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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter


CHAPTER VIII: ELLEN NUSSEY

If to be known by one's friends is the index to character that it is
frequently assumed to be, Charlotte Bronte comes well out of that ordeal.
She was discriminating in friendship and leal to the heart's core. With
what gratitude she thought of the publisher who gave her the 'first
chance' we know by recognising that the manly Dr. John of _Villette_ was
Mr. George Smith of Smith & Elder. Mr. W. S. Williams, again, would seem
to have been a singularly gifted and amiable man. To her three girl
friends, Ellen Nussey, Mary Taylor, and Laetitia Wheelwright, she was
loyal to her dying day, and pencilled letters to the two of them who were
in England were written in her last illness. Of all her friends, Ellen
Nussey must always have the foremost place in our esteem. Like Mary
Taylor, she made Charlotte's acquaintance when, at fifteen years of age,
she first went to Roe Head School. Mrs. Gaskell has sufficiently
described the beginnings of that friendship which death was not to break.
Ellen Nussey and Charlotte Bronte corresponded with a regularity which
one imagines would be impossible had they both been born half a century
later. The two girls loved one another profoundly. They wrote at times
almost daily. They quarrelled occasionally over trifles, as friends
will, but Charlotte was always full of contrition when a few hours had
passed. Towards the end of her life she wrote to Mr. Williams a letter
concerning Miss Nussey which may well be printed here.
 
TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_January_ 3_rd_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have to acknowledge the receipt of the _Morning
Chronicle_ with a good review, and of the _Church of England
Quarterly_ and the _Westminster_ with bad ones. I have also to thank
you for your letter, which would have been answered sooner had I been
alone; but just now I am enjoying the treat of my friend Ellen's
society, and she makes me indolent and negligent--I am too busy
talking to her all day to do anything else. You allude to the
subject of female friendships, and express wonder at the infrequency
of sincere attachments amongst women. As to married women, I can
well understand that they should be absorbed in their husbands and
children--but single women often like each other much, and derive
great solace from their mutual regard. Friendship, however, is a
plant which cannot be forced. True friendship is no gourd, springing
in a night and withering in a day. When I first saw Ellen I did not
care for her; we were school-fellows. In course of time we learnt
each other's faults and good points. We were contrasts--still, we
suited. Affection was first a germ, then a sapling, then a strong
tree--now, no new friend, however lofty or profound in intellect--not
even Miss Martineau herself--could be to me what Ellen is; yet she is
no more than a conscientious, observant, calm, well-bred Yorkshire
girl. She is without romance. If she attempts to read poetry, or
poetic prose, aloud, I am irritated and deprive her of the book--if
she talks of it, I stop my ears; but she is good; she is true; she is
faithful, and I love her.

'Since I came home, Miss Martineau has written me a long and truly
kindly letter. She invites me to visit her at Ambleside. I like the
idea. Whether I can realise it or not, it is pleasant to have in
prospect.

'You ask me to write to Mrs. Williams. I would rather she wrote to
me first; and let her send any kind of letter she likes, without
studying mood or manner.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

Good, True, Faithful--friendship has no sweeter words than these; and it
was this loyalty in Miss Nussey which has marked her out in our day as a
fine type of sweet womanliness, and will secure to her a lasting name as
the friend of Charlotte Bronte.

Miss Ellen Nussey was one of a large family of children, all of whom she
survives. Her home during the years of her first friendship with
Charlotte Bronte was at the Rydings, at that time the property of an
uncle, Reuben Walker, a distinguished court physician. The family in
that generation and in this has given many of its members to high public
service in various professions. Two Nusseys, indeed, and two Walkers,
were court physicians in their day. When Earl Fitzwilliam was canvassing
for the county in 1809, he was a guest at the Rydings for two weeks, and
on his election was chaired by the tenantry. Reuben Walker, this uncle
of Miss Nussey's, was the only Justice of the Peace for the district
which included Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, and Halifax, during the
Luddite riots--a significant reminder of the growth of population since
that day. Ellen Nussey's home was at the Rydings, then tenanted by her
brother John, until 1837, and she then removed to Brookroyd, where she
lived until long after Charlotte Bronte died.
The first letter to Ellen Nussey is dated May 31, 1831, Charlotte having
become her school-fellow in the previous January. It would seem to have
been a mere play exercise across the school-room, as the girls were then
together at Roe Head.

[Picture: Ellen Nussey as schoolgirl and adult]

'DEAR MISS NUSSEY,--I take advantage of the earliest opportunity to
thank you for the letter you favoured me with last week, and to
apologise for having so long neglected to write to you; indeed, I
believe this will be the first letter or note I have ever addressed
to you. I am extremely obliged to Mary for her kind invitation, and
I assure you that I should very much have liked to hear the Lectures
on Galvanism, as they would doubtless have been amusing and
instructive. But we are often compelled to bend our inclination to
our duty (as Miss Wooler observed the other day), and since there are
so many holidays this half-year, it would have appeared almost
unreasonable to ask for an extra holiday; besides, we should perhaps
have got behindhand with our lessons, so that, everything considered,
it is perhaps as well that circumstances have deprived us of this
pleasure.--Believe me to remain, your affectionate friend,

'C. BRONTE.'

But by the Christmas holidays, 'Dear Miss Nussey' has become 'Dear
Ellen,' and the friendship has already well commenced.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _January_ 13_th_, 1832.

