The Life of Charlotte Bronte
Early in March, 1841, Miss Bronte obtained her second and last situation as a governess.
This time she esteemed herself fortunate in becoming a member of a kind-hearted and
friendly household. The master of it, she especially regarded as a valuable friend, whose
advice helped to guide her in one very important step of her life. But as her definite
acquirements were few, she had to eke them out by employing her leisure time in
needlework; and altogether her position was that of "bonne" or nursery governess, liable
to repeated and never-ending calls upon her time. This description of uncertain, yet
perpetual employment, subject to the exercise of another person's will at all hours of the
day, was peculiarly trying to one whose life at home had been full of abundant leisure.
IDLE she never was in any place, but of the multitude of small talks, plans, duties,
pleasures, &c., that make up most people's days, her home life was nearly destitute. This
made it possible for her to go through long and deep histories of feeling and imagination,
for which others, odd as it sounds, have rarely time. This made it inevitable that--later on,
in her too short career--the intensity of her feeling should wear out her physical health.
The habit of "making out," which had grown with her growth, and strengthened with her
strength, had become a part of her nature. Yet all exercise of her strongest and most
characteristic faculties was now out of the question. She could not (as while she was at
Miss W-'s) feel, amidst the occupations of the day, that when evening came, she might
employ herself in more congenial ways. No doubt, all who enter upon the career of a
governess have to relinquish much; no doubt, it must ever be a life of sacrifice; but to
Charlotte Bronte it was a perpetual attempt to force all her faculties into a direction for
which the whole of her previous life had unfitted them. Moreover, the little Brontes had
been brought up motherless; and from knowing nothing of the gaiety and the sportiveness
of childhood--from never having experienced caresses or fond attentions themselves--
they were ignorant of the very nature of infancy, or how to call out its engaging qualities.
Children were to them the troublesome necessities of humanity; they had never been
drawn into contact with them in any other way. Years afterwards, when Miss Bronte
came to stay with us, she watched our little girls perpetually; and I could not persuade her
that they were only average specimens of well brought up children. She was surprised
and touched by any sign of thoughtfulness for others, of kindness to animals, or of
unselfishness on their part: and constantly maintained that she was in the right, and I in
the wrong, when we differed on the point of their unusual excellence. All this must be
borne in mind while reading the following letters. And it must likewise be borne in mind-
-by those who, surviving her, look back upon her life from their mount of observation--
how no distaste, no suffering ever made her shrink from any course which she believed it
to be her duty to engage in.
"March 3rd, 1841.
"I told some time since, that I meant to get a situation, and when I said so my resolution
was quite fixed. I felt that however often I was disappointed, I had no intention of