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Charlotte Brontë

Sharon Aronofsky Weltman and Doris Raab

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0008
Charlotte Brontë

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Charlotte Brontë (b. 1816–d. 1854) was the eldest of the three Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) whose books have been regarded as masterpieces of the English novel for over 160 years. The daughter of Rev. Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell Brontë, Charlotte grew up the third of six children in Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire, England. In 1824 Charlotte, Emily, and their two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, went off to school at Cowan Bridge (later depicted as Lowood School in Jane Eyre) but were removed in less than one year because conditions at the school were hastening the tragic deaths of the older girls from tuberculosis. Back home, Charlotte began writing tales about imaginary kingdoms with her younger siblings (Emily, Anne, and brother Branwell). She continued her education at Roe Head School, where she made lifelong friends and later taught. In 1842 Charlotte and Emily traveled to Brussels to study at Constantin Heger’s boarding school; there she was also later employed as a teacher. Unhappy, she developed feelings for the married Heger (providing material for her later novels). Brontë returned home in 1844, completing her first novel, The Professor (written 1845–1846, published posthumously in 1857), and publishing with her sisters Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846), which sold only two copies. Undaunted, the three women followed up with a novel each, all published in 1847, and all now classics. Charlotte’s was Jane Eyre, an immediate sensation. She followed this success with Shirley in 1849 and Villette in 1853. Yet her private life was full of sorrow: in 1848 she lost Branwell and Emily; Anne died in 1849. In 1854 Charlotte Brontë married Rev. A. B. Nicholls, curate of Haworth, but she passed away the same year from pneumonia. Brontë’s fiction is most noted for her portrayal of passion, her subversive commentaries on Victorian women’s roles, and her narrative innovation, although she also deals with issues of empire, class, education, gender, and religion.

Article.  11085 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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