleasur eagain ; it seems as if some fatal- 
ity stood between you and me. I am not good enough for 
you, and you must be kept from the contamination of too 
intimate society. I would urge your visit yet — I would 
entreat and press it — but the thought comes across me, 
should Tabby die while you are in the house, I should 
never forgive myself. ~No ! it must not be, and in a thou- 
sand ways the consciousness of that mortifies and disap- 
points me most keenly, and I am not the only one who 
is disappointed. All in the house were looking to your 
visit with eagerness. Papa says he highly approves of my 
friendship with you, and he wishes me to continue it 
through life.' 

A good neighbour of the Brontes — a clever, intelligent 
Yorkshire woman, who keeps a druggist's shop in Ha- 
worth, 1 and, from her occupation, her experience, and ex- 
cellent sense, holds the position of village doctoress and 
nurse, and, as such, has been a friend, in many a time of 
trial, and sickness, and death in the households round — 
told me a characteristic little incident connected with 
Tabby's fractured leg. Mr. Bronte is truly generous and 

1 This was Elizabeth Hardaker, who was always known in Haworth 
as 'Betty.' Her brother, Ben Hardaker, went to live in Bradford, 
and published a volume of verse there in 1874. ' Betty ' was called in 
to see Charlotte during her last illness. She died in 1888. 



1837 AN ILLIBERAL PROPOSAL 169 

regardful of all deserving claims. Tabby had lived with 
them for ten or twelve years, and was, as Charlotte ex- 
pressed it, ' one of the family.' But, on the other hand, 
she was past the age for any very active service, being 
nearer seventy than sixty at the time of the accident ; she 
had a sister living in the village, and the savings she had 
accumulated, during many years' service, formed a com- 
petency for one in her rank of life. Or if, in this time of 
sickness, she fell short of any comforts which her state 
rendered necessary, the parsonage could supply them. So 
reasoned Miss Branwell, the prudent, not to say anxious 
aunt, looking to the limited contents of Mr. Bronte's 
purse, and the unprovided -for future of her nieces, who 
were, moreover, losing the relaxation of the holidays, in 
close attendance upon Tabby. 1 

Miss Branwell urged her views upon Mr. Bronte as soon 
as the immediate danger to the old servant's life was over. 
He refused at first to listen to the careful advice ; it was 
repugnant to his liberal nature. But Miss Branwell per- 
severed ; urged economical motives ; pressed on his love 
for his daughters. He gave way. Tabby was to be re- 
moved to her sister's, and there nursed and cared for, 
Mr. Bronte coming in with his aid when her own re- 
sources fell short. This decision was communicated to 
the girls. There were symptoms of a quiet but sturdy 
rebellion, that winter afternoon, in the small precincts of 
Haworth Parsonage. They made one unanimous and 
stiff remonstrance. Tabby had tended them in their child- 
hood ; they, and none other, should tend her in her in- 
firmity and age. At tea-time they were sad and silent, 
and the meal went away untouched by any of the three. 
So it was at breakfast ; they did not waste many words 

1 Tabby died only a month before her young mistress. Her grave, 
which is very near to the wall that separates the parsonage from the 
churchyard, is inscribed — 

' ToMtha Aykroyd, of Baworth, who died Feb. 17th, 1855, in the 85th 
yew of her age.' 



170 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

on the subject, but each word they did utter was weighty. 
They 'struck' eating till the resolution was rescinded, 
and Tabby was allowed to remain a helpless invalid en- 
tirely dependent upon them. Herein was the strong feel- 
ing o£, Duty being paramount to pleasure, which lay at 
the foundation of Charlotte's character, made most appa- 
rent ; for we have seen how she yearned for her friend's 
company : but it was to be obtained only by shrinking 
from what she esteemed right, and that she never did, 
whatever might be the sacrifice. 

She had another weight on her mind this Christmas. I 
have said that the air of Dewsbnry Moor did not agree 
with her, though she herself was hardly aware how much 
her life there was affecting her health. But Anne had 
begun to suffer just before the holidays, and Charlotte 
watched over her younger sisters with the jealous vigilance 
of some wild creature, that changes her very nature if 
danger threatens her young. Anne had a slight congh, a 
pain at her side, a difficulty of breathing. Miss Wooler 
considered it as little more than a common cold ; but Char- 
lotte felt every indication of incipient consumption as a 
stab at her heart, remembering Maria and Elizabeth, whose 
places once knew them, and should know them no more. 

Stung by anxiety for this little sister, she upbraided Miss 
Wooler for her fancied indifference to Anne's state of 
health. Miss Wooler felt these reproaches keenly, and 
wrote to Mr. Bronte about them. He immediately replied 
most kindly, expressing his fear that Charlotte's appre- 
hensions and anxieties respecting her sister had led her 
to give utterance to over - excited expressions of alarm. 
Through Miss Wooler's kind consideration Anne was a year 
longer at sehool than her friends intended. At the close 
of the half year Miss Wooler sought for the opportunity of 
an explanation of each other's words, and the issue proved 
that ' the falling out of faithful friends renewing is of 
love.' And so ended the first, last, and only difference 
Charlotte ever had with good, kind Miss Wooler. 



1838 RETURN TO HAWORTH 171 

Still her heart had received a shock in the perception of 
Anne's delicacy ; and all these holidays she watched over 
her with the longing, fond anxiety which is so full of sud- 
den pangs of fear. 

Emily, had given up her situation in the Halifax school 
at the expiration of six months of arduous trial, on ac- 
count of her health, which could only be re-established 
by the bracing moorland air and free life of home. Tab- 
by's illness had preyed on the family resources. I doubt 
whether Branwell was maintaining himself at this time. 
For some unexplained reason he had given up the idea 
of becoming a student of painting at the Royal Acade- 
my, and his prospects in life were uncertain, and had yet 
to be settled. So Charlotte had quietly to take up her 
burden of teaching again, and return to her previous mo- 
notonous life. 

Brave heart, ready to die in harness ! She went back to 
her work, and made no complaint, hoping to subdue the 
weakness that was gaining ground upon her. About this 
time she would turn sick and trembling at any sudden noise, 
and could hardly repress her screams when startled. This 
showed a fearful degree of physical weakness in one who 
was generally so self - controlled ; and the medical man, 
whom at length, through Miss Wooler's entreaty, she was 
led to consult, insisted on her return to the parsonage. 
She had led too sedentary a life, he said ; and the soft sum- 
mer air, blowing round her home, the sweet company of 
those she loved, the release, the freedom of life in her own 
family, were needed to save either reason or life. So, as 
One higher than she had overruled that for a time she 
might relax her strain, she returned to Haworth ; and, 
after a season of utter quiet, her father sought for her the 
enlivening society of her two friends Mary and Martha. 
(Taylor). At the conclusion of the following letter, writ- 
ten to the then absent 'Ellen,' there is, I think, as pretty 
a glimpse of a merry group of young people as need be ; 
and, like all descriptions of doing, as distinct from think- 



172 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ing or feeling, in letters, it saddens one in proportion to 
the vivacity of the picture of what was once, and is now 
utterly swept away. 

' Haworth : June 9, 1838. 

'I received your packet of despatches on Wednesday; 
it was brought me by Mary and Martha, who have been 
staying at Haworth for a few days ; they leave us to-day. 
You will be surprised at the date of this letter. I ought 
to be at Dewsbury Moor, you know; but I stayed as long 
as I was able, and at length I neither could nor dared stay 
any longer. My health and spirits had utterly failed me, 
and the medical man whom I consulted enjoined me, as I 
valued my life, to go home. So home I went, and the 
change has at once roused and soothed me ; and I am now, 
I trust, fairly in the way to be myself again. 

' A calm and even mind like yours cannot conceive the 
feelings of the shattered wretch who is now writing to you, 
when, after weeks of mental and bodily anguish not to be 
described, something like peace began to dawn again. 
Mary Taylor is far from well. She breathes short, has a 
pain in her chest, and frequent flushings of fever. I can- 
not tell you what agony these symptoms give me ; they 
remind me too strongly of my two sisters, whom no pow- 
er of medicine could save. Martha is now very well; 
she has kept in a continual flow of good humour during 
her stay here, and has consequently been very fascinat- 
ing. . . . 

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

Charlotte grew much stronger in this quiet, happy period 
at home. She paid occasional visits to her two gieat friends, 
andtheyin return came to Haworth. At one of their houses, 
I suspect, she met with the person to whom the following 
letter refers — some one having a slight resemblance to the 



1839 FIRST OFFER OF MARRIAGE 173 

character of ' St. John ' in the last volume of ' Jane Eyre,' 
and, like him, in holy orders. 1 

' March 12, 1839. 
' . . . I had a kindly leaning towards him, because he is 
an amiable and well-disposed man. Yet I had not, and 
could not have, that intense attachment which would make 
me willing to die for him ; and if ever I marry it must be 
in that light of adoration that I will regard my husband. 
Ten to one I shall never have the chance again ; but n'im- 
porte. Moreover, I was aware that he knew so little of me 
he could hardly be conscious to whom he was writing. 
Why ! it would startle him to see me in my natural home 
character ; he would think I was a wild, romantic enthu- 
siast indeed. I could not sit all day long making a grave 

1 This was the Rev. Henry Nussey, the brother of her friend. Miss 
Bronte's letter to Ellen Nussey from which Mrs. Gaskell extracted the 
above passage contained also the following : — 

' You ask me, my dear Ellen, whether I have received a letter from 
Henry. I have, about a week since. The contents, I confess, did a 
little surprise me, but I kept them to myself, and unless you had 
questioned me on the subject I would never have adverted to it. 
Henry says he is comfortably settled at Donuington, that his health 
is much improved, aud that it is his intention to take pupils after 
Easter. He theu intimates that in due time he should want a wife to 
take care of his pupils, and fraukly asks me to be that wife. Alto- 
gether the letter is written without cant or flattery, and in a common- 
sense style, which does credit to his judgment. 

' Now, my dear Ellen, there were in this proposal some things 
which might have proved a strong temptation. I thought if I were 
to marry Henry Nussey his sister could live with me, and how happy 
I should be. But again I asked myself two questions: Do I love him 
as much as a woman ought to love the man she marries ? Am I the 
person best qualified to make him happy ? Alas ! Ellen, my con- 
science answered no to both these questions.' 

Henry Nussey was at this time a curate at Donnington, in Sussex. 
He afterwards became rector of Earnley, near Chichester, and later of 
Hathersage, in Derbyshire. Miss Bronte, in refusing the proposed 
offer of marriage, suggested certain characteristics which she declared 
were desirable in the wife of a clergyman. Six months later Mr. Nussey 
wrote to inform her of his engagement to another, and Charlotte Bronte 
replied in a letter of considerable length. 



174 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

face before my husband. I would laugh, and satirise, and 
say whatever came into my head first. And if he were a 
clever man, and loved me, the whole world, weighed in the 
balance against his smallest wish, should be light as air.' 

So that — her first proposal of marriage — was quietly de- 
clined and put on one side. Matrimony did not enter into 
the scheme of her life, but good, sound, earnest labour 
did; the question, however, was as yet undecided in what 
direction she should employ her forces. She had been dis- 
couraged -in literature ; her eyes failed her in the minute 
kind of drawing which she practised when she wanted to 
express an idea ; teaching seemed to her at this time, as it 
does to most women at all times, the only way of earning 
an independent livelihood. But neither she nor her sis- 
ters were naturally fond of children. The hieroglyphics of 
childhood were an unknown language to them, for they 
had never been much with those younger than themselves. 
I am inclined to think, too, that they had not the happy 
knack of imparting information, which seems to be a sep- 
arate gift from the faculty of acquiring it ; a kind of sym- 
pathetic tact, which instinctively perceives the difficulties 
that impede comprehension in a child's mind, and that yet 
are too vague and unformed for it, with its half-developed 
powers of expression, to explain by words. Consequently, 
teaching very young children was anything but a ' delight- 
ful task' to the three Bronte sisters. With older girls, 
verging on womanhood, they might have done better, es- 
pecially if these had any desire for improvement. But the 
education which the village clergyman's daughters had re- 
ceived, did not as yet qualify them to undertake the charge 
of advanced pupils. They knew but little French, and 
were not proficients in music ; I doubt whether Charlotte 
could play at all. But they were all strong again, and, at 
any rate, Charlotte and Anne must put their shoulders to 
the wheel. One daughter was needed at home, to stay 
with Mr. Bronte and Miss Branwell ; to be the young and 



1839 HER EXPERIENCE OF 'GOVERNESS' LIFE 175 

active member in a household of four, whereof three — the 
father, the aunt, and faithful Tabby — were past middle 
age. And Emily, who suffered and drooped more than her 
sisters when away from Haworth, was the one appointed to 
remain. Anne was the first to meet with a situation. 

' April 15, 1839. 
' I could not write to you in the week you requested, as 
about that time we were very busy in preparing for Anne's 
departure. 1 Poor child ! she left us last Monday; no one 
went with .her ; it was her own wish that she might be al- 
lowed to go alone, as she thought she could manage better 
and summon more courage if thrown entirely upon her own 
resources. We have had one letter from her since she 
went. She expresses herself very well satisfied, and says 
that Mrs. Ingham is extremely kind ; the two eldest chil- 
dren alone are under her care, the rest are confined to the 
nursery, with which and its occupants she has nothing to • 
do. ... I hope she'll do. You would be astonished what 
a sensible, clever letter she writes; it is only the talking 
part that I fear. But I do seriously apprehend that Mrs. 
Ingham will sometimes conclude that she has a natural 
impediment in her speech. For my own part, I am as yet 
" wanting a situation," like a housemaid out of place. By 
the way, I have lately discovered I have quite a talent for 
cleaning, sweeping up hearths, dusting rooms, making beds, 
&c. ; so, if everything else fails, I can turn my hand to that, 
if anybody will give me good wages for little labour. I 
won't be a cook ; I hate cooking. I won't be a nursery- 
maid, nor a lady's maid, far less a lady's companion, or a 
mantna-maker, or a straw-bonnet maker, or a taker-in of 
plain work. I won't be anything but a housemaid. . . . 
With regard to my visit to G-omersal, I have as yet received 
no invitation; but if I should be asked, though I should 

1 Anne went to Mrs. Ingham at Blake Hall, Mirfleld, some three 
miles from Heckmondwike, Yorks. A branch of the family still oc- 
cupies the place, a pleasant mansion situated in a park. 



176 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

feel it a great act of self-denial to refuse, yet I have almost 
made up my mind to do so, though the society of the Tay- 
lors is one of the most rousing pleasures I have ever known. 
Good-bye, my darling Ellen, &c. 

'P.S. — Strike out that word "darling;" it is humbug. 
Where's the use of protestations ? We've known each other, 
and liked each other, a good while; that's enough.' 

Not many weeks after this was written Charlotte also 
became engaged as a governess. I intend carefully to ab- 
stain from introducing the names of any living people, re- 
specting whom I may have to tell unpleasant truths, or to 
quote severe remarks from Miss Bronte's letters ; but it is 
necessary that the difficulties she had to encounter in her 
various phases of life should be fairly and frankly made 
known, before the force ' of what was resisted ' can be at 
all understood. I was once speaking to her about 'Agnes 
Grey ' — the novel in which her sister Anne pretty literally 
describes her own experience as a governess, and alluding 
more particularly to the account of the stoning of the lit- 
tle nestlings in the presence of the parent birds. She said 
that none but those who had been in the position of a gov- ■ 
erness could ever realise the dark side of 'respectable' hu- 
man nature ; under no great temptation to crime, but daily 
giving way to selfishness and ill-temper, till its conduct tow- 
ards those dependent on it sometimes amounts to a tyr- 
anny of which one would rather be the victim than the in- 
flictor. We can only trust in such cases that the employers 
err rather from a density of perception, and an absence 
of sympathy, than from any natural cruelty of disposition. 
Among several things of the same kind, which I well re- 
member, she told me what had once occurred to herself. 
She had been entrusted with the care of a little boy, three 
or four years old, during the absence of his parents on a 
day's excursion, and particularly enjoined to keep him out 
of the stable yard. His elder brother, a lad of eight or 



1839 HER EXPERIENCE OF 'GOVERNESS' LIFE 177 

nine, and not a pupil of Miss Bronte, tempted the little 
fellow into the forbidden place. She followed, and tried 
to induce him to come away ; but, instigated by his brother, 
he began throwing stones at her, and one of them hit her so 
severe a blow on the temple that the lads were alarmed into 
obedience. The next day, in full family conclave, the 
mother asked Miss Bronte what occasioned the mark on her 
forehead. She simply replied, 'An accident, ma'am,' and 
no further inquiry was made ; but the children (both broth- 
ers and sisters) had been present, and honoured her for not 
' telling tales.' From that time she began to obtain influ- 
ence over all, more or less, according to their different 
character's ; and, as she insensibly gained their affection, her 
own interest in them was increasing. But one day, at the 
children's dinner, the small truant of the stable yard, in a 
little demonstrative gush, said, putting his hand in hers, 
' I love 'ou, Miss Bronte ;' whereupon the mother exclaimed, 
before all the children, ' Love the governess, my dear !' 

The family into which she first entered was, I believe, 
that of a wealthy Yorkshire manufacturer.' The following 
extracts from her correspondence at this time will show 
how painfully the restraint of her new mode of life pressed 
upon her. The first is from a letter to Emily, beginning 
with one of the tender expressions in which, in spite of 

1 Mr. John Sidgwick. Mr. A. C. Benson says {The Life of Edward 
White Benson, sometime ArclMshop of Canterbury): — ' Charlotte Bronte 
acted as governess to my cousins at Stonegappe for a few months in 
1839. Few traditions of her connection with the Sidgwicks survive. 
She was, according to her own account, very unkindly treated, but it 
is clear that she had no gifts for the management of children, and was 
also in a very morbid condition the whole time. My cousin Benson 
Sidgwick, now vicar of Ashby Parva, certainly on one occasion threw 
a Bible at Miss Bronte ! and all that another cousin can recollect of her 
is that if she was invited to walk to church with them, she thought 
she was being ordered about like a slave ; if she was not invited, she 
imagined she was excluded from the family circle. Both Mr. and Mrs. 
John Sidgwick were extraordinarily benevolent people, much beloved, 
and would not wittingly have given pain to any one connected with 
them.' 
12 



178 life of Charlotte bronte 

'humbug,' she indulged herself. 'Mine dear love,' ' Mine 
bonnie love ' are her terms of address to this beloved sister. 

' June 8, 1839. 
' I have striven hard to be pleased with my new situation. 
The country, the house, and the grounds are, as I have said, 
divine ; but, alack-a-day ! there is such a thing as seeing all 
beautiful around yon — pleasant woods, white paths, green 
lawns, and blue sunshiny sky — and not having a free mo- 
ment or a free thought left to enjoy them. The children 
are constantly with me. As for correcting them, I quickly 
found that was out of the question ; they are to do as they 
like. A complaint to the mother only brings black looks 
on myself, and unjust partial excuses to screen the children. 
I have tried that plan once, and succeeded so notably I shall 
try no more. I said in my last letter that Mrs. (Sidgwick) 
did not know me. I now begin to find she does not intend 
to know me ; that she cares nothing about me, except to 
contrive how the greatest possible quantity of labour may 
be got out of me ; and to that end she overwhelms me with 
oceans of needle-work; yards of cambric to hem, muslin 
nightcaps to make, and, above all things, dolls to dress. I 
do not think she likes me at all, because I can't help being 
shy in such an entirely novel scene, surrounded as I have 
hitherto been by strange and constantly changing faces. . . . 
I used to think I should like to be in the stir of grand folks' 
society ; but I have had enough of it — it is dreary work to 
look on and listen. I see more clearly than I have ever 
done before that a private governess has no existence, is not 
considered as a living rational being, except as connected 
with the wearisome duties she has to fulfil. . . . One of 
the pleasantest afternoons I have spent here — indeed, the 
only one at all pleasant — was when Mr. (Sidgwick) walked 
out with his children, and I had orders to follow a little be- 
hind. As he strolled on through his fields, with his mag- 
nificent Newfoundland dog at his side, he looked very like 
what a frank, wealthy Conservative gentleman ought to be. 



1839 HER EXPERIENCE AS A GOVERNESS 179 

He spoke freely and unaffectedly to the people he met, and, 
though he indulged his children and allowed them to tease 
himself far too much, he would not suffer them grossly to 
insult others.' 

(WRITTEN IN PENCIL TO A FRIEND. 1 ) 

'July 1839. 
' I cannot procure ink without going into the drawing- 
room, where I do not wish to go. ... I should have writ- 
ten to you long since, and told you every detail of the utter- 
ly new scene into which I have lately been cast, had I not 
been daily expecting a letter from yourself, and wondering 
and lamenting that you did not write; for you will remem- 
ber it was your turn. I must not bother you too much with 
my sorrows, of which, I fear, you heard an exaggerated ac- 
count. If you were near me, perhaps I might be tempted 
to tell you all, to grow egotistical, and pour out the long 
history of a private governess's trials and crosses in her 
first situation. As it is I will only ask you to imagine the 
miseries of a reserved wretch like me, thrown at once into 
the midst of a large family, at a time when they were par- 
ticularly gay — when the house was filled with company — 
all strangers — people whose faces I had never seen before. 
In this state I had charge given me of a set of pampered, 
spoilt, turbulent children, whom I was expected constantly 
to amuse as well as to instruct. I soon found that the 
constant demand on my stock of animal spirits reduced 
them to the lowest state of exhaustion ; at times I felt — 
and, I suppose, seemed — depressed. To my astonishment 
I was taken to task on the subject by Mrs. (Sidgwick) with 
a sternness of manner and a harshness of language scarcely 
credible ; like a fool, I cried most bitterly. I could not 
help it ; my spirits quite failed me at first. I thought I 
had done my best — strained every nerve to please her ; 
and to be treated in that way, merely because I was shy 

1 Ellen Nussey. 



180 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BKONTE 

and sometimes melancholy, was too bad. At first I was 
for giving all up and going home. But, after a little re- 
flection, I determined to summon what energy I had and 
to weather the storm. I said to myself, " I have never yet 
quitted a place without gaining a friend; adversity is a 
good school ; the poor are born to labour, and the depend- 
ent to endure." I resolved to be patient, to command my 
feelings, and to take what came; the ordeal, I reflected, 
would not last many weeks, and I trusted it would do me 
good. I recollected the fable of the willow and the oak ; 
I bent quietly, and now, I trust, the storm is blowing over 
me. Mrs. (Sidgwick) is generally considered an agreeable 
woman ; so she is, I doubt not, in general society. She 
behaves somewhat more civilly to me now than she did at 
first, and the children are a little more manageable ; but 
she does not know my character, and she does not wish to 
know it. I have never had five minutes' conversation with 
her since I came, except while she was scolding me. I 
have no wish to be pitied, except by yourself ; if I were 
talking to you I could tell you much more.' 

(TO EMILY, ABOUT THIS TIME.) 

' Mine bonnie love, I was as glad of your letter as tongue 
can express : it is a real, genuine pleasure to hear from 
home ; a thing to be saved till bedtime, when one has a 
moment's quiet and rest to enjoy it thoroughly. Write 
whenever you can. I could like to be at home. I could 
like to work in a mill. I could like to feel some mental 
liberty. I could like this weight of restraint to be taken 
off. But the holidays will come. Ooraggio.' 

Her temporary engagement in this uncongenial family 
ended in the July of this year ; not before the constant 
strain upon her spirits and strength had again affected her 
health ; but when this delicacy became apparent in palpita- 
tions and shortness of breathing it was treated as affecta- 
tion — as a phase of imaginary indisposition, which could 



1839 A PROJECTED EXCURSION 181 

be dissipated by a good scolding. She bad been brought 
np rather in a school of Spartan endurance than in one of 
maudlin self-indulgence, and could bear many a pain and 
relinquish many a hope in silence. 

After she had been at home about a week, her friend 
proposed that she should accompany her in some little ex- 
cursion, having pleasure alone for its object. She caught 
at the idea most eagerly at first ; but her hope stood still, 
waned, and had almost disappeared before, after many 
delays, it was realised. In its fulfilment at last it was a 
favourable specimen of many a similar air-bubble dancing 
before her eyes in her brief career, in which stern realities, 
rather than pleasures, formed the leading incidents. 

' July 26, 1839. 

'Your proposal has almost driven me "clean daft." If 
you don't understand that ladylike expression you must 
ask me what it means when I see you. The fact is, an 
excursion with you anywhere, whether to Cleathorpe or 
Canada, just by ourselves, would be to me most delightful. 
I should indeed like to go ; but I can't get leave of absence 
for longer than a week, and I'm afraid that would not suit 
you. Must I, then, give it up entirely ? I feel as if I 
could not. I never had such a chance of enjoyment before ; 
I do want to see you and talk to you, and be with you. 
When do you wish to go ? Could I meet you at Leeds ? 
To take a gig from Haworth to B(irstall) would be to me 
a very serious increase of expense, and I happen to be very 
low in cash. Oh ! rich people seem to have many pleasures 
at their command which we are debarred from ! However, 
no repining. 

' Say when you go, and I shall be able in my answer to 
say decidedly whether I can accompany you or not. I must 
— I will — I'm set upon it — I'll be obstinate and bear down 
all opposition. 

' P. S. — Since writing the above I find that aunt and papa 
have determined to go to Liverpool for a fortnight, and take 



182 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

us all with them. It is stipulated, however, that I should 
give up the Oleathorpe scheme. I yield reluctantly.' ' 

I fancy that, ahont this time, Mr. Bronte found it neces- 
sary, either from failing health or the increased populous- 
ness of the parish, to engage the assistance of a curate." 
At least it is in a letter written this summer that I find 
mention of the first of a succession of curates, who hence- 
forward revolved round Haworth Parsonage, and made an 
impression on the mind of one of its inmates which she has 
conveyed pretty distinctly to the world. The Haworth 
curate brought his clerical friends and neighbours about 
the place, and for a time the incursions of these, near the 
parsonage tea-time, formed occurrences by which the quiet- 
ness of the life there was varied, sometimes pleasantly, 
sometimes disagreeably. The little adventure recorded at 
the end of the letter on page 183 is uncommon in the lot 
of most women, and is a testimony in this case to the un- 
usual power of attraction — though so plain in feature — 
which Charlotte possessed, when she let herself go in the 
happiness and freedom of home. 

1 ' But ' — the letter continues—' aunt suggests that you may be able 
to join us at Liverpool. What do you say? We shall not go for a 
fortnight or three weeks, because till that time papa's expected assist- 
ant will not be ready to undertake his duties.' The ' expected assist- 
ant ' was Mr. William Weightman. 

2 Mr. Bronte's curates were five in number — 

1. Mr. William Hodgson, 1837-8. 

2. Mr. William Weightman, 1839-43. 

3. Mr. Peter Augustus Smith, 1843-4. 

4. Mr. Arthur Bell Nicholls, 1844-53. 

5. Mr. De Renzi, 1853-4. 

6. Mr. Arthur Bell Nicholls, 1854-61. 

Mr. Hodgson's position must have been somewhat different from 
that of his successors, as Mr. BrontS, in a funeral sermon on Mr. 
Weightman, which he preached in Haworth Parish Church on Octo. 
ber 2, 1843, referred to permanent assistance having first been given 
to him by his Bishop In the person of Mr. Weightman. Mr. Hodg- 
son probably volunteered for a few months before obtaining a more 
' important charge. 



1839 SECOND OFFER OF MARRIAGE 183 

• August 4, 1839. 
' The Liverpool journey is yet a matter of talk, a, sort of 
castle in the air ; but, between you and me, I fancy it is 
very doubtful whether it will ever assume a more solid 
shape. Aunt — like many other elderly people — likes to 
talk of such things ; but when it comes to putting them 
into actual execution she rather falls off. Such being the 
case, I think you and I had better adhere to our first plan 
of going somewhere together independently of other peo- 
ple. I have got leave to accompany you for a week — at 
the utmost a fortnight — but no more. Where do you 
wish to go ? Burlington, I should think, from what Mary 
says, would be as eligible a place as any. When do you 
set off ? Arrange all these things according to your con- 
venience ; I shall start no objections. The idea of seeing 
the sea — of being near it — watching its changes by sunrise, 
sunset, moonlight, and noonday — in calm, perhaps in storm 
— fills and satisfies my mind. I shall be discontented at 
nothing. And then I am not to be with a set of people 
with whom I have nothing in common — who would be 
nuisances and bores ; but with you, whom I like and know, 
and who knows me. 

' I have an odd circumstance to relate to you : prepare 

for a hearty laugh ! The other day Mr. ,' a vicar, came 

to spend the day with us, bringing with him his own cu- 
rate. The latter gentleman, by name Mr. B., is a young 
Irish clergyman, fresh from Dublin University. It was the 
first time" we had any of us seen him, but, however, after 
the manner of his countrymen, he soon made himself at 

i < Mr. ' was Mr. Hodgson, who had been Mr. Bronte's first cu- 
rate in 1837-8, and was at this time incumbent of Christchurch, Colne, 
Lancashire, a position he held until his death in 1874. Mr. Hodgson's 

first curate at Colne was Mr. David Bryce— the ' Mr. B ' of this 

letter— who died at Colne, January 17, 1840, aged 39. Mr. Hodgson 
was in the habit of telling his family that it was his impression that 
matters between Mr. Bryce and Miss Bronte had gone beyond the 
casual stage here described, but this is scarcely probable by the light 
of Charlotte Bronte's explicit statement. 



184 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

home. His character quietly appeared in his conversa- 
tion ; witty, lively, ardent, clever too ; but deficient in the 
dignity and discretion of an Englishman. At home, you 
know, I talk with ease, and am never shy — never weighed 
down and oppressed by that miserable mauvaise honte which 
torments and constrains me elsewhere. So I conversed 
with the Irishman, and laughed at his jests ; and, though 
I saw faults in his character, excused them because of the 
amusement his originality afforded. I cooled a little, in- 
deed, and drew in towards the latter part of the evening, 
because he began to season his conversation with something 
of Hibernian flattery, which I did not quite relish. How- 
ever they went away, and no more was thought about them. 
A few days after I got a letter, the direction of which puz- 
zled me, it being in a hand I was not accustomed to see. 
Evidently it was neither from you nor Mary, my only cor- 
respondents. Having opened and read it, it proved to be 
a declaration of attachment and proposal of matrimony, 
expressed in the ardent language of the sapient young 
Irishman ! I hope you are laughing heartily. This is not 
like one of my adventures, is it ? It more nearly resem- 
bles Martha's. I am certainly doomed to be an old maid. 
Never mind. I made up my mind to that fate ever since 
I was twelve years old. 

* "Well ! thought I, I have heard of love at first sight, 
but this beats all ! I leave you to guess what my answer 
would be, convinced that you will not do me the injustice 
of guessing wrong.' 

On August 14 she still writes from Haworth : — 
'I have in vain packed my box, and prepared everything 
for our anticipated journey. It so happens that I can get 
no conveyance this week or the next. The only gig let 
out on hire in Haworth is at Harrogate, and likely to re- 
main there for aught I can hear. Papa decidedly objects 
to my going by the coach, and walking to B(irstall), 
though I am sure I could manage it. Aunt exclaims 



1839 PLEASURE EXCURSION 185 

against the weather, and the roads, and the four winds 
of heaven ; so I am in a fix, and, what is worse, so are 
you. On reading over, for the second or third time, your 
last letter (which, by-the-bye, was written in such hiero- 
glyphics that, at the first hasty perusal, I could hardly 
make out two consecutive words), I find you intimate that 
if I leave this journey till Thursday I shall be too late. I 
grieve that I should have so inconvenienced you ; but I 
need not talk of either Friday or Saturday now, for I 
rather imagine there is small chance of my ever going at 
all. The elders of the house have never cordially acqui- 
esced in the measure ; and now that impediments seem 
to start up at every step opposition grows more open. 
Papa, indeed, would willingly indulge me, but this very 
kindness of his makes me doubb whether I ought to draw 
upon it ; so, though I could battle out aunt's discontent, I 
yield to papa's indulgence. 1 He does not say so, but I 
know he would rather I stayed at home ; and aunt meant 
well too, I dare say, but I am provoked that she reserved 
the expression of her decided disapproval till all was set- 
tled between you and myself. Reckon on me no more ; 
leave me out in your calculations : perhaps I ought, in the 
beginning, to have had prudence sufficient to shut my eyes 
against such a prospect of pleasure, so as to deny myself 
the hope of it. Be as angry as you please with me for dis- 
appointing you. I did not intend it, and have only one 
thing more to say — if you do not go immediately to the 
sea, will you come to see us at Haworth ? This invitation 
is not mine only, but papa's and aunt's.' 

However, a little more patience, a little more delay, 
and she enjoyed the pleasure she had wished for so muoh. 
She and her friend went to Baston for a fortnight in the 

1 It is perhaps pertinent to hazard the suggestion that this testi- 
mony by Charlotte Bronte to her father's kindness is worth a great 
deal more than the unveriflable gossip concerning Mr. Bronte's incon- 
siderate selfishness that has passed current for many years. 



186 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

latter part of September. It was here she received her first 
impressions of the sea. 

•Octobers! 1 
' Have you forgotten the sea by this time, Ellen ? Is it 
grown dim in your mind ? Or can you still see it, dark, 
blue, and green, and foam-white, and hear it roaring roughly 
when the wind is high, or rushing softly when it is calm ? 
... I am as well as need be, and very fat. I think of 
Easton very often, and of worthy Mr. H., 3 and his kind- 
hearted helpmate, and of our pleasant walks to Harlequin 
Wood, and to Boynton, our merry evenings, our romps with 
little Hanchoon, &c. &c. If we both live, this period of our 
lives will long be a theme for pleasant recollection. Did 
you chance, in your letter to Mr. H., to mention my spec- 
tacles ? I am sadly inconvenienced by the want of them. 
I can neither read, write, nor draw with comfort in their 
absence. I hope Madame won't refuse to give them up. . . . 
Excuse the brevity of this letter, for I have been draw- 
ing all day, and my eyes are so tired it is quite a labour to 
write.' 

But, as the vivid remembrance of this pleasure died away, 

1 This letter, dated Haworth, October 24, 1839, commences — 
' You will have concluded by this time that I never got home at all, 
but evaporated by the way; however, I did get home, and very well 
too, by the aid of the Dewsbury coachman, though if I had not con- 
trived to make friends with him I don't know how I should have 
managed. He showed me the way to the inn where the Keighley 
coach stopped, carried my box, took my place, and saw my luggage 
put in, and helped me to mount on to the top. I assure you I feel 
exceedingly obliged to him. I had a long letter from your brother 
Henry giving an account of his bride elect.' 

3 Mr. Hudson, of Easton, near Bridlington or Burlington, York- 
shire, is here referred to, and we are brought into relation with a lit- 
tle-known friendship of Charlotte Bronte's. Mr. John Hudson was 
a farmer and a friend of the Nussey family. Charlotte Bronte and 
Ellen Nussey lodged with him on their excursion to the sea. ' Little 
Hancheon's ' real name was Fanny Whipp, then about seven years of 
age. She married a Mr. North, and died in 1866, aged thirty-five. 



1839 TABBY DISABLED 187 

an accident occurred to make the actual duties of life press 
somewhat heavily for a time. 

' December 31, 1839.' 
' We are at present, and have been during the last month, 
rather busy, as, for that space of time, we have been without 
a servant, except a little girl to run errands. Poor Tabby 
became so lame that she was at length obliged to leave us. 
She is residing with her sister, in a little house of her own, 
which she bought with her savings a year or two since. 
She is very comfortable, and wants nothing; as she is near 
we see her very often. In the meantime Emily and I are 
sufficiently busy, as you may suppose : I manage the iron- 
ing, and keep the rooms clean; Emily does the baking, 
and attends to the kitchen. We are such odd animals that 
we prefer this mode of contrivance to having a new face 
amongst us. Besides, we do not despair of Tabby's return, 
and she shall not be supplanted by a stranger in her ab- 
sence. I excited aunt's wrath very much by burning the 
clothes, the first time I attempted to iron ; but I do better 
now. Human feelings are queer things; I am much hap- 
pier black-leading the stoves, making the beds, and sweep- 
ing the floors at home than I should be living like a fine 
lady anywhere else. I must indeed drop my subscription 
to the Jews, because I have no money to keep it up. I 
ought to have announced this intention to you before, but 
I quite forgot I was a subscriber. I intend to force myself 
to take another situation when I can get one, though I 
hate and abhor the very thoughts of governess-ship. But I 
must do it ; and therefore I heartily wish I could hear of 
a family where they need such a commodity as a governess.' 



CHAPTEE IX 

The year 1840 found all the Brontes living at home, ex- 
cept Anne. As I have already intimated, for some reason 
with which I am unacquainted, the plan of sending Bran- 
well to study at the Boyal Academy had been relinquished; 
probably it was found, on inquiry, that the expenses of 
such a life were greater than his father's slender finances 
could afford, even with the help which Charlotte's labours 
at Miss Wooler's gave, by providing for Anne's board and 
education. I gather from what I have heard that Bran- 
well must have been severely disappointed when the plan 
fell through. His talents were certainly very brilliant, and 
of this he was fully conscious, and fervently desired, by 
their use, either in writing or drawing, to make himself a 
name. At the same time he would probably have found 
his strong love of pleasure and irregular habits a great im- 
pediment in his path to fame ; but these blemishes in his 
character were only additional reasons why he yearned 
after a London life, in which he imagined he could obtain 
every stimulant to his already vigorous intellect, while at 
the same time he would have a license of action to be 
found only in crowded cities. Thus his whole nature was 
attracted towards the metropolis ; and many an hour must 
he have spent pouring over the map of London, to judge 
from an anecdote which has been told me. Some traveller 
for a London house of business came to Haworth for a 
night, and, according to the unfortunate habit of the place, 
the brilliant 'Patrick' was sent for to the inn, to beguile 
the evening by his intellectual conversation and his flashes 
of wit. They began to talk of London ; of the habits and 



1840 BRANWELL BRONTE 189 

ways of life there ; of the places of amusement ; and 
Branwell informed the Londoner of one or two short 
cuts from point to point, up narrow lanes or back streets ; 
and it was only towards the end of the evening that 
the traveller discovered, from his companion's volun- 
tary confession, that he had never set foot in London 
at all. 

At this time the young man seemed to have his fate 
in his own hands. He was full of noble impulses, as well 
as of extraordinary gifts ; not accustomed to resist temp- 
tation, it is true, from any higher motive than strong 
family affection, but showing so much power of attach- 
ment to all about him that they took pleasure in believ- 
ing that, after a time, he would 'right himself/ and 
that they should have pride and delight in the use he 
would then make of his splendid talents. His aunt es- 
pecially made him her great favourite. There are al- 
ways peculiar trials in the life of an only boy in a family 
of girls. He is expected to act a part in life ; to do, while 
they are only to ie j and the necessity of their giving way 
to him in some things is too often exaggerated into their 
giving way to him in all, and thus rendering him utterly 
selfish. In the family about whom I am writing, while 
the rest were almost ascetic in their habits, Branwell was 
allowed to grow up self-indulgent ; but, in early youth, his 
power of attracting and attaching people was so great that 
few came in contact with him who were not so much daz- 
zled by him as to be desirous of gratifying whatever wishes 
he expressed. Of course he was careful enough not to 
reveal anything before his father and sisters of the pleas- 
ures he indulged in ; but his tone of thought and conver- 
sation became gradually coarser, and, for a time, his sisters 
tried to persuade themselves that such coarseness was a 
part of manliness, and to blind themselves by love to the 
fact that Branwell was worse than other young men. At 
present, though he had, they were aware, fallen into some 
errors, the exact nature of which they avoided knowing, 



190 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

still he was their hope and their darling; their pride, 
who should some time bring great glory to the name of 
Bronte. 

He and his sister Charlotte were both slight and small 
of stature, while the other two were of taller and larger 
make. I have seen BranwelFs profile ; it is what would be 
generally esteemed very handsome ; the forehead is mas- 
sive, the eye well set, and the expression of it fine and 
intellectual ; the nose too is good ; but there are coarse 
lines about the mouth, and the lips, though of handsome 
shape, are loose and thick, indicating self-indulgence, 
while the slightly retreating chin conveys an idea of weak- 
ness of will. His hair and complexion were sandy. He 
had enough Irish blood in him to make his manners frank 
and genial, with a kind of natural gallantry about them. 
In a fragment of one of his manuscripts which I have read 
there is a justness and felicity of expression which is very 
striking. It is the beginning of a tale, and the actors in it 
are drawn with much of the grace of characteristic portrait- 
painting, in perfectly pure and simple language which dis- 
tinguishes so many of Addison's papers in the ' Spectator.' 
The fragment is too short to afford the means of judging 
whether he had much dramatic talent, as the persons of 
the story are not thrown into conversation. But altogether 
the elegance and composure of style are such an one would 
not have expected from this vehement and ill-fated young 
man. He had a stronger desire for literary fame burning 
in his heart than even that which occasionally flashed up 
in his sisters'. He tried various outlets for his talents. He 
wrote and sent poems to Wordsworth and Coleridge, who 
both expressed kind and laudatory opinions, and he fre- 
quently contributed verses to the 'Leeds Mercury.' In 
1840 he was living at home, employing himself in occasional 
composition of various kinds, and waiting till some occu- 
pation, for which he might be fitted without any expensive 
course of preliminary training, should turn up ; waiting, 
not impatiently ; for he saw society of one kind (probably 



1840 HOUSEHOLD REGULARITY 191 

what he called 'life') at the 'Black Bull ;' and at home he 
was as yet the cherished favourite. 

Miss Branwell was unaware of the fermentation of un- 
occupied talent going on around her. She was not hef 
nieces' confidante — perhaps no one so much older could 
have been — but their father, from whom they derived not 
a little of their adventurous spirit, was silently cognisant 
of much of which she took no note. Next to her nephew 
the docile, pensive Anne was her favourite. Of her she 
had taken charge from her infancy ; she was always patient 
and tractable, and would submit quietly to occasional op- 
pression, even when she felt it keenly. Not so her two 
elder sisters ; they made their opinions known, when roused 
by any injustice. At such times Emily would express her- 
self as strongly as Charlotte, although perhaps less fre- 
quently. But, in general, notwithstanding that Miss Bran- 
well might be occasionally unreasonable, she and her nieces 
went on smoothly enough ; and though they might now 
and than be annoyed by petty tyranny, she still inspired 
them with sincere respect, and not a little affection. They 
were, moreover, grateful to her for many habits she had 
enforced upon them, and which in time had become a sec- 
ond nature : order, method, neatness in everything ; a per- 
fect knowledge of all kinds of household work ; an exact 
punctuality, and obedience to the laws of time and place, 
of which no one but themselves, I have heard Charlotte 
say, could tell the value in after life. With their impul- 
sive natures it was positive repose to have learnt implicit 
obedience to external laws. People in Haworth have as- 
sured me that, according to the hour of day — nay, the 
very minute — could they have told what the inhabitants 
of the parsonage were about. At certain times the girls 
would be sewing in their aunt's bedroom — the chamber 
which, in former days, before they had outstripped her 
in their learning, had served them as a schoolroom ; at 
certain (early) hours they had their meals ; from six to 
eight Miss Branwell read aloud to Mr. Bronte ; at punctual 



192 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

eight the household assembled to evening prayers in his 
study ; and by nine he, the aunt, and Tabby were all in 
bed — the girls free to pace up and down (like restless wild 
animals) in the parlour, talking over plans and projects, 
and thoughts of what was to be their future life. 

At the time of which I write the favourite idea was that 
of keeping a school. They thought that, by a little con- 
trivance, and a very little additional building, a small num- 
ber of pupils, four or six, might be accommodated in the 
parsonage. As teaching seemed the only profession open 
to them, and as it appeared that Emily at least could not 
live away from home, while the others also suffered much 
from the same cause, this plan of school-keeping presented 
itself as most desirable. But it involved some outlay ; 
and to this their aunt was averse. Yet there was no one 
to whom they could apply for a loan of the requisite means 
except Miss Branwell, who had made a small store out of 
her savings, which she intended for her nephew and nieces 
eventually, but which she did not like to risk. Still this 
plan of school-keeping remained uppermost ; and in the 
evenings of this winter of 1839-40 the alterations that 
would be necessary in the house, and the best way of con-, 
vincing their aunt of the wisdom of their project, formed 
the principal subject of their conversation. 

This anxiety weighed upon their minds rather heavily 
during the months of dark and dreary weather. Nor were 
external events, among the circle of their friends, of a cheer- 
ful character. In January 1840 Charlotte heard of the 
death of a young girl who had been a pupil of hers, and a 
schoolfellow of Anne's, at the time when the sisters were 
together at Roe Head ; and had attached herself very 
strongly to the latter, who, in return, bestowed upon her 
much quiet affection. It was a sad day when the intelli- 
gence of this young creature's death arrived. Charlotte 
wrote thus on January 12, 1840 : — 

' Your letter, which I received this morning, was one of 



1840 DEATH OF A YOUNG FRIEND 193 

painfal interest. Anne C., 1 it seems, is dead; when I saw 
her last she was a young, beautiful, and happy girl ; and 
now "life's fitful fever" is over with her, and she "sleeps 
well." I shall never see her again. It is a sorrowful 
thought; for she was a warm-hearted, affectionate being, 
and I cared for her. Wherever I seek for her now in this 
world she cannot be found, no more than a flower or a leaf 
which withered twenty years ago. A bereavement of this 
kind gives one a glimpse of the feeling those must have 
who have seen all drop round them, friend after friend, and 
are left to end their pilgrimage alone. But tears are fruit- 
less, and I try not to repine.' 2 

1 Anne Carter, who had also a brief experience as a governess. 

2 On January 24, 1840, she wrote to Miss Nussey : — 

'My dear Ellen, — I have given Mrs. E. H. her coup de grdce — that 
is to say, I have relinquished the idea of becoming an inmate of her 
family. I have no doubt she will be very cross with me, especially as 
when I first declined going she pressed me to take a trial of a month. 
I am now, therefore, again adrift without an object. I am sorry for 
this, but something may turn up ere long. I know not whether to 
encourage you in your plan of going out or not. Your health seems 
to me the greatest obstacle ; if you could obtain a situation like M. 
B., you might do very well. But you could never live in an unruly, 
violent family of modern children, such, for instance, as those at 
Blake Hall. Anne is not to return. Mrs. Ingham is a placid, mild 
woman ; but as for the children, it was one struggle of life-wearing 
exertion to keep them in anything like decent order. 1 am miserable 
when I allow myself to dwell on the necessity of spending my life as 
a governess. The chief requisite for that station seems to me to be 
the power of taking things easily as they come, and of making one- 
self comfortable and at home wherever we may chance to be — quali- 
ties in which all our family are singularly deficient. I know I can- 
not live with a person like Mrs. Sidgwick, but I hope all women are 
not like her, and my motto is " Try again." Mary Taylor, I am sorry 
to hear, is ill. Have you seen her or heard anything of her lately? 
Sickness seems very general, and death too, at least in this neighbour- 
hood. Mr. Bryce is dead. He had fallen into a state of delicate 
health for some time, and the rupture of a blood-vessel carried him 
off. He was a strong, athletic-looking man when I saw him, and that 
is scarcely six months ago. Though I knew so little of him, and of 
course could not be deeply or permanently interested in what con- 
13 



194 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

During this winter Charlotte employed her leisure hours 
in writing a story. Some fragments of the manuscript yet 
remain, but it is in too small a hand to be read without 
great fatigue to the eyes ; and one cares the less to read it 
as she herself condemned it, in the preface to ' The Pro- 
fessor,' by saying that in this story she had got over such 
taste as she might once have had for the 'ornamental and 
redundant in composition." The beginning, too, as she 
acknowledges, was on a scale commensurate with one of 
Richardson's novels, of seven or eight volumes. I gather 
some of these particulars from a copy of a letter apparently 
in reply to one from Wordsworth, to whom she had sent the 
commencement of the story, some time in the summer of 
1840. 

' Authors are generally very tenacious of their produc- 
tions, but I am not so much attached to this but that I can 
give it up without much distress. No doubt, if I had gone 
on, I should have made quite a Richardsonian concern of it. 
... I had materials in my head for half a dozen volumes. 
... Of course it is with considerable regret I relinquish 
any scheme so charming as the one I have sketched. It is 
very edifying and profitable to create a world out of your 
own brains, and people it with inhabitants, who are so many 
Melchisedecs, and have no father nor mother but your own 
imagination. ... I am sorry I did not exist fifty or sixty 

cemed him, I confess, when I suddenly heard he was dead, I felt both 
shocked and saddened : It was no shame to feel so, was it 1 I scold 
you, Ellen, for writing illegibly and badly, but I think you may re- 
pay the compliment with cent, per cent, interest. I am not in the 
humour for writing a long letter, so good-bye. God bless you. 

'C. B.' 
1 This manuscript is not now traceable. The only fragments known 
of later date than the childish booklets which end in 1837 do not an- 
swer to the description. One of these, ' Emma,' was published in the 
Cornhill Magazine in 1860, with a brief introduction by Thackeray, 
and has since always been reprinted in the volume containing The 
Profmm: 



1840 HER FIRST STORY 195 

years ago, when the "Ladies' Magazine " was nourishing like 
a green bay tree. In that case, I make no doubt, my aspira- 
tions after literary fame would have met with due encourage- 
ment, and I should have had the pleasure of introducing 
Messrs. Percy and West into the very best society, and 
recording all their sayings and doings in double-columned, 
close-printed pages. ... I recollect, when I was a child, 
getting hold of some antiquated volumes, and reading them 
by stealth with the most exquisite pleasure. You give a 
correct description of the patient Grisels of those days. My 
aunt was one of them ; and to this day she thinks the tales 
of the " Ladies' Magazine " infinitely superior to any trash 
of modern literature. So do I ; for I read them in child- 
hood, and childhood has a very strong faculty of admira- 
tion, but a very weak one of criticism. ... I am pleased 
that you cannot quite decide whether I am an attorney's 
clerk or a novel-reading dressmaker. I will not help you at 
all in the discovery ; and as to my handwriting, or the lady- 
like touches in my style and imagery, you must not draw 
any conclusion from that — I may employ an amanuensis. 
Seriously, sir, I am very much obliged to you for your kind 
and candid letter. I almost wonder you took the trouble 
to read and notice the novelette of an anonymous scribe, 
who had not even the manners to tell you whether he was a 
man or a woman, or whether his "C. T." meant Charles 
Timms or Charlotte Tomkins.' 

There are two or three things noticeable in the letter 
from which these extracts are taken. The first is the 
initials with which she had evidently signed the former 
one to which she alludes. About this time, to her more 
familiar correspondents, she occasionally calls herself 
' Charles Thunder,' making a kind of pseudonym for her- 
self out of her Christian name and the meaning of her 
Greek surname. In the next place, there is a touch of as- 
sumed smartness, very different from the simple, womanly, 
dignified letter which she had written to Sonthey, under 



196 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

nearly similar circumstances, three years before. I imagine 
the cause of this difference to be twofold. Southey, in his 
reply to her first letter, had appealed to the higher parts 
of her nature, in calling her to consider whether literature 
was, or was not, the best course for a woman to pursue. 
But the person to whom she addressed this one had evidently 
confined himself to purely literary criticisms, besides which 
her sense of humour was tickled by the perplexity which 
her correspondent felt as to whether he was addressing 
a man or a woman. She rather wished to encourage the 
former idea; and, in consequence, possibly, assumed some- 
thing of the flippancy which very probably existed in her 
brother's style of conversation, from whom she would de- 
rive her notions of young manhood, not likely, as far as 
refinement was concerned, to be improved by the other 
specimens she had seen, such as the curates whom she 
afterwards represented in ' Shirley.' 

These curates were full of strong High-Church feeling. 
Belligerent by nature, it was well for their professional char- 
acter that they had, as clergymen, sufficient scope for the 
exercise of these warlike propensities. Mr. Bronte, with all 
his warm regard for Church and State, had a great respect 
for mental freedom ; and, though he was the last man in 
the world to conceal his opinions, he lived in perfect amity 
with all the respectable part of those who differed from him. 
Not so the curates. Dissent was schism, and schism was 
condemned in the Bible. In default of tnrbaned Saracens 
they entered on a crusade against Methodists in broadcloth ; 
and the consequence was that the Methodists and Baptists 
refused to pay the church rates. Miss Bronte thus describes 
the state of things at this time : — 

' Little Haworth has been all in a bustle about church 
rates since you were here. We had a stirring meeting in 
the schoolroom. Papa took the chair, and Mr. C(ollins) 
and Mr. W(eightman) acted as his supporters, one on each 
side. There was violent opposition, which set Mr. C (ollins)'s 



1840 THE CURATES AND THE DISSENTERS 197 

Irish blood in a ferment, and if papa had not kept him quiet, 
partly by persuasion and partly by compulsion, he would 
have given the Dissenters their kale through the reek — a 
Scotch proverb, which I will explain to you another time. 
He and Mr. W(eightman) both bottled up their wrath for 
that time, but it was only to explode with redoubled force 
at a future period. We had two sermons on dissent, and 
its consequences, preached last Sunday — one in the after- 
noon by Mr. W(eightman), and one in the evening by Mr. 
C(ollins). All the Dissenters were invited to come and 
hear, and they actually shut up their chapels and came in 
a body; of course the church was crowded. Mr. W. 1 de- 
livered a noble, eloquent, High-Church, Apostolical-Succes- 
sion discourse, in which he banged the Dissenters most fear- 
lessly and unflinchingly. I thought they had got enough 
for one while, but it was nothing to the dose that was thrust 
down their throats in the evening. A keener, cleverer, 
bolder, and more heart-stirring harangue than that which 
Mr. C(ollins) delivered from Haworth pulpit, last Sunday 
evening, I never heard. He did not rant ; he did not cant ; 
he did not whine ; he did not sniggle ; he just got up and 
spoke with the boldness of a man who was impressed with 
the truth of what he was saying, who has no fear of his en- 
emies and no dread of consequences. His sermon lasted an 
hour, yet I was sorry when it was done. I do not say that 
I agree either with him or with Mr. W(eightman), either in 
all or in half their opinions. I consider them bigoted, in- 
tolerant, and wholly unjustifiable on the ground of common 
sense. My conscience will not let me be either a Puseyite 
or a Hookist ; mais, if I were a Dissenter, I would have 
taken the first opportunity of kicking or of horsewhipping 
both the gentlemen for their stern, bitter attack on my re- 
ligion and its teachers. But, in spite of all this, I admired 



1 In the original letter 'Mr. W.' of this sentence is here called 'Miss 
Celia Amelia,' the nickname that the Bronte girls gave to Mr. Weight- 



198 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

the noble integrity which could dictate so fearless an op- 
position against so strong an antagonist. 1 

' P.S. —Mr. W. has given another lecture at the Keighley 
• Mechanics' Institution, and papa has also given a lecture ; 
both are spoken of very highly in the newspapers, and it is 
mentioned as a matter of wonder that such displays of intel- 
lect should emanate from the village of Haworth, " situated 
among the bogs and mountains, and, until very lately, sup- 
posed to be in a state of semi-barbarism." Such are the 
words of the newspaper.' 

To fill up the account of this outwardly eventless year 
I may add a few more extracts from the letters entrusted 
to me. 

'May 15, 1840. 

' Do not be over-persuaded to marry a man you can never 
respect — I do not say love, because, I think, if you can 
respect a person before marriage, moderate love at least 
will come after ; and as to intense passion, I am con- 
vinced 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 : it would last the honeymoon, and then, per- 
haps, give place to disgust, or indifference, worse perhaps 
than disgust. Certainly this would be the case on the 
man's part ; and on the woman's — God help her, if she is 
left to love passionately and alone. 

' I am tolerably well convinced that I shall never marry 
at all. Reason tells me so, and I am not so utterly the 
slave of feeling but that I can occasionally hear her voice.' 

1 The letter continues : — 

' I have been painting a portrait of Agnes Walton for our friend 
Miss Oelia Amelia. You would laugh to see how his eyes sparkle with 
delight when he looks at it, like a pretty child pleased with a new play- 
thing. Good-bye to you ; let me have no more of your humbug about 
Cupid, &c. You know as well as I do it is all groundless trash.' 



1840 LETTER TO A FRIEND 199 

' June 2, 1840. 
' Mary is not yet come to Haworth ; bat she is to come 
on the condition that I first go and stay a few days 
there. If all be well I shall go next Wednesday. I may 
stay at Gomersal until Friday or Saturday, and the early 
part of the following week I shall pass with you, if you 
will have me — which last sentence indeed is nonsense, for 
as I shall be glad to see you, so I know you will be glad to 
see me. This arrangement will not allow much time, but 
it is the only practicable one which, considering all the cir- 
cumstances, I can effect. Do not urge me to stay more 
than two or three days, because I shall be obliged to refuse 
you. I intend to walk to Keighley, there to take the coach 
as far as B(irstall), then to get some one to carry my box, 
and to walk the rest of the way to G-(oniersal). If I man- 
age this I think I shall contrive very well. I shall reach 
B(irstall) by about five o'clock, and then I shall have the 
cool of the evening for the walk. I have communicated 
the whole arrangement to Mary. I desire exceedingly to 
see both her and you. Good-bye. 

<C. B. 
'C. B. 
'C. B. 

'C. B. 

' If you have any better plan to suggest I am open to 
conviction, provided your plan is practicable.' 

'August 20, 1840. 
'Have you seen anything of Miss H. lately? 1 I wish 
they, or somebody else, would get me a situation. I have 

1 In the original letter ' Miss H.' reads as ' the Miss Woolers.' This 
letter opened as follows ; Mrs. Gaskell printed only its concluding 
sentences : — 

' Dear Miss Ellen, — I was very well pleased with your capital long 
letter. A better farce than the whole affair of that letter-opening 
(ducks and Mr. Weightman included) was never imagined.* By-the- 

* Referring to a present of birds which the curate had sent to Miss 
Nussey. 



200 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

answered advertisements without number, but my applica- 
tions have met with no success. 

'I have got another bale of French books from Gomersal, 
containing upwards of forty volumes. I have read about 
half. They are like the rest, clever, sophistical, and im- 
moral. The best of it is, they give one a thorough idea of 
France and Paris, and are the best substitute for French 
conversation that I have met with. 

' I positively have nothing more to say to you, for I am 
in a stupid humour. You must excuse this letter not being 
quite as long as your own. I have written to you soon, that 
you might not look after the postman in vain. Preserve 
this writing as a curiosity in caligraphy — I think it is ex- 
quisite — all brilliant black blots and utterly illegible letters. 

' Calibas-.' 

' " The wind bloweth where it listeth. Thou hearest the 
sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor 
whither it goeth." That, I believe, is Scripture, though in 

bye, speaking of Mr. W., I told you he was gone to pass his exami- 
nation at Ripon six weeks ago. He is not come back yet, and what 
has become of him we don't know. Branwell has received one letter 
since he went, speaking rapturously of Agnes Walton, describing cer- 
tain balls at which he had figured, and announcing that he had been 
twice over head and ears desperately in love. It is my devout belief 
that his reverence left Haworth with the fixed intention of never return- 
ing. If he does return, it will be because he has not been able to get a 
"living." Haworth is not the place for him. He requires novelty, a 
change of faces, difficulties to be overcome. He pleases so easily that 
he soon gets weary of pleasing at all. He ought not to have been a 
parson ; certainly he ought not. I told Branwell all you said in your 
last. He said little, but laughed. I am glad you have not broken 
your heart because John Branwell is married. Our august relations, 
as you choose to call them, are gone back to London. They never 
stayed with us, they only spent one day at our house. Have you seen 
anything of the Miss Woolers lately ? I wish they, or somebody else, 
would get me a situation. I have answered advertisements without 
number, but my applications have met with no success.' 

The reference to John Branwell and 'august relations' is to a brief 
visit of some of the Penzance cousins at this time. 



1840 LETTER TO A FRIEND 201 

what chapter or book, or whether it be correctly quoted, I 
can't possibly say. However, it behoves me to write a letter 
to a young woman of the name of Ellen, with whom I was 
once acquainted, " in life's morning march, when my spirit 
was young." This young woman wished me to write to her 
some time since, though I have nothing to say — I e'en put 
it off, day by day, till at last, fearing that she will "curse 
me by her gods," I feel constrained to sit down and tack a 
few lines together, which she may call a letter or not as she 
pleases. Now if the young woman expects sense in this 
production she will find herself miserably disappointed. I 
shall dress her a dish of salmagundi — I shall cook a hash — 
compound a stew — toss up an omelette soufflSe a la fratifaise, 
and send it her with my respects. The wind, which is very 
high up in our hills of Judea, though, I suppose, down in 
the Philistine flats of Birstall parish it is nothing to speak 
of, has produced the same effects on the contents of my 
knowledge box that a quaigh of usquebaugh does upon those 
of most other bipeds. I see everything couleur de rose, and 
am strongly inclined to dance a jig, if I knew how. I think 
I must partake of the nature of a pig or an ass — both which 
animals are strongly affected by a high wind. From what 
quarter the wind blows I cannot tell, for I never could in 
my life; but I should very much like to know how the 
great brewing-tub of Bridlington Bay works, and what sort 
of yeasty froth rises just now on the waves. 

'A woman of the name of Mrs. B., 1 it seems, wants a 
teacher. I wish she would have me ; and I have written 
to Miss Wooler to tell her so. Verily, it is a delightful 
thing to live here at home, at full liberty to do just what 
one pleases. But I recollect some scrubby old fable about 

1 Mrs. Thomas Brooke. Those who knew her declared that Mrs. 
Brooke would have proved the kindest of friends to the sensitive 
governess. She was the mother of Mr. William Brooke, of Northgate 
House, Huddersfield. ' At Northgate House,' writes the Rev. T. W. 
Bardsley, Vicar of Huddersfield, in a paper read before the Bronte 
Society, ' Charlotte Bronte would have found a congenial home.' 



202 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

grasshoppers and ants, by a scrubby old knave yclept iEsop; 
the grasshoppers sang all the summer and starved all the 
winter. 

'A distant relation of mine, one Patrick Branwell, 1 has 
set off to seek his fortune in the wild, wandering, adventu- 
rous, romantic, knight-errant-like capacity of clerk on the 
Leeds and Manchester Railroad." Leeds and Manchester — 
where are they ? Cities in the wilderness, like Tadmor, 
alias Palmyra — are they not ? 

' There is one little trait respecting Mr. W(eightman), s 
which lately came to my knowledge, which gives a glimpse 

1 ' One Patrick Boanerges ' in original letter. 

' Branwell had been tutor in the family of a Mr. Postlethwaite, of 
Broughton-in-Furness, from January to June 1840. He obtained his 
situation as clerk-in-charge at Sowerby Bridge on October 1, 1840, just 
before the opening of the line from Hebden Bridge to Normanton. He 
was here some months, being transferred in 1841 to Luddenden Foot, a 
place about a mile further up the valley. He was there for twelve 
months. (Leyland's Bronte Family.) 

3 The following passages are omitted by Mrs. Gaskell : — 

' I know Mrs. Ellen is burning with eagerness to hear something 
about William Weightman. 1 think I'll plague her by not telling her 
a word. To speak heaven's truth, I have precious little to say, inas- 
much as I seldom see him, except on a Sunday, when he looks as 
handsome, cheery, and good-tempered as usual. I have indeed had 
th£ advantage of one long conversation since his return from West- 
moreland, when he poured out his whole warm, fickle soul in fond- 
ness and admiration of Agnes Walton. Whether he is in love with 
her or not I can't say ; I can only observe that it sounds very like it. 
He sent us a prodigious quantity of game while he was away — a 
brace of wild ducks, a brace of black grouse, a brace of partridges, 
ditto of snipes, ditto of curlews, and a large salmon. If you were to 
ask Mr. Weightman's opinion of my character just now, he would 
say that at first he thought me a cheerful, chatty kind of body, but 
that on further acquaintance he found me of a capricious, changeful 
temper, never to be reckoned on. He does not know that I have reg- 
ulated my manner by his — that I was cheerful and chatty so long 
as he was respectful, and that when he -grew almost contemptuously 
familiar I found it necessary to adopt a degree of reserve which was 
not natural and therefore painful to me. I find this reserve verj' con- 
venient, and consequently I intend to keep it up.' 



1840 LETTER TO A FRIEND 203 

of the better side of his character. Last Saturday night 
he had been sitting an hour in the parlour with papa ; and, 
as he went away, I heard papa say to him, " What is the 
matter with yon ? You seem in very low spirits to-night." 
" Oh, I don't know. I've been to see a poor young girl, 
who, I'm afraid, is dying." "Indeed ! what is her name ?" 
" Susan B(land), the daughter of John B(land), the super- 
intendent." Now Susan B(land) is my oldest and best 
scholar in the Sunday school; and, when I heard that, I 
thought I would go as soon as I could to see her. I did 
go on Monday afternoon, and found her on her way to 
that " bourn whence no traveller returns." After sitting 
with her some time, I happened to ask her mother if she 
thought a little port wine would do her good. She replied 
that the doctor had recommended it, and that when Mr. 
W(eightman) was last there he had brought them a bottle 
of wine and a jar of preserves. She added, that he was 
always goodnatured to poor folks, and seemed to have a 
deal of feeling and kind-heartedness about him. No 
doubt there are defects in his character, but there are also 
good qualities. . . . God bless him ! I wonder who, with 
his advantages, would be without his faults. I know 
many of his faulty actions, many of his weak points ; yet, 
where I am, he shall always find rather a defender than an 
accuser. To be sure my opinion will go but a very little 
way to decide his character ; what of that ? People should 
do right as far as their ability extends. Yon are not to 
suppose, from all this, that Mr. W(eightman) and I are on 
very amiable terms ; we are not at all. We are distant, 
cold, and reserved. We seldom speak ; and when we do, 
it is only to exchange the most trivial and commonplace 
remarks.' 

The Mrs. B(rooke) alluded to in this letter, as in want 
of a governess, entered into a correspondence with Miss 
Bronte, and expressed herself much pleased with the let- 
ters she received from her, with the 'style and candour of 



204 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

the application,' in which Charlotte had taken care to tell 
her, that if she wanted a showy, elegant, or fashionable 
person, her correspondent was not fitted for such a situa- 
tion. But Mrs. B(rooke) required her governess to give 
instructions in music and singing, for which Charlotte 
was not qualified ; and, accordingly, the negotiation fell 
through. But Miss Bronte was not one to sit down in 
despair after disappointment. Much as she disliked the 
life of a private governess, it was her duty to relieve her 
father of the burden of her support, and this was the only 
way open to her. So she set to advertising and inquiring 
with fresh vigour. 

In the meantime a little occurrence took place, described 
in one of her letters, which I shall give, as it shows her 
instinctive aversion to a particular class of men, whose 
vices some have supposed she looked upon with indulgence. 
The extract tells all that need be known, for the purpose 
I have in view, of the miserable pair to whom it relates. 1 

1 This letter opens as follows : — 

'November 12, 1840. 

' My dear Nell, — You will excuse this scrawled sheet of paper, in- 
asmuch as I happen to be out of that article, this being the only 
available sheet I can find in my desk. I have effaced one of the de- 
lectable portraitures, but have spared the others — lead-pencil sketches 
of horse's head, .and man's head — being moved to that act of clemency 
by the recollection that they are not the work of my hand, but of the 
sacred fingers of his reverence William Weightman. You will dis- 
cern that the eye is a little too elevated in the horse's head, otherwise 
I can assure you it is no such bad attempt. It shows taste and some- 
thing of an artist's eye. The fellow had no copy for it. He sketched 
it, and one or two other little things, when he happened to be here 
one evening, but you should have seen the vanity with which he after- 
wards regarded his productions. One of them represented the flying 
figure of Fame inscribing his own name on the clouds. 

