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Her Self-education--her Earliest Tales and Poems.


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seem as though her father troubled himself to give her any lessons. Her self-education, however, went on rapidly, and in reading the list of works written by herself when just turned of fourteer, and which form twenty-two little volumes, we are astonished at their number and length. But the most striking peculiarity of this list, is the singular matter-of-fact character of all her compo-. sitions-judging from their names, and the utter absence alike of the historical, and the supernatural. Few, if any, children commence their literary career with scenes of every day life. The Adventures of Prince Silverwing, or the trials of some {airy princess with a very long and very fine name, or stories of Red-cross knights, or The Bandit of the Apennines, very fierce and very handsome,—such are the subjects that mostly employ the tiny fingers of the child-writer, who probably enjoys more pleasure in contemplating the carefully written copy than is felt in after years when he actually sees himself in print. But Charlotte Brontë's interest even thus early seems all confined to the present day. There are among many others, the Search after Happiness, a tale; An Interesting Incident in the Lires of some of the most Eminent Persons of the Age, a tale; Tales of the Islanders, which are especially devoted to the glorification of her hero Wellington; and Romantic Tales, consisting of adventures in Ireland. We wish Mrs. Gaskell could have afforded some extracts from some of these, since in the extract she has given from the History of the Year 18:29 the prosing homeliness of the style is really startling, when we compare it with the burning words in which Jane Eyre tells her sorrows and her wrongs. But Charlotte wrote poetry also; and many of those liftle volumes are filled with her early versifyings. No specimens of these are given; but one poem, written before she was seventeen, perhaps some time earlier, is inserted. This is painfully overshadowed by the gloom which seems to have constantly brooded over her, and is just such a poem as Cowper, in one of his deepest depressions, might have written. A wounded stag is described lying * pain-crushed and the shadowy fern,'—a fine expression this for a young girl,—and she mournfully conjectures what his dying thoughts might be. Did he, like man, feel the pang of friendlessness? or did pain and grief together strive in his mangled breast?'

• Did longing for affection lost,

Barb every deadly dart :---
Love unrepaid, and Faith betrayed,

Did these torment his heart!
No ! leave to man his proper doom !

These are the pangs that rise
Around the bed of state and gloom,

Where Adam's offspring dies!'


How stern, almost to misanthropy, is this; how terse and emphatic its point. But while Charlotte was thus actively preparingall unconsciously--for her future high literary standing, and during the six years that succeeded her sojourn at Cowan's Bridge, quietly, if not cheerfully, fulfilling with her sisters the routine of household duties, a deep sorrow was preparing, though slowly, for these affectionate girls. While the father had thought it necessary to send his timid little girls to school, his only boy, rude and wayward, had, with the exception of a few hours' daily instruction, been literally allowed to run about wild; and while the father took his solitary walks and solitary dinner, musing over Catholic Emancipation, or the lawlessness of Radicals, he was all unconscious—but culpably unconscious—that his son had already formed companionships with the low and the vicious, and was now, even in his boyhood, a welcome guest in the taproom of the Black Bull. It is necessary to note, in passing, Branwell Brontë's early tendencies and habits, for these were the commencement of that downward career, which eventually rendered even his premature death a relief to his family.

In 1831 Charlotte went for two years' schooling to the Miss Woolers, of Roe Head; and here, amid pleasant scenery and pleasant companions, and under a kind and judicious teacher, one of the brightest periods of her life was passed. Miss Wooler continued her friendship to Charlotte's dying day, and two of her schoolfellows became her affectionate friends and correspondents, as long as life lasted. During this time she was an indefatigable student, and pursued the various branches of instruction with all the energy which was so marked a characteristic of every member of the Brontë family. On Charlotte's return, she undertook the education of her younger sisters, keeping up meanwhile a thoroughly school-girl correspondence with her two young friends; thoroughly school-girl, we say, from its voluminousness, and amusing variety of topics. There are many criticisms on the books she is reading. In one of these the girl of sixteen, who had never seen even a large town, commends Scott's 'wonderful knowledge of human nature' in his character of Varney,' in Kenilworth ; in another, she congratulates her friend, in stilted phrase, on a visit to London, not without fear of the baleful influence so strange and wicked a place might have upon her. Indeed, as Mrs. Gaskell remarks, 'London, that great apocryphal city, seems to have been to her mind the very Vanity Fair of the Pilgrim's Progress. In another, she gives her friend a list of books for a course of English reading, and a very characteristic list it is. She selects in this, matter-of-fact works, in preference to purely imaginative, and when in her list of poets she mentions Her Letter to Southey; his Answer.


Shakespere, she advises her friend to omit his Comedies! That her discrimination in literary matters was singularly obtuse for a mind so gifted, is evidenced too by her classing Shakespere and Byron together, and gravely remarking, 'both these were great men, and their works are like themselves.'

In 1835, Charlotte returned to Miss Wooler as a teacher, and spent a very happy time, until sickness, which took the form of extreme nervous irritability, and which was intensified by religious melancholy, compelled her to meditate a change from the monotonous routine of school-teaching. It was then the idea of turning her literary tastes to account seems first to have occurred to her, and she wrote a letter to Southey, which he replied to with abundance of cold, formal advice. We cannot see what cause poor Charlotte had to be thankful for such a letter. If she did write poetry, she might truly say with Pope

• I left no calling for this idle trade,

No duty broke, no father disobeyed.' Indeed it was because she wished it to be not an idle trade' that she wrote. Southey, however, gravely tells her—and it was in

. 1837—that 'literature cannot be the business of a woman's life.' Why at that very moment had not Joanna Baillie, and Mary Mitford, and Harriet Martineau, and half a score beside, made it their business, and received both fame and emolument ? Were not inferior lady.novelists pocketing their hundreds, while one, far more gifted than them all, was toiling in a school for her board and sixteen pounds a year ? Southey seems always to have been terribly afraid that the literary market should be overstocked ; so he gently but solemnly denounces the unauthorized intrusion of women into his department, much in the way the wood-engravers did, and the watchmakers are now doing. Poor Charlotte ! 'resigned, she kissed the rod.' It had been better if some of the Jane Eyre flame had blazed out in her answer.

