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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter


TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 16th, 1853.

'DEAR ELLEN,--The east winds about which you inquire have spared me
wonderfully till to-day, when I feel somewhat sick physically, and
not very blithe mentally. I am not sure that the east winds are
entirely to blame for this ailment. Yesterday was a strange sort of
a day at church. It seems as if I were to be punished for my doubts
about the nature and truth of poor Mr. Nicholls's regard. Having
ventured on Whit Sunday to stop the sacrament, I got a lesson not to
be repeated. He struggled, faltered, then lost command over
himself--stood before my eyes and in the sight of all the
communicants white, shaking, voiceless. Papa was not there, thank
God! Joseph Redman spoke some words to him. He made a great effort,
but could only with difficulty whisper and falter through the
service. I suppose he thought this would be the last time; he goes
either this week or the next. I heard the women sobbing round, and I
could not quite check my own tears. What had happened was reported
to papa either by Joseph Redman or John Brown; it excited only anger,
and such expressions as "unmanly driveller." Compassion or relenting
is no more to be looked for than sap from firewood.

'I never saw a battle more sternly fought with the feelings than Mr.
Nicholls fights with his, and when he yields momentarily, you are
almost sickened by the sense of the strain upon him. However, he is
to go, and I cannot speak to him or look at him or comfort him a
whit, and I must submit. Providence is over all, that is the only
consolation.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 19_th_, 1853.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I cannot help feeling a certain satisfaction in finding
that the people here are getting up a subscription to offer a
testimonial of respect to Mr. Nicholls on his leaving the place.
Many are expressing both their commiseration and esteem for him. The
Churchwardens recently put the question to him plainly: Why was he
going? Was it Mr. Bronte's fault or his own? "His own," he
answered. Did he blame Mr. Bronte? "No! he did not: if anybody was
wrong it was himself." Was he willing to go? "No! it gave him great
pain." Yet he is not always right. I must be just. He shows a
curious mixture of honour and obstinacy--feeling and sullenness.
Papa addressed him at the school tea-drinking, with _constrained_
civility, but still with _civility_. He did not reply civilly; he
cut short further words. This sort of treatment offered in public is
what papa never will forget or forgive, it inspires him with a silent
bitterness not to be expressed. I am afraid both are unchristian in
their mutual feelings. Nor do I know which of them is least
accessible to reason or least likely to forgive. It is a dismal
state of things.

'The weather is fine now, dear Nell. We will take these sunny days
as a good omen for your visit to Yarmouth. With kind regards to all
at Brookroyd, and best wishes to yourself,--I am, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _May_ 27_th_, 1853.

'DEAR ELLEN,--You will want to know about the leave-taking? The
whole matter is but a painful subject, but I must treat it briefly.
The testimonial was presented in a public meeting. Mr. Taylor and
Mr. Grant were there. Papa was not very well and I advised him to
stay away, which he did. As to the last Sunday, it was a cruel
struggle. Mr. Nicholls ought not to have had to take any duty.

'He left Haworth this morning at six o'clock. Yesterday evening he
called to render into papa's hands the deeds of the National School,
and to say good-bye. They were busy cleaning--washing the paint,
etc., in the dining-room, so he did not find me there. I would not
go into the parlour to speak to him in papa's presence. He went out,
thinking he was not to see me; and indeed, till the very last moment,
I thought it best not. But perceiving that he stayed long before
going out at the gate, and remembering his long grief, I took courage
and went out, trembling and miserable. I found him leaning against
the garden door in a paroxysm of anguish, sobbing as women never sob.
Of course I went straight to him. Very few words were interchanged,
those few barely articulate. Several things I should have liked to
ask him were swept entirely from my memory. Poor fellow! But he
wanted such hope and such encouragement as I could not give him.
Still, I trust he must know now that I am not cruelly blind and
indifferent to his constancy and grief. For a few weeks he goes to
the south of England, afterwards he takes a curacy somewhere in
Yorkshire, but I don't know where.

'Papa has been far from strong lately. I dare not mention Mr.
Nicholls's name to him. He speaks of him quietly and without
opprobrium to others, but to me he is implacable on the matter.
However, he is gone--gone, and there's an end of it. I see no chance
of hearing a word about him in future, unless some stray shred of
intelligence comes through Mr. Sowden or some other second-hand
source. In all this it is not I who am to be pitied at all, and of
course nobody pities me. They all think in Haworth that I have
disdainfully refused him. If pity would do Mr. Nicholls any good, he
ought to have, and I believe has it. They may abuse me if they will;
whether they do or not I can't tell.

'Write soon and say how your prospects proceed. I trust they will
daily brighten.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS LAETITIA WHEELWRIGHT

'HAWORTH, _March_ 18_th_, 1854.

