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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter


CHAPTER VII: ANNE BRONTE

It can scarcely be doubted that Anne Bronte's two novels, _Agnes Grey_
and _The Tenant of Wildfell Hall_, would have long since fallen into
oblivion but for the inevitable association with the romances of her two
greater sisters. While this may he taken for granted, it is impossible
not to feel, even at the distance of half a century, a sense of Anne's
personal charm. Gentleness is a word always associated with her by those
who knew her. When Mr. Nicholls saw what professed to be a portrait of
Anne in a magazine article, he wrote: 'What an awful caricature of the
dear, gentle Anne Bronte!' Mr. Nicholls has a portrait of Anne in his
possession, drawn by Charlotte, which he pronounces to be an admirable
likeness, and this does convey the impression of a sweet and gentle
nature.

Anne, as we have seen, was taken in long clothes from Thornton to
Haworth. Her godmother was a Miss Outhwaite, a fact I learn from an
inscription in Anne's _Book of Common Prayer_. '_Miss Outhwaite to her
goddaughter_, _Anne Bronte_, _July _13_th_, 1827.' Miss Outhwaite was
not forgetful of her goddaughter, for by her will she left Anne 200
pounds.

There is a sampler worked by Anne, bearing date January 23rd, 1830, and
there is a later book than the Prayer Book, with Anne's name in it, and,
as might be expected, it is a good-conduct prize. _Prize for good
conduct presented to Miss A. Bronte with Miss Wooler's kind love_, _Roe
Head_, _Dec._ 14_th_, 1836, is the inscription in a copy of Watt _On the
Improvement of the Mind_.

Apart from the correspondence we know little more than this--that Anne
was the least assertive of the three sisters, and that she was more
distinctly a general favourite. We have Charlotte's own word for it that
even the curates ventured upon 'sheep's eyes' at Anne. We know all too
little of her two experiences as governess, first at Blake Hall with Mrs.
Ingham, and later at Thorp Green with Mrs. Robinson. The painful episode
of Branwell's madness came to disturb her sojourn at the latter place,
but long afterwards her old pupils, the Misses Robinson, called to see
her at Haworth; and one of them, who became a Mrs. Clapham of Keighley,
always retained the most kindly memories of her gentle governess.

[Picture: Anne Bronte]

With the exception of these two uncomfortable episodes as governess, Anne
would seem to have had no experience of the larger world. Even before
Anne's death, Charlotte had visited Brussels, London, and Hathersage (in
Derbyshire). Anne never, I think, set foot out of her native county,
although she was the only one of her family to die away from home. Of
her correspondence I have only the two following letters:--

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _October_ 4_th_, 1847.

'MY DEAR MISS NUSSEY,--Many thanks to you for your unexpected and
welcome epistle. Charlotte is well, and meditates writing to you.
Happily for all parties the east wind no longer prevails. During its
continuance she complained of its influence as usual. I too suffered
from it in some degree, as I always do, more or less; but this time,
it brought me no reinforcement of colds and coughs, which is what I
dread the most. Emily considers it a very uninteresting wind, but it
does not affect her nervous system. Charlotte agrees with me in
thinking the --- {183a} a very provoking affair. You are quite
mistaken about her parasol; she affirms she brought it back, and I
can bear witness to the fact, having seen it yesterday in her
possession. As for my book, I have no wish to see it again till I
see you along with it, and then it will be welcome enough for the
sake of the bearer. We are all here much as you left us. I have no
news to tell you, except that Mr. Nicholls begged a holiday and went
to Ireland three or four weeks ago, and is not expected back till
Saturday; but that, I dare say, is no news at all. We were all and
severally pleased and gratified for your kind and judiciously
selected presents, from papa down to Tabby, or down to myself,
perhaps I ought rather to say. The crab-cheese is excellent, and
likely to be very useful, but I don't intend to need it. It is not
choice but necessity has induced me to choose such a tiny sheet of
paper for my letter, having none more suitable at hand; but perhaps
it will contain as much as you need wish to read, and I to write, for
I find I have nothing more to say, except that your little Tabby must
be a charming little creature. That is all, for as Charlotte is
writing, or about to write to you herself, I need not send any
messages from her. Therefore accept my best love. I must not omit
the Major's {183b} compliments. And--Believe me to be your
affectionate friend,

'ANNE BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _January_ 4_th_, 1848.

