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

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of her Greek surname. In the next place, there is a touch of
assumed smartness, very different from the simple, womanly,
dignified letter which she had written to Southey, under nearly
similar circumstances, three years before. I imagine the cause of
this difference to be twofold. Southey, in his reply to her first
letter, had appealed to the higher parts of her nature, in calling
her to consider whether literature was, or was not, the best
course for a woman to pursue. But the person to whom she
addressed this one had evidently confined himself to purely
literary criticisms, besides which, her sense of humour was
tickled by the perplexity which her correspondent felt as to
whether he was addressing a man or a woman. She rather wished to
encourage the former idea; and, in consequence, possibly, assumed
something of the flippancy which very probably existed in her
brother's style of conversation, from whom she would derive her
notions of young manhood, not likely, as far as refinement was
concerned, to be improved by the other specimens she had seen,
such as the curates whom she afterwards represented in "Shirley."

These curates were full of strong, High-Church feeling.
Belligerent by nature, it was well for their professional
character that they had, as clergymen, sufficient scope for the
exercise of their warlike propensities. Mr. Bronte, with all his
warm regard for Church and State, had a great respect for mental
freedom; and, though he was the last man in the world to conceal
his opinions, he lived in perfect amity with all the respectable
part of those who differed from him. Not so the curates. Dissent
was schism, and schism was condemned in the Bible. In default of
turbaned Saracens, they entered on a crusade against Methodists in
broadcloth; and the consequence was that the Methodists and
Baptists refused to pay the church-rates. Miss Bronte thus
describes the state of things at this time:-

"Little Haworth has been all in a bustle about church-rates, since
you were here. We had a stirring meeting in the schoolroom. Papa
took the chair, and Mr. C. and Mr. W. acted as his supporters, one
on each side. There was violent opposition, which set Mr. C.'s
Irish blood in a ferment, and if papa had not kept him quiet,
partly by persuasion and partly by compulsion, he would have given
the Dissenters their kale through the reek--a Scotch proverb,
which I will explain to you another time. He and Mr. W. both
bottled up their wrath for that time, but it was only to explode
with redoubled force at a future period. We had two sermons on
dissent, and its consequences, preached last Sunday--one in the
afternoon by Mr. W., and one in the evening by Mr. C. All the
Dissenters were invited to come and hear, and they actually shut
up their chapels, and came in a body; of course the church was
crowded. Mr. W. delivered a noble, eloquent, High-Church,
Apostolical-Succession discourse, in which he banged the
Dissenters most fearlessly and unflinchingly. I thought they had
got enough for one while, but it was nothing to the dose that was
thrust down their throats in the evening. A keener, cleverer,
bolder, and more heart-stirring harangue than that which Mr. C.
delivered from Haworth pulpit, last Sunday evening, I never heard.
He did not rant; he did not cant; he did not whine; he did not
sniggle; he just got up and spoke with the boldness of a man who
was impressed with the truth of what he was saying, who has no
fear of his enemies, and no dread of consequences. His sermon
lasted an hour, yet I was sorry when it was done. I do not say
that I agree either with him, or with Mr. W., either in all or in
half their opinions. I consider them bigoted, intolerant, and
wholly unjustifiable on the ground of common sense. My conscience
will not let me be either a Puseyite or a Hookist; MAIS, if I were
a Dissenter, I would have taken the first opportunity of kicking,
or of horse-whipping both the gentlemen for their stern, bitter
attack on my religion and its teachers. But in spite of all this,
I admired the noble integrity which could dictate so fearless an
opposition against so strong an antagonist.

"P.S.--Mr. W. has given another lecture at the Keighley Mechanics'
Institution, and papa has also given a lecture; both are spoken of
very highly in the newspapers, and it is mentioned as a matter of
wonder that such displays of intellect should emanate from the
village of Haworth, 'situated among the bogs and mountains, and,
until very lately, supposed to be in a state of semi-barbarism.'
Such are the words of the newspaper."

To fill up the account of this outwardly eventless year, I may add
a few more extracts from the letters entrusted to me.

"May 15th, 1840.

"Do not be over-persuaded to marry a man you can never respect--I
do not say LOVE; because, I think, if you can respect a person
before marriage, moderate love at least will come after; and as to
intense PASSION, I am convinced that that is no desirable feeling.
In the first place, it seldom or never meets with a requital; and,
in the second place, if it did, the feeling would be only
temporary: it would last the honeymoon, and then, perhaps, give
place to disgust, or indifference, worse, perhaps, than disgust.
Certainly this would be the case on the man's part; and on the
woman's--God help her, if she is left to love passionately and

"I am tolerably well convinced that I shall never marry at all.
Reason tells me so, and I am not so utterly the slave of feeling
but that I can OCCASIONALLY HEAR her voice."

"June 2nd, 1840.

"M. is not yet come to Haworth; but she is to come on the
condition that I first go and stay a few days there. If all be
well, I shall go next Wednesday. I may stay at G- until Friday or
Saturday, and the early part of the following week I shall pass
with you, if you will have me--which last sentence indeed is
nonsense, for as I shall be glad to see you, so I know you will be
glad to see me. This arrangement will not allow much time, but it
is the only practicable one which, considering all the
circumstances, I can effect. Do not urge me to stay more than two
or three days, because I shall be obliged to refuse you. I intend
to walk to Keighley, there to take the coach as far as B-, then to
get some one to carry my box, and to walk the rest of the way to
G-. If I manage this, I think I shall contrive very well. I
shall reach B. by about five o'clock, and then I shall have the
cool of the evening for the walk. I have communicated the whole
arrangement to M. I desire exceedingly to see both her and you.

C. B.
C. B.
C. B.
C. B.

"If you have any better plan to suggest I am open to conviction,
provided your plan is practicable."

"August 20th, 1840.

"Have you seen anything of Miss H. lately? I wish they, or
somebody else, would get me a situation. I have answered
advertisements without number, but my applications have met with
no success.

"I have got another bale of French books from G. containing
upwards of forty volumes. I have read about half. They are like
the rest, clever, wicked, sophistical, and immoral. The best of
it is, they give one a thorough idea of France and Paris, and are
the best substitute for French conversation that I have met with.

"I positively have nothing more to say to you, for I am in a
stupid humour. You must excuse this letter not being quite as
long as your own. I have written to you soon, that you might not
look after the postman in vain. Preserve this writing as a
curiosity in caligraphy--I think it is exquisite--all brilliant
black blots, and utterly illegible letters. "CALIBAN."

"'The wind bloweth where it listeth. Thou hearest the sound
thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it
goeth.' That, I believe, is Scripture, though in what chapter or
book, or whether it be correctly quoted, I can't possibly say.
However, it behoves me to write a letter to a young woman of the
name of E., with whom I was once acquainted, 'in life's morning
march, when my spirit was young.' This young woman wished me to
write to her some time since, though I have nothing to say--I e'en
put it off, day by day, till at last, fearing that she will 'curse
me by her gods,' I feel constrained to sit down and tack a few
lines together, which she may call a letter or not as she pleases.
Now if the young woman expects sense in this production, she will
find herself miserably disappointed. I shall dress her a dish of
salmagundi--I shall cook a hash--compound a stew--toss up an
OMELETTE SOUFFLEE E LA FRANCAISE, and send it her with my
respects. The wind, which is very high up in our hills of Judea,
though, I suppose, down in the Philistine flats of B. parish it is
nothing to speak of, has produced the same effects on the contents
of my knowledge-box that a quaigh of usquebaugh does upon those of
most other bipeds. I see everything COULEUR DE ROSE, and am
strongly inclined to dance a jig, if I knew how. I think I must
partake of the nature of a pig or an ass--both which animals are
strongly affected by a high wind. From what quarter the wind
blows I cannot tell, for I never could in my life; but I should
very much like to know how the great brewing-tub of Bridlington
Bay works, and what sort of yeasty froth rises just now on the

"A woman of the name of Mrs. B., it seems, wants a teacher. I
wish she would have me; and I have written to Miss W. to tell her
so. Verily, it is a delightful thing to live here at home, at
full liberty to do just what one pleases. But I recollect some
scrubby old fable about grasshoppers and ants, by a scrubby old
knave yclept AEsop; the grasshoppers sang all the summer, and
starved all the winter.

"A distant relation of mine, one Patrick Branwell, has set off to
seek his fortune in the wild, wandering, adventurous, romantic,
knight-errant-like capacity of clerk on the Leeds and Manchester
Railroad. Leeds and Manchester--where are they? Cities in the
wilderness, like Tadmor, alias Palmyra--are they not?

"There is one little trait respecting Mr. W. which lately came to
my knowledge, which gives a glimpse of the better side of his
character. Last Saturday night he had been sitting an hour in the
parlour with Papa; and, as he went away, I heard Papa say to him
'What is the matter with you? You seem in very low spirits to-
night.' 'Oh, I don't know. I've been to see a poor young girl,
who, I'm afraid, is dying.' 'Indeed; what is her name?' 'Susan
Bland, the daughter of John Bland, the superintendent.' Now Susan
Bland is my oldest and best scholar in the Sunday-school; and,
when I heard that, I thought I would go as soon as I could to see
her. I did go on Monday afternoon, and found her on her way to
that 'bourn whence no traveller returns.' After sitting with her
some time, I happened to ask her mother, if she thought a little
port wine would do her good. She replied that the doctor had
recommended it, and that when Mr. W. was last there, he had
brought them a bottle of wine and jar of preserves. She added,
that he was always good-natured to poor folks, and seemed to have
a deal of feeling and kind-heartedness about him. No doubt, there
are defects in his character, but there are also good qualities .
. . God bless him! I wonder who, with his advantages, would be
without his faults. I know many of his faulty actions, many of
his weak points; yet, where I am, he shall always find rather a
defender than an accuser. To be sure, my opinion will go but a
very little way to decide his character; what of that? People
should do right as far as their ability extends. You are not to
suppose, from all this, that Mr. W. and I are on very amiable
terms; we are not at all. We are distant, cold, and reserved. We
seldom speak; and when we do, it is only to exchange the most
trivial and common-place remarks."

The Mrs. B. alluded to in this letter, as in want of a governess,
entered into a correspondence with Miss Bronte, and expressed
herself much pleased with the letters she received from her, with
the "style and candour of the application," in which Charlotte had
taken care to tell her, that if she wanted a showy, elegant, or
fashionable person, her correspondent was not fitted for such a
situation. But Mrs. B. required her governess to give
instructions in music and singing, for which Charlotte was not
qualified: and, accordingly, the negotiation fell through. But
Miss Bronte was not one to sit down in despair after
disappointment. Much as she disliked the life of a private
governess, it was her duty to relieve her father of the burden of
her support, and this was the only way open to her. So she set to
advertising and inquiring with fresh vigour.

In the meantime, a little occurrence took place, described in one
of her letters, which I shall give, as it shows her instinctive
aversion to a particular class of men, whose vices some have
supposed she looked upon with indulgence. The extract tells all
that need be known, for the purpose I have in view, of the
miserable pair to whom it relates.

