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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle by Clement King Shorter
 
 
CHAPTER III: SCHOOL AND GOVERNESS LIFE

In seeking for fresh light upon the development of Charlotte Bronte, it
is not necessary to discuss further her childhood's years at Cowan
Bridge. She left the school at nine years of age, and what memories of
it were carried into womanhood were, with more or less of picturesque
colouring, embodied in Jane Eyre. {74} From 1825 to 1831 Charlotte was
at home with her sisters, reading and writing as we have seen, but
learning nothing very systematically. In 1831-32 she was a boarder at
Miss Wooler's school at Roe Head, some twenty miles from Haworth. Miss
Wooler lived to a green old age, dying in the year 1885. She would seem
to have been very proud of her famous pupil, and could not have been
blind to her capacity in the earlier years. Charlotte was with her as
governess at Roe Head, and later at Dewsbury Moor. It is quite clear
that Miss Bronte was head of the school in all intellectual pursuits, and
she made two firm friends--Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. A very fair
measure of French and some skill in drawing appear to have been the most
striking accomplishments which Charlotte carried back from Roe Head to
Haworth. There are some twenty drawings of about this date, and a
translation into English verse of the first book of Voltaire's
_Henriade_. With Ellen Nussey commenced a friendship which terminated
only with the pencilled notes written from Charlotte Bronte's deathbed.
The first suggestion of a regular correspondence is contained in the
following letter.
TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _July_ 21_st_, 1832.

'MY DEAREST ELLEN,--Your kind and interesting letter gave me the
sincerest pleasure. I have been expecting to hear from you almost
every day since my arrival at home, and I at length began to despair
of receiving the wished-for letter. You ask me to give you a
description of the manner in which I have passed every day since I
left school. This is soon done, as an account of one day is an
account of all. In the mornings, from nine o'clock to half-past
twelve, I instruct my sisters and draw, then we walk till dinner;
after dinner I sew till tea-time, and after tea I either read, write,
do a little fancy-work, or draw, as I please. Thus in one
delightful, though somewhat monotonous course, my life is passed. I
have only been out to tea twice since I came home. We are expecting
company this afternoon, and on Tuesday next we shall have all the
female teachers of the Sunday school to tea. I do hope, my dearest
Ellen, that you will return to school again for your own sake, though
for mine I would rather that you would remain at home, as we shall
then have more frequent opportunities of correspondence with each
other. Should your friends decide against your returning to school,
I know you have too much good-sense and right feeling not to strive
earnestly for your own improvement. Your natural abilities are
excellent, and under the direction of a judicious and able friend
(and I know you have many such), you might acquire a decided taste
for elegant literature, and even poetry, which, indeed, is included
under that general term. I was very much disappointed by your not
sending the hair; you may be sure, my dearest Ellen, that I would not
grudge double postage to obtain it, but I must offer the same excuse
for not sending you any. My aunt and sisters desire their love to
you. Remember me kindly to your mother and sisters, and accept all
the fondest expressions of genuine attachment, from your real friend

'CHARLOTTE BRONTE.

'_P.S._--Remember the mutual promise we made of a regular
correspondence with each other. Excuse all faults in this wretched
scrawl. Give my love to the Miss Taylors when you see them.
Farewell, my _dear_, _dear_, _dear_ Ellen.'

Reading, writing, and as thorough a domestic training as the little
parsonage could afford, made up the next few years. Then came the
determination to be a governess--a not unnatural resolution when the size
of the family and the modest stipend of its head are considered. Far
more prosperous parents are content in our day that their daughters
should earn their living in this manner. In 1835 Charlotte went back to
Roe Head as governess, and she continued in that position when Miss
Wooler removed her school to Dewsbury Moor in 1836.
TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'DEWSBURY MOOR, _August_ 24_th_, 1837.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--I have determined to write lest you should begin to
think I have forgotten you, and in revenge resolve to forget me. As
you will perceive by the date of this letter, I am again engaged in
the old business--teach, teach, teach. Miss and Mrs. Wooler are
coming here next Christmas. Miss Wooler will then relinquish the
school in favour of her sister Eliza, but I am happy to say worthy
Miss Wooler will continue to reside in the house. I should be sorry
indeed to part with her. When will you come _home_? Make haste, you
have been at Bath long enough for all purposes. By this time you
have acquired polish enough, I am sure. If the varnish is laid on
much thicker, I am afraid the good wood underneath will be quite
concealed, and your old Yorkshire friends won't stand that. Come,
come, I am getting really tired of your absence. Saturday after
Saturday comes round, and I can have no hope of hearing your knock at
the door and then being told that "Miss E. N. is come." Oh dear! in
this monotonous life of mine that was a pleasant event. I wish it
would recur again, but it will take two or three interviews before
the stiffness, the estrangement of this long separation will quite
wear away. I have nothing at all to tell you now but that Mary
Taylor is better, and that she and Martha are gone to take a tour in
Wales. Patty came on her pony about a fortnight since to inform me
that this important event was in contemplation. She actually began
to fret about your long absence, and to express the most eager wishes
for your return. My own dear Ellen, good-bye. If we are all spared
I hope soon to see you again. God bless you.

