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“A peaceful sun gilded her evening”

On 31 March 1855 – Easter Sunday – Charlotte Brontë died at Haworth Parsonage. She was 38 years old, and the last surviving Brontë child. In this deeply moving letter to her literary advisor W. S. Williams, written on 4 June 1849, she reflects on the deaths of her sisters Anne and Emily.

My dear Sir

I hardly know what I said when I wrote last—I was then feverish and exhausted—I am now better—and—I believe—quite calm.

Anne Brontë - drawing in pencil by Charlotte Brontë, 1845

Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë, 1845

You have been informed of my dear Sister Anne’s death—let me now add that she died without severe struggle—resigned—trusting in God—thankful for release from a suffering life—deeply assured that a better existence lay before her—she believed—she hoped, and declared her belief and hope with her last breath.—Her quiet Christian death did not rend my heart as Emily’s stern, simple, undemonstrative end did—I let Anne go to God and felt He had a right to her.

I could hardly let Emily go—I wanted to hold her back then—and I want her back hourly now—Anne, from her childhood seemed preparing for an early death—Emily’s spirit seemed strong enough to bear her to fullness of years—They are both gone—and so is poor Branwell—and Papa has now me only—the weakest—puniest—least promising of his six children—Consumption has taken the whole five.

For the present Anne’s ashes rest apart from the others—I have buried her here at Scarbro’ to save papa the anguish of return and a third funeral.

I am ordered to remain at the sea-side a while—I cannot rest here but neither can I go home—Possibly I may not write again soon—attribute my silence neither to illness nor negligence. No letters will find me at Scarbro’ after the 7th. I do not know what my next address will be—I shall wander a week or two on the east coast and only stop at quiet lonely places—No one need be anxious about me as far as I know—Friends and acquaintance seem to think this the worst time of suffering—they are sorely mistaken—Anne reposes now—what have the long desolate hours of her patient pain and fast decay been?

Why life is so blank, brief and bitter I do not know—Why younger and far better than I are snatched from it with projects unfulfilled I cannot comprehend—but I believe God is wise—perfect—merciful.

I have heard from Papa—he and the servants knew when they parted from Anne they would see her no more—all try to be resigned—I knew it likewise and I wanted her to die where she would be happiest—She loved Scarbro’—a peaceful sun gilded her evening.

Yours sincerely
C. Brontë

The Oxford World’s Classics edition of Charlotte Brontë’s Selected Letters is edited by Margaret Smith, with an introduction by Janet Gezari.

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Image credit: Anne Brontë – drawing in pencil by Charlotte Brontë, 1845. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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