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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter
 

Meanwhile the excitement which _Shirley_ was exciting in Currer Bell's
home circle was not confined to the curates. Here is a letter which
Canon Heald (Cyril Hall) wrote at this time:--

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'BIRSTALL, near LEEDS,
'8_th_ _January_ 1850.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Fame says you are on a visit with the renowned Currer
Bell, the "great unknown" of the present day. The celebrated
_Shirley_ has just found its way hither. And as one always reads a
book with more interest when one has a correct insight into the
writer's designs, I write to ask a favour, which I ought not to be
regarded presumptuous in saying that I think I have a species of
claim to ask, on the ground of a sort of "poetical justice." The
interpretation of this enigma is, that the story goes that either I
or my father, I do not exactly know which, are part of "Currer
Bell's" stock-in-trade, under the title of Mr. Hall, in that Mr. Hall
is represented as black, bilious, and of dismal aspect, stooping a
trifle, and indulging a little now and then in the indigenous
dialect. This seems to sit very well on your humble servant--other
traits do better for my good father than myself. However, though I
had no idea that I should be made a means to amuse the public, Currer
Bell is perfectly welcome to what she can make of so unpromising a
subject. But I think _I have a fair claim in return to be let into
the secret of the company I have got into_. Some of them are good
enough to tell, and need no OEdipus to solve the riddle. I can
tabulate, for instance, the Yorke family for the Taylors, Mr.
Moore--Mr. Cartwright, and Mr. Helstone is clearly meant for Mr.
Robertson, though the authoress has evidently got her idea of his
character through an unfavourable medium, and does not understand the
full value of one of the most admirable characters I ever knew or
expect to know. May thinks she descries Cecilia Crowther and Miss
Johnston (afterwards Mrs. Westerman) in two old maids.

'Now pray get us a full light on all other names and localities that
are adumbrated in this said _Shirley_. When some of the prominent
characters will be recognised by every one who knows our quarters,
there can be no harm in letting one know who may be intended by the
rest. And, if necessary, I will bear Currer Bell harmless, and not
let the world know that I have my intelligence from head-quarters.
As I said before, I repeat now, that as I or mine are part of the
stock-in-trade, I think I have an equitable claim to this
intelligence, by way of my dividend. Mary and Harriet wish also to
get at this information; and the latter at all events seems to have
her own peculiar claim, as fame says she is "in the book" too. One
had need "walk . . . warily in these dangerous days," when, as Burns
(is it not he?) says--

'A chield's among you taking notes,
And faith he'll prent it.'--

'Yours sincerely,

'W. M. HEALD.

'Mary and Harriet unite with me in the best wishes of the season to
you and C--- B---. Pray give my best respects to Mr. Bronte also,
who may have some slight remembrance of me as a child. I just
remember him when at Hartshead.' {444}

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_February_ 2_nd_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have despatched to-day a parcel containing _The
Caxtons_, Macaulay's _Essays_, _Humboldt's Letters_, and such other
of the books as I have read, packed with a picturesque irregularity
well calculated to excite the envy and admiration of your skilful
functionary in Cornhill. By-the-bye, he ought to be careful of the
few pins stuck in here and there, as he might find them useful at a
future day, in case of having more bonnets to pack for the East
Indies. Whenever you send me a new supply of books, may I request
that you will have the goodness to include one or two of Miss
Austen's. I am often asked whether I have read them, and I excite
amazement by replying in the negative. I have read none except
_Pride and Prejudice_. Miss Martineau mentioned _Persuasion_ as the
best.

'Thank you for your account of the _First Performance_. It was
cheering and pleasant to read it, for in your animated description I
seemed to realise the scene; your criticism also enables me to form
some idea of the play. Lewes is a strange being. I always regret
that I did not see him when in London. He seems to me clever, sharp,
and coarse; I used to think him sagacious, but I believe now he is no
more than shrewd, for I have observed once or twice that he brings
forward as grand discoveries of his own, information he has casually
received from others--true sagacity disdains little tricks of this
sort. But though Lewes has many smart and some deserving points
about him, he has nothing truly great; and nothing truly great, I
should think, will he ever produce. Yet he merits just such
successes as the one you describe--triumphs public, brief, and noisy.
Notoriety suits Lewes. Fame--were it possible that he could achieve
her--would be a thing uncongenial to him: he could not wait for the
solemn blast of her trumpet, sounding long, and slowly waxing louder.