"You remember Mr. and Mrs. -? Mrs.--came here the other day, with
a most melancholy tale of her wretched husband's drunken,
extravagant, profligate habits. She asked Papa's advice; there
was nothing she said but ruin before them. They owed debts which
they could never pay. She expected Mr. -'s instant dismissal from
his curacy; she knew, from bitter experience, that his vices were
utterly hopeless. He treated her and her child savagely; with
much more to the same effect. Papa advised her to leave him for
ever, and go home, if she had a home to go to. She said, this was
what she had long resolved to do; and she would leave him
directly, as soon as Mr. B. dismissed him. She expressed great
disgust and contempt towards him, and did not affect to have the
shadow of regard in any way. I do not wonder at this, but I do
wonder she should ever marry a man towards whom her feelings must
always have been pretty much the same as they are now. I am
morally certain no decent woman could experience anything but
aversion towards such a man as Mr. -. Before I knew, or suspected
his character, and when I rather wondered at his versatile
talents, I felt it in an uncontrollable degree. I hated to talk
with him--hated to look at him; though as I was not certain that
there was substantial reason for such a dislike, and thought it
absurd to trust to mere instinct, I both concealed and repressed
the feeling as much as I could; and, on all occasions, treated him
with as much civility as I was mistress of. I was struck with
Mary's expression of a similar feeling at first sight; she said,
when we left him, 'That is a hideous man, Charlotte!' I thought
'He is indeed.'"


Early in March, 1841, Miss Bronte obtained her second and last
situation as a governess. This time she esteemed herself
fortunate in becoming a member of a kind-hearted and friendly
household. The master of it, she especially regarded as a
valuable friend, whose advice helped to guide her in one very
important step of her life. But as her definite acquirements were
few, she had to eke them out by employing her leisure time in
needlework; and altogether her position was that of "bonne" or
nursery governess, liable to repeated and never-ending calls upon
her time. This description of uncertain, yet perpetual
employment, subject to the exercise of another person's will at
all hours of the day, was peculiarly trying to one whose life at
home had been full of abundant leisure. IDLE she never was in any
place, but of the multitude of small talks, plans, duties,
pleasures, &c., that make up most people's days, her home life was
nearly destitute. This made it possible for her to go through
long and deep histories of feeling and imagination, for which
others, odd as it sounds, have rarely time. This made it
inevitable that--later on, in her too short career--the intensity
of her feeling should wear out her physical health. The habit of
"making out," which had grown with her growth, and strengthened
with her strength, had become a part of her nature. Yet all
exercise of her strongest and most characteristic faculties was
now out of the question. She could not (as while she was at Miss
W-'s) feel, amidst the occupations of the day, that when evening
came, she might employ herself in more congenial ways. No doubt,
all who enter upon the career of a governess have to relinquish
much; no doubt, it must ever be a life of sacrifice; but to
Charlotte Bronte it was a perpetual attempt to force all her
faculties into a direction for which the whole of her previous
life had unfitted them. Moreover, the little Brontes had been
brought up motherless; and from knowing nothing of the gaiety and
the sportiveness of childhood--from never having experienced
caresses or fond attentions themselves--they were ignorant of the
very nature of infancy, or how to call out its engaging qualities.
Children were to them the troublesome necessities of humanity;
they had never been drawn into contact with them in any other way.
Years afterwards, when Miss Bronte came to stay with us, she
watched our little girls perpetually; and I could not persuade her
that they were only average specimens of well brought up children.
She was surprised and touched by any sign of thoughtfulness for
others, of kindness to animals, or of unselfishness on their part:
and constantly maintained that she was in the right, and I in the
wrong, when we differed on the point of their unusual excellence.
All this must be borne in mind while reading the following
letters. And it must likewise be borne in mind--by those who,
surviving her, look back upon her life from their mount of
observation--how no distaste, no suffering ever made her shrink
from any course which she believed it to be her duty to engage in.

"March 3rd, 1841.

"I told some time since, that I meant to get a situation, and when
I said so my resolution was quite fixed. I felt that however
often I was disappointed, I had no intention of relinquishing my
efforts. After being severely baffled two or three times,--after
a world of trouble, in the way of correspondence and interviews,--
I have at length succeeded, and am fairly established in my new

* * *

"The house is not very large, but exceedingly comfortable and well
regulated; the grounds are fine and extensive. In taking the
place, I have made a large sacrifice in the way of salary, in the
hope of securing comfort,--by which word I do not mean to express
good eating and drinking, or warm fire, or a soft bed, but the
society of cheerful faces, and minds and hearts not dug out of a
lead-mine, or cut from a marble quarry. My salary is not really
more than 16L. per annum, though it is nominally 20L., but the
expense of washing will be deducted therefrom. My pupils are two
in number, a girl of eight, and a boy of six. As to my employers,
you will not expect me to say much about their characters when I
tell you that I only arrived here yesterday. I have not the
faculty of telling an individual's disposition at first sight.
Before I can venture to pronounce on a character, I must see it
first under various lights and from various points of view. All I
can say therefore is, both Mr. and Mrs.--seem to me good sort of
people. I have as yet had no cause to complain of want of
considerateness or civility. My pupils are wild and unbroken, but
apparently well-disposed. I wish I may be able to say as much
next time I write to you. My earnest wish and endeavour will be
to please them. If I can but feel that I am giving satisfaction,
and if at the same time I can keep my health, I shall, I hope, be
moderately happy. But no one but myself can tell how hard a
governess's work is to me--for no one but myself is aware how
utterly averse my whole mind and nature are for the employment.
Do not think that I fail to blame myself for this, or that I leave
any means unemployed to conquer this feeling. Some of my greatest
difficulties lie in things that would appear to you comparatively
trivial. I find it so hard to repel the rude familiarity of
children. I find it so difficult to ask either servants or
mistress for anything I want, however much I want it. It is less
pain for me to endure the greatest inconvenience than to go into
the kitchen to request its removal. I am a fool. Heaven knows I
cannot help it!

"Now can you tell me whether it is considered improper for
governesses to ask their friends to come and see them. I do not
mean, of course, to stay, but just for a call of an hour or two?
If it is not absolute treason, I do fervently request that you
will contrive, in some way or other, to let me have a sight of
your face. Yet I feel, at the same time, that I am making a very
foolish and almost impracticable demand; yet this is only four
miles from B- !"

"March 21st.

"You must excuse a very short answer to your most welcome letter;
for my time is entirely occupied. Mrs.--expected a good deal of
sewing from me. I cannot sew much during the day, on account of
the children, who require the utmost attention. I am obliged,
therefore, to devote the evenings to this business. Write to me
often; very long letters. It will do both of us good. This place
is far better than -, but God knows, I have enough to do to keep a
good heart in the matter. What you said has cheered me a little.
I wish I could always act according to your advice. Home-sickness
affects me sorely. I like Mr.--extremely. The children are over-
indulged, and consequently hard at times to manage. DO, DO, do
come and see me; if it be a breach of etiquette, never mind. If
you can only stop an hour, come. Talk no more about my forsaking
you; my darling, I could not afford to do it. I find it is not in
my nature to get on in this weary world without sympathy and
attachment in some quarter; and seldom indeed do we find it. It
is too great a treasure to be ever wantonly thrown away when once

Miss Bronte had not been many weeks in her new situation before
she had a proof of the kind-hearted hospitality of her employers.
Mr.--wrote to her father, and urgently invited him to come and
make acquaintance with his daughter's new home, by spending a week
with her in it; and Mrs.--expressed great regret when one of Miss
Bronte's friends drove up to the house to leave a letter or
parcel, without entering. So she found that all her friends might
freely visit her, and that her father would be received with
especial gladness. She thankfully acknowledged this kindness in
writing to urge her friend afresh to come and see her; which she
accordingly did.

"June, 1841.

"You can hardly fancy it possible, I dare say, that I cannot find
a quarter of an hour to scribble a note in; but so it is; and when
a note is written, it has to be carried a mile to the post, and
that consumes nearly an hour, which is a large portion of the day.
Mr. and Mrs.--have been gone a week. I heard from them this
morning. No time is fixed for their return, but I hope it will
not be delayed long, or I shall miss the chance of seeing Anne
this vacation. She came home, I understand, last Wednesday, and
is only to be allowed three weeks' vacation, because the family
she is with are going to Scarborough. I SHOULD LIKE TO SEE HER,
to judge for myself of the state of her health. I dare not trust
any other person's report, no one seems minute enough in their
observations. I should very much have liked you to have seen her.
I have got on very well with the servants and children so far; yet
it is dreary, solitary work. You can tell as well as me the
lonely feeling of being without a companion."

Soon after this was written, Mr. and Mrs.--returned, in time to
allow Charlotte to go and look after Anne's health, which, as she
found to her intense anxiety, was far from strong. What could she
do to nurse and cherish up this little sister, the youngest of
them all? Apprehension about her brought up once more the idea of
keeping a school. If, by this means, they three could live
together, and maintain themselves, all might go well. They would
have some time of their own, in which to try again and yet again
at that literary career, which, in spite of all baffling
difficulties, was never quite set aside as an ultimate object; but
far the strongest motive with Charlotte was the conviction that
Anne's health was so delicate that it required a degree of tending
which none but her sister could give. Thus she wrote during those
midsummer holidays.

"Haworth, July 18th, 1841.

"We waited long and anxiously for you, on the Thursday that you
promised to come. I quite wearied my eyes with watching from the
window, eye-glass in hand, and sometimes spectacles on nose.
However, you are not to blame . . . and as to disappointment, why,
all must suffer disappointment at some period or other of their
lives. But a hundred things I had to say to you will now be
forgotten, and never said. There is a project hatching in this
house, which both Emily and I anxiously wished to discuss with
you. The project is yet in its infancy, hardly peeping from its
shell; and whether it will ever come out a fine full-fledged
chicken, or will turn addle and die before it cheeps, is one of
those considerations that are but dimly revealed by the oracles of
futurity. Now, don't be nonplussed by all this metaphorical
mystery. I talk of a plain and everyday occurrence, though, in
Delphic style, I wrap up the information in figures of speech
concerning eggs, chickens etceatera, etcaeterorum. To come to the
point: Papa and aunt talk, by fits and starts, of our--id est,
Emily, Anne, and myself--commencing a school! I have often, you
know, said how much I wished such a thing; but I never could
conceive where the capital was to come from for making such a
speculation. I was well aware, indeed, that aunt had money, but I
always considered that she was the last person who would offer a
loan for the purpose in question. A loan, however, she HAS
offered, or rather intimates that she perhaps WILL offer in case
pupils can be secured, an eligible situation obtained, &c. This
sounds very fair, but still there are matters to be considered
which throw something of a damp upon the scheme. I do not expect
that aunt will sink more than 150L. in such a venture; and would
it be possible to establish a respectable (not by any means a
SHOWY) school, and to commence housekeeping with a capital of only
that amount? Propound the question to your sister, if you think
she can answer it; if not, don't say a word on the subject. As to
getting into debt, that is a thing we could none of us reconcile
our mind to for a moment. We do not care how modest, how humble
our commencement be, so it be made on sure grounds, and have a
safe foundation. In thinking of all possible and impossible
places where we could establish a school, I have thought of
Burlington, or rather of the neighbourhood of Burlington. Do you
remember whether there was any other school there besides that of
Miss -? This is, of course, a perfectly crude and random idea.
There are a hundred reasons why it should be an impracticable one.
We have no connections, no acquaintances there; it is far from
home, &c. Still, I fancy the ground in the East Riding is less
fully occupied than in the West. Much inquiry and consideration
will be necessary, of course, before any place is decided on; and
I fear much time will elapse before any plan is executed . . .
Write as soon as you can. I shall not leave my present situation
till my future prospects assume a more fixed and definite aspect."

A fortnight afterwards, we see that the seed has been sown which
was to grow up into a plan materially influencing her future life.

"August 7th, 1841.