'MY DEAR MISS NUSSEY,--I am not going to give you a "nice _long_
letter"--on the contrary, I mean to content myself with a shabby
little note, to be ingulfed in a letter of Charlotte's, which will,
of course, be infinitely more acceptable to you than any production
of mine, though I do not question your friendly regard for me, or the
indulgent welcome you would accord to a missive of mine, even without
a more agreeable companion to back it; but you must know there is a
lamentable deficiency in my organ of language, which makes me almost
as bad a hand at writing as talking, unless I have something
particular to say. I have now, however, to thank you and your friend
for your kind letter and her pretty watch-guards, which I am sure we
shall all of us value the more for being the work of her own hands.
You do not tell us how _you_ bear the present unfavourable weather.
We are all cut up by this cruel east wind. Most of us, i.e.
Charlotte, Emily, and I have had the influenza, or a bad cold
instead, twice over within the space of a few weeks. Papa has had it
once. Tabby has escaped it altogether. I have no news to tell you,
for we have been nowhere, seen no one, and done nothing (to speak of)
since you were here--and yet we contrive to be busy from morning till
night. Flossy is fatter than ever, but still active enough to relish
a sheep-hunt. I hope you and your circle have been more fortunate in
the matter of colds than we have.

'With kind regards to all,--I remain, dear Miss Nussey, yours ever
affectionately,

'ANNE BRONTE.'

_Agnes Grey_, as we have noted, was published by Newby, in one volume, in
1847. _The Tenant of Wildfell Hall_ was issued by the same publisher, in
three volumes, in 1848. It is not generally known that _The Tenant of
Wildfell Hall_ went into a second edition the same year; and I should
have pronounced it incredible, were not a copy of the later issue in my
possession, that Anne Bronte had actually written a preface to this
edition. The fact is entirely ignored in the correspondence. The
preface in question makes it quite clear, if any evidence of that were
necessary, that Anne had her brother in mind in writing the book. 'I
could not be understood to suppose,' she says, 'that the proceedings of
the unhappy scapegrace, with his few profligate companions I have here
introduced, are a specimen of the common practices of society: the case
is an extreme one, as I trusted none would fail to perceive; but I knew
that such characters do exist, and if I have warned one rash youth from
following in their steps, or prevented one thoughtless girl from falling
into the very natural error of my heroine, the book has not been written
in vain.' 'One word more and I have done,' she continues. 'Respecting
the author's identity, I would have it to be distinctly understood that
Acton Bell is neither Currer nor Ellis Bell, and, therefore, let not his
faults be attributed to them. As to whether the name is real or
fictitious, it cannot greatly signify to those who know him only by his
works.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_January_ 18_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--In sitting down to write to you I feel as if I were
doing a wrong and a selfish thing. I believe I ought to discontinue
my correspondence with you till times change, and the tide of
calamity which of late days has set so strongly in against us takes a
turn. But the fact is, sometimes I feel it absolutely necessary to
unburden my mind. To papa I must only speak cheeringly, to Anne only
encouragingly--to you I may give some hint of the dreary truth.

'Anne and I sit alone and in seclusion as you fancy us, but we do not
study. Anne cannot study now, she can scarcely read; she occupies
Emily's chair; she does not get well. A week ago we sent for a
medical man of skill and experience from Leeds to see her. He
examined her with the stethoscope. His report I forbear to dwell on
for the present--even skilful physicians have often been mistaken in
their conjectures.

'My first impulse was to hasten her away to a warmer climate, but
this was forbidden: she must not travel; she is not to stir from the
house this winter; the temperature of her room is to be kept
constantly equal.

'Had leave been given to try change of air and scene, I should hardly
have known how to act. I could not possibly leave papa; and when I
mentioned his accompanying us, the bare thought distressed him too
much to be dwelt upon. Papa is now upwards of seventy years of age;
his habits for nearly thirty years have been those of absolute
retirement; any change in them is most repugnant to him, and probably
could not, at this time especially when the hand of God is so heavy
upon his old age, be ventured upon without danger.

'When we lost Emily I thought we had drained the very dregs of our
cup of trial, but now when I hear Anne cough as Emily coughed, I
tremble lest there should be exquisite bitterness yet to taste.
However, I must not look forwards, nor must I look backwards. Too
often I feel like one crossing an abyss on a narrow plank--a glance
round might quite unnerve.

'So circumstanced, my dear sir, what claim have I on your friendship,
what right to the comfort of your letters? My literary character is
effaced for the time, and it is by that only you know me. Care of
papa and Anne is necessarily my chief present object in life, to the
exclusion of all that could give me interest with my publishers or
their connections. Should Anne get better, I think I could rally and
become Currer Bell once more, but if otherwise, I look no farther:
sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

'Anne is very patient in her illness, as patient as Emily was
unflinching. I recall one sister and look at the other with a sort
of reverence as well as affection--under the test of suffering
neither has faltered.

'All the days of this winter have gone by darkly and heavily like a
funeral train. Since September, sickness has not quitted the house.
It is strange it did not use to be so, but I suspect now all this has
been coming on for years. Unused, any of us, to the possession of
robust health, we have not noticed the gradual approaches of decay;
we did not know its symptoms: the little cough, the small appetite,
the tendency to take cold at every variation of atmosphere have been
regarded as things of course. I see them in another light now.

