Our friends at The Morgan Library & Museum have a fantastic write-up examining this truly remarkable diary. The entry comes from a day in February 1836 when Charlotte Brontë was only 19 and teaching at a school in England. Writing about her job she explained that she “cannot get used to the ongoings” that surround her. She confesses that she fulfills her duties “strictly & well” but that her heart just isn’t in it.
But what’s truly exciting about this entry is in how it starts out as a regular diary entry, with Brontë recounting her feelings of angst and alienation, and then seamlessly becomes a fantastic, fictional account of the previous night, which had “stormy blasts” that “whirled [her] away like heath in the wilderness” and a “trodden garden whose groves were crushed down”; she recounts ascending the wall of a palace and glancing through the “internal glare” of crystal to see rooms with “mirrors and with lamps on tripods”; she talks of seeing a woman who has a “haughty sadness of grandeur beamed out of her intent fixed hazel eye”; etc. etc. It’s an extraordinary case of a young writer with a remarkable imagination.
Analyzing this entry, The Morgan Library & Museum brilliantly observes that Bronte “allowed her high-flown storytelling to provide an antidote to the dreary everyday, her diary serving as a gateway from the real world into the fantastical.” It’s not only a joy to read but it also speaks volumes about the psychology of a truly creative mind.
Last night I did indeed lean upon the thunder-wakening wings of such a stormy blast as I have seldom heard blow, & it whirled me away like heath in the wilderness for five seconds of ecstasy, and as I sat by myself in the dining-room while all the rest were at tea the trance seemed to descend on a sudden, & verily this foot trod the war-shaken shores of the Calabar & these eyes saw the defiled & violated Adrianopolis shedding its lights on the river from lattices whence the invader looked out & was not darkened. I went through a trodden garden whose groves were crushed down. I ascended a great terrace, the marble surface of which shone wet with rain where it was not darkened by the mounds of dead leaves which were now showered on & now swept off by the vast & broken boughs which swung in the wind above them. Up I went to the wall of the palace to the line of latticed arches which shimmered in light, passing along quick as thought, I glanced at what the internal glare revealed through the crystal. There was a room lined with mirrors & with lamps on tripods, & very darkened, & splendid couches & carpets & large half lucid vases white as snow, thickly embossed with whiter mouldings, & one large picture in a frame of massive beauty representing a young man whose gorgeous & shining locks seemed as if they would wave on the breath & whose eyes were half hid by the hand carved in ivory that shaded them & supported the awful looking coron[al?] head—a solitary picture, too great to admit of a companion—a likeness to be remembered full of luxuriant beauty, not displayed, for it seemed as if the form had been copied so often in all imposing attitudes, that at length the painter, satiated with its luxuriant perfection, had resolved to conceal half & make the imperial Giant bend & hide under his cloudlike tresses, the radiance he was grown tired of gazing on.