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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter
 
 
CHAPTER XIII: LITERARY AMBITIONS

We have seen how Charlotte Bronte and her sisters wrote from their
earliest years those little books which embodied their vague aspirations
after literary fame. Now and again the effort is admirable, notably in
_The Adventures of Ernest Alembert_, but on the whole it amounts to as
little as did the juvenile productions of Shelley. That poet, it will be
remembered, wrote _Zastrozzi_ at nineteen, and much else that was bad,
some of which he printed. Charlotte Bronte was mercifully restrained by
a well-nigh empty purse from this ill-considered rashness. It was not
till the death of their aunt had added to their slender resources that
the Bronte girls conceived the idea of actually publishing a book at
their own expense. They communicated with the now extinct firm of Aylott
& Jones of Paternoster Row, and Charlotte appears to have written many
letters to the firm, {325} only two or three of which are printed by Mrs.
Gaskell. The correspondence is comparatively insignificant, but as the
practical beginning of Charlotte's literary career, the hitherto
unpublished letters which have been preserved are perhaps worth
reproducing here.

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_January_ 28_th_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--May I request to be informed whether you would undertake
the publication of a collection of short poems in one volume, 8vo.

'If you object to publishing the work at your own risk, would you
undertake it on the author's account?--I am, gentlemen, your obedient
humble servant,

'C. BRONTE.

'Address--Rev. P. Bronte, Haworth, Bradford, Yorkshire.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_March_ 3_rd_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--I send a draft for 31 pounds, 10s., being the amount of
your estimate.

'I suppose there is nothing now to prevent your immediately
commencing the printing of the work.

'When you acknowledge the receipt of the draft, will you state how
soon it will be completed?--I am, gentlemen, yours truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_March_ 11_th_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--I have received the proof-sheet, and return it
corrected. If there is any doubt at all about the printer's
competency to correct errors, I would prefer submitting each sheet to
the inspection of the authors, because such a mistake, for instance,
as _tumbling_ stars, instead of _trembling_, would suffice to throw
an air of absurdity over a whole poem; but if you know from
experience that he is to be relied on, I would trust to your
assurance on the subject, and leave the task of correction to him, as
I know that a considerable saving both of time and trouble would be
thus effected.

'The printing and paper appear to me satisfactory. Of course I wish
to have the work out as soon as possible, but I am still more anxious
that it should be got up in a manner creditable to the publishers and
agreeable to the authors.--I am, gentlemen, yours truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_March_ 13_th_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--I return you the second proof. The authors have finally
decided that they would prefer having all the proofs sent to them in
turn, but you need not inclose the Ms., as they can correct the
errors from memory.--I am, gentlemen, yours truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_March_ 23_rd_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--As the proofs have hitherto come safe to hand under the
direction of C. Bronte, _Esq_., I have not thought it necessary to
request you to change it, but a little mistake having occurred
yesterday, I think it will be better to send them to me in future
under my real address, which is Miss Bronte, Rev. P. Bronte, etc.--I
am, gentlemen, yours truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_April_ 6_th_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--C., E., and A. Bell are now preparing for the press a
work of fiction, consisting of three distinct and unconnected tales,
which may be published either together, as a work of three volumes,
of the ordinary novel size, or separately as single volumes, as shall
be deemed most advisable.

'It is not their intention to publish these tales on their own
account. They direct me to ask you whether you would be disposed to
undertake the work, after having, of course, by due inspection of the
Ms., ascertained that its contents are such as to warrant an
expectation of success.

'An early answer will oblige, as, in case of your negativing the
proposal, inquiry must be made of other publishers.--I am, gentlemen,
yours truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_April_ 15_th_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--I have to thank you for your obliging answer to my last.
The information you give is of value to us, and when the MS. is
completed your suggestions shall be acted on.

'There will be no preface to the poems. The blank leaf may be filled
up by a table of contents, which I suppose the printer will prepare.
It appears the volume will be a thinner one than was calculated
on.--I am, gentlemen, yours truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_May_ 11_th_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--The books may be done up in the style of Moxon's
duodecimo edition of Wordsworth.

