I will say about this edition that the typeface chosen made it much less enjoyable. It reminded me of old carbon copied things. I really should give it a higher rating for its scholarship and thoroughness, but unfortunately I was not super interested in the scholarship and thoroughness. Dreadful waste These are not by the lad Branwell, they are his father's rubbishy doggerel.
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Can I have my money back please? Colin rated it it was ok Jan 03, Lapsus Linguae rated it really liked it Dec 31, Susan Woods rated it it was amazing Jun 26, Victoria rated it it was amazing Apr 24, Jenni Coe rated it really liked it Nov 26, Aviva rated it really liked it Apr 27, Carina rated it did not like it Mar 25, Astraea rated it it was amazing Aug 28, Grace rated it really liked it Apr 21, Marie Kris added it Nov 02, Laura marked it as to-read Nov 19, Andrew Burbidge added it Jan 04, Brenda marked it as to-read Oct 28, Valeria marked it as to-read Dec 20, Charlotte marked it as to-read Jan 20, Dora marked it as to-read Aug 20, Jessica marked it as to-read Aug 20, Julie Chambless marked it as to-read Mar 03, Whitney marked it as to-read Apr 06, Joshlynn marked it as to-read Sep 12, Jesse Freedom added it Dec 20, Sirui Xu marked it as to-read Jan 25, Nikita Jain marked it as to-read Apr 12, Elizabeth Laird marked it as to-read May 19, Irina marked it as to-read Jun 20, Jackie Thurston marked it as to-read Jul 19, Stephen Bruce marked it as to-read Nov 06, Amel marked it as to-read Jan 18, Jade Brown marked it as to-read Feb 03, Mirjana marked it as to-read Feb 08, Swetha marked it as to-read Jun 03, Ashley Fogg marked it as to-read Sep 02, Michael Cook marked it as to-read Oct 14, Sofia marked it as to-read Dec 17, How he came to be anything less shall be examined later.
Before entering upon a discussion of Branwell Bronte's claim to our remembrance, a brief sum- mary of his life history is necessary. Much material, previously unknown, has been brought together by the unremitting industry of his chief biographer, Mr.
Henceforth referred to as Leyland. He was called Patrick after his father, and Branwell after his mother's family. His mother died when he was three years old, and he can scarcely have had any definite recollection of her. From his fourth year onward, till he was old enough to attend the local Grammar School, we must picture the little Branwell as a fair, bright- eyed boy, with chestnut hair, sharing the home life of his five motherless sisters, under the kindly, but strict tutelage of their aunt.
Miss Branwell, who at the request of her bereaved brother-in-law, had 18 Patrick Branwell Bronte 19 come up from Cornwall to manage his young family, and to preside over the affairs of his house- hold. It has been wisely said that every student of the Brontes would do well to visit the high moorland village where they were bred, a tiny rustic hamlet perched on the top of wild, sweeping, ruthless uplands, amid the kind of scenery that either attracts or utterly repels the onlooker.
We know that in the case of one, if not two, of the sisters, their native moors were so much a part of their own nature, that they could not be happy else- where.
The Poems of Patrick Branwell Bronte : Victor A. Neufeldt :
This was not necessarily their brother's case, though the wild spirit of the moors un- doubtedly imbued his mind and heart from life- long association. As a tiny boy, hand in hand with his elder sisters, Maria, Elizabeth and Charlotte, he walked day after day along the roads leading either to Colne or Keighley, and when he was old enough to ramble alone or with some friend of his own age, we may be sure he frequented every nook and cranny that held Nature's secrets, and became acquainted with every bird and plant 20 Patrick Br unwell Bronte to be found in the remotest recesses of that deso- late region.
It might be supposed that the only boy among a group of girls would be the especial object of his father's care and solicitude. It is clear that Mr. Bronte did his best for his son within the very narrow limitations of his somewhat stern and self-centred nature. But his whole system of training proves beyond the possibility of doubt, that he was no lover of children.
His ideas were rigid, the little ones were not to come into close contact with him, he was to be " saved " from them, not to be disturbed by noise or play. To make quite sure that his solitude should not be encroached upon, he took his meals apart, and further to ensure that his offspring should prove sufficiently " tame " and docile, we are told that he kept them on a diet of porridge and potatoes.
They were never allowed meat. Now in the mild climate of Ireland, where Mr. Bronte had been bred, and where so large a proportion of the population are potato-fed, this diet is probably fairly sustaining, at least when supplemented, as it Patrick Br unwell Bronte 2 1 usually is, with bacon. But for a bleak, bitter country like the desolate, high moors of the West Riding, such fare is quite unsuitable.
The delicate children of the Parsonage needed the best food and clothing available, to protect them from the cold of that exposed region. It seems therefore impossible to exonerate this hard, self-absorbed parent from the grave accusation of having sub- jected his precious charges to a regimen and system of training which their tender bodies were totally unfitted to bear, and of having thus — unwittingly, it may be granted — laid them open to the ravages of that constitutional disease which proved fatal to them all.
In the case of Branwell, the lack of nitrogenous food was especially disastrous, as a boy needs more bone and muscle building, and there can be little doubt that the Spartan diet upon which he was reared induced the fragility so eminently noticeable in his constitution, both as boy and man. It was probably this lack of stamina and natural vigour which led him in later years to resort to stimulants that might spur his flagging energies, 22 Patrick Br unwell Bronte and which rendered him unequal to the strain of combating the series of disappointments he eventu- ally encountered, under which his spirit broke completely and finally.
