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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter
 
 
TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_August_ 16_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--Since I last wrote to you I have been getting on with
my book as well as I can, and I think I may now venture to say that
in a few weeks I hope to have the pleasure of placing the MS. in the
hands of Mr. Smith.

'The _North British Review_ duly reached me. I read attentively all
it says about _E. Wyndham_, _Jane Eyre_, and _F. Hervey_. Much of
the article is clever, and yet there are remarks which--for me--rob
it of importance.

'To value praise or stand in awe of blame we must respect the source
whence the praise and blame proceed, and I do not respect an
inconsistent critic. He says, "if _Jane Eyre_ be the production of a
woman, she must be a woman unsexed."

'In that case the book is an unredeemed error and should be
unreservedly condemned. _Jane Eyre_ is a woman's autobiography, by a
woman it is professedly written. If it is written as no woman would
write, condemn it with spirit and decision--say it is bad, but do not
eulogise and then detract. I am reminded of the _Economist_. The
literary critic of that paper praised the book if written by a man,
and pronounced it "odious" if the work of a woman.

'To such critics I would say, "To you I am neither man nor woman--I
come before you as an author only. It is the sole standard by which
you have a right to judge me--the sole ground on which I accept your
judgment."

'There is a weak comment, having no pretence either to justice or
discrimination, on the works of Ellis and Acton Bell. The critic did
not know that those writers had passed from time and life. I have
read no review since either of my sisters died which I could have
wished _them_ to read--none even which did not render the thought of
their departure more tolerable to me. To hear myself praised beyond
them was cruel, to hear qualities ascribed to them so strangely the
reverse of their real characteristics was scarce supportable. It is
sad even now; but they are so remote from earth, so safe from its
turmoils, I can bear it better.

'But on one point do I now feel vulnerable: I should grieve to see my
father's peace of mind perturbed on my account; for which reason I
keep my author's existence as much as possible out of his way. I
have always given him a carefully diluted and modified account of the
success of _Jane Eyre_--just what would please without startling him.
The book is not mentioned between us once a month. The _Quarterly_ I
kept to myself--it would have worried papa. To that same _Quarterly_
I must speak in the introduction to my present work--just one little
word. You once, I remember, said that review was written by a
lady--Miss Rigby. Are you sure of this?

'Give no hint of my intention of discoursing a little with the
_Quarterly_. It would look too important to speak of it beforehand.
All plans are best conceived and executed without noise.--Believe me,
yours sincerely,

'C. B.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_August_ 21_st_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I can only write very briefly at present--first to
thank you for your interesting letter and the graphic description it
contained of the neighbourhood where you have been staying, and then
to decide about the title of the book.

'If I remember rightly, my Cornhill critics objected to _Hollow's
Mill_, nor do I now find it appropriate. It might rather be called
_Fieldhead_, though I think _Shirley_ would perhaps be the best
title. Shirley, I fancy, has turned out the most prominent and
peculiar character in the work.

'Cornhill may decide between _Fieldhead_ and _Shirley_.--Believe me,
yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

The famous _Quarterly Review_ article by Miss Rigby, afterwards Lady
Eastlake, {348} appeared in December 1848, under the title of '_Vanity
Fair_, _Jane Eyre_, and Governesses.' It was a review of two novels and
a treatise on schools, and but for one or two offensive passages might
have been pronounced fairly complimentary. To have coupled _Jane Eyre_
with Thackeray's great book, at a time when Thackeray had already reached
to heroic proportions in the literary world, was in itself a compliment.
It is small wonder that the speculation was hazarded that J. G. Lockhart,
the editor of the _Quarterly_, had himself supplied the venom. He could
display it on occasion. It is quite clear now, however, that that was
not the case. Miss Rigby was the reviewer who thought it within a
critic's province to suggest that the writer might be a woman 'who had
forfeited the society of her sex.' Lockhart must have read the review
hastily, as editors will on occasion. He writes to his contributor on
November 13, 1848, before the article had appeared:--

'About three years ago I received a small volume of 'Poems by Currer,
Acton, and Ellis Bell,' and a queer little note by Currer, who said
the book had been published a year, and just two copies sold, so they
were to burn the rest, but distributed a few copies, mine being one.
I find what seems rather a fair review of that tiny tome in the
_Spectator_ of this week; pray look at it.

'I think the poems of Currer much better than those of Acton and
Ellis, and believe his novel is vastly better than those which they
have more recently put forth.

'I know nothing of the writers, but the common rumour is that they
are brothers of the weaving order in some Lancashire town. At first
it was generally said Currer was a lady, and Mayfair
circumstantialised by making her the _chere amie_ of Mr. Thackeray.
But your skill in "dress" settles the question of sex. I think,
however, some woman must have assisted in the school scenes of _Jane
Eyre_, which have a striking air of truthfulness to me--an ignoramus,
I allow, on such points.

