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

Part 4 out of 5

place; and, after all, its wonders appeal too exclusively to the
eye, and rarely touch the heart or head. I make an exception to
the last assertion, in favour of those who possess a large range
of scientific knowledge. Once I went with Sir David Brewster, and
perceived that he looked on objects with other eyes than mine."

Miss Bronte returned from London by Manchester, and paid us a
visit of a couple of days at the end of June. The weather was so
intensely hot, and she herself so much fatigued with her London
sight-seeing, that we did little but sit in-doors, with open
windows, and talk. The only thing she made a point of exerting
herself to procure was a present for Tabby. It was to be a shawl,
or rather a large handkerchief, such as she could pin across her
neck and shoulders, in the old-fashioned country manner. Miss
Bronte took great pains in seeking out one which she thought
would please the old woman. On her arrival at home, she addressed
the following letter to the friend with whom she had been staying
in London:--

"Haworth, July 1st, 1851.

"My dear Mrs. Smith,--Once more I am at home, where, I am
thankful to say, I found my father very well. The journey to
Manchester was a little hot and dusty, but otherwise pleasant
enough. The two stout gentlemen, who filled a portion of the
carriage when I got in, quitted it at Rugby, and two other ladies
and myself had it to ourselves the rest of the way. The visit to
Mrs. Gaskell formed a cheering break in the journey. Haworth
Parsonage is rather a contrast, yet even Haworth Parsonage does
not look gloomy in this bright summer weather; it is somewhat
still, but with the windows open I can hear a bird or two singing
on certain thorn-trees in the garden. My father and the servants
think me looking better than when I felt home, and I certainly
feel better myself for the change. You are too much like your son
to render it advisable I should say much about your kindness
during my visit. However, one cannot help (like Captain Cuttle)
making a note of these matters. Papa says I am to thank you in
his name, and offer you his respects, which I do
accordingly.--With truest regards to all your circle, believe me
very sincerely yours,


"July 8th, 1851.

"My dear Sir,--Thackeray's last lecture must, I think, have been
his best. What he says about Sterne is true. His observations on
literary men, and their social obligations and individual duties,
seem to me also true and full of mental and moral vigour. . . .
The International Copyright Meeting seems to have had but a
barren result, judging from the report in the Literary Gazette. I
cannot see that Sir E. Bulwer and the rest DID anything; nor can
I well see what it is in their power to do. The argument brought
forward about the damage accruing to American national literature
from the present piratical system, Is a good and sound argument,
but I am afraid the publishers--honest men--are not yet mentally
prepared to give such reasoning due weight. I should think, that
which refers to the injury inflicted upon themselves, by an
oppressive competition in piracy, would influence them more; but,
I suppose, all established matters, be they good or evil, are
difficult to change. About the 'Phrenological Character' I must
not say a word. Of your own accord, you have found the safest
point from which to view it: I will not say 'look higher!' I
think you see the matter as it is desirable we should all see
what relates to ourselves. If I had a right to whisper a word of
counsel, it should be merely this: whatever your present self may
be, resolve with all your strength of resolution, never to
degenerate thence. Be jealous of a shadow of falling off.
Determine rather to look above that standard, and to strive
beyond it. Everybody appreciates certain social properties, and
likes his neighbour for possessing them; but perhaps few dwell
upon a friend's capacity for the intellectual, or care how this
might expand, if there were but facilities allowed for
cultivation, and space given for growth. It seems to me that,
even should such space and facilities be denied by stringent
circumstances and a rigid fate, still it should do you good fully
to know, and tenaciously to remember, that you have such a
capacity. When other people overwhelm you with acquired
knowledge, such as you have not had opportunity, perhaps not
application, to gain--derive not pride, but support from the
thought. If no new books had ever been written, some of these
minds would themselves have remained blank pages: they only take
an impression; they were not born with a record of thought on the
brain, or an instinct of sensation on the heart. If I had never
seen a printed volume, Nature would have offered my perceptions a
varying picture of a continuous narrative, which, without any
other teacher than herself, would have schooled me to knowledge,
unsophisticated, but genuine.

"Before I received your last, I had made up my mind to tell you
that I should expect no letter for three months to come
(intending afterwards to extend this abstinence to six months,
for I am jealous of becoming dependent on this indulgence: you
doubtless cannot see why, because you do not live my life). Nor
shall I now expect a letter; but since you say that you would
like to write now and then, I cannot say 'never write,' without
imposing on my real wishes a falsehood which they reject, and
doing to them a violence, to which they entirely refuse to
submit. I can only observe that when it pleases you to write,
whether seriously or for a little amusement, your notes, if they
come to me, will come where they are welcome. Tell----I will try
to cultivate good spirits, as assiduously as she cultivates her


Soon after she returned home, her friend paid her a visit. While
she stayed at Haworth, Miss Bronte wrote the letter from which
the following extract is taken. The strong sense and right
feeling displayed in it on the subject of friendship,
sufficiently account for the constancy of affection which Miss
Bronte earned from all those who once became her friends.


"July 21th, 1851.

". . . I could not help wondering whether Cornhill will ever
change for me, as Oxford has changed for you. I have some
pleasant associations connected with it now--will these alter
their character some day?

"Perhaps they may--though I have faith to the contrary, because,
I THINK, I do not exaggerate my partialities; I THINK I take
faults along with excellences--blemishes together with beauties.
And, besides, in the matter of friendship, I have observed that
disappointment here arises chiefly, NOT from liking our friends
too well, or thinking of them too highly, but rather from an
over-estimate of THEIR liking for and opinion of US; and that if
we guard ourselves with sufficient scrupulousness of care from
error in this direction, and can be content, and even happy to
give more affection than we receive--can make just comparison of
circumstances, and be severely accurate in drawing inferences
thence, and never let self-love blind our eyes--I think we may
manage to get through life with consistency and constancy,
unembittered by that misanthropy which springs from revulsions of
feeling. All this sounds a little metaphysical, but it is good
sense if you consider it. The moral of it is, that if we would
build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love our
friends for THEIR sakes rather than for OUR OWN; we must look at
their truth to THEMSELVES, full as much as their truth to US. In
the latter case, every wound to self-love would be a cause of
coldness; in the former, only some painful change in the friend's
character and disposition--some fearful breach in his allegiance
to his better self--could alienate the heart.

"How interesting your old maiden-cousin's gossip about your
parents must have been to you; and how gratifying to find that
the reminiscence turned on none but pleasant facts and
characteristics! Life must, indeed, be slow in that little
decaying hamlet amongst the chalk hills. After all, depend upon
it, it is better to be worn out with work in a thronged
community, than to perish of inaction in a stagnant solitude take
this truth into consideration whenever you get tired of work and

I received a letter from her a little later than this; and though
there is reference throughout to what I must have said in writing
to her, all that it called forth in reply is so peculiarly
characteristic, that I cannot prevail upon myself to pass it over
without a few extracts:--

"Haworth, Aug. 6th, 1851.

"My dear Mrs. Gaskell,--I was too much pleased with your letter,
when I got it at last, to feel disposed to murmur now about the

"About a fortnight ago, I received a letter from Miss Martineau;
also a long letter, and treating precisely the same subjects on
which yours dwelt, viz., the Exhibition and Thackeray's last
lecture. It was interesting mentally to place the two documents
side by side--to study the two aspects of mind--to view,
alternately, the same scene through two mediums. Full striking
was the difference; and the more striking because it was not the
rough contrast of good and evil, but the more subtle opposition,
the more delicate diversity of different kinds of good. The
excellences of one nature resembled (I thought) that of some
sovereign medicine--harsh, perhaps, to the taste, but potent to
invigorate; the good of the other seemed more akin to the
nourishing efficacy of our daily bread. It is not bitter; it is
not lusciously sweet: it pleases, without flattering the palate;
it sustains, without forcing the strength.

"I very much agree with you in all you say. For the sake of
variety, I could almost wish that the concord of opinion were
less complete.

"To begin with Trafalgar Square. My taste goes with yours and
Meta's completely on this point. I have always thought it a fine
site (and SIGHT also). The view from the summit of those steps
has ever struck me as grand and imposing Nelson Column included
the fountains I could dispense with. With respect, also, to the
Crystal Palace, my thoughts are precisely yours.

"Then I feel sure you speak justly of Thackeray's lecture. You do
well to set aside odious comparisons, and to wax impatient of
that trite twaddle about 'nothing newness'--a jargon which simply
proves, in those who habitually use it, a coarse and feeble
faculty of appreciation; an inability to discern the relative
value of ORIGINALITY and NOVELTY; a lack of that refined
perception which, dispensing with the stimulus of an ever-new
subject, can derive sufficiency of pleasure from freshness of
treatment. To such critics, the prime of a summer morning would
bring no delight; wholly occupied with railing at their cook for
not having provided a novel and piquant breakfast-dish, they
would remain insensible to such influences as lie in sunrise,
dew, and breeze: therein would be 'nothing new.'

"Is it Mr. ----'s family experience which has influenced your
feelings about the Catholics? I own, I cannot be sorry for this
commencing change. Good people--VERY good people--I doubt not,
there are amongst the Romanists, but the system is not one which
would have such sympathy as YOURS. Look at Popery taking off the
mask in Naples!

"I have read the 'Saints' Tragedy.' As a 'work of art' it seems
to me far superior to either 'Alton Locke' or 'Yeast.' Faulty it
may be, crude and unequal, yet there are portions where some of
the deep chords of human nature are swept with a hand which is
strong even while it falters. We see throughout (I THINK) that
Elizabeth has not, and never bad, a mind perfectly sane. From the
time that she was what she herself, in the exaggeration of her
humility, calls 'an idiot girl,' to the hour when she lay moaning
in visions on her dying bed, a slight craze runs through her
whole existence. This is good: this is true. A sound mind, a
healthy intellect, would have dashed the priest-power to the
wall; would have defended her natural affections from his grasp,
as a lioness defends her young; would have been as true to
husband and children, as your leal-hearted little Maggie was to
her Frank. Only a mind weak with some fatal flaw COULD have been
influenced as was this poor saint's. But what anguish what
struggles! Seldom do I cry over books; but here, my eyes rained
as I read. When Elizabeth turns her face to the wall--I stopped-
-there needed no more.