'DEAR ELLEN,--The receipt of your letter gave me an agreeable
surprise, for notwithstanding your faithful promises, you must excuse
me if I say that I had little confidence in their fulfilment, knowing
that when school girls once get home they willingly abandon every
recollection which tends to remind them of school, and indeed they
find such an infinite variety of circumstances to engage their
attention and employ their leisure hours, that they are easily
persuaded that they have no time to fulfil promises made at school.
It gave me great pleasure, however, to find that you and Miss Taylor
are exceptions to the general rule. The cholera still seems slowly
advancing, but let us yet hope, knowing that all things are under the
guidance of a merciful Providence. England has hitherto been highly
favoured, for the disease has neither raged with the astounding
violence, nor extended itself with the frightful rapidity which
marked its progress in many of the continental countries.--From your
affectionate friend,

'CHARLOTTE BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _January_ 1_st_, 1833.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I believe we agreed to correspond once a month. That
space of time has now elapsed since I received your last interesting
letter, and I now therefore hasten to reply. Accept my
congratulations on the arrival of the New Year, every succeeding day
of which will, I trust, find you _wiser_ and _better_ in the true
sense of those much-used words. The first day of January always
presents to my mind a train of very solemn and important reflections,
and a question more easily asked than answered frequently occurs,
viz.--How have I improved the past year, and with what good
intentions do I view the dawn of its successor? These, my dearest
Ellen, are weighty considerations which (young as we are) neither you
nor I can too deeply or too seriously ponder. I am sorry your too
great diffidence, arising, I think, from the want of sufficient
confidence in your own capabilities, prevented you from writing to me
in French, as I think the attempt would have materially contributed
to your improvement in that language. You very kindly caution me
against being tempted by the fondness of my sisters to consider
myself of too much importance, and then in a parenthesis you beg me
not to be offended. O Ellen, do you think I could be offended by any
good advice you may give me? No, I thank you heartily, and love you,
if possible, better for it. I am glad you like _Kenilworth_. It is
certainly a splendid production, more resembling a romance than a
novel, and, in my opinion, one of the most interesting works that
ever emanated from the great Sir Walter's pen. I was exceedingly
amused at the characteristic and naive manner in which you expressed
your detestation of Varney's character--so much so, indeed, that I
could not forbear laughing aloud when I perused that part of your
letter. He is certainly the personification of consummate villainy;
and in the delineation of his dark and profoundly artful mind, Scott
exhibits a wonderful knowledge of human nature as well as surprising
skill in embodying his perceptions so as to enable others to become
participators in that knowledge. Excuse the want of news in this
very barren epistle, for I really have none to communicate. Emily
and Anne beg to be kindly remembered to you. Give my best love to
your mother and sisters, and as it is very late permit me to conclude
with the assurance of my unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable
affection for you.--Adieu, my sweetest Ellen, I am ever yours,

'CHARLOTTE.'

Here is a pleasant testimony to Miss Nussey's attractions from Emily and
Anne.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _September_ 11_th_, 1833.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I have hitherto delayed answering your last letter
because from what you said I imagined you might be from home. Since
you were here Emily has been very ill. Her ailment was erysipelas in
the arm, accompanied by severe bilious attacks, and great general
debility. Her arm was obliged to be cut in order to relieve it. It
is now, I am happy to say, nearly healed--her health is, in fact,
almost perfectly re-established. The sickness still continues to
recur at intervals. Were I to tell you of the impression you have
made on every one here you would accuse me of flattery. Papa and
aunt are continually adducing you as an example for me to shape my
actions and behaviour by. Emily and Anne say "they never saw any one
they liked so well as Miss Nussey," and Tabby talks a great deal more
nonsense about you than I choose to report. You must read this
letter, dear Ellen, without thinking of the writing, for I have
indited it almost all in the twilight. It is now so dark that,
notwithstanding the singular property of "seeing in the night-time"
which the young ladies at Roe Head used to attribute to me, I can
scribble no longer. All the family unite with me in wishes for your
welfare. Remember me respectfully to your mother and sisters, and
supply all those expressions of warm and genuine regard which the
increasing darkness will not permit me to insert.

'CHARLOTTE BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _February_ 11_th_, 1834.

'DEAR ELLEN,--My letters are scarcely worth the postage, and
therefore I have, till now, delayed answering your last
communication; but upwards of two months having elapsed since I
received it, I have at length determined to take up my pen in reply
lest your anger should be roused by my apparent negligence. It
grieved me extremely to hear of your precarious state of health. I
trust sincerely that your medical adviser is mistaken in supposing
you have any tendency to a pulmonary affection. Dear Ellen, that
would indeed be a calamity. I have seen enough of consumption to
dread it as one of the most insidious and fatal diseases incident to
humanity. But I repeat it, I _hope_, nay _pray_, that your alarm is
groundless. If you remember, I used frequently to tell you at school
that you were constitutionally nervous--guard against the gloomy
impressions which such a state of mind naturally produces. Take
constant and regular exercise, and all, I doubt not, will yet be
well. What a remarkable winter we have had! Rain and wind
continually, but an almost total absence of frost and snow. Has
_general_ ill health been the consequence of wet weather at Birstall
or not? With us an unusual number of deaths have lately taken place.
According to custom I have no news to communicate, indeed I do not
write either to retail gossip or to impart solid information; my
motives for maintaining our mutual correspondence are, in the first
place, to get intelligence from you, and in the second that we may
remind each other of our separate existences; without some such
medium of reciprocal converse, according to the nature of things,
_you_, who are surrounded by society and friends, would soon forget
that such an insignificant being as myself ever lived. _I_, however,
in the solitude of our wild little hill village, think of my only
unrelated friend, my dear ci-devant school companion daily--nay,
almost hourly. Now Ellen, don't you think I have very cleverly
contrived to make up a letter out of nothing? Goodbye, dearest.
That God may bless you is the earnest prayer of your ever faithful
friend,

