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 Her life at Haworth was so unvaried that the postman's call was the event of her day. Yet she dreaded3 the great temptation of centring all her thoughts upon this one time, and losing her interest in the smaller hopes and employments of the remaining hours. Thus she conscientiously4 denied herself the pleasure of writing letters too frequently, because the answers (when she received them) took the flavour out of the rest of her life; or the disappointment, when the replies did not arrive, lessened5 her energy for her home duties.  
The winter of this year in the north was hard and cold; it affected6 Miss Brontë's health less than usual, however, probably because the change and the medical advice she had taken in London had done her good; probably, also, because her friend had come to pay her a visit, and enforced that attention to bodily symptoms which Miss Brontë was too apt to neglect, from a fear of becoming nervous herself about her own state and thus infecting her father. But she could scarcely help feeling much depressed7 in spirits as the anniversary of her sister Emily's death came round; all the recollections connected with it were painful, yet there were no outward events to call off her attention, and prevent them from pressing hard upon her. At this time, as at many others, I find her alluding8 in her letters to the solace9 which she found in the books sent her from Cornhill.
"What, I sometimes ask, could I do without them? I have recourse to them as to friends; they shorten and cheer many an hour that would be too long and too desolate10 otherwise; even when my tired sight will not permit me to continue reading, it is pleasant to see them on the shelf, or on the table. I am still very rich, for my stock is far from exhausted11. Some other friends have sent me books lately. The perusal12 of Harriet Martineau's 'Eastern Life' has afforded me great pleasure; and I have found a deep and interesting subject of study in Newman's work on the Soul. Have you read this work? It is daring,—it may be mistaken,—but it is pure and elevated. Froude's 'Nemesis13 of Faith' I did not like; I thought it morbid14; yet in its pages, too, are found sprinklings of truth."
By this time, "Airedale, Wharfedale, Calderdale, and Ribblesdale" all knew the place of residence of Currer Bell. She compared herself to the ostrich15 hiding its head in the sand; and says that she still buries hers in the heath of Haworth moors16; but "the concealment17 is but self-delusion." Indeed it was. Far and wide in the West Riding had spread the intelligence that Currer Bell was no other than a daughter of the venerable clergyman of Haworth; the village itself caught up the excitement.
"Mr. ——, having finished 'Jane Eyre,' is now crying out for the 'other book;' he is to have it next week. . . . Mr. R —— has finished 'Shirley;' he is delighted with it. John ——'s wife seriously thought him gone wrong in the head, as she heard him giving vent2 to roars of laughter as he sat alone, clapping and stamping on the floor. He would read all the scenes about the curates aloud to papa." . . . "Martha came in yesterday, puffing19 and blowing, and much excited. 'I've heard sich news!' she began. 'What about?' 'Please, ma'am, you've been and written two books—the grandest books that ever was seen. My father has heard it at Halifax, and Mr. G—— T—— and Mr. G—— and Mr. M—— at Bradford; and they are going to have a meeting at the Mechanics' Institute, and to settle about ordering them.' 'Hold your tongue, Martha, and be off.' I fell into a cold sweat. "Jane Eyre" will be read by J—— B——, by Mrs. T——, and B——. Heaven help, keep, and deliver me!" . . . "The Haworth people have been making great fools of themselves about Shirley; they have taken it in an enthusiastic light. When they got the volumes at the Mechanics' Institute, all the members wanted them. They cast lots for the whole three, and whoever got a volume was only allowed to keep it two days, and was to be fined a shilling per diem for longer detention20. It would be mere21 nonsense and vanity to tell you what they say."
The tone of these extracts is thoroughly22 consonant23 with the spirit of Yorkshire and Lancashire people, who try as long as they can to conceal18 their emotions of pleasure under a bantering24 exterior25, almost as if making fun of themselves. Miss Brontë was extremely touched in the secret places of her warm heart by the way in which those who had known her from her childhood were proud and glad of her success. All round about the news had spread; strangers came "from beyond Burnley" to see her, as she went quietly and unconsciously into church and the sexton "gained many a half-crown" for pointing her out.
But there were drawbacks to this hearty26 and kindly27 appreciation28 which was so much more valuable than fame. The January number of the Edinburgh Review had contained the article on Shirley, of which her correspondent, Mr. Lewes, was the writer. I have said that Miss Brontë was especially anxious to be criticised as a writer, without relation to her sex as a woman. Whether right or wrong, her feeling was strong on this point. Now in this review of Shirley, the heading of the first two pages ran thus: "Mental Equality of the Sexes?" "Female Literature," and through the whole article the fact of the author's sex is never forgotten.
A few days after the review appeared, Mr. Lewes received the following note,—rather in the style of Anne Countess of Pembroke, Dorset, and Montgomery.
"I can be on my guard against my enemies, but God deliver me from my friends!
