Selected English Letters (XV - XIX Centuries)

Part 7 out of 7

degree to the enemy. Nevertheless, if my presence can really be of any
assistance in uniting two or more parties, I am ready to go anywhere,
either as a mediator, or, if necessary, as a hostage. In these affairs
I have neither private views, nor private dislike of any individual,
but the sincere wish of deserving the name of the friend of your
country, and of her patriots.



_His first marriage_

[_No date. Postmark_, Rhayader. Summer of 1811.]


You will perhaps see me before you can answer this; perhaps not;
Heaven knows! I shall certainly come to York, but _Harriet Westbrook_
will decide whether now or in three weeks. Her father has persecuted
her in a most horrible way, by endeavouring to compel her to go to
school. She asked my advice: resistance, was the answer, at the same
time that I essayed to mollify Mr. W. in vain! And in consequence of
my advice _she_ has thrown herself upon _my_ protection.

I set off for London on Monday. How flattering a distinction!--I am
thinking of ten million things at once.

What have I said? I declare, quite _ludicrous_. I advised her to
resist. She wrote to say that resistance was useless, but that she
would fly with me, and threw herself upon my protection. We shall have
L200 a year; when we find it run short, we must live, I suppose, upon
love! Gratitude and admiration, all demand that I should love her
_for ever._ We shall see you at York. I will hear your arguments for
matrimonialism, by which I am now almost convinced. I can get lodgings
at York, I suppose. Direct to me at Graham's, 18, Sackville Street,

Your inclosure of L10 has arrived; I am now indebted to you L30.
In spite of philosophy, I am rather ashamed of this unceremonious
exsiccation of your financial river. But indeed, my dear friend, the
gratitude which I owe you for your society and attachment ought so far
to overbalance this consideration as to leave me nothing but that. I
must, however, pay you when I can.

I suspect that the _strain_ is gone for ever. This letter will
convince you that I am not under the influence of a _strain_.

I am thinking at once of ten million things. I shall come to live near
you, as Mr. Peyton.

Ever your most faithful friend.

I shall be at 18, Sackville Street; at least direct there. Do not send
more cash; I shall raise supplies in London.


_An introduction_

Keswick, 3 _Jan_. 1812.

You will be surprised at hearing from a stranger. No introduction has,
nor in all probability ever will authorize that which common thinkers
would call a liberty; it is, however, a liberty which, although not
sanctioned by custom, is so far from being reprobated by reason, that
the dearest interests of mankind imperiously demand that a certain
etiquette of fashion should no longer keep 'man at a distance from
man', or impose its flimsy fancies between the free communication of

The name of Godwin has been used to excite in me feelings of reverence
and admiration. I have been accustomed to consider him a luminary
too dazzling for the darkness which surrounds him. From the earliest
period of my knowledge of his principles, I have ardently desired
to share, on the footing of intimacy, that intellect which I have
delighted to contemplate in its emanations.

Considering, then, these feelings, you will not be surprised at the
inconceivable emotions with which I learned your existence and your
dwelling. I had enrolled your name in the list of the honourable dead.
I had felt regret that the glory of your being had passed from this
earth of ours. It is not so; you still live, and, I firmly believe,
are still planning the welfare of human kind.

I have but just entered on the scene of human operations; yet my
feelings and my reasonings correspond with what yours were. My course
has been short, but eventful. I have seen much of human prejudice,
suffered much from human persecution, yet I see no reason hence
inferable which should alter my wishes for their renovation. The
ill-treatment I have met with has more than ever impressed the truth
of my principles on my judgement. I am young, I am ardent in the cause
of philanthropy and truth; do not suppose that this is vanity; I am
not conscious that it influences this portraiture. I imagine myself
dispassionately describing the state of my mind. I am young; you
have gone before me--I doubt not, are a veteran to me in the years of
persecution. Is it strange that, defying prejudice as I have done; I
should outstep the limits of custom's prescription, and endeavour to
make my desire useful by a friendship with William Godwin?

I pray you to answer this letter. Imperfect as may be my capacity,
my desire is ardent and unintermitted. Half an hour would be at least
humanely employed in the experiment. I may mistake your residence;
certain feelings, of which I may be an inadequate arbiter, may induce
you to desire concealment; I may not, in fine, have an answer to this
letter. If I do not, when I come to London, I shall seek for you. I am
convinced I could represent myself to you in such terms as not to be
thought wholly unworthy of your friendship; at least, if desire for
universal happiness has any claim upon your preference, that desire I
can exhibit. Adieu! I shall earnestly await your answer.


_A subscription for Hunt_

_February_ 1813.


I am boiling with indignation at the horrible injustice and tyranny
of the sentence pronounced on Hunt and his brother; and it is on this
subject that I write to you. Surely the seal of abjectness and slavery
is indelibly stamped upon the character of England.

Although I do not retract in the slightest degree my wish for a
subscription for the widows and children of those poor men hung at
York, yet this L1000 which the Hunts are sentenced to pay is an affair
of more consequence. Hunt is a brave, a good, and an enlightened man.
Surely the public, for whom Hunt has done so much, will repay in part
the great debt of obligation which they owe the champion of their
liberties and virtues; or are they dead, cold, stone-hearted, and
insensible--brutalized by centuries of unremitting bondage?
However that may be, they surely may be excited into some slight
acknowledgement of his merits. Whilst hundreds of thousands are sent
to the tyrants of Russia, he pines in a dungeon, far from all that can
make life desired.

Well, I am rather poor at present; but I have L20 which is not
immediately wanted. Pray, begin a subscription for the Hunts; put down
my name for that sum, and, when I hear that you have complied with my
request, I will send it you. Now, if there are any difficulties in
the way of this scheme of ours, for the love of liberty and virtue,
overcome them. Oh! that I might wallow for one night in the Bank of

_Queen Mab_ is finished and transcribed. I am now preparing the notes,
which shall be long and philosophical. You will receive it with the
other poems. I think that the whole should form one volume; but of
that we can speak hereafter.

As to the French _Encyclopedie_, it is a book which I am
desirous--very desirous--of possessing, and if you could get me a few
months' credit (being at present rather low in cash), I should very
much desire to have it.

My dear sir, excuse the earnestness of the first part of my letter. I
feel warmly on this subject, and I flatter myself that so long as your
own independence and liberty remain uncompromised, you are inclined to
second my desires.