"Deep truths are touched on in this tragedy--touched on, not
fully elicited; truths that stir a peculiar pity--a compassion
hot with wrath, and bitter with pain. This is no poet's dream: we
know that such things HAVE been done; that minds HAVE been thus
subjugated, and lives thus laid waste.

"Remember me kindly and respectfully to Mr. Gaskell, and though I
have not seen Marianne, I must beg to include her in the love I
send the others. Could you manage to convey a small kiss to that
dear, but dangerous little person, Julia? She surreptitiously
possessed herself of a minute fraction of my heart, which has
been missing, ever since I saw her.--Believe me, sincerely and
affectionately yours,


The reference which she makes at the end of this letter is to my
youngest little girl, between whom and her a strong mutual
attraction existed. The child would steal her little hand into
Miss Bronte's scarcely larger one, and each took pleasure in this
apparently unobserved caress. Yet once when I told Julia to take
and show her the way to some room in the house, Miss Bronte
shrunk back: "Do not BID her do anything for me," she said; "it
has been so sweet hitherto to have her rendering her little
kindnesses SPONTANEOUSLY."

As illustrating her feelings with regard to children, I may give
what she says ill another of her letters to me.

"Whenever I see Florence and Julia again, I shall feel like a
fond but bashful suitor, who views at a distance the fair
personage to whom, in his clownish awe, he dare not risk a near
approach. Such is the clearest idea I can give you of my feeling
towards children I like, but to whom I am a stranger;--and to
what children am I not a stranger? They seem to me little
wonders; their talk, their ways are all matter of half-admiring,
half-puzzled speculation."

The following is part of a long letter which I received from her,
dated September 20th, 1851:--

". . . Beautiful are those sentences out of James Martineau's
sermons; some of them gems most pure and genuine; ideas deeply
conceived, finely expressed. I should like much to see his review
of his sister's book. Of all the articles respecting which you
question me, I have seen none, except that notable one in the
'Westminster' on the Emancipation of Women. But why are you and I
to think (perhaps I should rather say to FEEL) so exactly alike
on some points that there can be no discussion between us? Your
words on this paper express my thoughts. Well-argued it
is,--clear, logical,--but vast is the hiatus of omission; harsh
the consequent jar on every finer chord of the soul. What is this
hiatus? I think I know; and, knowing, I will venture to say. I
think the writer forgets there is such a thing as
self-sacrificing love and disinterested devotion. When I first
read the paper, I thought it was the work of a powerful-minded,
clear-headed woman, who had a hard, jealous heart, muscles of
iron, and nerves of bend* leather; of a woman who longed for
power, and had never felt affection. To many women affection is
sweet, an d power conquered indifferent-though we all like
influence won. I believe J. S. Mill would make a hard, dry,
dismal world of it; and yet he speaks admirable sense through a
great portion of his article--especially when he says, that if
there be a natural unfitness in women for men's employment, there
is no need to make laws on the subject; leave all careers open;
let them try; those who ought to succeed will succeed, or, at
least, will have a fair chance--the incapable will fall back into
their right place. He likewise disposes of the 'maternity'
question very neatly. In short, J. S. Mill's head is, I dare say,
very good, but I feel disposed to scorn his heart. You are right
when you say that there is a large margin in human nature over
which the logicians have no dominion; glad am I that it is so.

* "Bend," in Yorkshire, is strong ox leather.

"I send by this post Ruskin's 'Stones of Venice,' and I hope you
and Meta will find passages in it that will please you. Some
parts would be dry and technical were it not for the character,
the marked individuality which pervades every page. I wish
Marianne had come to speak to me at the lecture; it would have
given me such pleasure. What you say of that small sprite Julia,
amuses me much. I believe you don't know that she has a great
deal of her mama's nature (modified) in her; yet I think you will
find she has as she grows up.

"Will it not be a great mistake, if Mr. Thackeray should deliver
his lectures at Manchester under such circumstances and
conditions as will exclude people like you and Mr. Gaskell from
the number of his audience? I thought his London-plan too narrow.
Charles Dickens would not thus limit his sphere of action.

"You charge me to write about myself. What can I say on that
precious topic? My health is pretty good. My spirits are not
always alike. Nothing happens to me. I hope and expect little in
this world, and am thankful that I do not despond and suffer
more. Thank you for inquiring after our old servant; she is
pretty well; the little shawl, etc., pleased her much. Papa
likewise, I am glad to say, is pretty well; with his and my
kindest regards to you and Mr. Gaskell--Believe me sincerely and
affectionately yours,


Before the autumn was far advanced, the usual effects of her
solitary life, and of the unhealthy situation of Haworth
Parsonage, began to appear in the form of sick headaches, and
miserable, starting, wakeful nights. She does not dwell on this
in her letters; but there is an absence of all cheerfulness of
tone, and an occasional sentence forced out of her, which imply
far more than many words could say. There was illness all through
the Parsonage household--taking its accustomed forms of lingering
influenza and low fever; she herself was outwardly the strongest
of the family, and all domestic exertion fell for a time upon her


"Sept. 26th.

"As I laid down your letter, after reading with interest the
graphic account it gives of a very striking scene, I could not
help feeling with renewed force a truth, trite enough, yet ever
impressive; viz., that it is good to be attracted out of
ourselves--to be forced to take a near view of the sufferings,
the privations, the efforts, the difficulties of others. If we
ourselves live in fulness of content, it is well to be reminded
that thousands of our fellow-creatures undergo a different lot;
it is well to have sleepy sympathies excited, and lethargic
selfishness shaken up. If, on the other hand, we be contending
with the special grief,--the intimate trial,--the peculiar
bitterness with which God has seen fit to mingle our own cup of
existence,--it is very good to know that our overcast lot is not
singular; it stills the repining word and thought,--it rouses the
flagging strength, to have it vividly set before us that there
are countless afflictions in the world, each perhaps
rivalling--some surpassing--the private pain over which we are
too prone exclusively to sorrow.

"All those crowded emigrants had their troubles,--their untoward
causes of banishment; you, the looker-on, had 'your wishes and
regrets,'--your anxieties, alloying your home happiness and
domestic bliss; and the parallel might be pursued further, and
still it would be true,--still the same; a thorn in the flesh for
each; some burden, some conflict for all.

"How far this state of things is susceptible of amelioration from
changes in public institutions,--alterations in national
habits,--may and ought to be earnestly considered: but this is a
problem not easily solved. The evils, as you point them out, are
great, real, and most obvious; the remedy is obscure and vague;
yet for such difficulties as spring from over-competition,
emigration must be good; the new life in a new country must give
a new lease of hope; the wider field, less thickly peopled, must
open a new path for endeavour. But I always think great physical
powers of exertion and endurance ought to accompany such a step.
. . . I am truly glad to hear that an ORIGINAL writer has fallen
in your way. Originality is the pearl of great price in
literature,--the rarest, the most precious claim by which an
author can be recommended. Are not your publishing prospects for
the coming season tolerably rich and satisfactory? You inquire
after 'Currer Bell.' It seems to me that the absence of his name
from your list of announcements will leave no blank, and that he
may at least spare himself the disquietude of thinking he is
wanted when it is certainly not his lot to appear.

"Perhaps Currer Bell has his secret moan about these matters; but
if so, he will keep it to himself. It is an affair about which no
words need be wasted, for no words can make a change: it is
between him and his position, his faculties and his fate."

My husband and I were anxious that she should pay us a visit
before the winter had set completely in; and she thus wrote,
declining our invitation:--

"Nov. 6th.

"If anybody would tempt me from home, you would; but, just now,
from home I must not, will not go. I feel greatly better at
present than I did three weeks ago. For a month or six weeks
about the equinox (autumnal or vernal) is a period of the year
which, I have noticed, strangely tries me. Sometimes the strain
falls on the mental, sometimes on the physical part of me; I am
ill with neuralgic headache, or I am ground to the dust with deep
dejection of spirits (not, however, such dejection but I can keep
it to myself). That weary time has, I think and trust, got over
for this year. It was the anniversary of my poor brother's death,
and of my sister's failing health: I need say no more.

"As to running away from home every time I have a battle of this
sort to fight, it would not do besides, the 'weird' would follow.
As to shaking it off, that cannot be. I have declined to go to
Mrs. ----, to Miss Martineau, and now I decline to go to you. But
listen do not think that I throw your kindness away; or that it
fails of doing the good you desire. On the contrary, the feeling
expressed in your letter,--proved by your invitation--goes RIGHT
HOME where you would have it to go, and heals as you would have
it to heal.

"Your description of Frederika Bremer tallies exactly with one I
read somewhere, in I know not what book. I laughed out when I got
to the mention of Frederika's special accomplishment, given by
you with a distinct simplicity that, to my taste, is what the
French would call 'impayable.' Where do you find the foreigner
who is without some little drawback of this description? It is a

A visit from Miss Wooler at this period did Miss Bronte much good
for the time. She speaks of her guest's company as being very
pleasant,"like good wine," both to her father and to herself. But
Miss Wooler could not remain with her long; and then again the
monotony of her life returned upon her in all its force; the only
events of her days and weeks consisting in the small changes
which occasional letters brought. It must be remembered that her
health was often such as to prevent her stirring out of the house
in inclement or wintry weather. She was liable to sore throat,
and depressing pain at the chest, and difficulty of breathing, on
the least exposure to cold.

A letter from her late visitor touched and gratified her much; it
was simply expressive of gratitude for attention and kindness
shown to her, but it wound up by saying that she had not for many
years experienced so much enjoyment as during the ten days passed
at Haworth. This little sentence called out a wholesome sensation
of modest pleasure in Miss Bronte's mind; and she says, "it did
me good."

I find, in a letter to a distant friend, written about this time,
a retrospect of her visit to London. It is too ample to be
considered as a mere repetition of what she had said before; and,
besides, it shows that her first impressions of what she saw and
heard were not crude and transitory, but stood the tests of time
and after-thought.

"I spent a few weeks in town last summer, as you have heard; and
was much interested by many things I heard and saw there. What
now chiefly dwells in my memory are Mr. Thackeray's lectures,
Mademoiselle Rachel's acting, D'Aubigne's, Melville's, and
Maurice's preaching, and the Crystal Palace.

"Mr. Thackeray's lectures you will have seen mentioned and
commented on in the papers; they were very interesting. I could
not always coincide with the sentiments expressed, or the
opinions broached; but I admired the gentlemanlike ease, the
quiet humour, the taste, the talent, the simplicity, and the
originality of the lecturer.

