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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 3 out of 5

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would judge me as an AUTHOR, not as a woman, you so roughly--I
even thought so cruelly--handled the question of sex. I dare say
you meant no harm, and perhaps you will not now be able to
understand why I was so grieved at what you will probably deem
such a trifle; but grieved I was, and indignant too.

"There was a passage or two which you did quite wrong to write.

"However, I will not bear malice against you for it; I know what
your nature is: it is not a bad or unkind one, though you would
often jar terribly on some feelings with whose recoil and quiver
you could not possibly sympathise. I imagine you are both
enthusiastic and implacable, as you are at once sagacious and
careless; you know much and discover much, but you are in such a
hurry to tell it all you never give yourself time to think how
your reckless eloquence may affect others; and, what is more, if
you knew how it did affect them, you would not much care.

"However, I shake hands with you: you have excellent points; you
can be generous. I still feel angry, and think I do well to be
angry; but it is the anger one experiences for rough play rather
than for foul play.--I am yours, with a certain respect, and more


As Mr. Lewes says, "the tone of this letter is cavalier." But I
thank him for having allowed me to publish what is so
characteristic of one phase of Miss Bronte's mind. Her health,
too, was suffering at this time. "I don't know what heaviness of
spirit has beset me of late" (she writes, in pathetic words,
wrung out of the sadness of her heart), "made my faculties dull,
made rest weariness, and occupation burdensome. Now and then, the
silence of the house, the solitude of the room, has pressed on me
with a weight I found it difficult to bear, and recollection has
not failed to be as alert, poignant, obtrusive, as other feelings
were languid. I attribute this state of things partly to the
weather. Quicksilver invariably falls low in storms and high
winds, and I have ere this been warned of approaching disturbance
in the atmosphere by a sense of bodily weakness, and deep, heavy
mental sadness, such as some would call
PRESENTIMENT,--presentiment indeed it is, but not at all
super-natural. . . . I cannot help feeling something of the
excitement of expectation till the post hour comes, and when, day
after day, it brings nothing, I get low. This is a stupid,
disgraceful, unmeaning state of things. I feel bitterly vexed at
my own dependence and folly; but it is so bad for the mind to be
quite alone, and to have none with whom to talk over little
crosses and disappointments, and to laugh them away. If I could
write, I dare say I should be better, but I cannot write a line.
However (by God's help), I will contend against this folly.

"I had rather a foolish letter the other day from ----. Some
things in it nettled me, especially an unnecessarily earnest
assurance that, in spite of all I had done in the writing line, I
still retained a place in her esteem. My answer took strong and
high ground at once. I said I had been troubled by no doubts on
the subject; that I neither did her nor myself the injustice to
suppose there was anything in what I had written to incur. the
just forfeiture of esteem. . . .

"A few days since, a little incident happened which curiously
touched me. Papa put into my hands a little packet of letters and
papers,--telling me that they were mamma's, and that I might read
them. I did read them, in a frame of mind I cannot describe. The
papers were yellow with time, all having been written before I
was born it was strange now to peruse, for the first time, the
records of a mind whence my own sprang; and most strange, and at
once sad and sweet, to find that mind of a truly fine, pure, and
elevated order. They were written to papa before they were
married. There is a rectitude, a refinement a constancy, a
modesty, a sense, a gentleness about them indescribable. I wished
that she had lived, and that I had known her. . . . All through
this month of February, I have had a crushing time of it. I could
not escape from or rise above certain most mournful
recollections,--the last days, the sufferings, the remembered
words--most sorrowful to me, of those who, Faith assures me, are
now happy. At evening and bed-time, such thoughts would haunt me,
bringing a weary heartache."

The reader may remember the strange prophetic vision, which
dictated a few words, written on the occasion of the death of a
pupil of hers in January, 1840:

"Wherever I seek for her now in this world, she cannot be found;
no more than a flower or a leaf which withered twenty years ago.
A bereavement of this kind gives one a glimpse of the feeling
those must have, who have seen all drop round them--friend after
friend, and are left to end their pilgrimage alone."

Even in persons of naturally robust health, and with no

"Ricordarsi di tempo felice
Nella miseria--"

to wear, with slow dropping but perpetual pain, upon their
spirits, the nerves and appetite will give way in solitude. How
much more must it have been so with Miss Bronte, delicate and
frail in constitution, tried by much anxiety and sorrow in early
life, and now left to face her life alone. Owing to Mr. Bronte's
great age, and long-formed habits of solitary occupation when in
the house, his daughter was left to herself for the greater part
of the day. Ever since his serious attacks of illness, he had
dined alone; a portion of her dinner, regulated by strict
attention to the diet most suitable for him, being taken into his
room by herself. After dinner she read to him for an hour or so,
as his sight was too weak to allow of his reading long to
himself. He was out of doors among his parishioners for a good
part of each day; often for a longer time than his strength would
permit. Yet he always liked to go alone, and consequently her
affectionate care could be no check upon the length of his walks
to the more distant hamlets which were in his cure. He would come
back occasionally utterly fatigued; and be obliged to go to bed,
questioning himself sadly as to where all his former strength of
body had gone to. His strength of will was the same as ever. That
which he resolved to do he did, at whatever cost of weariness;
but his daughter was all the more anxious from seeing him so
regardless of himself and his health. The hours of retiring for
the night had always been early in the Parsonage; now family
prayers were at eight o'clock; directly after which Mr. Bronte
and old Tabby went to bed, and Martha was not long in following.
But Charlotte could not have slept if she had gone,--could not
have rested on her desolate couch. She stopped up,--it was very
tempting,--late and later, striving to beguile the lonely night
with some employment, till her weak eyes failed to read or to
sew, and could only weep in solitude over the dead that were not.
No one on earth can even imagine what those hours were to her.
All the grim superstitions of the North had been implanted in her
during her childhood by the servants, who believed in them. They
recurred to her now,--with no shrinking from the spirits of the
Dead, but with such an intense longing once more to stand face to
face with the souls of her sisters, as no one but she could have
felt. It seemed as if the very strength of her yearning should
have compelled them to appear. On windy nights, cries, and sobs,
and wailings seemed to go round the house, as of the
dearly-beloved striving to force their way to her. Some one
conversing with her once objected, in my presence, to that part
of "Jane Eyre" in which she hears Rochester's voice crying out to
her in a great crisis of her life, he being many, many miles
distant at the time. I do not know what incident was in Miss
Bronte's recollection when she replied, in a low voice, drawing
in her breath, "But it is a true thing; it really happened."

The reader, who has even faintly pictured to himself her life at
this time,--the solitary days,--the waking, watching nights,--may
imagine to what a sensitive pitch her nerves were strung, and how
such a state was sure to affect her health.

It was no bad thing for her that about this time various people
began to go over to Haworth, curious to see the scenery described
in "Shirley," if a sympathy with the writer, of a more generous
kind than to be called mere curiosity, did not make them wish to
know whether they could not in some way serve or cheer one who
had suffered so deeply.

Among this number were Sir James and Lady Kay Shuttleworth. Their
house lies over the crest of the moors which rise above Haworth,
at about a dozen miles' distance as the crow flies, though much
further by the road. But, according to the acceptation of the
word in that uninhabited district, they were neighbours, if they
so willed it. Accordingly, Sir James and his wife drove over one
morning, at the beginning of March, to call upon Miss Bronte and
her father. Before taking leave, they pressed her to visit them
at Gawthorpe Hall, their residence on the borders of East
Lancashire. After some hesitation, and at the urgency of her
father, who was extremely anxious to procure for her any change
of scene and society that was offered, she consented to go. On
the whole, she enjoyed her visit very much, in spite of her
shyness, and the difficulty she always experienced in meeting the
advances of those strangers whose kindness she did not feel
herself in a position to repay.

She took great pleasure in the "quiet drives to old ruins and old
halls, situated among older hills and woods; the dialogues by the
old fireside in the antique oak-panneled drawing-room, while they
suited him, did not too much oppress and exhaust me. The house,
too, is much to my taste; near three centuries old, grey,
stately, and picturesque. On the whole, now that the visit is
over, I do not regret having paid it. The worst of it is, that
there is now some menace hanging over my head of an invitation to
go to them in London during the season. This, which would be a
great enjoyment to some people, is a perfect terror to me. I
should highly prize the advantages to be gained in an extended
range of observation; but I tremble at the thought of the price I
must necessarily pay in mental distress and physical wear and

On the same day on which she wrote the above, she sent the
following letter to Mr. Smith.

"March 16th, 1850.

"I return Mr. H----'s note, after reading it carefully. I tried
very hard to understand all he says about art; but, to speak
truth, my efforts were crowned with incomplete success. There is
a certain jargon in use amongst critics on this point through
which it is physically and morally impossible to me to see
daylight. One thing however, I see plainly enough, and that is,
Mr. Currer Bell needs improvement, and ought to strive after it;
and this (D. V.) he honestly intends to do--taking his time,
however, and following as his guides Nature and Truth. If these
lead to what the critics call art, it is all very well; but if
not, that grand desideratum has no chance of being run after or
caught. The puzzle is, that while the people of the South object
to my delineation of Northern life and manners, the people of
Yorkshire and Lancashire approve. They say it is precisely the
contrast of rough nature with highly artificial cultivation which
forms one of their main characteristics. Such, or something very
similar, has been the observation made to me lately, whilst I
have been from home, by members of some of the ancient East
Lancashire families, whose mansions lie on the hilly border-land
between the two counties. The question arises, whether do the
London critics, or the old Northern squires, understand the
matter best?

"Any promise you require respecting the books shall be willingly
given, provided only I am allowed the Jesuit's principle of a
mental reservation, giving licence to forget and promise whenever
oblivion shall appear expedient. The last two or three numbers of
Pendennis will not, I dare say, be generally thought sufficiently
exciting, yet I like them. Though the story lingers, (for me) the
interest does not flag. Here and there we feel that the pen has
been guided by a tired hand, that the mind of the writer has been
somewhat chafed and depressed by his recent illness, or by some
other cause; but Thackeray still proves himself greater when he
is weary than other writers are when they are fresh. The public,
of course, will have no compassion for his fatigue, and make no
allowance for the ebb of inspiration; but some true-hearted
readers here and there, while grieving that such a man should be
obliged to write when he is not in the mood, will wonder that,
under such circumstances, he should write so well. The parcel of
books will come, I doubt not, at such time as it shall suit the
good pleasure of the railway officials to send it on,--or rather
to yield it up to the repeated and humble solicitations of
Haworth carriers;--till when I wait in all reasonable patience
and resignation, looking with docility to that model of active
self-helpfulness Punch friendly offers the 'Women of England,' in
his 'Unprotected Female.'"

The books lent her by her publishers were, as I have before said,
a great solace and pleasure to her. There was much interest in
opening the Cornhill parcel. But there was pain too; for, as she
untied the cords, and took out the volumes one by one, she could
scarcely fail to be reminded of those who once, on similar
occasions, looked on so eagerly. "I miss familiar voices,
commenting mirthfully and pleasantly; the room seems very still--
very empty; but yet there is consolation in remembering that Papa
will take pleasure in some of the books. Happiness quite unshared
can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste." She goes on
to make remarks upon the kind of books sent.