"This is Saturday evening; I have put the children to bed; now I
am going to sit down and answer your letter. I am again by
myself--housekeeper and governess--for Mr. and Mrs.--are staying
at -. To speak truth, though I am solitary while they are away,
it is still by far the happiest part of my time. The children are
under decent control, the servants are very observant and
attentive to me, and the occasional absence of the master and
mistress relieves me from the duty of always endeavouring to seem
cheerful and conversable. Martha -, it appears, is in the way of
enjoying great advantages; so is Mary, for you will be surprised
to hear that she is returning immediately to the Continent with
her brother; not, however, to stay there, but to take a month's
tour and recreation. I have had a long letter from Mary, and a
packet containing a present of a very handsome black silk scarf,
and a pair of beautiful kid gloves, bought at Brussels. Of
course, I was in one sense pleased with the gift--pleased that
they should think of me so far off, amidst the excitements of one
of the most splendid capitals of Europe; and yet it felt irksome
to accept it. I should think Mary and Martha have not more than
sufficient pocket-money to supply themselves. I wish they had
testified their regard by a less expensive token. Mary's letters
spoke of some of the pictures and cathedrals she had seen--
pictures the most exquisite, cathedrals the most venerable. I
hardly know what swelled to my throat as I read her letter: such
a vehement impatience of restraint and steady work; such a strong
wish for wings--wings such as wealth can furnish; such an urgent
thirst to see, to know, to learn; something internal seemed to
expand bodily for a minute. I was tantalised by the consciousness
of faculties unexercised,--then all collapsed, and I despaired.
My dear, I would hardly make that confession to any one but
yourself; and to you, rather in a letter than VIVA VOCE. These
rebellious and absurd emotions were only momentary; I quelled them
in five minutes. I hope they will not revive, for they were
acutely painful. No further steps have been taken about the
project I mentioned to you, nor probably will be for the present;
but Emily, and Anne, and I, keep it in view. It is our polar
star, and we look to it in all circumstances of despondency. I
begin to suspect I am writing in a strain which will make you
think I am unhappy. This is far from being the case; on the
contrary, I know my place is a favourable one, for a governess.
What dismays and haunts me sometimes, is a conviction that I have
no natural knack for my vocation. If teaching only were
requisite, it would be smooth and easy; but it is the living in
other people's houses--the estrangement from one's real character-
-the adoption of a cold, rigid, apathetic exterior, that is
painful . . . You will not mention our school project at present.
A project not actually commenced is always uncertain. Write to me
often, my dear Nell; you KNOW your letters are valued. Your
'loving child' (as you choose to call me so),

C. B.

"P.S. I am well in health; don't fancy I am not, but I have one
aching feeling at my heart (I must allude to it, though I had
resolved not to). It is about Anne; she has so much to endure:
far, far more than I ever had. When my thoughts turn to her, they
always see her as a patient, persecuted stranger. I know what
concealed susceptibility is in her nature, when her feelings are
wounded. I wish I could be with her, to administer a little balm.
She is more lonely--less gifted with the power of making friends,
even than I am. 'Drop the subject.'"

She could bear much for herself; but she could not patiently bear
the sorrows of others, especially of her sisters; and again, of
the two sisters, the idea of the little, gentle, youngest
suffering in lonely patience, was insupportable to her. Something
must be done. No matter if the desired end were far away; all
time was lost in which she was not making progress, however slow,
towards it. To have a school, was to have some portion of daily
leisure, uncontrolled but by her own sense of duty; it was for the
three sisters, loving each other with so passionate an affection,
to be together under one roof, and yet earning their own
subsistence; above all, it was to have the power of watching over
these two whose life and happiness were ever to Charlotte far more
than her own. But no trembling impatience should lead her to take
an unwise step in haste. She inquired in every direction she
could, as to the chances which a new school might have of success.
In all there seemed more establishments like the one which the
sisters wished to set up than could be supported. What was to be
done? Superior advantages must be offered. But how? They
themselves abounded in thought, power, and information; but these
are qualifications scarcely fit to be inserted in a prospectus.
Of French they knew something; enough to read it fluently, but
hardly enough to teach it in competition with natives or
professional masters. Emily and Anne had some knowledge of music;
but here again it was doubtful whether, without more instruction,
they could engage to give lessons in it.

Just about this time, Miss W- was thinking of relinquishing her
school at Dewsbury Moor; and offered to give it up in favour of
her old pupils, the Brontes. A sister of hers had taken the
active management since the time when Charlotte was a teacher; but
the number of pupils had diminished; and, if the Brontes undertook
it, they would have to try and work it up to its former state of
prosperity. This, again, would require advantages on their part
which they did not at present possess, but which Charlotte caught
a glimpse of. She resolved to follow the clue, and never to rest
till she had reached a successful issue. With the forced calm of
a suppressed eagerness, that sends a glow of desire through every
word of the following letter, she wrote to her aunt thus.

"Dear Aunt,

"Sept. 29th, 1841.

"I have heard nothing of Miss W- yet since I wrote to her,
intimating that I would accept her offer. I cannot conjecture the
reason of this long silence, unless some unforeseen impediment has
occurred in concluding the bargain. Meantime, a plan has been
suggested and approved by Mr. and Mrs.--" (the father and mother
of her pupils) "and others, which I wish now to impart to you. My
friends recommend me, if I desire to secure permanent success, to
delay commencing the school for six months longer, and by all
means to contrive, by hook or by crook, to spend the intervening
time in some school on the continent. They say schools in England
are so numerous, competition so great, that without some such step
towards attaining superiority, we shall probably have a very hard
struggle, and may fail in the end. They say, moreover, that the
loan of 100L., which you have been so kind as to offer us, will,
perhaps, not be all required now, as Miss W- will lend us the
furniture; and that, if the speculation is intended to be a good
and successful one, half the sum, at least, ought to be laid out
in the manner I have mentioned, thereby insuring a more speedy
repayment both of interest and principal.

"I would not go to France or to Paris. I would go to Brussels, in
Belgium. The cost of the journey there, at the dearest rate of
travelling, would be 5L.; living is there little more than half as
dear as it is in England, and the facilities for education are
equal or superior to any other place in Europe. In half a year, I
could acquire a thorough familiarity with French. I could improve
greatly in Italian, and even get a dash of German, i.e., providing
my health continued as good as it is now. Mary is now staying at
Brussels, at a first-rate establishment there. I should not think
of going to the Chateau de Kokleberg, where she is resident, as
the terms are much too high; but if I wrote to her, she, with the
assistance of Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the British Chaplain,
would be able to secure me a cheap, decent residence and
respectable protection. I should have the opportunity of seeing
her frequently; she would make me acquainted with the city; and,
with the assistance of her cousins, I should probably be
introduced to connections far more improving, polished, and
cultivated, than any I have yet known.

"These are advantages which would turn to real account, when we
actually commenced a school; and, if Emily could share them with
me, we could take a footing in the world afterwards which we can
never do now. I say Emily instead of Anne; for Anne might take
her turn at some future period, if our school answered. I feel
certain, while I am writing, that you will see the propriety of
what I say. You always like to use your money to the best
advantage. You are not fond of making shabby purchases; when you
do confer a favour, it is often done in style; and depend upon it,
50L., or 100L., thus laid out, would be well employed. Of course,
I know no other friend in the world to whom I could apply on this
subject except yourself. I feel an absolute conviction that, if
this advantage were allowed us, it would be the making of us for
life. Papa will, perhaps, think it a wild and ambitious scheme;
but who ever rose in the world without ambition? When he left
Ireland to go to Cambridge University, he was as ambitious as I am
now. I want us ALL to get on. I know we have talents, and I want
them to be turned to account. I look to you, aunt, to help us. I
think you will not refuse. I know, if you consent, it shall not
be my fault if you ever repent your kindness."

This letter was written from the house in which she was residing
as governess. It was some little time before an answer came.
Much had to be talked over between the father and aunt in Haworth
Parsonage. At last consent was given. Then, and not till then,
she confided her plan to an intimate friend. She was not one to
talk over-much about any project, while it remained uncertain--to
speak about her labour, in any direction, while its result was

"Nov. 2nd, 1841.

"Now let us begin to quarrel. In the first place, I must consider
whether I will commence operations on the defensive, or the
offensive. The defensive, I think. You say, and I see plainly,
that your feelings have been hurt by an apparent want of
confidence on my part. You heard from others of Miss W-'s
overtures before I communicated them to you myself. This is true.
I was deliberating on plans important to my future prospects. I
never exchanged a letter with you on the subject. True again.
This appears strange conduct to a friend, near and dear, long-
known, and never found wanting. Most true. I cannot give you my
EXCUSES for this behaviour; this word EXCUSE implies confession of
a fault, and I do not feel that I have been in fault. The plain
fact is, I WAS not, I am not now, certain of my destiny. On the
contrary, I have been most uncertain, perplexed with contradictory
schemes and proposals. My time, as I have often told you, is
fully occupied; yet I had many letters to write, which it was
absolutely necessary should be written. I knew it would avail
nothing to write to you then to say I was in doubt and
uncertainty--hoping this, fearing that, anxious, eagerly desirous
to do what seemed impossible to be done. When I thought of you in
that busy interval, it was to resolve, that you should know all
when my way was clear, and my grand end attained. If I could, I
would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be
known by their results. Miss W- did most kindly propose that I
should come to Dewsbury Moor and attempt to revive the school her
sister had relinquished. She offered me the use of her furniture.
At first, I received the proposal cordially, and prepared to do my
utmost to bring about success; but a fire was kindled in my very
heart, which I could not quench. I so longed to increase my
attainments--to become something better than I am; a glimpse of
what I felt, I showed to you in one of my former letters--only a
glimpse; Mary cast oil upon the flames--encouraged me, and in her
own strong, energetic language, heartened me on. I longed to go
to Brussels; but how could I get there? I wished for one, at
least, of my sisters to share the advantage with me. I fixed on
Emily. She deserved the reward, I knew. How could the point be
managed? In extreme excitement, I wrote a letter home, which
carried the day. I made an appeal to aunt for assistance, which
was answered by consent. Things are not settled; yet it is
sufficient to say we have a CHANCE of going for half a year.
Dewsbury Moor is relinquished. Perhaps, fortunately so. In my
secret soul, I believe there is no cause to regret it. My plans
for the future are bounded to this intention: if I once get to
Brussels, and if my health is spared, I will do my best to make
the utmost of every advantage that shall come within my reach.
When the half-year is expired, I will do what I can.

* * *

"Believe me, though I was born in April, the month of cloud and
sunshine, I am not changeful. My spirits are unequal, and
sometimes I speak vehemently, and sometimes I say nothing at all;
but I have a steady regard for you, and if you will let the cloud
and shower pass by, be sure the sun is always behind, obscured,
but still existing."

At Christmas she left her situation, after a parting with her
employers which seems to have affected and touched her greatly.
"They only made too much of me," was her remark, after leaving
this family; "I did not deserve it."

All four children hoped to meet together at their father's house
this December. Branwell expected to have a short leave of absence
from his employment as a clerk on the Leeds and Manchester
Railway, in which he had been engaged for five months. Anne
arrived before Christmas-day. She had rendered herself so
valuable in her difficult situation, that her employers vehemently
urged her to return, although she had announced her resolution to
leave them; partly on account of the harsh treatment she had
received, and partly because her stay at home, during her sisters'
absence in Belgium, seemed desirable, when the age of the three
remaining inhabitants of the parsonage was taken into

After some correspondence and much talking over plans at home, it
seemed better, in consequence of letters which they received from
Brussels giving a discouraging account of the schools there, that
Charlotte and Emily should go to an institution at Lille, in the
north of France, which was highly recommended by Baptist Noel, and
other clergymen. Indeed, at the end of January, it was arranged
that they were to set off for this place in three weeks, under the
escort of a French lady, then visiting in London. The terms were
50L. each pupil, for board and French alone, but a separate room
was to be allowed for this sum; without this indulgence, it was
lower. Charlotte writes:-

"January 20th, 1842.