'I should say you might as well glance at the novels by Acton and
Ellis Bell--_Wuthering Heights_ is one of them. If you have any
friend about Manchester, it would, I suppose, be easy to learn
accurately as to the position of these men.' {349}

This was written in November, and it was not till December that the
article appeared. Apart from the offensive imputations upon the morals
of the author of _Jane Eyre_, which reduces itself to smart impertinence
when it is understood that Miss Rigby fully believed that the author was
a man, the review is not without its compensations for a new writer. The
'equal popularity' of _Jane Eyre_ and _Vanity Fair_ is referred to. 'A
very remarkable book,' the reviewer continues; 'we have no remembrance of
another containing such undoubted power with such horrid taste.' There
is droll irony, when Charlotte Bronte's strong conservative sentiments
and church environment are considered, in the following:--

'We do not hesitate to say that the tone of mind and thought which
has overthrown authority, and violated every code, human and divine,
abroad, and fostered chartism and rebellion at home, is the same
which has also written _Jane Eyre_.'

In another passage Miss Rigby, musing upon the masculinity of the author,
finally clinches her arguments by proofs of a kind.

'No woman _trusses game_, and garnishes dessert dishes with the same
hands, or talks of so doing in the same breath. Above all, no woman
attires another in such fancy dresses as Jane's ladies assume. Miss
Ingram coming down irresistible in a _morning_ robe of sky-blue
crape, a gauze azure scarf twisted in her hair!! No lady, we
understand, when suddenly roused in the night, would think of
hurrying on "a frock." They have garments more convenient for such
occasions, and more becoming too.'

_Wuthering Heights_ is described as 'too odiously and abominably pagan to
be palatable to the most vitiated class of English readers.' This no
doubt was Miss Rigby's interpolation in the proofs in reply to her
editor's suggestion that she should 'glance at the novels by Acton and
Ellis Bell.' It is a little difficult to understand the _Quarterly_
editor's method, or, indeed, the letter to Miss Rigby which I have
quoted, as he had formed a very different estimate of the book many
months before. 'I have finished the adventures of Miss Jane Eyre,' he
writes to Mrs. Hope (Dec. 29th, 1847), 'and think her far the cleverest
that has written since Austen and Edgeworth were in their prime, worth
fifty Trollopes and Martineaus rolled into one counterpane, with fifty
Dickenses and Bulwers to keep them company--but rather a brazen Miss.'
{350}

When the _Quarterly Review_ appeared, Charlotte Bronte, as we have seen,
was in dire domestic distress, and it was not till many months later,
when a new edition of _Jane Eyre_ was projected, that she discussed with
her publishers the desirability of an effective reply, which was not
however to disclose her sex and environment. A first preface called 'A
Word to the _Quarterly_' was cancelled, and after some debate, the
preface which we now have took its place. The 'book' is of course
_Shirley_.

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_August_ 29_th_, 1849.

'DEAR SIR,--The book is now finished (thank God) and ready for Mr.
Taylor, but I have not yet heard from him. I thought I should be
able to tell whether it was equal to _Jane Eyre_ or not, but I find I
cannot--it may be better, it may be worse. I shall be curious to
hear your opinion, my own is of no value. I send the Preface or
"Word to the _Quarterly_" for your perusal.

'Whatever now becomes of the work, the occupation of writing it has
been a boon to me. It took me out of dark and desolate reality into
an unreal but happier region. The worst of it is, my eyes are grown
somewhat weak and my head somewhat weary and prone to ache with close
work. You can write nothing of value unless you give yourself wholly
to the theme, and when you so give yourself, you lose appetite and
sleep--it cannot be helped.

'At what time does Mr. Smith intend to bring the book out? It is his
now. I hand it and all the trouble and care and anxiety over to
him--a good riddance, only I wish he fairly had it.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_August_ 31_st_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I cannot change my preface. I can shed no tears
before the public, nor utter any groan in the public ear. The deep,
real tragedy of our domestic experience is yet terribly fresh in my
mind and memory. It is not a time to be talked about to the
indifferent; it is not a topic for allusion to in print.

'No righteous indignation can I lavish on the _Quarterly_. I can
condescend but to touch it with the lightest satire. Believe me, my
dear sir, "C. Bronte" must not here appear; what she feels or has
felt is not the question--it is "Currer Bell" who was insulted--he
must reply. Let Mr. Smith fearlessly print the preface I have
sent--let him depend upon me this once; even if I prove a broken
reed, his fall cannot be dangerous: a preface is a short distance, it
is not three volumes.

