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 Soon after she returned home, her friend paid her a visit. While she stayed at Haworth, Miss Brontë wrote the letter from which the following extract is taken. The strong sense and right feeling displayed in it on the subject of friendship, sufficiently1 account for the constancy of affection which Miss Brontë earned from all those who once became her friends.  
"July 21th, 1851.
". . . I could not help wondering whether Cornhill will ever change for me, as Oxford2 has changed for you. I have some pleasant associations connected with it now—will these alter their character some day?
"Perhaps they may—though I have faith to the contrary, because, I THINK, I do not exaggerate my partialities; I THINK I take faults along with excellences3—blemishes together with beauties. And, besides, in the matter of friendship, I have observed that disappointment here arises chiefly, NOT from liking4 our friends too well, or thinking of them too highly, but rather from an over-estimate of THEIR liking for and opinion of US; and that if we guard ourselves with sufficient scrupulousness5 of care from error in this direction, and can be content, and even happy to give more affection than we receive—can make just comparison of circumstances, and be severely6 accurate in drawing inferences thence, and never let self-love blind our eyes—I think we may manage to get through life with consistency7 and constancy, unembittered by that misanthropy which springs from revulsions of feeling. All this sounds a little metaphysical, but it is good sense if you consider it. The moral of it is, that if we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love our friends for THEIR sakes rather than for OUR OWN; we must look at their truth to THEMSELVES, full as much as their truth to US. In the latter case, every wound to self-love would be a cause of coldness; in the former, only some painful change in the friend's character and disposition—some fearful breach8 in his allegiance to his better self—could alienate9 the heart.
"How interesting your old maiden-cousin's gossip about your parents must have been to you; and how gratifying to find that the reminiscence turned on none but pleasant facts and characteristics! Life must, indeed, be slow in that little decaying hamlet amongst the chalk hills. After all, depend upon it, it is better to be worn out with work in a thronged10 community, than to perish of inaction in a stagnant11 solitude12: take this truth into consideration whenever you get tired of work and bustle13."
I received a letter from her a little later than this; and though there is reference throughout to what I must have said in writing to her, all that it called forth14 in reply is so peculiarly characteristic, that I cannot prevail upon myself to pass it over without a few extracts:—
"Haworth, Aug. 6th, 1851.
"My dear Mrs. Gaskell,—I was too much pleased with your letter, when I got it at last, to feel disposed to murmur16 now about the delay.
"About a fortnight ago, I received a letter from Miss Martineau; also a long letter, and treating precisely17 the same subjects on which yours dwelt, viz., the Exhibition and Thackeray's last lecture. It was interesting mentally to place the two documents side by side—to study the two aspects of mind—to view, alternately, the same scene through two mediums. Full striking was the difference; and the more striking because it was not the rough contrast of good and evil, but the more subtle opposition18, the more delicate diversity of different kinds of good. The excellences of one nature resembled (I thought) that of some sovereign medicine—harsh, perhaps, to the taste, but potent19 to invigorate; the good of the other seemed more akin20 to the nourishing efficacy of our daily bread. It is not bitter; it is not lusciously21 sweet: it pleases, without flattering the palate; it sustains, without forcing the strength.
"I very much agree with you in all you say. For the sake of variety, I could almost wish that the concord22 of opinion were less complete.
"To begin with Trafalgar Square. My taste goes with yours and Meta's completely on this point. I have always thought it a fine site (and SIGHT also). The view from the summit of those steps has ever struck me as grand and imposing—Nelson Column included the fountains I could dispense23 with. With respect, also, to the Crystal Palace, my thoughts are precisely yours.
"Then I feel sure you speak justly of Thackeray's lecture. You do well to set aside odious24 comparisons, and to wax impatient of that trite25 twaddle about 'nothing newness'—a jargon26 which simply proves, in those who habitually27 use it, a coarse and feeble faculty28 of appreciation29; an inability to discern the relative value of ORIGINALITY30 and NOVELTY; a lack of that refined perception which, dispensing31 with the stimulus32 of an ever-new subject, can derive33 sufficiency of pleasure from freshness of treatment. To such critics, the prime of a summer morning would bring no delight; wholly occupied with railing at their cook for not having provided a novel and piquant35 breakfast-dish, they would remain insensible to such influences as lie in sunrise, dew, and breeze: therein would be 'nothing new.'
"Is it Mr. ——'s family experience which has influenced your feelings about the Catholics? I own, I cannot be sorry for this commencing change. Good people—VERY good people—I doubt not, there are amongst the Romanists, but the system is not one which would have such sympathy as YOURS. Look at Popery taking off the mask in Naples!
