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Full text of "Emily Brontë"

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Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 

Hugh Anson-Cartwright 



EMILY BRONTE 



BY 

A. MARY F. ROBINSON 



SECOND EDITION. 



LONDON: 

\V. H. ALLEN AND CO. 

13, WATERLOO PLACE 

1883. 

{All Rights Reserved} 








?R 



FLb 




LONDON: 
PE1NTBD BY W. B. ALLEN AND CO,, 13 WATERLOO PLACE. 8.W. 



CONTENTS. 



INTRODUCTION 

CHAPTER I. 
PARENTAGE ....,, 

CHAPTER II. 
BABYHOOD 

CHAPTER III. 
COWAN'S BRIDGE . . . 

CHAPTER IV. 
CHILDHOOD ......'. 

CHAPTER V. 
GOING TO SCHOOL 

CHAPTER VI. 
GIRLHOOD AT HAWORTH, . . . . 

CHAPTER VII. 

IN THE RUE D'lSABELLE .... 

CHAPTER VIII. 
A RETROSPECT 



PAGR 
I 



28 



53 



61 



vi CONTENTS. 

PAGBi 

CHAPTER IX. 
THE RECALL ....:,.. 103, 

CHAPTER X. 
THE PROSPECTUSES. . . . . , . xii 

CHAPTER XL 
BRANWELL'S FALL 116 

CHAPTER XII. 
WRITING POETRY . . 12$ 

CHAPTER XIII. 
TROUBLES . . . . . . . . .144 

CHAPTER XIV. 
WUTHERING HEIGHTS: ITS ORIGIN . . . .154 

CHAPTER XV. 
WUTHERING HEIGHTS: THE STORY . . . .168 

CHAPTER XVI. 
'SHIRLEY' 209 

CHAPTER XVII. 
BRANWELL'S END . . 217 

CHAPTER XVIII. 
EMILY'S DEATH 225 



FINIS! 233 



LIST OF AUTHORITIES. 



1846-56. THE WORKS OF CURRER, ELLIS, AND ACTON BELL. 
1857. LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE. Mrs. GaskelL \st and 

2nd Editions. 

1877. CHARLOTTE BRONTE. T. Wemyss Reid. 
1877. NOTE ON CHARLOTTE BRONTE. A. C. Swinburne. 
1881. THREE GREAT ENGLISHWOMEN. P. Bayne. 

MS. LECTURE ON EMILY BRONTE. T. Wemyss Reid. 
MS. NOTES ON EMILY AND CHARLOTTE BRONTE. 

Miss Ellen Nussey. 

MS. LETTERS OF CHARLOTTE AND BRANWELL BRONTE. 
1879. REMINISCENCES OF THE BRONTES. Miss E. Nussey. 
1870. UNPUBLISHED LETTERS OF CHARLOTTE, EMILY, AND- 

ANNE BRONTE. Hours at Home. 

1846. EMILY BRONTE'S ANNOTATED COPY OF HER POEMS. 
1872. BRANWELL BRONTE: IN THE "MIRROR." G.S.Phillips. 
1879. PICTURES OF THE PAST. F. H. Grundy. 
1830. PROSPECTUS OF THE CLERGYMEN'S DAUGHTERS* 

SCHOOL AT COWAN'S BRIDGE. 

1850. PREFACE TO WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Charlotte Bronte. 
1850. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE OF ELLIS AND ACTON BELL. 

Charlotte Bronte. 
1850. WUTHERING HEIGHTS: IN THE "PALLADIUM." Sydney 

Dobell. 

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF MRS. WOOD, MRS. 
RATCLIFFE, MRS. BROWN, AND MR. WILLIAM 
WOOD, OF HAWORTH. 
1811-18. POEMS OF PATRICK BRONTE, B.A., INCUMBENT or 

HAWORTH. 
1879. HAWORTH : PAST AND PRESENT. J". Horsfall Turner- 



EMILY BRONTE. 



INTRODUCTION. 

THERE are, perhaps, few tests of excellence so sure 
as the popular verdict on a work of art a hundred 
years after its accomplishment. So much time must be 
allowed for the swing and rebound of taste, for the de- 
spoiling of tawdry splendours and to permit the work 
of art itself to form a public capable of appreciating it. 
Such marvellous fragments reach us of Elizabethan 
praises ; and we cannot help recalling the number of 
copies of ( Prometheus Unbound ' sold in the lifetime of 
the poet. We know too well " what porridge had John 
Keats," and remember with misgiving the turtle to 
which we treated Hobbs and Nobbs at dinner, and how 
complacently we watched them put on their laurels 
afterwards. 

Let us, then, by all means distrust our own and the 
public estimation of all heroes dead within a hundred 
years. Let us, in laying claim to an infallible verdict, 
remember how oddly our decisions sound at the other 
side of Time's whispering gallery. Shall we therefore 
pronounce only on Chaucer and Shakespeare, on Gower 
and our learned Ben ? Alas \ we are too sure of their 
relative merits ; we stake our reputations with no qualms, 
no battle-ardours. These we reserve to them for whom 

B 



2 EMILY BRONTE. 

the future is not yet secure, for whom a timely word 
may still be spoken, for whom we yet may feel that 
lancing out of enthusiasm only possible when the cast 
of fate is still unknown, and, as we fight, we fancy 
that the glory of our hero is in our hands. 

But very gradually the victory is gained. A taste is 
unconsciously formed for the qualities necessary to the 
next development of art qualities which Blake in his 
garret, Millet without the sou, set down in immortal 
work. At last, when the time is ripe, some connoisseur 
sees the picture, blows the dust from the book, and 
straightway blazons his discovery. Mr. Swinburne, so 
to speak, blew the dust from ' Wuthering Heights '; and 
now it keeps its proper rank in the shelf where Coleridge 
and Webster, Hofmann and Leopardi have their place. 
Until then, a few brave lines of welcome from Sydney 
Dobell, one fine verse of Mr. Arnold's, one notice from 
Mr. Reid, was all the praise that had been given to 
the book by those in authority. Here and there a mill- 
girl in the West Riding factories read and re-read the 
tattered copy from the lending library ; here and there 
some eager, unsatisfied, passionate child came upon the 
book and loved it, in spite of chiding, finding in it an 
imagination that satisfied, and a storm that cleared the 
air ; or some strong-fibred heart felt without a shudder 
the justice of that stern vision of inevitable, inherited 
ruin following the chance-found child of foreign sailor 
and seaport mother. But these readers were not many ; 
even yet the book is not popular. 

For, in truth, the qualities that distinguish Emily 
Bronte are not those which are of the first necessity to a 
novelist. She is without experience ; her range of cha- 
racter is narrow and local ; she has no atmosphere of 
broad humanity like George Eliot ; she has not Jane 



INTRODUCTION. 3 

Austen's happy gift of making us love in a book what 
we have overlooked in life ; we do not recognise in 
her the human truth and passion, the never-failing 
serene bitterness of humour, that have made for 
Charlotte Bronte a place between Cervantes and Victor 
Hugo. 

Emily Bronte is of a different class. Her imagination 
is narrower, but more intense ; she sees less, but what 
she sees is absolutely present : no writer has described 
the moors, the wind, the skies, with her passionate 
fidelity, but this is all of Nature that she describes. Her 
narrow fervid nature accounted as simple annoyance 
the trivial scenes and personages touched with immortal 
sympathy and humour in ' Villette ' and ' Shirley ' ; Paul 
Emanuel himself appeared to her only as a pedantic 
and exacting taskmaster ; but, on the other hand,. to a 
certain class of mind, there is nothing in fiction so 
moving as the spectacle of Heathcliff dying of joy 
an unnatural, unreal joy his panther nature paralysed, 
antanti, in a delirium of visionary bliss. 

Only an imagination of the rarest power could con- 
ceive such a denouement, requiting a life of black 
ingratitude by no mere common horrors, no vulgar 
Bedlam frenzy ; but by the torturing apprehension of a 
happiness never quite grasped, always just beyond the 
verge of realisation. Only an imagination of the finest 
and rarest touch, absolutely certain of tread on that 
path of a single hair which alone connects this world 
with the land of dreams. Few have trod that perilous 
bridge with the fearlessness of Emily Bronte : that is her 
own ground and there she wins our highest praise ; but 
place her on the earth, ask her to interpret for us the 
common lives of the surrounding people, she can give 
no answer. The swift and certain spirit moves with 

B 2 



4 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

the clumsy hesitating gait of a bird accustomed to 
soar. 

She tells us what she saw ; and what she saw and 
what she was .incapable of seeing are equally cha- 
racteristic. All the wildness of that moorland, all the 
secrets of those lonely farms, all the capabilities of the 
one tragedy of passion and weakness that touched her 
solitary life, she divined and appropriated ; but not the 
life of the village at her feet, not the bustle of the mills, 
the riots, the sudden alternations of wealth and poverty ; 
not the incessant rivalry of church and chapel ; and 
while the West Riding has known the prototype of 
nearly every person and nearly every place in 'Jane 
Eyre' and 'Shirley,' not a single character in ' Wuthering 
Heights ' ever climbed the hills round Haworth. 

Say that two foreigners have passed through Stafford- 
shire, leaving us their reports of what they have seen. 
The first, going by day, will tell us of the hideous black- 
ness of the country ; but yet more, no doubt, of that 
awful, patient struggle of man with fire and darkness, of 
the grim courage of those unknown lives ; and he would 
see what they toil for, women with little children in their 
arms ; and he would notice the blue sky beyond the 
smoke, doubly precious for such horrible environment. 
But the second traveller has journeyed through the night ; 
neither squalor nor ugliness, neither sky nor children, 
has he seen, only a vast stretch of blackness shot 
through with flaming fires, or here and there burned ta 
a dull red by heated furnaces ; and before these, strange 
toilers, half naked, scarcely human, and red in the leap- 
ing flicker and gleam of the fire. The meaning of their 
work he could not see, but a fearful and impressive 
phantasmagoria of flame and blackness and fiery energies 
at work in the encompassing night, 



INTRODUCTION. 5 

So differently did the black country of this world 
appear to Charlotte, clear-seeing and compassionate, and 
to Emily Bronte, a traveller through the shadows. Each 
faithfully recorded what she saw, and the place was the 
.same, but how unlike the vision ! The spectacles of 
temperament colour the world very differently for each 
beholder ; and, to understand the vision, we too should 
for a moment look through the seer's glass. To gain 
some such transient glance, to gain and give some such 
momentary insight into the character of Emily Bronte, 
has been the aim I have tried to make in this book. 
That I have not fulfilled my desire is perhaps inevitable 
the task has been left too long. If I have done anything 
at all I feel that much of the reward is due to my many 
and generous helpers. Foremost among them I must 
thank Dr. Ingham, my kind host at Haworth, Mrs. Wood, 
Mr. William Wood, Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Ratcliffe of 
that parish all of whom had known the now perished 
family of Bronte ; and my thanks are due no less to Mr. 
T. Wemyss Reid, as will be seen further on, to Mr. J. H. 
Ingram, and to Mr. Biddell, who have collected much 
valuable information for my benefit ; and most of all do 
I owe gratitude and thankfulness to Miss Ellen Nussey, 
without whose generous help my work must have re- 
mained most ignorant and astray. To her, had it been 
worthier, had it been all the subject merits, and yet 
without those shadows of gloom and trouble enjoined by 
the nature of the story ; to her, could I only have spoken of 
the high noble character of Emily Bronte and not of the 
great trials of her life, I should have ventured to dedi- 
cate this study. But to Emily's friend I only offer what, 
through her, I have learned of Emily ; she, who knew so 
little of Branwell's shames and sorrow is unconcerned 
with this, their sad and necessary record. Only the 



6 EMIL Y BRONT&. 

lights and sunshine of my work I dedicate to her. It 
may be that I have given too great a share to the 
shadows, to the manifold follies and failures of Branwell 
Bronte. Yet in Emily Bronte's life the shaping influ- 
ences were so few, and the sins of this beloved and 
erring brother had so large a share in determining the 
bent of her genius, that to have passed them by would 
have been to ignore the shock which turned the fantasy 
of the 'Poems' into the tragedy of 'Wuthering Heights/ 
It would have been to leave untold the patience, the 
courage, the unselfishness which perfected Emily Bronte's 
heroic character ; and to have left her burdened with 
the calumny of having chosen to invent the crimes and 
violence of her dramatis persona. Not so, alas ! They 
were but reflected from the passion and sorrow that 
darkened her home ; it was no perverse fancy which 
drove that pure and innocent girl into ceaseless brooding 
on the conquering force of sin and the supremacy of 
injustice. 

She brooded over the problem night and day ; she 
took its difficulties passionately to heart ; in the midst 
of her troubled thoughts she wrote ' Wuthering Heights/ 
From the clear spirit which inspires the end of her work, 
we know that the storm is over ; we know that her next 
tragedy would be less violent. But we shall never see 
it ; for and it is by this that most of us remember her 
suddenly and silently she died. 

She died, before a single word of worthy praise had 
reached her. She died with her work misunderstood 
and neglected. And yet not unhappy. For her home 
on the moors was very dear to her, the least and home- 
liest duties pleasant ; she loved her sisters with devoted 
friendship, and she had many little happinesses in her 
patient, cheerful, unselfish life. Would that I could 



INTRODUCTION. 7 

show her as she was ! not the austere and violent 
poetess who, cuckoo-fashion, has usurped her place ; 
but brave to fate and timid of man ; stern to herself, for- 
bearing to all weak and erring things ; silent, yet some- 
times sparkling with happy sallies. For to represent 
her as she was would be her noblest and most fitting 
monument. 



EMILY BRONTE. 



CHAPTER I. 
PARENTAGE. 

EMILY BRONTE was born of parents without any peculiar 
talent for literature. It is true that her mother's letters 
are precisely and prettily written. It is true that her 
father published a few tracts and religious poems. But 
in neither case is there any vestige of literary or poetical 
endowment. Few, indeed, are the Parish Magazines 
which could not show among their contents poems and 
articles greatly superior to the weak and characterless 
effusions of the father of the Brontes. The fact seems 
important; because in this case not one member of a 
family, but a whole family, is endowed in more or less 
degree with faculties not derived from either parent. 

For children may inherit genius from parents who are 
themselves not gifted, as two streaming currents of air 
unite to form a liquid with properties different from 
either ; and never is biography more valuable than when 
it allows us to perceive by what combination of allied 
qualities, friction of opposing temperaments, recurrence 
of ancestral traits, the subtle thing we call character is 
determined. In this case, since, as I have said, the 
whole family manifested a brilliance not to be found. in 
either parent, such a study would be peculiarly interest- 
ing. But, unfortunately, the history of the children's 
father and the constitution of the children's mother is 
all that is clear to our investigation. 



PARENTAGE. 9 

.Yet even out of this very short pedigree two important 
factors of genius declare themselves two potent and 
shaping inheritances. From their father, Currer, Ellis, 
and Acton derived a strong will. From their mother, 
the disease that slew Emily and Anne in the prime 
of their youth and made Charlotte always delicate and 
ailing. In both cases the boy, Patrick Branwell, was 
very slightly affected ; but he too died young, from 
excesses that suggest a taint of insanity in his con- 
stitution. 

Insanity and genius stand on either side consumption, 
its worse and better angels. Let none call it impious 
or absurd to rank the greatest gift to mankind as the 
occasional result of an inherited tendency to tubercular 
disease. There are of course very many other deter- 
mining causes ; yet is it certain that inherited scrofula 
or phthisis may come out, not in these diseases, or not 
only in these diseases, but in an alteration, for better or 
for worse, of the condition of the mind. Out of evil good 
may come, or a worse evil. 

The children's father was a nervous, irritable and 
violent man, who endowed them with a nervous organisa- 
tion easily disturbed and an indomitable force of volition. 
The girls, at least, showed both these characteristics. 
Patrick Branwell must have been a weaker, more bril- 
liant, more violent, less tenacious, less upright copy of 
his father ; and seems to have suffered no modification 
from the patient and steadfast moral nature of his 
mother. She was the model that her daughters copied, 
in different degrees, both in character and healthy 
Passion and will their father gave them. Their genius 
came directly from neither parent ; but from the con- 
stitution of their natures. 

In addition, on both sides, the children got a Celtic 



io EMIL Y BRONTE. 

strain ; and this is a matter of significance, meaning a. 
predisposition to the superstition, imagination and horror 
that is a strand in all their work. Their mother, Maria 
Branwell, was of a good middle-class Cornish family, 
long established as merchants in Penzance. Their father 
was the son of an Irish peasant, Hugh Prunty, settled in 
the north of Ireland, but native to the south. 

The history of the Rev. Patrick Bronte, B.A. (whose 
fine Greek name, shortened from the ancient Irish appel- 
lation of Bronterre, was so na'fvely admired by his chil- 
dren), is itself a remarkable and interesting story. 

The Reverend Patrick Bronte was one of the ten chil- 
dren of a peasant proprietor at Ahaderg in county Down. 
The family to which he belonged inherited strength, 
good looks, and a few scant acres of potato-growing 
soil. ^ They must have been very poor, those ten chil- 
dren, often hungry, cold and wet ; but these adverse 
influences only seemed to brace the sinews of Patrick 
Prunty and to nerve his determination to rise above his 
surroundings. He grew up a tall and strong young 
fellow, unusually handsome with a well-shaped head, 
regular profile and fine blue eyes. A vivacious impres- 
sible manner effectually masked a certain selfishness 
and rigour of temperament which became plain in 
after years. He seemed a generous, quick, impulsive 
lad. When he was sixteen years of age Patrick left his 
father's roof resolved to earn a position for himself. At 
Drumgooland, a neighbouring hamlet, he opened what 
is called in Ireland a public school ; a sort of hedge- 
school for village children. He stuck to his trade for 
five or six years, using his leisure to perfect himself in 
general knowledge, mathematics, and a smattering of 
Greek and Latin. 

His efforts deserved to be crowned with success. The 



PARENTAGE. ir 

Rev. Mr. Tighe, the clergyman of the parish, was so 
struck with Patrick Prunty's determination and ability 
that he advised him to try for admittance at one of the 
English universities ; and when the young man was 
about five-and-twenty he went, with Mr. Tighe's help, 
to Cambridge, and entered at St. John's. 

He left Ireland in July, 1802, never to visit it again. 
He never cared to look again on the scenes of his early 
struggle. He never found the means to revisit mother 
or home, friends or country. Between Patrick Bronte, 
proud of his Greek profile and his Greek name, the 
handsome undergraduate at St. John's, and the nine 
shoeless, hungry young Pruntys of Ahaderg, there 
stretched a distance not to be measured by miles.. 
Under his warm and passionate exterior a fixed resolu- 
tion to get on in the world was hidden ; but, though 
cold, the young man was just and self-denying, and as 
long as his mother lived she received twenty pounds a 
year, spared with difficulty from his narrow income. 

Patrick Bronte stayed four years at Cambridge ; when 
he left he had dropped his Irish accent and taken his 
B.A. On leaving St. John's he was ordained to a curacy 
in Essex. 

The young man's energy, of the sort that only toils to 
reach a given personal end, had carried him far on the 
way to success. At twenty hedge-schoolmaster at Drum- 
gooland, Patrick Bronte was at thirty a respectable 
clergyman of the Church of England, with an assured 
position and respectable clerical acquaintance. He was 
getting very near the goal. 

He did not stay long in Essex. A better curacy was 
offered to him at Hartshead, a little village between 
Huddersfield and Halifax in Yorkshire. While he was 
at Hartshead the handsome inflammable Irish curate 



1 2 E,MIL Y BRONTE. 

.met Maria Branwell at her uncle's parsonage near Leeds. 
It was not the first time that Patrick Bronte had fallen 
in love ; people in the neighbourhood used to smile at 
.his facility for adoration, and thought it of a piece with 
his enthusiastic character. They were quite right ; in 
his strange nature the violence and the coldness were 
equally genuine, both being a means to gratify some 
personal ambition, desire, or indolence. It is not an 
uncommon Irish type ; self-important, upright, honour- 
able, yet with a bent towards subtlety: abstemious in 
habit, but with freaks of violent self-indulgence ; courteous 
and impulsive towards strangers, though cold to members 
of the household ; naturally violent, and often assuming 
violence as an instrument of authority ; selfish and 
dutiful ; passionate, and devoid of intense affection. 

Miss Branwell was precisely the little person with 
whom it was natural that such a man, a self-made man, 
.should fall in love. She was very small, quiet and 
gentle, not exactly pretty, but elegant and ladylike. 
She was, indeed, a well-educated young lady of good 
connections ; a very Phoenix she must have seemed in 
the eyes of a lover conscious of a background of Pruntyism 
and potatoes. She was about twenty-one and he thirty- 
five when they first met in the early summer of 1812. 
They were engaged in August. Miss Bran well's letters 
.reveal a quiet intensity of devotion, a faculty of judg- 
ment, a willingness to forgive passing slights that must 
have satisfied the absolute and critical temper of her 
Jover. Under the devotion and the quietness there is, 
however, the note of an independent spirit, and the 
following extract, with its capability of self-reliance and 
desire to rely upon another, reminds one curiously of 
passages in her daughter Charlotte's writings : 

" For some years I have been perfectly my own mis- 



PARENTAGE. ij 

tress, subject to no control whatever ; so far from it that 
my sisters, who are many years older than myself, and 
even my dear mother used to consult me on every 
occasion of importance, and scarcely ever doubted the 
propriety of my words 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 disadvantage, and although, I 
thank God, it has never led me into error, yet in circum- 
stances of uncertainty and doubt I have deeply felt the 
want of a guide and instructor." 

Years afterwards, when Maria Branwell's letters were 
given into the hands of her daughter Charlotte and that 
daughter's most dear and faithful friend, the two young 
women felt a keen pang of retrospective sympathy for 
the gentle independent little person who, even before her 
marriage, had time to perceive that her guide and in- 
structor was not the infallible Mentor she had thought 
him at the first. I quote the words of Charlotte's friend, 
of more authority and weight on this matter than those 
of any other person living, taken from a manuscript 
which she has placed at my disposal : 

" Miss Branwell's letters showed that her engagement, 
though not a prolonged one, was not as happy as it 
ought to have been. There was a pathos of apprehen- 
sion (though gently expressed) in part of the corre- 
spondence lest Mr. Bronte should cool in his affection 
towards her, and the readers perceived with some in- 
dignation that there had been a just cause for this 
apprehension. Mr. Bronte, with all his iron strength 
and power of will, had his weakness, and one which, 
wherever it exists, spoils and debases the character he 
had personal vanity. Miss Branwell's finer nature rose 
above such weakness ; but she suffered all the more from- 



EMILY BRONTE. 

evidences of it in one to whom she had given her affec- 
tions and whom she was longing to look up to in all 
things." 

On the 29th of December, 1812, this disillusioned, 
loving little lady was married to Patrick Bronte, from 
her uncle's parsonage near Leeds. The young couple 
took up their abode at Hartshead, Mr. Bronte's curacy. 
Three years afterwards they moved, with two little 
baby girls, Maria and Elizabeth, to a better living at 
Thornton. The country round is desolate and bleak ; 
great winds go sweeping by ; young Mrs. Bronte, whose 
husband generally sat alone in his study, would have 
missed her cheerful home in sunny Penzance (being 
delicate and prone to superstition), but that she was a 
patient and uncomplaining woman, and she had scant 
time for thought among her many cares for the thick- 
coming little lives that peopled her Yorkshire home. 
In 1816 Charlotte Bronte was born. In the next year 
Patrick Branwell. In 1818 Emily Jane. In 1819 Anne. 
Then the health of their delicate and consumptive 
mother began to break. After seven years' marriage 
and with six young children, Mr. and Mrs. Bronte 
moved on the 2$th of February, 1820, to their new home 
.at Haworth Vicarage. 

The village of Haworth stands, steep and grey, on the 
topmost side of an abrupt low hill. Such hills, more 
steep than high, are congregated round, circle beyond 
circle, to the utmost limit of the horizon. Not a wood, 
not a river. As far as eye can reach these treeless hills, 
their sides cut into fields by grey walls of stone, with 
here and there a grey stone village, and here and there 
a grey stone mill, present no other colours than the 
singular north-country brilliance of the green grass, and 
the blackish grey of the stone. Now and then a top- 



PARENTAGE 15 

pling, gurgling mill-beck gives life to the scene. But 
the real life, the only beauty of the country, is set on the 
top of all the hills, where moor joins moor from York- 
shire into Lancashire, a coiled chain of wild free places. 
White with snow in winter, black at midsummer, it is 
only when spring dapples the dark heather-stems with 
the vivid green of the sprouting wortleberry bushes, 
only when in early autumn the moors are one humming 
mass of fragrant purple, that any beauty of tint lights 
up the scene. But there is always a charm in the 
moors for hardy and solitary spirits. Between them and 
heaven nothing dares to interpose. The shadows of the 
coursing clouds alter the aspect of the place a hundred 
times a day. A hundred little springs and streams well 
in its soil, making spots of livid greenness round their 
rise. A hundred birds of every kind are flying and 
singing there. Larks sing ; cuckoos call ; all the tribes 
of linnets and finches twitter in the bushes ; plovers 
moan ; wild ducks fly past ; more melancholy than all, 
on stormy days, the white sea-mews cry, blown so far 
inland by the force of the gales that sweep irresistibly 
over the treeless and houseless moors. There in the 
spring you may take in your hands the weak, halting 
fledgelings of the birds ; rabbits and game multiply in 
the hollows. There in the autumn the crowds of bees, 
mad in the heather, send the sound of their humming 
down the village street. The winds, the clouds, Nature 
.and life, must be the friends of those who would love 
the moors. 

But young Mrs. Bronte never could go on the moors. 
She was frail and weak, poor woman, when she came to 
live in the oblong grey stone parsonage on the windy 
top of the hill. The village ran sheer down at her feet ; 
but she could not walk down the steep rough-paven 



16 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

street, nor on the pathless moors. She was very ill and 
weak ; her husband spent nearly all his time in the 
study, writing his poems, his tracts, and his sermons. 
She had no companions but the children. And when, 
in a very few months, she found that she was sickening 
of a cancer, she could not bear to see much of the 
children that she must leave so soon. 

Who dare say if that marriage was happy ? Mrs. 
Gaskell, writing in the life and for the eyes of Mr. Bronte, 
speaks of his unwearied care, his devotion in the night- 
nursing. But before that fatal illness was declared, she 
lets fall many a hint of the young wife's loneliness 
during her husband's lengthy, ineffectual studies ; of her 
patient suffering of his violent temper. She does not 
say, but we may suppose, with what inward pleasure 
Mrs. Bronte witnessed her favourite silk dress cut into 
shreds because her husband's pride did not choose that 
she should accept a gift ; or watched the children's 
coloured shoes thrown on the fire, with no money in her 
purse to get new ones ; or listened to her husband's cavil 
at the too frequent arrival of his children ; or heard the 
firing of his pistol-shots at the out-house doors, the 
necessary vent of a passion not to be wreaked in words. 
She was patient, brave, lonely, and silent. But Mr. 
Wemyss Reid, who has had unexampled facilities for 
studying the Bronte papers, does not scruple to speak 
of Mr. Bronte's "persistent coldness and neglect" of 
his wife, his " stern and peremptory " dealings with her, 
of her " habitual dread of her lordly master " ; and the 
manuscript which I have once already^quoTeoTalludes to 
the "hard and inflexible will which raised itself some- 
times into tyranny and cruelty." It is within the cha- 
racter of the man that all this should be true. Safely 
wed, the woman to whom he had made hot love would 



PARENTAGE. 17 

experience no more of his impulsive tenderness. He 
had provided for her and done his duty ; her duty was 
to be at hand when he needed her. Yet, imminent 
death once declared, all his uprightness, his sense of 
honour, would call on him to be careful to the creature 
he had vowed to love and cherish, all his selfishness 
would oblige him to try and preserve the mother of six 
little children under seven years of age. " They kept 
themselves very close," the village people said ; and at 
least in this last illness the husband and wife were 
frequently together. Their love for each other, new 
revived and soon to clos.e, seemed to exclude any 
thought of the children. We hear expressly that Mr. 
Bronte, from natural disinclination, and Mrs. Bronte, from 
fear of agitation, saw very little of the small earnest 
babies who talked politics together in the "children's 
study," or toddled hand in hand over the neighbouring 
moors. 

Meanwhile the young mother grew weaker day by 
day, suffering great pain and often unable to move. 
But repining never passed her lips. Perhaps she did 
not repine. Perhaps she did not grieve to quit her 
harassed life, the children she so seldom saw, her con- 
stant pain, the husband "not dramatic enough in his 
perceptions to see how miserable others might be in a 
life that to him was all-sufficient." * For some months 
she lay still, asking sometimes to be lifted in bed that 
she might watch the nurse cleaning the grate, be- 
cause she did it as they did in Cornwall. For some 
months she suffered more and more. In September, 

1821, she died. 

* Mrs. Gaskell. 



1 8 EMILY BRONT& 



CHAPTER II. 

BABYHOOD. 

AFTER his wife's death the Rev. Mr. Bronte's life grew 
yet more secluded from ordinary human interests. He 
was not intimate with his parishioners ; scarcely more 
intimate with his children. He was proud of them 
when they said anything clever, for, in spite of their 
babyhood, he felt at such moments that they were worthy 
of their father ; but their forlorn infancy, their helpless 
ignorance, was no appeal to his heart. Some months 
before his wife's death he had begun to take his dinner 
alone, on account of his delicate digestion ; and he con- 
tinued the habit, seeing the children seldom except at 
breakfast and tea, when he would amuse the elders by 
talking Tory politics with them, and entertain the baby, 
Emily, with his Irish tales of violence and horror. Per- 
haps on account of this very aloofness, he always had a 
great influence over the children ; he did not care for 
any dearer relation. 

His empty days were filled with occasional visits to 
some sick person in the village ; with long walks alone 
over the moors, and with the composition of his ' Cottage 
in the Wood ' and those grandiloquent sermons which 
still linger in the memory of Haworth. Occasionally a 
clergyman from one of the neighbouring villages would 
walk over to see him ; but as Mrs. Bronte had died so 
soon after her arrival at Haworth their wives never 



BABYHOOD. 19 

came, and the Bronte children had no playfellows in the 
vicarages near ; nor were they allowed to associate with 
the village children. 

This dull routine life suited Mr. Bronte. He had 
laboured for many years and now he took his repose. 
We get no further sign of the impatient energies of his 
youth. He had changed, developed ; even as those 
sea-creatures develop, who, having in their youth fins, 
eyes and sensitive feelers, become, when once they find 
their resting-place, motionlessly attached to it, losing 
-one after the other, sight, movement, and even sensation, 
everything but the faculty to adhere. 

Meanwhile the children were left alone. For sym- 
pathy and amusement they only had each other to 
look to ; and never were brother and sisters more de- 
voted. Maria, the eldest, took care of them all she 
was an old-fashioned, motherly little girl ; frail and 
small in appearance, with thoughtful, tender ways. She 
was very careful of her five little ones, this seven-year- 
old mother of theirs, and never seems to have exerted 
the somewhat tyrannic authority usually wielded by 
such youthful guardians. Indeed, for all her seniority, 
she was the untidy one of the family herself; it was 
.against her own faults only that she was severe. She 
must have been a very attaching little creature, with her 
childish delinquencies and her womanly cares ; protect- 
ing her little family with gentle love and discussing the 
debates in Parliament with her father. Charlotte re- 
membered her to the end of her life with passionate 
clinging affection and has left us her portrait in the 
pathetic figure of Helen Burns. 

This delicate, weak-chested child of seven was the 
head of the nursery. Then came Elizabeth, less clearly 
individualised in her sisters' memory. She also bore in 

C 2 



20 



EMILY BRONTE. 



her tiny body the seeds of fatal consumption. Next 
came impetuous Charlotte, always small and pale. 
Then red-headed, talkative Patrick Branwell. Lastly 
Emily and Anne, mere babies, toddling with difficulty 
over the paven path to the moors. 

Such a family demanded the closest care, the most 
exact attention. This was perhaps impossible on an 
income of 200 a year, when the mother lay upstairs 
dying of a disease that required constant nursing. Still 
the conditions of the Brontes' youth were unnecessarily 
unhealthy. It could not be helped that these delicate 
children should live on the bleak wind-swept hill where 
consumption is even now a scourge ; it could not be 
helped that their home was bounded on two sides by 
the village graveyard ; it could not be helped that they 
were left without a mother in their babyhood ; but 
never, short of neglect, were delicate children less con- 
sidered. 

The little ones, familiar with serious illness in the 
house, expected small indulgence. They were accustomed 
to think nothing so necessary as that they should amuse 
themselves in quiet, and keep out of the way. The 
lesson learned so young remained in the minds of the 
five sisters all their lives. From their infancy they were 
retired and good ; it was only Patrick Branwell who 
sometimes showed his masculine independence by a 
burst of natural naughtiness. They were the quietest 
of children by nature and necessity. The rooms at 
Haworth Parsonage were small and few. There were 
in front two moderate-sized parlours looking on the 
garden, hat on the right being Mr. Bronte's study, and 
the larger one opposite the family sitting-room. Behind 
these was a sort of empty store-room and the kitchens. 
On the first floor there was a servants'-room, where the 






BABYHOOD. 21 

two servants slept, over the back premises ; and a bed- 
room over each of the parlours. Between these and over 
the entrance passage was a tiny slip of a room, scarcely 
larger than a linen-closet, scarcely wider than the doorway 
and the window-frame that faced each other at either end. 
During the last months of Mrs. Bronte's illness, when it 
became necessary that she should have a bedroom to 
herself, all the five little girls were put to sleep in this 
small and draughty closet, formerly the children's study. 
There can scarcely have been room to creep between their 
beds. Very quiet they must have been ; for any childish 
play would have disturbed the dying mother on the one 
side, and the anxious irritable father on the other. And 
all over the house they must keep the same hushed calm, 
since the low stone-floored rooms would echo any noise. 
Very probably they were not unhappy children for all 
their quietness. They enjoyed the most absolute freedom, 
dearest possession of childhood. When they were tired 
of reading the papers (they seemed to have had no chil- 
dren's books), or of discussing the rival merits of Bona- 
parte and the Duke of Wellington, they were free to go 
along the paven way over the three fields at the back, 
till the last steyle-hole in the last stone wall let them 
through on to the wide and solitary moors. There in all 
weathers they might be found ; there they passed their 
happiest hours, uncontrolled as the birds overhead. 

One rule seems to have been made by their father for 
the management of these precocious children with their 
consumptive taint, with their mother dying of cancer 
that one rule of Mr. Bronte's making, still preserved to 
us, is that the children should eat no meat. The Rev. 
Patrick Bronte, B.A., had grown to heroic proportions on 
potatoes ; he knew no reason why his children should 
fare differently. 



22 EMILY BRONTE. 

The children never grumbled ; so Mrs. Bronte's sick- 
nurse told Mrs. Gaskell : 

"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 in the chil- 
dren'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 
were such good children. I used to think them spirit- 
less, they were so different to any children I had ever 
seen. In part, I set it down to a fancy Mr. Bronte had 
of not letting them have flesh-meat to eat. It was from 
no wish for saving, for there was plenty and even waste 
in the house, with young servants and no mistress to see 
after them ; but he thought that children should be 
brought up simply and hardily : so they had nothing 
but potatoes for their dinner ; but they never seemed to 
wish for anything else. They were good little creatures. 
Emily was the prettiest." 

This pretty Emily of two years old was no mother's 
constant joy. That early shaping tenderness, those re- 
curring associations of reverent love, must be always 
missing in her memories. Remembering her earliest 
childhood, she would recall a constant necessity of keep- 
ing joys and sorrows quiet, not letting others hear ; she 
would recall the equal love of children for each other, 
the love of the only five children she knew in all the 
world ; the free wide moors where she might go as she 
pleased, and where the rabbits played and the moor- 
game ran and the wild birds sang and flew. 

Mrs. Bronte's death can have made no great difference 
to any of her children save Maria, who had been her 
constant companion at Thornton; friendly and helpful 






BABYHOOD. 2-5 

as a little maiden of six can be to the worried, delicate 
mother of many babies. Emily and Anne would barely 
remember her at all. Charlotte could only just recall the 
image of her mother playing with Patrick Branwell one 
twilight afternoon. An empty room, a cessation of accus- 
tomed business, their mother's death can have meant 
little more than that to the younger children. 

For about a year they were left entirely to their own 
devices, and to the rough care of kind-hearted, busy 
servants. They devised plays about great men, read 
the newspapers, and worshipped the Duke of Wellington, 
strolled over the moors at their own sweet will, knowing 
and caring absolutely for no creature outside the walls 
of their own home. To these free, hardy, independent 
little creatures Mr. Bronte announced one morning that 
their maiden aunt from Cornwall, their mother's eldest 
sister, was coming to superintend their education. 

"Miss Branweli 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 
had a horror of the climate so far north, and of the 
stone floors in the Parsonage. . . . She talked a great 
deal of her younger days the gaieties of her dear native 
town Penzance, the soft, warm climate, &c. She gave 
one the idea that she had been a belle among her own 
home acquaintance. She took snuff out of a very pretty 
gold snuff-box, which she sometimes presented to you 
with a little laugh, as if she enjoyed the slight shock of 
astonishment visible in your countenance. . . . She would 
be very lively and intelligent, and tilt arguments against 
Mr. Bronte without fear." 

So Miss Ellen Nussey recalls the elderly, prim Miss 
Branwell about ten years later than her first arrival i 



24 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Yorkshire. But it is always said of her that she changed 
very little. Miss Nussey's striking picture will pretty 
accurately represent the maiden lady of forty, who, from 
a stringent and noble sense of duty, left her southern, 
pleasant home to take care of the little orphans running 
wild at Haworth Parsonage. It is easy to imagine with 
what horrified astonishment aunt and nieces must have 
regarded each others' peculiarities. 

It was, no doubt, an estimable advantage for the 
children to have some related lady in authority over 
them. Henceforth their time was no longer free for 
their own disposal. They said lessons to their father, 
they did sewing with their aunt, and learned from her 
all housewifely duties. The advantage would have been 
a blessing had their aunt been a woman of sweet-natured, 
motherly turn ; but the change from perfect freedom to 
her old-maidish discipline was not easy to bear a bitter 
good, a strengthening but disagreeable tonic, making the 
children yet less expansive, yet more self-contained and 
silent. Patrick Branwell was the favourite with his 
aunt, the naughty, clever, brilliant, rebellious, affec- 
tionate Patrick. Next to him she always preferred 
the pretty, gentle baby Anne, with her sweet, clinging 
ways, her ready submission, her large blue eyes and 
clear pink-and-white complexion. Charlotte, impulsive, 
obstinate and plain, the rugged, dogged Emily, were 
not framed to be favourites with her. Many a fierce 
tussle of wills, many a grim listening to over-frivolous 
reminiscence, must have shown the aunt and her nieces 
the difference of their natures. Maria, too, the whilom 
head of the nursery, must have found submission hard ; 
but hers was a singularly sweet and modest nature. Of 
Elizabeth but little is remembered. 

Mr. Bronte, now that the children were growing out 



BABYHOOD. 25 

of babyhood, seems to have taken a certain pride in 
them. Probably their daily lessons showed him the 
-character and talent hidden under those pale and grave 
little countenances. In a letter to Mrs. Gaskell he 
recounts instances of their early talent. More home- 
loving fathers will smile at the simple yet theatric means 
'he took to discover the secret of his children's real dis- 
positions. 'Twas a characteristic inspiration, worthy the 
originator of the ancient name of Bronte. A certain 
simplicity of confidence in his own subtlety gives a 
^piquant flavour to the manner of telling the tale : 

"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 eldest was 
.about ten years of age and the youngest four, thinking 
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 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 sometimes was 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 be- 
tween the intellects of men and women ; he answered, 
'By considering the difference between them as to their 
bodies.' I then asked Charlotte what was the best book 
in the world ; she answered, ' The Bible.' And what was 
:the next best; she answered, 'The book of Nature.' I 



26 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

then asked the next (Elizabeth, who seems to have taken-. 
Miss Bran well's teaching to heart) what was the best 
mode of education for a woman ; she answered, * That 
which would make her rule her house well.' Lastly, 
I asked the oldest what was the best mode of spending 
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 have made 
a deep and lasting impression on my memory. The 
substance, however, was exactly what I have stated." 

The severely practical character of Emily's answer is 
a relief from the unchildish philosophy of Branwell, 
Maria, and the baby. A child of four years old who 
prefers age and experience to a tartlet and some sweets 
must be an unnatural product. But the Brontes seem 
to have had no childhood ; unlimited discussion of 
debates, long walks without any playfellows, the free 
perusal of Methodist magazines, this is the pabulum 
of their infancy. Years after, when they asked some 
school-children to tea, the clergyman's young daughters 
had to ask their little scholars to teach them how to 
play. It was the first time they had ever cared to try. 

What their childhood had really taught them was the 
value of their father's quaint experiment. They learned 
to speak boldly from under a mask. Restrained, en- 
forcedly quiet, assuming a demure appearance to cloak 
their passionate little hearts, the five sisters never spoke 
their inmost mind in look, word, or gesture. They saved 
the leisure in which they could not play to make up 
histories, dramas, and fairy tales, in which each let loose, 
without noise, without fear of check, the fancies they 
never tried to put into action as other children are 
wont to. Charlotte wrote tales of heroism and adven- 
ture. Emily cared more for fairy tales, wild, unnatural*, 



BABYHOOD. 27 

strange fancies, suggested no doubt in some degree by 
her father's weird Irish stories. Already in her nursery 
the peculiar bent of her genius took shape. 

Meanwhile the regular outer life went on the early 
rising, the dusting and pudding-making, the lessons said 
to their father, the daily portion of sewing accomplished 
in Miss Bran well's bedroom, because that lady grew 
more and more to dislike the flagged flooring of the 
sitting-room. Every day, some hour snatched for a 
ramble on the moors ; peaceful times in summer when 
the little girls took their sewing under the stunted 
thorns and currants in the garden, the clicking sound 
of Miss Branwell's pattens indistinctly heard within. 
Happy times when six children, all in all to each other,, 
told wonderful stories in low voices for their own en- 
trancement. Then, one spring, illness in the house ; the 
children suffering a complication of measles and whoop- 
ing-cough. They never had such happy times again,, 
for it was thought better that the two elders should go 
away after their sickness ; should get their change of 
air at some good school. Mr. Bronte made inquiries 
and heard of an institution established for clergymen's 
daughters at Cowan's Bridge, a village on the high road 
between Leeds and Kendal. After some demurring the 
school authorities consented to receive the children, now 
free from infection, though still delicate and needing care. 
Thither Mr. Bronte took Maria and Elizabeth in the 
July of 1824. Emily and Charlotte followed in Sep- 
tember. 



EMILY BRONTE. 



CHAPTER III. 

COWAN'S BRIDGE. 

*' IT was in the year 1823 that the school for clergymen's 
daughters was first projected. The place was only then 
contemplated as desirable in itself, and as a place which 
might probably be feasible at some distant day. The 
-mention of it, however, to only two friends in the South 
having met with their warm approbation and a remit- 
tance of .70, an opening seemed to be made for the 
commencement of the work. 

" With this sum in hand, in a reliance upon Him who 
has all hearts at his disposal, and to whom belong the 
silver and the gold, the premises at Cowan's Bridge were 
purchased, the necessary repairs and additions proceeded 
with, and the school was furnished and opened in the 
spring of 1824. The whole expense of the purchase and 
outfit amounted to ^2333 ijs. gd. 

