The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 7
Her father was always anxious to procure every change that was possible for her, seeing,
as he did, the benefit which she derived from it, however reluctant she might have been to
leave her home and him beforehand. This August she was invited to go for a week to the
neighbourhood of Bowness, where Sir James Kay Shuttleworth had taken a house; but
she says, "I consented to go, with reluctance, chiefly to please Papa, whom a refusal on
my part would much have annoyed; but I dislike to leave him. I trust he is not worse, but
his complaint is still weakness. It is not right to anticipate evil, and to be always looking
forward with an apprehensive spirit; but I think grief is a two-edged sword, it cuts both
ways; the memory of one loss is the anticipation of another."
It was during this visit at the Briery--Lady Kay Shuttleworth having kindly invited me to
meet her there--that I first made acquaintance with Miss Bronte. If I copy out part of a
letter, which I wrote soon after this to a friend, who was deeply interested in her writings,
I shall probably convey my first impressions more truly and freshly than by amplifying
what I then said into a longer description.
"Dark when I got to Windermere station; a drive along the level road to Low-wood; then
a stoppage at a pretty house, and then a pretty drawing-room, in which were Sir James
and Lady Kay Shuttleworth, and a little lady in a black-silk gown, whom I could not see
at first for the dazzle in the room; she came up and shook hands with me at once. I went
up to unbonnet, etc.; came down to tea; the little lady worked away and hardly spoke but
I had time for a good look at her. She is (as she calls herself) UNDEVELOPED, thin, and
more than half a head shorter than I am; soft brown hair, not very dark; eyes (very good
and expressive, looking straight and open at you) of the same colour as her hair; a large
mouth; the forehead square, broad and rather over-hanging. She has a very sweet voice;
rather hesitates in choosing her expressions, but when chosen they seem without an effort
admirable, and just befitting the occasion; there is nothing overstrained, but perfectly
simple. . . . After breakfast, we four went out on the lake, and Miss Bronte agreed with
me in liking Mr. Newman's Soul, and in liking Modern Painters, and the idea of the
Seven Lamps; and she told me about Father Newman's lectures at the Oratory in a very
quiet, concise, graphic way. . . . She is more like Miss ---- than any one in her ways--if
you can fancy Miss ---- to have gone through suffering enough to have taken out every
spark of merriment, and to be shy and silent from the habit of extreme, intense solitude.
Such a life as Miss Bronte's I never heard of before. ---- described her home to me as in a
village of grey stone houses, perched up on the north side of a bleak moor, looking over
sweeps of bleak moors, etc., etc.
"We were only three days together; the greater part of which was spent in driving about,
in order to show Miss Bronte the Westmoreland scenery, as she had never been there
before. We were both included in an invitation to drink tea quietly at Fox How; and I then
saw how severely her nerves were taxed by the effort of going amongst strangers. We