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too, he saw the form that he loved, but the fame of Charlotte Brontë, let us glance could not retain, and yet felt the move- at her next most important work, and the ment of a wicked but ineffable love one which we like best of all — Shirley. toward her — wicked, because of the tie It opens with a chapter in which a vein which bound him to the wild being who of humour unsuspected in Charlotte bore his name. Add to all this that his Brontë is manifested, and we know of no nature was as sensitive as it was intense, other author whose sketches so much reand where is the person who could not mind us of George Eliot as this delineapity Fairfax Rochester ? Behold him tion of the three curates. The writer has again after he has been maimed in the completely unbent, relaxed from the sefruitless endeavour to save the maniac verity which so greatly predominates in from death. He describes himself as her other works, and given play to a quiet * no better than the old lightning-struck and yet quaint drollery which is positively chestnut-tree in Thornfield orchard ;” irresistible. A little further on, however, but is the process of purification to be we come to more serious business; and counted as nothing which has brought the terrible machinery riots which so disabout this result?
astrously retarded commercial progress Jane! you think me an irreligious dog, I afford excellent scope for those graphic
at the period at which this history is fixed, dare say; but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now. descriptions in which Currer Bell stands He sees not as man sees, but far clearer; almost unrivalled. The West Riding of judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. Yorkshire, and some parts of Lancashire, I did wrong : I would have sullied my inno- were especially subjected to hardships cent flower— breathed guilt on its purity; the and émeutes on account of these improveOmnipotent snatched it from me. 1, in my ments and inventions in manufacture, and stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the dis- the sketch of Robert Moore's campaign pensation : instead of bending to the decree, I against the bigoted factory operatives in defied it. Divine justice pursued its course; his employ and that of his neighbours is pass through the valley of the shadow of only a fancy one as regards the disposideath. His chastisements are mighty, and one tion of the events. Such things were smote me which has humbled me for ever. common at the time of the Luddite riots, You know I was proud of my strength, but but in adopting these riots as the foundawhat is it now, when I must give it over to tion of her story, the author also took foreign guidance as a child does its weakness ? characters living in her own day and at Of late, Jane - only — only of late - I began her own door, so to speak, hoping that to see and acknowledge the hand of God in they would thus pass unrecognized. But my doom. I began to experience remorse, the fact that the riots occurred thirty fepentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker.
I began sometimes to pray; very years previously did not blind the people brief prayers they were, but very sincere. portrayed to the knowledge that they were
gazing upon their own portraits. The Verily, this is the epitome of an experi- Yorkes, the three curates, and Mrs. Prior ence worthy of being sympathized with, are all portraits, whilst Shirley herself and valuable to be written.
is Emily Brontë idealized, or rather There can be no doubt that the first what Emily would have been had she and greatest cause of the extreme vivid- been placed in different circumstances. ness of the writings of Charlotte Brontë Though the book is singularly strong in and her sisters is the fact that most of individualities, there is, further, more genthe characters depicted are as faithfud eral merit in its writing. Its scenic effects copies from real life as though an artist are beautiful; the deep love of nature had sat down and limned their features. which possessed the soul of Currer Bell More so: for the artist has nothing to do is more observable here than elsewhere. with psychological characteristics, which, It is what we should describe