The Life of Charlotte Brontë – Volume 1 by Elizabeth Claghorn Gaskell

The volume 2 that we’ve released appears to be from the first edition of the book. My book appears to be the third edition of the book. Normally this would not matter at all but unfortunately in this case it does. Mrs Gaskell had to remove a great deal of material after the second edition
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The volume 2 that we’ve released appears to be from the first edition of the book. My book appears to be the third edition of the book.

Normally this would not matter at all but unfortunately in this case it does. Mrs Gaskell had to remove a great deal of material after the second edition was published after legal threats. She did this but also added a great deal of new material. Hence the first/second editions differ significantly from the third. Anyone interested in this book is likely to want complete etexts of the first/second and third versions – so they can see what Mrs Gaskell changed (and presumably work out why).

In the short term I’m not proposing to do a volume 2 from my edition as it scanned rather poorly. If anyone really pushes for it I will transcribe the rest of it from my copy.

This etext was prepared by David Price, email from the 1906 Smith, Elder and Co. edition.

The Life of Charlotte Bronte


The Leeds and Skipton railway runs along a deep valley of the Aire; a slow and sluggish stream, compared to the neighbouring river of Wharfe. Keighley station is on this line of railway, about a quarter of a mile from the town of the same name. The number of inhabitants and the importance of Keighley have been very greatly increased during the last twenty years, owing to the rapidly extended market for worsted manufactures, a branch of industry that mainly employs the factory population of this part of Yorkshire, which has Bradford for its centre and metropolis.

Keighley is in process of transformation from a populous, old- fashioned village, into a still more populous and flourishing town. It is evident to the stranger, that as the gable-ended houses, which obtrude themselves corner-wise on the widening street, fall vacant, they are pulled down to allow of greater space for traffic, and a more modern style of architecture. The quaint and narrow shop-windows of fifty years ago, are giving way to large panes and plate-glass. Nearly every dwelling seems devoted to some branch of commerce. In passing hastily through the town, one hardly perceives where the necessary lawyer and doctor can live, so little appearance is there of any dwellings of the professional middle-class, such as abound in our old cathedral towns. In fact, nothing can be more opposed than the state of society, the modes of thinking, the standards of reference on all points of morality, manners, and even politics and religion, in such a new manufacturing place as Keighley in the north, and any stately, sleepy, picturesque cathedral town in the south. Yet the aspect of Keighley promises well for future stateliness, if not picturesqueness. Grey stone abounds; and the rows of houses built of it have a kind of solid grandeur connected with their uniform and enduring lines. The frame-work of the doors, and the lintels of the windows, even in the smallest dwellings, are made of blocks of stone. There is no painted wood to require continual beautifying, or else present a shabby aspect; and the stone is kept scrupulously clean by the notable Yorkshire housewives. Such glimpses into the interior as a passer-by obtains, reveal a rough abundance of the means of living, and diligent and active habits in the women. But the voices of the people are hard, and their tones discordant, promising little of the musical taste that distinguishes the district, and which has already furnished a Carrodus to the musical world. The names over the shops (of which the one just given is a sample) seem strange even to an inhabitant of the neighbouring county, and have a peculiar smack and flavour of the place.

The town of Keighley never quite melts into country on the road to Haworth, although the houses become more sparse as the traveller journeys upwards to the grey round hills that seem to bound his journey in a westerly direction. First come some villas; just sufficiently retired from the road to show that they can scarcely belong to any one liable to be summoned in a hurry, at the call of suffering or danger, from his comfortable fire-side; the lawyer, the doctor, and the clergyman, live at hand, and hardly in the suburbs, with a screen of shrubs for concealment.

In a town one does not look for vivid colouring; what there may be of this is furnished by the wares in the shops, not by foliage or atmospheric effects; but in the country some brilliancy and vividness seems to be instinctively expected, and there is consequently a slight feeling of disappointment at the grey neutral tint of every object, near or far off, on the way from Keighley to Haworth. The distance is about four miles; and, as I have said, what with villas, great worsted factories, rows of workmen’s houses, with here and there an old-fashioned farmhouse and outbuildings, it can hardly be called “country” any part of the way. For two miles the road passes over tolerably level ground, distant hills on the left, a “beck” flowing through meadows on the right, and furnishing water power, at certain points, to the factories built on its banks. The air is dim and lightless with the smoke from all these habitations and places of business. The soil in the valley (or “bottom,” to use the local term) is rich; but, as the road begins to ascend, the vegetation becomes poorer; it does not flourish, it merely exists; and, instead of trees, there are only bushes and shrubs about the dwellings. Stone dykes are everywhere used in place of hedges; and what crops there are, on the patches of arable land, consist of pale, hungry-looking, grey green oats. Right before the traveller on this road rises Haworth village; he can see it for two miles before he arrives, for it is situated on the side of a pretty steep hill, with a back-ground of dun and purple moors, rising and sweeping away yet higher than the church, which is built at the very summit of the long narrow street. All round the horizon there is this same line of sinuous wave-like hills; the scoops into which they fall only revealing other hills beyond, of similar colour and shape, crowned with wild, bleak moors–grand, from the ideas of solitude and loneliness which they suggest, or oppressive from the feeling which they give of being pent-up by some monotonous and illimitable barrier, according to the mood of mind in which the spectator may be.

For a short distance the road appears to turn away from Haworth, as it winds round the base of the shoulder of a hill; but then it crosses a bridge over the “beck,” and the ascent through the village begins. The flag-stones with which it is paved are placed end-ways, in order to give a better hold to the horses’ feet; and, even with this help, they seem to be in constant danger of slipping backwards. The old stone houses are high compared to the width of the street, which makes an abrupt turn before reaching the more level ground at the head of the village, so that the steep aspect of the place, in one part, is almost like that of a wall. But this surmounted, the church lies a little off the main road on the left; a hundred yards, or so, and the driver relaxes his care, and the horse breathes more easily, as they pass into the quite little by-street that leads to Haworth Parsonage. The churchyard is on one side of this lane, the school-house and the sexton’s dwelling (where the curates formerly lodged) on the other.

The parsonage stands at right angles to the road, facing down upon the church; so that, in fact, parsonage, church, and belfried school-house, form three sides of an irregular oblong, of which the fourth is open to the fields and moors that lie beyond. The area of this oblong is filled up by a crowded churchyard, and a small garden or court in front of the clergyman’s house. As the entrance to this from the road is at the side, the path goes round the corner into the little plot of ground. Underneath the windows is a narrow flower-border, carefully tended in days of yore, although only the most hardy plants could be made to grow there. Within the stone wall, which keeps out the surrounding churchyard, are bushes of elder and lilac; the rest of the ground is occupied by a square grass-plot and a gravel walk. The house is of grey stone, two stories high, heavily roofed with flags, in order to resist the winds that might strip off a lighter covering. It appears to have been built about a hundred years ago, and to consist of four rooms on each story; the two windows on the right (as the visitor stands with his back to the church, ready to enter in at the front door) belonging to Mr. Bronte’s study, the two on the left to the family sitting-room. Everything about the place tells of the most dainty order, the most exquisite cleanliness. The door-steps are spotless; the small old-fashioned window-panes glitter like looking-glass. Inside and outside of that house cleanliness goes up into its essence, purity.

The little church lies, as I mentioned, above most of the houses in the village; and the graveyard rises above the church, and is terribly full of upright tombstones. The chapel or church claims greater antiquity than any other in that part of the kingdom; but there is no appearance of this in the external aspect of the present edifice, unless it be in the two eastern windows, which remain unmodernized, and in the lower part of the steeple. Inside, the character of the pillars shows that they were constructed before the reign of Henry VII. It is probable that there existed on this ground, a “field-kirk,” or oratory, in the earliest times; and, from the Archbishop’s registry at York, it is ascertained that there was a chapel at Haworth in 1317. The inhabitants refer inquirers concerning the date to the following inscription on a stone in the church tower:-

“Hic fecit Caenobium Monachorum Auteste fundator. A. D. sexcentissimo.”

That is to say, before the preaching of Christianity in Northumbria. Whitaker says that this mistake originated in the illiterate copying out, by some modern stone-cutter, of an inscription in the character of Henry the Eighth’s time on an adjoining stone:-

“Orate pro bono statu Eutest Tod.”

“Now every antiquary knows that the formula of prayer ‘bono statu’ always refers to the living. I suspect this singular Christian name has been mistaken by the stone-cutter for Austet, a contraction of Eustatius, but the word Tod, which has been mis- read for the Arabic figures 600, is perfectly fair and legible. On the presumption of this foolish claim to antiquity, the people would needs set up for independence, and contest the right of the Vicar of Bradford to nominate a curate at Haworth.”

I have given this extract, in order to explain the imaginary groundwork of a commotion which took place in Haworth about five and thirty years ago, to which I shall have occasion to allude again more particularly.

The interior of the church is commonplace; it is neither old enough nor modern enough to compel notice. The pews are of black oak, with high divisions; and the names of those to whom they belong are painted in white letters on the doors. There are neither brasses, nor altar-tombs, nor monuments, but there is a mural tablet on the right-hand side of the communion-table, bearing the following inscription:-


“Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” MATTHEW xxiv. 44.


“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”– MATTHEW xviii. 3.



At the upper part of this tablet ample space is allowed between the lines of the inscription; when the first memorials were written down, the survivors, in their fond affection, thought little of the margin and verge they were leaving for those who were still living. But as one dead member of the household follows another fast to the grave, the lines are pressed together, and the letters become small and cramped. After the record of Anne’s death, there is room for no other.

But one more of that generation–the last of that nursery of six little motherless children–was yet to follow, before the survivor, the childless and widowed father, found his rest. On another tablet, below the first, the following record has been added to that mournful list:-


This tablet, which corrects the error in the former tablet as to the age of Anne Bronte, bears the following inscription in Roman letters; the initials, however, being in old English.

In Memory of
Maria, wife of the Rev. P. Bronte, A.B., Minister of Haworth, She died Sept. 15th, 1821, in the 39th year of her age. Also, of Maria, their daughter, who died May 6th, 1825, in the 12th year of her age.
Also, of Elizabeth, their daughter, who died June 15th, 1825, in the 11th year of her age.
Also, of Patrick Branwell, their son, who died Sept. 24th, 1848, aged 31 years.
Also, of Emily Jane, their daughter, who died Dec. 19th, 1848, aged 30 years.
Also, of Anne, their daughter, who died May 28th, 1849, aged 29 years. She was buried at the Old Church, Scarborough. Also, of Charlotte, their daughter, wife of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, B.A. She died March 31st, 1855, in the 39th year of her age.
“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”–1 Cor. xv. 56, 57.