'CHARLOTTE BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _November_ 10_th_, 1834.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I have been a long while, a very long while without
writing to you. A letter I received from Mary Taylor this morning
reminded me of my neglect, and made me instantly sit down to atone
for it, if possible. She tells me your aunt, of Brookroyd, is dead,
and that Sarah is very ill; for this I am truly sorry, but I hope her
case is not yet without hope. You should however remember that
death, should it happen, will undoubtedly be great gain to her. In
your last, dear Ellen, you ask my opinion respecting the amusement of
dancing, and whether I thought it objectionable when indulged in for
an hour or two in parties of boys and girls. I should hesitate to
express a difference of opinion from Mr. Atkinson, but really the
matter seems to me to stand thus: It is allowed on all hands that the
sin of dancing consists not in the mere action of shaking the shanks
(as the Scotch say), but in the consequences that usually attend
it--namely, frivolity and waste of time; when it is used only, as in
the case you state, for the exercise and amusement of an hour among
young people (who surely may without any breach of God's commandments
be allowed a little light-heartedness), these consequences cannot
follow. Ergo (according to my manner of arguing), the amusement is
at such times perfectly innocent. Having nothing more to say, I will
conclude with the expression of my sincere and earnest attachment
for, Ellen, your own dear self.

'CHARLOTTE BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _January_ 12_th_, 1835.

'DEAREST ELLEN,--I thought it better not to answer your kind letter
too soon, lest I should (in the present fully occupied state of your
time) appear intrusive. I am happy to inform you papa has given me
permission to accept the invitation it conveyed, and ere long I hope
once more to have the pleasure of seeing _almost_ the _only_ and
certainly the _dearest_ friend I possess (out of our own family). I
leave it to you to fix the time, only requesting you not to appoint
too early a day; let it be a fortnight or three weeks at least from
the date of the present letter. I am greatly obliged to you for your
kind offer of meeting me at Bradford, but papa thinks that such a
plan would involve uncertainty, and be productive of trouble to you.
He recommends that I should go direct in a gig from Haworth at the
time you shall determine, or, if that day should prove unfavourable,
the first subsequent fine one. Such an arrangement would leave us
both free, and if it meets with your approbation would perhaps be the
best we could finally resolve upon. Excuse the brevity of this
epistle, dear Ellen, for I am in a great hurry, and we shall, I
trust, soon see each other face to face, which will be better than a
hundred letters. Give my respectful love to your mother and sisters,
accept the kind remembrances of all our family, and--Believe me in
particular to be, your firm and faithful friend,
'CHARLOTTE BRONTE.

'_P.S._--You ask me to stay a month when I come, but as I do not wish
to tire you with my company, and as, besides, papa and aunt both
think a fortnight amply sufficient, I shall not exceed that period.
Farewell, _dearest_, _dearest_.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'ROE HEAD, _September_ 10_th_, 1835.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--You are far too kind and frequent in your
invitations. You puzzle me: I hardly know how to refuse, and it is
still more embarrassing to accept. At any rate, I cannot come this
week, for we are in the very thickest _melee_ of the repetitions; I
was hearing the terrible fifth section when your note arrived. But
Miss Wooler says I must go to Gomersall next Friday as she promised
for me on Whitsunday; and on Sunday morning I will join you at
church, if it be convenient, and stay at Rydings till Monday morning.
There's a free and easy proposal! Miss Wooler has driven me to
it--she says her character is implicated! I am very sorry to hear
that your mother has been ill. I do hope she is better now, and that
all the rest of the family are well. Will you be so kind as to
deliver the accompanying note to Miss Taylor when you see her at
church on Sunday? Dear Ellen, excuse the most horrid scrawl ever
penned by mortal hands. Remember me to your mother and sisters,
and--Believe me, E. Nussey's friend,

'CHARLOTTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_February_ 20_th_, 1837.

'I read your letter with dismay, Ellen--what shall I do without you?
Why are we so to be denied each other's society? It is an
inscrutable fatality. I long to be with you because it seems as if
two or three days or weeks spent in your company would beyond measure
strengthen me in the enjoyment of those feelings which I have so
lately begun to cherish. You first pointed out to me that way in
which I am so feebly endeavouring to travel, and now I cannot keep
you by my side, I must proceed sorrowfully alone.