PS. If no other way can be devised for this subscription, will you
take the trouble on yourself of writing an appropriate advertisement
for the papers, inserting, by way of stimulant, my subscription?

On second thoughts, I enclose the L20.


_An article by Southey_

Florence, 15 _Oct_. 1819.


The droll remarks of the _Quarterly_, and Hunt's kind defence, arrived
as safe as such poison, and safer than such an antidote, usually do.

I am on the point of sending to you 250 copies of a work which I have
printed in Italy; which you will have to pay four or five pounds duty
upon, on my account. Hunt will tell you the _kind of thing_ it is,
and in the course of the winter I shall send directions for its
publication, _until the arrival of which directions, I request that
you would have the kindness not_ to open the box, _or, if by necessity
it is opened, to abstain from observing yourself or permitting others
to observe, what it contains_. I trust this confidently to you, it
being of consequence. Meanwhile, assure yourself that this work has no
reference, direct or indirect, to politics, or religion, or personal
satire, and that this precaution is merely literary.

The _Prometheus_, a poem in my best style, whatever that may amount
to, will arrive with it, but in MS., which you can print and publish
in the season. It is the most perfect of my productions.

Southey wrote the article in question, I am well aware. Observe the
impudence of the man in speaking of himself. The only remark worth
notice in this piece is the assertion that I imitate Wordsworth.
It may as well be said that Lord Byron imitates Wordsworth, or that
Wordsworth imitates Lord Byron, both being great poets, and deriving
from the new springs of thought and feeling, which the great events
of our age have exposed to view, a similar tone of sentiment, imagery,
and expression. A certain similarity all the best writers of any
particular age inevitably are marked with, from the spirit of that age
acting on all. This I had explained in my _Preface_, which the
writer was too disingenuous to advert to. As to the other trash, and
particularly that lame attack on my personal character, which was
meant so ill, and which I am not the man to feel, 'tis all nothing. I
am glad, with respect to that part of it which alludes to Hunt, that
it should so have happened that I dedicate, as you will see, a work
which has all the capacities for being popular to that excellent
person. I was amused, too, with the finale; it is like the end of the
first act of an opera, when that tremendous concordant discord sets
up from the orchestra, and everybody talks and sings at once. It
describes the result of my battle with their Omnipotent God; his
pulling me under the sea by the hair of my head, like Pharaoh; my
calling out like the devil who was _game_ to the last; swearing and
cursing in all comic and horrid oaths, like a French postilion on
Mount Cenis; entreating everybody to drown themselves; pretending not
to be drowned myself when I _am_ drowned; and lastly, _being_ drowned.

You would do me a particular kindness if you would call on Hunt, and
ask him when my parcel went, the name of the ship, and the name of the
captain, and whether he has any bill of lading, which, if he has, you
would oblige me by sending, together with the rest of the information,
by return of post, addressed to the Post Office, Florence.


_Keats and some others_

[Pisa] 11 _Nov_. 1820.


I am delighted to hear that you complain of me for not writing to you,
although I have much more reason to complain of you for not writing to
me. At least it promises me a letter from you, and you know with what
pleasure we receive, and with what anxiety we expect intelligence from
you--almost the only friends who now remain to us.

I am afraid that the strict system of expense to which you are limited
annoys you all very much, and that Hunt's health suffers both from
that and from the incredible exertions which I see by the _Indicators_
and the _Examiners_ that he is making. Would to Heaven that I had the
power of doing you some good! but when you are sure that the wish is
sincere, the bare expression of it may help to cheer you.

The Gisbornes are arrived, and have brought news of you, and some
books, the principal part of which, however, are yet to arrive by
sea. Keats's new volume has arrived to us, and the fragment called
_Hyperion_ promises for him that he is destined to become one of the
first writers of the age. His other things are imperfect enough, and,
what is worse, written in the bad sort of style which is becoming
fashionable among those who fancy that they are imitating Hunt and
Wordsworth. But of all these things nothing is worse than ----, in
spite of Hunt's extracting the only good stanzas, with his usual good
nature. Indeed, _I_ ought not to complain of Hunt's good nature, for
no one owes so much to it. Is not the vulgarity of these wretched
imitations of Lord Byron carried to a pitch of the sublime? His
indecencies, too, both against sexual nature, and against human
nature in general, sit very awkwardly upon him. He only affects the
libertine: he is, really, a very amiable, friendly, and agreeable
man, I hear. But is not this monstrous? In Lord Byron all this has
an analogy with the general system of his character, and the wit and
poetry which surround hide with their light the darkness of the thing
itself. They contradict it even; they prove that the strength and
beauty of human nature can survive and conquer all that appears most
inconsistent with it. But for a writer to be at once filthy and dull
is a crime against gods, men, and columns. For Heaven's sake do not
show this to any one but Hunt, for it would irritate the wasp's nest
of the irritable race of poets.

Where is Keats now? I am anxiously expecting him in Italy, when I
shall take care to bestow every possible attention on him. I consider
his a most valuable life, and I am deeply interested in his safety. I
intend to be the physician both of his body and his soul, to keep
the one warm, and to teach the other Greek and Spanish. I am aware,
indeed, in part, that I am nourishing a rival who will far surpass me;
and this is an additional motive, and will be an added pleasure.

We are at this moment removing from the Bagni to Pisa, for the Serchio
has broken its banks, and all the country about is under water. An old
friend and fellow-townsman of mine, Captain Medwin, is on a visit to
us at present, and we anxiously expect Keats, to whom I would write if
I knew where to address.

Adieu, my dear Marianne. Write soon; kiss all the babes for me, and
tell me news of them, and give my love to Bessy and Hunt.


_A literary collaboration_

Pisa, 26 _Aug._ 1821.


Since I last wrote to you, I have been on a visit to Lord Byron at
Ravenna. The result of this visit was a determination, on his part, to
come and live at Pisa; and I have taken the finest palace on the Lung'
Arno for him. But the material part of my visit consists in a message
which he desires me to give you, and which, I think, ought to add
to your determination--for such a one I hope you have formed--of
restoring your shattered health and spirits by a migration to these
'regions mild of calm and serene air'.