' Mrs. Brooke and I have interchanged letters. She expressed her- 
self pleased with the style of my application — with its candour, &c. (I 
took care to tell her that if she wanted a showy, elegant, fashionable 
personage, I was not the man for her), but she wants music and sing- 
ing. I can't give her music and singing, so of course the negotiation 
is null and void. Being once up, however, I don't mean to sit down 



1840 A CASE OF MORAL UGLINESS 205 

'You remember Mr. and Mrs. ? Mrs. came 

here the other day, with a most melancholy tale of her 
wretched "husband's drunken, extravagant, profligate hab- 
its. She asked papa's advice ; there was nothing, she said, 
but ruin before them. They owed debts which they could. 

never pay. She expected Mr. 's instant dismissal 

from his curacy ; she knew, from bitter experience, that 
his vices were utterly hopeless. He treated her and her 
child savagely ; with much more to the same effect. Papa 
advised her to leave him for ever, and go home, if she had 
a home to go to. She said this was what she had long re- 
solved to do ; and she would leave him directly, as soon as 
Mr. B. dismissed him. She expressed great disgust and 
contempt towards him, and did not affect to have the 
shadow of regard in any way. I do not wonder at this, but 
I do wonder she should ever marry a man towards whom 
her feelings must always have been pretty much the same 
as they are now. I am morally certain no decent woman 
could experience anything but aversion towards such a man 

as Mr. . Before I knew or suspected his character, 

and when I rather wondered at his versatile talents, I felt 
it in an uncontrollable degree. I hated to talk with him 
— hated to look at him ; though, as I was not certain that 
there was substantial reason for such a dislike, and thought 
it absurd to trust to mere instinct, I both concealed and 
repressed the feeling as much as I could ; and, on all occa- 
sions, treated him with as much civility as I was mistress 
of. I was struck with Mary's expression of a similar feel- 
ing at first sight ; she said, when we left him, " That is a 
hideous man, Charlotte !" I thought, "He is indeed.'" 

till I have got what I want ; but there is no sense in talking about 
unfinished projects, so we'll drop the subject. Consider this last 
sentence a hint from me to be applied practically. It seems Miss 
Eliza Wooler's school is in a consumptive state of health. I have 
been endeavouring to obtain a reinforcement of pupils for her, but I 
cannot succeed, because Mrs. Heap is opening a new school in Brad- 
ford.' 



CHAPTEK X 

Eaely in March 1841 Miss Bronte obtained her second 
and last situation as a governess. 1 This time she esteemed 
herself fortunate in becoming a member of a kind-hearted 
and friendly household. The master of it she especially 
regarded as a valuable friend, whose advice helped to guide 
her in one very important step of her life. But as her 
^definite acquirements were few, she had to eke them out 
by employing her leisure time in needlework ; and alto- 
gether her position was that of ' bonne,' or nursery gov- 
erness, liable to repeated and never-ending calls upon her 
time. This description of uncertain yet perpetual employ- 
ment, subject to the exercise of another person's will at all 
hours of the day, was peculiarly trying to one whose life at 
home had been full of abundant leisure. Idle she never 
was in any place, but of the multitude of small talks, 
plans, duties, pleasures, &c, that make up most people's 
days her home life was nearly destitute. This made it 

1 With Mr. and Mrs. White at Upperwood House, Rawdon, Yorks, 
whence many of Miss Bronte's letters were written. In one of them 
she writes : — 

' This place looks exquisitely beautiful just now. The grounds are 
certainly lovely, and all is as green as an emerald. I wish you would 
just come and look at it. Mrs. White would be as proud as Punch to 
show it you. Mr. White has been writing an urgent invitation to 
papa, entreating him to come and spend a week here. I don't at all 
wish papa to come ; it would be like incurring an obligation. Some- 
how I have managed to get a good deal more control over the chil- 
dren lately; this makes my life a good deal easier. Also, by dint of 
nursing the fat baby, it has got to know me and be fond of me. I 
suspect myself of growing rather fond of it. Exertion of any kind is 
always beneficial.' 



1841 NEW EXPERIENCES AS A GOVERNESS 307 

possible for her to go through long and deep histories of 
feeling and imagination, for which others, odd as it 
sounds, have rarely time. This made it inevitable that — 
later on, in her too short career — the intensity of her feel- 
ing should wear out her physical health. The habit of 
' making out,' which had grown with her growth, and 
strengthened with her strength, had become a part of her 
nature. Yet all exercise of her strongest and most char- 
acteristic faculties was now out of the question. She could 
not (as while she was at Miss Wooler's) feel, amidst the 
occupations of the day, that when evening came she might 
employ herself in more congenial ways. No doubt all who 
enter upon the career of a governess have to relinquish 
much; no doubt it must ever be a life of sacrifice; but to 
Charlotte Bronte it was a perpetual attempt to force all her 
faculties into a direction for which the whole of her previous 
life had unfitted them. Moreover the little Brontes had 
been brought up motherless ; and from knowing nothing of 
the gaiety and the sportiveness of childhood — from never 
having experienced caresses or fond attentions themselves 
— they were ignorant of the very nature of infancy, or how 
to call out its engaging qualities. Children were to them 
the troublesome necessities of humanity ; they had never 
been drawn into contact with them in any other way. 
Years afterwards, when Miss Bronte came to stay with us, 
she watched our little girls perpetually ; and I could not 
persuade her that they were only average specimens of well- 
brought-up children. She was surprised and touched by 
any sign of thoughtf ulness for others, of kindness to animals, 
or of unselfishness on their part ; and constantly maintained 
that she was in the right, and I in the wrong, when we dif- 
fered on the point of their unusual excellence. All this must 
be borne in mind while reading the following letters. And 
it must likewise be borne in mind— by those who, surviving 
her, look back upon her life from their mount of observation 
— how no distaste, no suffering ever made her shrink from 
any course which she believed it to be her duty to engage in. 



208 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' March 3, 1841. 
' I told you some time since that I meant to get a situa- 
tion, and when I said so my resolution was quite fixed. I 
felt that, however often I was disappointed, I had no in- 
tention of relinquishing my efforts. After being severely 
baffled two or three times — after a world of trouble, in the 
way of correspondence and interviews — I have at length 
succeeded, and am fairly established in my new place. 

' The house is not very large, but exceedingly comfort- 
able and well regulated ; the grounds are fine and exten- 
sive. In taking the place I have made a large sacrifice in 
the way of salary, in the hope of securing comfort — by 
which word I do not mean to express good eating and 
drinking, or warm fire, or a soft bed, but the society of 
cheerful faces, and minds and hearts not dug out of a 
lead mine, or cut from a marble quarry. My salary is not 
really more than 16?. per annum, though it is nominally 
%0l., but the expense of washing will be deducted, there- 
from. My pupils are two in number, a girl of eight and 
a boy of six. As to my employers, you will not expect me 
to say much about their characters when I tell you that 
I only arrived here yesterday. I have not the faculty of 
telling an individual's disposition at first sight. Before I 
can venture to pronounce on a character I must see it first 
under various lights and from various points of view. All 
I can say, therefore, is, both Mr. and Mrs (White) seem to 
me good sort of people. I have as yet had no cause to 
complain of want of considerateness or civility. My pupils 
are wild and unbroken, but apparently well disposed. I 
wish I may be able to say as much next time I write to 
you. My earnest wish and endeavour will be to please 
them. If I can but feel that I am giving satisfaction, and 
if at the same time I can keep my health, I shall, I hope, 
be moderately happy. But no one but myself can tell how 
hard a governess's work is to me — for no one but myself is 
aware how utterly averse my whole mind and nature are to 



1841 NEW EXPERIENCES AS A GOVERNESS 209 

the employment. Do not think that I fail to blame my- 
self for this, or that I leave any means unemployed to con- 
quer this feeling. Some of my greatest difficulties lie in 
things that would appear to you comparatively trivial. 
I find it so hard to repel the rude familiarity of children. 
I find it so difficult to ask either servants or mistress for 
anything I want, however much I want it. It is less pain 
for me to endure the greatest inconvenience than to go into 
the kitchen to request its removal. I am a fool. Heaven 
knows I cannot help it ! 

'Now can you tell me whether it is considered improper 
for governesses to ask their friends to come and see them ? 
I do not mean, of course, to stay, but just for a call of an 
hour or two. If it is not absolutely treason, I do fervently 
request that you will contrive, in some way or other, to let 
me have a sight of your face. Yet I feel, at the same time, 
that I am making a very foolish and almost impracticable 
demand ; yet this is only four miles from Birstall !' ' 

'March 21. 
'You must excuse a very short answer to your most 
welcome letter ; for my time is entirely occupied. Mrs. 
(White) expected a good deal of sewing from me. I can- 
not sew much during the day, on account of the children, 
who require the utmost attention. I am obliged, there- 
fore, to devote the evenings to this business. Write to me 
often ; very long letters. It will do both of us good. This 
place is far better than Swarcliffe, but G-od knows I have 
enough to do to keep a good heart in the matter. What 
you said has cheered me a little. I wish I could always 
act according to your advice. Home-sickness affects me 
sorely. I like Mr. (White) extremely. The children are 
over-indulged, and consequently hard at times to man- 
age. Do, do, do come and see me ; if it be a breach of eti- 
quette, never mind. If you can only stop an hour, come. 

1 This was a mistake. Birstall is ten miles from Rawdon. 



210 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Talk no more about my forsaking you ; my darling, I 
could not afford to do it. I find it is not in my nature to 
get on in this weary world without sympathy and attach- 
ment in some quarter ; and seldom indeed do we find it. 
It is too great a treasure to be ever wantonly thrown away 
when once secured.' 

Miss Bronte had not been many weeks in her new situa- 
tion before she had a proof of the kind-hearted hospitality 
of her employers. Mr. (White) wrote to her father, and 
urgently invited him to come and make acquaintance with 
his daughter's new home, by spending a week with her in 
it; and Mrs. (White) expressed great regret when one of 
-Miss Bronte's friends drove up to the house to leave a let- 
ter or parcel, without entering. So she found that all her 
friends might freely visit her, and that her father would be 
received with especial gladness. She thankfully acknowl- 
edged this kindness in writing to urge her friend afresh to 
come and see her, which she accordingly did. 

'June, 1841. 

'You can hardly fancy it possible, I dare say, that I 
cannot find a quarter of an hour to scribble a note in ; but 
so it is; and when a note is written, it has to be carried a 
mile to the post, and that consumes nearly an hour, which 
is a large portion of the day. Mr. and Mrs. (White) have 
been gone a week. I heard from them this morning. No 
time is fixed for their return, but I hope it will not be de- 
layed long, or I shall miss the chance of seeing Anne this 
vacation. She came home, I understand, last Wednesday, 
and is only to be allowed three weeks' vacation, because 
the family she is with are going to Scarborough. I should 
like to see her, to judge for myself of the state of her health. 
I dare not trust any other person's report ; no one seems 
minute enough in their observations. I should very much 
have liked you to have seen her. I have got on very well 
with the servants and children so far ; yet it is dreary, 
solitary work. You can tell as well as me the lonely feel- 
ing of being without a companion.' 



1841 KIND EMPLOYERS 211 

Soon after this was written Mr. and Mrs. (White) re- 
turned, in time to allow Charlotte to go and look after 
Anne's health, which, as she found to her intense anxiety, 
was far from strong. What could she do to nurse and 
cherish up this little sister, the youngest of them all ? 
Apprehension about her brought up once more the idea 
of keeping a school. If, by this means, they three could 
live together, and maintain themselves, all might go well. 
They would have some time of their own, in which to try 
again and yet again at that literary career which, in spite 
of all baffling difficulties, was never quite set aside as an 
ultimate object: but far the strongest motive with Char- 
lotte was the conviction that Anne's health was so delicate 
that it required a degree of tending which none but her sis- 
ter could give. Thus she wrote during thoBe midsummer 
holidays : — 

'Ha worth: July 18, 1841. 

' We waited long and anxiously for you on the Thursday 
that you promised to come. I quite wearied my eyes with 
watching from the window, eye-glass in hand, and some- 
times spectacles on nose. However, you are not to blame 
. . . and as to disappointment, why, all must suffer disap- 
pointment at some period or other of their lives. But a 
hundred things I had to say to you will now be forgotten, 
and never said. There is a project hatching in this house, 
which both Emily and I anxiously wished to discuss with 
you. The project is yet in its infancy, hardly peeping from 
its shell ; and whether it will ever come out a full-fledged 
chicken, or will turn addle and die before it cheeps, is one of 
those considerations that are but dimly revealed by the 
oracles of futurity. Now, don't be nonplussed by all this 
metaphorical mystery. I talk of a plain and everyday oc- 
currence, though, in Delphic style, I wrap up the informa- 
tion in figures of speech concerning eggs, chickens, etcsetera, 
etcaeterornm. To come to the point : papa and aunt talk, by 
fits and starts, of our — id est, Emily, Anne, and myself — • 
commencing a school! I have often, you know, said how 



2VZ LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

much I wished such a thing; but I never could conceive 
where the capital was to come from for making such a specu- 
lation. I was well aware, indeed, that aunt had money, but 
I always considered that she was the last person who would 
offer a loan for the purpose in question. A loan, however, 
she has offered, or rather intimates that she perhaps will 
offer in case pupils can be secured, an eligible situation ob- 
tained, &c. This sounds very fair, but still there are matters 
to be considered which throw something of a damp upon 
the scheme. I do not expect that aunt will sink more than 
150?. in such a venture ; and would it be possible to estab- 
lish a respectable (not by any means a showy) school, and 
to commence housekeeping with a capital of only that 
amount ? Propound the question to your sister, if you 
think she can answer it ; if not, don't say a word on the 
subject. As to getting into debt, that is a thing we could 
none of us reconcile our mind to for a moment. We do 
not care how modest, how humble our commencement be, 
so it be made on sure grounds, and have a safe foundation. 
In thinking of all possible and impossible places where we 
could establish a school, I have thought of Burlington, or 
rather of the neighbourhood of Burlington. Do you re- 
member whether there was any other school there besides 

that of Miss ? This is, of course, a perfectly crude 

and random idea. There are a hundred reasons why it 
should be an impracticable one. "We have no connections, 
no acquaintances there ; it is far from home, &c. Still, I 
fancy the ground in the East Riding is less fully occupied 
than in the West. Much inquiry and consideration will be 
necessary, of course, before any place is decided on ; and I 
fear much time will elapse before any plan is executed. . . . 
Write as soon as you can. I shall not leave my present 
situation till my future prospects assume a more fixed and 
definite aspect." 
A fortnight afterwards we see that the seed has been 

1 In certain fragments of a diary kept by Emily and Anne we find 



1841 PROJECT OP A SCHOOL 213 

sown which was to grow up into a plan materially influ- 
encing her future life. 

'August 7, 1841. 
' This is Saturday evening ; I have put the children to 
bed ; now I am going to sit down and answer your letter. I 

the following memoranda written at this time — on Emily's birthday, 
July 30, 1841. Emily writes :— 

' It is Friday evening, near 9 o'clock — wild, rainy weather. I am 
seated in the dining-room, having just concluded tidying our desk 
boxes, writing this document. Papa is in the parlour — aunt upstairs 
in her room. She has been reading Blackwood's Magazine to papa. 
Victoria and Adelaide are ensconced in the peat-house. Keeper is in 
the kitchen — Hero in his cage. We are all stout and hearty, as I hope 
is the case with Charlotte, Branwell, and Anne, of whom the first is 
at John White, Esq., Upperwood House, Rawdon ; the second is at 
Luddenden Foot ; and the third is, I believe, at Scarborough, indit- 
ing perhaps a paper corresponding to this. 

' A scheme is at present in agitation for setting us up in a school of 
our own ; as yet nothing is determined, but I hope and trust it may 
go on and prosper and answer our highest expectations. This day 
four years I wonder whether we shall still be dragging on in our pres- 
ent condition or established to our hearts' content. Time will show. 

' I guess that at the time appointed for the opening of this paper we 
— i.e. Charlotte, Anne, and I — shall be all merrily sealed in our own 
sitting-room in some pleasant and flourishing seminary, having just 
gathered in for the midsummer Ladyday. Our debts will be paid off, 
and we shall have cash in hand to a considerable amount. Papa, 
aunt, and Branwell will either have been or be coming to visit us. It 
will be a fine warm summer evening, very different from this bleak 
look-out, and Anne and I will perchance slip out into the garden for 
a few minutes to peruse our papers. I hope either this or something 
better will be the case.' 

Anne writes : — 

'July 30, a.d. 1841. This is Emily's birthday. She has now com- 
pleted her twenty-third year, and is, I believe, at home. Charlotte is 
a governess in the family of Mr. White. Branwell is a clerk in the 
railroad station at Luddenden Foot, and I am a governess in the fam- 
ily of Mr. Robinson. I dislike the situation and wish to change it for 
another. I am now at Scarborough. My pupils are gone to bed, and 
I am hastening to finish this before I follow them. 

' We are thinking of setting up a school of our own, but nothing 
definite is settled about it yet, and we do not know whether we shall 



214 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

am again by myself — housekeeper and governess — for Mr. 
and Mrs. (White) are staying near Tadcaster. To speak 
truth, though I am solitary while they are away, it is still 
by far the happiest part of my time. The children are un- 
der decent control, the servants are very observant and at- 
tentive to me, and the occasional absence of the master and 
mistress relieves me from the duty of always endeavouring 
to seem cheerful and conversable. Martha (Taylor), it ap- 
pears, is in the way of enjoying great advantage ; so is 
Mary, for you will be surprised to hear that she is return- 
ing immediately to the Continent with her brother ; not, 
however, to stay there, but to take a month's tour and 
recreation. I have had a long letter from Mary, and a 

be able to or not. I hope we shall. And I wonder what will be our 
condition and how or where we shall all be on this day four years 
hence ; at which time, if all be well, I shall be twenty-five years and 
six months old, Emily will be twenty -seven years old, Bran well 
twenty-eight years and one month, and Charlotte twenty-nine years 
and a quarter. We are now all separate and not likely to meet again 
for many a weary week, but we are none of us ill that I know of and 
all are doing something for our own livelihood except Emily, who, 
however, is as busy as any of us, and in reality earns her food and 
raiment as much as we do. 

How little know we what we are, 
How less what we may be I 

' Four years ago I was at school. Since then I have been a govern- 
ess at Blake Hall, left it, come to Thorp Green, and seen the sea and 
York Minster. Emily has been a teacher at Miss Patchett's school, 
and left it. Charlotte has left Miss "Wooler's, been a governess at Mrs. 
Sidgwick's, left her, and gone to Mrs. "White's. Branwell has given 
up painting, been a tutor in Cumberland, left it, and become a clerk on 
the railroad. Tabby has left us, Martha Brown has come in her place. 
We have got Keeper, got a sweet little cat and lost it, and also got a 
hawk. Got a wild goose, which has flown away, and three tame ones, 
one of which has been killed. All these diversities, with many others, 
are things we did not expect or foresee in the July of 1837. What 
will the next four years bring forth. Providence only knows. But 
we ourselves have sustained very little alteration since that time. I 
have the same faults that I had then, only I have more wisdom and 
experience, and a little more self-possession than I then enjoyed.' 



1841 MARY TAYLOR AT BRUSSELS 215 

packet containing a present of a very handsome black silk 
scarf, and a pair of beantif ul kid gloves, bought at Brus- 
sels. Of course I was in one sense pleased with the gift 
— pleased that they should think of me so far off, amidst 
the excitements of one of the most splendid capitals of 
Europe; and yet it felt irksome to -accept it. I should 
think Mary and Martha have not more than sufficient 
pocket-money to supply themselves. I wish they had tes- 
tified their regard by a less expensive token. Mary's let- 
ters spoke of some of the pictures and cathedrals she had 
seen — pictures the most exquisite, cathedrals the most 
venerable. I hardly know what swelled to my throat as I 
read her letter : such a vehement impatience of restraint 
and steady work ; such a strong wish for wings — wings 
such as wealth can furnish ; such an urgent 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. 
My dear, I would hardly make that confession to any one 
but yourself ; and to you, rather in a letter than viva voce. 
These rebellious and absurd emotions were only momen- 
tary ; I quelled them in five minutes. I hope they will 
not revive, for they were acutely painful. No further 
steps have been taken about the project I mentioned to 
you, nor probably will be for the present ; but Emily, and 
Anne, and I keep it in view. It is our pole star, and we 
look to it in all circumstances of despondency. I begin 
to suspect I am writing 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 some- 
times is a conviction 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 peo- 
ple's houses — the estrangement from one's real character 
— the adoption of a cold, rigid, apathetic exterior, that is 
painful. . . . You will not mention our school project 



216 LIFE OP CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

at present. A project not actually commenced is always 
uncertain. Write to me often, my dear Nell ; you know 
your letters are valued. Your "loving child" (as you 
choose to call me so), C. B. 

' P.S. — I am well in health ; don't fancy I am not ; bat 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." ' 

She could bear much for herself ; but she could not pa- 
tiently bear the sorrows of others, especially of her sisters ; 
and again, of the two sisters, the idea of the little, gentle, 
youngest suffering in lonely patience was insupportable to 
her. Something must be done. No matter if the desired 
end were far away ; all time was lost in which she was not 
making progress, however slow, towards it. To have a 
school was to have some portion of daily leisure, uncon- 
trolled but by her own sense of duty ; it was for the three 
sisters, loving each other with so passionate an affection, to 
be together under one roof, and yet earning their own sub- 
sistence ; above all, it was to have the power of watching 
over those two whose life and happiness were ever to Char- 
lotte far more than her own. Bat no trembling impatience 
should lead her to take an unwise step in haste. She in- 
quired in every direction she could as to the chances which 
a new school might have of success. In all there seemed 
more establishments like the one which the sisters wished 
to set up than could be supported. What was to be done ? 
Superior advantages must be offered. But how ? They 
themselves abounded in thought, power, and information ; 



1841 HER IDEA OF GOING TO BRUSSELS 217 

but these are qualifications scarcely fit to be inserted in a 
prospectus. Of French they knew something : enough to 
read it fluently, but hardly enough to teach it in compe- 
tition with natives or professional masters. Emily and 
Anne had some knowledge of music ; but here again it was 
doubtful whether, without more instruction, they could en- 
gage to give lessons in it. 

Just about this time Miss Wooler was thinking of relin- 
quishing her school at Dewsbury Moor, and offered to give 
it up in favour of her old pupils the Brontes. A sister of 
hers had taken the active management since the time when 
Charlotte was a teacher ; but the number of pupils had di- 
minished ; and, if the Brontes undertook it, they would 
have to try and work it up to its former state of prosperity. 
This, again, would require advantages on their part which 
they did not at present possess, but which Charlotte caught 
a glimpse of. She resolved to follow the clue, and never to 
rest till she had reached a successful issue. With the forced 
calm of a suppressed eagerness, that sends a glow of desire 
through every word of the following letter, she wrote to her 
aunt thus :— 

' September 29, 1841. 

' Dear Aunt,— I have heard nothing of Miss Wooler yet 
since I wrote to her, intimating that I would accept her 
offer. I cannot conjecture the reason of this long silence, 
unless some unforeseen impediment has occurred in con- 
cluding the bargain. Meantime a plan has been suggested 
and approved by Mr. and Mrs. (White)' (the father and 
mother of her pupils) 'and others, which I wish now to 
impart to you. My friends recommend me, if I desire to 
secure permanent success, to delay commencing the school 
for six months longer, and by all means to contrive, by 
hook or by crook, to spend the intervening time in some 
school on the Continent. They say schools in England are 
so numerous, competition so great, that without some such 
step towards attaining superiority we shall probably have a 
very hard struggle, and may fail in the end. They say, 



218 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

moreover, that the loan of 100Z., which you have been so 
kind as to offer us, will, perhaps, not be. all required now, 
as Miss Wooler will lend us the furniture ; and that, if the 
speculation is intended to be a good and successful one, 
half the sum, at least, ought to be laid out in the manner 
I have mentioned, thereby insuring a more speedy repay- 
ment both of interest and principal. 

'I would not go to France or to Paris. I would go* to 
Brussels, in Belgium. The cost of the journey there, at the 
dearest rate of travelling, would be bl. ; living is there lit- 
tle more than half as dear as it is in England, and the fa- 
cilities for, education are equal or superior to any other place 
in Europe. In half a year I could acquire a thorough fa- 
miliarity with French. I could improve greatly in Italian, 
and even get a dash of German, i.e. providing my health 
continued as good as it is now. Mary is now staying at 
Brussels, at a first-rate establishment there. I should not 
think of going to the Chateau de Kokleberg, where she is 
resident, as the terms are much too high ; but if I wrote to 
her, she, with the assistance of Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of 
the British Chaplain, would be able to secure me a cheap, 
decent residence and respectable protection. I should 
have the opportunity of seeing her frequently ; she would 
make me acquainted with the city; and, with the assist- 
ance of her cousins, I should probably be introduced to 
connections far more improving, polished, and cultivated 
than any I have yet known. 

'These are advantages which would turn to real account, 
when we actually commenced a school; and, if Emily could 
share them with me, we could take a footing in the world 
afterwards which we could never do now. I say Emily in- 
stead of Anne ; for Anne might take her turn at some future 
period, if our school answered. I feel certain, while I am 
writing, that you will see the propriety of what I say. You 
always like to use your money to the best advantage. You 
are not fond of making shabby purchases; when you do 
confer a favour, it is often done in style ; and depend upon 



1841 APPEAL TO MISS BRANWELL 219 

it 501, or 1001., thus laid out, would be well employed. 
Of course I know no other friend in the world to whom I 
could apply on this subject except yourself. I feel an ab- 
solute conviction that, if this advantage were allowed us, it 
would be the making of us for life. Papa will, perhaps, 
think it a wild and ambitious scheme ; but who ever rose in 
the world without ambition ? When he left Ireland to go 
to Cambridge University, he was as ambitious as I am now. 
I want us all to get on. I know we have talents, and I want 
them to be turned to account. I look to you, aunt, to help 
us. I think you will not refuse. I know, if you consent, 
it shall not be my fault if you ever repent your kindness.' 
This letter was written from the house in which she was 
residing as governess. It was some little time before an 
answer came. Much had to be talked over between the 
father and aunt in Haworth Parsonage. At last consent 
was given. Then, and not till then, she confided her plan 
to an intimate friend. She was not one to talk overmuch 
about any project, while it remained uncertain — to speak 
about her labour, in any direction, while its result was 
doubtful. 

'November 2, 1841. 

' Now let us begin to quarrel. In the first place, I must 
consider whether I will commence operations on the de- 
fensive or the offensive. The defensive, I think. You say, 
and I see plainly, that your feelings have been hurt by an 
apparent want of confidence on my part. You heard from 
others of Miss Wooler's overtures before I communicated 
them to you myself. This is true. I was deliberating on 
plans important to my future prospects. I never exchanged 
a letter with you on the subject. True again. This appears 
strange conduct to a friend, near and dear, long known, and 
never found wanting. Most true. I cannot give you my 
excuses for this behaviour; this word excuse implies confes- 
sion of a fault, and I do not feel that I have been in fault. 
The plain fact is, I was not, I am not now, certain of my 
destiny. On the contrary, I have been most uncertain, 



220 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

perplexed with contradictory schemes and proposals. My 
time, as I have often told you, is fully occupied, yet I had 
many letters to write, which it was absolutely necessary 
should be writteu. I knew it would avail nothing to write to 
you then to say I was in doubt and uncertainty — hoping this, 
fearing that, anxious, eagerly desirous to do what seemed 
impossible to be done. When I thought of you in that busy 
interval, it was to resolve that you should know all when 
my way was clear, and my grand end attained. If I could 
I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my 
efforts be known by their results. Miss Wooler did most 
kindly propose that I should come to Dewsbury Moor, and 
attempt to revive the school her sister had relinquished. 
She offered me the use of her furniture. At first I received 
the proposal cordially, and prepared to do my utmost to 
bring about success ; but a fire was kindled in my very heart, 
which I could not quench. I so longed to increase my at- 
tainments — to become something better than I am; a glimpse 
of what I felt I showed to you in one of my former^ letters — 
only a glimpse ; Mary cast oil upon the flames — encouraged 
me, and in her own strong, energetic language heartened 
me on. I longed to go to Brussels ; but how could I get 
there ? I wished for one, at least, of my sisters to share 
the advantage with me. I fixed on Emily. She deserved 
the reward, I knew. How could the point be managed ? In 
extreme excitement I wrote a letter home, which carried 
the day. I made an appeal to my aunt for assistance, which 
was answered by consent. Things are not settled ; yet it is 
sufficient to say we have a chance of going for half a year. 
Dewsbury Moor is relinquished. Perhaps fortunately so. 
In my secret soul I believe there is no cause to regret it. My 
plans for the future are bounded to this intention : if I once 
get to Brussels, and if my health is spared I will do my best to 
make the utmost of every ad vantage that shall come within my 
reach. When the half-year is expired I will do what I can. 1 

1 Here followed some advice to her friend on marriage, the latter 



1841 PLAN FOE GOING TO LILLE 221 

' Believe me, though I was born in April, the month of 
cloud and sunshine, I am not changeful. My spirits are 
unequal, and sometimes I speak vehemently, and sometimes 
I say nothing at all ; but I have a steady regard for you, and 
if you will let the cloud and shower pass by, be sure the 
sun is always behind, obscured, but still existing.' 

At Christmas she left her situation, after a parting with 
her employers which seems to have affected and touched 
her greatly. ' They only made too much of me,' was her 
remark, after leaving this family; 'I did not deserve it.' 

All four children hoped to meet together at their father's 
house this December. Branwell expected to have a short 
leave of absence from his employment as a clerk on the 
Leeds and Manchester Bailway, in which he had been en- 
gaged for five months. Anne arrived before Christmas 
Day. She had rendered herself so valuable in her difficult 
situation that her employers vehemently urged her to return, 
although she had announced her resolution to leave them ; 
partly on account of the harsh treatment she had received, 
and partly because her stay at home, during her sisters' 
absence in Belgium, seemed desirable, when the age of the 
three remaining inhabitants of the parsonage was taken 
into consideration. 

After some correspondence and much talking over plans 
at home, it seemed better, in consequence of letters which 
they received from Brussels giving a discouraging account 
of the schools there, that Charlotte and Emily should go to 
an institution at Lille, in the north of Prance, which was 
highly recommended by Baptist Noel and other clergymen. 
Indeed, at the end of January it was arranged that they 
were to set off for this place in three weeks, under the escort 
of a French lady, then visiting in London. The terms were 
50Z. each pupil, for board and French alone ; but a separate 
room was to be allowed for this sum ; without this indul- 
gence it was lower. Charlotte writes — 

having at the moment a zealous wooer. The advice concluded, ' I be- 
lieve it is better to marry to love than to marry for love.' 



222 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

'January 20, 1843. l 
' I consider it kind in aunt to consent to an extra sum for 
a separate room. We shall find it a great privilege in many 
ways. I regret the change from Brussels to Lille on many 
accounts, chiefly that I shall not see Martha. Mary has 
heen indefatigably kind in providing me with information. 
She has grudged no labour, and scarcely any expense, to 
that end. Mary's price is above rubies. I have, in fact, 
two friends — you and her — staunch and true, in whose 
faith and sincerity I have as strong a belief as I have in the 
Bible. I have bothered you both — you especially ; but you 
always get the tongs and heap coals of fire upon my head. 
I have had letters to write lately to Brussels, to Lille, and 
to London. I have lots of chemises, night-gowns, pocket- 
handkerchiefs, and pockets to make ; besides clothes to re- 
pair. I have been, every week since 1 came home, expect- 
ing to see Branwell, and he has never been able to get over 
yet. We fully expect him, however, next Saturday. Un- 
der these circumstances how can I go visiting ? You tan- 
talise me to death with talking of conversations by the fire- 
side. Depend upon it we are not to have any such for 
many a long month to come. I get an interesting impres- 
sion of old age upon my face ; and when you see me next 
I shall certainly wear caps and spectacles.' 

1 This letter to Mies Ellen Nussey opened as follows : — 
'I cannot quite enter into your friends' reasons for not permitting 
you to come to Haworth ; but, as it is at present, and in all human 
probability will be for an indefinite time to come, impossible for me to 
get to Brookroyd, the balance of accounts is not so unequal as it might 
otherwise be. We expect to leave England in less than three weeks, 
but we are not yet certain of the day, as it will depend upon the con- 
venience of a French lady now in London, Madame Marzials, under 
whose escort we are to sail. Our place of destination is changed, 
Papa received an unfavourable account from Mr. or rather Mrs. 
Jenkins of the French schools in Brussels, and on further inquiry an 
institution in Lille, in the north of France, was recommended by Bap- 
tist Noel and other clergymen, and to that place it is decided that we 
are to go. The terms are fifty pounds for each pupil for board and 
French alone.' 



CHAPTER XI 

I am not aware of all the circumstances which led to the 
relinquishment of the Lille plan. Brussels had had from the 
first a strong attraction for Charlotte ; and the idea of going 
there, in preference to any other place, had only been given 
up in consequence of the information received of the sec- 
ond-rate character of its schools. In one of her letters refer- 
ence has been made to Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the chaplain 
of the British Embassy. At the request of his brother — a 
clergyman, living not many miles from Haworth, and an 
acquaintance of Mr. Bronte's — she made much inquiry, and 
at length, after some discouragement in her search, heard 
of a school which seemed in every respect desirable. There 
was an English lady who had long lived in the Orleans 
family, amidst the various fluctuations of their fortunes, 
and who, when the Princess Louise was married to King 
Leopold, accompanied her to Brussels, in the capacity of 
reader. This lady's granddaughter was receiving her edu- 
cation at the pensionnat of Madame Heger ; and so satisfied 
was the grandmother with the kind of instruction given 
that she named the establishment, with high encomiums, 
to Mrs. Jenkins ; and, in consequence, it was decided that, 
if the terms suited, Miss Bronte and Emily should proceed 
thither. M. Heger informs me that, on receipt of a letter 
from Charlotte, making very particular inquiries as to the 
possible amount of what are usually termed ' extras,' he 
and his wife were so much struck by the simple, earnest 
tone of the letter that they said to each other, ' These are 
the daughters of, an English pastor, of moderate means, 
anxious to learn with an ulterior view of instructing others, 



224 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

and to whom the risk of additional expense is of great con- 
sequence. Let us name a specific sum, within which all 
expenses shall be included." 

This was accordingly done ; the agreement was con- 
cluded, and the Brontes prepared to leave their native 
county for the first time, if we except the melancholy and 

I The circular issued by Madame Heger ran as follows : — 

MAISON D'^DTICATION 

Pour lesjeunes Demoiselles. 

SOUS LA DIRECTION 

DE MADAME HEGER-PARENT, 
Rite d'lsabelle 3i, d Bruxellta. 

Cet etablissement est situe dans l'endroit le plus salubre de la ville. 

Le cours destruction, base sur la Religion, comprend essentielle- 
ment la Langue Francaise, l'Histoire, l'Arithmetique, la Geographie, 
l'Ecriture, ainsi que tous les ouvrages a 1'aiguille que doit connaitre 
une demoiselle bien elevee. 

La sante des elSves est l'objet d'une surveillance active ; les parents 
peuvent se. reposer avec sScurite sur les mesures qui ont ete prises a 
cet egard dans l'etablissement. 

Le prix de la pension est de 650 francs, celui de la demi-pension est 
de 350 francs, payables par quartiers et d'avance. II n'y a d'autres 
t'rais accessoires que les etrennes des domestiques. 

II n'est fait aucune deduction pour le temps que les elSves passent 
chez elles dans le courant de l'annee. Le nombi-e des el&ves etanj; 
limite, les parents qui desireraient reprendre leurs enfants sont tenus 
d'en prevenir la directrice trois mois d'avance. 

Les lemons de musique, de langues etrangfires, etc. etc., sont au 
compte des parents. 

Le costume des pensionnaires est uniforme. 

La directrice s'engage a repondre a toutes les demandes qui pour- 
raient lui Stre adressees par les parents relativement aux autres details 
de son institution. v 

OBJBTS A FOURNIE. 

Lit complet, bassin, aiguiSre et draps de lit. 
Serviettes de table. 
Une malle fermant a clef. 
TJn couvert d'argent. 
Un gobelet. 
Si les el&ves ne sont pas de Bruxelles, on leur fournira un lit garni 
moyennant 34 francs par an. 



1842 BRUSSELS 225 

memorable residence at Cowan Bridge. Mr. Bronte deter- 
mined to accompany his daughters. Mary and her brother, 
who were experienced in foreign travelling, were also of the 
party. Charlotte first saw London in the day or two they 
now stopped there ; and, from an expression in one of her 
subsequent letters, they all, I believe, stayed at the Chapter 
Coffee House, Paternoster Row — a strange, old-fashioned 
tavern, of which I shall have more to say hereafter. 

Mary's account of their journey is thus given : — 

'In passing through London she seemed to think our 
business was, and ought to be, to see all the pictures and 
statues we could. She knew the artists, and knew where 
other productions of theirs were to be found. I don't re- 
member what we saw except St. Paul's. Emily was like 
her in these habits of mind, but certainly never took her 
opinion, but always had one to offer. ... I don't know 
what Charlotte thought of Brussels. We arrived in the 
dark, and went next morning to our respective schools to 
see them. We were, of course, much preoccupied, and our 
prospects gloomy. Charlotte used to like the country round 
Brussels. "At the top of every hill you see something." 
She took long solitary walks on the occasional holidays.' 

Mr. Bronte took his daughters to the Rue d'Isabelle, 
Brussels ; remained one night at Mr. Jenkins's ; and straight 
returned to his wild Yorkshire village. 

What a contrast to that must the Belgian capital have 
presented to those two young women thus left behind ! 
Suffering acutely from every strange and unaccustomed 
contact — -far away from their beloved home and the dear 
moors beyond — their indomitable will was their great sup- 
port. Charlotte's own words, with regard to Emily, are — 

' After the age of twenty, having meantime studied alone 
with diligence and perseverance, she went with me to an 
establishment on the Continent. The same suffering and 
conflict ensued, heightened by the strong recoil of her up- 
right, heretic, and English spirit from the gentle Jesuitry of 
15 



226 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

the foreign and Romish system. Once more she seemed 
sinking, but this time she rallied through the mere force 
of resolution : with inward remorse and shame she looked 
back on her former failure, and resolved to conquer, but 
the victory cost her dear. She was never happy till she 
carried her hard-won knowledge back to the remote Eng- 
lish village, the old parsonage house, and desolate York- 
shire hills." 

They wanted learning. They came for learning. They 
would learn. Where they had a distinct purpose to be 
achieved in intercourse with their fellows they forgot 
themselves ; at all other times they were miserably shy. 
Mrs. Jenkins told me that she used to ask them to spend 
Sundays and holidays with her, until she found that they 
felt more pain than pleasure from such visits. Emily 
hardly ever uttered more than a monosyllable. Charlotte 
was sometimes exeited sufficiently to speak eloquently and 
well — on certain subjects — but, before her tongue was thus 
loosened, she had a habit of gradually wheeling round on 
her chair, so as almost to conceal her face from the person 
to whom she was speaking. 

And yet there was much in Brussels to strike a respon- 
sive chord in her powerful imagination. At length she 
was seeing somewhat of that grand old world of which she 
had dreamed. As the gay crowds passed by her so had 
gay crowds paced those streets for centuries, in all their 
varying costumes. Every spot told an historic tale, ex- 
tending back into the fabulous ages when Jan and Jan- 
nika, the aboriginal giant and giantess, looked over the 
wall, forty feet high, of what is now the Rue Villa Her- 
mosa, and peered down upon the new settlers who were to 
turn them out of the country in which they had lived 
since the Deluge. The great solemn Cathedral of St. 
Gudule, the religious paintings, the striking forms and 

1 Introduction to Selections from Poems by, Ellis Bell. 



1842 THE RUE D'ISABELLE 237 

ceremonies of the Romish Church — all made a deep im- 
pression on the girls, fresh from the bare walls and sim- 
ple worship of Haworth Church. And then they were in- 
dignant with themselves for having been susceptible of 
this impression, and their stout Protestant hearts arrayed 
themselves against the false Duessa that had thus imposed 
upon them. 

The very building they occupied as pupils, in Madame 
Heger's pensionnat, had its own ghostly train of splendid 
associations, marching for ever, in shadowy procession, 
through and through the ancient rooms and shaded alleys 
of the gardens. Prom the splendour of to-day in the Rue 
Royale, if you turn aside, near the statue of General Bel- 
iard, you look down four flights of broad stone steps upon 
the Rne d'Isabelle. The chimneys of the houses in it are 
below your feet. Opposite to the lowest flight of steps 
there is a large old mansion facing you, with a spacious 
walled garden behind — and to the right of it. In front of 
this garden, on the same side as the mansion, and with 
great boughs of trees sweeping over their lowly roofs, is a 
row of small, picturesque, old-fashioned cottages, not un- 
like, in degree and uniformity, to the almshouses so often 
seen in an English country town. The Rue dTsabelle 
looks as though it had been untouched by the innova- 
tions of the builder for the last three centuries ; and yet 
any one might drop a stone into it from the back windows 
of the grand modern hotels in the Rue Royale, built and 
furnished in the newest Parisian fashion. 1 

'The Rue d'Isabelle has been altered by the builder within the 
pust year or two (1898-9), the Pensionnat Heger having been abandoned 
and replaced by municipal school buildings. The exterior is un- 
changed ; the interior is entirely altered. I visited the house in 1897, 
and found the place a desert ; the garden, wild and overgrown, yet 
containing the very pear trees that had pleased Charlotte and her sis- 
ter. Here also were the glass corridors with vines trailing over them, 
the empty dormitories, the oratory with the crucifix removed ; not the 
slightest structural alteration had taken place since the days when 
Charlotte and Emily Bronte had been pupils ; and the same family, 



228 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

In the thirteenth century the Rue d'Isabelle was called 
the Fosse-aux-Chiens; and the kennels for the ducalhounds 
occupied the place where Madame Heger's pensionnat now 
stands. A hospital (in the ancient large meaning of the 
word) succeeded to the kennel. The houseless and the 
poor, perhaps the leprous, were received, by the brethren 
of a religious order, in a building on this sheltered site; and 
what had been a fossS for defence was filled up with herb 
gardens and orchards for upwards of a hundred years. 
Then came the aristocratic guild of the cross-bow men — that 
company the members whereof were required to prove their 
noble descent untainted for so many generations before they 
could be admitted into the guild ; and, being admitted, were 
required to swear a solemn oath that no other pastime or 
exercise should take up any part of their leisure, the whole 
of which was to be devoted to the practice of the noble art 
of shooting with the cross-bow. Once a year a grand match 
was held, under the patronage of some saint, to whose 
church steeple was affixed the bird, or semblance of a bird, 
to be hit by the victor. 1 The conqueror in the game was 
Roi des Arbalteriers for the coming year, and received a 
jewelled decoration accordingly, which he was entitled to 
wear for twelve months ; after which he restored it to the 

the daughters of Madame Heger, still engaged in school-keeping, had 
but just vacated the building at the instigation of the city author-, 
ilies. 

1 Scott describes the sport, 'Shooting at the Popinjay,' 'as an an- 
cient game formerly practised with archery, but at this period (1679) 
with firearms. This was the figure of a bird decked with particoloured 
feathers, so as to resemble a popinjay or parrot. It was suspended to 
a pole, and served for a mark at which the competitors discharged 
their fusees and carbines in rotation, at the distance of seventy paces. 
Hewhose ball brought down the mark held the proud title of Captain 
of the Popinjay for the remainder of the day, and was usually escorted 
in triumph to the most respectable change-house in the neighbour- 
hood, where the evening was closed with conviviality, conducted 
under his auspices, and, if he was able to maintain it, at his expense.' — 
Old Mortality {Note by Mrs. ffaskell). 



1843 THE 'ARBALETRIERS DU GRAND SERMENT' 229 

guild, to be again striven for. The family of him who died 
during the year that he was king were bound to present the 
decoration to the church of the patron saint of the guild, 
and to furnish a similar prize to be contended for afresh. 
These noble cross-bow men of the Middle Ages formed a 
sort of armed guard to the powers in existence, and almost 
invariably took the aristocratic in preference to the demo- 
cratic side, in the numerous civil dissensions of the Flem- 
ish towns. Hence they were protected by the authorities, 
and easily obtained favourable and sheltered sites for their 
exercise ground. And thus they came to occupy the old 
fosse, and took possession of the great orchard of the hos- 
pital, lying tranquil and sunny in the hollow below the 
rampart. 

But, in the seventeenth century, it became necessary to 
construct a street through the exercise ground of the 'Ar- 
baletriers du Grand Sentient/ and, after much delay, the 
company were induced by the beloved Infanta Isabella to 
give np the requisite plot of ground. In recompense for 
this, Isabella — who herself was a member of the guild, and 
had even shot down the bird and been queen in 1615— made 
many presents to the arbaletriers ; and, in return, the grate- 
ful city, which had long wanted a nearer road to St. Gudule, 
but been baffled by the noble archers, called the street after 
her name. She, as a sort of indemnification to the arbale- 
triers, caused a ' great mansion ' to be built for their accom- 
modation in the new Rue d'Isabelle. This mansion was 
placed in front of their exercise ground, and was of a square 
shape. On a remote part of the walls, may still be read — 

PHILLIPPO nil. HISPAN. REGE ISABELLA-CLARA-EUGENIA HISPAN. INFANS 
MAGN.fi GULD.fi REGINA GOLD.fi FRATRIBUS POSUIT. 

In that mansion were held all the splendid feasts of the 
Grand Serment des Arbaletriers. The master archer lived 
there constantly, in order to be ever at hand to render his 
services to the guild. The great saloon was also used for 
the Court balls and festivals, when the archers were not 



230 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

admitted. The Infanta caused other and smaller houses to 
be built in her new street, to serve as residences for her 
'garde noble;' and for her 'garde bourgeoise' a small 
habitation each, some of which still remain, to remind us 
of English almshouses. The ' great mansion,' with its quad- 
rangular form; the spacious saloon — once used for the 
archducal balls, where the dark, grave Spaniards mixed_ 
with the blond nobility of Brabant and Flanders — now a 
schoolroom for Belgian girls ; the cross-bow men's archery- 
ground — all are there — the pensionnat of Madame Heger. 1 
This lady was assisted in the work of instruction by her 
husband — a kindly, wise, good, and religious man — whose 
acquaintance I am glad to have made, and who has fur- 
nished me with some interesting details, from his wife's 
recollections and his own, of the two Miss Brontes during 
their residence in Brussels. He had the better opportuni- 
ties of watching them from his giving lessons in the 

1 A letter by Madame Heger which was addressed to Miss Lsetitia 
Wheelwright, one of the English pupils at the Pensionnat H§ger, will 
be read with interest: — 

'Ma chere Lsetitia, — Je me proposais de faire visite a madame 
votre maman hier matin. J'ai ete indisposee et obligee de garder la 
chambre ; aujourd'hui je suis mieux, mais ne pouvant sortir je d§slre 
au moins savoir de vos nouvelles. Comment se porte votre maman ? 
Je crains bien que les veilles, la fatigue et le chagrin n'alterent sa 
sante. Heureusement tous ses enfants sont si bons, si bien eleves, 
qu'elle trouvera dans leurs soins une compensation a la perte cruelle 
qu'elle a faite. 

'Lorsque j'irai voir vos parents je leur dirai combien j'apprecietout 
ce que la lettre de votre papa a d'obligeant. Je lui suis bien recon- 
Daissante d'avoir pensS a nous dans un moment aussi douloureux et 
qui laissera ici, comme chez vous, de longues traces. Le petit ange 
que nous pleurons merite tous nos regrets, cependant nous devons 
nous dire qu'il est a 1'abri des misfires et des chagrins que nous avons 
encore a supporter. 

' Adieu, ma chere Lsetitia ; embrassez pour moi vos petites sceura, 
et presentez a vos chers parents, que j'estime chaque jour davantage, 
ma respectueuse affection. 

'Votre devouee 

'Lundi, 21 9bre.' 'Z. Heger. 



1842 TRIBUTE TO M. HEGER 231 

French language and literature in the school. A short 
extract from a letter, written to me by a French lady resi- 
dent in Brussels, and well qualified to judge, will help to 
show the estimation in which he is held. 

' Je ne connais pas personnellement M. Heger, mais je 
sais qu'il est peu de caracteres aussi nobles, aussi admira- 
bles que le sien. II est un des membres les plus zeles de 
cette Societ6 de S. Vincent de Paul dont je t'ai-dejaparle, 
et ne se contente pas de servir les pauvres et les malades, 
mais leur consacre encore les soirees. Apr£s des journ6es 
absorbees tout entires par les devoirs que sa place lui 
impose, il reunit les pauvres, les ouvriers, leur donne des 
cours gratuits, et trouve encore le moyen de les amuser en 
les instruisant. Oe devouement te dira assez que M. Heger 
est profondement et ouvertement religieux. II a des 
manieres tranches et avenantes ; il se fait aimer de tons 
ceux qui l'approchent, et surtout des enfants. II a la 
parole facile, et possede a un haut degre l'eloquence du 
bon sens et du cceur. II n'est point auteur. Homme de 
zele et de conscience, il vient de se d6mettre des fonctions 
elevees et lucratives qu'il exercait a l'Athenee, celles de 
Prefet des Etudes, parce qu'il ne peut y realiser le bien 
qu'il avait espere, introduire l'enseignement religieux dans 
le programme des etudes. J'ai vu une fois Madame Heger, 
qui a quelque chose de froid et de compasse dans son 
maintien, et qui previent peu en sa faveur. Je la crois 
pourtant aimee et appreciee par ses eleves.' 

There were from eighty to a hundred pupils in the pen- 
sionnat when Charlotte and Emily Bronte entered it in 
February 1842. 

M. Heger's account is that they knew nothing of French. 1 

1 Charlotte Bronte had made a translation into English verse from 
Voltaire's Henriade when quite a child — in 1830 — and a simple and 
not very accurate letter in that language to her friend Ellen Nussey 
is given ante, p. 126 ; but to translate from the French, and even to 
write simple letters, is not to know the language as a professor would 



232 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

I suspect they knew as much (or as little), for all conver- 
sational purposes, as any English girls do who have never 
been abroad, and have only learnt the idioms and pronun- 
ciation from an Englishwoman. The two sisters clung 
together, and kept apart from the herd of happy, boisterous 
well befriended Belgian girls, who, in their turn, thought 
the new English pupils wild and scared - looking, with 
strange, odd, insular ideas about dress ; for Emily had 
taken a fancy to the fashion, ugly and preposterous even 
during its reign, of gigot sleeves, and persisted in wearing 
them long after they were 'gone out.' Her petticoats, too, 
had not a curve or a wave in them, but hung down straight 
and long, clinging to her lank figure. The sisters spoke 
to no one but from necessity. 1 They were too full of ear- 
nest thought, and of the exile's sick yearning, to be ready 
for careless conversation or merry game. M. Heger, who 
had done little but observe, during the first few weeks of 
their residence in the Rue dTsabelle, perceived that with 
their unusual characters, and extraordinary talents, a dif- 
ferent mode must be adopted from that in which he gen- 
erally taught Erench to English girls. He seems to have 
rated Emily's genius as something even higher than Char- 
lotte's ; and her estimation of their relative powers was the 
same. Emily had a head for logic, and a capability of 
argument, unusual in a man, and rare indeed in a woman, 
according to M. Heger. Impairing the force of this gift 
was a stubborn tenacity of will, which rendered her obtuse 
to all reasoning where her own wishes or her own sense of 
right was concerned. ' She should have been a man — a 
great navigator/ said M. Heger in speaking of her. ' Her 

define knowledge. Charlotte was probably too shy to attempt to 
speak a word. 

1 Charlotte Bronte was thoroughly insular in her attitude towards 
her Belgian schoolfellows. Her friendship with Lsetitia Wheelwright, 
one of the four English girls in the school, began when she observed 
Miss Wheelwright looking round contemptuously upon her compan- 
ions. ' It was so very English,' Miss Bronte remarked. 



1842 THE BRONTE SISTERS AT BRUSSELS 233 

powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of 
discovery from the knowledge of the old ; and her strong, 
imperious will would never have been daunted by oppo- 
sition or difficulty ; never have given way but with life.' 
And yet, moreover, her faculty of imagination was such 
that, if she had written a history, her view of scenes and 
characters would have been so vivid, and so powerfully 
expressed, and "supported by such a show of argument, 
that it would have dominated over the reader, whatever 
might have been his previous opinions or his cooler per- 
ceptions of its truth. But she appeared egotistical and 
exacting compared with Charlotte, who was always un- 
selfish (this is M. Heger's testimony) ; and in the anx- 
iety of the elder to make her younger sister contented 
she allowed her to exercise a kind of unconscious tyranny 
over her. 

After consulting with his wife M. H6ger told them 
that he meant to dispense with the old method of ground- 
ing in grammar, vocabulary, &c, and to proceed on a 
new plan — something similar to what he had occasion- 
ally adopted with the elder among his French and Bel- 
gian pupils. He proposed to read to them some of the 
masterpieces of the most celebrated French authors (such 
as Casimir de la Vigne's poem on the ' Death of Joan 
of Arc,' parts of Bossuet, the admirable translation of 
the noble letter of St. Ignatius to the Roman Christians 
in the 'Bibliotheque Choisie des Peres de l'Eglise,' &c), 
and, after having thus impressed the complete effect of 
the whole, to analyse the parts with them, pointing out 
in what such or such an author excelled, and where were 
the blemishes. He believed that he had to do with pu- 
pils capable, from their ready sympathy with the intel- 
lectual, the refined, the polished, or the noble, of catching 
the echo of a style, and so reproducing their own thoughts 
in a somewhat similar manner. 

After explaining his plan to them he awaited their reply. 
Emily spoke first, and said that she saw no good to be 



234 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

derived from it ; and that, by adopting it, they would lose 
all originality of thought and expression. She would have 
entered into an argument on the subject, but for this M. 
Heger had no time. Charlotte then spoke ; she also doubted 
the success of the plan ; but she would follow out M. Heger's 
advice, because she was bound to obey him while she was 
his pupil. Before speaking of the results it may be desira- 
ble to give an extract from one of her letters, which shows 
some of her first impressions of her new life. 

'Brussels: 1842 (May?) 
* I was twenty-six years old a week or two since ; and at 
this ripe time of life I am a schoolgirl, and, on the whole, 
very happy in that capacity. It felt very strange at first 
to submit to authority instead of exercising it — to obey 
orders instead of giving them ; but I like that state of 
things. I returned to it with the same avidity that a cow, 
that has long been kept on dry hay, returns to fresh grass. 
Don't laugh at my simile. It is natural to me to submit, 
and very unnatural to command. 

' This is a large school, in which there are about forty 
extemes, or day pupils, and twelve pensionnaires, or board- 
ers. Madame Heger, the head, is a lady of precisely the 
same cast of mind, degree of cultivation, and quality of 
intellect as Miss (Catherine Wooler). I think the severe 
points are a little softened, because she has not been dis- 
appointed, and consequently soured. In a word, she is a 
married instead of a maiden lady. There are three teach- 
ers in the school — Mademoiselle Blanche, Mademoiselle 
Sophie, and Mademoiselle Marie. The two first have no 
particular character. One is an old maid, and the other 
will be one. Mademoiselle Marie is talented and original, 
but of repulsive and arbitrary manners, which have made 
the whole school, except myself and Emily, her bitter ene- 
mies. No less that seven masters attend, to teach the dif- 
ferent branches of education — French, Drawing, Music, 
Singing, Writing, Arithmetic, and German. All in the 



1843 M. AND MADAME HEGER 235 

house are Catholics except ourselves, one other girl, and 
the gouvernante of Madame's children, an Englishwoman, 
in rank something between a lady's maid and a nursery 
governess. The difference in country and religion makes 
a broad line of demarcation between us and all the rest. 
We are completely isolated in the midst of numbers. Yet 
I think I am never unhappy; my present life is so delight- 
ful, so congenial to my own nature, compared with that 
of a governess. My time, constantly occupied, passes too 
rapidly. Hitherto both Emily and I have had good health, 
and therefore we have been able to work well. There is 
one individual of whom I have not yet spoken — M. H6ger, 
the husband of Madame. He is professor of rhetoric, a 
man of power as to mind, but very choleric and irritable 
in temperament. 1 He is very angry with me just at pres- 
ent, because I have written a translation which he chose to 
stigmatise as "peu correct." He did not tell me so, but 
wrote the word on the margin of my book, and asked, in 
brief, stern phrase, how it happened that my compositions 
were always better than my translations, adding that the 
thing seemed to him inexplicable. The fact is, some weeks 
ago, in a high-flown humour, he forbade me to use either 
dictionary or grammar in translating the most difficult 
English compositions into French. This makes the task 
rather arduous, and compels me every now and then to 
introduce an English word, which nearly plucks the eyes 
out of his head when he sees it. Emily and he don't draw 
well together at all. Emily works like a horse, and she 
has had great difficulties to contend with — far greater than 
I have had. Indeed, those who come to a Erench school 
for instruction ought previously to have acquired a consid- 

1 This letter was to Ellen Nussey. A sentence omitted here runs, 
' A little black being, with a face that varies in expression. Sometimes 
he borrows the lineaments of an insane tom-cat, sometimes those of a 
delirious hyena ; occasionally, but very seldom, he discards these peril- 
ous attractions and assumes an air not above one hundred degrees 
removed from mild and gentleman-like.' 



236 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

erable knowledge of the French language, otherwise they 
will lose a great deal of time, for the course of instruction is 
adapted to natives and not to foreigners ; and in these large 
establishments they will not change their ordinary course 
for one or two strangers. The few private lessons that M. 
Heger has vouchsafed to give us are, I suppose, to be con- 
sidered a great favour; and I can perceive they have al- 
ready excited much spite and jealousy in the school. 

'You will abuse this letter for being short and dreary, 
and there are a hundred things which I want to tell you, 
but I have not time.. Brussels is a beautiful city. The 
Belgians hate the English. Their external morality is 
more rigid than ours. To lace the stays without a hand- 
kerchief on the neck is considered a disgusting piece of in- 
delicacy.'' 

The passage in this letter where M. Heger is represented 
as prohibiting the use of dictionary or grammar refers, I 
imagine, to the time I have mentioned, when he deter- 
mined to adopt a new method of instruction in the French 
language, of which they were to catch the spirit and rhythm 
rather from the ear and the heart, as its noblest accents fell 
upon them, than by over-careful and anxious study of its 
grammatical rules. It seems to me a daring experiment 
on the part of their teacher ; but doubtless he knew his 
ground ; and that it answered is evident in the composition 
of some of Charlotte's devoirs, written about this time. I 
am tempted, in illustration of this season of mental cult- 
ure, to recur to a conversation which I had with M. Heger 
on the manner in which he formed his pupil's style, and to 
give a proof of his success, by copying a devoir of Char- 
lotte's with his remarks upon it. 

He told me that one day this summer (when the Brontes 
had been for about four months receiving instruction from 
him) he read to them Victor Hugo's celebrated portrait of 
Mirabeau, ' mais dans ma legon je me bornais a ce qui con- 
cerne Mirabeau orateur. C'est apres 1'analyse de ce morceau, 
considere surtout du point de vue du fond, de la disposition, 



1842 CHARLOTTE'S FIRST FRENCH THEME 237 

de ce qu'on pourrait appeler la charpente, qu'ont ete faits 
les deux portraits que je vous donne.' He went on to say 
that he had pointed out to them the fault in Victor Hugo's 
style as being exaggeration in conception, and, at the same 
time, he had made them notice the extreme beauty of his 
' nuances ' of expression. They were then dismissed to choose 
the subject of a similar kind of portrait. The selection M. 
Heger always left to them ; for ' it is necessary,' he ob- 
served, 'before sitting down to write on a subject, to have 
thoughts and feelings about it. I cannot tell on what sub- 
ject your heart and mind have been excited. I must leave 
that to you.' The marginal comments, I need hardly say, 
are M. Heger's ; the words in italics are Charlotte's, for which 
he substitutes a better form of expression, which is placed 
between brackets. 

Imitation. 

' Le 31 juillet 1843. 

'Portrait de Pierre l'Hermite. Charlotte 
Bronte. 
'De temps en temps, il parait sur la terre des 
hommes destines a etre les instruments Tpredes- Pour, 5 uoi 

, . . cetto sup- 

tm6s] de grands changements moraux on pohtiques. pression? 
Quelquefois c'est un conquerant, un Alexandre ou 
un Attila, qui passe comme un ouragan, et purifie 
l'atmosphere morale, comme l'orage purifie Fatmos- 
phere physique ; quelquefois, c'est un revolution- 
naire, un Cromwell, ou un Robespierre, qui fait 
expier par un roi a les vices de toute une dynastie ; les fautes 
quelquefois c'est un enthousiaste religieux comme 
Mahomet, ou Pierre l'Hermite, qui, avec le seul 
levier de la pensee, souleve des nations entieres, 
les deracine et les transplante dans des climats Ce d ^ tai ! 
nouveaux, peuplant I'Asie avec les habitants de qU 'a 
V Europe. Pierre l'Hermite etait gentilhomme de Plerre - 
Picardie, en France, pourquoi done n'a-t-il passe quaad Vous 
sa vie comme les autres gentilshommes, ses contem- « c «™z en 

fm.nf>nis 

porains, ont pass6 la leur, a table, a la chasse, dans 



238 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

son lit, sans s'inquieter de Saladin, on de ses Sarra- 

sins ? N'est-ce pas parce qu'il y a, dans certaines 

natures, une ardeur [un foyer d'activite] indompt- 

voasavez a ^i e q U i ne i eur permet pas de rester inactives, qui 

iiparierde les force d se remuer afin d'exercer lesfacultes puis- 

pierre : santes, qui mSme en dormant sont prStes, comme 

entree dans Samson, d briser les nceuds qui les retiennent? 

ie sujet ; < Pierre prit la profession des armes ; si son ar- 

t>ut. deur avait ele de cette espece [s'il n'avait eu que 

cette ardeur vulgaire] qui provient d'une robuste 

sant6, il aurait [c'eut] et6 un brave militaire, et 

rien de plus ; mais son ardeur 6tait celle de Fame, 

sa flamme etait pure et elle s'elevait vers le ciel. 

'Sans doute [II est vrai que] la jeunesse de 
Pierre etait [f ut] trouble par passions orageuses ; 
les natures puissantes sont ext^rmes en tout, elles 
ne connaissent la tiedeur ni dans le bien, ni dans le 
mal ; Pierre done chercha d'abord avidement la 
gloire qui se fletrit et les plaisirs qui trompent, 
mais ilfit bientdt la decouverte [bientot il s'apercut] 
que ce qu'il poursuivait n'6tait qu'une illusion 
inutile, ^ laquelle il ne pourrait jamais atteindre; il re- 

quand vous & : rk = — - 

avezdit tourna done sur ses pas, il recommence le voyage 
illusion. ^ e \ & v j ej ma j s cette fois il evita le chemin spacieux 
qui mene a la perdition et il prit le chemin etroit 
qui mene a la vie ; puisque [comme] le trajet etait 
long et difficile il jeta la casque et les armes du 
soldat, et se vetit de Fhabit simple du moine. A la 
vie militaire succeda la vie monastique, car les 
extremes se touchent, et chez I'homme sincbre la 
sincerite du repentir amene [necessairement a la 
suite] avec lui la rigueur de la penitence. [Voila 
done Pierre devenu moine !] 

'Mais Pierre [il] avait en lui un principe qui 
Fempechait de rester longtemps inactif, ses idees, 
sur quel sujet qu'il soit [que ce fut], ne pouvaient 
pas etre bornees ; il ne lui suffisait pas que lui- 



1843 AN EXEECISE IN FRENCH COMPOSITION 239 

m£me flit religienx, que lui-meme fut convaincu de 
la realite de Christianisme (sic), il fallait que toute 
l'Europe, que toute l'Asie, partageat sa conviction 
et professat la croyance de la Croix. La Piete 
[fervente] elevee par le G6nie, nourrte par la 
Solitude,^ naitre une espece d' inspiration [exalta 
son ame jusqu'a l'inspiration] dans son dme, et 
lorsqu'il quitta sa cellule et reparutdans le monde, 
il portait, comme Moise, l'empreinte de la Divinite 
sur son front, et tout [tous] reconnurent en lui le 
veritable ap6tre de la Croix. 

'Mahomet n'avait jamais remue les molles 
nations de l'Orient comme alors Pierre remua les 
peuples austeres de l'Occideut ; il fallait que cette 
eloquence fut d'une force presque miraculeuse qui 
pouvait [puisqu'elle] persuader [ait] aux rois de 
vendreleurs royaumes afinde procurer [pour avoir] 
des armes et des sold&ts pour aider [a offrir] a Pierre 
dans la guerre sainte qu'il voulait livrer aux 
infldeles. La puissance de Pierre [l'Hermite] n'etait 
nullement une puissance physique, car la nature, ou 
pour mieux dire, Dieu est impartial dans la distribu- 
tion de ses dons ; il accorde a l'un de ses enfauts 
la grace, la beaute, les perfections corporelles, a 
l'autre Tespritj la grandeur morale. Pierre done 
etait un homme petit, d'une physionomie peu 
agreable ; mais il avait ce courage, cette Constance, 
cet enthousiasme, cette energie de sentiment qui 
ecrase toute opposition, et qui fait que la volonte 
d'un seul homme deviennela loi de toute une nation. 
Pour se former une juste idee de l'influence qu'ex- 
erca cet homme sur les caracteres [choses] et les 
idees de son temps, il faut se le representer au 
milieu de l'armee des croises dans son double rdle 
de prophete et de guerrier ; le pauvre hermite, 
v6tu du pauvre [de l'humble] habit gris, est la 
plus puissant qu'unroi ; il est entoure d'une [de la] 



240 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

multitude [avide] , nne multitude qui ne voit que lui, 
tandis que lui, il ne voit que le ciel ; ses yeux 
leves semblent dire: "Je vois Dieu etles anges, et 
j'ai perdu de vue la terre !" 

' Bans ce moment le [Mais ce] pauvre habit [froc] 
gris est pour lui comme le manteau d'Elijah ; il Fen- 
veloppe d'inspiration ; il [Pierre] lit dans l'avenir ; 
il voit Jerusalem delivree ; [il voit] le saint sepulcre 
libre; il voit le Croissant argent est arrache du 
Temple, et l'Oriflamme et la Croix rouge sont 
etablies a sa place ; non seulement Pierre voit ces 
merveilles, mais il les fait voir a tous ceux qui 
l'entourent ; il ravive l'esperance et le courage dans 
[tous ces corps epuises de fatigues et de privations]. 
La bataille ne sera livree que demain, mais la 
victoire est decidee ce soir. Pierre a promis ; et les 
Croises se Sent a sa parole, comme les Israelites se 
fiaient a celle de Moise et de Josue.' ' 

» The original manuscript of this devoir is still extant. It fills seven 
pages of very neat writing. There are also a number of Miss BroDte's 
French exercise books with M. Heger's corrections, one a ' Lettre d'un 
Pauvre Peintre a un Grand Seigneur,' another an essay on 'William 
Wallace.' The most curious, perhaps, is a letter in simple German, 
•written obviously for practice during her second sojourn in Brussels. 
It is clear that Charlotte Bronte was not an enthusiast for the German 
language and literature after the manner of so many of her contempo- 
raries. There are no indications that she read any German books 
in the later years when selection was more practicable. Emily, on the 
other hand, must have become a good German scholar, and undoubt- 
edly read much of Hoffmann and other weird German writers. The 
reference in the letter to residence with ' a lady who is very good to 
me ' is interesting by the light of Charlotte Bronte's subsequent judg- 
ment of Madame Heger : — 

' Bruxel, 5 Juin. 

'Meine liebe Freundinn, — Du hast ohne Zweifel gehOrt dasz ich 
nacb. Belgium wieder gekehrt bin. Es machte mir Schmerz mein 
Vaterland zu verlassen, aber, wie du wohl weiszt, wenn man nicht 
reich iszt, kann man nicht immer zu Haus bleiben, man musz in die 
Welt gehen und trachten mit Arbeitsamkeit und Erwerbsamkeit zu 
verdienen diese Unabhangigkeit, die das Gliick ausgeschlagen hat. 



1843 EMILY'S FRENCH EXERCISE 241 

As a companion portrait to this Emily chose to depict 
Harold on the eve of the battle of Hastings. It appears to 
me that her devoir is superior to Charlotte's in power and in 
imagination, and fully equal to it in language ; and that this, 
in both cases, considering how little practical knowledge 
of French they had when they arrived at Brussels in Feb- 
ruary, and that they wrote without the aid of dictionary or 
grammar, is unusual and remarkable. We shall see the 
progress Charlotte had made, in ease and grace of style, a 
year later. 