Sorrowfully, with the pang of disappointment added to her already many troubles, Charlotte went on; nothing but the calling of a governess seemed before her, and she, and her two sisters went forth to that 'white slavery. But while the delicate girls were toiling hard, the young visitant at the Black Bull was lounging about, right willing to be clothed and fed at their expense, and from all that appears to the contrary, the father was not unwilling that it should be so. Charlotte's first situation was detestable,-in a purse-proud family, bloated with the insolence of rapidly-acquired wealth ; thus another dark shade was added to the future novelist's still limited view of human life. On relinquishing this situation, Charlotte again turned to literature; NO. LI.


inward voices, mightier than that of the laureat, bade her go on; but this time she adopted prose, and began a very long story. It was never completed ; and when the three sisters met in the winter of 1810, their half-formed plan was that of a school of their own; but this was also soon laid aside, for in 1841 Charlotte again went out as governess. This time she entered a most worthy family, and characteristically she expresses her delight at meeting the society of cheerful faces and minds, and hearts not dug out of a lead mine or cut from a marble quarry. From that pleasant abode the illness of her youngest sister Anne summoned her, and soon after the project of her journey to Brussels with her next sister, Emily, was entertained. This, after many delays and disappointments, was, through the kindness of her aged aunt, who still continued a resident at Haworth parsonage, finally accomplished, and in February, 1842, Mr. Brontë left bis two daughters at Madame Héger's pensionnat, Rue d'Isabelle, Brussels.

What a crowd of stirring images would arise in the mind of a young person, only moderately versed in continental history, from the mere name of the street, and how many more from its earlier historical associations. But the two sad exiles, who never had learned the pleasant art-if it be not a gift, rather-of turning from the dull and mournful present, to the bright and glowing past, sat moodily side by side in the great wainscoted room, determined to achieve the purpose for which they came, but equally determined to maintain a cold isolation from every one around them. They found a wise and a kind instructor in Mons. Héger, and when Charlotte finally left him, it was with the pain of parting from an old and kind friend. Emily had quitted Brussels earlier, upon the news of Miss Branwell's death ; but a severe accumulation of anxieties hastened Charlotte's return in 1844. Her father's eyes were rapidly failing, and it was feared blindness might follow; the health of her youngest sister Anne was very delicate; and, worse than all, sad intimations had been given her of the profligate course her brother was pursuing. No wonder that on her return she so sadly wrote, “something in 'me that used to be enthusiasm is tamed down and broken. 'Haworth seems such a lonely, quiet spot, buried away from the 'world. I no longer regard myself as young—indeed, I shall

soon be eight-and-twenty; and it seems as if I ought to be working and braving the rough realities of the world as other people do. But,' she adds, it is my duty to restrain this feeling at present,' and so she calmly sat down with her sisters to make shirts, and to talk over their plan of opening a school.

Charlotte and Emily were now thorough French scholars, they were tolerable proficients in German, and Emily to this added music;


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She projects a School-Family Trouble. 227 so they wrote to their friends, had cards printed, and waited four long months for pupils. Autumn came, and then the chance of success seemed very small, for the parsonage, dull even during the summer, must now indeed have looked too bleak and desolate for the abode of young children, as Charlotte sadly remarks ; but while the anxious sisters were striving, though almost in vain, to bear up under the burthen of that "hope deferred which maketh the heart sick,' all chance of establishing a school was cut off by the return of their wretched brother, a maudlin drunkard, who utterly refused to do aught for his living, and who seems to have claimed, as his right, to be clothed and fed, and supplied with money by his much-enduring sisters. As Mrs. Gaskell has publicly retracted the Brontë version of this distressing story, little need now be said ; we cannot however but remark that the statements of a confirmed drunkard should from the first have been received with distrust, and that a man who could acknowledge to his own sisters such gross iniquity, ought to have been viewed as unworthy of belief, even by them. Indeed Branwell Brontë, from the first notice we have of him, appears to have been anything but a hopeful, well-conducted lad; even, therefore, were the story true, we could scarcely join in the fierce denunciations poured upon the mature and wicked woman' who had tempted 'the old man's boy'—a boy who had reached the tolerably mature age of twenty-seven!—for in these denunciations both the landlord of the Black Bull, who enticed, and the father who so fearfully neglected him, certainly deserve to share. We must add that we lament the apology for these shocking statements has not been more regretful; for what has been once said, is never altogether forgotten.

In the midst of their troubles, in the utter disappointment of their hopes of a school, a faint hope arose once more, that literature might afford these anxious, toiling sisters some aid. All three had written poetry, and it was at length determined that a small collection of poems should be published, under the joint pseudonyms, now so well known, of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The story of how the little volume was printed, and published, and fell almost still-born from the press, is meekly told by Charlotte in her letters here, and in that touching introduction to her sister's novels. But she had scarcely time to think of literary disappointment, for the brother was still a worthless incumbrance at home, and her father was now stricken with total blindness. Few women have suffered the accumulated trials of Charlotte Brontë; but how very few, with that stern sense of duty, that unselfish regard for others. And yet very sad is it to find her-in so far as her letters reveal her feelings-receiving no

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