Top 10 Facts about Charlotte Brontë


 

Give me a classic female writer any day and I’ll be a happy girl. Charlotte Brontë is one of those authors. Jane Eyre is one of my personal favorites and it just happens to be Brontë’s masterpiece. And, did you know that she came from a family of female writers?!

If I’ve piqued your interest, keep reading for my favorite top 10 facts about Charlotte Brontë!

1. Charlotte Brontë was born in 1816 in Thornton, England

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Portrait of Charlotte Brontë by George Richmond – WikiCommons

Many assume that Brontë was born in Haworth in West Yorkshire, as she and her family spent most of her life there. But, in fact, Brontë was born on April 21, 1918, in Thornton, Bradford (also in West Yorkshire), which is about 6 miles away from Haworth. Brontë would live in Thornton for 4 years as her father was the resident village priest.

If you’d like to visit Haworth, I definitely recommend that you make a stop at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, which is a treasure trove of Brontë artifacts, and also happens to be where Brontë spent most of her life!

2. Charlotte Brontë had five brothers and sisters

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Statue of the Brontë sisters at the Brontë Parsonage Museum by Philip Halling – geograph.org.uk

If you already know a little bit about Brontë, you know that she had two very talented writer sisters: Anne, author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Emily, author of Wuthering Heights. Many critics and scholars call the Brontë sisters the greatest writing family of all time. But, the Brontë family was once made up of six children: Charlotte, Anne, Emily, Maria, Elizabeth, and Branwell.

Maria and Elizabeth were older than Charlotte, and they tragically died within six weeks of each other from tuberculosis in 1825. The girls caught the sickness at the Cowan Bridge School, a place known for its harsh conditions. Charlotte would eventually attend the same school, but it luckily wouldn’t kill her.

Branwell Brontë was an artist, but he, unfortunately, had issues with drugs and alcohol and would die at the age of 31.

3. Charlotte Brontë was sent away for school – twice

I’ve already mentioned that Brontë attended the same school as her older sisters, the Cowan Bridge School. The school had a bad reputation and Brontë didn’t enjoy her time there. Her experience marked her so much that in her novel Jane Eyre, she recreated a version of the place which she went on to condemn.

Five years later, when she was 15 years old, she was sent to school again. This time, she was able to really enjoy herself. At Miss Wooler’s school at Roe Head, she made friends as well as learned. She returned home the next year to begin teaching her own sisters, before returning to Roe Head again, this time as a teacher.

4. Charlotte Brontë was a teacher at heart

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A plaque in honor of Brontë in Roe Head by Spudgun67 – WikiCommons

Brontë taught her younger siblings years before she became a teacher herself. When she returned to Roe Head in 1835, Brontë was excited and ready for her new pupils. While she enjoyed teaching, she missed her family and home environment. She left her teaching job three years later, but it wouldn’t be the last time she taught!

Along with her sisters, Brontë wanted to open a school of her own. All of those terrible memories of the Cowan Bridge School had inspired her to create a place where students looked forward to going instead of dreading it. She would need to improve her language skills, however, which leads me to my next fact.

5. Charlotte Brontë spent time in Brussels

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A plaque honoring Charlotte and Emily Brontë in Brussels by Tim Lambrechts – WikiCommons

In 1842, Brontë and her sister Emily went to Brussels to brush up on their French as well as learn German. They were quickly noticed by a teacher named Constantin Héger for their gifts. The sisters went back to English briefly after learning of a family member’s death, and Charlotte returned to Brussels on her own.

She stayed there for all of 1843, but she quickly became lonely and depressed without her sister and her other friends who have left. She was close with Héger, but he was married and his wife was jealous of his relationship with Brontë. When she did eventually leave Brussels, she started writing long letters to the teacher. When he accused her of having feelings for him, she quickly cut off all ties. Many scholars say that this experience served as inspiration for her later writings!

6. Charlotte Brontë and her sisters wrote under pseudonyms

Like most female writers at the time, Brontë and her sisters weren’t respected because they were women. To overcome this prejudice, they created pen names for themselves: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Each sister kept her initials but was able to reap the benefits of publishing under a man’s name.

It was only after their death that their true identities were revealed to the British public.

7. Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, Jane Eyre, was published under her pseudonym

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Title page of the first edition of Jane Eyre with Brontë’s pseudonym – WikiCommons

Brontë had already attempted to get the first novel she ever wrote, The Professor published in the mid-1840s (under her pseudonym, of course), but her publisher complained that it was long or exciting enough. At this time, she already had started to write Jane Eyre, and so she put her head down, completed it, and sent it off in 1847.

Jane Eyre was published six weeks later under the name Currer Bell. It was an immediate success, even though at one point some critics began to suspect that it was written by a woman and therefore “coarse.” The rumors eventually died down because the novel was so widely loved.

8. Charlotte Brontë wrote four novels in total

Jane Eyre, published in 1847, is Brontë’s most famous novel and it tells the story of the title character, a girl named Jane who lives in Northern England. The novel follows her from girlhood into adulthood, and it includes commentary on the social climate in England at the time. There are many sections that are autobiographical.

Shirley was published in 1849 and is one of the least known works from the Brontë sisters. It is a social novel and many readers find it difficult.

Villette, published in 1853, tells the story of a woman named Lucy who travels from England to a French-speaking city called Villette.

The Professor was written before Jane Eyre but was published posthumously in 1857. It was originally submitted at the same time as Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë but was rejected.

9. Charlotte Brontë lost her remaining siblings within a few months

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Portrait by J. H. Thompson at the Brontë Parsonage Museum – WikiCommons

Brontë was no stranger to tragedy. She had already lost her two older sisters as well as her mother, who died of cancer when she was only 5 years old. Then, in September 1848, after years of abusing alcohol and drugs, her brother Branwell died. A few months later, in December 1849, Emily died from tuberculosis. In May 1849, the same disease took her other sister, Anne.

In the midst of these dark times, Brontë was understandably unable to write, but after Anne’s death, she decided to deal with her sorrows with her pen. She wrote and published Shirley that same year.

10. Charlotte Brontë died before she was 39 years old

Brontë eventually married in 1854 after turning down several different suitors over the years. Her husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls was the curate in her father’s parish and had apparently been in love with her for years.

Brontë would not be able to enjoy marital bliss for long, as she died just under a year after she was married. She was pregnant and suffered from extreme morning sickness which led to dehydration. Tragically, her unborn child died as well.

Conclusion

I hope that all of you book lovers enjoyed reading more about Charlotte Brontë, one of England’s more impressive novelists!

If you’re in London and you want to learn more about famous British figures, click here to check out all of our walking tour options. Our local guides are history buffs and are sure to be able to answer any lingering questions you may have about the Brontë sisters!