"I consider it kind in aunt to consent to an extra sum for a
separate room. We shall find it a great privilege in many ways.
I regret the change from Brussels to Lille on many accounts,
chiefly that I shall not see Martha. Mary has been indefatigably
kind in providing me with information. She has grudged no labour,
and scarcely any expense, to that end. Mary's price is above
rubies. I have, in fact, two friends--you and her--staunch and
true, in whose faith and sincerity I have as strong a belief as I
have in the Bible. I have bothered you both--you especially; but
you always get the tongs and heap coals of fire upon my head. I
have had letters to write lately to Brussels, to Lille, and to
London. I have lots of chemises, nightgowns, pocket-
handkerchiefs, and pockets to make; besides clothes to repair. I
have been, every week since I came home, expecting to see
Branwell, and he has never been able to get over yet. We fully
expect him, however, next Saturday. Under these circumstances how
can I go visiting? You tantalize me to death with talking of
conversations by the fireside. Depend upon it, we are not to have
any such for many a long month to come. I get an interesting
impression of old age upon my face; and when you see me next I
shall certainly wear caps and spectacles."


I am not aware of all the circumstances which led to the
relinquishment of the Lille plan. Brussels had had from the first
a strong attraction for Charlotte; and the idea of going there, in
preference to any other place, had only been given up in
consequence of the information received of the second-rate
character of its schools. In one of her letters reference has
been made to Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the chaplain of the British
Embassy. At the request of his brother--a clergyman, living not
many miles from Haworth, and an acquaintance of Mr. Bronte's--she
made much inquiry, and at length, after some discouragement in her
search, heard of a school which seemed in every respect desirable.
There was an English lady who had long lived in the Orleans
family, amidst the various fluctuations of their fortunes, and
who, when the Princess Louise was married to King Leopold,
accompanied her to Brussels, in the capacity of reader. This
lady's granddaughter was receiving her education at the pensionnat
of Madame Heger; and so satisfied was the grandmother with the
kind of instruction given, that she named the establishment, with
high encomiums, to Mrs. Jerkins; and, in consequence, it was
decided that, if the terms suited, Miss Bronte and Emily should
proceed thither. M. Heger informs me that, on receipt of a letter
from Charlotte, making very particular inquiries as to the
possible amount of what are usually termed "extras," he and his
wife were so much struck by the simple earnest tone of the letter,
that they said to each other:- "These are the daughters of an
English pastor, of moderate means, anxious to learn with an
ulterior view of instructing others, and to whom the risk of
additional expense is of great consequence. Let us name a
specific sum, within which all expenses shall be included."

This was accordingly done; the agreement was concluded, and the
Brontes prepared to leave their native county for the first time,
if we except the melancholy and memorable residence at Cowan
Bridge. Mr. Bronte determined to accompany his daughters. Mary
and her brother, who were experienced in foreign travelling, were
also of the party. Charlotte first saw London in the day or two
they now stopped there; and, from an expression in one of her
subsequent letters, they all, I believe, stayed at the Chapter
Coffee House, Paternoster Row--a strange, old-fashioned tavern, of
which I shall have more to say hereafter.

Mary's account of their journey is thus given.

"In passing through London, she seemed to think our business was
and ought to be, to see all the pictures and statues we could.
She knew the artists, and know where other productions of theirs
were to be found. I don't remember what we saw except St. Paul's.
Emily was like her in these habits of mind, but certainly never
took her opinion, but always had one to offer . . . I don't know
what Charlotte thought of Brussels. We arrived in the dark, and
went next morning to our respective schools to see them. We were,
of course, much preoccupied, and our prospects gloomy. Charlotte
used to like the country round Brussels. 'At the top of every
hill you see something.' She took, long solitary walks on the
occasional holidays."

Mr. Bronte took his daughters to the Rue d'Isabelle, Brussels;
remained one night at Mr. Jenkins'; and straight returned to his
wild Yorkshire village.

What a contrast to that must the Belgian capital have presented to
those two young women thus left behind! Suffering acutely from
every strange and unaccustomed contact--far away from their
beloved home, and the dear moors beyond--their indomitable will
was their great support. Charlotte's own words, with regard to
Emily, are:-

"After the age of twenty, having meantime studied alone with
diligence and perseverance, she went with me to an establishment
on the continent. The same suffering and conflict ensued,
heightened by the strong recoil of her upright heretic and English
spirit from the gentle Jesuitry of the foreign and Romish system.
Once more she seemed sinking, but this time she rallied through
the mere force of resolution: with inward remorse and shame she
looked back on her former failure, and resolved to conquer, but
the victory cost her dear. She was never happy till she carried
her hard-won knowledge back to the remote English village, the old
parsonage-house, and desolate Yorkshire hills."

They wanted learning. They came for learning. They would learn.
Where they had a distinct purpose to be achieved in intercourse
with their fellows, they forgot themselves; at all other times
they were miserably shy. Mrs. Jenkins told me that she used to
ask them to spend Sundays and holidays with her, until she found
that they felt more pain than pleasure from such visits. Emily
hardly ever uttered more than a monosyllable. Charlotte was
sometimes excited sufficiently to speak eloquently and well--on
certain subjects; but before her tongue was thus loosened, she had
a habit of gradually wheeling round on her chair, so as almost to
conceal her face from the person to whom she was speaking.

And yet there was much in Brussels to strike a responsive chord in
her powerful imagination. At length she was seeing somewhat of
that grand old world of which she had dreamed. As the gay crowds
passed by her, so had gay crowds paced those streets for
centuries, in all their varying costumes. Every spot told an
historic tale, extending back into the fabulous ages when Jan and
Jannika, the aboriginal giant and giantess, looked over the wall,
forty feet high, of what is now the Rue Villa Hermosa, and peered
down upon the new settlers who were to turn them out of the
country in which they had lived since the deluge. The great
solemn Cathedral of St. Gudule, the religious paintings, the
striking forms and ceremonies of the Romish Church--all made a
deep impression on the girls, fresh from the bare walls and simple
worship of Haworth Church. And then they were indignant with
themselves for having been susceptible of this impression, and
their stout Protestant hearts arrayed themselves against the false
Duessa that had thus imposed upon them.

The very building they occupied as pupils, in Madame Heger's
pensionnat, had its own ghostly train of splendid associations,
marching for ever, in shadowy procession, through and through the
ancient rooms, and shaded alleys of the gardens. From the
splendour of to-day in the Rue Royale, if you turn aside, near the
statue of the General Beliard, you look down four flights of broad
stone steps upon the Rue d'Isabelle. The chimneys of the houses
in it are below your feet. Opposite to the lowest flight of
steps, there is a large old mansion facing you, with a spacious
walled garden behind--and to the right of it. In front of this
garden, on the same side as the mansion, and with great boughs of
trees sweeping over their lowly roofs, is a row of small,
picturesque, old-fashioned cottages, not unlike, in degree and
uniformity, to the almshouses so often seen in an English country
town. The Rue d'Isabelle looks as though it had been untouched by
the innovations of the builder for the last three centuries; and
yet any one might drop a stone into it from the back windows of
the grand modern hotels in the Rue Royale, built and furnished in
the newest Parisian fashion.

In the thirteenth century, the Rue d'Isabelle was called the
Fosse-aux-Chiens; and the kennels for the ducal hounds occupied
the place where Madame Heger's pensionnat now stands. A hospital
(in the ancient large meaning of the word) succeeded to the
kennel. The houseless and the poor, perhaps the leprous, were
received, by the brethren of a religious order, in a building on
this sheltered site; and what had been a fosse for defence, was
filled up with herb-gardens and orchards for upwards of a hundred
years. Then came the aristocratic guild of the cross-bow men--
that company the members whereof were required to prove their
noble descent--untainted for so many generations, before they
could be admitted into the guild; and, being admitted, were
required to swear a solemn oath, that no other pastime or exercise
should take up any part of their leisure, the whole of which was
to be devoted to the practice of the noble art of shooting with
the cross-bow. Once a year a grand match was held, under the
patronage of some saint, to whose church-steeple was affixed the
bird, or semblance of a bird, to be hit by the victor. {5} The
conqueror in the game was Roi des Arbaletriers for the coming
year, and received a jewelled decoration accordingly, which he was
entitled to wear for twelve months; after which he restored it to
the guild, to be again striven for. The family of him who died
during the year that he was king, were bound to present the
decoration to the church of the patron saint of the guild, and to
furnish a similar prize to be contended for afresh. These noble
cross-bow men of the middle ages formed a sort of armed guard to
the powers in existence, and almost invariably took the
aristocratic, in preference to the democratic side, in the
numerous civil dissensions of the Flemish towns. Hence they were
protected by the authorities, and easily obtained favourable and
sheltered sites for their exercise-ground. And thus they came to
occupy the old fosse, and took possession of the great orchard of
the hospital, lying tranquil and sunny in the hollow below the

But, in the sixteenth century, it became necessary to construct a
street through the exercise-ground of the "Arbaletriers du Grand
Serment," and, after much delay, the company were induced by the
beloved Infanta Isabella to give up the requisite plot of ground.
In recompense for this, Isabella--who herself was a member of the
guild, and had even shot down the bird, and been queen in 1615--
made many presents to the arbaletriers; and, in return, the
grateful city, which had long wanted a nearer road to St. Gudule,
but been baffled by the noble archers, called the street after her
name. She, as a sort of indemnification to the arbaletriers,
caused a "great mansion" to be built for their accommodation in
the new Rue d'Isabelle. This mansion was placed in front of their
exercise-ground, and was of a square shape. On a remote part of
the walls, may still be read -


In that mansion were held all the splendid feasts of the Grand
Serment des Arbaletriers. The master-archer lived there
constantly, in order to be ever at hand to render his services to
the guild. The great saloon was also used for the court balls and
festivals, when the archers were not admitted. The Infanta caused
other and smaller houses to be built in her new street, to serve
as residences for her "garde noble;" and for her "garde
bourgeoise," a small habitation each, some of which still remain,
to remind us of English almshouses. The "great mansion," with its
quadrangular form; the spacious saloon--once used for the
archducal balls, where the dark, grave Spaniards mixed with the
blond nobility of Brabant and Flanders--now a school-room for
Belgian girls; the cross-bow men's archery-ground--all are there--
the pensionnat of Madame Heger.

This lady was assisted in the work of instruction by her husband--
a kindly, wise, good, and religious man--whose acquaintance I am
glad to have made, and who has furnished me with some interesting
details, from his wife's recollections and his own, of the two
Miss Bronte during their residence in Brussels. He had the better
opportunities of watching them, from his giving lessons in the
French language and literature in the school. A short extract
from a letter, written to me by a French lady resident in
Brussels, and well qualified to judge, will help to show the
estimation in which he is held.

"Je ne connais pas personnellement M. Heger, mais je sais qu'il
est peu de caracteres aussi nobles, aussi admirables que le sien.
Il est un des membres les plus zeles de cette Societe de S.
Vincent de Paul dont je t'ai deje parle, et ne se contente pas de
servir les pauvres et les malades, mais leur consacre encore les
soirees. Apres des journees absorbees tout entieres par les
devoirs que sa place lui impose, il reunit les pauvres, les
ouvriers, leur donne des cours gratuits, et trouve encore le moyen
de les amuser en les instruisant. Ce devouement te dira assez que
M. Heger est profondement et ouvertement religieux. Il a des
manieres franches et avenantes; il se fait aimer de tous ceux qui
l'approchent, et surtout des enfants. Il a la parole facile, et
possde e un haut degre l'eloquence du bon sens et du coeur. Il
n'est point auteur. Homme de zele et de conscience, il vient de
se demettre des fonctions elevees et lucratives qu'il exercait e
l'Athenee, celles de Prefet des Etudes, parce qu'il ne peut y
realiser le bien qu'il avait espere, introduire l'enseignement
religieux dans le programme des etudes. J'ai vu une fois Madame
Heger, qui a quelque chose de froid et de compasse dans son
maintien, et qui previent peu en sa faveur. Je la crois pourtant
aimee et appreciee par ses eleves."