In the choice of subjects left to her selection she fre- 
quently took characters and scenes from the Old Testa- 
ment, with which all her writings show that she was espe- 
cially familiar. The picturesqueness and colour (if I may 
so express it), the grandeur and breadtli of its narrations, 
impressed her deeply. To use M. Heger's expression, 
' elle 6tait nourrie de la Bible.' After he had read De la 
Vigne's poem on Joan of Arc, she chose the ' Vision and 
Death of Moses on Mount Nebo' to write about; and, in 
looking over this devoir, I was much struck with one or two 
of M. Heger's remarks. After describing, in a quiet and 
simple manner, the circumstances under which Moses took 
leave of the Israelites, her imagination becomes warmed, and 

Oftmals, wenn man von seinen Aeltern entfernt iszt, hat man viel 
Kummer und Leiden, weil man nicht die selbe Gunst und das selbe 
Vergnligen unter Fremden finden kann, wie in der einzigen Faniilie ; 
allein ich habe das grosze GUiick, bei einer Dame die mir sehr gut 
iszt, zu wohnen. 

'Sonntag und Montag waren zwei Tage Ferien. An Sonntag bin 
ich spazieren gewe8en, mit Fraulein Hauze und drei der Schiilerin- 
nen ; wir haben auf dem Lande gespeiszt, und des Abends sind wir 
durch die grilne Allee nach Haus gegangen. Da sahen wir viele ¥a- 
gen und eine Menge Herren und Damen, sehr geputz. Montag bin 
ich nicht ausgegangen, denn ich, hatte den Schnupfen bekommen. 
Heute iszt es wieder Classe, und, weil wir alle unsere Beschaftigungen 
anfangen mussen, so habe ich nicht viel Zeit dir zu schreibcn. 

' Ich bin deine Freundinn, 

'C Bronte.' 



242 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

she launches out into a noble strain, depicting the glorious 
futurity of the Chosen People, as, looking down upon the 
Promised Land, he sees their prosperity in prophetic Tision. 
But, before reaching the middle of this glowing descrip- 
tion, she interrupts herself to discuss for a moment the 
doubts that have been thrown on the miraculous relations of 
the Old Testament. M. Heger remarks, ' When you are writ- 
ing, place your argument first in cool, prosaic language ; 
but when you have thrown the reins on the neck of your 
imagination, do not pull her up to reason.' Again, in the 
vision of Moses, he sees the maidens leading forth their 
flocks to the wells at eventide, and they are described as 
wearing flowery garlands. Here the writer is reminded 
of the necessity of preserving a certain verisimilitude: 
Moses might from his elevation see mountains and plains, 
groups of maidens and herds of cattle, but could hardly 
perceive the details of dress, or the ornaments of the head. 
When they had made further progress M. Heger took 
up a more advanced plan, that of synthetical teaching. He 
would read to them various accounts of the same person or 
event, and make them notice the points of agreement and 
disagreement. Where they were different, he would make 
them seek the origin of that difference by causing them to 
examine well into the character and position of each sepa- 
rate writer, and how they would be likely to affect his con- 
ception of truth. For instance, take Cromwell. He would 
read Bossuet's description of him in the ' Oraison Funebre 
de la Reine d'Angleterre,' and show how in this he was con- 
sidered entirely from the religious point of view, as an in- 
strument in the hands of God, pre-ordained to His work. 
Then he would make them r6ad Guizot, and see how, in 
this view, Cromwell was endowed with the utmost power 
of free-will, but governed by no higher motive than that of 
expediency, while Carlyle regarded him as a character regu- 
lated by a strong and conscientious desire to do the will of 
the Lord. Then he would desire them to remember that 
the Royalist and Commonwealth men had each their differ- 



1843 M. HEGER'S PLA.N OF INSTRUCTION 243 

ent opinions of the great Protector. And from these con- 
flicting characters he would require them to sift and collect 
the elements of truth, and try to unite them into a perfect 
whole. 

This kind of exercise delighted Charlotte. It called into 
play her powers of analysis, which were extraordinary, and 
she very soon excelled in it. 

Wherever the Brontes could be national they were so, 
with the same tenacity of attachment which' made them 
suffer as they did whenever they left Haworth. They were 
Protestant to the backbone in other things beside their 
religion, but pre-eminently so in that. Touched as Char- 
lotte was by the letter of St. Ignatius before alluded to, she 
claimed equal self-devotion, and from as high a motive, for 
some of the missionaries of the English Church sent out to 
toil and to perish on the poisonous African coast, and wrote 
as an 'imitation' 'Lettre d'un Missionnaire, Sierra-Leone, 
Afrique.' 

Something of her feeling, too, appears in the following 
letter : 

'Brussels: 1843. 

'I consider it doubtful whether I shall come home in 
September or not. Madame Heger has made a proposal for 
both me and Emily to stay another half-year, offering to 
dismiss her English master, and take me as English teacher; 
also to employ Emily some part of each day in teaching 
music to a certain number of the pupils. For these services 
we are to be allowed to continue our studies in French and 
German, and to have board, &c, without paying for it; no 
salaries, however> are offered. The proposal is kind, and 
in a great selfish city like Brussels, and a great selfish 
school, containing nearly ninety pupils (boarders and day 
pupils included), implies a degree of interest which de- 
mands gratitude in return. I am inclined to accept it. 
What think you ? I don't deny I sometimes wish to be in 
England, or that I have brief attacks of home-sickness; but, 
on the whole, I have borne a very valiant heart so far ; and 



244 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

I have been happy in Brussels, because I have always been 
fully occupied with the employments that I like. Emily is 
making rapid progress in French, German, music, and 
drawing. Monsieur and Madame Heger begin to recognise 
the valuable parts of her character, under her singularities. 
' If the national character of the Belgians is to be measured 
by the character of most of the girls in this school, it is a 
character singularly cold, selfish, animal, and inferior. 
They are very mutinous and difficult for the teachers to 
manage ; and their principles are rotten to the core. We 
avoid them, which is not difficult to do, as we have the 
brand of Protestantism and Anglicism upon us. People 
talk of the danger which Protestants expose themselves to 
in going to reside in Catholic countries, and thereby run- 
ning the chance of changing their faith. My advice to all 
Protestants who are tempted to do anything so besotted as 
to turn Catholics is, to walk over the sea on to the Conti- 
nent ; to attend Mass sedulously for a time ; to note well 
the mummeries thereof ; also the idiotic, mercenary aspect 
of all the priests ; and then, if they are still disposed to con- 
sider Papistry in any other light than a most feeble, childish 
piece of humbug, let them turn Papists at once — that's all. 
I consider Methodism, Quakerism, and the extremes of 
High and Low Churchism foolish, but Roman Catholicism 
beats them all. At the same time, allow me to tell you that 
there are some Catholics who are as good as any Christians 
can be to whom the Bible is a sealed book, and much bet- 
ter than many Protestants.' ' 

When the Brontes first went to Brussels, it was with the 
intention of remaining there for six months, or until the 
grandes vacances began in September. The duties of the 
school were then suspended for six weeks or two months, 
and it seemed a desirable period for their return. But the 
proposal mentioned in the foregoing letter altered their 
I 

1 This letter was written to Ellen Nussey. 



1843 HER ENGLISH FRIENDS AT BRUSSELS 245 

plans. Besides, they were happy in the feeling that they 
were making progress in all the knowledge they had so 
long been yearning to acquire. They were happy, too, in 
possessing friends whose society had been for years con- 
genial to them ; and in occasional meetings with these 
they could have the inexpressible solace to residents in a 
foreign country — and peculiarly such to the Brontes — of 
taking over the intelligence received from their respec- 
tive homes — referring to past, or planning for future days. 
'Mary' and her sister, the bright, dancing, laughing Mar- 
tha, were parlour boarders in an establishment just be- 
yond the barriers of Brussels. Again, the cousins of these 
friends were resident in the town ; and at their house 
Charlotte and Emily were always welcome, though their 
overpowering shyness prevented their more valuable quali- 
ties from being known, and generally kept them silent. 
They spent their weekly holiday with this family ' for many 
months ; but at the end of the time Emily was as im- 
penetrable to friendly advances as at the begining ; while 
Charlotte was too physically weak (as ' Mary ' has expressed 
it) to 'gather up her forces' sufficiently to express any 
difference or opposition of opinion, and had consequently 
an asserting and deferential manner, strangely at variance 
with what they knew of her remarkable talents and decided 
character. At this house the Taylors and the Brontes 
could look forward to meeting each other pretty frequent- 
ly. There was another English family where Charlotte 
soon became a welcome guest, and where, I suspect, she 
felt herself more at her ease than either at Mrs. Jenkins's 
or the friends whom I have first mentioned. 

An English physician, with a large family of daughters, 
went to reside at Brussels, for the sake of their education. 
He placed them at Madame Heger's school in July 1842, 
not a month before the beginning of the grandes vacances 

1 The Dixons. Miss Mary Dixon, a sister of the late Mr. George 
Dixon, M.P. for Birmingham, is still alive. She is frequently men- 
tioned in Charlotte Bronte's letters. 



246 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

on August 15. In order to make the most of their time, 
and become accustomed to the language, these English sis- 
ters went daily, through the holidays, to the pensionnat in 
the Rue d'Isabelle. Six or eight boarders remained, be- 
sides the Miss Brontes. They were there during the whole 
time, never even having the break to their monotonous life 
which passing an occasional day with a friend would have 
afforded them, but devoting themselves with indefatigable 
diligence to the different studies in which they were en- 
gaged. Their position in the school appeared, to these 
newcomers, analogous to what is often called that of a par- 
lour boarder. They prepared their French, drawing, Ger- 
man, and literature for their various masters ; and to these 
occupations Emily added that of music, in which she was 
somewhat of a proficient, so much so as to be qualified to 
give instruction in it to the three younger sisters of my 
informant. 

The school was divided into three classes. In the first 
were from fifteen to twenty pupils ; in the second sixty was 
about the average number, all foreigners, excepting the two 
Brontes and one other ;' in the third there were from twenty 

1 This was not quite the case. Miss BronlB had five Miss Wheel, 
wrights as companions at the Heger pensionnat, aud a Miss Maria Miller, 
who was probably the prototype of Ginevra Fanshawe in Villette. Dr. 
Wheelwright and his family lived at the HStel Clusyenaar, in the Rue 
Royale. His daughter Lsetitia became a firm friend of Charlotte Bronte, 
and her younger sisters received instructions in music from Emily. 
Miss Lsetitia Wheelwright and three of her sisters are still living. 
Their names are Lsetitia, Elizabeth, Emily, Frances, and Sarah Anne. 
Another sister, Julia, died in Brussels during these school days. The 
Wheelwrights were Mrs. Gaskell's only guides to Charlotte Bronte's 
school-life in Brussels, apart from M. Heger. Mrs. Gaskell obtained 
much of the information contained in her record from Lsetitia Wheel- 
wright, to whom she wrote several letters of inquiry, the latest bear- 
ing date February 7, 1857, and being written from Plymouth Grove, 
Manchester. This letter, which is in my possession, is interesting 
bibliographically. 'I have to-day finished my Life of Miss Bronte,' 
she writes, 'and next week we set out for Rome.' She thanks Miss 
Wheelwright, while returning her the letters lent, ' not merely for the 



1843 ARRANGEMENTS OF THE 'PENSIONNAT' 247 

to thirty pupils. The first and second classes occupied a 
long room, divided by a wooden partition ; in each division 
were four long ranges of desks ; and at the end was the 
estrade, or platform, for the presiding instructor. On the 
last row, in the quietest corner, sat Charlotte and Emily, 
side by side, so deeply absorbed in their studies as to be 
insensible to any noise or movement around them. The 
school hours were from nine to twelve (the luncheon hour), 
when the boarders and half-boarders — perhaps two-and- 
thirty girls — went to the refectoire (a room with two long 
tables, having an oil lamp suspended over each), to partake 
of bread and fruit ; the externes, or morning pupils, who 
had brought their own refreshment with them, adjourning 
to eat it in the garden. From one to two there was fancy 
work — a pupil reading aloud some light literature in each 
room ; from two to four, lessons again. At four the ex- 
ternes left ; and the remaining girls dined in the refectoire, 
M. and Madame Heger presiding. Prom five to six there 
was recreation ; from six to seven, preparation for lessons -, 
and after that succeeded the lecture pieuse — Charlotte's 
nightmare. On rare occasions M. Heger himself would 
come in, and substitute a book of a different and more in- 
teresting kind. At eight there was a slight meal of water 
and pistolets (the delicious little Brussels rolls), which was 
immediately followed by prayers, and then to bed. 

The principal bedroom was over the long classe, or school- 
room. There were six or eight narrow beds on each side of 
the apartment, every one enveloped in its white draping 
curtain ; a long drawer, beneath each, served for a ward- 
robe, and, between each was a stand for ewer, basin, and 
looking-glass. The beds of the two Miss Brontes were at 
the extreme end of the room, almost as private and retired 
as if they had been in a separate apartment. 

During the hours of recreation, which were always spent 

loan of them, although their value has been great, but for the kind 
readiness with which you all (especially you and your mother) met my 
wishes about giving me information.' 



248 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

in the garden, they invariably walked together, and gener- 
ally kept a profound silence ; Emily, though so much the 
taller, leaning on her sister. Charlotte would always an- 
swer when spoken to, taking the lead in replying to any re- 
mark addressed to both ; Emily rarely spoke to any one. 
Charlotte's quiet, gentle manner never changed. She was 
never seen out of temper for a moment ; and occasionally, 
when she herself had assumed the post of English teacher, 
and the impertinence or inattention of her pupils was 
most irritating, a slight increase of colour, a momentary 
sparkling of the eye, and more decided energy of manner, 
were the only outward tokens she gave of being conscious 
of the annoyance to which she was subjected. But this 
dignified endurance of hers subdued her pupils, in the 
long run, far more than the voluble tirades of the other 
mistresses. My informant adds, ' The effect of this man- 
ner was singular. I can speak from personal experience. 
I was at that time high-spirited and impetuous, not re- 
specting the French mistresses ; yet, to my own astonish- 
ment, at one word from her I was perfectly tractable ; so 
much so that, at length, M. and Madame Heger invariably 
preferred all their wishes to me through her; the other 
pupils did not, perhaps, love her as I did, she was so quiet 
and silent ; but all respected her.' 

With the exception of that part which describes Char- 
lotte's manner as English teacher — an office which she did 
not assume for some months later — all this description of 
the school life of the two Brontes refers to the commence- 
ment of the new scholastic year in October 1842 ; and the 
extracts I have given convey the first impression which the 
life at a foreign school, and the position of the two Miss 
Brontes therein, made upon an intelligenb English girl of 
sixteen. I will make a quotation from 'Mary's' letter re- 
ferring to this time. 

'The first part of her time at Brussels was not uninter- 
esting. She spoke of new people and characters, and for- 
eign ways of the pupils and teachers. She knew the hopes 



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1842 EXTRACT FROM 'MARY'S' LETTER 249 

and prospects of the teachers, and mentioned one who was 
very anxious to marry, "she was getting so old." She 
used to get her father qr brother (I forget which) to be 
the bearer of letters to different single men, who she 
thought might be persuaded to do her the favour, saying 
that her only resource was to become a sister of charity if 
her present employment failed, and that she hated the 
idea. Charlotte naturally looked with curiosity to people 
of her own condition. This woman almost frightened her. 
" She declares there is nothing she can turn to, and laughs 
at the idea of delicacy — and she is only ten years older than 
I am !" I did not see the connection till she said, "Well, 
Polly, I should hate being a sister of charity ; I suppose 
that would shock some people, but I should." I thought 
she would have as much feeling as a nurse as most people, 
and more than some. She said she did not know how peo- 
ple could bear the constant pressure of misery, and never 
to change except to a new form of it. It would be impos- 
sible to keep one's natural feelings. I promised her a bet- 
ter destiny than to go begging any one to marry her, or to 
lose her natural feelings as a sister of charity. She said, 
"My youth is leaving me; I can never do better than I 
have done, and I have done nothing yet." At such times 
she seemed to think that most human beings were destined 
by the pressure of worldly interests to lose one faculty and 
feeling after another "till they went dead altogether. I 
hope I shall be put in my grave as soon as I'm dead ; I 
don't want to walk about so." Here we always differed. 
I thought the degradation of nature she feared was a con- 
sequence of poverty, and that she should give her attention 
to earning money. Sometimes she admitted this, but could 
find no means of earning money. At others she seemed 
afraid of letting her thoughts dwell on the subject, saying 
it brought on the worst palsy of all. Indeed, in her posi- 
tion, nothing less than entire constant absorption in petty 
money matters could have scraped together a provision. 
' Of course artists and authors stood high with Charlotte, 



250 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

and the best thing after their works would have been their 
company. She used very inconsistently to rail at money 
and money-getting, and then wish she was able to visit all 
the large towns in Europe, see all the sights, and know all 
the celebrities. This was her notion of literary fame — a 
passport to the society of clever people. . . . When she 
had become acquainted with the people and ways at Brus- 
sels her life became monotonous, and she fell into the same 
hopeless state as at Miss Wooler's, though in a less degree. 
I wrote to her, urging her to go home or elsewhere ; she 
had got what she wanted (French), and there was at least 
novelty in a new place, if no improvement. That if she 
sank into deeper gloom she would soon not have energy to 
go, and she was too far from home for her friends to hear 
of her condition and order her home as they had done from 
Miss Wooler's. She wrote that I had done her a great ser- 
vice, that she would certainly follow my advice, and was 
much obliged to me. I have often wondered at this letter. 
Though she patiently tolerated advice she could always 
quietly put it aside, and do as she thought fit. More than 
once afterwards she mentioned the "service" I had done 
her. She sent me 10?. to New Zealand, on hearing some 
exaggerated accounts of my circumstances, and told me 
she hoped it would come in seasonably ; it was a debt she 
owed me "for the service I had done her." I should think 
10Z. was a quarter of her income. The " service " was 
mentioned as an apology, but kindness was the real motive.' 

The first break in this life of regular duties and employ- 
ments came heavily and sadly. Martha — pretty, winning, 
mischievous, tricksome Martha — was taken ill suddenly at 
the Chateau de Koekelberg. Her sister tended her with 
devoted love; but it was all in vain; in a few days she 
died. Charlotte's own short account of this event is as 
follows : — 

' Martha Taylor's illness was unknown to me till the day 
before she died. I hastened to Koekelberg the next morn- 



1842 DEATH OF MARTHA TAYLOR 251 

ing — unconscious that she was in great danger — and was 
told that it was finished. She had died in the night. Mary 
was taken away to Bruxelles. I have seen Mary frequently 
since. She is in no ways crushed by the event; but while 
Martha was ill she was to her more than a mother — more 
than a sister : watching, nursing, cherishing her so ten- 
derly, so unweariedly. She appears calm and serious now ; 
no bursts of violent emotion ; no exaggeration of distress. 
I have seen Martha's grave — the place where her ashes lie 
in a foreign country.' 1 

Who that has read 'Shirley' does not remember the 
few lines — perhaps half a page — of sad recollection ? 

' He has no idea that little Jessy will die young, she is 
so gay, and chattering, and arch; — original even now ; pas- 
sionate when provoked, but most affectionate if caressed ; 
by turns gentle and rattling; exacting yet generous; fear- 
less . . yet reliant on any who will help her. Jessy, with 
her little piquant face, engaging prattle, and winning ways, 
is made to be a pet. . . . 

'Do you know this place? No, you never saw it; but 
you recognise the nature of these trees, this foliage — the 
cypress, the willow, the yew. Stone crosses like these are 
not unfamiliar to you, nor are these dim garlands of ever- 
lasting flowers. Here is the place; green sod and a grey 
marble head-stone — Jessy sleeps below. She lived through 
an April day; much loved was she, much loving. She 
often, in her brief life, shed tears — she had frequent sor- 
rows; she smiled between, gladdening whatever saw her. 
Her death was tranquil and happy in Rose's guardian arms, 
for Rose had been her stay and defence through many 

1 This letter to Ellen Nussey, dated Haworth, Nov. 10, 1842, con- 
cludes, 'Aunt, Martha Taylor, and Mr. Weightman are now all gone ; 
how dreary and void everything seems ! Mr. Weightman's illness 
was exactly what. Martha's was; he was ill the same length of time 
and died in the same manner. Aunt's disease was internal obstruc- 
tion ; she also was ill a fortnight.' 



252 LITE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

trials ; the dying and the watching English girls were at 
that honr alone in a foreign country, and the soil of that 
country gave Jessy a grave. . . . 

' But, Jessy, I will write about you no more. This is an 
autumn evening, wet and wild. There is only one cloud 
in the sky; but it curtains it from pole to pole. The wind 
cannot rest; it hurries sobbing over hills of sullen outline, 
colourless with twilight and mist. Rain had beat all day 
on that church tower ' (Haworth) : ' it rises dark from the 
stony enclosure of its graveyard : the nettles, the long grass, 
and the tombs all drip with wet. This evening reminds 
me too forcibly of another evening some years ago : a howl- 
ing, rainy autumn evening too — when certain who had that 
day performed a pilgrimage to a grave new made in a her- 
etic cemetery, sat near a wood fire on the hearth of a for- 
eign dwelling. They were merry and social, but they each 
knew that a gap, never to be rilled, had been made in their 
circle. They knew they had lost something whose absence 
could never be quite atoned for, so long as they lived ; and 
they knew that heavy falling rain was soaking into the wet 
earth which covered their lost darling; and that the sad, 
sighing gale was mourning above her buried head. The 
fire warmed them ; Life and Friendship yet blessed them : 
but Jessy lay cold, coffined, solitary — only the sod screen- 
ing her from the storm.' 

This was the first death that had occurred in the small 
circle of Charlotte's immediate and intimate friends since 
the loss of her two sisters long ago. She was still in the 
midst of her deep sympathy with ' Mary,' when word 
came from home that her aunt, Miss Branwell, was ail- 
ing — was very ill. Emily and Charlotte immediately 
resolved to go home straight, and hastily packed up for 
England, doubtful whether they should ever return to 
Brussels or not, leaving all their relations with M. and 
Madame Heger, and the pensionnat, uprooted, and un- 
certain of any future existence. Even before their de- 



1842 DEATH OF MISS BRAN WELL 253 

parture, on the morning after they received the first intel- 
ligence of illness — when they were on the very point of 
starting — came a second letter, telling them of their aunt's 
death. It could not hasten their movements, for every 
arrangement had been made for speed. They sailed from 
Antwerp ; they travelled night and day, and got home on 
a Tuesday morning. The funeral and all was over, and Mr. 
Bronte and Anne were sitting together, in quiet grief for 
the loss of one who had done her part well in their house- 
hold for nearly twenty years, and earned the regard and 
respect of many who never knew how much they would 
miss her till she was gone. The small property which she 
had accumulated, by dint of personal frugality and self- 
denial, was bequeathed to her nieces. Branwell, her dar- 
ling, was to have had his share ; but his reckless expenditure 
had distressed the good old lady, and his name was omitted 
in her will. 1 

When the first shock was over the three sisters began to 
enjoy the full relish of meeting again, after the longest 
separation they had had in their lives. They had much 
to tell of the past and much to settle for the future. Anne 
had been for some little time in a situation, to which she 
was to return at the end of the Christmas holidays. For 
another year or so they were again to be all three apart ; 
and, after that, the happy vision of being together and 
opening a school was to be realised. Of course they did 
not now look forward to settling at Burlington, or any 
other place which would take them away from their father; 
but the small sum which they each independently possessed 
would enable them to effect such alterations in the parson- 

1 The statement about Branwell is scarcely accurate. From the 
will, which was proved at York, December 28, 1843, we learn that 
' my Japan dressing-box I leave to my nephew Branwell Bronte.' 
That none of Miss Branwell's money was left to her nephew must 
have been due solely to the aunt's wise recognition that the girls 
would be more in need of it. The money was divided between some 
of her female relatives at Penzance and her nieces at Haworth. 



254 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

age house at Haworth as would adapt it to the reception 
of pupils. Anne's plans for the interval were fixed. Em- 
ily quickly decided to be the daughter to remain at home. 
About Charlotte there was much deliberation and some 
discussion. 

Even in all the haste of their sudden departure from 
Brussels M. Heger had found time to write a letter of 
sympathy to Mr. Bronte on the loss which he had just sus- 
tained ; a letter containing such a graceful appreciation 
of the daughters' characters, under the form of a tribute 
of respect to their father, that I should have been tempted 
to copy it, even had there not also been a proposal made in 
it, respecting Charlotte, which deserves a place in the rec- 
ord of her life. 

' Au Reverend Monsieur Bronte Pasteur Evangelique, 
&c. &c. 

' Samedi, 5 o bre . 

' Monsieur,— Un evenement bien triste decide mesde- 
moiselles vos filles a retourner brnsquement en Angleterre. 
Ce depart qui nous afflige beancoup a cependant ma com- 
plete approbation ; il est bien naturel qu'elles cherchent a 
vous consoler de ce que le ciel vient de vous 6ter, en se 
serrant autour de vous, pour mieux vous faire apprecier 
ce que le ciel vous a donne et ce qu'il vous laisse encore. 
J'espere que vous me pardonnerez, monsieur, de profiter 
de cette circonstance pour vous faire parvenir l'expression 
de mon respect ; je n'ai pas l'honneur de vous connaitre 
personnellement, et cependant j'eprouve pour votre per- 
sonne un sentiment de sincere veneration, car en jugeant 
un pere de famille par ses enfants on ne risque pas de se 
tromper, et sous se rapport l'education et les sentiments 
que nous avons trouves dans mesdemoiselles vos filles n'ont 
pu que nous donner une tres haute idee de votre merite et 
de votre caractere. Vous apprendrez sans doute avec plaisir 
que vos enfants out fait du progres tres remarquable dans 
toutes les branches de l'enseignement, et que ces progres 



1842 LETTER OF M. HEGER TO MR. BRONTE 255 

sont enticement dus a leur amour pour le travail et a leur 
perseverance ; nous n'avons eu que bien peu a faire avec de 
pareilles eleves ; leur avancement est votre oeuvre bien plus 
que la notre ; nous n'avons pas eu a leur apprendre le prix 
du temps et de 1'instruction, elles avaient appris tout cela 
dans la maison paternelie, et nous n'avons eu, pour notre 
part, que le faible m6rite de diriger leurs efforts et de 
fournir un aliment convenable a la louable activite que vos 
filles ont puisee dans votre exemple et dans vos lecons. 
Puissent les eloges m6rit6s que nous donnons a vos en- 
fants vous 6tre de quelque consolation dans le malheur 
qui vous afflige ; c'est la notre espoir en vous ecrivant, 
et ce sera, pour mesdemoiselles Charlotte et Emily, une 
douce et belle recompense de leurs travaux. 

' En perdant nos deux cheres el&ves, nous ne devons pas 
vous cacher que nous eprouvons a la fois et du chagrin et 
de l'inquietude ; nous sommes affliges parce que cette 
brusque separation vient briser l'affection presque paternelle 
que nous leur avons vouee, et notre peine s'angmente a la 
vue de tant de travaux interrompus, de tant de choses 
bien commencees, et qui ne demandent que quelque temps 
encore pour 6tre menees a bonne fin. Dans un an chacune 
de vos demoiselles eut ete entitlement premunie contre les 
eventualites de l'avenir; chacune d'elles acquerait a la fois 
et rinstruction et la science d'enseignement ; Mile Emily 
allait apprendre le piano ; recevoir des lecons du meillenr 
professeur que nous ayons en Belgique, et deja elle avait 
elle-meme de petites 61e>es ; elle perdait done a la fois un 
reste d'ignorance et un reste plus g6nant encore de timidite ; 
Mile Charlotte commencait a donner des lepons en francais, 
et d'acquerir cette assurance, cet aplomb si necessaire dans 
l'enseignement : encore un an tout an plus et l'oeuvre 6tait 
achevee et bien achevee. Alors nous aurious pu, si cela 
vous eut convenu, ofErir a mesdemoiselles vos filles ou du 
moins a l'une des deux une position qui eut ete dans ses 
gouts, et qui lui eut donne cette douce independance si 
difficile a trouver pour une jeune personne. Ce n'est pas, 



256 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

croyez-le bien, monsieur, ce n'est pas ici pour nous une 
question d'interet personnel, c'est une question d'affection ; 
vous me pardonnerez si nous vous parlons de vos enfants, 
si nons nous occupons de leur avenir, comme si elles 
faisaient partiedenotrefamille ; leurs qualites personnelles, 
leur bon vouloir, leur zele extreme sont les seules causes 
qui nous poussent a nous hasarder de la sorte. Nous savons, 
monsieur, que vous peserez plus inurement et plus sagement 
que nous la consequence qu'aurait pour l'avenir une inter- 
ruption complete dans les etudes de vos deux fllles ; vous 
deciderez ce qu'il faut faire, et vous nous pardonnerez notre 
franchise, si vous daignez considerer que le motif qui nous 
fait agir est une affection bien desinteressee et qui s'affli- 
gerait beauconp de devoir deja se resigner a n'6tre plus utile 
a vos chers enfants. 

' Agreez, je vousprie, monsieur, l'expression respectueuse 
demes sentiments de haute consideration. C. Heger.' 

There was so much truth, as well as so much kindness, 
in this letter— it was so obvious that a second year of in- 
struction would be far more valuable than the first — that 
there was no long hesitation before it was decided that 
Charlotte should return to Brussels. 

Meanwhile they enjoyed their Christmas all together in- 
expressibly. Branwell was with them ; that was always a 
pleasure at this time ; whatever might be his faults, or even 
his vices, his sisters yet held him up as their family hope, as 
they trusted that he would some day be their family pride. 
They blinded themselves to the magnitude of the failings 
of which they were now and then told, by persuading 
themselves that such failings were common to all men of 
any strength of character; for, till sad experience taught 
them better, they fell into the usual error of confounding 
strong passions with strong character. 

Charlotte's friends came over to see her, and she re- 
turned the visit. Her Brussels life must have seemed like 
a dream, so completely, in this short space of time, did 



1843 AT HOME AT HAWORTH -257 

she fall back into the old household ways ; with more of 
household independence than she could ever have had dur- 
ing her aunt's lifetime. Winter though it was, the sisters 
took their accustomed walks on the snow-covered moors ; 
or went often down the long road to Keighley, for such 
books as had been added to the library there during their 
long absence from England. 



CHAPTEE XII 

Towards the end of January the time came for Charlotte 
to return to Brussels. Her journey thither was rather 
disastrous. She had to make her way alone ; and the train 
from Leeds to London, which should have reached Buston 
Square early in the afternoon, was so much delayed that it 
did not get in till ten at night. She had intended to seek 
out the Chapter Coffee-house, where she had stayed before, 
and which would have been near the place where the steam- 
boats lay ; but she appears to have been frightened by the 
idea of arriving at an hour which, to Yorkshire notions, 
was so late and unseemly ; and taking a cab, therefore, 
at the station, she drove straight to the London Bridge 
"Wharf, and desired a waterman to row her to the Ostend 
packet, which was to sail the next morning. She described 
to me, pretty much as she has since described it in 'Vil- 
lette,' her sense of loneliness, and yet her strange pleasure 
in the excitement of the situation, as in the dead of that 
winter's night she went swiftly over the dark river to the 
black hull's side, and was at first refused leave to ascend 
to the deck. ' No passengers might sleep on board,' they 
said, with some appearance of disrespect. She looked back 
to the lights and subdued noises of London — that ' Mighty 
Heart' in which she had no place — and, standing up in the 
rocking boat, she asked to speak to some one in authority 
on board the packet. He came, and her quiet, simple 
statement of her wish, and her reason for it, quelled the 
feeling of sneering distrust in those who had first heard 
her request ; and impressed the authority so favourably 
that .he allowed her to come on board, and take possession 



1843 RETURN TO BRUSSELS 259 

of a berth. The next morning she sailed ; and at seven on 
Sunday evening she reached the Rue d'Isabelle once more, 
having only left Haworth on Friday morning at an early hour. 

Her salary was 16?. a year ; out of which she had to pay 
for her German lessons, for which she was charged as much 
(the lessons being probably rated by time) as when Emily 
learnt with her and divided the expense, viz. ten francs a 
month. By Miss Bronte's own desire she gave her English 
lessons in the classe, or schoolroom, without the supervision 
of Madame or M. Heger. They offered to be present, with 
a view to maintain order among the unruly Belgian girls ; 
but she declined this, saying that she would rather enforce 
discipline by her own manner and character than be in- 
debted for obedience to the presence of a gendarme. She 
ruled over a new schoolroom, which had been built on the 
space in the playground adjoining the house. Over that 
First Class she was surveillante at all hours; and hence- 
forward she was called Mademoiselle Charlotte by M. 
Heger's orders. She continued her own studies, princi- 
pally attending to German and to Literature ; and every 
Sunday she went alone to the German and English chapels. 
Her walks too were solitary, and principally taken in the 
allee defendue, where she was secure from intrusion. This 
solitude was a perilous luxury to one of her temperament, 
so liable as she was to morbid and acute mental suffering. 

On March 6, 1843, she writes thus : — 

' I am settled by this time, of course. I am not too 
much overloaded with occupation ; and besides teaching 
English I have time to improve myself in German. I 
ought to consider myself well off, and to be thankful for 
my good fortunes. I hope I am thankful ; and if I could 
always keep up my spirits and never feel lonely, or long for 
companionship, or friendship, or whatever they call it, I 
should do very well. As I told you before, M. and Ma- 
dame Heger are the only two persons in the house for 
whom I really experience regard and esteem, and of course 
I cannot be always with them, nor even very often. They 



260 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

told me, when I first returned, that I was to consider their 
sitting-room my sitting-room also, and to go there when- 
ever I was not engaged in the schoolroom. This, however, 
I cannot do. In the daytime it is a public room, where 
music masters and mistresses are constantly passing in and 
out ; and in the evening I will not and ought not to in- 
trude on M. and Madame Heger and their children. Thus 
I am a good deal by myself, out of school hours; but that 
does not signify. I now regularly give English lessons to 
M. Heger and his brother-in-law. They get on with won- 
derful rapidity, especially the first. He already begins. to 
speak English very decently. If you could see and hear 
the efforts I make to teach them to pronounce like English- 
men, and their unavailing attempts to imitate, you would 
laugh to all eternity. 

' The Carnival is just over, and we have entered upon 
the gloom and abstinence of Lent. The first day of Lent 
we had coffee without milk for breakfast ; vinegar and 
vegetables, with a very little salt fish, for dinner ; and bread 
for supper. The Carnival was nothing but masking and 
mummery. M. Heger took me and one of the pupils into 
the town to see the masks. It was animating to see the 
immense crowds, and the general gaiety, but the masks were 
nothing."" I have boen twice to the D.s' 1 (those cousins of 
' Mary's ' of whom I have before made mention). ' When 
she leaves Bruxelles I shall have nowhere to go to. I have 
had two letters from Mary. She does not tell me she has 
been ill, and she does not complain ; but her letters are not 
the letters of a person in the enjoyment of great happiness. 
She has nobody to be as good to her as M. Heger is to me; 
to lend her books ; to converse with her sometimes, &c. 

' Good-bye. When I say so it seems to me that you will 
hardly hear me; all the waves of the Channel heaving and 
roaring between must deaden the sound.' 2 

1 The Dixons. 

2 This letter to Ellen Nussey was illustrated by a humorous pen-and- 
ink sketch of Charlotte Bronte saying ' Good-bye' across the Channel, 



1843 HEK SOLICITUDE IN THE 'PENSIONNAT' 261 

Prom the tone of this letter it may easily be perceived 
that the Brussels of 1843 was a different place from that of 
1842. Then she had Emily for a daily and nightly solace 
and companion. She had the weekly variety of a visit to 
the family of the D.s ; and she had the frequent happiness 
of seeing 'Mary' and Martha. Now Emily was far away 
in Haworth — where she or any other loved one might die 
before Charlotte, with her utmost speed, could reach them, 
as experience, in her aunt's case, had taught her. The D.s 
were leaving Brussels ; so, henceforth, her weekly holiday 
would have to be passed in the Eue d'Isabelle, or so she 
thought. f Mary' was gone off on her own independent 
course ; Martha alone remained — still and quiet for ever, in 
the cemetery beyond the Porte de Louvain. The weather, 
too, for the first few weeks after Charlotte's return, had 
been piercingly cold; and her feeble constitution was always 
painfully sensitive to an inclement season. Mere bodily pain, 
however acute, she could always put aside ; but too often ill- 
health assailed her in a part far more to be dreaded. Her de- 
pression of spirits, when she was not well, was pitiful in its 
extremity. She was aware that it was constitutional, and 
could reason about it; but no reasonihg prevented her suffer- 
ing mental agony while the bodily cause remained in force. 

The Hegers have discovered, since the publication of 
'Villette,' that at this beginning of her career as English 
teacher in their school the conduct of her pupils was often 
impertinent and mutinous in the highest degree. But of 
this they were unaware at the time, as she had declined 
their presence and never made any complaint. Still it 
must have been a depressing thought to her at this period 
that her joyous, healthy, obtuse pupils were so little answer- 
able to the powers she could bring to bear upon them ; and 
though, from their own testimony, her patience, firmness, 
and resolution at length obtained their just reward, yet 
with one so weak in health and spirits the reaction after 
such struggles as she frequently had with her pupils must 
have been very sad and painful. 



262 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

She thns writes to her friend Ellen : — 

'April 1843. 

' Is there any talk of your coming to Brussels ? During 
the bitter cold weather we had through February, and the 
principal part of March, I did not regret that you had not 
accompanied me. If I had seen you shivering as I shivered 
myself, if I had seen your hands and feet as red and swelled 
as mine were, my discomfort would just have been doubled. 
I can do very well under this sort of thing ; it does not fret 
me ; it only makes me numb and silent ; but if you were to 
pass a winter in Belgium you would be ill. However, more 
genial weather is coming now, and I wish you were here. 
Yet I never have pressed you, and never would press you 
too warmly to come. There are privations and humiliations 
to submit to ; there is monotony and uniformity of life ; and, 
above all, there is a constant sense of solitude in the midst 
of numbers. The Protestant, the foreigner, is a solitary 
being,. whether as teacher or pupil. I do not say this by 
way of complaining of my own lot ; for though I acknowl- 
edge that there are certain disadvantages in my present 
position, what position on earth is without them? And, 
whenever I turn back to compare what I am with what I 
was — my place here with my place at Mrs. (Sidgwick's or 
Mrs. White's) — I am thankful. There was an observation in 
your last letter which excited, for a moment, my wrath. At 
first I thought it would be folly to reply to it, and I would 
let it die. Afterwards I determined to give one answer, 
once for all. " Three or four people," it seems, " have the 
idea that the future epoux of Mademoiselle Bronte is on the 
Continent." These people are wiser than I am. They could 
not believe that I crossed the sea merely to return as teacher 
to Madame Heger's. I must have some more powerful 
motive than respect for my master and mistress, gratitude 
for their kindness, &c, to induce me to refuse a salary of 
50?. in England and accept one of 161. in Belgium. I must, 
forsooth, have some remote hope of entrapping a husband 
somehow, or somewhere. If these charitable people knew 



1843 HER LETTERS FROM BRUSSELS 263 

the total seclusion of the life I lead — that I never exchange 
a word with any other man than Monsieur Heger, and sel- 
dom indeed with him — they would, perhaps, cease to sup- 
pose that any such chimerical and groundless notion had 
influenced my proceedings. Hare I said enough to clear 
myself of so silly an imputation ? Not that it is a crime to 
marry, or a crime to wish to be married ; but it is an im- 
becility, which I reject with contempt, for women, who 
have neither fortune nor beauty, to make marriage the prin- 
cipal object of their wishes and hopes, and the aim of all 
their actions ; not to be able to convince themselves that 
they are unattractive, and that they had better be quiet, 
and think of other things than wedlock.' 

The following is an extract, from one of the few letters 
which have been preserved, of her correspondence with her 
sister Emily :' — 

1 Here Is the actual letter. The original, from Gharlotte_Bronte and 
Iter Circle, is in the possession of Mr. A. B. Nicholls : — 

'Dear E. J., — The reason of the unconscionable demand for money 
is explained in my letter to papa. "Would you believe it, Mile. Mlihl 
demands as much for one pupil as for two, namely, ten francs per 
month. This, with the five francs per month to the blanchisseuse, 
makes havoc in W,. per annum. You will perceive I have begun 
again to take German lessons. Things wag on much as usual here. 
Only Mile. Blanche and Mile. HaussSare at present on a system of war 
without quarter. They hate each other like two cats. Mile. Blanche 
frightens Mile. Hausse by her white passions (for they quarrel venom- 
ously). Mile. Hausse complains that when Mile. Blanche is in fury 
"elle n'a pas de Uvres." I find also that Mile. Sophie dislikes Mile. 
Blanche extremely. She says she is heartless, insincere, and vindictive, 
which epithets, I assure you, are richly deserved. Also I find she is 
the regular spy of Mme. Heger, to whom she reports everything. 
Also she invents— which I should not have thought. I have now the 
entire charge of the English lessons. I have given two lessons to the 
first class. Hortense Jannoy was a picture on these occasions ; her 
face was black as a " blue-piled thunder-loft," and her two ears were 
red as raw beef. To all questions asked her reply was, " Je ne sais 
pas." It is a pity but her friends could meet with a person qualified 
to cast out a devil. I am richly off for companionship in these parts. 



264 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' May 29, 1843. 
'I get on here from day to day in a Robinson-Crusoe-like 
sort of way, very lonely, but that does not signify. In other 
respects I have nothing substantial to complain of, nor is 
this a cause for complaint. I hope you are well. Walk out 
often on the moors. My love to Tabby. I hope she keeps 
well.' 

And about this time she wrote to her father — 

' June 2, 1843. 
* I was very glad to hear from home. I had begun to 
get low-spirited at not receiving any news, and to entertain 
indefinite fears that something was wrong. You do not say 
anything about your own health, but I hope you are well, 
and Emily also. I am afraid she will have a good deal of 
hard work to do now that Hannah' (a servant girl who had 
been assisting Tabby) ' is gone. I am exceedingly glad to 

Of late daysM. and Mme. Heger rarely speak to me, and I really don't 
pretend to care a fig for anybody else in the establishment. You are 
not to suppose by that expression that I am under the influence of 
warm affection for Mme. Heger. I am convinced that she does not 
like me — why I can't tell, nor do I think she herself has any definite 
reason for the aversion ; but, for one thing, she cannot comprehend 
why I do not make intimate friends of Mesdames Blanche, Sophie, 
and Hausse. M. Heger is wondrously influenced by Madame, and I 
should not wonder if he disapproves very much of my unamiable 
want of sociability. He has already given me a brief lecture on uni- 
versal bienveillance, and, perceiving that I don't improve in conse- 
quence, I fancy he has taken to considering me as a person to be let 
alone, left to the error of her ways ; and consequently he has in a great 
measure withdrawn the light of his countenance, and I get on from day 
to day in a Robinson-Ciusoe-like condition— very lonely. That does 
not signify. In other respects I have nothing substantial to complain 
of, nor is even this a cause for complaint. Except the loss of M. Heger's 
goodwill (if I have lost it) I care for none of 'em. I hope you are well 
and hearty. Walk out often on the moors. Sorry am I to hear that 
Hannah is gone, and that she has left you burdened with the charge of 
the little girl, her sister. I hope Tabby will continue to stay with you 
—give my love to her. Regards to the fighting gentry, and to old 
asthma.— Your 0. B.' 



1843 DEVOIR <SUR LA MORT DE NAPOLEON' 265 

hear that you still keep Tabby' (considerably upwards of 
seventy). ' It is an act of great charity to her, and I do 
not think it will be unrewarded, for she is very faithful, 
and will always serve you, when she has occasion, to the 
best of her abilities ; besides, she will be company for Emily, 
who, without her, would be very lonely.' 

I gave a devoir, written after she had been four months 
under M. Heger's tuition. I will now copy out another, 
written nearly a year later, daring which the progress made 
appears to me very great. 

' 31 mai 1843. 
'SUB LA MORT DE NAPOLEON. 

' Napoleon naquit en Corse et mourut a Sainte-H616ne. 
Entre ces deux iles rien qu'nn vaste et brulant desert et 
l'ocean immense. II naquit fils d'un simple gentilhomme, 
et mourut empereur, mais sans couronne et dans les fers. 
Entre son berceau et sa tombe qu'y a-t-il ? la carriere d'un 
soldat parvenu, des champs de bataille, une mer de sang, 
un tr6ne, puis du sang encore, et des fers. Sa vie, c'est l'arc- 
en-ciel; les deux points extremes touchent la terre, le comble 
lumineux mesure les cieux. Sur Napoleon au berceau une 
mere brillait ; dans la maison paternelle il avait des freres 
et des soeurs ; plus tard dans son palais il eut une femme 
qui l'aimait. Mais sur son lit de mort Napoleon est seul ; 
pins de m&re, ni de frere, ni de sceur, ni de femme, ni 
d'enfant ! ! D'autres ont dit et rediront ses exploits, moi, 
je m'arrete a contempler l'abandonnement de sa derniere 
heure. 

' II est la, exil6 et captif, enchaine sur un ecueil. Nouveau 
Promethee, il subit le chatiment de son orgueil ! Promethee 
avait voulu etre Dieu et Createur; il deroba le feu du Ciel 
pour animer le corps qu'il avait forme. Et lui, Buonaparte, 
il a voulu creer, non pas un homme, mais un empire, et pour 
donner une existence, une lime, a son oeuvre gigantesqne il 
n'a pas hesite a arracher la vie a des nations entieres. Jupiter 



266 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

indigne de l'impiet6 de Promethee, le riva vivant a la cime 
dn Oaucase. Ainsi, pour punir l'ambition rapace de Buona- 
parte, la Providence l'a enchalne, jusqu'a ce que la mort 
s'en suivit, sur un roc isole de l'Atlantique. Peut-6tre la 
aussi a-t-il senti lui fouillant le flanc cet insatiable vautonr 
dont parle la fable, peut-6tre a-t-il souffert augsi cette soif 
du coeur, cette faim de l'ame, qui torturent l'exile, loin de 
sa famille et de sa patrie. Mais parler ainsi n'est-ce pas 
attribuer gratuitement a Napoleon nne humaine faiblesse 
qu'il n'eprouva jamais ? Quand done s'est-il laisse en- 
chalner par un lien d'afEection ? Sans doute d'autres con- 
querants ont hesite da'ns leur carriere de gloire, arr^tes par 
un obstacle d'amour ou d'amitie, retenus par la main d'une 
femme, rappeles par la voix d'un ami — lui, jamais ! II n'eut 
pas besoin, comme Ulysse, de se lier au mat du navire, ni 
de se boucher les oreilles avec de la cire ; il ne redoutait 
pas le chant des Sirenes — il le dedaignait ; il se fit marbre 
et fer pour executer ses grands projets. Napoleon ne se 
regardait pas comme un homme, mais comme l'incarnation 
d'un peuple. II n'aimait pas ; il ne considerait ses amis et 
ses proches que comme des instruments auxquels il tint, 
tant qu'ils furent utiles, et qu'il jeta c6te quand ils ces- 
serent de l'6tre. Qu'on ne se permette done pas d'approcher 
du sepulcre du Corse avec sentiments de pitie, ou de souil- 
ler de larmes la pierre qui couvre ses restes, son ame r§- 
pudierait tout cela. On a dit, je le sais, qu'elle fut cruelle 
la main qui le separa de sa femme et de son enfant. Non, 
c'6tait une main qui, comme la sienne, ne tremblait ni de 
passion ni de crainte, c'6tait la main d'un homme froid, 
convaincu, qui avait su deviner Buonaparte; et voici ce 
que disait cet homme que la defaite n'a pu humilier, ni la 
victoire enorgueillir. " Marie-Louise n'est pas la femme 
de Napoleon ; e'est la France que Napoleon a epousee ; 
e'est la France qu'il aime, leur union enfante la perte de 
l'Europe ; voila le divorce que je veux — voila l'union qu'il 
faut briser." 

' La voix des timides et des traftres protesta contre cette 



1843 DEVOIR <SUR LA MORT DE NAPOLEON 267 

sentence. " C'est abuser de droit de la victoire ! C'est 
fonler anx pieds le vaincu ! Que l'Angleterre se montre 
clemente, qu'elle ouvre ses bras pour recevoir comme h6te 
son ennemi desarme." L'Angleterre aurait peut-6tre ecoute 
ce conseil, car partout et toujours il y a des ames faibles 
et timorees bient6t seduites par la flatterie ou efErayees par 
le reproche. Mais la Providence permit qu'un homme se 
trouvat qui n'a jamais su ce que c'est que la crainte ; qui 
aima sa patrie mieux que sa renommee ; impenetrable de- 
vant les menaces, inaccessible aux louanges, il se presenta 
devant le conseil de la nation, et levant son front tranquille 
en haut, il osa dire : " Que la trahison se taise ! car c'est 
trahir que de conseiller de temporiser avec Buonaparte. 
Moi je sais ce que sont ces guerres dont l'Europe saigne 
encore, comme une victime sous le couteau du boucher. II 
faut en finir avec Napoleon Buonaparte. Vous vous effrayez 
a tort d'un mot si dur ! Je n'ai pas de magnanimite, dit- 
on? Soit ! que m'importe ce qu'on dit de moi ? Je n'ai 
pas ici a me faire une reputation de heros magnanime, 
mais a guerir, si la cure est possible, l'Europe qui se meurt, 
epuisee de ressources et de sang, l'Europe dont vous ne- 
gligez les vrais interets, preoccup6s que vous etes d'une vaine 
renommee de clemence. Vous Stes faibles ! Eh bien ! je 
viens vous aider. Envoyez Buonaparte a Sainte-Helene ! 
n'hesitez pas, ne cherchez pas un autre endroit ; c'est le 
seul convenable. Je vous le dis, j'ai refl^chi pour vous ; 
c'est la qu'il doit e'tre, et non pas ailleurs. Quant a Na- 
poleon, homme, soldat, je n'ai rien contre lui ; c'est un lion 
royal, aupres de qui vous n'etes que des chacals. Mais Na- 
poleon empereur, c'est autre chose, je l'extirperai du sol 
de l'Europe." Et celui qui parla ainsi toujours sut garder 
sa promesse, celle-la comme toutes les autres. Je l'ai dit, 
et je le repete, cet homme est l'egal de Napoleon par le 
genie ; comme trempe de caractere, comme droiture, comme 
elevation de pensee et de but, il est d'une tout autre espece. 
Napoleon Buonaparte etait avide de renommee et de gloire : 
Arthur Wellesley ne se soucie ni de l'une ni de Fautre ; 



268 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

l'opinion publique. la popularity, etaient choses de grand 
valeur aux yenx de Napoleon ; pour Wellington l'opinion 
publique est une rumeur, un rien que le souffle de son in- 
flexible volonte fait disparaitre comme une bulle de savon. 
Napoleon flattait le peuple ; Wellington le brusque j l'un 
cherchait les applaudissements, l'autre ne se soucie que du 
temoignage de sa conscience ; quand elle approuve, c'est 
assez ; tout autre louange l'obsede. Aussi ce peuple, qui 
adorait Buonaparte, s'irritait, s'insurgeait contre la morgue 
de Wellington ; parfois il lui temoigna sa colere et sa haine 
par des grognements, par des hurlements de betes fauves ; 
et alors, avec une impassibility de senate ur romain, le mo- 
derne Coriolan toisait du regard l'emeute furieuse ; il croi- 
sait ses bras nerveux sur sa large poitrine, et seul, debout 
sur son seuil, il attendait, il bravait cette temp^te popu- 
laire dont les flots venaient monrir a quelques pas de lui : 
et quand la foule, honteuse de sa rebellion, venait lecher 
les pieds du maltre, le hautain patricien meprisait l'hom- 
mage d'aujourd'lini comme la haine d'hier, et dans les rues 
de Londres, et devant son palais ducal d'Apsley, il repoussait 
d'un genre plein de froid dMain l'incommode empresse- 
ment du peuple enthousiaste. Oette fierte neanmoins 
n'excluait pas en lui une rare modestie ; partout il se sou- 
strait a 1'eloge ; se derobe au panegyrique ; jamais il ne 
parle de ses exploits, et jamais il ne souffre qu'un autre lui 
en parle en sa presence. Son caractere egale en grandeur 
et snrpasse en verity celui de tout autre heros ancien on 
moderne. La gloire de Napoleon crut en une nuit, comme 
la vigne de Jonas, et il suffit d'un jour pour la fletrir ; la 
gloire de Wellington est comme les vieux chines qui ombrag- 
ent le chateau de ses p6res sur les rives du Shannon ; le 
che'ne crott lentement ; il lui faut du temps pour pousser 
vers le ciel ses branches noueuses, et pour enf oncer dans le 
sol ces racines profondes qui s'enchev^trent dans les fonde- 
ments solides de la terre ; mais alors, l'arbre seculaire, in- 
6branlable comme le roc ou il a sa base, brave et la faux du 
temps et l'eff ort des vents et des temp^tes. II faudra pent- 



1843 WELLINGTON AND BUONAPARTE 269 

etre un siecle a l'Angleterre pour qu'elle connaisse la valeur 
de son heros. Dans un siecle l'Europe entiere saura com- 
bien Wellington a des droits a sa reconnaissance.' 

How often in writing this paper ' in a strange land ' must 
Miss Bronte have thought of the old childish disputes in 
the kitchen of HaNyorth Parsonage touching the respective 
merits of Wellington and Buonaparte ! Although the title 
given to her devoir is 'On the Death of Napoleon/ she seems 
yet to have considered it a point of honour rather to sing 
praises to an English hero than to dwell on the character 
of a foreigner, placed as she was among those who cared 
little either for England or for Wellington. She now felt 
that she had made great progress towards obtaining pro- 
ficiency in the French language, which had been her main 
object in coming to Brussels. But to the zealous learner 
'Alps on Alps arise.' No sooner is one difficulty surmounted 
than some other desirable attainment appears, and must be 
laboured after. A knowledge of German now became her 
object; and she resolved to compel herself to remain in 
Brussels till that was gained. The strong yearning to go 
home came upon her; the stronger self-denying will for- 
bade. There was a great internal struggle ; every fibre of 
her heart quivered in the strain to master her will ; and, 
when she conquered herself, she remained, not like a vic- 
tor calm and supreme on the throne, but like a panting, 
torn, and suffering victim. Her nerves and her spirits gave 
way. Her health became much shaken. 

' Brussels : August 1, 1843. 
If I complain in this letter, have mercy and don't blame 
me, for, I forewarn you, I am in low spirits, and that earth 
and heaven are dreary and empty to me at this moment. 
In a few days our vacation will begin ; everybody is joyous 
and animated at the prospect, because everybody is to go 
home. I know that I am to stay here during the five weeks 
that the holidays last, and that I shall be much alone dur- 



270 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ing that time, and consequently get downcast, and find 
both days and nights of a weary length. It is the first 
time in my life that I have really dreaded the vacation. 
Alas ! I can hardly write, I have such a dreary weight at 
my heart ; and I do so wish to go home. Is not .this childish? 
Pardon me, for I cannot help it. However, though I am 
not strong enough to bear up cheerfully, I can still bear 
up; and I will continue to stay (D.V.) some months longer, 
till I have acquired German ; and then I hope to see all 
your faces again. Would that the vacation were well over ! 
it will pass so slowly. Do have the Christian charity to 
write me a long, long letter; fill it with the minutest de- 
tails; nothing will be uninteresting. Do not think it is 
because people are unkind to me that I wish to leave Bel- 
gium ; nothing of the sort. Everybody is abundantly civil, 
but home-sickness keeps creeping over me. I cannot shake 
it off. Believe me, very merrily, vivaciously, gaily yours, 

<C. B.' 

The grandes vacances began soon after the date of this 
letter, when she was left in the great deserted pensionnat, 
with only one teacher for a companion. This teacher, a 
Frenchwoman, had always been uncongenial to her ; but, 
left to each other's sole companionship, Charlotte soon dis- 
covered that her associate was more profligate, more steeped 
in a kind of cold, systematic sensuality, than she had before 
imagined it possible for a human being to be ; and her whole 
nature revolted from this woman's society. A low nervous 
fever was gaining upon Miss Bronte. She had never been a 
good sleeper, but now she could not sleep at all. Whatever 
had been disagreeable, or obnoxious, to her during the day 
was presented when it was over with exaggerated vividness 
to her disordered fancy. There were causes for distress and 
anxiety in the news from, home, particularly as regarded 
Branwell. In the dead of the night, lying awake at the end 
of the long, deserted dormitory, in the vast and silent house, 
every fear respecting those whom she loved, and who were 



1843 ALONE IN BRUSSELS 271 

so far off in another country, became a terrible reality, op- 
pressing her and choking up the very life blood in her 
heart. Those nights were times of sick, dreary, wakeful 
misery ; precursors of many such in after years. 1 

1 An interesting letter to Emily, printed in Charlotte Bronte and lier 
Circle, was written at this time. It gives the actual facts of a famous 
incident in Villette : — 

' Bruxelles : September 2, 1843. 

'Dear E. J., — Another opportunity of writing to you coming to pass, 
I shall improve it by scribbling a few lines. More than half the holi- 
days are now past, and rather better than I expected. The weather 
has been exceedingly fine during the last fortnight, and yet not so 
Asiatically hot as it was last year at this time. Consequently I have 
tramped about a great deal and tried to get a clearer acquaintance with 
the streets of Bruxelles. This week, as no teacher is here except Mile. 
Blanche, who *s returned from Paris, I am always alone except at 
meal times, for Mile. Blanche's character is so false and so contempti- 
ble 1 can't force myself to associate with her. She perceives my ut- 
ter dislike and never now speaks to me — a great relief. 

' However, 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 some- 
times for hours together. Yesterday I went on a pilgrimage to the 
cemetery, and far beyond it on to a hill where there was nothing but 
fields as far as the horizon. When I came back it was evening ; but 
I had such a repugnance to return to the house, which contained 
nothing that I cared for, I still kept threading the streets in the neigh- 
bourhood of the Rue d'lsabelle and avoiding it. I found myself op- 
posite to Ste. Gudule, and the bell, whose voice you know, began 
to toll for evening salut. I went in, quite alone (which procedure 
you will say is not much like me), wandered about the aisles, where a 
few old women were saying their prayers, till vespers began. I stayed 
till they were over. Still I could not leave the church or force myself 
to go home — to school I mean. An odd whim came into my head. In 
a solitary part of the Cathedral six or seven people still remained 
kneeling by the confessionals. In two confessionals I saw a priest. I 
felt as if I did not care what I did, provided it was not absolutely 
wrong, and that it served to vary my life and yield a moment's inter- 
est. I took a fancy to change myself into a Catholic and go and make 
a real confession, to see what it was like. Knowing me as you do, 
you will think this odd, but when people are by themselves they have 
singular fancies. A penitent was occupied in confessing. They do 



-m LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

In the daytime, driven abroad by loathing of her com- 
panion and by the weak restlessness of fever, she tried to 
walk herself into such a state of bodily fatigue as would in- 
duce sleep. So she went out, and with weary, steps would 
traverse the Boulevards and the streets, sometimes for hours 
together ; faltering and resting occasionally on some of the 
many benches placed for the repose of happy groups, or for 
solitary wanderers like herself. Then up again — anywhere 
but to the pensionnat — out to the cemetery where Martha 
lay — out beyond it, to the hills whence there is nothing to 
be seen but fields as far as the horizon. The shades of 
evening made her retrace her footsteps — sick for want 

not go into the sort of pew or cloister which the priest occupies, but 
kneel down on the steps and confess through a grating. Both the 
confessor and the penitent whisper very low, you can hardly hear 
their voices. After I had watched two or three penitents go and re- 
turn 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 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 com- 
mence 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 as 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 aonfesse;" but I was determined to confess, 
and at last he said he would allow me, because it might be the first 
step towards returning to the true Church. I actually did confess — 
a real confession. When I had done he told me his address, and said 
that every morning I was to go to the Rue du Pare — to his house — and 
he would reason with me and try to 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. I think you had better not tell papa of this. He 
will not understand that it was only a freak, and will perhaps think I 
am going to turn Catholic. Trusting that you and papa are well, 
and also Tabby and the Holyes, and hoping you will write to me im- 
mediately, I am yours, 

'C. B.' 



1843 DEPRESSION AND HOME-SICKNESS 273 

of food, but not hungry ; fatigued with long-continued ex- 
ercise — yet restless still, and doomed to another weary, 
haunted night of sleeplessness. She would thread the 
streets in the neighbourhood of the Eue d'Isabelle, and 
yet avoid it and its occupant, till as late an hour as she 
dared be out. At last she was compelled to keep her bed 
for some days, and this compulsory rest did her good. She 
was weak,, but less depressed in spirits than she had been, 
when the school reopened, and her positive practical duties 
recommenced. 

She writes thus on October 13, 1843 ' : — 

' Mary (Taylor) is getting on well, as she deserves to do. 
I often hear from her. Her letters and yours are one of 
my few pleasures. She urges me very much to leave Brus- 
sels and go to her ; but at present, however tempted to 
take such a step, I should not feel justified in doing so. To 
leave a certainty for a complete uncertainty would be to 
the last degree imprudent. Notwithstanding that Brussels 
is indeed desolate to me now. Since the D(ixon)s left I 
have had no friend. I had, indeed, some very kind ac- 
quaintances in the family of a Dr. (Wheelwright), but 
they, too, are gone now. They left in the latter part of 
August, and I am completely alone. I cannot count the 
Belgians anything. It is a curious position to be so ut- 
terly solitary in the midst of numbers. Sometimes the 
solitude oppresses me to an excess. One day, lately, I 
felt as if I could bear it no longer, and I went to Ma- 
dame Heger and gave her notice. If it had depended on 
her I should certainly have soon been at liberty ; but M. 
Heger, having heard of what was in agitation, sent for 
me the day after, and pronounced with vehemence his 
decision, that I should not leave. I could not, at that 
time, have persevered in my intention without exciting 
him to anger ; so I promised to stay a little while longer. 
How long that will be I do not know. I should not like 

1 To Ellen Nussey. 



274 LIFE OF CHAKLOTTE BRONTE 

to return to England to do nothing. I am too old for 
that now ; bat if I could hear of a favourable oppor- 
tunity for commencing a school, I think I should em- 
brace it. We have as yet no fires here, and I suffer much 

from cold ; otherwise I am well in health. Mr. ! will 

take this letter to England. He is a pretty-looking and 
pretty-behaved young man, apparently constructed with- 
out a backbone ; by which I don't allude to his corporal 
spine, which is all right enough, but to his character. 

' I get on here after a fashion ; but now that Mary D(ixon) 
has left Brussels I have nobody to speak to, for I count the 
Belgians as nothing. Sometimes I ask myself, How long 
shall I stay here ? but as yet I have only asked the ques- 
tion ; I have not answered it. However, when I have ac- 
quired as much German as I think fit I think I shall pack 
up bag and baggage, and depart. Twinges of home-sick- 
ness cut me to the heart, every now and then. To-day the 
weather is glaring, and I am stupefied with a bad cold and 
headache. I have nothing to tell you. One day is like 
another in this place. I know you, living in the country, 
can hardly believe it is possible life can be monotonous in 
the centre of a brilliant capital like Brussels ; but so it is. 
I feel it most on holidays, when all the girls and teachers go 
out to visit, and it sometimes happens that I am left, dur- 
ing several hours, quite alone, with four great desolate 
schoolrooms at my disposition. I try to read, I try to 
write ; but in vain. I then wander about from room to 
room, but the silence and loneliness of all the house weighs 
down one's spirits like lead. You will hardly believe that 
Madame Heger (good and kind as I have described her 5 ) 
never comes near me on these occasions. I own I was as- 
tonished the first time I was left alone thus ; when every- 
body else was enjoying the pleasures of a f6te day with 

1 The late Mr. George Dixon, afterwards M.P. for Birmingham. 

5 This, it is hardly necessary to say, is ironical. In a previous letter 
to the same correspondent she says, ' Madame Heger is a politic, plausi- 
ble, and interested person. I no longer trust her.' 



1843 ESTRANGEMENT FROM MADAME HEGER 275 

their friends, and she knew I was quite by myself, and 
never took the least notice of me. Yet, I understand, she 
praises me very much to everybody, and says what excellent 
lessons I give. She is not colder to me than she is to the 
other teachers ; but they are less dependent on her than I 
am. They have relations and acquaintances in Bruxelles. 
Yon remember the letter she wrote me, when I was in Eng- 
land ? How kind and affectionate that was ! is it not odd? 
In the meantime the complaints I make at present are a 
sort of relief which I permit myself. In all other respects 
I am well satisfied with my position, and you may say so to 
people who inquire after me (if any one does). Write to 
me, dear, whenever you can. You do a good deed when 
you send me a letter, for you comfort a very desolate 
heart.' 

One of the reasons for the silent estrangement between 
Madame Heger and Miss Bronte, in the second year of her 
residence at Brussels, is to be found in the fact that the 
English Protestant's dislike of Romanism increased with her 
knowledge of it, and its effects upon those who professed it; 
and when occasion called for an expression of opinion from 
Charlotte Bronte she was uncompromising truth. Madame 
Heger, on the opposite side, was not merely a Roman Cath- 
olic, she was devote. Not of a warm or impulsive temper- 
ament, she was naturally governed by her conscience, 
rather than by her affections ; and her conscience was in 
the hands of her religious guides. She considered any 
slight thrown upon her Church as blasphemy against the 
Holy Truth ; and, though she was not given to open ex- 
pression of her thoughts and feelings, yet her increasing 
coolness of behaviour showed how much her most cherished 
opinions had been wounded. Thus, although there was 
never any explanation of Madame Heger's change of man- 
ner, this may be given as one great reason why, about this 
time, Charlotte was made painfully conscious of a silent 
estrangement between them ; an estrangement of which, 



276 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

perhaps, the former was hardly aware. I have before al- 
luded to intelligence from home, calculated to distress 
Charlotte exceedingly with fears respecting Branwell, 
which I shall speak of more at large when the realisation 
of her worst apprehensions came to affect the daily life of 
herself and her sisters. I allude to the subject again here, 
in order that the reader may remember the gnawing private 
cares which she had to bury in her own heart ; and the 
pain of which could only be smothered for a time under 
the diligent fulfilment of present duty. Another dim sor- 
row was faintly perceived at this time. Her father's eye- 
sight began to fail ; it was not unlikely that he might 
shortly become blind ; more of his duty must devolve on a 
curate, and Mr. Bronte, always liberal, would have to pay 
at a higher rate than he had heretofore done for this as- 
sistance. 

She wrote thus to Emily : — 

' Dec. 1, 1843. 

' This is Sunday morning. They are at their idolatrous 
" messe," and I am here — that is, in the refectoire. I should 
like uncommonly to be in the dining-room at home, or in 
the kitchen, or in the back kitchen. I should like even to 
be cutting up the hash, with the clerk and some register 
people at the other table, and you standing by, watching 
that I put enough flour, and not too much pepper, and, 
above all, that I save the best pieces of the leg of mutton 
for Tiger and Keeper, the first of which personages would 
be jumping about the dish and carving-knife, and the lat- 
ter standing like a devouring flame on the kitchen floor. 
To complete the picture, Tabby blowing the fire, in order 
to boil the potatoes to a sort of vegetable glue ! How di- 
vine are these recollections to me at this moment ! Yet I 
have no thought of coming home just now. I lack a real 
pretext for doing so ; it is true this place is dismal to me, 
but I cannot go home without a fixed prospect when I get 
there ; and this prospect must not be a situation ; that 
would be jumping out of the frying-pan into the fire. You 



1843 ANXIETY TO RETURN HOME 277 

call yourself idle ! absurd, absurd ! ... Is papa well ? Are 
you well ? and Tabby ? You ask about Queen Victoria's 
visit to Brussels. I saw her for an instant flashing through 
the Rue Royale in a carriage and six, surrounded by sol- 
diers. She was laughing and talking very gaily. She 
looked a little stout, vivacious lady, very plainly dressed, 
not much dignity or pretension about her. The Belgians 
liked her very well on the whole. They said she enlivened 
the sombre Court of King Leopold, which is usually as 
gloomy as a conventicle. "Write to me again soon. Tell me 
whether papa really wants me very much to come home, 
and whether you do likewise. I have an idea that 1 should 
be of no use there — a sort of aged person upon the parish. 
I pray, with heart and soul, that all may continue well 
at Haworth; above all in our grey, half-inhabited house. 
God bless the walls thereof ! Safety, health, happiness, and 
prosperity to you, papa, and Tabby. Amen. C. B.' 