From all accounts he was a gentle, affectionate boy, but abnormally excitable. He was his aunt's especial favourite, but never taken into close companionship by his father. The grim old man did his duty, as he conceived it, by his son in grounding him well in the rudiments of learning, and without doubt taught him conscien- tiously and well. But his grave and reserved nature made him incapable of winning the boy's ardent, impulsive heart, and it was probably a relief to all concerned when Branwell was old enough to attend the local Grammar School.
It is well known from Mrs. Gaskell Dent. With Preface by Miss May Sinclair, Henceforth referred to as " Life. These are our three great plays that are not kept secret. Gaskell's account, one might suppose the whole juvenile library, of which Charlotte writes, to have been her own sole creation. Branwell is also known to have contributed his share to the " Young Men's Magazine" completed December, , of which six numbers are included in the " Catalogue of my Books up to August, ".
The existence of these little compositions establishes the fact that Branwell, no less than his sisters, was engaged in romantic literary composition from the age of nine onwards. It is said that he was an ardent student and omnivorous reader of all the books or magazines that came his way. He studied the classics both with his father and at the Grammar School, and was a fairly brilliant scholar. Some of the magazines of the day, Blackwood's certainly, he saw, and the local papers ; we also hear of his close acquaintance with the works of the great writers of the day, Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, Byron, De Quincey, Coleridge, Cowper, Burns, Christopher North, and many more, as well as with the classics of the Augustan Age and the great Elizabethans.
It is remarkable, too, that, spirited boy as he was, his favourite poets were Wordsworth and Cowper : he was particularly fond of quoting the latter's Patrick Br unwell Bronte 26 poem, " The Castaway". A description given by Charlotte of one of her characters, Victor Crimsworth, in his boyhood, is said by those who knew, to have borne a close resemblance to Branwell as they remembered him.
His shape is symmetrical enough, but slight. I never saw a child smile less than he does, nor one who knits such a formidable brow when sitting over a book that interests him or while listening to tales of adventure, peril or wonder. He had susceptibility to pleasur- able sensations almost too keen, for it amounts to enthusiasm.
When he could read, he became a glutton of books and is so still. His toys have been few, and he has never wanted more. I discovered in the garden of his intellect a rich growth of wholesome principles — reason, justice, moral courage, promised, if not blighted, a fertile bearing. She his mother sees, as I see, a something in Victor's temper — a kind of electrical ardour and power — which emits now and then ominous sparks. Hunsden calls it his spirit, and 26 Patrick Branwell Bronte says it should not be curbed.
I call it the leaven of the offending Adam, and consider that it should be, if not whipped out of him, at least soundly disciplined. Frances, his mother, gives this some, thing in her son's marked character no name, but when it appears Then she reasons with him, and to reason Victor is ever accessible. Then she looks at him with eyes of love, and by love Victor can be infallibly subjugated. An intense capacity for enjoyment was most certainly one of his characteristics, for we read of the wild exuberance of his spirits when, in the company of a friend, the son of a neighbour, he visited Keighley Fair.
Patrick Bramvell Bronte 2 7 he had been sent by his father to escort Charlotte to a friend's house a few miles away, we learn that his ecstacy knew no bounds at the beauties of Miss Nussey's dehghtful home. He told his sister he was leaving her in Paradise, and if she were not intensely happy she never would be! This was a critical period in the boy's life. Beyond his years of childish tuition, he seems to have had no further help from his father, who, it must be granted, was in no way fitted by nature or temperament to have the up-bringing of so brilliant, wayward and impulsive a youth as Branwcll.
Consequently, out of lesson hours, he was left almost entirely to his own devices. The Sexton's " off " hours were largely spent in the bar-parlour of the Village Inn, and thither Branwell often followed him, either to hear his stories or to discuss Pugihsm, a sport which has frequently a strong attraction for delicate boys striving to show they are as good fighters as any other. The " Noble Art of Self Defence " was much patronized in the early part of the last century by the fashionable dandies of London, as well as by the leading country gentle- men.
Branwell, an enthusiastic boxer, was a member of the village Boxing Club, where no doubt he met many rough companions whose society cannot have been either suitable or beneficial to his temperament at this impressionable period of his Hfe. Still, it is difficult to see how, without being a prig, he could have avoided the com- Patrick Br unwell Bronte 29 panionship of the youths who were his father's parishioners and Sunday scholars.
But though the rough and tumble life he shared with some of his village companions was undoubtedly a prominent feature of his early youth, there were other ties and attractions that bound him more closely : the attachment he had to his sisters, his affection for his devoted Aunt Branwell, and his respect for his father's teaching and character. At the Parsonage he spent his time cultivating his mind with all the good literature within reach, in the study of music, to which he was passionately devoted, and in the serious pursuit of art.
Branwell had lessons in music from the teacher who instructed his sister Emily — the only really gifted musician of the three sisters — and he also played the organ. Whether he played for the Sunday services is not related, but we hear of him at a later date, in , officiating as organist at meetings of the Masonic Lodge of the Three Graces, held at Haworth in that year. He was particularly devoted to sacred music, and an 30 Patrick Branwell Bronte enthusiastic admirer of the compositions of Handel, Hadyn, Mozart and other great masters. It is told of him that when the works of these great musicians were at any time played by his friends, he would walk about the rooms in an ecstacy, his eyes raised to the ceiling, " accom- panying the music with his voice in an impassioned manner, and beating time with his hand on the chairs as he passed to and fro.
His gift for obtaining a hkeness of his subject was very noticeable ; indeed, so marked was his facility with brush and pencil that the whole family were convinced that art would be his vocation, and for several years he was strongly encouraged by them to persist industriously in its pursuit. Patrick Br unwell Bronte 31 accomplishments at the close of his boyhood, it can scarcely be disputed that Branwell Bronte was exceptionally gifted.
