The Life of Charlotte Bronte - Volume 1
by Elizabeth Gaskell
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"Believe me, though I was born in April, the month of cloud and sunshine, I am not changeful. My spirits are unequal, and sometimes I speak vehemently, and sometimes I say nothing at all; but I have a steady regard for you, and if you will let the cloud and shower pass by, be sure the sun is always behind, obscured, but still existing."

At Christmas she left her situation, after a parting with her employers which seems to have affected and touched her greatly. "They only made too much of me," was her remark, after leaving this family; "I did not deserve it."

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All four children hoped to meet together at their father's house this December. Branwell expected to have a short leave of absence from his employment as a clerk on the Leeds and Manchester Railway, in which he had been engaged for five months. Anne arrived before Christmas-day. She had rendered herself so valuable in her difficult situation, that her employers vehemently urged her to return, although she had announced her resolution to leave them; partly on account of the harsh treatment she had received, and partly because her stay at home, during her sisters' absence in Belgium, seemed desirable, when the age of the three remaining inhabitants of the parsonage was taken into consideration.

After some correspondence and much talking over plans at home, it seemed better, in consequence of letters which they received from Brussels giving a discouraging account of the schools there, that Charlotte and Emily should go to an institution at Lille, in the north of France, which was highly recommended by Baptist Noel, and other clergymen. Indeed, at the end of January, it was arranged that they were to set off for this place in three weeks, under the escort of a French lady, then visiting in London. The terms were 50l. each pupil, for board and French alone, but a separate room was to be allowed for this sum; without this indulgence, it was lower. Charlotte writes:—

"January 20th, 1842.

"I consider it kind in aunt to consent to an extra sum for a separate room. We shall find it a great privilege in many ways. I regret the change from Brussels to Lille on many accounts, chiefly that I shall not see Martha. Mary has been indefatigably kind in providing me with information. She has grudged no labour, and scarcely any expense, to that end. Mary's price is above rubies. I have, in fact, two friends—you and her—staunch and true, in whose faith and sincerity I have as strong a belief as I have in the Bible. I have bothered you both—you especially; but you always get the tongs and heap coals of fire upon my head. I have had letters to write lately to Brussels, to Lille, and to London. I have lots of chemises, nightgowns, pocket- handkerchiefs, and pockets to make; besides clothes to repair. I have been, every week since I came home, expecting to see Branwell, and he has never been able to get over yet. We fully expect him, however, next Saturday. Under these circumstances how can I go visiting? You tantalize me to death with talking of conversations by the fireside. Depend upon it, we are not to have any such for many a long month to come. I get an interesting impression of old age upon my face; and when you see me next I shall certainly wear caps and spectacles."


I am not aware of all the circumstances which led to the relinquishment of the Lille plan. Brussels had had from the first a strong attraction for Charlotte; and the idea of going there, in preference to any other place, had only been given up in consequence of the information received of the second-rate character of its schools. In one of her letters reference has been made to Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the chaplain of the British Embassy. At the request of his brother—a clergyman, living not many miles from Haworth, and an acquaintance of Mr. Bronte's—she made much inquiry, and at length, after some discouragement in her search, heard of a school which seemed in every respect desirable. There was an English lady who had long lived in the Orleans family, amidst the various fluctuations of their fortunes, and who, when the Princess Louise was married to King Leopold, accompanied her to Brussels, in the capacity of reader. This lady's granddaughter was receiving her education at the pensionnat of Madame Heger; and so satisfied was the grandmother with the kind of instruction given, that she named the establishment, with high encomiums, to Mrs. Jerkins; and, in consequence, it was decided that, if the terms suited, Miss Bronte and Emily should proceed thither. M. Heger informs me that, on receipt of a letter from Charlotte, making very particular inquiries as to the possible amount of what are usually termed "extras," he and his wife were so much struck by the simple earnest tone of the letter, that they said to each other:—"These are the daughters of an English pastor, of moderate means, anxious to learn with an ulterior view of instructing others, and to whom the risk of additional expense is of great consequence. Let us name a specific sum, within which all expenses shall be included."

This was accordingly done; the agreement was concluded, and the Brontes prepared to leave their native county for the first time, if we except the melancholy and memorable residence at Cowan Bridge. Mr. Bronte determined to accompany his daughters. Mary and her brother, who were experienced in foreign travelling, were also of the party. Charlotte first saw London in the day or two they now stopped there; and, from an expression in one of her subsequent letters, they all, I believe, stayed at the Chapter Coffee House, Paternoster Row—a strange, old-fashioned tavern, of which I shall have more to say hereafter.

Mary's account of their journey is thus given.

"In passing through London, she seemed to think our business was and ought to be, to see all the pictures and statues we could. She knew the artists, and know where other productions of theirs were to be found. I don't remember what we saw except St. Paul's. Emily was like her in these habits of mind, but certainly never took her opinion, but always had one to offer . . . I don't know what Charlotte thought of Brussels. We arrived in the dark, and went next morning to our respective schools to see them. We were, of course, much preoccupied, and our prospects gloomy. Charlotte used to like the country round Brussels. 'At the top of every hill you see something.' She took, long solitary walks on the occasional holidays."

Mr. Bronte took his daughters to the Rue d'Isabelle, Brussels; remained one night at Mr. Jenkins'; and straight returned to his wild Yorkshire village.

What a contrast to that must the Belgian capital have presented to those two young women thus left behind! Suffering acutely from every strange and unaccustomed contact—far away from their beloved home, and the dear moors beyond—their indomitable will was their great support. Charlotte's own words, with regard to Emily, are:—

"After the age of twenty, having meantime studied alone with diligence and perseverance, she went with me to an establishment on the continent. The same suffering and conflict ensued, heightened by the strong recoil of her upright heretic and English spirit from the gentle Jesuitry of the foreign and Romish system. Once more she seemed sinking, but this time she rallied through the mere force of resolution: with inward remorse and shame she looked back on her former failure, and resolved to conquer, but the victory cost her dear. She was never happy till she carried her hard-won knowledge back to the remote English village, the old parsonage-house, and desolate Yorkshire hills."

They wanted learning. They came for learning. They would learn. Where they had a distinct purpose to be achieved in intercourse with their fellows, they forgot themselves; at all other times they were miserably shy. Mrs. Jenkins told me that she used to ask them to spend Sundays and holidays with her, until she found that they felt more pain than pleasure from such visits. Emily hardly ever uttered more than a monosyllable. Charlotte was sometimes excited sufficiently to speak eloquently and well—on certain subjects; but before her tongue was thus loosened, she had a habit of gradually wheeling round on her chair, so as almost to conceal her face from the person to whom she was speaking.

And yet there was much in Brussels to strike a responsive chord in her powerful imagination. At length she was seeing somewhat of that grand old world of which she had dreamed. As the gay crowds passed by her, so had gay crowds paced those streets for centuries, in all their varying costumes. Every spot told an historic tale, extending back into the fabulous ages when Jan and Jannika, the aboriginal giant and giantess, looked over the wall, forty feet high, of what is now the Rue Villa Hermosa, and peered down upon the new settlers who were to turn them out of the country in which they had lived since the deluge. The great solemn Cathedral of St. Gudule, the religious paintings, the striking forms and ceremonies of the Romish Church—all made a deep impression on the girls, fresh from the bare walls and simple worship of Haworth Church. And then they were indignant with themselves for having been susceptible of this impression, and their stout Protestant hearts arrayed themselves against the false Duessa that had thus imposed upon them.

The very building they occupied as pupils, in Madame Heger's pensionnat, had its own ghostly train of splendid associations, marching for ever, in shadowy procession, through and through the ancient rooms, and shaded alleys of the gardens. From the splendour of to-day in the Rue Royale, if you turn aside, near the statue of the General Beliard, you look down four flights of broad stone steps upon the Rue d'Isabelle. The chimneys of the houses in it are below your feet. Opposite to the lowest flight of steps, there is a large old mansion facing you, with a spacious walled garden behind—and to the right of it. In front of this garden, on the same side as the mansion, and with great boughs of trees sweeping over their lowly roofs, is a row of small, picturesque, old-fashioned cottages, not unlike, in degree and uniformity, to the almshouses so often seen in an English country town. The Rue d'Isabelle looks as though it had been untouched by the innovations of the builder for the last three centuries; and yet any one might drop a stone into it from the back windows of the grand modern hotels in the Rue Royale, built and furnished in the newest Parisian fashion.