Towards the end of this year (1843) various reasons con- 
spired with the causes of anxiety which have been mentioned 
to make her feel that her presence was absolutely and im- 
peratively required at home, while she had acquired all that 
she proposed to herself in coming to Brussels the second 
time ; and was, moreover, no longer regarded with the 
former kindliness of feeling by Madame Heger. In conse- 
quence of this state of things, working down with sharp 
edge into a sensitive mind, she suddenly announced to that 
lady her immediate intention of returning to England. Both 
M. and Madame Heger agreed that it would be for the best, 
when they learnt only that part of the case which she could 
reveal to them — namely, Mr. Bronte's increasing blindness. 
But as the inevitable moment of separation from people and 
places, among which she had spent so many happy hours, 
drew near, her spirits gave way ; she had the natural pre- 
sentiment that she saw them all for the last time, and she 
received but a dead kind of comfort from being reminded 
by her friends that Brussels and Haworth were not so very 



278 LIFE OF CHAKLOTTE BRONTE 

far apart ; that access from one place to the other was not 
so difficult or impracticable as her tears would seem to predi- 
cate ; nay, there was some talk of one of Madame Heger's 
daughters being sent to her as a pupil, if she fulfilled her 
intention of trying to begin a school. To facilitate her 
success in this plan, should she ever engage in it, M. H6ger 
gave her a kind of diploma, dated from and sealed with the 
seal of the Ath6n6e Eoyal de Bruxelles, certifying that she 
was perfectly capable of teaching the French language, 
having well studied the grammar and composition thereof, 
and, moreover, having prepared herself for teaching by 
studying and practising the best methods of instruction. 
This certificate is dated December 29, 1843, and on January 
2, 1844, she arrived at Haworth. 

On the 23rd of the month she writes as follows : ' — 

'Every one asks me what I am going to do, now that I 
am returned home ; and every one seems to expect that I 
should immediately commence a school. In truth, it is 
what I should wish to do. I desire it above all things. I 
have sufficient money for the undertaking, and I hope now 
sufficient qualifications to give me a fair chance of success ; 
yet I cannot yet permit myself to enter upon life — to touch 
the object which seems now within my reach, and which I 
have been so long straining to attain. Yon will ask me 
why. It is on papa's account ; he is now, as you know, 
getting old, and it grieves me to tell you that he is losing 
his sight. I have felt for some months that I ought not to 
be away from him ; and I feel now that it would be too 
selfish to leave him (at least as long as Branwell and Anne 
are absent), in order to pursue selfish interests of my own. 
With the help of God I will try to deny myself in this mat- 
ter, and to wait. 

' I suffered much before I left Brussels, f think, how- 
ever long I live, I shall not forget what the parting with M. 

1 To Ellen Nussey 



1844 KINDNESS OF HER NATURE 279 

Heger cost me ; it grieved me so much to grieve him, who 
has been so true, kind, and disinterested a friend. 1 At 
parting he gave me a kind of diploma certifying my abili- 
ties as a teacher, sealed with the seal of the Athenee Royal, 
of which he is professor. I was surprised also at the degree 
of regret expressed by my Belgian pupils, when they knew 
I was going to leave. I did not think it had been in their 
phlegmatic nature. ... I do not know whether you feel as 
I do, but there are times now when it appears to me as if 
all my ideas and feelings, except a few friendships and af- 
fections, are changed from what they used to be ; some- 
thing in me, which used to be enthusiasm, is tamed down 
and broken. I have fewer illusions ; what I wish for now 
is active exertion — a stake in life. Haworth seems such a 
lonely, quiet spot, buried away from the world. I no longer 
regard myself as young — indeed, I shall soon be twenty- 
eight ; and it seems as if I ought to be working and brav- 
ing the rough realities of the world, as other people do. It 
is, however, my duty to restrain this feeling at present, and 
I will endeavour to do so.' 

Of course her absent sister and brother obtained a holi- 
day to welcome her return home, and in a few weeks she 
was spared to pay a visit to her friend at B(irstall). But 
she was far from well or strong, and the short journey of 
fourteen miles seems to have fatigued her greatly. 

Soon after she came back to Haworth, in a letter to one 
of the household in which she had been staying, there 

1 M. and Mme. Heger celebrated their golden wedding in 1888, but 
Mme. Heger died the next year. M. Constantin Heger lived to be 
eighty-seven years of age, dying at 72 Rue Nettoyer, Brussels, on May 
6, 1896. He was born in Brussels in 1809, took part in the Belgian revo- 
lution of 1830, and fought in the war of independence against the 
Dutch. He was twice married, and it was his second wife who was 
associated with Charlotte Bronte. She started the school in the Rue 
d'lsabelle, and M. Heger took charge of the upper French classes. The 
Pensionnat Heger was removed in 1894 to the Avenue Louise. I had 
an interview with Mile. Heger in 1895. Her father, however, was too 
ill to see me. 



280, LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BKONTE 

occurs this passage : ' Our poor little cat has been ill two 
days, and is just dead. It is piteous to see even an animal 
lying lifeless. Emily is sorry.' These few words relate to 
points in the characters of the two sisters which I must 
dwell upon a little. Charlotte was more than commonly 
tender in her treatment of all dumb creatures, and they, 
with that fine instinct so often noticed, were invariably 
attracted towards her. The deep and exaggerated con- 
sciousness of her personal defects — the constitutional ab- 
sence of hope, which made her slow to trust in human 
affection, and, consequently, slow to respond to any mani- 
festation of it — made her manner shy and constrained to 
men and women, and even to children. We have seen 
something of this trembling distrust of her own capability 
of inspiring affection in the grateful surprise she expresses 
at the regret felfby her Belgian pupils at her departure. 
But not merely were her actions kind, her words and tones 
were ever gentle and caressing, towards animals : and she 
quickly noticed the least want of care or tenderness on the 
part of others towards any poor brute creature. The 
readers of 'Shirley' may remember that it is one of the 
tests which the heroine applies to her lover : — 

' Do you know what soothsayers I would consult ?' . . . 
' The little Irish beggar that comes barefoot to my door ; 
the mouse that steals out of the cranny in my wainscot ; 
the bird in frost and snow that pecks at my window for a 
crumb ; the dog that licks my hand and sits beside my 
knee. ... I know somebody to whose knee the black cat 
loves to climb, against whose shoulder and cheek it likes 
to purr. The old dog always comes out of his kennel and 
wags his tail, and whines affectionately when somebody pass- 
es.' [For 'somebody'aud 'he,' read 'Charlotte Bronte'and 
' she.'] ' He quietly strokes the cat, and lets her sit while he 
conveniently can ; and when he must disturb her by rising 
he puts her softly down, and never flings her from him rough- 
ly : he always whistles to the dog, and gives him. a caress.' 



1844 EMILY AND HER DOG 'KEEPER' 281 

The feeling, which in Charlotte partook of something 
of the nature of an affection, was, with Emily, more of a 
passion. Some one speaking of her to me, in a careless 
kind of strength of expression, said, ' She never showed 
regard to any human creature ; all her love was reserved 
for animals.' The helplessness of an animal was its passport 
to Charlotte's heart ; the fierce, wild intractability of its 
nature was what often recommended it to Emily. Speak- 
ing of her dead sister, the former told me that from her 
many traits in Shirley's character were taken : her way 
of sitting on the rug reading, with her arm round her 
rough bulldog's neck ; her calling to a strange dog, run- 
ning past, with hanging head and lolling .tongue, to 
give it a merciful draught of water, its maddened snap 
at her, her nobly stern presence of mind, going right into 
the kitchen, and taking up one of Tabby's red-hot Italian 
irons to sear the bitten place, and telling no one, till the 
danger was wellnigh over, for fear of the terrors that might 
beset their weaker minds. All this, looked upon as well- 
invented fiction in ' Shirley,' was written down by Charlotte 
with streaming eyes ; it was the literal true account of what 
Emily had done. The same tawny bulldog (with his 
'strangled whistle'), called 'Tartar' in 'Shirley,' was 
' Keeper ' in Haworth Parsonage ; a gift to Emily. With 
the gift came a. warning. Keeper was faithful to the depths 
of his nature as long as he was with friends ; but he who 
struck him with a stick or whip roused the relentless 
nature of the brute, who flew at his throat forthwith, and 
held him there till one or the other was at the point of 
death. Now Keeper's household fault was this : he loved 
to steal upstairs, and stretch his square tawny limbs on the 
comfortable beds, covered over with delicate white coun- 
terpanes. But the cleanliness of the parsonage arrange- 
ments was perfect; and this habit of Keeper's was so 
objectionable that Emily, in reply to Tabby's remonstrances, 
declared that, if he was found again transgressing, she her- 
self, in defiance of warning and his well-known ferocity of 



282 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

nature, would beat him so - severely that he would never 
offend again. In the gathering dusk of an autumn evening 
Tabby came, half triumphantly, half tremblingly, but in 
great wrath, to tell Emily that Keeper was lying on the 
best bed, in drowsy voluptuousness. Charlotte saw Emily's 
whitening face and set mouth, but dared not speak to in- 
terfere ; no one dared when Emily's eyes glowed in that 
manner out of the paleness of her face, and when her lips 
were compressed into stone. She went upstairs, and Tabby 
and Charlotte stood in the gloomy passage below, full of 
the dark shadows of coming night. Downstairs came 
Emily, dragging after her the unwilling Keeper, his hind 
legs set in a heavy attitude of resistance, held by the ' scuf t 
of his neck,' but growling low and savagely all the time. 
The watchers would fain have spoken, but durst not, for 
fear of taking off Emily's attention, and causing her to 
avert her head for a moment from the enraged brute. She 
let him go, planted in a dark corner at the bottom of the 
stairs ; no time was there to fetch stick or rod, for fear of 
the strangling clutch at her throat — her bare clenched fist 
struck against his red fierce eyes, before he had time to 
make his spring, and, in the language of the turf, she 
' punished him ' till his eyes were swelled up, and the half- 
blind, stupefied beast was led to his accustomed lair to 
have his swollen head fomented and cared for by the very 
Emily herself. The generous dog owed her no grudge ; he 
loved her dearly ever after ; he walked first among the 
mourners at her funeral ; he slept moaning for nights at 
the door of her empty room, and never, so to speak, re- 
joiced, dog fashion, after her death. He, in his turn, was 
mourned over by the surviving sister. Let us somehow 
hope, in half Red-Indian creed, that he follows Emily now ; 
and, when he rests, sleeps on some soft white bed of 
dreams, unpunished when he awakes to the life of the land 
of shadows. 

Now we can understand the force of the words, 'Our 
poor little cat is dead. Emily is sorry.' 



CHAPTER XIII 

The moors were a great resource this spring ; Emily and 
Charlotte walked out on them perpetually, ' to the great 
damage of our shoes, but, I hope, to the benefit of our 
health.' The old plan of school-keeping was often dis- 
cussed in these rambles ; but indoors they set with vigour 
to shirt-making for the absent Branwell, and pondered in 
silence over their past and future life. At last they came 
to a determination. 

'I have seriously entered into the enterprise of keeping 
a school — or rather taking a limited number of pupils at 
home. That is, I have begun in good earnest to seek for 
pupils. I wrote to Mrs. (White)' (the lady with whom she 
had lived as governess, just before going to Brussels), ' not 
asking her for her daughter — I cannot do that — but inform- 
ing her of my intention. I received an answer from Mr. 
(White) expressive of, I believe, sincere regret that I had 
not informed them a month sooner, in which case, he said, 
they would gladly have sent me their own daughter, and 
also Colonel S(tott)'s, but that now both were promised to 
Miss C(orkhills). I was partly disappointed by this answer, 
and partly gratified ; indeed, I derived quite an impulse 
of encouragement from the warm assurance that if I had 
but applied a little sooner they would certainly have sent 
me their daughter. I own I had misgivings that nobody 
would be willing to send a child for education to Haworth. 
These misgivings are partly done away with. I have writ- 
ten also to Mrs. B(usfeild), of Keighley, and have enclosed 
the diploma which M. Heger gave me before I left Brus- 



284 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

sels. I have not yet received her answer, but I wait for it 
with some anxiety. I do not expect that she will send me 
any of her children, but if she would I dare say she could 
recommend me other pupils. Unfortunately she knows us 
only very slightly. As soon as I can get an assurance of 
only one pupil, I will have cards of terms printed, and will 
commence the repairs necessary in the house. I wish all 
that to be done before winter. I think of fixing the board 
and English education at 251. per annum. 

Again, at a later date, July 24 in the same year, she 
writes — 

' I am driving on with my small matter as well as I can. 
I have written to all the friends on whom I have the slight- 
est claim, and to some on whom I have no claim ; Mrs. 
B(usfeild), for example. On her, also, I have actually 
made bold to call. She was exceedingly polite ; regretted 
that her children were already at school at Liverpool ; 
thought the undertaking a most praiseworthy one, but 
feared I should have some difficulty in making it succeed 
on account of the situation. Such is the answer I receive 
from almost every one. I tell them the retired situation 
is, in some points of view, an advantage ; that were it in 
the midst of a large town I could not pretend to take 
pupils on terms so moderate — Mrs. B(usfeild) remarked 
that she thought the terms very moderate — but that, as it 
is, not having honse-rent to pay, we can offer the same 
privileges of education that are to be had in expensive 
seminaries, at little more than half their price ; and, as 
our number must be limited, we can devote a large share 
of time and pains to each pupil. Thank yon for the very 
pretty little purse you have .sent me. I make you a cu- 
rious return in the shape of half a dozen cards of terms. 
Make such use of them as your judgment shall dictate. 
You will see that I have fixed the sum at 351., which I 
think is the just medium, considering advantages and dis- 
advantages.' 



1S44 DISTRIBUTION OF CIRCULAR 285 

This was written in July ; August, September, and Octo- 
ber passed away, and no pupils were to be heard of. Day 
after day there was a little hope felt by the sisters until 
the post came in. But Haworth village was wild and lonely, 
and the Brontes but little known, owing to their want of 
connections. Charlotte writes on the subject, in the early 
winter months, to this effect : — 

'I, Emily, and Anne are truly obliged to you for the 
efforts you have made in our behalf ; and if you have not 
been successful you are only like ourselves. Every one 
wishes us well ; but there are no pupils to be had. We 
have no present intention, however, of breaking our hearts 
on the subject, still less of feeling mortified at defeat. The 
effort must be beneficial, whatever the result may be, be- 
cause it teaches us experience, and an additional knowledge 
of this world. I send you two more circulars.' ' 

1 The circular ran as follows : — 

THE MISSES BRONTE'S ESTABLISHMENT 

FOR 

THE BOARD AN"D EDUCATION 

OF A LIMITED NUMBER OP 

YOUNG LADIES, 

THE PARSONAGE, HAWOBTB, 

NEAR BRADFORD. 



Terms. 

£ j. d. 
Board and Education, including Writing, Arithmetic, History, Gram-! q 5 „ 

mar, Geography, and Needle Work, per Annum . . f 

French . . . .) 

German . . . . > . each per Quarter 110 

Latin ) 

Mu8ic I. each per Quarter . . ... 1 1 

Drawing. . .) 

Use of Piano Forte, per Quarter . . .050 

Washing, per Quarter . 15 

Each Young Lady to be provided with One Pair of Sheets, Pillow Cases, 
Four Towels, a Dessert and Tea Spoon. 

A Quarter's Notice, or a Quarter's Board, is required previous to the 
Removal of a Pupil. 



286 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

A month later she says : — 

' We have made no alterations yet in our house. It would 
be folly to do so, while there is so little likelihood of our 
ever getting pupils. I fear you are giving yourself too much 
trouble on our account. Depend upon it, if you were to 
persuade a mamma to bring her child to Haworth, the as- 
pect of the place would frighten her, and she would prob- 
ably take the dear girl back with her instanter. We are 
glad that we have made the attempt, and we will not be 
cast down because it has not succeeded.' 

There were, probably, growing up in each sister's heart 
secret unacknowledged feelings of relief that their plan had 
not succeeded. Yes ! a dull sense of relief that their cher- 
ished project had been tried and had failed. For that house, 
which was to be regarded as an occasional home for their 
brother, could hardly be a fitting residence for the children 
of strangers. They had, in all likelihood, become silently 
aware that his habits were such as to render his society at 
times most undesirable. Possibly, too, they had, by this 
time, heard distressing rumours concerning the cause of 
that remorse and agony of mind which at times made him 
restless and unnaturally merry, at times rendered him moody 
and irritable. 

In January 1845 Charlotte says, ' Branwell has been 
quieter and less irritable on the whole this time than he 
was in summer. Anne is, as usual, always good, mild, and 
patient.' The deep-seated pain which he was to occasion 
to his relations had now taken a decided form, and pressed 
heavily on Charlotte's health and spirits. Early in this 
year she went to H. 1 to bid good-bye to her dear friend 
' Mary,' who was leaving England for Australia. 

Branwell, I have mentioned, had obtained the situation 
of a private tutor. Anne was also engaged as governess in 

1 Hunsworth, the residence of the Taylors at this time. Mary was 
going to New Zealand, not Australia. 



1845 SAD FOREBODINGS 287 

the same family, and was thus a miserable witness to her 
brother's deterioration of character at this period. Of the 
causes of this deterioration I cannot speak ; but the conse- 
quences were these : He went home for his holidays reluc- 
tantly, stayed there as short a time as possible, perplexing 
and distressing them all by his extraordinary conduct — at 
one time in the highest spirits, at another in the deepest 
depression — accusing himself of blackest guilt and treach- 
ery, without specifying what they were ; and altogether 
evincing an irritability of disposition bordering on in- 
sanity. 

Charlotte and Emily suffered acutely from his mysteri- 
ous behaviour. He expressed himself more than satisfied 
with his situation ; he was remaining in it for a longer 
time than he had ever done in any kind of employment 
before ; so that for some time they could not conjecture 
that anything there made him so wilful and restless and 
full of both levity and misery. But a sense of something 
wrong connected with him sickened and oppressed them. 
They began to lose all hope in his future career. He was 
no longer the family pride ; an indistinct dread, caused 
partly by his own conduct, partly by expressions of ago- 
nising suspicion in Anne's letters home, was creeping over 
their minds that he might turn out their deep disgrace. 
But, I believe, they shrank from any attempt to define 
their fears, and spoke of him to each other as little as 
possible. They could not help but think, and mourn, and 
wonder. 

'February 20, 1845. 

" I spent a week at H(unsworth), not very pleasantly ; 
headache, sickliness, and flatness of spirits made me a poor 
companion, a sad drag on the vivacious and loquacious 
gaiety of all the other inmates of the house. I never was 
fortunate enough to be able to rally, for as much as a single 
hour, while I was there. I am sure all, with the excep- 
tion, perhaps, of Mary, were very glad when I took my 
departure. I begin to perceive that I have too little life 



288 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

in me, nowadays, to be fit company for any except very 
quiet people. Is it age, or what else, that changes me so?' 
Alas ! she hardly needed to have asked this question. 
How could she be otherwise than ' flat-spirited,' 'a poor 
companion,' and a ' sad drag ' on the gaiety of those who 
were light-hearted and happy ? Her honest plan for earn- 
ing her own livelihood had fallen away, crumbled to ashes; 
after all her preparations not a pupil had offered herself ; 
and, instead of being sorry that this wish of many years 
could not be realised, she had reason to be glad. Her poor 
father, nearly sightless, depended upon her cares in his 
blind helplessness ; but this was a sacred, pious charge, the 
duties of which she was blessed in fulfilling. The black 
gloom hung over what had once been the brightest hope 
of the family — over Branwell, and the mystery in which 
his wayward conduct was enveloped. Somehow and some 
time he would have to turn to his home as a hiding-place 
for shame ; such was the sad foreboding of his sis- 
ters. Then how couldshe be cheerful, when she was los- 
ing her dear and noble 'Mary,' for such a length of time 
and distance of space that her heart might well prophesy 
that it was 'for ever'? Long before she had written of 
Mary T(aylor) that she ' was full of feelings noble, warm, 
generous, devoted, and profound. God bless her ! I 
never hope to see in this world a character more truly 
noble. She would die willingly for one she loved. Her 
intellect and attainments are of the very highest standard.' 
And this was the friend whom she was to lose! Hear that 
friend's account of their final interview: — 

' When I last saw Charlotte (Jan. 1845) she told me 
she had quite decided to stay at home. She owned she 
did not like it. Her health was weak. She said she 
would like any change at first, as she had liked Brussels 
at first, and she thought that there might be some pos- 
sibility for some people of having a life of more variety 
and more communion with human kind, but she saw none 



1845 DAILY LIFE AT HAWORTH 289 

for her. I told her very warmly that she ought not to 
stay at home ; that to spend the next five years at home, 
in solitude and weak health, would ruin her ; that she 
would never recover it. 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, Char- 
lotte !" 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." ' 

A few weeks after she parted from Mary she gives this 
account of her days at Haworth : — 

'March 24, 1845. 

'I can hardly tell you how time gets on at Haworth. 
There is no event whatever to mark its progress. One day 
resembles another; and all have heavy, lifeless physiogno- 
mies. Sunday, baking day, and Saturday are the only 
ones that have any distinctive mark. Meantime life wears 
away. I shall soon be thirty ; and I have done nothing yet. 
Sometimes I get melancholy at the prospect before and be- 
hind me. Yet it is wrong and foolish to repine. Undoubt- 
edly my duty directs me to stay at home for the present. 
There was a time when Haworth was a very pleasant place 
to me ; it is not so now. I feel as if we were all buried here. 
I long to travel; to work ; to live a life of action. Excuse 
me, dear, for troubling you with my fruitless wishes. I will 
put by the rest, and not trouble you with them. You must 
write to me. If you knew how welcome your letters are, 
you would write very often. Your letters, and the French 
newspapers, are the only messengers that come to me from 
the outer world beyond our moors ; and very welcome mes- 
sengers they are.' 

One of her daily employments was to read to her father, 
and it required a little gentle diplomacy on her part to effect 
this duty ; for there were times when the offer of another to 
do what he had been so long accustomed to do for himself 
only reminded him too painfully of the deprivation under 
19 



290 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

which he was suffering. And, in secret, she, too, dreaded a 
similar loss for herself. Long-continued ill-health, a de- 
ranged condition of the liver, her close application to mi- 
nute drawing and writing in her younger days, her now 
habitual sleeplessness at nights, the many bitter noiseless 
tears she had shed over Branwell's mysterious and dis- 
tressing conduct — all these causes were telling on her poor 
eyes ; and about this time she thus writes to M. Heger : — 

'II n'y a rien que je crains comme le desceuvrement, 
l'inertie, la 16thargie des facultes. Quand le corps est 
paressenx l'esprit souffre cruellement; je ne connaltrais pas 
cette lethargie si je pouvais ecrire. Autrefois je passais des 
journees, des semaines, des mois entiers a ecrire, et pas tout 
k fait sans fruit, puisque Southey et Coleridge, deux de nos 
meilleurs auteurs, a qui j'ai envoye certains mannscrits, en 
ont bien voulu temoigner leur approbation ; mais a present 
j'ai la vue trop faible ; si j'ecrivais beaucoup je deviendrais 
aveugle. Cette faiblesse de vue est pour moi une terrible 
privation ; sans cela savez-vous ce que je ferais, monsieur ? 
J'ecrirais un livre et je le dedierais a mon maltre de littera- 
ture, an seul maitre que j'aie jamais eu — k vous, monsieur! 
Je vous ai dit souvent en francais combien je vous respecte, 
combien je suis redeuable a votre bonte, a vos conseils. 
Je voudrais le dire une f ois en anglais. Cela ne se peut pas ; 
il ne faut pas y penser. La carriere des lettres m'est fer- 
mee. . . . N'oubliez pas de me dire comment vous vous por- 
tez, comment madame et les enfants se portent. Je compte 
bientdt avoir de vos nouvelles ; cette idee me souris, car le 
souvenir de vos bontes ne s'efEacera jamais de ma memoire, 
et tant que ce souvenir durera le respect que vous m'avez 
inspire durera aussi. Agreez, monsieur,' &c. 

It is probable that even her sisters and most intimate 
friends did not know of this dread of ultimate blindness 
which beset her at this period. What eyesight she had to 
spare she reserved for the use of her father. She did but 



1845 LETTER TO ELLEN NUSSEY 291 

little plain-sewing ; not more writing than could be avoided, 
and employed herself principally in knitting. 

'April 2, 1845. 
' I see plainly it is proved to as that there is scarcely a 
draught of unmingled happiness to be had in this world. 
George's 1 illness comes with Mary's marriage. Mary Tay- 
lor finds herself free, and on that path to adventure and 
exertion to which she has so long been seeking admission. 
Sickness, hardship, danger are her fellow-travellers — her 
inseparable companions. She may have been out of the 
reach of these S.W.N. W. gales, before they began to 
blow, or they may have spent their fury on land, and not 
ruffled the sea much. If it has been otherwise she has 
been sorely tossed, while we have been sleeping in our 
beds, or lying awake thinking about her. Yet these real, 
material dangers, when once past, leave in the mind the sat- 
isfaction of having struggled with difficulty, and overcome 
it. Strength, courage, and experience are their invariable 
results ; whereas I doubt whether suffering purely mental 
has any good result, unless it be to make us by comparison 
less sensitive to physical suffering." . . . Ten years ago I 
should have laughed at your account of the blunder you 
made in mistaking the bachelor doctor of Burlington for a 
married man. I should have certainly thought you scru- 
pulous overmuch, and wondered how you could possibly 
regret being civil to a decent individual, merely because he 
happened to be single, instead of double. Now, however, 
I can perceive that your scruples are founded on common 
sense. I know that if women wish to escape the stigma of 
husband-seeking they must act and look like marble or 

1 George Nussey is meant. The letter is to his sister. I do not 
know who the Mary is, probably ' M. A. Ash well,' a friend of Ellen 
Nussey's. 

2 The omitted passage runs : — 

' I repeat, then, Mary Taylor has done well to go to New Zealand, 
but I wish we could soon have another letter from her. I hope she 
may write soon from Madeira.' 



292 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

clay — cold, expressionless, bloodless ; for every appearance 
of feeling, of joy, sorrow, friendliness, antipathy, admira- 
tion, disgust, are alike construed by the world into the 
attempt to hook a husband. Never mind ! well-meaning 
women have their own consciences to comfort them after 
all. Do not, therefore, be too much afraid of showing 
yourself as yon are, affectionate and good-hearted ; do not 
too harshly repress sentiments and feelings excellent in 
themselves, because yon fear that some puppy may fancy 
that you are letting them come out to fascinate him ; do 
not condemn yourself 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. Still, a com- 
posed, decent, equable deportment is a capital treasure to 
a woman, and that you possess. Write again soon, for I 
feel rather fierce and want stroking down.' 

' June 13, 1845. 
' As to the Mrs. P , who, you say, is like me, I some- 
how feel no leaning to her at all. I never do to people 
who are said to be like me, because I have always a notion 
that they are only like me in the disagreeable, outside, 
first-acquaintance part of my character ; in those points 
which are obvious to the ordinary run of people, and 
which I know are not pleasing. You say she is " clever " 
— " a clever person." How I dislike the term ! It means 
rather a shrewd, very ugly, meddling, talking woman. . . . 
I feel reluctant to leave papa for a single day. His sight 
diminishes weekly ; and can it be wondered at that, as he 
sees the most precious of his faculties leaving him, his 
spirits sometimes sink ? It is so hard to feel that his few 
and scanty pleasures must all soon go. He has now the 
greatest difficulty in either reading or writing ; and then 
he dreads the state of dependence to which blindness will 
inevitably reduce him. He fears that he will be nothing 
in his parish. I try to cheer him ; sometimes I succeed 
temporarily, but no consolation can restore his sight, or 



1845 HER OPINION OF CURATES 293 

atone for the want of it. Still he is never peevish ; never 
impatient ; only anxious and dejected.' 

For the reason just given Charlotte declined an invita- 
tion to the only house to which she was now ever asked to 
come. In answer to her correspondent's reply to this let- 
ter she says 1 — 

' You thought I refused you coldly, did you ? It was a 
queer sort of coldness, when I would have given my ears to 
say Yes, and was obliged to say No. Matters, however, 
are now a little changed. Anne is come home, and her 
presence certainly makes me feel more at liberty. Then, 
if all be well, I will come and see you' (at Hathersage). 
' Tell me only when I must come. Mention the week and 
the day. Have the kindness also to answer the following 
queries, if you can. How far is it from Leeds to Sheffield? 
Can you give me a notion of the cost ? Of course, when I 
come, you will let me enjoy your own company in peace, 
and not drag me out a-visiting. I have no desire at all to 
see your curate. I think he must be like all the other 
curates I have seen ; and they seem to me a self-seeking, 
vain, empty race. At this blessed moment we have no less 
than three of them in Haworth Parish — and there is not 
one to mend another. The other day they all three, ac- 
companied by Mr. Smith, of whom, by the way, I have 
grievous things to tell you, dropped, or rather rushed, in 
unexpectedly to tea. It was Monday (baking day), and I 
was hot and tired ; still, if they had behaved quietly and 
decently, I would have served them out their tea in peace ; 
but they began gloryfying themselves and abusing Dis- 
senters in such a manner that my temper lost its balance, 
and I pronounced a few sentences sharply and rapidly, 
which struck them all dumb. Papa was greatly horrified 
also, but I don't regret it.' 

1 Letter to Ellen Nussey dated June 5, 1845, and addressed to 
Hathersage. 



294 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

On her return from this short visit to her friend 1 she 
travelled with a gentleman in the railway carriage, whose 
features and bearing betrayed him, in a moment, to be a 
Frenchman. She ventured to ask him if such was not 
the case ; and, on his admitting it, she further inquired if 
he had not passed a considerable time in Germany, and was 
answered that he had ; her quick ear detected something of 
the thick, guttural pronunciation which, Frenchmen say, 
they are able to discover even in the grandchildren of their 
countrymen who have lived any time beyond the Ehine. 
Charlotte had retained her skill in the language by the habit 
of which she thus speaks to M. Heger : — 

' Je crains beaucoup d'oublier le francais — j'apprends 
tons les jours une demi-page de francais par cceur, et j'ai 
grand plaisir a apprendre cette lecon. Veuillez presenter a 
madame l'assurance de mon estime ; je crains que Marie- 
Louise et Claire ne m'aient deja oubliee ; mais je vous re- 
verrai un jour; aussitot que j'aurai gagne assez d'argent 
pour aller a Bruxelles, j'y irai.' 

And so her joarney back to Ha worth, after the rare 
pleasure of this visit to her friend, was pleasantly beguiled 
by conversation with the French gentleman ; and she ar- 
rived at home refreshed and happy. What to find there ? 

It was ten o'clock when she reached the parsonage. 
Branwell was there, unexpectedly, very ill. He had come 

1 This was a three weeks' visit to the house of the Rev. Henry Nus- 
sey, who had just become Vicar of Hathersage, in Derbyshire, and 
was on his honeymoon at the time that hia sister Ellen and Charlotte 
Bronte stayed at his house. Charlotte's only visit to Hathersage is 
noteworthy because in Hathersage Church are the tombs of Robert 
Eyre, who fought at Agincourt and died in 1459, and Joan, his wife, 
who died in 1464. - I have already suggested that the only ' Jane ' in 
the BrontS story was associated with school days at Cowan Bridge, 
but it is not difficult to believe that Joan Eyre, wife of the old armour- 
clad warrior, suggested the title for Miss Bronte's most famous book. 
In Hathersage churchyard the grave of Robin Hood's comrade, ' Lit- 
tle John,' is shown, 10 feet 6 inches long. 



1845 SORE TRIALS 295 

home a day or two before, apparently for a holiday ; in 
reality, I imagine, because some discovery had been made 
which rendered his absence imperatively desirable. The 
day of Charlotte's return he had received a letter from Mr. 
(Robinson), sternly dismissing him, intimating that his pro- 
ceedings were discovered, characterising them as bad be- 
yond expression, and charging him, on pain of exposure, to 
break off immediately, and for ever, all communication 
with every member of the family. 

Whatever may have been the nature and depth of Bran- 
well's sins — whatever may have been his temptation, what- 
ever his guilt — there is no doubt of the suffering which his 
conduct entailed upon his poor father and his innocent 
sisters. The hopes and plans they had cherished long, and 
laboured hard to fulfil, were cruelly frustrated ; hencefor- 
ward their days were embittered and the natural rest of 
their nights destroyed by his paroxysms of remorse. Let 
us read of the misery caused to his poor sisters in Char- 
lotte's own affecting words : ' — 

' We have had sad work with Branwell. He thought of 
nothing but stunning or drowning his agony of mind. No 
one in this house could have rest; and, at last, we have 
been obliged to send him from home for a week, with some 
one to look after him. He has written to me this morn- 
ing, expressing some sense of contrition . . . but as long 
as he remains at home I scarce dare hope for peace in the 
house. We must all, I fear, prepare for a season of distress 
and disquietude. When I left you I was strongly impressed 
with the feeling that I was going back to sorrow.' 

' August 1845. 
' Things here at home are much as usual ; not very bright 
as regards Branwell, though his health, and consequently 
his temper, have been somewhat better this last day or 
two, because he is now forced to abstain.' 

1 Extracted from various letters to Ellen Nussey. 



296 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

' August 18, 1845. 

' I have delayed writing, because I have no good news to 
communicate. My hopes ebb low indeed about Branwell. 
I sometimes fear he will never be fit for much. The late 
blow to his prospects and feelings has quite made him reck- 
less. It is only absolute want of means that acts as any 
check to him. One ought, indeed, to hope to the very last ; 
and I try to do so, but occasionally hope in his case seems 
so fallacious.' 

' November 4, 1845. 

' I hoped to be able to ask you to come to Haworth. It 
almost seemed as if Branwell had a chance of getting 
employment, and I waited to know the result of his efforts, 
in order to say, " Dear Ellen, come and see us." But the 
place (a secretaryship to a railway committee) is given to 
another person. Branwell still remains at home ; and while 
he is here you shall not come. I am more confirmed in that 
resolution the more I see of him. I wish I could say one 
word to you in his favor, but I cannot. I will hold my 
tongue. We are all obliged to you for your kind suggestion 
about Leeds ; but I think our school schemes are, for the 
present, at rest.' 

' December 31, 1845. 

' You say well, in speaking of (Branwell), that no suffer- 
ings are so awful as those brought on by dissipation ; alas ! 

I see the truth of this observation daily proved. and 

must have as weary and burdensome a life of it in 

waiting upon their unhappy brother. It seems grievous, 
indeed, that those who have not sinned should suffer so 
largely.' 

In fact, all their latter days blighted with the presence 
of cruel, shameful suffering — the premature deaths of two 
at least of the sisters — all the great possibilities of their 
earthly lives snapped short — may be dated from midsum- 
mer 1845. 

For the last three years of Branwell's life he took opium 



1845 A TIME OF TROUBLE 297 

habitually, by way of stunning conscience ; he drank, more- 
over, whenever he could get the opportunity. The reader 
may say that I have mentioned his tendency to intemperance 
long before. It is true ; but it did not become habitual, as 
far as I can learn, until after he was dismissed from his 
tutorship. He took opium, because it made him forget for a 
time more effectually than drink; and, besides, it was more 
portable. In procuring it he showed all the cunning of 
the opium-eater. He would steal out while the family 
were at church — to which he had professed himself too ill 
to go— and manage to cajole the village druggist out of 
a lump ; or, it might be, the carrier had unsuspiciously 
brought him some in a packeb from a distance. For some 
time before his death he had attacks of delirium tremens 
of the most frightful character ; he slept in his father's 
room, and he would sometimes declare that either he or 
his father would be dead before the morning. The trem- 
bling sisters, sick with fright, would implore their father 
not to expose himself to this danger ; but Mr. Bronte is 
no timid man, and perhaps he felt that he conld possibly 
influence his son to some self-restraint, more by showing 
trust in him than by showing fear. The sisters often lis- 
tened for the report of a pistol in the dead of the night, till 
watchful eye and hearkening ear grew heavy and dull with 
the perpetual strain upon their nerves. In the mornings 
young Bronte would saunter out, saying, with a drunk- 
ard's incontinence of speech, 'The poor old man and I have 
had a terrible night of it ; he does his best — the poor old 
man ! but it's all over with me.' 



OHAPTBE XIV 

Its the coarse of this sad autumn of 1845 a new interest 
came up ; faint, indeed, and often lost sight of in the vivid 
pain and constant pressure of anxiety respecting their 
brother. In the biographical notice of her sisters, which 
Charlotte prefixed to the edition of 'Wnthering Heights ' 
and 'Agnes Grey' published in 1850 — a piece of writing 
unique, as far as I know, in its pathos and its power — she 



' One day in the autumn of 1845 I accidentally lighted 
on a MS. volume of verse, in my sister Emily's handwrit- 
ing. Of course I was not surprised, knowing that she 
could and did write verse. I looked it over, and some- 
thing more than surprise seized me — a deep conviction 
that these were not common effusions, nor at all like the 
poetry women generally write. I thought them condensed 
and terse, vigorous and genuine. To my ear they had 
also a peculiar music, wild, melancholy, and elevating. 
My sister Emily was not a person of demonstrative char- 
acter, nor one on the recesses of whose mind and feelings 
even those nearest and dearest to her could, with impunity, 
intrude unlicensed : it took hours to reconcile her to the 
discovery I had made, and days to persuade her that such 
poems merited publication. . . . Meantime my younger 
sister quietly produced some of her own compositions, in- 
timating that since Emily's had given me pleasure I might 
like to look at hers. I could not but be a partial judge, 
yet I thought that these verses too had a sweet, sincere 
pathos of their own. We had very early cherished the 
dream of one day being authors. . . . We agreed to arrange 



1845 THE SISTERS' POEMS 299 

a small selection of our poems, and, if possible, get them 
printed. Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own 
names under those of Ourrer, Ellis, and Acton Bell ; the 
ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious 
scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, 
while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because 
— without at the time saspecting that our mode of writing 
and thinking was not what is called " feminine " — we had 
a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked 
on with prejudice ; we noticed how critics sometimes used 
for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for 
their reward a flattery which is not true praise. The bring- 
ing out of our little book was hard work. As was to be 
expected, neither we nor our poems were at all wanted ; 
but for this we had been prepared at the outset ; though 
inexperienced ourselves, we had read of the experience of 
others. The great puzzle lay in the difficulty of getting 
answers of any kind from the publishers to whom we ap- 
plied. Being greatly harassed by this obstacle, I ventured 
to apply to the Messrs. Chambers, of Edinburgh, for a 
word of advice ; they may have forgotten the circumstance, 
but / have not, for from them I received a brief and 
business-like, but civil and sensible reply, on which we 
acted, and at last made way/ 

I inquired from Mr. Eobert Chambers, and found, as 
Miss Bronte conjectured, that he had entirely forgotten 
the application which had been made to him and his 
brother for advice ; nor had^they any copy or memoran- 
dum of the correspondence. 

There is an intelligent man living in Haworth ' who has 

1 Mr. Greenwood, who died at Haworth in 1863. He lived in the 
middle of the Town Gate, about halfway up the street on the right- 
hand side. An accident in his youth caused him to appear somewhat 
deformed, one shoulder being higher than the other. The inscription 
on his tomb in Haworth churchyard runs as follows :— 

' In loving remembrance of John Greenwood, of Haworth, who 
died March 25, 1863, aged 56 years.' 



300 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

given me some interesting particulars relating to the sisters 
about this period. He says — 

' I have known Miss Bronte as Miss Bronte a long time ; 
indeed, ever since they came to Haworth in 1819. But I 
had not much acquaintance with the family till about 
1843, when I began to do a little in the stationery line. 
Nothing of that kind could be had nearer than Keighley 
before I began. They used to buy a great deal of writing- 
paper, and I used to wonder whatever they did with so much. 
I sometimes thought they contributed to the magazines. 
When I was out of stock I was always afraid of their com- 
ing ; they seemed so distressed about it if I had none. I 
have walked to Halifax (a distance of ten miles) many a 
time for half a ream of paper, for fear of being without it 
when they came. I could not buy more at a time for want 
of capital. I was always short of that. I did so like them 
to come when I had anything for them ; they were so much 
different to anybody else ; so gentle and kind, and so very 
quiet. They never talked much. Charlotte sometimes 
would sit and inquire about our circumstances so kindly 
and feelingly ! . . . Though I am a poor working man 
(which I have never felt to be any degradation), I could 
talk with her with the greatest freedom. I always felt quite 
at home with her. Though I never had any school educa- 
tion, I never felt the want of it in her company.' 

The publishers to whom she finally made a successful 
application for the production of ' Currer, Ellis, and Acton 
Bell's poems ' were Messrs. Aylott & Jones, Paternoster 
Row. 1 Mr. Aylott has kindly placed at my disposal the 

1 Aylott and Jones were two young booksellers and stationers of 8 
Paternoster Row, who published scarcely any books, but whose name 
will always be associated with two volumes now of considerable value 
in the eyes of collectors — Poems, by Ourrer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, a 
copy of which was sold at Sotheby's in 1899 for 181., and The Gem : 
Thoughts towards Nature in Poetry, Literature, and, Art, the latter 



1846 THE SISTERS' POEMS 301 

letters which she wrote to them on the subject. 1 The first 
is dated January 28, 1846, and in it she inquires if they 
will publish one volume octavo of poems ; if not at their 
own risk, on the author's account. It is signed 'C. Bronte.' 
They must have replied pretty speedily, for on January 31 
she writes again — 

' Gentlemen, — Since you agree to undertake the publi- 
cation of the work respecting which I applied to you, I 
should wish now to know, as soon as possible, the cost of 
paper and printing. I will then send the necessary remit- 
tance, together with the manuscript. I should like it to be 
printed in one octavo volume, of the same quality of paper 
and size of type as Moxon's last edition of Wordsworth. 
The poems will occupy, I should think, from 200 to 250 
pages. They are not the production of a clergyman, nor 
are they exclusively of a religious character ; but I presume 
these circumstances will be immaterial. It will, perhaps, 
be necessary that yon should see the manuscript, in order 
to calculate accurately the expense of publication ; in that 
case I will send it immediately. I should like, however, 
previously to have some idea of the probable cost ; and if, 
from what I have said, you can make a rough calculation 
on the subject, I should be greatly obliged to you.' 

In her next letter, February 6, she says — 

' You will perceive that the poems are the work of three 
persons, relatives ; their separate pieces are distinguished 
by their respective signatures.' 

She writes again on February 15, and on the 16th she 



issued on commission for D. Gr. Eossetti and his Pre-Raphaelite col- 
leagues, a copy of which now sells for from ten pounds to twenty- 
pounds. 

1 The originals of these letters are now in the collection brought to- 
gether by the late Mr. Alfred Morrison. There are some few letters 
not printed by Mrs. Gaskell, but they are immaterial. 



302 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

( The MS. will certainly form a thinner volume than I 
had anticipated. I cannot name another model which I 
should like it precisely to resemble, yet I think a duodeci- 
mo form, and a somewhat reduced, though still clear type, 
would be preferable. I only stipulate for clear type, not 
too small, and good paper.' 

On February 21 she selects the 'long primer type' for 
the poems, and will remit 317. 10s. in a few days. 

Minute as the details conveyed in these notes are, they 
are not trivial, because they afford such strong indications 
of character. If the volume was to be published at their 
own risk, it was necessary that the sister conducting the 
negotiation should make herself acquainted with the dif- 
ferent kinds of type and the various sizes of books. Ac- 
cordingly she bought a small volume, from which to learn 
all she could on the subject of preparation for the press. 
No half-knowledge — no trusting to other people for deci- 
sions which she could make for herself _; and yet a generous 
and full confidence, not misplaced, in the thorough probity 
of Messrs. Aylott & Jones. The caution in ascertaining 
the risk before embarking in the enterprise, and the prompt 
payment of the money required, even before it could be 
said to have assumed the shape of a debt, were both parts 
of a self-reliant and independent character.' Self-contained 
also was she. During the whole time that the volume of 
poems was in the course of preparation and publication no 
word was written telling any one, out of the household cir- 
cle, what was in progress. 1 

1 The title-page ran as follows : ' Poems by Currer, Ellis, & Acton 
Bell. London : Aylott & Jones, 8 Paternoster Row, 1846.' Two years 
later the unbound copies were issued with a title-page bearing the im- 
print of Smith, Elder, & Co., and the same date, 1846, although it is 
clear that the sheets could not have been taken over by Smith, Elder, 
& Co. until 1848. The edition with the Smith, Elder, & Co. title-page 
has an advertisement of the third edition of Jane Eyre, of the second 
edition of Tlie Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and of the first edition of 



1846 LETTER TO MISS WOOLER 303 

I have had some of the letters placed in my hands which 
she addressed to her old schoolmistress, Miss Wooler. 
They begin a little; before this time. Acting on the con- 
viction, which I have all along entertained, that where 
Charlotte Bronte's own words could be used no others 
ought to take their place, I shall make extracts from this 
series, according to their dates. 

'January 30, 1846. 

' My dear Miss Wooler, — I have not yet paid my visit to 
B(irstall) ; it is, indeed, more than a year since I was there, 

Wuihering Heights. Wildfell Hall was not in its second edition until 
1848. The question is set at rest by the two following letters : — 

TO GEORGE SMITH, ESQ. 

' September 7, 1848. 
'My dear Sir, — You are probably aware that C, E., and A. Bell 
published, a year or two since, a volume of Poems which, not being 
largely advertised, had but a limited sale. I wished much to ask your 
advice about the disposal of the remaining copies, when in London, 
but was withheld by the consciousness that " the Trade " are not very 
fond of hearing about Poetry, and that it is but too often a profitless 
encumbrance on the shelves of the bookseller's shop. I received to- 
day, however, the enclosed note from Messrs. Aylott and Jones, which 
I transmit to you for your consideration. 

' Awaiting your answer, 

' I remain, my dear Sir, 

' Yours sincerely, 

' C. Bronte.' 

TO GEORGE SMITH, ESQ. 

' December 7, 1848. 

'My dear Sir, — I have received to-day the sum of 241. 0s. 6d., paid 
by you to Messrs. Aylott and Jones for Bell's Poems. For this I 
thank you, and beg again to express a hope that the transaction may 
not in the end prove disadvantageous to you. 

' Allow me to mention that my father, as well as my sisters and my- 
self, have derived great pleasure from some of the books you sent ; he 
is now reading Borrow's Bible in Spain with interest, and under pres- 
ent circumstances whatever agreeably occupies his mind must be truly 

beneficial. 

' Believe me, my dear Sir, 

' Yours sincerely, 

' C. Bronte.' 



304 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

but I frequently hear from Ellen, and she did not fail 
to tell me that you were gone into Worcestershire ; she 
was unable, however, to give me your exact address. Had 
I known it I should have written to you long since. I 
thought you would wonder how we were getting on, when 
you heard of the railway panic ; and you may be sure that 
I am very glad to be able to answer your kind inquiries by 
an assurance that our small capital is as yet undiminished. 
The York and Midland is, as you say, a very good line ; 
yet, I confess to you, I should wish, for my own part, to be 
wise in time. I cannot think that even the very best lines 
will continue for many years at their present premiums ; 
and I have been most anxious for us to sell our shares ere 
it be too late, and to secure the proceeds in some safer, if, 
for the present, less profitable investment. I cannot, how- 
ever, persuade my sisters to regard the affair precisely from 
my point of view ; and I feel as if I would rather run the 
risk of loss than hurt Emily's feelings by acting in direct 
opposition to her opinion. She managed in a most hand- 
some and able manner for me, when I was in Brussels, and 
prevented by distance from looking after my own interests ; 
therefore I will let her manage still and take the conse- 
quences. Disinterested and energetic she certainly is ; 
and if she be not quite so tractable or open to conviction 
as I could wish, I must remember perfection is not the lot 
of humanity ; and as long as we can regard those we love, 
and to whom we are closely allied, with profound and 
never-shaken esteem, it is a small thing that they should 
vex us occasionally by what appear to us unreasonable and 
headstrong notions. 

' You, my dear Miss Wooler, know, full as well as I do, 
the value of sisters' affection to each other ; there is noth- 
ing like it in this world, I believe, when they are nearly 
equal in age, and similar in education, tastes, and senti- 
ments. You ask about Branwell ; he never thinks of 
seeking employment, and I begin to fear that he has 
rendered himself incapable of filling any respectable sta- 



184a LETTER TO MISS WOOLER 305 

tion in life ; besides, if money were at his disposal, he 
would use it only to his own injury ; the faculty of self- 
goTernment is, I fear, almost destroyed in him. Yon ask 
me if I do not think that men are strange beings. I 
do, indeed. I have often thought so ; and I think, too, 
that the mode of bringing them up is strange : they are 
not sufficiently guarded from temptation. Girls are pro- 
tected as if they were something very frail or silly indeed, 
while boys are turned loose on the world, as if they, of 
all beings in existence, were the wisest and least liable to 
be led astray. I am glad you like Bromsgrove, though, I 
dare say, there are few places you would not like with Mrs. 
M. for a companion. I always feel a peculiar satisfaction 
when I hear of your enjoying yourself, because it proves 
that there really is such a thing as retributive justice even 
in this world. You worked hard ; you denied yourself all 
pleasure, almost all relaxation, in your youth, and in the 
prime of life ; now you are free, and that while you have 
still, I hope, many years of vigour and health in which you 
can enjoy freedom. Besides, I have another and very ego- 
tistical motive for being pleased ; it seems that even " a 
lone woman " can be happy, as well as cherished wives and 
proud mothers. I am glad of that. I speculate much on 
the existence of unmarried and never-to-be-married women 
nowadays ; and I have already got to the point of consider- 
ing that there is no more respectable character on this earth 
than an unmarried woman, who makes her own way through 
life quietly, perse veringly, without support of husband or 
brother ; and who, having attained the age of forty-five or 
upwards, retains in her possession a well-regulated mind, 
a disposition to enjoy simple pleasures, and fortitude to 
support inevitable pains, sympathy with the sufferings of 
others, and willingness to relieve want as far as her means 
extend.' 

During the time that the negotiation with Messrs. Aylott 
& Jones was going on Charlotte went to visit her old school 



306 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

friend, 1 with whom she was in such habits of confidential 
intimacy ; but neither then nor afterwards did she ever 
speak to her of the publication of the poems ; nevertheless 
this young lady suspected that the sisters wrote for maga- 
zines ; and in this idea she was confirmed when, on one of 
her visits to Haworth, she saw Anne with a number of 
'Chambers's Journal,' s and a gentle smile of pleasure steal- 
ing over her placid face as she read. 

'What is the matter?' asked the friend. 'Why do you 
smile ?' 

' Only because I see they have inserted one of my poems,' 
was the quiet reply ; and not a word more was said on the 
subject. 

To this friend Charlotte addressed the following let- 
ters : — 

'March 3, 1846. 

'I reached home a little after two o'clock, all safe and 
right yesterday ; I found papa very well ; his sight much 
the same. Emily and Anne were going to Keighley to 
meet me ; unfortunately I had returned by the old road, 
while they were gone by the new, and we missed each other. 
They did not get home till half-past four, and were caught 
in the heavy shower of rain which fell in the afternoon. I 
am sorry to say Anne has taken a little cold in consequence, 
but I hope she will soon be well. Papa was much cheered 
by my report of Mr. C.'s opinion, and of old Mrs. E.'s ex- 
perience ; 3 but I could perceive he caught gladly at the 
idea of deferring the operation a few months longer. I 
went into the room where Branwell was, to speak to him, 
about an hour after I got home : it was very forced work to 

1 Miss Ellen Nussey. 

2 Chambers's Journal was founded in 1832. The present editor of 
the Journal, Mr. 0. E. S. Chambers, has kindly forwarded to me Mrs. 
Gaskell's correspondence with the firm, and has endeavoured, without 
success, to identify Anne's poem. 

3 In the original letter it runs, ' Mr. Carr's opinion, and of old Mrs. 
Carr's experience,' but these identifications are, of course, quite value- 
less. 



1846 CORRESPONDENCE WITH PUBLISHERS 307 

address him. I might have spared myself the trouble, as 
he took no notice and made no reply ; he was stupefied. 
My fears were not in vain. I hear that he got a sovereign 
while I have been away, under pretence of paying a press- 
ing debt ; he went immediately and changed it at a public- 
house, and has employed it as was to be expected. Emily 
concluded her account by saying he was a "hopeless being;" 
it is too true. In his present state it is scarcely possible to 
stay in the room where he is. What the future has in store 
I do not know.' 

' March 81, 1846. 
'Our poor old servant Tabby had a sort of fit, a fortnight 
since, but is nearly recovered now. Martha" (the girl they 
had to assist poor old Tabby, and who remains still the 
faithful servant at the parsonage) 'is ill with a swelling in 
her knee, and obliged to go home. I fear it will be long 
before she is in working condition again. I received the 
number of the " Record " you sent. . . . I read D'AubignS's 
letter. It is clever, and in what he says about Catholicism 
very good. The Evangelical Alliance part is not very 
practicable, yet certainly it is more in accordance with the 
spirit of the Gospel to preach unity among Christians than 
to inculcate mutual intolerance and hatred. I am very glad 
I went to B(rookroyd) when I did, for the changed weather 
has somewhat changed my health and strength since. How 
do you get on ? I long for mild south and west winds. 
I am thankful papa continues pretty well, though often 
made very miserable by Branwell's wretched conduct. There 
— there is no change but for the worse.' 

Meanwhile the printing of the volume of poems was 
quietly proceeding. After some consultation and deliber- 
ation the sisters had determined to correct the proofs them- 
selves. Up to March 28 the publishers had addressed their 
correspondent as ' C. Bronte, Esq. ;' but at this time some 

1 Martha Brown. See note, p. 57. 



308 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTfi 

'little mistake occurred,' and she desired Messrs. Aylott & 
Jones in future to direct to her real address, 'Miss Bronte,' 
&c. She had, however, evidently left it to be implied that 
she was not acting on her own behalf, but as agent for the 
real authors, since in a note dated April 6 she makes a 
proposal on behalf of 'C, B., and A. Bell,' which is to the 
following effect: that they are preparing for the press a 
work of fiction, consisting of three distinct and uncon- 
nected tales, which may be published either together, as a 
work of three volumes, of the ordinary novel size, or sepa- 
rately, as single volumes, as may be deemed most advisable. 
She states, in addition, that it is not their intention to pub- 
lish these tales on their own account, but that the authors 
direct her to ask Messrs. Aylott & Jones whether they 
would be disposed to undertake the work, after having, of 
course, by due inspection of the MS., ascertained that its 
contents are such as to warrant an expectation of success. 1 
To this letter of inquiry the publishers replied speedily, 
and the tenor of their answer may be gathered from Char- 
lotte's, dated April 11. 

'I beg to thank you, in the name of C, E., and A. Bell, 
for your obliging letter of advice. I will avail myself of it 
to request information on two or three points. It is evi- 

1 Here is the actual letter : — 

'April 6, 1846. 

'Gentlemen, — C, B., and A. Bell are now preparing for the press 
a work of fiction consisting of three distinct and unconnected tales, 
which may be published either together, as a work of three volumes, 
of the ordinary novel size, or separately as single volumes, as shall 
be deemed most advisable. 

' It is not their intention to publish these tales on their own account. 
They direct me to ask you whether you would be disposed to under- 
take the work, after having, of course, by due inspection of the MS., 
ascertained that its contents are such as to warrant an expectation of 
success. 

' An early answer will oblige, as, in case of your negativing the pro- 
posal, inquiry must be made of other publishers. — I am, gentlemen, 
yours truly, C. BRONTfi.' 



1846 'POEMS' FOR REVIEW 309 

dent that unknown authors have great difficulties to con- 
tend with, before they can succeed in bringing their works 
before the public. Can you give me any hint as to the way 
in which these difficulties are best met ? For instance, in 
the present case, where a work of fiction is in question, in 
what form would a publisher be most likely to accept the 
MS., whether offered as a work of three vols., or as tales 
which might be published in numbers, or as contributions 
to a periodical ? 

'What publishers would be most likely to receive fa- 
vourably a proposal of this nature ? 

' Would it suffice to write to a publisher on the subject, 
or would it be necessary to have recourse to a personal in- 
terview ? 

' Your opinion and advice on these three points, or on 
any other which your experience may suggest as important, 
would be esteemed by us as a favour.' 

It is evident from the whole tenor of this correspondence 
that the truthfulness and probity of the firm of publishers 
with whom she had to deal in this her first literary vent- 
ure were strongly impressed upon her mind, and was fol- 
lowed by the inevitable consequence of reliance on their 
suggestions. And the progress of the poems was not un- 
reasonably lengthy or long drawn out. On April 20 she 
writes to desire that three copies may be sent to her, and 
that Messrs. Aylott & Jones will advise her as to the re- 
viewers to whom copies ought to be sent. 

I give the next letter as illustrating the ideas of these 
girls as to what periodical reviews or notices led public 
opinion. 

'The poems to be neatly done up in cloth. Have the 
goodness to send copies and advertisements, as early as 
possible, to each of the undermentioned periodicals: — 

' "Oolburn's New Monthly Magazine." 

' " Bentley's Magazine." 

' " Hood's Magazine." 



310 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' " Jerrold's Shilling Magazine." 

' " Blackwood's Magazine." 

* " The Edinburgh Review." 

' " Tait's Edinburgh Magazine." 

' " The Dublin University Magazine." ' 

'Also to the "Daily News" and to the "Britannia" 
newspapers. 

' If there are any other periodicals to which you have 
been in the habit of sending copies of works, let them be 
supplied also with copies. I think those I have mentioned 
will suffice for advertising.' 

In compliance with this latter request Messrs. Aylott 
suggest that copies and advertisements of the work should 
be sent to the ' Athenaeum,' ' Literary Gazette,' ' Critic/ 
and 'Times;' but in her reply Miss Bronte says that she 
thinks the periodicals she first mentioned will be sufficient 
for advertising in at present, as the authors do not wish 
to lay out a larger sum than two pounds in advertising, 
esteeming the success of a work dependent more on the 
notice it receives from periodicals than on the quantity of 
advertisements. In case of any notice of the poems ap- 

1 To the editor of the Dublin University Magazine she wrote on Oc- 
tober 6, 1846, as follows :— 

' Sir, — I thank you in my own name and that of my brothers, Ellis 
and Acton, for the indulgent notice that appeared in your last number 
of our first humble efforts in literature ; but I thank you far more for 
the essay on modern poetry which preceded that notice — an essay in 
which seems to me to be condensed the very spirit of truth and beauty. 
If all or half your other readers shall have derived from its perusal 
the delight it afforded to myself and my brothers, your labours have 
produced a rich result. 

' After such criticism an author may indeed be smitten at first by a 
sense of his own insignificance — as we were — but on a second and a 
third perusal he finds a power and beauty therein which stirs him to a 
desire to do more and better things. It fulfils the right end of criti- 
cism : without absolutely crushing it corrects and rouses. I again 
thank you heartily, and beg to subscribe myself, — Your constant and 
grateful reader, Cukbek Bbll.' 



1846 REVIEW IN THE 'ATHENAEUM' 311 

pearing, -whether favourable or otherwise, Messrs. Aylott 
& Jones are requested to send her the name and number 
of those periodicals in which such notices appear ; as other- 
wise, since she has not the opportunity of seeing period- 
icals regularly, she may miss reading the critique. ' Should 
the poems be remarked upon favourably, it is my inten- 
tion to appropriate a further sum for advertisements. If, 
on the other hand, they should pass unnoticed or be con- 
demned, I consider it would be quite useless to advertise, 
as there is nothing, either in the title of the work or the 
names of the authors, to attract attention from a single in- 
dividual.' 

I suppose the little volume of poems was published some 
time about the end of May 1846. It stole into life ; some 
weeks passed over, without the mighty murmuring public 
discovering that three more voices were uttering their 
speech. And, meanwhile, the course of existence moved 
drearily along from day to day with the anxious sisters, 
who must have forgotten their sense of authorship in the 
vital care gnawing at their hearts. On June 17 Charlotte 
writes : — 

' Branwell declares that he neither can nor will do any- 
thing for himself ; good situations have been offered him, 
for which, by a fortnight's work, he might have qualified 
himself, but he will do nothing except drink and make us 
all wretched.' 

In the ' Athenasum ' of July 4, under the head of ' Poetry 
for the Million,' came a short review of the poems of C, 
B., and A. Bell. The reviewer assigns to Ellis the highest 
rank of the three 'brothers,' as he supposes them to be; he 
calls Ellis 'a fine, quaint spirit;' and speaks of 'an evident 
power of wing that may reach heights not here attempted.' 
Again, with some degree of penetration, the reviewer says 
that the poems of Ellis ' convey an impression of originality 
beyond what his contributions to these volumes embody.' 
Currer is placed midway between Ellis and Acton. But 



312 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

there is little in the review to strain out, at this distance 
of time, as worth preserving. Still, we can fancy with what 
interest it was read at Haworth Parsonage, and how the 
sisters would endeavour to find out reasons for opinions, or 
hints for the future guidance of their talents. 

I call particular attention to the following letter of 
Charlotte's, dated July 10, 1346. To whom it was written 
matters not ; ' but the wholesome sense of duty in it — the 
sense of the supremacy of that duty which G-od, in placing 
us in families, has laid out for us — seems to deserve especial 
regard in these days : — 

'I see you are in a dilemma, and one of a peculiar 
and difficult nature. Two paths lie before you ; you con- 
scientiously wish to choose the right one, even though it 
be the most steep, strait, and rugged; but you do not 
know which is the right one ; you cannot decide whether 
duty and religion command you to go out into the cold and 
friendless world, and there to earn your living by governess 
drudgery, or whether they enjoin your continued stay with 
your aged mother, neglecting, for the present, every pros- 
pect of independency for yourself, and putting up with 
daily inconvenience, sometimes even with privations. I 
can well imagine that it is next to impossible for you to de- 
cide for yourself in this matter, so I will decide it for you. 
At least I will tell you what is my earnest conviction on 
the subject; I will show you candidly how the question 
strikes me. The right path is that which necessitates the 
greatest sacrifice of self-interest — which implies the greatest 
good to others ; and this path, steadily followed, will lead, 
I believe, in time, to prosperity and happiness, though it 
may seem, at the outset, to tend quite in a contrary direc- 
tion. Your mother is both old and infirm ; old and infirm 
people have but few sources of happiness — fewer almost 
than the comparatively young and healthy can conceive; 

1 It was addressed to Ellen Nussey. 



1846 CORRESPONDENCE WITH MR. AYLOTT 313 

to deprive them of one of these is cruel. If your mother 
is more composed when you are with her, stay with her. If 
she would be unhappy in case you left her, stay with her. 
It will not apparently, as far as short-sighted humanity 
can see, be for your advantage to remain at B(rookroyd), 
nor will yon be praised and admired for remaining at 
home to comfort your mother; yet, probably, your own 
conscience will approve, and if it does, stay with her. I 
recommend you to do what I am trying to do myself.' 

The remainder of this letter is only interesting to the 
reader as it conveys a peremptory disclaimer of the report 
that the writer was engaged to be married to her father's 
curate — the very same gentleman to whom, eight years af- 
terwards, she was united ; ' and who, probably, even now, 
although she was unconscious of the fact, had begun his 
service to her, in the same tender and faithful spirit as that 
in which Jacob served for Rachel. Others may have no- 
ticed this, though she did not. 

A few more notes remain of her correspondence ' on be- 
half of the Messrs. Bell ' with Mr. Aylott. On July 15 she 
says, ' I suppose, as you have not written, no other notices 
have yet appeared, nor has the demand for the work in- 
creased. Will you favour me with a line stating whether 
any, or how many copies have yet been sold ?' 

1 It runs as follows : — 

' Who gravely asked you whether Miss Bronte was not going to be 
married to her papa's curate ? I scarcely need say that never was 
rumour more unfounded. A cold, far-away sort of civility are the 
only terms on which I have ever been with Mr. Nicholls. I could by 
no means think of mentioning such a rumour to him even as a joke. 
It would make me the laughing-stock of himself and his fellow cu- 
rates for half a year to come. They regard me as an old maid, and I 
regard them, one and all, as highly uninteresting, narrow, and unat- 
tractive specimens of the coarser sex. 

' Write to me again soon, whether you have anything particular to 
say or not. Give my sincere love to your mother and sisters. 

'C. Bronte.' 



314 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

But few, I fear; for, three days later, she wrote the fol- 
lowing : — 

' The Messrs. Bell desire me to thank yon for your sug- 
gestion respecting the advertisements. They agree with 
you that, since the season is unfavourable, advertising had 
better be deferred. They are obliged to you for the informa- 
tion respecting the number of copies sold." 

On July 23 she writes to Messrs. Aylott & Jones — 

' The Messrs. Bell would be obliged to you to post the 
enclosed note in London. It is an answer to the letter you 
forwarded, which contained an application for their auto- 
graphs from a person who professed to have read and ad- 
mired their poems. I think I before intimated that the 
Messrs. Bell are desirous for the present of remaining un- 
known, for which reason they prefer having the note posted 
in London to sending it direct, in order to avoid giving any 
clue to residence, or identity by post-mark, &c/ ' 

1 The number was two only, as will appear from the following letter, 
addressed to Thomas De Quincey :* — 

' June 16, 1847. 

' Sir, — My relatives, Ellis and Acton Bell, and myself, heedless of 
the repeated warnings of various respectable publishers, have commit- 
ted the rash act of printing a volume of poems. 

' The consequences predicted have, of course, overtaken us : our 
book is found to be a drug ; no man needs it or heeds it. In the space 
of a year our publisher has disposed but of two copies, and by what 
painful efforts he succeeded in getting rid of these two himself only 
knows. 

' Before transferring the edition to the trunkmakers we have decided 
on distributing as presents a few copies of what we cannot sell ; and 
we beg to offer you one in acknowledgment of the pleasure and profit 
we have often and long derived from your works. — I am, sir, yours 
very respectfully, Curebs Bell.' 

8 The application was sent by Mr. F. Enoch, of the Corn Market, 

* De Quincey Memorials, by Alexander H. Japp. An exactly similar 
letter was addressed by ' Currer Bell ' to several of the famous authors 
of her day, to Alfred Tennyson among others. See Alfred, Lord Ten- 
nyson: a Memoir, by his son. 1898. 



1846 THE FAILURE OF THE 'POEMS' 315 

Once more, in September, she writes, ' As the work has 
received no further notice from any periodical, I presume 
the demand for it has not greatly increased.' 

In the biographical notice of her sisters she thus speaks of 
the failure of the modest hopes vested in this publication : — 

' The book was printed ; it is scarcely known, and all of 
it that merits to be known are the poems of Ellis Bell. 

'The fixed conviction I held, and hold, of the worth of 
these poems has not, indeed, received the confirmation of 
much favourable criticism ; but I must retain it notwith- 
standing. 5 

Warwick. The original autographs are framed and in the possession 
of the Bronte Museum at Haworth. 



CHAPTER XV 

During this summer of 1846, while her literary hopes 
were waning, an anxiety of another kind was increasing. 
Her father's eyesight had become seriously impaired by the 
progress of the cataract which was forming. He was near- 
ly blind. He could grope his way about, and recognise 
the figures of those he knew well, when they were placed 
against a strong light ; but he could no longer see to read ; 
and thus his eager appetite for knowledge and information 
of all kinds was severely baulked. He continued to preach. 
I have heard that he was led up into the pulpit, and that 
his sermons were never so effective as when he stood there, 
a grey, sightless old man, his blind eyes looking out straight 
before him, while the words that came from his lips had all 
the vigour and force of his best days. Another fact has 
been mentioned to me, curious as showing the accurateness 
of his sensation of bime. His sermons had always lasted 
exactly half an hour. With the clock right before him, 
and with his ready flow of words, this had been no difficult 
matter so long as he could see. But it was the same when 
he was blind ; as the minute hand came to the point, mark- 
ing the expiration of the thirty minutes, he concluded his 
sermon. 