He proposes that you should come out and go shares with him and me,
in a periodical work, to be conducted here; in which each of the
contracting parties should publish all their original compositions and
share the profits. He proposed it to Moore, but for some reason it was
never brought to bear. There can be no doubt that the _profits_ of
any scheme in which you and Lord Byron engage, must, from various,
yet co-operating reasons, be very great. As for myself, I am for the
present only a sort of link between you and him, until you can know
each other, and effectuate the arrangement; since (to entrust you with
a secret which, for your sake, I withhold from Lord Byron) nothing
would induce me to share in the profits, and still less, in the
borrowed splendour of such a partnership. You and he, in different
manners, would be equal, and would bring, in a different manner, but
in the same proportion, equal stocks of reputation and success. Do not
let my frankness with you, nor my belief that you deserve it more than
Lord Byron, have the effect of deterring you from assuming a station
in modern literature which the universal voice of my contemporaries
forbids me either to stoop or to aspire to. I am, and I desire to be,

I did not ask Lord Byron to assist me in sending a remittance for your
journey; because there are men, however excellent, from whom we would
never receive an obligation, in the worldly sense of the word; and I
am as jealous for my friend as for myself. But I suppose that I shall
at last make up an impudent face, and ask Horace Smith to add to the
many obligations he has conferred on me. I know I need only ask.

I think I have never told you how very much I like your _Amyntas_; it
almost reconciles me to translations. In another sense I still demur.
You might have written another such a poem as the _Nymphs_, with no
access of efforts. I am full of thoughts and plans, and should do
something, if the feeble and irritable frame which incloses it was
willing to obey the spirit. I fancy that then I should do great
things. Before this you will have seen _Adonais_. Lord Byron, I
suppose from modesty, on account of his being mentioned in it, did
not say a word of _Adonais_, though he was loud in his praise of
_Prometheus_, and, what you will not agree with him in, censure of
the _Cenci_. Certainly, if _Marino Faliero_ is a drama, the _Cenci_
is not--but that between ourselves. Lord Byron is reformed, as far
as gallantry goes, and lives with a beautiful and sentimental Italian
lady, who is as much attached to him as may be. I trust greatly to his
intercourse with you, for his creed to become as pure as he thinks his
conduct is. He has many generous and exalted qualities, but the canker
of aristocracy wants to be cut out.




_Burns's cottage_

Maybole, 11 _July_ [1818].


... I am approaching Burns's cottage very fast. We have made continual
inquiries from the time we saw his tomb at Dumfries. His name, of
course, is known all about: his great reputation among the plodding
people is, 'that he wrote a good _mony_ sensible things'. One of the
pleasantest means of annulling self is approaching such a shrine as
the Cottage of Burns: we need not think of his misery--that is all
gone, bad luck to it! I shall look upon it hereafter with unmixed
pleasure, as I do my Stratford-on-Avon day with Bailey. I shall fill
this sheet for you in the Bardie's country, going no further than
this, till I get to the town of Ayr, which will be a nine miles' walk
to tea.

We were talking on different and indifferent things, when, on a
sudden, we turned a corner upon the immediate country of Ayr. The
sight was as rich as possible. I had no conception that the native
place of Burns was so beautiful; the idea I had was more desolate: his
'_Rigs of Barley_' seemed always to me but a few strips of green on a
cold hill--Oh, prejudice!--It was as rich as Devon. I endeavoured
to drink in the prospect, that I might spin it out to you, as the
silkworm makes silk from mulberry leaves. I cannot recollect it.
Besides all the beauty, there were the mountains of Arran Isle, black
and huge over the sea. We came down upon everything suddenly; there
were in our way the 'bonny Doon', with the brig that Tam o' Shanter
crossed, Kirk Alloway, Burns's Cottage, and then the Brigs of Ayr.
First we stood upon the Bridge across the Doon, surrounded by every
phantasy of green in tree, meadow, and hill: the stream of the Doon,
as a farmer told us, is covered with trees 'from head to foot'.
You know those beautiful heaths, so fresh against the weather of a
summer's evening; there was one stretching along behind the trees.

I wish I knew always the humour my friends would be in at opening
a letter of mine, to suit it to them as nearly as possible. I could
always find an egg-shell for melancholy, and, as for merriment, a
witty humour will turn anything to account. My head is sometimes in
such a whirl in considering the million likings and antipathies of our
moments, that I can get into no settled strain in my letters. My wig!
Burns and sentimentality coming across you and Frank Floodgate in the
office. Oh, Scenery, that thou shouldst be crushed between two puns!
As for them, I venture the rascalliest in the Scotch region. I hope
Brown does not put them in his journal: if he does, I must sit on the
cutty-stool all next winter. We went to Kirk Alloway. 'A prophet is
no prophet in his own country.' We went to the Cottage and took some
whisky. I wrote a sonnet for the mere sake of writing some lines under
the roof: they are so bad I cannot transcribe them. The man at the
cottage was a great bore with his anecdotes. I hate the rascal. His
life consists in fuzy, fuzzy, fuzziest. He drinks glasses, five for
the quarter, and twelve for the hour; he is a mahogany-faced old
jackass who knew Burns: he ought to have been kicked for having spoken
to him. He calls himself 'a curious old bitch', but he is a flat
old dog. I should like to employ Caliph Vathek to kick him. Oh, the
flummery of a birthplace! Cant! cant! cant! It is enough to give
a spirit the guts-ache. Many a true word, they say, is spoken in
jest--this may be because his gab hindered my sublimity: the flat dog
made me write a flat sonnet. My dear Reynolds, I cannot write about
scenery and visitings. Fancy is indeed less than a present palpable
reality, but it is greater than remembrance. You would lift your eyes
from Homer only to see close before you the real Isle of Tenedos. You
would rather read Homer afterwards than remember yourself. One song
of Burns's is of more worth to you than all I could think for a whole
year in his native country. His misery is a dead weight upon the
nimbleness of one's quill; I tried to forget it--to drink toddy
without any care--to write a merry sonnet--it won't do--he talked, he
drank with blackguards; he was miserable. We can see horribly clear,
in the works of such a man, his whole life, as if we were God's


_The poetic character_

Hampstead, 27 _Oct_. 1818.


