Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

consolation from those bright hopes which many, tried like her, have been able to realize; destitute of 'the consciousness that He, 'whose presence makes heaven, is with us now, transforming even

here, our dark chamber into one of the many mansions;'-—but trying to school her mind to suffering, by viewing it as the common lot, and seeking a vague comfort in the thought that

. There's something in the world amiss,

To be unravelled by-and-by.' In the autumn of 1846 she went with her father to Manchester, where the late Mr. Wilson operated upon his eyes with eventual success, and while there, doubtless thankful for an occupation that could relieve her mind by turning it forcibly away from her family troubles, she began Jane Eyre. It was under the pressure of a double literary disappointment that this fine work was meditated. Hoping to succeed better in prose than in poetry, each of the three sisters had written a one-volume novel; and Charlotte's tale, The Professor, after going a weary round among the publishers, had been returned upon her hands on the very day when her father submitted to his operation. But she had the heart of Robert Bruce within her; again she sent her manuscript in search of a more favourable reception, and ' among those grey, 'weary, uniform streets, where all faces save those of her kind 'doctor, were strange and untouched with sunlight to her, there ' and then did this brave genius begin Jane Eyre.' In September father and daughter returned from Manchester; and the winter came on, and the spring slowly drew nigh, and still The Professor was passing from one publisher to another ; but still Jane Eyre, though slowly, was making progress. At length, as a forlorn hope, the so-often rejected Professor was despatched to Smith and Elder's, and ere long there came a letter which 'Currer

Bell, Esq., opened in the dreary anticipation of finding two hard, ‘hopeless lines, intimating that Messrs. Smith and Elder were not 'inclined to publish the MS. But there was, instead, a lettera letter of two pages,-a letter of encouragement, though of refusal, and a hint that some other work might meet acceptance. How heartily must the almost finished 'three-volume novel' now have been proceeded with; how anxiously must it have been packed up; and, with how many hopes which she scarcely dared to cherish, with how many fears which she could not subdue, must that so-often disappointed writer have carried it to the small station-house,' and left it to its fate. This was at the end of August, and within six weeks Jane Eyre was accepted, printed, and published !

From this time the literary career of Charlotte Brontë was Her Successher Family Bereavements. 229 prosperous even beyond her most sanguine hopes. A second edition was called for in January, and the unknown writer, who a twelvemonth before was scarcely honoured with an answer from the booksellers, was the great puzzle, of the literary coteries of Christmas, 1847-48. "The whole reading world of England was in a ferment to discover the unknown author;' and writers whom Charlotte Brontë had humbly admired afar off, now proffered congratulation and applause in lengthened epistles to * Currer Bell. Would that Southey had been living to find out that literature could be a woman's business, and aid her in surrounding the old age' of her father with many an unlooked-for comfort, and in soothing the last days of her sisters with blameless luxuries, which only by this means she could obtain. But alas! while her literary career was thus bright, even deeper shadows were brooding over her home. Her wretched brother, worn out by his vices, died at the close of September. His death must have been a relief; but ere three months passed, she was called to part from her sister Emily, who died on the 19th of December; and the sole surviving sister, 'the darling little one, Anne, died at Scarborough just five months after! Poor Charlotte ! the sole survivor now of those six little ones who, grave beyond their years, had sadly wandered hand in hand together

. 'Fame's steep ascent she had found 'hard to climb, and now, at the summit, there were no sweet sister-voices to cheer her. Little did those who censured so bitterly the passionate ' unrest of Jane Eyre, and the gloom so painful of some portions of Shirley, know amid what stern strife of conflicting feelings the one was written, amid what blank household desolation the other.

Still, after a brief interval, Charlotte found, like many other writers, amidst bereavement and sorrow, that there is balm, even actual consolation, in literary composition. The 'faculty of imagination, she writes, 'lifted me when I was sink‘ing three months ago ; its active exercise has kept my head 'above water ever since; its results cheer me now, for I feel I