'If you answer this, write to me as you would to a person in an
average state of tranquillity and happiness. I want to keep myself
as firm and calm as I can. While papa and Anne want me, I hope, I
pray, never to fail them. Were I to see you I should endeavour to
converse on ordinary topics, and I should wish to write on the
same--besides, it will be less harassing to yourself to address me as
usual.

'May God long preserve to you the domestic treasures you value; and
when bereavement at last comes, may He give you strength to bear
it.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_February_ 1_st_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--Anne seems so tranquil this morning, so free from pain
and fever, and looks and speaks so like herself in health, that I too
feel relieved, and I take advantage of the respite to write to you,
hoping that my letter may reflect something of the comparative peace
I feel.

'Whether my hopes are quite fallacious or not, I do not know; but
sometimes I fancy that the remedies prescribed by Mr. Teale, and
approved--as I was glad to learn--by Dr. Forbes, are working a good
result. Consumption, I am aware, is a flattering malady, but
certainly Anne's illness has of late assumed a less alarming
character than it had in the beginning: the hectic is allayed; the
cough gives a more frequent reprieve. Could I but believe she would
live two years--a year longer, I should be thankful: I dreaded the
terrors of the swift messenger which snatched Emily from us, as it
seemed, in a few days.

'The parcel came yesterday. You and Mr. Smith do nothing by halves.
Neither of you care for being thanked, so I will keep my gratitude in
my own mind. The choice of books is perfect. Papa is at this moment
reading Macaulay's _History_, which he had wished to see. Anne is
engaged with one of Frederika Bremer's tales.

'I wish I could send a parcel in return; I had hoped to have had one
by this time ready to despatch. When I saw you and Mr. Smith in
London, I little thought of all that was to come between July and
Spring: how my thoughts were to be caught away from imagination,
enlisted and absorbed in realities the most cruel.

'I will tell you what I want to do; it is to show you the first
volume of my MS., which I have copied. In reading Mary Barton (a
clever though painful tale) I was a little dismayed to find myself in
some measure anticipated both in subject and incident. I should like
to have your opinion on this point, and to know whether the
resemblance appears as considerable to a stranger as it does to
myself. I should wish also to have the benefit of such general
strictures and advice as you choose to give. Shall I therefore send
the MS. when I return the first batch of books?

'But remember, if I show it to you it is on two conditions: the
first, that you give me a faithful opinion--I do not promise to be
swayed by it, but I should like to have it; the second, that you show
it and speak of it to _none_ but Mr. Smith. I have always a great
horror of premature announcements--they may do harm and can never do
good. Mr. Smith must be so kind as not to mention it yet in his
quarterly circulars. All human affairs are so uncertain, and my
position especially is at present so peculiar, that I cannot count on
the time, and would rather that no allusion should be made to a work
of which great part is yet to create.

'There are two volumes in the first parcel which, having seen, I
cannot bring myself to part with, and must beg Mr. Smith's permission
to retain: Mr. Thackeray's _Journey from Cornhill_, _etc_. and _The
testimony to the Truth_. That last is indeed a book after my own
heart. I _do_ like the mind it discloses--it is of a fine and high
order. Alexander Harris may be a clown by birth, but he is a
nobleman by nature. When I could read no other book, I read his and
derived comfort from it. No matter whether or not I can agree in all
his views, it is the principles, the feelings, the heart of the man I
admire.

'Write soon and tell me whether you think it advisable that I should
send the MS.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'HAWORTH, _February_ 4_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I send the parcel up without delay, according to your
request. The manuscript has all its errors upon it, not having been
read through since copying. I have kept _Madeline_, along with the
two other books I mentioned; I shall consider it the gift of Miss
Kavanagh, and shall value it both for its literary excellence and for
the modest merit of the giver. We already possess Tennyson's _Poems_
and _Our Street_. Emerson's _Essays_ I read with much interest, and
often with admiration, but they are of mixed gold and clay--deep and
invigorating truth, dreary and depressing fallacy seem to me combined
therein. In George Borrow's works I found a wild fascination, a
vivid graphic power of description, a fresh originality, an athletic
simplicity (so to speak), which give them a stamp of their own.
After reading his _Bible in Spain_ I felt as if I had actually
travelled at his side, and seen the "wild Sil" rush from its mountain
cradle; wandered in the hilly wilderness of the Sierras; encountered
and conversed with Manehegan, Castillian, Andalusian, Arragonese,
and, above all, with the savage Gitanos.

'Your mention of Mr. Taylor suggests to me that possibly you and Mr.
Smith might wish him to share the little secret of the MS.--that
exclusion might seem invidious, that it might make your mutual
evening chat less pleasant. If so, admit him to the confidence by
all means. He is attached to the firm, and will no doubt keep its
secrets. I shall be glad of another censor, and if a severe one, so
much the better, provided he is also just. I court the keenest
criticism. Far rather would I never publish more, than publish
anything inferior to my first effort. Be honest, therefore, all
three of you. If you think this book promises less favourably than
_Jane Eyre_, say so; it is but trying again, _i.e._, if life and
health be spared.