'I always like your way of mentioning Mr. Smith, because my own
opinion of him concurs with yours; and it is as pleasant to have a
favourable impression of character confirmed, as it is painful to see
it dispelled. I am sure he possesses a fine nature, and I trust the
selfishness of the world and the hard habits of business, though they
may and must modify him disposition, will never quite spoil it.

'Can you give me any information respecting Sheridan Knowles? A few
lines received from him lately, and a present of his _George Lovel_,
induce me to ask the question. Of course I am aware that he is a
dramatic writer of eminence, but do you know anything about him as a
man?

'I believe both _Shirley_ and _Jane Eyre_ are being a good deal read
in the North just now; but I only hear fitful rumours from time to
time. I ask nothing, and my life of anchorite seclusion shuts out
all bearers of tidings. One or two curiosity-hunter have made their
way to Haworth Parsonage, but our rude hill and rugged neighbourhood
will, I doubt not, form a sufficient barrier to the frequent
repetition of such visits.--Believe me, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

The most permanent friend among the curiosity-hunters, was Sir James
Kay-Shuttleworth, {446} who came a month later to Haworth.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_March_ 1_st_, 1850.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I scribble you a line in haste to tell you of my
proceedings. Various folks are beginning to come boring to Haworth,
on the wise errand of seeing the scenery described in _Jane Eyre_ and
_Shirley_; amongst others, Sir J. K. Shuttleworth and Lady S. have
persisted in coming; they were here on Friday. The baronet looks in
vigorous health; he scarcely appears more than thirty-five, but he
says he is forty-four. Lady Shuttleworth is rather handsome, and
still young. They were both quite unpretending. When here they
again urged me to visit them. Papa took their side at once--would
not hear of my refusing. I must go--this left me without plea or
defence. I consented to go for three days. They wanted me to return
with them in the carriage, but I pleaded off till to-morrow. I wish
it was well over.

'If all be well I shall be able to write more about them when I come
back. Sir J. is very courtly--fine-looking; I wish he may be as
sincere as he is polished.--In haste, yours faithfully,

'C. B.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_March_ 16_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I found your letter with several others awaiting me on
my return home from a brief stay in Lancashire. The mourning border
alarmed me much. I feared that dread visitant, before whose coming
every household trembles, had invaded your hearth and taken from you
perhaps a child, perhaps something dearer still. The loss you have
actually sustained is painful, but so much _less_ painful than what I
had anticipated, that to read your letter was to be greatly relieved.
Still, I know what Mrs. Williams will feel. We can have but one
father, but one mother, and when either is gone, we have lost what
can never be replaced. Offer her, under this affliction, my sincere
sympathy. I can well imagine the cloud these sad tidings would cast
over your young cheerful family. Poor little Dick's exclamation and
burst of grief are most naive and natural; he felt the sorrow of a
child--a keen, but, happily, a transient pang. Time will, I trust,
ere long restore your own and your wife's serenity and your
children's cheerfulness.

'I mentioned, I think, that we had one or two visitors at Haworth
lately; amongst them were Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth and his lady.
Before departing they exacted a promise that I would visit them at
Gawthorpe Hall, their residence on the borders of East Lancashire. I
went reluctantly, for it is always a difficult and painful thing to
me to meet the advances of people whose kindness I am in no position
to repay. Sir James is a man of polished manners, with clear
intellect and highly cultivated mind. On the whole, I got on very
well with him.

'His health is just now somewhat broken by his severe official
labours; and the quiet drives to old ruins and old halls situate
amongst older hills and woods, the dialogues (perhaps I should rather
say monologues, for I listened far more than I talked) by the
fireside in his antique oak-panelled drawing-room, while they suited
him, did not too much oppress and exhaust me. The house, too, is
very much to my taste, near three centuries old, grey, stately, and
picturesque. On the whole, now that the visit is over, I do not
regret having paid it. The worst of it is that there is now some
menace hanging over my head of an invitation to go to them in London
during the season--this, which would doubtless be a great enjoyment
to some people, is a perfect terror to me. I should highly prize the
advantages to be gained in an extended range of observation, but I
tremble at the thought of the price I must necessarily pay in mental
distress and physical wear and tear. But you shall have no more of
my confessions--to you they will appear folly.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_March_ 19_th_, 1850.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I have got home again, and now that the visit is over,
I am, as usual, glad I have been; not that I could have endured to
prolong it: a few days at once, in an utterly strange place, amongst
utterly strange faces, is quite enough for me.

