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Title: The Brontë Family, Vol. 2 of 2 - with special reference to Patrick Branwell Brontë
Author: Leyland, Francis A.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Sojourn in Brussels Resolved upon--Why Charlotte fixed on
Brussels for Higher Education--Charlotte and Emily take up
their Residence with Madame Héger--A Picture of the Prospect
in 'Villette'--At the Pensionnat--Madame Héger--Monsieur
Héger--Charlotte likes Brussels--Her Contrast between the
Belgians and the English--Death of Miss Branwell--Return to
Haworth                                                             1


Branwell at the Parsonage: his Loneliness--'The Epicurean's
Song'--'Song'--Northangerland--'Noah's Warning over Methusaleh's
Grave'--Letter to Mr. Grundy--Miss Branwell's Death--Her Will--Her
Nephew Remembered--Injustice done to Him in this Matter by the
Biographers of his Sisters                                         20


Christmas, 1842--Branwell is Cheerful--Charlotte goes to Brussels
for another Year--Branwell receives Appointment as Tutor--Branwell
visits Halifax, and meets Mr. Grundy there--Charlotte's Mental
Depression in Brussels--Mrs. Gaskell attributes it to Branwell's
Conduct--Proofs that it was Not so--Charlotte's 'Disappointment'
at Brussels--She returns to Haworth--Branwell's Misplaced
Attachment--He is sent away to New Scenes                          33


Branwell after his Disappointment--Parallel for his State of Mind
in that of Lady Byron--Mrs. Gaskell's Misconceptions--True State of
the Case--Charlotte Illustrates it in her Poem of 'Preference'--
She alludes to Branwell's Condition in 'The Professor'--Mrs.
Gaskell Compelled to Omit her Account in the Later Editions of
her Work--Branwell's Prostration and Ill-health at the Time        53


Review of Branwell's past Experiences of Life--He seeks Relief
in Literary Occupation--He Proposes to Write a Three-volume
Novel--His Letter on the Subject--One Volume Completed--His
Capability of Writing a Novel--His Letter to Mr. Grundy on his
Disappointment                                                     78


'Real Rest'--Comments--Spirit of Branwell and Emily Identical--
Letter to Leyland--Branwell Broods on his Sorrows--'Penmaenmawr'
--Comments--He still Searches and Hopes for Employment--Charlotte's
somewhat Overdrawn Expressions--The Alleged Elopement Proposal--
Probable Origin of the Story                                       94


The Sisters as Writers of Poetry--They Decide to Publish--Each
begins a Novel--The Spirit under which the Work was Undertaken--
'The Professor'--'Agnes Grey'--'Wuthering Heights'--Branwell's
Condition--A Touching Incident--'Epistle from a Father to a Child
in her Grave'--Letter with Sonnet--Publication of the Sisters'
Poems                                                             113


Death of Branwell's late Employer--Branwell's Disappointment--His
Letters--His Delusion--Leyland's Medallion of Him--Mr. Brontë's
Blindness--Branwell's Statement to Mr. Grundy in Reference to
'Wuthering Heights'--The Sisters Relinquish the Intention of
Opening a School                                                  138


Branwell's Sardonic Humour--Mr. Grundy's Visit to him at
Haworth--Errors regarding the Period of it--Tragic Description
--Probable Ruse of Branwell--Correspondence between him and
Mr. Grundy ceases--Writes to Leyland--A Plaintive Verse--
Another Letter                                                    160


'Wuthering Heights'--Reception of the Book by the Public--It
is Misunderstood--Its Authorship--Mr. Dearden's Account--
Statements of Mr. Edward Sloane and Mr. Grundy--Remarks by Mr.
T. Wemyss Reid--Correspondences between 'Wuthering Heights'
and Branwell's Letters--The 'Carving-knife Episode'--Further
Correspondences--Resemblances of Thought in Branwell and
Emily                                                             178


Statement of Charlotte that her Sister Anne wrote the Book in
consequence of her Brother's Conduct--Supposition of Some that
Branwell was the Prototype of Huntingdon--The Characters are
Entirely Distinct--Real Sources of the Story--Anne Brontë at
Pains to Avoid a Suspicion that Huntingdon was a Portrait of
Branwell                                                           216


Novel-writing--The Sisters' Method of Work--Branwell's Failing
Health and Irregularities--'Jane Eyre'--Its Reception and
Character--It was not Influenced by Branwell--Letter and Sketches
of Branwell, 1848                                                 229


Branwell's Poetical Work--Sketch of the Materials which he
intended to use in the Poem of 'Morley Hall'--The Poem--The
Subject left Incomplete--Branwell's Poem, 'The End of All'--His
Letter to Leyland asking an Opinion on his Poem, 'Percy Hall'
--Observations--The Poem                                          242


Charlotte Corresponds on Literary Subjects--Novels--Confession
of Authorship--Branwell's Failing Health--He Writes to Leyland
--Branwell and Mr. George Searle Phillips--Branwell's Intellect
Retains its Power--His Description of 'Professor Leonidas
Lyon'--The latter Gentleman's Account of his Reading of 'Jane
Eyre'--Branwell's Remarks on Charlotte and the Work               264


Branwell's failing Health--Chronic Bronchitis and Marasmus--His
Death--Charlotte's allusions to it--Correction of some Statements
relating to it--Summary of the subsequent History of the Brontë
Family                                                            277


Branwell's Character in his Poetry--The Pious and Tender Tone
of Mind which it Displays--Branwell's Tendency to Dwell on the
Past rather than on the Future--Illustrated--The Sad Tone of his
Mind--He is Inclined to be Morbid--The Way in which Branwell
regarded Nature--Observations on the Character Displayed in
his Works                                                         287




The Sojourn in Brussels Resolved upon--Why Charlotte fixed on
Brussels for Higher Education--Charlotte and Emily take up their
Residence with Madame Héger--A Picture of the Prospect in 'Villette'
--At the Pensionnat--Madame Héger--Monsieur Héger--Charlotte likes
Brussels--Her Contrast between the Belgians and the English--Death
of Miss Branwell--Return to Haworth.

It was more than a month before Charlotte received the reply from her
Aunt Branwell. Meanwhile she had waited patiently, pending the anxious
discussions at the parsonage, and she breathed not a single word of
the great project to her friend. It was her way to work in obscurity,
and to let her efforts 'be known by their results.' But at last, as I
have said, consent was given to her plan; the necessary money was
forthcoming; and it only remained for her to make the arrangements for
her journey, and Emily had arrangements to make also. There was much
of letter-writing to do, letters to Brussels--whither Charlotte would
of all cities prefer to go,--and to many other places; and there were
clothes to make, and farewells to be said.

It was a great disappointment to Charlotte,--when, having left her
situation at Christmas, 1841, she came to Haworth to join the family
circle,--that Branwell could not be there, and it troubled him very
much too. But the plans were talked over, the letters were written,
and Charlotte did not repent her boldness,--nay, she looked forward
confidently to the venture. It seems a strange ambitious plan to us,
and one showing little knowledge of the world, this of spending six
months in Brussels, in that short time to become thoroughly acquainted
with French, to be improved in Italian, and get a dash of German; and,
so provided with accomplishments, to set up a successful school at
Burlington,--for the Dewsbury Moor project had already been

Brussels was fixed upon by Charlotte for several reasons: because it
was a cheap journey, because education could be had there at any rate
as good as at any other place in Europe, and perhaps better; and then,
Mary and Martha T----, her friends, were staying at Brussels at the
Château de Kokleberg, and Mary, with Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the
English chaplain, would find the desired _pensionnat_. But there
was a temporary disappointment: it was reported that the schools in
Brussels were not good; and Charlotte immediately set to work to
discover another establishment, which was found at Lille--one that
Baptist Noel recommended, where the terms were £50 for each pupil. It
had been at last arranged that Charlotte and Emily should journey to
this place, about the middle of February, 1842, under the escort of
Madame Marzials, a lady then in London, when again the plans were
changed. Mrs. Jenkins, the chaplain's wife, had discovered, to
Charlotte's great delight, the establishment of Madame Héger in the
Rue d'Isabelle, at Brussels, which was greatly eulogized, and thither
it was finally decided that the two sisters could go.

Charlotte went to Brussels with a stout heart and in perfect
confidence, and she left no regrets behind her; but it was not so
with Emily. The elder sister was cast in a different mould from the
younger; there was a spice of adventure in her composition, and the
pleasure, too, of seeing new places was keen. It had been said to her
by some inward voice, as to Lucy Snowe, who is the truest portrait
of Charlotte, 'Leave this wilderness, and go out hence;' and she
answered the query, 'Where?' with a sharp determination; and went out
to enter into the spirit of the things she met, wherever her mental
constitution would enable her to do so. 'For background,' she says
of her journey in 'Villette,' 'spread a sky, solemn and dark blue,
and--grand with imperial promise, with tints of enchantment--strode
from north to south a God-bent bow, an arch of hope:' but that was to
be struck out. 'Cancel that, reader--or rather let it stand, and draw
thence a moral--an alliterative, text-hand copy:

    '"Day-dreams are delusions of the demon."'

So was Charlotte to be disillusioned. But what a fairyland had she
fashioned to herself of that gay Belgian capital, and what painful
memories she brought thence! For, according to Mr. Wemyss Reid,--and
doubtless he is right--her stay in Brussels with Emily, and afterwards
alone, was the turning-point in Charlotte's career, and the record of
it in 'Villette' was wrung from her as her heart's blood, amid
paroxysms of positive anguish. But of these things she knew nothing in
the January of 1842; then the future slept in sunny calm, so sunny,
indeed, that to part from Haworth, and those she knew there, her
father and her brother and sister, gave her scarcely a pang; and
afterwards, so far as one can trace, from her letters, and from
'Villette,' which expresses even more, the troubles of the parsonage
were never acute troubles to her. Her joys and troubles abroad were in
fact her own, and they were borne and suffered alone.

But, with Emily, Haworth was no wilderness, a paradise rather, and
with bitter pain she left the moors that the coming summer should
cover with purple billows. For Emily Brontë was inspired far more than
her sister with the influences of locality and of her home. Amidst the
distant Yorkshire hills dwelt, too, her father, with Branwell and
Anne, whom she loved more than all else in the world; and many an
hour, sitting in the bare rooms of the _pensionnat_, she pondered
on their hopes and their sorrows. We cannot say that Emily's sojourn
in Brussels changed her in any way whatever, nor that she was made by
it of any nearer kinship with the outside world.

Mr. Brontë accompanied his daughters, and Mary and her brother, who
travelled with them to Brussels. They stayed a day or two in London,
at the Chapter coffee-house in Paternoster Row, and a good deal of
sight-seeing was done before they left for the Belgian capital. In
'Villette' Charlotte has told us of her first visit to London, and of
the travelling to Labassecour, but the actual details refer more
probably to her second journey thither. Yet we may feel sure that it
was with the same spirit that she saw the metropolis, that she
revelled in its busy life and in the earnestness that moved it. We may
imagine her on the dome of St. Paul's looking over the river with its
bridges, and, alongside it, the Temple Gardens, and Westminster
beyond; and we may see her in the classic ground of Paternoster Row.
Emily has left no record of her feelings on this journey, but we may
be sure they differed very much from Charlotte's. We have an account
in 'The Professor' of William Crimsworth's feelings when he entered
Belgium, and they were doubtless Charlotte's also. 'This is Belgium,
reader. Look! don't call the picture flat or a dull one--it was
neither flat nor dull to me when I first beheld it. When I left Ostend
on a fine February morning, and found myself on the road to Brussels,
nothing could look vapid to me. My sense of enjoyment possessed an
edge whetted to the finest; untouched, keen, exquisite.... Liberty I
clasped in my arms for the first time, and the influence of her smile
and embrace revived my life like the sun and the west wind.'

It was proposed at the time that the two sisters should remain in the
_pensionnat_ until the _grandes vacances_ in September, when they were
to return home. They were in Brussels then to work, and the boisterous
schoolgirls found no companions in them, for they remained together
for a long time, and read and studied apart. These two sisters did not
easily make friends; they were shy, and their companions thought them
peculiar--Charlotte, clad in her plain, home-made dress, and Emily,
with her gigot sleeves and long, straight skirts, walking in the
garden together. Mrs. Jenkins told Mrs. Gaskell that she asked them to
spend Sundays and holidays with her, but at last she found that even
these visits gave them more pain than pleasure, and thenceforth they
remained away. This reserve never passed from Emily entirely, but
Charlotte afterwards gained confidence and made friends.

There were memories, as Mrs. Gaskell records, connected with Madame
Héger's house in the Rue d'Isabelle, of mediæval chivalry and romance,
which are doubtless reflected in the visits of the nun to the
_grenier_ and the old garden where Lucy Snowe is. From the gay, bright
Rue Royale four flights of steps lead down to the Rue d'Isabelle, and
the chimneys of its houses are level with one's feet as one stands at
the top of them. The quiet street was called the Fossé aux Chiens in
the thirteenth century, because the ducal kennels were there, on the
site of Madame Héger's house; but these gave place later to a hospital
for the homeless and the poor. Afterwards the Arbalétriers du Grand
Serment had their place there, and noble company visited them, and
great ceremonials and feasts they gave. Later again the street was
called the Rue d'Isabelle, because the Infanta Isabella induced the
Arbalétriers to allow a road to be made through their grounds, and
built them in return a noble mansion close by, which was afterwards
Madame Héger's.

William Crimsworth saw the establishment. 'I remember, before entering
the park, I stood awhile to contemplate the statue of General
Belliard, and then I advanced to the top of the great staircase just
beyond, and I looked down into a narrow back street, which I
afterwards learnt was called the Rue d'Isabelle. I well recollect that
my eye rested on the green door of a rather large house opposite,
where, on a brass plate, was inscribed, "Pensionnat de Demoiselles."'

Madame Héger, the mistress of this _pensionnat_, was a woman of
capacity, and understood the duties of her position, but apparently
Charlotte did not get on very well with her, and in the second year of
the residence in Brussels they were estranged. It was said that the
_directrice_ had 'quelque chose de froid et de compassé dans son
maintien,' which did not prepossess people in her favour; and
Charlotte, it appears, had little tolerance of her beliefs or her
prejudices. Monsieur Héger, unlike his wife, was of a quick and
energetic nature, choleric and irritable in temperament, but withal
gentle and benevolent also. It was said that there were few characters
so noble and admirable as his, that he was a zealous member of the
Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and that, after days occupied in
arduous educational work, he was wont to gather the poor together in
order that he might amuse and instruct them at the same time. He gave
up his lucrative position, too, as prefect of the studies at the
Athenée because he could not succeed in introducing religious
instruction into the curriculum there. Very many traits of Monsieur
Héger's character are reproduced in that of Paul Emanuel.

The school was a large and prosperous one, conducted as continental
schools usually are, and Charlotte, in a short time, was happy in the
busy life she led there. She has left an admirable picture, a
veritable photograph, of the establishment in the pages of 'Villette,'
which indeed contains her mental history during her sojourn there. The
training through which she and Emily were put was different from that
of the other pupils. Monsieur Héger was quick to perceive that they
were capable of greater things than most people, so he took the bold
step of putting them to the higher walks of French literature,
omitting the general work of grammar and vocabulary; and his
experiment was justified by its success.

Charlotte and Emily, with one other girl and the _governante_ of
Madame Héger's children, were the only exceptions to the Catholicism
of the house, and the Brontës found that this difference cut them off
in sympathy from the rest of the inhabitants. 'We are completely
isolated in the midst of numbers,' says Charlotte; but she adds, 'I
think I am never unhappy; my present life is so delightful, so
congenial to my own nature, compared with that of a governess. My
time, constantly occupied, passes too rapidly.' We do not find that
news from home gave her trouble, nor that she was particularly uneasy
in her absence. 'I don't deny,' she says later, 'that I have brief
attacks of home-sickness; but, on the whole, I have borne a very
valiant heart so far; and I have been happy in Brussels, because I
have always been fully occupied with the employments that I like.'

Charlotte's happiness at this time was in herself. She lived in bright
anticipation of the time when it should be possible to the sisters to
open a school, which was to be the reward of their arduous studies,
and of that love for work and that perseverance of which Monsieur
Héger spoke in his letter to Mr. Brontë, written when Charlotte and
Emily were called to Haworth. Lucy Snowe in 'Villette' tells of such
hopes; of the tenement which she shall take, with its one large room
and two or three smaller ones; of the few benches and desks, the black
tableau, and the _estrade_, with its chair, tables, chalks, and
sponge, where she shall teach the day-scholars. 'Madame Beck's
commencement was--as I have often heard her say--from no higher
starting-point, and where is she now?' This was the hope which Lucy
Snowe repeated to Monsieur Paul, and it pleased him, though he called
it 'an Alnaschar dream.' But it was the salt of Charlotte's life
during the first months of her residence in Brussels.

Brussels was liked by Charlotte, and she calls it a beautiful city;
and she liked the country about it, though it differed so much from
her own hilly Haworth. But she did not like its inhabitants; the
Belgians were to her people of a lower order; she could not enter into
their pleasures, and she did not understand them. Charlotte, with her
restricted views of life, came into the midst of strangers; she found
them different from her ideal, and she was repulsed by them. The two
books in which she has recorded her impressions of the Belgians are
occupied with a frequent contrast of 'the daughter of Albion and
nursling of Protestantism' with 'the foster-child of Rome, the
protegée of Jesuitry,' always to the disadvantage of the latter.
Mesdemoiselles Eulalie, Hortense, and Caroline in 'The Professor,'
and Mesdemoiselles Blanche, Virginie, and Angélique in 'Villette,'
are Charlotte's types of the Belgian female--heavy, stolid,
unimpressionable to good, sensual, gross, and unintellectual. The
Labasse-couriennes were 'a swinish multitude,' not to be driven by
force; 'whenever a lie was necessary for their occasions, they brought
it out with a careless ease and breadth, altogether untroubled by
any rebuke of conscience;' and they were cold, animal, and selfish.
Nevertheless, occupied in her duties, Charlotte was happy, even with
these companions. We have no actual means of knowing what Emily
thought of them, for her life amongst them was never reproduced in
her writings, and it made but little permanent impression upon her.
Charlotte said that her sister worked 'like a horse,' and that she
did not get on well with Monsieur Héger.

The two sisters had now friends in Brussels, for they sometimes saw
Mary and Martha T---- who were staying there at the Château de
Kokleberg, and these young ladies had cousins in the city, whose house
was often a pleasant meeting-place. But Emily made little progress
with these friendships.

The _grandes vacances_ began in September, but Charlotte and Emily did
not return home then as had been intended; all was well at Haworth,
and there was no reason why they should. Madame Héger made a proposal
that they should remain six months more, Charlotte as English teacher,
and Emily to instruct some pupils in music; and they were to continue
their studies and have board without payment, but they were offered no
salary. These terms were at last accepted, and the sisters remained
through the long _vacances_ with a few boarders who were also there,
and Charlotte, at least, was happy.

But a year later, when the rooms of the _pensionnat_ were once
more deserted, and Emily far away in the parsonage at Haworth, there
can be no doubt that she became again subject to that melancholia
which had previously been remarked in her when she was at Miss
Wooler's. The excitement of her first sojourn at Brussels wore off,
she found no novelty in the things she saw, and she was left to
solitary reflection a great deal. But her melancholy began with
herself. 'My youth is leaving me,' she said to Mary; 'I can never do
better than I have done, and I have done nothing yet,' and she seemed
at such times, according to this friend, 'to think that most human
beings were destined by the pressure of worldly interests to lose one
faculty and feeling after another, till they went dead altogether. I
hope I shall be put in my grave as soon as I'm dead; I don't want to
walk about so,' she added. Mary advised her to go home or elsewhere,
when she was in this state, for the sake of change, and Charlotte
thanked her for the advice, but did not take it.

'That vacation! Shall I ever forget it? I think not,' says Lucy
Snowe.... 'My heart almost died within me; miserable longings strained
its cords. How long were the September days! How silent, how lifeless!
How vast and void seemed the desolate premises! How gloomy the
forsaken garden,--grey now with the dust of a town summer departed!'
To Lucy Snowe the future gave no promise of comfort; and a sorrowful
indifference to existence often pressed upon her,--a 'despairing
resignation to reach betimes the end of all things earthly.' She found
the future but a hopeless desert: 'tawny sands, with no green fields,
no palm-tree, no well in view.' And these were the thoughts, too, that
oppressed Charlotte Brontë in Brussels and sorely weighed her down. It
was in one of these fits of depression, overcome with melancholy, that
she found consolation in the confessional, when she poured her tale of
solitary sorrow into the ear of a priest--a Père Silas, like him in
'Villette,' who spoke of peace and hope to Lucy Snowe.

Troubles of another kind had, however, broken in sadly enough on the
close of Charlotte's first _vacances_ in Brussels in 1842, when
she and Emily were greatly shocked by the death of Martha T---- at the
Château de Kokleberg, after a very short illness. This was a great
grief to the little circle in Brussels, for the dead girl had been a
bright and affectionate companion,--bewailed under the name of Jessie
in 'Shirley,'--and she was deeply lamented. But another grief awaited
the Brontë sisters; they heard that their aunt Branwell was ill,--was
dead; they were wanted at home; and at once, after very hasty
preparation, they left Brussels, Emily not to return. They came back
to the parsonage at Haworth, to find the funeral over, and the house
deprived of one who had been its support and guardian for years.

Thus their stay in Brussels was suddenly cut short, and their studies
were interrupted; but they had learned a good deal during their stay
there. Monsieur Héger wrote to console Mr. Brontë on his loss; and
said that in another year the two girls would have been secured
against the eventualities of the future. They were being instructed,
and, at the same time, were acquiring the art of instruction: Emily
was learning the piano, and receiving lessons from the best Belgian
professors; and she had little pupils herself. 'Elle perdait donc à la
fois un reste d'ignorance et un reste plus gênant encore de timidité.'
Charlotte was beginning to give French lessons, and to gain 'cette
assurance, cet aplomb si nécessaire dans l'enseignement.' It was this
kind letter from Monsieur Héger that afterwards induced Mr. Brontë to
allow Charlotte to return to Brussels.



Branwell at the Parsonage: his Loneliness--'The Epicurean's
Song'--'Song'--Northangerland--'Noah's Warning over Methusaleh's
Grave'--Letter to Mr. Grundy--Miss Branwell's Death--Her Will--Her
Nephew Remembered--Injustice done to Him in this Matter by the
Biographers of his Sisters.

During the absence of his sisters Charlotte and Emily in Brussels, and
while Anne was away as a governess, Branwell no doubt felt lonely at
the parsonage at Haworth; but he appears to have sought consolation
from his troubles in the soothing influences of music and poetry. He
knew that these employments softened many of the difficulties that
beset the road of human life, and that they introduced men into a
purer and nobler sphere than that which is called reality. He felt
that they led 'the spirit on, in an ecstasy of admiration, of sweet
sorrow, or of unearthly joy, to the music of harmonious, and not
wholly intelligible words, raising in the mind beauteous and
transcendent images.' Whatever may have been said as to Branwell's
proneness to self-indulgence, and his enjoyment of society, even that
of 'The Bull,' and of the corrupt of Haworth, none of his alleged
depravity and coarseness of disposition disfigured his verses, however
deficient his early effusions may have been in the higher excellencies
of the Muse. From the general tenor of his writings, which is
religious and sometimes philosophical, he seems, under his
misfortunes, which were ever with him in one shape or another, to have
sought consolation in the shadowed paths of poetry and reflection.

Some lights now and then diversify the general gloom of his stanzas;
but, even then, an air of sadness still pervades them. More I shall
find to say on the special features of Branwell's poems in the later
pages of the present work.

He wrote the following verses in 1842:


    'The visits of Sorrow
      Say, why should we mourn?
    Since the sun of to-morrow
      May shine on its urn;
        And all that we think such pain
        Will have departed,--then
    Bear for a moment what cannot return;

    'For past time has taken
      Each hour that it gave,
    And they never awaken
      From yesterday's grave;
        So surely we may defy
        Shadows, like memory,
    Feeble and fleeting as midsummer wave.

    'From the depths where they're falling
      Nor pleasure, nor pain,
    Despite our recalling,
      Can reach us again;
        Though we brood over them,
        Nought can recover them,
    Where they are laid, they must ever remain.

    'So seize we the present,
      And gather its flowers,
    For,--mournful or pleasant,--
      'Tis all that is ours;
        While daylight we're wasting,
        The evening is hasting,
    And night follows fast on vanishing hours.

    'Yes,--and we, when night comes,
      Whatever betide,
    Must die as our fate dooms,
      And sleep by their side;
        For _change_ is the only thing
        Always continuing;
    And it sweeps creation away with its tide.'

Here Branwell, writing, contrary to his custom, in a gay mood, forgets
the failures of the past, diverting his mind from them by seeking
serenity in the diversions which now and then lighten his path. He is
perfectly conscious of the fleeting nature of earthly things; and,
with that natural and felicitous faculty of versification with which
his images and figures are invariably described, he invests the
Epicurean with the hopes of the Optimist, or with the indifference of
the Stoic to the shadows which ever and anon dim the pleasures of
human existence. There is nothing assuredly in this lyric of the
'pulpit twang,' to which Miss Robinson refers, nor is it a 'weak and
characterless effusion.'

To the year 1842 belongs the following song which in feeling reminds
one of Burns' 'Auld Lang Syne.' The subject, however, is distinct, and
is pervaded by a profound sentiment of enduring affection, and is
expressive of the deepest feeling in reference to it.


    'Should life's first feelings be forgot,
      As Time leaves years behind?
    Should man's for ever changing lot
      Work changes in the mind?

    'Should space, that severs heart from heart,
      The heart's best thoughts destroy?
    Should years, that bid our youth depart,
      Bid youthful memories die?

    'Oh! say not that these coming years
      Will warmer friendships bring;
    For friendship's joys, and hopes, and fears,
      From deeper fountains spring.

    'Its feelings to the _heart_ belong;
      Its sign--the glistening eye,
    While new affections on the _tongue_,
      Arise and live and die.

    'So, passing crowds may _smiles_ awake
      The passing hour to cheer;
    But only old acquaintance' sake
      Can ever form a tear.'

Leyland was himself a poet, as I have said, and a literary critic of
ability and judgment. Branwell submitted some poems to him for
opinion, and he advised his friend to publish them with his name
appended, rather than under the pseudonym of 'Northangerland,' for he
considered them creditable to his genius. But Branwell, on July 12th,
1842, writing to Leyland, asking some technical questions, says, in a
postscript, 'Northangerland has so long wrought on in secret and
silence that he dare not take your kind encouragement in the light
which _vanity_ would prompt him to do.'

On August 10th, 1842, he wrote to Leyland in reference to a monument,
which that sculptor had recently put up at Haworth, and he concluded
by saying:

'When you see Mr. Constable--to whom I shall write directly,--be
kind enough to tell him that--owing to my absence from home when it
arrived, and to the carelessness of those who neglected to give it me
on my return,--I have only _now_ received his note. Its injunctions
shall be gladly attended to; but he would better please me by
refraining from any slurs on the fair fame of Charles Freeman or
Benjamin Caunt, Esquires.'

Branwell did not lose his early interest in the 'noble science,' but
continued it with a half-serious constancy. Constable and Leyland
regarded the pugilistic encounters of the 'Ring' as brutal and
degrading, but Branwell always professed to defend its champions with
energy and zeal; and in this letter he playfully alludes to two of
them. Among his literary labours of the year 1842 is the following
poem. It is entitled:


    'Brothers and men! one moment stay
      Beside your latest patriarch's grave,
    While God's just vengeance yet delay,
      While God's blest mercy yet can save.

    'Will you compel my tongue to say,
      That underneath this nameless sod
    Your hands, with mine, have laid to-day
      The _last_ on earth who walked with God?

    'Shall the pale corpse, whose hoary hairs
      Are just surrendered to decay,
    Dissolve the chain which bound our years
      To hundred ages passed away?

    'Shall six-score years of warnings dread
      Die like a whisper on the wind?
    Shall the dark doom above your head,
      Its blinded victims darker find?

    'Shall storms from heaven _without_ the world,
      Find wilder storms from hell _within_?
    Shall long-stored, late-come wrath be hurled;
      Or,--will you, can you turn from sin?

    'Have patience, if too plain I speak,
      For time, my sons, is hastening by;
    Forgive me if my accents break:
      Shall _I_ be saved and _Nature_ die?

    'Forgive that pause:--one look to Heaven
      Too plainly tells me, he is gone,
    Who long with me in vain had striven
      For earth and for its peace alone.

    'He's gone!--my Father--full of days,--
      From life which left no joy for him;
    Born in creation's earliest blaze;
      Dying--himself, its latest beam.

    'But he is gone! and, oh, behold,
      Shown in his death, God's latest sign!
    Than which more plainly never told
      An Angel's presence His design.

    'By it, the evening beams withdrawn
      Before a starless night descend;
    By it, the last blest spirit born
      From this beginning of an end;

    'By all the strife of civil war
      That beams within yon fated town;
    By all the heart's worst passions there,
      That call so loud for vengeance down;

    'By that vast wall of cloudy gloom,
      Piled boding round the firmament;
    By all its presages of doom,
      Children of men--Repent! Repent!'

This poem has also the impress of sadness, but the onward sweep and
dignity of its verse are not ruffled by the turbulent undercurrents of
Branwell's mood. The idea of the piece is well borne out in majestic
and suitable language, though some instances of that incoherence and
indefiniteness which, at intervals, distinguish the earlier poems of
his sisters, may be noticed in it.

In the latter part of the year 1842 the state of Miss Branwell's
health became a cause of anxiety to the Brontë family. Acquainted as
they had been, in years gone by, with sickness and death, they
sorrowed, in anticipation of the inevitable loss of the lady, who had
been for long years as a mother to them. Under the shadow which spread
over their home, Branwell wrote to his friend--Mr. Grundy--referring
to it, saying that he was attending the death-bed of his aunt who had
been for twenty years as his mother. In another letter to Mr. Grundy,
of the 29th of October, Branwell thus alludes in affectionate terms to
her death:

'I am incoherent, I fear, but I have been waking two nights witnessing
such agonizing suffering as I would not wish my worst enemy to endure;
and I have now lost the pride and director of all the happy days
connected with my childhood. I have suffered such sorrow since I last
saw you at Haworth, that I should not now care if I were fighting in
India or ----, since, when the mind is depressed, danger is the most
effectual cure. But you don't like croaking, I know well, only I
request you to understand from my two notes that I have not forgotten
_you_, but _myself_.'[1]

        [1] 'Pictures of the Past,' p. 83.

Charlotte and Emily hurried home from Brussels on the death of their
aunt, as is stated in the last chapter, to find her already interred.

Mrs. Gaskell, alluding to the death of Miss Branwell, has given the
following version of that lady's will. She says:

'The small property which she (Miss Branwell) had accumulated, by dint
of personal frugality and self-denial, was bequeathed to her nieces.
Branwell, her darling, was to have had his share; but his reckless
expenditure had distressed the good old lady, and his name was omitted
in her will.'[2]

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

Miss Robinson, implicitly, and without reflection, following this
author, says:

'Miss Branwell's will had to be made known. The little property that
she had saved out of her frugal income was all left to her three
nieces. Branwell had been her darling, the only son, called by her
name; but his disgrace had wounded her too deeply. He was not even
mentioned in her will.'[3]

        [3] 'Emily Brontë,' p. 102.

Miss Elizabeth Branwell had made her will in the year 1833 (when her
nephew was about fifteen years of age), by which she left the
following items to the children of Mr. Brontë:--

    To Charlotte, an Indian Workbox.

    To Emily Jane, a Workbox with China top, and an Ivory Fan.

    To Branwell, a Japanese Dressing-case.

    To Anne, her Watch, Eye Glass, and Chain.

Amongst these three nieces, her rings, silver spoons, books, clothes,
&c., were to be divided as their father should think proper. Her
money, arising from various sources, she left in trust for the benefit
of her nieces, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, and Elizabeth Jane,
the daughter of her sister, Jane Kingston, to be equally divided among
them, when the youngest should have attained the age of twenty-one
years. But, if these died, all was to go to her niece, Anne Kingston,
and if she died, the accumulated money was to be divided between the
children of her 'dear brother and sisters.' Had Branwell, who was one
of these 'children,' survived his own sisters, and the cousin referred
to in the will, he would have been one, if not the sole, recipient of
the accumulated money in question. This contingency was present to
Miss Branwell's mind when she made the bequest, and it was never
either altered or revoked.

It is amazing that so much ignorance should have been displayed on a
subject so easily capable of being correctly stated; but it is
lamentable that this ignorance should have led the biographers of the
Brontës, by erroneous statements, to inflict additional and unmerited
injury on Branwell.



Christmas, 1842--Branwell is Cheerful--Charlotte goes to Brussels for
another Year--Branwell receives Appointment as Tutor--Branwell visits
Halifax, and meets Mr. Grundy there--Charlotte's Mental Depression in
Brussels--Mrs. Gaskell attributes it to Branwell's Conduct--Proofs
that it was Not so--Charlotte's 'Disappointment' at Brussels--She
returns to Haworth--Branwell's Misplaced Attachment--He is sent away
to New Scenes.

The death of Miss Branwell had brought Charlotte and Emily home from
Brussels; and Anne, from her situation, was present on the sad
occasion. When the Christmas holidays came round, the sisters were all
at home again. Branwell was with them; which was always a pleasure at
that time, and Charlotte's friend, 'E,' came to see her. Having
overcome the first pang of grief on the death of their aunt, they
enjoyed their Christmas very much together. Branwell was cheerful and
even merry; and in Charlotte's next letter, written in a happy mood
to her friend, who had just left them, he sent a playful message.
'Branwell wants to know,' says Charlotte, 'why you carefully excluded
all mention of him, when you particularly send your regards to every
other member of the family. He desires to know in what he has offended
you? Or whether it is considered improper for a young lady to mention
the gentlemen of a house?'[4] While they were together, plans for
the future were talked over with eagerness and hope. Charlotte had
accepted the proposal of Monsieur Héger that she should return to
Brussels for another year, when she would have completed her knowledge
of French and be fully qualified to commence a school on a footing
which was yet impossible. Emily was to remain at home now to attend to
her father's house, and Anne was to return to her situation as

        [4] 'Unpublished Letters of Charlotte Brontë,' _Hours at
        Home_, chap. xi., p. 204.