"I wonder how you can choose so well; on no account would I
forestall the choice. I am sure any selection I might make for
myself would be less satisfactory than the selection others so
kindly and judiciously make for me; besides, if I knew all that
was coming, it would be comparatively flat. I would much rather
not know.

"Amongst the especially welcome works are 'Southey's Life', the
'Women of France,' Hazlitt's 'Essays,' Emerson's 'Representative
Men;' but it seems invidious to particularise when all are good.
. . . I took up a second small book, Scott's 'Suggestions on
Female Education;' that, too, I read, and with unalloyed
pleasure. It is very good; justly thought, and clearly and
felicitously expressed. The girls of this generation have great
advantages; it seems to me that they receive much encouragement
in the acquisition of knowledge, and the cultivation of their
minds; in these days, women may be thoughtful and well read,
without being universally stigmatised as 'Blues' and 'Pedants.'
Men begin to approve and aid, instead of ridiculing or checking
them in their efforts to be wise. I must say that, for my own
part, whenever I have been so happy as to share the conversation
of a really intellectual man, my feeling has been, not that the
little I knew was accounted a superfluity and impertinence, but
that I did not know enough to satisfy just expectation. I have
always to explain, 'In me you must not look for great
attainments: what seems to you the result of reading and study is
chiefly spontaneous and intuitive.' . . . Against the teaching of
some (even clever) men, one instinctively revolts. They may
possess attainments, they may boast varied knowledge of life and
of the world; but if of the finer perceptions, of the more
delicate phases of feeling, they be destitute and incapable, of
what avail is the rest? Believe me, while hints well worth
consideration may come from unpretending sources, from minds not
highly cultured, but naturally fine and delicate, from hearts
kindly, feeling, and unenvious, learned dictums delivered with
pomp and sound may be perfectly empty, stupid, and contemptible.
No man ever yet 'by aid of Greek climbed Parnassus,' or taught
others to climb it. . . . I enclose for your perusal a scrap of
paper which came into my hands without the knowledge of the
writer. He is a poor working man of this village--a thoughtful,
reading, feeling being, whose mind is too keen for his frame, and
wears it out. I have not spoken to him above thrice in my life,
for he is a Dissenter, and has rarely come in my way. The
document is a sort of record of his feelings, after the perusal
of "Jane Eyre;" it is artless and earnest; genuine and generous.
You must return it to me, for I value it more than testimonies
from higher sources. He said, 'Miss Bronte, if she knew he had
written it, would scorn him;' but, indeed, Miss Bronte does not
scorn him; she only grieves that a mind of which this is the
emanation, should be kept crushed by the leaden hand of
poverty--by the trials of uncertain health, and the claims of a
large family.

"As to the Times, as you say, the acrimony of its critique has
proved, in some measure, its own antidote; to have been more
effective, it should have been juster. I think it has had little
weight up here in the North it may be that annoying remarks, if
made, are not suffered to reach my ear; but certainly, while I
have heard little condemnatory of Shirley, more than once have I
been deeply moved by manifestations of even enthusiastic
approbation. I deem it unwise to dwell much on these matters; but
for once I must permit myself to remark, that the generous pride
many of the Yorkshire people have taken in the matter, has been
such as to awake and claim my gratitude--especially since it has
afforded a source of reviving pleasure to my father in his old
age. The very curates, poor fellows! show no resentment each
characteristically finds solace for his own wounds in crowing
over his brethren. Mr. Donne was at first a little disturbed; for
a week or two he was in disquietude, but he is now soothed down;
only yesterday I had the pleasure of making him a comfortable cup
of tea, and seeing him sip it with revived complacency. It is a
curious fact that, since he read 'Shirley,' he has come to the
house oftener than ever, and been remarkably meek and assiduous
to please. Some people's natures are veritable enigmas I quite
expected to have had one good scene at least with him; but as yet
nothing of the sort has occurred."


During the earlier months of this spring, Haworth was extremely
unhealthy. The weather was damp, low fever was prevalent, and the
household at the Parsonage suffered along with its neighbours.
Charlotte says, "I have felt it (the fever) in frequent thirst
and infrequent appetite; Papa too, and even Martha, have
complained." This depression of health produced depression of
spirits, and she grew more and more to dread the proposed journey
to London with Sir James and Lady Kay Shuttleworth. "I know what
the effect and what the pain will be, how wretched I shall often
feel, and how thin and haggard I shall get; but he who shuns
suffering will never win victory. If I mean to improve, I must
strive and endure. . . . Sir James has been a physician, and
looks at me with a physician's eye: he saw at once that I could
not stand much fatigue, nor bear the presence of many strangers.
I believe he would partly understand how soon my stock of animal
spirits was brought to a low ebb; but none--not the most skilful
physician--can get at more than the outside of these things: the
heart knows its own bitterness, and the frame its own poverty,
and the mind its own struggles. Papa is eager and restless for me
to go; the idea of a refusal quite hurts him."

But the sensations of illness in the family increased; the
symptoms were probably aggravated, if not caused, by the
immediate vicinity of the church-yard, "paved with rain-blackened
tomb-stones." On April 29th she writes:--

"We have had but a poor week of it at Haworth. Papa continues far
from well; he is often very sickly in the morning, a symptom
which I have remarked before in his aggravated attacks of
bronchitis; unless he should get much better, I shall never think
of leaving him to go to London. Martha has suffered from
tic-douloureux, with sickness and fever, just like you. I have a
bad cold, and a stubborn sore throat; in short, everybody but old
Tabby is out of sorts. When ---- was here, he complained of a
sudden headache, and the night after he was gone I had something
similar, very bad, lasting about three hours."

A fortnight later she writes:--

"I did not think Papa well enough to be left, and accordingly
begged Sir James and Lady Kay Shuttleworth to return to London
without me. It was arranged that we were to stay at several of
their friends' and relatives' houses on the way; a week or more
would have been taken up on the journey. I cannot say that I
regret having missed this ordeal; I would as lief have walked
among red-hot plough-shares; but I do regret one great treat,
which I shall now miss. Next Wednesday is the anniversary dinner
of the Royal Literary Fund Society, held in Freemasons' Hall.
Octavian Blewitt, the secretary, offered me a ticket for the
ladies' gallery. I should have seen all the great literati and
artists gathered in the hall below, and heard them speak;
Thackeray and Dickens are always present among the rest. This
cannot now be. I don't think all London can afford another sight
to me so interesting."

It became requisite, however, before long, that she should go to
London on business; and as Sir James Kay Shuttleworth was
detained in the country by indisposition, she accepted Mrs.
Smith's invitation to stay quietly at her house, while she
transacted her affairs.

In the interval between the relinquishment of the first plan and
the adoption of the second, she wrote the following letter to one
who was much valued among her literary friends:--

"May 22nd.

"I had thought to bring the Leader and the Athenaeum myself this
time, and not to have to send them by post, but it turns out
otherwise; my journey to London is again postponed, and this time
indefinitely. Sir James Kay Shuttleworth's state of health is the
cause-a cause, I fear, not likely to be soon removed. . . . Once
more, then, I settle myself down in the quietude of Haworth
Parsonage, with books for my household companions, and an
occasional letter for a visitor; a mute society, but neither
quarrelsome, nor vulgarising, nor unimproving.

"One of the pleasures I had promised myself consisted in asking
you several questions about the Leader, which is really, in its
way, an interesting paper. I wanted, amongst other things, to ask
you the real names of some of the contributors, and also what
Lewes writes besides his Apprenticeship of Life. I always think
the article headed 'Literature' is his. Some of the
communications in the 'Open Council' department are odd
productions; but it seems to me very fair and right to admit
them. Is not the system of the paper altogether a novel one? I do
not remember seeing anything precisely like it before.

"I have just received yours of this morning; thank you for the
enclosed note. The longings for liberty and leisure which May
sunshine wakens in you, stir my sympathy. I am afraid Cornhill is
little better than a prison for its inmates on warm spring or
summer days. It is a pity to think of you all toiling at your
desks in such genial weather as this. For my part, I am free to
walk on the moors; but when I go out there alone, everything
reminds me of the times when others were with me, and then the
moors seem a wilderness, featureless, solitary, saddening. My
sister Emily had a. particular love for them, and there is not a
knoll of heather, not a branch of fern, not a young bilberry
leaf, not a fluttering lark or linnet, but reminds me of her. The
distant prospects were Anne's delight, and when I look round, she
is in the blue tints, the pale mists, the waves and shadows of
the horizon. In the hill-country silence, their poetry comes by
lines and stanzas into my mind: once I loved it; now I dare not
read it, and am driven often to wish I could taste one draught of
oblivion, and forget much that, while mind remains, I never shall
forget. Many people seem to recall their departed relatives with
a sort of melancholy complacency, but I think these have not
watched them through lingering sickness, nor witnessed their last
moments: it is these reminiscences that stand by your bedside at
night, and rise at your pillow in the morning. At the end of all,
however, exists the Great Hope. Eternal Life is theirs now."

She had to write many letters, about this time, to authors who
sent her their books, and strangers who expressed their
admiration of her own. The following was in reply to one of the
latter class, and was addressed to a young man at Cambridge:--

"May 23rd, 1850.

"Apologies are indeed unnecessary for a 'reality of feeling, for
a genuine unaffected impulse of the spirit,' such as prompted you
to write the letter which I now briefly acknowledge.

"Certainly it is 'something to me' that what I write should be
acceptable to the feeling heart and refined intellect;
undoubtedly it is much to me that my creations (such as they are)
should find harbourage, appreciation, indulgence, at any friendly
hand, or from any generous mind. You are very welcome to take
Jane, Caroline, and Shirley for your sisters, and I trust they
will often speak to their adopted brother when he is solitary,
and soothe him when he is sad. If they cannot make themselves at
home in a thoughtful, sympathetic mind, and diffuse through its
twilight a cheering, domestic glow, it is their fault; they are
not, in that case, so amiable, so benignant, not so real as they
ought to be. If they CAN, and can find household altars in human
hearts, they will fulfil the best design of their creation, in
therein maintaining a genial flame, which shall warm but not
scorch, light but not dazzle.

"What does it matter that part of your pleasure in such beings
has its source in the poetry of your own youth rather than in any
magic of theirs? What, that perhaps, ten years hence, you may
smile to remember your present recollections, and view under
another light both 'Currer Bell' and his writings? To me this
consideration does not detract from the value of what you now
feel. Youth has its romance, and maturity its wisdom, as morning
and spring have their freshness, noon and summer their power,
night and winter their repose. Each attribute is good in its own
season. Your letter gave me pleasure, and I thank you for it.