"Rachel's acting transfixed me with wonder, enchained me with
interest, and thrilled me with horror. The tremendous force with
which she expresses the very worst passions in their strongest
essence forms an exhibition as exciting as the bull fights of
Spain, and the gladiatorial combats of old Rome, and (it seemed
to me) not one whit more moral than these poisoned stimulants to
popular ferocity. It is scarcely human nature that she shows you;
it is something wilder and worse; the feelings and fury of a
fiend. The great gift of genius she undoubtedly has; but, I fear,
she rather abuses it than turns it to good account.

"With all the three preachers I was greatly pleased. Melville
seemed to me the most eloquent, Maurice the most in earnest; had
I the choice, it is Maurice whose ministry I should frequent.

"On the Crystal Palace I need not comment. You must already have
heard too much of it. It struck me at the first with only a vague
sort of wonder and admiration; but having one day the privilege
of going over it in company with an eminent countryman of yours,
Sir David Brewster, and hearing, in his friendly Scotch accent,
his lucid explanation of many things that had been to me before a
sealed book, I began a little better to comprehend it, or at
least a small part of it: whether its final results will equal
expectation, I know not."

Her increasing indisposition subdued her at last, in spite of all
her efforts of reason and will. She tried to forget oppressive
recollections in writing. Her publishers were importunate for a
new book from her pen. "Villette" was begun, but she lacked power
to continue it.

"It is not at all likely" (she says) "that my book will be ready
at the time you mention. If my health is spared, I shall get on
with it as fast as is consistent with its being done, if not
WELL, yet as well as I can do it. NOT ONE WHIT FASTER. When the
mood leaves me (it has left me now, without vouchsafing so much
as a word or a message when it will return) I put by the MS. and
wait till it comes back again. God knows, I sometimes have to
wait long--VERY long it seems to me. Meantime, if I might make a
request to you, it would be this. Please to say nothing about my
book till it is written, and in your hands. You may not like it.
I am not myself elated with it as far as it is gone, and authors,
you need not be told, are always tenderly indulgent, even blindly
partial to their own. Even if it should turn out reasonably well,
still I regard it as ruin to the prosperity of an ephemeral book
like a novel, to be much talked of beforehand, as if it were
something great. People are apt to conceive, or at least to
profess, exaggerated expectation, such as no performance can
realise; then ensue disappointment and the due revenge,
detraction, and failure. If when I write, I were to think of the
critics who, I know, are waiting for Currer Bell, ready 'to break
all his bones or ever he comes to the bottom of the den,' my hand
would fall paralysed on my desk. However, I can but do my best,
and then muffle my head in the mantle of Patience, and sit down
at her feet and wait."

The "mood" here spoken of did not go off; it had a physical
origin. Indigestion, nausea, headache, sleeplessness,--all
combined to produce miserable depression of spirits. A little
event which occurred about this time, did not tend to cheer her.
It was the death of poor old faithful Keeper, Emily's dog. He had
come to the Parsonage in the fierce strength of his youth. Sullen
and ferocious he had met with his master in the indomitable
Emily. Like most dogs of his kind, he feared, respected, and
deeply loved her who subdued him. He had mourned her with the
pathetic fidelity of his nature, falling into old age after her
death. And now, her surviving sister wrote: "Poor old Keeper died
last Monday morning, after being ill one night; he went gently to
sleep; we laid his old faithful head in the garden. Flossy (the
'fat curly-haired dog') is dull, and misses him. There was
something very sad in losing the old dog; yet I am glad he met a
natural fate. People kept hinting he ought to be put away, which
neither papa nor I liked to think of."

When Miss Bronte wrote this, on December 8th, she was suffering
from a bad cold, and pain in her side. Her illness increased, and
on December 17th, she--so patient, silent, and enduring of
suffering--so afraid of any unselfish taxing of others--had to
call to her friend for help:

"I cannot at present go to see you, but I would be grateful if
you could come and see me, even were it only for a few days. To
speak truth, I have put on but a poor time of it during this
month past. I kept hoping to be better, but was at last obliged
to have recourse to a medical man. Sometimes I have felt very
weak and low, and longed much for society, but could not persuade
myself to commit the selfish act of asking you merely for my own
relief. The doctor speaks encouragingly, but as yet I get no
better. As the illness has been coming on for a long time, it
cannot, I suppose, be expected to disappear all at once. I am not
confined to bed, but I am weak,--have had no appetite for about
three weeks--and my nights are very bad. I am well aware myself
that extreme and continuous depression of spirits has had much to
do with the origin of the illness; and I know a little cheerful
society would do me more good than gallons of medicine. If you
CAN come, come on Friday. Write to-morrow and say whether this be
possible, and what time you will be at Keighley, that I may send
the gig. I do not ask you to stay long; a few days is all I

Of course, her friend went; and a certain amount of benefit was
derived from her society, always so grateful to Miss Bronte. But
the evil was now too deep-rooted to be more than palliated for a
time by "the little cheerful society" for which she so touchingly

A relapse came on before long. She was very ill, and the remedies
employed took an unusual effect on her peculiar sensitiveness of
constitution. Mr. Bronte was miserably anxious about the state of
his only remaining child, for she was reduced to the last degree
of weakness, as she had been unable to swallow food for above a
week before. She rallied, and derived her sole sustenance from
half-a-tea-cup of liquid, administered by tea-spoonfuls, in the
course of the day. Yet she kept out of bed, for her father's
sake, and struggled in solitary patience through her worst hours.

When she was recovering, her spirits needed support, and then she
yielded to her friend's entreaty that she would visit her. All
the time that Miss Bronte's illness had lasted, Miss ---- had
been desirous of coming to her; but she refused to avail herself
of this kindness, saying, that "it was enough to burden herself;
that it would be misery to annoy another;" and, even at her worst
time, she tells her friend, with humorous glee, how coolly she
had managed to capture one of Miss ----'s letters to Mr. Bronte,
which she suspected was of a kind to aggravate his alarm about
his daughter's state, "and at once conjecturing its tenor, made
its contents her own."

Happily for all parties, Mr. Bronte was wonderfully well this
winter; good sleep, good spirits, and an excellent steady
appetite, all seemed to mark vigour; and in such a state of
health, Charlotte could leave him to spend a week with her
friend, without any great anxiety.

She benefited greatly by the kind attentions and cheerful society
of the family with whom she went to stay. They did not care for
her in the least as "Currer Bell," but had known and loved her
for years as Charlotte Bronte. To them her invalid weakness was
only a fresh claim upon their tender regard, from the solitary
woman, whom they had first known as a little, motherless

Miss Bronte wrote to me about this time, and told me something of
what she had suffered.

"Feb. 6th, 1852.

"Certainly, the past winter has been to me a strange time; had I
the prospect before me of living it over again, my prayer must
necessarily be, 'Let this cup pass from me.' That depression of
spirits, which I thought was gone by when I wrote last, came back
again with a heavy recoil; internal congestion ensued, and then
inflammation. I had severe pain in my right side, frequent
burning and aching in my chest; sleep almost forsook me, or would
never come, except accompanied by ghastly dreams; appetite
vanished, and slow fever was my continual companion. It was some
time before I could bring myself to have recourse to medical
advice. I thought my lungs were affected, and could feel no
confidence in the power of medicine. When, at last, however, a
doctor was consulted, he declared my lungs and chest sound, and
ascribed all my sufferings to derangement of the liver, on which
organ it seems the inflammation had fallen. This information was
a great relief to my dear father, as well as to myself; but I had
subsequently rather sharp medical discipline to undergo, and was
much reduced. Though not yet well, it is with deep thankfulness
that I can say, I am GREATLY BETTER. My sleep, appetite, and
strength seem all returning."

It was a great interest to her to be allowed an ear]y reading of
Esmond; and she expressed her thoughts on the subject, in a
criticising letter to Mr. Smith, who had given her this

"Feb. 14th, 1852.

"My dear Sir,--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 last two 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

"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 admiring.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

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 me
yours sincerely,


Miss Bronte's health continued such, that she could not apply
herself to writing as she wished, for many weeks after the
serious attack from which she had suffered. There was not very
much to cheer her in the few events that touched her interests
during this time. She heard in March of the death of a friend's
relation in the Colonies; and we see something of what was the
corroding dread at her heart.

"The news of E----'s death came to me last week in a letter from
M ----; a long letter, which wrung my heart so, in its simple,
strong, truthful emotion, I have only ventured to read it once.
It ripped up half-scarred wounds with terrible force. The
death-bed was just the same,--breath failing, etc. She fears she
shall now, in her dreary solitude, become a 'stern, harsh,
selfish woman.' This fear struck home; again and again have I
felt it for myself, and what is MY position to M----'s? May God
help her, as God only can help!"

Again and again, her friend urged her to leave home; nor were
various invitations wanting to enable her to do this, when these
constitutional accesses of low spirits preyed too much upon her
in her solitude. But she would not allow herself any such
indulgence, unless it became absolutely necessary from the state
of her health. She dreaded the perpetual recourse to such
stimulants as change of scene and society, because of the
reaction that was sure to follow. As far as she could see, her
life was ordained to be lonely, and she must subdue her nature to
her life, and, if possible, bring the two into harmony. When she
could employ herself in fiction, all was comparatively well. The
characters were her companions in the quiet hours, which she
spent utterly alone, unable often to stir out of doors for many
days together. The interests of the persons in her novels
supplied the lack of interest in her own life; and Memory and
Imagination found their appropriate work, and ceased to prey upon
her vitals. But too frequently she could not write, could not see
her people, nor hear them speak; a great mist of head-ache had
blotted them out; they were non-existent to her.

This was the case all through the present spring; and anxious as
her publishers were for its completion, Villette stood still.
Even her letters to her friend are scarce and brief. Here and
there I find a sentence in them which can be extracted, and which
is worth preserving.

"M----'s letter is very interesting; it shows a mind one cannot
but truly admire. Compare its serene trusting strength, with
poor ----'s vacillating dependence. When the latter was in her
first burst of happiness, I never remember the feeling finding
vent in expressions of gratitude to God. There was always a
continued claim upon your sympathy in the mistrust and doubt she
felt of her own bliss. M---- believes; her faith is grateful and
at peace; yet while happy in herself, how thoughtful she is for

"March 23rd, 1852.