'I have always felt certain that it is a deplorable error in an
author to assume the tragic tone in addressing the public about his
own wrongs or griefs. What does the public care about him as an
individual? His wrongs are its sport; his griefs would be a bore.
What we deeply feel is our own--we must keep it to ourselves. Ellis
and Acton Bell were, for me, Emily and Anne; my sisters--to me
intimately near, tenderly dear--to the public they were
nothing--worse than nothing--beings speculated upon, misunderstood,
misrepresented. If I live, the hour may come when the spirit will
move me to speak of them, but it is not come yet.--I am, my dear sir,
yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_September_ 17, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--Your letter gave me great pleasure. An author who has
showed his book to none, held no consultation about plan, subject,
characters, or incidents, asked and had no opinion from one living
being, but fabricated it darkly in the silent workshop of his own
brain--such an author awaits with a singular feeling the report of
the first impression produced by his creation in a quarter where he
places confidence, and truly glad he is when that report proves
favourable.

'Do you think this book will tend to strengthen the idea that Currer
Bell is a woman, or will it favour a contrary opinion?

'I return the proof-sheets. Will they print all the French phrases
in italics? I hope not, it makes them look somehow obtrusively
conspicuous.

'I have no time to add more lest I should be too late for the
post.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_September_ 10_th_, 1849.

'DEAR SIR,--Your advice is very good, and yet I cannot follow it: I
_cannot_ alter now. It sounds absurd, but so it is.

'The circumstances of Shirley's being nervous on such a matter may
appear incongruous because I fear it is not well managed; otherwise
it is perfectly natural. In such minds, such odd points, such queer
unexpected inconsistent weaknesses _are_ found--perhaps there never
was an ardent poetic temperament, however healthy, quite without
them; but they never communicate them unless forced, they have a
suspicion that the terror is absurd, and keep it hidden. Still the
thing is badly managed, and I bend my head and expect in resignation
what, _here_, I know I deserve--the lash of criticism. I shall wince
when it falls, but not scream.

'You are right about Goth, you are very right--he is clear, deep, but
very cold. I acknowledge him great, but cannot feel him genial.

'You mention the literary coteries. To speak the truth, I recoil
from them, though I long to see some of the truly great literary
characters. However, this is not to be yet--I cannot sacrifice my
incognito. And let me be content with seclusion--it has its
advantages. In general, indeed, I am tranquil, it is only now and
then that a struggle disturbs me--that I wish for a wider world than
Haworth. When it is past, Reason tells me how unfit I am for
anything very different. Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_September_ 15_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--You observed that the French of _Shirley_ might be
cavilled at. There is a long paragraph written in the French
language in that chapter entitled "_Le coeval damped_." I forget the
number. I fear it will have a pretentious air. If you deem it
advisable, and will return the chapter, I will efface, and substitute
something else in English.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO JAMES TAYLOR, CORNHILL

'_September_ 20_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--It is time I answered the note which I received from
you last Thursday; I should have replied to it before had I not been
kept more than usually engaged by the presence of a clergyman in the
house, and the indisposition of one of our servants.

'As you may conjecture, it cheered and pleased me much to learn that
the opinion of my friends in Cornhill was favourable to
_Shirley_--that, on the whole, it was considered no falling off from
_Jane Eyre_. I am trying, however, not to encourage too sanguine an
expectation of a favourable reception by the public: the seeds of
prejudice have been sown, and I suppose the produce will have to be
reaped--but we shall see.

'I read with pleasure _Friends in Council_, and with very great
pleasure _The Thoughts and Opinions of a Statesman_. It is the
record of what may with truth be termed a beautiful mind--serene,
harmonious, elevated, and pure; it bespeaks, too, a heart full of
kindness and sympathy. I like it much.

'Papa has been pretty well during the past week, he begs to join me
in kind remembrances to yourself.--Believe me, my dear sir, yours
very sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_September_ 29_th_, 1849.

'DEAR SIR,--I have made the alteration; but I have made it to please
Cornhill, not the public nor the critics.

'I am sorry to say Newby does know my real name. I wish he did not,
but that cannot be helped. Meantime, though I earnestly wish to
preserve my incognito, I live under no slavish fear of discovery. I
am ashamed of nothing I have written--not a line.

'The envelope containing the first proof and your letter had been
received open at the General Post Office and resealed there. Perhaps
it was accident, but I think it better to inform you of the
circumstance.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_October_ 1_st_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I am chagrined about the envelope being opened: I see
it is the work of prying curiosity, and now it would be useless to
make a stir--what mischief is to be apprehended is already done. It
was not done at Haworth. I know the people of the post-office there,
and am sure they would not venture on such a step; besides, the
Haworth people have long since set me down as bookish and quiet, and
trouble themselves no farther about me. But the gossiping
inquisitiveness of small towns is rife at Keighley; there they are
sadly puzzled to guess why I never visit, encourage no overtures to
acquaintance, and always stay at home. Those packets passing
backwards and forwards by the post have doubtless aggravated their
curiosity. Well, I am sorry, but I shall try to wait patiently and
not vex myself too much, come what will.

