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Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë

1816 - 1855

Charlotte Brontë was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, in the north of England, in 1816, the third daughter of the Reverend Patrick Brontë and his wife Maria. She and her older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were joined by a brother Patrick Branwell in 1817, and sisters Emily and Anne, in 1818 and 1820 respectively.

In 1820, the Brontë family moved into the parsonage at Haworth in the moors. Charlotte's mother died of cancer the following year and her aunt, Elizabeth Branwell moved in with the family. In 1824, Charlotte joined Maria and Elizabeth at the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, Lancashire. Nine months later, Maria and Elizabeth became ill with consumption, left the school and died. Charlotte continued her education at home with her remaining siblings.

The children indulged in active imaginary play. In 1826, Mr. Brontë brought home a box of wooden soldiers for Branwell. The soldiers became characters in the fantasies Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Anne invented. The children began to write in great detail about an imaginary world which they called the Kingdom of Angria.

In 1831, Charlotte became a pupil at Miss Wooler's school at Roe Head, but she left school the following year to teach her sisters at home. She returned to Roe Head School in 1835 as a teacher, earning money for the family and enabling Branwell to study art.

In 1839, Charlotte accepted a position as governess with the Sidgewick family, but left after three months and returned to Haworth. In 1841, she became governess in the White family; that position ended after nine months.

In 1842 Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to study French and German at the Pensionnat Heger. When their aunt, Miss Branwell died, and each niece and nephew were left a small amount of money, the girls returned home. Charlotte went back to Brussels until 1844; she once again returned to Haworth.

Charlotte and her sisters decided to open their own school, but their advertisements did not elicit a single response.

In 1846 Charlotte decided to publish a selection of the poems of all three sisters. These were published under the pseudonyms of "Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell."

In 1847 Charlotte's Jane Eyre, Emily's Wuthering Heights, and Anne's Agnes Grey were all published, still under the "Bell" pseudonyms. Jane Eyre was an immediate success. In 1848 Charlotte and Anne visited their publishers in London, and revealed their true identities. That same year Branwell Brontë, now an alcoholic and a drug addict, died. Emily died in December of 1848, and Anne died the following summer.

In 1849, Charlotte visited London and began to move in literary circles. In 1850, she edited her sisters' various works and met Elizabeth Gaskell (who would later write The Life of Charlotte Brontë, published 1857). In 1851, Charlotte visited the Great Exhibition in London and attended a series of lectures given by Thackeray.

The Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls, curate of Haworth since 1845, proposed marriage to Charlotte in 1852. Mr. Brontë objected vigorously, and Charlotte declined. Nicholls left Haworth the following year. By 1854, Mr. Brontë's opposition to the proposed marriage had weakened, and Charlotte and Nicholls became engaged. Nicholls returned as curate at Haworth and they were married.

Charlotte was pregnant when she caught pneumonia and died on March 31, 1855 in Haworth, Yorkshire.

Works by Charlotte Brontë

1846Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell
1847Jane Eyre

Published posthumously
1857The Professor
Written 1846
1925The Twelve Adventurers and Other Stories
A collection of Charlotte's juvenilia
1931-38   Nineteen volumes of The Shakespeare Head Bronte -- the most complete edition of the works of Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell -- is published.
1932Legends of Angria
A collection of Charlotte Brontë's juvenilia
1971Five Novelettes
A collection of Charlotte Brontë's juvenilia

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