"You say, dear E----, that you often wish I would chat on paper,
as you do. How can I? Where are my materials? Is my life fertile
in subjects of chat? What callers do I see? What visits do I pay?
No, you must chat, and I must listen, and say 'Yes,' and 'No,'
and 'Thank you!' for five minutes' recreation.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

"I am amused at the interest you take in politics. Don't expect
to rouse me; to me, all ministries and all oppositions seem to be
pretty much alike. D'Israeli was factious as leader of the
Opposition; Lord John Russell is going to be factious, now that
he has stepped into D'Israeli's shoes. Lord Derby's 'Christian
love and spirit,' is worth three half-pence farthing."


"March 25th, 1852.

"My dear Sir,--Mr. Smith intimated a short time since, that he
had some thoughts of publishing a reprint of Shirley. Having
revised the work, I now enclose the errata. I have likewise sent
off to-day, per rail, a return-box of Cornhill books.

"I have lately read with great pleasure, 'The Two Families.' This
work, it seems, should have reached me in January; but owing to a
mistake, it was detained at the Dead Letter Office, and lay there
nearly two months. I liked the commencement very much; the close
seemed to me scarcely equal to 'Rose Douglas.' I thought the
authoress committed a mistake in shifting the main interest from
the two personages on whom it first rests--viz., Ben Wilson and
Mary--to other characters of quite inferior conception. Had she
made Ben and Mary her hero and heroine, and continued the
development of their fortunes and characters in the same truthful
natural vein in which she commences it, an excellent, even an
original, book might have been the result. As for Lilias and
Ronald, they are mere romantic figments, with nothing of the
genuine Scottish peasant about them; they do not even speak the
Caledonian dialect; they palaver like a fine lady and gentleman.

"I ought long since to have acknowledged the gratification with
which I read Miss Kavanagh's 'Women of Christianity.' Her charity
and (on the whole) her impartiality are very beautiful. She
touches, indeed, with too gentle a hand the theme of Elizabeth of
Hungary; and, in her own mind, she evidently misconstrues the
fact of Protestant charities SEEMING to be fewer than Catholic.
She forgets, or does not know, that Protestantism is a quieter
creed than Romanism; as it does not clothe its priesthood in
scarlet, so neither does it set up its good women for saints,
canonise their names, and proclaim their good works. In the
records of man, their almsgiving will not perhaps be found
registered, but Heaven has its account as well as earth.

"With kind regards to yourself and family, who, I trust, have all
safely weathered the rough winter lately past, as well as the
east winds, which are still nipping our spring in Yorkshire,--I
am, my dear Sir, yours sincerely,


"April 3rd, 1852.

"My dear Sir,--The box arrived quite safely, and I very much
thank you for the contents, which are most kindly selected.

"As you wished me to say what I thought of 'The School for
Fathers,' I hastened to read it. The book seems to me clever,
interesting, very amusing, and likely to please generally. There
is a merit in the choice of ground, which is not yet too
hackneyed; the comparative freshness of subject, character, and
epoch give the tale a certain attractiveness. There is also, I
think, a graphic rendering of situations, and a lively talent for
describing whatever is visible and tangible--what the eye meets
on the surface of things. The humour appears to me such as would
answer well on the stage; most of the scenes seem to demand
dramatic accessories to give them their full effect. But I think
one cannot with justice bestow higher praise than this. To speak
candidly, I felt, in reading the tale, a wondrous hollowness in
the moral and sentiment; a strange dilettante shallowness in the
purpose and feeling. After all, 'Jack' is not much better than a
'Tony Lumpkin,' and there is no very great breadth of choice
between the clown he IS and the fop his father would have made
him. The grossly material life of the old English fox-hunter, and
the frivolous existence of the fine gentleman present extremes,
each in its way so repugnant, that one feels half inclined to
smile when called upon to sentimentalise over the lot of a youth
forced to pass from one to the other; torn from the stables, to
be ushered perhaps into the ball-room. Jack dies mournfully
indeed, and you are sorry for the poor fellow's untimely end; but
you cannot forget that, if he had not been thrust into the way of
Colonel Penruddock's weapon, he might possibly have broken his
neck in a fox-hunt. The character of Sir Thomas Warren is
excellent; consistent throughout. That of Mr. Addison not bad,
but sketchy, a mere outline--wanting colour and finish. The man's
portrait is there, and his costume, and fragmentary anecdotes of
his life; but where is the man's nature--soul and self? I say
nothing about the female characters--not one word; only that
Lydia seems to me like a pretty little actress, prettily dressed
gracefully appearing and disappearing, and reappearing in a
genteel comedy, assuming the proper sentiments of her part with
all due tact and naivete, and--that is all.

"Your description of the model man of business is true enough, I
doubt not; but we will not fear that society will ever be brought
quite to this standard; human nature (bad as it is) has, after
all, elements that forbid it. But the very tendency to such a
consummation--the marked tendency, I fear, of the day--produces,
no doubt, cruel suffering. Yet, when the evil of competition
passes a certain limit, must it not in time work its own cure? I
suppose it will, but then through some convulsed crisis,
shattering all around it like an earthquake. Meantime, for how
many is life made a struggle; enjoyment and rest curtailed;
labour terribly enhanced beyond almost what nature can bear I
often think that this world would be the most terrible of
enigmas, were it not for the firm belief that there is a world to
come, where conscientious effort and patient pain will meet their
reward.--Believe me, my dear Sir, sincerely yours,


A letter to her old Brussels schoolfellow gives a short
retrospect of the dreary winter she had passed through.

"Haworth, April 12th, 1852.

". . . I struggled through the winter, and the early part of the
spring, often with great difficulty. My friend stayed with me a
few days in the early part of January; she could not be spared
longer. I was better during her visit, but had a relapse soon
after she left me, which reduced my strength very much. It cannot
be denied that the solitude of my position fearfully aggravated
its other evils. Some long stormy days and nights there were,
when I felt such a craving for support and companionship as I
cannot express. Sleepless, I lay awake night after night, weak
and unable to occupy myself. I sat in my chair day after day, the
saddest memories my only company. It was a time I shall never
forget; but God sent it, and it must have been for the best.

"I am better now; and very grateful do I feel for the restoration
of tolerable health; but, as if there was always to be some
affliction, papa, who enjoyed wonderful health during the whole
winter, is ailing with his spring attack of bronchitis. I
earnestly trust it may pass over in the comparatively ameliorated
form in which it has hitherto shown itself.

"Let me not forget to answer your question about the cataract.
Tell your papa that MY father was seventy at the time he
underwent an operation; he was most reluctant to try the
experiment; could not believe that, at his age, and with his want
of robust strength, it would succeed. I was obliged to be very
decided in the matter, and to act entirely on my own
responsibility. Nearly six years have now elapsed since the
cataract was extracted (it was not merely depressed); he has
never once during that time regretted the step, and a day seldom
passes that he does not express gratitude and pleasure at the
restoration of that inestimable privilege of vision whose loss he
once knew."

I had given Miss Bronte; in one of my letters, an outline of the
story on which I was then engaged, and in reply she says:--

"The sketch you give of your work (respecting which I am, of
course, dumb) seems to me very noble; and its purpose may be as
useful in practical result as it is high and just in theoretical
tendency. Such a book may restore hope and energy to many who
thought they had forfeited their right to both; and open a clear
course for honourable effort to some who deemed that they and all
honour had parted company in this world.

"Yet--hear my protest!

"Why should she die? Why are we to shut up the book weeping?

"My heart fails me already at the thought of the pang it will
have to undergo. And yet you must follow the impulse of your own
inspiration. If THAT commands the slaying of the victim, no
bystander has a right to put out his hand to stay the sacrificial
knife: but I hold you a stern priestess in these matters."

As the milder weather came on, her health improved, and her power
of writing increased. She set herself with redoubled vigour to
the work before her; and denied herself pleasure for the purpose
of steady labour. Hence she writes to her friend:--

"May 11th.

"Dear E----, --I must adhere to my resolution of neither
visiting nor being visited at present. Stay you quietly at B.,
till you go to S., as I shall stay at Haworth; as sincere a
farewell can be taken with the heart as with the lips, and
perhaps less painful. I am glad the weather is changed; the
return of the south-west wind suits me; but I hope you have no
cause to regret the departure of your favourite east wind. What
you say about ---- does not surprise me; I have had many little
notes (whereof I answer about one in three) breathing the same
spirit,--self and child the sole all-absorbing topics, on which
the changes are rung even to weariness. But I suppose one must
not heed it, or think the case singular. Nor, I am afraid, must
one expect her to improve. I read in a French book lately, a
sentence to this effect, that 'marriage might be defined as the
state of two-fold selfishness.' Let the single therefore take
comfort. Thank you for Mary's letter. She DOES seem most happy;
and I cannot tell you how much more real, lasting, and
better-warranted her happiness seems than ever ----'s did. I
think so much of it is in herself, and her own serene, pure,
trusting, religious nature. ----'s always gives me the idea of a
vacillating, unsteady rapture, entirely dependent on
circumstances with all their fluctuations. If Mary lives to be a
mother, you will then see a greater difference.

"I wish you, dear E., all health and enjoyment in your visit;
and, as far as one can judge at present, there seems a fair
prospect of the wish being realised.--Yours sincerely,



The reader will remember that Anne Bronte had been interred in
the churchyard of the Old Church at Scarborough. Charlotte had
left directions for a tombstone to be placed over her; but many a
time during the solitude of the past winter, her sad, anxious
thoughts had revisited the scene of that last great sorrow, and
she had wondered whether all decent services had been rendered to
the memory of the dead, until at last she came to a silent
resolution to go and see for herself whether the stone and
inscription were in a satisfactory state of preservation.

"Cliffe House, Filey, June 6th, 1852.

"Dear E----, --I am at Filey utterly alone. Do not be angry, the
step is right. I considered it, and resolved on it with due
deliberation. Change of air was necessary; there were reasons why
I should NOT go to the south, and why I should come here. On
Friday I went to Scarborough, visited the churchyard and stone.
It must be refaced and relettered; there are five errors. I gave
the necessary directions. THAT duty, then, is done; long has it
lain heavy on my mind; and that was a pilgrimage I felt I could
only make alone.