Your letter gave me great satisfaction, more on account of its
friendliness than any relish of that matter in it which is accounted
so acceptable in the _genus irritabile_. The best answer I can
give you is in a clerklike manner to make some observations on two
principal points which seem to point like indices into the midst of
the whole _pro_ and _con_ about genius, and views, and achievements,
and ambition, _et coetera_. 1st. As to the poetical character itself
(I mean that sort, of which, if I am anything, I am a member; that
sort distinguished from the Wordsworthian, or egotistical sublime;
which is a thing _per se_, and stands alone), it is not itself--it has
no self--it is everything and nothing--it has no character--it enjoys
light and shade--it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low,
rich or poor, mean or elevated--it has as much delight in conceiving
an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher delights
the chameleon poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side
of things, any more than from its taste for the bright one, because
they both end in speculation. A poet is the most unpoetical of
anything in existence, because he has no identity; he is continually
in for, and filling, some other body. The sun, the moon, the sea, and
men and women, who are creatures of impulse, are poetical, and have
about them an unchangeable attribute; the poet has none, no identity.
He is certainly the most unpoetical of all God's creatures. If, then,
he has no self, and if I am a poet, where is the wonder that I should
say I would write no more? Might I not at that very instant have been
cogitating on the characters of Saturn and Ops? It is a wretched thing
to confess, but it is a very fact, that not one word I ever utter can
be taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical nature.
How can it, when I have no nature? When I am in a room with people,
if I ever am free from speculating on creations of my own brain, then,
not myself goes home to myself, but the identity of every one in the
room begins to press upon me, [so] that I am in a very little time
annihilated--not only among men; it would be the same in a nursery of
children. I know not whether I make myself wholly understood: I hope
enough so to let you see that no dependence is to be placed on what I
said that day.

In the second place, I will speak of my views, and of the life I
purpose to myself. I am ambitious of doing the world some good: if
I should be spared, that may be the work of maturer years--in the
interval I will assay to reach to as high a summit in poetry as the
nerve bestowed upon me will suffer. The faint conceptions I have of
poems to come bring the blood frequently into my forehead. All I
hope is, that I may not lose all interest in human affairs--that
the solitary indifference I feel for applause, even from the finest
spirits, will not blunt any acuteness of vision I may have. I do not
think it will. I feel assured I should write from the mere yearning
and fondness I have for the beautiful, even if my night's labours
should be burnt every morning, and no eye ever shine upon them.
But even now I am perhaps not speaking from myself, but from some
character in whose soul I now live ...


_Returning advice_

Hampstead, 10 _Aug_. 1820.


I am very much gratified that you, in a foreign country, and with a
mind almost over-occupied, should write to me in the strain of the
letter beside me. If I do not take advantage of your invitation,
it will be prevented by a circumstance I have very much at heart to
prophesy. There is no doubt that an English winter would put an end to
me, and do so in a lingering, hateful manner. Therefore, I must either
voyage or journey to Italy, as a soldier marches up to a battery.
My nerves at present are the worst part of me, yet they feel soothed
that, come what extreme may, I shall not be destined to remain in one
spot long enough to take a hatred of any four particular bedposts. I
am glad you take any pleasure in my poor poem, which I would willingly
take the trouble to unwrite, if possible, did I care so much as I
have done about reputation. I received a copy of the _Cenci_, as from
yourself, from Hunt. There is only one part of it I am judge of--the
poetry and dramatic effect, which by many spirits nowadays is
considered the Mammon. A modern work, it is said, must have a purpose,
which may be the God. An artist must serve Mammon; he must have
'self-concentration'--selfishness, perhaps. You, I am sure,
will forgive me for sincerely remarking that you might curb your
magnanimity, and be more of an artist, and load every rift of your
subject with ore. The thought of such discipline must fall like cold
chains upon you, who perhaps never sat with your wings furled for six
months together. And is not this extraordinary talk for the writer of
_Endymion_, whose mind was like a pack of scattered cards? I am picked
up and sorted to a pip. My imagination is a monastery, and I am its
monk. I am in expectation of _Prometheus_ every day. Could I have my
own wish effected, you would have it still in manuscript, or be but
now putting an end to the second act. I remember you advising me not
to publish my first blights, on Hampstead Heath. I am returning advice
upon your hands. Most of the poems in the volume I send you have been
written above two years, and would never have been published but for a
hope of gain; so you see I am inclined enough to take your advice now.
I must express once more my deep sense of your kindness, adding my
sincere thanks and respects for Mrs. Shelley. In hope of soon seeing


_A despairing cry_

Naples, 1 _Nov_. [1820.]


Yesterday we were let out of quarantine, during which my health
suffered more from bad air and the stifled cabin than it had done the
whole voyage. The fresh air revived me a little, and I hope I am well
enough this morning to write to you a short calm letter;--if that can
be called one, in which I am afraid to speak of what I would
fainest dwell upon. As I have gone thus far into it, I must go on
a little;--perhaps it may relieve the load of _wretchedness_ which
presses upon me. The persuasion that I shall see her no more will kill
me. My dear Brown, I should have had her when I was in health, and I
should have remained well. I can bear to die--I cannot bear to leave
her. Oh, God! God! God! Everything I have in my trunks that reminds
me of her goes through me like a spear. The silk lining she put in my
travelling cap scalds my head. My imagination is horribly vivid
about her--I see her--I hear her. There is nothing in the world of
sufficient interest to divert me from her a moment. This was the case
when I was in England: I cannot recollect, without shuddering, the
time that I was a prisoner at Hunt's, and used to keep my eyes
fixed on Hampstead all day. Then there was a good hope of seeing
her again--Now!--O that I could be buried near where she lives! I
am afraid to write to her--to receive a letter from her--to see her
handwriting would break my heart--even to hear of her anyhow, to see
her name written, would be more than I can bear. My dear Brown, what
am I to do? Where can I look for consolation or ease? If I had any
chance of recovery, this passion would kill me. Indeed, through the
whole of my illness, both at your house and at Kentish Town, this
fever has never ceased wearing me out. When you write to me, which you
will do immediately, write to Rome (_poste restante_)--if she is well
and happy, put a mark thus +; if--

Remember me to all. I will endeavour to bear my miseries patiently.
A person in my state of health should not have such miseries to bear.
Write a short note to my sister, saying you have heard from me. Severn
is very well. If I were in better health I would urge your coming to
Rome. I fear there is no one can give me any comfort. Is there any
news of George? O that something fortunate had ever happened to me or
my brothers!--then I might hope,--but despair is forced upon me as a
habit. My dear Brown, for my sake, be her advocate for ever. I
cannot say a word about Naples; I do not feel at all concerned in the
thousand novelties around me. I am afraid to write to her. I should
like her to know that I do not forget her. Oh, Brown, I have coals of
fire in my breast. It surprises me that the human heart is capable of
containing and bearing so much misery. Was I born for this end? God
bless her, and her mother, and my sister, and George, and his wife,
and you, and all!...