'When the train stopped at Burnley, I found Sir James waiting for me.
A drive of about three miles brought us to the gates of Gawthorpe,
and after passing up a somewhat desolate avenue, there towered the
hall--grey, antique, castellated, and stately--before me. It is 250
years old, and, within as without, is a model of old English
architecture. The arms and the strange crest of the Shuttleworths
are carved on the oak pannelling of each room. They are not a
parvenue family, but date from the days of Richard III. This part of
Lancashire seems rather remarkable for its houses of ancient race.
The Townleys, who live near, go back to the Conquest.

'The people, however, were of still more interest to me than the
house. Lady Shuttleworth is a little woman, thirty-two years old,
with a pretty, smooth, lively face. Of pretension to aristocratic
airs she may be entirely acquitted; of frankness, good-humour, and
activity she has enough; truth obliges me to add, that, as it seems
to me, grace, dignity, fine feeling were not in the inventory of her
qualities. These last are precisely what her husband possesses. In
manner he can be gracious and dignified; his tastes and feelings are
capable of elevation; frank he is not, but, on the contrary, politic;
he calls himself a man of the world and knows the world's ways;
courtly and affable in some points of view, he is strict and rigorous
in others. In him high mental cultivation is combined with an
extended range of observation, and thoroughly practical views and
habits. His nerves are naturally acutely sensitive, and the present
very critical state of his health has exaggerated sensitiveness into
irritability. His wife is of a temperament precisely suited to nurse
him and wait on him; if her sensations were more delicate and acute
she would not do half so well. They get on perfectly together. The
children--there are four of them--are all fine children in their way.
They have a young German lady as governess--a quiet, well-instructed,
interesting girl, whom I took to at once, and, in my heart, liked
better than anything else in the house. She also instinctively took
to me. She is very well treated for a governess, but wore the usual
pale, despondent look of her class. She told me she was home-sick,
and she looked so.

'I have received the parcel containing the cushion and all the
etcetera, for which I thank you very much. I suppose I must begin
with the group of flowers; I don't know how I shall manage it, but I
shall try. I have a good number of letters to answer--from Mr.
Smith, from Mr. Williams, from Thornton Hunt, Laetitia Wheelwright,
Harriet Dyson--and so I must bid you good-bye for the present. Write
to me soon. The brief absence from home, though in some respects
trying and painful in itself, has, I think, given me a little better
tone of spirit. All through this month of February I have had a
crushing time of it. I could not escape from or rise above certain
most mournful recollections--the last few days, the sufferings, the
remembered words, most sorrowful to me, of those who, Faith assures
me, are now happy. At evening and bed-time such thoughts would haunt
me, bringing a weary heartache. Good-bye, dear Nell.--Yours
faithfully,

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 21_st_, 1850.

'DEAR ELLEN,--My visit is again postponed. Sir James Shuttleworth, I
am sorry to say, is most seriously ill. Two physicians are in
attendance twice a day, and company and conversation, even with his
own relatives, are prohibited as too exciting. Notwithstanding this,
he has written two notes to me himself, claiming a promise that I
will wait till he is better, and not allow any one else "to introduce
me" as he says, "into the Oceanic life of London." Sincerely sorry
as I was for him, I could not help smiling at this sentence. But I
shall willingly promise. I know something of him, and like part, at
least, of what I do know. I do not feel in the least tempted to
change him for another. His sufferings are very great. I trust and
hope God will be pleased to spare his mind. I have just got a note
informing me that he is something better; but, of course, he will
vary. Lady Shuttleworth is much, much to be pitied too; his nights,
it seems, are most distressing.--Good-bye, dear Nell. Write soon to

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'76 GLOUCESTER TERRACE,
'HYDE PARK GARDENS, _June_ 3_rd_, 1850.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I came to London last Thursday. I am staying at Mrs.
Smith's, who has changed her residence, as the address will show. A
good deal of writing backwards and forwards, persuasion, etc., took
place before this step was resolved on; but at last I explained to
Sir James that I had some little matters of business to transact, and
that I should stay quietly at my publisher's. He has called twice,
and Lady Shuttleworth once; each of them alone. He is in a fearfully
nervous state. To my great horror he talks of my going with them to
Hampton Court, Windsor, etc. God knows how I shall get on. I
perfectly dread it.

'Here I feel very comfortable. Mrs. Smith treats me with a serene,
equable kindness which just suits me. Her son is, as before, genial
and kindly. I have seen very few persons, and am not likely to see
many, as the agreement was that I was to be very quiet. We have been
to the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, to the Opera, and the
Zoological Gardens. The weather is splendid. I shall not stay
longer than a fortnight in London. The feverishness and exhaustion
beset me somewhat, but not quite so badly as before, as indeed I have
not yet been so much tried. I hope you will write soon and tell me
how you are getting on. Give my regards to all.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B.'