'I am glad you like the English substitute for the French _devour_.

'The parcel of books came on Saturday. I write to Mr. Taylor by this
post to acknowledge its receipt. His opinion of _Shirley_ seems in a
great measure to coincide with yours, only he expresses it rather
differently to you, owing to the difference in your casts of mind.
Are you not different on some points?--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_November_ 1_st_, 1849

'MY DEAR SIR,--I reached home yesterday, and found your letter and
one from Mr. Lewes, and one from the Peace Congress Committee,
awaiting my arrival. The last document it is now too late to answer,
for it was an invitation to Currer Bell to appear on the platform at
their meeting at Exeter Hall last Tuesday! A wonderful figure Mr.
Currer Bell would have cut under such circumstances! Should the
"Peace Congress" chance to read _Shirley_ they will wash their hands
of its author.

'I am glad to hear that Mr. Thackeray is better, but I did not know
he had been seriously ill, I thought it was only a literary
indisposition. You must tell me what he thinks of _Shirley_ if he
gives you any opinion on the subject.

'I am also glad to hear that Mr. Smith is pleased with the commercial
prospects of the work. I try not to be anxious about its literary
fate; and if I cannot be quite stoical, I think I am still tolerably
resigned.

'Mr. Lewes does not like the opening chapter, wherein he resembles
you.

'I have permitted myself the treat of spending the last week with my
friend Ellen. Her residence is in a far more populous and stirring
neighbourhood than this. Whenever I go there I am unavoidably forced
into society--clerical society chiefly.

'During my late visit I have too often had reason, sometimes in a
pleasant, sometimes in a painful form, to fear that I no longer walk
invisible. _Jane Eyre_, it appears, has been read all over the
district--a fact of which I never dreamt--a circumstance of which the
possibility never occurred to me. I met sometimes with new
deference, with augmented kindness: old schoolfellows and old
teachers, too, greeted me with generous warmth. And again,
ecclesiastical brows lowered thunder at me. When I confronted one or
two large-made priests, I longed for the battle to come on. I wish
they would speak out plainly. You must not understand that my
schoolfellows and teachers were of the Clergy Daughters School--in
fact, I was never there but for one little year as a very little
girl. I am certain I have long been forgotten; though for myself, I
remember all and everything clearly: early impressions are
ineffaceable.

'I have just received the _Daily News_. Let me speak the truth--when
I read it my heart sickened over it. It is not a good review, it is
unutterably false. If _Shirley_ strikes all readers as it has struck
that one, but--I shall not say what follows.

'On the whole I am glad a decidedly bad notice has come first--a
notice whose inexpressible ignorance first stuns and then stirs me.
Are there no such men as the Helstones and Yorkes?

'Yes, there are.

'Is the first chapter disgusting or vulgar?

'_It is not_, _it is real_.

'As for the praise of such a critic, I find it silly and nauseous,
and I scorn it.

'Were my sisters now alive they and I would laugh over this notice;
but they sleep, they will wake no more for me, and I am a fool to be
so moved by what is not worth a sigh.--Believe me, yours sincerely,

'C. B.

'You must spare me if I seem hasty, I fear I really am not so firm as
I used to be, nor so patient. Whenever any shock comes, I feel that
almost all supports have been withdrawn.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_November_ 5_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I did not receive the parcel of copies till Saturday
evening. Everything sent by Bradford is long in reaching me. It is,
I think, better to direct: Keighley. I was very much pleased with
the appearance and getting up of the book; it looks well.

'I have got the _Examiner_ and your letter. You are very good not to
be angry with me, for I wrote in indignation and grief. The critic
of the _Daily News_ struck me as to the last degree incompetent,
ignorant, and flippant. A thrill of mutiny went all through me when
I read his small effusion. To be judged by such a one revolted me.
I ought, however, to have controlled myself, and I did not. I am
willing to be judged by the _Examiner_--I like the _Examiner_.
Fonblanque has power, he has discernment--I bend to his censorship, I
am grateful for his praise; his blame deserves consideration; when he
approves, I permit myself a moderate emotion of pride. Am I wrong in
supposing that critique to be written by Mr. Fonblanque? But whether
it is by him or Forster, I am thankful.

'In reading the critiques of the other papers--when I get them--I
will try to follow your advice and preserve my equanimity. But I
cannot be sure of doing this, for I had good resolutions and
intentions before, and, you see, I failed.

