Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle
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Charlotte Brontë and Her Circle

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Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, by Clement K. Shorter
The Project Gutenberg eBook, Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, by Clement K. Shorter
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
Title: Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle
Author: Clement K. Shorter
Release Date: August 8, 2006 Language: English
[eBook #19011]
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CHARLOTTE BRONTE AND HER CIRCLE***
Transcribed from the 1896 Hodder and Stoughton edition by Les Bowler.
CHARLOTTE BRONTË AND HER CIRCLE
BY CLEMENT K. SHORTER LONDON HODDER AND STOUGHTON 27 PATERNOSTER ROW 1896
PREFACE
It is claimed for the following book of some five hundred pages that the larger part of it is an addition of entirely new material to the romantic story of the Brontës. For this result, but very small credit is due to me; and my very hearty acknowledgments must be made, in the first place, to the Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls, for whose generous surrender of personal inclination I must ever be grateful. It has been with extreme unwillingness that Mr. Nicholls has broken the silence of forty years, and he would not even now have consented to the publication of certain letters concerning his marriage, had he not been aware that these ...

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Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, by Clement K.
Shorter
The Project Gutenberg eBook, Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, by Clement
K. Shorter
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
Title: Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle
Author: Clement K. Shorter
Release Date: August 8, 2006 [eBook #19011]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CHARLOTTE BRONTE AND HER CIRCLE***
Transcribed from the 1896 Hodder and Stoughton edition by Les Bowler.
CHARLOTTE BRONTË AND HER
CIRCLE
BY CLEMENT K. SHORTER
LONDON
HODDER AND STOUGHTON
27 PATERNOSTER ROW
1896p. vPREFACE
It is claimed for the following book of some five hundred pages that the larger
part of it is an addition of entirely new material to the romantic story of the
Brontës. For this result, but very small credit is due to me; and my very hearty
acknowledgments must be made, in the first place, to the Rev. Arthur Bell
Nicholls, for whose generous surrender of personal inclination I must ever be
grateful. It has been with extreme unwillingness that Mr. Nicholls has broken
the silence of forty years, and he would not even now have consented to the
publication of certain letters concerning his marriage, had he not been aware
that these letters were already privately printed and in the hands of not less
than eight or ten people. To Miss Ellen Nussey of Gomersall, I have also to
p. virender thanks for having placed the many letters in her possession at my
disposal, and for having furnished a great deal of interesting information.
Without the letters from Charlotte Brontë to Mr. W. S. Williams, which were
kindly lent to me by his son and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Thornton Williams, my
book would have been the poorer. Sir Wemyss Reid, Mr. J. J. Stead, of
Heckmondwike, Mr. Butler Wood, of Bradford, Mr. W. W. Yates, of Dewsbury,
Mr. Erskine Stuart, Mr. Buxton Forman, and Mr. Thomas J. Wise are among the
many Brontë specialists who have helped me with advice or with the loan of
material. Mr. Wise, in particular, has lent me many valuable manuscripts.
Finally, I have to thank my friend Dr. Robertson Nicoll for the kindly pressure
which has practically compelled me to prepare this little volume amid a
multitude of journalistic duties.
CLEMENT K. SHORTER.198 Strand, London,
September 1st, 1896.
p. viiCONTENTS
PRELIMINARY
CHAPTER I PATRICK BRONTË AND MARIA HIS WIFE
CHAPTER II CHILDHOOD
CHAPTER III SCHOOL AND GOVERNESS LIFE
CHAPTER IV PENSIONNAT HÉGER, BRUSSELS
CHAPTER V PATRICK BRANWELL BRONTË
p. viiiCHAPTER VI EMILY JANE BRONTË
CHAPTER VII ANNE BRONTË
CHAPTER VIII ELLEN NUSSEY
CHAPTER IX MARY TAYLOR
