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Title: The Brontë Family, Vol. 1 of 2 - with special reference to Patrick Branwell Brontë
Author: Leyland, Francis A.
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Brontë Family, Vol. 1 of 2 - with special reference to Patrick Branwell Brontë" ***

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THE BRONTË FAMILY

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO

PATRICK BRANWELL BRONTË


VOL. I.


BY

FRANCIS A. LEYLAND.


IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. I.


LONDON:
HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS,
13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.
1886.

_All rights reserved._



PREFACE.


It has long seemed to me that the history of the Brontë family is
incomplete, and, in some senses, not well understood. Those who have
written upon it--as I shall have occasion to point out in these
pages--have had certain objects in view, which have, perhaps
necessarily, led them to give undue weight to special points and to
overlook others. Thus it happens that, though there are in the hands of
the public several able works on the Brontës, there are many
circumstances relating to them that are yet in comparative obscurity.
Especially has injustice been done to one member of the family--Patrick
Branwell Brontë--whose life has several times been treated by those who
have had some other object in view; and, through a misunderstanding of
the character of the brother, the sisters, Anne in particular, have
been put, in some respects, in a false light also. This circumstance,
coupled with the fact that I am in possession of much new information,
and am able to print here a considerable quantity of unknown poetry
from Branwell's hand, has induced me to write this work. Those of his
poems which are included in these volumes are placed in dealing with
the periods of his life in which they were written, for I felt that,
however great might be the advantages of putting them together in a
complete form, much more would be lost both to the interest of the
poems and the life of their author in doing so. Branwell's poems, more,
perhaps, than those of any other writer, are so clearly expressive of
his feelings at the time of their writing, that a correct view of his
character is only to be obtained by looking upon them as parts of his
life-history, which indeed they are. And, moreover, when we consider
the circumstances under which any of these were written, our
understanding and appreciation of the subject must necessarily be much
fuller and truer. It has not escaped the attention of writers on the
Brontë story that Branwell had an important influence on his sisters;
and, though I maintain it to have been essentially different from what
others allege, it would not be possible to do justice either to him or
to them without saying a good deal about his character.

I have felt it right, in these pages, to some extent also, to
re-consider the character of the Rev. Patrick Brontë, which has, along
with that of his son, suffered unfair treatment in the biographies of
his daughters. I have likewise entered upon some account of the local
circumstances of art and literature which surrounded the Brontës, an
element in their history which has hitherto been unknown, but is
especially necessary to a right understanding of the life and work of
Branwell Brontë and his sisters. These circumstances, and the altered
view I have taken of the tone of the lives of Mr. Brontë and his son,
have obliged me to deal more fully than would otherwise have been
necessary with the early years of the Brontës, but I venture to hope
that this may be atoned for by the new light I have thus been enabled
to throw on some important points. There are published here, for the
first time, a series of letters which Branwell Brontë addressed to an
intimate friend, J. B. Leyland, sculptor, who died in 1851, and it is
with these that a fresh insight is obtained into an interesting period
of Branwell's life.

I am largely indebted in some parts of my work, especially those which
deal with the lives of the sisters, to Mrs. Gaskell's fascinating 'Life
of Charlotte Brontë'; and it is a source of sincere regret to me that I
am compelled to differ from that writer on many points. I am likewise
indebted in parts to Mr. T. Wemyss Reid's admirable 'Charlotte Brontë:
a Monograph,' a work which has corrected several errors and
misconceptions into which Mrs. Gaskell had fallen. The reader will
perceive that I am obliged in several places to combat the theories and
question the statements of Miss A. Mary F. Robinson in her 'Emily
Brontë,' a book which, nevertheless, so far as its special subject is
concerned, is a worthy contribution to the history of the Brontës.

I have also found of much use, in writing this work, an article
entitled 'Branwell Brontë,' which Mr. George Searle Phillips--'January
Searle'--published in the 'Mirror' in 1872. The chapter in Mr. Francis
H. Grundy's 'Pictures of the Past' on Branwell Brontë, has likewise
been of the greatest service to me. Both these gentlemen were
Branwell's personal friends, and to them I gladly acknowledge my
indebtedness.

Among many other sources of information respecting the Brontës, of
which I have availed myself in writing these pages, I may mention
_Hours at Home_, 'Unpublished Letters of Charlotte Brontë'; _Scribner_,
'Reminiscences of Charlotte Brontë'; the _Athenæum_, 'Notices and
Letters,' by Mr. A. C. Swinburne, and 'One of the Survivors of the
Brontë-Branwell Family.' To this lady I must also express my obligation
for her very kind letter to me.

In the preparation of my work I have been greatly assisted by the
information, and encouraged by the sympathy, of several who had
personal knowledge of Patrick Branwell Brontë, and who have supported
the view I have taken of his life and character, and also who had like
knowledge of the other members of the Brontë family. Among these, I
have to express my sincere thanks to Mr. H. Merrall and to Mr. William
Wood, who were early acquaintances of Branwell; also to Mr. William
Dearden. To Mr. J. H. Thompson and Mrs. Thornton I am greatly indebted
for information respecting Branwell's sojourn in Bradford. I have
likewise derived much information from the family of the Browns, now
all deceased, except Mrs. Brown, to whom I have to express my
obligation. I have also gained much reliable information from Nancy
Garrs, now Mrs. Wainwright, the nurse of the Brontës, and to her I must
especially express my thanks. To these, I must not omit to add my deep
and sincere thanks to those who will not permit me to mention them by
name, for the unwearied assistance, counsel, and literary judgment
which they have as cheerfully, as they have ably, rendered.

F. A. L.

OAKWOOD, SKIRCOAT, HALIFAX,
October, 1885.



CONTENTS

OF

THE FIRST VOLUME.


CHAPTER I.

Brontë Genius--Patrick Brontë--His Birthplace--His early
Endeavours--Ordained--Presented to Hartshead--High Town--His
Courtship and Marriage--Removes to Thornton--His House--Thornton
Chapel--Mrs. Brontë's failing Health--Mr. Brontë Accepts the Living
of Haworth--Rudeness of the Inhabitants--Local Fights between
Haworth and Heptonstall--Description of Haworth--Mrs. Brontë dies   1

CHAPTER II.

The Mother of the Brontës--Her Character and Personal Appearance
--Her Literary Taste--Penzance, her Native Place--Description
of Penzance--The Branwell Family--Personal Traits of Maria
Branwell--Her Virtues--Her Letters to Mr. Brontë--Her Domestic
Experiences                                                        33

CHAPTER III.

Character of the Rev. P. Brontë--Charges against Him--Serious
Allegations of Biographers--Injustice of the Charges--Mr. Brontë's
indignant Denial of the Imputations--Testimony of Nancy Garrs--Mrs.
Brontë and the Silk-Dress Episode--Mr. Brontë, the supposed
Prototype of Mr. Helstone--The Pistol-shots Theory--Mr. Brontë
on Science Knowledge--Miss Branwell                                41

CHAPTER IV.

Girlhood--Gravity of Character--Charlotte's Description of the
Elf-land of Childhood--The Still and Solemn Moors of Haworth
influence their Writings--The Present of Toys--The Plays which
they Acted--Mr. Brontë on a Supposed Earthquake--The Evidence
of his Care for his Children--Grammar School at Haworth--His
Children under the Tuition of the Master--The Character of the
School--Cowan Bridge School--Charlotte's View of Mr. Carus
Wilson's Management--Deaths of Maria and Elizabeth                 57

CHAPTER V.

Reunion of the Brontë Family--Branwell is the supposed Prototype
of Victor Crimsworth--That Character not a complete Portrait of
Branwell--His Friendships--His Visit to the Keighley Feast--Its
Effect on Branwell's Nerves--The Wrestle--The Lost Spectacles--Fear
of his Father's Displeasure--Mrs. Gaskell's Story of the 'Black
Bull' Incident Questioned--Miss Branwell and her Nephew            81

CHAPTER VI.

The youthful Compositions of the Brontës--Their Character--
Branwell's Share in them--'The Secret,' a Fragment--The Reading
of the Brontë Children--Branwell's Character at this Period        93

CHAPTER VII.

Charlotte goes to Roe Head--Return Home--Branwell at the Time--The
Companion of his Sisters--Escorts Charlotte on a Visit--He becomes
Interested in Pugilism--His Education--His Love for Music--His
Retentive Memory--His Personal Appearance--His Spirit             109

CHAPTER VIII.

Love of Art in the Youthful Brontës--Their elaborate Drawings--
J. B. Leyland, Sculptor--Spartacus--Mr. George Hogarth's
Opinion--Art Exhibition at Leeds--Mr. William Robinson, their
Drawing-Master--Branwell aims at Portrait-Painting--J. B.
Leyland in London--Branwell and the Royal Academy--He visits
London                                                            123

CHAPTER IX.

Charlotte returns as a Teacher, with Emily as a Pupil, to Roe
Head--Their Determination to Maintain themselves--Charlotte's
Fears respecting Emily--Charlotte's religious Melancholy--Accuses
herself of Flippancy--She is on the Borders of Despair--Anxiety
to Know more of the World--Emily at Law Hill, Halifax, as a
Teacher--Charlotte's Excitability--She returns Home out of
Health                                                            147

CHAPTER X.

The Light in which Biographers have regarded Branwell--
Bibliography--Mrs. Gaskell--The Causes which led her into
Error--Resentment of Branwell's Friends--Mr. George Searle
Phillips--Branwell as Depicted by Mr. T. Wemyss Reid--Mr. F. H.
Grundy's Notice of Branwell--Miss A. Mary F. Robinson's Portrait
of Branwell                                                       159

CHAPTER XI.

Branwell becomes a Freemason--His love of Art undiminished--Has
Instruction in Oil-Painting--Commences Portrait-Painting at
Bradford--His Commissions--His Letter to Mr. Thompson, the
Artist--Miss Robinson's Charges of Misconduct--Her Erroneous
Statements--Branwell's true Character and Conduct at Bradford
--Remarks on his alleged Opium-eating there                       172

CHAPTER XII.

New Inspiration of Poetry--Wordsworth--Southey, Scott, and
Byron--Southey to Charlotte Brontë--Hartley Coleridge--His
Worthies of Yorkshire--Poets of the West-Riding--Alaric A.
Watts--Branwell's Literary Abilities                              184

CHAPTER XIII.

Branwell's Letter to Wordsworth, with Stanzas--Remarks upon
it--No Reply--He Tries Again--His Interest in the Manchester
and Leeds Railway--Branwell's Literary and Artistic Friends
at Bradford and Halifax--Leyland's Works there--Branwell's
great Interest in them--Early Verses--Mrs. Gaskell's Judgment
on his Literary Abilities                                         193

CHAPTER XIV.

The Poetical bent of Branwell's Genius--'Caroline's Prayer'--'On
Caroline'--'Caroline'--Spirit of these Early Effusions            210

CHAPTER XV.

Charlotte's first Offer of Marriage--Her Remarks concerning it
--A second Offer Declined--Anne a Governess--She Moralizes upon
it--Charlotte obtains a Situation--Unsuited to Her--She Leaves
it--Branwell takes Pleasure in Scenery--He Visits Liverpool with
his Friends--Charlotte goes to Easton--Curates at Haworth--Their
Visits to the Parsonage--Public Meetings on Church Rates--
Charlotte's Attempt at a Richardsonian Novel--She sends the
Commencement of it to Wordsworth for his Opinion--Branwell
receives an Appointment as Private Tutor                          228

CHAPTER XVI.

The District of Black Comb--Branwell's Sonnet--Wordsworth and
Hartley Coleridge--Branwell's Letter to the 'Old Knave of
Trumps'--Its Publication by Miss Robinson in her 'Emily
Brontë'--Branwell's familiar Acquaintance with the People of
Haworth--He could Paint their Characters with Accuracy--His
Knowledge of the Human Passions--Emily's Isolation                249

CHAPTER XVII.

Branwell's Appointment at Ulverston ends--He gets a Situation
on the Railroad at Sowerby Bridge--Branwell at Luddenden Foot--
His Friends' Reminiscences of him--Charlotte and Emily reading
French Novels--Charlotte obtains a Situation--Anxious about
Anne--School Project of the Sisters--Charlotte's keen Desire
to visit Brussels--Her Letter to her Aunt Branwell                264

CHAPTER XVIII.

Situation of Luddenden Foot--Branwell visits Manchester--The
Sultry Summer--He visits the Picturesque Places adjacent--His
impromptu Verses to Mr. Grundy--He leaves the Railway Company
--Miss Robinson's unjust Comments--His three Sonnets--His
poem, 'The Afghan War'--Branwell's letter to Mr. Grundy--His
Self-depreciation                                                 287



THE BRONTË FAMILY.



CHAPTER I.

EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE BRONTËS.

Brontë Genius--Patrick Brontë--His Birthplace--His early
Endeavours--Ordained--Presented to Hartshead--High Town--His
Courtship and Marriage--Removes to Thornton--His House--Thornton
Chapel--Mrs. Brontë's failing Health--Mr. Brontë Accepts the Living
of Haworth--Rudeness of the Inhabitants--Local Fights between
Haworth and Heptonstall--Description of Haworth--Mrs. Brontë dies.


Not many stories of literary success have attracted so much interest,
and are in themselves so curious and enthralling, as that of the Brontë
sisters. The question has often been asked how it came about that these
children, who were brought up in distant solitude, and cut off, in a
manner, from intellectual life, who had but a partial opportunity of
studying mankind, and scarcely any knowledge of the ways of the outside
world, were enabled, with searching hands, to dissect the finest meshes
of the passions, to hold up in the clearest light the springs of human
action, and to depict, with nervous power, the most masculine and
forcible aspects of character. The solution has been sought in the
initiatory strength and inherent mental disposition of the sisters,
framed and moulded by the weird and rugged surroundings of their youth,
and tinged with lurid light and vivid feeling by the misfortunes and
sins of their unhappy brother. To illustrate these several points, the
biographers of Charlotte and Emily Brontë have explained, as the matter
admitted of explanation, the intellectual beginnings and capability of
the sisters, have painted in sombre colours the story of their
friendless childhood, and lastly, with no lack of honest condemnation,
have told us as much as they knew of the sad history of Patrick
Branwell Brontë, their brother. It is a curious fact that this brother,
who was looked upon by his family as its brightest ornament and hope,
should be named in these days only in connection with his sisters, and
then but with apology, condemnation, or reproach. In the course of this
work, in which Branwell Brontë will be traced from his parentage to his
death, we shall find the explanation of this circumstance; but we shall
find, also, that, despite his failings and his sins, his intellectual
gifts, as they are testified by his literary promise and his remains,
entitle him to a high place as a worthy member of that extraordinary
family. It will be seen, moreover, that his influence upon Charlotte,
Emily, and Anne was not what has been generally supposed, and that
other circumstances, besides their own domestic troubles, inspired them
to write their masterpieces.

The father of these gifted authors, Patrick Brontë, whose life and
personal characteristics well deserve study, was a native of the county
Down. He was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1777; and, after an infancy
passed at the house of his father, Hugh Brontë, or Brunty, at
Ahaderg--one of the ten children who made a noisy throng in the home of
his parents--he opened, at the age of sixteen, a village school at
Drumgooland, in the same county. In this occupation he continued after
he had attained his majority, and was never a tutor, as Mrs. Gaskell
supposes; but, being ambitious of a clerical life, through the
assistance of his patron, Mr. Tighe, incumbent of Drumgooland and
Drumballyroony, in the county of Down, he was admitted to St. John's
College, Cambridge, on the 1st of October in the year 1802, when he had
attained his twenty-fifth year. At Cambridge we may infer that he led
an active life. It is known that he joined a volunteer corps raised to
be in readiness for the French invasion, threatened at the time. After
a four years' sojourn at his college, having graduated as a bachelor of
arts, in the year 1806, he was ordained, and appointed to a curacy in
Essex, where he is said not to have stayed long.

The perpetual curacy of Hartshead, in the West-Riding of Yorkshire,
having become vacant, Mr. Brontë received the appointment, on the
presentation of the vicar of Dewsbury.

The church of St. Peter, at Hartshead--which has extensive remains of
Norman work, and has recently been restored--is situated on an eminence
about a mile from the actual hamlet of that name; and, with its broad,
low, and massive tower, and its grim old yew-tree, forms a conspicuous
object for miles around, commanding on all sides extensive and
magnificent views of the valleys of Calder and Colne, with their wooded
slopes, and pleasant farms, and the busy villages nestling in the
hollows. At the foot of the hill, the deep and sombre woods of Kirklees
hide the almost indistinguishable remains of the convent, founded by
Raynerus Flandrensis, in the reign of Henry II., for nuns of the order
of Citeaux.

There are interesting circumstances and evidences concerning Kirklees,
its Roman entrenchments being very distinct within the park which
overlooks the Calder at this point. The priory, too, has its curious
history of the events which attended the cloistered life of Elizabeth
de Stainton, one of the prioresses, whose monumental memorial alone
remains of all that marked the graves of the religious of that house;
and there are stories relating to Robin Hood. Here still exists the
chamber in which tradition says the 'noble outlaw' died, and also the
grave, at a cross-bow shot from it, where long generations of men have
averred his dust reposes. The district of Kirklees had an interest for
Charlotte Brontë, and she has celebrated it in 'Shirley,' under the
name of Nunnely, with its old church, its forest, its monastic ruins,
and 'its man of title--its baronet.' It was to the house of the
latter--kind gentleman though he was--that Louis Moore could not go,
where he 'would much sooner have made an appointment with the ghost of
the Earl of Huntingdon to meet him, and a shadowy ring of his merry
men, under the canopy of the thickest, blackest, oldest oak in Nunnely
Forest ... would rather have appointed tryst with a phantom abbess, or
mist-pale nun, among the wet and weedy relics of that ruined sanctuary
of theirs, mouldering in the core of the wood.'

Mr. Brontë entered upon his ministrations at Hartshead in the year
1811; and there are entries in the churchwarden's book of Easter-dues
paid to him up to 1815. It is curious to note that, in this early
mention of Mr. Brontë, the name is spelled 'Brunty' and 'Bronty.'

Hartshead being destitute of a glebe house, and no suitable residence
existing either at this place or at the neighbouring village of Clifton
at the time, Mr. Brontë took up his residence at High Town, in a roomy
and pleasant house at the top of Clough Lane, near Liversedge in the
parish of Birstall, and about a mile from the place of his cure. The
house, which commands beautiful views, is entered by a passage of the
ordinary width, on the left of which is the drawing-room, having
cross-beams ornamented with plaster mouldings, as when first finished.
On the right of the passage is the dining-room. The breakfast-room and
kitchen are behind them. The house is three stories in height, and
stands back about two yards from the road, which points direct to the
now populous towns of Liversedge and Cleckheaton, both places of
considerable antiquity, whose inhabitants, employed in various
manufacturies, were increasing in Mr. Brontë's time.

Finding himself now in possession of a competent income and a goodly
residence, he felt relieved from those anxieties which, in all
probability, had attended his early struggles; and, resting awhile in
his ambition, he turned in peace and contentment to poetical
meditation. His first book was called 'Cottage Poems,' on the
title-page of which he describes himself as the 'Reverend Patrick
Brontë, B.A., minister of Hartshead-cum-Clifton.' This book was
published at Halifax in the year 1811. The following are a few of its
subjects: 'The Happy Cottagers,' 'The Rainbow,' 'Winter Nights'
Meditations,' 'Verses sent to a Lady on her Birthday,' 'The Cottage
Maid,' and 'The Spider and the Fly.' Mr. Brontë thus speaks of himself
and his work: 'When relieved from clerical avocations he was occupied
in writing the "Cottage Poems;" from morning till noon, and from noon
till night, his employment was full of indescribable pleasure, such as
he could wish to taste as long as life lasts. His hours glided
pleasantly and almost imperceptibly by, and when night drew on, and he
retired to rest, ere his eyes closed in sleep with sweet calmness and
serenity of mind, he often reflected that, though the delicate palate
of criticism might be disgusted, the business of the day in the
prosecution of his humble task was well-pleasing in the sight of God,
and by His blessing might be rendered useful to some poor soul who
cared little about critical niceties.' Throughout he professes to be
indifferent to hostile criticism.

It is pleasant to find that Mr. Brontë, although settled in competence
in a picturesque part of England, was not forgetful of his parents or
of the land of his birth. So long as his mother lived he sent her
twenty pounds a year; and, though we have no record of the occasion, we
may safely infer that he found opportunity to visit Ireland again. He
maintained his connection with the district of his early life; and, in
after-years, he appointed a relative of Mr. Tighe to be his own curate.
One of his 'Cottage Poems' is entitled 'The Irish Cabin,' a verse or
two from which may here be given:--

    'Should poverty, modest and clean,
      E'er please when presented to view,
    Should cabin on brown heath or green,
      Disclose aught engaging to you;
    Should Erin's wild harp soothe the ear,
      When touched by such fingers as mine,
    Then kindly attentive draw near,
      And candidly ponder each line.'

He describes a winter-scene on the mountains of Morne--a high range
of hills in the north of Ireland--and thus alludes to his hospitable
reception in the clean and industrious cabin of his verses:--

    'Escaped from the pitiless storm,
      I entered the humble retreat;
    Compact was the building, and warm,
      In furniture simple and neat.
    And now, gentle reader, approve
      The ardour that glowed in each breast,
    As kindly our cottagers strove
      To cherish and welcome their guest.'

It is unnecessary to give in this place further extracts from this
book; suffice it to say that, in all probability, Mr. Brontë lived to
see the day when he was pained and surprised that he had ever committed
it to the press.

Although the poems of Mr. Brontë are inspired by the love of a peaceful
and contented life, free from excitement and care, yet in times of
trouble and emergency, such as those of the Luddite riots which
occurred during the period of his ministration at Hartshead, he showed
again the active and resolute spirit which had prompted and sustained
the efforts of his early ambition; and his ardour in helping to
suppress the turbulent spirit of the neighbourhood would have made him
very unpopular with the disaffected people, had they not learned to
respect the upright and unfailing rectitude of his conduct. In the
energetic character of Mr. Brontë's life in these early times, in his
persistent ambition, and in the literary pursuits which clearly were
dear to him, we may trace those factors of working power and literary
aspiration and taste which made up the characteristic intellectual
force of his children.

Mrs. Gaskell, in her 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' has given some of the
particulars of the Reverend Mr. Brontë's courtship and marriage, in
which she appears to have taken a lively interest.

Mr. Brontë met his future wife, (Miss Maria Branwell--of whose
character I shall speak in the next chapter--the third daughter of Mr.
T. Branwell of Penzance, deceased) for the first time about the summer
of 1812, when she was on a visit to her uncle, the Rev. John Fennel, a
Methodist minister and head-master of the Wesleyan Academy at Woodhouse
Grove, near Bradford, but who became later a clergyman of the
Establishment, and was made incumbent of Cross-stone, in the parish of
Halifax. This meeting was soon followed by an engagement, and, says
Mrs. Gaskell, there were plans for happy picnic-parties to Kirkstall
Abbey in the glowing September days, when 'Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin
Jane'--the last engaged to a Mr. Morgan, another clergyman--were of the
party.

In the account which Mr. Brontë gives of the aim and scope of the work
from which I have made an extract, and the state of his mind while
engaged upon it, we have a retrospect of the inner life of the father
of the Brontës, during his sojourn at Hartshead as perpetual curate,
prior to his marriage with Miss Branwell. In this period of his life,
he seems to have been perfectly happy, no cloud or anticipation of
future sorrow having obscured or diminished the fulness of his peace.
The marriage was celebrated on the 29th of December, 1812, at Guiseley,
near Bradford, by the Rev. W. Morgan, minister of Bierley, the
gentleman engaged to 'Cousin Jane.' It is a very curious circumstance
that on the same day, and at the same place, Mr. Brontë performed the
marriage ceremony between his wife's cousin, Miss Jane Fennel, only
daughter of the Mr. Fennel alluded to above, and the Rev. W. Morgan,
who had just been, as described, the officiating clergyman at his own
wedding.

Mr. Fennel would naturally have performed the ceremony for his niece
and Mr. Brontë, had it not fallen to his lot to give the lady away.

When Mr. Brontë found himself settled in married life at Hartshead, and
with the probability of a young family rising around him, he felt
pleasure in the contemplation of the future. Mrs. Brontë, ever gentle
and affectionate in her household ways, comforted and encouraged him in
his literary pursuits, and, by her acute observation and accurate
judgment, directed and aided his own. It was at this time that Mr.
Brontë wrote a book, entitled 'The Rural Ministry,' which was published
at Halifax, in 1813. The work consisted of a miscellany of descriptive
poems, with the following titles: 'The Sabbath Bells,' 'Kirkstall
Abbey,' 'Extempore Verses,' 'Lines to a Lady on her Birthday,' 'An
Elegy,' 'Reflections by Moonlight,' 'Winter,' 'Rural Happiness,' 'The
Distress and Relief,' 'The Christian's Farewell,' 'The Harper of Erin.'
It cannot be doubted that, in consequence of his two publications while
he was at Hartshead, Mr. Brontë became known in the surrounding
districts as an aspiring man, and one of literary culture and ability.

Mr. Brontë had taken his bride to his house at High Town, and it was
there that his daughters Maria and Elizabeth were born. Maria was
baptized on April the 23rd, 1814, and is entered in the register as the
'daughter of Patrick Brontë and Maria his wife.' The Rev. Mr. Morgan
was the officiating minister. There is no such entry there relating to
Elizabeth, for she was baptized at Thornton with the other children.

Mr. Brontë, after having been nearly five years minister of
Hartshead-cum-Clifton, resigned the benefice, and accepted, from the
vicar of Bradford, the incumbency of Thornton, a perpetual curacy in
that parish. This, probably, on the suggestion of Mr. Morgan, who was
then incumbent of Christ's Church at Bradford.

Thornton is beautifully situated on the northern slope of a valley.
Green and fertile pastures spread over the adjacent hills, and wooded
dells with shady walks beautify and enrich the district. 'The
neighbourhood,' says Mrs. Gaskell, 'is desolate and wild; great tracts
of bleak land, enclosed by stone dykes, sweeping up Clayton Heights.'
This disagreeable picture of the place, painted by the biographer of
Charlotte, is scarcely justified by the actual appearance of the
district. The soil is naturally fertile, and the inhabitants are
notable for industry and enterprise. Hence no barren land, within the
wide range of hill and vale, is now seen obtruding on the cultivated
sweep.

The town is somewhat regularly built. In the main street is situated
the house where Mr. Brontë took up his abode during his stay at
Thornton. The hall door was reached by several steps. There was a
dining-room on one side of the hall, and a drawing-room on the other.
Over the passage to the front was a dressing-room, at the window of
which the neighbours often saw Mr. Brontë at his toilet. Above the door
of the house, on a stone slab, there are still visible the letters:

             A.
       J.          S.
           1802

These are the initials of John and Sarah Ashworth, former inhabitants
of Thornton; and this residence remained as the parsonage until another
was built below, nearer to the chapel, by the successor of Mr. Brontë.

The chapel of Thornton is a narrow, contracted, and unsightly building.
The north side is lighted by two rows of square cottage windows--on the
south side, five late perpendicular pointed windows permit the sun to
relieve the gloom of the interior.

The diminutive communion-table is lighted by a four-mullioned window,
above which, externally, in the wall, appears the date 1620. The
interior is blocked, on the ground floor, with high-backed, unpainted
deal pews. Two galleries hide the windows almost from view, and cast a
gloom over the interior of the edifice. The area under the pews, and in
the aisles, is paved with gravestones, and a fetid, musty smell floats
through the damp and mouldering interior. In this chapel, Mr. Brontë
preached and ministered, and from the pulpit, placed high above the
curate and clerk, whence he delivered his sermons, he could see his
wife and children in a pew just below him.

The new incumbent of Thornton seems to have taken active interest in
his chapel; for in the western screen, which divides a kind of lobby
from the nave, is painted, on a wooden tablet, an inscription recording
that in the year 1818 this chapel was 'Repaired and Beautified,' the
Rev. Patrick Brontë, B.A., being then minister.

While at Thornton Mr. Brontë steadily pursued his literary avocations,
one of his books being a small volume entitled, 'The Cottage in the
Wood, or the Art of becoming Rich and Happy.' This is an account of a
pious family, consisting of an aged couple and a virtuous child, whose
appearance and education qualify her for a higher position in the world
than that of a cottager's daughter. Accident brings to their door a
young man in a state of almost helpless drunkenness, whose habits are
the most profligate and dissolute, as the sequel discloses; and the
object of the book is to show the dire consequences of continued
intemperance. The story is told in prose, but Mr. Brontë gives a
poetical version of one event in the narrative. It is entitled, 'The
Nightly Revel,' and possesses a dignity of its own. The following
extract shows considerable improvement, in diction and verse, upon the
style of his small volume published at Halifax, in 1811. For this
reason it is well worth reproducing.

    'Around the table polish'd goblets shine,
    Fill'd with brown ale, or crown'd with ruddy wine;
    Each quaffs his glass, and, thirsty, calls for more,
    Till maddening mirth, and song, and wild uproar,
    And idly fierce dispute, and brutal fight
    Break the soft slumbers of the peaceful night.

    'Without, within, above, beneath, around,
    Ungodly jests and deep-mouthed oaths resound;
    Pale Reason, trembling, leaves her reeling throne,
    Truth, Honour, Virtue, Justice, all are flown;
    The sly, dark-glancing harlot's fatal breath
    Allures to sin and sorrow, shame and death.
    The gaming-table, too, that fatal snare,
    Beset with fiercest passions fell is there;
    Remorse, despair, revenge, and deadly hate,
    With dark design, in bitter durance wait,
    Till SCARLET MURDER waves his bloody hand,
    Gives in sepulchral tone the dread command;
    Then forth they rush, and from the secret sheath
    Draw the keen blade and do the work of death.'

Mr. Brontë also, in 1818, before his appointment to Haworth, published
his 'Maid of Killarney.' He had not been long at Thornton, where he
went about the year 1815, when a considerable increase in his family
added to his parental responsibilities.

On his acceptance of the living, he probably enjoyed a larger stipend
than at Hartshead, but the demands of a young family, perhaps, on the
whole, made him a poorer man. There Charlotte Brontë was born in April,
1816; Patrick Branwell Brontë in 1817; Emily Jane Brontë in 1818; and
Anne Brontë probably just before Mr. Brontë's removal to Haworth, which
was on February 25th, 1820, as we are told by Mrs. Gaskell.

Of the life of the Brontës at Thornton we know little. But there were
causes of anxiety pressing on Mr. Brontë at the time. The state of his
wife's health was a real sorrow, and although he derived solace from
his literary pursuits and the society of his clerical friends, his
spirits were damped by the contemplation of the season of bereavement
and affliction that assuredly threatened him at no distant date.

With six young children, who might soon become motherless, Mr. Brontë's
future was dark and discouraging, and he entertained the idea of
resigning, at no distant day, the then place of his cure. Here, living
within a reasonable distance of Bradford, he had an opportunity of
moving in a larger circle of friends than at Hartshead, and it was here
that his children received their earliest impressions of local life and
character. Old inhabitants of Thornton remembered them playing in the
space opposite their father's residence, in the village street, and had
often seen them carried, or their parents lead them by the hand, in the
lanes of the neighbourhood. They were children only when they left
Thornton; yet, on many grounds, the inhabitants of that village may
feel privileged that it was the birthplace of the authors of 'Jane
Eyre,' 'Wuthering Heights,' and 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.'

Shortly an opportunity presented itself to Mr. Brontë for leaving
Thornton, a vacancy having taken place at Haworth through the death of
the curate, Mr. Charnock. The situation of this chapelry was blessed
with a more bracing air, and the curate had a somewhat better stipend
than Thornton allowed, and so Mr. Brontë accepted the presentation from
the patron. We are informed, however, that, on visiting the place of
his intended ministrations, he was told that while to him personally
the parishioners had no objection, yet, as the nominee of the vicar of
Bradford, he would not be received. He had no idea that the inhabitants
had a veto in the appointment.

On Mr. Brontë declaring that, if he had not the good-will of the
inhabitants, his ministrations would be useless, the place was
presented to Mr. Redhead by the patron, and the village seems to have
become the scene of extraordinary proceedings. It appears that, after
the Reformation, the presentation to the curacy of Haworth, which had
been from time immemorial vested in the vicar of Bradford, had become
subject to the control of the freeholders, and of certain trustees who
held possession of the principal funds from which the stipend of the
curate proceeded, which they could withhold, by virtue of an authority
they appear to have been empowered with. In effect, they could at any
time disallow or render void an appointment, if disagreeable to
themselves, by keeping back the stipend. Mr. Brontë, writing later of
Mr. Redhead, says of this: 'My predecessor took the living with the
consent of the vicar of Bradford and certain trustees, in consequence
of which he was so opposed that, after only three weeks' possession, he
was compelled to resign.' What this opposition and its immediate
effects were, we learn from the pages of Mrs. Gaskell's 'Life of
Charlotte Brontë,' and they may be mentioned here as illustrative of
the pre-eminent resolution and force of character which ever
distinguish the inhabitants of the West-Riding and the dwellers on
these rough-hewn and storm-beaten elevations.

During the long illness which preceded the death of Mr. Charnock,
incumbent of Haworth, his assistant curate, Mr. Redhead, had supplied
his place; who, on Mr. Brontë's withdrawal, was presented, as is stated
above, to the vacant living by the patron, and he seems to have been
determined to hold the chapelry, _vi et armis_, in defiance of the
inhabitants. But the freeholders, conceiving they had been deprived of
their long established prerogative, or an attempt was being made to
interfere with it, protested against Mr. Redhead's appointment. On the
first occasion of this gentleman's preaching in the church, it was
crowded not by worshippers, but by a multitude of people bent on
mischief. These resolved the service should not proceed, or that it
should be rendered inaudible. To secure this object they had put on the
heavy wooden clogs they daily wore, except on Sundays, and, while the
surpliced minister was reading the opening service, the stamping and
clattering of the clogs drowned his voice, and the people left the
church, making all the noise and uproar that was in their power, which
was by no means feeble. The following Sunday witnessed proceedings
still more disgraceful. We are told that at the commencement of the
service, a man rode up the nave of the church on an ass, with his face
to the tail, and with a number of old hats piled on his head. On urging
his beast forward, the screams of delight, the roars of laughter, and
the shouts of the approving conspirators completely drowned the
clergyman's voice; and he left the chapel, but not yet discomfited.

Mr. Redhead, on the third Sunday, resolved to make a strenuous and
final effort to keep the ecclesiastical citadel of which he had been
formally put in possession. For this purpose he brought with him a body
of cavalry, composed of a number of sympathising gentlemen, with their
horses; and the curate, thus accompanied by his supporters, ascended
the village street and put up at the 'Bull.' But the enemy had been on
the alert: the people were exasperated, and followed the new-comers to
the church, accompanied by a chimney-sweep who had, not long before,
finished his labours at some adjacent chimneys, and whom they had made
half drunk. Him they placed right before the reading-desk, which Mr.
Redhead had already reached, and the drunken, black-faced sweep nodded
assent to the measured utterances of the minister. 'At last,' it is
said, 'either prompted by some mischief-maker, or from some tipsy
impulse, he clambered up the pulpit stairs, and attempted to embrace
Mr. Redhead. Then the fun grew fast and furious. Some of the more
riotous pushed the soot-covered chimney-sweeper against Mr. Redhead, as
he tried to escape. They threw both him and his tormentor down on the
ground in the churchyard where the soot-bag had been emptied, and
though, at last, Mr. Redhead escaped into the "Black Bull," the doors
of which were immediately barred, the people raged without, threatening
to stone him and his friends.'[1] They escaped from the place, and Mr.
Redhead, completely vanquished, retired from the curacy of Haworth.

          [1] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. ii.

Mr. Brontë, who had made a favourable impression on the inhabitants,
was now accepted by them, and the natural kindness of his disposition
and the urbanity of his manners, secured peace and contentment in the
village.

His responsibilities as a pastor were not light, though the new scene
of his labours, in moral condition, was, perhaps, no worse than the
generality of similar villages in the north of England. The special
chroniclers of Haworth speak of the population of the barren mountains
west of York as 'rude and arrogant, after the manner of their wild
country.' This is the testimony of James Rither, a Yorkshire esquire.
The celebrated Oliver Haywood, preaching at the house of Jonas Foster,
at Haworth, on June 13th, 1672, broke out into lamentations about the
immorality, corruption, and profanity of the place. Mr. Grimshaw, in
the last century, while curate there, had a conviction that the
majority of the people were going to hell with their eyes open! Mrs.
Gaskell informs us that at Haworth, 'drinking without the head being
affected was considered a manly accomplishment.' A remarkable instance
of the loss of reverence and the increase of profanity, in those days,
is found in the observance of Palm Sunday at Heptonstall, a
neighbouring village, and at Haworth itself this feast was
pre-eminently distinguished in ancient times by the out-door
processions of people going from the church and returning to it,
bearing palm branches and singing the psalms and hymns appointed for
the special festival.

