TO MISS ELLEN NUSSEY ‘August 14th, 1840.
talk largely—I thought assumingly. I cannot say I much admired them. To my eyes there seemed to be an attempt to play the great Mogul down in Yorkshire. Mr. Branwell was much less assuming than the womenites; he seemed a frank, sagacious kind of man, very tall and vigorous, with a keen active look. The moment he saw me he exclaimed that I was the very image of my aunt Charlotte. Mrs. Branwell sets up for being a woman of great talent, tact, and accomplishment. I thought there was much more noise than work. My cousin Eliza is a young lady intended by nature to be a bouncing, good-looking girl—art has trained her to be a languishing, affected piece of goods. I would have been friendly with her, but I could get no talk except about the Low Church, Evangelical clergy, the Millennium, Baptist Noel, botany, and her own conversion. A mistaken education has utterly spoiled the lass. Her face tells that she is naturally good-natured, though perhaps indolent. Her affectations were so utterly out of keeping with her round rosy face and tall bouncing figure, I could hardly refrain from laughing as I watched her. Write a long letter next time and I’ll write you ditto. Good-bye.’
Maria Brontë and Elizabeth Branwell were the daughters of Thomas Branwell, a successful property owner and merchant of Penzance, and his wife Anne, née Carne. The marriage of 1768 seems to have produced eight daughters and three sons, though four of these children died in infancy. Thomas died in 1809, Anne the next year. Among the sisters of Maria and Elizabeth were Anne, Charlotte (who married a Branwell cousin in Penzance on the same day as Maria married Patrick, and who CB was said to resemble), and Jane, who married unhappily a prominent but peccant Methodist preacher, John Kingston. Among the brothers was Benjamin, who became Mayor of Penzance in 1809. Branwell visitors stayed with the Brontës on at least two occasions. In 1840 they were visited by John Branwell Williams and his family, cousins of their aunt, and Charlotte as usual preferred the male to the female – “Mr Williams himself was much less assuming than the womanites” (to EN, 14 Aug 1840?). Thomas Brontë Branwell, son of Charlotte Branwell, visited in September 1851, and Charlotte’s “the coast is now clear” (in a letter to MW, 22 Sep 1851?, proposing a visit) suggests that he wasn’t someone she was anxious her friend should meet.
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