Brontė, Charlotte

WRITER (IRELAND)
BORN 21 Apr 1816, Thornton, West Yorkshire - DIED 31 Mar 1855, Haworth, West Yorkshire
GRAVE LOCATION Haworth, West Yorkshire: St. Michael and All Angels' Church

Charlotte Brontė was the oldest and the last surviving of the three writing sisters. She was the daughter of Patrick Brontė, a clergyman who became perpetual curate in Haworth in 1820. Her pen name was Currer Bell.

Charlotte was educated at Roe Head in Mirfield, where she met Ellen Nussey, who became her lifelong friend. Between 1835 and 1838 she worked as a teacher at Roe Head. From 1839 to 1841 she held positions as a governess in Yorkshire.

In 1842 she went to Brussels with Emily where she attended the boarding school that was run by Constantin Héger (1809-1896) and his wife Claire Zoé Parent-Héger. They wanted to improve their language skills to be able to start their own school and Charlotte taught English in return. When their aunt Elizabeth died in 1842 the girls had to return home. In 1843 Charlotte returned to Brussels alone to become a teacher at the school but she was homesick and developed a hopeless love for Héger. In 1844 she returned to Haworth.

In 1846 the three sisters Anne, Emily and Charlotte published a volume of poetry. Allthough hardly any copies were sold they decided to write novels for publication. Charlotte's "The Professor" wasn't accepted by any publisher it was sent to, but they showed interest in further novels. She wrote "Jane Eyre" and this book was accepted and published in 1847. It was a dramatic story about a governess who fell in love with her employer and contained autobiographical elements.

She started working on another novel, "Shirley", but she interrupted her writing when Emily died in 1848 and Anne died in 1849. She and Ellen Nussey had travelled to Scarborough with the very ill Anne for better air and because Anne had fond memories of Scarborough. Anne died a fews days after their arrival and they buried her there. She finished Shirley and it was published in October 1849.

She revealed her identity to her publisher and made friends with Elizabeth Gaskell and Harriet Martineau. She also met Thackeray and G.H. Lewes. Everbody was curious about this mysterious author but it turned out she was very quiet and shy. In Manchester she even hind behind the curtains of Elizabeth Gaskell when Elizabeth received another visitor during one of Charlotte's three visits.

In 1853 "Vilette" was published. Her father's curate Arthur Bell Nichols had proposed to her but she had turned him down. Elizabeth Gaskell advised her to marry him. Charlotte warmed towards Nichols and accepted him after all. Her father overcame his initial hesitation as well and they were married in June, 1854. Allthough she appeared as a witness, it seems Ellen Nussey was disappointed about the marriage. This has led to speculation in later years that she and Charlotte might have been lovers but there is no evidence for this and probably Ellen had expected that they both would remain spinsters and feared that Charlotte have less time for her.

After her wedding Charlotte became pregnant but she also suffered from health problems. On 31 March 1855 she died with her unborn child. Her official cause of death was tuberculosis, but she might have died from typhus, the cause of death of the Brontė's servant Tabitha Ackroyd who died shortly before her. Charlotte was buried at the church in Haworth next to the parsonage.

In 1857 her first novel "The Professor" was published posthumously. During the same year Elizabeth Gaskell published "The Life of Charlotte Brontė". Patrick Brontė had asked her to write his daughter's biography and she focussed more on private details than on Charlotte's authorship. But she kept silent about Charlotte's love for Héger.

In 1913 The Times published several letters she had sent to Héger that made it clear that she had been in love with him. It is assumed that Héger had tore them up buth his wife had saved them from the dustbin and sewn them carefully together. In later years his son bequeathed them to the British Museum and Charlotte's love for Héger finally became public knowledge.

Related persons
• is brother/sister of Brontė, Anne
• is brother/sister of Brontė, Emily
• was written about by Gaskell, Elizabeth
• met Lewes, George Henry
• met Martineau, Harriet
• met Thackeray, William Makepeace

Events
1850/6/12: Dinner Party for Charlotte Brontė at the home of William Makepeace Thackeray
Thackeray was exited to meet 'Jane Eyre herself'. He had also invited the author Mrs Crowe and Mrs Anne Procter. His friend Jane Brookfield was also present. Charlotte came with her publisher George Smith. Thackeray foolishly adressed her as Currer Bell but she immediately responded that she saw no connection between herself and the author Currer Bell. Charlotte was far too shy for brilliant conversation and the dinner was a bit of a disappointment for those who were present.
1854/6/0: Charlotte Brontė marries her father's assistant Arthur Nicholls

Sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Bront%C3%AB
The Hegers

Images

Memorial plaque for the Brontė sisters in Westminster Abbey, Londen.
Picture by Androom (27 Mar 1996)

 

The Brontė Family vault at the St. Michael and All Angels' Church, Haworth.
Picture by Androom (17 Aug 2015)

 

Memorial tablet for Emily Brontė and Charlotte Brontė at the St. Michael and All Angels' Church, Haworth.
Picture by Androom (17 Aug 2015)

 

Charlotte Brontė taught at the school opened by Patrick Brontė in Haworth.
Picture by Androom (17 Aug 2015)

 

Charlotte Brontė taught at the school opened by Patrick Brontė in Haworth.
Picture by Androom (17 Aug 2015)

 


Brontė, Emily

Published: 6 Sep 2015
Last update: 14 Jan 2017