1816 – 1855 A.D.
Miss Bronté is best known by her novel Jane Eyre. Some of the sufferings depicted in the book are records of her own experiences. The life of Miss Bronté is of deep and pathetic interest.
Her father was a poor English clergyman, eccentric and unlovely. Charlotte was born at Harishead, near Leeds, but the family subsequently moved to Haworth. the parsonage was “bleak and uncomfortable, a low oblong stone building standing at the top of the straggling village on a steep hill, without the shelter of a tree, with the churchyard pressing down on it on both sides, and behind, a long tract of wild moors.”
By the father’s direction of the children were fed on vegetable diet and clothed in coarse clothes to make them hardy and prevent their becoming proud. They were far from hardy; on the contrary, they were small, feeble, and stunted in growth. The mother died when they were all young, and the children were mostly left to themselves.
Four of the girls were sent away to school, Charlotte among them. The food was poor and insufficient and they were treated with inhuman severity. “Miss Scratchhard” in Jane Eyre is a reproduction of the manager of the school. A fever broke out and the girls returned home, but two of them died as a result of the treatment and the sickness contracted at the school.
When nineteen years of age, Charlotte became a teacher, but owing to poor health she was obliged to give it up. She next took a situation as a governess, but the people treated her harshly and this was abandoned.
She determined to establish a private school with her sisters Emily and Anne. Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to fit themselves. At the end of six months they were employed in the school they were attending, but at a pitifully small salary.
On their return they attempted to gather pupils, but none came. They next tried literary work; in fact, they had written much from childhood up. They issued a volume of poems but it met with little success. Their next venture was in prose tales. The productions were, The Professor, by Charlotte; Wuthering heights by Emily; and Agnes Grey, by Anne. Each wrote under an assumed name. While those of Emily and Anne were accepted, Charlotte’s was everywhere rejected and was not published until after her death.
In the face of all this failure and discouragement, Charlotte proceeded to write Jane Eyre. It met with immediate and immense success. Few works of an unknown author have been received with such sudden and general acclamation. It was translated into most of the languages of Europe, and was put on the stage in England and Germany under the title of The Orphan of Lowood. She next wrote Shirley, but it was much inferior to Jane Eyre. Her third novel was Villette, which is a picture of life as she saw it in Brussels. This proved exceedingly popular. It proceeded slowly to completion as the result of long interruptions from failing health.
Her works became a passport to the highest literary circles of London and the continent, and she met most of the prominent writers of the time. But she was of a retiring and sensitive disposition, largely the result of pain and she returned to her home.
Rev. Arthur Nicholls, who was her father’s curate, desired to marry her, but the father objected. She was now past thirty-four years of age, and Mr. Nicholls resigned. In the year following the father changed his mind and they were married.
For less than one year she knew the happiness of a true home life, though they lived in the bleak parsonage. But her health, like that of her sisters, had been poor for many years and she soon followed them. Early hardships had left a physical blight on each of them. Her death occurred March 31, 1855.
After her death her rejected tale, The Professor, was published. She had what Goethe calls the true secret of poetic genius.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.