For a right understanding of the life of my dear friend, Charlotte Bronte, it appears to me more necessary in her case than in most others, that the reader should be made acquainted with the peculiar forms of population and society amidst which her earliest years were passed, and from which both her own and her sisters’ first impressions of human life must have been received. I shall endeavour, therefore, before proceeding further with my work, to present some idea of the character of the people of Haworth, and the surrounding districts.

Even an inhabitant of the neighbouring county of Lancaster is struck by the peculiar force of character which the Yorkshiremen display. This makes them interesting as a race; while, at the same time, as individuals, the remarkable degree of self- sufficiency they possess gives them an air of independence rather apt to repel a stranger. I use this expression “self-sufficiency” in the largest sense. Conscious of the strong sagacity and the dogged power of will which seem almost the birthright of the natives of the West Riding, each man relies upon himself, and seeks no help at the hands of his neighbour. From rarely requiring the assistance of others, he comes to doubt the power of bestowing it: from the general success of his efforts, he grows to depend upon them, and to over-esteem his own energy and power. He belongs to that keen, yet short-sighted class, who consider suspicion of all whose honesty is not proved as a sign of wisdom. The practical qualities of a man are held in great respect; but the want of faith in strangers and untried modes of action, extends itself even to the manner in which the virtues are regarded; and if they produce no immediate and tangible result, they are rather put aside as unfit for this busy, striving world; especially if they are more of a passive than an active character. The affections are strong and their foundations lie deep: but they are not–such affections seldom are–wide-spreading; nor do they show themselves on the surface. Indeed, there is little display of any of the amenities of life among this wild, rough population. Their accost is curt; their accent and tone of speech blunt and harsh. Something of this may, probably, be attributed to the freedom of mountain air and of isolated hill-side life; something be derived from their rough Norse ancestry. They have a quick perception of character, and a keen sense of humour; the dwellers among them must be prepared for certain uncomplimentary, though most likely true, observations, pithily expressed. Their feelings are not easily roused, but their duration is lasting. Hence there is much close friendship and faithful service; and for a correct exemplification of the form in which the latter frequently appears, I need only refer the reader of “Wuthering Heights” to the character of “Joseph.”

From the same cause come also enduring grudges, in some cases amounting to hatred, which occasionally has been bequeathed from generation to generation. I remember Miss Bronte once telling me that it was a saying round about Haworth, “Keep a stone in thy pocket seven year; turn it, and keep it seven year longer, that it may be ever ready to thine hand when thine enemy draws near.”

The West Riding men are sleuth-hounds in pursuit of money. Miss Bronte related to my husband a curious instance illustrative of this eager desire for riches. A man that she knew, who was a small manufacturer, had engaged in many local speculations which had always turned out well, and thereby rendered him a person of some wealth. He was rather past middle age, when he bethought him of insuring his life; and he had only just taken out his policy, when he fell ill of an acute disease which was certain to end fatally in a very few days. The doctor, half-hesitatingly, revealed to him his hopeless state. “By jingo!” cried he, rousing up at once into the old energy, “I shall DO the insurance company! I always was a lucky fellow!”

These men are keen and shrewd; faithful and persevering in following out a good purpose, fell in tracking an evil one. They are not emotional; they are not easily made into either friends or enemies; but once lovers or haters, it is difficult to change their feeling. They are a powerful race both in mind and body, both for good and for evil.

The woollen manufacture was introduced into this district in the days of Edward III. It is traditionally said that a colony of Flemings came over and settled in the West Riding to teach the inhabitants what to do with their wool. The mixture of agricultural with manufacturing labour that ensued and prevailed in the West Riding up to a very recent period, sounds pleasant enough at this distance of time, when the classical impression is left, and the details forgotten, or only brought to light by those who explore the few remote parts of England where the custom still lingers. The idea of the mistress and her maidens spinning at the great wheels while the master was abroad ploughing his fields, or seeing after his flocks on the purple moors, is very poetical to look back upon; but when such life actually touches on our own days, and we can hear particulars from the lips of those now living, there come out details of coarseness–of the uncouthness of the rustic mingled with the sharpness of the tradesman–of irregularity and fierce lawlessness–that rather mar the vision of pastoral innocence and simplicity. Still, as it is the exceptional and exaggerated characteristics of any period that leave the most vivid memory behind them, it would be wrong, and in my opinion faithless, to conclude that such and such forms of society and modes of living were not best for the period when they prevailed, although the abuses they may have led into, and the gradual progress of the world, have made it well that such ways and manners should pass away for ever, and as preposterous to attempt to return to them, as it would be for a man to return to the clothes of his childhood.

The patent granted to Alderman Cockayne, and the further restrictions imposed by James I. on the export of undyed woollen cloths (met by a prohibition on the part of the States of Holland of the import of English-dyed cloths), injured the trade of the West Riding manufacturers considerably. Their independence of character, their dislike of authority, and their strong powers of thought, predisposed them to rebellion against the religious dictation of such men as Laud, and the arbitrary rule of the Stuarts; and the injury done by James and Charles to the trade by which they gained their bread, made the great majority of them Commonwealth men. I shall have occasion afterwards to give one or two instances of the warm feelings and extensive knowledge on subjects of both home and foreign politics existing at the present day in the villages lying west and east of the mountainous ridge that separates Yorkshire and Lancashire; the inhabitants of which are of the same race and possess the same quality of character.

The descendants of many who served under Cromwell at Dunbar, live on the same lands as their ancestors occupied then; and perhaps there is no part of England where the traditional and fond recollections of the Commonwealth have lingered so long as in that inhabited by the woollen manufacturing population of the West Riding, who had the restrictions taken off their trade by the Protector’s admirable commercial policy. I have it on good authority that, not thirty years ago, the phrase, “in Oliver’s days,” was in common use to denote a time of unusual prosperity. The class of Christian names prevalent in a district is one indication of the direction in which its tide of hero-worship sets. Grave enthusiasts in politics or religion perceive not the ludicrous side of those which they give to their children; and some are to be found, still in their infancy, not a dozen miles from Haworth, that will have to go through life as Lamartine, Kossuth, and Dembinsky. And so there is a testimony to what I have said, of the traditional feeling of the district, in the fact that the Old Testament names in general use among the Puritans are yet the prevalent appellations in most Yorkshire families of middle or humble rank, whatever their religious persuasion may be. There are numerous records, too, that show the kindly way in which the ejected ministers were received by the gentry, as well as by the poorer part of the inhabitants, during the persecuting days of Charles II. These little facts all testify to the old hereditary spirit of independence, ready ever to resist authority which was conceived to be unjustly exercised, that distinguishes the people of the West Riding to the present day.

The parish of Halifax touches that of Bradford, in which the chapelry of Haworth is included; and the nature of the ground in the two parishes is much the of the same wild and hilly description. The abundance of coal, and the number of mountain streams in the district, make it highly favourable to manufactures; and accordingly, as I stated, the inhabitants have for centuries been engaged in making cloth, as well as in agricultural pursuits. But the intercourse of trade failed, for a long time, to bring amenity and civilization into these outlying hamlets, or widely scattered dwellings. Mr. Hunter, in his “Life of Oliver Heywood,” quotes a sentence out of a memorial of one James Rither, living in the reign of Elizabeth, which is partially true to this day:-

“They have no superior to court, no civilities to practise: a sour and sturdy humour is the consequence, so that a stranger is shocked by a tone of defiance in every voice, and an air of fierceness in every countenance.”

Even now, a stranger can hardly ask a question without receiving some crusty reply, if, indeed, he receive any at all. Sometimes the sour rudeness amounts to positive insult. Yet, if the “foreigner” takes all this churlishness good-humouredly, or as a matter of course, and makes good any claim upon their latent kindliness and hospitality, they are faithful and generous, and thoroughly to be relied upon. As a slight illustration of the roughness that pervades all classes in these out-of-the-way villages, I may relate a little adventure which happened to my husband and myself, three years ago, at Addingham –

From Penigent to Pendle Hill,
From Linton to Long-ADDINGHAM
And all that Craven coasts did tell, &c. –

one of the places that sent forth its fighting men to the famous old battle of Flodden Field, and a village not many miles from Haworth.

We were driving along the street, when one of those ne’er-do-weel lads who seem to have a kind of magnetic power for misfortunes, having jumped into the stream that runs through the place, just where all the broken glass and bottles are thrown, staggered naked and nearly covered with blood into a cottage before us. Besides receiving another bad cut in the arm, he had completely laid open the artery, and was in a fair way of bleeding to death–which, one of his relations comforted him by saying, would be likely to “save a deal o’ trouble.”

When my husband had checked the effusion of blood with a strap that one of the bystanders unbuckled from his leg, he asked if a surgeon had been sent for.

“Yoi,” was the answer; “but we dunna think he’ll come.”

“Why not?”

“He’s owd, yo seen, and asthmatic, and it’s up-hill.”

My husband taking a boy for his guide, drove as fast as he could to the surgeon’s house, which was about three-quarters of a mile off, and met the aunt of the wounded lad leaving it.

“Is he coming?” inquired my husband.

“Well, he didna’ say he wouldna’ come.”

“But, tell him the lad may bleed to death.”

“I did.”

“And what did he say?”

“Why, only, ‘D-n him; what do I care?'”

It ended, however, in his sending one of his sons, who, though not brought up to “the surgering trade,” was able to do what was necessary in the way of bandages and plasters. The excuse made for the surgeon was, that “he was near eighty, and getting a bit doited, and had had a matter o’ twenty childer.”

Among the most unmoved of the lookers-on was the brother of the boy so badly hurt; and while he was lying in a pool of blood on the flag floor, and crying out how much his arm was “warching,” his stoical relation stood coolly smoking his bit of black pipe, and uttered not a single word of either sympathy or sorrow.

Forest customs, existing in the fringes of dark wood, which clothed the declivity of the hills on either side, tended to brutalize the population until the middle of the seventeenth century. Execution by beheading was performed in a summary way upon either men or women who were guilty of but very slight crimes; and a dogged, yet in some cases fine, indifference to human life was thus generated. The roads were so notoriously bad, even up to the last thirty years, that there was little communication between one village and another; if the produce of industry could be conveyed at stated times to the cloth market of the district, it was all that could be done; and, in lonely houses on the distant hill-side, or by the small magnates of secluded hamlets, crimes might be committed almost unknown, certainly without any great uprising of popular indignation calculated to bring down the strong arm of the law. It must be remembered that in those days there was no rural constabulary; and the few magistrates left to themselves, and generally related to one another, were most of them inclined to tolerate eccentricity, and to wink at faults too much like their own.

