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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter

It would seem quite clear to any careful investigator that the Reverend
Patrick Bronte, Incumbent of Haworth, and the father of three famous
daughters, was a much maligned man. We talk of the fierce light which
beats upon a throne, but what is that compared to the fierce light which
beats upon any man of some measure of individuality who is destined to
live out his life in the quiet of a country village--in the very centre,
as it were, of 'personal talk' and gossip not always kindly to the
stranger within the gate? The view of Mr. Bronte, presented by Mrs.
Gaskell in the early editions of her biography of Charlotte Bronte, is
that of a severe, ill-tempered, and distinctly disagreeable character.
It is the picture of a man who disliked the vanities of life so
intensely, that the new shoes of his children and the silk dress of his
wife were not spared by him in sudden gusts of passion. A stern old
ruffian, one is inclined to consider him. His pistol-shooting rings
picturesquely, but not agreeably, through Mrs. Gaskell's memoirs. It has
been already explained in more than one quarter that this was not the
real Patrick Bronte, and that much of the unfavourable gossip was due to
the chatter of a dismissed servant, retailed to Mrs. Gaskell on one of
her missions of inquiry in the neighbourhood. The stories of the burnt
shoes and the mutilated dress have been relegated to the realm of myth,
and the pistol-shooting may now be acknowledged as a harmless pastime not
more iniquitous than the golfing or angling of a latter-day clergyman.
It is certain, were the matter of much interest to-day, that Mr. Bronte
was fond of the use of firearms. The present Incumbent of Haworth will
point out to you, on the old tower of Haworth Church, the marks of pistol
bullets, which he is assured were made by Mr. Bronte. I have myself
handled both the gun and the pistol--this latter a very ornamental
weapon, by the way, manufactured at Bradford--which Mr. Bronte possessed
during the later years of his life. From both he had obtained much
innocent amusement; but his son-in-law, Mr. Nicholls, who, at the
distance of forty years still cherishes a reverent and enthusiastic
affection for old Mr. Bronte, informs me that the bullet marks upon
Haworth Church were the irresponsible frolic of a rather juvenile
curate--Mr. Smith. All this is trivial enough in any case, and one turns
very readily to more important factors in the life of the father of the
Brontes. Patrick Bronte was born at Ahaderg, County Down, in Ireland, on
St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1777. He was one of the ten children of
Hugh Brunty, farmer, and his nine brothers and sisters seem all of them
to have spent their lives in their Irish home, to have married and been
given in marriage, and to have gone to their graves in peace. Patrick
alone had ambition, and, one must add, the opportune friend, without whom
ambition counts for little in the great struggle of life. At sixteen he
was a kind of village schoolmaster, or assistant schoolmaster, and at
twenty-five, stirred thereto by the vicar of his parish, Mr. Tighe, he
was on his way from Ireland to St. John's College, Cambridge. It was in
1802 that Patrick Bronte went to Cambridge, and entered his name in the
college books. There, indeed, we find the name, not of Patrick Bronte,
but of Patrick Branty, {28} and this brings us to an interesting point as
to the origin of the name. In the register of his birth his name is
entered, as are the births of his brothers and sisters, as 'Brunty' and
'Bruntee'; and it can scarcely be doubted that, as Dr. Douglas Hyde has
pointed out, the original name was O'Prunty. {29} The Irish, at the
beginning of the century, were well-nigh as primitive in some matters as
were the English of a century earlier; and one is not surprised to see
variations in the spelling of the Bronte name--it being in the case of
his brothers and sisters occasionally spelt 'Brontee.' To me it is
perfectly clear that for the change of name Lord Nelson was responsible,
and that the dukedom of Bronte, which was conferred upon the great sailor
in 1799, suggested the more ornamental surname. There were no Irish
Brontes in existence before Nelson became Duke of Bronte; but all
Patrick's brothers and sisters, with whom, it must be remembered, he was
on terms of correspondence his whole life long, gradually, with a true
Celtic sense of the picturesqueness of the thing, seized upon the more
attractive surname. For this theory there is, of course, not one scrap
of evidence; we only know that the register of Patrick's native parish
gives us Brunty, and that his signature through his successive curacies
is Bronte.
From Cambridge, after taking orders in 1806, Mr. Bronte moved to a curacy
at Weatherfield in Essex; and Mr. Augustine Birrell has told us, with
that singular literary charm of his, how the good-looking Irish curate
made successful love to a young parishioner--Miss Mary Burder. Mary
Burder would have married him, it seems, but for an obdurate uncle and
guardian. She was spirited away from the neighbourhood, and the lovers
never met again. There are doubtful points in Mr. Birrell's story. Mary
Burder, as the wife of a Nonconformist minister, died in 1866, in her
seventy-seventh year. This lady, from whom doubtless either directly or
indirectly the tradition was obtained, may have amplified and exaggerated
a very innocent flirtation. One would like further evidence for the
statement that when Mr. Bronte lost his wife in 1821 he asked his old
sweetheart, Mary Burder, to become the mother of his six children, and
that she answered 'no'. In any case, Mr. Bronte left Weatherfield in
1809 for a curacy at Dewsbury, and Dewsbury gossip also had much to say
concerning the flirtations of its Irish curate. His next curacy,
however, which was obtained in 1811, by a removal to Hartshead, near
Huddersfield, brought flirtation for Mr. Bronte to a speedy end. In
1812, when thirty-three years of age, he married Miss Maria Branwell, of
Penzance. Miss Branwell had only a few months before left her Cornish
home for a visit to an uncle in Yorkshire. This uncle was a Mr. John
Fennell, a clergyman of the Church of England, who had been a Methodist
minister. To Methodism, indeed, the Cornish Branwells would seem to have
been devoted at one time or another, for I have seen a copy of the
_Imitation_ inscribed 'M. Branwell, July 1807,' with the following


The book was evidently brought by Mrs. Bronte from Penzance, and given by
her to her husband or left among her effects. The poor little woman had
been in her grave for five or six years when it came into the hands of
one of her daughters, as we learn from Charlotte's hand-writing on the

'_C. Bronte's book_. _This book was given to me in July 1826_. _It
is not certainly known who is the author_, _but it is generally
supposed that Thomas a Kempis is_. _I saw a reward of_ 10,000 pounds
_offered in the Leeds Mercury to any one who could find out for a
certainty who is the author_.'

