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Charlotte Bront

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Charlotte Bront

1854 photograph


21 April 1816 Thornton, West Riding of Yorkshire, England


31 March 1855 (aged 38) Haworth, Yorkshire, England

Pen name

Lord Charles Albert Florian Wellesley Currer Bell


Novelist, poet




Fiction, poetry

Notable work(s)

Jane Eyre



Arthur Bell Nichols (18541855 (her death))


Charlotte Bront (/brnti/; 21 April 1816 31 March 1855) was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Bront sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels are English literature standards. She wrote Jane Eyre under the pen name Currer Bell.

1 Early life and education 2 Brussels 3 First publication 4 Jane Eyre 5 Shirley and family bereavements 6 In society 7 Villette 8 Marriage 9 Death 10 The Life of Charlotte Bront 11 Heger letters 12 Publications

o o o

12.1 Juvenilia 12.2 Novels 12.3 Poetry

13 Gallery 14 Notes 15 References 16 Further reading 17 External links

Early life and education[edit]

Charlotte was born in Thornton, Yorkshire in 1816, the third of six children, to Maria (ne Branwell) and Patrick Bront (formerly surnamed Brunty or Prunty), an Irish Anglican clergyman. In 1820 her family moved a few miles to the village of Haworth, where her father had been appointed Perpetual curate of St Michael and All Angels Church. Her mother died of cancer on 15 September 1821, leaving five daughters, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte,Emily, Anne and a son Branwell to be taken care of by her sister, Elizabeth Branwell. In August 1824, Patrick Bront sent Charlotte, Emily, Maria and Elizabeth to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire. Charlotte maintained the school's poor conditions permanently affected her health and physical development and hastened the deaths of Maria (born 1814) and Elizabeth (born 1815), who died of tuberculosis in June 1825. After the deaths of her older sisters, her father removed Charlotte and Emily from the school.[1] Charlotte used the school as the basis for Lowood School in Jane Eyre. At home in Haworth Parsonage Charlotte acted as "the motherly friend and guardian of her younger sisters".[2] She and her surviving siblings Branwell, Emily, and Anne created their own literary fictional worlds and began chronicling the lives and struggles of the inhabitants of their imaginary kingdoms. Charlotte and Branwell wrote Byronic stories about their imagined country, "Angria", and Emily and Anne wrote articles and poems about "Gondal". The sagas they created were elaborate and convoluted (and exist in partial manuscripts) and provided them with an obsessive interest during childhood and early adolescence which prepared them for literary vocations in adulthood.[3]

Roe Head School

Between 1831 and 1832 Charlotte continued her education at Roe Head in Mirfield, where she met her lifelong friends and correspondents, Ellen Nusseyand Mary Taylor.[1] In 1833 she wrote a novella, The Green Dwarf, using the name Wellesley. She returned to Roe Head as a teacher from 1835 to 1838. In 1839 she took up the first of many positions as governess to families in Yorkshire, a career she pursued until 1841. In particular, from May to July 1839 she was employed by the Sidgwick family at their summer residence, Stone Gappe, in Lothersdale, where one of her charges was John Benson Sidgwick (1835 1927), an unruly child who on one occasion threw a Bible at Charlotte, an incident which may have been the inspiration for that part of the opening chapter of Jane Eyre in which John Reed throws a book at the young Jane.[4]


Plaque in Brussels

In 1842 Charlotte and Emily travelled to Brussels to enrol at the boarding school run by Constantin Heger(180996) and his wife Claire Zo Parent Heger (180487). In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music. Their time at the school was cut short when Elizabeth Branwell, their aunt who joined the family to look after the children after the death of their mother, died of internal obstruction in October 1842. Charlotte returned alone to Brussels in January 1843 to take up a teaching post at the school. Her second stay was not happy; she was homesick and deeply attached to Constantin Heger. She returned to Haworth in January 1844 and used the time spent in Brussels as the inspiration for some experiences in The Professor and Villette.

