The Life of Charlotte Bronte
I am not aware of all the circumstances which led to the relinquishment of the Lille plan.
Brussels had had from the first a strong attraction for Charlotte; and the idea of going
there, in preference to any other place, had only been given up in consequence of the
information received of the second-rate character of its schools. In one of her letters
reference has been made to Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the chaplain of the British Embassy.
At the request of his brother--a clergyman, living not many miles from Haworth, and an
acquaintance of Mr. Bronte's--she made much inquiry, and at length, after some
discouragement in her search, heard of a school which seemed in every respect desirable.
There was an English lady who had long lived in the Orleans family, amidst the various
fluctuations of their fortunes, and who, when the Princess Louise was married to King
Leopold, accompanied her to Brussels, in the capacity of reader. This lady's
granddaughter was receiving her education at the pensionnat of Madame Heger; and so
satisfied was the grandmother with the kind of instruction given, that she named the
establishment, with high encomiums, to Mrs. Jerkins; and, in consequence, it was decided
that, if the terms suited, Miss Bronte and Emily should proceed thither. M. Heger informs
me that, on receipt of a letter from Charlotte, making very particular inquiries as to the
possible amount of what are usually termed "extras," he and his wife were so much struck
by the simple earnest tone of the letter, that they said to each other:- "These are the
daughters of an English pastor, of moderate means, anxious to learn with an ulterior view
of instructing others, and to whom the risk of additional expense is of great consequence.
Let us name a specific sum, within which all expenses shall be included."
This was accordingly done; the agreement was concluded, and the Brontes prepared to
leave their native county for the first time, if we except the melancholy and memorable
residence at Cowan Bridge. Mr. Bronte determined to accompany his daughters. Mary
and her brother, who were experienced in foreign travelling, were also of the party.
Charlotte first saw London in the day or two they now stopped there; and, from an
expression in one of her subsequent letters, they all, I believe, stayed at the Chapter
Coffee House, Paternoster Row--a strange, old-fashioned tavern, of which I shall have
more to say hereafter.
Mary's account of their journey is thus given.
"In passing through London, she seemed to think our business was and ought to be, to see
all the pictures and statues we could. She knew the artists, and know where other
productions of theirs were to be found. I don't remember what we saw except St. Paul's.
Emily was like her in these habits of mind, but certainly never took her opinion, but
always had one to offer . . . I don't know what Charlotte thought of Brussels. We arrived
in the dark, and went next morning to our respective schools to see them. We were, of
course, much preoccupied, and our prospects gloomy. Charlotte used to like the country