The conjunction of the names of John Wesley, Maria Branwell, and
Charlotte Bronte surely gives this little volume, 'price bound 1s.,' a
singular interest!

But here I must refer to the letters which Maria Branwell wrote to her
lover during the brief courtship. Mrs. Gaskell, it will be remembered,
makes but one extract from this correspondence, which was handed to her
by Mr. Bronte as part of the material for her memoir. Long years before,
the little packet had been taken from Mr. Bronte's desk, for we find
Charlotte writing to a friend on February 16th, 1850:--

'A few days since, a little incident happened which curiously touched
me. Papa put into my hands a little packet of letters and papers,
telling me that they were mamma's, and that I might read them. I did
read them, in a frame of mind I cannot describe. The papers were
yellow with time, all having been written before I was born. It was
strange now to peruse, for the first time, the records of a mind
whence my own sprang; and most strange, and at once sad and sweet, to
find that mind of a truly fine, pure, and elevated order. They were
written to papa before they were married. There is a rectitude, a
refinement, a constancy, a modesty, a sense, a gentleness about them
indescribable. I wish she had lived, and that I had known her.'

Yet another forty years or so and the little packet is in my possession.
Handling, with a full sense of their sacredness, these letters, written
more than eighty years ago by a good woman to her lover, one is tempted
to hope that there is no breach of the privacy which should, even in our
day, guide certain sides of life, in publishing the correspondence in its
completeness. With the letters I find a little MS., which is also of
pathetic interest. It is entitled 'The Advantages of Poverty in
Religious Concerns,' and it is endorsed in the handwriting of Mr. Bronte,
written, doubtless, many years afterwards:--

'_The above was written by my dear wife_, _and is for insertion in
one of the periodical publications_. _Keep it as a memorial of

There is no reason to suppose that the MS. was ever published; there is
no reason why any editor should have wished to publish it. It abounds in
the obvious. At the same time, one notes that from both father and
mother alike Charlotte Bronte and her sisters inherited some measure of
the literary faculty. It is nothing to say that not one line of the
father's or mother's would have been preserved had it not been for their
gifted children. It is sufficient that the zest for writing was there,
and that the intense passion for handling a pen, which seems to have been
singularly strong in Charlotte Bronte, must have come to a great extent
from a similar passion alike in father and mother. Mr. Bronte, indeed,
may be counted a prolific author. He published, in all, four books,
three pamphlets, and two sermons. Of his books, two were in verse and
two in prose. _Cottage Poems_ was published in 1811; _The Rural
Minstrel_ in 1812, the year of his marriage; _The Cottage in the Wood_ in
1815; and _The Maid of Killarney_ in 1818. After his wife's death he
published no more books. Reading over these old-fashioned volumes now,
one admits that they possess but little distinction. It has been pointed
out, indeed, that one of the strongest lines in _Jane Eyre_--'To the
finest fibre of my nature, sir.'--is culled from Mr. Bronte's verse. It
is the one line of his that will live. Like his daughter Charlotte, Mr.
Bronte is more interesting in his prose than in his poetry. _The Cottage
in the Wood_; _or_, _the Art of Becoming Rich and Happy_, is a kind of
religious novel--a spiritual _Pamela_, in which the reprobate pursuer of
an innocent girl ultimately becomes converted and marries her. _The Maid
of Killarney_; _or_, _Albion and Flora_ is more interesting. Under the
guise of a story it has something to say on many questions of importance.
We know now why Charlotte never learnt to dance until she went to
Brussels, and why children's games were unknown to her, for here are many
mild diatribes against dancing and card-playing. The British
Constitution and the British and Foreign Bible Society receive a
considerable amount of criticism. But in spite of this didactic weakness
there are one or two pieces of really picturesque writing, notably a
description of an Irish wake, and a forcible account of the defence of a
house against some Whiteboys. It is true enough that the books are
merely of interest to collectors and that they live only by virtue of
Patrick Bronte's remarkable children. But many a prolific writer of the
day passes muster as a genius among his contemporaries upon as small a
talent; and Mr. Bronte does not seem to have given himself any airs as an
author. Thirty years were to elapse before there were to be any more
books from this family of writers; but _Jane Eyre_ owes something, we may
be sure, to _The Maid of Killarney_.

Mr. Bronte, as I have said, married Maria Branwell in 1812. She was in
her twenty-ninth year, and was one of five children--one son and four
daughters--the father of whom, Mr. Thomas Branwell, had died in 1809. By
a curious coincidence, another sister, Charlotte, was married in Penzance
on the same day--the 18th of December 1812. {33} Before me are a bundle
of samplers, worked by three of these Branwell sisters. Maria Branwell
'ended her sampler' April the 15th, 1791, and it is inscribed with the
text, _Flee from sin as from a serpent_, _for if thou comest too near to
it_, _it will bite thee_. _The teeth thereof are as the teeth of a lion
to slay the souls of men_. Another sampler is by Elizabeth Branwell;
another by Margaret, and another by Anne. These, some miniatures, and
the book and papers to which I have referred, are all that remain to us
as a memento of Mrs. Bronte, apart from the children that she bore to her
husband. The miniatures, which are in the possession of Miss Branwell,
of Penzance, are of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Branwell--Charlotte Bronte's
maternal grandfather and grandmother--and of Mrs. Bronte and her sister
Elizabeth Branwell as children.

