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Summer had vanished, and repinings none
Charlotte Bronté, the daughter of a clergyman of Irish descent, was born in Yorkshire in 1816. She and her sisters were educated at a private school, of which hardly anything commendatory could be said. The recollection of the ill usage, the desolation which the motherless girls experienced, has been wrought into the story of Jane Eyre. Charlotte and two of her sisters, Emily and Anne, published a volume of poems in 1846 under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the volume had only a moderate success. The first prose work of Charlotte was called The Professor, which was refused by many publishers, and was only published after the author's death. In 1847 Jane Eyre appeared, and was at once recognized as a work of extraordinary power. Two years later she published Shirley, a far more agreeable novel than the first, but not so popular. Villette, the author's third novel, contains her recollections of Brussels, and is in all respects a most charming story.
The life of Charlotte Bronté was not a happy one. The family was poor and proud ; with capacity for the highest things, she was compelled to teach for a livelihood, and her stories show how deeply her feelings were wounded during her engagement as governess. The two sisters, to whom she was tenderly attached, died young; the only brother did the family no particular credit ; the surroundings of the parsonage at Haworth were bleak; but all these trials only developed the strength, the beauty, and tenderness of this most remarkable woman. She was married in 1854 to her father's curate, Rev. Mr. Nicholls, and died in 1855. Her Memoirs have been written by Mrs. Gaskell.
It is difficult to make selections from such works as Jane Eyre or Shirley; but the reader who takes up and follows either story is soon conscious of the presence of an original, brilliant, and powerful mind.
The evening was still and warm; close and sultry it even promised to become. Round the descending sun the clouds glowed purple: summer tints, rather Indian than English, suffused the horizon, and cast rosy reflections on hill-side, house-front, tree-bole; on winding road, and undulating pasture-ground. The two girls came down from the fields slowly: by the time they reached the churchyard the bells were hushed; the multitudes were gathered into the church: the whole scene was solitary.
“How pleasant and calm it is !” said Caroline. “And how hot it will be in the church !” responded Shirley ;
“and what a dreary, long speech Dr. Boultby will make ! and how the curates will hammer over their prepared orations ! For my part, I would rather not enter.”
“But my uncle will be angry, if he observes our absence.”
“I will bear the brunt of his wrath: he will not devour me. I shall be sorry to miss his pungent speech. I know it will be all sense for the Church, and all causticity for Schism : he'll not forget the battle of Royd-lane. I shall be sorry also to deprive you of Mr. Hall's sincere, friendly homily, with all its racy Yorkshireisms; but here I must stay. The gray church and grayer tombs look divine with this crimson gleam on them. Nature is now at her evening prayers: she is kneeling before those red hills. I see her prostrate on the great steps of her altar, praying for a fair night for mariners at sea, for travellers in deserts, for lambs on moors, and unfledged birds in woods. Caroline, I see her! and I will tell you what she is like: she is like what Eve was when she and Adam stood alone on earth."
“And that is not Milton's Eve, Shirley ? "
“Milton's Eve! Milton's Eve! I repeat. No, she is not ! Cary, we are alone : we may speak what we think. Milton was great ; but was he good ? His brain was right, how was his heart? He saw Heaven: he looked down on Hell. He saw Satan, and Sin his daughter, and Death their horrible offspring Angels serried before him their battalions; the long lines of adamantine shields flashed back on his blind eyeballs the unutterable splendor of heaven. Devils gathered their legions in his sight: their dim, discrowned, and tarnished armies passed, rank and file, before him. Milton tried to see the first woman ; but, Cary, he saw her not.”
“You are bold to say so, Shirley.”
“Not more bold than faithful. It was his cook that he saw: or it was Mrs. Gill, as I have seen her, making custards in the heat of summer, in the cool dairy, with rose trees and nasturtiums about the latticed window, preparing a cold collation for the rectors, – preserves and ‘dulcet creams,'— puzzled “what choice to choose for delicacy best; what order so contrived as not to mix tastes, not well joined, inelegant; but bring taste after taste, upheld with kindliest change.''
“All very well too, Shirley."
“I would beg to remind him that the first men of the earth were Titans, and that Eve was their mother: from her sprang Saturn, Hyperion, Oceanus; she bore Prometheus — ”
“Pagan that you are! what does that signify ?”
I say there were giants on the earth in those days: giants that strove to scale heaven. The first woman's breast that heaved with life on this world yielded the daring which could contend with Omnipotence: the strength which could bear a thousand years of bondage — the vitality which could feed that vulture death through uncounted ages - the unexhausted life and uncorrupted excellence, sisters to immortality, which, after millenniums of crimes, struggles, and woes, would conceive and bring forth a Messiah. The first woman was heaven-born : vast was the heart whence gushed the well-spring of the blood of nations; and grand the undegenerate head where rested the consort-crown of creation.”
“She coveted an apple, and was cheated by a snake; but you have got such a hash of Scripture and mythology into your head that there is no making any sense of you. You have not yet told me what you saw kneeling on those hills.”
“I saw - I now see -- a woman-Titan: her robe of blue air spreads to the outskirts of the heath, where yonder flock is grazing; a veil white as an avalanche sweeps from her head to her feet, and arabesques of lightning flame on its borders. Under her breast I see her zone, purple like that horizon: through its blush shines the star of evening. Her steady eyes I cannot picture ; they are clear - they are deep as lakes — they are lifted and full of worship — they tremble with the softness of love and the lustre of prayer. Her forehead has the expanse of a cloud, and is paler than the early moon, risen long before dark gathers : she reclines her bosom on the ridge of Stilbro' Moor; her mighty hands are joined beneath it. So kneeling, face to face, she speaks to God. That Eve is Jehovah's daughter, as Adam was his son.”
“She is very vague and visionary! Come, Shirley, we ought to go into church."
The day being fine, or at least fair, — for soft clouds curtained the sun, and a dim but not chill or waterish haze slept blue on the hills, - Caroline, while Shirley was engaged with her callers, had persuaded Mrs. Pryor to assume her bonnet and summer shawl, and to take a walk with her up towards the narrow end of the Hollow.
Here, the opposing sides of the glen approaching each other, and becoming clothed with brushwood and stunted oaks, formed a wooded ravine; at the bottom of which ran the mill-stream in broken, unquiet course, struggling with many stones, chafing against rugged
banks, fretted with gnarled tree-roots, foaming, gurgling, battling as it went. Here, when you had wandered half a mile from the mill
, you found a sense of deep solitude ; found it in the shade of unmolested trees; received it in the singing of many birds, for which that shade made a home. This was no trodden way; the freshness of the woodflowers attested that foot of man seldom pressed them: the abounding wild-roses looked as if they budded, bloomed, and faded under the watch of solitude, as in a sultan's harem. Here you saw the sweet azure of blue-bells, and recognized in pearl-white blossoms, spangling the grass, a humble type of some starlit spot in space.
Mrs. Pryor liked a quiet walkı: she ever shunned highroads, and sought byways and lonely lanes: one companion she preferred to total solitude, for in solitude she was nervous; a vague fear of annoying encounters broke the enjoyment of quite lonely rambles ; but she feared nothing with Caroline : when once she got away from human habitations, and entered the still demesne of Nature, accompanied by this one youthful friend, a propitious change seemed to steal over her mind and beam in her countenance.
To-day, for instance, as they walked along, Mrs. Pryor talked to her companion about the various birds singing in the trees, discriminated their species, and said something about their habits and peculiarities. English natural history seemed familiar to her. All the wild flowers round their path were recognized by her: tiny plants springing near stones and peeping out of chinks in old walls -plants such as Caroline had scarcely noticed before — received a name and an intimation of their properties: it appeared that she had minutely studied the botany of English fields and woods. Having reached the head of the ravine, they sat down together on a ledge of gray and mossy rock jutting from the base of a steep green hill, which towered above them: she looked round her, and spoke of the neighborhood as she had once before seen it long ago. She alluded to its changes, and compared its aspect with that of other parts of England; revealing in quiet, unconscious touches of description, a sense of the picturesque, an appreciation of the beautiful or commonplace, a power of comparing the wild with the cultured, the grand with the tame, that gave to her discourse a graphic charm as pleasant as it was unpretending.
JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE.
James Anthony Froude was born in Totness, Devonshire, in 1818. He was educated at Oxford, and intended at first to enter the ministry, but soon engaged in literary pursuits. The work by which he is known is his History of England from the fall of Wolsey to the death of Elizabeth. Mr. Froude is an ardent advocate of the Anglican Church, and the period of which he has written has to the mind of a churchman the completeness of an epos; being that of the separation from Rome and the establishment of the National Church. This is the key-note of the History. It certainly required some courage to ask the world to reverse the general verdict against Henry VIII., but Mr. Froude has unflinchingly gone over the mishaps and crimes of the great king, with plentiful citations from State Papers; and, though he does not make him a saint, we are led to believe that he was not quite such a wretch as he has been painted. In like manner he asks us wholly to disbelieve the accuracy of the popular judgment upon the characters of Queen Elizabeth and of Mary Stuart. As we see the first in the light of her letters, and of the copious diplomatic papers of the time (quoted in this History), she appears false, impetuous, wayward, temporizing, and parsimonious to dishonesty. Neither princes nor subjects knew when to trust her word: she was now as alluring as her mother, and now as merciless as her father. And we are told that the splendor and stability of her reign are wholly due to her able ministers, without whose prudence and unselfish loyalty she would have been overthrown by her enemies. For the Scottish Queen he draws an even darker portrait ; the beauty of an angel covering a nature crafty and treacherous, destitute of the honor that belongs to men, as well as that of women, consciously using her charms to deceive and betray, not stopping for murder even, and so overtaken at last by a just retribution. No period of history has been more vigorously fought over than this; and such is the conflict of testimony that it is difficult now to be assured that we have reached just conclusions upon any disputed point.
Mr. Froude has since published a volume of historical essays, entitled Short Studies on Great Subjects. This and his History in twelve volumes, have been published in this country.
THE MURDER OF DARNLEY:- A NEW VIEW OF A MUCH-BEWEPT
(From the History of England. ) LORD DARNLEY had made some use of his illness; as he lay between life and death he had come to understand that he had been a fool, and for the first time in his life had been thinking seriously. When the Queen entered his room she found him lying on his couch, weak and unable to move. Her first question was about his letter; it was not her cue to irritate him, and she seemed to expostulate on the credulity with which he had listened to calumnies against her. He excused himself faintly. She allowed her manner to relax, and she inquired about the cause of his illness.
A soft word unlocked at once the sluices of Darnley's heart; his passion gushed out uncontrolled, and with a wild appeal he threw himself on his wife's forgiveness.