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simple ; but there will be a nurse coming in a day or two, and I am afraid of not having things good enough for her. Papa requires nothing, you know, but plain beef and mutton, tea and bread and butter ; but a nurse will probably expect to live much better; give me some hints if you can.


All that is known of the oculist, Mr. William James Wilson, is told by Dr. Brocklebank in his Sketches of the Lives and Work of the Honorary Medical Staff of the Manchester Infirmary.'

Five days after the date of the last letter, on August 26, Charlotte Brontë wrote again :

The operation is over. It took place yesterday. Mr. Wilson performed it; two other surgeons assisted. Mr. Wilson says he considers it quite successful ; but papa cannot yet see anything. The affair lasted precisely a quarter of an hour; it was not the simple operation of couching Mr. C. [i.e. Mr. Carr) described, but the more complicated one of extracting the cataract. Mr. Wilson entirely disapproves of couching. Papa displayed extraordinary patience and firmness ; the surgeons seemed surprised. I was in the room all the time, as it was his wish that I should be there ; of course, I neither spoke nor moved till the thing was done, and then I felt that the less I said, either to papa or to the surgeons, the better. Papa is now confined to his bed in a dark room, and is not to be stirred for four days; he is to speak and be spoken to as little as possible.

Other letters written from Manchester during Mr. Brontë's convalescence are quoted by Mr. Clement Shorter, as well as these, in 'The Brontës. Life and Letters.' 1

Mr. Brontë and his daughter returned to Haworth at the end of September.

The Rev. Patrick Brontë is an interesting figure, not only as being the father of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. No clergyman of the present day could hold so rigid a creed or wear so formidable a cravat as he. Miss Gaskell has kindly put into my hands some private letters addressed by him to her mother, and I will try to make a discreet and scrupulous use of them.

One of the letters, dated August 27, 1855, relates to his own parish and to the affection felt by the parishioners for his daughters ; it will be realised as being Miss Gaskell's authority for a touching incident which she tells about Charlotte Brontë's funeral :


The people here [says Mr. Brontë) generally are poor, but, whether rich or poor, they have always been not only civil to me and mine, but friendly, when an opportunity offered for showing their disposition. On a solemn occasion I saw this clearly exhibited. My children, generally, and my dear daughter Charlotte in particular, were both kind, liberal, and affable with the inhabitants. A thorough sense of this proceeding was not wanting on the death of each of them, and when the last death took place, when my dear Charlotte was no more-both rich and

| Vol. i. pp. 337-8.

poor throughout the village and the neighbourhood, both publicly and privately, gare sure proofs of genuine sorrow. The poor have often been accused of ingratitude-I think wrongfully. There was no instance of this when my dear Charlotte died. A case or two I might mention, as an illustration of what I say. One moral and amiable girl, who had been deceived and deserted by a deceitful man, who had promised her marriage—when she heard of my daughter's hopeless illness, without our knowing it at the time-she spent a week of sleepless distress, and ever since deeply mourns her loss, and all this, because my daughter had kindly sympathised with her in her distress, and given her good advice, and helped her in her time of need, and enabled her to get on till she made a prudent marriage with a worthier man. Another case which I would speak of, which is only one amongst many—a poor blind girl who received an annual donation from my daughter, after her death required to be led four miles, to be at my daughter's funeral, over which she wept many tears of gratitude and sorrow. In her acts of kindness, my dear daughter was, as I thought, often rather impulsive. Two or three winters ago a poor man fell on the ice, and broke his thigh, and had to be carried home to his comfortless cottage, where he had a wife with twins, and six other small children. My daughter, having heard of their situation, sent the servant to see how they were. On her return she made a very eloquent and pathetic report. My daughter, being touched, got up directly and sent them a sovereign, to their great astonishment and pleasure, for which they have been ever afterwards grateful. Though I could not help being pleased with this act, though hardly in accordance with my daughter's means, I observed to her that women were often impulsive in deeds of charity. She jocularly replied : * In deeds of charity men reason much and do little--women reason little and do much, and I will act the woman still.'


