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 The year 1840 found all the Brontës living at home, except Anne.  As I have already intimated, for some reason with which I am unacquainted, the plan of sending Branwell to study at the Royal Academy had been relinquished2; probably it was found, on inquiry3, that the expenses of such a life, were greater than his father’s slender finances could afford, even with the help which Charlotte’s labours at Miss W---’s gave, by providing for Anne’s board and education.  I gather from what I have heard, that Branwell must have been severely4 disappointed when the plan fell through.  His talents were certainly very brilliant, and of this he was fully5 conscious, and fervently6 desired, by their use, either in writing or drawing, to make himself a name.  At the same time, he would probably have found his strong love of pleasure and irregular habits a great impediment in his path to fame; but these blemishes7 in his character were only additional reasons why he yearned8 after a London life, in which he imagined he could obtain every stimulant9 to his already vigorous intellect, while at the same time he would have a license10 of action to be found only in crowded cities.  Thus his whole nature was attracted towards the metropolis11; and many an hour must he have spent poring over the map of London, to judge from an anecdote12 which has been told me.  Some traveller for a London house of business came to Haworth for a night; and according to the unfortunate habit of the place, the brilliant “Patrick” was sent for to the inn, to beguile13 the evening by his intellectual conversation and his flashes of wit.  They began to talk of London; of the habits and ways of life there; of the places of amusement; and Branwell informed the Londoner of one or two short cuts from point to point, up narrow lanes or back streets; and it was only towards the end of the evening that the traveller discovered, from his companion’s voluntary confession14, that he had never set foot in London at all.  
At this time the young man seemed to have his fate in his own hands.  He was full of noble impulses, as well as of extraordinary gifts; not accustomed to resist temptation, it is true, from any higher motive15 than strong family affection, but showing so much power of attachment16 to all about him that they took pleasure in believing that, after a time, he would “right himself,” and that they should have pride and delight in the use he would then make of his splendid talents.  His aunt especially made him her great favourite.  There are always peculiar17 trials in the life of an only boy in a family of girls.  He is expected to act a part in life; to do, while they are only to be; and the necessity of their giving way to him in some things, is too often exaggerated into their giving way to him in all, and thus rendering18 him utterly19 selfish.  In the family about whom I am writing, while the rest were almost ascetic20 in their habits, Branwell was allowed to grow up self-indulgent; but, in early youth, his power of attracting and attaching people was so great, that few came in contact with him who were not so much dazzled by him as to be desirous of gratifying whatever wishes he expressed.  Of course, he was careful enough not to reveal anything before his father and sisters of the pleasures he indulged in; but his tone of thought and conversation became gradually coarser, and, for a time, his sisters tried to persuade themselves that such coarseness was a part of manliness21, and to blind themselves by love to the fact that Branwell was worse than other young men.  At present, though he had, they were aware, fallen into some errors, the exact nature of which they avoided knowing, still he was their hope and their darling; their pride, who should some time bring great glory to the name of Brontë.
He and his sister Charlotte were both slight and small of stature22, while the other two were of taller and larger make.  I have seen Branwell’s profile; it is what would be generally esteemed23 very handsome; the forehead is massive, the eye well set, and the expression of it fine and intellectual; the nose too is good; but there are coarse lines about the mouth, and the lips, though of handsome shape, are loose and thick, indicating self-indulgence, while the slightly retreating chin conveys an idea of weakness of will.  His hair and complexion24 were sandy.  He had enough of Irish blood in him to make his manners frank and genial25, with a kind of natural gallantry about them.  In a fragment of one of his manuscripts which I have read, there is a justness and felicity of expression which is very striking.  It is the beginning of a tale, and the actors in it are drawn26 with much of the grace of characteristic portrait-painting, in perfectly27 pure and simple language which distinguishes so many of Addison’s papers in the “Spectator.”  The fragment is too short to afford the means of judging whether he had much dramatic talent, as the persons of the story are not thrown into conversation.  But altogether the elegance28 and composure of style are such as one would not have expected from this vehement29 and ill-fated young man.  He had a stronger desire for literary fame burning in his heart, than even that which occasionally flashed up in his sisters’.  He tried various outlets30 for his talents.  He wrote and sent poems to Wordsworth and Coleridge, who both expressed kind and laudatory31 opinions, and he frequently contributed verses to the Leeds Mercury.  In 1840, he was living at home, employing himself in occasional composition of various kinds, and waiting till some occupation, for which he might be fitted without any expensive course of preliminary training, should turn up; waiting, not impatiently; for he saw society of one kind (probably what he called “life”) at the Black Bull; and at home he was as yet the cherished favourite.