Branwell also found occupation as tutor in the same family where Anne
had been for some time employed. He commenced his duties, in his new
position, after the Christmas holidays of the year 1842. On his
arrival at the house of his employer, he was introduced to the members
of the family; and it is not too much to say that his new friends were
more than satisfied with his graceful manners, his wit, and the extent
of his information. Here Branwell felt himself happy; for, contrary to
his expectation, he had found, to his mind, a pleasant pasture, with
comparative ease, where he had only looked for the usual drudgery of a
tutor's work. His family were contented that he was thus respectably
and hopefully employed. The gentleman, who had engaged Branwell as
tutor to his son, was a man of some literary attainments; he was fond
of rural sports, and had an urbane disposition, and quick perceptions.
His wife was a lady of lofty bearing, of graceful manners, and kindly
condescension; and, although approaching middle age at the time, was
possessed of great personal attractions.

If the Brontës were glad at Branwell's appointment, the family he had
entered were equally gratified that they had obtained a teacher whose
talents they considered to be equalled only by his virtues. The time
of his master, who was a clergyman, was often taken up with the duties
and engagements of his position, and his lady was generally occupied
with the cares of home and the enjoyments of fashionable country life.
Branwell was not, therefore, too much harassed in the discharge of his
duties; and he found, in the family in which he was placed, none of
the rigid formality which might have rendered his position irksome.
His occupation was varied by many rambles in the neighbourhood with
his pupil; and, in the evening, after the duties of the day were
discharged, when he retired to the farmstead where he lived, his time
was entirely at his own disposal.

Unlike Anne, Branwell was not troubled with an excess of diffidence.
Being naturally of an amiable and sociable disposition, he soon formed
acquaintances in the neighbourhood of his sojourn, and among them was
Dr. ----, physician to the family in which he was a tutor. Besides,
being possessed of a fund of anecdote, combined with an entertaining
manner of relating stories, that alone made him excellent company,
Branwell was found to be a thorough musician, for he had further
cultivated this taste and acquired considerable skill in performance.

Six months soon passed away, and Branwell and Anne once more made the
parsonage at Haworth happy with their presence. One of Branwell's
first impulses, after his welcome at home, was to visit his friends at
Halifax; where, on this occasion, he had the pleasure of meeting with
Mr. Grundy. On the return of himself and his sister to their duties,
there is no doubt that he continued the exertions he had made to
conduct himself with such prudent diligence and self-possession as to
ingratiate himself into the good favour of the family with whom he

Charlotte was in the Rue d'Isabelle as English teacher; where, having
gained a familiarity with the French language, though growing
home-sick and not well, she resolved to remain till the end of the
year; and, if possible, to acquire a knowledge of German.

It was at the beginning of August, as the _vacances_ approached,
that Charlotte became dispirited. The prospect of five weeks of
loneliness in a deserted house, in a foreign city, was more than she
could bear: the last English friend was leaving Brussels: she would
have no one to whom she could turn her thoughts. 'I forewarn you, I am
in low spirits,' she writes,--'that earth and heaven are dreary and
empty to me at this moment.' For the first time in her life she really
dreaded the vacation; 'Alas,' she says, 'I can hardly write, I have
such a dreary weight at my heart; and I do so wish to go home. Is not
this childish?' Yet she was bravely resolved, despite her weakness, to
bear up, to stay; but for Charlotte Brontë, as for Lucy Snowe, those
September days were days of suffering. Once, a little later, her
resolution failed her. She was alone, on some holiday; the other
inmates had gone to visit their friends in the city; Charlotte had
none there now. She was solitary, and felt herself neglected by Madame
Héger; she could bear it no longer, so she went to madame herself and
told her she could not stay; but Monsieur Héger, hearing of it, with
characteristic vehemence, pronounced his decision that she should not
leave, and she remained.

Mrs. Gaskell describes her suffering from depression of mind, arising
from ill-health, in her second year at Brussels, in gloomy terms, and
this seems, indeed, to be the main point she is aiming to illustrate.
She says: 'There were causes for distress and anxiety in the news from
home, particularly as regarded Branwell. In the dead of the night,
lying awake at the end of the long deserted dormitory, in the vast and
silent house, every fear respecting those whom she loved, and who were
so far off in another country, became a terrible reality, oppressing
her and choking up the very life-blood in her heart. Those nights were
times of sick, dreary, wakeful misery, precursors of many such in
after years.'[5] Mr. T. Wemyss Reid, in his monograph on Charlotte,
has very properly taken exception to the manner in which Mrs. Gaskell
has laid stress upon and exaggerated the occasional depression from
which Charlotte suffered; and, certainly, there is nothing to show, in
any of her letters from Brussels, that there was cause for anxiety on
Branwell's account. On the contrary, there is very good evidence that
nothing of the kind interfered with his sister's peace. Charlotte left
Brussels at the end of the year 1843, and arrived at Haworth on the
2nd of January, 1844. Branwell and Anne were also at home for the
Christmas holidays, and Charlotte wrote to her friend 'E' in these
words: 'Anne and Branwell have just left us to return to ----; they
are both wonderfully valued in their situations.'[6]

        [5] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. xii.

        [6] 'Unpublished Letters of Charlotte Brontë,' _Hours at
        Home_, xi.

It was known, then, that Branwell had given satisfaction to his
employers, and the happiness at this reunion of the family would have
been complete had it not been for one circumstance. Charlotte's
friends were now expecting that she would commence a school. She
desired it, she says, above all things. She had sufficient money for
the undertaking, and hoped she had some qualifications for success.
Yet she could not then enter upon it. 'You will ask me, why?' she
writes. 'It is on papa's account; he is now, as you know, getting old,
and it grieves me to tell you that he is losing his sight. I have felt
for some months that I ought not to be away from him; and I feel now
it would be too selfish to leave him (at least so long as Branwell and
Anne are absent) in order to pursue selfish interests of my own.' She
appears, from an observation in one of her letters, written some time
after the date at which we have arrived, to have regretted having gone
to Brussels a second time. She says, 'I returned to Brussels after
aunt's death against my conscience, prompted by what then seemed an
irresistible impulse. I was punished for my selfish folly by a total
withdrawal for more than two years of happiness and peace of mind.'[7]
While Charlotte was still at Brussels she heard that some of her
friends thought that the '_époux_ of Mademoiselle Brontë' must be
on the Continent, since she had declined a situation of £50 a year in
England, and accepted one at £16, and returned to Belgium. This she
appears, in a letter to one of them, to deny; though, whether with the
intention of piquing her friend, or avoiding the question, is not
distinct. Mr. Reid believes that, in this second sojourn at Brussels,
Charlotte Brontë passed through an experience of the heart which
proved the turning-point of her life, and made her what she was; and
that it was not the subsequent misfortunes of her brother, as Mrs.
Gaskell asks us to believe, that destroyed the happiness of her

        [7] 'Charlotte Brontë,' by T. Wemyss Reid, chap. vi.

        [8] 'Charlotte Brontë, a Monograph.'

In the middle of March, when the sisters had finished 'shirt-making
for the absent Branwell,' Charlotte took a holiday to visit her
friend, by which her health was improved. On her return she found Mr.
Brontë and Emily well, and a letter from Branwell, intimating that he
and Anne were pretty well, too.

Branwell visited Halifax on the 4th of July of this year. His health
at that time was not so good as formerly, and his sisters noticed that
he was excitable. Till within two or three months of his leaving
Luddenden Foot, when he had attained his twenty-fifth year, though not
strong, he had enjoyed good health, his spirits having almost always
been good. In his youth, unlike Charlotte, he had had no experience of
severe mental depression, no deep suffering from religious melancholy.
It was only when he turned to reflection that he became serious, and
that his thoughts were shaded with the sadness evinced in some of his
early poems. Now, however, his nerve-force was less certain; and,
being more easily excited, that exuberance of spirit and that
elasticity of mind which had distinguished him showed symptoms of
decay. It was not to be expected that he should retain his more
youthful characteristics through life: and Charlotte has told us,
about this time, that something within herself, which used to be
enthusiasm, was tamed down and broken; she longed for an active stake
in life. As she was unable to leave home, she endeavoured to open a
School at Haworth Parsonage. Could she have obtained the promise of
pupils, she proposed to build a wing to the house; but, after meeting
with more or less encouragement, she found that it was quite
impossible to induce anyone by preference to send children to a place
so much exposed to wind and weather. The sisters were not sorry they
had tried; and, it has been unjustifiably suggested, did not regret
too much, that they had failed, because they had fears and
apprehensions respecting Branwell, and thought that the place that
might be his abode could scarcely be fitted for the home of the
children of strangers. Branwell and Anne were at home again for the
Christmas of 1844, and they returned to their duties early in the
following January. In the course of that month Charlotte writes,

'Branwell has been quieter and less irritable, on the whole, than he
was in the summer.'[9]

        [9] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. xiii.

At this time there was no fear of his leaving his employment, and no
fear that he would be dismissed from it; but a certain excitability
and fitfulness of manner, a disposition to pass suddenly from gaiety
to moody disquietude, which Anne had observed in her brother, had
attracted, also, as has been seen, the serious attention of the other
sisters, who were alarmed by it, and wondered greatly what the cause
might be. And, indeed, a change had been coming over Branwell, for six
months or more, a change which in the beginning had scarcely been
understood by himself. A new feeling had impressed itself upon his
heart that he had never experienced before, and against which he
strove in vain. Branwell, in fact, who had never yet loved beyond the
confines of his own home, had conceived an infatuated admiration for
the wife of his employer, which afterwards, with his warm feelings,
became a deep affection, and finally developed into a fierce and
over-mastering passion. The lady who had dazzled and confused his
understanding, as will presently appear, was unaware of the effect she
had thus produced on the heart of the tutor, and he began to mistake
her kindly, condescending manners for a return of his affection, an
illusion which, as the sequel will show, he nursed to the very end of
his life. Under this peculiar aberration of his mind, he cherished the
hope that, as his employer was in feeble health, he might ere long be
in a position to marry the widow, whom he believed to have already
bestowed her affections upon him; when, being in easy circumstances,
and possessed, as he termed it, of 'the priceless affluence of
enduring peace,' he should be abler as he often declared, undisturbed
by the usual perturbations of literary life, to make sure progress,
and win for himself a name among the best authors of the day.

But at this period of his life Branwell is not known to have written
much verse, his mind being otherwise occupied. The two following
beautiful sonnets, however, are from his pen, dated May, 1845, and
are, together, entitled:


    'When sink from sight the landmarks of our home,
      And,--all the bitterness of farewells o'er,--
    We yield our spirit unto ocean's foam,
      And in the new-born life which lies before,
      On far Columbian or Australian shore,
    Strive to exchange time past for time to come:
      How melancholy, then, if morn restore--
    (Less welcome than the night's forgetful gloom)
      Old England's blue hills to our sight again,
    When we, our thoughts seemed weaning from her sky,--
      That _pang_ which wakes the almost silenced pain!
    Thus, when the sick man lies, resigned to die,
      A well-loved voice, a well-remembered strain,
    Lets Time break harshly in upon Eternity.

    When, after his long day, consumed in toil,
      'Neath the scarce welcome shade of unknown trees,
    Upturning thanklessly a foreign soil,
      The lonely exile seeks his evening ease,--
      'Tis not those tropic woods his spirit sees;
    Nor calms, to him, that heaven, this world's turmoil;
      Nor cools his burning brow that spicy breeze.
    Ah no! the gusty clouds of England's isle
      Bring music wafted on their stormy wind,
    And on its verdant meads, night's shadows lower,
      While "Auld Lang Syne" the darkness calls to mind.
    Thus, when the demon Thirst, beneath his power
      The wanderer bows,--to feverish sleep consigned,
    He hears the rushing rill, and feels the cooling shower.'

While Branwell's mind was rendered bright by the sunny hopes of a happy
future, he was enabled to write with pathos, coherency, and beauty, as
is shown in the foregoing sonnets. But it was his misfortune that his
mind was hung too finely upon the balance, and that, as the phantasy of
his affections grew upon him, he became, as will hereafter be
demonstrated, the victim of an 'overheated and discursive imagination,'
and at last 'betrayed that monomaniac tendency' which Lucy Snowe says
she 'has ever thought the most unfortunate with which man or woman can
be cursed.' He became, in fact, almost as soon as the new passion had
taken full possession of his heart, a miserable victim to that morbid
tendency of the mind which, in far lesser degree, characterized his
sister Charlotte, and of which she seems to have lived in occasional
dread. It may be noted that when Lucy Snowe is seeking wildly the
letter, which has been stolen away from her, she accuses herself of
monomania. These mental perturbations grew upon Branwell day by day.

Time passed on; and, when he had been with his employer some two years
and a half, during the concluding portion of which the control he had
exercised over himself was giving way, he began to exhibit the strange
irregularities of his disposition, and the irresistible fervour of his
long-suppressed and feverish passion. Great patience and forbearance
were exercised towards him by the lady of the house; and her sincere
regard for the feelings of his family forbade her, on the first blush
of the affair, to be the means of his dismissal from his employment. He
was not, indeed, dismissed until the step became an absolute necessity.
The banishment from his post was not, however, long delayed, for
Branwell had lost his former self-control; and his imprudence overcame
the reluctance of the lady, who at length made known to her husband,
while Branwell was absent at home, on his holiday, in the July of 1845,
what his conduct had been. A letter was at once sent to him by his
employer, conveying the intimation of his dismissal.

We have been told much in Charlotte Brontë's letters to her friend 'E,'
and in the works of Mrs. Gaskell and other writers, concerning this
event, which laid prostrate the hopes of Branwell, that requires both
comment and correction. We have already seen to what a low state of
mind and body Branwell was for a time reduced by his dismissal from
Luddenden Foot; but his condition in both was as that of sound health,
compared with his utter prostration on his expulsion from his last
employment,--a condition which renders any adequate description
impossible. He had, indeed, been supremely happy. For him, the sun of
prosperity had shone with unsullied splendour, and the rivers of hope
had flowed with music richer and deeper than any of earth. The roses
that bloomed in the paradise of his fervid imagination, were
brighter--and, as he thought, far more lasting--than those, far-famed,
of Suristan, and the green pastures of his hopeful aspirations were
more fertile and fragrant than he had ever thought possible to him in
the years gone by. But, suddenly, the paradise which his poetic and
imaginative spirit had created, was changed, without a moment's
warning, to a region of sleepless nights and wretched days,--'eleven
continuous nights of sleepless horror' he afterwards speaks of,--where
his mind, dismayed and incoherent, reeled and shook in agony intense
and ungovernable.

The distress of the Brontë family on this reverse of Branwell's
prospects can scarcely be conceived in its entirety. So deeply
agonizing was the then state of his affairs, that they could think of
nothing else; and, in their sorrow, had no heart to contemplate the
future. It was under the immediate influence of this misery that Anne
Brontë wrote her pathetic poem, 'Domestic Peace,' in which she deplores
the changed conditions of the family. Charlotte had just returned home
from a visit to her friend, and found her brother in the condition I
have described. Thus she speaks of it, under the date of July the 31st,
1845: 'It was ten o'clock at night when I got home. I found Branwell
ill. He is so very often, owing to his own fault. I was not therefore
shocked at first. But when Anne informed me of the immediate cause of
his present illness I was very greatly shocked. He had last Thursday
received a note from Mr. ----, sternly dismissing him.... We have had
sad work with him since. He thought of nothing but stunning or drowning
his distressed mind. No one in the house could have rest, and at last
we have been obliged to send him from home for a week with some one to
look after him. He has written to me this morning, and expresses some
sense of contrition for his frantic folly. He promises amendment on his
return, but so long as he remains at home I scarce dare hope for peace
in the house. We must all, I fear, prepare for a season of distress and
disquietude. I cannot now ask Miss ---- or anyone else.'

Branwell's distress had proved so really acute at the disgrace which
had befallen him that Mr. Brontë, becoming alarmed for the
consequences, decided to send his son away to new scenes in the hope of
diverting his mind from the subject. That this was, to some extent,
successful is evident from Branwell's letter to his sister, in which
his natural feelings and repentant disposition found expression.
Branwell had remembered his former visit to Liverpool, and selected
that place on this occasion, and sailed thence to the coast of Wales.
The sad feelings that impressed him on the voyage were afterwards
expressed in verse.



Branwell after his Disappointment--Parallel for his State of Mind
in that of Lady Byron--Mrs. Gaskell's Misconceptions--True State
of the Case--Charlotte Illustrates it in her Poem of 'Preference'
--She alludes to Branwell's Condition in 'The Professor'--Mrs.
Gaskell Compelled to Omit her Account in the Later Editions of her
Work--Branwell's Prostration and Ill-health at the Time.

After the first shock to his feelings had been sustained, and, by its
own intensity, toned down to less oppressive anguish and pain, a
strange calm succeeded in Branwell, more agonizing and appalling to his
friends than the stormy ebullitions which had preceded it. There is
evidence that his family at this time misunderstood the actual state of
his mind, and that their very anxiety about him caused them--but more
especially Charlotte--to regard his acts, irresponsible though they
might be, as inveterate offences and habitual sins. It has indeed been
said by some that Charlotte did not afterwards speak to him for the
space of two years.

The reproaches of his sister were probably as unwise as they were
passionate, unmeasured, and, in outward semblance, unfeeling; yet they
were censures pronounced in momentary anger, utterances of the deep
affection she had for her brother, and of sincere sorrow for his
unhappy, hopeless, and insane passion. But Branwell's friends and
acquaintances saw clearly that on one subject, and one only, his mind
had given way; and that was in his conception of the undoubted love
which the lady of his heart bore him. They also saw, notwithstanding
this morbid perversion of the ordinary powers of his mind in one
particular illusion, that he was not affected in his faculty of
reasoning correctly and consistently on all other subjects. They knew,
if the Brontë family did not, that Branwell's mind, naturally morbid
and depressed, had been unhinged by the sudden and unexpected ruin of
his hopes; and that his heart and his intellect had been so far bruised
and wounded, that for many of the acts done, and the things said, under
the abiding grief which followed it, he was irresponsible. This will
shortly appear.

The sisters did not, however, long remain in ignorance of the true
state of Branwell's mind. They became aware that he suffered from
monomania touching the object of his sorrow, and the circumstance
impressed them exceedingly. In several of their novels they have,
indeed, dwelt upon this condition, and have lamented the misery and
mental prostration which it entails. Lucy Snowe suffers from it
severely, as I have mentioned. But, in 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,'
one of the characters charges Gilbert Markham--whose circumstances are
precisely those of Branwell in regard to his love for a married
lady--with monomania in this very matter; and, in 'Wuthering Heights,'
speaking of the events that preceded Heathcliff's death, Nelly Dean
alleges that he suffers from monomania in his love for the wife of
Edgar Linton. Branwell's sisters, however, never took the tragic view
of his conduct that impressed Mrs. Gaskell.

For a time Branwell could talk of nothing but of the lady to whom he
was attached, and he made statements of circumstances regarding her
which had no foundation but in his own heated imagination. The lady, he
said, loved him to distraction. She was in a state of inconceivable
agony at his loss. Her husband, cruel, brutal, and unfeeling,
threatened her with his dire indignation, and deprivation of every
comfort. Branwell, indeed, told his friend W----, by letter, that, in
consequence of this persecution, the suffering lady 'had placed herself
under his protection!' and many other stories, equally unfounded,
extravagant, and impossible, were circulated. In a word, he went about
among his friends, telling to each, in strict confidence, the woes
under which he suffered, and painting in gloomy colours the miseries
which the lady of his love had been compelled to undergo. If all other
proof were wanting of the unsound state of Branwell's mind on this one
point, it would be enough, in all conscience, that he proclaimed
abroad, of the lady he undertook to protect, circumstances that must
infallibly redound to her infamy; and which, indeed, in the hands of
injudicious persons, gave rise to the public scandal of his life, and
ultimately made his name, and that of the lady whom he had loved and
traduced in the same breath, of reproach among men.[10]

        [10] The condition into which Branwell fell at this period is
        one very well-known to mental physiologists. Thus Carpenter
        speaks of it: 'In most forms of monomania, there is more or
        less of disorder in the _ideational_ process, leading to the
        formation of positive _delusions_ or _hallucinations_, that is
        to say, of fixed beliefs or dominant ideas which are palpably
        inconsistent with reality. These delusions, however, are not
        attributable to original perversions of the reasoning process,
        but arise out of the perverted _emotional state_. They give
        rise, in the first place, to _misinterpretation of actual
        facts_ or _occurrences_, in accordance with the prevalent
        state of the feelings.'--'Principles of Mental Physiology,'
        (1874), p. 667.

For Branwell's state of mind at this time, and for the circumstances
that followed upon it, we have an exact parallel in the case of Lady
Byron, after her separation from her husband. This unhappy lady, living
in retirement with her friends, had maintained, for more than five
years after the poet's death, relations of the most friendly nature
with his sister, the Honourable Mrs. Leigh. But, at the end of that
period, weakened by misfortunes and by brooding upon particular evils,
her mind gave way on one point; and she made, in the full belief of
their truth, the most horrible of charges against her dead husband and
his sister. These charges were, by some people, believed for a time;
but a very little reflection showed that Lady Byron's mind must have
been unhinged, for all the acts of her life went to disprove the
statements she made. It was not in the nature of things possible that
she could remain on affectionate terms with her sister-in-law, had she
known--as in her monomania she asserted she did--the utter depth of
that sister-in-law's imagined infamy. But it is not to be supposed that
the unhappy lady was visibly insane; she was, on the contrary, as all
remarked, gifted with a clear and accurate observation, with a lucid
and logical method of thought, and with an expression more than
ordinarily calm and natural.

It was precisely the same with Branwell Brontë; for, when the paroxysm
of his grief was over, though he was ordinarily calm and his thoughts
always clear and logical, strange impressions and misinterpretations of
facts grew upon him, and he made, with all the certainty of belief,
statements of circumstances relating to the lady of his dearest
affections, redounding to her shame--which, had he been of sound mind,
he must not only have known to be false, but would have carried, had
they been true, in secrecy to the grave.

Just, too, as Lady Byron whispered the story of her woes in strict
faith to many people, so did Branwell Brontë make confidants of
several friends, revealing to each the extent of his misfortunes.
And, further, just as the story circulated by Lady Byron was confided
among others to good, honest, well-meaning Mrs. Beecher Stowe, who,
conceiving herself to be the chosen champion of oppressed virtue,
rushed into print, in 'Macmillan' of September, 1869, with the
literary _bonne-bouche_ she had received; so did Mrs. Gaskell, clad in
like panoply, with anger far over-riding discretion, publish to the
world the scandal she had collected from the busy _gobe-mouches_ of
Haworth, to the utter undoing of the fair fame of Patrick Branwell
Brontë, and of the lady on whom he had fixed his hopeless affection.
The scandal which was spread about Lord Byron, through the delusions
of his wife, was very soon overthrown; but that with which Branwell
was concerned, though thirty-seven years have passed over his grave,
has been republished and is still believed--all the biographers of his
sisters having, with one accord, consigned his name to obloquy and

The stories originated by Branwell lost nothing in their circulation,
but they gained immensely; and years had made the tales of disappointed
love into scandals unfit to be detailed, when Mrs. Gaskell, eager for
information, visited Haworth, and collected materials for her work from
too-willing hands, who added their own embellishments to the original
statements of Branwell.

In order to show how far Mrs. Gaskell deviated from the right direction
in her account of these circumstances, it will be better to place
before the reader much of what she has said in direct reference to it,
so that the whole matter may be made plain; and, before he closes this
book, he will probably be convinced that she was wholly misled in her
version of the story.

Mrs. Gaskell writes: 'All the disgraceful details came out. Branwell
was in no state to conceal his agony of remorse, or, strange to say,
his agony of guilty love, from any dread of shame. He gave passionate
way to his feelings; he shocked and distressed those loving sisters
inexpressibly; the blind father sat stunned, sorely tempted to curse
the profligate woman who had tempted his boy--his only son--into the
deep disgrace of deadly crime.

'All the variations of spirits and of temper--the reckless gaiety, the
moping gloom of many months were now explained. There was a reason
deeper than any mere indulgence of appetite, to account for his
intemperance; he began his career as an habitual drunkard to drown

'The pitiable part, as far as he was concerned, was the yearning love
he still bore to the woman who had got so strong a hold upon him. It is
true, that she professed equal love; we shall see how her professions
held good. There was a strange lingering of conscience, when, meeting
her clandestinely by appointment at Harrogate some months after, he
refused to consent to the elopement which she proposed; there was some
good left in this corrupted, weak young man, even to the very last of
his miserable days. The case presents the reverse of the usual
features: the man became the victim; the man's life was blighted, and
crushed out of him by suffering, and guilt entailed by guilt; the man's
family were stung by keenest shame. The woman--to think of her father's
pious name--the blood of honourable families mixed in her veins--her
early home, underneath whose roof-tree sat those whose names are held
saint-like for their good deeds,--she goes flaunting about to this day
in respectable society; a showy woman for her age; kept afloat by her
reputed wealth. I see her name in county papers, as one of those who
patronize the Christmas balls; and I hear of her in London
drawing-rooms. Now let us read, not merely of the suffering of her
guilty accomplice, but of the misery she caused to innocent victims,
whose premature deaths may, in part, be laid at her door.'[11]

        [11] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap, xiii., 1st edition.

Mrs. Gaskell further states: 'A few months later the invalid husband of
the woman with whom he had intrigued, died. Branwell had been looking
forward to this event with guilty hope. After her husband's death, his
paramour would be free; strange as it seems, the young man still loved
her passionately, and now he imagined the time was come when they might
look forward to being married, and live together without reproach or
blame. She had offered to elope with him; she had written to him
perpetually; she had sent him money--twenty pounds at a time; he
remembered the criminal advances she had made; she had braved shame,
and her children's menaced disclosures, for his sake; he thought she
must love him; he little knew how bad a depraved woman can be.'[12]

        [12] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap, xiii., 1st edition.

As Mrs. Gaskell had formed no conception of the possible state of
Branwell's mind, she seems to have known no reason for doubting the
absolute truth of what she had heard; and, with an overweening
confidence, and with no deficient expression of righteous indignation,
she deals with the episode in this startling manner.

In support of the charges thus made, Mrs. Gaskell refers to the
contents of the will of the lady's husband, by which, she says, what
property he left to his wife was so left on the condition that she
never saw Branwell again; and she adds that, on the death of her
husband, the lady sent her coachman to Haworth; for, at the very time
when the will was being read, she did not know but that Branwell might
be on his way to her. Mrs. Gaskell furthers says that, after the
interview with the coachman, Branwell was found utterly prostrated by
the intimation that he must never again even see the lady whom he
thought he might then marry.[13]

        [13] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap, xiii., 1st edition.

The biographer of Charlotte, having obtained her information from the
floating rumours of Haworth, formed an inconsiderate, erroneous, and
hasty opinion on this affair and its supposed consequences. But she
found many circumstances in the proceedings of Branwell and his sisters
which failed to corroborate her views, and that were, in fact, at
variance with what would naturally have been expected had Branwell's
misconduct really been of so deep a dye as she states. In order to
bring out fully the force of what she here says, Mrs. Gaskell had,
previously, as we have seen, in speaking of Charlotte's stay in
Brussels eighteen months before, alluded to intelligence from home
calculated to distress Charlotte exceedingly with fears respecting
Branwell. Yet, in the January of 1844, shortly after her return from
Brussels, Charlotte told her friend 'E' that Anne and Branwell were
'both wonderfully valued in their situations.' And again, writing of
the year 1845, Mrs. Gaskell says: 'He was so beguiled by this mature
and wicked woman, that he went home for his holidays reluctantly,
stayed there as short a time as possible, perplexing and distressing
them all by his extraordinary conduct--at one time in the highest
spirits; at another, in the deepest depression--accusing himself of
blackest guilt and treachery, without specifying what they were; and
altogether evincing an irritability of disposition bordering on
insanity. Charlotte and her sister suffered acutely from his mysterious
behaviour ... an indistinct dread was creeping over their minds that he
might turn out their deep disgrace.'[14] And it must be added that, when
in the expurgated edition the opening of this passage was omitted, Mrs.
Gaskell inserted--following where she ascribes to the sisters an
'indistinct dread,'--these words: 'caused partly by his own conduct,
partly by expressions of agonizing suspicion in Anne's letters
home.'[15] But we know, from Charlotte's letter to her friend, that,
when she had returned home and found Branwell ill, which she says he
was often, she was not therefore shocked at first, but, when Anne
informed her of the immediate cause of his present illness, she was
very greatly shocked, showing clearly enough that Branwell's dismissal
and its cause were a complete surprise to her when she heard of them.
How, then, could Anne's letters home have contained expressions of
'agonizing suspicion'?

        [14] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. xiii., 1st edition.

        [15] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. v., 1860 edition.

Mrs. Gaskell found it necessary to summarize the portion of
Charlotte's letter which contained these expressions of surprise, and,
in her version, significantly enough, the obvious inconsistency is
lost. The succeeding part also has suffered mutilation in Mrs.
Gaskell's work, Charlotte's allusion to Branwell's 'frantic folly,'
and the sentence, 'He promises amendment on his return,' being
entirely omitted. Mr. Wemyss Reid, in publishing this letter, points
out the circumstance, and says that 'Mrs. Gaskell could not bring
herself to speak of such flagrant sins as those of which young Brontë
had been guilty under the name of folly, nor could she conceive that
there was any possibility of amendment on the part of one who had
fallen so low in vice.'[16] And, if we disregard Mrs. Gaskell's view of
'what _should have been_' Charlotte's feelings, and read the letter
with the real state of the case before us, we shall at once see that,
as Branwell had not fallen low in vice, the term 'frantic folly,'
which his sister employed in speaking of his conduct, was precisely
that which justly described it.

        [16] 'Charlotte Brontë, a Monograph,' chap. vii.

The simple truth respecting Branwell's conduct is this: he had been too
fond of company and had not escaped its penalty. Doubtless Anne
occasionally saw influences upon her brother which she would have
wished entirely absent. Moreover he had, as we have seen, become wildly
in love. Reluctantly at first, and, from what we know of him, he may,
probably, in his latest vacation have accused himself of 'blackest
guilt.' But there is reason to believe that on this episode, as on
others connected with Branwell Brontë, we have been told not a little
of what _must have ensued_ from a standpoint of initial error.

Of the principal accusations which Mrs. Gaskell brings against Mrs.
---- I shall have to speak when I come to consider the consequences to
Branwell of the final defeat of his hopes; but it may be said here that
it is clear the lady never wrote letters to Branwell at all. She
carefully avoided doing anything that might implicate her in the matter
of Branwell's strange passion, and, so far as any provision of the
husband's will, which was dated near the end of the year, is concerned,
Branwell Brontë might never have existed. Mrs. Gaskell cannot have seen
the document.

If any further evidence of the view Charlotte Brontë took of Branwell's
conduct, and of that of the lady whose character has been so much
calumniated be needed, her poem entitled 'Preference' is sufficient. We
may indeed infer from it that Charlotte herself never believed the
stories concerning Mrs. ---- which were in circulation at the time, and
that she has left, in this production of her pen, her version of how
the circumstances truly stood. The lady is represented in the poem as
censuring the person who is making advances to her, and who is
addressed as a soldier for whom she has a sisterly regard, while she is
devotedly attached to one of whom she speaks in the warmest terms.

    'Not in scorn do I reprove thee,
      Not in pride thy vows I waive,
    But, believe, I could not love thee,
      Wert thou prince, and I a slave.'

She then tells him that he is deceiving himself in thinking she has
secret affection for him, and that her coldness towards him is assumed.
She appeals forcibly to her own personal bearing as proof that she has
no love for him.

    'Touch my hand, thou self-deceiver;
      Nay--be calm, for I am so;
    Does it burn? Does my lip quiver?
      Has mine eye a troubled glow?
    Canst thou call a moment's colour
      To my forehead--to my cheek?
    Canst thou tinge their tranquil pallor
      With one flattering, feverish streak?'

Declaring that her goodwill for him is sisterly, she thus continues:

    'Rave not, rage not, wrath is fruitless,
      Fury cannot change my mind;
    I but deem the feeling rootless
      Which so whirls in passion's wind.
    Can I love? Oh, deeply--truly--
      Warmly--fondly--but not thee;
    And my love is answered duly,
      With an equal energy.'

Then she tells him, if he would see his rival, to draw a curtain aside,
when he will observe him, seated in a place shaded by trees, surrounded
with books, and employing his 'unresting pen.' Here Charlotte places
the 'rival' in an alcove, in the grounds of his mansion, privately
employing his leisure in the retirement of his home; and makes the lady
show her husband to the soldier who addresses her. She says:

    'There he sits--the first of men!
      Man of conscience--man of reason;
    Stern, perchance, but ever just;
      Foe to falsehood, wrong, and treason,
    Honour's shield and virtue's trust!
      Worker, thinker, firm defender
    Of Heaven's truth--man's liberty;
      Soul of iron--proof to slander,
    Rock where founders tyranny.'

She declares that her faith is given, and therefore the person she
addresses need not sue; for, while God reigns in earth and heaven, she
will be faithful to the man of her heart, to whom she is immovably
devoted; and who is a 'defender of Heaven's truth'--her husband.

No one, perhaps, would be better acquainted than Charlotte with the
false and foul calumnies on this head, then circulating through the
village; and it is well that she has left, in her poem of 'Preference,'
an expression of her feeling as to the affairs which caused so much
injurious gossip at the time. Yet, however desirous Charlotte might,
be, in this poem, to clear the character of the lady who has been so
cruelly aspersed, she appears to have had no mercy on her brother, who
had been the principal actor in the drama. The following is the picture
of him, in reference to this sad episode, which she puts into the mouth
of William Crimsworth in 'The Professor':

'Limited as had yet been my experience of life,' he says, 'I had once
had the opportunity of contemplating, near at hand, an example of the
results produced by a course of interesting and romantic domestic
treachery. No golden halo of fiction was about this example; I saw it
bare and real; and it was very loathsome. I saw a mind degraded by the
practice of mean subterfuge, by the habit of perfidious deception, and
a body depraved by the infectious influence of the vice-polluted soul.
I had suffered much from the forced and prolonged view of this
spectacle; those sufferings I did not now regret, for their simple
recollection acted as a most wholesome antidote to temptation. They had
inscribed on my reason the conviction that unlawful pleasure, trenching
on another's rights, is delusive and envenomed pleasure--its hollowness
disappoints at the time, its poison cruelly tortures afterwards, its
effects deprave for ever.' It is probable that Charlotte would not have
wished this passage to be applied literally to her brother; but,
unfortunately, this, and similar unguarded declarations, have largely
biassed almost all who have written on the lives and literature of the

Mrs. Gaskell, under threat of ulterior proceedings, on the advice of
her friends, published the edition of 1860, omitting the charges
referred to, as well as those against Mr. Brontë. She did not, however,
allow the effect of her first assumption of guilt, or the moral of the
tale, to be lost. She inserted a few sentences intended to convey to
the reader that something of the kind had gone wrong with Branwell in
the place where his sister Anne was governess. Under the circumstances,
therefore, I have felt it necessary to deal with the subject at large.