There were from eighty to a hundred pupils in the pensionnat, when
Charlotte and Emily Bronte entered in February 1842.

M. Heger's account is that they knew nothing of French. I suspect
they knew as much (or as little), for all conversational purposes,
as any English girls do, who have never been abroad, and have only
learnt the idioms and pronunciation from an Englishwoman. The two
sisters clung together, and kept apart from the herd of happy,
boisterous, well-befriended Belgian girls, who, in their turn,
thought the new English pupils wild and scared-looking, with
strange, odd, insular ideas about dress; for Emily had taken a
fancy to the fashion, ugly and preposterous even during its reign,
of gigot sleves, and persisted in wearing them long after they
were "gone out." Her petticoats, too, had not a curve or a wave
in them, but hung down straight and long, clinging to her lank
figure. The sisters spoke to no one but from necessity. They
were too full of earnest thought, and of the exile's sick
yearning, to be ready for careless conversation or merry game. M.
Heger, who had done little but observe, during the few first weeks
of their residence in the Rue d'Isabelle, perceived that with
their unusual characters, and extraordinary talents, a different
mode must be adopted from that in which he generally taught French
to English girls. He seems to have rated Emily's genius as
something even higher than Charlotte's; and her estimation of
their relative powers was the same. Emily had a head for logic,
and a capability of argument, unusual in a man, and rare indeed in
a woman, according to M. Heger. Impairing the force of this gift,
was a stubborn tenacity of will, which rendered her obtuse to all
reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was
concerned. "She should have been a man--a great navigator," said
M. Heger in speaking of her. "Her powerful reason would have
deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old;
and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by
opposition or difficulty; never have given way but with life."
And yet, moreover, her faculty of imagination was such that, if
she had written a history, her view of scenes and characters would
have been so vivid, and so powerfully expressed, and supported by
such a show of argument, that it would have dominated over the
reader, whatever might have been his previous opinions, or his
cooler perceptions of its truth. But she appeared egotistical and
exacting compared to Charlotte, who was always unselfish (this is
M. Heger's testimony); and in the anxiety of the elder to make her
younger sister contented she allowed her to exercise a kind of
unconscious tyranny over her.

After consulting with his wife, M. Heger told them that he meant
to dispense with the old method of grounding in grammar,
vocabulary, &c., and to proceed on a new plan--something similar
to what he had occasionally adopted with the elder among his
French and Belgian pupils. He proposed to read to them some of
the master-pieces of the most celebrated French authors (such as
Casimir de la Vigne's poem on the "Death of Joan of Arc," parts of
Bossuet, the admirable translation of the noble letter of St.
Ignatius to the Roman Christians in the "Bibliotheque Choisie des
Peres de l'Eglise," &c.), and after having thus impressed the
complete effect of the whole, to analyse the parts with them,
pointing out in what such or such an author excelled, and where
were the blemishes. He believed that he had to do with pupils
capable, from their ready sympathy with the intellectual, the
refined, the polished, or the noble, of catching the echo of a
style, and so reproducing their own thoughts in a somewhat similar

After explaining his plan to them, he awaited their reply. Emily
spoke first; and said that she saw no good to be derived from it;
and that, by adopting it, they should lose all originality of
thought and expression. She would have entered into an argument
on the subject, but for this, M. Heger had no time. Charlotte
then spoke; she also doubted the success of the plan; but she
would follow out M. Heger's advice, because she was bound to obey
him while she was his pupil. Before speaking of the results, it
may be desirable to give an extract from one of her letters, which
shows some of her first impressions of her new life.

"Brussels, 1842 (May?).

"I was twenty-six years old a week or two since; and at this ripe
time of life I am a school-girl, and, on the whole, very happy in
that capacity. It felt very strange at first to submit to
authority instead of exercising it--to obey orders instead of
giving them; but I like that state of things. I returned to it
with the same avidity that a cow, that has long been kept on dry
hay, returns to fresh grass. Don't laugh at my simile. It is
natural to me to submit, and very unnatural to command.

"This is a large school, in which there are about forty externes,
or day pupils, and twelve pensionnaires, or boarders. Madame
Heger, the head, is a lady of precisely the same cast of mind,
degree of cultivation, and quality of intellect as Miss -. I
think the severe points are a little softened, because she has not
been disappointed, and consequently soured. In a word, she is a
married instead of a maiden lady. There are three teachers in the
school--Mademoiselle Blanche, Mademoiselle Sophie, and
Mademoiselle Marie. The two first have no particular character.
One is an old maid, and the other will be one. Mademoiselle Marie
is talented and original, but of repulsive and arbitrary manners,
which have made the whole school, except myself and Emily, her
bitter enemies. No less than seven masters attend, to teach the
different branches of education--French, Drawing, Music, Singing,
Writing, Arithmetic, and German. All in the house are Catholics
except ourselves, one other girl, and the gouvernante of Madame's
children, an Englishwoman, in rank something between a lady's maid
and a nursery governess. The difference in country and religion
makes a broad line of demarcation between us and all the rest. We
are completely isolated in the midst of numbers. Yet I think I am
never unhappy; my present life is so delightful, so congenial to
my own nature, compared to that of a governess. My time,
constantly occupied, passes too rapidly. Hitherto both Emily and
I have had good health, and therefore we have been able to work
well. There is one individual of whom I have not yet spoken--M.
Heger, the husband of Madame. He is professor of rhetoric, a man
of power as to mind, but very choleric and irritable in
temperament. He is very angry with me just at present, because I
have written a translation which he chose to stigmatize as 'PEU
CORRECT.' He did not tell me so, but wrote the word on the margin
of my book, and asked, in brief stern phrase, how it happened that
my compositions were always better than my translations? adding
that the thing seemed to him inexplicable. The fact is, some
weeks ago, in a high-flown humour, he forbade me to use either
dictionary or grammar in translating the most difficult English
compositions into French. This makes the task rather arduous, and
compels me every now and then to introduce an English word, which
nearly plucks the eyes out of his head when he sees it. Emily and
he don't draw well together at all. Emily works like a horse, and
she has had great difficulties to contend with--far greater than I
have had. Indeed, those who come to a French school for
instruction ought previously to have acquired a considerable
knowledge of the French language, otherwise they will lose a great
deal of time, for the course of instruction is adapted to natives
and not to foreigners; and in these large establishments they will
not change their ordinary course for one or two strangers. The
few private lessons that M. Heger has vouchsafed to give us, are,
I suppose, to be considered a great favour; and I can perceive
they have already excited much spite and jealousy in the school.

"You will abuse this letter for being short and dreary, and there
are a hundred things which I want to tell you, but I have not
time. Brussels is a beautiful city. The Belgians hate the
English. Their external morality is more rigid than ours. To
lace the stays without a handkerchief on the neck is considered a
disgusting piece of indelicacy."

The passage in this letter where M. Heger is represented as
prohibiting the use of dictionary or grammar, refers, I imagine,
to the time I have mentioned, when he determined to adopt a new
method of instruction in the French language, of which they were
to catch the spirit and rhythm rather from the ear and the heart,
as its noblest accents fell upon them, than by over-careful and
anxious study of its grammatical rules. It seems to me a daring
experiment on the part of their teacher; but, doubtless, he knew
his ground; and that it answered is evident in the composition of
some of Charlotte's DEVOIRS, written about this time. I am
tempted, in illustration of this season of mental culture, to
recur to a conversation which I had with M. Heger on the manner in
which he formed his pupils' style, and to give a proof of his
success, by copying a DEVOIR of Charlotte's with his remarks upon

He told me that one day this summer (when the Brontes had been for
about four months receiving instruction from him) he read to them
Victor Hugo's celebrated portrait of Mirabeau, "mais, dans ma
lecon je me bornais e ce qui concerne MIRABEAU ORATEUR. C'est
apres l'analyse de ce morceau, considere surtout du point de vue
du fond, de la disposition de ce qu'on pourrait appeler LA
CHARPENTE qu'ont ete faits les deux portraits que je vous donne."
He went on to say that he had pointed out to them the fault in
Victor Hugo's style as being exaggeration in conception, and, at
the same time, he had made them notice the extreme beauty of his
"nuances" of expression. They were then dismissed to choose the
subject of a similar kind of portrait. This selection M. Heger
always left to them; for "it is necessary," he observed, "before
sitting down to write on a subject, to have thoughts and feelings
about it. I cannot tell on what subject your heart and mind have
been excited. I must leave that to you." The marginal comments,
I need hardly say, are M. Heger's; the words in italics are
Charlotte's, for which he substitutes a better form of expression,
which is placed between brackets. {6}


"Le 31 Juillet, 1842.


"De temps en temps, il parait sur la terre des hommes destines e
etre les instruments [predestines] {Pourquoi cette suppression?}
de grands changements moraux ou politiques. Quelquefois c'est un
conquerant, un Alexandre ou un Attila, qui passe comme un ouragan,
et purifie l'atmosphere moral, comme l'orage purifie l'atmosphere
physique; quelquefois, c'est un revolutionnaire, un Cromwell, ou
un Robespierre, qui fait expier par un roi {les fautes et} les
vices de toute une dynastie; quelquefois c'est un enthousiaste
religieux comme Mahomet, ou Pierre l'Hermite, qui, avec le seul
levier de la pensee, souleve des nations entieres, les deracine et
les transplante dans des climats nouveaux, PEUPLANT L'ASIE AVEC
LES HABITANTS DE L'EUROPE. Pierre l'Hermite etait gentilhomme de
Picardie, en France, {Invtile, quand vous ecrivez er francais}
pourquoi donc n'a-t-il passe sa vie comma les autres gentilhommes,
ses contemporains, ont passe la leur, e table, e la chasse, dans
son lit, sans s'inquieter de Saladin, ou de ses Sarrasins? N'est-
ce pas, parce qu'il y a dans certaines natures, UNE ARDOUR [un
foyer d'activite] indomptable qui ne leur permet pas de rester

{Vous avez commence e parler de Pierre: vous etes entree dans le
sujet: marchez au but.}

"Pierre prit la profession des armes; SI SON ARDEUR AVAIT ETE DE
CETTE ESPECE [s'il n'avait eu que cette ardeur vulgaire] qui
provient d'une robuste sante, IL AURAIT [c'eut] ete un brave
militaire, et rien de plus; mais son ardeur etait celle de l'ame,
sa flamme etait pure et elle s'elevait vers le ciel.

"SANS DOUTE [Il est vrai que] la jeunesse de Pierre ETAIT [fet]
troublee par passions orageuses; les natures puissantes sont
extremes en tout, elles ne connaissent la tiedeur ni dans le bien,
ni dans le mal; Pierre donc chercha d'abord avidement la gloire
qui se fletrit et les plaisirs qui trompent, mais IL FIT BIENTOT
LA DECOUVERTE [bientot il s'apercut] que ce qu'il poursuivait
n'etait qe'une illusion e laquelle il ne pourrait jamais
atteindre; {Vnutile, quand vous avez dit illusion} il retourna
donc sur ses pas, il recommenca le voyage de la vie, mais cette
fois il evita le chemin spacieux qui mene e la perdition et il
prit le chemin etroit qui mene e la vie; PUISQUE [comme] le trajet
etait long et difficile il jeta la casque et les armes du soldat,
et se vetit de l'habit simple du moine. A la vie militaire
succeda la vie monastique, car les extremes se touchent, et CHEZ
L'HOMME SINCERE la sincerite du repentir amene [necessairement e
la suite] AVEC LUI la rigueur de la penitence. [Voile donc Pierre
devenu moine!]

