The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 3
The Rev. Patrick Bronte is a native of the County Down in Ireland. His father Hugh
Bronte, was left an orphan at an early age. He came from the south to the north of the
island, and settled in the parish of Ahaderg, near Loughbrickland. There was some family
tradition that, humble as Hugh Bronte's circumstances were, he was the descendant of an
ancient family. But about this neither he nor his descendants have cared to inquire. He
made an early marriage, and reared and educated ten children on the proceeds of the few
acres of land which he farmed. This large family were remarkable for great physical
strength, and much personal beauty. Even in his old age, Mr. Bronte is a striking-looking
man, above the common height, with a nobly-shaped head, and erect carriage. In his
youth he must have been unusually handsome.
He was born on Patrickmas day (March 17), 1777, and early gave tokens of extraordinary
quickness and intelligence. He had also his full share of ambition; and of his strong sense
and forethought there is a proof in the fact, that, knowing that his father could afford him
no pecuniary aid, and that he must depend upon his own exertions, he opened a public
school at the early age of sixteen; and this mode of living he continued to follow for five
or six years. He then became a tutor in the family of the Rev. Mr. Tighe, rector of
Drumgooland parish. Thence he proceeded to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he
was entered in July, 1802, being at the time five-and-twenty years of age. After nearly
four years' residence, he obtained his B.A. degree, and was ordained to a curacy in Essex,
whence he removed into Yorkshire. The course of life of which this is the outline, shows
a powerful and remarkable character, originating and pursuing a purpose in a resolute and
independent manner. Here is a youth--a boy of sixteen--separating himself from his
family, and determining to maintain himself; and that, not in the hereditary manner by
agricultural pursuits, but by the labour of his brain.
I suppose, from what I have heard, that Mr. Tighe became strongly interested in his
children's tutor, and may have aided him, not only in the direction of his studies, but in
the suggestion of an English university education, and in advice as to the mode in which
he should obtain entrance there. Mr. Bronte has now no trace of his Irish origin remaining
in his speech; he never could have shown his Celtic descent in the straight Greek lines
and long oval of his face; but at five-and-twenty, fresh from the only life he had ever
known, to present himself at the gates of St. John's proved no little determination of will,
and scorn of ridicule.
While at Cambridge, he became one of a corps of volunteers, who were then being called
out all over the country to resist the apprehended invasion by the French. I have heard
him allude, in late years, to Lord Palmerston as one who had often been associated with
him then in the mimic military duties which they had to perform.