'The price may be fixed at 5s., or if you think that too much for the
size of the volume, say 4s.

'I think the periodicals I mentioned in my last will be sufficient
for advertising in at present, and I should not wish you to lay out a
larger sum than 2 pounds, especially as the estimate is increased by
nearly 5 pounds, in consequence, it appears, of a mistake. I should
think the success of a work depends more on the notice it receives
from periodicals, than on the quantity of advertisements.

'If you do not object, the additional amount of the estimate can be
remitted when you send in your account at the end of the first six
months.

'I should be obliged to you if you could let me know how soon copies
can be sent to the editors of the magazines and newspapers
specified.--I am, gentlemen, yours truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_May_ 25_th_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--I received yours of the 22nd this morning. I now
transmit 5 pounds, being the additional sum necessary to defray the
entire expense of paper and printing. It will leave a small surplus
of 11s. 9d., which you can place to my account.

'I am glad you have sent copies to the newspapers you mention, and in
case of a notice favourable or otherwise appearing in them, or in any
of the other periodicals to which copies have been sent, I should be
obliged to you if you would send me down the numbers; otherwise, I
have not the opportunity of seeing these publications regularly. I
might miss it, and should the poems be remarked upon favourably, it
is my intention to appropriate a further sum to advertisements. If,
on the other hand, they should pass unnoticed or be condemned, I
consider it would be quite useless to advertise, as there is nothing,
either in the title of the work or the names of the authors, to
attract attention from a single individual.--I am, gentlemen, yours
truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO AYLOTT & JONES

'_July_ 10_th_, 1846.

'GENTLEMEN,--I am directed by the Messrs. Bell to acknowledge the
receipt of the _Critic_ and the _Athenaeum_ containing notices of the
poems.

'They now think that a further sum of 10 pounds may be devoted to
advertisements, leaving it to you to select such channels as you deem
most advisable.

'They would wish the following extract from the _Critic_ to be
appended to each advertisement:--

'"They in whose hearts are chords strung by Nature to sympathise with
the beautiful and the true, will recognise in these compositions the
presence of more genius than it was supposed this utilitarian age had
devoted to the loftier exercises of the intellect."

'They likewise request you to send copies of the poems to _Fraser's
Magazine_, _Chambers' Edinburgh Journal_, the Globe, and
_Examiner_.--I am, gentlemen, yours truly,

'C. BRONTE.'

To an appreciative editor Currer Bell wrote as follows:--

TO THE EDITOR OF THE 'DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE.'

'_October_ 6_th_, 1846.

'SIRS,--I thank you in my own name and that of my brothers, Ellis and
Acton, for the indulgent notice that appeared in your last number of
our first humble efforts in literature; but I thank you far more for
the essay on modern poetry which preceded that notice--an essay in
which seems to me to be condensed the very spirit of truth and
beauty. If all or half your other readers shall have derived from
its perusal the delight it afforded to myself and my brothers, your
labours have produced a rich result.

'After such criticism an author may indeed be smitten at first by a
sense of his own insignificance--as we were--but on a second and a
third perusal he finds a power and beauty therein which stirs him to
a desire to do more and better things. It fulfils the right end of
criticism: without absolutely crushing, it corrects and rouses. I
again thank you heartily, and beg to subscribe myself,--Your constant
and grateful reader,

'CURRER BELL.'

The reception which it met with from the public may be gathered from the
following letter which accompanied De Quincey's copy. {330}

TO THOMAS DE QUINCEY.

'_June_ 16_th_, 1847.

'SIRS,--My relatives, Ellis and Acton Bell, and myself, heedless of
the repeated warnings of various respectable publishers, have
committed the rash act of printing a volume of poems.

'The consequences predicted have, of course, overtaken us: our book
is found to be a drug; no man needs it or heeds it. In the space of
a year our publisher has disposed but of two copies, and by what
painful efforts he succeeded in getting rid of these two, himself
only knows.

'Before transferring the edition to the trunkmakers, we have decided
on distributing as presents a few copies of what we cannot sell; and
we beg to offer you one in acknowledgment of the pleasure and profit
we have often and long derived from your works.--I am, sir, yours
very respectfully,

'CURRER BELL.'

