The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 6
This is perhaps a fitting time to give some personal description of Miss Bronte. In 1831,
she was a quiet, thoughtful girl, of nearly fifteen years of age, very small in figure--
"stunted" was the word she applied to herself,--but as her limbs and head were in just
proportion to the slight, fragile body, no word in ever so slight a degree suggestive of
deformity could properly be applied to her; with soft, thick, brown hair, and peculiar
eyes, of which I find it difficult to give a description, as they appeared to me in her later
life. They were large and well shaped; their colour a reddish brown; but if the iris was
closely examined, it appeared to be composed of a great variety of tints. The usual
expression was of quiet, listening intelligence; but now and then, on some just occasion
for vivid interest or wholesome indignation, a light would shine out, as if some spiritual
lamp had been kindled, which glowed behind those expressive orbs. I never saw the like
in any other human creature. As for the rest of her features, they were plain, large, and ill
set; but, unless you began to catalogue them, you were hardly aware of the fact, for the
eyes and power of the countenance over-balanced every physical defect; the crooked
mouth and the large nose were forgotten, and the whole face arrested the attention, and
presently attracted all those whom she herself would have cared to attract. Her hands and
feet were the smallest I ever saw; when one of the former was placed in mine, it was like
the soft touch of a bird in the middle of my palm. The delicate long fingers had a peculiar
fineness of sensation, which was one reason why all her handiwork, of whatever kind--
writing, sewing, knitting--was so clear in its minuteness. She was remarkably neat in her
whole personal attire; but she was dainty as to the fit of her shoes and gloves.
I can well imagine that the grave serious composure, which, when I knew her, gave her
face the dignity of an old Venetian portrait, was no acquisition of later years, but dated
from that early age when she found herself in the position of an elder sister to motherless
children. But in a girl only just entered on her teens, such an expression would be called
(to use a country phrase) "old-fashioned;" and in 1831, the period of which I now write,
we must think of her as a little, set, antiquated girl, very quiet in manners, and very quaint
in dress; for besides the influence exerted by her father's ideas concerning the simplicity
of attire befitting the wife and daughters of a country clergyman, her aunt, on whom the
duty of dressing her nieces principally devolved, had never been in society since she left
Penzance, eight or nine years before, and the Penzance fashions of that day were still dear
to her heart.
In January, 1831, Charlotte was sent to school again. This time she went as a pupil to
Miss W-, who lived at Roe Head, a cheerful roomy country house, standing a little apart
in a field, on the right of the road from Leeds to Huddersfield. Three tiers of old-
fashioned semicircular bow windows run from basement to roof; and look down upon a
long green slope of pasture-land, ending in the pleasant woods of Kirklees, Sir George
Armitage's park. Although Roe Head and Haworth are not twenty miles apart, the aspect
of the country is as totally dissimilar as if they enjoyed a different climate. The soft