The Life of Charlotte Bronte
Soon after she returned home, her friend paid her a visit. While she stayed at Haworth,
Miss Bronte wrote the letter from which the following extract is taken. The strong sense
and right feeling displayed in it on the subject of friendship, sufficiently account for the
constancy of affection which Miss Bronte earned from all those who once became her
To W. S. WILLIAMS, ESQ.
"July 21th, 1851.
". . . I could not help wondering whether Cornhill will ever change for me, as Oxford has
changed for you. I have some pleasant associations connected with it now--will these
alter their character some day?
"Perhaps they may--though I have faith to the contrary, because, I THINK, I do not
exaggerate my partialities; I THINK I take faults along with excellences--blemishes
together with beauties. And, besides, in the matter of friendship, I have observed that
disappointment here arises chiefly, NOT from liking our friends too well, or thinking of
them too highly, but rather from an over-estimate of THEIR liking for and opinion of US;
and that if we guard ourselves with sufficient scrupulousness of care from error in this
direction, and can be content, and even happy to give more affection than we receive--can
make just comparison of circumstances, and be severely accurate in drawing inferences
thence, and never let self-love blind our eyes--I think we may manage to get through life
with consistency and constancy, unembittered by that misanthropy which springs from
revulsions of feeling. All this sounds a little metaphysical, but it is good sense if you
consider it. The moral of it is, that if we would build on a sure foundation in friendship,
we must love our friends for THEIR sakes rather than for OUR OWN; we must look at
their truth to THEMSELVES, full as much as their truth to US. In the latter case, every
wound to self-love would be a cause of coldness; in the former, only some painful change
in the friend's character and disposition--some fearful breach in his allegiance to his
better self--could alienate the heart.
"How interesting your old maiden-cousin's gossip about your parents must have been to
you; and how gratifying to find that the reminiscence turned on none but pleasant facts
and characteristics! Life must, indeed, be slow in that little decaying hamlet amongst the
chalk hills. After all, depend upon it, it is better to be worn out with work in a thronged
community, than to perish of inaction in a stagnant solitude take this truth into
consideration whenever you get tired of work and bustle."