Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Life of Charlotte Bronte - Volume 1 by Elizabeth Claghorn Gaskell

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

with injudicious friends, to the detriment of all their better
qualities, and sometimes to the ruin of their fortunes; it was the
Vanity Fair of the "Pilgrim's Progress" to her.

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

"Haworth, July 4th, 1834.

"In your last, you request me to tell you of your faults. Now,
really, how can you be so foolish! I WON'T tell you of your
faults, because I don't know them. What a creature would that be,
who, after receiving an affectionate and kind letter from a
beloved friend, should sit down and write a catalogue of defects
by way of answer! Imagine me doing so, and then consider what
epithets you would bestow on me. Conceited, dogmatical,
hypocritical, little humbug, I should think, would be the mildest.
Why, child! I've neither time nor inclination to reflect on your
FAULTS when you are so far from me, and when, besides, kind
letters and presents, and so forth, are continually bringing forth
your goodness in the most prominent light. Then, too, there are
judicious relations always round you, who can much better
discharge that unpleasant office. I have no doubt their advice is
completely at your service; why then should I intrude mine? If
you will not hear them, it will be vain though one should rise
from the dead to instruct you. Let us have no more nonsense, if
you love me. Mr.--is going to be married, is he? Well, his wife
elect appeared to me to be a clever and amiable lady, as far as I
could judge from the little I saw of her, and from your account.
Now to that flattering sentence must I tack on a list of her
faults? You say it is in contemplation for you to leave -. I am
sorry for it. --is a pleasant spot, one of the old family halls of
England, surrounded by lawn and woodland, speaking of past times,
and suggesting (to me at least) happy feelings. M. thought you
grown less, did she? I am not grown a bit, but as short and dumpy
as ever. You ask me to recommend you some books for your perusal.
I will do so in as few words as I can. If you like poetry, let it
be first-rate; Milton, Shakspeare, Thomson, Goldsmith, Pope (if
you will, though I don't admire him), Scott, Byron, Campbell,
Wordsworth, and Southey. Now don't be startled at the names of
Shakspeare and Byron. Both these were great men, and their works
are like themselves. You will know how to choose the good, and to
avoid the evil; the finest passages are always the purest, the bad
are invariably revolting; you will never wish to read them over
twice. Omit the comedies of Shakspeare, and the Don Juan, perhaps
the Cain, of Byron, though the latter is a magnificent poem, and
read the rest fearlessly; that must indeed be a depraved mind
which can gather evil from Henry VIII., from Richard III., from
Macbeth, and Hamlet, and Julius Caesar. Scott's sweet, wild,
romantic poetry can do you no harm. Nor can Wordsworth's, nor
Campbell's, nor Southey's--the greatest part at least of his; some
is certainly objectionable. For history, read Hume, Rollin, and
the Universal History, if you can; I never did. For fiction, read
Scott alone; all novels after his are worthless. For biography,
read Johnson's Lives of the Poets, Boswell's Life of Johnson,
Southey's Life of Nelson, Lockhart's Life of Burns, Moore's Life
of Sheridan, Moore's Life of Byron, Wolfe's Remains. For natural
history, read Bewick and Audubon, and Goldsmith and White's
history of Selborne. For divinity, your brother will advise you
there. I can only say, adhere to standard authors, and avoid

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

Although the distance between Haworth and B- was but seventeen
miles, it was difficult to go straight from the one to the other
without hiring a gig or vehicle of some kind for the journey.
Hence a visit from Charlotte required a good deal of pre-
arrangement. THE Haworth gig was not always to be had; and Mr.
Bronte was often unwilling to fall into any arrangement for
meeting at Bradford or other places, which would occasion trouble
to others. The whole family had an ample share of that sensitive
pride which led them to dread incurring obligations, and to fear
"outstaying their welcome" when on any visit. I am not sure
whether Mr. Bronte did not consider distrust of others as a part
of that knowledge of human nature on which he piqued himself. His
precepts to this effect, combined with Charlotte's lack of hope,
made her always fearful of loving too much; of wearying the
objects of her affection; and thus she was often trying to
restrain her warm feelings, and was ever chary of that presence so
invariably welcome to her true friends. According to this mode of
acting, when she was invited for a month, she stayed but a
fortnight amidst "E.'s" family, to whom every visit only endeared
her the more, and by whom she was received with that kind of quiet
gladness with which they would have greeted a sister.

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

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

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

But they all thought there could be no doubt about Branwell's
talent for drawing. I have seen an oil painting of his, done I
know not when, but probably about this time. It was a group of
his sisters, life-size, three-quarters' length; not much better
than sign-painting, as to manipulation; but the likenesses were, I
should think, admirable. I could only judge of the fidelity with
which the other two were depicted, from the striking resemblance
which Charlotte, upholding the great frame of canvas, and
consequently standing right behind it, bore to her own
representation, though it must have been ten years and more since
the portraits were taken. The picture was divided, almost in the
middle, by a great pillar. On the side of the column which was
lighted by the sun, stood Charlotte, in the womanly dress of that
day of gigot sleeves and large collars. On the deeply shadowed
side, was Emily, with Anne's gentle face resting on her shoulder.
Emily's countenance struck me as full of power; Charlotte's of
solicitude; Anne's of tenderness. The two younger seemed hardly
to have attained their full growth, though Emily was taller than
Charlotte; they had cropped hair, and a more girlish dress. I
remember looking on those two sad, earnest, shadowed faces, and
wondering whether I could trace the mysterious expression which is
said to foretell an early death. I had some fond superstitious
hope that the column divided their fates from hers, who stood
apart in the canvas, as in life she survived. I liked to see that
the bright side of the pillar was towards HER--that the light in
the picture fell on HER: I might more truly have sought in her
presentment--nay, in her living face--for the sign of death--in
her prime. They were good likenesses, however badly executed.
From thence I should guess his family augured truly that, if
Branwell had but the opportunity, and, alas! had but the moral
qualities, he might turn out a great painter.

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

"Haworth, July 6th, 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 that I should have to take
the step sometime, 'and better sune as syne,' to use the Scotch
proverb; and knowing well that papa would have enough to do with
his limited income, should Branwell be placed at the Royal
Academy, and Emily at Roe Head. Where am I going to reside? you
will ask. Within four miles of you, at a place neither of us is
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 W- 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 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 independence? I felt what I said at the time,
and I repeat it now with double earnestness; if anything would
cheer me, it is the idea of being so near you. Surely, you and
Polly will come and see me; it would be wrong in me to doubt it;
you were never unkind yet. Emily and I leave home on the 27th of
this month; the idea of being together consoles us both somewhat,
and, truth, since I must enter a situation, 'My lines have fallen
in pleasant places.' I both love and respect Miss W-."


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

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

"My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose
bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her;--out of a sullen
hollow in a livid hill-side, her mind could make an Eden. She
found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights; and not the
least and best-loved was--liberty. Liberty was the breath of
Emily's nostrils; without it she perished. The change from her
own home to a school, and from her own very noiseless, very
secluded, but unrestricted and unartificial mode of life, to one
of disciplined routine (though under the kindest auspices), was
what she failed in enduring. Her nature proved here too strong
for her fortitude. Every morning, when she woke, the vision 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, and with this conviction obtained her recall.
She had only been three months at school; and it was some years
before the experiment of sending her from home was again ventured

This physical suffering on Emily's part when absent from Haworth,
after recurring several times under similar circumstances, became
at length so much an acknowledged fact, that whichever was obliged
to leave home, the sisters decided that Emily must remain there,
where alone she could enjoy anything like good health. She left
it twice again in her life; once going as teacher to a school in
Halifax for six months, and afterwards accompanying Charlotte to
Brussels for ten. When at home, she took the principal part of
the cooking upon herself, and did all the household ironing; and
after Tabby grew old and infirm, it was Emily who made all the
bread for the family; and any one passing by the kitchen-door,
might have seen her studying German out of an open book, propped
up before her, as she kneaded the dough; but no study, however
interesting, interfered with the goodness of the bread, which was
always light and excellent. Books were, indeed, a very common
sight in that kitchen; the girls were taught by their father
theoretically, and by their aunt, practically, that to take an
active part in all household work was, in their position, woman's
simple duty; but in their careful employment of time, they found
many an odd five minutes for reading while watching the cakes, and
managed the union of two kinds of employment better than King

Charlotte's life at Miss W-'s was a very happy one, until her
health failed. She sincerely loved and respected the former
schoolmistress, to whom she was now become both companion and
friend. The girls were hardly strangers to her, some of them
being younger sisters of those who had been her own playmates.
Though the duties of the day might be tedious and monotonous,
there were always two or three happy hours to look forward to in
the evening, when she and Miss W- sat together--sometimes late
into the night--and had quiet pleasant conversations, or pauses of
silence as agreeable, because each felt that as soon as a thought
or remark occurred which they wished to express, there was an
intelligent companion ready to sympathise, and yet they were not
compelled to "make talk."

