A new look at Charlotte Brontë

When you have been given a snapshot, or someone else’s viewpoint about a person and don’t bother to go looking for a more balanced version. You will, like I have just discovered, that person only exists in fantasy.

Charlotte-bronte

I imagined from other people’s telling and visiting the Parsonage at Haworth, that the Bronte sisters were plain, pious, weedy little things who wrote as part of a drab life. I imagined them terribly polite with exquisite manners who would never dunk a biscuit in tea. “Good” women, good Christian women who faced trials and tribulations head on and suffered, oh and produced great melodramatic novels.

The background: I was reading a book today,

SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS (XV-XIX CENTURIES)

ARRANGED BY M. DUCKITT & H. WRAGG 1913.

I was interested in Cowper’s letters with Newton and also Charles Lamb’s letter to Coleridge. A search term I used brought me to this letter of Charlotte Bronte to an un-named friend. She shows some fire. In other bits I have read and of the images now seen refreshed, she is certainly not plain and possibly had a lover, Monsieur Heber in Brussels

I now have to go find the real Charlotte, or my snapshot of her to get a more balanced view.

A letter from Charlotte to a friend bemoaning curates and admitting temper.

[1845.]

You thought I refused you coldly, did you? It was a queer sort of coldness, when I would have given my ears to say Yes, and was obliged to say No. Matters, however, are now a little changed. Anne is come home, and her presence certainly makes me feel more at liberty. Then, if all be well, I will come and see you. Tell me only when I must come. Mention the week and the day. Have the kindness also to answer the following queries, if you can. How far is it from Leeds to Sheffield? Can you give me a notion of the cost? Of course, when I come, you will let me enjoy your own company in peace, and not drag me out a-visiting. I have no desire at all to see your curate. I think he must be like all the other curates I have seen; and they seem to me a self-seeking, vain, empty race. At this blessed moment, we have no less than three of them in Haworth parish—and there is not one to mend another. The other day, they all three, accompanied by Mr. S., dropped, or rather rushed, in unexpectedly to tea. It was Monday (baking-day), and I was hot and tired; still, if they had behaved quietly and decently, I would have served them out their tea in peace; but they began glorifying themselves, and abusing Dissenters in such a manner, that my temper lost its balance, and I pronounced a few sentences sharply and rapidly, which struck them all dumb. Papa was greatly horrified also, but I don’t regret it.

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