First publication[edit]
In May 1846 Charlotte, Emily and Anne self-financed the publication of a joint collection of poetry under their assumed names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. The pseudonyms veiled the sisters' gender whilst preserving their initials, thus Charlotte was "Currer Bell". "Bell" was the middle name of Haworth's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, whom Charlotte married. Of the decision to use noms de plume, Charlotte 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. [5] Although only two copies of the collection of poetry were sold, the sisters continued writing for publication and began their first novels, continuing to use their noms de plume when sending manuscripts to potential publishers.

Jane Eyre[edit]

Title page of the first edition of Jane Eyre

Main article: Jane Eyre Charlotte's first manuscript, The Professor, did not secure a publisher, although she was heartened by an encouraging response from Smith, Elder & Co of Cornhill, who expressed an interest in any longer works which "Currer Bell" might wish to send.[6] Charlotte responded by finishing and sending a second manuscript in August 1847, and six weeks later Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, was published. It tells the story of a plain governess (Jane) who, after early life difficulties, falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester. They marry, but only after Rochester's insane first wife (of whom Jane initially had no knowledge) dies in a dramatic house fire. Charlotte believed art was most convincing when based on personal experience; in Jane Eyre she transformed the experience into a novel with universal appeal.[7] Commercially it was an instant success, and initially received favourable reviews. Critic G. H. Lewes wrote that it was "an utterance from the depths of a struggling, suffering, much-enduring spirit", declaring it to be "suspiria de profundis!" (sighs from the depths).[7] The book's style was innovative, combining naturalism with gothic melodrama, and broke new ground in being written from an intensely first-person female perspective.[8]Speculation about the identity of Currer Bell and whether the author was male or female heightened with the publication of Emily's Wuthering Heights by "Ellis Bell" and Anne's Agnes Grey by "Acton Bell".[9] Accompanying the speculation was a change in the critical reaction to Charlotte's work and accusations were made that the writing was "coarse",[10] a judgment more readily made once it was suspected that "Currer Bell" was a woman.[11]However sales of Jane Eyre continued to be strong, and may have increased as a result of the novel developing a reputation as an 'improper' book.[12]

Shirley and family bereavements[edit]

Following the success of Jane Eyre, in 1848 Charlotte began work on the manuscript of her second novel, Shirley. The manuscript was partially completed when the Bront household suffered a tragic series of events, the deaths of three family members within eight months. In September 1848 Branwell died of chronic bronchitis and marasmus exacerbated by heavy drinking, although Charlotte believed his death was due to tuberculosis. Branwell was a suspected "opium eater", a laudanum addict. Emily became seriously ill shortly after Branwell's funeral, and died of pulmonary tuberculosis in December 1848. Anne died of the same disease in May 1849. Charlotte was unable to write at this time. After Anne's death Charlotte resumed writing as a way of dealing with her grief,[13] and Shirley which deals with themes of industrial unrest and the role of women in society was published in October 1849. Unlike Jane Eyre, which is written from the main character's first-person perspective, Shirley is written in the third person and lacks the emotional immediacy of her first novel,[14]and reviewers found it less shocking.

In society[edit]
In view of her novels' success, particularly Jane Eyre, Charlotte was persuaded by her publisher to visit London occasionally, where she revealed her true identity and began to move in more exalted social circles, becoming friends with Harriet Martineau and Elizabeth Gaskell, and acquainted with William Makepeace Thackeray and G. H. Lewes. She never left Haworth for more than a few weeks at a time as she did not want to leave her ageing father. Thackerays daughter, writer Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie recalled a visit to her father by Charlotte:

Portrait by George Richmond

...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 barge 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 Bront 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 Bront 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 Bront 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. [15] Charlotte's friendship with Elizabeth Gaskell, whilst not necessarily close, was significant in that Gaskell wrote Charlotte's biography after her death in 1855.