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

"Three years after--" (the period when they were at school
together)--"I heard that she had gone as teacher to Miss W-'s. I
went to see her, and asked how she could give so much for so
little money, when she could live without it. She owned that,
after clothing herself and Anne, there was nothing left, though
she had hoped to be able to save something. She confessed it was
not brilliant, but what could she do? I had nothing to answer.
She seemed to have no interest or pleasure beyond the feeling of
duty, and, when she could get, used to sit alone, and 'make out.'
She told me afterwards, that one evening she had sat in the
dressing-room until it was quite dark, and then observing it all
at once, had taken sudden fright." No doubt she remembered this
well when she described a similar terror getting hold upon Jane
Eyre. She says in the story, "I sat looking at the white bed and
overshadowed walls--occasionally turning a fascinated eye towards
the gleaming mirror--I began to recall what I had heard of dead
men troubled in their graves . . . I endeavoured to be firm;
shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted my head and tried to look
boldly through the dark room; at this moment, a ray from the moon
penetrated some aperture in the blind. No! moon light was still,
and this stirred . . . prepared as my mind was for horror, shaken
as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the swift-darting beam
was a herald of some coming vision from another world. My heart
beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my ears which I
deemed the rustling of wings; something seemed near me." {4}

"From that time," Mary adds, "her imaginations became gloomy or
frightful; she could not help it, nor help thinking. She could
not forget the gloom, could not sleep at night, nor attend in the

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

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

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

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

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

"May 10th, 1836.

"I was struck with the note you sent me with the umbrella; it
showed a degree of interest in my concerns which I have no right
to expect from any earthly creature. I won't play the hypocrite;
I won't answer your kind, gentle, friendly questions in the way
you wish me to. Don't deceive yourself by imagining I have a bit
of real goodness about me. My darling, if I were like you, I
should have my face Zion-ward, though prejudice and error might
occasionally fling a mist over the glorious vision before me--but
I AM NOT LIKE YOU. If you knew my thoughts, the dreams that
absorb me, and the fiery imagination that at times eats me up, and
makes me feel society, as it is, wretchedly insipid, you would
pity and I dare say despise me. But I know the treasures of the
BIBLE; I love and adore them. I can SEE the Well of Life in all
its clearness and brightness; but when I stoop down to drink of
the pure waters they fly from my lips as if I were Tantalus.

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

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

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

"My dear dear E.,

"I am at this moment trembling all over with excitement, after
reading your note; it is what I never received before--it is the
unrestrained pouring out of a warm, gentle, generous heart . . . I
thank you with energy for this kindness. I will no longer shrink
from answering your questions. I DO wish to be better than I am.
I pray fervently sometimes to be made so. I have stings of
conscience, visitings of remorse, glimpses of holy, of
inexpressible things, which formerly I used to be a stranger to;
it may all die away, and I may be in utter midnight, but I implore
a merciful Redeemer, that, if this be the dawn of the gospel, it
may still brighten to perfect day. Do not mistake me--do not
think I am good; I only wish to be so. I only hate my former
flippancy and forwardness. Oh! I am no better than ever I was. I
am in that state of horrid, gloomy uncertainty that, at this
moment, I would submit to be old, grey-haired, to have passed all
my youthful days of enjoyment, and to be settling on the verge of
the grave, if I could only thereby ensure the prospect of
reconciliation to God, and redemption through his Son's merits. I
never was exactly careless of these matters, but I have always
taken a clouded and repulsive view of them; and now, if possible,
the clouds are gathering darker, and a more oppressive despondency
weighs on my spirits. You have cheered me, my darling; for one
moment, for an atom of time, I thought I might call you my own
sister in the spirit; but the excitement is past, and I am now as
wretched and hopeless as ever. This very night I will pray as you
wish me. May the Almighty hear me compassionately! and I humbly
hope he will, for you will strengthen my polluted petitions with
your own pure requests. All is bustle and confusion round me, the
ladies pressing with their sums and their lessons . . . If you
love me, DO, DO, DO come on Friday: I shall watch and wait for
you, and if you disappoint me I shall weep. I wish you could know
the thrill of delight which I experienced, when, as I stood at the
dining-room window, I saw -, as he whirled past, toss your little
packet over the wall."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I have had one letter from her since her departure," writes
Charlotte, on October 2nd, 1836: "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."

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

It was the household custom among these girls to sew till nine
o'clock at night. At that hour, Miss Branwell generally went to
bed, and her nieces' duties for the day were accounted done. They
put away their work, and began to pace the room backwards and
forwards, up and down,--as often with the candles extinguished,
for economy's sake, as not,--their figures glancing into the fire-
light, and out into the shadow, perpetually. At this time, they
talked over past cares and troubles; they planned for the future,
and consulted each other as to their plans. In after years this
was the time for discussing together the plots of their novels.
And again, still later, this was the time for the last surviving
sister to walk alone, from old accustomed habit, round and round
the desolate room, thinking sadly upon the "days that were no
more." But this Christmas of 1836 was not without its hopes and
daring aspirations. They had tried their hands at story-writing,
in their miniature magazine, long ago; they all of them "made out"
perpetually. They had likewise attempted to write poetry; and had
a modest confidence that they had achieved a tolerable success.
But they knew that they might deceive themselves, and that
sisters' judgments of each other's productions were likely to be
too partial to be depended upon. So Charlotte, as the eldest,
resolved to write to Southey. I believe (from an expression in a
letter to be noticed hereafter), that she also consulted
Coleridge; but I have not met with any part of that

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

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

Not dispirited, however, by the delay, Branwell determined to try
a similar venture, and addressed the following letter to
Wordsworth. It was given by the poet to Mr. Quillinan in 1850,
after the name of Bronte had become known and famous. I have no
means of ascertaining what answer was returned by Mr. Wordsworth;
but that he considered the letter remarkable may, I think, be
inferred both from its preservation, and its recurrence to his
memory when the real name of Currer Bell was made known to the

"Haworth, near Bradford,
"Yorkshire, January 19, 1837.

"Sir,--I most earnestly entreat you to read and pass your judgment
upon what I have sent you, because from the day of my birth to
this the nineteenth year of my life, I have lived among secluded
hills, where I could neither know what I was, or what I could do.
I read for the same reason that I ate or drank; because it was a
real craving of nature. I wrote on the same principle as I spoke-
-out of the impulse and feelings of the mind; nor could I help it,
for what came, came out, and there was the end of it. For as to
self-conceit, that could not receive food from flattery, since to
this hour, not half a dozen people in the world know that I have
ever penned a line.

"But a change has taken place now, sir: and I am arrived at an
age wherein I must do something for myself: the powers I possess
must be exercised to a definite end, and as I don't know them
myself I must ask of others what they are worth. Yet there is not
one here to tell me; and still, if they are worthless, time will
henceforth be too precious to be wasted on them.

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

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

"What I send you is the Prefatory Scene of a much longer subject,
in which I have striven to develop strong passions and weak
principles struggling with a high imagination and acute feelings,
till, as youth hardens towards age, evil deeds and short
enjoyments end in mental misery and bodily ruin. Now, to send you
the whole of this would be a mock upon your patience; what you
see, does not even pretend to be more than the description of an
imaginative child. But read it, sir; and, as you would hold a
light to one in utter darkness--as you value your own
kindheartedness--RETURN me an ANSWER, if but one word, telling me
whether I should write on, or write no more. Forgive undue
warmth, because my feelings in this matter cannot be cool; and
believe me, sir, with deep respect,

"Your really humble servant,
"P. B. Bronte"

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

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

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

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

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

So "I can read my title clear,
To mansions in the skies,
And let me bid farewell to fear,
And wipe my weeping eyes."

I'll lay me down on this marble stone,
And set the world aside,
To see upon her ebon throne
The Moon in glory ride.

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

"Feb. 20th.