"I have read the 'Saints' Tragedy.' As a 'work of art' it seems to me far superior to either 'Alton Locke' or 'Yeast36.' Faulty it may be, crude and unequal, yet there are portions where some of the deep chords of human nature are swept with a hand which is strong even while it falters37. We see throughout (I THINK) that Elizabeth has not, and never had, a mind perfectly38 sane39. From the time that she was what she herself, in the exaggeration of her humility40, calls 'an idiot girl,' to the hour when she lay moaning in visions on her dying bed, a slight craze runs through her whole existence. This is good: this is true. A sound mind, a healthy intellect, would have dashed the priest-power to the wall; would have defended her natural affections from his grasp, as a lioness defends her young; would have been as true to husband and children, as your leal-hearted little Maggie was to her Frank. Only a mind weak with some fatal flaw COULD have been influenced as was this poor saint's. But what anguish41 what struggles! Seldom do I cry over books; but here, my eyes rained as I read. When Elizabeth turns her face to the wall—I stopped—there needed no more.
"Deep truths are touched on in this tragedy—touched on, not fully42 elicited43; truths that stir a peculiar15 pity—a compassion44 hot with wrath45, and bitter with pain. This is no poet's dream: we know that such things HAVE been done; that minds HAVE been thus subjugated46, and lives thus laid waste.
"Remember me kindly47 and respectfully to Mr. Gaskell, and though I have not seen Marianne, I must beg to include her in the love I send the others. Could you manage to convey a small kiss to that dear, but dangerous little person, Julia? She surreptitiously possessed48 herself of a minute fraction of my heart, which has been missing, ever since I saw her.—Believe me, sincerely and affectionately yours,
The reference which she makes at the end of this letter is to my youngest little girl, between whom and her a strong mutual49 attraction existed. The child would steal her little hand into Miss Brontë's scarcely larger one, and each took pleasure in this apparently50 unobserved caress51. Yet once when I told Julia to take and show her the way to some room in the house, Miss Brontë shrunk back: "Do not BID her do anything for me," she said; "it has been so sweet hitherto to have her rendering52 her little kindnesses SPONTANEOUSLY."
As illustrating53 her feelings with regard to children, I may give what she says ill another of her letters to me.
"Whenever I see Florence and Julia again, I shall feel like a fond but bashful suitor, who views at a distance the fair personage to whom, in his clownish awe54, he dare not risk a near approach. Such is the clearest idea I can give you of my feeling towards children I like, but to whom I am a stranger;—and to what children am I not a stranger? They seem to me little wonders; their talk, their ways are all matter of half-admiring, half-puzzled speculation55."
The following is part of a long letter which I received from her, dated
September 20th, 1851:—
". . . Beautiful are those sentences out of James Martineau's sermons; some of them gems56 most pure and genuine; ideas deeply conceived, finely expressed. I should like much to see his review of his sister's book. Of all the articles respecting which you question me, I have seen none, except that notable one in the 'Westminster' on the Emancipation57 of Women. But why are you and I to think (perhaps I should rather say to FEEL) so exactly alike on some points that there can be no discussion between us? Your words on this paper express my thoughts. Well-argued it is,—clear, logical,—but vast is the hiatus of omission58; harsh the consequent jar on every finer chord of the soul. What is this hiatus? I think I know; and, knowing, I will venture to say. I think the writer forgets there is such a thing as self-sacrificing love and disinterested60 devotion. When I first read the paper, I thought it was the work of a powerful-minded, clear-headed woman, who had a hard, jealous heart, muscles of iron, and nerves of bend[*] leather; of a woman who longed for power, and had never felt affection. To many women affection is sweet, and power conquered indifferent—though we all like influence won. I believe J. S. Mill would make a hard, dry, dismal61 world of it; and yet he speaks admirable sense through a great portion of his article—especially when he says, that if there be a natural unfitness in women for men's employment, there is no need to make laws on the subject; leave all careers open; let them try; those who ought to succeed will succeed, or, at least, will have a fair chance—the incapable62 will fall back into their right place. He likewise disposes of the 'maternity63' question very neatly64. In short, J. S. Mill's head is, I dare say, very good, but I feel disposed to scorn his heart. You are right when you say that there is a large margin65 in human nature over which the logicians have no dominion66; glad am I that it is so.
"Bend," in Yorkshire, is strong ox leather.
"I send by this post Ruskin's 'Stones of Venice,' and I hope you and Meta will find passages in it that will please you. Some parts would be dry and technical were it not for the character, the marked individuality which pervades67 every page. I wish Marianne had come to speak to me at the lecture; it would have given me such pleasure. What you say of that small sprite Julia, amuses me much. I believe you don't know that she has a great deal of her mama's nature (modified) in her; yet I think you will find she has as she grows up.
