The Life of Charlotte

On the 21st o April, 1816, a miracle was born. Miracles seldom have adequate names, so the gods decided to call this one, ‘Charlotte Brontë’. It was a fitting name, for that was also her birth name.

Her father was an Irish Anglican Clergyman, and so her family was reasonably well-off; they’d have had to be, they had six children.

In 1820, Charlotte was four years old when she moved to Hawworth-  the inspiration of many of her stories and later writings, perhaps this was what was to blame for her Romantic obsession with nature- I mean, have you seen 17th century Yorkshire? As long as you look past all the plague and death and contaminated drinking water flowing through the overcrowded cemetery, it’s a beautiful place!

Then, in the midst of this natural beauty, BAM! DEATH! 1821- Charlotte’s mother dies of cancer, and the children start being looked after by their aunt, about whom all the sisters would write most scathingly later. Never piss off writers. They will always get you back. (I’m looking at you, Nick from High School. Look at how SUCCESSFULL I AM NAOW AND ISDKUFHD!!)

the-tropes-of-the-brontes

*Cough* Anyway, by 1824 their aunt had evidently gotten sick enough of the six Brontë children, and so they were sent to a Clergy Daughter’s School- each sister would reference this in the writings of their later life, as well. Well, apart from Maria and Elizabeth Brontë. They died. In fact, TB killed a large percentage of the girls at the school- Charlotte herself maintained that the malnourishment and neglect of that school was to blame for her later small stature and sickly nature. After the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth, Charlotte was the oldest living Brontë child. Due to these deaths, in fact, their father pulled the children back into living at home, away from the terrors of public school, which was somehow worse then than it is now- I know, right?

Life was quiet for Charlotte ad her siblings for a while- together they lived and wrote around a fantasy world of Byronic heroes and dramatic damsels, which became the prototype for Rochester and many of Charlotte’s later writings.

Eventually, in 1831/1832 she went to Roehead school. In 1833 she wrote and published her first novel, ‘The Green Dwarf’, under the pen name ‘Florian Wellesley’. Women writers weren’t often well-received; Charlotte ad her sisters often used male pen names, until their writing became too popular for their identities to be properly concealed.

When she was finished being a badass at getting an education, Charlotte taught at Roehead for three years, from 1835 to 1838. Then she decided this was too boring for her, so (much like Jane Eyre) she became a governess from 1839-1841, and finally enrolled in a Brussels boarding school in 1842. Was she happy here? Meh. She hadn’t published a book in much too long!

the-red-room-theories

So, like a strong independent boss-ass-bitch she was, Charlotte financed the publication of her own book of poems, which was published soon after she started at this Brussels boarding school. Still, even that wasn’t enough. She wanted to write, not stagnate.

So, in 1847/1948, Jane Eyre was published- you might have heard of it. It’s a helluva long book, based heavily on Brontë’s own experiences in life. It’s also deeply rooted in the Romantic, Byronic, Gothic, and nationalistic undertones and overtones of her life- damn good reading! If you’re into that, I guess… *cough that echoes around the room in the silence*

Here’s just a few things you should know about Jane Eyre though:

  • It was one of the first novels ever written in the first person perspective of a woma (‘womehn has thougth?! Dat umpossible!’- Some Victorian asshole, probably.)
  • Jane Eyre was actually very commercially popular! It dealt with some pretty controversial themes, like being a woman. And being a smart woman. And Not being pretty, just being smart. But being a woman at the same time. Wild shit, right?
  • When it came out that Charlotte was in fact the owner of a vagina and breasticles, it suddenly became okay for the book to be labelled as, ‘coarse’ or ‘improper’- this in no way impeded it’s flying off the shelves.

However, Soon Charlotte was to learn that being an amazing writer doesn’t rescue you from death, no matter how popular your books are.

In 1848, her remaining siblings all died within 8 months of each other. It was just Charlotte and her elderly, sickly father, now.She barely left his side at Haworth, aside from the odd cheeky trip to London to socialise and publicise her novels. Her later works constantly criticised Victorian standards and how ultimately these lead to the isolation of the individual, rather than the benefit of the community itself.

She herself was still quite social, even attracting a husband- Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father’s curate. She was fond of him and he had been in love with her for some years. He had a poor financial status, however Charlotte’s friend and fellow poet Elizabeth Gaskell approved of the match to such an extent that she helped Nicholls to achieve a better financial situation, and to convince Charlotte and her father that marriage would be of great benefit to Charlotte.

Great benefit, indeed! Charlotte was dead three weeks after her 39th birthday, not long after marrying Nicholls, of unknown causes- one popular theory is that the morning sickness of her pregnancy dehydrated her to such an extent that she was left vulnerable to death. Another is that she contracted the deadly TB that had ravaged her family so terribly before.

Regardless of the manner of her death, Charlotte Brontë’s amazing legacy and writings survive her, and will continue to do so, no matter how much we complain about the characters of Jane Eyre the social importance of this book cannot be understated. Without Jane there would be no Hermione and no Katniss, what would be the point of reading?

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