'You ask me if I am related to Nelson. No, I never heard that I was.
The rumour must have originated in our name resembling his title. I
wonder who that former schoolfellow of mine was that told Mr. Lewes,
or how she had been enabled to identify Currer Bell with C. Bronte.
She could not have been a Cowan Bridge girl, none of them can
possibly remember me. They might remember my eldest sister, Maria;
her prematurely-developed and remarkable intellect, as well as the
mildness, wisdom, and fortitude of her character might have left an
indelible impression on some observant mind amongst her companions.
My second sister, Elizabeth, too, may perhaps be remembered, but I
cannot conceive that I left a trace behind me. My career was a very
quiet one. I was plodding and industrious, perhaps I was very grave,
for I suffered to see my sisters perishing, but I think I was
remarkable for nothing.--Believe me, my dear sir, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_November_ 15_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have received since I wrote last the Globe, Standard
of Freedom, Britannia, Economist, and Weekly Chronicle.

'How is _Shirley_ getting on, and what is now the general feeling
respecting the work?

'As far as I can judge from the tone of the newspapers, it seems that
those who were most charmed with _Jane Eyre_ are the least pleased
with _Shirley_; they are disappointed at not finding the same
excitement, interest, stimulus; while those who spoke disparagingly
of _Jane Eyre_ like _Shirley_ a little better than her predecessor.
I suppose its dryer matter suits their dryer minds. But I feel that
the fiat for which I wait does not depend on newspapers, except,
indeed, such newspapers as the _Examiner_. The monthlies and
quarterlies will pronounce it, I suppose. Mere novel-readers, it is
evident, think _Shirley_ something of a failure. Still, the majority
of the notices have on the whole been favourable. That in the
_Standard of Freedom_ was very kindly expressed; and coming from a
dissenter, William Howitt, I wonder thereat.

'Are you satisfied at Cornhill, or the contrary? I have read part of
_The Caxtons_, and, when I have finished, will tell you what I think
of it; meantime, I should very much like to hear your opinion.
Perhaps I shall keep mine till I see you, whenever that may be.

'I am trying by degrees to inure myself to the thought of some day
stepping over to Keighley, taking the train to Leeds, thence to
London, and once more venturing to set foot in the strange, busy
whirl of the Strand and Cornhill. I want to talk to you a little and
to hear by word of mouth how matters are progressing. Whenever I
come, I must come quietly and but for a short time--I should be
unhappy to leave papa longer than a fortnight.--Believe me, yours
sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_November_ 22_nd_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--If it is discouraging to an author to see his work
mouthed over by the entirely ignorant and incompetent, it is equally
reviving to hear what you have written discussed and analysed by a
critic who is master of his subject--by one whose heart feels, whose
powers grasp the matter he undertakes to handle. Such refreshment
Eugene Forcade has given me. Were I to see that man, my impulse
would be to say, "Monsieur, you know me, I shall deem it an honour to
know you."

'I do not find that Forcade detects any coarseness in the work--it is
for the smaller critics to find that out. The master in the art--the
subtle-thoughted, keen-eyed, quick-feeling Frenchman, knows the true
nature of the ingredients which went to the composition of the
creation he analyses--he knows the true nature of things, and he
gives them their right name.

'Yours of yesterday has just reached me. Let me, in the first place,
express my sincere sympathy with your anxiety on Mrs. Williams's
account. I know how sad it is when pain and suffering attack those
we love, when that mournful guest sickness comes and takes a place in
the household circle. That the shadow may soon leave your home is my
earnest hope.

'Thank you for Sir J. Herschel's note. I am happy to hear Mr. Taylor
is convalescent. It may, perhaps, be some weeks yet before his hand
is well, but that his general health is in the way of
re-establishment is a matter of thankfulness.

'One of the letters you sent to-day addressed "Currer Bell" has
almost startled me. The writer first describes his family, and then
proceeds to give a particular account of himself in colours the most
candid, if not, to my ideas, the most attractive. He runs on in a
strain of wild enthusiasm about _Shirley_, and concludes by
announcing a fixed, deliberate resolution to institute a search after
Currer Bell, and sooner or later to find him out. There is power in
the letter--talent; it is at times eloquently expressed. The writer
somewhat boastfully intimates that he is acknowledged the possessor
of high intellectual attainments, but, if I mistake not, he betrays a
temper to be shunned, habits to be mistrusted. While laying claim to
the character of being affectionate, warm-hearted, and adhesive,
there is but a single member of his own family of whom he speaks with
kindness. He confesses himself indolent and wilful, but asserts that
he is studious and, to some influences, docile. This letter would
have struck me no more than the others rather like it have done, but
for its rash power, and the disagreeable resolve it announces to seek
and find Currer Bell. It almost makes me feel like a wizard who has
raised a spirit he may find it difficult to lay. But I shall not
think about it. This sort of fervour often foams itself away in
words.

'Trusting that the serenity of your home is by this time restored
with your wife's health,--I am, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_February_ 16_th_, 1850.

