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The Life of Charlotte Bronte Volume 2 [At this date we are still working on Volume 1] by Elizabeth Claghorn Gaskell

Part 2 out of 5

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"Fine ladies and gentlemen glanced at us, as we stood by the box-
door, which was not yet opened, with a slight, graceful
superciliousness, quite warranted by the circumstances. Still I
felt pleasurably excited in spite of headache, sickness, and
conscious clownishness; and I saw Anne was calm and gentle, which
she always is. The performance was Rossini's 'Barber of
Seville,'--very brilliant, though I fancy there are things I
should like better. We got home after one o'clock. We had never
been in bed the night before; had been in constant excitement for
twenty-four hours; you may imagine we were tired. The next day,
Sunday, Mr. Williams came early to take us to church; and in the
afternoon Mr. Smith and his mother fetched us in a carriage, and
took us to his house to dine.

"On Monday we went to the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, the
National Gallery, dined again at Mr. Smith's, and then went home
to tea with Mr. Williams at his house.

"On Tuesday morning, we left London, laden with books Mr. Smith
had given us, and got safely home. A more jaded wretch than I
looked, it would be difficult to conceive. I was thin when I
went, but I was meagre indeed when I returned, my face looking
grey and very old, with strange deep lines ploughed in it--my
eyes stared unnaturally. I was weak and yet restless. In a while,
however, these bad effects of excitement went off, and I regained
my normal condition."

The impression Miss Bronte made upon those with whom she first
became acquainted during this visit to London, was of a person
with clear judgment and fine sense; and though reserved,
possessing unconsciously the power of drawing out others in
conversation. She never expressed an opinion without assigning a
reason for it; she never put a question without a definite
purpose; and yet people felt at their ease in talking with her.
All conversation with her was genuine and stimulating; and when
she launched forth in praise or reprobation of books, or deeds,
or works of art, her eloquence was indeed burning. She was
thorough in all that she said or did; yet so open and fair in
dealing with a subject, or contending with an opponent, that
instead of rousing resentment, she merely convinced her hearers
of her earnest zeal for the truth and right.

Not the least singular part of their proceedings was the place at
which the sisters had chosen to stay.

Paternoster Row was for many years sacred to publishers. It is a
narrow flagged street, lying under the shadow of St. Paul's; at
each end there are posts placed, so as to prevent the passage of
carriages, and thus preserve a solemn silence for the
deliberations of the "Fathers of the Row." The dull warehouses on
each side are mostly occupied at present by wholesale stationers;
if they be publishers' shops, they show no attractive front to
the dark and narrow street. Half-way up, on the left-hand side,
is the Chapter Coffee-house. I visited it last June. It was then
unoccupied. It had the appearance of a dwelling-house, two
hundred years old or so, such as one sometimes sees in ancient
country towns; the ceilings of the small rooms were low, and had
heavy beams running across them; the walls were wainscotted
breast high; the staircase was shallow, broad, and dark, taking
up much space in the centre of the house. This then was the
Chapter Coffee-house, which, a century ago, was the resort of all
the booksellers and publishers; and where the literary hacks, the
critics, and even the wits, used to go in search of ideas or
employment. This was the place about which Chatterton wrote, in
those delusive letters he sent to his mother at Bristol, while he
was starving in London. "I am quite familiar at the Chapter
Coffee-house, and know all the geniuses there." Here he heard of
chances of employment; here his letters were to be left.

Years later, it became the tavern frequented by university men
and country clergymen, who were up in London for a few days, and,
having no private friends or access into society, were glad to
learn what was going on in the world of letters, from the
conversation which they were sure to hear in the Coffee-room. In
Mr. Bronte's few and brief visits to town, during his residence
at Cambridge, and the period of his curacy in Essex, he had
stayed at this house; hither he had brought his daughters, when
he was convoying them to Brussels; and here they came now, from
very ignorance where else to go. It was a place solely frequented
by men; I believe there was but one female servant in the house.
Few people slept there; some of the stated meetings of the Trade
were held in it, as they had been for more than a century; and,
occasionally country booksellers, with now and then a clergyman,
resorted to it; but it was a strange desolate place for the Miss
Brontes to have gone to, from its purely business and masculine
aspect. The old "grey-haired elderly man," who officiated as
waiter seems to have been touched from the very first with the
quiet simplicity of the two ladies, and he tried to make them
feel comfortable and at home in the long, low, dingy room
up-stairs, where the meetings of the Trade were held. The high
narrow windows looked into the gloomy Row; the sisters, clinging
together on the most remote window-seat, (as Mr. Smith tells me
he found them, when he came, that Saturday evening, to take them
to the Opera,) could see nothing of motion, or of change, in the
grim, dark houses opposite, so near and close, although the whole
breadth of the Row was between. The mighty roar of London was
round them, like the sound of an unseen ocean, yet every footfall
on the pavement below might be heard distinctly, in that
unfrequented street. Such as it was, they preferred remaining at
the Chapter Coffee-house, to accepting the invitation which Mr.
Smith and his mother urged upon them, and, in after years,
Charlotte says:--

"Since those days, I have seen the West End, the parks, the fine
squares; but I love the City far better. The City seems so much
more in earnest; its business, its rush, its roar, are such
serious things, sights, sounds. The City is getting its
living--the West End but enjoying its pleasure. At the West End
you may be amused; but in the City you are deeply excited."
(Villette, vol. i. p.89.)

Their wish had been to hear Dr. Croly on the Sunday morning, and
Mr. Williams escorted them to St. Stephen's, Walbrook; but they
were disappointed, as Dr. Croly did not preach. Mr. Williams also
took them (as Miss Bronte has mentioned) to drink tea at his
house. On the way thither, they had to pass through Kensington
Gardens, and Miss Bronte was much "struck with the beauty of the
scene, the fresh verdure of the turf, and the soft rich masses
of foliage." From remarks on the different character of the
landscape in the South to what it was in the North, she was led
to speak of the softness and varied intonation of the voices of
those with whom she conversed in London, which seem to have made
a strong impression on both sisters. All this time those who came
in contact with the "Miss Browns" (another pseudonym, also
beginning with B), seem only to have regarded them as shy and
reserved little country-women, with not much to say. Mr. Williams
tells me that on the night when he accompanied the party to the
Opera, as Charlotte ascended the flight of stairs leading from
the grand entrance up to the lobby of the first tier of boxes,
she was so much struck with the architectural effect of the
splendid decorations of that vestibule and saloon, that
involuntarily she slightly pressed his arm, and whispered, "You
know I am not accustomed to this sort of thing." Indeed, it must
have formed a vivid contrast to what they were doing and seeing
an hour or two earlier the night before, when they were trudging
along, with beating hearts and high-strung courage, on the road
between Haworth and Keighley, hardly thinking of the
thunder-storm that beat about their heads, for the thoughts which
filled them of how they would go straight away to London, and
prove that they were really two people, and not one imposter. It
was no wonder that they returned to Haworth utterly fagged and
worn out, after the fatigue and excitement of this visit.

The next notice I find of Charlotte's life at this time is of a
different character to anything telling of enjoyment.

"July 28th.

"Branwell is the same in conduct as ever. His constitution seems
much shattered. Papa, and sometimes all of us, have sad nights
with him. He sleeps most of the day, and consequently will lie
awake at night. But has not every house its trial?"

While her most intimate friends were yet in ignorance of the fact
of her authorship of "Jane Eyre," she received a letter from one
of them, making inquiries about Casterton School. It is but right
to give her answer, written on August 28th, 1848.

"Since you wish to hear from me while you are from home, I will
write without further delay. It often happens that when we linger
at first in answering a friend's letter, obstacles occur to
retard us to an inexcusably late period. In my last, I forgot to
answer a question which you asked me, and was sorry afterwards
for the omission. I will begin, therefore, by replying to it,
though I fear what information I can give will come a little
late. You said Mrs. ---- had some thoughts of sending ---- to
school, and wished to know whether the Clergy Daughters' School
at Casterton was an eligible place. My personal knowledge of that
institution is very much out of date, being derived from the
experience of twenty years ago. The establishment was at that
time in its infancy, and a sad rickety infancy it was. Typhus
fever decimated the school periodically; and consumption and
scrofula, in every variety of form bad air and water, bad and
insufficient diet can generate, preyed on the ill-fated pupils.
It would not THEN have been a fit place for any of Mrs. ----'s
children; but I understand it is very much altered for the better
since those days. The school is removed from Cowan Bridge (a
situation as unhealthy as it was picturesque--low, damp,
beautiful with wood and water) to Casterton. The accommodations,
the diet, the discipline, the system of tuition--all are, I
believe, entirely altered and greatly improved. I was told that
such pupils as behaved well, and remained at the school till
their education was finished, were provided with situations as
governesses, if they wished to adopt the vocation and much care
was exercised in the selection , it was added, that they were
also furnished with an excellent wardrobe on leaving Casterton. .
. . The oldest family in Haworth failed lately, and have quitted
the neighbourhood where their fathers resided before them for, it
is said, thirteen generations. . . . Papa, I am most thankful to
say, continues in very good health, considering his age; his
sight, too, rather, I think, improves than deteriorates. My
sisters likewise are pretty well."

But the dark cloud was hanging over that doomed household, and
gathering blackness every hour.

On October the 9th, she thus writes:--

"The past three weeks have been a dark interval in our humble
home. Branwell's constitution had been failing fast all the
summer; but still, neither the doctors nor himself thought him so
near his end as he was. He was entirely confined to his bed but
for one single day, and was in the village two days before his
death. He died, after twenty minutes' struggle, on Sunday
morning, September 24th. He was perfectly conscious till the last
agony came on. His mind had undergone the peculiar change which
frequently precedes death, two days previously; the calm of
better feelings filled it; a return of natural affection marked
his last moments. He is in God's hands now; and the All-Powerful
is likewise the All-Merciful. A deep conviction that he rests at
last--rests well, after his brief, erring, suffering, feverish
life--fills and quiets my mind now. The final separation, the
spectacle of his pale corpse, gave me more acute bitter pain than
I could have imagined. Till the last hour comes, we never how
know much we can forgive, pity, regret a near relative. All his
vices were and are nothing now. We remember only his woes. Papa
was acutely distressed at first, but, on the whole, has borne the
event well. Emily and Anne are pretty well, though Anne is always
delicate, and Emily has a cold and cough at present. It was my
fate to sink at the crisis, when I should have collected my
strength. Headache and sickness came on first on the Sunday; I
could not regain my appetite. Then internal pain attacked me. I
became at once much reduced. It was impossible to touch a morsel.
At last, bilious fever declared itself. I was confined to bed a
week,--a dreary week. But, thank God! health seems now returning.
I can sit up all day, and take moderate nourishment. The doctor
said at first, I should be very slow in recovering, but I seem to
get on faster than he anticipated. I am truly MUCH BETTER."