To return, however, to our bundle of love-letters. Comment is needless,
if indeed comment or elucidation were possible at this distance of time.


'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _August_ 26_th_, 1812.

'MY DEAR FRIEND,--This address is sufficient to convince you that I
not only permit, but approve of yours to me--I do indeed consider you
as my _friend_; yet, when I consider how short a time I have had the
pleasure of knowing you, I start at my own rashness, my heart fails,
and did I not think that you would be disappointed and grieved at it,
I believe I should be ready to spare myself the task of writing. Do
not think that I am so wavering as to repent of what I have already
said. No, believe me, this will never be the case, unless you give
me cause for it. You need not fear that you have been mistaken in my
character. If I know anything of myself, I am incapable of making an
ungenerous return to the smallest degree of kindness, much less to
you whose attentions and conduct have been so particularly obliging.
I will frankly confess that your behaviour and what I have seen and
heard of your character has excited my warmest esteem and regard, and
be assured you shall never have cause to repent of any confidence you
may think proper to place in me, and that it will always be my
endeavour to deserve the good opinion which you have formed, although
human weakness may in some instances cause me to fall short. In
giving you these assurances I do not depend upon my own strength, but
I look to Him who has been my unerring guide through life, and in
whose continued protection and assistance I confidently trust.

'I thought on you much on Sunday, and feared you would not escape the
rain. I hope you do not feel any bad effects from it? My cousin
wrote you on Monday and expects this afternoon to be favoured with an
answer. Your letter has caused me some foolish embarrassment, tho'
in pity to my feelings they have been very sparing of their raillery.

'I will now candidly answer your questions. The _politeness of
others_ can never make me forget your kind attentions, neither can I
_walk our accustomed rounds_ without thinking on you, and, why should
I be ashamed to add, wishing for your presence. If you knew what
were my feelings whilst writing this you would pity me. I wish to
write the truth and give you satisfaction, yet fear to go too far,
and exceed the bounds of propriety. But whatever I may say or write
I will _never deceive_ you, or _exceed the truth_. If you think I
have not placed the _utmost confidence_ in you, consider my
situation, and ask yourself if I have not confided in you
sufficiently, perhaps too much. I am very sorry that you will not
have this till after to-morrow, but it was out of my power to write
sooner. I rely on your goodness to pardon everything in this which
may appear either too free or too stiff; and beg that you will
consider me as a warm and faithful friend.

'My uncle, aunt, and cousin unite in kind regards.

'I must now conclude with again declaring myself to be yours



'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _September_ 5_th_, 1812.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,--I have just received your affectionate and very
welcome letter, and although I shall not be able to send this until
Monday, yet I cannot deny myself the pleasure of writing a few lines
this evening, no longer considering it a task, but a pleasure, next
to that of reading yours. I had the pleasure of hearing from Mr.
Fennell, who was at Bradford on Thursday afternoon, that you had
rested there all night. Had you proceeded, I am sure the walk would
have been too much for you; such excessive fatigue, often repeated,
must injure the strongest constitution. I am rejoiced to find that
our forebodings were without cause. I had yesterday a letter from a
very dear friend of mine, and had the satisfaction to learn by it
that all at home are well. I feel with you the unspeakable
obligations I am under to a merciful Providence--my heart swells with
gratitude, and I feel an earnest desire that I may be enabled to make
some suitable return to the Author of all my blessings. In general,
I think I am enabled to cast my care upon Him, and then I experience
a calm and peaceful serenity of mind which few things can destroy.
In all my addresses to the throne of grace I never ask a blessing for
myself but I beg the same for you, and considering the important
station which you are called to fill, my prayers are proportionately
fervent that you may be favoured with all the gifts and graces
requisite for such calling. O my dear friend, let us pray much that
we may live lives holy and useful to each other and all around us!
'_Monday morn_.--My cousin and I were yesterday at Coverley church,
where we heard Mr. Watman preach a very excellent sermon from "learn
of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart." He displayed the character
of our Saviour in a most affecting and amiable light. I scarcely
ever felt more charmed with his excellencies, more grateful for his
condescension, or more abased at my own unworthiness; but I lament
that my heart is so little retentive of those pleasing and profitable

'I pitied you in your solitude, and felt sorry that it was not in my
power to enliven it. Have you not been too hasty in informing your
friends of a certain event? Why did you not leave them to guess a
little longer? I shrink from the idea of its being known to every
body. I do, indeed, _sometimes_ think of you, but I will not say how
often, lest I raise your vanity; and we sometimes talk of you and the
doctor. But I believe I should seldom mention your name myself were
it not now and then introduced by my cousin. I have never mentioned
a word of what is past to any body. Had I thought this necessary I
should have requested you to do it. But I think there is no need, as
by some means or other they seem to have a pretty correct notion how
matters stand betwixt us; and as their hints, etc., meet with no
contradiction from me, my silence passes for confirmation. Mr.
Fennell has not neglected to give me some serious and encouraging
advice, and my aunt takes frequent opportunities of dropping little
sentences which I may turn to some advantage. I have long had reason
to know that the present state of things would give pleasure to all
parties. Your ludicrous account of the scene at the Hermitage was
highly diverting, we laughed heartily at it; but I fear it will not
produce all that compassion in Miss Fennell's breast which you seem
to wish. I will now tell you what I was thinking about and doing at
the time you mention. I was then toiling up the hill with Jane and
Mrs. Clapham to take our tea at Mr. Tatham's, thinking on the evening
when I first took the same walk with you, and on the change which had
taken place in my circumstances and views since then--not wholly
without a wish that I had your arm to assist me, and your
conversation to shorten the walk. Indeed, all our walks have now an
insipidity in them which I never thought they would have possessed.
When I work, if I wish to get _forward_ I may be glad that you are at
a distance. Jane begs me to assure you of her kind regards. Mr.
Morgan is expected to be here this evening. I must assume a bold and
steady countenance to meet his attacks!

