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But at present the only novelist of any repute with whom Smith, Elder & Co. had been nearly associated was the grandiloquent writer of blood-curdling romance, G. P. R. James.

Of the first impressions that Mr. Smith made on Charlotte Brontë she has left a frank record in her letters. She wrote there of his youth, of his practical instinct, his caution, his sense of honour, his enterprise, his quiet raillery. But her final and comprehensive study of his character was made in the medium of fiction. There are grounds for regarding 'Villette'as her crowning achievement in literature. The book is to a large extent a recension of her early effort, 'The Professor.' But her touch had grown far firmer, and her outlook on life had widened since she made that first attempt. The old canvas was painted anew. Characters, of which she had no previous conception, were brought into the foreground. Bright colour for the first time illumined the settled gloom. The cause of the cloud-lifting is not far to seek. The radiance was clearly caught from the character of Mr. Smith, from her close study of London sights under his surveillance, and from the cheerful hospitality which she enjoyed in his London home. Dr. John Graham Bretton, and his mother, Mrs. Bretton, who shed on the novel its warmest human glow, are Miss Brontë's full and candid interpretations of the personalities of her London host and hostess. She bequeathed to posterity no more delightful gifts.

Miss Brontë has been charged with transcribing in all her novels her private experience somewhat too literally to satisfy the best canons of art. Of that charge I will speak briefly before I close. In ‘Villette,' at any rate, she paints with curious fidelity many portraits of those with whom she had been in living contact both before and after she grew familiar with London. Villette' is Brussels ; her own sojourn at M. Héger's school and her companions there form the staple of her argument. But with an ingenuity that may be fairly styled felicitous she weaves into her canvas all the brightest threads of her London life.

No one who either knew Mr. Smith or heard him speak of his mother can fail to detect their two likenesses in Mrs. Bretton and Doctor John. To the portrayal of the son Charlotte Brontë brought her keen power of observation in its fullest blossom. The mother is sketched more lightly, but no less surely. No sign of either is given in the first sketch of the book in The Professor.'

Some idealisation is inseparable from fictitious portraiture even when the artist draws the lineaments directly from life. In the setting of Dr. John in medical practice at Villette there is nothing which reflects any phase of Mr. Smith's career. Dr. John's environment is either imaginary or assimilates gleanings from another household. It may be difficult here and there to reconcile a feature in the counterfeit presentment with one's own impression of the original. But the discrepancies are negligible. For those who knew Mr. Smith, Dr. John is a speaking portrait. Nor does the resemblance end with the graphic presentment of character and outward aspect. In spite of divergence from actual fact in the surroundings, Dr. John and Lucy Snowe, the heroine of Villette,' are involved in some digressive adventures identical with experiences which jointly befell Charlotte Brontë and Mr. Smith when the writer was visiting London.

V. In personal appearance Dr. John vividly recalls his prototype. The well-proportioned figure, the handsome and manly face and brow, the imposing height, the blue eyes, the hair worn rather long, which are precisely described in the novel, come straight from the unmistakeable model. There is an unusual flicker of humour in the stress laid on the indeterminate hue of the hero's hair-such as friends did not venture to specify except as the sun shone on it, when they called it golden.'

It is in psychological analysis of her friend and publisher's temperament that Miss Brontë shows her full strength. Admiringly sympathetic as is her prevailing tone, she was too critical and too honest an artist to indulge in unqualified panegyric. Strong and cheerful, firm and courteous, not rash yet valiant,' are the salient notes of her picture, and none who knew Mr. Smith can question the justice of the epithets' application. “Much feeling spoke in his features and more sat silent in his eye.' Of Dr. John's

gay and sanguine' temperament, of his generosity, his good nature, his amenity, Miss Brontë's pages do not lack the proof. But to her penetrating vision ‘Dr. John was not perfect any more than I am perfect.' She declined to credit him with the attributes of “a god.' She had no intention, she wrote to Mr. Smith himself, of keeping Dr. John ‘ supremely worshipful '—'a being unlike real life, inconsistent with real truth, at variance with probability.' 'Human fallibility leavened him throughout.' But the shadows are not dark. They add value to the portrait almost as much from the light they shed on the painter's idiosyncrasies as from

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any inherent value that attaches to them in the way of portraiture.

Charlotte Brontë's sense of humour was not strong. Though no stranger to the playful mood, she strictly checked its working. She was usually too serious and too earnest to approve any tendency to levity. Raillery or gentle ridicule she suspected of insincerity or worse. Innocent fun lay outside the normal scope of her intuition. Primness was intertwined with her passionate fibre. Hence came the main misgivings of her friend and publisher. In Mr. Smith's letters and conversation she noted hints of a playful disposition which puzzled her. With characteristic frankness she wrote to him thus :

I will tell you a thing to be noted often in your letters and almost always in your conversation, a psychological thing and not a matter pertaining to style or intellect-I mean an undercurrent of quiet raillery, an inaudible laugh to yourself, a not unkindly, but somewhat subtle, playing on your correspondent or companion for the time being-in short, a sly touch of a Mephistopheles with the fiend extracted. She confessed that she was at times half afraid of the enigmatic smile of questioning rebuke to which Mr. Smith's features lent themselves in her eyes.

