English novelist. Born 1816. Died 1854.
Charlotte Brontë was the daughter of clergyman Patrick Brontë and wife Maria, and the third of six children. Older than her were Maria and Elizabeth; younger were Branwell, Emily and Anne.
In 1820 the family moved to the village of Haworth, and in 1821 Mrs Branwell died. Her sister came to help look after the children.
In 1824 Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily were enrolled at the Clergy Daughters School at Cowan Bridge. This school was for the daughters of poor clergy and was situated in a marshy area. Maria and Elizabeth became sick and were sent home only to die of consumption (Be careful with consumption. Every mysterious languishing illness in those days was called consumption. It was quite fashionable). Charlotte and Emily were brought home, and the Cowan Bridge school became the model for the school in Jane Eyre. One of Charlotte's older sisters also became the model for the tragic Helen.
The Bronte children were quite involved for some time in imaginary worlds, which they developed together. Some of the characters and plots were later recycled into novels. This life of the imagination undoubtedly played a great part in making the Brontës into novelists and poets.
In 1831 Charlotte attended the Roe Head School but returned home to teach her sisters. From 1835-1838 she taught at the school, but again returned home. Part of her wages went to fund Branwell's art studies. Branwell, it should be noted, was a respectable poet himself.
In 1839 Charlotte rejected a marriage proposal from Rev. Nussey, the brother of a friend, and a second man. In 1842 Emily and Charlotte went to Brussels to study. After their aunt died, leaving each of the siblings a small inheritance, the sisters returned to Haworth. Charlotte went back to Brussels, where she "formed an attachment" for one of her teachers. He did not return her feelings and she left Brussels after the wife of her beloved became jealous.
In 1845, the sister's tried to start a school at Haworth but no students came. The following year, Branwell was fired from his job as a tutor and spent three years at home leading a debauched life.
In 1846, a volume of "Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell" was published at the expense of the sisters. Only two copies were sold. Charlotte's novel "The Professor" was unable to find a publisher and she started on "Jane Eyre", which was publshed in 1847 and was successful.
In 1848, Branwell died as a result of his life of drugs and alcohol. Emily also died, of consumption, which she passed on to her sister Anne, who died in 1849. After Anne's death, Charlotte finished writing and published "Shirley".
"Villette" was published in 1853. In 1854 Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nichols, a curate, and began a novel called "Emma", which she never finished. She died, pregnant, in 1855. "The Professor" was published two years after her death.
Charlotte's biography was written by Elizabeth Gaskell, who was her friend as well as a fellow Victorian authoress. Charlotte was made out to be a tragic young figure after her death, but despite her sad life - she outlived her five siblings, her mother, her aunt and ended by dying in her first pregnancy at the age of thirty-eight, which is young to die but old for a first confinement - I think Charlotte must have been a capable, practical woman, fighting for publication and travelling a fair bit for a single woman of her time. She carefully fostered an appropriate image of herself and her sisters, and romanticised them somewhat in her biographical notices of them. She was interested in mesmerism, a form of 'natural' hypnotic telepathy, and for more on that consult Is Heathcliff a Murderer? by John Sutherland.
Charlotte hated Jane Austen with a passion that only a Brontë could display, and thought her writing stilted, passionless, narrow. She was much more admiring of her sister Emiily's work, and seems to have credulously read "Wuthering Heights" as a gothic tale.
Charlotte did write poetry as well as prose, most notably after Anne's and Emily's deaths. I have not read much of it, but would recommend skipping Charlotte's poetry and moving right on to that of her much more talented sisters.
One last thing worthy of mention is Charlotte's habit of writing directly to the reader. One of her favourite tricks is to have her heroine address her 'dear reader', and as a means for engendering sympathy and bringing a sense of reality to a work it is quite effective.
For some of this I have to acknowledge the Victorian Web at the following address:
as well as Is Heathcliff a Murderer? by John Sutherland and my own very wide reading on the matter of Charlotte Brontë, which is unbibliographicable.