C[autley] Holmes Cautley, ‘Old Haworth Folk Who Knew the Brontës’ (1910), in Cornhill Magazine, July 1910, pp. 76–84
the following personal recollections of the Brontës have been obtained from old Yorkshire folk who knew them when they lived at Haworth. Where my memory has retained them, I have given these reminiscences in the exact words in which at various times — and some of them many times — they have been told to me. In this way, as revealing something of the speech and character of the Haworth villagers at the time the Brontës lived there, as well as showing how the Brontës were regarded by their humbler neighbours, these few recollections, though slight in themselves, may not be without interest.
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- 3.The report that Mr Nicholls laughed while reading Shirley comes as something of a surprise; but testimony on the character of Mr Nicholls is decidedly mixed. Another witness quoted by Cautley, a plasterer, praised Mr Nicholls’s energy and defended his right to the succession of the ministry of Haworth Parsonage after the Reverend Patrick Brontë’s death. Since not all his contemporaries agreed with this high estimate, the difference of opinion suggests the nature of the difficulty faced by biographers who attempt to assess his suitability for Charlotte Brontë’s hand. In addition to his’ stout’ championship of Mr Nicholls, the plasterer praised ‘old Patrick’, a similarly controversial figure; so did the old lady of 87 whose reminiscences follow his. Some balancing of Mrs Gaskell’s grim portrait in The Life of Charlotte Brontë, over and beyond what was called for in the revised edition, is needed, and should incorporate more of this kind of evidence. Moreover, we know that when the illness of Patrick’s wife, Maria Branwell, proved fatal, her death inspired the giving of a number of cash donations to compensate for Patrick’s ensuing expenses. A letter from Patrick to his old vicar John Buckworth, at Dewsbury (27 November 1821), itemised, with heart-felt humility, the various gifts that astonished him: £150 pounds from ‘a few wealthy friends in Bradford’, several pounds from another ‘old and very kind friend’ in Bradford, £50 pounds from the Society in London, and £50 from ‘a wealthy lady in the West Riding of Yorkshire’. Patrick concluded, ‘How true, how memorable, the saying, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”’ Quoted by John Lock and Canon W. T. Dixon in A Man of Sorrow: The Life, Letters and Times of the Rev. Patrick Brontë, 1777–1861 (London: Nelson, 1965), pp. 232–3.Google Scholar