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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter


CHAPTER IX: MARY TAYLOR

Mary Taylor, the 'M---' of Mrs. Gaskell's biography, and the 'Rose Yorke'
of _Shirley_, will always have a peculiar interest to those who care for
the Brontes. She shrank from publicity, and her name has been less
mentioned than that of any other member of the circle. And yet hers was
a personality singularly strenuous and strong. She wrote two books 'with
a purpose,' and, as we shall see, vigorously embodied her teaching in her
life. It will be remembered that Charlotte Bronte, Ellen Nussey, and
Mary Taylor first met at Roe Head School, when Charlotte and Mary were
fifteen and her friend about fourteen years of age. Here are Miss
Nussey's impressions--

'She was pretty, and very childish-looking, dressed in a red-coloured
frock with short sleeves and low neck, as then worn by young girls.
Miss Wooler in later years used to say that when Mary went to her as
a pupil she thought her too pretty to live. She was not talkative at
school, but industrious, and always ready with lessons. She was
always at the top in class lessons, with Charlotte Bronte and the
writer; seldom a change was made, and then only with the three--one
move. Charlotte and she were great friends for a time, but there was
no withdrawing from me on either side, and Charlotte never quite knew
how an estrangement arose with Mary, but it lasted a long time. Then
a time came that both Charlotte and Mary were so proficient in
schoolroom attainments there was no more for them to learn, and Miss
Wooler set them Blair's _Belles Lettres_ to commit to memory. We all
laughed at their studies. Charlotte persevered, but Mary took her
own line, flatly refused, and accepted the penalty of disobedience,
going supper-less to bed for about a month before she left school.
When it was moonlight, we always found her engaged in drawing on the
chest of drawers, which stood in the bay window, quite happy and
cheerful. Her rebellion was never outspoken. She was always quiet
in demeanour. Her sister Martha, on the contrary, spoke out
vigorously, daring Miss Wooler so much, face to face, that she
sometimes received a box on the ear, which hardly any saint could
have withheld. Then Martha would expatiate on the danger of boxing
ears, quoting a reverend brother of Miss Wooler's. Among her school
companions, Martha was called "Miss Boisterous," but was always a
favourite, so piquant and fascinating were her ways. She was not in
the least pretty, but something much better, full of change and
variety, rudely outspoken, lively, and original, producing laughter
with her own good-humour and affection. She was her father's pet
child. He delighted in hearing her sing, telling her to go to the
piano, with his affectionate "Patty lass."

'Mary never had the impromptu vivacity of her sister, but was lively
in games that engaged her mind. Her music was very correct, but
entirely cultivated by practice and perseverance. Anything underhand
was detestable to both Mary and Martha; they had no mean pride
towards others, but accepted the incidents of life with imperturbable
good-sense and insight. They were not dressed as well as other
pupils, for economy at that time was the rule of their household.
The girls had to stitch all over their new gloves before wearing
them, by order of their mother, to make them wear longer. Their dark
blue cloth coats were worn when _too short_, and black beaver bonnets
quite plainly trimmed, with the ease and contentment of a fashionable
costume. Mr. Taylor was a banker as well as a monopolist of army
cloth manufacture in the district. He lost money, and gave up
banking. He set his mind on paying all creditors, and effected this
during his lifetime as far as possible, willing that his sons were to
do the remainder, which two of his sons carried out, as was
understood, during their lifetime--Mark and Martin of _Shirley_.'
Let us now read Charlotte's description in _Shirley_, and I think we have
a tolerably fair estimate of the sisters.

'The two next are girls, Rose and Jessie; they are both now at their
father's knee; they seldom go near their mother, except when obliged
to do so. Rose, the elder, is twelve years old; she is like her
father--the most like him of the whole group--but it is a granite
head copied in ivory; all is softened in colour and line. Yorke
himself has a harsh face; his daughter's is not harsh, neither is it
quite pretty; it is simple--childlike in feature; the round cheeks
bloom; as to the grey eyes, they are otherwise than childlike--a
serious soul lights them--a young soul yet, but it will mature, if
the body lives; and neither father nor mother has a spirit to compare
with it. Partaking of the essence of each, it will one day be better
than either--stronger, much purer, more aspiring. Rose is a still,
and sometimes a stubborn girl now; her mother wants to make of her
such a woman as she is herself--a woman of dark and dreary duties;
and Rose has a mind full-set, thick-sown with the germs of ideas her
mother never knew. It is agony to her often to have these ideas
trampled on and repressed. She has never rebelled yet; but if hard
driven, she will rebel one day, and then it will be once for all.
Rose loves her father; her father does not rule her with a rod of
iron; he is good to her. He sometimes fears she will not live, so
bright are the sparks of intelligence which, at moments, flash from
her glance and gleam in her language. This idea makes him often
sadly tender to her.

'He has no idea that little Jessie will die young, she is so gay and
chattering, arch--original even now; passionate when provoked, but
most affectionate if caressed; by turns gentle and rattling; exacting
yet generous; fearless--of her mother, for instance, whose
irrationally hard and strict rule she has often defied--yet reliant
on any who will help her. Jessie, with her little piquant face,
engaging prattle, and winning ways, is made to be a pet; and her
father's pet she accordingly is.'

