A treat for you today. No repost, but an unusual guest post.
During my posts on Charlotte Brontë, one commenter added her own in-depth knowledge about Charlotte and her publisher, George Smith. Luv Lubker has long been interested in the relationship; and today she provides some insights. She examines why Charlotte was so quiet, the day she went to have tea with William Makepiece Thackeray.
So were they – or weren’t they?
I think I know one reason why Charlotte was so quiet at Thackeray’s house. In George’s autobiography he tells this:
“If Miss Bronte did not talk much, as was usual with her, she kept her eyes open. One of Mr. Thackeray’s guests was Miss Adelaide Proctor, and those who remember that lady’s charming personality will not be surprised to learn that I was attracted by her. During our drive home I wasseated opposite to Miss Bronte, and I was startled by her leaning forward, putting her hands on my knees, and saying, ‘She would make you a very nice wife.’ ‘Whom do you mean?’ I replied. ‘Oh, you know whom I mean’ she said; and we relapsed into silence.”
Charlotte Bronte fell completely in love with George Smith. In Villette she describes a character who is based on him as “beautiful with a man’s best beauty,” “the best face, the finest figure, I thought, I had ever seen” etc. However, she did not think that someone like him would fall in love with her. In his autobiography, he described Charlotte thus:
“I must confess that my first impression of Charlotte Bronte’s personal appearance was that it was interesting rather than attractive. She was very small, and had a quaint old fashioned look. Her head seemed too large for her body. She had very fine eyes… There was but little feminine charm about her and of this fact she herself was uneasy and perpetually conscious. Perhaps few women ever existed more anxious to be pretty than she, or more angrily conscious of the circumstances that she was not pretty.”
Another incident in his autobiography:
“On one occasion I took Miss Bronte to the Ladies’ Gallery of the House of Commons. The Ladies’ Gallery of those days was behind the Strangers’ Gallery, and from it one could see the eyes of the ladies above, nothing more. I told Miss Bronte that if she felt tired and wished to go away, she had only to look at me; I should know by the expression of her eyes what she meant – and that I would come round for her. After a time I looked and looked. There were many eyes, they all seemed to be flashing signals to me, but much as I admired Miss Bronte’s eyes I could not distinguish them from the others. I looked so earnestly from one pair of eyes to another that I am afraid that more than one lady must have regarded me as a rather impudent fellow. At length I went round and took my lady away. I expressed my hope that I did not keep her long waiting, and said something about the difficulty of getting out, after I saw her signal. ‘I made no signal,’ she said. ‘I did not wish to come away. Perhaps there were other signals from the Gallery.’”
About when they went to the phrenologist:
“Dr. Browne could not have had any idea whose head he was examining. A few days afterwards Mr. Richard Doyle, whom I used to see frequently, mentioned that a friend of his had examined the head of a lady, and was so much struck by the imaginative power she possessed that he should like to find out something about her. ‘ If he succeeds,’ said Richard Doyle, ‘ I will tell you who she is ; for, if Dr. Browne is right, the lady ought to be worth your looking after.’”