'Why are we to be divided? Surely, Ellen, it must be because we are
in danger of loving each other too well--of losing sight of the
_Creator_ in idolatry of the _creature_. At first I could not say,
"Thy will be done." I felt rebellious; but I know it was wrong to
feel so. Being left a moment alone this morning I prayed fervently
to be enabled to resign myself to _every_ decree of God's
will--though it should be dealt forth with a far severer hand than
the present disappointment. Since then, I have felt calmer and
humbler--and consequently happier. Last Sunday I took up my Bible in
a gloomy frame of mind; I began to read; a feeling stole over me such
as I have not known for many long years--a sweet placid sensation
like those that I remember used to visit me when I was a little
child, and on Sunday evenings in summer stood by the open window
reading the life of a certain French nobleman who attained a purer
and higher degree of sanctity than has been known since the days of
the early Martyrs. I thought of my own Ellen--I wished she had been
near me that I might have told her how happy I was, how bright and
glorious the pages of God's holy word seemed to me. But the
"foretaste" passed away, and earth and sin returned. I must see you
before you go, Ellen; if you cannot come to Roe Head I will contrive
to walk over to Brookroyd, provided you will let me know the time of
your departure. Should you not be at home at Easter I dare not
promise to accept your mother's and sisters' invitation. I should be
miserable at Brookroyd without you, yet I would contrive to visit
them for a few hours if I could not for a few days. I love them for
your sake. I have written this note at a venture. When it will
reach you I know not, but I was determined not to let slip an
opportunity for want of being prepared to embrace it. Farewell, may
God bestow on you all His blessings. My darling--Farewell. Perhaps
you may return before midsummer--do you think you possibly can? I
wish your brother John knew how unhappy I am; he would almost pity
me.

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_June_ 8_th_, 1837.

'MY DEAREST ELLEN,--The inclosed, as you will perceive, was written
before I received your last. I had intended to send it by this, but
what you said altered my intention. I scarce dare build a hope on
the foundation your letter lays--we have been disappointed so often,
and I fear I shall not be able to prevail on them to part with you;
but I will try my utmost, and at any rate there is a chance of our
meeting soon; with that thought I will comfort myself. You do not
know how selfishly _glad_ I am that you still continue to dislike
London and the Londoners--it seems to afford a sort of proof that
your affections are not changed. Shall we really stand once again
together on the moors of Haworth? I _dare_ not flatter myself with
too sanguine an expectation. I see many doubts and difficulties.
But with Miss Wooler's leave, which I have asked and in part
obtained, I will go to-morrow and try to remove them.--Believe me, my
own Ellen, yours always truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_January_ 12_th_, 1839.

'MY _dear kind_ ELLEN,--I can hardly help laughing when I reckon up
the number of urgent invitations I have received from you during the
last three months. Had I accepted all or even half of them, the
Birstallians would certainly have concluded that I had come to make
Brookroyd my permanent residence. When you set your mind upon it,
you have a peculiar way of edging one in with a circle of dilemmas,
so that they hardly know how to refuse you; however, I shall take a
running leap and clear them all. Frankly, my dear Ellen, I _cannot
come_. Reflect for yourself a moment. Do you see nothing absurd in
the idea of a person coming again into a neighbourhood within a month
after they have taken a solemn and formal leave of all their
acquaintance? However, I thank both you and your mother for the
invitation, which was most kindly expressed. You give no answer to
my proposal that you should come to Haworth with the Taylors. I
still think it would be your best plan. I wish you and the Taylors
were safely here; there is no pleasure to be had without toiling for
it. You must invite me no more, my dear Ellen, until next Midsummer
at the nearest. All here desire to be remembered to you, aunt
particularly. Angry though you are, I will venture to sign myself as
usual (no, not as usual, but as suits circumstances).--Yours, under a
cloud,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 5_th_, 1838.

'MY DEAREST ELLEN,--Yesterday I heard that you were ill. Mr. and
Miss Heald were at Dewsbury Moor, and it was from them I obtained the
information. This morning I set off to Brookroyd to learn further
particulars, from whence I am but just returned. Your mother is in
great distress about you, she can hardly mention your name without
tears; and both she and Mercy wish very much to see you at home
again. Poor girl, you have been a fortnight confined to your bed;
and while I was blaming you in my own mind for not writing, you were
suffering in sickness without one kind _female_ friend to watch over
you. I should have heard all this before and have hastened to
express my sympathy with you in this crisis had I been able to visit
Brookroyd in the Easter holidays, but an unexpected summons back to
Dewsbury Moor, in consequence of the illness and death of Mr. Wooler,
prevented it. Since that time I have been a fortnight and two days
quite alone, Miss Wooler being detained in the interim at Rouse Mill.
You will now see, Ellen, that it was not neglect or failure of
affection which has occasioned my silence, though I fear you will
long ago have attributed it to those causes. If you are well enough,
do write to me just two lines--just to assure me of your
convalescence; not a word, however, if it would harm you--not a
syllable. They value you at home. Sickness and absence call forth
expressions of attachment which might have remained long enough
unspoken if their object had been present and well. I wish your
_friends_ (I include myself in that word) may soon cease to have
cause for so painful an excitement of their regard. As yet I have
but an imperfect idea of the nature of your illness--of its
extent--or of the degree in which it may now have subsided. When you
can let me know all, no particular, however minute, will be
uninteresting to me. How have your spirits been? I trust not much
overclouded, for that is the most melancholy result of illness. You
are not, I understand, going to Bath at present; they seem to have
arranged matters strangely. When I parted from you near White-lee
Bar, I had a more sorrowful feeling than ever I experienced before in
our temporary separations. It is foolish to dwell too much on the
idea of presentiments, but I certainly had a feeling that the time of
our reunion had never been so indefinite or so distant as then. I
doubt not, my dear Ellen, that amidst your many trials, amidst the
sufferings that you have of late felt in yourself, and seen in
several of your relations, you have still been able to look up and
find support in trial, consolation in affliction, and repose in
tumult, where human interference can make no change. I think you
know in the right spirit how to withdraw yourself from the vexation,
the care, the meanness of life, and to derive comfort from purer
sources than this world can afford. You know how to do it silently,
unknown to others, and can avail yourself of that hallowed communion
the Bible gives us with God. I am charged to transmit your mother's
and sister's love. Receive mine in the same parcel, I think it will
scarcely be the smallest share. Farewell, my dear Ellen.