Charlotte's third novel, the last published in her lifetime, was Villette in 1853. Its main themes include isolation, how such a condition can be borne,[16] and the internal conflict brought about by societal repression of individual desire.[17] Its main character, Lucy Snowe, travels abroad to teach in a boarding school in the fictional town of Villette, where she encounters a culture and religion different from her own, and where she falls in love with a man ('Paul Emanuel') whom she cannot marry. Her experiences result in a breakdown, but eventually she achieves independence and fulfillment running her own school. Villette marked Charlotte's return to writing from a first-person perspective (that of Lucy Snowe), the technique she had used in Jane Eyre. Another similarity toJane Eyre was the use of aspects from her own life as inspiration for fictional events,[17] in particular reworking the time she spent at the pensionnat in Brussels into Lucy teaching at the boarding school, and falling in love with Constantin Heger into Lucy falling in love with 'Paul Emanuel'. Villette was acknowledged by critics of the day as a potent and sophisticated piece of writing, although it was criticised for 'coarseness' and not being suitably 'feminine' in its portrayal of Lucy's desires.[18]

Before the publication of Villette, Charlotte received a proposal of marriage from Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate who had long been in love with her. She initially turned down his proposal, and her father objected to the union at least partly because of Nicholls' poor financial status.[19] Elizabeth Gaskell, who believed marriage provided 'clear and defined duties' that were beneficial for a woman,[19] encouraged

Charlotte to consider the positive aspects of such a union, and tried to use her contacts to engineer an improvement in Nicholls' financial situation.[19] Charlotte meanwhile was increasingly attracted to the intense attachment displayed by Nicholls, and by January 1854 had accepted his proposal. They gained the approval of her father by April, and married in June.[20] They took their honeymoon in Ireland.

Charlotte became pregnant soon after the marriage but her health declined rapidly and according to Gaskell, she was attacked by "sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness."[21]Charlotte died with her unborn child on 31 March 1855, aged 38. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis, but many biographers[who?] suggest she may have died from dehydration and malnourishment, caused by excessive vomiting from severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. There is evidence to suggest that Charlotte died from typhus which she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd, the Bront household's oldest servant, who died shortly before her.[citation needed] Charlotte was interred in the family vault in the Church of St Michael and All Angels at Haworth. Charlotte's first-written novel, The Professor, was published posthumously in 1857. The fragment of a new novel she had been working on in her last years has been twice completed by recent authors, the more famous version being Emma Brown: A Novel from the Unfinished Manuscript by Charlotte Bront by Clare Boylan in 2003. Much Angria material has appeared in published form since the author's death.

The Life of Charlotte Bront[edit]

Elizabeth Gaskell's biography The Life of Charlotte Bront was published in 1857. It was an important step for a leading female novelist to write a biography of another,[22] and Gaskell's approach was unusual in that, rather than analysing her subject's achievements, she concentrated on private details of Charlotte's life, emphasising aspects which countered the accusations of 'coarseness' which had been levelled at her writing.[22] Though frank in places, Gaskell was selective about which details she revealed; she suppressed details of Charlotte's love for Heger, a married man, as being too much of an affront to contemporary morals and source of distress to Charlotte's father, husband and friends.[23] Gaskell provided doubtful and inaccurate information about Patrick Bront, claiming that he did not allow his children to eat meat. This is refuted by one of Emily Bront's diary papers, in which she describes preparing meat and potatoes for dinner at the parsonage, as Juliet Barker points out in her biography, The Bronts. It has been argued that Gaskell's approach transferred the focus of attention away from the 'difficult' novels, not just Charlotte's, but all the sisters', and began a process of sanctification of their private lives.[24]

Heger letters[edit]
On 29 July 1913 The Times printed four letters Charlotte had written to Constantin Heger after leaving Brussels in 1844.[25] Written in French except for one postscript in English, the letters broke Charlotte's image as an angelic martyr to Christian and female duties that had been constructed by many biographers, beginning with Gaskell.[25] The letters, part of a larger and somewhat one-sided correspondence in which