He was, moreover, a boy who pulsed with feeling, a boy, who, while he danced with the joy of young life, vibrated also with all the emotions of sorrow when it visited the little domestic circle to which he belonged. In many respects he was as sensitive as a woman, and where he gave his affections, he became and remained passionately attached.
The pathetic death of his two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, when he was a boy of eight, made a tragic impression on his mind, and perhaps laid the foundations of that deep strain of dark melancholy that pervades all his poetry, and which plunged him in gloom at various intervals all through his life. His poems " To Caroline " are supposed to have been the outcome of his musings on the untimely deaths of his sisters. It is scarcely to be wondered at if Branwell, marshalled as he was from a very early age in all his goings and comings by women, should have developed a marked sense of sex differen- 32 Patrick Branwell Bronte tiation.
Shut up as he was in a bare, dreary, moorland Parsonage ; ruled over by a precise, formal and elderly lady, and a harsh-mannered, rude-voiced old Yorkshire house-wife, the famous " Tabby " ; with no other companions than his three, delicate, prim sisters, trained in the strictest code of Victorian propriety ; his father a grave, awe-inspiring elderly clergyman, ab- sorbed more closely in his own personality than in that of his son — with such an environment, is it to be marvelled that he passionately longed for the society of his fellows, and that, the moment lessons were over, he rushed to freedom with all the glee and impetuosity of a wild thing escaping from prison bars?
One can imagine him scam- pering over the moors, shouting aloud in sheer dehght of living, strangely similar to that boy of whom Wordsworth wrote : — There was a boy — ye knew him well, ye cliffs And islands of Winander! Many a time At evening, when the earliest stars began To move along the edges of the hills, Rising or setting, he would stand alone.
At the age of seventeen it became incumbent on him to choose a career. It may be supposed that his father would have been well satisfied had his son shown an inclination to qualify as a clergyman. But Branwell had no such desire either then or afterwards. It is probable that, this being the case, Mr. But Charlotte, who was in a sense the leading spirit at the Parsonage, was at this time much impressed with her brother's abilities, and looked to him to accomplish great things. His gift for drawing was, so far, the most outstanding of his per- formances, and seemed to hold out the greatest chances of success.
He had either at this time or a few years later, probably in , made a life- size painting of his three sisters, which Mrs. Gaskell saw before it had faded, and of which she writes as follows : " It was a group of his sisters, life-size, three-quarter length ; not much better than sign- painting as to manipulation, but the Ukenesses were, I should think, admirable. I could only judge of the fidelity with which the other two were depicted from the striking resemblance which Charlotte.
They were good likenesses, however badly executed. From whence I should guess his family augured truly that, if Branwell had but the 36 Patrick Branwell Bronte opportunity All we know further is that in he proceeded to London with a view to presenting himself as a student, and that within a week he returned to the Parson- age without having achieved the exciting purpose for which he had so high-heartedly set out. To those who know the qualifying conditions of study at the Academy Schools there will appear nothing singular in Branwell's sudden return, though his detractors, hastening to use even this for the purpose of defaming him, and, without a shadow of foundation for their assertions, insidiously suggest that his failure was the outcome of indulgence in a course of dissipation at the first opportunity that presented itself.
Patrick Branwell Bronte 37 nonsense about " sisters who have laid their lives as a sacrifice before their brother's idolised wish," which is nothing to the point, as his sisters were in no way affected by Branwell's apphcation at the Academy Schools, though they might have been had he selfishly decided to remain there and go through the necessary course of training. But to talk of " sacrifice " is ridiculous : some opportunity of training for a profession was in any case due to the boy if he were to support himself in life, and had he decided to enter the Church, he would have needed some course of college training.
But this week in London was all he got, and yet Miss Sinclair talks glibly about his having " had his chance ". Shorter makes the totally unsupported assertion that the youth " probably wasted the money and his father refused supplies. Leyland, " seem scarcely possible that the difficulties attending Branwell's admission as a student at the Royal Academy had been duly considered. He could not be admitted without a preliminary examination of his drawings from the antique and the skeleton, to ascertain if his ability as a draughtsman was of such an order as would qualify him for studentship ; and if successful in this, he would be required to undergo a regular course of education and to pass through the various schools where professors and academicians attended to give instruction.
No doubt it was wished that Branwell should have a regular and prolonged preparation for his professional, artistic career ; but it would have lasted for years and the pecuniary strain consequent upon it would perhaps have been severely felt, even if Branwell's genius had justified the outlay.
Patrick Branwell Bronte 39 It is greatly to Branwell's credit that he at once grasped this aspect of the case. He probably talked the matter over with the sculptor — after- wards his life-long friend — and decided that he was not justified in putting such a strain upon his father's resources, and so, after a wonderful week of sight-seeing in the city of his dreams, he made the best of it, and bravely returned to Haworth.
This was indeed the only manly course to take, and he took it. But the boy's own bitter dis- appointment and disillusion may be better imagined than expressed, and we know that he referred to it in a conversation with his friend, Mr. George Searle Phillips, who mentions it in his account of Branwell published in the " Mirror " for Branwell was not immediately discouraged.
He could not afford London, but an arrangement was made, possibly by the generosity of his aunt Miss Branwell, by which he should take a short course of lessons in Bradford, in the studio of the artist who had previously given him and Charlotte some occasional lessons at Haworth. He worked with Mr. Robinson for a few months, and then. Although he received certain commissions, and lived frugally, it was not possible to make a profitable business out of so precarious an occupation ; the days of black-and-white work, in which he would prob- ably have excelled, had not yet come ; and after a heart-breaking struggle, Branwell, in , decided to abandon the pursuit of art altogether.