"What shall I do without you? How long are we likely to be
separated? Why are we to be denied each other's society? It is
an inscrutable fatality. I long to be with you, because it seems
as if two or three days, or weeks, spent in your company would
beyond measure strengthen me in the enjoyment of those feelings
which I have so lately begun to cherish. You first pointed out to
me that way in which I am so feebly endeavouring to travel, and
now I cannot keep you by my side, I must proceed sorrowfully
alone. Why are we to be divided? Surely, it must be because we
are in danger of loving each other too well--of losing sight of
the CREATOR in idolatry of the CREATURE. At first, I could not
say 'Thy will be done!' I felt rebellious, but I knew it was
wrong to feel so. Being left a moment alone this morning, I
prayed fervently to be enabled to resign myself to EVERY decree of
God's will, though it should be dealt forth by a far severer hand
than the present disappointment; since then I have felt calmer and
humbler, and consequently happier. Last Sunday I took up my Bible
in a gloomy state of mind: I began to read--a feeling stole over
me such as I have not known for many long years--a sweet, placid
sensation, like those, I remember, which used to visit me when I
was a little child, and, on Sunday evenings in summer, stood by
the open window reading the life of a certain French nobleman, who
attained a purer and higher degree of sanctity than has been known
since the days of the early martyrs."

"E.'s" residence was equally within a walk from Dewsbury Moor as
it had been from Roe Head; and on Saturday afternoons both "Mary"
and she used to call upon Charlotte, and often endeavoured to
persuade her to return with them, and be the guest of one of them
till Monday morning; but this was comparatively seldom. Mary
says:- "She visited us twice or thrice when she was at Miss W-'s.
We used to dispute about politics and religion. She, a Tory and
clergyman's daughter, was always in a minority of one in our house
of violent Dissent and Radicalism. She used to hear over again,
delivered WITH AUTHORITY, all the lectures I had been used to give
her at school on despotic aristocracy, mercenary priesthood, &c.
She had not energy to defend herself; sometimes she owned to a
LITTLE truth in it, but generally said nothing. Her feeble health
gave her her yielding manner, for she could never oppose any one
without gathering up all her strength for the struggle. Thus she
would let me advise and patronise most imperiously, sometimes
picking out any grain of sense there might be in what I said, but
never allowing any one materially to interfere with her
independence of thought and action. Though her silence sometimes
left one under the impression that she agreed when she did not,
she never gave a flattering opinion, and thus her words were
golden, whether for praise or blame."

"Mary's" father was a man of remarkable intelligence, but of
strong, not to say violent prejudices, all running in favour of
Republicanism and Dissent. No other county but Yorkshire could
have produced such a man. His brother had been a DETENU in
France, and had afterwards voluntarily taken up his residence
there. Mr. T. himself had been much abroad, both on business and
to see the great continental galleries of paintings. He spoke
French perfectly, I have been told, when need was; but delighted
usually in talking the broadest Yorkshire. He bought splendid
engravings of the pictures which he particularly admired, and his
house was full of works of art and of books; but he rather liked
to present his rough side to any stranger or new-comer; he would
speak his broadest, bring out his opinions on Church and State in
their most startling forms, and, by and by, if he found his hearer
could stand the shock, he would involuntarily show his warm kind
heart, and his true taste, and real refinement. His family of
four sons and two daughters were brought up on Republican
principles; independence of thought and action was encouraged; no
"shams" tolerated. They are scattered far and wide: Martha, the
younger daughter, sleeps in the Protestant cemetery at Brussels;
Mary is in New Zealand; Mr. T. is dead. And so life and death
have dispersed the circle of "violent Radicals and Dissenters"
into which, twenty years ago, the little, quiet, resolute
clergyman's daughter was received, and by whom she was truly loved
and honoured.

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

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

* * *

"It is not my advice that you have asked as to the direction of
your talents, but my opinion of them, and yet the opinion may be
worth little, and the advice much. You evidently possess, and in
no inconsiderable degree, what Wordsworth calls the 'faculty of
verse.' I am not depreciating it when I say that in these times
it is not rare. Many volumes of poems are now published every
year without attracting public attention, any one of which if it
had appeared half a century ago, would have obtained a high
reputation for its author. Whoever, therefore, is ambitious of
distinction in this way ought to be prepared for disappointment.

"But it is not with a view to distinction that you should
cultivate this talent, if you consult your own happiness. I, who
have made literature my profession, and devoted my life to it, and
have never for a moment repented of the deliberate choice, think
myself, nevertheless, bound in duty to caution every young man who
applies as an aspirant to me for encouragement and advice, against
taking so perilous a course. You will say that a woman has no
need of such a caution; there can be no peril in it for her. In a
certain sense this is true; but there is a danger of which I
would, with all kindness and all earnestness, warn you. The day
dreams in which you habitually indulge are likely to induce a
distempered state of mind; and in proportion as all the ordinary
uses of the world seem to you flat and unprofitable, you will be
unfitted for them without becoming fitted for anything else.
Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought
not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less
leisure will she have for it, even as an accomplishment and a
recreation. To those duties you have not yet been called, and
when you are you will be less eager for celebrity. You will not
seek in imagination for excitement, of which the vicissitudes of
this life, and the anxieties from which you must not hope to be
exempted, be your state what it may, will bring with them but too

"But do not suppose that I disparage the gift which you possess;
nor that I would discourage you from exercising it. I only exhort
you so to think of it, and so to use it, as to render it conducive
to your own permanent good. Write poetry for its own sake; not in
a spirit of emulation, and not with a view to celebrity; the less
you aim at that the more likely you will be to deserve and finally
to obtain it. So written, it is wholesome both for the heart and
soul; it may be made the surest means, next to religion, of
soothing the mind and elevating it. You may embody in it your
best thoughts and your wisest feelings, and in so doing discipline
and strengthen them.

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

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

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

"Sir, March 16th.

"I cannot rest till I have answered your letter, even though by
addressing you a second time I should appear a little intrusive;
but I must thank you for the kind and wise advice you have
condescended to give me. I had not ventured to hope for such a
reply; so considerate in its tone, so noble in its spirit. I must
suppress what I feel, or you will think me foolishly enthusiastic.

"At the first perusal of your letter, I felt only shame and regret
that I had ever ventured to trouble you with my crude rhapsody; I
felt a painful heat rise to my face when I thought of the quires
of paper I had covered with what once gave me so much delight, but
which now was only a source of confusion; but after I had thought
a little and read it again and again, the prospect seemed to
clear. You do not forbid me to write; you do not say that what I
write is utterly destitute of merit. You only warn me against the
folly of neglecting real duties for the sake of imaginative
pleasures; of writing for the love of fame; for the selfish
excitement of emulation. You kindly allow me to write poetry for
its own sake, provided I leave undone nothing which I ought to do,
in order to pursue that single, absorbing, exquisite
gratification. I am afraid, sir, you think me very foolish. I
know the first letter I wrote to you was all senseless trash from
beginning to end; but I am not altogether the idle dreaming being
it would seem to denote. My father is a clergyman of limited,
though competent income, and I am the eldest of his children. He
expended quite as much in my education as he could afford in
justice to the rest. I thought it therefore my duty, when I left
school, to become a governess. In that capacity I find enough to
occupy my thoughts all day long, and my head and hands too,
without having a moment's time for one dream of the imagination.
In the evenings, I confess, I do think, but I never trouble any
one else with my thoughts. I carefully avoid any appearance of
preoccupation and eccentricity, which might lead those I live
amongst to suspect the nature of my pursuits. Following my
father's advice--who from my childhood has counselled me, just in
the wise and friendly tone of your letter--I have endeavoured not
only attentively to observe all the duties a woman ought to
fulfil, but to feel deeply interested in them. I don't always
succeed, for sometimes when I'm teaching or sewing I would rather
be reading or writing; but I try to deny myself; and my father's
approbation amply rewarded me for the privation. Once more allow
me to thank you with sincere gratitude. I trust I shall never
more feel ambitious to see my name in print: if the wish should
rise, I'll look at Southey's letter, and suppress it. It is
honour enough for me that I have written to him, and received an
answer. That letter is consecrated; no one shall ever see it, but
papa and my brother and sisters. Again I thank you. This
incident, I suppose, will be renewed no more; if I live to be an
old woman, I shall remember it thirty years hence as a bright
dream. The signature which you suspected of being fictitious is
my real name. Again, therefore, I must sign myself,

"C. Bronte.

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

"C. B."

I cannot deny myself the gratification of inserting Southey's

"Keswick, March 22, 1837.

"Dear Madam,

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

"It is, by God's mercy, in our power to attain a degree of self-
government, which is essential to our own happiness, and
contributes greatly to that of those around us. Take care of
over-excitement, and endeavour to keep a quiet mind (even for your
health it is the best advice that can be given you): your moral
and spiritual improvement will then keep pace with the culture of
your intellectual powers.