"Mais PIERRE [il] avait en lui un principe qui l'empechait de
rester long-temps inactif, ses idees, sur quel sujet QU'IL SOIT
[que ce fut] ne pouvaient pas etre bornees; il ne lui suffisait
pas que lui-meme fut religieux, que lui-meme fut convaincu de la
realite de Christianisme (sic), il fallait que toute l'Europe, que
toute l'Asie, partageat sa conviction et professat la croyance de
la Croix. La Piete [fervente] elevee par la Genie, nourrie par la
jusqu'e l'inspiration] DANS SON AME, et lorsqu'il quitta sa
cellule et reparut dans le monde, il portait comme Moise
l'empreinte de la Divinite sur son front, et TOUT [tous]
reconnurent en lui la veritable apotre de la Croix.

"Mahomet n'avait jamais remue les molles nations de l'Orient comme
alors Pierre remua les peuples austeres de l'Occident; il fallait
que cette eloquence fut d'une force presque miraculeuse QUI
POUVAIT [presqu'elle] persuadER [ait] aux rois de vendre leurs
royaumes AFIN DE PROCURER [pour avoir] des armes et des soldats
POUR AIDER [e offrir] e Pierre dans la guerre sainte qu'il voulait
livrer aux infideles. La puissance de Pierre [l'Hermite] n'etait
nullement une puissance physique, car la nature, ou pour mieux
dire, Dieu est impartial dans la distribution de ses dons; il
accorde e l'un de ses enfants la grace, la beaute, les perfections
corporelles, e l'autre l'esprit, la grandeur morale. Pierre donc
etait un homme petit, d'une physionomie peu agreable; mais il
avait ce courage, cette constance, cet enthousiasme, cette energie
de sentiment qui ecrase toute opposition, et qui fait que la
volonte d'un seul homme devient la loi de toute une nation. Pour
se former une juste idee de l'influence qu'exerca cet homme sur
les CARACTERES [choses] et les idees de son temps, il faut se le
representer au milieu de l'armee des croisees dans son double role
de prophete et de guerrier; le pauvre hermite, vetu DU PAUVRE [de
l'humble] habit gris est le plus puissant qieun roi; il est
entoure D'UNE [de la] multitude [avide] une multitude qui ne voit
que lui, tandis qui lui, il ne voit que le ciel; ses yeux leves
semblent dire, 'Je vois Dieu et les anges, et j'ai perdu de vue la

"DANS CE MOMENT LE [mais ce] pauvre HABIT [froc] gris est pour lui
comme le manteau d'Elijah; il l'enveloppe d'inspiration; IL
[Pierre] lit dans l'avenir; il voit Jerusalem delivree; [il voit]
le saint sepulcre libre; il voit le Croissant argent est arrache
du Temple, et l'Oriflamme et la Croix rouge sont etabli e sa
place; non-seulement Pierre voit ces merveilles, mais il les fait
voir e tous ceux qui l'entourent; il ravive l'esperance et le
courage dans [tous ces corps epuises de fatigues et de
privations]. La bataille ne sera livree que demain, mais la
victoire est decidee ce soir. Pierre a promis; et les Croises se
fient e sa parole, comme les Israelites se fiaient e celle de
Moise et de Josue."

As a companion portrait to this, Emily chose to depict Harold on
the eve of the battle of Hastings. It appears to me that her
DEVOIR is superior to Charlotte's in power and in imagination, and
fully equal to it in language; and that this, in both cases,
considering how little practical knowledge of French they had when
they arrived at Brussels in February, and that they wrote without
the aid of dictionary or grammar, is unusual and remarkable. We
shall see the progress Charlotte had made, in ease and grace of
style, a year later.

In the choice of subjects left to her selection, she frequently
took characters and scenes from the Old Testament, with which all
her writings show that she was especially familiar. The
picturesqueness and colour (if I may so express it), the grandeur
and breadth of its narrations, impressed her deeply. To use M.
Heger's expression, "Elle etait nourrie de la Bible." After he
had read De la Vigne's poem on Joan of Arc, she chose the "Vision
and Death of Moses on Mount Nebo" to write about; and, in looking
over this DEVOIR, I was much struck with one or two of M. Heger's
remarks. After describing, in a quiet and simple manner, the
circumstances under which Moses took leave of the Israelites, her
imagination becomes warmed, and she launches out into a noble
strain, depicting the glorious futurity of the Chosen People, as,
looking down upon the Promised Land, he sees their prosperity in
prophetic vision. But, before reaching the middle of this glowing
description, she interrupts herself to discuss for a moment the
doubts that have been thrown on the miraculous relations of the
Old Testament. M. Heger remarks, "When you are writing, place
your argument first in cool, prosaic language; but when you have
thrown the reins on the neck of your imagination, do not pull her
up to reason." Again, in the vision of Moses, he sees the maidens
leading forth their flocks to the wells at eventide, and they are
described as wearing flowery garlands. Here the writer is
reminded of the necessity of preserving a certain verisimilitude:
Moses might from his elevation see mountains and plains, groups of
maidens and herds of cattle, but could hardly perceive the details
of dress, or the ornaments of the head.

When they had made further progress, M. Heger took up a more
advanced plan, that of synthetical teaching. He would read to
them various accounts of the same person or event, and make them
notice the points of agreement and disagreement. Where they were
different, he would make them seek the origin of that difference
by causing them to examine well into the character and position of
each separate writer, and how they would be likely to affect his
conception of truth. For instance, take Cromwell. He would read
Bossuet's description of him in the "Oraison Funebre de la Reine
d'Angleterre," and show how in this he was considered entirely
from the religious point of view, as an instrument in the hands of
God, preordained to His work. Then he would make them read
Guizot, and see how, in this view, Cromwell was endowed with the
utmost power of free-will, but governed by no higher motive than
that of expediency; while Carlyle regarded him as a character
regulated by a strong and conscientious desire to do the will of
the Lord. Then he would desire them to remember that the Royalist
and Commonwealth men had each their different opinions of the
great Protector. And from these conflicting characters, he would
require them to sift and collect the elements of truth, and try to
unite them into a perfect whole.

This kind of exercise delighted Charlotte. It called into play
her powers of analysis, which were extraordinary, and she very
soon excelled in it.

Wherever the Brontes could be national they were so, with the same
tenacity of attachment which made them suffer as they did whenever
they left Haworth. They were Protestant to the backbone in other
things beside their religion, but pre-eminently so in that.
Touched as Charlotte was by the letter of St. Ignatius before
alluded to, she claimed equal self-devotion, and from as high a
motive, for some of the missionaries of the English Church sent
out to toil and to perish on the poisonous African coast, and
wrote as an "imitation," "Lettre d'un Missionnaire, Sierra Leone,

Something of her feeling, too, appears in the following letter:-

"Brussels, 1842.

"I consider it doubtful whether I shall come home in September or
not. Madame Heger has made a proposal for both me and Emily to
stay another half-year, offering to dismiss her English master,
and take me as English teacher; also to employ Emily some part of
each day in teaching music to a certain number of the pupils. For
these services we are to be allowed to continue our studies in
French and German, and to have board, &c., without paying for it;
no salaries, however, are offered. The proposal is kind, and in a
great selfish city like Brussels, and a great selfish school,
containing nearly ninety pupils (boarders and day pupils
included), implies a degree of interest which demands gratitude in
return. I am inclined to accept it. What think you? I don't
deny I sometimes wish to be in England, or that I have brief
attacks of home sickness; but, on the whole, I have borne a very
valiant heart so far; and I have been happy in Brussels, because I
have always been fully occupied with the employments that I like.
Emily is making rapid progress in French, German, music, and
drawing. Monsieur and Madame Heger begin to recognise the
valuable parts of her character, under her singularities.

"If the national character of the Belgians is to be measured by
the character of most of the girls is this school, it in a
character singularly cold, selfish, animal, and inferior. They
are very mutinous and difficult for the teachers to manage; and
their principles are rotten to the core. We avoid them, which it
is not difficult to do, as we have the brand of Protestantism and
Anglicism upon us. People talk of the danger which Protestants
expose themselves to in going to reside in Catholic countries, and
thereby running the chance of changing their faith. My advice to
all Protestants who are tempted to do anything so besotted as turn
Catholics, is, to walk over the sea on to the Continent; to attend
mass sedulously for a time; to note well the mummeries thereof;
also the idiotic, mercenary aspect of all the priests; and then,
if they are still disposed to consider Papistry in any other light
than a most feeble, childish piece of humbug, let them turn
Papists at once--that's all. I consider Methodism, Quakerism, and
the extremes of High and Low Churchism foolish, but Roman
Catholicism beats them all. At the same time, allow me to tell
you, that there are some Catholics who are as good as any
Christians can be to whom the Bible is a sealed book, and much
better than many Protestants."

When the Brontes first went to Brussels, it was with the intention
of remaining there for six months, or until the GRANDES VACANCES
began in September. The duties of the school were then suspended
for six weeks or two months, and it seemed a desirable period for
their return. But the proposal mentioned in the foregoing letter
altered their plans. Besides, they were happy in the feeling that
they were making progress in all the knowledge they had so long
been yearning to acquire. They were happy, too, in possessing
friends whose society had been for years congenial to them, and in
occasional meetings with these, they could have the inexpressible
solace to residents in a foreign country--and peculiarly such to
the Brontes--of talking over the intelligence received from their
respective homes--referring to past, or planning for future days.
"Mary" and her sister, the bright, dancing, laughing Martha, were
parlour-boarders in an establishment just beyond the barriers of
Brussels. Again, the cousins of these friends were resident in
the town; and at their house Charlotte and Emily were always
welcome, though their overpowering shyness prevented their more
valuable qualities from being known, and generally kept them
silent. They spent their weekly holiday with this family, for
many months; but at the end of the time, Emily was as impenetrable
to friendly advances as at the beginning; while Charlotte was too
physically weak (as "Mary" has expressed it) to "gather up her
forces" sufficiently to express any difference or opposition of
opinion, and had consequently an assenting and deferential manner,
strangely at variance with what they knew of her remarkable
talents and decided character. At this house, the T.'s and the
Brontes could look forward to meeting each other pretty
frequently. There was another English family where Charlotte soon
became a welcome guest, and where, I suspect, she felt herself
more at her ease than either at Mrs. Jenkins', or the friends whom
I have first mentioned.

