A little more rambling (and by rambling, I really mean rambling) on “Life of Charlotte Bronte”

Biographies are not my favourite genre books by any stretch. I find the idea a little .. voyeuristic. (You might argue that that is exactly what it should be. And you’d be right) I shudder at the idea of someone years down the line digging up my correspondence and gravely pronouncing judgements about it, but then am soon relieved that I’ll probably never be a person of consequence worthy of this effort. That said, I’m loving Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte. An extremely gentle, yet insightful look at her life. And when I say gentle, I really mean gentle. Both to her subject and others.

“I intend carefully to abstain from introducing the names of any living people, respecting whom I may have to tell unpleasant truths, or to quote severe remarks from Miss Brontë’s letters; but it is necessary that the difficulties she had to encounter in her various phases of life, should be fairly and frankly made known, before the force “of what was resisted” can be at all understood.”

And the narrative is so wonderful, that I can see the sisters side by side on the hearth

“Emily’s countenance struck me as full of power; Charlotte’s of solicitude; Anne’s of tenderness.”

They are as wonderful as fictional characters, more real to me than any person who trod upon the earth.

“The first impression made on the visitor by the sisters of her school-friend was, that Emily was a tall, long-armed girl, more fully grown than her elder sister; extremely reserved in manner. I distinguish reserve from shyness, because I imagine shyness would please, if it knew how; whereas, reserve is indifferent whether it pleases or not.  Anne, like her eldest sister, was shy; Emily was reserved”

As to accuracy, and missing details (especially about Bronte’s affair), I’m on the whole relieved that they are indeed missing. They are more than made up by letting us glimpse her early poetry. This one I particularly love  and hence reproduce below.

THE WOUNDED STAG.

Passing amid the deepest shade
Of the wood’s sombre heart,
Last night I saw a wounded deer
Laid lonely and apart.

Such light as pierced the crowded boughs
(Light scattered, scant and dim,)
Passed through the fern that formed his couch
And centred full on him.

Pain trembled in his weary limbs,
Pain filled his patient eye,
Pain-crushed amid the shadowy fern
His branchy crown did lie.

Where were his comrades? where his mate?
All from his death-bed gone!
And he, thus struck and desolate,
Suffered and bled alone.

Did he feel what a man might feel,
Friend-left, and sore distrest?
Did Pain’s keen dart, and Grief’s sharp sting
Strive in his mangled breast?

Did longing for affection lost
Barb every deadly dart;
Love unrepaid, and Faith betrayed,
Did these torment his heart?

No! leave to man his proper doom!
These are the pangs that rise
Around the bed of state and gloom,
Where Adam’s offspring dies!

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