In 1857, two years after Charlotte Brontë's death, the year which saw the first edition of Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë,' Mr. Brontë addressed to her two letters which are still in Miss Gaskell's possession. The handwriting of the letters testifies to the writer's advanced age and failing eyesight. In one of them, a letter which Mr. Clement Shorter' has already given to the world, Mr. Brontë writes on April 2, 1857 :

I thank you for the books you have sent me containing the memoir of my daughter. I have perused them with a degree of pleasure and pain which can be known only to myself. As you will have the opinion of abler critics than myself, I shall not say much in the way of criticism. I shall only make a few remarks in unison with the feelings of my heart. With a tenacity of purpose usual with me in all cases of importance, I was fully determined that the biography of my daughter should, if possible, be written by one not unworthy of the undertaking. My mind first turned to you, and you kindly acceded to my wishes. Had you refused, I would have applied to the next best, and so on ; and had all applications failed, as the last resource, though about eighty years of age and feeble and unfit for the task, I would myself have written a short, though inadequate, memoir, rather than have left it to selfish, hostile, or ignorant scribblers. But the work is now done, and done rightly, as I wished it to be, and in its completion has afforded

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| The Life of Charlotte Brontë, by Mrs. Gaskell. With an Introduction and Notes by Clement K. Shorter. Introduction p. xxviii. VOL, XXVIII. - NO. 166, N.S.


mo more satisfaction than I have felt during many years of a life in which has been exemplified the saying that'man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.'

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The second letter is dated August 24, in the same year. It refers to criticisms passed upon the ‘ Life.'

Why should you disturb yourself [he says] concerning what has been, is, and ever will be the lot of eminent writers ? But here, as in other cases, according to the old adage, the more cost the more honour.' Above three thousand years since Solomon said he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow,

much study is a weariness of the flesh.' So you may find it, and so my daughter Charlotte found it, and so thousands may find it till the end of the world, should this sinful perverse world last so long as to produce so many authors like you and my daughter Charlotte. You have had and will have much praise with a little blame. Then drink the mixed cup with thankfulness to the great Physician of souls. It will be far more salutary to you in the end, and even in the beginning, than if it were all unmixed sweetness.

Still more interesting is a letter of April 7, 1857, as it touches upon his parental authority over his children. He writes :

The principal mistake in the Memoir which I wish to mention is that which states that I laid my daughters under restriction with regard to their diet, obliging them to live chiefly on vegetable food. This I never did. After their aunt's death, with regard to the housekeeping affairs they had all their own way. Thinking their constitutions to be delicate, the advice I repeatedly gave them was that they should wear flannel, eat as much wholesome animal food as they could digest, take air and exercise in moderation, and not devote too much time and attention to study and composition. I should wish this to be mentioned in the second edition.

This is all that I can say about Mr. Brontë, except, indeed, for one letter of his which will be quoted presently ; but I hope it may be felt to throw a not unpleasing light on the character of that singular but honest and conscientious clergyman.

Let me now pass to Charlotte Brontë and her friendship with Mrs. Gaskell.

Mr. Birrell in his monograph on Charlotte Brontë has described, almost in Mrs. Gaskell's own words, the earliest meeting of these two celebrated ladies. It took place in the beginning of August 1850. The meeting occurred at Briery Close, a house high above Low Wood on Windermere, then occupied by Sir James Kay Shuttleworth. Mrs. Gaskell, writing at the time to a friend, describes Miss Brontë as

thin and more than half a head shorter than I am, soft brown hair, not very dark, eyes (very good and expressive, looking straight and open at you) of the same colour as her hair, a large mouth, the forehead square, broad, and rather overhanging. 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 perfectly simple. She told me about Father Newman's lectures at the Oratory in a very quiet, concise, graphic way.

Even before that meeting Charlotte Brontë had written on November 20, 1849, to her friend Mr. Williams : ‘The letter you forwarded this morning was from Mrs. Gaskell, authoress of “ Mary Barton”; she said I was not to answer it, but I cannot help doing so. The note brought the tears to my eyes. She is a good, she is a great woman’; and on January 1, 1850, she had instructed her publishers to send Mrs. Gaskell a copy of 'Wuthering Heights ? as a return for her present of The Moorland Cottage. The meeting at Briery Close led to a visit of Mrs. Gaskell to Haworth and to several visits of Charlotte Brontë to Manchester.

