Letter to Ellen Nussey, dated Haworth, 7 November 1854
Henry H. Bonnell Collection, bequest of Helen Safford Bonnell, 1969
Brontë’s husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls, was eager to keep his famous wife’s personal letters from prying eyes. He extracted a promise from Ellen Nussey, Brontë’s intimate friend and frequent correspondent, to burn those she received. Brontë died almost five months after writing this letter, which Nussey preserved (along with many others), breaking her disingenuous vow. Brontë’s widower came to understand the public’s longing for personal traces of his late wife, authorizing Elizabeth Gaskell to write the revealing biography she published in 1857.
The news of an acquaintance death always seems to come suddenly. I thought ill of the previous accounts you had given of poor Elizabeth Cockhill – but still I did not expect she would die so soon. And theirs is a family into which it is difficult to realize the entrance of Death. They seemed so cheerful, active, sanguine. How does Sarah bear her loss? Will she not feel companionless – almost sisterless? I should almost fear so – for a married Sister can hardly be to her like the other. I should like to know too how Mrs Cockhill is. Did she ever lose a child before?