Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls


Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls was born of Scottish parents in County Antrim, Ireland.

He was orphaned and from the age of 7, he was brought up by his uncle, Dr Alan Bell, at Cuba House, Banagher, County Offaly, Ireland.

He went to Trinity College, Dublin.

He was Curate to Rev Patrick Brontë at Haworth [1845-1853] and again [1854-1861].

He lodged with John Brown until his marriage to Charlotte.

It was his middle name which suggested the pen-name under which the Brontë sisters wrote: Charlotte wrote as Currer Bell, Emily as Ellis Bell, and Anne as Acton Bell

In December 1852, Charlotte rejected his proposal of marriage. In response, he offered his resignation as Curate, and applied for a post as missionary in the Australian Colonies. In February 1853, he had doubts about his application for the post of missionary, and in April, he withdrew his application. Rev Brontë said he would accept the withdrawal on the condition that Mr Nicholls promise never to speak to Charlotte again. Unable to make such a promise, he left Haworth and took up a post at Kirk Smeaton, near Pontefract. During his absence from Haworth, Arthur wrote frequently to Charlotte.

In April 1854, Rev Brontë gave his consent to the engagement of Charlotte and Mr Nicholls.

In 1854, he married Charlotte. Rev Brontë refused to attend the wedding ceremony.

He disapproved of his wife's correspondence with Ellen Nussey.

He stayed on at Haworth after his wife's death.

He was unpopular with the Haworth congregation.

He disliked the publicity surrounding Charlotte. He complained that Haworth church was a house of prayer, and not a shrine to his wife or her sisters. He refused to baptise any child with the names of any member of the Brontë family – forcing Rev Brontë to baptise them himself in his own bedroom.

He kept many of the family's memorabilia and manuscripts until 1895, and may have destroyed some, and many were given to Shorter and Wise.

In November 1861, after the death of Rev Brontë, Mr Nicholls – who was not offered the living at Haworth – sold up at the Parsonage and then went back to Ireland, taking Martha Brown – and Plato – with him.

On 25th August 1864, he married his cousin, Mary Bell.

He died at Banagher.

He may be a model for Mr Macarthey in Shirley

See Rev Sutcliffe Sowden

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:13 / 15th May 2021 / 5865

Page Ref: MMN129

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