Letter to William S. Williams, 8 May 1849, pages 2–3

Charlotte Brontë

Letter to William S. Williams, dated Haworth, 8 May 1849

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

MA 2696.37

Brontë wrote this letter to her friend William S. Williams of the firm Smith, Elder, & Co., which had published Jane Eyre, to send him a wrenching update of her sister Anne’s decline. She wrote on black-edged mourning stationery, having recently lost her sister Emily and brother, Branwell, both of whom had died a few months before.


rather to revive than sink. She not unfrequently shews the very same symptoms which were apparent in Emily only a few days before she died – fever in the evenings, sleepless nights and a sort of lethargy in the morning hours – this creates acute anxiety – then comes an improvement which reassures. In about three weeks – should the weather be genial and her strength continue at all equal to the journey we hope to go to Scarbro’. It is not without misgiving that I contemplate a departure from home under such circumstances, but since she herself earnestly wishes the experiment to be tried, I think it ought not to be neglected. We are in God’s hands and must trust the result to Him. An old schoolfellow of mine, a tried and faithful friend has volunteered to accompany us. I shall have the satisfaction of leaving Papa to the attentions of two servants equally tried and faithful. One of them is indeed now old and infirm, and unfit to stir much from her chair by the kitchen fireside – but the other is young and active, and even she has lived with us seven years. I have reason therefore – you see – to be thankful amidst sorrow – especially as Papa still possesses every faculty unimpaired – and though not robust – has good general health – a sort of chronic cough is his sole complaint.

I hope Mr. Smith will not risk a cheap edition of “Jane Eyre” yet – he had better wait awhile – the Public will be sick of the name of