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 It was thought desirable about this time, to republish "Wuthering Heights" and "Agnes Grey", the works of the two sisters, and Charlotte undertook the task of editing them.  
She wrote to Mr. Williams, September 29th, 1850, "It is my intention to write a few lines of remark on 'Wuthering Heights,' which, however, I propose to place apart as a brief preface before the tale. I am likewise compelling myself to read it over, for the first time of opening the book since my sister's death. Its power fills me with renewed admiration1; but yet I am oppressed: the reader is scarcely ever permitted a taste of unalloyed pleasure; every beam of sunshine is poured down through black bars of threatening cloud; every page is surcharged with a sort of moral electricity; and the writer was unconscious of all this—nothing could make her conscious of it.
"And this makes me reflect,—perhaps I am too incapable2 of perceiving the faults and peculiarities4 of my own style.
"I should wish to revise the proofs, if it be not too great an inconvenience to send them. It seems to me advisable to modify the orthography5 of the old servant Joseph's speeches; for though, as it stands, it exactly renders the Yorkshire dialect to a Yorkshire ear, yet, I am sure Southerns must find it unintelligible6; and thus one of the most graphic7 characters in the book is lost on them.
"I grieve to say that I possess no portrait of either of my sisters."
To her own dear friend, as to one who had known and loved her sisters, she writes still more fully8 respecting the painfulness of her task.
"There is nothing wrong, and I am writing you a line as you desire, merely to say that I AM busy just now. Mr. Smith wishes to reprint some of Emily's and Annie's works, with a few little additions from the papers they have left; and I have been closely engaged in revising, transcribing10, preparing a preface, notice, etc. As the time for doing this is limited, I am obliged to be industrious11. I found the task at first exquisitely12 painful and depressing; but regarding it in the light of a SACRED DUTY, I went on, and now can bear it better. It is work, however, that I cannot do in the evening, for if I did, I should have no sleep at night. Papa, I am thankful to say, is in improved health, and so, I think, am I; I trust you are the same.
"I have just received a kind letter from Miss Martineau. She has got back to Ambleside, and had heard of my visit to the Lakes. She expressed her regret, etc., at not being at home.
"I am both angry and surprised at myself for not being in better spirits; for not growing accustomed, or at least resigned, to the solitude13 and isolation14 of my lot. But my late occupation left a result for some days, and indeed still, very painful. The reading over of papers, the renewal15 of remembrances brought back the pang16 of bereavement17, and occasioned a depression of spirits well nigh intolerable. For one or two nights, I scarcely knew how to get on till morning; and when morning came, I was still haunted with a sense of sickening distress18. I tell you these things, because it is absolutely necessary to me to have some relief. You will forgive me, and not trouble yourself, or imagine that I am one whit19 worse than I say. It is quite a mental ailment20, and I believe and hope is better now. I think so, because I can speak about it, which I never can when grief is at its worst.
"I thought to find occupation and interest in writing, when alone at home, but hitherto my efforts have been vain; the deficiency of every stimulus21 is so complete. You will recommend me, I dare say, to go from home; but that does no good, even could I again leave Papa with an easy mind (thank God! he is better). I cannot describe what a time of it I had after my return from London, Scotland, etc. There was a reaction that sunk me to the earth; the deadly silence, solitude, desolation, were awful; the craving22 for companionship, the hopelessness of relief, were what I should dread23 to feel again.
"Dear ——, when I think of you, it is with a compassion24 and tenderness that scarcely cheer me. Mentally, I fear, you also are too lonely and too little occupied. It seems our doom25, for the present at least. May God in His mercy help us to bear it!"
During her last visit to London, as mentioned in one of her letters, she had made the acquaintance of her correspondent, Mr. Lewes. That gentleman says:—
"Some months after" (the appearance of the review of "Shirley" in the Edinburgh), "Currer Bell came to London, and I was invited to meet her at your house. You may remember, she asked you not to point me out to her, but allow her to discover me if she could. She DID recognise me almost as soon as I came into the room. You tried me in the same way; I was less sagacious. However, I sat by her side a great part of the evening and was greatly interested by her conversation. On parting we shook hands, and she said, 'We are friends now, are we not?' 'Were we not always, then?' I asked. 'No! not always,' she said, significantly; and that was the only allusion26 she made to the offending article. I lent her some of Balzac's and George Sand's novels to take with her into the country; and the following letter was written when they were returned:"—
"I am sure you will have thought me very dilatory27 in returning the books you so kindly28 lent me. The fact is, having some other books to send, I retained yours to enclose them in the same parcel.