"And now, madam, God bless you!

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


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

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

"I am again at Dewsbury, engaged in the old business,--teach,
teach, teach . . . WHEN WILL YOU COME HOME? Make haste! You have
been at Bath long enough for all purposes; by this time you have
acquired polish enough, I am sure; if the varnish is laid on much
thicker, I am afraid the good wood underneath will be quite
concealed, and your Yorkshire friends won't stand that. Come,
come. I am getting really tired of your absence. Saturday after
Saturday comes round, and I can have no hope of hearing your knock
at the door, and then being told that 'Miss E. is come.' Oh,
dear! in this monotonous life of mine, that was a pleasant event.
I wish it would recur again; but it will take two or three
interviews before the stiffness--the estrangement of this long
separation--will wear away."

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

"I wish exceedingly that I could come to you before Christmas, but
it is impossible; another three weeks must elapse before I shall
again have my comforter beside me, under the roof of my own dear
quiet home. If I could always live with you, and daily read the
Bible with you--if your lips and mine could at the same time drink
the same draught, from the same pure fountain of mercy--I hope, I
trust, I might one day become better, far better than my evil,
wandering thoughts, my corrupt heart, cold to the spirit and warm
to the flesh, will now permit me to be. I often plan the pleasant
life which we might lead together, strengthening each other in
that power of self-denial, that hallowed and glowing devotion,
which the first saints of God often attained to. My eyes fill
with tears when I contrast the bliss of such a state, brightened
by hopes of the future, with the melancholy state I now live in,
uncertain that I ever felt true contrition, wandering in thought
and deed, longing for holiness, which I shall NEVER, NEVER obtain,
smitten at times to the heart with the conviction that ghastly
Calvinistic doctrines are true--darkened, in short, by the very
shadows of spiritual death. If Christian perfection be necessary
to salvation, I shall never be saved; my heart is a very hotbed
for sinful thoughts, and when I decide on an action I scarcely
remember to look to my Redeemer for direction. I know not how to
pray; I cannot bend my life to the grand end of doing good; I go
on constantly seeking my own pleasure, pursuing the gratification
of my own desires. I forget God, and will not God forget me?
And, meantime, I know the greatness of Jehovah; I acknowledge the
perfection of His word; I adore the purity of the Christian faith;
my theory is right, my practice horribly wrong."

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

"E." was eagerly welcomed by Charlotte, freely admitted by Emily,
and kindly received by Anne, whenever she could visit them; and
this Christmas she had promised to do so, but her coming had to be
delayed on account of a little domestic accident detailed in the
following letter:-

"Dec. 29, 1837.

"I am sure you will have thought me very remiss in not sending my
promised letter long before now; but I have a sufficient and very
melancholy excuse in an accident that befell our old faithful
Tabby, a few days after my return home. She was gone out into the
village on some errand, when, as she was descending the steep
street, her foot slipped on the ice, and she fell; it was dark,
and no one saw her mischance, till after a time her groans
attracted the attention of a passer-by. She was lifted up and
carried into the druggist's near; and, after the examination, it
was discovered that she had completely shattered and dislocated
one leg. Unfortunately, the fracture could not be set till six
o'clock the next morning, as no surgeon was to be had before that
time, and she now lies at our house in a very doubtful and
dangerous state. Of course we are all exceedingly distressed at
the circumstance, for she was like one of our own family. Since
the event we have been almost without assistance--a person has
dropped in now and then to do the drudgery, but we have as yet
been able to procure no regular servant; and consequently, the
whole work of the house, as well as the additional duty of nursing
Tabby, falls on ourselves. Under these circumstances I dare not
press your visit here, at least until she is pronounced out of
danger; it would be too selfish of me. Aunt wished me to give you
this information before, but papa and all the rest were anxious I
should delay until we saw whether matters took a more settled
aspect, and I myself kept putting it off from day to day, most
bitterly reluctant to give up all the pleasure I had anticipated
so long. However, remembering what you told me, namely, that you
had commended the matter to a higher decision than ours, and that
you were resolved to submit with resignation to that decision,
whatever it might be, I hold it my duty to yield also, and to be
silent; it may be all for the best. I fear, if you had been here
during this severe weather, your visit would have been of no
advantage to you, for the moors are blockaded with snow, and you
would never have been able to get out. After this disappointment,
I never dare reckon with certainty on the enjoyment of a pleasure
again; it seems as if some fatality stood between you and me. I
am not good enough for you, and you must be kept from the
contamination of too intimate society. I would urge your visit
yet--I would entreat and press it--but the thought comes across
me, should Tabby die while you are in the house, I should never
forgive myself. No! it must not be, and in a thousand ways the
consciousness of that mortifies and disappoints me most keenly,
and I am not the only one who is disappointed. All in the house
were looking to your visit with eagerness. Papa says he highly
approves of my friendship with you, and he wishes me to continue
it through life."

A good neighbour of the Brontes--a clever, intelligent Yorkshire
woman, who keeps a druggist's shop in Haworth, and from her
occupation, her experience, and excellent sense, holds the
position of village doctress and nurse, and, as such, has been a
friend, in many a time of trial, and sickness, and death, in the
households round--told me a characteristic little incident
connected with Tabby's fractured leg. Mr. Bronte is truly
generous and regardful of all deserving claims. Tabby had lived
with them for ten or twelve years, and was, as Charlotte expressed
it, "one of the family." But on the other hand, she was past the
age for any very active service, being nearer seventy than sixty
at the time of the accident; she had a sister living in the
village; and the savings she had accumulated, during many years'
service, formed a competency for one in her rank of life. Or if,
in this time of sickness, she fell short of any comforts which her
state rendered necessary, the parsonage could supply them. So
reasoned Miss Branwell, the prudent, not to say anxious aunt;
looking to the limited contents of Mr. Bronte's purse, and the
unprovided-for-future of her nieces; who were, moreover, losing
the relaxation of the holidays, in close attendance upon Tabby.

Miss Branwell urged her views upon Mr. Bronte as soon as the
immediate danger to the old servant's life was over. He refused
at first to listen to the careful advice; it was repugnant to his
liberal nature. But Miss Branwell persevered; urged economical
motives; pressed on his love for his daughters. He gave way.
Tabby was to be removed to her sister's, and there nursed and
cared for, Mr. Bronte coming in with his aid when her own
resources fell short. This decision was communicated to the
girls. There were symptoms of a quiet, but sturdy rebellion, that
winter afternoon, in the small precincts of Haworth parsonage.
They made one unanimous and stiff remonstrance. Tabby had tended
them in their childhood; they, and none other, should tend her in
her infirmity and age. At tea-time, they were sad and silent, and
the meal went away untouched by any of the three. So it was at
breakfast; they did not waste many words on the subject, but each
word they did utter was weighty. They "struck" eating till the
resolution was rescinded, and Tabby was allowed to remain a
helpless invalid entirely dependent upon them. Herein was the
strong feeling of Duty being paramount to pleasure, which lay at
the foundation of Charlotte's character, made most apparent; for
we have seen how she yearned for her friend's company; but it was
to be obtained only by shrinking from what she esteemed right, and
that she never did, whatever might be the sacrifice.

She had another weight on her mind this Christmas. I have said
that the air of Dewsbury Moor did not agree with her, though she
herself was hardly aware how much her life there was affecting her
health. But Anne had begun to suffer just before the holidays,
and Charlotte watched over her younger sisters with the jealous
vigilance of some wild creature, that changes her very nature if
danger threatens her young. Anne had a slight cough, a pain at
her side, a difficulty of breathing. Miss W- considered it as
little more than a common cold; but Charlotte felt every
indication of incipient consumption as a stab at her heart,
remembering Maria and Elizabeth, whose places once knew them, and
should know them no more.

Stung by anxiety for this little sister, she upbraided Miss W- for
her fancied indifference to Anne's state of health. Miss W- felt
these reproaches keenly, and wrote to Mr. Bronte about them. He
immediately replied most kindly, expressing his fear that
Charlotte's apprehensions and anxieties respecting her sister had
led her to give utterance to over-excited expressions of alarm.
Through Miss W-'s kind consideration, Anne was a year longer at
school than her friends intended. At the close of the half-year
Miss W- sought for the opportunity of an explanation of each
other's words, and the issue proved that "the falling out of
faithful friends, renewing is of love." And so ended the first,
last, and only difference Charlotte ever had with good, kind Miss
W -.

Still her heart had received a shock in the perception of Anne's
delicacy; and all these holidays she watched over her with the
longing, fond anxiety, which is so full of sudden pangs of fear.

