The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 9
The year 1840 found all the Brontes living at home, except Anne. As I have already
intimated, for some reason with which I am unacquainted, the plan of sending Branwell
to study at the Royal Academy had been relinquished; probably it was found, on inquiry,
that the expenses of such a life, were greater than his father's slender finances could
afford, even with the help which Charlotte's labours at Miss W-'s gave, by providing for
Anne's board and education. I gather from what I have heard, that Branwell must have
been severely disappointed when the plan fell through. His talents were certainly very
brilliant, and of this he was fully conscious, and fervently desired, by their use, either in
writing or drawing, to make himself a name. At the same time, he would probably have
found his strong love of pleasure and irregular habits a great impediment in his path to
fame; but these blemishes in his character were only additional reasons why he yearned
after a London life, in which he imagined he could obtain every stimulant to his already
vigorous intellect, while at the same time he would have a license of action to be found
only in crowded cities. Thus his whole nature was attracted towards the metropolis; and
many an hour must he have spent poring over the map of London, to judge from an
anecdote which has been told me. Some traveller for a London house of business came to
Haworth for a night; and according to the unfortunate habit of the place, the brilliant
"Patrick" was sent for to the inn, to beguile the evening by his intellectual conversation
and his flashes of wit. They began to talk of London; of the habits and ways of life there;
of the places of amusement; and Branwell informed the Londoner of one or two short
cuts from point to point, up narrow lanes or back streets; and it was only towards the end
of the evening that the traveller discovered, from his companion's voluntary confession,
that he had never set foot in London at all.
At this time the young man seemed to have his fate in his own hands. He was full of
noble impulses, as well as of extraordinary gifts; not accustomed to resist temptation, it is
true, from any higher motive than strong family affection, but showing so much power of
attachment to all about him that they took pleasure in believing that, after a time, he
would "right himself," and that they should have pride and delight in the use he would
then make of his splendid talents. His aunt especially made him her great favourite. There
are always peculiar trials in the life of an only boy in a family of girls. He is expected to
act a part in life; to DO, while they are only to BE; and the necessity of their giving way
to him in some things, is too often exaggerated into their giving way to him in all, and
thus rendering him utterly selfish. In the family about whom I am writing, while the rest
were almost ascetic in their habits, Branwell was allowed to grow up self-indulgent; but,
in early youth, his power of attracting and attaching people was so great, that few came in
contact with him who were not so much dazzled by him as to be desirous of gratifying
whatever wishes he expressed. Of course, he was careful enough not to reveal anything
before his father and sisters of the pleasures he indulged in; but his tone of thought and
conversation became gradually coarser, and, for a time, his sisters tried to persuade
themselves that such coarseness was a part of manliness, and to blind themselves by love