It is known, indeed, that this feast was attended by the inhabitants of
the surrounding hills and valleys in those times; and, at the period of
which I speak, the attendance of the people was not diminished, but
increased, though they came for another object. It is a singular fact
that local feuds, if we may call them such, were kept up between the
villages of the West-Riding. And thus challenges were given alternately
by Haworth to Heptonstall, and by Heptonstall to Haworth, for struggles
between the champions of the respective villages, to be fought out on
Palm Sunday. The inhabitants of these places, therefore, met to pound
and pummel each other without any civil or religious cause to give
bitterness to the fray: greed of triumph and brutal indifference to
injuries inflicted characterized these hostile meetings. On such
occasions, at Heptonstall, amidst great drunkenness and rioting, there
were 'stand-up' fights from the church-gates to the 'Buttress,' a steep
part of the road, near the bridge which crosses the river at the foot
of Heptonstall Bank--nearly a mile in extent. On one of these feasts, a
Haworth belligerent, unwilling to return home, although night was
drawing on, and looking extremely dissatisfied, when asked by his wife
what ailed him, answered, 'Aw 'annot fawhten wi' onny body yet, an'
aw'll nut gooa whom till aw dun summat.' His affectionate spouse
replied, 'Then gooa, an' get fawhten' an' ha' done wi' it, for we mun
gooa.' The West-Riding police, on their institution, put an end to
these disagraceful proceedings.

Haworth, the new place of Mr. Brontë's incumbency, which has been well
and very fully described by many writers, is situated on the western
confines of the parish of Bradford, and stands on a somewhat lofty
eminence. It is, however, protected in great measure from the western
storms by still higher ground, which consists of irreclaimable moors
and morasses.

The church in which he, for the remainder of his life, performed his
religious services, and in which his more gifted children repose, after
their brief but memorable lives, was of ancient date. A chantry was
founded there at the beginning of the reign of Edward III., where a
priest celebrated daily for the repose of the soul of Adam de Battley,
and for the souls of his ancestors, and for all the faithful departed.
The church, which is dedicated to the glory of God, in honour of St.
Michael the archangel, has been recently, to a great extent,
re-edified. The old structure retained traces of one still older, of
the early English style. Invested as it was with the evidences of the
periods of taste good and bad through which it had passed, and with the
associations which attach to old and familiar internal arrangements, it
was endeared to the inhabitants. Of such associations the present
church--though an architectural gain upon its predecessor--is
necessarily destitute, and the world-wide interest with which the
former structure was invested through the genius of the Brontës has
been almost destroyed by the substitution of an edifice in which they
never prayed, and which they never saw; though their remains repose, it
is true, under its pavement, as is indicated by memorial tablets.

During the existence of the old church, Haworth was visited by
continuous streams of people; but, on its removal, little was left to
attract pilgrims from afar, and there was a manifest diminution of
visitors to the village.

In the recent alterations, the parsonage also, in which the children of
the Rev. Patrick Brontë lived and won for themselves enduring fame in
the path of literature, has undergone considerable changes. It has been
found necessary to add a new wing to the house, in order to obtain
larger accommodation, and, to beautify the parsonage still further, the
old cottage panes, through which light fell on precious and invaluable
pages of elaborate manuscript, as they passed through delicate and
gifted hands, have given way to plate-glass squares. Altogether the
house, both inside and out, presents a very different appearance from
that which it did in the time of the Brontës.

The chapelry at Haworth, when Mr. Brontë accepted the perpetual curacy,
was much more populous and important than that of Thornton. The stipend
of £170 per annum, with a fair residence attached, and a sum of £27
13s. for maintenance, made the change a desirable one on pecuniary
grounds; and, with Mrs. Brontë's annuity of £50 a year, anxiety on this
head was no doubt allayed.

The population of the district was about four thousand seven hundred,
and, in the first ten years of Mr. Brontë's incumbency, increased by
nearly twelve hundred souls. The chapelry included within its bounds
the townships or hamlets of Stanbury and Near and Far Oxenhope, with
the extensive moors and scattered houses stretching to the borders of
Lancashire. The curacy of Stanbury, a place one mile west of Haworth,
with £100 per annum, was in the gift of Mr. Brontë; and there was also
the interest on £600, with a house, for the maintenance of a free
school at that place, and a sum of £90 per annum for a like purpose at
Haworth. In the year 1849, while Mr. Brontë was still incumbent, the
chapelry of Haworth was divided, a church having been erected at
Oxenhope at a cost of £1,500, the curacy there being valued at £150 per
annum.

Among the considerations which had weight with Mr. Brontë in his
determination to accept the curacy of Haworth was, in all probability,
the delicate state of his wife's health, and the not over-robust
constitutions of his children. He knew, that though from the
smoke-laden atmosphere of the busy centres of West-Riding industry,
Keighley and Haworth were not wholly exempt, yet the winds which
prevailed from the west and the south-west for a great part of the
year, and swept over the moorlands from whose heights the Irish Channel
itself was visible, would, by their purity, give that invigoration of
which his family stood in need. It is quite possible, indeed, that by
Mr. Brontë's removal to Haworth, which gave an almost illimitable range
of wild, heathery hills for his children to wander over, an extension
of their short lives may have been attained. Mrs. Brontë, however,
derived little or no benefit from the change. She had suffered for some
time under a fatal malady--an internal cancer--of which, about eighteen
months after her arrival at Haworth, she died.



CHAPTER II.

MRS. BRONTË.

The Mother of the Brontës--Her Character and Personal Appearance
--Her Literary Taste--Penzance, her Native Place--Description of
Penzance--The Branwell Family--Personal Traits of Maria Branwell
--Her Virtues--Her Letters to Mr. Brontë--Her Domestic Experiences.


The mother of the Brontës--whose death, in September, 1821, deprived
her children of the affectionate and tender care which, for the short
period of her married life, she had bestowed upon them--would, had she
been spared, have moulded their characters by her own meek, gentle, and
maternal virtues. Mrs. Brontë is said to have been small in person, but
of graceful and kindly manners; not beautiful, yet comely and
lady-like, and gifted with great discrimination, judgment, and modesty.
Mrs. Gaskell says she 'was very elegant, and always dressed with a
quiet simplicity of taste which accorded well with her general
character, and of which some details call to mind the style of dress
preferred by her daughter for her favourite heroines.' Mrs. Brontë was
also gifted with literary ability and taste. She had written an essay
entitled, 'The Advantages of Poverty in Religious Concerns,' with a
view to publication in some periodical; and her letters were
characterized by elegance and ease. Her relations in Penzance spoke of
her as 'their favourite aunt, and one to whom they, as well as the
family, looked up as a person of talent and great amiability of
disposition;' and again, as 'possessing more than ordinary talents,
which she inherited from her father.'

Mrs. Brontë, as has been said, was a native of Penzance, a corporate
town in the county of Cornwall, and also a sea-port. Penzance is
situated in the hundred of Penwith, and is the most westerly town in
England. The climate is distinguished by great mildness and salubrity,
and the land is remarkable for its fertility, and the beauty of its
meads and pastures. Its maritime situation, however, had, in former
times, exposed it to the descents of foreign invaders, the last of
which appears to have been that of the Spaniards in the year 1595. The
account given of this event is that the invaders, being masters of
Bretagne, sent four vessels manned with a force sufficient to occupy
the Cornish coast. They landed near Mousehole--a well-known place on
the western side of Mount's Bay--and entered the town, which they set
on fire, the inhabitants fleeing before them. At a later date the town
became very pleasant, and many of the houses were large and
respectable, while the streets were well paved. Generally the people
enjoyed long lives, and some attained the patriarchal age: one of
these--Dolly Pentreath, who died in her one hundred and second year,
and who had made the 'Mousehole' her residence--was known as the last
who spoke Cornish. On account of the gentleness of the climate, many
suffering from pulmonary complaints took up their residence there.

Penzance was a town surrounded by places of great interest to the
historian and the antiquary, which are fully described by Borlase and
others. The trades carried on at the place were of considerable extent
in tin and the pilchard fishery, as well as in copper, earthenware,
clay, and in other objects of manufacture and merchandise. In one of
the local industries, Mr. Thomas Branwell was engaged. He had married a
lady named Carne, and they had four daughters and one son. Maria was
their third daughter. The families of Mr. and Mrs. Branwell were well
connected, and moved in the best society in Penzance. They were
Wesleyan Methodist in religion, and the children were brought up in
that persuasion. Mr. Branwell relieved the cares of business by the
delights and consolations of music, in the performance of which he is
said to have had considerable ability. He and his wife lived to see
their children grown up; and died, Mr. Branwell in 1808, and his wife
in 1809.

Maria Branwell visited her uncle, Mr. Fennel, at the beginning of the
summer of 1812, as is stated above, and, for the first time, saw Mr.
Brontë. A feeling of mutual admiration sprang up between them, and
something like the beginning of an engagement took place. When she
returned home, a correspondence opened between the two, and Mr. Brontë
preserved the letters. These have been referred to by the biographer of
his daughter, and we learn that the communications of Miss Branwell
were characterized by singular modesty, thoughtfulness, and piety. She
was surprised to find herself so suddenly engaged, but she accepted
with modest candour the proffer of Mr. Brontë's affection. The future
was determined by mutual acquiescence. On Miss Branwell, nature had
bestowed no great personal attractions, yet, as has been said, she was
comely, and lady-like in her manners; and her innate grace drew
irresistibly to her the esteem of all her acquaintances. Little is
known respecting her beyond the personal traits already mentioned; and
as to the circumstances and events of her life, unmarried or married,
which was one of an extremely even and uneventful kind, little or
nothing can be recorded beyond the ordinary routine of domestic duties
well and affectionately performed, and of obligations in her sphere
religiously observed. Blameless in her conduct, loving in her charge,
and patient in the sufferings she was called upon to endure, she was a
pattern of those excellencies which are the adornments of domestic
life, and make the hearth happy and contented. It cannot be doubted
that she ordered her household with judgment, and expended her
husband's income with frugality and to the best advantage.

Mrs. Gaskell was enabled to give an extract from one of her letters
written to Mr. Brontë before her marriage, which displays in an
excellent manner her calm sensibility and understanding. She says: '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 on every occasion
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
has never led me into error, yet, in circumstances of uncertainty and
doubt, I have deeply felt the want of a guide and instructor.'[2]

        [2] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. iii.

The usual preparations, which Mrs. Gaskell has particularized, were
made for the wedding; but during the arrangements a disaster happened,
to which the following letter to Mr. Brontë refers:--

    'I suppose you never expected to be much 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, &c. On Saturday
    evening, about the time when 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 few articles, being
    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
    home.'[3]

        [3] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. iii.

The wedding took place at Guiseley, on December 29th, 1812, as is
stated in the previous chapter.



CHAPTER III.

THE REV. PATRICK BRONTË.

Character of the Rev. P. Brontë--Charges against Him--Serious
Allegations of Biographers--Injustice of the Charges--Mr. Brontë's
indignant Denial of the Imputations--Testimony of Nancy Garrs--Mrs.
Brontë and the Silk-Dress Episode--Mr. Brontë, the Supposed Prototype
of Mr. Helstone--The Pistol-shots Theory--Mr. Brontë on Science
Knowledge--Miss Branwell.


The character of the Rev. Patrick Brontë, who was responsible, after
the death of his wife, for the education of his children, if we may
believe the accounts given of it by those who have admired their
genius, had many deplorable peculiarities. It would be difficult,
indeed, to find anywhere the record of such passionate outbreaks, such
unreasoning prejudices, and such unbending will as are revealed in the
stories which are told of him. But we shall see presently that most of
these charges have no foundation in fact, while others are, probably,
the result of total misconception.

Mrs. Gaskell gives an account of these peculiarities. On one occasion,
she tells us, after the children had been out on the wet moors, the
nurse had rummaged out certain coloured boots given to them by the Rev.
Mr. Morgan, who had been sponsor for Maria at Hartshead, and had
arranged them before the fire. Mr. Brontë observing this, and thinking
the bright colours might foster pride, heaped the boots upon the coals,
and filled the house with a very strong odour of burnt leather. 'Long
before this,' she says, 'some one had given Mrs. Brontë a silk gown ...
she kept it treasured up in her drawers. One day, however, while in the
kitchen, she remembered that she had left the key in the drawer, and,
hearing Mr. Brontë upstairs, she augured some ill to her dress, and,
running up in haste, she found it cut into shreds.... He did not speak
when he was annoyed or displeased, but worked off his volcanic wrath by
firing pistols out of the back-door in rapid succession.... Now and
then his anger took a different form, but still was speechless. Once he
got the hearth-rug, and, stuffing it up the grate, deliberately set it
on fire, and remained in the room in spite of the stench until it had
smouldered and shrivelled away into uselessness. Another time he took
some chairs, and sawed away at the backs till they were reduced to the
condition of stools.'[4]

        [4] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. iii, 1st
        edition.

Mr. Wemyss Reid, who implicitly adopts the 'pistol shots' and 'pretty
dress' stories, while paying a high tribute to Mr. Brontë's rectitude,
and to his just pride in the celebrity of his daughters, says of him,
'He appears to have been a strange compound of good and evil. That he
was not without some good is acknowledged by all who knew him. He had
kindly feelings towards most people.... But throughout his whole life
there was but one person with whom he had any real sympathy, and that
person was himself.' He was 'passionate, self-willed, vain, habitually
cold and distant in his demeanour towards those of his own household.'
His wife 'lived in habitual dread of her lordly master.... It would be
a mistake to suppose that violence was one of the weapons to which Mr.
Brontë habitually resorted ... his general policy was to secure his end
by craft rather than by force.'[5]

        [5] 'Charlotte Brontë, a Monograph,' pp. 20, 21, 22.

Miss Robinson, without hesitation, repeats the censures on Mr. Brontë
published by Mrs. Gaskell and Mr. Reid, asking, 'Who dare say if that
marriage was happy? Mrs. Gaskell, writing in the life and for the eyes
of Mr. Brontë, speaks of his unwearied care, his devotion in the
night-nursing. But, before that fatal illness was declared, she lets
fall many a hint of the young wife's loneliness ... of her patient
suffering, of his violent temper.'[6]

        [6] 'Emily Brontë,' by A. Mary F. Robinson, 1883, p. 16.

It will thus be seen that the disposition of Mr. Brontë must have been
a sad one indeed, if all these statements are true; and marvellous
that, with 'such a father,' the young and sterling faculties of the
'six small children' should have been so admirably directed and trained
that, of the four who lived to later years, three at least occupy an
exalted and prominent position among women of letters in the present
century. And it would be still more strange that these children were
especially distinguished for the gentleness of their dispositions, and
the refinement of their ideas. It may be hoped that the readers of this
volume, with their additional knowledge of the affectionate, but often
wayward, Branwell, will sympathize with the sentiment which Monsieur
Héger expressed in his letter to Mr. Brontë, that, _en jugeant un
père de famille par ses enfants on ne risque pas de se tromper_. For
we can scarcely doubt that the characteristics of the children, which I
have named, were due, in fact, in great measure, to Mr. Brontë's
affectionate supervision and education of them. He had graduated at St.
John's College, Cambridge, as we have seen; and the culture and tone of
the university were brought under the roof of his house, where his
children--more especially Branwell--were subjected to its influence.
Moreover, whatever may be thought of Mr. Brontë's intellectual gifts,
or of the talent he displayed in his poems and prose writings, we may
be sure that he possessed, in a marked degree, a deep sympathy with a
higher mental training, and with the truth and simplicity of a pastoral
life.

After the allegations against Mr. Brontë had appeared in the first
edition of the life of his daughter Charlotte, he never ceased to deny
the scandalous reflections upon his character in that work. 'They
were,' he said to me, 'wholly untrue.' He stated that he had 'fulfilled
every duty of a husband and a father with all the kindness, solicitude,
and affection which could be required of him.' And Mrs. Brontë herself
had said, as quoted by Mrs. Gaskell, 'Ought I not to be thankful that
he never gave me an angry word?' thus openly declaring that, whatever
might have been the peculiarities of Mr. Brontë's temper, his wife, at
least, never suffered the consequences. The children also ever looked
up to their father with reverence, gratitude, and devotion.

In a conversation I had with Mr. Brontë on the 8th of July, 1857, he
spoke of the unjustifiable reflections upon himself which had been made
public, and he said, 'I did not know that I had an enemy in the world,
much less one who would traduce me before my death, till Mrs. Gaskell's
"Life of Charlotte" appeared. Every thing in that book which relates to
my conduct to my family is either false or distorted. I never did
commit such acts as are there ascribed to me.' At a later interview Mr.
Brontë explained that by the word 'enemies,' he implied, 'false
informants and hostile critics.' He believed that Mrs. Gaskell had
listened to village scandal, and had sought information from some
discarded servant.

Let us then examine the source of these allegations. Mrs. Gaskell
tells us that her informant was 'a good old woman,' who had been
Mrs. Brontë's nurse in her illness. Now it is known that, whatever
good qualities this person may be supposed to have had, her
conscientiousness and rectitude, at least, were not of the first order,
and she was detected in proceedings which caused Mr. Brontë to dismiss
her at once. With the double effect of explaining her dismissal and
injuring Mr. Brontë, this person gave an account of his temper and
conduct, embellished with the stories which I have quoted from the
first edition of the 'Life of Charlotte,' to a minister of the place;
and it was in this way that Mrs. Gaskell became acquainted with her and
them. Nancy Garrs, a faithful young woman who had been in Mr. Brontë's
service at Thornton, who continued with the family after the removal to
Haworth, and who still survives--a widow, Mrs. Wainwright--at an
advanced age, a well-known inhabitant of Bradford, informs me that the
'silk dress' which Mr. Brontë is said to have torn to shreds was a
print dress, not new, and that Mr. Brontë, disliking its enormous
sleeves, one day, finding the opportunity, cut them off. The whole
thing was a joke, which Mrs. Brontë at once guessed at, and, going
upstairs, she brought the dress down, saying to Nancy, 'Look what he
has done; that falls to your share.' Nancy declares the other stories
to be wholly unfounded. She speaks of Mr. Brontë as a 'most
affectionate husband; there never was a more affectionate father, never
a kinder master;' and 'he was not of a violent temper at all; quite the
reverse.'

This view of these slanderous stories is fortunately also confirmed out
of the mouth of Charlotte Brontë. In the fourth chapter of 'Shirley,'
speaking of Mr. Helstone--whose character, though not absolutely
founded on that of her father, is yet unquestionably influenced by her
knowledge of his disposition, and of some incidents in which he had
been concerned,--she says that on the death of his wife, 'his dry-eyed
and sober mourning scandalized an old housekeeper, and likewise a
female attendant who had waited upon Mrs. Helstone in her sickness ...
they gossiped together over the corpse, related anecdotes with
embellishments of her lingering decline, and its real or supposed
cause; in short, they worked each other up to some indignation against
the austere little man, who sat examining papers in an adjoining room,
unconscious of what opprobrium he was the object. Mrs. Helstone was
hardly under the sod when rumours began to be rife in the neighbourhood
that she had died of a broken heart; these magnified quickly into
reports of hard usage, and, finally, details of harsh treatment on the
part of her husband: reports grossly untrue, but not less eagerly
received on that account.' It will thus be seen that the character of
Mr. Helstone becomes in part a defence of Mr. Brontë. On the occasion
above referred to, Mr. Brontë went on to say that, 'while duly
acknowledging the obligations he felt himself under to Mrs. Gaskell for
her admirable memoir of his daughter, he could not but regard her
uncalled-for allusions to himself, and the failings of his son
Branwell, as the excrescences of a work otherwise ably carried out.' He
appeared, on this occasion, to be consoled by the thought that, owing
to the remonstrances he had made, the objectionable passages would be
expunged from the subsequent editions of the work, and that he would
ultimately be set right with the public. He concluded with these
words:--'I have long been an abstraction to the world, and it is not
consoling now to be thus dragged before the public; to be represented
as an unkind husband, and charged with acts which I never committed.'

The story of the pistol-shots admits of ready explanation. It is known
that Mr. Brontë, like Helstone, had a strange fascination in military
affairs, and he seems to have had almost the spirit of Uncle Toby. He
lived, too, in the troublous times of the Luddites, and had kept
pistols, for defence as Mr. Helstone did. That gentleman, it will be
remembered, had two pairs suspended over the mantel-piece of his study,
in cloth cases, kept loaded. As I have reason to know, Mr. Brontë,
having been accustomed to the use of fire-arms, retained the possession
of them for safety in the night; but, fearing they might become
dangerous, occasionally discharged them in the day-time.

Mr. Brontë's remonstrances and denials, and his refutation of the
scandals attributed to him, had their effect; and the charges
complained of were entirely omitted in the edition of the 'Life of
Charlotte,' published in the year 1860. Mr. Brontë was in his
eighty-fourth year when this tardy act of bare justice was done to him.
It may be added that the people of Haworth, when they saw in print Mrs.
Gaskell's exaggerated and erroneous statements, loudly expressed their
disapprobation. Mr. Wood, late churchwarden of Haworth, also denied the
stories of the cutting up of Mrs. Brontë's dress, and the other charges
just referred to.

The truth about Mr. Brontë appears to be this: that though, like Mr.
Helstone--many of the _traits_ of whose character were derived
from that of the incumbent of Haworth--he might have missed his
vocation, like him he was 'not diabolical at all,' and that, like him,
also, 'he was a conscientious, hard-headed, hard-handed, brave, stern,
implacable, faithful little man: a man almost without sympathy,
ungentle, prejudiced, and rigid: but a man true to principle--honourable,
sagacious, and sincere.' Possibly we should not be wholly mistaken in
saying that, like the parson in 'Shirley,' Nature never intended him
'to make a very good husband, especially to a quiet wife.' He lacked
the fine sympathy and delicate perception that would have enabled
him to make his family entirely happy; and when brooding over his
politics, his pamphlets, and his sermons, like Mr. Helstone, he
probably locked 'his liveliness in his book-case and study-desk.'
Yet Mr. Helstone is neither brutal nor insane, 'neither tyrannical
nor hypocritical,' but 'simply a man who is rather liberal than
good-natured, rather brilliant than genial, rather scrupulously
equitable than truly just--if you can understand such superfine
distinctions?'

It would not have been necessary, in this work, to defend at such
length the character of the Rev. Patrick Brontë, had it not happened,
unfortunately, that recent works, which have treated admirably of the
writings of his daughters, have also acquiesced in, and to a great
extent reiterated, the serious charges made against him. Moreover, it
can never be a useless thing to retrieve a character which has been
thoughtlessly taken away. This defence has now been made, and it may be
hoped that the 'six motherless children' had a more amiable and
affectionate father than is generally supposed, and that he paid
careful and anxious attention to their bringing-up and to their
education. Indeed, of this there need be no doubt. The death of his
wife had placed them in his hands, he being their only support on
earth, and it surely is not too much to say that he knew his duty, and
did it well, as the lives of his children prove, on the ground of
natural affection, and, perhaps, of higher motives also.

The following extract from a letter written by Mr. Brontë a few
years later, in reference to scientific knowledge, is sufficiently
characteristic. He says: 'In this age of innovation and scepticism, it
is the incumbent duty of every man of an enlarged and pious mind to
promote, to the utmost extent of his abilities, every movement in the
variegated, complex system of human affairs, which may have either a
direct, indirect, or collateral tendency to purify and expand the
naturally polluted and circumscribed mind of fallen nature, and to
raise it to that elevation which the Scriptures require, as well as the
best interests of humanity.'

Upon the death of his wife, Mr. Brontë felt the need of some one to
superintend the affairs of his household, and assist him in this
important charge of the bringing-up of his children; and so, towards
the end of the year 1822, an elder sister of the deceased lady, Miss
Elizabeth Branwell of Penzance, came to reside with him. She is
represented to have been, in personal appearance, of low and slight
proportions; prim and starched in her attire, which was, when prepared
for the reception of visitors, invariably of silk; and she wore,
according to the fashion of the time, a frontal of auburn curls,
gracefully overshadowing her forehead. She took occasionally, through
habit, a pinch from her gold snuff-box, which she had always at hand.
When she had taken up her residence at bleak, wild, and barren Haworth,
she is said to have sighed for the flower-decked meads of sunny
Penzance, her native place. Miss Branwell's affectionate regard for her
dead sister's children caused her to take deep interest in everything
relating to them, their health, the comfort and cleanliness of their
home, and the sedulous culture of their minds. In the management of
Mr. Brontë's household she was materially assisted by the faithful and
trustworthy Tabby, who, in 1825, was added to the family as a domestic
servant. By a long and faithful service of some thirty years in the
Brontë family, Tabby gained the respect and confidence of the
household. She had been born and nurtured in the chapelry of Haworth,
at a time when mills and machinery were not, when railways had not made
the inhabitants of the hills and valleys familiar with the cities and
towns of England; and, moreover, before the ancient dialect, so
interesting philologically to the readers of King Alfred's translations
of Orosius and Bede, and the like, came to be considered rude, vulgar,
and barbarous. Tabby used the dialect rightly, without any attempt to
improve on the language of her childhood and of her fathers; and she
was original and truthful in this, as in all her ways. It was from
Tabby, principally, that the youthful Brontës gained the familiarity
with the Yorkshire Doric, which they afterwards reproduced with such
accuracy in 'Shirley,' 'Wuthering Heights,' and others of their
writings.



CHAPTER IV.

THE GIRLHOOD OF THE BRONTË SISTERS.

Girlhood--Gravity of Character--Charlotte's Description of the Elf-land
of Childhood--The Still and Solemn Moors of Haworth influence their
Writings--The Present of Toys--The Plays which they Acted--Mr.
Brontë on a Supposed Earthquake--The Evidence of his Care for his
Children--Grammar School at Haworth--His Children under the Tuition
of the Master--The Character of the School--Cowan Bridge School--
Charlotte's View of Mr. Carus Wilson's Management--Deaths of
Maria and Elizabeth.


The childhood of the Brontës in the parsonage of Haworth has been
pictured to us as a very strange one indeed. We have seen them deprived
in their early youth of that maternal care which they required so much,
and left in the hands of a father unfamiliar with such a charge, who
was filled with Spartan ideas of discipline, and with theories of
education above and beyond the capacity of childhood. There was
probably little room in the house of Mr. Brontë for gaiety and
amusement, very little tolerance for pretty dress, or home beauty, and
small comprehension of childish needs. Rigid formality, silent
chambers, staid attire, frugal fare, and secluded lives fell to the lot
of these thoughtful and gifted children. It was no wonder that they
grew up 'grave and silent beyond their years;' that, when infantine
relaxation failed them, they betook themselves to reading newspapers,
and debating the merits of Hannibal and Cæsar, of Buonaparte and
Wellington; or that, when they were deprived of the company of the
village children by the '_Quis ego et quis tu?_' which was forced
too early upon them, they fled for silent companionship with the moors.
Yet this childhood, stern and grim though it was, where we look in vain
for the beautiful simplicity and sunny gladness which should ever
distinguish the features of youth, had a beauty and a joy of its own;
and it had a merit also. Charlotte Brontë herself has left us one of
the most beautiful pictures which can be found in English literature of
the pleasures of childhood, that elf-land which is passed before the
shores of Reality have arisen in front; when they stand afar off, so
blue, soft, and gentle that we long to reach them; when we 'catch
glimpses of silver lines, and imagine the roll of living waters,'
heedless of 'many a wilderness, and often of the flood of Death, or
some stream of sorrow as cold and almost as black as Death' that must
be crossed ere true bliss can be tasted. So the Brontës, trooping
abroad on the moors, revelling in the freedom of Nature, while their
faculties expanded to the noblest ends, lived also in the heroic world
of childhood, 'its inhabitants half-divine or semi-demon; its scenes
dream-scenes; darker woods and stranger hills; brighter skies, more
dangerous waters; sweeter flowers, more tempting fruits; wider plains;
drearier deserts; sunnier fields than are found in Nature.' Can we
doubt that the Brontë children, endowed, as the world was afterwards to
know, with keener perceptions, more exalted sympathies, and nobler
gifts than other children, enjoyed these things more than others could?
And the merit of their childhood was this: that it impressed them in
the strongest form with the influence of locality, with the boundless
expanse of the moors, and with the weird and rugged character of the
people amongst whom they lived, and whom they afterwards drew so well.
Such influences as these are a quality more or less traceable in the
works of every author, but they are very apparent in the productions of
the Brontës. These writers could not have produced 'Jane Eyre,'
'Shirley,' and 'Wuthering Heights' without them, any more than
Goldsmith could have written his 'Vicar of Wakefield' if his early
years had not been passed in the pleasant village of Lissey. The moors,
clothed with purple heather and golden gorse in billowy waves, were
certainly all in all to Emily Brontë; and she and her sisters, and the
youthful Branwell with his ready admiration and brilliant fancy,
escorted by Tabby, enjoyed to the full the free atmosphere of the
heights around Haworth. The rushing sound of their own waterfall, and
the shrill cries of the grouse, which flew up as they came along, were
to them friendly voices of the opening life of Nature whose potent
influence inspired them so well.

Of other companionship in their early years they had hardly any; and
being unable to associate much with children of their own age and
condition, or to play with their young and immediate neighbours in
childish games, Mr. Brontë's son and daughters grew up amongst their
elders with heads older than their years, and spoke with a knowledge
that might have sprung from actual experience of men and manners. They
were, in fact, 'old-fashioned children.' Their extraordinary cleverness
was soon observed, and the servants were always on their guard lest any
of their remarks might be repeated by the children. Notwithstanding
this, the little Brontës were children still, and took pleasure in the
things of childhood. Up-grown men will not whip a top on the causeways,
nor trundle a hoop through the streets, nor play at 'hide-and-seek' at
dusk as of yore; but the Brontë children in their youthful days did all
these things, and they entered at times with ardour, despite their
precocious gravity, into the simple joys and amusements of childhood,
as is testified by the eager delight with which they regarded the
presents of the toys they received.

The earliest notice we have of Branwell Brontë is that Charlotte
remembered having seen her mother playing with him during one golden
sunset in the parlour of the parsonage at Haworth. Later, we are
informed that Mr. Brontë brought from Leeds on one occasion a box of
wooden soldiers for him. The children were in bed, but the 'next
morning,' says Charlotte, in one of her juvenile manuscripts, 'Branwell
came to our door with a box of soldiers. Emily and I jumped out of bed,
and I snatched up one and exclaimed, "This is the Duke of Wellington!
This shall be the duke!" When I had said this, Emily likewise took up
one and said it should be hers; when Anne came down she said one should
be hers. Mine was the prettiest of the whole, and the tallest, and the
most perfect in every part. Emily's was a grave-looking fellow, and we
called him "Gravey." Anne's was a queer little thing much like herself,
and we called him "Waiting-boy." Branwell chose his, and called him
"Buonaparte."' So Charlotte relates these glad incidents of their
childhood with pleasure, and places on record the joy they inspired.

Mr. Brontë says, 'When mere children, as soon as they could read and
write, Charlotte and her brother and sisters used to invent and act
little plays of their own, in which the Duke of Wellington, my daughter
Charlotte's hero, was sure to come off conqueror; when a dispute would
not infrequently arise amongst them regarding the comparative merits of
Buonaparte, Hannibal, and Cæsar.'

In acting their early plays, they performed them with childish glee,
and did not fail at times to 'tear a passion to tatters.' They observed
that Tabby did not approve of such extraordinary proceedings; but on
one occasion, with increased energy of action and voice, they so
wrought on her fears that she retreated to her nephew's house, and, as
soon as she could regain her breath, she exclaimed, 'William! yah mun
gooa up to Mr. Brontë's, for aw'm sure yon childer's all gooin mad, and
aw darn't stop 'ith hause ony longer wi' 'em; an' aw'll stay here woll
yah come back!' When the nephew reached the parsonage, 'the childer set
up a great crack o' laughin',' at the wonderful joke they had
perpetrated on faithful Tabby.

Mr. Brontë--like other parents and friends of precocious and gifted
children, who, in after-life have become celebrated in religion, art,
poetry, literature, politics, or war, and who have given out in
childhood tokens of brilliant and sterling gifts which have been
recorded in their biographies--saw in his own children evidences of
that mental power, fervid imagination, and superior faculty of language
and expression, which were developed in them in after-years. He often
fancied that great powers lay in his children, and it cannot be doubted
that he sometimes looked forward to and hoped for a brilliant future
for his offspring. It was this hope that cheered him, and he gave to
Mrs. Gaskell, for publication, all the evidences of genius in his son
and daughters, as children, which he could remember. But, from the
information he imparted to that writer, we can scarcely gather, I fear,
sufficient to justify the inference he drew, or appears to have drawn,
for the particulars given border too much on the trivial and
unimportant. Perhaps Mr. Brontë failed to remember the special
evidences he had observed of what he intended to convey at the actual
moment of communication. Be this as it may, no doubt remained on his
mind that genius was apparent in his children above and apart from
their eager reading of magazines and newspapers, nor that other schemes
and objects occupied their thoughts than the interests and contentions
of the political parties of the hour.

'When my children were very young,' says Mr. Brontë,--'when, as far as
I can remember, the oldest was about ten years of age, and the youngest
about four,--thinking that they knew more than I had yet discovered, in
order to make them speak with less timidity, I deemed that, if they
were put under a sort of cover, I might gain my end; and, happening to
have a mask in the house, I told them all to stand and speak boldly
from under cover of the mask. I began with the youngest (Anne,
afterwards Acton Bell), and asked what a child like her most wanted;
she answered, "Age and experience." I asked the next (Emily, afterwards
Ellis Bell) what I had best do with her brother Branwell, who was
sometimes a naughty boy; she answered, "Reason with him, and, when he
won't listen to reason, whip him." I asked Branwell what was the best
way of knowing the difference between the intellects of man and woman;
he answered, "By considering the difference between them as to their
bodies."' In answer to a question as to which were the two best books,
Charlotte said that 'the Bible,' and after it the 'Book of Nature,'
were the best. Mr. Brontë then asked the next daughter, 'What is the
best mode of education for a woman;' she answered, 'That which would
make her rule her house well.' He then asked the eldest, Maria, 'What
is the best mode of spending time;' she answered, 'By laying it out in
preparation for a happy eternity.' He says he may not have given the
exact words, but they were nearly so, and they had made a lasting
impression on his memory.[7]

        [7] Mrs. Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. iii.

But the intellectual pabulum of Mr. Brontë's children, for some time,
consisted, for the most part, as we are told, of magazines and
newspapers. As these took the place of toy-books and fairy tales, their
young minds were attracted by such moral subjects and entertaining
stories as were treated of in the serials of the day; and their
attention was also largely engaged in the political questions which
were then debated in the Houses of Parliament. Imbibing from their
father their religious and political views and opinions, they became
strong partizans and supporters of the leading Conservatives in the
House of Lords and the House of Commons. They had often heard
conversations between their father and aunt on these subjects; they
listened with interested attention, and obtained information as to the
outer world and its pursuits. By their surroundings their minds were
soon raised above the thoughts, desires, and interests of childhood in
general; and, under the circumstances, though it may seem odd, it is
not extraordinary that wooden soldiers should thus be made, by these
talented children, to represent the two great opposing warriors of the
present age.

In addition to the general bringing-up of his children at home, and the
formal tasks which Mr. Brontë set them, magazines and other
publications were thrown about, and Maria, being the eldest, was wont
to read the newspapers when she was less than nine years old, and
reported matters of home and foreign interest, as well as those
relating to the public characters and current affairs of the day, to
her young brother and sisters. Indeed, so earnest was her relevancy on
such occasions in these unchildish and grave questions, that she could
talk upon them with discriminating intelligence to her father, whose
interest in his children thus grew, as their faculties expanded. The
young Brontës, though still in childhood's years, were soon no longer
children in intellect: they touched, in fact, the 'Shores of Reality'
at an earlier age than most children; and, though interested sometimes,
perhaps momentarily, in trivial matters, they seem to have turned
almost everything to literary account. Even Branwell's toys, which they
all received so gleefully, gave rise to the 'Young Men's Play.'