'I have now written a pretty long letter without reserve or caution,
and if all the sentiments of my heart are not laid open to you,
believe me it is not because I wish them to be concealed, for I hope
there is nothing there that would give you pain or displeasure. My
most sincere and earnest wishes are for your happiness and welfare,
for this includes my own. Pray much for me that I may be made a
blessing and not a hindrance to you. Let me not interrupt your
studies nor intrude on that time which ought to be dedicated to
better purposes. Forgive my freedom, my dearest friend, and rest
assured that you are and ever will be dear to


'Write very soon.'


'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _September_ 11_th_, 1812.

'MY DEAREST FRIEND,--Having spent the day yesterday at Miry Shay, a
place near Bradford, I had not got your letter till my return in the
evening, and consequently have only a short time this morning to
write if I send it by this post. You surely do not think you
_trouble_ me by writing? No, I think I may venture to say if such
were your opinion you would _trouble_ me no more. Be assured, your
letters are and I hope always will be received with extreme pleasure
and read with delight. May our Gracious Father mercifully grant the
fulfilment of your prayers! Whilst we depend entirely on Him for
happiness, and receive each other and all our blessings as from His
hands, what can harm us or make us miserable? Nothing temporal or

'Jane had a note from Mr. Morgan last evening, and she desires me to
tell you that the Methodists' service in church hours is to commence
next Sunday week. You may expect frowns and hard words from her when
you make your appearance here again, for, if you recollect, she gave
you a note to carry to the Doctor, and he has never received it.
What have you done with it? If you can give a good account of it you
may come to see us as soon as you please and be sure of a hearty
welcome from all parties. Next Wednesday we have some thoughts, if
the weather be fine, of going to Kirkstall Abbey once more, and I
suppose your presence will not make the walk less agreeable to any of

'The old man is come and waits for my letter. In expectation of
seeing you on Monday or Tuesday next,--I remain, yours faithfully and

'M. B.'


'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _September_ 18_th_, 1812.

'How readily do I comply with my dear Mr. B's request! You see, you
have only to express your wishes and as far as my power extends I
hesitate not to fulfil them. My heart tells me that it will always
be my pride and pleasure to contribute to your happiness, nor do I
fear that this will ever be inconsistent with my duty as a Christian.
My esteem for you and my confidence in you is so great, that I firmly
believe you will never exact anything from me which I could not
conscientiously perform. I shall in future look to you for
assistance and instruction whenever I may need them, and hope you
will never withhold from me any advice or caution you may see
['For some years I have been perfectly my own mistress, subject to no
_control_ whatever--so far from it, that my sisters who are many
years older than myself, and even my dear mother, used to consult me
in every case of importance, and scarcely ever doubted the propriety
of my opinions and actions. Perhaps you will be ready to accuse me
of vanity in mentioning this, but you must consider that I do not
_boast_ of it, I have many times felt it a disadvantage; and
although, I thank God, it never led me into error, yet in
circumstances of perplexity and doubt, I have deeply felt the want of
a guide and instructor.] {39}

'At such times I have seen and felt the necessity of supernatural
aid, and by fervent applications to a throne of grace I have
experienced that my heavenly Father is able and willing to supply the
place of every earthly friend. I shall now no longer feel this want,
this sense of helpless weakness, for I believe a kind Providence has
intended that I shall find in you every earthly friend united; nor do
I fear to trust myself under your protection, or shrink from your
control. It is pleasant to be subject to those we love, especially
when they never exert their authority but for the good of the
subject. How few would write in this way! But I do not fear that
_you_ will make a bad use of it. You tell me to write my thoughts,
and thus as they occur I freely let my pen run away with them.

'_Sat. morn_.--I do not know whether you dare show your face here
again or not after the blunder you have committed. When we got to
the house on Thursday evening, even before we were within the doors,
we found that Mr. and Mrs. Bedford had been there, and that they had
requested you to mention their intention of coming--a single hint of
which you never gave! Poor I too came in for a share in the hard
words which were bestowed upon you, for they all agreed that I was
the cause of it. Mr. Fennell said you were certainly _mazed_, and
talked of sending you to York, etc. And even I begin to think that
_this_, together with the _note_, bears some marks of _insanity_!
However, I shall suspend my judgment until I hear what excuse you can
make for yourself, I suppose you will be quite ready to make one of
some kind or another.

'Yesterday I performed a difficult and yet a pleasing task in writing
to my sisters. I thought I never should accomplish the end for which
the letter was designed; but after a good deal of perambulation I
gave them to understand the nature of my engagement with you, with
the motives and inducements which led me to form such an engagement,
and that in consequence of it I should not see them again so soon as
I had intended. I concluded by expressing a hope that they would not
be less pleased with the information than were my friends here. I
think they will not suspect me to have made a wrong step, their
partiality for me is so great. And their affection for me will lead
them to rejoice in my welfare, even though it should diminish
somewhat of their own. I shall think the time tedious till I hear
from you, and must beg you will write as soon as possible. Pardon
me, my dear friend, if I again caution you against giving way to a
weakness of which I have heard you complain. When you find your
heart oppressed and your thoughts too much engrossed by one subject,
let prayer be your refuge--this you no doubt know by experience to be
a sure remedy, and a relief from every care and error. Oh, that we
had more of the spirit of prayer! I feel that I need it much.