TO REV. P. BRONTE

'76 GLOUCESTER TERRACE,
'HYDE PARK GARDENS, _June_ 4_th_, 1850.

'DEAR PAPA,--I was very glad to get your letter this morning, and
still more glad to learn that your health continues in some degree to
improve. I fear you will feel the present weather somewhat
debilitating, at least if it is as warm in Yorkshire as in London. I
cannot help grudging these fine days on account of the roofing of the
house. It is a great pity the workmen were not prepared to begin a
week ago.

'Since I wrote I have been to the Opera; to the Exhibition of the
Royal Academy, where there were some fine paintings, especially a
large one by Landseer of the Duke of Wellington on the field of
Waterloo, and a grand, wonderful picture of Martin's from Campbell's
poem of the "Last Man," showing the red sun fading out of the sky,
and all the soil of the foreground made up of bones and skulls. The
secretary of the Zoological Society also sent me an honorary ticket
of admission to their gardens, which I wish you could see. There are
animals from all parts of the world inclosed in great cages in the
open air amongst trees and shrubs--lions, tigers, leopards,
elephants, numberless monkies, camels, five or six cameleopards, a
young hippopotamus with an Egyptian for its keeper; birds of all
kinds--eagles, ostriches, a pair of great condors from the Andes,
strange ducks and water-fowl which seem very happy and comfortable,
and build their nests amongst the reeds and sedges of the lakes where
they are kept. Some of the American birds make inexpressible noises.

'There are also all sorts of living snakes and lizards in cages, some
great Ceylon toads not much smaller than Flossy, some large foreign
rats nearly as large and fierce as little bull-dogs. The most
ferocious and deadly-looking things in the place were these rats, a
laughing hyena (which every now and then uttered a hideous peal of
laughter such as a score of maniacs might produce) and a cobra di
capello snake. I think this snake was the worst of all: it had the
eyes and face of a fiend, and darted out its barbed tongue sharply
and incessantly.

'I am glad to hear that Tabby and Martha are pretty well. Remember
me to them, and--Believe me, dear papa, your affectionate daughter,

'C. BRONTE.

'I hope you don't care for the notice in _Sharpe's Magazine_; it does
not disturb me in the least. Mr. Smith says it is of no consequence
whatever in a literary sense. Sharpe, the proprietor, was an
apprentice of Mr. Smith's father.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'76 GLOUCESTER TERRACE,
'HYDE PARK GARDENS, _June_ 21_st_, 1850.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I am leaving London, if all be well, on Tuesday, and
shall be very glad to come to you for a few days, if that arrangement
still remains convenient to you. I intend to start at nine o'clock
A.M. by the express train, which arrives in Leeds thirty-five minutes
past two. I should then be at Batley about four in the afternoon.
Would that suit?

'My London visit has much surpassed my expectations this time; I have
suffered less and enjoyed more than before. Rather a trying
termination yet remains to me. Mrs. Smith's youngest son is at
school in Scotland, and George, her eldest, is going to fetch him
home for the vacation. The other evening he announced his intention
of taking one of his sisters with him, and proposed that Miss Bronte
should go down to Edinburgh and join them there, and see that city
and its suburbs. I concluded he was joking, laughed and declined;
however, it seems he was in earnest. The thing appearing to me
perfectly out of the question, I still refused. Mrs. Smith did not
favour it; you may easily fancy how she helped me to sustain my
opposition, but her worthy son only waxed more determined. His
mother is master of the house, but he is master of his mother. This
morning she came and entreated me to go. "George wished it so much";
he had begged her to use her influence, etc., etc. Now I believe
that George and I understand each other very well, and respect each
other very sincerely. We both know the wide breach time has made
between us; we do not embarrass each other, or very rarely; my six or
eight years of seniority, to say nothing of lack of all pretension to
beauty, etc., are a perfect safeguard. I should not in the least
fear to go with him to China. I like to see him pleased, I greatly
_dis_like to ruffle and disappoint him, so he shall have his mind;
and if all be well, I mean to join him in Edinburgh after I shall
have spent a few days with you. With his buoyant animal spirits and
youthful vigour he will make severe demands on my muscles and nerves,
but I daresay I shall get through somehow, and then perhaps come back
to rest a few days with you before I go home. With kind regards to
all at Brookroyd, your guests included,--I am, dear Ellen, yours
faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.