'MY DEAR LAETITIA,--I was very glad to see your handwriting again; it
is, I believe, a year since I heard from you. Again and again you
have recurred to my thoughts lately, and I was beginning to have some
sad presages as to the cause of your silence. Your letter happily
does away with all these; it brings, on the whole, good tidings both
of your papa, mamma, your sister, and, last but not least, your dear
respected English self.

'My dear father has borne the severe winter very well, a circumstance
for which I feel the more thankful, as he had many weeks of very
precarious health last summer, following an attack from which he
suffered last June, and which for a few hours deprived him totally of
sight, though neither his mind, speech, nor even his powers of motion
were in the least affected. I can hardly tell you how thankful I
was, dear Laetitia, when, after that dreary and almost despairing
interval of utter darkness, some gleam of daylight became visible to
him once more. I had feared that paralysis had seized the optic
nerve. A sort of mist remained for a long time, and indeed his
vision is not yet perfectly clear, but he can read, write, and walk
about, and he preaches _twice_ every Sunday, the curate only reading
the prayers. _You_ can well understand how earnestly I pray that
sight may be spared him to the end; he so dreads the privation of
blindness. His mind is just as strong and active as ever, and
politics interest him as they do _your_ papa. The Czar, the war, the
alliance between France and England--into all these things he throws
himself heart and soul. They seem to carry him back to his
comparatively young days, and to renew the excitement of the last
great European struggle. Of course, my father's sympathies, and mine
too, are all with justice and Europe against tyranny and Russia.

'Circumstanced as I have been, you will comprehend that I had neither
the leisure nor inclination to go from home much during the past
year. I spent a week with Mrs. Gaskell in the spring, and a
fortnight with some other friends more recently, and that includes
the whole of my visiting since I saw you last. My life is indeed
very uniform and retired, more so than is quite healthful either for
mind or body; yet I feel reason for often renewed feelings of
gratitude in the sort of support which still comes and cheers me from
time to time. My health, though not unbroken, is, I sometimes fancy,
rather stronger on the whole than it was three years ago; headache
and dyspepsia are my worst ailments. Whether I shall come up to town
this season for a few days I do not yet know; but if I do I shall
hope to call in Phillimore Place. With kindest remembrances to your
papa, mamma, and sisters,--I am, dear Laetitia, affectionately yours,

'C. BRONTE.'

Mr. Nicholls's successor did not prove acceptable to Mr. Bronte. He
complained again and again, and one day Charlotte turned upon her father
and told him pretty frankly that he was alone to blame--that he had only
to let her marry Mr. Nicholls, with whom she corresponded and whom she
really loved, and all would be well. A little arrangement, the transfer
of Mr. Nicholls's successor, Mr. De Renzi, to a Bradford church, and Mr.
Nicholls left his curacy at Kirk-Smeaton and returned once more to
Haworth as an accepted lover.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _March_ 28_th_, 1854.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--The inclosure in yours of yesterday puzzled me at
first, for I did not immediately recognise my own hand-writing; when
I did, the sensation was one of consternation and vexation, as the
letter ought by all means to have gone on Friday. It was intended to
relieve him of great anxiety. However, I trust he will get it
to-day; and on the whole, when I think it over, I can only be
thankful that the mistake was no worse, and did not throw the letter
into the hands of some indifferent and unscrupulous person. I wrote
it after some days of indisposition and uneasiness, and when I felt
weak and unfit to write. While writing to him, I was at the same
time intending to answer your note, which I suppose accounts for the
confusion of ideas, shown in the mixed and blundering address.

'I wish you could come about Easter rather than at another time, for
this reason: Mr. Nicholls, if not prevented, proposes coming over
then. I suppose he will stay at Mr. Grant's, as he has done two or
three times before, but he will be frequently coming here, which
would enliven your visit a little. Perhaps, too, he might take a
walk with us occasionally. Altogether it would be a little change,
such as, you know, I could not always offer.

'If all be well he will come under different circumstances to any
that have attended his visits before; were it otherwise, I should not
ask you to meet him, for when aspects are gloomy and unpropitious,
the fewer there are to suffer from the cloud the better.

'He was here in January and was then received, but not pleasantly. I
trust it will be a little different now.

'Papa breakfasts in bed and has not yet risen; his bronchitis is
still troublesome. I had a bad week last week, but am greatly better
now, for my mind is a little relieved, though very sedate, and rising
only to expectations the most moderate.

'Sometime, perhaps in May, I may hope to come to Brookroyd, but, as
you will understand from what I have now stated, I could not come
before.