Men hardly past middle life talk of the days of their youth, spent in this part of the country, when, during the winter months, they rode up to the saddle-girths in mud; when absolute business was the only reason for stirring beyond the precincts of home, and when that business was conducted under a pressure of difficulties which they themselves, borne along to Bradford market in a swift first-class carriage, can hardly believe to have been possible. For instance, one woollen manufacturer says that, not five and twenty years ago, he had to rise betimes to set off on a winter’s- morning in order to be at Bradford with the great waggon-load of goods manufactured by his father; this load was packed over-night, but in the morning there was a great gathering around it, and flashing of lanterns, and examination of horses’ feet, before the ponderous waggon got under way; and then some one had to go groping here and there, on hands and knees, and always sounding with a staff down the long, steep, slippery brow, to find where the horses might tread safely, until they reached the comparative easy-going of the deep-rutted main road. People went on horseback over the upland moors, following the tracks of the pack-horses that carried the parcels, baggage, or goods from one town to another, between which there did not happen to be a highway.

But in winter, all such communication was impossible, by reason of the snow which lay long and late on the bleak high ground. I have known people who, travelling by the mail-coach over Blackstone Edge, had been snowed up for a week or ten days at the little inn near the summit, and obliged to spend both Christmas and New Year’s Day there, till the store of provisions laid in for the use of the landlord and his family falling short before the inroads of the unexpected visitors, they had recourse to the turkeys, geese, and Yorkshire pies with which the coach was laden; and even these were beginning to fail, when a fortunate thaw released them from their prison.

Isolated as the hill villages may be, they are in the world, compared with the loneliness of the grey ancestral houses to be seen here and there in the dense hollows of the moors. These dwellings are not large, yet they are solid and roomy enough for the accommodation of those who live in them, and to whom the surrounding estates belong. The land has often been held by one family since the days of the Tudors; the owners are, in fact, the remains of the old yeomanry–small squires–who are rapidly becoming extinct as a class, from one of two causes. Either the possessor falls into idle, drinking habits, and so is obliged eventually to sell his property: or he finds, if more shrewd and adventurous, that the “beck” running down the mountain-side, or the minerals beneath his feet, can be turned into a new source of wealth; and leaving the old plodding life of a landowner with small capital, he turns manufacturer, or digs for coal, or quarries for stone.

Still there are those remaining of this class–dwellers in the lonely houses far away in the upland districts–even at the present day, who sufficiently indicate what strange eccentricity– what wild strength of will–nay, even what unnatural power of crime was fostered by a mode of living in which a man seldom met his fellows, and where public opinion was only a distant and inarticulate echo of some clearer voice sounding behind the sweeping horizon.

A solitary life cherishes mere fancies until they become manias. And the powerful Yorkshire character, which was scarcely tamed into subjection by all the contact it met with in “busy town or crowded mart,” has before now broken out into strange wilfulness in the remoter districts. A singular account was recently given me of a landowner (living, it is true, on the Lancashire side of the hills, but of the same blood and nature as the dwellers on the other,) who was supposed to be in the receipt of seven or eight hundred a year, and whose house bore marks of handsome antiquity, as if his forefathers had been for a long time people of consideration. My informant was struck with the appearance of the place, and proposed to the countryman who was accompanying him, to go up to it and take a nearer inspection. The reply was, “Yo’d better not; he’d threap yo’ down th’ loan. He’s let fly at some folk’s legs, and let shot lodge in ’em afore now, for going too near to his house.” And finding, on closer inquiry, that such was really the inhospitable custom of this moorland squire, the gentleman gave up his purpose. I believe that the savage yeoman is still living.

Another squire, of more distinguished family and larger property– one is thence led to imagine of better education, but that does not always follow–died at his house, not many miles from Haworth, only a few years ago. His great amusement and occupation had been cock-fighting. When he was confined to his chamber with what he knew would be his last illness, he had his cocks brought up there, and watched the bloody battle from his bed. As his mortal disease increased, and it became impossible for him to turn so as to follow the combat, he had looking-glasses arranged in such a manner, around and above him, as he lay, that he could still see the cocks fighting. And in this manner he died.

These are merely instances of eccentricity compared to the tales of positive violence and crime that have occurred in these isolated dwellings, which still linger in the memories of the old people of the district, and some of which were doubtless familiar to the authors of “Wuthering Heights” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.”

The amusements of the lower classes could hardly be expected to be more humane than those of the wealthy and better educated. The gentleman, who has kindly furnished me with some of the particulars I have given, remembers the bull-baitings at Rochdale, not thirty years ago. The bull was fastened by a chain or rope to a post in the river. To increase the amount of water, as well as to give their workpeople the opportunity of savage delight, the masters were accustomed to stop their mills on the day when the sport took place. The bull would sometimes wheel suddenly round, so that the rope by which he was fastened swept those who had been careless enough to come within its range down into the water, and the good people of Rochdale had the excitement of seeing one or two of their neighbours drowned, as well as of witnessing the bull baited, and the dogs torn and tossed.

The people of Haworth were not less strong and full of character than their neighbours on either side of the hills. The village lies embedded in the moors, between the two counties, on the old road between Keighley and Colne. About the middle of the last century, it became famous in the religious world as the scene of the ministrations of the Rev. William Grimshaw, curate of Haworth for twenty years. Before this time, it is probable that the curates were of the same order as one Mr. Nicholls, a Yorkshire clergyman, in the days immediately succeeding the Reformation, who was “much addicted to drinking and company-keeping,” and used to say to his companions, “You must not heed me but when I am got three feet above the earth,” that was, into the pulpit.

Mr. Grimshaw’s life was written by Newton, Cowper’s friend; and from it may be gathered some curious particulars of the manner in which a rough population were swayed and governed by a man of deep convictions, and strong earnestness of purpose. It seems that he had not been in any way remarkable for religious zeal, though he had led a moral life, and been conscientious in fulfilling his parochial duties, until a certain Sunday in September, 1744, when the servant, rising at five, found her master already engaged in prayer; she stated that, after remaining in his chamber for some time, he went to engage in religious exercises in the house of a parishioner, then home again to pray; thence, still fasting, to the church, where, as he was reading the second lesson, he fell down, and, on his partial recovery, had to be led from the church. As he went out, he spoke to the congregation, and told them not to disperse, as he had something to say to them, and would return presently. He was taken to the clerk’s house, and again became insensible. His servant rubbed him, to restore the circulation; and when he was brought to himself “he seemed in a great rapture,” and the first words he uttered were, “I have had a glorious vision from the third heaven.” He did not say what he had seen, but returned into the church, and began the service again, at two in the afternoon, and went on until seven.

From this time he devoted himself, with the fervour of a Wesley, and something of the fanaticism of a Whitfield, to calling out a religious life among his parishioners. They had been in the habit of playing at foot-ball on Sunday, using stones for this purpose; and giving and receiving challenges from other parishes. There were horse-races held on the moors just above the village, which were periodical sources of drunkenness and profligacy. Scarcely a wedding took place without the rough amusement of foot-races, where the half-naked runners were a scandal to all decent strangers. The old custom of “arvills,” or funeral feasts, led to frequent pitched battles between the drunken mourners. Such customs were the outward signs of the kind of people with whom Mr. Grimshaw had to deal. But, by various means, some of the most practical kind, he wrought a great change in his parish. In his preaching he was occasionally assisted by Wesley and Whitfield, and at such times the little church proved much too small to hold the throng that poured in from distant villages, or lonely moorland hamlets; and frequently they were obliged to meet in the open air; indeed, there was not room enough in the church even for the communicants. Mr. Whitfield was once preaching in Haworth, and made use of some such expression, as that he hoped there was no need to say much to this congregation, as they had sat under so pious and godly a minister for so many years; “whereupon Mr. Grimshaw stood up in his place, and said with a loud voice, ‘Oh, sir! for God’s sake do not speak so. I pray you do not flatter them. I fear the greater part of them are going to hell with their eyes open.'” But if they were so bound, it was not for want of exertion on Mr. Grimshaw’s part to prevent them. He used to preach twenty or thirty times a week in private houses. If he perceived any one inattentive to his prayers, he would stop and rebuke the offender, and not go on till he saw every one on their knees. He was very earnest in enforcing the strict observance of Sunday; and would not even allow his parishioners to walk in the fields between services. He sometimes gave out a very long Psalm (tradition says the 119th), and while it was being sung, he left the reading-desk, and taking a horsewhip went into the public- houses, and flogged the loiterers into church. They were swift who could escape the lash of the parson by sneaking out the back way. He had strong health and an active body, and rode far and wide over the hills, “awakening” those who had previously had no sense of religion. To save time, and be no charge to the families at whose houses he held his prayer-meetings, he carried his provisions with him; all the food he took in the day on such occasions consisting simply of a piece of bread and butter, or dry bread and a raw onion.

The horse-races were justly objectionable to Mr. Grimshaw; they attracted numbers of profligate people to Haworth, and brought a match to the combustible materials of the place, only too ready to blaze out into wickedness. The story is, that he tried all means of persuasion, and even intimidation, to have the races discontinued, but in vain. At length, in despair, he prayed with such fervour of earnestness that the rain came down in torrents, and deluged the ground, so that there was no footing for man or beast, even if the multitude had been willing to stand such a flood let down from above. And so Haworth races were stopped, and have never been resumed to this day. Even now the memory of this good man is held in reverence, and his faithful ministrations and real virtues are one of the boasts of the parish.

But after his time, I fear there was a falling back into the wild rough heathen ways, from which he had pulled them up, as it were, by the passionate force of his individual character. He had built a chapel for the Wesleyan Methodists, and not very long after the Baptists established themselves in a place of worship. Indeed, as Dr. Whitaker says, the people of this district are “strong religionists;” only, fifty years ago, their religion did not work down into their lives. Half that length of time back, the code of morals seemed to be formed upon that of their Norse ancestors. Revenge was handed down from father to son as an hereditary duty; and a great capability for drinking without the head being affected was considered as one of the manly virtues. The games of foot-ball on Sundays, with the challenges to the neighbouring parishes, were resumed, bringing in an influx of riotous strangers to fill the public-houses, and make the more sober-minded inhabitants long for good Mr. Grimshaw’s stout arm, and ready horsewhip. The old custom of “arvills” was as prevalent as ever. The sexton, standing at the foot of the open grave, announced that the “arvill” would be held at the Black Bull, or whatever public- house might be fixed upon by the friends of the dead; and thither the mourners and their acquaintances repaired. The origin of the custom had been the necessity of furnishing some refreshment for those who came from a distance, to pay the last mark of respect to a friend. In the life of Oliver Heywood there are two quotations, which show what sort of food was provided for “arvills” in quiet Nonconformist connections in the seventeenth century; the first (from Thoresby) tells of “cold possets, stewed prunes, cake, and cheese,” as being the arvill after Oliver Heywood’s funeral. The second gives, as rather shabby, according to the notion of the times (1673), “nothing but a bit of cake, draught of wine, piece of rosemary, and pair of gloves.”