" The scanty provision of a large portion of the clergy 
of the Established Church has long been a source of 
regret ; and very efficient means have been adopted in 
various ways to remedy it. The sole object of the 
Clergy Daughters' School is to add, in its measure, to 
these means, by placing a good female education within 
reach of the poorest clergy. And by them the season- 
able aid thus afforded has been duly appreciated. The 
anxiety and toil which necessarily attend the manage- 
ment of such an institution have been abundantly repaid 



COWAN'S BRIDGE. 2 <> 

by the gratitude which has been manifested among the 
parents of the pupils. 

" It has been a very gratifying circumstance that the 
Clergy Daughters' School has been enabled to follow up- 
the design of somewhat kindred institutions in London. 
Pupils have come to it as apprentices from the Corpora- 
tion of the Sons of the Clergy ; and likewise from the 
Clergy Orphan School, in which the education is of a 
limited nature and the pupils are not allowed to remain 
after the age of sixteen. 

" The school is situated in the parish of Tunstall, or* 
the turnpike road from Leeds to Kendal, between which 
towns a coach runs daily, and about two miles from 
the town of Kirkby Lonsdale. 

"Each pupil pays 14 a year (half in advance) for 
clothing, lodging, boarding, and educating ; i entrance 
towards the expense of books, and ^3 entrance for 
pelisses, frocks, bonnets, &c.j which they wear all alike.* 
So that the first payment which a pupil is required to 
bring with her is 1 1 ; and the subsequent half-yearly 
payment 7. If French, music, or drawing is learnt, 3 
a year additional is paid for each of these. 

" The education is directed according to the capacities 
of the pupils and the wishes of their friends. In all cases^ 
the great object in view is their intellectual and religious 
improvement ; and to give that plain and useful educa- 
tion which may best fit them to return with respectability 
and advantage to their own homes ; or to maintain them- 
selves in the different stations of life to which Providence 
may call them." 

Here comes some explanation of the 

treasurer's accounts. Then the report recommences : 

* It is very much wished that the pupils should wear only their 
school dress during the vacations. 



EMILY BRONTE. 

" Low as the terms are, it has been distressing to dis- 
cover that in many cases clergymen who have applied on 
behalf of their daughters have been unable to avail them- 
selves of the benefits of the school from the inadequacy 
of their means to raise the required payments. 

The projectors' object will not be fully realised until 
the means are afforded of reducing the terms still lower, 
in extreme cases, at the discretion of the committee. 
And he trusts that the time will arrive when, either by 
legacies or otherwise, the school may be placed within 
the reach of those of the clergy for whom it is specially 
intended namely, the most destitute. 

" The school is open to the whole kingdom. Donors 
.and subscribers gain the first attention in the recom- 
mendation of pupils ; and the only inquiry made upon 
applications for admission is into the really necessitous 
circumstances of the applicant. 

" There are now ninety pupils in the school (the number 
that can be accommodated) and several are waiting for 
admission. 

" The school is under the care of Mrs. Harben, as 
superintendent, eight teachers, and two under-teachers. 

" To God belongs the glory of the degree of success 
which has attended this undertaking, and which has far 
exceeded the most sanguine expectations. But the 
expression of very grateful acknowledgment must not 
be wanting towards the many benefactors who have so 
readily and so bountifully rendered their assistance. 
They have their recompense in the constant prayers 
which are offered up from many a thankful heart for all 
who support this institution." 

Thus excellently and moderately runs the fourth year's 
report of the philanthropic Gymnase Moronval, evange- 
lical Dotheboys Hall, familiar to readers of 'Jane Eyre. 



COWAN'S BRIDGE. 31 

When these congratulations were set in type, those 
horrors of starvation, cruelty, and fever were all accom- 
plished which brought death to many children, and to 
those that lived an embittering remembrance of wrong. 
The two Bronte girls who survived their school days 
brought from them a deep distrust of human kindness, a 
difficult belief in sincere affection, not natural to their 
warm and passionate spirits. They brought away yet 
more enfeebled bodies, prone to disease ; they brought 
away the memory of two dear sisters dead. " To God 
be the glory," says the report. Rather, let us pray, to 
the Rev. William Carus Wilson. 

The report quoted above was issued six years after 
the autumn in which the little Brontes were sent to 
Cowan's Bridge ; it was not known then in what terms 
one of those pale little girls would thank her benefactors, 
would speak of her advantages. She spoke at last, and 
generations of readers have held as filthy rags the 
righteousness of that institution, thousands of charitable 
hearts have beat high with indignation at the philan- 
thropic vanity which would save its own soul by the 
sufferings of little children's tender bodies. Yet by an 
odd anomaly this ogre benefactor, this Brocklehurst, 
must have been a zealous and self-sacrificing enthusiast, 
with all his goodness spoiled by an imperious love of 
authority, an extravagant conceit. 

It was in the first year of the school that the little 
Bronte girls left their home on the moors for Cowan's 
Bridge. It was natural that as yet many things should 
go wrong and grate in the unperfected order of the 
house ; equally natural that the children should fail to 
make excuses : poor little prisoners pent, shivering and 
.starved, in an unkind as)>lum from friends and liberty. 

The school, long and low, more like an unpretending 



32 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

farmhouse than an institution, forms two sides of art 
oblong. The back windows look out on a flat garden 
about seventy yards across. Part of the house was- 
originally a cottage ; the longer part a disused bobbin- 
mill, once turned by the stream which runs at the side 
of the damp, small garden. The ground floor was 
turned into schoolrooms, the dormitories were above, 
the dining-room and the teachers'-room were in the 
cottage at the end. All the rooms were paved with 
stone, low-ceiled, small-windowed ; not such as are built 
for growing children, working in large classes together. 
No board of managers would permit the poorest children 
of our London streets to work in such ill-ventilated 
schoolrooms. 

The bobbin-mill, not built for habitation, was, no doubt,, 
faulty and insufficient in drainage. The situation of the 
house, chosen for its nearness to the stream, was damp 
and cold, on a bleak, unsheltered plain, picturesque 
enough in summer with the green alders overhanging 
the babbling beck, but in winter bitter chill. In this 
dreary house of machines, the place of the ousted wheels 
and springs was taken by ninety hungry, growing little 
human beings, all dressed alike in the coarse, ill-fitting 
garments of charity, all taught to look, speak, and think 
alike, all commended or held up to reprobation according 
as they resembled or diverged from the machines whose 
room they occupied and whose regular, thoughtless 
movement was the model of their life. 

These children chiefly owed their excellent education,, 
their miserable food and lodging, to the exertions of a 
rich clergyman from Willingdon, the nearest village. 
The Rev. Carus Wilson was a person of importance in 
the neighbourhood ; a person who was looked to in, 
emergencies, who prided himself on his prudence, fore- 



COWAWS BRIDGE. 33 

sight, and efficiency in helping others. With this, none 
the less a man of real and zealous desire to do good, an 
energetic, sentient person capable of seeing evils and 
devising remedies. He wished to help : he wished no 
less that it should be known he had helped. Pitying the 
miserable conditions of many of his fellow-workers, he 
did not rest till he had founded a school where the 
daughters of the poor clergy should receive a fair educa- 
tion at a nominal price. When the money for the school 
was forthcoming, the property was vested in twelve 
trustees ; Mr. Wilson was one. He was also treasurer 
and secretary. Nearly all the work, the power, the super- 
vision, the authority of the affair, he took upon his 
shoulders. He was not afraid of work, and he loved 
power. He would manage, he would be overseer, he 
would guide, arrange, and counsel. So sure did he feel 
of his capacity to move all springs himself, that he 
seems to have exercised little pains and less discretion in 
appointing his subordinates. Good fortune sent him a 
gentle, wise, and noble woman as superintendent ; but 
the other teachers were less capable, some snappish, some 
without authority. The housekeeper, who should have 
been chosen with the greatest care, since in her hands 
lay the whole management and preparation of the food 
of these growing children, was a slovenly, wasteful 
woman, taken from Mr. Wilson's kitchen, and much be- 
lieved in by himself. Nevertheless to her door must we 
lay much of the misery of " Lowood." 

The funds were small and somewhat uncertain. 
Honour and necessity alike compelled a certain economy. 
Mr. Wilson contracted for the meat, flour, and milk, and 
frequently himself inspected the supplies. But perhaps 
he did not inspect the kitchen. The " Lowood " scholars 
had many tales to tell of milk turned sour in dirty pans ; 

D 



34 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

of burnt porridge with disgusting fragments in it from 
uncleanly cooking vessels ; of rice boiled in water from 
the rain-cask, flavoured with dead leaves, and the dust 
of the roof; of beef salted when already tainted by de- 
composition ; of horrible resurrection-pies made of un- 
appetising scraps and rancid fat. The meat, flour, milk 
and rice were doubtless good enough when Mr. Wilson 
saw them, but the starved little school-girls with their 
disappointed hunger had neither the courage to complain 
nor the impartiality to excuse. For the rest, it was not 
easy to complain to Mr Wilson. His sour evangelicism 
led him to the same conclusion as the avarice of a less 
disinterested Yorkshire schoolmaster ; he would have 
bade them conquer human nature. Being a very 
proud man, he sought to cultivate humility in others. 
The children were all dressed alike, all wearing in 
summer plain straw cottage bonnets, white frocks on 
Sundays and nankeen in the week ; all wearing in winter 
purple stuff frocks and purple pelisses a serviceable 
and appropriate raiment which should allow no envies, 
jealousies, or flatteries. They should not be vain, 
neither should they be greedy. A request for nicer- 
tasting food would have branded the asker with the 
lasting contempt of the Rev. William Carus Wilson, 
trustee, treasurer, and secretary. They were to learn 
that it was wrong to like pretty things to wear, nice 
things to eat, pleasant games to play ; these little 
scholars taken half on charity. Mr. Wilson was repulsed 
by the apple-and-pegtop side of a child's nature ; he 
deliberately ignored it. 

Once in this grim, cold, hungry house of charity, there 
was little hope of escape. All letters and parcels were 
inspected by the superintendent ; no friends of the 
pupils were allowed in the school, except for a short call 



COWAWS BRIDGE. 35 

of ceremony. But it is probable that Maria and Eliza- 
beth, sent on before, had no thought of warning their 
smaller sisters. So destitute of all experience were they, 
that probably they imagined all schools like Cowan's 
Bridge ; so anxious to learn, that no doubt they willingly 
accepted the cold, hunger, deliberate unkindness, which 
made their childhood anxious and old. 

The lot fell heaviest on the elder sister, clever, gentle, 
slovenly Maria. The principal lesson taught at Cowan's 
Bridge was the value of routine. 

Maria, with her careless ways, ready opinions, gentle 
loving incapacity to become a machine, Maria was at 
discord with every principle of Cowan's Bridge. She 
incurred the bitter resentment of one of the teachers, 
who sought all means of humiliating and mortifying the 
sweet-natured, shiftless little creature. When, in Sep- 
tember, bright, talkative Charlotte and baby Emily came 
to Cowan's Bridge, they found their idolised little mother, 
their Maria, the butt, laughingstock and scapegrace of 
the school. 

Things were better for the two younger ones, Char- 
lotte, a bright clever little girl, and Emily, the prettiest 
of the little sisters, " a darling child, under five years of 
age, quite the pet nursling of the school." * But though 
at first, no doubt, these two babies were pleased by the 
change of scene and the companionship of children, 
trouble was to befall them. Not the mere distasteful 
scantiness of their food, the mere cold of their bodies ; 
they saw their elder sister grow thinner, paler day by 
day, no care taken of her, no indulgence made for her 
weakness. The poor ill-used, ill-nourished child grew 
very ill without complaining ; but at last even the 
-authorities at Cowan's Bridge perceived that she was 

* Mrs. Harben to Mrs. Gaskell. 

D 2 



36 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

dying. They sent for Mr. Bronte in the spring of 1825. 
He had not heard of her illness in any of his children's 
letters, duly inspected by the superintendent. He had 
heard no tales of poor food, damp rooms, neglect. He 
came to Cowan's Bridge and saw Maria, his clever little 
companion, thin, wasted, dying. The poor father felt 
a terrible shock. He took her home with him, away 
from the three little sisters who strained their eyes to 
look after her. She went home to Haworth. A few 
days afterwards she died. 

Not many weeks after Maria's death, when the spring 
made Lowood bearable, when the three saddened little 
sisters no longer waked at night for the cold, no longer 
lame with bleeding feet, could walk in the sunshine 
and pick flowers, when April grew into May, an epidemic 
of sickness came over Cowan's Bridge. The girls one 
by one grew weak and heavy, neither scolding nor texts 
roused them now ; instead of spending their play-hours 
in games in the sweet spring air, instead of picking 
flowers or running races, these growing children grew 
all languid, flaccid, indolent. There was no stirring 
them to work or play. Increasing illness among the 
girls made even their callous guardians anxious at last. 
Elizabeth Bronte was one of the first to flag. It was 
not the fever that ailed her, the mysterious undeclared 
fever that brooded over the house ; her frequent cough, 
brave spirits, clear colour pointed to another goaL 
They sent her home in the care of a servant ; and before 
the summer flushed the scanty borders of flowers on the 
newest graves in Haworth churchyard, Elizabeth Bronte 
was dead, no more to hunger, freeze, or sorrow. Her 
hard life of ten years was over. The second of the 
Bronte sisters had fallen a victim to consumption. 

Discipline was suddenly relaxed for those remaining 






COWAN'S BRIDGE. 37 

behind at Cowan's Bridge. There was more to eat, for 
there were fewer mouths to feed ; there was more time 
to play and walk, for there were none to watch and 
restrain the eager children, who played, eat, shouted, ran 
riot, with a certain sense of relief, although they knew 
they were only free because death was in the house and 
pestilence in the air. 

The woody hollow of Cowan's Bridge was foggy, un- 
wholesome, damp. The scholars underfed, cramped, 
neglected. Their strange indolence and heaviness grew 
stronger and stronger with the spring. All at once 
forty-five out of the eighty girls lay sick of typhus-fever. 
Many were sent home only to die, some died at Cowan's 
Bridge. All that could, sent for their children home. 
Among the few who stayed in the fever-breeding hollow, 
in the contaminated house, where the odours of pastilles 
and drugs blended with, but could not conquer, the faint 
sickening smell of fever and mortality, among these 
abandoned few were Charlotte and Emily Bronte. 

Thanks to the free, reckless life, the sunshine, the 
novel abundance of food, the two children did not take 
the infection. Things, indeed, were brighter for them 
now, or would have been, could the indignant spirit in 
these tiny bodies have forgiven or forgotten the deaths 
of their two sisters. 

Reform had come to Cowan's Bridge, and with swift 
strides cleared away the old order of things. The site 
was declared unhealthy ; the clothing insufficient ; the 
water fetid and brackish. When the doctor who in- 
spected the school was asked to taste the daily food of 
the scholars he spat it out of his mouth. Everything, 
everything must be altered. It was a time of sore and 
grievous humiliation to Mr. Wilson. He had felt no 
qualms, no doubts ; he had worked very hard, -he 



38 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

thought things were going very well. The accounts were 
in excellent order, the education thorough and good, the 
system elaborate, the girls really seemed to be acquiring 
a meek and quiet spirit ; and, to quote the prospectus, 
" the great object in view is their intellectual and religious 
improvement." Then stepped in unreckoned-with dis- 
ease, and the model institution became a by-word of 
reproach to the county and the order to which it be- 
longed. People, however, were not unjust to the influ- 
ential and wealthy treasurer, trustee, and secretary* 
They admitted his energy, financial capacities, and turn 
for organisation. All they did was to qualify the rigour 
of his management. He still continued treasurer, but 
the funds were entrusted to a committee. He kept his 
post of inspector, but assistants were appointed to share 
his responsibilities. The school was given in charge to 
a new housekeeper ; larger and better rations of food 
were given out. Finally a subscription was set on foot 
to build a better house in a healthier spot. When 
Charlotte and Emily Bronte went home for the mid- 
summer holidays, reform was in full swing at Cowan's 
Bridge. 

They went home, two out of the four children who- 
had left their happy home six months before. They 
went home to find no motherly Maria, no sturdy, patient 
Elizabeth. The walks on the moors, the tales under the 
thorn-trees must henceforth be incomplete. The two 
elders of that little band were no longer to be found in 
house or garden they lay quiet under a large paving- 
stone close to the vicarage pew at church. The three 
little sisters, the one little brother, must have often 
thought on their quiet neighbours when the sermon was 
very long. Thus early familiarised and neighbourly with 
death, one of them at least, tall, courageous Emily, 



grew up to have no dreary thou orn -tree or two, and a 
dreams of a far-off heaven. ijd not grow. Next 

When the holidays were over, the qding churchyard, 
to school. Their father, strangely eno* of grass could 
to send them to that fatal place. Then 
two favourites at home, was not over-anxiou n, treeless 
and Emily went back to Cowan's Bridge, feeding a 
the winter they were ill : the damp air, the urn wild 
site (for as yet the new house was not built) brougis of 
the weakness of their constitutions. Bearing the eis- 
sisters' fate in view, the authorities warned Mr. Bronx,* 
and the two children came home to Haworth. 



38 EMIL Y . ' BRONT& 

thought things were goir 
in excellent order, the 
system elaborate, th 
a meek and quiet 
"the great objec' 
improvement'' 

ease, and t 1 CHAPTER IV. 

reproach 

longed CHILDHOOD. 

entia 1 

TbHE home to which Charlotte and Emily returned was 

f not a very much more healthy spot than that they left ; 
but it was home. It was windy and cold, and badly 
drained. Mr. Bronte was ever striving to stir up his 
parishioners to improve the sanitary conditions of the 
place ; but for many years his efforts were in vain. 
The canny Yorkshire folk were loth to put their money 
underground, and it was hard to make them believe 
that the real cause of the frequent epidemics and fevers 
in Haworth was such as could be cured by an effective 
system of subsoil drainage. It was cheaper and easier 
to lay the blame at the doors of Providence. So the 
parson preached in vain. Well might he preach, for his 
own house was in the thick of the evil. 

"As you left the Parsonage-gate you looked upon 
the stonecutter's chipping-shed, which was piled with 
slabs ready for use, and to the ear there was the in- 
cessant 'chip, chip' of the recording chisel as it graved 
in the ' In Memoriams ' of the departed." 

So runs Miss Nussey's manuscript. She also tells of 
the constant sound of the passing bell ; of the frequent 
burials in the thronged churchyard. No cheerful, healthy 
home for sensitive, delicate children. 

" From the Parsonage windows the first view was the 



CHILDHOOD. 41 

plot of grass edged by a wall, a thorn-tree or two, and a 
few shrubs and currant-bushes that did not grow. Next 
to these was the large and half-surrounding churchyard, 
so full of gravestones that hardly a strip of grass could 
be seen in it." 

Beyond this the moors, the wild, barren, treeless 
moors, that stretch away for miles and miles, feeding a 
few herds of mountain sheep, harbouring some wild 
conies and hares, giving a nesting-place to the birds of 
heaven, and, for the use of man, neither grain nor pas- 
turage, but quarries of stone and piles of peat luridly 
smouldering up there on autumn nights. 

Such is the home to which Emily Bronte clung with 
the passionate love of the Swiss for his white mountains, 
with a homesickness in absence that strained the very 
cords of life. Yet her childhood in that motherless 
home had few of the elements of childish happiness, and 
its busy strictness of daily life was saddened by the 
loss of Maria and Elizabeth, dear, never-forgotten play- 
fellows. Charlotte, now the eldest of the family, was 
only two years older than Emily, but her sense of respon- 
sibility made her seem quite of a different age. It was 
little Anne who was Emily's companion delicate, shrink- 
ing, pretty Anne, Miss Branwell's favourite. Anne could 
enter only into the easiest or lightest of her sister's 
moods, and yet she was so dear that Emily never sought 
another friend. So from childhood she grew accustomed 
to keep her own confidence upon her deepest thoughts 
and liveliest fancies. 

A quiet regular life carpet-brushing, sewing, dusting 
in the morning. Then some necessary lessons said to 
their aunt upstairs ; then, in the evening, while Mr. Bronte 
wrote his sermons in the study and Miss Branwell sat in 
her bedroom, the four children, alone in the parlour, or 



42 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

sitting by the kitchen fire, while Tabby, the servant,, 
moved briskly about, would write their magazines or 
make their plays. 

There was a great deal about politics still in the plays. 
Mr. Bronte, who took a keen interest in the affairs of the 
world, always told the children the chief public news of 
the day, and let them read what newspapers and maga- 
zines they could lay hold on. So the little Brontes 
prattled of the Duke of Wellington when other children 
still have Jack the Giantkiller for a hero ; the Marquis 
of Douro was their Prince Charming ; their Yahoos,, 
the Catholics ; their potent evil genii the Liberal 
Ministry. 

"Our plays were established," says Charlotte, the 
family chronicler, in her history of the year 1829: 
"'Young Men/ June, 1826 ; 'Our Fellows/ July, 1827 ; 
'Islanders/ December, 1827. These are our three great 
plays that are not kept secret. Emily's and my best 
plays were established the 1st of December, 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 always remember them. The ' Young Men's ' play 
took its rise from some wooden soldiers Branwell had ; 
' Our Fellows ' from ^Esop's Fables ; and the ' Islanders ' 
from several events which happened. I will sketch out 
the origin of our plays more explicitly if I can. First, 
' Young Men.' Papa bought Branwell some wooden sol- 
diers at Leeds ; when papa came home it was night, and 
we were in bed, so next morning Branwell came to our 
door " (the little room over the passage . Anne slept with 
her aunt) "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/ 



CHILDHOOD. 43. 

When I had said this, Emily likewise took one up and 
said it should be hers ; when Anne came down, she said 
one should be hers. Mine was the prettiest of the whole, 
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 ' Waiting-boy.' Branwell chose his, and 
called him Bonaparte." 

In another play Emily chooses Sir Walter Scott, Mr. 
Lockhart and Johnny Lockhart as her representatives ; 
Charlotte the Duke of Wellington, the Marquis of 
Douro, Mr. Abernethy, and Christopher North. This 
last personage was indeed of great importance in the 
eyes of the children, for BlackwoocCs Magazine was their 
favourite reading. On their father's shelves were few 
novels, and few books of poetry. The clergyman's study 
necessarily boasted its works of divinity and reference ; 
for the children there were only the wild romances of 
Southey, the poems of Sir Walter Scott, left by their 
Cornish mother, and " some mad Methodist magazines 
full of miracles and apparitions and preternatural warn- 
ings, ominous dreams and frenzied fanaticism ; and the 
equally mad letters of Mrs. Elizabeth Rowe from the 
Dead to the Living," familiar to readers of ' Shirley.' To 
counterbalance all t*""s romance and terror, the children 
had their interest ir. politics and Blackwoods Magazine, 
"the most able periodical there is," says thirteen-year- 
old Charlotte. They also saw John Bull, " a high Tory,, 
very violent, the Leeds Mercury, Leeds Intelligencer, 
a most excellent Tory newspaper," and thus became 
accomplished fanatics in all the burning questions of 
the day. 

Miss Branwell took care that the girls should not lack 
more homely knowledge. Each took her share in the 



44 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

day's work, and learned all details of it as accurately as 
any German maiden at her cookery school. Emily took 
very kindly to even the hardest housework ; there she 
felt able and necessary ; and, doubtless, upstairs, grimly 
listening to prim Miss Branwell's stories of bygone 
gaieties, this awkward growing girl was glad to remember 
that she too was of importance to the household, despite 
her tongue-tied brooding. 

The girls fared well enough ; but not so their brother. 
Branwell's brilliant purposelessness, Celtic gaiety, love 
of amusement and light heart made him the most charm- 
ing playfellow, but a very anxious charge. Friends 
advised Mr. Bronte to send his son to school, but the 
peculiar vanity which made him model his children's 
youth in all details on his own forbad him to take their 
counsel. Since he had fed on potatoes, his children 
should eat no meat. Since he had grown up at home as 
'best he might, why should Patrick Branwell go to school ? 
Every day the father gave a certain portion of his time 
to working with his boy ; but a clergyman's time is not 
his own, and often he was called away on parish business. 
Doubtless Mr. Bronte thought these tutorless hours were 
spent, as he would have spent them, in earnest prepara- 
tion of difficult tasks. But Branwell, with all his father's 
superficial charm of manner, was without the underlying 
strength of will, and he possessed, unchecked, the temp- 
tations to self-indulgence, to which his father seldom 
yielded, counteracting them rather by an ascetic regimen 
of life. These long afternoons were spent, not in work, 
but in mischievous companionship with the wilder spirits 
of the village, to whom " t' Vicar's Patrick " was the 
standard of brilliant leadership in scrapes. 

No doubt their admiration flattered Branwell, and he 
enjoyed the noisy fun they had together. Nevertheless 



CHILDHOOD 45 

he did not quite neglect his sisters. Charlotte has said 
that at this time she loved him even as her own soul a 
serious phrase upon those serious lips. But it was Emily 
and Branwell who were most to each other : bright, 
shallow, exacting brother ; silent, deep-brooding, unselfish 
sister, more anxious to give than to receive. In January,. 
1831, Charlotte went to school at Miss Wooler's, at Roe 
Head, twenty miles away ; and Branwell and Emily 
were thrown yet more upon each other for sympathy 
and entertainment. 

Charlotte stayed a year and a half at school, and 
returned in the July of 1832 to teach Emily and Anne 
what she had learnt in her absence ; English-French, 
English and drawing was pretty nearly all the instruc- 
tion she could give. Happily genius needs no curri- 
culum. Nevertheless the sisters toiled to extract their 
utmost boon from such advantages as came within their 
range. Every morning from nine till half-past twelve 
they worked at their lessons ; then they walked together 
over the moors, just coming into flower. These moors 
knew a different Emily to the quiet girl of fourteen who 
helped in the housework and learned her lessons so 
regularly at home. On the moors she was gay, frolic- 
some, almost wild. She would set the others laughing 
with her quaint humorous sallies and genial ways. She 
was quite at home there, taking the fledgeling birds in 
her hands so softly that they were not afraid, and telling 
stories to them. A strange figure tall, slim, angular, 
with all her inches not yet grown ; a quantity of dark- 
brown hair, deep beautiful hazel eyes that could flash 
with passion, features somewhat strong and stern, the 
mouth prominent and resolute. 

The sisters, and sometimes Branwell, would go far on 
the moors ; sometimes four miles to Keighley in the 




46 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

hollow over the ridge, unseen from the heights, but 
brooded over always by a dim film of smoke, seemingly 
the steam rising from some fiery 4ake. The sisters 'now 
subscribed to a circulating library at Keighley, and 
would gladly undertake the rough walk of eight miles 
for the sake of bringing back with them a novel by Scott, 
or a poem by Southey. At Keighley, too, they bought 
their paper. The stationer used to wonder how they 
could get through so much. 

Other days they went over Stanbury Moor to the 
Waterfall, a romantic glen in the heathy side of the 
hill where a little stream drips over great boulders, and 
where some slender delicate birches spring, a wonder in 
this barren country. This was a favourite haunt of 
Emily, and indeed they all loved the spot. Here they 
would use some of their paper, for they still kept up 
their old habit of writing tales and poems, and loved 
to scribble out of doors. And some of it they would use 
in drawing, since at this time they were taking lessons, 
and Emily and Charlotte were devoted to the art : 
Charlotte making copies with minuteness and exact 
fidelity ; Emily drawing animals and still-life with far 
greater freedom and certainty of touch. Some of Char- 
lotte's paper, also, must have gone in letter-writing. 
She had made friends at school, an event of great 
importance to that narrow circle. One of these friends, 
the dearest, was unknown to Haworth. Many a time 
must Emily and Anne have listened to accounts of the 
pretty, accomplished, lively girl, a favourite in many 
homes, who had won the heart of their shy plain sister. 
She was, indeed, used to a very different life, this fair 
young girl, but her bright youth and social pleasures did 
not blind her to the fact that oddly-dressed, old-fashioned 
Charlotte Bronte was the most remarkable person of her 



CHILDHOOD. 47 

.acquaintance. She was the first, outside Charlotte's 
home, to discover her true character and genius ; and 
that at an age, in a gosition, when most girls would be 
too busy with visions of a happy future for themselves 
to sympathise with the strange activities, the morbid 
sensitiveness, of such a mind as Charlotte possessed. But 
so early this girl loved her; and lives still, the last to 
have an intimate recollection of the ways, persons and 
habits of the Bronte household. 

In September, 1832, Charlotte left home again on a 
fortnight's visit to the home of this dear friend. Branwell 
took her there. He had probably never been from home 
before. He was in wild spirits at the beauty of the 
house and grounds, inspecting, criticising everything, 
pouring out a stream of comments, rich in studio terms, 
taking views in every direction of the old battlemented 
house, and choosing " bits " that he would like to paint, 
delighting the whole family with his bright cleverness, 
and happy Irish ways. Meanwhile Charlotte looked 
on, shy and dull. " I leave you in Paradise ! " 'cried 
Branwell, and betook himself over the moor to make 
fine stories of his visit to Emily and Anne in the bare 
little parlour at Haworth. 

Charlotte's friend, Ellen, sent her home laden with 
apples for her two young sisters : " Elles disent qu'elles 
.sont sur que Mademoiselle E. est tres-aimable et bonne ; 
1'une et 1'autre sont extremement impatientes de vous 
voir ; j'espere que dans peu de mois elles auront ce 
plaisir " So writes Charlotte in the quaint Anglo- 
French that the friends wrote to each other for practice. 
But winter was approaching, and winter is dreary at 
Haworth. Miss Branwell persuaded the eager girls to 
put off their visitor till summer made the moors warm 
and dry, and beautiful, so that the young people could 



48 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

spend much of their time out of doors. In the summer 
of 1833 Ellen came to Haworth. 

Miss Ellen Nussey is the only person living who knew 
Emily Bronte on terms of intimate equality, and her 
testimony carries out that of those humbler friends who 
helped the parson's busy daughter in her cooking and 
cleaning ; from all alike we hear of an active, genial,, 
warm-hearted girl, full of humour and feeling to those 
she knew, though shy and cold in her bearing to strangers. 
A different being to the fierce impassioned Vestal who 
has seated herself in Emily's place of remembrance. 

In 1833 Emily was nearly fifteen, a tall long-armed 
girl, full grown, elastic of tread ; with a slight figure 
that looked queenly in her best dresses, .but loose and 
boyish when she slouched over the moors, whistling to 
her dogs, and taking long strides over the rough earth. 
A tall, thin, loose-jointed girl not ugly, but with irre- 
gular features and a pallid thick complexion. Her dark 
brown hair was naturally beautiful, and in later days- 
looked well, loosely fastened with a tall comb at the 
back of her head ; but in 1833 she wore it in an un- 
becoming tight curl and frizz. She had very beautiful 
eyes of hazel colour. " Kind, kindling, liquid eyes," says 
the friend who survives all that household. She had an 
aquiline nose, a large expressive, prominent mouth. She 
talked little. No grace or style in dress belonged to 
Emily, but under her awkward clothes her natural move- 
ments had the lithe beauty of the wild creatures that she 
loved. She was a great walker, spending all her leisure 
on the moors. She loved the freedom there, the large 
air. She loved the creatures, too. Never was a soul 
with a more passionate love of Mother Earth, of every 
weed and flower, of every bird, beast, and insect that 
lived. She would have peopled the house with pets had 



CHILDHOOD. 49 

not Miss Branwell kept her niece's love of animals in due 
subjection. Only one dog was allowed, who was admitted 
into the parlour at stated hours, but out of doors Emily 
made friends with all the beasts and birds. She would 
come home carrying in her hands some young bird or 
rabbit, and softly talking to it as she came. " Ee, Miss 
Emily/' the young servant would say, "one would think 
the bird could understand you." "I am sure it can," 
Emily would answer. " Oh, I am sure it can." 

The girls would take their friend long walks on the 
moor. When they went very far, Tabby, their old 
factotum, insisted on escorting them, unless Branwell 
took that duty on himself, for they were still " childer " 
in her eyes. Emily and Anne walked together. They 
and Branwell would ford the streams and place stepping- 
stones for the elder girls. At every point of view, at 
every flower, the happy little party would stop to talk, 
admire, and theorise in concert. Emily's reserve had 
vanished as morning mists. She was full of glee and 
gladness, on her own demesne, no longer awkward and 
silent. On fine days Emily and Anne would persuade 
the others to walk to the Waterfall which made an island 
of brilliant green turf in the midst of the heather, set 
with clear springs, shaded with here and there a silver 
birch, and dotted with grey boulders, beautiful resting- 
places. Here the four girls the " quartette " as they 
called themselves would go and sit and listen to Ellen's 
stones of the world they had not seen. Or Emily, half- 
reclining on a slab of stone, would play like a young 
child with the tadpoles in the water, making them swim 
about, and she would fall to moralising on the strong 
and the weak, the brave and the cowardly, as she chased 
the creatures with her hand. Having rested, they would 
trudge home again a merry party, save when they met 

E 



50 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

some wandering villager. Then the parson's three 
daughters would walk on, hushed and timid. 

At nine the sewing was put by, and the four girls 
would talk and laugh, pacing round the parlour. Miss 
Branwell went to bed early, and the young people were 
left alone in the curtainless clean parlour, with its grey 
walls and horse-hair furniture. But with good company 
no room is poorly furnished ; and they had much to say, 
and much to listen to, on nights when Branwell was at 
home. Oftenest they must have missed him ; since, 
whenever a visitor stayed at the " Black Bull," the little 
inn across the churchyard, the landlord would send up 
for " T' Vicar's Patrick " to come and amuse the guests 
with his brilliant rhodomontade. 

Not much writing went on in Ellen's presence, but 
gay discussion, making of stories, and serious argument. 
They would talk sometimes of dead Maria and Eliza- 
beth, always remembered with an intensity of love. 
About eight o'clock Mr. Bronte would call the house- 
hold to family prayers : and an hour afterwards he used 
to bolt the front door, and go upstairs to bed, always 
stopping at the sitting-room with a kindly admonition to 
the " children " not to be late. At last the girls would 
stop their chatter, and retire for the night, Emily giving 
her bed to the visitor and taking a share of the servants' 
room herself. 

At breakfast the next morning Ellen used to listen 
with shrinking amazement to the stories of wild horror 
that Mr. Bronte loved to relate, fearful stories of super- 
stitious Ireland, or barbarous legends of the rough 
dwellers on the moors ; Ellen would turn pale and cold 
to hear them. Sometimes she marvelled as she caught 
sight of Emily's face, relaxed from its company rigour, 
while she stooped down to hand her porridge-bowl 



CHILDHOOD. 51 

to the dog : she wore a strange expression, gratified, 
pleased, as though she had gained something which 
seemed to complete a picture in her mind. For this 
silent Emily, talking little save in rare bursts of wild 
spirits ; this energetic housewife, cooking and cleaning as 
though she had no other aim in view than the providing 
for the day's comfort ; this was the same Emily who at 
five years of age used to startle the nursery with her 
fantastic fairy stories. Two lives went on side by side 
in her heart, neither ever mingling with or interrupting 
the other. Practical housewife with capable hands, 
dreamer of strange horrors : each self was independent of 
the companion to which it was linked by day and night 
People in those days knew her but as she seemed " T 
Vicar's Emily " a shy awkward girl, never teaching in 
the Sunday school like her sisters, never talking with the 
villagers like merry Branwell, but very good and hearty 
in helping the sick and distressed: not pretty in the 
village estimation a " slinky lass," no prim, trim little 
body like pretty Anne, nor with Charlotte Bronte's 
taste in dress ; just a clever lass with a spirit of her 
own. So the village judged her. At home they loved 
her with her strong feelings, untidy frocks, indomitable 
will, and ready contempt for the common-place ; she 
was appreciated as a dear and necessary member of the 
household. Of Emily's deeper self, her violent genius, 
neither friend nor neighbour dreamed in those days. 
And to-day it is only this Emily who is remembered. 

Days went on, pleasant days of autumn, in which 
Charlotte and her friend roamed across the blooming 
moors, in which Anne and Emily would take their little 
stools and big desks into the garden, and sit and scribble 
under the currant-bushes, stopping now and then to 
pluck the ripe fruit Then came chill October, bringing 

E 2 



52 EMILY BRONTE. 

cold winds and rain. Ellen went home, leaving an empty 
chair in the quartette, leaving Charlotte lonelier, and 
even Emily and Anne a little dull. " They never liked 
any one as well as you," says Charlotte. 

Winter came, more than usually unhealthy that year, 
and the moors behind the house were impassable with 
snow and rain. Miss Branwell continually bemoaned 
the warm and flowery winters of Penzance, shivering over 
the fire in her bedroom ; Mr. Bronte was ill ; outside the 
air was filled with the mournful sound of the passing 
bell. But the four young people sitting round the 
parlour hearth-place were not cold or miserable. They 
were dreaming of a happy and glorious future, a great 
career in Art ; not for Charlotte, not for Emily or Anne, 
they were only girls ; their dreams were for the hope 
and promise of the house for Branwell. 






CHAPTER V. 
GOING TO SCHOOL. 

EMILY was now sixteen years old, and though the 
people in the village called her " t' cleverest o' t' Bronte 
childer," she had little to show of her cleverness. Her 
education was as home-made as her gowns, not such as 
would give distinction to a governess ; and a governess 
Emily would have to be. The Bronte sisters were too 
severe and noble in their theories of life ever to con- 
template marriage as a means of livelihood ; but even 
worldly sisters would have owned that there was little 
chance of impatient Emily marrying at all. She was 
almost violent in her dislike of strangers. The first time 
that Ellen stayed at Haworth, Charlotte was ill one day 
and could not go out with her friend. To their surprise 
Emily volunteered to take the stranger a walk over the 
moors. Charlotte waited anxiously for their return, fear- 
ing some outbreak of impatience or disdain on the part 
of her untamable sister. The two girls at last came 
home. " How did Emily behave ? " asked Charlotte, 
eagerly, drawing her friend aside. She had behaved 
well ; she had shown her true self, her noble, energetic, 
truthful soul, and from that day there was a real friend- 
ship between the gentle Ellen and the intractable Emily ; 
but none the less does Charlotte's question reveal in how 
different a manner the girl regarded strangers as a rule. 
In after days when the curates, looking for Mr. Bronte 



54 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

in his study, occasionally found Emily there instead, they 
used to beat such a hasty retreat that it was quite an 
established joke at the Parsonage that Emily appeared 
to the outer world in the likeness of an old bear. She 
hated strange faces and strange places. Her sisters 
must have seen that such a temperament, if it made 
her unlikely to attract a husband or to wish to attract 
one, also rendered her lamentably unfit to earn her 
living as a governess. In those days they could not 
tell that the defect was incurable, a congenital infirmity 
of nature ; and doubtless Charlotte, the wise elder sister, 
thought she had found a cure for both the narrow educa- 
tion and the narrow sympathies when she suggested that 
Emily should go to school. She writes to her friend in 
July, 1835 : 

" I had hoped to have had the extreme pleasure of 
seeing you at Haworth this summer, but human affairs 
are mutable, and human resolutions must bend to the 
course of events. We are all about to divide, break up, 
separate. Emily is going to school, Branwell is going 
to London, and I am going to be a governess. This 
last determination I formed myself, knowing I should 
have to take the step sometime, and ' better sune as 
syne,' to use a 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 are unacquainted with, being no other than 
the identical Roe Head mentioned above. Yes ! I am 
going to teach in the very school where I was myself 
taught. Miss Wooler made me the offer, and I preferred 
it to one or two proposals of private governess-ship which 
I had before received. I am sad very sad at the 



GOING TO SCHOOL. 55 

thoughts of leaving home ; but duty necessity these 
are stern mistresses, who will not be disobeyed. Did 
I not once say you ought to be thankful for your inde- 
pendence ? 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 2/th 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." * 

The wrench of leaving home, so much dreaded by 
Charlotte, was yet sharper to her younger sister, 
morbidly fearful of strangers, eccentric, unable to live 
without wide liberty. To go to school; it must have 
had a dreadful sound to that untamable, free creature, 
happiest alone with the dogs on the moors, with little 
sentiment or instinct for friendship ; no desire to meet 
her fellows. Emily was perfectly happy at Haworth 
cooking the dinner, ironing the linen, writing poems 
at the Waterfall, taking her dog for miles over the 
moors, pacing round the parlour with her arm round 
gentle Anne's waist. Now she would have to leave 
all this, to separate from her dear little sister. But she 
was reasonable and just, and, feeling the attempt should 
be made, she packed up her scanty wardrobe, and, with- 
out repining, set out with Charlotte for Roe Head. 

Charlotte knew where she was going. She loved and 
respected Miss Wooler ; but with what anxiety must 
Emily have looked for the house where she was to live 
and not to be at home. At last she saw it, a cheerful, 
roomy, country house, standing a little apart in a field. 
* Mrs. Gaskell. 



5 6 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

There was a wide and pleasant view of fields and woods ; 
but the green prospect was sullied and marred by the 
smoke from the frequent mills. Green fields, grey mills, 
all told of industry, labour, occupation. There was no 
wild stretch of moorland here, no possibility of solitude. 
I think when Emily Bronte saw the place, she must have 
known very well she would not be happy there. 

"My sister Emily loved the moors," says Charlotte, 
writing of these days in the latter solitude "flowers 
brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest 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 
was here too strong for her fortitude. Every morning, 
when she woke, the visions of home and the moors 
rushed on her, and darkened and saddened 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." 

Thus looking on, Charlotte grew alarmed. She remem- 
bered the death of Maria and Elizabeth, and feared, 
feared with anguish, lest this best-beloved sister should 
follow them. She told Miss Wooler of her fear, and the 
schoolmistress, conscious of her own kindness and a little 
resentful at Emily's distress, consented that the girl should 
be sent home without delay. She did not care for Emily, 



GOING TO SCHOOL. 57 

-and was not sorry to lose her. So in October she re- 
turned to Haworth, to the only place where she was 
happy and well. She returned to harder work and 
plainer living than she had known at school ; but also 
to home, liberty, comprehension, her animals, and her 
flowers. In her native atmosphere she very soon reco- 
vered the health and strength that seemed so natural 
to her swift spirit ; that were, alas, so easily endangered. 
She had only been at school three months. 

Even so short an absence may very grievously alter 
the aspect of familiar things. Haworth itself was the 
same ; prim, tidy Miss Branwell still pattered about in 
her huge caps and tiny clogs ; the Vicar still told his 
horrible stories at breakfast, still fought vain battles with 
the parishioners who would not drain the village, and the 
women who would dry their linen on the tombstones. 
Anne was still as transparently pretty, as pensive and 
pious as of old ; but over the hope of the house, the 
dashing, clever Branwell, who was to make the name 
of Bronte famous in art, a dim, tarnishing change had 
come. Emily must have seen it with fresh eyes, left 
more and more in Branwell's company, when, after the 
Christmas holidays, Anne returned with Charlotte to 
Roe Head. 

There is in none of Charlotte's letters any further 
.talk of sending Branwell to the Royal Academy. He 
earnestly desired to go, and for him, the only son, any 
sacrifice had willingly been made. But there were 
reasons why that brilliant unprincipled lad should not 
be trusted now, alone in London. Too frequent had 
been those visits to the "Black Bull," undertaken, at 
;first, to amuse the travellers from London, Leeds and 
Manchester, who found their evenings dull. The Vicar's 
lad was following the proverbial fate of parsons' sons. 