'Think it over, dear Nell, and come to Haworth if you can. Write as
soon as you can decide.--Yours affectionately,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_April_ 1_st_, 1854.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--You certainly were right in your second
interpretation of my note. I am too well aware of the dulness of
Haworth for any visitor, not to be glad to avail myself of the chance
of offering even a slight change. But this morning my little plans
have been disarranged by an intimation that Mr. Nicholls is coming on
Monday. I thought to put him off, but have not succeeded. As Easter
now consequently seems an unfavourable period both from your point of
view and mine, we will adjourn it till a better opportunity offers.
Meantime, I thank you, dear Ellen, for your kind offer to come in
case I wanted you. Papa is still very far from well: his cough very
troublesome, and a good deal of inflammatory action in the chest.
To-day he seems somewhat better than yesterday, and I earnestly hope
the improvement may continue.

'With kind regards to your mother and all at Brookroyd,--I am, dear
Ellen, yours affectionately,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _April_ 11_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Thank you for the collar; it is very pretty, and I will
wear it for the sake of her who made and gave it.

'Mr. Nicholls came on Monday, and was here all last week. Matters
have progressed thus since July. He renewed his visit in September,
but then matters so fell out that I saw little of him. He continued
to write. The correspondence pressed on my mind. I grew very
miserable in keeping it from papa. At last sheer pain made me gather
courage to break it. I told all. It was very hard and rough work at
the time, but the issue after a few days was that I obtained leave to
continue the communication. Mr. Nicholls came in January; he was ten
days in the neighbourhood. I saw much of him. I had stipulated with
papa for opportunity to become better acquainted. I had it, and all
I learnt inclined me to esteem and affection. Still papa was very,
very hostile, bitterly unjust.

'I told Mr. Nicholls the great obstacle that lay in his way. He has
persevered. The result of this, his last visit, is, that papa's
consent is gained, that his respect, I believe, is won, for Mr.
Nicholls has in all things proved himself disinterested and
forbearing. Certainly, I must respect him, nor can I withhold from
him more than mere cool respect. In fact, dear Ellen, I am engaged.

'Mr. Nicholls, in the course of a few months, will return to the
curacy of Haworth. I stipulated that I would not leave papa; and to
papa himself I proposed a plan of residence which should maintain his
seclusion and convenience uninvaded, and in a pecuniary sense bring
him gain instead of loss. What seemed at one time impossible is now
arranged, and papa begins really to take a pleasure in the prospect.

'For myself, dear Ellen, while thankful to One who seems to have
guided me through much difficulty, much and deep distress and
perplexity of mind, I am still very calm, very inexpectant. What I
taste of happiness is of the soberest order. I trust to love my
husband. I am grateful for his tender love to me. I believe him to
be an affectionate, a conscientious, a high-principled man; and if,
with all this, I should yield to regrets that fine talents, congenial
tastes and thoughts are not added, it seems to me I should be most
presumptuous and thankless.

'Providence offers me this destiny. Doubtless, then, it is the best
for me. Nor do I shrink from wishing those dear to me one not less
happy.

'It is possible that our marriage may take place in the course of the
summer. Mr. Nicholls wishes it to be in July. He spoke of you with
great kindness, and said he hoped you would be at our wedding. I
said I thought of having no other bridesmaid. Did I say rightly? I
mean the marriage to be literally as quiet as possible.

'Do not mention these things just yet. I mean to write to Miss
Wooler shortly. Good-bye. There is a strange half-sad feeling in
making these announcements. The whole thing is something other than
imagination paints it beforehand; cares, fears, come mixed
inextricably with hopes. I trust yet to talk the matter over with
you. Often last week I wished for your presence and said so to Mr.
Nicholls--Arthur, as I now call him, but he said it was the only time
and place when he could not have wished to see you. Good-bye.--Yours
affectionately,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_April_ 15_th_, 1854.

'MY OWN DEAR NELL,--I hope to see you somewhere about the second week
in May.

'The Manchester visit is still hanging over my head. I have deferred
it, and deferred it, but have finally promised to go about the
beginning of next month. I shall only stay three days, then I spend
two or three days at Hunsworth, then come to Brookroyd. The three
visits must be compressed into the space of a fortnight, if possible.

'I suppose I shall have to go to Leeds. My purchases cannot be
either expensive or extensive. You must just resolve in your head
the bonnets and dresses; something that can be turned to decent use
and worn after the wedding-day will be best, I think.

'I wrote immediately to Miss Wooler and received a truly kind letter
from her this morning. If you think she would like to come to the
marriage I will not fail to ask her.

'Papa's mind seems wholly changed about the matter, and he has said
both to me and when I was not there, how much happier he feels since
he allowed all to be settled. It is a wonderful relief for me to
hear him treat the thing rationally, to talk over with him themes on
which once I dared not touch. He is rather anxious things should get
forward now, and takes quite an interest in the arrangement of
preliminaries. His health improves daily, though this east wind
still keeps up a slight irritation in the throat and chest.