But the arvills at Haworth were often far more jovial doings. Among the poor, the mourners were only expected to provide a kind of spiced roll for each person; and the expense of the liquors– rum, or ale, or a mixture of both called “dog’s nose”–was generally defrayed by each guest placing some money on a plate, set in the middle of the table. Richer people would order a dinner for their friends. At the funeral of Mr. Charnock (the next successor but one to Mr. Grimshaw in the incumbency), above eighty people were bid to the arvill, and the price of the feast was 4s. 6d. per head, all of which was defrayed by the friends of the deceased. As few “shirked their liquor,” there were very frequently “up-and-down fights” before the close of the day; sometimes with the horrid additions of “pawsing” and “gouging,” and biting.

Although I have dwelt on the exceptional traits in the characteristics of these stalwart West-Ridingers, such as they were in the first quarter of this century, if not a few years later, I have little doubt that in the every-day life of the people so independent, wilful, and full of grim humour, there would be much found even at present that would shock those accustomed only to the local manners of the south; and, in return, I suspect the shrewd, sagacious, energetic Yorkshireman would hold such “foreigners” in no small contempt.

I have said, it is most probable that where Haworth Church now stands, there was once an ancient “field-kirk,” or oratory. It occupied the third or lowest class of ecclesiastical structures, according to the Saxon law, and had no right of sepulture, or administration of sacraments. It was so called because it was built without enclosure, and open to the adjoining fields or moors. The founder, according to the laws of Edgar, was bound, without subtracting from his tithes, to maintain the ministering priest out of the remaining nine parts of his income. After the Reformation, the right of choosing their clergyman, at any of those chapels of ease which had formerly been field-kirks, was vested in the freeholders and trustees, subject to the approval of the vicar of the parish. But owing to some negligence, this right has been lost to the freeholders and trustees at Haworth, ever since the days of Archbishop Sharp; and the power of choosing a minister has lapsed into the hands of the Vicar of Bradford. So runs the account, according to one authority.

Mr. Bronte says,–“This living has for its patrons the Vicar of Bradford and certain trustees. My predecessor took the living with the consent of the Vicar of Bradford, but in opposition to the trustees; in consequence of which he was so opposed that, after only three weeks’ possession, he was compelled to resign.” A Yorkshire gentleman, who has kindly sent me some additional information on this subject since the second edition of my work was published, write, thus:-

“The sole right of presentation to the incumbency of Haworth is vested in the Vicar of Bradford. He only can present. The funds, however, from which the clergyman’s stipend mainly proceeds, are vested in the hands of trustees, who have the power to withhold them, if a nominee is sent of whom they disapprove. On the decease of Mr. Charnock, the Vicar first tendered the preferment to Mr. Bronte, and he went over to his expected cure. He was told that towards himself they had no personal objection; but as a nominee of the Vicar he would not be received. He therefore retired, with the declaration that if he could not come with the approval of the parish, his ministry could not be useful. Upon this the attempt was made to introduce Mr. Redhead.

“When Mr. Redhead was repelled, a fresh difficulty arose. Some one must first move towards a settlement, but a spirit being evoked which could not be allayed, action became perplexing. The matter had to be referred to some independent arbitrator, and my father was the gentleman to whom each party turned its eye. A meeting was convened, and the business settled by the Vicar’s conceding the choice to the trustees, and the acceptance of the Vicar’s presentation. That choice forthwith fell on Mr. Bronte, whose promptness and prudence had won their hearts.”

In conversing on the character of the inhabitants of the West Riding with Dr. Scoresby, who had been for some time Vicar of Bradford, he alluded to certain riotous transactions which had taken place at Haworth on the presentation of the living to Mr. Redhead, and said that there had been so much in the particulars indicative of the character of the people, that he advised me to inquire into them. I have accordingly done so, and, from the lips of some of the survivors among the actors and spectators, I have learnt the means taken to eject the nominee of the Vicar.

The previous incumbent had been the Mr. Charnock whom I have mentioned as next but one in succession to Mr. Grimshaw. He had a long illness which rendered him unable to discharge his duties without assistance, and Mr. Redhead gave him occasional help, to the great satisfaction of the parishioners, and was highly respected by them during Mr. Charnock’s lifetime. But the case was entirely altered when, at Mr. Charnock’s death in 1819, they conceived that the trustees had been unjustly deprived of their rights by the Vicar of Bradford, who appointed Mr. Redhead as perpetual curate.

The first Sunday he officiated, Haworth Church was filled even to the aisles; most of the people wearing the wooden clogs of the district. But while Mr. Redhead was reading the second lesson, the whole congregation, as by one impulse, began to leave the church, making all the noise they could with clattering and clumping of clogs, till, at length, Mr. Redhead and the clerk were the only two left to continue the service. This was bad enough, but the next Sunday the proceedings were far worse. Then, as before, the church was well filled, but the aisles were left clear; not a creature, not an obstacle was in the way. The reason for this was made evident about the same time in the reading of the service as the disturbances had begun the previous week. A man rode into the church upon an ass, with his face turned towards the tail, and as many old hats piled on his head as he could possibly carry. He began urging his beast round the aisles, and the screams, and cries, and laughter of the congregation entirely drowned all sound of Mr. Redhead’s voice, and, I believe, he was obliged to desist.

Hitherto they had not proceeded to anything like personal violence; but on the third Sunday they must have been greatly irritated at seeing Mr. Redhead, determined to brave their will, ride up the village street, accompanied by several gentlemen from Bradford. They put up their horses at the Black Bull–the little inn close upon the churchyard, for the convenience of arvills as well as for other purposes–and went into church. On this the people followed, with a chimney-sweeper, whom they had employed to clean the chimneys of some out-buildings belonging to the church that very morning, and afterward plied with drink till he was in a state of solemn intoxication. They placed him right before the reading-desk, where his blackened face nodded a drunken, stupid assent to all that Mr. Redhead said. At last, either prompted by some mischief-maker, or from some tipsy impulse, he clambered up the pulpit stairs, and attempted to embrace Mr. Redhead. Then the profane fun grew fast and furious. Some of the more riotous, pushed the soot-covered chimney-sweeper against Mr. Redhead, as he tried to escape. They threw both him and his tormentor down on the ground in the churchyard where the soot-bag had been emptied, and, though, at last, Mr. Redhead escaped into the Black Bull, the doors of which were immediately barred, the people raged without, threatening to stone him and his friends. One of my informants is an old man, who was the landlord of the inn at the time, and he stands to it that such was the temper of the irritated mob, that Mr. Redhead was in real danger of his life. This man, however, planned an escape for his unpopular inmates. The Black Bull is near the top of the long, steep Haworth street, and at the bottom, close by the bridge, on the road to Keighley, is a turnpike. Giving directions to his hunted guests to steal out at the back door (through which, probably, many a ne’er-do-weel has escaped from good Mr. Grimshaw’s horsewhip), the landlord and some of the stable-boys rode the horses belonging to the party from Bradford backwards and forwards before his front door, among the fiercely- expectant crowd. Through some opening between the houses, those on the horses saw Mr. Redhead and his friends creeping along behind the street; and then, striking spurs, they dashed quickly down to the turnpike; the obnoxious clergyman and his friends mounted in haste, and had sped some distance before the people found out that their prey had escaped, and came running to the closed turnpike gate.

This was Mr. Redhead’s last appearance at Haworth for many years. Long afterwards, he came to preach, and in his sermon to a large and attentive congregation he good-humouredly reminded them of the circumstances which I have described. They gave him a hearty welcome, for they owed him no grudge; although before they had been ready enough to stone him, in order to maintain what they considered to be their rights.

The foregoing account, which I heard from two of the survivors, in the presence of a friend who can vouch for the accuracy of my repetition, has to a certain degree been confirmed by a letter from the Yorkshire gentleman, whose words I have already quoted.

“I am not surprised at your difficulty in authenticating matter- of-fact. I find this in recalling what I have heard, and the authority on which I have heard anything. As to the donkey tale, I believe you are right. Mr. Redhead and Dr. Ramsbotham, his son- in-law, are no strangers to me. Each of them has a niche in my affections.

“I have asked, this day, two persons who lived in Haworth at the time to which you allude, the son and daughter of an acting trustee, and each of them between sixty and seventy years of age, and they assure me that the donkey was introduced. One of them says it was mounted by a half-witted man, seated with his face towards the tail of the beast, and having several hats piled on his head. Neither of my informants was, however, present at these edifying services. I believe that no movement was made in the church on either Sunday, until the whole of the authorised reading-service was gone through, and I am sure that nothing was more remote from the more respectable party than any personal antagonism toward Mr. Redhead. He was one of the most amiable and worthy of men, a man to myself endeared by many ties and obligations. I never heard before your book that the sweep ascended the pulpit steps. He was present, however, in the clerical habiliments of his order . . . I may also add that among the many who were present at those sad Sunday orgies the majority were non-residents, and came from those moorland fastnesses on the outskirts of the parish locally designated as ‘ovver th’ steyres,’ one stage more remote than Haworth from modern civilization.

“To an instance or two more of the rusticity of the inhabitants of the chapelry of Haworth, I may introduce you.

“A Haworth carrier called at the office of a friend of mine to deliver a parcel on a cold winter’s day, and stood with the door open. ‘Robin! shut the door!’ said the recipient. ‘Have you no doors in your country?’ ‘Yoi,’ responded Robin, ‘we hev, but we nivver steik ’em.’ I have frequently remarked the number of doors open even in winter.

“When well directed, the indomitable and independent energies of the natives of this part of the country are invaluable; dangerous when perverted. I shall never forget the fierce actions and utterances of one suffering from delirium tremens. Whether in its wrath, disdain, or its dismay, the countenance was infernal. I called once upon a time on a most respectable yeoman, and I was, in language earnest and homely, pressed to accept the hospitality of the house. I consented. The word to me was, ‘Nah, Maister, yah mun stop an hev sum te-ah, yah mun, eah, yah mun.’ A bountiful table was soon spread; at all events, time soon went while I scaled the hills to see ‘t’ maire at wor thretty year owd, an’t’ feil at wor fewer.’ On sitting down to the table, a venerable woman officiated, and after filling the cups, she thus addressed me: ‘Nah, Maister, yah mun loawze th’taible’ (loose the table). The master said, ‘Shah meeans yah mun sey t’ greyce.’ I took the hint, and uttered the blessing.

