Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) – A Biographical Sketch

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë was born on 21 April 1816, at 74, Market Street in the village of thornton near Bradford in Yorkshire County, England, as the third daughter of Anglican clergyman, the Rev Patrick Bronte, who had been educated at the university of Cambridge. In 1820 Patrick Bronte became incumbent of Haworth, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and his wife Maria Branwell Bronte died the following year, and Charlotte and her four sisters, Maria (born 1813), Elizabeth (born 1815), Emily (born 1818), and Anne (born 1820) and her brother Branwell (born 1817) were brought up in the parsonage by their mother’s sister Elizabeth Branwell. (Wikipedia)

Charlotte Brontë Family

In 1824 the four eldest Brontë daughters were admitted to the Clergy Daughter’s School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire which was specifically meant for the daughters of poor clergymen. Maria and Elizabeth, the two eldest daughters, contracted tuberculosis and died soon after their removal from the school on May 24th 1825, which was simply because of the appalling conditions at the school, and Charlotte and Emily, understandably, were also brought home. (Wikipedia) Reminiscences of this tragic school experience recur in the guise of Lowood School in Jane Eyre, and Charlotte maintained, that it permanently affected her health and physical development and hastened the deaths of her two elder sisters.

At home for the next five years, the children were very often left on their own. In 1826 their father brought home a box of wooden soldiers for Beanwell to play with, Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Ann, started playing with the soldiers and created an imaginary world of their own. Soon they all began chronicling the lives and struggles of the inhabitants of their imaginary kingdoms Charlotte and Branwell wrote stories about their country named as Angria and Emily and Anne wrote articles and poems about their named as Gondal. (Wikipedia) The escapist writing they started this way became their routine exercise and later provided the key to the development of genius in them.

The Bronte children were all keen readers, and since they grew up in solitude, often affected by illness, death, and desolation, they frequently made excursions into the world of literary fantasy, conjured up by the works of Sir Walter Scott, as well as other romantic authors of the time. Inspired by their vivid imaginations, the children invented role-playing games, at times with the aid of wooden toys, other times in provisional costumes. While many children of the time spent their leisure in such pursuits, it was the specific manner in which the girls played that provided insight into the strength of their spirit, particularly Charlotte, who was mature beyond her years, and was perceived as a mother figure to her surviving siblings.

It was during these imaginative dramas that the girls portrayed historical figures such as Napoleon Caesar, Hannibal, and the Duke of Wellington Charlotte was an intelligent girl, who took an early interes in politics. She cultivated her interest of her own accord, teaching here to read the newspapers her father brought home. By the age of nine, she knew more about politics of the time than most grown men. (Lowes, 2008)

In 1831 Charlotte became a pupil at the school at Roe Head run by a Miss Wooler, but she left school the following year to teach her sisters at home. She returned to Roe Head School in 1835 as a governess: for a time her sister Emily attended the same school as a pupil, but became homesick and returned to Haworth in 1838. In 1839 she accepted a position as governess in the Sidgwick family, but left after three months and returned to Haworth In 1841 she became governess in the White Family, but left, once again, this time after nine months. (Cody, 1987)

Her attempts to earn a living as a governess were hindered by her disabling shyness, her ignorance of normal children, and her yearning to bit with her sisters. From her first job as governess to the Sidgwick family she wrote to her sister Emily: “. Mrs Sidgwick expects me to do things that I cannot do to love her children and be entirely devoted to them (Liukkonen, 200S)

In 1842 Charlotte Brontë travelled to Brussels with Emily to learn French, German, and management. During this period she fell in love with Constantin Heger wha was the husband of Claire Zee Parent Hager, the owner of the Pensionna Heger, a girls school, where Charlotte and Emily were pupils and where Charlotte later taught. This period inspired her novels Villete and The Pror (1857), which she had submitted to publishers before kume Eyre but which did not see publication until after her death.

Upon Charlotte’s return home the sisters embarked upon their own project for founding a school, which proved to be an abject failure their advertisements did not receive a single response from the public. The following year Charlotte discovered Emily’s poems and decided to publish a selection of the poems of all three sisters: 1846 saw the publication of their Poems, written under the pseudonyms of Currer. Ellis and Acton Bell. Because the sisters thought that their mode of writing was not feminine, they used masculine names. The following year, however, Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Ann’s Agnes Grey were all published still under the Bell pseudonyms. (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia)

By the publication date tragedy had all but destroyed the Brontë family September, 1848, Branwell died: Emily caught cold at his funeral and, rensing all medical aid, died of tuberculosis the following December. Anne, whae Tenant of Wildfell Hall appeared in 1848, also died of tuberculosis in May, 1849. Now that the people who had occupied most of her life were gone, Charlotte began to make trips to London where she had a respectable social milieu. Her Villette appeared in 1853.

In 1854 she married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nichols, with whom she seemed to have been happy. She died, however, of pregnancy toxemia complicated by the Bronte susceptibility to tuberculosis after only a year of marriage. The Professor was published posthumously in 1857. (Columbia Electronic Encylopedia)

Charlotte Brontë ‘s short life was full of misery. She saw the deaths of all her sisters and her only brother, not to mention the deaths of her father and her aunt. It would have been quite possible to become disillusioned with life while attending on all these loved ones in their struggles for existence. But she seems to have enjoyed herself amidst all worries, helping her siblings, assisting her aunt. caring for her father, and putting all her dreams, experiences, and tantasies into powerful words.

Her Jane Eyre mirrors most of her true life experiences and sometimes forces the reader to wonder whether it is her autobiography: the traumatic period of time she spent at Clergy Daughter’s in Lancashire, where she witnessed appailing conditions of health and nutrition the suffering of her sisters which ended in their untimely deaths: the challenges posed to her by her commitments as a governess at the Sidgwicks and the Whites; the romantic relationship she had with Constantin Heger and the motherly relationship she had developed with her siblings.

In this great novel Jane returns to Rochester and finally offers her unconditional love to him when he essentially has nothing left. Blind and penniless, Rochester can only offer himself, proving that for Bronte love transcends the societal expectations of marriage and is based instead on mutual respect and love. Charlotte Brontë presents a model out of Jane’s character as a person dedicated to love With or without vision, or any other assets, Mr Rochester is her lover and she respects him in every way possible for the generosity and understanding he showed her during his days of glory.

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