Letter to William S. Williams of Smith, Elder & Co., dated Haworth, 13 July 1848
Henry H. Bonnell Collection, bequest of Helen Safford Bonnell, 1969
After Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey were published in quick succession in 1847, readers and critics were full of curiosity about this hitherto unknown literary family. Were there really three Bells? Were they really men? And if they were women, why was their work so bold? Charlotte and Anne Brontë finally took a drastic step. They boarded a train to London and presented themselves at the offices of Smith, Elder & Co., Charlotte’s publisher. Not only did they reveal themselves as women, they made clear, by arriving together, that there was more than one Bell. When they returned to Haworth, Charlotte sent this letter, expressing relief at having revealed herself “for what I am.”
somewhat presumptuously, adopted – that he was, in short, of the “nobler sex.”
I was glad also to see you and Mr. Smith, and am very happy now to have such pleasant recollections of you both, and of your respective families. My satisfaction would have been complete could I have seen Mrs. Williams – the appearance of your children tallied on the whole accurately with the description you had given of them. Fanny was the one I saw least distinctly – I tried to get a clear view of her countenance, but her position in the room did not favour my efforts.
I have just read your article in the “John Bull”; it very clearly and fully explains the cause of the difference obvious between ancient and modern paintings. I wish you had been with us when we went over the Exhibition and the National Gallery – a little explanation from a judge of Art would doubtless have enabled us to understand better what we saw; perhaps, one day, we may have this pleasure.
Accept my own thanks and my sister’s for your kind attention to us while in Town, and believe me
I trust Mrs. Williams is quite recovered from her indisposition