Mary Taylor was called 'Pag' by her friends, and the first important
reference to her that I find is contained in a letter written by
Charlotte to Ellen Nussey, when she was seventeen years of age.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _June_ 20_th_, 1833.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I know you will be very angry because I have not
written sooner; my reason, or rather my motive for this apparent
neglect was, that I had determined not to write until I could ask you
to pay us your long-promised visit. Aunt thought it would be better
to defer it until about the middle of summer, as the winter and even
the spring seasons are remarkably cold and bleak among our mountains.
Papa now desires me to present his respects to your mother, and say
that he should feel greatly obliged if she would allow us the
pleasure of your company for a few weeks at Haworth. I will leave it
to you to fix whatever day may be most convenient, but let it be an
early one. I received a letter from Pag Taylor yesterday; she was in
high dudgeon at my inattention in not promptly answering her last
epistle. I however sat down immediately and wrote a very humble
reply, candidly confessing my faults and soliciting forgiveness; I
hope it has proved successful. Have you suffered much from that
troublesome though not (I am happy to hear) generally fatal disease,
the influenza? We have so far steered clear of it, but I know not
how long we may continue to escape. Your last letter revealed a
state of mind which seemed to promise much. As I read it I could not
help wishing that my own feelings more resembled yours; but unhappily
all the good thoughts that enter _my mind_ evaporate almost before I
have had time to ascertain their existence; every right resolution
which I form is so transient, so fragile, and so easily broken, that
I sometimes fear I shall never be what I ought. Earnestly hoping
that this may not be your case, that you may continue steadfast till
the end,--I remain, dearest Ellen, your ever faithful friend,
 
'CHARLOTTE BRONTE.'

The next letter refers to Mr. Taylor's death. Mr. Taylor, it is scarcely
necessary to add, is the Mr. Yorke of Briarmains, who figures so largely
in _Shirley_. I have visited the substantial red-brick house near the
high-road at Gomersall, but descriptions of the Bronte country do not
come within the scope of this volume.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_January_ 3_rd_, 1841.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--I received the news in your last with no surprise,
and with the feeling that this removal must be a relief to Mr. Taylor
himself and even to his family. The bitterness of death was past a
year ago, when it was first discovered that his illness must
terminate fatally; all between has been lingering suspense. This is
at an end now, and the present certainty, however sad, is better than
the former doubt. What will be the consequence of his death is
another question; for my own part, I look forward to a dissolution
and dispersion of the family, perhaps not immediately, but in the
course of a year or two. It is true, causes may arise to keep them
together awhile longer, but they are restless, active spirits, and
will not be restrained always. Mary alone has more energy and power
in her nature than any ten men you can pick out in the united
parishes of Birstall and Haworth. It is vain to limit a character
like hers within ordinary boundaries--she will overstep them. I am
morally certain Mary will establish her own landmarks, so will the
rest of them.

'C. BRONTE.'

Soon after her father's death Mary Taylor turned her eyes towards New
Zealand, where she had friends, but two years were to go by before
anything came of the idea.

TO MISS EMILY J. BRONTE

'UPPERWOOD HOUSE, _April_ 2_nd_, 1841.

'DEAR E. J.,--I received your last letter with delight as usual. I
must write a line to thank you for it and the inclosure, which
however is too bad--you ought not to have sent me those packets. I
had a letter from Anne yesterday; she says she is well. I hope she
speaks absolute truth. I had written to her and Branwell a few days
before. I have not heard from Branwell yet. It is to be hoped that
his removal to another station will turn out for the best. As you
say, it _looks_ like getting on at any rate.

'I have got up my courage so far as to ask Mrs. White to grant me a
day's holiday to go to Birstall to see Ellen Nussey, who has offered
to send a gig for me. My request was granted, but so coldly and
slowly. However, I stuck to my point in a very exemplary and
remarkable manner. I hope to go next Saturday. Matters are
progressing very strangely at Gomersall. Mary Taylor and Waring have
come to a singular determination, but I almost think under the
peculiar circumstances a defensible one, though it sounds
outrageously odd at first. They are going to emigrate--to quit the
country altogether. Their destination unless they change is Port
Nicholson, in the northern island of New Zealand!!! Mary has made up
her mind she can not and will not be a governess, a teacher, a
milliner, a bonnet-maker nor housemaid. She sees no means of
obtaining employment she would like in England, so she is leaving it.
I counselled her to go to France likewise and stay there a year
before she decided on this strange unlikely-sounding plan of going to
New Zealand, but she is quite resolved. I cannot sufficiently
comprehend what her views and those of her brothers may be on the
subject, or what is the extent of their information regarding Port
Nicholson, to say whether this is rational enterprise or absolute
madness. With love to papa, aunt, Tabby, etc.--Good-bye.

'C. B.

'_P.S._--I am very well; I hope you are. Write again soon.'

Soon after this Mary went on a long visit to Brussels, which, as we have
seen, was the direct cause of Charlotte and Emily establishing themselves
at the Pensionnat Heger. In Brussels Martha Taylor found a grave. Here
is one of her letters.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY.

'BRUSSELS, _Sept_. 9_th_, 1841.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--I received your letter from Mary, and you say I am
to write though I have nothing to say. My sister will tell you all
about me, for she has more time to write than I have.

'Whilst Mary and John have been with me, we have been to Liege and
Spa, where we stayed eight days. I found my little knowledge of
French very useful in our travels. I am going to begin working again
very hard, now that John and Mary are going away. I intend beginning
German directly. I would write some more but this pen of Mary's
won't write; you must scold her for it, and tell her to write you a
long account of my proceedings. You must write to me sometimes.
George Dixon is coming here the last week in September, and you must
send a letter for me to Mary to be forwarded by him. Good-bye. May
you be happy.

'MARTHA TAYLOR.'