An English physician, with a large family of daughters, went to
reside at Brussels, for the sake of their education. He placed
them at Madame Heger's school in July, 1842, not a month before
the beginning of the GRANDES VACANCES on August 15th. In order to
make the most of their time, and become accustomed to the
language, these English sisters went daily, through the holidays,
to the pensionnat in the Rue d'Isabelle. Six or eight boarders
remained, besides the Miss Brontes. They were there during the
whole time, never even having the break to their monotonous life,
which passing an occasional day with a friend would have afforded
them; but devoting themselves with indefatigable diligence to the
different studies in which they were engaged. Their position in
the school appeared, to these new comers, analogous to what is
often called that of a parlour-boarder. They prepared their
French, drawing, German, and literature for their various masters;
and to these occupations Emily added that of music, in which she
was somewhat of a proficient; so much so as to be qualified to
give instruction in it to the three younger sisters of my

The school was divided into three classes. In the first were from
fifteen to twenty pupils; in the second, sixty was about the
average number--all foreigners, excepting the two Brontes and one
other; in the third, there were from twenty to thirty pupils. The
first and second classes occupied a long room, divided by a wooden
partition; in each division were four long ranges of desks; and at
the end was the ESTRADE, or platform, for the presiding
instructor. On the last row, in the quietest corner, sat
Charlotte and Emily, side by side, so deeply absorbed in their
studies as to be insensible to any noise or movement around them.
The school-hours were from nine to twelve (the luncheon hour),
when the boarders and half-boarders--perhaps two-and-thirty girls-
-went to the refectoire (a room with two long tables, having an
oil-lamp suspended over each), to partake of bread and fruit; the
EXTERNES, or morning pupils, who had brought their own refreshment
with them, adjourning to eat it in the garden. From one to two,
there was fancy-work--a pupil reading aloud some light literature
in each room; from two to four, lessons again. At four, the
externes left; and the remaining girls dined in the refectoire, M.
and Madame Heger presiding. From five to six there was
recreation, from six to seven, preparation for lessons; and, after
that succeeded the LECTURE PIEUSE--Charlotte's nightmare. On rare
occasions, M. Heger himself would come in, and substitute a book
of a different and more interesting kind. At eight, there was a
slight meal of water and PISTOLETS (the delicious little Brussels
rolls), which was immediately followed by prayers, and then to

The principal bedroom was over the long classe, or school-room.
There were six or eight narrow beds on each side of the apartment,
every one enveloped in its white draping curtain; a long drawer,
beneath each, served for a wardrobe, and between each was a stand
for ewer, basin, and looking-glass. The beds of the two Miss
Brontes were at the extreme end of the room, almost as private and
retired as if they had been in a separate apartment.

During the hours of recreation, which were always spent in the
garden, they invariably walked together, and generally kept a
profound silence; Emily, though so much the taller, leaning on her
sister. Charlotte would always answer when spoken to, taking the
lead in replying to any remark addressed to both; Emily rarely
spoke to any one. Charlotte's quiet, gentle manner never changed.
She was never seen out of temper for a moment; and occasionally,
when she herself had assumed the post of English teacher, and the
impertinence or inattention of her pupils was most irritating, a
slight increase of colour, a momentary sparkling of the eye, and
more decided energy of manner, were the only outward tokens she
gave of being conscious of the annoyance to which she was
subjected. But this dignified endurance of hers subdued her
pupils, in the long run, far more than the voluble tirades of the
other mistresses. My informant adds:- "The effect of this manner
was singular. I can speak from personal experience. I was at
that time high-spirited and impetuous, not respecting the French
mistresses; yet, to my own astonishment, at one word from her, I
was perfectly tractable; so much so, that at length, M. and Madame
Heger invariably preferred all their wishes to me through her; the
other pupils did not, perhaps, love her as I did, she was so quiet
and silent; but all respected her."

With the exception of that part which describes Charlotte's manner
as English teacher--an office which she did not assume for some
months later--all this description of the school life of the two
Brontes refers to the commencement of the new scholastic year in
October 1842; and the extracts I have given convey the first
impression which the life at a foreign school, and the position of
the two Miss Brontes therein, made upon an intelligent English
girl of sixteen. I will make a quotation from "Mary's" letter
referring to this time.

"The first part of her time at Brussels was not uninteresting.
She spoke of new people and characters, and foreign ways of the
pupils and teachers. She knew the hopes and prospects of the
teachers, and mentioned one who was very anxious to marry, 'she
was getting so old.' She used to get her father or brother (I
forget which) to be the bearer of letters to different single men,
who she thought might be persuaded to do her the favour, saying
that her only resource was to become a sister of charity if her
present employment failed and that she hated the idea. Charlotte
naturally looked with curiosity to people of her own condition.
This woman almost frightened her. 'She declares there is nothing
she can turn to, and laughs at the idea of delicacy,--and she is
only ten years older than I am!' I did not see the connection
till she said, 'Well, Polly, I should hate being a sister of
charity; I suppose that would shock some people, but I should.' I
thought she would have as much feeling as a nurse as most people,
and more than some. She said she did not know how people could
bear the constant pressure of misery, and never to change except
to a new form of it. It would be impossible to keep one's natural
feelings. I promised her a better destiny than to go begging any
one to marry her, or to lose her natural feelings as a sister of
charity. She said, 'My youth is leaving me; I can never do better
than I have done, and I have done nothing yet.' At such times she
seemed to think that most human beings were destined by the
pressure of worldly interests to lose one faculty and feeling
after another 'till they went dead altogether. I hope I shall be
put in my grave as soon as I'm dead; I don't want to walk about
so.' Here we always differed. I thought the degradation of
nature she feared was a consequence of poverty, and that she
should give her attention to earning money. Sometimes she
admitted this, but could find no means of earning money. At
others she seemed afraid of letting her thoughts dwell on the
subject, saying it brought on the worst palsy of all. Indeed, in
her position, nothing less than entire constant absorption in
petty money matters could have scraped together a provision.

"Of course artists and authors stood high with Charlotte, and the
best thing after their works would have been their company. She
used very inconsistently to rail at money and money-getting, and
then wish she was able to visit all the large towns in Europe, see
all the sights and know all the celebrities. This was her notion
of literary fame,--a passport to the society of clever people . .
. When she had become acquainted with the people and ways at
Brussels her life became monotonous, and she fell into the same
hopeless state as at Miss W-'s, though in a less degree. I wrote
to her, urging her to go home or elsewhere; she had got what she
wanted (French), and there was at least novelty in a new place, if
no improvement. That if she sank into deeper gloom she would soon
not have energy to go, and she was too far from home for her
friends to hear of her condition and order her home as they had
done from Miss W-'s. She wrote that I had done her a great
service, that she should certainly follow my advice, and was much
obliged to me. I have often wondered at this letter. Though she
patiently tolerated advice, she could always quietly put it aside,
and do as she thought fit. More than once afterwards she
mentioned the 'service' I had done her. She sent me 10L. to New
Zealand, on hearing some exaggerated accounts of my circumstances,
and told me she hoped it would come in seasonably; it was a debt
she owed me 'for the service I had done her.' I should think 10L.
was a quarter of her income. The 'service' was mentioned as an
apology, but kindness was the real motive."

The first break in this life of regular duties and employments
came heavily and sadly. Martha--pretty, winning, mischievous,
tricksome Martha--was taken ill suddenly at the Chateau de
Koekelberg. Her sister tended her with devoted love; but it was
all in vain; in a few days she died. Charlotte's own short
account of this event is as follows:-

"Martha T.'s illness was unknown to me till the day before she
died. I hastened to Koekelberg the next morning--unconscious that
she was in great danger--and was told that it was finished. She
had died in the night. Mary was taken away to Bruxelles. I have
seen Mary frequently since. She is in no ways crushed by the
event; but while Martha was ill, she was to her more than a
mother--more than a sister: watching, nursing, cherishing her so
tenderly, so unweariedly. She appears calm and serious now; no
bursts of violent emotion; no exaggeration of distress. I have
seen Martha's grave--the place where her ashes lie in a foreign

Who that has read "Shirley" does not remember the few lines--
perhaps half a page--of sad recollection?

"He has no idea that little Jessy will die young, she is so gay,
and chattering, and arch--original even now; passionate when
provoked, but most affectionate if caressed; by turns gentle and
rattling; exacting yet generous; fearless . . . yet reliant on any
who will help her. Jessy, with her little piquant face, engaging
prattle, and winning ways, is made to be a pet.

* * *

"Do you know this place? No, you never saw it; but you recognise
the nature of these trees, this foliage--the cypress, the willow,
the yew. Stone crosses like these are not unfamiliar to you, nor
are these dim garlands of everlasting flowers. Here is the place:
green sod and a grey marble head-stone--Jessy sleeps below. She
lived through an April day; much loved was she, much loving. She
often, in her brief life, shed tears--she had frequent sorrows;
she smiled between, gladdening whatever saw her. Her death was
tranquil and happy in Rose's guardian arms, for Rose had been her
stay and defence through many trials; the dying and the watching
English girls were at that hour alone in a foreign country, and
the soil of that country gave Jessy a grave.

* * *

"But, Jessy, I will write about you no more. This is an autumn
evening, wet and wild. There is only one cloud in the sky; but it
curtains it from pole to pole. The wind cannot rest; it hurries
sobbing over hills of sullen outline, colourless with twilight and
mist. Rain has beat all day on that church tower" (Haworth): "it
rises dark from the stony enclosure of its graveyard: the
nettles, the long grass, and the tombs all drip with wet. This
evening reminds me too forcibly of another evening some years ago:
a howling, rainy autumn evening too--when certain who had that day
performed a pilgrimage to a grave new made in a heretic cemetery,
sat near a wood fire on the hearth of a foreign dwelling. They
were merry and social, but they each knew that a gap, never to be
filled, had been made in their circle. They knew they had lost
something whose absence could never be quite atoned for, so long
as they lived; and they knew that heavy falling rain was soaking
into the wet earth which covered their lost darling; and that the
sad, sighing gale was mourning above her buried head. The fire
warmed them; Life and Friendship yet blessed them: but Jessy lay
cold, coffined, solitary--only the sod screening her from the

This was the first death that had occurred in the small circle of
Charlotte's immediate and intimate friends since the loss of her
two sisters long ago. She was still in the midst of her deep
sympathy with "Mary," when word came from home that her aunt, Miss
Branwell, was ailing--was very ill. Emily and Charlotte
immediately resolved to go home straight, and hastily packed up
for England, doubtful whether they should ever return to Brussels
or not, leaving all their relations with M. and Madame Heger, and
the pensionnat, uprooted, and uncertain of any future existence.
Even before their departure, on the morning after they received
the first intelligence of illness--when they were on the very
point of starting--came a second letter, telling them of their
aunt's death. It could not hasten their movements, for every
arrangement had been made for speed. They sailed from Antwerp;
they travelled night and day, and got home on a Tuesday morning.
The funeral and all was over, and Mr. Bronte and Anne were sitting
together, in quiet grief for the loss of one who had done her part
well in their household for nearly twenty years, and earned the
regard and respect of many who never knew how much they should
miss her till she was gone. The small property which she had
accumulated, by dint of personal frugality and self-denial, was
bequeathed to her nieces. Branwell, her darling, was to have had
his share; but his reckless expenditure had distressed the good
old lady, and his name was omitted in her will.

When the first shock was over, the three sisters began to enjoy
the full relish of meeting again, after the longest separation
they had had in their lives. They had much to tell of the past,
and much to settle for the future. Anne had been for some little
time in a situation, to which she was to return at the end of the
Christmas holidays. For another year or so they were again to be
all three apart; and, after that, the happy vision of being
together and opening a school was to be realised. Of course they
did not now look forward to settling at Burlington, or any other
place which would take them away from their father; but the small
sum which they each independently possessed would enable them to
effect such alterations in the parsonage-house at Haworth as would
adapt it to the reception of pupils. Anne's plans for the
interval were fixed. Emily quickly decided to be the daughter to
remain at home. About Charlotte there was much deliberation and
some discussion.

Even in all the haste of their sudden departure from Brussels, M.
Heger had found time to write a letter of sympathy to Mr. Bronte
on the loss which he had just sustained; a letter containing such
a graceful appreciation of the daughters' characters, under the
form of a tribute of respect to their father, that I should have
been tempted to copy it, even had there not also been a proposal
made in it respecting Charlotte, which deserves a place in the
record of her life.