CHAPTER X MARGARET WOOLER
CHAPTER XI THE CURATES AT HAWORTH
CHAPTER XII CHARLOTTE BRONTË’S LOVERS
CHAPTER XIII LITERARY AMBITIONS
p. ixCHAPTER XIV WILLIAM SMITH WILLIAMS
CHAPTER XV WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
CHAPTER XVI LITERARY FRIENDSHIPS
CHAPTER XVII ARTHUR BELL NICHOLLS
p. xiLIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
CHARLOTTE BRONTË Frontispiece
PATRICK BRANWELL BRONTË facing page 120
FACSIMILE OF PAGE OF EMILY BRONTË’S DIARY facing page 146
FACSIMILE OF TWO PAGES OF EMILY BRONTË’S DIARY facing page 154
ANNE BRONTË facing page 182
MISS ELLEN NUSSEY AS A SCHOOLGIRL )
MISS ELLEN NUSSEY TO-DAY ) facing page 207
THE REV. ARTHUR BELL NICHOLLS facing page 467
p. xiiiA BRONTË CHRONOLOGY
Patrick Brontë born 17 March
1777
Maria Brontë born 1783
Patrick leaves Ireland for Cambridge 1802Degree of A.B. 1806
Curacy at Wetherfield, Essex 1806
„ Dewsbury Yorks 1809
„ Hartshead-cum-Clifton 1811
Publishes ‘Cottage Poems’ (Halifax) 1811
Married to Maria Branwell 18 Dec. 1812
First Child, Maria, born 1813
Publishes ‘The Rural Minstrel’ 1813
Elizabeth born 1814
Publishes ‘The Cottage in the Wood’ 1815
Curacy at Thornton 1816
Charlotte Brontë born at Thornton 21 April 1816
Patrick Branwell Brontë born 1817
Emily Jane Brontë born 1818
‘The Maid of Killarney’ published 1818
p. xivAnne Brontë born 1819
Removal to Incumbency of Haworth February
1820
Mrs. Brontë died 15
September
1821
Maria and Elizabeth Brontë at Cowan Bridge July 1824
Charlotte and Emily „ „ September
1824Leave Cowan Bridge 1825
Maria Brontë died 6 May 1825
Elizabeth Brontë died 15 June 1825
Charlotte Brontë at School, Roe Head January 1831
Leaves Roe Head School 1832
First Visit to Ellen Nussey at The Rydings September
1832
Returns to Roe Head as governess 29 July 1835
Branwell visits London 1835
Emily spends three months at Roe Head, when Anne takes her 1835
place and she returns home
Ellen Nussey visits Haworth in Holidays July 1836
Miss Wooler’s School removed to Dewsbury Moor 1836
Emily at a School at Halifax for six months (Miss Patchet of Law 1836
Hill)
First Proposal of Marriage (Henry Nussey) March 1839
Anne Brontë becomes governess at Blake Hall, (Mrs. Ingham’s) April 1839
Charlotte governess at Mrs. Sidgwick’s at Stonegappe, and at 1839
Swarcliffe, Harrogate
p. xvSecond Proposal of Marriage (Mr. Price) 1839
Charlotte and Emily at Haworth, Anne at Blake Hall 1840
Charlotte’s second situation as governess with Mrs. White, March 1841
Upperwood House, Rawdon
Charlotte and Emily go to School at Brussels February
1842
Miss Branwell died at Haworth 29 Oct. 1842Charlotte and Emily return to Haworth Nov. 1842
Charlotte returns to Brussels Jan. 1843
Returns to Haworth Jan. 1844
Anne and Branwell at Thorp Green 1845
Charlotte visits Mary Taylor at Hounsden 1845
Visits Miss Nussey at Brookroyd 1845
Publication of Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell 1846
Charlotte Brontë visits Manchester with her father for him to see Aug. 1846
an Oculist
‘Jane Eyre’ published (Smith & Elder) Oct. 1847
‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Agnes Grey’, (Newby) Dec. 1847
Charlotte and Emily visit London June 1848
‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ 1848
Branwell died 24 Sept.
1848
Emily died 19 Dec. 1848
Anne Brontë died at Scarborough 28 May 1849
‘Shirley’ published 1849
Visit to London, first meeting with Thackeray Nov. 1849
p. xviVisit to London, sits for Portrait to Richmond 1850
Third Offer of Marriage (James Taylor) 1851
Visit to London for Exhibition 1851
‘Villette’ published 1852Visit to London 1853
Visit to Manchester to Mrs. Gaskell 1853
Marriage 29 June 1854
Death 31 March
1855
Patrick Brontë died 7 June 1861
p. 1PRELIMINARY: MRS. GASKELL
In the whole of English biographical literature there is no book that can
compare in widespread interest with the Life of Charlotte Brontë by Mrs.
Gaskell. It has held a position of singular popularity for forty years; and while
biography after biography has come and gone, it still commands a place side
by side with Boswell’s Johnson and Lockhart’s Scott. As far as mere readers
are concerned, it may indeed claim its hundreds as against the tens of
intrinsically more important rivals. There are obvious reasons for this success.