'Breakfast-time is near, I must bid you farewell for the time, but
rest assured you will always share in the prayers and heart of your


'Mr. Fennell has crossed my letter to my sisters. With his usual
goodness he has supplied my _deficiencies_, and spoken of me in terms
of commendation of which I wish I were more worthy. Your character
he has likewise displayed in the most favourable light; and I am sure
they will not fail to love and esteem you though unknown.

'All here unite in kind regards. Adieu.'


'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _September_ 23_rd_, 1812.

'MY DEAREST FRIEND,--Accept of my warmest thanks for your kind
affectionate letter, in which you have rated mine so highly that I
really blush to read my own praises. Pray that God would enable me
to deserve all the kindness you manifest towards me, and to act
consistently with the good opinion you entertain of me--then I shall
indeed be a helpmeet for you, and to be this shall at all times be
the care and study of my future life. We have had to-day a large
party of the Bradford folks--the Rands, Fawcets, Dobsons, etc. My
thoughts often strayed from the company, and I would have gladly left
them to follow my present employment. To write to and receive
letters from my friends were always among my chief enjoyments, but
none ever gave me so much pleasure as those which I receive from and
write to my newly adopted friend. I am by no means sorry you have
given up all thought of the house you mentioned. With my cousin's
help I have made known your plans to my uncle and aunt. Mr. Fennell
immediately coincided with that which respects your present abode,
and observed that it had occurred to him before, but that he had not
had an opportunity of mentioning it to you. My aunt did not fall in
with it so readily, but her objections did not appear to me to be
very weighty. For my own part, I feel all the force of your
arguments in favour of it, and the objections are so trifling that
they can scarcely be called objections. My cousin is of the same
opinion. Indeed, you have such a method of considering and digesting
a plan before you make it known to your friends, that you run very
little risque of incurring their disapprobations, or of having your
schemes frustrated. I greatly admire your talents this way--may they
never be perverted by being used in a bad cause! And whilst they are
exerted for good purposes, may they prove irresistible! If I may
judge from your letter, this middle scheme is what would please you
best, so that if there should arise no new objection to it, perhaps
it will prove the best you can adopt. However, there is yet
sufficient time to consider it further. I trust in this and every
other circumstance you will be guided by the wisdom that cometh from
above--a portion of which I doubt not has guided you hitherto. A
belief of this, added to the complete satisfaction with which I read
your reasonings on the subject, made me a ready convert to your
opinions. I hope nothing will occur to induce you to change your
intention of spending the next week at Bradford. Depend on it you
shall have letter for letter; but may we not hope to see you here
during that time, surely you will not think the way more tedious than
usual? I have not heard any particulars respecting the church since
you were at Bradford. Mr. Rawson is now there, but Mr. Hardy and his
brother are absent, and I understand nothing decisive can be
accomplished without them. Jane expects to hear something more
to-morrow. Perhaps ere this reaches you, you will have received some
intelligence respecting it from Mr. Morgan. If you have no other
apology to make for your blunders than that which you have given me,
you must not expect to be excused, for I have not mentioned it to any
one, so that however it may clear your character in my opinion it is
not likely to influence any other person. Little, very little, will
induce me to cover your faults with a veil of charity. I already
feel a kind of participation in all that concerns you. All praises
and censures bestowed on you must equally affect me. Your joys and
sorrows must be mine. Thus shall the one be increased and the other
diminished. While this is the case we shall, I hope, always find
"life's cares" to be "comforts." And may we feel every trial and
distress, for such must be our lot at times, bind us nearer to God
and to each other! My heart earnestly joins in your comprehensive
prayers. I trust they will unitedly ascend to a throne of grace, and
through the Redeemer's merits procure for us peace and happiness here
and a life of eternal felicity hereafter. Oh, what sacred pleasure
there is in the idea of spending an eternity together in perfect and
uninterrupted bliss! This should encourage us to the utmost exertion
and fortitude. But whilst I write, my own words condemn me--I am
ashamed of my own indolence and backwardness to duty. May I be more
careful, watchful, and active than I have ever yet been!
'My uncle, aunt, and Jane request me to send their kind regards, and
they will be happy to see you any time next week whenever you can
conveniently come down from Bradford. Let me hear from you soon--I
shall expect a letter on Monday. Farewell, my dearest friend. That
you may be happy in yourself and very useful to all around you is the
daily earnest prayer of yours truly,



'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _October_ 3_rd_, 1812.

'How could my dear friend so cruelly disappoint me? Had he known how
much I had set my heart on having a letter this afternoon, and how
greatly I felt the disappointment when the bag arrived and I found
there was nothing for me, I am sure he would not have permitted a
little matter to hinder him. But whatever was the reason of your not
writing, I cannot believe it to have been neglect or unkindness,
therefore I do not in the least blame you, I only beg that in future
you will judge of my feelings by your own, and if possible never let
me expect a letter without receiving one. You know in my last which
I sent you at Bradford I said it would not be in my power to write
the next day, but begged I might be favoured with hearing from you on
Saturday, and you will not wonder that I hoped you would have
complied with this request. It has just occurred to my mind that it
is possible this note was not received; if so, you have felt
disappointed likewise; but I think this is not very probable, as the
old man is particularly careful, and I never heard of his losing
anything committed to his care. The note which I allude to was
written on Thursday morning, and you should have received it before
you left Bradford. I forget what its contents were, but I know it
was written in haste and concluded abruptly. Mr. Fennell talks of
visiting Mr. Morgan to-morrow. I cannot lose the opportunity of
sending this to the office by him as you will then have it a day
sooner, and if you have been daily expecting to hear from me,
twenty-four hours are of some importance. I really am concerned to
find that this, what many would deem trifling incident, has so much
disturbed my mind. I fear I should not have slept in peace to-night
if I had been deprived of this opportunity of relieving my mind by
scribbling to you, and now I lament that you cannot possibly receive
this till Monday. May I hope that there is now some intelligence on
the way to me? or must my patience be tried till I see you on
Wednesday? But what nonsense am I writing? Surely after this you
can have no doubt that you possess all my heart. Two months ago I
could not possibly have believed that you would ever engross so much
of my thoughts and affections, and far less could I have thought that
I should be so forward as to tell you so. I believe I must forbid
you to come here again unless you can assure me that you will not
steal any more of my regard. Enough of this; I must bring my pen to
order, for if I were to suffer myself to revise what I have written I
should be tempted to throw it in the fire, but I have determined that
you shall see my whole heart. I have not yet informed you that I
received your serio-comic note on Thursday afternoon, for which
accept my thanks.