Mrs. Gaskell visited Haworth in September 1853, and her impression of the Vicarage and of its inhabitants is printed in the ‘Life. There is in Miss Gaskell's possession a letter written to her mother after the visit, and in it Charlotte Brontë says:

After you left the house felt very much as if the shutters had been suddenly closed and the blinds let down. One was sensible during the remainder of the day of a depressing silence, shadow, loss and want. However, if the going away was sad, the stay was very pleasant and did permanent good. Papa, I am sure, derived real benefit from your visit; he has been better ever since.

Charlotte Brontë, apart from her visit in connexion with her father's illness, came to Manchester in June 1851 on her way from London to Haworth, again in April 1853, and lastly, just before her marriage, in May 1854. She describes the house of Mr. and Mrs. Gaskell in Plymouth Grove as ' a large, cheerful, airy house quite

a out of Manchester smoke.' 'A garden,' she says, 'surrounds it,

“ and as in this hot weather the windows were kept open, a whispering of leaves and a perfume of flowers always pervaded the rooms. Plymouth Grove of to-day has, I am afraid, lost something of its smokeless atmosphere; but the house and the garden are still there. Mrs. Gaskell, in describing Charlotte Brontë's second visit, tells a curious story of the shyness which she evinced after having lived so long out of the world.

We had a friend, a young lady, staying with us, and although our friend was gentle and sensible after Miss Brontë's own heart, yet her presence was enough to create a nervous tremour. I was aware that both of our guests were unusually silent, and I saw a little shiver run from time to time over Miss Brontë's frame. I could account for the modest reserve of the young lady, and the next day Miss Brontë told me how the unexpected sight of a strange face had affected her.

An even more curious story lives in Miss Gaskell’s memory. It happened that Mrs. Sidney Potter, the author of that interesting book ‘ Lancashire Memories,' came to call on Mrs. Gaskell during Charlotte Brontë's visit. She was shown into the drawing-room, where Mrs. Gaskell and her guest were conversing. Mrs. Gaskell, after greeting Mrs. Potter, turned to introduce her to Charlotte Brontë, but Charlotte Brontë had vanished. Mrs. Gaskell naturally assumed that she had slipped out of the room by one of its doors ; but after Mrs. Potter's departure she reappeared from behind one of the heavy window curtains, into which she had fled for concealment at the sight of a stranger.

The following letter is, I think, a beautiful expression of Charlotte Brontë's feeling for her friend and future biographer. Writing from Haworth on March 28, 1853, she says:

It may seem rather impulsive to write again immediately on the spur of the moment without having anything of special importance to communicate ; but really it is sometimes right to yield to impulses-and mine is to say out of my heart that I feel in your letters something kind and good which does me good. Why do they never betray anything of the bitterness of jealousy, or of the poison of secret acridity? Why are they at once so frank and so gentle ? All my kind friends '-all my affectionate correspondents are not thusto your goodness is not wanting the foil of contrast—Heaven knows! Perhaps it is this foil make (sic) me feel the opposite keenly.

As to the coming reviews to which you allude, I bend to them my head, and shall expect more blows than benedictions. Surely I even deserve them. Your modesty touches, melts, humbles me more than I can express.

Keep your heart kind and warm towards me till we meet. If I fix my visit for the first week in May (D.V.) will that suit ? I promise not to be demonstrative, sentimental, fatiguing in a word; but I shall be glad to take hold of your hand, to have it in mine, not to squeeze it too hard, lest it should be crushed, but to make much of it as a hand prone to administer comfort and loathe (sic) to inflict pain.

It was after this proposed visit, which took place in April 1853. that Charlotte Brontë wrote to Mrs. Gaskell : The week I spent in Manchester has impressed me as the very brightest and healthiest I have known for these five years past.'

The last of the three visits to Manchester extended only over three days. Charlotte Brontë was then occupied in preparing for her marriage, and she went to Leeds for the sake of making the necessary purchases. Her preparations, as she herself said, could ' neither be expensive nor extensive, consisting chiefly in a modest replenishing of her wardrobe, some repainting and repapering in the Parsonage which was to be her home, and above all converting the small flagged passage room hitherto used only for stores (which was behind her sitting-room) into a study for her husband.'

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