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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter

{8} Although so stated by Professor A. W. Ward in the _Dictionary of National Biography_, vol. xxi. {14} 'Mama's last days,' it runs, 'had been full of loving thought and tender help for others. She was so sweet and dear and noble beyond words.' {17} 'Some of the West Ridingers are very angry, and declare they are half-a-century in civilisation before some of the Lancashire folk, and that this neighbourhood is a paradise compared with some districts not far from Manchester.'--Ellen Nussey to Mrs. Gaskell, April 16th, 1859. {19} 'To this bold statement (i.e. that love-letters were found in Branwell's pockets) Martha Brown gave to me a flat contradiction, declaring that she was employed in the sick room at the time, and had personal knowledge that not one letter, nor a vestige of one, from the lady in question, was so found.'--Leyland. _The Bronte Family_, vol. ii. p. 284. {22} Mrs. Gaskell had described Charlotte Bronte's features as 'plain, large, and ill-set,' and had written of her 'crooked mouth and large nose'--while acknowledging the beauty of hair and eyes. {25} Mrs. Lawry of Muswell Hill, to whose courtesy in placing these and other papers at my disposal I am greatly indebted. {28} 'Patrick Branty' is written in another handwriting in the list of admissions at St. John's College, Cambridge. Dr. J. A. Erskine Stuart, who has a valuable note on the subject in an article on 'The Bronte Nomenclature' (Bronte Society's Publications, Pt. III.), has found the name as Brunty, Bruntee, Bronty, and Branty--but never in Patrick Bronte's handwriting. There is, however, no signature of Mr. Bronte's extant prior to 1799. {29} 'I translated this' (_i.e._ an Irish romance) 'from a manuscript in my possession made by one Patrick O'Prunty, an ancestor probably of Charlotte Bronte, in 1763.' _The Story of Early Gaelic Literature_, p. 49. By Douglas Hyde, LL.D. T. Fisher Uwin, 1895. {33} Mrs. Gaskell says 'Dec. 29th'; but Miss Charlotte Branwell of Penzance writes to me as follows:--'My Aunt Maria Branwell, after the death of her parents, went to Yorkshire on a visit to her relatives, where she met the Rev. Patrick Bronte. They soon became engaged to be married. Jane Fennell was previously engaged to the Rev. William Morgan. And when the time arrived for their marriage, Mr. Fennell said he should have to give his daughter and niece away, and if so, he could not marry them; so it was arranged that Mr. Morgan should marry Mr. Bronte and Maria Branwell, and afterwards Mr. Bronte should perform the same kindly office towards Mr. Morgan and Jane Fennell. So the bridegrooms married each other and the brides acted as bridesmaids to each other. My father and mother, Joseph and Charlotte Branwell, were married at Madron, which was then the parish church of Penzance, on the same day and hour. Perhaps a similar case never happened before or since: two sisters and four first cousins being united in holy matrimony at one and the same time. And they were all happy marriages. Mr. Bronte was perhaps peculiar, but I have always heard my own dear mother say that he was devotedly fond of his wife, and she of him. These marriages were solemnised on the 18th of December 1812.' {39} The passage in brackets is quoted by Mrs. Gaskell. {49} The passage in brackets is quoted, not quite accurately, by Mrs. Gaskell. {53} The following letter indicates Mr. Bronte's independence of spirit. It was written after Charlotte's death: 'HAWORTH, NR. KEIGHLEY, _January_ 16_th_, 1858. 'SIR,--Your letter which I have received this morning gives both to Mr. Nicholls and me great uneasiness. It would seem that application has been made to the Duke of Devonshire for money to aid the subscription in reference to the expense of apparatus for heating our church and schools. This has been done without our knowledge, and most assuredly, had we known it, would have met with our strongest opposition. We have no claim on the Duke. His Grace honour'd us with a visit, in token of his respect for the memory of the dead, and his liberality and munificence are well and widely known; and the mercenary, taking an unfair advantage of these circumstances, have taken a step which both Mr. Nicholls and I utterly regret and condemn. In answer to your query, I may state that the whole expense for both the schools and church is about one hundred pounds; and that after what has been and may be subscribed, there may fifty pounds remain as a debt. But this may, and ought, to be raised by the inhabitants, in the next year after the depression of trade shall, it is hoped, have passed away. I have written to His Grace on the subject--I remain, sir, your obedient servant, 'P. BRONTE. 