$8 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Little as they foreboded the end in store, greatly as they 
hoped all his errors were a mere necessary attribute of 
manliness, the sisters must have read in his shaken nerves 
the dissipation for which their clever Branwell was 
already remarkable in Haworth. It is true that to be 
sometimes the worse for drink was no uncommon 
fault fifty years ago in Yorkshire ; but the gradual 
coarsening of Branwell's nature, the growing flippancy,. 
the altered health, must have given a cruel awaken- 
ing to his sisters' dreams for his career. In 1836 
this deterioration was at the beginning ; a weed in bud 
that could only bear a bitter and poisonous fruit. Emily 
hoped the best ; his father did not seem to see his danger ;, 
Miss Branwell spoiled the lad ; and the village thought 
him a mighty pleasant young gentleman with a smile and 
a bow for every one, fond of a glass and a chat in the 
pleasant parlour of the " Black Bull " at nights ; a gay,, 
feckless, red-haired, smiling young fellow, full of ready 
courtesies to all his friends in the village ; yet, none the 
less as full of thoughtless cruelties to his friends at 
home. 

For the rest, he had nothing to do, and was scarcely to 
blame if he could not devote sixteen hours a day to- 
writing verses for the Leeds Mercury, his only ostensible- 
occupation. It seems incredible that Mr. Bronte, who 
well understood the peculiar temptations to which his. 
son lay open, could have suffered him to loaf about the 
village, doing nothing, month after month, lured into ill 
by no set purpose, but by a weak social temper and 
foolish friends. Yet so it was,. and with such training,, 
little hope of salvation could there be for that vain, 
somewhat clever, untruthful, fascinating boy. 

So things went on, drearily enough in reality, though 
perhaps more pleasantly in seeming for Branwell, with 



GOING TO SCHOOL. 59, 

his love of approbation and ready affectionateness, took 
all trouble consistent with self-indulgence to avoid the 
noise of his misdemeanours reaching home. Thus things 
went on till Charlotte returned from Miss Wooler's with 
little Anne in the midsummer holidays of 1836. 

An interval of happiness to lonely Emily ; Charlotte's 
friend came to the grey cold-looking Parsonage, enliven- 
ing that sombre place with her gay youth and sweet 
looks. Home with four young girls in it was more- 
attractive to Branwell than the alluring parlour of the 
" Black Bull." The harvest moon that year can have 
looked on no happier meeting. " It would not be right," 
says the survivor of those eager spirits, " to pass over one 
record which should be made of the sisters' lives to- 
gether, after their school-days, and before they were 
broken in health by their efforts to support themselves, 
that at this time they had all a taste of happiness and 
enjoyment. They were beginning to feel conscious of 
their powers, they were rich in each other's companion- 
ship, their health was good, their spirits were high, there 
was often joy ousness and mirth ; they commented on what 
they read ; analysed articles and their writers also ; the 
perfection of unrestrained talk and intelligence brightened 
the close of the days which were passing all too swiftly. 
The evening march in the sitting-room, a constant habit 
learned at school, kept time with their thoughts and 
feelings, it was free and rapid ; they marched in pairs, 
Emily and Anne, Charlotte and her friend, with arms 
twined round each other in child-like fashion, except 
when Charlotte, in an exuberance of spirit, would for a, 
moment start away, make a graceful pirouette (though 
she had never learned to dance) and return to her 
inarch." 
So the evenings passed and the days, in happy fashion- 




60 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

for a little while. Then Charlotte and Anne went back 
to Miss Wooler's, and Emily, too, took up the gauntlet 
-against necessity. She was not of a character to let the 
distastefulness of any duty hinder her from undertaking 
it. She was very stern in her dealings with herself, 
though tender to the erring, and anxious to bear the 
burdens of the weak. She allowed no one but herself to 
decide what it behoved her to do. She could not see 
Charlotte labour, and not work herself. At home she 
worked, it is true, harder than servants ; but she felt it 
right not only to work, but to earn. So, having recovered 
her natural strength, she left Haworth in September, 
and Charlotte writes from school to her friend : " My 
sister Emily has gone into a situation as teacher in a 
large school near Halifax. I have had one letter from 
her since her departure ; it gives an appalling account of 
her duties ; hard labour from six in the morning to eleven 
at night, with only one half-hour of exercise between. 
This is slavery. I fear she can never stand it." 

She stood it, however, all that term ; came back to 
Haworth for a brief rest at Christmas, and again left it 
for the hated life she led, drudging among strangers. 
But when spring came back, with its feverish weakness, 
with its beauty and memories, to that stern place of 
exile, she failed. Her health broke down, shattered by 
long-resisted homesickness. Weary and mortified at 
heart, Emily again went back to seek life and happiness 
on the wild moors of Haworth. 



t 61 ) 



CHAPTER VI. 

GIRLHOOD AT HAWORTH. 

THE next two years passed very solitarily for Emily 
at Haworth ; the Brontes were too poor for all to stay at 
home, and since it was definitely settled that Emily could 
not live away, she worked hard at home while her sisters 
went out in the world to gain their bread. She had no 
friend besides her sisters ; far-off Anne was her only con- 
fidant. Outside her own circle the only person that she 
cared to meet was Charlotte's friend Ellen, and, of course, 
Ellen did not come to Haworth while Charlotte was away. 
Branwell, too, was absent. His first engagement was as 
usher in a school ; but, mortified by the boys' sarcasms 
on his red hair and " downcast smallness," he speedily 
threw up his situation and returned to Haworth to con- 
fide his wounded vanity to the tender mercies of the 
rough and valiant Emily, or to loaf about the village 
seeking readier consolation. 

Then he went as private tutor to a family in Broughton- 
in-Furness. One letter of his thence despatched to- 
some congenial spirit in Haworth, long since dead, has 
been lent to me by the courtesy of Mr. William Wood, 
one of the last of Branwell's companions, in whose 
possession the torn, faded sheet remains. Much of it 
is unreadable from accidental rents and the purposed 
excision of private passages, and part of that which can 
be read cannot be quoted ; such as it is, the letter is 



62 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

valuable as showing what things in life seemed desirable 
.and worthy of attainment to this much-hoped-in brother 
of the austere Emily, the courageous Charlotte, the pious 
Anne. 

" Broughton-in-Furness, March 15. 

" OLD KNAVE OF TRUMPS, 

"Don't think I have forgotten you though I have 
delayed so long in writing to you. It was my purpose 
to send you a yarn as soon as I could find materials to 
spin one with. And it is only just now I have had time 
to turn myself round and know where I am. 

" If you saw me now you would not know me, and 
you would laugh to hear the character the people give 
me. Oh, the falsehood and hypocrisy of this world ! I 
am fixed in a little town retired by the seashore, em- 
bowered in woody hills that rise round me, huge, rocky, 
.and capped with clouds. My employer is a retired 
county magistrate and large landholder, of a right 
Jiearty, generous disposition. His wife is a quiet, silent, 
amiable woman ; his sons are two fine, spirited lads. 
My landlord is a respectable surgeon, and six days out 
of seven as drunk as a lord ; his wife is a bustling, 
chattering, kind-hearted soul ; his daughter oh ! death 
,and damnation ! Well, what am I ? that is, what do 
they think I am ? a most sober, abstemious, patient, 
mild-hearted, virtuous, gentlemanly philosopher, the 
picture of good works, the treasure-house of righteous 
thought. Cards are shuffled under the tablecloth, glasses 
are thrust into the cupboard, if I enter the room. I take 
neither spirit, wine, nor malt liquors. I dress in black, 
.and smile like a saint or martyr. Every lady says, 
4 What a good young gentleman is the Postlethwaites' 
tutor.' This is fact, as I am a living soul, and right 
-comfortably do I laugh at them ; but in this humour do 



GIRLHOOD AT HA WORTH. 63 

I mean them to continue. I took a half-year's farewell 
of old friend whisky at Kendal the night after I [left]. 
There was a party of gentlemen at the Royal Hotel ; I 
joined them and ordered in supper and 'toddy as hot as 
Hell/ They thought I was a physician, and put me 
into the chair. I gave them some toasts of the stiffest 

sort washing them down at the same time till 

the room spun round and the candles danced in their 
-eyes. One was a respectable old gentleman with 
powdered head, rosy cheeks, fat paunch, and ringed 
fingers ... he led off with a speech, and in two 
minutes, in the very middle of a grand sentence, stopped, 
wagged his head, looked wildly round, stammered, 
coughed, stopped again, called for his slippers, and so 
the waiter helped him to bed. Next a tall Irish squire 
and a native of the land of Israel began to quarrel about 
their countries, and in the warmth of argument dis- 
charged their glasses each at his neighbour's throat, 
instead of his own. I recommended blisters, bleeding 
[here illegible], so I flung my tumbler on the floor, too, 
and swore I'd join old Ireland. A regular rumpus 
ensued, but we were tamed at last, and I found myself 
in bed next morning, with a bottle of porter, a glass, and 
corkscrew beside me. Since then I have not tasted any- 
thing stronger than milk and water, nor, I hope, shall I 
till I return at Midsummer, when we will see about it. 
I am getting as fat as Prince Win at Springhead and as 
godly as his friend Parson Winterbottom. My hand 
shakes no longer : I write to the bankers at Ulverston 
with Mr. Postlethwaite, and sit drinking tea and talking 
slander with old ladies. As to the young ones, I have 
one sitting by me just now, fair-faced, blue-eyed, dark- 
haired, sweet eighteen. She little thinks the Devil is as 
near her. I was delighted to see thy note, old Squire, 



64 EMILY BRONTE. 

but don't understand one sentence perhaps you will 
know what I mean ^ 

How are all about you ? I long . . . [all torn next] 
everything about Haworth folk. Does little Nosey think 
I have forgotten him. No, by Jupiter! nor is Alick 
either. I'll send him a remembrance one of these days.. 
But I must talk to some one prettier ; so good night,, 
old boy. Write directly, and believe me to be thine, 

" THE PHILOSOPHER." 



Branwell's boasted reformation was not kept up for 
long. Soon he came back as heartless, as affectionate, 
as vain, as unprincipled as ever, to laugh and loiter about 
the steep street of Haworth. Then he went to Bradford 
as a portrait-painter, and so impressive is audacity 
actually succeeded for some months in gaining a living 
there, although his education was oi the slenderest, and, 
judging from the specimens still treasured in Haworth, 
his natural talent on a level with that of the average 
new student in any school of art. His tawny mane, his 
pose of untaught genius, his verses in the poet's corner 
of the paper could not for ever keep afloat this un- 
taught and thriftless portrait-painter of twenty. Soon 
there came an end to his painting there. He dis- 
appeared from Bradford suddenly, heavily in debt, and 
was lost to sight, until unnerved, a drunkard, and an 
opium-eater, he came back to home and Emily at 
Haworth. 

Meanwhile impetuous Charlotte was growing nervous 
and weak, gentle Anne consumptive and dejected, in 
their work away from home ; and Emily was toiling from 
dawn till dusk with her old servant Tabby for the old 



GIRLHOOD AT HA WORTH. 65 

aunt who never cared for her, and the old father always 
courteous and distant. 

They knew the face of necessity more nearly than any 
friend's, those Bronte girls, and the pinch of poverty was 
for their own foot ; therefore were they always conside- 
rate to any that fell into the same plight. During the 
Christmas holidays of 1837, old Tabby fell on the steep 
and slippery street and broke her leg. She was already 
nearly seventy, and could do little work ; now her acci- 
dent laid her completely aside, leaving Emily, Charlotte, 
and Anne to spend their Christmas holidays in doing 
the housework and nursing the invalid. Miss Branwell, 
anxious to spare the girls' hands and her brother-in-law's 
pocket, insisted that Tabby should be sent to her sister's 
house to be nursed and another servant engaged for the 
Parsonage. Tabby, she represented, was fairly well off, 
her sister in comfortable circumstances ; the Parsonage 
kitchen might supply her with broths and jellies in 
plenty, but why waste the girls' leisure and scanty patri- 
mony on an old servant competent to keep herself. Mr. 
Bronte was finally persuaded, and his decision made 
known. But the girls were not persuaded. Tabby, so 
they averred, was one of the family, and they refused to 
abandon her in sickness. They did not say much, but 
they did more than say they starved. When the tea 
was served, the three sat silent, fasting. Next morning 
found their will yet stronger than their hunger no 
breakfast. They did the day's work, and dinner came. 
Still they held out, wan and sunk. Then the superiors 
gave in. 

The girls gained their victory no stubborn freak, but 
the right to make a generous sacrifice, and to bear an 
honourable burden. 

That Christmas, of course, there cou'd be no visiting 



66 EMILY BRONTE. 

nor the next. Tabby was slow in getting well ; but she 
did not outweary the patience of her friends. 

Two years later, Charlotte writes to her old school- 
fellow : 

" December 21, 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 own 
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 ironing 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 among us. 
Besides, we do not despair of Tabby's return, and she 
shall not be supplanted by a stranger in her absence. 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 happier 
blackleading the stoves, making the beds, and sweeping 
the floors at home than I should be living like a fine 
lady anywhere else."* 

The year 1840 found Emily, Branwell, and Charlotte 
all at home together. Unnerved and dissipated as he 
was, Branwell was still a welcome presence; his gay 
talk still awakened glad promises in the ambitious and 
loving household which hoped all things from him. His 
mistakes and faults they pardoned ; thinking, poor souls, 

* Mrs. Gaskell. 



GIRLHOOD AT HA WORTH. 67 

that the strong passions which led him astray betokened 
a strong character and not a powerless will. 

It was still to Branwell that they looked for the fame 
of the family. Their poems, their stories, were to these 
girls but a legitimate means of amusement and relief. 
The serious business of their life was to teach, to cook, 
to clean ; to earn or save the mere expense of their 
existence. No dream of literary fame gave a purpose to 
the quiet days of Emily Bronte. Charlotte and Bran- 
well, more impulsive, more ambitious, had sent their 
work to Southey, to Coleridge, to Wordsworth, in vain, 
pathetic hope of encouragement, or recognition. Not 
so the sterner Emily, to whom expression was at once a 
necessity and a regret. Emily's brain, Emily's locked 
desk, these and nothing else knew the degree of her 
passion, her genius, her power. And yet acknowledged 
power would have been sweet to that dominant spirit. 

Meanwhile the immediate difficulty was to earn a 
living. Even those patient and courageous girls could 
not accept the thought of a whole lifetime spent in dreary 
governessing by Charlotte and Anne, in solitary drudgery 
by homekeeping Emily. One way out of this hateful 
vista seemed not impossible of attainment. For years it 
was the wildest hope, the cherished dream of the author 
of 'Wuthering Heights' and the author of 'Villette.' 
And what was this dear and daring ambition ? to keep 
a ladies' school at Haworth. 

Far enough off, difficult to reach, it looked to them, 
this paltry common-place ideal of theirs. For the house 
with its four bedrooms would have to be enlarged ; for 
the girls' education, with its Anglo-French and stumbling 
music, would have to be adorned by the requisite accom- 
plishments. This would take time ; time and money ; 
two luxuries most hard to get for the Vicar of Haworth 's 

F 2 



68 EMIL Y BRONT&. 

harassed daughters. They would sigh, and suddenly 
stop in their making of plans and drawing up of circulars. 
It seemed so difficult. 

One person, indeed, might help them. Miss Branwell 
had saved out of her annuity of 50 a year. She had a 
certain sum ; small enough, but to Charlotte and Emily 
it seemed as potent as the fairy's wand. The question 
was, would she risk it ? 

It seemed not. The old lady had always chiefly 
meant her savings for the dear prodigal who bore her 
name, and Emily and Charlotte were not her favourites. 
The girls indeed only asked for a loan, but she doubted, 
hesitated, doubted again. They were too proud to take 
an advantage so grudgingly proffered ; and while their 
talk was still of what means they might employ, while 
they still painfully toiled through improper French 
novels as " the best substitute for French conversation," 
they gave up the dream for the present, and Charlotte 
again looked out for a situation. Nearly a year elapsed 
before she found it a happy year, full of plans and talks 
with Emily and free from any more pressing anxiety 
than Anne's delicate health always gave her sisters. 
Branwell was away and doing well as station-master at 
Luddendenfoot, " set off to seek his fortune in the wild, 
wandering, adventurous, romantic, knight-errant-like 
capacity of "clerk on the Leeds and Manchester Rail- 
way." Ellen came to stay at Haworth in the summer ; 
it was quite sociable and lively now in the grey house on 
the moors ; for, compelled by failing health, Mr. Bronte 
had engaged the help of a curate, and the Haworth 
curate brought his clerical friends about the house, to 
the great disgust of Emily, and the half-sentimental 
fluttering of pensive Anne, which laid on Charlotte the 
responsibility of talking for all three. 



GIRLHOOD AT HA WORTH. 69 

In the holidays when Anne was at home all the old 
glee and enjoyment of life returned. There was, more- 
over, the curate, "bonnie, pleasant, light-hearted, good- 
tempered, generous, careless, crafty, fickle, and uncleri- 
cal," to add piquancy to the situation. " He sits oppo- 
site to Anne at church, sighing softly, and looking out 
of the corners of his eyes and she is so quiet, her look 
so downcast ; they are a picture," says merry Charlotte. 
This first curate at Haworth was exempted from Emily's 
liberal scorn ; he was a favourite at the vicarage, a clever, 
bright-spirited, and handsome youth, greatly in Miss 
Branwell's good graces. He would tease and flatter the 
old lady with such graciousness as made him ever sure 
of a welcome ; so that his daily visits to Mr. Bronte's 
study were nearly always followed up by a call in the 
opposite parlour, when Miss Branwell would frequently 
leave her upstairs retreat and join in the lively chatter. 
She always presided at the tea-table, at which the 
curate was a frequent guest, and her nieces would be 
kept well amused all through the tea hour by the 
curate's piquant sallies, baffling the old lady in her little 
schemes of control over the three high-spirited girls. 
None enjoyed the fun more than quiet Emily, always 
present and amused, " her countenance glimmering as it 
always did when she enjoyed herself," Miss Ellen Nussey 
tells me. Many happy legends, too familiar to be quoted 
here, record the light heart and gay spirit that Emily 
bore in those untroubled days. Foolish, pretty little 
stories of her dauntless protection of the other girls from 
too pressing suitors. Never was duenna so gallant, so 
gay, and so inevitable. In compliment to the excellence 
of her swashing and martial outside on such occasions, 
the little household dubbed her " The Major," a name 



70 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

that stuck to her in days when the dash and gaiety of 
her soldiery bearing was sadly sobered down, and only 
the courage and dauntless heart remained. 

But in these early days of 1841, Emily was as happy 
as other healthy country girls in a congenial home. 
" She did what we did," says Miss Nussey, " and never 
absented herself when she could avoid it life at this 
period must have been sweet and pleasant to her." An 
equal unchequered life, in which trifles seemed of great 
importance. We hear of the little joys and adventures 
of those days, so faithfully and long remembered, with a 
pathetic pleasurableness. So slight they are, and all 
their colour gone, like pressed roses, though a faint 
sweetness yet remains. The disasters when Miss Bran- 
well was cross and in no humour to receive her guests ; 
the long-expected excitement of a walk over the moors 
to Keighley where the curate was to give a lecture, the 
alarm and flurry when the curate, finding none of the 
four girls had ever received a valentine, proposed to 
send one to each on the next Valentine's Day. " No, 
no, the elders would never allow it, and yet it would 
certainly be an event to receive a valentine ; still, there 
would be such a lecture from Miss Branwell." "Oh 
no," he said, " I shall post them at Bradford." And to 
Bradford he walked, ten miles and back again, so that 
on the eventful I4th of February the anxiously-expected 
postman brought four valentines, all on delicately tinted 
paper, all enhanced by a verse of original poetry, touch- 
ing on some pleasant characteristic in each recipient. 
What merriment and comparing of notes ! What pleased 
feigning of indignation ! The girls determined to reward 
him with a Rowland for his Oliver, and Charlotte wrote 
some rhymes full of fun and raillery which all the girls 



GIRLHOOD AT HA WORTH. 71 

signed Emily entering into all this with much spirit 
and amusement and finally despatched in mystery and 
secret glee. 

At last this pleasant fooling came to an end. Char- 
lotte advertised for a place, and found it. While she was 
away she had a letter from Miss Wooler, offering Char- 
lotte the goodwill of her school at Dewsbury Moor. It 
was a chance not to be lost, although what inducement 
Emily and Charlotte could offer to their pupils it is not 
easy to imagine. But it was above all things necessary 
to make a home where delicate Anne might be sheltered, 
where homesick Emily could be happy, where Charlotte 
could have time to write, where all might live and work 
together. Miss Wooler's offer was immediately accepted. 
Miss Branwell was induced to lend the girls 100. No 
answer came from Miss Wooler. Then ambitious Char- 
lotte, from her situation away, wrote to Miss Branwell 
at Haworth * : 

"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 concluding 
the bargain. Meantime a plan has been suggested and 

approved by Mr. and Mrs. and others which I wish 

now to impart to you. My friends recommend, if I 
desire to secure permanent success, to delay commen- 
cing the school for six months longer, and by all means 
to contrive, by hook or by crook, to spend the interven- 
ing 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 

* Mrs. Gaskell. 



72 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

superiority, we shall probably have a very hard struggle 
and may fail in the end. They say, moreover, that the 
loan of^ioo, 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 repayment 
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 5, living is 
there little more than half as dear as it is in England, 
and the facilities for education are equal or superior to 
any place in Europe. In half a year I could acquire a 
thorough familiarity with French. I could improve 
greatly in Italian and even get a dash at German ; i.e. 
providing my health continued as good as it is now. . . . 

"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 never can do 
now. I say Emily instead 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 it 
$o or ;ioo, 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 besides yourself. I feel an 
absolute conviction that if this advantage were allowed 
us, it would be the making of us for life. Papa will 



GIRLHOOD AT HA WORTH. 73 

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." 

That was true. It must have struck a vibrant chord 
in the old man's breast. Absorbed in parish gossip and 
his ' Cottage Poems/ caring no longer for the world but 
only for newspaper reports of it, actively idle, living a 
resultless life of ascetic self-indulgence, the Vicar of 
Haworth was very proud of his energetic past. He had 
always held it up to his children as a model for them to 
copy. Charlotte's appeal would certainly secure her 
father as an ally to her cause. Miss Branwell, on the 
other hand, would not wish for displays of ambition 
in her already too irrepressible nieces. But she was 
getting old ; it would be a comfort to her, after all, to 
see them settled, and prosperously settled through her 
generosity. " I look to you, Aunt, to help us. I think 
you will not refuse," Charlotte had said. How, indeed, 
could Miss Branwell, living in their home, be happy, 
and refuse ? 

Yet many discussions went on before anxious Char- 
iotte got the answer. Emily, whom it concerned as 
nearly, must have listened waiting in a strange perturba- 
tion of hope and fear. To leave home she knew well 
what it meant. Since she was six years old she had 
never left Yorkshire ; but those months of wearying 
homesickness at Roe Head, at Halifax, must have most 
painfully rushed back upon her memory. Haworth was 
health, content, the very possibility of existence to this 
girl. To leave Haworth for a strange town beyond the 
seas, to see strange faces all round, to hear and speak a 
strange language, Charlotte's welcome prospect of ad- 
venture must have taken a nightmare shape to Emily. 



74 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

And for this she must hope ; this she must desire, plead 
for if necessary, and at least uphold. For Charlotte said 
the thing was essential to their future ; and in all details 
of management, Charlotte's word was law to her sisters. 
Even Emily, the independent, indomitable Emily, so 
resolute in keeping to any chosen path, looked to Char- 
lotte to choose the way in practical affairs. 

At length consent was secured, written and despatched. 
Gleeful. Charlotte gave notice to her employers and soon 
set out for home. There was much to be done. " Letters 
to write to Brussels, to Lille and to London, lots of work 
to be done, besides clothes to repair." It was decided 
that the sisters should give up their chance of the school 
at Dewsbury Moor, since the site was low and damp, and 
had not suited Anne. On their return from Brussels they 
were to set up a school in some healthy seaside place in 
the East Riding. Burlington was the place where their 
fancy chiefly dwelt. To this beautiful and healthy spot, 
fronting the sea, eager pupils would flock for the benefit 
of instruction by three daughters of a clergyman, " edu- 
cated abroad" (for six months) speaking thorough 
French, improved Italian and a dash of German. A 
scintillating programme of accomplishment danced before 
their eyes. 

There were, however, many practical difficulties to be 
vanquished first. The very initial step, the choice of a 
school, was hard to take. Charlotte writes to Ellen : 

"January 20, 1842. 

" We expect to leave England in about three weeks,, 
but we are not yet certain as to the day, as it will depend 
on the convenience 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 un- 



GIRLHOOD AT HA WORTH. 75, 

favourable account from Mr. or rather from Mrs. Jenkins 
of the French schools in Bruxelles, representing them as 
of an inferior caste in many respects. On further inquiry 
an institution at Lille in the North of France was highly 
recommended by Baptist Noel and other clergymen, 
and to that place it is decided that we are to go. The 
terms are ^"50 a year for each pupil for board and French 
alone ; but a separate room will be allowed for this sum ;. 
without this indulgence they are something lower. I 
considered 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 Bruxelles to 
Lille on many accounts." 

For Charlotte to regret the change was for an improve- 
ment to be discovered. She had set her heart on going 
to Brussels ; Mrs. Jenkins redoubled her efforts and at 
length discovered the Pensionnat of Madame Hger in 
the Rue d'Isabelle. 

Thither, as all the world is aware, Charlotte and Emily 
Bronte, both of age, went to school. 

" We shall leave England in about three weeks." The 
words had a ring of happy daring in Charlotte's ears. 
Since at six years of age she had set out alone to dis- 
cover the Golden City, romance, discovery, adventure, 
were sweet promises to her. She had often wished to 
see the world ; now she will see it. She had thirsted for 
knowledge ; here is the source. She longed to add new 
notes to that gamut of human character which she could 
play with so profound a science ; she shall make a 
masterpiece out of her acquisitions. At this time her 
letters are full of busy gaiety, giving accounts of her 
work, making plans, making fun. As happy and 
hopeful a young woman as any that dwells in Haworth 
parish. 



76 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Emily is different. It is she who imagined the girl in 
heaven who broke her heart with weeping for earth, till 
the angels cast her out in anger, and flung her into the 
middle of the heath, to wake there sobbing for joy. She 
did not care to know fresh people ; she hates strangers ; to 
walk with her bulldog, Keeper, over the moors is her 
best adventure. To learn new things is very well, but she 
prizes above everything originality and the wild provincial 
flavour of her home. What she strongly, deeply loves is 
her moorland home, her own people, the creatures on the 
heath, the dogs who always feed from her hands, the 
-flowers in the bleak garden that only grow at all because 
of the infinite care she lavishes upon them. The stunted 
thorn under which she sits to write her poems, is more 
beautiful to her than the cedars of Lebanon. To each 
and all of these she must now bid farewell. It is in a 
different tone that she says in her adieus, " We shall 
leave England in about three weeks." 



( 77 



CHAPTER VII. 
IN THE RUE D'ISABELLE. 

THE Rue d'Isabelle had a character of its own. It lies 
below your feet as you stand in the Rue Royale, near 
the statue of General Beliard. Four flights of steps 
lead down to the street, half garden, half old houses, 
with at one end a large square mansion, owning the 
garden that runs behind it and to the right of it. The 
house is old ; a Latin inscription shows it to have been 
given to the great Guild of Cross-bowmen by Queen 
Isabelle in the early years of the i/th century. The 
garden is older ; long before the Guild of the Cross- 
bowmen of the Great Oath, in deference to the wish of 
Queen Isabelle, permitted the street to be made through 
it, the garden had been their exercising place. There 
Isabelle herself, a member of their order, had shot down 
the bird. But the garden had a yet more ancient past ; 
when apple-trees, pear-trees and alleys of Bruges cherries, 
when plots of marjoram and mint, of thyme and sweet- 
basil, filled the orchard and herbary of the Hospital of 
the Poor. And the garden itself, before trees or flowers 
were planted, had resounded with the yelp of the Duke's 
hounds, when, in the thirteenth century, it had been the 
Fosse-aux-chiens. This historic garden, this mansion, 
built by a queen for a great order, belonged in 1842 to 
Monsieur and Madame Heger, and was a famous Pen- 
sionnat de Demoiselles. 



78 EMIL Y BRONT&. 

There the Vicar of Haworth brought his two daughters 
one February day, spent one night in Brussels and went 
straight back to his old house on the moors, so modern 
in comparison with the mansion in Rue dTsabelle. A 
change, indeed, for Emily and Charlotte. Even now, 
Brussels (the headquarters of Catholicism far more than 
modern Rome) has a taste for pageantry that recalls 
mediaeval days. The streets decked with boughs and 
strewn with flowers, through which pass slowly the pro- 
cessions of the Church, white-clad children, boys like 
angels scattering roses, standard-bearers with emblazoned 
banners. Surpliced choristers singing Latin praises, 
acolytes in scarlet swinging censers, reliquaries and 
images, before which the people fall down in prayer ; all 
this to-day is no uncommon sight in Brussels, and must 
have been yet more frequent in 1842. 

The flower-market out of doors, with clove-pinks, tall 
Mary-lilies and delicate roses d'amour, filling the quaint 
mediaeval square before the beautiful old fapade of the 
H6tel de Ville. Ste.-Gudule with its spires and arches ; 
the Montagne de la Cour (almost as steep as Haworth 
.street), its windows ablaze at night with jewels ; the little, 
lovely park, its great elms just coming into leaf, its 
statues just bursting from their winter sheaths of straw ; 
the galleries of ancient pictures, their walls a sober glory 
of colours, blues, deep as a summer night, rich reds, 
brown golds, most vivid greens. 

All this should have made an impression on the two 
home-keeping girls from Yorkshire ; and Charlotte, 
indeed, perceived something of its beauty and strange- 
ness. But Emily, from a bitter sense of exile, from a 
natural narrowness of spirit, rebelled against it all as 
an insult to the memory of her home she longed, hope- 
lessly, uselessly, for Haworth. The two Brontes were very 



IN THE RUE &ISABELLE. 79 

different to the Belgian school-girls in Madame Heger's 
Pensionnat. They were, for one thing, ridiculously old 
to be at school twenty-four and twenty-six and they 
seemed to feel their position ; their speech was strained 
and odd ; all the " sceptical, wicked, immoral French 
novels, over forty of them, the best substitute for French 
conversation to be met with," which the girls had toiled 
through with so much singleness of spirit, had not cured the 
broadness of their accent nor the artificial idioms of their 
Yorkshire French. Monsieur Heger, indeed, considered 
that they knew no French at all. Their manners, even 
among English people, were stiff and prim ; the hearty, 
vulgar, genial expansion of their Belgian schoolfellows 
must have made them seem as lifeless as marionettes. 
Their dress Haworth had permitted itself to wonder at 
the uncouthness of those amazing leg-of-mutton sleeves 
(Emily's pet whim in and out of fashion), at the ill-cut 
lankness of those skirts, clumsy enough on round little 
Charlotte, but a very caricature of mediaevalism on 
Emily's tall, thin, slender figure. They knew they 
were not in their element and kept close together, 
rarely speaking. Yet Monsieur Heger, patiently watch- 
ing, felt the presence of a strange power under those 
uncouth exteriors. 

An odd little man of much penetration, this French 
schoolmaster. " Homme de ztle et de conscience, il 
possede d un haut degre Eloquence du bon sens et 
du cceur." Fierce and despotic in the exaction of obedi- 
ence, yet tender of heart, magnanimous and tyrannical, 
.absurdly vain and absolutely unselfish. His wife's school 
was a kingdom to him ; he brought to it an energy, a 
zeal, a faculty of administration worthy to rule a king- 
dom. It was with the delight of a botanist discovering 
-a rare plant in his garden, of a politician detecting a 



So EMILY BRONTE. 

future statesman in his nursery, that he perceived the 
unusual faculty which lifted his two English pupils 
above their schoolfellows. He watched them silently 
for some weeks. When he had made quite sure, he 
came forwards and, so to speak, claimed them for his 
own. 

Charlotte at once accepted the yoke. All that he set 
tier to do she toiled to accomplish ; she followed out 
his trains of thought ; she adopted the style he recom- 
mended ; she gave him in return for all his pains the 
most unflagging obedience, the affectionate comprehen- 
sion of a large intelligence. She writes to Ellen of her 
delight in learning and serving : " It is very natural to- 
me to submit, very unnatural to command." 

Not so with Emily. The qualities which her sister 
understood and accepted, irritated her unspeakably. 
The masterfulness in little things, the irritability, the 
watchfulness of the fiery little professor of rhetoric were 
utterly distasteful to her. She contradicted his theories 
to his face ; she did her lessons well, but as she chose to 
do them. She was as indomitable, fierce, unappeasable, 
as Charlotte was ready and submissive. And yet it was 
Emily who had the larger share of Monsieur Heger's 
admiration. Egotistic and exacting he thought her, wha 
never yielded to his petulant, harmless egoism, who never 
gave way to his benevolent tyranny ; but he gave her 
credit for logical powers, for a capacity for argument 
unusual in a man, and rare, indeed, in a woman. She, not 
Charlotte, was the genius in his eyes, although he com- 
plained that her stubborn will rendered her deaf to all 
reason, when her own determination, or her own sense of 
right, was concerned. He fancied she might be a great 
historian, so he told Mrs. Gaskell. " Her faculty of 
imagination was such, her views of scenes and characters. 



IN THE RUE WISABELLE. 81 

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 perception of the 
truth. She should have been a man : a great navigator !" 
cried the little, dark, enthusiastic rhetorician. " Her 
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 opposition or difficulty ; never have given way but 
with life!" 

Yet they were never friends ; though Monsieur He"ger 
could speak so well of Emily at a time, be it remem- 
bered, when it was Charlotte's praises that were sought, 
when Emily's genius was set down as a lunatic's hob- 
goblin of nightmare potency. He and she were alike 
too imperious, too independent, too stubborn. A couple 
of swords, neither of which could serve to sheathe the 
other. 

That time in Brussels was wasted upon Emily. The 
trivial characters which Charlotte made immortal merely 
annoyed her. The new impressions which gave another 
scope to Charlotte's vision were nothing to her. All that 
was grand, remarkable, passionate, under the surface of 
that conventional Pensionnat de Demoiselles, was in- 
visible to Emily. Notwithstanding her genius she was 
very hard and narrow. 

Poor girl, she was sick for home. It was all nothing 
to her, less than a dream, this place she lived in. Char- 
lotte's engrossment in her new life, her eagerness to 
please her master, was a contemptible weakness to this 
embittered heart. She would laugh when she found her 
elder sister trying to arrange her homely gowns in the 
French taste, and stalk silently through the large school- 

G 



82 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

rooms with a fierce satisfaction in her own ugly sleeves, 
in the Haworth cut of her skirts. She seldom spoke a 
word to any one ; only sometimes she would argue with 
Monsieur Heger, perhaps secretly glad to have the chance 
of shocking Charlotte. If they went out to tea, she 
would sit still on her chair, answering " Yes " and " No ;" 
inert, miserable, with a heart full of tears. When her 
work was done she would walk in the Cross -bowmen's 
ancient garden, under the trees, leaning on her shorter 
sister's arm, pale, silent a tall, stooping figure. Often 
she said nothing at all. Charlotte, also, was very pro- 
fitably speechless ; under her eyes ' Villette ' was taking 
shape. But Emily did not think of Brussels. She was 
dreaming of Haworth. 

One poem that she wrote at this time may appro- 
priately be quoted here. It was, Charlotte tells us, 
"composed at twilight, in the schoolroom, when the 
leisure of the evening play-hour brought back, in full 
tide, the thoughts of home : " 

" A little while, a little while, 

The weary task is put away, 

And I can sing and I can smile 

Alike, while I have holiday. 

' Where wilt thou go, my harassed heart 

What thought, what scene invites thee now ? 
What spot, or near or far apart, 
Has rest for thee, my weary brow ? 

" There is a spot mid barren hills, 

Where winter howls and driving rain ; 
But, if the dreary tempest chills, 
There is a light that warms again. 

" The house is old, the trees are bare, 

Moonless above bends twilight's dome , 
But what on earth is half so dear 
So longed for as the hearth of home ? 



IN THE RUE D'ISABELLE. 83 

" The mute bird sitting on the stone, 

The dark moss dripping from the wall, 
The thorn-tree gaunt, the walks o'ergrown, 
I love them ; how I love them all J 

*' And, as I mused, the naked room, 
The alien fire-light died away ; 
And from the midst of cheerless gloom 
I passed to bright, unclouded day. 

41 A little and a lone green lane, 

That opened on a common wide ; 
A distant, dreary, dim, blue chain 
Of mountains circling every side : 

"" A heaven so dear, an earth so calm, 

So sweet, so soft, so hushed an air ; 
And deepening still the dream-like charm 
Wild moor-sheep feeding everywhere. 

" That was the scene, I knew it well ; 
I knew the turfy pathway's sweep, 
That, winding o'er each billowy swell, 

Marked out the tracks of wandering sheep. 

" Could I have lingered but an hour, 

It well had paid a week of toil ; 
But truth has banished fancy's power, 
Restraint and heavy task recoil. 

" Even as I stood with raptured eye, 

Absorbed in bliss so deep and dear, 
My hour of rest had fleeted by, 
And back came labour, bondage, care." 

Charlotte meanwhile writes in good, even in high 
spirits to her friend : " I think I am never unhappy, 
my present life is so delightful, so congenial, compared 
to 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 

G 2 



84 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

yet spoken Monsieur Heger, the husband of Madame. 
He is professor of rhetoric a man of power as to mind, 
but very choleric and irritable as to temperament a 
little, black, ugly being, with a face that varies in ex- 
pression ; sometimes he borrows the lineaments of an 
insane torn cat, sometimes those of a delirious hyena, 
occasionally but very seldom he discards these perilous 
attractions and assumes an air not a hundred times re- 
moved from what you would call mild and gentleman- 
like. He is very angry with me just at present, because 
I have written a translation which he chose to stigmatise 
as * peu correct.' He did not tell me so, but wrote the 
words 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 reader will already have recognised in the black, 
ugly, choleric little professor of rhetoric, the one abso- 
lutely natural hero of a woman's novel, the beloved and 
whimsical figure of the immortal Monsieur Paul Emanuel. 

"He and Emily," adds Charlotte, "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." 

Emily did indeed work hard. She was there to work, 
and not till she had learned a certain amount would her 
conscience permit her to return to Haworth. It was for 
dear liberty that she worked. She began German, a 
favourite study in after years, and of some purpose, since 
the style of Hofmann left its impression on the author of 
' Wuthering Heights/ She worked hard at music ; and 
in half a year the stumbling schoolgirl became a brilliant 
and proficient musician. Her playing is said to have 
been singularly accurate, vivid, and full of fire. French. 



IN THE RUE &ISABELLE. 85 

too, both in grammar and in literature, was a constant 
study. 

Monsieur Heger recognised the fact that in dealing 
with the Brontes he had not to make the customary 
allowances for a schoolgirl's undeveloped inexperience. 
These were women of mature and remarkable intelli- 
gence. The method he adopted in teaching them was 
rather that of a University professor than such as 
usually is used in a pensionnat. He would choose some 
masterpiece of French style, some passage of eloquence 
or portraiture, read it to them with a brief lecture on its 
distinctive qualities, pointing out what was exaggerated, 
what apt, what false, what subtle in the author's concep- 
tion or his mode of expressing it. They were then dis- 
missed to make a similar composition, without the aid 
of grammar or dictionary, availing themselves as far as 
possible of the miances of style and the peculiarities of 
method of the writer chosen as the model of the hour. 
In this way the girls became intimately acquainted with 
the literary technique of the best French masters. To 
Charlotte the lessons were of incalculable value, perfecting 
in her that clear and accurate style which makes her best 
work never wearisome, never old-fashioned. But the 
very thought of imitating any one, especially of imitating 
.any French writer, was repulsive to Emily, "rustic all 
through, moorish, wild and knotty as a root of heath." * 
When Monsieur Heger had explained his plan to them, 
" Emily spoke first ; and said that she saw no good to 
be 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 Monsieur Heger had no time. Charlotte then 
spoke ; she also doubted the success of the plan ; but 
* C. Bronte. 



86 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

she would follow out Monsieur Roger's advice, because 
she was bound to obey him while she was his pupil." * 
Charlotte soon found a keen enjoyment in this species 
of literary composition, yet Emily's devoir was the best 
They are, alas, no longer to be seen, no longer in the 
keeping of so courteous and proud a guardian as Mrs. 
Gaskell had to deal with ; but she and Monsieur Heger 
both have expressed their opinions that in genius, imagi- 
nation, power and force of language, Emily was the 
superior of the two sisters. 

So great was the personality of this energetic, silent, 
brooding, ill-dressed young Englishwoman, that all who 
knew her recognised in her the genius they were slow to 
perceive in her more sociable and vehement sister. 
Madame Heger, the worldly, cold-mannered, surveill- 
ante of Villette, avowed the singular force of a nature 
most antipathetic to her own. Yet Emily had no com- 
panions ; the only person of whom we hear, in even 
the most negative terms of friendliness, is one of the 
teachers, a certain Mademoiselle Marie, "talented and 
original, but of repulsive and arbitrary manners, which 
have made the whole school, except Emily and myself, 
her bitter enemies." No less arbitrary and repulsive 
seemed poor Emily herself, a sprig of purple heath at 
discord with those bright, smooth geraniums and lobelias ; 
Emily, of whom every surviving friend extols the never- 
failing, quiet unselfishness, the genial spirit ready to 
help, the timid but faithful affection. She was so com- 
pletely hors de son assiette that even her virtues were 
misplaced. 

There was always one thing she could do, one thing 
as natural as breath to Emily determined labour. In 
that merciful engrossment she could forget her heart- 
* Mrs. Gaskell. 



IN THE RUE &ISABELLE. 87 

sick weariness and the jarring strangeness of things ; 
every lesson conquered was another step taken on the 
long road home. And the days allowed ample space 
for work, although it was supported upon a somewhat 
slender diet. 

Counting boarders and externes, Madame Heger's 
school numbered over a hundred pupils. These were 
divided into three classes ; the second, in which the 
Brontes were, containing sixty students. In the last 
row, side by side, absorbed and quiet, sat Emily and 
Charlotte. Soon after rising, the pensionnaires were 
given their light Belgian breakfast of coffee and rolls. 
Then from nine to twelve they studied. Three mistresses 
and seven professors were engaged to take the different 
classes. At twelve a lunch of bread and fruit ; then a 
turn in the green alley, Charlotte and Emily always 
walking together. From one till two fancy-work ; from 
two till four, lessons again. Then dinner : the one solid 
meal of the day. From five till six the hour was free, 
Emily's musing-hour. From six till seven the terrible 
lecture pieuse, hateful to the Brontes' Protestant spirit. 
At eight a supper of rolls and water ; then prayers, and 
to bed. 

The room they slept in was a long school-dormitory. 
After all they could not get the luxury, so much desired, 
of a separate room. But their two beds were alone 
together at the further end, veiled in white curtains ; 
discreet and retired as themselves. Here, after the day's 
hard work, they slept. In sleep, one is no longer an 
exile. 