"Accept my thanks for some hours of pleasant reading. Balzac was for me quite a new author; and in making big acquaintance, through the medium of 'Modeste Mignon,' and 'Illusions perdues,' you cannot doubt I have felt some interest. At first, I thought he was going to be painfully minute, and fearfully tedious; one grew impatient of his long parade of detail, his slow revelation of unimportant circumstances, as he assembled his personages on the stage; but by and bye I seemed to enter into the mystery of his craft, and to discover, with delight, where his force lay: is it not in the analysis of motive29; and in a subtle perception of the most obscure and secret workings of the mind? Still, admire Balzac as we may, I think we do not like him; we rather feel towards him as towards an ungenial acquaintance who is for ever holding up in strong light our defects, and who rarely draws forth31 our better qualities.
"Truly, I like George Sand better.
"Fantastic, fanatical, unpractical enthusiast32 as she often is—far from truthful33 as are many of her views of life—misled, as she is apt to be, by her feelings—George Sand has a better nature than M. de Balzac; her brain is larger, her heart warmer than his. The 'Lettres d'un Voyageur' are full of the writer's self; and I never felt so strongly, as in the perusal34 of this work, that most of her very faults spring from the excess of her good qualities: it is this excess which has often hurried her into difficulty, which has prepared for her enduring regret.
"But I believe her mind is of that order which disastrous35 experience teaches, without weakening or too much disheartening; and, in that case, the longer she lives the better she will grow. A hopeful point in all her writings is the scarcity36 of false French sentiment; I wish I could say its absence; but the weed flourishes here and there, even in the 'Lettres.'"
I remember the good expression of disgust which Miss Brontë made use of in speaking to me of some of Balzac's novels: "They leave such a bad taste in my mouth."
The reader will notice that most of the letters from which I now quote are devoted37 to critical and literary subjects. These were, indeed, her principal interests at this time; the revision of her sister's works, and writing a short memoir38 of them, was the painful employment of every day during the dreary39 autumn of 1850. Wearied out by the vividness of her sorrowful recollections, she sought relief in long walks on the moors41. A friend of hers, who wrote to me on the appearance of the eloquent42 article in the Daily News upon the "Death of Currer Bell," gives an anecdote43 which may well come in here.
"They are mistaken in saying she was too weak to roam the hills for the benefit of the air. I do not think any one, certainly not any woman, in this locality, went so much on the moors as she did, when the weather permitted. Indeed, she was so much in the habit of doing so, that people, who live quite away on the edge of the common, knew her perfectly44 well. I remember on one occasion an old woman saw her at a little distance, and she called out, 'How! Miss Brontë! Hey yah (have you) seen ought o' my cofe (calf)?' Miss Brontë told her she could not say, for she did not know it. 'Well!' she said, 'Yah know, it's getting up like nah (now), between a cah (cow) and a cofe—what we call a stirk, yah know, Miss Brontë; will yah turn it this way if yah happen to see't, as yah're going back, Miss Brontë; nah DO, Miss Brontë.'"
It must have been about this time that a visit was paid to her by some neighbours, who were introduced to her by a mutual45 friend. This visit has been described in a letter from which I am permitted to give extracts, which will show the impression made upon strangers by the character of the country round her home, and other circumstances. "Though the weather was drizzly46, we resolved to make our long-planned excursion to Haworth; so we packed ourselves into the buffalo-skin, and that into the gig, and set off about eleven. The rain ceased, and the day was just suited to the scenery,—wild and chill,—with great masses of cloud glooming over the moors, and here and there a ray of sunshine covertly47 stealing through, and resting with a dim magical light upon some high bleak48 village; or darting49 down into some deep glen, lighting50 up the tall chimney, or glistening51 on the windows and wet roof of the mill which lies couching in the bottom. The country got wilder and wilder as we approached Haworth; for the last four miles we were ascending52 a huge moor40, at the very top of which lies the dreary black-looking village of Haworth. The village-street itself is one of the steepest hills I have ever seen, and the stones are so horribly jolting53 that I should have got out and walked with W——, if possible, but, having once begun the ascent54, to stop was out of the question. At the top was the inn where we put up, close by the church; and the clergyman's house, we were told, was at the top of the churchyard. So through that we went,—a dreary, dreary place, literally55 PAVED with rain-blackened tombstones, and all on the slope, for at Haworth there is on the highest height a higher still, and Mr. Brontë's house stands considerably56 above the church. There was the house before us, a small oblong stone house, with not a tree to screen it from the cutting wind; but how were we to get at it from the churchyard we could not see! There was an old man in the churchyard, brooding like a Ghoul over the graves, with a sort of grim hilarity57 on his face. I thought he looked hardly human; however, he was human enough to tell us the way; and presently we found ourselves in the little bare parlour. Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated58 mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Brontë, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval59, during which we coaxed60 the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Brontë, by Richmond, the solitary61 ornament62 of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Brontë's celebrity63. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet64, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers
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