'C. BRONTE.'

Things were not always going on quite so smoothly, as the following
letter indicates.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'DEWSBURY MOOR, _January_ 4_th_, 1838.

'Your letter, Ellen, was a welcome surprise, though it contained
something like a reprimand. I had not, however, forgotten our
agreement. You were right in your conjectures respecting the cause
of my sudden departure. Anne continued wretchedly ill, neither the
pain nor the difficulty of breathing left her, and how could I feel
otherwise than very miserable. I looked on her case in a different
light to what I could wish or expect any uninterested person to view
it in. Miss Wooler thought me a fool, and by way of proving her
opinion treated me with marked coldness. We came to a little
eclaircissement one evening. I told her one or two rather plain
truths, which set her a-crying; and the next day, unknown to me, she
wrote papa, telling him that I had reproached her bitterly, taken her
severely to task, etc. Papa sent for us the day after he had
received her letter. Meantime I had formed a firm resolution to quit
Miss Wooler and her concerns for ever; but just before I went away,
she took me to her room, and giving way to her feelings, which in
general she restrains far too rigidly, gave me to understand that in
spite of her cold, repulsive manners, she had a considerable regard
for me, and would be very sorry to part with me. If any body likes
me, I cannot help liking them; and remembering that she had in
general been very kind to me, I gave in and said I would come back if
she wished me. So we are settled again for the present, but I am not
satisfied. I should have respected her far more if she had turned me
out of doors, instead of crying for two days and two nights together.
I was in a regular passion; my "_warm_ temper" quite got the better
of me, of which I don't boast, for it was a weakness; nor am I
ashamed of it, for I had reason to be angry.
'Anne is now much better, though she still requires a great deal of
care. However, I am relieved from my worst fears respecting her. I
approve highly of the plan you mention, except as it regards
committing a verse of the Psalms to memory. I do not see the direct
advantage to be derived from that. We have entered on a new year.
Will it be stained as darkly as the last with all our sins, follies,
secret vanities, and uncontrolled passions and propensities? I trust
not; but I feel in nothing better, neither humbler nor purer. It
will want three weeks next Monday to the termination of the holidays.
Come to see me, my dear Ellen, as soon as you can; however bitterly I
sometimes feel towards other people, the recollection of your mild,
steady friendship consoles and softens me. I am glad you are not
such a passionate fool as myself. Give my best love to your mother
and sisters. Excuse the most hideous scrawl that ever was penned,
and--Believe me always tenderly yours,

'C. BRONTE.'

Dewsbury Moor, however, did not agree with Charlotte. That was probably
the core of the matter. She returned to Haworth, but only to look around
for another 'situation.' This time she accepted the position of private
governess in the family of a Mr. Sidgwick, at Stonegappe, in the same
county. Her letters from his house require no comment. A sentence from
the first was quoted by Mrs. Gaskell.

TO MISS EMILY J. BRONTE

'STONEGAPPE, _June_ 8_th_, 1839.

'DEAREST LAVINIA,--I am most exceedingly obliged to you for the
trouble you have taken in seeking up my things and sending them all
right. The box and its contents were most acceptable. I only wish I
had asked you to send me some letter-paper. This is my last sheet
but two. When you can send the other articles of raiment now
manufacturing, I shall be right down glad of them.

'I have striven hard to be pleased with my new situation. The
country, the house, and the grounds are, as I have said, divine.
But, alack-a-day! there is such a thing as seeing all beautiful
around you--pleasant woods, winding white paths, green lawns, and
blue sunshiny sky--and not having a free moment or a free thought
left to enjoy them in. The children are constantly with me, and more
riotous, perverse, unmanageable cubs never grew. As for correcting
them, I soon quickly found that was entirely out of the question:
they are to do as they like. A complaint to Mrs. Sidgwick brings
only black looks upon oneself, and unjust, partial excuses to screen
the children. I have tried that plan once. It succeeded so notably
that I shall try it no more. I said in my last letter that Mrs.
Sidgwick did not know me. I now begin to find that she does not
intend to know me, that she cares nothing in the world about me
except to contrive how the greatest possible quantity of labour may
be squeezed out of me, and to that end she overwhelms me with oceans
of needlework, yards of cambric to hem, muslin night-caps to make,
and, above all things, dolls to dress. I do not think she likes me
at all, because I can't help being shy in such an entirely novel
scene, surrounded as I have hitherto been by strange and constantly
changing faces. I see now more clearly than I have ever done before
that a private governess has no existence, is not considered as a
living and rational being except as connected with the wearisome
duties she has to fulfil. While she is teaching the children,
working for them, amusing them, it is all right. If she steals a
moment for herself she is a nuisance. Nevertheless, Mrs. Sidgwick is
universally considered an amiable woman. Her manners are fussily
affable. She talks a great deal, but as it seems to me not much to
the purpose. Perhaps I may like her better after a while. At
present I have no call to her. Mr. Sidgwick is in my opinion a
hundred times better--less profession, less bustling condescension,
but a far kinder heart. It is very seldom that he speaks to me, but
when he does I always feel happier and more settled for some minutes
after. He never asks me to wipe the children's smutty noses or tie
their shoes or fetch their pinafores or set them a chair. One of the
pleasantest afternoons I have spent here--indeed, the only one at all
pleasant--was when Mr. Sidgwick walked out with his children, and I
had orders to follow a little behind. As he strolled on through his
fields with his magnificent Newfoundland dog at his side, he looked
very like what a frank, wealthy, Conservative gentleman ought to be.
He spoke freely and unaffectedly to the people he met, and though he
indulged his children and allowed them to tease himself far too much,
he would not suffer them grossly to insult others.
'I am getting quite to have a regard for the Carter family. At home
I should not care for them, but here they are friends. Mr. Carter
was at Mirfield yesterday and saw Anne. He says she was looking
uncommonly well. Poor girl, _she_ must indeed wish to be at home.
As to Mrs. Collins' report that Mrs. Sidgwick intended to keep me
permanently, I do not think that such was ever her design. Moreover,
I would not stay without some alterations. For instance, this burden
of sewing would have to be removed. It is too bad for anything. I
never in my whole life had my time so fully taken up. Next week we
are going to Swarcliffe, Mr. Greenwood's place near Harrogate, to
stay three weeks or a month. After that time I hope Miss Hoby will
return. Don't show this letter to papa or aunt, only to Branwell.
They will think I am never satisfied wherever I am. I complain to
you because it is a relief, and really I have had some unexpected
mortifications to put up with. However, things may mend, but Mrs.
Sidgwick expects me to do things that I cannot do--to love her
children and be entirely devoted to them. I am really very well. I
am so sleepy that I can write no more. I must leave off. Love to
all.--Good-bye.

'Direct your next dispatch--J. Greenwood, Esq., Swarcliffe, near
Harrogate.

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'SWARCLIFFE, _June_ 15_th_, 1839.

'MY DEAREST ELLEN,--I am writing a letter to you with pencil because
I cannot just now procure ink without going into the drawing-room,
where I do not wish to go. I only received your letter yesterday,
for we are not now residing at Stonegappe but at Swarcliffe, a summer
residence of Mr. Greenwood's, Mrs. Sidgwick's father; it is near
Harrogate and Ripon. I should have written to you long since, and
told you every detail of the utterly new scene into which I have
lately been cast, had I not been daily expecting a letter from
yourself, and wondering and lamenting that you did not write, for you
will remember it was your turn. I must not bother you too much with
my sorrows, of which, I fear, you have heard an exaggerated account.
If you were near me, perhaps I might be tempted to tell you all, to
grow egotistical, and pour out the long history of a private
governess's trials and crosses in her first situation. As it is, I
will only ask you to imagine the miseries of a reserved wretch like
me thrown at once into the midst of a large family, proud as peacocks
and wealthy as Jews, at a time when they were particularly gay, when
the house was filled with company--all strangers: people whose faces
I had never seen before. In this state I had a charge given of a set
of horrid children, whom I was expected constantly to amuse, as well
as instruct. I soon found that the constant demand on my stock of
animal spirits reduced them to the lowest state of exhaustion; at
times I felt--and, I suppose seemed--depressed. To my astonishment,
I was taken to task on the subject by Mrs. Sidgwick, with a sternness
of manner and a harshness of language scarcely credible. Like a
fool, I cried most bitterly. I could not help it; my spirits quite
failed me at first. I thought I had done my best, strained every
nerve to please her; and to be treated in that way, merely because I
was shy and sometimes melancholy, was too bad. At first I was for
giving all up and going home. But after a little reflection, I
determined to summon what energy I had, and to weather the storm. I
said to myself, "I had never yet quitted a place without gaining a
friend; adversity is a good school; the poor are born to labour, and
the dependent to endure." I resolved to be patient, to command my
feelings, and to take what came; the ordeal, I reflected, would not
last many weeks, and I trusted it would do me good. I recollected
the fable of the willow and the oak; I bent quietly, and now I trust
the storm is blowing over. Mrs. Sidgwick is generally considered an
agreeable woman; so she is, I doubt not, in general society. Her
health is sound, her animal spirits good, consequently she is
cheerful in company. But oh! does this compensate for the absence of
every fine feeling, of every gentle and delicate sentiment? She
behaves somewhat more civilly to me now than she did at first, and
the children are a little more manageable; but she does not know my
character, and she does not wish to know it. I have never had five
minutes conversation with her since I came, except when she was
scolding me. I have no wish to be pitied, except by yourself. If I
were talking to you I could tell you much more. Good-bye, dear, dear
Ellen. Write to me again very soon, and tell me how you are.

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _July_ 26_th_, 1839.

'DEAR ELLEN,--I left Swarcliffe a week since. I never was so glad to
get out of a house in my life; but I'll trouble you with no
complaints at present. Write to me directly; explain your plans more
fully. Say when you go, and I shall be able in my answer to say
decidedly whether I can accompany you or not. I must, I will, I'm
set upon it--I'll be obstinate and bear down all
opposition.--Good-bye, yours faithfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

That experience with the Sidgwicks rankled for many a day, and we find
Charlotte Bronte referring to it in her letters from Brussels. At the
same time it is not necessary to assume any very serious inhumanity on
the part of the Sidgwicks or their successors the Whites, to whom
Charlotte was indebted for her second term as private governess. Hers
was hardly a temperament adapted for that docile part, and one thinks of
the author of _Villette_, and the possessor of one of the most vigorous
prose styles in our language, condemned to a perpetual manufacture of
night-caps, with something like a shudder. And at the same time it may
be urged that Charlotte Bronte did not suffer in vain, and that through
her the calling of a nursery governess may have received some added
measure of dignity and consideration on the part of sister-women.

A month or two later we find Charlotte dealing with the subject in a
letter to Ellen Nussey.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _January_ 24_th_, 1840.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--You could never live in an unruly, violent family of
modern children, such for instance as those at Blake Hall. Anne is
not to return. Mrs. Ingham is a placid, mild woman; but as for the
children, it was one struggle of life-wearing exertion to keep them
in anything like decent order. I am miserable when I allow myself to
dwell on the necessity of spending my life as a governess. The chief
requisite for that station seems to me to be the power of taking
things easily as they come, and of making oneself comfortable and at
home wherever we may chance to be--qualities in which all our family
are singularly deficient. I know I cannot live with a person like
Mrs. Sidgwick, but I hope all women are not like her, and my motto is
"try again." Mary Taylor, I am sorry to hear, is ill--have you seen
her or heard anything of her lately? Sickness seems very general,
and death too, at least in this neighbourhood.--Ever yours,

'C. B.'

She 'tried again' but with just as little success. In March 1841 she
entered the family of a Mr. White of Upperwood House, Rawdon.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'UPPERWOOD HOUSE, _April_ 1_st_, 1841.

'MY DEAR NELL,--It is twelve o'clock at night, but I must just write
to you a word before I go to bed. If you think I am going to refuse
your invitation, or if you sent it me with that idea, you're
mistaken. As soon as I read your shabby little note, I gathered up
my spirits directly, walked on the impulse of the moment into Mrs.
White's presence, popped the question, and for two minutes received
no answer. Will she refuse me when I work so hard for her? thought
I. "Ye-e-es" was said in a reluctant, cold tone. "Thank you, m'am,"
said I, with extreme cordiality, and was marching from the room when
she recalled me with: "You'd better go on Saturday afternoon then,
when the children have holiday, and if you return in time for them to
have all their lessons on Monday morning, I don't see that much will
be lost." You _are_ a genuine Turk, thought I, but again I assented.
Saturday after next, then, is the day appointed--_not next Saturday_,
_mind_. I do not quite know whether the offer about the gig is not
entirely out of your own head or if George has given his consent to
it--whether that consent has not been wrung from him by the most
persevering and irresistible teasing on the part of a certain young
person of my acquaintance. I make no manner of doubt that if he does
send the conveyance (as Miss Wooler used to denominate all wheeled
vehicles) it will be to his own extreme detriment and inconvenience,
but for once in my life I'll not mind this, or bother my head about
it. I'll come--God knows with a thankful and joyful heart--glad of a
day's reprieve from labour. If you don't send the gig I'll walk.
Now mind, I am not coming to Brookroyd with the idea of dissuading
Mary Taylor from going to New Zealand. I've said everything I mean
to say on that subject, and she has a perfect right to decide for
herself. I am coming to taste the pleasure of liberty, a bit of
pleasant congenial talk, and a sight of two or three faces I like.
God bless you. I want to see you again. Huzza for Saturday
afternoon after next! Good-night, my lass.

'C. BRONTE.

'Have you lit your pipe with Mr. Weightman's valentine?'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'UPPERWOOD HOUSE, _May_ 4_th_, 1841.

'DEAR NELL,--I have been a long time without writing to you; but I
think, knowing as you do how I am situated in the matter of time, you
will not be angry with me. Your brother George will have told you
that he did not go into the house when we arrived at Rawdon, for
which omission of his Mrs. White was very near blowing me up. She
went quite red in the face with vexation when she heard that the
gentleman had just driven within the gates and then back again, for
she is very touchy in the matter of opinion. Mr. White also seemed
to regret the circumstance from more hospitable and kindly motives.
I assure you, if you were to come and see me you would have quite a
fuss made over you. During the last three weeks that hideous
operation called "a thorough clean" has been going on in the house.
It is now nearly completed, for which I thank my stars, as during its
progress I have fulfilled the twofold character of nurse and
governess, while the nurse has been transmuted into cook and
housemaid. That nurse, by-the-bye, is the prettiest lass you ever
saw, and when dressed has much more the air of a lady than her
mistress. Well can I believe that Mrs. White has been an exciseman's
daughter, and I am convinced also that Mr. White's extraction is very
low. Yet Mrs. White talks in an amusing strain of pomposity about
his and her family and connections, and affects to look down with
wondrous hauteur on the whole race of tradesfolk, as she terms men of
business. I was beginning to think Mrs. White a good sort of body in
spite of all her bouncing and boasting, her bad grammar and worse
orthography, but I have had experience of one little trait in her
character which condemns her a long way with me. After treating a
person in the most familiar terms of equality for a long time, if any
little thing goes wrong she does not scruple to give way to anger in
a very coarse, unladylike manner. I think passion is the true test
of vulgarity or refinement.
'This place looks exquisitely beautiful just now. The grounds are
certainly lovely, and all is as green as an emerald. I wish you
would just come and look at it. Mrs. White would be as proud as
Punch to show it you. Mr. White has been writing an urgent
invitation to papa, entreating him to come and spend a week here. I
don't at all wish papa to come, it would be like incurring an
obligation. Somehow, I have managed to get a good deal more control
over the children lately--this makes my life a good deal easier;
also, by dint of nursing the fat baby, it has got to know me and be
fond of me. I suspect myself of growing rather fond of it. Exertion
of any kind is always beneficial. Come and see me if you can in any
way get, I _want_ to see you. It seems Martha Taylor is fairly gone.
Good-bye, my lassie.--Yours insufferably,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO REV. HENRY NUSSEY, EARNLEY RECTORY

'UPPERWOOD HOUSE, RAWDON,
'_May_ 9_th_, 1841.

'DEAR SIR,--I am about to employ part of a Sunday evening in
answering your last letter. You will perhaps think this hardly
right, and yet I do not feel that I am doing wrong. Sunday evening
is almost my only time of leisure. No one would blame me if I were
to spend this spare hour in a pleasant chat with a friend--is it
worse to spend it in a friendly letter?