“I spoke with an aged and tried woman at one time, who, after recording her mercies, stated, among others, her powers of speech, by asserting ‘Thank the Lord, ah nivver wor a meilly-meouthed wumman.’ I feel particularly at fault in attempting the orthography of the dialect, but must excuse myself by telling you that I once saw a letter in which the word I have just now used (excuse) was written ‘ecksqueaize!’

“There are some things, however, which rather tend to soften the idea of the rudeness of Haworth. No rural district has been more markedly the abode of musical taste and acquirement, and this at a period when it was difficult to find them to the same extent apart from towns in advance of their times. I have gone to Haworth and found an orchestra to meet me, filled with local performers, vocal and instrumental, to whom the best works of Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Marcello, &c. &c., were familiar as household words. By knowledge, taste, and voice, they were markedly separate from ordinary village choirs, and have been put in extensive requisition for the solo and chorus of many an imposing festival. One man still survives, who, for fifty years, has had one of the finest tenor voices I ever heard, and with it a refined and cultivated taste. To him and to others many inducements have been offered to migrate; but the loom, the association, the mountain air have had charms enow to secure their continuance at home. I love the recollection of their performance; that recollection extends over more than sixty years. The attachments, the antipathies and the hospitalities of the district are ardent, hearty, and homely. Cordiality in each is the prominent characteristic. As a people, these mountaineers have ever been accessible to gentleness and truth, so far as I have known them; but excite suspicion or resentment, and they give emphatic and not impotent resistance. Compulsion they defy.

“I accompanied Mr. Heap on his first visit to Haworth after his accession to the vicarage of Bradford. It was on Easter day, either 1816 or 1817. His predecessor, the venerable John Crosse, known as the ‘blind vicar,’ had been inattentive to the vicarial claims. A searching investigation had to be made and enforced, and as it proceeded stout and sturdy utterances were not lacking on the part of the parishioners. To a spectator, though rude, they were amusing, and significant, foretelling what might be expected, and what was afterwards realised, on the advent of a new incumbent, if they deemed him an intruder.

“From their peculiar parochial position and circumstances, the inhabitants of the chapelry have been prompt, earnest, and persevering in their opposition to church-rates. Although ten miles from the mother-church, they were called upon to defray a large proportion of this obnoxious tax,–I believe one fifth.

“Besides this, they had to maintain their own edifice, &c., &c. They resisted, therefore, with energy, that which they deemed to be oppression and injustice. By scores would they wend their way from the hills to attend a vestry meeting at Bradford, and in such service failed not to show less of the SUAVITER IN MODO than the FORTITER IN RE. Happily such occasion for their action has not occurred for many years.

“The use of patronymics has been common in this locality. Inquire for a man by his Christian name and surname, and you may have some difficulty in finding him: ask, however, for ‘George o’ Ned’s,’ or ‘Dick o’ Bob’s,’ or ‘Tom o’ Jack’s,’ as the case may be, and your difficulty is at an end. In many instances the person is designated by his residence. In my early years I had occasion to inquire for Jonathan Whitaker, who owned a considerable farm in the township. I was sent hither and thither, until it occurred to me to ask for ‘Jonathan o’ th’ Gate.’ My difficulties were then at an end. Such circumstances arise out of the settled character and isolation of the natives.

“Those who have witnessed a Haworth wedding when the parties were above the rank of labourers, will not easily forget the scene. A levy was made on the horses of the neighbourhood, and a merry cavalcade of mounted men and women, single or double, traversed the way to Bradford church. The inn and church appeared to be in natural connection, and as the labours of the Temperance Society had then to begin, the interests of sobriety were not always consulted. On remounting their steeds they commenced with a race, and not unfrequently an inebriate or unskilful horseman or woman was put HORS DE COMBAT. A race also was frequent at the end. of these wedding expeditions, from the bridge to the toll-bar at Haworth. The race-course you will know to be anything but level.”

Into the midst of this lawless, yet not unkindly population, Mr. Bronte brought his wife and six little children, in February, 1820. There are those yet alive who remember seven heavily-laden carts lumbering slowly up the long stone street, bearing the “new parson’s” household goods to his future abode.

One wonders how the bleak aspect of her new home–the low, oblong, stone parsonage, high up, yet with a still higher back-ground of sweeping moors–struck on the gentle, delicate wife, whose health even then was failing.


The Rev. Patrick Bronte is a native of the County Down in Ireland. His father Hugh Bronte, was left an orphan at an early age. He came from the south to the north of the island, and settled in the parish of Ahaderg, near Loughbrickland. There was some family tradition that, humble as Hugh Bronte’s circumstances were, he was the descendant of an ancient family. But about this neither he nor his descendants have cared to inquire. He made an early marriage, and reared and educated ten children on the proceeds of the few acres of land which he farmed. This large family were remarkable for great physical strength, and much personal beauty. Even in his old age, Mr. Bronte is a striking-looking man, above the common height, with a nobly-shaped head, and erect carriage. In his youth he must have been unusually handsome.

He was born on Patrickmas day (March 17), 1777, and early gave tokens of extraordinary quickness and intelligence. He had also his full share of ambition; and of his strong sense and forethought there is a proof in the fact, that, knowing that his father could afford him no pecuniary aid, and that he must depend upon his own exertions, he opened a public school at the early age of sixteen; and this mode of living he continued to follow for five or six years. He then became a tutor in the family of the Rev. Mr. Tighe, rector of Drumgooland parish. Thence he proceeded to St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he was entered in July, 1802, being at the time five-and-twenty years of age. After nearly four years’ residence, he obtained his B.A. degree, and was ordained to a curacy in Essex, whence he removed into Yorkshire. The course of life of which this is the outline, shows a powerful and remarkable character, originating and pursuing a purpose in a resolute and independent manner. Here is a youth–a boy of sixteen–separating himself from his family, and determining to maintain himself; and that, not in the hereditary manner by agricultural pursuits, but by the labour of his brain.

I suppose, from what I have heard, that Mr. Tighe became strongly interested in his children’s tutor, and may have aided him, not only in the direction of his studies, but in the suggestion of an English university education, and in advice as to the mode in which he should obtain entrance there. Mr. Bronte has now no trace of his Irish origin remaining in his speech; he never could have shown his Celtic descent in the straight Greek lines and long oval of his face; but at five-and-twenty, fresh from the only life he had ever known, to present himself at the gates of St. John’s proved no little determination of will, and scorn of ridicule.

While at Cambridge, he became one of a corps of volunteers, who were then being called out all over the country to resist the apprehended invasion by the French. I have heard him allude, in late years, to Lord Palmerston as one who had often been associated with him then in the mimic military duties which they had to perform.

We take him up now settled as a curate at Hartshead, in Yorkshire- -far removed from his birth-place and all his Irish connections; with whom, indeed, he cared little to keep up any intercourse, and whom he never, I believe, re-visited after becoming a student at Cambridge.

Hartshead is a very small village, lying to the east of Huddersfield and Halifax; and, from its high situation–on a mound, as it were, surrounded by a circular basin–commanding a magnificent view. Mr. Bronte resided here for five years; and, while the incumbent of Hartshead, he wooed and married Maria Branwell.

She was the third daughter of Mr. Thomas Branwell, merchant, of Penzance. Her mother’s maiden name was Carne: and, both on father’s and mother’s side, the Branwell family were sufficiently well descended to enable them to mix in the best society that Penzance then afforded. Mr. and Mrs. Branwell would be living– their family of four daughters and one son, still children–during the existence of that primitive state of society which is well described by Dr. Davy in the life of his brother.

“In the same town, when the population was about 2,000 persons, there was only one carpet, the floors of rooms were sprinkled with sea-sand, and there was not a single silver fork.

“At that time, when our colonial possessions were very limited, our army and navy on a small scale, and there was comparatively little demand for intellect, the younger sons of gentlemen were often of necessity brought up to some trade or mechanical art, to which no discredit, or loss of caste, as it were, was attached. The eldest son, if not allowed to remain an idle country squire, was sent to Oxford or Cambridge, preparatory to his engaging in one of the three liberal professions of divinity, law, or physic; the second son was perhaps apprenticed to a surgeon or apothecary, or a solicitor; the third to a pewterer or watchmaker; the fourth to a packer or mercer, and so on, were there more to be provided for.

“After their apprenticeships were finished, the young men almost invariably went to London to perfect themselves in their respective trade or art: and on their return into the country, when settled in business, they were not excluded from what would now be considered genteel society. Visiting then was conducted differently from what it is at present. Dinner-parties were almost unknown, excepting at the annual feast-time. Christmas, too, was then a season of peculiar indulgence and conviviality, and a round of entertainments was given, consisting of tea and supper. Excepting at these two periods, visiting was almost entirely confined to tea-parties, which assembled at three o’clock, broke up at nine, and the amusement of the evening was commonly some round game at cards, as Pope Joan, or Commerce. The lower class was then extremely ignorant, and all classes were very superstitious; even the belief in witches maintained its ground, and there was an almost unbounded credulity respecting the supernatural and monstrous. There was scarcely a parish in the Mount’s Bay that was without a haunted house, or a spot to which some story of supernatural horror was not attached. Even when I was a boy, I remember a house in the best street of Penzance which was uninhabited because it was believed to be haunted, and which young people walked by at night at a quickened pace, and with a beating heart. Amongst the middle and higher classes there was little taste for literature, and still less for science, and their pursuits were rarely of a dignified or intellectual kind. Hunting, shooting, wrestling, cock-fighting, generally ending in drunkenness, were what they most delighted in. Smuggling was carried on to a great extent; and drunkenness, and a low state of morals, were naturally associated with it. Whilst smuggling was the means of acquiring wealth to bold and reckless adventurers, drunkenness and dissipation occasioned the ruin of many respectable families.”

