The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 2
For a right understanding of the life of my dear friend, Charlotte Bronte, it appears to me
more necessary in her case than in most others, that the reader should be made acquainted
with the peculiar forms of population and society amidst which her earliest years were
passed, and from which both her own and her sisters' first impressions of human life must
have been received. I shall endeavour, therefore, before proceeding further with my work,
to present some idea of the character of the people of Haworth, and the surrounding
Even an inhabitant of the neighbouring county of Lancaster is struck by the peculiar force
of character which the Yorkshiremen display. This makes them interesting as a race;
while, at the same time, as individuals, the remarkable degree of self- sufficiency they
possess gives them an air of independence rather apt to repel a stranger. I use this
expression "self-sufficiency" in the largest sense. Conscious of the strong sagacity and
the dogged power of will which seem almost the birthright of the natives of the West
Riding, each man relies upon himself, and seeks no help at the hands of his neighbour.
From rarely requiring the assistance of others, he comes to doubt the power of bestowing
it: from the general success of his efforts, he grows to depend upon them, and to over-
esteem his own energy and power. He belongs to that keen, yet short-sighted class, who
consider suspicion of all whose honesty is not proved as a sign of wisdom. The practical
qualities of a man are held in great respect; but the want of faith in strangers and untried
modes of action, extends itself even to the manner in which the virtues are regarded; and
if they produce no immediate and tangible result, they are rather put aside as unfit for this
busy, striving world; especially if they are more of a passive than an active character. The
affections are strong and their foundations lie deep: but they are not--such affections
seldom are--wide-spreading; nor do they show themselves on the surface. Indeed, there is
little display of any of the amenities of life among this wild, rough population. Their
accost is curt; their accent and tone of speech blunt and harsh. Something of this may,
probably, be attributed to the freedom of mountain air and of isolated hill-side life;
something be derived from their rough Norse ancestry. They have a quick perception of
character, and a keen sense of humour; the dwellers among them must be prepared for
certain uncomplimentary, though most likely true, observations, pithily expressed. Their
feelings are not easily roused, but their duration is lasting. Hence there is much close
friendship and faithful service; and for a correct exemplification of the form in which the
latter frequently appears, I need only refer the reader of "Wuthering Heights" to the
character of "Joseph."
From the same cause come also enduring grudges, in some cases amounting to hatred,
which occasionally has been bequeathed from generation to generation. I remember Miss
Bronte once telling me that it was a saying round about Haworth, "Keep a stone in thy
pocket seven year; turn it, and keep it seven year longer, that it may be ever ready to thine
hand when thine enemy draws near."