I have heard, from one who attended Branwell in his last illness,
that he resolved on standing up to die. He had repeatedly said,
that as long as there was life there was strength of will to do
what it chose; and when the last agony came on, he insisted on
assuming the position just mentioned. I have previously stated,
that when his fatal attack came on, his pockets were found filled
with old letters from the woman to whom he was attached. He died!
she lives still,--in May Fair. The Eumenides, I suppose, went out
of existence at the time when the wail was heard, "Great Pan is
dead." I think we could better have spared him than those awful
Sisters who sting dead conscience into life.

I turn from her for ever. Let us look once more into the
Parsonage at Haworth.

"Oct. 29th, 1848.

"I think I have now nearly got over the effects of my late
illness, and am almost restored to my normal condition of health.
I sometimes wish that it was a little higher, but we ought to be
content with such blessings as we have, and not pine after those
that are out of our reach. I feel much more uneasy about my
sister than myself just now. Emily's cold and cough are very
obstinate. I fear she has pain in her chest, and I sometimes
catch a shortness in her breathing, when she has moved at all
quickly. She looks very thin and pale. Her reserved nature
occasions me great uneasiness of mind. It is useless to question
her; you get no answers. It is still more useless to recommend
remedies; they are never adopted. Nor can I shut my eyes to
Anne's great delicacy of constitution. The late sad event has, I
feel, made me more apprehensive than common. I cannot help
feeling much depressed sometimes. I try to leave all in God's
hands; to trust in His goodness; but faith and resignation are
difficult to practise under some circumstances. The weather has
been most unfavourable for invalids of late; sudden changes of
temperature, and cold penetrating winds have been frequent here.
Should the atmosphere become more settled, perhaps a favourable
effect might be produced on the general health, and these
harassing colds and coughs be removed. Papa has not quite
escaped, but he has so far stood it better than any of us. You
must not mention my going to ---- this winter. I could not, and
would not, leave home on any account. Miss ---- has been for some
years out of health now. These things make one FEEL, as well as
KNOW, that this world is not our abiding-place. We should not
knit human ties too close, or clasp human affections too fondly.
They must leave us, or we must leave them, one day. God restore
health and strength to all who need it!"

I go on now with her own affecting words in the biographical
notice of her sisters.

"But a great change approached. Affliction came in that shape
which to anticipate is dread; to look back on grief. In the very
heat and burden of the day, the labourers failed over their work.
My sister Emily first declined. . . . Never in all her life had
she lingered over any task that lay before her, and she did not
linger now. She sank rapidly. She made haste to leave us. . . .
Day by day, when I, saw with what a front she met suffering, I
looked on her with an anguish of wonder and love: I have seen
nothing like it; but, indeed, I have never seen her parallel in
anything. Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature
stood alone. The awful point was that, while full of ruth for
others, on herself she had no pity; the spirit was inexorable to
the flesh; from the trembling hands, the unnerved limbs, the
fading eyes, the same service was exacted as they had rendered in
health. To stand by and witness this, and not dare to
remonstrate, was a pain no words can render."

In fact, Emily never went out of doors after the Sunday
succeeding Branwell's death. She made no complaint; she would not
endure questioning; she rejected sympathy and help. Many a time
did Charlotte and Anne drop their sewing, or cease from their
writing, to listen with wrung hearts to the failing step, the
laboured breathing, the frequent pauses, with which their sister
climbed the short staircase; yet they dared not notice what they
observed, with pangs of suffering even deeper than hers. They
dared not notice it in words, far less by the caressing
assistance of a helping arm or hand. They sat, still and silent.

"Nov. 23rd, 1848.

"I told you Emily was ill, in my last letter. She has not rallied
yet. She is VERY ill. I believe, if you were to see her, your
impression would be that there is no hope. A more hollow, wasted,
pallid aspect I have not beheld. The deep tight cough continues;
the breathing after the least exertion is a rapid pant; and these
symptoms are accompanied by pains in the chest and side. Her
pulse, the only time she allowed it be to felt, was found to beat
115 per minute. In this state she resolutely refuses to see a
doctor; she will give no explanation of her feelings, she will
scarcely allow her feelings to be alluded to. Our position is,
and has been for some weeks, exquisitely painful. God only knows
how all this is to terminate. More than once, I have been forced
boldly to regard the terrible event of her loss as possible, and
even probable. But nature shrinks from such thoughts. I think
Emily seems the nearest thing to my heart in the world."

When a doctor had been sent for, and was in the very house, Emily
refused to see him. Her sisters could only describe to him what
symptoms they had observed; and the medicines which he sent she
would not take, denying that she was ill.

"Dec. 10th, 1848.

"I hardly know what to say to you about the subject which now
interests me the most keenly of anything in this world, for, in
truth, I hardly know what to think myself. Hope and fear
fluctuate daily. The pain in her side and chest is better; the
cough, the shortness of breath, the extreme emaciation continue.
I have endured, however, such tortures of uncertainty on this
subject that, at length, I could endure it no longer; and as her
repugnance to seeing a medical man continues immutable,--as she
declares 'no poisoning doctor' shall come near her,--I have
written unknown to her, to an eminent physician in London, giving
as minute a statement of her case and symptoms as I could draw
up, and requesting an opinion. I expect an answer in a day or
two. I am thankful to say, that my own health at present is very
tolerable. It is well such is the case; for Anne, with the best
will in the world to be useful, is really too delicate to do or
bear much. She, too, at present, has frequent pains in the side.
Papa is also pretty well, though Emily's state renders him very

"The ----s (Anne Bronte's former pupils) were here about a week
ago. They are attractive and stylish-looking girls. They seemed
overjoyed to see Anne: when I went into the room, they were
clinging round her like two children--she, meantime, looking
perfectly quiet and passive. . . . I. and H. took it into their
heads to come here. I think it probable offence was taken on that
occasion,--from what cause, I know not; and as, if such be the
case, the grudge must rest upon purely imaginary grounds,--and
since, besides, I have other things to think about, my mind
rarely dwells upon the subject. If Emily were but well, I feel as
if I should not care who neglected, misunderstood, or abused me.
I would rather you were not of the number either. The crab-cheese
arrived safely. Emily has just reminded me to thank you for it:
it looks very nice. I wish she were well enough to eat it."

But Emily was growing rapidly worse. I remember Miss Bronte's
shiver at recalling the pang she felt when, after having searched
in the little hollows and sheltered crevices of the moors for a
lingering spray of heather--just one spray, however withered--to
take in to Emily, she saw that the flower was not recognised by
the dim and indifferent eyes. Yet, to the last, Emily adhered
tenaciously to her habits of independence. She would suffer no
one to assist her. Any effort to do so roused the old stern
spirit. One Tuesday morning, in December, she arose and dressed
herself as usual, making many a pause, but doing everything for
herself, and even endeavouring to take up her employment of
sewing: the servants looked on, and knew what the catching,
rattling breath, and the glazing of the eye too surely foretold;
but she kept at her work; and Charlotte and Anne, though full of
unspeakable dread, had still the faintest spark of hope. On that
morning Charlotte wrote thus--probably in the very presence of
her dying sister:--


"I should have written to you before, if I had had one word of
hope to say; but I have not. She grows daily weaker. The
physician's opinion was expressed too obscurely to be of use. He
sent some medicine, which she would not take. Moments so dark as
these I have never known. I pray for God's support to us all.
Hitherto He has granted it."

The morning drew on to noon. Emily was worse: she could only
whisper in gasps. Now, when it was too late, she said to
Charlotte, "If you will send for a doctor, I will see him now."
About two o'clock she died.

"Dec. 21st, 1848.

"Emily suffers no more from pain or weakness now. She never will
suffer more in this world. She is gone, after a hard short
conflict. She died on TUESDAY, the very day I wrote to you. I
thought it very possible she might be with us still for weeks;
and a few hours afterwards, she was in eternity. Yes; there is no
Emily in time or on earth now. Yesterday we put her poor, wasted,
mortal frame quietly under the church pavement. We are very calm
at present. Why should we be otherwise? The anguish of seeing her
suffer is over; the spectacle of the pains of death is gone by;
the funeral day is past. We feel she is at peace. No need now to
tremble for the hard frost and the keen wind. Emily does not feel
them. She died in a time of promise. We saw her taken from life
in its prime. But it is God's will, and the place where she is
gone is better than that she has left.

"God has sustained me, in a way that I marvel at, through such
agony as I had not conceived. I now look at Anne, and wish she
were well and strong; but she is neither; nor is papa. Could you
now come to us for a few days? I would not ask you to stay long.
Write and tell me if you could come next week, and by what train.
I would try to send a gig for you to Keighley. You will, I trust,
find us tranquil. Try to come. I never so much needed the
consolation of a friend's presence. Pleasure, of course, there
would be none for you in the visit, except what your kind heart
would teach you to find in doing good to others."

As the old, bereaved father and his two surviving children
followed the coffin to the grave, they were joined by Keeper,
Emily's fierce, faithful bull-dog. He walked alongside of the
mourners, and into the church, and stayed quietly there all the
time that the burial service was being read. When he came home,
he lay down at Emily's chamber door, and howled pitifully for
many days. Anne Bronte drooped and sickened more rapidly from
that time; and so ended the year 1848.


An article on "Vanity Fair" and "Jane Eyre" had appeared in the
Quarterly Review of December, 1848. Some weeks after, Miss Bronte
wrote to her publishers, asking why it had not been sent to her;
and conjecturing that it was unfavourable, she repeated her
previous request, that whatever was done with the laudatory, all
critiques adverse to the novel might be forwarded to her without
fail. The Quarterly Review was accordingly sent. I am not aware
that Miss Bronte took any greater notice of the article than to
place a few sentences out of it in the mouth of a hard and vulgar
woman in "Shirley," where they are so much in character, that few
have recognised them as a quotation. The time when the article
was read was good for Miss Bronte; she was numbed to all petty
annoyances by the grand severity of Death. Otherwise she might
have felt more keenly than they deserved the criticisms which,
while striving to be severe, failed in logic, owing to the misuse
of prepositions; and have smarted under conjectures as to the
authorship of "Jane Eyre," which, intended to be acute, were
merely flippant. But flippancy takes a graver name when directed
against an author by an anonymous writer. We call it then
cowardly insolence.