"I am in our old lodgings at Mrs. Smith's; not, however, in the
same rooms, but in less expensive apartments. They seemed glad to
see me, remembered you and me very well, and, seemingly, with
great good will. The daughter who used to wait on us is just
married. Filey seems to me much altered; more
lodging-houses--some of them very handsome--have been built; the
sea has all its old grandeur. I walk on the sands a good deal,
and try NOT to feel desolate and melancholy. How sorely my heart
longs for you, I need not say. I have bathed once; it seemed to
do me good. I may, perhaps, stay here a fortnight. There are as
yet scarcely any visitors. A Lady Wenlock is staying at the large
house of which you used so vigilantly to observe the inmates. One
day I set out with intent to trudge to Filey Bridge, but was
frightened back by two cows. I mean to try again some morning. I
left papa well. I have been a good deal troubled with headache,
and with some pain in the side since I came here, but I feel that
this has been owing to the cold wind, for very cold has it been
till lately; at present I feel better. Shall I send the papers to
you as usual Write again directly, and tell me this, and anything
and everything else that comes into your mind.--Believe me, yours


"Filey, June 16th, 1852.

"Dear E----, --Be quite easy about me. I really think I am better
for my stay at Filey; that I have derived more benefit from it
than I dared to anticipate. I believe, could I stay here two
months, and enjoy something like social cheerfulness as well as
exercise and good air, my health would be quite renewed. This,
however, cannot possibly be; but I am most thankful for the good
received. I stay here another week.

"I return ----'s letter. I am sorry for her: I believe she
suffers; but I do not much like her style of expressing herself.
. . . Grief as well as joy manifests itself in most different
ways in different people; and I doubt not she is sincere and in
earnest when she talks of her 'precious, sainted father;' but I
could wish she used simpler language."

Soon after her return from Filey, she was alarmed by a very
serious and sharp attack of illness with which Mr. Bronte was
seized. There was some fear, for a few days, that his sight was
permanently lost, and his spirits sank painfully under this

"This prostration of spirits," writes his daughter, "which
accompanies anything like a relapse is almost the most difficult
point to manage. Dear E----, you are tenderly kind in offering
your society; but rest very tranquil where you are; be fully
assured that it is not now, nor under present circumstances, that
I feel the lack either of society or occupation; my time is
pretty well filled up, and my thoughts appropriated. . . . I
cannot permit myself to comment much on the chief contents of
your last; advice is not necessary: as far as I can judge, you
seem hitherto enabled to take these trials in a good and wise
spirit. I can only pray that such combined strength and
resignation may be continued to you. Submission, courage,
exertion, when practicable--these seem to be the weapons with
which we must fight life's long battle."

I suppose that, during the very time when her thoughts were thus
fully occupied with anxiety for her father, she received some
letter from her publishers, making inquiry as to the progress of
the work which they knew she had in hand, as I find the following
letter to Mr. Williams, bearing reference to some of Messrs.
Smith and Elder's proposed arrangements.


"July 28th, 1852.

"My dear Sir,--Is it in contemplation to publish the new edition
of 'Shirley' soon? Would it not be better to defer it for a time?
In reference to a part of your letter, permit me to express this
wish,--and I trust in doing so, I shall not be regarded as
stepping out of my position as an author, and encroaching on the
arrangements of business,--viz.: that no announcement of a new
work by the author of 'Jane Eyre' shall be made till the MS. of
such work is actually in my publisher's hands. Perhaps we are
none of us justified in speaking very decidedly where the future
is concerned; but for some too much caution in such calculations
can scarcely be observed: amongst this number I must class
myself. Nor, in doing so, can I assume an apologetic tone. He
does right who does his best.

"Last autumn I got on for a time quickly. I ventured to look
forward to spring as the period of publication: my health gave
way; I passed such a winter as, having been once experienced,
will never be forgotten. The spring proved little better than a
protraction of trial. The warm weather and a visit to the sea
have done me much good physically; but as yet I have recovered
neither elasticity of animal spirits, nor flow of the power of
composition. And if it were otherwise, the difference would be of
no avail; my time and thoughts are at present taken up with close
attendance on my father, whose health is just now in a very
critical state, the heat of the weather having produced
determination of blood to the head.--I am, yours sincerely,


Before the end of August, Mr. Bronte's convalescence became quite
established, and he was anxious to resume his duties for some
time before his careful daughter would permit him.

On September the 14th the "great duke" died. He had been, as we
have seen, her hero from childhood; but I find no further
reference to him at this time than what is given in the following
extract from a letter to her friend:--

"I do hope and believe the changes you have been having this
summer will do you permanent good, notwithstanding the pain with
which they have been too often mingled. Yet I feel glad that you
are soon coming home; and I really must not trust myself to say
how much I wish the time were come when, without let or
hindrance, I could once more welcome you to Haworth. But oh I
don't get on; I feel fretted--incapable--sometimes very low.
However, at present, the subject must not be dwelt upon; it
presses me too hardly--nearly--and painfully. Less than ever can
I taste or know pleasure till this work is wound up. And yet I
often sit up in bed at night, thinking of and wishing for you.
Thank you for the Times; what it said on the mighty and mournful
subject was well said. All at once the whole nation seems to take
a just view of that great character. There was a review too of an
American book, which I was glad to see. Read 'Uncle Tom's Cabin':
probably, though, you have read it.

"Papa's health continues satisfactory, thank God! As for me, my
wretched liver has been disordered again of late, but I hope it
is now going to be on better behaviour; it hinders me in
working--depresses both power and tone of feeling. I must expect
this derangement from time to time."

Haworth was in an unhealthy state, as usual; and both Miss Bronte
and Tabby suffered severely from the prevailing epidemics. The
former was long in shaking off the effects of this illness. In
vain she resolved against allowing herself any society or change
of scene until she had accomplished her labour. She was too ill
to write; and with illness came on the old heaviness of heart,
recollections of the past, and anticipations of the future. At
last Mr. Bronte expressed so strong a wish that her friend should
be asked to visit her, and she felt some little refreshment so
absolutely necessary, that on October the 9th she begged her to
come to Haworth, just for a single week.

"I thought I would persist in denying myself till I had done my
work, but I find it won't do; the matter refuses to progress, and
this excessive solitude presses too heavily; so let me see your
dear face, E., just for one reviving week."

But she would only accept of the company of her friend for the
exact time specified. She thus writes to Miss Wooler on October
the 21st:--

"E---- has only been my companion one little week. I would not
have her any longer, for I am disgusted with myself and my
delays; and consider it was a weak yielding to temptation in me
to send for her at all; but in truth, my spirits were getting
low--prostrate sometimes--and she has done me inexpressible good.
I wonder when I shall see you at Haworth again; both my father
and the servants have again and again insinuated a distinct wish
that you should be requested to come in the course of the summer
and autumn, but I have always turned rather a deaf ear; 'not
yet,' was my thought, 'I want first to be free;' work first, then

Miss ----'s visit had done her much good. Pleasant companionship
during the day produced, for the time, the unusual blessing of
calm repose at night; and after her friend's departure she was
well enough to "fall to business," and write away, almost
incessantly, at her story of Villette, now drawing to a
conclusion. The following letter to Mr. Smith, seems to have
accompanied the first part of the MS.

"Oct. 30th, 1852.

"My dear Sir,--You must notify honestly what you think of
'Villette' when you have read it. I can hardly tell you how I
hunger to hear some opinion besides my own, and how I have
sometimes desponded, and almost despaired, because there was no
one to whom to read a line, or of whom to ask a counsel. 'Jane
Eyre' was not written under such circumstances, nor were
two-thirds of 'Shirley'. I got so miserable about it, I could bear
no allusion to the book. It is not finished yet; but now I hope.
As to the anonymous publication, I have this to say: If the
withholding of the author's name should tend materially to injure
the publisher's interest, to interfere with booksellers' orders,
etc., I would not press the point; but if no such detriment is
contingent, I should be most thankful for the sheltering shadow
of an incognito. I seem to dread the advertisements--the
large-lettered 'Currer Bell's New Novel,' or 'New Work, by the
Author of Jane Eyre.' These, however, I feel well enough, are the
transcendentalisms of a retired wretch; so you must speak
frankly. . . . I shall be glad to see 'Colonel Esmond.' My
objection to the second volume lay here: I thought it contained
decidedly too much history--too little story."

In another letter, referring to "Esmond," she uses the following

"The third volume seemed to me to possess the most sparkle,
impetus, and interest. Of the first and second my judgment was,
that parts of them were admirable; but there was the fault of
containing too much History--too little story. I hold that a work
of fiction ought to be a work of creation: that the REAL should
be sparingly introduced in pages dedicated to the IDEAL. Plain
household bread is a far more wholesome and necessary thing than
cake; yet who would like to see the brown loaf placed on the
table for dessert? In the second volume, the author gives us an
ample supply of excellent brown bread; in his third, only such a
portion as gives substance, like the crumbs of bread in a
well-made, not too rich, plum-pudding."

Her letter to Mr. Smith, containing the allusion to 'Esmond,'
which reminded me of the quotation just given continues:--

"You will see that 'Villette' touches on no matter of public
interest. I cannot write books handling the topics of the day; it
is of no use trying. Nor can I write a book for its moral. Nor
can I take up a philanthropic scheme, though I honour
philanthropy; and voluntarily and sincerely veil my face before
such a mighty subject as that handled in Mrs. Beecher Stowe's
work, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' To manage these great matters rightly,
they must be long and practically studied--their bearings known
intimately, and their evils felt genuinely; they must not be
taken up as a business matter, and a trading speculation. I
doubt not, Mrs. Stowe had felt the iron of slavery enter into her
heart, from childhood upwards, long before she ever thought of
writing books. The feeling throughout her work is sincere, and
not got up. Remember to be an honest critic of 'Villette,' and
tell Mr. Williams to be unsparing: not that I am likely to alter
anything, but I want to know his impressions and yours."


"Nov. 3rd.

