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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter


'HAWORTH, _November_ 15_th_, 1851.

'MY DEAR SIR,--Both your communications reached me safely--the note
of the 17th September and the letter of the 2nd October. You do
yourself less than justice when you stigmatise the latter as
"ill-written." I found it quite legible, nor did I lose a word,
though the lines and letters were so close. I should have been sorry
if such had not been the case, as it appeared to me throughout highly
interesting. It is observable that the very same information which
we have previously collected, perhaps with rather languid attention,
from printed books, when placed before us in familiar manuscript, and
comprising the actual experience of a person with whom we are
acquainted, acquires a new and vital interest: when we know the
narrator we seem to realise the tale.

'The bath scene amused me much. Your account of that operation
tallies in every point with Mr. Thackeray's description in the
_Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo_. The usage seems a little
rough, and I cannot help thinking that equal benefit might be
obtained through less violent means; but I suppose without the
previous fatigue the after-sensation would not be so enjoyable, and
no doubt it is that indolent after-sensation which the self-indulgent
Mahometans chiefly cultivate. I think you did right to disdain it.

'It would seem to me a matter of great regret that the society at
Bombay should be so deficient in all intellectual attraction.
Perhaps, however, your occupations will so far absorb your thoughts
as to prevent them from dwelling painfully on this circumstance. No
doubt there will be moments when you will look back to London and
Scotland, and the friends you have left there, with some yearning;
but I suppose business has its own excitement. The new country, the
new scenes too, must have their interest; and as you will not lack
books to fill your leisure, you will probably soon become reconciled
to a change which, for some minds, would too closely resemble exile.

'I fear the climate--such as you describe it--must be very trying to
an European constitution. In your first letter, you mentioned
October as the month of danger; it is now over. Whether you have
passed its ordeal safely, must yet for some weeks remain unknown to
your friends in England--they can but _wish_ that such may be the
case. You will not expect me to write a letter that shall form a
parallel with your own either in quantity or quality; what I write
must be brief, and what I communicate must be commonplace and of
trivial interest.

'My father, I am thankful to say, continues in pretty good health. I
read portions of your letter to him and he was interested in hearing
them. He charged me when I wrote to convey his very kind

'I had myself ceased to expect a letter from you. On taking leave at
Haworth you said something about writing from India, but I doubted at
the time whether it was not one of those forms of speech which
politeness dictates; and as time passed, and I did not hear from you,
I became confirmed in this view of the subject. With every good wish
for your welfare,--I am, yours sincerely,



'_November_ 19_th_, 1851.

'DEAR ELLEN,--All here is much as usual, and I was thinking of
writing to you this morning when I received your note. I am glad to
hear your mother bears this severe weather tolerably, as papa does
also. I had a cold, chiefly in the throat and chest, but I applied
cold water, which relieved me, I think, far better than hot
applications would have done. The only events in my life consist in
that little change occasional letters bring. I have had two from
Miss Wooler since she left Haworth which touched me much. She seems
to think so much of a little congenial company. She says she has not
for many days known such enjoyment as she experienced during the ten
days she stayed here. Yet you know what Haworth is--dull enough.

'How could you imagine your last letter offended me? I only
disagreed with you on _one point_. The little man's disdain of the
sensual pleasure of a Turkish bath had, I must own, my approval.
Before answering his epistle I got up my courage to write to Mr.
Williams, through whose hands or those of Mr. Smith I knew the Indian
letter had come, and beg him to give me an impartial judgment of Mr.
Taylor's character and disposition, owning that I was very much in
the dark. I did not like to continue correspondence without further
information. I got the answer, which I inclose. You say nothing
about the Hunsworth Turtle-doves--how are they? and how is the branch
of promise? I hope doing well.--Yours faithfully,



'_January_ 1_st_, 1852.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I am glad of the opportunity of writing to you, for I
have long wished to send you a little note, and was only deterred
from doing so by the conviction that the period preceding Christmas
must be a very busy one to you.

