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© University of Leeds

Letter 18: Letter from Branwell Brontë to Joseph Bentley Leyland, 24 January 1847 (BC MS 19c Brontë/02/01/18)

15280 Later annotat …

Note: 152 Note: 80

Later annotations in pencil in unknown hand in the top right corner. ‘67’

My Dear Sir,
I am going to write a scrawl, for the querulous
egotism of which I must intreat your mercy, but, when I look
upon my past, present and future, and then into my own self
I find much, however unpleasant, that yearns for utterance.

This last week an honest and kindly friend has warned
me that concealed hopes about one lady ⟨should⟩ may be given up
let the effort to do so cost what it may. He is the Family
medical attendant, and was commanded by Mr Evans M.p for
North Derbyshire to return me, unopened, a letter which I addressed
to {Throp Green} and which the lady was not permitted to see. She
too, surrounded by powerful persons who hate me like Hell,
has sunk into religious melancholy, believes that her weight of
sorrow is Gods punishment, and hopelessly resigns herself to her
doom. God only knows what it does cost, and will, hereafter,
cost me, to tear from my heart and remembrance the thousand
recollections that rush upon me at the thought of four years gone
by. Like ideas of sunlight to a man who has lost his sight
they must be visions[?] bright phantoms not to be realized again.

I had reason to hope that ere ⟨very⟩ long I should be the husband
of a lady whom I loved best in the world and with whom, in more
than competence, I might live at leisure to try to make myself
an name in the world of posterity, without being pestered by the small
by[?] but countless botherments, which like mosquitoes sting us in
the world of work-day toil. That hope, and herself are gone —
she to wither into patiently pining decline —I[?] , to make room
for drudgery falling on one now ill fitted to bear it.

Note: 81 Note: 153

That ill fittedness rises from causes which I should find myself
[...] able to partially to overcome had I bodily strength,
but with the want of that, and with the presence of daily
lacerated nerves the task is not easy. I have been in truth
too much petted through life, and in my last situation I
was so much master, and gave myself so much up to enjoyment
that now when the cloud of ill health and adversity
has come upon me it will be a {disheartning} job to
work myself up again through a new lifes battle, from the
position of five years ago to which I have been compelled
to retreat with heavy loss and no gain. My army stands
now where it did then, but mourning the slaughter of Youth,
Health, Hope and both mental and physical elasticity.

The last two losses are indeed important to one who once
built his hopes of rising in the world [...] on the possession of them.
Noble writings, works of art, music or poetry now instead of
rousing my imagination, cause a whirlwind of blighting sorrow
that sweeps over my mind with unspeakable dreariness,
and if I sit down and try to write all ideas that used to come
clothed in sunlight now press round me in funeral black; for
really every pleasureable excitement that I used to know has
changed to insipidity or pain.

I shall never be able to realize the too sanguine hopes
of my friends, for at 28 I am a thoroughly old man - mentally
and bodily - far more so indeed than I am willing to express.
God knows I do not scribble like a [...] when I quote
Byron's terribly truthful words —

"No more, no more, oh! never more on me
the freshness of the heart shall fall like dew,
Which, out of all the lovely things we see
Extracts emotions beautiful and new!"

I used to think that if I could have for a week the free

Note: 154 Note: 82

range of the British Museum - the library included - I could feel
as though I were placed for seven days in paradise, but now
really, dear Sir, my eyes would roam over the Elgin marbles,
the Egyptian saloon and the most treasured volumes like the
eyes of a dead cod fish.

My rude rough aquaintances here ascribe my unhappiness
solely to causes produced by my sometimes irregular life, because
they have known no other pains than those resulting
from excess or want of ready cash - they do not know that I
would rather want a shirt than want a springy mind, and
that my [...] total want of happiness, were I to step into
York Minster now, would be far, far worse than their want of
an hundred pounds when they might happen to need it; and that
if a dozen glasses or a bottle of wine drives off their cares, such
cures only make me outwardly passable in company but never
drive off mine.

I know, only that it is time for me to be something when I
am nothing. That My father cannot have long to live, and that
when he dies my evening, which is already twilight, will become
night. That I shall then have a constitution still so strong that
it will keep me years in torture and despair when I should
every hour pray that I might die.

I know that I am avoiding, while I write, one greatest cause
of my utter despair - but by God Sir it is nearly too bitter
for me to allude to it!

For four years (including one year of absence) a Lady
intensely loved me as I did her, and each sacrificed to that
love all we had to sacrifice, and held out to each other
HOPE for our guide to the future. She was all I could

Note: 83 Note: 155

wish for in a woman, and vastly above me in rank, and
she loved me even better than I did her - now what is the
result of these four years? UTTER WRECK - the
"Great Britain" is not so thoroughly stranded as I am. I have
recieved to day, since I began my scrawl, a note from her
maid Miss Ann Marshall and I know from it that she
has been terrified by vows which she was forced to swear
to, on her husband's deathbed, (with every ghastly addition
of terror which the ghastly dying eye could inflict upon a
keenly sensitive and almost worried woman's mind) a complete
severance from him in whom lay her whole hearts feelings.
When that husband was scarce cold in his grave her relations,
who controlled the whole property [?] overwhelmed her with
their tongues, and I am quite conscious [?] that she has succumbed
in terror, to what they have said.

To no one living have I said what I now say to you, and
I should not bother yourself with my incoherent account did
I not believe that you would be able to understand somewhat
of what I meant - though not all Sir - for he
who is without hope, and knows that his [...] clock is at
twelve at night, cannot communicate his feelings to one who
finds his at twelve of noon.

I long to be able to see you, and I shall try to
do so on Friday next - the 29th inst, ⟨or on Saturday-⟩ if I [...]
at all able to take the journey.

Till then I am, dear Sir,
Yours Sincerely,