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serve in accumulating power is still more curiously illustrated in the lives of the Brontës, especially Emily and Charlotte. Of course, reserve and slow accumulation will do little for powers which are from the beginning thoroughly commonplace, as was apparently the case with Anne Brontë. But how much they will do for women of real genius, who are yet not women of such great breadth and luxuriance of imagination that, spread themselves as they may, their imagination would still work vividly, the very interesting story which Mr. T. W. Reid has just told us of the Brontës,[1] by way of supplement to Mrs. Gaskell's biography of Charlotte, shows with very great force. The highest power of reserve which was probably ever concentrated in any human life whose outlines are well known to us, was that under the steady stress of which Emily Brontë's short career was passed. She, like her sisters, lived with a father of whom they were afraid, amidst wild and gloomy moors, where they had no companions but themselves, yet, unlike her sisters, she could hardly tell even to them the imaginations of her own heart. We are told by Mr. Reid how hopeless her efforts proved to enter into anything like the ordinary intercourse with her fellow-creatures, — how again and again she returned home after efforts to gain her own bread, which failed solely from her complete failure to open easy relations with her kind, — how in her last illness she would not admit even to her sisters her illness till within two hours of her death, but then whispered faintly, "If you send for a doctor, I will see him now," when she was almost in the agonies of death. In Emily Brontë the restraining power of reserve assuredly amounted to something very near mental disease. Yet what a wonderful force it gave to her genius! Highly as Mr. Reid appreciates "Wuthering Heights," he almost makes one laugh at him as if he were thoroughly unable to appreciate it, when he compares it even for a moment with such trash as Lord Lytton's "Strange Story." The passage he quotes, for instance, from "Wuthering Heights" as to the way in which Catherine's image haunted Heathcliff after her death, is, when compared with anything Lord Lytton ever achieved, like a stroke of lightning to the glimmer of a rush-light. There is more concentrated fire and power in that weird, wild tale, not merely than in all the pinchbeck novels Lord Lytton ever wrote (which is saying nothing), but than in any single story known to us in the English language. The capacity for expressing imaginative intensity surpasses to our mind any achievement in the same space in the whole of our prose literature. We should rank "Wuthering Heights" — eccentric and lurid as it is — as an effort of genius, far above not only "Villette," which seems to us Charlotte Brontë's greatest effort, but "The Bride of Lammermoor," which is the nearest thing to it in Sir Walter Scott's imaginative writings. In "Wuthering Heights" the concentrated power of a great imagination gave one brilliant flash and disappeared. No doubt the repressive force of Emily Brontë's reserve was something like a disease, but it had the effect of storing imaginative power as nothing else in the world could have stored it, and no one who reads all that is told of her could suppose for a moment that had her reserve been less than it was, we should ever have had that one great flash of genius. Doubtless she would have been broader, happier, in many respects a truer woman, than she was, if she had had more channels of communication with her kind, but her genius would hardly have effected any one thing so great; she might have been far wider; she could not have been so intense; she would never have gazed so deeply into those evil eyes of Heathcliff's — eyes seen only in her reveries, and never in real life — which she so finely describes as "the cloudy windows of hell," if she had not stored up all the elastic force of her reverie into that one single creative effort. And so with Charlotte Brontë's genius; it certainly reached its acme when her life was at its loneliest, when she was robbed of the sympathy of both of her sisters. "Villette" is almost as much greater than "Shirley" or "Jane Eyre" as "The Bride of Lammermoor," written in pain and under stress of illness, was greater than "Ivanhoe" or "Kenilworth."

We hold, then, that the great facilities for expression — the great stimulus given to expression by our intensely literary age, and to expression which anticipates the proper ripening of the feeling and thought to be expressed — are really considerable obstacles to the development of that high literary power for which Mr. Gladstone is compelled to look back to a generation when the intellectual life was far more sharply kept under, and far less constantly fostered than it is now.

  1. Charlotte Brontë: a Monograph. By T. Wemyss Reid. With Illustrations, London: Macmillan and Co.