'My cousin desires me to say that she expects a long poem on her
birthday, when she attains the important age of twenty-one. Mr.
Fennell joins with us in requesting that you will not fail to be here
on Wednesday, as it is decided that on Thursday we are to go to the
Abbey if the weather, etc., permits.

'_Sunday morning_.--I am not sure if I do right in adding a few lines
to-day, but knowing that it will give you pleasure I wish to finish
that you may have it to-morrow. I will just say that if my feeble
prayers can aught avail, you will find your labours this day both
pleasant and profitable, as they concern your own soul and the souls
of those to whom you preach. I trust in your hours of retirement you
will not forget to pray for me. I assure you I need every assistance
to help me forward; I feel that my heart is more ready to attach
itself to earth than heaven. I sometimes think there never was a
mind so dull and inactive as mine is with regard to spiritual things.

'I must not forget to thank you for the pamphlets and tracts which
you sent us from Bradford. I hope we shall make good use of them. I
must now take my leave. I believe I need scarcely assure you that I
am yours truly and very affectionately,



'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _October_ 21_st_ 1812.

'With the sincerest pleasure do I retire from company to converse
with him whom I love beyond all others. Could my beloved friend see
my heart he would then be convinced that the affection I bear him is
not at all inferior to that which he feels for me--indeed I sometimes
think that in truth and constancy it excels. But do not think from
this that I entertain any suspicions of your sincerity--no, I firmly
believe you to be sincere and generous, and doubt not in the least
that you feel all you express. In return, I entreat that you will do
me the justice to believe that you have not only a _very large
portion_ of my _affection_ and _esteem_, but _all_ that I am capable
of feeling, and from henceforth measure my feelings by your own.
Unless my love for you were very great how could I so contentedly
give up my home and all my friends--a home I loved so much that I
have often thought nothing could bribe me to renounce it for any
great length of time together, and friends with whom I have been so
long accustomed to share all the vicissitudes of joy and sorrow? Yet
these have lost their weight, and though I cannot always think of
them without a sigh, yet the anticipation of sharing with you all the
pleasures and pains, the cares and anxieties of life, of contributing
to your comfort and becoming the companion of your pilgrimage, is
more delightful to me than any other prospect which this world can
possibly present. I expected to have heard from you on Saturday
last, and can scarcely refrain from thinking you unkind to keep me in
suspense two whole days longer than was necessary, but it is well
that my patience should be sometimes tried, or I might entirely lose
it, and this would be a loss indeed! Lately I have experienced a
considerable increase of hopes and fears, which tend to destroy the
calm uniformity of my life. These are not unwelcome, as they enable
me to discover more of the evils and errors of my heart, and
discovering them I hope through grace to be enabled to correct and
amend them. I am sorry to say that my cousin has had a very serious
cold, but to-day I think she is better; her cough seems less, and I
hope we shall be able to come to Bradford on Saturday afternoon,
where we intend to stop till Tuesday. You may be sure we shall not
soon think of taking such another journey as the last. I look
forward with pleasure to Monday, when I hope to meet with you, for as
we are no _longer twain_ separation is painful, and to meet must ever
be attended with joy.

'_Thursday morning_.--I intended to have finished this before
breakfast, but unfortunately slept an hour too long. I am every
moment in expectation of the old man's arrival. I hope my cousin is
still better to-day; she requests me to say that she is much obliged
to you for your kind inquiries and the concern you express for her
recovery. I take all possible care of her, but yesterday she was
naughty enough to venture into the yard without her bonnet! As you
do not say anything of going to Leeds I conclude you have not been.
We shall most probably hear from the Dr. this afternoon. I am much
pleased to hear of his success at Bierly! O that you may both be
zealous and successful in your efforts for the salvation of souls,
and may your own lives be holy, and your hearts greatly blessed while
you are engaged in administering to the good of others! I should
have been very glad to have had it in my power to lessen your fatigue
and cheer your spirits by my exertions on Monday last. I will hope
that this pleasure is still reserved for me. In general, I feel a
calm confidence in the providential care and continued mercy of God,
and when I consider his past deliverances and past favours I am led
to wonder and adore. A sense of my small returns of love and
gratitude to him often abases me and makes me think I am little
better than those who profess no religion. Pray for me, my dear
friend, and rest assured that you possess a very very large portion
of the prayers, thoughts, and heart of yours truly,


'Mr. Fennell requests Mr. Bedford to call on the man who has had
orders to make blankets for the Grove and desire him to send them as
soon as possible. Mr. Fennell will be greatly obliged to Mr. Bedford
if he will take this trouble.'


'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _November_ 18_th_, 1812.