Mr. Brontë, though interested deeply in the gradual development of the
mental gifts of his children, did not fail, after his wife's death, to
promote and protect their health, and he availed himself of the means
which the chapelry of Haworth afforded. For this object he encouraged
recreation on the moors at suitable times, and subjected the young
members of his family to the pure and exhilarating breeze that,
redolent of heather, breathed over them from the sea, during the summer
and autumnal months.

On Tuesday, September the 2nd, 1824, a severe thunderstorm, and an
almost unprecedented downfall of rain which resembled, in volume, a
waterspout, caused the irruption of an immense bog, at Crow Hill, an
elevation, between Keighley and Colne, and about one thousand feet
above the sea-level. The mud, mingled with stones, many of large size,
rolled down a precipitous and rugged clough that descended from it.
Reaching the hamlet of Pondens, the torrent expanded and overspread the
corn-fields adjoining to the depth of several feet, with many other
devastating consequences.

Mr. Brontë regarded this as the effect of an earthquake, and he sent a
communication to the 'Leeds Mercury,' in which he says: 'At the time of
the irruption, the clouds were copper-coloured, gloomy, and lowering,
the atmosphere was strongly electrified, and unusually close.' In the
same month--on Sunday, September 12th, 1824--he preached a sermon on
the subject, in Haworth Church, in which he informed his hearers that,
the day of disaster being exceedingly fine, he had sent his little
children, who were indisposed, accompanied by the servants, to take an
airing on the common, and, as they stayed rather longer than he
expected, he went to an upper chamber to look out for their return. The
heavens over the moors were blackening fast; he heard the muttering of
distant thunder, and saw the frequent flashes of lightning. Though, ten
minutes before, there was scarcely a breath of air stirring, the gale
freshened rapidly and carried along with it clouds of dust and stubble.
'My little family,' he continued, 'had escaped to a place of shelter,
but I did not know it.' These were Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and
Anne. Their sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were then at Cowan Bridge.

When Mr. Brontë accepted the living of Haworth, he had found existing
there a Grammar School, and he took in it a special and personal
interest, for it was an old institution, was endowed, and had recently
been renovated. It was his policy to show that he took an interest in
it; so that, by adding his support to that of the trustees, he might
possibly confirm their favourable opinion of him, and secure their
continued good feeling. This was essential at the time, as any
appearance of coldness on his part towards their cherished foundation
would have perhaps evoked a spirit akin to that which caused the
compulsory resignation of Mr. Redhead, or have induced an estrangement
between himself and the trustees. It is stated, with regard to this
Grammar School, that one Christopher Scott by will, dated the 4th of
October, 13th of Charles I., gave a school-house which he had built
adjoining the church-way; and ordained that there should be a
school-master who should be a graduate at least, a bachelor, if not a
master of arts, and who should teach Greek and Latin. The school had
been enlarged in 1818, when the Brontë family were still at Thornton,
and a new house was then erected for the master by the trustees.

As this foundation was designed to provide a classical education for
its students, it was one to which the better classes in the
neighbourhood need not have hesitated to entrust their children for
superior instruction than could possibly be had in the ordinary schools
of the district. The school was situated close to the parsonage, a lane
only intervening, and it was commodious and lightsome. But Mr. Brontë,
on his arrival, found that it had not for some time been maintained as
a regular Grammar School: that there was little or no demand for the
advantages of a classical education for their children among the
inhabitants of the chapelry.[8] Yet the master who received the
appointment from the trustees at the Midsummer of 1826, although not
even a graduate of either of the universities, was stated to be
competent to teach Latin, and was a man of considerable attainments,
instructing both boys and girls in every essential branch of knowledge.
In this the tutor differed nothing from some of his immediate
predecessors. But, though education of this sort was thus immediately
at hand, Mr. Brontë does not appear to have availed himself of it for
his daughters, or his son Branwell, for any great length of time. Mrs.
Gaskell says, indeed, that their regular tasks were given by himself.
Mr. Brontë, however, probably heard his children repeat early lessons
set by the master in order to ascertain with what facility they had
learned them. At a later date, Branwell and his sisters took a larger
interest in the Grammar School, and they became active and willing
teachers in the Sunday-school, which was connected with it. They were,
indeed, often seen, as is yet remembered, in the processions of the
scholars.

        [8] James's 'History of Bradford,' p. 358.

Although Mr. Brontë had taken vigilant and affectionate care to promote
the health of his children, he was well aware that though he could
strengthen their constitutions in some sort, delicate by nature as they
were, he could not ward off with certainty the diseases and sufferings
incident to childhood, from which his children were, indeed,
unfortunately destined to suffer. Solicitude therefore came upon the
parsonage when Maria and Elizabeth were attacked by measles and
whooping-cough. Recovering partially from these attacks, it was thought
desirable to send them--perhaps partly for change of air--to a school
which had somewhat recently been established at Cowan Bridge, a hamlet
on the coach-road between Leeds and Kendal, which was easily reached
from Haworth, as the coach passed daily. This school was especially
established for the board and education of the daughters of such
clegymen of the Establishment as required it. It was begun, as we know
from Mrs. Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' by the Rev. William
Carus Wilson; and we are aware also that severe and unqualified
censures were passed upon its situation and management by the author of
'Jane Eyre,' in after-years, under the description of Lowood, and that
the Ellen Burns of the story was no other than Maria Brontë. Readers of
'Jane Eyre' became indignant, and the Cowan Bridge School was
execrated, denounced, and condemned by the public, to the utter
distress and pain of its founder and patron.

In reference to this affair, Charlotte indeed said to her future
biographer that 'she should not have written what she did of Lowood in
"Jane Eyre" if she had thought the place would have been so immediately
identified with Cowan Bridge, although there was not a word in her
account of the institution but what was true at the time when she knew
it. She also said that she had not considered it necessary in a work of
fiction to state every particular with the impartiality that might be
required in a court of justice, nor to seek out motives, and make
allowances for human failings, as she might have done, if
dispassionately analyzing the conduct of those who had the
superintendence of the institution.' Mrs. Gaskell believes Charlotte
'herself would have been glad of an opportunity to correct the over
strong impression which was made upon the public mind by her vivid
picture, though even she, suffering her whole life long both in heart
and body from the consequences of what happened there, might have been
apt, to the last, to take her deep belief in facts for the facts
themselves--her conception of truth for the absolute truth.'[9]

        [9] Gaskell's 'Charlotte Brontë,' chap. iv.

But it is only just to Mr. Wilson to say that the low situation of the
premises fixed upon, the arrangement of the school-buildings, and the
inefficient management of the domestic department, do not appear to
have been so fatal to the boarders, even if we admit all the alleged
severities of the regimen. For, when a low fever, or influenza cold,
which was not regarded by Dr. Batty as 'either alarming or dangerous,'
broke out at the school, and some forty of the pupils fell more or less
under its influence, none died of it at Cowan Bridge, and only one,
Mrs. Gaskell informs us, from after consequences at home; and, though
delicate, the Brontë children entirely escaped the attack. Mrs. Gaskell
has, however, entered at considerable length into a detailed account of
the alleged mismanagement of the school, the severities exercised over
the pupils--especially by one of the responsible tutors, 'Miss
Scatcherd,'--the cooking and insufficiency of food, the general neglect
of sanitary regulations in the domestic department, and the utter
unfitness of the place itself for the continued health and comfort of
the inmates. But the biographer of Charlotte Brontë in after-years
considerably modified the severe strictures which her heroine had
thought fit to describe in 'Jane Eyre,'--an admirable work of fiction,
though not necessarily one of fact--and she says, speaking of
Charlotte's account of the Cowan Bridge School: 'The pictures, ideas,
and conceptions of character received into the mind of the child of
eight years old were destined to be reproduced in fiery words a quarter
of a century afterwards. She saw but one side of Mr. Wilson's
character; and many of those who knew him at the time assure me of the
fidelity with which this is represented, while at the same time they
regret that the delineation should have obliterated, as it were, nearly
all that was noble and conscientious.' It appears also that Mr. Wilson
had 'grand and fine qualities'--which were left unnoticed by
Charlotte--of which the biographer had received 'abundant evidence.'[10]
Of these Mr. Brontë seems to have been aware, as Charlotte and Emily
were sent back to Cowan Bridge after the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth.
Mrs. Gaskell wonders Charlotte did not remonstrate against her father's
decision to send her and Emily back to the place, knowing, as we may
suppose she did, of the alleged infliction which her dead sisters had
endured at the very school to which she and Emily were returning.
Surely such a very miserable state of things as is described in 'Jane
Eyre' could not have existed at the time to impress on Charlotte's mind
such a dread as we are asked to believe she had, and Mr. Brontë could
not be aware that any serious objections to the school existed. Indeed,
the true condition of the institution at the period is apparent from
the testimony of the noble and benevolent Miss Temple of 'Jane Eyre,'
whose husband thus writes: 'Often have I heard my late dear wife speak
of her sojourn at Cowan Bridge; always in terms of admiration of Mr.
Carus Wilson, his parental love to his pupils, and their love for him;
of the food and general treatment, in terms of approval. I have heard
her allude to an unfortunate cook who used at times to spoil the
porridge, but who, she said, was soon dismissed.'

        [10] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. iv.

While at Cowan Bridge, Maria's health had suddenly given way, and
alarming symptoms declared themselves. Mr. Brontë was sent for. He had
known nothing of her illness, and was terribly shocked when he saw her.
He ascended the Leeds coach with his dying child. Mrs. Gaskell says,
'the girls crowded out into the road to follow her with their eyes,
over the bridge, past the cottages, and then out of sight for ever.'

The poignancy of Mr. Brontë's grief on this occasion was profound, and
all but insupportable. Here was his first-born, the early joy of his
home at Hartshead, the intelligent and brilliantly gifted companion of
the first few years of his widowed life--dying before him! She, whose
innocent and thoughtful converse had cheered his solitary moments, and
whose merry laugh had often made the hearth glad, whose affectionate
care of her little brother and sisters, disinterested as it was
incessant, supplied for them the offices of their deceased mother--was
fading from his sight! Arriving at Haworth, they were received with
sincere and tearful sympathy by Miss Branwell, and with childish alarm
and dread by Branwell and Anne. Every care which affection could
provide was bestowed on the sinking child, but she died, a few days
after her arrival, on May 6, 1825.

Elizabeth, too, struck down with the same fatal disease, came home to
die of consumption on June 15 in the same year, but a month and a few
days after her sister. These sorrowful events were never forgotten by
Branwell, and the impressions made upon his mind by the deaths and
funeral rites he had witnessed became the theme of some of his later
and more mournful effusions.

The early recollection of Maria at Cowan Bridge was that she was
delicate, and unusually clever and thoughtful for her age. Of Elizabeth
Miss Temple writes: 'The second, Elizabeth, is the only one of the
family of whom I have a vivid recollection, from her meeting with a
somewhat alarming accident; in consequence of which I had her for some
days and nights in my bedroom, not only for the sake of greater quiet,
but that I might watch over her myself.... Of the two younger ones (if
two there were) I have very slight recollections, save that one, a
darling child under five years of age, was quite the pet nursling of
the school.'

'This last,' says Mrs. Gaskell, 'would be Emily. Charlotte was
considered the most talkative of the sisters--a "bright, clever little
child."'[11]

        [11] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. iv.



CHAPTER V.

BRANWELL'S BOYHOOD.

Reunion of the Brontë Family--Branwell is the supposed Prototype
of Victor Crimsworth--That Character not a complete Portrait of
Branwell--His Friendships--His Visit to the Keighley Feast--Its Effect
on Branwell's Nerves--The Wrestle--The Lost Spectacles--Fear of his
Father's Displeasure--Mrs. Gaskell's Story of the 'Black Bull' Incident
Questioned--Miss Branwell and her Nephew.


Upon the return of Charlotte and Emily from Cowan Bridge, the youthful
Brontës, whom death had spared, were united again; and, for some years
more, followed their pursuits together, until Charlotte went to school
at Roe Head in 1831. Branwell was the constant companion of his sisters
during these childish years, and they all looked upon him with pride
and affection. Charlotte, in those days, was a sympathetic friend to
him; and, in his later years, he felt it a source of deep regret that
she was somewhat estranged. But the gentle Emily--after the death of
Maria--was his chief companion, and a warm affection never lost its
ardour between them. The sisters were quick to perceive the Promethean
spark that burned in their brother, and they looked upon Branwell, as
indeed did all who knew him, as their own superior in mental gifts. In
his childhood even, Branwell Brontë showed great aptitude for acquiring
knowledge, and his perceptive powers were very marked. He was, too,
gifted with a sprightly disposition, tinged at times with great
melancholy, but he acquired early a lively and fascinating address.
There was a fiery ardour and eagerness in his manner which told of
his abundant animal spirits, and he entered with avidity into the
enjoyments of the life that lay before him. Charlotte, who knew well
the treasures of her brother's opening faculties, his ability, his
learning, and his affection, saw also many things that alarmed her in
his disposition. She saw the abnormal and unhealthy flashing of his
intellect, and marked that weakness and want of self-control which left
Branwell, when subjected to temptation, a prey to many destructive
influences, whose effect shall hereafter be traced. There is reason to
believe that Charlotte pictures this period of Branwell's life in 'The
Professor,' where she describes the childhood of Victor Crimsworth;
and, though the extract is rather long, it is given here as valuable,
because it furnishes a full record of the early powers of Branwell,
and of the manner in which his sister--by the light of subsequent
events--looked upon them and upon his failings, and it will be seen
that towards the latter she is somewhat inflexible.

'Victor,' she makes William Crimsworth say, 'is as little of a pretty
child as I am of a handsome man ... he is pale and spare, with large
eyes.... His shape is symmetrical enough, but slight.... I never saw a
child smile less than he does, nor one who knits such a formidable brow
when sitting over a book that interests him, or while listening to
tales of adventure, peril, or wonder.... But, though still, he is not
unhappy--though serious, not morose; he has a susceptibility to
pleasurable sensations almost too keen, for it amounts to enthusiasm....
When he could read, he became a glutton of books, and is so still. His
toys have been few, and he has never wanted more. For those he
possesses he seems to have contracted a partiality amounting to
affection; this feeling, directed towards one or two living animals of
the house, strengthens almost to a passion.... I saw in the soil of his
heart healthy and swelling germs of compassion, affection, fidelity. I
discovered in the garden of his intellect a rich growth of wholesome
principles--reason, justice, moral courage, promised, if not blighted,
a fertile bearing.... She (his mother) sees, as I also see, a something
in Victor's temper--a kind of electrical ardour and power--which emits,
now and then, ominous sparks; Hunsden calls it his spirit, and says it
should not be curbed. I call it the leaven of the offending Adam, and
consider that it should be, if not _whipped_ out of him, at least
soundly disciplined; and that he will be cheap of any amount of either
bodily or mental suffering which will ground him radically in the art
of self-control. Frances (his mother) gives this _something_ in her
son's marked character no name; but when it appears in the grinding of
his teeth, in the glittering of his eye, in the fierce revolt of
feeling against disappointment, mischance, sudden sorrow, or supposed
injustice, she folds him to her breast, or takes him to walk with her
alone in the wood; then she reasons with him like any philosopher, and
to reason Victor is ever accessible; then she looks at him with eyes of
love, and by love Victor can be infallibly subjugated. But will reason
or love be the weapons with which in future the world will meet his
violence? Oh, no! for that flash in his black eye--for that cloud on
his bony brow--for that compression of his statuesque lips, the lad
will some day get blows instead of blandishments, kicks instead of
kisses; then for the fit of mute fury which will sicken the body and
madden his soul; then for the ordeal of merited and salutary suffering
out of which he will come (I trust) a wiser and a better man.'

The natural adornments and defects of Branwell's mind in boyhood,
which may to some extent be traced in Charlotte's picture of Victor
Crimsworth, in 'The Professor,' must not be regarded otherwise than as
possessing a general resemblance to those which are found in that
character. Physically, Branwell and Crimsworth were dissimilar, though
mentally there is a portraiture; but even here, Charlotte, having him
in her mind when she sketched the character of Victor, exaggerated
therein, as she had done in other instances, the actual defects of her
brother. It is true, nevertheless, that those who knew Branwell Brontë
in early life could see in him the original of Victor Crimsworth.

In the following pages the greatness of Branwell's genius may be
observed,--great, though marred by the errors and misfortunes of his
life,--as well as by the sorrows which his impulsive, kindly, and
affectionate nature brought upon himself, sorrows thus sadly set forth
by his sister as the outcome of his passions, and described by her as
the penalty of his future years.

In Branwell Brontë, the 'leaven of the offending Adam' might now and
then certainly be observed, but it was largely modified by the
ameliorating influences of his home; and, although, from the failings
common to humanity, the children of Mr. Brontë could not be free, his
early waywardness and petulance were, by the influence of sex, more
forcibly expressed than such failings could be in his sisters. Between
the children of Mr. Brontë, however, there existed even more than the
ordinary affections of childhood. At this period of their lives, they
were ignorant of the wiles of corrupt human nature, and Branwell, with
all the lightsome exuberance of his boyhood, returned without stint the
ardent and deep affection of his sisters. But, when a few years had
rolled on, he awoke to the sunny morning of youth; and, in the absence
of a brother, sought companionship with certain youths of Haworth, and
made them playmates. Amongst them was one, the brother of some friends
of his sisters, who became to him a personal associate, and it was with
this companion that he was wont to sport on the moors, across the
meadows, and, with joyous laugh, along the streets of the village.

The survivor of these two friends gives me an incident that occurred at
the time of the annual Feast at Keighley, which the youths visited. The
town was, as is usual on such occasions, crowded with booths and shows,
and various places of entertainment. Players and riders,--men and
women,--clothed in gay raiments, rendered brilliant with spangles,
paced backwards and forwards along their platforms to the sound of
drums, organs, and Pandean pipes, cymbals, tambourines, and castanets.
There were stalls, too, weighted with nuts and various confectionaries,
and there were also rocking-boats and merry-go-rounds, with other
amusements.

As the evening advanced, and the shows were lighted up, Branwell's
excitement, hilarity, and extravagance knew no bounds: he would see
everything and try everything. Into a rocking-boat he and his friend
gaily stepped. The rise of the boat, when it reached its full height,
gave Branwell a pleasant view of the fair beneath; but, when it
descended, he screamed out at the top of his voice, 'Oh! my nerves! my
nerves! Oh! my nerves!' On each descent, every nerve thrilled, tingled,
and vibrated with overwhelming effect through the overwrought and
delicate frame of the boy. Leaving the fair, the two proceeded
homeward; and, reaching a country spot, near a cottage standing among a
thicket of trees, Branwell, still full of exuberant life, proposed a
wrestle with his companion. They engaged in a struggle, when Branwell
was overthrown. It was not until reaching the village, and seeing the
lights in the windows, with considerably enlarged rays, that he became
aware he had lost his spectacles,--for Branwell was, like his sister
Charlotte, very near-sighted. This was, indeed, no little trouble to
him, as he was in great fear lest his father should notice his being
without them, and institute unpleasant inquiries as to what had become
of them. He told his fears to his companion; but, after a sleepless
night for both, Branwell's friend was early on the spot in search of
the missing spectacles, when the woman living in the cottage close by,
seeing a youth looking about, came to him, and, learning for what he
sought, brought out the glasses which she had picked up from the ground
just before he came. M----, glad of the discovery, hastened to the
parsonage, which he reached to find Branwell astir, who was overjoyed
on receiving the missing spectacles, as the danger of his father's
displeasure was avoided.

Mrs. Gaskell has written an account of the brother of the Brontë
sisters, but from what source I am unable to ascertain. After giving
him credit for those abilities in his boyhood of which evidence is
given in these pages, she says that: 'Popular admiration was sweet to
him, and this led to his presence being sought at Arvills, and all the
great village gatherings, for the Yorkshiremen have a keen relish for
intellect; and it likewise procured him the undesirable distinction of
having his company recommended by the landlord of the "Black Bull" to
any chance traveller who might happen to feel solitary or dull over his
liquor. "Do you want some one to help you with your bottle, sir? If you
do, I'll send up for Patrick" (so the villagers called him to the day
of his death, though, in his own family, he was always Branwell). And,
while the messenger went, the landlord entertained his guest with
accounts of the wonderful talents of the boy, whose precocious
cleverness and great conversational powers were the pride of the
village.' This account of the landlord being accustomed to send to the
parsonage for Branwell to come down to the 'Bull' at Haworth on these
occasions is denied by those who knew Branwell at the time, as well as
by the landlord. The latter always said that he never ventured to do
anything of the kind. It would have been a vulgar liberty, and an
unpardonable offence to the inmates of the parsonage had he done so.
Besides, the message would, in all probability, have been delivered to
a servant, or perhaps to Mr. Brontë himself, or to one of his
daughters, and Branwell would have been forbidden, for the credit of
the family, to lend himself for such a purpose at the public-house
below.

Branwell in these early days was not only the beloved of the household,
but the special favourite of his aunt. This good lady was proud of her
family and name, a name which her nephew bore to her infinite
satisfaction, so that his sometimes rough and noisy merriment made his
aunt glad, rather than grieved, because it was the true indication of
health of mind and body. She easily pardoned his boyish defects: and at
times, as she parted his auburn hair, she looked in his face with
fondness and affection, giving him moral advice, consistent with his
age, and showing him how, by sedulously cultivating the abilities with
which God had blessed him, he would attain an excellent position in the
world. It was this gentle and disinterested guide that Providence had
placed in the stead of his mother, to impart to her son the good maxims
she would herself have given him.



CHAPTER VI.

THE LITERARY TASTES OF THE CHILDREN.

The youthful Compositions of the Brontës--Their Character--Branwell's
Share in them--'The Secret,' a Fragment--The Reading of the Brontë
Children--Branwell's Character at this Period.


Mr. Brontë, perhaps, made use of a slight hyperbole when he said that,
as soon as they could read and write, Charlotte and her brother and
sisters used to invent and act little plays of their own; but it is
certain that, at an early period of their lives, they took pleasure and
pride in seeing their thoughts put down in the manifest form of written
words. Charlotte, indeed, gives a list of the juvenile works she had
composed. They filled twenty-two volumes, and consisted of Tales,
Adventures, Lives, Meditations, Stories, Poems, Songs, &c. Without
repeating all the titles which Mrs. Gaskell and others have published,
it may be said that the productions manifested extraordinary ability
and industry. Branwell, Emily, and Anne partook of the same spirit, and
displayed similar energy according to the leisure they could command.

Before Charlotte went to Roe Head, in January, 1831, Branwell worked
with his sisters in producing their monthly magazine, with its youthful
stories.[12] Mrs. Gaskell has quoted Charlotte's introduction to the
'Tales of the Islanders,' one of these 'Little Magazines,' dated June,
1829, from which it appears that a remark of Branwell's led to the
composition of the play of that name, and that he chose the Isle of Man
as his territory, and named John Bull, Astley Cooper, and Leigh Hunt
as the chief men in it. Charlotte gives the dates of most of their
productions. She says: 'Our plays were established, "Young Men," June,
1826; "Our Fellows," July, 1827; "Islanders," December, 1827. These are
our three great plays that are not kept secret. Emily's and my best
plays were established the 1st of December, 1827; the others March,
1828. Best plays mean secret plays; they are very nice ones. All our
plays are very strange ones. Their nature I need not write on paper,
for I think I shall always remember them. The "Young Men's" play took
its rise from some wooden soldiers Branwell had; "Our Fellows" from
"Æsop's Fables;" and the "Islanders" from several events which
happened.'[13]

        [12] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. v.

        [13] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap v.

It would be difficult to arrive at a correct understanding of the
literary value of these productions of the youthful Brontës, but it
would be interesting to know what kind of assistance Branwell was able
to give in the work, as well as what was the general merit of these
early compositions. Mrs. Gaskell makes some mention of Branwell's
literary abilities in his youth. It is certain, from all we know, that
his mind was as much occupied in these matters as his sisters', and
that his ambition corresponded with theirs. It has, indeed, been placed
on record by Mrs. Gaskell that he was associated with his sisters in
the compilation of their youthful writings. This author says, also,
that their youthful occupations were 'mostly of a sedentary and
intellectual nature.'[14]

        [14] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. v.

Among the youthful stories of which Charlotte, as has been already
mentioned, wrote a catalogue or list, there was one, of which Mrs.
Gaskell has published a fragment in fac-simile, written in a small,
elaborate, and cramped hand--so small, indeed, as to be of little use
to the general reader. In the 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' this was
inserted as a specimen of the hand-writing. It shows truly the literary
ability, dramatic skill, and force of imagination of the children at
the period of their lives of which I speak, and affords an interesting
specimen of the character of these early works. A few extracts from it
may be given here:--

    THE SECRET.

    CHAPTER I.

    A dead silence had reigned in the Home Office of Verdopolis for
    three hours in the morning of a fine summer's day, interrupted only
    by such sounds as the scraping of a pen-knife, the dropping of a
    ruler, or an occasional cough; or whispered now and then some brief
    mandate, uttered by the noble first secretary, in his commanding
    tones. At length that sublime personage, after completing some
    score or so of despatches, addressing a small slightly-built young
    gentleman who occupied the chief situation among the clerks, said:

    'Mr. Rymer, will you be good enough to tell me what o'clock it is?'

    'Certainly, my lord!' was the prompt reply as, springing from his
    seat, the ready underling, instead of consulting his watch like
    other people, hastened to the window in order to mark the sun's
    situation; having made his observation, he answered: ''Tis twelve
    precisely, my lord.'

    'Very well,' said the marquis. 'You may all give up then, and see
    that all your desks are locked, so that not a scrap of paper is
    left to litter the office. Mr. Rymer, I shall expect you to take
    care that my directions are fulfilled.' So saying, he assumed his
    hat and gloves, and with a stately tread was approaching the
    vestibule, when a slight bustle and whispering among the clerks
    arrested his steps.

    'What is the matter?' asked he, turning round. 'I hope these are
    not sounds of contention I hear!'

    'I--and--' said a broad, carrotty-locked young man of a most
    pugnacious aspect, 'but--but--your lordship has forgotten
    that--that----'

    'That what?' asked the marquis, rather impatiently.

    'Oh!--merely that this afternoon is a half-holiday--and--and----'

    'I understand,' replied his superior, smiling, 'you need not tax
    your modesty with further explanation, Flanagan; the truth is, I
    suppose, you want your usual largess, and I'm obliged to you for
    reminding me--will that do?' he continued, as, opening his
    pocket-book, he took out a twenty-pound bank bill and laid it on
    the nearest desk.

    'My lord, you are too generous,' Flanagan answered; but the chief
    secretary laughingly laid his gloved hand on his lips, and, with a
    condescending nod to the other clerks, sprang down the steps of the
    portico and strode hastily away, in order to escape the noisy
    expressions of gratitude which now hailed his liberality.

    On the opposite side of the busy and wide street to that on which
    the splendid Home Office stands, rises the no less splendid
    Colonial Office; and, just as Arthur, Marquis of Douro, left the
    former structure, Edward Stanley Sydney departed from the latter:
    they met in the centre of the street.

    'Well, Ned,' said my brother, as they shook hands, 'how are you
    to-day? I should think this bright sun and sky ought to enliven
    you if anything can.'

    'Why, my dear Douro,' replied Mr. Sydney, with a faint smile, 'such
    lovely, genial weather may, and I have no doubt does, elevate the
    spirits of the free and healthy; but for me, whose mind and body
    are a continual prey to all the heaviest cares of public and
    private life, it signifies little whether sun cheer or rain damp
    the atmosphere.'

    'Edward,' replied Arthur, his features at the same time assuming
    that disagreeable expression which my landlord denominates by the
    term 'scorney;' 'now don't begin to bore me, Ned, with trash of
    that description, I'm tired of it quite: pray have you recollected
    that to-day is a half-holiday in all departments of the Treasury?'

    'Yes; and the circumstance has cost me some money; these silly old
    customs ought to be abolished in my opinion--they are ruinous.'

    'Why, what have you given the poor fellows?'

    'Two sovereigns;' an emphatic hem formed Arthur's reply to the
    communication.

    They had now entered Nokel Street, and were proceeding in silence
    past the line of magnificent shops which it contains, when the
    sound of wheels was heard behind them, and a smooth-rolling chariot
    dashed up and stopped just where they stood. One of the
    window-glasses now fell, a white hand was put out and beckoned them
    to draw near, while a silvery voice said,

    'Mr. Sydney, Marquis of Douro, come hither a moment.'

    Both the gentlemen obeyed the summons, Arthur with alacrity, Sydney
    with reluctance.

    'What are your commands, fair ladies?' said the former, bowing
    respectfully to the inmates of the carriage, who were Lady Julia
    Sydney and Lady Maria Sneaky.

    'Our commands are principally for your companion, my lord, not for
    you,' replied the daughter of Alexander the First; 'now, Mr.
    Sydney,' she continued, smiling on the senator, 'you must promise
    not to be disobedient.'

    'Let me first know what I am required to perform,' was the cautious
    answer, accompanied by a fearful glance at the shops around.

    'Nothing of much consequence, Edward,' said his wife, 'but I hope
    you'll not refuse to oblige me this once, love. I only want a few
    guineas to make out the price of a pair of earrings I have just
    seen in Mr. Lapis's shop.'

    'Not a bit of it,' answered he. 'Not a farthing will I give you: it
    is scarce three weeks since you received your quarter's allowance,
    and if that is done already you may suffer for it.'

    With this decisive reply, he instinctively thrust his hands into
    his breeches' pockets, and marched off with a hurried step.

    'Stingy little monkey!' exclaimed Lady Julia, sinking back on the
    carriage-seat, while the bright flush of anger and disappointment
    crimsoned her fair cheek. 'This is the way he always treats me, but
    I'll make him suffer for it!'

    'Do not discompose yourself so much, my dear,' said her companion,
    'my purse is at your service, if you will accept it.'

    'I am sensible of your goodness, Maria, but of course I shall not
    take advantage of it; no, no, I can do without the earrings--it is
    only a fancy, though to be sure I would rather have them.'

    'My pretty cousin,' observed the marquis, who, till now, had
    remained a quiet though much-amused spectator of the whole scene,
    'you are certainly one of the most extravagant young ladies I know:
    why, what on earth can you possibly want with these trinkets? To my
    knowledge you have at least a dozen different sorts of
    ear-ornaments.'

    'That is true; but then these are quite of another kind; they are
    so pretty and unique that I could not help wishing for them.'

    'Well, since your heart is so much set upon the baubles, I will see
    whether my purse can compass their price, if you will allow me to
    accompany you to Mr. Lapis's.'

    'Oh! thank you, Arthur, you are very kind,' said Lady Julia, and
    both the ladies quickly made room for him as he sprang in and
    seated himself between them.

                 *       *       *       *       *

    In a few minutes they reached the jeweller's shop. Mr. Lapis
    received them with an obsequious bow, and proceeded to display his
    glittering stores. The pendants which had so fascinated Lady Julia
    were in the form of two brilliant little humming-birds, whose
    jewelled plumage equalled if not surpassed the bright hues of
    nature....

This gay and pleasant fragment of a story, in which the characters and
scenes are so freshly drawn, may well be imagined as one of the best,
if not the best, of these productions of the Brontë children. We may,
indeed, regard the spirit and style of these early stories as the
outcome of their eager and observant reading of the magazine and
newspaper articles within their reach--when their plastic minds would
receive indelible impressions, from which they, perhaps without knowing
it, acquired the knowledge and practice of accurate literary
composition, and of how to clothe their thoughts in fitting words.
Their retentive memories, and their intuitive faculty of putting
things, brought them thus early to the threshold of the republic of
letters. Mrs. Gaskell states that these works were principally written
by Charlotte in a hand so small as to be 'almost impossible to decipher
without the aid of a magnifying glass.' The specimen she gives is
written in an upright hand, and was an attempt to represent the stories
in a kind of print, as near as might be to type. If, however, Charlotte
and Emily ever accustomed themselves in these early works to this
diminutive type-like writing, they threw it off completely in
after-years. This, Branwell never did, and Mrs. Gaskell's fac-simile
page is not without some resemblance to one of his ordinary pages of
manuscript reduced in size.

Mr. T. Wemyss Reid observes that Mrs. Gaskell, in speaking of the
juvenile performances of the Brontë children, 'paid exclusive attention
to Charlotte's productions.' 'All readers of the Brontë story,' he
says, 'will remember the account of the play of "The Islanders," and
other remarkable specimens, showing with what real vigour and
originality Charlotte could handle her pen while she was still in the
first years of her teens.' And he adds that 'those few persons who have
seen the whole of the juvenile library of the family bear testimony to
the fact that Branwell and Emily were at least as industrious and
successful as Charlotte herself.'[15]

        [15] 'Charlotte Brontë, a monograph,' p. 27.

Even at this early period the youthful Brontës had read industriously.
'Blackwood's Magazine' had, as early as the year 1829, asserted itself
to Charlotte's childish taste as 'the most able periodical there is,'
and ever afterwards the whole family looked with the greatest pleasure
for the brilliant essays of Christopher North and his coterie. Of other
papers they saw 'John Bull' and the 'Leeds Intelligencer,' both
uncompromising Conservatives, and the 'Leeds Mercury,' of the opposite
party. The youthful Brontës were also readers of the 'British
Essayists,' 'The Rambler,' 'The Mirror,' and 'The Lounger,' and they
were great admirers of Scott.

But the advice which Charlotte afterwards gave to her friend 'E,' with
regard to books for perusal, shows that their reading had been much
wider: Shakespeare, Milton, Thomson, Goldsmith, Pope, Byron, Campbell,
and Wordsworth; Hume, Rollin, and the 'Universal History;' Johnson's
'Poets,' Boswell's 'Johnson,' Southey's 'Nelson,' Lockhart's 'Burns,'
Moore's 'Sheridan,' Moore's 'Byron,' and Wolfe's 'Remains;' and for
natural history, she recommends Bewick, Audubon, White, and, strangely
enough, Goldsmith. Branwell's favourite poets were Wordsworth and the
melancholy Cowper, whose 'Castaway' he was always fond of quoting. The
Brontës, in their young years, obtained much of their intellectual food
from the circulating library at Keighley.

The extraordinary literary activity which prompted these children never
afterwards left them; and Branwell, along with his sisters, was, as we
have seen, the author of many effusions of remarkable character. But,
as time passed on, and experience was gained, his literary productions
began to acquire more vigour and polish. Yet the tone of his mind,
however joyous it might be at times, recurred, when the immediate
occasion had passed, to that pensive melancholy which, throughout his
life, was his most marked characteristic.

Mr. Brontë looked with supreme pleasure on the growing talents of his
children; but his principal hope was centred in his son, who, as he
fondly trusted, should add lustre to and perpetuate his name. The boy,
in these years, was precocious and lively, overflowing with humour and
jollity, ready to crack a joke with the rustics he met, and all the
time gathering in, with the quickest perception, impressions, both for
good and ill, of human nature. Mr. Brontë sedulously, to the utmost of
his power, attending to the education of Branwell, did not see the
instability of his son's character, or did not apprehend any mischief
from the acquaintances he had formed.

The incumbent of Haworth had distinct literary leanings, and it
delighted him to find that his son had manifested literary capacity. It
has been urged as somewhat of a reproach against Mr. Brontë that he did
not send Branwell to a public school, but relied solely upon his own
tutorship for his son's education. Situated as Mr. Brontë was, such a
step as that said to have been recommended to him was unnecessary. The
Grammar School adjoining was under the superintendance of a master who
was well qualified to give a higher education to his pupils, if
required; and Mr. Brontë himself was equally well able to do the same,
but his daily duties within his chapelry left him little or no time to
take upon himself the entire education of his son: all he could do was
to watch and ascertain occasionally how he was progressing. Mr. Brontë,
indeed, might have given the finishing touches to his son's
instruction. Those, however, who knew the brilliant youth in the
ripeness of his early manhood, recognized the extent of the knowledge
he had acquired, and felt, too, that he had been sufficiently
well-trained to know how to put it to good use.



CHAPTER VII.

YOUTH.

Charlotte goes to Roe Head--Return Home--Branwell at the Time--The
Companion of his Sisters--Escorts Charlotte on a Visit--He becomes
Interested in Pugilism--His Education--His Love for Music--His
Retentive Memory--His Personal Appearance--His Spirit.


Little more of interest seems to be known concerning the Brontës prior
to the year 1831, but it is very apparent that Mr. Brontë exercised
a large influence in the formation of his children's habits and
characters. He, for instance, had a study in which he spent a
considerable portion of his time. The children had their study also.
Mr. Brontë had written poems and tales, and was wont to tell strange
stories at the breakfast-table. The children imitated him in these
things. Mr. Brontë took an enthusiastic interest in all political
matters; and here the children followed him also. In short, they copied
him in almost everything. Afterwards, he was accustomed to hold himself
up as an example for their guidance, and to tell them how he had
struggled and worked his way to the position he held; and there is no
doubt that his children had a great admiration for his career.