'Write by return of post.'

TO MISS LAETITIA WHEELWRIGHT

'HAWORTH, _July_ 30_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR LAETITIA,--I promised to write to you when I should have
returned home. Returned home I am, but you may conceive that many,
many matters solicit attention and demand arrangement in a house
which has lately been turned topsy-turvy in the operation of
unroofing. Drawers and cupboards must wait a moment, however, while
I fulfil my promise, though it is imperatively necessary that this
fulfilment should be achieved with brevity.

'My stay in Scotland was short, and what I saw was chiefly comprised
in Edinburgh and the neighbourhood, in Abbotsford and Melrose, for I
was obliged to relinquish my first intention of going from Glasgow to
Oban and thence through a portion of the Highlands. But though the
time was brief, and the view of objects limited, I found such a charm
of situation, association, and circumstances that I think the
enjoyment experienced in that little space equalled in degree and
excelled in kind all which London yielded during a month's sojourn.
Edinburgh compared to London is like a vivid page of history compared
to a huge dull treatise on political economy; and as to Melrose and
Abbotsford, the very names possess music and magic.

'I am thankful to say that on my return home I found papa pretty
well. Full often had I thought of him when I was far away; and
deeply sad as it is on many accounts to come back to this old house,
yet I was glad to be with him once more.

'You were proposing, I remember, to go into the country; I trust you
are there now and enjoying this fine day in some scene where the air
will not be tainted, nor the sunshine dimmed, by London smoke. If
your papa, mamma, or any of your sisters are within reach, give them
my kindest remembrances--if not, save such remembrances till you see
them.--Believe me, my dear Laetitia, yours hurriedly but faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO REV. P. BRONTE

'AMBLESIDE, _August_ 15_th_, 1850.

'DEAR PAPA,--I think I shall not come home till Thursday. If all be
well I shall leave here on Monday and spend a day or two with Ellen
Nussey. I have enjoyed my visit exceedingly. Sir J. K. Shuttleworth
has called several times and taken me out in his carriage. He seems
very truly friendly; but, I am sorry to say, he looks pale and very
much wasted. I greatly fear he will not live very long unless some
change for the better soon takes place. Lady S. is ill too, and
cannot go out. I have seen a good deal of Dr. Arnold's family, and
like them much. As to Miss Martineau, I admire her and wonder at her
more than I can say. Her powers of labour, of exercise, and social
cheerfulness are beyond my comprehension. In spite of the unceasing
activity of her colossal intellect she enjoys robust health. She is
a taller, larger, and more strongly made woman than I had imagined
from that first interview with her. She is very kind to me, though
she must think I am a very insignificant person compared to herself.
She has just been into the room to show me a chapter of her history
which she is now writing, relating to the Duke of Wellington's
character and his proceedings in the Peninsula. She wanted an
opinion on it, and I was happy to be able to give a very approving
one. She seems to understand and do him justice.

'You must not direct any more letters here as they will not reach me
after to-day. Hoping, dear papa, that you are well, and with kind
regards to Tabby and Martha,--I am, your affectionate daughter,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO W. S. WILLIAMS

'_October_ 2_nd_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I have to thank you for the care and kindness with
which you have assisted me throughout in correcting these _Remains_.

'Whether, when they are published, they will appear to others as they
do to me, I cannot tell. I hope not. And indeed I suppose what to
me is bitter pain will only be soft pathos to the general public.

'Miss Martineau has several times lately asked me to go and see her;
and though this is a dreary season for travelling northward, I think
if papa continues pretty well I shall go in a week or two. I feel to
my deep sorrow, to my humiliation, that it is not in my power to bear
the canker of constant solitude. I had calculated that when shut out
from every enjoyment, from every stimulus but what could be derived
from intellectual exertion, my mind would rouse itself perforce. It
is not so. Even intellect, even imagination, will not dispense with
the ray of domestic cheerfulness, with the gentle spur of family
discussion. Late in the evenings, and all through the nights, I fall
into a condition of mind which turns entirely to the past--to memory;
and memory is both sad and relentless. This will never do, and will
produce no good. I tell you this that you may check false
anticipations. You cannot help me, and must not trouble yourself in
any shape to sympathise with me. It is my cup, and I must drink it,
as others drink theirs.--Yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

Among Miss Bronte's papers I find the following letter to Miss Martineau,
written with a not unnatural resentment after the publication of a severe
critique of _Shirley_.

TO MISS HARRIET MARTINEAU.