Emily had given up her situation in the Halifax school, at the
expiration of six months of arduous trial, on account of her
health, which could only be re-established by the bracing moorland
air and free life of home. Tabby's illness had preyed on the
family resources. I doubt whether Branwell was maintaining
himself at this time. For some unexplained reason, he had given
up the idea of becoming a student of painting at the Royal
Academy, and his prospects in life were uncertain, and had yet to
be settled. So Charlotte had quietly to take up her burden of
teaching again, and return to her previous monotonous life.

Brave heart, ready to die in harness! She went back to her work,
and made no complaint, hoping to subdue the weakness that was
gaining ground upon her. About this time, she would turn sick and
trembling at any sudden noise, and could hardly repress her
screams when startled. This showed a fearful degree of physical
weakness in one who was generally so self-controlled; and the
medical man, whom at length, through Miss W-'s entreaty, she was
led to consult, insisted on her return to the parsonage. She had
led too sedentary a life, he said; and the soft summer air,
blowing round her home, the sweet company of those she loved, the
release, the freedom of life in her own family, were needed, to
save either reason or life. So, as One higher than she had over-
ruled that for a time she might relax her strain, she returned to
Haworth; and after a season of utter quiet, her father sought for
her the enlivening society of her two friends, Mary and Martha T.
At the conclusion of the following letter, written to the then
absent E., there is, I think, as pretty a glimpse of a merry group
of young people as need be; and like all descriptions of doing, as
distinct from thinking or feeling, in letters, it saddens one in
proportion to the vivacity of the picture of what was once, and is
now utterly swept away.

"Haworth, June 9, 1838.

"I received your packet of despatches on Wednesday; it was brought
me by Mary and Martha, who have been staying at Haworth for a few
days; they leave us to-day. You will be surprised at the date of
this letter. I ought to be at Dewsbury Moor, you know; but I
stayed as long as I was able, and at length I neither could nor
dared stay any longer. My health and spirits had utterly failed
me, and the medical man whom I consulted enjoined me, as I valued
my life, to go home. So home I went, and the change has at once
roused and soothed me; and I am now, I trust, fairly in the way to
be myself again.

"A calm and even mind like yours cannot conceive the feelings of
the shattered wretch who is now writing to you, when, after weeks
of mental and bodily anguish not to be described, something like
peace began to dawn again. Mary is far from well. She breathes
short, has a pain in her chest, and frequent flushings of fever.
I cannot tell you what agony these symptoms give me; they remind
me too strongly of my two sisters, whom no power of medicine could
save. Martha is now very well; she has kept in a continual flow
of good humour during her stay here, and has consequently been
very fascinating . . . "

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

Charlotte grew much stronger in this quiet, happy period at home.
She paid occasional visits to her two great friends, and they in
return came to Haworth. At one of their houses, I suspect, she
met with the person to whom the following letter refers--some one
having a slight resemblance to the character of "St. John," in the
last volume of "Jane Eyre," and, like him, in holy orders.

"March 12, 1839.

. . . "I had a kindly leaning towards him, because he is an
amiable and well-disposed man. Yet I had not, and could not have,
that intense attachment which would make me willing to die for
him; and if ever I marry, it must be in that light of adoration
that I will regard my husband. Ten to one I shall never have the
chance again; but N'IMPORTE. Moreover, I was aware that he knew
so little of me he could hardly be conscious to whom he was
writing. Why! it would startle him to see me in my natural home
character; he would think I was a wild, romantic enthusiast
indeed. I could not sit all day long making a grave face before
my husband. I would laugh, and satirize, and say whatever came
into my head first. And if he were a clever man, and loved me,
the whole world, weighed in the balance against his smallest wish,
should be light as air."

So that--her first proposal of marriage--was quietly declined and
put on one side. Matrimony did not enter into the scheme of her
life, but good, sound, earnest labour did; the question, however,
was as yet undecided in what direction she should employ her
forces. She had been discouraged in literature; her eyes failed
her in the minute kind of drawing which she practised when she
wanted to express an idea; teaching seemed to her at this time, as
it does to most women at all times, the only way of earning an
independent livelihood. But neither she nor her sisters were
naturally fond of children. The hieroglyphics of childhood were
an unknown language to them, for they had never been much with
those younger than themselves. I am inclined to think, too, that
they had not the happy knack of imparting information, which seems
to be a separate gift from the faculty of acquiring it; a kind of
sympathetic tact, which instinctively perceives the difficulties
that impede comprehension in a child's mind, and that yet are too
vague and unformed for it, with its half-developed powers of
expression, to explain by words. Consequently, teaching very
young children was anything but a "delightful task" to the three
Bronte sisters. With older girls, verging on womanhood, they
might have done better, especially if these had any desire for
improvement. But the education which the village clergyman's
daughters had received, did not as yet qualify them to undertake
the charge of advanced pupils. They knew but little French, and
were not proficients in music; I doubt whether Charlotte could
play at all. But they were all strong again, and, at any rate,
Charlotte and Anne must put their shoulders to the wheel. One
daughter was needed at home, to stay with Mr. Bronte and Miss
Branwell; to be the young and active member in a household of
four, whereof three--the father, the aunt, and faithful Tabby--
were past middle age. And Emily, who suffered and drooped more
than her sisters when away from Haworth, was the one appointed to
remain. Anne was the first to meet with a situation.

"April 15th, 1839.

"I could not write to you in the week you requested, as about that
time we were very busy in preparing for Anne's departure. Poor
child! she left us last Monday; no one went with her; it was her
own wish that she might be allowed to go alone, as she thought she
could manage better and summon more courage if thrown entirely
upon her own resources. We have had one letter from her since she
went. She expresses herself very well satisfied, and says that
Mrs.--is extremely kind; the two eldest children alone are under
her care, the rest are confined to the nursery, with which and its
occupants she has nothing to do . . . I hope she'll do. You would
be astonished what a sensible, clever letter she writes; it is
only the talking part that I fear. But I do seriously apprehend
that Mrs.--will sometimes conclude that she has a natural
impediment in her speech. For my own part, I am as yet 'wanting a
situation,' like a housemaid out of place. By the way, I have
lately discovered I have quite a talent for cleaning, sweeping up
hearths, dusting rooms, making beds, &c.; so, if everything else
fails, I can turn my hand to that, if anybody will give me good
wages for little labour. I won't be a cook; I hate soothing. I
won't be a nurserymaid, nor a lady's-maid, far less a lady's
companion, or a mantua-maker, or a straw-bonnet maker, or a taker-
in of plain work. I won't be anything but a housemaid . . . With
regard to my visit to G., I have as yet received no invitation;
but if I should be asked, though I should feel it a great act of
self-denial to refuse, yet I have almost made up my mind to do so,
though the society of the T.'s is one of the most rousing
pleasures I have ever known. Good-bye, my darling E., &c.

"P. S.--Strike out that word 'darling;' it is humbug. Where's the
use of protestations? We've known each other, and liked each
other, a good while; that's enough."

Not many weeks after this was written, Charlotte also became
engaged as a governess. I intend carefully to abstain from
introducing the names of any living people, respecting whom I may
have to tell unpleasant truths, or to quote severe remarks from
Miss Bronte's letters; but it is necessary that the difficulties
she had to encounter in her various phases of life, should be
fairly and frankly made known, before the force "of what was
resisted" can be at all understood. I was once speaking to her
about "Agnes Grey"--the novel in which her sister Anne pretty
literally describes her own experience as a governess--and
alluding more particularly to the account of the stoning of the
little nestlings in the presence of the parent birds. She said
that none but those who had been in the position of a governess
could ever realise the dark side of "respectable" human nature;
under no great temptation to crime, but daily giving way to
selfishness and ill-temper, till its conduct towards those
dependent on it sometimes amounts to a tyranny of which one would
rather be the victim than the inflicter. We can only trust in
such cases that the employers err rather from a density of
perception and an absence of sympathy, than from any natural
cruelty of disposition. Among several things of the same kind,
which I well remember, she told me what had once occurred to
herself. She had been entrusted with the care of a little boy,
three or four years old, during the absence of his parents on a
day's excursion, and particularly enjoined to keep him out of the
stable-yard. His elder brother, a lad of eight or nine, and not a
pupil of Miss Bronte's, tempted the little fellow into the
forbidden place. She followed, and tried to induce him to come
away; but, instigated by his brother, he began throwing stones at
her, and one of them hit her so severe a blow on the temple that
the lads were alarmed into obedience. The next day, in full
family conclave, the mother asked Miss Bronte what occasioned the
mark on her forehead. She simply replied, "An accident, ma'am,"
and no further inquiry was made; but the children (both brothers
and sisters) had been present, and honoured her for not "telling
tales." From that time, she began to obtain influence over all,
more or less, according to their different characters; and as she
insensibly gained their affection, her own interest in them was
increasing. But one day, at the children's dinner, the small
truant of the stable-yard, in a little demonstrative gush, said,
putting his hand in hers, "I love 'ou, Miss Bronte." Whereupon,
the mother exclaimed, before all the children, "Love the
GOVERNESS, my dear!"