Miss Branwell was unaware33 of the fermentation of unoccupied talent going on around her.  She was not her nieces’ confidante—perhaps no one so much older could have been; but their father, from whom they derived35 not a little of their adventurous37 spirit, was silently cognisant of much of which she took no note.  Next to her nephew, the docile38, pensive32 Anne was her favourite.  Of her she had taken charge from her infancy39; she was always patient and tractable40, and would submit quietly to occasional oppression, even when she felt it keenly.  Not so her two elder sisters; they made their opinions known, when roused by any injustice41.  At such times, Emily would express herself as strongly as Charlotte, although perhaps less frequently.  But, in general, notwithstanding that Miss Branwell might be occasionally unreasonable42, she and her nieces went on smoothly43 enough; and though they might now and then be annoyed by petty tyranny, she still inspired them with sincere respect, and not a little affection.  They were, moreover, grateful to her for many habits she had enforced upon them, and which in time had become second nature: order, method, neatness in everything; a perfect knowledge of all kinds of household work; an exact punctuality, and obedience44 to the laws of time and place, of which no one but themselves, I have heard Charlotte say, could tell the value in after-life; with their impulsive45 natures, it was positive repose46 to have learnt implicit47 obedience to external laws.  People in Haworth have assured me that, according to the hour of day—nay, the very minute—could they have told what the inhabitants of the parsonage were about.  At certain times the girls would be sewing in their aunt’s bedroom—the chamber48 which, in former days, before they had outstripped49 her in their learning, had served them as a schoolroom; at certain (early) hours they had their meals; from six to eight, Miss Branwell read aloud to Mr. Brontë; at punctual eight, the household assembled to evening prayers in his study; and by nine he, the aunt, and Tabby, were all in bed,—the girls free to pace up and down (like restless wild animals) in the parlour, talking over plans and projects, and thoughts of what was to be their future life.
At the time of which I write, the favourite idea was that of keeping a school.  They thought that, by a little contrivance, and a very little additional building, a small number of pupils, four or six, might be accommodated in the parsonage.  As teaching seemed the only profession open to them, and as it appeared that Emily at least could not live away from home, while the others also suffered much from the same cause, this plan of school-keeping presented itself as most desirable.  But it involved some outlay50; and to this their aunt was averse51.  Yet there was no one to whom they could apply for a loan of the requisite52 means, except Miss Branwell, who had made a small store out of her savings53, which she intended for her nephew and nieces eventually, but which she did not like to risk.  Still, this plan of school-keeping remained uppermost; and in the evenings of this winter of 1839-40, the alterations54 that would be necessary in the house, and the best way of convincing their aunt of the wisdom of their project, formed the principal subject of their conversation.