"Will it not be a great mistake, if Mr. Thackeray should deliver his lectures at Manchester under such circumstances and conditions as will exclude people like you and Mr. Gaskell from the number of his audience? I thought his London-plan too narrow. Charles Dickens would not thus limit his sphere of action.
"You charge me to write about myself. What can I say on that precious topic? My health is pretty good. My spirits are not always alike. Nothing happens to me. I hope and expect little in this world, and am thankful that I do not despond and suffer more. Thank you for inquiring after our old servant; she is pretty well; the little shawl, etc., pleased her much. Papa likewise, I am glad to say, is pretty well; with his and my kindest regards to you and Mr. Gaskell—Believe me sincerely and affectionately yours,
Before the autumn was far advanced, the usual effects of her solitary68 life, and of the unhealthy situation of Haworth Parsonage, began to appear in the form of sick headaches, and miserable69, starting, wakeful nights. She does not dwell on this in her letters; but there is an absence of all cheerfulness of tone, and an occasional sentence forced out of her, which imply far more than many words could say. There was illness all through the Parsonage household—taking its accustomed forms of lingering influenza70 and low fever; she herself was outwardly the strongest of the family, and all domestic exertion71 fell for a time upon her shoulders.
"Sept. 26th.
"As I laid down your letter, after reading with interest the graphic72 account it gives of a very striking scene, I could not help feeling with renewed force a truth, trite enough, yet ever impressive; viz., that it is good to be attracted out of ourselves—to be forced to take a near view of the sufferings, the privations, the efforts, the difficulties of others. If we ourselves live in fulness of content, it is well to be reminded that thousands of our fellow-creatures undergo a different lot; it is well to have sleepy sympathies excited, and lethargic73 selfishness shaken up. If, on the other hand, we be contending with the special grief,—the intimate trial,—the peculiar bitterness with which God has seen fit to mingle74 our own cup of existence,—it is very good to know that our overcast75 lot is not singular; it stills the repining word and thought,—it rouses the flagging strength, to have it vividly76 set before us that there are countless77 afflictions in the world, each perhaps rivalling—some surpassing—the private pain over which we are too prone78 exclusively to sorrow.
"All those crowded emigrants79 had their troubles,—their untoward80 causes of banishment81; you, the looker-on, had 'your wishes and regrets,'—your anxieties, alloying your home happiness and domestic bliss82; and the parallel might be pursued further, and still it would be true,—still the same; a thorn in the flesh for each; some burden, some conflict for all.
"How far this state of things is susceptible83 of amelioration from changes in public institutions,—alterations in national habits,—may and ought to be earnestly considered: but this is a problem not easily solved. The evils, as you point them out, are great, real, and most obvious; the remedy is obscure and vague; yet for such difficulties as spring from over-competition, emigration must be good; the new life in a new country must give a new lease of hope; the wider field, less thickly peopled, must open a new path for endeavour. But I always think great physical powers of exertion and endurance ought to accompany such a step. . . . I am truly glad to hear that an ORIGINAL writer has fallen in your way. Originality is the pearl of great price in literature,—the rarest, the most precious claim by which an author can be recommended. Are not your publishing prospects85 for the coming season tolerably rich and satisfactory? You inquire after 'Currer Bell.' It seems to me that the absence of his name from your list of announcements will leave no blank, and that he may at least spare himself the disquietude of thinking he is wanted when it is certainly not his lot to appear.
"Perhaps Currer Bell has his secret moan about these matters; but if so, he will keep it to himself. It is an affair about which no words need be wasted, for no words can make a change: it is between him and his position, his faculties86 and his fate."
My husband and I were anxious that she should pay us a visit before the winter had set completely in; and she thus wrote, declining our invitation:—
"Nov. 6th.
"If anybody would tempt87 me from home, you would; but, just now, from home I must not, will not go. I feel greatly better at present than I did three weeks ago. For a month or six weeks about the equinox (autumnal or vernal) is a period of the year which, I have noticed, strangely tries me. Sometimes the strain falls on the mental, sometimes on the physical part of me; I am ill with neuralgic headache, or I am ground to the dust with deep dejection of spirits (not, however, such dejection but I can keep it to myself). That weary time has, I think and trust, got over for this year. It was the anniversary of my poor brother's death, and of my sister's failing health: I need say no more.