"The family into which she first entered was, I believe, that of a
wealthy Yorkshire manufacturer. The following extracts from her
correspondence at this time will show how painfully the restraint
of her new mode of life pressed upon her. The first is from a
letter to Emily, beginning with one of the tender expressions in
which, in spite of "humbug," she indulged herself. "Mine dear
love," "Mine-bonnie love," are her terms of address to this
beloved sister.

"June 8th, 1839.

"I have striven hard to be pleased with my new situation. The
country, the house and the grounds are, as I have said, divine;
but, alack-a-day! there is such a thing as seeing all beautiful
around you--pleasant woods, white paths, green lawns, and blue
sunshiny sky--and not having a free moment or a free thought left
to enjoy them. The children are constantly with me. As for
correcting them, I quickly found that was out of the question;
they are to do as they like. A complaint to the mother only
brings black looks on myself, and unjust, partial excuses to
screen the children. I have tried that plan once, and succeeded
so notably, I shall try no more. I said in my last letter that
Mrs.--did not know me. I now begin to find she does not intend to
know me; that she cares nothing about me, except to contrive how
the greatest possible quantity of labour may be got out of me; and
to that end she overwhelms me with oceans of needle-work; yards of
cambric to hem, muslin nightcaps to make, and, above all things,
dolls to dress. I do not think she likes me at all, because I
can't help being shy in such an entirely novel scene, surrounded
as I have hitherto been by strange and constantly changing faces .
. . I used to think I should like to be in the stir of grand
folks' society; but I have had enough of it--it is dreary work to
look on and listen. I see more clearly than I have ever done
before, that a private governess has no existence, is not
considered as a living rational being, except as connected with
the wearisome duties she has to fulfil . . . One of the
pleasantest afternoons I have spent here--indeed, the only one at
all pleasant--was when Mr.--walked out with his children, and I
had orders to follow a little behind. As he strolled on through
his fields, with his magnificent Newfoundland dog at his side, he
looked very like what a frank, wealthy, Conservative gentleman
ought to be. He spoke freely and unaffectedly to the people he
met, and, though he indulged his children and allowed them to
tease himself far too much, he would not suffer them grossly to
insult others."


"July, 1839.

"I cannot procure ink, without going into the drawing-room, where
I do not wish to go . . . I should have written to you long since,
and told you every detail of the utterly new scene into which I
have lately been cast, had I not been daily expecting a letter
from yourself, and wondering and lamenting that you did not write;
for you will remember it was your turn. I must not bother you too
much with my sorrows, of which, I fear, you have heard an
exaggerated account. If you were near me, perhaps I might be
tempted to tell you all, to grow egotistical, and pour out the
long history of a private governess's trials and crosses in her
first situation. As it is, I will only ask you to imagine the
miseries of a reserved wretch like me, thrown at once into the
midst of a large family, at a time when they were particularly
gay--when the house was filled with company--all strangers--people
whose faces I had never seen before. In this state I had charge
given me of a set of pampered, spoilt, turbulent children, whom I
was expected constantly to amuse, as well as to instruct. I soon
found that the constant demand on my stock of animal spirits
reduced them to the lowest state of exhaustion; at times I felt--
and, I suppose, seemed--depressed. To my astonishment, I was
taken to task on the subject by Mrs.--with a sternness of manner
and a harshness of language scarcely credible; like a fool, I
cried most bitterly. I could not help it; my spirits quite failed
me at first. I thought I had done my best--strained every nerve
to please her; and to be treated in that way, merely because I was
shy and sometimes melancholy, was too bad. At first I was for
giving all up and going home. But, after a little reflection, I
determined to summon what energy I had, and to weather the storm.
I said to myself, 'I have never yet quitted a place without
gaining a friend; adversity is a good school; the poor are born to
labour, and the dependent to endure.' I resolved to be patient,
to command my feelings, and to take what came; the ordeal, I
reflected, would not last many weeks, and I trusted it would do me
good. I recollected the fable of the willow and the oak; I bent
quietly, and now, I trust, the storm is blowing over me. Mrs.--is
generally considered an agreeable woman; so she is, I doubt not,
in general society. She behaves somewhat more civilly to me now
than she did at first, and the children are a little more
manageable; but she does not know my character, and she does not
wish to know it. I have never had five minutes' conversation with
her since I came, except while she was scolding me. I have no
wish to be pitied, except by yourself; if I were talking to you I
could tell you much more."


"Mine bonnie love, I was as glad of your letter as tongue can
express: it is a real, genuine pleasure to hear from home; a
thing to be saved till bedtime, when one has a moment's quiet and
rest to enjoy it thoroughly. Write whenever you can. I could
like to be at home. I could like to work in a mill. I could like
to feel some mental liberty. I could like this weight of
restraint to be taken off. But the holidays will come.

Her temporary engagement in this uncongenial family ended in the
July of this year; not before the constant strain upon her spirits
and strength had again affected her health; but when this delicacy
became apparent in palpitations and shortness of breathing, it was
treated as affectation--as a phase of imaginary indisposition,
which could be dissipated by a good scolding. She had been
brought up rather in a school of Spartan endurance than in one of
maudlin self-indulgence, and could bear many a pain and relinquish
many a hope in silence.

After she had been at home about a week, her friend proposed that
she should accompany her in some little excursion, having pleasure
alone for its object. She caught at the idea most eagerly at
first; but her hope stood still, waned, and had almost disappeared
before, after many delays, it was realised. In its fulfilment at
last, it was a favourable specimen of many a similar air-bubble
dancing before her eyes in her brief career, in which stern
realities, rather than pleasures, formed the leading incidents.

"July 26th, 1839.

"Your proposal has almost driven me 'clean daft'--if you don't
understand that ladylike expression, you must ask me what it means
when I see you. The fact is, an excursion with you anywhere,--
whether to Cleathorpe or Canada,--just by ourselves, would be to
me most delightful. I should, indeed, like to go; but I can't get
leave of absence for longer than a week, and I'm afraid that would
not suit you--must I then give it up entirely? I feel as if I
COULD NOT; I never had such a chance of enjoyment before; I do
want to see you and talk to you, and be with you. When do you
wish to go? Could I meet you at Leeds? To take a gig from
Haworth to B., would be to me a very serious increase of expense,
and I happen to be very low in cash. Oh! rich people seem to have
many pleasures at their command which we are debarred from!
However, no repining.

"Say when you go, and I shall be able in my answer to say
decidedly whether I can accompany you or not. I must--I will--I'm
set upon it--I'll be obstinate and bear down all opposition.

"P.S.--Since writing the above, I find that aunt and papa have
determined to go to Liverpool for a fortnight, and take us all
with them. It is stipulated, however, that I should give up the
Cleathorpe scheme. I yield reluctantly."

I fancy that, about this time, Mr. Bronte found it necessary,
either from failing health or the increased populousness of the
parish, to engage the assistance of a curate. At least, it is in
a letter written this summer that I find mention of the first of a
succession of curates, who henceforward revolved round Haworth
Parsonage, and made an impression on the mind of one of its
inmates which she has conveyed pretty distinctly to the world.
The Haworth curate brought his clerical friends and neighbours
about the place, and for a time the incursions of these, near the
parsonage tea-time, formed occurrences by which the quietness of
the life there was varied, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes
disagreeably. The little adventure recorded at the end of the
following letter is uncommon in the lot of most women, and is a
testimony in this case to the unusual power of attraction--though
so plain in feature--which Charlotte possessed, when she let
herself go in the happiness and freedom of home.

"August 4th, 1839.