It may be remarked here that the indignation of the injured lady knew
no bounds, and that she was only dissuaded from carrying the matter to
a trial by the earnest desire of her friends, who represented that Mrs.
Gaskell could not substantiate her statements, and that, as the book
could not therefore be reprinted as it stood, and its circulation was
consequently limited, it were better to let the matter rest, rather
than incur the wide-spread reports of the newspaper press when the
trial should be before the public; and, moreover, that those who knew
her did not believe a word of Mrs. Gaskell's unfounded allegations.
This had its effect, and the lady fretfully acquiesced.[17]

        [17] A gentleman with whom I have recently conversed, who
        knew this lady personally, on seeing the first edition of
        Mrs. Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' expressed his
        astonishment at the 'gross form of the libel,' of which he
        had had no conception. He had good reason for entirely
        disbelieving the stories, for which Mrs. Gaskell was
        responsible, relating to the lady in question.

In Miss Robinson's 'Emily Brontë,' the stories which Charlotte's
biographer was compelled to omit, have been substantially reproduced;
and this writer, in supporting similar views to those of Mrs. Gaskell,
has found it necessary to quote her version of the letter containing
Charlotte's account of Branwell's disgrace, and has also considerably
enlarged upon the supposed contents of the letters of Anne. Much
diffidence has been felt in dealing with this subject so closely; but,
after the discussion of it in the public prints, consequent on the
issue of Miss Robinson's book, it is thought the time has come for
exposing the groundlessness of the stories. The reader will therefore
observe that I have borne this matter in mind throughout the present

The distraction that overwhelmed Branwell on his dismissal from his
late employment having caused him eleven nights of 'sleepless horror,'
his wild attempt to drown his sorrow brought on an attack of delirium
tremens. On one of these nights, in all likelihood, suddenly falling
asleep, he overturned the candle and set the bedclothes on fire. The
smell of burning attracted attention, and the sisters rushed into the
room to extinguish the smouldering material. This accident would,
doubtless, have been lost sight of, had it not been for the researches
of Miss Robinson, to whom the public is indebted for an account of the
circumstance, which closely reminds us of the rescue of Mr. Rochester
in 'Jane Eyre,' and of the removal of 'Keeper,' by Emily, from the best
bed in which he had settled himself. It will be remembered also that,
on the night when Mr. Lockwood stayed at Wuthering Heights, a similar
accident befel him, through the candle falling against the books he was
trying to read.

On his return from Wales Branwell wrote to his friend Leyland, who had
to visit Haworth professionally, pressing him to come to the parsonage.
Thus he writes in the midst of his distress. The vision of his hopes
had become a haunting picture of misery, the prospect of the lady
becoming free to marry him had not arisen to his mind in his confusion;
he would never see her again, he would be forgotten; he must
communicate with her.

    'Haworth, August 4, 1845.

    'DEAR SIR,

    'I need hardly say that I shall be most delighted to see you, as
    God knows I have a tolerably heavy load on my mind just now, and
    would look to an hour spent with one like yourself, as a means of
    at least, temporarily, lightening it.

    'I returned yesterday from a week's journey to Liverpool and North
    Wales, but I found during my absence that, wherever I went, a
    certain woman robed in black, and calling herself "MISERY," walked
    by my side, and leant on my arm, as affectionately as if she were
    my legal wife.

    'Like some other husbands, I could have spared her presence.

    'Yours most sincerely,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

There are in one or two of Charlotte Brontë's letters, written during
this month, allusions to her brother. She tells us that things are not
very bright as regards him, though his health, and consequently his
temper, have been somewhat better this last day or two, because he is
now '_forced_ to abstain.' And again, on the 18th, 'My hopes ebb
low indeed about Branwell. I sometimes fear he will never be fit for
much. The late blow to his prospects and feelings has quite made him

On the 19th, Branwell sends a short note to Leyland, in which he says,
'As to my own affairs, I only wish I could see one gleam of light amid
their gloom. You, I hope, are well and cheerful.'



Review of Branwell's past Experiences of Life--He seeks Relief in
Literary Occupation--He Proposes to Write a Three-volume Novel--His
Letter on the Subject--One Volume Completed--His Capability of
Writing a Novel--His Letter to Mr. Grundy on his Disappointment.

Branwell had now attained his twenty-eighth year. The reader has seen
in the early part of this work the intellectual promise of his opening
career, the evidences of his genius, his versatility, and his mental
power, and has marked the paths by which he, who was expected to be the
crowning light of that remarkable family, had been brought, step by
step, to the very depths of misery.

During the few short years of his life, Branwell Brontë, having tasted
the sweets of a noble ambition, and surrendered himself to the
influences of love, had suffered the agonies of his disappointment and
disgrace, and was now feeling the very bitterness of despair. Such
influences as these, shaking the soul with their tempestuous breath,
cast their sad glamour on the imagination; and he who has felt the
spell is impressed thenceforth more deeply with the wondrous story of
life, with the struggle of being, and with the fulness of emotion, and
has a far deeper insight into the mysteries of human nature. It was in
this way that Byron, when he had passed through his greatest
misfortunes, and had abandoned for ever the shores of England, was
fired with the gloomy glory of 'Manfred' and of 'Cain.' This storm and
stress of the feelings, when the imagination receives a higher
consciousness, is as the Eddaic struggle of Sigurd with Fafnir, the
drinking of the monster's blood, that taught to the dragon-slayer the
mystic language of the birds. The reader will see how these influences
told on Branwell Brontë, and how sad the voices of the birds were for
him; how his muse was inspired with the note of misery, and his longing
was for peace alone. There seemed, indeed, to be no hope in those days.

However, there came at times to Branwell Brontë, as there must come to
all men in his circumstances, a reaction from the consuming sorrow of
despair, a longing for action, for mental stimulus, to divert his mind
from the woe he should never be able to forget. And, with this change
in his methods of thought, there grew upon him another feeling,
engendered of his broken sympathy with the actions of his kind: he
learned to look upon human affairs as a spectator, rather than as one
who felt any personal interest in them. It was in this way that his
experience seemed to him to have unveiled the hidden springs of the
actions of men; and, in recognizing the selfishness of them, he became
himself something of a cynic.

Branwell was in this frame of mind when he resolved, soon after a visit
to his friend Leyland,--whom he found engaged upon a tomb and recumbent
statue of the late Doctor Stephen Beckwith, a benefactor to several
public institutions in York, to be erected in the Minster there,--to
make an effort to arouse himself. With the desire, then, of finding an
absorbing occupation for his mind, by which he might be able to lay the
tempest of the heart, the whirlwind of wounded vanity, of injured
self-esteem, and of blighted hope, which swept through his mind in
hours of reflection, and drove him to distraction or desperation, he
turned, with the resolution of a new-born energy, engendered of
despair, to literary composition. He proposed to himself to depict, as
best he could, in a fictitious form, and as an ordinary novel, which
should extend to three volumes, the different feelings that work in the
human soul. The necessary labour which this undertaking involved, gave
a stimulus to his ambition, which for a time was sustained; and he
evidently hoped that he might yet be able to make a place for himself
in the busy world of letters. At this time the novels of his sisters
were not in existence, and probably had scarcely been dreamed of.
Charlotte had not yet lighted on the volume of verse in the handwriting
of Emily, and the literary future of the sisters had still to dawn upon
them. Yet Branwell, whose behaviour had given them cause enough for
disquietude, and whose sorrows were embittering his mind, had now
braced himself up for an object which they had not attempted, and to
the accomplishment of which he looked forward with something like
confidence. In the following letter to his friend Leyland, he discloses
his design; and it is probable that in this we have almost all the
direct light upon it which can be found:--

    'Haworth, Sept. 10th, 1845.


    'I was certainly sadly disappointed at not having seen you on the
    Friday you named for your visit, but the cause you allege for not
    arriving was justifiable with a vengeance. I should have been as
    cracked as my cast had I entered a room and seen the labour of
    weeks or months destroyed (apparently--not, I trust, really) in a

        [18] Branwell here speaks of an accident which had happened
        to one part of the monument referred to above.

    'That vexation is, I hope, over; and I build upon your renewed
    promise of a visit; for nothing cheers me so much as the company
    of one whom I believe to be a _man_, and who has known care well
    enough to be able to appreciate the discomfort of another who
    knows it _too_ well.

    'Never mind the lines I put into your hands, but come hither with
    them, and, if they should have been lost out of your pocket on the
    way, I won't grumble, provided you are present to apologize for the

    'I have, since I saw you at Halifax, devoted my hours of time,
    snatched from downright illness, to the composition of a
    three-volume _novel_, one volume of which is completed, and,
    along with the two forthcoming ones, has been really the result of
    half-a-dozen by-past years of thoughts about, and experience in,
    this crooked path of life.

    'I felt that I must rouse myself to attempt something while
    roasting daily and nightly over a slow fire, to while away my
    torments; and I knew that, in the present state of the publishing
    and reading world, a novel is the most saleable article, so
    that--where ten pounds would be offered for a work, the production
    of which would require the utmost stretch of a man's intellect--two
    hundred pounds would be a refused offer for three volumes, whose
    composition would require the smoking of a cigar and the humming of
    a tune.

    'My novel is the result of years of thought; and, if it gives a
    vivid picture of human feelings for good and evil, veiled by the
    cloak of deceit which must enwrap man and woman; if it records, as
    faithfully as the pages that unveil man's heart in "Hamlet" or
    "Lear," the conflicting feelings and clashing pursuits in our
    uncertain path through life, I shall be as much gratified (and as
    much astonished) as I should be if, in betting that I could jump
    over the Mersey, I jumped over the Irish Sea. It would not be more
    pleasant to light on Dublin instead of Birkenhead, than to leap
    from the present bathos of fictitious literature to the
    firmly-fixed rock honoured by the foot of a Smollett or a Fielding.

    'That jump I expect to take when I can model a rival to your noble
    Theseus, who haunted my dreams when I slept after seeing him. But,
    meanwhile, I can try my utmost to rouse myself from almost killing
    cares, and that alone will be its own reward.

    'Tell me when I may hope to see you, and believe me, dear sir,


    'P. B. BRONTË.'

A spirited sketch in pen-and-ink concludes this letter; it represents a
bust of himself thrown down, and the lady of his admiration holding
forth her hands towards it with an air of pity, while underneath it is
the sentence: 'A cast, cast down, but not cast away!'[19]

        [19] Charlotte Brontë told her friend 'Mary,' that Branwell
        had appropriated Cowper's poem, 'The Castaway.'

We have in this letter an instance of Branwell's general coherency
under his disappointment, in which the elegance and freedom of his
style of composition are combined with a consequent and logical
arrangement of the various parts of his subject; but he cannot help
concluding his letter with a direct allusion to the lady, whom he
believes,--all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding,--to love him
with undiminished devotion. Under this fascination he still hopes for
the prosperity and happiness of which he had before spoken to his

Moreover it will be seen, from Branwell's letter, that he had seriously
undertaken, in the midst of sorrow, suffering, and ill-health,--though,
I have reason to believe, that he had sketched some part of it during
his tutorship--the production of a novel, one volume of which he had
completed. He does not seem to have looked upon it as a great mental
effort, but rather as the natural outcome of a painful experience, and
the proper alleviation of a present misery. Yet he designed to give a
vivid picture of human nature; and, with the strength of experience and
the consciousness of power, he evidently hoped that it would be a
better work than those productions of the day, of whose composition he
speaks so lightly. His experience had, indeed, been such as would well
enable one of his quick perception to grasp the character, feelings,
and motives of those around him. His knowledge of the country people of
the West-Riding was very great; for, sitting, the admired of all
observers, in the 'Black Bull,' at Haworth, he had met representatives
of all classes of them. By the parlour fire, in the long winter
evenings, he had had opportunities enough of entering into the spirit
of the people; indeed, his letter to John Brown has shown us how he
reviewed some of them. It was not merely for the enjoyment of an hour
that he came to their company: he had longed for a glimpse of other
life than that lived at the parsonage. And the Yorkshire peasants--whom
he nevertheless held at their true value--to those who know their
dialect, and can enter into their pursuits, as Branwell did and could,
disclose a fund of shrewd observation, a sharp understanding, and a
free and natural wit; and they delight in telling the stories of all
the country side. But they must be understood before they can be
appreciated. Branwell, too, had been a guest at the homesteads of the
farmers, in the neighbourhood where he had latterly resided, who were
always pleased to see him, when he visited them. But he had had
experience of more fiery emotions than those of peasants; he had longed
to know something of the deeper life of London, and had found it, at
last, in the company of pugilists and their patrons.

When the mood was upon him, all these varied experiences flowed with
voluble eloquence from his lips; and the brightness of his wit and the
brilliance of his imagination made him, at such times, a most enjoyable
companion. But he delighted above all things, as has been seen, to
spend his evenings, when possible, with the little band of literati
which, in those times, characterized that district; and, in the society
of Storey the poet of Wharfe, James the historian of Bradford, George
Searle Phillips, Leyland the sculptor, and others, he found emulation
and stimulus to better things. But the uses to which, under such
influences, he put his experiences of life, and the colour that was
given to them through his maddening misfortunes--so far as his novel is
concerned--can probably never be told. His experience in 'this crooked
path of life,' during his last half-dozen years, had been sufficiently
varied; and an instructive story he could doubtless have based upon it.
But, what became of the volume he wrote, possibly no one can tell; and
his intention of writing two more was probably not carried out.

From the following letter which Branwell wrote to Mr. Grundy in the
October of 1845, we learn something of the condition of mind under
which he must have written; and, from an allusion which it contains, we
may, probably, infer that he had abandoned his intention of writing the
two other volumes of his novel.[20] He says:

        [20] Mr. Grundy has assigned the date of this letter to within
        a few months of January, 1818; but, from internal evidence, it
        is clear that it belongs really to the period I have named.

    'I fear you will burn my present letter on recognising the
    handwriting; but if you will read it through, you will perhaps
    rather pity than spurn the distress of mind which could prompt my
    communication, after a silence of nearly three (to me) eventful
    years. While very ill and confined to my room, I wrote to you two
    months ago, hearing you were resident engineer of the Skipton
    Railway, to the inn at Skipton. I never received any reply, and
    as my letter asked only for one day of your society, to ease a
    very weary mind in the company of a friend who _always_ had what
    I always wanted, but most want now, _cheerfulness_, I am sure you
    never received my letter, or your heart would have prompted an

    'Since I last shook hands with you in Halifax, two summers ago,
    my life, till lately, has been one of apparent happiness and
    indulgence. You will ask, "Why does he complain, then?" I can
    only reply by showing the under-current of distress which bore my
    bark to a whirlpool, despite the surface waves of life that
    seemed floating me to peace. In a letter begun in the spring of
    1845 and never finished, owing to incessant attacks of illness, I
    tried to tell you that I was tutor to the son of ----, a wealthy
    gentleman whose wife is sister to the wife of ----, M.P. for the
    county of ----, and the cousin of Lord ----. This lady (though
    her husband detested me) showed me a degree of kindness which,
    when I was deeply grieved one day at her husband's conduct,
    ripened into declarations of more than ordinary feeling. My
    admiration of her mental and personal attractions, my knowledge
    of her unselfish sincerity, her sweet temper, and unwearied care
    for others, with but unrequited return where most should have
    been given ... although she is seventeen years my senior, all
    combined to an attachment on my part, and led to reciprocations
    which I had little looked for. During nearly three years I had
    daily "troubled pleasure, soon chastised by fear." Three months
    since I received a furious letter from my employer, threatening
    to shoot me if I returned from my vacation, which I was passing
    at home; and letters from her lady's-maid and physician informed
    me of the outbreak, only checked by her firm courage and
    resolution that whatever harm came to her, none should come to
    me.... I have lain during nine long weeks, utterly shattered in
    body and broken down in mind. The probability of her becoming
    free to give me herself and estate never rose to drive away the
    prospect of her decline under her present grief. I dreaded, too,
    the wreck of my mind and body, which, God knows! during a short
    life have been severely tried. Eleven continuous nights of
    sleepless horror reduced me to almost blindness; and, being taken
    into Wales to recover, the sweet scenery, the sea, the sound of
    music caused me fits of unspeakable distress. You will say, "What
    a fool!" but if you knew the many causes I have for sorrow, which
    I cannot even hint at here, you would perhaps pity as well as
    blame. At the kind request of Mr. Macaulay and Mr. Baines, I have
    striven to arouse my mind by writing something worthy of being
    read, but I really cannot do so. Of course you will despise the
    writer of all this. I can only answer that the writer does the
    same, and would not wish to live if he did not hope that work and
    change may yet restore him.

    'Apologizing sincerely for what seems like whining egotism, and
    hardly daring to hint about the days when, in your company, I
    could sometimes sink the thoughts which "remind me of departed
    days," I fear departed never to return,--I remain, etc.'

In this letter we see that Branwell details to Mr. Grundy the story
about Mrs. ----, which he was publishing whenever he could obtain a
hearing. He speaks, too, of his ill-health, the shattering of body and
the breaking down of mind, which at the time prostrated him. Charlotte
seems scarcely to have credited Branwell's representations of the
bodily condition into which he had fallen; for she says, in one of her
letters, a little later, 'Branwell offers no prospect of hope: he
professes to be too ill to think of seeking employment.'[21] There are
passages of a like tendency in others of Charlotte's letters about this
time; but we shall see presently that, whatever might be his condition
of health, he was by no means so unsolicitous for employment, or so
heedless of the future, as she supposed.

        [21] 'Unpublished Letters of Charlotte Brontë,' _Hours at
        Home_, xi.



'Real Rest'--Comments--Spirit of Branwell and Emily Identical--Letter
to Leyland--Branwell Broods on his Sorrows--'Penmaenmawr'--Comments
--He still Searches and Hopes for Employment--Charlotte's somewhat
Overdrawn Expressions--The Alleged Elopement Proposal--Probable
Origin of the Story.

Though Branwell Brontë was so feeble in health that, despite his
wishes, he found physical labour impossible, and though the reaction
from utter despair--through whose impetus he completed one volume of
his novel--had been followed by a condition which led him to think
worthy literary work beyond his power, we find him, almost at the same
time, writing two of the finest poems which remain from his hand. It
has been seen, in the letter addressed to Mr. Grundy, how he declares
that, owing to the state of his mind, he is unable to undertake any
literary work worth reading. But we have certain knowledge of an
immediate movement of his genius, and that it found expression in
verse, which gave a free course to his feelings. In the following poem
we have perhaps the most powerful and weird expression of inconsolable
sorrow ever penned. A strange calm had now succeeded the storms of
feeling its author had passed through.


    'I see a corpse upon the waters lie,
    With eyes turned, swelled and sightless, to the sky,
    And arms outstretched to move, as wave on wave
    Upbears it in its boundless billowy grave.
    Not time, but ocean, thins its flowing hair;
    Decay, not sorrow, lays its forehead bare;
    Its members move, but not in thankless toil,
    For seas are milder than this world's turmoil;
    Corruption robs its lips and cheeks of red,
    But wounded vanity grieves not the dead;
    And, though those members hasten to decay,
    No pang of suffering takes their strength away.
    With untormented eye, and heart, and brain,
    Through calm and storm it floats across the main;
    Though love and joy have perished long ago,
    Its bosom suffers not one pang of woe;
    Though weeds and worms its cherished beauty hide,
    It feels not wounded vanity nor pride;
    Though journeying towards some far off shore,
    It needs no care nor gold to float it o'er;
    Though launched in voyage for eternity,
    It need not think upon what is _to be_;
    Though naked, helpless, and companionless,
    It feels not poverty, nor knows distress.

    'Ah, corpse! if thou couldst tell my aching mind
    What scenes of sorrow thou hast left behind,
    How sad the life which, breathing, thou hast led,
    How free from strife thy sojourn with the dead;
    I would assume thy place--would long to be
    A world-wide wanderer o'er the waves with thee!
    I have a misery, where thou hast none;
    My heart beats, bursting, whilst thine lies like stone;
    My veins throb wild, whilst thine are dead and dry;
    And woes, not waters, dim my restless eye;
    Thou longest not with one well loved to be,
    And absence does not break a chain with thee;
    No sudden agonies dart through thy breast;
    Thou hast what all men covet,--REAL REST.
    I have an outward frame, unlike to thine,
    Warm with young life--not cold in death's decline;
    An eye that sees the sunny light of Heaven,--
    A heart by pleasure thrilled, by anguish riven--
    But, in exchange for thy untroubled calm,
    Thy gift of cold oblivion's healing balm,
    I'd give my youth, my health, my life to come,
    And share thy slumbers in thy ocean tomb.'

Here the poet, his soul longing for freedom from mortality, his
crushed and wounded spirit hovering above the salt and restless wave,
contemplates the pale and ghastly body that floats thereon, and,
holding communion with it, touches in melancholy and beautiful words
its isolation and oblivion. Accompanying the dead in its watery
wanderings, he sees, with keen sympathy, its utter disseverance from
the world it has left, and contrasts with its condition the hopeless
sorrow of his own disappointed youth. He delineates, in words of
singular power and felicity, this weird and lonely picture; and, as an
artist and a poet, paints wildly, but beautifully, the decay of the
drowned in the ocean, and of the living, through the effects of
long-continued woe. Branwell had loved, indeed, however unfortunately;
and the misery of his passion caused him to turn his reflections within
upon himself. As with the 'Wandering Jew,' who sees in every rock, in
every bush, in every cloud, without hope of alleviation from his
abiding woe, the _via crucis_ of his suffering Lord--every thought
of Branwell's gifted mind, every conception of his fertile brain, every
aspect, to him, of ocean, earth, and sky,--was, in one way or other,
instinct with his own initial and irrepressible affection. Apart,
however, from the illusions respecting the lady of his heart, under
which he laboured, and which drove him to madness, there was a tendency
to gloom and despondency implanted in his very nature, a disposition of
mind in which his sister Emily largely resembled him. To such an extent
was this the case that, in her poem of 'The Philosopher,' written in
the October of 1845, she not only gives expression to similar weird
thoughts and desires, but one might think there had been some
interchange of ideas between the two,--that, perhaps, she had read his
'Real Rest,' and wrote the following words in half-censure of its
tendency. She is speaking of an enlightening spirit:

    'Had I but seen his glorious eye
      _Once_ light the clouds that wilder me;
    I ne'er had raised this coward cry
      To cease to think, and cease to be;
    I ne'er had called oblivion blest,
      Nor stretching eager hands to death,
    Implored to change for senseless rest
      This sentient soul, this living breath--
    Oh, let me die--that power and will
      Their cruel strife may close;
    And conquered good and conquering ill
      Be lost in one repose!'

It is noteworthy that Charlotte, also, in the second part of her poem
'Gilbert,' has used the incident of a corpse floating upon the waters,
which is seen by the unhappy man in his vision, not, indeed, to give
him the calm of oblivion, but rather, in contrast to Branwell's poem,
to wake in him the pains of sorrow and remorse.

Again, on the 25th of November, 1845, Branwell wrote to Leyland. He
could not free himself from the unfortunate ideas which had perverted
his understanding, but on every other subject he wrote justly.

    'Bradford, Yorks.


    'I send you the enclosed,--and I ought to tell you why I wished
    anything of so personal a nature to appear in print.

    'I have no other way, not pregnant with danger, of communicating
    with one whom I cannot help loving. Printed lines, with my usual
    signature, "Northangerland," could excite no suspicion--as my late
    unhappy employer shrank from the bare idea of my being able to
    write anything, and had a day's sickness after hearing that
    Macaulay had sent me a complimentary letter; so _he_ won't know
    the name.

    'I sent through a private channel one letter of comfort in her
    great and agonizing present afflictions, but I recalled it through
    dread of the consequences of a discovery.

    'These lines have only one merit,--that of really expressing my
    feelings, while sailing under the Welsh mountain, when the band on
    board the steamer struck up, "Ye banks and braes!" God knows that,
    for many different reasons, those feelings were far enough from

    'I suffer very much from that mental exhaustion which arises from
    brooding on matters useless at present to think of,--and active
    employment would be my greatest cure and blessing,--for really,
    after hours of thoughts which business would have hushed, I have
    felt as if I could not live, and, if long-continued, such a state
    will bring on permanent affection of the heart, which is already
    bothered with most uneasy palpitations.

    'I should like extremely to have an hour's sitting with you, and,
    if I had the chance, I would promise to try not to look gloomy. You
    said you would be at Haworth ere long, but that "ere" has doubtless
    changed to "ne'er;" so I must wish to get to Halifax some time to
    see you.

    'I saw Murray's monument praised in the papers, and I trust you are
    getting on well with Beckwith's, as well as with your own personal
    statue of living flesh and blood.

    'Mine, like your Theseus, has lost its hands and feet, and I fear
    its head also, for it can neither move, write, nor think as it once

    'I hope I shall hear from you on John Brown's return from Halifax,
    whither he has gone.

    'I remain, &c.,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

The poem enclosed was entitled:


    'These winds, these clouds, this chill November storm
    Bring back again thy tempest-beaten form
    To eyes that look upon yon dreary sky
    As late they looked on thy sublimity;
    When I, more troubled than thy restless sea,
    Found, in its waves, companionship with thee.
    'Mid mists thou frownedst over Arvon's shore,
    'Mid tears I watched thee over ocean's roar,
    And thy blue front, by thousand storms laid bare,
    Claimed kindred with a heart worn down by care.
    No smile had'st thou, o'er smiling fields aspiring,
    And none had I, from smiling fields retiring;
    Blackness, 'mid sunlight, tinged thy slaty brow,
    I, 'mid sweet music, looked as dark as thou;
    Old Scotland's song, o'er murmuring surges borne,
    Of "times departed,--never to return,"
    Was echoed back in mournful tones from thee,
    And found an echo, quite as sad, in me;
    Waves, clouds, and shadows moved in restless change,
    Around, above, and on thy rocky range,
    But seldom saw that sovereign front of thine
    Changes more quick than those which passed o'er mine.
    And as wild winds and human hands, at length,
    Have turned to scattered stones the mighty strength
    Of that old fort, whose belt of boulders grey
    Roman or Saxon legions held at bay;
    So had, methought, the young, unshaken nerve--
    That, when WILL wished, no doubt could cause to swerve,
    That on its vigour ever placed reliance,
    That to its sorrows sometimes bade defiance--
    Now left my spirit, like thyself, old hill,
    With head defenceless against human ill;
    And, as thou long hast looked upon the wave
    That takes, but gives not, like a churchyard grave,
    I, like life's course, through ether's weary range,
    Never know rest from ceaseless strife and change.

    'But, PENMAENMAWR! a better fate was thine,
    Through all its shades, than that which darkened mine;
    No quick thoughts thrilled through thy gigantic mass
    Of woe for what might be, or is, or was;
    Thou hadst no memory of the glorious hour
    When Britain rested on thy giant power;
    Thou hadst no feeling for the verdant slope
    That leant on thee as man's heart leads on hope;
    The pastures, chequered o'er with cot and tree,
    Though thou wert guardian, got no smile from thee;
    Old ocean's wrath their charms might overwhelm,
    But thou could'st still keep thy unshaken realm--
    While I felt flashes of an inward feeling
    As fierce as those thy craggy form revealing
    In nights of blinding gleams, when deafening roar
    Hurls back thy echo to old Mona's shore.
    I knew a flower, whose leaves were meant to bloom
    Till Death should snatch it to adorn a tomb,
    Now, blanching 'neath the blight of hopeless grief,
    With never blooming, and yet living leaf;
    A flower on which my mind would wish to shine,
    If but one beam could break from mind like mine.
    I had an ear which could on accents dwell
    That might as well say "perish!" as "farewell!"
    An eye which saw, far off, a tender form,
    Beaten, unsheltered, by affliction's storm;
    An arm--a lip--that trembled to embrace
    My angel's gentle breast and sorrowing face,
    A mind that clung to Ouse's fertile side
    While tossing--objectless--on Menai's tide!

    'Oh, Soul! that draw'st yon mighty hill and me
    Into communion of vague unity,
    Tell me, can I obtain the stony brow
    That fronts the storm, as much unbroken now
    As when it once upheld the fortress proud,
    Now gone, like its own morning cap of cloud?
    Its breast is stone. Can I have one of steel,
    To endure--inflict--defend--yet never feel?
    It stood as firm when haughty Edward's word
    Gave hill and dale to England's fire and sword,
    As when white sails and steam-smoke tracked the sea,
    And all the world breathed peace, but waves and me.

    'Let me, like it, arise o'er mortal care,
    All woes sustain, yet never know despair;
    Unshrinking face the grief I now deplore,
    And stand, through storm and shine, like moveless PENMAENMAWR!'

These lines are shadowed, like all his other writings, with the grief
that day and night oppressed him. Throughout the theme, his eager
yearning for mental quiet is finely expressed; and in it he contrasts
the strength and calm of the everlasting hill in its chequered history,
and in the ceaseless changes, and the lights and shadows that fall upon
it, with his own wild and stormy existence; the lady, whose charms have
bewildered his imagination, supplying him with a subject for sorrowful
recollections. The giant hill is the mighty image with which his
perturbed soul communes, and he implores for strength to enable him
to rise superior to his misfortunes, and to face, like 'moveless
Penmaenmawr,' the storm, adversity, and ruin that threaten him. But
there was little likelihood of the lady seeing these lines.

We find Branwell, at the time, making efforts to obtain some
employment that would divert him from useless brooding upon the
unfortunate circumstances that destroyed his peace. Scarcely, also,
was he less anxious to be away from home, for his presence there had
been his greatest humiliation when his family knew of his disgrace;
yet, with a method of which he was master, he appears to have kept
silence there on the subject his madness made him so ready to repeat
to others. However his sisters Emily and Anne might regard him,
Charlotte, at least, looked upon him as one of the fallen. She thus
writes to her friend concerning him on the 4th of November, 1845: 'I
hoped to be able to ask you to come to Haworth. It almost seemed as if
Branwell had a chance of getting employment, and I waited to know the
result of his efforts in order to say, dear ----, come and see us. But
the place (a secretaryship to a railway committee) is given to another
person. Branwell still remains at home; and while _he_ is here, _you_
shall not come. I am more confirmed in that resolution the more I see
of him. I wish I could say one word to you in his favour, but I
cannot. I will hold my tongue. We are all obliged to you for your kind
suggestion about Leeds; but I think our school schemes are, for the
present, at rest.' Again, she says on December 31st of the same year:
'You say well, in speaking of ----, that no sufferings are so awful as
those brought on by dissipation; alas! I see the truth of this
observation daily proved. ---- and ---- must have as weary and
burdensome a life of it in waiting upon their unhappy brother. It
seems grievous, indeed, that those who have not sinned should suffer
so largely.'[22] Charlotte also, writing to Nancy Garrs, who at times
assisted at the parsonage, complained of the conduct of her brother;
but, later, requested that the letter should be destroyed. Her wish
was complied with.

        [22] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. xiii.

It is, indeed, an almost impossible task to convey to the reader, in
the pages of a biography, an idea which will, in an adequate degree,
approach the intimate acquaintance which those who lived, saw, and
spoke with its subject possessed. And, yet, how necessary is such
knowledge to the right understanding of anyone's letters! But with what
chance of a true insight, then, shall we read the letters of Branwell
Brontë and his sister, if we have an incorrect view of his character?

Miss Robinson has confidently concluded, from certain depreciatory
references to himself, in his letters to Mr. Grundy, that, at this
period, 'he was manifestly, and by his own confession, too physically
prostrate for any literary effort,' with how much accuracy the reader
has seen and will further see. And Mr. Wemyss Reid, with respect to the
character of Mr. Brontë, adopting much of Mrs. Gaskell's view of him,
and relying upon his children's letters, has produced a portrait of him
to which, as he allows, 'some of those who knew him in his later years,
including one who is above all others entitled to an opinion on the
subject, have objected as being over-coloured.' We must not read, then,
too literally all that we find in the letters. It would be folly to
take word for word Charlotte's account of her father's anger when she
announced to him a proposal of marriage which had been made to her, and
which did not accord with his wish; or to believe that 'compassion or
relenting is no more to be looked for from papa than sap from
firewood,' when we know that he afterwards voluntarily gave way, and
sacrificed his own opinion. Nor would it be right to accept any
exaggerated confession of Charlotte about herself, in a literal sense.
And thus it does not sound well in Mrs. Gaskell, after completing her
account of the outward events of Branwell's life, to say, 'All that is
to be said more about Branwell Brontë shall be said by Charlotte
herself, not by me;' and then to proceed to extract such portions of
the sister's letters as condemned him, and to summarize or repress
anything favourable. But Miss Robinson has gone further. She, by
extracting a few censures from various letters, apart in date, and
leaving out all mention of the chance of the secretaryship in the
letter of November the 4th, and the words 'to him' in another, has left
her reader under the impression that, after his dismissal, Branwell
would not seek employment. 'Such was not his intention,' she says. But
Branwell's efforts to obtain the secretaryship, to which Charlotte
alludes, are sufficient evidence of a contrary disposition in him; and
we shall find that he exerted himself in other directions also.

The failure of the school-keeping has likewise been duly laid to his
charge, although, as we have seen, Mr. Brontë's oncoming blindness, in
the first place, and the difficulty of procuring pupils at Haworth,
were the causes of its failure. To the reason why no attempt was made
to open a school elsewhere, I shall have further to allude.

We have been told by Mrs. Gaskell that, some months after Branwell's
dismissal, he met the wife of his former employer clandestinely by
appointment. 'There was,' she says, 'a strange lingering of conscience,
when ... he refused to consent to the elopement which she proposed.'[23]
Miss Robinson, who adopts this report, thinks that the phrase 'herself
and estate,' in the letter he sent to Mr. Grundy, throws quite a new
light upon Mrs. Gaskell's opinion that there were any remains of
conscience left in Branwell Brontë. She says he counselled 'a little
longer waiting,'--that he might become possessed of the property, on
the death of the lady's husband. But if this incident of the proposed
elopement had actually taken place, the delay suggested by Branwell
should surely be held as proof that anything positively dishonourable
was repulsive to him. The lady, too, had an ample fortune of her own,
of which, had she proposed an elopement, she would have informed him.
But, if we consider the possible sources from which such a story as
this could arise, we may surmise that Mrs. Gaskell,--who first gave it
to the public, and on whose authority it alone remains,--obtained it,
with the many other incidents she has published, from the current
scandal of Haworth,--where else could she have heard it?--and when we
remember that the rumours of the village, though magnified a
hundred-fold, had their origin in the infatuated belief and wild
statements of Branwell himself, possibly we shall not be wrong if we
conclude that it had no foundation whatever in fact. Certainly there is
no sufficient evidence for it. And the story is in itself inherently
improbable, for it alleges that the lady had been not only regardless
of her reputation, but had cast to the winds all thoughts of those
pecuniary considerations which, a little later, upon the death of her
husband, are stated to have prevented her from marrying in honour the
supposed object of her affections.