Mrs. Gaskell was herself a popular novelist, who commanded a very wide
audience, and Cranford, at least, has taken a place among the classics of our
literature. She brought to bear upon the biography of Charlotte Brontë all those
literary gifts which had made the charm of her seven volumes of romance. And
these gifts were employed upon a romance of real life, not less fascinating than
anything which imagination could have furnished. Charlotte Brontë’s success
as an author turned the eyes of the world upon her. Thackeray had sent her his
Vanity Fair before he knew her name or sex. The precious volume lies before
me—
p. 2And Thackeray did not send many inscribed copies of his books even to
successful authors. Speculation concerning the author of Jane Eyre was
sufficiently rife during those seven sad years of literary renown to make a
biography imperative when death came to Charlotte Brontë in 1855. All the
world had heard something of the three marvellous sisters, daughters of a poor
parson in Yorkshire, going one after another to their death with such
melancholy swiftness, but leaving—two of them, at least—imperishable work
behind them. The old blind father and the bereaved husband read the
confused eulogy and criticism, sometimes with a sad pleasure at the praise,
oftener with a sadder pain at the grotesque inaccuracy. Small wonder that it
became impressed upon Mr. Brontë’s mind that an authoritative biography was
desirable. His son-in-law, Mr. Arthur Bell Nicholls, who lived with him in theHaworth parsonage during the six weary years which succeeded Mrs.
Nicholls’s death, was not so readily won to the unveiling of his wife’s inner life;
and although we, who read Mrs. Gaskell’s Memoir, have every reason to be
thankful for Mr. Brontë’s decision, peace of mind would undoubtedly have been
more assured to Charlotte Brontë’s surviving relatives had the most rigid
silence been maintained. The book, when it appeared in 1857, gave infinite
pain to a number of people, including Mr. Brontë and Mr. Nicholls; and Mrs.
Gaskell’s subsequent experiences had the effect of persuading her that all
biographical literature was intolerable and undesirable. She would seem to
have given instructions that no biography of herself should be written; and now
that thirty years have passed since her death we have no substantial record of
one of the most fascinating women of her age. The loss to literature has been
forcibly brought home to the present writer, who has in his possession a bundle
of letters written by Mrs. Gaskell to numerous friends of Charlotte Brontë during
p. 3the progress of the biography. They serve, all of them, to impress one with the
singular charm of the woman, her humanity and breadth of sympathy. They
make us think better of Mrs. Gaskell, as Thackeray’s letters to Mrs. Brookfield
make us think better of the author of Vanity Fair.
Apart from these letters, a journey in the footsteps, as it were, of Mrs. Gaskell
reveals to us the remarkable conscientiousness with which she set about her
task. It would have been possible, with so much fame behind her, to have
secured an equal success, and certainly an equal pecuniary reward, had she
merely written a brief monograph with such material as was voluntarily placed
in her hands. Mrs. Gaskell possessed a higher ideal of a biographer’s duties.
She spared no pains to find out the facts; she visited every spot associated with
the name of Charlotte Brontë—Thornton, Haworth, Cowan Bridge, Birstall,
Brussels—and she wrote countless letters to the friends of Charlotte Brontë’s
earlier days.
But why, it may be asked, was Mrs. Gaskell selected as biographer? The
choice was made by Mr. Brontë, and not, as has been suggested, by some
outside influence. When Mr. Brontë had once decided that there should be an
authoritative biography—and he alone was active in the matter—there could be
but little doubt upon whom the task would fall. Among all the friends whom
fame had brought to Charlotte, Mrs. Gaskell stood prominent for her literary gifts
and her large-hearted sympathy. She had made the acquaintance of Miss
Brontë when the latter was on a visit to Sir James Kay Shuttleworth, in 1850;
and a letter from Charlotte to her father, and others to Mr. W. S. Williams,
indicate the beginning of a friendship which was to leave so permanent a
record in literary history:—
TO W. S. WILLIAMS
‘20th November, 1849.
p. 4‘My dear Sir,—You said that if I wished for any copies of Shirley to
be sent to individuals I was to name the parties. I have thought of
one person to whom I should much like a copy to be offered—
Harriet Martineau. For her character—as revealed in her works—I
have a lively admiration, a deep esteem. Will you inclose with the
volume the accompanying note?
‘The letter you forwarded this morning was from Mrs. Gaskell,
authoress of Mary Barton; she said I was not to answer it, but I
cannot help doing so. The note brought the tears to my eyes. She
is a good, she is a great woman. Proud am I that I can touch a
chord of sympathy in souls so noble. In Mrs. Gaskell’s nature itmournfully pleases me to fancy a remote affinity to my sister Emily.
In Miss Martineau’s mind I have always felt the same, though there
are wide differences. Both these ladies are above me—certainly far
my superiors in attainments and experience. I think I could look up
to them if I knew them.—I am, dear sir, yours sincerely,
‘C. Brontë.’
TO W. S. WILLIAMS
‘November 29th, 1849.