Miss Branwell's influence was altogether distinct from that of Mr.
Brontë. While taking pride in the mental ability of her nephew, she
aimed at making his sisters into good housewives and patterns of
domestic and unobtrusive virtue. With this object, turning her
bed-chamber into a school-room, she taught them to sew and to
embroider; and they occupied their time in making charity clothing, a
work which she maintained 'was not for the good of the recipients, but
of the sewers; it was proper for them to do it.' Under Miss Branwell
they likewise learned to clean, to wash, to bake, to cook, to make jams
and jellies, with many other domestic mysteries; and here, as in
everything else, they were apt pupils.

But, towards the end of the year 1830, it was decided that Charlotte
should seek a wider training elsewhere; and a school, kept by Miss
Wooler, at Roe Head, between Leeds and Huddersfield, was fixed upon. It
was a quaint, old-fashioned house, standing in a pleasant country,
which had an interest for Charlotte, for it lay not far from Hartshead,
where her father's first Yorkshire curacy had been. This circumstance,
together with the proximity of the remains of Kirklees priory--which
had their traditions of Robin Hood--and the strange local stories she
heard from Miss Wooler, led her afterwards to make this district the
scene of her novel of 'Shirley.' Miss Wooler was a kind, motherly lady
who took an interest in each one of her pupils. She had long been a
keen observer, and knew well how to put her knowledge to use in
tuition. In this school, Charlotte, a girl of sixteen, was an
indefatigable student, scarcely resting in her pursuit of knowledge.
She was not exactly sociable, and sat often alone with her book in
play-hours--a thin fragile girl, whose brown hair overshadowed the page
on which her eyes, 'those expressive orbs,' were so intently fixed. Her
companions remarked at that time that she had a great store of
out-of-the-way knowledge, while on some points of general information
she was comparatively ignorant. But when Charlotte left Roe Head, in
June, 1832, she returned to the parsonage at Haworth with more expanded
ideas, and with wider knowledge, and possessing, perhaps, a keener
relish for the delights of the literary world. At Roe Head Charlotte
made the acquaintance of her life-long friend 'E,' and also of Mary and
Martha 'T.'

The family of Brontë appears, about this time, to have been in perfect
peace. Charlotte had corresponded with Branwell when she was at Roe
Head, as a pupil of Miss Wooler; and Mrs. Gaskell has published
portions of a letter sent from that place to him on May 17th, 1832,
when he was in his fifteenth year, in which she showed her old
political leanings wherein Branwell shared. It runs: 'Lately I had
begun to think that I had lost all interest which I used formerly to
take in politics; but the extreme pleasure I felt at the news of the
Reform Bill's being thrown out by the House of Lords, and of the
expulsion, or resignation, of Earl Grey, &c., convinced me that I have
not as yet lost all my penchant for politics. I am extremely glad that
aunt has consented to take in "Fraser's Magazine;" for though I know
from your description of its general contents it will be rather
uninteresting when compared with "Blackwood," still it will be better
than remaining the whole year without being able to obtain a sight of
any periodical whatever; and such would assuredly be the case, as, in
the little wild moorland village where we reside, there would be no
possibility of borrowing a work of this description from a circulating
library. I hope with you that the present delightful weather may
contribute to the perfect restoration of our dear papa's health; and
that it may give aunt pleasant reminiscences of the salubrious climate
of her native place.'[16]

        [16] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. vi.

Charlotte's political principles were strongly Conservative, as were
those of her father, brother, and sisters, and these principles were
intensified in them all by their religious opinions. They held,
consistently enough, the cherished political convictions of their
party, and they looked upon every concession made to liberal clamour as
an inroad on the very vitals of the Constitution. Hence the jubilation
of Charlotte when the Reform Bill was rejected by the House of Lords on
October 7th, 1831. But the march of events, in after-years, modified
their political opinions considerably.

Branwell at this period, while still under tuition at home, was the
constant companion of his sisters, and frequently accompanied them on
their visits to the moors and picturesque places in the neighbourhood.
'E,' writing in 'Scribner,' says: 'Charlotte's first visit from Haworth
was made about three months after she left school. She travelled in a
two-wheeled gig, the only conveyance to be had in Haworth except the
covered-cart which brought her to school. Mr. Brontë sent Branwell as
an escort; he was _then_ a very dear brother, as dear to Charlotte
as her own soul; they were in perfect accord of taste and feeling, and
it was a mutual delight to be together. Branwell had probably never
been from home before; he was in wild ecstacy with everything. He
walked about in unrestrained boyish enjoyment, taking views in every
direction of the turret-roofed house, the fine chestnut-trees on the
lawn (one tree especially interested him because it was iron-girthed,
having been split by storms, but still flourishing in great majesty),
and a large rookery, which gave to the house a good background--all
these he noted and commented upon with perfect enthusiasm. He told his
sister he was leaving her in Paradise, and if she were not intensely
happy she never would be! Happy, indeed, she then was _in himself_, for
she, with her own enthusiasm, looked forward to what her brother's
great promise and talent might effect. He would be, at this time,
between fifteen and sixteen years of age.[17]

        [17] Scribner, ii., 18, 'Reminiscences of Charlotte Brontë.'

In the June of 1833, when Branwell was about this age, we learn that he
drove his sisters with great delight in a trap, or dog-cart, to Bolton
Bridge, to meet their friend 'E,' who waited for the young Brontës in a
carriage at the 'Devonshire Arms.'[18] This was a visit to the ancient
abbey and immemorial woods and vales of Bolton. We may well imagine
from the time of the year--the 'leafy month of June,' when all nature
would be glad, and the deep woods gay with varied leaves, while the
Wharfe, of amber hue, foamed and rushed impetuously down its rocky
channel, from the moorland hills above historic Barden, to the peaceful
meads of the ruined abbey--that the hearts of the Brontës rejoiced,
enchanted and impressed by these glorious and stately solitudes.

        [18] Reid's 'Charlotte Brontë, a Monograph,' p. 29.

It cannot but be regretted that, while his sisters could confer in
confidence and familiarity together, and enjoy a community of interests
in secrecy and affection, Branwell had no brother whose sympathetic
counsel he could embrace; but, thrown back upon himself, was led to
seek the society of appreciative friends, who made him acquainted with
the manners and customs of the world, and the vices of society, before
his time had yet come to know much concerning them. It was, indeed,
unfortunately, no infrequent circumstance to see the plastic,
light-hearted, unsuspecting Branwell listening to the coarse jokes of
the sexton of Haworth--the noted John Brown--while that functionary was
employed in digging the graves so often opened in the churchyard, under
the shadow of the parsonage.

It was the kind of society in which he sought relaxation at Haworth
that led him to take an interest, which he long retained, in the
pugilistic ring. The interest in pugilism and the 'noble art,' it must,
however, be remembered, had been made fashionable by wealthy,
influential, and titled people, amongst whom was Lord Byron, and by the
fops and dandies of an earlier period. Jackson, the noted professor,
was a great friend of the poet, and, on several occasions, visited him
at Newstead. Early in this century, too, many men about town were
accustomed to assemble for practice at the academy of Angelo and
Jackson. Branwell, also, read with eagerness the columns of 'Bell's
Life in London,' and other sporting papers of the day. The names and
personal appearance of the celebrated pugilists who, at that time, to
the delight of the _élite_ of society, pounded each other till they
were unlike anything human--for the applause of the multitude, and the
honour of wearing the 'Champion's Belt,'--were familiar to him. 'Bell's
Life' was taken in by an innkeeper at Haworth; and the members of the
village boxing-club, one of whom was Branwell, were posted up in all
public matters relating to the 'noble art of self-defence.' They had
sundry boxing-gloves, and, at intervals, amused themselves with
sparring in an upper room of a building at Haworth. These practices, at
the time of which we speak, were but boyish amusements, and were no
doubt congenial to the animal spirits and energetic temperaments of
those who entered into them, and they were so more especially to
Branwell, who had abundance of both. But it may be that here he became
acquainted with young men whose habits and conduct had a deleterious
influence upon him at the very opening of his career. If, however,
Branwell's high spirit allowed him sometimes to be led away by his
companions, his natural goodness of heart brought a ready and vehement
repentance. The respect he felt for his father's calling, magnified, in
his eyes, any fault of his own--who ought to have been more than
ordinarily good--and, exaggerating his failings, he would lament his
'dreadful conduct' in deep distress. Such unmistakable evidences of
sincerity and truthfulness procured him a ready pardon. He was
necessarily his aunt's favourite; but he attached himself to all about
him with so much readiness of affection that it is quite evident,
whatever his youthful faults, they were of a superficial character
only.

The studies which Branwell pursued in his youth were noticed by his
literary friends, in after-years, to bear a considerable fruit of
classical knowledge. He possessed then a familiar and extensive
acquaintance with the Greek and Latin authors. He knew well the history
and condition of Europe, and of this country, in past and present
times; and his conversational powers on these, and the current
literature of the day, were of the highest order. Mr. Brontë had
obtained musical tuition for his son and daughters, and Branwell was
enthusiastically fond of sacred music, and could play the organ. He was
acquainted with the works of the great composers of recent and former
times; and, although he could not perform their elaborate compositions
well, he was always so excited when they were played for him by his
friends that he would walk about the room with measured footsteps, his
eyes raised to the ceiling, accompanying the music with his voice in an
impassioned manner, and beating time with his hand on the chairs as he
passed to and fro. He was an enthusiastic admirer of the oratorio of
'Samson,' which Handel deemed equal to the 'Messiah,' and of the
Mass-music of Haydn, Mozart, and others. Religion had, indeed, been
deeply implanted in Branwell's breast; but, whenever he heard sacred
music like this, his devotional impressions were deepened, and even in
times of temptation, indulgence, and folly the influence of early piety
was never effaced. Among his minor accomplishments, he had acquired the
practice of writing short-hand with facility, and also of writing with
both hands at the same time with perfect ease, so that he possessed the
extraordinary power of writing two letters at once. His hand-writing
was of an upright character. Branwell, too, had a wonderful power of
observation, and a most retentive memory. It is on record that, before
he visited London, he so mastered its labyrinths, by a diligent study
of maps and books, that he spoke with a perfect knowledge of it, and
astonished inhabitants of the metropolis by his intimate acquaintance
with by-ways and places of which they even had never heard. In person
he was rather below the middle height, but of refined and
gentleman-like appearance, and of graceful manners. His complexion was
fair and his features handsome; his mouth and chin were well-shaped;
his nose was prominent and of the Roman type; his eyes sparkled and
danced with delight, and his fine forehead made up a face of oval form
which gave an irresistible charm to its possessor, and attracted the
admiration of those who knew him. Added to this, his address was simple
and unadorned, yet polished; but, being familiar with the English
language in its highest form of expression, and with the Yorkshire and
Hibernian _patois_ also, he could easily make use of the quaintest
and broadest terms when occasion called for them. It was, indeed,
amazing how suddenly he could pass from the discussion of a grave and
lofty subject, or from a deep disquisition, or some exalted poetical
theme, to one of his light-hearted and amusing Irish or Yorkshire
sallies. He could be sad and joyful almost at the same time, like the
sunshine and gloom of April weather; exhibiting, by anticipation, the
future lights and shadows of his own sad, short, and chequered
existence. In a word, he seemed at times even to be jocular and merry
with gravity itself.

It is known also that Branwell, at that period of his young life--when
manhood with its hopes and joys, its enterprises and aspirations, its
affections and its responsibilities, stretched before him--was also
busily laying, to the best of his ability, the foundations, as he
trusted, of a brilliant literary or artistic future.



CHAPTER VIII.

ART-AIMS OF THE BRONTËS.

Love of Art in the Youthful Brontës--Their elaborate Drawings--
J. B. Leyland, Sculptor--Spartacus--Mr. George Hogarth's Opinion
--Art Exhibition at Leeds--Mr. William Robinson, their
Drawing-Master--Branwell aims at Portrait-Painting--J. B.
 Leyland in London--Branwell and the Royal Academy--He visits
London.


The biographers of the Brontë sisters have pointed out especially the
artistic instinct of Charlotte and Emily; and the originality and
fidelity of their written descriptions, and the beauty of the
composition and 'colour' of their word-paintings, have formed an
inexhaustible theme for the various writers on the excellencies of
Brontë genius. The appreciation of art possessed by the members of this
family, whether in drawing, painting, or sculpture, was manifested
early; but, though highly gifted in felicity and aptness of verbal
expression in describing natural scenery, and in the delineation of
personal character, they were not endowed, in like degree, with the
faculty of placing their ideas--weird and wild, or beautiful and joyous
as they might be--in that tangible and fixed shape in which artists
have perpetuated the emanations of their genius. The devotion of
Charlotte and Branwell to art was, nevertheless, so intense, and their
belief was so profound, at one time, that the art-faculty consisted of
little more than mechanical dexterity, and could be obtained by long
study and practice in manipulation, that the sister toiled incessantly
in copying, almost line for line, the grand old engravings of Woollett,
Brown, Fittler, and others till her eyesight was dimmed and blurred by
the sedulous application; and Branwell, with the same belief, eagerly
followed her example. Great talent and perseverance they undoubtedly
had; and, although we are not possessed of any original drawings by
Charlotte of striking character, we know that Branwell drew in
pen-and-ink with much facility, humour, and originality. His
productions, in this manner, will be more particularly noticed in the
course of this work. Charlotte's drawings were said to be
pre-Raphaelite in detail, but they had no approach to the spirit of
that school; and Branwell's pictures, however meritorious they might be
as likenesses of the individuals they represented, lacked, in every
instance, that artistic touch which the hand of genius always gives,
and cannot help giving. While at school at Roe Head, Charlotte had been
noticed by her fellow-pupils to draw better and more quickly than they
had before seen anyone do, and we have been told by one of them that
'she picked up every scrap of information concerning painting,
sculpture, poetry, music, &c., as if it were gold.' The list she drew
up a year or two earlier of the great artists whose works she wished to
see, shows us that her interest in art, even in her thirteenth year,
led her to read of them and their productions.

On her return home in 1832, Charlotte wrote on the 21st July respecting
her course of life at the parsonage: 'In the morning, from nine o'clock
till half-past twelve, I instruct my sisters, and draw; then we walk
till dinner-time. After dinner I sew till tea-time, and after tea I
either write, read, or do a little fancy-work, or draw as I please.'
Charlotte also told Mrs. Gaskell 'that, at this period of her life,
drawing, and walking with her sisters, formed the two great pleasures
and relaxations of her day.'

Mr. Brontë, observing that his son and daughters took pleasure in the
art of drawing, and believing this to be one of their natural gifts
that ought to be cultivated, perhaps as an accomplishment which they
might some time find useful in tuition, obtained for them a
drawing-master. But he also observed that Branwell excelled his sisters
in the art, while he likewise painted in oils, and he may at times have
had some hope that his son would become a distinguished artist.

It is apparent, indeed, that drawing not only engaged much of
Charlotte's leisure, but that it formed a part of home-education. Her
sisters as well as herself underwent great labour in acquiring the art
in these early years, and Branwell also was not behind them in
industrious pursuit of the same object. Charlotte even thought of art
as a profession for herself; and so strong was this intention, that she
could scarcely be convinced that it was not her true vocation. In
short, her appreciative spirit always dwelt with indescribable pleasure
on works of real art, and she derived, from their contemplation, one of
the chief enjoyments of her life. 'To paint them, in short,' says Jane
Eyre, speaking of the pictures she is showing to Mr. Rochester, 'was to
enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known.'[19] The love the
Brontës thus cherished for art became, as time passed on, a passion,
and its cultivation a pressing and sensible duty. They were not aware
that their industry in, and devotion to it, as they understood it, were
a misdirection of their genius. How far this love of it, and this
eagerness to acquire a knowledge of the mysteries of composition and
analysis, and to be possessed of art-practice and art-learning, may
have been excited and encouraged by the success that had been achieved
by others with whom they were familiar, in the same direction, may be
surmised.

        [19] 'Jane Eyre,' chap. xiii.

In the year of Mr. Brontë's appointment to Hartshead, there was born,
at Halifax, an artist, Joseph Bentley Leyland, who was destined to
become the personal friend and inspirer of Mr. Brontë's son, Branwell.
Leyland, in his early boyhood, showed, by the ease and faithfulness
with which he modelled in clay, or sketched with pencil, the objects
that attracted his attention, the direction of his genius. The
sculptor, as he grew in years, treated, with artistic power, classical
subjects which had not hitherto been embodied in sculpture. At the age
of twenty-one he modelled a statue of Spartacus, the Thracian, a
general who, after defeating several Roman armies in succession, was
overthrown with his forces by Crassus the prætor, and slain. The dead
leader was represented at that moment after death before the muscles
have acquired extreme rigidity. The statue, which was of colossal size,
was modelled from living subjects, and was, in all respects, a
production far beyond the sculptor's years. It was the most striking
work of art at the Manchester Exhibition in the year 1832, and was
favourably noticed in the 'Manchester Courier,' on November the 3rd of
that year. Such notices were productive of increased exertion, which
soon became manifest in the creation of other more lofty and successful
works. Among these was a colossal bust of Satan, some six feet in
height, which was pronounced to be 'truly that of Milton's "Arch-angel
ruined."' Mr. George Hogarth, the father-in-law of Charles Dickens--a
gentleman of literary power and knowledge--was the editor of the
'Halifax Guardian' at the time, and visited the artist's small studio,
where he saw, in one corner, under its lean-to roof, for the first
time, the bust of Satan. He was astonished at its merit, and published
his criticism of the work in the paper on May the 24th, 1834. Leyland
was then strongly urged to forward the bust to London, which he did,
with some others he had modelled; and the critics were invited to visit
his studio. The favourable opinion which Mr. Hogarth published, in the
paper of which he was editor, was endorsed, but in more flattering
terms, in the 'Morning Chronicle' of December 2nd, 1834. But there was
held at Leeds, in these years, the Annual Exhibition of the Northern
Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts; and Leyland, before he
sent his work to London, included it in his contributions to the
exhibition at Leeds.

The oil-paintings and water-colour drawings that were hung there, in
the summer of 1834, appear to have formed a fine and varied collection.
There were beautiful landscapes in water-colour by Copley Fielding, and
in oil by Alexander Nasmyth, John Linnel, Robert Macreth; and others
were well represented, while historical paintings by H. Fradelle,
sea-pieces by Carmichael, and animal paintings by Schwanfelder, always
good, were highly creditable to these well-known names. A number of
fine portraits by William Bewick and William Robinson added interest
and beauty to the galleries. The reader may conceive, if he will, the
Brontës--Charlotte and Branwell, and, it may be, Mr. Brontë and
Emily--enjoying to the full the paintings and sculptures which were
before them. He may fancy the suddenly expressed, 'Look, Charlotte!' as
some newly discovered picture flashed as a keen delight on the eager
fancy of Branwell's appreciative spirit. He may imagine the ready
criticism of Charlotte, and the attempts which she and her brother made
to divine how much thought had gone to make up the composition of a
work. The young Brontë critics, as they looked on the colossal head of
Satan--on the stern and inflexible firmness of the features 'whose
superhuman beauty is yet covered with a cloud of the deepest
melancholy;' on the representation 'of the great and glorious being
sunk in utter despair,'--might ponder, perhaps, whether an ideal has
dawned upon the imagination of the artist, and so been wrought from no
model, but from the vision of his meditations, or whether success is,
after all, but the evidence of painful elaboration. At any rate, it was
just on such an exhibition of paintings and works of art that Charlotte
and Branwell delighted to dwell in intelligent and educated
observation.

That a new impetus and a new meaning were given to their art-practice
about this time is certain, and it was probably not long after this
date that Mr. Brontë engaged, for the instruction of his son and
daughters, an artist of Leeds, the Mr. William Robinson I have
mentioned as having contributed a number of portraits to the
exhibition. The object of the Brontës was now to practise painting, and
this able instructor was consequently engaged.

Mr. Robinson was a native of Leeds, who had, by natural talent and
steady perseverance, acquired something more than a local reputation.
His early love of art had been such that the wishes of his friends
failed to divert him from its pursuit, and he received lessons from Mr.
Rhodes, sen., of Leeds, an admirable painter in water-colours. But Mr.
Robinson had a strong predilection for portrait-painting, to which he
had devoted his powers, at the same time availing himself of every
opportunity for improving in its practice. In the year 1820, he visited
the metropolis, taking with him an introduction to Sir Thomas Lawrence,
who received him with great kindness, and he became a pupil of this
eminent artist. Sir Thomas, however, with noble generosity, declined
any remuneration whatever, and Robinson assisted his master in his
work. He was introduced to Fuseli, and gained the privilege of studying
at the Royal Academy, his work being characterized by the requisite
merit. He was stimulated to renewed exertion by this much desired
success. In 1824, he had returned to his native town, where he procured
numerous commissions. He was subsequently introduced to Earl de Grey,
of whom he painted portraits, as also of his family. Mr. Robinson, in
addition, painted four portraits for the United Service Club, one of
which was of the Duke of Wellington, who honoured him with several
sittings. Besides these, amongst his other works, was a portrait of the
Princess Sophia, and a copy of one of the Duke of York for the Duchess
of Gloucester. It was from this gentleman that Branwell Brontë and his
sister received a few lessons in portrait-painting at the time of which
I speak, and a knowledge of the master's career did not a little to
fire the mind of the enthusiastic Branwell with ardour to aim in the
same direction, while the contemporary efforts of others added fuel to
the fire.

At this time there were certain artists of the neighbourhood who were
trying their fortunes in London, and who were known to Branwell Brontë
by reputation: C. H. Schwanfelder, the animal painter, and John W.
Rhodes, the son of the artist under whom Mr. Robinson had studied. The
father of the latter had endeavoured to dissuade him from making art
his profession, but all to no purpose: the bent of his genius could not
be curbed. He painted in water-colour and oil with great beauty and
fidelity; the green lane, the wild flower hanging from an old wall,
were his subjects. His works met with well-deserved encomiums in the
London press, and with praise wherever they were exhibited; but, when
full of aspiring hopes, he was attacked, like Girtin, Liversedge, and
Bonnington, by inflammation in the eyes, and ill health. He died at the
early age of thirty-three, and a memoir of him appeared in 'The Art
Journal' of March, 1843. The determination of Charlotte and Branwell to
take, as it were, the Temple of Art by forcible possession, was, it may
be conceived, due also, in some measure, to the growing celebrity of
Leyland; for, in literature and art, Halifax was nearer to the Brontës
than any of the surrounding towns. The praise of Leyland's works,
moreover, had been re-published from the London press in all the papers
of his native county, and poetic eulogies appeared in the 'Leeds
Intelligencer' and in the 'Leeds Mercury;' and, therefore, that they
were eager to emulate his works and to equal his success seems very
probable.

I have felt it necessary to mention these influences, as they alone
serve to explain how it was that Branwell and his sister were led to
think of, and--as regards the brother--to persist for a time in making
a profession of painting for which they had no special aptitude.
Branwell, in fact, designed to become himself a portrait-painter, and
he conceived that a course of instruction at the Royal Academy afforded
the best means of preparation for that profession.

Being gifted with a keen and distinct observation, combined with the
faculty of retaining impressions once formed, and being an excellent
draughtsman, he could with ease produce admirable representations of
the persons he portrayed on canvas. But it is quite clear that he never
had been instructed either in the right mode of mixing his pigments, or
how to use them when properly prepared, or, perhaps, he had not been an
apt scholar. He was, therefore, unable to obtain the necessary flesh
tints, which require so much delicacy in handling, or the gradations of
light and shade so requisite in the painting of a good portrait or
picture. Had Branwell possessed this knowledge, the portraits he
painted would have been valuable works from his hand; but the colours
he used have all but vanished, and scarcely any tint, beyond that of
the boiled oil with which they appear to have been mixed, remains. Yet,
even if Branwell had been fortunate in his work, he would only have
attained the position, probably, of a moderate portrait-painter. His
ambition, however, took a higher range, and he prepared himself for the
venture, hoping that the desiderata which Haworth could not supply
would be amply provided for him in London, when the long-desired
opportunity arrived.

At Haworth he had been industrious, for he had painted some portraits
of the members of his family, and of several friends. One of these is
well described by Mrs. Gaskell, and her account is worth giving
here:--'It was a group of his sisters, life-size, three-quarters
length ... the likenesses were, I should think, admirable. I only
judge of the fidelity with which the other two were depicted, from the
striking resemblance which Charlotte, upholding the great frame of
canvas, and consequently standing right behind it, bore to her own
representation, though it must have been ten years and more since the
portraits were taken. The picture was divided, almost in the middle, by
a great pillar. On the side of the column which was lighted by the sun
stood Charlotte, in the womanly dress of that day of gigot sleeves and
large collars. On the deeply shadowed side was Emily, with Anne's
gentle face resting on her shoulder. Emily's countenance struck me as
full of power; Charlotte's of solicitude; Anne's of tenderness. The two
younger seemed hardly to have attained their full growth, though Emily
was taller than Charlotte; they had cropped hair and a more girlish
dress. I remember looking on these two sad, earnest, shadowed faces,
and wondering whether I could trace the mysterious expression which is
said to foretell an early death. I had some fond superstitious hope
that the column divided their fate from hers who stood apart in the
canvas, as in life she survived. I liked to see that the bright side of
the pillar was towards _her_--that the light in the picture fell on
_her_. I might more truly have sought in her presentment--nay, in her
living face--for the sign of death in her prime.'[20]

        [20] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. vii.

From Mrs. Gaskell's description of this one picture, it is apparent
that Branwell possessed, not only the faculty, as we have seen, of
obtaining excellent portraits, but that he had the ability to impress
the faces of his sisters with thought, intelligence, and sensibility;
and to invest them with the habitual expressions they wore, of power,
solicitude, and tenderness. The deep reflection which Branwell bestowed
on this picture, and the care he lavished on its mysterious
composition, show unquestionably the aptitude and capacity of his own
mind, which enabled him to obtain these essential expressions; and it
is evident that his peculiarity of thought invested his picture with
that sadness and gloom which, in after times, tinctured the poems he
wrote under the solemn-sounding pseudonym of 'Northangerland.' This
picture is only one among many others he painted in preparing himself
for his intended studies at the Royal Academy; and the old nurse, Nancy
Garrs, tells me that he often wanted to paint her portrait, but she
told him that she did not think herself 'good-looking enough.'

At a later date Branwell related to Mr. George Searle Phillips the
story of his artistic hopes.[21] He spoke of the great fondness for
drawing manifested by the whole family; and declared that Charlotte,
especially, was well read in art-learning, and knew the lives of the
old masters, whose works she criticized with discrimination and
judgment. But he said that she had ruined her eyesight by making minute
copies of line-engravings, on one of which she was occupied six months.
He also spoke of his own passionate love of art, and of the bright and
confident anticipations with which he had looked forward to his
projected studies at the Royal Academy, which had been the cherished
hope of his family and himself.

        [21] 'The Mirror,' 1872.

Leyland had visited London in the December of 1833, when he obtained
from Stothard a letter of introduction to Ottley, the curator of the
Elgin Marbles, to allow him to study the marbles in the British Museum.
Permission was readily granted, and the sculptor availed himself of it.
A year later Leyland took up his residence in the metropolis. He was
received in a friendly manner by Chantrey and Westmacott, the latter
inviting him to dinner, and afterwards showing him his foundry at
Pimlico, and his works in progress, among which was the statue of the
Duke of York. He was also introduced to, and enjoyed the friendship of
Nasmyth--the father of the eminent engineer whose story has recently
been given to the world--and of Warley: one a landscape-painter of
celebrity, and the other famed as an artist in water-colour. The
latter, who had considerable faith in astrology, persisted in drawing
the younger sculptor's horoscope. Among others, he became known to
Haydon, under whom he subsequently studied anatomy. This lamented
artist was a genuine friend, and it was under his instructions that
Leyland perfected his natural perception of the grand and beautiful in
art. While here he modelled, in life-size, a figure of 'Kilmeny,' in
illustration of the passage in Hogg's 'Queen's Wake,' where the sinless
maiden is awakened by Elfin music in fairy-land. It was a successful
work, and was favourably noticed by the critics. It was subsequently
purchased for the Literary and Philosophical Society of his native
town.

It was while Leyland was in the metropolis that Charlotte wrote, on the
6th July, 1835:

'We are all about to divide, break up, separate. Emily is going to
school, Branwell is going to London, and I am going to be a governess.
This last determination I formed myself, knowing that I should have to
take the step sometime, "and better sune as syne," to use the Scotch
proverb; and knowing well that papa would have enough to do with his
limited income, should Branwell be placed at the Royal Academy, and
Emily at Roe Head.'

While this project was warmly engaging the attention of the Brontë
family, Leyland was living in London, at the house of Mr. Geller, a
mezzotinto-engraver, who was a native of Bradford; and, at the time,
the sculptor modelled a group of three figures illustrative of a
passage in Maturin's tragedy of 'Bertram,' which represented the
warrior listening to the prior reading. The work was engraved by
Geller. This group was said to be conceived in the 'true spirit of
Maturin,' and met with the favourable notice of the London periodicals
of the year 1835, the year of Branwell's visit to the metropolis. The
reviews were also reproduced in most of the Yorkshire papers.

The design of putting Branwell forward as an artist, and of giving him
the opportunity and the means of beginning and continuing his studies,
where he might be imbued with the spirit of the great sculptors and
painters who have left imperishable names, and whose works are stored
in the public art-galleries of London, had at last been determined
upon. The sacrifices the Brontë family were prepared to make in order
to secure this object require but a passing notice here. Branwell was a
treasured brother; and they would feel, no doubt, a sincere happiness
in promoting his interests, in furthering his views, and in bringing
his artistic abilities before the world. It would, however, seem
scarcely possible that the difficulties attending Branwell's admission
as a student at the Royal Academy had been duly considered. He could
not be admitted without a preliminary examination of his drawings from
the antique and the skeleton, to ascertain if his ability as a
draughtsman was of such an order as would qualify him for studentship;
and, if successful in this, he would be required to undergo a regular
course of education, and to pass through the various schools where
professors and academicians attended to give instruction. No doubt it
was wished that Branwell should have a regular and prolonged
preparation for his professional artistic career; but it would have
lasted for years, and the pecuniary strain consequent upon it would,
perhaps, have been severely felt, even if Branwell's genius had
justified the outlay. But there is no evidence that he ever subjected
himself to the preliminary test, or made an application even to be
admitted as a probationer.

It would seem that, so far as Mr. Brontë was concerned, his promotion
of the wishes of his children arose rather from a desire to gratify
them. It does not appear that he had any over-sanguine expectation that
Branwell could carry out his ardent intention of becoming an artist.
Mr. Brontë's own wish was, indeed, that his son should adopt his
profession, but the mercurial youth was probably little attracted by
the functions of the clergyman's office.

To London Branwell, however, went, where, without doubt, his object was
to draw from the Elgin Marbles, and to study the pictures at the Royal
Academy and other galleries, with a perfectly honest intention.
Whatever impression he may have received of his own powers as an
artist, when he saw those of the great painters of the time, we have no
certain knowledge; but it does not exceed belief that he was
discouraged when he looked upon the brilliant chef d'oeuvres of Sir
Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and others; and
that, when he reflected on the immeasurable distance between his own
works and theirs, his hopes of a brilliant artistic career were
partially dissipated. Whether it was due to these circumstances, or
that he had become more fully aware of the early struggles that meet
all who attempt art as a profession, or that his courage failed him at
the contemplation of the unhappy lot which falls to those who, either
from lack of talent or through misfortune, fail to make their mark in
the artistic world; or whether it was because his father was unable to
support him in London during the years of preparation and study for the
professional career,--the requirements of which had not been
sufficiently considered,--is not now accurately known. Branwell, during
his short stay in London, visited most of the public institutions; and,
among other places, Westminster Abbey, the western façade of which he
some time afterwards sketched from memory with an accuracy that
astonished his acquaintance, Mr. Grundy.

Before he left the metropolis, Branwell could not resist a visit to the
Castle Tavern, Holborn, then kept by the veteran prize-fighter, Tom
Spring, a place frequented by the principal sporting characters of the
time. A gentleman named Woolven, who was present through the same
curiosity which led Branwell there, noticed the young man, whose
unusual flow of language and strength of memory had so attracted the
attention of the spectators that they had made him umpire in some
dispute arising about the dates of certain celebrated battles. Branwell
and he became personal friends in after-years.

Branwell returned to the parsonage a wiser man. His disappointment that
he was not to do as others were doing, whom he wished to emulate, was
very great, but he was not yet finally discouraged. We shall see
subsequently to what purpose Branwell put his artistic knowledge. The
failure of the hopes regarding his academical career in art was keenly
felt by his family. It was grievous as it was humiliating, but it was
borne with exemplary patience and resignation. When these painful
experiences had impressed the Brontë sisters with the hopelessness of
high artistic study for Branwell, and when their eyes were opened to
the consciousness that their large gifts did not include art, Charlotte
wrote, in her novel of 'Villette,' under the character of Lucy Snowe:
'I sat bent over my desk, drawing--that is, copying an elaborate
line-engraving, tediously working up my copy to the finish of the
original, for that was my practical notion of art; and, strange to say,
I took extreme pleasure in the labour, and could even produce curiously
finished fac-similes of steel or mezzotinto plates--things about as
valuable as so many achievements in worsted work, but I thought pretty
well of them in those days.'



CHAPTER IX.

CHARLOTTE AT ROE HEAD.

Charlotte returns as a Teacher, with Emily as a Pupil, to Roe
Head--Their Determination to Maintain themselves--Charlotte's Fears
respecting Emily--Charlotte's religious Melancholy--Accuses herself of
Flippancy--She is on the Borders of Despair--Anxiety to Know More of
the World--Emily at Law Hill, Halifax, as a Teacher--Charlotte's
Excitability--She returns Home out of Health.


'We are all about to divide, break up, separate,' Charlotte said, when
conveying to her friend the news of the Academy project, and of her
determination to enter upon life as a governess. If Branwell's ambition
had encouraged her own, its failure made no change in her plans. She
was 'sad,' she says, 'very sad,' at the thoughts of leaving home; yet
she was going back to the school of Miss Wooler, whom she both loved
and respected, to live at Roe Head, this time to teach, it is true,
instead of to be taught. But her sister Emily was to accompany her, as
a pupil of the school, and that they would be together was a
consolation to both sisters; and Charlotte, too, would be near the
homes of the friends she had made when she was herself a pupil there.
It was a pleasure to think she would be able to see them sometimes.

At the end of July, then, the two proceeded to Roe Head. This was the
first of those adventurous moves which the sisters, from time to time,
made. One of the strongest features, indeed, in their lives is the
persistency with which they essayed to maintain themselves, even when
no apparently pressing necessity impelled them. Yet we may not doubt
that one sad reflection sometimes moved them, and it was that their
father's stipend ceased with his life; that they had no other resource
beyond their own endeavours; and that, such was the uncertainty of all
human concerns, they might at any moment be deprived of home, support,
and shelter. It behoved them then to secure by their personal energies,
while they were able, the very means of subsistence.

When Mr. Brontë saw his young family around him, and when he enjoyed
the comfort of his hearth, the contingency of his death, and the
consequent helplessness of his children, often struck him with
apprehension and sadness. But he had the alleviation that they
inherited, in a marked degree, his own adventurous and energetic
disposition, whose successful career was always before them as an
example and incentive to honourable endeavour.

Mr. Brontë looked back with just satisfaction on the early sacrifices
he had made to advance himself in the world. His children were familiar
with the story of his exertions. They, however, with far higher
talents, were not possessed of the physical strength and powers of
endurance which had aided his progress; and Charlotte and Emily, when
any unusual strain was cast upon them, soon felt their strength
exhausted, and they suffered depression of spirits as the consequence.
Home-sickness was the great trouble of the younger sister, and, before
she had been long at school, Emily grew pale and ill. Charlotte felt in
her heart that, if she remained, she would die; and, at the end of
three months, she returned to Haworth, where, alone among the moors,
with all the wild things of nature, which had inspired so deep an
interest in her feelings, she could be contented. But the youngest
sister, Anne, came to Roe Head in her place, and she and Charlotte seem
to have been very happy there for some time; but a tendency to
religious melancholy had been developing in the elder sister's mind,
imperceptibly, out of her deep religious feeling, and it increased upon
her.