Under his great sorrow he was always patient. As in 
times of far greater affliction he enforced a quiet endur- 
ance of his woe upon himself. But so many interests were 
quenched by this blindness that he was driven inwards, and 
must have dwelt much on what was painful and distressing 
in regard to his only son. No wonder that his spirits gave 
way, and were depressed. For some time before this autumn 



1846 AT MANCHESTER 317 

his daughters had been collecting all the information they 
could respecting the probable supcess of operations for cat- 
aract performed on a person of their father's age. About 
the end of July Emily and Charlotte had made a journey 
to Manchester for the purpose of searching out an operator ; 
and there they heard of the fame of the late Mr. Wilson as 
an oculist. They went to him at once, but he could not 
tell, from description, whether the eyes were ready for be- 
ing operated upon or not. It therefore became necessary for 
Mr. Bronte to visit him ; and towards the end of August 
Charlotte brought her father to him. He determined at 
once to undertake the operation, and recommended them 
to comfortable lodgings kept by an old servant of his. 
These were in one of numerous similar streets of small mo- 
notonous-looking houses, in a suburb of the town. Prom 
thence the following letter is dated, 1 on August 21, 1846 : — 

* I just scribble a line to you to let you know where I am, 
in order that you may write to me here, for it seems to me 
that a letter from you would relieve me from the feeling of 
strangeness I have in this big town. Papa and I came here 
on Wednesday ; we saw Mr. Wilson, the oculist, the same 
day ; he pronounced papa's eyes quite ready for an opera- 
tion, and has fixed next Monday for the performance of 
it. Think of us on that day ! We got into our lodgings 
yesterday. I think we shall be comfortable ; at least our 
rooms are very good, but there is no mistress of the house 
(she is very ill, and gone out into the country), and I am 
somewhat puzzled in managing about provisions ; we board 
ourselves. I find myself excessively ignorant. I can't tell 
what to order in the "way of meat. For ourselves I could 
contrive, papa's diet is so very simple ; but there will be a 
nurse coming in a day or two, and I am afraid of not hav- 
ing things good enough for her. Papa requires nothing, 

1 From 83 Mount Pleasant, Boundary Street, Oxford Eoad, Man- 
cheater. The letter, together with the one that follows it, was writ- 
ten to Ellen Nussey. 



318 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

you know, but plain beef and mutton, tea and bread-and- 
butter ; but a nurse will probably expect to live much bet- 
ter : give me some hints, if you can. Mr. Wilson says we 
shall have to stay here for a month at least. I wonder how 
Emily and Anne will get on at home with Branwell. They, 
too, will have their troubles. What would I not give to 
have you here ! One is forced, step by step, to get expe- 
rience in the world ; but the learning is so disagreeable. 
One cheerful feature in the business is that Mr. Wilson 
thinks most favourably of the case.' 

' August 26, 1846. 

f The operation is over; it took place yesterday. Mr. 
Wilson performed it ; two other surgeons assisted. Mr. 
Wilson says he considers it quite successful ; but papa 
cannot yet see anything. The affair lasted precisely a 
quarter of an hour ; it was not the simple operation of 
couching Mr. C. described, but the more complicated one 
of extracting the cataract. Mr. Wilson entirely disapproves 
of couching. Papa displayed extraordinary patience and 
firmness ; the surgeons seemed surprised. I was in the 
room all the time, as it was his wish that I should be there ; 
of course I neither spoke nor moved till the thing was 
done, and then I felt that the less I said, either to papa 
or the surgeons, the better. Papa is now confined to his 
bed in a dark room, and is not to be stirred for fonr 
days ; he is to speak and be spoken to as little as possi- 
ble. I am greatly obliged to you for your letter, and your 
kind advice, which gave me extreme satisfaction, because 
I found I had arranged most things in accordance with 
it, and, -as your theory coincides with my practice, I feel 
assured the latter is right. I hope Mr. Wilson will soon 
allow me to dispense with the nurse ; she is well enongh, 
no doubt, but somewhat too obsequious ; and not, I should 
think, to be much trusted ; yet I was obliged to trust her 
in some things. . . . 

' Greatly was I amused by your account of (Joseph 
Taylor)'s flirtations ; and yet something saddened also. I 



1816 AT MANCHESTER 319 

think Nature intended him for something better than to 
fritter away his time in making a set of poor, unoccupied 
spinsters unhappy. The girls, unfortunately, are forced 
to care for him, and such as him, because, while their 
minds are mostly unemployed, their sensations are all un- 
worn, and consequently fresh and green ; and he, on the 
contrary, has had his fill of pleasure, and can, with im- 
punity, make a mere pastime of other people's torments. 
This is an unfair state of things ; the match is not equal. 
I only wish I had the power to infuse into the souls of 
the persecuted a little of the quiet strength of pride — of 
the supporting consciousness of superiority (for they are 
superior to him, because purer) — of the fortifying resolve 
of firmness to bear the present, and wait the end. Could 
all the virgin population of (Birstall and Gomersal) receive 
and retain these sentiments, he would continually have to 
vail his crest before them. Perhaps, luckily, their feel- 
ings are not so acute as one would think, and the gentle- 
man's shafts consequently don't wound so deeply as he 
might desire. I hope it is so.' 

A few days later she writes thus: 1 ' Papa is still lying in 
bed, in a dark room, with his eyes bandaged. No inflam- 
mation ensued, but still it appears the greatest care, per- 
fect quiet, and utter privation of light are necessary to en- 
sure a good result from the operation. He is very patient, 
but of course depressed and weary. He was allowed to try 
his sight for the first time yesterday. He could see dim- 
ly. Mr. Wilson seemed perfectly satisfied, and said all was 
right. I have had bad nights from the toothache since I 
came to Manchester.' 

All this time, notwithstanding the domestic anxieties 
which were harassing them — notwithstanding the ill-success 
of their poems — the three sisters were trying that other lit- 
erary venture to which Charlotte made allusion in one of 

1 On August 81, 1846, to Ellen Nussey. 



320 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

her letters to the Messrs. Aylott. Each of them had written 
a prose tale, hoping that the three might be published to- 
gether. ' Wuthering Heights ' and ' Agnes Grey ' are be- 
fore the world. The third, 'The Professor' — Charlotte's 
contribution — was published shortly after the appearance 
of the first edition of this memoir. 1 The plot in itself is 
of no great interest ; but it is a poor kind of interest that 
depends upon startling incidents rather than upon dramatic 
development of character; and Charlotte Bronte never ex- 
celled one or two sketches or portraits which she has given 
in ' The Professor/ nor, in grace of womanhood, ever sur- 
passed one of the female characters there described. By 
the time she wrote this tale her taste and judgment had 
revolted against the exaggerated idealisms of her early 
girlhood, and she went to the extreme of reality, closely de- 
picting characters as they had shown themselves to her in 
actual life : if there they were strong even to coarseness — 
as was the case with some that she had met with in flesh- 
and-blood existence — she ' wrote them down an ass ; ' if 
the scenery of such life as she saw was for the most part 
wild and grotesque, instead of pleasant or picturesque, she 
described it line for line. The grace of the one or two 
scenes and characters which are drawn rather from her own 
imagination than from absolute fact, stand out in exquisite 
relief from the deep shadows and wayward lines of others, 
which call to mind some of the portraits of Rembrandt. 

The three tales had tried their fate in vain together; 
at length they were sent forth separately, and for many 
months with still-continued ill success. I have mentioned 
this here because, among the dispiriting circumstances 
connected with her anxious visit to Manchester, Charlotte 
told me that her tale came back upon her hands, curtly 

1 The first edition of The Professor was published in two volumes, 
with a brief introductory note by Mr. A. B. Nicholls, dated Septem- 
ber 22, 1856. The title-page ran, ' The Professor: a Tale. By Gurrer 
Bell, Author of "Jane Eyre," "Shirley," " Villette," do. In two 
volumes. London: Smith, Elder, & Oo., 65 Oornhill. 1857.' 



1846 HER BEAVE HEART 321 

rejected by some publisher, on the very day when her 
father was to submit to his operation. But she had the 
heart of Robert Bruce within her, and failure upon failure 
daunted her no more than him. Not only did ' The Pro- 
fessor ' return again to try his chance among the London 
publishers, but she began, in this time of care and depress- 
ing inquietude — in those grey, weary, uniform streets, 
where all faces, save that of her kind doctor, were strange 
and untouched with sunlight to her — there and then did 
the brave genius begin ' Jane Byre.' ' Read what she her- 
self says : — ' Currer Bell's book found acceptance nowhere, 
nor any acknowledgment of merit, so that something like 
the chill of despair began to invade his heart.' And, re- 
member, it was not the heart of a person who, disap- 
pointed in one hope, can turn with redoubled affection to 
the many certain blessings that remain. Think of her 
home, and the black shadow of remorse lying over one in 
it, till his very brain was mazed, and his gifts and his life 
were lost ; think of her father's sight hanging on a thread ; 
of her sisters' delicate health, and dependence on her care ; 
and then admire, as it deserves to be admired, the steady 
courage which could work away at -Jane Eyre,' all the 
time ' that the one - volume tale was plodding its weary 
round in London.' 

Some of her surviving friends consider that an incident 
which she heard, when at school at Miss Wooler's", was 
the germ of the story of 'Jane Eyre.' But of this 
nothing can be known, except by conjecture. Those 
to whom she spoke upon the subject of her writings 
are dead and silent; and the reader may probably have 

1 The Professor was considered by six successive publishers before 
it was read by Mr. Smith Williams, the ' reader ' for Smith, Elder, & 
Co. Mr. Smith Williams, on the strength of her statement that she 
had 'a second narrative in three volumes now in progress' (see p. 
336), suggested that she should complete that novel, and submit it to 
the firm he represented. Hence Jane Eyre was submitted only to the 
firm that published it. 
21 



322 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

noticed that in the correspondence from which I have 
quoted there has been no allusion whatever to the pub- 
lication of her poems, nor is there the least hint of the 
intention of the sisters to publish any tales. I remem- 
ber; however, many little particulars which Miss Bronte 
gave me, in answer to my inquiries respecting her mode of 
composition, &c. She said that it was not every day that 
she could write. Sometimes weeks or even months elapsed 
before she felt that she had anything to add to that portion 
of her story which was already written. Then some morn- 
ing she would waken up, and the progress of her tale lay 
clear and bright before her, in distinct vision. When this 
was the case all her care was to discharge her household 
and filial duties, so as to obtain leisure to sit down and 
write out the incidents and consequent thoughts, which 
were, in fact, more present to her mind at such times than 
her actual life itself. Yet, notwithstanding this ' posses- 
sion ' (as it were), those who survive, of her daily and 
household companions, are clear in their testimony that 
never was the claim of any duty, never was the call of an- 
other for help neglected for an instant. It had become 
necessary to give Tabby — now nearly eighty years of age — 
the assistance of a girl. Tabby relinquished any of her 
work with a jealous reluctance, and could not bear to be 
reminded, though ever so delicately, that the acuteness of 
her senses was dulled by age. The other servant might 
not interfere with what she chose to consider her exclusive 
work. Among other things she reserved to herself the 
right of peeling the potatoes for dinner ; but, as she was 
growing blind, she often left in those black specks which 
we in the North call the ' eyes ' of the potato. Miss 
Bronte" was too dainty a housekeeper to put up with this; 
yet she could not bear to hurt the faithful old servant by 
bidding the younger maiden go over the potatoes again, 
and so reminding Tabby that her work was less effectual 
than formerly. Accordingly she would steal into the 
kitchen, and quietly carry off the bowl of vegetables, with- 



1846 HER SYSTEM OF WORKING 323 

out Tabby's being aware, and, breaking off in the full flow 
of interest and inspiration in her writing, carefully cut out 
the specks in the potatoes, and noiselessly carry them back 
to their place. This little proceeding may show how or- 
derly and fully she accomplished her duties, even at those 
times when the ' possession ' was upon her. 

Any one who has studied her writings, whether in print 
or in her letters ; any one who has enjoyed the rare privi- 
lege of listening to her talk, must have noticed her singu- 
lar felicity in the choice of words. She herself, in writing 
her books, was solicitous on this point. One set of words 
was the truthful mirror of her thoughts ; no others, how- 
ever identical in meaning, would do. She had that strong 
practical regard for the simple holy truth of expression 
which Mr. Trench ' has enforced, as a duty too often neg- 
lected. She would wait patiently, searching for the right 
term, until it presented itself to her. It might be provin- 
cial, it might be derived from the Latin ; so that it accu- 
rately represented her idea she did not mind whence it 
came ; but this care makes her style present the finish of a 
piece of mosaic: Bach component part, however small, 
has been dropped into the right place. She never wrote 
down a sentence until she clearly understood what she 
wanted to say, had deliberately chosen the words, and 
arranged them in their right order. Hence it comes that, 
in the scraps of paper covered with her pencil writing which 
I have seen, there will occasionally be a sentence scored 
out, but seldom, if ever, a word or an expression. She 
wrote on these bits of paper in a minute hand, holding each 
against a piece of board, such as is used in binding books, 
for a desk. 2 This plan was necessary for one so short- 
sighted as she was ; and, besides, it enabled her to use 

1 Richard Chenevix Trench (1807-1886), Archbishop of Dublin. His 
Study of Words was published in 1851, and English, Past and Present, 
in 1855. 

5 Mr. Nicholls still preserves one of the broken book-covers upon 
which, he tells me, his wife wrote Jane Eyre. 



324 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

pencil and paper, as she sat near the fire in the twilight 
hours, or if (as was too often the case) she was wakeful for 
hours in the night. Her finished manuscripts were copied 
from these pencil scraps, in clear, legible, delicately traced 
writing, almost as easy to read as print. 

The sisters retained the old habit, which was begun in 
their aunt's lifetime, of putting away their work at nine 
o'clock, and commencing their study, pacing up and down 
the sitting-room. At this time they talked over the stories 
they were engaged upon, and described their plots. Once 
or twice a week each read to the others what she had writ- 
ten, and heard what they had to say about it. Charlotte 
told me that the remarks made had seldom any effect in 
inducing her to alter her work, so possessed was she with 
the feeling that she had described reality ; but the read- 
ings were of great and stirring interest to all, taking them 
out of the gnawing pressure of daily recurring cares, and 
setting them in a free place. It was on one of these occa- 
sions that Charlotte determined to make her heroine plain, 
small, and unattractive, in defiance of the accepted canon. 

The writer of the beautiful obituary article on ' the 
death of Currer Bell" most likely learnt from herself what 
is there stated, and which I will take the liberty of quoting, 
about 'Jane Eyre.' 

'She once told her sisters that they were wrong — even 
morally wrong — in making their heroines beautiful as a 
matter of course. They replied that it was impossible to 
make a heroine interesting on any other terms. Her answer 
was, " I will prove to you that you are wrong ; I will show 
you a heroine as plain and as small as myself, who shall be 
as interesting as any of yours." Hence "Jane Eyre," said 
she in telling the anecdote : " but she is not myself any 
further than that." As the work went on the interest 
deepened to the writer. When she came to "Thornfield" 

1 Miss Harriet Martineau in the Daily News. 



1846 THE RETURN FROM MANCHESTER 325 

she could not stop. Being short-sighted to excess, she 
wrote in little square paper-books, held close to her eyes, 
and (the first copy) in pencil. On she went writing inces- 
santly for three weeks ; by which time she had carried her 
heroine away from Thornfield, and was herself in a fever 
which compelled her to pause.' 

This is all, I believe, which can now be told respecting 
the conception and composition of this wonderful book, 
which was, however, only at its commencement when Miss 
Bronte returned with her father to Haworth, after their 
anxious expedition to Manchester. 

They arrived at home about the end of September. Mr. 
Bronte was daily gaining strength, but he was still forbid- 
den to exercise his sight much. Things had gone on 
more comfortably while she was away than Charlotte 
had dared to hope, and she expresses herself thankful 
for the good ensured and the evil spared during her ab- 
sence. 

Soon after this some proposal, of which I have not been 
able to gain a clear account, was again mooted for Miss 
Bronte's opening a school at some place distant from Ha- 
worth. It elicited the following fragment of a character- 
istic reply : — 

'Leave home ! I shall neither be able to find place nor 
employment ; perhaps, too, I shall be quite past the prime 
of life, my faculties will be rusted, and my few acquire- 
ments in a great measure forgotten. These ideas sting me 
keenly sometimes ; but, whenever I consult my conscience, 
it affirms that I am doing right in staying at home, and 
bitter are its upbraidings when I yield to an eager desire 
for release. I could hardly expect success if I were to 
err against such warnings. I should like to hear from you 

again soon. Bring R to the point, and make him give 

you a clear, not a vague, account of what pupils he really 
could promise ; people often think they can do great things 



326 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

in that way till they have tried ; but getting pupils is unlike 
getting any other sort of goods.' 1 

Whatever might be the nature and extent of this negotia- 
tion, the end of it was that Charlotte adhered to the de- 
cision of her conscience, which bade her remain at home, 
as long as her presence could cheer or comfort those who 
were in distress, or had the slighest influence over him who 
was the cause of it. The next extract gives us a glimpse 
into the cares of that home. It is from a letter dated De- 
cember 15. 

' I hope you are not frozen up ; * the cold here is dread- 

1 Mrs. Gaskell has somewhat abridged this letter, which iD the orig- 
inal runs as follows :— 

' I read your letter with attention, not on my own account, for any 
project which infers the necessity of my leaving home is impractica- 
ble to me. If I could leave home I should not be at Haworth now ; 
I know life is passing away, and I am doing nothing, earning nothing. 
A very bitter knowledge it is at moments, but I see no way out of 
the mist. More than one very favourable opportunity has now offered, 
which I have been obliged to put aside. Probably when I am free to 
leave home I shall neither be able to find place nor employment ; per- 
haps, too, I shall be quite past the prime of life, my faculties will be 
rusted, an'd my few acquirements in a great measure forgotten. These 
ideas sting me keenly sometimes, but whenever I consult my con- 
science it affirms that I am doing right in staying at home, and bitter 
are its upbraidings when I yield to an eager desire for release. I 
returned to Brussels after aunt's death against my conscience, prompt- 
ed by what seemed then an irresistible impulse. I was punished for 
my selfish folly by a total hindrance for more than two years of hap- 
piness and peace of mind. I could hardly expect success were I to 
err again in the same way.' 

It has been urged that this passage, in its suggestion of loss of 
' peace of mind,' has reference to the writer's devotion to her profess- 
or, M. Heger, having been something more than the admiration of a 
pupil for an honoured instructor. Charlotte Bronte's friend Ellen 
Nussey, on the other hand, always declared that the reference was to 
her father having given way to drink during her second sojourn in 
Brussels. The point is unimportant. 

2 In the original letter to Ellen Nussey the words ' frozen up in 
Northamptonshire ' occur. 



1846 ANNE'S 'HEROISM OF ENDURANCE' 327 

ful. I do not remember such a series of North-Pole days. 
England might really have taken a slide up into the Arctic 
Zone ; the sky looks like ice ; the earth is frozen ; the wind 
is as keen as a two-edged blade. We have all had severe 
colds and coughs in consequence of the weather. Poor 
Anne has suffered greatly from asthma, but is now, we are 
glad to say, rather better. She had two nights last week 
when her cough and difficulty of breathing were painful 
indeed to hear and witness, and must have been most dis- 
tressing to suffer ; she bore it, as she bears all affliction, 
without one complaint, only sighing now and then when 
nearly worn out. She has an extraordinary heroism of en- 
durance. I admire, but I certainly could not imitate her.' 
. . . 'You say lam to "tell you plenty." What would you 
have me say ? Nothing happens at Haworth ; nothing, at 
least, of a pleasant kind. One little incident occurred 
about a week ago to sting us to life ; but if it gives no 
more pleasure for you to hear than it does for us to wit- 
ness, you will scarcely thank me for adverting to it. It 
was merely the arrival of a sheriff's officer on a visit to 
Branwell, inviting him either to pay his debts or take a 
trip to York. Of course his debts had to be paid. It is 
not agreeable to lose money, time after time, in this way ; 
but where is the use of dwelling on such subjects ? It will 
make him no better.' 

' December 28. 
' I feel as if it was almost a farce to sit down and write 
to you now, with nothing to say worth listening to ; and 
indeed, if it were not for two reasons, I should put off the 
business at least a fortnight hence. The first reason is, I 
want another letter, from you, for your letters are interest- 
ing, they have something in them, some results of experi- 
ence and observation ; one receives them with pleasure, 
and reads them with relish ; and these letters I cannot ex- 
pect to get, unless I reply to them. I wish the corre- 
spondence could be managed so as to be all on one side. 
The second reason is derived from a remark in your last, 



328 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

thab you felt lonely, something as I was at Brussels, 1 and 
that consequently you had a peculiar desire to hear from 
old acquaintance. I can understand and sympathise with 
this. I remember the shortest note was a treat to me, 
when I was at the above-named place ; therefore I write. 
I have also a third reason : it is a haunting terror lest you 
should imagine I forget you — that my regard cools with 
absence. It is not in my nature to forget your nature ; 
though I dare say I should spit fire and explode some- 
times if we lived together continually; and you, too, 
would get angry, and then we should get reconciled and 
jog on as before. Do you ever get dissatisfied with your 
own temper when you are long fixed to one place, in one 
scene, subject to one monotonous species of annoyance? I 
do : I am now in that unenviable frame of mind; my hu- 
mour, I think, is too soon overthrown, too sore, too de- 
monstrative and vehement. I almost long for some of the 

uniform serenity you describe in Mrs. 's disposition ; 

or, at least, I would fain have her power of self-control and 
concealment; but I would not take her artificial habits and 
ideas along with her composure. After all I should prefer 
being as I am. . . . You do right not to be annoyed at 
any maxims of conventionality you meet with. Regard all 
new ways in the light of fresh experience for you : if you 
see any honey, gather it.' ' . . . 'I don't, after all, con- 
sider that we ought to despise everything we see in the 
world, merely because it is not what we are accustomed to. 

1 • At Stonegappe and Brussels ' in the original letter, which was ad- 
dressed to Ellen Nussey. 

2 ' See Punch ' is the only omission here. The previous number of 
Punch (No. 341, vol. x. p. 91, February 21, 1846) had contained a 
paper entitled 'Little Fables for Little Politicians.' The second of 
these fables, entitled ' The Drones,' sets forth how ' a swarm of drones 
lived for a number of years in a rich beehive, helping themselves to 
the best of the honey, and contributing nothing to the store.' Finally, 
the drones — that is to say, the Protectionists — were driven out by the 
bees ; and Punch implores ' our venerable Dukes to have the above 
little Fable read to them at least once a day.' 



1846 THE CLOSE OF 1846 329 

I suspect, on the contrary, that there are not unfrequently 
substantial reasons underneath for customs that appear to 
us absurd ; and if I were ever again to find myself amongst 
strangers I should be solicitous to examine before I con- 
demned. Indiscriminating irony and fault-finding are 
just suniphishness, and that is all. Anne is now much 
better, but papa has been for near a fortnight far from well 
with the influenza; he has at times a most distressing 
cough, and his spirits are much depressed.' 

So ended the year 1846. 



CHAPTER XVI 

The next year opened with a spell of cold, dreary weather, 
which told severely on a constitution already tried by anx- 
iety and care. Miss Bronte describes herself as having ut- 
terly lost her appetite, and as looking ' grey, old, worn, 
and sunk/ from her sufferings during the inclement sea- 
son. The cold brought on severe toothache ; toothache 
was the cause of a succession of restless, miserable nights ; 
and long wakefulness told acutely upon her nerves, making 
them feel with redoubled sensitiveness all the harass of her 
oppressive life. Yet she would not allow herself to lay her 
bad health to the charge of an uneasy mind; 'for after 
all/ said she at this time, ' I have many, many things to be 
thankful for.' But the real state of things may be gath- 
ered from the following extracts from her letters. 

' March 1. 
' Even at the risk of appearing very exacting I can't help 
saying that I should like a letter as long as your last, every 
time you write. Short notes give one the feeling of a very 
small piece of a very good thing to eat — they set the appe- 
tite on edge, and don't satisfy it — a letter leaves you more 
contented ; and yet, after all, I am very glad to get notes ; 
so don't think, when you are pinched for time and ma- 
terials, that it is useless to write a few lines ; be assured a 
few lines are very acceptable as far as they go; and though 
I like long letters I would by no means have you to make 
a task of writing them. ... I really should like you to 
come to Haworth, before I again go to B(irstall). And it 
is natural and right that I should have this wish. To keep 



1847 FAMILY TRIALS 331 

friendship in proper order the balance of good offices must 
be preserved ; otherwise a disquieting and anxious feeling 
creeps in, and destroys mutual comfort. In summer, and 
in fine weather, your visit here might be much better man- 
aged than in winter. We could go out more, be more in- 
dependent of the house and of our room. Bran well has 
been conducting himself very badly lately. I expect, from 
the extravagance of his behaviour, and from mysterious 
hints he drops (for he never will speak out plainly), that 
we shall be hearing news of fresh debts contracted by him 
soon. My health is better : I lay the blame of its feeble- 
ness on the cold weather more than on an uneasy mind.' 

' March 24, 1847. 
' It is at Haworth, if all be well, that we must next see 
each other again. I owe you a grudge for giving Miss 
Wooler some very exaggerated account about my not being 
well, and setting her on to urge my leaving home as quite 
a duty. I'll take care not to tell you next time, when I 
think I am looking specially old and ugly ; as if people 
could not have that privilege without being supposed to be 
at the last gasp ! I shall be thirty-one next birthday. My 
youth is gone like a dream ; and very little use have I ever 
made of it. What have I done these last thirty years ? 
Precious little.' 1 

The quiet, sad year stole on. The sisters were contem- 
plating near at hand, and for a long time, the terrible ef- 
fects of talents misused and faculties abused in the person 
of that brother once their fond darling and dearest pride. 
They had to cheer the poor old father, in whose heart all 
trials sank the deeper, because of the silent stoicism of his 
endurance. They had to watch over his health, of which, 
whatever was its state, he seldom complained. They had 
to save, as much as they could, the precious remnants of 
his sight. They had to order the frugal household with 

1 Both the above letters were addressed to Ellen Nussey. 



332 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

increased care, so as to supply wants and expenditure utter- 
ly foreign to their self - denying natures. Though they 
shrank from overmuch contact with their fellow beings, 
for all whom they met they had kind words, if few ; and 
when kind actions were needed they were not spared, if 
the sisters at the Parsonage could render them. They 
visited the parish schools duly ; and often were Charlotte's 
rare and brief holidays of a visit from home shortened by 
her sense of the necessity of being in her place at the Sun- 
day school. 

In the intervals of such a life as this 'Jane Eyre' was 
making progress. ' The Professor ' was passing slowly and 
heavily from publisher to publisher. ' Wuthering Heights ' 
and 'Agnes Grey' had been accepted by another publisher, 
' on terms somewhat impoverishing to the two authors ;' a 
bargain to be alluded to more fully hereafter. 1 It was 
lying in his hands, awaiting his pleasure for its passage 
through the press, during all the months of early summer. 

The piece of external brightness to which the sisters 
looked during these same summer months was the hope 
that the friend to whom so many of Charlotte's letters are 
addressed, and who was her chosen companion, whenever 
circumstances permitted them to be together, as well as a 
favourite with Emily and Anne, would be able to pay them 
a visit at Ha worth. —Fine weather had come in May, Char- 
lotte writes, and they hoped to make their visitor decently 
comfortable. Their brother was tolerably well, having got 
to the end of a considerable sum of money which he became 
possessed of in the spring, and therefore under the whole- 
some restriction of poverty. But Charlotte warns her friend 
that she must expect to find a change in his appearance, and 
that he is broken in mind ; and ends her note of entreating 
invitation by saying, ' I pray for fine weather, that we may 
get out while you stay.' 

At length the day was fixed. 

1 The two stories were published as if they were one book ; see note, 
p. 356. 



1847 A DISAPPOINTMENT 333 

'Friday will suit us very well. I do trust nothing will 
now arise to prevent your coming. I shall be anxious about 
the weather on that day ; if it rains I shall ory. Don't ex- 
pect me to meet yon ; where would be the good of it ? I 
neither like to meet, nor to be met. Unless, indeed, you 
had a box or a basket for me to carry ; then there would be 
some sense in it. Come in black, blue, pink, white, or 
scarlet, as you like. Come shabby or smart ; neither the 
colour nor the condition signifies ; provided only the dress 
contain Ellen, all will be right.' 

But there came the first of a series of disappointments to 
be borne. One feels how sharp it must have been to have 
wrung out the following words : — 

' May 20. 

' Your letter of yesterday did indeed give me a cruel chill 
of disappointment. I cannot blame you, for I know it was 
not your fault. I do not altogether exempt from re- 
proach. . . . This is bitter, but I feel bitter. As to going to 
B(irstall), I will not go near the place till you have been to 
Haworth. My respects to all and sundry, accompanied 
with a large amount of wormwood and gall, from the ef- 
fusion of which you and your mother are alone excepted. — 
C. B. 

' You are quite at liberty to tell what I think, if you 
judge proper. Though it is true I may be somewhat un- 
just, for I am deeply annoyed. I thought I had arranged 
your visit tolerably comfortable for you this time. I may 
find it more difficult on another occasion.' 

I must give one sentence from a letter written about this 
time, as it shows distinctly the clear strong sense of the 
writer. 

'I was amused by what she 1 says respecting her wish 
that, when she marries, her husband will, at least, have a 

1 The reference is to a Miss Amelia Ringrose, who married Joseph 
Taylor, one of Mary Taylor's brothers. 



334 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

will of his own, even should he be a tyrant. Tell her, when 
she forms that aspiration again, she must make it condi- 
tional : if her husband has a strong will, he must also have 
a strong sense, a kind heart, and a thoroughly correct notion 
of justice ; because a man with a weak brain and a strong 
will is merely an intractable brute ; you can have no hold 
of him ; you can never lead him right. A tyrant under 
any circumstances is a curse.' 

Meanwhile ' The Professor ' had met with many refusals 
from different publishers ; some, I have reason to believe, 
not over-courteously worded in writing to an unknown 
author, and none alleging any distinct reasons for its re- 
jection. Courtesy is always due ; but it is, perhaps, hardly 
to be expected that, in the press of business in a great 
publishing house, they should find time to explain why they 
decline particular works. Yet, though one course of action 
is not to be wondered at, the opposite may fall upon a grieved 
and disappointed mind with all the graciousness of dew ; 
and I can well sympathise with the published account 
which 'Currer Bell' gives of the feelings experienced on 
reading Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co.'s letter containing the 
rejection of 'The Professor.' 

' As a forlorn hope we tried one publishing house more. 
Ere long, in a much shorter space than that on which ex- 
perience had taught him to calculate, there came a letter, 
which he opened in the dreary anticipation of finding two 
hard, hopeless lines, intimating that "Messrs. Smith, Elder, 
& Co. were not disposed to publish the MS.," and, instead, 
he took out of the envelope a letter of two pages. He read 
it trembling. It declined, indeed, to publish that tale for 
business reasons, but it discussed its merits and demerits 
so courteously, so considerately, in a spirit so rational, with 
a discrimination so enlightened, that this very refusal 
cheered the author better than a vulgarly expressed accept- 
ance would have done. It was added that a work in three 
volumes would meet with careful attention.' 

Mr. Smith has told me a little circumstance connected 



1847 UNINITIATED IN PUBLISHERS' WAYS 335 

with the reception of this manuscript, which seems to me 
indicative of no ordinary character. It came (accompanied 
by the note given below) in a brown paper parcel to 65 
Oornhill. Besides the address to Messrs. Smith, Elder, & 
Co. there were on it those of other publishers to whom the 
tale had been sent, not obliterated, but simply scored 
through, so that Mr. Smith at once perceived the names of 
some of the houses in the trade to which the unlucky parcel 
had gone without success. 

TO MESSES. SMITH AND ELDER. 

' July 15, 1847. 
' Gentlemen, — I beg to submit to your consideration the 
accompanying manuscript. I should be glad to learn 
whether it be such as you approve, and would undertake 
to publish at as early a period as possible. Address, Mr. 
Currer Bell, under cover to Miss Bronte, Haworth, Brad- 
ford, Yorkshire.' 

Some time elapsed before an answer was returned. 

A little circumstance may be mentioned here, though it 
belongs to a somewhat earlier period, as showing Miss 
Brontes inexperience of the ways of the world, and willing 
deference to the opinions of others. She had written to a 
publisher about one of her manuscripts, which she had 
sent him, and, not receiving any reply, she consulted her 
brother as to what could be the reason for the prolonged 
silence. He at once set it down to her not having enclosed 
a postage-stamp in her letter. She accordingly wrote again, 
to repair her former omission, and apologize for it. 

TO MESSES. SMITH AND ELDEE. 

' August 2, 1847. 

'Gentlemen, — About three weeks since I sent for your 

consideration a MS. entitled "The Professor, a tale by 

Ourrer Bell." I should be glad to know whether it reached 

your hands safely, and likewise to learn, at your earliest 



336 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

convenience, whether it be sneh as you can undertake to 
publish. — I am, Gentlemen, yours respectfully, 

' Cubeeb Bell. 

* I enclose a directed cover for your reply.' 

This time her note met with a prompt answer; for, four 
days later, she writes (in reply to the letter which she after- 
wards characterised in the Preface to the second edition of 
' Wuthering Heights ' as containing a refusal so delicate;, 
reasonable, and courteous as to be more cheering than 
some acceptances) — 

' Your objection to the want of varied interest in the tale 
is, I am aware, not without grounds ; yet it appears to me 
that it might be published without serious risk, if its ap- 
pearance were speedily followed up by another work from 
the same pen, of a more striking and exciting character. 
The first work might serve as an introduction, and accus- 
tom the public to the author's name ; the success of the 
second might thereby be rendered more probable. I have 
a second narrative in three volumes, now in progress, and 
nearly completed, to which I have endeavored to impart 
a more vivid interest than belongs to " The Professor." 
In about a month I hope to finish it, so that if a pub- 
lisher were found for "The Professor" the second nar- 
rative might follow as soon as was deemed advisable ; 
and thus the interest of the public (if any interest was 
aroused) might not be suffered to cool. Will you be 
kind enough to favour me with your judgment on this 
plan?' 

While the minds of the three sisters were in this state of 
suspense their long-expected friend came to pay her prom- 
ised visit. She was with them at the beginning of the 
glowing August of that year. They were out on the 
moors for the greater part of the day, basking in the gold- 
en sunshine, which was bringing on an unusual plenteons- 
ness of harvest, for which, somewhat later, Charlotte ex- 
pressed her earnest desire that there should be a thanksgiv- 




HA WORTH MOOR — SHOWING CHARLOTTE BRONTE S CHAIR. 



1847 'JANE EYRE' 337 

ing service in all the churches. August was the season 
of glory for the neighbourhood of Ha worth. Even the 
smoke, lying in the valley between that village and Keigh- 
ley, took beauty from the radiant colours on the moors 
above, the rich purple of the heather bloom calling out 
an harmonious contrast in the tawny golden light that, 
in the full heat of summer evenings, comes stealing 
everywhere through the dun atmosphere of the hollows. 
And up on the moors, turning away from all habita- 
tions of men, the royal ground on which they stood 
would expand into long swells of amethyst - tinted hills, 
melting away into aerial tints ; and the fresh and fragrant 
scent of the heather, and the 'murmur of innumerable 
bees,' would lend a poignancy to the relish with which 
they welcomed their friend to their own true home on the 
wild and open hills. 

There, too, they could escape from the Shadow in the 
house below. 

Throughout this time — during all these confidences — not 
a word was uttered to their friend of the three tales in 
London — two accepted and in the press, one trembling in 
the balance of a publisher's judgment — nor did she hear of 
that other story, 'nearly completed,' lying in manuscript 
in the grey old parsonage down below. She might have 
her suspicions that they all wrote with an intention of 
publication some time; but she knew the bounds which 
they set to themselves in their communications; nor could 
she, nor any one else, wonder at their reticence, when re- 
membering how scheme after scheme had failed, just as it 
seemed close upon accomplishment. 

Mr. Bronte, too, had his suspicions of something going 
on; but, never being spoken to, he did not speak on the 
subject, and consequently his ideas were vague and uncer- 
tain, only just prophetic enough to keep him from being 
actually stunned when, later on, he heard of the success 
of 'Jane Eyre,' to the progress of which we must now 
return. 
22 



338 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

TO MESSES. SMITH AND ELDER. 

'August 24. 
'I now send you per rail a MS. entitled "Jane Eyre," a 
novel in three volumes, by Currer Bell. I find I cannot 
prepay the carriage of the parcel, as money for that purpose 
is not received at the small station-house where it is left. 
If, when you acknowledge the receipt of the MS., you 
would have the goodness to mention the amount charged 
on delivery, I will immediately transmit it in postage- 
stamps. It is better in future to address Mr. Currer Bell, 
under cover to Miss Bronte, Haworth, Bradford, York- 
shire, as there is a risk of letters otherwise directed not 
reaching me at present. To save trouble, I enclose an en- 
velope.' l 

1 The letters of Charlotte Bronte are now mainly contained in Mrs.' 
Gaskell's biography and Charlotte Bronte and her Circle. Conditions 
of space would have made it impracticable, even were it otherwise 
desirable, to incorporate all Miss Bronte's letters in the notes to this 
volume. Through the courtesy of Mr. George Smith, of Messrs. Smith, 
Elder, & Co., I am enabled, however, to add a number of hitherto un- 
published letters to Mrs. Gaskell's narrative, of which one dated Sep- 
tember 24 comes first in chronological order : — 

TO SMITH, ELDER, AND CO. 

' Gentlemen, — I have to thank you for punctuating the sheets before 
sending them to me, as I found the task very puzzling, and, besides, 
I consider your mode of punctuation a great deal more correct and 
rational than my own. I am glad you think pretty well of the first 
part~of Jane Eyre, and I trust, both for your sakes and my own, the 
public may think pretty well of it too. 

' Henceforth I hope I shall be able to return the sheets promptly and 
regularly. — I am, Gentlemen, yours respectfully, C. Bell.' 

On September 29 she wrote again — 

' Gentlemen, — I trust you will be able to get Jane Eyre out next 
month. Have the goodness to continue to send the sheets of the third 
vol. along with those of the second. 

' I again thank you for your attention in punctuating the sheets.— 
I am, Gentlemen, yours respectfully, C. Bell.' 



1847 'JANE EYRE' 339 

'Jane Eyre' was accepted, and printed and published by 
October 16. l 

While it was in the press Miss Bronte went to pay a 
short visit to her friend at B(rookroyd). The proofs were 
forwarded to her there, and she occasionally sat at the 
same table with her friend, correcting them ; but they did 
not exchange a word on the subject. 

Immediately on her return to the Parsonage she wrote — 

' September. 

' I had a very wet, windy walk home from Keighley ; but 
my fatigue quite disappeared when I reached home, and 
found all well. Thank God for it. 

' My boxes came safe this morning. I have distributed 
the presents. Papa says I am to remember him most kind- 
ly to you. The screen will be very useful, and he thanks 
you for it. Tabby was charmed with her cap. She said 
" she never thought o' naught o' t' sort as Miss sending 
her aught, and, she is sure, she can never thank her enough 
for it." I was infuriated on finding a jar in my trunk. 
At first I hoped it was empty, but when I found it heavy 
and replete, I could have hurled it all the way back to 
(B)irstall. However, the inscription A. B. softened me 
much. It was at once kind and villanous in you to send 
it. You ought first to be tenderly kissed, and then after- 
wards as tenderly whipped. Emily is just now on the 
floor of the bedroom where I am writing, looking at her 
apples. She smiled when I gave the collar to her as your 
present, with an expression at once well pleased and slightly 
surprised. All send their love. — Yours in a mixture of 
anger and love.' 

When the manuscript of ' Jane Eyre ' had been received 
by the future publishers of that remarkable novel, it fell to 

1 It was in three volumes, and the title-page ran as follows : — 
' Jane Eyre: an Autobiography. Edited by Ourrer Bell. In Three 
Volumes. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., Comhill. 1847.' 



340 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

the share of a gentleman connected with the firm to read 
it first. 1 He was so powerfully struck by the character of 
the tale that he reported his impression in very strong 
terms to Mr. Smith, who appears to have been much 
amused by the admiration excited. 'You seem to have 
been so enchanted that I do not know how to believe you/ 
he laughingly said. But when a second reader, in the per- 
son of a clear-headed Scotchman/ not given to enthusiasm, 
had taken the manuscript home in the evening, and be- 
came so deeply interested in it as to sit up half the night 
to finish it, Mr. Smith's curiosity was sufficiently excited 
to prompt him to read it for himself ; and great as were 
the praises which had been bestowed upon it, he found 
that they had not exceeded the truth. 8 

On its publication copies were presented to a few pri- 
vate literary friends. Their discernment had been rightly 
reckoned upon. They were of considerable standing in the 
world of letters; and one and all returned expressions of high 
praise along with their thanks for the book. Among them 
was the great writer of fiction for whom Miss Bronte felt 
so strong an admiration ; * he immediately appreciated and, 
in a characteristic note to the publishers, acknowledged its 
extraordinary merits. 

The Reviews were more tardy, or more cautious. The 

1 Mr. William Smith Williams (1800-1875) was the literary adviser 
to the firm of Smith, Elder, & Co. for many years. From this time 
forward he became a regular correspondent of Miss Bronte, and the 
most interesting letters that she wrote — of those that have been pre- 
served — are addressed to him. This was partially due to the fact that 
he lent her books with considerable regularity, and thus provoked 
comment upon her reading. 

s The ' clear-headed Scotchman ' was Mr. James Taylor, who held a 
position of considerable responsibility in the firm of Smith, Elder, & 
Co., and whose name we meet many times in later pages. See note, 
p. 525. 

8 'There will be no preface to Jape Eyre,' Miss Bronte writes to 
Smith, Elder, & Co. on October 39. ' If you send me six copies of 
the work they will be amply sufficient, and I shall be obliged to you 
for them.' 4 Thackeray. 



1847 'JANE EYRE' 341 

' Athenaeum ' and the ' Spectator ' gave short notices, con- 
taining qualified admissions of the power of the author. 
The 'Literary Gazette ' was uncertain as to whether it was 
safe to praise an unknown author. The ' Daily News ' de- 
clined accepting the copy which had been sent, on the score 
of a rule 'never to review novels ;' but a little later on 
there appeared a notice of the ' Bachelor of the Albany' 
in that paper ; and Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co. again for- 
warded a copy of ' Jane Eyre ' to the editor, with a request 
for a notice. This time the work was accepted ; but I am 
not aware what was the character of the article upon it. 1 

The ' Examiner ' came forward to the rescue, as far as 
the opinions of professional critics were concerned. The 
literary articles in that paper were always remarkable for 
their genial and generous appreciation of merit; nor was 
the notice of ' Jane Eyre ' an exception ; it was full of 
hearty yet delicate and discriminating praise. Otherwise 
the press in general did little to promote the sale of the 
novel ; the demand for it among librarians had begun be- 
fore the appearance of the review in the ' Examjner ;' the 
power and fascination of the tale itself made its merits known 
to thp public without the kindly finger-posts of professional 
criticism ; and early in December the rush began for copies. 

I will insert two or three of Miss Bronte's letters to her 
publishers/ in order to show how timidly the idea of suc- 
cess was received by one so unaccustomed to adopt a san- 
guine view of any subject in which she was individually 

1 The magazines were sufficiently generous of praise. The sec- 
ond edition of Jane Eyre, published in 1848, contains seven pages of 
' opinions of the press.' ' Decidedly the best novel of the season,' was 
the comment of the Westminster Review. ' Almost all that we require 
in a novelist the writer has — perception of character and power of de- 
lineating it, picturesqueness, passion, and knowledge of life,' was Mr. 
George Henry Lewes's estimate in Uvaser. 

1 Almost simultaneously she was writing to Mr. Smith Williams, as 
the following letter indicates :— 

•October 4, 1847. 

'Dear Sir,— I thank you sincerely for your last letter. It is valu- 
able to me because it furnishes me with a sound opinion on points re- 



342 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

concerned. The occasions on which these notes were writ- 
ten will explain themselves. 

TO MESSES. SMITH, ELDER, AND CO. 

' October 19, 1847. 
' Gentlemen, — The six copies of " Jane Eyre " reached 
me this morning. Yon have given the work every advan- 
tage which good paper, clear type, and a seemly outside 
can supply : if it fails the fault will lie with the author ; 
you are exempt. 

' I now await the judgment of the press and the public. 
— I am, Gentlemen, yours respectfully, C. Bell.' 

TO MESSES. SMITH, ELDER, AND CO. 

' October 26, 1847. 
'Gentlemen, — I have received the newspapers. They 
speak quite as favourably of "Jane Eyre" as I expected 
them to do. The notice in the '* Literary Gazette" seems 
certainly to have been indited in rather a flat mood, and 
the "Athenaeum" has a style of its own, which I respect, 
but cannot exactly relish ; still, when one considers that 
journals of that standing have a dignity to maintain which 
would be deranged by a too cordial recognition of the 

specting which I desired to be advised ; be assured I shall do what I 
can to profit by your wise and good counsel. 

' Permit me, however, Sir, to caution you against forming too favour- 
able an idea of my powers, or too sanguine an expectation of what they 
can achieve. I am myself sensible both of deficiencies of capacity and 
disadvantages of circumstance which will, I fear, render it somewhat 
difficult for me to attain popularity as an author. The eminent writ- 
ers you mention — Mr. Thackeray, Mr. Dickens, Mrs. Marsh, &c. — 
doubtless enjoyed facilities for observation such as I have not ; cer- 
tainly they possess a knowledge of the world, whether intuitive or ac- 
quired, such as I can lay no claim to, and this gives their writings an 
importance and a variety greatly beyond what I can offer the public. 

' Still, if health be spared and time vouchsafed me, I mean to do my 
best ; and should a moderate success crown my efforts its value will be 
greatly enhanced by the proof it will seem to give that your kind 
counsel and encouragement have not been bestowed on one quite un- 
worthy. — Yours respectfully, C. Bell.' 



1847 : JANE EYRE' 343 

claims of an obscure author, I suppose there is every rea- 
son to be satisfied. 

' Meantime a brisk sale would be effectual support under 
the hauteur of lofty critics. — I am, Gentlemen, yours re- 
spectfully, C. Bell.' 

TO MESSRS. SMITH, ELDER, AtfD CO. 

' Nov. 13, 1847. 
' Gentlemen, — I have to acknowledge the receipt of 
yours of the 11th inst., and to thank you for the informa- 
tion it communicates. The notice from the "People's 
Journal" also duly reached me, and this morning I re- 
ceived the "Spectator." The critique in the "Spectator" 
gives that view of the book which will naturally be taken 
by a certain class of minds ; ' I shall expect it to be fol- 
lowed by other notices of a similar nature. The way to 
detraction has been pointed out, and will probably be pur- 
sued. Most future notices will in all likelihood have a re- 
flection of the "Spectator" in them. I fear this turn of 
opinion will not improve the demand for the book — but 
time will show. If " Jane Eyre " has any solid worth in 
it, it ought to weather a gust of unfavourable wind. — I am, 
Gentlemen, yours respectfully, C. Bell." 

TO MESSRS. SMITH, ELDER, AND CO. 

'Nov 30, 1847. 
'Gentlemen, — I have received the "Economist," but not 
the " Examiner ;" from some cause that paper has missed, 

1 'The book,' says the Spectator, 'displays considerable skill in the 
plan, and great power, but rather shown in the writing than in the 
matter ; and its vigour sustains a species of interest to the last.' 

2 On November 27 Miss Bronte writes to Mr. W. Smith Williams — 
' Dear Sir, — Will you have the goodness in future to direct all com- 
munications to me to Ha worth, near Keigldey, instead of to Bradford f 
With this address they will, owing to alterations in' local post-office 
arrangements, reach me a day earlier than if sent by Bradford. I 
have received this week the Glasgow Examiner, the Bath Herald, and 
Douglas Jerrold's Newspaper. The Examiner, it appears, has not yet 
given a notice. I am, dear Sir, yours respectfully, C. Bell.' 



344 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

as the " Spectator " did on a former occasion ; I am glad, 
however, to learn through your letter that its notice of 
" Jane Byre " was favourable, and also that the prospects 
of the work appear to improve. 

' I am obliged to you for the information respecting 
<c Wuthering Heights." — I am, gentlemen, yours respect- 
fully, " C.Bell.' 

TO MESSES. SMITH, ELDER, AND CO. 

' Dec. 1, 1847. 
'Gentlemen, — The "Examiner" reached me to-day: it 
had been missent on account of the direction, which was 
to Currer Bell, care of Miss Bronte. Allow me to intimate 
that it would be better in future not to put the name of 
Currer Bell on the outside of communications ; if directed 
simply to Miss Bronte they will be more likely to reach 
their destination safely. Currer Bell is not known in the 
district, and I have no wish that he should become known. 
The notice in the " Examiner" gratified me very much ; it 
appears to be from the pen of an able man who has under- 
stood what he undertakes to criticise ; of course approba- 
tion from such a quarter is encouraging to an author, and 
I trust it will prove beneficial to the work. — I am, gentle- 
men, yours respectfully, 0. Bell. 

' I received likewise seven other notices from provincial 
papers enclosed in an envelope. I thank you very sincerely 
for so punctually sending me all the various criticisms on 
"Jane Eyre."' 

TO MESSRS. SMITH, ELDER, AND CO. 

' Dec. 10, 1847. 
' Gentlemen, — I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your 
letter enclosing a bank post bill, for which I thank you. 
Having already expressed my sense of your kind and up- 
right conduct, I can now only say that I trust you will 
always have reason to be as well content with me as I am 
with you. If the result of any future exertions I may be 



1847 SUCCESS OF 'JANE EYRE' 345 

able to make should prove agreeable and advantageous to 
you, I shall be well satisfied ; and it would be a serious 
source of regret to me if I thought you ever had reason to 
repent being my publishers. 

' You need not apologise, gentlemen, for having written 
to me so seldom ; of course I am always glad to hear from 
you, but I am truly glad to hear from Mr. Williams like- 
wise ;>.he was my first favourable critic; he first gave me 
encouragement to persevere as an author, consequently I 
naturally respect him and feel grateful to him. 

'Excuse the informality of my letter, and believe me, 
gentlemen, yours respectfully, Cuekbr Bell.' 

There is little record remaining of the manner in which 
the first news of its wonderful success reached and affected 
the one heart of the three sisters. 1 I once asked Charlotte 
— we were talking about the description of Lowood School, 
and she was saying that she was not sure whether she should 
have written it if she had been aware how instantaneously 
it would have been identified with Cowan Bridge' — whether 

1 Another letter of this period, hitherto unpublished, may be given 
here. The reference iB, of course, to Leigli Hunt's Jar of Honey from 
Mount Hybla, of which an early copy of the first edition must have 
been sent to Miss Bronte. The book was first published in 1848 : — 

TO MESSRS. SMITH, ELDER, AND CO. 

' December 25, 1847. 

'Gentlemen, — Permit me to thank you for your present, which 
reached me yesterday. I was not prepared for anything so truly taste- 
ful, and when I had opened the parcel, removed the various envelopes, 
and at last got a glimpse of the chastely attractive binding, I was most 
agreeably surprised. What is better, on examination I find the con- 
tents fully to answer the expectation excited by the charming exte- 
rior ; the Honey is quite as choice as the Jar is elegant. The illustra- 
tions too are very beautiful, some of them peculiarly so. I trust the 
public will show itself grateful for the pains you have taken to provide 
a book so appropriate to the season. C. Bell.' 

3 ' Jane Eyre has got down into Yorkshire,' writes Miss Bronte to 
Mr. Williams under date January 4, 1848 ; ' a copy has even pene- 
trated into this neighbourhood. I saw an elderly clergyman reading it 



346 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

the popularity to which the novel attained had taken her 
by surprise. She hesitated a little, and then said, 'I be- 
lieved that what had impressed me so forcibly when I wrote 
it must make a strong impression on any one who read it. I 
was not surprised at those who read "Jane Eyre" being 
deeply interested in it; but I hardly expected that a book 
by an unknown author could find readers.' 

The sisters had kept the knowledge of their literary vent- 
ures from their father, fearing to increase their own anx- 
ieties and disappointment by witnessing his ; for he took 
an acute interest in all that befell his children, and his own 
tendency had been towards literature in the days when 
he was young and hopeful. It was true he did not much 
manifest his feelings in words ; he would have thought that 
he was prepared for disappointment as the lot of man, and 
that he could have met it with stoicism; but words are 
poor and tardy interpreters of feelings to those who love 
one another, and his daughters knew how he would have 
borne ill-success worse for them than for himself. So they 
did not tell him what they were undertaking. He says now 
that he suspected it all along, but his suspicions could take 
no exact form, as all he was certain of was that his children 
were perpetually writing— and not writing letters. We have 
seen how the communications from their publishers were 
received 'under cover to Miss Bronte.' Once, Charlotte 
told me, they overheard the postman meeting Mr. Bronte, 
as the latter was leaving the house, and inquiring from the 

the other day, and had the satisfaction of hearing him exclaim, "Why, 

they have got School, and Mr. here, I declare ! and Miss 

" (naming the originals of Lowood, Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss 

Temple). He had known them all. I wondered whether he would 
recognise the portraits, and was gratified to find that he did, and that, 
moreover, he pronounced them faithful and just. He said, too, that 

Mr. (Brocklehurst) "deserved the chastisement he had got." 

' He did not recognise Currer Bell. What author would be with- 
out the advantage of being able to walk invisible ? One is thereby 
enabled to keep such a quiet mind. I make this small observation in 
confidence.' 



1847 RECEPTION OF : JANE EYRE' 347 

parson where one Currer Bell could be living, to which Mr. 
Bronte replied that there was no such person in the par- 
ish. This must have been the misadventure to which Miss 
Bronte alludes in the beginning of her correspondence with 
Mr. Aylott. 

Now, however, when the demand for the work had 
assured success to ' Jane Byre,' her sisters urged Charlotte 
to tell their father of its publication. She accordingly 
went into his study one afternoon after his early dinner, 
carrying with her a copy of the book, and two or three re- 
views, taking care to include a notice adverse to it. 

She informed me that something like the following con- 
versation took place between her and him. (I wrote down 
her words the day after I heard them, and I am pretty sure 
they are quite accurate.) 

'Papa, I've been writing a book.' 

* Have you, my dear ?' 

' Yes ; and I want you to read it.' 

' I am afraid it will try my eyes too much.' 

' But it is not in manuscript ; it is printed.' 

' My dear ! you've never thought of the expense it will 
be ! It will be almost sure to be a loss ; for how can you 
get a book sold ? No one knows you or your name.' 

' But, papa, I don't think it will be a loss ; no more will 
you, if you will just let me read you a review or two, and 
tell you more about it.' 

So she sat down and read some of the reviews to her 
father ; and then, giving him the copy of 'Jane Eyre' that 
she intended for him, she left him to read it. When he 
came in to tea he said, ' Girls, do you know Charlotte has 
been writing a book, and it is much better than likely .?' 

But while the existence of Currer Bell, the author, was 
like a piece of a dream to the quiet inhabitants of Ha worth 
Parsonage, who went on with their uniform household life, 
their cares for their brother being its only variety — the 
whole reading world of England was in a ferment to dis- 
cover the unknown author. Even the publishers of - Jane 



348 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Byre' were ignorant whether Currer Bell was a real or an 
assumed name, whether it belonged to a man or a woman. 
In every town people sought out the list of their friends 
and acquaintances, and turned away in disappointment. 
No one they knew had genius enough to be the author. 
Every little incident mentioned in the book was turned 
this way and that to answer, if possible, the much -vexed 
question of sex. All in vain. People were content to re- 
lax their exertions to satisfy their curiosity, and simply to 
sit down and greatly admire. 

I am not going to write an analysis of a book with which 
every one who reads this biography is sure to be acquainted ; 
much less a criticism upon a work which the great flood of 
public opinion has lifted up from the obscurity in which it 
first appeared, and laid high and safe on the everlasting hills 
of fame. 

Before me lies a packet of extracts from newspapers and 
periodicals, which Mr. Bronte has sent me. It is touching 
to look them over, and see how there is hardly any notice, 
however short and clumsily worded, in any obscure provin- 
cial paper, but what has been cut out and carefully ticketed 
with its date by the poor bereaved father — so proud when 
he first read them, so desolate now. For one and all are 
full of praise of this great unknown genius, which suddenly 
appeared amongst us. Conjecture as to the authorship ran 
about like wild-fire. People in London, smooth and pol- 
ished as the Athenians of old, and, like them, ' spending 
their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some 
new thing,' were astonished and delighted to find that a 
fresh sensation, a new pleasure, was in reserve for them in 
the uprising of an author capable of depicting with accurate 
and Titanic power the strong, self-reliant, racy, and indi- 
vidual characters which were not, after all, extinct species, 
but lingered still in existence in the North. They thought 
that there was some exaggeration mixed with the peculiar 
force of delineation. Those nearer to the spot, where the 
scene of the story was apparently laid, were sure, from the 



1847 ADMIRATION FOR THACKERAY 349 

very truth and accuracy of the writing, that the writer was 
no Southron; for though 'dark, and cold, and rugged is 
the North/ the old strength of the Scandinavian races yet 
abides there, and glowed out in every character depicted in 
'Jane Eyre.' Further than this curiosity, both honourable 
and dishonourable, was at fault. 

When the second edition appeared, in the January of the 
following year, with the dedication to Mr. Thackeray, peo- 
ple looked at each other and wondered afresh. But Currer 
Bell knew no more of William Makepeace- Thackeray as an 
individual man— of his life, age, fortunes, or circumstances 
— than she did of those of Mr. Michael Angelo Titmarsh. 1 
The one had placed his name as author upon the title-page 
of 'Vanity Fair,' the other had not. She was thankful for 
the opportunity of expressing her high admiration of a 
writer whom, as she says, she regarded 'as the social re- 
generator of his day — as the very master of that working 
corps who would restore to rectitude the warped state of 
things. . . . His wit is bright, his humour attractive, but 
both bear the same relation to his serious genius that the 
mere lambent sheet-lightning, playing under the edge of 
the summer cloud, does to the electric death-spark hid in 
its womb.' 

Anne Bronte had been more than usually delicate all the 
summer, and her sensitive spirit had been deeply affected 

1 Thackeray sent Vanity Fair and Esmond to Miss Bronte, the first 
'With the grateful regards of W. M. Thackeray, July 18, 1848,' the 
second inscribed, ' Miss Bronte, with W. M. Thackeray's grateful re- 
gards. October 28, 1852.' On October 28, 1847, Miss Bronte writes 
to Mr. Smith 'Williams, ' I feel honoured in being approved by Mr. 
Thackeray, because I approve Mr. Thackeray. This may sound pre- 
sumptuous perhaps, but I mean that I have long recognised in his 
writings genuine talent, such as I admired, such as I wondered at and 
delighted in. No author seems to distinguish so exquisitely as he does 
dross from ore, the real from the counterfeit. I believed too he had 
deep and true feelings under his seeming sternness. Now I am sure 
he has. One good word from such a man is worth pages of praise 
from ordinary judges.' 



350 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

by the great anxiety of her home. But now that 'Jane 
iEyre' gave such indications of success Charlotte began to 
plan schemes of future pleasure — perhaps relaxation from 
care would be the more correct expression — for their dar- 
ling younger sister, the ' little one ' of the household. But, 
although Anne was cheered for a time by Charlotte's suc- 
cess, the fact was that neither her spirits nor her bodily 
strength were such as to incline her to much active ex- 
ertion, and she led far too sedentary a life, continually 
stooping either over her book, or work, or at her desk. 
' It is with difficulty/ writes her sister, ' that we can pre- 
vail upon her to take a walk, or induce her to converse. I 
look forward to next summer with the confident intention 
that she shall, if possible, make at least a brief sojourn at 
the seaside.' In this same letter is a sentence telling how 
dearly home, even with its present terrible drawback, lay 
at the roots of her heart ; but it is too much blended with 
reference to the affairs of others to bear quotation. 

Any author of a successful novel is liable to an inroad of 
letters from unknown readers, containing commendation — 
sometimes of so fulsome and indiscriminating a character 
as to remind the recipient of Dr. Johnson's famous speech 
to one who offered presumptuous and injudicious praise — 
sometimes saying merely a few words, which have power to 
stir the heart ' as with the sound of a trumpet/ and in the 
high humility they excite to call forth strong resolutions 
to make all future efforts worthy of such praise; and occa- 
sionally containing that true appreciation of both merits 
and demerits, together with the sources of each, which 
forms the very criticism and help for which an inexperi- 
enced writer thirsts. Of each of these kinds of communi- 
cation Currer Bell received her full share; and her warm 
heart, and true sense and high standard of what she aimed 
at, affixed to each its proper value. Among other letters 
of hers some to Mr. G. H. Lewes ' have been kindly placed 

1 George Henry Lewes (1817-1878). Published Biographical Eis- 



1847 CORRESPONDENCE 351 

by him at my service ; and, as I know Miss Bronte highly 
prized his letters of encouragement and advice, I shall give 
extracts from her replies, as their dates occur, because they 
will indicate the kind of criticism she valued, and also be- 
cause throughout, in anger as in agreement and harmony, 
they show her character, unblinded by any self -flattery, 
full of clear-sighted modesty as to what she really did well, 
and what she failed in, grateful for friendly interest, and 
only sore and irritable when the question of sex in author- 
ship was, as she thought, roughly or unfairly treated. As 
to the rest, the letters speak for themselves, to those who 
know how to listen, far better than I can interpret their 
meaning into my poorer and weaker words. Mr. Lewes 
has politely sent me the following explanation of that let- 
ter of his to which the succeeding one of Miss Bronte is a 
reply :— 

' When " Jane Byre " first appeared, the publishers 
courteously sent me a copy. The enthusiasm with which 
I read it made me go down to Mr. Parker, and propose to 
write a review of it for " Eraser's Magazine." He would 
not consent to an unknown novel — for the papers had not 
yet declared themselves — receiving such importance, but 
thought it might make one on " Recent Novels : English 
and French," which appeared in " Praser," December 
1847. Meanwhile I had written to Miss Bronte to tell her 
the delight with which her book filled me ; and seem to 
have " sermonised " her, to judge from her reply.' 

TO G. H. LEWES, ESQ. 

' November 6, 1847. 
' Dear Sir, — Your letter reached me yesterday. I beg to 
assure you that I appreciate fully the intention with which 
it was written, and I thank you sincerely both for its cheer- 
ful commendation and valuable advice. 

tory of Philosophy, 1845-6 ; BantJiorpe, 1847 ; Rose, Blanche and Violet, 
1848 ; Life of Goethe, 1855 ; Problems of Life and Mind, 1873-79, and 
many other works. 



352 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' You warn me to beware of melodrama, and yon exhort 
me to adhere to the real. When I first began to write, so 
impressed was I with the truth of the principles yon advo- 
cate, that I determined to take Nature and Truth as my 
sole guides, and to follow to their very footprints ; I re- 
strained imagination, eschewed romance, repressed excite- 
ment ; over-bright colouring, too, I avoided, and sought to 
produce something which should be soft, grave, and true. 

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

' " Jane Eyre " was rather objected to at first, on the 
same grounds, but finally found acceptance. 

' I mention this to you, not with a view of pleading ex- 
emption from censure, but in order to direct your atten- 
tion to the root of certain literary evils. It, in your forth- 
coming article in " Fraser," you would bestow a few words 
of enlightenment on the public who support the circulat- 
ing libraries, you might, with your powers, do some good. 

' You advise me, too, not to stray far from the ground of 
experience, as I become weak when I enter the region of 
fiction ; and you say " real experience is perennially inter- 
esting, and to all men." 

' I feel that this also is true ; but, dear sir, is not the 
real experience of each individual very limited ? And, if a 
writer dwells upon that solely or principally, is he not in 
danger of repeating himself, and also of becoming an ego- 
tist ? Then, too, imagination is a strong, restless faculty, 
which claims to be heard and exercised : are we to be quite 
deaf to her cry, and insensate to her struggles ? When 



1847 CORRESPONDENCE 353 

she shows us bright pictures, are we never to look at them, 
and try to reproduce them ? And when she is eloquent, 
and speaks rapidly and urgently in our ear, are we not to 
write to her dictation ? 

'I shall anxiously search the next number of "Fraser" 
for your opinions on these points. Believe me, dear sir, 
yours gratefully, C. Bell.' 

But while gratified by appreciation as an author she was 
cautious as to the person from whom she received it ; for 
much of the value of the praise depended on the sincerity 
and capability of the person rendering it. Accordingly she 
applied to Mr. Williams (a gentleman connected with her 
publishers' firm) for information as to who and what Mr. 
Lewes was. Her reply, after she had learnt something of 
the character of her future critic, and while awaiting his 
criticism, must not be omitted. Besides the reference to 
him it contains some amusing allusions to the perplexity 
which began to be excibed respecting the 'identity of the 
brothers Bell,' and some notice of the conduct of another 
publisher towards her sister, which I refrain from charac- 
terising, because I understand that truth is considered a 
libel in speaking of such people. 

TO W. S. WILLIAMS, ESQ. 

' November 10, 1847. 
'Dear Sir, — I have received the "Britannia" and the 
"Sun," but not the "Spectator," which I rather regret, 
as censure, though not pleasant, is often wholesome. 

' Thank you for your information regarding Mr. Lewes. 
I am glad to hear that he is a clever and sincere man : such 
being the case, I can await his critical sentence with forti- 
tude ; even if it goes against me I shall not murmur ; abil- 
ity and honesty have a right to condemn, where they think 
condemnation is deserved. From what you say, however, 
I trust rather to obtain at lea.st a modified approval. 

'Your account of the various surmises respecting the 
23 



354 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

identity of the brothers Bell amused me much : were the 
enigma solved it would probably be found not worth the 
trouble of solution ; but I will let it alone : it suits ourselves 
to remain quiet, and certainly injures no one else. 

' The reviewer who noticed the little book of poems, in 
the "Dublin Magazine," conjectured that the soi-disant 
three personages were in reality but one, who, endowed 
with an unduly prominent organ of self-esteem, and conse- 
quently impressed with a somewhat weighty notion of his 
own merits, thought them too vast to be concentrated in 
a single individual, and, accordingly divided himself into 
three, out of consideration, I suppose, for the nerves of the 
much -to -be -astounded public ! This was an ingenious 
thought in the reviewer — very original and striking, but 
not accurate. "We are three. 

'A prose work, by Ellis and Acton, will soon appear : it 
should have been out, indeed, long since ; for the first proof 
sheets were already in the press at the commencement of 
last August, before Ourrer Bell had placed the MS. of 
"Jane Byre" in your hands. Mr. Newby, however, does 
not do business like Messrs. Smith and Elder; a different 
spirit seems to preside at Mortimer Street to that which 
guides the helm at 65 Cornhill. . . . My relations have 
suffered from exhausting delay and procrastination, while 
I have to acknowledge the benefits of a management at 
once business-like and gentleman-like, energetic and con- 
siderate. 

' I should like to know if Mr. Newby 1 often acts as he has 

1 Thomas Cautley Newby carried on business as a publisher, first at 
72 Mortimer Street, Cavendish Square, whence the Bronte books were 
issued, and afterwards, from 1850 to 1874, at 30 Welbeck Street. Mrs. 
Riddell, the novelist, has described Mr. Newby as 'a spare man of 
middle height, who used to " travel" round to the country libraries.' 
' He did not,' she says, ' stand well as a publisher. One of his brothers 
said to me, " Were I you, I should not say that Newby bad published 
anything for me." ' It is not the least humorous aspect of Newby's 
mysterious career that Emily Bronte's Withering Heights shocked him 
greatly. 



1847 CORRESPONDENCE 355 

done to my relations, or whether this is an exceptional in- 
stance of his method. Do yon know, and can you tell me 
anything about him ? You must excuse me for going to the 
point at once, when I want to learn anything: if my ques- 
tions are impertinent you are, of course, at liberty to decline 
answering them. — I am yours respectfully, C. Bell.' 

TO G. H. LEWES, ESQ. 

' November 22, 1847. 
'Dear Sir, — I have now read "Ranthorpe." I could not 
get it till a day or two ago ; but I have got it and read it at 
last ; and in reading " Ranthorpe " I have read a new book 
— not a reprint — not a reflection of any other book, but a 
new look. 

'I did not know such books were written now. It is 
very different to any of the popular works of fiction: it 
fills the mind with fresh knowledge. Your experience and 
your convictions are made the reader's ; and to an author, 
at leastj they have a value and an interest quite unusual. 
I await your criticism on "Jane Eyre" now with other 
sentiments than I entertained before the perusal of " Ran- 
thorpe." 

