[John Stores Smith], ‘Personal Reminiscences: A Day with Charlotte Brontë’ (1850), in The Free Lance: A Journal of Humour and Criticism (Manchester), vol. iii (14 March 1868), pp. 85–7
The village of Haworth, its weather-beaten church, and lonely and desolate parsonage, have been painted in words so very frequently and, at times, so very well, since the lamented death of her who alone rendered that obscure hamlet worth a passing word, as to render it almost supererogatory for me to add another to that multitude of descriptions. And yet any attempt to give a full and vivid conception of Charlotte Brontë would altogether fail if quite stripped of due local colouring. For the material aspects of Haworth — the quiet desolation of its mouldy struggle to the unbroken solitudes of the boundless moors, are the background upon which, and upon which only, can Miss Brontë’s portrait be portrayed. Haworth was a part of her innermost nature; it was the ground melody that ran through her every book, and laid the basis of her idiosyncrasy. Had the Brontë family lived in any other village in England, there might have been a Charlotte Brontë, but assuredly there would have been no Currer Bell. It was the visible, material Haworth, and its surrounding belt of trackless and unpopulated moorland, that made poets of the young Brontës — poets none the less because their inspiration did not have a rhythmic utterance — that gave the strange, almost unearthly tone to their intellectual characteristics. Haworth called their genius into being — moulded it into ripened originality, and then slew them. It was at once the creator of Currer Bell and her assassin. Therefore, a few descriptive touches are essential to any attempted photograph of that lady. Moreover, I am conscious to this moment how thoroughly the spirit of the place weighed upon my own mind and nature, and coloured my first impressions of Miss Brontë, and has entwined itself around her in my memory inseparably for ever.
KeywordsIntellectual Characteristic High Spirit Literary Life Personal Reminiscence Passing Word
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- Some thirty years after their publication William Scruton, a local historian in Bradford, was still trying to keep Smith’s identity a secret: see Thornton and the Brontës (Bradford: John Dale, 1898), p. 115. Nevertheless, Smith’s authorship was widely known. His background in manufacturing and his interest in publishing are ably described by Kathleen Tillotson in her article ‘A Day with Charlotte Brontë in 1850’, Brontë Society Transactions, vol. 16, no. 1 (Keighley: Keighley Printers, 1971), pp. 22–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar