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Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls 
                                                                                             Артур Белл Николлс
                                                      Tully Farm, birthplace of Arthur Bell Nicholls
                                                                                            The Brontës and Arthur Bell Nicholls

The Reverend Patrick Brontë's curate and Charlotte's husband.

Born Killead, County Antrim, 6th January 1819.
Died Banagher, County Offaly, 3rd December 1906.

Arthur Bell Nicholls came from a similar background to Mr. Brontë's. Both were from families of ten children of small farmers in Northern Ireland, and both were assisted by local clergymen to go on to university. In 1826 Arthur was taken in by his uncle, the Reverend Allan Bell, headmaster of the Royal Free School, Banagher. Ten years later, he went up to Trinity College, Dublin, graduating in 1844. His first clerical position was the curacy at Haworth, and he took up his duties in May 1845.

His Duties

Mr. Brontë was by then 68 years old, and besides taking services and undertaking such duties as Mr. Brontë might direct, Mr. Nicholls had specific responsibilities for Stanbury village, and for the Church School, where he taught five mornings a week.

He was diligent, serious-minded and widely read, and both Mr. Brontë and the village thought well of him. A strongly built man, he liked fresh air and exercise, and would take the Brontë dogs for walks on the moors.

Relations with the Brontë family
Mr. Nicholls lived in John Brown (the sexton)'s house, which adjoins the Church School, adjacent to the Church and the Parsonage. John Brown was a close friend of Branwell Brontë , and his daughter, Martha Brown, lived in the Parsonage working as a servant. A few months after Mr. Nicholls' arrival in Haworth, Branwell returned home in disgrace, and Mr. Nicholls would have witnessed every stage of Branwell's decline over the next three years, and shared the tragedy of the deaths of Branwell, Emily and Anne in 1848-9. By 1850, probably no one outside the Parsonage itself would have been more familiar with the Brontë family than Arthur Nicholls.

Marriage to Charlotte
His proposal of marriage to Charlotte, in December 1852, came as a complete surprise to Charlotte and her father. Mr. Brontë withheld his consent and Charlotte declined the offer. Mr. Brontë was angered by his curate's presumption, and made life so uncomfortable for him, that Mr. Nicholls resigned and left the village. He took a curacy at Kirk Smeaton, forty mile south of Haworth, and corresponded with Charlotte. By late 1853 they were meeting secretly near Haworth, and by Christmas, Charlotte had accepted him and persuaded her father to agree. They were married on the 29th June 1854 and honeymooned for a month in Ireland. Their marriage was very happy and tragically short. At the turn of the year, Charlotte developed chronic sickness, she became weak and emaciated, and, on the 31st March 1855, she died in the early stages of pregnancy.

Back to Ireland
Arthur Nicholls stayed on to look after Mr. Brontë until his death in 1861. He had hoped to take over the living on his father-in-law's death, but he was overlooked. He returned to his roots near Banagher, took up farming in a small way, and never worked as a priest again. In 1864 he married his cousin Mary Anna, the daughter of his uncle, the Reverend Allan Bell. They had no children, and Arthur Nicholls, as the last remaining member of the Brontë family, spent the next forty years defending the Brontë name against an endless series of biographers and curio hunters.

© Митрофанова Екатерина Борисовна, 2009 |