Every one has a right to form his own conclusion respecting the
merits and demerits of a book. I complain not of the judgment
which the reviewer passes on "Jane Eyre." Opinions as to its
tendency varied then, as they do now. While I write, I receive a
letter from a clergyman in America in which he says: "We have in
our sacred of sacreds a special shelf, highly adorned, as a place
we delight to honour, of novels which we recognise as having had
a good influence on character OUR character. Foremost is 'Jane

Nor do I deny the existence of a diametrically opposite judgment.
And so (as I trouble not myself about the reviewer's style of
composition) I leave his criticisms regarding the merits of the
work on one side. But when--forgetting the chivalrous spirit of
the good and noble Southey, who said: "In reviewing anonymous
works myself, when I have known the authors I have never
mentioned them, taking it for granted they had sufficient reasons
for avoiding the publicity"--the Quarterly reviewer goes on into
gossiping conjectures as to who Currer Bell really is, and
pretends to decide on what the writer may be from the book, I
protest with my whole soul against such want of Christian
charity. Not even the desire to write a "smart article," which
shall be talked about in London, when the faint mask of the
anonymous can be dropped at pleasure if the cleverness of the
review be admired--not even this temptation can excuse the
stabbing cruelty of the judgment. Who is he that should say of an
unknown woman: "She must be one who for some sufficient reason
has long forfeited the society of her sex"? Is he one who has led
a wild and struggling and isolated life,--seeing few but plain
and outspoken Northerns, unskilled in the euphuisms which assist
the polite world to skim over the mention of vice? Has he striven
through long weeping years to find excuses for the lapse of an
only brother; and through daily contact with a poor lost
profligate, been compelled into a certain familiarity with the
vices that his soul abhors? Has he, through trials, close
following in dread march through his household, sweeping the
hearthstone bare of life and love, still striven hard for
strength to say, "It is the Lord! let Him do what seemeth to Him
good"--and sometimes striven in vain, until the kindly Light
returned? If through all these dark waters the scornful reviewer
have passed clear, refined, free from stain,--with a soul that
has never in all its agonies cried "lama sabachthani,"--still,
even then let him pray with the Publican rather than judge with
the Pharisee.

"Jan. l0th, 1849.

"Anne had a very tolerable day yesterday, and a pretty quiet
night last night, though she did not sleep much. Mr. Wheelhouse
ordered the blister to be put on again. She bore it without
sickness. I have just dressed it, and she is risen and come
down-stairs. She looks somewhat pale and sickly. She has had one
dose of the cod-liver oil; it smells and tastes like train oil. I
am trying to hope, but the day is windy, cloudy, and stormy. My
spirits fall at intervals very low; then I look where you counsel
me to look, beyond earthly tempests and sorrows. I seem to get
strength, if not consolation. It will not do to anticipate. I
feel that hourly. In the night, I awake and long for morning;
then my heart is wrung. Papa continues much the same; he was very
faint when he came down to breakfast. . . . Dear E----, your
friendship is some comfort to me. I am thankful for it. I see few
lights through the darkness of the present time, but amongst them
the constancy of a kind heart attached to me is one of the most
cheering and serene."

"Jan. 15th, 1849.

"I can scarcely say that Anne is worse, nor can I say she is
better. She varies often in the course of a day, yet each day is
passed pretty much the same. The morning is usually the best
time; the afternoon and the evening the most feverish. Her cough
is the most troublesome at night, but it is rarely violent. The
pain in her arm still disturbs her. She takes the cod-liver oil
and carbonate of iron regularly; she finds them both nauseous,
but especially the oil. Her appetite is small indeed. Do not fear
that I shall relax in my care of her. She is too precious not to
be cherished with all the fostering strength I have. Papa, I am
thankful to say, has been a good deal better this last day or

"As to your queries about myself, I can only say, that if I
continue as I am I shall do very well. I have not yet got rid of
the pains in my chest and back. They oddly return with every
change of weather; and are still sometimes accompanied with a
little soreness and hoarseness, but I combat them steadily with
pitch plasters and bran tea. I should think it silly and wrong
indeed not to be regardful of my own health at present; it would
not do to be ill NOW.

"I avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking
upward. This is not the time to regret, dread, or weep. What I
have and ought to do is very distinctly laid out for me; what I
want, and pray for, is strength to perform it. The days pass in a
slow, dark march; the nights are the test; the sudden wakings
from restless sleep, the revived knowledge that one lies in her
grave, and another not at my side, but in a separate and sick
bed. However, God is over all."

"Jan. 22nd, 1849.

"Anne really did seem to be a little better during some mild days
last week, but to-day she looks very pale and languid again. She
perseveres with the cod-liver oil, but still finds it very

"She is truly obliged to you for the soles for her shoes, and
finds them extremely comfortable. I am to commission you to get
her just such a respirator as Mrs. ---- had. She would not object
to give a higher price, if you thought it better. If it is not
too much trouble, you may likewise get me a pair of soles; you
can send them and the respirator when you send the box. You must
put down the price of all, and we will pay you in a Post Office
order. "Wuthering Heights" was given to you. I have sent ----
neither letter nor parcel. I had nothing but dreary news to
write, so preferred that others should tell her. I have not
written to ---- either. I cannot write, except when I am quite

"Feb. 11th, 1849.

"We received the box and its contents quite safely to-day. The
penwipers are very pretty, and we are very much obliged to you
for them. I hope the respirator will be useful to Anne, in case
she should ever be well enough to go out again. She continues
very much in the same state--I trust not greatly worse, though
she is becoming very thin. I fear it would be only self-delusion
to fancy her better. What effect the advancing season may have on
her, I know not; perhaps the return of really warm weather may
give nature a happy stimulus. I tremble at the thought of any
change to cold wind or frost. Would that March were well over!
Her mind seems generally serene, and her sufferings hitherto are
nothing like Emily's. The thought of what may be to come grows
more familiar to my mind; but it is a sad, dreary guest."

"March 16th, 1849.

"We have found the past week a somewhat trying one; it has not
been cold, but still there have been changes of temperature whose
effect Anne has felt unfavourably. She is not, I trust, seriously
worse, but her cough is at times very hard and painful, and her
strength rather diminished than improved. I wish the month of
March was well over. You are right in conjecturing that I am
somewhat depressed; at times I certainly am. It was almost easier
to bear up when the trial was at its crisis than now. The feeling
of Emily's loss does not diminish as time wears on; it often
makes itself most acutely recognised. It brings too an
inexpressible sorrow with it; and then the future is dark. Yet I
am well aware, it will not do either to complain, or sink, and I
strive to do neither. Strength, I hope and trust, will yet be
given in proportion to the burden; but the pain of my position is
not one likely to lessen with habit. Its solitude and isolation
are oppressive circumstances, yet I do not wish for any friends
to stay with me; I could not do with any one--not even you--to
share the sadness of the house; it would rack me intolerably.
Meantime, judgment is still blent with mercy. Anne's sufferings
still continue mild. It is my nature, when left alone, to
struggle on with a certain perseverance, and I believe God will
help me."

Anne had been delicate all her life; a fact which perhaps made
them less aware than they would otherwise have been of the true
nature of those fatal first symptoms. Yet they seem to have lost
but little time before they sent for the first advice that could
be procured. She was examined with the stethoscope, and the
dreadful fact was announced that her lungs were affected, and
that tubercular consumption had already made considerable
progress. A system of treatment was prescribed, which was
afterwards ratified by the opinion of Dr. Forbes.

For a short time they hoped that the disease was arrested.
Charlotte--herself ill with a complaint that severely tried her
spirits--was the ever-watchful nurse of this youngest, last
sister. One comfort was that Anne was the patientest, gentlest
invalid that could be. Still, there were hours, days, weeks of
inexpressible anguish to be borne; under the pressure of which
Charlotte could only pray and pray she did, right earnestly. Thus
she writes on March 24th;--

"Anne's decline is gradual and fluctuating; but its nature is not
doubtful. . . . In spirit she is resigned: at heart she is, I
believe, a true Christian. . . . May God support her and all of
us through the trial of lingering sickness, and aid her in the
last hour when the struggle which separates soul from body must
be gone through! We saw Emily torn from the midst of us when our
hearts clung to her with intense attachment. . . She was scarce
buried when Anne's health failed. . . . These things would be too
much, if reason, unsupported by religion, were condemned to bear
them alone. I have cause to be most thankful for the strength
that has hitherto been vouchsafed both to my father and to
myself. God, I think, is especially merciful to old age; and for
my own part, trials, which in perspective would have seemed to me
quite intolerable, when they actually came I endured without
prostration. Yet I must confess that, in the time which has
elapsed since Emily's death, there have been moments of solitary,
deep, inert affliction, far harder to bear than those which
immediately followed our loss. The crisis of bereavement has an
acute pang which goads to exertion; the desolate after-feeling
sometimes paralyses. I have learnt that we are not to find solace
in our own strength; we must seek it in God's omnipotence.
Fortitude is good; but fortitude itself must be shaken under us
to teach us how weak we are!"

All through this illness of Anne's, Charlotte had the comfort of
being able to talk to her about her state; a comfort rendered
inexpressibly great by the contrast which it presented to the
recollection of Emily's rejection of all sympathy. If a proposal
for Anne's benefit was made, Charlotte could speak to her about
it, and the nursing and dying sister could consult with each
other as to its desirability. I have seen but one of Anne's
letters; it is the only time we seem to be brought into direct
personal contact with this gentle, patient girl. In order to give
the requisite preliminary explanation, I must state that the
family of friends, to which E---- belonged, proposed that Anne
should come to them; in order to try what change of air and diet,
and the company of kindly people could do towards restoring her
to health. In answer to this proposal, Charlotte writes:--

"March 24th.

"I read your kind note to Anne, and she wishes me to thank you
sincerely for your friendly proposal. She feels, of course, that
it would not do to take advantage of it, by quartering an
invalid upon the inhabitants of ----; but she intimates there is
another way in which you might serve her, perhaps with some
benefit to yourself as well as to her. Should it, a month or two
hence, be deemed advisable that she should go either to the
sea-side, or to some inland watering-place--and should papa be
disinclined to move, and I consequently obliged to remain at
home--she asks, could you be her companion? Of course I need not
add that in the event of such an arrangement being made, you
would be put to no expense. This, dear E., is Anne's proposal; I
make it to comply with her wish; but for my own part, I must add
that I see serious objections to your accepting it--objections I
cannot name to her. She continues to vary; is sometimes worse,
and sometimes better, as the weather changes; but, on the whole,
I fear she loses strength. Papa says her state is most
precarious; she may be spared for some time, or a sudden
alteration might remove her before we are aware. Were such an
alteration to take place while she was far from home, and alone
with you, it would be terrible. The idea of it distresses me
inexpressibly, and I tremble whenever she alludes to the project
of a journey. In short, I wish we could gain time, and see how
she gets on. If she leaves home it certainly should not be in the
capricious month of May, which is proverbially trying to the
weak. June would be a safer month. If we could reach June, I
should have good hopes of her getting through the summer. Write
such an answer to this note as I can show Anne. You can write any
additional remarks to me on a separate piece of paper. Do not
consider yourself as confined to discussing only our sad affairs.
I am interested in all that interests you."


"April 5th, 1849.