Miss Sinclair dismisses Branwell's art career very jauntily. He went to Bradford and had a studio there, but nothing came of it. Had it not been for Branwell's great gift, not of painting, perhaps, but of portraiture, how much poorer should we be to-day! Emily Bronx K. From a painting by Patrick Branwi-ll Bronte. Reproduced by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London. Patrick Branwell Bronte 41 we have preserved for us, although in ruins, the group of the three Brontes which Mrs.
Gaskell saw and described in its first freshness? This we owe assuredly to the Bradford period. And if Branwell had no other fame, he has at least one species of immortality as the painter of his sister Emily's profile portrait, in which he has caught the very soul and spirit of his subject, and given her to us in all her Dantesque severity and aloof- ness, given her to us clothed with all the fatality of a Greek tragic figure, a second Antigone, gazing intently into Eternity. Only an innately fine artist could have given us this ; the colours have perished, but the flame-like spirit of Emily remains and fires the faded canvas.
Who, having seen even the wreck of this portrait of Emily Bronte can be unmindful of the undeveloped genius of the artist brother who conceived and limned it? Who, having dwelt on the truth of its execution, and the inexhaustible wonder of its subject, can truthfully say that " nothing came " of Branwell Bronte's art studies at Bradford? While at Bradford he made many friends among 42 Patrick Br unwell Bronte the most cultured artistic circles to be found there. His musical abilities also won him many friends in the town.
Those who knew him there describe him as " a quiet, unassuming young man, retiring and difhdent, seeming rather of a passive nature and delicate constitution than otherwise.
Robinson's statements that he left the town heavily in debt, and was both a drunkard and an opium-eater are, says Mr. Leyland " simply untrue. Leyland speaks with admiration of Branwell's " honest, upright and honourable endeavour to make a living by the profession of Art at Bradford. Patrick Branwell Bronte 43 ceased the writing of tales and romances. As late as this Bradford period, he had written a story entitled " Percy".
He continually produced poems, most of them tinged with that constitu- tional melancholy which was one of his most abiding characteristics. Great powers were un- doubtedly stirring within him, but he was, his Bradford friends noted, diffident ; the source of this want of self-confidence may very well have been the undoubted frailty of his constitution, already pre-disposed to a consumptive tendency. None the less, his spirit was brave, and he left no means untried to di. It was during what we may call this " Bradford Period " that Branwell occupied his available leisure in literary — chiefly poetic — attempts.
Being very anxious to succeed, and scarcely knowing to whom to turn for guidance, he wrote to Words- worth, and, enclosing some of his verses, ventured to solicit his opinion as to whether he was justified in pursuing his literary ambitions. Yorkshire, January igth, I read for the same reason that I ate or drank — because it was a real craving of nature ; I wrote on the same principle as I spoke, out of the impulse and feelings of the mind ; nor could I help it, for what came, came out, and there was the end of it.
For as to self- conceit, that could not receive food from flattery, since to this hour not half-a-dozen people in the world know that I have penned a line. Yet there is not one here to tell me ; and still, if they are worthless, time will henceforth be too precious to be wasted on them. Sir, that I have ventured to come before one whose works I have most loved in our literature, and who most has been with me a divinity of the mind, laying before him one of my writings, and asking of him a judgment of its contents.
I must come before someone from whose sentence there is no appeal ; and such a one is he who has developed the theory of poetry as well as its practice, and both in such a way as to claim a place in the memory of a thousand years to come. Surely in this day, when there is not a writing poet worth a sixpence, the field must be open, if a better man can step forward. Now, to send you the whole of this would be a mock upon your patience ; what you see does not even pretend to be more than the description of an imaginative child.
But read it, Sir ; and, as you would hold a light to one in utter darkness, as you value your own kind- heartedness, return me an answer if but one word, telling me whether I should write on, or write Patrick Branwell Bronte 47 no more. Forgive undue warmth, because my feelings in this matter cannot be cool ; and be- Heve me, Sir, with deep respect, " Your really humble servant, "P. Shorter has referred very slightingly to Branwell's letters in comparison with his sister Charlotte's, but I think no one can read the one I have just quoted without being touched by its tone of courteous deference and the lucid beauty of its style.
The paragraph in which he asks Wordsworth to pardon his appeal is one of re- markable grace, and there are many other passages in the letter, particularly towards the close, that are affecting by the natural, simple eloquence of their entreaty. A youth of nine- teen who could write so well as this had assuredly a future before him, if he could but meet with sufficient opportunities of exercising his already uncommon gifts of hterary expression. But one of the outstanding disadvantages from which Branwell Bronte suffered throughout his 48 Patrick Branwell Bronte life was that — as he confessed so naively in this letter — he did not know what powers he possessed, and when he was on the verge of discovering them, misfortunes assailed him, and he died without coming into the heritage actually awaiting him.
Soon after his return from Bradford, we find Branwell accepting the situation of tutor in the family of a Mr. Postlethwaite of Broughton- in-Furness, and entering upon his duties there on the first of January, While in this neighbourhood it is recorded that he tramped among the lovely hills and valleys of that beautiful country, and it is suggested that he may have been received by Wordsworth, for whom, as we have seen, he cherished a deeply reverent admiration.
He certainly was acquainted with Hartley Coleridge, who gave him a favourable opinion upon some work he had submitted. His mind con- tinued to be occupied chiefly with Hterature, and he wrote his poem on " Black Comb " at this time. It was wTitten in a roystering, devil-may-care spirit, probably to throw off, for an hour at least, the constraint of solemn behaviour, unnatural to any young man of his age, which, in his position as tutor, he was obliged to assume. It was never meant for pubhcation, but being proudly treasured in the sexton's family, has been given to the world.