'SIR JOSEPH PAXTON, BART., 'Hardwick Hall, 'Chesterfield.' {56a} The vicar, the Rev. J. Jolly, assures me, as these pages are passing through the press, that he is now moving it into the new church. {56b} _Baptisms solomnised in the Parish of Bradford and Chapelry of Thornton in the County of York_. _When _Child's _Parent's _Parent's _Abode_. _Quality_, _By whom the Baptized_. Christian Name_ Name_ _Trade or Ceremony was Name_. (_Christian_). (_Surname_). Profession_. Performed_. 1816 _Charlotte _The Rev. _Bronte_ _Thornton_ _Minister of _Wm. Morgan 29_th_ _June_ daughter of_ Patrick and Thornton_ Minster of Christ Maria_. Church Bradford_. 1817 _Patrick _Patrick and _Bronte_ _Thornton_ _Minister_ _Jno. Fennell _July_ 23 Branwell son Maria_. officiating of_ Minister_. 1818 _Emily Jane _The Rev. _Bronte_ A.B. _Thornton _Minister of _Wm. Morgan 20_th_ daughter of_ Patrick and Parsonage_ Thornton_ Minster of Christ _August_ Maria_. Church Bradford_. 1820 _Anne daughter _The Rev. _Bronte_ _Minister of _Wm. Morgan _March_ 25_th_ of_ Patrick and Haworth_ Minster of Christ Maria_. Church Bradford_. {74} At the same time it is worth while quoting from a letter by 'A. H.' in August 1855. A. H. was a teacher who was at Cowan Bridge during the time of the residence of the little Brontes there. 'In July 1824 the Rev. Mr. Bronte arrived at Cowan Bridge with two of his daughters, Maria and Elizabeth, 12 and 10 years of age. The children were delicate; both had but recently recovered from the measles and whooping-cough--so recently, indeed, that doubts were entertained whether they could be admitted with safety to the other pupils. They were received, however, and went on so well that in September their father returned, bringing with him two more of his children--Charlotte, 9 [she was really but 8] and Emily, 6 years of age. During both these visits Mr. Bronte lodged at the school, sat at the same table with the children, saw the whole routine of the establishment, and, so far as I have ever known, was satisfied with everything that came under his observation. '"The two younger children enjoyed uniformly good health." Charlotte was a general favourite. To the best of my recollection she was never under disgrace, however slight; punishment she certainly did _not _experience while she was at Cowan Bridge. 'In size, Charlotte was remarkably diminutive; and if, as has been recently asserted, she never grew an inch after leaving the Clergy Daughters' School, she must have been a _literal dwarf_, and could not have obtained a situation as teacher in a school at Brussels, or anywhere else; the idea is absurd. In respect of the treatment of the pupils at Cowan Bridge, I will say that neither Mr. Bronte's daughters nor any other of the children were denied a sufficient quantity of food. Any statement to the contrary is entirely false. The daily dinner consisted of meat, vegetables, and pudding, in abundance; the children were permitted, and expected, to ask for whatever they desired, and were never limited. 'It has been remarked that the food of the school was such that none but starving children could eat it; and in support of this statement reference is made to a certain occasion when the medical attendant was consulted about it. In reply to this, let me say that during the spring of 1825 a low fever, although not an alarming one, prevailed in the school, and the managers, naturally anxious to ascertain whether any local cause occasioned the epidemic, took an opportunity to ask the physician's opinion of the food that happened to be then on the table. I recollect that he spoke rather scornfully of a baked rice pudding; but as the ingredients of this dish were chiefly, rice, sugar, and milk, its effects could hardly have been so serious as have been affirmed. I thus furnish you with the simple fact from which those statements have been manufactured. 'I have not the least hesitation in saying that, upon the whole, the comforts were as many and the privations as few at Cowan Bridge as can well be found in so large an establishment. How far young or delicate children are able to contend with the necessary evils of a public school is, in my opinion, a very grave question, and does not enter into the present discussion. 'The younger children in all larger institutions are liable to be oppressed; but the exposure to this evil at Cowan Bridge was not more than in other schools, but, as I believe, far less. Then, again, thoughtless servants will occasionally spoil food, even in private families; and in public schools they are likely to be still less particular, unless they are well looked after. 'But in this respect the institution in question compares very favourably with other and more expensive schools, as from personal experience I have reason to know.--A.H., August 1855.'--From _A Vindication of the Clergy Daughters' School and the Rev. W. Carus Wilson from the Remarks in_ '_The Life of Charlotte Bronte_,' _by the Rev. H. Shepheard_, _M.A. London_: _Seeley_, _Jackson_, _and Halliday_, 1857. {92} The Rev. William Weightman. {95} It is interesting to note that Charlotte sent one of her little pupils a gift-book during the holidays. The book is lost, but the fly-leaf of it, inscribed 'Sarah Louisa White, from her friend C. Bronte, July 20, 1841,' is in the possession of Mr. W. Lowe Fleeming, of Wolverhampton. {96} 'UPPERWOOD HOUSE, RAWDON, _September _29_th_, 1841. 