'The feeling which had been disappointed in papa was ambition,
paternal pride--ever a restless feeling, as we all know. Now that
this unquiet spirit is exorcised, justice, which was once quite
forgotten, is once more listened to, and affection, I hope, resumes
some power.

'My hope is that in the end this arrangement will turn out more truly
to papa's advantage than any other it was in my power to achieve.
Mr. Nicholls in his last letter refers touchingly to his earnest
desire to prove his gratitude to papa, by offering support and
consolation to his declining age. This will not be mere talk with
him--he is no talker, no dealer in professions.--Yours
affectionately,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_April_ 28_th_, 1854.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--I have delayed writing till I could give you some
clear notion of my movements. If all be well, I go to Manchester on
the 1st of May. Thence, on Thursday, to Hunsworth till Monday, when
(D.V.) I come to Brookroyd. I must be at home by the close of the
week. Papa, thank God! continues to improve much. He preached twice
on Sunday and again on Wednesday, and was not tired; his mind and
mood are different to what they were, so much more cheerful and
quiet. I trust the illusions of ambition are quite dissipated, and
that he really sees it is better to relieve a suffering and faithful
heart, to secure its fidelity, a solid good, than unfeelingly to
abandon one who is truly attached to his interest as well as mine,
and pursue some vain empty shadow.

'I thank you, dear Ellen, for your kind invitation to Mr. Nicholls.
He was asked likewise to Manchester and Hunsworth. I would not have
opposed his coming had there been no real obstacle to the
arrangement--certain little awkwardnesses of feeling I would have
tried to get over for the sake of introducing him to old friends; but
it so happens that he cannot leave on account of his rector's
absence. Mr. C. will be in town with his family till June, and he
always stipulates that his curate shall remain at Kirk-Smeaton while
he is away.

'How did you get on at the Oratorio? And what did Miss Wooler say to
the proposal of being at the wedding? I have many points to discuss
when I see you. I hope your mother and all are well. With kind
remembrances to them, and true love to you,--I am, dear Nell,
faithfully yours,

'C. BRONTE.

'When you write, address me at Mrs. Gaskell's, Plymouth Grove,
Manchester.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_May_ 22_nd_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I wonder how you are, and whether that harassing cough
is better. Be scrupulously cautious about undue exposure. Just now,
dear Ellen, an hour's inadvertence might cause you to be really ill.
So once again, take care. Since I came home I have been very busy
stitching. The little new room is got into order, and the green and
white curtains are up; they exactly suit the papering, and look neat
and clean enough. I had a letter a day or two since announcing that
Mr. Nicholls comes to-morrow. I feel anxious about him, more anxious
on one point than I dare quite express to myself. It seems he has
again been suffering sharply from his rheumatic affection. I hear
this not from himself, but from another quarter. He was ill while I
was at Manchester and Brookroyd. He uttered no complaint to me,
dropped no hint on the subject. Alas! he was hoping he had got the
better of it, and I know how this contradiction of his hopes will
sadden him. For unselfish reasons he did so earnestly wish this
complaint might not become chronic. I fear, I fear. But, however, I
mean to stand by him now, whether in weal or woe. This liability to
rheumatic pain was one of the strong arguments used against the
marriage. It did not weigh somehow. If he is doomed to suffer, it
seems that so much the more will he need care and help. And yet the
ultimate possibilities of such a case are appalling. You remember
your aunt. Well, come what may, God help and strengthen both him and
me. I look forward to to-morrow with a mixture of impatience and
anxiety. Poor fellow! I want to see with my own eyes how he is.

'It is getting late and dark. Write soon, dear Ellen. Goodnight and
God bless you.--Yours affectionately,

'C. BRONTE.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _May_ 27_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Your letter was very welcome, and I am glad and
thankful to learn you are better. Still, beware of presuming on the
improvement--don't let it make you careless. Mr. Nicholls has just
left me. Your hopes were not ill-founded about his illness. At
first I was thoroughly frightened. However, inquiring gradually
relieved me. In short, I soon discovered that my business was,
instead of sympathy, to rate soundly. The patient had wholesome
treatment while he was at Haworth, and went away singularly better;
perfectly unreasonable, however, on some points, as his fallible sex
are not ashamed to be.

'Man is, indeed, an amazing piece of mechanism when you see, so to
speak, the full weakness of what he calls his strength. There is not
a female child above the age of eight but might rebuke him for spoilt
petulance of his wilful nonsense. I bought a border for the
table-cloth and have put it on.