Miss Bronte went up to town at the beginning of June, and much
enjoyed her stay there; seeing very few persons, according to the
agreement she made before she went; and limiting her visit to a
fortnight, dreading the feverishness and exhaustion which were
the inevitable consequences of the slightest excitement upon her
susceptible frame.

"June 12th.

"Since I wrote to you last, I have not had many moments to
myself, except such as it was absolutely necessary to give to
rest. On the whole, however, I have thus far got on very well,
suffering much less from exhaustion than I did last time.

"Of course I cannot give you in a letter a regular chronicle of
how my time has been spent. I can only--just notify. what I deem
three of its chief incidents: a sight of the Duke of Wellington
at the Chapel Royal (he is a real grand old man), a visit to the
House of Commons (which I hope to describe to you some day when I
see you), and last, not least, an interview with Mr. Thackeray.
He made a morning call, and sat above two hours. Mr. Smith only
was in the room the whole time. He described it afterwards as a
'queer scene,' and--I suppose it was. The giant sate before me; I
was moved to speak to him of some of his short-comings (literary
of course); one by one the faults came into my head, and one by
one I brought them out, and sought some explanation or defence.
He did defend himself, like a great Turk and heathen; that is to
say, the excuses were often worse than the crime itself. The
matter ended in decent amity; if all be well, I am to dine at his
house this evening.

"I have seen Lewes too. . . . I could not feel otherwise to him
than half-sadly, half-tenderly,--a queer word that last, but I
use it because the aspect of Lewes's face almost moves me to
tears; it is so wonderfully like Emily,--her eyes, her features,
the very nose, the somewhat prominent mouth, the forehead, even,
at moments, the expression: whatever Lewes says, I believe I
cannot hate him. Another likeness I have seen, too, that touched
me sorrowfully. You remember my speaking of a Miss K., a young
authoress, who supported her mother by writing? Hearing that she
had a longing to see me, I called on her yesterday. . . . She met
me half-frankly, half-tremblingly; we sate down together, and
when I had talked with her five minutes, her face was no longer
strange, but mournfully familiar;--it was Martha in every
lineament. I shall try to find a moment to see her again. . . . I
do not intend to stay here, at the furthest, more than a week
longer; but at the end of that time I cannot go home, for the
house at Haworth is just now unroofed; repairs were become

She soon followed her letter to the friend to whom it was
written; but her visit was a very short one, for, in accordance
with a plan made before leaving London, she went on to Edinburgh
to join the friends with whom she had been staying in town. She
remained only a few days in Scotland, and those were principally
spent in Edinburgh, with which she was delighted, calling London
a "dreary place" in comparison.

"My stay in Scotland" (she wrote some weeks later) "was short,
and what I saw was chiefly comprised in Edinburgh and the
neighbourhood, in Abbotsford and in Melrose, for I was obliged to
relinquish my first intention of going from Glasgow to Oban, and
thence through a portion of the Highlands; but though the time
was brief, and the view of objects limited, I found such a charm
of situation, association, and circumstance, that I think the
enjoyment experienced in that little space equalled in degree,
and excelled in kind, all which London yielded during a month's
sojourn Edinburgh, compared to London, is like a vivid page of
history compared to a large dull treatise on political economy;
and as to Melrose and Abbotsford, the very names possess music
and magic."

And again, in a letter to a different correspondent, she says:--

"I would not write to you immediately on my arrival at home,
because each return to this old house brings with it a phase of
feeling which it is better to pass through quietly before
beginning to indite letters. The six weeks of change and
enjoyment are past, but they are not lost; memory took a sketch
of each as it went by, and, especially, a distinct daguerreotype
of the two days I spent in Scotland. Those were two very pleasant
days. I always liked Scotland as an idea, but now, as a reality,
I like it far better; it furnished me with some hours as happy
almost as any I ever spent. Do not fear, however, that I am going
to bore you with description; you will, before now, have received
a pithy and pleasant report of all things, to which any addition
of mine would be superfluous. My present endeavours are directed
towards recalling my thoughts, cropping their wings, drilling
them into correct discipline, and forcing them to settle to some
useful work: they are idle, and keep taking the train down to
London, or making a foray over the Border--especially are they
prone to perpetrate that last excursion; and who, indeed, that
has once seen Edinburgh, with its couchant crag-lion, but must
see it again in dreams, waking or sleeping? My dear sir, do riot
think I blaspheme, when I tell you that your great London, as
compared to Dun-Edin, 'mine own romantic town,' is as prose
compared to poetry, or as a great rumbling, rambling, heavy epic
compared to a lyric, brief, bright, clear and vital as a flash of
lightning. You have nothing like Scott's monument, or, if you had
that, and all the glories of architecture assembled together, you
have nothing like Arthur's Seat, and, above all, you have riot
the Scotch national character; and it is that grand character
after all which gives the land its true charm, its true

On her return from Scotland, she again spent a few days with her
friends, and then made her way to Haworth.

"July 15th.

I got home very well, and full glad was I that no insuperable
obstacle had deferred my return one single day longer. Just at
the foot of Bridgehouse hill, I met John, staff in hand; he
fortunately saw me in the cab, stopped, and informed me he was
setting off to B----, by Mr. Bronte's orders, to see how I was,
for that he had been quite miserable ever since he got Miss
----'s letter. I found, on my arrival, that Papa had worked
himself up to a sad pitch of nervous excitement and alarm, in
which Martha and Tabby were but too obviously joining him. . . .
The house looks very clean, and, I think, is not damp; there is,
however, still a great deal to do in the way of settling and
arranging,--enough to keep me disagreeably busy for some time to
come. I was truly thankful to find Papa pretty well, but I fear
he is just beginning to show symptoms of a cold: my cold
continues better. . . . An article in a newspaper I found
awaiting me on my arrival, amused me; it was a paper published
while I was in London. I enclose it to give you a laugh; it
professes to be written by an Author jealous of Authoresses. I do
not know who he is, but he must be one of those I met. . . . The
'ugly men,' giving themselves 'Rochester airs,' is no bad hit;
some of those alluded to will not like it."

While Miss Bronte was staying in London, she was induced to sit
for her portrait to Richmond. It is a crayon drawing; in my
judgment an admirable likeness, though of course there is some
difference of opinion on the subject; and, as usual, those best
acquainted with the original were least satisfied with the
resemblance. Mr. Bronte thought that it looked older than
Charlotte did, and that her features had not been flattered; but
he acknowledged that the expression was wonderfully good and
life-like. She sent the following amusing account of the arrival
of the portrait to the donor:--

"Aug. 1st.

"The little box for me came at the same time as the large one for
Papa. When you first told me that you had had the Duke's picture
framed, and had given it to me, I felt half provoked with you for
performing such a work of supererogation, but now, when I see it
again, I cannot but acknowledge that, in so doing, you were
felicitously inspired. It is his very image, and, as Papa said
when he saw it, scarcely in the least like the ordinary
portraits; not only the expression, but even the form of the head
is different, and of a far nobler character. I esteem it a
treasure. The lady who left the parcel for me was, it seems, Mrs.
Gore. The parcel contained one of her works, 'The Hamiltons,' and
a very civil and friendly note, in which I find myself addressed
as 'Dear Jane.' Papa seems much pleased with the portrait, as do
the few other persons who have seen it, with one notable
exception; viz., our old servant, who tenaciously maintains that
it is not like--that it is too old-looking; but as she, with
equal tenacity, asserts that the Duke of Wellington's picture is
a portrait of 'the Master' (meaning Papa), I am afraid not much
weight is to be ascribed to her opinion: doubtless she confuses
her recollections of me as I was in childhood with present
impressions. Requesting always to be very kindly remembered to
your mother and sisters, I am, yours very thanklessly (according
to desire),


It may easily be conceived that two people living together as Mr.
Bronte and his daughter did, almost entirely dependent on each
other for society, and loving each other deeply (although not
demonstratively)--that these two last members of a family would
have their moments of keen anxiety respecting each other's
health. There is not one letter of hers which I have read, that
does not contain some mention of her father's state in this
respect. Either she thanks God with simple earnestness that he is
well, or some infirmities of age beset him, and she mentions the
fact, and then winces away from it, as from a sore that will not
bear to be touched. He, in his turn, noted every indisposition of
his one remaining child's, exaggerated its nature, and sometimes
worked himself up into a miserable state of anxiety, as in the
case she refers to, when, her friend having named in a letter to
him that his daughter was suffering from a bad cold, he could not
rest till he despatched a messenger, to go, "staff in hand" a
distance of fourteen miles, and see with his own eyes what was
her real state, and return and report.

She evidently felt that this natural anxiety on the part of her
father and friend increased the nervous depression of her own
spirits, whenever she was ill; and in the following letter she
expresses her strong wish that the subject of her health should
be as little alluded to as possible.

"Aug. 7th.

"I am truly sorry that I allowed the words to which you refer to
escape my lips, since their effect on you has been unpleasant;
but try to chase every shadow of anxiety from your mind, and,
unless the restraint be very disagreeable to you, permit me to
add an earnest request that you will broach the subject to me no
more. It is the undisguised and most harassing anxiety of others
that has fixed in my mind thoughts and expectations which must
canker wherever they take root; against which every effort of
religion or philosophy must at times totally fail; and
subjugation to which is a cruel terrible fate--the fate, indeed,
of him whose life was passed under a sword suspended by a
horse-hair. I have had to entreat Papa's consideration on this
point. My nervous system is soon wrought on. I should wish to
keep it in rational strength and coolness; but to do so I must
determinedly resist the kindly-meant, but too irksome expression
of an apprehension, for the realisation or defeat of which I have
no possible power to be responsible. At present, I am pretty
well. Thank God! Papa, I trust, is no worse, but he complains of


Her father was always anxious to procure every change that was
possible for her, seeing, as he did, the benefit which she
derived from it, however reluctant she might have been to leave
her home and him beforehand. This August she was invited to go
for a week to the neighbourhood of Bowness, where Sir James Kay
Shuttleworth had taken a house; but she says, "I consented to go,
with reluctance, chiefly to please Papa, whom a refusal on my
part would much have annoyed; but I dislike to leave him. I trust
he is not worse, but his complaint is still weakness. It is not
right to anticipate evil, and to be always looking forward with
an apprehensive spirit; but I think grief is a two-edged sword,
it cuts both ways; the memory of one loss is the anticipation of

It was during this visit at the Briery--Lady Kay Shuttleworth
having kindly invited me to meet her there--that I first made
acquaintance with Miss Bronte. If I copy out part of a letter,
which I wrote soon after this to a friend, who was deeply
interested in her writings, I shall probably convey my first
impressions more truly and freshly than by amplifying what I then
said into a longer description.

