The Brontës and Their World Critical Essays

Phyllis Bentley


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

As a collective biography, The Brontës and Their World necessarily provides a rather sketchy analysis of each author and her works, but it fully describes what the Brontës were like as a family and how their fiction arose out of their social and familial environment. Charlotte Brontë, the longest-lived as well as the most famous sister, is given the most attention in the book.

The biography will certainly appeal to a variety of young adult readers: those who have enjoyed the Brontës’ novels, those who are interested in learning about life in the nineteenth century, and those who want to understand how writers—especially women writers—are formed by their environments.

The Brontës make a fascinating subject for a collective biography because of the need to treat this unusual family as a group and to account for their literary successes. Bentley is successful in creating sympathetic portraits of all the Brontë children and in describing the difficulties that intelligent, independent women faced in a repressive society that offered few opportunities for women other than marriage or positions as governesses. Even Branwell Brontë, who in later life became a disappointment to the family through his drinking and his inability to sustain employment, is thoughtfully portrayed as a pathetic figure unable to fit into society outside his close-knit family.

Until their first foray into fiction, the three sisters all had...

(The entire section is 590 words.)