"My dear Miss ----,--I thank you greatly for your kind letter,
and your ready compliance with my proposal, as far as the WILL
can go at least. I see, however, that your friends are unwilling
that you should undertake the responsibility of accompanying me
under present circumstances. But I do not think there would be
any great responsibility in the matter. I know, and everybody
knows, that you would be as kind and helpful as any one could
possibly be, and I hope I should not be very troublesome. It
would be as a companion, not as a nurse, that I should wish for
your company; otherwise I should not venture to ask it. As for
your kind and often-repeated invitation to ----, pray give my
sincere thanks to your mother and sisters, but tell them I could
not think of inflicting my presence upon them as I now am. It is
very kind of them to make so light of the trouble, but still
there must be more or less, and certainly no pleasure, from the
society of a silent invalid stranger. I hope, however, that
Charlotte will by some means make it possible to accompany me
after all. She is certainly very delicate, and greatly needs a
change of air and scene to renovate her constitution. And then
your going with me before the end of May, is apparently out of
the question, unless you are disappointed in your visitors; but I
should be reluctant to wait till then, if the weather would at
all permit an earlier departure. You say May is a trying month,
and so say others. The earlier part is often cold enough, I
acknowledge, but, according to my experience, we are almost
certain of some fine warm days in the latter half, when the
laburnums and lilacs are in bloom; whereas June is often cold,
and July generally wet. But I have a more serious reason than
this for my impatience of delay. The doctors say that change of
air or removal to a better climate would hardly ever fail of
success in consumptive cases, if the remedy were taken IN TIME;
but the reason why there are so many disappointments is, that it
is generally deferred till it is too late. Now I would not commit
this error; and, to say the truth, though I suffer much less from
pain and fever than I did when you were with us, I am decidedly
weaker, and very much thinner. My cough still troubles me a good
deal, especially in the night, and, what seems worse than all, I
am subject to great shortness of breath on going up-stairs or any
slight exertion. Under these circumstances, I think there is no
time to be lost. I have no horror of death: if I thought it
inevitable, I think I could quietly resign myself to the
prospect, in the hope that you, dear Miss ----, would give as
much of your company as you possibly could to Charlotte, and be a
sister to her in my stead. But I wish it would please God to
spare me, not only for papa's and Charlotte's sakes, but because
I long to do some good in the world before I leave it. I have
many schemes in my head for future practice--humble and limited
indeed--but still I should not like them all to come to nothing,
and myself to have lived to so little purpose. But God's will be
done. Remember me respectfully to your mother and sisters, and
believe me, dear Miss ----, yours most affectionately,


It must have been about this time that Anne composed her last
verses, before "the desk was closed, and the pen laid aside for


"I hoped that with the brave and strong
My portioned task might lie;
To toil amid the busy throng,
With purpose pure and high.


"But God has fixed another part,
And He has fixed it well:
I said so with my bleeding heart,
When first the anguish fell.


"Thou God, hast taken our delight,
Our treasured hope, away;
Thou bid'st us now weep through the night
And sorrow through the day.


"These weary hours will not be lost,
These days of misery,--
These nights of darkness, anguish-tost,--
Can I but turn to Thee.


"With secret labour to sustain
In humble patience every blow;
To gather fortitude from pain,
And hope and holiness from woe.


"Thus let me serve Thee from my heart,
Whate'er may be my written fate;
Whether thus early to depart,
Or yet a while to wait.


"If Thou should'st bring me back to life,
More humbled I should be;
More wise--more strengthened for the strife,
More apt to lean on Thee.


"Should death be standing at the gate,
Thus should I keep my vow;
But, Lord, whatever be my fate,
Oh let me serve Thee now!"

I take Charlotte's own words as the best record of her thoughts
and feelings during all this terrible time.

"April 12th.

"I read Anne's letter to you; it was touching enough, as you say.
If there were no hope beyond this world,--no eternity, no life to
come,--Emily's fate, and that which threatens Anne, would be
heart-breaking. I cannot forget Emily's death-day; it becomes a
more fixed, a darker, a more frequently recurring idea in my mind
than ever. It was very terrible. She was torn, conscious,
panting, reluctant, though resolute, out of a happy life. But it
WILL NOT do to dwell on these things.

"I am glad your friends object to your going with Anne: it would
never do. To speak truth, even if your mother and sisters had
consented, I never could. It is not that there is any laborious
attention to pay her; she requires, and will accept, but little
nursing; but there would be hazard, and anxiety of mind, beyond
what you ought to be subject to. If, a month or six weeks hence,
she continues to wish for a change as much as she does now, I
shall (D. V.) go with her myself. It will certainly be my
paramount duty; other cares must be made subservient to that. I
have consulted Mr. T----: he does not object, and recommends
Scarborough, which was Anne's own choice. I trust affairs may be
so ordered, that you may be able to be with us at least part of
the time. . . . Whether in lodgings or not, I should wish to be
boarded. Providing oneself is, I think, an insupportable
nuisance. I don't like keeping provisions in a cupboard, locking
up, being pillaged, and all that. It is a petty, wearing

The progress of Anne's illness was slower than that of Emily's
had been; and she was too unselfish to refuse trying means, from
which, if she herself had little hope of benefit, her friends
might hereafter derive a mournful satisfaction.

"I began to flatter myself she was getting strength. But the
change to frost has told upon her; she suffers more of late.
Still her illness has none of the fearful rapid symptoms which
appalled in Emily's case. Could she only get over the spring, I
hope summer may do much for her, and then early removal to a
warmer locality for the winter might, at least, prolong her life.
Could we only reckon upon another year, I should be thankful; but
can we do this for the healthy? A few days ago I wrote to have
Dr. Forbes' opinion. . . . He warned us against entertaining
sanguine hopes of recovery. The cod-liver oil he considers a
peculiarly efficacious medicine. He, too, disapproved of change
of residence for the present. There is some feeble consolation in
thinking we are doing the very best that can be done. The agony
of forced, total neglect, is not now felt, as during Emily's
illness. Never may we be doomed to feel such agony again. It was
terrible. I have felt much less of the disagreeable pains in my
chest lately, and much less also of the soreness and hoarseness.
I tried an application of hot vinegar, which seemed to do good."

"May 1st.

"I was glad to hear that when we go to Scarborough, you will be
at liberty to go with us, but the journey and its consequences
still continue a source of great anxiety to me , I must try to
put it off two or three weeks longer if I can; perhaps by that
time the milder season may have given Anne more strength,perhaps
it will be otherwise; I cannot tell. The change to fine weather
has not proved beneficial to her so far. She has sometimes been
so weak, and suffered so much from pain in the side, during the
last few days, that I have not known what to think. . . . She may
rally again, and be much better, but there must be SOME
improvement before I can feel justified in taking her away from
home. Yet to delay is painful; for, as is ALWAYS the case, I
believe, under her circumstances, she seems herself not half
conscious of the necessity for such delay. She wonders, I
believe, why I don't talk more about the journey: it grieves me
to think she may even be hurt by my seeming tardiness. She is
very much emaciated,--far more than when you were with us; her
arms are no thicker than a little child's. The least exertion
brings a shortness of breath. She goes out a little every day,
but we creep rather than walk. . . . Papa continues pretty
well;--I hope I shall be enabled to bear up. So far, I have
reason for thankfulness to God."

May had come, and brought the milder weather longed for; but Anne
was worse for the very change. A little later on it became
colder, and she rallied, and poor Charlotte began to hope that,
if May were once over, she might last for a long time. Miss
Bronte wrote to engage the lodgings at Scarborough,--a place
which Anne had formerly visited with the family to whom she was
governess. They took a good-sized sitting-room, and an airy
double-bedded room (both commanding a sea-view), in one of the
best situations of the town. Money was as nothing in comparison
with life; besides, Anne had a small legacy left to her by her
godmother, and they felt that she could not better employ this
than in obtaining what might prolong life, if not restore health.
On May 16th, Charlotte writes:

"It is with a heavy heart I prepare; and earnestly do I wish the
fatigue of the journey were well over. It may be borne better
than I expect; for temporary stimulus often does much; but when I
see the daily increasing weakness, I know not what to think. I
fear you will be shocked when you see Anne; but be on your guard,
dear E----, not to express your feelings; indeed, I can trust
both your self-possession and your kindness. I wish my judgment
sanctioned the step of going to Scarborough, more fully than it
does. You ask how I have arranged about leaving Papa. I could
make no special arrangement. He wishes me to go with Anne, and
would not hear of Mr. N----'s coming, or anything of that kind;
so I do what I believe is for the best, and leave the result to

They planned to rest and spend a night at York; and, at Anne's
desire, arranged to make some purchases there. Charlotte ends the
letter to her friend, in which she tells her all this, with--

"May 23rd.

"I wish it seemed less like a dreary mockery in us to talk of
buying bonnets, etc. Anne was very ill yesterday. She had
difficulty of breathing all day, even when sitting perfectly
still. To-day she seems better again. I long for the moment to
come when the experiment of the sea-air will be tried. Will it do
her good? I cannot tell; I can only wish. Oh! if it would please
God to strengthen and revive Anne, how happy we might be
together: His will, however, be done!"

The two sisters left Haworth on Thursday, May 24th. They were to
have done so the day before, and had made an appointment with
their friend to meet them at the Leeds Station, in order that
they might all proceed together. But on Wednesday morning Anne
was so ill, that it was impossible for the sisters to set out;
yet they had no means of letting their friend know of this, and
she consequently arrived at Leeds station at the time specified.
There she sate waiting for several hours. It struck her as
strange at the time--and it almost seems ominous to her fancy
now--that twice over, from two separate arrivals on the line by
which she was expecting her friends, coffins were carried forth,
and placed in hearses which were in waiting for their dead, as
she was waiting for one in four days to become so.

The next day she could bear suspense no longer, and set out for
Haworth, reaching there just in time to carry the feeble,
fainting invalid into the chaise which stood at the gate to take
them down to Keighley. The servant who stood at the Parsonage
gates, saw Death written on her face, and spoke of it. Charlotte
saw it and did not speak of it,--it would have been giving the
dread too distinct a form; and if this last darling yearned for
the change to Scarborough, go she should, however Charlotte's
heart might be wrung by impending fear. The lady who accompanied
them, Charlotte's beloved friend of more than twenty years, has
kindly written out for me the following account of the
journey--and of the end.

"She left her home May 24th, 1849--died May 28th. Her life was
calm, quiet, spiritual: SUCH was her end. Through the trials and
fatigues of the journey, she evinced the pious courage and
fortitude of a martyr. Dependence and helplessness were ever with
her a far sorer trial than hard, racking pain.

"The first stage of our journey was to York; and here the dear
invalid was so revived, so cheerful, and so happy, we drew
consolation, and trusted that at least temporary improvement was
to be derived from the change which SHE had so longed for, and
her friends had so dreaded for her.

"By her request we went to the Minster, and to her it was an
overpowering pleasure; not for its own imposing and impressive
grandeur only, but because it brought to her susceptible nature a
vital and overwhelming sense of omnipotence. She said, while
gazing at the structure, 'If finite power can do this, what is
the . . . ?' and here emotion stayed her speech, and she was
hastened to a less exciting scene.

