The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 4
About a year after Mrs. Bronte's death, an elder sister, as I have before mentioned, came
from Penzance to superintend her brother- in-law's household, and look after his children.
Miss Branwell was, I believe, a kindly and conscientious woman, with a good deal of
character, but with the somewhat narrow ideas natural to one who had spent nearly all her
life in the same place. She had strong prejudices, and soon took a distaste to Yorkshire.
From Penzance, where plants which we in the north call greenhouse flowers grow in
great profusion, and without any shelter even in the winter, and where the soft warm
climate allows the inhabitants, if so disposed, to live pretty constantly in the open air, it
was a great change for a lady considerably past forty to come and take up her abode in a
place where neither flowers nor vegetables would flourish, and where a tree of even
moderate dimensions might be hunted for far and wide; where the snow lay long and late
on the moors, stretching bleakly and barely far up from the dwelling which was
henceforward to be her home; and where often, on autumnal or winter nights, the four
winds of heaven seemed to meet and rage together, tearing round the house as if they
were wild beasts striving to find an entrance. She missed the small round of cheerful,
social visiting perpetually going on in a country town; she missed the friends she had
known from her childhood, some of whom had been her parents' friends before they were
hers; she disliked many of the customs of the place, and particularly dreaded the cold
damp arising from the flag floors in the passages and parlours of Haworth Parsonage. The
stairs, too, I believe, are made of stone; and no wonder, when stone quarries are near, and
trees are far to seek. I have heard that Miss Branwell always went about the house in
pattens, clicking up and down the stairs, from her dread of catching cold. For the same
reason, in the latter years of her life, she passed nearly all her time, and took most of her
meals, in her bedroom. The children respected her, and had that sort of affection for her
which is generated by esteem; but I do not think they ever freely loved her. It was a
severe trial for any one at her time of life to change neighbourhood and habitation so
entirely as she did; and the greater her merit.
I do not know whether Miss Branwell taught her nieces anything besides sewing, and the
household arts in which Charlotte afterwards was such an adept. Their regular lessons
were said to their father; and they were always in the habit of picking up an immense
amount of miscellaneous information for themselves. But a year or so before this time, a
school had been begun in the North of England for the daughters of clergymen. The place
was Cowan Bridge, a small hamlet on the coach-road between Leeds and Kendal, and
thus easy of access from Haworth, as the coach ran daily, and one of its stages was at
Keighley. The yearly expense for each pupil (according to the entrance-rules given in the
Report for 1842, and I believe they had not been increased since the establishment of the
schools in 1823) was as follows:
"Rule 11. The terms for clothing, lodging, boarding, and educating, are 14L. a year; half
to be paid in advance, when the pupils are sent; and also 1L. entrance-money, for the use