"Dark when I got to Windermere station; a drive along the level
road to Low-wood; then a stoppage at a pretty house, and then a
pretty drawing-room, in which were Sir James and Lady Kay
Shuttleworth, and a little lady in a black-silk gown, whom I
could not see at first for the dazzle in the room; she came up
and shook hands with me at once. I went up to unbonnet, etc.;
came down to tea; the little lady worked away and hardly spoke
but I had time for a good look at her. She is (as she calls
herself) UNDEVELOPED, thin, and more than half a head shorter
than I am; soft brown hair, not very dark; eyes (very good and
expressive, looking straight and open at you) of the same colour
as her hair; a large mouth; the forehead square, broad and rather
over-hanging. She has a very sweet voice; rather hesitates in
choosing her expressions, but when chosen they seem without an
effort admirable, and just befitting the occasion; there is
nothing overstrained, but perfectly simple. . . . After
breakfast, we four went out on the lake, and Miss Bronte agreed
with me in liking Mr. Newman's Soul, and in liking Modern
Painters, and the idea of the Seven Lamps; and she told me about
Father Newman's lectures at the Oratory in a very quiet, concise,
graphic way. . . . She is more like Miss ---- than any one in her
ways--if you can fancy Miss ---- to have gone through suffering
enough to have taken out every spark of merriment, and to be shy
and silent from the habit of extreme, intense solitude. Such a
life as Miss Bronte's I never heard of before. ---- described her
home to me as in a village of grey stone houses, perched up on
the north side of a bleak moor, looking over sweeps of bleak
moors, etc., etc.

"We were only three days together; the greater part of which was
spent in driving about, in order to show Miss Bronte the
Westmoreland scenery, as she had never been there before. We were
both included in an invitation to drink tea quietly at Fox How;
and I then saw how severely her nerves were taxed by the effort
of going amongst strangers. We knew beforehand that the number of
the party would not exceed twelve; but she suffered the whole day
from an acute headache brought on by apprehension of the evening.

"Brierly Close was situated high above Low-wood, and of course
commanded an extensive view and wide horizon. I was struck by
Miss Bronte's careful examination of the shape of the clouds and
the signs of the heavens, in which she read, as from a book, what
the coming weather would be. I told her that I saw she must have
a view equal in extent at her own home. She said that I was
right, but that the character of the prospect from Haworth was
very different; that I had no idea what a companion the sky
became to any one living in solitude,--more than any inanimate
object on earth,--more than the moors themselves."

The following extracts convey some of her own impressions and
feelings respecting this visit:--

"You said I should stay longer than a week in Westmoreland; you
ought by this time to know me better. Is it my habit to keep
dawdling at a place long after the time I first fixed on for
departing? I have got home, and I am thankful to say Papa
seems,--to say the least,--no worse than when I left him, yet I
wish he were stronger. My visit passed off very well; I am glad I
went. The scenery is, of course, grand; could I have wandered
about amongst those hills ALONE, I could have drank in all their
beauty; even in a carriage with company, it was very well. Sir
James was all the while as kind and friendly as he could be: he
is in much better health. . . . Miss Martineau was from home; she
always leaves her house at Ambleside during the Lake season, to
avoid the influx of visitors to which she would otherwise be

"If I could only have dropped unseen out of the carriage, and
gone away by myself in amongst those grand hills and sweet dales,
I should have drank in the full power of this glorious scenery.
In company this can hardly be. Sometimes, while ---- was warning
me against the faults of the artist-class, all the while vagrant
artist instincts were busy in the mind of his listener.

"I forget to tell you that, about a week before I went to
Westmoreland, there came an invitation to Harden Grange; which,
of course, I declined. Two or three days after, a large party
made their appearance here, consisting of Mrs. F---- and sundry
other ladies and two gentlemen; one tall and stately, black
haired and whiskered, who turned out to be Lord John
Manners,--the other not so distinguished-looking, shy, and a
little queer, who was Mr. Smythe, the son of Lord Strangford. I
found Mrs. F. a true lady in manners and appearance, very gentle
and unassuming. Lord John Manners brought in his hand a brace of
grouse for Papa, which was a well-timed present: a day or two
before Papa had been wishing for some."

To these extracts I must add one other from a letter referring to
this time. It is addressed to Miss Wooler, the kind friend of
both her girlhood and womanhood, who had invited her to spend a
fortnight with her at her cottage lodgings.

"Haworth, Sept. 27th, 1850.

"When I tell you that I have already been to the Lakes this
season, and that it is scarcely more than a month since I
returned, you will understand that it is no longer within my
option to accept your kind invitation. I wish I could have gone
to you. I have already had my excursion, and there is an end of
it. Sir James Kay Shuttleworth is residing near Windermere, at a
house called the 'Briery,' and it was there I was staying for a
little time this August. He very kindly showed me the
neighbourhood, as it can be seen from a carriage, and I discerned
that the Lake country is a glorious region, of which I had only
seen the similitude in dreams, waking or sleeping. Decidedly I
find it does not agree with me to prosecute the search of the
picturesque in a carriage. A waggon, a spring-cart, even a
post-chaise might do; but the carriage upsets everything. I
longed to slip out unseen, and to run away by myself in amongst
the hills and dales. Erratic and vagrant instincts tormented me,
and these I was obliged to control or rather suppress for fear of
growing in any degree enthusiastic, and thus drawing attention to
the 'lioness'--the authoress.

"You say that you suspect I have formed a large circle of
acquaintance by this time. No: I cannot say that I have. I doubt
whether I possess either the wish or the power to do so. A few
friends I should like to have, and these few I should like to
know well; If such knowledge brought proportionate regard, I
could not help concentrating my feelings; dissipation, I think,
appears synonymous with dilution. However, I have, as yet,
scarcely been tried. During the month I spent in London in the
spring, I kept very quiet, having the fear of lionising before my
eyes. I only went out once to dinner; and once was present at an
evening party; and the only visits I have paid have been to Sir
James Kay Shuttleworth's and my publisher's. From this system I
should not like to depart; as far as I can see, Indiscriminate
visiting tends only to a waste of time and a vulgarising of
character. Besides, it would be wrong to leave Papa often; he is
now in his seventy-fifth year, the infirmities of age begin to
creep upon him; during the summer he has been much harassed by
chronic bronchitis, but I am thankful to say that he is now
somewhat better. I think my own health has derived benefit from
change and exercise.

"Somebody in D---- professes to have authority for saying, that
'when Miss Bronte was in London she neglected to attend Divine
service on the Sabbath, and in the week spent her time in going
about to balls, theatres, and operas.' On the other hand, the
London quidnuncs make my seclusion a matter of wonder, and devise
twenty romantic fictions to account for it. Formerly I used to
listen to report with interest, and a certain credulity; but I am
now grown deaf and sceptical: experience has taught me how
absolutely devoid of foundation her stories may be."

I must now quote from the first letter I had the privilege of
receiving from Miss Bronte. It is dated August the 27th.

"Papa and I have just had tea; he is sitting quietly in his room,
and I in mine; 'storms of rain' are sweeping over the garden and
churchyard: as to the moors, they are hidden in thick fog. Though
alone, I am not unhappy; I have a thousand things to be thankful
for, and, amongst the rest, that this morning I received a letter
from you, and that this evening I have the privilege of
answering it.

"I do not know the 'Life of Sydney Taylor;' whenever I have the
opportunity I will get it. The little French book you mention
shall also take its place on the list of books to be procured as
soon as possible. It treats a subject interesting to all women--
perhaps, more especially to single women; though, indeed,
mothers, like you, study it for the sake of their daughters. The
Westminster Review is not a periodical I see regularly, but some
time since I got hold of a number--for last January, I think--in
which there was an article entitled 'Woman's Mission' (the phrase
is hackneyed), containing a great deal that seemed to me just and
sensible. Men begin to regard the position of woman in another
light than they used to do; and a few men, whose sympathies are
fine and whose sense of justice is strong, think and speak of it
with a candour that commands my admiration. They say, however--
and, to an extent, truly--that the amelioration of our condition
depends on ourselves. Certainly there are evils which our own
efforts will best reach; but as certainly there are other evils--
deep-rooted in the foundation of the social system--which no
efforts of ours can touch: of which we cannot complain; of which
it is advisable not too often to think.

"I have read Tennyson's 'In Memoriam,' or rather part of it; I
closed the book when I had got about half way. It is beautiful;
it is mournful; it is monotonous. Many of the feelings expressed
bear, in their utterance, the stamp of truth; yet, if Arthur
Hallam had been som what nearer Alfred Tennyson, his brother
instead of his friend,--I should have distrusted this rhymed, and
measured, and printed monument of grief. What change the lapse of
years may work I do not know; but it seems to me that bitter
sorrow, while recent, does not flow out in verse.

"I promised to send you Wordsworth's 'Prelude,' and, accordingly,
despatch it by this post; the other little volume shall follow in
a day or two. I shall be glad to hear from you whenever you have
time to write to me, but you are never, on any account, to do
this except when inclination prompts and leisure permits. I
should never thank you for a letter which you had felt it a task
to write."

A short time after we had met at the Briery, she sent me the
volume of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell's poems; and thus alludes
to them in the note that accompanied the parcel:--

"The little book of rhymes was sent by way of fulfilling a
rashly-made promise; and the promise was made to prevent you from
throwing away four shillings in an injudicious purchase. I do not
like my own share of the work, nor care that it should be read:
Ellis Bell's I think good and vigorous, and Acton's have the
merit of truth and simplicity. Mine are chiefly juvenile
productions; the restless effervescence of a mind that would not
be still. In those days, the sea too often 'wrought and was
tempestuous,' and weed, sand, shingle--all turned up in the
tumult. This image is much too magniloquent for the subject, but
you will pardon it."

Another letter of some interest was addressed, about this time,
to a literary friend, on Sept. 5th:--

"The reappearance of the Athenaeum is very acceptable, not merely
for its own sake,--though I esteem the opportunity of its perusal
a privilege,--but because, as a weekly token of the remembrance
of friends, it cheers and gives pleasure. I only fear that its
regular transmission may become a task to you; in this case,
discontinue it at once.

"I did indeed enjoy my trip to Scotland, and yet I saw little of
the face of the country; nothing of its grandeur or finer scenic
features; but Edinburgh, Melrose, Abbotsford--these three in
themselves sufficed to stir feelings of such deep interest and
admiration, that neither at the time did I regret, nor have I
since regretted, the want of wider space over which to diffuse
the sense of enjoyment. There was room and variety enough to be
very happy, and 'enough,' the proverb says, 'is as good as a
feast.' The queen, indeed, was right to climb Arthur's Seat with
her husband and children. I shall not soon forget how I felt
when, having reached its summit, we all sat down and looked over
the city--towards the sea and Leith, and the Pentland Hills. No
doubt you are proud of being a native of Scotland,--proud of your
country, her capital, her children, and her literature. You
cannot be blamed.

"The article in the Palladium is one of those notices over which
an author rejoices trembling. He rejoices to find his work
finely, fully, fervently appreciated, and trembles under the
responsibility such appreciation seems to devolve upon him. I am
counselled to wait and watch--D. V. I will do so; yet it is
harder to wait with the hands bound, and the observant and
reflective faculties at their silent and unseen work, than to
labour mechanically.

"I need not say how I felt the remarks on 'Wuthering Heights;'
they woke the saddest yet most grateful feelings; they are true,
they are discriminating, they are full of late justice, but it is
very late--alas! in one sense, TOO late. Of this, however, and of
the pang of regret for a light prematurely extinguished, it is
not wise to speak much. Whoever the author of this article may
be, I remain his debtor.

"Yet, you see, even here, Shirley is disparaged in comparison
with "Jane Eyre"; and yet I took great pains with Shirley. I did
not hurry; I tried to do my best, and my own impression was that
it was not inferior to the former work; indeed, I had bestowed on
it more time, thought, and anxiety: but great part of it was
written under the shadow of impending calamity; and the last
volume, I cannot deny, was composed in the eager, restless
endeavour to combat mental sufferings that were scarcely

"You sent the tragedy of 'Galileo Galilei,' by Samuel Brown, in
one of the Cornhill parcels; it contained, I remember, passages
of very great beauty. Whenever you send any more books (but that
must not be till I return what I now have) I should be glad if
you would include amongst them the 'Life of Dr. Arnold.' Do you
know also the 'Life of Sydney Taylor?' I am not familiar even
with the name, but it has been recommended to me as a work
meriting perusal. Of course, when I name any book, it is always
understood that it should be quite convenient to send it."


It was thought desirable about this time, to republish "Wuthering
Heights" and "Agnes Grey", the works of the two sisters, and
Charlotte undertook the task of editing them.

She wrote to Mr. Williams, September 29th, 1850, "It is my
intention to write a few lines of remark on 'Wuthering Heights,'
which, however, I propose to place apart as a brief preface
before the tale. I am likewise compelling myself to read it over,
for the first time of opening the book since my sister's death.
Its power fills me with renewed admiration; but yet I am
oppressed: the reader is scarcely ever permitted a taste of
unalloyed pleasure; every beam of sunshine is poured down through
black bars of threatening cloud; every page is surcharged with a
sort of moral electricity; and the writer was unconscious of all
this--nothing could make her conscious of it.

"And this makes me reflect,--perhaps I am too incapable of
perceiving the faults and peculiarities of my own style.

"I should wish to revise the proofs, if it be not too great an
inconvenience to send them. It seems to me advisable to modify
the orthography of the old servant Joseph's speeches; for though,
as it stands, it exactly renders the Yorkshire dialect to a
Yorkshire ear, yet, I am sure Southerns must find it
unintelligible; and thus one of the most graphic characters in
the book is lost on them.

"I grieve to say that I possess no portrait of either of my

To her own dear friend, as to one who had known and loved her
sisters, she writes still more fully respecting the painfulness
of her task.

"There is nothing wrong, and I am writing you a line as you
desire, merely to say that I AM busy just now. Mr. Smith wishes
to reprint some of Emily's and Annie's works, with a few little
additions from the papers they have left; and I have been closely
engaged in revising, transcribing, preparing a preface, notice,
etc. As the time for doing this is limited, I am obliged to be
industrious. I found the task at first exquisitely painful and
depressing; but regarding it in the light of a SACRED DUTY, I
went on, and now can bear it better. It is work, however, that I
cannot do in the evening, for if I did, I should have no sleep at
night. Papa, I am thankful to say, is in improved health, and so,
I think, am I; I trust you are the same.

"I have just received a kind letter from Miss Martineau. She has
got back to Ambleside, and had heard of my visit to the Lakes.
She expressed her regret, etc., at not being at home.

"I am both angry and surprised at myself for not being in better
spirits; for not growing accustomed, or at least resigned, to the
solitude and isolation of my lot. But my late occupation left a
result for some days, and indeed still, very painful. The reading
over of papers, the renewal of remembrances brought back the pang
of bereavement, and occasioned a depression of spirits well nigh
intolerable. For one or two nights, I scarcely knew how to get on
till morning; and when morning came, I was still haunted with a
sense of sickening distress. I tell you these things, because it
is absolutely necessary to me to have some relief. You will
forgive me, and not trouble yourself, or imagine that I am one
whit worse than I say. It is quite a mental ailment, and I
believe and hope is better now. I think so, because I can speak
about it, which I never can when grief is at its worst.

"I thought to find occupation and interest in writing, when alone
at home, but hitherto my efforts have been vain; the deficiency
of every stimulus is so complete. You will recommend me, I dare
say, to go from home; but that does no good, even could I again
leave Papa with an easy mind (thank God! he is better). I cannot
describe what a time of it I had after my return from London,
Scotland, etc. There was a reaction that sunk me to the earth;
the deadly silence, solitude, desolation, were awful; the craving
for companionship, the hopelessness of relief, were what I should
dread to feel again.

"Dear ----, when I think of you, it is with a compassion and
tenderness that scarcely cheer me. Mentally, I fear, you also are
too lonely and too little occupied. It seems our doom, for the
present at least. May God in His mercy help us to bear it!"

During her last visit to London, as mentioned in one of her
letters, she had made the acquaintance of her correspondent, Mr.
Lewes. That gentleman says:--

"Some months after" (the appearance of the review of "Shirley" in
the Edinburgh), "Currer Bell came to London, and I was invited to
meet her at your house. You may remember, she asked you not to
point me out to her, but allow her to discover me if she could.
She DID recognise me almost as soon as I came into the room. You
tried me in the same way; I was less sagacious. However, I sat by
her side a great part of the evening and was greatly interested
by her conversation. On parting we shook hands, and she said, 'We
are friends now, are we not?' 'Were we not always, then?' I
asked. 'No! not always,' she said, significantly; and that was
the only allusion she made to the offending article. I lent her
some of Balzac's and George Sand's novels to take with her into
the country; and the following letter was written when they were

"I am sure you will have thought me very dilatory in returning
the books you so kindly lent me. The fact is, having some other
books to send, I retained yours to enclose them in the same

"Accept my thanks for some hours of pleasant reading. Balzac was
for me quite a new author; and in making big acquaintance,
through the medium of 'Modeste Mignon,' and 'Illusions perdues,'
you cannot doubt I have felt some interest. At first, I thought
he was going to be painfully minute, and fearfully tedious; one
grew impatient of his long parade of detail, his slow revelation
of unimportant circumstances, as he assembled his personages on
the stage; but by and bye I seemed to enter into the mystery of
his craft, and to discover, with delight, where his force lay: is
it not in the analysis of motive; and in a subtle perception of
the most obscure and secret workings of the mind? Still, admire
Balzac as we may, I think we do not like him; we rather feel
towards him as towards an ungenial acquaintance who is for ever
holding up in strong light our defects, and who rarely draws
forth our better qualities.

"Truly, I like George Sand better.

"Fantastic, fanatical, unpractical enthusiast as she often
is--far from truthful as are many of her views of life--misled,
as she is apt to be, by her feelings--George Sand has a better
nature than M. de Balzac; her brain is larger, her heart warmer
than his. The 'Lettres d'un Voyageur' are full of the writer's
self; and I never felt so strongly, as in the perusal of this
work, that most of her very faults spring from the excess of her
good qualities: it is this excess which has often hurried her
into difficulty, which has prepared for her enduring regret.

"But I believe her mind is of that order which disastrous
experience teaches, without weakening or too much disheartening;
and, in that case, the longer she lives the better she will grow.
A hopeful point in all her writings is the scarcity of false
French sentiment; I wish I could say its absence; but the weed
flourishes here and there, even in the 'Lettres.'"

I remember the good expression of disgust which Miss Bronte made
use of in speaking to me of some of Balzac's novels: "They leave
such a bad taste in my mouth."

The reader will notice that most of the letters from which I now
quote are devoted to critical and literary subjects. These were,
indeed, her principal interests at this time; the revision of her
sister's works, and writing a short memoir of them, was the
painful employment of every day during the dreary autumn of 1850.
Wearied out by the vividness of her sorrowful recollections, she
sought relief in long walks on the moors. A friend of hers, who
wrote to me on the appearance of the eloquent article in the
Daily News upon the "Death of Currer Bell," gives an anecdote
which may well come in here.

"They are mistaken in saying she was too weak to roam the hills
for the benefit of the air. I do not think any one, certainly not
any woman, in this locality, went so much on the moors as she
did, when the weather permitted. Indeed, she was so much in the
habit of doing so, that people, who live quite away on the edge
of the common, knew her perfectly well. I remember on one
occasion an old woman saw her at a little distance, and she
called out, 'How! Miss Bronte! Hey yah (have you) seen ought o'
my cofe (calf)?' Miss Bronte told her she could not say, for she
did not know it. 'Well!' she said, 'Yah know, it's getting up
like nah (now), between a cah (cow) and a cofe--what we call a
stirk, yah know, Miss Bronte; will yah turn it this way if yah
happen to see't, as yah're going back, Miss Bronte; nah DO, Miss

It must have been about this time that a visit was paid to her by
some neighbours, who were introduced to her by a mutual friend.
This visit has been described in a letter from which I am
permitted to give extracts, which will show the impression made
upon strangers by the character of the country round her home,
and other circumstances. "Though the weather was drizzly, we
resolved to make our long-planned excursion to Haworth; so we
packed ourselves into the buffalo-skin, and that into the gig,
and set off about eleven. The rain ceased, and the day was just
suited to the scenery,--wild and chill,--with great masses of
cloud glooming over the moors, and here and there a ray of
sunshine covertly stealing through, and resting with a dim
magical light upon some high bleak village; or darting down into
some deep glen, lighting up the tall chimney, or glistening on
the windows and wet roof of the mill which lies couching in the
bottom. The country got wilder and wilder as we approached
Haworth; for the last four miles we were ascending a huge moor,
at the very top of which lies the dreary black-looking village of
Haworth. The village-street itself is one of the steepest hills I
have ever seen, and the stones are so horribly jolting that I
should have got out and walked with W----, if possible, but,
having once begun the ascent, to stop was out of the question. At
the top was the inn where we put up, close by the church; and the
clergyman's house, we were told, was at the top of the
churchyard. So through that we went,--a dreary, dreary place,
literally PAVED with rain-blackened tombstones, and all on the
slope, for at Haworth there is on the highest height a higher
still, and Mr. Bronte's house stands considerably above the
church. There was the house before us, a small oblong stone
house, with not a tree to screen it from the cutting wind; but
how were we to get at it from the churchyard we could not see!
There was an old man in the churchyard, brooding like a Ghoul
over the graves, with a sort of grim hilarity on his face. I
thought he looked hardly human; however, he was human enough to
tell us the way; and presently we found ourselves in the little
bare parlour. Presently the door opened, and in came a
superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like
Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his
daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog,
and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary
ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare
walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them
evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity.
Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me
upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and
towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers
propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we
went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably,
when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his
daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he
retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage;
presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This
was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the
greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained
from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of
the people,--about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to
help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age.
The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with
his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get
out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the
maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had
some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time
passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W----found that it
was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before
us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay
us a visit in the spring; and the old gentleman having issued
once more from his study to say good-bye, we returned to the inn,
and made the best of our way homewards.

