"Men judge us by the success of our efforts. God looks at the efforts themselves." -- Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Brontė ( or ) (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontė sisters whose novels are English literature standards. She wrote Jane Eyre under the pen name Currer Bell.
"A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.""Better to be without logic than without feeling.""Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.""Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties.""Conventionality is not morality.""Give him enough rope and he will hang himself.""I am always easy of belief when the creed pleases me.""I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.""I don't call you handsome, sir, though I love you most dearly: far too dearly to flatter you. Don't flatter me.""I feel monotony and death to be almost the same.""I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.""I'm just going to write because I cannot help it.""If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.""If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love friends for their sake rather than for our own.""If you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours: Nature did it.""It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.""It is vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility; they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.""Let your performance do the thinking.""Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs.""Life is so constructed, that the event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.""Look twice before you leap.""Memory in youth is active and easily impressible; in old age it is comparatively callous to new impressions, but still retains vividly those of earlier years.""Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow firm there, firm as weeds among stones.""The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.""The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter - often an unconscious, but still a truthful interpreter - in the eye.""There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.""True enthusiasm is a fine feeling whose flash I admire where-ever I see it.""Who has words at the right moment?""You had no right to be born; for you make no use of life. Instead of living for, in, and with yourself, as a reasonable being ought, you seek only to fasten your feebleness on some other person's strength.""You know full well as I do the value of sisters' affections: There is nothing like it in this world."
Charlotte was born in Thornton, Yorkshire in 1816, the third of six children, to Maria née Branwell and her husband Patrick Brontė (formerly "Patrick Brunty"), an Irish Anglican clergyman. In 1820, the family moved a few miles to Haworth, where Patrick had been appointed Perpetual Curate. Mrs Brontė died of cancer on 15 September 1821, leaving five daughters and a son to be taken care of by her sister Elizabeth Branwell. In August 1824, Charlotte was sent with three of her sisters, Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth, to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire (which she would describe as Lowood School in Jane Eyre). Its poor conditions, Charlotte maintained, permanently affected her health and physical development and hastened the deaths of her two elder sisters, Maria (born 1814) and Elizabeth (born 1815), who died of tuberculosis in June 1825 soon after their father removed them from the school on 1 June.
At home in Haworth Parsonage, Charlotte and the other surviving children — Branwell, Emily, and Anne — began chronicling the lives and struggles of the inhabitants of their imaginary kingdoms. Charlotte and Branwell wrote Byronic stories about their country — Angria — and Emily and Anne wrote articles and poems about theirs — Gondal. The sagas were elaborate and convoluted (and still exist in partial manuscripts) and provided them with an obsessive interest in childhood and early adolescence, which prepared them for their literary vocations in adulthood.
Charlotte continued her education at Roe Head, Mirfield, from 1831 to 1832, where she met her lifelong friends and correspondents, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. During this period, she wrote her novella The Green Dwarf (1833) under the name of Wellesley. Charlotte returned as a teacher from 1835 to 1838. In 1839, she took up the first of many positions as governess to various families in Yorkshire, a career she pursued until 1841.
In 1842 she and Emily travelled to Brussels to enroll in a boarding school run by Constantin Heger (1809 – 1896) and his wife Claire Zoé Parent Heger (1814 – 1891). In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music. Their time at the boarding school was cut short when Elizabeth Branwell, their aunt who joined the family after the death of their mother to look after the children, died of internal obstruction in October 1842. Charlotte returned alone to Brussels in January 1843 to take up a teaching post at the boarding school. Her second stay at the boarding school was not a happy one; she became lonely, homesick and deeply attached to Constantin Heger. She finally returned to Haworth in January 1844 and later used her time at the boarding school as the inspiration for some of The Professor and Villette.
In May 1846, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne published a joint collection of poetry under the assumed names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Although only two copies were sold, the sisters continued writing for publication and began their first novels. Charlotte used "Currer Bell" when she published her first two novels. Of this, Brontė later wrote:
Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because...without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called 'feminine' -- we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise.
Indeed, her novels were deemed coarse by the critics. There was speculation about the identity of Currer Bell, and whether Bell was a man or a woman.
Charlotte's brother, Branwell, the only son of the family, died of chronic bronchitis and marasmus exacerbated by heavy drinking in September 1848, although Charlotte believed his death was due to tuberculosis. Branwell was also a suspected "opium eater", (i.e. a laudanum addict). Emily and Anne both died of pulmonary tuberculosis in December 1848 and May 1849, respectively.
Charlotte and her father were now left alone together. In view of the enormous success of Jane Eyre, she was persuaded by her publisher to visit London occasionally, where she revealed her true identity and began to move in a more exalted social circle, becoming friends with Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Makepeace Thackeray and G. H. Lewes. Her book had sparked a movement in regards to feminism in literature. The main character, Jane Eyre, in her novel Jane Eyre, was a parallel to herself, a woman who was strong. However, she never left Haworth for more than a few weeks at a time as she did not want to leave her aging father's side.