'DEAR AUNT,--I have heard nothing of Miss Wooler yet since I wrote to her intimating that I would accept her offer. I cannot conjecture the reason of this long silence, unless some unforeseen impediment has occurred in concluding the bargain. Meantime, a plan has been suggested and approved by Mr. and Mrs. White, and others, which I wish now to impart to you. My friends recommend me, if I desire to secure permanent success, to delay commencing the school for six months longer, and by all means to contrive, by hook or by crook, to spend the intervening time in some school on the continent. They say schools in England are so numerous, competition so great, that without some such step towards attaining superiority we shall probably have a very hard struggle, and may fail in the end. They say, moreover, that the loan of 100 pounds, which you have been so kind as to offer us, will, perhaps, not be all required now, as Miss Wooler will lend us the furniture; and that, if the speculation is intended to be a good and successful one, half the sum, at least, ought to be laid out in the manner I have mentioned, thereby insuring a more speedy repayment both of interest and principal. 'I would not go to France or to Paris. I would go to Brussels, in Belgium. The cost of the journey there, at the dearest rate of travelling, would be 5 pounds; living is there little more than half as dear as it is in England, and the facilities for education are equal or superior to any other place in Europe. In half a year, I could acquire a thorough familiarity with French. I could improve greatly in Italian, and even get a dash of German, _i.e._, providing my health continued as good as it is now. Martha Taylor is now staying in Brussels, at a first-rate establishment there. I should not think of going to the Chateau de Kockleberg, where she is resident, as the terms are much too high; but if I wrote to her, she, with the assistance of Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the British Consul, would be able to secure me a cheap and decent residence and respectable protection. I should have the opportunity of seeing her frequently, she would make me acquainted with the city; and, with the assistance of her cousins, I should probably in time be introduced to connections far more improving, polished, and cultivated, than any I have yet known. 'These are advantages which would turn to vast account, when we actually commenced a school--and, if Emily could share them with me, only for a single half-year, we could take a footing in the world afterwards which we can never do now. I say Emily instead of Anne; for Anne might take her turn at some future period, if our school answered. I feel certain, while I am writing, that you will see the propriety of what I say; you always like to use your money to the best advantage; you are not fond of making shabby purchases; when you do confer a favour, it is often done in style; and depend upon it 50, or 100 pounds, thus laid out, would be well employed. Of course, I know no other friend in the world to whom I could apply on this subject except yourself. I feel an absolute conviction that, if this advantage were allowed us, it would be the making of us for life. Papa will perhaps think it a wild and ambitious scheme; but who ever rose in the world without ambition? When he left Ireland to go to Cambridge University, he was as ambitious as I am now. I want us all to go on. I know we have talents, and I want them to be turned to account. I look to you, aunt, to help us. I think you will not refuse. I know, if you consent, it shall not be my fault if you ever repent your kindness. With love to all, and the hope that you are all well,--Believe me, dear aunt, your affectionate niece, 'MISS BRANWELL. C. BRONTE.' _Mrs. Gaskell's_ '_Life_.' _Corrected and completed from original letter in the possession of Mr. A. B. Nicholls_. {107} Miss Mary Dixon, the sister of Mr. George Dixon, M.P., is still alive, but she has unfortunately not preserved her letters from Charlotte Bronte. {109a} 'The Brontes at Brussels,' by Frederika Macdonald.