But often Emily did not sleep. The old well-known 
pain, wakefulness, longing, was again beginning to relax 
her very heartstrings. " The same suffering and conflict 
ensued, heightened by the strong recoil of her upright 



88 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

heretic and English spirit from the gentle Jesuitry of 
the foreign and Romish system. Once more she seemed 
sinking, but this time she rallied through the mere force 
of resolution : with inward remorse and- shame she 
looked back on her former failure, and resolved to 
conquer, but the victory cost her dear. She was never 
happy till she carried her hard-won knowledge back to 
the remote English village, the old parsonage house and 
desolate Yorkshire hills." * 

But not yet, not yet, this happiness ! The opportunity 
that had been so hardly won must not be thrown away 
before the utmost had been made of it. And she was 
not utterly alone. Charlotte was there. The success 
that she had in her work must have helped a little to 
make her foreign home tolerable to her. Soon she knew 
enough of music to give lessons to the younger pupils. 
Then German, costing her and Charlotte an extra ten 
francs the month, as also much severe study and struggle. 
Charlotte writes in the summer: "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/' 

It was doubtful, even, whether they would come home 
in September. Madame Heger made a proposal to her 
two English pupils for them to stay on, without paying, 
but without salary, for half a year. She would dismiss 
her English teacher, whose place Charlotte would take. 
Emily was to teach music to the younger pupils. The 
proposal was kind and would be of advantage to the 
sisters. 

Charlotte declared herself inclined to accept it. " I 
have been happy in Brussels," she averred. And Emily, 
though she, indeed, was not happy, acknowledged the 
* C. Bronte. Memoir of her sisters. 



IN THE RUE &ISABELLE. 89 

benefit to be derived from a longer term of study. Six 
months, after all, was rather short to gain a thorough 
knowledge of French, with Italian and German, when 
you add to these acquirements music and drawing, which 
Emily worked at with a will. Besides, she could not fail 
again, could not go back to Haworth leaving Charlotte 
behind ; neither could she spoil Charlotte's future by 
persuading her to reject Madame Heger's terms. So 
both sisters agreed to stay in Brussels. They were not 
utterly friendless there ; two Miss Taylors, schoolfellows 
and dear friends of Charlotte's, were at school at the 
Chateau de Kokleberg, just outside the barriers. Readers 
of ' Shirley ' know them as Rose and Jessie Yorke. The 
Brontes met them often, nearly every week, at some 
cousins of the Taylors, who lived in the town. But this 
-diversion, pleasant to Charlotte, was merely an added 
annoyance to Emily. She would sit stiff and silent, 
unable to say a word, longing to be somewhere at her 
ease. Mrs. Jenkins, too, had begun with asking them to 
;spend their Sundays with her ; but Emily never said a 
word, and Charlotte, though sometimes she got excited 
.and spoke well and vehemently, never ventured on an 
opinion till she had gradually wheeled round in her 
chair with her back to the person she addressed. They 
were so shy, so rustic, Mrs. Jenkins gave over inviting 
them, feeling that they did not like to refuse, and found 
it no pleasure to come. Charlotte, indeed, still had the 
Taylors, their cousins, and the family of a doctor living 
in the town, whose daughter was a pupil and friend of 
hers. Charlotte, too, had Madame Heger and her 
admired professor of rhetoric ; but Emily had no friend 
except her sister. 

Nevertheless it was settled they should stay. The 
grandes vacances began on the I5th of August, and, 




90 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

as the journey to Yorkshire cost so much, and as they 
were anxious to work, the Bronte girls spent their holi- 
days in Rue d'Isabelle. Besides themselves only six or 
eight boarders remained. All their friends were away 
holiday-making ; but they worked hard, preparing their 
lessons for the masters who, holidayless as they, had 
stayed behind in white, dusty, blazing, airless Brussels, 
to give lectures to the scanty class at Madame Heger's 
pensionnat. 

So the dreary six weeks passed away. In October 
the term began again, the pupils came back, new pupils 
were admitted, Monsieur Heger was more gesticulatory, 
vehement, commanding than usual, and Madame, in her 
quiet way, was no less occupied. Life and youth filled 
the empty rooms. The Bronte girls, sad enough indeed, 
for their friend Martha Taylor had died suddenly at the 
Chateau de Kokleberg, were, notwithstanding, able to feel 
themselves in a more natural position for women of their 
age. Charlotte, henceforth, by Monsieur Heger's orders, 
" Mademoiselle Charlotte," was the new English teacher ; 
Emily the assistant music-mistress. But, in the middle 
of October, in the first flush of their employment, came 
a sudden recall to Haworth. Miss Branwell was very 
ill. Immediately the two girls, who owed so much to 
her, who, but for her bounty, could never have been so far 
away in time of need, decided to go home. They broke 
their determination to Monsieur and Madame Heger,. 
who, sufficiently generous to place the girls' duty before 
their own convenience, upheld them in their course. They 
hastily packed up their things, took places via Antwerp 
to London, and prepared to start. At the last moment, 
the trunks packed, in the early morning the postman 
came. He brought another letter from Haworth. 
Their aunt was dead. 






IN THE RUE WISABELL 

So much the greater need that they should hasten 
home. Their father, left without his companion of 
twenty years, to keep his house, to read to him at 
night, to discuss with him on equal terms, their father 
would be lonely and distressed. Henceforth one of his 
daughters must stay with him. Anne was in an excel- 
lent situation ; must they ask her to give it up ? And 
what now of the school, the school at Burlington ? 
There was much to take counsel over and consider ; 
they must hurry home. So, knowing the worst, their 
future hanging out of shape and loose before their eyes, 
they set out on their dreary journey knowing not whether 
or when they might return. 



92 EMIL Y BRONT. 



CHAPTER VIII. 
A RETROSPECT. 

-" POOR, brilliant, gay, moody, moping, wildly excitable, 
miserable Bronte ! No history records your many 
struggles after the good your wit, brilliance, attrac- 
tiveness, eagerness for excitement all the qualities 
which made you such 'good company' and dragged 
you down to an untimely grave." 

Thus ejaculates Mr. Francis H. Grundy, remembering 
the boon-companion of his early years, the half-insane, 
pitiful creature that opium and brandy had made of 
clever Branwell at twenty-two. Returned from Bradford, 
his nervous system racked by opium fumes, he had 
loitered about at Ha worth until his father, stubborn as 
he was, perceived the obvious fact that every idle day 
led his only son more hopelessly down to the pit of ruin. 
At last he exerted his influence to find some work for 
Branwell, and obtained for his reckless, fanciful, morbid 
lad the post of station-master at a small roadside place, 
Luddendenfoot by name, on the Lancashire and York- 
shire Railway. Thither he went some months before 
Charlotte and Emily left for Brussels. It was there Mr. 
Grundy met him ; a novel station-master. 

" Had a position been chosen for this strange creature 
for the express purpose of driving him several steps to 
the bad, this must have been it. The line was only just 
opened. The station was a rude wooden hut, and there 



A RETROSPECT. 95. 

was no village near at hand. Alone in the wilds of 
Yorkshire, with few books, little to do, no prospects, 
and wretched pay, with no society congenial to his 
better taste, but plenty of wild, rollicking, hard-headed, 
half-educated manufacturers, who would welcome him to 
their houses, and drink with him as often as he chose to- 
come, what was this morbid man, who couldn't bear to 
be alone, to do ? " * 

What Branwell always did, in fine, was that which 
was easiest to him to do. He drank himself violent,, 
when he did not drink himself maudlin. He left the 
porter at the station to keep the books, and would ga 
off for days "on the drink" with his friends and fellow - 
carousers. About this time Mr. Grundy, then an engineer 
at Halifax, fell in with the poor, half-demented, lonely 
creature, and for a while things went a little better. 

Drink and riot had not embellished the tawny-maned, 
laughing, handsome darling of Haworth. Here is his 
portrait as at this time he appeared to his friend : 

" He was insignificantly small one of his life's trials, 
He had a mass of red hair, which he wore brushed high 
off his forehead to help his height, I fancy a great, 
bumpy, intellectual forehead, nearly half the size of the 
whole facial contour ; small ferrety eyes, deep-sunk and 
still further hidden by the never-removed spectacles ; 
prominent nose, but weak lower features. He had a 
downcast look, which never varied, save for a rapid 
momentary glance at long intervals.' Small and thin 
of person, he was the reverse of attractive at first sight." 

Yet this insignificant, sunken-eyed slip of humanity 

had a spell for those who heard him speak. There was 

no subject, moral, intellectual, or philosophic too remote 

or too profound for him to measure it at a moment's 

* ' Pictures of the Past.' F. H. Grundy. 



94 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

notice, with the ever-ready, fallacious plumb-] ine of his 
brilliant vanity. He would talk for hours : be eloquent, 
convincing, almost noble ; and afterwards accompany 
his audience to the nearest public-house. 

" At times we would drive over in a gig to Haworth 
(twelve miles) and visit his people. He was there at his 
best, and would be eloquent and amusing, although 
sometimes he would burst into tears when returning, 
and swear that he meant to amend. I believe, however, 
that he was half mad and could not control himself." * 

So must his friends in kindness think. Mad ; if haunt- 
ing, morbid dreads and fancies conjured up by poisonous 
drugs and never to be laid ; if a will laid prostrate under 
the yoke of unclean habits ; if a constitution prone to 
nervous derangement and blighted by early excess ; if 
such things forcing him by imperceptible daily pressure 
to choose the things he loathed, to be the thing he 
feared, to act a part abhorrent to his soul ; if such 
estranging and falsification of a man's true self may 
count as lunacy, the luckless, worthless boy was mad. 

It must have galled him, going home, to be welcomed 
so kindly, hoped so much from, by those who had for- 
given amply, and did not dream how heavy a mortgage 
had since been laid upon their pardon ; to have talked 
to the prim, pretty old lady who denied herself every 
day to save an inheritance for him ; to watch pious, 
gentle Anne into whose dreams the sins she prayed 
against had never entered ; worst of all, the sight of his 
respectable, well-preserved father, honoured by all the 
parish, successful, placed by his own stern, continued, 
will high beyond the onslaughts of temptation, yet 
with a temperament singularly akin to that morbid, 
passionate son's. 

* ' Pictures of the Past. 



A RETROSPECT. 



95 



So he would weep going home ; weep for his falling 
-off, and perhaps more sincerely for the short life of his 
contrition. Then the long evenings alone with his 
thoughts in that lonely place would make him afraid 
of repentance, afraid of God, himself, night, all. He 
would drink. 

He had fits of as contrary pride. " He was proud of 
his name, his strength and his abilities." Proud of his 
name ! He wrote a poem on it, " Bronte," an eulogy of 
Nelson, which won the patronising approbation of Leigh 
Hunt, Miss Martineau and others, to whom, at his 
special request, it was submitted. Had he ever heard 
of his dozen aunts and uncles, the Pruntys of Ahaderg ? 
Or if not, with what sensations must the Vicar of 
Haworth have listened to this blazoning forth and 
triumphing over the glories of his ancient name ? 

Branwell had fits of passion, too, the repetition of his 
father's vagaries. " I have seen him drive his doubled 
fist through the panels of a door it seemed to soothe 
him." The rough side of his nature got full play, and 
perhaps won him some respect denied to his cleverness, 
in the society amongst which he was chiefly thrown. 
For a little time the companionship of Mr. Grundy 
.served to rescue him from utter abandonment to license. 
But, in the midst of this improvement, the crash came. 
As he had sown, he reaped. 

Those long absences, drinking at the houses of his 
friends, had been turned to account by the one other 
inhabitant of the station at Luddendenfoot. The 
luggage porter was left to keep the books, and, following 
his master's example, he sought his own enjoyment 
before his employers' gain. He must have made a 
pretty penny out of those escapades of Barnwell's, for 
some months after the Vicar of Haworth had obtained 



96 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

his son's appointment, when the books received their 
customary examination, serious defalcations were dis- 
covered. An inquiry was instituted, which brought to 
light Branwell's peculiar method of managing the station. 
The lad himself was not suspected of actual theft ; but 
so continued, so glaring had been his negligence, so- 
hopeless the cause, that he was summarily dismissed 
the company's service, and sent home in dire disgrace to- 
Haworth. 

He came home not only in disgrace, but ill. Never 
strong, his constitution was deranged and broken by 
his excesses ; yet, strangly enough, consumption, which 
carried off so prematurely the more highly-gifted, the 
more strongly-principled daughters of the house, con- 
sumption, which might have been originally produced 
by the vicious life this youth had led, laid no claim upon 
him. His mother's character and her disease descended 
to her daughters only. Branwell inherited his father's 
violent temper, strong passions and nervous weakness 
without the strength of will and moral fibre that made 
his father remarkable. Probably this brilliant, weak, 
shallow, selfish lad reproduced accurately enough the 
characteristics of some former Prunty ; for Patrick Bran- 
well was as distinctly an Irishman as if his childhood 
had been spent in his grandfather's cabin at Ahaderg. 

He came home to find his sisters all away. Anne in 
her situation as governess, Emily and Charlotte in 
Rue d'Isabelle. No one, therefore, to be a check upon 
his habits, save the neat old lady, growing weaker day 
by day, who spent nearly all her time in her bedroom 
to avoid the paven floors of the basement ; and the 
father, who did not care for company, took his meals 
alone for fear of indigestion, and found it necessary to 
spend the succeeding time in perfect quiet. The greater 



A RETROSPECT. 97 

part of the day was, therefore, at Branwell's uncontrolled, 
unsupervised disposal. 

To do him justice, he does seem to have made so 
much effort after a new place of work as was involved 
in writing letters to his friend Grundy, and probably 
to others, suing for employment. But his offence had 
been too glaring to be condoned. Mr. Grundy seems to 
have advised the hapless young man to take shelter in 
the Church, where the influence of his father and his 
mother's relatives might help him along ; but, as Bran- 
well said, he had not a single qualification, "save, per- 
haps hypocrisy." Parson's sons rarely have a great idea 
of the Church. The energy, self-denial, and endurance 
which a clergyman ought to possess were certainly 
not in Branwell's line. Besides, how could he take his 
degree ? Montgomery, it seems, recommended him to 
make trial of literature. "All very well, but I have 
little conceit of myself aud great desire for activity. 
You say that you write with feelings similar to those 
with which you last left me ; keep them no longer. I 
trust I am somewhat changed, or I should not be worth 
a thought ; and though nothing could ever give me your 
buoyant spirits and an outward man corresponding 
therewith, I may, in dress and appearance, emulate 
something like ordinary decency. And now, wherever 
coming years may lead Greenland's snows or sands of 
Afric I trust, etc. 9th June, 1842." * 

It is doubtful, judging from Branwell's letters and his 
verses, whether anything much better than his father's 
' Cottage in the Wood ' would have resulted from his 
following the advice of James Montgomery. Fluent 
ease, often on the verge of twaddle, with here and there 
a bright, felicitous touch, with here and there a smack 
* ' Pictures of the Past.' 

II 



98 EMILY BRONTE. 

of the conventional hymn-book and pulpit twang such 
weak and characterless effusions are all that is left or' 
the passion-ridden pseudo-genius of Haworth. Real 
genius is perhaps seldom of such showy temperament. 

Poor Branwell ! it needed greater strength than his to 
retrieve that first false step into ruin. He cannot help 
himself, and can find no one to help him ; he appeals 
again to Mr. Grundy (in a letter which must, from 
internal evidence, have been written about this time, 
although a different and impossible year is printed at its 
heading) : 

" DEAR SIR, 

" I cannot avoid the temptation to cheer my spirits by 
scribbling a few lines to you while I sit here alone, all 
the household being at church the sole occupant of an 
ancient parsonage among lonely hills, which probably 
will never hear the whistle of an engine till I am in my 
grave. 

"After experiencing, since my return home, extreme 
pain and illness, with mental depression worse than 
either, I have at length acquired health and strength 
and soundness of mind, far superior, I trust, to anything 
shown by that miserable wreck you used to know under 
my name. I can now speak cheerfully and enjoy the 
company of another without the stimulus of six glasses 
of whisky. I can write, think and act with some 
apparent approach to resolution, and I only want a 
motive for exertion to be happier than I have been for 
years. But I feel my recovery from almost insanity to 
be retarded by having nothing to listen to except the 
wind moaning among old chimneys and older ash-trees 
nothing to look at except heathery hills, walked over 
when life had all to hope for and nothing to regret with 



A RETROSPECT. 99 

me no one to speak to except crabbed old Greeks and 
Romans who have been dust the last five \sic\ thousand 
years. And yet this quiet life, from its contrast, makes 
the year passed at Luddendenfoot appear like a night- 
mare, for I would rather give my hand than undergo 
again the grovelling carelessness, the malignant, yet cold 
debauchery, the determination to find out how far mind 
could carry body without both being chucked into hell, 
which too often marked my conduct when there, lost as 
I was to all I really liked, and seeking relief in the 
indulgence of feelings which form the blackest spot in 
my character. 

" Yet I have something still left me which may do me 
service. But I ought not to remain too long in solitude, 
for the world soon forgets those who have bidden it 
'* good-bye.' Quiet is an excellent cure, but no medicine 
should be continued after a patient's recovery, so I am 
about, though ashamed of the business, to dun you for 
answers to . 

" Excuse the trouble I am giving to one on whose 
kindness I have no claim, and for whose services I am 
offering no return except gratitude and thankfulness, 
which are already due to you. Give my sincere regards 
to Mr. Stephenson. A word or two to show you have 
not altogether forgotten me will greatly please, 

"Yours, etc." 

Alas, no helping hand rescued the sinking wretch 
from the quicksands of idle sensuality which slowly 
engulfed him ! Yet, at this time, there might have 
been hope, had he been kept from evil. Deliver himself 
he could not. His " great desire for activity " seems to 
have had to be in abeyance for some months, for on the 
2 5th of October he is still at Haworth. He then writes to 

H 2 



ioo EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Mr. Grundy again. The letter brings us up to the time 
when in the cheerless morning Charlotte and Emily 
set out on their journey homewards ; it reveals to us 
how much real undeserved suffering must have been 
going on side by side with Branwell's purposeless 
miseries in the grey old parsonage at Haworth. The 
good methodical old maiden aunt who for twenty years 
had given the best of her heart to this gay affectionate 
nephew of hers had come down to the edge of the 
grave, having waited long enough to see the hopeless 
fallacy of all her dreams for him, all her affection. 
Branwell, who was really tender-hearted, must have 
been sobered then. 

He writes to Mr. Grundy in a sincere and manly 
strain : 

" MY DEAR SIR, 

"There is no misunderstanding. I have had a long 
attendance at the death-bed of the Rev. Mr. Weightman, 
one of my dearest friends, and now I am attending at 
the death-bed of my Aunt, who has been for twenty 
years as my mother. I expect her to die in a few 
hours. 

" As my sisters are far from home, I have had much 
on my mind, and these things must serve as an apology 
for what was never intended as neglect of your friendship 
to us. 

" I had meant not only to have written to you, but 
to the Rev. James Martineau, gratefully and sincerely 
acknowledging the receipt of his most kindly and truth- 
ful criticism at least in advice, though too generous 
far in praise but one sad ceremony must, I fear, be 
gone through first. Give my most sincere respects to 
Mr. Stephenson, and excuse this scrawl ; my eyes are too 



A RETROSPECT. 101 

dim with sorrow to see well. Believe me, your not very 
happy, but obliged friend and servant, 

"P. B.BRONTE." 

But not till three days later the end came. By that 
time Anne was home to tend the woman who had taken 
her, a little child, into her love and always kept her there. 
Anne had ever lived gladly with Miss Bran well ; her 
more dejected spirit did not resent the occasional op- 
pressions, the little tyrannies, which revolted Charlotte 
.and silenced Emily. And, at the last, all the constant 
self-sacrifice of those twenty years, spent for their sake 
in a strange and hated country, would shine out, and yet 
more endear the sufferer to those who had to lose her. 

On the 2Qth of October Branwell again writes to his 
friend : 

" MY DEAR SIR, 

" As I don't want to lose a real friend, I write in depre- 
cation of the tone of your letter. Death only has made 
me neglectful of your kindness, and I have lately had so 
much experience with him, that your sister would not 
now blame 'me for indulging in gloomy visions either of 
this world or of another. I am incoherent, I fear, but I 
have been waking two nights witnessing such agonising 
suffering as I would not wish my worst enemy to 
endure ; and I have now lost the pride and director of 
all the happy days connected with my childhood. I 
have suffered such sorrow since I last saw you at 
Haworth, that I do not now care if I were fighting in 

India, or since, when the mind is depressed, danger 

is the most effectual cure." 

Miss Branwell was dead. All was over : she was 
buried on a Tuesday morning, before Charlotte and 



IO2 



EMILY BRONTE. 



Emily, having travelled night and day, got home. They 
found Mr. Bronte and Anne sitting together, quietly 
mourning the customary presence to be known no more. 
Branwell was not there. It was the first time he would 
see his sisters since his great disgrace ; he could not wait 
at home to welcome them. 

Miss Branwell's will had to be made known. The 
little property that she had saved out of her frugal 
income was all left to her three nieces. Branwell had 
been her darling, the only son, called by her name ; but 
his disgrace had wounded her too deeply. He was not 
even mentioned in her will. 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE RECALL. 

SUDDENLY recalled from what had seemed the line of 
duty, with all their future prospects broken, the three 
sisters found themselves again at Haworth together. 
There could be no question now of their keeping a 
school at Burlington ; if at all, it must be at Haworth, 
where their father could live with them. Miss Bran- 
well's legacies would amply provide for the necessary- 
alterations in the house ; the question before them was 
whether they should immediately begin these altera- 
tions, or first of all secure a higher education to them- 
selves. 

At all events one must stay at home to keep house 
for Mr. Bronte. Emily quickly volunteered to be the 
one. Her offer was welcome to all ; she was the most 
experienced housekeeper. Anne had a comfortable 
situation, which she might resume at the end of the 
Christmas holidays, and Charlotte was anxious to get 
back to Brussels. 

It would certainly be of advantage to their school, 
that cherished dream now so likely to come true, that 
the girls should be able to teach German, and that one 
of them at least should speak French with fluency and 
well. Monsieur Heger wrote to Mr. Bronte when Char- 
lotte and Emily left, pointing out how much more stable 
and enduring their advantages would become, could they 



104 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

continue for another year at Brussels. " In a year," h< 
says, " each of your daughters would be completely pro 
vided against the future ; each of them was acquiring at 
the same time instruction and the science to instruct. 
Mademoiselle Emily has been learning the piano, re- 
ceiving lessons from the best master that we have in 
Brussels, and already she had little pupils of her own ; 
she was therefore losing at the same time a remainder of 
ignorance, and one, more embarrassing still, of timidity. 
Mademoiselle Charlotte was beginning to give lessons 
in French, and was acquiring that assurance and aplomb 
so necessary to a teacher. One year more, at the most, 
and the work had been completed, and completed well." 
Emily, as we know, refused the lure. Once at Haworth, 
she was not to be induced, by offer of any advantages, 
to quit her native heath. On the other hand, Charlotte 
desired nothing better. Hers was a nature very capable 
of affection, of gratitude, of sentiment. It would have 
been a sore wrench to her to break so suddenly with 
her busy, quiet life in the old mansion, Rue d'Isabelle. 
Almost imperceptibly she had become fast friends with 
the place. Mary Taylor had left, it is true, and bright, 
engaging Martha slept there, too sound to hear her, in 
the Protestant cemetery. But in foreign, heretic, distant 
Brussels there were calling memories for the downright, 
plain little Yorkshire woman. She could not choose but 
hear. The blackavised, tender-hearted, fiery professor, 
for whom she felt the reverent, eager friendship that 
intellectual girls often give to a man much older than 
they ; the doctor's family ; even Madame Beck ; even 
the Belgian schoolgirls she should like to see them all 
again. She did not perhaps realise how different a place 
Brussels would seem without her sister. And it would 
certainly be an advantage for the school that she should 



THE RECALL. 105 

know German. For these, and many reasons, Charlotte 
decided to renounce a salary of 50 a year offered her 
in England, and to accept that of 16 which she would 
earn in Brussels. 

Thus it was determined that at the end of the Christ- 
mas holidays the three sisters were again to be divided. 
But first they were nearly three months together. 

Branwell was at home. Even yet at Haworth that 
was a pleasure and not a burden. His sisters never 
saw him at his worst ; his vehement repentance brought 
conviction to their hearts. They still hoped for his 
future, still said to each other that men were different 
from women, and that such strong passions betokened a 
nature which, if once directed right, would be passion- 
ately right. They did not feel the miserable flabbiness 
of his moral fibre ; did not know that the weak slip down 
when they try to stand, and cannot march erect. They 
were both too tender and too harsh with their brother, 
because they could not recognise what a mere, poor 
creature was this erring genius of theirs. 

Thus, when the first shock was over, the reunited 
family was most contented. Lightly, naturally, as an 
-autumn leaf, the old aunt had fallen out of the house- 
hold, her long duties over ; and they though they loved 
and mourned her they were freer for her departure. 
There was no restraint now on their actions, their 
opinions ; they were mistresses in their own home. It 
was a happy Christmas, though not free from burden. 
The sisters, parted for so long, had much experience to 
exchange, many plans to make. They had to revisit 
their old haunts on the moors, white now with snow. 
There were walks to the library at Keighley for such 
books as had been added during their absence. Ellen 
came to Haworth. Then, at the end of January 1843, 



106 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Anne went back to her duties, and Charlotte set off alone 
for Brussels. 

Emily was left behind with Branwell ; but not for 
long. It must have been about this time that the ill- 
fated young man obtained a place as tutor in the house 
where Anne was governess. It appeared a most for- 
tunate connection ; the family was well known for its 
respectable position, came of a stock eminent in good 
works, and the sisters might well believe that, under 
Anne's gentle influence and such favouring auspices, 
their brother would be led into the way of the just. 

Then Emily was alone in the grey house, save for her 
secluded father and old Tabby, now over seventy. She 
was not unhappy. No life could be freer than her own ; 
it was she that disposed, she too that performed most of 
the household work. She always got up first in the morn- 
ing and did the roughest part of the day's labour before 
frail old Tabby came down ; since kindness and thought 
for others were part of the nature of this unsocial, rugged 
woman. She did the household ironing and most of the 
cookery. She made the bread ; and her bread was famous 
in Haworth for its lightness and excellence. As she 
kneaded the dough, she would glance now and then at 
an open book propped up before her. It was her German 
lesson. But not always did she study out of books ; 
those who worked with her in that kitchen, young girls 
called in to help in stress of business, remember how she 
would keep a scrap of paper, a pencil, at her side, and 
how, when the moment came that she could pause in her 
cooking or her ironing, she would jot down some im- 
patient thought and then resume her work. With these 
girls she was always friendly and hearty "pleasant, 
sometimes quite jovial like a boy/' " so genial and kind, 
a little masculine," say my informants ; but of strangers. 



THE RECALL. 107 

she was exceedingly timid, and if the butcher's boy or 
the baker's man came to the kitchen door she would be 
off like a bird into the hall or the parlour till she heard 
their hob-nails clumping down the path. No easy getting 
sight of that rare bird. Therefore, it may be, the Haworth 
people thought more of her powers than of those of Anne 
or Charlotte, who might be seen at school any Sunday. 
They say : "A deal o 1 folk thout her th' clever'st o' them 
a', hasumiver shoo wur so timid, shoo cudn't frame to let 
it aat." 

For amusements she had her pets and the garden. 
She always fed the animals herself : the old cat ; Flossy,. 
Anne's favourite spaniel ; Keeper, the fierce bulldog, her 
own constant, dear companion, whose portrait, drawn by 
her spirited hand, is still extant. And the creatures on 
the moor were all, in a sense, her pets and familiar with 
her. The intense devotion of this silent woman to all 
manner of dumb creatures has something pathetic, in- 
explicable, almost deranged. " She never showed regard 
to any human creature ; all her love was reserved for 
animals," said some shallow jumper at conclusions to 
Mrs. Gaskell. Regard and help and staunch friendliness 
to all in need was ever characteristic of Emily Bronte ; 
yet between her nature and that of the fierce, loving, 
faithful Keeper, that of the wild moor-fowl, of robins 
that die in confinement, of quick-running hares, of cloud- 
sweeping, tempest-boding sea-mews, there was a natural 
likeness. 

The silent-growing flowers were also her friends. The 
little garden, open to all the winds that course over Lees 
Moor and Stillingworth Moor to the blowy summit of 
Haworth Street that little garden whose only bulwark 
against the storm was the gravestones outside the rail- 
ing, the stunted thorns and currant-bushes within was 



to8 EMIL Y BRONTE 

nevertheless the home of many sweet and hardy flowers, 
creeping up under the house and close to the shelter of 
the bushes. So the days went swiftly enough in tending 
her house, her garden, her dumb creatures. In the even- 
ings she would sit on the hearthrug in the lonely parlour, 
one arm thrown round Keeper's tawny neck, studying a 
book. For it was necessary to study. After the next 
Christmas holidays the sisters hoped to reduce to prac- 
tice their long-cherished vision of keeping school together. 
Letters from Brussels showed Emily that Charlotte was 
troubled, excited, full of vague disquiet. She would be 
glad, then, to be home, to use the instrument it had cost 
so much pains to perfect. A costly instrument, indeed, 
wrought with love, anguish, lonely fears, vanquished 
passion ; but in that time no one guessed that, not the 
school-teacher's German, not the fluent French acquired 
abroad, was the real result of this terrible firing, but a 
novel to be called ' Villette.' 

Emily then, " Mine bonnie love," as Charlotte used to 
call her, cannot have been quite certain of this dear 
sister's happiness ; and as time went on Anne's letters, 
too, began to give disquieting tidings. Not that her 
health was breaking down ; it was, as usual, Branwell 
whose conduct distressed his sisters. He had altered so 
strangely ; one day in the wildest spirits, the next moping 
in despair, giving himself mysterious airs of importance, 
expressing himself more than satisfied with his situation, 
smiling oddly, then, perhaps, the next moment all re- 
morse and gloom. Anne could not understand what 
ailed him, but feared some evil. 

At home, moreover, troubles slowly increased. Old 
Tabby grew very ill and could do no work ; the girl 
Hannah left ; Emily had all the business of investing 
the little property belonging to the three sisters since 






THE RECALL. 109 

Miss Branwell's death ; worse still, old Mr. Bronte's 
health began to flag, his sight to fail. Worst of all in> 
that darkness, despair, loneliness the old man, so Emily 
feared, acquired the habit of drinking, though not to 
excess, yet more than his abstemious past allowed. 
Doubtless she exaggerated her fears, with BranwelL 
always present in her thoughts. But Emily grew afraid,, 
alone at-Haworth, responsible, knowing herself deficient 
in that controlling influence so characteristic of her elder 
sister. Her burden of doubt was more that she could 
bear. She decided to write to Charlotte. 

On the 2nd of January, 1844, Charlotte arrived at 
Haworth. 

On the 23rd of the month she wrote to her friend : 

" Everyone asks me what I am going to do now that 
I am returned home, and everyone 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 strain- 
ing to attain. You will ask me why ? It is on papa's 
account ; he is now, as you know, getting old ; and it 
grieves me to tell you that he is losing his sight. I have 
felt for some months that I ought not to be away from 
him, and I feel now that it would be too selfish to leave 
him (at least as long as Branwell and Anne are absent) 
in order to pursue selfish interests of my own. With the 
help of God, I will try to deny myself in this matter, and 
to wait. 

" I suffered much before I left Brussels. I think, 
however long I live, I shall not forget what the parting 



i io EMIL Y BRONTE. 

with Monsieur He"ger cost me. It grieved me so much 
to grieve him who has been so true, kind, disinterested a 

friend 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 braving the rough 

realities of the world, as other people do ." * 

Wait, eager Charlotte, there are in store for you 
enough and to spare of rude realities, enough of working 
and braving, in this secluded Haworth. No need to go 
forth in quest of dangers and trials. The air is growing 
thick with gloom round your mountain eyrie. High as 
it is, quiet, lonely, the storms of heaven and the storms 
of earth have found it out, to break there. 

* Mrs. GaskelL 



( III ) 



CHAPTER X. 

THE PROSPECTUSES. 

'GRADUALLY Charlotte's first depression wore away. 
Long discussions with Emily, as they took their walks 
over the moors, long silent brooding of ways and means, 
-as they sat together in the parlour making shirts for 
Branwell, long thinking, brought new counsel. She went, 
moreover, to stay with her friend Ellen, and the change 
helped to restore her weakened health. She writes to 
her friend : 

" March 25 

"DEAR NELL, 

" I got home safely and was not too much tired on 
arriving at Haworth. I feel rather better to-day than I 
have been, and in time I hope to regain more strength. 
I found Emily and papa well, and a letter from Branwell 
intimating that he and Anne are pretty well too. Emily 
is much obliged to you for the seeds you sent. She 
wishes to know if the Sicilian pea and the crimson corn- 
flower are hardy flowers, or if they are delicate and 
should be sown in warm and sheltered situations. Write 
to me to-morrow and let me know how you all are, if 
your mother continues to get better 

" Good morning, dear Nell, I shall say no more to 
you at present. 

" C. BRONTE." 



H2 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

" Monday morning. 

" 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." 

Side by side with all these lighter cares went on the 
schemes for the school. At last the two sisters deter- 
mined to begin as soon as they saw a fair chance of 
getting pupils. They began the search in good earnest ; 
but fortunately, postponed the necessary alterations in 
the house until they had the secure promise of, at any 
rate, three or four. Then their demands lessened as day 
by day that chance became more difficult and fainter. 
In early summer Charlotte writes : " As soon as I can get 
a chance of only one pupil, I will have cards of terms 
printed and will commence the repairs necessary in the 
house. I wish all to be done before the winter. I 
think of fixing the board and English education at 25 
per annum." 

Still no pupil was heard of, but the girls went 
courageously on, writing to every mother of daughters 
with whom they could claim acquaintance. But, alas, 
it was the case with one, that her children were already 
at school in Liverpool, with another that her child had 
just been promised to Miss C., with a third that she 
thought the undertaking praiseworthy, but Haworth 
was so very remote a spot. In vain did the girls explain 
that from some points of view the retired situation was 
an advantage ; since, had they set up school in some 
fashionable place, they would have had house-rent to 
pay, and could not possibly have offered an excellent 
education for 25 a year. Parents are an expectant 
people. Still, every lady promised to recommend the 
school to mothers less squeamish, or less engaged ; and, 
knowing how well they would show themselves worthy 



THE PROSPECTUSES. 113 

of the chance, once they had obtained it, Charlotte and 
Emily took heart to hope. 

The holidays arrived and still nothing was settled. 
Anne came home and helped in the laying of schemes 
and writing of letters but, alas, Branwell also came 
home, irritable, extravagant, wildly gay, or gloomily 
moping. His sisters could no longer blind themselves 
to the fact that he drank, drank habitually, to excess. 
And Anne had fears vague, terrible, foreboding which 
she could not altogether make plain. 

By this time they had raised the charge to ^35, con- 
sidering, perhaps, that their first offer had been so low as 
to discredit their attempt. But still they got no favour- 
able answers. It was hard, for the girls had not been 
chary of time, money, or trouble to fit themselves for 
their occupation. Looking round they could count up 
many schoolmistresses far less thoroughly equipped. 
Only the Brontes had no interest. 

Meanwhile Branwell amused himself as best he could. 
There was always the " Black Bull," with its admiring 
circle of drink-fellows, and the girls who admired Patrick's 
courteous bow and Patrick's winning smile. Good 
people all, who little dreamed how much vice, how much 
misery they were encouraging by their approbation. 
Mr. Grundy, too, came over now and then to see his old 
friend. " I knew them all," he says " The father, upright, 
handsome, distantly courteous, white-haired, tall ; know- 
ing me as his son's friend, he would treat me in the 
Grandisonian fashion, coming himself down to the little 
inn to invite me, a boy, up to his house, where I would 
be coldly uncomfortable until I could escape with 
Patrick Branwell to the moors. The daughters dis- 
tant and distrait, large of nose, small of figure, red of 
hair (!), prominent of spectacles ; showing great intellec- 

I 



114 



EMILY BRONTE. 



tual development, but with eyes constantly cast down, 
very silent, painfully retiring. This was about the time 
of their first literary adventures, say 1843 or 1844."* 

But of literary adventure there was at present little 
thought. The school still occupied their thoughts and 
dreams. At last, no pupil coming forward, some cards 
of terms were printed and given for distribution to the 
friends of Charlotte and Anne ; Emily had no friends. 

There are none left of them, those pitiful cards of 
terms never granted ; records of such unfruitful hopes. 
They have fitly vanished, like the ghosts of children 
never born ; and quicker still to vanish was the dream 
that called them forth. The weeks went on, and every 
week of seven letterless mornings, every week of seven 
anxious nights, made the sisters more fully aware that 
notice and employment would not come to them in the 
way they had dreamed ; made them think it well that 
Branwell's home should not be the dwelling of innocent 
children. 

Anne went back to her work leaving the future as 
uncertain as before. 

In October Charlotte, always the spokeswoman, 
writes again to her friend and diligent helper in this 
matter : 

" DEAR NELL, 

" 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 
our defeat. The effort must be beneficial, whatever the 
* * Pictures of the Past.' 



THE PROSPECTUSES. 1 1 5 

result may be, because it teaches us experience and an 
additional knowledge of this world. 

" I send you two additional circulars, and will send 
you two more, if you desire it, when I write again." 

Those four circulars also came to nothing ; it was now 
more than six months since the three sisters had begun 
their earnest search for pupils : more than three years 
since they had taken for the ruling aim of their endea- 
vours the formation of this little school. Not one pupil 
could they secure ; not one promise. At last they knew 
that they were beaten. 

In November Charlotte writes again to Ellen : 

" 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 on it, if you were to persuade a mama to 
bring her child to Haworth, the aspect of the place 
would frighten her, and she would probably 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 was no more to be said, only to put carefully 
by, as one puts by the thoughts of an interrupted mar- 
riage, all the dreams that had filled so many months 
only to lay aside in a drawer, as one lays aside the long 
sewn at garments of a still-born child, the plans drawn 
out for the builder, the printed cards, the lists of books 
to get ; only to face again a future of separate toil 
among strangers, to renounce the vision of a home 

together. 

* Mrs. Gaskell. 



I 2 



1 1 6 EMIL Y BRONT&. 



CHAPTER XI. 
BRANWELL'S FALL. 

As the spring grew upon the moors, dappling them with 
fresh verdant shoots, clearing the sky overhead, loosen- 
ing the winds to rush across them ; as the beautiful 
season grew ripe in Haworth, every one of its days 
made clearer to the two anxious women waiting there in 
what shape their blurred foreboding would come true at 
last. They seldom spoke of Branwell now. 

It was a hard and anxious time, ever expectant of an 
evil just at hand. Minor troubles, too, gathered round 
this shapeless boded grief: Mr. Bronte was growing 
blind ; Charlotte, ever nervous, feared the same fate, and 
could do but little sewing with her weak, cherished eye- 
sight. Anne's letters told of health worn out by constant, 
agonising suspicion. It was Emily, that strong bearer 
of burdens, on whom the largest share of work was 
laid. 

Charlotte grew really weak as the summer came. Her 
sensitive, vehement nature felt anxiety as a physical 
pain. She was constantly with her father ; her spirit 
sank with his, as month by month his sight grew sensibly 
weaker. The old man, to whom his own importance 
was so dear, suffered keenly, indeed, from the fear of 
actual blindness, and more from the horror of depend- 
ence, than from the dread of pain or privation. "He 
fears he will be nothing in the parish," says sorrowful 



BRANWELUS FALL. 117 

Charlotte. And as her father, never impatient, never 
peevish, became more deeply cast down and anxious, 
she, too, became nervous and fearful ; she, too, de- 
jected. 

At last, when June came and brought no brightness 
to that grey old house, with the invisible shadow ever 
hovering above it, Charlotte was persuaded to seek rest 
and change in the home of her friend near Leeds. 

Anne was home now ; she had come back ill, miser- 
able. She had suspicions that made her feel herself 
degraded, pure soul, concerning her brother's relation 
with her employer's wife. Many letters had passed 
between them, through her hands too. Too often had 
she heard her unthinking little pupils threaten their 
mother into more than customary indulgence, saying : 
" Unless you do as we wish, we shall tell papa about 
Mr. Bronte." The poor girl felt herself an involuntary 
accomplice to that treachery, that deceit. 

To lie down at night under the roof, to break by day 
the bread of the good, sick, bedridden man, whose 
honour, she could not but fear, was in jeopardy from her 
own brother, such dire strain was too great for that frail, 
dejected nature. And yet to say openly to herself that 
Branwell had committed this disgrace it was impossible. 
Rather must her suspicions be the morbid promptings 
of a diseased mind. She was wicked to have felt them. 
Poor, gentle Anne, sweet, "prim, little body," such 
scenes, such unhallowed vicinities of lust, were not for 
you. At last sickness came and set her free. She went 
home. 

Home, with its constant labour, pure air of good 
works ; home, with its sickness and love, its dread for 
others and noble sacrifice of self ; how welcome was it 
to her wounded spirit ! And yet this infinitely lighter 



n8 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

torment was wearing Charlotte out. They persuaded 
her to go away, and, when she had yielded, strove to 
keep her away. 

Emily writes to Ellen in July : 

" DEAR MISS NUSSEY If you have set your heart 
on Charlotte staying another week, she has our united 
consent. I, for one, will take everything easy on Sun- 
day. I am glad she is enjoying herself ; let her make 
the most of the next seven days to return stout and 
hearty. Love to her and you from Anne and myself, 
and tell her all are well at home. Yours, 

"EMILY BRONTE." 

Charlotte stayed the extra week, benefiting largely 
thereby. She started for home, and enjoyed her journey, 
for she travelled with a French gentleman, and talked 
again with delight the sweet language which had left 
such lingering echoes in her memory, which forbade her 
to feel quite contented any more in her secluded York- 
shire home. Slight as it was, the little excitement did 
her good ; feeling brave and ready to face and fight with 
a legion of shadows, she reached the gate of her own 
home, went in. Branwell was there. 

He had been sent home a day or two before, appa- 
rently for a holiday. He must have known that some 
discovery had been made at last ; he must have felt he 
never would return. Anne, too, must have had some 
misgivings ; yet the worst was not known yet. Emily r 
at least, could not guess it. Not for long this truce with 
open disgrace. The very day of Charlotte's return a 
letter had come for Branwell from his employer. All 
had been found out. This letter commanded Branwell 
never to see again the mother of the children under his 
care, never set foot in her home, never write or speak to 



BRANWELLS FALL. n$ 

her. Branwell, who loved her passionately, had in that 
moment no thought for the shame, the black disgrace, 
he had brought on his father's house. He stormed, 
raved, swore he could not live without her ; cried out 
against her next for staying with her husband. Then 
prayed the sick man might die soon ; they would yet be 
happy. Ah, he would never see her again ! 

A strange scene in the quiet parlour of a country 
vicarage, this anguish of guilty love, these revulsions 
from shameful ecstasy to shameful despair. Branwell 
raved on, delirious, agonised ; and the blind father 
listened, sick at heart, maybe self-reproachful ; and the 
gentle sister listened, shuddering, as if she saw hell 
lying open at her feet. Emily listened, too, indignant 
at the treachery, horrified at the shame ; yet with an 
immense pity in her fierce and loving breast. 