' You were a stranger to me. I did not particularly re- 
spect you. I did not feel that your praise or blame would 
have any special weight. I knew little of your right to 
condemn or approve. Now I am informed on these points. 
' You will be severe ; your last letter taught me as 
much. Well ! I shall try to extract good out of your se- 
verity ; and besides, though I am now sure you are a just, 
discriminating man, yet, being mortal, you must be falli- 
ble ; and if any part of your censure galls me too keenly 
to the quick — gives me deadly pain — I shall for the pres- 
ent disbelieve it, and put it quite aside, till such time as 
I feel able to receive it without torture. — I am, dear sir, 
yours very respectfully, C. Bell.' 

In December 1847 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Agnes 



356 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Grey' appeared. 1 The first named of these stories has 
revolted many readers by the power with which wicked 
and exceptional characters are depicted. Others, again, 
have felt the attraction of remarkable genius, even when 
displayed on grim and terrible criminals. Miss Bronte 
herself says, with regard to this tale, ' Where delineation 
of human character is concerned the case is different. I 
am bound to avow that she had scarcely more practical 
knowledge of the peasantry amongst whom she lived than 
a nun has of the country people that pass her convent 
gates. My sister's disposition was not naturally gregari- 
ous : circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency 
to seclusion ; except to go to church, or to take a walk 
on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. 
Though her feeling for the people round her was benevo- 
lent, intercourse with them she never sought, nor, with 
very few exceptions, ever experienced ; and yet she knew 
them, knew their ways, their language, their family his- 
tories ; she could hear of them with interest, and talk of 
them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate ; but with 
them she rarely exchanged a word. Hence it ensued that 
what her mind had gathered of the real concerning them 
was too exclusively confined to those tragic and terrible traits 
df which, in listening to the secret annals of every rude 
vicinage, the memory is sometimes compelled to receive 
the impress. Her imagination, which was a spirit more 
sombre than sunny — more powerful than sportive — found 
in such traits material whence it wrought creations like 
Heathcliff, like Earnshaw, like Catherine. Having formed 
these beings, she did not know what she had done. If the 
auditor of her work, when read in manuscript, shuddered 

1 The book containing Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey was in 
three volumes. The title-pages ran as follows : — 

'Wuthering Heights: a Novel. By Ellis Bell. Vol.1. (Vol. II.) 
London: Thomas Cautley Newby, Publisher, 72 Mortimer St., Coven- 
dishSq. 1847.' ' Agnes Grey : a Novel. By Acton Bell. Vol. III. Lon- 
don: Thomas Oautley Newby, 72 Mortimer St., Cavendish Sq., 1847.' 



1848 DOMESTIC DISTRESS 357 

under the grinding influence of natures so relentless and 
implacable, of spirits so lost and fallen ; if it was com- 
plained that the mere hearing of certain vivid and fearful 
scenes banished sleep by night, and disturbed mental peace 
by day, Ellis Bell would wonder what was meant, and sus- 
pect the complainant of affectation. Had she but lived, her 
mind would of itself have grown like a strong tree — loftier, 
straighter, wider-spreading — and its matured fruits would 
have attained a mellower ripeness and sunnier bloom ; but 
on that mind time and experience alone could work ; to 
the influence of other intellects it was not amenable. 

Whether justly or unjustly, the productions of the two 
younger Miss Brontes were not received with much favour 
at the time of their publication. ' Critics failed to do them 
justice. The immature, but very real, powers revealed in 
"Wuthering Heights" were scarcely recognised; its im- 
port and nature were misunderstood ; the identity of its 
author was misrepresented : it was said that this was an 
earlier and ruder attempt of the same pen which had pro- 
duced "Jane Byre."' . . . 'Unjust and grievous error! 
We laughed at it at first, but I deeply lament it now.' 

Henceforward Charlotte Bronte's existence becomes di- 
vided into two parallel currents — her life as Currer Bell, 
the author ; her life as Charlotte Bronte, the woman. 
There were separate duties belonging to each character — 
not opposing each other ; not impossible, but difficult to 
be reconciled. When a man becomes an author, it is prob- 
ably merely a change of employment to him. He takes a 
portion of that time which has hitherto been devoted to 
some other study or pursuit; he gives up something of 
the legal or medical profession, in which he has hitherto 
endeavoured to serve others, or relinquishes part of the 
trade or business by which he has been striving to gain a 
livelihood ; and another merchant, or lawyer, or doctor, 
steps into his vacant place, and probably does as well as 
he. But no other can take up the quiet regular duties of 
the daughter, the wife, or the mother, as well as she whom 



358 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

God has appointed to fill that particular place : a woman's 
principal work in life is hardly left to her own choice ; nor 
can she drop the domestic charges devolving on her as an 
individual, for the exercise of the most splendid talents 
that were ever bestowed. And yet she must not shrink 
from the extra responsibility implied by the very fact of 
her possessing such talents. She must not hide her gift in 
a napkin ; it was meant for the use and service of others. 
In a humble and faithful spirit must she labour to do what 
is not impossible, or God would not have set her to do it. 

I put into words what Charlotte Bronte put into actions. 

The year 1848 opened with sad domestic distress. It is 
necessary, however painful, to remind the reader constant- 
ly of what was always present to the hearts of father and 
sisters at this time. It is well that the thoughtless critics, 
who spoke of the sad and gloomy views of life presented 
by the Brontes in their tales, should know how such words 
were wrung out of them by the living recollection of the long 
agony they suffered. It is well, too, that they who have 
objected to the representation of coarseness, and shrunk 
from it with repugnance, as if such conceptions arose out 
of the writers, should learn that not from the imagination 
— not from internal conception — but from the hard, cruel 
facts, pressed down, by external life, upon their very senses, 
for long months and years together, did they write out 
what they saw, obeying the stern dictates of their con- 
sciences. They might be mistaken. They might err in 
writing at all, when their afflictions were so great that 
they could not write otherwise than they did of life. It 
is possible that it would have been better to have described 
only good and pleasant people, doing only good and pleas- 
ant things (in which case they could hardly have written 
at any time) ; all I say is, that never, I believe, did women, 
possessed of such wonderful gifts, exercise them with a 
fuller feeling of responsibility for their use. As to mis- 
takes, they stand now — as authors as well as women — be- 
fore the judgment seat of God. 



1848 LETTER TO MR. LEWES 359 

'January 11, 1848. 
' We have not been very comfortable here at home late- 
ly. Branwell has, by some means, contrived to get more 
money, from the old quarter, and has led us a sad life with 
his absurd and often intolerable conduct. Papa is harassed 
day and night; we have little peace; he is always sick; 1 
has two or three times fallen down in fits; what will be 
the ultimate end God knows. But who is without their 
drawback, their scourge, their skeleton behind the curtain ? 
It remains only to do one's best, and endure with patience 
what God sends.' 

I suppose that she had read Mr. Lewes's review on ' Re- 
cent Novels,' when it appeared in the December of the last 
year, but I find no allusion to it till she writes to him on 
January 12, 1848. 

' Dear Sir, — I thank you, then, sincerely for your gener- 
ous review ; and it is with the sense of double content I 
express my gratitude, because I am now sure the tribute 
is not superfluous or obtrusive. You were not severe on 
"Jane Eyre ;" you were very lenient. I am glad you told 
me my faults plainly in private, for in your public notice 
you touch on them so lightly, I should perhaps have passed 
them over, thus indicated, with too little reflection. 

' I mean to observe your warning about being careful 
how I undertake new works ; my stock of materials is not 
abundant, but very slender ; and, besides, neither my ex- 
perience, my acquirements, nor my powers are sufficiently 
varied to justify my ever becoming a frequent writer. I 
tell you this because your article in " Fraser " left in me 
an uneasy impression that you were disposed to think 
better of the author of " Jane Eyre " than that indi- 
vidual deserved; and I would rather you had a correct 
than a flattering opinion of me, even though I should 
never see you. 

1 In the original letter it runs, 'he (B.) is always sick.' 



360 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' If I ever do write another book, I think I will have 
nothing of what yon call " melodrama ;" I think so, but I 
am not sure. I think, too, I will endeavour to follow the 
counsel which shines out of Miss Austen's "mild eyes," 
" to finish more and be more subdued ;" but neither am I 
sure of that. When authors write best, or, at least, when 
they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in 
them, which becomes their master — which will have its 
own way — putting out of view all behests but its own, dic- 
tating certain words, and insisting on their being used, 
whether vehement or measured in their nature; new- 
moulding characters, giving unthought-of turns to inci- 
dents, rejecting carefully elaborated old ideas, and suddenly 
creating and adopting new ones. 

' Is it not so ? And should we try to counteract this in- 
fluence ? Can we indeed counteract it ? 

'I am glad that another work of yours will soon appear; 
most curious shall I be to see whether you will write up to 
your own principles, and work out your own theories. You 
did not do it altogether in "Ranthorpe" — at least not in 
the latter part ; but the first portion was, I think, nearly 
without fault ; then it had a pith, truth, significance in it 
which gave the book sterling value; but to write so one 
must have seen and known a great deal, and I have seen 
and known very little. 

' Why do you like Miss Austen so very much ? I am 
puzzled on that point. What induced you to say that you 
would have rather written "Pride and Prejudice" or "Tom 
Jones," than any of the Waverley Novels ? 

'I had not seen " Pride and Prejudice," till I read that 
sentence of yours, and then I got the book. And what 
did I find ? An accurate daguerreotyped -portrait of a com- 
mon-place face ; a carefully fenced, highly cultivated gar- 
den, with neat borders and delicate flowers ; but no glance 
of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh 
air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. I should hardly like to 
live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but 



1848 MR. G. H. LEWES 361 

confined houses. These observations will probably irritate 
you, but I shall run the risk. 

' Now I can understand admiration of George Sand ; for 
though I never saw any of her works which I admired 
throughout (even " Consuelo," which is the best, or the 
best that I have read, appears to me to couple strange ex- 
travagance with wondrous excellence), yet she has a grasp 
of mind which, if I cannot fully comprehend, I can very 
deeply respect : she is sagacious and profound ; Miss Aus- 
ten is only shrewd and observant. 

'Am I wrong ; or were you hasty in what you said? If 
you have time I should be glad to hear further on this sub- 
ject ; if not, or if you think the question frivolous, do not 
trouble yourself to reply. — I am yours respectfully, 

'0. Bell.' 
to g. h. lewes, esq. 

' January 18, 1848. 

' Dear Sir, — I must write one more note, though I had 
not intended to trouble you again so soon. I have to agree 
with you, and to differ from you. 

'You correct my crude remarks on the subject of the 
" influence ;" well, I accept your definition of what the 
effects of that influence should be ; I recognise the wisdom 
of your rules for its regulation. . . . 

' What a strange lecture comes next in your letter! You 
say I must familiarise my mind with the fact that " Miss 
Austen is not a poetess, has no ' sentiment ' " (you scorn- 
fully enclose the word in inverted commas), "no elo- 
quence, none of the ravishing enthusiasm of poetry ;" and 
then you add, I must "learn to acknowledge her as one of 
the greatest artists, of the greatest painters of human char- 
acter, and one of the writers with the nicest sense of means 
to an end that ever lived." 

' The last point only will I ever acknowledge. 

' Can there be a great artist without poetry ? 

* What I call — what I will bend to, as a great artist, then 
— cannot be destitute of the divine gift. But by poetry, I 

i. 



362 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

am sure, yon understand something different to what I do, 
as you do by " sentiment." It is poetry, as I comprehend 
the word, which elevates that masculine George Sand, and 
makes out of something coarse something godlike. It is 
' ' sentiment," in my sense of the term — sentiment jealously 
hidden, but genuine, which extracts the venom from that 
formidable Thackeray, and converts what might be corro- 
sive poison into purifying elixir. 

'If Thackeray did not cherish in his large heart deep 
feeling for his kind, he would delight to exterminate ; as 
it is, I believe, he wishes only to reform. Miss Austen 
being, as you say, without "sentiment," without poetry, 
maybe is sensible, real (more real than true), but she can- 
not be great. 

' I submit to your anger, which I have now excited (for 
have I not questioned the perfection of your darling ?) ; 
the storm may pass over me. Nevertheless I will, when I 
can (I do not know when that will be, as I have no access 
to a circulating library), diligently peruse all Miss Austen's 
works, as you recommend. . . . You must forgive me for 
not always being able to think as you do, and still believe 
me yours gratefully, C. Bell.' 

I have hesitated a little before inserting the following 
extract from a letter to Mr. Williams, but it is strikingly 
characteristic ; and the criticism contained in it is, from 
that circumstance, so interesting (whether we agree with it 
or not) that I have determined to do so, though I thereby 
displace the chronological order of the letters, in order to 
complete this portion of a correspondence which is very 
valuable, as showing the purely intellectual side of her 
character. 1 

1 The following letters, addressed to her publishers, come here by 
right of date : — 

'February 17, 1848. 

' I have received your letter and its enclosure — a bank bill for 1001. 
— for which I thank you. Your conduct to me has been such that you 



1848 MR. G. H. LEWES 363 

TO W. S. WILLIAMS, ESQ. 

' April 26, 1848. 

'My dear Sir, — I have now read "Rose, Blanche, and 
Violet," and I will tell you, as well as I can, what I think 
of it. Whether it is an improvement on "Ranthorpe" I 
do not know, for I liked " Ranthorpe " much ; but, at any 
rate, it contains more of a good thing. I find in it the 
same power, but more fully developed. 

' The author's character is seen in every page, which 
makes the book interesting — far more interesting than any 
story could do ; but it is what the writer himself says that 
attracts, far more than what he puts into the mouths of his 
characters. Gr. H. Lewes is, to my perception, decidedly 
the most original character in the book. . . . The didactic 
passages seem to me the best — far the best — in the work ; 
very acute, very profound, are some of the views there 
given, and very clearly they are offered to the reader. He 
is a just thinker ; he is a sagacious observer ; there is wisdom 
in his theory, and, I doubt not, energy in his practice. But 

cannot doubt my relatives would have been most happy, had it been 
in their power to avail themselves of your proposal respecting the pub- 
lication of their future works, but their present engagements to Mr. 
Newby are such as to prevent their consulting freely their own in- 
clinations and interests, and I need not tell you, who have so clearly 
proved the weight honour has with you as a principle of action, that 
engagements must be respected whether they are irksome or not. For 
my own part I peculiarly regret this circumstance.' 

' April 20, 1848. 

'I have received the parcel containing Mr. Lewes's new work, and a 
copy of the third edition of Jane Eyre*.- Accept my sincere thanks for 
your kind present. 

' If the circumstance of a gift being at once unexpected and accept- 
able can enhance its value, I assure you this is valuable to me. The 
only drawback to my pleasure in receiving it is, that I think I should 
have purchased it, and not have had it given to me ; but I will not dis- 
pute the point with your generosity ; there are cases where it is ungra- 
cious to decline an obligation ; I will endeavour to suppose this one. 

'I trust the third edition of Jangjiyre will go off well. Mr. Lewes's 
work, I do not doubt, will prosper.' 



364 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE 

why, then, are you often provoked with him while yon 
read ? How does he manage, while teaching, to make his 
hearer feel as if his business was, not quietly to receive the 
doctrines propounded, but to~combat them ? You acknowl- 
edge that he offers yon gems of pure truth : why do you 
keep perpetually scrutinising them for flaws ? 

'Mr. Lewes, I divine, with all his talents and honesty, 
must have some faults of manner ; there must be a touch 
too much of dogmatism : a dash extra of confidence in him, 
sometimes. This you think while you are reading the book; 
but when yon have closed it and laid it down, and sat a few 
minutes collecting your thoughts, and settling your impres- 
sions, you find the idea or feeling predominant in your 
mind to be pleasure at the fuller acquaintance you have 
made with a fine mind and a true heart, with high abilities 
and manly principles. I hope he will not be long ere he 
publishes another book. His emotional scenes are some- 
what too uniformly vehement : would not a more subdued 
style of treatment often have produced a more masterly ef- 
fect ? Now and then Mr. Lewes takes a French pen into 
his hand, wherein he differs from Mr. Thackeray, who al- 
ways uses an English quill. However, the French pen 
does not far mislead Mr. Lewes ; he wields it with British 
muscles. All honour to him for the excellent general ten- 
dency of his book ! 

' He gives no charming picture of London literary society, 
and especially the female part of it ; but all coteries, whether 
they be literary, scientific, political, or religious, must, it 
seems to me, have a tendency to change truth into affecta- 
tion. When people belong to a clique, they must, I sup- 
pose, in some measure, write, talk, think, and live for that 
clique ; a harassing and narrowing necessity. I trust the 
press and the public show themselves disposed to give the 
book the reception it merits ; and that is a very cordial one, 
far beyond anything due to aBulwer orD'Israeli production.' 

Let us return from Currer Bell to Charlotte Bronte. The 



1848 UNSANITARY STATE OF HA WORTH 365 

winter in Hawortk had been a sickly season. Influenza had 
prevailed amongst the villagers, and where there was a real 
need for the presence of the clergyman's daughters they 
were never found wanting, although they were shy of be- 
stowing mere social visits on the parishioners. They had 
themselves suffered from the epidemic ; Anne severely, as 
in her case it had been attended with cough and fever 
enough to make her elder sisters very anxious about her. 

There is no doubt that the proximity of the crowded 
churchyard rendered the Parsonage unhealthy, and oc- 
casioned much illness to its inmates. Mr. Bronte repre- 
sented the unsanitary state of Haworth pretty forcibly to 
the Board of Health ; and, after the requisite visits from 
their officers, obtained a recommendation that all future 
interments in the churchyard should be forbidden, a new 
graveyard opened on the hillside, and means set on foot for 
obtaining a water supply to each house, instead of the 
weary, hard-worked housewives having to carry every 
bucketful from a distance of several hundred yards up a 
steep street. But he was baffled by the ratepayers ; as, in 
many a similar instance, quantity carried it against quality ,- 
numbers against intelligence. And thus we find that illness 
often assumed a low typhoid form in Haworth, and fevers 
of various kinds visited the place with sad frequency. 

In February 1848 Louis Philippe was dethroned. The 
quick succession of events at that time called forth the fol- 
lowing expression of Miss Bronte's thoughts on the subject, 
in a letter addressed to Miss Wooler, and dated March 31: — 

' I remember well wishing my lot had been cast in the 
troubled times of the late war, and seeing in its exciting 
incidents a kind of stimulating charm, which it made my 
pulse beat fast to think of : I remember even, I think, 
being a little impatient that you would not fully sympathise 
with my feelings on those subjects ; that you heard my as- 
pirations and speculations very tranquilly, and by no means 
seemed to think the flaming swords could be any pleasant 



366 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

addition to Paradise. I have now outlived youth ; and 
though I dare not say that I have outlived all its illusions — 
that the romance is quite gone from life — the veil fallen 
from truth, and that I see both in naked reality — yet cer- 
tainly many things are not what they were ten years ago ; 
and, amongst the rest, " the pomp and circumstance of 
war " have quite lost in my eyes their fictitious glitter. I 
have still no doubt that the shock of moral earthquakes 
wakens a vivid sense of life, both in nations and individuals; 
that the fear of dangers on a broad national scale diverts 
men's minds momentarily from brooding over small private 
perils, and for the time gives them something like large- 
ness of views ; but as little doubt have I that convulsive 
revolutions put back the world in all that is good, check 
civilisation, bring the dregs of society to its surface ; in 
short, it appears to me that insurrections and battles are 
the acute diseases of nations, and that their tendency is to 
exhaust, by their violence, the vital energies of the coun- 
tries where they occur. That England may be spared the 
spasms, cramps, and frenzy fits now contorting the Conti- 
nent, and threatening Ireland, I earnestly pray. With the 
French and Irish I have no sympathy. With the Ger- 
mans and Italians I think the case is different ; as differ- 
ent as the love of freedom is from the lust for license.' 

Her birthday came round. She wrote to the friend 
whose birthday was within a week of hers ; wrote the ac- 
customed letter : but reading it with our knowledge of 
what she had done, we perceive the difference between her 
thoughts and what they were a year or two ago, when she 
said, 'I have done nothing.' There must have been a 
modest consciousness of having 'done something' present 
in her mind, as she wrote this year — 

'I am now thirty-two. 1 Youth is gone — gone — and will 

1 This letter to Ellen Nussey is dated April 22, 1848. Charlotte 
Bronte's birthday was April 21 . 



1848 REPUDIATION OF AUTHORSHIP 367 

never come back : can't help it. . . . It seems to me that 
sorrow must come some time to everybody, and those who 
scarcely taste it in their youth often have a more brim- 
ming and bitter cup to drain in after life ; whereas those 
who exhaust the dregs early, who drink the lees before the 
wine, may reasonably hope for more palatable draughts to 
succeed.' 

The authorship of - Jaiie^Ejre ' was as yet a close secret 
in the Bronte family ; not even this friend, who was all 
but a sister, knew more about it than the rest of the 
world. She might conjecture, it is true, both from her 
knowledge of previous habits and from the suspicious 
fact of the proofs having been corrected at B(rookroyd), 
that some literary project was afoot ; but she knew noth- 
ing, and wisely said nothing, until she heard a report 
from others that Charlotte Bronte was an author — had 
published a novel ! Then she wrote to her, and received 
the two following letters ; confirmatory enough, as it seems 
to me now, in their very vehemence and agitation of in- 
tended denial of the truth of the report : — 

' April 28, 1848. 
' Write another letter, and explain that last note of yours 
distinctly. If your allusions are to myself, which I sup- 
pose they are, understand this : I have given no one a 
right to gossip about me, and am not to be judged by frivo- 
lous conjectures, emanating from any quarter whatever. 
Let me know what you heard, and from whom you heard 

it.' 

' May 3, 1848. 

' All I can say to you about a certain matter is this : the 
report — if report there be — and if the lady, who seems to 
have been rather mystified, had not dreamt what she fan- 
cied had been told to her — must have had its origin in 
some absurd misunderstanding. I have given no one a 
right either to affirm or to hint, in the most distant man- 
ner, that I am "publishing" (humbug!) Whoever has 



368 LIFE OF CHAKLOTTE BRONTE 

said it — if any one has, which I doubt — is no friend of 
mine. Though twenty books were ascribed to me, I should 
own none. I scout the idea utterly. Whoever, after I 
have distinctly rejected the charge, urges it upon me will 
do an unkind and ill-bred thing. The most profound ob- 
scurity is infinitely preferable to vulgar notoriety ; and that 
notoriety I neither seek nor will have. If, then, any B — an 
or G — an 1 should presume to bore you on the subject — to 
ask you what "novel" Miss Bronte has been "publishing," 
you can just say, with the distinct firmness of which you 
are perfect mistress when you choose, that you are author- 
ised by Miss Bronte to say that she repels and disowns 
every accusation of the kind. You may add, if you please, 
that if any one has her confidence you believe you have, 
and she has made no drivelling confessions to you on the 
subject. I am at a loss to conjecture from what source 
this rumour has come; and, I fear, it has far from a 
friendly origin. I am not certain, however, and I should 
be very glad if I could gain certainty. Should you hear any- 
thing more, please let me know. Your offer of " Simeon's 
Life " is a very kind one, and I thank you for it. I dare 
say papa would like to see the work very much, as he 
knew Mr. Simeon. 5 Laugh or scold A out of the pub- 
lishing notion ; and believe me, through all chances and 
changes, whether calumniated or let alone, yours faithfully, 

'C. Bronte.' 

The reason why Miss Bronte was so anxious to preserve 
her secret was, I am told, that she had pledged her word 
to her sisters that it should not be revealed through her. 

The dilemmas attendant on the publication of the sisters' 
novels, under assumed names, were increasing upon them. 

1 ' Any Birstallian or Gomersalian ' in original letter. 

2 Charles Simeon (1759-1836), an eminent Evangelical divine of the 
Church of England. He was a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, 
and hence Mr. Bronte's acquaintance with him. He would also be 
known to him as the patron of the living of Bradford Parish Church, 
of which Haworth is a chapelry. 



1848 SUSPICIONS OF THE CRITICS 369 

Many critics insisted on believing that all the fictions pub- 
lished as by three Bells were the works of one author, but 
written at different periods of his development and ma- 
turity. No doubt this suspicion affected the reception of 
the books. Ever since the completion of Anne Bronte's 
tale of 'Agnes Grey' she had been labouring at a second, 
'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.' It is little known; the 
subject — the deterioration of a character, whose profligacy 
and ruin took their rise in habits of intemperance, so 
slight as to be only considered 'good fellowship' — was 
painfully discordant to one who would fain have sheltered 
herself from all but peaceful and religious ideas. ' She had ' 
(says her sister of that gentle 'little one'), 'in the course 
of her life, been called on to contemplate near at hand, and 
for a long time, the terrible effects of talents misused and 
faculties abused ; hers was naturally a sensitive, reserved, 
and dejected nature ; what she saw sank very deeply into 
her mind ; it did her harm. She brooded over it till she 
believed it to be a duty to reproduce every detail (of course 
with fictitious characters, incidents, and situations), as a 
warning to others. She hated her work, but would pursue 
it. When reasoned with on the subject she regarded such 
reasonings as a temptation to self-indulgence. She must be 
honest ; she must not varnish, soften, or conceal. This 
well-meant resolution brought on her misconstruction, and 
some abuse, which she bore, as it was her custom to bear 
whatever was unpleasant, with mild, steady patience. She 
was a very sincere and practical Christian, but the tinge of 
religious melancholy communicated a sad shade to her brief 
blameless life.' 
In the June of this year ' The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" 

1 ' The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. By Acton Bell. In three Volumes. 
London: T. 0. Newby, Publisher. 72 Mortimer St., Cavendish Sq. 
1848.' The book went into a second edition the same year, and to this 
edition Anne Bronte contributed a 'Preface,' in which she said, 'Ke- 
specting the author's identity, I would have it to be distinctly under- 
stood that Acton Bell is neither Currer nor Ellis Bell, and therefore 
let not his faults be attributed to them.' 



370 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

was sufficiently near its completion to be submitted to theper- 
son who had previously published for Ellis and Acton Bell. 1 
In consequence of his mode of doing business, consider- 
able annoyance was occasioned both to Miss Bronte and to 
them. The circumstances, as detailed in a letter of hers 
to a friend in New Zealand, were these : — One morning, at 
the beginning of July, a communication was received at 
the Parsonage from Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co. which 
disturbed its quiet inmates not a little, as, though the 
matter brought under their notice was merely referred to 
as one which affected their literary reputation, they con- 
ceived it to have a bearing likewise upon their character. 
' Jane JEyre ' had had a great ran in America, and a pub- 
lisher there had consequently bid high for early sheets of 
the next work by 'Currer Bell.' These Messrs. Smith, 
Elder, & Co. had promised to let him have. He was there- 
fore greatly astonished, and not well pleased, to learn that 
a similar agreement had been entered into with another 
American house, and that the new tale was very shortly to 
appear. It turned out, upon inquiry, that the mistake had 
originated in Acton and Ellis Bell's publisher having as- 
sured this American house that, to the best of his belief, 
'Jane Eyre,' 'Wuthering Heights,' and 'The Tenant of 
Wildf ell Hall ' (which he pronounced superior to either of 
the other two) were all written by the same author. 

1 Here is a letter addressed to Mr. George Smith, of Smith, Elder, & 
Co. It is dated Jane 15, 1848 :— 

' Mirdbeau reached me this morning ; this is the third valuable and 
interesting work I have received from your hands ; such often-repeated 
kindness leaves me at a loss for words in which to express my sense of 
it. Not being ingenious enough to coin new terms of acknowledg- 
ment, I must even have recourse to the old ones, and repeat once 
more, "I thank you." 

' Mirabeau being one of the most remarkable characters of a remark- 
able era, I look forward to the perusal of his life with much interest. 
I should think the two portraits given are excellent ; they both seem 
full of character, rendering the strong, striking physiognomy of the 
original with most satisfactory effect.' 



1848 CITRRER AND ACTON BELL IN LONDON 371 

Though Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co. distinctly stated in 
their letter that they did not share in such 'belief/ the 
sisters were impatient till they had shown its utter ground- 
lessness, and set themselves perfectly straight. With rapid 
decision they resolved that Charlotte and Anne should start 
for London that very day, in order to prove their separate 
identity to Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co., and demand from 
the credulous publisher his reasons for a ' belief ' so directly 
at variance with an assurance which had several times been 
given to him. Having arrived at this determination, they 
made their preparations with resolute promptness. There 
were many household duties to be performed that day ; but 
they were all got through. The two sisters each packed 
up a change of dress in a small box, which they sent down 
to Keighley by an opportune cart ; and after early tea they 
set off to walk thither — no doubt in some excitement ; for, 
independently of the cause of their going to London, it was 
Anne's first visit there. A great thunderstorm overtook 
them on their way that summer evening to the station ; 
but they had no time to seek shelter. They only just 
caught the train at Keighley, arrived at Leeds, and were 
whirled up by the night train to London. 

About eight o'clock on the Saturday morning they ar- 
rived at the Chapter Coffee-house, 1 Paternoster Row — a 
strange pkce, but they did not well know where else to 
go. They refreshed themselves by washing, and had some 
breakfast. Then they sat still for a few minutes, to con- 
sider what next should be done. , 

When they had been discussing their project in the quiet 

'The Chapter Coffee-house, at the west corner of Paul's Alley, 
Paternoster Row, -was noted in the last century as the place of meet- 
ing of the London publishers ' ( Wheatley'a London). It was here in 
1777 that the edition of the British poets for which Johnson wrote his 
Lives was arranged for. The building was destroyed in 1858, and a 
public-house stands on the site, with a draper's work-rooms above. 
A set of first editions of the Bronte novels was bound in wood from a 
beam of the old building by Mr. Elliot Stock, the publisher and book- 
seller, of Paternoster Row. 



372 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

of Haworth Parsonage the day before, and planning the 
mode of setting about the business on which they were 
going to London, they had resolved to take a cab, if they 
should find it desirable, from their inn to Cornhill; but 
amidst the bustle and 'queer state of inward excitement' 
in which they found themselves, as they sat and considered 
their position on the Saturday morning, they quite forgot 
even the possibility of hiring a conveyance; and when they 
set forth they became so dismayed by the crowded streets, 
and the impeded crossings, that they stood still repeatedly, 
in complete despair of making progress, and were nearly an 
hour in walking the half-mile they had to go. Neither Mr. 
Smith nor Mr. Williams knew that they were coming ; they 
were entirely unknown to the publishers of ' Jane Eyre,' who 
were not, in fact, aware whether the ' Bells ' were men or 
women, but had always written to them as to men. 

On reaching Mr. Smith's Charlotte pat his own letter 
into his hands, the same letter which had excited so much 
disturbance at Haworth Parsonage only twenty-four hours 
before. ' Where did you get this ?' said he, as if he could 
not believe that the two young ladies dressed in black, of 
slight figures and diminutive stature, looking pleased yet 
agitated, could be the embodied Currer and Acton Bell, 
for whom curiosity had been hunting so eagerly in vain. 
An explanation ensued, and Mr. Smith at once began to 
form plans for their amusement and pleasure during their 
stay in London. He urged them to meet a few literary 
friends at his house; and this was a strong temptation to 
Charlotte, as amongst them were one or two of the writers 
whom she particularly wished to see ; but her resolution 
to remain unknown induced her firmly to put it aside. 

The sisters were equally persevering in declining Mr. 
Smith's invitations to stay at his house. They refused to 
leave their quarters, saying they were not prepared for a long 
stay. 

When they returned back to their inn, poor Charlotte 
paid for the excitement of the interview, which had wound 



1848 CURRER AND ACTON BELL IN LONDON 373 

up the agitation and hurry of the last twenty-four hours, by 
a racking headache and harassing sickness. Towards even- 
ing, as she rather expected some of the ladies of Mr. Smith's 
family to call, she prepared herself for the chance by tak- 
ing a strong dose of sal-volatile, which roused her a little, 
but still, as she says, she was ' in grievous bodily case ' when 
their visitors were announced, in full evening costume. 
The sisters had not understood that it had been settled 
that they were to go to the Opera, and therefore were not 
ready. Moreover they had no fine, elegant dresses either 
with them or in the world. But Miss Bronte resolved to 
raise no objections in the acceptance of kindness. So, in 
spite of headache and weariness, they made haste to dress 
themselves in their plain, high-made country garments. 

Charlotte says, in an account which she gives to her 
friend of this visit to London, describing the entrance of 
her party into the Opera House — 

' Pine ladies and gentlemen glanced at us, as we stood by 
the box door, which was not yet opened, with a slight grace- 
ful superciliousness, quite warranted by the circumstances. 
Still I felt pleasurably excited in spite of headache, sick- 
ness, and conscious clownishness ; and I saw Anne was 
calm and gentle, which she always is. The performance 
was Rossini's "Barber of Seville" — very brilliant, though 
I fancy there are-things I should like better. We had got 
home after one o'clock. We had never been in bed the 
night before ; had been in constant excitement for twenty- 
four hours; you may imagine we were tired. The next 
day, Sunday, Mr. Williams came early to take us to church ; 
and in the afternoon Mr. Smith and his mother fetched us 
in a carriage, and took us to his house to dine. 

' On Monday we went to the Exhibition of the Royal 
Academy, the National Gallery, dined again at Mr. Smith's, 
and then went home to tea with Mr. Williams at his house. 

' On Tuesday morning we left London, laden with books 
Mr. Smith had given us, and got safely home. A more 



374 LIFE OP CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

jaded wretch than I looked it would be difficult to con- 
ceive. I was thin when I went, but I was meagre indeed 
when I returned, my face looking grey and very old, with 
strange deep lines ploughed in it ; my eyes stared unnatu- 
rally. I was weak and yet restless. In a while, however, 
these bad effects of excitement went off, and I regained 
my normal condition." 

1 Mrs. Gaskell made use of a letter addressed to Mary Taylor in her 
account of this visit to London, but the letter has many characteristic 
touches which make it not the least valuable of the hitherto unpub- 
lished material. It is interesting also to compare it with Mrs.Gaskell's 
skilful paraphrase : — 

TO MISS MARY TAYLOR. 

' Haworth : 

' September 4, 1848. 

' Dear Polly, — I write you a great many more letters than you write 
me, though whether they all reach you, or not, Heaven knows ! I dare 
say you will not be without a certain desire to know how our affairs get 
on ; I will give you, therefore, a notion as briefly as may be. Acton 
Bell has published another book ; it is in three volumes, but I do not 
like it quite so well as Agnes Grey, the subject not being such as the 
Author had pleasure in handling. It has been praised by some reviews 
and blamed by others ; as yet only 25Z. have been realised for the copy- 
right, and, as Acton Bell's publisher is a shuffling scamp, I expected 
no more. 

' About two months since I had a letter from my publishers — Smith 
and Elder — saying that Jane Eyre had had a great run in America, and 
that a publisher there had consequently bid high for the first sheets of 
a new work by Currer Bell, which they had promised to let him have. 

'Presently after came another missive from Smith and Elder ; their 
American correspondent had written to them complaining that the 
first sheets of a new work by Currer Bell had been already received, 
and not by their house, but by a rival publisher, and asking the mean- 
ing of such false play ; it enclosed an extract from a letter from 
Mr. Newby (A. and E. Bell's publisher) affirming that to the best 
of his belief Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, and The 
Tenant of Wildfell Hall (the new work) were all the production of 
one writer. 

' This was a lie, as Newby had been told repeatedly that they 
were the production of three different authors ; but the fact was he 
wanted to make a dishonest move in the game to make the publie and 



1848 CURRER AND ACTON BELL IN LONDON 375 

The impression Miss Bronte made upon those with 
whom she first became acquainted during this visit to Lon- 
don was of a person with clear judgment and a fine sense ; 

the trade believe that he had got hold of Currer Bell, and thus cheat 
Smith and Elder by securing the American publisher's bid. 

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

' We arrived at the Chapter Coffee-house (our old place, Polly ; we 
did not well know where else to go) about eight o'clock in the morning. 
We washed ourselves, had some breakfast, sat a few minutes, and 
then set off in queer inward excitement to 65 Cornhill. Neither Mr. 
Smith nor Mr. Williams knew we were coming ; they had never seen 
us ; they did not know whether we were men or women, but had 
always written to us as men. 

'We found 65 to be a large bookseller's shop, in a street almost as 
bustling as the Strand. We went in, walked up to the counter. There 
were a great many young men and lads here and there. I said to the 
first I could accost, ' ' May I see Mr. Smith ?" He hesitated, looked a 
little surprised. We sat down and waited a while, looking at some 
oooks on the counter, publications of tHeirs well known to us, of many 
of which they had sent us copies as presents. At last we were shown 
up to Mr. Smith. "Is it Mr. Smith ?" I said, looking up through my 
spectacles at a tall young man. " It is." I then put his own letter 
into his hand directed to Currer Bell. He looked at it and then at me 
again. " Where did you get this ?" he said. I laughed at his perplex- 
ity ; a recognition took place. I gave my real name — Miss Bronte. 
We were in a small room, ceiled with a great skylight, and there ex- 
planations were rapidly gone into, Mr. Newby being anathematised, 
I fear, with undue vehemence. Mr. Smith hurried out and returned 
quickly with one whom he introduced as Mr. Williams, a pale, mild, 
stooping man of fifty, very much like a faded Tom Dixon. Another 
recognition and a long nervous shaking of hands. Then followed talk 
— talk — talk, Mr. Williams being silent, Mr. Smith loquacious. 

'Mr. Smith said we must come and stay at his house, but we were 
not prepared for a long stay and declined this also ; as we took our leave 
he told us he should bring his sisters to call on us that evening. We 
returned to our inn, and I paid for the excitement of the interview by 
a thundering headache and a harassing sickness. Towards evening, 



376 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

and though reserved, possessing unconsciously the power 
of drawing out others in conversation. She never ex- 
pressed an opinion without assigning a reason for it ; she 

as I got no better and expected the Smiths to call, I took a strong 
dose of sal-volatile. It roused me a little ; still I was in grievous 
bodily case when they were announced. They came in, two elegant 
young ladies, in full dress, prepared for the Opera— Mr. Smith him- 
self in evening costume, white gloves, &c. We had by no means un- 
derstood that it was settled we were to go to the Opera, and were not 
ready. Moreover we had no fine, elegant dresses with us, or in the 
world. However on brief rumination I thought it would be wise to 
make no objections. I put my headache in my pocket ; we attired 
ourselves in the plain, high-made country garments we possessed, and 
went with them to their carriage, where we found Mr. Williams. 
They must have thought us queer, quizzical-looking beings, especially 
me with my spectacles. I smiled inwardly at the contrast which must 
have been apparent between me and Mr. Smith as I walked with 
him up the crimson-carpeted staircase of the Opera House and stood 
amongst a brilliant throng at the box door, which was not yet open. 
Fine ladies and gentlemen glanced at us with a slight graceful supercili- 
ousness quite warranted by the circumstances. Still I felt pleasantly 
excited in spite of headache and sickness and conscious clownishness, 
and I saw Anne was calm and gentle, which she always is. 

' The performance was Rossini's opera of the Barber of Seville, very 
brilliant, though I fancy there are things I should like better. We 
got home after one o'clock. We had never been in bed the night be- 
fore, and had been in constant excitement for twenty-four hours. 
You may imagine we were tired. 

' The next day, Sunday, Mr. Williams came early and took us to 
church. He was so quiet but so sincere in his attentions one could 
not but have a most friendly leaning towards him. He has a nervous 
hesitation in speech, and a difficulty in finding appropriate language 
in which to express himself, which throws him into the background 
in conversation, but I had been his correspondent and therefore knew 
with what intelligence he could write, so that I was not in danger of 
undervaluing him. In the afternoon Mr. Smith came in his carriage 
with his mother, to take us to his house to dine. Mr. Smith's resi- 
dence is at Bayswater, six miles from Cornhill ; the rooms, the draw- 
ing-room especially, looked splendid to us. There was no company — 
only his mother, his two grown-up sisters, and his brother, a lad of 
twelve or thirteen, and a little sister, the youngest of the family, very 
like himself. They are all dark-eyed, dark-haired, and have clear, 



1848 CURRER AND ACTON BELL IN LONDON 377 

never put a question without a definite purpose ; and yet 
people felt at their ease in talking with her. All conversa- 
tion with her was genuine and stimulating ; and when she 
launched forth in praise or reprobation of books, or deeds, 
or works of art, her eloquence was indeed burning. She 
was thorough in all that she said or did ; yet so open and 
fair in dealing with a subject, or contending with an oppo- 
nent, that instead of rousing resentment she merely con- 
vinced her hearers of her earnest zeal for the truth and 
right. 

Not the least singular part of their proceedings was the 
place at which the sisters had chosen to stay. 

Paternoster Row was for many years sacred to publish- 
ers. It is a narrow nagged street, lying under the shadow 

pale faces. The mother is a portly, handsome woman of her age, and 
all the children more or less well-looking — one of the daughters de- 
cidedly pretty. We had a fine dinner, which neither Anne nor I had 
appetite to eat, and were glad when it was over. I always feel under 
an awkward constraint at table. Dining out would be hideous to me. 

' Mr. Smith made himself very pleasant. He is a practical man. I 
wish Mr. Williams were more so, but he is altogether of the contem- 
plative, theorising order. Mr. Williams has too many abstractions. 

' On Monday we went to the Exhibition of the Royal Academy and 
the National Gallery, dined again at Mr. Smith's, then went home with 
Mr. Williams to tea and saw his comparatively humble but neat resi- 
dence and his fine family of eight children. A daughter of Leigh 
Hunt was there ; she sang some little Italian airs, which she had 
picked up among the peasantry in Tuscany, in a manner that 
charmed me. 

' On Tuesday morning we left London, laden with books which 
Mr. Smith had given us, and got safely home. A more jaded wretch 
than I looked when I returned it would be difficult to conceive. I 
was thin when I went, but was meagre indeed when I returned ; my 
face looked grey and very old, with strange deep lines ploughed in it ; 
my eyes stared unnaturally. I was weak and yet restless. In a while, 
however, the bad effects of excitement went off and I regained my 
normal condition. 

' We saw Mr. Newby, but of him more another time. 

' Good-bye. God bless you. Write. 

' C. B.' 



3*78 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

of St. Paul's. The dull warehouses on each side are mostly 
occupied at present by wholesale booksellers ; if they be 
publishers' shops, they show no attractive front to the 
dark and narrow street. Halfway up, on the left-hand 
side, is the Chapter Coffee-house. I visited it last June. 
It was then unoccupied. It had the appearance of a 
dwelling-house, two hundred years old or so, such as one 
sometimes sees in ancient country towns ; the ceilings of 
the small rooms were low, and had heavy beams running 
across them ; the walls were wainscoted breast high ; the 
staircase was shallow, broad, and dark, taking up much 
space in the centre of the house. This, then, was the 
Chapter Coffee-house, which, a century ago, was the re- 
sort of all the booksellers and publishers ; and where the 
literary hacks, the critics, and even the wits used to go in 
search of ideas or employment. This was the place about 
which Chatterton wrote in those delusive letters he sent to 
his mother at Bristol, while he was starving in London. 'I 
am quite familiar at the Chapter Coffee-house, and know 
all the geniuses there.' Here he heard of chances of em- 
ployment ; here his letters were to be left. 

Years later it became the tavern frequented by Univer- 
sity men and country clergymen who were up in London 
for a few days, and, having no private friends or access into 
society, were glad to learn what was going on in the world 
of letters from the conversation which they were sure to 
hear in the coffee room. In Mr. Bronte's few and brief 
visits to town, during his residence at Cambridge, and the 
period of his curacy in Essex, he had stayed at this house; 
hither he had brought his daughters, when he was convoy- 
ing them to Brussels ; and here they came now, from very 
ignorance where else to go. It was a place solely frequent- 
ed by men ; I believe there was but one female servant in 
the house. Few people slept there ; some of the stated 
meetings of the Trade were held in it, as they had been 
for more than a century; and, occasionally, country book- 
sellers, with now and then a clergyman, resorted to it; , 



1848 CURRER AND ACTON BELL IN LONDON 379 

but it was a strange, desolate place for the Miss Bronte's 
to have gone to, from its purely business and masculine 
aspect. The old ' grey-haired, elderly man ' who officiated 
as waiter seems to have been touched from the very first 
with the quiet simplicity of the two ladies, and he tried 
to make them feel comfortable and at home in the long, 
low, dingy room upstairs, where the meetings of the Trade 
were held. The high, narrow windows looked into the 
gloomy Row ; the sisters, clinging together on the most 
remote window seat (as Mr. Smith tells me he found them 
when he came, that Saturday evening, to take them to the 
Opera), could see nothing of motion, or of change, in the 
grim, dark houses opposite, so near and close, although 
the whole breadth of the Row was between. The mighty 
roar of London was round them, like the sound of an un- 
seen ocean, yet every footfall on the pavement below might 
be heard distinctly in that unfrequented street. Such as 
it was, they preferred remaining at the Chapter Coffee- 
house to accepting the invitation which Mr. Smith and his 
mother urged upon them ; and, in after years, Charlotte 



' Since those days I have seen the West End, the parks, 
the fine squares ; but I love the City far better. The City 
seems so much more in earnest ; its business, its rush, its 
roar are such serious things, sights, sounds. The City is 
getting its living — the "West End but enjoying its pleasure. 
At the West End you may be amused ; but in the City you 
are deeply excited/ ' 

Their wish had been to hear Dr. Croly on the Sunday 
morning, and Mr. Williams escorted them to St. Stephen's, 
Walbrook ; but they were disappointed, as Dr. Croly did 
not preach. Mr. Williams also took them (as Miss 
Bronte has mentioned) to drink tea at his house. On 
the way thither they had to pass through Kensington 

1 Villette, vol. i. p. 89. 



380 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

Gardens, and Miss Bronte was much 'struck with the 
beauty of the scene, the fresh verdure of the turf, 
and the soft, rich masses of foliage/ From remarks 
on the different character of the landscape in the South 
from what it was in the North, she was led to speak 
of the softness and varied intonation of the voices of those 
with whom she conversed in London, which seem to have 
made a strong impression on both sisters. All this time 
those who came in contact with the ' Miss Browns ' (an- 
other pseudonym, also beginning with B) seem only to have 
regarded them as shy and reserved little countrywomen, 
with not much to say. Mr. Williams tells me that on the 
night when he accompanied the party to the Opera, as 
Charlotte ascended the flight of stairs leading from the 
grand entrance up to the lobby of the first tier of boxes, 
she was so much struck with the architectural effect of the 
splendid decorations of that vestibule and saloon, that 
involuntarily she slightly pressed his arm and whispered, 
'You know I am not accustomed to this sort of thing.' 
Indeed, it must have formed a vivid contrast to what they 
were doing and seeing an hour or two earlier the night be- 
fore, when they were trudging along with beating hearts 
and high-strung courage on the road between Haworth and 
Keighley, hardly thinking of the thunderstorm that beat 
about their heads, for the thoughts which filled them of 
how they would go straight away to London, and prove 
that they were really two people and not one impostor. It 
was no wonder that they returned to Haworth thoroughly 
fagged and worn out, after the fatigue and excitement of 
this visit. 

The next notice I find of Charlotte's life at this time is 
of a different character from anything telling of enjoyment. 

' July 28. 
' Branwell is the same in conduct as ever. His constitu- 
tion seems much shattered. Papa, and sometimes all of us, 
have sad nights with him. He sleeps most of the day, and 



1S48 ABOUT CASTERTON SCHOOL 381 

consequently will lie awake at night. But has not every 
house its trial ?' ' 

While her most intimate friends were yet in ignorance of 
the fact of her authorship of 'Jane Eyre/ she received a 
letter from one of them making inquiries about Casterton 
School. It is but right to give her answer, written on 
August 28, 1848. " 

' Since you wish to hear from me while you are from home, 
I will write without further delay. It often happens that 
when we linger at first in answering a friend's letter obstacles 
occur to retard us to an inexcusably late period. In my last 
I forgot to answer a question which you asked me, and was 
sorry afterwards for the omission. I will begin, therefore, 
by replying to it, though I fear what information I can give 

will come a little late. You said Mrs. had some thoughts 

of sending to school, and wished to know whether the 

Clergy Daughters' School at Casterton was an eligible place. 

1 The following letter to Mr. George Smith is dated August 17, 
1848:— 

' How you can expect to escape the infliction of thanks by means of 
that ingenuous explanation of the value (to you) of the books you send 
me I don't know. Consider yourself now thanked twice as much as 
ever ; if you are overwhelmed I am sorry, but I cannot help it, nor 
can I diminish one atom of the burden. The case for me stands as it 
did before ; it was not so much by the sacrifice your gifts cost you that 
I reckoned their value, as by the pleasure they gave me, and, as that 
pleasure is enhanced by what you tell me, I ought to be, and, I hope, 
am, still more grateful. 

' I have received the books ; the parcel from Messrs. Bradbury & 
Evans contained, as you conjectured, a copy of Vanity Fair. I send 
the accompanying note of acknowledgment to be posted in London. 

' I will not return Charles Lamb, for in truth he is very welcome. I 
saw a review with extracts in the Examiner, and thought at the time 
I should much like to read the whole work. But, having accepted 
this book, I tell you distinctly that I will not accept any more till such 
time as I shall have finished another manuscript, and you find it such 
as you like. 

' My sister joins me in kind remembrances to your mother, sisters, 
and yourself.' s To Miss Wooler. 



382 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

My personal knowledge of that institution is very much 
out of date, being derived from the experience of twenty 
years ago. The establishment was at that time in its 
infancy, and a sad, rickety infancy it was. Typhus fever 
decimated the school periodically ;' and consumption and 
scrofula, in every variety of form bad air and water, bad 
and insufficient diet can generate, preyed on the ill-fated 
pupils. It would not then have been a fit place for any of 
Mrs. 's children ; but I understand it is very much al- 
tered for the better since those days. The school is re- 
moved from Cowan's Bridge (a situation as unhealthy as it 
was picturesque — low, damp, beautiful with wood and wa- 
ter) to Casterton. The accommodations, the diet, the dis- 
cipline, the system of tuition — all are, I believe, entirely 
altered and greatly improved. I was told that such pupils 
as behaved well, and remained at the school till their edu- 
cation was finished, were provided with situations as gov- 
ernesses, if they wished to adopt the vocation, and much 
care was exercised in the selection; it was added that they 
were also furnished with an excellent wardrobe on leaving 
Casterton. . . . The oldest family in Haworth failed lately, 
and have quitted the neighbourhood where their fathers 
resided before them for, it is said, thirteen generations. . . . 
Papa, I am most thankful to say, continues in very good 
health, considering his age ; his sight, too, rather, I think, 
improves than deteriorates. My sisters likewise are pretty 
well.' 

But the dark cloud was hanging over that doomed house- 
hold, and gathering blackness every hour. 
On October 9 she thus writes : a — 

' The past three weeks have been a dark interval in our 
humble home. Branwell's constitution had been failing fast 

1 Mr. W. W. Carus Wilson wishes me to mention that this statement 
is a mistake. He says they have only had typhus fever twice in the 
school (either at Cowan Bridge or at Casterton) since its institution in 
1823 {Note by Mrs. Gaskell). 2 In a letter to Ellen Nussey. 



1848 DEATH OF BRANWELL BRONTE 383 

all the summer; but still neither the doctors nor himself 
thought him so near his end as he was. He was entirely 
confined to his bed but for one single day, and was in the 
village two days before his death. He died, after twenty 
minutes' struggle, on Sunday morning, September 24. He 
was perfectly conscious till the last agony came on. His 
mind had undergone the peculiar change which frequently 
precedes death, two days previously ; the calm of better 
feelings filled it ; a return of natural affection marked his 
last moments. He is in God's hands now ; and the All- 
Powerful is likewise the All-Merciful. A deep conviction 
that he rests at last — rests well after his brief, erring, suf- 
fering, feverish life — fills and quiets my mind now. The 
final separation, the spectacle of his pale corpse, gave me 
more acute, bitter pain than I could have imagined. Till 
the last hour comes we never know how much we can for- 
give, pity, regret a near relative. All his vices were and 
are nothing now. We remember only his woes. Papa was 
acutely distressed at first, but, on the whole, has borne the 
event well. Emily and Anne are pretty well, though Anne 
is always delicate, and Emily has a cold and cough at pres- 
ent. It was my fate to sink at the crisis, when I should 
have collected my strength. Headache and sickness came 
on first on the Sunday ; I could not regain my appetite. 
Then internal pain attacked me. I became at once much 
reduced. It was impossible to touch a morsel. At last 
bilious fever declared itself. I was confined to bed a week 
— a dreary week. But, thank God ! health seems now re- 
turning. I can sit up all day, and take moderate nourish- 
ment. The doctor said at first I should be very slow in re- 
covering, but I seemed to get on faster than he antici- 
pated. I am truly much letter.' 

I have heard, from one who attended Branwell in his 
last illness, that he resolved on standing up to die. He had 
repeatedly said that as long as there was life there was 
strength of will to do what it chose ; and when the last 



384 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTfi 

agony began he insisted on assuming the position just men- 
tioned. 1 

' October 29, 1848. 
' I think I have now nearly got over the effects of my 
late illness, and am almost restored to my moral condition 
of health. I sometimes wish that it was a little higher, but 

1 The following letter from Charlotte Bronte to her friend Mr. W. S. 
Williams, of Smith, Elder & Co., supplements the text :— 

October 2, 1848. 

'My dear Sir, — "We have hurried our dead out of our sight." A 
lull begins to succeed the gloomy tumult of last week. It is not per- 
mitted us to grieve for him who is gone as others grieve for those they 
lose. The removal of our only brother must necessarily be regarded 
by us rather in the light of a mercy than a chastisement. Branwell 
was his father's and his sisters' pride and hope in boyhood, but since 
manhood the case has been otherwise. It has been our lot to see him 
take a wrong bent ; to hope, expect, wait his return to the right path ; 
to know the sickness of hope deferred, the dismay of prayer baffled ; 
to experience despair at last — and now to behold the sudden early 
obscure close of what might have been a noble career. 

' I do not weep from a sense of bereavement — there is no prop with- 
drawn, no consolation torn away, no dear companion lost — but for the 
wreck of talent, the ruin of promise, the untimely dreary extinction 
of what might have been a burning and a shining light. My brother 
was a year my junior. I had aspirations and ambitions for him once, 
long ago ; they have perished mournfully. Nothing remains of him 
but a memory of errors and sufferings. There is such a bitterness of 
pity for his life and death, such a yearning for the emptiness of his 
whole existence, as I cannot describe. I trust time will allay these 
feelings. 

' My poor father naturally thought more of his only son than of his 
daughters, and, much and long as he had suffered on his account, he 
cried out for his loss like David for that of Absalom — " My son ! my 
son 1" — and refused at first to be comforted. And then, when I ought 
to have been able to collect my strength and be at hand to support him, 
I fell ill with an illness whose approaches I had felt for some time pre- 
viously, and of which the crisis was hastened by the awe and trouble 
of the death scene, the first I had ever witnessed. The past has seemed 
to me a strange week. Thank God, for my father's sake, I am better 
now, though still feeble. I wish indeed I had more general physical 
strength ; the want of it is sadly in my way. I cannot do what I 



1B48 IMPENDING SORROWS 385 

we ought to be content with such blessings as we have, and 
not pine after those that are out of our reach. I feel much 
more uneasy about my sister than myself just now. Emily's 
cold and cough are very obstinate. I fear she has pain in 
her chest, and I sometimes catch a shortness in her breath- 
ing, when she has moved at all quickly. She looks very 
thin and pale. Her reserved nature occasions me great un- 
easiness of mind. It is useless to question her; you get no 
answers. It is still more useles to recommend remedies ; 
they are never adopted. Nor can I shut my eyes to Anne's 
great delicacy of constitution. The late sad event has, I 
feel, made me more apprehensive than common. I cannot 
help feeling much depressed sometimes. I try to leave all 
in God's hands ; to trust in His goodness ; but faith and res- 
ignation are difficult to practise under some circumstances. 
The weather has been most unfavourable for invalids of late; 
sudden changes of temperature, and cold penetrating winds 
have been frequent here. Should the atmosphere become 
more settled, perhaps a favourable effect might be produced 
on the general health, and these harassing colds and coughs 
be removed. Papa has not quite escaped, but he has so 
far stood it better than any of us. You must not mention 
my going to Brookroyd this winter. I could not, and would 
not, leave home on any account. Miss Heald has been for 
some years out of health now. These things make one feel, 

would do for want of sustained animal spirits and efficient bodily- 
vigour. 

'My unhappy brother never knew what his sisters had done in lit- 
erature ; he was not aware that they had ever published a line. We 
could not tell him of our efforts for fear of causing him too deep a 
pang of remorse for his own time misspent and talents misapplied. 
Now he will never know. I cannot dwell longer of the subject at 
present ; it is too painful. 

' I thank you for you kind sympathy, and pray earnestly that your 
sons may all do well, and that you may be spared the sufferings my 
father has gone through. 

' Yours sincerely, 

' C. BbontS.' 
25 



386 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

as well as know, that this world is not our abiding-place. 
We should not knit human ties too close, or clasp human 
affections too fondly. They must leave us, or we must 
leave them, one day. God restore health and strength to 
all who need it !' ' 

I go on now with her own affecting words in the bio- 
graphical notices of her sisters. 

'But a great change approached. Affliction came in 
that shape which to anticipate is dread, to look back on 
grief. In the very heat and burden of the day the labour- 
ers failed over their work. My sister Emily first declined. 
. . . Never in all her life had she lingered over any task 
that lay before her, and she did not linger now. She sank 

1 A letter of November 7, 1848, to Mr. George Smith has its place 
here : — 

' I have received your letter containing a remittance of 1001. I 
think I am chiefly glad of it for the proof it seems to afford that the 
third edition of Jam Eyre does not lie a dead weight on your hands. 
I was afraid this might'bTthe case, and it would chagrin me to think 
that any work of "Currer Bell" acted as a drag on your progress; 
my wish is to serve a contrary purpose, because it seems to me, from 
what I hnow, and still more from what I hear of you, that you so 
well deserve success. In this point of view I sometimes feel anx- 
ious about the little volume of poems ; I hope it will not be a mere 
incumbrance in your shop, so as to give you reason to regret having 
purchased it. 

' I will do myself the pleasure of writing to you again when I re- 
ceive the books you mention. You see I carefully abstain from utter- 
ing a word of thanks, but I must inform you that the loan of the 
books is indeed well-timed ; no more acceptable benefit could have 
been conferred on my dear sister Emily, who is at present too ill to 
occupy herself with writing, or indeed with anything but reading. 
She smiled when I told her Mr. Smith was going to send some more 
books. She was pleased. They will be a source_ of interest for her 
when her cough and fever will permit her to take interest in any- 
thing. Now you may judge whether or not you have laid me under 
an obligation. 

' My sister Anne joins with me in kind regards to yourself, your 
mother and sisters.' 



1848 IMPENDING SORROWS 387 

rapidly. She made haste to leave us. . . . Day by day, 
when I saw with what a front she met suffering, I looked 
on her with an anguish of wonder and love. I have seen 
nothing like it ; but, indeed, I have never seen her parallel 
in anything. Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, 
her nature stood alone. The awful point was that, while 
full of ruth for others, on herself she had no pity ; the 
spirit was inexorable to the flesh ; from the trembling 
hand, the unnerved limbs, the fading eyes, the same ser- 
vice was exacted as they had rendered in health. To stand 
by and witness this, and not dare to remonstrate, was a 
pain no words can render.' 

In fact Emily never went out of doors after the Sunday 
succeeding Bran well's death. She made no complaint ; she 
would not endure questioning ; she rejected sympathy and 
help. Many a time did Charlotte and Anne drop their 
sewing, or cease from their writing, to listen with wrung 
hearts to the failing step, the laboured breathing, the fre- 
quent pauses, with which their sister climbed the short 
staircase ; yet they dared not notice what they observed, 
with pangs of suffering even greater than hers. They 
dared not notice it in words, far less by the caressing as- 
sistance of a helping arm or hand. They sat still and 
silent. 

' November 23, 1848. 
' I told you Emily was ill in my last letter. She has not 
rallied yet. She is very ill. I believe, if you were to see 
her, your impression would be that there is no hope. A 
more hollow, wasted, pallid aspect I have not beheld. The 
deep, tight cough continues ; the breathing after the least 
exertion is a rapid pant ; and these symptoms are accom- 
panied by pains in the chest and side. Her pulse, the only 
time she allowed it to be felt, was found to beat 115 per 
minute. In this state she resolutely refuses to see a doc- 
tor ; she will give no explanation of her feelings ; she will 
scarcely allow her feelings to be alluded to. Our posi- 



388 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

tion is, and has been for some weeks, exquisitely painful. 
God only knows how all this is to terminate. More than 
once I have been forced boldly to regard the terrible event 
of her loss as possible, and even probable. But nature 
shrinks from such thoughts. I think Emily seems the 
nearest thing to my heart in the world.'' ' 

'A letter addressed to Mr. Williams on November 22 may be read 
here : — 

' My dear Sir, — I put your most friendly letter into Emily's hands 
as soon as I had myself perused it, taking care, however, not to say a 
word in favour of homoeopathy ; that would not have answered. It is 
best usually to leave her to form her own judgment, and especially not 
to advocate the side you wish her to favour ; if you do she is sure to 
lean in the opposite direction, and ten to one will argue herself into 
non-compliance. Hitherto she has refused medicine, rejected medical 
advice ; no reasoning, no entreaty has availed to induce her to see a 
physician. After reading your letter she said, " Mr. Williams's in- 
tention was kind and good, but he was UDder a delusion: homoeop- 
athy was only another form of quackery." Yet she may reconsider 
this opinion and come to a different conclusion ; her second thoughts 
are often the best. 

' The North American Bevieio is worth reading; there is no mincing_ 
the matter there. What a bad set the Bells must be ! What appalling 
books they write 1 To-day, as Emily appeared a little easier, I thought 
the Review would amuse her, so I read it aloud to her and Anne. As 
I sat between them at our quiet but now somewhat melancholy fire- 
side I studied the two ferocious authors. Ellis, the "man of uncom- 
mon talents, but dogged, brutal, and morose," sat leaning back in his 
easy chair, drawing his impeded breath as he best could, and looking, 
alas ! piteously pale and wasted ; it is not his wont to laugh, but he 
smiled, half amused and half in scorn, as he listened. Acton was 
sewing ; no emotion ever stirs him to loquacity, so he only smiled 
too, dropping at the same time. a single word of calm amazement to 
hear his character so darkly portrayed. I wonder what the reviewer 
would have thought of his own sagacity could he have beheld the pair 
as I did. Vainly, too, might he have looked round for the masculine 
partner in the firm of " Bell & Co." How I laugh in my sleeve when 
I read the solemn assertions that Jane Eyre was written in partner- 
ship, and that it bears the marks of 'mofeTthan one mind and one sex! 

' The wise critics would certainly sink a degree in their own esti- 
mation if they knew that yours or Mr. Smith's was the first masculine 
hand that touched the MS. of Jane Eyre, and that till you or he read 



1848 ILLNESS OF EMILY BRONTE 389 

When a doctor had been sentfor, and wasin the very house, 
Emily refused to see him. Her sisters could only describe 
to him what symptoms they had observed; and the medicines 
which he sent she would not take, denying that she was ill. 

' I hardly know what to say to you about the subject 
which now interests me the most keenly of anything in this 
world, for, in truth, I hardly know what to think myself. 
Hope and fear fluctuate daily. The pain in her side and 
chest is better : the cough, the sharpness of breath, the 
extreme emaciation continue. I have endured, however, 
such tortures of uncertainty on this subject that, at length, 
I could endure it no longer; and, as her repugnance to see 
a medical man continues immutable — as she declares " no 
poisoning doctor" shall come near her — I have written, 
unknown to her, to an eminent physician in London, giv- 
ing as minute a statement of her case and symptoms as I 
could draw up, and requesting an opinion. I expect an 
answer in a day or two. I am thankful to say that my own 
health at present is very tolerable. It is well such is the 
case ; for Anne, with the best will in the world to be useful, 
is really too delicate to do or bear much. She, too, at pres- 
ent, has frequent pains in her side. Papa is also pretty well, 
though Emily's state renders him very anxious. 

' The s 1 (Anne Bronte's former pupils) were here 

about a week ago. They are attractive and stylish-looking 

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

1 The Robinsons; daughters of the Rev. Edmund Robinson, of Thorp 
Green, Yorks, where Anne was governess and Branwell tutor for a 
short time. 



390 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

girls. They seemed overjoyed to see Anne; when I went 
into the room they were clinging round her like two chil- 
dren — she, meantime, looking perfectly quiet and passive. 
... J. and H. 1 took it into their heads to come here. I 
think it probable offence was taken on that occasion, from 
what cause I know not; and as, if such be the case, the 
grudge must rest upon purely imaginary grounds, and 
since, besides, I have other things to think about, my mind 
rarely dwells upon the subject. If Emily were but well, I 
feel as if I should not care who neglected, misunderstood, 
or abused me. I would rather you were not of the number . 
either. The crab cheese arrived safely. Emily has just 
reminded me to" thank you for it; it looks very nice. I 
wish she were well enough to eat it.' 

But Emily was growing rapidly worse." I remember 

1 Joseph and Harry Taylor, Mary Taylor's brothers. 
8 A letter to Mr. George Smith concerning Emily's illness is dated 
November 32, 1848 :— 

' I think it is to yourself I should address what I have to say respect- 
ing a suggestion conveyed through Mr. Williams on the subject of 
your friend Dr. Forbes. 

' The proposal was one which I felt it advisable to mention to my 
father, and it is his reply which I would now beg to convey to you. 

' I am enjoined, in the first place, to express my father's sense of the 
friendly and generous feeling which prompted the suggestion, and in 
the second place to assure you that did he think any really useful end 
could be answered by a visit from Dr. Forbes he would, notwith- 
standing his habitual reluctance to place himself under obligations, 
unhesitatingly accept an offer so delicately made. He is, however, 
convinced that whatever aid human skill and the resources of science 
can yield my sister is already furnished her in the person of her present 
medical attendant, in whom my father has reason to repose perfect 
confidence, and he conceives that to bring down a physician from Lon- 
don would be to impose trouble in quarters where we have no claim, 
without securing any adequate result. 

' Still, having reported my father's reply, I would beg to add a re- 
quest of my own, compliance with which would, it appears to me, 
secure us many of the advantages of your proposal without subjecting 
vourself or Dr. Forbes to its inconveniences. I would state Mr. 



1848 ILLNESS OF EMILY BRONTE 391 

Miss Bronte's shiver at recalling the pang she felt when, 
after having searched in the little hollows and sheltered 
crevices of the moors for a lingering spray of heather — jnst 
one spray, however withered — to take in to Emily, she saw 
that the flower was not recognised by the dim and differ- 
ent eyes. Yet, to the last, Emily adhered tenaciously to 
her habits of independence. She would suffer no one to 
assist her. Any effort to do so roused the old stern spirit. 
One Tuesday morning, in December, she arose and dressed 
herself as usual, making many a pause, but doing every- 
thing for herself, and even endeavouring to take up her 
employment of sewing. The servants looked on, and knew 
what the catching, rattling breath and the glazing of the 
eye too surely foretold ; but she kept at her work ; and 
Charlotte and Anne, though full of unspeakable dread, 
had still the faintest spark of hope. On that morning 
Charlotte wrote thus — probably in the very presence of her 
dying sister : — 

' Tuesday. 
' I should have written to you before, if I had had one 
word of hope to say; but I have not. She grows daily 
weaker. The physician's opinion was expressed too ob- 

Teale's opinion of my sister's case, the course of treatment he has recom- 
mended to be adopted, and should be most happy to obtain, through 
you, Dr. Forbes's opinion on the regime prescribed. 

' Mr. Teale said it was a case of tubercular consumption, with con- 
gestion of the lungs ; yet he intimated that the malady had not yet 
reached so advanced a stage as to cut off all hope ; he held out a pros- 
pect that a truce and even an arrest of disease might yet be procured ; 
till such truce or arrest could be brought about he forbade the excite- 
ment of travelling, enjoined strict care, and prescribed the use of cod- 
liver oil and carbonate of iron. It would be a satisfaction to know 
whether Dr. Forbes approves these remedies, or whether there are 
others he would recommend in preference. 