'Good-bye, dear Ellen. Write again soon, and mind and give a
bulletin.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_June_ 12_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Papa preached twice to-day as well and as strongly as
ever. It is strange how he varies, how soon he is depressed and how
soon revived. It makes me feel so thankful when he is better. I am
thankful too that you are stronger, dear Nell. My worthy
acquaintance at Kirk-Smeaton refuses to acknowledge himself better
yet. I am uneasy about not writing to Miss Wooler. I fear she will
think me negligent, while I am only busy and bothered. I want to
clear up my needlework a little, and have been sewing against time
since I was at Brookroyd. Mr. Nicholls hindered me for a full week.

'I like the card very well, but not the envelope. I should like a
perfectly plain envelope with a silver initial.

'I got my dresses from Halifax a day or two since, but have not had
time to have them unpacked, so I don't know what they are like.

'Next time I write, I hope to be able to give you clear information,
and to beg you to come here without further delay. Good-bye, dear
Nell.--Yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.

'I had almost forgotten to mention about the envelopes. Mr. Nicholls
says I have ordered far too few; he thinks sixty will be wanted. Is
it too late to remedy this error? There is no end to his string of
parson friends. My own list I have not made out.'

Charlotte Bronte's list of friends, to whom wedding-cards were to be
sent, is in her own handwriting, and is not without interest:--

SEND CARDS TO

The Rev. W. Morgan, Rectory, Hulcott, Aylesbury, Bucks. Joseph
Branwell, Esq., Thamar Terrace, Launceston. Cornwall.

Dr. Wheelwright, 29 Phillimore Place, Kensington, London.

George Smith, Esq., 65 Cornhill, London.

Mrs. and Misses Smith, 65 Cornhill, London.

W. S. Williams, Esq., 65 Cornhill, London.

R. Monckton Milnes, Esq.

Mrs. Gaskell, Plymouth Grove, Manchester.

Francis Bennoch, Esq., Park, Blackheath, London.

George Taylor, Esq., Stanbury.

Mrs. and Miss Taylor.

H. Merrall, Esq., Lea Sykes, Haworth.

E. Merrall, Esq., Ebor House, Haworth.

R. Butterfield, Esq., Woodlands, Haworth.

R. Thomas, Esq., Haworth.

J. Pickles, Esq., Brow Top, Haworth.

Wooler Family.

Brookroyd. {491}

The following was written on her wedding day, June 29th, 1854.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_Thursday Evening_.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I scribble one hasty line just to say that after a
pleasant enough journey we have got safely to Conway; the evening is
wet and wild, though the day was fair chiefly, with some gleams of
sunshine. However, we are sheltered in a comfortable inn. My cold
is not worse. If you get this scrawl to-morrow and write by return,
direct to me at the post-office, Bangor, and I may get it on Monday.
Say how you and Miss Wooler got home. Give my kindest and most
grateful love to Miss Wooler whenever you write. On Monday, I think,
we cross the Channel. No more at present.--Yours faithfully and
lovingly,

'C. B. N.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _August_ 9_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I earnestly hope you are by yourself now, and relieved
from the fag of entertaining guests. You do not complain, but I am
afraid you have had too much of it.

'Since I came home I have not had an unemployed moment. My life is
changed indeed: to be wanted continually, to be constantly called for
and occupied seems so strange; yet it is a marvellously good thing.
As yet I don't quite understand how some wives grow so selfish. As
far as my experience of matrimony goes, I think it tends to draw you
out of, and away from yourself.

'We have had sundry callers this week. Yesterday Mr. Sowden and
another gentleman dined here, and Mr. and Mrs. Grant joined them at
tea.

'I do not think we shall go to Brookroyd soon, on papa's account. I
do not wish again to leave home for a time, but I trust you will ere
long come here.

'I really like Mr. Sowden very well. He asked after you. Mr.
Nicholls told him we expected you would be coming to stay with us in
the course of three or four weeks, and that he should then invite him
over again as he wished us to take sundry rather long walks, and as
he should have his wife to look after, and she was trouble enough, it
would be quite necessary to have a guardian for the other lady. Mr.
Sowden seemed perfectly acquiescent.

'Dear Nell, during the last six weeks, the colour of my thoughts is a
good deal changed: I know more of the realities of life than I once
did. I think many false ideas are propagated, perhaps
unintentionally. I think those married women who indiscriminately
urge their acquaintance to marry, much to blame. For my part, I can
only say with deeper sincerity and fuller significance what I always
said in theory, "Wait God's will." Indeed, indeed, Nell, it is a
solemn and strange and perilous thing for a woman to become a wife.
Man's lot is far, far different. Tell me when you think you can
come. Papa is better, but not well. How is your mother? give my
love to her.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.