Charlotte Bronte could not have carried out the project of distribution
to any appreciable extent, as a considerable 'remainder' appear to have
been bound up with a new title-page by Smith & Elder. With this Smith &
Elder title-page, the book is not uncommon, whereas, with the Aylott &
Jones title-page it is exceedingly rare. Perhaps there were a dozen
review copies and a dozen presentation copies, in addition to the two
that were sold, but only three or four seem to have survived for the
pleasure of the latter-day bibliophile.

Here is the title-page in question:

POEMS

BY

CURRER, ELLIS
AND
ACTON BELL

LONDON
AYLOTT & JONES, 8 PATERNOSTER ROW
1846

We see by the letter to Aylott & Jones the first announcement of
_Wuthering Heights_, _Agnes Grey_, and _The Professor_. It would not
seem that there was much, or indeed any, difficulty in disposing of
_Wuthering Heights_ and _Agnes Grey_. They bear the imprint of Newby of
Mortimer Street, and they appeared in three uniform volumes, the two
first being taken up by _Wuthering Heights_, and the third by _Agnes
Grey_, {332a} which is quaintly marked as if it were a three-volumed
novel in itself, having 'Volume III' on title-page and binding. I have
said that there were no travels before the manuscripts of Emily and Anne.
That is not quite certain. Mrs. Gaskell implies that there were; but, at
any rate, there is no definite information on the subject. Newby, it is
clear, did not publish them until all the world was discussing _Jane
Eyre_. _The Professor_, by Currer Bell, had, however, travel enough! It
was offered to six publishers in succession before it came into the hands
of Mr. W. S. Williams, the 'reader' for Smith & Elder. The circumstance
of its courteous refusal by that firm, and the suggestion that a
three-volumed novel would be gladly considered, are within the knowledge
of all Charlotte Bronte's admirers. {332b}

One cannot but admire the fearless and uncompromising honesty with which
Charlotte Bronte sent the MSS. round with all its previous journeys
frankly indicated.

It is not easy at this time of day to understand why Mr. Williams refused
_The Professor_. The story is incomparably superior to the average
novel, and, indeed, contains touches which are equal to anything that
Currer Bell ever wrote. It seems to me possible that Charlotte Bronte
rewrote the story after its rejection, but the manuscript does not bear
out that impression. {332c}

Charlotte Bronte's method of writing was to take a piece of
cardboard--the broken cover of a book, in fact--and a few sheets of
note-paper, and write her first form of a story upon these sheets in a
tiny handwriting in pencil. She would afterwards copy the whole out upon
quarto paper very neatly in ink. None of the original pencilled MSS. of
her greater novels have been preserved. The extant manuscripts of _Jane
Eyre_ and _The Professor_ are in ink.

_Jane Eyre_ was written, then, under Mr. Williams's kind encouragement,
and immediately accepted. It was published in the first week of October
1847.

The following letters were received by Mr. Williams while the book was
beginning its course.

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_October_ 4_th_, 1847.

'DEAR SIR,--I thank you sincerely for your last letter. It is
valuable to me because it furnishes me with a sound opinion on points
respecting which I desired to be advised; be assured I shall do what
I can to profit by your wise and good counsel.

'Permit me, however, sir, to caution you against forming too
favourable an idea of my powers, or too sanguine an expectation of
what they can achieve. I am myself sensible both of deficiencies of
capacity and disadvantages of circumstance which will, I fear, render
it somewhat difficult for me to attain popularity as an author. The
eminent writers you mention--Mr. Thackeray, Mr. Dickens, Mrs. Marsh,
{333} etc., doubtless enjoyed facilities for observation such as I
have not; certainly they possess a knowledge of the world, whether
intuitive or acquired, such as I can lay no claim to, and this gives
their writings an importance and a variety greatly beyond what I can
offer the public.

