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Charlotte Bront

Charlotte Bront 21 April 1816 31 March 1855) was an English novelist and
poet, the eldest of the three Bront sisters who survived into adulthood and
whose novels have become classics of English literature. She first published
her works (including her best known novel, Jane Eyre) under the pen name
Currer Bell.
Early life and education
Charlotte was born in Thornton, west of Bradford in the West Riding of
Yorkshire, in 1816, the third of the six children of Maria and Patrick Bront ,
an Irish Anglican clergyman. In 1820 her family moved a few miles to the
village of Haworth, where her father had been appointed perpetual curate of
St Michael and All Angels Church. Maria died of cancer on 15 September
1821, leaving five daughters, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily and Anne,
and a son, Branwell, to be taken care of by her sister, Elizabeth Branwell.
In August 1824 Patrick sent Charlotte, Emily, Maria and Elizabeth to the
Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire. Charlotte
maintained that the school's poor conditions permanently affected her health
and physical development, and hastened the deaths of Maria (born 1814) and
Elizabeth (born 1815), who both died of tuberculosis in June 1825. After the
deaths of her older sisters her father removed Charlotte and Emily from the
school.Charlotte used the school as the basis for Lowood School in Jane Eyre.
At home in Haworth Parsonage Charlotte acted as "the motherly friend and
guardian of her younger sisters".[3] She and her surviving siblings
Branwell, Emily and Anne created their own fictional worlds, and began
chronicling the lives and struggles of the inhabitants of their imaginary
kingdoms. Charlotte and Branwell wrote Byronic stories about their jointly
imagined country, Angria, and Emily and Anne wrote articles and poems
about Gondal. The sagas they created were episodic and elaborate, and they
exist in incomplete manuscripts, some of which have been published as
juvenilia. They provided them with an obsessive interest during childhood and
early adolescence, which prepared them for literary vocations in adulthood.
Between 1831 and 1832 Charlotte continued her education at Roe Head in
Mirfield, where she met her lifelong friends and correspondents Ellen Nussey
and Mary Taylor.[2] In 1833 she wrote a novella, The Green Dwarf, using the
name Wellesley. She returned to Roe Head as a teacher from 1835 to 1838.
In 1839 she took up the first of many positions as governess to families in

Yorkshire, a career she pursued until 1841. In particular, from May to July
1839 she was employed by the Sidgwick family at their summer residence,
Stone Gappe, in Lothersdale, where one of her charges was John Benson
Sidgwick (18351927), an unruly child who on one occasion threw a Bible at
Charlotte, an incident that may have been the inspiration for a part of the
opening chapter of Jane Eyre in which John Reed throws a book at the young
Jane.Charlotte was of slight build and was less than five feet tall.
Charlotte's first manuscript, The Professor, did not secure a publisher,
although she was heartened by an encouraging response from Smith, Elder &
Co. of Cornhill, who expressed an interest in any longer works Currer Bell
might wish to send.[9] Charlotte responded by finishing and sending a second
manuscript in August 1847. Six weeks later Jane Eyre: An Autobiography was
published. It tells the story of a plain governess, Jane, who, after difficulties in
her early life, falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester. They marry, but
only after Rochester's insane first wife, of whom Jane initially has no
knowledge, dies in a dramatic house fire. The book's style was innovative,
combining naturalism with gothic melodrama, and broke new ground in being
written from an intensely evoked first-person female perspective.[10]
Charlotte believed art was most convincing when based on personal
experience; in Jane Eyre she transformed the experience into a novel with
universal appeal.
Jane Eyre had immediate commercial success and initially received
favourable reviews. G. H. Lewes wrote that it was "an utterance from the
depths of a struggling, suffering, much-enduring spirit," and declared that it
consisted of "suspiria de profundis!" (sighs from the depths).[11] Speculation
about the identity and gender of the mysterious Currer Bell heightened with
the publication of Wuthering Heights by Ellis Bell (Emily) and Agnes Grey by
Acton Bell (Anne).[12] Accompanying the speculation was a change in the
critical reaction to Charlotte's work, as accusations were made that the
writing was "coarse",[13] a judgement more readily made once it was
suspected that Currer Bell was a woman.[14] However, sales of Jane Eyre
continued to be strong and may even have increased as a result of the novel
developing a reputation as an "improper" book.
In 1848 Charlotte began work on the manuscript of her second novel, Shirley.
It was only partially completed when the Bront family suffered the deaths of
three of its members within eight months. In September 1848 Branwell died
of chronic bronchitis and marasmus, exacerbated by heavy drinking, although
Charlotte believed that his death was due to tuberculosis. Branwell was also a
suspected "opium eater"; a laudanum addict. Emily became seriously ill
shortly after Branwell's funeral and died of pulmonary tuberculosis in
December 1848. Anne died of the same disease in May 1849. Charlotte was
unable to write at this time.