'Have I told you how much better Mr. Nicholls is? He looks quite
strong and hale; he gained 12 lbs. during the four weeks we were in
Ireland. To see this improvement in him has been a main source of
happiness to me, and to speak truth, a subject of wonder too.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _August_ 29_th_.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Can you come here on Wednesday week (Sept. 6th)? Try
to arrange matters to do so if possible, for it will be better than
to delay your visit till the days grow cold and short. I want to see
you again, dear Nell, and my husband too will receive you with
pleasure; and he is not diffuse of his courtesies or partialities, I
can assure you. One friendly word from him means as much as twenty
from most people.

'We have been busy lately giving a supper and tea-drinking to the
singers, ringers, Sunday-school teachers, and all the scholars of the
Sunday and National Schools, amounting in all to some 500 souls. It
gave satisfaction and went off well.

'Papa, I am thankful to say, is much better; he preached last Sunday.
How does your mother bear this hot weather? Write soon, dear Nell,
and say you will come.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B. N.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _September_ 7_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I send a French paper to-day. You would almost think I
had given them up, it is so long since one was despatched. The fact
is, they had accumulated to quite a pile during my absence. I wished
to look them over before sending them off, and as yet I have scarcely
found time. That same Time is an article of which I once had a large
stock always on hand; where it is all gone now it would be difficult
to say, but my moments are very fully occupied. Take warning, Ellen,
the married woman can call but a very small portion of each day her
own. Not that I complain of this sort of monopoly as yet, and I hope
I never shall incline to regard it as a misfortune, but it certainly
exists. We were both disappointed that you could not come on the day
I mentioned. I have grudged this splendid weather very much. The
moors are in glory, I never saw them fuller of purple bloom. I
wanted you to see them at their best; they are just turning now, and
in another week, I fear, will be faded and sere. As soon as ever you
can leave home, be sure to write and let me know.

'Papa continues greatly better. My husband flourishes; he begins
indeed to express some slight alarm at the growing improvement in his
condition. I think I am decent, better certainly than I was two
months ago, but people don't compliment me as they do Arthur--excuse
the name, it has grown natural to use it now. I trust, dear Nell,
that you are all well at Brookroyd, and that your visiting stirs are
pretty nearly over. I compassionate you from my heart for all the
trouble to which you must be put, and I am rather ashamed of people
coming sponging in that fashion one after another; get away from them
and come here.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _November_ 7_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Arthur wishes you would burn my letters. He was out
when I commenced this letter, but he has just come in. It is not
"old friends" he mistrusts, he says, but the chances of war--the
accidental passing of letters into hands and under eyes for which
they were never written.

'All this seems mighty amusing to me; it is a man's mode of viewing
correspondence. Men's letters are proverbially uninteresting and
uncommunicative. I never quite knew before why they made them so.
They may be right in a sense: strange chances do fall out certainly.
As to my own notes, I never thought of attaching importance to them
or considering their fate, till Arthur seemed to reflect on both so
seriously.

'I will write again next week if all be well to name a day for coming
to see you. I am sure you want, or at least ought to have, a little
rest before you are bothered with more company; but whenever I come,
I suppose, dear Nell, under present circumstances, it will be a quiet
visit, and that I shall not need to bring more than a plain dress or
two. Tell me this when you write.--Believe me faithfully yours,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _November_ 14_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I am only just at liberty to write to you; guests have
kept me very busy during the last two or three days. Sir J.
Kay-Shuttleworth and a friend of his came here on Saturday afternoon
and stayed till after dinner on Monday.

'When I go to Brookroyd, Arthur will take me there and stay one
night, but I cannot yet fix the time of my visit. Good-bye for the
present, dear Nell.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _November_ 21_st_, 1854,

'DEAR ELLEN,--You ask about Mr. Sowden's matter. He walked over here
on a wild rainy day. We talked it over. He is quite disposed to
entertain the proposal, but of course there must be close inquiry and
ripe consideration before either he or the patron decide. Meantime
Mr. Sowden {495} is most anxious that the affairs be kept absolutely
quiet; in the event of disappointment it would be both painful and
injurious to him if it should be rumoured at Hebden Bridge that he
has had thoughts of leaving. Arthur says if a whisper gets out these
things fly from parson to parson like wildfire. I cannot help
somehow wishing that the matter should be arranged, if all on
examination is found tolerably satisfactory.

'Papa continues pretty well, I am thankful to say; his deafness is
wonderfully relieved. Winter seems to suit him better than summer;
besides, he is settled and content, as I perceive with gratitude to
God.

'Dear Ellen, I wish you well through every trouble. Arthur is not in
just now or he would send a kind message.--Believe me, yours
faithfully,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _November_ 29_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Arthur somewhat demurs about my going to Brookroyd as
yet; fever, you know, is a formidable word. I cannot say I entertain
any apprehensions myself further than this, that I should be terribly
bothered at the idea of being taken ill from home and causing
trouble; and strangers are sometimes more liable to infection than
persons living in the house.