_American Notes_

17 Elm Tree Road, 12 _Oct_. 1842.


Can you let me have an early copy of the _American Notes_ so that I
may review it in the _New Monthly_? Is it really likely to be ready
as advertised? I aim this at Devonshire Place, supposing you to be
returned, for with these winds 'tis no fit time for the coast. But
your bones are not so weather unwise (for ignorance _is_ bliss) as
mine. I should have asked this by word of mouth in Devonshire Place,
but the weather has kept me indoors. It is no fiction that the
complaint, derived from Dutch malaria seven years ago, is revived by
Easterly winds. Otherwise I have been better than usual, and 'never
say die'. Don't forget about the Yankee Notes. I never had but one
American friend, and lost him through _a good crop of pears_. He paid
us a visit in England; whereupon in honour of him, a pear tree, which
had never borne fruit to speak of within memory of man, was loaded
with ninety dozen of brown somethings. Our gardener said they were
a _keeping_ sort, and would be good at Christmas; whereupon, as our
Jonathan was on the eve of sailing for the States, we sent him a few
dozens to dessert him on the voyage. Some he put at the bottom of a
trunk (he wrote to us) to take to America; but he could not have been
gone above a day or two, when all _our_ pears began to rot! _His_
would, of course, by sympathy, and I presume spoilt his linen or
clothes, for I have never heard of him since. Perhaps he thought I had
_done_ him on purpose, and for sartin the tree, my accomplice, never
bore any more pears, good or bad, after that supernatural crop.

Pray present my respects for me to Mrs. Dickens. How she must enjoy
being at home and discovering her children, after her Columbusing, and
only discovering America!


_The uses of literature_

(From my bed)

17 Elm Tree Road, St. John's Wood, 18 _July_, 1843.


If my humble name can be of the least use for your purpose, it is
heartily at your service, with my best wishes for the prosperity of
the Manchester Athenaeum, and my warmest approval of the objects of
that Institution.

I have elsewhere recorded my own deep obligations to Literature--that
a natural turn for reading, and intellectual pursuits, probably
preserved me from the moral shipwreck so apt to befall those who are
deprived in early life of the paternal pilotage. At the very least my
books kept me aloof from the ring, the dog-pit, the tavern, and the
saloons, with their degrading orgies. For the closet associate of Pope
and Addison, the mind accustomed to the noble, though silent discourse
of Shakespeare and Milton, will hardly seek, or put up with low
company and slang. The reading animal will not be content with the
brutish wallowings that satisfy the unlearned pigs of the world.
Later experience enables me to depose to the comfort and blessing that
literature can prove in seasons of sickness and sorrow; how powerfully
intellectual pursuits can help in keeping the head from crazing, and
the heart from breaking; nay, not to be too grave, how generous mental
food can even atone for a meagre diet; rich fare on the paper, for
short commons on the cloth.

Poisoned by the malaria of the Dutch marshes, my stomach for many
months resolutely set itself against fish, flesh, or fowl; my appetite
had no more edge than the German knife placed before me. But luckily
the mental palate and digestion were still sensible and vigorous; and
whilst I passed untasted every dish at the Rhenish table-d'-hote,
I could still enjoy my _Peregrine Pickle_, and the feast after the
manner of the Ancients. There was no yearning towards calf's head
_a la tortue_, or sheep's heart; but I could still relish Head _a la
Brunnen_, and the _Heart of Mid-Lothian._ Still more recently it was
my misfortune, with a tolerable appetite, to be condemned to Lenten
fare, like Sancho Panza, by my physician, to a diet, in fact, lower
than any prescribed by the Poor-Law Commissioners, all animal food,
from a bullock to a rabbit, being strictly interdicted, as well as
all fluids stronger than that which lays dust, washes pinafores, and
waters polyanthus. But the feast of reason and the flow of soul were
still mine!

Denied beef, I had Bulwer and Cowper; forbidden mutton, there was
Lamb; and in lieu of pork, the great Bacon, or Hogg. Then as to
beverage; it was hard, doubtless, for a Christian to set his face,
like a Turk, against the juice of the grape. But, eschewing wine,
I had still my Butler; and in the absence of liquor, all the Choice
Spirits from Tom Browne to Tom Moore. Thus though confined physically
to the drink that drowns kittens, I quaffed mentally, not merely the
best of our own home-made, but the rich, racy, sparkling growths of
France and Italy, of Germany and Spain; the champagne of Moliere, the
Monte Pulciano of Boccaccio, the hock of Schiller, and the sherry of
Cervantes. Depressed bodily by the fluid that damps everything, I got
intellectually elevated with Milton, a little merry with Swift, or
rather jolly with Rabelais, whose Pantagruel, by the way, is equal to
the best gruel with rum in it.

So far can Literature palliate, or compensate, for gastronomical
privations. But there are other evils, great and small, in this world,
which try the stomach less than the head, the heart, and the temper;
bowls that will not roll right, well-laid schemes that will 'gang
aglee', and ill winds that blow with the pertinacity of the monsoon.
Of these Providence has allotted me a full share, but still,
paradoxical as it may sound, my _burthen_ has been greatly lightened
by a _load of books_. The manner of this will be best understood by a
_feline_ illustration. Everybody has heard of the two Kilkenny cats,
who devoured each other; but it is not so generally known, that they
left behind them an orphan kitten, which, true to its breed, began to
eat itself up, till it was diverted from the operation by a mouse. Now
the human mind, under vexation, is like that kitten, for it is apt to
_prey upon itself_, unless drawn off by a new object, and none better
for the purpose than a book. For example, one of Defoe's; for who,
in reading his thrilling _History of the Great Plague_, would not be
reconciled to a few little ones?

Many, many a dreary weary hour have I got over--many a gloomy
misgiving postponed--many a mental and bodily annoyance forgotten by
help of the tragedies, and comedies, of our dramatists and novelists!
Many a trouble has been soothed by the still small voice of the moral
philosopher; many a dragon-like care charmed to sleep by the sweet
song of the poet! For all which I cry incessantly, not aloud, but in
my heart, 'Thanks and honour to the glorious masters of the pen, and
the great inventors of the press!' Such has been my own experience of
the blessing and comfort of literature and intellectual pursuits;
and of the same mind, doubtless, was Sir Humphry Davy, who went for
_Consolations in Travel_, not to the inn, or the posting-house, but to
his library and his books.


