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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter

'_July_ 26_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I must rouse myself to write a line to you, lest a
more protracted silence should seem strange.

'Truly glad was I to hear of your daughter's success. I trust its
results may conduce to the permanent advantage both of herself and
her parents.

'Of still more importance than your children's education is your
wife's health, and therefore it is still more gratifying to learn
that your anxiety on that account is likely to be alleviated. For
her own sake, no less than for that of others, it is to be hoped that
she is now secured from a recurrence of her painful and dangerous
attacks. It was pleasing, too, to hear of good qualities being
developed in the daughters by the mother's danger. May your girls
always so act as to justify their father's kind estimate of their
characters; may they never do what might disappoint or grieve him.

'Your suggestion relative to myself is a good one in some respects,
but there are two persons whom it would not suit; and not the least
incommoded of these would be the young person whom I might request to
come and bury herself in the hills of Haworth, to take a church and
stony churchyard for her prospect, the dead silence of a village
parsonage--in which the tick of the clock is heard all day long--for
her atmosphere, and a grave, silent spinster for her companion. I
should not like to see youth thus immured. The hush and gloom of our
house would be more oppressive to a buoyant than to a subdued spirit.
The fact is, my work is my best companion; hereafter I look for no
great earthly comfort except what congenial occupation can give. For
society, long seclusion has in a great measure unfitted me, I doubt
whether I should enjoy it if I might have it. Sometimes I think I
should, and I thirst for it; but at other times I doubt my capability
of pleasing or deriving pleasure. The prisoner in solitary
confinement, the toad in the block of marble, all in time shape
themselves to their lot.--Yours sincerely,



'_September_ 13_th_, 1849.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I want to know your opinion of the subject of this
proof-sheet. Mr. Taylor censured it; he considers as defective all
that portion which relates to Shirley's nervousness--the bite of the
dog, etc. How did it strike you on reading it?

'I ask this though I well know it cannot now be altered. I can work
indefatigably at the correction of a work before it leaves my hands,
but when once I have looked on it as completed and submitted to the
inspection of others, it becomes next to impossible to alter or
amend. With the heavy suspicion on my mind that all may not be
right, I yet feel forced to put up with the inevitably wrong.

'Reading has, of late, been my great solace and recreation. I have
read J. C. Hare's _Guesses at Truth_, a book containing things that
in depth and far-sought wisdom sometimes recall the _Thoughts_ of
Pascal, only it is as the light of the moon recalls that of the sun.

'I have read with pleasure a little book on _English Social Life_ by
the wife of Archbishop Whately. Good and intelligent women write
well on such subjects. This lady speaks of governesses. I was
struck by the contrast offered in her manner of treating the topic to
that of Miss Rigby in the _Quarterly_. How much finer the
feeling--how much truer the feeling--how much more delicate the mind
here revealed!

'I have read _David Copperfield_; it seems to me very good--admirable
in some parts. You said it had affinity to _Jane Eyre_. It has, now
and then--only what an advantage has Dickens in his varied knowledge
of men and things! I am beginning to read Eckermann's _Goethe_--it
promises to be a most interesting work. Honest, simple,
single-minded Eckermann! Great, powerful, giant-souled, but also
profoundly egotistical, old Johann Wolfgang von Goethe! He _was_ a
mighty egotist--I see he was: he thought no more of swallowing up
poor Eckermann's existence in his own than the whale thought of
swallowing Jonah.

'The worst of reading graphic accounts of such men, of seeing graphic
pictures of the scenes, the society, in which they moved, is that it
excites a too tormenting longing to look on the reality. But does
such reality now exist? Amidst all the troubled waters of European
society does such a vast, strong, selfish, old Leviathan now roll
ponderous! I suppose not.--Believe me, yours sincerely,



'_March_ 19_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--The books came yesterday evening just as I was wishing
for them very much. There is much interest for me in opening the
Cornhill parcel. I wish there was not pain too--but so it is. As I
untie the cords and take out the volumes, I am reminded of those who
once on similar occasions looked on eagerly; I miss familiar voices
commenting mirthfully and pleasantly; the room seems very still, very
empty; but yet there is consolation in remembering that papa will
take pleasure in some of the books. Happiness quite unshared can
scarcely be called happiness--it has no taste.

