Charlotte Brontë’s Life
Charlotte Brontë lived most of her life as the dutiful daughter of an Irish clergyman and died as the attentive wife of her father’s Irish curate. Yet even from her earliest years this diminutive, short-sighted, desperately shy woman nourished a feverish creativity and ambition, and in the ten short years of her artistic maturity she created some of the century’s most potent heroines and rose to be acclaimed as the most distinguished female author of her time, the writer who, more than any other, ‘impressed her mark so clearly on contemporary literature’ and drew ‘so many followers to her peculiar path’.1 This apparent disjunction between the modesty of Charlotte Brontë’s life and person and the magnitude of her literary achievement is symptomatic of a life and character fraught with contradiction, division and ambivalence.
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- 1.Quoted in Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing (London, Virago, 1982), p. 106.Google Scholar
- 2.The Brontës: Their Lives, Friendships and Correspondence, eds T. J. Wise and J. A. Symington (Oxford, Shakespeare Head, 1934), II, p. 338. All further references appear in the text abbreviated as LL.Google Scholar
- 3.Maria Brontë is reported to have died of cancer. However gynaecologists have since speculated that she died of a disorder which stemmed from her rapid childbearing. See Phillip Rhodes, ‘A Medical Appraisal of the Brontës’, Brontë Society Transactions, 16, 2 (1971).Google Scholar
- 4.Quoted in Margot Peters Unquiet Soul: a Biography of Charlotte Brontë (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1975), p. 9.Google Scholar
- 5.Quoted in Tillie Olsen, Silences (New York, Delta, 1973), p. 233.Google Scholar
- 6.Fanny Ratchford and William de Vane (eds), Legends of Angria (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1933), p. 316.Google Scholar
- 7.Quoted in Elizabeth Gaskell The Life of Charlotte Brontë (London, Dent, 1971), p. 399.Google Scholar
- 9.John Maynard, Charlotte Brontë and Sexuality (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 218-24. Dr. Weiss also questions Rhodes’s definition of hyperemesis gravidarum as a psychosomatic illness.Google Scholar
- 13.Florence Nightingale ‘Cassandra’, Appendix 1, Ray Strachey The Cause: a Short History of the Women’s Movement in Great Britain (London, Bell, 1928), p. 396.Google Scholar