'MY DEAR MISS MARTINEAU,--I think I best show my sense of the tone
and feeling of your last, by immediate compliance with the wish you
express that I should send your letter. I inclose it, and have
marked with red ink the passage which struck me dumb. All the rest
is fair, right, worthy of you, but I protest against this passage;
and were I brought up before the bar of all the critics in England,
to such a charge I should respond, "Not guilty."

'I know what _love_ is as I understand it; and if man or woman should
be ashamed of feeling such love, then is there nothing right, noble,
faithful, truthful, unselfish in this earth, as I comprehend
rectitude, nobleness, fidelity, truth, and disinterestedness.--Yours
sincerely,

'C. B.

'To differ from you gives me keen pain.'

TO JAMES TAYLOR, CORNHILL

'_November_ 6_th_, 1850.

'MY DEAR SIR,--Mrs. Arnold seemed an amiable, and must once have been
a very pretty, woman; her daughter I liked much. There was present
also a son of Chevalier Bunsen, with his wife, or rather bride. I
had not then read Dr. Arnold's Life--otherwise, the visit would have
interested me even more than it actually did.

'Mr. Williams told me (if I mistake not) that you had recently
visited the Lake Country. I trust you enjoyed your excursion, and
that our English Lakes did not suffer too much by comparison in your
memory with the Scottish Lochs.--I am, my dear sir, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'AMBLESIDE, _December_ 21_st_, 1850.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I have managed to get off going to Sir J. K.
Shuttleworth's by a promise to come some other time. I thought I
really should like to spend two or three days with you before going
home; therefore, if it is not inconvenient for you, I will come on
Monday and stay till Thursday. I shall be at Bradford (D.V.) at ten
minutes past two, Monday afternoon, and can take a cab at the station
forward to Birstall. I have truly enjoyed my visit. I have seen a
good many people, and all have been so marvellously kind; not the
least so the family of Dr. Arnold. Miss Martineau I relish
inexpressibly. Sir James has been almost every day to take me a
drive. I begin to admit in my own mind that he is sincerely
benignant to me. I grieve to say he looks to me as if wasting away.
Lady Shuttleworth is ill. She cannot go out, and I have not seen
her. Till we meet, good-bye.

'C. BRONTE.'

It was during this visit to Ambleside that Charlotte Bronte and Matthew
Arnold met.

'At seven,' writes Mr. Arnold from Fox How (December 21, 1850), 'came
Miss Martineau and Miss Bronte (Jane Eyre); talked to Miss Martineau
(who blasphemes frightfully) about the prospects of the Church of
England, and, wretched man that I am, promised to go and see her
cow-keeping miracles {457a} to-morrow--I, who hardly know a cow from
a sheep. I talked to Miss Bronte (past thirty and plain, with
expressive grey eyes, though) of her curates, of French novels, and
her education in a school at Brussels, and sent the lions roaring to
their dens at half-past nine, and came to talk to you.' {457b}

By the light of this 'impression,' it is not a little interesting to see
what Miss Bronte, 'past thirty and plain,' thought of Mr. Matthew Arnold!

TO JAMES TAYLOR, CORNHILL,

'_January_ 15_th_, 1851.

'MY DEAR SIR,--I fancy the imperfect way in which my last note was
expressed must have led you into an error, and that you must have
applied to Mrs. Arnold the remarks I intended for Miss Martineau. I
remember whilst writing about "my hostess" I was sensible to some
obscurity in the term; permit me now to explain that it referred to
Miss Martineau.

'Mrs. Arnold is, indeed, as I judge from my own observations no less
than from the unanimous testimony of all who really know her, a good
and amiable woman, but the intellectual is not her forte, and she has
no pretensions to power or completeness of character. The same
remark, I think, applies to her daughters. You admire in them the
kindliest feeling towards each other and their fellow-creatures, and
they offer in their home circle a beautiful example of family unity,
and of that refinement which is sure to spring thence; but when the
conversation turns on literature or any subject that offers a test
for the intellect, you usually felt that their opinions were rather
imitative than original, rather sentimental than sound. Those who
have only seen Mrs. Arnold once will necessarily, I think, judge of
her unfavourably; her manner on introduction disappointed me
sensibly, as lacking that genuineness and simplicity one seemed to
have a right to expect in the chosen life-companion of Dr. Arnold.
On my remarking as much to Mrs. Gaskell and Sir J. K. Shuttleworth, I
was told for my consolation it was a "conventional manner," but that
it vanished on closer acquaintance; fortunately this last assurance
proved true. It is observable that Matthew Arnold, the eldest son,
and the author of the volume of poems to which you allude, inherits
his mother's defect. Striking and prepossessing in appearance, his
manner displeases from its seeming foppery. I own it caused me at
first to regard him with regretful surprise; the shade of Dr. Arnold
seemed to me to frown on his young representative. I was told,
however, that "Mr. Arnold improved upon acquaintance." So it was:
ere long a real modesty appeared under his assumed conceit, and some
genuine intellectual aspirations, as well as high educational
acquirements, displaced superficial affectations. I was given to
understand that his theological opinions were very vague and
unsettled, and indeed he betrayed as much in the course of
conversation. Most unfortunate for him, doubtless, has been the
untimely loss of his father.