It was while Charlotte was making her second stay in Brussels that she
heard of Mary's determination to go with her brother Waring to New
Zealand, with a view to earning her own living in any reasonable manner
that might offer.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'BRUSSELS, _April_ 1_st_, 1843.

'DEAR ELLEN,--That last letter of yours merits a good dose of
panegyric--it was both long and interesting; send me quickly such
another, longer still if possible. You will have heard of Mary
Taylor's resolute and intrepid proceedings. Her public letters will
have put you in possession of all details--nothing is left for me to
say except perhaps to express my opinion upon it. I have turned the
matter over on all sides and really I cannot consider it otherwise
than as very rational. Mind, I did not jump to this opinion at once,
but was several days before I formed it conclusively.

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_Sunday Evening_, _June_ 1_st_, 1845.

'DEAR ELLEN,--You probably know that another letter has been received
from Mary Taylor. It is, however, possible that your absence from
home will have prevented your seeing it, so I will give you a sketch
of its contents. It was written at about 4 degrees N. of the
Equator. The first part of the letter contained an account of their
landing at Santiago. Her health at that time was very good, and her
spirits seemed excellent. They had had contrary winds at first
setting out, but their voyage was then prosperous. In the latter
portion of the letter she complains of the excessive heat, and says
she lives chiefly on oranges; but still she was well, and freer from
headache and other ailments than any other person on board. The
receipt of this letter will have relieved all her friends from a
weight of anxiety. I am uneasy about what you say respecting the
French newspapers--do you mean to intimate that you have received
none? I have despatched them regularly. Emily and I keep them
usually three days, sometimes only two, and then send them forward to
you. I see by the cards you sent, and also by the newspaper, that
Henry is at last married. How did you like your office of
bridesmaid? and how do you like your new sister and her family? You
must write to me as soon as you can, and give me an _observant_
account of everything.

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'MANCHESTER, _September_ 13_th_, 1846.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Papa thinks his own progress rather slow, but the
doctor affirms he is getting on very well. He complains of extreme
weakness and soreness in the eye, but I suppose that is to be
expected for some time to come. He is still kept in the dark, but
now sits up the greater part of the day, and is allowed a little fire
in the room, from the light of which he is carefully screened.

'By this time you will have got Mary's letters; most interesting they
are, and she is in her element because she is where she has a
toilsome task to perform, an important improvement to effect, a weak
vessel to strengthen. You ask if I had any enjoyment here; in truth,
I can't say I have, and I long to get home, though, unhappily, home
is not now a place of complete rest. It is sad to think how it is
disquieted by a constant phantom, or rather two--sin and suffering;
they seem to obscure the cheerfulness of day, and to disturb the
comfort of evening.

'Give my love to all at Brookroyd, and believe me, yours faithfully,

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_June_ 5_th_, 1847.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I return you Mary Taylor's letter; it made me somewhat
sad to read it, for I fear she is not quite content with her
existence in New Zealand. She finds it too barren. I believe she is
more home-sick than she will confess. Her gloomy ideas respecting
you and me prove a state of mind far from gay. I have also received
a letter; its tone is similar to your own, and its contents too.

'What brilliant weather we have had. Oh! I do indeed regret you
could not come to Haworth at the time fixed, these warm sunny days
would have suited us exactly; but it is not to be helped. Give my
best love to your mother and Mercy.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _June_ 26_th_, 1848.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I should have answered your last long ago if I had
known your address, but you omitted to give it me, and I have been
waiting in the hope that you would perhaps write again and repair the
omission. Finding myself deceived in this expectation however, I
have at last hit on the plan of sending the letter to Brookroyd to be
directed; be sure to give me your address when you reply to this.

'I was glad to hear that you were well received at London, and that
you got safe to the end of your journey. Your _naivete_ in gravely
inquiring my opinion of the "last new novel" amuses me. We do not
subscribe to a circulating library at Haworth, and consequently "new
novels" rarely indeed come in our way, and consequently, again, we
are not qualified to give opinions thereon.

'About three weeks ago, I received a brief note from Hunsworth, to
the effect that Mr. Joe Taylor and his cousin Henry would make some
inquiries respecting Mme. Heger's school on account of Ellen Taylor,
and that if I had no objection, they would ride over to Haworth in a
day or two. I said they might come if they would. They came,
accompanied by Miss Mossman, of Bradford, whom I had never seen, only
heard of occasionally. It was a pouring wet and windy day; we had
quite ceased to expect them. Miss Mossman was quite wet, and we had
to make her change her things, and dress her out in ours as well as
we could. I do not know if you are acquainted with her; I thought
her unaffected and rather agreeable-looking, though she has very red
hair. Henry Taylor does indeed resemble John most strongly. Joe
looked thin; he was in good spirits, and I think in tolerable
good-humour. I would have given much for you to have been there. I
had not been very well for some days before, and had some difficulty
in keeping up the talk, but I managed on the whole better than I
expected. I was glad Miss Mossman came, for she helped. Nothing new
was communicated respecting Mary. Nothing of importance in any way
was said the whole time; it was all rattle, rattle, of which I should
have great difficulty now in recalling the substance. They left
almost immediately after tea. I have not heard a word respecting
them since, but I suppose they got home all right. The visit strikes
me as an odd whim. I consider it quite a caprice, prompted probably
by curiosity.

'Joe Taylor mentioned that he had called at Brookroyd, and that Anne
had told him you were ill, and going into the South for change of
air.

'I hope you will soon write to me again and tell me particularly how
your health is, and how you get on. Give my regards to Mary Gorham,
for really I have a sort of regard for her by hearsay, and--Believe
me, dear Nell, yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

The Ellen Taylor mentioned in the above letter did not go to Brussels.
She joined her cousin Mary in New Zealand instead.

