Biographical Notes on the Pseudonymous Bells

Charlotte Brontë
Biographical Notice of Ellis and
Acton Bell

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by Charlotte Bronte (#3 in our series by Charlotte Bronte)
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Title: Charlotte Bronte's Notes on the pseudonyms used
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Release Date: January, 1997 [EBook #771] [This file was first posted
on January 4, 1997] [Most recently updated: September 12, 2002]

Edition: 10
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Transcribed from the 1910 John Murray edition (Preface to 'Wuthering
Heights') by David Price, email [email protected]


It has been thought that all the works published under the names of
Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell were, in reality, the production of one
person. This mistake I endeavoured to rectify by a few words of
disclaimer prefixed to the third edition of 'Jane Eyre.' These, too, it
appears, failed to gain general credence, and now, on the occasion of a
reprint of 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Agnes Grey,' I am advised distinctly
to state how the case really stands.
Indeed, I feel myself that it is time the obscurity attending those two
names--Ellis and Acton--was done away. The little mystery, which
formerly yielded some harmless pleasure, has lost its interest;
circumstances are changed. It becomes, then, my duty to explain briefly
the origin and authorship of the books written by Currer, Ellis, and
Acton Bell.
About five years ago, my two sisters and myself, after a somewhat
prolonged period of separation, found ourselves reunited, and at home.
Resident in a remote district, where education had made little progress,
and where, consequently, there was no inducement to seek social
intercourse beyond our own domestic circle, we were wholly dependent
on ourselves and each other, on books and study, for the enjoyments
and occupations of life. The highest stimulus, as well as the liveliest
pleasure we had known from childhood upwards, lay in attempts at
literary composition; formerly we used to show each other what we

wrote, but of late years this habit of communication and consultation
had been discontinued; hence it ensued, that we were mutually ignorant
of the progress we might respectively have made.
One day, in the autumn of 1845, I accidentally lighted on a MS. volume
of verse in my sister Emily's handwriting. Of course, I was not
surprised, knowing that she could and did write verse: I looked it over,
and something more than surprise seized me--a deep conviction that
these were not common effusions, nor at all like the poetry women
generally write. I thought them condensed and terse, vigorous and
genuine. To my ear they had also a peculiar music--wild, melancholy,
and elevating.
My sister Emily was not a person of demonstrative character, nor one
on the recesses of whose mind and feelings even those nearest and
dearest to her could, with impunity, intrude unlicensed; it took hours to
reconcile her to the discovery I had made, and days to persuade her that
such poems merited publication. I knew, however, that a mind like hers
could not be without some latent spark of honourable ambition, and
refused to be discouraged in my attempts to fan that spark to flame.
Meantime, my younger sister quietly produced some of her own
compositions, intimating that, since Emily's had given me pleasure, I
might like to look at hers. I could not but be a partial judge, yet I
thought that these verses, too, had a sweet, sincere pathos of their own.
We had very early cherished the dream of one day becoming authors.
This dream, never relinquished even when distance divided and
absorbing tasks occupied us, now suddenly acquired strength and
consistency: it took the character of a resolve. We agreed to arrange a
small selection of our poems, and, if possible, to get them printed.
Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of
Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell;
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