The Letters, and Charlotte’s Views
Had Ellen Nussey not preserved Charlotte’s letters from 1831 onwards, we should know very little about the main lives of the Brontës; Mrs Gaskell’s biography, if she had thought it worth pursuing, would have been relatively brief. Until Jane Eyre was accepted by her publishers, Charlotte had no correspondent of importance besides Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor; the latter, less sentimental and discerning than Ellen in her friendship, destroyed all Charlotte’s letters save one of great interest, on the sudden journey to London with Anne to attest the integrity of ‘Currer Bell’ (4.9.48). Charlotte desperately wished to correspond with M. Heger, but he was no letter-writer; his wife was jealous, and Charlotte’s foolish pleading made her more so. The situation was so embarrassing that the admired ‘master’ invited her to address her letters to the Athénée, the school for boys where he taught. Charlotte scorned a clandestine correspondence, and her eager desire for a pen-friend of the opposite sex had to be stifled until her long correspondence with her publisher’s reader, Mr Williams, began. After meeting him in London, she was able to discuss with him a number of subjects from literature to family affairs. Mrs Gaskell (Letters, p. 877) noted that Charlotte seemed ‘heartily at her ease with him’ in her letters. She corresponded with George Smith, the youthful head of the firm, and another representative, Mr Taylor, whose interest was to extend embarrassingly beyond literature to Charlotte herself.
KeywordsWorth Pursuing Family Affair Main Life Irreparable Harm Imaginative Thought
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