In the thirteenth century, the Rue d'Isabelle was called the Fosse-aux- Chiens; and the kennels for the ducal hounds occupied the place where Madame Heger's pensionnat now stands. A hospital (in the ancient large meaning of the word) succeeded to the kennel. The houseless and the poor, perhaps the leprous, were received, by the brethren of a religious order, in a building on this sheltered site; and what had been a fosse for defence, was filled up with herb-gardens and orchards for upwards of a hundred years. Then came the aristocratic guild of the cross-bow men—that company the members whereof were required to prove their noble descent—untainted for so many generations, before they could be admitted into the guild; and, being admitted, were required to swear a solemn oath, that no other pastime or exercise should take up any part of their leisure, the whole of which was to be devoted to the practice of the noble art of shooting with the cross-bow. Once a year a grand match was held, under the patronage of some saint, to whose church-steeple was affixed the bird, or semblance of a bird, to be hit by the victor. {5} The conqueror in the game was Roi des Arbaletriers for the coming year, and received a jewelled decoration accordingly, which he was entitled to wear for twelve months; after which he restored it to the guild, to be again striven for. The family of him who died during the year that he was king, were bound to present the decoration to the church of the patron saint of the guild, and to furnish a similar prize to be contended for afresh. These noble cross-bow men of the middle ages formed a sort of armed guard to the powers in existence, and almost invariably took the aristocratic, in preference to the democratic side, in the numerous civil dissensions of the Flemish towns. Hence they were protected by the authorities, and easily obtained favourable and sheltered sites for their exercise-ground. And thus they came to occupy the old fosse, and took possession of the great orchard of the hospital, lying tranquil and sunny in the hollow below the rampart.

But, in the sixteenth century, it became necessary to construct a street through the exercise-ground of the "Arbaletriers du Grand Serment," and, after much delay, the company were induced by the beloved Infanta Isabella to give up the requisite plot of ground. In recompense for this, Isabella—who herself was a member of the guild, and had even shot down the bird, and been queen in 1615—made many presents to the arbaletriers; and, in return, the grateful city, which had long wanted a nearer road to St. Gudule, but been baffled by the noble archers, called the street after her name. She, as a sort of indemnification to the arbaletriers, caused a "great mansion" to be built for their accommodation in the new Rue d'Isabelle. This mansion was placed in front of their exercise-ground, and was of a square shape. On a remote part of the walls, may still be read—


In that mansion were held all the splendid feasts of the Grand Serment des Arbaletriers. The master-archer lived there constantly, in order to be ever at hand to render his services to the guild. The great saloon was also used for the court balls and festivals, when the archers were not admitted. The Infanta caused other and smaller houses to be built in her new street, to serve as residences for her "garde noble;" and for her "garde bourgeoise," a small habitation each, some of which still remain, to remind us of English almshouses. The "great mansion," with its quadrangular form; the spacious saloon—once used for the archducal balls, where the dark, grave Spaniards mixed with the blond nobility of Brabant and Flanders—now a schoolroom for Belgian girls; the cross-bow men's archery-ground—all are there—the pensionnat of Madame Heger.

This lady was assisted in the work of instruction by her husband—a kindly, wise, good, and religious man—whose acquaintance I am glad to have made, and who has furnished me with some interesting details, from his wife's recollections and his own, of the two Miss Brontes during their residence in Brussels. He had the better opportunities of watching them, from his giving lessons in the French language and literature in the school. A short extract from a letter, written to me by a French lady resident in Brussels, and well qualified to judge, will help to show the estimation in which he is held.

"Je ne connais pas personnellement M. Heger, mais je sais qu'il est peu de caracteres aussi nobles, aussi admirables que le sien. Il est un des membres les plus zeles de cette Societe de S. Vincent de Paul dont je t'ai deja parle, et ne se contente pas de servir les pauvres et les malades, mais leur consacre encore les soirees. Apres des journees absorbees tout entieres par les devoirs que sa place lui impose, il reunit les pauvres, les ouvriers, leur donne des cours gratuits, et trouve encore le moyen de les amuser en les instruisant. Ce devouement te dira assez que M. Heger est profondement et ouvertement religieux. Il a des manieres franches et avenantes; il se fait aimer de tous ceux qui l'approchent, et surtout des enfants. Il a la parole facile, et possde a un haut degre l'eloquence du bon sens et du coeur. Il n'est point auteur. Homme de zele et de conscience, il vient de se demettre des fonctions elevees et lucratives qu'il exercait a l'Athenee, celles de Prefet des Etudes, parce qu'il ne peut y realiser le bien qu'il avait espere, introduire l'enseignement religieux dans le programme des etudes. J'ai vu une fois Madame Heger, qui a quelque chose de froid et de compasse dans son maintien, et qui previent peu en sa faveur. Je la crois pourtant aimee et appreciee par ses eleves."

There were from eighty to a hundred pupils in the pensionnat, when Charlotte and Emily Bronte entered in February 1842.

M. Heger's account is that they knew nothing of French. I suspect they knew as much (or as little), for all conversational purposes, as any English girls do, who have never been abroad, and have only learnt the idioms and pronunciation from an Englishwoman. The two sisters clung together, and kept apart from the herd of happy, boisterous, well-befriended Belgian girls, who, in their turn, thought the new English pupils wild and scared-looking, with strange, odd, insular ideas about dress; for Emily had taken a fancy to the fashion, ugly and preposterous even during its reign, of gigot sleves, and persisted in wearing them long after they were "gone out." Her petticoats, too, had not a curve or a wave in them, but hung down straight and long, clinging to her lank figure. The sisters spoke to no one but from necessity. They were too full of earnest thought, and of the exile's sick yearning, to be ready for careless conversation or merry game. M. Heger, who had done little but observe, during the few first weeks of their residence in the Rue d'Isabelle, perceived that with their unusual characters, and extraordinary talents, a different mode must be adopted from that in which he generally taught French to English girls. He seems to have rated Emily's genius as something even higher than Charlotte's; and her estimation of their relative powers was the same. Emily had a head for logic, and a capability of argument, unusual in a man, and rare indeed in a woman, according to M. Heger. Impairing the force of this gift, was a stubborn tenacity of will, which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned. "She should have been a man—a great navigator," said M. Heger in speaking of her. "Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty; never have given way but with life." And yet, moreover, her faculty of imagination was such that, if she had written a history, her view of scenes and characters would have been so vivid, and so powerfully expressed, and supported by such a show of argument, that it would have dominated over the reader, whatever might have been his previous opinions, or his cooler perceptions of its truth. But she appeared egotistical and exacting compared to Charlotte, who was always unselfish (this is M. Heger's testimony); and in the anxiety of the elder to make her younger sister contented she allowed her to exercise a kind of unconscious tyranny over her.

After consulting with his wife, M. Heger told them that he meant to dispense with the old method of grounding in grammar, vocabulary, &c., and to proceed on a new plan—something similar to what he had occasionally adopted with the elder among his French and Belgian pupils. He proposed to read to them some of the master-pieces of the most celebrated French authors (such as Casimir de la Vigne's poem on the "Death of Joan of Arc," parts of Bossuet, the admirable translation of the noble letter of St. Ignatius to the Roman Christians in the "Bibliotheque Choisie des Peres de l'Eglise," &c.), and after having thus impressed the complete effect of the whole, to analyse the parts with them, pointing out in what such or such an author excelled, and where were the blemishes. He believed that he had to do with pupils capable, from their ready sympathy with the intellectual, the refined, the polished, or the noble, of catching the echo of a style, and so reproducing their own thoughts in a somewhat similar manner.

After explaining his plan to them, he awaited their reply. Emily spoke first; and said that she saw no good to be derived from it; and that, by adopting it, they should lose all originality of thought and expression. She would have entered into an argument on the subject, but for this, M. Heger had no time. Charlotte then spoke; she also doubted the success of the plan; but she would follow out M. Heger's advice, because she was bound to obey him while she was his pupil. Before speaking of the results, it may be desirable to give an extract from one of her letters, which shows some of her first impressions of her new life.

"Brussels, 1842 (May?).

"I was twenty-six years old a week or two since; and at this ripe time of life I am a school-girl, and, on the whole, very happy in that capacity. It felt very strange at first to submit to authority instead of exercising it—to obey orders instead of giving them; but I like that state of things. I returned to it with the same avidity that a cow, that has long been kept on dry hay, returns to fresh grass. Don't laugh at my simile. It is natural to me to submit, and very unnatural to command.

"This is a large school, in which there are about forty externes, or day pupils, and twelve pensionnaires, or boarders. Madame Heger, the head, is a lady of precisely the same cast of mind, degree of cultivation, and quality of intellect as Miss —-. I think the severe points are a little softened, because she has not been disappointed, and consequently soured. In a word, she is a married instead of a maiden lady. There are three teachers in the school—Mademoiselle Blanche, Mademoiselle Sophie, and Mademoiselle Marie. The two first have no particular character. One is an old maid, and the other will be one. Mademoiselle Marie is talented and original, but of repulsive and arbitrary manners, which have made the whole school, except myself and Emily, her bitter enemies. No less than seven masters attend, to teach the different branches of education—French, Drawing, Music, Singing, Writing, Arithmetic, and German. All in the house are Catholics except ourselves, one other girl, and the gouvernante of Madame's children, an Englishwoman, in rank something between a lady's maid and a nursery governess. The difference in country and religion makes a broad line of demarcation between us and all the rest. We are completely isolated in the midst of numbers. Yet I think I am never unhappy; my present life is so delightful, so congenial to my own nature, compared to that of a governess. My time, constantly occupied, passes too rapidly. Hitherto both Emily and I have had good health, and therefore we have been able to work well. There is one individual of whom I have not yet spoken—M. Heger, the husband of Madame. He is professor of rhetoric, a man of power as to mind, but very choleric and irritable in temperament. He is very angry with me just at present, because I have written a translation which he chose to stigmatize as 'peu correct.' He did not tell me so, but wrote the word on the margin of my book, and asked, in brief stern phrase, how it happened that my compositions were always better than my translations? adding that the thing seemed to him inexplicable. The fact is, some weeks ago, in a high-flown humour, he forbade me to use either dictionary or grammar in translating the most difficult English compositions into French. This makes the task rather arduous, and compels me every now and then to introduce an English word, which nearly plucks the eyes out of his head when he sees it. Emily and he don't draw well together at all. Emily works like a horse, and she has had great difficulties to contend with—far greater than I have had. Indeed, those who come to a French school for instruction ought previously to have acquired a considerable knowledge of the French language, otherwise they will lose a great deal of time, for the course of instruction is adapted to natives and not to foreigners; and in these large establishments they will not change their ordinary course for one or two strangers. The few private lessons that M. Heger has vouchsafed to give us, are, I suppose, to be considered a great favour; and I can perceive they have already excited much spite and jealousy in the school.