'DEAR NELL,--Yesterday, just after dinner, I heard a loud bustling
voice in the kitchen demanding to see Mr. Bronte. Somebody was shown
into the parlour. Shortly after, wine was rung for. "Who is it,
Martha?" I asked. "Some mak of a tradesman," said she. "He's not a
gentleman, I'm sure." The personage stayed about an hour, talking in
a loud vulgar key all the time. At tea-time I asked papa who it was.
"Why," said he, "no other than the vicar of B---!" {361} Papa had
invited him to take some refreshment, but the creature had ordered
his dinner at the Black Bull, and was quite urgent with papa to go
down there and join him, offering by way of inducement a bottle, or,
if papa liked, "two or three bottles of the best wine Haworth could
afford!" He said he was come from Bradford just to look at the
place, and reckoned to be in raptures with the wild scenery! He
warmly pressed papa to come and see him, and to bring his daughter
with him!!! Does he know anything about the books, do you think; he
made no allusion to them. I did not see him, not so much as the tail
of his coat. Martha said he looked no more like a parson than she
did. Papa described him as rather shabby-looking, but said he was
wondrous cordial and friendly. Papa, in his usual fashion, put him
through a regular catechism of questions: what his living was worth,
etc., etc. In answer to inquiries respecting his age he affirmed
himself to be thirty-seven--is not this a lie? He must be more.
Papa asked him if he were married. He said no, he had no thoughts of
being married, he did not like the trouble of a wife. He described
himself as "living in style, and keeping a very hospitable house."

'Dear Nell, I have written you a long letter; write me a long one in
answer.

'C. B.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_April_ 3_rd_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have received the _Dublin Review_, and your letter
inclosing the Indian Notices. I hope these reviews will do good;
they are all favourable, and one of them (the _Dublin_) is very able.
I have read no critique so discriminating since that in the _Revue
des deux Mondes_. It offers a curious contrast to Lewes's in the
_Edinburgh_, where forced praise, given by jerks, and obviously
without real and cordial liking, and censure, crude, conceited, and
ignorant, were mixed in random lumps--forming a very loose and
inconsistent whole.

'Are you aware whether there are any grounds for that conjecture in
the _Bengal Hurkaru_, that the critique in the _Times_ was from the
pen of Mr. Thackeray? I should much like to know this. If such were
the case (and I feel as if it were by no means impossible), the
circumstance would open a most curious and novel glimpse of a very
peculiar disposition. Do you think it likely to be true?

'The account you give of Mrs. Williams's health is not cheering, but
I should think her indisposition is partly owing to the variable
weather; at least, if you have had the same keen frost and cold east
winds in London, from which we have lately suffered in Yorkshire. I
trust the milder temperature we are now enjoying may quickly confirm
her convalescence. With kind regards to Mrs. Williams,--Believe me,
my dear sir, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_April_ 25_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I cannot let the post go without thanking Mr. Smith
through you for the kind reply to Greenwood's application; and, I am
sure, both you and he would feel true pleasure could you see the
delight and hope with which these liberal terms have inspired a good
and intelligent though poor man. He thinks he now sees a prospect of
getting his livelihood by a method which will suit him better than
wool-combing work has hitherto done, exercising more of his faculties
and sparing his health. He will do his best, I am sure, to extend
the sale of the cheap edition of _Jane Eyre_; and whatever twinges I
may still feel at the thought of that work being in the possession of
all the worthy folk of Haworth and Keighley, such scruples are more
than counterbalanced by the attendant good;--I mean, by the
assistance it will give a man who deserves assistance. I wish he
could permanently establish a little bookselling business in Haworth:
it would benefit the place as well as himself.

'Thank you for the _Leader_, which I read with pleasure. The notice
of Newman's work in a late number was very good.--Believe me, my dear
sir, in haste, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_May_ 6_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have received the copy of _Jane Eyre_. To me the
printing and paper seem very tolerable. Will not the public in
general be of the same opinion? And are you not making yourselves
causelessly uneasy on the subject?

'I imagine few will discover the defects of typography unless they
are pointed out. There are, no doubt, technical faults and
perfections in the art of printing to which printers and publishers
ascribe a greater importance than the majority of readers.

'I will mention Mr. Smith's proposal respecting the cheap
publications to Greenwood. I believe him to be a man on whom
encouragement is not likely to be thrown away, and who, if fortune
should not prove quite adverse, will contrive to effect something by
dint of intelligence and perseverance.

