Anyone who has read Gaskill’s Life of Charlotte Bronte will know that Charlotte accompanied her father Patrick Bronte to Manchester when he underwent a successful cataract operation. Mr Wilson a famous oculist recommended comfortable lodgings which were ran by a former servant of his.
The lodging house has long gone, but the street remains. The Salutation pub stands facing where the Charlotte and her father stayed. A blue plaque stares out blankly onto where according to the information Charlotte began her most famous novel Jane Eyre. This is an excerpt from a letter Charlotte wrote describing her Manchester lodging;-
August 21st, 1846: –
“I just scribble a line to you to let you know where I am, in order that you may write to me here, for it seems to me that a letter from you would relieve me from the feeling of strangeness I have in this big town. Papa and I came here on Wednesday; we saw Mr. Wilson, the oculist, the same day; he pronounced papa’s eyes quite ready for an operation, and has fixed next Monday for the performance of it. Think of us on that day! We got into our lodgings yesterday. I think we shall be comfortable; at least our rooms are very good, but there is no mistress of the house (she is very ill, and gone out into the country), and I am somewhat puzzled in managing about provisions; we board ourselves. I find myself excessively ignorant. I can’t tell what to order in the way of meat. For ourselves I could contrive, papa’s diet is so very simple; but there will be a nurse coming in a day or two, and I am afraid of not having things good enough for her. Papa requires nothing, you know, but plain beef and mutton, tea and bread and butter; but a nurse will probably expect to live much better; give me some hints if you can. Mr. Wilson says we shall have to stay here for a month at least. I wonder how Emily and Anne will get on at home with Branwell. They, too, will have their troubles. What would I not give to have you here! One is forced, step by step, to get experience in the world; but the learning is so disagreeable. One cheerful feature in the business is, that Mr. Wilson thinks most favourably of the case.”
What must that street have looked like then? Oh to go back in time to August 21st 1846 and see Charlotte coming and going from 83 Mount Pleasant Boundary Street! I, like most people perhaps, always assumed that Jane Eyre was written at the Parsonage in Haworth, but this appears not to be the case. According to this information, the novel was started at the above address. Where once stood Mount Pleasant 73 – 93 the back part of the Municipal School of Art stands.
A few days later, she writes thus: “Papa is still lying in bed, in a dark room, with his eyes bandaged. No inflammation ensued, but still it appears the greatest care, perfect quiet, and utter privation of light are necessary to ensure a good result from the operation. He is very patient, but, of course, depressed and weary. He was allowed to try his sight for the first time yesterday. He could see dimly. Mr. Wilson seemed perfectly satisfied, and said all was right. I have had bad nights from the toothache since I came to Manchester.”
Excerpts of Elizabeth Gaskill’s Life of Charlotte Bronte from this site Thanks!
Currer Bell image here
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