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 15_th_, 1840.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--I read your last letter with a great deal of
interest. Perhaps it is not always well to tell people when we
approve of their actions, and yet it is very pleasant to do so; and
as, if you had done wrongly, I hope I should have had honesty enough
to tell you so, so now, as you have done rightly, I shall gratify
myself by telling you what I think.

'If I made you my father confessor I could reveal weaknesses which
you do not dream of. I do not mean to intimate that I attach a _high
value_ to empty compliments, but a word of panegyric has often made
me feel a sense of confused pleasure which it required my strongest
effort to conceal--and on the other hand, a hasty expression which I
could construe into neglect or disapprobation has tortured me till I
have lost half a night's rest from its rankling pangs.

'C. BRONTE.

'_P.S._--Don't talk any more of sending for me--when I come I will
_send_ myself. All send their love to you. I have no prospect of a
situation any more than of going to the moon. Write to me again as
soon as you can.'

Here is the only glimpse that we find of her Penzance relatives in these
later years. They would seem to have visited Haworth when Charlotte was
twenty-four years of age. The impression they left was not a kindly one.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_August_ 14_th_, 1840.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--As you only sent me a note, I shall only send you
one, and that not out of revenge, but because like you I have but
little to say. The freshest news in our house is that we had, a
fortnight ago, a visit from some of our South of England relations,
John Branwell and his wife and daughter. They have been staying
above a month with Uncle Fennell at Crosstone. They reckon to be
very grand folks indeed, and talk largely--I thought assumingly. I
cannot say I much admired them. To my eyes there seemed to be an
attempt to play the great Mogul down in Yorkshire. Mr. Branwell was
much less assuming than the womenites; he seemed a frank, sagacious
kind of man, very tall and vigorous, with a keen active look. The
moment he saw me he exclaimed that I was the very image of my aunt
Charlotte. Mrs. Branwell sets up for being a woman of great talent,
tact, and accomplishment. I thought there was much more noise than
work. My cousin Eliza is a young lady intended by nature to be a
bouncing, good-looking girl--art has trained her to be a languishing,
affected piece of goods. I would have been friendly with her, but I
could get no talk except about the Low Church, Evangelical clergy,
the Millennium, Baptist Noel, botany, and her own conversion. A
mistaken education has utterly spoiled the lass. Her face tells that
she is naturally good-natured, though perhaps indolent. Her
affectations were so utterly out of keeping with her round rosy face
and tall bouncing figure, I could hardly refrain from laughing as I
watched her. Write a long letter next time and I'll write you ditto.
Good-bye.'

We have already read the letters which were written to Miss Nussey during
the governess period, and from Brussels. On her final return from
Brussels, Charlotte implores a letter.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _February_ 10_th_, 1844.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I cannot tell what occupies your thoughts and time.
Are you ill? Is some one of your family ill? Are you married? Are
you dead? If it be so, you may as well write a word and let me
know--for my part, I am again in old England. I shall tell you
nothing further till you write to me.

'C. BRONTE.

'Write to me directly, that is a good girl; I feel really anxious,
and have felt so for a long time to hear from you.'

She visits Miss Nussey soon afterwards at Brookroyd, and a little later
writes as follows:

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_April_ 7_th_, 1844.

'DEAR NELL,--I have received your note. It communicated a piece of
good news which I certainly did not expect to hear. I want, however,
further enlightenment on the subject. Can you tell me what has
caused the change in Mary's plans, and brought her so suddenly back
to England? Is it on account of Mary Dixon? Is it the wish of her
brother, or is it her own determination? I hope, whatever the reason
be, it is nothing which can give her uneasiness or do her harm. Do
you know how long she is likely to stay in England? or when she
arrives at Hunsworth?

'You ask how I am. I really have felt much better the last week--I
think my visit to Brookroyd did me good. What delightful weather we
have had lately. I wish we had had such while I was with you. Emily
and I walk out a good deal on the moors, to the great damage of our
shoes, but I hope to the benefit of our health.

'Good-bye, dear Ellen. Send me another of your little notes soon.
Kindest regards to all,

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_June_ 9_th_, 1844.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--Anne and Branwell are now at home, and they and
Emily add their request to mine, that you will join us at the
beginning of next week. Write and let us know what day you will
come, and how--if by coach, we will meet you at Keighley. Do not let
your visit be later than the beginning of next week, or you will see
little of Anne and Branwell as their holidays are very short. They
will soon have to join the family at Scarborough. Remember me kindly
to your mother and sisters. I hope they are all well.