'I have wished to thank you for your last, which gave me very genuine
pleasure. You ascribe to Mr. Taylor an excellent character; such a
man's friendship, at any rate, should not be disregarded; and if the
principles and disposition be what you say, faults of manner and even
of temper ought to weigh light in the balance. I always believed in
his judgment and good-sense, but what I doubted was his kindness--he
seemed to me a little too harsh, rigid, and unsympathising. Now,
judgment, sense, principle are invaluable and quite indispensable
points, but one would be thankful for a _little_ feeling, a _little_
indulgence in addition--without these, poor fallible human nature
shrinks under the domination of the sterner qualities. I answered
Mr. Taylor's letter by the mail of the 19th November, sending it
direct, for, on reflection, I did not see why I should trouble you
with it.

'Did your son Frank call on Mrs. Gaskell? and how did he like her?

'My health has not been very satisfactory lately, but I think, though
I vary almost daily, I am much better than I was a fortnight ago.
All the winter the fact of my never being able to stoop over a desk
without bringing on pain and oppression in the chest has been a great
affliction to me, and the want of tranquil rest at night has tried me
much, but I hope for the better times. The doctors say that there is
no organic mischief.

'Wishing a happy New Year to you,



'_March_ 7_th_, 1852.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I hope both your mother's cold and yours are quite well
ere this. Papa has got something of his spring attack of bronchitis,
but so far it is in a greatly ameliorated form, very different to
what it has been for three years past. I do trust it may pass off
thus mildly. I continue better.

'Dear Nell, I told you from the beginning that my going to Sussex was
a most improbable event; I tell you now that unless want of health
should absolutely compel me to give up work and leave home (which I
trust and hope will not be the case) I _certainly shall not think of
going_. It is better to be decided, and decided I must be. You can
never want me less than when in Sussex surrounded by amusement and
friends. I do not know that I shall go to Scarbro', but it might be
possible to spare a fortnight to go there (for the sake of a sad duty
rather than pleasure), when I could not give a month to a longer
excursion. I have not a word of news to tell you. Many mails have
come from India since I was at Brookroyd. Expectation would at times
be on the alert, but disappointment knocked her down. I have not
heard a syllable, and cannot think of making inquiries at Cornhill.
Well, long suspense in any matter usually proves somewhat cankering,
but God orders all things for us, and to His Will we must submit. Be
sure to keep a calm mind; expect nothing.--Yours faithfully,


When Mr. Taylor returned to England in 1856 Charlotte Bronte was dead.
His after-life was more successful than happy. He did not, it is true,
succeed in Bombay with the firm of Smith, Taylor & Co. That would seem
to have collapsed. But he made friends in Bombay and returned there in
1863 as editor of the _Bombay Gazette_ and the _Bombay Quarterly Review_.
A little later he became editor of the _Bombay Saturday Review_, which
had not, however, a long career. Mr. Taylor's successes were not
journalistic but mercantile. As Secretary of the Bombay Chamber of
Commerce, which appointment he obtained in 1865, he obtained much real
distinction. To this post he added that of Registrar of the University
of Bombay and many other offices. He was elected Sheriff in 1874, in
which year he died. An imposing funeral ceremony took place in the
Cathedral, and he was buried in the Bombay cemetery, where his tomb may
be found to the left of the entrance gates, inscribed--

He married during his visit to England, but the marriage was not a happy
one. That does not belong to the present story. Here, however, is a
cutting from the _Times_ marriage record in 1863:--

'On the 23rd inst., at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, St.
Pancras, by the Rev. James Moorhouse, M.A., James Taylor, Esq., of
Furnival's-inn, and Bombay, to Annie, widow of Adolph Ritter, of
Vienna, and stepdaughter of Thos. Harrison, Esq., of Birchanger
Place, Essex.'

© Митрофанова Екатерина Борисовна, 2009 |