Jane Eyre

By The Bronte Sisters


Charlotte Bronte (1816 - 55) was the third of five daughters born to Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell. Patrick a Church of England clergyman, and was made Rector of Haworth in Yorkshire in 1820. Charlotte's mother and Aunt Elizabeth were Methodist. Maria died in 1821 and the children were subsequently cared for by their aunt.

At first educated at home, Charlotte was later sent to a boarding school for clergymen's daughters at Cowan Bridge with her two elder sisters Maria and Elizabeth, and Emily. Maria and Elizabeth died of tuberculosis there in 1825, conditions at the school probably to blame. The school is thought to be the model for Lowood in Jane Eyre. Charlotte and Emily were taken home, and remained there for several years. The family read voraciously and the children invented the imaginary worlds Gondal and Angria.

In 1831 Charlotte went to Miss Wooler's school at Roe Head. She became an assistant teacher in 1835, but disliking the work, she became a governess. With a view to eventually running their own school, Charlotte and Emily went to study languages in Brussels in 1842. They returned due to their aunt becoming ill, but in 1843 Charlotte returned. Letters reveal she had fallen in love with her tutor Monsieur Heger.

In 1844 Charlotte returned to look after her blind father. Discovering in 1845 that Emily had written poetry, she organized a publication of the sisters' work in 1846 under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton. The poetry was not received well and Charlotte's first novel, The Professor (begun in 1846) was unable to find a publisher. However, the publication of Jane Eyre in 1847 was an enormous hit.

In 1848 Emily and Branwell died, followed by the death of Anne in 1849. Charlotte continued to write, publishing Shirley, a novel set during the Luddite riots at the end of the Napoleonic period. Villette was published in 1853, and Charlotte was eventually able to get The Professor published in 1857. Later in her life she ventured out to London, mixing with the literary figures of the day. It was here that she met Thackeray, to whom she had dedicated Jane Eyre, G. H. Lewes, Harriet Martineau, and her future biographer Elizabeth Gaskell. She was highly respected and admired for her work.

She married her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, in 1854, having received three proposals of marriage during her life. She died during pregnancy not long after, in March 1855.