'My visit to Westmoreland has certainly done me good. Physically, I
was not ill before I went there, but my mind had undergone some
painful laceration. In the course of looking over my sister's
papers, mementos, and memoranda, that would have been nothing to
others, conveyed for me so keen a sting. Near at hand there was no
means of lightening or effacing the sad impression by refreshing
social intercourse; from my father, of course, my sole care was to
conceal it--age demanding the same forbearance as infancy in the
communication of grief. Continuous solitude grew more than I could
bear, and, to speak truth, I was glad of a change. You will say that
we ought to have power in ourselves either to bear circumstances or
to bend them. True, we should do our best to this end, but sometimes
our best is unavailing. However, I am better now, and most thankful
for the respite.

'The interest you so kindly express in my sister's works touches me
home. Thank you for it, especially as I do not believe you would
speak otherwise than sincerely. The only notices that I have seen of
the new edition of _Wuthering Heights_ were those in the _Examiner_,
the _Leader_, and the _Athenaeum_. That in the _Athenaeum_ somehow
gave me pleasure: it is quiet but respectful--so I thought, at least.

'You asked whether Miss Martineau made me a convert to mesmerism?
Scarcely; yet I heard miracles of its efficacy and could hardly
discredit the whole of what was told me. I even underwent a personal
experiment; and though the result was not absolutely clear, it was
inferred that in time I should prove an excellent subject.

'The question of mesmerism will be discussed with little reserve, I
believe, in a forthcoming work of Miss Martineau's, and I have some
painful anticipations of the manner in which other subjects, offering
less legitimate ground for speculation, will be handled.

'You mention the _Leader_; what do you think of it? I have been
asked to contribute; but though I respect the spirit of fairness and
courtesy in which it is on the whole conducted, its principles on
some points are such that I have hitherto shrunk from the thought of
seeing my name in its columns.

'Thanking you for your good wishes,--I am, my dear sir, yours
sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS LAETITIA WHEELWRIGHT

'HAWORTH, _January_ 12_th_, 1851.

'DEAR LAETITIA,--A spare moment must and shall be made for you, no
matter how many letters I have to write (and just now there is an
influx). In reply to your kind inquiries, I have to say that my stay
in London and excursion to Scotland did me good--much good at the
time; but my health was again somewhat sharply tried at the close of
autumn, and I lost in some days of indisposition the additional flesh
and strength I had previously gained. This resulted from the painful
task of looking over letters and papers belonging to my sisters.
Many little mementos and memoranda conspired to make an impression
inexpressibly sad, which solitude deepened and fostered till I grew
ill. A brief trip to Westmoreland has, however, I am thankful to
say, revived me again, and the circumstance of papa being just now in
good health and spirits gives me many causes for gratitude. When we
have but one precious thing left we think much of it.

'I have been staying a short time with Miss Martineau. As you may
imagine, the visit proved one of no common interest. She is
certainly a woman of wonderful endowments, both intellectual and
physical, and though I share few of her opinions, and regard her as
fallible on certain points of judgment, I must still accord her my
sincerest esteem. The manner in which she combines the highest
mental culture with the nicest discharge of feminine duties filled me
with admiration, while her affectionate kindness earned my gratitude.

'Your description of the magician Paxton's crystal palace is quite
graphic. Whether I shall see it or not I don't know. London will be
so dreadfully crowded and busy this season, I feel a dread of going
there.

'Compelled to break off, I have only time to offer my kindest
remembrances to your whole circle, and my love to yourself.--Yours
ever,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO REV. P. BRONTE

'112 GLOUCESTER TERRACE, HYDE PARK,
'LONDON, _June_ 17_th_, 1851.