"My dear Sir,--I feel very grateful for your letter; it relieved
me much, for I was a good deal harassed by doubts as to how
'Villette' might appear in other eyes than my own. I feel in some
degree authorised to rely on your favourable impressions, because
you are quite right where you hint disapprobation. You have
exactly hit two points at least where I was conscious of
defect;--the discrepancy, the want of perfect harmony, between
Graham's boyhood and manhood,--the angular abruptness of his
change of sentiment towards Miss Fanshawe. You must remember,
though, that in secret he had for some time appreciated that
young lady at a somewhat depressed standard--held her a LITTLE
lower than the angels. But still the reader ought to have been
better made to feel this preparation towards a change of mood. As
to the publishing arrangement, I leave them to Cornhill. There
is, undoubtedly, a certain force in what you say about the
inexpediency of affecting a mystery which cannot be sustained; so
you must act as you think is for the best. I submit, also, to the
advertisements in large letters, but under protest, and with a
kind of ostrich-longing for concealment. Most of the third volume
is given to the development of the 'crabbed Professor's'
character. Lucy must not marry Dr. John; he is far too youthful,
handsome, bright-spirited, and sweet-tempered; he is a 'curled
darling' of Nature and of Fortune, and must draw a prize in
life's lottery. His wife must be young, rich, pretty; he must be
made very happy indeed. If Lucy marries anybody, it must be the
Professor--a man in whom there is much to forgive, much to 'put
up with.' But I am not leniently disposed towards Miss FROST from
the beginning, I never meant to appoint her lines in pleasant
places. The conclusion of this third volume is still a matter of
some anxiety: I can but do my best, however. It would speedily be
finished, could I ward off certain obnoxious headaches, which,
whenever I get into the spirit of my work, are apt to seize and
prostrate me. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Colonel Henry Esmond is just arrived. He looks very antique and
distinguished in his Queen Anne's garb; the periwig, sword, lace,
and ruffles are very well represented by the old 'Spectator'

In reference to a sentence towards the close of this letter, I
may mention what she told me; that Mr. Bronte was anxious that
her new tale should end well, as he disliked novels which left a
melancholy impression upon the mind; and he requested her to make
her hero and heroine (like the heroes and heroines in
fairy-tales) "marry, and live very happily ever after." But the
idea of M. Paul Emanuel's death at sea was stamped on her
imagination till it assumed the distinct force of reality; and
she could no more alter her fictitious ending than if they had
been facts which she was relating. All she could do in compliance
with her father's wish was so to veil the fate in oracular words,
as to leave it to the character and discernment of her readers to
interpret her meaning.


"Nov. 6th, 1852.

"My dear Sir,--I must not delay thanking you for your kind
letter, with its candid and able commentary on 'Villette.' With
many of your strictures I concur. The third volume may, perhaps,
do away with some of the objections; others still remain in
force. I do not think the interest culminates anywhere to the
degree you would wish. What climax there is does not come on
till near the conclusion; and even then, I doubt whether the
regular novel-reader will consider the 'agony piled sufficiently
high' (as the Americans say), or the colours dashed on to the
canvas with the proper amount of daring. Still, I fear, they must
be satisfied with what is offered: my palette affords no brighter
tints; were t to attempt to deepen the reds, or burnish the
yellows, I should but botch.

"Unless I am mistaken, the emotion of the book will be found to
be kept throughout in tolerable subjection. As to the name of the
heroine, I can hardly express what subtlety of thought made me
decide upon giving her a cold name; but, at first, I called her
'Lucy Snowe' (spelt with an 'e'); which Snowe I afterwards
changed to 'Frost.' Subsequently, I rather regretted the change,
and wished it 'Snowe' again. If not too late, I should like the
alteration to be made now throughout the MS. A COLD name she must
have; partly, perhaps, on the 'lucus a non lucendo' principle--
partly on that of the 'fitness of things,' for she has about her
an external coldness.

"You say that she may be thought morbid and weak, unless the
history of her life be more fully given. I consider that she is
both morbid and weak at times; her character sets up no
pretensions to unmixed strength, and anybody living her life
would necessarily become morbid. It was no impetus of healthy
feeling which urged her to the confessional, for instance; it was
the semi-delirium of solitary grief and sickness. If, however,
the book does not express all this, there must be a great fault
somewhere. I might explain away a few other points, but it would
be too much like drawing a picture and then writing underneath
the name of the object intended to be represented. We know what
sort of a pencil that is which needs an ally in the pen.

"Thanking you again for the clearness and fulness with which you
have responded to my request for a statement of impressions, I
am, my dear Sir, yours very sincerely,


"I trust the work will be seen in MS. by no one except Mr. Smith
and yourself."

"Nov. 10th, 1852.

"My dear Sir,--I only wished the publication of 'Shirley' to be
delayed till 'Villette' was nearly ready; so that there can now be
no objection to its being issued whenever you think fit. About
putting the MS. into type, I can only say that, should I be able
to proceed with the third volume at my average rate of
composition, and with no more than the average amount of
interruptions, I should hope to have it ready in about three
weeks. I leave it to you to decide whether it would be better to
delay the printing that space of time, or to commence it
immediately. It would certainly be more satisfactory if you were
to see the third volume before printing the first and the second;
yet, if delay is likely to prove injurious, I do not think it is
indispensable. 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, women. But I must not take up either your time or my
own with further remarks. Believe me yours sincerely,


On a Saturday, a little later in this month, Miss Bronte
completed 'Villette,' and sent it off to her publishers. "I said
my prayers when I had done it. Whether it is well or ill done, I
don't know; D. V., I will now try and wait the issue quietly. The
book, I think, will not be considered pretentious; nor is it of a
character to excite hostility."

As her labour was ended, she felt at liberty to allow herself a
little change. There were several friends anxious to see her and
welcome her to their homes Miss Martineau, Mrs. Smith, and her
own faithful E----. With the last, in the same letter as that in
which she announced the completion of 'Villette,' she offered to
spend a week. She began, also, to consider whether it might not
be well to avail herself of Mrs. Smith's kind invitation, with a
view to the convenience of being on the spot to correct the

The following letter is given, not merely on account of her own
criticisms on 'Villette,' but because it shows how she had
learned to magnify the meaning of trifles, as all do who live a
self-contained and solitary life. Mr. Smith had been unable to
write by the same post as that which brought the money for
'Villette,' and she consequently received it without a line. The
friend with whom she was staying says, that she immediately
fancied there was some disappointment about 'Villette,' or that
some word or act of hers had given offence; and had not the
Sunday intervened, and so allowed time for Mr. Smith's letter to
make its appearance, she would certainly have crossed it on her
way to London.

"Dec. 6th, 1852.

"My dear Sir,--The receipts have reached me safely. I received
the first on Saturday, enclosed in a cover without a line, and
had made up my mind to take the train on Monday, and go up to
London to see what was the matter, and what had struck my
publisher mute. On Sunday morning your letter came, and you have
thus been spared the visitation of the unannounced and unsummoned
apparition of Currer Bell in Cornhill. Inexplicable delays should
be avoided when possible, for they are apt to urge those
subjected to their harassment to sudden and impulsive steps. I
must pronounce you right again, in your complaint of the transfer
of interest in the third volume, from one set of characters to
another. It is not pleasant, and it will probably be found as
unwelcome to the reader, as it was, in a sense, compulsory upon
the writer. The spirit of romance would have indicated another
course, far more flowery and inviting; it would have fashioned a
paramount hero, kept faithfully with him, and made him supremely
worshipful; he should have been an idol, and not a mute,
unresponding idol either; but this would have been unlike real
LIFE--inconsistent with truth--at variance with probability. I
greatly apprehend, however, that the weakest character in the
book is the one I aimed at making the most beautiful; and, if
this be the case, the fault lies in its wanting the germ of the
real--in its being purely imaginary. I felt that this character
lacked substance; I fear that the reader will feel the same.
Union with it resembles too much the fate of Ixion, who was mated
with a cloud. The childhood of Paulina is, however, I think,
pretty well imagined, but her. . ." (the remainder of this
interesting sentence is torn off the letter). "A brief visit to
London becomes thus more practicable, and if your mother will
kindly write, when she has time, and name a day after Christmas
which will suit her, I shall have pleasure, papa's health
permitting, in availing myself of her invitation. I wish I could
come in time to correct some at least of the proofs; it would
save trouble."


The difficulty that presented itself most strongly to me, when I
first had the honour of being requested to write this biography,
was how I could show what a noble, true, and tender woman
Charlotte Bronte really was, without mingling up with her life
too much of the personal history of her nearest and most intimate
friends. After much consideration of this point, I came to the
resolution of writing truly, if I wrote at all; of withholding
nothing, though some things, from their very nature, could not be
spoken of so fully as others.

One of the deepest interests of her life centres naturally round
her marriage, and the preceding circumstances; but more than all
other events (because of more recent date, and concerning another
as intimately as herself), it requires delicate handling on my
part, lest I intrude too roughly on what is most sacred to
memory. Yet I have two reasons, which seem to me good and valid
ones, for giving some particulars of the course of events which
led to her few months of wedded life--that short spell of
exceeding happiness. The first is my desire to call attention to
the fact that Mr. Nicholls was one who had seen her almost daily
for years; seen her as a daughter, a sister, a mistress and a
friend. He was not a man to be attracted by any kind of literary
fame. I imagine that this, by itself, would rather repel him when
he saw it in the possession of a woman. He was a grave, reserved,
conscientious man, with a deep sense of religion, and of his
duties as one of its ministers.

In silence he had watched her, and loved her long. The love of
such a man--a daily spectator of her manner of life for years--is
a great testimony to her character as a woman.

How deep his affection was I scarcely dare to tell, even if I
could in words. She did not know--she had hardly begun to
suspect--that she was the object of any peculiar regard on his
part, when, in this very December, he came one evening to tea.
After tea, she returned from the study to her own sitting-room,
as was her custom, leaving her father and his curate together.
Presently she heard the study-door open, and expected to hear the
succeeding clash of the front door. Instead, came a tap; and,
"like lightning, it flashed upon me what was coming. He entered.
He stood before me. What his words were you can imagine; his
manner you can hardly realise, nor can I forget it. He made me,
for the first time, feel what it costs a man to declare affection
when he doubts response. . . . The spectacle of one, ordinarily
so statue-like, thus trembling, stirred, and overcome, gave me a
strange shock. I could only entreat him to leave me then, and
promise a reply on the morrow. I asked if he had spoken to Papa.
He said he dared not. I think I half led, half put him out of the

So deep, so fervent, and so enduring was the affection Miss
Bronte had inspired in the heart of this good man! It is an
honour to her; and, as such, I have thought it my duty to speak
thus much, and quote thus fully from her letter about it. And now
I pass to my second reason for dwelling on a subject which may
possibly be considered by some, at first sight, of too private a
nature for publication. When Mr. Nicholls had left her, Charlotte
went immediately to her father and told him all. He always
disapproved of marriages, and constantly talked against them. But
he more than disapproved at this time; he could not bear the idea
of this attachment of Mr. Nicholls to his daughter. Fearing the
consequences of agitation to one so recently an invalid, she made
haste to give her father a promise that, on the morrow, Mr.
Nicholls should have a distinct refusal. Thus quietly and
modestly did she, on whom such hard judgments had been passed by
ignorant reviewers, receive this vehement, passionate declaration
of love,--thus thoughtfully for her father, and unselfishly for
herself, put aside all consideration of how she should reply,
excepting as he wished!