' To be indebted to you for information on these points would be 
felt as no burden either by my sister or myself ; your kindness is of an 
order which will not admit of entire rejection from any motives ; 
where there cannot be full acceptance there must be at least a consid- 
ate compromise.' — - 



392 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

scurely to be of use. He sent some medicine, which she 
would not take. Moments so dark as these I have never 
known. I pray for God's support to us all. Hitherto He 
has granted it. 5 

The morning grew on to noon. Emily was worse : she 
could only whisper in gasps. Kbw, when it was too late, 
she said to Charlotte, ' If you will send for a doctor I will 
see him now.' About two o'clock she died. 

' December 21, 1848. 

'Emily suffers no more pain or weakness now. She 
never will'suffer more in this world. She is gone, after a 
hard, short conflict. She died on Tuesday, the very day I 
wrote to you. I thought it very possible she might be with 
us still for weeks ; and a few hours afterwards she was in 
eternity. Yes ; there is no Emily in time or on earth now. 
Yesterday we pixt her poor wasted mortal frame quietly un- 
der the church pavement. We are very calm at present. 
Why should we be otherwise ? The anguish of seeing her 
suffer is over ; the spectacle of the pains of death is gone 
by ; the funeral day is past. We feel she is at peace. No 
need now to tremble for the hard frost and the keen wind. 
Emily does not feel them. She died in a time of promise. 
We saw her taken from life in its prime. But 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. I now look 
at Anne, and wish she were well and strong ; but she is 
neither ; nor is papa. Could you now come to us for a few 
days ? I would not ask you to stay long. Write and tell 
me if you could come next week, and by what train. I 
would try to send a gig for you to Keighley. You will, I 
trust, find us tranquil. Try to come. I never so much 
needed the consolation of a friend's presence. Pleasure, 
of course, there would be none for you in the visit, except 



1848 DEATH OF EMILY BRONTE 393 

what your kind heart would teach you to find in doing 
good to others." 

As the old bereaved father and his two surviving chil- 
dren followed the coffin to the grave they were joined by 
Keeper, Emily's fierce faithful bulldog. He walked along- 
side of the mourners, and into the church, and stayed 

1 The above letter was written to Ellen Nussey. On December 25 
Charlotte wrote to Mr. Williams — 

' I will write you more at length when my heart can find a little 
rest ; now I can only thank you very briefly for your letter, which 
seemed to me eloquent in its sincerity. 

' Emily is nowhere here now ; her wasted mortal remains are taken 
out of the house. We have laid her cherished head under the church 
aisle beside my mother's, my two sisters' — dead loDg ago — and my poor 
hapless brother's. But a small remnant of the race is left — so my poor 
father thinks. 

' Well, the loss is ours — not hers, and some sad comfort I take, as I 
hear the wind blow and feel the cutting keenness of the frost, in know- 
ing that the elements bring her no more suffering ; this severity can- 
not reach her grave ; her fever is quieted, her restlessness soothed ; 
her deep hollow cough is hushed for ever ; we do not hear it in the 
night nor listen for it in the morning ; we have not the conflict of the 
strangely stroDg spirit and the fragile frame before us — relentless con- 
flict—once seen, never to be forgotten. A dreary calm reigns round 
us, in the midst of which we seek resignation. 

' My father and my sister Anne are far from well. As for me, God 
has hitherto most graciously sustained me ; so far I have felt adequate 
to bear my own burden, and even offer a little help to others. I am 
not ill ; I can get through daily duties, and do something towards 
keeping hope and energy alive in our mourning household. My father 
says to me almost hourly, "Charlotte, you must bear up ; I shall sink 
if you fail me." These words, you can conceive, are a stimulus to 
nature. The sight, too, of my sister Anne's very still but deep sorrow 
wakens in me such fear for her that I dare not falter. Somebody must 
cheer the rest. 

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



334 LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BBONTE 

quietly there all the time that the burial service was being 
read. When he came home he lay down at Emily's chamber 
door, and howled pitifully for many days. Anne Bronte 
drooped and sickened more rapidly from that time ; and 
so ended the year 1848. 



CHAPTER XVII 

An article on ' Vanity Pair ' and 'J ane Eyre' h ad appeared 
in the ' Quarterly Review' of December 1848. Some weeks 
after Miss Bronte wrote to her pnbtishlirsTasking why it had 
not been sent to her; and conjecturing that it was un- 
favourable, she repeated her previous request, that whatever 
was done with the laudatory, all critiques adverse to the 
novel might be forwarded to her without fail. The 'Quar- 
terly Review ' ' was accordingly sent. I am not aware that 
Miss Bronte took any greater notice of the article than to 
place a few sentences out of it in the mouth of a hard and 
vulgar woman in ' Shirley,' where they are so much in 

'The Quarterly Review article was written by Miss Rigby, Lady 
Eastlake (1809-1893). Miss Bronte contemplated a reply, under the 
title of 'A Word to the Quarterly,' as a preface to Shirley, but, acting 
on the advice of Mr. Williams, Shirley appeared — in 1849 — without 
a preface. Writing to Mr. Williams (January 2, 1849), Miss Bronte 
said — 

'Untoward circumstances come to me, I think, less painfully than 
pleasant ones would just now. The lash of the Quarterly, however 
severely applied, cannot sting — as its praise probably would not elate 
me. Currer Bell feels a sorrowful independence of reviews and re- 
viewers ; their approbation might indeed fall like a sorrowful weight 
on his heart, but their censure has no bitterness for him.' 

And on February 4 she writes to him — 

' Anne expresses a wish to see the notices of the poems. Tou had 
better, therefore, send them. We shall expect to find painful allu- 
sions to one now above blame and beyond praise ; but these must be 
borne. For ourselves, we are almost indifferent to censure. I read 
the Quarterly without a pang, except that I thought there were some 
sentences disgraceful to the critic. He seems anxious to let it be un- 



396 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

character that few have recognized them as a quotation. 
The time when the article was read was good for Miss 
Bronte ; she was numbed to all petty annoyances by the 
grand severity of Death. Otherwise she might have felt 

derstood that he is a person well acquainted with the habits of the 
upper classes. Be this as it may, I am afraid he is no gentleman ; and, 
moreover, that no training could make him such. Many a poor man, 
born and bred to labour, would disdain that reviewer's cast of feeling.' 

On August 16, 1849, she writes to Mr. Williams — 

' To value praise or stand in awe of blame we must respect the source 
whence the praise and blame proceed, and I do not respect an incon- 
sistent critic. He says, "If Jane Eyre be the production of a woman, 
she must be a woman unsexed." 

' In that case the book is an unredeemed error, and should be unre- 
servedly condemned. Jane Eyre is a woman's autobiography ; by a 
woman it is professedly written. If it is written as no woman would 
write, condemn it with spirit and decision — say it is bad, but do not 
eulogise and then detract. I am reminded of the Economist. The 
literary critic of that paper praised the book if written by a man, and 
pronounced it "odious " if the work of a woman. 

' To such critics I would say, " To you I am neither man nor woman 
— I come before you as an author only. It is the sole standard by 
which you have a right to judge me — the sole ground on which I ac- 
cept your judgment." 

' There is a weak comment, having no pretence either to justice or 
discrimination, on the works of Ellis or Acton Bell. The critic did 
not know that those writers had passed from time and life. I have 
read no review since either of my sisters died which I could have 
wished them to read — none even which did not !render the thought of 
their departure more tolerable to me. To hear myself praised beyond 
them was cruel, to hear qualities ascribed to them so strangely the 
reverse of their real characteristics was scarcely supportable. It is 
sad even now ; but they are so remote from earth, so safe from its 
turmoils, I can bear it better. 

' But on one point do I now feel vulnerable : I should grieve to see 
my father's peace of mind perturbed on my account ; for which reason 
I keep my author's existence as much as possible out of his way. I 
have always given him a carefully diluted and modified account of 
the success of Jane Eyre — just what would please without startling 
him. The book is not mentioned between us once a month. The 
Quarterly I kept to myself — it would have worried papa. To that 
same Quarterly I must speak in the introduction to my present work 



1849 'QUARTERLY REVIEW ON -JANE EYRE' 397 

more keenly than they deserved the criticisms which, while 
striving to be severe, failed in logic, owing to the misuse of 
prepositions ; and have smarted under conjectures as to 
the authorship of 'Jane Eyre/ which, intended to be acute, 

— just one little word. You once, I remember, said that review was 
written by a lady — Miss Kigby. Are you sure of this ? 

' Give no hint of my intention of discoursing a little with the Quar- 
terly. It would look too important to speak of it beforehand. All 
plans are best conceived and executed without noise.' 

On August 29, 1849, Miss Bronte wrote to Mr. Williams concerning 
Shirley — 

' The book is now finished (thank God) and ready for Mr. Taylor, 
but I have not yet heard from him. I thought I should be able to 
tell whether it was equal to Jane Eyre or not, but I find I cannot — it 
may be better, it may be worse. I shall be curious to hear your opin- 
ion; my own is of no value. I send the preface, or " Word to the 
Quarterly," for your perusal.' 

' Mr. Williams evidently thought that the preface to Shirley in reply 
to the Quarterly should be written on different lines, and the author's 
identity as a woman be avowed. On August 31 Miss Bronte writes 
to him — 

s ' August 31, 1849. 

'My dear Sir, — I cannot change my preface. I can shed no tears 
before the public, nor utter any groan in the public ear. The deep, 
real tragedy of our domestic experience is yet terribly fresh in my mind 
and memory. It is not a time to be talked about to the indifferent ; 
it is not a topic for allusion to in print. 

' No righteous indignation can I lavish on the Quarterly. I can con- 
descend but to touch it with the lightest satire. Believe me, my dear 
Sir, " C. Bronte" must not here appear ; what she feels or has felt is 
not the question: it is "Currer Bell" who was insulted ; he must re- 
ply. Let Mr. Smith fearlessly print the preface I have sent — let him 
depend upon me this once ; even if I prove a broken reed, his fall 
cannot be dangerous : a preface is a short distance, it is not three vol- 
umes. 

'I have always felt certain that it is a deplorable error in an author 
to assume the tragic tone in addressing the public about his own 
wrongs or griefs. What does the public care about him as an indi- 
vidual ? His wrongs are its sport ; his griefs would be a bore. What 
we deeply feel is our own — we must keep it to ourselves. Ellis and 
Acton Bell were, for me, Emily and Anne ; my sisters — to me inti- 
mately near, tenderly dear — to the public they were nothing — worse 



398 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

were merely flippant. But flippancy takes a graver name 
when directed against an author by an anonymous writer. 
We call it then cowardly insolence. 

Every one has a right to form his own conclusion respect- 
ing the merits and demerits of a book. I complain not of 
the judgment which the reviewer passes on ' Jane Eyre.' 
Opinions as to its tendency varied then as they do now. 
While I write I receive a letter from a clergyman in 
America, in which he says, ' We have in our sacred of 
sacreds a special shelf, highly adorned, as a place we de- 
light to honour, of novels which we recognise as having 
had a good influence on character, our character. Fore- 
most is "Jane Eyre."' 

Nor do I deny the existence of a diametrically opposite 
judgment. And so (as I trouble not myself about the re- 
viewer's style of composition) I leave his criticisms regard- 
ing the merits of the work on one side. But when — forget- 

than nothing — being speculated upon, misunderstood, misrepresented. 
If I live the hour may come when the spirit will move me to speak of 
them, but it is not come yet.' 

And on the same date (August 81, 1849) she writes to Mr. George 
Smith— 

' I do not know whether you share Mr. Williams's disapprobation of 
the preface I sent, but, if you do, ask him to show you the note where- 
in I contumaciously persist in urging it upon you. I really cannot 
condescend to be serious with the Quarterly : it is too silly for solem- 
nity. 

' Mr. Taylor has just written ; he says he shall be at Haworth on 
Saturday, September 8, so I shall wait with what patience I may. I 
am perhaps unduly anxious to know that the manuscript is safely de- 
posited at 65 Cornhill, and to bear the opinions of my critics there. 
Those opinions are by no means the less valuable because I cannot al- 
ways reconcile them to my own convictions. "In the multitude of 
counsellors there is safety." 

' It is my intention to pack with the manuscript some of the books 
you have been so kind as to lend me— if the charge of so large a par- 
cel will not be too burdensome for Mr. Taylor. Such works as I have 
not yet perused I shall take the liberty of retaining a little longer. 

' Permit me to thank you for the kind interest you express in my 
welfare ; I am not ill, but only somewhat overwroughtand unnerved.' 



1849 'QUARTERLY REVIEW ON 'JANE EYRE' 399 

ting the chivalrous spirit of the good and noble Southey, who 
said, ' In reviewing anonymous works myself, when I have 
known the authors I have never mentioned them, taking it 
for granted they had sufficient reasons for avoiding the 
publicity' — the 'Quarterly' reviewer goes on into gossip- 
ing conjectures as to who Currer Bell really is, and pretends 
to decide on what the writer may be from the book, I pro- 
test with my whole soul against such want of Christian 
charity. Not even the desire to write a 'smart article,' 
which shall be talked about in London, when the faint 
mask of the anonymous can be dropped at pleasure if the 
cleverness of the review be admired — not even this tempta- 
tion can excuse the stabbing cruelty of the judgment. 
"Who is he that should say of an unknown woman, ' She 
must be one who for some sufficient reason has long for- 
feited the society of her sex'? Is he one who has led a 
wild and struggling and isolated life, seeing few but plain 
and unspoken Northerns, unskilled in the euphuisms 
which assist the polite world to skim over the mention of 
vice ? Has he striven through long weeping years to find 
excuses for the lapse of an only brother, and through daily 
contact with a poor lost profligate been compelled into a 
certain familiarity with the vices that his soul abhors ? 
Has he, through trials, close following in dread march 
through his household, sweeping the hearthstone bare of 
life and love, still striven hard for strength to say, ' It is 
the Lord : let Him do what seemeth to him good ' — and 
sometimes striven in vain, until the kindly Light returned? 
If through all these dark waters the scornful reviewer have 
passed clear, refined, free from stain — with a soul that has 
never in all its agonies cried 'Lama sabachthani' — still 
even then let him pray with the publican rather than judge 
with the Pharisee. 

' January 10, 1849. 
' Anne had a very tolerable day yesterday, and a pretty 
quiet night last night, though she did not sleep much. Mr. 
Wheelhouse ordered the blister to be put on again. She 



400 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

bore it without sickness. I have just dressed it, and she is 
risen and come downstairs. She looks somewhat pale and 
sickly. She has had one dose of the cod-liver oil ; it smells 
and tastes like train oil. I am trying to hope, bnt the day 
is windy, cloudy, and stormy. My spirits fall at intervals 
very low ; then I look where you counsel me to look, be- 
yond earthly tempests and sorrows. I seem to get strength 
if not consolation. It will not do to anticipate. I feel 
that hourly. In the night I awake and long for morning : 
then my heart is wrung. Papa continues much the same; 
he was very faint when he came down to breakfast. 1 . . . 
Dear Ellen, your friendship is some comfort to me. I am 
thankful for it. I see few lights through the darkness of 
the present time ; but amongst them the constancy of a 
kind heart attached to me is one of the most cheering and 



1 The original letter runs — 

' I wrote to Hunsworth (the Taylors), telling them candidly I would 
rather they did not come, as, owing to circumstances, I felt it was not 
in my power to receive them as I could wish.' 

8 On January 18 she writes to Mr. Williams — 

'•My dear Sir, — In sitting down to write to you I feel as if I were 
doing a wrong and a selfish thing. I believe I ought to discontinue my 
correspondence with you till times change, and the tide of calamity 
which of late days has set so strongly in against us takes a turn. But 
the fact is, sometimes I feel it absolutely necessary to unburden my 
miad. To papa I must only speak cheeringly, to Anne only encour- 
agingly ; to you I may give some hint of the dreary truth. 

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

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

' Had leave been given to try change of air and scene, I should hardly 



1849 ILLNESS OF ANNE BRONTE 401 

' January 15, 1849. 
' I can scarcely say that Anne is worse, nor can I say she 
is better. She varies often in the course of a day, yet each 
day is passed pretty much the same. The morning is usu- 

have known how to act. I could not possibly leave papa ; and when 
I mentioned his accompanying us, the bare thought distressed him too 
much to be dwelt upon. Papa is now upwards of seventy years of 
age ; his habits for nearly thirty years have been those of absolute re- 
tirement ; any change in them is most repugnant to him, and probably 
could not, at this time, especially when the hand of God is so heavy 
upon his old age, be ventured upon without danger. 

'When we lost Emily 1 thought we had drained the very dregs of 
our cup of trial, but now when I hear Anne cough as Emily coughed 
I tremble lest there should be exquisite bitterness yet to taste. How- 
ever, I must not look forwards, nor must I look backwards. Too of- 
ten I feel like one crossing an abyss on a narrow plank — a glance 
round might quite unnerve. 

' So circumstanced, my dear Sir, what claim have I on your friend- 
ship, what right to the comfort of your letters ? My literary char- 
acter is effaced for the time, and it is by that only you know me. 
Care of papa and Anne is necessarily my chief present object in life, 
to the exclusion of all that could give me interest with my publishers 
or their connections. Should Anne get better, I think I could rally 
and become Currer Bell once more, but if otherwise I look no further : 
sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. 

' Anne is very patient in her illness, as patient as Emily was un- 
flinching. I recall one sister and look at the other with a sort of rev- 
erence as well as affection : under the test of suffering neither has 
faltered. 

' All the days of this winter have gone by darkly and heavily like a 
funeral train. Since September sickness has not quitted the house. 
It is strange it did not use to be so, but I suspect now all this has 
been coming on for years. Unused, any of us, to the possession of 
robust health, we have not noticed the gradual approaches of de- 
cay ; we did not know its symptoms : the little cough, the small appe- 
tite, the tendency to take cold at every variation of atmosphere 
have been regarded as things of course. I see them in another light 
now. 

'If you answer this, write to me as you would to a person in an 
average state of tranquillity and happiness. I want to keep myself as 
firm and calm as I can. While papa and Anne want me, I hope, I 
pray, never to fail them. Were I to see you I should endeavour to 



402 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ally the best time ; the afternoon and the evening the most 
feverish. Her cough is the most troublesome at night, but 
it is rarely violent. The pain in her arm still disturbs her. 
She took the cod-liver oil and carbonate of iron regularly ; 
she finds them both nauseous, but especially the oil. Her 
appetite is small indeed. Do not fear that I shall relax in 
my care of her. She is too precious not to be cherished 
with all the fostering strength I have. Papa, I am thank- 
ful to say, has been a good deal better this last day or two. 

' As to your queries about myself, I can only say that if 
I continue as I am I shall do very well. I have not yet got 
rid of the pains in my chest and back. They oddly return 
with every change ' of weather ; and are still sometimes 
accompanied with a little soreness and hoarseness, but I 
combat them steadily with pitch plasters and bran tea. I 
should think it silly and wrong indeed not to be regardful 
of my own health at present ; it would not do to be ill now. 

' I avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep 
looking upward. This is not the time to regret, dread, or 
weep. What I have and ought to do is very distinctly laid 
out for me ; what I want, and pray for, is strength to per- 
form it. The days pass in a slow, dark march : the nights 
are the test ; the sudden wakings from restless sleep, the 
revived knowledge that one lies in her grave, and another, 
not at my side, but in a separate and sick bed. However, 
God is over all.' 

'January 22,1849. 

' Anne really did seem to be a little better during some 
mild days last week, but to-day she looks very pale and 
languid again. She perseveres with the cod-liver oil, but 
stift finds it very nauseous. 

' She is truly obliged to you for the soles for her shoes, 

converse on ordinary topics, and I should wish to write on the same 
— besides, it will be less harassing to yourself to address me as usual. 
' May God long preserve to you the domestic treasures you value ; 
and when bereavement at last comes may He give you strength to 
bear it. — Yours sincerely, C. Bronte.' 



1849 ILLNESS OF ANNE BRONTE 403 

and finds them extremely comfortable. I am to commission 
you to get her just such a respirator as Mrs. (Heald) had. 
She would not object to give a higher price, if you thought 
it better. If it is not too much trouble you may likewise 
get me a pair of soles ; you can send them and the respirator 
when you send the box. You must put down the price of 
all, and we will pay you in a post-office order. "Wither- 
ing Heights " was given to you. (Mary Taylor's address I 
have always written " % Mr. Waring Taylor, Wellington, 
New Zealand.") I have sent her neither letter nor parcel. 
I had nothing but dreary news to write, so preferred that 
others should tell her. I have not written to (Ellen Tay- 
lor) either. I cannot write, except when I am quite 
obliged/ 

'February 11, 1849. 
' We received the box and its contents quite safely to-day. 
The penwipers are very pretty, and we are very much 
obliged to you for them. I hope the respirator will be use- 
ful to Anne, in case she should ever be well enough to go 
out again. She continues very much in the same state — I 
trust not greatly worse, though she is becoming very thin. 
I fear it would be only self-delusion to fancy her better. 
What effect the advancing season may have on her I know 
not ; perhaps the return of really warm weather may give 
nature a happy stimulus. I tremble at the thought of any 
change to cold wind or frost. Would that March were well 
over ! Her mind seems generally serene, and her suffer- 
ings hitherto are nothing like Emily's. The thought of 
what may be to come grows more familiar to my mind ; but 
it is a sad, dreary guest.' 

'March 16, 1849. 
'We have found the past week a somewhat trying one; 
it has not been cold, but still there have been changes of 
temperature whose effect Anne has felt unfavourably. She 
is not, I trust, seriously worse, but her cough is at times 
very hard and painful, .and her strength rather diminished 
than improved. I wish the month of March was well over. 



404 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

You are right in conjecturing that I am somewhat de- 
pressed ; at times I certainly am. It was almost easier to 
bear up when the trial was at its crisis than now. The feel- 
ing of Emily's loss does not diminish as time wears on ; it 
often makes itself most acutely recognised. It brings too an 
inexpressible sorrow with it ; and then the future is dark. 
Yet I am well aware it will not do either to complain 
or sink, and I strive to do neither. Strength, I hope 
and trust, will yet be given in proportion to the burden; 
but the pain of my position is not one likely to lessen with 
habit. Its solitude and isolation are oppressive circum- 
stances, yet I do not wish for any friends to stay with me ; 
I could not do with any one — not even you — to share the 
sadness of the house ; it would rack me intolerably. Mean- 
time judgment is still blent with mercy. Anne's sufferings 
still continue mild. It is my nature, when left alone, to 
struggle on with a certain perseverance, and I believe God 
will help me.' 

Anne had been delicate all her life : a fact which perhaps 
made her father and sister less aware than they would 
otherwise have been of the true nature of those fatal first 
symptoms. Yet they seem to have lost but little time be- 
fore they sent for the first advice that could be procured. 
She was examined with the stethoscope, and the dreadful 
fact was announced that her lungs were affected, and that 
tubercular consumption had already made considerable 
progress. A system of treatment was prescribed, which 
was afterwards ratified by the opinion of Dr. Forbes. 

For a short time they hoped that the disease was arrested. 
Charlotte — herself ill with a complaint that severely tried 
her spirits — was the ever-watchful nurse of this youngest, 
last sister. One comfort was that Anne was the patientest, 
gentlest invalid that could be. Still, there were hours, 
days, weeks of inexpressible anguish to be borne, under the 
pressure of which Charlotte could only pray ; and pray she 
did, right earnestly. Thus she writes on March 24' — 

1 To her old schoolmistress Miss Wooler. 



1849 A TIME OF DARKNESS 405 

' Anne's decline is gradual and fluctuating ; but its nat- 
ure is not doubtful. ... In spirit she is resigned : at heart 
she is, I believe, a true Christian. . . . May God support 
her and all of us through the trial of lingering sickness, 
and aid her in the last hour, when the struggle which sep- 
arates soul from body must be gone through ! We saw 
Emily torn from the midst of us when our hearts clung to 
her with intense attachment. . . . She was scarce buried 
when Anne's health failed. . . .These things would be too 
much, if reason, unsupported by religion, were condemned 
to bear them alone. I have cause to be most thankful for 
the strength that has hitherto been vouchsafed both to my 
father and to myself. God, I think, is specially merciful 
to old age ; and, for my own part, trials, which in perspec- 
tive would have seemed to me quite intolerable, when they 
actually came I endured without prostration. Yet I must 
confess that, in the time which has elapsed since Emily's 
death, there have been moments of solitary, deep, inert af- 
fliction, far harder to bear than those which immediately 
followed our loss. The crisis of bereavement has an acute 
pang which goads to exertion ; the desolate after-feeling 
sometimes paralyses. I have learnt that we are not to find 
solace in our own strength ; we must seek it in God's om- 
nipotence. Fortitude is good ; but fortitude itself must 
he shaken under us, to teach us how weak we are !' 

All through this illness of Anne's Charlotte had the 
comfort of being able to talk to her about her state ; a 
comfort rendered inexpressibly great by the contrast which 
it presented to the recollection of Emily's rejection of all 
sympathy. If a proposal for Anne's benefit was made, 
Charlotte could speak to her about it, and the nursing and 
dying sister could consult with each other as to its desira- 
bility. I have seen but one of Anne's letters ; it is the 
only time we seem to be brought into direct personal con- 
tact with this gentle, patient girl. In order to give the req- 
uisite preliminary explanation, I must state that the fam- 



406 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ily of friends, to which Ellen belonged, proposed that 
Anne should come to them, in order to try what change of 
air and diet and the company of kindly people could do 
towards restoring her to health. In answer to this propo- 
sal Charlotte writes — 

' March 24. 
' I read your kind note to Anne, and she wishes me to 
thank you sincerely for your friendly proposal. She feels, 
of course, that it would not do to take advantage of it, by 
quartering an invalid upon the inhabitants of B(rookroyd); 
but she intimates there is another way in which you might 
serve her, perhaps with some benefit to yourself as well as 
to her. Should it in a month or two hence be deemed ad- 
visable that she should go either to the seaside or to some ' 
inland watering-place — and should papa be disinclined to 
move, and I consequently obliged to remain at home — she 
asks, could you be her companion ? Of course I need not 
add that in the event of such an arrangement being made, 
you would be put to no expense. This, dear Ellen, is 
Anne's proposal ; I make it to comply with her wish ; but, 
for my own part, I must add that I see serious objections 
to your accepting it — objections I cannot name to her. 
She continues to vary ; is sometimes worse, and sometimes 
better, as the weather changes ; but, on the whole, I fear 
she loses strength. Papa says her state is most precarions ; 
she may be spared for some time, or a sudden alteration 
might remove her before we are aware. Were such an al- 
teration to take place while she was far from home, and 
alone with you, it would be terrible. The idea of it dis- 
tresses me inexpressibly, and I tremble whenever she al- 
ludes to the project of a journey. In short, I wish we 
could gain time, and see how she gets on. If she leaves 
home, it certainly should not be in the capricious month 
of May, which is proverbially trying to the weak. June 
would be a safer month. If we could reach June I should 
have good hopes of her getting through the summer. Write 
such an answer to this note as I can show Anne. You can 



1849 LETTER FROM ANNE BRONTE 407 

write any additional remarks to me on a separate piece of 
paper. Do not consider yourself as confined to discussing 
only our sad affairs. I am interested in all that interests 
you/ 

FROM ANNE BRONTE. 

' April 5, 1849. 
' My dear Miss (Nussey), — I thank you greatly for your 
kind letter, and your ready compliance with my proposal, 
as far as the will can go at least. I see, however, that your 
friends are unwilling that you should undertake the re- 
sponsibility of accompanying me under present circum- 
stances. But I do not think there would be any great re- 
sponsibility in the matter. I know, and everybody knows, 
that you would be as kind and helpful as any one could 
possibly be, and I hope I should not be very troublesome. 
It would be as a companion, not as a nurse, that I should 
wish for your company ; otherwise I should not venture to 
ask it. As for your kind and often-repeated invitation to 
(Birstall,) pray give my sincere thanks to your mother and 
sisters, but tell them I could not think of inflicting my 
presence upon them as I now am. It is very kind of them 
to make so light of the trouble, but still there must be 
more or less, and certainly no pleasure, from the society of 
a silent invalid stranger. I hope, however, that Charlotte 
will by some means make it possible to accompany me after 
all. She is certainly very delicate, and greatly needs a 
change of air and scene to renovate her constitution. And 
then your going with me before the end of May is appar- 
ently out of the question, unless you are disappointed in 
your visitors ; but I should be reluctant to wait till then, if 
the weather would at all permit an earlier departure. You 
say May is a trying month, and so say others. The earlier 
part is often cold enough, I acknowledge, but, according to 
my experience, we are almost certain of some fine warm 
days in the latter half, when the laburnums and lilacs are 
in bloom ; whereas June is often cold, and July generally 
wet. But I have a more serious reason than this for my 



408 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

impatience of delay. The doctors say that change of air 
or removal to a better climate would hardly ever fail of 
success in consumptive cases, if the remedy were taken in 
time; but the reason why there are so many disappoint- 
ments is, that it is generally deferred till it is too late. 
Now I would not commit this error ; and, to say the truth, 
though I suffer much less from pain and fever than I did 
when you were with us, I am decidedly weaker, and very 
much thinner. My cough still troubles me a good deal, 
especially in the night, and, what seems worse than all, I 
am subject to great shortness of breath on going upstairs 
or any slight exertion. Under these circumstances I tlrink 
there is no time to be lost. I have no horror of death : if 
I thought it inevitable, I think I could quietly resign my- 
self to the prospect, in the hope that you, dear Miss (Nus- 
sey), would give as much of your company as you possibly 
could to Charlotte, and be a sister to her in my stead. But 
I wish it would please God to spare me, not only for papa's 
and Charlotte's sakes, but because I long to do some good 
in the world before I leave it. I have many schemes in my 
head for future practice — humble and limited indeed — but 
still I should not like them all to come to nothing, and my- 
self to have lived to so little purpose. But God's will be 
done. Remember me respectfully to your mother and sis- 
ters, and believe me, dear Miss (Nussey), yours most affec- 
tionately. Anns Bronte.' 

It must have been about this time that Anne composed 
her last verses, before ' the desk was closed, and the pen 
laid aside for ever/ 



I hoped that with the brave and strong 
My portioned task might lie ; 

To toil amid the busy throng, 
With purpose pure and high. 



1849 LAST VERSES OF ANNE BRONTE 409 



But God has fixed another part, 
And He has fixed it well : 

I said so with my bleeding heart 
When first the anguish fell. 



Thou, God, hast taken our delight, 

Our treasured hope away ; 
Thou bidst us now weep through the night, 

And sorrow through the day. 



These weary hours will not be lost, 

These days of misery — 
These nights of darkness, anguish-tost — 

Can I but turn to Thee, 



With secret labour to sustain 
In humble patience every blow 

To gather fortitude from pain, 
And hope and holiness from woe. 



Thus let me serve Thee from my heart, 
Whate'er may be my written fate ; 

Whether thus early to depart, 
Or yet a while to wait. 

VII. 

If Thou shouldst bring me back to life, 

More humbled I should be ; 
More wise — more strengthened for the strife, 

More apt to lean on Thee. 



Should death be standing at the gate, 
Thus should I keep my vow ; 

But, Lord, whatever be my fate, 
Oh ! let me serve Thee now ! 



410 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

I take Charlotte's own words as the best record of her 
thoughts and feelings during all this terrible time. 

•April 12. 

' I read Anne's letter to you ; it was touching enough, as 
you say. If there were no hope beyond this world — no 
eternity — no life to come — Emily's fate, and that which 
threatens Anne, would be heart-breaking. I cannot forget 
Emily's death day ; it becomes a more fixed, a darker, a 
more frequently recurring idea in my mind than ever. It 
was very terrible. She was torn, conscious, panting, reluc- 
tant, though resolute, out of a happy life. But it will not 
do to dwell on these things. 

'I am glad your friends object to your going with Anne: 
it would never do. To speak truth, even if your mother 
and sisters had consented I never could. It is not that 
there is any laborious attention to pay her ; she requires, 
and will accept, but little nursing ; but there would be 
hazard, and anxiety of mind, beyond what you ought to be 
subject to. If, a month or six weeks hence, she continues 
to wish for a change as much as she does now, I shall (D.V.) 
go with her myself. It will certainly be my paramount 
duty ; other cares must be made subservient to that. I 
have consulted Mr. T(eale) : he does not object, and rec- 
ommends Scarborough, which was Anne's own choice. I 
trust affairs may be so ordered that you may be able to be 
with us at least part of the time. . . . Whether in lodg- 
ings or not, I should wish to be boarded. Providing one- 
self is, I think, an insupportable nuisance. I don't like 
keeping provisions in a cupboard, locking up, being pil- 
laged, and all that. It is a petty wearing annoyance.' 

The progress of Anne's illness was slower than that of 
Emily's had been ; and she was too unselfish to refuse try- 
ing means, from which, if she herself had little hope of 
benefit, her friends might hereafter derive a mournful sat- 
isfaction. 



1849 ILLNESS OF ANNE BRONTE 411 

' I began to flatter myself she was getting strength. But 
the change to frost has told upon her : she suffers more of 
late. Still her illness has none of the fearful rapid symp- 
toms which appalled us in Emily's case. Could she only 
get over the spring, I hope summer may do much for her, 
and then early removal to a warmer locality for the winter 
might, at least, prolong her life. Could we only reckon 
upon another year I should be thankful ; but can we do 
this for the healthy ? A few days ago I wrote to have Dr. 
Forbes's opinion. He is editor of the " Medical Review " 
and one of the first authorities in England on consumptive 
cases. 1 He warned us against entertaining sanguine hopes 
of recovery. The cod-liver oil he considers a peculiarly 
efficacious medicine. He, too, disapproved of change of 
residence for the present. There is some feeble consola- 
tion in thinking we are doing the very best that can be 
done. The agony of forced total neglect is not now felt, 
as during Emily's illness. Never may we be doomed to 
feel such agony again ! It was terrible. I have felt much 
less of the disagreeable pains in my chest lately, and much 
less also of the soreness and hoarseness. I tried an appli- 
cation of hot vinegar, which seemed to do good.' 

'May 1. 
' I was glad to hear that when we go to Scarborough you 
will be at liberty to go with us, but the journey and its 
consequences still continue a source of great anxiety to 
me ; I must try to put it off two or three weeks longer if I 
can : perhaps by that time the milder season may have 

1 Dr. Forbes (1787-1861) was knighted and became Sir John Forbes 
in 1853. He was born at Cuttlebrae, Banffshire, and was educated at 
the Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College. He settled as 
a medical practitioner at Penzance about the time that Maria Bran- 
well left that town to become Mrs. Bronte. In 1849 Forbes was a 
fashionable London doctor, physician to the Queen's Household, and 
a prominent investigator of mesmerism. He had edited the British 
and Foreign Medical Beview from its start in 1836 until its discontinu- 
ance in 1847. 



412 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

given Anne more strength — perhaps it will be otherwise ; 
I cannot tell. The change to fine weather has not proved 
beneficial to her so far. She has sometimes been so weak, 
and suffered so much pain in the side, during the last few 
days, that I have not known what to think. . . . She may 
rally again and be much better, but there must be some 
improvement before I can feel justified in taking her away 
from home. Yet to delay is painful ; for, as is always the 
case, I believe, under her circumstances, she seems herself 
not half conscious of the necessity for such delay. She 
wonders, I believe, why I don't talk more about the jour- 
ney : it grieves me to think she may even be hurt by my 
seeming tardiness. She is very much emaciated — far more 
than when you were with us ; her arms are no thicker than 
a little child's. The least exertion brings a shortness of 
breath. She goes out a little every day, but we creep 
rather than walk. . . . Papa continues pretty well. I 
hope I shall be enabled to bear up. So far I have reason 
for thankfulness to God/ 

May had come, and brought the milder weather longed 
for ; but Anne was worse for the very change. A little 
later on it became colder, and she rallied, and poor Char- 
lotte began to hope that, if May were once over, she might 
last for a long time. Miss Bronte wrote to engage the 
lodgings at Scarborough — a place which Anne had former- 
ly visited with the family to whom she was governess. 1 

1 ' "We have engaged lodgings at Scarbro',' she writes to Miss Ellen 
Nussey. ' We stipulated for a good-sized sitting-room and an airy 
double-bedded lodging room, with a sea view, and, if not deceived, 
have obtained these desiderata at No. 2 Cliff. Anne says it is one of 
the best situations in the place. It would not have done to have taken 
lodgings either in the town or on the bleak steep coast, where Miss 
Wooler's house is situated. If Anne is to get any good she must have 
every advantage. Miss Outh waite [her godmother] left her in her will 
a legacy of 200Z., and she cannot employ her money better than in obtain- 
ing what may prolong existence, if it does not restore health. We hope 
to leave home on the 23rd, and I think it will be advisable to rest at 
York, and stay all night there. I hope this arrangement will suit 



1849 A JOURNEY TO SCARBOROUGH 413 

They took a good-sized sitting-room, and an airy double- 
bedded room (both commanding a sea view), in one of the 
best situations of the town. Money was as nothing in com- 
parison with life ; besides, Anne had a small legacy left to 
her by her godmother, and they felt that she could not 
better employ this than in obtaining what might prolong 
life, if not restore health. On May 16 Charlotte writes — 

'It is with a heavy heart I prepare: and earnestly do I 
wish the fatigue of the journey were well over. It may be 
borne better than I expect ; for temporary stimulus often 
does much ; but when I see the daily increasing weakness 
I know not what to think. I fear you will be shocked when 
you see Anne ; but be on your guard, dear Ellen, not to 
express your feelings ; indeed, I can trust both your self- 
possession and kindness. I wish my judgment sanctioned 
the step of going to Scarborough more fully than it does. 
You ask how I have arranged about leaving papa. I could 
make no special arrangement. He wishes me to go with 
Anne, and would not hear of Mr. N 's ' coming, or any- 
thing of that kind ; so I do what I believe is for the best, 
and leave the result to Providence.' 

They planned to rest and spend a night at York ; and, at 

Anne's desire, arranged to make some purchases there. 

Charlotte ends the letter to her friend, in which she tells 

her all this, with — 

' May 23. 

'I wish it seemed less like a dreary mockery in us to 

you. We reckon on your society, dear Ellen, as a real privilege and 
pleasure. We shall take little luggage, and shall have to buy bonnets 
and dresses and several other things either at York or Scarbro' ; which 
place do you think would be best ? Oh, if it would please God to 
strengthen and revive Anne, how happy we might be together I His 
will, however, must be done, and if she is not to recover it remains 
to pray for strength and patience.' 

1 Mr. Nicholls, the curate at Haworth, who afterwards became 
Charlotte Bronte's husband. 



414 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

talk of buying bonnets, &c. Anne was very ill yesterday. 
She had difficulty of breathing all day, even when sitting 
perfectly still. To-day she seems better again. I long for 
the moment to come when the experiment of the sea air 
will be tried. Will it do her good ? I cannot tell ; I can 
only wish. Oh! if it would please God to strengthen and 
revive Anne, how happy we might be together : His will, 
however, be done!" 

The two sisters left Haworth on Thursday, May 24. 
They were to have done so the day before, and had made 
an appointment with their friend to meet them at the 
Leeds station, in order that they might all proceed to- 
gether. But on Wednesday morning Anne was so ill that 
it was impossible for the sisters to set out ; yet they had no 
means of letting their friend know of this, and she conse- 
quently arrived at the Leeds station at the time specified. 
There she sat waiting for several hours. It struck her as 
sh - ange at the time — and it almost seems ominous to her 
fancy now — that twice over, from two separate arrivals on 
the line by which she was expecting her friends, coffins 
were carried forth, and placed in hearses which were wait- 
ing for their dead, as she was waiting for one in four days 
to become so. 

The next day she could bear suspense no longer, and 
set out for Haworth, reaching there just in time to carry 
the feeble, fainting invalid into the chaise which was wait- 
ing to take them down to Keighley. The servant who 
stood at the Parsonage gates saw Death written on her face, 
and spoke of it. Charlotte saw it and did not speak of it 
— it would have been giving the dread too distinct a form; 
and if this last darling yearned for the change to Scar- 
borough, go she should, however Charlotte's heart might 
be wrung by impending fear. The lady who accompanied 
them, Charlotte's beloved friend of more than twenty years, 
has kindly written out for me the following account of the 
journey — and of the end: — 



1849 LAST DAYS OF ANNE BRONTE 415 

' She left her home May 24, 1849— died May 28. Her life 
was calm, qniet, spiritual : such was her end. Through 
the trials and fatigues of the journey she evinced the pious 
courage and fortitude of a martyr. Dependence and help- 
lessness were ever with her a far sorer trial than hard, rack- 
ing pain. 

' The first stage of our journey was to York ; and here 
the dear invalid was so revived, so cheerful, and so happy, 
we drew consolation, and trusted that at least temporary 
improvement was to be derived from the change which she 
had so longed for, and her friends had so dreaded for her. 

' By her request we went to the Minster, and to her it 
was an overpowering pleasure ; not for its own imposing 
and impressive grandeur only, but because it brought to 
her susceptible nature a vital and overwhelming sense of 
omnipotence. She said, while gazing at the structure, " If 
finite power can do this, what is the . . . ?" and here emo- 
tion stayed her speech, and she was hastened to a less ex- 
citing scene. 

' Her weakness of body was great, but her gratitude for 
every mercy was greater. After such an exertion as walk- 
ing to her bedroom she would clasp her hands and raise 
her eyes in silent thanks, and she did this not to the ex- 
clusion of wonted prayer, for that too was performed on 
bended knee, ere she accepted the rest of her couch. 

' On the 25th we arrived at Scarborough ; our dear in- 
valid having, during the journey, directed our attention 
to every prospect worthy of notice. 

' On the 26th she drove on the sands for an hour ; and 
lest the poor donkey should be urged by its driver to a 
greater speed than her tender heart thought right, she 
took the reins and drove herself. When joined by her 
friend she was charging the boy-master of the donkey to 
treat the poor animal well. She was ever fond of dumb 
things, and would give up her own comfort for them. 

'On Sunday, the 27th, she wished to go to church, and 
her eye brightened with the thought of once more worship- 



416 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ping her God amongst her fellow creatures. 1 We thought 
it prudent to dissuade her from the attempt, though it 
was evident her heart was longing to join in the puhlic 
act of devotion and praise. 

' She walked a little in the afternoon, and meeting with 
a sheltered and comfortable seat near the beach, she begged 
we would leave her, and enjoy the various scenes near at 

1 On Sunday, the 27th, the day before her sister died, Charlotte 
wrote to Mr. Williams — 

' No. 2 Cliff, Scarboro' : May 27, 1849. 

'My dear Sir, — The date above will inform you why I have not an- 
swered your letter more promptly. I have been busy with prepara- 
tions for departure and with the journey. I am thankful to say we 
reached our destination safely, having rested one night at York. We 
found assistance wherever we needed it ; there was always an arm 
ready to do for my sister what I was not quite strong enough to do- 
lift her in and out of the carriages, carry her across the line, &c. 

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

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

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

' If ever I see you again I should have pleasure in talking over with 
you the topics you allude to in your last — or rather in hearing you 
talk them over. We see these things through a glass darkly — or at 
least I see them thus. So far from objecting to speculation on, or dis- 
cussion of, the subject, I should wish to hear what others have to 
say. By others I mean only the serious and reflective ; levity in such 
matters shocks as much as hypocrisy. 

' Write to me. In this strange place your letters will come like the 
visits of a friend. Fearing to lose the post, I will add no more at pres- 
ent. — Believe me yours sincerely, ' C. Bronte.' 



1849 LAST DAYS OP ANNE BRONTE 417 

hand, which were new to us but familiar to her. She 
loved the place, and wished us to share her preference. 

' The evening closed in with the most glorious sunset ever 
witnessed. The castle on the cliff stood in proud glory, 
gilded by the rays of the declining sun. The distant ships 
glittered like burnished gold ; the little boats near the 
beach heaved on the ebbing tide, inviting occupants. The 
view was grand beyond description. Anne was drawn in her 
easy chair to the window, to enjoy the scene with us. Her 
face became illumined almost as much as the glorious 
scene she gazed upon. Little was said, for it was plain that 
her thoughts were driven by the imposing view before her 
to penetrate forwards to the regions of unfading glory. She 
again thought of public worship, and wished us to leave 
her, and join those who were assembled at the house of 
God. We declined, gently urging the duty and pleasure 
of staying with her, who was now so dear and so feeble. 
On returning to her place near the fire she conversed with 
her sister upon the propriety of returning to their home. 
She did not wish it for her own sake, she said; she was 
fearing others might suffer more if her decease occurred 
where she was. She probably thought the task of accom- 
panying her lifeless remains on a long journey was more 
than her sister could bear — more than the bereaved father 
could bear, were she borne home another and a third ten- 
ant of the family vault in the short space of nine months. 

' The night was passed without any apparent accession 
of illness. She rose at seven o'clock, and performed most 
of her toilet herself, by her expressed wish. Her sister 
always yielded such points, believing it was the truest 
kindness not to press inability when it was not acknowl- 
edged. Nothing occurred to excite alarm till about 11 
a.m. She then spoke of feeling a change. " She believed 
she had not long to live. Could she reach home alive, if 
we prepared immediately for departure ?" A physician 
was sent for. Her address to him was made with perfect 
composure. She begged him to say " how long he thought 
27 



418 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

she might live — not to fear speaking the truth, for she was 
not afraid to die." The doctor reluctantly admitted that 
the angel of death was already arrived, and that life was 
ebbing fast. She thanked him for his truthfulness, and 
he departed to come again very soon. She still occupied 
her easy chair, looking so serene, so radiant : there was no 
opening for grief as yet, though all knew the separation was 
at hand. She clasped her hands, and reverently invoked 
a blessing from on high ; first upon her sister, then upon 
her friend, to whom she said, "Be a sister in my stead. 
Give Charlotte as much of your company as you can." 
She then thanked each for her kindness and attention. 

'Ere long the restlessness of approaching death appeared, 
and she was borne to the sofa. On being asked if she were 
easier she looked gratef ally at her questioner, and said, "It 
is not you who can give me ease, but soon all will be well 
through the merits of our Redeemer." Shortly after this, 
seeing that her sister could hardly restrain her grief, she 
said, "Take courage, Charlotte; take courage." Her faith 
never failed, and her eye never dimmed till about two 
o'clock, when she calmly, and without a sigh, passed from 
the temporal to the eternal. So still and so hallowed were 
her last hours and moments. There was no thought of 
assistance or of dread. The doctor came and went two or 
three times. . The hostess knew that death was near, yet so 
little was the house disturbed by the presence of the dying, 
and the sorrow of those so nearly bereaved, that dinner was 
announced as ready, through the half-opened door, as the 
living sister was closing the eyes of the dead one. She 
could now no more stay the welled-up grief of her sister 
with her emphatic and dying "Take courage," and it burst 
forth in brief but agonising strength. Charlotte's affec- 
tion, however, had another channel, and there it turned in 
thought, in care, and in tenderness. There was bereave- 
ment, but there was not solitude ; sympathy was at hand, 
and it was accepted. With calmness came the considera- 
tion of the removal of the dear remains to their home rest- 



1849 DEATH OF ANNE BRONTE 419 

ing-place. This melancholy task, however, was never per- 
formed ; for the afflicted sister decided to lay the flower in 
the place where it had fallen. She believed that to do so 
would accord with the wishes of the departed. She had no 
preference for place. She thought not of the grave, for 
that is but the body's gaol, but of all that is beyond it. 
' Her remains rest 

'Where the south sun warms the now dear sod, 
Where the ocean billows lave and strike the steep and turf-covered 
rock.' 

Anne died on the Monday. On the Tuesday Charlotte 
wrote to her father ; but knowing that his presence was 
required for some annual church solemnity at Haworth, she 
informed him that she had made all necessary arrange- 
ments for the interment, and that the funeral would 
take place so soon that he could hardly arrive in time for 
it. 1 The surgeon who had visited Anne on the day of 
her death offered his attendance, but it was respectfully 
declined. 

' A lady from the same neighbourhood as Ellen was stay- 
ing in Scarborough at this time ; she, too, kindly offered 
sympathy and assistance ; and when that solitary pair of 
mourners (the sister and the friend) arrived at the church 
this lady was there, in unobtrusive presence, not the less 
kind because unobtrusive.' 

Mr. Bronte wrote to urge Charlotte's longer stay at the 
seaside. Her health and spirits were sorely shaken ; and 
much as he naturally longed to see his only remaining 
child, he felt it right to persuade her to take, with her 
friend, a few more weeks' change of scene, though even 
that could not bring change of thought. 

1 The inscription on the tomb at Scarborough churchyard runs as 
follows : — 

' Here lie tlie Remains of Anne Bronte, Daughter of the Bev. P. 
Bronte, Incumbent of Haworth, Yorkshire. She Died, aged 38, May 28, 
1849.' 



420 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

The younger servant, Martha Brown, who has been oc- 
casionally alluded to in these memoirs, who was with Miss 
Bronte in her last days, and who still remains the faithful 
servant at Haworth Parsonage, has recently sent me a few 
letters which she received from her dearly loved mistress : 
one of them I will insert here, as it refers to this time: 

'June 5, 1849. 

'Dear Martha, — I was very much pleased with your note, 
and glad to learn that all at home are getting on pretty 
well. It will still be a week or ten days before I return, 
and you must not tire yourself too much with the clean- 
ing. 

' My sister Anne's death could not be otherwise than a 
great trouble to me, though I have known for many weeks 
that she could not get better. She died very calmly, and 
gently : she was quite sensible to the last. About three 
minutes before she died she said she was very happy, and 
believed she was passing out of earth into heaven. It was 
not her custom to talk much about religion ; but she was 
very good, and I am certain she is now in a far better place 
than any this world contains. 

' I mean to send one of the boxes home this week, as I 
have more luggage than is convenient to carry about. Give 
my best love to Tabby. — I am, dear Martha, your sincere 
friend, C. Bronte.' 

' July 1849. ' 
' I intended to have written a line to you to-day, if I had 
not received yours. We did indeed part suddenly ; it made 
my heart ache that we were severed without the time to 
exchange a word ; and yet perhaps it was better. I got here 
a little before eight o'clock. All was clean and bright, 
waiting for me. Papa and the servants were well ; and all 
received me with an affection which should have consoled. 
The dogs seemed in strange ecstasy. I am certain they re- 

1 To Ellen Nussey. 



1849 RETURN TO THE HOUSE OF MOURNING 421 

garded me as the harbinger of others. The dumb creatures 
thought that, as I was returned, those who had been so 
long absent were not far behind. 

' I left papa soon, and went into the dining-room : I shut 
the door — I tried to be glad that I was come home. I have 
always been glad before — except once — even then I was 
cheered. But this time joy was not to be the sensation. 
I felt that the house was all silent — the rooms were all 
empty. I remembered where the three were laid — in what 
narrow, dark dwellings — never more to reappear on earth. 
So the sense of desolation and bitterness took possession of 
me. The agony that was to be undergone, and was not to 
be avoided, came on. I underwent it, and passed a dreary 
evening and night, and a mournful morrow ; to-day I am 
better. 

' I do not know how life will pass, but I certainly do feel 
confidence in Him who has upheld me hitherto. Solitude 
may be, cheered and made endurable beyond what I can 
believe. The great trial is when evening closes and night 
approaches. At that hour we used to assemble in the 
dining-room — we used to talk. Now I sit by myself — 
necessarily I am silent. I cannot help thinking of their 
last days, remembering their sufferings, and what they 
said and did, and how they looked in mortal affliction. 
Perhaps all this will become less poignant in time. 

'Let me thank you once more, dear Ellen, for your 
kindness to me, which I do not mean to forget. How did 
you think all looking at your home ? Papa thought me a 
little stronger ; he said my eyes were not so sunken.' 

' July 14, 1849. ' 

' I do not much like giving an account of myself. I like 

better to go out of myself, and talk of something more 

cheerful. My cold, wherever I got it, whether at Easton 

or elsewhere, is not vanished yet. It began in my head, 

1 To Ellen Nussey. 



422 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

then I had a sore throat, and then a sore chest, with a 
cough, but only a trifling cough, which I still have at 
times. The pain between my shoulders likewise amazed 
me much. Say nothing about it, for I confess I am too 
much disposed to be nervous. This nervousness is a hor- 
rid phantom. I dare communicate no ailment to papa; 
his anxiety harasses me inexpressibly. 

' My life is what I expected it to be. Sometimes when I 
wake in the morning, and know that Solitude, Remem- 
brance, and Longing are to be almost my sole companions 
all day through — that at night I shall go to bed with them, 
that they will long keep me sleepless — that next morning 
I shall wake to them again — sometimes, Nell, I have a 
heavy heart of it. But crushed I am not, yet ; nor robbed 
of elasticity, nor of hope, nor quite of endeavour. I have 
some strength to fight the battle of life. I am aware, and 
can acknowledge, I have many comforts, many mercies. 
Still I can get on. But I do hope and pray that never may 
you, or any one I love, be placed as I am. To sit in a 
lonely room — the clock ticking loud through a still house 
— and have open before the mind's eye the record of the 
last year, with its shocks, sufferings, losses, is a trial. 

' I write to you freely, because I believe you will hear me 
with moderation — that you will not take alarm or think me 
in any way worse off than I am.' 



CHAPTER XVIII 

The tale of ' Shirley ' had been begun soon after the publi- 
cation of ' Jane Byre.' If the reader will refer to the ac- 
count I have given of Miss Bronte's school days at Eoe 
Head, he will there see how every place surrounding that 
house was connected with the Luddite riots, and will learn 
how stories and anecdotes of> that time were rife among 
the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages; how Miss 
Wooler herself, and the elder relations of most of her school- 
fellows, must have known the actors in those grim disturb- 
ances. What Charlotte had heard there as a girl came up 
in her mind when, as a woman, she sought a subject for her 
next work ; and she sent to Leeds for a file of the 'Mer- 
curies' of 1812, '13, and '14, in order to understand the 
spirit of those eventful times. She was anxious to write of 
things she had known and seen ; and among the number 
was the West Yorkshire character, for which any tale laid 
among the Luddites would afford full scope. In 'Shirley' 
she took the idea of most of her characters from life, al- 
though the incidents and situations were, of course, ficti- 
tious. She thought that if these last were purely imagi- 
nary, she might draw from the real without detection ; but 
in this she was mistaken : her studies were too closely ac- 
curate. This occasionally led her into difficulties. People 
recognised themselves, or were recognised by others, in 
her graphic descriptions of their personal appearance, and 
modes of action and turns of thought, though they were 
placed in new positions, and figured awry in scenes far dif- 
ferent from those in which their actual life had been passed. 
Miss Bronte was struck by the force or peculiarity of the 



424 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

character of some one whom she knew ; she studied it, and 
analysed it with subtle power ; and having traced it to its 
germ, she took that germ as the nucleus of an imaginary 
character, and worked outwards — thus reversing the proc- 
ess of analysation, and unconsciously reproducing the 
same external development. The 'three curates 'were real 
living men, haunting Haworth and the neighbouring dis- 
trict ; and so obtuse in perception that, after the first burst 
of anger at having their ways and habits chronicled was 
over, they rather enjoyed the joke of calling each other by 
the names she had given them. 'Mrs. Pryor' was well 
known to many who loved the original dearly. The whole 
family of the Yorkes were, I have been assured, almost 
daguerreotypes. Indeed, Miss Bronte told me that, before 
publication, she had sent those parts of the novel in which 
these remarkable persons are introduced to one of the sons; 
and his reply, after reading it, was simply that ' she had not 
drawn them strong enough.' Prom those many-sided sons, 
I suspect, she drew all that there was of truth in the charac- 
ters of the heroes in her first two works. They, indeed, 
were almost the only young men she knew intimately, be- 
sides her brother. There was much friendship, and still 
more confidence, between the Bronte family and them — 
although their intercourse was often broken and irregular. 
There was never any warmer feeling on either side. 

The character of Shirley herself is Charlotte's representa- 
tion of Emily. I mention this because all that I, a stranger, 
have been able to learn about her has not tended to give 
either me, or my readers, a pleasant impression of her. But 
we must remember how little we are acquainted with her, 
compared with that sister, who, out of her more intimate 
knowledge, says that she 'was genuinely good, and truly 
great,' and who tried to depict her character in Shirley 
Keeldar, as what Emily Bronte would have been, had she 
been placed in health and prosperity. 

Miss Bronte took extreme pains with 'Shirley.' She felt 
that the fame she had acquired imposed upon her a double 



1849 'VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH' 425 

responsibility. She tried to make her novel like a piece of 
actual life — feeling sure that if she but represented the 
product of personal experience and observation truly good 
would come out of it in the long run. She carefully studied 
the different reviews and criticisms that had appeared on 
'Jane Eyre/ in hopes of extracting precepts and advice from 
which to profit. 

Down into the very midst of her writing came the bolts 
of death. She had nearly finished the second volume of 
her tale when Branwell died — after him Emily — after her 
Anne ; the pen, laid down when there were three sisters 
living and loving, was taken up when one alone remained. 
Well might she call the first chapter that she wrote after 
this 'The Valley of the Shadow of Death.' 

I knew in part what the unknown of 'Shirley' must 
have suffered, when I read those pathetic words which oc- 
cur at the end of this and the beginning of the succeeding 
chapter : — 

' Till break of day she wrestled with God in earnest prayer. 

'Not always do those who dare such divine conflict pre- 
vail. Night after night the sweat of agony may burst dark 
on the forehead ; the supplicant may cry for mercy with 
that soundless voice the soul utters when its appeal is to 
the Invisible. " Spare my beloved," it may implore. " Heal 
my life's life. Eend not from me what long affection en- 
twines with my whole nature. God of heaven — bend — 
hear — be clement !" And after this cry and strife the sun 
may rise and see him worsted. That opening morn, which 
used to salute him with the whispers of zephyrs, the carol 
of skylarks, may breathe, as its first accents, from the dear 
lips which colour and heat have quitted, " Oh ! I have had 
a suffering night ! This morning I am worse. I have tried 
to rise. I cannot. Dreams I am unused to have troubled 
me." 

' Then the watcher approaches the patient's pillow, and 
sees a new and strange moulding of the familiar features, 



436 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

feels at once that the insufferable moment draws nigh, 
knows that it is God's will his idol should be broken, and 
bends his head, and subdues his soul to the sentence he 
cannot avert, and scarce can bear. . . . 

'No piteous, unconscious moaning sound — which so 
wastes our strength that, even if we have sworn to be firm, 
a rush of unconquerable tears sweeps away the oath — pre- 
ceded her waking. No space of deaf apathy followed. The 
first words spoken were not those of one becoming estranged 
from this world, and already permitted to stray at times into 
realms foreign to the living.' 

She went on with her work steadily. But it was dreary 
to write without any one to listen to the progress of her 
tale — to find fault or to sympathise — while pacing the 
length of the parlour in the evenings, as in the days that 
were no more. Three sisters had done this — then two, 
the other sister dropping off from the walk— and now one 
was left desolate, to listen for echoing steps that never 
came, and to hear the wind sobbing at the windows, with 
an almost articulate sound. 

But she wrote on, struggling against her own feelings 
of illness ; ' continually recurring feelings of slight cold ; 
slight soreness in the throat and chest, of which, do what 
I will,' she writes, ' I cannot get rid.' 

In August there arose a new cause for anxiety, happily 
but temporary. 

' August 23, 1849. 

' Papa has not been well at all lately. He has had an- 
other attack of bronchitis. I felt very uneasy about him 
for some days — more wretched indeed than I care to tell 
you. After what has happened one trembles at any ap- 
pearance of sickness ; and when anything ails papa I feel 
too keenly that he is the last — the only near and dear rela- 
tive I have in the world. Yesterday and to-day he has 
seemed much better, for which I am truly thankful. . . . 

' From what you say of Mr. C , I think I should like 



1849 COMPLETION OF 'SHIRLEY' 427 

him very much. A wants shaking to be put out abouthis 

appearance. What does it matter whether her husband dines 
in a dress coat or a market coat, provided there be worth and 
honesty and a clean shirt underneath ?' 

' September 10, 1849. 
' My piece of work is at last finished, and despatched to 
its destination. You must now tell me when there is a 
chance of your being able to come here. I fear it will now 
be difficult to arrange, as it is so near the marriage day. 
Note well, it would spoil all my pleasure if you put your- 
self or any one else to inconvenience to come to Haworth. 
But when it is convenient I shall be truly glad to see you. 
. . . Papa, I am thankful to say, is better, though not 
strong. He is often troubled with a sensation of nausea. 
My cold is very much less troublesome ; I am sometimes 
quite free from it. A few days since I had a severe bilious 
attack, the consequence of sitting too closely to my writing ; 
but it is gone now. It is the first from which I have suf- ■ 
fered since my return from the seaside. I had them every 

month before.' 

' September 13, 1849. 

'If duty and the well-being of others require that you 
should stay at home, I cannot permit myself to complain ; 
still I am very, very sorry that circumstances will not per- 
mit us to meet just now. I would without hesitation come 
to Birstall if papa were stronger ; but uncertain as are both 
his health and spirits, I could not possibly prevail on my- 
self to leave him now. Let us hope that when we do see 
each other our meeting will be all the more pleasurable for 
being delayed. Dear Ellen, you certainly have a heavy 
burden laid on your shoulders ; but such burdens, if well 
borne, benefit the character ; only we must take the great- 
est, closest, most watchful care not to grow proud of our 
strength, in case we should be enabled to bear up under 
the trial. That pride, indeed, would be a sign of radical 
weakness. The strength, if strength we have, is certainly 
never in our own selves ; it is given us.' 



428 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

TO W. S. WILLIAMS, ESQ. 

' September 21, 1849. 

'My dear Sir, — I am obliged to you for preserving my 
secret, being at least as anxious as ever {more anxious I 
cannot well be) to keep quiet. You asked me in one -of 
your letters lately whether I thought I should escape iden- 
tification in Yorkshire. I am so little known that I think 
I shall. Besides, the book is far less founded on the Real 
than perhaps appears. It would be difficult to explain to 
you how little actual experience I have had of life, how few 
persons I have known, and how very few have known me. 

'As an instance how the characters have been managed 
take that of Mr. Helstone. If this character had an origi- 
nal it was in the .person of a clergyman who died some 
years since at the advanced age of eighty. I never saw 
him except once — at the consecration of a church — when I 
was a child of ten years old. I was then struck with his 
appearance and stern, martial air. At a subsequent period 
I heard him talked about in the neighbourhood where he 
had resided : some mentioned him with enthusiasm, others 
with detestation. I listened to various anecdotes, balanced 
evidence against evidence, and drew an inference. The 
original of Mr. Hall I have seen ; he knows me slightly ; 
but he would as soon think I had closely observed him or 
taken him for a character — he would as soon, indeed, sus- 
pect me of writing a book — a novel — as he would his dog 
Prince. Margaret Hall called "Jane Eyre" a "wicked 
book," on the authority of the "Quarterly;" an expres- 
sion which, coming from her, I will here confess, struck 
somewhat deep. It opened my eyes to the harm the 
" Quarterly " had done. Margaret would not have called it 
" wicked " if she had not been told so. 

'No matter — whether known or unknown — misjudged 
or the contrary — I am resolved not to write otherwise. I 
shall bend as my powers tend. The two human beings who 
understood me, and whom I understood, are gone. I have 



1849 ILLNESS OF 'TABBY' 439 

.some that love me yet, and whom I love without expecting, 
or having a right to expect, that they shall .perfectly under- 
stand me. I am satisfied; but I must have my own way in 
the matter of writing. The loss of what we possess near- 
est and dearest to us in this world produces an effect upon 
the character : we search out what we have yet left that 
can support, and, when found, we cling to it with a hold 
of new-strung tenacity. The faculty of imagination lifted 
me when I was sinking, three months ago ; its active exer- 
cise has kept my head above water since; its results cheer 
me now, for I feel they have enabled me to give pleasure 
to others. I am thankful to God, who gave me the faculty; 
and it is for me a part of my religion to defend this gift, 
and to profit by its possession. — Yours sincerely, 

'Chaklotte Bronte.' 

At the time when this letter was written both Tabby and 
the young servant whom they had to assist her were ill in 
bed ; and, with the exception of occasional aid, Miss Bronte 
had all the household work to perform, as well as to nurse 
the two invalids. 

The serious illness of the younger servant was at its 
height, when a cry from Tabby called Miss Bronte into the 
kitchen, and she found the poor old woman of eighty laid 
on the floor, with her head under the kitchen grate ; she 
had fallen from her chair in attempting to rise. When I 
saw her, two years later, she described to me the tender 
care which Charlotte had taken of her at this time; and 
wound up her account of how 'her own mother could not 
have had more thought for her nor Miss Bronte had,' by 
saying, * Eh ! she's a good one — she is !' 

But there was one day when the strung nerves gave way 
— when, as she says, ' I fairly broke down for ten minutes ; 
sat and cried like a fool. Tabby could neither stand nor 
walk. Papa had just been declaring that Martha was in 
imminent danger. I was myself depressed with headache 
and sickness. That day I hardly knew what to do or where 



430 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

to turn. Thank God! Martha is now convalescent: Tabby, 
I trust, will be better soon. Papa is pretty well. I have the 
satisfaction of knowing that my publishers are delighted 
with what I sent them. This supports me. But life is a 
battle. May we all be enabled to fight it well!' 

The kind friend, to whom she thus wrote, saw how the 
poor overtaxed system needed bracing, and accordingly 
sent her a shower-bath — a thing for which she had long 
been wishing. The receipt of it was acknowledged as fol- 
lows : — 

' September 28, 1849. 

' . . . Martha is now almost well, and Tabby much bet- 
ter. A huge monster package, from " Nelson, Leeds," 
came yesterday. You want chastising roundly and soundly. 
Such are the thanks yon get for all your trouble. . . . When- 
ever you come to Haworth you shall certainly have a thor- 
ough drenching in your own shower-bath. I have not yet 
unpacked the wretch. Yours, as you deserve, C. B.' 

There was misfortune of another kind impending over 
her. There were some railway shares, which, so early as 
1846, she had told Miss Wooler she wished to sell, but had 
kept because she could not persuade her sisters to look upon 
the affair as she did, and so preferred running the risk of 
loss to hurting Emily's feelings by acting in opposition to 
her opinion. The depreciation of these same shares was 
now verifying Charlotte's soundness of judgment. They 
were in the York and North Midland Company, which was 
one of Mr. Hudson's pet lines, and had the full benefit of 
his peculiar system of management. She applied to her 
friend and publisher, Mr. Smith, for information on the 
subject ; and the following letter is in answer to his reply: — 

' October, 4, 1849. 
' My dear Sir, — I must not thank you for, but acknowl- 
edge the receipt of, your letter. The business is certainly 
very bad; worse than I thought, and much worse than my 
father has any idea of. In fact, the little railway property 



1849 LOSS ON EAILWAY SHARES 431 

I possessed, according to original prices, formed already a 
small competency for me, with my views and habits. Now 
scarcely any portion of it can, with security, be calculated 
upon. I must open this view of the case to my father by 
degrees; and, meanwhile, wait patiently till I see how 
affairs are likely to turn. . . . However the matter may 
terminate, I ought perhaps to be rather thankful than dis- 
satisfied. When I look at my own case, and compare it 
with that of thousands besides, I scarcely see room for a 
murmur. Many, very many, are by the late strange rail- 
way system deprived almost of their daily bread. Such, 
then, as have only lost provision laid up for the future 
should take care how they complain. The thought that 
"Shirley" has given pleasure at Cornhill yields me much 
quiet comfort. No doubt, however, you are, as I am, pre- 
pared for critical severity ; but I have good hopes that the 
vessel is sufficiently sound of construction to weather a gale 
or two, and to make a prosperous voyage for you in the 
end.' 

Towards the close of October in this year she went to 
pay a visit to her friend ; but her enjoyment in the holiday, 
which she had so long promised herself when her work was 
completed, was deadened by a continual feeling of ill-health ; 
either the change of air or the foggy weather produced con- 
stant irritation at the chest. Moreover she was anxious 
about the impression which her second work would pro- 
duce on the public mind. For obvious reasons an author 
is more susceptible to opinions pronounced on the book 
which follows a great success than he has ever been before. 
Whatever be the value of fame, he has it in his possession, 
and is not willing to have it dimmed or lost. 

'Shirley ' was published on October 26. ' 

1 On October 24 she wrote to Mr. George Smith from Brookroyd, 
her friend's home — 

' Your note, enclosing the banker's receipt, reached me safely. I 
should have acknowledged it before had I not been from home. 

' I am glad Shirley is so near the day of publication, as I now and 



432 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

When it came oat, but before reading it, Mr. Lewes 
wrote to tell her of his intention of reviewing it in the 
' Edinburgh/ Her correspondence with him had ceased for 
some time : much had occurred since. 