'I am sorry to say my father has been far from well lately--the cold
weather has tried him severely; and, till I see him better, my
intended journey to town must be deferred. With sincere regards to
yourself and other Cornhill friends,--I am, my dear sir, yours
faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_September_ 5_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I trust your suggestion for Miss Kavanagh's benefit
will have all success. It seems to me truly felicitous and
excellent, and, I doubt not, she will think so too. The last class
of female character will be difficult to manage: there will be nice
points in it--yet, well-managed, both an attractive and instructive
book might result therefrom. One thing may be depended upon in the
execution of this plan. Miss Kavanagh will commit no error, either
of taste, judgment, or principle; and even when she deals with the
feelings, I would rather follow the calm course of her quiet pen than
the flourishes of a more redundant one where there is not strength to
restrain as well as ardour to impel.

'I fear I seemed to you to speak coolly of the beauty of the Lake
scenery. The truth is, it was, as scenery, exquisite--far beyond
anything I saw in Scotland; but it did not give me half so much
pleasure, because I saw it under less congenial auspices. Mr. Smith
and Sir J. K. Shuttleworth are two different people with whom to
travel. I need say nothing of the former--you know him. The latter
offers me his friendship, and I do my best to be grateful for the
gift; but his is a nature with which it is difficult to
assimilate--and where there is no assimilation, how can there be real
regard? Nine parts out of ten in him are utilitarian--the tenth is
artistic. This tithe of his nature seems to me at war with all the
rest--it is just enough to incline him restlessly towards the artist
class, and far too little to make him one of them. The consequent
inability to _do_ things which he _admires_, embitters him I
think--it makes him doubt perfections and dwell on faults. Then his
notice or presence scarcely tend to set one at ease or make one
happy: he is worldly and formal. But I must stop--have I already
said too much? I think not, for you will feel it is said in
confidence and will not repeat it.

'The article in the _Palladium_ is indeed such as to atone for a
hundred unfavourable or imbecile reviews. I have expressed what I
think of it to Mr. Taylor, who kindly wrote me a letter on the
subject. I thank you also for the newspaper notices, and for some
you sent me a few weeks ago.

'I should much like to carry out your suggestions respecting a
reprint of _Wuthering Heights_ and _Agnes Grey_ in one volume, with a
prefatory and explanatory notice of the authors; but the question
occurs, Would Newby claim it? I could not bear to commit it to any
other hands than those of Mr. Smith. _Wildfell Hall_, it hardly
appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that
work is a mistake: it was too little consonant with the character,
tastes, and ideas of the gentle, retiring, inexperienced writer. She
wrote it under a strange, conscientious, half-ascetic notion of
accomplishing a painful penance and a severe duty. Blameless in deed
and almost in thought, there was from her very childhood a tinge of
religious melancholy in her mind. This I ever suspected, and I have
found amongst her papers mournful proofs that such was the case. As
to additional compositions, I think there would be none, as I would
not offer a line to the publication of which my sisters themselves
would have objected.

'I must conclude or I shall be too late for the post.--Believe me,
yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_September_ 13_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--Mr. Newby undertook first to print 350 copies of
_Wuthering Heights_, but he afterwards declared he had only printed
250. I doubt whether he could be induced to return the 50 pounds
without a good deal of trouble--much more than I should feel
justified in delegating to Mr. Smith. For my own part, the
conclusion I drew from the whole of Mr. Newby's conduct to my sisters
was that he is a man with whom it is desirable to have little to do.
I think he must be needy as well as tricky--and if he is, one would
not distress him, even for one's rights.

'If Mr. Smith thinks right to reprint _Wuthering Heights_ and _Agnes
Grey_, I would prepare a preface comprising a brief and simple notice
of the authors, such as might set at rest all erroneous conjectures
respecting their identity--and adding a few poetical remains of each.

'In case this arrangement is approved, you will kindly let me know,
and I will commence the task (a sad, but, I believe, a necessary
one), and send it when finished.--I am, my dear sir, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_October_ 16_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--On the whole it is perhaps as well that the last
paragraph of the Preface should be omitted, for I believe it was not
expressed with the best grace in the world. You must not, however,
apologise for your suggestion--it was kindly meant and, believe me,
kindly taken; it was not _you_ I misunderstood--not for a moment, I
never misunderstand you--I was thinking of the critics and the
public, who are always crying for a moral like the Pharisees for a
sign. Does this assurance quite satisfy you?

'I forgot to say that I had already heard, first from Miss Martineau,
and subsequently through an intimate friend of Sydney Yendys (whose
real name is Mr. Dobell) that it was to the author of the _Roman_ we
are indebted for that eloquent article in the _Palladium_. I am glad
you are going to send his poem, for I much wished to see it.

'May I trouble you to look at a sentence in the Preface which I have
erased, because on reading it over I was not quite sure about the
scientific correctness of the expressions used. Metal, I know, will
burn in vivid-coloured flame, exposed to galvanic action, but whether
it is consumed, I am not sure. Perhaps you or Mr. Taylor can tell me
whether there is any blunder in the term employed--if not, it might
stand.--I am, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

Miss Bronte would seem to have corresponded with Mr. George Smith, and
not with Mr. Williams, over her third novel, _Villette_, and that
correspondence is to be found in Mrs. Gaskell's biography.