"Au Reverend Monsieur Bronte, Pasteur Evangelique, &c, &c.

"Samedi, 5 Obre.


"Un evenement bien triste decide mesdemoiselles vas filles e
retourner brusquement en Angleterre, ce depart qui nous afflige
beaucoup a cependant ma complete approbation; il est bien naturel
qu'elles cherchent e vous consoler de ce que le ciel vient de vous
oter, on se serrant autour de vous, poui mieux vous faire
apprecier ce que le ciel vous a donne et ce qu'il vous laisse
encore. J'espere que vous me pardonnerez, Monsieur, de profiter
de cette circonstance pour vous faire parvenir l'expression de mon
respect; je n'ai pas l'honneur de vous connaitre personnellement,
et cependant j'eprouve pour votre personne un sentiment de sincere
veneration, car en jugeant un pere de famille par ses enfants on
ne risque pas de se tromper, et sous ce rapport l'education et les
sentiments que nous avons trouves dans mesdemoiselles vos filles
n'ont pu que nous donner une tres-haute idee de votre merite et de
votre caractere. Vous apprendrez sans doute avec plaisir que vos
enfants ont fait du progres tresremarquable dans toutes les
branches de l'enseignenient, et que ces progres sont entierement
du e leur amour pour le travail et e leur perseverance; nous
n'avons eu que bien peu e faire avec de pareilles eleves; leur
avancement est votre oeuvre bien plus que la notre; nous n'avons
pas eu e leur apprendre le prix du temps et de l'instruction,
elles avaient appris tout cela dans la maison paternelle, et nous
n'avons eu, pour notre part, que le faible merite de diriger leurs
efforts et de fournir un aliment convenable e la louable activite
que vos filles ont puisees dans votre exemple et dans vos lecons.
Puissent les eloges meritees que nous donnons e vos enfants vous
etre de quelque consolation dans le malheur que vous afflige;
c'est le notre espoir en vous ecrivant, et ce sera, pour
Mesdemoiselles Charlotte et Emily, une douce et belle recompense
de leurs travaux.

"En perdant nos deux cheres eleves, nous ne devons pas vous cacher
que nous eprouvons e la fois et du chagrin et de l'inquietude;
nous sommes affliges parce que cette brusque separation vient
briser l'affection presque paternelle que nous leur avons vouee,
et notre peine s'augmente e la vue de tant de travaux
interrompues, de tant de choses bien commencees, et qui ne
demandent que quelque temps encore pour etre menees e bonne fin.
Dans un an, chacune de vos demoiselles eut ete entierement
premunie contre les eventualites de l'avenir; chacune d'elles
acquerait e la fois et l'instruction et la science d'enseignement;
Mlle Emily allait apprendre le piano; recevoir les lecons du
meilleur professeur que nous ayons en Belgique, et deje elle avait
elle-meme de petites eleves; elle perdait donc e la fois un reste
d'ignorance et un reste plus genant encore de timidite; Mlle
Charlotte commencait e donner des lecons en francais, et
d'acquerir cette assurance, cet aplomb si necessaire dans
l'enseignement; encore un an tout au plus et l'oeuvre etait
achevee et bien achevee. Alors nous aurions pu, si cela vous eut
convenu, offrir e mesdemoiselles vos filles ou du moins e l'une
des deux une position qui eut ete dans ses gouts, et qui lui eut
donne cette douce independance si difficile e trouver pour une
jeune personne. Ce n'est pas, croyez le bien, Monsieur, ce n'est
pas ici pour nous une question d'interet personnel, c'est une
question d'affection; vous me pardonnerez si nous vous parlons de
vos enfants, si nous nous occupons de leur avenir, comme si elles
faisaient partie de notre famille; leurs qualites personnelles,
leur bon vouloir, leur zele extreme sont les seules causes qui
nous poussent e nous hasarder de la sorte. Nous savons, Monsieur,
que vous peserez plus murement et plus sagement que nous la
consequence qu'aurait pour l'avenir une interruption complete dans
les etudes de vos deux filles; vous deciderez ce qu'il faut faire,
et vous nous pardonnerez notre franchise, si vous daignez
considerer que le motif qui nous fait agir est une affection bien
desinteressee et qui s'affligerait beaucoup de devoir deje se
resigner e n'etre plus utile e vos chers enfants.

"Agreez, je vous prie, Monsieur, l'expression respectueuse de mes
sentiments de haute consideration.


There was so much truth, as well as so much kindness in this
letter--it was so obvious that a second year of instruction would
be far more valuable than the first, that there was no long
hesitation before it was decided that Charlotte should return to

Meanwhile, they enjoyed their Christmas all together
inexpressibly. Branwell was with them; that was always a pleasure
at this time; whatever might be his faults, or even his vices, his
sisters yet held him up as their family hope, as they trusted that
he would some day be their family pride. They blinded themselves
to the magnitude of the failings of which they were now and then
told, by persuading themselves that such failings were common to
all men of any strength of character; for, till sad experience
taught them better, they fell into the usual error of confounding
strong passions with strong character.

Charlotte's friend came over to see her, and she returned the
visit. Her Brussels life must have seemed like a dream, so
completely, in this short space of time, did she fall back into
the old household ways; with more of household independence than
she could ever have had during her aunt's lifetime. Winter though
it was, the sisters took their accustomed walks on the snow-
covered moors; or went often down the long road to Keighley, for
such books as had been added to the library there during their
absence from England.


Towards the end of January, the time came for Charlotte to return
to Brussels. Her journey thither was rather disastrous. She had
to make her way alone; and the train from Leeds to London, which
should have reached Euston-square early in the afternoon, was so
much delayed that it did not get in till ten at night. She had
intended to seek out the Chapter Coffee-house, where she had
stayed before, and which would have been near the place where the
steam-boats lay; but she appears to have been frightened by the
idea of arriving at an hour which, to Yorkshire notions, was so
late and unseemly; and taking a cab, therefore, at the station,
she drove straight to the London Bridge Wharf, and desired a
waterman to row her to the Ostend packet, which was to sail the
next morning. She described to me, pretty much as she has since
described it in "Villette," her sense of loneliness, and yet her
strange pleasure in the excitement of the situation, as in the
dead of that winter's night she went swiftly over the dark river
to the black hull's side, and was at first refused leave to ascend
to the deck. "No passengers might sleep on board," they said,
with some appearance of disrespect. She looked back to the lights
and subdued noises of London--that "Mighty Heart" in which she had
no place--and, standing up in the rocking boat, she asked to speak
to some one in authority on board the packet. He came, and her
quiet simple statement of her wish, and her reason for it, quelled
the feeling of sneering distrust in those who had first heard her
request; and impressed the authority so favourably that he allowed
her to come on board, and take possession of a berth. The next
morning she sailed; and at seven on Sunday evening she reached the
Rue d'Isabelle once more; having only left Haworth on Friday
morning at an early hour.

Her salary was 16L. a year; out of which she had to pay for her
German lessons, for which she was charged as much (the lessons
being probably rated by time) as when Emily learnt with her and
divided the expense, viz., ten francs a month. By Miss Bronte's
own desire, she gave her English lessons in the CLASSE, or
schoolroom, without the supervision of Madame or M. Heger. They
offered to be present, with a view to maintain order among the
unruly Belgian girls; but she declined this, saying that she would
rather enforce discipline by her own manner and character than be
indebted for obedience to the presence of a GENDARME. She ruled
over a new school-room, which had been built on the space in the
play-ground adjoining the house. Over that First Class she was
SURVEILLANTE at all hours; and henceforward she was called
MADEMOISELLE Charlotte by M. Heger's orders. She continued her
own studies, principally attending to German, and to Literature;
and every Sunday she went alone to the German and English chapels.
Her walks too were solitary, and principally taken in the allee
defendue, where she was secure from intrusion. This solitude was
a perilous luxury to one of her temperament; so liable as she was
to morbid and acute mental suffering.

On March 6th, 1843, she writes thus:-

"I am settled by this time, of course. I am not too much
overloaded with occupation; and besides teaching English, I have
time to improve myself in German. I ought to consider myself well
off, and to be thankful for my good fortunes. I hope I am
thankful; and if I could always keep up my spirits and never feel
lonely, or long for companionship, or friendship, or whatever they
call it, I should do very well. As I told you before, M. and
Madame Heger are the only two persons in the house for whom I
really experience regard and esteem, and of course, I cannot be
always with them, nor even very often. They told me, when I first
returned, that I was to consider their sitting-room my sitting-
room also, and to go there whenever I was not engaged in the
schoolroom. This, however, I cannot do. In the daytime it is a
public room, where music-masters and mistresses are constantly
passing in and out; and in the evening, I will not, and ought not
to intrude on M. and Madame Heger and their children. Thus I am a
good deal by myself, out of school-hours; but that does not
signify. I now regularly give English lessons to M. Heger and his
brother-in-law. They get on with wonderful rapidity; especially
the first. He already begins to speak English very decently. If
you could see and hear the efforts I make to teach them to
pronounce like Englishmen, and their unavailing attempts to
imitate, you would laugh to all eternity.

"The Carnival is just over, and we have entered upon the gloom and
abstinence of Lent. The first day of Lent we had coffee without
milk for breakfast; vinegar and vegetables, with a very little
salt fish, for dinner; and bread for supper. The Carnival was
nothing but masking and mummery. M. Heger took me and one of the
pupils into the town to see the masks. It was animating to see
the immense crowds, and the general gaiety, but the masks were
nothing. I have been twice to the D.'s" (those cousins of
"Mary's" of whom I have before made mention). "When she leaves
Bruxelles, I shall have nowhere to go to. I have had two letters
from Mary. She does not tell me she has been ill, and she does
not complain; but her letters are not the letters of a person in
the enjoyment of great happiness. She has nobody to be as good to
her as M. Heger is to me; to lend her books; to converse with her
sometimes, &c.

"Good-bye. When I say so, it seems to me that you will hardly
hear me; all the waves of the Channel heaving and roaring between
must deaden the sound."

From the tone of this letter, it may easily be perceived that the
Brussels of 1843 was a different place from that of 1842. Then
she had Emily for a daily and nightly solace and companion. She
had the weekly variety of a visit to the family of the D.s; and
she had the frequent happiness of seeing "Mary" and Martha. Now
Emily was far away in Haworth--where she or any other loved one,
might die, before Charlotte, with her utmost speed, could reach
them, as experience, in her aunt's case, had taught her. The D.s
were leaving Brussels; so, henceforth, her weekly holiday would
have to be passed in the Rue d'Isabelle, or so she thought.
"Mary" was gone off on her own independent course; Martha alone
remained--still and quiet for ever, in the cemetery beyond the
Porte de Louvain. The weather, too, for the first few weeks after
Charlotte's return, had been piercingly cold; and her feeble
constitution was always painfully sensitive to an inclement
season. Mere bodily pain, however acute, she could always put
aside; but too often ill-health assailed her in a part far more to
be dreaded. Her depression of spirits, when she was not well, was
pitiful in its extremity. She was aware that it was
constitutional, and could reason about it; but no reasoning
prevented her suffering mental agony, while the bodily cause
remained in force.

The Hegers have discovered, since the publication of "Villette,"
that at this beginning of her career as English teacher in their
school, the conduct of her pupils was often impertinent and
mutinous in the highest degree. But of this they were unaware at
the time, as she had declined their presence, and never made any
complaint. Still it must have been a depressing thought to her at
this period, that her joyous, healthy, obtuse pupils were so
little answerable to the powers she could bring to bear upon them;

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