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The Three Brontës   By: (1863-1946)

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THE CREATORS THE DIVINE FIRE TWO SIDES OF A QUESTION THE HELPMATE KITTY TAILLEUR MR. AND MRS. NEVILL TYSON ANN SEVERN AND THE FIELDINGS ARNOLD WATERLOW: A LIFE UNCANNY STORIES THE RECTOR OF WYCK THE ALLINGHAMS A CURE OF SOULS FAR END HISTORY OF ANTHONY WARING TALES TOLD BY SIMPSON ETC.

THE THREE BRONTËS

by

MAY SINCLAIR

1912

PREFATORY NOTE

My thanks are due, first and chiefly, to Mr. Clement K. Shorter who placed all his copyright material at my disposal; and to Mr. G.M. Williamson and Mr. Robert H. Dodd, of New York, for allowing me to draw so largely from the Poems of Emily Brontë, published by Messrs. Dodd, Mead, and Co. in 1902; also to Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton, the publishers of the Complete Poems of Emily Brontë, edited by Mr. Shorter; and to Mr. Alfred Sutro for permission to use his translation of Wisdom and Destiny . Lastly, and somewhat late, to Mr. Arthur Symons for his translation from St. John of the Cross. If I have borrowed from him more than I had any right to without his leave, I hope he will forgive me.

MAY SINCLAIR.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

THE THREE BRONTËS

APPENDIX I

APPENDIX II

INDEX

INTRODUCTION

When six months ago Mr. Thomas Seccombe suggested that I should write a short essay on "The Three Brontës" I agreed with some misgiving.

Yet that deed was innocent compared with what I have done now; and, in any case, the series afforded the offender a certain shelter and protection. But to come out like this, into the open, with another Brontë book, seems not only a dangerous, but a futile and a fatuous adventure. All I can say is that I did not mean to do it. I certainly never meant to write so long a book.

It grew, insidiously, out of the little one. Things happened. New criticisms opened up old questions. When I came to look carefully into Mr. Clement Shorter's collection of the Complete Poems of Emily Brontë , I found a mass of material (its existence I, at any rate, had not suspected) that could not be dealt with in the limits of the original essay.

The book is, and can only be, the slightest of all slight appreciations. None the less it has been hard and terrible for me to write it. Not only had I said nearly all that I had to say already, but I was depressed at the very start by that conviction of the absurdity of trying to say anything at all, after all that has been said, about Anne, or Emily, or Charlotte Brontë.

Anne's case, perhaps, was not so difficult. For obvious reasons, Anne Brontë will always be comparatively virgin soil. But it was impossible to write of Charlotte after Mrs. Gaskell; impossible to say more of Emily than Madame Duclaux has said; impossible to add one single little fact to the vast material, so patiently amassed, so admirably arranged by Mr. Clement Shorter. And when it came to appreciation there were Mr. Theodore Watts Dunton, Sir William Robertson Nicoll, Mr. Birrell, and Mrs. Humphry Ward, lying along the ground. When it came to eulogy, after Mr. Swinburne's Note on Charlotte Brontë , neither Charlotte nor Emily have any need of praise.

And on Emily Brontë, M. Maeterlinck has spoken the one essential, the one perfect and final and sufficient word. I have "lifted" it unblushingly; for no other word comes near to rendering the unique, the haunting, the indestructible impression that she makes.

So, because all the best things about the Brontës have been said already, I have had to fall back on the humble day labour of clearing away some of the rubbish that has gathered round them.

Round Charlotte it has gathered to such an extent that it is difficult to see her plainly through the mass of it. Much has been cleared away; much remains. Mrs. Oliphant's dreadful theories are still on record. The excellence of Madame Duclaux's monograph perpetuates her one serious error. Mr. Swinburne's Note immortalizes his. M. Héger was dug up again the other day.

It may be said that I have been calling up ghosts for the mere fun of laying them; and there might be something in it, but that really these ghosts still walk... Continue reading book >>




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