In some explanatory notes on her letters to him, with which Mr. Lewes has favoured me, he says:—
"Seeing that she was unreasonable29 because angry, I wrote to remonstrate30 with her on quarrelling with the severity or frankness of a review, which certainly was dictated31 by real admiration32 and real friendship; even under its objections the friend's voice could be heard."
The following letter is her reply:—
"Jan. 19th, 1850.
"My dear Sir,—I will tell you why I was so hurt by that review in the Edinburgh; not because its criticism was keen or its blame sometimes severe; not because its praise was stinted33 (for, indeed, I think you give me quite as much praise as I deserve), but because after I had said earnestly that I wished critics would judge me as an AUTHOR, not as a woman, you so roughly—I even thought so cruelly—handled the question of sex. I dare say you meant no harm, and perhaps you will not now be able to understand why I was so grieved at what you will probably deem such a trifle; but grieved I was, and indignant too.
"There was a passage or two which you did quite wrong to write.
"However, I will not bear malice34 against you for it; I know what your nature is: it is not a bad or unkind one, though you would often jar terribly on some feelings with whose recoil35 and quiver you could not possibly sympathise. I imagine you are both enthusiastic and implacable, as you are at once sagacious and careless; you know much and discover much, but you are in such a hurry to tell it all you never give yourself time to think how your reckless eloquence36 may affect others; and, what is more, if you knew how it did affect them, you would not much care.
"However, I shake hands with you: you have excellent points; you can be generous. I still feel angry, and think I do well to be angry; but it is the anger one experiences for rough play rather than for foul37 play.—I am yours, with a certain respect, and more chagrin38,
As Mr. Lewes says, "the tone of this letter is cavalier." But I thank him for having allowed me to publish what is so characteristic of one phase of Miss Brontë's mind. Her health, too, was suffering at this time. "I don't know what heaviness of spirit has beset39 me of late" (she writes, in pathetic words, wrung40 out of the sadness of her heart), "made my faculties41 dull, made rest weariness, and occupation burdensome. Now and then, the silence of the house, the solitude42 of the room, has pressed on me with a weight I found it difficult to bear, and recollection has not failed to be as alert, poignant43, obtrusive44, as other feelings were languid. I attribute this state of things partly to the weather. Quicksilver invariably falls low in storms and high winds, and I have ere this been warned of approaching disturbance45 in the atmosphere by a sense of bodily weakness, and deep, heavy mental sadness, such as some would call PRESENTIMENT,—presentiment indeed it is, but not at all super-natural. . . . I cannot help feeling something of the excitement of expectation till the post hour comes, and when, day after day, it brings nothing, I get low. This is a stupid, disgraceful, unmeaning state of things. I feel bitterly vexed46 at my own dependence47 and folly48; but it is so bad for the mind to be quite alone, and to have none with whom to talk over little crosses and disappointments, and to laugh them away. If I could write, I dare say I should be better, but I cannot write a line. However (by God's help), I will contend against this folly.
"I had rather a foolish letter the other day from ——. Some things in it nettled49 me, especially an unnecessarily earnest assurance that, in spite of all I had done in the writing line, I still retained a place in her esteem50. My answer took strong and high ground at once. I said I had been troubled by no doubts on the subject; that I neither did her nor myself the injustice51 to suppose there was anything in what I had written to incur52 the just forfeiture53 of esteem. . . .
"A few days since, a little incident happened which curiously54 touched me. Papa put into my hands a little packet of letters and papers,—telling me that they were mamma's, and that I might read them. I did read them, in a frame of mind I cannot describe. The papers were yellow with time, all having been written before I was born it was strange now to peruse55, for the first time, the records of a mind whence my own sprang; and most strange, and at once sad and sweet, to find that mind of a truly fine, pure, and elevated order. They were written to papa before they were married. There is a rectitude, a refinement56 a constancy, a modesty57, a sense, a gentleness about them indescribable. I wished that she had lived, and that I had known her. . . . All through this month of February, I have had a crushing time of it. I could not escape from or rise above certain most mournful recollections,—the last days, the sufferings, the remembered words—most sorrowful to me, of those who, Faith assures me, are now happy. At evening and bed-time, such thoughts would haunt me, bringing a weary heartache."
The reader may remember the strange prophetic vision, which dictated a few words, written on the occasion of the death of a pupil of hers in January, 1840:
"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."
Even in persons of naturally robust60 health, and with no
"Ricordarsi di tempo61 felice Nella miseria—"
to wear, with slow dropping but perpetual pain, upon their spirits, the nerves and appetite will give way in solitude. How much more must it have been so with Miss Brontë, delicate and frail62 in constitution, tried by much anxiety and sorrow in early life, and now left to face her life alone. Owing to Mr. Brontë's great age, and long-formed habits of solitary63 occupation when in the house, his daughter was left to herself for the greater part of the day. Ever since his serious attacks of illness, he had dined alone; a portion of her dinner, regulated by strict attention to the diet most suitable for him, being taken into his room by herself. After dinner she read to him for an hour or so, as his sight was too weak to allow of his reading long............
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