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Charlotte Bronte coloured drawing

Charlotte Brontë by Evert A. Duyckinck, 1873. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Charlotte Brontë
File:CBRichmond.png
Born 21 1816(1816-Template:MONTHNUMBER-21)
Thornton, Yorkshire, England
Died 31 1855(1855-Template:MONTHNUMBER-31) (aged 38)
Haworth, Yorkshire, England
Pen name Lord Charles Albert Florian Wellesley
Currer Bell
Occupation governess, novelist, poet
Nationality English
Genres Fiction, Poetry
Notable work(s) Jane Eyre, Villette



Signature File:Charlotte Bronte Signature.jpg

Charlotte Brontë (11px /ˈbrɒnti/;[1][2] 21 April 1816 - 31 March 1855) was an English poet and novelist, the eldest of the 3 Brontë sisters, whose novels are standards of English literature.[3]

LifeEdit

OverviewEdit

Brontë was the daughter of Rev. Patrick Brontë, a clergyman of Irish descent and of eccentric habits who embittered the lives of his children by his peculiar theories of education. Brought up in a small parsonage close to the graveyard of a bleak, windswept village on the Yorkshire moors, and left motherless in early childhood, she was "the motherly friend and guardian of her younger sisters," of whom 2, Emily and Anne, shared, but in a less degree, her talents. After various efforts as schoolmistresses and governesses, the sisters took to literature and published a volume of poems under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, which, however, fell flat. Charlotte then wrote her first novel, The Professor, which did not appear until after her death, and began Jane Eyre, which, appearing in 1847, took the public by storm. It was followed by Shirley in 1849, and Villette in 1852. In 1854 she was married to her father's curate, the Rev. A. Nicholls, but after a short though happy married life she died in 1855. The novels of Charlotte especially created a strong impression from the first, and the pub. of Jane Eyre gave rise to much curiosity and speculation as to its authorship. Their strength and originality have retained for them a high place in English fiction which is likely to prove permanent.[4]

Youth and educationEdit

Charlotte was born in Thornton, West Yorkshire, the 3rd of 6 children, to Maria (Branwell) and her husband Patrick Brontë (formerly surnamed Brunty or Prunty), an Irish Anglican clergyman. In 1820, the family moved a few miles to Haworth, where Patrick had been appointed Perpetual Curate. Mrs. Brontë died of cancer on 15 September 1821, leaving 5 daughters and a son to be taken care of by her aunt Elizabeth Branwell. In August 1824, Charlotte was sent with 3 of her sisters, Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth, to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire (which she would describe as Lowood School in Jane Eyre). Its poor conditions, Charlotte maintained, permanently affected her health and physical development and hastened the deaths of her two elder sisters, Maria (born 1814) and Elizabeth (born 1815), who died of tuberculosis in June 1825. Soon after their father removed them from the school.[5]

At home in Haworth Parsonage — a small rectory close to the graveyard of a bleak, windswept village on the Yorkshire moors — Charlotte acted as "the motherly friend and guardian of her younger sisters". She and the other surviving children — Branwell, Emily, and Anne – began chronicling the lives and struggles of the inhabitants of their imaginary kingdoms. Charlotte and Branwell wrote Byronic stories about their country – Angria – and Emily and Anne wrote articles and poems about theirs – Gondal. The sagas were elaborate and convoluted (and still exist in partial manuscripts) and provided them with an obsessive interest during childhood and early adolescence, which prepared them for their literary vocations in adulthood.

Charlotte continued her education at Roe Head, Mirfield, from 1831 to 32, where she met her lifelong friends and correspondents, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor.[5] During this period, she wrote her novella The Green Dwarf (1833) under the name of Wellesley. Charlotte returned as a teacher from 1835 to 1838. In 1839, she took up the first of many positions as governess to various families in Yorkshire, a career she pursued until 1841.

