The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 8
On the 29th of July, 1835, Charlotte, now a little more than nineteen years old, went as
teacher to Miss W-'s. Emily accompanied her as a pupil; but she became literally ill from
home-sickness, and could not settle to anything, and after passing only three months at
Roe Head, returned to the parsonage and the beloved moors.
Miss Bronte gives the following reasons as those which prevented Emily's remaining at
school, and caused the substitution of her younger sister in her place at Miss W-'s:-
"My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest
of the heath for her;--out of a sullen hollow in a livid hill-side, her mind could make an
Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights; and not the least and best-
loved was--liberty. Liberty was the breath of Emily's nostrils; without it she perished. The
change from her own home to a school, and from her own very noiseless, very secluded,
but unrestricted and unartificial mode of life, to one of disciplined routine (though under
the kindest auspices), was what she failed in enduring. Her nature proved here too strong
for her fortitude. Every morning, when she woke, the vision of home and the moors
rushed on her, and darkened and saddened the day that lay before her. Nobody knew
what ailed her but me. I knew only too well. In this struggle her health was quickly
broken: her white face, attenuated form, and failing strength, threatened rapid decline. I
felt in my heart she would die, if she did not go home, and with this conviction obtained
her recall. She had only been three months at school; and it was some years before the
experiment of sending her from home was again ventured on."
This physical suffering on Emily's part when absent from Haworth, after recurring
several times under similar circumstances, became at length so much an acknowledged
fact, that whichever was obliged to leave home, the sisters decided that Emily must
remain there, where alone she could enjoy anything like good health. She left it twice
again in her life; once going as teacher to a school in Halifax for six months, and
afterwards accompanying Charlotte to Brussels for ten. When at home, she took the
principal part of the cooking upon herself, and did all the household ironing; and after
Tabby grew old and infirm, it was Emily who made all the bread for the family; and any
one passing by the kitchen-door, might have seen her studying German out of an open
book, propped up before her, as she kneaded the dough; but no study, however
interesting, interfered with the goodness of the bread, which was always light and
excellent. Books were, indeed, a very common sight in that kitchen; the girls were taught
by their father theoretically, and by their aunt, practically, that to take an active part in all
household work was, in their position, woman's simple duty; but in their careful
employment of time, they found many an odd five minutes for reading while watching
the cakes, and managed the union of two kinds of employment better than King Alfred.