'Still, if health be spared and time vouchsafed me, I mean to do my
best; and should a moderate success crown my efforts, its value will
be greatly enhanced by the proof it will seem to give that your kind
counsel and encouragement have not been bestowed on one quite
unworthy.--Yours respectfully,

'C. BELL.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_October_ 9_th_, 1847.

'DEAR SIR,--I do not know whether the _Dublin University Magazine_ is
included in the list of periodicals to which Messrs. Smith & Elder
are accustomed to send copies of new publications, but as a former
work, the joint production of myself and my two relatives, Ellis and
Acton Bell, received a somewhat favourable notice in that magazine,
it appears to me that if the editor's attention were drawn to _Jane
Eyre_ he might possibly bestow on it also a few words of remark.

'The_ Critic_ and the _Athenaeum_ also gave comments on the work I
allude to. The review in the first-mentioned paper was unexpectedly
and generously eulogistic, that in the _Athenaeum_ more qualified,
but still not discouraging. I mention these circumstances and leave
it to you to judge whether any advantage is derivable from them.

'You dispensed me from the duty of answering your last letter, but my
sense of the justness of the views it expresses will not permit me to
neglect this opportunity both of acknowledging it and thanking you
for it.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BELL.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'HAWORTH, _December_ 13_th_, 1847.

'DEAR SIR,--Your advice merits and shall have my most serious
attention. I feel the force of your reasoning. It is my wish to do
my best in the career on which I have entered. So I shall study and
strive; and by dint of time, thought, and effort, I hope yet to
deserve in part the encouragement you and others have so generously
accorded me. But time will be necessary--that I feel more than ever.
In case of _Jane Eyre_ reaching a second edition, I should wish some
few corrections to be made, and will prepare an errata. How would
the accompanying preface do? I thought it better to be brief.

'The _Observer_ has just reached me. I always compel myself to read
the analysis in every newspaper-notice. It is a just punishment, a
due though severe humiliation for faults of plan and construction. I
wonder if the analysis of other fictions read as absurdly as that of
_Jane Eyre_ always does.--I am, dear sir, yours respectfully,

'C. BELL.'

The following letter is interesting because it discusses the rejected
novel, and refers to the project of recasting it, which ended in the
writing of _Villette_. {335}

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_December_ 14_th_, 1847.

'DEAR SIR,--I have just received your kind and welcome letter of the
11th. I shall proceed at once to discuss the principal subject of
it.

'Of course a second work has occupied my thoughts much. I think it
would be premature in me to undertake a serial now--I am not yet
qualified for the task: I have neither gained a sufficiently firm
footing with the public, nor do I possess sufficient confidence in
myself, nor can I boast those unflagging animal spirits, that even
command of the faculty of composition, which as you say, and, I am
persuaded, most justly, is an indispensable requisite to success in
serial literature. I decidedly feel that ere I change my ground I
had better make another venture in the three volume novel form.

'Respecting the plan of such a work, I have pondered it, but as yet
with very unsatisfactory results. Three commencements have I
essayed, but all three displease me. A few days since I looked over
_The Professor_. I found the beginning very feeble, the whole
narrative deficient in incident and in general attractiveness. Yet
the middle and latter portion of the work, all that relates to
Brussels, the Belgian school, etc., is as good as I can write: it
contains more pith, more substance, more reality, in my judgment,
than much of _Jane Eyre_. It gives, I think, a new view of a grade,
an occupation, and a class of characters--all very commonplace, very
insignificant in themselves, but not more so than the materials
composing that portion of _Jane Eyre_ which seems to please most
generally.

'My wish is to recast _The Professor_, add as well as I can what is
deficient, retrench some parts, develop others, and make of it a
three volume work--no easy task, I know, yet I trust not an
impracticable one.

'I have not forgotten that _The Professor_ was set aside in my
agreement with Messrs. Smith & Elder; therefore before I take any
step to execute the plan I have sketched, I should wish to have your
judgment on its wisdom. You read or looked over the Ms.--what
impression have you now respecting its worth? and what confidence
have you that I can make it better than it is?

'Feeling certain that from business reasons as well as from natural
integrity you will be quite candid with me, I esteem it a privilege
to be able thus to consult you.--Believe me, dear sir, yours
respectfully,

'C. BELL.