Gaskell, writing of Branwell as he appeared to his family about the year , says : "At this time the young man seemed to have his fate in his own hands. He was full of noble impulses, as well as of extraordinary gifts ; not accustomed to resist temptation, it is true, from any higher motive than strong family affection, but showing so much power of attachment to all about him, that they took pleasure in believing that after a time he would 'right himself, and that they should have pride and delight in the use he would then make of his splendid talents ; I have seen Branwell's profile ; it is what would be generally esteemed very handsome ; the forehead is massive, the eye well set, and the expression of it fine and in- tellectual ; the nose too is good ; but there are coarse lines about the mouth, while the slightly retreating chin conveys an idea of weakness of will.
His hair and complexion were sandy. He had enough Irish blood in him to make his manners frank and genial, with a kind of natural gallantry about them. In a fragment of one of his manuscripts which I have read, there is a justness and felicity of expression which is very striking. It is the beginning of a tale and the actors in it are drawn with much of the grace of characteristic portrait-painting in perfectly pure and simple language, which distinguishes so many of Addison's papers in the Spectator. But altogether the elegance and com- posure of style are such as one would not have expected from this vehement and ill-fated young man.
He had a stronger desire for literary fame Patrick Branwell Bronte 51 burning in his heart than even that which occa- sionally flashed up in his sister's. He tried various outlets for his talents. In he was living at home, employing himself in occasional composition of various kinds, and waiting till some employment for which he might be fitted without any expensive course of pre- liminary education, should turn up.
Gaskell's description which seem to invite attention. It will be seen how much she admired Branwell's prose style, but it will also be noticed that she was so afraid of bestowing unqualified praise upon one whom she regarded as a backslider, that she modifies it with the expression of her astonishment at finding it so good. What connection there can be between an author's personal ill-fortune and his method of writing is difficult to conjecture. What is made plain by Mrs. Gaskell is that Branwell possessed a captivating personality, and a fascination of manner which goes far to explain much that subsequently befell him.
Bronte not to spend any money on preparing his son for any of the pro- fessions. We hear that the old gentleman was never weary of relating how he had managed to make his way to Cambridge and win his degree. But possibly he omitted to tell of the kind patron he had in the vicar of his native parish, a certain Mr. Tighe, by the aid of whose interest and liberality he had been able to be admitted to the University.
The obvious thing would have been to send Branwell to try his fortune at Cam- bridge, even for a year. With the help of his aunt it would have been possible to raise the money for a year's course at least, and such a brilliant youth as Branwell would assuredly have repaid the training. She even refers to her father's ambitions to enforce Patrick Branwell Bronte 53 her argument.
Such a sum spent in getting Branwell out of the wretched village influences into a scholarly environment, where he could have absorbed the culture for which he so ardently hungered, might have altered the whole course of his life. It was certainly not the sisters who were sacrificed.
The boy was mis-handled from his earliest years. He had no suitable guide or counsellor in his father, who was too self-absorbed to concern him- self with his boy's future, and who, having sown neglect, reaped the harvest he might have ex- pected. Gaskell refers to Branwell as being at home in the year He was there only from June till October, having at his father's instance re- signed his appointment at Broughton only six months after he had received it.
Meanwhile, as Mrs. Gaskell tells us, he was occupying himself in " occasional composition". By a strange and most fortunate chance some of these "compositions" have come into the possession of a critic competent 54 Patrick Branwell Bronte in the highest degree to pronounce upon them. Bradford, Yorks, June 27th, Drinkwater's volume : " This Ode I have no heart to attempt, after having heard Mr.
Coleridge's translation, on May Day, at Ambleside. Drinkwater supposes that most of these translations were made while Branwell was at Mr. Postlethwaite's, and probably the remainder at Haworth, after he returned home, and he finds these verses to be Branwell's " best achievement, so far as we can judge, as a poet. Drinkwater most courteously allowed me to see a copy of his Introduction, from which I have made the above extracts. Patrick Branwell Bronte 55 have something of the style that comes from a spiritual understanding, as apart from merely formal knowledge, of great models.
Drinkwater regards as the " most consistently attractive " of them all, he adds : " Branwell Bronte's Translations of the First Book of Odes need, at their best, fear comparison with none. Drinkwater goes on to say: " They are excellent in themselves and as good as any English versions that I know, including Conington's. In a few instances, I should say that they are decidedly the best of all At his best he has melody and phrase, and he builds his stanzas well.
The book adds appreciably to the evidence that Branwell Bronte was the second poet in his family and a very good second at that, and it leaves no justification for anyone to say that he ' composed 56 Patrick Branwell Bronte nothing which gives him the sHghtest claim to the most inconsiderable niche in the temple of hterature.
He commenced his duties at this place, Sowerby Bridge, on the first of October, with great zest, but perhaps without realising to the full how extremely unsuited he was both by training and temperament for the kind of re- sponsibility he had undertaken. He was above all things, anxious for some remunerative work by which he might be able to support himself, as he now did for the next two years.
The strenuous efforts of Branwell to obtain employment — even employment highly distaste- ful to him — do him the highest credit. Patrick Branwell Bronte 57 it did not enable him to save, at least kept him from being a burden on his father. But as regards the duties attached to the post, light as they were, they were strangely unsuitable and tiresome to a youth of his excitable and poetic temperament. His heart could not be in them as, in duty to his employers, it should have been. He was temptingly near Halifax, where his friend Leyland lived, and he often went over to see him, After a time he was moved to another charge, to the care of the new halting-place at Luddenden Foot, where he had to spend all day in a miserable wooden shanty, stuffy in summer, and penetrated by wind and rain in the spring, winter and autumn months, a residence extremely unfitted for a youth so constitutionally delicate as Branwell Bronte.