as a novel in the case of the authors, are as accu- good “all round.” It has no weak side ; rately described as the features. Having it is the most perfect piece of writing the fixed upon their subjects for analysis, author has left behind her. There is not they clung to them like a shadow or a the terrible sweep of passion we see in second self, and the very isolation by Jane Eyre; the roughnesses of life are which they were surrounded lent strength smoothed down a little, and it seems altoto their conceptions. The characters are gether more humanized and humanizing. true to their respective natures, and their The most opposite events are touched final ends are fearlessly worked out. upon skilfully. Who can forget, for inHaving spoken of the book which made stance, the description of the revival in
the new Wesleyan Chapel at Briarfield, because He is Unseen she would teach us when “ Doad o' Bill's" announced posi- that that is no reason why He should be tively that he had “fun' (found) liberty,”, Unknown. Neither does she form imand the excitement amongst the brethren possible ideals. Shirley is as grand a was intense. Why can't these worthy character in her way as Dorothea Brooke, people take their religion a little more but we can comprehend her better. And quietly? As our author says on this oc- though Shirley's soul was deep, and she casion. “ the roof of the chapel did not fly had yearnings after greatness, her hopes off; which speaks volumes in praise of were not placed beyond fruition, as in the its solid slating.” A little further on we case of Dorothea. The former says: get another sample of power, occurring “Indisputably, a great, good, handsome in the description of a female character. man is the first of created things. I would “ Nature made her in the mood in which scorn to contend for empire with him. she makes her briars and thorns; whereas Shall my left hand dispute for precedence for the creation of some women she re- with my right? - shall my heart quarrel serves the May morning hours, when with my pulse ? — shall my veins be jealwith light and dew she wooes the prim- ous of the blood which fills them ? " rose from the turf, and the lily from the Some feeling of this kind, of course, woodmoss.” Again, we find in this novel Dorothea indulged towards Mr. Casauthat although Currer Bell was not a great bon; but in her case the idol is shattered, poetess through the usual medium of whilst Shirley obtains in the love of Louis measured cadence, she could write fine, Moore all that she craves for. It was genuine poetry in a prose setting. Wit- Dorothea's fate to be always finding huness the following description of nature manity fail, and created things insufficient put into the mouth of Shirley :
to fill the void in her nature. In this
sense Shirley is the superior character. I saw — I now see - a woman-Titan: her Besides her love, she had a truer insight robe of blue air spreads to the outskirts of the into the means of procuring happiness. heath where yonder flock is grazing; a veil, She discovered that it must sometimes be white as an avalanche, sweeps from her head to her feet, and arabesques of lightning flame worked for with her own hands. Thus, on its borders. Under her breast I see her then, was her nature completely rounded. zone, purple like that horizon; through With reverence to the Supreme were its blush shines the star of evening. Her added his richest gift of love and the link steady eyes I cannot picture; they are clear of benevolence to bind her to the rest of they are deep, as lakes — they are lifted and mankind. Not so serenely beautiful as full of worship — they tremble with the soft- Dorothea, and not perhaps so lofty in inness of love and the lustre of prayer. Her tellect, she is yet a more successful charforehead has the expanse of a cloud, and is acter. On her forehead there is not paler than the early moon, risen long before
written — failure. dark gathers; she reclines her bosom on the ridge of Stillbro' Moor; her mighty hands are
· If the sisters Brontë had early in life joined beneath it. So kneeling, face to face been accustomed to mingle in society, she speaks with God. That Eve is Jehovah's and had not been imprisoned within the daughter, as Adam was his son.