To this scene Charlotte entered. 

Charlotte, with her vehement sense of right ; Char- 
lotte, with her sturdy indignation ; when she, at last 
understood the whole guilty corrupted passion that had 
wrecked two homes, she turned away with something in 
her heart suddenly stiffened, dead. It was her passionate 
love for this shameful, erring brother, once as dear to 
her as her own soul. Yet she was very patient. She 
writes to a friend quietly and without too much 
disdain : 

" We have had sad work with Branwell. He thought 
of nothing but stunning or drowning his agony of mind " 
(in what fashion, the reader knows ere now) " 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 



120 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

in the house. We must all, I fear, prepare for a season 
of distress and disquietude." * 

A weary and a hopeless time. Branwell came back, 
better in body, but in nowise holier in mind. His one 
hope was that his enemy might die, die soon, and that 
things might be as they had been before. No thought 
of repentance. What money he had, he spent in gin or 
opium, anything to deaden recollection. A woman still 
lives at Haworth, who used to help in the housework at 
the " Black Bull." She still remembers how, in the early 
morning, pale, red-eyed, he would come into the passage 
of the inn, with his beautiful bow and sweep of the lifted 
hat, with his courteous smile and ready " Good morning, 
Anne !" Then he would turn to the bar, and feeling in 
his pockets for what small moneys he might have six- 
pence, eightpence, tenpence, as the case might be he 
would order so much gin and sit there drinking till it 
was all gone, then still sit there silent ; or sometimes 
he would passionately speak of the woman he loved, of 
her beauty, sweetness, of how he longed to see her again ; 
he loved to speak of her even to a dog ; he would talk 
of her by the hour to his dog. Yet lest we pity this 
real despair let us glance at one of this man's letters. 
How could such vulgar weakness, such corrupt and loath- 
some sentimentality, such maudlin Micawber-penitence, 
yet feel so much ! No easy task to judge of a misery too 
perverse for pity, too sincere for absolute contempt. 
It is again to Mr. Grundy that he writes : 
"Since I last shook hands with you in Halifax, two 
summers ago, my life, till lately, has been one of apparent 
happiness and indulgence. You will ask 'Why does 
he complain then?' I can only reply by showing the 
undercurrent of distress which bore my bark to a whirl- 
* Mrs. Gaskell. 



BRANWELVS FALL. 121 

pool, despite the surface-waves of life that seemed float- 
ing me to peace. In a letter begun in the spring of 1843 " 
(sic; 1845 ?) "and never finished owing to incessant 
attacks of illness, I tried to tell you that I was tutor to 
the son of a wealthy gentleman whose wife is sister to 

the wife of , an M.P., and the cousin of Lord . 

This lady (though her husband detested me) showed me 
a degree of kindness which, when I was deeply grieved 
one day at her husband's conduct, ripened into declara- 
tions of more than ordinary feeling. My admiration of 
her mental and personal attractions, my knowledge of her 
unselfish sincerity, her sweet temper, and unwearied care 
for others, with but unrequited return where most should 
have been given .... although she is seventeen years 
my senior, all combined to an attachment on my part, 
and led to reciprocations which I had little looked for. 
Three months since I received a furious letter from my 
employer, threatening to shoot me if I returned from 
my vacation which I was passing at home ; and letters 
from her lady's-maid and physician informed me of 
the outbreak, only checked by her firm courage and 
resolution that whatever harm came to her none should 

come to me I have lain for nine long weeks, 

utterly shattered in body and broken down in mind. 
The probability of her becoming free to give me herself 
and estate never rose to drive away the prospect of 
her decline under her present grief. I dreaded, too, 
the wreck of my mind and body, which God knows 
during a short life have been most severely tried. 
Eleven continuous nights of sleepless horror reduced 
me to almost blindness, and being taken into Wales 
to recover, the sweet scenery, the sea, the sound of 
music caused me fits of unspeakable distress. You 
will say : ' What a fool ! ' But if you knew the many 



1 22 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

causes that I have for sorrow, which I cannot even hint 
at here, you would perhaps pity as well as blame. At 
the kind request of Mr. Macaulay and Mr. Baines, I 
have striven to arouse my mind by writing something 
worthy of being read, but I really cannot do so. Of 
course you will despise the writer of all this. I can only 
answer that the writer does the same and would not 
wish to live, if he did not hope that work and change 
may yet restore him. 

"Apologising sincerely for what seems like whining 
egotism, and hardly daring to hint about days when, 
in your company, I could sometimes sink the thoughts 
which ' remind me of departed days/ I fear ' departed 
never to return/ I remain, &c." * 

Unhappy Branwell ! some consolation he derives in. 
his utmost sorrow from the fact that the lady of his love 
can employ her own lady's-maid and physician to write 
letters to her exiled lover. It is clear that his pride is 
gratified by this irregular association with a lord. He 
can afford to wait, stupefied with drink and drugs, till 
that happy time shall come when he can step forward 
and claim " herself and estate," henceforward Branwell 
Bronte, Esq., J.P., and a person of position in the county. 
Such paradisal future dawns above this present pur- 
gatory of pains and confusion. 

That phrase concerning " herself and estate " is pecu- 
liarly apocalyptic. It sheds a quite new light upon a 
fact which, in Mrs. Gaskell's time, was regarded as a 
proof that some remains of conscience still stirred within 
this miserable fellow. Some months after his dismissal, 
towards the end of this unhappy year of 1845, he met 
this lady at Harrogate by appointment. It is said that 
she proposed a flight together, ready to forfeit all her 
* ' Pictures of the Past.' 



BRANWELUS FALL. 123; 

grandeur. It was Branwell who advised patience, and a 
little longer waiting. Maybe, though she herself was 
dear, "although seventeen years my senior," "herself 
and estate " was estimably dearer. 

And yet he was in earnest, yet it was a question of life 
and death, of heaven or hell, with him. If he could 
not have her, he would have nothing. He would ruin 
himself and all he could. Most like, in this rage of vain 
despair, some passionate baby that shrieks, and hits, and 
tears, convulsed because it may not have the moon. 

Small wonder that Charlotte's coldness, aggravated by 
continual outrage on Branwell's part, gradually became 
contempt and silence. In proportion as she had exulted 
in this brother, hoped all for him, did she now shrink 
from him, bitterly chill at heart. 

" I begin to fear," she says, the once ambitious 
sister, "that he has rendered himself incapable of filling 
any respectable station in life." She cannot ask Ellen 
to come to see her, because he is in the house. " And 
while he is here, you shall not come. I am more con- 
firmed in that resolution the more I see of him. I wish 
I could say one word to you in his favour, but I cannot. 
I will hold my tongue." * 

For some while she hoped that the crisis would pass, and 
that then no matter how humbly, the more obscurely 
the better he would at least earn honest bread away 
from home. Such was not his intention. He professed 
to be too ill to leave Haworth ; and ill, no doubt, he 
was from continual eating of opium, and daily drinking 
of drams. He stuck to his comfortable quarters, to the 
"Black Bull" just across the churchyard, heedless of 
what discomfort he gave to others. "Branwell offers 
no prospect of hope," says Charlotte, again. " How 
* Mrs. Gaskell. 



124 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

can we be more comfortable so long as Branwell stays 
.at home and degenerates instead of improving ? It has 
been intimated that he would be received again where 
he was formerly stationed if he would behave more 
steadily, but he refuses to make the effort. He will not 
work, and at home he is a drain on every resource, an 
impediment to all happiness. But there's no use in 
complaining " 

Small use indeed ; yet once more she forced herself 
to make the hopeless effort, after some more than 
customary outbreak of the man who was drinking him- 
self into madness and ruin. She writes in the March 
of 1 846 to her friend and comforter, Ellen : 

" 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 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 vain. I hear that 
he got a sovereign while I have been away, under 
pretence of paying a pressing debt ; he went imme- 
diately and changed it at a public-house, and has em- 
ployed it as was to be expected concluded her 

account by saying that 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."* 

It must be about that time that she for ever gave up 
expostulation or complaint in this matter. " I will hold 
my tongue," she had said, and she kept her word. For 
more than two years she held an utter silence to him ; 
living under the same roof, witnessing day by day his 
ever-deepening degradation, no syllable crossed her lips 
to him. Since she could not (for the sake of those she 
3oved and might comfort) refuse the loathsome daily 
* Mrs. Gaskell. 



BRANWELUS FALL. 125 

touch and presence of sin, she endured it, but would 
have no fellowship therewith. She had no right over it, 
it none over her. She looked on speechless ; that man 
was dead to her. 

Anne, in whom the fibre of indignation was less strong, 
followed less sternly in her sister's wake. 

"She had," says Charlotte in her 'Memoir/ "in the 
course of her life been called upon 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 
went very deeply into her mind ; it did her harm." 

The spectacle of this harm, coming undeserved to so 
dear, frail and innocent a creature, absorbed all Char- 
lotte's pity. There was none left for Branwell. 

But there was one woman's heart strong enough in its 
compassion to bear the daily disgusts, weaknesses, sins 
of Branwell's life, and yet persist in aid and affection. 
Night after night, when Mr. Bronte was in bed, when 
Anne and Charlotte had gone upstairs to their room, 
Emily still sat up, waiting. She often had very long to 
wait in the silent house before the staggering tread, the 
muttered oath, the fumbling hand at the door, bade her 
rouse herself from her sad thoughts and rise to let in 
the prodigal, and lead him in safety to his rest. But 
she never wearied in her kindness. In that silent home, 
it was the silent Emily who had ever a cheering word 
for Branwell ; it was Emily who still remembered that 
he was her brother, without that remembrance freezing 
her heart to numbness. She still hoped to win him 
back by love ; and the very force and sincerity of his 
guilty passion (an additional horror and sin in her 
sisters' eyes) was a claim on Emily, ever sympathetic 
to violent feeling. Thus it was she who, more than the 



126 EMILY BRONTE. 

others, became familiarised with the agony, and doubts, 
and shame of that tormented soul ; and if, in her little 
knowledge of the world, she imagined such wrested 
passions to be natural, it is not upon her, of a certainty, 
that the blame of her pity shall be laid. 

As the time went on and Branwell grew worse and 
wilder, it was well for the lonely watcher that she was 
strong. At last he grew ill, and would be content to go 
to bed early and lie there half-stupefied with opium and 
drink. One such night, their father and Branwell being 
in bed, the sisters came upstairs to sleep. Emily had 
gone on first into the little passage room where she still 
slept, when Charlotte, passing Branwell's partly-opened 
door, saw a strange bright flare inside. 

" Oh, Emily ! " she cried, " the house is on fire ! " 
Emily came out, her fingers at her lips. She had 
remembered her father's great horror of fire ; it was the 
one dread of a brave man ; he would have no muslin 
curtains, no light dresses in his house. She came out 
silently and saw the flame ; then, very white and de- 
termined, dashed from her room downstairs into the 
passage, where every night full pails of water stood. 
One in each hand she came upstairs. Anne, Charlotte, 
the young servant, shrinking against the wall, huddled 
together in amazed horror Emily went straight on and 
entered the blazing room. In a short while the bright 
light ceased to flare. Fortunately the flame had not 
reached the woodwork : drunken Branwell, turning in 
his bed, must have upset the light on to his sheets, for 
they and the bed were all on fire, and he unconscious in 
the midst when Emily went in, even as Jane Eyre found 
Mr. Rochester. But it was with no reasonable, thankful 
human creature with whom Emily had to deal. After a 
few long moments, those still standing in the passage 



BRANWELVS FALL. 127 

saw her stagger out, white, with singed clothes, half- 
carrying in her arms, half-dragging, her besotted brother. 
She placed him in her bed, and took away the light ; 
then assuring the hysterical girls that there could be no 
further danger, she bade them go and rest but where 
she slept herself that night no one remembers now. 

It must be very soon after this that Branwell began 
to sleep in his father's room. The old man, courageous 
enough, and conceiving that his presence might be some 
slight restraint on the drunken furies of his unhappy 
son, persisted in this arrangement, though often enough 
the girls begged him to relinquish it, knowing well 
enough what risk of life he ran. Not infrequently Bran- 
well would declare that either he or his father should be 
dead before the morning ; and well might it happen 
that in his insensate delirium he should murder the 
blind old man. 

" The sisters often listened 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 drunkard'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 ' " (whimpering) " ' it's her fault, her 
fault.' "* 

And in such fatal progress two years went on, bring- 
ing the suffering in that house ever lower, ever deeper, 
sinking it day by day from bad to worse. 

* Mrs. Gaskell. 



1 28 EMIL Y BRONTE. 



CHAPTER XII. 
WRITING POETRY. 

WHILE Emily Bronte's hands were ful of trivial labour, 
while her heart was buried with its charge of shame and 
sorrow, think not that her mind was more at rest. She 
had always used her leisure to study or create ; and the 
dreariness of existence made this inner life of hers 
doubly precious now. There is a tiny copy of the 
* Poems ' of Ellis, Currer, and Acton Bell, which was 
Emily's own, marked with her name and with the date 
of every poem carefully written under its title, in her 
own cramped and tidy writing. It has been of great use 
to me in classifying the order of these poems, chiefly 
hymns to imagination, Emily's " Comforter," her " Fairy- 
love ;" beseeching her to light such a light in the soul 
that the dull clouds of earthly skies may seem of scant 
significance. 

The light that should be lit was indeed of super- 
natural brightness ; a flame from under the earth ; a 
flame of lightning from the skies ; a beacon of awful 
warning. Although so much is scarcely evident in 
these early poems, gleaming with fantastic glow-worm 
fires, fairy prettinesses, or burning as solemnly and pale 
as tapers lit in daylight round a bier, yet, in whatever 
shape, "the light that never was on sea or land," the 
strange transfiguring shine of imagination, is present 
there. 



WRITING POETRY. 129 

No one in the house ever saw what things Emily wrcte 
in the moments of pause from her pastry-making, in those 
brief sittings under the currants, in those long and 
lonely watches for her drunken brother. She did not 
write to be read, but only to relieve a burdened heart. 
"One day," writes Charlotte in 1850, recollecting the 
near, vanished past, "one day in the autumn of 1845, I 
accidentally lighted on a manuscript volume of verse in 
my sister Emily's handwriting. Of course I was not 
surprised, knowing that she could and did write verse. I 
looked it over, and something more than surprise seized 
me, a deep conviction that these were not common 
effusions, not 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." 

Very true ; these poems with their surplus of imagina- 
tion, their instinctive music and irregular rightness of 
form, their sweeping impressiveness, effects of landscape, 
their scant allusions to dogma or perfidious man, are, 
indeed, not at all like the poetry women generally write. 
The hand that painted this single line, 

" The dim moon struggling in the sky," 

should have shaken hands with Coleridge, The voice 
might have sung in concert with Blake that sang this 
single bit of a song : 

" Hope was but a timid friend ; 

She sat without the grated den, 
Watching how my fate would tend, 
Even as selfish-hearted men. 

" She was cruel in her fear ; 

Through the bars, one dreary day, 
I looked out to see her there, 
And she turned her face away ! " 



1 30 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Had the poem ended here it would have been perfect, 
but it and many more of these lyrics have the uncer- 
tainty of close that usually marks early work. Often 
incoherent, too, the pictures of a dream rapidly succeed- 
ing each other without logical connection ; yet scarcely 
marred by the incoherence, since the effect they seek to 
produce is not an emotion, not a conviction, but an 
impression of beauty, or horror, or ecstasy. The uncer- 
tain outlines are bathed in a vague golden air of ima- 
gination, and are shown to us with the magic touch 
of a Coleridge, a Leopardi the touch which gives a mood, 
a scene, with scarce an obvious detail of either mood or 
scene. We may not understand the purport of the song, 
we understand the feeling that prompted the song, as, 
having done with reading ' Kubla Khan,' there remains 
in our mind, not the pictured vision of palace or dancer, 
but a personal participation in Coleridge's heightened 
fancy, a setting-on of reverie, an impression. 

Read this poem, written in October, 1845 

"THE PHILOSOPHER. 

" Enough of thought, philosopher, 
Too long hast thou been dreaming 

Unlightened, in this chamber drear, 
While summer's sun is beaming ! 

Space-sweeping soul, what sad refrain 
Concludes thy musings once again ? 

" Oh, for the time when I shall sleep 

Without identity, 
And never care how rain may steep, 

Or snow may cover me ! 
No promised heaven, these wild desires 

Could all, or half fulfil; 
/Jo threatened hell, with quenchless fires, 
Subdue this quenchless will ! 






WRITING POETRY. i 3I 

' So said I, and still say the same; 

Still, to my death, will say 
Three gods, within this little frame, 

Are warring night and day ; 
Heaven could not hold them all, and yet 

They all are held in me, 
And must be mine till I forget 

My present entity ! 
Oh, for the time, when in my breast 

Their struggles will be o'er ! 
Oh, for the day, when I shall rest, 

And never suffer more ! 

1 1 saw a spirit, standing, man, 

Where thou dost stand an hour ago, 
And round his feet three rivers ran, 

Of equal depth, and equal flow 
A golden stream, and one like blood, 

And one like sapphire seemed to be ; 
But, where they joined their triple flood 

It tumbled in an inky sea. 
The spirit sent his dazzling gaze 

Down through that ocean's gloomy night 
Then, kindling all, with sudden blaze, 

The glad deep sparkled wide and bright- 
White as the sun, far, far more fair, 

Than its divided sources were ! 

1 And even for that spirit, seer, 

I've watched and sought my life-time long ; 
Sought him in heaven, hell, earth and air 

An endless search, and always wrong ! 
Had I but seen his glorious eye 

Once light the clouds that 'wilder me, 
I ne'er had raised this coward cry 

To cease to think, and cease to be ; 
I ne'er had called oblivion blest, 

Nor, stretching eager hands to death, 
Implored to change for senseless rest 

This sentient soul, this living breath 

K ? 



132 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

" Oh, let me die that power and will 

Their cruel strife may close ; 
And conquered good, and conquering ill 
Be lost in one repose ! " 

Some semblance of coherence may, no doubt, be given 
to this poem by making the three first and the last 
stanzas to be spoken by the questioner, and the fourth 
by the philosopher. Even so, the subject has little 
charm. What we care for is the surprising energy with 
which the successive images are projected, the earnest 
ring of the verse, the imagination which invests all its 
changes. The man and the philosopher are but the 
clumsy machinery of the magic-lantern, the more kept 
out of view the better. 

" Conquered good and conquering ill ! " A thought 
that must often have risen in Emily's mind during this 
year and those succeeding. A gloomy thought, suffi- 
ciently strange in a country parson's daughter; one 
destined to have a great result in her work. 

Of these visions which make the larger half of Emily's 
contribution to the tiny book, none has a more eerie 
grace than this day-dream of the 5th of March, 1844, 
sampled here by a few verses snatched out of their 
setting rudely enough : 

" On a sunny brae, alone I lay 

One summer afternoon ; 
It was the marriage-time of May 
With her young lover, June. 

* * * * 

" The trees did wave their plumy crests, 

The glad birds carolled clear ; 
And I, of all the wedding guests, 
Was only sullen there. 



WRITING POETRY. 133 

" Now, whether it were really so, 

I never could be sure, 
But as in fit of peevish woe, 
I stretched me on the moor, 

" A thousand thousand gleaming fires 

Seemed kindling in the air ; 
A thousand thousand silvery lyres 
Resounded far and near : 

41 Methought, the very breath I breathed 

Was full of sparks divine, 
And all my heather-couch was wreathed 
By that celestial shine ! 

" And, while the wide earth echoing rung 

To their strange minstrelsy, 

The little glittering spirits sung, 

Or seemed to sing, to me." 



What they sang is indeed of little moment enough 
a strain of the vague pantheistic sentiment common 
always to poets, but her manner of representing the 
little airy symphony is charming. It recalls the fairy- 
like brilliance of the moors at sunset, when the sun, slip- 
ping behind a western hill, streams in level rays on to an 
opposite crest, gilding with pale gold the fawn-coloured 
faded grass ; tangled in the film of lilac seeding grasses, 
spread, like the bloom on a grape, over all the heath ; 
sparkling on the crisp edges of the heather blooms, 
pure white, wild-rose colour, shell-tinted, purple ; em- 
phasising every grey-green spur of the undergrowth of 
ground-lichen ; striking every scarlet-splashed, white- 
budded spray of ling : an iridescent, shimmering, dancing 
effect of white and pink and purple flowers ; of lilac 
bloom, of grey-green and whitish-grey buds and branches, 
all crisply moving and dancing together in the breeze 



134 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

on the hilltop. I have quoted that windy night in a 
line 

" The dim moon struggling in the sky." 

Here is another verse to show how well she watched 
from her bedroom's wide window the grey far-stretching 
skies above the black far-stretching moors 

" And oh, how slow that keen-eyed star 

Has tracked the chilly grey ; 
What, watching yet ! how very far 
The morning lies away." 

Such direct, vital touches recall well-known passages 
in ' Wuthering Heights : ' Catharine's pictures of the 
moors ; that exquisite allusion to Gimmerton Chapel 
bells, not to be heard on the moors in summer when the 
trees are in leaf, but always heard at Wuthering Heights 
on quiet days following a great thaw or a season of 
steady rain. 

But not, alas ! in such fantasy, in such loving intimacy 
with nature, might much of Emily's sorrowful days be 
passed. Nor was it in her nature that all her dreams 
should be cheerful. The finest songs, the most pecu- 
liarly her own, are all of defiance and mourning, moods 
so natural to her that she seems to scarcely need the 
intervention of words in their confession. The wild, 
melancholy, and elevating music of which Charlotte 
wisely speaks is strong enough to move our very hearts 
to sorrow in such verses as the following, things which 
would not touch us at all were they written in prose ; 
which have no personal note. Yet listen 

" Death ! that struck when I was most confiding 

In my certain faith of joy to be 
Strike again, Time's withered branch dividing 
From the fresh root of Eternity ! 



WRITING POETRY. 



135 



" Leaves, upon Time's branch, were growing brightly, 

Full of sap, and full of silver dew ; 
Birds beneath its shelter gathered nightly ; 
Daily round its flowers the wild bees flew. 

" Sorrow passed, and plucked the golden blossom." 
Solemn, haunting with a passion infinitely beyond the 
mere words, the mere image ; because, in some wonder- 
ful way, the very music of the verse impresses, reminds 
us, declares the holy inevitable losses of death. 

A finer poem yet is 'Remembrance/ written two 
years later, in the March of 1845 ; here the words and 
the thought are worthy of the music and the mood. It 
has vital passion in it ; though it can scarcely be personal 
passion, since ," fifteen wild Decembers" before 1845, 
Emily Bronte was a girl of twelve years old, companion- 
less, save for still living sisters, Branwell, her aunt, and 
the vicarage servants. Here, as elsewhere in the present 
volume, the creative instinct reveals itself in imagining 
emotions and not characters. The artist has supplied 
the passion of the lover. 

" Cold in the earth and the deep snow piled above thee, 

Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave ! 
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee, 
Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave ? 

" Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover 

Over the mountains, on that northern shore, 
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover 
Thy noble heart for ever, evermore ? 

"Cold in the earth and fifteen wild Decembers, 

From those brown hills, have melted into spring : 
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers 
After such years of change and suffering ! 

" Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee, 
While the world's tide is bearing me along ; 
Other desires and other hopes beset me, 

Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong. 



136 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

" No later light has lightened up my heaven, 
No second morn has ever shone for me ; 
All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given, 
All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee. 

" But, when the days of golden dreams had perished, 

And even Despair was powerless to destroy, 
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished, 
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy. 

" Then did I check the tears of useless passion 

Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine j 
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten 
Down to that tomb already more than mine. 

" And, even yet, I dare not let it languish, 

Dare not indulge in memory's rapturous pain ; 
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish, 
How could I seek the empty world again ? " 

Better still, of a standard excellence, is a little poem, 
which, by some shy ostrich prompting, Emily chose to 
call 

"THE OLD STOIC. 

" Riches I hold in light esteem ; 
And Love I laugh to scorn ; 
And lust of fame was but a dream 
That vanished with the morn : 

" And if I pray, the only prayer 
That moves my lips for me 
Is, ' Leave the heart that now I bear, 
And give me liberty ! ' 

" Yes, as my swift days near their goal, 

'Tis all that I implore ; 
In life and death, a chainless soul, 
With courage to endure." 

Throughout the book one recognises the capacity for 
producing something finer and quite different from what 
is here produced ; one recognises so much, but not the 



WRITING POETRY. 137 

author of * Wuthering Heights.' Grand impressions of 
mood and landscape reveal a remarkably receptive 
artistic temperament ; splendid and vigorous movement 
of lines shows that the artist is a poet. Then we are in 
a cul-de-sac. There is no hint of what kind of poet 
too reserved to be consistently lyric, there is not suffi- 
cient evidence of the dramatic faculty to help us on to 
the true scent. All we can say is that we have before 
us a mind capable of very complete and real illusions, 
haunted by imagination, always fantastic, and often 
terrible ; a temperament reserved, fearless and brood- 
ing ; a character of great strength and ruggedness, ex- 
tremely tenacious of impressions. We must call in Mon- 
sieur Taine and his Milieu to account for ' Wuthering 
Heights.' 

This first volume reveals an overpowering imagination 
which has not yet reached its proper outlet. It is pain- 
ful, in reading these early poems, to feel how ruthless 
and horrible that strong imagination often was, as yet 
directed on no purposed line. Sometimes, indeed, sweet 
fancies came to Emily, but often they were visions of 
black dungeons, scenes of death, and hopeless parting, of 
madness and agony. 

" So stood I, in Heaven's glorious sun, 

And in the glare of Hell ; 
My spirit drank a mingled tone, 
Of seraph's song, and demon's moan ; 
What my soul bore, my soul alone 
Within itself may tell ! " 

It is painful, indeed, to tfiink that the surroundings of 
this violent imagination, with its bias towards the capri- 
cious and the terrifying, were loneliness, sorrow, enforced 
companionship with degradation ; a life so bitter, for a 
long time, and made so bitter through another's fault, 



138 



EMILY BRONTE. 



that Emily welcomed her fancies, even the gloomiest, as. 
a happy outlet from reality. 

" Oh, dreadful is the check intense the agony 
When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see ; 
When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again, 
The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain." 

Such were the verses that Charlotte discovered one 
autumn day of 1845, which surprised her, with good 
reason, by their originality and music. Emily was not 
pleased by what in her eyes, so jealous of her liberty, 
must have seemed a deliberate interference with her 
property. " My sister Emily," continues Charlotte, 
" was not a person of demonstrative character, nor one 
on the recesses of whose mind and feelings even those 
nearest and dearest to her could intrude unlicensed ; it 
took hours to reconcile her to the discovery I had made, 
and days to persuade her that such poems merited 
publication. I knew, however, that a mind like hers 
could not be without some latent spark of honourable 
ambition, and refused to be discouraged in my attempts 
to fan that spark to flame. 

" Meantime, my younger sister quietly produced some 
of her own compositions, intimating that since Emily's 
had given me pleasure, I might like to look at some of 
hers. I could not but be a partial judge, yet I thought 
that these verses, too, had a sweet sincere pathos of their 
own." 

Only a partial judge could find anything much to 
praise in gentle Anne's trivial verses. Had the book an 
index of first lines, what a scathing criticism on the 
contents would it be ! 

" Sweet are thy strains, celestial bard." 

" I'll rest me in this sheltered bower." 

" Oh, I am very weary, though tears no longer flow." 



WRITING POETRY. 



139" 



From such beginnings we too clearly foresee the 
hopeless bathos of the end. Poor child, her real, deep 
sorrows, expressed in such worn-out ill-fitting phrases, 
are as little touching as the beauty of a London shop- 
girl under the ready-made cast-off adornments of her 
second-hand finery. 

Charlotte, however, knowing the real sorrow, the real 
meekness that inspired them, not unnaturally put into 
the trivial verses the pathos of the writer's circumstances. 
Of a truth, her own poems are not such as would justify 
any great rigour of criticism. They are often, as poems, 
actually inferior to Anne's, her manner of dragging in a 
tale or a moral at the end of a lyric having quite a 
comical effect ; yet, on the whole, her share of the book 
clearly distinguishes her as an eloquent and imaginative 
raconteuse, at the same time that it denies her the 
least sprout, the smallest leaf, of that flowerless wreath, 
of bays which Emily might claim. But at that time 
the difference was not so clearly distinguishable ; though. 
Charlotte ever felt and owned her sister's superiority in. 
this respect, it was not recognised as of a sort to quite 
outshine her own little tales in verse, and quite outlustre 
Anne's pious effusions. 

A packet of manuscript was selected, a little packet 
written in three different hands and signed by three names. 
The sisters did not wish to reveal their identity ; they 
decided on a nom de plume, and chose the common 
north-country surname of Bell. They did not wish to 
be known as women : " we had a vague impression that 
authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudices; " 
yet their fastidious honour prevented them from wearing 
a mask they had no warrant for ; to satisfy both scruples 
they assumed names that might equally belong to a man 
or a woman. In the part of Yorkshire where they lived 



140 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

children are often christened by family names ; over the 
shops they would see " Sunderland Akroyd," varied by 
" Pighills Sunderland," with scarce a John or James to 
bear them company. So there was nothing strange to 
them in the fashion so ingeniously turned "to their own 
uses. Ellis veiled Emily ; Currer, Charlotte ; Acton, 
Anne. The first and last are common names enough 
a Miss Currer who was one of trie-subscribers to Cowan's 
Bridge may have suggested her pseudonym to Charlotte. 
At last every detail was discussed, decided, and the 
packet sent off to London to try its fortunes in the 
world : 

" This bringing out of our little book was hard work. 
As was to be expected neither we nor our poems were at 
all wanted ; but for this we had been prepared at the 
outset ; though inexperienced ourselves, we had read 
the experience of others. The great puzzle lay in 
the difficulty of getting answers of any kind from the 
publishers to whom we applied. 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 civi 
and sensible reply, on which we acted, and at last made 
a way." * 

Ultimately the three sisters found a publisher who 
would undertake the work upon commission ; a favour- 
able answer came from Messrs. Aylott & Jones, of 
Paternoster Row, who estimated the expense of the 
book at thirty guineas. It was a great deal for the 
three sisters to spare from their earnings, but they were 
eager to print, eager to make sacrifices, as though in 
some dim way they saw already the glorious goal. But 
* * Memoir.' C. B. 



WRITING POETRY. 141 

at present there was business to do. They bought one 
of the numerous little primers that are always on sale 
to show the poor vain moth of amateur authorship how 
least to burn his wings little books more eagerly bought 
and read than any of those that they bring into the 
world. Such a publisher's guide, meant for ambitious 
schoolboys, the Brontes bought and studied as anxiously 
as they. By the end of February all was settled, the 
type decided upon, the money despatched, the printers 
at work. Emily Bronte's copy is dated May /th, 1846. 

What eagerness at the untying of the parcel in which 
those first copies came ! What disappointment, chequered 
with ecstasy, at reading their own verse, unaltered, yet 
in print ! An experience not so common then as now ; 
to be a poetess in those days had a certain distinction, 
and the three sisters must have anxiously waited for a 
greeting. The poems had been despatched to many 
magazines : Colburnes, Bentley's, Hood's, Jerrolds, Black- 
'wood's, their early idol ; to the Edinburgh Review, 
Taifs Edinburgh Magazine, the Dublin University 
Magazine ; to the Athen&um, the Literary Gazette, 
the Critic, and to the Daily News, the Times, and to 
the Britannia newspaper. Surely from some quarter 
they would hear such an authentic word of warning or 
welcome as should confirm at once their hopes or their 
despairs. They had grown used to waiting ; but they 
had long to wait. At last, on July 4th, the Athen&um 
reviewed their book in a short paragraph, and it is remark- 
able that, though in such reviews of the poems as appeared 
after the publication of ' Jane Eyre/ it is always Currer 
Bell's "fine sense of nature," Currer Bell's "matured 
intellect and masterly hand," that wins all the praise ; 
still, in this early notice, the yet unblinded critic has per- 
ceived to whom the palm is due. Ellis Bell he places 



142 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

first of the three supposed brothers, naming him " a fine 
-quaint spirit with an evident power of wing that may 
reach heights not here attempted." Next to him the 
critic ranks Currer, lastly Anne. Scarce another notice 
did they see. 

The little book was evidently a failure ; it had fallen 
still-born from the press. Were all their hopes to die as 
soon as they were born ? At least they resolved not to 
be too soon baffled, and already, in the thick of their 
disappointment, began to lay the plots of the novels 
they would write. Like our army, they gained their 
battles by never owning they were beaten. 

They kept it all to themselves, this disappointment, 
these resolutions. When the inquisitive postman asked 
Mr. Bronte if he knew who was that Mr. Currer Bell for 
whom so many letters always came, the old gentleman 
answered with a sense of authority, "My good man, 
there is no such person in the parish ;" and when, on 
rare occasions, Branwell came into the room where they 
were writing, no word was said of the work that was 
going on. Not even to the sisterly Ellen, so near to all 
their hearts, was any confession made of the way they 
spent their time. 

" We have done nothing (to speak of) since you were 
here," says conscientious Anne. Nevertheless their 
friend drew her conclusions. About this time she came 
to stay at Haworth, and sometimes (a little amused at 
their reticence) she would tease them with her suspicions, 
to Charlotte's alarmed surprise. Once, at this time, 
when they were walking on the moor together, a sudden 
change and light came into the sky. "Look," said 
Charlotte ; and the four girls looked up and saw three 
suns shining clearly overhead. They stood a little 
while silently gazing at 'the beautiful parhelion; Char- 



WRITING POETRY. 143 

lotte, her friend, and Anne clustered together, Emily a 
little higher, standing on a heathery knoll. "That is 
you !" said Ellen at last. " You are the three suns." 
"Hush!" cried Charlotte, indignant at the too shrewd 
nonsense of her friend ; but as Ellen, her suspicions con- 
firmed by Charlotte's violence, lowered her eyes to the 
earth again, she looked a moment at Emily. She was 
still standing on her knoll, quiet, satisfied ; and round 
her lips there hovered a very soft and happy smile. She 
was not angry, the independent Emily. She had liked 
the little speech. 



144 EMIL Y BRONTE. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

TROUBLES. 

WHILE Emily Bronte was striving to create a world of 
fancy and romance natural to her passionate spirit, the 
real, everyday existence in which she had to work and 
endure was becoming day by day more anxious and 
troubled. An almost unliveable life it seems, recalling 
it, stifled with the vulgar tragedy of Branwell's woes, 
the sordid cares that his debts entailed, the wearing- 
anxiety that watched the oncoming blindness of old 
Mr. Bronte. These months of 1846 during which, let 
us remember, Emily was writing 'Wuthering Heights/ 
must have been the heaviest and dreariest of her days ; 
it was during their weary course that she at last per- 
ceived how utterly hopeless, how insensible to good, 
must be the remaining life of her brother. 

For so long as the future was left him, Branwell never 
reached the limit of abasement. He drank to drown 
sorrow, to deaden memory and the flight of time ; he 
went far, but not too far to turn back when the day 
should dawn which should recall him to prosperity and 
happiness. He was still, though perverted and debased, 
capable of reform and susceptible to holy influences. 
He had not finally cast away goodness and honour ; 
they were but momentarily discarded, like rings taken 
off for heavy work ; by-and-by he would put them on 
again. 



TROUBLES. I45 

Suddenly the future was taken away. One morning, 
about six months after his dismissal, a letter came for 
Branwell announcing the death of his former employer. 
All he had ever hoped for lay at his feet the good, 
wronged man was dead. His wife, his wealth, should 
now make Branwell glad. A new life, earned by sin and 
hatred, should begin ; a new good life, honourable and 
happy. It was in Branwell's nature to be glad when 
peace and honour came to him, although he would make 
no effort to attain them, and this morning he was very 
happy. 

" He fair danced down the churchyard as if he were 
out of his mind ; he was so fond of that woman," says 
my informant. 

The next morning he rose, dressed himself with care, 
and prepared for a journey, but before he had even set 
out from Haworth two men came riding to the village 
post haste. They sent for Branwell, and when he arrived, 
in a great state of excitement, one of the riders dis- 
mounted and went with him into the " Black Bull." 
They went into the brown parlour of the inn, the cheer- 
ful, wainscotted parlour, where Branwell had so often 
lorded it over his boon companions from his great three- 
cornered chair. After some time the messenger rose 
and left ; and those who were in the inn thought they 
heard a strange noise in the parlour a bleating like a 
calf s. Yet, being busy people, they did not go in to see 
if anything had happened, and amid the throng of their 
employments the sound passed out of their ears and out 
of their memory. Hours afterwards the young girl who 
used to help in the housework at the inn, the Anne who 
still remembers Branwell's fluent greetings, found occa- 
sion to enter the parlour. She went in and found him 
on the floor, looking changed and dreadful. He had 

L 



146 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

fallen down in a sort of stupefied fit. After that day he 
was an altered being. 

The message he had heard had changed the current of 
his life. It was not the summons he expected; but a 
prayer from the woman he loved not to come near her, not 
to tempt her to ruin ; if she saw him once, the care of her 
children, the trust of their fortunes, all was forfeited. She 
entreated him to keep away ; anxious, perhaps, in this 
sudden loneliness of death, to retrieve the past, or by 
some tender superstition made less willing to betray the 
dead than the living ; or, it may be, merely eager to 
retain at all costs the rank, the station, the honours to 
which she was accustomed. Be it as it may, Branwell 
found himself forgotten. 

" Oh, dreadful heart of woman, 
That in one day forgets what man remembers, 
Forgetting him therewith." 

After that day he was different. He despaired, and 
drank himself to death, drinking to the grave and for- 
getfulness, gods of his Sabbath, and borrowing a transient 
pleasure at fearful interest. But to such a man the one 
supreme temptation is enjoyment : it must be had, 
though life and heaven go forfeit. And while he 
caroused, " and by his whole manner gave indications of 
intense enjoyment,"* his old father grew quite blind, 
Anne day by day more delicate and short of breath, 
ambitious Charlotte pined like an eagle in a cage, and 
Emily, writing ' Wuthering Heights,' called those 
affected who found the story more terrible than life. 

It was she who saw most of her abandoned brother, 
for Anne could only shudder at his sin, and Charlotte 
was too indignant for pity. But Emily, the stern, charit- 

* George Searle Phillips. 



TROUBLES. 147 

able woman, who spared herself no pang, who loved to 
carry tenderly the broken-winged nestlings in her hard- 
working hands, Emily was not revolted by his weakness. 
Shall I despise the deer for his timid swiftness to fly, or 
the leveret because it cannot die bravely, or mock the 
death-agony of the wolf because the beast is gaunt and 
foul to see ? she asks herself in one of the few personal 
poems she has left us. No ! An emphatic no ; for Emily 
Bronte had a place in her heart for all the wild children 
of nature, and to despise them for their natural instincts 
was impossible to her. And thus it came about that 
she ceased to grow indignant at Branwell's follies ; she 
made up her mind to accept with angerless sorrow his 
natural vices. All that was left of her ready disdain was 
an extreme patience which expected no reform, asked 
no improvement ; the patience she had for the leveret 
and the wolf, things contemptible and full of harm, yet 
not so by their own choice ; the patience of acquiescent 
and hopeless despair. 

Branwell's pity was all for himself. He did not spare 
the pious household forced into the contamination of his 
evil habits. " Nothing happens at Haworth," says 
Charlotte ; " nothing at least of a pleasant kind. One 
little incident occurred about a week ago to sting us 
into life ; but, if it give no more pleasure for you to hear 
than it does for us to witness, 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." * 

Reproaches only hardened his heart and made him 
* Mrs. Gaskell. 

L 3 



148 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

feel himself more than ever abused by circumstances 
and fate. " Sometimes," * says Mr. Phillips, " he would 
complain of the way he was treated at home, and, as an 
instance, related the following : 

" One of the Sunday-school girls, in whom he and all 
his house took much interest, fell very sick, and they 
were afraid she would not live. 

" ' I went to see the poor little thing/ he said, ' sat with 
her half-an-hour and read a psalm to her and a hymn at 
her request. I felt very much like praying with her too/ 
he added, his voice trembling with emotion, 'but you 
see I was not good enough. How dare I pray for 
another, who had almost forgotten how to pray for 
myself ? I came away with a heavy heart, for I felt 
sure she would die, and went straight home, where I fell 
into melancholy musings. I wanted somebody to cheer 
me. I often do ; but no kind word finds its way to my 
ears, much less to my heart. Charlotte observed my 
depression, and asked what ailed me. So I told her. 
She looked at me with a look which I shall never forget, 
if I live to be a hundred years old which I never shall. 
It was not like her at all. It wounded me, as if some 
one had struck me a blow in the mouth. It involved 
ever so many things in it. It was a dubious look. It 
ran over me, questioning and examining, as if I had 
been a wild beast. It said, ( Did my ears deceive me, 
or did I hear ought ? ' And then came the painful, 
baffled expression which was worse than all. It said, 
* I wonder if that's true ? ' But, as she left the room, she 
seemed to accuse herself of having wronged me, and 
smiled kindly upon me and said, ' She is my little 
scholar and I will go and see her.' I replied not a word. 
I was too much cut up. When she was gone, I came 
* ' Branwell Bronte.' G. S. Phillips. 



TROUBLES. 149 

over here to the " Black Bull " and made a night of it in 
sheer disgust and desperation. Why could they not 
give me some credit when I was trying to be good ?' " 

In such wise the summer of 1846 drew on, wearily 
enough, with increased economies in the already frugal 
household, that Branwell's debts might honourably be 
paid, with gathering fears for the father, on whom 
dyspepsia and blindness were laying heavy hands. He 
could no longer see to read ; he, the great walker who 
loved to ramble alone, could barely grope his way about ; 
all that was left to him of sight was the ability to recog- 
nise well-known figures standing in a strong light. Yet 
he still continued to preach ; standing grey and sightless 
in the pulpit, uttering what words (perforce unstudied) 
came to his lips. Himself in his sorrowful age and stern 
endurance a most noble and comprehensible sermon. 

His spirits were much depressed ; for now he could no 
longer forget himself in his lonely studies, no longer walk 
on the free moors alone when trouble invaded the narrow 
house below. He lived now of necessity in intimate 
relation with his children ; he depended on them. And 
now he made acquaintance with the heroic nature of his 
daughters, and saw the petty drudgery of their lives, and 
how worthily they turned it to a grace in the wearing of 
it. And now he saw clearly the vain, dependent, pas- 
sionate temperament of his son, and knew how, by the 
lack of training, the plant had been ruined and draggled 
in the mire, which might have beautifully flowered and 
borne good fruit had it been staked and supported ; the 
poor espalier thing that could not stand alone. Nemesis 
had visited his home. He felt the consequences of his 
selfishness, his arrogance, his cold isolation, and bitterly, 
bitterly he mourned. 

The cataract grew month by month, a thickening veil 



J 50 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

that blotted out the world ; and month by month the old 
blind man sat wearily thinking through the day of his 
dear son's ruin, for he had ever loved Branwell the best, 
and lay at night listening for his footsteps ; while below, 
alone, his daughter watched as wearily for the prodigal's 
return. 

