Charlotte Brontë, 1816-1855

Biographical note

Novelist, daughter of the Rev. Patrick B., a clergyman of Irish descent and of eccentric habits who embittered the lives of his children by his peculiar theories of education. Brought up in a small parsonage close to the graveyard of a bleak, windswept village on the Yorkshire moors, and left motherless in early childhood, she was “the motherly friend and guardian of her younger sisters,” of whom two, Emily and Anne, shared, but in a less degree, her talents. After various efforts as schoolmistresses and governesses, the sisters took to literature and published a vol. of poems under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, which, however, fell flat. Charlotte then wrote her first novel, The Professor, which did not appear until after her death, and began Jane Eyre, which, appearing in 1847, took the public by storm. It was followed by Shirley in 1849, and Villette in 1852. In 1854 she was married to her father’s curate, the Rev. A. Nicholls, but after a short though happy married life she died in 1855. EMILY B. (1818–1848). — a woman of remarkable force of character, reserved and taciturn, published in 1848 Wuthering Heights, a powerful, but somewhat unpleasing, novel, and some striking poems; and ANNE (1820–1849), was the authoress of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey [1848]. She had not the intellectual force of her sisters. The novels of Charlotte especially created a strong impression from the first, and the publication of Jane Eyre gave rise to much curiosity and speculation as to its authorship. Their strength and originality have retained for them a high place in English fiction which is likely to prove permanent. There is a biography of Charlotte by Mrs. Gaskell.

Complete ed. of the works of Charlotte B. have been issued by Mrs. Humphrey Ward (7 vols. 1899–1900), and by Sir W.R. Nicoll, LL.D. [1903]. Note on Charlotte Bronté, A.C. Swinburne, 1877. A short Life in Great Writers Series by A. Birrell.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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