"You will abuse this letter for being short and dreary, and there are a hundred things which I want to tell you, but I have not time. Brussels is a beautiful city. The Belgians hate the English. Their external morality is more rigid than ours. To lace the stays without a handkerchief on the neck is considered a disgusting piece of indelicacy."

The passage in this letter where M. Heger is represented as prohibiting the use of dictionary or grammar, refers, I imagine, to the time I have mentioned, when he determined to adopt a new method of instruction in the French language, of which they were to catch the spirit and rhythm rather from the ear and the heart, as its noblest accents fell upon them, than by over-careful and anxious study of its grammatical rules. It seems to me a daring experiment on the part of their teacher; but, doubtless, he knew his ground; and that it answered is evident in the composition of some of Charlotte's devoirs, written about this time. I am tempted, in illustration of this season of mental culture, to recur to a conversation which I had with M. Heger on the manner in which he formed his pupils' style, and to give a proof of his success, by copying a devoir of Charlotte's with his remarks upon it.

He told me that one day this summer (when the Brontes had been for about four months receiving instruction from him) he read to them Victor Hugo's celebrated portrait of Mirabeau, "mais, dans ma lecon je me bornais a ce qui concerne Mirabeau orateur. C'est apres l'analyse de ce morceau, considere surtout du point de vue du fond, de la disposition de ce qu'on pourrait appeler la charpente qu'ont ete faits les deux portraits que je vous donne." He went on to say that he had pointed out to them the fault in Victor Hugo's style as being exaggeration in conception, and, at the same time, he had made them notice the extreme beauty of his "nuances" of expression. They were then dismissed to choose the subject of a similar kind of portrait. This selection M. Heger always left to them; for "it is necessary," he observed, "before sitting down to write on a subject, to have thoughts and feelings about it. I cannot tell on what subject your heart and mind have been excited. I must leave that to you." The marginal comments, I need hardly say, are M. Heger's; the words in italics are Charlotte's, for which he substitutes a better form of expression, which is placed between brackets. {6}


"Le 31 Juillet, 1842.


"De temps en temps, il parait sur la terre des hommes destines a etre les instruments [predestines] {Pourquoi cette suppression?} de grands changements moraux ou politiques. Quelquefois c'est un conquerant, un Alexandre ou un Attila, qui passe comme un ouragan, et purifie l'atmosphere moral, comme l'orage purifie l'atmosphere physique; quelquefois, c'est un revolutionnaire, un Cromwell, ou un Robespierre, qui fait expier par un roi {les fautes et} les vices de toute une dynastie; quelquefois c'est un enthousiaste religieux comme Mahomet, ou Pierre l'Hermite, qui, avec le seul levier de la pensee, souleve des nations entieres, les deracine et les transplante dans des climats nouveaux, peuplant l'Asie avec les habitants de l'Europe. Pierre l'Hermite etait gentilhomme de Picardie, en France, {Invtile, quand vous ecrivez er francais} pourquoi donc n'a-t-il passe sa vie comma les autres gentilhommes, ses contemporains, ont passe la leur, a table, a la chasse, dans son lit, sans s'inquieter de Saladin, ou de ses Sarrasins? N'est-ce pas, parce qu'il y a dans certaines natures, une ardour [un foyer d'activite] indomptable qui ne leur permet pas de rester inactives, qui les force a se remuer afin d'exercer les facultes puissantes, qui meme en dormant sont pretes, comme Sampson, a briser les noeuds qui les retiennent?

{Vous avez commence a parler de Pierre: vous etes entree dans le sujet: marchez au but.}

"Pierre prit la profession des armes; si son ardeur avait ete de cette espece [s'il n'avait eu que cette ardeur vulgaire] qui provient d'une robuste sante, il aurait [c'eut] ete un brave militaire, et rien de plus; mais son ardeur etait celle de l'ame, sa flamme etait pure et elle s'elevait vers le ciel.

"Sans doute [Il est vrai que] la jeunesse de Pierre etait [fet] troublee par passions orageuses; les natures puissantes sont extremes en tout, elles ne connaissent la tiedeur ni dans le bien, ni dans le mal; Pierre donc chercha d'abord avidement la gloire qui se fletrit et les plaisirs qui trompent, mais il fit bientot la decouverte [bientot il s'apercut] que ce qu'il poursuivait n'etait qe'une illusion a laquelle il ne pourrait jamais atteindre; {Vnutile, quand vous avez dit illusion} il retourna donc sur ses pas, il recommenca le voyage de la vie, mais cette fois il evita le chemin spacieux qui mene a la perdition et il prit le chemin etroit qui mene a la vie; puisque [comme] le trajet etait long et difficile il jeta la casque et les armes du soldat, et se vetit de l'habit simple du moine. A la vie militaire succeda la vie monastique, car les extremes se touchent, et chez l'homme sincere la sincerite du repentir amene [necessairement a la suite] avec lui la rigueur de la penitence. [Voila donc Pierre devenu moine!]

"Mais Pierre [il] avait en lui un principe qui l'empechait de rester long-temps inactif, ses idees, sur quel sujet qu'il soit [que ce fut] ne pouvaient pas etre bornees; il ne lui suffisait pas que lui- meme fut religieux, que lui-meme fut convaincu de la realite de Christianisme (sic), il fallait que toute l'Europe, que toute l'Asie, partageat sa conviction et professat la croyance de la Croix. La Piete [fervente] elevee par la Genie, nourrie par la Solitude, fit naitre une espece d'inspiration [exalta son ame jusqu'a l'inspiration] dans son ame, et lorsqu'il quitta sa cellule et reparut dans le monde, il portait comme Moise l'empreinte de la Divinite sur son front, et tout [tous] reconnurent en lui la veritable apotre de la Croix.

"Mahomet n'avait jamais remue les molles nations de l'Orient comme alors Pierre remua les peuples austeres de l'Occident; il fallait que cette eloquence fut d'une force presque miraculeuse qui pouvait [presqu'elle] persuader [ait] aux rois de vendre leurs royaumes afin de procurer [pour avoir] des armes et des soldats pour aider [a offrir] a Pierre dans la guerre sainte qu'il voulait livrer aux infideles. La puissance de Pierre [l'Hermite] n'etait nullement une puissance physique, car la nature, ou pour mieux dire, Dieu est impartial dans la distribution de ses dons; il accorde a l'un de ses enfants la grace, la beaute, les perfections corporelles, a l'autre l'esprit, la grandeur morale. Pierre donc etait un homme petit, d'une physionomie peu agreable; mais il avait ce courage, cette constance, cet enthousiasme, cette energie de sentiment qui ecrase toute opposition, et qui fait que la volonte d'un seul homme devient la loi de toute une nation. Pour se former une juste idee de l'influence qu'exerca cet homme sur les caracteres [choses] et les idees de son temps, il faut se le representer au milieu de l'armee des croisees dans son double role de prophete et de guerrier; le pauvre hermite, vetu du pauvre [de l'humble] habit gris est la plus puissant qieun roi; il est entoure d'une [de la] multitude [avide] une multitude qui ne voit que lui, tandis qui lui, il ne voit que le ciel; ses yeux leves semblent dire, 'Je vois Dieu et les anges, et j'ai perdu de vue la terre!'

"Dans ce moment le [mais ce] pauvre habit [froc] gris est pour lui comme le manteau d'Elijah; il l'enveloppe d'inspiration; il [Pierre] lit dans l'avenir; il voit Jerusalem delivree; [il voit] le saint sepulcre libre; il voit le Croissant argent est arrache du Temple, et l'Oriflamme et la Croix rouge sont etabli a sa place; non-seulement Pierre voit ces merveilles, mais il les fait voir a tous ceux qui l'entourent; il ravive l'esperance et le courage dans [tous ces corps epuises de fatigues et de privations]. La bataille ne sera livree que demain, mais la victoire est decidee ce soir. Pierre a promis; et les Croises se fient a sa parole, comme les Israelites se fiaient a celle de Moise et de Josue."

As a companion portrait to this, Emily chose to depict Harold on the eve of the battle of Hastings. It appears to me that her devoir is superior to Charlotte's in power and in imagination, and fully equal to it in language; and that this, in both cases, considering how little practical knowledge of French they had when they arrived at Brussels in February, and that they wrote without the aid of dictionary or grammar, is unusual and remarkable. We shall see the progress Charlotte had made, in ease and grace of style, a year later.

