Letter to Ellen Nussey, 30 June 1839, page 3

Charlotte Brontë

Letter to Ellen Nussey, dated Swarcliffe, Harrogate, 30 June 1839

Henry H. Bonnell Collection, bequest of Helen Safford Bonnell, 1969

MA 2696.24

Brontë spent a few months during the summer of 1839 caring for what she called the “riotous, perverse, unmanageable cubs” of the Sidgwick family. Not only did she detest the work, she felt awkwardly marginal within the family circle. She was so ill at ease that she preferred to write this letter (to her close friend Ellen) in pencil rather than venture into the drawing room to procure some ink.


have never yet quitted a place without gaining a friend – Adversity is a good school – the Poor are born to labour and the Dependent to endure[.] I resolved to be patient – to command my feelings and to take what came – when the ordeal I reflected would not last many weeks – and I trusted it would do me good – I recollected the fable of the Willow and the Oak – I bent quietly and I trust now the Storm is blowing over me – Mrs Sidgwick is generally considered an agreeable woman – so she is I daresay in general Society – her health is sound – her animal spirits are good – consequently she is cheerful in company – but O Ellen does this compensate for the absence of every fine feeling of every gentle – and delicate sentiment? –

She behaves somewhat more civilly to me now than she did at first – and the children are a little more manageable – but she does not know my character & she does not wish to know it[.] I have never had five minutes conversation with her since I came – except while she was scolding me – do not communicate the contents of this letter to any one – I have no wish to be pitied – except by yourself – do not