"Her weakness of body was great, but her gratitude for every
mercy was greater. After such an exertion as walking to her
bed-room, she would clasp her hands and raise her eyes in silent
thanks, and she did this not to the exclusion of wonted prayer,
for that too was performed on bended knee, ere she accepted the
rest of her couch.

"On the 25th we arrived at Scarborough; our dear invalid having,
during the journey, directed our attention to every prospect
worthy of notice.

"On the 26th she drove on the sands for an hour; and lest the
poor donkey should be urged by its driver to a greater speed than
her tender heart thought right, she took the reins, and drove
herself. When joined by her friend, she was charging the
boy-master of the donkey to treat the poor animal well. She was
ever fond of dumb things, and would give up her own comfort for

"On Sunday, the 27th, she wished to go to church, and her eye
brightened with the thought of once more worshipping her God
amongst her fellow-creatures. We thought it prudent to dissuade
her from the attempt, though it was evident her heart was longing
to join in the public act of devotion and praise.

"She walked a little in the afternoon, and meeting with a
sheltered and comfortable seat near the beach, she begged we
would leave her, and enjoy the various scenes near at hand, which
were new to us but familiar to her. She loved the place, and
wished us to share her preference.

"The evening closed in with the most glorious sunset ever
witnessed. The castle on the cliff stood in proud glory gilded by
the rays of the declining sun. The distant ships glittered like
burnished gold; the little boats near the beach heaved on the
ebbing tide, inviting occupants. The view was grand beyond
description. Anne was drawn in her easy chair to the window, to
enjoy the scene with us. Her face became illumined almost as much
as the glorious scene she gazed upon. Little was said, for it was
plain that her thoughts were driven by the imposing view before
her to penetrate forwards to the regions of unfading glory. She
again thought of public worship, and wished us to leave her, and
join those who were assembled at the House of God. We declined,
gently urging the duty and pleasure of staying with her, who was
now so dear and so feeble. On returning to her place near the
fire, she conversed with her sister upon the propriety of
returning to their home. She did not wish it for her own sake,
she said she was fearing others might suffer more if her decease
occurred where she was. She probably thought the task of
accompanying her lifeless remains on a long journey was more than
her sister could bear--more than the bereaved father could bear,
were she borne home another, and a third tenant of the
family-vault in the short space of nine months.

"The night was passed without any apparent accession of illness.
She rose at seven o'clock, and performed most of her toilet
herself, by her expressed wish. Her sister always yielded such
points, believing it was the truest kindness not to press
inability when it was not acknowledged. Nothing occurred to
excite alarm till about 11 A. M. She then spoke of feeling a
change. She believed she had not long to live. Could she reach
home alive, if we prepared immediately for departure? A physician
was sent for. Her address to him was made with perfect composure.
She begged him to say how long he thought she might live;--not to
fear speaking the truth, for she was not afraid to die. The
doctor reluctantly admitted that the angel of death was already
arrived, and that life was ebbing fast. She thanked him for his
truthfulness, and he departed to come again very soon. She still
occupied her easy chair, looking so serene, so reliant there was
no opening for grief as yet, though all knew the separation was
at hand. She clasped her hands, and reverently invoked a blessing
from on high; first upon her sister, then upon her friend, to
whom she said, 'Be a sister in my stead. Give Charlotte as much
of your company as you can.' She then thanked each for her
kindness and attention.

"Ere long the restlessness of approaching death appeared, and she
was borne to the sofa; on being asked if she were easier, she
looked gratefully at her questioner, and said, 'It is not YOU who
can give me ease, but soon all will be well, through the merits
of our Redeemer.' Shortly after this, seeing that her sister
could hardly restrain her grief, she said, 'Take courage,
Charlotte; take courage.' Her faith never failed, and her eye
never dimmed till about two o'clock, when she calmly and without
a sigh passed from the temporal to the eternal. So still, and so
hallowed were her last hours and moments. There was no thought of
assistance or of dread. The doctor came and went two or three
times. The hostess knew that death was near, yet so little was
the house disturbed by the presence of the dying, and the sorrow
of those so nearly bereaved, that dinner was announced as ready,
through the half-opened door, as the living sister was closing
the eyes of the dead one. She could now no more stay the
welled-up grief of her sister with her emphatic and dying 'Take
courage,' and it burst forth in brief but agonising strength.
Charlotte's affection, however, had another channel, and there it
turned in thought, in care, and in tenderness. There was
bereavement, but there was not solitude;--sympathy was at hand,
and it was accepted. With calmness, came the consideration of the
removal of the dear remains to their home resting-place. This
melancholy task, however, was never performed; for the afflicted
sister decided to lay the flower in the place where it had
fallen. She believed that to do so would accord with the wishes
of the departed. She had no preference for place. She thought not
of the grave, for that is but the body's goal, but of all that is
beyond it.

"Her remains rest,

'Where the south sun warms the now dear sod,
Where the ocean billows lave and strike the steep and
turf-covered rock.'"

Anne died on the Monday. On the Tuesday Charlotte wrote to her
father; but, knowing that his presence was required for some
annual Church solemnity at Haworth, she informed him that she had
made all necessary arrangements for the interment and that the
funeral would take place so soon, that he could hardly arrive in
time for it. The surgeon who had visited Anne on the day of her
death, offered his attendance, but it was respectfully declined.

Mr. Bronte wrote to urge Charlotte's longer stay at the seaside.
Her health and spirits were sorely shaken; and much as he
naturally longed to see his only remaining child, he felt it
right to persuade her to take, with her friend, a few more weeks'
change of scene,--though even that could not bring change of
thought. Late in June the friends returned homewards,--parting
rather suddenly (it would seem) from each other, when their paths

"July, 1849.

"I intended to have written a line to you to-day, if I had not
received yours. We did indeed part suddenly; it made my heart
ache that we were severed without the time to exchange a word;
and yet perhaps it was better. I got here a little before eight
o'clock. All was clean and bright waiting for me. Papa and the
servants were well; and all received me with an affection which
should have consoled. The dogs seemed in strange ecstasy. I am
certain they regarded me as the harbinger of others. The dumb
creatures thought that as I was returned, those who had been so
long absent were not far behind.

"I left Papa soon, and went into the dining-room: I shut the
door--I tried to be glad that I was come home. I have always been
glad before--except once--even then I was cheered. But this time
joy was not to be the sensation. I felt that the house was all
silent--the rooms were all empty. I remembered where the three
were laid--in what narrow dark dwellings--never more to reappear
on earth. So the sense of desolation and bitterness took
possession of me. The agony that WAS to be undergone, and WAS NOT
to be avoided, came on. I underwent it, and passed a dreary
evening and night, and a mournful morrow; to-day I am better.

"I do not know how life will pass, but I certainly do feel
confidence in Him who has upheld me hitherto. Solitude may be
cheered, and made endurable beyond what I can believe. The great
trial is when evening closes and night approaches. At that hour,
we used to assemble in the dining-room--we used to talk. Now I
sit by myself--necessarily I am silent. I cannot help thinking of
their last days, remembering their sufferings, and what they said
and did, and how they looked in mortal affliction. Perhaps all
this will become less poignant in time.

"Let me thank you once more, dear E----, for your kindness to me,
which I do not mean to forget. How did you think all looking at
your home? Papa thought me a little stronger; he said my eyes
were not so sunken."

"July 14th, 1849.

"I do not much like giving an account of myself. I like better to
go out of myself, and talk of something more cheerful. My cold,
wherever I got it, whether at Easton or elsewhere, is not
vanished yet. It began in my head, then I had a sore throat, and
then a sore chest, with a cough, but only a trifling cough, which
I still have at times. The pain between my shoulders likewise
amazed me much. Say nothing about it, for I confess I am too much
disposed to be nervous. This nervousness is a horrid phantom. I
dare communicate no ailment to Papa; his anxiety harasses me

"My life is what I expected it to be. Sometimes when I wake in
the morning, and know that Solitude, Remembrance, and Longing are
to be almost my sole companions all day through--that at night I
shall go to bed with them, that they will long keep me
sleepless--that next morning I shall wake to them
again,--sometimes, Nell, I have a heavy heart of it. But crushed
I am not, yet; nor robbed of elasticity, nor of hope, nor quite
of endeavour. I have some strength to fight the battle of life. I
am aware, and can acknowledge, I have many comforts, many
mercies. Still I can GET ON. But I do hope and pray, that never
may you, or any one I love, be placed as I am. To sit in a lonely
room--the clock ticking loud through a still house--and have open
before the mind's eye the record of the last year, with its
shocks, sufferings, losses--is a trial.

"I write to you freely, because I believe you will hear me with
moderation--that you will not take alarm or think me in any way
worse off than I am."


The tale of "Shirley" had been begun soon after the publication
of "Jane Eyre." If the reader will refer to the account I have
given of Miss Bronte's schooldays at Roe Head, he will there see
how every place surrounding that house was connected with the
Luddite riots, and will learn how stories and anecdotes of that
time were rife among the inhabitants of the neighbouring
villages; how Miss Wooler herself, and the elder relations of
most of her schoolfellows, must have known the actors in those
grim disturbances. What Charlotte had heard there as a girl came
up in her mind when, as a woman, she sought a subject for her
next work; and she sent to Leeds for a file of the Mercuries of
1812, '13, and '14; in order to understand the spirit of those
eventful times. She was anxious to write of things she had known
and seen; and among the number was the West Yorkshire character,
for which any tale laid among the Luddites would afford full
scope. In "Shirley" she took the idea of most of her characters
from life, although the incidents and situations were, of course,
fictitious. She thought that if these last were purely imaginary,
she might draw from the real without detection, but in this she
was mistaken; her studies were too closely accurate. This
occasionally led her into difficulties. People recognised
themselves, or were recognised by others, in her graphic
descriptions of their personal appearance, and modes of action
and turns of thought; though they were placed in new positions,
and figured away in scenes far different to those in which their
actual life had been passed. Miss Bronte was struck by the force
or peculiarity of the character of some one whom she knew; she
studied it, and analysed it with subtle power; and having traced
it to its germ, she took that germ as the nucleus of an imaginary
character, and worked outwards;--thus reversing the process of
analysation, and unconsciously reproducing the same external
development. The "three curates" were real living men, haunting
Haworth and the neighbouring district; and so obtuse in
perception that, after the first burst of anger at having their
ways and habits chronicled was over, they rather enjoyed the joke
of calling each other by the names she had given them. "Mrs.
Pryor" was well known to many who loved the original dearly. The
whole family of the Yorkes were, I have been assured, almost
daguerreotypes. Indeed Miss Bronte told me that, before
publication, she had sent those parts of the novel in which these
remarkable persons are introduced, to one of the sons; and his
reply, after reading it, was simply that "she had not drawn them
strong enough." From those many-sided sons, I suspect, she drew
all that there was of truth in the characters of the heroes in
her first two works. They, indeed, were almost the only young men
she knew intimately, besides her brother. There was much
friendship, and still more confidence between the Bronte family
and them,--although their intercourse was often broken and
irregular. There was never any warmer feeling on either side.

