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 After her visit to Manchester, she had to return to a re-opening of the painful circumstances of the previous winter, as the time drew near for Mr. Nicholl's departure from Haworth. A testimonial of respect from the parishioners was presented, at a public meeting, to one who had faithfully served them for eight years: and he left the place, and she saw no chance of hearing a word about him in the future, unless it was some second-hand1 scrap2 of intelligence, dropped out accidentally by one of the neighbouring clergymen.  
I had promised to pay her a visit on my return from London in June; but, after the day was fixed3, a letter came from Mr. Brontë, saying that she was suffering from so severe an attack of influenza4, accompanied with such excruciating pain in the head, that he must request me to defer5 my visit until she was better. While sorry for the cause, I did not regret that my going was delayed till the season when the moors6 would be all glorious with the purple bloom of the heather; and thus present a scene about which she had often spoken to me. So we agreed that I should not come to her before August or September. Meanwhile, I received a letter from which I am tempted8 to take an extract, as it shows both her conception of what fictitious9 writing ought to be, and her always kindly10 interest in what I was doing.
"July 9th, 1853.
"Thank you for your letter; it was as pleasant as a quiet chat, as welcome as spring showers, as reviving as a friend's visit; in short, it was very like a page of 'Cranford.' . . . A thought strikes me. Do you, who have so many friends,—so large a circle of acquaintance,—find it easy, when you sit down to write, to isolate11 yourself from all those ties, and their sweet associations, so as to be your OWN WOMAN, uninfluenced or swayed by the consciousness of how your work may affect other minds; what blame or what sympathy it may call forth12? Does no luminous13 cloud ever come between you and the severe Truth, as you know it in your own secret and clear-seeing soul? In a word, are you never tempted to make your characters more amiable14 than the Life, by the inclination15 to assimilate your thoughts to the thoughts of those who always FEEL kindly, but sometimes fail to SEE justly? Don't answer the question; it is not intended to be answered. . . . Your account of Mrs. Stowe was stimulatingly16 interesting. I long to see you, to get you to say it, and many other things, all over again. My father continues better. I am better too; but to-day I have a headache again, which will hardly let me write coherently. Give my dear love to M. and M., dear happy girls as they are. You cannot now transmit my message to F. and J. I prized the little wild-flower,—not that I think the sender cares for me; she DOES not, and CANNOT, for she does not know me;—but no matter. In my reminiscences she is a person of a certain distinction. I think hers a fine little nature, frank and of genuine promise. I often see her; as she appeared, stepping supreme17 from the portico18 towards the carriage, that evening we went to see 'Twelfth Night.' I believe in J.'s future; I like what speaks in her movements, and what is written upon her face."
Towards the latter end of September I went to Haworth. At the risk of repeating something which I have previously19 said, I will copy out parts of a letter which I wrote at the time.
"It was a dull, drizzly20 Indian-inky day, all the way on the railroad to Keighley, which is a rising wool-manufacturing town, lying in a hollow between hills—not a pretty hollow, but more what the Yorkshire people call a 'bottom,' or 'botham.' I left Keighley in a car for Haworth, four miles off—four tough, steep, scrambling21 miles, the road winding22 between the wavelike hills that rose and fell on every side of the horizon, with a long illimitable sinuous23 look, as if they were a part of the line of the Great Serpent, which the Norse legend says girdles the world. The day was lead-coloured; the road had stone factories alongside of it,—grey, dull-coloured rows of stone cottages belonging to these factories, and then we came to poor, hungry-looking fields;—stone fences everywhere, and trees nowhere. Haworth is a long, straggling village one steep narrow street—so steep that the flag-stones with which it is paved are placed end-ways, that the horses' feet may have something to cling to, and not slip down backwards24; which if they did, they would soon reach Keighley. But if the horses had cats' feet and claws, they would do all the better. Well, we (the man, horse, car; and I) clambered up this street, and reached the church dedicated25 to St. Autest (who was he?); then we turned off into a lane on the left, past the curate's lodging26 at the Sexton's, past the school-house, up to the Parsonage yard-door. I went round the house to the front door, looking to the church;—moors everywhere beyond and above. The crowded grave-yard surrounds the house and small grass enclosure for drying clothes.