So early as the letter to 'E,' July 6th, 1835, she had spoken of 'duty,
necessity, these are stern mistresses,' as controlling her action in
seeking a situation. Her friend Mary went to see her, and in her letter
to Mrs. Gaskell she says: 'I asked her how she could give so much for
so little money, when she could live without it. She owned that, after
clothing herself and Anne, there was nothing left, though she had hoped
to be able to save something. She confessed it was not brilliant, but
what could she do? I had nothing to answer. She seemed to have no
interest or pleasure beyond the feeling of duty, and, when she could
get, used to sit alone and "make out." She told me afterwards, that one
evening she had sat in the dressing-room until it was quite dark, and
then, observing it all at once, had taken sudden fright.' Some
relaxation was gained by the Midsummer holidays of the year 1836. All
the family were at home, and their friend 'E' visited them, so that a
pleasant period of mental diversion was secured. But, after her return
to her school, despondency came upon her again, and crowded her
thoughts; and she wrote respecting her feelings in religious concerns:
'I do wish to be better than I am. I pray fervently sometimes to be
made so. I have stings of conscience, visitings of remorse, glimpses of
holy, of inexpressible things, which formerly I used to be a stranger
to; it may all die away, and I may be in utter midnight, but I implore
a merciful Redeemer, that, if this be the dawn of the Gospel, it may
still brighten to perfect day. Do not mistake me--do not think I am
good; I only wish to be so. I only hate my former flippancy and
forwardness. Oh! I am no better than ever I was. I am in that state of
horrid, gloomy uncertainty that, at this moment, I would submit to be
old, grey-haired, to have passed all my youthful days of enjoyment, and
to be settling on the verge of the grave, if I could only thereby
insure the prospect of reconciliation to God, and a redemption through
His Son's merits. I never was exactly careless of these matters, but I
have always taken a clouded and repulsive view of them; and now, if
possible, the clouds are gathering darker, and a more oppressive
despondency weighs on my spirits. You have cheered me, my darling; for
one moment, for an atom of time, I thought I might call you my own
sister in the spirit; but the excitement is past, and I am now as
wretched and hopeless as ever.'

Let us not under-estimate the mental suffering which could dictate this
confession. Happily, this was not constantly present, nor her feelings
always so acutely wrought upon. Even in the same letter from which the
above is taken, she wishes her friends should know the thrill of
delight which she experienced when she saw the packet of her friend
thrown over the wall by the bearer, passing in his gig to Huddersfield
Market. She persevered in her place, the whole tendency of her
exaggerated reasoning forbidding her to seek that ease and relaxation
which she needed so much; but she was not incapacitated for her duties,
and probably her family were quite unaware of her troubles: so she
remained.

Branwell and Emily were resolved not to be behind their sister in their
endeavours, and they were full of anxiety to know more of the world
than they could meet with at Haworth. Emily obtained a similar
situation to Charlotte's, in a large school at Law Hill, near Halifax,
where she found her duties far from light. Her extreme reserve with
strangers is remembered by one who knew her there, but she was not at
all of an unkindly nature; on the contrary, her disposition was
generous and considerate to those with whom she was on familiar terms:
her stay at Law Hill terminated at the end of six months. The place of
her sojourn is a lofty elevation, overlooking Halifax. Emily would find
the situation of the school agreeable to her taste, and to her delight
in the weird and grand as presented by the solemn heath-grown heights
of the West-Riding: besides, the air was as pure as that of Haworth,
and Law Hill commanded finer views, among which the range of Oxenhope
moors, in her father's chapelry, was visible. In the other direction,
she could overlook the more cultivated district of Hartshead and
Kirklees, and could see Roe Head, where her sisters Charlotte and Anne
resided. Branwell also, emulating his sisters, obtained the situation
of usher in the locality, which he retained for a few months.

Some adventures with their literary productions interested them at the
close of this year, of which I shall have further to speak. Miss
Wooler's removal of her school to Dewsbury Moor was, in some respects,
unfortunate for the sisters, as the situation was less healthy than the
former one, and, when Charlotte and Anne returned home at Christmas, in
the year 1837, neither was well. Charlotte's nerves were over-strung,
and Anne was suffering from chest affections, which conjured up anew
their recollection of the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth from
consumption. To add to their troubles, Tabby fell on the ice in the
lane, and fractured her leg. The consequence of this was, that they had
to forego the expected pleasure of a visit from their friend 'E,'
through their attendance on the old servant, whom they were unwilling
should be removed to her friends, however desirable this might be on
many grounds. They even went so far as to refuse to eat at all, till
their aunt, who had arranged the matter to the satisfaction of all
concerned, except her nieces, should give up her intention of removing
Tabby. They succeeded, and Tabby remained at the parsonage, where in
time she became convalescent, and Charlotte was enabled to visit her
friends before she resumed her occupation.

Charlotte again returned to her accustomed duties, her nervousness
increasing, not the less; and Mrs. Gaskell says: 'About this time she
would turn sick and trembling at any sudden noise, and could hardly
repress her screams when startled.' Through Miss Wooler's urgency, she
was induced to consult a medical man, who advised her immediate return
to Haworth, where quiet and rest had become for her imperatively
necessary. Then her father sought for her the companionship of her two
friends, Mary and Martha T----, than whose society Charlotte had never
known a more rousing pleasure. They came to stay at the parsonage, and
their cheerful converse and agreeable manners greatly improved
Charlotte's health and spirits. We obtain an interesting picture of the
young party in the following letter that Charlotte addressed to her
friend 'E,' which Mrs. Gaskell has published:

    'Haworth,

    'June 9th, 1838.

    'I received your packet of despatches on Wednesday; it was brought
    me by Mary and Martha, who have been staying at Haworth for a few
    days; they leave us to-day. You will be surprised at the date of
    this letter. I ought to be at Dewsbury Moor, you know; but I stayed
    as long as I was able, and at length I neither could nor dared stay
    any longer. My health and spirits had utterly failed me, and the
    medical man whom I consulted enjoined me, as I valued my life, to
    go home. So home I went, and the change has at once roused and
    soothed me. I am now, I trust, fairly in the way to be myself
    again.

    'A calm and even mind like yours cannot conceive the feelings of
    the shattered wretch who is now writing to you, when, after weeks
    of mental and bodily anguish not to be described, something like
    peace began to dawn again. Mary is far from well. She breathes
    short, has a pain in her chest, and frequent flushings of fever. I
    cannot tell you what agony these symptoms give me; they remind me
    so strongly of my two sisters, whom no power of medicine could
    save. Martha is now very well; she has kept in a continual flow of
    good humour during her stay here, and has consequently been very
    fascinating....

    'They are making such a noise about me, I cannot write any more.
    Mary is playing on the piano; Martha is chattering as fast as her
    little tongue can run; and Branwell is standing before her,
    laughing at her vivacity.'

Branwell, in these days, was well enough, and could be lively enough,
when occasion served. He had his hopes, his enthusiasm yet: but, in
after-years, he was to fall into a yet deeper and more serious
depression than that through which Charlotte had passed.



CHAPTER X.

BRANWELL BRONTË AND HIS SISTERS' BIOGRAPHERS.

The Light in which Biographers have regarded Branwell--Bibliography
--Mrs. Gaskell--The Causes which led her into Error--Resentment of
Branwell's Friends--Mr. George Searle Phillips--Branwell as Depicted
by Mr. T. Wemyss Reid--Mr. F. H. Grundy's Notice of Branwell--Miss
A. Mary F. Robinson's Portrait of Branwell.


It will be well here--before we reach the periods of Branwell's life
that have been misunderstood--to pause, in our sketch of the Brontë
family, in order to consider certain circumstances regarding him,
which it will be impossible for any future writer on the Brontës to
disregard. It is especially necessary to consider them in a book
which--while dealing with the Brontë sisters, their lives and their
works--proposes, as a special aim, to make Branwell's position clear.
When Derwent Coleridge wrote the short biography of his father, which
is prefixed to the poet's works, he approached the subject in a
somewhat regretful way, asking if the public has a right to inquire as
to that part of a poet's life which does not influence his fellow-men
after death, and declaring that the privacy of the dead is sacred.
He felt too keenly that the sanctity of Coleridge's life had been
broken in upon by those who lacked both accurate knowledge and just
discretion. It is a source of sincere regret to the writer of this
volume that he, too, is compelled by circumstances to treat a part of
his work almost in a deprecatory spirit, and sometimes to assume the
position of defence. For, if the failings of Coleridge have been
discovered and fed upon by those whose curiosity leads them to delight
in such things, what shall we say of Patrick Branwell Brontë, whose
misdeeds have not only been sought out with a persistency worthy of a
better cause, but have also been exaggerated and misrepresented to a
great degree, and whose whole life, moreover, has been contorted by
writers who have endeavoured to find in it some evidence for their own
hypotheses? It has been the misfortune of Branwell that his life has,
to some extent, been already several times written by those who have
had some other object in view, and who, consequently, have not been
studious to acquire a correct view of the circumstances of it. These
writers, it will be seen, have therefore, perhaps unavoidably, fallen
into many grievous errors regarding him, so that his name, at this day,
has come to be held up as a reproach and even as a token of ignominy.
If it be remembered that Mrs. Gaskell, in her 'Life of Charlotte
Brontë,' describes him as a drunkard and an opium-eater, as one who
rendered miserable the lives of his sisters, and might very well have
shot his father; that Mr. T. Wemyss Reid, in his 'Charlotte Brontë, a
Monograph,' has spoken of him as 'this lost and degraded man;' that
Miss Robinson, in her 'Emily Brontë,' has called him a 'poor,
half-demented lonely creature,' and has moralized upon his 'vulgar
weakness,' his 'corrupt and loathsome sentimentality,' and his 'maudlin
Micawber penitence;' and lastly that Mr. Swinburne, in a notice of the
last-named work in the 'Athenæum,' has said, 'of that lamentable and
contemptible caitiff--contemptible not so much for his common-place
debauchery as for his abject selfishness, his lying pretension, and his
nerveless cowardice--there is far too much in this memoir;' it may well
appear that we have here a strange subject for a biography.

But, since the publication of Miss Robinson's 'Emily Brontë,'--in which
Branwell is specially degraded,--it has been felt by many admirers of
the Brontës that it was desirable his life should be treated
independently of the theories and necessities of his sisters'
biographers, and in a spirit not unfriendly to him; for there are many
people who believe that Branwell's genius has never been sufficiently
recognized, and there are a few who know that, notwithstanding his many
failings and misdeeds, the charges made against him are, not a few of
them, wholly untrue, while many more are grossly exaggerated, and that
his disposition and character have been wholly misrepresented. Having
in my possession many of his letters and poems, and having been
personally acquainted with him, I have undertaken the task of telling
the story of his life in connection with the lives of his sisters, for
I think that there is much in his strange and sad history that ought to
be known, while sufficient evidence exists of his mental power to prove
that he was a worthy member of the intellectual family to which he
belonged. It may not be amiss here, in order to illustrate
circumstances that will be alluded to in parts of this work, to touch
slightly upon the bibliography of Branwell's life, and endeavour to
discover the causes which have contributed to the ill-repute in which
he is generally held.

Mrs. Gaskell, who became acquainted with Charlotte Brontë after the
deaths of her brother and sisters, when all that was most sorrowful in
her life had been enacted, saw, or thought she saw, in her the
evidences of a deep dejection, the result of a life passed under
circumstances of misery and depression. In her 'Life of Charlotte
Brontë,' this writer's endeavour to trace the successive influences of
the trials of Charlotte's life upon her, and to find in them the
explanation of what was, perhaps, in some measure, an idiosyncrasy of
character, has led her, in the strength of her own preconception, to
interpret many circumstances to the attestation of her theory. Such, at
all events, is the explanation which Mr. T. Wemyss Reid has offered, in
his 'Charlotte Brontë, a Monograph,' of the partial manner in which
Mrs. Gaskell has dealt with certain of Miss Brontë's letters. If we
conceive Mrs. Gaskell writing with this preconception, tending to give
undue weight to all that was unhappy in the history of her heroine, we
need feel little surprise that her account of the lives of the Brontës
is too often a gloomy one, that their isolation at Haworth, their
poverty, and their struggles have been exaggerated, or that, in order
to throw in a sombre background to her picture, she was unduly
credulous in listening to those unfounded stories with which she made
Mr. Brontë to appear, in act, at least, diabolical, and which have
helped to depict the career of Patrick Branwell Brontë in such dark and
tragic colours. She had heard at Haworth the story of his disgrace, his
subsequent intemperance, and his death. Herein she believed was the
great sorrow of the sisters' minds, the care which had induced a morbid
peculiarity in their writings, and cast a shadow upon their lives. Mrs.
Gaskell seems to have thought it devolved upon her, not merely to
picture beginnings of evil in the brother, and trace them to his ruin;
but, also, to punish the lady whom she held responsible for what has
been termed 'Branwell's fall.' To this end she thought it right to lay
at the lady's door, in part, the premature deaths of the sisters; and,
in sustaining the idea that the effect on them of the brother's
disgrace was what she believed it to be, she was led to employ partial
versions of the letters, and exaggerate the whole course of Branwell's
conduct. Her book was read with astonishment by those whose characters
were made to suffer by it, and she was obliged, in later editions, to
omit the charges against the lady; and also those against Mr. Brontë.
But Mrs. Gaskell still maintained that, whatever the cause, the effect
was the same.

It was not believed at the time, by some, that, because Mrs. Gaskell
had been obliged to withdraw the statements complained of, in the later
editions of her work, they were necessarily untrue. Mr. Thackeray had
said that the life was 'necessarily incomplete, though most touching
and admirable,' and the original edition was still in circulation, and
was pirated abroad.

The friends of Branwell Brontë, those who from actual acquaintance knew
his mental power and real disposition, resented greatly the wrong that
had been done to his memory; and several representations were made in
his favour. One of these was in an article entitled: 'A Winter's Day at
Haworth,' published in 'Chambers's Journal,' 1869. Mr. George Searle
Phillips, in the 'Mirror,' of 1872, also published some valuable
reminiscences which tended to show Branwell's true elevation of
character and gentleness of disposition.

The publication of Mr. Wemyss Reid's 'Charlotte Brontë, a Monograph,'
in the year 1877, while it called attention to the original view of
Branwell's life and character, did not aim to remove it. Mr. Reid
repudiated, with success, the idea that the effect of Branwell's career
upon Charlotte and Emily was what Mrs. Gaskell represented it to have
been, without expressing any dissent from the story itself. This writer
does not, indeed, appear to have suspected that the explanation was to
be found in the fact that Branwell was not so bad as he had been made
to appear, or that Mrs. Gaskell had fallen into other errors besides
those of the letters which he corrected. But, though Mr. Reid carefully
avoided the reproduction of the details of Mrs. Gaskell's account of
Branwell's life, what reference is made to him in the 'Monograph,'
after the period of his youth, is always in terms of reprobation, which
have done nothing to discourage belief in the suppressed scandal.
Moreover, Mr. Reid revived some of the charges against Mr. Brontë, and
painted a sinister portrait of him.

It was under these circumstances that Mr. F. H. Grundy, C.E., another
friend of Branwell's, in his 'Pictures of the Past' (1879), endeavoured
to do some justice to his memory, and declared, notwithstanding his
great failings, that his abilities were of a very high order, and his
disposition one that should be admired. I have found Mr. Grundy's
materials of use in this work. But, unfortunately, this friend of
Branwell's wrote from recollection, and made such great mistakes in
the chronology of his life that his account did not give a true
interpretation of actual circumstances. Mr. Grundy, too, had evidently
refreshed his memory with a perusal of Mrs. Gaskell's volume, and
so his information was considerably tinctured with that writer's
misconceptions. This notice had the very opposite effect to that which
was intended, and has since been largely used by writers whose purpose
has led them to rank Branwell with the fallen.

In Miss Robinson's recently published 'Emily Brontë,' the scandal of
Branwell's life, which Mrs. Gaskell laid before the reading world,
has been reproduced, and her evil report of his character greatly
increased. 'Why,' it might well be asked, 'should it be necessary to
publish the records of a brother's misdeeds as a conspicuous feature
in a sister's memoir? Why revive a scandal that has been so long
suppressed?' Miss Robinson has, indeed, given her reason, in that
Branwell's sins had so large a share in determining the bent of his
sister's genius, that 'to have passed them by would have been to ignore
the shock which turned the fantasy of the "poems" into the tragedy of
"Wuthering Heights,"' and here, probably, is the only adequate purpose
that could have been found in doing so; but it is scarcely sufficient
to explain why Miss Robinson has, almost from her first mention of
Branwell Brontë to her remarks on his death, treated every act of his
life with contumely, censure, and contempt, or that she has, in
opposition to every previous opinion, represented his abilities as
almost void. While Mr. Reid suggested that Emily Brontë, in writing her
novel, must have obtained some of her impressions from her brother's
conduct, Mr. Grundy had made a statement tending to show that Branwell
had written a portion of the story himself. If Branwell's abilities
were no better than Miss Robinson says they were, she has disposed of
Mr. Grundy's assertion at once; but not the less does she employ other
reasons for that end, and the degradation she has thought it necessary
to show in Branwell, answers quite as much to prove the impossibility
of his having written the work, as to picture the cause of brooding in
Emily, under which she produced the tragedy of 'Wuthering Heights.'

With views similar to those with which Mrs. Gaskell wrote, Miss
Robinson, in following the biographer of Charlotte, has fallen into the
same errors. In order to make it clear that the part Branwell had in
the production of 'Wuthering Heights,' by his sister, was subjective,
this writer has found it necessary to show in his life much of what is
worst in the characters of the story. So completely has Miss Robinson
carried out this portion of her work, that Mr. Swinburne was led to
say, in his notice of it, that 'Emily Brontë's tenderness for the
lower animals ... was so vast as to include even her own miserable
brother.'[22] But Miss Robinson has not succeeded so far without much
unfairness to the victim of her theory, in omissions and errors of
fact. I shall have occasion to treat at some length, later, Branwell's
relationship both to 'Wuthering Heights' and 'The Tenant of Wildfell
Hall.'

        [22] 'Athenæum,' June 16th, 1883, p. 762.

I hope, indeed, to be able to prove that Branwell was (as all who
personally knew him aver him to have been) a man of great and powerful
intellectual gifts, to relieve his memory of much of the obloquy
that has been heaped upon it, and to clearly show the remarkable
individuality of his character. I shall find it necessary, in doing so,
to take exception to the portions of Mrs. Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte
Brontë' which deal with her brother, as to some extent I had to do to
those which refer to Mr. Brontë. More especially, however, will it be
necessary to deal with the fuller statements in the first edition of
the work, and with their repetition and amplification in the more
recent volumes of Mr. Reid and Miss Robinson.

I have thought it necessary to introduce these remarks in this place,
in order that the reader, when he comes to the consideration of certain
statements made by previous writers concerning Branwell, and his
relationship with his sisters, may have a clear understanding of the
views with which the works containing these statements have been
written.



CHAPTER XI.

BRANWELL AT BRADFORD.

Branwell becomes a Freemason--His love of Art undiminished--Has
Instruction in Oil-Painting--Commences Portrait-Painting at
Bradford--His Commissions--His Letter to Mr. Thompson, the Artist
--Miss Robinson's Charges of Misconduct--Her Erroneous Statements
--Branwell's true Character and Conduct at Bradford--Remarks on
his alleged Opium-eating there.


When Branwell returned from London it was not without sincere
satisfaction that his acquaintances welcomed their gifted and versatile
friend back to Haworth, certain of whom induced him to become a
freemason. Thus Branwell was brought into closer connection with the
convivial circles of the village.

There was held at Haworth, at the time, 'The Lodge of the Three
Graces.' In this lodge Branwell was proposed as a brother, and accepted
on the 1st of February, 1836, initiated February the 29th, passed March
the 28th, and raised April the 25th of that year, John Brown being the
'Worshipful Master.' Branwell was present at eleven meetings in 1836,
the minutes of one of these--September the 18th--being fully entered by
him. On December the 20th of the same year, he fulfilled the duties of
'Junior Warden;' and, at seven meetings of the lodge, from January the
16th to December the 11th, 1837, he was secretary, and entered the
minutes. He also, on Christmas Day of the same year, officiated as
organist.[23] In addition to his duties in connection with the Masonic
Lodge, he likewise undertook the secretaryship of the local Temperance
Society, of which he was a member.

        [23] Riley's 'History of the Airedale Lodge,' p. 48.

Branwell's love of art had been too strong, and his interest in its
practice too intense, to allow even such a check as that which his
aspirations had received in the failure of the Academy project to
finally discourage him. Hence it was, I suppose, when he had
relinquished his place of usher that his passionate desire of becoming
an artist, still cherished under disappointment, revived. He conceived,
as the project of studying at the Royal Academy had not proved
feasible, that, if he had a full course of instruction from Mr.
Robinson, he could, in that way, qualify himself, perhaps as well, to
adopt the profession of a portrait-painter, more valuable in those
days, when photographers were not, than now; and Mr. Brontë, leaning to
his son's wish, was induced to sanction the proposal, as it might
provide Branwell with an alternative occupation to that of tutor, the
only other that seemed open to him.

Mr. Robinson's charge, on the few occasions of his lessons at Haworth
parsonage, had been two guineas for each visit. But it was now arranged
that Branwell should receive instruction from the artist at his studio
in Leeds. In this way he would not only have better opportunities of
acquiring the art, but the cost would be much less. For this purpose,
he stayed at an inn in Briggate, but occasionally took his master's
pictures to Haworth to copy. Under this kind of tuition he continued
for some months, when, having completed his studies, he resolved upon
turning the instruction he had received, probably through the kindness
of his aunt, to profitable account. With this professional intention,
he engaged private apartments in Bradford, and took up his residence as
a portrait-painter, under the interest of his mother's relative, the
Rev. William Morgan, of Christ Church. Among others, he painted
portraits of this gentleman, and of the Rev. Henry Heap, the vicar. For
some months Branwell was successful in maintaining himself by these
praiseworthy efforts; but it was scarcely to be expected that he could
succeed sufficiently well in competition with the older and more
experienced artists of the neighbourhood.

Among his other pictures, were portraits of Mrs. Kirby, his landlady,
and her two children. One of these, a beautiful little girl, was his
special favourite. At his frequent request, she dined with him in his
private sitting-room, her pleasant smiles and cheerful prattling always
charming him.

It may be mentioned here that, when Branwell had entered upon his
studies under Mr. Robinson, he formed an acquaintance with a
fellow-student, Mr. J. H. Thompson, who was a portrait-painter at
Bradford. A close friendship grew up between them; and this artist,
being more experienced than Branwell, gave, now and then, finishing
touches to the productions of his young friend.

Soon after Branwell gave up his profession as an artist at Bradford, he
wrote to Mr. Thompson, in reference to some misunderstanding which had
arisen between himself and his landlady. The letter is dated from
'Haworth, May the 17th, 1839.'

    'DEAR SIR,

    'Your last has made me resolve on a visit to you at Bradford, for
    certainly this train of misconceptions and delays must at last be
    put a stop to.

    'I shall (Deo volente) be at the "Bull's Head" at two o'clock this
    afternoon (Friday), and _do_ be there, or in Bradford, to give
    me your aid when I arrive!

    'I am astonished at Mrs. Kirby. I have no pictures of hers to
    finish. But I said that, if I returned there, I would varnish three
    for her; and also I do not understand people who look on a kindness
    as a duty.

    'Once more my heartfelt thanks to you for your consideration for
    one who has none for himself.

    'Yours faithfully,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

Mrs. Kirby had not been quite satisfied with the pictures before
mentioned; but, on hearing Mr. Thompson's favourable opinion, she at
once gave way. Although Branwell ceased his residence at Bradford for
the reasons assigned, he afterwards painted portraits occasionally at
Haworth; but also frequently visited his friends at the former place,
having become acquainted with the poets and artists of the
neighbourhood, as we shall presently see.

Miss Robinson has undertaken to draw Branwell's portrait at this
juncture of his affairs, when she says he had attained the age of
twenty years, though in fact he was twenty-two; and the following is
the labour of her hands: 'He went to Bradford as a portrait-painter,
and--so impressive is audacity--actually succeeded for some months in
gaining a living there.... His tawny mane, his pose of untaught genius,
his verses in the poet's corner of the paper could not for ever keep
afloat this untaught and thriftless portrait-painter of twenty. Soon
there came an end to his painting there. He disappeared from Bradford
suddenly, heavily in debt, and was lost to sight until, unnerved, a
drunkard, and an opium-eater, he came back to home and Emily at
Haworth.'[24]

        [24] 'Emily Brontë,' p. 64. It may be noted here, to show in
        some sort what amount of credibility attaches to these
        representations, that Miss Robinson has placed Branwell's
        portrait-painting at Bradford subsequent to his tutorship at
        Broughton-in-Furness, though really he did not go there until
        a year later.

These statements are simply untrue. I have the positive information of
one who knew Branwell in Leeds, and who resided in Bradford at the time
when he was there, that he did not leave that town in debt; that he
certainly was not a drunkard; and that, if he took anything at all, it
was but occasionally, and then no more than the commonest custom would
permit. I would rather believe--if all other evidence were wanting--the
account of Branwell given by the friends who knew him personally, and
who, at the moment in which I write, are still living on the spot where
he exerted himself to gain a living by the labour of his own hands,
than the unfair, unjust, and exaggerated charges quoted above. But
Branwell's letter to his friend disposes at once of the assertion that
he 'disappeared from Bradford suddenly, heavily in debt, and was lost
to sight.' And, as to the statement that he was unnerved and a
drunkard, one should surely rather accept the evidence of those who
knew him, that he was, on the contrary, as they unhesitatingly say, 'a
quiet, unassuming young man, retiring, and diffident, seeming rather of
a passive nature, and delicate constitution, than otherwise.' And,
moreover, his visits to Bradford, after he had given up his profession
there, were frequent, for his literary tastes, his artistic pursuits,
and his musical abilities had secured him many friends in that town.
Assuredly the biographer of Emily has been very unfortunate, to say the
least, in her account of Branwell's honest, upright, and honourable
endeavour to make his living by the profession of art at Bradford.

Miss Robinson asserts that Branwell was an opium-eater 'of twenty,' in
addition to the other baneful habits she ascribes to him. There is,
however, no reliable evidence that, at this period of his life, he was
any such thing; and, considering the fact that the biographer of Emily
has assigned Branwell's art-practice at Bradford to a period subsequent
to his tutorship at Broughton-in-Furness, one may, perhaps, be
permitted to suspect that she is equally in error in her assertions as
to his opium-eating so young. Branwell did, indeed, later, fall into
the baneful habit, and suffered at times in consequence; but there is
no reason to believe that he became wholly subject to it, or was
greatly injured by the practice, either in mind or body. We can only
surmise as to the original cause of his use of opium; but, when we
consider the extraordinary fascination which De Quincey's wonderful
book had for the younger generation of literary men of his day, we
shall recognize that Branwell, who read the book, in all probability
fell under its influence. Let us remember, moreover, that the young
man's two sisters had died of consumption, and that De Quincey declares
the use of the drug had saved him from the fate of his father who had
fallen a victim to the same scourge. Lastly, it should not be forgotten
that, in the first half of this century, the use of opium became, in
some sort, fashionable amongst literary men, and that many admirers of
De Quincey and Coleridge deemed that the practice had received a
sufficient sanction. But the former of these writers had used the drug
intermittently, and we have reason to believe that Branwell, who
followed him, did likewise. Let us, then, imagine the young Brontë,
revelling in the realm of the dreamy and impassioned, and hoping fondly
that consumption might be driven away, resolving to try the effect of
the 'dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain,' a proceeding from
which many less brave would have shrunk. Branwell had doubtless read,
in the 'Confessions of an English Opium-eater,' that the drug does not
disorder the system; but gives tone, a sort of health, that might be
natural if it were not for the means by which it is procured. He would
believe that--in one under this magic spell, that is--'the diviner part
of his nature is paramount, the moral affections are in a state of
cloudless serenity; and high over all the great light of the majestic
intellect.' Mrs. Gaskell describes the operation of opium upon herself.
She says: 'I asked her' (Charlotte) 'whether she had ever taken opium,
as the description of its effects, given in "Villette," was so exactly
like what I had experienced--vivid and exaggerated presence of objects
of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc.'[25]
Branwell could not have tasted these stronger effects of the drug when
he first made use of it; but it should be remembered that he several
times recurred to the practice, and suffered the consequent pains and
penalties.

        [25] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap, xxvii.

After his portrait-painting at Bradford, he never again resided there,
and it was about the period of his leaving that place that he began to
see the artistic career he had chosen was a mistake, and he determined
to give it up as a profession. Moreover, other influences, as we shall
see, had been, and were still, at work upon him which caused him to
turn once more to literature. From the period of his acquaintance with
the drawing-masters, he had become associated with the literary as well
as the artistic circles of the neighbourhood; and he anticipated the
literary future of his sisters.



CHAPTER XII.

LITERARY INFLUENCES AND ASPIRATIONS.

New Inspiration of Poetry--Wordsworth--Southey, Scott, and Byron
--Southey to Charlotte Brontë--Hartley Coleridge--His Worthies of
Yorkshire--Poets of the West-Riding--Alaric A. Watts--Branwell's
Literary Abilities.


In the early part of the present century, the spirit of poetry began to
make itself felt in quarters where previously it had never been known.
The pedantic affectation of the Della Cruscan school gave place, in the
works of a passionate lover of Nature like Wordsworth, to a fresher and
purer inspiration, that delighted in familiar themes of domestic and
rural beauty, which were often both humble and obscure. It was
Wordsworth, indeed, who 'developed the theory of poetry,'--as Branwell
Brontë well knew--that has worked a greater change in literature than
has, perhaps, been known since the period of the Renaissance. In his
endeavour to solve the difficulty of 'fitting to metrical arrangement a
selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation,'
Wordsworth had prepared the way for a natural outburst of poetic
feeling, occupied with familiar and simple topics. The writers of the
so-called 'Lake School' of poets, and especially Wordsworth, Coleridge,
and Southey, were, in fact, the leaders of the new movement; and,
speedily, responsive to the free note of genius uncurbed, there arose
from many an unknown place in England the sweet sound of poetic voices
not heard before. At the same time, the touch of romanticism, which was
imparted by Scott and Byron, had a great influence on many of the
younger poets of the new school. It is evident, to anyone who has
studied the local literature of that time, that the works produced
under such inspiration were often of great and permanent merit.
Southey, writing to Charlotte Brontë in 1837, indeed says, 'Many
volumes of poems are now published every year without attracting public
attention, any one of which, if it had appeared half-a-century ago,
would have obtained a high reputation for its author.'

Nowhere, probably, in England was the influence of the poets of
Westmoreland felt more deeply than in the valleys of the West-Riding
of Yorkshire. Indeed, a young publisher of that district, Mr. F. E.
Bingley, had sufficient appreciation of genius, and enterprise enough,
to bring him to Leeds for the purpose of publishing works from Hartley
Coleridge's hand. The younger Coleridge--besides the prestige of his
fathers name--had already become known as an occasional contributor to
'Blackwood's Magazine,' wherein first appeared his poem of 'Leonard
and Susan,' so much admired. Mr. Bingley entered into an engagement
to enable him to publish two volumes of poems, and a series of
'Biographical notices of the Worthies of Yorkshire and Lancashire,'
which Hartley Coleridge was to write. One of the volumes of poems was
issued from the press in 1833, and was well received. 'The Worthies'
proceeded to the third number, forming an octavo volume of six hundred
and thirty-two pages, when circumstances compelled Mr. Bingley to sell
the remainders to another publisher, who issued a second edition of
this well-known work, with a new title, in the year 1836. From the same
press there came, in 1834, 'Cyril, a Poem in Four Cantos; and Minor
Poems,' by George Wilson. C. F. Edgar, who was editor of the 'Yorkshire
Literary Annual,' the first volume of which appeared in 1831, was also
the author of a volume of poems, published by Mr. Bingley in the
succeeding year; and other poetical works followed from the Leeds
press.

But, in those days, there was scarcely a locality in the populous
West-Riding of Yorkshire without its poet, and that poet, too, a man of
no mean powers. Nicholson, the Airedale poet, had, previously to the
time of which I speak, published his 'Airedale, and other Poems,' and
his 'Lyre of Ebor.' His poetical talents were really excellent, and his
versatility, and the happy character of his effusions, made Nicholson
very popular in the West-Riding. He died in 1843. The gifted poet of
Gargrave, Robert Story, had published, in earlier years, many songs and
poems in the local papers; and he issued, in 1836, a volume, entitled,
'The Magic Fountain.' This was followed, in 1838, by 'The Outlaw,' and
by 'Love and Literature,' in the year 1842. This poet was an ardent
partizan of the Conservatives, and his lyrical abilities were devoted
with unflagging energy to their cause. His 'Songs and Poems,' and his
'Lyrical, and other Minor Poems,' were subsequently published. His
political songs were vigorous, and his pastoral ones were redolent of
pastures, meadows, and moors, breathing all the freshness of nature in
its happiest time. Thomas Crossley, the 'Bard of Ovenden,' like Story,
possessed of lyrical talents of the highest order, was a frequent
contributor to the county papers; and he published, in 1837, an
admirable and delightful volume, entitled, 'The Flowers of Ebor.' In
the same year, William Dearden, the 'Bard of Caldene,' the possessor of
high gifts, published his 'Star-Seer; a Poem in Five Cantos,' which was
distinguished by great power, originality, and loftiness of conception.
It was largely influenced by the spirit of romanticism, and flowed with
the sweetest diction.

This also was the age of 'Souvenirs,' 'Keepsakes,' 'Forget-me-nots,'
and 'Annuals,' which sold very largely, and contained much that was
really good. Heath, the proprietor of the 'Keepsake,' as we are told by
Southey, sold fifteen thousand copies in one year, and used four
thousand yards of watered-silk for the next issue; for these volumes
were always resplendent in silk and gold. Alaric A. Watts, who
published, in 1822, his 'Poetical Sketches' (a fourth edition of which,
enlarged and exquisitely illustrated with designs by Stothard and
Nesfield, was required), became, in the same year, editor of the 'Leeds
Intelligencer,' which he conducted with much spirit and ability. He
afterwards established the 'Manchester Courier,' which he for some time
edited, and was well-known in the northern shires. In 1828 and 1829
appeared his 'Poetical Album,' 'Scenes of Life, and Shades of
Character,' in 1831; and from 1825 to 1834 he produced his 'Literary
Souvenir; a Cabinet of Poetry and Romance,' with great and deserved
success. It is more than likely that the great popularity of his
venture led to the publication of 'The White Rose of York,' a similar
volume, which was brought out at Halifax in the year 1834. This work
was edited by George Hogarth, and, in addition to the authors already
mentioned--who were, with the exception of Nicholson, the Airedale
poet, and the Leeds authors, contributors to it--were F. C. Spencer,
author of 'The Vale of Bolton,' a volume of poems; Henry Ingram, author
of a volume entitled, 'Matilda'; Henry Martin, editor of the 'Halifax
Express'; John Roby, author of 'The Traditions of Lancashire;' and
others. There was also in the work a contribution, entitled 'Morley
Hall,'--treating of a legend of the last-named county--by C. Peters,
the subject of which also exercised the abilities of the author of 'The
Flowers of Ebor'; and subsequently interested Branwell Brontë in a
similar manner--his friend Leyland having modelled a scene from the
story, in clay.

It is beyond question that these literary influences, which stirred the
depths of feeling in Yorkshire, had a profound effect on the earlier
writings of the Brontës, and probably were their original inspiration.
All the local papers were filled with the news of the literary
movement; and the busy brains in the parsonage of Haworth could not but
be raised to emulation by the tidings. Branwell, especially, who knew
personally many of the workers in the new field whom I have named, and
was never so happy as when he could enjoy their company, was soon
moved, in the midst of his art-aspirations, to partake in their
literary labours. At this time, the tastes of the Brontës in this
direction, and their progress in poetical and prose composition, began
to inspire them with hopes and anticipations of the brightest
character. From childhood their attempts at literary composition had
formed, according to Charlotte herself, the highest stimulus, and one
of the liveliest pleasures they had known. They began to find out that
their genius was not artistic, but literary, and to pursue its bent
with increasing ardour and the warmest interest.

It cannot be doubted that Branwell, greatly influenced, perhaps, by his
sisters, or they, more probably, by him--for they ever regarded his
genius as greater than their own--was soon employing his pen as often,
and more successfully, than his pencil. Mr. Brontë's daughters were
possessed largely of discriminating and critical powers, sufficient to
enable them to judge accurately of the abilities of their brother; and
Mrs. Gaskell allows that, to begin with, he was perhaps the greatest
genius of this rare family, and this more even in a literary than in an
artistic sense. Their favourable judgment was based on evidence they
had before them. They were not ignorant of his poetical and prose
compositions; and that these showed great beauty of thought and much
felicity of expression, as well as considerable power, originality, and
freshness of treatment, the evidences will appear in the subsequent
pages.