'_Wuthering Heights_ is, I suppose, at length published, at least Mr.
Newby has sent the authors their six copies. I wonder how it will be
received. I should say it merits the epithets of "vigorous" and
"original" much more decidedly than _Jane Eyre_ did. _Agnes Grey_
should please such critics as Mr. Lewes, for it is "true" and
"unexaggerated" enough. The books are not well got up--they abound
in errors of the press. On a former occasion I expressed myself with
perhaps too little reserve regarding Mr. Newby, yet I cannot but
feel, and feel painfully, that Ellis and Acton have not had the
justice at his hands that I have had at those of Messrs. Smith &
Elder.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_December_ 31_st_, 1847.

'DEAR SIRS,--I think, for the reasons you mention, it is better to
substitute _author_ for _editor_. I should not be ashamed to be
considered the author of _Wuthering Heights_ and _Agnes Grey_, but,
possessing no real claim to that honour, I would rather not have it
attributed to me, thereby depriving the true authors of their just
meed.

'You do very rightly and very kindly to tell me the objections made
against _Jane Eyre_--they are more essential than the praises. I
feel a sort of heart-ache when I hear the book called "godless" and
"pernicious" by good and earnest-minded men; but I know that
heart-ache will be salutary--at least I trust so.

'What is meant by the charges of _trickery_ and _artifice_ I have yet
to comprehend. It was no art in me to write a tale--it was no trick
in Messrs. Smith & Elder to publish it. Where do the trickery and
artifice lie?

'I have received the _Scotsman_, and was greatly amused to see Jane
Eyre likened to Rebecca Sharp--the resemblance would hardly have
occurred to me.

'I wish to send this note by to-day's post, and must therefore
conclude in haste.--I am, dear sir, yours respectfully,

'C. BELL.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'HAWORTH, _January_ 4_th_, 1848.

'DEAR SIR,--Your letter made me ashamed of myself that I should ever
have uttered a murmur, or expressed by any sign that I was sensible
of pain from the unfavourable opinions of some misjudging but
well-meaning people. But, indeed, let me assure you, I am not
ungrateful for the kindness which has been given me in such abundant
measure. I can discriminate the proportions in which blame and
praise have been awarded to my efforts: I see well that I have had
less of the former and more of the latter than I merit. I am not
therefore crushed, though I may be momentarily saddened by the frown,
even of the good.

'It would take a great deal to crush me, because I know, in the first
place, that my own intentions were correct, that I feel in my heart a
deep reverence for religion, that impiety is very abhorrent to me;
and in the second, I place firm reliance on the judgment of some who
have encouraged me. You and Mr. Lewes are quite as good authorities,
in my estimation, as Mr. Dilke or the editor of the _Spectator_, and
I would not under any circumstances, or for any opprobrium, regard
with shame what my friends had approved--none but a coward would let
the detraction of an enemy outweigh the encouragement of a friend.
You must not, therefore, fulfil your threat of being less
communicative in future; you must kindly tell me all.

'Miss Kavanagh's view of the maniac coincides with Leigh Hunt's. I
agree with them that the character is shocking, but I know that it is
but too natural. There is a phase of insanity which may be called
moral madness, in which all that is good or even human seems to
disappear from the mind, and a fiend-nature replaces it. The sole
aim and desire of the being thus possessed is to exasperate, to
molest, to destroy, and preternatural ingenuity and energy are often
exercised to that dreadful end. The aspect, in such cases,
assimilates with the disposition--all seem demonized. It is true
that profound pity ought to be the only sentiment elicited by the
view of such degradation, and equally true is it that I have not
sufficiently dwelt on that feeling: I have erred in making _horror_
too predominant. Mrs. Rochester, indeed, lived a sinful life before
she was insane, but sin is itself a species of insanity--the truly
good behold and compassionate it as such.