The character of Shirley herself, is Charlotte's representation
of Emily. I mention this, because all that I, a stranger, have
been able to learn about her has not tended to give either me, or
my readers, a pleasant impression of her. But we must remember
how little we are acquainted with her, compared to that sister,
who, out of her more intimate knowledge, says that she "was
genuinely good, and truly great," and who tried to depict her
character in Shirley Keeldar, as what Emily Bronte would have
been, had she been placed in health and prosperity.

Miss Bronte took extreme pains with "Shirley." She felt that the
fame she had acquired imposed upon her a double responsibility.
She tried to make her novel like a piece of actual life,--feeling
sure that, if she but represented the product of personal
experience and observation truly, good would come out of it in
the long run. She carefully studied the different reviews and
criticisms that had appeared on "Jane Eyre," in hopes of
extracting precepts and advice from which to profit.

Down into the very midst of her writing came the bolts of death.
She had nearly finished the second volume of her tale when
Branwell died,--after him Emily,--after her Anne;--the pen, laid
down when there were three sisters living and loving, was taken
up when one alone remained. Well might she call the first chapter
that she wrote after this, "The Valley of the Shadow of Death."

I knew in part what the unknown author of "Shirley" must have
suffered, when I read those pathetic words which occur at the end
of this and the beginning of the succeeding chapter:--

"Till break of day, she wrestled with God in earnest prayer.

"Not always do those who dare such divine conflict prevail. Night
after night the sweat of agony may burst dark on the forehead;
the supplicant may cry for mercy with that soundless voice the
soul utters when its appeal is to the Invisible. 'Spare my
beloved,' it may implore. 'Heal my life's life. Rend not from me
what long affection entwines with my whole nature. God of
Heaven--bend--hear--be clement!' And after this cry and strife,
the sun may rise and see him worsted. That opening morn, which
used to salute him with the whispers of zephyrs, the carol of
skylarks, may breathe, as its first accents, from the dear lips
which colour and heat have quitted,--'Oh! I have had a suffering
night. This morning I am worse. I have tried to rise. I cannot.
Dreams I am unused to have troubled me.'

"Then the watcher approaches the patient's pillow, and sees a new
and strange moulding of the familiar features, feels at once that
the insufferable moment draws nigh, knows that it is God's will
his idol should be broken, and bends his head, and subdues his
soul to the sentence he cannot avert, and scarce can bear. . . .

"No piteous, unconscious moaning sound--which so wastes our
strength that, even if we have sworn to be firm, a rush of
unconquerable tears sweeps away the oath--preceded her waking. No
space of deaf apathy followed. The first words spoken were not
those of one becoming estranged from this world, and already
permitted to stray at times into realms foreign to the living."

She went on with her work steadily. But it was dreary to write
without any one to listen to the progress of her tale,--to find
fault or to sympathise,--while pacing the length of the parlour
in the evenings, as in the days that were no more. Three sisters
had done this,--then two, the other sister dropping off from the
walk,--and now one was left desolate, to listen for echoing steps
that never came,--and to hear the wind sobbing at the windows,
with an almost articulate sound.

But she wrote on, struggling against her own feelings of illness;
"continually recurring feelings of slight cold; slight soreness
in the throat and chest, of which, do what I will," she writes,
"I cannot get rid."

In August there arose a new cause for anxiety, happily but

"Aug. 23rd, 1849.

"Papa has not been well at all lately. He has had another attack
of bronchitis. I felt very uneasy about him for some days--more
wretched indeed than I care to tell you. After what has happened,
one trembles at any appearance of sickness; and when anything
ails Papa, I feel too keenly that he is the LAST--the only near
and dear relative I have in the world. Yesterday and to-day he
has seemed much better, for which I am truly thankful. . . .

"From what you say of Mr. ----, I think I should like him very
much. ---- wants shaking to be put out about his appearance. What
does it matter whether her husband dines in a dress-coat, or a
market-coat, provided there be worth, and honesty, and a clean
shirt underneath?"

"Sept. 10th, 1849.

"My piece of work is at last finished, and despatched to its
destination. You must now tell me when there is a chance of your
being able to come here. I fear it will now be difficult to
arrange, as it is so near the marriage-day. Note well, it would
spoil all my pleasure, if you put yourself or any one else to
inconvenience to come to Haworth. But when it is CONVENIENT, I
shall be truly glad to see you. . . . Papa, I am thankful to say,
is better, though not strong. He is often troubled with a
sensation of nausea. My cold is very much less troublesome, I am
sometimes quite free from it. A few days since, I had a severe
bilious attack, the consequence of sitting too closely to my
writing; but it is gone now. It is the first from which I have
suffered since my return from the sea-side. I had them every
month before."

"Sept. 13th, 1849.

"If duty and the well-being of others require that you should
stay at home, I cannot permit myself to complain, still, I am
very, VERY sorry that circumstances will not permit us to meet
just now. I would without hesitation come to ----, if Papa were
stronger; but uncertain as are both his health and spirits, I
could not possibly prevail on myself to leave him now. Let us
hope that when we do see each other our meeting will be all the
more pleasurable for being delayed. Dear E----, you certain]y
have a heavy burden laid on your shoulders, but such burdens, if
well borne, benefit the character; only we must take the
GREATEST, CLOSEST, MOST WATCHFUL care not to grow proud of our
strength, in case we should be enabled to bear up under the
trial. That pride, indeed, would be sign of radical weakness. The
strength, if strength we have, is certainly never in our own
selves; it is given us."


"Sept. 21st, 1849.

"My dear Sir,--I am obliged to you for preserving my secret,
being at least as anxious as ever (MORE anxious I cannot well be)
to keep quiet. You asked me in one of your letters lately,
whether I thought I should escape identification in Yorkshire. I
am so little known, that I think I shall. Besides, the book is
far less founded on the Real, than perhaps appears. It would be
difficult to explain to you how little actual experience I have
had of life, how few persons I have known, and how very few have
known me.

"As an instance how the characters have been managed, take that
of Mr. Helstone. If this character had an original, it was in the
person of a clergyman who died some years since at the advanced
age of eighty. I never saw him except once--at the consecration
of a church--when I was a child of ten years old. I was then
struck with his appearance, and stern, martial air. At a
subsequent period, I heard him talked about in the neighbourhood
where he had resided: some mention him with enthusiasm--others
with detestation. I listened to various anecdotes, balanced
evidence against evidence, and drew an inference. The original of
Mr. Hall I have seen; he knows me slightly; but he would as soon
think I had closely observed him or taken him for a character--he
would as soon, indeed, suspect me of writing a hook--a novel--as
he would his dog, Prince. Margaret Hall called "Jane Eyre" a
'wicked book,' on the authority of the Quarterly; an expression
which, coming from her, I will here confess, struck somewhat
deep. It opened my eyes to the harm the Quarterly had done.
Margaret would not have called it 'wicked,' if she had not been
told so.

"No matter,--whether known or unknown--misjudged, or the
contrary,--I am resolved not to write otherwise. I shall bend as
my powers tend. The two human beings who understood me, and whom
I understood, are gone: I have some that love me yet, and whom I
love, without expecting, or having a right to expect, that they
shall perfectly understand me. I am satisfied; but I must have my
own way in the matter of writing. The loss of what we possess
nearest and dearest to us in this world, produces an effect upon
the character we search out what we have yet left that can
support, and, when found, we cling to it with a hold of
new-strung tenacity. The faculty of imagination lifted me when I
was sinking, three months ago; its active exercise has kept my
head above water since; its results cheer me now, for I feel they
have enabled me to give pleasure to others. I am thankful to God,
who gave me the faculty; and it is for me a part of my religion
to defend this gift, and to profit by its possession.--Yours


At the time when this letter was written, both Tabby and the
young servant whom they had to assist her were ill in bed; and,
with the exception of occasional aid, Miss Bronte had all the
household work to perform, as well as to nurse the two invalids.

The serious illness of the younger servant was at its height,
when a cry from Tabby called Miss Bronte into the kitchen, and
she found the poor old woman of eighty laid on the floor, with
her head under the kitchen-grate; she had fallen from her chair
in attempting to rise. When I saw her, two years later, she
described to me the tender care which Charlotte had taken of her
at this time; and wound up her account of "how her own mother
could not have had more thought for her nor Miss Bronte had," by
saying, "Eh! she's a good one--she IS!"

But there was one day when the strung nerves gave way--when, as
she says, "I fairly broke down for ten minutes; sat and cried
like a fool. Tabby could neither stand nor walk. Papa had just
been declaring that Martha was in imminent danger. I was myself
depressed with headache and sickness. That day I hardly knew what
to do, or where to turn. Thank God! Martha is now convalescent:
Tabby, I trust, will be better soon. Papa is pretty well. I have
the satisfaction of knowing that my publishers are delighted with
what I sent them. This supports me. But life is a battle. May we
all be enabled to fight it well!"

The kind friend, to whom she thus wrote, saw how the poor over-
taxed system needed bracing, and accordingly sent her a shower-
bath--a thing for which she had long been wishing. The receipt of
it was acknowledged as follows:--

"Sept. 28th, 1849. ". . . Martha is now almost well, and Tabby
much better. A huge monster-package, from 'Nelson, Leeds,' came
yesterday. You want chastising roundly and soundly. Such are the
thanks you get for all your trouble. . . . Whenever you come to
Haworth, you shall certainly have a thorough drenching in your
own shower-bath. I have not yet unpacked the wretch.--"Yours, as
you deserve,
C. B."

There was misfortune of another kind impending over her. There
were some railway shares, which, so early as 1846, she had told
Miss Wooler she wished to sell, but had kept because she could
not persuade her sisters to look upon the affair as she did, and
so preferred running the risk of loss, to hurting Emily's
feelings by acting in opposition to her opinion. The depreciation
of these same shares was now verifying Charlotte's soundness of
judgment. They were in the York and North-Midland Company, which
was one of Mr. Hudson's pet lines, and had the full benefit of
his peculiar system of management. She applied to her friend and
publisher, Mr. Smith, for information on the subject; and the
following letter is in answer to his reply:--

"Oct. 4th, 1849.

"My dear Sir,--I must not THANK you for, but acknowledge the
receipt of your letter. The business is certainly very bad; worse
than I thought, and much worse than my father has any idea of. In
fact, the little railway property I possessed, according to
original prices, formed already a small competency for me, with
my views and habits. Now, scarcely any portion of it can, with
security, be calculated upon. I must open this view of the case
to my father by degrees; and, meanwhile, wait patiently till I
see how affairs are likely to turn. . . . However the matter may
terminate, I ought perhaps to be rather thankful than
dissatisfied. When I look at my own case, and compare it with
that of thousands besides, I scarcely see room for a murmur.
Many, very many, are by the late strange railway system deprived
almost of their daily bread. Such then as have only lost
provision laid up for the future, should take care how they
complain. The thought that 'Shirley' has given pleasure at
Cornhill, yields me much quiet comfort. No doubt, however, you
are, as I am, prepared for critical severity; but I have good
hopes that the vessel is sufficiently sound of construction to
weather a gale or two, and to make a prosperous voyage for you in
the end."