After Anne's death Charlotte resumed writing as a way of dealing with her
grief,and Shirley, which deals with themes of industrial unrest and the role of
women in society, was published in October 1849. Unlike Jane Eyre, which is
written in the first person, Shirley is written in the third person and lacks the
emotional immediacy of her first novel,[17] and reviewers found it less
shocking. Charlotte, as her late sister's heir, suppressed the republication of
Anne's second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, an action which had a
deleterious effect on Anne's popularity as a novelist and has remained
controversial amongst the sisters' biographers ever since.
Charlotte's third novel, the last published in her lifetime, was Villette, which
appeared in 1853. Its main themes include isolation, how such a condition
can be borne,[22] and the internal conflict brought about by social repression
of individual desire.[23] Its main character, Lucy Snowe, travels abroad to
teach in a boarding school in the fictional town of Villette, where she
encounters a culture and religion different from her own, and falls in love with
a man (Paul Emanuel) whom she cannot marry. Her experiences result in a
breakdown but eventually she achieves independence and fulfilment through
running her own school. A substantial amount of the novel's dialogue is in the
French language. Villette marked Charlotte's return to writing from a firstperson perspective (that of Lucy Snowe); the technique she had used in Jane
Eyre. Another similarity to Jane Eyre lies in the use of aspects of her own life
as inspiration for fictional events;[23] in particular her reworking of the time
she spent at the pensionnat in Brussels. Villette was acknowledged by critics
of the day as a potent and sophisticated piece of writing although it was
criticised for "coarseness" and for not being suitably "feminine" in its
portrayal of Lucy's desires
Before the publication of Villette Charlotte received a proposal of marriage
from Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate, who had long been in love with
her. She initially turned down his proposal and her father objected to the
union at least partly because of Nicholls's poor financial status.[25] Elizabeth
Gaskell, who believed that marriage provided "clear and defined duties" that
were beneficial for a woman,[25] encouraged Charlotte to consider the
positive aspects of such a union and tried to use her contacts to engineer an
improvement in Nicholls's finances.[25] Charlotte meanwhile was increasingly
attracted to Nicholls and by January 1854 she had accepted his proposal.
They gained the approval of her father by April and married in June.[26] Her
father Patrick had intended to give Charlotte away, but at the last minute
decided he could not, and Charlotte had to make her way to the church
without him.[27] The married couple took their honeymoon in Banagher,
County Offaly, Ireland.[28]

Charlotte became pregnant soon after her wedding, but her health declined
rapidly and, according to Gaskell, she was attacked by "sensations of
perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness."[29] She died, with her
unborn child, on 31 March 1855, aged 38, three weeks before her 39th
birthday. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis, but many
biographers[who?] suggest that she died from dehydration and
malnourishment due to vomiting caused by severe morning sickness or
hyperemesis gravidarum. There is also evidence that she died from typhus,
which she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd, the Bront household's
oldest servant, who died shortly before her.
The Professor, the first novel Charlotte had written, was published
posthumously in 1857.
The Life of Charlotte Bront
Elizabeth Gaskell's biography The Life of Charlotte Bront was published in
1857. It was an important step for a leading female novelist to write a
biography of another,[30] and Gaskell's approach was unusual in that, rather
than analysing her subject's achievements, she concentrated on private
details of Charlotte's life, emphasising those aspects that countered the
accusations of "coarseness" that had been levelled at her writing.
Hger letters
On 29 July 1913 The Times of London printed four letters Charlotte had
written to Constantin Hger after leaving Brussels in 1844.[34] Written in
French except for one postscript in English, the letters broke the prevailing
image of Charlotte as an angelic martyr to Christian and female duties that
had been constructed by many biographers, beginning with Gaskell.The
letters, which formed part of a larger and somewhat one-sided
correspondence in which Hger frequently appears not to have replied, reveal
that she had been in love with a married man, although they are complex and
have been interpreted in numerous ways, including as an example of literary
self-dramatisation and an expression of gratitude from a former pupil.