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Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer, and David Widger


by (AKA Charlotte Bronte) Currer Bell



T H E   P R O F E S S O R



























This little book was written before either "Jane Eyre" or "Shirley,"
and yet no indulgence can be solicited for it on the plea of a first
attempt. A first attempt it certainly was not, as the pen which wrote it
had been previously worn a good deal in a practice of some years. I had
not indeed published anything before I commenced "The Professor," but
in many a crude effort, destroyed almost as soon as composed, I had
got over any such taste as I might once have had for ornamented and
redundant composition, and come to prefer what was plain and homely.
At the same time I had adopted a set of principles on the subject of
incident, &c., such as would be generally approved in theory, but the
result of which, when carried out into practice, often procures for an
author more surprise than pleasure.

I said to myself that my hero should work his way through life as I had
seen real living men work theirs - that he should never get a shilling
he had not earned - that no sudden turns should lift him in a moment to
wealth and high station; that whatever small competency he might gain,
should be won by the sweat of his brow; that, before he could find so
much as an arbour to sit down in, he should master at least half the
ascent of "the Hill of Difficulty;" that he should not even marry a
beautiful girl or a lady of rank. As Adam's son he should share Adam's
doom, and drain throughout life a mixed and moderate cup of enjoyment.

In the sequel, however, I find that publishers in general scarcely
approved of this system, but would have liked something more imaginative
and poetical - something more consonant with a highly wrought fancy, with
a taste for pathos, with sentiments more tender, elevated, unworldly.
Indeed, until an author has tried to dispose of a manuscript of this
kind, he can never know what stores of romance and sensibility lie
hidden in breasts he would not have suspected of casketing such
treasures. Men in business are usually thought to prefer the real; on
trial the idea will be often found fallacious: a passionate preference
for the wild, wonderful, and thrilling - the strange, startling, and
harrowing - agitates divers souls that show a calm and sober surface.

Such being the case, the reader will comprehend that to have reached
him in the form of a printed book, this brief narrative must have gone
through some struggles - which indeed it has. And after all, its
worst struggle and strongest ordeal is yet to come but it takes
comfort - subdues fear - leans on the staff of a moderate expectation - and
mutters under its breath, while lifting its eye to that of the public,

"He that is low need fear no fall."


The foregoing preface was written by my wife with a view to the
publication of "The Professor," shortly after the appearance of
"Shirley." Being dissuaded from her intention, the authoress made some
use of the materials in a subsequent work - "Villette." As, however,
these two stories are in most respects unlike, it has been represented
to me that I ought not to withhold "The Professor" from the public. I
have therefore consented to its publication.


Haworth Parsonage,

September 22nd, 1856.

T H E    P R O F E S S O R


THE other day, in looking over my papers, I found in my desk the
following copy of a letter, sent by me a year since to an old school
acquaintance: -


"I think when you and I were at Eton together, we were neither of
us what could be called popular characters: you were a sarcastic,
observant, shrewd, cold-blooded creature; my own portrait I will
not attempt to draw, but I cannot recollect that it was a strikingly
attractive one - can you? What animal magnetism drew thee and me together
I know not; certainly I never experienced anything of the Pylades and
Orestes sentiment for you, and I have reason to believe that you, on
your part, were equally free from all romantic regard to me. Still,
out of school hours we walked and talked continually together; when the
theme of conversation was our companions or our masters we understood
each other, and when I recurred to some sentiment of affection, some
vague love of an excellent or beautiful object, whether in animate or
inanimate nature, your sardonic coldness did not move me. I felt myself
superior to that check THEN as I do NOW.

"It is a long time since I wrote to you, and a still longer time since
I saw you. Chancing to take up a newspaper of your county the other day,
my eye fell upon your name. I began to think of old times; to run over
the events which have transpired since we separated; and I sat down
and commenced this letter. What you have been doing I know not; but you
shall hear, if you choose to listen, how the world has wagged with me.