        [23] 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap, xiii., 1st edition.

I have, earlier in this work, spoken of a poem on one of the traditions
of Lancashire, by Mr. Peters, entitled: 'Leyland's Daughter,' which is
the story of a romantic elopement. Branwell, early in 1846, proposed to
write a poem on Morley Hall, in the parish of Leigh, where the
elopement took place in the reign of Edward VI., in which he also would
touch upon the incident.

This tradition, and Branwell's intended work on the subject, became
often a topic of conversation both at Haworth and Halifax: and, it is
not improbable that, some ten years afterwards, when Mrs. Gaskell was
searching at the former place for materials for her work, the story of
this ancient elopement had become mixed with the stories of the village
respecting Branwell and the lady of his late employer, and thus, with
them, was ready for Mrs. Gaskell's hand, additions having been made as
to time and place.



The Sisters as Writers of Poetry--They Decide to Publish--Each
begins a Novel--The Spirit under which the Work was Undertaken--
'The Professor'--'Agnes Grey'--'Wuthering Heights'--Branwell's
Condition--A Touching Incident--'Epistle from a Father to a Child
in her Grave'--Letter with Sonnet--Publication of the Sisters'

If Branwell Brontë had devoted himself to literature under the impulse
of his misfortune, his sisters were not long unoccupied ere they also
entered upon its pursuit. 'One day, in the autumn of 1845,' says
Charlotte, 'I accidentally lighted on a MS. volume of verse in my
sister Emily's handwriting.' The elder sister was not surprised,
knowing that the younger could and did write verse; but she thought
these were no common effusions. 'To my ear,' she says, 'they had also a
peculiar music--wild, melancholy, and elevating. My sister Emily was
not a person of demonstrative character, nor one on the recesses of
whose mind and feelings even those nearest and dearest to her could,
with impunity, intrude unlicensed; it took hours to reconcile her to
the discovery I had made, and days to persuade her that such poems
merited publication.' Charlotte Brontë here grasped, with unfailing
precision, the very secret spell which we find in Emily's poetry; the
strange, wild, weird voice, with which it speaks to us, spoke first of
all to her, and she felt the heather-scented breath, even as we do, of
the moorland air on which its music was borne. Anne also produced
verses, which had 'a sweet, sincere pathos of their own;' and the three
sisters, believing, after anxious deliberation, that they might get
their respective productions accepted for publication in one volume,
set on foot inquiries on the subject, and now adopted the pseudonyms of
Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, which were afterwards to become so
famous. It was not, however, to be expected that the effusions of
inexperienced and unknown writers would be of such value as to induce
any publisher to take them on his own risk. Indeed, Miss Brontë says
'the great puzzle lay in the difficulty of getting answers of any kind
from the publishers to whom we applied.' She wrote to Messrs. Chambers,
of Edinburgh, asking advice, and received a brief and business-like
reply, upon which the sisters acted, and at last made way.

On the 28th of January, 1846, Charlotte, as we have been informed,
wrote to Messrs. Aylott and Jones, asking if they would publish a
one-volume, octavo, of poems; if not at their own risk, on the authors'
account. Messrs. Aylott and Jones did not hesitate to accept the latter

It must have been when the sisters became aware that publishers would
not accept the poetry of unknown writers on any other terms, that they
turned their thoughts to prose composition. Branwell, in his dire
distress, had fixed his attention on the writing of a three-volume
novel, principally as a refuge from mental disquiet; but his sisters,
now, with very different feelings, each set to work on a one-volume
tale. It had occurred to them, we are told, that by novel writing money
was to be made. They were, in fact, influenced by precisely the view of
the profit to be derived from fiction which Branwell had propounded in
his remarkable letter to his friend Leyland. 'Ill-success,' says
Charlotte, 'failed to crush us: the mere effort to succeed had given a
wonderful zest to existence; it must be pursued. We each set to work on
a prose tale: Ellis Bell produced "Wuthering Heights," Acton Bell,
"Agnes Grey," and Currer Bell also wrote a narrative in one volume.'

The business-like way in which the sisters went about their novel
writing, forbids us to believe that they brooded very much on the
conduct of their brother when the literary fervour was upon them; but
Miss Robinson leads her readers to think that his character and
failings had much to do with the tone which their works assumed.
Writing under this belief, and with this intention,--as might have been
expected,--she has found it necessary to paint every circumstance
relating to him, and the inmates of the parsonage, in the darkest
colours, and often has arrived at conclusions widely different from the
actual facts. Moreover this writer, in supporting her views, has fallen
into the serious error of placing the event which completed Branwell's
disappointment, and its consequences to him, four months earlier than
they occurred.

The novels which the sisters wrote under the influence of these
troubles do not, indeed, bear any marked traces of them. 'The
Professor,' Charlotte's story, which was not published until long
after, is the direct outcome of her personal experiences in Brussels,
and the few shadows that one finds in it are the record of such
troubles as she had there. In this book, Currer Bell describes the life
of endeavour, which seemed to her the most honourable, the treading of
those paths in the outer world whose pleasures and pains she had found
so keen. Already, in the March of 1845, she had written to a friend
telling her that she was no longer happy at Haworth, though it was her
duty to remain there. 'There was a time when Haworth was a very
pleasant place to me; it is not so now. I feel as if we were all buried
here. I long to travel; to work; to live a life of action.' Thus 'The
Professor' is the story of the work and of the life of action for which
the author herself was pining. William Crimsworth, neglected by his
rich relations, cut off by his brutal brother, seeks his fortune in
Brussels, and obtains a place as professor of English in a school
there. He leads a life that Charlotte knows well; he is in the place
she has learned to love; and he describes, with close observation, the
character and the routine to which she is so well accustomed. Pelet,
his master, is an original, as Paul Emanuel is, and Zoraïde Reuter is
the prototype of Madame Beck. These characters are forcibly conceived,
as is that of Mademoiselle Henri; but the book bears the traces of a
novice's hand. Thus, how unnatural does the proposal which Crimsworth
makes to Frances read to us, where, while asking her to be his wife,
demanding of her what regard she has for him, he says not a word of his
own devotion to her; and where, even when she grants him all he has
been hoping for so long, his sole remark is, 'Very well, Frances!' But
a stronger point of interest for us in the book is the spirit which
moves Crimsworth in his endeavours, where he struggles with might and
main, just as Charlotte herself wished to do, for a competency; and
there is the school, too, which his wife designs and establishes, the
very pattern of that which was in Charlotte's own mind. It is
instructive and singular that in this book we find Crimsworth suffering
from the hypochondria which beset its author, and that, too, at the
time when he should have been happiest.

'Man,' he says, 'is ever clogged with his mortality, and it was my
mortal nature which now faltered and plained; my nerves, which jarred
and gave a false sound, because the soul, of late rushing headlong to
an aim, had over-strained the body's comparative weakness. A horror of
great darkness fell upon me; I felt my chamber invaded by one I had
known formerly, but had thought for ever departed. I was temporarily a
prey to hypochondria. She had been my acquaintance, nay, my guest, once
before in boyhood; I had entertained her at bed and board for a year;
for that space of time I had her to myself in secret; she lay with me,
she ate with me, she walked out with me, showing me nooks in woods,
hollows in hills, where we could sit together, and where she could drop
her drear veil over me, and so hide sky and sun, grass and green tree;
taking me entirely to her death-cold bosom, and holding me with arms of
bone.' This was the phantom that visited Charlotte also. Of the effect
of her brother's conduct on her I have found but two passages in 'The
Professor,'--that which I have quoted respecting the youth of Victor
Crimsworth earlier in this volume, and that, in Chapter xx., where
William Crimsworth leaves Pelet's house lest a 'practical modern French
novel' should be in process beneath its roof. It was Charlotte's
design, in writing 'The Professor,' to lend it no charm of romance. Her
hero was to work his way through life, and to find no sudden turn to
endow him with wealth, for he was to earn every shilling he possessed,
and he was not even to marry a beautiful girl or a lady of rank in the
end. 'In the sequel, however,' says Charlotte, 'I find that publishers
in general scarcely approved of this system, but would have liked
something more imaginative and poetical;' and for this reason,
probably, the book did not find a publisher so soon as 'Agnes Grey,'
and 'Wuthering Heights,' which were sent from the parsonage with it.

'Agnes Grey,' Anne Brontë's story, like 'The Professor,' is the
picture of things its author had known, painted almost as she saw
them. Anne's experience as a governess had made her acquainted with
certain phases of life, which she could not but reproduce. Hence Agnes
Grey is thrown into the sphere of the careless and selfish family of
the Bloomfields; and afterwards, with the Murrays at Horton Lodge, she
sees a kind of personal character and social life which, on account of
its coldness and worldliness, greatly repelled Anne Brontë, with her
warm and sympathetic nature. She teaches the same lesson of the folly
of _mariages de convenance_, and of the wrong of subjecting the
affections, and bartering happiness for the sake of worldly position,
which she afterwards dwells upon more strongly in 'The Tenant of
Wildfell Hall.' It is in this fictitious parallel of Anne Brontë's own
experience, if anywhere in her writings, that we might expect to find
some reflection of the recent history of her brother's fall. Mr. Reid
has asserted that this formed the dark turning-point in her life, for
'living under the same roof with him when he went astray,' she 'was
compelled to be a closer and more constant witness of his sins and his
sufferings than either Charlotte or Emily.' Her letters home, it has
been stated, conveyed the news of her dark forebodings. But, all the
same, the story she wrote, almost under the shadow of her brother's
disgrace, is the simple, straightforward, humorous narrative of the
gentle and pious Anne Brontë, revealing not so much as a suspicion of
vice or thought of evil; and, in this respect, it presents a contrast
to her second work. There is evidence that when the sisters wrote
their novels they had already attributed monomania to Branwell, and
could thus explain his history for themselves. It was not in the
nature of 'Agnes Grey' to be successful as a novel, but we find in it
that Anne possessed a faculty which scarcely appears in Charlotte's
writings,--that of humour. Look, for instance, at the way in which she
sketches so forcibly, and with such droll perception, the character of
the youthful Bloomfields, and, afterwards, of Miss Matilda Murray,
with her equine propensities and masculine tastes.

'Wuthering Heights,' the work which Emily Brontë sent from the
parsonage at the same time, incomparably finer in its powers than
either 'The Professor' or 'Agnes Grey,' is a dramatic story of passion
and tragic energy that astonished the world,--and with which it has
been said Branwell's life in those days had much concern.
Inferentially, it is contended that, without the darkening effect on
her understanding of Branwell's misfortunes, without the neighbourhood
of the 'brother of set purpose drinking himself to death out of furious
thwarted passion for a mistress he might not marry,' Emily Brontë could
not have conceived it. It will, then, perhaps be better to defer the
study of Emily's production till something more has been said of the
period in which it was written; and until some new light has been
thrown upon Branwell's character and career, and upon the anachronistic
improprieties of previous writers.

Mrs. Gaskell passes over the period in which the sisters betook
themselves to novel writing with little comment. But she keeps in
remembrance the presence of Branwell while their literary labours
continued,--'the black shadow of remorse lying over one in their home.'
What it was that the biographer of Charlotte supposed stung Branwell's
conscience is well-known; but, if there had been this cause for it in
one of a naturally remorseful disposition, as his was, we must have met
with some expression of it in his letters or poems, for

    'The Mind, that broods o'er guilty woes,
      Is like the Scorpion girt by fire.'

Yet, perhaps, one of the most significant points to be observed in
Branwell's writings, and in studying his conduct, is the absence of any
such remorse. He encouraged himself--after the first shock of his
disappointment--with the hope that time would bring him the happiness
he wished; and, as some believe, with good and sufficient reason. He
was unhappy when he thought of the supposed ill-health and sufferings
of the lady.

It is noteworthy that something inconsequent, in putting down
Branwell's conduct entirely to remorse in this way, was the feature of
Mrs. Gaskell's work, to which so great an analyzer of motives as George
Eliot, as shown by her letters published quite recently, took
exception, and regretted.[24]

        [24] 'George Eliot's Life, as related in her Letters and
        Journals,' arranged and edited by her husband, J. W. Cross,
        1885, vol. i., p. 441.

If we believe Branwell to have been subject to hallucination, we may
then, perhaps, gain an idea of the true cause of the wretchedness he
endured when he fell back on his own reflections. His life had been one
of severe disappointment. Those early aims in art, for which he had
spent so much preparation, and from which he hoped so much, had fallen
away before him; his first efforts as usher and tutor had come to
nothing; then followed the lapse which ended his stay with the railway
company; and, lastly, the infatuation which had seized him in his late
employment, with its vision of future opulence, and rest from all
former change and trouble, ending in dismissal, distraction, and
disgrace. All these things, rushing back upon his mind in moments of
reflection, were more than he could bear, and he sought, in various
ways, some honourable to him, to divert himself from the subject, but
sometimes in a manner that gave cause for complaint at home, and
resulted in moodiness and irritability of temper. On the other hand, he
seems to have felt himself aggrieved by a want of sympathy on the part
of his family in sufferings they did not comprehend.

Mr. George Searle Phillips, with whom Branwell became acquainted at
Bradford, and who visited him at Haworth, says that he complained
sometimes of the way in which he was treated at home; and, as an
instance, relates the following:

'One of the Sunday-school girls, in whom he and all his house took much
interest, fell very sick, and they were afraid she would not live. "I
went to see the poor little thing," he said; "sat with her
half-an-hour, and read a psalm to her, and a hymn at her request. I
felt very like praying with her too," he added, his voice trembling
with emotion; "but, you see, I was not good enough. How dare I pray for
another, who had almost forgotten how to pray for myself! I came away
with a heavy heart, for I felt sure she would die, and went straight
home, where I fell into melancholy musings. I wanted somebody to cheer
me. I often do, but no kind word finds its way even to my ears, much
less to my heart. Charlotte observed my depression, and asked what
ailed me. So I told her. She looked at me with a look I shall never
forget--if I live to be a hundred years old--which I never shall. It
was not like her at all. It wounded me as if some one had struck me a
blow in the mouth. It involved ever so many things in it. It was a
dubious look. It ran over me, questioning, and examining, as if I had
been a wild beast. It said, 'Did my ears deceive me, or did I hear
aright?' And then came the painful, baffled expression, which was worse
than all. It said, 'I wonder if that's true?' But, as she left the
room, she seemed to accuse herself of having wronged me, and smiled
kindly upon me, and said, 'She is my little scholar, and I will go and
see her.' I replied not a word. I was too much cut up. When she was
gone, I came over here to the 'Black Bull,' and made a note of it in
sheer disgust and desperation. Why could they not give me some credit
when I was trying to be good?"'[25]

        [25] 'The Mirror,' 1872.

At the beginning of March, Charlotte returned from a visit to a friend,
and we hear that she found it very forced work to address her brother
when she went into the room where he was; but he took no notice, and
made no reply; he was stupefied; she had heard that he had got a
sovereign while she was away, on pretence of paying a pressing debt,
and had changed it, at a public-house, with the expected result.

Again Charlotte says, on March 31st, 1846: 'I am thankful papa
continues pretty well, though often made very miserable by Branwell's
wretched conduct. _There_--there is no change but for the worse.'

At this time Branwell wrote the following beautiful ode, somewhat
incomplete in its expression, yet characteristic of his genius, which
seems to have been inspired by the outcast feelings of which he spoke
to Mr. Phillips, and to contain some reproach to those who thought him
deficient in natural affection. It bears date April 3rd, 1846:


      'From Earth,--whose life-reviving April showers
    Hide withered grass 'neath Springtide's herald flowers,
    And give, in each soft wind that drives her rain,
    Promise of fields and forests rich again,--
    I write to thee, the aspect of whose face
    Can never change with altered time or place;
    Whose eyes could look on India's fiercest wars
    Less shrinking than the boldest son of Mars;
    Whose lips, more firm that Stoic's long ago,
    Would neither smile with joy nor blanch with woe;
    Whose limbs could sufferings far more firmly bear
    Than mightiest heroes in the storms of war;
    Whose frame, nor wishes good, nor shrinks from ill,
    Nor feels distraction's throb, nor pleasure's thrill.

      'I write to thee what thou wilt never read,
    For heed me thou _wilt not_, howe'er may bleed
    The heart that many think a worthless stone,
    But which oft aches for some belovéd one;
    Nor, if that life, mysterious, from on high,
    Once more gave feeling to thy stony eye,
    Could'st thou thy father know, or feel that he
    Gave life and lineaments and thoughts to thee;
    For when thou died'st, thy day was in its dawn,
    And night still struggled with Life's opening morn;
    The twilight star of childhood, thy young days
    Alone illumined, with its twinkling rays,
    So sweet, yet feeble, given from those dusk skies,
    Whose kindling, coming noontide prophesies,
    But tells us not that Summer's noon can shroud
    Our sunshine with a veil of thunder-cloud.

      'If, when thou freely gave the life, that ne'er
    To thee had given either hope or fear,
    But quietly had shone; nor asked if joy
    Thy future course should cheer, or grief annoy;

      'If then thoud'st seen, upon a summer sea,
    One, once in features, as in blood, like thee,
    On skies of azure blue and waters green,
    Melting to mist amid the summer sheen,
    In trouble gazing--ever hesitating
    'Twixt miseries each hour new dread creating,
    And joys--whate'er they cost--still doubly dear,
    Those "troubled pleasures soon chastised by fear;"
    If thou _had'st_ seen him, thou would'st ne'er believe
    That thou had'st yet known what it was to live!

      'Thine eyes could only see thy mother's breast;
    Thy feelings only wished on that to rest;
    That was thy world;--thy food and sleep it gave,
    And slight the change 'twixt it and childhood's grave.
    Thou saw'st this world like one who, prone, reposes,
    Upon a plain, and in a bed of roses,
    With nought in sight save marbled skies above,
    Nought heard but breezes whispering in the grove:
    I--thy life's source--was like a wanderer breasting
    Keen mountain winds, and on a summit resting,
    Whose rough rocks rose above the grassy mead,
    With sleet and north winds howling overhead,
    And Nature, like a map, beneath him spread;
    Far winding river, tree, and tower, and town,
    Shadow and sunlight, 'neath his gaze marked down
    By that mysterious hand which graves the plan
    Of that drear country called "The Life of Man."

      'If seen, men's eyes would loathing shrink from thee,
    And turn, perhaps, with no disgust to me;
    Yet thou had'st beauty, innocence, and smiles,
    And now hast rest from this world's woes and wiles,
    While I have restlessness and worrying care,
    So sure, thy lot is brighter, happier far.

      'So let it be; and though thy ears may never
    Hear these lines read beyond Death's darksome river,
    Not vainly from the borders of despair
    May rise a sound of joy that thou art freed from care!'

On the 6th of April of this year, Charlotte wrote to Messrs. Aylott &
Jones, informing them that 'the Messrs. Bell' were preparing for the
press a work of fiction, consisting of three distinct and unconnected
tales, which might be published either together, as a work of three
volumes of the ordinary novel size, or separately, as single volumes.
It was not their intention to publish these at their own expense, and
they wished to know if Messrs. Aylott would be likely to undertake the
work, if approved.

The novels must have been well on towards completion before the sisters
ventured on these inquiries. The firm thus addressed kindly offered
advice, of which Charlotte gladly availed herself to ask some
questions. These were respecting the difficulty which unknown authors
find in obtaining assistance from publishers; and Charlotte has indeed
informed us that the three tales were going about among them 'for the
space of a year and a half.' But 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Agnes Grey'
at last found acceptance in the early summer of 1847.

A friendly compact had been made between Branwell and Leyland that the
latter should model a medallion of his friend, and that Branwell should
write the poem 'Morley Hall,'--to which I have had occasion above to
allude--a subject in which the sculptor was much interested. Shortly
after his sister made the inquiries from Messrs. Aylott, Branwell
visited Halifax to sit for his medallion; and, on the 28th of April, he
wrote the following letter to his friend:--

    'Haworth, Bradford,


    'As I am anxious--though my return for your kindness will be like
    giving a sixpence for a sovereign lent--to do my best in my
    intended lines on Morley, I want answers to the following
    questions.... If I learn these facts, I'll do my best, but in all I
    try to write I desire to stick to probabilities and local

    'I cannot, without a smile at myself, think of my stay for three
    days in Halifax on a business which need not have occupied three
    hours; but, in truth, when I fall back _on_ myself, I suffer so
    much wretchedness that I cannot withstand any temptation to get
    _out_ of myself--and for that reason, I am prosecuting enquiries
    about situations suitable to me, whereby I could have a voyage
    abroad. The quietude of home, and the inability to make my family
    aware of the nature of most of my sufferings, makes me write:

        'Home thoughts are not with me,
          Bright, as of yore;
        Joys are forgot by me,
          Taught to deplore!
        My home has taken rest
        In an afflicted breast,
        Which I have often pressed,
          But may no more.

    'Troubles never come alone--and I have some little troubles astride
    the shoulders of the big one.

    'Literary exertion would seem a resource; but the depression
    attendant on it, and the almost hopelessness of bursting through
    the barriers of literary circles, and getting a hearing among
    publishers, make me disheartened and indifferent, for I cannot
    write what would be thrown unread into a library fire. Otherwise, I
    have the materials for a respectably sized volume, and, if I were
    in London personally, I might, perhaps, try ---- ----, a patronizer
    of the sons of rhyme; though I daresay the poor man often smarts
    for his liberality in publishing hideous trash. As I know that,
    while here, I might send a manuscript to London, and say good-bye
    to it, I feel it folly to feed the flames of a printer's fire. So
    much for egotism!

    'I enclose a horribly ill-drawn daub done to while away the time
    this morning. I meant it to represent a very rough figure in stone.

        'When all our cheerful hours seem gone for ever,
          All lost that caused the body or the mind
          To nourish love or friendship for our kind,
        And Charon's boat, prepared, o'er Lethe's river
        Our souls to waft, and all our thoughts to sever
          From what was once life's Light; still there may be
          Some well-loved bosom to whose pillow we
        Could heartily our utter self deliver;
        And if, toward her grave--Death's dreary road--
          Our Darling's feet should tread, each step by her
        Would draw our own steps to the same abode,
          And make a festival of sepulture;
        For what gave joy, and joy to us had owed,
        Should death affright us from, when he would her restore?

    'Yours most sincerely,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

The sketch, referred to in this letter, is in Indian-ink, and is of a
female figure, with clasped hands, streaming hair, and averted face. We
need not entertain a doubt as to whom it is intended to represent. It
is inscribed, in Spanish, 'Nuestra Señora de la Pena'--Our Lady of
Grief--which also appears on a headstone in the sketch.

The sonnet, which concludes this letter to Leyland, is beautiful as it
is sad, and not only possesses the musical cadences, and completeness
of theme, so essential in this mode of expression, but exhibits the
high culture of Branwell's mind, and the direction in which the
irrepressible emotions of his heart are moved.

Branwell, in this communication, makes no further mention of his novel.
Yet the experience of his sisters with their poems had only confirmed
the judgment he expressed six months before, that no pecuniary
advantage was to be obtained by publishing verse. The sisters had
expended, on their little volume, over thirty pounds; but they valued
it rightly as an effort to succeed. It was issued from the press early
in May.

Charlotte had conducted the negotiations with the publishers in a very
business-like way. She had directed them as to the copies to be sent
for review, and as to the advertisements, on which she wished to expend
little. The book appeared, and the world took little note of it: it was
scarcely mentioned anywhere; but the sisters at Haworth waited
patiently, and they were not dismayed that they waited in vain; for
they had new-born hope in their other literary venture of the three
prose stories. 'The book,' says Charlotte of the Poems, 'was printed:
it is scarcely known, and all of it that merits to be known are the
poems of Ellis Bell. The fixed conviction I held, and hold, of the
worth of these poems has not indeed received the confirmation of much
favourable criticism; but I must retain it notwithstanding.'

In his letter Branwell expresses himself as still anxious for
employment; and wise in the direction in which he seeks it. A total
change of scene and circumstance would have been, at this time, his
best cure and greatest blessing. Unhappily, he failed in the attempt;
and we find him again writing to Mr. Grundy, inquiring for some kind of



Death of Branwell's late Employer--Branwell's Disappointment--His
Letters--His Delusion--Leyland's Medallion of Him--Mr. Brontë's
Blindness--Branwell's Statement to Mr. Grundy in Reference to
'Wuthering Heights'--The Sisters Relinquish the Intention of Opening
a School.

An event occurred, in the early summer of 1846, which plunged
Branwell into a despair, wilder, and more distracting than the one
from which he had partially recovered. This resulted from the death
of his late employer. No doubt, during the interval which had elapsed
between his dismissal from his tutorship, and the event last named,
he had encouraged himself, it might be unconsciously for the most
part, with the hope that, on the death of her husband, the lady on
whom he doted would marry him. In this frame of mind, when his
illusion was intensified by the clearance of the path before him, and
his self-control unbridled, it may not be a subject of wonder, if he
became troublesome to the inmates of the dwelling afflicted by death.

The following story, with variations, has been told as having
reference to some actual or intended act of indiscretion of Branwell's
at the time. It has been said that, at this juncture, a messenger was
sent over to Haworth by Mrs. ----, forbidding Branwell 'ever to see
her again, as, if he did, she would forfeit her fortune.'[26] It will
be seen shortly that no such provision was made in her husband's will,
and that the fortune she had secured to her could not be forfeited by
any such act of Branwell's. The whole story, therefore, to which Mrs.
Gaskell and Miss Robinson have devoted so much space may well be
discredited. But Mrs. Gaskell says absolutely that Mrs. ----
'despatched _a_ servant in hot haste to Haworth. He stopped at the
"Black Bull," and a messenger was sent up to the parsonage for
Branwell. He came down, &c.'[27] Miss Robinson, twenty-five years
later, amplifies the story. She says: '_two_ men came riding to the
village post haste. They sent for Branwell, and when he arrived, in a
great state of excitement, one of the riders dismounted and went with
him into the "Black Bull."'[28] Without inquiring into Branwell's
excitement, or into the variations in the two accounts--for there is
but one point in the story on which the two authors are perfectly
agreed, _viz._, that Branwell, on the occasion, 'bleated like a
calf!'--there can be little doubt that this case, on such evidence,
could not get upon its legs before any country jury impanelled to try
petty causes. But Branwell himself, in his letter to Mr. Grundy, given
below, says the coachman _came_ to _see_ him, not that the lady _sent_
him; and we may justly infer--if ever he came at all--that he come on
his own account, having been personally acquainted with Branwell when
he was tutor at ----. But, can it be believed that, supposing Mrs.
---- to have been enamoured of Branwell, as asserted, she could find
no other confidant than her 'coachman,' as a means of communicating
her sorrows and lamentations to the distracted object of her devotion?
There is, in this story, the inconsistency of madness. And it must be
borne in mind that the other stories, relating to Branwell at the time
of his tutorship at ----, which appear to have so much interested the
biographers of Charlotte and Emily, have their paternity at Haworth,
and are not the more trustworthy on that account.

        [26] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap, xiii., 1st.

        [27] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap, xiii., 1st.

        [28] Robinson's 'Emily Brontë,' p. 145.

I regret to trouble the reader still further with the errors of fact,
and the exaggerated statements into which Mrs. Gaskell has fallen
respecting this event. She says of Mrs. ----: '_Her husband had made
a will, in which what property he left her was bequeathed solely on
the condition that she should never see Branwell Brontë again_.'[29]
(The Italics are my own.) Mrs. Gaskell's postulations concerning this
will are quite as erroneous as that she made in reference to Miss
Branwell's, so far as it related to her nephew. Indeed, like her other
allegations respecting this most painful epoch of Branwell's life, she
derived the information on which they were based, more from hearsay
than from respectable or documentary evidence. It is clear she never
saw the wills about which she speaks with so much assurance.

        [29] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap, xiii., 1st

Mrs. ----, by virtue of an indenture and a certain marriage
settlement, was put into possession of an income that would, after her
husband's death, have enabled her to live for the term of her life
with Branwell in comparative plenty. To his wife, Mr. ----, in
addition to this, left the interest arising from his real and personal
estate. She was also principal trustee, executor, and guardian of his
children. Moreover, he enjoined upon her co-trustees always to regard
the wishes and interests of his wife, and to do nothing without
consulting her about the administering of his affairs. But all
this--and it is quite usual--was to continue only during her
widowhood; and this common arrangement, let it be borne in mind, was
no more directed against Branwell than anyone else. What then, it may
well be asked, becomes of Mrs. Gaskell's assertion that the property
left to Mrs. ---- was bequeathed solely on the condition that 'she
should never see Branwell Brontë again'? Whatever Mrs. Gaskell and her
followers may have asserted respecting Mr. ----'s will, it was made
without the slightest reference to Branwell, who himself misconceived
its character, and whose very existence is unknown to it, its
provisions being made without the most distant allusion to the affair
that worried the unfortunate tutor day and night.

If the widow's love for Branwell had not been a mere figment of his
wounded humanity, but the real affection which he fervently believed it
to be, she had now the opportunity, with a sufficient income for the
residue of her days, of enjoying with him an honourable and peaceful
life. But the affection that makes sacrifices light, where they present
themselves, was not there to call for them on behalf of Branwell, even
had they now been needed. Moreover, there is no evidence worth the name
that Mrs. ---- ever committed the acts in relation to him attributed to
her; on the contrary, the sincere affection and touching reliance on
his wife, manifested throughout his will, is proof enough that her
husband had had no cause to call her fidelity in question. It is,
indeed, true that, while the lady's reputation was unblemished in the
wide circle of her friends in the neighbourhood of her residence, she
was being traduced, misrepresented, and belied at Haworth and its
vicinity alone. This was all known to Charlotte Brontë when she wrote
her poem of 'Preference.'

The state of Branwell's mind, and the extent of his hallucinations
under their last phase, may be observed in the following letters,
written in the month of June, 1846, the first being to Mr. Grundy.[30]

        [30] 'Pictures of the Past,' p. 89.

    'Haworth, Bradford,

    'DEAR SIR,

    'I must again trouble you with--' (Here comes another prayer for
    employment, with, at the same time, a confession that his health
    alone renders the wish all but hopeless.) Subsequently he says,
    'The gentleman with whom I have been is dead. His property is left
    in trust for the family, provided I do not see the widow; and if I
    do, it reverts to the executing trustees, with ruin to her. She is
    now distracted with sorrows and agonies; and the statement of her
    case, as given by her coachman, who has come to see me at Haworth,
    fills me with inexpressible grief. Her mind is distracted to the
    verge of insanity, and mine is so wearied that I wish I were in my

    'Yours very sincerely,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

He also wrote to Leyland in great distraction.

    'I should have sent you "Morley Hall" ere now, but I am unable to
    finish it at present, from agony to which the grave would be far
    preferable. Mr. ---- is _dead_, and he has left his widow in a
    dreadful state of health.... Through the will, she is left quite
    powerless. The executing trustees' (the principal one of whom, as
    we have seen, was the very lady whose hopeless love for him he was
    deploring) 'detest me, and one declares that, if he sees me, he
    will shoot me.

    'These things I do not care about, but I do care for the life of
    the one who suffers even more than I do....

    'You, though not much older than myself, have known life. I now
    know it, with a vengeance--for four nights I have not slept--for
    three days I have not tasted food--and, when I think of the state
    of her I love best on earth, I could wish that my head was as cold
    and stupid as the medallion which lies in your studio.

    'I write very egotistically, but it is because my mind is crowded
    with one set of thoughts, and I long for one sentence from a

    'What shall I _do_? I know not--I am too hard to die, and too
    wretched to live. My wretchedness is not about castles in the air,
    but about stern realities; my hardihood lies in bodily vigour;
    but, dear sir, my mind sees only a dreary future, which I as
    little wish to enter on as could a martyr to be bound to a stake.

    'I sincerely trust that you are quite well, and hope that this
    wretched scrawl will not make me appear to you a worthless fool,
    or a thorough bore.

    'Believe me, yours most sincerely,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

With this letter was enclosed a pen-and-ink sketch of Branwell bound
to the stake, his wrists chained together, and surrounded by flames
and smoke. The rigidity of the muscles, the fixed expression of the
face, and the manifest beginning of pain are well portrayed.
Underneath the drawing, in a constrained hand, is written, 'Myself.'

Again he writes to Leyland a letter in which he dwells on his
unavailing grief, and vividly points out its effects upon him. He
says, alluding to the lady of his distracted thoughts, 'Well, my dear
sir, I have got my finishing stroke at last, and I feel stunned into
marble by the blow.

'I have this morning received a long, kind, and faithful letter from
the medical gentleman who attended ---- in his last illness, and who
has since had an interview with one whom I can never forget.

'He knows me _well_, and pities my case most sincerely.... It's hard
work for me, dear sir; I would bear it, but my health is so bad that
the body seems as if it could not bear the mental shock.... My
appetite is lost, my nights are dreadful, and having nothing to do
makes me dwell on past scenes,--on her own self--her own voice--her
person--her thoughts--till I could be glad if God would take me. In
the next world I could not be worse than I am in this.'

On June the 17th, Charlotte writes:

'Branwell declares that he neither can nor will do anything for
himself; good situations have been offered him, for which, by a
fortnight's work, he might have qualified himself, but he will do
nothing except drink and make us all wretched.'[31]

        [31] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. xiv.

It would seem that the sisters were unaware of the depth of his
present misery, and in part misunderstood the disturbed condition of
their brother's mind at this juncture. But Branwell, although
suffering great mental prostration under the infliction of any sudden
and unexpected disappointment, was possessed of considerable
recuperative power; and, after a period of brooding melancholy over
his woes, he appeared to take renewed interest in the events that were
passing around him. This seems to have been the case even under his
late circumstances; there was, in the depth of his own heart, a woe
from which he endeavoured to escape by engaging in the pursuits and
pleasures of his friends.

On the 3rd of July, having, to all appearance, somewhat recovered from
this disappointment, Branwell wrote to his friend the sculptor:

    'DEAR SIR,

    'John Brown told me that you had a relievo of my very wretched
    self, framed in your studio.

    'If it be a _duplicate_, I should like the carrier to bring it to
    Haworth; not that I care a fig for it, save from regard for its
    maker,--but my sisters ask me to try to obtain it; and I write in
    obedience to them.

    'I earnestly trust that you are heartier than I am, and I promise
    to send you "Morley Hall" as soon as dreary days and nights will
    give me leave to do so.