TO MISS CHARLOTTE BRONTE

'WELLINGTON, _April_ 10_th_, 1849.

'DEAR CHARLOTTE,--I've been delighted to receive a very interesting
letter from you with an account of your visit to London, etc. I
believe I have tacked this acknowledgment to the tail of my last
letter to you, but since then it has dawned on my comprehension that
you are becoming a very important personage in this little world, and
therefore, d'ye see? I must write again to you. I wish you would
give me some account of Newby, and what the man said when confronted
with the real Ellis Bell. By the way, having got your secret, will
he keep it? And how do you contrive to get your letters under the
address of Mr. Bell? The whole scheme must be particularly
interesting to hear about, if I could only talk to you for half a
day. When do you intend to tell the good people about you?

'I am now hard at work expecting Ellen Taylor. She may possibly be
here in two months. I once thought of writing you some of the dozens
of schemes I have for Ellen Taylor, but as the choice depends on her
I may as well wait and tell you the one she chooses. The two most
reasonable are keeping a school and keeping a shop. The last is
evidently the most healthy, but the most difficult of accomplishment.
I have written an account of the earthquakes for _Chambers_, and
intend (now don't remind me of this a year hence, because _la femme
propose_) to write some more. What else I shall do I don't know. I
find the writing faculty does not in the least depend on the leisure
I have, but much more on the _active_ work I have to do. I write at
my novel a little and think of my other book. What this will turn
out, God only knows. It is not, and never can be forgotten. It is
my child, my baby, and _I assure you_ such a wonder as never was. I
intend him when full grown to revolutionise society and _faire
epoque_ in history.

'In the meantime I'm doing a collar in crochet work.
'PAG.'

TO MISS CHARLOTTE BRONTE

'WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND,
'_July_ 24_th_, 1849.

'DEAR CHARLOTTE,--About a month since I received and read _Jane
Eyre_. It seemed to me incredible that you had actually written a
book. Such events did not happen while I was in England. I begin to
believe in your existence much as I do in Mr. Rochester's. In a
believing mood I don't doubt either of them. After I had read it I
went on to the top of Mount Victoria and looked for a ship to carry a
letter to you. There was a little thing with one mast, and also
H.M.S. _Fly_, and nothing else. If a cattle vessel came from Sydney
she would probably return in a few days, and would take a mail, but
we have had east wind for a month and nothing can come in.

'_Aug_. 1.--The _Harlequin_ has just come from Otago, and is to sail
for Singapore _when the wind changes_, and by that route (which I
hope to take myself sometime) I send you this. Much good may it do
you. Your novel surprised me by being so perfect as a work of art.
I expected something more changeable and unfinished. You have
polished to some purpose. If I were to do so I should get tired, and
weary every one else in about two pages. No sign of this weariness
in your book--you must have had abundance, having kept it all to
yourself!

'You are very different from me in having no doctrine to preach. It
is impossible to squeeze a moral out of your production. Has the
world gone so well with you that you have no protest to make against
its absurdities? Did you never sneer or declaim in your first
sketches? I will scold you well when I see you. I do not believe in
Mr. Rivers. There are no _good_ men of the Brocklehurst species. A
missionary either goes into his office for a piece of bread, or he
goes from enthusiasm, and that is both too good and too bad a quality
for St. John. It's a bit of your absurd charity to believe in such a
man. You have done wisely in choosing to imagine a high class of
readers. You never stop to explain or defend anything, and never
seem bothered with the idea. If Mrs. Fairfax or any other
well-intentioned fool gets hold of this what will she think? And
yet, you know, the world is made up of such, and worse. Once more,
how have you written through three volumes without declaring war to
the knife against a few dozen absurd doctrines, each of which is
supported by "a large and respectable class of readers"? Emily seems
to have had such a class in her eye when she wrote that strange thing
_Wuthering Heights_. Anne, too, stops repeatedly to preach
commonplace truths. She has had a still lower class in her mind's
eye. Emily seems to have followed the bookseller's advice. As to
the price you got, it was certainly Jewish. But what could the
people do? If they had asked you to fix it, do you know yourself how
many ciphers your sum would have had? And how should they know
better? And if they did, that's the knowledge they get their living
by. If I were in your place, the idea of being bound in the sale of
two more would prevent me from ever writing again. Yet you are
probably now busy with another. It is curious for me to see among
the old letters one from Anne sending _a copy of a whole article_ on
the currency question written by Fonblanque! I exceedingly regret
having burnt your letters in a fit of caution, and I've forgotten all
the names. Was the reader Albert Smith? What do they all think of
you?

'I mention the book to no one and hear no opinions. I lend it a good
deal because it's a novel, and _it's as good as another_! They say
"it makes them cry." They are not literary enough to give an
opinion. If ever I hear one I'll embalm it for you. As to my own
affair, I have written 100 pages, and lately 50 more. It's no use
writing faster. I get so disgusted, I can do nothing.

'If I could command sufficient money for a twelve-month, I would go
home by way of India and write my travels, which would prepare the
way for my novel. With the benefit of your experience I should
perhaps make a better bargain than you. I am most afraid of my
health. Not that I should die, but perhaps sink into a state of
betweenity, neither well nor ill, in which I should observe nothing,
and be very miserable besides. My life here is not disagreeable. I
have a great resource in the piano, and a little employment in
teaching.

