Monday, February 1, 2016

Charlotte Bronte

(portrait by George Richmond)
 Charlotte was born in Thornton in 1816, the third of the Bronte's six children. 
In August of 1824, Charlotte was sent with Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth to the Clergy Daughters' School in Lancashire. After her two elder sisters died from tuberculosis, her father brought Charlotte and Emily home. Charlotte used the school as the inspiration for Lowood school in Jane Eyre. 

Charlotte seems to have taken on a motherly role to her siblings. She wrote stories with all of them but she and Branwell created a world that they wrote about. She often wrote about the Duke of Wellington and it is said she must have been very enamored of him.

In 1831-1832 Charlotte attended Roe Head in Mirfield and later returned as a teacher from 1835-1838. She met some of her lifelong friends there, particularly Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. 
She also worked as a governess. 
In 1842 she and Emily went to a boarding school in Brussels. It was run by Constantin Heger and his wife. They ended up leaving the school early (they were offered teaching positions) when their aunt Elizabeth died. Charlotte was very close to M. Heger and it is said that she was very much in love with him but there was no affair. 
In 1846 Charlotte urged her sisters to publish a book of their poems under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte went by Currer. 
Only two copies sold but they continued to write and soon Charlotte was done with her first manuscript, The Professor. It did not get published. However they were interested in more from her. 
The following year she published Jane Eyre in a combined publication with her sisters' novels. Jane Eyre was an immediate success.
In 1848 she began work on her second novel, Shirley. While writing it her siblings all died. During much of this time she did not write often but after Anne's death she turned to her writing again as a way to deal with all that she was going through. It was published in 1849.
Charlotte made many literary connections at this time, becoming friends with other writers of the time such as Elizabeth Gaskell who would later write a biography about Charlotte. 
Her third novel, Villette, was published in 1853 and was her last book published during her lifetime. 
None of her books lived up to quite the same popularity as Jane Eyre. 
Around this time Charlotte was proposed to by Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate. Her father didn't approve at first and so she turned him down. But by January of 1854 she had also fallen in love with Arthur and convinced her father to give them his approval. 
They were married in June and went to Ireland to visit his family on their honeymoon. 
They seemed to have a very happy marriage. Charlotte was soon pregnant but during her pregnancy her health began to deteriorate rapidly. She was attacked by " sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness". 
Charlotte died on March 31, 1855 at the age of 38 while still pregnant. The baby died with her. 
It is believed by many that while her death certificate says that the cause of death was phthisis, that she really died from dehydration and malnourishment brought upon her by her pregnancy. 
Charlotte was buried in the family vault in the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Haworth. 

I find her death to be the most heartbreaking as she could have had such a happy life with her baby and her husband. Also, I am so saddened by the fact that their father, Patrick Bronte, had to watch his wife and all six children die before him. I can't even imagine what that must have been like for him. 

I don't think there are many books that can rival Jane Eyre and I am so grateful for Charlotte Bronte and the inspiration that she had that led to such a wonderful novel. 


The Kings said...

That was really interesting! It was really sad to read about hers and her baby's death.

cheryl said...

I know. It makes me so sad. I wish she could have lived and had a happy life... and written more books.