    'Believe me,

    'Yours most sincerely,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

This was a life-size medallion of him, head and shoulders, which
Leyland had modelled. The work was in very high relief, and the
likeness was perfect. It was inserted in a deep oval recess, lined
with crimson velvet, and this was fixed in a massive oak frame,
glazed. It projected, when hung up in the drawing-room of the
parsonage at Haworth, some eight inches from the wall; this was the
one Mrs. Gaskell saw, of which she says:--'I have seen Branwell's
profile; it is what would be generally esteemed very handsome; the
forehead is massive, the eye well set, and the expression of it fine
and intellectual; the nose, too, is good; but there are coarse lines
about the mouth, and the lips, though of handsome shape, are loose and
thick, indicating self-indulgence, while the slightly retreating chin
conveys an idea of weakness of will.'[32] Mrs. Gaskell had only an
imperfect view of the work she describes, for it was hung on the wall
directly _opposite_ to the windows, so that it was destitute of any

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

Again Branwell writes to Leyland, on the 16th of July, now more
himself, and anxious to see his friends:

'I enclose the accompanying bill to tempt you to Haworth next

'For myself, after a fit of horror inexpressible, and violent
palpitation of the heart, I have taken care of myself bodily, but to
what good? The best health will not kill _acute_, and _not ideal_,
mental agony.

'Cheerful company does me good till some bitter truth blazes through
my brain, and then the present of a bullet would be received with

'I wish I could flee to writing as a refuge, but I cannot; and, as to
_slumber_, my mind, whether awake or asleep, has been in incessant
action for seven weeks.'

Branwell wrote also to Mr. Grundy.[33]

        [33] 'Pictures of the Past,' p. 89.

'Since I saw Mr. George Gooch, I have suffered much from the accounts
of the declining health of her whom I must love most in the world, and
who, for my fault, suffers sorrows which surely were never her due. My
father, too, is now quite blind, and from such causes literary
pursuits have become matters I have no heart to wield. If I could see
you it would be a sincere pleasure, but.... Perhaps your memory of me
may be dimmed, for you have known little in me worth remembering; but
I still think often with pleasure of yourself, though so different
from me in head and mind.'

'I invited him,' says Mr. Grundy, 'to come to me at the Devonshire
Hotel, Skipton, a distance of some seventeen miles, and in reply
received the last letter he ever wrote.' Branwell says,

    'If I have strength enough for the journey, and the weather be
    tolerable, I shall feel happy in visiting you at the Devonshire on
    Friday, the 31st of this month. The sight of a face I have been
    accustomed to see and like when I was happier and stronger, now
    proves my best medicine.'

Mr. Grundy, supposing these letters to have been written in the year
1848, is in error in stating this to have been the last Branwell ever
wrote. The Friday Branwell mentions must have been the one that fell
on the 31st of July, 1846. About the close of that month, Charlotte
and Emily went to Manchester to consult Mr. Wilson, the oculist, who,
later, removed the cataract from Mr. Brontë's eyes. Under these
circumstances, Branwell failed in his intended journey to Skipton.

The cataract had slowly increased as the summer advanced, till at last
Mr. Brontë was quite blind. This gradual disappearance from his vision
of the things he knew had necessarily a very depressing effect upon
him. The thought would sometimes come to him that, if his sight were
permanently lost, he would be nothing in his parish; but he supported
himself, for the most part, under his affliction with his accustomed
stoicism of endurance. His great trouble was that, when his sight
became so dim that he could barely recognize his children's faces, and
when he was debarred from using his eyes in reading, he was shut off
from the solace of his books, and from the sources--the periodical
press--of his knowledge of the current affairs of the outside world,
wherein he took such intense interest. He was, then, left dependent on
the information of others, or on his children, who read to him in such
time as they could spare from literary and household occupations. Yet
there was hope--hope of an ultimate restoration of sight, and Mr.
Brontë was still able to preach, even when he could not see those to
whom he spoke. It was remarked that even then his sermons occupied
exactly half-an-hour in delivery. This was the length of time he, with
his ready use of words, had always found sufficient, and he did not
exceed it now.

Every inquiry had been made from private friends that might throw
light upon the chances of success in any possible operation, and it
was in view of this object that the sisters visited Manchester. There
they met with Mr. Wilson, who was, however, unable to say positively
from description whether the eyes were ready for an operation or not.
He proposed to extract the cataract, and it was accordingly arranged
that Mr. Brontë should meet him.

Charlotte took her father to Manchester on the 16th of August, and,
writing a few days later, she says to her friend, 'I just scribble a
line to you to let you know where I am, in order that you may write to
me here, for it seems to me that a letter from you would relieve me
from the feeling of strangeness I have in this big town. Papa and I
came here on Wednesday; we saw Mr. Wilson, the oculist, the same day;
he pronounced papa's eyes quite ready for an operation, and has fixed
next Monday for the performance of it. Think of us on that day! We got
into our lodgings yesterday. I think we shall be comfortable; at
least, our rooms are very good.... Mr. Wilson says we shall have to
stay here for a month at least. I wonder how Emily and Anne will get
on at home with Branwell. They, too, will have their troubles. What
would I not give to have you here! One is forced, step by step, to get
experience in the world; but the learning is so disagreeable. One
cheerful feature in the business is that Mr. Wilson thinks most
favourably of the case.'

Charlotte's fears respecting her brother happily proved to be
unfounded; he was himself anxious about his father's recovery; and, on
her return, Charlotte, says Mrs. Gaskell, expressed herself thankful
for the good ensured, and the evil spared during her absence.

From Charlotte's next letter we learn that the operation was over.
'Mr. Wilson performed it; two other surgeons assisted. Mr. Wilson says
he considers it quite successful; but papa cannot yet see anything.
The affair lasted precisely a quarter-of-an-hour; it was not the
simple operation of couching, Mr. C. described, but the more
complicated one of extracting the cataract. Mr. Wilson entirely
disapproves of couching. Papa displayed extraordinary patience and
firmness; the surgeons seemed surprised. I was in the room all the
time, as it was his wish that I should be there; of course, I neither
spoke nor moved till the thing was done, and then I felt that the less
I said, either to papa or the surgeons, the better. Papa is now
confined to his bed in a dark room, and is not to be stirred for four
days; he is to speak and be spoken to as little as possible.' No
inflammation ensued, yet the greatest care, perfect quiet, and utter
privation of light were still necessary to complete the success of the
operation; and Mr. Brontë remained in his darkened room with his eyes
bandaged. Charlotte thus speaks of her father under these trying
circumstances. 'He is very patient, but, of course, depressed and
weary. He was allowed to try his sight for the first time yesterday.
He could see dimly. Mr. Wilson seemed perfectly satisfied, and said
all was right. I have had bad nights from the toothache since I came
to Manchester.' But, when the danger was over, daily progress was
made, and Mr. Brontë and his helpful daughter were able to return to
Haworth at the end of September, when he was fast regaining his sight.

It was probably during the six weeks when Mr. Brontë and Charlotte
were absent in Manchester that Mr. Grundy resolved to visit Branwell.
He says: 'As he never came to see me, I shortly made up my mind to
visit him at Haworth, and was shocked at the wrecked and wretched
appearance he presented. Yet he still craved for an appointment of any
kind, in order that he might try the excitement of change; of course

        [34] 'Pictures of the Past,' p. 90.

It must, it seems, have been on this occasion, in the course of
conversation at the parsonage, that Branwell made a statement,
respecting his novel, to Mr. Grundy, which has acquired considerable
interest. I give it in the words in which Mr. Grundy recalls the
incident. 'Patrick Brontë declared to me, and what his sister said
bore out the assertion, that he wrote a great portion of "Wuthering
Heights" himself.' It should be remembered, in connection with this
occurrence, that, when Mr. Grundy talked with Branwell and Emily at
Haworth, the three novels which the sisters had completed a few months
before, had met only with repeated rejection, and, perhaps, they felt
little confidence in the ultimate publication of them. 'The Professor,'
indeed, had come back to Charlotte's hands, curtly rejected, on the
very day of the operation. Doubtful of ever finding a publisher willing
to take this tale, or, at any rate, undaunted, she had commenced, while
her father was confined to his darkened room at Manchester, the
three-volume story which was afterwards to become famous as 'Jane
Eyre;' Anne, too, since she had finished 'Agnes Grey,' had been busily
writing 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' also meant to be a three-volume
story. So absorbed had the sisters become in novel writing, that a
suggestion made by a friend, at this period, of a suitable place for
opening a school, met only with an evasive answer.

'Leave home!' exclaims Charlotte, in her reply. 'I shall neither be
able to find place nor employment; perhaps, too, I shall be quite
past the prime of life, my faculties will be rusted, and my few
acquirements in a great measure forgotten. These ideas sting me keenly
sometimes; but, whenever I consult my conscience, it affirms that I am
doing right in staying at home, and bitter are its upbraidings when I
yield to an eager desire for release. I could hardly expect success if
I were to err against such warnings. I should like to hear from you
again soon. Bring ---- to the point, and make him give you a clear,
not a vague, account of what pupils he really could promise; people
often think they can do great things in that way till they have tried;
but getting pupils is unlike getting any other sort of goods.'



Branwell's Sardonic Humour--Mr. Grundy's Visit to him at Haworth--
Errors regarding the Period of it--Tragic Description--Probable
Ruse of Branwell--Correspondence between him and Mr. Grundy ceases
--Writes to Leyland--A Plaintive Verse--Another Letter.

Branwell, having shared the family anxiety, as the time drew near for
the operation which restored his father's sight, experienced a sense
of deep relief when all went well; moreover, the keenness of his
disappointment had had time to soften, and now a grim and sardonic
humour began to characterize his proceedings and his correspondence.
In this frame of mind he wrote to Leyland, early in October, 1846, a
letter illustrated by some of his most spirited pen-and-ink sketches,
in black and outline. It was headed by a drawing of John Brown, who
had been engaged in lettering a monument, and who was represented
under two different aspects. These are in one sketch, divided in
the middle by a pole, on which is placed a skull. In the first
compartment, the sexton is exhibited in a state of glorious
exultation, kicking over the table and stools, while the chair he
occupies is falling backwards. He holds a tumbler in his right hand,
and swears, in his Yorkshire dialect, that he is 'King and a hauf!'
under this, the word 'PARADISE' is inscribed. The second tableau
represents John Brown commencing his work. On a table-tomb, the
sexton's maul and chisels are placed. Being in uncertainty as to how,
or where, to begin, he exclaims, 'Whativver mun I do?' In the corner,
is a drawing of the western elevation of Haworth Church, and, near to
Brown, a head-stone, with skull and crossbones, inscribed, 'Here lieth
the Poor.' Underneath the subject is the word 'PURGATORY.' The
following is the letter:


    'Mr. John Brown wishes me to tell you that, if, by return of post,
    you can tell him the nature of his intended work, and the time it
    will probably occupy in execution, either himself or his brother,
    or both, will wait on you _early_ next week.

    'He has only delayed answering your communication from his
    unavoidable absence in a pilgrimage from Rochdale-on-the-Rhine to
    the Land of Ham, and from thence to Gehenna, Tophet, Golgotha,
    Erebus, the Styx, and to the place he now occupies, called
    Tartarus, where he, along with Sisyphus, Tantalus, Theseus, and
    Ixion, lodge and board together.

    'However, I hope that, when he meets you, he will join the company
    of Moses, Elias, and the prophets, "singing psalms, sitting on a
    wet cloud," as an acquaintance of mine described the occupation of
    the Blest.

    '"Morley Hall" is in the eighth month of her pregnancy, and
    expects ere long to be delivered of a fine thumping boy, whom his
    father means to christen _Homer_, at least, though the mother
    suggests that "Poetaster" would be more suitable; but that sounds
    too aristocratic.

    'Is the medallion cracked that Thorwaldsen executed of AUGUSTUS
    CÆSAR?' To this question is appended a drawing of a coin, about
    the size of an ordinary penny, with the head of Branwell--an
    excellent likeness--around which the name of the emperor is
    placed. He continues:

    'I wish I could see you; and, as Haworth fair is held on Monday
    after the ensuing one, your presence there would gratify one of
    the FALLEN.' Here he represents himself as plunging head foremost
    into a gulf.

    'In my own register of transactions during my nights and days, I
    find no matter worthy of extraction for your perusal. All is yet
    with me clouds and darkness. I hope you have, at least, blue sky
    and sunshine.

    'Constant and unavoidable depression of mind and body sadly
    shackle me in even trying to go on with any mental effort, which
    might rescue me from the fate of a dry toast, soaked six hours in
    a glass of cold water, and intended to be given to an old maid's
    squeamish cat.'

Here is a sketch of the cat, distracted between a tumbler on each
side held by an attenuated hand.

    'Is there really such a thing as the _Risus Sardonicus_--the
    sardonic laugh? Did a man ever laugh the morning he was to be

The tail-piece to this letter is a drawing of a gallows, a hand
holding forth the halter to the culprit, who is John Brown, and an
excellent portrait, grinning at the rope that is to terminate his

Mr. Grundy--'very soon'--visited Haworth again. But I must premise,
to the account of his visit which Mr. Grundy has published, some
observations respecting the period at which it occurred. Mr. Grundy,
having attributed the later letters, which Branwell Brontë addressed
to him, to the year 1848--though they really belong to 1846--has, with
some appearance of consistency, produced the following picture of his
friend, under the impression that 'a few days afterwards he died.' But
the circumstances that Mr. Grundy's journey to Haworth arose out of
the wish to see him, which Branwell had expressed in a letter written
at the time when his father was 'quite blind,' and that, as Mr. Grundy
says his visits followed shortly after Branwell had failed to go to
Skipton, are themselves sufficient evidence as to the question of

Mr. Grundy says of his final interview: 'Very soon I went to Haworth
again to see him, for the last time. From the little inn I sent for
him to the great, square, cold-looking Rectory. I had ordered a dinner
for two, and the room looked cosy and warm, the bright glass and
silver pleasantly reflecting the sparkling fire-light, deeply toned by
the red curtains. Whilst I waited his appearance, his father was shown
in. Much of the Rector's old stiffness of manner was gone. He spoke of
Branwell with more affection than I had ever heretofore heard him
express, but he also spoke almost hopelessly. He said that when my
message came, Branwell was in bed, and had been almost too weak for
the last few days to leave it; nevertheless, he had insisted upon
coming, and would be there immediately. We parted, and I never saw him

'Presently the door opened cautiously, and a head appeared. It was a
mass of red, unkempt, uncut hair, wildly floating round a great, gaunt
forehead; the cheeks yellow and hollow, the mouth fallen, the thin
white lips not trembling but shaking, the sunken eyes, once small, now
glaring with the light of madness--all told the sad tale but too
surely. I hastened to my friend, greeted him in the gayest manner, as
I knew he best liked, drew him quickly into the room, and forced upon
him a stiff glass of hot brandy. Under its influence, and that of the
bright, cheerful surroundings, he looked frightened--frightened of
himself. He glanced at me a moment, and muttered something about
leaving a warm bed to come out into the cold night. Another glass of
brandy, and returning warmth, gradually brought him back to something
like the Brontë of old. He even ate some dinner, a thing which he said
he had not done for long; so our last interview was pleasant, though
grave. I never knew his intellect clearer. He described himself as
waiting anxiously for death--indeed, longing for it, and happy, in
these his sane moments, to think that it was so near. He once again
declared that that death would be due to the story I knew, and to
nothing else.

'When at last I was compelled to leave, he quietly drew from his coat
sleeve a carving-knife, placed it on the table, and holding me by
both hands, said that, having given up all thoughts of ever seeing
me again, he imagined when my message came that it was a call from
Satan. Dressing himself, he took the knife, which he had long had
secreted, and came to the inn, with a full determination to rush into
the room and stab the occupant. In the excited state of his mind he
did not recognise me when he opened the door, but my voice and manner
conquered him, and "brought him home to himself," as he expressed it.
I left him standing bareheaded in the road, with bowed form and
dropping tears. A few days afterwards he died.... His age was

        [35] 'Pictures of the Past,' pp. 90-92.

Mr. Grundy's account of this interview is inconsistent in itself. Of
course, if his friend had really been so far gone as he represents,
it is incredible that Mr. Brontë would have been privy to his son's
visit to the inn. It is quite clear that Mr. Grundy's recollection
of the interview, and of Branwell's appearance, at this distance of
time, with Mrs. Gaskell's account before him, has received a new
significance. I incline to the belief that the truth of the matter is
this: that, in the spirit of his letters to Leyland, Branwell acted a
part, and imposed this ruse upon his friend to gratify the peculiar
humour that was then upon him, an episode which the latter, with his
erroneous impression as to the date, has been led to depict in
somewhat lurid colours. It is most probable, indeed, that, like
Hamlet, he 'put an antic disposition on.' Something confirmatory of
this view will appear in the next chapter. Among his friends, as I
know, Branwell would now and then assume an indignant, and sometimes
a furious mood, and put on airs of wild abstraction from which he
suddenly recovered, and was again calm and natural, smiling, indeed,
at his successful impersonation of passions he scarcely felt at the
time. The absence of further correspondence between Branwell and Mr.
Grundy, and the fact that the Skipton and Bradford railway, for
hich that gentleman was resident engineer, was fully opened more
than a year before Branwell's death, seem to indicate that further
intercourse ceased between the two at this date. It would not,
perhaps, have been necessary to trouble the reader with these
explanations, had not Mr. Grundy's narrative of his last evening with
Branwell appeared to receive some sort of confirmation through its
republication by Miss Robinson, in her picture of the brother of Emily
Brontë shortly before his end.

Again Branwell wrote to Leyland:

    'DEAR SIR,

    'I had a letter written, and intended to have been forwarded to
    you a few days after I last left the ensnaring town of Halifax.

    'That letter, from being kept so long in my pocket-book, has gone
    out of date, so I have burnt it, and now send a short note as a
    precursor to an awfully lengthy one.

    'I have much to say to you with which you would probably be sadly
    bored; but, as it will be only asking for advice, I hope you will
    feel as a cat does when her hair is stroked down towards her tail.
    She _purrs_ then; but she _spits_ when it is stroked upwards.

    'I wish Mr. ---- of ---- would send me my bill of what I owe him,
    and the moment that I receive my outlaid cash, or any sum that may
    fall into my hands, I shall settle it.

    'That settlement, I have some reason to hope, will be shortly.

    'But can a few pounds make a fellow's soul like a calm bowl of
    creamed milk?

    'If it can, I should like to drink that bowl dry.

    'I shall write more at length (Deo Volente) on matters of much
    importance to me, but of little to yourself.

    'Yours in the bonds,


With the foregoing letter, Branwell enclosed a page containing three
spirited sketches. The first is a scene in which the sculptor and
Branwell are the principal actors. They are seated on stools, facing
one another, each holding a wine glass, and, between them on the
ground, is a decanter. Behind the sculptor is placed the mutilated
statue of Theseus. A copy of Cowper's 'Anatomy' is open at the
title-page; and, leaning over it, is a figure of Admodeus, Setebos, or
some other winged imp, taking sight at the two. The second sketch is
of Branwell himself, represented as a recumbent statue, resting on a
slab, under which are the following mournful lines:--

        'Thy soul is flown,
        And clay alone
    Has nought to do with joy or care;
        So if the light of light be gone,
        There come no sorrows crowding on,
    And powerless lies DESPAIR.'

The third drawing is a landscape, having in the foreground a
head-stone, with a skull and crossbones in the semi-circular head. On
the stone are carved the words, HIC JACET. Distant peaked hills bound
the view. Two pines are to the right of the picture, and the crescent
moon, which represents a human profile, is accommodated with a pipe.
Underneath it is inscribed the sentence:


The following letter, written to Leyland a little later, shows again
the stormy perturbations of Branwell's mind. He still clings to the
fond imagination that he is the object of the lady's unwavering
devotion; and, with the incoherency of the monomania with which he
continues to be afflicted, he solemnly declares to the sculptor that
he had said to no one what he is then saying to him; while, in truth,
he was telling the story of his disappointed hopes to all who would
hear the recital. The theme is that of a wild, eager, and unavailing
love--whose joys and sorrows he tells in vivid words--which he
believes to be returned with equal energy and passion.


    'I am going to write a scrawl, for the querulous egotism of which
    I must entreat your mercy; but, when I look _upon_ my past,
    present, and future, and then _into_ my own self, I find much,
    however unpleasant, that yearns for utterance.

    'This last week an honest and kindly friend has warned me that
    concealed hopes about one lady should be given up, let the effort
    to do so cost what it may. He is the ----, and was commanded by
    ----, M.P. for ----, to return me, unopened, a letter which I
    addressed to ----, and which the Lady was not permitted to see.
    She too, surrounded by powerful persons who hate me like Hell, has
    sunk into religious melancholy, believes that her weight of sorrow
    is God's punishment, and hopelessly resigns herself to her doom.
    God only knows what it does cost, and will, hereafter, cost me, to
    tear from my heart and remembrance the thousand recollections that
    rush upon me at the thought of four years gone by. Like ideas of
    sunlight to a man who has lost his sight, they must be bright
    phantoms not to be realized again.

    'I had reason to hope that ere very long I should be the husband
    of a Lady whom I loved best in the world, and with whom, in more
    than competence, I might live at leisure to try to make myself a
    name in the world of posterity, without being pestered by the
    small but countless botherments, which, like mosquitoes, sting
    us in the world of work-day toil. That hope and herself are
    _gone_--_she_ to wither into patiently pining decline,--_it_ to
    make room for drudgery, falling on one now ill-fitted to bear it.
    That ill-fittedness rises from causes which I should find myself
    able partially to overcome, had I bodily strength; but, with the
    want of that, and with the presence of daily lacerated nerves,
    the task is not easy. I have been, in truth, too much petted
    through life, and, in my last situation, I was so much master,
    and gave myself so much up to enjoyment, that now, when the cloud
    of ill-health and adversity has come upon me, it will be a
    disheartening job to work myself up again, through a new life's
    battle, from the position of five years ago, to that from which I
    have been compelled to retreat with heavy loss and no gain. My
    army stands now where it did then, but mourning the slaughter of
    Youth, Health, Hope, and both mental and physical elasticity.

    'The last two losses are, indeed, important to one who once built
    his hopes of rising in the world on the possession of them. Noble
    writings, works of art, music, or poetry, now, instead of rousing
    my imagination, cause a whirlwind of blighting sorrow that sweeps
    over my mind with unspeakable dreariness; and, if I sit down and
    try to write, all ideas that used to come, clothed in sunlight,
    now press round me in funereal black; for really every pleasurable
    excitement that I used to know has changed to insipidity or pain.

    'I shall never be able to realize the too sanguine hopes of my
    friends, for at twenty-nine I am a thoroughly _old man_, mentally
    and bodily--far more, indeed, than I am willing to express. God
    knows I do not scribble like a poetaster when I quote Byron's
    terribly truthful words--

        '"No more--no more--oh! never more on me
          The freshness of the heart shall fall like dew,
        Which, out of all the lovely things we see,
          Extracts emotions beautiful and new!"

    'I used to think that if I could have, for a week, the free range
    of the British Museum--the library included--I could feel as
    though I were placed for seven days in Paradise; but now, really,
    dear sir, my eyes would rest upon the Elgin marbles, the Egyptian
    saloon, and the most treasured columns, like the eyes of a dead

    'My rude, rough acquaintances here ascribe my unhappiness solely
    to causes produced by my sometimes irregular life, because they
    have known no other pains than those resulting from excess or want
    of ready cash. They do not know that I would rather want a shirt
    than want a springy mind, and that my total want of happiness,
    were I to step into York Minster now, would be far, far worse than
    their want of a hundred pounds when they might happen to need it;
    and that, if a dozen glasses, or a bottle of wine, drives off
    their cares, such cures only make me outwardly passable in
    company, but _never_ drive off mine.

    'I know only that it is time for me to be something, when I am
    nothing, that my father cannot have long to live, and that, when
    he dies, my evening, which is already twilight, will become night;
    that I shall then have a constitution still so strong that it will
    keep me years in torture and despair, when I should every hour
    pray that I might die.

    'I know that I am avoiding, while I write, one greatest cause of
    my utter despair; but, by G----, sir, it is nearly too bitter for
    me to allude to it!' Here follow a number of references to the
    subject, with which the reader is already familiar, and therefore
    it is unnecessary to repeat them here. Then Branwell continues:

    'To no one living have I said what I now say to you, and I should
    not bother yourself with my incoherent account, did I not believe
    that you would be able to understand somewhat of what I
    meant--though _not all_, sir; for he who is without hope, and
    knows that his clock is at twelve at night, cannot communicate his
    feelings to one who finds _his_ at twelve at noon.'



'Wuthering Heights'--Reception of the Book by the Public--It is
Misunderstood--Its Authorship--Mr. Dearden's Account--Statements
of Mr. Edward Sloane and Mr. Grundy--Remarks by Mr. T. Wemyss
Reid--Correspondences between 'Wuthering Heights' and Branwell's
Letters--The 'Carving-knife Episode'--Further Correspondences--
Resemblances of Thought in Branwell and Emily.

We have now become acquainted with the principal features of
Branwell's career, have obtained some insight into his character, and
learned much respecting his genius. We have gained also some knowledge
of the history of the Brontë sisters in that most crucial period of
their lives, when they returned again to literature with the new
earnest which led them to fame.

We have seen that it was Branwell who first seriously undertook the
production of a novel, and we have noticed Mr. Grundy's statement
concerning the authorship of 'Wuthering Heights.' Here, then, is the
proper place in which to say something on this question; for there
have not been wanting others also to assert that Branwell was, in
great part, the writer of it. Miss Robinson, in her 'Emily Brontë,'
dismisses the assertion as altogether untrue; but she rightly says, as
all will agree, that 'in the contemptuous silence of those who know
their falsity, such slanders live and thrive like unclean insects
under fallen stones.' It cannot, therefore, be inappropriate, in such
a work as the present, to record, as clearly and succinctly as may be,
what has been said on the subject, and to make a suggestion--for it is
nothing more--as to what is the truth of the matter.

When 'Wuthering Heights,' after its slow progress through the press,
was given to the world in the December of 1847, neither the critics
nor the public were very well able to grasp its meaning. Reviewers,
to quote Charlotte Brontë, 'too often remind us of the mob of
Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before the "writing
on the wall," and unable to read the characters or make known the
interpretation.' In 'Wuthering Heights' they found the subject
disagreeable, the characters brutal, the conception crude, and the
object of the work wholly unintelligible. The most that could be made
of it, was that some rude soul in the north of England, burning with
spite against his species, had set himself, with intent little short
of diabolical, to lay open the most vicious depths of selfishness and
crime, which he had embodied in the actions of characters so lost and
revolting, that the mind recoiled with a shudder from the perusal of
the monstrosity he had created. One critic, who dwelt at some length
on the want of 'tone' and polish in the book, surmised that the writer
of it had suffered, 'not disappointment in love, but some great
mortification of pride,' which had so embittered his spirit that he
had prepared this stinging story in vengeance on his species, and had
flung it, crying, 'There, take that!' with cynical pleasure, in the
very teeth of humankind.

This writer even felt it his duty to caution young people against the
book. 'It ought to be banished from refined society,' he says. 'The
whole tone of the book smacks of lowness.'--'A person may be
ill-mannered from want of delicacy of perception or cultivation, or
ill-mannered intentionally; the author of "Wuthering Heights" is
both.'--'But the taint of vulgarity in our author extends deeper than
mere snobbishness; he is rude, because he prefers to be so.' I quote
these remarks, as an extreme instance, to show that a critic, who
could recognize the great imaginative power, the subtlety, the keen
insight, and the fine dramatic character of 'Wuthering Heights,' yet
felt such a strong repugnance to its unknown author that he thought
him unfit to associate with his fellow-men. It never crossed the minds
of the critics in those times that the book could be by any but a man
of strong personal character, and one with a wide experience of the
dark side of human nature.

However, a feeling speedily grew up that 'Wuthering Heights' was an
earlier and immature production, attempted to be palmed off upon the
public, of the author of 'Jane Eyre,' against whom a charge of bad
faith was thereby virtually made; and even Sydney Dobell (in the
'Palladium' of September, 1850), the first critic who had sympathy
enough with genius to discern the nature and comprehend the
significance of the book, did not escape this error. It is not
necessary here to repeat the unfortunate consequences of this
misunderstanding, which caused Charlotte eventually to throw off the
disguise, and declare openly that 'Wuthering Heights' was the work of
her sister Emily. 'Unjust and grievous error!' says Charlotte. 'We
laughed at it at first, but I deeply lament it now.' In the face of
her statement, further remark on the authorship was naturally
silenced; but, from time to time, when the book was discussed, much
astonishment was manifested that a simple and inexperienced girl, like
Emily Brontë, had been able to draw, with such nervous and morbid
analysis, so sombre a picture of the workings of passions which she
could never have actually known, and of natures 'so relentless and
implacable, of spirits so lost and fallen,' as those of Heathcliff and
Hindley Earnshaw.

A writer in the 'Cornhill Magazine'[36] who attributes to Emily Brontë
the distinction that she has written a book 'which stands as
completely alone in the language as does "Paradise Lost," or the
"Pilgrim's Progress,"' thus speaks of it: 'Its power,' he says, 'is
absolutely Titanic; from the first page to the last it reads like the
intellectual throes of a giant. It is fearful, it is true, and perhaps
one of the most unpleasant books ever written: but we stand in amaze
at the almost incredible fact that it was written by a slim country
girl, who would have passed in a crowd as an insignificant person, and
who had had little or no experience of the ways of the world. In
Heathcliff, Emily Brontë has drawn the greatest villain extant, after
Iago. He has no match out of Shakespeare. The Mephistopheles of
Goethe's "Faust" is a person of gentlemanly proclivities compared with
Heathcliff.... But "Wuthering Heights" is a marvellous curiosity in
literature. We challenge the world to produce another work in which
the whole atmosphere seems so surcharged with suppressed electricity,
and bound in with the blackness of tempest and desolation.'

        [36] Vol. xxviii, p. 54. 1873.

Perhaps this same grim and Titanic power of 'Wuthering Heights' is one
reason why many readers do not understand it fully. 'It is possible,'
Mr. Swinburne says, 'that, to take full delight in Emily Brontë's
book, one must have something by natural inheritance of her instinct,
and something by earlier association of her love of the special points
of earth--the same lights, and sounds, and colours, and odours, and
sights, and shapes of the same fierce, free landscape of tenantless,
and fruitless, and fenceless moor.'

But the composition of 'Wuthering Heights' was in great part
incomprehensible to Charlotte herself, though she endeavours to
account for it by a consideration of her sister's character and
circumstances. For, as we have seen, she 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.'

'"Wuthering Heights,"' to quote Charlotte Brontë's Preface to the new
edition of it, 'was hewn in a wild workshop, with simple tools, out of
homely materials. The statuary found a granite block on a solitary
moor; gazing thereon, he saw how from the crag might be elicited a
head, savage, swart, sinister; a form moulded with at least one
element of grandeur--power. He wrought with a rude chisel, from no
model but the vision of his meditations. With time and labour, the
crag took human shape; and there it stands colossal, dark, and
frowning, half statue, half rock: in the former sense, terrible and
goblin-like; in the latter, almost beautiful, for its colouring is of
mellow grey, and moorland moss clothes it; and heath, with its
blooming bells and balmy fragrance, grows faithfully close to the
giant's foot.'

Many years ago, a writer in the 'People's Magazine,' speaking of the
authorship of 'Wuthering Heights,' said: 'Who would suppose that
Heathcliff, a man who never swerved from his arrow-straight course to
perdition from his cradle to his grave, ... had been conceived by a
timid and retiring female? But this was the case.' The perusal of this
sentence led Mr. William Dearden--author of the 'Star Seer' and the
'Maid of Caldene'--who was acquainted with Branwell Brontë, to
communicate to the 'Halifax Guardian,' in June, 1867, some facts,
within his personal knowledge, touching the question, which he
extracted from the MS. preface to his poem entitled, 'The Demon
Queen,' not then published.

It appears, from this account, that Branwell and Mr. Dearden had
entered into a friendly poetic contest. Each was to write a poem
in which the principal character was to have a real or imaginary
existence before the Deluge. They met, on the occasion, at the 'Cross
Roads,' a hostel a little more than a mile from Haworth on the road
to Keighley, where an evening was spent in the reading of their
respective productions. Leyland was to decide upon the merits of the
poems. In reference to this meeting Mr. Dearden says,

    'We met at the time and place appointed ... I read the first act
    of the "Demon Queen;" but, when Branwell dived into his hat--the
    usual receptacle of his fugitive scraps--where he supposed he had
    deposited his MS. poem, he found he had by mistake placed there
    a number of stray leaves of a novel on which he had been trying
    his "prentice hand." Chagrined at the disappointment he had
    caused, he was about to return the papers to his hat, when both
    friends earnestly pressed him to read them, as they felt a
    curiosity to see how he could wield the pen of a novelist. After
    some hesitation, he complied with the request, and riveted our
    attention for about an hour, dropping each sheet, when read, into
    his hat. The story broke off abruptly in the middle of a sentence,
    and he gave us the sequel, _vivâ voce_, together with the real
    names of the prototypes of his characters; but, as some of these
    personages are still living, I refrain from pointing them out to
    the public. He said he had not yet fixed upon a title for his
    production, and was afraid he should never be able to meet with a
    publisher who would have the hardihood to usher it into the world.
    The scene of the fragment which Branwell read, and the characters
    introduced in it--so far as then developed--were the same as those
    in "Wuthering Heights," which Charlotte Brontë confidently asserts
    was the production of her sister Emily.'

Another friend of Branwell Brontë also, Mr. Edward Sloane of Halifax,
author of a work entitled, 'Essays, Tales, and Sketches,' (1849)
declared to Mr. Dearden that Branwell had read to him, portion by
portion, the novel as it was produced, at the time, insomuch that he
no sooner began the perusal of 'Wuthering Heights,' when published,
than he was able to anticipate the characters and incidents to be
disclosed.[37] Thus Mr. Dearden and the late Mr. Sloane claimed to have
knowledge of 'Wuthering Heights' as the work of Branwell, before it
was issued from the press; and we have seen that Mr. Grundy declares
Branwell to have said, with the consent of his sister, that he had
written 'a great portion of "Wuthering Heights" himself,' a statement
which, remembering the 'weird fancies of diseased genius' with which
Branwell had entertained him at Luddenden Foot, inclined Mr. Grundy to
believe 'that the very plot was his invention rather than his

        [37] It should be stated, perhaps, that one recent newspaper
        writer, possibly with the intention of discrediting any
        claim that might be set up for Branwell's authorship of
        'Wuthering Heights,' has drawn from the depths of his
        memory, or, possibly, of his imagination, a story that
        Branwell had read to him, as his own, the plot of 'Shirley.'
        But, since 'Shirley' was not commenced very many months
        before Branwell's death, and since he had been in his grave
        a year when it was published, it is obviously impossible
        that he can ever have desired to draw to himself the praise
        which was bestowed upon it. And this ingenious writer has
        adopted, curiously enough, almost the phraseology of Mr.
        Dearden's account, published eighteen years ago, saying, 'he
        took from his hat, the usual receptacle, &c.,' which
        suggests an impression of unconscious plagiarism.