'I have just seen my little noisy charges deposited snugly in their
cribs, and I am sitting alone in the school-room with the quiet of a
Sunday evening pervading the grounds and gardens outside my window.
I owe you a letter--can I choose a better time than the present for
paying my debt? Now, Mr. Nussey, you need not expect any gossip or
news, I have none to tell you--even if I had I am not at present in
the mood to communicate them. You will excuse an unconnected letter.
If I had thought you critical or captious I would have declined the
task of corresponding with you. When I reflect, indeed, it seems
strange that I should sit down to write without a feeling of
formality and restraint to an individual with whom I am personally so
little acquainted as I am with yourself; but the fact is, I cannot be
formal in a letter--if I write at all I must write as I think. It
seems Ellen has told you that I am become a governess again. As you
say, it is indeed a hard thing for flesh and blood to leave home,
especially a _good_ home--not a wealthy or splendid one. My home is
humble and unattractive to strangers, but to me it contains what I
shall find nowhere else in the world--the profound, the intense
affection which brothers and sisters feel for each other when their
minds are cast in the same mould, their ideas drawn from the same
source--when they have clung to each other from childhood, and when
disputes have never sprung up to divide them.

'We are all separated now, and winning our bread amongst strangers as
we can--my sister Anne is near York, my brother in a situation near
Halifax, I am here. Emily is the only one left at home, where her
usefulness and willingness make her indispensable. Under these
circumstances should we repine? I think not--our mutual affection
ought to comfort us under all difficulties. If the God on whom we
must all depend will but vouchsafe us health and the power to
continue in the strict line of duty, so as never under any temptation
to swerve from it an inch, we shall have ample reason to be grateful
and contented.

'I do not pretend to say that I am always contented. A governess
must often submit to have the heartache. My employers, Mr. and Mrs.
White, are kind worthy people in their way, but the children are
indulged. I have great difficulties to contend with sometimes.
Perseverance will perhaps conquer them. And it has gratified me much
to find that the parents are well satisfied with their children's
improvement in learning since I came. But I am dwelling too much
upon my own concerns and feelings. It is true they are interesting
to me, but it is wholly impossible they should be so to you, and,
therefore, I hope you will skip the last page, for I repent having
written it.

'A fortnight since I had a letter from Ellen urging me to go to
Brookroyd for a single day. I felt such a longing to have a respite
from labour, and to get once more amongst "old familiar faces," that
I conquered diffidence and asked Mrs. White to let me go. She
complied, and I went accordingly, and had a most delightful holiday.
I saw your mother, your sisters Mercy, Ellen, and poor Sarah, and
your brothers Richard and George--all were well. Ellen talked of
endeavouring to get a situation somewhere. I did not encourage the
idea much. I advised her rather to go to Earnley for a while. I
think she wants a change, and I dare say you would be glad to have
her as a companion for a few months.--I remain, yours respectfully,

'C. BRONTE.'

The above letter was written to Miss Nussey's brother, whose attachment
to Charlotte Bronte has already more than once been mentioned in the
current biographies. The following letter to Miss Nussey is peculiarly
interesting because of the reference to Ireland. It would have been
strange if Charlotte Bronte had returned as a governess to her father's
native land. Speculation thereon is sufficiently foolish, and yet one is
tempted to ask if Ireland might not have gained some of that local
literary colour--one of its greatest needs--which always makes Scotland
dear to the readers of _Waverley_, and Yorkshire classic ground to the
admirers of _Shirley_.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'UPPERWOOD HOUSE, _June_ 10_th_, 1841.

'DEAR NELL,--If I don't scrawl you a line of some sort I know you
will begin to fancy that I neglect you, in spite of all I said last
time we met. You can hardly fancy it possible, I dare say, that I
cannot find a quarter of an hour to scribble a note in; but when a
note is written it is to be carried a mile to the post, and consumes
nearly an hour, which is a large portion of the day. Mr. and Mrs.
White have been gone a week. I heard from them this morning; they
are now at Hexham. No time is fixed for their return, but I hope it
will not be delayed long, or I shall miss the chance of seeing Anne
this vacation. She came home, I understand, last Wednesday, and is
only to be allowed three weeks' holidays, because the family she is
with are going to Scarborough. I should like to see her to judge for
myself of the state of her health. I cannot trust any other person's
report, no one seems minute enough in their observations. I should
also very much have liked you to see her.

