A novel by C. Brontë, published 1849.
The scene of the story is Yorkshire, and the period the latter part of the Napoleonic wars, the time of the Luddite riots. Robert Gérard Moore, half English, a mill‐owner of determined character, persists in introducing the latest labour‐saving machinery, undeterred by the opposition of the workers, which culminates in an attempt first to destroy his mill, and finally to take his life. To overcome his financial difficulties he proposes to Shirley Keeldar, an heiress of independent spirit; he himself loves not her but his gentle and retiring cousin Caroline Helstone, who is pining away for love of him and through enforced idleness in the oppressive atmosphere of her uncle's rectory. Robert is indignantly rejected by Shirley, who is in fact in love with his brother Louis, a tutor in her family. The misunderstandings are resolved, and the two couples united.
This is Charlotte Brontë's most social novel, and one of its recurrent themes is its plea for more useful occupations for women, condemned by society either to matrimony or, as old maids, to a life of self‐denial and acts of private charity. Charlotte told Mrs Gaskell that Shirley was intended to be what Emily Brontë might have been ‘had she been placed in health and prosperity’.
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Charlotte Brontë (1816—1855) novelist