"I don't know that I ever saw a spot more exquisitely27 clean; the most dainty place for that I ever saw. To be sure, the life is like clock-work. No one comes to the house; nothing disturbs the deep repose28; hardly a voice is heard; you catch the ticking of the clock in the kitchen, or the buzzing of a fly in the parlour, all over the house. Miss Brontë sits alone in her parlour; breakfasting with her father in his study at nine o'clock. She helps in the housework; for one of their servants, Tabby, is nearly ninety, and the other only a girl. Then I accompanied her in her walks on the sweeping29 moors the heather-bloom had been blighted30 by a thunder-storm a day or two before, and was all of a livid brown colour, instead of the blaze of purple glory it ought to have been. Oh those high, wild, desolate31 moors, up above the whole world, and the very realms of silence! Home to dinner at two. Mr. Brontë has his dinner sent into him. All the small table arrangements had the same dainty simplicity32 about them. Then we rested, and talked over the clear, bright fire; it is a cold country, and the fires were a pretty warm dancing light all over the house. The parlour had been evidently refurnished within the last few years, since Miss Brontë's success has enabled her to have a little more money to spend. Everything fits into, and is in harmony with, the idea of a country parsonage, possessed33 by people of very moderate means. The prevailing34 colour of the room is crimson36, to make a warm setting for the cold grey landscape without. There is her likeness37 by Richmond, and an engraving38 from Lawrence's picture of Thackeray; and two recesses40, on each side of the high, narrow, old-fashioned mantelpiece, filled with books,—books given to her; books she has bought, and which tell of her individual pursuits and tastes; NOT standard books.
"She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied niminipimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to DRAW stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.
"But now to return to our quiet hour of rest after dinner. I soon observed that her habits of order were such that she could not go on with the conversation, if a chair was out of its place; everything was arranged with delicate regularity41. We talked over the old times of her childhood; of her elder sister's (Maria's) death,—just like that of Helen Burns in 'Jane Eyre;' of those strange, starved days at school; of the desire (almost amounting to illness) of expressing herself in some way,—writing or drawing; of her weakened eyesight, which prevented her doing anything for two years, from the age of seventeen to nineteen; of her being a governess; of her going to Brussels; whereupon I said I disliked Lucy Snowe, and we discussed M. Paul Emanuel; and I told her of ——'s admiration42 of 'Shirley,' which pleased her; for the character of Shirley was meant for her sister Emily, about whom she is never tired of talking, nor I of listening. Emily must have been a remnant of the Titans,—great-grand-daughter of the giants who used to inhabit earth. One day, Miss Brontë brought down a rough, common-looking oil-painting, done by her brother, of herself,—a little, rather prim-looking girl of eighteen,—and the two other sisters, girls of sixteen and fourteen, with cropped hair, and sad, dreamy-looking eyes. . . . Emily had a great dog—half mastiff, half bull-dog—so savage43, etc. . . . This dog went to her funeral, walking side by side with her father; and then, to the day of its death, it slept at her room door; snuffing under it, and whining44 every morning.
"We have generally had another walk before tea, which is at six; at half-past eight, prayers; and by nine, all the household are in bed, except ourselves. We sit up together till ten, or past; and after I go, I hear Miss Brontë comedown and walk up and down the room for an hour or so."
Copying this letter has brought the days of that pleasant visit very clear before me,—very sad in their clearness. We were so happy together; we were so full of interest in each other's subjects. The day seemed only too short for what we had to say and to hear. I understood her life the better for seeing the place where it had been spent—where she had loved and suffered. Mr. Brontë was a most courteous45 host; and when he was with us,—at breakfast in his study, or at tea in Charlotte's parlour,—he had a sort of grand and stately way of describing past times, which tallied46 well with his striking appearance. He never seemed quite to have lost the feeling that Charlotte was a child to be guided and ruled, when she was present; and she herself submitted to this with a quiet docility47 that half amused, half astonished me. But when she had to leave the room, then all his pride in her genius and fame came out. He eagerly listened to everything I could tell him of the high admiration I had at any time heard expressed for her works. He would ask for certain speeches over and over again, as if he desired to impress them on his memory.