In the choice of subjects left to her selection, she frequently took characters and scenes from the Old Testament, with which all her writings show that she was especially familiar. The picturesqueness and colour (if I may so express it), the grandeur and breadth of its narrations, impressed her deeply. To use M. Heger's expression, "Elle etait nourrie de la Bible." After he had read De la Vigne's poem on Joan of Arc, she chose the "Vision and Death of Moses on Mount Nebo" to write about; and, in looking over this devoir, I was much struck with one or two of M. Heger's remarks. After describing, in a quiet and simple manner, the circumstances under which Moses took leave of the Israelites, her imagination becomes warmed, and she launches out into a noble strain, depicting the glorious futurity of the Chosen People, as, looking down upon the Promised Land, he sees their prosperity in prophetic vision. But, before reaching the middle of this glowing description, she interrupts herself to discuss for a moment the doubts that have been thrown on the miraculous relations of the Old Testament. M. Heger remarks, "When you are writing, place your argument first in cool, prosaic language; but when you have thrown the reins on the neck of your imagination, do not pull her up to reason." Again, in the vision of Moses, he sees the maidens leading forth their flocks to the wells at eventide, and they are described as wearing flowery garlands. Here the writer is reminded of the necessity of preserving a certain verisimilitude: Moses might from his elevation see mountains and plains, groups of maidens and herds of cattle, but could hardly perceive the details of dress, or the ornaments of the head.

When they had made further progress, M. Heger took up a more advanced plan, that of synthetical teaching. He would read to them various accounts of the same person or event, and make them notice the points of agreement and disagreement. Where they were different, he would make them seek the origin of that difference by causing them to examine well into the character and position of each separate writer, and how they would be likely to affect his conception of truth. For instance, take Cromwell. He would read Bossuet's description of him in the "Oraison Funebre de la Reine d'Angleterre," and show how in this he was considered entirely from the religious point of view, as an instrument in the hands of God, preordained to His work. Then he would make them read Guizot, and see how, in this view, Cromwell was endowed with the utmost power of free-will, but governed by no higher motive than that of expediency; while Carlyle regarded him as a character regulated by a strong and conscientious desire to do the will of the Lord. Then he would desire them to remember that the Royalist and Commonwealth men had each their different opinions of the great Protector. And from these conflicting characters, he would require them to sift and collect the elements of truth, and try to unite them into a perfect whole.

This kind of exercise delighted Charlotte. It called into play her powers of analysis, which were extraordinary, and she very soon excelled in it.

Wherever the Brontes could be national they were so, with the same tenacity of attachment which made them suffer as they did whenever they left Haworth. They were Protestant to the backbone in other things beside their religion, but pre-eminently so in that. Touched as Charlotte was by the letter of St. Ignatius before alluded to, she claimed equal self-devotion, and from as high a motive, for some of the missionaries of the English Church sent out to toil and to perish on the poisonous African coast, and wrote as an "imitation," "Lettre d'un Missionnaire, Sierra Leone, Afrique."

Something of her feeling, too, appears in the following letter:—

"Brussels, 1842.

"I consider it doubtful whether I shall come home in September or not. Madame Heger has made a proposal for both me and Emily to stay another half-year, offering to dismiss her English master, and take me as English teacher; also to employ Emily some part of each day in teaching music to a certain number of the pupils. For these services we are to be allowed to continue our studies in French and German, and to have board, &c., without paying for it; no salaries, however, are offered. The proposal is kind, and in a great selfish city like Brussels, and a great selfish school, containing nearly ninety pupils (boarders and day pupils included), implies a degree of interest which demands gratitude in return. I am inclined to accept it. What think you? I don't deny I sometimes wish to be in England, or that I have brief attacks of home sickness; but, on the whole, I have borne a very valiant heart so far; and I have been happy in Brussels, because I have always been fully occupied with the employments that I like. Emily is making rapid progress in French, German, music, and drawing. Monsieur and Madame Heger begin to recognise the valuable parts of her character, under her singularities.

"If the national character of the Belgians is to be measured by the character of most of the girls is this school, it in a character singularly cold, selfish, animal, and inferior. They are very mutinous and difficult for the teachers to manage; and their principles are rotten to the core. We avoid them, which it is not difficult to do, as we have the brand of Protestantism and Anglicism upon us. People talk of the danger which Protestants expose themselves to in going to reside in Catholic countries, and thereby running the chance of changing their faith. My advice to all Protestants who are tempted to do anything so besotted as turn Catholics, is, to walk over the sea on to the Continent; to attend mass sedulously for a time; to note well the mummeries thereof; also the idiotic, mercenary aspect of all the priests; and then, if they are still disposed to consider Papistry in any other light than a most feeble, childish piece of humbug, let them turn Papists at once—that's all. I consider Methodism, Quakerism, and the extremes of High and Low Churchism foolish, but Roman Catholicism beats them all. At the same time, allow me to tell you, that there are some Catholics who are as good as any Christians can be to whom the Bible is a sealed book, and much better than many Protestants."

When the Brontes first went to Brussels, it was with the intention of remaining there for six months, or until the grandes vacances began in September. The duties of the school were then suspended for six weeks or two months, and it seemed a desirable period for their return. But the proposal mentioned in the foregoing letter altered their plans. Besides, they were happy in the feeling that they were making progress in all the knowledge they had so long been yearning to acquire. They were happy, too, in possessing friends whose society had been for years congenial to them, and in occasional meetings with these, they could have the inexpressible solace to residents in a foreign country—and peculiarly such to the Brontes—of talking over the intelligence received from their respective homes—referring to past, or planning for future days. "Mary" and her sister, the bright, dancing, laughing Martha, were parlour-boarders in an establishment just beyond the barriers of Brussels. Again, the cousins of these friends were resident in the town; and at their house Charlotte and Emily were always welcome, though their overpowering shyness prevented their more valuable qualities from being known, and generally kept them silent. They spent their weekly holiday with this family, for many months; but at the end of the time, Emily was as impenetrable to friendly advances as at the beginning; while Charlotte was too physically weak (as "Mary" has expressed it) to "gather up her forces" sufficiently to express any difference or opposition of opinion, and had consequently an assenting and deferential manner, strangely at variance with what they knew of her remarkable talents and decided character. At this house, the T.'s and the Brontes could look forward to meeting each other pretty frequently. There was another English family where Charlotte soon became a welcome guest, and where, I suspect, she felt herself more at her ease than either at Mrs. Jenkins', or the friends whom I have first mentioned.

An English physician, with a large family of daughters, went to reside at Brussels, for the sake of their education. He placed them at Madame Heger's school in July, 1842, not a month before the beginning of the grandes vacances on August 15th. In order to make the most of their time, and become accustomed to the language, these English sisters went daily, through the holidays, to the pensionnat in the Rue d'Isabelle. Six or eight boarders remained, besides the Miss Brontes. They were there during the whole time, never even having the break to their monotonous life, which passing an occasional day with a friend would have afforded them; but devoting themselves with indefatigable diligence to the different studies in which they were engaged. Their position in the school appeared, to these new comers, analogous to what is often called that of a parlour-boarder. They prepared their French, drawing, German, and literature for their various masters; and to these occupations Emily added that of music, in which she was somewhat of a proficient; so much so as to be qualified to give instruction in it to the three younger sisters of my informant.

The school was divided into three classes. In the first were from fifteen to twenty pupils; in the second, sixty was about the average number—all foreigners, excepting the two Brontes and one other; in the third, there were from twenty to thirty pupils. The first and second classes occupied a long room, divided by a wooden partition; in each division were four long ranges of desks; and at the end was the estrade, or platform, for the presiding instructor. On the last row, in the quietest corner, sat Charlotte and Emily, side by side, so deeply absorbed in their studies as to be insensible to any noise or movement around them. The school-hours were from nine to twelve (the luncheon hour), when the boarders and half-boarders—perhaps two-and-thirty girls—went to the refectoire (a room with two long tables, having an oil- lamp suspended over each), to partake of bread and fruit; the externes, or morning pupils, who had brought their own refreshment with them, adjourning to eat it in the garden. From one to two, there was fancy- work—a pupil reading aloud some light literature in each room; from two to four, lessons again. At four, the externes left; and the remaining girls dined in the refectoire, M. and Madame Heger presiding. From five to six there was recreation, from six to seven, preparation for lessons; and, after that succeeded the lecture pieuse—Charlotte's nightmare. On rare occasions, M. Heger himself would come in, and substitute a book of a different and more interesting kind. At eight, there was a slight meal of water and pistolets (the delicious little Brussels rolls), which was immediately followed by prayers, and then to bed.

The principal bedroom was over the long classe, or schoolroom. There were six or eight narrow beds on each side of the apartment, every one enveloped in its white draping curtain; a long drawer, beneath each, served for a wardrobe, and between each was a stand for ewer, basin, and looking-glass. The beds of the two Miss Brontes were at the extreme end of the room, almost as private and retired as if they had been in a separate apartment.