'I have got on very well with the servants and children so far, yet
it is dreary, solitary work. You can tell as well as me the lonely
feeling of being without a companion. I offered the Irish concern to
Mary Taylor, but she is so circumstanced that she cannot accept it.
Her brothers have a feeling of pride that revolts at the thought of
their sister "going out." I hardly knew that it was such a
degradation till lately.

'Your visit did me much good. I wish Mary Taylor would come, and yet
I hardly know how to find time to be with her. Good-bye. God bless
you.

'C. BRONTE.

'I am very well, and I continue to get to bed before twelve o'clock
P.M. I don't tell people that I am dissatisfied with my situation.
I can drive on; there is no use in complaining. I have lost my
chance of going to Ireland.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _July_ 1_st_, 1841.

'DEAR NELL,--I was not at home when I got your letter, but I am at
home now, and it feels like paradise. I came last night. When I
asked for a vacation, Mrs. White offered me a week or ten days, but I
demanded three weeks, and stood to my tackle with a tenacity worthy
of yourself, lassie. I gained the point, but I don't like such
victories. I have gained another point. You are unanimously
requested to come here next Tuesday and stay as long as you can.
Aunt is in high good-humour. I need not write a long
letter.--Good-bye, dear Nell.

'C. B.

'_P.S._--I have lost the chance of seeing Anne. She is gone back to
"The land of Egypt and the house of bondage." Also, little black Tom
is dead. Every cup, however sweet, has its drop of bitterness in it.
Probably you will be at a loss to ascertain the identity of black
Tom, but don't fret about it, I'll tell you when you come. Keeper is
as well, big, and grim as ever. I'm too happy to write. Come, come,
lassie.'

It must have been during this holiday that the resolution concerning a
school of their own assumed definite shape. Miss Wooler talked of giving
up Dewsbury Moor--should Charlotte and Emily take it? Charlotte's
recollections of her illness there settled the question in the negative,
and Brussels was coming to the front.

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'UPPERWOOD HOUSE, _October_ 17_th_, 1841.

'DEAR NELL,--It is a cruel thing of you to be always upbraiding me
when I am a trifle remiss or so in writing a letter. I see I can't
make you comprehend that I have not quite as much time on my hands as
Miss Harris or Mrs. Mills. I never neglect you on purpose. I could
not _do_ it, you little teazing, faithless wretch.

'The humour I am in is worse than words can describe. I have had a
hideous dinner of some abominable spiced-up indescribable mess and it
has exasperated me against the world at large. So you are coming
home, are you? Then don't expect me to write a long letter. I am
not going to Dewsbury Moor, as far as I can see at present. It was a
decent friendly proposal on Miss Wooler's part, and cancels all or
most of her little foibles, in my estimation; but Dewsbury Moor is a
poisoned place to me; besides, I burn to go somewhere else. I think,
Nell, I see a chance of getting to Brussels. Mary Taylor advises me
to this step. My own mind and feelings urge me. I can't write a
word more.

'C. B.'

TO MISS EMILY J. BRONTE

'UPPERWOOD HOUSE, RAWDON,
'_Nov_. 7_th_, 1841.

'DEAR E. J.,--You are not to suppose that this note is written with a
view of communicating any information on the subject we both have
considerably at heart: I have written letters but I have received no
letters in reply yet. Belgium is a long way off, and people are
everywhere hard to spur up to the proper speed. Mary Taylor says we
can scarcely expect to get off before January. I have wished and
intended to write to both Anne and Branwell, but really I have not
had time.

'Mr. Jenkins I find was mistakenly termed the British Consul at
Brussels; he is in fact the English Episcopal clergyman.

'I think perhaps we shall find that the best plan will be for papa to
write a letter to him by and bye, but not yet. I will give an
intimation when this should be done, and also some idea of what had
best be said. Grieve not over Dewsbury Moor. You were cut out there
to all intents and purposes, so in fact was Anne, Miss Wooler would
hear of neither for the first half year.

'Anne seems omitted in the present plan, but if all goes right I
trust she will derive her full share of benefit from it in the end.
I exhort all to hope. I believe in my heart this is acting for the
best, my only fear is lest others should doubt and be dismayed.
Before our half year in Brussels is completed, you and I will have to
seek employment abroad. It is not my intention to retrace my steps
home till twelve months, if all continues well and we and those at
home retain good health.