'MY DEAR SAUCY PAT,--Now don't you think you deserve this epithet far
more than I do that which you have given me? I really know not what
to make of the beginning of your last; the winds, waves, and rocks
almost stunned me. I thought you were giving me the account of some
terrible dream, or that you had had a presentiment of the fate of my
poor box, having no idea that your lively imagination could make so
much of the slight reproof conveyed in my last. What will you say
when you get a _real_, _downright scolding_? Since you show such a
readiness to atone for your offences after receiving a mild rebuke, I
am inclined to hope you will seldom deserve a severe one. I accept
with pleasure your atonement, and send you a free and full
forgiveness. But I cannot allow that your affection is more deeply
rooted than mine. However, we will dispute no more about this, but
rather embrace every opportunity to prove its sincerity and strength
by acting in every respect as friends and fellow-pilgrims travelling
the same road, actuated by the same motives, and having in view the
same end. I think if our lives are spared twenty years hence I shall
then pray for you with the same, if not greater, fervour and delight
that I do now. I am pleased that you are so fully convinced of my
candour, for to know that you suspected me of a deficiency in this
virtue would grieve and mortify me beyond expression. I do not
derive any merit from the possession of it, for in me it is
constitutional. Yet I think where it is possessed it will rarely
exist alone, and where it is wanted there is reason to doubt the
existence of almost every other virtue. As to the other qualities
which your partiality attributes to me, although I rejoice to know
that I stand so high in your good opinion, yet I blush to think in
how small a degree I possess them. But it shall be the pleasing
study of my future life to gain such an increase of grace and wisdom
as shall enable me to act up to your highest expectations and prove
to you a helpmeet. I firmly believe the Almighty has set us apart
for each other; may we, by earnest, frequent prayer, and every
possible exertion, endeavour to fulfil His will in all things! I do
not, cannot, doubt your love, and here I freely declare I love you
above all the world besides. I feel very, very grateful to the great
Author of all our mercies for His unspeakable love and condescension
towards us, and desire "to show forth my gratitude not only with my
lips, but by my life and conversation." I indulge a hope that our
mutual prayers will be answered, and that our intimacy will tend much
to promote our temporal and eternal interest.

['I suppose you never expected to be much the richer for me, but I am
sorry to inform you that I am still poorer than I thought myself. I
mentioned having sent for my books, clothes, etc. On Saturday
evening about the time you were writing the description of your
imaginary shipwreck, I was reading and feeling the effects of a real
one, having then received a letter from my sister giving me an
account of the vessel in which she had sent my box being stranded on
the coast of Devonshire, in consequence of which the box was dashed
to pieces with the violence of the sea, and all my little property,
with the exception of a very few articles, swallowed up in the mighty
deep. If this should not prove the prelude to something worse, I
shall think little of it, as it is the first disastrous circumstance
which has occurred since I left my home], {49} and having been so
highly favoured it would be highly ungrateful in me were I to suffer
this to dwell much on my mind.

'Mr. Morgan was here yesterday, indeed he only left this morning. He
mentioned having written to invite you to Bierly on Sunday next, and
if you complied with his request it is likely that we shall see you
both here on Sunday evening. As we intend going to Leeds next week,
we should be happy if you would accompany us on Monday or Tuesday. I
mention this by desire of Miss Fennell, who begs to be remembered
affectionately to you. Notwithstanding Mr. Fennell's complaints and
threats, I doubt not but he will give you a cordial reception
whenever you think fit to make your appearance at the Grove. Which
you may likewise be assured of receiving from your ever truly


'Both the doctor and his lady very much wish to know what kind of
address we make use of in our letters to each other. I think they
would scarcely hit on _this_!!'


'WOOD HOUSE GROVE, _December_ 5_th_, 1812.

'MY DEAREST FRIEND,--So you _thought_ that _perhaps_ I _might_ expect
to hear from you. As the case was so doubtful, and you were in such
great haste, you might as well have deferred writing a few days
longer, for you seem to suppose it is a matter of perfect
indifference to me whether I hear from you or not. I believe I once
requested you to judge of my feelings by your own--am I to think that
_you_ are thus indifferent? I feel very unwilling to entertain such
an opinion, and am grieved that you should suspect me of such a cold,
heartless, attachment. But I am too serious on the subject; I only
meant to rally you a little on the beginning of your last, and to
tell you that I fancied there was a coolness in it which none of your
former letters had contained. If this fancy was groundless, forgive
me for having indulged it, and let it serve to convince you of the
sincerity and warmth of my affection. Real love is ever apt to
suspect that it meets not with an equal return; you must not wonder
then that my fears are sometimes excited. My pride cannot bear the
idea of a diminution of your attachment, or to think that it is
stronger on my side than on yours. But I must not permit my pen so
fully to disclose the feelings of my heart, nor will I tell you
whether I am pleased or not at the thought of seeing you on the
appointed day.

'Miss Fennell desires her kind regards, and, with her father, is
extremely obliged to you for the trouble you have taken about the
carpet, and has no doubt but it will give full satisfaction. They
think there will be no occasion for the green cloth.

'We intend to set about making the cakes here next week, but as the
fifteen or twenty persons whom you mention live probably somewhere in
your neighbourhood, I think it will be most convenient for Mrs. B. to
make a small one for the purpose of distributing there, which will
save us the difficulty of sending so far.

'You may depend on my learning my lessons as rapidly as they are
given me. I am already tolerably perfect in the A B C, etc. I am
much obliged to you for the pretty little hymn which I have already
got by heart, but cannot promise to sing it scientifically, though I
will endeavour to gain a little more assurance.

