WORD LISTS

Newly Discovered Bronte Sisters Essays

October 21, 2013
We've all wondered what our favorite authors were like as kids. A new discovery of what amounts to homework assignment essays by Charlotte and Emily Bronte (in French) from their boarding school days helps to answer this question. Here are 30 words to help read Charlotte's essay on filial love and the translator's commentary. The translator even dissects the instructor's comments on the original draft, proving that not even the author of "Jane Eyre" could escape the dreaded red ink of correction. The Tutelage of Charlotte and Emily Brontë From Harper's Magazine September 2013
avow
Must one then avow that maternal love is an instinct whereas filial love is only a duty?
filial
Must one then avow that maternal love is an instinct whereas filial love is only a duty?
imperative
Yes, it is a duty, but a duty so imperative that God proclaims the punishment of death against the one who neglects it; so sweet that the heart, instead of fleeing from it, seeks it ardently; so holy that it forms the basis of all the virtues.
proclaim
Yes, it is a duty, but a duty so imperative that God proclaims the punishment of death against the one who neglects it; so sweet that the heart, instead of fleeing from it, seeks it ardently; so holy that it forms the basis of all the virtues.
petulance
It is imperative because the child owes his life to his parents; because they have protected the child in his weakness; because they have patiently borne the petulance of his youth.
felicity
It is sweet because if there is any earthly sentiment that shares in the pure felicity of heaven, it is that which we feel in loving those who love us, in helping those who have helped us; and the child can love his mother without fear of loving too much; no doubt torments that kind of affection; it is pure, and therefore it is tranquil.
tranquil
It is sweet because if there is any earthly sentiment that shares in the pure felicity of heaven, it is that which we feel in loving those who love us, in helping those who have helped us; and the child can love his mother without fear of loving too much; no doubt torments that kind of affection; it is pure, and therefore it is tranquil.
disciple
It is holy because Jesus Christ himself has given us the example; in dying he thought of his mother, in his mortal agony he commended her to the protection of the disciple whom he loved.
languish
And he who does not love that mother so tender, that father so good, so helpful; he who raises the ax against the roots of the tree that has sheltered him from the storms of life; he who leaves to languish in an abandoned and solitary old age those who spent the noblest days of their youth in working for him — what fate awaits him?
expiate
The Justice of God will make him drink from the same bitter cup as the others: his own children, the inheritors of their father’s vices, will make him expiate his crime.
tuberculosis
Before they reached their teens, the two oldest daughters died of tuberculosis.
spacious
The family had its quarters in the building that housed the school, so Charlotte would have seen Heger’s wife and children there and in the spacious garden.
dire
“Filial Love” is a pervasively religious exercise in far-from-perfect French about the necessity of loving one’s parents and the dire fate awaiting those who don’t.
brevity
Despite the narrow guidelines evidently imposed by Heger, and despite the brevity of the sisters’ responses, the essays are by no means identical twins.
stimulus
Where Charlotte sees within these words “the double stimulus of a threat and a promise,” Emily fixates on their darker implications: “It is by such a commandment that God gives us knowledge of the baseness of our race . . . it is through fear that the maniac must be forced to sanctify himself.”
implication
Where Charlotte sees within these words “the double stimulus of a threat and a promise,” Emily fixates on their darker implications: “It is by such a commandment that God gives us knowledge of the baseness of our race . . . it is through fear that the maniac must be forced to sanctify himself.”
sanctify
Where Charlotte sees within these words “the double stimulus of a threat and a promise,” Emily fixates on their darker implications: “It is by such a commandment that God gives us knowledge of the baseness of our race . . . it is through fear that the maniac must be forced to sanctify himself.”
disaffected
Still, throughout the months both sisters spent at the pensionnat, Heger paid much more attention to Charlotte’s work, possibly because, unlike her disaffected sibling, she responded with flattering compliance.
compliance
Still, throughout the months both sisters spent at the pensionnat, Heger paid much more attention to Charlotte’s work, possibly because, unlike her disaffected sibling, she responded with flattering compliance.
obedience
(As she later wrote in a poem, “ Obedience was my heart’s free choice/ Whate’er his word severe.”)
obliquely
Her only resistance to Heger arose obliquely.
revulsion
Charlotte, who had never met a Catholic before now, found herself immersed in a Catholic milieu; her revulsion to it is clear in her devoirs, as she brandishes her own faith and her Protestant knowledge of scripture.
brandish
Charlotte, who had never met a Catholic before now, found herself immersed in a Catholic milieu; her revulsion to it is clear in her devoirs, as she brandishes her own faith and her Protestant knowledge of scripture.
ardor
Heger’s corrections sometimes tone down her ardor; in “L’Amour Filial,” for example, he deletes the sentence, “It is holy because Jesus Christ himself has given us the example; in dying he thought of his mother, in his mortal agony he commended her to the protection of the disciple whom he loved” (John 19:25–27).
devout
For Heger, a devout yet tolerant Catholic, respected the earnest little Protestant (“nourished on the Bible,” as he later said to Gaskell), and his concern for her improvement as a writer of his language never wavered.
embellish
While some of his corrections are grammatical — changing a verb tense here, adding a pronoun there — he ignores six missing accent marks and other minor lapses, apparently preferring to embellish her commonplace phrasing.
prescription
He substitutes “a sentiment of nature” for “instinct,” “a legal prescription” for “a duty,” “scruple” for “doubt,” “existence” for “life,” and “nurtured” for “cherished.”
scruple
He substitutes “a sentiment of nature” for “instinct,” “a legal prescription” for “a duty,” “ scruple” for “doubt,” “existence” for “life,” and “nurtured” for “cherished.”
miscreant
As he works through Charlotte’s pages, his enthusiasm seems to intensify so that, by page three, he, too, is reviling the miscreant child who fails to respect his parents (“a horror to mankind!” he writes above her handwriting, “woe betide him!”).
betide
As he works through Charlotte’s pages, his enthusiasm seems to intensify so that, by page three, he, too, is reviling the miscreant child who fails to respect his parents (“a horror to mankind!” he writes above her handwriting, “woe betide him!”).

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