'_Jane Eyre_ has got down into Yorkshire, a copy has even penetrated
into this neighbourhood. I saw an elderly clergyman reading it the
other day, and had the satisfaction of hearing him exclaim, "Why,
they have got --- School, and Mr. --- here, I declare! and Miss ---"
(naming the originals of Lowood, Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Temple).
He had known them all. I wondered whether he would recognise the
portraits, and was gratified to find that he did, and that, moreover,
he pronounced them faithful and just. He said, too, that Mr. ---
(Brocklehurst) "deserved the chastisement he had got."

'He did not recognise Currer Bell. What author would be without the
advantage of being able to walk invisible? One is thereby enabled to
keep such a quiet mind. I make this small observation in confidence.

'What makes you say that the notice in the _Westminster Review_ is
not by Mr. Lewes? It expresses precisely his opinions, and he said
he would perhaps insert a few lines in that periodical.

'I have sometimes thought that I ought to have written to Mr. Lewes
to thank him for his review in _Fraser_; and, indeed, I did write a
note, but then it occurred to me that he did not require the author's
thanks, and I feared it would be superfluous to send it, therefore I
refrained; however, though I have not _expressed_ gratitude I have
_felt_ it.

'I wish you, too, _many many_ happy new years, and prosperity and
success to you and yours.--Believe me, etc.,

'CURRER BELL.

'I have received the _Courier_ and the _Oxford Chronicle_.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_January_ 22_nd_, 1848.

'DEAR SIR,--I have received the _Morning Herald_, and was much
pleased with the notice, chiefly on account of the reference made to
that portion of the preface which concerns Messrs. Smith & Elder. If
my tribute of thanks can benefit my publishers, it is desirable that
it should have as much publicity as possible.

'I do not know if the part which relates to Mr. Thackeray is likely
to be as well received; but whether generally approved of and
understood or not, I shall not regret having written it, for I am
convinced of its truth.

'I see I was mistaken in my idea that the _Athenaeum_ and others
wished to ascribe the authorship of _Wuthering Heights_ to Currer
Bell; the contrary is the case, _Jane Eyre_ is given to Ellis Bell;
and Mr. Newby, it appears, thinks it expedient so to frame his
advertisements as to favour the misapprehension. If Mr. Newby had
much sagacity he would see that Ellis Bell is strong enough to stand
without being propped by Currer Bell, and would have disdained what
Ellis himself of all things disdains--recourse to trickery. However,
Ellis, Acton, and Currer care nothing for the matter personally; the
public and the critics are welcome to confuse our identities as much
as they choose; my only fear is lest Messrs. Smith & Elder should in
some way be annoyed by it.

'I was much interested in your account of Miss Kavanagh. The
character you sketch belongs to a class I peculiarly esteem: one in
which endurance combines with exertion, talent with goodness; where
genius is found unmarred by extravagance, self-reliance unalloyed by
self-complacency. It is a character which is, I believe, rarely
found except where there has been toil to undergo and adversity to
struggle against: it will only grow to perfection in a poor soil and
in the shade; if the soil be too indigent, the shade too dank and
thick, of course it dies where it sprung. But I trust this will not
be the case with Miss Kavanagh. I trust she will struggle ere long
into the sunshine. In you she has a kind friend to direct her, and I
hope her mother will live to see the daughter, who yields to her such
childlike duty, both happy and successful.

'You asked me if I should like any copies of the second edition of
_Jane Eyre_, and I said--no. It is true I do not want any for myself
or my acquaintances, but if the request be not unusual, I should much
like one to be given to Miss Kavanagh. If you would have the
goodness, you might write on the fly-leaf that the book is presented
with the author's best wishes for her welfare here and hereafter. My
reason for wishing that she should have a copy is because she said
the book had been to her a _suggestive_ one, and I know that
suggestive books are valuable to authors.

'I am truly sorry to hear that Mr. Smith has had an attack of the
prevalent complaint, but I trust his recovery is by this time
complete. I cannot boast entire exemption from its ravages, as I now
write under its depressing influence. Hoping that you have been more
fortunate,--I am, dear sir, yours faithfully,

'C. BELL.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_March_ 3_rd_, 1848.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have received the _Christian Remembrancer_, and read
the review. It is written with some ability; but to do justice was
evidently not the critic's main object, therefore he excuses himself
from performing that duty.