Politically a Tory, she preached tolerance rather than revolution. She held high moral principles, and, despite her shyness in company, she was always prepared to argue her beliefs.[6][7]

In 1842 she and Emily travelled to Brussels to enroll in a boarding school run by Constantin Heger (1809–96) and his wife Claire Zoé Parent Heger (1814–91). In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music. Their time at the boarding school was cut short when Elizabeth Branwell, their aunt who joined the family after the death of their mother to look after the children, died of internal obstruction in October 1842. Charlotte returned alone to Brussels in January 1843 to take up a teaching post at the boarding school. Her second stay at the boarding school was not a happy one; she became lonely, homesick and deeply attached to Constantin Heger. She finally returned to Haworth in January 1844 and later used her time at the boarding school as the inspiration for some of The Professor and Villette.

Writing careerEdit

Painting of Brontë sisters

The three Brontë sisters, in a 1834 painting by their brother Patrick Branwell. From left to right: Anne, Emily and Charlotte. (Branwell used to be between Emily and Charlotte, but subsequently painted himself out.)

In May 1846, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne published a joint collection of poetry under the assumed names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Although only two copies were sold, the sisters continued writing for publication and began their first novels. Charlotte used "Currer Bell" when she published her first two novels. Of this, Brontë later wrote:

Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because—without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called 'feminine' – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise.[8]

Indeed, her novels were deemed coarse by the critics.[9] There was speculation about the identity of Currer Bell, and whether Bell was a man or a woman.

File:Jane Eyre title page.jpg

Charlotte's brother, Branwell, the only son of the family, died of chronic bronchitis and marasmus exacerbated by heavy drinking in September 1848, although Charlotte believed his death was due to tuberculosis. Branwell was also a suspected "opium eater", (i.e. a laudanum addict). Emily and Anne both died of pulmonary tuberculosis in December 1848 and May 1849, respectively.

Charlotte and her father were now left alone together. In view of the enormous success of Jane Eyre, she was persuaded by her publisher to visit London occasionally, where she revealed her true identity and began to move in a more exalted social circle, becoming friends with Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Makepeace Thackeray and G. H. Lewes. Her book had sparked a movement in regards to feminism in literature. The main character, Jane Eyre, in her novel Jane Eyre, was a parallel to herself, a woman who was strong. However, she never left Haworth for more than a few weeks at a time as she did not want to leave her ageing father's side.

Thackeray’s daughter, the writer Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie recalled a visit to her father by Charlotte Brontë:

…two gentlemen come in, leading a tiny, delicate, serious, little lady, with fair straight hair, and steady eyes. She may be a little over thirty; she is dressed in a little barège dress with a pattern of faint green moss. She enters in mittens, in silence, in seriousness; our hearts are beating with wild excitement. This then is the authoress, the unknown power whose books have set all London talking, reading, speculating; some people even say our father wrote the books – the wonderful books… The moment is so breathless that dinner comes as a relief to the solemnity of the occasion, and we all smile as my father stoops to offer his arm; for, genius though she may be, Miss Brontë can barely reach his elbow. My own personal impressions are that she is somewhat grave and stern, specially to forward little girls who wish to chatter… Every one waited for the brilliant conversation which never began at all. Miss Brontë retired to the sofa in the study, and murmured a low word now and then to our kind governess… the conversation grew dimmer and more dim, the ladies sat round still expectant, my father was too much perturbed by the gloom and the silence to be able to cope with it at all… after Miss Brontë had left, I was surprised to see my father opening the front door with his hat on. He put his fingers to his lips, walked out into the darkness, and shut the door quietly behind him… long afterwards… Mrs. Procter asked me if I knew what had happened… It was one of the dullest evenings [Mrs Procter] had ever spent in her life… the ladies who had all come expecting so much delightful conversation, and the gloom and the constraint, and how finally, overwhelmed by the situation, my father had quietly left the room, left the house, and gone off to his club.[10]

In June 1854, Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate and, in the opinion of many scholars, the model for several of her literary characters such as Jane Eyre's Rochester and St. John. She became pregnant soon after the marriage. Her health declined rapidly during this time, and according to Gaskell, her earliest biographer, she was attacked by "sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness."[11] Charlotte died, along with her unborn child, on 31 March 1855, at the young age of 38. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis (tuberculosis), but many biographers suggest she may have died from dehydration and malnourishment, caused by excessive vomiting from severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. There is also evidence to suggest that Charlotte died from typhus she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd, the Brontë household's oldest servant, who died shortly before her. Charlotte was interred in the family vault in The Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.