'Anne continues a little better--the mild weather suits her. At
times I hear the renewal of hope's whisper, but I dare not listen too
fondly; she deceived me cruelly before. A sudden change to cold
would be the test. I dread such change, but must not anticipate.
Spring lies before us, and then summer--surely we may hope a little!

'Anne expresses a wish to see the notices of the poems. You had
better, therefore, send them. We shall expect to find painful
allusions to one now above blame and beyond praise; but these must be
borne. For ourselves, we are almost indifferent to censure. I read
the _Quarterly_ without a pang, except that I thought there were some
sentences disgraceful to the critic. He seems anxious to let it be
understood that he is a person well acquainted with the habits of the
upper classes. Be this as it may, I am afraid he is no gentleman;
and moreover, that no training could make him such. {190} Many a
poor man, born and bred to labour, would disdain that reviewer's cast
of feeling.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_March_ 2_nd_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--My sister still continues better: she has less languor
and weakness; her spirits are improved. This change gives cause, I
think, both for gratitude and hope.

'I am glad that you and Mr. Smith like the commencement of my present
work. I wish it were _more than a commencement_; for how it will be
reunited after the long break, or how it can gather force of flow
when the current has been checked or rather drawn off so long, I know
not.

'I sincerely thank you both for the candid expression of your
objections. What you say with reference to the first chapter shall
be duly weighed. At present I feel reluctant to withdraw it,
because, as I formerly said of the Lowood part of _Jane Eyre_, _it is
true_. The curates and their ongoings are merely photographed from
the life. I should like you to explain to me more fully the ground
of your objections. Is it because you think this chapter will render
the work liable to severe handling by the press? Is it because
knowing as you now do the identity of "Currer Bell," this scene
strikes you as unfeminine? Is it because it is intrinsically
defective and inferior? I am afraid the two first reasons would not
weigh with me--the last would.

'Anne and I thought it very kind in you to preserve all the notices
of the Poems so carefully for us. Some of them, as you said, were
well worth reading. We were glad to find that our old friend the
_Critic_ has again a kind word for us. I was struck with one curious
fact, viz., that four of the notices are fac-similes of each other.
How does this happen? I suppose they copy.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_March_ 8_th_, 1849.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Anne's state has apparently varied very little during
the last fortnight or three weeks. I wish I could say she gains
either flesh, strength, or appetite; but there is no progress on
these points, nor I hope, as far as regards the two last at least,
any falling off; she is piteously thin. Her cough, and the pain in
her side continue the same.

'I write these few lines that you may not think my continued silence
strange; anything like frequent correspondence I cannot keep up, and
you must excuse me. I trust you and all at Brookroyd are happy and
well. Give my love to your mother and all the rest, and--Believe me,
yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_March_ 11_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--My sister has been something worse since I wrote last.
We have had nearly a week of frost, and the change has tried her, as
I feared it would do, though not so severely as former experience had
led me to apprehend. I am thankful to say she is now again a little
better. Her state of mind is usually placid, and her chief
sufferings consist in the harassing cough and a sense of languor.

'I ought to have acknowledged the safe arrival of the parcel before
now, but I put it off from day to day, fearing I should write a
sorrowful letter. A similar apprehension induces me to abridge this
note.

'Believe me, whether in happiness or the contrary, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS LAETITIA WHEELWRIGHT

'HAWORTH, _March_ 15_th_, 1849.

'DEAR LAETITIA,--I have not quite forgotten you through the winter,
but I have remembered you only like some pleasant waking idea
struggling through a dreadful dream. You say my last letter was
dated September 14th. You ask how I have passed the time since.
What has happened to me? Why have I been silent?

'It is soon told.

'On the 24th of September my only brother, after being long in weak
health, and latterly consumptive--though we were far from
apprehending immediate danger--died, quite suddenly as it seemed to
us. He had been out two days before. The shock was great. Ere he
could be interred I fell ill. A low nervous fever left me very weak.
As I was slowly recovering, my sister Emily, whom you knew, was
seized with inflammation of the lungs; suppuration took place; two
agonising months of hopes and fears followed, and on the 19th of
December _she died_.