CHAPTER XIII.

EARLY POEMS.

Branwell's Letter to Wordsworth, with Stanzas--Remarks upon it--No
Reply--He Tries Again--His Interest in the Manchester and Leeds
Railway--Branwell's Literary and Artistic Friends at Bradford and
Halifax--Leyland's Works there--Branwell's great Interest in
them--Early Verses--Mrs. Gaskell's Judgment on his Literary Abilities.


Branwell, even while working at art with great energy, was not, as I
have said, oblivious of his literary power. While, however, the work of
his sisters was to be conducted with great earnestness of purpose, it
was unfortunate that the scintillations of Branwell's genius were too
often fitful, erratic, and uncertain: his mind, indeed, even at this
time, was unstable.

It may be noted, as characteristic of all Mr. Brontë's children, that,
united with sterling gifts of intellectual power and literary acumen,
there was always some mistrust as to the merit of their _own_
productions, especially of poetical ones. They seem to have felt
themselves like travellers wandering in mist, or struggling through a
thicket, or toiling on devious paths with no reliable information at
hand, until they arrived at a point where progress looked impossible,
until they had obtained a guide in whom they had confidence. It
appeared, indeed, to the Brontës that, without an opinion on their
work, time might be altogether wasted on what was unprofitable.
Charlotte, therefore, in the December of 1836, determined to submit
some of her poems to the judgment of Southey; and it would seem that
she also consulted Hartley Coleridge.

Before, however, Southey had answered his sister's letter, Branwell
ventured, in a similar spirit, to address Wordsworth, for whose
writings he had a great admiration. The following is his letter; and,
although it has been previously published, it must not be omitted
here.[26]

        [26] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. viii.

    'Haworth, near Bradford,

    'Yorkshire, January 19th, 1837.

    'SIR,

    'I most earnestly entreat you to read and pass your judgment upon
    what I have sent you, because from the day of my birth, to this the
    nineteenth year of my life, I have lived among secluded hills,
    where I could neither know what I was, or what I could do. I read
    for the same reason that I ate or drank--because it was a real
    craving of nature. I wrote on the same principle as I spoke--out of
    the impulse and feelings of the mind; nor could I help it, for what
    came, came out, and there was the end of it. For as to
    self-conceit, that could not receive food from flattery, since to
    this hour not half-a-dozen people in the world know that I have
    ever penned a line.

    'But a change has taken place now, sir; and I am arrived at an age
    wherein I must do something for myself: the powers I possess must
    be exercised to a definite end, and as I don't know them myself I
    must ask of others what they are worth. Yet there is not one here
    to tell me; and still, if they are worthless, time will henceforth
    be too precious to be wasted on them.

    'Do pardon me, sir, that I have ventured to come before one whose
    works I have most loved in our literature, and who most has been
    with me a divinity of the mind, laying before him one of my
    writings, and asking of him a judgment of its contents. I must come
    before some one from whose sentence there is no appeal; and such a
    one is he who has developed the theory of poetry as well as its
    practice, and both in such a way as to claim a place in the memory
    of a thousand years to come.

    'My aim, sir, is to push out into the open world, and for this I
    trust not poetry alone--that might launch the vessel, but could not
    bear her on; sensible and scientific prose, bold and vigorous
    efforts in my walk in life, would give a further title to the
    notice of the world; and then, again, poetry ought to brighten and
    crown that name with glory; but nothing of all this can be ever
    begun without means, and as I don't possess these, I must in every
    shape strive to gain them. Surely, in this day, when there is not a
    _writing_ poet worth a sixpence, the field must be open, if a
    better man can step forward.

    'What I send you is the Prefatory Scene of a much longer subject,
    in which I have striven to develop strong passions and weak
    principles struggling with a high imagination and acute feelings,
    till, as youth hardens towards old age, evil deeds and short
    enjoyments end in mental misery and bodily ruin. Now, to send
    you the whole of this would be a mock upon your patience; what
    you see, does not even pretend to be more than the description
    of an imaginative child. But read it, sir; and, as you would
    hold a light to one in utter darkness--as you value your own
    kind-heartedness--_return_ me an _answer_, if but one word,
    telling me whether I should write on, or write no more. Forgive
    undue warmth, because my feelings in this matter cannot be cool;
    and believe me, sir, with deep respect,

    'Your really humble servant,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

Mrs. Gaskell gives the following six stanzas, which are about a third
of the whole, and declares them not to be the worst part of the
composition:--

    'So where He reigns in glory bright,
    Above those starry skies of night,
    Amid His Paradise of light,
                    Oh, why may I not be?

    'Oft when awake on Christmas morn,
    In sleepless twilight laid forlorn,
    Strange thoughts have o'er my mind been borne
                    How He has died for me.

    'And oft, within my chamber lying,
    Have I awaked myself with crying,
    From dreams, where I beheld Him dying
                    Upon the accursed tree.

    'And often has my mother said,
    While on her lap I laid my head,
    She feared for time I was not made,
                    But for Eternity.

    'So "I can read my title clear
      To mansions in the skies,
    And let me bid farewell to fear,
      And wipe my weeping eyes."

    'I'll lay me down on this marble stone,
      And set the world aside,
    To see upon her ebon throne
      The Moon in glory ride.'

Branwell's letter to Wordsworth is, for the most part, well written,
and breathes an eager spirit, which shows the anxiety he was under to
know the opinion of a high and competent judge as to how he stood
with the Nine. It tells us the ardour with which he read and wrote,
the ambitious turn of his mind, and the special aims which he then
had in the literary world. But the verses, although imbued with a
fervent spirit of early piety, were such as Wordsworth could not
justly review without giving discouragement, and it seems probable he
preferred to keep silence rather than, by an open avowal, to give
pain--if pain must be given--as the lesser evil of the two. Or,
perhaps, he took amiss the ready frankness and apparent self-esteem
which, notwithstanding the disavowal, would probably seem present to
him in the letter of the young stranger who addressed him, without
sending any evidence of the powers of which he expressed himself so
confidently. But, at any rate, Mrs. Gaskell informs us that the
letter and verses were preserved by the poet till the Brontës became
celebrated, and that he gave the communication to his friend, Mr.
Quillinan, in 1850, when the real name of 'Currer Bell' became known.

It must not be overlooked that, in the verses which Mrs. Gaskell has
printed, we have no opportunity of studying Branwell's dramatic
powers, which apparently found scope in the poem he had written. In
them is no development of the effect of the passionate feelings which
Branwell describes: 'struggling with a high imagination and acute
feelings,' and ending 'in mental misery and bodily ruin.'

However, discouraged by long waiting, or assisted by friendly advice
and criticism, he toiled on in silence at his literary work, as he
did at art. The year 1837 turned out an important one for Charlotte.
In March, she at last received the answer from Southey, which she
considered a 'little stringent,' and from which she declared she had
derived good. She says, in her reply to the Laureate, 'I trust I
shall never more feel ambitious to see my name in print.... That
letter is consecrated; no one shall ever see it, but papa, and my
brother and my sisters.'

It would seem that Branwell, notwithstanding the failure of his first
venture with Wordsworth, tried again, at a later date, with some
other, and more matured, compositions, which he submitted to that
poet and to Hartley Coleridge, 'who both,' says Mrs. Gaskell,
'expressed kind and laudatory opinions.' But, perhaps, the fact that,
to the letter quoted above, Wordsworth sent no answer, and did not
tell him whether he should 'write on, or write no more,' discouraged
Branwell for a time; and he may have been led to suspect that his
productions were worthless, and that time might 'henceforth be too
precious to be wasted upon them.' In this way, perhaps, he was
induced to turn with greater energy to his profession of art, as a
means of getting on, of which I spoke in a former chapter, though we
shall see that he did not abandon his literary work.

Branwell also now found opportunities of making himself acquainted
with the grand and wild scenery of the mountainous borders of the
counties of York and Lancaster, a wider district than his sisters
could well survey.

The Manchester and Leeds Railway was, at the time, in course of
construction below Littleborough, passing through the picturesque and
romantic vale of Todmorden. Branwell became greatly interested in the
work; and as stores, and other things for the completion of the line
to Hebden Bridge, were forwarded from Littleborough by canal, having
been previously sent to that place from Manchester by train, he soon
ingratiated himself with the boatmen, and was frequently seen in
their boats. It was on one of these occasions that Mr. Woolven,
previously mentioned, who was officially employed on the works,
recognized at once the clever young man who had surprised the company
at the 'Castle Tavern,' Holborn, and entered into conversation with
him. These incidents led to a friendly intercourse between them,
which continued for some years.

Among his Bradford acquaintances, Branwell numbered, in addition to
Geller, the mezzotinto-engraver, previously mentioned, Wilson
Anderson, an admirable landscape-painter, whose productions are
valued as truthful pictures of the places they represent, and on
account of the skilfulness of their manipulation and colouring; and
also Richard Waller, a well-known and excellent portrait-painter. To
these may be added Edward Collinson, a local poet; Robert Story; and
John James, the future historian of Bradford. All these were personal
acquaintances of Branwell, as well as of Leyland, and the intercourse
between them was frequent. For more than twenty years a party of
these friends was accustomed to meet, from time to time, at the
'George Hotel,' Bradford, under the auspices of Miss Rennie, who
greatly prided herself on seeing at her house, in their hours of
leisure, the artistic and literary celebrities of the neighbourhood.
Leyland was at Halifax, being there to erect certain monuments, which
he had executed in London for various patrons in his native town.
While there, he modelled, in the upper room of an ancient house, his
colossal group of 'African Bloodhounds,' his model being a living
specimen of the breed; and the group, which was exhibited in London,
was favourably noticed. Landseer regarded it as the 'noblest modern
work of its kind.' It is now in the Salford Museum. The progress of
this group intensely interested Branwell and his Bradford friends;
and they frequently visited Leyland's temporary studio. It also
formed the subject of a poem by Dearden.[27] Finding this studio of
insufficient height for a great work he contemplated--a colossal
group of 'Thracian Falconers'--Leyland afterwards took a suitable
place in another part of the town, which, likewise, became a
meeting-place of the local _literati_. The new work was to consist of
three figures, the centre one being seated, and having upon his right
fore-finger a hawk; while his left hand rested on the shoulder of a
youth just roused, as if by some sudden sound; and, on his right, was
a similar youth, half-recumbent, and also in a listening attitude. The
centre figure was alone completed, and is now in the Salford Museum.

        [27] 'The Death of Leyland's African Bloodhound,' by William
        Dearden, author of 'The Star-Seer.' London, 1837. (Longmans.)

Branwell, on his visits to the artist's studio, often lamented the
dissipation of his high artistic hopes, and confessed that he saw
with pain how misplaced his confidence in his own powers had been.
But the sculptor was a poet also, and thus Branwell and he worked in
the same field. Many of Leyland's poems were published in the
Yorkshire papers, and also in the 'Morning Chronicle,' and were
always considered to be of true poetic excellence. Branwell relied
much on the artist's judgment in literary matters, and often
submitted his productions to him.

Although Brontë had, as we have seen, abandoned the hope of a high
artistic career, he still clung to the practice of portrait-painting,
and this gave him leisure to court the muse. The following are the
earliest of his poems, of which the MSS. are in my possession; and
these are fragments only. The first is a verse of eleven lines, dated
January 23rd, 1838, which originally concluded a poem of sixty;--

    'There's many a grief to shade the scene,
      And hide the starry skies;
    But all such clouds that intervene
      From mortal life arise.
    And--may I smile--O God! to see
    Their storms of sorrow beat on me,
      When I so surely know
    That Thou, the while, art shining on;
    That I, at last, when they are gone,
    Shall see the glories of Thy throne,
      So far more bright than now.'

This fragment, written by Branwell at the age of twenty-one, is
characteristic of the early tone of his mind. His naturally amiable
and susceptible disposition had soon become imbued with the spirit of
Christian piety which surrounded his life. He was, too, at the time,
full of noble impulses and high aspirations; but the shade of
melancholy implanted in his constitution had begun to influence his
writings. The following, which is the beginning of another poem, must
have been written in some such thoughtful mood, though the title is
not borne out in the portion I am able to give.

    DEATH TRIUMPHANT.

    MAY, 1838.

    'Oh! on this first bright Mayday morn,
      That seems to change our earth to Heaven,
    May my own bitter thoughts be borne,
      With the wild winter it has driven!
    Like this earth, may my mind be made
      To feel the freshness round me spreading,
      No other aid to rouse it needing
    Than thy glad light, so long delayed.
      Sweet woodland sunshine!--none but thee
      Can wake the joys of memory,
    Which seemed decaying, as all decayed.

    'O! may they bud, as thou dost now,
      With promise of a summer near!
    Nay--let me feel my weary brow--
      Where are the ringlets wreathing there?
    Why does the hand that shades it tremble?
      Why do these limbs, so languid, shun
      Their walk beneath the morning sun?
    Ah, mortal Self! couldst thou dissemble
      Like Sister-Soul! But forms refuse
      The real and unreal to confuse.
    But, with caprice of fancy, She
    Joins things long past with things to be,
    Till even I doubt if I have told
      My tale of woes and wonders o'er,
    Or think Her magic can unfold
      A phantom path of joys before--
    Or, laid beneath this Mayday blaze--
    Ask, "Live I o'er departed days?"
    Am I the child by Gambia's side,
    Beneath its woodlands waving wide?
    Have I the footsteps bounding free,
    The happy laugh of infancy?'

In this beautiful fragment we have the first passionate out-pouring
of the self-imposed woes, which, proceeding from within, were
thereafter to overspread and tincture with darkest colours every
thought of Branwell's mind. We see him here for a moment, standing in
incipient melancholia, in what appears to him to be a desert of
mental despondency; but, turning back with a fond affection for the
past, and recalling, in plaintive words, the joys of 'departed days.'
He seems here, indeed, to seek in the mysteries of the soul those
pleasures and hopes which his mortal self cannot afford him. Branwell
never appears to have forgotten, as I have previously suggested, the
sad circumstances of the death of his sisters; and his solitary
broodings over these visitations gave a morbid tone to his writings.
It was in 1838 that he adopted the pseudonym of 'Northangerland.' His
earlier poems, although occasionally showing some power, were not
sufficiently gifted to add to the lustre of Brontë literature.

Mrs. Gaskell, alluding to Branwell's literary abilities about this
time, says: 'In a fragment of one of his manuscripts which I have
read, there is a justness and felicity of expression which is very
striking. It is the beginning of a tale, and the actors in it are
drawn with much of the grace of characteristic portrait-painting, in
perfectly pure and simple language, which distinguishes so many of
Addison's papers in the "Spectator." The fragment is too short to
afford the means of judging whether he had much dramatic talent, as
the persons of the story are not thrown into conversation. But,
altogether, the elegance and composure of style are such as one would
not have expected from this vehement and ill-fated young man. 'He
had,' continues Mrs. Gaskell, 'a stronger desire for literary fame
burning in his heart than even that which occasionally flashed up in
his sisters'.' She says also that, 'He tried various outlets for his
talents ... and he frequently contributed verses to the "Leeds
Mercury."' The latter statement, however, is incorrect, for nothing
of Branwell's appears in that journal.



CHAPTER XIV.

POEMS ON 'CAROLINE.'

The Poetical bent of Branwell's Genius--'Caroline's Prayer'--'On
Caroline'--'Caroline'--Spirit of these Early Effusions.


While Branwell was occupying his leisure as stated in the last
chapter, and otherwise employing himself in a desultory way, he
pursued the poetic bent of his genius, and sought the improvement of
his diction and verse. Among the earliest of his poetical productions,
the following are, perhaps, the best. They are distinguished by a
similar train of thought and reflection, and by similar sentiments of
piety and devotion, as also by the same gloom and sadness of mood,
which pervade the poems of his sisters. Indeed, without knowing they
were actually Branwell's, we might easily believe them to be from the
pen of Charlotte, Emily, or Anne.

The three following poetical essays are on 'Caroline,' under which
name Branwell indicates his sister Maria; and, in two of them, he
records his reminiscences of her death and funeral obsequies. The
first of the three, which he has framed in the sentiments and words
of a child, is entitled:

    CAROLINE'S PRAYER,

    OR THE CHANGE FROM CHILDHOOD TO WOMANHOOD.

    'My Father, and my childhood's guide!
      If oft I've wandered far from Thee;
    E'en though Thine only Son has died
      To save from death a child like me;

    'O! still--to Thee when turns my heart
      In hours of sadness, frequent now--
    Be Thou the God that once Thou wert,
      And calm my breast, and clear my brow.

    'I'm now no more a little child
      O'ershadowed by Thy mighty wing;
    My very dreams seem now more wild
      Than those my slumbers used to bring.

    'I further see--I deeper feel--
      With hope more warm, but heart less mild;
    And former things new shapes reveal,
      All strangely brightened or despoiled.

    'I'm entering on Life's open tide;
      So--farewell childhood's shores divine!
    And, oh, my Father, deign to guide,
      Through these wide waters, Caroline!'

The second is:

    ON CAROLINE.

    'The light of thy ancestral hall,
      Thy Caroline, no longer smiles:
    She has changed her palace for a pall,
      Her garden walks for minster aisles:
    Eternal sleep has stilled her breast
      Where peace and pleasure made their shrine;
    Her golden head has sunk to rest--
      Oh, would that rest made calmer mine!

    'To thee, while watching o'er the bed
      Where, mute and motionless, she lay,
    How slow the midnight moments sped!
      How void of sunlight woke the day!
    Nor ope'd her eyes to morning's beam,
      Though all around thee woke to her;
    Nor broke thy raven-pinioned dream
      Of coffin, shroud, and sepulchre.

    'Why beats thy breast when hers is still?
      Why linger'st thou when she is gone?
    Hop'st thou to light on good or ill?
      To find companionship alone?
    Perhaps thou think'st the churchyard stone
      Can hide past smiles and bury sighs:
    That Memory, with her soul, has flown;
      That thou canst leave her where she lies.

    'No! joy _itself_ is but a shade,
      So well may its remembrance die;
    But cares, life's conquerors, never fade,
      So strong is their reality!
    Thou may'st forget the day which gave
      That child of beauty to thy side,
    But not the moment when the grave
      Took back again thy borrowed bride.'

Here Branwell, though he has changed the form of expression and the
circumstance of the loss, is still occupied with the same theme of
family bereavement, with which Charlotte herself was so much
impressed.

The following was intended as the first canto of a long poem. It also
is entitled, 'Caroline;' and is the soliloquy of one 'Harriet,' who
mourns for her sister, the subject of the poem, calling to mind her
early recollection of the death and funeral of the departed one. It
is extremely probable that Branwell made 'Harriet' a vehicle of
expression for Charlotte or Emily, as he had adopted the name of
'Caroline' for Maria.

    CAROLINE.

    'Calm and clear the day declining,
      Lends its brightness to the air,
    With a slanted sunlight shining,
      Mixed with shadows stretching far:
    Slow the river pales its glancing,
    Soft its waters cease their dancing,
    As the hush of eve advancing
      Tells our toils that rest is near.

    'Why is such a silence given
      To this summer day's decay?
    Does our earth feel aught of Heaven?
      Can the voice of Nature pray?
    And when daylight's toils are done,
    Beneath its mighty Maker's throne.
    Can it, for noontide sunshine gone,
      Its debt with smiles repay?

    'Quiet airs of sacred gladness
      Breathing through these woodlands wild,
    O'er the whirl of mortal madness
      Spread the slumbers of a child:
    These surrounding sweeps of trees
    Swaying to the evening breeze,
    With a voice like distant seas,
      Making music mild.

    'Woodchurch Hall above them lowering
      Dark against the pearly sky,
    With its clustered chimneys towering,
      Wakes the wind while passing by:
    And in old ancestral glory,
    Round that scene of ancient story,
    All its oak-trees, huge and hoary,
      Wave their boughs on high.

    ''Mid those gables there is one--
      The soonest dark when day is gone--
    Which, when autumn winds are strongest,
      Moans the most and echoes longest.
    There--with her curls like sunset air,
    Like it all balmy, bright, and fair--
    Sits Harriet, with her cheek reclined
      On arm as white as mountain snow;
    While, with a bursting swell, her mind
      Fills with thoughts of "Long Ago."

    'As from yon spire a funeral bell,
    Wafting through heaven its mourning knell,
    Warns man that life's uncertain day
    Like lifeless Nature's must decay;
    And tells her that the warning deep
    Speaks where her own forefathers sleep,
    And where destruction makes a prey
      Of what was once this world to her,
    But which--like other gods of clay--
      Has cheated its blind worshipper:
    With swelling breast and shining eyes
    That seem to chide the thoughtless skies,
    She strives in words to find relief
    For long-pent thoughts of mellowed grief.

    '"Time's clouds roll back, and memory's light
    Bursts suddenly upon my sight;
    For thoughts, which words could never tell,
    Find utterance in that funeral bell.
    My heart, this eve, seemed full of feeling,
    Yet nothing clear to me revealing;
    Sounding in breathings undefined
    Æolian music to my mind:
      Then strikes that bell, and all subsides
    Into a harmony, which glides
    As sweet and solemn as the dream
    Of a remembered funeral hymn.
      This scene seemed like the magic glass,
    Which bore upon its clouded face
    Strange shadows that deceived the eye
    With forms defined uncertainly;
    That Bell is old Agrippa's wand,
    Which parts the clouds on either hand,
    And shows the pictured forms of doom
    Momently brightening through the gloom:
    Yes--shows a scene of bygone years--
    Opens a fount of sealed-up tears--
    And wakens memory's pensive thought
    To visions sleeping--not forgot.
    It brings me back a summer's day,
    Shedding like this its parting ray,
    With skies as shining and serene,
    And hills as blue, and groves as green.

    '"Ah, well I recollect that hour,
      When I sat, gazing, just as now,
    Toward that ivy-mantled tower
      Among these flowers which wave below!
    No--not these flowers--they're long since dead,
      And flowers have budded, bloomed, and gone,
    Since those were plucked which gird the head
      Laid underneath yon churchyard stone!
    I stooped to pluck a rose that grew
      Beside this window, waving then;
    But back my little hand withdrew,
      From some reproof of inward pain;
    For _she who loved it_ was not there
      To check me with her dove-like eye,
    And something bid my heart forbear
      _Her_ favourite rosebud to destroy.
    Was it that bell--that funeral bell,
      Sullenly sounding on the wind?
    Was it that melancholy knell
      Which first to sorrow woke my mind?
    I looked upon my mourning dress
      Till my heart beat with childish fear,
    And--frightened at my loneliness--
      I watched, some well-known sound to hear.
    But all without lay silent in
      The sunny hush of afternoon,
    And only muffled steps within
      Passed slowly and sedately on.
    I well can recollect the awe
      With which I hastened to depart;
      And, as I ran, the instinctive start
    With which my mother's form I saw,
    Arrayed in black, with pallid face,
      And cheeks and 'kerchief wet with tears,
    As down she stooped to kiss my face
      And quiet my uncertain fears.

    '"She led me, in her mourning hood,
      Through voiceless galleries, to a room,
    'Neath whose black hangings crowded stood,
      With downcast eyes and brows of gloom,
    My known relations; while--with head
    Declining o'er my sister's bed--
    My father's stern eye dropt a tear
    Upon the coffin resting there.
    My mother lifted me to see
    What might within that coffin be;
    And, to this moment, I can feel
    The voiceless gasp--the sickening chill--
    With which I hid my whitened face
    In the dear folds of her embrace;
    For hardly dared I turn my head
    Lest its wet eyes should view that bed.
      'But, Harriet,' said my mother mild,
    'Look at _your_ sister and my child
    One moment, ere her form be hid
    For ever 'neath its coffin lid!'
      I heard the appeal, and answered too;
    For down I bent to bid adieu.
    But, as I looked, forgot affright
    In mild and magical delight.

    '"There lay she then, as now she lies--
      For not a limb has moved since then--
    In dreamless slumber closed, those eyes
      That never more might wake again.
    She lay, as I had seen her lie
      On many a happy night before,
    When I was humbly kneeling by--
      Whom she was teaching to adore:
    Oh, just as when by her I prayed,
      And she to heaven sent up my prayer,
    She lay with flowers about her head--
      Though formal grave-clothes hid her hair!
    Still did her lips the smile retain
      Which parted them when hope was high,
    Still seemed her brow as smoothed from pain
      As when all thought she could not die.
    And, though her bed looked cramped and strange,
      Her _too_ bright cheek all faded now,
    My young eyes scarcely saw a change
      From hours when moonlight paled her brow.
    And yet I felt--and scarce could speak--
      A chilly face, a faltering breath,
    When my hand touched the marble cheek
      Which lay so passively beneath.
    In fright I gasped, 'Speak, Caroline!'
      And bade my sister to arise;
    But answered not her voice to mine,
      Nor ope'd her sleeping eyes.
    I turned toward my mother then
      And prayed on her to call;
    But, though she strove to hide her pain,
      It forced her tears to fall.
    She pressed me to her aching breast
      As if her heart would break,
    And bent in silence o'er the rest
      Of one she could not wake:
    The rest of one, whose vanished years
      Her soul had watched in vain;
    The end of mother's hopes and fears,
      And happiness and pain.

    '"They came--they pressed the coffin lid
      Above my Caroline,
    And then, I felt, for ever hid
      My sister's face from mine!
    There was one moment's wildered start--
      One pang remembered well--
    When first from my unhardened heart
      The tears of anguish fell:
    That swell of thought which seemed to fill
      The bursting heart, the gushing eye,
    While fades all _present_ good or ill
      Before the shades of things gone by.
    All else seems blank--the mourning march,
      The proud parade of woe,
    The passage 'neath the churchyard arch,
      The crowd that met the show.
    My place or thoughts amid the train
    I strive to recollect, in vain--
      I could not think or see:
    I cared not whither I was borne:
    And only felt that death had torn
      My Caroline from me.

    '"Slowly and sadly, o'er her grave,
    The organ peals its passing stave,
    And, to its last dark dwelling-place,
      The corpse attending mourners bear,
    While, o'er it bending, many a face
      'Mongst young companions shows a tear.
    I think I glanced toward the crowd
      That stood in musing silence by,
    And even now I hear the sound
      Of some one's voice amongst them cry--
    'I am the Resurrection and the Life--
      He who believes in me shall never die!'

    '"Long years have never worn away
    The unnatural strangeness of that day,
    When I beheld--upon the plate
    Of grim death's mockery of state--
    That well-known word, that long-loved name,
    Now but remembered like the dream
    Of half-forgotten hymns divine,
    My sister's name--my Caroline!
      Down, down, they lowered her, sad and slow,
    Into her narrow house below:
    And deep, indeed, appeared to be
    That one glimpse of eternity,
    Where, cut from life, corruption lay,
    Where beauty soon should turn to clay!
    Though scarcely conscious, hotly fell
    The drops that spoke my last farewell;
    And wild my sob, when hollow rung
    The first cold clod above her flung,
    When glitter was to turn to rust,
    'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust!'

    '"How bitter seemed that moment when,
      Earth's ceremonies o'er,
    We from the filled grave turned again
      To leave her evermore;
    And, when emerging from the cold
      Of damp, sepulchral air,
    As I turned, listless to behold
      The evening fresh and fair,
    How sadly seemed to smile the face
      Of the descending sun!
    How seemed as if his latest race
      Were with that evening run!
    There sank his orb behind the grove
      Of my ancestral home,
    With heaven's unbounded vault above
      To canopy his tomb.
    Yet lingering sadly and serene,
      As for his last farewell,
    To shine upon those wild woods green
      O'er which he'd loved to dwell.

    '"I lost him, and the silent room,
      Where soon at rest I lay,
    Began to darken, 'neath the gloom
      Of twilight's dull decay;
    So, sobbing as my heart would break,
      And blind with gushing eyes,
    Hours seemed whole nights to me awake,
      And day as 'twould not rise.
    I almost prayed that I might die--
      But then the thought would come
    That, if I did, my corpse must lie
      In yonder dismal tomb;
    Until, methought, I saw its stone,
      By moonshine glistening clear,
    While Caroline's bright form alone
      Kept silent watching there:
    All white with angel's wings she seemed,
      And indistinct to see;
    But when the unclouded moonlight beamed
      I saw her beckon me,
    And fade, thus beckoning, while the wind
      Around that midnight wall,
    To me--now lingering years behind--
      Seemed then my sister's call!

    '"And thus it brought me back the hours
      When we, at rest together,
    Used to lie listening to the showers
      Of wild December weather;
    Which, when, as oft, they woke in her
      The chords of inward thought,
    Would fill with pictures that wild air,
      From far off memories brought;
    So, while I lay, I heard again
      Her silver-sounding tongue,
    Rehearsing some remembered strain
      Of old times long agone!
    And, flashed across my spirit's sight,
      What she had often told me--
    When, laid awake on Christmas night,
      Her sheltering arms would fold me--
    About that midnight-seeming day,
      Whose gloom o'er Calvary thrown,
    Showed trembling Nature's deep dismay
      At what her sons had done:
    When sacred Salem's murky air
      Was riven with the cry,
    Which told the world how mortals dare
      The Immortal crucify;
    When those who, sorrowing, sat afar,
      With aching heart and eye,
    Beheld their great Redeemer there,
      'Mid sneers and scoffings die;
    When all His earthly vigour fled,
    When thirsty faintness bowed His head,
    When His pale limbs were moistened o'er
    With deathly dews and dripping gore,
    When quivered all His worn-out frame,
    As Death, triumphant, quenched life's flame,
    When upward gazed His glazing eyes
    To those tremendous-seeming skies,
    When burst His cry of agony--
    'My God!--my God!--hast Thou forsaken me!'
      My youthful feelings startled then,
    As if the temple, rent in twain,
    Horribly pealing on my ear
    With its deep thunder note of fear,
    Wrapping the world in general gloom,
    As if her God's were Nature's tomb;
    While sheeted ghosts before my gaze
    Passed, flitting 'mid the dreary maze,
    As if rejoicing at the day
    When death--their king--o'er Heaven had sway.
      In glistening charnel damps arrayed,
    They seemed to gibber round my head,
    Through night's drear void directing me
    Toward still and solemn Calvary,
    Where gleamed that cross with steady shine
    Around the thorn-crowned head divine--
    A flaming cross--a beacon light
    To this world's universal night!
    It seemed to shine with such a glow,
    And through my spirit piercing so,
    That, pantingly, I strove to cry
    For her, whom I thought slumbered by,
    And hide me from that awful shine
    In the embrace of Caroline!
      I wakened in the attempt--'twas day;
    The troubled dream had fled away;
    'Twas day--and I, alone, was laid
    In that great room and stately bed;
    No Caroline beside me! Wide
    And unrelenting swept the tide
    Of death 'twixt her and me!"
                          There paused
    Sweet Harriet's voice, for such thoughts caused--'

                 *       *       *       *       *

This poem springs from the deepest feelings, and from sorrows the
most poignant. The respective images, tinctured with grief and
despondency, pass before us with weird and vivid reality; and many of
the passages are imbued with great tenderness, beauty, and pathos.
The painful, and, perhaps, too morbid intensity of some of the
pictures, whether of dreams or realities, is painted here with the
skill of no common artist, whatever youthful defects may be observed
in the composition. The poem is one more notable for tender sweetness
than any other that remains from Branwell; but it lacks in places the
vigour and power of his later compositions, and is, in several parts,
of unequal merit. In the earlier portion of it, where he assumes the
iambic measure, it is not difficult to perceive the influence of
Byron on his diction. In this work Branwell again recurs to the time
when tears of anguish flowed from his yet 'unhardened heart,' whose
present woes are forgotten in the swelling thoughts of 'things gone
by.' We recognize with what pathetic feeling he paints in Caroline
all the qualities of instructress, guardian, and friend, which had
characterized his sister Maria. Long afterwards Charlotte Brontë,
inspired by similar feelings, devoted the first chapters of 'Jane
Eyre' to a delineation, in the character of Helen Burns, of the
disposition of her dead sister, whose death, a few days after her
return from Cowan Bridge, she could scarcely ever either forget or
forgive.



CHAPTER XV.

EVENTS AT THE PARSONAGE.

Charlotte's first Offer of Marriage--Her Remarks concerning it--
A second Offer Declined--Anne a Governess--She Moralizes upon
it--Charlotte obtains a Situation--Unsuited to Her--She Leaves
it--Branwell takes Pleasure in Scenery--He Visits Liverpool with his
Friends--Charlotte goes to Easton--Curates at Haworth--Their Visits
to the Parsonage--Public Meetings on Church Rates--Charlotte's
Attempt at a Richardsonian Novel--She sends the Commencement of it
to Wordsworth for his Opinion--Branwell receives an Appointment as
Private Tutor.


After the return of Charlotte and Anne from Dewsbury Moor, whither
Miss Wooler had removed her school, the three sisters were at home
together for some months, and, in this happy, unrestrained
intercourse, with their literary relaxations and their plans for the
future, Charlotte's mind expanded, and her strength returned. There
was Branwell, too, to think about; his venture at Bradford and his
progress with his portraits. Then they would have to go and see the
likeness of Mr. Morgan; and, on such occasions, Branwell would have
much to say of art and literature, and, acquaintances. But Branwell
was usually at Haworth on Sundays, and then he would hear of
Charlotte's visits to her friends, and her adventures on these
occasions. It was shortly before the date of Branwell's return from
Bradford, in the spring of 1839, that Charlotte received her first
offer of marriage. A young clergyman, who had, as Mrs. Gaskell
thought, some resemblance to the St. John in the last volume of 'Jane
Eyre,' had evidently been attracted by Charlotte Brontë; but
matrimony does not seem, at the time, to have seriously entered into
her thoughts. In some respects the proposal might have had strong
temptations for her, and she thought how happy her married life might
be. However, it was not the way with Charlotte Brontë to take the
path of smoothness and comfort, and leave the thorny one untrod; and
she asked herself if she loved the clergyman in question as much as a
woman should love her husband, and whether she was the one best
qualified to make him happy. 'Alas!' she says, 'my conscience
answered "No" to both these questions.' She knew very well that she
had a 'kindly leaning' towards him, but this was not enough for her,
for it was impossible that she could ever feel for him such an
intense attachment as would make her sacrifice her life for him.
Short of such a devotion awakened in herself, she would never marry
anyone. Her comment is characteristic: 'Ten to one I shall never have
the chance again; but _n'importe_.'

Charlotte Brontë felt that there was a want of sympathy between the
young clergyman and herself, for he was a 'grave, quiet young man;'
and she knew that he would be startled, and would think her a wild,
romantic enthusiast, when she showed her character, and laughed, and
satirized, and said whatever came into her head. Nor was her next
offer any more to her taste; for, within a few months, a neighbouring
curate, a young Irishman, fresh from the Dublin University, made her
a proposal. The circumstance amused Charlotte, for it was, on his
part, a case of love at first sight. He came with his vicar to be
introduced to the family, and was speedily struck with Mr. Brontë's
daughter. Charlotte was never troubled at home with the _mauvaise
honte_ that troubled her abroad; and so she talked and jested with
the clergyman, and was much amused at the originality of his
character. A pleasant afternoon was spent, for he made himself at
home, after the fashion of his countrymen, and was witty, lively,
ardent, and clever; but, withal, wanting in the dignity and
discretion of an Englishman. As the evening drew on, Charlotte was
not much pleased with the spice of Hibernian flattery with which he
began to season his discourse, and, as she expresses it, she 'cooled
a little.' The vicar and his curate went away; but what was
Charlotte's astonishment to receive a letter next morning from the
latter containing a proposal of marriage, and filled with ardent
expressions of devotion! 'I hope you are laughing heartily,' she says
to her friend. 'This is not like one of my adventures, is it? It more
nearly resembles Martha's. I am certainly doomed to be an old maid.
Never mind. I have made up my mind to that fate ever since I was
twelve years old. Well! thought I, I have heard of love at first
sight, but this beats all! I leave you to guess what my answer would
be, convinced that you will not do me the injustice of guessing
wrong.'

