Charlotte Brontë

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At a Glance

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), inspired through events close to her heart and those she created in imaginary worlds, continues to charm readers with her unconventional characters, particularly in the novel Jane Eyre, which features a strong, defiant, and independent heroine. Such a character was not typically seen in the fiction of the period, and may have had much to do with Charlotte and her sister’s tremendous sense of loss after the death of their mother. Through her work, Charlotte dealt with the tragedy and solitude of her upbringing, and she managed as well to provide financial security for herself and her family. Little did she know that her writing would also bring her literary immortality.

Facts and Trivia

  • After being removed from school, Charlotte and her sisters spent nearly five years at home. It was during this time that they began writing stories of imaginary worlds. Charlotte and her brother, Branwell, created the world of Angria, while Emily and Anne created Gondal. The children wrote of these worlds on tiny sheets of paper, some of which were eventually published under the title Legends of Angria.
  • Charlotte’s most famous work, Jane Eyre (1847), was originally published under her pseudonym, Currer Bell. However, inaccurate assumptions about Currer Bell eventually circulated, which encouraged Charlotte to reveal her true identity.
  • Charlotte believed that the conditions at the school she and her sisters attended (Clergy Daughter’s School) affected her physical and emotional development.
  • While teaching at a school in Brussels (1843), Charlotte met and fell in love with a married professor. This experience served as inspiration for some of her novels.
  • Charlotte was the only one of her sisters to marry; unfortunately, it was during her pregnancy that she, and her child, passed away.

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Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

On December 29, 1812, the Reverend Patrick Brontë (BRAHNT-ee), incumbent of Hartshead, Yorkshire (originally of County Down, in Ireland), was married in Guiseley Church to Maria Branwell, a Cornish lady then visiting in the home of her uncle, the Reverend John Fennell. Little more than seven years later, having in the meantime served a ministry in Thornton, he was appointed perpetual curate of Haworth, and the family moved there in April, 1820. Eighteen months later Mrs. Brontë died of cancer, leaving six small children—Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne—ranging in age from seven years to twenty months. Elizabeth Branwell, Mrs. Brontë’s eldest sister, thereupon came from Penzance to take care of the children.{$S[A]Bell, Currer;Brontë, Charlotte}

In late summer of 1824, the four older girls became pupils of the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge. Precocious in mind but shy in spirit and frail in body, they fell victims to the severity of its routine. Maria and Elizabeth succumbed to tuberculosis and were taken home to die, Maria on May 6, and Elizabeth on June 15, 1825. Charlotte and Emily were immediately recalled, and thereafter the parsonage children knew no formal school room until Charlotte, at the age of fourteen, entered Miss Margaret Wooler’s school near Roe Head. Their father took overall responsibility for the children’s education. Left much to their own devices, the children found endless entertainment in creative plays that continued from day to day. Shortly after Charlotte’s tenth birthday, they launched a new play centering around twelve wooden soldiers; this absorbed all other household plays and, becoming a permanent imaginary world of escape, nourished and shaped the personalities and talents of the children. They not only created heroes who performed great deeds but, turning authors, artists, and publishers, recorded those deeds in tiny volumes of histories, biographies, novels, poems, and dramas.

In January, 1831, Charlotte’s departure for Roe Head interrupted the Young Men’s Play; Emily and Anne took advantage of the break to withdraw from the family group and set...

(The entire section is 2,889 words.)