THE HOME OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE.
A PASSAGE FROM A DIARY.
BY W. FRANCIS WILLIAMS.
“Such shrines as these
are pilgrim shrines—
Shrines to no code or creed confined;
The Delphian vales, the Palestines,
The Meccas of the mind.”
The date is September 5, 1857. I am at Haworth, whither I had walked from the Bradford Station, some ten or twelve miles distant. This Haworth—a place but a few years since quite unknown to any but the few residing in its immediate vicinity—is built upon the side of a hill, and, with its long line of grey houses creeping up the slope, seems like a huge saurian monster, sprawling along the hill-side, his head near the top and his tail reaching nearly to the vale below. At the summit, in the very head of our saurian, stands Haworth Parsonage, and the church near by, with the square old tower rising above the houses that cluster about it. I well remember my first view of this place. It was an autumn afternoon, and near sunset. The sky had been cloudy, but as I stopped to take my first long look at the little village, so hallowed by the memory of the Bronte sisters, the declining sun sent through a breach in the clouds a few spears of dazzling light, that played about the old church and parsonage with an ineffable glory. It lasted but a few moments, the sun went down, and darkness and night gradually settled over the scene. The little incident seemed almost like a type of the life of the gifted woman chiefly to whom Haworth owes its fame; for her life, like this very day, had been dark and wearisome, overshadowed by clouds of cares, tears falling like rain-drops upon new-made graves, until near its close, when there came a sweet season of bright domestic happiness, that lasted too shortly, and then gave place to the darkness and night of death.
Strolling through the village, after my quiet meal at the Black Bull Inn, which poor Branwell Bronte had so often frequented, I stopped to make some trifling purchases at a stationery store, and casually asked the proprietor—a small, delicate-looking man, with a bright eye and a highly intellectual countenance—if he remembered the Bronte sisters. It was a fortunate question, for he knew them well, and was a personal friend of the authoress of Jane Eyre, to whose handsomely-framed portrait he proudly pointed. He had provided her, as he said, with joyful delight, with the paper on which she wrote the manuscripts of most of her novels; he is referred to in one of Miss Bronte’s letters to Mrs. Gaskell, as her “one friend in Haworth,” and is the “working-man” mentioned in her memoirs, who wrote a little critique on Jane Eyre, that came to the notice of the authoress and afforded her great pleasure. To talk of the Bronte girls—to express his admiration of them to one who had come from America to visit their home and grave, was to him a great gratification.