Born: April 21, 1816
Thornton, Yorkshire, England
Died: March 31, 1855
Haworth, Yorkshire, England
Charlotte Brontë was one of three English sisters who had books published in the mid-1800s. Her writing described, with a dramatic force that was entirely new to English fiction, the conflict between love and independence and the struggle of the individual to maintain his or her self-esteem.
Charlotte Brontë was born in Thornton in Yorkshire, England, on April 21, 1816, the third of Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell's six children. Her father was an Anglican minister who moved the family to Haworth, also in Yorkshire, in 1820 after finding work at a church there. Except for a brief and unhappy period when she attended a religious school—later described in the opening chapters of Jane Eyre —most of Charlotte's early education was provided at home by her father. After the early death of her mother, followed by the passing of her two older sisters, Brontë, now nine years old, lived in isolation with her father, aunt, sisters Anne and Emily, and brother Patrick Branwell.
With their father not communicating much with them, and having no real contact with the outside world, the children spent their time reading and creating their own imaginary worlds. They recorded the events occurring in these imaginary worlds in miniature writing on tiny sheets of paper. Anne and Emily made up a kingdom called Gondal, while Charlotte and Patrick created the realm of Angria, which was ruled by the Duke of Zamorna. Zamorna's romantic conquests make up the greater part of Charlotte's contributions. He was a character who ruled by strength of will and feeling and easily conquered women—they recognized the evil in him but could not fight their attraction to him.
The conflict between this dream world and her everyday life caused Brontë great suffering. Although her life was outwardly calm, she lived out the struggles of her made-up characters in her head. At age fifteen she began to work as a schoolteacher. She and both of her sisters later worked watching over the children of wealthy families. While attending a language school in Brussels, Belgium, in 1843 and 1844, she seems to have fallen in love with a married professor at the school, but she never fully admitted the fact to herself.
After returning to Haworth in 1844, Charlotte Brontë became depressed. She was lonely and felt that she lacked the ability to do any creative work. She discovered that both of her sisters had been writing poetry, as she had. They decided to each write a novel and offer all of them together to publishers. Her sisters' novels were accepted for publication, but Charlotte's The Professor, based upon her Brussels experience, was rejected. (It was not published until after her death.) However, the publisher offered her friendly criticism and encouraged her to try again.
Charlotte Brontë's second novel, Jane Eyre, was published in 1847. It became the most successful book of the year. She hid at first behind the pseudonym (pen, or assumed, writing name) Currer Bell, but later she revealed that she was the author of the book. Of all Brontë's novels, Jane Eyre most clearly shows the traces of her earlier stories about the imaginary Angria in the character of Rochester, with his mysterious ways and shady past. However, the governess, Jane, who loves him, does not surrender to Rochester. Instead she struggles to maintain her dignity and a balance between the opposing forces of passion and her religious beliefs.
During 1848 and 1849, within eight months of each other, Brontë's remaining two sisters and brother died. Despite her grief she managed to finish a new novel, Shirley (1849). It was set in her native Yorkshire during the Luddite industrial riots of 1812, when textile workers whose jobs had been taken over by machines banded together to destroy the machines. Shirley used social issues as a ground for a study of the bold and active heroine and a friend who represents someone with more traditional feminine qualities. In her last completed novel, Villette (1853), Brontë again turned to the Brussels affair, treating it now more directly.
Despite her success as a writer, Charlotte Brontë continued to live a quiet life at home in Yorkshire. In 1854 she married Arthur Nicholls, a man who had once worked as an assistant to her father, but she died within a year of their marriage on March 31, 1855.
For More Information
Gaskell, Elizabeth. The Life of Charlotte Brontë. 2 vols. New York: D. Appleton, 1857.
Gordon, Lyndall. Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life. London: Vintage, 1995.
Moglen, Helene. Charlotte Brontë: The Self Conceived. New York: Norton, 1976.
"Brontë, Charlotte." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bronte-charlotte
"Brontë, Charlotte." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bronte-charlotte
The English novelist Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) portrayed the struggle of the individual to maintain his integrity with a dramatic intensity entirely new to English fiction.
Charlotte Brontë was born in Thornton in the West Riding of Yorkshire on April 21, 1816, the daughter of an Anglican minister. Except for a brief unhappy spell at a charity school, later portrayed in the grim and gloomy Lowood of the opening chapters of Jane Eyre, most of her early education was guided at home by her father.
After the early death of her mother, followed by that of the two older sisters, Brontë lived in relative isolation with her father, aunt, sisters Anne and Emily, and brother Branwell. The children created fantasy worlds whose doings they recorded in miniature script on tiny sheets of paper. Anne and Emily devised the essentially realistic kingdom of Gondal, while she and Branwell created the realm of Angria, which was dominated by the Duke of Zamorna. Zamorna's lawless passions and amorous conquests make up the greater part of her contributions. Created in the image of Byronic satanism, he was proud, disillusioned, and masterful. He ruled by strength of will and feeling and easily conquered women, who recognized the evil in him but were drawn into helpless subjection by their own passion.
This dreamworld of unrestricted titanic emotions possessed Brontë with a terrible intensity, and the conflict between it and the realities of her life caused her great suffering. Thus, although her life was outwardly placid, she had inner experience of the struggles of will with circumstance and of desire with conscience that are the subject of her novels. Her conscience was an exceptionally powerful monitor. During a year at a school in Brussels (1843/1844) she seems to have fallen in love with the married headmaster but never fully acknowledged the fact to herself.
Brontë's first novel was The Professor, based upon her Brussels experience. It was not published during her lifetime, but encouraged by the friendly criticism of one publisher she published Jane Eyre in 1847. It became the literary success of the year. Hiding at first behind the pseudonym Currer Bell, she was brought to reveal herself by the embarrassment caused by inaccurate speculation about her true identity. Of all Brontë's novels, Jane Eyre most clearly shows the traces of her earlier Angrian fantasies in the masterful Rochester with his mysterious ways and lurid past. But the governess, Jane, who loves him, does not surrender helplessly; instead she struggles to maintain her integrity between the opposing demands of passion and inhumanly ascetic religion.
Within 8 months during 1848/1849, Brontë's remaining two sisters and brother died. Despite her grief she managed to finish a new novel, Shirley (1849). Set in her native Yorkshire during the Luddite industrial riots of 1812, it uses social issues as a ground for a psychological study in which the bold and active heroine is contrasted with a friend who typifies a conventionally passive and emotional female. In her last completed novel, Villette (1853), Brontë again turned to the Brussels affair, treating it now more directly and with greater art. But in this bleak book the clear-sighted balance the heroine achieves after living through extremes of cold detachment and emotion is not rewarded by a rich fulfillment.
Despite her literary success Brontë continued to live a retired life at home in Yorkshire. She married a former curate of her father in 1854, but died within a year on March 31, 1855.
Still standard is Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Brontë (2 vols., 1857). Winifred Gérin, Charlotte Brontë (1967), is reliable and more complete. Robert B. Martin, The Accents of Persuasion: Charlotte Brontë's Novels (1966), is the only book-length critical study. □
"Charlotte Brontë." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/charlotte-bronte
"Charlotte Brontë." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/charlotte-bronte
"Brontë, Charlotte." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bronte-charlotte
"Brontë, Charlotte." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bronte-charlotte