Towards the close of October in this year, she went to pay a
visit to her friend; but her enjoyment in the holiday, which she
had so long promised herself when her work was completed, was
deadened by a continual feeling of ill-health; either the change
of air or the foggy weather produced constant irritation at the
chest. Moreover, she was anxious about the impression which her
second work would produce on the public mind. For obvious reasons
an author is more susceptible to opinions pronounced on the book
which follows a great success, than he has ever been before.
Whatever be the value of fame, he has it in his possession, and
is not willing to have it dimmed or lost.

"Shirley" was published on October 26th.

When it came out, but before reading it, Mr. Lewes wrote to tell
her of his intention of reviewing it in the Edinburgh. Her
correspondence with him had ceased for some time: much had
occurred since.


"Nov. 1st, 1849.

"My dear Sir,--It is about a year and a half since you wrote to
me; but it seems a longer period, because since then it has been
my lot to pass some black milestones in the journey of life.
Since then there have been intervals when I have ceased to care
about literature and critics and fame; when I have lost sight of
whatever was prominent in my thoughts at the first publication of
'Jane Eyre;' but now I want these things to come back vividly, if
possible: consequently, it was a pleasure to receive your note. I
wish you did not think me a woman. I wish all reviewers believed
'Currer Bell' to be a man; they would be more just to him. You
will, I know, keep measuring me by some standard of what you deem
becoming to my sex; where I am not what you consider graceful,
you will condemn me. All mouths will be open against that first
chapter; and that first chapter is true as the Bible, nor is it
exceptionable. Come what will, I cannot, when I write, think
always of myself and of what is elegant and charming in
femininity; it is not on those terms, or with such ideas, I ever
took pen in hand: and if it is only on such terms my writing
will be tolerated, I shall pass away from the public and trouble
it no more. Out of obscurity I came, to obscurity I can easily
return. Standing afar off, I now watch to see what will become of
'Shirley.' My expectations are very low, and my anticipations
somewhat sad and bitter; still, I earnestly conjure you to say
honestly what you think; flattery would be worse than vain; there
is no consolation in flattery. As for condemnation I cannot, on
reflection, see why I should much fear it; there is no one but
myself to suffer therefrom, and both happiness and suffering in
this life soon pass away. Wishing you all success in your
Scottish expedition,--I am, dear Sir, yours sincerely,


Miss Bronte, as we have seen, had been as anxious as ever to
preserve her incognito in "Shirley." She even fancied that there
were fewer traces of a female pen in it than in "Jane Eyre"; and
thus, when the earliest reviews were published, and asserted that
the mysterious writer must be a woman, she was much disappointed.
She especially disliked the lowering of the standard by which to
judge a work of fiction, if it proceeded from a feminine pen; and
praise mingled with pseudo-gallant allusions to her sex,
mortified her far more than actual blame.

But the secret, so jealously preserved, was oozing out at last.
The publication of "Shirley" seemed to fix the conviction that
the writer was an inhabitant of the district where the story was
laid. And a clever Haworth man, who had somewhat risen in the
world, and gone to settle in Liverpool, read the novel, and was
struck with some of the names of places mentioned, and knew the
dialect in which parts of it were written. He became convinced
that it was the production of some one in Haworth. But he could
not imagine who in that village could have written such a work
except Miss Bronte. Proud of his conjecture, he divulged the
suspicion (which was almost certainty) in the columns of a
Liverpool paper; thus the heart of the mystery came slowly
creeping out; and a visit to London, which Miss Bronte paid
towards the end of the year 1849, made it distinctly known. She
had been all along on most happy terms with her publishers; and
their kindness had beguiled some of those weary, solitary hours
which had so often occurred of late, by sending for her perusal
boxes of books more suited to her tastes than any she could
procure from the circulating library at Keighley. She often
writes such sentences as the following, in her letters to

"I was indeed very much interested in the books you sent
'Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe,' 'Guesses as Truth,'
'Friends in Council,' and the little work on English social life,
pleased me particularly, and the last not least. We sometimes
take a partiality to books as to characters, not on account of
any brilliant intellect or striking peculiarity they boast, but
for the sake of something good, delicate, and genuine. I thought
that small book the production of a lady, and an amiable,
sensible woman, and I liked it. You must not think of selecting
any more works for me yet; my stock is still far from exhausted.

"I accept your offer respecting the 'Athenaeum;' it is a paper I
should like much to see, providing that you can send it without
trouble. It shall be punctually returned."

In a letter to her friend she complains of the feelings of
illness from which she was seldom or never free.

"Nov. 16th, 1849.

You are not to suppose any of the characters in 'Shirley'
intended as literal portraits. It would not suit the rules of
art, nor of my own feelings; to write in that style. We only
suffer reality to SUGGEST, never to DICTATE. The heroines are
abstractions and the heroes also. Qualities I have seen, loved,
and admired, are here and there put in as decorative gems, to be
preserved in that sitting. Since you say you could recognise the
originals of all except the heroines, pray whom did you suppose
the two Moores to represent? I send you a couple of reviews; the
one is in the Examiner, written by Albany Fonblanque, who is
called the most brilliant political writer of the day, a man
whose dictum is much thought of in London. The other, in the
Standard of Freedom, is written by William Howitt, a Quaker! . .
. I should be pretty well, if it were not for headaches and
indigestion. My chest has been better lately."

In consequence of this long-protracted state of languor,
headache, and sickness, to which the slightest exposure to cold
added sensations of hoarseness and soreness at the chest, she
determined to take the evil in time, as much for her father's
sake as for her own, and to go up to London and consult some
physician there. It was not her first intention to visit
anywhere; but the friendly urgency of her publishers prevailed,
and it was decided that she was to become the guest of Mr. Smith.
Before she went, she wrote two characteristic letters about
"Shirley," from which I shall take a few extracts.

"'Shirley' makes her way. The reviews shower in fast. . . . The
best critique which has yet appeared is in the Revue des deux
Mondes, a sort of European Cosmopolitan periodical, whose head-
quarters are at Paris. Comparatively few reviewers, even in their
praise, evince a just comprehension of the author's meaning.
Eugene Forcarde, the reviewer in question, follows Currer Bell
through every winding, discerns every point, discriminates every
shade, proves himself master of the subject, and lord of the aim.
With that man I would shake hands, if I saw him. I would say,
'You know me, Monsieur; I shall deem it an honour to know you.' I
could not say so much of the mass of the London critics. Perhaps
I could not say so much to five hundred men and women in all the
millions of Great Britain. That matters little. My own conscience
I satisfy first; and having done that, if I further content and
delight a Forsarde, a Fonblanque, and a Thackeray, my ambition
has had its ration, it is fed; it lies down for the present
satisfied; my faculties have wrought a day's task, and earned a
day's wages. I am no teacher; to look on me in that light is to
mistake me. To teach is not my vocation. What I AM, it is useless
to say. Those whom it concerns feel and find it out. To all
others I wish only to be an obscure, steady-going, private
character. To you, dear E ----, I wish to be a sincere friend.
Give me your faithful regard; I willingly dispense with

"Nov. 26th.

"It is like you to pronounce the reviews not good enough, and
belongs to that part of your character which will not permit you
to bestow unqualified approbation on any dress, decoration, etc.,
belonging to you. Know that the reviews are superb; and were I
dissatisfied with them, I should be a conceited ape. Nothing
living authors. If all be well, I go to London this week;
Wednesday, I think. The dress-maker has done my small matters
pretty well, but I wish you could have looked them over, and
given a dictum. I insisted on the dresses being made quite

At the end of November she went up to the "big Babylon," and was
immediately plunged into what appeared to her a whirl; for
changes, and scenes, and stimulus which would have been a trifle
to others, were much to her. As was always the case with
strangers, she was a little afraid at first of the family into
which she was now received, fancying that the ladies looked on
her with a mixture of respect and alarm; but in a few days, if
this state of feeling ever existed, her simple, shy, quiet
manners, her dainty personal and household ways, had quite done
away with it, and she says that she thinks they begin to like
her, and that she likes them much, for "kindness is a potent
heart-winner." She had stipulated that she should not be expected
to see many people. The recluse life she had led, was the cause
of a nervous shrinking from meeting any fresh face, which lasted
all her life long. Still, she longed to have an idea of the
personal appearance and manners of some of those whose writings
or letters had interested her. Mr. Thackeray was accordingly
invited to meet her, but it so happened that she had been out for
the greater part of the morning, and, in consequence, missed the
luncheon hour at her friend's house. This brought on a severe and
depressing headache in one accustomed to the early, regular hours
of a Yorkshire Parsonage; besides, the excitement of meeting,
hearing, and sitting next a man to whom she looked up with such
admiration as she did to the author of "Vanity Fair," was of
itself overpowering to her frail nerves. She writes about this
dinner as follows:--

"Dec. 10th, 1849.

"As to being happy, I am under scenes and circumstances of
excitement; but I suffer acute pain sometimes,--mental pain, I
mean. At the moment Mr. Thackeray presented himself, I was
thoroughly faint from inanition, having eaten nothing since a
very slight breakfast, and it was then seven o'clock in the
evening. Excitement and exhaustion made savage work of me that
evening. What he thought of me I cannot tell."

She told me how difficult she found it, this first time of
meeting Mr. Thackeray, to decide whether he was speaking in jest
or in earnest, and that she had (she believed) completely
misunderstood an inquiry of his, made on the gentlemen's coming
into the drawing-room. He asked her "if she had perceived the
secret of their cigars;" to which she replied literally,
discovering in a minute afterwards, by the smile on several
faces, that he was alluding to a passage in "Jane Eyre". Her
hosts took pleasure in showing her the sights of London. On one
of the days which had been set apart for some of these pleasant
excursions, a severe review of "Shirley" was published in the
Times. She had heard that her book would be noticed by it, and
guessed that there was some particular reason for the care with
which her hosts mislaid it on that particular morning. She told
them that she was aware why she might not see the paper. Mrs.
Smith at once admitted that her conjecture was right, and said
that they had wished her to go to the day's engagement before
reading it. But she quietly persisted in her request to be
allowed to have the paper. Mrs. Smith took her work, and tried
not to observe the countenance, which the other tried to hide
between the large sheets; but she could not help becoming aware
of tears stealing down the face and dropping on the lap. The
first remark Miss Bronte made was to express her fear lest so
severe a notice should check the sale of the book, and
injuriously affect her publishers. Wounded as she was, her first
thought was for others. Later on (I think that very afternoon)
Mr. Thackeray called; she suspected (she said) that he came to
see how she bore the attack on "Shirley;" but she had recovered
her composure, and conversed very quietly with him: he only
learnt from the answer to his direct inquiry that she had read
the Times' article. She acquiesced in the recognition of herself
as the authoress of "Jane Eyre," because she perceived that there
were some advantages to be derived from dropping her pseudonym.
One result was an acquaintance with Miss Martineau. She had sent
her the novel just published, with a curious note, in which
Currer Bell offered a copy of "Shirley" to Miss Martineau, as an
acknowledgment of the gratification he had received from her
works. From "Deerbrook" he had derived a new and keen pleasure,
and experienced a genuine benefit. In HIS mind "Deerbrook," etc.