have been enabled to give pleasure to others.' How, in the very face of this passage, could wiseacres have found out that Charlotte Brontë's gifted mind was a fatal dowry? And other benefits and alleviations of her desolate lot did her high literary standing obtain for her. Kind and sympathizing friends, who but for her works would never have known the obscure country clergyman's daughter, now pressed forward with thoughtful offers of needed recreation; and invitations to family circles, where all that was interesting in our great metropolis, or soothing in beautiful rural scenery, would be combined with the pleasant social intercourse of refined and gifted minds. Charlotte availed herself, although but sparingly, of these friendly invitations, and made more than one rather lengthened sojourn in London. She visited the Lakes, and took a short look at Edinburgh too, and made many an acquaintance-friendship, we might indeed say--with those whom for years she had admired from afar. Her letters during these visits are to us very suggestive of her peculiar intellectual character. With great mental power, her faculty of association seems remarkably limited, and her sense of beauty far less keen and vivid than might have been expected. The magnificent scenery of the Lakes, we should have thought, would have burst upon the sight of the dweller beside desolate moors as a vision of glory almost too dazzling for the 'aching sight; but, though she speaks of these grand hills and sweet dales,' it is in measured phrase-the expression of a well-pleased tourist, not the enthusiasm of the poet. Her limited powers of association are most singularly displayed in her estimate of the Great Exhibition of 1851. This magnificent and marvellous collection of every work wrought by human industry-this exhibition, that astonished even those most accustomed to displays of gorgeous and suggestive material beauty, she describes as a marvellous, stir‘ring, bewildering sight—a mixture of a genii palace and a mighty 'bazaar; but it is not much in my way.' What other writer, equally gifted, would so languidly, almost so contemptuously, have turned from that “genii palace ?' And even after five visits, she says, “I never was able to get up any raptures on the 'subject; after all, its wonders appeal too exclusively to the eye,

and rarely touch the heart or head. Exclusively to the eye ! did the very canoe in which the Red Indian paddled, the very jewels worn by the eastern princess in her zenàna, the very bournous that wrapped the Arab ranger, the arms, the utensils, the products of far-off lands,—did they but appeal 'exclusively to the eye ?'

Poor Charlotte ! had her childish imagination been fed upon its appropriate food instead of newspapers, she would have found surpassing interest in everything that enlarged her views of the present, or vivified her dreams of the past. What a noble writer would she have been-how much happier, too-had her religious and intellectual training been more wisely superintended.

Little more remains to be added to the biography of the authoress of Jane Eyre. In 1853 Villette appeared it was re'ceived with acclamation;' and in the June of the following year she married Mr. Nicholls; a gentleman who had been curate to her father, and who had loved and served for her' even longer than Jacob's seven years for Rachel. ‘From henceforth,' says her delightful biographer, “We, her loving friends, standing outside, caught occasional glimpses Her Brief Happinessher Death.

231 of brightness, and pleasant, peaceful murmurs of sound, telling of the gladness within ; and we looked at each other, and gently said, “After a hard and long struggle--after many cares, and many bitter sorrowsshe is tasting happiness now. We thought of the slight astringencies of her character, and how they would turn to full ripe sweetness in that calm sunshine of domestic peace. We remembered her trials, and were glad in the idea that God had seen fit to wipe away the tears from her eyes. Those who saw her, saw an outward change in her look, telling of inward things. And we thought, and we hoped, and we prophesied, in our great love and reverence.

But God's ways are not, as our ways.'

The work of this gifted woman, was alas ! now ended. The following six months were passed in calm happiness, grateful indeed to that spirit, so long, so severely tossed and tried ; and amid the pleasant alternation of visits to cherished friends and the quiet routine of parochial and home duties her days were filled up so completely, that she found no time for literary occupation, --scarcely any for correspondence with her oldest friends.

Early in 1855 she took a severe cold; this was ere long succeeded by nausea, and distressing low fever, followed by delirium, from which she was only aroused to find herself dying. And then on Saturday morning, March 31st, 'the solemn tolling of Haworth church bell' told that Charlotte Brontë's brief period of wedded happiness was ended, and she was laid to rest beside her sisters, the last remaining child of that numerous family, those six little motherless children, having scarcely completed her 39th year.

OUR EPILOGUE

ON

AFFAIRS.

LORD PALMERSTON has declared, as we expected, that his ' progressive improvement policy embraces a Reform Bill. What this bill is to be is a secret of the future. We trust it will not be such an extension of the franchise as may give us a worse representation in the place of a better.

The Premier has superseded Lord John Russell on the Israelite question. He will hardly be less forecasting on some other matters.

Thirty years ago the association of the name of Manchester was with the terror of the sabred radicals at Peterloo. Manchester is now one of the most loyal of cities—a favourite with Royalty, and is doing more than any city in the world to connect the beauties of art with the utilities of science. Pleasant, too, is it to know, that this local progress is not simply local. It has been all but universal.

But Manchester still has its cry of distress: the cry is for more cotton. Our imports of that material since 1830 have increased nearly fourfold. For eighty per cent. of this supply we depend on the slave labour of the United States. This last fact is not an agreeable one in any view of it. It is high time that some earnest effort should be made to ascertain whether our dependence may not be more distributed, whether the supply may not be made more adequate, and, above all, whether the commodity may not be obtained at a less moral cost.

« ÖncekiDevam »