The Life of Charlotte Bronte
After her visit to Manchester, she had to return to a re-opening of the painful
circumstances of the previous winter, as the time drew near for Mr. Nicholl's departure
from Haworth. A testimonial of respect from the parishioners was presented, at a public
meeting, to one who had faithfully served them for eight years: and he left the place, and
she saw no chance of hearing a word about him in the future, unless it was some second-
hand scrap of intelligence, dropped out accidentally by one of the neighbouring
I had promised to pay her a visit on my return from London in June; but, after the day
was fixed, a letter came from Mr. Bronte, saying that she was suffering from so severe an
attack of influenza, accompanied with such excruciating pain in the head, that he must
request me to defer my visit until she was better. While sorry for the cause, I did not
regret that my going was delayed till the season when the moors would be all glorious
with the purple bloom of the heather; and thus present a scene about which she had often
spoken to me. So we agreed that I should not come to her before August or September.
Meanwhile, I received a letter from which I am tempted to take an extract, as it shows
both her conception of what fictitious writing ought to be, and her always kindly interest
in what I was doing.
"July 9th, 1853.
"Thank you for your letter; it was as pleasant as a quiet chat, as welcome as spring
showers, as reviving as a friend's visit; in short, it was very like a page of 'Cranford.' . . .
A thought strikes me. Do you, who have so many friends,--so large a circle of
acquaintance,--find it easy, when you sit down to write, to isolate yourself from all those
ties, and their sweet associations, so as to be your OWN WOMAN, uninfluenced or
swayed by the consciousness of how your work may affect other minds; what blame or
what sympathy it may call forth? Does no luminous cloud ever come between you and
the severe Truth, as you know it in your own secret and clear-seeing soul? In a word, are
you never tempted to make your characters more amiable than the Life, by the inclination
to assimilate your thoughts to the thoughts of those who always FEEL kindly, but
sometimes fail to SEE justly? Don't answer the question; it is not intended to be
answered. . . . Your account of Mrs. Stowe was stimulatingly interesting. I long to see
you, to get you to say it, and many other things, all over again. My father continues
better. I am better too; but to-day I have a headache again, which will hardly let me write
coherently. Give my dear love to M. and M., dear happy girls as they are. You cannot
now transmit my message to F. and J. I prized the little wild-flower,--not that I think the
sender cares for me; she DOES not, and CANNOT, for she does not know me;--but no
matter. In my reminiscences she is a person of a certain distinction. I think hers a fine
little nature, frank and of genuine promise. I often see her; as she appeared, stepping
supreme from the portico towards the carriage, that evening we went to see 'Twelfth
Night.' I believe in J.'s future; I like what speaks in her movements, and what is written
upon her face."