Miss Martineau, in acknowledging this note and the copy of
"Shirley," dated her letter from a friend's house in the
neighbourhood of Mr. Smith's residence; and when, a week or two
afterwards, Miss Bronte found how near she was to her
correspondent, she wrote, in the name of Currer Bell, to propose
a visit to her. Six o'clock, on a certain Sunday afternoon (Dec.
10th), was the time appointed. Miss Martineau's friends had
invited the unknown Currer Bell to their early tea; they were
ignorant whether the name was that of a man or a woman; and had
had various conjectures as to sex, age, and appearance. Miss
Martineau had, indeed, expressed her private opinion pretty
distinctly by beginning her reply, to the professedly masculine
note referred to above, with "Dear Madam;" but she had addressed
it to "Currer Bell, Esq." At every ring the eyes of the party
turned towards the door. Some stranger (a gentleman, I think)
came in; for an instant they fancied he was Currer Bell, and
indeed an Esq.; he stayed some time--went away. Another ring;
"Miss Bronte was announced; and in came a young-looking lady,
almost child-like in stature, in a deep mourning dress, neat as a
Quaker's, with her beautiful hair smooth and brown, her fine eyes
blazing with meaning and her sensible face indicating a habit of
self-control." She came,--hesitated one moment at finding four or
five people assembled,--then went straight to Miss Martineau with
intuitive recognition, and, with the free-masonry of good feeling
and gentle breeding, she soon became as one of the family seated
round the tea-table; and, before she left, she told them, in a
simple, touching manner, of her sorrow and isolation, and a
foundation was laid for her intimacy with Miss Martineau.

After some discussion on the subject, and a stipulation that she
should not be specially introduced to any one, some gentlemen
were invited by Mr. Smith to meet her at dinner the evening
before she left town. Her natural place would have been at the
bottom of the table by her host; and the places of those who were
to be her neighbours were arranged accordingly; but, on entering
the dining-room, she quickly passed up so as to sit next to the
lady of the house, anxious to shelter herself near some one of
her own sex. This slight action arose out of the same womanly
seeking after protection on every occasion, when there was no
moral duty involved in asserting her independence, that made her
about this time write as follows: "Mrs. ---- watches me very
narrowly when surrounded by strangers. She never takes her eye
from me. I like the surveillance; it seems to keep guard over

Respecting this particular dinner-party she thus wrote to the
Brussels schoolfellow of former days, whose friendship had been
renewed during her present visit to London:--

"The evening after I left you passed better than I expected.
Thanks to my substantial lunch and cheering cup of coffee, I was
able to wait the eight o'clock dinner with complete resignation,
and to endure its length quite courageously, nor was I too much
exhausted to converse; and of this I was glad, for otherwise I
know my kind host and hostess would have been much disappointed.
There were only seven gentlemen at dinner besides Mr. Smith, but
of these five were critics--men more dreaded in the world of
letters than you can conceive. I did not know how much their
presence and conversation had excited me till they were gone, and
the reaction commenced. When I had retired for the night, I
wished to sleep--the effort to do so was vain. I could not close
my eyes. Night passed; morning came, and I rose without having
known a moment's slumber. So utterly worn out was I when I got to
Derby, that I was again obliged to stay there all night."

"Dec. 17th.

"Here I am at Haworth once more. I feel as if I had come out of
an exciting whirl. Not that the hurry and stimulus would have
seemed much to one accustomed to society and change, but to me
they were very marked. My strength and spirits too often proved
quite insufficient to the demand on their exertions. I used to
bear up as long as I possibly could, for, when I flagged, I could
see Mr. Smith became disturbed; he always thought that something
had been said or done to annoy me--which never once happened, for
I met with perfect good breeding even from antagonists--men who
had done their best or worst to write me down. I explained to him
over and over again, that my occasional silence was only failure
of the power to talk, never of the will. . . .

"Thackeray is a Titan of mind. His presence and powers impress
one deeply in an intellectual sense; I do not see him or know him
as a man. All the others are subordinate. I have esteem for some,
and, I trust, courtesy for all. I do not, of course, know what
they thought of me, but I believe most of them expected me to
come out in a more marked, eccentric, striking light. I believe
they desired more to admire and more to blame. I felt
sufficiently at my ease with all but Thackeray; with him I was
fearfully stupid."

She returned to her quiet home, and her noiseless daily duties.
Her father had quite enough of the spirit of hero-worship in him
to make him take a vivid pleasure in the accounts of what she had
heard and whom she had seen. It was on the occasion of one of her
visits to London that he had desired her to obtain a sight of
Prince Albert's armoury, if possible. I am not aware whether she
managed to do this; but she went to one or two of the great
national armouries in order that she might describe the stern
steel harness and glittering swords to her father, whose
imagination was forcibly struck by the idea of such things; and
often afterwards, when his spirits flagged and the languor of old
age for a time got the better of his indomitable nature, she
would again strike on the measure wild, and speak about the
armies of strange weapons she had seen in London, till he resumed
his interest in the old subject, and was his own keen, warlike,
intelligent self again.


Her life at Haworth was so unvaried that the postman's call was
the event of her day. Yet she dreaded the great temptation of
centring all her thoughts upon this one time, and losing her
interest in the smaller hopes and employments of the remaining
hours. Thus she conscientiously denied herself the pleasure of
writing letters too frequently, because the answers (when she
received them) took the flavour out of the rest of her life; or
the disappointment, when the replies did not arrive, lessened her
energy for her home duties.

The winter of this year in the north was hard and cold; it
affected Miss Bronte's health less than usual, however, probably
because the change and the medical advice she had taken in London
had done her good; probably, also, because her friend had come to
pay her a visit, and enforced that attention to bodily symptoms
which Miss Bronte was too apt to neglect, from a fear of becoming
nervous herself about her own state and thus infecting her
father. But she could scarcely help feeling much depressed in
spirits as the anniversary of her sister Emily's death came
round; all the recollections connected with it were painful, yet
there were no outward events to call off her attention, and
prevent them from pressing hard upon her. At this time, as at
many others, I find her alluding in her letters to the solace
which she found in the books sent her from Cornhill.

"What, I sometimes ask, could I do without them? I have recourse
to them as to friends; they shorten and cheer many an hour that
would be too long and too desolate otherwise; even when my tired
sight will not permit me to continue reading, it is pleasant to
see them on the shelf, or on the table. I am still very rich, for
my stock is far from exhausted. Some other friends have sent me
books lately. The perusal of Harriet Martineau's 'Eastern Life'
has afforded me great pleasure; and I have found a deep and
interesting subject of study in Newman's work on the Soul. Have
you read this work? It is daring,--it may be mistaken,--but it is
pure and elevated. Froude's 'Nemesis of Faith' I did not like; I
thought it morbid; yet in its pages, too, are found sprinklings
of truth."

By this time, "Airedale, Wharfedale, Calderdale, and Ribblesdale"
all knew the place of residence of Currer Bell. She compared
herself to the ostrich hiding its head in the sand; and says that
she still buries hers in the heath of Haworth moors; but "the
concealment is but self-delusion." Indeed it was. Far and wide in
the West Riding had spread the intelligence that Currer Bell was
no other than a daughter of the venerable clergyman of Haworth;
the village itself caught up the excitement.

"Mr. ----, having finished 'Jane Eyre,' is now crying out for the
'other book;' he is to have it next week. . . . Mr. R ---- has
finished 'Shirley;' he is delighted with it. John ----'s wife
seriously thought him gone wrong in the head, as she heard him
giving vent to roars of laughter as he sat alone, clapping and
stamping on the floor. He would read all the scenes about the
curates aloud to papa." . . . "Martha came in yesterday, puffing
and blowing, and much excited. 'I've heard sich news!' she began.
'What about?' 'Please, ma'am, you've been and written two books--
the grandest books that ever was seen. My father has heard it at
Halifax, and Mr. G---- T---- and Mr. G---- and Mr. M---- at
Bradford; and they are going to have a meeting at the Mechanics'
Institute, and to settle about ordering them.' 'Hold your tongue,
Martha, and be off.' I fell into a cold sweat. "Jane Eyre" will
be read by J---- B----, by Mrs. T----, and B----. Heaven help,
keep, and deliver me!" . . . "The Haworth people have been making
great fools of themselves about Shirley; they have taken it in an
enthusiastic light. When they got the volumes at the Mechanics'
Institute, all the members wanted them. They cast lots for the
whole three, and whoever got a volume was only allowed to keep it
two days, and was to be fined a shilling per diem for longer
detention. It would be mere nonsense and vanity to tell you what
they say."

The tone of these extracts is thoroughly consonant with the
spirit of Yorkshire and Lancashire people, who try as long as
they can to conceal their emotions of pleasure under a bantering
exterior, almost as if making fun of themselves. Miss Bronte was
extremely touched in the secret places of her warm heart by the
way in which those who had known her from her childhood were
proud and glad of her success. All round about the news had
spread; strangers came "from beyond Burnley" to see her, as she
went quietly and unconsciously into church and the sexton "gained
many a half-crown" for pointing her out.

But there were drawbacks to this hearty and kindly appreciation
which was so much more valuable than fame. The January number of
the Edinburgh Review had contained the article on Shirley, of
which her correspondent, Mr. Lewes, was the writer. I have said
that Miss Bronte was especially anxious to be criticised as a
writer, without relation to her sex as a woman. Whether right or
wrong, her feeling was strong on this point. Now in this review
of Shirley, the heading of the first two pages ran thus: "Mental
Equality of the Sexes?" "Female Literature," and through the
whole article the fact of the author's sex is never forgotten.

A few days after the review appeared, Mr. Lewes received the
following note,--rather in the style of Anne Countess of
Pembroke, Dorset, and Montgomery.


"I can be on my guard against my enemies, but God deliver me from
my friends!


In some explanatory notes on her letters to him, with which Mr.
Lewes has favoured me, he says:--

"Seeing that she was unreasonable because angry, I wrote to
remonstrate with her on quarrelling with the severity or
frankness of a review, which certainly was dictated by real
admiration and real friendship; even under its objections the
friend's voice could be heard."

The following letter is her reply:--


"Jan. 19th, 1850.

"My dear Sir,--I will tell you why I was so hurt by that review
in the Edinburgh; not because its criticism was keen or its blame
sometimes severe; not because its praise was stinted (for,
indeed, I think you give me quite as much praise as I deserve),
but because after I had said earnestly that I wished critics

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