'I daresay the reviewer imagines that Currer Bell ought to be
extremely afflicted, very much cut up, by some smart things he
says--this however is not the case. C. Bell is on the whole rather
encouraged than dispirited by the review: the hard-wrung praise
extorted reluctantly from a foe is the most precious praise of
all--you are sure that this, at least, has no admixture of flattery.
I fear he has too high an opinion of my abilities and of what I can
do; but that is his own fault. In other respects, he aims his shafts
in the dark, and the success, or, rather, ill-success of his hits
makes me laugh rather than cry. His shafts of sarcasm are nicely
polished, keenly pointed; he should not have wasted them in shooting
at a mark he cannot see.

'I hope such reviews will not make much difference with me, and that
if the spirit moves me in future to say anything about priests, etc.,
I shall say it with the same freedom as heretofore. I hope also that
their anger will not make _me_ angry. As a body, I had no ill-will
against them to begin with, and I feel it would be an error to let
opposition engender such ill-will. A few individuals may possibly be
called upon to sit for their portraits some time; if their brethren
in general dislike the resemblance and abuse the artist--_tant
pis_!--Believe me, my dear sir, yours sincerely,

'C. BELL.'

It seems that Mr. Williams had hinted that Charlotte might like to
emulate Thackeray by illustrating her own books.

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_March_ 11_th_, 1848.

'DEAR SIR,--I have just received the copy of the second edition, and
will look over it, and send the corrections as soon as possible; I
will also, since you think it advisable, avail myself of the
opportunity of a third edition to correct the mistake respecting the
authorship of _Wuthering Heights_ and _Agnes Grey_.

'As to your second suggestion, it is, one can see at a glance, a very
judicious and happy one; but I cannot adopt it, because I have not
the skill you attribute to me. It is not enough to have the artist's
eye, one must also have the artist's hand to turn the first gift to
practical account. I have, in my day, wasted a certain quantity of
Bristol board and drawing-paper, crayons and cakes of colour, but
when I examine the contents of my portfolio now, it seems as if
during the years it has been lying closed some fairy had changed what
I once thought sterling coin into dry leaves, and I feel much
inclined to consign the whole collection of drawings to the fire; I
see they have no value. If, then, _Jane Eyre_ is ever to be
illustrated, it must be by some other hand than that of its author.
But I hope no one will be at the trouble to make portraits of my
characters. Bulwer and Byron heroes and heroines are very well, they
are all of them handsome; but my personages are mostly unattractive
in look, and therefore ill-adapted to figure in ideal portraits. At
the best, I have always thought such representations futile. You
will not easily find a second Thackeray. How he can render, with a
few black lines and dots, shades of expression so fine, so real;
traits of character so minute, so subtle, so difficult to seize and
fix, I cannot tell--I can only wonder and admire. Thackeray may not
be a painter, but he is a wizard of a draughtsman; touched with his
pencil, paper lives. And then his drawing is so refreshing; after
the wooden limbs one is accustomed to see pourtrayed by commonplace
illustrators, his shapes of bone and muscle clothed with flesh,
correct in proportion and anatomy, are a real relief. All is true in
Thackeray. If Truth were again a goddess, Thackeray should be her
high priest.

'I read my preface over with some pain--I did not like it. I wrote
it when I was a little enthusiastic, like you, about the French
Revolution. I wish I had written it in a cool moment; I should have
said the same things, but in a different manner. One may be as
enthusiastic as one likes about an author who has been dead a century
or two, but I see it is a fault to bore the public with enthusiasm
about a living author. I promise myself to take better care in
future. _Still_ I will _think_ as I please.

'Are the London republicans, and _you_ amongst the number, cooled
down yet? I suppose not, because your French brethren are acting
very nobly. The abolition of slavery and of the punishment of death
for political offences are two glorious deeds, but how will they get
over the question of the organisation of labour! Such theories will
be the sand-bank on which their vessel will run aground if they don't
mind. Lamartine, there is not doubt, would make an excellent
legislator for a nation of Lamartines--but where is that nation? I
hope these observations are sceptical and cool enough.--Believe me,
my dear sir, yours sincerely,

'C. BELL.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_November_ 16_th_, 1848.

