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Mrs. Gaskell writes from Haworth

Elizabeth Gaskell is best known for her 1857 biography of Charlotte Bront"e. She wrote eight novels, five of which were serialized in Charles Dickens's weeklies, and was a prolific letter-writer. In this 1853 letter, she describes visiting the Bront"es.

Haworth is a long straggling village: one steep narrow street - so steep that the flagstones with which it is paved are placed end-ways that the horses' feet may have something to cling to, and not slip down backwards; which if they did, they would soon reach Keighley. But if the horses had cats' feet and claws, they would do all the better. Well, we (the man, horse, car, and I,) clambered up this street, and reached the Church dedicated to St. Autest (who was he?); then we turned off into a lane on the left, past the curate's lodging at the Sexton's, past the School-house, up to the Parsonage yard-door. I went round the house to the front door, looking to the church; moors everywhere beyond and above. The crowded grave-yard surrounds the house, and small grass enclosure for drying clothes.

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I don't know that I ever saw a spot more exquisitely clean; the most dainty place for that I ever saw. To be sure, the life is like clock-work. No one comes to the house; nothing disturbs the deep repose; hardly a voice is heard; you catch the ticking of the clock in the kitchen, or the buzzing of a fly in the parlour, all over the house. Miss Bront"e sits alone in her parlour; breakfasting with her father in his study at nine o'clock. She helps in the housework; for one of their servants, Tabby, is nearly ninety, and the other only a girl. Then I accompanied her in her walks on the sweeping moors: the heather-bloom had been blighted by a thunder-storm a day or two before, and was all of a livid brown colour, instead of the blaze of purple glory it ought to have been. Oh! those high, wild, desolate moors, up above the whole world, and the very realms of silence! Home to dinner at two. Mr. Bront"e has his dinner sent in to him. All the small table arrangements had the same dainty simplicity about them. Then we rested, and talked, over the clear bright fire; it is a cold country, and the fires were a pretty warm dancing light all over the house. The parlour has been evidently refurnished within the last few years, since Miss Bront"e's success has enabled her to have a little more money to spend. Everything fits into, and is in harmony with the idea of a country parsonage, possessed by people of very moderate means. The prevailing colour of the room is crimson, to make a warm setting for the cold grey landscape without. There is her likeness by Richmond; and an engraving from Lawrence's picture of Thackeray; and two recesses, on each side of the high, narrow old-fashioned mantel-piece, filled with books, - books given to her, books she has bought, and which tell of her individual pursuits and tastes; not standard books. From ``The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell'' edited by J.A.V. Chapple and Arthur Pollard. Copyright 1967 Harvard University Press. Reprinted by permission.

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