born: APRIL 21, 1816
died: MARCH 31, 1855
Embark on a journey through the life of Charlotte Brontë, the renowned British author best known for her groundbreaking novel Jane Eyre. Learn about her early years, her experiences as a writer, and the impact of her work on the literary world. Charlotte’s powerful storytelling and unforgettable characters have left a lasting impression on readers and continue to inspire generations of authors.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Charlotte Brontë was born on April 21, 1816, in Thornton, Yorkshire, England. She was the third of six children born to Maria Branwell Brontë and Patrick Brontë, a clergyman. Tragically, her mother passed away when Charlotte was only five years old, leaving her and her siblings in the care of their father and their maternal aunt, Elizabeth Branwell.
In 1824, Charlotte and her sisters, Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth, were sent to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge. The harsh conditions and poor treatment at the school are believed to have inspired Charlotte’s later depiction of Lowood School in Jane Eyre. After the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth from tuberculosis in 1825, Charlotte and Emily returned home, where they were educated by their father and aunt.
As children, Charlotte and her siblings developed a love for storytelling, and together they created the imaginary worlds of Angria and Gondal, which served as the setting for many of their early stories and poems.
CAREER AND LITERARY SUCCESS
Charlotte Brontë began her career as a governess, an experience that would later inform her writing. In 1842, she and her sister Emily traveled to Brussels, Belgium, to study at the Pensionnat Heger, a boarding school run by Constantin Heger and his wife. Charlotte’s time in Brussels, including her unrequited love for Constantin Heger, would inspire much of her later work, including The Professor and Villette.
In 1846, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë published a collection of their poetry under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Although the book sold poorly, it marked the beginning of the sisters’ literary careers. Charlotte’s first novel, The Professor, was initially rejected by publishers, but her next novel, Jane Eyre, was published in 1847 to immediate success and acclaim.
Following the publication of Jane Eyre, Charlotte went on to write Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853). Her final novel, The Professor, was published posthumously in 1857.
TOP 10 BOOKS BY CHARLOTTE BRONTË
Charlotte Brontë’s best-known work, this novel tells the story of orphaned Jane Eyre and her journey from a mistreated child to an independent woman. The novel explores themes of love, morality, and social class, and features one of literature’s most famous and enduring heroines.
Set during the industrial revolution, this novel follows the lives of two contrasting heroines, the independent and wealthy Shirley Keeldar and the struggling orphan Caroline Helstone, as they navigate love and social upheaval in a rapidly changing society.
Loosely based on Brontë’s experiences in Brussels, this novel tells the story of Lucy Snowe, an Englishwoman who travels to Belgium to teach at a girls’ school. The novel explores themes of isolation, unrequited love, and the challenges faced by women in the 19th century.
The Professor (1857)
Published posthumously, this novel follows the journey of William Crimsworth, an Englishman who moves to Belgium to work as a teacher. The novel explores themes of love, ambition, and the role of women in society.
Brontë began this novel in 1853 but left it unfinished at the time of her death. The story revolves around the titular character, Emma Brown, a wealthy young woman who is sent to a boarding school to learn humility.
Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846)
This collection of poetry, published under the pseudonyms of the Brontë sisters, features works by Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. Although the book was not commercially successful, it helped to launch the sisters’ literary careers.
Tales of Angria (1839-1845)
A collection of stories and poems written by the Brontë siblings during their childhood, set in the imaginary world of Angria. The tales provide insight into the development of the Brontës’ literary talents.
A collection of early writings by Charlotte Brontë, including essays, stories, and poems that she penned during her teenage years.
Stancliffe’s Hotel (1838)
An unfinished novel set in the world of Angria, featuring a mysterious hotel and its eccentric guests.
The Green Dwarf (1833)
A novella written by a young Charlotte Brontë, featuring a fantastical world, political intrigue, and a romantic subplot.
INTERESTING FACTS FROM CHARLOTTE BRONTË’S LIFE
- Charlotte Brontë and her sisters, Emily and Anne, initially published their work under male pseudonyms to avoid prejudice against female authors.
- Charlotte’s friendship with fellow author Elizabeth Gaskell led to Gaskell writing a biography of her, titled The Life of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1857.
- Charlotte Brontë’s works were initially overshadowed by those of her sister Emily, author of Wuthering Heights. However, over time, Charlotte’s works have gained recognition and acclaim in their own right.
- In 1854, Charlotte married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. Their courtship and marriage were fraught with difficulties, including her father’s initial opposition to the match.
- Tragically, Charlotte died on March 31, 1855, during the early stages of her first pregnancy. She was only 38 years old.
AWARDS & HONORS
Although Charlotte Brontë did not receive many awards or honors during her lifetime, her work has been celebrated and recognized for its lasting impact on literature. Some posthumous honors include:
- The Brontë Parsonage Museum, located in the family’s former home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, England, opened in 1928 to preserve and celebrate the lives and works of the Brontë family.
- Numerous literary awards and prizes have been named in honor of Charlotte Brontë and her siblings, including the prestigious Brontë Society Literary Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to literature and scholarship related to the Brontë family.
- A plaque commemorating Charlotte Brontë was unveiled at her former school, the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels, Belgium, in 1999.
- In 2005, a portrait of Charlotte Brontë by artist Branwell Brontë was featured on a British postage stamp as part of a series celebrating British novelists.
- In 2016, various events and exhibitions were held to mark the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth, including a special exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum titled Charlotte Great and Small.
DEATH AND TIMELESS LEGACY
Charlotte Brontë’s untimely death in 1855 marked the end of a brief but highly influential literary career. Her powerful storytelling and strong female characters have left an indelible mark on English literature, and her novels continue to be widely read and studied today.
In conclusion, Charlotte Brontë’s life and works have left a lasting legacy in the world of literature. Her novels, particularly Jane Eyre, have become literary classics and continue to inspire generations of readers and writers. Through her powerful storytelling and memorable characters, Charlotte Brontë will forever be remembered as a pioneering and influential figure in the history of English literature.