During the hours of recreation, which were always spent in the garden, they invariably walked together, and generally kept a profound silence; Emily, though so much the taller, leaning on her sister. Charlotte would always answer when spoken to, taking the lead in replying to any remark addressed to both; Emily rarely spoke to any one. Charlotte's quiet, gentle manner never changed. She was never seen out of temper for a moment; and occasionally, when she herself had assumed the post of English teacher, and the impertinence or inattention of her pupils was most irritating, a slight increase of colour, a momentary sparkling of the eye, and more decided energy of manner, were the only outward tokens she gave of being conscious of the annoyance to which she was subjected. But this dignified endurance of hers subdued her pupils, in the long run, far more than the voluble tirades of the other mistresses. My informant adds:—"The effect of this manner was singular. I can speak from personal experience. I was at that time high-spirited and impetuous, not respecting the French mistresses; yet, to my own astonishment, at one word from her, I was perfectly tractable; so much so, that at length, M. and Madame Heger invariably preferred all their wishes to me through her; the other pupils did not, perhaps, love her as I did, she was so quiet and silent; but all respected her."

With the exception of that part which describes Charlotte's manner as English teacher—an office which she did not assume for some months later—all this description of the school life of the two Brontes refers to the commencement of the new scholastic year in October 1842; and the extracts I have given convey the first impression which the life at a foreign school, and the position of the two Miss Brontes therein, made upon an intelligent English girl of sixteen. I will make a quotation from "Mary's" letter referring to this time.

"The first part of her time at Brussels was not uninteresting. She spoke of new people and characters, and foreign ways of the pupils and teachers. She knew the hopes and prospects of the teachers, and mentioned one who was very anxious to marry, 'she was getting so old.' She used to get her father or brother (I forget which) to be the bearer of letters to different single men, who she thought might be persuaded to do her the favour, saying that her only resource was to become a sister of charity if her present employment failed and that she hated the idea. Charlotte naturally looked with curiosity to people of her own condition. This woman almost frightened her. 'She declares there is nothing she can turn to, and laughs at the idea of delicacy,—and she is only ten years older than I am!' I did not see the connection till she said, 'Well, Polly, I should hate being a sister of charity; I suppose that would shock some people, but I should.' I thought she would have as much feeling as a nurse as most people, and more than some. She said she did not know how people could bear the constant pressure of misery, and never to change except to a new form of it. It would be impossible to keep one's natural feelings. I promised her a better destiny than to go begging any one to marry her, or to lose her natural feelings as a sister of charity. She said, 'My youth is leaving me; I can never do better than I have done, and I have done nothing yet.' At such times she seemed to think that most human beings were destined by the pressure of worldly interests to lose one faculty and feeling after another 'till they went dead altogether. I hope I shall be put in my grave as soon as I'm dead; I don't want to walk about so.' Here we always differed. I thought the degradation of nature she feared was a consequence of poverty, and that she should give her attention to earning money. Sometimes she admitted this, but could find no means of earning money. At others she seemed afraid of letting her thoughts dwell on the subject, saying it brought on the worst palsy of all. Indeed, in her position, nothing less than entire constant absorption in petty money matters could have scraped together a provision.

"Of course artists and authors stood high with Charlotte, and the best thing after their works would have been their company. She used very inconsistently to rail at money and money-getting, and then wish she was able to visit all the large towns in Europe, see all the sights and know all the celebrities. This was her notion of literary fame,—a passport to the society of clever people . . . When she had become acquainted with the people and ways at Brussels her life became monotonous, and she fell into the same hopeless state as at Miss W—-'s, though in a less degree. I wrote to her, urging her to go home or elsewhere; she had got what she wanted (French), and there was at least novelty in a new place, if no improvement. That if she sank into deeper gloom she would soon not have energy to go, and she was too far from home for her friends to hear of her condition and order her home as they had done from Miss W—-'s. She wrote that I had done her a great service, that she should certainly follow my advice, and was much obliged to me. I have often wondered at this letter. Though she patiently tolerated advice, she could always quietly put it aside, and do as she thought fit. More than once afterwards she mentioned the 'service' I had done her. She sent me 10l. to New Zealand, on hearing some exaggerated accounts of my circumstances, and told me she hoped it would come in seasonably; it was a debt she owed me 'for the service I had done her.' I should think 10l. was a quarter of her income. The 'service' was mentioned as an apology, but kindness was the real motive."

The first break in this life of regular duties and employments came heavily and sadly. Martha—pretty, winning, mischievous, tricksome Martha—was taken ill suddenly at the Chateau de Koekelberg. Her sister tended her with devoted love; but it was all in vain; in a few days she died. Charlotte's own short account of this event is as follows:—

"Martha T.'s illness was unknown to me till the day before she died. I hastened to Koekelberg the next morning—unconscious that she was in great danger—and was told that it was finished. She had died in the night. Mary was taken away to Bruxelles. I have seen Mary frequently since. She is in no ways crushed by the event; but while Martha was ill, she was to her more than a mother—more than a sister: watching, nursing, cherishing her so tenderly, so unweariedly. She appears calm and serious now; no bursts of violent emotion; no exaggeration of distress. I have seen Martha's grave—the place where her ashes lie in a foreign country."

Who that has read "Shirley" does not remember the few lines—perhaps half a page—of sad recollection?

"He has no idea that little Jessy will die young, she is so gay, and chattering, and arch—original even now; passionate when provoked, but most affectionate if caressed; by turns gentle and rattling; exacting yet generous; fearless . . . yet reliant on any who will help her. Jessy, with her little piquant face, engaging prattle, and winning ways, is made to be a pet.

* * * * *

"Do you know this place? No, you never saw it; but you recognise the nature of these trees, this foliage—the cypress, the willow, the yew. Stone crosses like these are not unfamiliar to you, nor are these dim garlands of everlasting flowers. Here is the place: green sod and a grey marble head-stone—Jessy sleeps below. She lived through an April day; much loved was she, much loving. She often, in her brief life, shed tears—she had frequent sorrows; she smiled between, gladdening whatever saw her. Her death was tranquil and happy in Rose's guardian arms, for Rose had been her stay and defence through many trials; the dying and the watching English girls were at that hour alone in a foreign country, and the soil of that country gave Jessy a grave.

* * * * *

"But, Jessy, I will write about you no more. This is an autumn evening, wet and wild. There is only one cloud in the sky; but it curtains it from pole to pole. The wind cannot rest; it hurries sobbing over hills of sullen outline, colourless with twilight and mist. Rain has beat all day on that church tower" (Haworth): "it rises dark from the stony enclosure of its graveyard: the nettles, the long grass, and the tombs all drip with wet. This evening reminds me too forcibly of another evening some years ago: a howling, rainy autumn evening too—when certain who had that day performed a pilgrimage to a grave new made in a heretic cemetery, sat near a wood fire on the hearth of a foreign dwelling. They were merry and social, but they each knew that a gap, never to be filled, had been made in their circle. They knew they had lost something whose absence could never be quite atoned for, so long as they lived; and they knew that heavy falling rain was soaking into the wet earth which covered their lost darling; and that the sad, sighing gale was mourning above her buried head. The fire warmed them; Life and Friendship yet blessed them: but Jessy lay cold, coffined, solitary—only the sod screening her from the storm."

This was the first death that had occurred in the small circle of Charlotte's immediate and intimate friends since the loss of her two sisters long ago. She was still in the midst of her deep sympathy with "Mary," when word came from home that her aunt, Miss Branwell, was ailing—was very ill. Emily and Charlotte immediately resolved to go home straight, and hastily packed up for England, doubtful whether they should ever return to Brussels or not, leaving all their relations with M. and Madame Heger, and the pensionnat, uprooted, and uncertain of any future existence. Even before their departure, on the morning after they received the first intelligence of illness—when they were on the very point of starting—came a second letter, telling them of their aunt's death. It could not hasten their movements, for every arrangement had been made for speed. They sailed from Antwerp; they travelled night and day, and got home on a Tuesday morning. The funeral and all was over, and Mr. Bronte and Anne were sitting together, in quiet grief for the loss of one who had done her part well in their household for nearly twenty years, and earned the regard and respect of many who never knew how much they should miss her till she was gone. The small property which she had accumulated, by dint of personal frugality and self-denial, was bequeathed to her nieces. Branwell, her darling, was to have had his share; but his reckless expenditure had distressed the good old lady, and his name was omitted in her will.

When the first shock was over, the three sisters began to enjoy the full relish of meeting again, after the longest separation they had had in their lives. They had much to tell of the past, and much to settle for the future. Anne had been for some little time in a situation, to which she was to return at the end of the Christmas holidays. For another year or so they were again to be all three apart; and, after that, the happy vision of being together and opening a school was to be realised. Of course they did not now look forward to settling at Burlington, or any other place which would take them away from their father; but the small sum which they each independently possessed would enable them to effect such alterations in the parsonage-house at Haworth as would adapt it to the reception of pupils. Anne's plans for the interval were fixed. Emily quickly decided to be the daughter to remain at home. About Charlotte there was much deliberation and some discussion.