RecognitionEdit

The Life of Charlotte Brontë, the posthumous biography by Gaskell, was the earliest of many biographies about Charlotte to be published. Though frank in places, Gaskell suppressed details of Charlotte's love for Heger, a married man, as being too much of an affront to contemporary morals and as a possible source of distress to Charlotte's still-living friends, father and husband.[12] Gaskell also provided doubtful and inaccurate information about Patrick Brontë, claiming, for example, that he did not allow his children to eat meat. This is refuted by 1 of Emily Brontë's diary papers, in which she describes the preparation of meat and potatoes for dinner at the parsonage, as Juliet Barker points out in her recent biography, The Brontës.

Posthumously, her 1st-written novel was published in 1857, the fragment she worked on in her last years in 1860 (twice completed by recent authors, the more famous version being Emma Brown: A novel from the unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Brontë, by Clare Boylan, 2003), and much Angria material over the ensuing decades.

Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë are commemorated by a memorial stone in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey, donated by the Brontë Society. The stone, carved from Huddlestone stone, was erected in 1939 and dedicated in 1947.[13]

PublicationsEdit

PoetryEdit

FictionEdit

  • Jane Eyre: An autobiography (as "Currer Bell"). (3 volumes), London: Smith, Elder, 1847; (1 volume), New York: Harper, 1847.
  • Shirley: A tale (as "Currer Bell"). (3 volumes), London: Smith, Elder, 1849; (1 volume), New York: Harper, 1850.
  • Villette (as "Currer Bell"). (3 volumes), London: Smith, Elder, 1853; (1 volume), New York: Harper, 1853.
  • The Professor: A tale (as "Currer Bell"). (2 volumes), London: Smith, Elder, 1857; (1 volume), New York: Harper, 1857.
  • The Twelve Adventurers, and other stories (edited by C.K. Shorter and C.W. Hatfield). London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1925.
  • Legends of Angria: Compiled from the early writings of Charlotte Brontë (edited by Fannie E. Ratchford and William Clyde De Vane). New Haven: Yale University Press, 1933.
  • Five Novelettes (edited by Winifred Gérin). London: Folio Press, 1971.
  • The Secret & Lily Hart: Two tales by Charlotte Brontë (edited by William Holtz). Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1979.

Non-fictionEdit

  • "Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell," in Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, together with a selection of poems by Ellis and Acton Bell (as "Currer Bell"). London: Smith, Elder, 1850.
  • The Belgian Essays, by Charlotte Brontë and Emily Brontë (edited and translated by Sue Lonoff). New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Life and Works of Charlotte Brontë and her Sisters, Haworth Edition (edited by Mrs. Humphry Ward and C.K. Shorter). (7 volumes), London: Smith, Elder, 1899-1900.
  • The Shakespeare Head Brontë (edited by T.J. Wise and J.A. Symington). (19 volumes), Oxford: Blackwell, 1931-1938.
  • An Edition of the Early Writings of Charlotte Brontë (edited by Christine Alexander). (2 volumes to date), Oxford: Blackwell, 1987- .

LettersEdit

  • Letters of Charlotte Brontë, with a selection of letters by family and friends (edited by Margaret Smith). (1 volume to date). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995- .