"First, after leaving Eton, I had an interview with my maternal uncles,
Lord Tynedale and the Hon. John Seacombe. They asked me if I would enter
the Church, and my uncle the nobleman offered me the living of Seacombe,
which is in his gift, if I would; then my other uncle, Mr. Seacombe,
hinted that when I became rector of Seacombe-cum-Scaife, I might perhaps
be allowed to take, as mistress of my house and head of my parish, one
of my six cousins, his daughters, all of whom I greatly dislike.

"I declined both the Church and matrimony. A good clergyman is a good
thing, but I should have made a very bad one. As to the wife - oh how
like a night-mare is the thought of being bound for life to one of
my cousins! No doubt they are accomplished and pretty; but not an
accomplishment, not a charm of theirs, touches a chord in my bosom.
To think of passing the winter evenings by the parlour fire-side of
Seacombe Rectory alone with one of them - for instance, the large and
well-modelled statue, Sarah - no; I should be a bad husband, under such
circumstances, as well as a bad clergyman.

"When I had declined my uncles' offers they asked me 'what I intended
to do?' I said I should reflect. They reminded me that I had no fortune,
and no expectation of any, and, after a considerable pause, Lord
Tynedale demanded sternly, 'Whether I had thoughts of following my
father's steps and engaging in trade?' Now, I had had no thoughts of the
sort. I do not think that my turn of mind qualifies me to make a good
tradesman; my taste, my ambition does not lie in that way; but such was
the scorn expressed in Lord Tynedale's countenance as he pronounced
the word TRADE - such the contemptuous sarcasm of his tone - that I was
instantly decided. My father was but a name to me, yet that name I did
not like to hear mentioned with a sneer to my very face. I answered
then, with haste and warmth, 'I cannot do better than follow in
my father's steps; yes, I will be a tradesman.' My uncles did not
remonstrate; they and I parted with mutual disgust. In reviewing this
transaction, I find that I was quite right to shake off the burden of
Tynedale's patronage, but a fool to offer my shoulders instantly for the
reception of another burden - one which might be more intolerable, and
which certainly was yet untried.

"I wrote instantly to Edward - you know Edward - my only brother, ten
years my senior, married to a rich mill-owner's daughter, and now
possessor of the mill and business which was my father's before he
failed. You are aware that my father - once reckoned a Croesus of
wealth - became bankrupt a short time previous to his death, and that my
mother lived in destitution for some six months after him, unhelped by
her aristocratical brothers, whom she had mortally offended by her union
with Crimsworth, the - - shire manufacturer. At the end of the six months
she brought me into the world, and then herself left it without, I
should think, much regret, as it contained little hope or comfort for

"My father's relations took charge of Edward, as they did of me, till I
was nine years old. At that period it chanced that the representation of
an important borough in our county fell vacant; Mr. Seacombe stood for
it. My uncle Crimsworth, an astute mercantile man, took the opportunity
of writing a fierce letter to the candidate, stating that if he and Lord
Tynedale did not consent to do something towards the support of their
sister's orphan children, he would expose their relentless and malignant
conduct towards that sister, and do his best to turn the circumstances
against Mr. Seacombe's election. That gentleman and Lord T. knew well
enough that the Crimsworths were an unscrupulous and determined race;
they knew also that they had influence in the borough of X - - ; and,
making a virtue of necessity, they consented to defray the expenses of
my education. I was sent to Eton, where I remained ten years, during
which space of time Edward and I never met. He, when he grew up, entered
into trade, and pursued his calling with such diligence, ability, and
success, that now, in his thirtieth year, he was fast making a fortune.
Of this I was apprised by the occasional short letters I received from
him, some three or four times a year; which said letters never concluded
without some expression of determined enmity against the house of
Seacombe, and some reproach to me for living, as he said, on the bounty
of that house. At first, while still in boyhood, I could not understand
why, as I had no parents, I should not be indebted to my uncles Tynedale
and Seacombe for my education; but as I grew up, and heard by degrees of
the persevering hostility, the hatred till death evinced by them against
my father - of the sufferings of my mother - of all the wrongs, in short,
of our house - then did I conceive shame of the dependence in which I
lived, and form a resolution no more to take bread from hands which had
refused to minister to the necessities of my dying mother. It was by
these feelings I was influenced when I refused the Rectory of Seacombe,
and the union with one of my patrician cousins.