Even in all the haste of their sudden departure from Brussels, M. Heger had found time to write a letter of sympathy to Mr. Bronte on the loss which he had just sustained; a letter containing such a graceful appreciation of the daughters' characters, under the form of a tribute of respect to their father, that I should have been tempted to copy it, even had there not also been a proposal made in it respecting Charlotte, which deserves a place in the record of her life.

"Au Reverend Monsieur Bronte, Pasteur Evangelique, &c, &c.

"Samedi, 5 Obre.


"Un evenement bien triste decide mesdemoiselles vas filles a retourner brusquement en Angleterre, ce depart qui nous afflige beaucoup a cependant ma complete approbation; il est bien naturel qu'elles cherchent a vous consoler de ce que le ciel vient de vous oter, on se serrant autour de vous, poui mieux vous faire apprecier ce que le ciel vous a donne et ce qu'il vous laisse encore. J'espere que vous me pardonnerez, Monsieur, de profiter de cette circonstance pour vous faire parvenir l'expression de mon respect; je n'ai pas l'honneur de vous connaitre personnellement, et cependant j'eprouve pour votre personne un sentiment de sincere veneration, car en jugeant un pere de famille par ses enfants on ne risque pas de se tromper, et sous ce rapport l'education et les sentiments que nous avons trouves dans mesdemoiselles vos filles n'ont pu que nous donner une tres-haute idee de votre merite et de votre caractere. Vous apprendrez sans doute avec plaisir que vos enfants ont fait du progres tresremarquable dans toutes les branches de l'enseignenient, et que ces progres sont entierement du a leur amour pour le travail et a leur perseverance; nous n'avons eu que bien peu a faire avec de pareilles eleves; leur avancement est votre oeuvre bien plus que la notre; nous n'avons pas eu a leur apprendre le prix du temps et de l'instruction, elles avaient appris tout cela dans la maison paternelle, et nous n'avons eu, pour notre part, que le faible merite de diriger leurs efforts et de fournir un aliment convenable a la louable activite que vos filles ont puisees dans votre exemple et dans vos lecons. Puissent les eloges meritees que nous donnons a vos enfants vous etre de quelque consolation dans le malheur que vous afflige; c'est la notre espoir en vous ecrivant, et ce sera, pour Mesdemoiselles Charlotte et Emily, une douce et belle recompense de leurs travaux.

"En perdant nos deux cheres eleves, nous ne devons pas vous cacher que nous eprouvons a la fois et du chagrin et de l'inquietude; nous sommes affliges parce que cette brusque separation vient briser l'affection presque paternelle que nous leur avons vouee, et notre peine s'augmente a la vue de tant de travaux interrompues, de tant de choses bien commencees, et qui ne demandent que quelque temps encore pour etre menees a bonne fin. Dans un an, chacune de vos demoiselles eut ete entierement premunie contre les eventualites de l'avenir; chacune d'elles acquerait a la fois et l'instruction et la science d'enseignement; Mlle Emily allait apprendre le piano; recevoir les lecons du meilleur professeur que nous ayons en Belgique, et deja elle avait elle-meme de petites eleves; elle perdait donc a la fois un reste d'ignorance et un reste plus genant encore de timidite; Mlle Charlotte commencait a donner des lecons en francais, et d'acquerir cette assurance, cet aplomb si necessaire dans l'enseignement; encore un an tout au plus et l'oeuvre etait achevee et bien achevee. Alors nous aurions pu, si cela vous eut convenu, offrir a mesdemoiselles vos filles ou du moins a l'une des deux une position qui eut ete dans ses gouts, et qui lui eut donne cette douce independance si difficile a trouver pour une jeune personne. Ce n'est pas, croyez le bien, Monsieur, ce n'est pas ici pour nous une question d'interet personnel, c'est une question d'affection; vous me pardonnerez si nous vous parlons de vos enfants, si nous nous occupons de leur avenir, comme si elles faisaient partie de notre famille; leurs qualites personnelles, leur bon vouloir, leur zele extreme sont les seules causes qui nous poussent a nous hasarder de la sorte. Nous savons, Monsieur, que vous peserez plus murement et plus sagement que nous la consequence qu'aurait pour l'avenir une interruption complete dans les etudes de vos deux filles; vous deciderez ce qu'il faut faire, et vous nous pardonnerez notre franchise, si vous daignez considerer que le motif qui nous fait agir est une affection bien desinteressee et qui s'affligerait beaucoup de devoir deja se resigner a n'etre plus utile a vos chers enfants.

"Agreez, je vous prie, Monsieur, l'expression respectueuse de mes sentiments de haute consideration.


There was so much truth, as well as so much kindness in this letter—it was so obvious that a second year of instruction would be far more valuable than the first, that there was no long hesitation before it was decided that Charlotte should return to Brussels.

Meanwhile, they enjoyed their Christmas all together inexpressibly. Branwell was with them; that was always a pleasure at this time; whatever might be his faults, or even his vices, his sisters yet held him up as their family hope, as they trusted that he would some day be their family pride. They blinded themselves to the magnitude of the failings of which they were now and then told, by persuading themselves that such failings were common to all men of any strength of character; for, till sad experience taught them better, they fell into the usual error of confounding strong passions with strong character.

Charlotte's friend came over to see her, and she returned the visit. Her Brussels life must have seemed like a dream, so completely, in this short space of time, did she fall back into the old household ways; with more of household independence than she could ever have had during her aunt's lifetime. Winter though it was, the sisters took their accustomed walks on the snow-covered moors; or went often down the long road to Keighley, for such books as had been added to the library there during their absence from England.


Towards the end of January, the time came for Charlotte to return to Brussels. Her journey thither was rather disastrous. She had to make her way alone; and the train from Leeds to London, which should have reached Euston-square early in the afternoon, was so much delayed that it did not get in till ten at night. She had intended to seek out the Chapter Coffee-house, where she had stayed before, and which would have been near the place where the steam-boats lay; but she appears to have been frightened by the idea of arriving at an hour which, to Yorkshire notions, was so late and unseemly; and taking a cab, therefore, at the station, she drove straight to the London Bridge Wharf, and desired a waterman to row her to the Ostend packet, which was to sail the next morning. She described to me, pretty much as she has since described it in "Villette," her sense of loneliness, and yet her strange pleasure in the excitement of the situation, as in the dead of that winter's night she went swiftly over the dark river to the black hull's side, and was at first refused leave to ascend to the deck. "No passengers might sleep on board," they said, with some appearance of disrespect. She looked back to the lights and subdued noises of London—that "Mighty Heart" in which she had no place—and, standing up in the rocking boat, she asked to speak to some one in authority on board the packet. He came, and her quiet simple statement of her wish, and her reason for it, quelled the feeling of sneering distrust in those who had first heard her request; and impressed the authority so favourably that he allowed her to come on board, and take possession of a berth. The next morning she sailed; and at seven on Sunday evening she reached the Rue d'Isabelle once more; having only left Haworth on Friday morning at an early hour.

Her salary was 16l. a year; out of which she had to pay for her German lessons, for which she was charged as much (the lessons being probably rated by time) as when Emily learnt with her and divided the expense, viz., ten francs a month. By Miss Bronte's own desire, she gave her English lessons in the classe, or schoolroom, without the supervision of Madame or M. Heger. They offered to be present, with a view to maintain order among the unruly Belgian girls; but she declined this, saying that she would rather enforce discipline by her own manner and character than be indebted for obedience to the presence of a gendarme. She ruled over a new schoolroom, which had been built on the space in the play-ground adjoining the house. Over that First Class she was surveillante at all hours; and henceforward she was called Mademoiselle Charlotte by M. Heger's orders. She continued her own studies, principally attending to German, and to Literature; and every Sunday she went alone to the German and English chapels. Her walks too were solitary, and principally taken in the allee defendue, where she was secure from intrusion. This solitude was a perilous luxury to one of her temperament; so liable as she was to morbid and acute mental suffering.

On March 6th, 1843, she writes thus:—

"I am settled by this time, of course. I am not too much overloaded with occupation; and besides teaching English, I have time to improve myself in German. I ought to consider myself well off, and to be thankful for my good fortunes. I hope I am thankful; and if I could always keep up my spirits and never feel lonely, or long for companionship, or friendship, or whatever they call it, I should do very well. As I told you before, M. and Madame Heger are the only two persons in the house for whom I really experience regard and esteem, and of course, I cannot be always with them, nor even very often. They told me, when I first returned, that I was to consider their sitting- room my sitting-room also, and to go there whenever I was not engaged in the schoolroom. This, however, I cannot do. In the daytime it is a public room, where music-masters and mistresses are constantly passing in and out; and in the evening, I will not, and ought not to intrude on M. and Madame Heger and their children. Thus I am a good deal by myself, out of school-hours; but that does not signify. I now regularly give English lessons to M. Heger and his brother-in-law. They get on with wonderful rapidity; especially the first. He already begins to speak English very decently. If you could see and hear the efforts I make to teach them to pronounce like Englishmen, and their unavailing attempts to imitate, you would laugh to all eternity.