'It's a pity you don't live in this world, that I might entertain you
about the price of meat. Do you know, I bought six heifers the other
day for 23 pounds, and now it is turned so cold I expect to hear
one-half of them are dead. One man bought twenty sheep for 8 pounds,
and they are all dead but one. Another bought 150 and has 40 left.

'I have now told you everything I can think of except that the cat's
on the table and that I'm going to borrow a new book to read--no less
than an account of all the systems of philosophy of modern Europe. I
have lately met with a wonder, a man who thinks Jane Eyre would have
done better to marry Mr. Rivers! He gives no reason--such people
never do.

'MARY TAYLOR.'

TO MISS CHARLOTTE BRONTE

'WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND.

'DEAR CHARLOTTE,--I have set up shop! I am delighted with it as a
whole--that is, it is as pleasant or as little disagreeable as you
can expect an employment to be that you earn your living by. The
best of it is that your labour has some return, and you are not
forced to work on hopelessly without result. _Du reste_, it is very
odd. I keep looking at myself with one eye while I'm using the
other, and I sometimes find myself in very queer positions.
Yesterday I went along the shore past the wharfes and several
warehouses on a street where I had never been before during all the
five years I have been in Wellington. I opened the door of a long
place filled with packages, with passages up the middle, and a row of
high windows on one side. At the far end of the room a man was
writing at a desk beneath a window. I walked all the length of the
room very slowly, for what I had come for had completely gone out of
my head. Fortunately the man never heard me until I had recollected
it. Then he got up, and I asked him for some stone-blue, saltpetre,
tea, pickles, salt, etc. He was very civil. I bought some things
and asked for a note of them. He went to his desk again; I looked at
some newspapers lying near. On the top was a circular from Smith &
Elder containing notices of the most important new works. The first
and longest was given to _Shirley_, a book I had seen mentioned in
the _Manchester Examiner_ as written by Currer Bell. I blushed all
over. The man got up, folding the note. I pulled it out of his hand
and set off to the door, looking odder than ever, for a partner had
come in and was watching. The clerk said something about sending
them, and I said something too--I hope it was not very silly--and
took my departure.
'I have seen some extracts from _Shirley_ in which you talk of women
working. And this first duty, this great necessity, you seem to
think that some women may indulge in, if they give up marriage, and
don't make themselves too disagreeable to the other sex. You are a
coward and a traitor. A woman who works is by that alone better than
one who does not; and a woman who does not happen to be rich and who
_still_ earns no money and does not wish to do so, is guilty of a
great fault, almost a crime--a dereliction of duty which leads
rapidly and almost certainly to all manner of degradation. It is
very wrong of you to _plead_ for toleration for workers on the ground
of their being in peculiar circumstances, and few in number or
singular in disposition. Work or degradation is the lot of all
except the very small number born to wealth.

'Ellen is with me, or I with her. I cannot tell how our shop will
turn out, but I am as sanguine as ever. Meantime we certainly amuse
ourselves better than if we had nothing to do. We _like_ it, and
that's the truth. By the _Cornelia_ we are going to send our
sketches and fern leaves. You must look at them, and it will need
all your eyes to understand them, for they are a mass of confusion.
They are all within two miles of Wellington, and some of them rather
like--Ellen's sketch of me especially. During the last six months I
have seen more "society" than in all the last four years. Ellen is
half the reason of my being invited, and my improved circumstances
besides. There is no one worth mentioning particularly. The women
are all ignorant and narrow, and the men selfish. They are of a
decent, honest kind, and some intelligent and able. A Mr. Woodward
is the only _literary_ man we know, and he seems to have fair sense.
This was the clerk I bought the stone-blue of. We have just got a
mechanic's institute, and weekly lectures delivered there. It is
amusing to see people trying to find out whether or not it is
fashionable and proper to patronise it. Somehow it seems it is. I
think I have told you all this before, which shows I have got to the
end of my news. Your next letter to me ought to bring me good news,
more cheerful than the last. You will somehow get drawn out of your
hole and find interests among your fellow-creatures. Do you know
that living among people with whom you have not the slightest
interest in common is just like living alone, or worse? Ellen Nussey
is the only one you can talk to, that I know of at least. Give my
love to her and to Miss Wooler, if you have the opportunity. I am
writing this on just such a night as you will likely read it--rain
and storm, coming winter, and a glowing fire. Ours is on the ground,
wood, no fender or irons; no matter, we are very comfortable.

'PAG.'

TO MISS CHARLOTTE BRONTE

'WELLINGTON, N. Z., _April_ 3_rd_, 1850.
'DEAR CHARLOTTE,--About a week since I received your last melancholy
letter with the account of Anne's death and your utter indifference
to everything, even to the success of your last book. Though you do
not say this, it is pretty plain to be seen from the style of your
letter. It seems to me hard indeed that you who would succeed,
better than any one, in making friends and keeping them, should be
condemned to solitude from your poverty. To no one would money bring
more happiness, for no one would use it better than you would. For
me, with my headlong self-indulgent habits, I am perhaps better
without it, but I am convinced it would give you great and noble
pleasures. Look out then for success in writing; you ought to care
as much for that as you do for going to Heaven. Though the
advantages of being employed appear to you now the best part of the
business, you will soon, please God, have other enjoyments from your
success. Railway shares will rise, your books will sell, and you
will acquire influence and power; and then most certainly you will
find something to use it in which will interest you and make you
exert yourself.