"An irreparable breach thus being effected between my uncles and myself,
I wrote to Edward; told him what had occurred, and informed him of my
intention to follow his steps and be a tradesman. I asked, moreover, if
he could give me employment. His answer expressed no approbation of my
conduct, but he said I might come down to - - shire, if I liked, and he
would 'see what could be done in the way of furnishing me with work.'
I repressed all - even mental comment on his note - packed my trunk and
carpet-bag, and started for the North directly.

"After two days' travelling (railroads were not then in existence) I
arrived, one wet October afternoon, in the town of X - - . I had always
understood that Edward lived in this town, but on inquiry I found that
it was only Mr. Crimsworth's mill and warehouse which were situated in
the smoky atmosphere of Bigben Close; his RESIDENCE lay four miles out,
in the country.

"It was late in the evening when I alighted at the gates of the
habitation designated to me as my brother's. As I advanced up the
avenue, I could see through the shades of twilight, and the dark gloomy
mists which deepened those shades, that the house was large, and the
grounds surrounding it sufficiently spacious. I paused a moment on the
lawn in front, and leaning my back against a tall tree which rose in the
centre, I gazed with interest on the exterior of Crimsworth Hall.

"Edward is rich," thought I to myself. 'I believed him to be doing
well - but I did not know he was master of a mansion like this.' Cutting
short all marvelling; speculation, conjecture, &c., I advanced to the
front door and rang. A man-servant opened it - I announced myself - he
relieved me of my wet cloak and carpet-bag, and ushered me into a
room furnished as a library, where there was a bright fire and candles
burning on the table; he informed me that his master was not yet
returned from X - - market, but that he would certainly be at home in the
course of half an hour.

"Being left to myself, I took the stuffed easy chair, covered with red
morocco, which stood by the fireside, and while my eyes watched the
flames dart from the glowing coals, and the cinders fall at intervals on
the hearth, my mind busied itself in conjectures concerning the meeting
about to take place. Amidst much that was doubtful in the subject of
these conjectures, there was one thing tolerably certain - I was in no
danger of encountering severe disappointment; from this, the moderation
of my expectations guaranteed me. I anticipated no overflowings of
fraternal tenderness; Edward's letters had always been such as to
prevent the engendering or harbouring of delusions of this sort. Still,
as I sat awaiting his arrival, I felt eager - very eager - I cannot tell
you why; my hand, so utterly a stranger to the grasp of a kindred hand,
clenched itself to repress the tremor with which impatience would fain
have shaken it.

"I thought of my uncles; and as I was engaged in wondering whether
Edward's indifference would equal the cold disdain I had always
experienced from them, I heard the avenue gates open: wheels approached
the house; Mr. Crimsworth was arrived; and after the lapse of some
minutes, and a brief dialogue between himself and his servant in the
hall, his tread drew near the library door - that tread alone announced
the master of the house.

"I still retained some confused recollection of Edward as he was ten
years ago - a tall, wiry, raw youth; NOW, as I rose from my seat and
turned towards the library door, I saw a fine-looking and powerful man,
light-complexioned, well-made, and of athletic proportions; the first
glance made me aware of an air of promptitude and sharpness, shown
as well in his movements as in his port, his eye, and the general
expression of his face. He greeted me with brevity, and, in the moment
of shaking hands, scanned me from head to foot; he took his seat in the
morocco covered arm-chair, and motioned me to another seat.

"'I expected you would have called at the counting-house in the Close,'
said he; and his voice, I noticed, had an abrupt accent, probably
habitual to him; he spoke also with a guttural northern tone, which
sounded harsh in my ears, accustomed to the silvery utterance of the

"'The landlord of the inn, where the coach stopped, directed me here,'
said I. 'I doubted at first the accuracy of his information, not being
aware that you had such a residence as this.'

"'Oh, it is all right!' he replied, 'only I was kept half an hour behind
time, waiting for you - that is all. I thought you must be coming by the
eight o'clock coach.'