"The Carnival is just over, and we have entered upon the gloom and abstinence of Lent. The first day of Lent we had coffee without milk for breakfast; vinegar and vegetables, with a very little salt fish, for dinner; and bread for supper. The Carnival was nothing but masking and mummery. M. Heger took me and one of the pupils into the town to see the masks. It was animating to see the immense crowds, and the general gaiety, but the masks were nothing. I have been twice to the D.'s" (those cousins of "Mary's" of whom I have before made mention). "When she leaves Bruxelles, I shall have nowhere to go to. I have had two letters from Mary. She does not tell me she has been ill, and she does not complain; but her letters are not the letters of a person in the enjoyment of great happiness. She has nobody to be as good to her as M. Heger is to me; to lend her books; to converse with her sometimes, &c.

"Good-bye. When I say so, it seems to me that you will hardly hear me; all the waves of the Channel heaving and roaring between must deaden the sound."

From the tone of this letter, it may easily be perceived that the Brussels of 1843 was a different place from that of 1842. Then she had Emily for a daily and nightly solace and companion. She had the weekly variety of a visit to the family of the D.s; and she had the frequent happiness of seeing "Mary" and Martha. Now Emily was far away in Haworth—where she or any other loved one, might die, before Charlotte, with her utmost speed, could reach them, as experience, in her aunt's case, had taught her. The D.s were leaving Brussels; so, henceforth, her weekly holiday would have to be passed in the Rue d'Isabelle, or so she thought. "Mary" was gone off on her own independent course; Martha alone remained—still and quiet for ever, in the cemetery beyond the Porte de Louvain. The weather, too, for the first few weeks after Charlotte's return, had been piercingly cold; and her feeble constitution was always painfully sensitive to an inclement season. Mere bodily pain, however acute, she could always put aside; but too often ill-health assailed her in a part far more to be dreaded. Her depression of spirits, when she was not well, was pitiful in its extremity. She was aware that it was constitutional, and could reason about it; but no reasoning prevented her suffering mental agony, while the bodily cause remained in force.

The Hegers have discovered, since the publication of "Villette," that at this beginning of her career as English teacher in their school, the conduct of her pupils was often impertinent and mutinous in the highest degree. But of this they were unaware at the time, as she had declined their presence, and never made any complaint. Still it must have been a depressing thought to her at this period, that her joyous, healthy, obtuse pupils were so little answerable to the powers she could bring to bear upon them; and though from their own testimony, her patience, firmness, and resolution, at length obtained their just reward, yet with one so weak in health and spirits, the reaction after such struggles as she frequently had with her pupils, must have been very sad and painful.

She thus writes to her friend E.:—

"April, 1843.

"Is there any talk of your coming to Brussels? During the bitter cold weather we had through February, and the principal part of March, I did not regret that you had not accompanied me. If I had seen you shivering as I shivered myself, if I had seen your hands and feet as red and swelled as mine were, my discomfort would just have been doubled. I can do very well under this sort of thing; it does not fret me; it only makes me numb and silent; but if you were to pass a winter in Belgium, you would be ill. However, more genial weather is coming now, and I wish you were here. Yet I never have pressed you, and never would press you too warmly to come. There are privations and humiliations to submit to; there is monotony and uniformity of life; and, above all, there is a constant sense of solitude in the midst of numbers. The Protestant, the foreigner, is a solitary being, whether as teacher or pupil. I do not say this by way of complaining of my own lot; for though I acknowledge that there are certain disadvantages in my present position, what position on earth is without them? And, whenever I turn back to compare what I am with what I was—my place here with my place at Mrs. —-'s for instance—I am thankful. There was an observation in your last letter which excited, for a moment, my wrath. At first, I thought it would be folly to reply to it, and I would let it die. Afterwards, I determined to give one answer, once for all. 'Three or four people,' it seems, 'have the idea that the future epoux of Mademoiselle Bronte is on the Continent.' These people are wiser than I am. They could not believe that I crossed the sea merely to return as teacher to Madame Hegers. I must have some more powerful motive than respect for my master and mistress, gratitude for their kindness, &c., to induce me to refuse a salary of 50l. in England, and accept one of 16l. in Belgium. I must, forsooth, have some remote hope of entrapping a husband somehow, or somewhere. If these charitable people knew the total seclusion of the life I lead,—that I never exchange a word with any other man than Monsieur Heger, and seldom indeed with him,—they would, perhaps, cease to suppose that any such chimerical and groundless notion had influenced my proceedings. Have I said enough to clear myself of so silly an imputation? Not that it is a crime to marry, or a crime to wish to be married; but it is an imbecility, which I reject with contempt, for women, who have neither fortune nor beauty, to make marriage the principal object of their wishes and hopes, and the aim of all their actions; not to be able to convince themselves that they are unattractive, and that they had better be quiet, and think of other things than wedlock."

The following is an extract, from one of the few letters which have been preserved, of her correspondence with her sister Emily:—

"May 29, 1843

"I get on here from day to day in a Robinson-Crusoe-like sort of way, very lonely, but that does not signify. In other respects, I have nothing substantial to complain of, nor is this a cause for complaint. I hope you are well. Walk out often on the moors. My love to Tabby. I hope she keeps well."

And about this time she wrote to her father,

"June 2nd, 1818,

"I was very glad to hear from home. I had begun to get low-spirited at not receiving any news, and to entertain indefinite fears that something was wrong. You do not say anything about your own health, but I hope you are well, and Emily also. I am afraid she will have a good deal of hard work to do now that Hannah" (a servant-girl who had been assisting Tabby) "is gone. I am exceedingly glad to hear that you still keep Tabby" (considerably upwards of seventy). "It is an act of great charity to her, and I do not think it will be unrewarded, for she is very faithful, and will always serve you, when she has occasion, to the best of her abilities; besides, she will be company for Emily, who, without her, would be very lonely."

I gave a devoir, written after she had been four months under M. Heger's tuition. I will now copy out another, written nearly a year later, during which the progress made appears to me very great.

"31 Mai, 1843.


"Napoleon naquit en Corse et mourut a Ste. Helene. Entre ces deux iles rien qu'un vaste et brulant desert et l'ocean immense. Il naquit fils d'un simple gentilhomme, et mourut empereur, mais sans couronne et dans les fers. Entre son berceau et sa tombe qu'y a-t-il? la carriere d'un soldat parvenu, des champs de bataille, une mer de sang, un trone, puis du sang encore, et des fers. Sa vie, c'est l'arc en ciel; les deux points extremes touchent la terre, la comble lumi-neuse mesure les cieux. Sur Napoleon au berceau une mere brillait; dans la maison paternelle il avait des freres et des soeurs; plus tard dans son palais il eut une femme qui l'aimait. Mais sur son lit de mort Napoleon est seul; plus de mere, ni de frere, ni de soeur, ni de femme, ni d'enfant!! D'autres ont dit et rediront ses exploits, moi, je m'arrete a contempler l'abandonnement de sa derniere heure!

"Il est la, exile et captif, enchaine sur un ecueil. Nouveau Promethee il subit le chatiment de son orgueil! Promethee avait voulu etre Dieu et Createur; il deroba le feu du Ciel pour animer le corps qu'il avait forme. Et lui, Buonaparte, il a voulu creer, non pas un homme, mais un empire, et pour donner une existence, une ame, a son oeuvre gigantesque, il n'a pas hesite a arracher la vie a des nations entieres. Jupiter indigne de l'impiete de Promethee, le riva vivant a la cime du Caucase. Ainsi, pour punir l'ambition rapace de Buonaparte, la Providence l'a enchaine, jusqu'a ce que la mort s'en suivit, sur un roc isole de l'Atlantique. Peut-etre la aussi a-t-il senti lui fouillant le flanc cet insatiable vautour dont parle la fable, peut-etre a-t-il souffert aussi cette soif du coeur, cette faim de l'ame, qui torturent l'exile, loin de sa famille et de sa patrie. Mais parler ainsi n'est-ce pas attribuer gratuitement a Napoleon une humaine faiblesse qu'il n'eprouva jamais? Quand donc s'est-il laisse enchainer par un lien d'affection? Sans doute d'autres conquerants ont hesite dans leur carriere de gloire, arretes par un obstacle d'amour ou d'amitie, retenus par la main d'une femme, rappeles par la voix d'un ami—lui, jamais! Il n'eut pas besoin, comme Ulysse, de se lier au mat du navire, ni de se boucher les oreilles avec de la cire; il ne redoutait pas le chant des Sirenes—il le dedaignait; il se fit marbre et fer pour executer ses grands projets. Napoleon ne se regardait pas comme un homme, mais comme l'incarnation d'un peuple. Il n'aimait pas; il ne considerait ses amis et ses proches que comme des instruments auxquels il tint, tant qu'ils furent utiles, et qu'il jeta de cote quand ils cesserent de l'etre. Qu'on ne se permette donc pas d'approcher du sepulcre du Corse avec sentiments de pitie, ou de souiller de larmes la pierre qui couvre ses restes, son ame repudierait tout cela. On a dit, je le sais, qu'elle fut cruelle la main qui le separa de sa femme et de son enfant. Non, c'etait une main qui, comme la sienne, ne tremblait ni de passion ni de crainte, c'etait la main d'un homme froid, convaincu, qui avait su deviner Buonaparte; et voici ce que disait cet homme que la defaite n'a pu humilier, ni la victoire enorgueiller. 'Marie-Louise n'est pas la femme de Napoleon; c'est la France que Napoleon a epousee; c'est la France qu'il aime, leur union enfante la perte de l'Europe; voila la divorce que je veux; voila l'union qu'il faut briser.'