--_The Woman at Home_, July 1894. {109b} This statement has received the separate endorsement of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls and of Miss Ellen Nussey. {110} M. and Mme. Heger celebrated their golden wedding in 1888, but Mme. Heger died the next year. M. Constantin Heger lived to be eighty-seven years of age, dying at 72 Rue Nettoyer, Brussels, on the 6th of May 1896. He was born in Brussels in 1809, took part in the Belgian revolution of 1830, and fought in the war of independence against the Dutch. He was twice married, and it was his second wife who was associated with Charlotte Bronte. She started the school in the Rue d'Isabelle, and M. Heger took charge of the upper French classes. In an obituary article written by M. Colin of _L'Etoile Belge_ in _The Sketch_ (June 5, 1896), which was revised by Dr. Heger, the only son of M. Heger, it is stated that Charlotte Bronte was piqued at being refused permission to return to the Pensionnat a third time, and that _Villette_ was her revenge. We know that this was not the case. The Pensionnat Heger was removed in 1894 to the Avenue Louise. The building in the Rue d'Isabelle will shortly be pulled down. {121} _Pictures of the Past_, by Francis H. Grundy, C.E: Griffith & Farran, 1879; _Emily Bronte_, by A. Mary F. Robinson: W. H. Allen, 1883; _The Bronte Family_, _with Special Reference to Patrick Branwell Bronte_, by Francis A. Leyland: Hurst & Blackett, 2 vols. 1886. {123} After Mr. Bronte's death Mr. Nicholls removed it to Ireland. Being of opinion that the only accurate portrait was that of Emily, he cut this out and destroyed the remainder. The portrait of Emily was given to Martha Brown, the servant, on one of her visits to Mr. Nicholls, and I have not been able to trace it. There are three or four so-called portraits of Emily in existence, but they are all repudiated by Mr. Nicholls as absolutely unlike her. The supposed portrait which appeared in _The Woman at Home_ for July 1894 is now known to have been merely an illustration from a 'Book of Beauty,' and entirely spurious. {138} There are two portraits of Branwell in existence, both of them in the possession of Mr. Nicholls. One of them is a medallion by his friend Leyland, the other the silhouette which accompanies this chapter. They both suggest, mainly on account of the clothing, a man of more mature years than Branwell actually attained to. {142} In the _Mirror_, 1872, Mr. Phillips, under the pseudonym of 'January Searle,' wrote a readable biography of Wordsworth. {145a} Charlotte writes from Dewsbury Moor (October 2, 1836):--'My sister Emily is gone into a situation as teacher in a large school of near forty pupils, near Halifax. I have had one letter from her since her departure--it gives an appalling account of her duties. Hard labour from six in the morning until near eleven at night, with only one half-hour of exercise between. This is slavery. I fear she will never stand it.'--Mrs. Gaskell's _Life_. {145b} _Haworth Churchyard_, _April_ 1855, by Matthew Arnold. Macmillan & Co. {158} See chap. xiii., page 346. {159} A dog, referred to elsewhere as Flossie, junior. {161} It was sent to Mr. Williams on six half-sheets of note-paper and was preserved by him. {163} Although _Jane Eyre_ has been dramatised by several hands, the play has never been as popular as one might suppose from a story of such thrilling incident. I can find no trace of the particular version which is referred to in this letter, but in the next year the novel was dramatised by John Brougham, the actor and dramatist, and produced in New York on March 26, 1849. Brougham is rather an interesting figure. An Irishman by birth, he had a chequered experience of every phase of theatrical life both in London and New York. It was he who adapted 'The Queen's Motto' and 'Lady Audley's Secret,' and he collaborated with Dion Boucicault in 'London Assurance.' In 1849 he seems to have been managing Niblo's Garden in New York, and in the following year the Lyceum Theatre in Broadway. Miss Wemyss took the title role in _Jane Eyre_, J. Gilbert was Rochester, and Mrs. J. Gilbert was Lady Ingram; and though the play proved only moderately successful, it was revived in 1856 at Laura Keene's Varieties at New York, with Laura Keene as Jane Eyre. This version has been published by Samuel French, and is also in Dick's _Penny Plays_. Divided into five Acts and twelve scenes, Brougham starts the story at Lowood Academy. The second Act introduces us to Rochester's house, and the curtain descends in the fourth as Jane announces that the house is in flames. At the end of the fifth, Brougham reproduced _verbatim_ much of the conversation of the dialogue between Rochester and Jane. Perhaps the best-known dramatisation of the novel was that by the late W. G. Wills, who divided the story into four Acts. His play was produced on Saturday, December 23, 1882, at the Globe Theatre, by Mrs. Bernard-Beere, with the following cast:-- _Jane Eyre_ Mrs. Bernard-Beere _Lady Ingram_ Miss Carlotta Leclercq _Blanche Ingram_ Miss Kate Bishop _Mary Ingram_ Miss Maggie Hunt _Miss Beechey_ Miss Nellie Jordan _Mrs. Fairfax_ Miss Alexes Leighton _Grace Poole_ Miss Masson _Bertha_ Miss D'Almaine _Adele_ Mdlle. Clemente Colle _Mr. Rochester_ Mr. Charles Kelly _Lord Desmond_ Mr. A. M. Denison _Rev. Mr. Price_ Mr. H. E. Russel _Nat Lee_ Mr. H. H. Cameron _James_ Mr. C. Stevens Mr. Wills confined the story to Thornfield Hall. One critic described the drama at the time as 'not so much a play as a long conversation.' A few years