Although the married state does not appear, from Charlotte's letters
at this time, to have had many attractions for her, we know, from
those she wrote later, and, perhaps, more than all from the
concluding chapters of 'Jane Eyre,' that she could enter into the
joys and sacrifices of domestic life, that she had a correct view of
the affections, and knew how to appreciate conjugal love at its true
value. But, in the present instances--although, at a later period of
her life, when she was on the Continent, she is believed to have felt
the full force of that 'passion of the heart' which those about whom
she wrote had failed to evoke--she declined to sever herself from the
contented circumstances that surrounded her, and in which she was
mistress, for a condition of doubtful peace and certain obedience.
Charlotte's decision was not discordant with the feelings of her
family; for, as she had determined to continue at home, their plans
for the future would not be disconcerted.

Anne was now resolved on making a trial of the life of a governess
for herself, she having completed her education, and being wishful to
exert herself as her sisters had done. Inquiries were made, and at
length a situation was obtained. Anne continued in this kind of
employment during the next six years, and it was her experience that
suggested to her the subject of her first novel, 'Agnes Grey.' If we
may suppose that she has recounted her own experience at this time,
where her heroine describes the circumstances of her preparation and
departure for her first situation, it would appear that she had some
difficulty in convincing her friends of the wisdom of her purpose.
Agnes Grey says, after she has made the suggestion to her family:

'I was silenced for that day, and for many succeeding ones; but still
I did not wholly relinquish my darling scheme. Mary got her drawing
materials, and steadily set to work. I got mine too; but, while I
drew, I thought of other things. How delightful it would be to be a
governess! To go out into the world; to enter upon a new life; to act
for myself; to exercise my unused faculties; to try my unknown
powers; to earn my own maintenance, and something to comfort and help
my father, mother, and sister, besides exonerating them from the
provision of my food and clothing; to show papa what his little Agnes
could do; to convince mamma and Mary that I was not quite the
helpless, thoughtless being they supposed. And then, how charming to
be entrusted with the care and education of children! Whatever others
said, I felt I was fully competent to the task: the clear remembrance
of my own thoughts in early childhood would be a surer guide than the
instructions of the most mature adviser. I had but to turn from my
little pupils to myself at their age, and I should know at once how
to win their confidence and affections; how to waken the contrition
of the erring; how to embolden the timid and console the afflicted;
how to make virtue practicable, instruction desirable, and religion
lively and comprehensible.'[28]

        [28] 'Agnes Grey,' chap. i.

Anne Brontë was of a milder and more cheerful temperament than her
sisters; she had not the fire, the morbid feeling, or the mental
force that characterized Charlotte, yet she had more of the
initiatory faculty than she had hitherto received credit for. But her
gentle nature, her confiding piety, her more equable temper, enabled
her to succeed better in the circumstances she had chosen. She had
her troubles, her timidity, and her diffidence to contend with, but
she made life supportable and even happy. 'Agnes Grey' thus speaks of
her departure, which we cannot doubt is the experience of Anne
Brontë:

'Some weeks more were yet to be devoted to preparation. How long, how
tedious those weeks appeared to me! Yet they were happy ones in the
main, full of bright hopes and ardent expectations. With what
peculiar pleasure I assisted at the making of my new clothes, and,
subsequently, the packing of my trunks! But there was a feeling of
bitterness mingling with the latter occupation too; and when it was
done--when all was ready for my departure on the morrow, and the last
night at home approached--a sudden anguish seemed to swell my heart.
My dear friends looked sad, and spoke so very kindly, that I could
scarcely keep my heart from overflowing; but I still affected to be
gay. I had taken my last ramble with Mary on the moors, my last walk
in the garden and round the house ... I had played my last tune on
the old piano, and sung my last song to papa, not the last, I hoped,
but the last for what appeared to me a very long time.'[29]

        [29] 'Agnes Grey,' chap. i.

Charlotte and Emily made themselves busy in assisting Anne with her
preparations for departure, and they were very sad and apprehensive
when she left them on Monday, April 15th, 1839. She went alone, at
her own wish, thinking she could manage better if left to her own
resources, and when her failings were unwitnessed by those whose
hopes she wished to sustain. However, she wrote, expressing
satisfaction with the place she had secured, for the lady of the
house was very kind. She had two of the eldest girls under her
charge, the children being confined to the nursery, with which she
had no concern.

Charlotte, although remarking in a letter to her friend on the
cleverness and sensibility with which Anne could express herself in
epistolary correspondence, had some fear that, such was the natural
diffidence of her manner, her mistress would sometimes believe her to
have an impediment in her speech.

Charlotte's eagerness to obtain a situation was now so great that she
does not seem to have considered well the step she was about to take,
and she obtained one that was not satisfactory to her. It was in the
family of a wealthy Yorkshire manufacturer; and we may well believe
that the stylish surroundings of her employers differed materially
from those of the family at Haworth. Here a large quantity of
miscellaneous work was thrown on Charlotte, which displeased her and
destroyed her comfort. In a letter to Emily, she says she is
'overwhelmed with oceans of needlework; yards of cambric to hem,
muslin night-caps to make, etc.' She found the outside attractions of
the house beautiful in 'pleasant woods, white paths, green lawns, and
blue, sunshiny sky;' but these surroundings did not compensate for
the humiliations which her situation imposed upon her, and her
mistress and she did not like each other; so Charlotte did not return
to the place after the July holidays of 1839.

Branwell was as yet unemployed, and he sought, and took much pleasure
in the scenery, the events and circumstances of the hills and valleys
of the West-Riding of Yorkshire, and was frequently from home. He
went about the country, associating with the people, and revelling in
their ready wit, which enabled him afterwards, by such observations
and experience, to give vivid pictures of life and character. At the
time of the Haworth 'Rushbearing,' of July, 1839, he visited
Liverpool with one or two friends, and, while there, in compliance
with an injunction of his father, made a stenographic report, at St.
Jude's church, of a sermon by the Rev. H. McNeile, the well-known
evangelical preacher. Here, a sudden attack of Tic compelled him to
resort to opium, in some form, as an anodyne, whose soothing effect
in pain he had previously known. Subsequently, passing a music shop,
in one of their rambles through the town, Branwell's attention was
arrested by a copy of the oratorio of 'Samson,' by Handel, displayed
in the window, the performance of which had always excited him to the
highest degree, and he eagerly besought his friend to purchase it, as
well as some Mass, and various oratorio music, which was done.

On their return from Liverpool, Branwell, being under some obligation
to his friend, proffered to paint his portrait, to which Mr. M----
agreed. A sitting once a week was decided upon, to be in the room at
the parsonage where Branwell studied and painted. On his visits, Mr.
M---- invariably noticed a row of potatoes, placed on the uppermost
rib of the range to roast, Branwell being very fond of them done in
this way, even as Jane Eyre was in the novel. 'That night,' she says,
'on going to bed, I forgot to prepare, in imagination, the Barmecide
supper of hot roast potatoes ... with which I was wont to amuse my
inward cravings.' When Mr. M---- paid his weekly visits to the
parsonage he always heard some one speaking aloud in the room
adjoining Branwell's studio; and, at last, his curiosity being
excited, he inquired whom it was. Branwell answered that it was his
father committing his Sunday's sermon to memory. When the portrait
was ready for the finishing touches, Mr. M---- discovered that
Branwell had painted the names of Johann Sebastian Bach, Mozart,
Haydn, and Handel at each corner of the canvas respectively. He
remonstrated, but Branwell was firm, maintaining that, as his friend
was an accomplished musician, and could perform the most elaborate
and difficult compositions of these immortal men, with expression and
ease, he was, in every way, worthy of being associated with them in
the manner he designed. Mr. M---- complied. When the portrait was
finished, Branwell pressed his friend to take a glass of wine; and,
while the two were chatting over the affair, Mr. Brontë and his
daughters entered the room to view Branwell's work on its completion.
They were pleased with it, and praised it as a truthful likeness and
an excellent picture.

We may well imagine the enthusiasm with which Branwell would recount
his experience of Liverpool. How much he would have to tell of the
wonders of the Mersey, the great ships that rode upon its surface,
and its commerce with the new world, out across the ocean! His visit
seems to have originated a proposal that the family should spend a
week or a fortnight at that sea-port, but, almost at the same moment,
Charlotte's friend suggested to her that they should visit
Cleethorpes together, a suggestion that pleased her very much.

'The idea of seeing the sea,' she says, 'of being near it--watching
its changes by sunrise, sunset, moonlight, and noon-day--in calm,
perhaps in storm--fills and satisfies my mind. I shall be
discontented at nothing. And then I am not to be with a set of people
with whom I have nothing in common--who would be nuisances and
bores.'

The visit of Charlotte to the sea-side seems to have been put off
again and again, by often-recurring obstacles. The irresolution of
her family in regard to the Liverpool project, and the manifest
unwillingness that she should leave home on a visit anywhere else,
put off, from time to time, the pleasure she had anticipated for
herself; but at last she decided to go. Her box was packed and
everything prepared, but no conveyance could be procured. Mr. Brontë
objected to her going by coach, and walking part of the way to meet
her friend, and her aunt exclaimed against 'the weather, and the
roads, and the four winds of heaven,' so Charlotte almost gave up
hope. She told her friend that the elders of the house had never
cordially acquiesced in the measure, and that opposition was growing
more open, though her father would willingly have indulged her. Even
he, however, wished her to remain at home. Charlotte was 'provoked'
that her aunt had deferred opposition until arrangements had been
made. In the end 'E' was asked to pay a visit to the parsonage.

Owing to the circumstances indicated, Charlotte's visit to the
sea-coast was put off until the following September, when an
opportunity occurred favourable to the project, which does not seem
to have been entirely abandoned; and she and her friend visited
Easton where they spent a fortnight. Here for the first time
Charlotte beheld the sea.

Afterwards she wrote, 'Have you forgotten the sea by this time, E.?
Is it grown dim in your mind? Or can you still see it, dark, blue and
green and foam-white, and hear it roaring roughly when the wind is
high, or rushing softly when it is calm?' The Liverpool journey
appears to have been finally abandoned.

It was in a letter, written about this time that Mrs. Gaskell found
the first mention of a succession of curates who henceforth revolved
round Haworth Parsonage. Three years earlier Mr. Brontë had sought
aid from the 'Additional Curates' Society,' or some similar
institution, and was provided at once with assistance. The increasing
duties of his chapelry had rendered this step necessary. It would
seem also that a curate was appointed to Stanbury, while another
became master of the National or Grammar School. These gentlemen were
not infrequent in their visits to the parsonage, and they varied the
life of its inmates, sometimes one way and sometimes another. This
circumstance, at the same time, provided Charlotte Brontë with those
living studies which she did not fail afterwards to remember in her
delineation of the three curates in 'Shirley.' Emily, on the other
hand, invariably avoided these gentlemen.

The arrival of the curates at Haworth was the occasion of increased
activity in the affairs of the chapelry; and, the church-rate
question being uppermost at this juncture, the new-comers entered
into a crusade against the Dissenters who had refused to pay
church-rates. Charlotte wrote a long letter in which she spoke of a
violent public meeting held at Haworth about the affair, and of two
sermons against dissent--one by Mr. W. a 'noble, eloquent,
high-church, apostolical-succession discourse, in which he banged the
Dissenters most fearlessly and unflinchingly;' the other by Mr. C., a
'keener, cleverer, bolder, and more heart-stirring harangue,' than
Charlotte, perhaps, had ever heard from the Haworth pulpit. She,
however, did not entirely agree with either of these gentlemen, and
thought, if she had been a Dissenter, she would have 'taken the first
opportunity of kicking or of horse-whipping both.'

In the winter of 1839-40, Charlotte employed her leisure in the
composition of a story which she had commenced on a scale
commensurate with one of Richardson's novels of seven or eight
volumes. Mrs. Gaskell saw some fragments of the manuscript, written
in a very small hand: but she was less solicitous to decipher it, as
Charlotte had herself condemned it in the preface to 'The Professor.'
Branwell, to whom she submitted it, seems to have understood, at the
time, that in its florid style of composition she was working in
opposition to her genius, and he told her she was making a mistake.
It appears not unlikely that Branwell was himself similarly engaged
on prose writing when he gave her this opinion. A few months later,
however, Charlotte resolved to send the commencement of her tale to
Wordsworth, and that an unfavourable judgment was the result, for
which she was not altogether unprepared, may be gathered from the
following letter she addressed to the poet:--

'Authors are generally very tenacious of their productions, but I am
not so much attached to this but that I can give it up without much
distress. No doubt if I had gone on I should have made quite a
Richardsonian concern of it.... I had materials in my head for
half-a-dozen volumes.... Of course it is with considerable regret I
relinquish any scheme so charming as the one I have sketched. It is
very edifying and profitable to create a world out of your own
brains, and people it with inhabitants who are so many Melchisedecs,
and have no father or mother but your own imagination.... I am sorry
I did not exist fifty or sixty years ago, when the "Ladies' Magazine"
was flourishing like a green bay-tree. In that case, I make no doubt,
my aspirations after literary fame would have met with due
encouragement, and I should have had the pleasure of introducing
Messrs. Percy and West into the best society, and recording all their
sayings and doings in double-columned, close-printed pages.... I
recollect, when I was a child, getting hold of some antiquated
volumes, reading them by stealth with the most exquisite pleasure.
You give a correct description of the patient Grisels of these days.
My aunt was one of them, and to this day she thinks the tales of
the "Ladies' Magazine" infinitely superior to any trash of modern
literature. So do I; for I read them in childhood, and childhood
has a very strong faculty of admiration, but a very weak one of
criticism.... I am pleased that you cannot quite decide whether I
am an attorney's clerk or a novel-reading dressmaker. I will not
help you at all in the discovery....'

In the midst of their literary endeavours, their efforts were not
relaxed to obtain new places. Charlotte was obliged by circumstances
to give up her subscriptions to the Jews, and she determined to force
herself to take a situation, if one could be found, though she says,
'I hate and abhor the very thoughts of governess-ship.' An
alternative which the sisters talked over in these holidays was the
opening of a school at Haworth, for which an enlargement of the
parsonage would be required.

Branwell was more successful in his pursuit of employment than
Charlotte, having procured the place of a tutor; and he was to
commence his duties with the new year. Charlotte says of this event,
'One thing, however, will make the daily routine more unvaried than
ever. Branwell, who used to enliven us, is to leave us in a few days,
and enter the situation of a private tutor in the neighbourhood of
Ulverston. How he will like to settle remains yet to be seen. At
present he is full of hope and resolution. I, who know his variable
nature, and his strong turn for active life, dare not be too
sanguine.'

Branwell seems to have paid a farewell visit to the 'Lodge of the
Three Graces' on the Christmas Day of this year, when he acted as
organist. This is the only occasion on which he is recorded as having
attended at the meetings of the Lodge in 1839, and it is the last on
which his name appears in the minute book of the Haworth masonic
body.



CHAPTER XVI.

BRANWELL AT BROUGHTON-IN-FURNESS.

The District of Black Comb--Branwell's Sonnet--Wordsworth and
Hartley Coleridge--Branwell's Letter to the 'Old Knave of
Trumps'--Its Publication by Miss Robinson in her 'Emily
Brontë'--Branwell's familiar Acquaintance with the People of
Haworth--He could Paint their Characters with Accuracy--His
Knowledge of the Human Passions--Emily's Isolation.


Branwell, being as desirous of employment as his sisters, had sought
for, and obtained, a situation as tutor in the family of Mr.
Postlethwaite, of Broughton-in-Furness. He entered upon his new
duties on the 1st of January, 1840.

Now that he found himself resident near the English lake district,
consecrated as it is by so many poetic memories, and dear to him as
the home of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey he naturally felt an
intense interest in all that surrounded him; and, when he was not
engaged in teaching the sons of his employer, he took occasion to
visit such places as had any attraction for him. On one of his
pedestrian excursions, he had stepped into a wayside inn, and was
seated musing before the parlour fire, when a young gentleman entered
the room. Branwell turned round, and recognized at once a friend of
the name of Ayrton, whose acquaintance he had formed in Leeds. The
surprise and delight at this unexpected meeting was mutual; and
Branwell's friend, who was driving about the country, requested his
company for some distance on the journey, for the purpose of
prolonging the interview, and of continuing the conversation that had
been begun. The young tutor drove some ten miles with his friend,
utterly regardless of the long return walk to Ulverston.

Branwell delighted in the writings of the 'Lake Poets,' and was much
influenced by Southey's prose works. He read the 'Life of Nelson,'
and was himself moved to write a poem illustrative of the life of
that great naval hero. He also read the 'Colloquies on Society,' and
others of Southey's works. But it was Wordsworth who at this moment,
was the object of Branwell's chief admiration. He revelled in that
poet's fine description of the view from the top of Black Comb, and,
perhaps, knew the lines written by his 'deity of the mind' on a stone
on the side of the mountain, and probably had himself looked from its
summit. But Branwell certainly knew Black Comb from afar. Five miles
away he could see it; and he celebrated it in the following sonnet:

    BLACK COMB.

    'Far off, and half revealed, 'mid shade and light,
      Black Comb half smiles, half frowns; his mighty form
    Scarce bending into peace--more formed to fight
      A thousand years of struggles with a storm
      Than bask one hour, subdued by sunshine warm,
    To bright and breezeless rest; yet even his height
    Towers not o'er this world's sympathies, he smiles--
    While many a human heart to pleasures' wiles
      Can bear to bend, and still forget to rise--
    As though he, huge and heath-clad, on our sight,
      Again rejoices in his stormy skies.
      Man loses vigour in unstable joys.
    Thus tempests find Black Comb invincible,
    While we are lost, who should know life so well!'

It was doubtless while Branwell was living at Ulverston that he
obtained the favourable opinion of Wordsworth on some poems which he
submitted for criticism. Probably he found opportunity to visit the
writer whose works he 'loved most in our literature,' and it would be
on some similar excursion that he obtained an encouraging expression
of opinion from Hartley Coleridge. The author of 'The Northern
Worthies' was not unknown to the circle at 'The George,' at Bradford,
and was acquainted with Branwell Brontë and Leyland.

The master of the 'Lodge of the Three Graces,' at Haworth, did not,
however, long permit Branwell to forget his old acquaintance there;
for this worthy soon addressed to him a communication which provoked
a reply that Branwell dated from Broughton-in-Furness on the 13th of
the March following his arrival. This unfortunate response, in which
Branwell addressed the masonic sexton of Haworth, with sarcastic
humour, as 'Old Knave of Trumps,' is the one which Miss Robinson has
been so ill advised as to publish in her 'Emily Brontë;' and which
has done not a little to draw down on the head of Branwell the full
and unmitigated volume of Mr. Swinburne's vocabulary of abuse. And,
in fact, if this letter could be taken as the proper and natural
expression of an abject profligate, altogether shameless and
unredeemed, he could find a defender neither here nor elsewhere. But
there are good reasons for hoping that it was otherwise. We have seen
that Branwell had been led to join the rude village society of
Haworth, where, on account of his brilliance, and of his position as
the incumbent's son, he was not a little looked up to. It was
natural, then, that he should be led, foolishly enough, to endeavour
to stand well with the friends he had selected, and his knowledge of
character was sufficiently good to enable him to know what kind of
letter would best suit the tastes and inclinations of many of his
companions of the 'Lodge of the Three Graces.' He assumed in fact,
that bravado of vice, that air of _diablerie_, which was thought
by many people, in those days, and is so yet by not a few, to be the
best proof of manhood, because it betokened a knowledge of the world.
Yet, at the end of the letter,--the passage is not given by Miss
Robinson--Branwell appears to take it as a matter of course that the
sexton will not show it, and he begs him, for 'Heaven's sake,' to
blot out the lines scored in red. Branwell knew the 'Old Knave of
Trumps' well, and he was certain that his letter would cause no
little amusement among his immediate friends to whom the sexton was
sure to read it. He was ashamed of certain passages in it, which is
evidence enough that it was not the outcome of a depraved and
shameless nature, but rather the expression of the _acted_ character
of a vicious and _blasé_ worldling. And it is, moreover, inconceivable
that a young man, who was of the sensitive nature betokened by the
contemporary poems we have published, could, at the same time, have
been a hardened and cynical profligate. Indeed, it is evident that the
objectionable allusions were not of his origination, but were called
forth by the remarks of others, for whom Branwell does not fail to
show his contempt.

It has, however, been the misfortune of Branwell Brontë, that a
letter which he wrote in folly, for the eyes of personal friends
alone, has been published to the world as the token and evidence of
his infamy. One use, at any rate, flows from the publication of it,
for it shows us the quick and vivid grasp of character, and the
incisive mode of composition which now began, in his more vigorous
moods, to distinguish its author. The letter is as follows:--

    'Broughton-in-Furness,

    'March 13, 1840.

    'OLD KNAVE OF TRUMPS,

    'Don't think I have forgotten you, though I have delayed so long
    in writing to you. It was my purpose to send you a yarn as soon
    as I could find materials to spin one with, and it is only just
    now that I have had time to turn myself round and know where I
    am. If you saw me now, you would not know me, and you would laugh
    to hear the character the people give me. Oh, the falsehood and
    hypocrisy of this world! I am fixed in a little retired town by
    the sea-shore, among wild woody hills that rise round me--huge,
    rocky, and capped with clouds. My employer is a retired county
    magistrate, a large landowner, and of a right hearty and generous
    disposition. His wife is a quiet, silent, and amiable woman,
    and his sons are two fine, spirited lads. My landlord is a
    respectable surgeon, and six days out of seven is as drunk as a
    lord! His wife is a bustling, chattering, kind-hearted soul; and
    his daughter!--oh! death and damnation! Well, what am I? That is,
    what do they think I am? A most calm, sedate, sober, abstemious,
    patient, mild-hearted, virtuous, gentlemanly philosopher,--the
    picture of good works, and the treasure-house of righteous
    thoughts. Cards are shuffled under the table-cloth, glasses are
    thrust into the cupboard, if I enter the room. I take neither
    spirits, wine, nor malt liquors. I dress in black, and smile like
    a saint or martyr. Everybody says, "What a good young gentleman
    is Mr. Postlethwaite's tutor!" This is fact, as I am a living
    soul, and right comfortably do I laugh at them. I mean to
    continue in their good opinion. I took a half year's farewell of
    old friend whisky at Kendal on the night after I left. There was
    a party of gentlemen at the Royal Hotel, and I joined them. We
    ordered in supper and whisky-toddy as "hot as hell!" They thought
    I was a physician, and put me in the chair. I gave sundry toasts,
    that were washed down at the same time, till the room spun round
    and the candles danced in our eyes. One of the guests was a
    respectable old gentleman with powdered head, rosy cheeks, fat
    paunch, and ringed fingers. He gave "The Ladies," ... after which
    he brayed off with a speech; and in two minutes, in the middle of
    a grand sentence, he stopped, wiped his head, looked wildly
    round, stammered, coughed, stopped again, and called for his
    slippers. The waiter helped him to bed. Next a tall Irish squire
    and a native of the land of Israel began to quarrel about their
    countries; and, in the warmth of argument, discharged their
    glasses, each at his neighbour's throat instead of his own. I
    recommended bleeding, purging, and blistering; but they
    administered each other a real "Jem Warder," so I flung my
    tumbler on the floor, too, and swore I'd join "Old Ireland!" A
    regular rumpus ensued, but we were tamed at last. I found myself
    in bed next morning, with a bottle of porter, a glass, and a
    corkscrew beside me. Since then I have not tasted anything
    stronger than milk-and-water, nor, I hope, shall, till I return
    at Midsummer; when we will see about it. I am getting as fat as
    Prince William at Springhead, and as godly as his friend, Parson
    Winterbotham. My hand shakes no longer. I ride to the banker's at
    Ulverston with Mr. Postlethwaite, and sit drinking tea and
    talking scandal with old ladies. As to the young ones! I have one
    sitting by me just now--fair-faced, blue-eyed, dark-haired, sweet
    eighteen--she little thinks the devil is so near her!

    'I was delighted to see thy note, old squire, but I do not
    understand one sentence--you will perhaps know what I mean....
    How are all about you? I long to hear and see them again. How is
    the "Devil's Thumb," whom men call ---- ----, and the "Devil in
    Mourning," whom they call ---- ----? How are ---- ----, and ----
    ----, and the Doctor; and him who will be used as the tongs of
    hell--he whose eyes Satan looks out of, as from windows--I mean
    ---- ----, esquire? How are little ---- ----, ---- "Longshanks,"
    ---- ----, and the rest of them? Are they married, buried,
    devilled, and damned? When I come I'll give them a good squeeze
    of the hand; till then I am too godly for them to think of. That
    bow-legged devil used to ask me impertinent questions which I
    answered him in kind. Beelzebub will make of him a walking-stick!
    Keep to thy teetotalism, old squire, till I return; it will mend
    thy old body.... Does "Little Nosey" think I have forgotten him?
    No, by Jupiter! nor his clock either.[30] I'll send him a
    remembrancer some of these days! But I must talk to some one
    prettier than thee; so good-night, old boy, and

    'Believe me thine,

    'THE PHILOSOPHER.

    'Write directly. Of course you won't show this letter; and, for
    Heaven's sake, blot out all the lines scored with red ink.'

        [30] The clock mentioned by Branwell was one that stood in a
        corner of the 'Snug' at 'The Bull,' inside the door of which
        the landlord--'Little Nosey'--used to chalk up the 'shots' of
        his guests.

This letter, as I have intimated, was never intended for more than a
moment's amusement, at most, to a small circle of acquaintances at
Haworth, and was not to exist after having been read. But John
Brown kept the letter, which I saw and copied. It is a curious
circumstance, illustrating the hold which it obtained over the
Haworth circle, that, though the original was lost so long since as
1874, the brother of the sexton knew it by heart, and could repeat it
with considerable accuracy. In this way it has been several times
written down. No allusion would have been made to the letter in the
present work, if Miss Robinson--strange to say--had not thought it a
fitting embellishment for her 'Emily Brontë.' If Branwell had known
its fate at the moment he wrote it, it would never have reached the
'Worshipful Master of the Lodge of the Three Graces,' but would have
been committed to the flames by his own hand; for, as we have seen,
he was ashamed of some expressions scored in red, which he begged
might be obliterated.

This letter, however, is valuable; inasmuch as it shows what
Branwell, at this young period of his life, knew about human nature,
and the depths to which it can descend. He had penetrated into the
passions, feelings, and dispositions of his acquaintances by frequent
intercourse, by keen perception, and by familiar conversation. He had
heard them, noticed them, and could paint their characters with
unerring precision and vivid colouring. He was acquainted with the
ways of society, and the customs of domestic life. The world was to
him a picture-gallery, and all living things in it were studies of
the deepest interest. His knowledge of men and manners, of the hard,
implacable, and selfish, and also of the soft, tender, and gentle
natures of men and women, enabled him to cast their stories of sorrow
and gladness faithfully and well.

At the time when he had attained manhood, when his intellects were
reaching their full development, he had already been drawn into
society, and indoctrinated into the mysteries of Haworth life; and
had become acquainted with the excesses of men older and harder than
himself. It cannot be wondered at that, if he had learned more than
is usual in youth, he did not escape the temptations attendant on the
peculiar knowledge he had acquired. But, while _he_ was thus passing
through the crooked ways and reckless deviations of the world,
obtaining a large crop of experiences, good and bad, his _sisters_
were, for the most part, at home, living like recluses, and, when
away, were still in similar seclusion. Of Emily, Charlotte says, 'I am
bound to avow that she had scarcely more practical knowledge of the
peasantry amongst whom she lived, than a nun has of the country people
who sometimes pass her convent gates. My sister's disposition was not
naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency
to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she
rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the
people round her was benevolent, intercourse with them she never
sought, nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she
knew them, knew their ways, their language, their family histories;
she could hear of them with interest, and talk of them _with_
detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but with them she rarely
exchanged a word.'[31] But Branwell walked and held personal
intercourse, as we have seen, with the people whom Emily shunned; and
his personal knowledge, and his unquestionable genius combined,
enabled him to grasp and appreciate, to dissect with penetrating
skill, and to estimate and define the tendency of the strong and
marked character of the people around him. It is, therefore, doubly
unfortunate that, from Branwell, we have little remaining in the way
of graphic description, and that the rich treasures of observation
which he outpoured have, for the most part, left their impressions
only in the memories of those who were privileged to hear him
discourse.

        [31] Charlotte Brontë.--Memoir prefixed to 'Wuthering
        Heights.'



CHAPTER XVII.

BRANWELL AT SOWERBY BRIDGE.--CHARLOTTE'S EXERTIONS.

Branwell's Appointment at Ulverston ends--He gets a Situation on
the Railroad at Sowerby Bridge--Branwell at Luddenden Foot--His
Friends' Reminiscences of him--Charlotte and Emily reading French
Novels--Charlotte obtains a Situation--Anxious about Anne--School
Project of the Sisters--Charlotte's keen Desire to visit Brussels
--Her Letter to her Aunt Branwell.


If the performance of the responsible duties of his appointment at
Mr. Postlethwaite's, which ended, at his father's wish, in the June
of 1840, had been felt by Branwell as a banishment from the cheerful
company of his Haworth acquaintances, it had been still greater from
his artistic and literary friends in the neighbourhood of Bradford
and Halifax. Hence he sought, with a perseverance amounting to
anxiety, to obtain a post on the Leeds and Manchester Railway,--to
the opening of which he had looked forward with concern--at some
place in the valley of the Calder, near Halifax; and he received the
appointment of clerk in charge, at the station at Sowerby Bridge.
Charlotte says of Branwell's determination: 'a distant relation of
mine, one Patrick Branwell, has set off to seek his fortune in the
wild, wandering, adventurous, romantic, knight-errant-like capacity
of clerk on the Leeds and Manchester Railroad.'[32] Branwell commenced
his new occupation at Sowerby Bridge on the 1st of October, 1840,
just before the opening of the line from Hebden Bridge to Normanton.

        [32] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. ix.

As has been already seen, an acquaintance had existed between
Branwell and Leyland; but now that the former had become a resident
in the immediate neighbourhood, after his visits to the artist's
studio had been interrupted for six months, or more, by his stay at
Broughton-in-Furness, a more frequent intercourse followed between
the two. It was on a bright Sunday afternoon in the autumn of 1840,
at the desire of my brother, the sculptor, that I accompanied him to
the station at Sowerby Bridge to see Branwell. The young railway
clerk was of gentleman-like appearance, and seemed to be qualified
for a much better position than the one he had chosen. In stature he
was a little below the middle height; not 'almost insignificantly
small,' as Mr. Grundy states, nor had he 'a downcast look;' neither
was he 'a plain specimen of humanity.'[33] He was slim and agile in
figure, yet of well-formed outline. His complexion was clear and
ruddy, and the expression of his face, at the time, lightsome and
cheerful. His voice had a ringing sweetness, and the utterance and
use of his English were perfect. Branwell appeared to be in excellent
spirits, and showed none of those traces of intemperance with which
some writers have unjustly credited him about this period of his
life.

        [33] 'Pictures of the Past,' by Francis H. Grundy, C.E. (1879)
        p. 75.

My brother had often spoken to me of Branwell's poetical abilities,
his conversational powers, and the polish of his education; and, on a
personal acquaintance, I found nothing to question in this estimate
of his mental gifts, and of his literary attainments.

Branwell stayed at Sowerby Bridge some months, whence he was
transferred, in 1841, to Luddenden Foot, a place about a mile further
up the valley, where a station had been recently fixed. Mr. Grundy,
who was an assistant-engineer on the line, became acquainted with
Branwell at the latter place; and says of it, 'there was no village
near at hand,' and that, 'had a position been chosen for this strange
creature, for the express purpose of driving him several steps to the
bad, this must have been it.'[34]

        [34] 'Pictures of the Past,' p. 75.

Mr. Grundy must have spoken from memory only. The ancient village
of Luddenden Foot, within two minutes' walk of the station, with
its population employed in the mills and manufactories of the
neighbourhood, together with its two old hostelries of the 'Red
Lion,' and the 'Shuttle and Anchor,' was surely sufficient to banish
all solitude and wildness from the neighbourhood of Branwell's
sojourn. Yet the change was scarcely a desirable one, and doubtless
helped to disgust Branwell with his employment. It is to be regretted
that the respective occupations of Branwell and Mr. Grundy were of
such a nature as to prevent a regular and continual intercourse, and
that distance of time and place have so far dimmed Mr. Grundy's
reminiscences of his friend, that, valuable though the letters he
has wisely preserved are, many inaccuracies have entered into his
recollections of him, and Mrs. Gaskell's exaggerated account has had
undue weight in the picture he has drawn.

Mr. William Heaton, author of a minor volume of poems entitled the
'Flowers of Caldervale,' knew Branwell Brontë well when he was at
Luddenden Foot. He wrote to me a letter in which occurred the
following description of his mind and character, and also of his
conversation when at one of the village inns, where they sometimes
met:--

'He was,' says Heaton, 'blithe and gay, but at times appeared
downcast and sad; yet, if the subject were some topic that he was
acquainted with, or some author he loved, he would rise from his
seat, and, in beautiful language, describe the author's character,
with a zeal and fluency I had never heard equalled. His talents were
of a very exalted kind. I have heard him quote pieces from the bard
of Avon, from Shelley, Wordsworth, and Byron, as well as from
Butler's "Hudibras," in such a manner as often made me wish I had
been a scholar, as he was. At that time I was just beginning to write
verses. It is true I had written many pieces, but they had never seen
the light; and, on a certain occasion, I showed him one, which he
pronounced very good. He lent me books which I had never seen before,
and was ever ready to give me information. His temper was always mild
towards me. I shall never forget his love for the sublime and
beautiful works of Nature, nor how he would tell of the lovely
flowers and rare plants he had observed by the mountain stream and
woodland rill. All these had excellencies for him; and I have often
heard him dilate on the sweet strains of the nightingale, and on the
thoughts that bewitched him the first time he heard one.'

During Branwell's twelvemonths' stay at Luddenden Foot, he formed new
acquaintances, but the avocations, tastes, and pursuits of the
well-to-do inhabitants did not accord with his; and he, perhaps, more
frequently than was compatible with his duties, visited Halifax to
seek the intellectual enjoyment which his own narrow occupation and
the society of Luddenden Foot did not afford.

While he was occupied in the service of the railway company at this
place, we hear nothing relating to him, of moment, in Charlotte's
correspondence. Happy that he was employed, his sisters engaged
eagerly and earnestly in devising schemes for obtaining a livelihood
that might enable them to work together for their mutual assistance
in literary labour.

Charlotte was still at home with Emily, reading French novels, of
which, we learn, she had got another bale, 'containing upwards of
forty volumes.' 'I have read about half,' she says. 'They are like
the rest, clever, wicked, sophistical, and immoral. The best of it
is, they give one a thorough idea of France and Paris, and are the
best substitute for French conversation.' We scarcely recognize, in
this employment, the Charlotte Brontë of three years before, whose
religious mania was driving her to despair, unless, indeed, it be in
the force with which she pursues the new bent of her inclination. She
has read twenty volumes of this, the second, batch, and was proposing
to read twenty more. It was her expectation that, by this process,
she would become sufficiently familiar with the language to enable
her to teach it to others.

In the letter in which she announced that Branwell had gone to his
post on the railway--written in good spirits, when she saw everything
_couleur-de-rose_, which, however, she attributes to the high
wind blowing over the 'hills of Judea' at Haworth--she says: 'A woman
of the name of Mrs. B----, it seems, wants a teacher. I wish she
would have me; and I have written to Miss Wooler to tell her so.
Verily, it is a delightful thing to live at home, at full liberty to
do just what one pleases. But I recollect some scrubby old fable
about grasshoppers and ants, by a scrubby old knave, yclept Æsop; the
grasshoppers sang all the summer, and starved all the winter.'

Branwell was proving himself no grasshopper, for, if he sang, he was
anxious to exert himself in a practical way at the same time; and, so
far, he was doing well at Luddenden Foot. Charlotte, too, was
resolved to be employed, but the negotiation with Mrs. B---- failed.
The lady expressed herself pleased with the frankness with which
Charlotte stated her qualifications, but she required some one who
could undertake to give instruction in music and singing. This Miss
Brontë could not do. She does not appear to have had the musical
taste which her brother and sisters had inherited from the Branwell
family. She resembled her father, perhaps, more closely than did any
of the other children. At last, however, in March, 1841, she entered
her second situation as a private governess. 'I told you, some time
since,' she writes to her friend, 'that I meant to get a situation,
and, when I said so, my resolution was quite fixed. I felt that,
however often I was disappointed, I had no intention of relinquishing
my efforts. After being severely baffled two or three times--after a
world of trouble, in the way of correspondence and interviews--I have
at length succeeded, and am fairly established in my new place.'