Dr. John is invested with the like traits, and she dissects them almost mercilessly. One could not in a hurry make up one's mind,' she writes in one chapter of Villette,'' as to the descriptive epithet it (i.e. Dr. John's smile) merited. While it pleased it brought surging up into the mind all one's foibles and weak points. I je sentence is an eloquent confession of the writer's own sensiti reness. Dr. John's 'mischievous half-smile' at other times seemed to her to betray either 'masculine vanity elate and tickled,' or an 'unconscious roguish archness, which dashed the observer's equanimity.

More subtle failings suggested themselves as her brush worked over the canvas. She was inclined to blame her hero for a lighthearted absorption in the pleasure of the moment and for a masculine self-esteem, which hovered in her judgment between a vice or virtue. While she amply acknowledged his consideration for others, she sometimes imputed to him slowness to apprehend the felicity of unsolicited benevolence.

Though a kind, generous man, with fine feeling, he was not quick to seize or apprehend another's feelings. Make your need known, his hand was open ; put your grief into words, he turned no deaf ear; expect refinements of perception, miracles of intuition, and realise disappointment.


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Censure so abstruse bears witness to the exacting terms which the author imposed on her beau idéal.

Every side of Mr. Smith’s character was conscientiously surveyed under cover of Dr. John. With graphic literalness Dr. John's attributes reflect Mr. Smith's magnificent capacity for work and his methodical precision. While Charlotte Brontë was the guest of his mother in London, the calls of his heavy and incessant labours at Cornhill were often reckoned more than one man could sustain. It is obvious what Charlotte Brontë had in her mind when she made Lucy Snowe remark of Dr. John :

I can hardly tell how he managed his engagements. They were numerous ; yet by dint of system he classed them in an order which left him a daily period of liberty. I often saw him hard-worked, yet seldom over-driven, and never irritated, confused, or oppressed. What he did was accomplished with the ease and grace of all-sufficing strength; with the bountiful cheerfulness of high and unbroken energies.

Nor does Charlotte Brontë depart a hair's breadth from her circumambient text when she describes how Dr. John, despite his professional preoccupations, found time to gratify the heroine's taste for sightseeing. There is something like irrelevancy and inconsistency in the emphasis, which is laid in. Villette' on Dr. John's perfect knowledge of the points of interest in that French town where, according to the fiction, he was an alien dweller. Mr. Smith's exhaustive acquaintance with London, and his own accounts of the watchful care with which, at her instance, he conducted Miss Brontë through the labyrinth of its wonders, supply the key to the riddle. Theatres, opera-houses, picture galleries, newspaper offices, prisons, banks, hospitals, Parliament house, were all open to her with him as her guide. The chief object of her adoration, the Duke of Wellington, became to her a familiar figure, owing to Mr. Smith's ingenious pursuit of him at church or in street. Well might Lucy Snowe say of Dr. John : 'Of every object worth seeing he seemed to possess the Open, sesame! ... He took me to places of interest in the town, whose names I had not before so much as heard. It was in one ' happy fortnight' that Dr. John revealed to Lucy Snowe ‘more of Villette, its environs and inhabitants,' than months could have shown her with a less efficient escort. Villette and London (as discovered to Charlotte Brontë by Mr. Smith) are here convertible terms.

Dr. John's minutest characteristics as cicerone are scrutinised with the same transparent significance. Dr. John would leave VOL. XXVI. - NO. 163, N.S.


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Lucy Snowe in a picture gallery or museum to study or meditate alone for two or three hours, and call for her when his business set him free. He did not oppress her with his own comment, nor pretend to connoisseurship which he did not possess. “He spoke his thought, which was sure to be fresh.' His sensible criticism came from his own resources. It was not borrowed nor stolen from books, nor decked out with dry facts or trite phrases or hackneyed opinions. Pertinent details interested him. There was no superficiality about his power of observation. His talk was neither cold nor vague. 'He never prosed.'

A touching charm envelops all the relations which the book allots to Dr. John and his mother. Mrs. Bretton has practically no characteristics which tradition fails to trace in Mr. Smith's mother, and many of Mrs. Bretton's phrases are known to have fallen from Mrs. Smith's lips. On her first introduction to Miss Brontë, Mrs. Smith was fifty-one years old, and had been a widow less than two years. Her youthful spirit was undimmed, and her son, as he often remarked, owed to her shrewdness, vivacity, and sanguine temper' a large measure of the confidence with which he faced and conquered the heavy and complicated responsibilities that devolved on his young shoulders when his father died. The perfect understanding which linked mother and son together Charlotte Brontë transferred to her canvas with rare luminosity.

In a letter to a friend Miss Brontë gave her earliest impression of Mrs. Smith as ' a portly, handsome woman of her age,' and of her younger children as 'all dark-eyed, dark-haired, and having clear, pale faces.' This is how Mrs. Bretton was first brought to the reader's notice in Villette':

She was not young as I remember her, but she was still handsome, tall, well made, and though dark for an English woman, yet wearing always the clearness of health in her brunette cheek, and its vivacity in a pair of fine cheerful


black eyes.

Throughout the book Mrs. Bretton is credited at fifty with “the alacrity and strength of five-and-twenty,' with a self-reliant mood and a decided bearing. She never, we are told, made a fuss over trifles, and was always self-possessed in the presence of anxiety. Though she could be peremptory and commanding in manner, cheerfulness and benevolence possessed her being. Her son, who honoured her counsel, called her 'old lady.' His affectionate regard for her mingled at their hearth with a playful spirit of camaraderie. Hints are given in the book of a difficult

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