"The Liverpool journey is yet a matter of talk, a sort of castle
in the air; but, between you and me, I fancy it is very doubtful
whether it will ever assume a more solid shape. Aunt--like many
other elderly people--likes to talk of such things; but when it
comes to putting them into actual execution, she rather falls off.
Such being the case, I think you and I had better adhere to our
first plan of going somewhere together independently of other
people. I have got leave to accompany you for a week--at the
utmost a fortnight--but no more. Where do you wish to go?
Burlington, I should think, from what M. says, would be as
eligible a place as any. When do you set off? Arrange all these
things according to your convenience; I shall start no objections.
The idea of seeing the sea--of being near it--watching its changes
by sunrise, sunset, moonlight, and noon-day--in calm, perhaps in
storm--fills and satisfies my mind. I shall be discontented at
nothing. And then I am not to be with a set of people with whom I
have nothing in common--who would be nuisances and bores: but
with you, whom I like and know, and who knows me.

"I have an odd circumstance to relate to you: prepare for a
hearty laugh! The other day, Mr. -, a vicar, came to spend the
day with us, bringing with him his own curate. The latter
gentleman, by name Mr. B., is a young Irish clergyman, fresh from
Dublin University. It was the first time we had any of us seen
him, but, however, after the manner of his countrymen, he soon
made himself at home. His character quickly appeared in his
conversation; witty, lively, ardent, clever too; but deficient in
the dignity and discretion of an Englishman. At home, you know, I
talk with ease, and am never shy--never weighed down and oppressed
by that miserable MAUVAISE HONTE which torments and constrains me
elsewhere. So I conversed with this Irishman, and laughed at his
jests; and, though I saw faults in his character, excused them
because of the amusement his originality afforded. I cooled a
little, indeed, and drew in towards the latter part of the
evening, because he began to season his conversation with
something of Hibernian flattery, which I did not quite relish.
However, they went away, and no more was thought about them. A
few days after, I got a letter, the direction of which puzzled me,
it being in a hand I was not accustomed to see. Evidently, it was
neither from you nor Mary, my only correspondents. Having opened
and read it, it proved to be a declaration of attachment and
proposal of matrimony, expressed in the ardent language of the
sapient young Irishman! I hope you are laughing heartily. This
is not like one of my adventures, is it? It more nearly resembles
Martha's. I am certainly doomed to be an old maid. Never mind.
I made up my mind to that fate ever since I was twelve years old.

"Well! thought I, I have heard of love at first sight, but this
beats all! I leave you to guess what my answer would be,
convinced that you will not do me the injustice of guessing

"On the 14th of August she still writes from Haworth:-

"I have in vain packed my box, and prepared everything for our
anticipated journey. It so happens that I can get no conveyance
this week or the next. The only gig let out to hire in Haworth,
is at Harrowgate, and likely to remain there, for aught I can
hear. Papa decidedly objects to my going by the coach, and
walking to B., though I am sure I could manage it. Aunt exclaims
against the weather, and the roads, and the four winds of heaven,
so I am in a fix, and, what is worse, so are you. On reading
over, for the second or third time, your last letter (which, by
the by, was written in such hieroglyphics that, at the first hasty
perusal, I could hardly make out two consecutive words), I find
you intimate that if I leave this journey till Thursday I shall be
too late. I grieve that I should have so inconvenienced you; but
I need not talk of either Friday or Saturday now, for I rather
imagine there is small chance of my ever going at all. The elders
of the house have never cordially acquiesced in the measure; and
now that impediments seem to start up at every step, opposition
grows more open. Papa, indeed, would willingly indulge me, but
this very kindness of his makes me doubt whether I ought to draw
upon it; so, though I could battle out aunt's discontent, I yield
to papa's indulgence. He does not say so, but I know he would
rather I stayed at home; and aunt meant well too, I dare say, but
I am provoked that she reserved the expression of her decided
disapproval till all was settled between you and myself. Reckon
on me no more; leave me out in your calculations: perhaps I
ought, in the beginning, to have had prudence sufficient to shut
my eyes against such a prospect of pleasure, so as to deny myself
the hope of it. Be as angry as you please with me for
disappointing you. I did not intend it, and have only one thing
more to say--if you do not go immediately to the sea, will you
come to see us at Haworth? This invitation is not mine only, but
papa's and aunt's."

However, a little more patience, a little more delay, and she
enjoyed the pleasure she had wished for so much. She and her
friend went to Easton for a fortnight in the latter part of
September. It was here she received her first impressions of the

"Oct. 24th.

"Have you forgotten the sea by this time, E.? Is it grown dim in
your mind? Or can you still see it, dark, blue, and green, and
foam-white, and hear it roaring roughly when the wind is high, or
rushing softly when it is calm? . . . I am as well as need be, and
very fat. I think of Easton very often, and of worthy Mr. H., and
his kind-hearted helpmate, and of our pleasant walks to H- Wood,
and to Boynton, our merry evenings, our romps with little
Hancheon, &c., &c. If we both live, this period of our lives will
long be a theme for pleasant recollection. Did you chance, in
your letter to Mr. H., to mention my spectacles? I am sadly
inconvenienced by the want of them. I can neither read, write,
nor draw with comfort in their absence. I hope Madame won't
refuse to give them up . . . Excuse the brevity of this letter,
for I have been drawing all day, and my eyes are so tired it is
quite a labour to write."

But, as the vivid remembrance of this pleasure died away, an
accident occurred to make the actual duties of life press somewhat
heavily for a time.

"December 21st, 1839

"We are at present, and have been during the last month, rather
busy, as, for that space of time, we have been without a servant,
except a little girl to run errands. Poor Tabby became so lame
that she was at length obliged to leave us. She is residing with
her sister, in a little house of her own, which she bought with
her savings a year or two since. She is very comfortable, and
wants nothing; as she is near, we see her very often. In the
meantime, Emily and I are sufficiently busy, as you may suppose:
I manage the 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 amongst
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 black-leading the stoves, making the beds, and
sweeping the floors at home, than I should be living like a fine
lady anywhere else. I must indeed drop my subscription to the
Jews, because I have no money to keep it up. I ought to have
announced this intention to you before, but I quite forgot I was a
subscriber. I intend to force myself to take another situation
when I can get one, though I HATE and ABHOR the very thoughts of
governess-ship. But I must do it; and, therefore, I heartily wish
I could hear of a family where they need such a commodity as a


The year 1840 found all the Brontes living at home, except Anne.
As I have already intimated, for some reason with which I am
unacquainted, the plan of sending Branwell to study at the Royal
Academy had been relinquished; probably it was found, on inquiry,
that the expenses of such a life, were greater than his father's
slender finances could afford, even with the help which
Charlotte's labours at Miss W-'s gave, by providing for Anne's
board and education. I gather from what I have heard, that
Branwell must have been severely disappointed when the plan fell
through. His talents were certainly very brilliant, and of this
he was fully conscious, and fervently desired, by their use,
either in writing or drawing, to make himself a name. At the same
time, he would probably have found his strong love of pleasure and
irregular habits a great impediment in his path to fame; but these
blemishes in his character were only additional reasons why he
yearned after a London life, in which he imagined he could obtain
every stimulant to his already vigorous intellect, while at the
same time he would have a license of action to be found only in
crowded cities. Thus his whole nature was attracted towards the
metropolis; and many an hour must he have spent poring over the
map of London, to judge from an anecdote which has been told me.
Some traveller for a London house of business came to Haworth for
a night; and according to the unfortunate habit of the place, the
brilliant "Patrick" was sent for to the inn, to beguile the
evening by his intellectual conversation and his flashes of wit.
They began to talk of London; of the habits and ways of life
there; of the places of amusement; and Branwell informed the
Londoner of one or two short cuts from point to point, up narrow
lanes or back streets; and it was only towards the end of the
evening that the traveller discovered, from his companion's
voluntary confession, that he had never set foot in London at all.

At this time the young man seemed to have his fate in his own
hands. He was full of noble impulses, as well as of extraordinary
gifts; not accustomed to resist temptation, it is true, from any
higher motive than strong family affection, but showing so much
power of attachment to all about him that they took pleasure in
believing that, after a time, he would "right himself," and that
they should have pride and delight in the use he would then make
of his splendid talents. His aunt especially made him her great
favourite. There are always peculiar trials in the life of an
only boy in a family of girls. He is expected to act a part in
life; to DO, while they are only to BE; and the necessity of their
giving way to him in some things, is too often exaggerated into
their giving way to him in all, and thus rendering him utterly
selfish. In the family about whom I am writing, while the rest
were almost ascetic in their habits, Branwell was allowed to grow
up self-indulgent; but, in early youth, his power of attracting
and attaching people was so great, that few came in contact with
him who were not so much dazzled by him as to be desirous of
gratifying whatever wishes he expressed. Of course, he was
careful enough not to reveal anything before his father and
sisters of the pleasures he indulged in; but his tone of thought
and conversation became gradually coarser, and, for a time, his
sisters tried to persuade themselves that such coarseness was a
part of manliness, and to blind themselves by love to the fact
that Branwell was worse than other young men. At present, though
he had, they were aware, fallen into some errors, the exact nature
of which they avoided knowing, still he was their hope and their
darling; their pride, who should some time bring great glory to
the name of Bronte.