'I hope Mrs. Williams continues well, and that she is beginning to
regain composure after the shock of her recent bereavement. She has
indeed sustained a loss for which there is no substitute. But rich
as she still is in objects for her best affections, I trust the void
will not be long or severely felt. She must think, not of what she
has lost, but of what she possesses. With eight fine children, how
can she ever be poor or solitary!--Believe me, dear sir, yours



'_April_ 12_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I own I was glad to receive your assurance that the
Calcutta paper's surmise was unfounded. {398} It is said that when
we _wish_ a thing to be true, we are prone to believe it true; but I
think (judging from myself) we adopt with a still prompter credulity
the rumour which shocks.

'It is very kind in Dr. Forbes to give me his book. I hope Mr. Smith
will have the goodness to convey my thanks for the present. You can
keep it to send with the next parcel, or perhaps I may be in London
myself before May is over. That invitation I mentioned in a previous
letter is still urged upon me, and well as I know what penance its
acceptance would entail in some points, I also know the advantage it
would bring in others. My conscience tells me it would be the act of
a moral poltroon to let the fear of suffering stand in the way of
improvement. But suffer I shall. No matter.

'The perusal of _Southey's Life_ has lately afforded me much
pleasure. The autobiography with which it commences is deeply
interesting, and the letters which follow are scarcely less so,
disclosing as they do a character most estimable in its integrity and
a nature most amiable in its benevolence, as well as a mind admirable
in its talent. Some people assert that genius is inconsistent with
domestic happiness, and yet Southey was happy at home and made his
home happy; he not only loved his wife and children _though_ he was a
poet, but he loved them the better _because_ he was a poet. He seems
to have been without taint of worldliness. London with its pomps and
vanities, learned coteries with their dry pedantry, rather scared
than attracted him. He found his prime glory in his genius, and his
chief felicity in home affections. I like Southey.

'I have likewise read one of Miss Austen's works--_Emma_--read it
with interest and with just the degree of admiration which Miss
Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable. Anything
like warmth or enthusiasm--anything energetic, poignant, heart-felt
is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such
demonstration the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer,
would have calmly scorned as _outre_ and extravagant. She does her
business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English
people curiously well. There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature
delicacy in the painting. She ruffles her reader by nothing
vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound. The passions are
perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance
with that stormy sisterhood. Even to the feelings she vouchsafes no
more than an occasional graceful but distant recognition--too
frequent converse with them would ruffle the smooth elegance of her
progress. Her business is not half so much with the human heart as
with the human eyes, mouth, hands, and feet. What sees keenly,
speaks aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study; but what throbs
fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is
the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death--this Miss
Austen ignores. She no more, with her mind's eye, beholds the heart
of her race than each man, with bodily vision, sees the heart in his
heaving breast. Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady,
but a very incomplete and rather insensible (_not senseless_) woman.
If this is heresy, I cannot help it. If I said it to some people
(Lewes for instance) they would directly accuse me of advocating
exaggerated heroics, but I am not afraid of your falling into any
such vulgar error.--Believe me, yours sincerely,



'_November_ 9_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have read Lord John Russell's letter with very great
zest and relish, and think him a spirited sensible little man for
writing it. He makes no old-womanish outcry of alarm and expresses
no exaggerated wrath. One of the best paragraphs is that which
refers to the Bishop of London and the Puseyites. Oh! I wish Dr.
Arnold were yet living, or that a second Dr. Arnold could be found!
Were there but ten such men amongst the hierarchs of the Church of
England she might bid defiance to all the scarlet hats and stockings
in the Pope's gift. Her sanctuaries would be purified, her rites
reformed, her withered veins would swell again with vital sap; but it
is not so.

