Letter to William S. Williams, 2 October 1848, pages 2–3

Charlotte Brontë

Letter to William S. Williams, dated Haworth, 2 October 1848

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

MA 2696.36

A few days after her brother, Branwell, died in 1848, Brontë used a sheet of mourning stationery to share the news with William S. Williams of the publishing firm Smith, Elder & Co., who had become a friend. Her grief was compounded by her anger that Branwell had, in her view, squandered his “burning” talent.


path; to know the sickness of hope deferred, the dismay of prayer baffled, to experience despair at last; and now to behold the sudden early obscure close of what might have been a noble career.

I do not weep from a sense of bereavement – there is no prop withdrawn, no consolation torn away, no dear companion lost – but for the wreck of talent, the ruin of promise, the untimely, dreary extinction of what might have been a burning and a shining light. My brother was a year my junior; I had aspirations and ambitions for him once – long ago – they have perished mournfully nothing remains of him but a memory of errors and sufferings – There is such a bitterness of pity for his life and death – such a yearning for the emptiness of his whole existence as I cannot describe – I trust time will allay these feelings.

My poor Father naturally thought more of his only son than of his daughters, and much and long as he had suffered on his account – he cried out for his loss like David for that of Absalom – My Son! My Son! And refused at first to be comforted – and then – when I ought to have been able to collect my strength, and be at hand to support him – I fell ill with an illness whose approaches I had felt for some time previously – and of which the crisis was hastened by the awe and trouble of the death-scene – the first I had ever witnessed. The past has seemed to me a strange week – Thank God –