Charlotte found her residence not very large, but the grounds were
fine and extensive. She had made some sacrifice to secure comfort, as
she says, not good living, but cheerful faces and warm hearts. Her
pupils were two in number, one a girl of eight, and the other a boy
of six. Though always more or less afflicted with home-sickness,
whenever she was at a distance from her father's house, with its
familiar and affectionate ways, she enjoyed, in her new place,
considerable relief from it, owing to the spontaneous generosity and
kindliness of her employers. She says, indeed, 'My earnest wish and
endeavour will be to please them. If I can but feel that I am giving
satisfaction, and if, at the same time, I can keep my health, I
shall, I hope, be moderately happy. But no one but myself can tell
how hard a governess's work is to me--for no one but myself is aware
how utterly averse my whole mind and nature are for the employment.
Do not think that I fail to blame myself for this, or that I leave
any means unemployed to conquer this feeling. Some of my greatest
difficulties lie in things that would appear to you comparatively
trivial. I find it so hard to repel the rude familiarity of children.
I find it so difficult to ask either servants or mistress for
anything I want, however much I want it. It is less pain for me to
endure the greatest inconvenience than to go into the kitchen to
request its removal. I am a fool. Heaven knows I cannot help it.'

Charlotte found matters a little easier after the first month of her
stay, and her home-sickness became less oppressive. Though her time
was much occupied, great kindness was shown towards her, and her
father and her friend were invited to come to see her.

In June she wrote, in the absence of her employer, 'You can hardly
fancy it possible, I dare say, that I cannot find a quarter-of-an-hour
to scribble a note in; but so it is; and when a note is written, it
has to be carried a mile to the post, and that consumes nearly an
hour, which is a large portion of the day. Mr. and Mrs. ---- have
been gone a week. I heard from them this morning. 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'
vacation, 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 dare not trust any other person's report, no one seems
minute enough in their observations. I should very much have liked
you to have seen 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.'[35]

        [35] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. x.

The delicate Anne, struggling with all the troubles, the indignities,
of the life of a governess, was a picture that was naturally
distressing enough to Charlotte, ever anxious, ever watchful over the
welfare of her youngest sister, and she would, perhaps, be apt, in
her imagination, to exaggerate her sister's difficulties in the
light of her own. In truth the sisters had qualities of mind and
heart which did much to unfit them for the enjoyment of content or
happiness amongst strangers. Charlotte, in particular, with a nature,
sensitive, observant, and tenacious; an imagination highly wrought,
active, and fertile, but too often morbid; with a will, powerful, yet
constrained by the nervous weakness of an excitable constitution,
could with difficulty conform inclination to the necessities of such
a career; she longed for freedom. It was not surprising, then, that
when Charlotte reached Haworth--which she did before Anne's
return--there was a revival of the project I have before mentioned of
the opening of a school, wherein they could enjoy the liberty of
home.

Mr. Brontë and Miss Branwell were not unfavourably disposed towards
the project, and they conversed now and then, at the breakfast-table
or in the evenings, as to how they could best help the girls into the
position they so much coveted. The sisters must always have had a
friend in their father in these matters; he could not but be pleased
and interested in struggles and expectations which reproduced so
closely the hopeful days of his own early life, and we learn, as the
result of the deliberations of the elders, that the aunt offered a
loan, or intimated that she would, perhaps, offer one, in case her
nieces could give some assurance of the solidity of their plans in
the shape of a situation decided upon and of pupils promised. The
East-Riding was thought to be not so well provided with schools as
the West, and the favourite idea of the sisters was to open their
projected academy in the neighbourhood of Burlington, where the
health, both of themselves and of their pupils, might be hoped for.
But there was a question how much their aunt would be disposed to
advance them. Charlotte did not think she would sink more than £150
in such a venture, and she doubted if this would be a sufficient sum
with which to establish a school and commence house-keeping, on
however modest a scale. These were reflections which damped a little
the excitement of hopeful expectation in which the sisters,
especially Charlotte, revolved these plans. She anxiously awaited the
coming of her friend, on the day she was expected to visit them
during their holidays at the parsonage, wearying her eyes with
watching from the window, eye-glass in hand, and, sometimes,
spectacles on nose, eager to talk over her schemes with some one else
than her sisters and to hear a new opinion. But her friend could not
come, and she says, 'a hundred things I had to say to you will now be
forgotten, and never said.' Charlotte began to fear some time must
elapse before her plans could be executed, and she resolved not to
relinquish her situation till something was assured. But this
expectation of keeping a school, cherished through long years, was
never realized by the sisters; ever and anon the shifting sands of
circumstance, the changing currents of life, moved them away, even
while they believed themselves approaching the goal of their hopes.

Charlotte returned to her situation, and she tells her friend, in a
letter dated August the 7th, 1841, that she 'felt herself' again. Mr.
and Mrs. ---- were from home, and she takes the opportunity of saying
that to be solitary there was to her the happiest part of her time.
She enters into particulars of the household: the children were under
decent control, and the servants were observant and attentive to her;
she says of herself, moreover, that the absence of the master and
mistress relieved her from the duty of always putting on the
appearance of being cheerful and conversable.

Her friends, Martha and Mary T----, were enjoying great advantages on
the Continent, where they had gone to stay a month with their
brother. Charlotte had had a long letter from Mary, and a packet
enclosing a handsome black silk scarf, and a pair of beautiful kid
gloves bought in Brussels as a present. She was pleased with them,
and that she had been remembered so far off, amidst the excitement of
'one of the most splendid capitals of Europe.' Mary's letters spoke
of 'some of the pictures and cathedrals she had seen--pictures the
most exquisite, cathedrals the most venerable.' Something swelled to
the throat of Charlotte as she read this account. She was seized with
a 'vehement impatience of restraint and steady work; such a strong
wish for wings--wings such as wealth can furnish; such an urgent
thirst to see, to know, to learn; something internal seemed to expand
bodily for a minute.' She was tantalized for a time by the
consciousness of faculties unexercised; then all collapsed. She
considered these emotions, momentary as they were, rebellious and
absurd, and they were speedily quelled by the resolute spirit they
had disturbed. She hoped they would not revive, as they had been
acutely painful. The school project, instead of at all fading, was
gaining strength, and the three sisters kept it in view as the
pole-star round which all their other schemes, as of lesser
importance, revolved. To this they looked in their despondency.
Charlotte was haunted, sometimes, and dismayed, at the conviction
that she had no natural knack for her occupation. She says that, if
teaching only were requisite, all would be smooth and easy; and she
adds, 'but it is the living in other people's houses--the
estrangement from one's real character--the adoption of a cold,
rigid, apathetic exterior, that is painful.'

It appears that Miss Wooler was about this time intending to give up
her school at Dewsbury Moor, and had offered it to the Misses Brontë.
One or two disadvantages had to be set against the favourable terms
on which they might have the school. The situation could not commend
itself to Charlotte, anxious as she was concerning Anne's health; the
number of pupils had also diminished, and it would be necessary to
offer special advantages in the way of education before they could
hope to have a prosperous establishment--so their friends argued. But
Charlotte had resolved to take the school. The sisters, however,
could not feel confident that their qualifications were such as would
render success certain. Hence, a suggestion that was made to
Charlotte which would provide her with the necessary powers, was at
once taken up with all the energy of her nature; she thus writes to
her aunt, on whom all must depend:

    'September 29th, 1841.

    'DEAR AUNT,

    'I have heard nothing of Miss Wooler yet since I wrote to her,
    intimating that I would accept her offer. I cannot conjecture the
    reason of this long silence, unless some unforeseen impediment
    has occurred in concluding the bargain. Meantime a plan has been
    suggested and approved by Mr. and Mrs. ----' (the father and
    mother of her pupils) 'and others, which I wish now to impart to
    you. My friends recommend me, if I desire to secure permanent
    success, to delay commencing the school for six months longer,
    and by all means to contrive, by hook or by crook, to spend the
    intervening time in some school on the continent. They say
    schools in England are so numerous, competition so great, that
    without some such step towards attaining superiority, we shall
    probably have a very hard struggle, and may fail in the end. They
    say, moreover, that the loan of £100, which you have been so kind
    as to offer us, will, perhaps, not be all required now, as Miss
    Wooler will lend us the furniture; and that, if the speculation
    is intended to be a good and successful one, half the sum, at
    least, ought to be laid out in the manner I have mentioned,
    thereby insuring a more speedy repayment both of interest and
    principal.

    'I would not go to France or to Paris. I would go to Brussels in
    Belgium. The cost of the journey there, at the dearest rate of
    travelling, would be £5; living there is little more than half as
    dear as it is in England, and the facilities for education are
    equal or superior to any other place in Europe. In half a year, I
    could acquire a thorough familiarity with French. I could improve
    greatly in Italian, and even get a dash of German; _i.e._,
    provided my health continued as good as it is now. Mary is now
    staying at Brussels, at a first-rate establishment there. I
    should not think of going to the Château de Kokleberg, where she
    is resident, as the terms are much too high; but if I wrote to
    her, she, with the assistance of Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the
    British Chaplain, would be able to secure me a cheap, decent
    residence and respectable protection. I should have the
    opportunity of seeing her frequently; she would make me
    acquainted with the city; and, with the assistance of her
    cousins, I should probably be introduced to connections far more
    improving, polished, and cultivated, than any I have yet known.

    'These are advantages which would turn to real account, when we
    actually commenced a school; and, if Emily could share them with
    me, we could take a footing in the world afterwards which we can
    never do now. I say Emily instead of Anne; for Anne might take
    her turn at some future period, if our school answered. I feel
    certain, while I am writing, that you will see the propriety of
    what I say. You always like to use your money to the best
    advantage. You are not fond of making shabby purchases; when you
    do confer a favour, it is often done in style; and depend upon
    it, £50 or £100, thus laid out, would be well employed. Of course
    I know no other friend in the world to whom I could apply on this
    subject except yourself. I feel an absolute conviction that, if
    this advantage were allowed us, it would be the making of us for
    life. Papa will, perhaps, think it a wild and ambitious scheme;
    but whoever rose in the world without ambition? When he left
    Ireland to go to Cambridge University, he was as ambitious as I
    am now. I want us all to get on. I know we have talents, and I
    want them to be turned to account. I look to you, aunt, to help
    us. I think you will not refuse. I know, if you consent, it shall
    not be my fault if you ever repent your kindness.'

Charlotte had some time to wait for an answer, but it came at last;
her enthusiasm had carried the day. The answer was favourable: she
and Emily were to go to Brussels.

At times, during his stay with the railway company, Branwell would
drive over from Luddenden Foot to visit his family at the Haworth
parsonage, having hired a gig for the purpose. Mr. Grundy sometimes
accompanied him, and they would escape to the moors together, or pay
curious visits to the old fortune-teller, with the curates. Then,
says his friend, he was 'at his best, and would be eloquent and
amusing, though, on returning sometimes, he would burst into tears,
and swear he meant to mend.' This last statement is favourable to
Branwell's calm judgment upon himself. Few--and Branwell was one of
the last--drift deliberately into wrong-doing. He was, like most
other men, often placed under influences which a habit of attention
and self-control would have enabled him to resist. He knew, perhaps,
in a desultory way, what he ought to do, and what he ought not; but,
owing to his inattention to consequences, he might, now and then, go
wrong, sometimes yielding to whatever illusion was paramount within,
acting in concert with whatever was most alluring without; yet he
could draw his mental forces together, and review his past actions
with keen and painful accuracy. Hence he was not destitute of the
faculty of analyzing his acts in the light of their moral quality,
and, when his sober judgment enabled him to see them in their true
bearing, he exhibited a due contrition.

On Branwell's visits home, he learned much of the exertions, the
projects, and the resolves of his sisters. He was aware of their
aims, and how important were the steps being taken to qualify them
the better for teaching others, more especially in perfecting their
knowledge of the French language and of music. He also knew of the
ultimate hope of his sisters--that, were the future secure, they
would have leisure to realize their early dream of one day becoming
authors, never relinquished, even when distance divided, and when
absorbing tasks occupied them. He had the highest appreciation of
their genius; and, although he had his times of hilarity, indulgence,
and enjoyment, he was certainly never forgetful of his own hopes and
aspirations in the same direction.



CHAPTER XVIII.

BRANWELL'S POETRY, 1842.

Situation of Luddenden Foot--Branwell visits Manchester--The Sultry
Summer--He visits the Picturesque Places adjacent--His impromptu
Verses to Mr. Grundy--He leaves the Railway Company--Miss Robinson's
unjust Comments--His three Sonnets--His poem 'The Afghan War'--
Branwell's letter to Mr. Grundy--His Self-depreciation.


Luddenden Foot--the second place of Branwell Brontë's appointment as
clerk in charge on the Leeds and Manchester Railway--was a village
about equi-distant between Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd, situated
in a fertile and moderately-wooded valley, on the left bank of
the Calder as it descends from its source in Cliviger Dean. The
cultivated hills rise to a considerable height on both sides of the
river, and are very romantic in character. Among the manufacturers
and gentry of the neighbourhood, Branwell found few to welcome him,
and from these he turned to the artists and literary men he had
previously known at Halifax.

But Branwell, in addition, made excursions up the valley (Mr. W----,
his fellow-assistant, acting for him in his absence) in the direction
of Hebden Bridge, Heptonstall, the Ridge, Todmorden, and the heights
of Wadsworth. There were, indeed, many places of marvellous beauty
and interest near, that have long been the theme of artists and
poets, with which he did not fail to make himself acquainted.

The huge, rounded hills, which border this valley, are intersected in
places by lovely cloughs and glens, whose peat-stained streams rush
over their rocky beds, from the elevated grouse-moors around, to pour
their waters into the Calder. From Luddenden Dean, between the
townships of Warley and Midgley, a brook makes its way to Luddenden
Foot, through a glen on whose verdant slopes stand several ancient
houses of architectural and historic interest. Among these are Ewood
Hall, where Bishop Farrer was born, and Kershaw House, a beautiful
Jacobean mansion. Crag Valley, which descends to the Calder on the
opposite bank, a mile or more from Luddenden Foot, is deeper and more
thickly wooded. On one hand lies Sowerby--with Haugh End, the
birthplace of Archbishop Tillotson--and, on the other, Erringden,
which was a royal deer-park in the days of the Plantagenets. But the
loveliest of the valleys through which the confluent streams of
the Calder run, is that of Hebden, a romantic glen, winding between
the wooded and precipitous slopes of Heptonstall--crowned with the
ancient and now ruined church of St. Thomas à Becket--and of
Wadsworth, with its narrow dell of Crimsworth, which gave Charlotte
Brontë a name for the hero of the earliest of her novels. Between
these solemn heights the stream flows beneath the huge crags of
Hardcastle, and roars over many a rocky obstruction in its channel
before it reaches the Calder at Hebden Bridge. This was a district to
which picnic-parties from Haworth often came, there being a direct
road over the hills.

Branwell also visited Manchester on one occasion; and, on his
return, he gave an account to a young clergyman, then living in the
neighbourhood of Mytholmroyd, who sometimes went to his wooden shanty
at Luddenden Foot to hear his conversation, of how he had been
impressed with the architecture of the parish church at Manchester,
as he stood under the arched portal, and beheld the long lines of
pillars and arches, and the fretted roof, the lightsome details of
which had charmed him. He went forward on that occasion to the choir
of the church, and saw the Lady Chapel--which still retained its
beautiful screen, with its Perpendicular tracery and shafts of that
period--occupied by the gravedigger's implements, which reminded
him of the 'Worshipful Master of the Lodge of the Three Graces,'
consisting of crowbar, mattock, spade, barrow, planks and ropes; for
the Lady Chapel had been made a convenient receptacle for these
dismal chattels.

The summer of 1841 was a somewhat monotonous time for Branwell and
his friend at the quiet station. Here, in the intervals of the
trains, scarcely anything was heard except the occasional hum of a
bee or a wasp, or the drone of a blue-bottle, while the almost
vertical rays of a summer sun darted down on the roof of the wooden
hut, and made the place unendurable. It was in moments of weary
lassitude, or in hours of drowsy leisure, that Branwell whiled away
the time by sketching carelessly on the margins of the books--for
the amusement of himself and his friend--free-hand portraits of
characters of the neighbourhood, and of the celebrated pugilists of
the day.

But about Hebden Bridge there were people known to Branwell, and he
did not fail to visit them. His sister, Charlotte, in after-years,
sometimes came to Hanging Royd, Hebden Bridge, the house of my late
friend, the Rev. Sutcliffe Sowden, then incumbent of Mytholm--the
gentleman who afterwards performed the marriage ceremony between the
gifted lady and Mr. Nicholls. The friendship of the latter and Mr.
Sowden dated from earlier years, and to them Branwell was known when
he was at Luddenden Foot. He had, indeed, sometimes clerical visitors
at his 'wooden shanty' to hear his conversation. Mr. Sowden was an
enthusiastic lover of scenery, and the sphere of his duties abounded
in moors, wilds, crags, rivers, brooks, and dells, which he often
visited. Branwell's tastes accorded with his, but these attractions
clearly drew Branwell's attention, too often and too far, from the
imperative duties of his situation, comparatively light though they
were. As might be expected, therefore, the work of this talented but
changeful young man was found unsatisfactory, and explanations were
demanded. About the time of the close of his twelve months' official
duties at Luddenden Foot, an examination of his books was made, and
they were found to be confused and incomplete. The irregularity and
the defects of his returns had also been remarked, and an inquiry was
set on foot respecting them. The officials, in looking over the
books, discovered the pen-and-ink sketches on the margins of the
pages, which I have already mentioned; and these were taken as
conclusive evidence of carelessness and indifference on the part of
the unfortunate Branwell in the performance of his duties and the
keeping of his accounts.

He had been made aware, by unwelcome inquiries and remonstrances,
that his position with the railway company was precarious, and he
was filled with apprehension as to the ultimate consequences. He
was requested finally to appear at the audit of the company, and
his friend W---- accompanied him.

It was at the Christmas of 1841, that the Brontës expected to meet
at home together, in anticipation of Charlotte and Emily's journey to
Brussels; but Charlotte had not found her brother there in the January
of 1842, for she writes on the 20th of that month and year: 'I have
been every week, since I came home, expecting to see Branwell, and he
has never been able to get over yet. We fully expect him, however,
next Saturday.'[36] Branwell certainly returned home, but only when it
had been intimated to him that his services were no longer required by
the railway company. How far he had felt the duties of his post
irksome, and the power of perseverance required inconsistent with his
tastes and pursuits, does not appear, though the inference that they
were so will scarcely be doubted. But the humiliation and sorrow he
felt on the loss of his employment plunged him, for a time, into
despair; and the natural gloom of his disposition, caused him to
magnify the common pleasures and enjoyments of his leisure hours into
crimes and omissions of duty of no ordinary magnitude. But the
erroneous recollections of Mr. Grundy, respecting the situation of the
station at Luddenden Foot, and its supposed deleterious influence on
Branwell's manners and obligations, may justify a doubt as to the
particular accuracy of many of his reminiscences of his friend.

        [36] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. x.

The following incident of Branwell's stay at that place, which Mr.
Grundy gives, may be regarded as affording a valuable contribution to
his writings; for, although impromptu, the verses show that he could,
even on unexpected occasions, bring into play his innate faculty of
verse with no mean grasp of his subject, and a certain harmony of
rhythmical expression.

Mr. Grundy says, 'On one occasion he (Branwell) thought I was
disposed to treat him distantly at a party, and he retired in great
dudgeon. When I arrived at my lodgings the same evening, I found the
following, necessarily an impromptu:--

    '"The man who will not know another,
      Whose heart can never sympathize,
    Who loves not comrade, friend, or brother,
      Unhonoured lives--unnoticed dies:
    His frozen eye, his bloodless heart,
    Nature, repugnant, bids depart.

    '"O, Grundy! born for nobler aim,
    Be thine the task to shun such shame;
    And henceforth never think that he
    Who gives his hand in courtesy
    To one who kindly feels to him,
    His gentle birth or name can dim.

    '"However mean a man may be,
    Know man _is_ man as well as thee;
    However high thy gentle line,
    Know he who writes can rank with thine;
    And though his frame be worn and dead,
    Some light still glitters round his head.

    '"Yes! though his tottering limbs seem old,
    His heart and blood are not yet cold.
    Ah, Grundy! shun his evil ways,
    His restless nights, his troubled days;
    But never slight his mind, which flies,
    Instinct with noble sympathies,
    Afar from spleen and treachery,
    To thought, to kindness, and to thee.

    '"P. B. BRONTË."'[37]

        [37] 'Pictures of the Past,' pp. 78-79.

Branwell's extreme sensibility caused him, indeed, to exaggerate both
the lights and the shadows of his existence. He was gleeful, as I
found, full of fun, jest, and anecdote, in social circles, or where
literature and art were the theme; and then, almost involuntarily,
would rise to his feet, and, with a beaming countenance, treat the
subject with a vivid flow of imagination, displaying the rich stores
of his information with wondrous and enthralling eloquence. But, under
disappointment or misfortune, he fell a prey to gloomy thoughts, and
reached a state often near akin to despair. It was at such moments
that he usually took up his pen to express, in poetry, the fulness of
his feelings and the depth of his sorrow; and it is to this fact that
the pathetic sadness of most of his writings is due. I have had
occasion already to speak of the melancholy tone which characterized
also the minds of his sisters.

The worth of Branwell's poetic genius about this time,--the year of
1842,--has been unfairly commented upon. Miss Robinson, questioning
the judgment of the Brontë sisters, undertakes to doubt if Branwell's
mental gifts were any better than his moral qualities, and says: 'It
is doubtful, judging from Branwell's letters and his verses, whether
anything much better than his father's "Cottage in the Wood" would
have resulted from his following the advice of James Montgomery.
Fluent ease, often on the verge of twaddle, with here and there a
bright felicitous touch, with here and there a smack of the
conventional hymn-book and pulpit twang--such weak and characterless
effusions are all that is left of the passion-ridden pseudo-genius of
Haworth.'[38]

        [38] 'Emily Brontë,' p. 97.

Miss Robinson's ignorance of Branwell's more matured poems and
writings has caused her, in company with others, to fall into very
grave errors regarding him; and she,--with extreme bitterness, it must
be said,--has embellished her biography of Emily with elaborate
censures of his misdeeds, and with accounts of his imputed glaring
inferiority to his sisters in intellectual power. It is pitiable,
indeed, that Miss Robinson,--and not she alone,--in the want of
Branwell's true life and remains, with nothing to set against the
primary errors of Mrs. Gaskell,--should have joined the hue and cry
against him, and have essayed, almost as of set purpose, to write down
the gifted brother of the author whose life she was giving to the
world.

In 1842 Branwell began to feel more perceptibly the development of his
intellectual powers, and to discern more clearly his natural ability
to define, in poetic and felicitous language, his thoughts, feelings,
and emotions. While under the depression and gloom consequent upon his
disgrace, and the recent loss of his employment, he wrote the three
following sonnets. The profound depth of feeling, expressed with
mournful voice, which pervades them, the full consciousness of woe by
which they are informed, leave nothing wanting in their expression of
pathetic beauty; and they are distinguished by much sweetness of
diction. These sonnets favourably show the poetical genius of
Branwell. His soul is carried beyond his frail mortality; but sadness
and sorrow, enshrouding his imagination, bind it to the precincts of
the tomb. Here, with pessimistic and gloomy philosophy, he bids us,
impressed with the slender sum of human happiness, to recognize the
constant recurrence of the misery to which we are born, and to discern
how little there is beneficent in nature or mankind.

    SONNET I.

    ON LANDSEER'S PAINTING.

    _'The Shepherd's Chief Mourner'--A Dog Keeping Watch at Twilight
    over its Master's Grave._

    The beams of Fame dry up affection's tears;
      And those who rise forget from whom they spring;
      Wealth's golden glories--pleasure's glittering wing--
    All that we follow through our chase of years--
    All that our hope seeks--all our caution fears,
      Dim or destroy those holy thoughts which cling
      Round where the forms we loved lie slumbering;
    But, not with _thee_--our slave--whose joys and cares
      We deem so grovelling--power nor pride are thine,
    Nor our pursuits, nor ties; yet, o'er this grave,
    Where lately crowds the form of mourning gave,
      I only hear _thy_ low heart-broken whine--
      I only see _thee_ left long hours to pine
    For _him_ whom thou--if love had power--would'st save!


    SONNET II.

    ON THE CALLOUSNESS PRODUCED BY CARE.

    Why hold young eyes the fullest fount of tears?
      And why do youthful hearts the oftenest sigh,
      When fancied friends forsake, or lovers fly,
    Or fancied woes and dangers wake their fears?
    Ah! he who asks has known but spring-tide years,
      Or Time's rough voice had long since told him why!
      Increase of days increases misery;
    And misery brings selfishness, which sears
      The heart's first feelings: 'mid the battle's roar,
    In Death's dread grasp, the soldier's eyes are blind
      To comrades dying, and he whose hopes are o'er
    Turns coldest from the sufferings of mankind;
      A bleeding spirit oft delights in gore:
    A tortured heart oft makes a tyrant mind.


    SONNET III.

    _On Peaceful Death and Painful Life._

    Why dost thou sorrow for the happy dead?
      For, if their life be lost, their toils are o'er,
      And woe and want can trouble them no more;
    Nor ever slept they in an earthly bed
    So sound as now they sleep, while dreamless laid
      In the dark chambers of the unknown shore,
      Where Night and Silence guard each sealed door.
    So, turn from such as these thy drooping head,
      And mourn the _Dead Alive_--whose spirit flies--
    Whose life departs, before his death has come;
      Who knows no Heaven beneath Life's gloomy skies,
    Who sees no Hope to brighten up that gloom,--
      'Tis _He_ who feels the worm that never dies,--
    The _real_ death and darkness of the tomb.

It is painful to find the writer of these sad and beautiful sonnets
spoken of in terms of reprobation, as being, at the time he wrote
them, and when asking Mr. Grundy's aid while seeking a situation,
'sunk and contemptible.'

'Alas,' says Miss Robinson, 'no helping hand rescued the sinking
wretch from the quicksands of idle sensuality which slowly engulfed
him!'[39] Let us look further.

        [39] 'Emily Brontë,' p. 99.

The Afghan War, which commenced in 1838, and had secured for the
English arms what seemed at the time a complete conquest, was followed
by the conspiracy of Akbar Khan, the son of Dost Mohammed, which
occurred at the beginning of winter, when help from India was
hopeless. There was an uprising at Cabul, and several officers and men
were slain, which compelled Major Pottinger to submit to humiliating
conditions. The British left Cabul; and the disastrous retreat to
India, through the Khyber Pass, which commenced on January 6th, 1842,
will long be sadly remembered. Of sixteen thousand troops--accompanied
by women and children to the number of ten thousand more--who were
continually harassed by hostile tribes on the way, and benumbed by the
severity of the winter, only one man, Doctor Brydon, survived to tell
the tidings. Branwell, overwhelmed by these horrors, published the
following powerful and impressive poem in the 'Leeds Intelligencer,'
on May the 7th of the same year.

    THE AFGHAN WAR.

    'Winds within our chimney thunder,
      Rain-showers shake each window-pane,
    Still--if nought our household sunder--
      We can smile at wind or rain.
    Sickness shades a loved one's chamber,
      Steps glide gently to and fro,
    Still--'mid woe--our hearts remember
      _We_ are there to soothe that woe.

    'Comes at last the hour of mourning,
      Solemn tolls the funeral bell;
    And we feel that no returning
      Fate allows to such farewell:
    Still a holy hope shines o'er us;
      We wept by the One who died;
    And 'neath earth shall death restore us;
      As round hearthstone--side by side.

    'But--when all at eve, together,
      Circle round the flickering light,
    While December's howling weather
      Ushers in a stormy night:
    When each ear, scarce conscious, listens
      To the outside Winter's war,
    When each trembling eyelash glistens
      As each thinks of _one_ afar--

    Man to chilly silence dying,
      Ceases story, song, and smile;
    Thought asks--"Is the loved one lying
      Cold upon some storm-beat isle?"
    And with death--when doubtings vanish,
      When despair still hopes and fears--
    Though our anguish toil may banish,
      Rest brings unavailing tears.

    'So, Old England--when the warning
      Of thy funeral bells I hear--
    Though thy dead a host is mourning,
      Friends and kindred watch each bier.
    But alas! Atlantic waters
      Bear another sound from far!
    Unknown woes, uncounted slaughters,
      Cruel deaths, inglorious war!

    'Breasts and banners, crushed and gory,
      That seemed once invincible;
    England's children--England's glory,
      Moslem sabres smite and quell!
    Far away their bones are wasting,
      But I hear their spirits call--
    "Is our Mighty Mother hasting
      To avenge her children's fall?"

    'England rise! Thine ancient thunder
      Humbled mightier foes than these;
    Broke a whole world's bonds asunder,
      Gave thee empire o'er the seas:
    And while yet one rose may blossom,
      Emblem of thy former bloom,
    Let not age invade thy bosom--
      Brightest shine in darkest gloom!

    'While one oak thy homes shall shadow,
      Stand like it as thou hast stood;
    While a Spring greets grove and meadow,
      Let not Winter freeze thy blood.
    Till this hour St. George's standard
      Led the advancing march of time;
    England! keep it streaming vanward,
      Conqueror over age and clime!'

In this poem Branwell prefaces his subject with a picture of domestic
suffering--one with which he is familiar--and compares the consolation
which accompanies the affectionate attentions of those present, with
the hopeless fate and untended deaths of such as perish in the storms
and wars of distant places, far away from their homes and friends. In
the true, loyal, and national spirit which animates him, his manly
appeal to England, comprised principally in the last two verses, is
perhaps one of the noblest and most vigorous ever written.

In the May of 1842, Leyland was commissioned to execute certain
monuments for Haworth and its neighbourhood; and, on the 15th of that
month, Branwell wrote to him, in reference to a design for a monument
which he had sent for submission to a committee of which the Rev. P.
Brontë was chairman, and invited him to the parsonage on the 20th of
the month, being sure his father would be pleased to see him. Leyland
visited Haworth and partook of Mr. Brontë's hospitality; and in the
evening, accompanied by the incumbent and his son, appeared before the
monument committee.

Branwell also wrote an interesting letter to Mr. Grundy on May 22nd,
1842, which that gentleman erroneously assigns to 1845.[40] In it he
says that he cannot avoid the temptation, while sitting alone, all the
household being at church, and he being the sole occupant of the
parsonage, to scribble a few lines to cheer his spirits. He alludes to
the extreme pain, illness, and mental depression he has endured since
his dismissal. He describes himself, while at Luddenden Foot, as a
'miserable wreck,' as requiring six glasses of whisky to stimulate
him, as almost insane! And he feels his recovery from this last stage
of his condition to be retarded by 'having nothing to listen to except
the wind moaning among old chimneys and older ash trees,--nothing to
look at except heathery hills, walked over when life had all to hope
for, and nothing to regret.' He reproaches himself, in bitter terms,
with seeking indulgence, while at Luddenden Foot, in failings which
formed, he declares, the black spot on his character. His sister
Charlotte's mind appears to have been cast in the same gloomy mould;
for, when suffering under bodily ailment, or the despondency and
hopelessness which overshadowed her soul, she was impelled, as we have
seen, to make confessions to her friend 'E' of her 'stings of
conscience,' her 'visitings of remorse.' She hates her 'former
flippancy and forwardness.' She is in a state of 'horrid, gloomy
uncertainty,' and clouds are 'gathering darker,' and a more depressing
despondency weighs upon her spirits.[41]

        [40] 'Pictures of the Past,' p. 84.

        [41] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. viii.

In another letter to her friend, Charlotte says she is 'in a strange
state of mind--still gloomy, but not despairing. I keep trying to do
right.... I abhor myself, I despise myself.' And again, later, she
wonders if the new year will be 'stained as darkly as the last with
all our sins, follies, secret vanities, and uncontrolled passions and
propensities,' saying 'I trust not; but I feel in nothing better,
neither humbler nor purer.'[42]

        [42] 'Unpublished letters of Charlotte Brontë,' _Hours at
        Home_, vol. xi.

Branwell, however, while making, in a like tone, his unnecessarily
exaggerated confession to his friend, sets forth his renovation of
soul and body. He has, at length, acquired health, strength, and
soundness of mind far superior to anything he had known at Luddenden
Foot. He can speak cheerfully, and enjoy the company of another,
without his former stimulus. He can write, think, and act, with some
apparent approach to resolution, and he only wants a motive for
exertion to be happier than he has been for years. He has still
something left in him which might do him service. He thinks he ought
not to live too long in solitude, as the world soon forgets those who
wish it 'Goodbye.' Then, although ashamed of it, he asks for answers
to some inquiries he had made about obtaining a new situation,
evidently thinking Mr. Grundy's influence of importance in the matter.

This letter must receive a passing notice. It shows Branwell's mind
vigorous and healthy, although it had been disordered by physical
illness accompanied by brooding melancholy. His picture of the lonely
parsonage and the solitude of the surrounding country, combined with
the expression of his own sad emotions, is graphic enough. His sisters
wrote with the same power and the same artistic feeling. The occasion
of his writing this letter to Mr. Grundy was his wish to obtain some
employment in connection with the railway, and he made this overdrawn
confession of his habits and indulgences when at Luddenden Foot, and
contrasted them with the great mental, moral, and bodily improvement
he had acquired since he left. It was his hope that by this contrast
he might make a favourable impression, and that Mr. Grundy's position
with the Messrs. Stephenson might be a means of helping him to some
employment suited to his tastes and abilities. But Mr. Grundy could
not aid him in this object, which he pursued with all the feverish
eagerness of his urgent and impetuous nature. With great vigour of
expression he declares, 'I would rather give my hand than undergo
again the grovelling carelessness, the malignant yet cold debauchery,
the determination to find how far mind could carry body without both
being chucked into hell.'

But Branwell, at the time of which I speak, was full of energy and
industry; indeed, he could not be idle. He wrote another letter in
reply to one he had received from Mr. Grundy, dated June the 9th,
1842. From this we learn that his friend had either not entertained
his applications, or was unable to further his interests in the
quarter from which employment could come, for he had given
discouraging answers. Branwell felt the disappointment keenly, but
says that it was allayed by Mr. Grundy's kind and considerate tone.
His friend had asked why he did not turn his attention elsewhere. To
this Branwell replies that most of his relations are clergymen, and
others of them, by a private life, removed from the busy world. As for
the church, he declares he has not one mental qualification, 'save,
perhaps, hypocrisy,' which might make him 'cut a figure in its
pulpits.' He informs Mr. Grundy that Mr. James Montgomery and another
literary gentleman, who had lately seen something of his work, wished
him to turn his attention to literature. He declares that he has
little conceit of himself, but that he has a great desire for
activity. He is somewhat changed, yet, although not possessed of the
buoyant spirits of his friend, he might, in dress and appearance,
emulate something like ordinary decency.

In Leyland's art commissions at Haworth, Branwell took great interest,
and in his correspondence considerable activity and industry appear.
He wrote, on June the 29th, 1842, to the sculptor, a letter, in which
he alludes to the conduct of some gentlemen of the committee at
Haworth, who had acted in an unfair way to his friend on a
professional matter. He says:--

'I have not often felt more heartily ashamed than when you left the
committee at Haworth; but I did not like to speak on the subject then,
and I trusted that you would make that allowance, which you have
perhaps often ere now had to do, for gothic ignorance and ill
breeding; and one or two of the persons present afterwards felt that
they had left by no means an enviable impression on your mind.

'Though it is but a poor compliment,--I long much to see you again at
Haworth, and forget for half-a-day the amiable society in which I am
placed, where I never hear a word more musical than an ass's bray.
When you come over, bring with you Mr. Constable, but leave behind
Father Matthew, as his conversation is too cold and freezing for
comfort among the moors of Yorkshire.'

At the bottom of the sheet on which this letter is written, Branwell
has drawn a pen-and-ink sketch of rare merit. The weird waste, which
stretches to the horizon, may represent well the lonely wilds of
Haworth, overshadowed by the clouds of approaching night, and
interspersed with streaks of fading day, among which the crescent moon
appears. In the foreground is a group of monuments, one a tomb sunk on
its side; and, of the head-stones, one is inscribed with the word
'Resurgam.' Branwell was no mean draughtsman, and that his hand did
not shake with the excesses he is represented to have gone through at
this period of his life, the delicacy of this elaborate drawing is
sufficient proof.

Mr. Constable, mentioned in the letter, was an acquaintance of the
sculptor, a gentleman of considerable ability in art and poetry. The
conviviality, which Branwell did not consider altogether a dereliction
of moral duty, led him to make his quiet and humorous allusion to
Father Matthew.


END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.


LONDON: PRINTED BY DUNCAN MACDONALD, BLENHEIM HOUSE.





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