‘Dear Sir,—I inclose two notes for postage. The note you sent
yesterday was from Harriet Martineau; its contents were more than
gratifying. I ought to be thankful, and I trust I am, for such
testimonies of sympathy from the first order of minds. When Mrs.
Gaskell tells me she shall keep my works as a treasure for her
daughters, and when Harriet Martineau testifies affectionate
approbation, I feel the sting taken from the strictures of another class
of critics. My resolution of seclusion withholds me from
communicating further with these ladies at present, but I now know
how they are inclined to me—I know how my writings have affected
their wise and pure minds. The knowledge is present support and,
perhaps, may be future armour.
‘I trust Mrs. Williams’s health and, consequently, your spirits are by
this time quite restored. If all be well, perhaps I shall see you next
week.—Yours sincerely,
‘C. Brontë.’
p. 5TO W. S. WILLIAMS
‘January 1st, 1850.
‘My dear Sir,—May I beg that a copy of Wuthering Heights may be
sent to Mrs. Gaskell; her present address is 3 Sussex Place,
Regent’s Park. She has just sent me the Moorland Cottage. I felt
disappointed about the publication of that book, having hoped it
would be offered to Smith, Elder & Co.; but it seems she had no
alternative, as it was Mr. Chapman himself who asked her to write a
Christmas book. On my return home yesterday I found two packets
from Cornhill directed in two well-known hands waiting for me. You
are all very very good.
‘I trust to have derived benefit from my visit to Miss Martineau. A
visit more interesting I certainly never paid. If self-sustaining
strength can be acquired from example, I ought to have got good.
But my nature is not hers; I could not make it so though I were to
submit it seventy times seven to the furnace of affliction, and
discipline it for an age under the hammer and anvil of toil and self-
sacrifice. Perhaps if I was like her I should not admire her so much
as I do. She is somewhat absolute, though quite unconsciously so;
but she is likewise kind, with an affection at once abrupt and
constant, whose sincerity you cannot doubt. It was delightful to sit
near her in the evenings and hear her converse, myself mute. She
speaks with what seems to me a wonderful fluency and eloquence.
Her animal spirits are as unflagging as her intellectual powers. I
was glad to find her health excellent. I believe neither solitude nor
loss of friends would break her down. I saw some faults in her, butsomehow I liked them for the sake of her good points. It gave me no
pain to feel insignificant, mentally and corporeally, in comparison
with her.
‘Trusting that you and yours are well, and sincerely wishing you all
a happy new year,—I am, my dear sir, yours sincerely,
‘C. Brontë.’
TO REV. P. BRONTË
‘The Briery, Windermere,
‘August 10th, 1850.
‘Dear Papa,—I reached this place yesterday evening at eight
p. 6o’clock, after a safe though rather tedious journey. I had to change
carriages three times and to wait an hour and a half at Lancaster.
Sir James came to meet me at the station; both he and Lady
Shuttleworth gave me a very kind reception. This place is
exquisitely beautiful, though the weather is cloudy, misty, and
stormy; but the sun bursts out occasionally and shows the hills and
the lake. Mrs. Gaskell is coming here this evening, and one or two
other people. Miss Martineau, I am sorry to say, I shall not see, as
she is already gone from home for the autumn.
‘Be kind enough to write by return of post and tell me how you are
getting on and how you are. Give my kind regards to Tabby and
Martha, and—Believe me, dear papa, your affectionate daughter,
‘C. Brontë.’
And this is how she writes to a friend from Haworth, on her return, after that first
meeting:—
‘Lady Shuttleworth never got out, being confined to the house with a
cold; but fortunately there was Mrs. Gaskell, the authoress of Mary
Barton, who came to the Briery the day after me. I was truly glad of
her companionship. She is a woman of the most genuine talent, of
cheerful, pleasing, and cordial manners, and, I believe, of a kind
and good heart.’
TO W. S. WILLIAMS
‘September 20th, 1850.
‘My dear Sir,—I herewith send you a very roughly written copy of
what I have to say about my sisters. When you have read it you can
better judge whether the word “Notice” or “Memoir” is the most
appropriate. I think the former. Memoir seems to me to express a
more circumstantial and different sort of account. My aim is to give a
just idea of their identity, not to write any narration of their simple,
uneventful lives. I depend on you for faithfully pointing out whatever
may strike you as faulty. I could not write it in the conventional form
—that I found impossible.
p. 7‘It gives me real pleasure to hear of your son’s success. I trust he
may persevere and go on improving, and give his parents cause for
satisfaction and honest pride.
‘I am truly pleased, too, to learn that Miss Kavanagh has managed
so well with Mr. Colburn. Her position seems to me one deserving