Friday, March 26, 2010


Memories of People who knew the BrontesThis is a featured page

At home with the Brontes

George Sowden was the younger brother of Sutcliffe Sowden, who officiated at the wedding of Charlotte Bronte and Arthur Bell Nicholls, and also at Charlotte's funeral at the same Haworth Church less than a year later. After the death of his brother, who drowned, George took his place as vicar of Hebden Bridge in 1861. Here are some of his recollections of the Bronte family:

On Charlotte Bronte at the time he went to stay with her and her husband

"I should describe Mrs Nicholls, as she now was, as a thoroughly lady-like woman and very self-possessed...there was not a word of high-flown conversation. As I came down stairs one morning, she was ascending the steps from the cellar which opened on the passage, with a tea-cake in her hand; and she took it in the kitchen to toast for our breakfast, perfectly unconcerned and natural, never dreaming of an apology for being caught in a domestic employment. It is this simplicity which I chiefly remember as lending a charm to our visit...I believe her short and most happy marriage was a period of intense restfulness to her."

On Charlotte's father, who outlived his wife and all his six children –
"I am glad of the opportunity of contradicting some absurd assertions about his earlier life, to which Mrs Gaskell gave publicity, having picked up stories in the village. He was, no doubt, a little eccentric; but he was credited by foolish old people with what would have been outrageous."

On Arthur Bell Nichols, Charlotte's husband, with whom George Sowden was ordained –
"He was a genuine Irishman with much Irish humour when you came to know him: tho' with strangers he was reserved.

On Charlotte's fame as Currer Bell –
"I remember the precise spot on which my brother said to me, 'Do you know who is the author of Jane Eyre?' and the unbounded astonishment with which I heard him say that 'Currer Bell' meant 'Charlotte Bronte'."

On Branwell Bronte –
"He was a good-looking fellow, and struck one as decidedly clever, and not in the least reticent as his sisters were. His remarks about the solemnizing effects of going to stay in Manchester Cathedral while, on one's way from the Station to the City, are all that remain in my memory."

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