Thackeray’s daughter, the writer Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie recalled a visit to her father by Charlotte Brontė:
“... two gentlemen come in, leading a tiny, delicate, serious, little lady, with fair straight hair, and steady eyes. She may be a little over thirty; she is dressed in a little barčge dress with a pattern of faint green moss. She enters in mittens, in silence, in seriousness; our hearts are beating with wild excitement. This then is the authoress, the unknown power whose books have set all London talking, reading, speculating; some people even say our father wrote the books - the wonderful books... The moment is so breathless that dinner comes as a relief to the solemnity of the occasion, and we all smile as my father stoops to offer his arm; for, genius though she may be, Miss Brontė can barely reach his elbow. My own personal impressions are that she is somewhat grave and stern, specially to forward little girls who wish to chatter... Every one waited for the brilliant conversation which never began at all. Miss Brontė retired to the sofa in the study, and murmured a low word now and then to our kind governess... the conversation grew dimmer and more dim, the ladies sat round still expectant, my father was too much perturbed by the gloom and the silence to be able to cope with it at all... after Miss Brontė had left, I was surprised to see my father opening the front door with his hat on. He put his fingers to his lips, walked out into the darkness, and shut the door quietly behind him... long afterwards... Mrs. Procter asked me if I knew what had happened... It was one of the dullest evenings [Mrs Procter] had ever spent in her life... the ladies who had all come expecting so much delightful conversation, and the gloom and the constraint, and how finally, overwhelmed by the situation, my father had quietly left the room, left the house, and gone off to his club.”
In June 1854, Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate, and became pregnant soon thereafter. Her health declined rapidly during this time, and according to Gaskell, her earliest biographer, she was attacked by "sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness." Charlotte died, along with her unborn child, on 31 March 1855, at the young age of 38. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis (tuberculosis), but many biographers suggest she may have died from dehydration and malnourishment, caused by excessive vomiting from severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. There is also evidence to suggest that Charlotte died from typhus she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd, the Brontė household's oldest servant, who died shortly before her. Charlotte was interred in the family vault in The Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.
The Life of Charlotte Brontė, the posthumous biography of Charlotte Brontė by Gaskell, was the first of many biographies about Charlotte to be published. Though frank in places, Gaskell suppressed details of Charlotte's love for Heger, a married man, as being too much of an affront to contemporary morals and as a possible source of distress to Charlotte's still-living friends, father and husband (Lane 1853 178–183). Gaskell also provided doubtful and inaccurate information about Patrick Brontė, claiming, for example, that he did not allow his children to eat meat. This is refuted by one of Emily Brontė's diary papers, in which she describes the preparation of meat and potatoes for dinner at the parsonage, as Juliet Barker points out in her recent biography, The Brontės.
Posthumously, her first-written novel was published in 1857, the fragment she worked on in her last years in 1860 (twice completed by recent authors, the more famous version being Emma Brown: A Novel from the Unfinished Manuscript by Charlotte Brontė by Clare Boylan, 2003), and much Angria material over the ensuing decades.
File:Painting of Brontė sisters.png|Branwell Brontė, Painting of the 3 Brontė Sisters, l to r Anne, Emily and Charlotte Brontė. Branwell painted himself out of the painting of his three sisters.Image:CharlotteBronte.jpg|Charlotte Brontė, photograph, 1854Image:Charlotte Brontė.jpg|A postum idealized portrait by Duyckinick, 1873, based on a drawing by George RichmondImage:CharlotteBrontePortrait.jpg|Portrait by J. H. Thompson at the Bronte Parsonage Museum.
The Green Dwarf, A Tale of the Perfect Tense was written in 1833 under the pseudonym Lord Charles Albert Florian Wellesley. It shows the influence of Walter Scott, and Brontė's modifications to her earlier gothic style have led Christine Alexander to comment that, in the work, "it is clear that Brontė was becoming tired of the gothic mode per se".
Tales of Angria, written 1834
A collection of childhood and young adult writings including the short novels
Jane Eyre, published 1847
Shirley, published 1849
Villette, published 1853
The Professor, written before Jane Eyre, submitted at first along with Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, then separately, and rejected in either form by many publishing houses, published posthumously in 1857
Emma, unfinished; Charlotte Brontė wrote only 20 pages of the manuscript, published posthumously in 1860. In recent decades, at least two continuations of this fragment have appeared:
* Emma, by "Charlotte Brontė and Another Lady", published 1980; although this has been attributed to Elizabeth Goudge, the actual author was Constance Savery.