'Mr. Sowden has seen Sir J. K. Shuttleworth, but I fancy the matter
is very uncertain as yet. It seems the Bishop of Manchester
stipulates that the clergyman chosen should, if possible, be from his
own diocese, and this, Arthur says, is quite right and just. An
exception would have been made in Arthur's favour, but the case is
not so clear with Mr. Sowden. However, no harm will have been done
if the matter does not take wind, as I trust it will not. Write very
soon, dear Nell, and,--Believe me, yours faithfully,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _December_ 7_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I shall not get leave to go to Brookroyd before
Christmas now, so do not expect me. For my own part I really should
have no fear, and if it just depended on me I should come. But these
matters are not quite in my power now: another must be consulted; and
where his wish and judgment have a decided bias to a particular
course, I make no stir, but just adopt it. Arthur is sorry to
disappoint both you and me, but it is his fixed wish that a few weeks
should be allowed yet to elapse before we meet. Probably he is
confirmed in this desire by my having a cold at present. I did not
achieve the walk to the waterfall with impunity. Though I changed my
wet things immediately on returning home, yet I felt a chill
afterwards, and the same night had sore throat and cold; however, I
am better now, but not quite well.

'Did I tell you that our poor little Flossy is dead? He drooped for
a single day, and died quietly in the night without pain. The loss
even of a dog was very saddening, yet perhaps no dog ever had a
happier life or an easier death.

'Papa continues pretty well, I am happy to say, and my dear boy
flourishes. I do not mean that he continues to grow stouter, which
one would not desire, but he keeps in excellent condition.

'You would wonder, I dare say, at the long disappearance of the
French paper. I had got such an accumulation of them unread that I
thought I would not wait to send the old ones; now you will receive
them regularly. I am writing in haste. It is almost inexplicable to
me that I seem so often hurried now; but the fact is, whenever Arthur
is in I must have occupations in which he can share, or which will
not at least divert my attention from him--thus a multitude of little
matters get put off till he goes out, and then I am quite busy.
Goodbye, dear Ellen, I hope we shall meet soon.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _December_ 26_th_, 1854.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I return the letter. It is, as you say, very genuine,
truthful, affectionate, maternal--without a taint of sham or
exaggeration. Mary will love her child without spoiling it, I think.
She does not make an uproar about her happiness either. The longer I
live the more I suspect exaggerations. I fancy it is sometimes a
sort of fashion for each to vie with the other in protestations about
their wonderful felicity, and sometimes they--FIB. I am truly glad
to hear you are all better at Brookroyd. In the course of three or
four weeks more I expect to get leave to come to you. I certainly
long to see you again. One circumstance reconciles me to this
delay--the weather. I do not know whether it has been as bad with
you as with us, but here for three weeks we have had little else than
a succession of hurricanes.

'In your last you asked about Mr. Sowden and Sir James. I fear Mr.
Sowden has little chance of the living; he had heard nothing more of
it the last time he wrote to Arthur, and in a note he had from Sir
James yesterday the subject is not mentioned.

'You inquire too after Mrs. Gaskell. She has not been here, and I
think I should not like her to come now till summer. She is very
busy with her story of _North and South_.

'I must make this note short that it may not be overweight. Arthur
joins me in sincere good wishes for a happy Christmas, and many of
them to you and yours. He is well, thank God, and so am I, and he is
"my dear boy," certainly dearer now than he was six months ago. In
three days we shall actually have been married that length of time!
Good-bye, dear Nell.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

At the beginning of 1855 Mr. and Mrs. Nicholls visited Sir James
Kay-Shuttleworth at Gawthorpe. I know of only four letters by her,
written in this year.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _January_ 19_th_, 1855.

'DEAR ELLEN,--Since our return from Gawthorpe we have had a Mr. Bell,
one of Arthur's cousins, staying with us. It was a great pleasure.
I wish you could have seen him and made his acquaintance; a true
gentleman by nature and cultivation is not after all an everyday
thing.

'As to the living of Habergham or Padiham, it appears the chance is
doubtful at present for anybody. The present incumbent wishes to
retract his resignation, and declares his intention of appointing a
curate for two years. I fear Mr. Sowden hardly produced a favourable
impression; a strong wish was expressed that Arthur could come, but
that is out of the question.