'MY DEAR SIRS,--I have already acknowledged in a note to Mr. Smith
the receipt of the parcel of books, and in my thanks for this
well-timed attention I am sure I ought to include you; your taste, I
thought, was recognisable in the choice of some of the volumes, and a
better selection it would have been difficult to make.

'To-day I have received the _Spectator_ and the _Revue des deux
Mondes_. The _Spectator_ consistently maintains the tone it first
assumed regarding the Bells. I have little to object to its opinion
as far as Currer Bell's portion of the volume is concerned. It is
true the critic sees only the faults, but for these his perception is
tolerably accurate. Blind is he as any bat, insensate as any stone,
to the merits of Ellis. He cannot feel or will not acknowledge that
the very finish and _labor limae_ which Currer wants, Ellis has; he
is not aware that the "true essence of poetry" pervades his
compositions. Because Ellis's poems are short and abstract, the
critics think them comparatively insignificant and dull. They are
mistaken.

'The notice in the _Revue des deux Mondes_ is one of the most able,
the most acceptable to the author, of any that has yet appeared.
Eugene Forcade understood and enjoyed _Jane Eyre_. I cannot say that
of all who have professed to criticise it. The censures are as
well-founded as the commendations. The specimens of the translation
given are on the whole good; now and then the meaning of the original
has been misapprehended, but generally it is well rendered.

'Every cup given us to taste in this life is mixed. Once it would
have seemed to me that an evidence of success like that contained in
the _Revue_ would have excited an almost exultant feeling in my mind.
It comes, however, at a time when counteracting circumstances keep
the balance of the emotions even--when my sister's continued illness
darkens the present and dims the future. That will seem to me a
happy day when I can announce to you that Emily is better. Her
symptoms continue to be those of slow inflammation of the lungs,
tight cough, difficulty of breathing, pain in the chest, and fever.
We watch anxiously for a change for the better--may it soon come.--I
am, my dear sir, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.

'As I was about to seal this I received your kind letter. Truly glad
am I to hear that Fanny is taking the path which pleases her parents.
I trust she may persevere in it. She may be sure that a contrary one
will never lead to happiness; and I should think that the reward of
seeing you and her mother pleased must be so sweet that she will be
careful not to run the risk of forfeiting it.

'It is somewhat singular that I had already observed to my sisters, I
did not doubt it was Mr. Lewes who had shown you the _Revue_.'

The many other letters referring to Emily's last illness have already
been printed. When the following letters were written, Emily and Anne
were both in their graves.

TO JAMES TAYLOR, CORNHILL

'_March_ 1_st_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--The parcel arrived on Saturday evening. Permit me to
express my sense of the judgment and kindness which have dictated the
selection of its contents. They appear to be all good books, and
good books are, we know, the best substitute for good society; if
circumstances debar me from the latter privilege, the kind attentions
of my friends supply me with ample measure of the former.

'Thank you for your remarks on _Shirley_. Some of your strictures
tally with some by Mr. Williams. You both complain of the want of
distinctness and impressiveness in my heroes. Probably you are
right. In delineating male character I labour under disadvantages:
intuition and theory will not always adequately supply the place of
observation and experience. When I write about women I am sure of my
ground--in the other case, I am not so sure.

'Here, then, each of you has laid the critical finger on a point that
by its shrinking confesses its vulnerability; whether the
disapprobation you intimate respecting the Briarchapel scenes, the
curates, etc., be equally merited, time will show. I am well aware
what will be the author's present meed for these passages: I
anticipate general blame and no praise. And were my motive-principle
in writing a thirst for popularity, or were the chief check on my pen
a dread of censure, I should withdraw these scenes--or rather, I
should never have written them. I will not say whether the
considerations that really govern me are sound, or whether my
convictions are just; but such as they are, to their influence I must
yield submission. They forbid me to sacrifice truth to the fear of
blame. I accept their prohibition.

'With the sincere expression of my esteem for the candour by which
your critique is distinguished,--I am, my dear sir, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

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