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_November_ 14_th_, 1844.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Your letter came very apropos, as, indeed, your letters
always do; but this morning I had something of a headache, and was
consequently rather out of spirits, and the epistle (scarcely legible
though it be--excuse a rub) cheered me. In order to evince my
gratitude, as well as to please my own inclination, I sit down to
answer it immediately. I am glad, in the first place, to hear that
your brother is going to be married, and still more so to learn that
his wife-elect has a handsome fortune--not that I advocate marrying
for money in general, but I think in many cases (and this is one)
money is a very desirable contingent of matrimony.

'I wonder when Mary Taylor is expected in England. I trust you will
be at home while she is at Hunsworth, and that you, she, and I, may
meet again somewhere under the canopy of heaven. I cannot, dear
Ellen, make any promise about myself and Anne going to Brookroyd at
Christmas; her vacations are so short she would grudge spending any
part of them from home.

'The catastrophe, which you related so calmly, about your book-muslin
dress, lace bertha, etc., convulsed me with cold shudderings of
horror. You have reason to curse the day when so fatal a present was
offered you as that infamous little "varmint." The perfect serenity
with which you endured the disaster proves most fully to me that you
would make the best wife, mother, and mistress in the world. You and
Anne are a pair for marvellous philosophical powers of endurance; no
spoilt dinners, scorched linen, dirtied carpets, torn sofa-covers,
squealing brats, cross husbands, would ever discompose either of you.
You ought never to marry a good-tempered man, it would be mingling
honey with sugar, like sticking white roses upon a black-thorn
cudgel. With this very picturesque metaphor I close my letter.
Good-bye, and write very soon.

'C. BRONTE.'

Much has been said concerning Charlotte Bronte's visit to Hathersage in
Derbyshire, and it is interesting because of the fact that Miss Bronte
obtained the name of 'Eyre' from a family in that neighbourhood, and
Morton in _Jane Eyre_ may obviously be identified with Hathersage. {221}
Miss Ellen Nussey's brother Henry became Vicar of Hathersage, and he
married shortly afterwards. While he was on his honeymoon his sister
went to Hathersage to keep house for him, and she invited her friend
Charlotte Bronte to stay with her. The visit lasted three weeks. This
was the only occasion that Charlotte visited Hathersage. Here are two or
three short notes referring to that visit.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_June_ 10_th_, 1845.

'DEAR ELLEN,--It is very vexatious for you to have had to go to
Sheffield in vain. I am glad to hear that there is an omnibus on
Thursday, and I have told Emily and Anne I will try to come on that
day. The opening of the railroad is now postponed till July 7th. I
should not like to put you off again, and for that and some other
reasons they have decided to give up the idea of going to Scarbro',
and instead, to make a little excursion next Monday and Tuesday, to
Ilkley or elsewhere. I hope no other obstacle will arise to prevent
my going to Hathersage. I do long to be with you, and I feel
nervously afraid of being prevented, or put off in some way.
Branwell only stayed a week with us, but he is to come home again
when the family go to Scarboro'. I will write to Brookroyd directly.
Yesterday I had a little note from Henry inviting me to go to see
you. This is one of your contrivances, for which you deserve
smothering. You have written to Henry to tell him to write to me.
Do you think I stood on ceremony about the matter?

'The French papers have ceased to come. Good-bye for the present.

'C. B.'

TO MRS. NUSSEY

'_July_ 23_rd_, 1845.

'MY DEAR MRS. NUSSEY,--I lose no time after my return home in writing
to you and offering you my sincere thanks for the kindness with which
you have repeatedly invited me to go and stay a few days at
Brookroyd. It would have given me great pleasure to have gone, had
it been only for a day, just to have seen you and Miss Mercy (Miss
Nussey I suppose is not at home) and to have been introduced to Mrs.
Henry, but I have stayed so long with Ellen at Hathersage that I
could not possibly now go to Brookroyd. I was expected at home; and
after all _home_ should always have the first claim on our attention.
When I reached home (at ten o'clock on Saturday night) I found papa,
I am thankful to say, pretty well, but he thought I had been a long
time away.

'I left Ellen well, and she had generally good health while I stayed
with her, but she is very anxious about matters of business, and
apprehensive lest things should not be comfortable against the
arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Henry--she is so desirous that the day of
their arrival at Hathersage should be a happy one to both.

'I hope, my dear Mrs. Nussey, you are well; and I should be very
happy to receive a little note either from you or from Miss Mercy to
assure me of this.--Believe me, yours affectionately and sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_July_ 24_th_, 1845.

