Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855). The author of three novels, she is best known for her first book, Jane Eyre (1847). Jane’s story is, in many ways, autobiographical, based on Brontë’s experiences at school and her later work as a teacher and governess. Brontë was born in Yorkshire, in the town of Haworth. Her father was a clergyman, originally from Ireland; her mother died in 1821, when Charlotte was only 5. There were six children in the family, but only four survived to adulthood. Brontë sought literary fame much more eagerly than her sisters Emily and Anne. All three of the sisters published their works under ambiguous pseudonyms, inadvertently sparking debate about their real identities. Reviewers and readers were especially eager to know if they were male or female—the pseudonyms had left this unclear—with one reviewer arguing that Jane Eyre would be praiseworthy if the work of a man but “odious” if that of a woman. The great success of the novel was almost immediately followed by unimaginable tragedy, as Charlotte suffered the loss of all three of her siblings (Emily, Anne, and brother Branwell) within a period of about nine months. She married her father’s curate in 1854. Weakened by illnesses brought on by pregnancy, she died of tuberculosis less than a year later. During her lifetime, she also published Shirley (1849), a historical novel about the industrial revolution, and Villette (1853), a work based on her experiences (and her passionate love for her teacher) in Brussels.
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]