Charlotte Bront' (1816 – 1855)
Rev. Patrick Bront' and Maria Branwell Bront' lived in Thornton, Yorkshire
and had six children, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell. Three of these children were to become famous novelists and poets.
Charlotte’s most famous work is Jane Eyre published in 1847.
It is clear that Charlotte’s environment and her own life experiences greatly influenced her literary work. Her father was of Irish extraction and was known for his poetry and imagination, and clearly had an effect on Charlotte’s writing.
She, along with her other two gifted sisters, only really started their
literary careers when the two oldest Bront' children, Maria and Elizabeth, had died. It is clear that death at an early age was quite common in this society, a fact that is mirrored in the collective works of
the Bront' sisters.
The death of Charlotte’s siblings affected her greatly, together with her
brother’s rapid decline, and his death of consumption in 1848.
The sisters’ works had been published under the name ‘Bell’ with Charlotte
using the male pseudonym Currer Bell, Emily using Ellis Bell and Anne using Acton Bell. It was assumed by their reading audience that all three ‘Bells’ were the one author.
After the deaths of Emily and Anne, Charlotte disclosed to the reading public the true identities of the authors’ works such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, together with the sisters’ numerous poems.
Emily only wrote the one novel in 1847, which was Wuthering Heights.
Anne’s greatest work was Agnes Grey.
Unlike her other two famous sisters, Charlotte traveled more extensively,
going to London frequently, where she enjoyed the company of writer, William Makepeace Thackeray, and George Henry Lewes, a literary critic. She also had a close friend in Elizabeth Gaskell who was to become
After the success of Jane Eyre, she completed her second novel, Shirley, and
just before the completion of her third novel, Villette, she contracted a liver infection.
In 1854, she was married to the Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father’s
curate, much to the disapproval of her father who didn’t attend the ceremony. On honeymoon in Ireland she was thrown from a horse and although initially appeared unhurt, her health was to suffer. Whilst
in the early stages of pregnancy, she contracted tuberculosis and died on 31st March 1855 at the age of thirty-nine. At the time of her death she was writing Emma, which was completed by her biographer and published posthumously.
Having seen all his children die, Patrick Bront' was cared for by Rev.
Nicholls until his death in 1861.
Much of Charlotte’s childhood is mirrored in her narration of Jane Eyre, from the time she spent at the
Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowanbridge, where there was a strict code of behavior, and where her sisters Maria and Elizabeth died from tuberculosis, to the time where she found love with her husband Arthur.