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HOME > Biographical > The Life of Charlotte Bronte > CHAPTER XXI
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 Her father was always anxious to procure1 every change that was possible for her, seeing, as he did, the benefit which she derived2 from it, however reluctant she might have been to leave her home and him beforehand. This August she was invited to go for a week to the neighbourhood of Bowness, where Sir James Kay Shuttleworth had taken a house; but she says, "I consented to go, with reluctance3, chiefly to please Papa, whom a refusal on my part would much have annoyed; but I dislike to leave him. I trust he is not worse, but his complaint is still weakness. It is not right to anticipate evil, and to be always looking forward with an apprehensive4 spirit; but I think grief is a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways; the memory of one loss is the anticipation5 of another."  
It was during this visit at the Briery—Lady Kay Shuttleworth having kindly6 invited me to meet her there—that I first made acquaintance with Miss Brontë. If I copy out part of a letter, which I wrote soon after this to a friend, who was deeply interested in her writings, I shall probably convey my first impressions more truly and freshly than by amplifying7 what I then said into a longer description.
"Dark when I got to Windermere station; a drive along the level road to Low-wood; then a stoppage at a pretty house, and then a pretty drawing-room, in which were Sir James and Lady Kay Shuttleworth, and a little lady in a black-silk gown, whom I could not see at first for the dazzle in the room; she came up and shook hands with me at once. I went up to unbonnet, etc.; came down to tea; the little lady worked away and hardly spoke8 but I had time for a good look at her. She is (as she calls herself) UNDEVELOPED, thin, and more than half a head shorter than I am; soft brown hair, not very dark; eyes (very good and expressive9, looking straight and open at you) of the same colour as her hair; a large mouth; the forehead square, broad and rather over-hanging. She has a very sweet voice; rather hesitates in choosing her expressions, but when chosen they seem without an effort admirable, and just befitting the occasion; there is nothing overstrained, but perfectly10 simple. . . . After breakfast, we four went out on the lake, and Miss Brontë agreed with me in liking11 Mr. Newman's Soul, and in liking Modern Painters, and the idea of the Seven Lamps; and she told me about Father Newman's lectures at the Oratory12 in a very quiet, concise13, graphic14 way. . . . She is more like Miss —— than any one in her ways—if you can fancy Miss —— to have gone through suffering enough to have taken out every spark of merriment, and to be shy and silent from the habit of extreme, intense solitude15. Such a life as Miss Brontë's I never heard of before. —— described her home to me as in a village of grey stone houses, perched up on the north side of a bleak16 moor17, looking over sweeps of bleak moors18, etc., etc.
"We were only three days together; the greater part of which was spent in driving about, in order to show Miss Brontë the Westmoreland scenery, as she had never been there before. We were both included in an invitation to drink tea quietly at Fox How; and I then saw how severely19 her nerves were taxed by the effort of going amongst strangers. We knew beforehand that the number of the party would not exceed twelve; but she suffered the whole day from an acute headache brought on by apprehension20 of the evening.
"Brierly Close was situated21 high above Low-wood, and of course commanded an extensive view and wide horizon. I was struck by Miss Brontë's careful examination of the shape of the clouds and the signs of the heavens, in which she read, as from a book, what the coming weather would be. I told her that I saw she must have a view equal in extent at her own home. She said that I was right, but that the character of the prospect22 from Haworth was very different; that I had no idea what a companion the sky became to any one living in solitude,—more than any inanimate object on earth,—more than the moors themselves."
The following extracts convey some of her own impressions and feelings respecting this visit:—
"You said I should stay longer than a week in Westmoreland; you ought by this time to know me better. Is it my habit to keep dawdling23 at a place long after the time I first fixed24 on for departing? I have got home, and I am thankful to say Papa seems,—to say the least,—no worse than when I left him, yet I wish he were stronger. My visit passed off very well; I am glad I went. The scenery is, of course, grand; could I have wandered about amongst those hills ALONE, I could have drank in all their beauty; even in a carriage with company, it was very well. Sir James was all the while as kind and friendly as he could be: he is in much better health. . . . Miss Martineau was from home; she always leaves her house at Ambleside during the Lake season, to avoid the influx25 of visitors to which she would otherwise be subject.
"If I could only have dropped unseen out of the carriage, and gone away by myself in amongst those grand hills and sweet dales, I should have drank in the full power of this glorious scenery. In company this can hardly be. Sometimes, while —— was warning me against the faults of the artist-class, all the while vagrant26 artist instincts were busy in the mind of his listener.
"I forget to tell you that, about a week before I went to Westmoreland, there came an invitation to Harden Grange; which, of course, I declined. Two or three days after, a large party made their appearance here, consisting of Mrs. F—— and sundry27 other ladies and two gentlemen; one tall and stately, black haired and whiskered, who turned out to be Lord John Manners,—the other not so distinguished-looking, shy, and a little queer, who was Mr. Smythe, the son of Lord Strangford. I found Mrs. F. a true lady in manners and appearance, very gentle and unassuming. Lord John Manners brought in his hand a brace28 of grouse29 for Papa, which was a well-timed present: a day or two before Papa had been wishing for some."
To these extracts I must add one other from a letter referring to this time. It is addressed to Miss Wooler, the kind friend of both her girlhood and womanhood, who had invited her to spend a fortnight with her at her cottage lodgings30.
"Haworth, Sept. 27th, 1850.
"When I tell you that I have already been to the Lakes this season, and that it is scarcely more than a month since I returned, you will understand that it is no longer within my option to accept your kind invitation. I wish I could have gone to you. I have already had my excursion, and there is an end of it. Sir James Kay Shuttleworth is residing near Windermere, at a house called the 'Briery,' and it was there I was staying for a little time this August. He very kindly showed me the neighbourhood, as it can be seen from a carriage, and I discerned that the Lake country is a glorious region, of which I had only seen the similitude in dreams, waking or sleeping. Decidedly I find it does not agree with me to prosecute31 the search of the picturesque32 in a carriage. A waggon33, a spring-cart, even a post-chaise might do; but the carriage upsets everything. I longed to slip out unseen, and to run away by myself in amongst the hills and dales. Erratic34 and vagrant instincts tormented35 me, and these I was obliged to control or rather suppress for fear of growing in any degree enthusiastic, and thus drawing attention to the 'lioness'—the authoress.
"You say that you suspect I have formed a large circle of acquaintance by this time. No: I cannot say that I have. I doubt whether I possess either the wish or the power to do so. A few friends I should like to have, and these few I should like to know well; If such knowledge brought proportionate regard, I could not help concentrating my feelings; dissipation, I think, appears synonymous with dilution36. However, I have, as yet, scarcely been tried. During the month I spent in London in the spring, I kept very quiet, having the fear of lionising before my eyes. I only went out once to dinner; and once was present at an evening party; and the only visits I have paid have been to Sir James Kay Shuttleworth's and my publisher's. From this system I ............
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