The three girls looked on and longed to help. All 
that they could do they did, Charlotte being her father's 
constant helper and companion ; but all they could do- 
was little. They would not reconcile themselves to see 
him sink into blindness. They busied themselves in col- 
lecting what information they could glean concerning 
operations upon cataract, and the names of oculists. 
But at present there was nothing to do but wait and 
endure ; for even they, with their limited knowledge,, 
could tell that their father's eyes were not ready yet for 
the surgeon's knife. 

Meanwhile they worked in secret at their novels. So 
soon as the poems had been sent off, and even when 
it was evident that that venture, too, had failed, the 
sisters determined to try and earn a livelihood by 
writing. They could no longer leave their home, their 
father being helpless and Branwell worse than helpless ; 
yet, with ever-increasing expenses and no earnings, bare 
living was difficult to compass. The future, too, was 
uncertain ; should their father's case prove hopeless, 
should he become quite blind, ill, incapable of work,, 
they would be homeless indeed. With such gloomy 
boding in their hearts, with such stern impelling neces- 
sity bidding them strive and ever strive again, as a 
baffled swimmer strives for land, these three sisters 
began their work. Two of them, in after time, were 
to be known through all the world, were to be influ- 
ences for all time to come and, a new glory in the world 



TROUBLES. 

not known before their days, were to make oken-of 
Mrs. Browning, the perfect trinity of English i- oom 
fame."* But with little thought of this, heavily and ve Ap 
wearily, they set out upon their undertaking. 

Every evening when the sewing was put away the 
writing was begun, the three sisters, sitting round the 
table, or more often marching round and round the room 
as in their schoolgirl days, would hold solemn council 
over the progress of their work. The division of chapters, 
the naming of characters, the progress of events, was then 
decided, so that each lent a hand to the other's work. 
Then, such deliberations done, the paper would be drawn 
out, and the casual notes of the day corrected and writ 
fair ; and for an hour or more there would be no sound 
save the scratching of pens on the paper and the gusty 
wailing of the wind outside. 

Such methodical work makes rapid progress. In a 
few months each sister had a novel completed. Char- 
lotte, a grave and quiet study of Belgian life and cha- 
racter, ' The Professor ; ' Anne, a painstaking account of 
a governess's trials, which she entitled 'Agnes Grey.' 
Emily's story was very different, and less perceptibly 
interwoven with her own experience. We all know at 
least the name of ' Wuthering Heights.' 

The novels were sent off, and at first seemed even less 
likely of success than the school had been, or the book of 
verses. Publisher after publisher rejected them ; then, 
thinking that perhaps it was not cunning to send the 
three novels in a batch, since the ill-success of one might 
prejudice all, the sisters sent them separately to try their 
chance. But ever with the same result month after 
month, came rejection. 

At home affairs continued no less disheartening. 
* A. C. Swinburne. * Note on Charlotte Bronte/ 



1 5 EMIL Y BRONT. 

that blo f O ft en laid U p w jth violent fits of sickness, 
^ m 4ronte becoming more utterly blind. At last, in 
^j end of July, Emily and Charlotte set out for Man- 
chester to consult an oculist. There they heard of Mr. 
Wilson as the best, and to him they went ; but only to 
find that no decisive opinion could be given until their 
father's eyes had been examined. Yet, not disheartened, 
they went back to Haworth ; for at least they had dis- 
covered a physician and had made sure that, even at 
their father's advanced age, an operation might prove 
successful. Therefore, at the end of August, Charlotte, 
who was her father's chief companion and the most easily 
spared from home, took old Mr. Bronte to Manchester. 
Mr. Wilson pronounced his eyes ready for the operation, 
and the old man and his daughter went into lodgings for 
a month. " I wonder how Emily and Anne will get on 
at home with Branwell," says Charlotte, accustomed to 
be the guide and leader of that little household. 

Hardly enough, no doubt ; for Anne was little fitted 
now to struggle against fate. She never had completely 
rallied from the prolonged misery of her sojourn with 
Branwell in that fatal house which was to blight their 
future and be blighted by them. She grew weaker and 
weaker, that " gentle little one," so tender, so ill fitted to 
her rugged and gloomy path of life. Emily looked oa 
with a breaking heart ; trouble encompassed her on every 
side ; her father blind in Manchester ; her brother drink- 
ing himself to death at home ; her sister failing, paling 
day by day ; and every now and then a letter would 
come announcing that such and such a firm of pub- 
lishers had no use for 'Agnes Grey' and 'Wuthering 
Heights.' 

Charlotte in Manchester fared little better. 'The 
Professor' had been returned to her on the very day 



TROUBLES. 153 

of her father's operation, when (bearing this unspoken-of 
blow as best she might) she had to stay in the room 
while the cataract was removed from his eyes. Exer- 
cise makes courage strong ; that evening, when her father 
in his darkened room might no longer speak or be spoken 
to, that very evening she began ' Jane Eyre.' 

This was being braver than brave Emily, who has left 
us nothing, save a few verses, written later than ' Wuther- 
ing Heights.' But at Haworth there was labour and to 
spare for every instant of the busy days, and Charlotte, 
in Manchester, found her unaccustomed leisure and un- 
occupied confinement very dreary. 

Towards the end of September Mr. Bronte was pro- 
nounced on a fair way to recovery, and he and Charlotte 
set out for Haworth. It was a happy home-coming, for 
things had prospered better than Charlotte had dared to 
hope during the latter weeks of her absence. Every day 
the old man grew stronger, and little by little his sight 
came back. He could see the glorious purple of the 
moors, Emily's moors, no less beloved in her sorrowing 
womanhood than in her happy hoyden time of youth. 
He could see his children's faces, and the miserable 
change in Branwell's features. He began to be able to 
read a little, a very little at a time, and by November 
was sufficiently recovered to take the whole duty of the 
three Sunday services upon himself. 

Not long after this time, three members of that quiet 
household were still further cheered by learning that 
' Agnes Grey ' and ' Wuthering Heights ' had found 
acceptance at the hands of a publisher. Acceptance ; 
but upon impoverishing terms. Still, for so much they 
were thankful. To write, and bury unread the things 
one has written, is playing music upon a dumb piano. 
Who plays, would fain be heard. 



154 



EMILY BRONTE. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

'WUTHERING HEIGHTS:' ITS ORIGIN. 

A GREY old Parsonage standing among graves, remote 
from the world on its wind-beaten hill-top, all round 
the neighbouring summits wild with moors ; a lonely 
place among half-dead ash-trees and stunted thorns, 
the world cut off on one side by the still ranks of the 
serried dead, and distanced on the other by mile-long 
stretches of heath : such, we know, was Emily Bronte's 
home. 

An old, blind, disillusioned father, once prone to an, 
extraordinary violence of temper, but now grown quiet 
with age, showing his disappointment with life by a 
melancholy cynicism that was quite sincere ; two sisters,, 
both beloved, one, fired with genius and quick to senti- 
ment, hiding her enthusiasm under the cold demeanour 
of the ex-governess, unsuccessful, and unrecognised ; the 
other gentler, dearer, fairer, slowly dying, inch by inch, 
of the blighting neighbourhood of vice. One brother, 
scarce less dear, of set purpose drinking himself to 
death out of furious thwarted passion for a mistress that 
he might not marry : these were the members of Emily 
Bronte's household. 

Herself we know : inexperienced, courageous, passion- 
ate, and full of pity. Was is wonderful that she summed 
up life in one bitter line ? 

" Conquered good and conquering ill." 



< WUTHERING 

Her own circumstances proved the axic . s j n eacll case 
other lives she had but little knowledge. W ex p er ience, 
she ask? The gentle Ellen who seemed c, r resu i t '. 
world, and yet had plentiful troubles of her own ;v, t h e 
curates she despised for their narrow priggishness ? *> ct 
people in the village of whom she knew nothing save, 
when sickness, wrong, or death summoned her to their 
homes to give help and protection ? Her life had given 
only one view of the world, and she could not realise 
that there were others which she had not seen. 

" I am bound to avow," says Charlotte, " that she had 
scarcely more practical knowledge of the peasantry 
among whom she lived than a nun has of the country 
people that pass her convent gates. My sister's disposi- 
tion was not naturally gregarious ; 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 benevolent, 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 histories ; 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 of 
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 materials whence it wrought creations like 
Heathcliff, like Earnshaw, like Catharine. Having formed 
these beings she did not know what she had done. If 



1 54 EMIL Y BRONT. 

of her work, when read in manuscript, 
under the grinding influence of natures so 
and implacable of spirits so lost and fallen ; 
.as complained that the mere hearing of certain 
.d and fearful scenes banished sleep by night and 
Disturbed mental peace by day, Ellis Bell would wonder 
what was meant and suspect the complainant of affecta- 
tion. Had she but lived, her mind would of itself have 
grown like a strong tree loftier and straighter, wider 
spreading and its matured fruits would have attained 
<L mellower ripening and sunnier bloom ; but on that 
mind time and experience alone could work, to the 
influence of other intellects it was not amenable. " * 

Yet no human being is wholly free, none wholly 
independent, of surroundings. And Emily Bronte least 
of all could claim such immunity. We can with diffi- 
culty just imagine her a prosperous heiress, loving and 
loved, high-spirited and even hoydenish ; but with her 
cavalier fantasy informed by a gracious splendour all 
her own, we can just imagine Emily Bronte as Shirley 
Keeldar, but scarcely Shirley Keeldar writing ' Wuther- 
ing Heights.' Emily Bronte away from her moors, her 
loneliness, her poverty, her discipline, her companion- 
ship with genius, violence and degradation, would have 
taken another colour, as hydrangeas grow now red, now 
blue, according to the nature of the soil. It was not 
her lack of knowledge of the world that made the novel 
she wrote become 'Wuthering Heights,' not her inex- 
perience, but rather her experience, limited and perverse, 
indeed, and specialised by a most singular temperament, 
yet close and very real. Her imagination was as much 
inspired by the circumstances of her life, as was Anne's 
when she wrote the ' Tenant of Wildfell Hall/ or Char- 
* ' Memoir.' Charlotte Bronte. 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS? 157 

lotte's in her masterpiece ' Villette ;' but, as in each case 
the imagination was of a different quality, experience, 
acting upon it, produced a distinct and dissimilar result ; 
a result obtained no less by the contrariety than by the 
harmony of circumstance. For our surroundings affect 
us in two ways ; subtly and permanently, tinging us 
through and through as wine tinges water, or, by some 
violent neighbourhood of antipathetic force, sending us off 
at a tangent as far as possible from the antagonistic 
presence that so detestably environs us. The. fact that 
Charlotte Bronte knew chiefly clergymen is largely re- 
sponsible for 'Shirley/ that satirical eulogy of the 
Church and apotheosis of Sunday-school teachers. But 
Emily, living in this same clerical evangelistic atmo- 
sphere, is revolted, forced to the other extreme ; and, 
while sheltering her true opinions from herself under 
the all-embracing term " Broad Church," we find in her 
writings no belief so strong as the belief in the present 
use and glory of life ; no love so great as her love for 
earth earth the mother and grave ; no assertion of 
immortality, but a deep certainty of rest. There is no 
note so often struck in all her work, and struck with 
such variety of emphasis, as this : that good for good- 
ness' sake is desirable, evil for evil's sake detestable, 
and that for the just and the unjust alike there is rest in 
the grave. 

This quiet clergyman's daughter, always hearing evil 
of Dissenters, has therefore from pure courage and 
revolted justice become a dissenter herself. A dissenter 
in more ways than one. Never was a nature more 
sensitive to the stupidities and narrowness of conven- 
tional opinion, a nature more likely to be found in the 
ranks of the opposition ; and with such a nature indig- 
nation is the force that most often looses the gate of 



158 EM1L Y BRONTE. 

speech. The impulse to reveal wrongs and sufferings 
as they really are, is overwhelmingly strong ; although 
the revelation itself be imperfect. What, then, would 
this inexperienced Yorkshire parson's danghter reveal ? 
The unlikeness of life to the authorised pictures of life ; 
the force of evil, only conquerable by the slow-revolving 
process of nature which admits not the eternal duration 
of the perverse ; the grim and fearful lessons of heredity ; 
the sufficiency of the finite to the finite, of life to life, 
with no other reward than the conduct of life fulfils 
to him that lives ; the all-penetrating kinship of living 
things, heather-sprig, singing lark, confident child, relent- 
less tyrant ; and, not least, not least to her already in its 
shadow, the sure and universal peace of death. 

A strange evangel from such a preacher ; but a faith 
evermore emphasised and deeper rooted in Emily's mind 
by her incapacity to acquiesce in the stiff, pragmatic 
teaching, the narrow prejudice, of the Calvinists of 
Haworth. Yet this very Calvinism influenced her 
ideas, this doctrine she so passionately rejected, calling 
herself a disciple of the tolerant and thoughtful Frede- 
rick Maurice, and writing, in defiance of its flames and 
shriekings, the most soothing consolations to mortality 
that I remember in our tongue. 

Nevertheless, so dual-natured is the force of environ- 
ment, this antagonistic faith, repelling her to the extreme 
rebound of belief, did not send her out from it before 
she had assimilated some of its sternest tenets. From 
this doctrine of reward and punishment she learned that 
for every unchecked evil tendency there is a fearful 
expiation ; though she placed it not indeed in the flames 
of hell, but in the perverted instincts of our own chil- 
dren. Terrible theories of doomed incurable sin and 
predestined loss warned her that an evil stock will only 



1 WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 159 

beget contamination : the children of the mad must be 
liable to madness ; the children of the depraved, bent 
towards depravity ; the seed of the poison-plant springs 
up to blast and ruin, only to be overcome by uprooting 
and sterilisation, or by the judicious grafting, the patient 
training of many years. 

Thus prejudiced and evangelical Haworth had prepared 
the woman who rejected its Hebraic dogma, to find 
out for herself the underlying truths. She accepted 
them in their full significance. It has been laid as a 
blame to her that she nowhere shows any proper ab- 
horrence of the fiendish and vindictive HeathclifT. She 
who reveals him remembers the dubious parentage of 
that forsaken seaport baby, " Lascar or Gipsy ;" she 
remembers the Ishmaelitish childhood, too much loved 
and hated, of the little interloper whose hand was 
against every man's hand. Remembering this, she sub- 
mits as patiently to his swarthy soul and savage instincts 
as to his swarthy skin and " gibberish that nobody could 
understand." From thistles you gather no grapes. 

No use, she seems to be saying, in waiting for the 
children of evil parents to grow, of their own will and 
unassisted, straight and noble. The very quality of 
their will is as inherited as their eyes and hair. Heath- 
cliff is no fiend or goblin ; the untrained doomed child 01 
some half-savage sailor's holiday, violent and treacherous. 
And how far shall we hold the sinner responsible for a 
nature which is itself the punishment of some forefather's 
crime. Even for such there must be rest. No possi- 
bility in the just and reverent mind of Emily Bronte 
that the God whom she believed to be the very fount 
and soul of life could condemn to everlasting fire the 
victims of morbid tendencies not chosen by themselves. 
No purgatory, and no everlasting flame, is needed to 



160 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

purify the sins of Heathcliff; his grave on the hillside 
will grow as green as any other spot of grass, moor- 
sheep will find the grass as sweet, heath and harebells 
will grow of the same colour on it as over a baby's grave. 
For life and sin and punishment end with death to 
the dying man ; he slips his burden then on to other 
shoulders, and no visions mar his rest. 

" I wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet 
slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth." So ends 
the last page of ' Wuthering Heights/ 

So much for the theories of life and evil that the clash 
of circumstance and character struck out from Emily 
Bronte. It happened, as we know, that she had occa- 
sion to test these theories ; and but for that she could 
never have written ' Wuthering Heights.' Not that the 
story, the conception, would have failed. After all there 
is nothing more appalling in the violent history of that 
upland farm than many a midland manor set thick in 
elms, many a wild country-house of Wales or Cornwall 
could unfold. vStories more socially painful than the 
mere brute violence of the Earnshaws ; of madness and 
treachery, stories of girls entrapped unwillingly into a 
lunatic marriage that the estate might have an heir ;. 
legends of fearful violence, of outcast children, dis- 
honoured wives, horrible and persistent evil. Who, in 
the secret places of his memory, stores not up such 
haunting gossip ? And Emily, familiar with all the wild 
stories of Haworth for a century back, and nursed on 
grisly Irish horrors, tales of 1798, tales of oppression 
and misery, Emily, with all this eerie lore at her finger- 
ends, would have the less difficulty in combining and 
working the separate motives into a consistent whole,, 
that she did not know the real people whose histories 
she knew by heart. \ No memon^of 



< WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 161 

dominance or preference for an individual type, caught 
angjfisarranged her theories, her _conceptjon being the 
completer from he^jgnorance^ This much her strong 
reason and her creative power enabled her to effect. 
But this is not all. 

This is the plot ; but to make a character speak, act, 
rave, love, live, die, through a whole lifetime of events, 
even as the readers feel convinced he must have acted, 
must have lived and died, this demands at least so much 
experience of a somewhat similar nature as may serve 
for a base to one's imagination, a reserve of certainty and 
reassurance on which to draw in times of perplexity and 
doubt. Branwell, who sat to Anne sorrily enough for the 
portrait of Henry Huntingdon, served his sister Emily,, 
not indeed as a model, a thing to copy, but as a chart of r 
proportions by which to measure, and to which to refe as 
for correct investiture, the inspired idea. Mr. Werner's 
Reid (whose great knowledge of the Bronte history 
still greater kindness in admitting me to his advanJiering 
as much as might be, I cannot sufficiently acknow} to its 
this capable critic perceives a bond fide resertence of 
between the character of Heathcliff and the cha^ive and 
Branwell Bronte as he appeared to his sister Er ne s. The 
much, bearing in mind the verse concerning ti'_ ma d with 
I own I cannot see. Branwell seems to me ^ n g but the 
akin to Heathcliff's miserable son than t( e n given too 
But that, in depicting Heathcliff s outragfjion w ho prefer 
love for Catharine, Emily did draw upon Janks have been 
of her brother's suffering, this extract f ignorant of the 
lished lecture of Mr. Reid's will sufficieijnd it impossible 

" It was in the enforced companio.y so much violence 

and degraded man that Emily recontrary, given these 

many of the impressions which y inexperienced girl 

* Emily Bronte.' T. Wertth the absolute and 

M 2 



*62 EMILY BRONT. 

conveyed to the pages of her book. Has it not been 
said over and over again by critics of every kind that 
' Wuthering Heights ' reads like the dream of an opium- 
eater ? And here we find that during the whole time of 
the writing of the book an habitual and avowed opium- 
eater was at Emily's elbow. I said that perhaps the 
most striking part of * Wuthering Heights' was that 
which deals with the relations of Heathcliff and Catharine 
after she had become the wife of another. Whole pages 
of the story are filled with the ravings and ragings of the 
villain against the man whose life stands between him 
and the woman he loves. Similar ravings are to be 
found in all the letters of Branwell Bronte written at this 
period of his career ; and we may be sure that similar 
^avings were always on his lips as, moody and more 
s ^\an half mad, he wandered about the rooms of the 
* s -rsonage at Haworth. Nay, I have found some strik- 
uployerbai coincidences between BranwelPs own language 
elms, Dassa ges in 'Wuthering Heights.' In one of his 
could etters there are these words in reference to the 
mere b. o f his passion : ' My own life without her will be 
treacherjhat can the so-called love of her wretched sickly 
lunatic nfo e to her compared with mine ? ' Now, turn to 
legends Oig Heights ' and you will read these words : 
honoured w s would comprehend my future death and 
the secret p^e after losing her would be hell. Yet I 
haunting gossf ancv for a moment that she valued Edgar 
stories of Hav\* me nt more than mine. If he loved with 
grisly Irish hor o f his puny being, he couldn't love in 
and misery, Em% uc h as I could in a day.' " 
ends, would have e in ' Wuthering Heights ' Branwell 
working the sepan was a page of the book -in which his 
that she did not ki>rved, as to an artist's temperament all 
she knew by heart. serve, for the rough block of granite 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 163 

out of which the work is hewn, and, even while with 
difficulty enduring his vices, Emily undoubtedly learned 
from them those darker secrets of humanity necessary to 
her tragic incantation. They served her, those dreaded, 
passionate outbreaks of her brother's, even as the moors 
she loved, the fancy she courted, served her. Strange 
divining wand of genius, that conjures gold out of the 
miriest earth of common life ; strange and terrible faculty 
laying up its stores and half-mechanically drawing its 
own profit out of our slightest or most miserable experi- 
ences, noting the gesture with which the mother hears of 
her son's ruin, catching the faint varying shadow that 
the white wind-shaken window-blind sends over the 
dead face by which we watch, drawing its life from a 
thousand deaths, humiliations, losses, with a hand in our 
sharpest joys and bitterest sorrows ; this faculty was 
Emily Bronte's, and drew its profit from her brother's 
shame. 

Here ended Branwell's share in producing ' Wuthering 
Heights.' But it is not well to ignore his claim to its 
entire authorship ; for in the contemptuous silence of 
those who know their falsity, such slanders live and 
thrive like unclean insects under fallen stones. The 
vain boast of an unprincipled dreamer, half-mad with 
opium, half-drunk with gin, meaning nothing but the 
desire to be admired at any cost, has been given too 
much prominence by those lovers of sensation who prefer 
any startling lie to an old truth. Their ranks have been 
increased by the number of those who, ignorant of the 
true circumstances of Emily's life, found it impossible 
that an inexperienced girl could portray so much violence 
and such morbid passion. On the contrary, given these 
circumstances, none but a personally inexperienced girl 
could have treated the subject with the absolute and 

M 2 



164 EMILY BRONTE. 

sexless purity which we find in ' Wuthering Heights.' 
How infecte, commonplace, and ignominious would Bran- 
well, relying on his own recollections, have made the 
thwarted passion of a violent adventurer for a woman 
whose sickly husband both despise ! That purity as of 
polished steel, as cold and harder than ice, that freedom 
in dealing with love and hate, as audacious as an infant's 
love for the bright flame of fire, could only belong to 
one whose intensity of genius was rivalled by the 
narrowness of her experience an experience limited not 
only by circumstances, but by a nature impervious to 
any fierier sentiment than the natural love of home and 
her own people, beginning before remembrance and as 
unconscious as breathing. 

The critic, having Emily's poems and the few re- 
maining verses and letters of Branwell, cannot doubt 
the incapacity of that unnerved and garrulous prodigal 
to produce a work of art so sustained, passionate, and 
remote. For in no respect does the terse, fiery, imagina- 
tive style of Emily resemble the weak, disconnected, now 
vulgar, now pretty mannerisms of Branwell. There is, 
indeed, scant evidence that the writer of Emily's poems 
could produce 'Wuthering Heights;' but there is, at 
any rate, the impossibility that her work could be void 
of fire, concentration, and wild fancy. As great an im- 
possibility as that vulgarity and tawdriness should not 
obtrude their ugly heads here and there from under 
Branwell's finest phrases. And since there is no single 
vulgar, trite, or Micawber-like effusion throughout 
' Wuthering Heights ;' and since HeathclifFs passion is 
never once treated in the despicable would-be worldly 
fashion in which Branwell describes his own sensations, 
and since at the time that * Wuthering Heights' was 
written he was manifestly, and by his own confession, 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS. 1 165 

too physically prostrate for any literary effort, we may 
conclude that Branwell did not write the book. 

On the other side we have not only the literary evi- 
dence of the similar qualities in ' Wuthering Heights ' 
and in the poems of Ellis Bell, but the express and 
reiterated assurance of Charlotte Bronte, who never 
even dreamed, it would seem, that it could be supposed 
her brother wrote the book ; the testimony of the pub- 
lishers who made their treaty with Ellis Bell ; of the 
servant Martha who saw her mistress writing it ; and 
most convincing of all to those who have appreciated 
the character of Emily Bronte the impossibility that 
a spirit so upright and so careless of fame should 
commit a miserable fraud to obtain it. 

Indeed, so baseless is this despicable rumour that to 
attack it seems absurd, only sometimes it is wise to 
risk an absurdity. Puny insects, left too long unhurt, 
may turn out dangerous enemies irretrievably damaging 
the fertile vine on which they fastened in the security of 
their minuteness. 

To the three favouring circumstances of Emily's 
masterpiece, which we have already mentioned the 
neighbourhood of her home, the character of her dis- 
position, the quality of her experience a fourth must be 
added, inferior in degree, and yet not absolutely un- 
important. This is her acquaintance with German lite- 
rature, and especially with Hoffmann's tales. In Emily 
Bronte's day, Romance and Germany had one signifi- 
cance ; it is true that in London and in prose the German 
influence was dying out, but in distant Haworth, and in 
the writings of such poets as Emily would read, in 
Scott, in Southey, most of all in Coleridge, with whose 
poems her own have so distinct an affinity, it is still 
predominant. Of the materialistic influence of Italy, 



166 EMILY BRONTE. 

of atheist Shelley, Byron with his audacity and realism, 
sensuous Keats, she would have little experience in her 
remote parsonage. And, had she known them, they 
would probably have made no impression on a nature 
only susceptible to kindred influences. Thackeray, her 
sister's hero, might have never lived for all the trace of 
him we find in Emily's writings ; never is there any 
single allusion in her work to the most eventful period 
of her life, that sight of the lusher fields and taller 
elms of middle England ; that glimpse of hurrying vast 
London ; that night on the river, the sun slipping behind 
the masts, doubly large through the mist and smoke in 
which the houses, bridges, ships are all spectral and 
dim. No hint of this, nor of the sea, nor of Belgium, 
with its quaint foreign life ; nor yet of that French 
style and method so carefully impressed upon her by 
Monsieur Heger, and which so decidedly moulded her 
elder sister's art. But in the midst of her business at 
Haworth we catch a glimpse of her reading her German 
book at night, as she sits on the hearthrug with her 
arm round Keeper's neck ; glancing at it in the kitchen, 
where she is making bread, with the volume of her 
choice propped up before her ; and by the style of the 
novel jotted down in the rough, almost simultaneously 
with her reading, we know that to her the study of 
German was not like French and music the mere 
necessary acquirement of a governess, but an influence 
that entered her mind and helped to shape the fashion 
of her thoughts. 

So much preface is necessary to explain, not the 
genius of Emily Bronte, but the conditions of that 
genius there is no use saying more. The aim of my 
writing has been missed if the circumstances of her 
career are not present in the mind of my reader. It is 



* WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 167 

too late at this point to do more than enumerate them, 
and briefly point to their significance. Such criticism, 
in face of the living work, is all too much like glancing 
in a green and beautiful country at a map, from which 
one may, indeed, ascertain the roads that lead to it and 
away, and the size of the place in relation to surrounding 
districts, but which can give no recognisable likeness of 
the scene which lies all round us, with its fresh life 
forgotten and its beauty disregarded. Therefore let us 
make an end of theory and turn to the book on which 
our heroine's fame is stationed, fronting eternity. It 
may be that in unravelling its story and noticing the 
manner in which its facts of character and circumstance 
impressed her mind, we may, for a moment, be admitted 
to a more thorough and clearer insight into its working 
than we could earn by the completest study of external 
evidence, the most earnest and sympathising criticism. 



168 EMIL Y BRONT&. 




CHAPTER XV. 

'WUTHERING HEIGHTS:' THE STORY. 

ON the summit of Haworth Hill, beyond the street, 
stands a grey stone house, which is shown as the original 
of ' Wuthering Heights.' A few scant and wind-baffled 
ash-trees grow in front, the moors rise at the back 
stretching away for miles. It is a house of some 
pretensions, once the parsonage of Grimshaw, that 
powerful Wesleyan preacher who, whip in hand, used to 
visit the " Black Bull " on Sunday morning and lash the 
merrymakers into chapel to listen to his sermon. Some- 
what fallen from its former pretensions, it is a farmhouse 
now, with much such an oak-lined and stone-floored 
house-place as is described in 'Wuthering Heights.' 
Over the door there is, moreover, a piece of carving : 
H. E. 1659, a close enough resemblance to " Hareton 
Earnshaw, 1500" but the "wilderness of crumbling 
griffins and shameless little boys" are nowhere to be 
found. Neither do we notice " the excessive slant of a 
few stunted firs at the end of the house and a range of 
gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way as if 
craving alms of the sun," and, to my thinking, this fine 
old farm of Sowdens is far too near the mills of Haworth 
to represent the God-forsaken, lonely house of Emily's 
fancy. Having seen the place, as in duty bound, one 
returns more i,.an ever impressed by the fact that while 
every individual and every site in Charlotte's novels can 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS? 169 

be clearly identified, Emily's imagination and her power 
of drawing conclusions are alone responsible for the 
character of her creations. This is not saying that she 
had no data to go upon. Had she not seen Sowdens, 
and many more such houses, she would never have 
invented ' Wuthering Heights ;' the story and passion 
of Branwell set on her fancy to imagine the somewhat 
similar story and passion of Heathcliff. But in the 
process of her work, the nature of her creations com- 
pletely overmastered the facts and memories which had 
induced her to begin. These were but the handful 
of dust which she took to make her man ; and the 
qualities and defects of her masterpiece are both largely 
accounted for when we remember that her creation of 
character was quite unmodified by any attempt at 
portraiture. 

Therefore in 'Wuthering Heights ' it is with a story, a 
fancy picture, that we have to deal ; in drawing and pro- 
portion not unnatural, but certainly not painted after 
nature. To quote her sister's beautiful comments 

" ' Wuthering Heights ' was hewn in a wild workshop, 
with simple tools, out of homely materials. The sta- 
tuary found a granite block on a solitary moor ; gazing 
thereon he saw how from the crag might be elicited a head, 
savage, swart, sinister ; a form moulded with at least one 
element of grandeur power. He wrought with a rude 
chisel, and from no model but the vision of his medita- 
tions. With time and labour the crag took human 
shape ; and there it stands colossal, dark and frowning, 
half-statue, half-rock ; in the former sense, terrible and 
goblin-like ; in the latter, almost beautiful, for its colour- 
ing is of mellow grey, and moorland moss clothes it ; 
and heath, with its blooming bells and balmy fragrance, 
grows faithfully close to the giant's foot." 



i;o EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Of the rude chisel we find plentiful traces in the first 
few chapters of the book. The management of the narra- 
tive is singularly clumsy, introduced by a Mr. Lockwood 
a stranger to the North, an imaginary misanthropist, 
who has taken a grange on the moor to be out of the 
way of the world and afterwards continued to him by 
his housekeeper to amuse the long leisures of a winter 
illness. But, passing over this initial awkwardness of 
conception, we find a manner equal to the matter and 
somewhat resent Charlotte's eloquent comparison ; for 
there are touches, fine and delicate, that only a practised 
hand may dare to give, and there is feeling in the book, 
not only "terrible and goblin-like," but patient and 
constant, sprightly and tender, consuming and passionate. 
We find, getting over the inexperienced beginning, that 
the style of the work is noble and accomplished, and 
that far from being a half-hewn and casual fancy, a 
head surmounting a trunk of stone its plan is thought 
out with scientific exactness, no line blurred, no clue 
forgotten, the work of an intense and poetic tempera- 
ment whose vision is too vivid to be incongruous. 

The first four chapters of ' Wuthering Heights ' are 
merely introductory. They relate Mr. Lockwood's visit 
there, his surprise at the rudeness of the place in contrast 
with the foreign air and look of breeding that distin- 
guished Mr. Heathcliff and his beautiful daughter-in- 
law. He also noticed the profound moroseness and ill- 
temper of everybody in the house. Overtaken by a 
snowstorm, he was, however, constrained to sleep there and 
was conducted by the housekeeper to an old chamber, long 
unused, where (since at first he could not sleep) he amused 
himself by looking over a few mildewed books piled on 
one corner of the window-ledge. They and the ledge 
were scrawled all over with writing, Catharine Earnshaw^, 



1 WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 171 

sometimes varied to Catharine Heathcliff, and again to- 
Catharine Linton. Nothing save these three names was 
written on the ledge, but the books were covered in 
every fly-leaf and margin with a pen-and-ink com- 
mentary, a sort of diary, as it proved, scrawled in a 
childish hand. Mr. Lockwood spent the first portion 
of the night in deciphering this faded record ; a string of 
childish mishaps and deficiencies dated a quarter of a 
century ago. Evidently this Catharine Earnshaw must 
have been one of HeathclifFs kin, for he figured in the 
narrative as her fellow-scapegrace, and the favourite 
scapegoat of her elder brother's wrath. After some 
time Mr. Lockwood fell asleep, to be troubled by haras- 
sing dreams, in one of which he fancied that this childish 
Catharine Earnshaw, or rather her spirit, was knocking and 
scratching at the fir-scraped window-pane, begging to 
be let in. Overcome with the intense horror of night- 
mare, he screamed aloud in his sleep. Waking suddenly 
up he found to his confusion that his yell had been heard, 
for Heathcliff appeared, exceedingly angry that any one 
had been allowed to sleep in the oak-closeted room. 

"If the little fiend had got in at the window she 
probably would have strangled me," I returned. . . . 
" Catharine Linton or Earnshaw, or however she was 
called she must have been a changeling, wicked little 
soul ! She told me she had been walking the earth 
these twenty years ; a just punishment for her mortal 
transgressions, I've no doubt. 

" Scarcely were these words uttered when I recollected 
the association of HeathclirFs with Catharine's name in 
the books .... I blushed at my inconsideration but, 
without showing further consciousness of the offence, I 
hastened to add, ' The truth is, sir, I passed the first 
part of the night in .' Here I stopped afresh I was 



172 EMILY BRONTE. 

about to say ' perusing those old volumes/ then it would 
have revealed my knowledge of their written as well as 
their printed contents ; so I went on, ' in spelling over 
the name scratched on that window-ledge : a mono - 
tonous occupation calculated to set me asleep, like 
counting, or .' ' What can you mean by talking in this 
way to me!' thundered Heathcliff with savage vehe- 
mence. ' How how dare you, under my roof ? God ! 
she's mad to speak so ! ' And he struck his forehead 
with rage. 

" I did not know whether to resent this language or 
pursue my explanation ; but he seemed so powerfully 
affected that I took pity and proceeded with my dreams 
.... Heathcliff gradually fell back into the shelter of 
the bed, as I spoke ; finally sitting down almost concealed 
behind it. I guessed, however, by his irregular and in- 
tercepted breathing, that he struggled to vanquish an 
-excess of violent emotion. Not liking to show him that 
I had heard the conflict, I continued my toilette rather 
noisily .... and soliloquised on the length of the night. 
4 Not three o'clock yet ! I could have taken oath it 
had been six. Time stagnates here : we must surely 
have retired to rest at eight ! ' 

" ' Always at nine in winter, and rise at four,' said my 
host, suppressing a groan ; and, as I fancied, by the 
motion of his arm's shadow, dashing a tear from his 
eyes. * Mr. Lockwood,' he added, ' you may go into my 
room : you'll only be in the way, coming downstairs so 
early .... Take the candle and go where you please. 
I shall join you directly. Keep out of the yard, though, 
the dogs are unchained ; and the house Juno mounts 
sentinel there, and nay, you can only ramble about the 
steps and passages. But, away with you ! I'll come in 
two minutes.' 



1 WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 173 

" I obeyed, so far as to quit the chamber ; when, 
ignorant where the narrow lobbies led, I stood still, and 
was witness, involuntarily, to a piece of superstition on 
the part of my landlord which belied oddly his apparent 
sense. He got on to the bed, and wrenched open the 
lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrol- 
lable passion of tears. ' Come in ! come in ! ' he sobbed, 
' Cathy, do come ! Oh, my heart's darling ! hear me 
this time, Catharine, at last ! ' The spectre showed a 
spectre's ordinary caprice : it gave no sign of being ; but 
the snow and wind whirled wildly through, even reaching 
my station, and blowing out the light. 

" There was such anguish in the gush of grief that 
accompanied this raving, that my compassion made me 
overlook its folly, and I drew off, half angry to have 
listened at all, and vexed at having related my ridiculous 
nightmare, since it produced that agony ; though why 
was beyond my comprehension." 

Mr. Lockwood got no clue to the mystery at ' Wuther- 
ing Heights ' ; and later on returned to Thrushcross 
Grange, to fall ill of a lingering fever. During his re- 
covery he heard the history of his landlord, from his 
housekeeper, who had been formerly an occupant of 
'Wuthering Heights,' and after that, for many years, 
the chief retainer at Thrushcross Grange, where young 
Mrs. HeathclirT used to live when she still was Catharine 
Linton. 

" Do you know anything of Mr. Heathcliff 's story ? " 
said Mr. Lockwood to his housekeeper, Nelly Dean. 

" It's a cuckoo's, sir," she answered. 

It is at this point that the history of ' Wuthering 
Heights ' commences, that violent and bitter history of 
the " little dark thing harboured by a good man to his 
bane," carried over the threshold, as Christabel lifted 



174 EMILY BRONTE. 

Geraldine, out of pity for the weakness which, having 
grown strong, shall crush the hand that helped it ; carried 
over the threshold, as evil spirits are carried, powerless 
to enter of themselves, and yet no evil demon, only a 
human soul lost and blackened by tyranny, injustice 
and congenital ruin. The story of ' Wuthering Heights,' 
is the story of Heathcliff. It begins with the sudden 
journey of the old squire, Mr. Earnshaw, to Liverpool 
one summer morning at the beginning of harvest. He 
had asked the children each to choose a present, " only 
let it be little, for I shall walk there and back, sixty 
miles each way : " and the son Hindley, a proud, high- 
spirited lad of fourteen, had chosen a fiddle ; six-year- 
old Cathy, a whip, for she could ride any horse in the 
stable ; and Nelly Dean, their humble playfellow and 
runner of errands, had been promised a pocketful of 
apples and pears. It was the third night since Mr. Earn- 
shaw's departure, and the children, sleepy and tired, had 
begged their mother to let them sit up a little longer 
yet a little longer to welcome their father, and see their 
new presents. At last just about eleven o'clock Mr. 
Earnshaw came back, laughing and groaning over his 
fatigue ; and opening his greatcoat, which he held 
bundled up in his arms, he cried : 

" ' See here, wife ! I was never so beaten with anything 
in my life : but you must e'en take it as a gift of God ; 
though it's as dark almost as if it came from the devil." 

"We crowded round, and over Miss Cathy's head I 
had a peep at a dirty, ragged, black-haired child ; big 
enough both to walk and talk ; indeed, its face looked 
older than Catharine's ; yet, when it was set on its feet, 
it only stared round and repeated over and over again 
some gibberish that nobody could understand. I was 
frightened, and Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling it out 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 175 

of doors : she did fly up, asking how he could fashion to 
bring that gipsy brat into the house when they had 
their own bairns to feed and fend for ? What he meant 
to do with it, and whether he were mad ? The master 
tried to explain the matter ; but he was really half dead 
with fatigue, and all that I could make out, amongst her 
scolding, was a tale of his seeing it starving and house- 
less, and as good as dumb, in the streets of Liverpool, 
where he picked it up and inquired for its owner. Not a 
soul knew to whom it belonged, he said ; and his money 
and time being both limited, he thought it better to take 
it home with him at once, than run into vain expenses 
there ; because he was determined he would not leave 
it as he found it." 

So the child entered ' Wuthering Heights/ a cause of 
dissension from the first. Mrs. Earnshaw grumbled her- 
self calm ; the children went to bed crying, for the fiddle 
had been broken and the whip lost in carrying the little 
stranger for so many miles. But Mr. Earnshaw was deter- 
mined to have his prottgt respected ; he cuffed saucy little 
Cathy for making faces at the new comer, and turned 
Nelly Dean out of the house for having set him to sleep 
on the stairs because the children would not have him in 
their bed. And when she ventured to return some days 
afterwards, she found the child adopted into the family, 
and called by the name of a son who had died in child- 
hood Heathcliff. 

Nevertheless, he had no enviable position. Cathy, 
indeed, was very thick with him, and the master had 
taken to him strangely, believing every word he said, 
" for that matter he said precious little, and generally the 
truth," but Mrs. Earnshaw disliked the little interloper 
and never interfered in his behalf when Hindley, who 
hated him, thrashed and struck the sullen, patient child, 



i;6 E&IIL Y BRONTE. 

who never complained, but bore all his bruises in silence. 
This endurance made old Earnshaw furious when he dis- 
covered the persecutions to which this mere baby was 
subjected ; the child soon discovered it to be a most 
efficient instrument of vengeance. 

" I remember Mr. Earnshaw once bought a couple of 
colts at the parish fair, and gave the lads each one. 
Heathcliff took the handsomest, but it soon r ell lame, 
and when he discovered it, he said to Hindley : ' You must 
exchange horses with me, I don't like mine ; and if you 
ion't I shall tell your father of the three thrashings- 
you've given me this week, and show him my arm which 
is black to the shoulder.' Hindley put out his tongue,, 
and cuffed him over the ears. 'You'd better do it at 
once/ he persisted, escaping to the porch (they were in 
the stable). ' You'll have to ; and if I speak of these 
blows you'll get them back with interest' ' Off, dog ! r 
cried Hindley, threatening him with an iron weight, used 
for weighing potatoes and hay. ' Throw it/ he replied, 
standing still, ' and then I'll tell how you boasted 
you would turn me out of doors as soon as he died, 
and see whether he will not turn you out directly. 
Hindley threw it, hitting him on the breast, and down he 
fell, but staggered up immediately, breathless and white ;, 
and had not I prevented it, he would have gone just so 
to the master and got full revenge by letting his condi- 
tion plead for him, intimating who had caused it. ' Take 
my colt, gipsy, then/ said young Earnshaw. ' And I pray 
that he may break your neck ; take him and be damned, 
you beggarly interloper ! and wheedle my father out of 
all he has : only afterwards show him what you are, imp 
of Satan. And take that ; I hope he'll kick out your 
brains ! ' 

"Heatheliff.had gone to loose the beast and shift it to 



< WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 177 

his own stall ; he was passing behind it when Hindley 
finished his speech by knocking him under its feet, and, 
without stopping to examine whether his hopes were 
fulfilled, ran away as fast as he could. I was surprised 
to witness how coolly the child gathered himself up and 
went on with his intention ; exchanging saddles and all, 
and then sitting down on a bundle of hay to overcome 
the qualm which the violent blow occasioned, before he 
entered the house. I persuaded him easily to let me 
lay the blame of his bruises on the horse : he heeded 
little what tale was told so that he had what he wanted. 
He complained so seldom, indeed, of such things as these 
that I really thought him not vindictive ; I was deceived 
completely, as you will hear." 

So the division grew. This malignant, uncomplain- 
ing child, with foreign skin and Eastern soul, could only 
breed discord in that Yorkshire home. He could not 
understand what was honourable by instinct to an Eng- 
lish mind. He was quick to take an advantage_Ioiig- 
suffering, sly, nursing his revenge in silence like a _ 
vindictive slave, until at last the moment of retribution 
should be his ; sufficiently truthful and brave to have_ 
grown noble in another atmosphere, but with a ready- 
bent to underhand and brooding vengeance. Insensible^ 
it seemed, to gratitude. .Proud with tf\ 



pride of an Oriental ; cruel, and violently passionate. 
phe soft and tender speck there was in this dark and 
sullen heart ; it was an exceedingly great and forbearing 
love for the sweet, saucy^-naughtv Catharine. 

But this one affection only served to augment the 
mischief that he wrought. He who had estranged son 
from father, husband from wife, severed brother from 
sister as completely; for Hindley hated the swarthy 
child who was Cathy's favourite companion. When 

N 



1 78 EMILY BRONTE. 