'Since I began this Jane put into my hands Lord Lyttelton's _Advice
to a Lady_. When I read those lines, "Be never cool reserve with
passion joined, with caution choose, but then be fondly kind, etc."
my heart smote me for having in some cases used too much reserve
towards you. Do you think you have any cause to complain of me? If
you do, let me know it. For were it in my power to prevent it, I
would in no instance occasion you the least pain or uneasiness. I am
certain no one ever loved you with an affection more pure, constant,
tender, and ardent than that which I feel. Surely this is not saying
too much; it is the truth, and I trust you are worthy to know it. I
long to improve in every religious and moral quality, that I may be a
help, and if possible an ornament to you. Oh let us pray much for
wisdom and grace to fill our appointed stations with propriety, that
we may enjoy satisfaction in our own souls, edify others, and bring
glory to the name of Him who has so wonderfully preserved, blessed,
and brought us together.

'If there is anything in the commencement of this which looks like
pettishness, forgive it; my mind is now completely divested of every
feeling of the kind, although I own I am sometimes too apt to be
overcome by this disposition.

'Let me have the pleasure of hearing from you again as soon as
convenient. This writing is uncommonly bad, but I too am in haste.

'Adieu, my dearest.--I am your affectionate and sincere


Mr. Bronte was at Hartshead, where he married, for five years, and there
his two eldest children, Maria and Elizabeth, were born. He then moved
to Thornton, near Bradford, where Charlotte was born on the 21st of April
1816, Branwell in 1817, Emily in 1818, and Anne in 1819. In 1820 the
family removed to the parsonage of Haworth, and in 1821 the poor mother
was dead. A year or two later Miss Elizabeth Branwell came from Penzance
to act as a mother to her orphaned nephew and nieces. There is no reason
to accept the theory that Miss Branwell was quite as formidable or
offensive a personage as the Mrs. Read in _Jane Eyre_. That she was a
somewhat rigid and not over demonstrative woman, we may take for granted.
The one letter to her of any importance that I have seen--it is printed
in Mrs. Gaskell's life--was the attempt of Charlotte to obtain her
co-operation in the projected visit to a Brussels school. Miss Branwell
provided the money readily enough it would seem, and one cannot doubt
that in her later years she was on the best of terms with her nieces.
There may have been too much discipline in childhood, but discipline
which would now be considered too severe was common enough at the
beginning of the century. The children, we may be sure, were left
abundantly alone. The writing they accomplished in their early years
would sufficiently demonstrate that. Miss Branwell died in 1842; and
from her will, which I give elsewhere, it will be seen that she behaved
very justly to her three nieces.

The reception by Mr. Bronte of his children's literary successes has been
very pleasantly recorded by Charlotte. He was proud of his daughters,
and delighted with their fame. He seems to have had no small share of
their affection. Charlotte loved and esteemed him. There are hundreds
of her letters, in many of which are severe and indeed unprintable things
about this or that individual; but of her father these letters contain
not one single harsh word. She wrote to him regularly when absent. Not
only did he secure the affection of his daughter, but the people most
intimately associated with him next to his own children gave him a
lifelong affection and regard. Martha Brown, the servant who lived with
him until his death, always insisted that her old master had been
grievously wronged, and that a kinder, more generous, and in every way
more worthy man had never lived. Nancy Garrs, another servant, always
spoke of Mr. Bronte as 'the kindest man who ever drew breath,' and as a
good and affectionate father. Forty years have gone by since Charlotte
Bronte died; and thirty-six years have flown since Mr. Nicholls left the
deathbed of his wife's father; but through all that period he has
retained the most kindly memories of one with whom his life was
intimately associated for sixteen years, with whom at one crisis of his
life, as we shall see, he had a serious difference, but whom he ever
believed to have been an entirely honourable and upright man.

A lady visitor to Haworth in December 1860 did not, it is true, carry
away quite so friendly an impression. 'I have been to see old Mr.
Bronte,' she writes, 'and have spent about an hour with him. He is
completely confined to his bed, but talks hopefully of leaving it again
when the summer comes round. I am afraid that it will not be leaving it
as he plans, poor old man! He is touchingly softened by illness; but
still talks in his pompous way, and mingles moral remarks and somewhat
stale sentiments with his conversation on ordinary subjects.' This is
severe, but after all it was a literary woman who wrote it. On the whole
we may safely assume, with the evidence before us, that Mr. Bronte was a
thoroughly upright and honourable man who came manfully through a
somewhat severe life battle. That is how his daughters thought of him,
and we cannot do better than think with them. {53}
Mr. Bronte died on June 7, 1861, and his funeral in Haworth Church is
described in the _Bradford Review_ of the following week:--

'Great numbers of people had collected in the churchyard, and a few
minutes before noon the corpse was brought out through the eastern
gate of the garden leading into the churchyard. The Rev. Dr. Burnet,
Vicar of Bradford, read the funeral service, and led the way into the
church, and the following clergymen were the bearers of the coffin:
The Rev. Dr. Cartman of Skipton; Rev. Mr. Sowden of Hebden Bridge;
the Incumbents of Cullingworth, Oakworth, Morton, Oxenhope, and St.
John's Ingrow. The chief mourners were the Rev. Arthur Bell
Nicholls, son-in-law of the deceased; Martha Brown, the housekeeper;
and her sister; Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Wainwright. There were several
gentlemen followed the corpse whom we did not know. All the shops in
Haworth were closed, and the people filled every pew, and the aisles
in the church, and many shed tears during the impressive reading of
the service for the burial of the dead, by the vicar. The body of
Mr. Bronte was laid within the altar rails, by the side of his
daughter Charlotte. He is the last that can be interred inside of
Haworth Church. On the coffin was this inscription: "Patrick Bronte,
died June 7th, 1861, aged 84 years."'

His will, which was proved at Wakefield, left the bulk of his property,
as was natural, to the son-in-law who had faithfully served and tended
him for the six years which succeeded Charlotte Bronte's death.

Extracted from the Principal Registry of the Probate Divorce and
Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice.

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