The immediate result of Mr. Nicholls' declaration of attachment
was, that he sent in his resignation of the curacy of Haworth;
and that Miss Bronte held herself simply passive, as far as words
and actions went, while she suffered acute pain from the strong
expressions which her father used in speaking of Mr. Nicholls,
and from the too evident distress and failure of health on the
part of the latter. Under these circumstances she, more gladly
than ever, availed herself of Mrs. Smith's proposal, that she
should again visit them in London; and thither she accordingly
went in the first week of the year 1853.

From thence I received the following letter. It is with a sad,
proud pleasure I copy her words of friendship now.

"January 12th, 1853.

"It is with YOU the ball rests. I have not heard from you since I
wrote last; but I thought I knew the reason of your silence, viz.
application to work,--and therefore I accept it, not merely with
resignation, but with satisfaction.

"I am now in London, as the date above will show; staying very
quietly at my publisher's, and correcting proofs, etc. Before
receiving yours, I had felt, and expressed to Mr. Smith,
reluctance to come in the way of 'Ruth;' not that I think SHE
would suffer from contact with 'Villette'--we know not but that
the damage might be the other way; but I have ever held
comparisons to be odious, and would fain that neither I nor my
friends should be made subjects for the same. Mr. Smith proposes,
accordingly, to defer the publication of my book till the 24th
inst.; he says that will give 'Ruth' the start in the papers
daily and weekly, and also will leave free to her all the
February magazines. Should this delay appear to you insufficient,
speak! and it shall be protracted.

"I dare say, arrange as we may, we shall not be able wholly to
prevent comparisons; it is the nature of some critics to be
invidious; but we need not care we can set them at defiance; they
SHALL not make us foes, they SHALL not mingle with our mutual
feelings one taint of jealousy there is my hand on that; I know
you will give clasp for clasp.

"'Villette' has indeed no right to push itself before 'Ruth.'
There is a goodness, a philanthropic purpose, a social use in the
latter to which the former cannot for an instant pretend; nor can
it claim precedence on the ground of surpassing power I think it
much quieter than 'Jane Eyre.'

. . . . . . . . . . .

"I wish to see YOU, probably at least as much as you can wish to
see ME, and therefore shall consider your invitation for March as
an engagement; about the close of that month, then, I hope to pay
you a brief visit. With kindest remembrances to Mr. Gaskell and
all your precious circle, I am," etc.

This visit at Mrs. Smith's was passed more quietly than any
previous one, and was consequently more in accordance with her
own tastes. She saw things rather than persons; and being allowed
to have her own choice of sights, she selected the "REAL in
preference to the DECORATIVE side of life." She went over two
prisons,--one ancient, the other modern,--Newgate and
Pentonville; over two hospitals, the Foundling and Bethlehem. She
was also taken, at her own request, to see several of the great
City sights; the Bank, the Exchange, Rothschild's, etc.

The power of vast yet minute organisation, always called out her
respect and admiration. She appreciated it more fully than most
women are able to do. All that she saw during this last visit to
London impressed her deeply--so much so as to render her
incapable of the immediate expression of her feelings, or of
reasoning upon her impressions while they were so vivid. If she
had lived, her deep heart would sooner or later have spoken out
on these things.

What she saw dwelt in her thoughts, and lay heavy on her spirits.
She received the utmost kindness from her hosts, and had the old,
warm, and grateful regard for them. But looking back, with the
knowledge of what was then the future, which Time has given, one
cannot but imagine that there was a toning-down in preparation
for the final farewell to these kind friends, whom she saw for
the last time on a Wednesday morning in February. She met her
friend E---- at Keighley, on her return, and the two proceeded to
Haworth together.

"Villette"--which, if less interesting as a mere story than "Jane
Eyre," displays yet more of the extraordinary genius of the
author--was received with one burst of acclamation. Out of so
small a circle of characters, dwelling in so dull and monotonous
an area as a "pension," this wonderful tale was evolved!

See how she receives the good tidings of her success!

"Feb. 15th, 1853.

"I got a budget of no less than seven papers yesterday and
to-day. The import of all the notices is such as to make my heart
swell with thankfulness to Him, who takes note both of suffering,
and work, and motives. Papa is pleased too. As to friends in
general, I believe I can love them still, without expecting them
to take any large share in this sort of gratification. The longer
I live, the more plainly I see that gentle must be the strain on
fragile human nature; it will not bear much."

I suspect that the touch of slight disappointment, perceptible in
the last few lines, arose from her great susceptibility to an
opinion she valued much,--that of Miss Martineau, who, both in an
article on 'Villette' in the Daily News, and in a private letter
to Miss Bronte, wounded her to the quick by expressions of
censure which she believed to be unjust and unfounded, but which,
if correct and true, went deeper than any merely artistic fault.
An author may bring himself to believe that he can bear blame
with equanimity, from whatever quarter it comes; but its force is
derived altogether from the character of this. To the public, one
reviewer may be the same impersonal being as another; but an
author has frequently a far deeper significance to attach to
opinions. They are the verdicts of those whom he respects and
admires, or the mere words of those for whose judgment he cares
not a jot. It is this knowledge of the individual worth of the
reviewer's opinion, which makes the censures of some sink so
deep, and prey so heavily upon an author's heart. And thus, in
proportion to her true, firm regard for Miss Martineau, did Miss
Bronte suffer under what she considered her misjudgment not
merely of writing, but of character.

She had long before asked Miss Martineau to tell her whether she
considered that any want of womanly delicacy or propriety was
betrayed in "Jane Eyre". And on receiving Miss Martineau's
assurance that she did not, Miss Bronte entreated her to declare
it frankly if she thought there was any failure of this
description in any future work of "Currer Bell's." The promise
then given of faithful truth-speaking, Miss Martineau fulfilled
when "Villette" appeared. Miss Bronte writhed under what she felt
to be injustice.

This seems a fitting place to state how utterly unconscious she
was of what was, by some, esteemed coarse in her writings. One
day, during that visit at the Briery when I first met her, the
conversation turned upon the subject of women's writing fiction;
and some one remarked on the fact that, in certain instances,
authoresses had much outstepped the line which men felt to be
proper in works of this kind. Miss Bronte said she wondered how
far this was a natural consequence of allowing the imagination to
work too constantly; Sir James and Lady Kay Shuttleworth and I
expressed our belief that such violations of propriety were
altogether unconscious on the part of those to whom reference had
been made. I remember her grave, earnest way of saying, "I trust
God will take from me whatever power of invention or expression I
may have, before He lets me become blind to the sense of what is
fitting or unfitting to be said!"

Again, she was invariably shocked and distressed when she heard
of any disapproval of "Jane Eyre" on the ground above-mentioned.
Some one said to her in London, "You know, you and I, Miss
Bronte, have both written naughty books!" She dwelt much on this;
and, as if it weighed on her mind, took an opportunity to ask
Mrs. Smith, as she would have asked a mother--if she had not been
motherless from earliest childhood--whether, indeed, there was
anything so wrong in "Jane Eyre."

I do not deny for myself the existence of coarseness here and
there in her works, otherwise so entirely noble. I only ask those
who read them to consider her life,--which has been openly laid
bare before them,--and to say how it could be otherwise. She saw
few men; and among these few were one or two with whom she had
been acquainted since early girlhood,--who had shown her much
friendliness and kindness,--through whose family she had received
many pleasures,--for whose intellect she had a great
respect,--but who talked before her, if not to her with as little
reticence as Rochester talked to Jane Eyre. Take this in
connection with her poor brother's sad life, and the out-spoken
people among whom she lived,--remember her strong feeling of the
duty of representing life as it really is, not as it ought to
be,--and then do her justice for all that she was, and all that
she would have been (had God spared her), rather than censure her
because circumstances forced her to touch pitch, as it were, and
by it her hand was for a moment defiled. It was but skin-deep.
Every change in her life was purifying her; it hardly could raise
her. Again I cry, "If she had but lived!"

The misunderstanding with Miss Martineau on account of
"Villette," was the cause of bitter regret to Miss Bronte. Her
woman's nature had been touched, as she thought, with insulting
misconception; and she had dearly loved the person who had thus
unconsciously wounded her. It was but in the January just past
that she had written as follows, in reply to a friend, the tenor
of whose letter we may guess from this answer:--

"I read attentively all you say about Miss Martineau; the
sincerity and constancy of your solicitude touch me very much; I
should grieve to neglect or oppose your advice, and yet I do not
feel it would be right to give Miss Martineau up entirely. There
is in her nature much that is very noble; hundreds have forsaken
her, more, I fear, in the apprehension that their fair names may
suffer, if seen in connection with hers, than from any pure
convictions, such as you suggest, of harm consequent on her fatal
tenets. With these fair-weather friends I cannot bear to rank;
and for her sin, is it not one of those of which God and not man
must judge?

"To speak the truth, my dear Miss ----, I believe, if you were in
my place, and knew Miss Martineau as I do,--if you had shared
with me the proofs of her genuine kindliness, and had seen how
she secretly suffers from abandonment,--you would be the last to
give her up; you would separate the sinner from the sin, and feel
as if the right lay rather in quietly adhering to her in her
strait, while that adherence is unfashionable and unpopular, than
in turning on her your back when the world sets the example. I
believe she is one of those whom opposition and desertion make
obstinate in error; while patience and tolerance touch her deeply
and keenly, and incline her to ask of her own heart whether the
course she has been pursuing may not possibly be a faulty

Kindly and faithful words! which Miss Martineau never knew of; to
be repaid in words more grand and tender, when Charlotte lay deaf
and cold by her dead sisters. In spite of their short sorrowful
misunderstanding, they were a pair of noble women and faithful

I turn to a pleasanter subject. While she was in London, Miss
Bronte had seen Lawrence's portrait of Mr. Thackeray, and admired
it extremely. Her first words, after she had stood before it some
time in silence, were, "And there came up a Lion out of Judah!"
The likeness was by this time engraved, and Mr. Smith sent her a
copy of it.