        [38] 'Pictures of the Past,' by Francis H. Grundy, C.E.
        1879, p. 80.

The evidence for the original ascription of authorship is simple in
the extreme. Charlotte Brontë has told us in the Biographical Notice,
as well as in the Preface, which she has prefixed to 'Wuthering
Heights,' that the book was the work of Ellis Bell; and clearly no
shadow of doubt was on her mind at the time as to the accuracy of this
statement; nor had the publisher of the book any uncertainty as to the
matter. Moreover, the servant Martha is said to have seen Emily Brontë
writing it. We are told, also, that it is impossible that the upright
spirit of the gentle Emily could resort to the miserable fraud of
appropriating a work which was not her own. And, lastly, modern
critics have not found it difficult to believe that a woman might be
the author of 'Wuthering Heights.' They see nothing incongruous or
impossible in the possession, by a feminine intellect, of such a
searching knowledge of sinister propensities as are developed in that
book, nor of its descending to those chaotic depths of black moral
distortion, where it is possible for Hindley Earnshaw, with hideous
blasphemy, to drink damnation to his soul, that he may be able to
'punish its Maker,' and where the life-long vengeance of Heathcliff is
drawn out, with wondrous power, to its ghastly and impotent end.

How far Charlotte's statement is weakened by the fact that, up to the
time when she discovered the volume of verse, and the three sisters
commenced their novels--at which period it will be remembered one
volume of Branwell's work was written--they had made no communication
to one another of the literary work which each had in progress, is,
perhaps, a matter for personal opinion. The declaration of Martha
would probably be of little value, unless we knew that what Emily was
writing was entirely independent of Branwell's work. And, again, those
who have sought to defend Ellis Bell from the charge of fraud, have
perhaps been over hasty; for, so far as I know, that charge has never
been either made or implied.

As to the capability of Branwell to write 'Wuthering Heights,' not
much need be said here. Those who read this book will see that,
despite his weaknesses and his follies, Branwell was, indeed,
unfortunate in having to bear the penalty, in ceaseless open
discussion, of 'une fanfaronnade des vices qu'il n'avait pas,' and
that, moreover, his memory has been darkened, and his acts
misconstrued, by sundry writers, who have endeavoured to find in
his character the source of the darkest passages in the works of
his sisters.

Far from being hopelessly a 'miserable fellow,' an 'unprincipled
dreamer,' an 'unnerved and garrulous prodigal,' as we have been told
he was, he had, in fact, within him, an abundance of worthy ambition,
a modest confidence in his own ability, which he was never known to
vaunt, and a just pride in the celebrity of his family, which, it may
be trusted, will remove from him, at any rate, the imputation of a
lack of moral power to do anything good or forcible at all.

Those who have heard fall from the lips of Branwell Brontë--and they
are few now--all those weird stories, strange imaginings, and vivid
and brilliant disquisitions on the life of the people of the
West-Riding, will recognize that there was at least no opposition, but
rather an affinity, between the tendency of his thoughts and those of
the author of 'Wuthering Heights.' And, as to special points in the
story, it may be said that Branwell Brontë had tasted most of the
passions, weaknesses, and emotions there depicted; had loved, in
frenzied delusion, as fiercely as Heathcliff loved; as with Hindley
Earnshaw, too, in the pain of loss, 'when his ship struck; the captain
abandoned his post; and the crew, instead of trying to save her,
rushed into riot and confusion, leaving no hope for their luckless
vessel.' He had, too, indeed, manifested much of the doating folly of
the unhappy master of the 'Heights'; and, finally, there is no doubt
that he possessed, nevertheless, almost as much force of character,
determination, and energy as Heathcliff himself.

The following extract from a lecture by Mr. T. Wemyss Reid, will show
the opinion of that gentleman--which he applies to prove that Branwell
was in part the subject of his sister's work--that there is a distinct
correspondence in the feelings and utterances of Heathcliff and
Branwell in this book, which, as he observes, critics have again and
again declared to be like the dream of an opium-eater, which we have
seen that Branwell was. Mr. Reid states: 'I said that, perhaps, the
most striking part of "Wuthering Heights" was that which deals with
the relations of Heathcliff and Catherine, after she had become the
wife of another. Whole pages of the story are filled with the ravings
and ragings of the villain against the man whose life stands between
him and the woman he loves. Similar ravings are to be found in all the
letters of Branwell Brontë written at this period of his career; and
we may be sure that similar ravings were always on his lips, as, moody
and more than half mad, he wandered about the rooms of the parsonage
at Haworth. Nay, I have found some striking verbal coincidences
between Branwell's own language and passages in "Wuthering Heights."
In one of his own letters there are these words in reference to the
object of his passion: "My own life without her will be hell. What can
the so-called love of her wretched, sickly husband be to her compared
with mine?" Now, turn to "Wuthering Heights," and you will read these
words: "Two words would comprehend my future--_death_ and _hell_:
existence, after losing her, would be hell. Yet I was a fool to fancy
for a moment that she valued Edgar Linton's attachment more than mine.
If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn't love as
much in eighty years as I could in a day."'[39]

        [39] Lecture by Mr. T. Wemyss Reid.

If Mr. Reid had quoted the beginning of this paragraph, another point
of correspondence would have been perceived between the feelings
manifested in it and those which had actuated Branwell Brontë.
Heathcliff is speaking: '"You suppose she has nearly forgotten me?" he
said. "Oh, Nelly! you know she has not! You know as well as I do, that
for every thought she spends on Linton, she spends a thousand on me!
At a most miserable period of my life, I had a notion of the kind: it
haunted me on my return to the neighbourhood last summer; but only her
own assurance could make me admit the horrible idea again. And then,
Linton would be nothing, nor Hindley, nor all the dreams that ever I

We have seen that, in the summer of 1845, Branwell lost his employment,
and returned to the neighbourhood of Haworth, and that he, too, at
that most miserable period of _his_ life, when he wrote his novel, and
'Real Rest,' and 'Penmaenmawr,' had had a notion that the lady of his
affections had nearly forgotten him.

It may be observed that Catherine Earnshaw, in an earlier part of the
book, uses a like antithesis to that quoted by Mr. Reid. 'Whatever our
souls are made of,' says she, speaking of Heathcliff and herself, 'his
and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from
lightning, or frost from fire.' Though it is not strictly accurate
that in _all_ Branwell's letters at this period there are similar
ravings, or that such were always on his lips, there are, at all
events, other coincidences of thought and expression to be found in
his letters and poems with certain features and passages in 'Wuthering
Heights,' which are not less striking. A few instances will illustrate
much in that work which it is not easy to believe could have been
transcribed by the writer from the utterances of another. Even so
early as his letter to John Brown, we have seen with what force
Branwell could express himself when he chose. He speaks in that letter
of one who 'will be used as the tongs of hell,' and of another 'out
of whose eyes Satan looks as from windows.' Let us turn to where
Heathcliff's eyes are described, in Chapter vii. of the novel, as
'that couple of black fiends, so deeply buried, who never open their
windows boldly, but lurk glinting under them, like devil's spies;'
and, in Chapter xvii., where Isabella Heathcliff says of them: 'The
clouded windows of hell flashed a moment towards me; the fiend which
usually looked out, however, was so dimmed and drowned that I did not
fear to hazard another sound of derision.'

We have noticed how Branwell plays upon the word _castaway_ at the
close of his letter on his novel. Charlotte has said they all had a
leaning to Cowper's poem, 'The Castaway,' and appropriated it in one
way or another; she told Mrs. Gaskell that Branwell had done so. The
word is used twice in 'Wuthering Heights.' Heathcliff is described as
having been a 'little Lascar, or an American or Spanish castaway,' and
the younger Catherine addresses pious Joseph, oddly enough, and by a
coincidence singular enough, remembering Branwell's allusion in his
letter, in these words: 'No, reprobate! you are a castaway--be off, or
I'll hurt you seriously! I'll have you all modelled in wax and clay.'

Mention may also be made here, with reference to the occurrence of the
names 'Linton' and 'Hareton' in 'Wuthering Heights,' that, somewhat
before the time of the writing of his novel, Branwell was accustomed
frequently to visit a place of the former designation, and that he
had, as we have seen, when he was in Broughton-in-Furness, a friend of
the name of Ayrton.

In the above letter on his novel it will be remembered, in speaking of
the character of his work, that Branwell says he hopes to leap from
the present bathos of fictitious literature to the firmly-fixed rock
honoured by the foot of a Smollett or a Fielding, and speaks of
revealing man's heart as faithfully as in the pages of 'Hamlet' or
'Lear.' In the first four chapters of 'Wuthering Heights,' which serve
as prelude to the darker portions of the story, we are introduced to
the inmates of the farm that gives its name to the novel. Mr.
Lockwood, who has rented Thrushcross Grange of Heathcliff, and has
come to reside there, relates his experience of two visits he pays to
his landlord at the 'Heights.' In the excellent humour of this portion
of the story we are certainly reminded of Branwell Brontë, and perhaps
of Smollett and Fielding too. The succeeding chapters are related in a
manner more subdued, proper to the narration of the housekeeper. There
is just one mention of 'King Lear' in 'Wuthering Heights,' on the
second of these visits, when, at last, Mr. Lockwood, after he has been
knocked down by the dogs, addresses the inmates of the 'Heights,'
'with several incoherent threats of retaliation, that, in their
infinite depth of virulency, smacked of "King Lear."' More than once
have this story and Shakspeare's great tragedy been named in kinship,
and Miss Robinson, unaware of Branwell's observation on his own prose
tale, gives a second place, with 'King Lear,' to 'Wuthering Heights.'

It is impossible to read 'Wuthering Heights' without being struck with
the part which consumption and death are made to play in the progress
of the story. Scarcely a character is there depicted in whom we do
not recognize some trait, some weakness, remotely or more closely,
indicating deep-seated phthisis; and evidences of a true and certain
observation, in the writer, are to be found in the pictures of its
power there delineated. In Branwell's poem on 'Caroline,' we have
already seen with what certain touch he depicts her death from that
disease; and how deeply, and almost morbidly, he broods on its
ravages; and, in one of his later poems, we have a second and more
striking picture of decline. In Emily's verse anything of the kind is
entirely wanting; and, indeed, it is what we miss in her poems, even
more than what we find in Branwell's, that must ever surprise us when
we look for the author of 'Wuthering Heights.' Branwell, in his
writings, is often engaged with subjects of real and personal
interest, and the scheme of his work is apparent. Several of his
poems, indeed, when once read, leave an impress on the memory which
is evidence enough of the power and originality by which they are
inspired. For the most part, Emily's poems are impersonal,
imaginative, and ideal.

It will be remembered that Mr. Grundy, in his 'Pictures of the Past,'
has given an account of his last interview with Branwell, which he
declares took place but a few days before Branwell died. I have shown
conclusively that the interview is ascribed by Mr. Grundy, and by Miss
Robinson following him, to a wrong date, and that it took place, in
fact, in 1846, when the manuscript was still in the author's hands,
perhaps, indeed, undergoing revision at the time. Branwell, according
to his friend, had concealed in his coat sleeve, on this occasion, a
carving-knife, with which, in his frenzy, he designed to kill the
devil, whose call, he supposed, had summoned him to the inn; and he
was surprised to find Mr. Grundy there instead. I have surmised that,
when this grotesque episode occurred, Branwell was but jesting with
his friend, who, in his surprise, took him altogether _au sérieux_;
and, remembering that Mr. Grundy says Branwell had declared to him
before that 'Wuthering Heights' was in great part his own work, it
will be seen that there are passages in the novel which seem to lend
probability both to this surmise as to Branwell's intention, and also
to Mr. Grundy's statement. Thus, in Chapter ix., Hindley Earnshaw
returns to the house in a state of frenzied intoxication, and, finding
Nelly Dean stowing away his son in a cupboard, he flies at her with a
madman's rage, crying: 'By heaven and hell, you've sworn between you
to murder that child! I know how it is, now, that he is always out of
my way. But, with the help of Satan, I shall make you swallow the
carving-knife, Nelly! You needn't laugh; for I've just crammed
Kenneth, head-downmost, in the Blackhorse marsh; two is the same as
one--and I want to kill some of you: I shall have no rest till I do!'
To which Nelly Dean replies, 'But I don't like the carving-knife, Mr.
Hindley; it has been cutting red herrings. I'd rather be shot, if you
please.' Again, in Chapter xvii., when Isabella's taunts have stung
Heathcliff to retaliation, he snatches up a dinner-knife and flings it
at her head; and she is struck beneath the ear. We may believe, then,
that when Branwell appeared in this strange guise before his friend,
he was but jestingly rehearsing in act, with an 'antic disposition'
such incidents as he had recently described in the volume he had
mentioned to Mr. Grundy.

Miss Robinson, in her 'Emily Brontë' (p. 95), has some sarcastic
remarks about Branwell's pride in his family name. 'Proud of his
name!' she writes: 'He wrote a poem on it, "Brontë," an eulogy of
Nelson, which won the patronizing approbation of Leigh Hunt, Miss
Martineau, and others, to whom, at his special request, it was
submitted. Had he ever heard of his dozen aunts and uncles, the
Pruntys of Ahaderg? Or if not, with what sensations must the Vicar
(_sic_) of Haworth have listened to this blazoning forth and
triumphing over the glories of his ancient name?' Branwell's pride in
the name of Brontë would have been foolish enough if it had been of
the nature Miss Robinson supposes; but perhaps it had another meaning.
At any rate Nelly Dean puts pride of birth in quite a different light
in 'Wuthering Heights,' where she gives good advice to Heathcliff.
'You're fit for a prince in disguise,' she says even to the 'little
Lascar,' the 'American or Spanish castaway.' 'Who knows but your
father was Emperor of China, and your mother an Indian queen, each of
them able to buy up, with one week's income, Wuthering Heights and
Thrushcross Grange together? And you were kidnapped by wicked sailors
and brought to England. Were I in your place, I would frame high
notions of my birth; and the thoughts of what I was should give me
courage and dignity to support the oppressions of a little farmer!'
This was exactly what Branwell Brontë did.

There are two other points in which I will indicate correspondences
between the phraseology and ideas of 'Wuthering Heights' and those of
Branwell Brontë. In one of his letters here published, Branwell,
sketching a criminal grinning with the halter round his neck, asks the
question: 'Is there really such a thing as the _Risus Sardonicus_? Did
a man ever laugh the morning he was to be hanged?' Now, in the novel,
Isabella Heathcliff says: 'I was in the condition of mind to be
shocked at nothing: in fact, I was as reckless as some malefactors
show themselves at the foot of the gallows.' Lastly, Heathcliff
declares, speaking of Hindley Earnshaw: 'Correctly, that fool's body
should be buried at the cross-roads, without ceremony of any kind.'
Now Branwell was not only familiar with the traditions of suicides
buried at the cross-roads near Haworth, as well as at similar
cross-roads, but he was accustomed, in his perambulations through the
district, when in this direction, to visit the ancient hostel at that
place: and, indeed, it was this house he fixed upon for the reading of
the poem he had written, and where he read, as we have seen, in lieu
of it, the portion, of his novel, surmised to be 'Wuthering Heights,'
to Mr. Dearden and his other friend. It would be tedious to indicate
all the minor similarities of expression in the novel to those in
Branwell's letters.

Yet there are two or three points noticeable in 'Wuthering Heights,'
which are marked in Emily's verse. Emily's love of Nature, of the
moors; her deep brooding on the mystery of being, which led her to
look on the calm of death as an assurance of future rest for all, are
to be found in her poetry; and, in a lesser degree, also in 'Wuthering
Heights.' Thus we read, in Chapter xvi. of the story, of Linton and
his dead wife: 'Next morning--bright and cheerful out of doors--stole
softened in through the blinds of the silent room, and suffused the
couch and its occupant with a mellow, tender glow. Edgar Linton had
his head laid on the pillow, and his eyes shut. His young and fair
features were almost as death-like as those of the form beside him,
and almost as fixed: but _his_ was the hush of exhausted anguish, and
_hers_ of perfect peace. Her brow smooth, her lids closed, her lips
wearing the expression of a smile; no angel in heaven could be more
beautiful than she appeared. And I partook of the infinite calm in
which she lay: my mind was never in a holier frame than while I gazed
on that untroubled image of Divine rest. I instinctively echoed the
words she had uttered a few hours before: "Incomparably beyond and
above us all! Whether still on earth or now in heaven, her spirit is
at home with God!"'

The reflections suggested to Nelly Dean by the spectacle of repose
presented by the dead Catherine seem to Mr. Reid to be characteristic
of Emily, speaking 'out of the fulness of her heart.' 'I don't know if
it be a peculiarity in me,' says the narrator in the story, 'but I am
seldom otherwise than happy while watching in the chamber of death,
should no frenzied or despairing mourner share the duty with me. I
see a repose that neither earth nor hell can break, and I feel an
assurance of the endless and shadowless hereafter--the Eternity they
have entered--where life is boundless in its duration, and love in its
sympathy, and joy in its fulness. I noticed on that occasion how much
selfishness there is even in a love like Mr. Linton's, when he so
regretted Catherine's blessed release! To be sure, one might have
doubted, after the wayward and impatient existence she had led,
whether she merited a haven of peace at last. One might doubt in
seasons of cold reflection; but not then, in the presence of her
corpse. It asserted its own tranquillity, which seemed a pledge of
equal quiet to its former inhabitants.' But Mr. Lockwood is made to
say, speaking of the housekeeper's anxiety to know if he thinks such
people are happy in the other world, 'I declined answering Mrs. Dean's
question, which struck me as something heterodox.' The story also
concludes, speaking of the head-stones of Edgar Linton, Heathcliff,
and Catherine: 'I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched
the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the
soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could
ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.'
But there is in these very points a remarkable coincidence of feeling
between Branwell and Emily also. Indeed, in the expression of these
thoughts, Branwell's verse is well-nigh more powerful than Emily's. We
have known his desire for the oblivious peace of 'Real Rest'; and, in
his letters, he has sketched many head-stones, on one of which are the
words: 'I implore for rest'; and, in the 'Epistle to a Child in her
Grave,' he has told us of the freedom from ill of that quiet and
painless sepulchre. Here are a few stray lines of Branwell's, which
will serve as illustration of this coincidence:

    'Think not that Life is happiness,
      But deem it _duty_ joined with _care_;
    Implore for _hope_ in your distress,
      And for your answers, get _despair_;
    Yet travel on, for Life's rough road
      May end, at last, in rest with _God_!'

Again we may ask: did Branwell Brontë write 'Wuthering Heights,'
or any part of it? The evidence that he did so is, probably,
insufficient. But let it be remembered that, as stated in his letter
to Leyland, he had clearly undertaken a three-volume novel, and, in
one way or other, had written a volume of his story. The charge of
falsehood brought against Branwell in his statement to Mr. Grundy will
not now probably be renewed; but there may not be wanting some to say
that Mr. Grundy is in error in connecting what his friend said to him
about his own novel with some allusion of his sister's to 'Wuthering
Heights,' and that those gentlemen who believe the novel Branwell read
to them to be the same as that attributed to Emily are in error also.
It has been said that, on the rare occasions on which the father or
brother entered the room where the sisters were writing their novels,
nothing was said of the work in progress. But it must be confessed
that these views meet with little encouragement from what we know of
the history of that period.

We have seen that, prior to the autumn of 1845, Branwell had been
employed in writing his novel; a little later, we have reason to
suspect that he is not going on with it, and we find him writing a
poem with the same theme as a contemporary one of Emily's. We then
find the sisters taking up novel writing with precisely Branwell's
views of the profit to be derived from it. When he writes to Leyland
on the 28th of April, 1846, shortly before the poems of his sisters
were published, and while they are finishing their novels, Branwell
has ceased to speak of his, but says that, if he were in London
personally, he would try a certain publisher with his poems. Now it
was an edition of Wordsworth by this same publisher that Charlotte
had, four months earlier, fixed upon as a model for the sisters' own
volume of poems. Branwell, then, however strained his relations with
his sister Charlotte might be at this late date, must have known that
his sisters were writing their tales. Why, then, the change in his
aims? Why is he, who had propounded that view of the superior
advantages of prose over poetic writing, which afterwards determined
the sisters to write novels, silent about his own, and thinking of
publishing his poems? and never again do we hear of any attempt on his
part to finish his novel, though he lived a year after his sisters'
works were published. What had become of his novel in the interim?

Perhaps there is evidence, then, to warrant us in throwing out a
suggestion that there may have been some measure of collaboration
between Branwell and his sister, that he originated the idea, moulded
the characters, and wrote the earlier portion of the work, which she,
taking, revised, amended, completed, and imbued with enough of an
individual spirit to give unity to the whole. In support of this view,
it may be noted that, though there is no break in the style of
'Wuthering Heights,' yet all the interests of the original story are,
in a manner, completed in the seventeenth chapter--that is, something
more than half-way through the book. In that first portion of it we
trace the vehement passion of Heathcliff for Catherine up to her
death. We see his enmity to Edgar Linton, which is satisfied by his
possession of Linton's sister, whom he hates and despises, but who is
the mother of a child to be heir to Thrushcross Grange, and we see the
death of this unhappy wife. In this first portion of the novel is
unrolled also the gradual growth of Heathcliff's hatred of Earnshaw,
from the time when he says: 'I'm trying to settle how I shall pay
Hindley back. I don't care how long I wait, if I can only do it at
last. I hope he will not die before I do,' up to the death of that
miserable character, whose son remains an ignorant dependent, because
his drunken father has been lured to make away with his wealth at the
gaming-table to his Mephistophelian pursuer. Here is depicted that
dark and malevolent spirit which ranks Heathcliff with the demons, as
where he says: 'I have no pity--I have no pity! The more the worms
writhe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails. It is a moral
teething, and I grind with greater energy in proportion to the
increase of pain.'

In the second part of the story, opening with the eighteenth chapter,
we are occupied with the fates of the children of Linton, Earnshaw,
and Heathcliff. We learn how the latter trains up his miserable,
puling son for the purpose of marrying the daughter of Linton, which
he forcibly brings about, and thus completes his possession of the
Grange; how he endeavours to pervert the youthful Hareton Earnshaw, to
'see if one tree won't grow as crooked as another with the same wind
to twist it;' and in the end how his vengeance is completely thwarted.
Thus there are two distinct parts in 'Wuthering Heights,' one being
the completion and complement of the other.

As some evidence for the view here thrown out, I may mention that, in
reading 'Wuthering Heights' in order to discover what correspondences
there might exist between it and Branwell's writings, in letters,
etc., I was very much struck with the fact that, for every five of
such correspondences which I discovered in the first part of the
novel, I could find only one in the latter. We need not, therefore, be
surprised if, in the concluding half of 'Wuthering Heights,' Branwell
has stood to the author as model for some details of character, though
these can be very few. Yet Nelly Dean does say of Heathcliff's love
for Catherine: 'He might have had a monomania on the subject of his
departed idol; but on every other point his wits were as sound as

        [40] 'Wuthering Heights,' chap. xxxiii.

The collaboration which I have mentioned would by no means imply
unfair action on the part of Emily Brontë: she was ever a kind,
gentle, and faithful friend to Branwell, and had looked forward,
perhaps more anxiously than her sisters, to his success in the world.
There would be nothing extraordinary, then, in Branwell handing over
to his favourite sister, to whom he was always grateful for her
abiding affection, the work which he had begun, and which he, perhaps,
felt himself dissatisfied with, or unable to complete, or in his
supplying her with a plot, and assisting her with his experience in
the delineation of the characters in any story she might wish to
produce. To have done so would be quite consistent with what we know
of him; and he never claimed the authorship, so far as I know, after
the occasion of Mr. Grundy's visit to the parsonage twelve months
before the publication of the novel; and he read it to two or three
personal friends only, and to these, if my supposition be correct,
perhaps before his sister had taken up the work.

One other circumstance, besides the disappearance of Branwell's novel,
finds explanation in this view of the matter: that Emily, who never
undertook a second novel, produced, not only the most original and
powerful of the contemporary tales of the sisters, but one that is
also a much longer story than 'The Professor,' by Charlotte, and half
as long again as 'Agnes Grey,' by Anne. Here, then, must probably
remain the question of the origin of 'Wuthering Heights.'



Statement of Charlotte that her Sister Anne wrote the Book in
consequence of her Brother's Conduct--Supposition of Some that
Branwell was the Prototype of Huntingdon--The Characters are
Entirely Distinct--Real Sources of the Story--Anne Brontë at
Pains to Avoid a Suspicion that Huntingdon was a Portrait of

Charlotte Brontë, who never dreamed of attributing the production
of so dire a story as 'Wuthering Heights,' by her sister Emily,
o brooding on Branwell's misfortunes, has, however, in her
remarks on Anne Brontë's second novel, 'The Tenant of Wildfell
Hall,'--meant by its author as a tale of warning against the evils of
intemperance,--intimated that it was carried out as a duty by Anne, in
consequence of the impression made upon her by her brother's conduct;
and certain writers, questioning the statement of Charlotte that the
characters are fictitious, have concluded that, in Arthur Huntingdon,
we have 'a picture' and a 'portrait' of Branwell Brontë. It seems to
me, rightly considered, a cruel thing to Anne Brontë to believe that
she has given us a portrait of her brother in the character of the
perfidious Huntingdon. Had her brother been thus vile, she could not
have borne to write over the details of his character; were he not
like Huntingdon, she could not have libelled him so.

As none of the biographers of the Brontë sisters ever knew Branwell,
it is probable that the Branwell Brontë of the biographies owes more
to the supposed Branwell of the novels, than the characters in the
novels do to the brother of the Brontës. It is Huntingdon's wit,
superficial as it is, that has connected him with the ideal of
Branwell Brontë. A few traits of his, indeed, there may be in
Huntingdon, but they are not the worst of those depicted in that
character. The contempt for gambling which Huntingdon expresses may
be taken as an instance.

We shall, however, look in vain for any true resemblance between the
characters of Arthur Huntingdon and Branwell Brontë, and, certainly,
in almost every respect, one is a direct contrast to the other. The
biographer of Emily Brontë says, indeed, that Branwell 'sat to Anne
sorrily enough for the portrait of Henry (_sic_) Huntingdon;' but I
would ask where that portraiture lies? Huntingdon, be it marked, is
not only a drunkard, but he is a libertine, a man who has even the
callous brutality to recount to his trusting wife, as she sits by him
on the sofa, endeavouring to amuse him, the 'stories of his former
amours, always turning upon the ruin of some confiding girl, or the
cozening of some unsuspecting husband; and when I express my horror
and indignation,' she says, 'he lays it to the charge of jealousy, and
laughs till the tears run down his cheeks.' But it was different with
Branwell, against whom it has never been charged that he sank to these
low depths of criminal debauchery, indulgence, and treachery; and even
those who have recounted the story of his passion for the wife of his
employer, are compelled to say that he remained pure, and shrank in
horror from the advances which they suppose she made. Huntingdon's
vicious disposition, too, is so sunk in selfishness, and there is in
him such a cold brutality,--as where on many an occasion he triumphs
over his powerless wife,--that he is placed in absolute contrast to
Branwell, with his confiding, considerate, open-hearted, and generous

It is but necessary to allude to Huntingdon's hypocrisy to establish
a further difference between his character and Branwell's; and it
is, moreover, very distinctive of Huntingdon's mind that he is,
throughout, utterly irreverent and irreligious, to such an extent that
he jests at sacred things, and declares that his wife's piety is
enough to make him jealous of his Maker. Again he says, when he places
her hand on the top of his head, and it sinks in a bed of curls,
'rather alarmingly low, especially in the middle;' 'if God meant me to
be religious, why didn't He give me a proper organ of veneration?'
This irreverence he carries with him into domestic life, and he
invades the sanctity of human affection, and the places the heart
keeps holy, with his gross and insensate brutality. How different is
this from Branwell Brontë, in whose character reverence and affection,
above all things, were strong! Can we imagine Huntingdon dwelling so
fondly in the affection of the long departed, as Branwell does in his
poems of 'Caroline;' can we imagine him venerating as a precious
possession to his dying day the sacred memories of his early years, as
his supposed prototype did? What 'swell of thought,' seeming to fill
'the bursting heart, the gushing eye' with the memories of bygone
years, could flood the shallow brain of the selfish and unfeeling
Huntingdon? And Huntingdon, too, is afflicted with that well-known
complaint of the continual drinker; he loses all interest in the
affairs of life, and exists in perpetual levity. 'There is always a
"but" in this imperfect world,' says his wife, 'and I do wish he would
sometimes be serious. I cannot get him to write or speak in real,
solid earnest. I don't much mind it now, but if it be always so what
shall I do with the serious part of myself?' I would ask when Branwell
Brontë displayed this unseemly levity? if he did not always write and
speak in solid earnest; if, indeed, he did not live in the very midst
of that storm and stress of acute feeling which Huntingdon's wretched
nature was incapable of experiencing at all?

Lastly, Helen Huntingdon tells us that her husband is impenetrable to
good and lofty thoughts, that he never reads anything but newspapers
and sporting magazines, that she wishes he would take up some literary
study, or learn to draw or play; and that, when deprived of his
friends, his condition is comfortless, unalleviated as it is by the
consolations of intellectual resources, and the answer of a good
conscience towards God. What, then, were Branwell's mental resources?
His thoughts, on the contrary, were good and lofty enough; he was a
student of literature, and especially a reader of the great poets; he
had, indeed, taken up literary work; and he could and did both draw,
and play on the organ; and when he was deprived of society, or cast
into trouble, he found his consolation in his literary labours, and we
have seen that, for the very purpose of obtaining alleviation in
distress, he had written a volume of his novel. In short, he was, as
far as his intellectual character and habits were concerned, exactly
what Helen Huntingdon wished her husband might be.

If, then, there is no resemblance between Branwell Brontë's
disposition, character, and capabilities and those of Huntingdon in
the novel, we might, after what has been said, surely expect to find
that, in the unique point in which there is a correspondence of
fact--their indulgence in drink--there would be some similar traits.
But here, again, the resemblance is of the faintest, while the
differences are radical. Huntingdon, for instance, is a continual and
inveterate drinker; Branwell drank but occasionally, and had long
periods of temperance: Huntingdon drinks for the love of drink;
Branwell drank in order to drown his sorrows. It is, moreover, made a
special point by the Brontë biographers that part of Branwell's
intemperance was in taking opium, but this feature does not exist in
Huntingdon, though Anne was clearly acquainted with the practice, for
she mentions in the novel that Lord Lowborough at one time took it.

But, for the character of Huntingdon, we must look elsewhere. The
account Charlotte gave of one whom the Brontës had known well, will
show from what sources Anne drew her plot.

'You remember Mr. and Mrs. ----? Mrs. ---- came here the other day,
with a most melancholy tale of her wretched husband's drunken,
extravagant, profligate habits. She asked papa's advice; there was
nothing, she said, but ruin before them. They owed debts which they
could never pay. She expected Mr. ----'s instant dismissal from his
curacy; she knew, from bitter experience, that his vices were utterly
hopeless. He treated her and her child savagely; with much more to the
same effect. Papa advised her to leave him for ever, and go home, if
she had a home to go to. She said this was what she had long resolved
to do; and she would leave him directly, as soon as Mr. B----
dismissed him. She expressed great disgust and contempt towards him,
and did not affect to have the shadow of regard in any way. I do not
wonder at this, but I do wonder she should ever marry a man towards
whom her feelings must always have been pretty much the same as they
are now. I am morally certain no decent woman could experience
anything but aversion towards such a man as Mr. ----. Before I knew,
or suspected his character, and when I rather wondered at his
versatile talents, I felt it in an uncontrollable degree. I hated to
talk with him--hated to look at him; though, as I was not certain that
there was substantial reason for such a dislike, and thought it absurd
to trust to mere instinct, I both concealed and repressed the feeling
as much as I could; and, on all occasions, treated him with as much
civility as I was mistress of. I was struck with Mary's expression of
a similar feeling at first sight; she said, when we left him, "That is
a hideous man, Charlotte!" I thought, "He is indeed."'[41]

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

And here is another case known to the Brontës. 'Do you remember my
telling you--or did I ever tell you--about that wretched and most
criminal Mr. ----? After running an infamous career of vice, both in
England and France, abandoning his wife to disease and total
destitution in Manchester, with two children and without a farthing,
in a strange lodging-house? Yesterday evening Martha came upstairs to
say that a woman--"rather lady-like," as she said--wished to speak to
me in the kitchen. I went down. There stood Mrs. ----, pale and worn,
but still interesting-looking and cleanly and neatly dressed, as was
her little girl who was with her. I kissed her heartily. I could
almost have cried to see her, for I had pitied her with my whole soul
when I heard of her undeserved sufferings, agonies, and physical
degradation. She took tea with us, stayed about two hours, and frankly
entered into a narrative of her appalling distresses.... She does not
know where Mr. ---- is, and of course can never more endure to see
him. She is now staying a few days at E---- with the ----s, who, I
believe, have been all along very kind to her, and the circumstance is
greatly to their credit.'[42]

        [42] T. Wemyss Reid's 'Charlotte Brontë, a Monograph,' chap.
        vii., p. 83.

It was with cases like these before them that the Brontës wrought the
infelicity of Heathcliff and Isabella, of Huntingdon and Helen. They
felt themselves compelled to represent life as it appeared to them,
they said.

Consumption and intemperance, the curses of our island and our
climate, are found not the less in the West-Riding of Yorkshire. A
cold and humid atmosphere, like poverty and want, begets a recourse to
stimulants, and, with some natures, the bounds of moderation are soon
passed. The prevalence of the latter evil had entered deeply into
Anne's thoughts. Her brother's occasional indulgence had made it
familiar to her; but we should clearly commit an error, as well as a
great injustice to her, in supposing that, in the character of
Huntingdon, she wished to present his failings to the public.