_A humourist to the last_



God bless you and yours, and good-bye! I drop these few lines, as in a
bottle from a ship water-logged, and on the brink of foundering, being
in the last stage of dropsical debility; but though suffering in body,
serene in mind. So without reversing my union-jack, I await my last
lurch. Till which, believe me, dear Moir,

Yours most truly.


_A farewell letter_

Devonshire Lodge, New Finchley Road, [1845].


We are not to meet in the flesh. Given over by my physicians and by
myself, I am only kept alive by frequent instalments of mulled port
wine. In this extremity I feel a comfort, for which I cannot refrain
from again thanking you, with all the sincerity of a dying man,--and,
at the same time, bidding you a respectful farewell.

Thank God my mind is composed and my reason undisturbed, but my race
as an author is run. My physical debility finds no tonic virtue in
a steel pen, otherwise I would have written one more paper--a
forewarning one--against an evil, or the danger of it, arising from
a literary movement in which I have had some share, a one-sided
humanity, opposite to that Catholic Shakespearian sympathy, which
felt with King as well as Peasant, and duly estimated the mortal
temptations of both stations. Certain classes at the poles of Society
are already too far asunder; it should be the duty of our writers to
draw them nearer by kindly attraction, not to aggravate the existing
repulsion, and place a wider moral gulf between Rich and Poor, with
Hate on the one side and Fear on the other. But I am too weak for this
task, the last I had set myself; it is death that stops my pen, you
see, and not the pension.

God bless you, Sir, and prosper all your measures for the benefit of
my beloved country.






_A joint epistle_

Bagni di Lucca, 6 _Oct_. 1857.


(It is hard to write, but you bade me do so; yet I had better say
'Master Hunt', as they used to call Webster or Ford.) A nine months'
silence after such a letter as yours seems too strange even to you
perhaps. So understand that you gave us more delight at once than we
could bear, that was the beginning of the waiting to recover spirit
and try and do one's feeling a little less injustice. But soon
followed unexpected sorrows to us and to you, and the expression of
even gratitude grew hard again. Certainly all this while your letter
has been laid before our very eyes, and we have waited for a brighter
day than ever came till we left Florence two months ago and more, then
we brought it to 'answer' among the chestnut trees; but immediately
on our arrival a friend was attacked by fever, and we were kept in
anxiety about him for six weeks. At last he recovered sufficiently to
leave for Florence, and (just think) our little boy became ill,
for the first time in his life, and gave us solicitude enough for a
fortnight: it is nothing now that it is over; he is going about now
almost as well as before, and we go away to-morrow, as I said. But I
will try and get one, at least, of the joys I came to find here, and
really write to you from this place, as I meant to do. '_I_'--you
know it is my wife that I write for, though you entangle and distract
either of us by the reverberations (so to speak) of pleasures over and
above the pleasure you give us. I intend to say, that you praise that
poem, and mix it up with praise of her very self, and then give it to
me directly, and then give it to _her_ with the pride you have just
given me, and then it somehow comes back to me increased so far, till
the effect is just as you probably intended. I wish my wife may know
you more: I wish you may see and know her more, but you cannot live
by her eleven years, as I have done--or yes, what cannot you do, being
the man, the poet you are? This last word, I dare think, I have a
right to say; I _have_ always venerated you as a poet; I believe your
poetry to be sure of its eventual reward; other people, not unlikely,
may feel like me, that there has been no need of getting into feverish
haste to cry out on what is; yet you, who wrote it, can leave it and
look at other poetry, and speak so of it: how well of you!

I am still too near the production of _Aurora Leigh_ to be quite able
to see it all; my wife used to write it, and lay it down to hear our
child spell, or when a visitor came,--it was thrust under the cushion
then. At Paris, a year ago last March, she gave me the first six books
to read, I having never seen a line before. She then wrote the rest,
and transcribed them in London, where I read them also. I wish, in
one sense, that I had written and she had read it.... I shall commend
myself to you by telling you this. Indeed, the proper acknowledgement
of your letter seems to be that one should do something, not say
something. If you were here, I might quite naturally begin repeating
_Giaffar_ or _Solomon_, and the rest. You would see whether I was not
capable of getting all the good out of your praise.

While I write, there is a strange thing that happened last night
impossible to get out of my thoughts. It may give you pain to tell you
of it, yet if with the pain come triumphant memories and hopes, as I
expect there will, you may choose the pain with them. What decides me
to tell it is that I heard you years ago allude to the destruction of
a volume of _Lamia, Isabella, &c., to be restored to you yet_--now you
remember; also, I think, of your putting my name near Shelley's in the
end of your letter, where you say 'since I lost Shelley'. Is it not
strange that I should have transcribed for the first time, last night,
the _Indian Serenade_ that, together with some verses of Metastasio,
accompanied that book? That I should have been reserved to tell
the present possessor of them--to whom they were given by Captain
Roberts--_what_ the poem _was, and that it had been published_! It is
preserved religiously; but the characters are all but illegible, and
I needed a good magnifying-glass to be quite sure of such of them as
remain. The end is that I have rescued three or four variations in the
reading of that divine little poem, as one reads it, at least, in the
_Posthumous Poems_. It is headed the _Indian_ _Serenade_ (not _Lines
to an Indian Air_). In the first stanza the seventh line is 'Hath led
me'; in the second, the third line is 'And the champak's odours fail';
and the eighth, 'O! Beloved as thou art!' In the last stanza, the
seventh line was, 'Oh, press it to thine own again.' Are not all these
better readings? (even to the 'Hath' for 'Has'.) There, I give them
you as you gave us Milton's hair. If I have mistaken in telling you,
you will understand and forgive.