I have given this extract because I conceive it bears some reference to the life of Miss Bronte, whose strong mind and vivid imagination must have received their first impressions either from the servants (in that simple household, almost friendly companions during the greater part of the day,) retailing the traditions or the news of Haworth village; or from Mr. Bronte, whose intercourse with his children appears to have been considerably restrained, and whose life, both in Ireland and at Cambridge, had been spent under peculiar circumstances; or from her aunt, Miss Branwell, who came to the parsonage, when Charlotte was only six or seven years old, to take charge of her dead sister’s family. This aunt was older than Mrs. Bronte, and had lived longer among the Penzance society, which Dr. Davy describes. But in the Branwell family itself, the violence and irregularity of nature did not exist. They were Methodists, and, as far as I can gather, a gentle and sincere piety gave refinement and purity of character. Mr. Branwell, the father, according to his descendants’ account, was a man of musical talent. He and his wife lived to see all their children grown up, and died within a year of each other–he in 1808, she in 1809, when their daughter Maria was twenty-five or twenty-six years of age. I have been permitted to look over a series of nine letters, which were addressed by her to Mr. Bronte, during the brief term of their engagement in 1812. They are full of tender grace of expression and feminine modesty; pervaded by the deep piety to which I have alluded as a family characteristic. I shall make one or two extracts from them, to show what sort of a person was the mother of Charlotte Bronte: but first, I must state the circumstances under which this Cornish lady met the scholar from Ahaderg, near Loughbrickland. In the early summer of 1812, when she would be twenty-nine, she came to visit her uncle, the Reverend John Fennel, who was at that time a clergyman of the Church of England, living near Leeds, but who had previously been a Methodist minister. Mr. Bronte was the incumbent of Hartshead; and had the reputation in the neighbourhood of being a very handsome fellow, full of Irish enthusiasm, and with something of an Irishman’s capability of falling easily in love. Miss Branwell was extremely small in person; not pretty, but very elegant, and always dressed with a quiet simplicity of taste, which accorded well with her general character, and of which some of the details call to mind the style of dress preferred by her daughter for her favourite heroines. Mr. Bronte was soon captivated by the little, gentle creature, and this time declared that it was for life. In her first letter to him, dated August 26th, she seems almost surprised to find herself engaged, and alludes to the short time which she has known him. In the rest there are touches reminding one of Juliet’s –

“But trust me, gentleman, I’ll prove more true, Than those that have more cunning to be strange.”

There are plans for happy pic-nic parties to Kirkstall Abbey, in the glowing September days, when “Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin Jane,”– the last engaged to a Mr. Morgan, another clergyman–were of the party; all since dead, except Mr. Bronte. There was no opposition on the part of any of her friends to her engagement. Mr. and Mrs. Fennel sanctioned it, and her brother and sisters in far-away Penzance appear fully to have approved of it. In a letter dated September 18th, she says:-

“For some years I have been perfectly my own mistress, subject to no control whatever; so far from it, that my sisters, who are many years older than myself, and even my dear mother, used to consult me on every occasion of importance, and scarcely ever doubted the propriety of my opinions and actions: perhaps you will be ready to accuse me of vanity in mentioning this, but you must consider that I do not boast of it. I have many times felt it a disadvantage, and although, I thank God, it has never led me into error, yet, in circumstances of uncertainty and doubt, I have deeply felt the want of a guide and instructor.” In the same letter she tells Mr. Bronte, that she has informed her sisters of her engagement, and that she should not see them again so soon as she had intended. Mr. Fennel, her uncle, also writes to them by the same post in praise of Mr. Bronte.

The journey from Penzance to Leeds in those days was both very long and very expensive; the lovers had not much money to spend in unnecessary travelling, and, as Miss Branwell had neither father nor mother living, it appeared both a discreet and seemly arrangement that the marriage should take place from her uncle’s house. There was no reason either why the engagement should be prolonged. They were past their first youth; they had means sufficient for their unambitious wants; the living of Hartshead is rated in the Clergy List at 202L. per annum, and she was in the receipt of a small annuity (50L. I have been told) by the will of her father. So, at the end of September, the lovers began to talk about taking a house, for I suppose that Mr. Bronte up to that time had been in lodgings; and all went smoothly and successfully with a view to their marriage in the ensuing winter, until November, when a misfortune happened, which she thus patiently and prettily describes:-

“I suppose you never expected to be much the richer for me, but I am sorry to inform you that I am still poorer than I thought myself. I mentioned having sent for my books, clothes, &c. On Saturday evening, about the time when you were writing the description of your imaginary shipwreck, I was reading and feeling the effects of a real one, having then received a letter from my sister giving me an account of the vessel in which she had sent my box being stranded on the coast of Devonshire, in consequence of which the box was dashed to pieces with the violence of the sea, and all my little property, with the exception of a very few articles, being swallowed up in the mighty deep. If this should not prove the prelude to something worse I shall think little of it, as it is the first disastrous circumstance which has occurred since I left my home.”

The last of these letters is dated December the 5th. Miss Branwell and her cousin intended to set about making the wedding- cake in the following week, so the marriage could not be far off. She had been learning by heart a “pretty little hymn” of Mr. Bronte’s composing; and reading Lord Lyttelton’s “Advice to a Lady,” on which she makes some pertinent and just remarks, showing that she thought as well as read. And so Maria Branwell fades out of sight; we have no more direct intercourse with her; we hear of her as Mrs. Bronte, but it is as an invalid, not far from death; still patient, cheerful, and pious. The writing of these letters is elegant and neat; while there are allusions to household occupations–such as making the wedding-cake; there are also allusions to the books she has read, or is reading, showing a well-cultivated mind. Without having anything of her daughter’s rare talents, Mrs. Bronte must have been, I imagine, that unusual character, a well-balanced and consistent woman. The style of the letters is easy and good; as is also that of a paper from the same hand, entitled “The Advantages of Poverty in Religious Concerns,” which was written rather later, with a view to publication in some periodical.

She was married from her uncle’s house in Yorkshire, on the 29th of December, 1812; the same day was also the wedding-day of her younger sister, Charlotte Branwell, in distant Penzance. I do not think that Mrs. Bronte ever revisited Cornwall, but she has left a very pleasant impression on the minds of those relations who yet survive; they speak of her as “their favourite aunt, and one to whom they, as well as all the family, looked up, as a person of talent and great amiability of disposition;” and, again, as “meek and retiring, while possessing more than ordinary talents, which she inherited from her father, and her piety was genuine and unobtrusive.”

Mr. Bronte remained for five years at Hartshead, in the parish of Dewsbury. There he was married, and his two children, Maria and Elizabeth, were born. At the expiration of that period, he had the living of Thornton, in Bradford Parish. Some of those great West Riding parishes are almost like bishoprics for their amount of population and number of churches. Thornton church is a little episcopal chapel of ease, rich in Nonconformist monuments, as of Accepted Lister and his friend Dr. Hall. The neighbourhood is desolate and wild; great tracts of bleak land, enclosed by stone dykes, sweeping up Clayton heights. The church itself looks ancient and solitary, and as if left behind by the great stone mills of a flourishing Independent firm, and the solid square chapel built by the members of that denomination. Altogether not so pleasant a place as Hartshead, with its ample outlook over cloud-shadowed, sun-flecked plain, and hill rising beyond hill to form the distant horizon.

Here, at Thornton, Charlotte Bronte was born, on the 21st of April, 1816. Fast on her heels followed Patrick Branwell, Emily Jane, and Anne. After the birth of this last daughter, Mrs. Bronte’s health began to decline. It is hard work to provide for the little tender wants of many young children where the means are but limited. The necessaries of food and clothing are much more easily supplied than the almost equal necessaries of attendance, care, soothing, amusement, and sympathy. Maria Bronte, the eldest of six, could only have been a few months more than six years old, when Mr. Bronte removed to Haworth, on February the 25th, 1820. Those who knew her then, describe her as grave, thoughtful, and quiet, to a degree far beyond her years. Her childhood was no childhood; the cases are rare in which the possessors of great gifts have known the blessings of that careless happy time; THEIR unusual powers stir within them, and, instead of the natural life of perception–the objective, as the Germans call it–they begin the deeper life of reflection–the subjective.

Little Maria Bronte was delicate and small in appearance, which seemed to give greater effect to her wonderful precocity of intellect. She must have been her mother’s companion and helpmate in many a household and nursery experience, for Mr. Bronte was, of course, much engaged in his study; and besides, he was not naturally fond of children, and felt their frequent appearance on the scene as a drag both on his wife’s strength, and as an interruption to the comfort of the household.

Haworth Parsonage is–as I mentioned in the first chapter–an oblong stone house, facing down the hill on which the village stands, and with the front door right opposite to the western door of the church, distant about a hundred yards. Of this space twenty yards or so in depth are occupied by the grassy garden, which is scarcely wider than the house. The graveyard lies on two sides of the house and garden. The house consists of four rooms on each floor, and is two stories high. When the Brontes took possession, they made the larger parlour, to the left of the entrance, the family sitting-room, while that on the right was appropriated to Mr. Bronte as a study. Behind this was the kitchen; behind the former, a sort of flagged store-room. Up- stairs were four bed-chambers of similar size, with the addition of a small apartment over the passage, or “lobby” as we call it in the north. This was to the front, the staircase going up right opposite to the entrance. There is the pleasant old fashion of window seats all through the house; and one can see that the parsonage was built in the days when wood was plentiful, as the massive stair-banisters, and the wainscots, and the heavy window- frames testify.

This little extra up-stairs room was appropriated to the children. Small as it was, it was not called a nursery; indeed, it had not the comfort of a fire-place in it; the servants–two affectionate, warm-hearted sisters, who cannot now speak of the family without tears–called the room the “children’s study.” The age of the eldest student was perhaps by this time seven.

The people in Haworth were none of them very poor. Many of them were employed in the neighbouring worsted mills; a few were mill- owners and manufacturers in a small way; there were also some shopkeepers for the humbler and every-day wants; but for medical advice, for stationery, books, law, dress, or dainties, the inhabitants had to go to Keighley. There were several Sunday- schools; the Baptists had taken the lead in instituting them, the Wesleyans had followed, the Church of England had brought up the rear. Good Mr. Grimshaw, Wesley’s friend, had built a humble Methodist chapel, but it stood close to the road leading on to the moor; the Baptists then raised a place of worship, with the distinction of being a few yards back from the highway; and the Methodists have since thought it well to erect another and a larger chapel, still more retired from the road. Mr. Bronte was ever on kind and friendly terms with each denomination as a body; but from individuals in the village the family stood aloof, unless some direct service was required, from the first. “They kept themselves very close,” is the account given by those who remember Mr. and Mrs. Bronte’s coming amongst them. I believe many of the Yorkshiremen would object to the system of parochial visiting; their surly independence would revolt from the idea of any one having a right, from his office, to inquire into their condition, to counsel, or to admonish them. The old hill-spirit lingers in them, which coined the rhyme, inscribed on the under part of one of the seats in the Sedilia of Whalley Abbey, not many miles from Haworth,

“Who mells wi’ what another does
Had best go home and shoe his goose.”