"I expressed regret that he had had to wait; he made no answer, but
stirred the fire, as if to cover a movement of impatience; then he
scanned me again.

"I felt an inward satisfaction that I had not, in the first moment of
meeting, betrayed any warmth, any enthusiasm; that I had saluted this
man with a quiet and steady phlegm.

"'Have you quite broken with Tynedale and Seacombe?' he asked hastily.

"'I do not think I shall have any further communication with them; my
refusal of their proposals will, I fancy, operate as a barrier against
all future intercourse.'

"'Why,' said he, 'I may as well remind you at the very outset of our
connection, that "no man can serve two masters." Acquaintance with Lord
Tynedale will be incompatible with assistance from me.' There was a kind
of gratuitous menace in his eye as he looked at me in finishing this

"Feeling no disposition to reply to him, I contented myself with an
inward speculation on the differences which exist in the constitution
of men's minds. I do not know what inference Mr. Crimsworth drew from
my silence - whether he considered it a symptom of contumacity or an
evidence of my being cowed by his peremptory manner. After a long and
hard stare at me, he rose sharply from his seat.

"'To-morrow,' said he, 'I shall call your attention to some other
points; but now it is supper time, and Mrs. Crimsworth is probably
waiting; will you come?'

"He strode from the room, and I followed. In crossing the hall, I
wondered what Mrs. Crimsworth might be. 'Is she,' thought I, 'as alien
to what I like as Tynedale, Seacombe, the Misses Seacombe - as the
affectionate relative now striding before me? or is she better than
these? Shall I, in conversing with her, feel free to show something of
my real nature; or - ' Further conjectures were arrested by my entrance
into the dining-room.

"A lamp, burning under a shade of ground-glass, showed a handsome
apartment, wainscoted with oak; supper was laid on the table; by the
fire-place, standing as if waiting our entrance, appeared a lady;
she was young, tall, and well shaped; her dress was handsome and
fashionable: so much my first glance sufficed to ascertain. A gay
salutation passed between her and Mr. Crimsworth; she chid him, half
playfully, half poutingly, for being late; her voice (I always take
voices into the account in judging of character) was lively - it
indicated, I thought, good animal spirits. Mr. Crimsworth soon checked
her animated scolding with a kiss - a kiss that still told of the
bridegroom (they had not yet been married a year); she took her seat
at the supper-table in first-rate spirits. Perceiving me, she begged
my pardon for not noticing me before, and then shook hands with me, as
ladies do when a flow of good-humour disposes them to be cheerful to
all, even the most indifferent of their acquaintance. It was now further
obvious to me that she had a good complexion, and features sufficiently
marked but agreeable; her hair was red - quite red. She and Edward
talked much, always in a vein of playful contention; she was vexed, or
pretended to be vexed, that he had that day driven a vicious horse in
the gig, and he made light of her fears. Sometimes she appealed to me.

"'Now, Mr. William, isn't it absurd in Edward to talk so? He says he
will drive Jack, and no other horse, and the brute has thrown him twice

"She spoke with a kind of lisp, not disagreeable, but childish. I
soon saw also that there was more than girlish - a somewhat infantine
expression in her by no means small features; this lisp and expression
were, I have no doubt, a charm in Edward's eyes, and would be so to
those of most men, but they were not to mine. I sought her eye, desirous
to read there the intelligence which I could not discern in her face
or hear in her conversation; it was merry, rather small; by turns I saw
vivacity, vanity, coquetry, look out through its irid, but I watched in
vain for a glimpse of soul. I am no Oriental; white necks, carmine lips
and cheeks, clusters of bright curls, do not suffice for me without that
Promethean spark which will live after the roses and lilies are faded,
the burnished hair grown grey. In sunshine, in prosperity, the flowers
are very well; but how many wet days are there in life - November seasons
of disaster, when a man's hearth and home would be cold indeed, without
the clear, cheering gleam of intellect.

"Having perused the fair page of Mrs. Crimsworth's face, a deep,
involuntary sigh announced my disappointment; she took it as a homage to
her beauty, and Edward, who was evidently proud of his rich and handsome
young wife, threw on me a glance - half ridicule, half ire.

