Uit: The Correspondence of Charlotte Brontë
“Charlotte’s reply to Robert Southey
16 March 1837
“SIR, I cannot rest till I have answered your letter, even though by addressing you a second’ time I should appear a little intrusive ; but I must thank you for the kind and wise advice you have condescended to give me. I had not ventured to hope for such a reply ; so considerate in its tone, so noble in its spirit. I must suppress what I feel, or you will think me foolishly enthusiastic-
At the first perusal of your letter I felt only shame and regret that I had ever ventured to trouble you with my crude rhapsody ; I felt a painful heat rise to my face when I thought of the quires of paper I had covered with what once gave me so much delight, but which now was only a source of confusion ; but after I had thought a little, and read it again and again, the prospect seemed to clear. You do not forbid me to write ; you do not say that what I write is utterly destitute of merit. You only warn me against the folly of neglecting real duties for the sake of imaginative pleasures ; of writing for the love of fame ; for the selfish excitement of emulation. You kindly allow me to write poetry for its own sake, provided I leave undone nothing which I ought to do, in order to fureue that single, absorbing, exquisite gratification, I am afraid, sir, you think me very foolish. I know the first letter I wrote to you was all senseless trash from beginning to end ; but I am not altogether the idle dreaming being it would seem to denote. My father is a clergyman of limited though competent income, and I am the eldest of his children. He expended quite as much in my education as he could afford in justice to the rest. I thought it therefore my duty, when I left school, to become a governess. In that capacity I find enough to occupy my thoughts all day long, and my head and hands too, without having a moment’s time for one dream of the imagination. In the evenings, I confess, I do think, but I never trouble any one else with my thoughts. I carefully avoid any appearance of pre- occupation and eccentricity, which might lead those I live amongst to suspect the nature of my pursuits. Following my father’s advice who from my childhood has counselled me, just in the wise and friendly tone of your letter I have endeavoured not only attentively to observe all the duties a woman ought to fulfil, but to feel deeply interested in them. I don’t always succeed, for sometimes when I’m teaching or sewing I would rather be reading or writing ; but I try to deny myself ; and my father’s approbation amply rewarded me for the privation.
Once more allow me to thank you with sincere gratitude. I trust I shall never more feel ambitious to see my name in print ; if the wish should rise, I’ll look at Southey’s letter, and suppress it. It is honour enough for me that I have written to him, and received an answer. That letter is consecrated ; no one shall ever see it but papa and my brother and sisters. Again I thank you. This incident, I suppose, will be renewed no more ; if I live to be an old woman, I shall remember it thirty years hence as a bright dream. The signature which you suspected of being fictitious is my real name.
Again, therefore, I must sign myself C. BRONTE.”
Charlotte Brontë (21 april 1816 – 31 maart 1855)
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