"Miss Bronte put me so in mind of her own 'Jane Eyre.' She looked
smaller than ever, and moved about so quietly, and noiselessly,
just like a little bird, as Rochester called her, barring that
all birds are joyous, and that joy can never have entered that
house since it was first built; and yet, perhaps, when that old
man married, and took home his bride, and children's voices and
feet were heard about the house, even that desolate crowded
grave-yard and biting blast could not quench cheerfulness and
hope. Now there is something touching in the sight of that little
creature entombed in such a place, and moving about herself like
a spirit, especially when you think that the slight still frame
encloses a force of strong fiery life, which nothing has been
able to freeze or extinguish."

In one of the preceding letters, Miss Bronte referred to am
article in the Palladium, which had rendered what she considered
the due meed of merit to "Wuthering Heights", her sister Emily's
tale. Her own works were praised, and praised with
discrimination, and she was grateful for this. But her warm heart
was filled to the brim with kindly feelings towards him who had
done justice to the dead. She anxiously sought out the name of
the writer; and having discovered that it was Mr. Sydney Dobell
he immediately became one of her

"Peculiar people whom Death had made dear."

She looked with interest upon everything he wrote; and before
long we shall find that they corresponded.


"Oct. 25th.

"The box of books came last night, and, as usual, I have only
gratefully to admire the selection made: 'Jeffrey's Essays,' 'Dr.
Arnold's Life,' 'The Roman,' 'Alton Loche,' these were all wished
for and welcome.

"You say I keep no books; pardon me--I am ashamed of my own
rapaciousness I have kept 'Macaulay's History,' and Wordsworth's
'Prelude', and Taylor's 'Philip Van Artevelde.' I soothe my
conscience by saying that the two last,--being poetry--do not
count. This is a convenient doctrine for me I meditate acting
upon it with reference to the Roman, so I trust nobody in
Cornhill will dispute its validity or affirm that 'poetry' has a
value, except for trunk-makers.

"I have already had 'Macaulay's Essays,' 'Sidney Smith's Lectures
on Moral Philosophy,' and 'Knox on Race.' Pickering's work on the
same subject I have not seen; nor all the volumes of Leigh Hunt's
Autobiography. However, I am now abundantly supplied for a long
time to come. I liked Hazlitt's Essays much.

"The autumn, as you say, has been very fine. I and solitude and
memory have often profited by its sunshine on the moors.

"I had felt some disappointment at the non-arrival of the proof-
sheets of 'Wuthering Heights;' a feverish impatience to complete
the revision is apt to beset me. The work of looking over papers,
etc., could not be gone through with impunity, and with unaltered
spirits; associations too tender, regrets too bitter, sprang out
of it. Meantime, the Cornhill books now, as heretofore, are my
best medicine,--affording a solace which could not be yielded by
the very same books procured from a common library.

"Already I have read the greatest part of the 'Roman;' passages
in it possess a kindling virtue such as true poetry alone can
boast; there are images of genuine grandeur; there are lines that
at once stamp themselves on the memory. Can it be true that a new
planet has risen on the heaven, whence all stars seemed fast
fading? I believe it is; for this Sydney or Dobell speaks with a
voice of his own, unborrowed, unmimicked. You hear Tennyson,
indeed, sometimes, and Byron sometimes, in some passages of the
Roman; but then again you have a new note,--nowhere clearer than
in a certain brief lyric, sang in a meeting of minstrels, a sort
of dirge over a dead brother;--THAT not only charmed the ear and
brain, it soothed the heart."

The following extract will be read with interest as conveying her
thoughts after the perusal of Dr. Arnold's Life:--

"Nov. 6th.

"I have just finished reading the 'Life of Dr. Arnold;' but now
when I wish, according to your request, to express what I think
of it, I do not find the task very easy; proper terms seem
wanting. This is not a character to be dismissed with a few
laudatory words; it is not a one-sided character; pure panegyric
would be inappropriate. Dr. Arnold (it seems to me) was not quite
saintly; his greatness was cast in a mortal mould; he was a
little severe, almost a little hard; he was vehement and somewhat
oppugnant. Himself the most indefatigable of workers, I know not
whether he could have understood, or made allowance for, a
temperament that required more rest; yet not to one man in twenty
thousand is given his giant faculty of labour; by virtue of it he
seems to me the greatest of working men. Exacting he might have
been, then, on this point; and granting that he were so, and a
little hasty, stern, and positive, those were his sole faults
(if, indeed, that can be called a fault which in no shape
degrades the individual's own character; but is only apt to
oppress and overstrain the weaker nature of his neighbours).
Afterwards come his good qualities. About these there is nothing
dubious. Where can we find justice, firmness, independence,
earnestness, sincerity, fuller and purer than in him?

"But this is not all, and I am glad of it. Besides high intellect
and stainless rectitude, his letters and his life attest his
possession of the most true-hearted affection. WITHOUT this,
however one might admire, we could not love him; but WITH it I
think we love him much. A hundred such men--fifty--nay, ten or
five such righteous men might save any country; might
victoriously champion any cause.

"I was struck, too, by the almost unbroken happiness of his life;
a happiness resulting chiefly, no doubt, from the right use to
which he put that health and strength which God had given him,
but also owing partly to a singular exemption from those deep and
bitter griefs which most human beings are called on to endure.
His wife was what he wished; his children were healthy and
promising; his own health was excellent; his undertakings were
crowned with success; even death was kind,--for, however sharp
the pains of his last hour, they were but brief. God's blessing
seems to have accompanied him from the cradle to the grave. One
feels thankful to know that it has been permitted to any man to
live such a life.

"When I was in Westmoreland last August, I spent an evening at
Fox How, where Mrs. Arnold and her daughters still reside. It was
twilight as I drove to the place, and almost dark ere I reached
it; still I could perceive that the situation was lovely. The
house looked like a nest half buried in flowers and creepers:
and, dusk as it was, I could FEEL that the valley and the hills
round were beautiful as imagination could dream."

If I say again what I have said already before, it is only to
impress and re-impress upon my readers the dreary monotony of her
life at this time. The dark, bleak season of the year brought
back the long evenings, which tried her severely: all the more
so, because her weak eyesight rendered her incapable of following
any occupation but knitting by candle-light. For her father's
sake, as well as for her own, she found it necessary to make some
exertion to ward off settled depression of spirits. She
accordingly accepted an invitation to spend a week or ten days
with Miss Martineau at Ambleside. She also proposed to come to
Manchester and see me, on her way to Westmoreland. But,
unfortunately, I was from home, and unable to receive her. The
friends with whom I was staying in the South of England ( hearing
me express my regret that I could not accept her friendly
proposal, and aware of the sad state of health and spirits which
made some change necessary for her) wrote to desire that she
would come and spend a week or two with me at their house. She
acknowledged this invitation in a letter to me, dated--

"Dec. 13th, 1850.

"My dear Mrs. Gaskell,--Miss ----'s kindness and yours is such
that I am placed in the dilemma of not knowing how adequately to
express my sense of it. THIS I know, however, very well-that if I
COULD go and be with you for a week or two in such a quiet
south-country house, and with such kind people as you describe, I
should like it much. I find the proposal marvellously to my
taste; it is the pleasantest, gentlest, sweetest, temptation
possible; but, delectable as it is, its solicitations are by no
means to be yielded to without the sanction of reason, and
therefore I desire for the present to be silent, and to stand
back till I have been to Miss Martineau's, and returned home, and
considered well whether it is a scheme as right as agreeable.

"Meantime, the mere thought does me good."

On the 10th of December, the second edition of "Wuthering
Heights" was published. She sent a copy of it to Mr. Dobell, with
the following letter:--


"Haworth, near Keighley, Yorkshire,

"Dec. 8th, 1850.

"I offer this little book to my critic in the 'Palladium,' and he
must believe it accompanied by a tribute of the sincerest
gratitude; not so much for anything he has said of myself, as for
the noble justice he has rendered to one dear to me as myself--
perhaps dearer; and perhaps one kind word spoken for her awakens
a deeper, tenderer, sentiment of thankfulness than eulogies
heaped on my own head. As you will see when you have read the
biographical notice, my sister cannot thank you herself; she is
gone out of your sphere and mine, and human blame and praise are
nothing to her now. But to me, for her sake, they are something
still; it revived me for many a day to find that, dead as she
was, the work of her genius had at last met with worthy

"Tell me, when you have read the introduction, whether any doubts
still linger in your mind respecting the authorship of 'Wuthering
Heights,' 'Wildfell Hall,' etc. Your mistrust did me some
injustice; it proved a general conception of character such as I
should be sorry to call mine; but these false ideas will
naturally arise when we only judge an author from his works. In
fairness, I must also disclaim the flattering side of the
portrait. I am no 'young Penthesilea mediis in millibus,' but a
plain country parson's daughter.

"Once more I thank you, and that with a full heart.



Immediately after the republication of her sisters' book she went
to Miss Martineau's.

"I can write to you now, dear E----, for I am away from home) and
relieved, temporarily, at least, by change of air and scene, from
the heavy burden of depression which, I confess, has for nearly
three months been sinking me to the earth. I never shall forget
last autumn! Some days and nights have been cruel; but now,
having once told you this, I need say no more on the subject. My
loathing of solitude grew extreme; my recollection of my sisters
intolerably poignant. I am better now. I am at Miss Martineau's
for a week. Her house is very pleasant, both within and without;
arranged at; all points with admirable neatness and comfort. Her
visitors enjoy the most perfect liberty; what she claims for
herself she allows them. I rise at my own hour, breakfast alone
(she is up at five, takes a cold bath, and a walk by starlight,
and has finished breakfast and got to her work by seven o'clock).
I pass the morning in the drawing-room--she, in her study. At two
o'clock we meet--work, talk, and walk together till five, her
dinner-hour, spend the evening together, when she converses
fluently and abundantly, and with the most complete frankness. I
go to my own. room soon after ten,--she sits up writing letters
till twelve. She appears exhaustless in strength and spirits, and
indefatigable in the faculty of labour. She is a great and a good
woman; of course not without peculiarities, but I have seen none
as yet that annoy me. She is both hard and warm-hearted, abrupt
and affectionate, liberal and despotic. I believe she is not at
all conscious of her own absolutism. When I tell her of it, she
denies the charge warmly; then I laugh at her. I believe she
almost rules Ambleside. Some of the gentry dislike her, but the
lower orders have a great regard for her. . . . I thought I
should like to spend two or three days with you before going
home, so, if it is not inconvenient to you, I will (D. V.) come
on Monday and stay till Thursday. . . . I have truly enjoyed my
visit here. I have seen a good many people, and all have been so
marvellously kind; not the least so, the family of Dr. Arnold.
Miss Martineau I relish inexpressibly."

