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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Feb. 16th, 1850, writing to one of her friends, Charlotte Bronte wrote:

'A few days since, a little incident happened which curiously touched me. Papa put into my hands a little packet of letters and papers, telling me that they were mamma's, and that I might read them. I did read them, in a frame of mind I cannot describe. The papers were yellow with time, all having been written before I was born. It was strange now to peruse, for the first time, the records of a mind whence my own sprang; and most strange, and at once sad and sweet, to find that mind of a truly fine, pure, and elevated order. They were written to papa before they were married. There is a rectitude, a refinement, a constancy, a modesty, a sense, a gentleness about them indescribable. I wish she had lived, and that I had known her.'

Here is one of them:

'Wood House GROVE, September 18, 1812.

'How readily do I comply with my dear Mr. B's request! You see, you have only to express your wishes and as far as my power extends I hesitate not to fulfil them. My heart tells me that it will always be my pride and pleasure to contribute to your happiness, nor do I fear that this will ever be inconsistent with my duty as a Christian. My esteem for you and my confidence in you is so great, that I firmly believe you will never exact anything from me which I could not conscientiously perform. I shall in future look to you for assistance and instruction whenever I may need them, and hope you will never withhold from me any advice or caution you may see necessary.
'For some years I have been perfectly my own mistress, subject to no control whatever-- so far from it, that my sisters who are many years older than myself, and even my dear mother, used to consult me in every case of importance, and scarcely ever doubted the propriety of my opinions and actions. Perhaps you will be ready to accuse me of vanity in mentioning this, but you must consider that I do not boast of it, I have many times felt it a disadvantage; and although, I thank God, it never led me into error, yet in circumstances of perplexity and doubt, I have deeply felt the want of a guide and instructor.
'At such times I have seen and felt the necessity of supernatural aid, and by fervent applications to the throne of grace I have experienced that my heavenly Father is able and willing to supply the place of every earthly friend. I shall now no longer feel this want, this sense of helpless weakness, for I believe a kind Providence has intended that I shall find in you ever earthly friend united; nor do I fear to trust myself under your protection, or shrink from your control. It is pleasant to be subject to those we love, especially when they never exert their authority but for the good of the subject. How few would write in this way! But I do not fear that you will make a bad use of it. You tell me to write my thoughts, and thus as they occur I freely let my pen run away with them.
'Sat. Morn. -- I do not know whether you dare show your face here again or not after the blunder you have committed. When we got to the house on Thursday evening, even before we were within doors, we found that Mr. and Mrs. Bedford had been there, and that they had requested you to mention their intention of coming-- a single hint of which you never gave! Poor I too came in for a share in the had words which were bestowed upon you, for they all agreed that I was the cause of it. Mr. Fennell said you were certainly mazed, and talked of sending you to York, etc. And even I begin to think that this, together with the note, bears some marks of insanity! However, I shall suspend my judgement until I hear what excuse you can make for yourself, I suppose you will be quite ready to make one of some kind or another.
'Yesterday I performed a difficult and yet pleasing task in writing to my sisters. I thought I never should accomplish the end for which the letter was designed; but after a good deal of perambulation I gave them to understand the nature of my engagement with you, with the motives and inducements which led me to form such an engagement, and that in consequence of it I should not see them again so soon as I had intended. I concluded by expressing a hope that they would not be less pleased with the information than wew my friends here. I think they will not suspect me to have made a wrong step, their partiality for me is so great. And their affection for me will lead them to rejoice in my welfare, even though it should diminish somewhat of their own. I shall think the time tedious till I hear from you, and must beg you will write as soon as possible. Pardon me, my dear friend, if I again caution you against giving way to a weakness of which I have heard you complain. When you find your heart oppressed and your thoughts too much engrossed by one subject, let prayer be your refuge-- this you no doubt know by experience to be a sure remedy, and a relief from every care and error. Oh, that we had more of the spirit in prayer! I feel that I need it much.
'Breakfast time is near, I must bid you farewell for the time, but rest assured you will always share in the prayers and heart of your own
'Mr. Fennell has crossed my letter to my sisters. With his usual goodness he has supplied my deficiencies and spoken of me in terms of commendation of which I wish I were more worthy. Your character he has likewise displayed in the most favourable light; and I am sure they will not fail to love and esteem you though unknown.
'All here unite in kind regards. Adieu.'


mysticgypsy said...

aww I found the beginning of another letter dated 18 November 1812, really touching. It starts with "My dear saucy Pat". Maria Branwell could have been quite the minx, despite the austere exterior!

le_ssa said...

old letters are most excellent! ^_^

Brontëana said...

to mysticgypsy:

I have that one as well. It seems to be the most famous of her letters because of that opening address! The rest of the letter isn't as minxy, though ;)

Brontëana said...

to le_ssa:

I'd have to agree. Something is lacking in email ;)