walls of Haworth parsonage, there can
be little question that we should have Our young poets might well covet a had more masterly and more general power of poetic description like this. As works from their hands. The skill they with all true poetry, there is not only the exhibit in delineating life should not form but the halo. The expression, com- have been confined to the inhabitants of ing as it did from the feeling, begets in those northern moors, but should have us the feeling again. Other passages of been employed in other haunts and other equal beauty could be culled from Shir- scenes likewise. Their field has been ley, gems glittering here and there in a necessarily restricted, though their genius great broad field. Nature, love, happi- had full play on the subjects within their ness, misery, loss, gain, are the things reach. But to demonstrate the capacity dilated upon, on each of which much is to turn experience to account wherever given to delight, to improve, and to en- it might be obtained, we only need to gender sympathy. Charlotte Brontë ex- direct the reader's attention to Charlotte hibits a marked contrast in one respect Brontë's latest work, Villette. It is redto the greatest female novelist at present olent of the flavour of Brussels, where living, and perhaps Shirley is the clearest the author and her sister spent some example of what we mean. Her faith is years of their lives. To the ordinary unwavering — faith in the Unseen. But English reader it is probably the most
uninteresting of all the works of Miss | imperious will would never have been Brontë, as page after page is composed daunted by opposition or difficulty: never mostly of French, and that sometimes have given way but with life.” On her difficult and idiomatic. This doubtless return to Haworth she began to lose in operated to some extent against its pop- beauty but to gain in impressiveness of ularity with the mass of novel-readers, feature, and she divided her time bethough the book seems to have earned tween homely domestic duties, studies, the most lavish encomiums from the and rambles. Shrinking entirely from critics. It exhibits, however, the genius contact with the life which surrounded neither of Jane Eyre nor of Shirley : it her, she gave herself up to nature, the reis, in truth, superior to the fiction of sult being apparent in her works, which ninety per cent of novelists, but it scarce- reveal a most intimate acquaintance with ly warranted the extravagant terms of the great Mother in all her moods. Her praise which were showered upon it by mind was absolutely free to all the the reviewers. These valuable individ- lessons which she should teach, and she uals, however, were, as is too often the embraced them with the most passionate case unfortunately, wise after the event longing. “ Her native hills were far – that is, they found it tolerably safe to more to her than a spectacle ; they were eulogize a new work from the hand of what she lived in, and by, as much as one who had already established her po- the wild birds, their tenants, or as the sition as amongst the most original heather, their produce.” Her descripwriters of the age. One or two of the tions, then, of natural scenery, are what dramatis persona evoke sentiments of they should be, and all they should be. approval on account of their originality, Any reader of her works must perforce conspicuous amongst them being Mr. acknowledge the accuracy of these obPaul Emanuel and Miss de Bassoinpierre ; servations. Her life, however, seemed to but on the whole, the book is disappoint- be an unprized one, except by that sister ing, for there is no one character whose who loved her profoundly, and who fortunes we are anxious to follow; and a keenly appreciated her genius as it esnovel which fails to beget a personal in- sayed to unfold its wings in the sun. But terest must be said to have lost its chief whilst she lived the world made no sign charm.
of recognition of her strangely weird Emily Brontë — for it is now time that powers. When illness came her indomiwe should say something of the two other table will still enabled her to present an persons in this remarkable trio — was, in unflinching front to sympathizing friends. certain respects, the most extraordinary She refused to see the doctor, and would of the three sisters. She has this dis- not have it that she was ill. To the last tinction at any rate, that she has written she retained an independent spirit, and a book which stands as completely alone on the day of her death she arose and in the language as does the Paradise dressed herself as usual. Her end reLost or the Pilgrim's Progress. This of minds us of that of her brother Branwell itself, setting aside subject and construc- whose will was so strong that he insisted tion, is no mean eminence. Emily Jane on standing up to die and did actually so Brontë, as is well known, was the young- die. Emily did everything for herself on est but one of the Rev. Mr. Brontë's chil that last day, but as the hours drew on dren, and died before she was thirty got manifestly worse, and could only years of age. Early in life she displayed whisper in gasps. The end came when a singularly masculine bent of intellect, it was too late to profit by human skill. and astonished those with whom she Wuthering Heights, the principal work came in contact by her penetration, and she has left behind her, shows a massive that settlement of character which gen- strength which is of the rarest descriperally only comes with age. She went tion. Its power is absolutely Titanic: from home twice, once to school and from the first page to the last it reads once to Brussels, but it was like the cag- like the intellectual throes of a giant. It ing of a lioness, and her soul yearned for is fearful, it is true, and perhaps one of the liberty of home. When in Brussels the most unpleasant books ever written : she attracted and impressed deeply all but we stand in amaze at the almost inthose who came across her, and M. Heger credible fact that it was written by a slim declared she should have been a man, for country girl who would have passed in a