"Haworth, Feb. 26th, 1853.

"My dear Sir,--At a late hour yesterday evening, I had the honour
of receiving, at Haworth Parsonage, a distinguished guest, none
other than W. M. Thackeray, Esq. Mindful of the rites of
hospitality, I hung him up in state this morning. He looks superb
in his beautiful, tasteful gilded gibbet. For companion he has
the Duke of Wellington, (do you remember giving me that picture?)
and for contrast and foil Richmond's portrait of an unworthy
individual, who, in such society, must be name-less. Thackeray
looks away from the latter character with a grand scorn, edifying
to witness. I wonder if the giver of these gifts will ever see
them on the walls where they now hang; it pleases me to fancy
that one day he may. My father stood for a quarter of an hour
this morning examining the great man's picture. The conclusion of
his survey was, that he thought it a puzzling head; if he had
known nothing previously of the original's character; he could
not have read it in his features. I wonder at this. To me the
broad brow seems to express intellect. Certain lines about the
nose and cheek, betray the satirist and cynic; the mouth
indicates a child-like simplicity--perhaps even a degree of
irresoluteness, inconsistency--weakness in short, but a weakness
not unamiable. The engraving seems to me very good. A certain not
quite Christian expression--'not to put too fine a point upon
it'--an expression of spite, most vividly marked in the original,
is here softened, and perhaps a little--a very little--of the
power has escaped in this ameliorating process. Did it strike you

Miss Bronte was in much better health during this winter of
1852-3, than she had been the year before.

"For my part," (she wrote to me in February) "I have thus far
borne the cold weather well. I have taken long walks on the
crackling snow, and felt the frosty air bracing. This winter has,
for me, not been like last winter. December, January, February,
'51-2, passed like a long stormy night, conscious of one painful
dream) all solitary grief and sickness. The corresponding months.
in '52-3 have gone over my head quietly and not uncheerfully.
Thank God for the change and the repose! How welcome it has been
He only knows! My father too has borne the season well; and my
book, and its reception thus far, have pleased and cheered him."

In March the quiet Parsonage had the honour of receiving a visit
from the then Bishop of Ripon. He remained one night with Mr.
Bronte". In the evening, some of the neighbouring clergy were
invited to meet him at tea and supper; and during the latter
meal, some of the "curates "began merrily to upbraid Miss Bronte"
with "putting them into a book;" and she, shrinking from thus
having her character as authoress thrust upon her at her own
table, and in the presence of a stranger, pleasantly appealed to
the bishop as to whether it was quite fair thus to drive her,
into a corner. His Lordship, I have been told, was agreeably
impressed with the gentle unassuming manners of his hostess, and
with the perfect propriety and consistency of the arrangements in
the modest household. So much for the Bishop's recollection of
his visit. Now we will turn to hers.

"March 4th.

"The Bishop has been, and is gone. He is certainly a most
charming Bishop; the most benignant gentleman that ever put on
lawn sleeves; yet stately too, and quite competent to check
encroachments. His visit passed capitally well; and at its close,
as he was going away, he expressed himself thoroughly gratified
with all he had seen. The Inspector has been also in the course
of the past week; so that I have had a somewhat busy time of it.
If you could have been at Haworth to share the pleasures of the
company, without having been inconvenienced by the little bustle
of the preparation, I should have been VERY glad. But the house
was a good deal put out of its way, as you may suppose; all
passed, however, orderly, quietly, and well. Martha waited very
nicely, and I had a person to help her in the kitchen. Papa kept
up, too, fully as well as I expected, though I doubt whether he
could have borne another day of it. My penalty came on in a
strong headache as soon as the Bishop was gone: how thankful I
was that it had patiently waited his departure. I continue stupid
to-day: of course, it is the reaction consequent on several days
of extra exertion and excitement. It is very well to talk of
receiving a Bishop without trouble, but you MUST prepare for

By this time some of the Reviews had began to find fault with
"Villette." Miss Bronte made her old request.


"My dear Sir,--Were a review to appear, inspired with treble
their animus, PRAY do not withhold it from me. I like to see the
satisfactory notices,--especially I like to carry them to my
father; but I MUST see such as are UNsatisfactory and hostile;
these are for my own especial edification;--it is in these I best
read public feeling and opinion. To shun examination into the
dangerous and disagreeable seems to me cowardly. I long always to
know what really IS, and am only unnerved when kept in the dark.
. . . . . .

"As to the character of 'Lucy Snowe,' my intention from the first
was that she should not occupy the pedestal to which 'Jane Eyre'
was raised by some injudicious admirers. She is where I meant her
to be, and where no charge of self-laudation can touch her.

"The note you sent this morning from Lady Harriette St. Clair, is
precisely to the same purport as Miss Muloch's request,--an
application for exact and authentic information respecting the
fate of M. Paul Emanuel! You see how much the ladies think of
this little man, whom you none of you like. I had a letter the
other day; announcing that a lady of some note, who had always
determined that whenever, she married, her husband should be the
counterpart of 'Mr. Knightly' in Miss Austen's 'Emma,' had now
changed her mind, and vowed that she would either find the
duplicate of Professor Emanuel, or remain for ever single! I have
sent Lady Harriette an answer so worded as to leave the matter
pretty much where it was. Since the little puzzle amuses the
ladies, it would be a pity to spoil their sport by giving them
the key."

When Easter, with its duties arising out of sermons to be
preached by strange clergymen who had afterwards to be
entertained at the Parsonage,--with Mechanics' Institute
Meetings, and school tea-drinkings, was over and gone; she came,
at the close of April, to visit us in Manchester. We had a
friend, a young lady, staying with us. Miss Bronte had expected
to find us alone; and although our friend was gentle and sensible
after Miss Bronte's own heart, yet her presence was enough to
create a nervous tremour. I was aware that both of our guests
were unusually silent; and I saw a little shiver run from time to
time over Miss Bronte's frame. I could account for the modest
reserve of the young lady; and the next day Miss Bronte told me
how the unexpected sight of a strange face had affected her.

It was now two or three years since I had witnessed a similar
effect produced on her; in anticipation of a quiet evening at
Fox-How; and since then she had seen many and various people in
London: but the physical sensations produced by shyness were
still the same; and on the following day she laboured under
severe headache. I had several opportunities of perceiving how
this nervousness was ingrained in her constitution, and how
acutely she suffered in striving to overcome it. One evening we
had, among other guests, two sisters who sang Scottish ballads
exquisitely. Miss Bronte had been sitting quiet and constrained
till they began "The Bonnie House of Airlie," but the effect of
that and "Carlisle Yetts," which followed, was as irresistible as
the playing of the Piper of Hamelin. The beautiful clear light
came into her eyes; her lips quivered with emotion; she forgot
herself, rose, and crossed the room to the piano, where she asked
eagerly for song after song. The sisters begged her to come and
see them the next morning, when they would sing as long as ever
she liked; and she promised gladly and thankfully. But on
reaching the house her courage failed. We walked some time up and
down the street; she upbraiding herself all the while for folly,
and trying to dwell on the sweet echoes in her memory rather than
on the thought of a third sister who would have to be faced if we
went in. But it was of no use; and dreading lest this struggle
with herself might bring on one of her trying headaches, I
entered at last and made the best apology I could for her
non-appearance. Much of this nervous dread of encountering
strangers I ascribed to the idea of her personal ugliness, which
had been strongly impressed upon her imagination early in life,
and which she exaggerated to herself in a remarkable manner. "I
notice," said she, "that after a stranger has once looked at my
face, he is careful not to let his eyes wander to that part of
the room again!" A more untrue idea never entered into any one's
head. Two gentlemen who saw her during this visit, without
knowing at the time who she was, were singularly attracted by her
appearance; and this feeling of attraction towards a pleasant
countenance, sweet voice, and gentle timid manners, was so strong
in one as to conquer a dislike he had previously entertained to
her works.

There was another circumstance that came to my knowledge at this
period which told secrets about the finely-strung frame. One
night I was on the point of relating some dismal ghost story,
just before bed-time. She shrank from hearing it, and confessed
that she was superstitious, and, prone at all times to the
involuntary recurrence of any thoughts of ominous gloom which
might have been suggested to her. She said that on first coming
to us, she had found a letter on her dressing-table from a friend
in Yorkshire, containing a story which had impressed her vividly
ever since;--that it mingled with her dreams at night, and made
her sleep restless and unrefreshing.

One day we asked two gentlemen to meet her at dinner; expecting
that she and they would have a mutual pleasure in making each
other's acquaintance. To our disappointment she drew back with
timid reserve from all their advances, replying to their
questions and remarks in the briefest manner possible; till at
last they gave up their efforts to draw her into conversation in
despair, and talked to each other and my husband on subjects of
recent local interest. Among these Thackeray's Lectures (which
had lately been delivered in Manchester) were spoken of and that
on Fielding especially dwelt upon. One gentleman objected to it
strongly, as calculated to do moral harm, and regretted that a
man having so great an influence over the tone of thought of the
day, as Thackeray, should not more carefully weigh his words. The
other took the opposite view. He said that Thackeray described
men from the inside, as it were; through his strong power of
dramatic sympathy, he identified himself with certain characters,
felt their temptations, entered into their pleasures, etc. This
roused Miss Bronte, who threw herself warmly into the discussion;
the ice of her reserve was broken, and from that time she
showed her interest in all that was said, and contributed her
share to any conversation that was going on in the course of the

What she said, and which part she took, in the dispute about
Thackeray's lecture, may be gathered from the following letter,
referring to the same subject:--

"The Lectures arrived safely; I have read them through twice.
They must be studied to be appreciated. I thought well of them
when I heard them delivered, but now I see their real power; and
it is great. The lecture on Swift was new to me; I thought it
almost matchless. Not that by any means I always agree with Mr.
Thackeray's opinions, but his force, his penetration, his pithy
simplicity, his eloquence--his manly sonorous eloquence,--command
entire admiration. . . . Against his errors I protest, were it
treason to do so. I was present at the Fielding lecture: the hour
spent in listening to it was a painful hour. That Thackeray was
wrong in his way of treating Fielding's character and vices, my


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