'DEAR ELLEN,--A series of toothaches, prolonged and severe, bothering
me both day and night, have kept me very stupid of late, and
prevented me from writing to you. More than once I have sat down and
opened my desk, but have not been able to get up to par. To-day,
after a night of fierce pain, I am better--much better, and I take
advantage of the interval of ease to discharge my debt. I wish I had
50 pounds to spare at present, and that you, Emily, Anne, and I were
all at liberty to leave home without our absence being detrimental to
any body. How pleasant to set off _en masse_ to the seaside, and
stay there a few weeks, taking in a stock of health and strength.--We
could all do with recreation. Adversity agrees with you, Ellen.
Your good qualities are never so obvious as when under the pressure
of affliction. Continued prosperity might develope too much a
certain germ of ambition latent in your character. I saw this little
germ putting out green shoots when I was staying with you at
Hathersage. It was not then obtrusive, and perhaps might never
become so. Your good sense, firm principle, and kind feeling might
keep it down. Holding down my head does not suit my toothache. Give
my love to your mother and sisters. Write again as soon as may
be.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_August_ 18_th_, 1845.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I am writing to you, not because I have anything to
tell you, but because I want you to write to me. I am glad to see
that you were pleased with your new sister. When I was at Hathersage
you were talking of writing to Mary Taylor. I have lately written to
her a brief, shabby epistle of which I am ashamed, but I found when I
began to write I had really very little to say. I sent the letter to
Hunsworth, and I suppose it will go sometime. You must write to me
soon, a long letter. Remember me respectfully to Mr. and Mrs. Henry
Nussey. Give my love to Miss R.--Yours,

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_December_ 14_th_, 1845.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I was glad to get your last note, though it was so
short and crusty. Three weeks had elapsed without my having heard a
word from you, and I began to fear some new misfortune had occurred.
I was relieved to find such was not the case. Anne is obliged by the
kind regret you express at not being able to ask her to Brookroyd.
She wishes you could come to Haworth. Do you scold me out of habit,
or are you really angry? In either case it is all nonsense. You
know as well as I do that to go to Brookroyd is always a pleasure to
me, and that to one who has so little change, and so few friends as I
have, it must be a _great pleasure_, but I am not at all times in the
mood or circumstances to take my pleasure. I wish so much to see
you, that I shall certainly sometime after New Year's Day, if all be
well, be going over to Birstall. Now I could _not go_ if I _would_.
If you think I stand upon ceremony in this matter, you miscalculate
sadly. I have known you, and your mother and sisters, too long to be
ceremonious with any of you. Invite me no more now, till I invite
myself--be too proud to trouble yourself; and if, when at last I
mention coming (for I shall give you warning), it does not happen to
suit you, tell me so, with quiet hauteur. I should like a long
letter next time. No more lovers' quarrels.

'Good-bye. Best love to your mother and sisters.

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_January_ 28_th_, 1847.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Long may you look young and handsome enough to dress in
white, dear, and long may you have a right to feel the consciousness
that you look agreeable. I know you have too much judgment to let an
overdose of vanity spoil the blessing and turn it into a misfortune.
After all though, age will come on, and it is well you have something
better than a nice face for friends to turn to when that is changed.
I hope this excessively cold weather has not harmed you or yours
much. It has nipped me severely, taken away my appetite for a while
and given me toothache; in short, put me in the ailing condition, in
which I have more than once had the honour of making myself such a
nuisance both at Brookroyd and Hunsworth. The consequence is that at
this present speaking I look almost old enough to be your
mother--grey, sunk, and withered. To-day, however, it is milder, and
I hope soon to feel better; indeed I am not _ill_ now, and my
toothache is now subsided, but I experience a loss of strength and a
deficiency of spirit which would make me a sorry companion to you or
any one else. I would not be on a visit now for a large sum of
money.

'Write soon. Give my best love to your mother and
sisters.--Good-bye, dear Nell,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_April_ 21_st_, 1847.

'DEAR NELL,--I am very much obliged to you for your gift, which you
must not undervalue, for I like the articles; they look extremely
pretty and light. They are for wrist frills, are they not? Will you
condescend to accept a yard of lace made up into nothing? I thought
I would not offer to spoil it by stitching it into any shape. Your
creative fingers will turn it to better account than my destructive
ones. I hope, such as it is, they will not peck it out of the
envelope at the Bradford Post-office, where they generally take the
liberty of opening letters when they feel soft as if they contained
articles. I had forgotten all about your birthday and mine, till
your letter arrived to remind me of it. I wish you many happy
returns of yours. Of course your visit to Haworth must be regulated
by Miss Ringrose's movements. I was rather amused at your fearing I
should be jealous. I never thought of it. She and I could not be
rivals in your affections. You allot her, I know, a different set of
feelings to what you allot me. She is amiable and estimable, I am
not amiable, but still we shall stick to the last I don't doubt. In
short, I should as soon think of being jealous of Emily and Anne in
these days as of you. If Miss Ringrose does not come to Brookroyd
about Whitsuntide, I should like you to come. I shall feel a good
deal disappointed if the visit is put off--I would rather Miss
Ringrose fixed her time in summer, and then I would come to see you
(D.V.) in the autumn. I don't think it will be at all a good plan to
go back with you. We see each other so seldom, that I would far
rather divide the visits. Remember me to all.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 25_th_, 1847.

'DEAR NELL,--I have a small present for Mercy. You must fetch it,
for I repeat you shall _come to Haworth before I go to Brookroyd._

'I do not say this from pique or anger--I am not angry now--but
because my leaving home at present would from solid reasons be
difficult to manage. If all be well I will visit you in the autumn,
at present I _cannot_ come. Be assured that if I could come I
should, after your last letter, put scruples and pride away and "go
over into Macedonia" at once. I never could manage to help you yet.
You have always found me something like a new servant, who requires
to be told where everything is, and shown how everything is to be
done.

