It’s Charlotte Bronte‘s 200th birthday today.
Charlotte Bronte was born in Thornton in Yorkshire, England on 21st April 1816, one of six children of the Rev. Patrick Bronte and his wife Maria. In 1820 the family moved a short distance to Haworth where Charlotte lived until her death in 1855 aged 38. The parsonage at Haworth is a very popular tourist destination for those who love the works of Charlotte and her sisters Anne and Emily.
As most of you will know, Charlotte, Anne and Emily paid to have a collection of their poetry published under the male names of Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell. Charlotte wrote: “Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called “feminine” – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise.”
Only two copies of the poetry collection were sold but, undaunted, the sisters continued writing and used their noms de plume when sending manuscripts to potential publishers. Although The Professor was written earlier, Charlotte Bronte’s first novel, Jane Eyre, was published in 1847
Charlotte drew on her experiences at boarding school in England and as a teacher in Brussels for her works Jane Eyre, The Professor and Vilette. She also wrote Shirley which made the name a popular girl’s name (it had previously been considered a male name).
In June 1854 Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father’s curate. It was not too long before Charlotte became pregnant but, possibly because of dehydration and malnourishment caused by severe morning sickness, she and her unborn baby died on 31 March 1855.