'I have got into a heap of social trickery since Ellen came, never
having troubled my head before about the comparative numbers of young
ladies and young gentlemen. To Ellen it is quite new to be of such
importance by the mere fact of her femininity. She thought she was
coming wofully down in the world when she came out, and finds herself
better received than ever she was in her life before. And the class
are not _in education_ inferior, though they are in money. They are
decent well-to-do people: six grocers, one draper, two parsons, two
clerks, two lawyers, and three or four nondescripts. All these but
one have families to "take tea with," and there are a lot more single
men to flirt with. For the last three months we have been out every
Sunday sketching. We seldom succeed in making the slightest
resemblance to the thing we sit down to, but it is wonderfully
interesting. Next year we hope to send a lot home. With all this my
novel stands still; it might have done so if I had had nothing to do,
for it is not want of time but want of freedom of mind that makes me
unable to direct my attention to it. Meantime it grows in my head,
for I never give up the idea. I have written about a volume I
suppose. Read this letter to Ellen Nussey.

'MARY TAYLOR.'

TO MISS CHARLOTTE BRONTE

'WELLINGTON, _August_ 13_th_, 1850.

'DEAR CHARLOTTE,--After waiting about six months we have just got
_Shirley_. It was landed from the _Constantinople_ on Monday
afternoon, just in the thick of our preparations for a "small party"
for the next day. We stopped spreading red blankets over everything
(New Zealand way of arranging the room) and opened the box and read
all the letters. Soyer's _Housewife_ and _Shirley_ were there all
right, but Miss Martineau's book was not. In its place was a silly
child's tale called _Edward Orland_. On Tuesday we stayed up dancing
till three or four o'clock, what for I can't imagine. However, it
was a piece of business done. On Wednesday I began _Shirley_ and
continued in a curious confusion of mind till now, principally at the
handsome foreigner who was nursed in our house when I was a little
girl. By the way, you've put him in the servant's bedroom. You make
us all talk much as I think we should have done if we'd ventured to
speak at all. What a little lump of perfection you've made me!
There is a strange feeling in reading it of hearing us all talking.
I have not seen the matted hall and painted parlour windows so plain
these five years. But my father is not like. He hates well enough
and perhaps loves too, but he is not honest enough. It was from my
father I learnt not to marry for money nor to tolerate any one who
did, and he never would advise any one to do so, or fail to speak
with contempt of those who did. Shirley is much more interesting
than Jane Eyre, who never interests you at all until she has
something to suffer. All through this last novel there is so much
more life and stir that it leaves you far more to remember than the
other. Did you go to London about this too? What for? I see by a
letter of yours to Mr. Dixon that you _have_ been. I wanted to
contradict some of your opinions, now I can't. As to when I'm coming
home, you may well ask. I have wished for fifteen years to begin to
earn my own living; last April I began to try--it is too soon to say
yet with what success. I am woefully ignorant, terribly wanting in
tact, and obstinately lazy, and almost too old to mend. Luckily
there is no other dance for me, so I must work. Ellen takes to it
kindly, it gratifies a deep ardent _wish_ of hers as of mine, and she
is habitually industrious. For _her_, ten years younger, our shop
will be a blessing. She may possibly secure an independence, and
skill to keep it and use it, before the prime of life is past. As to
my writings, you may as well ask the Fates about that too. I can
give you no information. I write a page now and then. I never
forget or get strange to what I have written. When I read it over it
looks very interesting.
'MARY TAYLOR.'

The Ellen Taylor referred to so frequently was, as I have said, a cousin
of Mary's. Her early death in New Zealand gives the single letter I have
of hers a more pathetic interest.

TO MISS CHARLOTTE BRONTE

'WELLINGTON, N. Z.

'MY DEAR MISS BRONTE,--I shall tell you everything I can think of,
since you said in one of your letters to Pag that you wished me to
write to you. I have been here a year. It seems a much shorter
time, and yet I have thought more and done more than I ever did in my
life before. When we arrived, Henry and I were in such a hurry to
leave the ship that we didn't wait to be fetched, but got into the
first boat that came alongside. When we landed we inquired where
Waring lived, but hadn't walked far before we met him. I had never
seen him before, but he guessed we were the cousins he expected, so
caught us and took us along with him. Mary soon joined us, and we
went home together. At first I thought Mary was not the least
altered, but when I had seen her for about a week I thought she
looked rather older. The first night Mary and I sat up till 2 A.M.
talking. Mary and I settled we would do something together, and we
talked for a fortnight before we decided whether we would have a
school or shop; it ended in favour of the shop. Waring thought we
had better be quiet, and I believe he still thinks we are doing it
for amusement; but he never refuses to help us. He is teaching us
book-keeping, and he buys things for us now and then. Mary gets as
fierce as a dragon and goes to all the wholesale stores and looks at
things, gets patterns, samples, etc., and asks prices, and then comes
home, and we talk it over; and then she goes again and buys what we
want. She says the people are always civil to her. Our keeping shop
astonishes every body here; I believe they think we do it for fun.
Some think we shall make nothing of it, or that we shall get tired;
and all laugh at us. Before I left home I used to be afraid of being
laughed at, but now it has very little effect upon me.

'Mary and I are settled together now: I can't do without Mary and she
couldn't get on by herself. I built the house we live in, and we
made the plan ourselves, so it suits us. We take it in turns to
serve in the shop, and keep the accounts, and do the housework--I
mean, Mary takes the shop for a week and I the kitchen, and then we
change. I think we shall do very well if no more severe earthquakes
come, and if we can prevent fire. When a wooden house takes fire it
doesn't stop; and we have got an oil cask about as high as I am, that
would help it. If some sparks go out at the chimney-top the shingles
are in danger. The last earthquake but one about a fortnight ago
threw down two medicine bottles that were standing on the table and
made other things jingle, but did no damage. If we have nothing
worse than that I don't care, but I don't want the chimney to come
down--it would cost 10 pounds to build it up again. Mary is making
me stop because it is nearly 9 P.M. and we are going to Waring's to
supper. Good-bye.--Yours truly,

'ELLEN TAYLOR.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _July_ 4_th_, 1849.