'I shall probably take my leave of Upperwood about the 15th or 17th
of December. When does Anne talk of returning? How is she? What
does W. W. {92} say to these matters? How are papa and aunt, do they
flag? How will Anne get on with Martha? Has W. W. been seen or
heard of lately? Love to all. Write quickly.--Good-bye.

'C. BRONTE.

'I am well.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'RAWDON, _December_ 10_th_, 1841.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--I hear from Mary Taylor that you are come home, and
also that you have been ill. If you are able to write comfortably,
let me know the feelings that preceded your illness, and also its
effects. I wish to see you. Mary Taylor reports that your looks are
much as usual. I expect to get back to Haworth in the course of a
fortnight or three weeks. I hope I shall then see you. I would
rather you came to Haworth than I went to Brookroyd. My plans
advance slowly and I am not yet certain where I shall go, or what I
shall do when I leave Upperwood House. Brussels is still my promised
land, but there is still the wilderness of time and space to cross
before I reach it. I am not likely, I think, to go to the Chateau de
Kockleberg. I have heard of a less expensive establishment. So far
I had written when I received your letter. I was glad to get it.
Why don't you mention your illness. I had intended to have got this
note off two or three days past, but I am more straitened for time
than ever just now. We have gone to bed at twelve or one o'clock
during the last three nights. I must get this scrawl off to-day or
you will think me negligent. The new governess, that is to be, has
been to see my plans, etc. My dear Ellen, Good-bye.--Believe me, in
heart and soul, your sincere friend,

'C. B.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'_December_ 17_th_, 1841.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--I am yet uncertain when I shall leave Upperwood, but
of one thing I am very certain, when I do leave I must go straight
home. It is absolutely necessary that some definite arrangement
should be commenced for our future plans before I go visiting
anywhere. That I wish to see you I know, that I intend and _hope_ to
see you before long I also know, that you will at the first impulse
accuse me of neglect, I fear, that upon consideration you will acquit
me, I devoutly trust. Dear Ellen, come to Haworth if you can, if you
cannot I will endeavour to come for a day at least to Brookroyd, but
do not depend on this--come to Haworth. I thank you for Mr. Jenkins'
address. You always think of other people's convenience, however ill
and affected you are yourself. How very much I wish to see you, you
do not know; but if I were to go to Brookroyd now, it would deeply
disappoint those at home. I have some hopes of seeing Branwell at
Xmas, and when I shall be able to see him afterwards I cannot tell.
He has never been at home for the last five months.--Good-night, dear
Ellen,

'C. B.'

TO MISS MERCY NUSSEY

'RAWDON, _December_ 17_th_.

'MY DEAR MISS MERCY,--Though I am very much engaged I must find time
to thank you for the kind and polite contents of your note. I should
act in the manner most consonant with my own feelings if I at once,
and without qualification, accepted your invitation. I do not
however consider it advisable to indulge myself so far at present.
When I leave Upperwood I must go straight home. Whether I shall
afterwards have time to pay a short visit to Brookroyd I do not yet
know--circumstances must determine that. I would fain see Ellen at
Haworth instead; our visitations are not shared with any show of
justice. It shocked me very much to hear of her illness--may it be
the first and last time she ever experiences such an attack! Ellen,
I fear, has thought I neglected her, in not writing sufficiently long
or frequent letters. It is a painful idea to me that she has had
this feeling--it could not be more groundless. I know her value, and
I would not lose her affection for any probable compensation I can
imagine. Remember me to your mother. I trust she will soon regain
her health.--Believe me, my dear Miss Mercy, yours sincerely,

'C. BRONTE.'

TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY

'HAWORTH, _January_ 10_th_, 1842.

'MY DEAR ELLEN,--Will you write as soon as you get this and fix your
own day for coming to Haworth? I got home on Christmas Eve. The
parting scene between me and my late employers was such as to efface
the memory of much that annoyed me while I was there, but indeed,
during the whole of the last six months they only made too much of
me. Anne has rendered herself so valuable in her difficult situation
that they have entreated her to return to them, if it be but for a
short time. I almost think she will go back, if we can get a good
servant who will do all our work. We want one about forty or fifty
years old, good-tempered, clean, and honest. You shall hear all
about Brussels, etc., when you come. Mr. Weightman is still here,
just the same as ever. I have a curiosity to see a meeting between
you and him. He will be again desperately in love, I am convinced.
_Come_.

'C. B.' {95}


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