'It is well that _truth_ is _indestructible_--that ruin cannot crush
nor fire annihilate her divine essence. While forms change and
institutions perish, "_truth_ is great and shall prevail."

'I am truly glad to hear that Miss Kavanagh's health is improved.
You can send her book whenever it is most convenient. I received
from Cornhill the other day a periodical containing a portrait of
Jenny Lind--a sweet, natural, innocent peasant-girl face, curiously
contrasted with an artificial fine-lady dress. I _do_ like and
esteem Jenny's character. Yet not long since I heard her torn to
pieces by the tongue of detraction--scarcely a virtue left--twenty
odious defects imputed.

'There was likewise a most faithful portrait of R. H. Home, with his
imaginative forehead and somewhat foolish-looking mouth and chin,
indicating that mixed character which I should think he owns. Mr.
Home writes well. That tragedy on the _Death of Marlowe_ reminds me
of some of the best of Dumas' dramatic pieces.--Yours very sincerely,



'_January_, 1851.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I sent yesterday the _Leader_ newspaper, which you must
always send to Hunsworth as soon as you have done with it. I will
continue to forward it as long as I get it.

'I am trying a little Hydropathic treatment; I like it, and I think
it has done me good. Inclosed is a letter received a few days since.
I wish you to read it because it gives a very fair notion both of the
disposition and mind; read, return, and tell me what you think of it.

'Thackeray has given dreadful trouble by his want of punctuality.
Mr. Williams says if he had not been helped out with the vigour,
energy, and method of Mr. Smith, he must have sunk under the day and
night labour of the last few weeks.

'Write soon.

'C. B.'


'_July_ 21_st_, 1851.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I delayed answering your very interesting letter until
the box should have reached me; and now that it is come I can only
acknowledge its arrival: I cannot say at all what I felt as I
unpacked its contents. These Cornhill parcels have something of the
magic charm of a fairy gift about them, as well as of the less
poetical but more substantial pleasure of a box from home received at
school. You have sent me this time even more books than usual, and
all good.

'What shall I say about the twenty numbers of splendid engravings
laid cozily at the bottom? The whole Vernon Gallery brought to one's
fireside! Indeed, indeed I can say nothing, except that I will take
care, and keep them clean, and send them back uninjured.--Believe me,
yours sincerely,



'_November_ 6_th_, 1851.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have true pleasure in inclosing for your son Frank a
letter of introduction to Mrs. Gaskell, and earnestly do I trust the
acquaintance may tend to his good. To make all sure--for I dislike
to go on doubtful grounds--I wrote to ask her if she would permit the
introduction. Her frank, kind answer pleased me greatly.

'I have received the books. I hope to write again when I have read
_The Fair Carew_. The very title augurs well--it has no hackneyed
sound.--Believe me, sincerely yours,



'HAWORTH, _May_ 28_th_, 1853.

'MY DEAR SIR,--The box of books arrived safely yesterday evening, and
I feel especially obliged for the selection, as it includes several
that will be acceptable and interesting to my father.

'I despatch to-day a box of return books. Among them will be found
two or three of those just sent, being such as I had read
before--_i.e._, Moore's _Life and Correspondence_, 1st and 2nd vols.;
Lamartine's _Restoration of the Monarchy_, etc. I have thought of
you more than once during the late bright weather, knowing how genial
you find warmth and sunshine. I trust it has brought this season its
usual cheering and beneficial effect. Remember me kindly to Mrs.
Williams and her daughters, and,--Believe me, yours sincerely,



'_December_ 6_th_, 1853.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I forwarded last week a box of return books to
Cornhill, which I trust arrived safely. To-day I received the
_Edinburgh Guardian_, {402} for which I thank you.

'Do not trouble yourself to select or send any more books. These
courtesies must cease some day, and I would rather give them up than
wear them out.--Believe me, yours sincerely,


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