The reason these six letters (and a first edition of the two-volume 1857 biography of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell which was also part of the lot, but that was a negligible part of the value) are so dear is that Charlotte’s letters to Ellen are the basis for much of the Brontë scholarship that exists today.
Ellen kept all of the letters Charlotte wrote her, more than 500 in the final tally. Charlotte’s husband, her father’s curate Rev. Arthur Bell Nichols, wanted the letters destroyed after Charlotte’s death, fearing that they would somehow tarnish her reputation. Nussey refused, bless her forever for that. For the rest of her life — she died at the age of 80 in 1897 — Ellen considered herself a custodian of Charlotte’s personal and literary legacy, and biographers from Elizabeth Gaskell onward sought Ellen out for her recollections and correspondence.
After her death, the letters were sold, many of them ending up in the Haworth museum collection. These particular six were lent to Elizabeth Gaskell who apparently put them between the covers of the first edition of her biography of Charlotte and forgot about them. They were only recently rediscovered when the volumes, then in a private collection, were opened and the letters found out. They’ve only been known from poorly made transcripts until now, all of them inaccurate, so having the originals is an important addition to Brontë scholarship.
The letters cover the entire span of their friendship.
Read all: thehistoryblog