'She was scarcely cold in her grave when Anne, my youngest and last
sister, who has been delicate all her life, exhibited symptoms that
struck us with acute alarm. We sent for the first advice that could
be procured. She was examined with the stethoscope, and the dreadful
fact was announced that her lungs too were affected, and that
tubercular consumption had already made considerable progress. A
system of treatment was prescribed, which has since been ratified by
the opinion of Dr. Forbes, whom your papa will, I dare say, know. I
hope it has somewhat delayed disease. She is now a patient invalid,
and I am her nurse. God has hitherto supported me in some sort
through all these bitter calamities, and my father, I am thankful to
say, has been wonderfully sustained; but there have been hours, days,
weeks of inexpressible anguish to undergo, and the cloud of impending
distress still lowers dark and sullen above us. I cannot write much.
I can only pray Providence to preserve you and yours from such
affliction as He has seen good to accumulate on me and mine.

'With best regards to your dear mamma and all your circle,--Believe
me, yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS WOOLER

'HAWORTH, _March_ 24_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR MISS WOOLER,--I have delayed answering your letter in the
faint hope that I might be able to reply favourably to your inquiries
after my sister's health. This, however, is not permitted me to do.
Her decline is gradual and fluctuating, but its nature is not
doubtful. The symptoms of cough, pain in the side and chest, wasting
of flesh, strength, and appetite, after the sad experience we have
had, cannot but be regarded by us as equivocal.

'In spirit she is resigned; at heart she is, I believe, a true
Christian. She looks beyond this life, and regards her home and rest
as elsewhere than on earth. May God support her and all of us
through the trial of lingering sickness, and aid her in the last hour
when the struggle which separates soul from body must be gone
through!

'We saw Emily torn from the midst of us when our hearts clung to her
with intense attachment, and when, loving each other as we did--well,
it seemed as if (might we but have been spared to each other) we
could have found complete happiness in our mutual society and
affection. She was scarcely buried when Anne's health failed, and we
were warned that consumption had found another victim in her, and
that it would be vain to reckon on her life.

'These things would be too much if Reason, unsupported by Religion,
were condemned to bear them alone. I have cause to be most thankful
for the strength which has hitherto been vouchsafed both to my father
and myself. God, I think, is specially merciful to old age; and for
my own part, trials which in prospective would have seemed to me
quite intolerable, when they actually came, I endured without
prostration. Yet, I must confess, that in the time which has elapsed
since Emily's death, there have been moments of solitary, deep, inert
affliction, far harder to bear than those which immediately followed
our loss. The crisis of bereavement has an acute pang which goads to
exertion, the desolate after-feeling sometimes paralyses.

'I have learned that we are not to find solace in our own strength:
we must seek it in God's omnipotence. Fortitude is good, but
fortitude itself must be shaken under us to teach us how weak we are.

'With best wishes to yourself and all dear to you, and sincere thanks
for the interest you so kindly continue to take in me and my
sister,--Believe me, my dear Miss Wooler, yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_April_ 16_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--Your kind advice on the subject of Homoeopathy
deserves and has our best thanks. We find ourselves, however, urged
from more than one quarter to try different systems and medicines,
and I fear we have already given offence by not listening to all.
The fact is, were we in every instance compliant, my dear sister
would be harassed by continual changes. Cod-liver oil and carbonate
of iron were first strongly recommended. Anne took them as long as
she could, but at last she was obliged to give them up: the oil
yielded her no nutriment, it did not arrest the progress of
emaciation, and as it kept her always sick, she was prevented from
taking food of any sort. Hydropathy was then strongly advised. She
is now trying Gobold's Vegetable Balsam; she thinks it does her some
good; and as it is the first medicine which has had that effect, she
would wish to persevere with it for a time. She is also looking
hopefully forward to deriving benefit from change of air. We have
obtained Mr. Teale's permission to go to the seaside in the course of
six or eight weeks. At first I felt torn between two duties--that of
staying with papa and going with Anne; but as it is papa's own most
kindly expressed wish that I should adopt the latter plan, and as,
besides, he is now, thank God! in tolerable health, I hope to be
spared the pain of resigning the care of my sister to other hands,
however friendly. We wish to keep together as long as we can. I
hope, too, to derive from the change some renewal of physical
strength and mental composure (in neither of which points am I what I
ought or wish to be) to make me a better and more cheery nurse.

'I fear I must have seemed to you hard in my observations about _The
Emigrant Family_. The fact was, I compared Alexander Harris with
himself only. It is not equal to the _Testimony to the Truth_, but,
tried by the standard of other and very popular books too, it is very
clever and original. Both subject and the manner of treating it are
unhackneyed: he gives new views of new scenes and furnishes
interesting information on interesting topics. Considering the
increasing necessity for and tendency to emigration, I should think
it has a fair chance of securing the success it merits.

'I took up Leigh Hunt's book _The Town_ with the impression that it
would be interesting only to Londoners, and I was surprised, ere I
had read many pages, to find myself enchained by his pleasant,
graceful, easy style, varied knowledge, just views, and kindly
spirit. There is something peculiarly anti-melancholic in Leigh
Hunt's writings, and yet they are never boisterous. They resemble
sunshine, being at once bright and tranquil.

'I like Carlyle better and better. His style I do not like, nor do I
always concur in his opinions, nor quite fall in with his hero
worship; but there is a manly love of truth, an honest recognition
and fearless vindication of intrinsic greatness, of intellectual and
moral worth, considered apart from birth, rank, or wealth, which
commands my sincere admiration. Carlyle would never do for a
contributor to the _Quarterly_. I have not read his _French
Revolution_.

'I congratulate you on the approaching publication of Mr. Ruskin's
new work. If the _Seven Lamps of Architecture_ resemble their
predecessor, _Modern Painters_, they will be no lamps at all, but a
new constellation--seven bright stars, for whose rising the reading
world ought to be anxiously agaze.

'Do not ask me to mention what books I should like to read. Half the
pleasure of receiving a parcel from Cornhill consists in having its
contents chosen for us. We like to discover, too, by the leaves cut
here and there, that the ground has been travelled before us. I may
however say, with reference to works of fiction, that I should much
like to see one of Godwin's works, never having hitherto had that
pleasure--_Caleb Williams_ or _Fleetwood_, or which you thought best
worth reading.

'But it is yet much too soon to talk of sending more books; our
present stock is scarcely half exhausted. You will perhaps think I
am a slow reader, but remember, Currer Bell is a country housewife,
and has sundry little matters connected with the needle and kitchen
to attend to which take up half his day, especially now when, alas!
there is but one pair of hands where once there were three. I did
not mean to touch that chord, its sound is too sad.

'I try to write now and then. The effort was a hard one at first.
It renewed the terrible loss of last December strangely. Worse than
useless did it seem to attempt to write what there no longer lived an
"Ellis Bell" to read; the whole book, with every hope founded on it,
faded to vanity and vexation of spirit.

'One inducement to persevere and do my best I still have, however,
and I am thankful for it: I should like to please my kind friends at
Cornhill. To that end I wish my powers would come back; and if it
would please Providence to restore my remaining sister, I think they
would.

'Do not forget to tell me how you are when you write again. I trust
your indisposition is quite gone by this time.--Believe me, yours
sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 1_st_, 1849.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I returned Mary Taylor's letter to Hunsworth as soon as
I had read it. Thank God she was safe up to that time, but I do not
think the earthquake was then over. I shall long to hear tidings of
her again.

'Anne was worse during the warm weather we had about a week ago. She
grew weaker, and both the pain in her side and her cough were worse;
strange to say, since it is colder, she has appeared rather to revive
than sink. I still hope that if she gets over May she may last a
long time.

'We have engaged lodgings at Scarbro'. We stipulated for a
good-sized sitting-room and an airy double-bedded lodging room, with
a sea view, and if not deceived, have obtained these desiderata at
No. 2 Cliff. Anne says it is one of the best situations in the
place. It would not have done to have taken lodgings either in the
town or on the bleak steep coast, where Miss Wooler's house is
situated. If Anne is to get any good she must have every advantage.
Miss Outhwaite [her godmother] left her in her will a legacy of 200
pounds, and she cannot employ her money better than in obtaining what
may prolong existence, if it does not restore health. We hope to
leave home on the 23rd, and I think it will be advisable to rest at
York, and stay all night there. I hope this arrangement will suit
you. We reckon on your society, dear Ellen, as a real privilege and
pleasure. We shall take little luggage, and shall have to buy
bonnets and dresses and several other things either at York or
Scarbro'; which place do you think would be best? Oh, if it would
please God to strengthen and revive Anne, how happy we might be
together! His will, however, must be done, and if she is not to
recover, it remains to pray for strength and patience.

'C. B.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_May_ 8_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I hasten to acknowledge the two kind letters for which
I am indebted to you. That fine spring weather of which you speak
did not bring such happiness to us in its sunshine as I trust it did
to you and thousands besides--the change proved trying to my sister.
For a week or ten days I did not know what to think, she became so
weak, and suffered so much from increased pain in the side, and
aggravated cough. The last few days have been much colder, yet,
strange to say, during their continuance she has appeared rather to
revive than sink. She not unfrequently shows the very same symptoms
which were apparent in Emily only a few days before she died--fever
in the evenings, sleepless nights, and a sort of lethargy in the
morning hours; this creates acute anxiety--then comes an improvement,
which reassures. In about three weeks, should the weather be genial
and her strength continue at all equal to the journey, we hope to go
to Scarboro'. It is not without misgiving that I contemplate a
departure from home under such circumstances; but since she herself
earnestly wishes the experiment to be tried, I think it ought not to
be neglected. We are in God's hands, and must trust the results to
Him. An old school-fellow of mine, a tried and faithful friend, has
volunteered to accompany us. I shall have the satisfaction of
leaving papa to the attentions of two servants equally tried and
faithful. One of them is indeed now old and infirm, and unfit to
stir much from her chair by the kitchen fireside; but the other is
young and active, and even she has lived with us seven years. I have
reason, therefore, you see, to be thankful amidst sorrow, especially
as papa still possesses every faculty unimpaired, and though not
robust, has good general health--a sort of chronic cough is his sole
complaint.

