Charlotte Bronte is perhaps most famous for her book Jane Eyre. She was the author of a few other books along with a collection of poems written with her sisters. Charlotte grew up in the 1800’s and it could be said that she had a difficult if not tragic life. Her father was rumored to be a violent man, her brother was an alcoholic and drug addict, her mother died when she was young followed by her sisters and an aunt later in life.
Charlotte was the third child born to Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell. She was born in 1816 and was followed by a brother Patrick in 1817, a sister Emily 1818, and a sister Anne in 1820. Her two older sisters Maria born in 1814 and Elizabeth born in 1815 both died of tuberculosis in 1825. Charlotte’s mother had passed away in 1821 from Cancer. Her mother’s sister Elizabeth, Aunt Branwell moved into the family home and helped with the Bronte siblings.
Charlotte was first sent to Clergy Daughter’s School at Cowan Bridge with her sisters. Charlotte states that the school’s poor conditions permanently affected her health and physical development and led to the death of her two older sisters from tuberculosis. Charlotte and her younger three sisters were taken back to their family home Haworth Parsonage after the death of her two sisters.
Charlotte continued her education at Roe Head School, where she also became a teacher for a time. She was also a governess to families in Yorkshire. In 1842 Charlotte traveled to Brussels with her sisters to attend Pensionnat Heger. Here they were taught by Constantin Heger and his wife Claire. The sisters studied literature and hoped to open their own school someday. Death struck Charlotte again when later in October of that same year her Aunt Branwell passed away. The Bronte sisters traveled back to Haworth with only Charlotte returning back to Brussels in early 1843. It is rumored that Charlotte was deeply in love with Constantin even though he was married and that this period of her life inspired her novels Villete and The Professor. She left the Pensionnat for good in 1844 returning once again to her family home Haworth. She opened her own school with her sisters but this was unsuccessful.
Charlotte looked at her literary career as a way towards financial independence and to help support her sisters. Her first published work however was a collection of poetry that she wrote with her sisters and was published under pseudonyms. Only two copies were sold but the sisters still pursued writing. In 1847 the literary works of Charlotte, Emily and Ann were published under their pseudonyms. The books are now the contemporary classics of Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily) and Agnes Grey (Ann). In 1848, a year after seeing their books published the sisters revealed that they were the true writers of the books.
Death struck the family once again in 1848 taking their brother Patrick who had become an alcoholic and addicted to opium. Emily died shortly after this followed a year later by Ann. These deaths left Charlotte alone with her father. Charlotte began moving in literary circles but never left her aging father alone for too long. During this time she met William Thackeray and Elizabeth Gaskell who would later write her biography.
She married Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854, the curator of her family estate of Haworth. She admired Nicholls but many say she did not love him and that even her father had at first forbidden her to marry him. She became pregnant shortly after the wedding but her health declined quickly. Charlotte died while pregnant in 1855 at the age of 38. Her biography was published in 1857.
Her short life produced the works of Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villete and The Professor which was published after her death. She accomplished so much for her era where a woman was thought to only be good in the home. Her stories along with that of her sister’s are thought of as the standard of English literature.