Heger frequently appears not to have replied, reveal she had been in love with a married man, although they are complex and have been interpreted in numerous ways, including as an example of literary selfdramatisation and an expression of gratitude from a former pupil.[25]

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The Young Men's Magazine, Number 1 3 (August 1830) The Spell The Secret Lily Hart The Foundling The Green Dwarf My Angria and the Angrians Albion and Marina Tales of the Islanders Tales of Angria (written 18381839 a collection of childhood and young adult writings including five short novels)

Mina Laury Stancliffe's Hotel The Duke of Zamorna Henry Hastings Caroline Vernon The Roe Head Journal Fragments

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 Bront's modifications to her earlier gothic style have led Christine Alexander to comment that, in the work, "it is clear that Bront was becoming tired of the gothic mode per se".[26]


Jane Eyre, published 1847 Shirley, published in 1849 Villette, published in 1853 The Professor, written before Jane Eyre, submitted at first along with Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, then separately, and rejected in either form by many publishing houses, published posthumously in 1857

Emma, unfinished; Charlotte Bront wrote only 20 pages of the manuscript, published posthumously in 1860. In recent decades, at least two continuations of this fragment have appeared:

Emma, by "Charlotte Bront and Another Lady", published 1980; although this has been attributed to Elizabeth Goudge,[27] the actual author was Constance Savery.[28]

Emma Brown, by Clare Boylan, published 2003


Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846) Selected Poems of The Bronts, Everyman Poetry (1997)


Portrait by J. H. Thompson at the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

Branwell Bront, Painting of the 3 Bront Sisters, l to r Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bront. Branwell painted himself out of this portrait of his three sisters.

An idealised posthumousportrait by Duyckinick, 1873, based on a drawing by George Richmond

1. 2. ^ Jump up to:
a b

Fraser 2008, p. 261.

Jump up^ Cousin, John (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. E.P. Dutton & Co.

3. 4. 5.

Jump up^ Miller 2005, p. 5. Jump up^ Phillips-Evans 2012, pp. 260261. Jump up^ "Biographical Notice of Ellis And Acton Bell", from the preface to the 1910 edition of Wuthering Heights.

6. 7. 8. 9.

Jump up^ Miller 2002, p. 14. ^ Jump up to:

a b

Miller 2002, p. 13.

Jump up^ Miller 2002, pp. 1213. Jump up^ Miller 2002, p. 15.

10. Jump up^ Fraser 2008, p. 24. 11. Jump up^ Miller 2002, p. 17. 12. Jump up^ North American Review. October 1848., cited in Allott, M, ed. (1974). The Bronts: The Critical Heritage. Routledge and Kegan Paul. cited in Miller 2002, p. 18.

13. Jump up^ Letter from Charlotte to her publisher, 25th June 1849, from Smith, M, ed. (1995). The Letters of Charlotte Bront: Volume Two, 1848 1851. Clarendon Press. cited in Miller 2002, p. 19 14. Jump up^ Miller 2002, p. 19. 15. Jump up^ Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie. Chapters from Some Memoirs. cited in Sutherland, James (ed.) The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes. OUP, 1975. ISBN 0-19-812139-3. 16. Jump up^ Reid Banks, L., Path to the Silent Country, Penguin, 1977, p113 17. ^ Jump up to:
a b

Miller 2002, p. 47.

18. Jump up^ Miller 2002, p. 52. 19. ^ Jump up to:

a b c

Miller 2002, p. 54.

20. Jump up^ Miller 2002, p. 55. 21. Jump up^ "Real life plot twists of famous authors". CNN. 25 September 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 22. ^ Jump up to:
a b

Miller 2002, p. 57.

23. Jump up^ Lane 1953, pp. 17883. 24. Jump up^ Miller 2002, pp. 5758. 25. ^ Jump up to:
a b c

Miller 2002, p. 109.