TO G. H. LEWES, ESQ. 

' November 1, 1849. 
' My dear Sir, — It is about a year and a half since you 
wrote to me ; but it seems a longer period, because since 
then it has been my lot to pass some black milestones in 
the journey of life. Since then there have been intervals 
when I have ceased to care about literature and critics and 
fame ; when I have lost sight of whatever was prominent 
in my thoughts at the first publication of "Jane Byre;" 
but now I want these things to come back vividly, if possi- 
ble : consequently it was a pleasure to receive your note. I 
wish you did not think me a woman. I wish all reviewers 
believed "Currer Bell" to be a man ; they would be more 
just to him. You will, I know, keep measuring me by some 
standard of what you deem becoming to my sex ; where I am 
not what you consider graceful you will condemn me. All 
mouths will be open against that first chapter, and that first 
chapter is as true as the Bible, nor is it exceptionable. 
Come what will, I cannot, when I write, think always of 
myself and of what is elegant and charming in f emineity ; 
it is not on those terms, or with such ideas, I ever took pen 
in hand : and if it is only on such terms my writing will 
be tolerated I shall pass away from the public and trouble 
it no more. Out of obscurity I came, to obscurity I can 
easily return. Standing afar off, I now watch to see what 
will become of " Shirley." My expectations are very low, 
and my anticipations somewhat sad and bitter ; still, I 
earnestly conjure you to say honestly what you think ; flat- 
then fe,el anxious to know its doom and learn what sort of reception it 
will get. In another month some of the critics will have pronounced 
their fiat, and the public also will have evinced their mood towards it. 
Meanwhile patience.' 



1849 PUBLICATION OF 'SHIRLEY' 433 

tery would be worse than vain ; there is no consolation in 
flattery. As for condemnation, I cannot, on reflection, see 
why I should much fear it ; there is no one but myself to 
suffer therefrom, and both happiness and suffering in this 
life soon pass away. Wishing you all success in your Scot- 
tish expedition, I am, dear Sir, yours sincerely, 

<C. Bell.' 

Miss Bronte, as we have seen, had been as anxious as 
ever to preserve her incognito in ' Shirley/ She even fan- 
cied that there were fewer traces of a female pen in it than 
in - Jane Byre f and thus, when the earliest reviews were 
published, and asserted that the mysterious writer must 
be a woman, she was much disappointed. She especially 
disliked the lowering of the standard by which to judge a 
work of fiction, if it proceeded from a feminine pen ; and 
praise mingled with pseudo - gallant allusions to her sex 
mortified her far more than actual blame. 

But the secret, so jealously preserved, was oozing out at 
last. The publication of ' Shirley ' seemed to fix the con- 
viction that the writer was an inhabitant of the district 
where the story was laid. And a clever Haworth man, 
who had somewhat risen in the world, and gone to settle 
in Liverpool, read the novel, and was struck with some of 
the names of places mentioned, and knew the dialect in 
which parts of it were written. He became convinced that 
it was the production of some one in Haworth. But he 
could not imagine who in that village could have written 
such a work except Miss Bronte. Proud of his conjecture, 
he divulged the suspicion (which was almost certainty) in 
the columns of a Liverpool paper ; thus the heart of the 
mystery came slowly creeping out ; and a visit to London, 
which Miss Bronte paid towards the end of the year 1849, 
made it distinctly known. She had been all along on most 
happy terms with her publishers ; and their kindness had 
beguiled some of those weary, solitary hours which had so 
often occurred of late, by sending for her perusal boxes of 



434 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

books more suited to her tastes than any she could pro- 
cure from the circulating library at Keighley. She often 
writes such sentences as the following in her letters to 
Cornhill :— 

' I was indeed very much interested in the books you sent. 1 
"Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe," "Guesses at 
Truth," " Friends in Council," and the little work on Eng- 
lish social life pleased me particularly, and the last not 
least. We sometimes take a partiality to books, as to 
characters, not on account of any brilliant intellect or 
striking peculiarity they boast, but for the sake of some- 
thing good, delicate, and genuine. I thought that small 
book the production of a lady, and an amiable, sensible 
woman, and I liked it. You must not think of selecting 
any more works for me yet ; my stock is still far from 
exhausted. 

' I accept your offer respecting the " Athenaeum ;" it is 
a paper I should like much to see, providing that you can 
send it without trouble. It shall be punctually returned/ 

In a letter to her friend she complains of the feelings of 
illness from which she was seldom or never free. 

'November 16, 1849. 
' You are not to suppose any of the characters in " Shir- 
ley" intended as literal portraits. It would not suit the 
rules of art, nor of my own feelings, to write in that style. 
We only suffer reality to suggest, never to dictate. The 
heroines are abstractions, and the heroes also. Qualities I 
have seen, loved, and admired are here and there put in as 
decorative gems, to be preserved in that setting. Since 
you say you could recognize the originals of all except the 
heroines, pray whom did you suppose the two Moores to 

1 This was probably John Oxenford's translation of Eckermann 
(1792-1854), made in 1849. Sir Arthur Helps's Friends in Council, 
First Series, was published in 1847. Q-uesses at Truth was written by 
Julius and Augustus Hare, and published anonymously in 1827. 



1849 THE REVIEWS ON 'SHIRLEY' 435 

represent ? I send you a couple of reviews ; the one is in the 
"Examiner," written by Albany Fonblanque, 1 who is called 
the most brilliant political writer of the day, a man whose 
dictum is much thought of in London. The other, in the 
"Standard of Freedom," is written by William Howitt," a 
Quaker ! . . . I should be pretty well if it were not for 
headaches and indigestion. My chest has been better 
lately.' 

In consequence of this long-protracted state of languor, 
headache, and sickness, to which the slightest exposure to 
cold added sensations of hoarseness and soreness at the 
chest, she determined to take the evil in time, as much 
for her father's sake as for her own, and to go up to Lon- 
don and consult some physician there. It was not her 
first intention to visit anywhere ; but the friendly urgency 
of her publishers prevailed, and it was decided that she 
was to become the guest of Mr. Smith. 3 Before she went 

1 Albany William Fonblanque (1793-1872). Edited the Examiner 
from 1830. Became Statistical Secretary to the Board of Trade in 
1847. Wrote England under Seven Administrations, 1837. 

2 William Howitt (1793-1879). Wrote innumerable works, of which 
Visits to Remarkable Places (1838-41) and Homes and Haunts of tTie 
Poets (1847) are best remembered. 

3 She wrote to Mr. Smith on November 19 as follows: — 

'I am sorry that you should have had the trouble of writing to me 
at a time when business claims all your thoughts, and doubly sorry am 
I for the cause of this unwonted excess of occupation ; it is to be 
hoped Mr. Taylor's health and strength will soon be restored to him, 
both for your sake and his own. 

'I thank you for your kind invitation ; at first I thought I should 
be under the necessity of declining it, having received a prior invita- 
tion some months ago from a family lately come to reside in London, 
whose acquaintance I formed in Brussels. But these friends only 
know me as Miss Bronte, and they are of the class, perfectly worthy 
but in no sort remarkable, to whom I should feel it quite superfluous 
to introduce Currer Bell ; I know they would not understand the 
author. Under these circumstances my movements would have been 
very much restrained, and in fact this consideration formed a difficul- 
ty in the way of my coming to London at all. I think, however, I 



436 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

she wrote two characteristic letters about ' Shirley,' from 
which I shall take a iew extracts. 

' "Shirley" makes her way. The reviews shower in fast. 1 
. . . The best critique which has yet appeared is in the "Re- 
vue des Deux Mondes," a sort of European cosmopolitan 
periodical, whose headquarters are at Paris. Comparatively 
few reviewers, even in their praise, evince a just compre- 
hension of the author's meaning. Eugene Eorcade, 8 the 

might conscientiously spend part of the time with my other friends. 
Finding me a guest at the house of a publisher, and knowing my 
tastes, they may and probably will suspect me of literary pursuits, 
but I care not for that ; it would bring none of the eclat and bustle 
which an open declaration of authorship would certainly entail. 

'As the present does not seem to be a very favourable time for my 
visit, I will defer it awhile.' 

The 'other friends' were the Wheelwrights, Charlotte having con- 
tinued the friendship formed in Brussels with Laetitia. ' I found when 
I mentioned to Mr. Smith my plan of going to Dr. Wheelwright's it 
would not do at all ; he would have been severely hurt. He made his 
mother write to me, and thus I was persuaded to make my principal 
stay at his house, ' writes Charlotte from 4 Westbourne Place, Bishop's 
Boad (this being one of several private houses which have since that 
day been converted into shops), when staying with her publisher in 
London. The Wheelwrights lived at 39 Phillimore Place, Kensing- 
ton. 

1 Letter to Miss Ellen Nussey, dated November 22, 1849. 

2 Forcade had previously reviewed Jane Eyve in an article which 
appeared in vol. xxiv., Series 5, pp. 470-94. She wrote to Mr. Will- 
iams on November 16, 1848 — » 

' The notice in the Revue des Deux Mondes is one of the most able, 
the most acceptable to the author of any that have yet appeared. Eu- 
gene Forcade understood and enjoyed Jane Eyre. I cannot say that 
of all who have professed to criticise it.' The censures are as well 
founded as the commendations. The specimens of the translation 
given are on the whole good ; now and then the meaning of the origi- 
nal has been misapprehended, but generally it is well rendered. 

' Every cup given us to taste in this life is mixed. Once it would 
have seemed to me that an evidence of success like that contained in 
the Revue would have excited an almost exultant feeling in my mind. 
It comes, however, at a time when counteracting circumstances keep 
the balance of the emotions even— when my sister's continued illness 



1849 FORgADE'S APPRECIATION 437 

reviewer in question, follows Currer Bell through every 
winding, discerns every point, discriminates every shade, 
proves himself master of the subject and lord of the aim. 
With that man I would shake hands, if I saw him. I 
would say, " You know me, monsieur ; I shall deem it 
an honour to know you." I could not say so much of 
the mass of the London critics. Perhaps I could not say 
so much to five hundred men and women in all the mill- 
ions of G-reat Britain. That matters little. My own con- 
science I satisfy first ; and having done that, if I further 
content and delight a Forcade, a Fonblanque, and a 
Thackeray, my ambition has had its ration ; it is fed ; it 
lies down for the present satisfied ; my faculties have 
wrought a day's task and earned a day's wages. I am 
no teacher ; to look on me in that light is to mistake 

darkens the present and dims the future. That will seem to me a 
happy day when I can announce to you that Emily is better. Her 
symptoms continue to be those of slow inflammation of the lungs, 
tight cough, difficulty of breathing, pain in the chest, and fever. We 
watch anxiously for a change for the better ; may it soon come !' 

And on November 22, 1848, she wrote to Mr. Williams — 

' If it is discouraging to an author to see his work mouthed over by 
the entirely ignorant and incompetent, it is equally reviving to hear 
what you have written discussed and analysed by a critic who is mas- 
ter of his subject — by one whose heart feels, whose powers grasp the 
matter he undertakes to handle. Such refreshment Eugene Forcade 
has given me. Were I to see that man, my impulse would be to say, 
" Monsieur, you know me ; I shall deem it an honour to know you." 

' I do not find that Forcade detects any coarseness in the work — it 
is for the smaller critics to find that out. The master in the art — the 
subtle-thoughted, keen-eyed, quick-feeling Frenchman — knows the 
true nature of the ingredients which went to the composition of the 
creation he analyses ; he knows the true nature of things, and he gives 
them their right name. 

' Yours of yesterday has just reached me. Let me, in the fir3t place, 
express my sincere sympathy with your anxiety on Mrs. Williams's 
account. I know how sad it is when pain and suffering attack those 
we love, when that mournful guest sickness comes and takes a place 
in the household circle. That the shadow may soon leave your home 
is my earnest hope.' 



438 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

me. To teach is not my vocation. What I am it is use- 
less to say. Those whom it concerns feel and find it out. 
To all others I wish only to be an obscure, steady-going, 
private character. To you, dear Ellen, I wish to be a 
sincere friend. Give me your faithful regard ; I willingly 
dispense with admiration.' 

' November 26. 

'It is like you to pronounce the reviews not good 
enough, and belongs to that part of your character which 
will not permit you to bestow unqualified approbation 
on any dress, decoration, &c, belonging to you. Know 
that the reviews are superb ; and were I dissatisfied 
with them I should be a conceited ape. Nothing high- 
er is ever said, from perfectly disinterested motives, of 
any living authors. If all be well I go to London this 
week ; Wednesday, I think. The dressmaker has done 
my small matters pretty well, but I wish you could have 
looked them over, and given a dictum. I insisted on the 
dresses being made quite plainly/ 

At the end of November she went up to the ' big Baby- 
lon.' ' and was immediately plunged into what appeared to 
her a whirl ; for changes, and scenes, and stimulus which 
would have been a trifle to others were much to her. As 
was always the case with strangers, she was a little afraid 
at first of the family into which she was now received, 
fancying that the ladies looked on her with a mixture of 
respect and alarm ; but in a few days, if this state of feel- 
ing ever existed, her simple, shy, quiet manners, her dainty 
personal and household ways, had quite done away with it, 
and she says that she thinks they begin to like her, and 
that she likes them much, for ' kindness is a potent heart- 
winner.' She had stipulated that she should not be ex- 
pected to see many people. The recluse life she had led 
was the cause of a nervous shrinking from meeting any 

1 Mr. George Smith's mother and sisters lived at the time of this 
visit at Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park. 



1849 FIRST MEETING WITH MR. THACKERAY 439 

fresh face, which lasted all her life long. Still, she longed 
to have an idea of the personal appearance and manners of 
some of those whose writings or letters had interested her. 
Mr. Thackeray was accordingly invited to meet her, bnt it 
so happened that she had been out for the greater part of 
the morning, and, in consequence, missed the luncheon 
hour at her friend's house. This brought on a severe and 
depressing headache in one accustomed to the early, regu- 
lar hours of a Yorkshire parsonage ; besides, the excite- 
ment of meeting, hearing, and sitting next a man to whom 
she looked up with such admiration as she did to the author 
of ' Vanity Fair ' was of itself overpowering to her frail 
nerves. She writes about this dinner as follows : — 

' December 10, 1849. 
'As to being happy, I am under scenes and circumstances 
of excitement ; but I suffer acute pain sometimes — mental 
pain, I mean. At the moment Mr. Thackeray presented 
himself I was thoroughly faint from inanition, having eaten 
nothing since a very slight breakfast, and it was then seven 
o'clock in the evening. Excitement and exhaustion made 
savage work of me that evening. What he thought of me 
I cannot tell.' 

She told me how difficult she found it, this first time of 
meeting Mr. Thackeray, to decide whether he was speaking 
in jest or in earnest, and that she had (she believed) com- 
pletely misunderstood an inquiry of his, made on the 
gentlemen's coming into the drawing-room. He asked her 
' if she had perceived the scent of their cigars ;' to which 
she replied literally, discovering in a minute afterwards, by 
the smile on several faces, that he was alluding to a pas- 
sage in ' Jane Eyre.' Her hosts took pleasure in showing 
her the sights of London. On one of the days which had 
been set apart for some of these pleasant excursions a se- 
vere review of 'Shirley 'was published in the 'Times.' 
She had heard that her book would be noticed by it, and 
guessed that there was some particular reason for the care 



440 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

with which her hosts mislaid it on that particular morning. 
She told them that she was aware why she might not see 
the paper. Mrs. Smith at once admitted that her conject- 
ure was right, and said that they had wished her to go to 
the day's engagement before reading it. But she quietly 
persisted in her request to be allowed to have the paper. 
Mrs. Smith took her work, and tried not to observe the 
countenance which the other tried to hide between the 
large sheets; but she could not help becoming aware of 
tears stealing down the face and dropping on the lap. The 
first remark Miss Bronte made was to express her fear lest 
so severe a notice should check the sale of the book, and 
injuriously affect her publishers. Wounded as she was, 
her first thought was for others. Later on (I think that 
very afternoon) Mr. Thackeray called ; she suspected (she 
said) that he came to see how she bore the attack on ' Shir- 
ley ;' but she had recovered her composure, and conversed 
very quietly with him : he only learnt from the answer to 
his direct inquiry that she had read the ' Times ' article. 
She acquiesced in the recognition of herself as the author- 
ess of 'Jane Eyre/ because she perceived that there were 
some advantages to be derived from dropping her pseudo- 
nym. One result was an acquaintance with Miss Marti- 
neau. 1 She had sent her the novel just published, with a 
curious note, in which Cnrrer Bell offered a copy of ' Shir- 
ley ' to Miss Martineau, as an acknowledgment of the 
gratification he had received from her works. From ' Deer- 
brook ' he had derived a new and keen pleasure, and expe- 
rienced a genuine benefit. In Ms mind 'Deerbrook,' &c. 
Miss Martineau, in acknowledging this note and the copy 
of * Shirley,' dated her letter from a friend's house in the 

' Harriet Martineau (1803-1876) was born at Norwich. She published 
Deerbrook in 1839. Her Letters on the Laws of Man's Social Nature, 
published in conjunction with H. G. Atkinson in 1851, caused consid- 
erable scandal not only in more orthodox circles but among Miss Mar- 
tineau's old and hereditary friends the Unitarians. Many years of her 
later life were spent at Ambleside, in the Lake Country. 



1849 VISIT TO HARRIET MARTINEAU 441 

neighbourhood of Mr. Smith's residence ; and when, a week 
or two afterwards, Miss Bronte found how near she was to 
her correspondent, she wrote, in the name of Currer Bell, to 
propose a visit to her. Six o'clock, on a certain Sunday 
afternoon (Dec. 10), was the time appointed. Miss Marti- 
neau's friends had invited the unknown Currer Bell to their 
early tea ;' they were ignorant whether the name was that of 
a man or a woman ; and had had various conjectures as to 
sex, age, and appearance. Miss Martineau had, indeed, 
expressed her private opinion pretty distinctly by begin- 
ning her reply, to the professedly masculine note referred 
to above, with ' Dear Madam ;' but she had addressed it to 
' Currer Bell, Esq.' At every ring the eyes of the party 
turned towards the door. Some stranger (a gentleman, I 
think) came in ; for an instant they fancied he was Currer 
Bell, and indeed an Esq. ; he stayed sometime — went away. 
Another ring ; 'Miss Bronte' was announced ; and in came 
a young-looking lady, almost childlike in stature, 'in a 
deep mourning dress, neat as a Quaker's, with her beautiful 
hair smooth and brown, her fine eyes blazing with meaning, 
and her sensible face indicating a habit of self-control.' She 
came, hesitated one moment at finding four or five people 
assembled, then went straight to Miss Martineau with in- 
tuitive recognition, and with the freemasonry of good feel- 
. ing and gentle breeding she soon became as one of the family 
seated round the tea-table ; and, before she left, she told 
them, in a simple, touching manner, of her sorrow and iso- 
lation, and a foundation was laid for her intimacy with Miss 
Martineau. 

After some discussion on the subject, and a stipulation 
that she should not be specially introduced to any one, some 
gentlemen were invited by Mr. Smith to meet her at dinner 
the evening before she left town. Her natural place would 

1 Charlotte Bronte writes to Ellen Nussey (December 10, 1849), ' This 
evening I am going to meet Miss Martineau. She has written to me 
most kindly. She knows me only as Currer Bell. I am going alone 
in the carriage ; how I shall get on I do not know.' 



443 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

have been at the bottom of the table by her host ; and the 
places of those who were to be her neighbours were arranged 
accordingly ; but, on entering the dining-room, she quickly 
passed up so as to sit next to the lady of the house, anxious 
to shelter herself near some one of her own sex. This slight 
action arose out of the same womanly seeking after protec- 
tion on every occasion, when there was no moral duty in- 
volved in asserting her independence, that made her about 
this time write as follows : ' Mrs. Smith 1 watches me very 
narrowly when surrounded by strangers. She never takes 
her eye from me. I like the surveillance ; it seems to keep 
guard over me.' 

Respecting this particular dinner party she thus wrote to 
the Brussels schoolfellow of former days, a whose friendship 
had been renewed during her present visit to London : — 

' The evening after I left you passed better than I ex- 
pected. Thanks to my substantial lunch and cheering cup 
of coffee, I was able to await the eight o'clock dinner with 
complete resignation, and to endure its length quite coura- 
geously, nor was I too much exhausted to converse ; and of 
this I was glad, for otherwise I know my kind host and 
hostess would have been much disappointed; There were 
only seven gentlemen at dinner besides Mr. Smith, but of 
these five were critics — men more dreaded in the world of 
letters than you can conceive. I did not know how much 
their presence and conversation had excited me till they 
were gone, and the reaction commenced. When I had re- 
tired for the night I wished to sleep — the effort to do so 
was vain. I could not close my eyes. Night passed ; morn- 
ing came, and I rose without having known a moment's 
slumber. So utterly worn out was I when I got to Derby, 
that I was again obliged to stay there all night.' 

1 Mr. George Smith's mother. 
* Mies Lsetitia Wheelwright. 



1849 RETURN TO HAWORTH 443 

' December 17. 1 

' Here I am at Haworth once more. I feel as if I had 

come out of an exciting whirl. Not that the hurry and 

stimulus would have seemed much to one accustomed to 

society and change, but to me they were very marked. My 

1 This letter is to Mr. Williams. There are two of tbe same date 
(December 17), one to Mr. George Smith and the other to his mother : — 

'December 17, 1849. 

'My dear Mrs. Smith,— I am once again at home, where I arrived 
safely on Saturday afternoon, and, I am thankful to say, found papa 
quite well. 

' It was a fortunate chance that obliged me to stay at Derby, for by 
the time I had travelled so far weariness quite overpowered me ; I 
was glad to go to bed as soon as I reached the inn ; an unbroken sleep 
refreshed me against the next day, and I performed the rest of the 
journey with comparative ease. Tell Miss Smith that her little boots 
are a perfect treasure of comfort ; they kept my feet quite warm the 
whole way. 

' It made me rather sad to leave you ; regretful partings are the in- 
evitable penalty of pleasant visits. I believe I made no special acknowl- 
edgment of your kindness when I took leave, but I thought you 
very kind. I am glad to have had the opportunity of knowing you, 
and, whether I ever see you again or not, I must always recall with 
grateful pleasure the fortnight I spent under your roof. 

' Write a line to me when you have time, to tell me how y° u aQ d 
your daughters are ; remember me to them all (including good, quiet, 
studious little Bell) ; accept for them and yourself the assurance of my 
true regard, and believe me, my dear Madam, 

' Yours sincerely, 

' Charlotte Bkonte. 

'I enclose a note for Mr. Smith ; he must have a word to himself. 

'Mrs. Smith, 4 Westbourne Place.' 

' December 17, 1849. 

'My dear Sir, — I should not feel content if I omitted writing to you 
as well as to your mother, for I must tell you as well as her how much 
the pleasure of my late visit was enhanced by her most considerate at- 
tention and goodness. As to yourself, what can I say ? Nothing. 
And it is as well ; words are not at all needed. Very easy is it to dis- 
cover that with you to gratify others is to gratify yourself ; to serve 
others is to afford yourself a pleasure. I suppose you will experience 
your share of ingratitude and encroachment, but do not let them alter 



444 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

strength and spirits too often proved quite insufficient to 
the demand on their exertions. I used to bear up as long 
as I possibly could, for, when I nagged, I could see Mr. 
Smith became disturbed; he always thought that some- 
thing had been said or done to annoy me — which never once 
happened, for I met with perfect good breeding even from 
antagonists — men who had done their best or worst to write 
me down. I explained to him, over and over again, that 
my occasional silence was only failure of the power to talk, 
never of the will. . . . 

' Thackeray is a Titan of mind. His presence and powers 
impress one deeply in an intellectual sense ; I do not see 
him or know him as a man. All the others are subordinate. 
I have esteem for some, and, I trust, courtesy for all. I 
do not, of course, know what they thought of me, but I 
believe most of them expected me to come out in a more 
marked, eccentric, striking light. I believed they desired 
more to admire and more to blame. I felt sufficiently at 
my ease with all but Thackeray ; with him I was fearfully 
stupid.' 

She returned to her quiet home and her noiseless daily 
duties. I was anxious to know from her friend 'Mary' if, 
in the letters which Charlotte wrote to her, she had ever 
spoken with much pleasure of the fame which she had 
earned. To this and some similar inquiries Mary answers — 

' She thought literary fame a better introduction than 
any other, and this was what she wanted it for. When at 
last she got it she lamented that it was of no use. " Her 
solitary life had disqualified her for society. She had be- 
come nnready, nervous, excitable, and either incapable of 

you. Happily, they are the less likely to do this because you are half 
a Scotchman, and therefore must have inherited a fair share of pru- 
dence to qualify your generosity, and of caution to protect your be- 
nevolence. Currer Bell bids you farewell for the present. 

' C. B. 
' G. Smith, Esq.' 



1849 SIGHTS OF LONDON 445 

speech or talked vapidly." She wrote me this concerning 
her late visits to London. Her fame, when it came, seemed 
to make no difference to her. She was just as solitary, 
and her life as deficient in interest, as before. "For 
swarms of people I don't care," she wrote ; and then im- 
plied that she had had glimpses of a pleasanter life, but she 
had come back, to her work at home. She never criticised 
her books to me, further than to express utter weariness of 
them, and the labour they had given her/ 

Her father had quite enough of the spirit of hero-worship 
in him to make him take a vivid pleasure in the accounts 
of what she had heard and whom she had seen. It was on 
the occasion of one of her visits to London that he had de- 
sired her to obtain a sight of Prince Albert's armoury, if 
possible. I am not aware whether she managed to do this; 
but she went to one or two of the great national armouries 
in order that she might describe the stern steel harness and 
glittering swords to her father, whose imagination was 
forcibly struck by the idea of such things ; and often after- 
wards, when his spirits nagged and the languor of old age 
for a time got the better of his indomitable nature, she 
would again strike on the measure wild, and speak about 
the armies of strange weapons she had seen in London, till 
he resumed his interest in the old subject, and was his own 
keen, warlike, intelligent self again. 



CHAPTER XIX 

Her life at Haworth was so unvaried that the postman's 
call was the event of her day. Yet she dreaded the great 
temptation of centring all her thoughts upon this one time, 
and losing her interest in the smaller hopes and employ- 
ments of the remaining hours. Then she conscientiously 
denied herself the. pleasure of writing letters too frequent- 
ly, because the answers (when she received them) took the 
flavour out of the rest of her life ; or her disappointment, 
when the replies did not arrive, lessened her energy for her 
home duties. 

The winter of this year in the North was hard and cold ; 
it affected Miss Bronte's health less than usual, however, 
probably because the change and medical advice she had 
taken in London had done her good; probably, also, be- 
cause her friend had come to pay her a visit, and enforced 
that attention to bodily symptoms which Miss Bronte was 
too apt to neglect, from a fear of becoming nervous herself 
about her own state, and thus infecting her father. But 
she could scarcely help feeling much depressed in spirits as 
the anniversary of her sister Emily's death came round ; all 
the recollections connected with it were painful, yet there 
were no outward events to call off her attention, and pre- 
vent them from pressing hard upon her. At this time, as 
at many others, I find her alluding in her letters to the 
solace which she found in the books sent her from Oornhill. 

' What, I sometimes ask, could I do without them ? I 
have recourse to them as to friends ; they shorten and cheer 
many an hour that would be too long and too desolate 
otherwise ; even when my tired sight will not permit me to 
continue reading, it is pleasant to see them on the shelf or 



1849 ENTHUSIASM IN YORKSHIRE 447 

on the table. I am still very rich, for my stock is far from 
exhausted. Some other friends have sent me books lately. 
The perusal of Harriet Martineau's "Eastern Life" 1 has 
afforded me great pleasure ; and I have found a deep and 
interesting subject of study in Newman's work on the 
" Soul." Have you read this work ? It is daring — it may 
be mistaken — but it is pure and elevated. Fronde's " Nem- 
esis of Faith " I did not like ; I thought it morbid ; yet in 
its pages, too, are found sprinklings of truth.' 

By this time 'Airedale, Wharfedale, Calderdale, and 
Ribblesdale ' all knew the place of residence of Currer Bell. 
She compared herself to the ostrich hiding its head in the 
sand, and says that she still buries hers in the heath of 
Haworth moors ; but ' the concealment is but self-delusion.' 

Indeed it was. Far and wide in the West Riding had 
spread the intelligence that Currer Bell was no other than 
a daughter of the venerable clergyman of Haworth ; the 
village itself caught up the excitement. 

' Mr. ,' having finished "Jane Eyre," is now crying 

out for the "other book;" he is to have it next week. . . . 

Mr. has finished "Shirley;" he is delighted with it. 

John 's wife seriously thought him gone wrong in the 

head, as she heard him giving vent to roars of laughter as 
he sat alone, clapping and stamping on the floor. He would 
read all the scenes about the curates aloud to papa.' a . . . 
'Martha came in yesterday, puffing and blowing, and 

1 Harriet Martineau's Eastern Life was published in 1848, after a 
visit to Egypt and Palestine ; Francis William Newman (1803-1897), 
brother of Cardinal Newman, published in 1849 The Soul: her Sor- 
rows and lier Aspirations : an Essay towards the Natural History of 
the Soul as the Basis of Theology. James Anthony Froude (1818-1894) 
published The Nemesis of Faith in 1849. 

2 These are extracts from various letters to Ellen Nussey. ' Mr. 
' is Mr. Nicholls, "John ' is John Brown, the sexton. 

5 This passage concludes, ' He (Mr. Nicholls) triumphed in his own 
character. What Mr. Grant will say is another thing. No matter.' 



448 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

much excited. " I've heard sich news !" she began. "What 
about ?" " Please, ma'am, you've been and written two 
books — the grandest books that ever was seen. My father 
has heard it at Halifax, and Mr. G(eorge Taylor), and Mr. 
G-(reenwood), and Mr. M(errall) at Bradford ; and they are 
going to have a meeting at Mechanics' Institute, and to 
settle about ordering them." " Hold your tongue, Martha, 
and be off." I fell into a cold sweat. " Jane Eyre '' will 
be read by J(ohn) B(rown), by Mrs. T(aylor), and B(etty). 
Heaven help, keep, and deliver me I' ... ' The Haworth 
people have been making great fools of themselves about 
" Shirley ;" they have taken it in an enthusiastic light. 
When they got the volumes at the Mechanics' Institute all 
the members wanted them. They cast lots for the whole 
three, and whoever got a volume was only allowed to keep 
it two days, and was to be fined a shilling per diem for 
longer detention. It would be mere nonsense and vanity 
to tell you what they say.' 

The tone of these extracts is thoroughly consonant with 
the spirit of Yorkshire and Lancashire people, who try as 
long as they can to conceal their emotions of pleasure 
under a bantering exterior, almost as if making fun of 
themselves. Miss Bronte was extremely touched, in the 
secret places of her warm heart, by the way in which those 
who had known her from her childhood were proud and 
glad of her success. All round about the news had spread; 
strangers came from beyond Burnley' to see her, as she 
went quietly and unconsciously into church ; and the sex- 
ton ' gained many a half crown' for pointing her out. 

But there were drawbacks to this hearty and kindly ap- 
preciation which was so much more valuable than fame. 
The January number of the ' Edinburgh Review ' had con- 
tained the article on ' Shirley ' of which her correspondent, 
Mr. Lewes, was the writer. I have said that Miss Bronte was 
especially anxious to be criticised as a writer, without rela- 
tion to her sex as a woman. Whether right or wrong, her 



1850 MR. LEWES'S CRITIQUE ON 'SHIRLEY' 449 

feeling was strong on this point. Now, although this review 
of 'Shirley' is not disrespectful towards women, yet the 
headings of the first two pages ran thus : ' Mental Equality 
of the Sexes?' 'Female Literature' and through the whole 
article the fact of the author's sex is never forgotten. 

A few days after the review appeared Mr. Lewes re- 
ceived the following note — rather in the style of Anne, 
Countess of Pembroke, Dorset, and Montgomery : — 

TO G. H. LEWES, ESQ. 

' I can be on my guard against my enemies, but God de- 
liver me from my friends ! Cueeee Bell.' 

In some explanatory notes on her letters to him, with 
which Mr. Lewes has favoured me, he says — 

'Seeing that she was unreasonable, because angry, I 
wrote to remonstrate with her on quarrelling with the 
severity and frankness of a review, which certainly was 
dictated by real admiration and real friendship : even un- 
der its objections the friend's voice could be heard.' 

The following letter is her reply: — 

TO G. H. LEWES, ESQ. 

' January 19, 1850. 

' My dear Sir, — I will tell you why I was so hurt by that 
review in the " Edinburgh " — not because its criticism 
was keen or its blame sometimes severe ; not because its 
praise was stinted (for, indeed, I think you give me quite 
as much praise as I deserve), but because after I had 
said earnestly that I wished critics would judge me as an 
author, not as a woman,, you so roughly — I even thought 
so cruelly — handled the question of sex. I dare say you 
meant no harm, and perhaps you will not now be able to 
understand why I was so grieved at what you will probably 
deem such a trifle ; but grieved I was, and indignant too. 

' There was a passage or two which you did quite wrong 
to write. 
29 



450 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

' HoweTer, I will not bear malice against you for it ; I 
know what your nature is : it is not a bad or unkind one, 
though you would often jar terribly on some feelings with 
whose recoil and quiver you could not possibly sympathise. 
I imagine you are both enthusiastic and implacable, as you 
are at once sagacious and careless ; you know much and 
discover much, but you are in such a hurry to tell it all 
you never give yourself time to think how your reckless 
eloquence may affect others ; and, what is more, if you 
knew how it did affect them, you would not much care. 

' However, I shake hands with you : you have excellent 
points ; you can be generous. I still feel angry, and think 
I do well to be angry ; but it is the anger one experiences 
for rough play rather than for foul play. — I am yours, with 
a certain respect, and more chagrin, Curkek Bell.' 

As Mr. Lewes says, 'the tone of this letter is cavalier.' 
But I thank him for having allowed me to publish what is 
so characteristic of one phase of Miss Bronte's mind. Her 
health, too, was suffering at this time. 'I don't know 
what heaviness of spirit has beset me of late ' (she writes, 
in pathetic words, wrung out of the sadness of her heart), 
* made my faculties dull, made rest weariness, and occupa- 
tion burdensome. Now and then the silence of the house, 
the solitude of the room, has pressed on me with a weight 
I found it difficult to bear, and recollection has not failed 
to be as alert, poignant, obtrusive, as other feelings were 
languid. I attribute this state of things partly to the 
weather. Quicksilver invariably falls low in storms and 
high winds, and I have ere this been warned of ap- 
proaching disturbance in the atmosphere by a sense of 
bodily weakness, and deep, heavy mental sadness, such 
as some would call presentiment. Presentiment indeed 
it is, but not at all supernatural. ... I cannot help feel- 
ing something of the excitement of expectation till the 
post hour comes, and when, day after day, it brings 
nothing, I get low. This is a stupid, disgraceful, un- 



1850 DEPRESSION OF SPIRITS 451 

meaning state of things. I feel bitterly vexed at my 
own dependence and folly ; but it is so bad for the mind 
to be quite alone, and to have none with whom to talk 
over little crosses and disappointments, and to laugh them 
away. If I could write I dare say I should be better, but I 
cannot write a line. However (by God's help) I will con- 
tend against this folly. 

' I had a letter the other day from Miss Wooler. Some 
things in it nettled me, especially an unnecessarily earnest 
assurance that, in spite of all I had done in the writing 
line, I still retained a place in her esteem. My answer 
took strong and high ground at once. I said I had been 
troubled by no doubts on the subject ; that I neither did 
her nor myself the injustice to suppose there was anything 
in what I had written to incur the just forfeiture of es- 
teem. . . . 

'A few days since a little incident happened which curi- 
ously touched me. Papa put into my hands a little packet 
of letters 1 and papers, telling me that they were mamma's, 
and that I might read them. I did read them, in a frame 
of mind I cannot describe. The papers were yellow with 
time, all having been writtea before I was born : it was 
strange now to peruse, for the first time, the records of a 
mind whence my own sprang ; and most strange, and at 
once sad and sweet, to find that mind of a truly fine, pure, 
and elevated order. They were written to papa before they 
were married. There is a rectitude, a refinement, a con- 
stancy, a modesty, a sense, a gentleness about them inde- 
scribable. I wished that she had lived, and that I had 
known her. . . . All through this month of February I 
have had a crushing time of it. I could not escape from 
or rise above certain most mournful recollections — the last 
days, the sufferings, the remembered words — most sorrow- 

1 This little packet of letters, extracts from which are printed by 
Mrs. Gaskell (see p. 43), is still in the possession of Mr. Nicholls, who 
kindly permitted me to print them in full in Charlotte Bronte and her 
Oirele. 



452 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

ful to me, of those who, Faith assures me, are now happy. 
At evening and bedtime snch thoughts would haunt me, 
bringing a weary headache.' 

The reader may remember the strange prophetic vision, 
which dictated a few words, written on the occasion of the 
death of a pupil of hers in January, 1840 : — 

' Wherever I seek for her now in this world she cannot 
be found, no more than a flower or a leaf which withered 
twenty years ago. A bereavement of this kind gives one a 
glimpse of the feeling those must have who have seen all 
drop round them — friend after friend — and are left to end 
their pilgrimage alone.' 

Even in persons of naturally robust health, and with no 

ricordarsi del tempo felice 
Nella miseria 

to wear, with slow dropping but perpetual pain upon their 
spirits, the nerves and appetite will give way in solitude. 
How much more must it have been so with Miss Bronte, 
delicate and frail in constitution, tried by'much anxiety 
and sorrow in early life, and now left to face her life 
alone ! Owing to Mr. Bronte's great age, and long-form- 
ed habits of solitary occupation when in the house, his 
daughter was left to herself for the greater part of the 
day. Ever since his serious attacks of illness he had dined 
alone, a portion of her dinner, regulated by strict attention 
to the diet most suitable for him, being taken into his room 
by herself. After dinner she read to him for an hour or so, 
as his sight was -too weak to allow of his reading long to 
himself. He was out of doors among his parishoners for a 
good part of each day ; often for a longer time than his 
strength would permit. Yet he always liked to go alone, 
and consequently her affectionate care could be no check 
upon the length of his walks to the more distant hamlets 
which were in his cure. He would come back occasionally 



FACSIMILE OF A LETTER FROM CHARLOTTE BRONTE TO 

MRS. SMITH 



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1850 THACKERAY AS A SATIRIST 453 

utterly fatigued, and be obliged to go to bed, questioning 
himself sadly as to where- all his former strength of body 
had gone to. His strength of will was the same as ever. 
That which he resolved to do he did, at whatever cost of 
weariness ; but his daughter was all the more anxious from 
seeing him so regardless of himself and his health. 1 

1 1 give here two letters, one to Mr. George Smith's mother, dated 
January 9, 1850, and addressed to 4 Westbourne Place: — 

' My dear Mrs. Smith, — Since you are kind enough to answer my let- 
ters, you shall occasionally hear from me, but not too often ; you shall 
not be "bored " (as Mr. Thackeray would say) with too frequent a call 
for replies. 

' Speaking of Mr. Thackeray, you ask me what I think of his Christ- 
mas book. I think it is like himself, and all he says and writes; harsh 
and kindly, wayward and wise, benignant and bitter; its pages are 
overshadowed with cynicism, and yet they sparkle with feeling. As 
to his abuse of Rowena and of women in general — I will tell you my 
dear Madam what I think he deserves — first to be arrested, to be kept 
in prison for a month, then to be tried by a jury of twelve matrons, 
and subsequently to undergo any punishment they might think proper 
to inflict ; and I trust they would not spare him ; for the scene of Ro- 
wena's death-bed alone he merits the extremest penalty — the poor 
woman is made with her last breath lo prove that a narrow rankling 
jealousy was a sentiment more rooted in her heart than either conju- 
gal or maternal love. It is too bad. For that scene his mother ought 
to chastise him. 

' You suggest the election of Mr. Chorley as our champion ; no, no, 
my dear Madam — we will not have Mr. Chorley — I doubt whether he 
would be true to us ; I will tell you who would better espouse and 
defend our cause ; the very man who attacks us; in Mr. Thackeray's 
nature is a good angel and a bad, and I would match the one against 
the other. 

' Will you ask Mr. Smith whether the two volumes of Violet reached 
him safely ? I returned them by post, as I remembered he said they 
were borrowed. 

' Give my kind regards to all your family circle, tell little Bell to be 
sure and not wear out her eyes with too much reading, or she will re- 
pent it when she is grown a woman. Believe me, my dear Mrs. 
Smith, Yours sincerely, 

' C. BrontE. 

' You demand a bulletin respecting the " little socks." I am sorry 
I cannot issue a more favourable one ; they continue much the same. 



454 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

The hours of retiring for the night had always been 
early in the Parsonage ; now family prayers were at eight 
o'clock, directly after which Mr. Bronte and old Tabby 
went to bed, and Martha was not long in following. But 
Charlotte could not have slept if she had gone — could not 
have rested on her desolate couch. She stopped up — it was 
very tempting — late and later ; striving to beguile the lonely 
night with some employment, till her weak eyes failed to 

Should they ever be finished, you shall certainly have them as a me- 
mento of " Currer Bell." ' 

The second letter is addressed to Mr. George Smith, and is dated 
January 15 : — 

'I have received the Morning Chronicle. I like Mr. Thackeray's 
letter. As you say, it is manly ; it breathes rectitude and indepen- 
dence ; now and then the satirist puts in a word, but, on the whole, its 
tone is as earnest as its style is simple. It needs a comparison between 
Mr. Thackeray and all the whining small fry of quill-drivers to take 
the full measure of his stature ; it needs such a comparison as his 
own words suggest to discover what a giant he is (morally I mean, 
not physically), and with what advantage and command he towers 
above the Leigh Hunts, the Levers, the Jerrolds. 

' I have likewise got Mr. Doyle's book in its beautiful lapis-lazuli 
cover. All comment on the circumstance of your sending a second 
copy after the first had been lost would, I feel, be quite unavailing. I 
leave the correction of such proceedings to the "man of business" 
within you : on the " close-fisted " Head of the Establishment in Corn- 
hill devolves the duty of reprimanding Mr. Q- e S th ; they may 

settle accounts between themselves, while Currer Bell looks on and 
wonders, but keeps out of the melee. 

' On reflection I think it would be wiser to abstain from adding any 
more prefatory remarks to the cheap edition of Jane Eyre, for it does 
not appear that I am very happy in such matters ; I lack Mr. Thack- 
eray's nice quiet tact and finished ease. I am glad to hear that the 
bonnets suited, and regret exceedingly that it is not in my power to 
give any assurance of the substantial existence of Miss Helstone. You 
must be satisfied if that young person has furnished your mind with 
a pleasant idea ; she is a native of Dreamland, and as such can have 
neither voice nor presence except for the fancy, neither being nor 
dwelling except in thought. 

'N. B. — That last sentence is not to be read by the "man of busi- 
ness;" it sounds mnch too bookish.' 



1850 VISITORS TO HA WORTH 455 

read or sew, and could only weep in solitude over the dead 
that were not. Ko one on earth can even imagine what 
those hours were to her. All the grim superstitions of the 
North had been implanted in her during her childhood by 
the servants who believed in them. They recurred to her 
now — with no shrinking from the spirits of the Dead, but 
with such an intense longing once more to stand face to 
face with the souls of her sisters as no one but she could 
have felt. It seemed as if the very strength of her yearn- 
ing should have compelled them to appear. On windy 
nights cries, and sobs, and wailings seemed to go round 
the house, as of the dearly beloved striving to force their 
way to her. Some one conversing with her once objected, 
in my presence, to that part of ' Jane Eyre ' in which she 
hears Rochester's voice crying out to her in a great crisis 
of her life, he being many, many miles distant at the time. 
I do not know what incident was in Miss Bronte's recollec- 
tion when she replied, in a low voice, drawing in her breath, 
'But it is a true thing; it really happened.' 

The reader who has even faintly pictured to himself her 
life at this time — the solitary days — the waking, watching 
nights — may imagine to what a sensitive pitch her nerves 
were strung, and how such a state was sure to affect her 
health. 

It was no bad thing for her that about this time various 
people began to go over to Haworth, curious to see the 
scenery described in ' Shirley/ if a sympathy with the 
writer, of a more generous kind than to be called mere 
curiosity, did not make them wish to know whether they 
could not in some way serve or cheer one who had suffered 
so deeply. 

Among this number were Sir James and Lady Kay-Shut- 
tleworth. 1 Their house lies over the crest of the moors 

1 Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth (1804-1877), a doctor of medicine, 
who was made a baronet in 1849, on resigning the secretaryship of the 
Committee of Council on Educalion ; assumed the name of Shuttle- 
worth on his marriage, in 1842, to Janet, the only child and heiress of 



456 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

which rise above Haworth, afc about a dozen miles' distance 
as the crow flies, though much further by the road. But, 
according to the acceptation of the word in that uninhabited 

Robert Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley (died 1872). His 
son, the present baronet, is the Right Hon. Sir Ughtred James Kay- 
Shuttleworth. 

'Amongst others,' writes Charlotte Bronte to Miss Nussey (March 
5, 1850), ' Sir J. K. -Shuttleworth and Lady S. have persisted in com- 
ing ; they were here on Friday. The baronet looks in vigorous 
health ; he scarcely appears more than thirty - five, but he says 
he is forty-four. Lady Shuttleworth is rather handsome, and still 
young. They were both quite unpretending. When here they again 
urged me to visit them. Papa took their side at once — would not hear 
of my refusing. I must go — this left me without plea or defence. I 
consented to go for three days. They wanted me to return with 
them in the carriage, but I pleaded off till to-morrow. I wish it was 
well over.' 

To Mr. Williams Miss Bronte writes (March 16, 1850)— Mrs. Gaskell 
quotes a fragment of the letter in the text : — 

' I mentioned, I think, that we had one or two visitors at Haworth 
lately ; amongst them were Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth and his lady. 
Before departing they exacted a promise that I would visit them at 
Gawthorpe Hall, their residence on the borders of East Lancashire. I 
went reluctantly, for it is always a difficult and painful thing to me 
to meet the advances of people whose kindness I am in no position to 
repay. Sir James is a man of polished manners, with clear intellect 
and highly cultivated mind. On the whole I got on very well with 
him. His health is just now somewhat broken by his severe official 
labours ; and the quiet drives to old ruins and old halls situate 
amongst older hills and woods, the dialogues (perhaps I should rather' 
say monologues, for I listened far more than I talked) by the fireside 
in his antique oak-panelled drawing-room, while they suited him did 
not too much oppress and exhaust me. The house, too, is very much 
to my taste, near three centuries old, grey, stately, and picturesque. 
On the whole, now that the visit is over, I do not regret having paid 
it. The worst of it is that there is now some menace hanging over 
my head of an invitation to go to them in London during the season ; 
this, which would doubtless be a great enjoyment to some people, is a 
perfect terror to me. I should highly prize the advantages to be 
gained in an extended range of observation, but I tremble at the 
thought of the price I must necessarily pay in mental distress and' 




HAWOKTH OLD HALL. 



1850 JARGON ABOUT ART 457 

district, they were neighbours, if they so willed it. Ac- 
cordingly Sir James and his wife drove over one morning, 
at the beginning of March, to call upon Miss Bronte" and her 
father. Before taking leave they pressed her to visit them 
at Gawthorpe Hall, their residence on the borders of Bast 
Lancashire. After some hesitation, and at the urgency of 
her father, who was extremely anxious to procure for her any 
change of scene and society that was offered, she consented 
to go. On the whole she enjoyed her visit very much, in 
spite of her shyness, and the difficulty she always experi- 
enced in meeting the advances of those strangers whose 
kindness she did not feel herself in a position to repay. 

She took great pleasure in the ' quiet drives to old ruins 
and old halls, situated among older hills and woods ; the 
dialogues by the old fireside in the antique oak-panelled 
drawing-room, while they suited him, 1 did not too much 
oppress and exhaust me. The house, too, is much to my 
taste; near three centuries old, grey, stately, and pictu- 
resque. On the whole, now that the visit is over, I do not 
regret having paid it. The worst of it is that there is now 
some menace hanging over my head of an invitation to go to 
them in London during the season. This, which would be 
a great enjoyment to some people, is a perfect terror to me. 
I should highly prize the advantages to be gained in an ex- 
tended range of observation ; but I tremble at the thought 
of the price I must necessarily pay in mental distress and 
physical wear and tear.' 

On the same day on which she wrote the above she sent 
the following letter to Mr. Smith. 

' March 16, 1850. 

' I ( return Mr. H 's note, after reading it carefully. I 

tried very hard to understand all he says about art ; but, to 
speak truth, my efforts were crowned with incomplete suc- 
cess. There is a certain jargon in use amongst critics on 

physical wear and tear. But you shall have no more of my confes- 
sions ; to you they will appear folly.' 
1 Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth. 



458 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

this point through which it is physically and morally im- 
possible to me to see daylight. One thing, however, I see 
plainly enough, and that is, Mr. Currer Bell needs improve- 
ment, and ought to strive after it; and this (D.V.) he 
honestly intends to do — taking his time, however, and fol- 
lowing as his guides Nature and Truth. If these lead to 
what the critics call art, it is all very well ; but if not, that 
grand desideratum has no chance of being run after or 
caught. The puzzle is, that while the people of the South 
object to my delineation of Northern life and manners, the 
people of Yorkshire and Lancashire approve. They say it 
is precisely the contrast of rough nature with highly arti- 
ficial cultivation which forms one of their main charac- 
teristics. Such, or something very similar, has been the 
observation made to me lately, whilst I have been from 
home, by members of some of the ancient Bast Lancashire 
families, whose mansions lie on the hilly borderland be- 
tween the two counties. The question arises, whether do 
the London critics, or the old Northern squires, understand 
the matter best ? 

' Any promise you require respecting the books shall be 
willingly given, provided only I am allowed the Jesuit's 
principle of a mental reservation, giving license to f orgeb and 
promise whenever oblivion shall appear expedient. The 
last two or three numbers of " Pendennis" will not, I dare 
say, be generally thought sufficiently exciting, yet I like 
them. Though the story lingers (for me), the interest does 
not flag. Here and there we feel that the pen has been 
guided by a tired hand, that the mind of the writer has been 
somewhat chafed and depressed by his recent illness, or by 
some other cause ; but Thackeray still proves himself greater 
when he is weary than other writers are when they are 
fresh. The public, of course, will have no compassion for 
his fatigue, and make no allowance foi the ebb of inspira- 
tion ; but some true-hearted readers here and there, while 
grieving that such a man should be obliged to write when 
he is not in the mood, will wonder that, under such circum- 



1850 WELCOME BOOKS 459 

stances, he should write so well. The parcel of books will 
come, I doubt not, at such time as it shall suit the good 
pleasure of the railway officials to send it on — or rather to 
yield it up to the repeated and humble solicitations of 
Haworth carriers — till when I wait in all reasonable patience 
and resignation, looking with docility to that model of active 
self-helpfulness "Punch" friendly offers the "Women of 
England " in his " Unprotected Female."" 

i 
The books lent her by her publishers were,, as I have be- 
fore said, a great solace and pleasure to her. There was 
much interest in opening the Cornhill parcel. But there 
was pain too ; for, as she untied the cords, and took out 
the volumes one by one, she could scarcely fail to be re- 
minded of those who once, on similar occasions, looked 
on so eagerly. 'I miss familiar voices, commenting mirth- 
fullyand pleasantly ; the room seems very still — very empty. 
But yet there is consolation in remembering that papa will 
■ take pleasure in some of the books. Happiness quite un- 
shared can scarcely be called happiness ; it has no taste.' 
She goes on to make remarks upon the kind of books sent. 

' I wonder how you can choose so well ; on no account 
would I forestall the choice. I am sure any selection I 
might make for myself would be less satisfactory than the 
selection others so kindly and judiciously make for me; 
besides, if I knew all that was coming it would be com- 
paratively flat. I would much rather not know. 

'Amongst the especially welcome works are " Southey's 
Life,"" the "Women of Prance," 3 Hazlitt's " Essays," Em- 

1 In Punch, from November 3, 1849, to April 20, 1850, there appeared 
twenty ' Scenes from the Life of an Unprotected Female,' in dialogue 
and stage directions. 

a The Life and Correspondence of the late Robert Southey, in six vol- 
umes, edited by his son the Rev. Charles Cuthbert Southey, was pub- 
lished by the LoDgmans in 1849-50. 

3 Women in France during the Eighteenth Century was by Julia Kav- 
anagh (1824-1877). 



460 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

erson's " Representative Men ;" but it seems invidious to 
particularise when all are good. ... I took up a second 
small book, Scott's "Suggestions on Female Education;" 1 
that, too, I read, and with unalloyed pleasure. It is very 
good ; justly thought, and clearly and felicitously ex- 
pressed. The girls of this generation have great advan- 
tages ; it seems to, me that they receive much encourage- 
ment in the acquisition of knowledge and the cultivation 
of their minds ; in these days women may be thoughtful 
and well read, without being universally stigmatised as 
" Blues " and " Pedants." Men begin to approve and aid, 
instead of ridiculing or checking them in their efforts to 
be wise. I must say that, for my own part, whenever I 
have been so happy as to share the conversation of a really 
intellectual man, my feeling has been, not that the little I 
knew was accounted a superfluity and impertinence, but 
that I did not know enough to satisfy just expectation. I 
have always to explain, " In me you must not look for 
great attainments : what seems to you the result of. read- 
ing and study is chiefly spontaneous and intuitive." . . . 
Against the teaching of some (even clever) men, one in- 
stinctively revolts. They may possess attainments, they may 
boast varied knowledge of life and of the world ; but if of 
the finer perceptions, of the more delicate phases of feel- 
ing, they may be destitute and incapable, of what avail is 
the rest ? Believe me, while hints well worth considera- 
tion may come from unpretending sources, from minds not 
highly cultured, but naturally fine and delicate, from hearts 
kindly, feeling, and unenvious, learned dictums delivered 
with pomp and sound may be perfectly empty, stupid, and 
contemptible. No man ever yet "by aid of Greek climbed 
Parnassus," or taught others to climb it. . . . 

' I enclose for your perusal a scrap of paper which came 
into my hands without the knowledge of the writer. He 

1 Suggestions on Female Education, by Alexander John Scott (1805— 
1866), the first Principal of Owens College, was published in 1849. 



1850 THE CURATES OF 'SHIRLEY' 461 

is a poor working man of this village — a thoughtful, read- 
ing, feeling being, whose mind is too keen for his frame, 
and wears it out. I have not spoken to him above thrice 
in my life, for he is a Dissenter, and has rarely come in my 
way. The document is a sort of record of his feelings, 
after the perusal of "Jane Eyre ;" it is artless and earnest, 
genuine and generous. You must return it to me, for I 
value it more than testimonies from higher sources. He 
said " Miss Bronte, if she knew he had written it, would 
scorn him ;" but, indeed, Miss Bronte does not scorn him ; 
she only grieves that a mind of which this is the emanation 
should be kept crushed by the leaden hand of poverty — by 
the trials of uncertain health and the claims of a large family. 
'As to the "Times," as you say, the acrimony of its 
critique has proved, in some measure, its own antidote ; to 
have been more effective it should have been juster. I 
think it has had little weight up here in the North : it may 
be that annoying remarks, if made, are not suffered to reach 
my ear ; but certainly, while I have heard little condemna- 
tory of "Shirley," more than once have I been deeply 
moved by manifestations of even enthusiastic approbation. 
I deem it unwise to dwell much on these matters ; but for 
once I must permit myself to remark, that the generous 
pride many of the Yorkshire people have taken in the mat- 
ter has been such as to awake and claim my gratitude, es- 
pecially since it has afforded a source of reviving pleasure 
to my father in his old age. The very curates, poor fel- 
lows ! show no resentment : each characteristically finds 
solace for his own wounds in crowing over his brethren. 
Mr. Donne was, at first, a little disturbed ; for a week or 
two he was in disquietude, but he is now soothed down ; 
only yesterday I had the pleasure of making him a com- 
fortable cup of tea, and seeing him sip it with revived com- 
placency. 1 It is a curious fact that, since he read "Shirley," 

1 The three curates of Shirley were, it will be remembered, Mr. 
Donne, curate of Whinbury ; Mr. Malone, curate of Briarfield ; and 



462 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

he has come to the house oftener than ever, and been re- 
markably meek, and assiduous to please. Some people's 
natures are veritable enigmas : I quite expected to have 
had one good scene at least with him ; but as yet nothing 
of the sort has occurred/ 

Mr. Sweeting, curate of Nunnely. Mr. Donne was Mr. Grant of Ox- 
enhope ; Mr. Malone was Mr. Smith of Haworth ; Mr. Sweeting was 
Mr. Bradley of Oakworth. Mr. Smith was succeeded in the Haworth 
curacy by Mr. A. B. Nicholls, who is pleasantly referred to in Shirley 
as successor to Mr. Malone. 



OHAPTEE XX 

During the earlier months of this spring Haworth was 
extremely unhealthy. The weather was damp, low fever 
was prevalent, and the household at the Parsonage suffered 
along with its neighbours. Charlotte says, ' I have felt it 
(the fever) in frequent thirst and infrequent appetite ; papa 
too, and even Martha, have complained.' This depression 
of health produced depression of spirits, and she grew more 
and more to dread the proposed journey to London with Sir 
James and Lady Kay-Shuttleworth. ' I know what the ef- 
fect and what the pain will be, how wretched I shall often 
feel, and how thin and haggard I shall get ; but he who 
shuns suffering will never win victory. If I mean to im- 
prove, I must strive and endure. ... Sir James has been 
a physician, and looks at me with a physician's eye : he saw 
at once that I could not stand much fatigue, nor bear the 
presence of many strangers. I believe he would partly un- 
derstand how soon my stock of animal spirits was brought 
to a low ebb ; but none — not the most skilful physician — 
can get at more than the outside of these things : the heart 
knows its own bitterness, and the frame its own poverty, 
and the mind its own struggles. Papa is eager and restless 
for me to go ; the idea of a refusal quite hurts him." 

1 On April 18 she wrote to Mr. George Smith— 

' As you say, the dividend business had better be deferred till I 
come to London ; I shall then have an opportunity of emulating " Mrs. 
Martha Struggles" by going to the Bank for myself. 

'You must be kind enough to thank your mother and sisters for 
their friendly remembrances. Probably I shall look forward to seeing 
them with at least as much pleasure as they will anticipate seeing me. 



464 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

But the sensations of illness in the family increased ; the 
symptoms were probably aggravated, if not caused, by the 
immediate vicinity of the churchyard, ' paved with rain- 
blackened tombstones/ On April 29 she writes — 

* We have had but a poor week of it at Haworth. Papa 
continues far from well ; he is often very sickly in the 
morning, a symptom which I have remarked before in his 
aggravated attacks of bronchitis; unless he should get 
much better I shall never think of leaving him to go to 
London. Martha has suffered from tic-donloureux, with 
sickness and fever, just like you. I have a bad cold, 
and a stubborn sore throat ; in short, everybody but old 

Tabby is out of sorts. When was here he complained 

of a sudden headache, and the night after he was gone 
I had something similar, very bad, lasting about {hree 
hours.' 

A fortnight later she writes — 

' I did not think papa well enough to be left, and accord- 
ingly begged Sir James and Lady Kay-Shuttleworth to re- 
turn to London without me. It was arranged that we 
were to stay at several of their friends' and relatives' house 
on the way ; a week or more would have been taken up on 
the journey. I cannot say that I regret having missed this 

I have but a vague idea of the chances for observing society my in- 
tended visit may afford, but my imagination is very much inclined to 
repose on the few persons I already know, as a sort of oasis in the wil- 
derness. Introduction to strangers is only a trial ; it is the meeting 
with friends that gives pleasure. 

' On no account should you have dreamed that I was coming to 
town ; I confess with shame that I have so much superstition in my 
nature as makes me reluctant to hear of the fulfilment of my dream, 
however pleasant ; if the good dreams come true, so may the bad ones, 
and we have more of the latter than of the former. 

' That there are certain organisations liable to anticipating impres- 
sions in the form of dream or presentiment I half believe, but that you, 
a man of business, have any right to be one of these I wholly deny. 
"No prophet can come out of Nazareth" (i.e. Cornhill).' 



1850 JOU11NEY TO LONDON POSTPONED 465 

ordeal ; I would as lief have walked among red-hot plough- 
shares ; but I do regret one great treat, which I shall now 
miss. Next Wednesday is the anniversary dinner of the 
Eoyal Literary Fund Society, held in Freemason's Hall. 
Octavian Blewitt, the secretary, offered me a ticket for the 
ladies' gallery. 1 I should have seen all the great literati 
and artists gathered in the hall below, and heard them 
speak ; Thackeray and Dickens are always present among 
the rest. This cannot now be. I don't think all London 
can afford another sight to me so interesting.' 

It became requisite, however, before long, that she 
should go to London on business ; and, as Sir James 
Kay-Shuttleworth was detained in the country by indispo- 
sition, she accepted Mrs. Smith's invitation to stay quietly 
at her house while she transacted her affairs. 

In the interval between the relinquishment of the first 
plan and the adoption of the second she wrote the follow- 
ing letter to one who was much valued among her literary 
friends: ' 

' May 22. 

'I had thought to bring the " Leader" and the " Athe- 
naeum " myself this time, and not to have to send them by 
post, but it turns out otherwise ; my journey to London is 
again postponed, and this time indefinitely. Sir James 
Kay-Shuttleworth's state of health is the cause — a cause, I 
fear, not likely to be soon removed. . . . Once more, then, 
I settle myself down in the quietude of Haworth Parsonage, 
with books for my household companions and an occasional 
letter for a visitor ; a mute society, but neither quarrelsome, 
nor vulgarizing, nor unimproving. 

' One of the pleasures I had promised myself consisted in 
asking you several questions about the " Leader," which is 
really, in its way, an interesting paper. I wanted, amongst 

1 The custom of admitting ladies to the gallery when the dinner is 
over, in order that they may listen to the speeches, still obtains at 
Eoyal Literary Fund dinners. 2 James Taylor. 



466 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE 

other things, to ask yon the real names of some of the con- 
tributors, and also what Lewes writes besides his "Appren- 
ticeship of Life." I always think the article headed "Lit- 
erature " is his. Some of the communications in the " Open 
Council " department are odd productions ; but it seems to 
me very fair and right to admit them. Is not the system 
of the paper altogether a novel one ? I do not remember 
seeing anything precisely like it before. 

' I have just received yours of this morning ; thank you 
for the enclosed note. The longings for liberty and leisure, 
which May sunshine wakens in you, stir my sympathy. I 
am afraid Cornhill is little better than a prison for its 
inmates on warm spring or summer days. It is a pity to 
think of you all toiling at your desks in such genial weather 
as this. 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, and am driven often to 
wish I could taste one draught of oblivion, and forget much 
that, while mind remains, I never shall forget. Many peo- 
ple seem to recall their departed relatives with a sort of mel- 
ancholy complacency, but I think these have not watched 
them through lingering sickness, nor witnessed their last 
moments : it is these reminiscences that stand by your bed- 
side at night, and rise at your pillow in the morning. At 
the end of all, however, exists the Great Hope. Eternal 
Life is theirs now.' 

She had to write many letters, about this time, to au- 



1850 LETTER TO A STRANGER 467 

thors who sent her their books, and strangers who expressed 
their admiration of her own. The following was in reply 
to one of the latter class, and was addressed to a young 
man at Cambridge : — 

' May 23, 1850. 

' Apologies are indeed unnecessary for a " reality of feel- 
ing, for a genuine, unaffected impulse of the spirit," such 
as prompted you to write the letter which I now briefly ac- 
knowledge. 

' Certainly it is " something to me " that what I write 
should be acceptable to the feeling heart and refined intel- 
lect ; undoubtedly it is much to me that my creations (such 
as they are) should find harbourage, appreciation, indul- 
gence at any friendly hand, or from any generous mind. 
You are very welcome to take Jane, Caroline, and Shirley 
for your sisters, and I trust they will often speak to their 
adopted brother when he is solitary, and soothe him when 
he is sad. If they cannot make themselves at home in a 
thoughtful, sympathetic mind, and diffuse through its twi- 
light a cheering domestic glow, it is their fault ; they are 
not, in that case, so amiable, so benignant, not so real as 
they ought to be. If they can, and can find household 
altars in human hearts, they will fulfil the best design of 
their creation in therein maintaining a genial flame, which 
shall warm but not scorch, light but not dazzle. 

'What does it matter that part of your pleasure in such 
beings has its source in the poetry of your own youth rather 
than any magic of theirs ? What that perhaps, ten years 
hence, you may smile to remember your present recollec- 
tions, and view under another light both " Currer Bell " 
and his writings ? To me this consideration does not de- 
tract from the value of what you now feel. Youth has its 
romance, and maturity its wisdom, as morning and spring 
have their freshness, noon and summer their power, night 
and winter their repose. Each attribute is good in its own 
season. Your letter gave me pleasure, and I thank you 
for it. Cubeer Bkll.' 



468 LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BEONTE 

Miss Bronte went up to town at the beginning of June, 1 
and much enjoyed her^ stay there ; seeing very few per- 
sons, according to the agreement she made before she 
went; and limiting her visit to a fortnight, dreading the 
feverishness and exhaustion which were the inevitable con- 
sequences of the slightest excitement upon her susceptible 
frame. 

' June 12. 

' Since I wrote to you last I have not had many moments 
to myself, except such as it was absolutely necessary to 

1 On May 25 she wrote to Mrs. Smith, now residing at 76 Gloucester 
Terrace — 

'You shall hear exactly how I am situated. Yesterday's post 
brought me a note from Sir J. K.-Shuttleworth, intimating that he 
is something better, reminding me that my visit is only postponed, 
and requesting an assurance to the effect that I will keep myself dis- 
engaged, adding these words : " Promise me that your first venture 
in this oceanic life shall be with me." As the note betrayed much of 
that nervous anxiety inseparable from his state of health, I hastened 
to give him this promise ; this, you will perceive, ties me down for 
the present. 

'I consider it, however, very doubtful whether he will be well 
enough to render my visit advisable ; and even should I go, still my 
conviction is that a brief stay will seem to me the best. In that case, 
after a few days with my "fashionable friends" as you call them, I 
believe I should be excessively disposed, and probably profoundly 
thankful, to subside into any quiet corner of your drawing-room 
where I might find a chair of suitable height. 

' I am sorry you have changed your residence, as I shall now again 
lose my way in going up and down stairs, and stand in great tribu- 
lation, contemplating several doors and not knowing which to open. 

' I regret that my answer to your kind note must be so incon- 
clusive ; the lapse of a fortnight or three weeks will probably facili- 
tate a decision. In the meantime, with kindest regards to your fam- • 
ily circle . . . 

' Any peculant post-office clerk who shall mistake the contents of 
this letter for a bank note will find himself in the wrong box. You 
see they are finished.'* 

* The reference is to a pair of baby's socks that Miss Bronte had 
knitted. 



1850 VISIT TO LONDON 469 

give to rest. On the whole, however, I have thus far got 
on very well, suffering much less from exhaustion than I 
did last time. 

' Of course I cannot give you in a letter a regular chroni- 
cle of how my time has been spent. I can only just notify 
what I deem three of its chief incidents — a sight of the 
Duke of "Wellington at the Chapel Koyal (he is a real grand 
old man), a visit to the House of Commons (which I hope 
to describe to you some day when I see you), and last, not 
least, an interview with Mr. Thackeray. He made me a 
morning call, and sat about two hours. Mr. Smith only 
was in the room the whole time. He described it after- 
wards as a "queer scene," and I suppose it was. The 
giant sate before me ; I was moved to speak to him of 
some of his shortcomings (literary of course) ; one by one 
the faults came into my head, and one by one I brought 
them out, and sought some explanation or defence. He 
did defend himself like a great Turk and heathen — that is 
to say, the excuses were often worse than the ci'ime itself. 
The matter ended in decent amity ; if all be well I am to 
dine at his house this evening. 

'I have seen Lewes too. 1 ... I could not feel otherwise 
to him than half sadly, half tenderly — a queer word that 
last, but I use it because the aspect of Lewes's face almost 
moves me to tears ; it is so wonderfully like Emily — her 
eyes, her features, the very nose, the somewhat prominent 
mouth, the forehead