He and his sister Charlotte were both slight and small of stature,
while the other two were of taller and larger make. I have seen
Branwell's profile; it is what would be generally esteemed very
handsome; the forehead is massive, the eye well set, and the
expression of it fine and intellectual; the nose too is good; but
there are coarse lines about the mouth, and the lips, though of
handsome shape, are loose and thick, indicating self-indulgence,
while the slightly retreating chin conveys an idea of weakness of
will. His hair and complexion were sandy. He had enough of Irish
blood in him to make his manners frank and genial, with a kind of
natural gallantry about them. In a fragment of one of his
manuscripts which I have read, there is a justness and felicity of
expression which is very striking. It is the beginning of a tale,
and the actors in it are drawn with much of the grace of
characteristic portrait-painting, in perfectly pure and simple
language which distinguishes so many of Addison's papers in the
"Spectator." The fragment is too short to afford the means of
judging whether he had much dramatic talent, as the persons of the
story are not thrown into conversation. But altogether the
elegance and composure of style are such as one would not have
expected from this vehement and ill-fated young man. He had a
stronger desire for literary fame burning in his heart, than even
that which occasionally flashed up in his sisters'. He tried
various outlets for his talents. He wrote and sent poems to
Wordsworth and Coleridge, who both expressed kind and laudatory
opinions, and he frequently contributed verses to the LEEDS
MERCURY. In 1840, he was living at home, employing himself in
occasional composition of various kinds, and waiting till some
occupation, for which he might be fitted without any expensive
course of preliminary training, should turn up; waiting, not
impatiently; for he saw society of one kind (probably what he
called "life") at the Black Bull; and at home he was as yet the
cherished favourite.

Miss Branwell was unaware of the fermentation of unoccupied talent
going on around her. She was not her nieces' confidante--perhaps
no one so much older could have been; but their father, from whom
they derived not a little of their adventurous spirit, was
silently cognisant of much of which she took no note. Next to her
nephew, the docile, pensive Anne was her favourite. Of her she
had taken charge from her infancy; she was always patient and
tractable, and would submit quietly to occasional oppression, even
when she felt it keenly. Not so her two elder sisters; they made
their opinions known, when roused by any injustice. At such
times, Emily would express herself as strongly as Charlotte,
although perhaps less frequently. But, in general,
notwithstanding that Miss Branwell might be occasionally
unreasonable, she and her nieces went on smoothly enough; and
though they might now and then be annoyed by petty tyranny, she
still inspired them with sincere respect, and not a little
affection. They were, moreover, grateful to her for many habits
she had enforced upon them, and which in time had become second
nature: order, method, neatness in everything; a perfect
knowledge of all kinds of household work; an exact punctuality,
and obedience to the laws of time and place, of which no one but
themselves, I have heard Charlotte say, could tell the value in
after-life; with their impulsive natures, it was positive repose
to have learnt implicit obedience to external laws. People in
Haworth have assured me that, according to the hour of day--nay,
the very minute--could they have told what the inhabitants of the
parsonage were about. At certain times the girls would be sewing
in their aunt's bedroom--the chamber which, in former days, before
they had outstripped her in their learning, had served them as a
schoolroom; at certain (early) hours they had their meals; from
six to eight, Miss Branwell read aloud to Mr. Bronte; at punctual
eight, the household assembled to evening prayers in his study;
and by nine he, the aunt, and Tabby, were all in bed,--the girls
free to pace up and down (like restless wild animals) in the
parlour, talking over plans and projects, and thoughts of what was
to be their future life.

At the time of which I write, the favourite idea was that of
keeping a school. They thought that, by a little contrivance, and
a very little additional building, a small number of pupils, four
or six, might be accommodated in the parsonage. As teaching
seemed the only profession open to them, and as it appeared that
Emily at least could not live away from home, while the others
also suffered much from the same cause, this plan of school-
keeping presented itself as most desirable. But it involved some
outlay; and to this their aunt was averse. Yet there was no one
to whom they could apply for a loan of the requisite means, except
Miss Branwell, who had made a small store out of her savings,
which she intended for her nephew and nieces eventually, but which
she did not like to risk. Still, this plan of school-keeping
remained uppermost; and in the evenings of this winter of 1839-40,
the alterations that would be necessary in the house, and the best
way of convincing their aunt of the wisdom of their project,
formed the principal subject of their conversation.

This anxiety weighed upon their minds rather heavily, during the
months of dark and dreary weather. Nor were external events,
among the circle of their friends, of a cheerful character. In
January, 1840, Charlotte heard of the death of a young girl who
had been a pupil of hers, and a schoolfellow of Anne's, at the
time when the sisters were together at Roe Head; and had attached
herself very strongly to the latter, who, in return, bestowed upon
her much quiet affection. It was a sad day when the intelligence
of this young creature's death arrived. Charlotte wrote thus on
January 12th, 1840:-

"Your letter, which I received this morning, was one of painful
interest. Anne C., it seems, is DEAD; when I saw her last, she
was a young, beautiful, and happy girl; and now 'life's fitful
fever' is over with her, and she 'sleeps well.' I shall never see
her again. It is a sorrowful thought; for she was a warm-hearted,
affectionate being, and I cared for her. Wherever I seek for her
now in this world, she cannot be found, no more than a flower or a
leaf which withered twenty years ago. A bereavement of this kind
gives one a glimpse of the feeling those must have who have seen
all drop round them, friend after friend, and are left to end
their pilgrimage alone. But tears are fruitless, and I try not to

During this winter, Charlotte employed her leisure hours in
writing a story. Some fragments of the manuscript yet remain, but
it is in too small a hand to be read without great fatigue to the
eyes; and one cares the less to read it, as she herself condemned
it, in the preface to the "Professor," by saying that in this
story she had got over such taste as she might once have had for
the "ornamental and redundant in composition." The beginning,
too, as she acknowledges, was on a scale commensurate with one of
Richardson's novels, of seven or eight volumes. I gather some of
these particulars from a copy of a letter, apparently in reply to
one from Wordsworth, to whom she had sent the commencement of the
story, sometime in the summer of 1840.

"Authors are generally very tenacious of their productions, but I
am not so much attached to this but that I can give it up without
much distress. No doubt, if I had gone on, I should have made
quite a Richardsonian concern of it . . . I had materials in my
head for half-a-dozen volumes . . . Of course, it is with
considerable regret I relinquish any scheme so charming as the one
I have sketched. It is very edifying and profitable to create a
world out of your own brains, and people it with inhabitants, who
are so many Melchisedecs, and have no father nor mother but your
own imagination . . . I am sorry I did not exist fifty or sixty
years ago, when the 'Ladies' Magazine' was flourishing like a
green bay-tree. In that case, I make no doubt, my aspirations
after literary fame would have met with due encouragement, and I
should have had the pleasure of introducing Messrs. Percy and West
into the very best society, and recording all their sayings and
doings in double-columned close-printed pages . . . I recollect,
when I was a child, getting hold of some antiquated volumes, and
reading them by stealth with the most exquisite pleasure. You
give a correct description of the patient Grisels of those days.
My aunt was one of them; and to this day she thinks the tales of
the 'Ladies' Magazine' infinitely superior to any trash of modern
literature. So do I; for I read them in childhood, and childhood
has a very strong faculty of admiration, but a very weak one of
criticism . . . I am pleased that you cannot quite decide whether
I am an attorney's clerk or a novel-reading dress-maker. I will
not help you at all in the discovery; and as to my handwriting, or
the lady-like touches in my style and imagery, you must not draw
any conclusion from that--I may employ an amanuensis. Seriously,
sir, I am very much obliged to you for your kind and candid
letter. I almost wonder you took the trouble to read and notice
the novelette of an anonymous scribe, who had not even the manners
to tell you whether he was a man or a woman, or whether his 'C.
T.' meant Charles Timms or Charlotte Tomkins."

There are two or three things noticeable in the letter from which
these extracts are taken. The first is the initials with which
she had evidently signed the former one to which she alludes.
About this time, to her more familiar correspondents, she
occasionally calls herself "Charles Thunder," making a kind of
pseudonym for herself out of her Christian name, and the meaning

Book of the day: