Letter to William S. Williams of Smith, Elder & Co., dated Haworth, 28 October 1847
Henry H. Bonnell Collection, bequest of Helen Safford Bonnell, 1969
In this letter to William S. Williams of the firm that had published Jane Eyre, Brontë reacted to some of the early reviews of her first published novel. She defended her portrayal of Helen Burns, a virtuous child who dies in Jane’s arms. Helen was, Brontë implied, a fictional reimagining of her own sister Maria, who had died at the age of eleven after falling ill at the Clergy Daughters’ School.
Your last letter was very pleasant to me to read, and is very cheering to reflect on. I feel honoured in being approved by Mr Thackeray because I approve Mr Thackeray. This may sound presumptuous perhaps, but I mean that I have long recognized in his writings genuine talent such as I admired, such as I wondered at and delighted in. No author seems to distinguish so exquisitely as he does dross from ore, the real from the counterfeit. I believed too he had deep and true feelings under his seeming sternness – now I am sure he has. One good word from such a man is worth pages of praise from