I asked an inhabitant of a district close to Haworth what sort of a clergyman they had at the church which he attended.

“A rare good one,” said he: “he minds his own business, and ne’er troubles himself with ours.”

Mr. Bronte was faithful in visiting the sick and all those who sent for him, and diligent in attendance at the schools; and so was his daughter Charlotte too; but, cherishing and valuing privacy themselves, they were perhaps over-delicate in not intruding upon the privacy of others.

From their first going to Haworth, their walks were directed rather out towards the heathery moors, sloping upwards behind the parsonage, than towards the long descending village street. A good old woman, who came to nurse Mrs. Bronte in the illness–an internal cancer–which grew and gathered upon her, not many months after her arrival at Haworth, tells me that at that time the six little creatures used to walk out, hand in hand, towards the glorious wild moors, which in after days they loved so passionately; the elder ones taking thoughtful care for the toddling wee things.

They were grave and silent beyond their years; subdued, probably, by the presence of serious illness in the house; for, at the time which my informant speaks of, Mrs. Bronte was confined to the bedroom from which she never came forth alive. “You would not have known there was a child in the house, they were such still, noiseless, good little creatures. Maria would shut herself up” (Maria, but seven!) “in the children’s study with a newspaper, and be able to tell one everything when she came out; debates in Parliament, and I don’t know what all. She was as good as a mother to her sisters and brother. But there never were such good children. I used to think them spiritless, they were so different to any children I had ever seen. They were good little creatures. Emily was the prettiest.”

Mrs. Bronte was the same patient, cheerful person as we have seen her formerly; very ill, suffering great pain, but seldom if ever complaining; at her better times begging her nurse to raise her in bed to let her see her clean the grate, “because she did it as it was done in Cornwall;” devotedly fond of her husband, who warmly repaid her affection, and suffered no one else to take the night- nursing; but, according to my informant, the mother was not very anxious to see much of her children, probably because the sight of them, knowing how soon they were to be left motherless, would have agitated her too much. So the little things clung quietly together, for their father was busy in his study and in his parish, or with their mother, and they took their meals alone; sat reading, or whispering low, in the “children’s study,” or wandered out on the hill-side, hand in hand.

The ideas of Rousseau and Mr. Day on education had filtered down through many classes, and spread themselves widely out. I imagine, Mr. Bronte must have formed some of his opinions on the management of children from these two theorists. His practice was not half so wild or extraordinary as that to which an aunt of mine was subjected by a disciple of Mr. Day’s. She had been taken by this gentleman and his wife, to live with them as their adopted child, perhaps about five-and-twenty years before the time of which I am writing. They were wealthy people and kind hearted, but her food and clothing were of the very simplest and rudest description, on Spartan principles. A healthy, merry child, she did not much care for dress or eating; but the treatment which she felt as a real cruelty was this. They had a carriage, in which she and the favourite dog were taken an airing on alternate days; the creature whose turn it was to be left at home being tossed in a blanket–an operation which my aunt especially dreaded. Her affright at the tossing was probably the reason why it was persevered in. Dressed-up ghosts had become common, and she did not care for them, so the blanket exercise was to be the next mode of hardening her nerves. It is well known that Mr. Day broke off his intention of marrying Sabrina, the girl whom he had educated for this purpose, because, within a few weeks of the time fixed for the wedding, she was guilty of the frivolity, while on a visit from home, of wearing thin sleeves. Yet Mr. Day and my aunt’s relations were benevolent people, only strongly imbued with the crotchet that by a system of training might be educed the hardihood and simplicity of the ideal savage, forgetting the terrible isolation of feelings and habits which their pupils would experience in the future life which they must pass among the corruptions and refinements of civilization.

Mr. Bronte wished to make his children hardy, and indifferent to the pleasures of eating and dress. In the latter he succeeded, as far as regarded his daughters.

His strong, passionate, Irish nature was, in general, compressed down with resolute stoicism; but it was there notwithstanding all his philosophic calm and dignity of demeanour; though he did not speak when he was annoyed or displeased. Mrs. Bronte, whose sweet nature thought invariably of the bright side, would say, “Ought I not to be thankful that he never gave me an angry word?”

Mr. Bronte was an active walker, stretching away over the moors for many miles, noting in his mind all natural signs of wind and weather, and keenly observing all the wild creatures that came and went in the loneliest sweeps of the hills. He has seen eagles stooping low in search of food for their young; no eagle is ever seen on those mountain slopes now.

He fearlessly took whatever side in local or national politics appeared to him right. In the days of the Luddites, he had been for the peremptory interference of the law, at a time when no magistrate could be found to act, and all the property of the West Riding was in terrible danger. He became unpopular then among the millworkers, and he esteemed his life unsafe if he took his long and lonely walks unarmed; so he began the habit, which has continued to this day, of invariably carrying a loaded pistol about with him. It lay on his dressing-table with his watch; with his watch it was put on in the morning; with his watch it was taken off at night.

Many years later, during his residence at Haworth, there was a strike; the hands in the neighbourhood felt themselves aggrieved by the masters, and refused to work: Mr. Bronte thought that they had been unjustly and unfairly treated, and he assisted them by all the means in his power to “keep the wolf from their doors,” and avoid the incubus of debt. Several of the more influential inhabitants of Haworth and the neighbourhood were mill-owners; they remonstrated pretty sharply with him, but he believed that his conduct was right and persevered in it.

His opinions might be often both wild and erroneous, his principles of action eccentric and strange, his views of life partial, and almost misanthropical; but not one opinion that he held could be stirred or modified by any worldly motive: he acted up to his principles of action; and, if any touch of misanthropy mingled with his view of mankind in general, his conduct to the individuals who came in personal contact with him did not agree with such view. It is true that he had strong and vehement prejudices, and was obstinate in maintaining them, and that he was not dramatic enough in his perceptions to see how miserable others might be in a life that to him was all-sufficient. But I do not pretend to be able to harmonize points of character, and account for them, and bring them all into one consistent and intelligible whole. The family with whom I have now to do shot their roots down deeper than I can penetrate. I cannot measure them, much less is it for me to judge them. I have named these instances of eccentricity in the father because I hold the knowledge of them to be necessary for a right understanding of the life of his daughter.

Mrs. Bronte died in September, 1821, and the lives of those quiet children must have become quieter and lonelier still. Charlotte tried hard, in after years, to recall the remembrance of her mother, and could bring back two or three pictures of her. One was when, sometime in the evening light, she had been playing with her little boy, Patrick Branwell, in the parlour of Haworth Parsonage. But the recollections of four or five years old are of a very fragmentary character.

Owing to some illness of the digestive organs, Mr. Bronte was obliged to be very careful about his diet; and, in order to avoid temptation, and possibly to have the quiet necessary for digestion, he had begun, before his wife’s death, to take his dinner alone–a habit which he always retained. He did not require companionship, therefore he did not seek it, either in his walks, or in his daily life. The quiet regularity of his domestic hours was only broken in upon by church-wardens, and visitors on parochial business; and sometimes by a neighbouring clergyman, who came down the hills, across the moors, to mount up again to Haworth Parsonage, and spend an evening there. But, owing to Mrs. Bronte’s death so soon after her husband had removed into the district, and also to the distances, and the bleak country to be traversed, the wives of these clerical friends did not accompany their husbands; and the daughters grew up out of childhood into girlhood bereft, in a singular manner, of all such society as would have been natural to their age, sex, and station.

But the children did not want society. To small infantine gaieties they were unaccustomed. They were all in all to each other. I do not suppose that there ever was a family more tenderly bound to each other. Maria read the newspapers, and reported intelligence to her younger sisters which it is wonderful they could take an interest in. But I suspect that they had no “children’s books,” and that their eager minds “browzed undisturbed among the wholesome pasturage of English literature,” as Charles Lamb expresses it. The servants of the household appear to have been much impressed with the little Brontes’ extraordinary cleverness. In a letter which I had from him on this subject, their father writes:- “The servants often said that they had never seen such a clever little child” (as Charlotte), “and that they were obliged to be on their guard as to what they said and did before her. Yet she and the servants always lived on good terms with each other.”

These servants are yet alive; elderly women residing in Bradford. They retain a faithful and fond recollection of Charlotte, and speak of her unvarying kindness from the “time when she was ever such a little child!” when she would not rest till she had got the old disused cradle sent from the parsonage to the house where the parents of one of them lived, to serve for a little infant sister. They tell of one long series of kind and thoughtful actions from this early period to the last weeks of Charlotte Bronte’s life; and, though she had left her place many years ago, one of these former servants went over from Bradford to Haworth on purpose to see Mr. Bronte, and offer him her true sympathy, when his last child died. I may add a little anecdote as a testimony to the admirable character of the likeness of Miss Bronte prefixed to this volume. A gentleman who had kindly interested himself in the preparation of this memoir took the first volume, shortly after the publication, to the house of this old servant, in order to show her the portrait. The moment she caught a glimpse of the frontispiece, “There she is,” in a minute she exclaimed. “Come, John, look!” (to her husband); and her daughter was equally struck by the resemblance. There might not be many to regard the Brontes with affection, but those who once loved them, loved them long and well.

I return to the father’s letter. He says:-

“When mere children, as soon as they could read and write, Charlotte and her brothers and sisters used to invent and act little plays of their own, in which the Duke of Wellington, my daughter Charlotte’s hero, was sure to come off conqueror; when a dispute would not unfrequently arise amongst them regarding the comparative merits of him, Buonaparte, Hannibal, and Caesar. When the argument got warm, and rose to its height, as their mother was then dead, I had sometimes to come in as arbitrator, and settle the dispute according to the best of my judgment. Generally, in the management of these concerns, I frequently thought that I discovered signs of rising talent, which I had seldom or never before seen in any of their age . . . A circumstance now occurs to my mind which I may as well mention. When my children were very young, when, as far as I can remember, the oldest was about ten years of age, and the youngest about four, thinking that they knew more than I had yet discovered, in order to make them speak with less timidity, I deemed that if they were put under a sort of cover I might gain my end; and happening to have a mask in the house, I told them all to stand and speak boldly from under cover of the mask.

“I began with the youngest (Anne, afterwards Acton Bell), and asked what a child like her most wanted; she answered, ‘Age and experience.’ I asked the next (Emily, afterwards Ellis Bell), what I had best do with her brother Branwell, who was sometimes a naughty boy; she answered, ‘Reason with him, and when he won’t listen to reason, whip him.’ I asked Branwell what was the best way of knowing the difference between the intellects of man and woman; he answered, ‘By considering the difference between them as to their bodies.’ I then asked Charlotte what was the best book in the world; she answered, ‘The Bible.’ And what was the next best; she answered, ‘The Book of Nature.’ I then asked the next what was the best mode of education for a woman; she answered, ‘That which would make her rule her house well.’ Lastly, I asked the oldest what was the best mode of spending time; she answered, ‘By laying it out in preparation for a happy eternity.’ I may not have given precisely their words, but I have nearly done so, as they made a deep and lasting impression on my memory. The substance, however, was exactly what I have stated.”