26. Jump up^ Alexander 1993, pp. 430432. 27. Jump up^ "Review of Emma Brown by Charlotte Cory". The Independent. 13 September 2003. Archived from the original on 19 September 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 28. Jump up^ "Constance Savery, Life and Works". www.constancesavery.com. Retrieved 12 June 2013.; see for example Publishers of Savery's Adult Novels.
source?][better source needed] [self-published


Alexander, Christine (March 1993). "'That Kingdom of Gloo': Charlotte Bront, the Annuals and the Gothic". Nineteenth-Century Literature 47 (4): 409436.

Fraser, Rebecca (2008). Charlotte Bront: A Writer's Life (2 ed.). New York: Pegasus Books LLC. p. 261. ISBN 978-1-933648-88-0.

Lane, Margaret (1953). The Bront Story: a reconsideration of Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bront.

Miller, Lucasta (2002). The Bront Myth. London: Vintage. ISBN 0-09928714-5.

Miller, Lucasta (2005). The Bront Myth. New York: Anchor. ISBN 9781400078356.

Phillips-Evans, J. (2012). The Longcrofts: 500 Years of a British Family. Amazon. pp. 260261. ISBN 978-1481020886.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.Wikisource

Further reading[edit]

The Letters of Charlotte Bront, 3 volumes edited by Margaret Smith The Life of Charlotte Bront, Elizabeth Gaskell Charlotte Bront, Winifred Grin Charlotte Bront: a passionate life, Lyndal Gordon The Literary Protges of the Lake Poets, Dennis Low (Chapter 1 contains a revisionist contextualisation of Robert Southey's infamous letter to Charlotte Bront)

Charlotte Bront: Unquiet Soul, Margot Peters In the Footsteps of the Bronts, Ellis Chadwick The Bronts, Juliet Barker Charlotte Bront and her Dearest Nell, Barbara Whitehead The Bront Myth, Lucasta Miller A Life in Letters, selected by Juliet Barker Charlotte Bront and Defensive Conduct: The Author and the Body at Risk, Janet Gezari, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992

Charlotte Bront and her Family, Rebecca Fraser The Oxford Reader's Companion to the Bronts, Christine Alexander & Margaret Smith

A Bront Family Chronology, Edward Chitham The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte, James Tilly, 1999 I Love Charlotte Bronte, Michelle Daly 2009

External links[edit]

Library resources

About Charlotte Bront

Online books

Resources in your library Resources in other libraries By Charlotte Bront

Online books

Resources in your library Resources in other libraries Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Charlotte Bront

Wikisource has original works written by or about: Charlotte Bront

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charlotte Bront.

Website of the Bront Society and Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Yorkshire

Jane Eyre overview Online editions of Charlotte Bront's works at eBooks@Adelaide Works by Charlotte Bront at Project Gutenberg Charlotte Bront public domain audiobooks from LibriVox Charlotte Bront Drawing by George Richmond (National Portrait Gallery)

Modern Day Images of Charlotte Bronte Residences Charlotte Bront and Her Circle, by Clement K. Shorter, from Project Gutenberg

Charlotte Bront at the Internet Book List More Information about Charlotte Bronte Charlotte's Web: A Hypertext on Charlotte Bront's Jane Eyre Memorial Page for Charlotte Bronte on FindaGrave

Various images depicting residences of Charlotte Bronte 'Napoleon and the Spectre', taken from the manuscript of the Green Dwarf

List of the 100 greatest novels of all time 'The Secret' and 'Lily Hart': An Early Manuscript by Charlotte Bronte


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bront



Bront sisters

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WorldCat VIAF: 71388025 LCCN: n79054114 ISNI: 0000 0001 2281 6316 GND: 118638009 BNF: cb11894145r


Bront family British people of Cornish descent Christian writers Deaths from typhus English Anglicans English novelists English women novelists English people of Irish descent English women poets English women writers Pseudonymous writers Governesses Infectious disease deaths in England People from Thornton and Allerton Victorian novelists

Victorian women writers Women of the Victorian era 1816 births 1855 deaths 19th-century British novelists

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