'I very much wish to come to Brookroyd, and I hope to be able to
write with certainty and fix Wednesday, the 31st January, as the day;
but the fact is I am not sure whether I shall be well enough to leave
home. At present I should be a most tedious visitor. My health has
been really very good since my return from Ireland till about ten
days ago, when the stomach seemed quite suddenly to lose its tone;
indigestion and continual faint sickness have been my portion ever
since. Don't conjecture, dear Nell, for it is too soon yet, though I
certainly never before felt as I have done lately. But keep the
matter wholly to yourself, for I can come to no decided opinion at
present. I am rather mortified to lose my good looks and grow thin
as I am doing just when I thought of going to Brookroyd. Dear Ellen,
I want to see you, and I hope I shall see you well. My love to
all.--Yours faithfully,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

There were three more letters, but they were written in pencil from her
deathbed. Two of them are printed by Mrs. Gaskell--one to Miss Nussey,
the other to Miss Wheelwright. Here is the third and last of all.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--Thank you very much for Mrs. Hewitt's sensible clear
letter. Thank her too. In much her case was wonderfully like mine,
but I am reduced to greater weakness; the skeleton emaciation is the
same. I cannot talk. Even to my dear, patient, constant Arthur I
can say but few words at once.

'These last two days I have been somewhat better, and have taken some
beef-tea, a spoonful of wine and water, a mouthful of light pudding
at different times.

'Dear Ellen, I realise full well what you have gone through and will
have to go through with poor Mercy. Oh, may you continue to be
supported and not sink. Sickness here has been terribly rife.
Kindest regards to Mr. and Mrs. Clapham, your mother, Mercy. Write
when you can.--Yours,

'C. B. NICHOLLS.'

Little remains to be said. This is not a biography but a bundle of
correspondence, and I have only to state that Mrs. Nicholls died of an
illness incidental to childbirth on March 31st 1855, and was buried in
the Bronte tomb in Haworth church. Her will runs as follows:--

Extracted from the District Probate Registry at York attached to Her
Majesty's High Court of Justice.

_In the name of God_. _Amen_. _I_, CHARLOTTE NICHOLLS, _of Haworth
in the parish of Bradford and county of York_, _being of sound and
disposing mind_, _memory_, _and understanding_, _but mindful of my
own mortality_, _do this seventeenth day of February_, _in the year
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-five_, _make this my
last Will and Testament in manner and form following_, _that is to
say_: _In case I die without issue I give and bequeath to my husband
all my property to be his absolutely and entirely_, _but_, _In case I
leave issue I bequeath to my husband the interest of my property
during his lifetime_, _and at his death I desire that the principal
should go to my surviving child or children_; _should there be more
than one child_, _share and share alike_. _And I do hereby make and
appoint my said husband_, _Arthur Bell Nicholls_, _clerk_, _sole
executor of this my last Will and Testament_; _In witness whereof I
have to this my last Will and Testament subscribed my hand_, _the day
and year first above written_--CHARLOTTE NICHOLLS. _Signed and
acknowledged by the said testatrix_ CHARLOTTE NICHOLLS, _as and for
her last Will and Testament in the presence of us_, _who_, _at her
request_, _in her presence and in presence of each other_, _have at
the same time hereunto_ _subscribed our names as witnesses thereto_:
_Patrick Bronte_, B.A. _Incumbent of Haworth_, _Yorkshire_; _Martha
Brown_.

_The eighteenth day of April_ 1855, _the Will of_ CHARLOTTE NICHOLLS,
_late of Haworth in the parish of Bradford in the county of York_
(_wife of the Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls_, _Clerk in Holy Orders_)
(_having bona notabilia within the province of York_). _Deceased was
proved in the prerogative court of York by the oath of the said
Arthur Bell Nicholls_ (_the husband_), _the sole executor to whom
administration was granted_, _he having been first sworn duly to
administer_.

Testatrix died 31st March 1855.

It is easy as fruitless to mourn over 'unfulfilled renown,' but it is not
easy to believe that the future had any great things in store. Miss
Bronte's four novels will remain for all time imperishable monuments of
her power. She had touched with effect in two of them all that she knew
of her home surroundings, and in two others all that was revealed to her
of a wider life. More she could not have done with equal effect had she
lived to be eighty. Hers was, it is true, a sad life, but such gifts as
these rarely bring happiness with them. It was surely something to have
tasted the sweets of fame, and a fame so indisputably lasting.

Mr. Nicholls stayed on at Haworth for the six years that followed his
wife's death. When Mr. Bronte died he returned to Ireland. Some years
later he married again--a cousin, Miss Bell by name. That second
marriage has been one of unmixed blessedness. I found him in a home of
supreme simplicity and charm, esteemed by all who knew him and idolised
in his own household. It was not difficult to understand that Charlotte
Bronte had loved him and had fought down parental opposition in his
behalf. The qualities of gentleness, sincerity, unaffected piety, and
delicacy of mind are his; and he is beautifully jealous, not only for the
fair fame of Currer Bell, but--what she would equally have loved--for her
father, who also has had much undue detraction in the years that are
past. That Mr. Nicholls may long continue to enjoy the kindly calm of
his Irish home will be the wish of all who have read of his own
continuous devotion to a wife who must ever rank among the greatest of
her sex.
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