'I hope Mr. Smith will not risk a cheap edition of _Jane Eyre_ yet,
he had better wait awhile--the public will be sick of the name of
that one book. I can make no promise as to when another will be
ready--neither my time nor my efforts are my own. That absorption in
my employment to which I gave myself up without fear of doing wrong
when I wrote _Jane Eyre_, would now be alike impossible and blamable;
but I do what I can, and have made some little progress. We must all
be patient.

'Meantime, I should say, let the public forget at their ease, and let
us not be nervous about it. And as to the critics, if the Bells
possess real merit, I do not fear impartial justice being rendered
them one day. I have a very short mental as well as physical sight
in some matters, and am far less uneasy at the idea of public
impatience, misconstruction, censure, etc., than I am at the thought
of the anxiety of those two or three friends in Cornhill to whom I
owe much kindness, and whose expectations I would earnestly wish not
to disappoint. If they can make up their minds to wait tranquilly,
and put some confidence in my goodwill, if not my power, to get on as
well as may be, I shall not repine; but I verily believe that the
"nobler sex" find it more difficult to wait, to plod, to work out
their destiny inch by inch, than their sisters do. They are always
for walking so fast and taking such long steps, one cannot keep up
with them. One should never tell a gentleman that one has commenced
a task till it is nearly achieved. Currer Bell, even if he had no
let or hindrance, and if his path were quite smooth, could never
march with the tread of a Scott, a Bulwer, a Thackeray, or a Dickens.
I want you and Mr. Smith clearly to understand this. I have always
wished to guard you against exaggerated anticipations--calculate low
when you calculate on me. An honest man--and woman too--would always
rather rise above expectation than fall below it.

'Have I lectured enough? and am I understood?

'Give my sympathising respects to Mrs. Williams. I hope her little
daughter is by this time restored to perfect health. It pleased me
to see with what satisfaction you speak of your son. I was glad,
too, to hear of the progress and welfare of Miss Kavanagh. The
notices of Mr. Harris's works are encouraging and just--may they
contribute to his success!

'Should Mr. Thackeray again ask after Currer Bell, say the secret is
and will be well kept because it is not worth disclosure. This fact
his own sagacity will have already led him to divine. In the hope
that it may not be long ere I hear from you again,--Believe me, yours
sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS WOOLER

'HAWORTH, _May_ 16_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR MISS WOOLER,--I will lose no time in thanking you for your
letter and kind offer of assistance. We have, however, already
engaged lodgings. I am not myself acquainted with Scarbro', but Anne
knows it well, having been there three or four times. She had a
particular preference for the situation of some lodgings (No. 2
Cliff). We wrote about them, and finding them disengaged, took them.
Your information is, notwithstanding, valuable, should we find this
place in any way ineligible. It is a satisfaction to be provided
with directions for future use.

'Next Wednesday is the day fixed for our departure. Ellen Nussey
accompanies us (by Anne's expressed wish). I could not refuse her
society, but I dared not urge her to go, for I have little hope that
the excursion will be one of pleasure or benefit to those engaged in
it. Anne is extremely weak. She herself has a fixed impression that
the sea air will give her a chance of regaining strength; that
chance, therefore, we must have. Having resolved to try the
experiment, misgivings are useless; and yet, when I look at her,
misgivings will rise. She is more emaciated than Emily was at the
very last; her breath scarcely serves her to mount the stairs,
however slowly. She sleeps very little at night, and often passes
most of the forenoon in a semi-lethargic state. Still, she is up all
day, and even goes out a little when it is fine. Fresh air usually
acts as a stimulus, but its reviving power diminishes.

'With best wishes for your own health and welfare,--Believe me, my
dear Miss Wooler, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'No. 2 CLIFF, SCARBORO', _May_ 27_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--The date above will inform you why I have not answered
your last letter more promptly. I have been busy with preparations
for departure and with the journey. I am thankful to say we reached
our destination safely, having rested one night at York. We found
assistance wherever we needed it; there was always an arm ready to do
for my sister what I was not quite strong enough to do: lift her in
and out of the carriages, carry her across the line, etc.

'It made her happy to see both York and its Minster, and Scarboro'
and its bay once more. There is yet no revival of bodily strength--I
fear indeed the slow ebb continues. People who see her tell me I
must not expect her to last long--but it is something to cheer her
mind.

'Our lodgings are pleasant. As Anne sits at the window she can look
down on the sea, which this morning is calm as glass. She says if
she could breathe more freely she would be comfortable at this
moment--but she cannot breathe freely.