I think I will ask my wife to say a word or two so I shall be sure
that you forgive. Now let my wife say the remainder. All I have
wished to do--know how little likely it was that I should succeed in
that--was to assure you of my pride and affectionate gratitude.--God
bless you ever,


Dear friend, I will say; for I feel it must be something as good as
friendship that can forgive and understand this silence, so much like
the veriest human kind of ingratitude. When I look back and think--all
this time after that letter, and not a sign made--I wonder. Yet,
if you knew! First of all, we were silent because we waited for
information which you seemed to desire.... Then there were sadder
reasons. Poor _Aurora_, that you were so more than kind to (oh, how
can I think of it?), has been steeped in tears, and some of them of a
very bitter sort. Your letter was addressed to my husband, you knowing
by your delicate true instinct where your praise would give most
pleasure; but I believe Robert had not the heart to write when I felt
that I should not have the spirits to add a word in the proper key.
When we came here from Florence a few months ago to get repose and
cheerfulness from the sight of the mountains, we said to ourselves
that we would speak to you at ease--instead of which the word was
taken from our own mouth, and we have done little but sit by sick beds
and meditate on gastric fevers. So disturbed we have been--so sad! our
darling precious child the last victim. To see him lying still on his
golden curls, with cheeks too scarlet to suit the poor patient eyes,
looking so frightfully like an angel! It was very hard. But this is
over, I do thank God, and we are on the point of carrying back our
treasure with us to Florence to-morrow, quite recovered, if a little
thinner and weaker, and the young voice as merry as ever. You are
aware that that child I am more proud of than twenty _Auroras_, even
after Leigh Hunt has praised them. He is eight years old, has never
been '_crammed_', but reads English, Italian, French, German, and
plays the piano--then, is the sweetest child! sweeter than he looks.
When he was ill, he said to me, 'You pet! don't be unhappy about
_me_. Think it's a boy in the street, and be a little sorry, but not
unhappy.' Who could not be unhappy, I wonder?

I never saw your book called the _Religion of the Heart._ It's the
only book of yours I never saw, and I mean to wipe out that reproach
on the soonest day possible. I receive more dogmas, perhaps (my
'perhaps' being in the dark rather), than you do. I believe in the
divinity of Jesus Christ in the intensest sense--that he was God
absolutely. But for the rest, I am very unorthodox--about the spirit,
the flesh, and the devil, and if you would not let me sit by you, a
great many churchmen wouldn't; in fact, churches do all of them, as at
present constituted, seem too narrow and low to hold true Christianity
in its proximate developments. I, at least, cannot help believing them

My dear friend, can we dare, after our sins against you--can we dare
_wish_ for a letter from you sometimes? Ask, we dare not. May God
bless you. Even if you had not praised me and made me so grateful,
I should be grateful to you for three things--for your poetry (that
first), then for Milton's hair, and then for the memory I have of
our visit to you, when you sat in that chair and spoke so mildly and
deeply at once.

Let me be ever affectionately yours,





_Trials of a governess_

_July_ 1839.

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


_Thanks for advice_


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


_At school abroad_

Brussels [c. _May_ 1842].

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

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

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


_Curates to tea_


You thought I refused you coldly, did you? It was a queer sort of
coldness, when I would have given my ears to say Yes, and was obliged
to say No. Matters, however, are now a little changed. Anne is come
home, and her presence certainly makes me feel more at liberty. Then,
if all be well, I will come and see you. Tell me only when I must
come. Mention the week and the day. Have the kindness also to answer
the following queries, if you can. How far is it from Leeds to
Sheffield? Can you give me a notion of the cost? Of course, when I
come, you will let me enjoy your own company in peace, and not drag me
out a-visiting. I have no desire at all to see your curate. I think he
must be like all the other curates I have seen; and they seem to me
a self-seeking, vain, empty race. At this blessed moment, we have no
less than three of them in Haworth parish--and there is not one to
mend another. The other day, they all three, accompanied by Mr. S.,
dropped, or rather rushed, in unexpectedly to tea. It was Monday
(baking-day), and I was hot and tired; still, if they had behaved
quietly and decently, I would have served them out their tea in peace;
but they began glorifying themselves, and abusing Dissenters in such
a manner, that my temper lost its balance, and I pronounced a few
sentences sharply and rapidly, which struck them all dumb. Papa was
greatly horrified also, but I don't regret it.


_Herself and Miss Austen_

12 _Jan_. 1848.

Dear Sir,

I thank you then sincerely for your generous review; and it is with
the sense of double content I express my gratitude, because I am now
sure the tribute is not superfluous or obtrusive. You were not severe
on _Jane Eyre_; you were very lenient. I am glad you told me my faults
plainly in private, for in your public notice you touch on them so
lightly, I should perhaps have passed them over, thus indicated, with
too little reflection.

I mean to observe your warning about being careful how I undertake new
works; my stock of materials is not abundant, but very slender; and
besides, neither my experience, my acquirements, nor my powers, are
sufficiently varied to justify my ever becoming a frequent writer. I
tell you this, because your article in _Fraser_ left in me an uneasy
impression that you were disposed to think better of the author of
_Jane Eyre_ than that individual deserved; and I would rather you had
a correct than a flattering opinion of me, even though I should never
see you.

If I ever _do_ write another book, I think I will have nothing of what
you call 'melodrama'; I _think_ so, but I am not sure. I _think_,
too, I will endeavour to follow the counsel which shines out of
Miss Austen's 'mild eyes', 'to finish more and be more subdued'; but
neither am I sure of that. When authors write best, or at least, when
they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in them, which
becomes their master--which will have its own way--putting out of view
all behests but its own, dictating certain words, and insisting
on their being used, whether vehement or measured in their nature;
new-moulding characters, giving unthought-of turns to incidents,
rejecting carefully-elaborated old ideas, and suddenly creating and
adopting new ones.

Is it not so? And should we try to counteract this influence? Can we
indeed counteract it?

* * * * *

Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point.
What induced you to say that you would have rather written _Pride and
Prejudice_, or _Tom Jones_, than any of the Waverley Novels?

I had not seen _Pride and Prejudice_ till I read that sentence of
yours, and then I got the book. And what did I find? An accurate,
daguerreotyped portrait of a commonplace face; a carefully-fenced,
highly-cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but
no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh
air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with
her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses. These
observations will probably irritate you, but I shall run the risk.

Now I can understand admiration of George Sand; for though I never saw
any of her works which I admired throughout (even _Consuelo_, which
is the best, or the best that I have read, appears to me to couple
strange extravagance with wondrous excellence), yet she has a grasp of
mind, which, if I cannot fully comprehend, I can very deeply respect;
she is sagacious and profound;--Miss Austen is only shrewd and

Am I wrong--or, were you hasty in what you said? If you have time,
I should be glad to hear further on this subject; if not, or if you
think the questions frivolous, do not trouble yourself to reply.


_The argument continued_

18 _Jan_. 1848.

Dear Sir,

I must write you one more note, though I had not intended to trouble
you again so soon. I have to agree with you, and to differ from you.

