#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge: Honeymoon Love Letter @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charlie Mills’ Carrot Ranch Weekly Flash Fiction Prompt 

March 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. It can be between a couple before, during or after the honeymoon. Or it can refer to a honeymoon period. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 14, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published March 15). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Honeymoon Love Letter

He refused, yet again. Why wouldn’t they leave him alone? He would never share Charlotte’s love letter.    

Dearest husband, the word seems strange, yet marvellous, my husband, at last. You are dearer to me today than you have ever been, yet less than you shall be tomorrow. I shall never forget the wild nights spent in Bangor, or the gleams of sunshine which woke us every morning. I love you, Charlotte.

Arthur folded the letter he had read every day since his wife passed away, fifty years ago, and tucked it back under his shirt, close to his heart. 


This flash fiction is inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s honeymoon in Bangor, Wales, with her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls. They were only married for nine months, and very little is known about their relationship, however, the letters she wrote during her honeymoon and her obvious desire to marry him, in spite of her father’s opposition, as well as Arthur’s tenacity, leads me to believe that there was a love story between them.   

The letter I have included in my flash was inspired by words and sentences she wrote in ‘real’ letters about her husband and her honeymoon.

           Arthur Bell Nichols circa 1854

Arthur Bell Nichols met Charlotte Bronte in 1845 when he was appointed curate to her father, Reverend Patrick Bronte. The first time Arthur asked for Charlotte Bronte’s hand in marriage, in 1852, her father, the Reverend Patrick Bronte refused, probably because he considered his curate to be beneath his famous daughter. As a result, Arthur applied to work in Australia, although he also persisted in is pursuit of the elusive Charlotte, in spite of her overprotective father.

Charlotte and Arthur eventually married in June 1854, nevertheless, Charlotte’s father refused to lead his daughter her up to the altar, or attend the wedding ceremony.

The newlyweds spent a protracted honeymoon in Wales and Ireland, and there is no indication that it was not a happy, albeit short, marriage. Charlotte wrote several letters during her honeymoon, describing her journey as pleasant and enjoyable.

Unfortunately, Charlotte died nine months later, probably due to complications with her pregnancy, as she suffered severe morning sickness and general ill health. Charlotte and her unborn child died on 31 March 1855. She was 38-years-old.

These may or may not be photographs of Arthur and Charlotte (Both are disputed).

Nicholls became the copyright holder of his wife’s works. As interest in Charlotte Bronte grew in the months and years after her death, Patrick Brontë asked Charlotte’s friend, the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, to write her daughter’s biography. Arthur Nicholls was reluctant to allow Mrs. Gaskell access to Charlotte’s letters and was not pleased with Mrs. Gaskesll’s account. In any case, neither Mrs. Gaskell nor Patrick Bronte were Arthur’s fans. The biography was controversial, incomplete, due to its omissions, and was withdrawn and rewritten twice due to accusations of slander. It was finally published in 1857.

Arthur remained at Haworth, looking after Reverend Patrick Bronte until his death in 1861. He put the contents of Haworth Parsonage up for auction in October 1861, retained the family’s manuscripts and private effects, and returned to Ireland, his homeland.

Nine years after Charlotte’s death, Arthur married his cousin. He died in 1906, and it is said his last words were ‘Charlotte, Charlotte.’


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Charlotte Bronte’s last love letter

‘To forbid me to write to you, to refuse to answer me, would be to tear from me from my only joy on earth, to deprive me of my last privilege _ a privilege I shall never consent willingly to surrender. Believe me, my master, in writing to me it is a good deed that you will do. So long as I believe you are pleased with me, so long as I have hope of receiving news from you, I can be at rest and not too sad.’

The last known love letter Charlotte Bronte wrote to her ‘master’, the man she fell madly in love with in her early twenties, her Belgian professor, Constantin Héger, was written on 18th November 1845, exactly 169 years ago, tomorrow.

M Héger

M Héger

What do we know of the love life of the woman who penned one of the greatest love stories ever written? In spite of her numerous letters, and the biographies written by her contemporaries, there is still a great deal of controversy.

Was she a nun-like, prudish bore, or was she a passionate, romantic lover?

Tanya Gold, reminds us in an article in the Guardian  that her contemporary biographer, prim Mrs. Gaskell, wanted us to believe Charlotte was a dull and saintly, so she intentionally left out certain significant aspects of her love life, even suggesting that her well-known infatuation with Heger was imagined.

Who was Heger, and how did they meet?

In February, 1842 Charlotte and Emily, accompanied by their father, travelled to the Pensionnat Heger, in Brussels to complete their studies. Their aim was to improve their skills in languages. In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music.