I remember two or three subjects of the conversations which she and I held in the evenings, besides those alluded48 to in my letter.
I asked her whether she had ever taken opium50, as the description given of its effects in "Villette" was so exactly like what I had experienced,—vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep,—wondering what it was like, or how it would be,—till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it.
She made many inquiries51 as to Mrs. Stowe's personal appearance; and it evidently harmonised well with some theory of hers, to hear that the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin was small and slight. It was another theory of hers, that no mixtures of blood produced such fine characters, mentally and morally, as the Scottish and English.
I recollect52, too, her saying how acutely she dreaded53 a charge of plagiarism54, when, after she had written "Jane Eyre;" she read the thrilling effect of the mysterious scream at midnight in Mrs. Marsh's story of the "Deformed55." She also said that, when she read the "Neighbours," she thought every one would fancy that she must have taken her conception of Jane Eyre's character from that of "Francesca," the narrator of Miss Bremer's story. For my own part, I cannot see the slightest resemblance between the two characters, and so I told her; but she persisted in saying that Francesca was Jane Eyre married to a good-natured "Bear" of a Swedish surgeon.
We went, not purposely, but accidentally, to see various poor people in our distant walks. From one we had borrowed an umbrella; in the house of another we had taken shelter from a rough September storm. In all these cottages, her quiet presence was known. At three miles from her home, the chair was dusted for her, with a kindly "Sit ye down, Miss Brontë;" and she knew what absent or ailing35 members of the family to inquire after. Her quiet, gentle words, few though they might be, were evidently grateful to those Yorkshire ears. Their welcome to her, though rough and curt56, was sincere and hearty57.
We talked about the different courses through which life ran. She said, in her own composed manner, as if she had accepted the theory as a fact, that she believed some were appointed beforehand to sorrow and much disappointment; that it did not fall to the lot of all—as Scripture58 told us—to have their lines fall in pleasant places; that it was well for those who had rougher paths, to perceive that such was God's will concerning them, and try to moderate their expectations, leaving hope to those of a different doom59, and seeking patience and resignation as the virtues60 they were to cultivate. I took a different view: I thought that human lots were more equal than she imagined; that to some happiness and sorrow came in strong patches of light and shadow, (so to speak), while in the lives of others they were pretty equally blended throughout. She smiled, and shook her head, and said she was trying to school herself against ever anticipating any pleasure; that it was better to be brave and submit faithfully; there was some good reason, which we should know in time, why sorrow and disappointment were to be the lot of some on earth. It was better to acknowledge this, and face out the truth in a religious faith.
In connection with this conversation, she named a little abortive61 plan which I had not heard of till then; how, in the previous July, she had been tempted to join some friends (a married couple and their child) in an excursion to Scotland. They set out joyfully62; she with especial gladness, for Scotland was a land which had its roots deep down in her imaginative affections, and the glimpse of two days at Edinburgh was all she had as yet seen of it. But, at the first stage after Carlisle, the little yearling child was taken with a slight indisposition; the anxious parents fancied that strange diet disagreed with it, and hurried back to their Yorkshire home as eagerly as, two or three days before, they had set their faces northward64, in hopes of a month's pleasant ramble65.
We parted with many intentions, on both sides, of renewing very frequently the pleasure we had had in being together. We agreed that when she wanted bustle66, or when I wanted quiet, we were to let each other know, and exchange visits as occasion required.
I was aware that she had a great anxiety on her mind at this time; and being acquainted with its nature, I could not but deeply admire the patient docility which she displayed in her conduct towards her father.
Soon after I left Haworth, she went on a visit to Miss Wooler, who was then staying at Hornsea. The time passed quietly and happily with this friend, whose society was endeared to her by every year.
"Dec. 12th, 1853.