This anxiety weighed upon their minds rather heavily, during the months of dark and dreary55 weather.  Nor were external events, among the circle of their friends, of a cheerful character.  In January, 1840, Charlotte heard of the death of a young girl who had been a pupil of hers, and a schoolfellow of Anne’s, at the time when the sisters were together at Roe56 Head; and had attached herself very strongly to the latter, who, in return, bestowed57 upon her much quiet affection.  It was a sad day when the intelligence of this young creature’s death arrived.  Charlotte wrote thus on January 12th, 1840:—
“Your letter, which I received this morning, was one of painful interest.  Anne C., it seems, is dead; when I saw her last, she was a young, beautiful, and happy girl; and now ‘life’s fitful fever’ is over with her, and she ‘sleeps well.’  I shall never see her again.  It is a sorrowful thought; for she was a warm-hearted, affectionate being, and I cared for her.  Wherever I seek for her now in this world, she cannot be found, no more than a flower or a leaf which withered58 twenty years ago.  A bereavement59 of this kind gives one a glimpse of the feeling those must have who have seen all drop round them, friend after friend, and are left to end their pilgrimage alone.  But tears are fruitless, and I try not to repine.”
During this winter, Charlotte employed her leisure hours in writing a story.  Some fragments of the manuscript yet remain, but it is in too small a hand to be read without great fatigue60 to the eyes; and one cares the less to read it, as she herself condemned61 it, in the preface to the “Professor,” by saying that in this story she had got over such taste as she might once have had for the “ornamental and redundant62 in composition.”  The beginning, too, as she acknowledges, was on a scale commensurate with one of Richardson’s novels, of seven or eight volumes.  I gather some of these particulars from a copy of a letter, apparently63 in reply to one from Wordsworth, to whom she had sent the commencement of the story, sometime in the summer of 1840.
“Authors are generally very tenacious64 of their productions, but I am not so much attached to this but that I can give it up without much distress65.  No doubt, if I had gone on, I should have made quite a Richardsonian concern of it . . . I had materials in my head for half-a-dozen volumes . . . Of course, it is with considerable regret I relinquish1 any scheme so charming as the one I have sketched66.  It is very edifying67 and profitable to create a world out of your own brains, and people it with inhabitants, who are so many Melchisedecs, and have no father nor mother but your own imagination . . . I am sorry I did not exist fifty or sixty years ago, when the ‘Ladies’ Magazine’ was flourishing like a green bay-tree.  In that case, I make no doubt, my aspirations68 after literary fame would have met with due encouragement, and I should have had the pleasure of introducing Messrs. Percy and West into the very best society, and recording69 all their sayings and doings in double-columned close-printed pages . . . I recollect70, when I was a child, getting hold of some antiquated71 volumes, and reading them by stealth with the most exquisite72 pleasure.  You give a correct description of the patient Grisels of those days.  My aunt was one of them; and to this day she thinks the tales of the ‘Ladies’ Magazine’ infinitely73 superior to any trash of modern literature.  So do I; for I read them in childhood, and childhood has a very strong faculty74 of admiration75, but a very weak one of criticism . . . I am pleased that you cannot quite decide whether I am an attorney’s clerk or a novel-reading dress-maker.  I will not help you at all in the discovery; and as to my handwriting, or the ladylike touches in my style and imagery, you must not draw any conclusion from that—I may employ an amanuensis.  Seriously, sir, I am very much obliged to you for your kind and candid76 letter.  I almost wonder you took the trouble to read and notice the novelette of an anonymous77 scribe, who had not even the manners to tell you whether he was a man or a woman, or whether his ‘C. T.’ meant Charles Timms or Charlotte Tomkins.”
There are two or three things noticeable in the letter from which these extracts are taken.  The first is the initials with which she had evidently signed the former one to which she alludes78.  About this time, to her more familiar correspondents, she occasionally calls herself “Charles Thunder,” making a kind of pseudonym79 for herself out of her Christian80 name, and the meaning of her Greek surname.  In the next place, there is a touch of assumed smartness, very different from the simple, womanly, dignified81 letter which she had written to Southey, under nearly similar circumstances, three years before.  I imagine the cause of this difference to be twofold.  Southey, in his reply to her first letter, had appealed to the higher parts of her nature, in calling her to consider whether literature was, or was not, the best course for a woman to pursue.  But the person to whom she addressed this one had evidently confined himself to purely82 literary criticisms, besides which, her sense of humour was tickled
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