"I turned from them both, and gazing wearily round the room, I saw two
pictures set in the oak panelling - one on each side the mantel-piece.
Ceasing to take part in the bantering conversation that flowed on
between Mr. and Mrs. Crimsworth, I bent my thoughts to the examination
of these pictures. They were portraits - a lady and a gentleman, both
costumed in the fashion of twenty years ago. The gentleman was in the
shade. I could not see him well. The lady had the benefit of a full beam
from the softly shaded lamp. I presently recognised her; I had seen this
picture before in childhood; it was my mother; that and the companion
picture being the only heir-looms saved out of the sale of my father's

"The face, I remembered, had pleased me as a boy, but then I did not
understand it; now I knew how rare that class of face is in the world,
and I appreciated keenly its thoughtful, yet gentle expression. The
serious grey eye possessed for me a strong charm, as did certain lines
in the features indicative of most true and tender feeling. I was sorry
it was only a picture.

"I soon left Mr. and Mrs. Crimsworth to themselves; a servant
conducted me to my bed-room; in closing my chamber-door, I shut out all
intruders - you, Charles, as well as the rest.

"Good-bye for the present,


To this letter I never got an answer; before my old friend received it,
he had accepted a Government appointment in one of the colonies, and was
already on his way to the scene of his official labours. What has become
of him since, I know not.

The leisure time I have at command, and which I intended to employ
for his private benefit, I shall now dedicate to that of the public at
large. My narrative is not exciting, and above all, not marvellous;
but it may interest some individuals, who, having toiled in the same
vocation as myself, will find in my experience frequent reflections
of their own. The above letter will serve as an introduction. I now


A FINE October morning succeeded to the foggy evening that had witnessed
my first introduction to Crimsworth Hall. I was early up and walking in
the large park-like meadow surrounding the house. The autumn sun, rising
over the - - shire hills, disclosed a pleasant country; woods brown and
mellow varied the fields from which the harvest had been lately carried;
a river, gliding between the woods, caught on its surface the somewhat
cold gleam of the October sun and sky; at frequent intervals along the
banks of the river, tall, cylindrical chimneys, almost like slender
round towers, indicated the factories which the trees half concealed;
here and there mansions, similar to Crimsworth Hall, occupied agreeable
sites on the hill-side; the country wore, on the whole, a cheerful,
active, fertile look. Steam, trade, machinery had long banished from
it all romance and seclusion. At a distance of five miles, a valley,
opening between the low hills, held in its cups the great town of X - - .
A dense, permanent vapour brooded over this locality - there lay Edward's

I forced my eye to scrutinize this prospect, I forced my mind to dwell
on it for a time, and when I found that it communicated no pleasurable
emotion to my heart - that it stirred in me none of the hopes a man ought
to feel, when he sees laid before him the scene of his life's career - I
said to myself, "William, you are a rebel against circumstances; you are
a fool, and know not what you want; you have chosen trade and you shall
be a tradesman. Look!" I continued mentally - "Look at the sooty smoke in
that hollow, and know that there is your post! There you cannot dream,
you cannot speculate and theorize - there you shall out and work!"

Thus self-schooled, I returned to the house. My brother was in the
breakfast-room. I met him collectedly - I could not meet him cheerfully;
he was standing on the rug, his back to the fire - how much did I read in
the expression of his eye as my glance encountered his, when I advanced
to bid him good morning; how much that was contradictory to my nature!
He said "Good morning" abruptly and nodded, and then he snatched, rather
than took, a newspaper from the table, and began to read it with the air
of a master who seizes a pretext to escape the bore of conversing with
an underling. It was well I had taken a resolution to endure for a time,
or his manner would have gone far to render insupportable the disgust
I had just been endeavouring to subdue. I looked at him: I measured his
robust frame and powerful proportions; I saw my own reflection in the
mirror over the mantel-piece; I amused myself with comparing the two
pictures. In face I resembled him, though I was not so handsome; my
features were less regular; I had a darker eye, and a broader brow - in

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Online LibraryCharlotte BrontëThe Professor → online text (page 1 of 21)