"I wonder how you are spending these long winter evenings. Alone, probably, like me. The thought often crosses me, as I sit by myself, how pleasant it would be if you lived within a walking distance, and I could go to you sometimes, or have you to come and spend a day and night with me. Yes; I did enjoy that week at Hornsea, and I look forward to spring as the period when you will fulfil your promise of coming to visit me. I fear you must be very solitary67 at Hornsea. How hard to some people of the world it would seem to live your life! how utterly68 impossible to live it with a serene69 spirit and an unsoured disposition63! It seems wonderful to me, because you are not, like Mrs. ——, phlegmatic70 and impenetrable, but received from nature feelings of the very finest edge. Such feelings, when they are locked up, sometimes damage the mind and temper. They don't with you. It must be partly principle, partly self-discipline, which keeps you as you are."
Of course, as I draw nearer to the years so recently closed, it becomes impossible for me to write with the same fulness of detail as I have hitherto not felt it wrong to use. Miss Brontë passed the winter of 1853-4 in a solitary and anxious manner. But the great conqueror71 Time was slowly achieving his victory over strong prejudice and human resolve. By degrees Mr. Brontë became reconciled to the idea of his daughter's marriage.
There is one other letter, addressed to Mr. Dobell, which developes the intellectual side of her character, before we lose all thought of the authoress in the timid and conscientious72 woman about to become a wife, and in the too short, almost perfect, happiness of her nine months of wedded73 life.
"Haworth, near Keighley,
"Feb. 3rd, 1854.
"My dear Sir,—I can hardly tell you how glad I am to have an opportunity of explaining that taciturnity to which you allude49. Your letter came at a period of danger and care, when my father was very ill, and I could not leave his bedside. I answered no letters at that time, and yours was one of three or four that, when leisure returned to me, and I came to consider their purport74, it seemed to me such that the time was past for answering them, and I laid them finally aside. If you remember, you asked me to go to London; it was too late either to go or to decline. I was sure you had left London. One circumstance you mentioned—your wife's illness—which I have thought of many a time, and wondered whether she is better. In your present note you do not refer to her, but I trust her health has long ere now been quite restored.
"'Balder' arrived safely. I looked at him, before cutting his leaves with singular pleasure. Remembering well his elder brother, the potent75 'Roman,' it was natural to give a cordial welcome to a fresh scion76 of the same house and race. I have read him. He impressed me thus he teems77 with power; I found in him a wild wealth of life, but I thought his favourite and favoured child would bring his sire trouble—would make his heart ache. It seemed to me, that his strength and beauty were not so much those of Joseph, the pillar of Jacob's age, as of the Prodigal78 Son, who troubled his father, though he always kept his love.
"How is it that while the first-born of genius often brings honour, the second as almost often proves a source of depression and care? I could almost prophesy79 that your third will atone80 for any anxiety inflicted81 by this his immediate82 predecessor83.
"There is power in that character of 'Balder,' and to me a certain horror. Did you mean it to embody84, along with force, any of the special defects of the artistic85 character? It seems to me that those defects were never thrown out in stronger lines. I did not and could not think you meant to offer him as your cherished ideal of the true, great poet; I regarded him as a vividly-coloured picture of inflated86 self-esteem, almost frantic87 aspiration88; of a nature that has made a Moloch of intellect—offered up; in pagan fires, the natural affections—sacrificed the heart to the brain. Do we not all know that true greatness is simple, self-oblivious, prone89 to unambitious, unselfish attachments91? I am certain you feel this truth in your heart of hearts.
"But if the critics err92 now (as yet I have seen none of their lucubrations), you shall one day set them right in the second part of 'Balder.' You shall show them that you too know—better, perhaps, than they—that the truly great man is too sincere in his affections to grudge93 a sacrifice; too much absorbed in his work to talk loudly about it; too intent on finding the best way to accomplish what he undertakes to think great things of himself—the instrument. And if God places seeming impediments in his way—if his duties sometimes seem to hamper94 his powers—he feels keenly, perhaps writhes95, under the slow torture of hindrance96 and delay; but if there be a true man's heart in his breast, he can bear, submit, wait patiently.
"Whoever speaks to me of 'Balder'—though I live too retired97 a life to come often in the way of comment—shall be answered according to your suggestion and my own impression. Equity
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