'DEAR PAPA,--I write a line in haste to tell you that I find they
will not let me leave London till next Tuesday; and as I have
promised to spend a day or two with Mrs. Gaskell on my way home, it
will probably be Friday or Saturday in next week before I return to
Haworth. Martha will thus have a few days more time, and must not
hurry or overwork herself. Yesterday I saw Cardinal Wiseman and
heard him speak. It was at a meeting for the Roman Catholic Society
of St. Vincent de Paul; the Cardinal presided. He is a big portly
man something of the shape of Mr. Morgan; he has not merely a double
but a treble and quadruple chin; he has a very large mouth with oily
lips, and looks as if he would relish a good dinner with a bottle of
wine after it. He came swimming into the room smiling, simpering,
and bowing like a fat old lady, and sat down very demure in his chair
and looked the picture of a sleek hypocrite. He was dressed in black
like a bishop or dean in plain clothes, but wore scarlet gloves and a
brilliant scarlet waistcoat. A bevy of inferior priests surrounded
him, many of them very dark-looking and sinister men. The Cardinal
spoke in a smooth whining manner, just like a canting Methodist
preacher. The audience seemed to look up to him as to a god. A
spirit of the hottest zeal pervaded the whole meeting. I was told
afterwards that except myself and the person who accompanied me there
was not a single Protestant present. All the speeches turned on the
necessity of straining every nerve to make converts to popery. It is
in such a scene that one feels what the Catholics are doing. Most
persevering and enthusiastic are they in their work! Let Protestants
look to it. It cheered me much to hear that you continue pretty
well. Take every care of yourself. Remember me kindly to Tabby and
Martha, also to Mr. Nicholls, and--Believe me, dear papa, your
affectionate daughter,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_June_ 19_th_, 1851.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I shall have to stay in London a few days longer than I
intended. Sir J. K. Shuttleworth has found out that I am here. I
have some trouble in warding off his wish that I should go directly
to his house and take up my quarters there, but Mrs. Smith helped me,
and I got off with promising to spend a day. I am engaged to spend a
day or two with Mrs. Gaskell on my way home, and could not put her
off, as she is going away for a portion of the summer. Lady
Shuttleworth looks very delicate. Papa is now very desirous I should
come home; and when I have as quickly as possible paid my debts of
engagements, home I must go. Next Tuesday I go to Manchester for two
days.

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'112 GLOUCESTER TERRACE,
'HYDE PARK, _June_ 24_th_, 1851.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I cannot now leave London till Friday. To-morrow is
Mr. Smith's only holiday. Mr. Taylor's departure leaves him loaded
with work. More than once since I came he has been kept in the city
till three in the morning. He wants to take us all to Richmond, and
I promised last week I would stay and go with him, his mother, and
sisters. I go to Mrs. Gaskell's on Friday.--Believe me, yours
faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO REV. P. BRONTE, HAWORTH, YORKS

'112 GLOUCESTER TERRACE,
'_June_ 26_th_, 1851.

'DEAR PAPA,--I have not yet been able to get away from London, but if
all be well I shall go to-morrow, stay two days with Mrs. Gaskell at
Manchester, and return home on Monday 30th _without fail_. During
this last week or ten days I have seen many things, some of them very
interesting, and have also been in much better health than I was
during the first fortnight of my stay in London. Sir James and Lady
Shuttleworth have really been very kind, and most scrupulously
attentive. They desire their regards to you, and send all manner of
civil messages. The Marquis of Westminster and the Earl of Ellesmere
each sent me an order to see their private collection of pictures,
which I enjoyed very much. Mr. Rogers, the patriarch-poet, now
eighty-seven years old, invited me to breakfast with him. His
breakfasts, you must understand, are celebrated throughout Europe for
their peculiar refinement and taste. He never admits at that meal
more than four persons to his table: himself and three guests. The
morning I was there I met Lord Glenelg and Mrs. Davenport, a relation
of Lady Shuttleworth's, and a very beautiful and fashionable woman.
The visit was very interesting; I was glad that I had paid it after
it was over. An attention that pleased and surprised me more I think
than any other was the circumstance of Sir David Brewster, who is one
of the first scientific men of his day, coming to take me over the
Crystal Palace and pointing out and explaining the most remarkable
curiosities. You will know, dear papa, that I do not mention those
things to boast of them, but merely because I think they will give
you pleasure. Nobody, I find, thinks the worse of me for avoiding
publicity and declining to go to large parties, and everybody seems
truly courteous and respectful, a mode of behaviour which makes me
grateful, as it ought to do. Good-bye till Monday. Give my best
regards to Mr. Nicholls, Tabby, and Martha, and--Believe me your
affectionate daughter,

'C. BRONTE.'




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