Miss Bronte paid the visit she here proposes to her friend, but
only remained two or three days. She then returned home, and
immediately began to suffer from her old enemy, sickly and
depressing headache. This was all the more trying to bear, as she
was obliged to take an active share in the household work,--one
servant being ill in bed, and the other, Tabby, aged upwards of

This visit to Ambleside did Miss Bronte much good, and gave her a
stock of pleasant recollections, and fresh interests, to dwell
upon in her solitary life. There are many references in her
letters to Miss Martineau's character and kindness.

"She is certainly a woman of wonderful endowments, both
intellectual and physical; and though I share few of her
opinions, and regard her as fallible on certain points of
judgment, I must still award her my sincerest esteem. The manner
in which she combines the highest mental culture with the nicest
discharge of feminine duties filled me with admiration; while her
affectionate kindness earned my gratitude." "I think her good and
noble qualities far outweigh her defects. It is my habit to
consider the individual apart from his (or her) reputation,
practice independent of theory, natural disposition isolated from
acquired opinions. Harriet Martineau's person, practice, and
character, inspire me with the truest affection and respect."You
ask me whether Miss Martineau made me a convert to mesmerism?
Scarcely; yet I heard miracles of its efficacy, and could hardly
discredit the whole of what was told me. I even underwent a
personal experiment; and though the result was not absolutely
clear, it was inferred that in time I should prove an excellent
subject. The question of mesmerism will be discussed with little
reserve, I believe, in a forthcoming work of Miss Martineau's;
and I have some painful anticipations of the manner in which
other subjects, offering less legitimate ground for speculation,
will be handled."

"Your last letter evinced such a sincere and discriminating
admiration for Dr. Arnold, that perhaps you will not be wholly
uninterested in hearing that, during my late visit to Miss
Martineau, I saw much more of Fox How and its inmates, and daily
admired, in the widow and children of one of the greatest and
best men of his time, the possession of qualities the most
estimable and endearing. Of my kind hostess herself, I cannot
speak in terms too high. Without being able to share all her
opinions, philosophical, political, or religious,--without
adopting her theories,--I yet find a worth and greatness in
herself, and a consistency, benevolence, perseverance in her
practice, such as wins the sincerest esteem and affection. She is
not a person to be judged by her writings alone, but rather by
her own deeds and life, than which nothing can be more exemplary
or nobler. She seems to me the benefactress of Ambleside, yet
takes no sort of credit to herself for her active and
indefatigable philanthropy. The government of her household is
admirably administered: all she does is well done, from the
writing of a history down to the quietest female occupation. No
sort of carelessness or neglect is allowed under her rule, and
yet she is not over-strict, nor too rigidly exacting: her
servants and her poor neighbours love as well as respect her.

"I must not, however, fall into the error of talking too much
about her merely because my own mind is just now deeply impressed
with what I have seen of her intellectual power and moral worth.
Faults she has; but to me they appear very trivial weighed in the
balance against her excellences."

"Your account of Mr. A---- tallies exactly with Miss M----'s.
She, too, said that placidity and mildness (rather than
originality and power) were his external characteristics. She
described him as a combination of the antique Greek sage with the
European modern man of science. Perhaps it was mere perversity in
me to get the notion that torpid veins, and a cold, slow-beating
heart, lay under his marble outside. But he is a materialist: he
serenely denies us our hope of immortality, and quietly blots
from man's future Heaven and the Life to come. That is why a
savour of bitterness seasoned my feeling towards him.

"All you say of Mr. Thackeray is most graphic and characteristic.
He stirs in me both sorrow and anger. Why should he lead so
harassing a life? Why should his mocking tongue so perversely
deny the better feelings of his better moods?"

For some time, whenever she was well enough in health and
spirits, she had been employing herself upon Villette; but she
was frequently unable to write, and was both grieved and angry
with herself for her inability. In February, she writes as
follows to Mr. Smith:--

"Something you say about going to London; but the words are
dreamy, and fortunately I am not obliged to hear or answer them.
London and summer are many months away: our moors are all white
with snow just now, and little redbreasts come every morning to
the window for crumbs. One can lay no plans three or four months
beforehand. Besides, I don't deserve to go to London; nobody
merits a change or a treat less. I secretly think, on the
contrary, I ought to be put in prison, and kept on bread and
water in solitary confinement--without even a letter from
Cornhill--till I had written a book. One of two things would
certainly result from such a mode of treatment pursued for twelve
months; either I should come out at the end of that time with a
three-volume MS. in my hand, or else with a condition of
intellect that would exempt me ever after from literary efforts
and expectations."

Meanwhile, she was disturbed and distressed by the publication of
Miss Martineau's "Letters," etc.; they came down with a peculiar
force and heaviness upon a heart that looked, with fond and
earnest faith, to a future life as to the meeting-place with
those who were "loved and lost awhile."

"Feb. 11th, 1851.

"My dear Sir,--Have you yet read Miss Martineau's and Mr.
Atkinson's new work, 'Letters on the Nature and Development of
Man'? If you have not, it would be worth your while to do so.

"Of the impression this book has made on me, I will not now say
much. It is the first exposition of avowed atheism and
materialism I have ever read; the first unequivocal declaration
of disbelief in the existence of a God or a future life I have
ever seen. In judging of such exposition and declaration, one
would wish entirely to put aside the sort of instinctive horror
they awaken, and to consider them in an impartial spirit and
collected mood. This I find it difficult to do. The strangest
thing is, that we are called on to rejoice over this hopeless
blank-to receive this bitter bereavement as great gain--to
welcome this unutterable desolation as a state of pleasant
freedom. Who COULD do this if he would? Who WOULD do it if he

"Sincerely, for my own part, do I wish to find and know the
Truth; but if this be Truth, well may she guard herself with
mysteries, and cover herself with a veil. If this be Truth, man
or woman who beholds her can but curse the day he or she was
born. I said, however, I would not dwell on what I thought; I
wish to hear, rather, what some other person thinks,--some one
whose feelings are unapt to bias his judgment. Read the book,
then, in an unprejudiced spirit, and candidly say what you think
of it. I mean, of course, if you have time--NOT OTHERWISE."

And yet she could not bear the contemptuous tone in which this
work was spoken of by many critics; it made her more indignant
than almost any other circumstance during my acquaintance with
her. Much as she regretted the publication of the book, she could
not see that it had given any one a right to sneer at an action,
certainly prompted by no worldly motive, and which was but one
error--the gravity of which she admitted--in the conduct of a
person who had, all her life long, been striving, by deep thought
and noble words, to serve her kind.

"Your remarks on Miss Martineau and her book pleased me greatly,
from their tone and spirit. I have even taken the liberty of
transcribing for her benefit one or two phrases, because I know
they will cheer her; she likes sympathy and appreciation (as all
people do who deserve them); and most fully do I agree with you
in the dislike you express of that hard, contemptuous tone in
which her work is spoken of by many critics.

Before I return from the literary opinions of the author to the
domestic interests of the woman, I must copy out what she felt
and thought about "The Stones of Venice".

"'The Stones of Venice' seem nobly laid and chiselled. How
grandly the quarry of vast marbles is disclosed! Mr. Ruskin seems
to me one of the few genuine writers, as distinguished from
book-makers, of this age. His earnestness even amuses me in
certain passages; for I cannot help laughing to think how
utilitarians will fume and fret over his deep, serious (and as
THEY will think), fanatical reverence for Art. That pure and
severe mind you ascribed to him speaks in every line. He writes
like a consecrated Priest of the Abstract and Ideal.

"I shall bring with me 'The Stones of Venice'; all the
foundations of marble and of granite, together with the mighty
quarry out of which they were hewn; and, into the bargain, a
small assortment of crotchets and dicta--the private property of
one John Ruskin, Esq."

As spring drew on, the depression of spirits to which she was
subject began to grasp her again, and "to crush her with a day-
and night-mare." She became afraid of sinking as low as she had
done in the autumn; and to avoid this, she prevailed on her old
friend and schoolfellow to come and stay with her for a few weeks
in March. She found great benefit from this companionship,--both
from the congenial society in itself, and from the self-restraint
of thought imposed by the necessity of entertaining her and
looking after her comfort. On this occasion, Miss Bronte said,
"It will not do to get into the habit offrom home, and thus
temporarily evading an running away oppression instead of facing,
wrestling with and conquering it or being conquered by it."

I shall now make an extract from one of her letters, which is
purposely displaced as to time. I quote it because it relates to
a third offer of marriage which she had, and because I find that
some are apt to imagine, from the extraordinary power with which
she represented the passion of love in her novels, that she
herself was easily susceptible of it.

"Could I ever feel enough for ----, to accept of him as a
husband? Friendship--gratitude--esteem--I have; but each moment
he came near me, and that I could see his eyes fastened on me, my
veins ran ice. Now that he is away, I feel far more gently
towards him, it is only close by that I grow rigid, stiffening
with a strange mixture of apprehension and anger, which nothing
softens but his retreat, and a perfect subduing of his manner. I
did not want to be proud, nor intend to be proud, but I was
forced to be so. Most true it is, that we are over-ruled by One
above us; that in His hands our very will is as clay in the hands
of the potter."

I have now named all the offers of marriage she ever received,
until that was made which she finally accepted. The gentle-man
referred to in this letter retained so much regard for her as to
be her friend to the end of her life; a circumstance to his
credit and to hers.

Before her friend E---- took her departure, Mr. Bronte caught
cold, and continued for some weeks much out of health, with an
attack of bronchitis. His spirits, too, became much depressed;
and all his daughter's efforts were directed towards cheering

When he grew better, and had regained his previous strength, she
resolved to avail herself of an invitation which she had received
some time before, to pay a visit in London. This year, 1851, was,
as e very one remembers, the time of the great Exhibition; but
even with that attraction in prospect, she did not intend to stay
there long; and, as usual, she made an agreement with her
friends, before finally accepting their offered hospitality, that
her sojourn at their house was to be as quiet as ever, since any
other way of proceeding disagreed with her both mentally and
physically. She never looked excited except for a moment, when
something in conversation called her out; but she often felt so,
even about comparative trifles, and the exhaustion of reaction
was sure to follow. Under such circumstances, she always became
extremely thin and haggard; yet she averred that the change
invariably did her good afterwards.

Her preparations in the way of dress for this visit, in the gay
time of that gay season, were singularly in accordance with her
feminine taste; quietly anxious to satisfy her love for modest,
dainty, neat attire, and not regardless of the becoming, yet
remembering consistency, both with her general appearance and
with her means, in every selection she made.

"By the bye, I meant to ask you when you went to Leeds, to do a
small errand for me, but fear your hands will be too full of
business. It was merely this: in case you chanced to be in any
shop where the lace cloaks, both black and white, of which I
spoke, were sold, to ask their price. I suppose they would hardly
like to send a few to Haworth to be looked at; indeed, if they
cost very much, it would be useless, but if they are reasonable
and they would send them, I should like to see them; and also
some chemisettes of small size (the full woman's size don't fit
me), both of simple style for every day and good quality for
best.". . . ."It appears I could not rest satisfied when I was
well off. I told you I had taken one of the black lace mantles,
but when I came to try it with the black satin dress, with which
I should chiefly want to wear it, I found the effect was far from
good; the beauty of the lace was lost, and it looked somewhat
brown and rusty; I wrote to Mr. ----, requesting him to change it
for a WHITE mantle of the same price; he was extremely courteous,
and sent to London for one, which I have got this morning. The
price is less, being but 1 pound 14s.; it is pretty, neat and
light, looks well on black; and upon reasoning the matter over, I
came to the philosophic conclusion, that it would be no shame for
a person of my means to wear a cheaper thing; so I think I shall
take it, and if you ever see it and call it 'trumpery' so much
the worse."

