Anne's Letter to Ellen Nussey (October 1847)
This is Anne's earliest surviving letter; it was composed at the time she was writing her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The writing of this novel had engaged her life so completely that it begun to affect her health. Charlotte complained to Ellen Nussey that Anne was constantly 'sitting stooping over her desk', though she did not reveal exactly what Anne was doing (the three sisters kept their authorship secret from everyone until some considerable time after their novels had been published). She added, 'I would fain hope she is a little stronger than she was, and her spirits a little better, but she leads much too sedentary a life . . . . it is with difficulty we can prevail on her to take a walk or induce her to converse. . . .'.

In September 1847, Charlotte spent a period with Ellen Nussey at Brookroyd, and when opening her 'boxes' on her return, she discovered that Ellen had secretly packed inside a number of presents for Charlotte and her family: for Patrick there was a firescreen; for Emily there were apples and a 'collar'; Anne received a jar of medicinal crab cheese, and Tabby was said to be 'charmed' with her cap - she declared 'she never thought o' t' sort as Miss Nussey sending her aught . . .'.156  Ten days later, Anne received a letter from Ellen, and it was to this letter which she promptly responded:

Haworth
October 4th -47

My dear Miss Ellen,

Many thanks to you for your unexpected and welcome epistle. Charlotte is well, and meditates writing to you. Happily for all parties the east wind no longer prevails - during its continuance she complained of its influence as usual. I too suffered from it, in some degree, as I always do, more or less; but this time, it brought me no reinforcement of colds and coughs which is what I dread the most. Emily considers it a "dry uninteresting wind", but it does not affect her nervous system. Charlotte agrees with me in thinking the note about Mr. Jenkin's a very provoking affair. You are quite mistaken about her parasol; she affirms she brought it back, and I can bear witness to the fact, having seen it yesterday in her possession. The one you have discovered may possibly have been left by Miss Ringrose. As for my book, you are welcome to keep it as long as you or your friends can derive any benefit from its perusal, I have no wish to see it again, till I see you along with it, and then it will be welcome enough for the sake of the bearer. We are all here much as you left us; I have no news to tell you, except that Mr. Nicholl's begged a holiday and went to Ireland three or four weeks ago, and is not expected back till Saturday - but that I dare say is no news at all. We were all severely pleased and grateful for your kind and judiciously selected presents - from papa down to Tabby, - or down to myself, perhaps I ought rather to say. The crab cheese is excellent, and likely to be very useful, but I don't intend to need it. It is not choice, but necessity that has induced me to choose such a tiny sheet of paper for my letter, having none more suitable at hand; but perhaps it will contain as much as you need wish to read or I to write, for I find I have nothing more to say except that your little Tabby must be a charming creature, and when the wedding fever reaches you I hope it will be to some good purpose and give you no cause to regret its advent, and - that is all, for as Charlotte is writing or about to write to you herself I need not send any message from her. therefore accept my best love and I must not omit the Major's compliments [the family nickname for Emily] believe me to be your affectionate friend,

ANNE BRONTË.

(Sources of letter contents)


Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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