'I get on as well as I can. Home is not the home it used to be--that
you may well conceive; but so far, I get on.

'I cannot boast of vast benefits derived from change of air yet; but
unfortunately I brought back the seeds of a cold with me from that
dismal Easton, and I have not got rid of it yet. Still I think I
look better than I did before I went. How are you? You have never
told me.

'Mr. Williams has written to me twice since my return, chiefly on the
subject of his third daughter, who wishes to be a governess, and has
some chances of a presentation to Queen's College, an establishment
connected with the Governess Institution; this will secure her four
years of instruction. He says Mr. George Smith is kindly using his
influence to obtain votes, but there are so many candidates he is not
sanguine of success.

'I had a long letter from Mary Taylor--interesting but sad, because
it contained many allusions to those who are in this world no more.
She mentioned you, and seemed impressed with an idea of the
lamentable nature of your unoccupied life. She spoke of her own
health as being excellent.

'Give my love to your mother and sisters, and,--Believe me, yours,

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _May_ 18_th_.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I inclose Mary Taylor's letter announcing Ellen's
death, and two last letters--sorrowful documents, all of them. I
received them this morning from Hunsworth without any note or
directions where to send them, but I think, if I mistake not, Amelia
in a previous note told me to transmit them to you.--Yours
faithfully,

'C. B.'

TO MISS CHARLOTTE BRONTE

'WELLINGTON, N. Z. 
'DEAR CHARLOTTE,--I began a letter to you one bitter cold evening
last week, but it turned out such a sad one that I have left it and
begun again. I am sitting all alone in my own house, or rather what
is to be mine when I've paid for it. I bought it of Henry when Ellen
died--shop and all, and carry on by myself. I have made up my mind
not to get any assistance. I have not too much work, and the
annoyance of having an unsuitable companion was too great to put up
with without necessity. I find now that it was Ellen that made me so
busy, and without her to nurse I have plenty of time. I have begun
to keep the house very tidy; it makes it less desolate. I take great
interest in my trade--as much as I could do in anything that was not
_all_ pleasure. But the best part of my life is the excitement of
arrivals from England. Reading all the news, written and printed, is
like living another life quite separate from this one. The old
letters are strange--very, when I begin to read them, but quite
familiar notwithstanding. So are all the books and newspapers,
though I never see a human being to whom it would ever occur to me to
mention anything I read in them. I see your _nom de guerre_ in them
sometimes. I saw a criticism on the preface to the second edition of
_Wuthering Heights_. I saw it among the notables who attended
Thackeray's lectures. I have seen it somehow connected with Sir J.
K. Shuttleworth. Did he want to marry you, or only to lionise you?
_or was it somebody else_?

'Your life in London is a "new country" to me, which I cannot even
picture to myself. You seem to like it--at least some things in it,
and yet your late letters to Mrs. J. Taylor talk of low spirits and
illness. "What's the matter with you now?" as my mother used to say,
as if it were the twentieth time in a fortnight. It is really
melancholy that now, in the prime of life, in the flush of your
hard-earned prosperity, you can't be well. Did not Miss Martineau
improve you? If she did, why not try her and her plan again? But I
suppose if you had hope and energy to try, you would be well. Well,
it's nearly dark and you will surely be well when you read this, so
what's the use of writing? I should like well to have some details
of your life, but how can I hope for it? I have often tried to give
you a picture of mine, but I have not the skill. I get a heap of
details, mostly paltry in themselves, and not enough to give you an
idea of the whole. Oh, for one hour's talk! You are getting too far
off and beginning to look strange to me. Do you look as you used to
do, I wonder? What do you and Ellen Nussey talk about when you meet?
There! it's dark.

'_Sunday night_.--I have let the vessel go that was to take this. As
there were others going soon I did not much care. I am in the height
of cogitation whether to send for some worsted stockings, etc. They
will come next year at this time, and who can tell what I shall want
then, or shall be doing? Yet hitherto we have sent such orders, and
have guessed or known pretty well what we should want. I have just
been looking over a list of four pages long in Ellen's handwriting.
These things ought to come by the next vessel, or part of them at
least. When tired of that I began to read some pages of "my book"
intending to write some more, but went on reading for pleasure. I
often do this, and find it very interesting indeed. It does not get
on fast, though I have written about one volume and a half. It's
full of music, poverty, disputing, politics, and original views of
life. I can't for the life of me bring the lover into it, nor tell
what he's to do when he comes. Of the men generally I can never tell
what they'll do next. The women I understand pretty well, and rare
_tracasserie_ there is among them--they are perfectly _feminine_ in
that respect at least. 

'I am just now in a state of famine. No books and no news from
England for this two months. I am thinking of visiting a circulating
library from sheer dulness. If I had more time I should get
melancholy. No one can prize activity more than I do. I never am
long without it than a gloom comes over me. The cloud seems to be
always there behind me, and never quite out of sight but when I keep
on at a good rate. Fortunately, the more I work the better I like
it. I shall take to scrubbing the floor before it's dirty and
polishing pans on the outside in my old age. It is the only thing
that gives me an appetite for dinner.

'PAG.