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[15]

JuveniliaEdit

  • The Spell
  • The Secret
  • The Foundling
  • The Green Dwarf
  • My Angria and the Angrians
  • Albion and Marina

The Green Dwarf, A Tale of the Perfect Tense was written in 1833 under the pseudonym Lord Charles Albert Florian Wellesley. It shows the influence of Walter Scott, and Brontë's modifications to her earlier gothic style have led Christine Alexander to comment that, in the work, "it is clear that Brontë was becoming tired of the gothic mode per se".[16]

  • Tales of Angria, written 1838–1839
    • A collection of childhood and young adult writings including the short novels
      Life by Charlotte Bronte - Poetry Reading

      Life by Charlotte Bronte - Poetry Reading

      Passion. A poem by Charlotte Bronte

      Passion. A poem by Charlotte Bronte. Performed by Giga Gray

      • Mina Laury
      • Stancliffe's Hotel
      • The Duke of Zamorna
      • Henry Hastings
      • Caroline Vernon
  • Tales of the Islanders
Poem The Letter by Charlotte Brontë Audiobook

Poem The Letter by Charlotte Brontë Audiobook

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Evening Solace - Charlotte Brontë

Evening Solace - Charlotte Brontë

  • Margaret Lane (1953) The Brontë Story: a reconsideration of Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë.
  • The Letters of Charlotte Brontë, 3 volumes edited by Margaret Smith
  • The Life of Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Charlotte Brontë, Winifred Gérin
  • Charlotte Brontë: a passionate life, Lyndal Gordon
  • The Literary Protégées of the Lake Poets, Dennis Low (Chapter 1 contains a revisionist contextualisation of Robert Southey's infamous letter to Charlotte Brontë)
  • Charlotte Brontë: Unquiet Soul, Margot Peters
  • In the Footsteps of the Brontës, Ellis Chadwick
  • Charlotte Brontë, Rebecca Fraser
  • The Brontës, Juliet Barker
  • Charlotte Brontë and her Dearest Nell, Barbara Whitehead
  • The Brontë Myth, Lucasta Miller
  • A Life in Letters, selected by Juliet Barker
  • Charlotte Brontë and her Family, Rebecca Fraser
  • The Oxford Reader's Companion to the Brontës, Christine Alexander & Margaret Smith
  • A Brontë Family Chronology, Edward Chitham
  • The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte, James Tilly, 1999
  • I Love Charlotte Bronte, Michelle Daly 2009

NotesEdit

  1. American Heritage and Collins dictionaries
  2. Columbia Encyclopedia
  3. "Charlotte Brontë: A Brief Biography. Victorian Web. <http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/brontbio.html>
  4. John William Cousin, "Brontë, Charlotte," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910, 47. Web, Dec. 18, 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Fraser, Rebecca (2008). Charlotte Brontë: A Writer's Life (2 ed.). 45 Wall Street, Suite 1021 New York, NY 10005: Pegasus Books LLC. pp. 261. ISBN 978-1-933648-88-0. 
  6. "Michele Roberts on Charlotte Bronte, the gourmet". New Statesman. UK. 5 May 2003. http://www.newstatesman.com/200305050048. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  7. "Charlotte Brontë". Brontë.org.uk. http://www.bronte.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=106&Itemid=116. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  8. "Biographical Notice of Ellis And Acton Bell", from the preface to the 1910 edition of Wuthering Heights.
  9. Fraser, Rebecca. Charlotte Bronte: A Writer's Life. New York: Pegasus, 2008, p. 24.
  10. Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie. Chapters from Some Memoirs. cited in Sutherland, James (ed.) The Oxford Book of Literary Ancedotes. OUP, 1975. ISBN 0198121393.
  11. Real life plot twists of famous authors, CNN, 25 September 2007, http://www.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/worklife/09/25/mf.plot.twists/ 
  12. Lane (1853), pp. 178–83 
  13. Bronte, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, People, History, Westminster Abbey. Web, July 11, 2016.
  14. Poems of Emily, Charlotte, and Anne Bronte, now for the first time printed (1902), Internet Archive. Web, Oct. 28, 2012.
  15. Charlotte Bronte 1816-1855, Poetry Foundation, Web, Aug. 12, 2012.
  16. Christine Alexander, "That Kingdom of Gloo": Charlotte Brontë, the Annuals and the Gothic, Nineteenth Century Literature, 47 (1993), pp. 430–432.

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