While he was employed at Sowerby Bridge, Mr. Francis Leyland was taken by his brother, the sculptor, to see Branwell at the station there. He gives us his impressions of him as he appeared in the autumn of the year In stature he was a Httle below the middle height, not ' almost insignificantly small ' as Mr. Grundy states. He was slim and agile in figure yet of well-formed outline. His complexion was clear and ruddy, and the expression of his face, at the time, lightsome and cheerful.
His voice had a ringing sweetness, and the utterance and use of his EngUsh was perfect. Branwell appeared to be in excellent spirits, and shewed none of those traces of intemperance with which some writers have unjustly credited him about this period of his life. My brother had often spoken to me of Branwell's poetical abilities, his conversational powers and the polish of his education ; and, on a personal acquaintance, I found nothing to question in this estimate of his mental gifts and of his literary attainments.
William Heaton, who knew him well. I quote it as it is given in Mr. Patrick Branwell Bronte 59 " He was," says Mr. Heaton, " blithe and gay, but at times appeared downcast and sad ; yet if the subject were some topic that he was acquainted with, or some author he loved, he would rise from his seat, and in beautiful language, describe the author's character, with a zeal and fluency I had never heard equalled. His talents were of a very exalted kind. I have heard him quote pieces from the bard of Avon, from Shelley, Wordsworth and Byron, as well as from Butler's ' Hudibras,' in such a manner as often made me wish I had been a scholar as he was.
He lent me books which I had never seen before, and was ever ready to give me information. His temper was always mild towards me. I shall never forget his love for the sublime and beauti- ful works of Nature, nor how he would tell of the lovely flowers and rare plants he had observed by the mountain stream and woodland rill.
All these had excellencies for him ; and I have often heard him dilate on the sweet strains of the nightingale, and on the thoughts that bewitched him the first time he heard one. He had friends in the neighburhood at Hebden Bridge, and we hear from Mr. Leyland that sometimes ' clerical visitors ' called at his wooden shanty to hear his brilliant conversation. They invited him to their houses also, and it was while here that Branwell paid a visit to Manchester Cathedral.
But these excursions drew him away from his proper duties ; he did not attend as closely to his work as he ought to have done ; frequently he left it in charge of his deputy ; and he was undoubtedly careless in his accounts. The Company invited him to appear before them and explain these irregularities. They decided to terminate his engagement with them, and so, after two years of employment, ended Branwell's career as a railway clerk.
It was an ignominious ending, and it plunged him in the greatest gloom. He felt keenly the disgrace attached to his dismissal, all the more because it was such a disappointment to his family. He had supported himself for two Patrick Br unwell Bronte 61 years, however, and immediately began to look out for another situation. He applied to Mr. Grundy, but that gentleman did nothing for him, probably feeling convinced that business was the last thing for which his dreamy, volatile, poetical friend was fitted. But he answered in a friendly tone, suggesting he should try one of the professions.
This meant the Church, and for the Church Branwell declared he had no mental qualification which might make him " cut a figure in its pulpits. James Montgomery and another literary gentleman, who had seen something of his work, advised him to " turn his attention to Litera- ture. He admits to Mr. Grundy that he has " little conceit of himself," but a great desire for activity.
He was in fact infected with that fever of rest- lessness which seems to have burned alike in his veins and those of his sister Charlotte. In 62 Patrick Branwell Bronte the months following his return to the Parsonage, we find Branwell solacing his weariness and enforced leisure with the writing of Poetry. In September his aunt, Miss Branwell, sud- denly became very ill. Branwell was fortunately at hand to do his utmost for her. She suffered terribly and only lived a fortnight. Branwell was unremitting in his attentions to her, but nothing could save her.
It was while sitting under the shadow of this impending bereavement that Branwell wrote to his friend Grundy : — " I have had a long attendance at the death-bed of the Rev. Weightman, one of my dearest Patrick Branwell Bronte 63 friends, and now I am attending at the death- bed of my aunt, who has been for twenty years as my mother. I expect her to die in a few hours. As my sisters are far from home, I have had much on my mind, and these things must serve as an apology for what was never intended as neglect of your friendship to us.
I had meant not only to have written to you, but to the Rev. James Martineau, gratefully and sincerely acknowledging the receipt of his most kindly and truthful criticism — at least in advice, though too generous far in praise ; but one sad ceremony must, I fear, be gone through first. Grundy again : — " I am incoherent, I fear, but I have been waking two nights witnessing such agonizing suffering as I would not wish my worst enemy to endure : and I have now lost the guide and director of all the happy days connected with my childhood.
The Inspiring Poetry Of Branwell Brontë
I have suffered much sorrow since I last saw you at Haworth. She was buried before Emily and Chariotte were able to return. By the terms of her will, made as early as , when Branwell was only a boy of fifteen, she left her little savings to her nieces, so once again we notice that it was not the sisters who were financially sacrificed. But even this bequest has been made an excuse for belabouring Branwell, whose supposed depravity at the age of fifteen has been the reason assigned by Mrs. Gaskell and Miss Robinson for his loss of benefit. Leyland displays a quite laudable indigna- tion on the subject.
Patrick Branwell Bronte 65 nent. All her references to Branwell are made in a tone of almost heartless flippancy, and with a careless disregard for the facts of the case that is surprising in a writer of her distinction. She rivals Miss Robinson in prejudice, though with less excuse, for her predecessor had not access to the more recent material included in Mr. Leyland's volumes, which Miss Sinclair apparently finds it convenient to ignore, as, for example, when she remarks of this particular event, the death of Miss Branwell and the sudden recall of Emily and Charlotte from abroad : — " Then, in their first year of Brussels, their old Aunt, Miss Branwell, died.
Things were going badly and sadly at the Parsonage. Branwell was there drinking. Gaskell, " they enjoyed their Christmas all together inexpressibly. Branwell was with them ; that was always a pleasure at this time. In January, , immediately after the events just detailed, he obtained another post, as tutor in Mr. Robinson's family at Thorp Green, in the neighbourhood of Boroughbridge and York, where his sister Anne was already installed as governess. For the next two and a half years, till the end of July, , he retained this situation, obviously giving satis- faction to his employer.
These years we may certainly regard as the happiest in Branwell's so far not too fortunate life, inasmuch as, for the first time in his experience, he was in daily contact with a woman of the most engaging charm and breeding, the like of whom, we may beheve, he had never yet enjoyed the privilege of meeting. Robinson was a woman of the world, who, without necessarily giving any thought to the matter, could hardly fail to attract the ardent 06 Patrick Branwell Bronte 67 admiration of an impressionable, inexperienced, poetic young man of twenty-five.
She was his senior by about seventeen years, but judging from the impression she made on Branwell, we may conclude she was equally attractive in person and intellect. The comparative luxury and elegance of her surroundings lent her added grace and dignity. Probably they were thrown much to- gether in consultation about her son's education, or in drawing lessons, sketching parties, walks up and down the alleys of the large secluded garden and the like, until the radiance of her graciousness and charm completely dazzled the young tutor.
At first his feelings may have been those of a young troubadour toward his queen of love and beauty, a being elevated far above his reach, to whom it was out of the question that he should even aspire. But as the months grew into years and their intimacy increased, his feelings for the lady of his reverence became inflamed, until, little by httle, whether encouraged by any response on her part or not, he fell hopelessly in love with her. The story is as old as the world.
In manners, at least, and rich mental gifts Branwell was Mrs. Robinson's equal ; knowing his own gifts and culture, it was not perhaps such " frantic folly," as Charlotte afterwards called it, to dream that one day he might win her for himself. Such apparently unequal yokings have often occurred, and have been justified by their success. But to fail in such daring aspiration — that is the danger ; for to be repulsed, to be repudiated, is humiliation indeed. Whether Mrs. Robinson had given Branwell the right to be her champion against her husband, who, he declared, did not treat her well, or whether the lady's affection for Branwell was a phantasy of his over-heated imagination, does not particu- larly matter to us now.
What does matter is the deep love he bore her, a love which, whether returned or not, was to prove the direct and tragic cause of his complete undoing. Patrick Branwell Bronte 69 In the wholesale condemnation to which Bran- well Bronte's mad passion for his employer's wife has given rise, the human element in him has scarcely been allowed fair play. We ought, before condemning him, to know just how far he may have been drawn on by the fancied appeal of a woman who was not particularly happy with her husband. We ought also, before con demning him, to reflect that he came of a wild- blooded Irish stock, that he was of Celtic, not Saxon, origin, possessing all the impulsive, ardent, poetic temperament of a race which has ever been noted for its gallantry to the gentler sex, a race that has never been remarkable for the phlegmatic control of its emotions.
Branwell undoubtedly also possessed the weakness of dis- position, combined with passionate ardour, which is easily allured by women, especially so cultivated, experienced and fascinating a creature as Mrs. Robinson proved herself to be. She may, perhaps unconsciously, have given him sufficient en- couragement to lead him to suppose he had a par- ticular place in her esteem : it is certain, at any 70 Patrick Branwell Bronte rate, that the fantastically dreaming youth assumed that his devotion was returned.
Little by little the passion grew in his soul till his whole being was devoured by the thought of her, and quite seriously, however foolishly, he looked forward to the time when she might be free, and he would be able to ask her hand in marriage. Whether the lady regarded herself as pledged to Branwell can never be known.
All that we do know is that Branwell had just returned home for the midsummer vacation when he received a letter from his employer summarily dismissing him from his tutorship, and threatening him with the fullest exposure if he dared to hold any further communication with the family at Thorp Green. This sudden and unexpected blow was almost too much for Branwell's sanity. Patrick Branwell Bronte 71 humiliation of this abrupt dismissal was real enough.
Such a passion as he had allowed to grow up in his heart and mind could not be eradi- cated or destroyed without tearing up the very roots of his being. To his indignant family, however, it merely appeared fantastic or preposterous ; Charlotte was shocked and angered beyond measure, the more so as the whole family were for a brief period the victims of his uncontrollable agitation, almost amounting to unreason.
For a space of eleven nights, as he himself afterwards confided to a friend, he lay in " sleepless horror " until change of scene was imperative, and in the care of John Brown he went to Liverpool, whence he took boat for the Welsh coast. The change was immediately beneficial. The beauty of the scenery brought peace once more to his troubled spirit — witness his poem, " Pen- maenmawr ", written at this time. He returned composed and outwardly calm, determined to face his misery and live it down as best he might. Hope still animated him that possibly all was not 72 Patrick Branwell Bronte lost, that some day he might marry the object of his devotion.
Thus buoyed up, he continued some work which, he gives his friend Leyland to understand, he had begun some years pre- viously, but to which he had not till now turned his serious attention. During the comparative leisure he had enjoyed at Thorp Green, a situation in which he was, to use his own expression, " so much the master", Branwell had directed his thoughts to prose literature, and had projected and commenced a novel, of which he had compiled the first volume. Upon his return from Wales, he took up this task once more.
To this subject of Branwell's novel we shall presently return. For the moment we are merely concerned with mentioning it as one of the out- standing facts in Branwell's life, and to shew that his concentration on this piece of literary composition goes far to prove that, at this time at least, he was not the confirmed drunkard Mrs. Gaskell and others have made him out to be. His mental powers were indeed now at their zenith : of his brilliance, both now and to the Patrick Branwell Bronte 73 last days of his life, Mr.
Leyland insists that there can be no doubt. Indeed, it was during the few months following his return from Thorp Green that he produced, both in prose and verse, the finest work of his life. Things were apparently going moderately well with him until the following spring, when, in May, , he received the news of the death of Mr.
Robinson, his late employer. This momentous incident raised his hopes to ecstacy, only, however, to dash them immediately to earth, for as he was about to set out at once with the expectation of again meeting the woman on the memory of whom he had been living for the past ten months, a messenger arrived bringing him the news that he could never see her again, inasmuch as the terms of Mr.
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Robinson's will absolutely precluded his widow's remarriage, except with loss of the estate. Thus, deprived of all hope, Branwell's case was more desperate than before. In a letter to a friend, he writes : " Well, my dear sir, I have got my finishing stroke at last, and I feel stunned into marble by the blow.
It's hard work for me, 74 Patrick Bramsjell Bronte dear sir ; I would bear it, but my health is so bad that the body seems as if it could not bear the mental shock. My appetite is lost, my nights are dreadful ; and having nothing to do, makes me dwell on past scenes. In the next world I could not be worse than I am in this. His health, which had been long undermined by frequent illnesses, now gave way, and his nervous system went to pieces. There seemed no hope for him anywhere, and no one to lend him a helping hand. Something could still have been done for him had the personality of his elder sister been other than it was, but her patience was exhausted, her pride outraged, and she made it clear on all sides, both in the family and out of it, that she took no further interest in him.
Patrick Branwell Bronte 75 gradually begun to lose faith in his capacity to achieve that brilliant career to which they, no less than he himself, were looking forward.
The Poems of Patrick Branwell Bronte : A New Text and Commentary
Charlotte, in particular, was intolerant of failure. And though Branwell's apparent success at Thorp Green had once more stimulated her interest in his prospects, his sudden dismissal in the summer of , added to his own temporary loss of self- control, seems to have completely alienated her sympathy from this formerly cherished brother. Nothing is more ruthless than love which has turned to hate, and Charlotte confesses in one of her letters to Ellen Nussey, that she was " a hearty hater.
Her endurance and patience were at an end. She had her own work, her own career to attend to, and the care of her father. There was not room in her heart for both her own consuming ambition and concentration on this failure of a brother. Branwell must go. And with the final overthrow and extinction, so she believed, of his prospects, she swept him out of her path.
Searching Charlotte's correspondence at this time and during the next three years of Branwell's life, we glean not a single word of love or pity for her brother : nothing but ringing contempt. For his intervals of self-control and temperance she gives him no credit, remarking sarcastically, that he is " forced to abstain. And yet, Charlotte Bronte was what by all recognized standards would be described as a fine character ; she was brave, upright, honourable, and in the main, just. But she possessed the defects of her almost Roman temperament in a marked degree. The honour of the family name and the pursuit of her own personal ambition were dearer to her than the saving of her own brother — if indeed he could be saved.
She had in her, too, not merely the indifference of the pagan to the misery of the world's weakUngs, but also a touch of that fanatical strain which formerly produced martyrs or great reformers ; of that ascetic severity characteristic of a Conrad or a Calvin. She had much righteousness of vision, but little tolerance for wrongdoers. Her disposition had in it something of the harsh fierceness of that bitter north-easter, which made the shivering traveller hug his cloak rather than discard it ; she had nothing of the sun in her nature, the all-loving, all-forgiving sun, shining alike on the evil and the good, nothing of the tender gentleness of the rain, falling hke the tears of God's pity alike on the just and unjust.
There was no halting between two opinions with Charlotte ; everything was either black or white, right or wrong ; and in her denunciation of wrong she was pitiless. Poor Branwell was, as we know, wrong in many ways. We can believe that she may have reasoned with him at first, but when in spite of her remon- strances he went again astray, when he fell, not once but many times, and again and again, it was too much for her patience ; she was not one of those who could forgive her brother unto seventy times seven.
Seven times was more than enough for her, and if after this he continued in his evil ways, then she felt justified in gathering Patrick Branwell Bronte 79 up her garments and passing him by. It is related by Miss Robinson, I know not on what authority — unless that of Miss Nussey — that for two years Charlotte never spoke to her brother. One pauses to wonder at the temerity that dares to judge and punish the shortcomings of a sister or brother, whose case, but for the accident of birth, might have been one's own. How easy for those secure on land to condemn the distracted master of the vessel, assailed at once by the winds and waves of material ill-fortune, weakened by anxiety and fever, bound it may be by his mutinous crew of wild passions, when he loses his grasp of the rudder and his ship drifts helplessly upon the rocks!
I am inclined to believe that Charlotte's attitude was a dominating factor in her brother's life. Hitherto he had not wholly forfeited her good opinion, but now that she deserted him, he felt himself like a rudderless ship, like Cowper's hopeless " Castaway". To know that he had not merely lost the woman he loved so deeply, and lost her for ever, but that with her, and because of her, he had lost the 80 Patrick Branwell Bronte respect of his high-minded sister, was to feel that he was indeed at the end of all things, and hence- forth he gave himself up to despair.
Charlotte's scorn lashed him as with scorpions, her eyes darted lightnings of contempt that blasted his soul. He himself, in a conversation with a friend, refers to an occasion when he was terribly cut up by one of his sister's rebuffs : " One of the Sunday-school girls fell sick, and they were afraid she would not live. I went to see the poor little thing," he said, " sat with her half an hour, and read a psalm to her and a hymn at her request.
I felt very like praying with her too," he added, his voice trembling with emotion, " but, you see, I was not good enough. I came away with a heavy heart, and went straight home, where I fell into melancholy musings.