You correct my crude remarks on the subject of the 'influence'; well,
I accept your definition of what the effects of that influence should
be; I recognize the wisdom of your rules for its regulation....

What a strange lecture comes next in your letter! You say I must
familiarize my mind with the fact, that 'Miss Austen is not a poetess,
has no "sentiment"' (you scornfully enclose the word in inverted
commas), 'no eloquence, none of the ravishing enthusiasm of
poetry',--and then you add, I _must_ 'learn to acknowledge her as _one
of the greatest artists, of the greatest painters of human character_,
and one of the writers with the nicest sense of means to an end that
ever lived'.

The last point only will I ever acknowledge.

Can there be a great artist without poetry?

What I call--what I will bend to, as a great artist then--cannot
be destitute of the divine gift. But by _poetry_, I am sure, you
understand something different to what I do, as you do by 'sentiment'.
It is _poetry_, as I comprehend the word, which elevates that
masculine George Sand, and makes out of something coarse, something
Godlike. It is 'sentiment', in my sense of the term--sentiment
jealously hidden, but genuine, which extracts the venom from that
formidable Thackeray, and converts what might be corrosive poison into
purifying elixir.

If Thackeray did not cherish in his large heart deep feeling for his
kind, he would delight to exterminate; as it is, I believe, he wishes
only to reform. Miss Austen being, as you say, without 'sentiment',
without _poetry_, maybe _is_ sensible, real (more _real_ than _true_),
but she cannot be great.

I submit to your anger, which I have now excited (for have I not
questioned the perfection of your darling?); the storm may pass over
me. Nevertheless, I will, when I can (I do not know when that will be,
as I have no access to a circulating library), diligently peruse all
Miss Austen's works, as you recommend.... You must forgive me for
not always being able to think as you do, and still believe me, Yours


_Illness and death of Emily Bronte_

23 _Nov_. 1848.

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

* * * * *

10 _Dec_.

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

* * * * *


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

* * * * *

21 _Dec_. 1848.

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

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


_Thackeray and 'Esmond'_

14 _Feb_. 1852.


It has been a great delight to me to read Mr. Thackeray's work; and
I so seldom now express my sense of kindness that, for once, you must
permit me, without rebuke, to thank you for a pleasure so rare and
special. Yet I am not going to praise either Mr. Thackeray or his
book. I have read, enjoyed, been interested, and after all, feel full
as much ire and sorrow as gratitude and admiration. And still one
can never lay down a book of his without the two last feelings having
their part, be the subject or treatment what it may. In the first half
of the book, what chiefly struck me was the wonderful manner in which
the writer throws himself into the spirit and letters of the times
whereof he treats; the allusions, the illustrations, the style,
all seem to me so masterly in their exact keeping, their harmonious
consistency, their nice, natural truth, their pure exemption from
exaggeration. No second-rate imitator can write in that way; no coarse
scene-painter can charm us with an allusion so delicate and perfect.
But what bitter satire, what relentless dissection of diseased
subjects! Well, and this, too, is right, or would be right, if
the savage surgeon did not seem so fiercely pleased with his work.
Thackeray likes to dissect an ulcer or an aneurism; he has pleasure
in putting his cruel knife or probe into quivering, living flesh.
Thackeray would not like all the world to be good; no great satirist
would like society to be perfect.

As usual, he is unjust to women; quite unjust. There is hardly any
punishment he does not deserve for making Lady Castlewood peep through
a keyhole, listen at a door, and be jealous of a boy and a milkmaid.
Many other things I noticed that, for my part, grieved and exasperated
me as I read; but then, again, came passages so true, so deeply
thought, so tenderly felt, one could not help forgiving and

But I wish he could be told not to care much for dwelling on the
political or religious intrigues of the times. Thackeray, in his
heart, does not value political or religious intrigues of any age or
date. He likes to show us human nature at home, as he himself daily
sees it; his wonderful observant faculty likes to be in action. In him
this faculty is a sort of captain and leader; and if ever any passage
in his writings lacks interest, it is when this master-faculty is for
a time thrust into a subordinate position. I think such is the case in
the former half of the present volume. Towards the middle, he throws
off restraint, becomes himself, and is strong to the close. Everything
now depends on the second and third volumes. If, in pith and interest,
they fall short of the first, a true success cannot ensue. If the
continuation be an improvement upon the commencement, if the stream
gather force as it rolls, Thackeray will triumph. Some people have
been in the habit of terming him the second writer of the day; it just
depends on himself whether or not these critics shall be justified in
their award. He need not be the second. God made him second to no man.
If I were he, I would show myself as I am, not as critics report me;
at any rate, I would do my best. Mr. Thackeray is easy and indolent,
and seldom cares to do his best. Thank you once more; and believe


'_Esmond' again_

10 _Nov_. 1852.

... I have read the third volume of _Esmond._ I found it both
entertaining and exciting to me; it seems to possess an impetus and
excitement beyond the other two,--that movement and brilliancy its
predecessors sometimes wanted, never fails here. In certain passages,
I thought Thackeray used all his powers; their grand, serious force
yielded a profound satisfaction. 'At last he puts forth his strength,'
I could not help saying to myself. No character in the book strikes
me as more masterly than that of Beatrix; its conception is fresh,
and its delineation vivid. It is peculiar; it has impressions of a
new kind--new at least, to me. Beatrix is not, in herself, all bad. So
much does she sometimes reveal of what is good and great as to suggest
this feeling--you would think she was urged by a Fate. You would think
that some antique doom presses on her house, and that once in so
many generations its brightest ornament was to become its greatest
disgrace. At times, what is good in her struggles against this
terrible destiny, but the Fate conquers. Beatrix cannot be an honest
woman and a good man's wife. She 'tries, and she _cannot_'. Proud,
beautiful, and sullied, she was born what she becomes, a king's
mistress. I know not whether you have seen the notice in the _Leader_;
I read it just after concluding the book. Can I be wrong in deeming
it a notice tame, cold, and insufficient? With all its professed
friendliness, it produced on me a most disheartening impression.
Surely, another sort of justice than this will be rendered to _Esmond_
from other quarters. One acute remark of the critic is to the effect
that Blanche Amory and Beatrix are identical--sketched from the same
original! To me they are about as identical as a weazel and a royal
tigress of Bengal; both the latter are quadrupeds,--both the former,


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