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_February_ 1_st_, 1851.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I cannot lose any time in telling you that your
letter, after all, gave me heart-felt satisfaction, and such a
feeling of relief as it would be difficult to express in words. The
fact is, what goads and tortures me is not any anxiety of my own to
publish another book, to have my name before the public, to get cash,
etc., but a haunting fear that my dilatoriness disappoints others.
Now the "others" whose wish on the subject I really care for, reduces
itself to my father and Cornhill, and since Cornhill ungrudgingly
counsels me to take my own time, I think I can pacify such impatience
as my dear father naturally feels. Indeed, your kind and friendly
letter will greatly help me.

'Since writing the above, I have read your letter to papa. Your
arguments had weight with him: he approves, and I am content. I now
only regret the necessity of disappointing the _Palladium_, but that
cannot be helped.--Good-bye, my dear sir, yours very sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_Tuesday Morning_.

'DEAR ELLEN,--The rather dark view you seem inclined to take of the
general opinion about _Villette_ surprises me the less, dear Nell, as
only the more unfavourable reviews seem to have come in your way.
Some reports reach me of a different tendency; but no matter, time
will shew. As to the character of Lucy Snow, my intention from the
first was that she should not occupy the pedestal to which Jane Eyre
was raised by some injudicious admirers. She is where I meant her to
be, and where no charge of self-laudation can touch her.

'I cannot accept your kind invitation. I must be at home at Easter,
on two or three accounts connected with sermons to be preached,
parsons to be entertained, Mechanics' Institute meetings and
tea-drinkings to be solemnised, and ere long I have promised to go
and see Mrs. Gaskell; but till this wintry weather is passed, I would
rather eschew visiting anywhere. I trust that bad cold of yours is
_quite_ well, and that you will take good care of yourself in future.
That night work is always perilous.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS WOOLER

'HAWORTH, _April_ 13_th_, 1851.

'MY DEAR MISS WOOLER,--Your last kind letter ought to have been
answered long since, and would have been, did I find it practicable
to proportion the promptitude of the response to the value I place
upon my correspondents and their communications. You will easily
understand, however, that the contrary rule often holds good, and
that the epistle which importunes often takes precedence of that
which interests.

'My publishers express entire satisfaction with the reception which
has been accorded to _Villette_, and indeed the majority of the
reviews has been favourable enough; you will be aware, however, that
there is a minority, small in number but influential in character,
which views the work with no favourable eye. Currer Bell's remarks
on Romanism have drawn down on him the condign displeasure of the
High Church party, which displeasure has been unequivocally expressed
through their principal organs--the _Guardian_, the _English
Churchman_, and the _Christian Remembrancer_. I can well understand
that some of the charges launched against me by those publications
will tell heavily to my prejudice in the minds of most readers--but
this must be borne; and for my part, I can suffer no accusation to
oppress me much which is not supported by the inward evidence of
conscience and reason.

'"Extremes meet," says the proverb; in proof whereof I would mention
that Miss Martineau finds with _Villette_ nearly the same fault as
the Puseyites. She accuses me with attacking popery "with
virulence," of going out of my way to assault it "passionately." In
other respects she has shown with reference to the work a spirit so
strangely and unexpectedly acrimonious, that I have gathered courage
to tell her that the gulf of mutual difference between her and me is
so wide and deep, the bridge of union so slight and uncertain, I have
come to the conclusion that frequent intercourse would be most
perilous and unadvisable, and have begged to adjourn _sine die_ my
long projected visit to her. Of course she is now very angry, and I
know her bitterness will not be short-lived--but it cannot be helped.

'Two or three weeks since I received a long and kind letter from Mr.
White, which I answered a short time ago. I believe Mr. White thinks
me a much hotter advocate for _change_ and what is called "political
progress" than I am. However, in my reply, I did not touch on these
subjects. He intimated a wish to publish some of his own MSS. I
fear he would hardly like the somewhat dissuasive tendency of my
answer; but really, in these days of headlong competition, it is a
great risk to publish. If all be well, I purpose going to Manchester
next week to spend a few days with Mrs. Gaskell. Ellen's visit to
Yarmouth seems for the present given up; and really, all things
considered, I think the circumstance is scarcely to be regretted.

'Do you not think, my dear Miss Wooler, that you could come to
Haworth before you go to the coast? I am afraid that when you once
get settled at the sea-side your stay will not be brief. I must
repeat that a visit from you would be anticipated with pleasure, not
only by me, but by every inmate of Haworth Parsonage. Papa has given
me a general commission to send his respects to you whenever I
write--accept them, therefore, and--Believe me, yours affectionately
and sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

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