A careful study of the question has, indeed, convinced me, not only
that Huntingdon is no portrait of Branwell Brontë, but that he is
distinctly and designedly his very antitype. The author of 'Wildfell
Hall' could scarcely have created a character so completely different
from Branwell, unless she intended to do so; for, otherwise, writing
under the influence of circumstances, and the inspiration of the
moment, something of his strong personality must surely have found its
way into the book. It is pleasant to be thus able to record, as an act
of justice to Anne Brontë, that, though she had been compelled to
witness the results of intemperance both in Branwell and in others,
she purposely conveyed her lesson of these evils in the acts and
thoughts of a character utterly distinct from her brother. Indeed, she
was at considerable pains--which have unfortunately availed little--to
prevent even a suspicion that her brother was the prototype of
Huntingdon; for, to remove that impression, she has placed the hero of
the story, Gilbert Markham, to a considerable extent, in Branwell's
very circumstances. There is no resemblance between Markham's
character and Branwell's, beyond that of an ardent and generous
temperament; but it should be observed that--exactly as with
Branwell--Markham is enamoured of a married woman, the death of whose
husband he anxiously awaits; that this passion is attributed to him as
a monomania--'A monomania,' says his brother Fergus, 'but don't
mention it; all right but that;' and, lastly, that Markham, too,
thinks, as Branwell did, that the deceased husband of the lady 'might
have so constructed his will as to place restrictions upon her
marrying again.'

It should likewise be observed that 'Wildfell Hall' is just as much
a protest against _mariages de convenance_, as it is against
intemperance; but what had this to do with the family circumstances of
the Brontës? It had far more to do with such instances as that of 'Mr.
and Mrs. ----,' quoted above from Charlotte's letter, where infelicity
was combined with intemperance, as it is in the case of Arthur and
Helen Huntingdon.



Novel-writing--The Sisters' Method of Work--Branwell's Failing Health
and Irregularities--'Jane Eyre'--Its Reception and Character--It was
not Influenced by Branwell--Letter and Sketches of Branwell, 1848.

But, at this time, neither 'Wuthering Heights' nor 'The Tenant of
Wildfell Hall' was before the public. It was not, indeed, till the
summer of 1847 that the former, with 'Agnes Grey,' was accepted for
publication. Meanwhile Anne was toiling away at her second book, and
Charlotte was writing 'Jane Eyre,' under spells of inspiration.

Mrs. Gaskell has told us that the sisters were wont to put away their
work at nine o'clock, and to walk about the sitting-room, talking over
the plots of their stories, and discussing the incidents of them. Once
or twice a week each was accustomed to read to the others what she had
written, and hear the opinions they passed upon it. Mr. Brontë retired
early to rest, and was in ignorance of the nature of the work going
on, for his daughters never spoke to him of it, any more than they did
to their friends. The writing of the sisters was, in fact, a secret
shared only by their brother Branwell, who unquestionably gave his
advice upon it, and instructed them on many points, besides, of
practical value in their dealings with publishers and literary men,
which their small knowledge of the world caused them to overlook.

But, at the time, Branwell's health was visibly failing, and it became
evident that, though naturally stronger than his sisters, he was not
exempt from the consumptive tendency of his family. All his endeavours
to obtain employment had proved futile. His physical health had long
been giving way, and this soon rendered him incapable of sustained
exertion. Much of his strange conduct arose probably from the reaction
of this weakness on a mind endowed with so much intellectual power.

In most winters on these Yorkshire hills there are spells of severe
frost and cold, and these were always times of suffering to the
Brontës. Influenza would become epidemic at Haworth, and seldom
neglected the inmates of the parsonage, close by the churchyard as the
house was. Mr. Brontë had struggled hard to have proper drainage
introduced into the village, but in vain. There was, indeed, 'such a
series of North-pole days' in the December of 1846, as Charlotte did
not remember; the sky looked like ice, and the wind was as keen as a
two-edged blade. The consequence was that all the house was laid up
with coughs and colds. Anne suffered from asthma; Mr. Brontë and
Branwell had influenza and cough. Anxiously must they have watched
every indication of change in the wind, and longed for the southwest
breezes that, even in winter, sometimes came over the moors with all
the softness of spring; and, on this occasion, they were not long
disappointed, and Anne became much better. The novel writing went on
as before. Branwell's weakness and failings sometimes broke in upon
this employment, but we do not find that, during the year 1847, he
gave such trouble as would be likely to influence his sisters' work.
Of course he had little or no money at hand, and we know that he had
contracted some small obligations during the period of distraction of
the previous year. The result of this was that a sheriff's-officer
arrived at Haworth, and Branwell's debts had to be paid, whereat his
sister Charlotte seems to have been very angry, for she appears
afterwards to accuse herself of being 'too demonstrative and
vehement.' About three months later Charlotte was again in doubt about
Branwell; she says his behaviour was 'extravagant,' and that he
dropped 'mysterious hints,' which led her to believe that he had
contracted further debts. In this, however, she was mistaken.

In the May of 1847, Charlotte invited 'E.' to visit her, and said that
Branwell was quieter, for the good reason that he had got to the end
of a considerable sum of money he became possessed of in the spring,
and was obliged to restrict himself in some degree. 'You must,' she
continues, 'expect to find him weaker in mind, and the complete rake
in appearance. I have no apprehension of his being uncivil to you; on
the contrary, he will be as smooth as oil.' It would appear that he
had had some sum laid out, which he then recovered; but, as we have
seen, he had got into debt before, and, in his alarm at the prospect
of imprisonment in York Castle, it is said, told his friends, in the
neighbourhood where he had been tutor, of his straits; upon which the
widow of his late employer sent him money in kindness of heart,
through a third person. At this period he expended much of his time at
home in reading, and he wrote several poems.

At the end of July, Charlotte, as we have been told, consulted her
brother as to the reason why Messrs. Smith and Elder, to whom she had
sent 'The Professor,' did not reply. He at once set it down to her not
having enclosed a postage stamp. On the 2nd of August, she wrote
again, and promptly received the considerate answer which encouraged
her to send to them, on the twenty-fourth of the same month, her
three-volume work, 'Jane Eyre.' This was accepted, and given to the
world in the following October. Meanwhile, in the beginning of August,
'E.' had paid her visit to the parsonage, and the friends had enjoyed
the glorious weather in walking on the moors. Charlotte had returned
the visit almost immediately, and the proofs of 'Jane Eyre' were
corrected by her during her absence, sitting even at the same table
with her friend, to whom, curiously enough, she said not a word about
the work in hand. Upon her return to Haworth, she wrote: 'I reached
home, and found all well. Thank God for it.' 'Wuthering Heights' and
'Agnes Grey' still lingered in the hands of the publisher, from whom
the authors had obtained but impoverishing terms; 'a bargain,' says
Mrs. Gaskell, in mentioning the circumstance, 'to be alluded to
further.' Nothing more, however, appears in the 'Life of Charlotte' on
the subject; and we may hope that the celebrity which the novels of
the 'Messrs. Bell' soon acquired, made a substantial difference in the
first terms of the agreement. During the next three months, Charlotte
was in correspondence with Messrs. Smith and Elder, Mr. G. H. Lewes,
and Mr. W. S. Williams, in respect of the reviews of 'Jane Eyre,'
which were then appearing.

'Jane Eyre' came upon the reading world of 1847 as a veritable
revelation. It was a tragic story of the feelings, so different in
character from the trite affectations of the commonplace novel of the
day; it was informed with such a passionate energy, and filled with
such soul-absorbing interests, that it was received at once as a
monument of great and undoubted genius. Reading the book to-day, we
can easily understand why Charlotte Brontë gained such a mastery over
the spirits of her time, and earned for herself an imperishable
renown. She would do the same now. The strange, lonely, unfriended
childhood of Jane Eyre, the experiences she undergoes at Gateshead,
and at the Lowood School, and her confidence and self-reliance through
them all, mark the story as vitally true; but, when this plain little
personage manifests the depths of her feelings, and calls forth our
human sympathies in her hopes and her sorrows; when we read the
terrific tragedy of her relationship with Rochester, and are shaken
with the storm and stress of the feelings that move her; when, above
all, we see her come out from the shadow, with her nobility and purity
unsullied, though once more she is friendless and alone, we are
carried beyond ourselves in admiration of the genius who has painted a
picture at once so truly human and so very strange.

'Jane Eyre,' the book, was the natural and unforced outcome of its
author's personality, and, though Jane Eyre, the character, is not
Charlotte Brontë in the sense in which Lucy Snowe is, yet in Charlotte
Brontë were all the powers and capabilities that moved Jane Eyre. This
book, then, came upon people in 1847 as a revelation; they felt
themselves in the hands of a very Titan, and were carried on by an
uncontrollable stream. But there were some amongst them who struggled
against its influence, when they found that the shallow bounds of
conventionality had been far overpassed, and when they saw that its
author was little skilled in the ways of the world. These revolted
against the power that made them, perforce, interested in a character,
in Rochester, who had fallen away from the high Christian ideal. Hence
arose that outcry against what was termed the 'immorality' of the
book, against its 'coarseness,' its 'laxity of tone,' and the
'heathenish doctrine of religion' that filled it, which gave such
pain, in the parsonage at Haworth, to the simple-minded girl, its
author, against whom the dictum of the 'Quarterly Review' was written:
'If we ascribe the book to a woman at all, we have no alternative but
to ascribe it to one who has for some sufficient reason long forfeited
the society of her own sex.'

But such critics as these forgot that the people whom we love most in
life, are not those who are supremely noble, absolutely perfect,
superhuman, and angelic; but those who are beautiful and true in spite
of their failings, and though clogged with all the faults with which
our humanity has laden them; those who, like the child in Wordsworth's
ode, live 'trailing clouds of glory' with them from divinity, in the
midst of the shame and sin of the world. These are the lights which
illumine 'Jane Eyre,' with a loveliness that is truly and perfectly
human. So the book made its way, after the wild fervour of its first
reception, to a pinnacle in English literature where it must ever
remain, as the work of a great and original genius, and, as we now
know, of a true and noble woman.

Small need was there, then, that Mrs. Gaskell should seek to explain
those features of Charlotte's genius, which brought down upon 'Jane
Eyre' and its author such expressions of blame as these, by references
to her brother's character and history, as she understood them.
Whatever may have been the case with the novels of Emily and Anne,
those of Charlotte were clearly the outcome of her own nature and of
her own experience, and were uninfluenced in one way or other by her
brother. If she takes a suggestion from his affairs at all, she deals
with it coldly or sternly. Take for instance that passage I have
quoted from 'The Professor,' where William Crimsworth speaks of his
recollection of an instance of domestic treachery.

In December, 1847, appeared the works of Ellis and Acton Bell. The
Christmas of that year found the three sisters noted in the world of
authors--Currer Bell, famous. Not often can so much be recorded of a
family. Branwell seems to have been considerably elated by their
success, and the festivities of the season were indulged in by him to
his injury. His feeble health was soon affected by things that would
have had little influence upon ordinarily strong men, and he suffered
the consequences. On the 11th of January, 1848, Charlotte writes:--'We
have not been very comfortable here at home lately. Branwell has, by
some means, continued to get more money from the old quarter, and has
led us a sad life.... Papa is harassed day and night; we have little
peace; he is always sick; has two or three times fallen down in fits;
what will be the ultimate end, God knows. But who is without their
drawback, their scourge, their skeleton behind the curtain? It remains
only to do one's best, and endure with patience what God sends.' In
this month the second edition of 'Jane Eyre' appeared.

It must have been in reference to this period that Mrs. Gaskell has
said it might well have happened that Branwell had shot his father.
But the statement is an exaggeration; and, indeed, I have been told,
both by Martha Brown and Nancy Wainwright, that Branwell was not
nearly so bad as Mrs. Gaskell has made him appear. 'If he had wanted
to shoot his father,' says my informant, 'he could easily have done
it, for there were loaded guns and pistols hung over the bed-room door
constantly.' She relates that, on one occasion, she was occupied in
tidying up the bed-room, and had just taken down the fire-arms to
dust, when Mr. Brontë entered the room in great consternation,
forbidding her, at any time thenceforth, on any account whatever, to
meddle with them, for they were loaded even then, and might have been
accidentally discharged to her own danger. He again hung up the arms
himself. Mr. Brontë carried on this singular practice, and could not
be induced to discontinue it; and, as the reader is aware, Branwell
and his father occupied this bed-room.

Branwell himself was very conscious of his failings at this time, and
somewhat ashamed of them. He writes to Leyland during the January of
1848: 'I was _really_ far enough from well when I saw you last week at
Halifax; and, if you should happen to see Mrs. ---- of ----, you would
greatly oblige me by telling her that I consider her conduct towards
me as most kind and motherly, and that, if I did anything during
temporary illness, to offend her, I deeply regret it, and beg her to
take my regret as my apology till I see her again; which I trust will
be ere long.' He continues, speaking in general terms of his literary
work, and his poems, mentioning especially the poem of 'Caroline,'
which he had written a long time before, and concludes by promising a
longer letter later on.

There is prefixed to this letter a drawing, one of the strangest that
Branwell ever made,--which he advises his friend to destroy,--a
portrait of himself, head and shoulders, vigorously executed with the
pen, and an admirable likeness too, in profile, grave and thoughtful,
wearing his spectacles, but a portrait of Branwell in what a plight!
For, just as the martyrs of old are represented with the knife planted
in their breast, and the rope placed round their neck, so has Branwell
pictured himself, with the halter about his throat, in the morbid
martyrdom of his feverish imagination.



Branwell's Poetical Work--Sketch of the Materials which he intended
to use in the Poem of 'Morley Hall'--The Poem--The Subject left
Incomplete--Branwell's Poem, 'The End of All'--His Letter to Leyland
asking an Opinion on his Poem, 'Percy Hall'--Observations--The Poem.

Branwell's poetical work in this period, when his health was failing,
is incomplete, for there remain two pieces from his hand, both of
which are fragments only. The first of these is 'Morley Hall,' which
he was writing for his friend Leyland, but which he never lived to
finish. He designed it to be an epic, in several cantos, dealing with
a succession of romantic episodes, of which an elopement that actually
took place, as I have previously had occasion to mention, was the
chief feature. The part he completed was the introductory canto, or
rather a portion of it, which is given below; but, since this was a
work into which he entered with much spirit, and which would have been
a long and important one, had it been completed, it may not be amiss
here to sketch briefly the materials with which he proposed to work.

Morley Hall, or all that remains of it, is situated in the parish of
Leigh, in the county of Lancaster; and was the residence of two
families in succession, which became allied by marriage, and attained
some celebrity. The first family was that of Leyland, originally of
the place of that name in Lancashire, and afterwards, for many
generations preceding the reign of King Henry VIII., residing at
Morley Hall.

In Henry VIII.'s time the mansion was owned by Sir William Leyland, or
Leland, whose family consisted of Thomas, his son and heir, and his
daughters Anne and Elizabeth, by his marriage with Anne, daughter and
heiress of Allan Syngleton of Whitgill, in Craven, Esq. Living in
great opulence at Morley, Sir William was visited by the learned
antiquary, his friend, and probably his relative, John Leland. This
writer says of his visit: 'Cumming from Manchestre towards Morle, Syr
William Lelande's howse, I passid by enclosid grounde, ... leving on
the left hand a mile and more of, a fair place of Mr. Langforde's
caulled Agecroft.... Morle, Mr. Lelande's Place, is buildid, saving
the Fundation, of stone squarid that risith within a great Moote a vi
foot above the water, al of tymbre, after the commune sort of building
of Houses of the Gentilmen for most of Lancastreshire. Ther is as much
Plesur of Orchardes, of great Varite of Frute and fair made Walkes and
Gardines as ther is in any Place of Lancastreshire.'[43]

        [43] Itinerary, vol. 5, p. 83.

Sir William was succeeded by Thomas, his son, who had married Anne,
daughter of Sir John Atherton, and had issue Robert, his son and
heir,[44] and two daughters, Anne and Alice. Anne married Edward
Tyldesley, of Tyldesley, with whom the legend, versified by Mr.
Peters, and on which Branwell intended to write at greater length,
alleges that she eloped. The tradition of this event still lingers at
Morley Hall. It is said that when the attachment sprang up between
Anne, the eldest daughter of Thomas Leyland, and Edward Tyldesley, the
connection was forbidden by the lady's father. It is further said
that, regardless of this prohibition, a night was fixed upon for an
elopement, and that, when the inmates of the house were buried in
sleep, it was arranged she should tie a rope round her waist, the
loose end of which she should throw across the moat to Tyldesley, who
was to be in waiting, and, with another, should lower herself into the
water, and be drawn to the land by him. The legend says this was
successfully accomplished, and that the marriage was celebrated before
the elopement was known to the family.[45]

        [44] Inquisition _post mortem_ of Thomas Leyland of the
        Morleys, co. Lanc., Esq. (Yorkshire lands) taken at
        Bradford, co. York, 11th Sept., 6 Eliz.

        [45] 'The White Rose of York,' 1834, pp. 226-229.

It is remarkable that, while Thomas Leyland had a legitimate son and
heir in Robert Leyland, the manor-house of Morley and its demesnes
passed into the family of Tyldesley by marriage alone, as if there had
been no such person.

There are other stories relating to this family, of wild and weird
interest, with which Branwell was acquainted; but this passing
allusion is all that the scope of the present work will allow.

Of the family of Tyldesley of Morley was the brave Sir Thomas, a
major-general in the royal army, who was slain at Wigan on the 25th of
August, 1651. To this circumstance Branwell alludes in his poem. The
fragment is as follows:--



    'When Life's youth, overcast by gathering clouds
    Of cares that come like funeral-following crowds,
    Wearying of that which is, and cannot see
    A sunbeam burst upon futurity,
    It tries to cast away the woes that are
    And borrow brighter joys from times afar.
    For what our feet tread may have been a road
    By horses' hoofs pressed 'neath a camel's load;
    But what we ran across in childhood's hours
    Were fields, presenting June with May-tide flowers:
    So what was done and borne, if long ago,
    Will satisfy our heart, though stained by tears of woe.

    'When present sorrows every thought employ,
    Our father's woes may take the garb of joy,
    And, knowing what our sires have undergone,
    Ourselves can smile, though weary, wandering on.
    For if our youth a thunder-cloud o'ershadows,
    Changing to barren swamps Life's flowering meadows,
    We know that fiery flash and bursting peal
    Others, like us, were forced to hear and feel;
    And while they moulder in a quiet grave,
    Robbed of all havings--worthless all they have--
    We still, with face erect, behold the sun--
    Have bright examples in what has been done
    By head or hand--and, in the times to come,
    May tread bright pathways to our gate of doom.

    'So, if we gaze from our snug villa's door,
    By vines or honeysuckles covered o'er,
    Though we have saddening thoughts, we still can smile
    In thinking our hut supersedes the pile
    Whose turrets totter 'mid the woods before us,
    And whose proud owners used to trample o'er us;
    All now by weeds and ivy overgrown,
    And touched by Time, that hurls down stone from stone.
    We gaze with scorn on what is worn away,
    And never dream about our own decay.
    Thus, while this May-day cheers each flower and tree,
    Enlivening earth and almost cheering me,
    I half forget the mouldering moats of Leigh.

    'Wide Lancashire has changed its babyhood,
    As Time makes saplings spring to timber wood;
    But as grown men their childhood still remember,
    And think of Summer in their dark December,
    So Manchester and Liverpool may wonder,
    And bow to old halls over which they ponder,
    Unknowing that man's spirit yearns to all
    Which--once lost--prayers can never more recall.
    The storied piles of mortar, brick, and stone,
    Where trade bids noise and gain to struggle on,
    Competing for the prize that Mammon gives--
    Youth killed by toil and profits bought with lives--
    Will not prevent the quiet, thinking mind
    From looking back to years when Summer wind
    Sang, not o'er mills, but round ancestral halls,
    And, 'stead of engine's steam, gave dews from waterfalls.

    'He who by brick-built houses closely pent,
    That show nought beautiful to sight or scent,
    Pines for green fields, will cherish in his room
    Some pining plant bereft of natural bloom;
    And, like the crowds which yonder factories hold,
    Withering 'mid warmth, and in their spring-tide old,
    So Lancashire may fondly look upon
    Her wrecks fast vanishing of ages gone,
    And while encroaching railroad, street, and mill
    On every side the smoky prospect fill,
    She yet may smile to see some tottering wall
    Bring old times back, like ancient Morley Hall.
    But towers that Leland saw in times of yore
    Are now, like Leland's works, almost no more--
    The antiquarian's pages, cobweb-bound,
    The antique mansion, levelled with the ground.

    'When all is gone that once gave food to pride,
    Man little cares for what Time leaves beside;
    And when an orchard and a moat, half dry,
    Remain, sole relics of a power passed by,
    Should we not think of what ourselves shall be,
    And view our coffins in the stones of Leigh.
    For what within yon space was once the abode
    Of peace or war to man, and fear of God,
    Is now the daily sport of shower or wind,
    And no acquaintance holds with human kind.
    Some who can be loved, and love can give,
    While brain thinks, pulses beat, and bodies live,
    Must, in death's helplessness, lie down with those
    Who find, like us, the grave their last repose,
    When Death draws down the veil and Night bids Evening close.

    'King Charles, who, fortune falling, would not fall,
    Might glance with saddened eyes on Morley Hall,
    And, while his throne escaped misfortune's wave,
    Remember Tyldesley died that throne to save.'

                 *       *       *       *       *

Branwell's next poem of this period is entitled the 'End of All,'
which is complete, and is one of the most pathetic he ever wrote. It
constitutes a true picture of his mood, and illustrates, at this time,
the sombre and troubled nature of his thoughts. He pourtrays, in
shades of great depth, his reflections on the death of one dear to
him, whose loss leaves his soul a blank and desolate void, an evil
which nothing can alleviate or remove. But he dreams for a moment that
a life of peril in far-off lands, and in battle, strife, and danger,
that the 'stony joys' of solitary ambition, may shrine the memory of
sorrows which cannot be destroyed. Yet, even from this cold dream,
this cruel opiate of the heart, he is recalled by the groans of her
who is dying, to the consciousness that, with her departure, all will
go. The bereaved is Branwell himself, and his 'Mary' is doubtless the
lady of his misplaced affection, over whose loss he still broods in
melancholy and afflicted language, each pathetic chord vibrating with
intense mental anguish, as he contemplates the future years of
desolation in which he is left to wander tombward unaided and alone.
Here, as in his other poems, the rhythmic sweetness of Branwell's
verse flows on in words well chosen to express the idea he intends to
convey, which itself is worked out with great suggestiveness of power.


    'In that unpitying Winter's night,
      When my own wife--my Mary--died,
    I, by my fire's declining light,
      Sat comfortless, and silent sighed,
      While burst unchecked grief's bitter tide,
    As I, methought, when she was gone,
      Not hours, but years, like this must bide,
    And wake, and weep, and watch alone.

    'All earthly hope had passed away,
      And each clock-stroke brought Death more nigh
    To the still-chamber where she lay,
      With soul and body calmed to die;
      But _mine_ was not her heavenward eye
    When hot tears scorched me, as her doom
      Made my sick heart throb heavily
    To give impatient anguish room.

    '"Oh now," methought, "a little while,
      And this great house will hold no more
    Her whose fond love the gloom could while
      Of many a long night gone before!"
      Oh! all those happy hours were o'er
    When, seated by our own fireside,
      I'd smile to hear the wild winds roar,
    And turn to clasp my beauteous bride.

    'I could not bear the thoughts which rose
      Of what _had_ been, and what _must_ be,
    And still the dark night would disclose
      Its sorrow-pictured prophecy;
      Still saw I--miserable me--
    Long, long nights else, in lonely gloom,
      With time-bleached locks and trembling knee--
    Walk aidless, hopeless, to my tomb.

    'Still, still that tomb's eternal shade
      Oppressed my heart with sickening fear,
    When I could see its shadow spread
      Over each dreary future year,
      Whose vale of tears woke such despair
    That, with the sweat-drops on my brow,
      I wildly raised my hands in prayer
    That Death would come and take me now;

    'Then stopped to hear an answer given--
      So much had madness warped my mind--
    When, sudden, through the midnight heaven,
      With long howl woke the Winter's wind;
      And roused in me, though undefined,
    A rushing thought of tumbling seas
      Whose wild waves wandered unconfined,
    And, far-off, surging, whispered, "Peace."

    'I cannot speak the feeling strange,
      Which showed that vast December sea,
    Nor tell whence came that sudden change
      From aidless, hopeless misery;
      But somehow it revealed to me
    A life--when things I loved were gone--
      Whose solitary liberty
    Might suit me wandering tombward on.

    ''Twas not that I forgot my love--
      That night departing evermore--
    'Twas hopeless grief for her that drove
      My soul from all it prized before;
      That misery called me to explore
    A new-born life, whose stony joy
      Might calm the pangs of sorrow o'er,
    Might _shrine_ their memory, not destroy.

    'I rose, and drew the curtains back
      To gaze upon the starless waste,
    And image on that midnight wrack
      The path on which I longed to haste,
      From storm to storm continual cast,
    And not one moment given to view;
      O'er mind's wild winds the memories passed
    Of hearts I loved--of scenes I knew.

    'My mind anticipated all
      The things my eyes have seen since then;
    I heard the trumpet's battle-call,
      I rode o'er ranks of bleeding men,
      I swept the waves of Norway's main,
    I tracked the sands of Syria's shore,
      I felt that such strange strife and pain
    Might me from living death restore.

    'Ambition I would make my bride,
      And joy to see her robed in red,
    For none through blood so wildly ride
      As those whose hearts before have bled;
      Yes, even though _thou_ should'st long have laid
    Pressed coldly down by churchyard clay,
      And though I knew thee thus decayed,
    I _might_ smile grimly when away;

    'Might give an opiate to my breast,
      Might dream:--but oh! that heart-wrung groan
    Forced from me with the thought confessed
      That all would go if _she_ were gone;
      I turned, and wept, and wandered on
    All restlessly--from room to room--
      To that still chamber, where alone
    A sick-light glimmered through the gloom.

    'The all-unnoticed time flew o'er me,
      While my breast bent above her bed,
    And that drear life which loomed before me
      Choked up my voice--bowed down my head.
      Sweet holy words to me she said,
    Of that bright heaven which shone so near,
      And oft and fervently she prayed
    That I might some time meet her there;

    'But, soon enough, all words were over,
      When this world passed, and Paradise,
    Through deadly darkness, seemed to hover
      O'er her half-dull, half-brightening eyes;
      One last dear glance she gives her lover,
    One last embrace before she dies;
      And then, while he seems bowed above her,
    His _Mary_ sees him from the skies.'

Another poem of Branwell's of this date, the last he ever wrote, is
entitled 'Percy Hall,' which he did not live to complete. The first
draft was sent for Leyland's opinion, with the following letter:

    'Haworth, Bradford,


    'I enclose the accompanying fragment, which is so soiled that I
    would have transcribed it, if I had had the heart to exert myself,
    only in order to get from you an opinion as to whether, when
    finished, it would be worth sending to some respectable
    periodical, like "Blackwood's Magazine."

    'I trust you got safely home from rough Haworth, and am,

    'Dear Sir,

    'Your most sincerely,

    'P. B. BRONTË.'

At the foot of the page on which the letter is written, is drawn, in
pen-and-ink, a low, massive, stone cross, inscribed with the word,
'POBRE!' standing on the top of a bleak hill, with a wild sky behind;
and Branwell says of it below: 'The best epitaph ever written. It is
carved on a rude cross in Spain, over a murdered traveller, and simply
means "Poor fellow!"' It will be remembered, in connection with this
idea of Branwell's, that Lord Byron, in one of his letters, describes
the impression produced upon him by seeing the inscription, 'Implora
pace!' upon a tomb at Bologna. The poet says: 'When I die, I should
wish that some friend would see these words, and no other, placed
above my grave--"Implora pace!"' The perusal of this remark induced
Mrs. Hemans to write her pathetic little poem which has the Italian
epitaph for its title.

This letter of Branwell's is particularly interesting, because it
shows us that, even in the last year of his life, and when dealing
with the last uncompleted poem he ever wrote, he preserved the
ambition of appearing in the literary world as a poet; and because he
again speaks of 'Blackwood's Magazine,' whose value, it will be
remembered, had impressed itself upon the youthful minds of himself
and his sisters.

The fragment, 'Percy Hall,' which was enclosed with the letter to
Leyland, though still morbid, is one of the most exquisite its author
wrote. Here, by a strange and beautiful coincidence--if coincidence it
be--we find Branwell, in his latest work, as in his youthful ones,
given in the earlier part of this work, occupied with the dread study
of a consumptive decline; we find him, in short, tinctured with the
shadows of his later career, telling again of the death of that
sister, whose memory he cherished with a life-long affection; and
perhaps, too, with a deeper insight than the other members of his
family possessed, he foretells the end that awaited his sisters Emily
and Anne, from that disease, whose poison was working in his own
slender frame. The treatment of the subject, indeed, is truly
characteristic of Branwell's feelings at the time, and of his
impressions engendered by the mournful malady with which his family
was afflicted. This poem, like some of those already noticed in the
former pages of the present work, is distinguished by images, scenes,
and conceptions, almost invariably animated by the instinctive power
and originality of genius. His descriptions of the condition of the
lady, of the way in which weakness has schooled her to regard the
future--the natural expression doubtless of Branwell at the time--of
the influences that 'forbade her heart to throb, her spirit to
despond,' and of the agonized feelings of the survivor, are all
instinct with the living breath of reality; they have the sublime
dignity of truth, springing, as they do, from a knowledge far too
intimate with the sorrows which inspired the poem. Perhaps, in the
gaiety of the affectionate Percy, Branwell depicts, in some sort, his
own disposition, though it has never been charged against him that he
was beguiled by 'syren smiles,' or seduced by the delights of 'play.'
It seems to me that Branwell's poetical genius is as much higher than
that of his sister Emily as hers was superior to the talents of
Charlotte and Anne, in their versified productions. Beautiful, wild,
and touching, like strains from the harp of Æolus, as are the
emanations of Emily's poetical inspiration, they lack the force,
depth, and breadth of Branwell's more expansive power of imagination,
as displayed in his best productions; though even Branwell's poetical
remains contain rather the evidence of power than the full expression
of it.


    'The westering sunbeams smiled on Percy Hall,
    And green leaves glittered o'er the ancient wall
    Where Mary sat, to feel the summer breeze,
    And hear its music mingling 'mid the trees.
    There she had rested in her quiet bower
    Through June's long afternoon, while hour on hour
    Stole, sweetly shining past her, till the shades,
    Scarce noticed, lengthened o'er the grassy glades;
    But yet she sat, as if she knew not how
    Her time wore on, with Heaven-directed brow,
    And eyes that only seemed awake, whene'er
    Her face was fanned by summer evening's air.
    All day her limbs a weariness would feel,
    As if a slumber o'er her frame would steal;
    Nor could she wake her drowsy thoughts to care
    For day, or hour, or what she was, or where:
    Thus--lost in dreams, although debarred from sleep,
    While through her limbs a feverish heat would creep,
    A weariness, a listlessness, that hung
    About her vigour, and Life's powers unstrung--
    She did not feel the iron gripe of pain,
    But _thought_ felt irksome to her heated brain;
    Sometimes the stately woods would float before her,
    Commingled with the cloud-piles brightening o'er her,
    Then change to scenes for ever lost to view,
    Or mock with phantoms which she never knew:
    Sometimes her soul seemed brooding on to-day,
    And then it wildly wandered far away,
    Snatching short glimpses of her infancy,
    Or lost in day-dreams of what yet might be.

    'Yes--through the labyrinth-like course of thought--
    Whate'er might be remembered or forgot,
    Howe'er diseased the dream might be, or dim,
    Still seemed the _Future_ through each change to swim,
    All indefinable, but pointing on
    To what should welcome her when Life was gone;
    She felt as if--to all she knew so well--
    Its voice was whispering her to say "farewell;"
    Was bidding her forget her happy home;
    Was farther fleeting still--still beckoning her to come.

    'She felt as one might feel who, laid at rest,
    With cold hands folded on a panting breast,
    Has just received a husband's last embrace,
    Has kissed a child, and turned a pallid face
    From this world--with its feelings all laid by--
    To one unknown, yet hovering--oh! how nigh!

    'And yet--unlike that image of decay--
    There hovered round her, as she silent lay,
    A holy sunlight, an angelic bloom,
    That brightened up the terrors of the tomb,
    And, as it showed Heaven's glorious world beyond,
    Forbade her heart to throb, her spirit to despond.

    'But, who steps forward, o'er the glowing green,
    With silent tread, these stately groves between?
    To watch his fragile flower, who sees him not,
    Yet keeps his image blended with each thought,
    Since but for _him_ stole down that single tear
    From her blue eyes, to think how very near
    Their farewell hour might be!

                          'With silent tread
    Percy bent o'er his wife his golden head;
    And, while he smiled to see how calm she slept,
    A gentle feeling o'er his spirit crept,
    Which made him turn toward the shining sky
    With heart expanding to its majesty,
    While he bethought him how more blest _its_ glow
    Than _that_ he left one single hour ago,
    Where proud rooms, heated by a feverish light,
    Forced vice and villainy upon his sight;
    Where snared himself, or snaring into crime,
    His soul had drowned its hour, and lost its count of time.

    'The syren-sighs and smiles were banished now,
    The cares of "play" had vanished from his brow;
    He took his Mary's hot hand in his own,
    She raised her eyes, and--oh, how soft they shone!
    Kindling to fondness through their mist of tears,
    Wakening afresh the light of fading years!--
    He knew not why she turned those shining eyes
    With such a mute submission to the skies;
    He knew not why her arm embraced him so,
    As if she _must_ depart, yet _could not_ let him go!

    'With death-like voice, but angel-smile, she said,
    "My love, they need not care, when I am dead,
    To deck with flowers my capped and coffined head;
    For all the flowers which I should love to see
    Are blooming now, and will have died with me:
    The same sun bids us all revive to-day,
    And the same winds will bid us to decay;
    When Winter comes we all shall be no more--
    Departed into dust--next, covered o'er
    By Spring's reviving green. See, Percy, now
    How red my cheek--how red my roses blow!
    But come again when blasts of Autumn come;
    _Then_ mark their changing leaves, their blighted bloom;
    Then come to my bedside, then look at _me_,
    How changed in all--_except my love for thee_!"

    'She spoke, and laid her hot hand on his own;
    But he nought answered, save a heart-wrung groan;
    For oh! too sure, her voice prophetic sounded
    Too clear the proofs that in her face abounded
    Of swift Consumption's power! Although each day
    He'd seen her airy lightness fail away,
    And gleams unnatural glisten in her eye;
    He had not dared to dream that she could die,
    But only fancied his a causeless fear
    Of losing something which he held so dear;
    Yet--now--when, startled at her prophet-cries,
    To hers he turned his stricken, stone-like eyes,
    And o'er her cheek declined his blighted head.
    He saw Death write on it the _fatal red_--
    He saw, and straightway sank his spirit's light
    Into the sunless twilight of the starless night!