Mrs. Earnshaw died, two years after HeathclifTs advent, 
Hindley had learned to regard his father as an oppressor 
rather than a friend, and Heathcliff as an intolerable 
usurper. So, from the very beginning-, he bred bad feel- 
ing in the house. 

In the course of time Mr. Earnshaw began to fail. 
His strength suddenly left him, and he grew half childish, 
irritable, and extremely jealous of his authority. He 
considered any slight to Heathcliff as a slight to his 
own discretion ; so that, in the master's presence, the 
child was deferred to and courted from respect for that 
master's weakness, while, behind his back, the old wrongs, 
the old hatred, showed themselves unquenched. And 
so the child grew up bitter and distrustful. Matters got 
a little better for a while, when the untameable Hindley 
was sent to college ; yet still there was disturbance and 
disquiet, for Mr. Earnshaw did not love his daughter 
Catharine, and his heart was yet further embittered by 
the grumbling and discontent of old Joseph the servant ; 
the wearisomest "self-righteous Pharisee that ever ran- 
sacked a Bible to take the promises to himself and fling 
the curses to his neighbours." But Catharine, though 
slighted for Heathcliff, and nearly always in trouble on 
his account, was much too fond of him to be jealous. 
" The greatest punishment we could invent for her was 
to keep her separate from Heathcliff. .... Certainly 
she had ways with her such as I never saw a child take 
up before ; and she put all of us past our patience fifty 
times and oftener in a day; from the hour she came 
downstairs till the hour she went to bed, we hadn't a 
minute's security that she wouldn't be in mischief. Her 
spirits were always at high- watermark, her tongue 
always going singing, laughing, and plaguing every- 
body who would not do the same. A wild, wicked slip 



WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 



179 



she was ; but she had the bonniest eye, the sweetest 
smile, and the lightest foot in the parish. And after all, 
I believe, she meant no harm ; for, when once she made 
you cry in good earnest, it seldom happened that she 
wouldn't keep your company and oblige you to be quiet 
that you might comfort her. In play she liked exceed- 
ingly to act the little mistress, using her hands freely 
and commanding her companions." 

Suddenly this pretty, mischievous sprite was left father- 
less ; Mr. Earnshaw died quietly, sitting in his chair by 
the fireside one October evening. Mr. Hindley, now a 
young man of twenty, came home to the funeral, to the 
great astonishment of the household bringing a wife with 
him. 

A rush of a lass, spare and bright-eyed, with a 
changing, hectic colour, hysterical, and full of fancies, 
fickle as the winds, now flighty and full of praise and 
laughter, now peevish and languishing. For the rest, 
the very idol of her husband's heart. A word from her, 
a passing phrase of dislike for Heathcliff, was enough to 
revive all young Earnshaw's former hatred of the boy. 
Heathcliff was turned out of their society, no longer 
.allowed to share Cathy's lessons, degraded to the posi- 
tion of an ordinary farm-servant. At first Heathcliff 
did not mind. Cathy taught him what she learned, and 
played or worked with him in the fields. Cathy ran 
wild with him, and had a share in all his scrapes ; they 
both bade fair to grow up regular little savages, while 
Hindley Earnshaw kissed and fondled his young wife 
utterly heedless of their fate. 

An adventure suddenly changed the course of their 
lives. One Sunday evening Cathy and Heathcliff 
ran down to Thrushcross Grange to peep through the 
windows and see how the little Lintons spent their 

N 2 



i8o EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Sundays. They looked in, and saw Isabella at one end of 
the, to them, splendid drawing-room, and Edgar at the 
other, both in floods of tears, peevishly quarrelling. So 
elate were the two little savages from Wuthering Heights 
at this proof of their neighbours' inferiority, that they 
burst into peals of laughter. The little Lintons were 
terrified, and, to frighten them still more, Cathy and 
Heathcliff made a variety of frightful noises ; they suc- 
ceeded in terrifying not only the children but their silly 
parents, who imagined the yells to come from a gang of 
burglars, determined on robbing the house. They let 
the dogs loose, in this belief, and the bulldog seized 
Cathy's bare little ankle, for she had lost her shoes in the 
bog. While Heathcliff was trying to throttle off the brute, 
the man-servant came up, and, taking both the children 
prisoner, conveyed them into the lighted hall. There, to 
the humiliation and surprise of the Lintons, the lame 
little vagrant was discovered to be Miss Earnshaw, and 
her fellow-misdemeanant, "that strange acquisition my 
late neighbour made in his journey to Liverpool a 
little Lascar, or an American or Spanish castaway." 

Cathy stayed five weeks at Thrushcross Grange, by 
which time her ankle was quite well, and her manners 
much improved. Young Mrs. Earnshaw had tried her 
best, during this visit, to endeavour by a judicious mix- 
ture of fine clothes and flattery to raise the standard of 
Cathy's self-respect. She went home, then, a beautiful 
and finely-dressed young lady, to find Heathcliff in 
equal measure deteriorated ; the mere farm-servant, whose 
clothes were soiled with three months' service in mire 
and dust, with unkempt hair and grimy face and hands. 

" ' Heathcliff, you may come forward,' cried Mr. Hind- 
ley, enjoying his discomfiture, and gratified to see what 
a forbidding young blackguard he would be compelled t^ 



1 WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 181 

present himself. 'You may come and wish Miss Catha- 
rine welcome, like the other servants.' Cathy, catching 
a. glimpse of her friend in his concealment, flew to em- 
brace him, she bestowed seven or eight kisses on his 
cheek within the second, and then stopped, and, draw- 
ing back, burst into a laugh, exclaiming: 'Why, how 
very black and cross you look ! and how how funny 
and grim ! But that's because I'm used to Edgar and 
Isabella Linton.' 

"'Well, Heathcliff, have you forgotten me? Shake 
hands, Heathcliff/ said Mr. Earnshaw, condescendingly, 
4 once in a way, that is permitted.' 

" ' I shall not,' replied the boy, finding his tongue at 
last. ' I shall not stand to be laughed at. I shall not 
bear it.' " 

From this time Catharine's friendship with Heathcliff 
was chequered by intermittent jealousy on his side and 
intermittent disgust upon hers ; and for this evil turn, 
far more than for any coarser brutality, Heathcliff longed 
for revenge on Hindley Earnshaw. Meanwhile Edgar 
Linton, greatly smitten with the beautiful Catharine, 
went from time to time to visit at Wuthering Heights. 
He would have gone far oftener, but that he had a 
terror of Hindley Earnshaw's reputation, and shrank 
from encountering him. 

For this fine young Oxford gentleman, this proud 
young husband, was sinking into worse excesses than 
any of his wild Earnshaw ancestors. A defiant sorrow 
had driven him to desperation. In the summer follow- 
ing Catharine's visit to Thushcross Grange, his only son 
and heir had been born. An occasion of great rejoicings, 
suddenly dashed by the discovery that his wife, his idol, 
was fast sinking in consumption. Hindley refused to 
believe it, and his wife kept her flighty spirits till the 



182 EMILY BRONTE. 

end ; but one night, while leaning on his shoulder, a fit 
of coughing took her a very slight one. She put her 
two hands about his neck, her face changed, and she 
was dead. 

Hindley grew desperate, and gave himself over to wild 
companions, to excesses of dissipation, and tyranny.. 
"His treatment of Heathcliff was enough to make a 
fiend of a saint." Heathcliff bore it with sullen patience, 
as he had borne the blows and kicks of his childhood, 
turning them into a lever for extorting advantages ; the 
aches and wants of his body were redeemed by a fierce 
joy at heart, for in this degradation of Hindley Earnshaw 
he recognised the instrument of his own revenge. 

Time went on, ever making a sharper difference be- 
tween this gipsy hind and his beautiful young mistress \ 
time went on, leaving the two fast friends enough, but 
leaving also in the heart of Heathcliff a passionate 
rancour against the man who, of set purpose, had made 
him unworthy of Catharine's hand, and of the other 
man on whom it was to be bestowed. 

For Edgar Linton was infatuated with the naughty, 
tricksy young beauty of Wuthering Heights. Her violent 
temper did not frighten him, although his own character 
was singularly sweet, placid and feeble ; her compromising 
friendship with such a mere boor as young Heathcliff was 
only a trifling annoyance easily to be excused. And 
when his own father and mother died of a fever caught 
in nursing her he did not love her less for the sorrow 
she brought. A fever she had wilfully taken in despair,. 
and a sudden sickness of life. One evening pretty 
Cathy came into the kitchen to tell Nelly Dean that she 
had engaged herself to marry Edgar Linton. Heathcliff, 
unseen, was seated on the other side the settle, on a bench 
by the wall, quite hidden from those at the fireside. 




WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 183 

Cathy was very elated, but not at all happy. Edgar 
was rich, handsome, young, gentle, passionately in love 
with her ; still she was miserable. Nelly Dean, who was 
nursing the baby Hareton by the fire, finally grew 
out of patience with her whimsical discontent. 

" ' Your brother will be pleased/ " she said ; " ' the old 
lady and gentleman will not object, I think ; you will 
escape from a disorderly, comfortless home into a 
wealthy, respectable one ; and you love Edgar, and 
Edgar loves you. All seems smooth and easy ; where 
is the obstacle ? ' 

" ' Here ! and here ! J replied Catharine, striking one 
hand on her forehead and the other on her breast. ' In 
whichever place the soul lives. In my soul and in my 
heart I'm convinced I'm wrong.' 

" ' That's very strange. I cannot make it out.' 

" ' It's my secret. But if you will not mock at me, I'll 
explain it. I can't do it distinctly ; but I'll give you a 
feeling of how I feel.' 

" ' She seated herself by me again ; her countenance 
grew sadder and graver, and her clasped hands trembled. 

" ' Nelly, do you never dream queer dreams ?' she said, 
suddenly, after some minutes' reflection. 

" ' Yes, now and then,' I answered. 

" ' And so do I. I've dreamt in my life dreams that 
have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas ; 
they've gone through and through me like wine through 
water, and altered the colour of my mind. And this is 
one : I'm going to tell it, but take care not to smile at 
any part of it.' 

" ' Oh, don't, Miss Catharine,' I cried. ' We're dismal 
enough without conjuring up ghosts and visions to 
perplex us . . . .' 

" She was vexed, but she did not proceed. Apparently 



1 84 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

taking up another subject, she recommenced in a short 
time. 

" ' If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should 'be extremely 
miserable.' 

" ' Because you are not fit to go there/ I answered ; 
' all sinners would be miserable in heaven.' 

" ' But- it is not that. I dreamt once that I was there.' 

" ' I tell you, I won't hearken to your dreams, Miss 
Catharine. I'll go to bed,' I interrupted again. 

" She laughed, and held me down, for I made a motion 
to leave my chair. 

" ' This is nothing/ cried she ; ' I was only going to 
say that heaven did not seem to be any home ; and 1 
broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth ; 
and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into 
the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights, 
where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain 
my secret as well as the other. I've no more business 
to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven ; 
and, if the wicked man in there hadn't brought Heathcliff 
so low, I shouldn't have thought of it. It would de- 
grade me to marry Heathcliff now, so he shall never 
know how I love him ; and that, not because he's hand- 
some, Nelly but because he's more myself than I am. 
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the 
same ; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from 
lightning, or frost from fire.' 

" Ere this speech ended I became sensible of Heath- 
cliffs presence. Having noticed a slight movement, I 
turned my head, and saw him rise from the bench and 
steal out noiselessly. He had listened till he had heard 
Catharine say that it would degrade her to marry him, 
and then he stayed to hear no further. My companion, 
sitting on the ground, was orevented by the back of the 



WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 185 

settle from remarking his presence or departure ; but I 
started, and bade her hush. 

' Why ? ' she asked, gazing nervously round. 

" ' Joseph is here,' I answered, catching opportunely 
the roll of his cart-wheels up the road, 'and Heathcliff 

will be coming in with him Unfortunate creature, 

as soon as you become Mrs. Linton he loses friend and 
love and all. Have you considered how you'll bear the 
separation, and how he'll bear to be quite deserted in 
the world ? Because, Miss Catharine . . . .' 

" ' He quite deserted ! we separated ! ' she exclaimed, 
with an accent of indignation. ' Who is to separate us, 
pray ! They'll meet the fate of Milo. Not as long as I 
live, Ellen ; for no mortal creature. Every Linton on 
the face of the earth might melt into nothing, before I 
could consent to forsake Heathcliff .... My great 
miseries in this world have been HeathclifTs miseries, 
and I watched and felt each from the beginning. My 
great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, 
and he remained, / should still continue to be ; and if all,' 
else remained and he were annihilated, the universe 
would turn to a mighty stranger : I should not seem a 
part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the 
woods : time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter 
changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the 
eternal rocks beneath ; a source of little visible delight, 
but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff. He's always, 
always in my mind : not as a pleasure, any more than I 
am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. 
So don't talk of our separation again ; it is impracticable ; 
and ' 

" She paused, and hid her face in the folds of my 
gown ; but I jerked it forcibly away. I was out of 
patience with her folly." 



1 86 EM1L Y BRONTE. 

Poor Cathy ! beautiful, haughty, and capricious ; who 
should guide and counsel her ? her besotted, drunken 
brother ? the servant who did not love her and was im- 
patient of her weathercock veerings ? No. And Heath- 
cliff, who, brutalised and rude as he was, at least did love 
and understand her ? Heathcliff, who had walked out of 
the house, her rejection burning in his ears, not to enter it 
till he was fitted to exact both love and vengeance. He 
did not come back that night, though the thunder rattled 
and the rain streamed over Wuthering Heights ; though 
Cathy, shawl-less in the wind and wet, stood calling him. 
through the violent storms that drowned and baffled her 
cries. 

All night she would not leave the hearth, but lay oa 
the settle sobbing and moaning, all soaked as she was, 
with her hands on her face and her face to the wall. A 
strange augury for her marriage, these first dreams of her 
affianced love not dreams, indeed, but delirium ; for the 
next morning she was burning and tossing in fever, near 
to death's door as it seeaned. 

But she won through, and Edgar's parents carried her 
home to nurse. As we know, they took the infection 
and died within a few days of each other. Nor was this 
the only ravage that the fever made. Catharine, always 
hasty and fitful in temper, was henceforth subject at rare 
intervals to violent and furious rages, which threatened 
her life and reason by their extremity. The doctor 
said she ought not to be crossed ; she ought to have her 
own way, and it was nothing less than murder in her 
eyes for any one to presume to stand up and contradict 
her. But the strained temper, the spoiled, authoritative 
ways, the saucy caprices of his bride, were no blemishes 
in Edgar Linton's eyes. " He was infatuated, and be- 
lieved himself the happiest man alive on the day he led 



1 WUTHERING HEIGHTS. 187 

her to Gimmerton Chapel three years subsequent to his- 
father's death." 

Despite so many gloomy auguries the marriage was a 
happy one at first Catharine was petted and humoured 
by every one, with Edgar for a perpetual worshipper ; his 
pretty, weak-natured sister Isabella as an admiring com- 
panion ; and for the necessary spectator of her happiness,. 
Nelly Dean, who had been induced to quit her nursling 
at Wuthering Heights. 

Suddenly Heathclifif returned, not the old Heathcliff,but 
a far more dangerous enemy, a tall, athletic, well-formed, 
man, intelligent, and severe. "A half-civilised ferocity 
lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes, full of black 
fire, but it was subdued ; and his manner was even digni- 
fied, though too stern for grace." A formidable rival for 
boyish Edgar Linton, with his only son's petulance, con- 
stitutional timidity, and weak health. Cathy, though she 
was really attached to her husband, gave him cruel pain 
by her undisguised and childish delight at HeathclifFs 
return ; he had a presentiment that evil would come of the 
old friendship thus revived, and would willingly have 
forbidden HeathclifT the house ; but Edgar, so anxious 
lest any cross be given to his wife, with a double reason 
then for tenderly guarding her health, could not inflict 
a serious sorrow upon her with only a baseless jealousy 
for its excuse. Thus, Heathcliff became intimate at 
Thrushcross Grange, the second house to which he was. 
made welcome, the second hearth he meant to ruin. At 
this time he was lodging at Wuthering Heights. On his 
return he had first intended, he told Catharine, "just to- 
have one glimpse of your face, a stare of surprise, perhaps,, 
and pretended pleasure ; afterwards settle my score with 
Hindley ; and then prevent the law by doing execution oa 
myself." 



1 88 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Catharine's welcome changed this plan ; her brother 
was safe from HeathclifFs violence ; but not from his hate. 
The score was being settled in a different fashion. Hindley 
who was eager to get money for his gambling and who 
had drunk his wits away was only too glad to take 
Heathcliff as lodger, boon-companion, and fellow card- 
player at once. And Heathcliff was content to wait and 
take his revenge sip by sip, encouraging his old oppressor 
in drink and gaming, watching him lose acre after acre 
of his land, knowing that sooner or later Earnshaw 
would lose everything, and he, Heathcliff, be master of 
Wuthering Heights, with Hindley's son for his servant. 
Revenge is sweet. Meanwhile, Wuthering Heights was a 
handy lodging, at walking distance from the Grange. 

But soon his visits were cut off. Isabella Linton a 
charming girl of eighteen with an espitgle face and a 
thin sweetness of disposition that could easily turn sour 
Isabella Linton fell in love with Heathcliff. To do him 
justice he had never dreamed of marrying her, until one 
day Catharine, in a fit of passion, revealed the poor girl's 
secret. Heathcliff pretended not to believe her, but 
Isabel was her brother's heir, and to marry her, inherit 
Edgar's money, and ill-use his sister, would, indeed, be 
.a fair revenge on Catharine's husband. 

At first it was merely as an artistically pleasurable 
idea, a castle in the air, to be dreamed about, not built, 
that this scheme suggested itself to Heathcliff. But one 
day, when he had been detected in an experimental 
courting of Isabel, Edgar Linton, glad of an excuse, 
turned him out of doors. Then, in a paroxysm of 
hatred, never-satisfied revenge, and baffled passion, Heath- 
cliff struck with the poisoned weapon ready to his hand. 
He persuaded Isabel to run away with him no difficult 
task and they eloped together one night to be married. 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 189 

Isabella poor, weak, romantic, sprightly Isabel was 
not missed at first ; for very terrible trouble had fallen 
upon the Grange. Catharine, in a paroxysm of rage at the 
dismissal of Heathcliff, quarrelled violently with Edgar, 
and shut herself up in her own room. For three days 
and nights she remained there, eating nothing ; Edgar, 
secluded in his study, expecting every mompnt that she 
would come down and ask his forgiveness j^Nelly Dean, 
who alone knew of her determined starving, resolved to 
say nothing about it, and conquer, once for all, the haughty 
and passionate spirit which possessed her beautiful young 
mistress^ 

So three days went by. Catharine still refused all her 
food, and unsympathetic Ellen still resolved to let her 
starve, if she chose, without a remonstrance. On the third 
day Catharine unbarred her door and asked for food ; and 
now Ellen Dean was too frightened to exult. Her mistress 
was wasted, haggard, wild, as if by months of illness ; 
the too-presumptuous servant remembered the doctor's 
warning, and dreaded her master's anger, when he 
should discover Catharine's real condition. 

On this servant's obstinate cold-heartedness rests the 
crisis of ' Wuthering Heights ;' had Ellen Dean, at the 
first, attempted to console the violent, childish Catharine, 
had she acquainted Edgar of the real weakness under- 
neath her pride, Catharine would have had no fatal illness 
and left no motherless child ; and had moping Isabel, 
instead of being left to weep alone about the park and 
garden, been conducted to her sister's room and shown 
a real sickness to nurse, a real misery to mend, she would 
not have gone away with HeathclifF, and wedded herself 
to sorrow, out of a fanciful love in idleness. It is cha- 
racteristic of Emily Bronte's genius that she should 



;i 90 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

choose so very simple and homely a means 
production of most terrible results. 

A fit she had had alone and untended during those 
.three days of isolated starvation had unsettled Catha- 
rine's reason. The gradual coming-on of her delirium 
is given with a masterly pathos that Webster need not 
have made more strong, nor Fletcher more lovely and 
appealing : 

" A minute previously she was violent ; now, supported 
on one arm and not noticing my refusal to obey her, she 
seemed to find childish diversion in pulling the feathers 
from the rents she had just made in the pillows and 
ranging them on the sheet according to their different 
species : her mind had strayed to other associations. 

"'That's a turkey's,' she murmured to herself, 'and 
.this is a wild duck's, and this is a pigeon's. Ah, they 
put pigeons' feathers in the pillows no wonder I couldn't 
*die ! Let me take care to throw it on the floor when I 
lie down. And here is a moorcock's ; and this I should 
know it among a thousand it's a lapwing's. Bonny 
bird ; wheeling over our heads in the middle of the 
moor. It wanted to get to its nest, for the clouds had 
touched the swells, and it felt rain coming. This feather 
was picked up from the heath, the bird was not shot : 
we saw its nest in the winter, full of little skeletons. 
Heathcliff set a trap over it and the old ones dare not 
come. I made him promise he'd never shoot a lap- 
wing after that, and he didn't. Yes, here are more ! 
Did he shoot my lapwings, Nelly ? Are they red, any 
of them ? Let me look.' 

" ' Give over with that baby-work ! ' I interrupted, 
-dragging the pillow away, and turning the holes towards 
.the mattress, for she was removing its contents by hand- 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS? 191 

fuls. ' Lie down and shut your eyes : you re wander- 
ing. There's a mess ! The down is flying about like 
snow.' 

" I went here and there collecting it. 

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

" ' The black press ? Where is that ? ' I asked. ' You 
are talking in your sleep.' 

"'It's against the wall as it always is,' she replied. 

* It does appear odd. I see a face in it ! ' 

" ' There's no press in the room and never was,' said I, 
resuming my seat, and looping up the curtain that I 
might watch her. 

"'Don't you see that face ?' she inquired, gazing 
earnestly at the mirror. 

"And say what I could I was incapable of making 
her comprehend it to be her own ; so I rose and covered 
it with a shawl. 

" ' It's behind there still ! ' she pursued, anxiously, 

* and it stirred. Who is it ? I hope it will not come out 
when you are gone. Oh, Nelly ! the room is haunted ! 
I'm afraid of being alone.' 

" I took her hand in mine, and bid her be composed, 
for a succession of shudders convulsed her frame, and 
she would keep straining her gaze towards the glass. 



I 9 2 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

" ' There's nobody here ! ' I insisted. ' It was yourself 
Mrs. Linton : you knew it a while since.' 

"'Myself!' she gasped, 'and the clock is striking- 
twelve. It's true then ! that's dreadful.' 

" Her fingers clutched the clothes, and gathered them 
over her eyes." 

This scene was the beginning of a long and fearful brain- 
fever, from which, owing to her husband's devoted and 
ceaseless care, Catharine recovered her life, but barely 
her reason. That hung in the balance, a touch might 
settle it on the side of health or of madness. Not until 
the beginning of this fever was Isabella's flight discovered. 
Her brother was too concerned with his wife's illness to 
feel as heart-broken as Heathcliff hoped. He was not 
violent against his sister, nor even angry ; only, with the 
mild steady persistence of his nature, he refused to hold 
any communication with HeathclifFs wife. But when, 
at the beginning of Catharine's recovery, Ellen Dean 
received a letter from Isabella, declaring the extreme 
wretchedness of her life at Wuthering Heights, where 
Heathcliff was master now, Edgar Linton willingly 
accorded the servant permission to go and see his sister. 

Arrived at Wuthering Heights, she found that once 
plentiful homestead sorely ruined and deteriorated by 
years of thriftless dissipation ; and Isabella Linton, 
already metamorphosed into a wan and listless slattern, 
broken-spirited and pale. As a pleasant means of 
entertaining his wife and her old servant, Heathclift 
discoursed on his love for Catharine and on his convic- 
tion that she could not really care for Edgar Linton. 

" * Catharine has a heart as deep as I have : the sea 
could be as readily contained in that horse-trough, as 
her whole affection monopolised by him. Tush ! He is 
scarcely a degree dearer to her than her dog or her 




' WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 193 

horse. It is not in him to be loved like me. How can 
she love in him what he has not ?' " 

Nelly Dean, unhindered by the sight of Isabella's 
misery, or by the memory of the wrongs her master al- 
ready suffered from this estimable neighbour, was finally 
cajoled into taking a letter from him to the frail half- 
dying Catharine, appointing an interview. For Heath- 
cliff persisted that he had no wish to make a disturbance, 
or to exasperate Mr. Linton, but merely to see his old 
playfellow again, to learn from her own lips how she was, 
and whether in anything he could serve her. 

The letter was taken and given ; the meeting came 
about one Sunday when all the household save Ellen 
Dean were at church. Catharine, pale, apathetic, but more 
than ever beautiful in her mazed weakness of mind and 
body ; Heathcliff, violent in despair, seeing death in her 
face, alternately upbraiding her fiercely for causing him 
so much misery, and tenderly caressing the altered, 
dying face. Never was so strange a love scene. It is 
not a scene to quote, not noticeable for its eloquent 
passages or the beauty of casual phrases, but for its 
sustained passion, desperate, pure, terrible. It must be 
read in its sequence and its entirety. Nor can I think of 
any parting more terrible, more penetrating in its 
anguish than this. Romeo and Juliet part ; but they 
have known each other but for a week. There is no 
scene that Heathcliff can look upon in which he has not 
played with Catharine : and, now that she is dying, he 
must not watch with her. Troilus and Cressida part ; 
but Cressida is false, and Troilus has his country left 
him. What country has Heathcliff, the outcast, nameless, 
adventurer ? Antonio and his Duchess ; but they have 
belonged to each other and been happy ; these two are 
eternally separate. Their passion is only heightened by 

O 



I 9 4 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

its absolute freedom from desire ; even the wicked and 
desperate Heathcliff has no ignoble love for Catharine ; 
all he asks is that she live, and that he may see her ; 
that she may be happy even if it be with Linton. " I 
would never have banished him from her society, while 
she desired his," asserts Heathcliff, and now she is mad 
with grief and dying. The consciousness of their 
strained and thwarted natures, moreover, makes us the 
more regretful they must sever. Had he survived, 
Romeo would have been happy with Rosalind, after 
all ; probably Juliet would have married Paris. But 
where will Heathcliff love again, the perverted, morose, 
brutalised Heathcliff, whose only human tenderness has 
been his love for the capricious, lively, beautiful young 
creature, now dazed, now wretched, now dying in his 
arms ? The very remembrance of his violence and cruelty 
renders more awful the spectacle of this man, sitting with 
his dying love, silent ; their faces hid against each other, 
and washed by each other's tears. 

At last they parted : Gatharine unconscious, half-dead. 
That night her puny, seven-months' child was born ; that 
night the mother died, unutterably changed from the 
bright imperious creature who entered that house as a 
kingdom, not yet a year ago. By her side, in the 
darkened chamber, her husband lay, worn out with 
anguish. Outside, dashing his head against the trees in 
a Berserker- wrath with fate, Heathcliff raged, not to be 
consoled. 

" ' Her senses never returned : she recognised nobody 
from the time you left her/ I said. ' She lies with a 
sweet smile upon her face, and her latest ideas wandered 
back to pleasant early days. Her life closed in a gentle 
dream may she wake as kindly in the other world ! ' 

" ' May she wake in torment ! ' he cried, with frightful 



WUTHERING HEIGHTS? 195 

vehemence, stamping his foot and groaning in a paroxysm 
of ungovernable passion. ' Why, she's a liar to the end ! 
Where is she ? Not there not in heaven not perished 
where ? Oh ! you said you cared nothing for my 
sufferings. And I pray one prayer. I repeat it till my 
tongue stiffens. Catharine Earnshaw, may you not rest 
as long as I am living. You said I killed you haunt 
me then ! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I 
believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. 
Be with me always take any form drive me mad ! 
only do not leave me in this abyss where I cannot find 
you ! Oh, God, it is unutterable ! I cannot live without 
my life. I cannot live without my soul.' 

" He dashed his head against the knotted trunk ; and, 
lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a 
savage beast being goaded to death with knives and 
spears. I observed several splashes of blood about the 
bark of the tree, and his hand and forehead were both 
stained ; probably the scene I witnessed was the repeti- 
tion of others acted during the night. It hardly moved 
my compassion, it appalled me." 

From this time a slow insidious madness worked in 
Heathcliff. When it was at its height he was not fierce, but 
strangely silent, scarcely breathing ; hushed, as a person 
who draws his breath to hear some sound only just not 
heard as yet, as a man who strains his eyes to see the 
speck on the horizon which will rise the next moment, 
the next instant, and grow into the ship that brings his 
treasure home. " When I sat in the house with Hareton, 
it seemed that on going out I should meet her ; when 
I walked on the moors, I should meet her coming in. 
When I went from home, I hastened to return ; she must 
be somewhere at the Heights I was certain ; and when 
I slept in her chamber I was beaten out of that. I 

O 2 



196 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

couldn't lie there ; for the moment I closed my eyes, 
she was either outside the window, or sliding back the 
panels, or entering the room, or even resting her darling 
head on the same pillow, as she did when a child ; and 
I must open my lids to see. And so I opened and 
closed them a hundred times a night to be always dis- 
appointed. It was a strange way of killing, not by 
inches, but by fractions of hairbreadths, to beguile me 
with the spectre of a hope through eighteen years." 
This mania of expectation stretching the nerves to their 
uttermost strain, relaxed sometimes ; and then Heath- 
cliff was dangerous. When filled with the thought of 
Catharine, the world was indifferent to him ; but when 
this possessing memory abated ever so little, he remem- 
bered that the world was his enemy, had cheated him of 
Catharine. Then avarice, ambition, revenge, entered 
into his soul, and his last state was worse than his first. 
Cruel, with the insane cruelty, the bloodmania of an 
Ezzelin, he never was ; his cruelties had a purpose, 
the sufferings of the victims were a detail not an end. 
Yet something of that despot's character, refined into 
torturing the mind and not the flesh, chaste, cruel, avari- 
cious of power, something of that Southern morbidness 
in crime, distinguishes Heathcliff from the villains of 
modern English tragedies. Placed in the Italian Renais- 
sance, with Cyril Tourneur for a chronicler, Heathcliff 
would not have awakened the outburst of incredulous 
indignation which greeted his appearance in a nineteenth 
century romance. 

Soon after the birth of the younger Catharine, Isabella 
Heathcliff escaped from her husband to the South of 
England. He made no attempt to follow her, and in 
her new home she gave birth to a son, Linton the fruit 
of timidity and hatred, fear and revulsion "from the 



WUTHERING HEIGHTS. 197 

first she reported him to 'be an ailing, peevish creature." 
Meanwhile little Catharine grew up the very light of 
her home, an exquisite creature with her father's gentle, 
constant nature inspired by a spark of her mother's fire 
and lightened by a gleam of her wayward caprice. She 
had the Earnshaws' handsome dark eyes and the Lintons' 
fair skin, regular features and curling yellow hair. " That 
capacity for intense attachments reminded me of her 
mother. Still she did not resemble her ; her anger was 
never furious ; her love never fierce ; it was deep and 
tender." Cathy was in truth a charming creature, though 
less passionate and strange a nature than Catharine 
Earnshaw, not made to be loved as wildly nor as deeply 
mistrusted. 

Edgar, grown a complete hermit, devoted himself to 
his child, who spent a life as happy and secluded as a 
princess in a fairy story, seldom venturing outside the 
limits of the park and never by herself. Edgar had never 
forgotten his sorrow for the death of his young wife ; he 
loved her memory with steady constancy. If and I 
think we may if we allow that every author has some 
especial quality with which, in more or less degree, he 
endows all his children if we grant that Shakespeare's 
people are all meditative, even the sprightly Rosalind 
and the clownish Dogberry if we allow that all our 
acquaintances in Dickens are a trifle self-conscious, in 
George Eliot conscientious to such an extent that even 
Tito Melema feels remorse for conduct which, granted his 
period and his character, would more naturally have 
given him satisfaction- then we must allow that Emily 
Bronte's special mark is constancy. Passionate, insane 
constancy in Heathcliff ; perverse, but intense in the elder 
Catharine ; steady and holy in Edgar Linton ; even the 
hard and narrow Ellen Dean ; even Joseph, the hypocritical 



198 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Pharisee, are constant until death. Wild Hindley Earn- 
shaw drinks himself to death for grief at losing his con- 
sumptive wife ; Hareton loves to the end the man who 
has usurped his place, degraded him, fed him on blows 
and exaction : and it is constancy in absence that em- 
bitters and sickens the younger Catharine. Even Isabella 
Heathcliff, weak as she is, is not fickle. Even Lintort 
Heathcliff, who, of all the characters in fiction, may 
share with Barnes Newcome the bad eminence of supreme 
unlovableness, even he loves his mother and Catharine, 
and, in his selfish way, loves them to the end. 

The years passed, nothing happened, save that Hindley 
Earnshaw died, and Heathcliff to whom every yard had 
been mortgaged, took possession of the place ; Hareton, 
who should have been the first gentleman in the neigh- 
bourhood, "being reduced to a state of complete depen- 
dence on his father's inveterate enemy, lives as a servant 
in his own house, deprived of the advantages of wages 
quite unable to right himself because of his friendlessnes^ 
and his ignorance that he has been wronged." 

The eventless years went by till Catharine was thirteen,, 
when Mrs. Heathcliff died, and Edgar went to the South 
of England to fetch her son. Little Cathy, during her 
father's absence, grew impatient of her confinement to 
the park ; there -was >no one to escort her over the moors, 
so one day she*leapt the fence, got lost, and was finally 
sheltered at Wuthering Heights, of which place and of 
all its inmates she had been kept in total ignorance. She 
promised to keep the visit a secret from her father, lest 
he should dismiss Ellen Dean. She was very indignant at 
being told that rudely-bred Hareton was her cousin ; and 
when that night Linton delicate, pretty, pettish Lintort 
arrived, she infinitely preferred his cousinship. 

The next morning she found Linton gone, his father 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 199 

having sent for him to Wuthering Heights ; Edgar Linton, 
however, did not tell his daughter that her cousin was so 
near, he would not for worlds she should cross the 
threshold of that terrible house. But one day, Cathy 
and Ellen Dean met HeathclirT on the moors, and he half 
persuaded, half forced them to -come home and see his 
son, grown a most despicable, puling, ailing creature, 
half-violent, half-terrified. Cathy's kind little heart did 
not see the faults, she only saw that her cousin was ill, 
unhappy, in need of her ; she was easily entrapped, one 
winter, when her father and Ellen Dean were both ill, into 
a secret engagement with this boy-cousin, the only lad, 
save uncouth Hareton, whom she had ever seen. 

Every night, when her day's nursing was done, she rode 
over to Wuthering Heights to pet and fondle Linton. 
HeathclirT did all he could to favour the plan. He knew 
his son was dying, notwithstanding that every care was 
taken to preserve the heir of Wuthering Heights and 
Thrushcross Grange. It is true that Cathy had a rival 
claim ; to marry her to Linton would be to secure the 
title, get a wife for his dying son to preserve the line of 
inheritance, and certainly to break Edgar Linton's heart. 
HeathclifFs love of revenge and love of power combined 
to make the scheme a thing to strive for and desire. 

He grew desperate as the boy got weaker and 
weaker ; it was but too likely that he would die before his 
dying uncle, and, if Edgar Linton survived, Thrushcross 
Grange was lost to HeathclirT. As a last resource he 
made his son write to Edgar Linton and beg for an 
interview on neutral ground. Edgar, who, ignorant of 
Linton HeathclirFs true character, saw no reason why 
Cathy should not marry her cousin if they loved each 
other, allowed Ellen Dean to take her little mistress, now 
seventeen years old, on to the moors where Linton 



200 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Heathcliff was to meet them. Cathy was loath to leave her 
father even for an hour, he was so ill ; but she had been 
told Linton was dying, so nerved herself to go once more 
on the moors : they found Linton in a strange state, terri- 
fied, exhausted, despondent, making spasmodic love to 
Cathy as if it were a lesson he had been beaten int 
learning. She wished to return, but the boy declared him 
self, and looked, too ill to go back alone. They escorted 
him home to the Heights, and Heathcliff persuaded them 
to enter, saying he would go for a doctor for his sick lad. 
But, once they were in the house, he showed his hand. 
The doors were bolted ; the servants and Hareton away. 
Neither tears nor prayers would induce him to let his 
victims go till Catharine was Linton's wife, and so, he told 
her, till her father had died in solitude. But five days 
after, Catharine Linton, now Catharine Heathcliff, con- 
trived an escape in time to console her father's dying 
hours with a false belief in her happiness ; a noble lie, 
for Edgar Linton died contented, kissing his daughter's 
cheek, ignorant of the misery in store for her. 

The next day Heathcliff came over to the Grange to 
recapture his prey, but now Catharine did not mind ; 
her father dead, she received all the affronts and stings of 
fate with an enduring apathy ; it was only her that they 
injured. A few days after Linton died in the night, alone 
with his bride. After a year's absolute misery and lone- 
liness, Catharine's lot was a little lightened by Mr. Heath- 
cliff's preferring Ellen Dean to the vacant post of house- 
keeper at Wuthering Heights. 

For the all-absorbing presence of Catharine Earn- 
shaw had nearly secluded Heathcliff from enmity with 
the world ; he was seldom violent now. He became yet 
more and more disinclined to society, sitting alone, 
seldom eating, often walking about the whole night. 



' WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 201 

His face changed, and the look of brooding hate gavel 
way to a yet more alarming expression an excited,! 
wild, unnatural appearance of joy. He complained of\ 
no illness, yet he was very pale, bloodless, " and his teeth \ 
visible now and then in a kind of smile ; his frame \ 
shivering, not as one shivers with chill or weakness, | 
but as a tight-stretched cord vibrates a strong thrilling, ' 
rather than trembling." At last his mysterious absorp- 
tion, the stress of his expectation, became so intense that 
he could not eat. Animated with hunger, he would sit V 
down to his meal, then suddenly start, as if he saw 
something, glance at the door or the window and go 
out. Weary and pale, he could not sleep ; but left his 
bed hurriedly, and went out to pace the garden till break 
of day. " ' It is not my fault,' he replied, ' that I cannot 
eat or rest. I assure you it is through no settled design. 
I'll do both as soon as I possibly can. But you might 
as well bid a man struggling in the water rest within 
arm's-length of the shore. I must reach it first and then 
I'll rest. As to repenting of my injustices, I've done no 
injustice and I repent of nothing. I'm too happy, and 
yet I'm not happy enough. My soul's bliss kills my 
body, but does not satisfy itself.' " 

Meanwhile the schemes of a life, the deeply-laid 
purposes of his revenge, were toppling unheeded all round 
him, like a house of cards. His son was dead. Hareton 
Earnshaw, the real heir of Wuthering Heights, and 
Catharine, the real heir of Thmshcross Grange, had 
fallen in love with each other. [A most unguessed-at 
and unlikely finale ; yet most natural. For Catharine was 
spoiled, accomplished, beautiful, proud yet most affec- 
tionate and tender-hearted : and Hareton rude, surly, 
ignorant, fierce ; yet true as steeL staunch, and with_a^ 
very loving faithful heart, constant^yen to the man who 



202 EMILY BRONTE. 

had, of set purpose, brutalised him and kept him in servi- 
tude. " ' Hareton is damnably fond of me ! ' laughed 
Heathcliff. 'You'll own that I've out-matched Hindlejr 
there. If the dead villain could rise from the grave to 
abuse me for his offspring's wrongs, I should have the 
fun of seeing the said offspring fight him back again, 
indignant that he should dare to rail at the one friend 
he has in the world.' 

" ' He'll never be able to emerge from his bathos of 
coarseness and ignorance,' " cried Heathcliff in exultation ;, 
but love can do as much as hatred. Heathcliff, himself 
as great a boor at twenty, contrived to rub off his 
clownishness in order to revenge himself upon his 
enemies; Cahajine_^JnJtojQ!s_Jpj^e_ inspired Hareton 

This odd, rough love-story, as harshly- 



sweet as wortle-berries, as dry and stiff in its beauty as 
purple heather-sprays, is the most purely human, the 
only tender interest of Wuthering Heights. It is the 
necessary and lawful anti-climax to Heathcliffs triumph, 
the final reassertion of JJie prrejninence_of right. " Con- 
quered good, and conquering ill " is often pitiably true ;. 
but not an everlasting law, only a too frequent accident. 
Perceiving this, Emily Bronte shows the final discomfi- 
ture of Heathcliff, who, kinless and kithless, was in the end 
compelled to see the property he haj so cruelly amassed 
descend to his hereditary enemies. Aiid_he_wajjDanled, 
not so much by Cathy *s_and Hareton's love affairs as by. 
this sudden reaction from violence, this slackening of 
the heartstrings, which left him nerveless and anaemic, 
a, prey to encroaching monomania. He^a^_spejjt_his 
life in crushing the berries for his revenge, in mixing 
that dark and maddening draught ; and when the final 
moment came, when he lifted it to his lips, desire had left 
him, he had no taste for it 



WUTHERING HEIGHTS: 203 

]" I've done v$ jpjimtir^." said Heathcliff ; and though 
his life had been animated by hate, revenge and passion, 
let us reflect who have been his victims. Not the old 
Squire who first sheltered him ; for the old man never 
lived to know his favourite's baseness, and only derived 
comfort from his presence. Catharine Earnshaw suffered, 
not from the character of her lover, but because she mar- 
ried a man she merely liked, with her eyes open to the 
fact that she was thereby wronging the man she loved, 
" You deserve this," said Heathcliff, when she was dying., 
" You have killed yourself. Because misery and degra- 
dation and death, and nothing that God or Satan could 
inflict would ever have parted us : you, of your own will, 
did it." Not the morality of May fair, but one whose 
lessons, stern and grim enough, must ever be sorrowfully 
patent to such erring and passionate spirits. The third of 
Heathcliff 's victims then, or rather the first, was Hindley 
Earnshaw. But if Hindley had not already been a 
gamester and a drunkard, a violent and soulless man, 
Heathcliff could have gained no power over him. Hindley 
welcomed Heathcliff, as Faustus the Devil, because he 
could gratify his evil desires ; because, in his presence, 
there was no need to remember shame, nor high purposes, 
nor forsaken goodness ; and when the end comes, and he 
shall forfeit his soul, let him remember that there were 
two at that bargain.7 

Isabella Lintoirwas the most pitiable -sufferer. Victim 
we can scarcely call her, who required no deception, but 
courted her doom. And after all, a marriage chiefly 
desired in order to humiliate a sister-in-law and show 
the bride to be a person of importance, was not intoler- 
ably requited by three months of wretched misery ; after 
so much she is suffered to escape. From Edgar Linton, 
as we have seen, Heathcliff's blows fell aside unharming, 



204 EMIL Y BRONT&. 

as the executioner's strokes from a legendary martyr. 
He never learnt how secondary a place he held in 
his wife's heart, he never knew the misery of his 
only daughter misery soon to be turned into joy. 
He lived and died, patient, happy, trustful, unvisited by 
the violence and fury that had their centre so near his 
hearth. 

{The younger Catharine and Hareton suffered but a 
temporary ill ; the misery they endured together taught 
them to love ; the tyrant's rod had blossomed into roses. 
And he, lonely and palsied at heart, eating out his 
soul in bitter solitude, he saw his plans of vengeance 
all frustrated, so much elaboration so simply counter- 
acted ; it was he that suffers^ 

He suffered now : and Catharine Earnshaw who helped 
him to ruin by her desertion, and Hindley who perverted 
him by early oppression, they suffered at his hands. 
But not the sinless, the constant, the noble ; misery, in 
the end, shifts its dull mists before the light of such clear 
spirits : TO, ^pda'avri irdOeiv. 

