Ellen Nussey - Friendship With The Brontës

Friendship With The Brontës

Through her frequent visits to the Parsonage at Haworth Nussey also became a friend of Anne and Emily Brontë, and was accepted as a suitable friend for his daughters by the Reverend Patrick Brontë. Indeed, when in May 1849, Anne decided to make a visit to Scarborough in the hope that the change of location and fresh sea air might be good for her failing health, and give her a chance to live, she went with Charlotte and Nussey. En route, the three spent a day and a night in York, where, escorting Anne around in a wheelchair, they did some shopping, and at Anne's request, visited the colossal York Minster. However, it was clear that Anne had little strength left.

On Sunday, 27 May 1849, Anne asked Charlotte whether it would be easier for her to come home to die instead of remaining at Scarborough. A doctor, consulted the next day, indicated that death was already close. Anne received the news quietly. She expressed her love and concern for Nussey and Charlotte, and seeing Charlotte's distress, whispered to her to "take courage". Nussey's presence during the weeks following gave comfort to Charlotte Brontë, who was writing her novel Shirley at the time. Nussey believed that the character Caroline Helstone was based on herself, but most writers dispute this, believing that Caroline was actually based on Anne Brontë. Nussey was staying with the Brontës at Haworth on the night of the 1851 census and is shown on the return as "visitor".

When Charlotte Brontë married her father's Curate, the Rev. Arthur Bell Nichols, at Haworth in Yorkshire in June, 1854, Nussey was one of two witnesses present. Their engagement had caused a cooling in the friendship on Nussey's part, who was probably jealous of Brontë's attachment to Nicholls, having thought they would both live as spinsters. After her death, Brontë's husband, the Rev. Arthur Bell Nichols became concerned that her letters to Nussey might damage his late wife's reputation if they were misused, and he asked Nussey to destroy them, but she refused. Some scholars have claimed that this may have been to a struggle between Nicholls and Nussey over who had control over Charlotte Brontë's legacy. However, after over 350 letters from Charlotte Brontë to Nussey were used in Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë he prevented at least one other publication from using them.

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    A woman may very well form a friendship with a man, but for this to endure, it must be assisted by a little physical antipathy.
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