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The Life of Charlotte Bronte

pleasure, papa's health permitting, in availing myself of her invitation. I wish I could
come in time to correct some at least of the proofs; it would save trouble."
Chapter 12
The difficulty that presented itself most strongly to me, when I first had the honour of
being requested to write this biography, was how I could show what a noble, true, and
tender woman Charlotte Bronte really was, without mingling up with her life too much of
the personal history of her nearest and most intimate friends. After much consideration of
this point, I came to the resolution of writing truly, if I wrote at all; of withholding
nothing, though some things, from their very nature, could not be spoken of so fully as
One of the deepest interests of her life centres naturally round her marriage, and the
preceding circumstances; but more than all other events (because of more recent date, and
concerning another as intimately as herself), it requires delicate handling on my part, lest
I intrude too roughly on what is most sacred to memory. Yet I have two reasons, which
seem to me good and valid ones, for giving some particulars of the course of events
which led to her few months of wedded life--that short spell of exceeding happiness. The
first is my desire to call attention to the fact that Mr. Nicholls was one who had seen her
almost daily for years; seen her as a daughter, a sister, a mistress and a friend. He was not
a man to be attracted by any kind of literary fame. I imagine that this, by itself, would
rather repel him when he saw it in the possession of a woman. He was a grave, reserved,
conscientious man, with a deep sense of religion, and of his duties as one of its ministers.
In silence he had watched her, and loved her long. The love of such a man--a daily
spectator of her manner of life for years--is a great testimony to her character as a
How deep his affection was I scarcely dare to tell, even if I could in words. She did not
know--she had hardly begun to suspect--that she was the object of any peculiar regard on
his part, when, in this very December, he came one evening to tea. After tea, she returned
from the study to her own sitting-room, as was her custom, leaving her father and his
curate together. Presently she heard the study-door open, and expected to hear the
succeeding clash of the front door. Instead, came a tap; and, "like lightning, it flashed
upon me what was coming. He entered. He stood before me. What his words were you
can imagine; his manner you can hardly realise, nor can I forget it. He made me, for the
first time, feel what it costs a man to declare affection when he doubts response. . . . The
spectacle of one, ordinarily so statue-like, thus trembling, stirred, and overcome, gave me
a strange shock. I could only entreat him to leave me then, and promise a reply on the
morrow. I asked if he had spoken to Papa. He said he dared not. I think I half led, half put
him out of the room."