" ( It is a poor conclusion, is it not ? ' said Heathcliff, 
* an absurd termination to my violent exertions. I get 
levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and 
train myself to be capable of working like Hercules, and 
when everything is ready and in my power, I find the 

will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished.' 

****** 

" Five minutes ago Hareton seemed to be a personifica- 
tion of my youth, not a human being : I felt to him in 
such a variety of ways that it would have been impos- 
sible to have accosted him rationally. In the first place, 
his startling likeness to Catharine connected him fearfully 
with her. That, however, which you may suppose the 
most potent to arrest my imagination is in reality the 



WUTHERING HEIGHTS! 205: 

least : for what is not connected with her to me ? and 
what does not recall her ? I cannot look down to the 
floor but her features are shaped in the flags ! In every 
cloud, in every tree filling the air by night and caught 
by glimpses in every object by day I am surrounded 
by her image. The most ordinary faces of men and 
women my own features mock me with a resemblance. 
The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda 
that she did exist, and that I have lost her! Well, 
Hareton's aspect was the ghost of my immortal love ; 
of my wild endeavours to hold my right ; my degrada- 
tion, my pride, my happiness, and my anguish 

" But it is frenzy to repeat these thoughts to you : 
only it will let you know why, with a reluctance to be 
always alone, his society is no benefit ; rather an aggra- 
vation of the constant torment I suffer ; and it partly 
contributes to render me regardless how he and his> 
cousin go on together. I can give them no attention 
any more." 

[Sweet, forward Catharine and coy, passionate Hareton 
got on very prettily together. I can recall no more touch- 
ing and lifelike scene than that first love-making of theirs, 
one rainy afternoon, in the kitchen where Nelly Dean is 
ironing the linen. Hareton, sulky and miserable, sitting 
by the fire, hurt by a gunshot wound, but yet more by 
the manifold rebuffs of pretty Cathy. She, with all her 
sauciness, limp in the dull, wet weather, coaxing him into 
good temper with the sweetest advancing graces. It is 
strange that in speaking of 'Wuthering Heights' this 
beautiful episode should be so universally forgotten, 
and only the violence and passion of more terrible 
passages associated with Emily Bronte's name. Yet, 
out of the strong cometh forth the sweet ; and the best 
honey from the dry heather-bells;"V 



2o6 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Meanwhile, Heathcliff let them go on, frightening 
them more by his strange mood of abstraction than by 
his accustomed ferocity. 

He could give them no attention any more. For four 
days he could neither eat nor rest, till his cheeks grew 
hollow and his eyes bloodshot, like a person starving 
with hunger, and growing blind with loss of sleep. 

At last one early morning, when the rain was streaming 
in at HeathclifFs flapping lattice, Nelly Dean, like a 
good housewife, went in to shut it to. The master must 
be up or out, she said. But pushing back the panels ot 
the inclosed bed, she found him there, laid on his back, 
his open eyes keen and fierce ; quite still, though his face 
and throat were washed with rain ; quite still, with a 
frightful, lifelike gaze of exultation under his brows, with 
parted lips and sharp white teeth that sneered quite 
still and harmless now ; dead and stark. 

Dead, before any vengeance had overtaken him other 
than the^slow, retributive sufferings of his own breast ; 
dead, slain by too much hope, and an unnatural joy. 
Never before had any villain so strange an end ; never 
before had any sufferer so protracted and sinister a 
torment, " beguiled with the spectre of a hope through 
eighteen years." 

No more public nor authoritative punishment. Hareton 
passionately mourned his lost tyrant, weeping in bitter 
earnest, and kissing the sarcastic, savage face that every 
one else shrunk from contemplating. And HeathclifFs 
memory was sacred, having in the youth he ruined a most 
valiant defender. Even Catharine might never bemoan 
his wickednesses to her husband. 

No execrations in this world or the next ; a great 
quiet envelops him. His violence was not strong enough 
to reach that final peace and mar its completeness. His 



WUTHERING HEIGHTS* 207 

grave is next to Catharine's, and near to Edgar Linton's ; 
over them all the wild bilberry springs, and the peat- 
moss and heather. They do not reck of the passion, the 
capricious sweetness, the steady goodness that lie under- 
neath. It is all one to them and to the larks singing 
.aloft. 

~^ " I lingered round the graves under that benign sky ; 
watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare- 
bells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the 
grass ; and wondered how any one could ever imagine 
unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth." 

So ends the story of Wuthering Heights. 

The world is now_agreed to accept that story as a 
great and tragic study of passion and sorrow, a wild 
picture of storm and moorland, of outraged goodness and 
ingratitude. The world which has crowned ' King Lear ' 
< with immortality, keeps a lesser wreath for ' Wuthering 
Heights.' But in 1848, the peals of triumph which 
acclaimed the success of 'Jane Eyre' had no echo for 
the work of Ellis Bell. That strange genius, brooding 
and foreboding, intense and narrow, was passed over, dis- 
regarded. One author, indeed, in one review, Sydney 
Dobell, in the Palladium spoke nobly and clearly of 
the energy and genius of this book ; but when that 
-clarion augury of fame at last was sounded, Emily did 
not hear. Two years before they had laid her in the 
tomb. 

No praise for Ellis Bell. It is strange to think that of 
Charlotte's two sisters it was Anne who had the one 
short draught of exhilarating fame. When the ' Tenant 
-of Wildfell Hall ' was in proof, Ellis's and Acton's pub- 
lisher sold it to an American firm as the last and finest 
production of the author of ' Jane Eyre ' and ' Wuther- 
ing Heights.' Strange, that even a publisher could so 



2o8 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

blunder, even for his own interest. However, this mis- 
take caused sufficient confusion at Cornhill to make it 
necessary that the famous Charlotte, accompanied by 
Anne, in her quality of secondary and mistakable genius, 
should go to town and explain their separate existence. 
No need to disturb the author of ' Wuthering Heights/ 
that crude work of a 'prentice hand, over whose reproduc- 
tion no publishers quarrelled ; such troublesome honours 
were not for her. 

" Yet," says Charlotte, " I must not be understood to 
make these things subject for reproach or complaint ; I 
dare not do so ; respect for my sister's memory forbids 
me. By her any such querulous manifestation would 
have been regarded as an unworthy and offensive weak- 
ness." 

When, indeed, did the murmur of complaint pass those 
pale, inspired lips ? Failure can have come to her with 
no shock of aghast surprise. All her plans had failed ; 
Branwell's success, the school, her poems : her strong 
will, had not carried them on to success. 

But though it could not bring success, it could support 
her against despair. When this last, dearest, strongest 
work of hers was weighed in the world's scales and found 
wanting, she did not sigh, resign herself, and think the 
battle over ; she would have fought again. 

But the battle was over, over before victory was de- 
clared. No more failures, no more strivings for that 
brave spirit. It was in July that Charlotte and Anne 
returned from London, in July when the heather is in 
bud ; scarce one last withered spray was left in Decem- 
ber to place on Emily's deathbed. 



( 209 ) 



CHAPTER XVI. 

' SHIRLEY.' 

WHILE ' Wuthering Heights ' was still in the reviewer's 
hands, Emily Bronte's more fortunate sister was busy on 
another novel. This book has never attained the steady 
success of her masterpiece, * Villette,' neither did it meet 
with the furor which greeted the first appearance of 
'Jane Eyre.' It is, indeed, inferior to either work ; a 
very quiet study of Yorkshire life, almost pettifogging 
in its interest in ecclesiastical squabbles, almost absurd 
in the feminine inadequacy of its heroes. And yet 
' Shirley ' has a grace and beauty of its own. This 
it derives from the charm of its heroines Caroline 
Helstone, a lovely portrait in character of Charlotte's 
dearest friend, and Shirley herself, a fancy likeness of 
Emily Bronte. 

Emily Bronte, but under very different conditions. 
No longer poor, no longer thwarted, no longer acquainted 
with misery and menaced by untimely death ; not thus, 
but as a loving sister would fain have seen her, beautiful, 
triumphant, the spoiled child of happy fortune. Yet in 
these altered circumstances Shirley keeps her likeness 
to Charlotte's hardworking sister ; the disguise, haply 
baffling those who, like Mrs. Gaskell, "have not a 
pleasant impression of Emily Bronte," is very easily 
penetrated by those who love her. Under the pathetic 
finery so lovingly bestowed, under the borrowed splen- 

P 



210 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

dours of a thousand a year, a lovely face, an ancestral 
manor-house, we recognise our hardy and headstrong 
heroine, and smile a little sadly at the inefficiency of this 
masquerade of grandeur, so indifferent and unnecessary 
to her. We recognise Charlotte's sister ; but not the 
author of 'Wuthering Heights.'. Through these years 
we discern the brilliant heiress to be a person of infinitely 
inferior importance to the ill-dressed and overworked 
Vicar's daughter. Imperial Shirley, no need to wave 
your majestic wand, we have bowed to it long ago un- 
blinded ; and all its illusive splendours are not so potent 
as that worn-down goose-quill which you used to wield 
in the busy kitchen of your father's parsonage. 

Yet without that admirable portrait we should have 
scant warrant for our conception of Emily Bronte's 
character. Her work is singularly impersonal. You 
gather from it that she loved the moors, that from her 
youth up the burden of a tragic fancy had lain hard 
upon her ; that she had seen the face of sorrow close, 
meeting that Medusa-glance with rigid and defiant forti- 
tude. So much we learn ; but this is very little a one- 
sided truth and therefore scarcely a truth at all. 

Charlotte's portrait gives us another view, and fortu- 
nately there are still a few alive of the not numerous 
friends of Emily Bronte. Every trait, every reminiscence 
paints in darker, clearer lines, the impression of character 
which ' Shirley ' leaves upon us. Shirley is indeed the 
exterior Emily, the Emily that was to be met and known 
thirty-five years ago, only a little polished, with the 
angles a little smoothed, by a sister's anxious care. The 
nobler Emily, deeply-suffering, brooding, pitying, creat- 
ing, is only to be found in a stray word here and there, 
a chance memory, a happy answer, gathered from the 
pages of her work, and the loving remembrance of her 



1 SHIRLEY: 2 u 

friends ; but these remnants are so direct, unusual, 
personal, and characteristic, this outline is of so decided 
a type, that it affects us more distinctly than many 
stippled and varnished portraits do. 

But to know how Emily Bronte looked, moved, sat 
and spoke, we still return to * Shirley/ A host of 
corroborating memories start up in turning the pages. 
Who but Emily was always accompanied by a " rather 
large, strong, and fierce-looking dog, very ugly, being of 
a breed between a mastiff and a bulldog ? " it is familiar 
to us as Una's lion ; we do not need to be told, Currer 
Bell, that she always sat on the hearthrug of nights, 
with her hand on his head, reading a book ; we remem- 
ber well how necessary it was to secure him as an ally in 
winning her affection. Has not a dear friend informed 
us that she first obtained Emily's heart by meeting, 
without apparent fear or shrinking, Keeper's huge springs 
of demonstrative welcome ? 

Certainly " Captain Keeldar," with her cavalier airs, 
her ready disdain, her love of independence, does bring 
back with vivid brilliance the memory of our old ac- 
quaintance, "the Major." We recognise that pallid 
slimness, masking an elastic strength which seems im- 
penetrable to fatigue and we sigh, recalling a passage 
in Anne's letters, recording how, when rheumatism, 
coughs, and influenza made an hospital of Haworth 
Vicarage during the visitations of the dread east wind, 
Emily alone looked on and wondered why anyone 
should be ill "she considers it a very uninteresting 
wind ; it does not affect her nervous system." We know 
her, too, by her kindness to her inferiors. A hundred 
little stories throng our minds. Unforgotten delicacies 
made with her own hands for her servant's friend, yet- 
remembered visits of Martha's little cousin to the kitchen, 

P 2 



212 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

where Miss Emily would bring in her own chair for the 
ailing girl ; anecdotes of her early rising through many 
years to do the hardest work, because the first servant 
was too old, and the second too young to get up so soon ; 
and she, Emily, was so strong. A hundred little sacri- 
fices, dearer to remembrance than Shirley's open purse, 
awaken in our hearts and remind us that, after all, 
Emily was the nobler and more lovable heroine of the 
twain. 

How characteristic, too, the touch that makes her 
scornful of all that is dominant, dogmatic, avowedly 
masculine in the men of her acquaintance ; and gentle- 
ness itself to the poetic Philip Nunnely, the gay, boyish 
Mr. Sweeting, the sentimental Louis, the lame, devoted 
boy-cousin who -loves her in pathetic canine fashion. 
That courage, too, was hers. Not only Shirley's flesh, 
but Emily's, felt the tearing fangs of the mad dog to 
whom she had charitably offered food and water ; not 
only Shirley's flesh, but hers, shrank from the light 
scarlet, glowing tip of the Italian iron with which she 
straightway cauterised the wound, going quickly into the 
laundry and operating on herself without a word to any 
one. 

Emily, also, singlehanded and unarmed, punished her 
great bulldog for his household misdemeanours, in de- 
fiance of an express warning not to strike the brute, lest 
his uncertain temper should rouse him to fly at the 
striker's throat. And it was she who fomented his 
bruises. This prowess and tenderness of Shirley's is an 
old story to us. 

And Shirley's love of picturesque and splendid raiment 
is not without an echo in our memories. It was Emily 
who, shopping in Bradford with Charlotte and her friend, 
chose a white stuff patterned with lilac thunder and light- 




'SHIRLEY: 213 

ning, to the scarcely concealed horror of her more sober 
companions. And she looked well in it ; a tall, lithe 
creature, with a grace half-queenly, half-untamed in her 
sudden, supple movements, wearing with picturesque 
negligence her ample purple-splashed skirts ; her face 
clear and pale ; her very dark and plenteous brown hair 
fastened up behind with a Spanish comb ; her large 
grey-hazel eyes, now full of indolent, indulgent humour, 
now glimmering with hidden meanings, now quickened 
into flame by a flash of indignation, " a red ray piercing 
the dew." 

She, too, had Shirley's taste for the management of 
business. We remember Charlotte's disquiet when Emily 
insisted on investing Miss Branwell's legacies in York 
and Midland Railway shares. " She managed, in a most 
handsome and able manner for me when I was in 
Brussels, and prevented by distance from looking after 
our interests, therefore I will let her manage still and 
take the consequences. 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 perfec- 
tion is not the lot of humanity, and, as long as we can 
regard those whom 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 headstrong and unreasonable notions." * 

So speaks the kind elder sister, the author of ' Shirley.' 
But there are some who will never love either type or 
portrait. Sydney Dobell spoke a bitter half-truth when, 
ignorant of Shirley's real identity, he declared : "We 
have only to imagine Shirley Keeldar poor to imagine 
her repulsive." The silenced pride, the thwarted gene- 
rosity, the unspoken power, the contained passion of 
* Mrs. Gaskell. 



2 14 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

such a nature are not qualities which touch the world 
when it finds them in an obscure and homely woman. 
Even now, very many will not love a heroine so in- 
dependent of their esteem. They will resent the frank 
imperiousness, caring not to please, the unyielding 
strength, the absence of trivial submissive tendernesses, 
for which she makes amends by such large humane and 
generous compassion. "In Emily's nature," says her 
sister, " the extremes of vigour and simplicity seemed to> 
meet. Under an unsophisticated culture, inartificial taste 
and an unpretending outside, lay a power and fire that 
might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of 
a hero; but she had no worldly wisdom her powers 
were unadapted to the practical business of life she 
would fail to defend her most manifest rights, to consult 
her legitimate advantage. An interpreter ought always 
to have stood between her and the world. Her will was 
not very flexible and it generally opposed her interest. 
Her temper was magnanimous, but warm and sudden ;, 
her spirit altogether unbending." * 

So speaks Emily's inspired interpreter, whose genius 
has not made her sister popular. 'Shirley' is not a 
favourite with a modern public. Emily Bronte was born 
out of date. Athene, leading the nymphs in their head- 
long chase down the rocky spurs of Olympus, and stop- 
ping in full career to lift in her arms the weanlings, 
tender as dew, or the chance-hurt cubs of the moun- 
tain, might have chosen her as her hunt-fellow. Or 
Brunhilda, the strong Valkyr, dreading the love of man,, 
whose delight is battle and the wild summits of hills,, 
forfeiting her immortality to shield the helpless and the 
weak ; she would have recognised the kinship of this 
last-born sister. But we moderns care not for these, 
* ' Biographical Notice.' C. Bronte. 



' SHIRLEY: 215 

Our heroines are Juliet, Desdemona and Imogen, our 
examples Dorothea Brooke and Laura Pendennis, women 
whose charm is a certain fragrance of affection. ' Shirley' 
is too independent for our taste ; and, for the rest, we 
are all in love with Caroline Helstone. 

Disinterested, headstrong, noble Emily Bronte, at this 
time, while your magical sister was weaving for you, 
with golden words, a web of fate as fortunate as dreams, 
the true Norns were spinning a paler shrouding gar- 
ment. You were never to see the brightest things in 
life. Sisterly love, free solitude, unpraised creation, were 
to remain your most poignant joys. No touch of love, 
no hint of fame, no hours of ease, lie for you across the 
knees of Fate. Neither rose nor laurel will be shed on 
your coffined form. Meanwhile, your sister writes and 
dreams for Shirley. Terrible difference between ideas 
and truth ; wonderful magic of the unreal to take their 
sting from the veritable wounds we endure ! 

Neither rose nor laurel will we lay reverently for 
remembrance over the tomb where you sleep ; but the 
flower that was always your own, the wild, dry heather. 
You, who were, in your sister's phrase, "moorish, wild 
and knotty as a root of heath," you grew to your own 
perfection on the waste where no laurel rustles its 
polished leaves, where no sweet, fragile rose ever opened 
in the heart of June. The storm and the winter dark- 
ness, the virgin earth, the blasting winds of March, 
would have slain them utterly ; but all these served to 
make the heather light and strong, to flush its bells with 
a ruddier purple, to fill its cells with honey more pun- 
gently sweet. The cold wind and wild earth make the 
heather; it would not grow in the sheltered meadows. 
And you, had you known the fate that love would have 
chosen, you too would not have thrived in your full bloom. 



2 1 6 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Another happy, prosperous north-country matron would 
be dead. But now you live, still singing of freedom, the 
undying soul, of courage and loneliness, another voice 
in the wind, another glory on the mountain-tops, Emily 
Bronte, the author of ' Wuthering Heights.' 



C 217 ) 



CHAPTER XVII. 
BRANWELL'S END. 

THE autumn of the year 1848 was tempestuous and 
wild, with sudden and frequent changes of temperature, 
and cold penetrating wind. Those chilling blasts whirl- 
ing round the small grey parsonage on its exposed hill- 
top, brought sickness in their train. Anne and Charlotte 
drooped and languished ; Branwell, too, was ill. His 
constitution seemed shattered by excesses which he had 
not the resolution to forego. Often he would sleep most 
-of the day ; or at least sit dosing hour after hour in a 
lethargy of weakness ; but with the night this apathy 
would change to violence and suffering. " Papa, and 
sometimes all of us have sad nights with him," writes 
Charlotte in the last days of July. 

Yet, so well the little household knew the causes of 
this reverse, no immediate danger was suspected. He 
was weak, certainly, and his appetite failed ; but opium- 
eaters are not strong nor hungry. Neither Branwell 
himself, nor his relations, nor any physician consulted 
in his case thought it one of immediate danger ; it 
seemed as if this dreary life might go on for ever, 
marking its hours by a perpetual swing and rebound of 
excess and suffering. 

During this melancholy autumn Mr. Grundy was 
staying at Skipton, a town about seventeen miles from 



2 1 8 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Haworth. Mindful of his old friend, he invited Bran- 
well to be his guest ; but the dying youth was too weak 
to make even that little journey, although he longed for 
the excitement of change. Mr. Grundy was so much 
moved by the miserable tone of Branwell's letter that he 
drove over to Haworth to see for himself what ailed his 
old companion. He was very shocked at the change. 
Pale, sunk, tremulous, utterly wrecked ; there was no 
hope for Branwell now ; he had again taken to eating, 
opium. 

Anything for excitement, for a variation to his inces- 
sant sorrow. Weak as he was, and scarcely able to leave 
his bed, he craved piteously for an appointment of any 
kind, any reason for leaving Haworth, for getting quit of 
his old thoughts, any post anywhere for Heaven's sake 
so it were out of their whispering. He had not long, 
to wait. 

Later in that cold and bleak September Mr. Grundy 
again visited Haworth. He sent to the Vicarage for 
Branwell, and ordered dinner and a fire to welcome him ;. 
the room looked cosy and warm. While Mr. Grundy 
sat waiting for his guest, the Vicar was shown in. He, 
too, was strangely altered ; much of his old stiffness of 
manner gone ; and it was with genuine affection that he 
spoke of Branwell, and almost with despair that he 
touched on his increasing miseries. When Mr. Grundy's 
message had come, the poor, self-distraught sufferer had 
been lying ill in bed, apparently too weak to move ; but 
the feverish restlessness which marked his latter years 
was too strong to resist the chance of excitement. He 
had insisted upon coming, so his father said, and would 
immediately be ready. Then the sorrowful half-blind 
old gentleman made his adieus to his son's host, and left 
the inn. 



BRANWELDS END. 

"Presently the door opened cautiously, and a head 
appeared. It was a mass of red, unkempt, uncut hair, 
wildly floating round a great, gaunt forehead ; the cheeks 
yellow and hollow, the mouth fallen, the thin white lips 
not trembling but shaking, the sunken eyes, once small,, 
now glaring with the light of madness all told the sad 
tale but too surely. I hastened to my friend, greeted 
him in my gayest manner, as I knew he best liked, drew 
him quickly into the room, and forced upon him a stiff 
glass of hot brandy. Under its influence and that of 
the bright, cheerful surroundings, he looked frightened 
frightened of himself. He glanced at me a moment, 
and muttered something of leaving a warm bed to come 
out in the cold night. Another glass of brandy, and 
returning warmth gradually brought him back to some- 
thing like the Bronte of old. He even ate some dinner, 
a thing which he said he had not done for long ; so our 
last interview was pleasant though grave. I never knew 
his intellect clearer. He described himself as waiting 
anxiously for death indeed, longing for it, and happy,, 
in these his sane moments, to think it was so near. He 
once again declared that that death would be due to the 
story I knew, and to nothing else. 

" When at last I was compelled to leave, he quietly 
drew from his coat-sleeve a carving-knife, placed it on 
the table, and, holding me by both hands, said that, 
having given up all hopes of ever seeing me again, he 
imagined when my message came that it was a call from 
Satan. Dressing himself, he took the knife which he had 
long secreted, and came to the inn, with a full determi- 
nation to rush into the room and stab the occupant. In 
the excited state of his mind, he did not recognise me 
when he opened the door, but my voice and manner 
conquered him, and * brought him home to himself,' as 



220 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

he expressed it. I left him standing bare-headed in the 
road with bowed form and dropping tears." * 

He went home, and a few days afterwards he died. 
That little intervening time was happier and calmer 
than any he had known for years ; his evil habits, his 
hardened feelings slipped, like a mask, from the soul 
already touched by the final quiet. He was singularly 
altered and softened, gentle and loving to the father and 
sisters who had borne so much at his hands. It was as 
though he had awakened from the fierce delirium of a 
fever; weak though he was and shattered, they could 
again recognise in him their Branwell of old times, the 
hope and promise of all their early dreams. Neither they 
nor he dreamed that the end was so near ; he had often 
talked of death, but now that he stood in the shadow ot 
its wings, he was unconscious of that subduing presence. 
And it is pleasant to think that the sweet demeanour of 
his last days was not owing to the mere cowardly fear of 
death ; but rather a return of the soul to its true self, a 
natural dropping-off of all extraneous fever and error, 
before the suffering of its life should close. Half an 
hour before he died Branwell was unconscious of danger ; 
he was out in the village two days before, and was only 
confined to bed one single day. The next morning was 
a Sunday, the twenty-fourth of September. Branwell 
awoke to it perfectly conscious, and through the holy 
quiet of that early morning he lay, troubled by neither 
fear nor suffering, while the bells of the neighbouring 
church, the neighbouring tower whose fabulous antiquity 
had furnished him with many a boyish pleasantry, called 
the villagers to worship, They all knew him, all as they 
passed the house would look up and wonder if "t* 
Vicar's Patrick " were better or worse. But those of the 
* ' Pictures of the Past.' 




BRANWELDS END. 22 r 

Parsonage were not at church : they watched in Bran- 
well's hushed and peaceful chamber. 

Suddenly a terrible change came over the quiet face ; 
there was no mistaking the sudden, heart-shaking 
summons. And now Charlotte sank ; always nervous 
a/id highly strung, the mere dread of what might be to 
cpme, laid her prostrate. They led her away, and for a 
week she kept her bed in sickness and fever. But Bran- 
well, the summoned, the actual sufferer, met death with 
a different face. He insisted upon getting up ; if he had 
succumbed to the horrors of life he would defy the 
horrors of extinction ; he would die as he thought no 
one had ever died before, standing. So, like some an- 
cient Celtic hero, when the last agony began, he rose 
to his feet ; hushed and awe-stricken, the old father, 
praying Anne, loving Emily, looked on. He rose to his 
feet and died erect after twenty minutes' struggle. 

They found his pockets filled with the letters of the 
woman he had so passionately loved. 

He was dead, this Branwell who had wrung the hearts 
of his household day by day, who drank their tears as 
wine. He was dead, and now they mourned him with 
acute and bitter pain. "All his vices were and are 
nothing now ; we remember only his woes," writes Char- 
lotte. They buried him in the same vault that had been 
opened twenty-three years ago to receive the childish, 
wasted corpses of Elizabeth and Maria. Sunday came 
round, recalling minute by minute the ebbing of his life, 
and Emily Bron,te, pallid and dressed in black, can 
scarcely have heard her brother's funeral sermon for 
looking at the stone which hid so many memories, such 
useless compassion. She took her brother's death very 
much to heart, growing thin and pale and saying nothing. 
She had made an effort to go to church that Sunday, and 



222 



EMILY BRONTE. 



as she sat there, quiet and hollow-eyed, perhaps she felt 
it was well that she had looked upon his resting-place, 
upon the grave where so much of her heart was buried. 
For, after his funeral, she never rallied ; a cold and 
cough, taken then, gained fearful hold upon her, and 
she never went out of doors after that memorable 
Sunday. 

But looking on her quiet, uncomplaining eyes, you 
would not have guessed so much. 

" Emily and Anne are pretty well," says Charlotte, on 
the ninth of October, " though Anne is always delicate 
and Emily has a cold and cough at present" 



CHAPTER XVIII. 
EMILY'S DEATH. 

ALREADY by the 2Qth of October of this melancholy 
year of 1848 Emily's cough and cold had made such 
progress as to alarm her careful elder sister. Before 
Bran-well's death she had been, to all appearance, the 
one strong member of a delicate family. By the side 
of fragile Anne (already, did they but know it, advanced 
in tubercular consumption), of shattered Branwell, of 
Charlotte, ever nervous and ailing, this tall, muscular 
Emily had appeared a tower of strength. Working 
early and late, seldom tired and never complaining, 
finding her best relaxation in long, rough walks on the 
moors, she seemed unlikely to give them any poignant 
anxiety. But the seeds of phthisis lay deep down 
beneath this fair show of life and strength ; the shock 
of sorrow which she experienced for her brother's death 
developed them with alarming rapidity. 

The weariness of absence had always proved too much 
for Emily's strength. Away from home we have seen 
how she pined and sickened. Exile made her thin and 
wan, menaced the very springs of life. And now she 
must endure an inevitable and unending absence, an 
exile from which there could be no return. The strain 
was too tight, the wrench too sharp: Emily could not 
bear it and live. In such a loss as hers, bereaved of a 
helpless sufferer, the mourning of those who remain is 



224 EMILY BRONTE. 

embittered and quickened a hundred times a day wheu 
the blank minutes come round for which the customary 
duties are missing, when the unwelcome leisure hangs 
round the weary soul like a shapeless and encumbering 
garment. It was Emily who had chiefly devoted her- 
self to Branwell. He being dead, the motive of her life 
seemed gone. 

Had she been stronger, had she been more careful of 
herself at the beginning of her illness, she would doubt- 
less have recovered, and we shall never know the differ- 
ence in our literature which a little precaution might 
have made. But Emily was accustomed to consider 
herself hardy ; she was so used to wait upon others that 
to lie down and be waited on would have appeared to 
her ignominious and absurd. Both her independence 
and her unselfishness made her very chary of giving 
trouble. It is, moreover, extremely probable that she 
never realised the extent of her own illness ; consump- 
tion is seldom a malady that despairs ; attacking the 
body it leaves the spirit free, the spirit which cannot 
realise a danger by which it is not injured. A little 
later on when it was Anne's turn to suffer, she is 
choosing her spring bonnet four days before her death. 
Which of us does not remember some such pathetic 
tale of the heart-wringing, vain confidence of those far 
gone in phthisis, who bear on their faces the marks of 
death for all eyes but their own to read ? 

To those who look on, there is no worse agony than to 
watch the brave bearing of these others unconscious of 
the sudden grave at their feet. Charlotte and Anne 
looked on and trembled. On the 29th of October, 
Charlotte, still delicate from the bilious fever which 
had prostrated her on the day of Branwell's death, 
writes these words already full of foreboding : 



EMIL Y'S DEA TH. 225 

" I feel much more uneasy about my sister than my- 
self just now. Emily's cold and cough are very obsti- 
nate. I fear she has pain in her chest, and I sometimes 
:atch a shortness in her breathing when she has moved 
at all quickly. She looks very thin and pale. Her 
reserved nature occasions me great uneasiness of mind. 
It is useless to question her ; you get no answer. It is 
still more useless to recommend remedies ; they are never 
adopted."* 

It was, in fact, an acute inflammation of the lungs 
which this unfortunate sufferer was trying to subdue by 
force of courage. To persons of strong will it is difficult 
to realise that their disease is not in their own control. 
To be ill, is with them an act of acquiescence ; they have 
consented to the demands of their feeble body. When 
necessity demands the sacrifice, it seems to them so easy 
to deny themselves the rest, the indulgence. They set 
their will against their weakness and mean to conquer. 
They will not give up. 

Emily would not give up. She felt herself doubly 
necessary to the household in this hour of trial. Char- 
lotte was still very weak and ailing. Anne, her dear 
little sister, was unusually delicate and frail. Even her 
father had not quite escaped. That she, Emily, who had 
always been relied upon for strength and courage and 
endurance, should show herself unworthy of the trust 
when she was most sorely needed ; that she, so inclined 
to take all duties on herself, so necessary to the daily 
management of the house, should throw up her charge 
in this moment of trial, cast away her arms in the 
moment of battle, and give her fellow-sufferers the extra 
burden of her weakness ; such a thing was impossible to 
her. 

* Mrs, ^skell. 

Q 



EMILY BRONTE. 

So the vain struggle went on. She would resign no 
one of her duties, and it was not till within the last 
weeks of her life that she would so much as suffer the 
servant to rise before her in the morning and take the 
early work. She would not endure to hear of remedies ; 
declaring that she was not ill, that she would soon be 
well, in the pathetic self-delusion of high-spirited weak- 
ness. And Charlotte and Anne, for whose sake she 
made this sacrifice, suffered terribly thereby. Willingly, 
thankfully would they have taken all her duties upon 
them ; they burned to be up and doing. But seeing 
how weak she was they dare not cross her ; they had 
to sit still and endure to see her labour for their comfort 
with faltering and death-cold hands. 

" Day by day," says Charlotte, " day by day when I 
saw with what a front she met suffering, I looked on her 
with a wonder of anguish 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 
service 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." 

The time went on. Anxious to try what influence 
some friend, not of their own household, might exert 
upon this wayward sister, Charlotte thought of inviting 
Miss Nussey to Haworth. Emily had ever been glad to 
welcome her. But when the time came it was found 
that the least disturbance of the day's routine would only 
make Emily's burden heavier. And that scheme, too, 
was relinquished. 



EMIL Y'S DEA TH. 227 

Another month had gone. Emily, paler and thinner, 
but none less resolute, fulfilled her duties with customary 
exactness, and insisted on her perfect health with de- 
fiant fortitude. On the 23rd of November, Charlotte 
writes again : 

" 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 
accompanied 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 doctor ; she will give no explanation of her feel- 
ings ; she will scarcely allow her feelings to be alluded 
to." 

" No poisoning doctor " should come near her, Emily 
declared with the irritability of her disease. It was an 
insult to her will, her resolute endeavours. She was not, 
would not, be ill, and could therefore need no cure. 
Perhaps she felt, deep in her heart, the conviction that 
her complaint was mortal ; that a delay in the sentence 
was all that care and skill could give ; for she had seen 
Maria and Elizabeth fade and die, and only lately the 
physicians had not saved her brother. 

But Charlotte, naturally, did not feel the same. Un- 
known to Emily, she wrote to a great London doctor 
drawing up a statement of the case and symptoms as 
minute and careful as she could give. But either this 
diagnosis by guesswork was too imperfect, or the physi- 
cian saw that there was no hope ; for his opinion was 
expressed too obscurely to be of any use. He sent a 
bottle of medicine, but Emily would not take it. 



228 EMILY Bl 

December came, and still the wondering, anxious sisters 
knew not what to think. By this time Mr. Bronte also 
had perceived the danger of Emily's state, and he was 
very anxious. Yet she still denied that she was ill with 
anything more grave than a passing weakness ; and the 
pain in her side and chest appeared to diminish. Some- 
times the little household was tempted to take her at her 
word, and believe that soon, with the spring, she would 
recover ; and then, hearing her cough, listening to the 
gasping breath with which she climbed the short stair- 
case, looking on the extreme emaciation of her form, the 
wasted hands, the hollow eyes, their hearts would sud- 
denly fail. Life was a daily contradiction of hope and 
fear. 

The days drew on towards Christmas ; it was already 
the middle of December, and still Emily was about the 
house, able to wait upon herself, to sew for the others, to 
take an active share in the duties of the day. She always 
fed the dogs herself. One Monday evening, it must have 
been about the I4th of December, she rose as usual to give 
the creatures their supper. She got up, walking slowly, 
holding out in her thin hands an apronful of broken 
meat and bread. But when she reached the flagged pas- 
sage the cold took her; she staggered on the uneven 
pavement and fell against the wall. Her sisters, who 
had been sadly following her, unseen, came forwards 
much alarmed and begged her to desist ; but, smiling 
wanly, she went on and gave Floss and Keeper their last 
supper from her hands. 

The next morning she was worse. Before her waking, 
her watching sisters heard the low, unconscious moaning 
that tells of suffering continued even in sleep ; and they 
feared for what the coming year might hold in store. 
Of the nearness of the end they did not dream. Char- 



EMIL Y'S DEA TH. 229 

lotte had been out over the moors, searching every glen 
and hollow for a sprig of heather, however pale and dry, 
to take to her moor-loving sister. But Emily looked on 
the flower laid on her pillow with indifferent eyes. She 
was already estranged and alienate from life. 

Nevertheless she persisted in rising, dressing herself 
alone, and doing everything for herself. A fire had been 
lit in the room, and Emily sat on the hearth to comb her 
hair. She was thinner than ever now the tall, loose- 
jointed "slinky" girl her hair in its plenteous dark 
abundance was all of her that was not marked by the 
branding finger of death. She sat on the hearth comb- 
ing her long brown hair. But soon the comb slipped 
from her feeble grasp into the cinders. She, the intrepid, 
active Emily, watched it burn and smoulder, too weak to 
lift it, while the nauseous, hateful odour of burnt bone 
rose into her face. At last the servant came in : 
" Martha," she said, " my comb's down there ; I was too 
weak to stoop and pick it up." 

I have seen that old, broken comb, with a large piece 
burned out of it; and have thought it, I own, more 
pathetic than the bones of the eleven thousand virgins at 
Cologne, or the time-blackened Holy Face of Lucca. 
Sad, chance confession of human weakness ; mournful 
counterpart of that chainless soul which to the end main- 
tained its fortitude and rebellion. The flesh is weak. 
Since I saw that relic, the strenuous verse of Emily 
Bronte's last poem has seemed to me far more heroic, far 
more moving ; remembering in what clinging and prison- 
ing garments that free spirit was confined. 

The flesh was weak, but Emily would grant it no 
indulgence. She finished her dressing, and came very 
slowly, with dizzy head and tottering steps, downstairs 
into the little bare parlour where Anne was working and 



230 EMIL Y BRONTE. 

Charlotte writing a letter. Emily took up some work 
and tried to sew. Her catching breath, her drawn and 
altered face were ominous of the end. But still a little 
hope flickered in those sisterly hearts. " She grows daily 
weaker," wrote Charlotte, on that memorable Tuesday 
morning ; seeing surely no portent that this this ! was 
to be the last of the days and the hours of her weakness. 

The morning drew on to noon, and Emily grew worse. 
She could no longer speak, but gasping in a husky 
whisper she said : " If you will send for a doctor. I will 
see him now ! " Alas, it was too late. The shortness of 
breath and rending pain increased ; even Emily could 
no longer conceal them. Towards two o'clock her sisters 
begged her, in an agony, to let them put her to bed. 
" No, no," she cried ; tormented with the feverish rest- 
lessness that comes before the last, most quiet peace. 
She tried to rise, leaning with one hand upon the sofa. 
And thus the chord of life snapped. She was dead. 

She was twenty-nine years old. 

They buried her, a few days after, under the church 
pavement ; under the slab of stone where their mother 
lay, and Maria and Elizabeth and Branwell. 

She who had so mourned her brother had verily found 
him again, and should sleep well at his side. 

<pl\T] /tier' avrov Kfi<TOfj.ai, </uAoi' yweVo. 

And though no wind ever rustles over the grave on 
which no scented heather springs, nor any bilberry bears 
its sprigs of greenest leaves and purple fruit, she will not 
miss them now; she who wondered how any could 
imagine unquiet slumbers for them that sleep in the 
quiet earth. 

They followed her to her grave her old father, Char- 
lotte, the dying Anne ; and as they left the doors, they 



EMIL VS DEA TH. 231 

were joined by another mourner, Keeper, Emily's dog. 
He walked in front of all, first in the rank of mourners ; 
and perhaps no other creature had known the dead 
woman quite so well. When they had lain her to sleep 
in the dark, airless vault under the church, and when 
they had crossed the bleak churchyard, and had entered 
the empty house again, Keeper went straight to the door 
of the room where his mistress used to sleep, and lay 
down across the threshold. There he howled piteously 
for many days ; knowing not that no lamentations could 
wake her any more. Over the little parlour below a 
great calm had settled. " Why should we be otherwise 
than calm," says Charlotte, writing to her friend on the 
2 1st of December. "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." 

The death was over, indeed, and the funeral day was 
past ; yet one duty remained to the heart-wrung mourners, 
not less poignant than the sight of the dead changed 
face, not less crushing than the thud of stones and clods 
on the coffin of one beloved. They took the great brown 
desk in which she used to keep her papers, and sorted 
and put in order all that they found in it. How appeal- 
ing the sight of that hurried, casual writing of a hand 
now stark in death ! How precious each of those pages 
whose like should never be made again till the downfall 
of the earth in the end of time ! How near, how utterly 
cut-off, the Past ! 

They found no novel, half-finished or begun, in the old 
brown desk which she used to rest on her knees, sitting 
under the thorns. But they discovered a poem, written 
at the end of Emily's life, profound, sincere, as befits the 



232 



EMILY BRONTE. 



: 



last words one has time to speak. It is the most perfect 
and expressive of her work : the fittest monument to her 
heroic spirit. 

Thus run the last lines she ever traced : 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" To waken doubt in one 
Holding so fast by thine infinity ; 

So surely anchored on 
The steadfast rock of immortality. 

" With wide-embracing love 
Thy spirit animates eternal years, 

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

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

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

" There is not room for Death, 
No atom that his might could render void ; 

Thou Thou art Being, Breath, 
And what Thou art may never be destroyed. 1 



233 



FINIS! 

" SHE died in a time of promise." 

So writes Charlotte, in the first flush of her grief. " She 
died in a time of promise ; " having done much, indeed, 
having done enough to bring her powers to ripe perfec- 
tion. And the fruit of that perfection is denied us. She 
died, between the finishing of labour and the award of 
praise. Before the least hint of the immortality that has 
been awarded her could reach her in her obscure and 
distant home. Without one success in all her life, with 
her school never kept, her verses never read, her novel 
never praised, her brother dead in ruin. All her ambitions 
had flagged and died of the blight But she was still 
young, ready to live, eager to try again. 

" She died in a time of promise. We saw her taken 
from life in its prime." 

Truly a prime of sorrow, the dark mid-hour of the 
storm, dark with the grief gone by and the blackness of 
the on-coming grief. With Branwell dead, with her 
dearest sister dying, Emily died. Had she lived, what 
profit could she have made of her life ? For us, indeed, 
it would have been well ; but for her ? Fame in solitude 
is bitter food ; and Anne will die in May ; and Charlotte 
six years after ; and Emily never could make new friends. 
Better far for her, that loving, faithful spirit, to die while 
still her life was dear, while still there was hope in the 
world, than to linger on a few years longer, in loneliness 

R 



J34 EMIL Y BRON TE. 

and weakness, to quit in fame and misery a disillusioned 
life. 

" 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." 

Truly better, to leave her soul to speak in the world 
for aye, for the wind to be stronger for her breath, and 
the heather more purple from her heart ; better far to be 
lost in the all-embracing, all-transmuting process of life, 
than to live in cramped and individual pain. So at least, 
wrong or right, thought this woman who loved the earth 
so well. She was not afraid to die. The thought of 
death filled her with no perplexities ; but with assured and 
happy calm. She held it more glorious than fame, and 
sweeter than love, to give her soul to God and her body 
to the earth. And which of us shall carp at the belief 
which made a very painful life contented ? 

" The thing that irks me most is this shattered prison, 
after all. I'm tired of being enclosed here. I'm weary- 
ing to escape into that glorious world, and to be always 
there ; not seeing it dimly through tears, and yearning 
for it through the walls of an aching heart ; but really 
with it and in it. You think you are better and more 
fortunate than I, in full health and strength ; you are 
sorry for me very soon that will be altered. I shall be 
sorry for you. I shall be incomparably above and 
beyond you all." * 

Ah, yes ; incomparably above and beyond. Not only 
because of the keen vision with which she has revealed 
the glorious world in which her memory is fresher wind, 
and brighter sunshine, not only for that ; but because 
the remembrance of her living self is a most high and 
* 'Wuthering Heights.' 



FINIS f 235 

noble precept. Never before were hands so inspired alike 
for daily drudgery and for golden writing never to fade. 
Never was any heart more honourable and strong, nor 
any more pitiful to shameful weakness. Seldom, in- 
deed, has any man, more seldom still any woman, owned 
the inestimable gift of genius and never once made it an 
excuse for a weakness, a violence, a failing, which in 
other mortals we condemn. No deed of hers requires 
such apology. Therefore, being dead she persuades us 
to honour ; and not only her works but the memory of 
her life shall rise up and praise her, who lived without 
praise so well. 



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