charlotte brontë (1816 – 1854)


Charlotte Bronte was born on 21st April 1816 at Haworth, Yorkshire, the third daughter of the Rev. Patrick Brontë. Her early life was troubled by the loss of her mother (1821) and by the death of her two older sisters. In 1831 Charlotte attended the Roe Head school for one year and returned there in 1835 as a teacher. Between 1839 and 1841, she accepted the position of governess in various families, until she and her sisters Emily and Anne decided to open their own school (1842). So in 1842 Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to complete their studies, but only Charlotte remained there until 1844. As their project for founding a school proved a total failure, the sisters started publishing poetry and stories under the pseudonym of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Only two years later, in 1848, Charlotte and Ann visited their publishers in London, and revealed their true identities. In the same year their brother, Branwell Brontë, by now an alcoholic and a drug addict, died, soon followed by Emily and Anne. In 1849 Charlotte visited London and began to move in literary circles, making the acquaintance, for example, of Thackeray and Mrs Gaskell. In 1854 she married Rev. A. B. Nicholls, curate of Haworth, against her father’s will, but she died (1854) the following year while expecting a child. In 1857 Mrs. Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë was published. She wrote The Professor: A Tale (1857); Shirley, a social novel (1849) , the mostlty autobiographical novel Villette (1853); but her masterpiece is Jane Eyre : An Autobiography (1847), still written under the pseudonym of Currer Bell, which represents a first example of feminist novel as the heroine gets her own living without being oppressed by male authority.

 

Life and Works
Charlotte Brontë was born in 1816, the third daughter of the Rev. Patrick Brontë and his wife Maria. In 1820 the Brontë family moved to Haworth, where  Mrs. Brontë died the following year.
In 1824 the four eldest Brontë daughters started attending the Clergy Daughter’s School at Cowan Bridge. The following year Maria and Elizabeth, the two eldest daughters, became ill, left the school and died and Charlotte and Emily were brought home.
In 1831 Charlotte became a pupil at the school at Roe Head, but she left school the following year to teach her sisters at home. She returned returns to Roe Head School in 1835 as a governess and then, from 1839 1841,she accepted a position as governess in different families. On her return to Haworth the three sisters, led by Charlotte, decided to open their own school after the necessary preparations had been completed. In 1842 Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to complete their studies, but only Charlotte remained there until 1844.
As their project for founding a school proved to be a total failure, they stared publishing under the pseudonym of Bell.  In 1848 Charlotte and Ann visited their publishers in London, and revealed the true identities. In the same year Branwell Brontë, by now an alcoholic and a drug addict, died, and Emily died shortly thereafter. Ann died the following year.
In 1849 Charlotte, visiting London, began to move in literary circles, making the acquaintance, for example, of Thackeray and, in 1850, of Mrs Gaskell.  In the same year Charlotte edited her sister’s various works.
The Rev. A. B. Nicholls, curate of Haworth since 1845, proposed marriage to Charlotte in 1852. Charlotte’s father objected violently, and at first,  she refused him, then in 1854, they got married, though it seemed clear that Charlotte admired him, but she did not love him.
In 1854 Charlotte, expecting a child, caught pneumonia and, after a lengthy and painful illness, she died, probably of dehydration.
In 1857 Mrs. Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë was published.

Works – In 1826 Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Ann began to write in great detail about an imaginary world which they called Angria. In 1845  Charlotte discovered Emily’s poems, and decided to publish a selection of the poems of all three sisters in  1846 under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.

Novels

  • The Professor: A Tale (1857), published  posthumously, describes the story of a young man, William Crimsworth,  his maturation, his loves, and his eventual career as a Professor at an all-girl’s school. The story is based upon Charlotte Brontë’s experiences in Brussels where she studied as a language student in 1842.
  • Jane Eyre (1847),   still written under the pseudonyms of Currer Bell,  is the forerunner of romantic fiction and represents a first example of feminist novel as the heroin gets her own living without being oppressed by male authority.
  • Shirley is a social novel published in 1849. Its popularity led to Shirley, thought as a male name,  becoming a woman’s name. The novel is set in Yorkshire in the period 1811–1812, during the industrial depression resulting from the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 It is set against the background of the Luddite riots when the introduction of a labour-saving machinery by a mill owner caused the violent opposition of his workers anwho attempt to destroy his mill  and kill him. The protagonists are caroline, a girl who is forbidden to take up a job as a governess and  Shirley Keeldar, the  heiress to a fortune, who takes the courage to act and be free. .
  • Villette (1853), is the story of  a young girl, Lucy who boards on a ship for Villette where she will work as a teacher at a boarding school for girls. After a bitter love affair and several encounters with  the ghost of a nun, Lucy finds herself in love with a colleague, M. Paul Emanuel. Their feeling is obstacled and soon  M. Paul  sails  for the West Indies to oversee his plantation there. Before leaving, he  declares his love for Lucy, and arranges for her to live independently as the headmistress of her own day school. Villette’s final pages are ambiguous as  Lucy says that she wants to leave the reader free to imagine a happy ending.

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