her powerful reason would have de- crowd as an insignificant person, and duced new spheres of discovery from the who had had little or no experience of knowledge of the old, and her strong,' the ways of the world. In Heathcliff, Emily Brontë has drawn the greatest were entirely contained here? My great misvillain extant, after lago. He has no eries in this world have been "Heathcliff's match out of Shakespeare. The Mephis- miseries, and I watched and felt each from the topheles of Goethe's Faust is a person of beginning; my great thought in living is him. gentlemanly proclivities compared with self. If all else perished and he remained, I Heathcliff, There is not a redeeming mained and he were annihilated, the universe
should still continue to be; and if all else requality in him ; his coarseness is very would turn to a mighty stranger; I should not repellent; he is a unique specimen of the seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like human tiger. Charlotte Brontë in her the foliage in the woods : time will change it, digest of this character finds one amelior- I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees, ating circumstance in his favour, one My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal link which connects him with humanity rocks beneath : a source of little visible de- viz., his regard for one of his victims, light, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! Hareton Earnshaw. But we cannot agree He's always, always in my mind; not as a with her : his feeling toward Earnshaw pleasure any more than I am always a pleasure is excessively like that feline affection
to myself, but as my own being. which sometimes destroys its own off- Then comes Catherine's death — when spring As to his alleged esteem for she asks forgiveness for having wronged Nelly Dean, perhaps also the less said him, and Heathcliff answers,
* Kiss me about that the better. But Wuthering again ; and don't let me see your eyes ! I Heights a marvellous curiosity in forgive what you have done to me. I letters. We challenge the world to pro- love my murderer — but yours!. How duce another work in which the whole can I ?” The tale of woe proceeds; the atmosphere seems so surcharged with despairing man longing for the dead, suppressed electricity, and bound in with until at last he faces death, and being the blackness of tempest and desolation. asked if he will have the minister, replies From the time when young Heathcliff is –“I tell you I have nearly attained my introduced to us, “as dark almost as if Heaven ; and that of others is altogether he came from the devil,” to the last page unvalued and uncoveted by me." He of the story, there is nothing but sav- then sleeps beside her: thé tragedy of agery and ferocity, except when we are eighteen years is complete. A great deal taken away from the persons to the has been said on the question whether scenes of the narratives, and treated to such a book as Wuthering Heights ought those pictures in which the author excels. to be written, and Charlotte Brontë herThe Heights itself, the old north-country self felt impelled to utter some words of manor-house, is made intensely real to defence for it. Where the mind is us, but not more so than the central healthy it can do no harm ; but there are figure of the story, who, believing himself possibly organizations upon whom it alone one night, throws open the lattice, might exercise a baleful influence. With and cries with terrible anguish —“Cathy! regard to the drawing of Heathcliff, Curoh, my heart's darling. Hear me this rer Bell scarcely thought the creation of once. Catherine, at last!” Then his such beings justifiable, but she goes on history is recapitulated, by one who wit- to say that "the writer who possesses nessed his life in all its stages; and in the creative gift owns something of which the passage where Catherine informs her he is not always master - something that, nurse that she has promised to marry at times, strangely wills and works for Edgar Linton, but ought not to have itself.” We are afraid that if this opinion done so, we get the following example of were pushed to its logical issues it would concentrated force :
be found incapable of being supported. A I have no more business to marry Edgar multiplication of such books as WutherLinton than I have to be in Heaven. But it ing Heights without corresponding genius would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; would be a lamentable thing, no doubt ; so he shall never know how I love him, and yet, while we cannot defend it altogether that not because he's handsome, Nelly, but possibly as it stands, we should regret because he's more myself than I am. What never having seen it, as one of the most ever our souls are made of, his and mine are extraordinary and powerful productions the same; and Linton's is as different as in the whole range of English literature. moonbeams from lightning, or frost from fire.