"Do you know that I was in Leeds on the very same day with you--
last Wednesday? I had thought of telling you where I was going,
and having your help and company in buying a bonnet, etc., but
then I reflected this would merely be making a selfish use of
you, so I determined to manage or mismanage the matter alone. I
went to Hurst and Hall's for the bonnet, and got one which seemed
grave and quiet there amongst all the splendours; but now it
looks infinitely too gay with its pink lining. I saw some
beautiful silks of pale sweet colours, but had not the spirit nor
the means to launch out at the rate of five shillings per yard,
and went and bought a black silk at three shillings after all. I
rather regret this, because papa says he would have lent me a
sovereign if he had known. I believe, if you had been there, you
would have forced me to get into debt. . . . I really can no more
come to B---- before I go to London than I can fly. I have
quantities of sewing to do, as well as household matters to
arrange, before I leave, as they will clean, etc., in my absence.
Besides, I am grievously afflicted with headache, which I trust
to change of air for relieving; but meantime, as it proceeds from
the stomach, it makes me very thin and grey; neither you nor
anybody else would fatten me up or put me into good condition for
the visit; it is fated otherwise. No matter. Calm your passion;
yet I am glad to see it. Such spirit seems to prove health.
Good-bye, in haste.

"Your poor mother is like Tabby, Martha and Papa; all these fancy
I am somehow, by some mysterious process, to be married in
London, or to engage myself to matrimony. How I smile internally!
How groundless and improbable is the idea! Papa seriously told
me yesterday, that if I married and left him he should give up
housekeeping and go into lodgings!"

I copy the following, for the sake of the few words describing
the appearance of the heathery moors in late summer.


"May 24th, 1851.

"My dear Sir,--I hasten to send Mrs. Dobell the autograph. It was
the word 'Album' that frightened me I thought she wished me to
write a sonnet on purpose for it, which I could not do.

"Your proposal respecting a journey to Switzerland is deeply
kind; it draws me with the force of a mighty Temptation, but the
stern Impossible holds me back. No! I cannot go to Switzerland
this summer.

"Why did the editor of the 'Eclectic' erase that most powerful
and pictorial passage? He could not be insensible to its beauty;
perhaps he thought it profane. Poor man!

"I know nothing of such an orchard-country as you describe. I
have never seen such a region. Our hills only confess the coming
of summer by growing green with young fern and moss, in secret
little hollows. Their bloom is reserved for autumn; then they
burn with a kind of dark glow, different, doubtless, from the
blush of garden blossoms. About the close of next month, I expect
to go to London, to pay a brief and quiet visit. I fear chance
will not be so propitious as to bring you to town while I am
there; otherwise, how glad I should be if you would call. With
kind regards to Mrs. Dobell,--Believe me, sincerely yours,


Her next letter is dated from London.

"June 2nd.

"I came here on Wednesday, being summoned a day sooner than I
expected, in order to be in time for Thackeray's second lecture,
which was delivered on Thursday afternoon. This, as you may
suppose, was a genuine treat to me, and I was glad not to miss
it. It was given in Willis' Rooms, where the Almacks balls are
held--a great painted and gilded saloon with long sofas for
benches. The audience was said to be the cream of London society,
and it looked so. I did not at all expect the great lecturer
would know me or notice me under these circumstances, with
admiring duchesses and countesses seated in rows before him; but
he met me as I entered--shook hands--took me to his mother, whom
I had not before seen, and introduced me. She is a fine,
handsome, young-looking old lady; was very gracious, and called
with one of her grand-daughters next day.

"Thackeray called too, separately. I had a long talk with him,
and I think he knows me now a little better than he did: but of
this I cannot yet be sure; he is a great and strange man. There
is quite a furor for his lectures. They are a sort of essays,
characterised by his own peculiar originality and power, and
delivered with a finished taste and ease, which is felt, but
cannot be described. Just before the lecture began, somebody came
behind me, leaned over and said, 'Permit me, as a Yorkshireman,
to introduce myself.' I turned round--saw a strange, not
handsome, face, which puzzled me for half a minute, and then I
said, 'You are Lord Carlisle.' He nodded and smiled; he talked a
few minutes very pleasantly and courteously.

"Afterwards came another man with the same plea, that he was a
Yorkshireman, and this turned out to be Mr. Monckton Milnes. Then
came Dr. Forbes, whom I was sincerely glad to see. On Friday, I
went to the Crystal Palace; it is a marvellous, stirring,
bewildering sight--a mixture of a genii palace, and a mighty
bazaar, but it is not much in my way; I liked the lecture better.
On Saturday I saw the Exhibition at Somerset House; about half a
dozen of the pictures are good and interesting, the rest of
little worth. Sunday--yesterday--was a day to be marked with a
white stone; through most of the day I was very happy, without
being tired or over-excited. In the afternoon, I went to hear
D'Aubigne, the great Protestant French preacher; it was
pleasant--half sweet, half sad--and strangely suggestive to hear
the French language once more. For health, I have so far got on
very fairly, considering that I came here far from well."

The lady, who accompanied Miss Bronte to the lecture at
Thackeray's alluded to, says that, soon after they had taken
their places, she was aware that he was pointing out her
companion to several of his friends, but she hoped that Miss
Bronte herself would not perceive it. After some time, however,
during which many heads had been turned round, and many glasses
put up, in order to look at the author of "Jane Eyre", Miss
Bronte said, "I am afraid Mr. Thackeray has been playing me a
trick;" but she soon became too much absorbed in the lecture to
notice the attention which was being paid to her, except when it
was directly offered, as in the case of Lord Carlisle and Mr.
Monckton Milnes. When the lecture was ended, Mr. Thackeray came
down from the platform, and making his way towards her, asked her
for her opinion. This she mentioned to me not many days
afterwards, adding remarks almost identical with those which I
subsequently read in 'Villette,' where a similar action on the
part of M. Paul Emanuel is related.

"As our party left the Hall, he stood at the entrance; he saw and
knew me, and lifted his hat; he offered his hand in passing, and
uttered the words 'Qu'en dites-vous?'--question eminently
characteristic, and reminding me, even in this his moment of
triumph, of that inquisitive restlessness, that absence of what I
considered desirable self-control, which were amongst his faults.
He should not have cared just then to ask what I thought, or what
anybody thought; but he DID care, and he was too natural to
conceal, too impulsive to repress his wish. Well! if I blamed his
over-eagerness, I liked his naivete. I would have praised him; I
had plenty of praise in my heart; but alas I no words on my lips.
Who HAS words at the right moment? I stammered some lame
expressions; but was truly glad when other people, coming up with
profuse congratulations, covered my deficiency by their

As they were preparing to leave the room, her companion saw with
dismay that many of the audience were forming themselves into two
lines, on each side of the aisle down which they had to pass
before reaching the door. Aware that any delay would only make
the ordeal more trying, her friend took Miss Bronte's arm in
hers, and they went along the avenue of eager and admiring faces.
During this passage through the "cream of society," Miss Bronte's
hand trembled to such a degree, that her companion feared lest
she should turn faint and be unable to proceed; and she dared not
express her sympathy or try to give her strength by any touch or
word, lest it might bring on the crisis she dreaded.

Surely, such thoughtless manifestation of curiosity is a blot on
the scutcheon of true politeness! The rest of the account of
this, her longest visit to London, shall be told in her own

"I sit down to write to you this morning in an inexpressibly flat
state; having spent the whole of yesterday and the day before in
a gradually increasing headache, which grew at last rampant and
violent, ended with excessive sickness, and this morning I am
quite weak and washy. I hoped to leave my headaches behind me at
Haworth; but it seems I brought them carefully packed in my
trunk, and very much have they been in my way since I came. . . .
Since I wrote last, I have seen various things worth describing;
Rachel, the great French actress, amongst the number. But to-day
I really have no pith for the task. I can only wish you good-bye
with all my heart."

"I cannot boast that London has agreed with me well this time;
the oppression of frequent headache, sickness, and a low tone of
spirits, has poisoned many moments which might otherwise have
been pleasant. Sometimes I have felt this hard, and been tempted
to murmur at Fate, which compels me to comparative silence and
solitude for eleven months in the year, and in the twelfth, while
offering social enjoyment, takes away the vigour and cheerfulness
which should turn it to account. But circumstances are ordered
for us, and we must submit."

"Your letter would have been answered yesterday, but I was
already gone out before post time, and was out all day. People
are very kind, and perhaps I shall be glad of what I have seen
afterwards, but it is often a little trying at the time. On
Thursday, the Marquis of Westminster asked me to a great party,
to which I was to go with Mrs. D----, a beautiful, and, I think,
a kind woman too; but this I resolutely declined. On Friday I
dined at the ----'s, and met Mrs. D---- and Mr. Monckton Milnes.
On Saturday I went to hear and see Rachel; a wonderful
sight--terrible as if the earth had cracked deep at your feet,
and revealed a glimpse of hell. I shall never forget it. She made
me shudder to the marrow of my bones; in her some fiend has
certainly taken up an incarnate home. She is not a woman; she is
a snake; she is the ----. On Sunday I went to the Spanish
Ambassador's Chapel, where Cardinal Wiseman, in his
archiepiscopal robes and mitre, held a confirmation. The whole
scene was impiously theatrical. Yesterday (Monday) I was sent for
at ten to breakfast with Mr. Rogers, the patriarch-poet. Mrs.
D---- and Lord Glenelg were there; no one else this certainly
proved a most calm, refined, and intellectual treat. After
breakfast, Sir David Brewster came to take us to the Crystal
Palace. I had rather dreaded this, for Sir David is a man of
profoundest science, and I feared it would be impossible to
understand his explanations of the mechanism, etc.; indeed, I
hardly knew how to ask him questions. I was spared all trouble
without being questioned, he gave information in the kindest and
simplest manner. After two hours spent at the Exhibition, and
where, as you may suppose, I was VERY tired, we had to go to Lord
Westminster's, and spend two hours more in looking at the
collection of pictures in his splendid gallery."

To another friend she writes:--

"----may have told you that I have spent a month in London this
summer. When you come, you shall ask what questions you like on
that point, and I will answer to the best of my stammering
ability. Do not press me much on the subject of the 'Crystal
Palace.' I went there five times, and certainly saw some
interesting things, and the 'coup d'oeil' is striking and
bewildering enough; but I never was able to get any raptures on
the subject, and each renewed visit was made under coercion
rather than my own free will. It is an excessively bustling

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