Most important, from posterity's point of view, are the letters to Charlotte's schoolfriend Ellen Nussey, "a conscientious, observant, calm, well-bred Yorkshire girl", without "romance" or intellectual pretension. Although Ellen later destroyed many letters that she considered too sensitive for publication, we have reason to be grateful to her for preserving so many which provide us with much detailed insight into the Brontës' lives. Among the most riveting in this selection are the four letters that Charlotte wrote from Haworth to her Brussels professor, Constantin Heger, after her return to England in 1844, which reveal the extent of her infatuation with him and her longing for the assurance of his continuing friendship for her. To her great distress, it was not forthcoming. In November 1845 she told him that: "To forbid me to write to you, to refuse to reply to me – that will be to tear from me the only joy I have on earth, to deprive me of my last remaining privilege... Day after day I await a letter and day after day disappointment flings me down again into overwhelming misery..." Her heart's loss was Charlotte's creative gain. From the relationship with Heger, and her time in Belgium, flowed the genius of Jane Eyre and Villette.
Margaret Smith has more than earned the plaudits of Brontë lovers for her patient and scrupulous work in establishing reliable texts of Charlotte's letters, and in annotating them so expertly. My only, very slight, regret about this selected edition is that she has omitted the extraordinary story of the letters' afterlife. This centres on the activities of one of the great forgers of the age, T J Wise, who wheedled Charlotte's letters from Ellen Nussey, promising that they would never be "scattered abroad", but would be preserved in the South Kensington Museum, and used "to enhance the honour & reputation of their gloriously gifted writer". In an act of blatant desecration, Wise proceeded to sell Charlotte's letters at auction. In his zeal for selling to the highest bidder, many of the letters were split up and lost forever to untraceable locations. It is a tale rich in skulduggery and deceit which still remains to be told in full. independent.co.uk/books/reviews/selected-letters-of-charlotte-bront--bront-ed-margaret-smith-