Anne Brontë, the youngest of the three . . Who is to separate us? they'll meet the fate of Milo. I cannot express it ; but surely sisters, was unlike Charlotte and Emily you and everybody have a notion that there is
, in disposition and mental constitution. or should be, an existence of yours beyond She was not so vigorous, and seemed you. What were the use of my creation if Il more dependent upon the sympathy of
others. These characteristics are appar- Markham for the attractive and clever ent in her works, though in her principal widow is a delightful episode, and excelnovel there are touches which almost lently told, and the closing chapters go remind one of Emily. She was, never- very far to redeem the unpleasantness we theless, deficient in the energy which were compelled to encounter in the body distinguished her sisters, and was alto- of the work. As with Emily, Anne gether frailer in body, and more tender Brontë's strong point as a novelist was and serene in spirit. The devotional in the delineation of one grand master element in her nature was very strong, passion from the moment when it enas will be seen from a perusal of her tered into the soul to the time when it poems. Her sensitiveness was great, assumed complete and undisputed posand apt to be wounded by the bitter session of it. We see this tyranny of experiences she was called upon to en- passion in Heathcliff; we behold the dure as one of the class of ill-treated tyranny again in another direction in Mr. individuals called governesses. Some of Huntingdon. In both cases, however, it these experiences she has commemorated is finally left with as repulsive an appearin her story Agnes Grey, which, however, ance as the graphic pencils of the artists shows no notable powers of penetration were able to command. No one can and insight such as the world had been affirm that vice is ever winked at : it is, accustomed to look for in the authors on the contrary, drawn without cloak or bearing the cognomen of Bell. It is the veil
, in order that its devotees may be most inferior of all the works written by ashamed, or that those who are in danger the sisters, though interesting in many of becoming its victims may be arrested aspects. Possessed of a less determined and appalled. Such, we take it, is the will than Emily, Anne Brontë bore her great lesson of The Tenant of Wildfell sufferings patiently, and as the hour of Hall, and readers, even without sympadissolution approached, the terrors which thy for the author, would be unjust to had bound her spirit were dissipated, and affirm that the lesson is not taught with she passed away, we are assured, in a sufficient distinctiveness and force. calm and triumphant manner. Her last There are some things which only need verses are most beautiful in sentiment, to'be described to be abhorred; and this and worked out with considerable skill. feeling probably led to the production of It is a curious question how this gentle the work just alluded to. woman, nevertheless, came to write such Of the little volume of poetry written a narrative as The Tenant of Wildfell conjointly by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Hall, which in some of its details is more Bell
, and published before their prose offensive and repulsive than the great works, there is not much to be said, expièce de resistance of her next elder sister. cept that it might teach a lesson to some The drunken orgies of Mr. Huntingdon of the poets of the present day, that the and his companions cannot fail to be dis- best inspiration after all is to be derived gusting to the reader, vivid though the from contact with Nature herself. Many relation may be in colour. Most proba- of these verses are not only Wordsworthbly that portion of the story was sug- ian in their simplicity of expression, gested by the sad practical acquaintance but also in their reverent feeling for the the author had been compelled to make Great Teacher of all true poets. They of the effects of the vice of drunkenness are rills which spring from the best in her brother Branwell. The sorrow source of inspiration, and, whilst they do entailed by his conduct weighed upon her not lose the idiosyncracies of their redeeply, and she gave relief to her feelings spective authors, are all imbued with by picturing the sin with all its hideous intense love of outward beauty, and consequences and deformity through the breathe of the native heath upon which medium of fiction. It might be that she they were in most part written. The had hope such a revelation would be ef- poems which bear traces of the highest fective for good, and certainly all who flight of immagination are undoubtedly read the story cannot but be affected by those of Ellis Bell. Her genius here that wretched portion of it devoted to att ns a more refined expression, withthe delineation of a drunkard. It is the out losing anything of its power. In sevstrongest, the most striking part of the eral instances she has surrounded an old volume, and the mystery of its production subject with new and delightful interest, by such a pure soul as Anne Brontë's' and even where her choice has fallen can only be explained on the hypothesis upon more sombre subjects, the originalwe have assumed. The love of Gilbert ity is so great that we are lost in admi.