'My sincere love to your mother and Mercy.--Yours,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 29_th_, 1847.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Your letter and its contents were most welcome. You
must direct your luggage to Mr. Bronte's, and we will tell the
carrier to inquire for it. The railroad has been opened some time,
but it only comes as far as Keighley. If you arrive about 4 o'clock
in the afternoon, Emily, Anne, and I will all meet you at the
station. We can take tea jovially together at the Devonshire Arms,
and walk home in the cool of the evening. This arrangement will be
much better than fagging through four miles in the heat of noon.
Write by return of post if you can, and say if this plan suits
you.--Yours,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_November_ 10_th_, 1847.

'DEAR ELLEN,--The old pang of fearing you should fancy I forget you
drives me to write to you, though heaven knows I have precious little
to say, and if it were not that I wish to hear from you, and hate to
appear disregardful when I am not so, I might let another week or
perhaps two slip away without writing. There is much in Ruth's
letter that I thought very melancholy. Poor girls! theirs, I fear,
must be a very unhappy home. Yours and mine, with all disadvantages,
all absences of luxury and wealth and style, are, I doubt not,
happier. I wish to goodness you were rich, that you might give her a
temporary asylum, and a relief from uneasiness, suffering, and gloom.
What you say about the effects of ether on your sister rather
startled me. I had always consoled myself with the idea of having
some teeth extracted some day under its soothing influence, but now I
should think twice before I consented to inhale it; one would not
like to make a fool of one's self.--I am, yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_March_ 11_th_, 1848.

'DEAR ELLEN,--There is a great deal of good-sense in your last
letter. Be thankful that God gave you sense, for what are beauty,
wealth, or even health without it? I had a note from Miss Ringrose
the other day. I do not think I shall write again, for the reasons I
before mentioned to you; but the note moved me much, it was almost
all about her dear Ellen, a kind of gentle enthusiasm of affection,
enough to make one smile and weep--her feelings are half truth, half
illusion. No human being could be altogether what she supposes you
to be, yet your kindness must have been very great. If one were only
rich, how delightful it would be to travel and spend the winter in
climates where there are no winters. Give my love to your mother and
sisters.--Believe me, faithfully yours,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_April_ 22_nd_, 1848.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I have just received your little parcel, and beg to
thank you in all our names for its contents, and also for your
letter, of the arrival of which I was, to speak truth, getting rather
impatient.

'The housewife's travelling companion is a most commodious
thing--just the sort of article which suits one to a T, and which yet
I should never have the courage or industry to sit down and make for
myself. I shall keep it for occasions of going from home, it will
save me a world of trouble. It must have required some thought to
arrange the various compartments and their contents so aptly. I had
quite forgotten till your letter reminded me that it was the
anniversary of your birthday and mine. I am now thirty-two. Youth
is gone--gone--and will never come back; can't help it. I wish you
many returns of your birthday and increase of happiness with increase
of years. It seems to me that sorrow must come sometime to every
body, and those who scarcely taste it in their youth often have a
more brimming and bitter cup to drain in after-life; whereas, those
who exhaust the dregs early, who drink the lees before the wine, may
reasonably expect a purer and more palatable draught to succeed. So,
at least, one fain would hope. It touched me at first a little
painfully to hear of your purposed governessing, but on second
thoughts I discovered this to be quite a foolish feeling. You are
doing right even though you should not gain much. The effort will do
you good; no one ever does regret a step towards self-help; it is so
much gained in independence.
'Give my love to your mother and sisters.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 24_th_, 1848.

'Dear Ellen,--I shall begin by telling you that you have no right to
be angry at the length of time I have suffered to slip by since
receiving your last, without answering it, because you have often
kept me waiting much longer; and having made this gracious speech,
thereby obviating reproaches, I will add that I think it a great
shame when you receive a long and thoroughly interesting letter, full
of the sort of details you fully relish, to read the same with
selfish pleasure and not even have the manners to thank your
correspondent, and express how much you enjoyed the narrative. I
_did_ enjoy the narrative in your last very keenly; the exquisitely
characteristic traits concerning the Bakers were worth gold; just
like not only them but all their class--respectable, well-meaning
people enough, but with all that petty assumption of dignity, that
small jealousy of senseless formalities, which to such people seems
to form a second religion. Your position amongst them was
detestable. I admire the philosophy with which you bore it. Their
taking offence because you stayed all night at their aunt's is rich.
It is right not to think much of casual attentions; it is quite
justifiable also to derive from them temporary gratification,
insomuch as they prove that their object has the power of pleasing.
Let them be as ephemera--to last an hour, and not be regretted when
gone.

'Write to me again soon and--Believe me, yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_August_ 3, 1849.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I have received the furs safely. I like the sables
very much, and shall keep them; and 'to save them' shall keep the
squirrel, as you prudently suggested. I hope it is not too much like
the steel poker to save the brass one. I return Mary's letter. It
is another page from the volume of life, and at the bottom is written
"Finis"--mournful word. Macaulay's _History_ was only _lent_ to
myself--all the books I have from London I accept only as a loan,
except in peculiar cases, where it is the author's wish I should
possess his work.

'Do you think in a few weeks it will be possible for you to come to
see me? I am only waiting to get my labour off my hands to permit
myself the pleasure of asking you. At our house you can read as much
as you please.

'I have been much better, very free from oppression or irritation of
the chest, during the last fortnight or ten days. Love to
all.--Good-bye, dear Nell.

'C. B.'



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