Their stay was interrupted in 1843, due to the death of her aunt, Elizabeth Branwell. After a short trip to Haworth, Charlotte returned alone to Brussels, where she remained until January, 1844.

On her return to Haworth, and for almost two years, she exchanged passionate letters with her professor and mentor, M. Héger. Four of these letters have been recovered and are kept in the British Library.

Charmotte Bronte's Letters to Héger in the British Library

Charmotte Bronte’s Letters to Héger in the British Library

Although Mrs. Gaskell had personally visited M. Heger while she was writing Charlotte’s biography, and was shown the letters, she decided not to include them, or their relationship, in her biography. This was probably due to various reasons. Firstly because Charlotte’s father and husband were still alive. Secondly, because the Victorians, and Mrs. Gaskell herself, did not want the memory of their admired novelist to be tainted, by revealing that she had been shamelessly in love with a married man.

In 1912, M. Heger’s son, Paul Heger (1846-1925), who had never met Charlotte Bronte, because he was born two years after she left Brussels, presented the British Library with four letters sent by Charlotte Brontë to his father between 1843 and 1845, and they were shortly after printed in The Times newspaper, causing a literary scandal.

We do not know Héger’s reaction to her letters, because although she refers to his replies in her letters, the former have been lost, and the only remaining accounts are those put forward by Mrs. Heger, M Heger’s wife, the mother of his six children, and his employer, for she was the owner of the Pensionnat where he worked.

According to his wife’s reports, she herself kept the letters, which her husband had torn, sewed them and preserved them for posterity. In spite of being the accepted version, it sounds at the very least improbable that she would bother to recover and keep the ardent letters a young English student fervently (and probably annoyingly, for her) sent her husband.

Bronte scholar, Brian Bracken’s article published in Janaury 2013, challenges traditional assumptions, based on Marion Spielmann’s article (1919), ‘The Inner History of the Brontë-Heger Letters’, which suggested that it was M. Heger who tore the letters, while his wife repaired and preserved them. Spielmann had no doubt also found it difficult to accept that Charlotte Brontë had fallen in love with a married man and had written passionate letters to him.

There is no proof either way, but I am not the only person to suspect that it was Heger who repaired the letters his wife had found and torn, kept them, and aware of their literary value, gave them to his sons on his deathbed to be made known in England.

I am in no doubt that Edward Rochester is modeled partly on M. Heger. Charlotte says of him in a letter to Ellen Nussey, when she first arrived in Brussels:

He is professor of Rhetoric a man of power as to mind but very choleric and irritable in temperament—a little, black, ugly being with a face that varies in expression, sometimes he borrows the lineaments of an insane Tom-cat—sometimes those of a delirious Hyena—occasionally—but very seldom he discards these perilous attractions and assumes an air not above a hundred degrees removed from what you would call mild & gentleman-like he is very angry with me just at present because I have written a translation which he chose to stigmatize as peu correct.

Charlotte would later fall in love with his ‘Byronic’ character and refer to him as ‘master’, in her letters. How far their relationship went, or to what extent it was reciprocal, is also unknown.

In Jane Eyre, a frail, petite, pale, and plain governess, much like Charlotte herself, fell in love with the unattractive, temperamental, and choleric Rochester, except in this case it was reciprocal, and Rochester was rich enough to do as he pleased. Rochester was also married, but he had no legitimate children, and his mad wife conveniently committed suicide, so her fantasy was complete, including a happy fictional ending.

The last letter she wrote to Héger, at least the last one which has survived, ends thus:

Farewell, my dear Master __ may God protect you with special care and crown you with peculiar blessings.

Brontë's publisher, George Smith, commissioned this portrait of the novelist from George Richmond (1809-1896),  as a gift for her father.

Brontë’s publisher, George Smith, commissioned this portrait of the novelist from George Richmond (1809-1896), as a gift for her father.

In any case, although Charlotte Bronte, was reportedly tiny, frail, and shy, she was no ugly, unwanted spinster; she received and rejected four marriage proposals between 1839 and 1853. She finally married a man she did not love, but who offered her the financial, and perhaps emotional security, she lacked. Their home was only theirs as long as her father, Patrick Bronte was the pastor at Hawthorne, on his death Charlotte would have been homeless. Mr. Bronte’s original opposition to Mr. Nicholls gradually weakened, and Charlotte and Nicholls became engaged. He became curate at Haworth, and they were married. She died eight months later. Charlotte was pregnant, and it is presumed that she died of severe dehydration and malnutrition due to hyperemesis gravidarum (sever morning sickness).

There is still a great deal to read, reread, and discover about the author of Jane Eyre. Margaret Smith has edited an invaluable selection of letters written by Charlotte Brontë from her schooldays to her death in 1855, with many useful notes, giving us some insight into her priveleged and passionate mind.