William Weightman
William Weightman (1840)William Weightman (1814 - 1842)

This portrait of William Weightman was drawn by Charlotte in February 1840.

Weightman came to Haworth as assistant curate to Patrick Brontë in August 1839. He very soon became very popular around the parish, being noted as a very charming, cheerful, friendly and kind young man. Patrick admired him and he became a very good friend to Branwell. He did, however, develop the reputation, in some quarters, of being something of a ladies man.

In Feb 1840, about six months after his arrival, Ellen Nussey came to the Parsonage for a three weeks stay. Neither she, nor the Brontë girls had ever received a Valentine card; so it caused quite a stir on the morning of February 14th. when they each received one. Of course, the culprit was the scheming Weightman. In his usual mode of conduct, he had made a bold attempt to add a little sparkle to the girls' lives, and in a vain attempt to disguise his handiwork, had walked the ten miles to Bradford to post them. He had written verses in each of the Valentines; however, only the titles of three of them are known, but these give a general idea of their content: 'Fair Ellen, Fair Ellen', 'Away fond Love' and 'Soul divine'. The girls were not to be fooled by the Bradford post-mark, and soon realised that the chirpy curate was the guilty party. However, being so delighted with that morning's events, the four conspired to write a poem which they promptly returned to Weightman: 50

A Rowland for your Oliver
We think you've justly earned;
You sent us each a valentine,
Your gift is now returned.

We cannot write or talk like you;
We're plain folks every one;
You've played a clever trick on us,
We thank you for the fun.

Believe us when we frankly say
(Our words, though blunt are true),
At home, abroad, by night or day,
We all wish well to you.

And never may a cloud come o'er
The sunshine of your mind;
Kind friends, warm hearts, and happy hours,
Through life we trust you'll find.

Where'er you go, however far
In future years you stray,
There shall not want our earnest prayer
To speed you on your way. . .

There is strong belief that Anne was in love with him, though no evidence exists to show that any relationship occurred between them. Indeed, the only indication that Anne's feelings were reciprocated by Weightman is a reference made by Charlotte in her letter to Ellen Nussey, dated 20 January 1842:

'. . . He sits opposite Anne at church sighing softly and looking out of the corners of his eyes to win her attention - and Anne is so quiet, her look so downcast - they are a picture . . .' 51

Weightman died tragically of cholera on 6 September 1842, aged only 28. Over the following five years Anne wrote a string of love poems that are very difficult to associate with anyone other than him (all are presented in 'The Poems of Anne Brontë' - accessed from 'Main Page').

(There is an interesting excerpt from a play called 'Becoming Brontë' by Emily Cicchini, covering the girls' responses on receiving their Valentines from Weightman - see 'Links' page - accessed from 'Main Page'.)

Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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