ago James Willing made a melodrama of _Jane Eyre_ under the title of _Poor Relations_. This piece was performed at the Standard, Surrey, and Park Theatres. A version of the story, dramatised by Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer, called _Die Waise von Lowood_, has been rather popular in Germany. {168a} Alexander Harris wrote _A Converted Atheist's Testimony to the Truth of Christianity_, and other now forgotten works. {168b} Julia Kavanagh (1824-1877). Her father, M. P. Kavanagh, wrote _The Wanderings of Lucan and Dinah_, a poetical romance, and other works. Miss Kavanagh was born at Thurles and died at Nice. Her first book, _The Three Paths_, a tale for children, was published in 1847. _Madeline_, a story founded on the life of a peasant girl of Auvergne, in 1848. _Women in France during the Eighteenth Century_ appeared in 1850, _Nathalie_ the same year. In the succeeding years she wrote innumerable stories and biographical sketches. {173} It runs thus:-- '_December_ 9_th_, 1848. 'The patient, respecting whose case Dr. Epps is consulted, and for whom his opinion and advice are requested, is a female in her 29th year. A peculiar reserve of character renders it difficult to draw from her all the symptoms of her malady, but as far as they can be ascertained they are as follows:-- Her appetite failed; she evinced a continual thirst, with a craving for acids, and required a constant change of beverage. In appearance she grew rapidly emaciated; her pulse--the only time she allowed it to be felt--was found to be 115 per minute. The patient usually appeared worse in the forenoon, she was then frequently exhausted and drowsy; toward evening she often seemed better. 'Expectoration accompanies the cough. The shortness of breath is aggravated by the slightest exertion. The patient's sleep is supposed to be tolerably good at intervals, but disturbed by paroxysms of coughing. Her resolution to contend against illness being very fixed, she has never consented to lie in bed for a single day--she sits up from 7 in the morning till 10 at night. All medical aid she has rejected, insisting that Nature should be left to take her own course. She has taken no medicine, but occasionally, a mild aperient and Locock's cough wafers, of which she has used about 3 per diem, and considers their effect rather beneficial. Her diet, which she regulates herself, is very simple and light. 'The patient has hitherto enjoyed pretty good health, though she has never looked strong, and the family constitution is not supposed to be robust. Her temperament is highly nervous. She has been accustomed to a sedentary and studious life. 'If Dr. Epps can, from what has here been stated, give an opinion on the case and prescribe a course of treatment, he will greatly oblige the patient's friends. 'Address--Miss Bronte, Parsonage, Haworth, Bradford, Yorks.' {183a} The original of this letter is lost, so that it is not possible to fill in the hiatus. {183b} Emily--who was called the Major, because on one occasion she guarded Miss Nussey from the attentions of Mr. Weightman during an evening walk. {190} In his next letter Mr. Williams informed her that Miss Rigby was the writer of the _Quarterly_ article. {221} In Hathersage Church is the altar tomb of Robert Eyre who fought at Agincourt and died on the 21st of May 1459, also of his wife Joan Eyre who died on the 9th of May 1464. This Joan Eyre was heiress of the house of Padley, and brought the Padley estates into the Eyre family. There is a Sanctus bell of the fifteenth century with a Latin inscription, 'Pray for the souls of Robert Eyre and Joan his wife.'--Rev. Thomas Keyworth on 'Morton Village and _Jane Eyre_'--a paper read before the Bronte Society at Keighley, 1895. {259a} _Miss Miles_, _or A Tale of Yorkshire Life Sixty Years Ago_, by Mary Taylor. Rivingtons, 1890. {259b} _The First Duty of Women_. A Series of Articles reprinted from the _Victorian Magazine_, 1865 to 1870, by Mary Taylor. 1870. {262} See letter to Ellen Nussey, page 78. {275} Miss Bronte was paid 1500 pounds in all for her three novels, and Mr. Nicholls received an additional 250 pounds for the copyright of _The Professor_. {280} A Mr. Hodgson is spoken of earlier, but he would seem to have been only a temporary help. {282} Referring to a present of birds which the curate had sent to Miss Nussey. {287} A Funeral Sermon for the late Rev. William Weightman, M.A., preached in the Church at Haworth on Sunday the 2nd of October 1842 by the Rev. Patrick Bronte, A.B., Incumbent. The profits, if any, to go in aid of the Sunday School. Halifax--Printed by J. U. Walker, George Street, 1842. Price sixpence. {288} A little dog, called in the next letter 'Flossie, junr.,' which indicates its parentage. Flossy was the little dog given by the Robinsons to Anne. {325} The originals are in the possession of Mr. Alfred Morrison of Carlton House Terrace, London.
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