    'While he sat, shaken by his sudden shock,
    Again--and with an earnestness--she spoke,
    As if the world of her Creator shone
    Through all the cloudy shadows of her own:
    "Come grieve not--darling--o'er my early doom;
    'Tis well that Death no drearier shape assume
    Than this he comes in--well that widowed age
    Will not extend my friendless pilgrimage
    Through Life's dim vale of tears--'tis well that Pain
    Wields not its lash nor binds its burning chain,
    But leaves my death-bed to a mild decline,
    Soothed and supported by a love like thine!"'

My copy of the poem is illustrated with a portrait, by J. B. Leyland,
in pen-and-ink, of the ideal Percy. The drawing is bold and effective;
and, though not intended for an exact portrait of Branwell, bears some
resemblance to him in general character. The sketch is signed,
'Northangerland,' at the top; and, at the bottom, 'Alexander Percy,
Esq.;' while the artist's name is discerned among the shadows which
fall from the figure of Percy.



Charlotte Corresponds on Literary Subjects--Novels--Confession of
Authorship--Branwell's Failing Health--He Writes to Leyland--Branwell
and Mr. George Searle Phillips--Branwell's Intellect Retains its
Power--His Description of 'Professor Leonidas Lyon'--The latter
Gentleman's Account of his Reading of 'Jane Eyre'--Branwell's Remarks
on Charlotte and the Work.

The early months of the year 1848 proved a severe trial for the Brontë
family, as they did to the whole of the Haworth villagers. Influenza
and other ailments were prevalent, and the sisters did not escape the
former: Anne, indeed, suffered from a severe cough, with some fever,
and her friends became alarmed. The position of the parsonage in
relation to the churchyard rendered it unhealthy; but, at the instance
of Mr. Brontë, a new grave-yard was opened in another place. He did
not, however, succeed in his attempt to get a good supply of water
laid on to each house.

Charlotte, at the time, was still in correspondence with Mr. Lewes and
Mr. Williams, about the review of 'Jane Eyre' in 'Fraser's Magazine,'
and about other literary subjects. She was still keeping the secret of
the authorship of her book from her friends, putting off 'E.' with
evasive letters, and wishing her to 'laugh or scold A---- out of the
publishing notion.' 'Wuthering Heights' had not been received by the
public with much favour, and we do not hear of any further literary
work by Emily. But Charlotte was writing 'Shirley,' and Anne was going
on with 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' despite a consumptive
listlessness that was upon her, such as Branwell describes in the wife
of 'Percy;' and, in her letter written in January, Anne told 'E.' that
they had done nothing 'to speak of' since she was at Haworth; yet they
contrived to be busy from morning till night. In the spring, however,
when this friend visited the Brontës again, full confession of
authorship was made, and the poems and novels were shown to her. The
identity of Mr. Brontë's daughters with the 'Messrs. Bell,' had,
however, been known to some, in connection with the poems, at an
earlier date, and was occasionally spoken of, though the fact was not
made public. Branwell himself was at home, quieter, but still failing
in health and strength, for the constitutional taint, aided by his low
spirits, and a bronchitis which had become chronic, was telling upon

'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' was submitted to the publisher of
'Wuthering Heights' and 'Agnes Grey,' and accepted by him in the June
of this year. If the first works of Ellis and Acton Bell were
undervalued because they were believed to be the earlier productions
of the author of 'Jane Eyre,' Acton's new volume derived enhanced
importance from being thought to be a production of the same hand.
'Jane Eyre' had had a great run in America, and a publisher there had
offered Messrs. Smith and Elder a high price for early sheets of the
next work of its author, which they accepted. But the publishers of
'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' believing that Acton Bell was but a
second name assumed by Currer Bell, made a similar offer to another
American house. This circumstance led to questions and explanations;
and Charlotte and Anne determined to visit London, in order to assure
Messrs. Smith and Elder that they were indeed distinct persons. The
publishers were very much astonished to see the two delicate ladies,
and they made them very welcome. Charlotte and Anne went to the Opera,
they went to the Royal Academy and the National Gallery, and they
visited Mr. Smith and Mr. Williams before returning to Haworth.

They found Branwell at home, physically the same as when they left
him, gradually failing from the chronic bronchitis which had lasted
through the summer, and with the perceptible wasting away of decline.
Writing to his friend Leyland on July 22nd, he speaks of 'five months
of utter sleeplessness, violent cough, and frightful agony of mind.'
'Long have I resolved,' he continues, 'to write to you a letter of
five or six pages, but intolerable mental wretchedness and corporeal
weakness have utterly prevented me.' The letter is signed, 'Yours
sincerely, but nearly worn out, P. B. Brontë.' Charlotte attributed
his illness to indulgence solely, and she had no suspicion that the
end was but two months away. She writes on July 28th: 'Branwell is the
same in conduct as ever. His constitution seems much shattered. Papa,
and sometimes all of us, have sad nights with him. He sleeps most of
the day, and consequently will lie awake at night. But has not every
house its trial?'[46] But Branwell's condition of health was not such
as to keep him within doors, and there were revivals, as in Anne's
case also, which permitted him to visit his friends. I spoke to him
once in Halifax at the time, and he was often seen in the village of

        [46] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. xvi.

An interesting episode occurred in August or September, for an account
of which we are indebted to Mr. George Searle Phillips.[47] We learn
from it that, in the midst of physical decay and mental distress,
Branwell's intellect retained its power to the last; and we learn also
what pride he took in the works of his sisters, and in the reputation
they had made. I can myself, from personal knowledge, endorse all that
Mr. Phillips says as to Branwell's brilliancy of intellect at this
time. When Charlotte and Anne went to London, they had assumed the
name of Brown; but their real name and the place of their residence
were communicated to some people, and it was not long before it became
quietly known. Then began the stream of pilgrims to the shrine of
genius at Haworth, which has continued from that day to this, and will
for many more. One gentleman, indeed, at the time, stayed three days
at Haworth, maintaining a close intimacy with Branwell, and we know,
from Mr. Phillips' narrative, in what light Branwell looked upon the

        [47] 'Branwell Brontë,' _The Mirror, a reflex of the World's
        Literature_, 1872.

'Branwell,' says his friend, 'during the latter part of my
acquaintance with him, was much altered for the worse, in his personal
appearance; but if he had altered in the same direction mentally, as
his biographer says he had, then he must have been a man of immense
and brilliant intellect. For I have rarely heard more eloquent and
thoughtful discourse, flashing so brightly with random jewels of wit,
and made more sunny and musical with poetry, than that which flowed
from his lips during the evenings I passed with him at the "Black
Bull," in the village of Haworth. His figure was very slight, and he
had, like his sister Charlotte, a superb forehead. But, even when
pretty deep in his cups, he had not the slightest appearance of the
sot that Mrs. Gaskell says he was. "His great tawny mane"--meaning
thereby the hair of his head--was, it is true, somewhat dishevelled;
but, apart from this, he gave no sign of intoxication. His eye was as
bright, and his features were as animated, as they very well could be;
and, moreover, his whole manner gave indications of intense

Branwell described some of the characters in the novels, and talked
much about his sisters, and especially about Charlotte, whose
celebrity, he said, had already attracted more strangers to the
village than had been known before; and Mr. Phillips gives the
following account of the visit of one gentleman, an enthusiastic
admirer of 'Jane Eyre,' whose somewhat eccentric personality he has
veiled under the style and title of 'Leonidas Lyon, Professor of Greek
in the London University':--

'One evening, as we sat together in the little parlour of the Inn, the
landlord entered, and asked Branwell if he would see a gentleman who
wanted to make his acquaintance.

'"He's a funny fellow," said the landlord; "and is somebody, I dare
swear, with lots of money."

'As the landlord spoke, a squat little dapper fellow, with a white
fur hat on his head, an umbrella under his arm, and a pair of blue
spectacles on his nose, strutted into the room _sans cérémonie_. He
approached the table in a very fussy and excited manner, exclaiming:

'"Landlord, bring us some brandy. I must have the pleasure of drinking
a glass with the brother of that distinguished lady, who wrote the
great book that made London blaze. Three glasses,--landlord--do you
hear? And you, sir, are the great lady's brother, I presume? Professor
Leonidas Lyon, sir, has the honour of introducing himself to your
distinguished notice."

'Branwell responded, gravely:

'"Patrick Branwell Brontë, sir, has the honour of welcoming you to
Haworth, and begging you to be seated."

'Whereupon the little man bowed and scraped, and laughed a
good-humoured laugh all over his good, round face, and said it was an
honour he could not have hoped for, to sit as a guest at the same
board, as he might say, "with the brother, the very flesh and blood,
of the great lady who wrote the book."

'Here the brandy and water came in, and the little man grew merrier
still, and more communicative. He was a Professor of Greek at the
London University, and, chancing to be at Smith's, the London
publisher's, whose friend Williams was a "wonderful man of letters--a
very wonderful man indeed!"--Williams asked the Professor if he had
seen the book of the season--"the immense book," he called it--which
was going to make one good reputation, and half a dozen fortunes. Mr.
Williams praised it so highly that he (the Professor) grew wild about
it, and asked where it could be got. Upon this, he threw a sovereign
to pay for it, and ran home without his change, to read it. "It was
prodigious, sir," he exclaimed.'

The Professor went on in high praise of 'Jane Eyre,' and told Branwell
and Mr. Phillips that his bed-time was ten o'clock, but that, when
reading the book, he had sat on, completely absorbed, until six
o'clock in the morning, when the housemaid came. Then he had retired
to his own room, but, instead of going to bed, had sat on the edge of
it, until he finished the story at ten A.M. Branwell said this history
of a Professor's reading of 'Jane Eyre' made him laugh 'as if he would
split his sides.' And when he told Charlotte about it the next day,
she laughed heartily, too, as did the other sisters, when she went up
stairs to tell them, and their laughter moved Branwell to renewed

'When the Professor's story was ended,' continues Mr. Phillips, 'he
tried to cajole Branwell into introducing him to the "great lady" who
wrote the book. He was dying to see her, he said, and had come all the
way down into Yorkshire, from London, in the fond hope of getting a
glimpse of her, and perhaps of touching the hem of her garment. When
he found that Branwell fought shy of the proposition he actually
offered him a large sum of money, and then, taking from his fob a
valuable gold watch, laid it on the table, and said he would throw
that in to boot, if he would only let him see her and shake hands with

'Poor Branwell spoke of his sister in most affectionate terms, such as
none but a man of deep feeling could utter. He knew her power, and
what tremendous depths of passion and pathos lay hid in her great
surging heart, long before she gave expression to them in "Jane Eyre."
When she wrote the first chapters of her Richardsonian novel, he
condemned the work as in opposition to her genius--which is good proof
of his discrimination and critical judgment. But when "The Professor"
was written, he said that was better, but that she could do better
still; and, although it is not equal to "Jane Eyre," yet it is a work
of great originality and dramatic interest.

'"I know," said Branwell, after speaking of Charlotte's talents, "that
I also had stuff enough in me to make popular stories; but the failure
of the Academy plan ruined me. I was felled, like a tree in the
forest, by a sudden and strong wind, to rise no more. Fancy me, with
my education, and those early dreams, which had almost ripened into
realities, turning counter-jumper, or a clerk in a railway-office,
which last was, you know, my occupation for some time. It simply
degraded me in my own eyes, and broke my heart."

'It was useless,' says Mr. Phillips, 'to remonstrate with him, and yet
I could not help it, and did my best to rouse the sleeping energies
within him to noble action once more.

'"It is too late," he said; "and you would say so, too, if you knew
all." He used to be the oracle of the secluded household in earlier
days--before the love of drink mastered him. His opinion was
invariably sought for upon the literary performances of his sisters;
but at the time I am now speaking of, he was a cipher in the house.'

Such is the account given by Mr. Phillips of his friend; so different
in its character from that which Mr. Grundy, and, following him, Miss
Robinson, offer, in the incredible episode of the carving-knife and
the slaying of the devil, unless we believe the incident--which that
gentleman states to have taken place at this period, how erroneously
we have seen--to have been acted, as is most probable, in grotesque

During the last two months of his life, Branwell became the object of
much interest and received some homage; for, his sisters living
secluded lives, he was generally the only member of the family
accessible to the public. When he met with strangers, he invariably
comported himself with becoming dignity, and did not lay himself open
to the effects of their curiosity. Those who made his acquaintance
were impressed, as Mr. Phillips was, with his great mental calibre,
and with the grace and wit of his conversation. One gentleman--himself
at the present time in the first place in one of the professions--who
knew Branwell intimately, declares to me that he always believed the
abilities of Charlotte's brother were such as might have placed him in
the very front rank of literature.



Branwell's failing Health--Chronic Bronchitis and Marasmus--His
Death--Charlotte's allusions to it--Correction of some Statements
relating to it--Summary of the subsequent History of the Brontë

The spring and summer of the year 1848 were wild, wet, and
unfavourable, and the fine weather in August was of little benefit
to Branwell. His appetite was diminished, and he was weaker. He was
suffering, in addition to his chronic bronchitis, from marasmus, a
consumptive wasting away, arising from hereditary tendency, as well as
from mental agony and the effects of irregular life. However, neither
himself nor his family, nor his medical attendants had any
anticipation of immediate danger.

He was not, indeed, altogether confined to the house, and he was in
the village only two days before his death; but, on that occasion,
his strength failed before he reached his home. William Brown, the
sexton's brother, found him in the lane which leads up to the
parsonage, quite exhausted, panting for breath, and unable to proceed.
He was helped to the house, which he never again left alive.

In the last few days of his life, Branwell was more reconciled, more
subdued, and better feelings filled his mind. The affection of his
family returned undiminished, and they watched with intense anxiety
the end of their cherished brother. The strange madness that had
clouded his mind for so many months, left him now, and the simple
thoughts and feelings of his early years came back to him again. He
died on the morning of Sunday, September the 24th. He had talked
through the night of his mis-spent life, his wasted youth, and his
shame, with compunction. He was also filled with the

    'Sense of past youth and manhood come in vain,
    Of genius given, and knowledge won in vain.'

His natural love likewise came out in beautiful and touching words,
that consoled and satisfied those he was about to leave for ever.

Some time before the end, John Brown entered Branwell's room, and they
were alone. The young man, though faint and dying, spoke of the life
they had led together. He took a short retrospect of his past excesses,
in which the grave-digger had often partaken; but in it he made no
mention of the lady whose image had distracted his brain. He appeared,
in the calmness of approaching death, and the self-possession that
preceded it, to be unconscious that he had ever loved any but the
members of his family, for the depth and tenderness of which affection
he could find no language to express. But, presently, seizing Brown's
hand, he uttered the words: 'Oh, John, I am dying!' then, turning, as
if within himself, he murmured: 'In all my past life I have done
nothing either great or good.' Conscious that the last moment was near,
the sexton summoned the household; and retreated to the belfry. It was
about nine in the morning when the agony began. Branwell's struggles
and convulsions were great, and continued for some time: in the last
gasp, he started convulsively, almost to his feet, and fell dead into
his father's arms.

Mrs. Gaskell says, of this event: 'I have heard, from one who attended
Branwell in his last illness, that he resolved on standing up to die.
He had repeatedly said, that as long as there was life, there was
strength of will to do what it chose; and, when the last agony began,
he insisted on assuming the position just mentioned.' This account
does not accord with that given to me by the Browns, and, perhaps, it
arose from some exaggeration of what actually took place.

On October the 9th, Charlotte writes thus of her brother's end: 'The
past three weeks have been a dark interval in our humble home.
Branwell's constitution has been failing fast all the summer; but
still neither the doctors nor himself thought him so near his end as
he was. He was entirely confined to his bed but for one single day,
and was in the village two days before his death. He died, after
twenty minutes' struggle, on Sunday morning, September 24th. He was
perfectly conscious till the last agony came on. His mind had
undergone the peculiar change which frequently precedes death, two
days previously; the calm of better feelings filled it; a return of
natural affection marked his last moments. He is in God's hands now;
and the All-Powerful is likewise the All-Merciful. A deep conviction
that he rests at last--rests well after his brief, erring, suffering,
feverish life--fills and quiets my mind now. The final separation, the
spectacle of his pale corpse, gave me more acute, bitter pain than I
could have imagined. Till the last hour comes, we never know how much
we can forgive, pity, regret a near relative. All his vices were and
are nothing now. We remember only his woes. Papa was acutely
distressed at first, but, on the whole, has borne the event well.[48]

        [48] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. xvi.

A few days later she wrote to another friend, speaking of her brother's
death. 'The event to which you allude came upon us indeed with
startling suddenness, and was a severe shock to us all.... I thank
you for your kind sympathy. Many, under the circumstances, would
think our loss rather a relief than otherwise; in truth, we must
acknowledge, in all humility and gratitude, that God has greatly
tempered judgment with mercy; but, yet, as you doubtless know from
experience, the last earthly separation cannot take place between
near relations without the keenest pangs on the part of the
survivors. Every wrong and sin is forgotten then; pity and grief
share the hearts and the memory between them. Yet we are not without
comfort in our affliction. A most propitious change marked the last
few days of poor Branwell's life ... and this change could not be
owing to the fear of death, for within half-an-hour of his decease he
seemed unconscious of danger.'

Charlotte concludes by referring to her own health, which had given
way under the strain.[49]

        [49] 'Charlotte Brontë: a Monograph,' by T. Wemyss Reid, p.

Branwell was buried in the grave in which the remains of his sisters
Maria and Elizabeth lay, and his name is placed next after theirs on
the tablet. Thus, after twenty-three years, he joined in the dust
those from whom in life he had never been separated in affection.

It would have been well if, when the grave closed over his mortal
remains, it had buried in oblivion the memory of his failings and
his sorrows. Charlotte, as we have seen, when her brother was gone,
remembered nothing but his woes; and, if the biographers of herself
and her sister Emily had consulted the feelings of those on whom they
wrote--which have been so touchingly and tearfully expressed by
Charlotte--they would have drawn the veil over whatever offences
Branwell, as mortal, might have committed. But, amongst Mrs. Gaskell's
other statements regarding him, there is one, relating even to his
death, which cannot be passed over in silence here, since, though she
had been compelled to omit it, with her other charges, from the second
edition of her work, Miss Robinson has reproduced it recently in her
'Emily Brontë.' The statement was to the effect that, when Branwell
died, his pockets were filled with the letters of the lady whom he had
admired.[50] To this bold statement Martha Brown gave to me a flat
contradiction, declaring that she was employed in the sick-room at the
time, and had personal knowledge that not one letter, nor a vestige of
one, from the lady in question was so found. The letters were mostly
from a gentleman of Branwell's acquaintance, then living near the
place of his former employment. Martha was indignant at the

        [50] Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' chap. xvi. 1st

It may not be amiss here, in the briefest possible way, to give an
outline of the subsequent history of the Brontë family. Emily's health
began rapidly to fail after Branwell's death, which was a great shock
to her, and she never left the house alive after the Sunday succeeding
it. Her cough was very obstinate, and she was troubled with shortness
of breath. Charlotte saw the danger, but could do nothing to ward it
off, for Emily was silent and reserved, gave no answers to questions,
and took no remedies that were prescribed. She grew weaker daily,
and the end came on Tuesday, December the 19th. At the same time
Anne was slowly failing, but she lingered longer. 'Anne's decline,'
said Charlotte, 'is gradual and fluctuating; but its nature is not
doubtful.' Unlike Emily, she looked for sympathy, took medicines,
and did her best to get well. It was arranged at last that Charlotte
and she should go to Scarborough, hoping the change of air might
invigorate her, and they left the parsonage on May the 24th, 1849. But
the change had no beneficial effect, and Anne died on May the 28th, at
Scarborough, where she was buried.

After this the more purely literary portion of Charlotte's life
commenced. She completed 'Shirley' early in September, 1849, and
it was published on October the 26th. Her real name, and the
neighbourhood in which she resided, became now generally known. The
reviews showered rapidly; but Charlotte thought that one the best by
Eugène Forçade, in the 'Revue des deux Mondes.' The cloud now passed
away from her, and she visited London, made the acquaintance of
Thackeray, Miss Martineau, and others, and entered eagerly into the
occupations of literary life. 'Villette' was completed in November,
1852. Charlotte married the Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls, who had long
been her father's curate, on June the 29th, 1854, and she died on
Saturday, March the 31st, 1855. The Rev. Patrick Brontë, whom I knew,
a fine, tall, grey-haired, and venerable old man, survived all his
children, and died at Haworth on January 7th, 1861.



Branwell's Character in his Poetry--The Pious and Tender Tone of
 Mind which it Displays--Branwell's Tendency to Dwell on the Past
rather than on the Future--Illustrated--The Sad Tone of his Mind
--He is Inclined to be Morbid--The Way in which Branwell regarded
Nature--Observations on the Character Displayed in his Works.

It has often been observed that the life of a poet may best be learned
from the works he has left behind him. We may fall into error in
dealing with the circumstances of his external life, and may make
mistakes as to chronology or facts, and, in this way, may be led often
to form a false estimate of his character; but, if we discover the
personality concealed in his writings, if we can grasp the hidden
spirit by which they are informed, we shall be enabled to follow his
heart in its cherished affections, to understand the characteristic
tendency of his thoughts, and to comprehend even the very psychology
of his soul. This enquiry, it is true, is often difficult in the
extreme; one cannot always unravel the tangled mysteries in which
natural expression is wrapped up, nor fully pierce the cloudy medium
of conventionality or affectation through which it may be dimly
revealed; it is especially difficult, also, to follow it in the works
of a writer of a school like that of the Euphuists, or of Pope, where
the medium is one of exaggerated refinement, or of classical and
formal preciseness.

But, with the writings of Branwell Brontë, the case is entirely
different; and for a very simple reason, viz., that everything he
wrote proceeded from a personal inspiration, and was the direct
expression of the fulness of emotion, and of vivid thoughts or
feelings which could scarcely be hidden; because, in short, he wrote
in the true artistic spirit of having something to say.

If Branwell's affectionate nature led him to dwell upon the memories
of his earlier years, and upon the thoughts of those dead sisters whom
he had loved so much, he spoke in the voice of Harriet weeping for the
departed Caroline; it needed but his remembrance of the fell disease
that had deprived him of his sisters, and the fearful havoc which it
was yet to work in his family, to inspire him with the sad fancy of
his 'Percy Hall.' If he sank into the depths of morbid melancholy, and
was filled with a consciousness of the worthlessness of ambition, the
folly of pride, and the universality of sorrow, his sonnets were a
natural expression, in which he found both relief and consolation.

In his case it requires no Pheidian hand to bring out the statue from
the marble, but only a sympathetic spirit, a heart filled with the
affections of humanity, and a mind attuned to thoughts somewhat sad,
to enable one to enter into every mood in which Branwell wrote, and to
understand the moral and tender pathos that fills his works. It is
because Branwell's poems are so fully expressive of his feelings at
the time when they were written that they are so separately placed in
this work. But, before we conclude it, it will be well to sum up, in
a slight sketch, a few of the most characteristic features of his
writings, and, in so doing, we shall arrive at a correct estimate of
his disposition and of his poetry together.

The first thing, then, that strikes one in Branwell's verse, beginning
at its youthful period, is the tone of piety that distinguishes it.
The simple stanzas which he sent to Wordsworth, even, however
worthless as poetry, are valuable, because they show us the early bent
of his mind; and the beautiful lines which he wrote a year later, in
1838, where he first manifests that consciousness of the vanity of
earthly things, which his sister Anne also versified, tell us of the
hope of a heavenly future, which is contrasted, in its serenity, with
the evils of mortal life. The poem entitled 'Caroline's Prayer,' and
the one 'On Caroline' also, simple though they are, are evidence of
a devotional turn of mind; and mark again, in the longer poem of
'Caroline,' how Harriet finds divine consolation in the calm of Nature:

    'Quiet airs of sacred gladness
      Breathing through these woodlands wild,
    O'er the whirl of mortal madness
      Spread the slumbers of a child;'

and how tenderly she remembers the pious lessons which her dead sister
had drawn from the sufferings of the Saviour of man, a recollection,
let it be remembered, which Branwell himself preserved. A little later,
we find Branwell occupied upon a long poem, of which we possess only
a fragment, wholly sacred in its character, and moral in its
purpose,--'Noah's Warning over Methusaleh's Grave.' Here Noah, before
the universal Deluge, in the presence even of the cloudy wall 'piled
boding round the firmament,' harangues the people, bidding them
withdraw from sin, ere it be too late. It is true, however, that in the
later poems, when Branwell's mind is cast into its deepest gloom, this
disposition is not so prominent, and, perhaps, can be gathered only
from an abundance of tender touches, which could proceed from nothing
but a devotional spirit; and thus we may infer that, though he might
have lost some of his early piety, he never lost the effect of it.
There is, besides, throughout Branwell's work, the evidence of a justly
balanced morality, in that he nowhere exalts depraved passions, or
manifests impiety, or, more than all, corrupts his readers with the
painting of sensuous ideas, or the description of sensuous incidents.
And I would ask the reader, in connection with this admirable
characteristic of his poetry, to remember that he has never been
charged with indulgence of the kind that has lured away too many men
of genius and mental power.

The next thing that strikes me in Branwell's poetry is the strong love
that he manifests for the past, which he seems to value more than the
present, and whose pleasures he deems sweeter and purer than any the
future can have in store. This tone of thought could be very well
understood if we had regard to circumstances of the later period of his
life, when despair had cut off hope; but it is just as prominent in the
earliest poems he wrote. It would seem that, to the pensive mind of
Branwell, all the thoughts of childhood, all the joys of youth and its
affections, became, as years passed on, hallowed and exalted in the
golden halo of recollection. There were places in the sanctity of the
past where the roses of Bendemeer grew, unchanging ever; places to
which he turned for the joys of memory, when solitude inclined him to
reflection. These pleasures of memory were often of a pensive order,
for they were connected with sorrowful events, or they were joys turned
sorrowful, as joys will turn, when they have been long enough departed.
In Branwell's letter to Wordsworth, and in his other letters, he
expresses plenty of honest ambition, and talks bravely of work in the
future; and he spoke in the same way also. But I have received from his
poems the impression that this ambition grew from the requirements of
circumstances, and from literary emulation; that, in fact, the
constitution of Branwell's mind was of the gentle reflective nature to
which the pleasures of ambition appear hollow and insufficient in
themselves. At least it is clear that he dwelt with more satisfaction
on the past than on the future. So far, indeed, as his poetry is
concerned, we saw, in 'The End of All,' that it was only when loss made
the past too painful for thought, that he turned to the stony joys of
solitary ambition and personal fame. This seems to me to be a very
tender trait in his character, however little it might fit him to fight
the battle of life with those who looked for the joys of the future,
rather than turned to pleasures they could actually taste no more.

In Branwell's thoughtful moods, it required but the woodland sunshine,
perhaps, or the sound of the distant bells, to bring back memories to
him, as they brought back to Harriet, in the poem of 'Caroline,' many a
scene of bygone days, opening the fount of tears, and waking memory to
the thought

    'Of visions sleeping--not forgot.'

Thus, under the pensive influence, there passed over her

    'That swell of thought, which seems to fill
      The bursting heart, the gushing eye,
    While fades all _present_ good or ill
      Before the shades of things gone by.'

It called up in her, also, the hours when Caroline, too, listening to
the wild storms of winter, had filled the nights with pictures and

    'From far-off memories brought.'

These treasures of memory, to which Branwell refers in many of his
poems, were to him of a sacred nature, and might not be profaned. He
tells us, indeed, in one of his sonnets, that the tears of affection
are dried up by the growth of honours, and by the interests and
pursuits of life, which

    'Dim or destroy those holy thoughts which cling
    Round where the forms we loved lie slumbering.'

For the past was thus hallowed by Branwell, because in it lay his
earliest affections, and his most poignant sorrows. I have had
occasion, in speaking of several of the poems in this volume, to point
out the love which he shows for his dead sisters, Maria and Elizabeth,
and how he mourned them up to the last year of his life. For his
disposition was of a deeply affectionate order. He has, indeed, painted
for us too vividly, in both the poems of 'Caroline' and 'Percy Hall,'
the pangs of separation, and the cheerless void that remains when the
loved one has departed, to leave us any doubt as to the sensitiveness
of his nature.

It will not have escaped the reader's attention that Branwell's muse
sings often morbidly enough, and that,--like some spirit that cannot
forsake the scene of its mortal sorrows, and haunts the place of its
affliction--he dwells frequently upon details of a painful kind, that
others would gladly have relegated to oblivion. In the poem of
'Caroline,' the picture of his mother, clad in black, is still before
his eyes; he remembers even the grave-clothes of his sister in her
coffin, and

    'Her _too_ bright cheek all faded now;'

the closing of the coffin lid, and the lowering of it into its narrow
bed are yet before his eyes; and painfully he remembers his feeling at
the grave-side:

    'And wild my sob, when hollow rung
    The first cold clod above her flung.'

Later, though he was occupied with different subjects, Branwell could
not entirely free himself from a morbid and painful analysis of the
physical effects of the disease he dreaded so much; and very
beautifully does he suggest the picture of consumptive decline and
early decay.

This tone of thought, and the many misfortunes and gloomy forebodings
that attended Branwell's later years, had a natural effect in giving
a mournful cast to almost every emanation of his muse; and we find,
in effect, throughout the poems here collected, that, save in one
instance--'The Epicurean's Song'--which we feel to be the production
of a moment of elation, there is scarcely a line that does not breathe
a consciousness of sad regret, or of cruel and bitter sorrow.

He was filled with the sense of the futility of human joy, and the
abiding presence of woe:

    '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.'

These sorrows, as years went by, grew so terrible in their crushing
weight, that the mind could barely withstand them, and Branwell felt,
in that period when his cry was for peace in death, that, when the
light of life is gone,

    'There come no sorrows crowding on,
      And powerless lies Despair.'

With Branwell, indeed, as with Mary in his poem of 'Percy Hall,'
'thought felt irksome to the heated brain.'

It was then that oblivion became to him a coveted relief from
immediate woe, and that he envied the dreamless head of the wandering,
water-borne corpse, whose rolling bed seemed calmer than the turmoil
of the world.

This figure of the body rocked by the waves of ocean, brings me to a
consideration of the way in which Branwell regarded Nature, which had
something very noteworthy in it. It was always remarked by his friends
that the young poet was a great observer, and took an especial pleasure
in the works of Nature. It is, therefore, somewhat surprising, at first
sight, that, in his poems, he does not dwell upon them descriptively or
in a marked manner, and that we have to infer, from certain suggestive
touches and pictures--which do, indeed, speak more plainly than words
could--that he observed them at all. But we learn that the works of
Nature had for Branwell a deeper significance than for most people,
that he conceived they had some mysterious sympathy or unspeakable
connection with human affections, and were, in a manner, the expression
or immediate reflection of the Deity. Wordsworth, Southey, and
Coleridge had already looked upon Nature somewhat in this wise; but it
would be a mistake to suppose that Branwell imitated them: his thoughts
flow too swiftly and impetuously to admit of such a conclusion. It is
possible that, if his life had passed calmly, he might have dwelt upon
the simple beauties of Nature, and found in them a homely harmony with
familiar ideas; Charlotte and Anne in their poetry scarcely get beyond
this; but it was different with Emily and Branwell. Emily, with her
reserved, passionate nature, had a sympathetic spell in the solitary
moorland; and Branwell, labouring with his sorrows, found, in the
wildest storms, a being with whom he must battle, or saw, in the mighty
mountains, an image of unbroken strength and everlasting fortitude,
such a power as he must strive after and make his own. But, in
Branwell's earlier poems, this influence is not so marked, and his muse
is simply attuned to the saddened thoughts in which Nature
participates. Thus Wordsworth had sung:

    'Fancy, who leads the pastimes of the glad,
    Full oft is pleased a wayward dart to throw;
    Sending sad shadows after things not sad,
    Peopling the harmless fields with signs of woe:
    Beneath her sway, a simple forest cry
    Becomes an echo of man's misery.'

And thus we see, in Branwell's 'Caroline,' how, even in its calmness,
the beautifully suggested picture of eve--when the sunlight slants, and
the waters cease their motion, and the calm and hush tell of rest from
labour--is made to harmonize with the plaintive thoughts of Harriet.
But then comes the more significant question:

    '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?'

What, in short, is the harmonious and sympathetic spell that breathes
through Nature?

The wild places of the earth, mountains and moorlands, where the storms
raged, and the great winds blew, were nearest akin to the Titanic
genius of Branwell and Emily. Thus, in the sonnet, the everlasting
majesty of Black Comb was held up by Branwell as an example to man, and
as a contrast to human feebleness; and later, when his woe was most
acute, he was drawn into a 'communion of vague unity' with Penmaenmawr,
comparing the living, beating heart of man with the stony hill, and

    'Let me, like it, arise o'er mortal care,
    All woes sustain, yet never know despair,
    Unshrinking face the griefs I now deplore,
    And stand through storm and shine like moveless Penmaenmawr.'

And, lastly, in the 'Epistle from a Father to a Child in her Grave,' we
find him comparing himself with one in the midst of wild mountains:

    'I, thy life's source, was like a wanderer breasting
    Keen mountain winds, and on a summit resting,
    Whose rough rocks rise above the grassy mead,
    With sleet and north winds howling overhead.'

It will be seen from this short inquiry that the poetry of Branwell
Brontë was entirely introspective, having, almost to the last line,
some direct reference to his own thoughts or feelings; and that it
may thus be read as an actual part of the story of his life. The
disposition it reveals, though often hidden, as the readers of this
book know, through the effects of folly and indulgence, was one of a
singularly gentle, affectionate, and sympathetic character; passionate
and unstable, it is true, but a disposition, nevertheless, that has
been frequently misunderstood, and not seldom wronged. One of the aims
of this book has been to set Patrick Branwell Brontë right with the
public; an attempt, not to clear him from follies and weaknesses that
really were his--which the public, but for the mistakes of biographers,
would never have known--but to show that, at any rate, his nature was
one rather to be admired than condemned. It has aimed also, by the
publication of his poetical writings, to demonstrate that his genius is
not unworthy to be ranked with that which made his sisters famous. Yet
it may, perhaps, be held that the poems here published contain more of
rich promise than of real fulfilment, rather the earnest of literary
success than the actual accomplishment of it. But, in reading the
poetry of Branwell Brontë, which is so uniformly sad, it may be well to
remember what Mr. Swinburne has said, in speaking of Mr. Browning, that
'to do justice to any book which deserves any other sort of justice
than that of the fire or waste-paper basket, it is necessary to read it
in a fit frame of mind.'



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