The strange and quaint simplicity of the mode taken by the father to ascertain the hidden characters of his children, and the tone and character of these questions and answers, show the curious education which was made by the circumstances surrounding the Brontes. They knew no other children. They knew no other modes of thought than what were suggested to them by the fragments of clerical conversation which they overheard in the parlour, or the subjects of village and local interest which they heard discussed in the kitchen. Each had their own strong characteristic flavour.

They took a vivid interest in the public characters, and the local and the foreign as well as home politics discussed in the newspapers. Long before Maria Bronte died, at the age of eleven, her father used to say he could converse with her on any of the leading topics of the day with as much freedom and pleasure as with any grown-up person.


About a year after Mrs. Bronte’s death, an elder sister, as I have before mentioned, came from Penzance to superintend her brother- in-law’s household, and look after his children. Miss Branwell was, I believe, a kindly and conscientious woman, with a good deal of character, but with the somewhat narrow ideas natural to one who had spent nearly all her life in the same place. She had strong prejudices, and soon took a distaste to Yorkshire. From Penzance, where plants which we in the north call greenhouse flowers grow in great profusion, and without any shelter even in the winter, and where the soft warm climate allows the inhabitants, if so disposed, to live pretty constantly in the open air, it was a great change for a lady considerably past forty to come and take up her abode in a place where neither flowers nor vegetables would flourish, and where a tree of even moderate dimensions might be hunted for far and wide; where the snow lay long and late on the moors, stretching bleakly and barely far up from the dwelling which was henceforward to be her home; and where often, on autumnal or winter nights, the four winds of heaven seemed to meet and rage together, tearing round the house as if they were wild beasts striving to find an entrance. She missed the small round of cheerful, social visiting perpetually going on in a country town; she missed the friends she had known from her childhood, some of whom had been her parents’ friends before they were hers; she disliked many of the customs of the place, and particularly dreaded the cold damp arising from the flag floors in the passages and parlours of Haworth Parsonage. The stairs, too, I believe, are made of stone; and no wonder, when stone quarries are near, and trees are far to seek. I have heard that Miss Branwell always went about the house in pattens, clicking up and down the stairs, from her dread of catching cold. For the same reason, in the latter years of her life, she passed nearly all her time, and took most of her meals, in her bedroom. The children respected her, and had that sort of affection for her which is generated by esteem; but I do not think they ever freely loved her. It was a severe trial for any one at her time of life to change neighbourhood and habitation so entirely as she did; and the greater her merit.

I do not know whether Miss Branwell taught her nieces anything besides sewing, and the household arts in which Charlotte afterwards was such an adept. Their regular lessons were said to their father; and they were always in the habit of picking up an immense amount of miscellaneous information for themselves. But a year or so before this time, a school had been begun in the North of England for the daughters of clergymen. The place was Cowan Bridge, a small hamlet on the coach-road between Leeds and Kendal, and thus easy of access from Haworth, as the coach ran daily, and one of its stages was at Keighley. The yearly expense for each pupil (according to the entrance-rules given in the Report for 1842, and I believe they had not been increased since the establishment of the schools in 1823) was as follows:

“Rule 11. The terms for clothing, lodging, boarding, and educating, are 14L. a year; half to be paid in advance, when the pupils are sent; and also 1L. entrance-money, for the use of books, &c. The system of education comprehends history, geography, the use of the globes, grammar, writing and arithmetic, all kinds of needlework, and the nicer kinds of household work– such as getting up fine linen, ironing, &c. If accomplishments are required, an additional charge of 3L. a year is made for music or drawing, each.”

Rule 3rd requests that the friends will state the line of education desired in the case of every pupil, having a regard to her future prospects.

Rule 4th states the clothing and toilette articles which a girl is expected to bring with her; and thus concludes: “The pupils all appear in the same dress. They wear plain straw cottage bonnets; in summer white frocks on Sundays, and nankeen on other days; in winter, purple stuff frocks, and purple cloth cloaks. For the sake of uniformity, therefore, they are required to bring 3L. in lieu of frocks, pelisse, bonnet, tippet, and frills; making the whole sum which each pupil brings with her to the school –

7L. half-year in advance.
1L. entrance for books.
1L. entrance for clothes.

The 8th rule is,–“All letters and parcels are inspected by the superintendent;” but this is a very prevalent regulation in all young ladies’ schools, where I think it is generally understood that the schoolmistress may exercise this privilege, although it is certainly unwise in her to insist too frequently upon it.

There is nothing at all remarkable in any of the other regulations, a copy of which was doubtless in Mr. Bronte’s hands when he formed the determination to send his daughters to Cowan Bridge School; and he accordingly took Maria and Elizabeth thither in July, 1824.

I now come to a part of my subject which I find great difficulty in treating, because the evidence relating to it on each side is so conflicting that it seems almost impossible to arrive at the truth. Miss Bronte more than once said to me, that she should not have written what she did of Lowood in “Jane Eyre,” if she had thought the place would have been so immediately identified with Cowan Bridge, although there was not a word in her account of the institution but what was true at the time when she knew it; she also said that she had not considered it necessary, in a work of fiction, to state every particular with the impartiality that might be required in a court of justice, nor to seek out motives, and make allowances for human failings, as she might have done, if dispassionately analysing the conduct of those who had the superintendence of the institution. I believe she herself would have been glad of an opportunity to correct the over-strong impression which was made upon the public mind by her vivid picture, though even she, suffering her whole life long, both in heart and body, from the consequences of what happened there, might have been apt, to the last, to take her deep belief in facts for the facts themselves–her conception of truth for the absolute truth.

In some of the notices of the previous editions of this work, it is assumed that I derived the greater part of my information with regard to her sojourn at Cowan Bridge from Charlotte Bronte herself. I never heard her speak of the place but once, and that was on the second day of my acquaintance with her. A little child on that occasion expressed some reluctance to finish eating his piece of bread at dinner; and she, stooping down, and addressing him in a low voice, told him how thankful she should have been at his age for a piece of bread; and when we–though I am not sure if I myself spoke–asked her some question as to the occasion she alluded to, she replied with reserve and hesitation, evidently shying away from what she imagined might lead to too much conversation on one of her books. She spoke of the oat-cake at Cowan Bridge (the clap-bread of Westmorland) as being different to the leaven-raised oat-cake of Yorkshire, and of her childish distaste for it. Some one present made an allusion to a similar childish dislike in the true tale of “The terrible knitters o’ Dent” given in Southey’s “Common-place Book:” and she smiled faintly, but said that the mere difference in food was not all: that the food itself was spoilt by the dirty carelessness of the cook, so that she and her sisters disliked their meals exceedingly; and she named her relief and gladness when the doctor condemned the meat, and spoke of having seen him spit it out. These are all the details I ever heard from her. She so avoided particularizing, that I think Mr. Carus Wilson’s name never passed between us.

I do not doubt the general accuracy of my informants,–of those who have given, and solemnly repeated, the details that follow,– but it is only just to Miss Bronte to say that I have stated above pretty nearly all that I ever heard on the subject from her.

A clergyman, living near Kirby Lonsdale, the Reverend William Carus Wilson, was the prime mover in the establishment of this school. He was an energetic man, sparing no labour for the accomplishment of his ends. He saw that it was an extremely difficult task for clergymen with limited incomes to provide for the education of their children; and he devised a scheme, by which a certain sum was raised annually by subscription, to complete the amount required to furnish a solid and sufficient English education, for which the parent’s payment of 14L. a year would not have been sufficient. Indeed, that made by the parents was considered to be exclusively appropriated to the expenses of lodging and boarding, and the education provided for by the subscriptions. Twelve trustees were appointed; Mr. Wilson being not only a trustee, but the treasurer and secretary; in fact, taking most of the business arrangements upon himself; a responsibility which appropriately fell to him, as he lived nearer the school than any one else who was interested in it. So his character for prudence and judgment was to a certain degree implicated in the success or failure of Cowan Bridge School; and the working of it was for many years the great object and interest of his life. But he was apparently unacquainted with the prime element in good administration–seeking out thoroughly competent persons to fill each department, and then making them responsible for, and judging them by, the result, without perpetual interference with the details.

So great was the amount of good which Mr. Wilson did, by his constant, unwearied superintendence, that I cannot help feeling sorry that, in his old age and declining health, the errors which he was believed to have committed, should have been brought up against him in a form which received such wonderful force from the touch of Miss Bronte’s great genius. No doubt whatever can be entertained of the deep interest which he felt in the success of the school. As I write, I have before me his last words on giving up the secretaryship in 1850: he speaks of the “withdrawal, from declining health, of an eye, which, at all events, has loved to watch over the schools with an honest and anxious interest;”–and again he adds, “that he resigns, therefore, with a desire to be thankful for all that God has been pleased to accomplish through his instrumentality (the infirmities and unworthinesses of which he deeply feels and deplores).”

Cowan Bridge is a cluster of some six or seven cottages, gathered together at both ends of a bridge, over which the high road from Leeds to Kendal crosses a little stream, called the Leck. This high road is nearly disused now; but formerly, when the buyers from the West Riding manufacturing districts had frequent occasion to go up into the North to purchase the wool of the Westmorland and Cumberland farmers, it was doubtless much travelled; and perhaps the hamlet of Cowan Bridge had a more prosperous look than it bears at present. It is prettily situated; just where the Leck-fells swoop into the plain; and by the course of the beck alder-trees and willows and hazel bushes grow. The current of the stream is interrupted by broken pieces of grey rock; and the waters flow over a bed of large round white pebbles, which a flood heaves up and moves on either side out of its impetuous way till in some parts they almost form a wall. By the side of the little, shallow, sparkling, vigorous Leck, run long pasture fields, of the fine short grass common in high land; for though Cowan Bridge is situated on a plain, it is a plain from which there is many a fall and long descent before you and the Leck reach the valley of the Lune. I can hardly understand how the school there came to be so unhealthy, the air all round about was so sweet and thyme-scented, when I visited it last summer. But at this day, every one knows that the site of a building intended for numbers should be chosen with far greater care than that of a private dwelling, from the tendency to illness, both infectious and otherwise, produced by the congregation of people in close proximity.