'My friend Ellen is with us. I find her presence a solace. She is a
calm, steady girl--not brilliant, but good and true. She suits and
has always suited me well. I like her, with her phlegm, repose,
sense, and sincerity, better than I should like the most talented
without these qualifications.

'If ever I see you again I should have pleasure in talking over with
you the topics you allude to in your last--or rather, in hearing
_you_ talk them over. We see these things through a glass darkly--or
at least I see them thus. So far from objecting to speculation on,
or discussion of, the subject, I should wish to hear what others have
to say. By _others_, I mean only the serious and reflective--levity
in such matters shocks as much as hypocrisy.

'Write to me. In this strange place your letters will come like the
visits of a friend. Fearing to lose the post, I will add no more at
present.--Believe me, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_May_ 30_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--My poor sister is taken quietly home at last. She
died on Monday. With almost her last breath she said she was happy,
and thanked God that death was come, and come so gently. I did not
think it would be so soon.

'You will not expect me to add more at present.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_June_ 25_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I am now again at home, where I returned last
Thursday. I call it _home_ still--much as London would be called
London if an earthquake should shake its streets to ruins. But let
me not be ungrateful: Haworth parsonage is still a home for me, and
not quite a ruined or desolate home either. Papa is there, and two
most affectionate and faithful servants, and two old dogs, in their
way as faithful and affectionate--Emily's large house-dog which lay
at the side of her dying bed, and followed her funeral to the vault,
lying in the pew couched at our feet while the burial service was
being read--and Anne's little spaniel. The ecstasy of these poor
animals when I came in was something singular. At former returns
from brief absences they always welcomed me warmly--but not in that
strange, heart-touching way. I am certain they thought that, as I
was returned, my sisters were not far behind. But here my sisters
will come no more. Keeper may visit Emily's little bed-room--as he
still does day by day--and Flossy may look wistfully round for Anne,
they will never see them again--nor shall I--at least the human part
of me. I must not write so sadly, but how can I help thinking and
feeling sadly? In the daytime effort and occupation aid me, but when
evening darkens, something in my heart revolts against the burden of
solitude--the sense of loss and want grows almost too much for me. I
am not good or amiable in such moments, I am rebellious, and it is
only the thought of my dear father in the next room, or of the kind
servants in the kitchen, or some caress from the poor dogs, which
restores me to softer sentiments and more rational views. As to the
night--could I do without bed, I would never seek it. Waking, I
think, sleeping, I dream of them; and I cannot recall them as they
were in health, still they appear to me in sickness and suffering.
Still, my nights were worse after the first shock of Branwell's
death--they were terrible then; and the impressions experienced on
waking were at that time such as we do not put into language. Worse
seemed at hand than was yet endured--in truth, worse awaited us.

'All this bitterness must be tasted. Perhaps the palate will grow
used to the draught in time, and find its flavour less acrid. This
pain must be undergone; its poignancy, I trust, will be blunted one
day. Ellen would have come back with me but I would not let her. I
knew it would be better to face the desolation at once--later or
sooner the sharp pang must be experienced.

'Labour must be the cure, not sympathy. Labour is the only radical
cure for rooted sorrow. The society of a calm, serenely cheerful
companion--such as Ellen--soothes pain like a soft opiate, but I find
it does not probe or heal the wound; sharper, more severe means, are
necessary to make a remedy. Total change might do much; where that
cannot be obtained, work is the best substitute.

'I by no means ask Miss Kavanagh to write to me. Why should she
trouble herself to do it? What claim have I on her? She does not
know me--she cannot care for me except vaguely and on hearsay. I
have got used to your friendly sympathy, and it comforts me. I have
tried and trust the fidelity of one or two other friends, and I lean
upon it. The natural affection of my father and the attachment and
solicitude of our two servants are precious and consolatory to me,
but I do not look round for general pity; conventional condolence I
do not want, either from man or woman.

'The letter you inclosed in your last bore the signature H. S.
Mayers--the address, Sheepscombe, Stroud, Gloucestershire; can you
give me any information respecting the writer? It is my intention to
acknowledge it one day. I am truly glad to hear that your little
invalid is restored to health, and that the rest of your family
continue well. Mrs. Williams should spare herself for her husband's
and children's sake. Her life and health are too valuable to those
round her to be lavished--she should be careful of them.--Believe me,
yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

It is not necessary to tell over again the story of Anne's death. Miss
Ellen Nussey, who was an eye witness, has related it once for all in Mrs.
Gaskell's Memoir. The tomb at Scarborough hears the following
inscription:--

HERE LIE THE REMAINS OF
ANNE BRONTE
DAUGHTER OF THE REV. P. BRONTE
INCUMBENT OF HAWORTH, YORKSHIRE
_She Died_, _Aged_ 28, _May_ 28_th_, 1849

 
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