"As to running away from home every time I have a battle of this sort to fight, it would not do besides, the 'weird88' would follow. As to shaking it off, that cannot be. I have declined to go to Mrs. ——, to Miss Martineau, and now I decline to go to you. But listen do not think that I throw your kindness away; or that it fails of doing the good you desire. On the contrary, the feeling expressed in your letter,—proved by your invitation—goes RIGHT HOME where you would have it to go, and heals as you would have it to heal.
"Your description of Frederika Bremer tallies89 exactly with one I read somewhere, in I know not what book. I laughed out when I got to the mention of Frederika's special accomplishment90, given by you with a distinct simplicity91 that, to my taste, is what the French would call 'impayable.' Where do you find the foreigner who is without some little drawback of this description? It is a pity."
A visit from Miss Wooler at this period did Miss Brontë much good for the time. She speaks of her guest's company as being very pleasant,"like good wine," both to her father and to herself. But Miss Wooler could not remain with her long; and then again the monotony of her life returned upon her in all its force; the only events of her days and weeks consisting in the small changes which occasional letters brought. It must be remembered that her health was often such as to prevent her stirring out of the house in inclement92 or wintry weather. She was liable to sore throat, and depressing pain at the chest, and difficulty of breathing, on the least exposure to cold.
A letter from her late visitor touched and gratified her much; it was simply expressive93 of gratitude94 for attention and kindness shown to her, but it wound up by saying that she had not for many years experienced so much enjoyment95 as during the ten days passed at Haworth. This little sentence called out a wholesome96 sensation of modest pleasure in Miss Brontë's mind; and she says, "it did me good."
I find, in a letter to a distant friend, written about this time, a retrospect97 of her visit to London. It is too ample to be considered as a mere98 repetition of what she had said before; and, besides, it shows that her first impressions of what she saw and heard were not crude and transitory, but stood the tests of time and after-thought.
"I spent a few weeks in town last summer, as you have heard; and was much interested by many things I heard and saw there. What now chiefly dwells in my memory are Mr. Thackeray's lectures, Mademoiselle Rachel's acting99, D'Aubigne's, Melville's, and Maurice's preaching, and the Crystal Palace.
"Mr. Thackeray's lectures you will have seen mentioned and commented on in the papers; they were very interesting. I could not always coincide with the sentiments expressed, or the opinions broached100; but I admired the gentlemanlike ease, the quiet humour, the taste, the talent, the simplicity, and the originality of the lecturer.
"Rachel's acting transfixed me with wonder, enchained me with interest, and thrilled me with horror. The tremendous force with which she expresses the very worst passions in their strongest essence forms an exhibition as exciting as the bull fights of Spain, and the gladiatorial combats of old Rome, and (it seemed to me) not one whit101 more moral than these poisoned stimulants102 to popular ferocity. It is scarcely human nature that she shows you; it is something wilder and worse; the feelings and fury of a fiend. The great gift of genius she undoubtedly103 has; but, I fear, she rather abuses it than turns it to good account.
"With all the three preachers I was greatly pleased. Melville seemed to me the most eloquent104, Maurice the most in earnest; had I the choice, it is Maurice whose ministry105 I should frequent.
"On the Crystal Palace I need not comment. You must already have heard too much of it. It struck me at the first with only a vague sort of wonder and admiration106; but having one day the privilege of going over it in company with an eminent107 countryman of yours, Sir David Brewster, and hearing, in his friendly Scotch108 accent, his lucid109 explanation of many things that had been to me before a sealed book, I began a little better to comprehend it, or at least a small part of it: whether its final results will equal expectation, I know not."
Her increasing indisposition subdued110 her at last, in spite of all her efforts of reason and will. She tried to forget oppressive recollections in writing. Her publishers were importunate112 for a new book from her pen. "Villette" was begun, but she lacked power to continue it.
"It is not at all likely" (she says) "that my book will be ready at the time you mention. If my health is spared, I shall get on with it as fast as is consistent with its being done, if not WELL, yet as well as I can do it. NOT ONE WHIT FASTER. When the mood leaves me (it has left me now, without vouchsafing113 so much as a word or a message when it will return) I put by the MS. and wait till it comes back again. God knows, I sometimes have to wait long—VERY long it seems to me. Meantime, if I might make a request to you, it would be this. Please to say nothing about my book till it is written, and in your hands. You may not like it. I am not myself elated with it as far as it is gone, and authors, you need not be told, are always tenderly indulgent, even blindly partial to their own. Even if it should turn out reasonably well, still I regard it as ruin to the prosperity of an ephemeral book like a novel, to be much talked of beforehand, as if it were something great. People are apt to conceive, or at least to profess114, exaggerated expectation, such as no performance can realise; then ensue disappointment and the due revenge, detraction
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