"La voix des timides et des traitres protesta contre cette sentence. 'C'est abuser de droit de la victoire! C'est fouler aux pieds le vaincu! Que l'Angleterre se montre clemente, qu'elle ouvre ses bras pour recevoir comme hote son ennemi desarme.' L'Angleterre aurait peut-etre ecoute ce conseii, car partout et toujours il y a des ames faibles et timorees bientot seduites par la flatterie ou effrayees par le reproche. Mais la Providence permit qu'un homme se trouvat qui n'a jamais su ce que c'est que la crainte; qui aima sa patrie mieux que sa renommee; impenetrable devant les menaces, inaccessible aux louanges, il se presenta devant le conseil de la nation, et levant son front tranquille en haut, il osa dire: 'Que la trahison se taise! car c'est trahir que de conseiller de temporiser avec Buonaparte. Moi je sais ce que sont ces guerres dont l'Europe saigne encore, comme une victime sous le couteau du boucher. Il faut en finir avec Napoleon Buonaparte. Vous vous effrayez a tort d'un mot si dur! Je n'ai pas de magnanimite, dit-on? Soit! que m'importe ce qu'on dit de moi? Je n'ai pas ici a me faire une reputation de heros magnanime, mais a guerir, si la cure est possible, l'Europe qui se meurt, epuisee de ressources et de sang, l'Europe dont vous negligez les vrais interets, pre-occupes que vous etes d'une vaine renommee de clemence. Vous etes faibles! Eh bien! je viens vous aider. Envoyez Buonaparte a Ste. Helene! n'hesitez pas, ne cherchez pas un autre endroit; c'est le seul convenable. Je vous le dis, j'ai reflechi pour vous; c'est la qu'il doit etre et non pas ailleurs. Quant a Napoleon, homme, soldat, je n'ai rien contre lui; c'est un lion royal, aupres de qui vous n'etes que des chacals. Mais Napoleon Empereur, c'est autre chose, je l'extirperai du sol de l'Europe.' Et celui qui parla ainsi toujours sut garder sa promesse, celle-la comme toutes les autres. Je l'ai dit, et je le repete, cet homme est l'egal de Napoleon par le genie; comme trempe de caractere, comme droiture, comme elevation de pensee et de but, il est d'une tout autre espece. Napoleon Buonaparte etait avide de renommee et de gloire; Arthur Wellesley ne se soucie ni de l'une ni de l'autre; l'opinion publique, la popularite, etaient choses de grand valeur aux yeux de Napoleon; pour Wellington l'opinion publique est une rumeur, un rien que le souffle de son inflexible volonte fait disparaitre comme une bulle de savon. Napoleon flattait le peuple; Wellington le brusqne; l'un cherchait les applau-dissements, l'autre ne se soucie que du temoignage de sa conscience; quand elle approuve, c'est assez; toute autre louange l'obsede. Aussi ce peuple, qui adorait Buonaparte s'irritait, s'insurgeait contre la morgue de Wellington: parfois il lui temoigna sa colere et sa haine par des grognements, par des hurlements de betes fauves; et alors, avec une impassibilite de senateur romain, le moderne Coriolan toisait du regard l'emeute furieuse; il croisait ses bras nerveux sur sa large poitrine, et seul, debout sur son seuil, il attendait, il bravait cette tempete populaire dont les flots venaient mourir a quelques pas de lui: et quand la foule, honteuse de sa rebellion, venait lecher les pieds du maitre, le hautain patricien meprisait l'hommage d'aujourd'hui comme la haine d'hier, et dans les rues de Londres, et devant son palais ducal d'Apsley, il repoussait d'un genre plein de froid dedain l'incommode empressement du peuple enthousiaste. Cette fierte neanmoins n'excluait pas en lui une rare modestie; partout il se soustrait a l'eloge; se derobe au panegyrique; jamais il ne parle de ses exploits, et jamais il ne souffre qu'un autre lui en parle en sa presence. Son caractere egale en grandeur et surpasse en verite celui de tout autre heros ancien ou moderne. La gloire de Napoleon crut en une nuit, comme la vigne de Jonas, et il suffit d'un jour pour la fletrir; la gloire de Wellington est comme les vieux chenes qui ombragent le chateau de ses peres sur les rives du Shannon; le chene croit lentement; il lui faut du temps pour pousser vers le ciel ses branches noueuses, et pour enfoncer dans le sol ces racines profondes qui s'enchevetrent dans les fondements solides de la terre; mais alors, l'arbre seculaire, inebranlable comme le roc ou il a sa base, brave et la faux du temps et l'effort des vents et des tempetes. Il faudra peut-etre un siecle a l'Angleterre pour qu'elle connaise la valeur de son heros. Dans un siecle, l'Europe entiere saura combien Wellington a des droits a sa reconnaissance."

How often in writing this paper "in a strange land," must Miss Bronte have thought of the old childish disputes in the kitchen of Haworth parsonage, touching the respective merits of Wellington and Buonaparte! Although the title given to her devoir is, "On the Death of Napoleon," she seems yet to have considered it a point of honour rather to sing praises to an English hero than to dwell on the character of a foreigner, placed as she was among those who cared little either for an England or for Wellington. She now felt that she had made great progress towards obtaining proficiency in the French language, which had been her main object in coming to Brussels. But to the zealous learner "Alps on Alps arise." No sooner is one difficulty surmounted than some other desirable attainment appears, and must be laboured after. A knowledge of German now became her object; and she resolved to compel herself to remain in Brussels till that was gained. The strong yearning to go home came upon her; the stronger self-denying will forbade. There was a great internal struggle; every fibre of her heart quivered in the strain to master her will; and, when she conquered herself, she remained, not like a victor calm and supreme on the throne, but like a panting, torn, and suffering victim. Her nerves and her spirits gave way. Her health became much shaken.

"Brussels, August 1st, 1843.

"If I complain in this letter, have mercy and don't blame me, for, I forewarn you, I am in low spirits, and that earth and heaven are dreary and empty to me at this moment. In a few days our vacation will begin; everybody is joyous and animated at the prospect, because everybody is to go home. I know that I am to stay here during the five weeks that the holidays last, and that I shall be much alone during that time, and consequently get downcast, and find both days and nights of a weary length. It is the first time in my life that I have really dreaded the vacation. Alas! I can hardly write, I have such a dreary weight at my heart; and I do so wish to go home. Is not this childish? Pardon me, for I cannot help it. However, though I am not strong enough to bear up cheerfully, I can still bear up; and I will continue to stay (D. V.) some months longer, till I have acquired German; and then I hope to see all your faces again. Would that the vacation were well over! it will pass so slowly. Do have the Christian charity to write me a long, long letter; fill it with the minutest details; nothing will be uninteresting. Do not think it is because people are unkind to me that I wish to leave Belgium; nothing of the sort. Everybody is abundantly civil, but home-sickness keeps creeping over me. I cannot shake it off. Believe me, very merrily, vivaciously, gaily, yours,


The grandes vacances began soon after the date of this letter, when she was left in the great deserted pensionnat, with only one teacher for a companion. This teacher, a Frenchwoman, had always been uncongenial to her; but, left to each other's sole companionship, Charlotte soon discovered that her associate was more profligate, more steeped in a kind of cold, systematic sensuality, than she had before imagined it possible for a human being to be; and her whole nature revolted from this woman's society. A low nervous fever was gaining upon Miss Bronte. She had never been a good sleeper, but now she could not sleep at all. Whatever had been disagreeable, or obnoxious, to her during the day, was presented when it was over with exaggerated vividness to her disordered fancy. There were causes for distress and anxiety in the news from home, particularly as regarded Branwell. In the dead of the night, lying awake at the end of the long deserted dormitory, in the vast and silent house, every fear respecting those whom she loved, and who were so far off in another country, became a terrible reality, oppressing her and choking up the very life-blood in her heart. Those nights were times of sick, dreary, wakeful misery; precursors of many such in after years.

In the daytime, driven abroad by loathing of her companion and by the weak restlessness of fever, she tried to walk herself into such a state of bodily fatigue as would induce sleep. So she went out, and with weary steps would traverse the Boulevards and the streets, sometimes for hours together; faltering and resting occasionally on some of the many benches placed for the repose of happy groups, or for solitary wanderers like herself. Then up again—anywhere but to the pensionnat—out to the cemetery where Martha lay—out beyond it, to the hills whence there is nothing to be seen but fields as far as the horizon. The shades of evening made her retrace her footsteps—sick for want of food, but not hungry; fatigued with long continued exercise—yet restless still, and doomed to another weary, haunted night of sleeplessness. She would thread the streets in the neighbourhood of the Rue d'Isabelle, and yet avoid it and its occupant, till as late an hour as she dared be out. At last, she was compelled to keep her bed for some days, and this compulsory rest did her good. She was weak, but less depressed in spirits than she had been, when the school re-opened, and her positive practical duties recommenced.

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