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The Life of Charlotte Bronte

Chapter 14
In the course of this sad autumn of 1845, a new interest came up; faint, indeed, and often
lost sight of in the vivid pain and constant pressure of anxiety respecting their brother. In
the biographical notice of her sisters, which Charlotte prefixed to the edition of
"Wuthering Heights" and "Agnes Grey," published in 1850--a piece of writing unique, as
far as I know, in its pathos and its power--she says:-
"One day in the autumn of 1845, I accidentally lighted on a MS. volume of verse, in my
sister Emily's hand-writing. Of course, I was not surprised, knowing that she could and
did write verse: I looked it over, and something more than surprise seized me--a deep
conviction that these were not common effusions, nor at all like the poetry women
generally write. I thought them condensed and terse, vigorous and genuine. To my ear
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 . . . Meantime, my younger sister quietly produced some of
her own compositions, intimating that since Emily's had given me pleasure, I might like
to look at hers. I could not but be a partial judge, yet I thought that these verses too had a
sweet sincere pathos of their own. We had very early cherished the dream of one day
being authors. We agreed to arrange a small selection of our poems, and, if possible, get
them printed. Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of
Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of
conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names, positively masculine, while we did
not like to declare ourselves women, because--without at the time suspecting that our
mode of writing and thinking was not what is called 'feminine,' we had a vague
impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we noticed how
critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their
reward, a flattery, which is not true praise. The bringing out of our little book was hard
work. As was to be expected, neither we nor our poems were at all wanted; but for this
we had been prepared at the outset; though inexperienced ourselves, we had read the
experience of others. The great puzzle lay in the difficulty of getting answers of any kind
from the publishers to whom we applied. Being greatly harassed by this obstacle, I
ventured to apply to the Messrs. Chambers, of Edinburgh, for a word of advice; THEY
may have forgotten the circumstance, but I have not, for from them I received a brief and
business-like, but civil and sensible reply, on which we acted, and at last made way."
I inquired from Mr. Robert Chambers, and found, as Miss Bronte conjectured, that he had
entirely forgotten the application which had been made to him and his brother for advice;
nor had they any copy or memorandum of the correspondence.