'Give my love to Ellen Nussey.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'WELLINGTON, N. Z., 8_th_ _Jan_. 1857.

'DEAR ELLEN,--A few days ago I got a letter from you, dated 2nd May
1856, along with some patterns and fashion-book. They seem to have
been lost somehow, as the box ought to have come by the _Hastings_,
and only now makes its appearance by the _Philip Lang_. It has come
very _apropos_ for a new year's gift, and the patterns were not
opened twenty-four hours before a silk cape was cut out by one of
them. I think I made a very impertinent request when I asked you to
give yourself so much trouble. The poor woman for whom I wanted them
is now a first-rate dressmaker--her drunken husband, who was her main
misfortune, having taken himself off and not been heard of lately.

'I am glad to hear that Mrs. Gaskell is progressing with the _Life_.

'I wish I had kept Charlotte's letters now, though I never felt it
safe to do so until latterly that I have had a home of my own. They
would have been much better evidence than my imperfect recollection,
and infinitely more interesting. A settled opinion is very likely to
look absurd unless you give the grounds for it, and even if I could
remember them it might look as if there might be other facts which I
have neglected which ought to have altered it. Your news of the
"neighbours" is very interesting, especially of Miss Wooler and my
old schoolfellows. I wish I knew how to give you some account of my
ways here and the effect of my position on me. First of all, it
agrees with me. I am in better health than at any time since I left
school. My life now is not overburdened with work, and what I do has
interest and attraction in it. I think it is that part that I shall
think most agreeable when I look back on my death-bed--a number of
small pleasures scattered over my way, that, when seen from a
distance, will seem to cover it thick. They don't cover it by any
means, but I never had so many. 

'I look after my shopwoman, make out bills, decide who shall have
"trust" and who not. Then I go a-buying, not near such an anxious
piece of business now that I understand my trade, and have, moreover,
a good "credit." I read a good deal, sometimes on the sofa, a vice I
am much given to in hot weather. Then I have some friends--not many,
and no geniuses, which fact pray keep strictly to yourself, for how
the doings and sayings of Wellington people in England always come
out again to New Zealand! They are not very interesting any way.
This is my fault in part, for I can't take interest in their
concerns. A book is worth any of them, and a good book worth them
all put together.

'_Our_ east winds are much the pleasantest and healthiest we have.
The soft moist north-west brings headache and depression--it even
blights the trees.--Yours affectionately,

'MARY TAYLOR.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'WELLINGTON, 4_th_ _June_ 1858.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I have lately heard that you are leaving Brookroyd. I
shall not even see Brookroyd again, and one of the people who lived
there; and _one_ whom I used to see there I shall never see more.
Keep yourself well, dear Ellen, and gather round you as much
happiness and interest as you can, and let me find you cheery and
thriving when I come. When that will be I don't yet know; but one
thing is sure, I have given over ordering goods from England, so that
I must sometime give over for want of anything to sell. The last
things ordered I expect to arrive about the beginning of the year
1859. In the course of that year, therefore, I shall be left without
anything to do or motive for staying. Possibly this time twelve
months I may be leaving Wellington.

'We are here in the height of a political crisis. The election for
the highest office in the province (Superintendent) comes off in
about a fortnight. There is altogether a small storm going on in our
teacup, quite brisk enough to stir everything in it. My principal
interest therein is the sale of election ribbons, though I am afraid,
owing to the bad weather, there will be little display. Besides the
elections, there is nothing interesting. We all go on pretty well.
I have got a pony about four feet high, that carries me about ten
miles from Wellington, which is much more than walking distance, to
which I have been confined for the last ten years. I have given over
most of the work to Miss Smith, who will finally take the business,
and if we had fine weather I think I should enjoy myself. My main
want here is for books enough to fill up my idle time. It seems to
me that when I get home I will spend half my income on books, and
sell them when I have read them to make it go further. I know this
is absurd, but people with an unsatisfied appetite think they can eat
enormously. 

'Remember me kindly to Miss Wooler, and tell me all about her in your
next.--Yours affectionately,

'MARY TAYLOR.'

Miss Taylor wrote one or two useful letters to Mrs. Gaskell, while the
latter was preparing her Memoir of Charlotte Bronte, and her favourable
estimate of the book we have already seen. About 1859 or 1860 she
returned to England and lived out the remainder of her days in complete
seclusion in a Yorkshire home that she built for herself. The novel to
which she refers in a letter to her friend never seems to have got itself
written, or at least published, for it was not until 1890 that Miss Mary
Taylor produced a work of fiction--_Miss Miles_. {259a} This novel
strives to inculcate the advantages as well as the duty of women learning
to make themselves independent of men. It is well, though not
brilliantly written, and might, had the author possessed any of the
latter-day gifts of self-advertisement, have attracted the public, if
only by the mere fact that its author was a friend of Currer Bell's. But
Miss Taylor, it is clear, hated advertisement, and severely refused to be
lionised by Bronte worshippers. Twenty years earlier than _Miss Miles_,
I may add, she had preached the same gospel in less attractive guise. A
series of papers in the _Victorian Magazine_ were reprinted under the
title of _The First Duty of Women_. {259b} 'To inculcate the duty of
earning money,' she declares, 'is the principal point in these articles.'
'It is to the feminine half of the world that the commonplace duty of
providing for themselves is recommended,' and she enforces her doctrine
with considerable point, and by means of arguments much more accepted in
our day than in hers. Miss Taylor died in March 1893, at High Royd, in
Yorkshire, at the age of seventy-six. She will always occupy an
honourable place in the Bronte story. 

 
 
 

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