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The Life of Charlotte Brontë
was published in 1857, two years after its subject’s death. Gaskell’s Brontë was like Jane Eyre, a small, virtuous woman who had struggled against sorrow and hardship. Her painful experiences, rather than a morbid imagination, had shaped her work. Gaskell mentioned nothing about Charlotte’s love for Monsieur Heger, of which few Victorians would have approved.

Many people throughout Great Britain were curious about the minister’s daughters from Haworth who had written such powerful fiction, so they bought the book. Gaskell’s popular biography changed the public’s opinion of the Brontës. It became acceptable even for ladies to view the sisters in a sympathetic light. Tourists made pilgrimages to Haworth, to walk on its steep main street and see the scenes of the Brontës’ lives, as admirers still do today. Far-off fans wrote to Patrick Brontë to ask for samples of Charlotte’s handwriting. He obliged by cutting up many of her letters and mailing off the pieces.

Another book that came out in 1857 attracted less attention. Smith, Elder and Company at last published
The Professor,
the first book that Charlotte Brontë wrote and her only novel whose main character is male. In this book it is a young Englishman who becomes a teacher in a Belgian girls’ school. He falls in love with a student, a Swiss orphan with an English mother. Charlotte Brontë had written
The Professor
when she still had feelings for Constantin Heger. She gave this teacher and pupil the happy ending that life had denied her.

In the Haworth parsonage, life went quietly and sadly on. Patrick Brontë bought a dog, a Newfoundland-retriever mix named Cato, because his “Dear Daughter Charlotte”
had admired him. A year after Charlotte’s death, he wrote, “My grief is so deep
and lasting, that I cannot long dwell on my sad privation—I try to look to God, for consolation, and pray that he will give me grace, and strength equal to my day—and resignation to his will.”

Patrick Brontë died in his bed on June 7, 1861, with Martha Brown and Arthur Nicholls at his side. Five months later, Nicholls moved back to Ireland and became a gentleman farmer. He married again, and he lived until 1906.

 

The Reverend Patrick Brontë, photographed in old age, outlived all his children. He died in 1861, at age eighty-four. The merchants in Haworth closed their shops on the day of his funeral.

 

By then
Jane Eyre
was already considered a classic. Its story is timeless, but how people interpret it reflects the period in which they live. Today’s readers are more interested in psychology than in questions of right and wrong, so modern scholars have studied how
Jane Eyre
portrays the workings of the mind. The author Nina Auerbach, for example, has said that Thornfield Hall mirrors “Jane’s inner world,”
that it is the place where her deepest fears and desires are played out. The women’s movement has also shaped the modern understanding of
Jane Eyre.
To poet Adrienne Rich, Jane’s statement that her feelings are just like a man’s is “Charlotte Brontë’s feminist manifesto.”

The world has also acknowledged Emily Brontë’s great achievement in
Wuthering Heights.
Although Victorian readers tried to decide if Heathcliff was a demon or a man, today people view him symbolically. He may symbolize the untamed side of Catherine’s nature, which she tried to deny when she became an adult. Heathcliff has also been called an example of an archetype, or a character that reappears in literature throughout the ages. The archetype’s name and circumstances vary, but he or she always plays a similar role. To Professor Patricia Meyer Spacks, Heathcliff is the rebellious young male who refuses to obey society’s rules. “Give him a black leather jacket
and a motorcycle and he’d fit right into many a youthful dream even now,” she has written.

Contemporary readers also looked closely at Anne Brontë’s books, which were long overshadowed by her sisters’ more famous work. They have discovered a writer with real insight into human relationships, and some have said that Anne Brontë might have gone on to be the greatest novelist of the three if she had lived.

But such thoughts can only be speculation, because all three sisters died so young. “Strew with roses
the grave / Of the early-dying,” wrote Matthew Arnold. “Alas!”

Notes

One: “Oh God, My Poor Children!”

[>]
Patrick Brontë, “Where Sin abounds . . .” is from “Winter-Night Meditations,” in Turner, p. 40.

[>]
Maria Branwell Brontë, “Oh God, my poor children!” is quoted in Gordon, p. 8.

[>]
Patrick Brontë, “I was left quite alone” is quoted in “Patrick Brontë Chronology.”

[>]
“altogether clever of her age” and “read prettily” are quoted in Gordon, p. 15.

[>]
Wilson, “Sin, like a full-blown weed . . .” is from Wilson, p. 21.

[>]
Maria Brontë, “God waits only the separation . . .” is quoted in Gordon, pp. 16–17.

[>]
“graveyard cough” is from Dormandy, p. 22.

[>]
“Long, long, long ago . . .” is from “Christmas Dreams,” p. 1.

[>]
Wordsworth, “Nature never did betray . . .” is from “Tintern Abbey,” in Abrams, p. 1376

[>]
Byron, “mingle with the Universe . . .” is from “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” in Abrams, p. 1626.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Flowers brighter than the rose . . .” is quoted in Willy, p. 120.

[>]
Patrick Brontë, “very little about herself . . .” is quoted in Gordon, p. 11.

[>]
Anne Brontë, “I see, far back . . .” is from “Self-Communion,” in Chitham, p. 153.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “I am in the kitchen . . .” is from Beer, p. 181.

[>]
Emily Brontë, “Anne and I have been peeling apples . . .” is quoted in Rees, p. 33.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “I snatched one up . . .” is quoted in Alexander 1983, p. 27.

[>]
Branwell Brontë, “Crying, ‘I have done . . . ’” is quoted in Collins, p. xxix.

[>]
Emily Brontë, “Come, the wind may never again . . .” is from “D.G.C. to J.A.,” in Emily Brontë 1989, p. 17.

 

Two: “Bend Inclination to Duty”

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “When you are a little depressed . . .” is quoted in Gordon, p. 42.

[>]
Nussey, “She had ever the demeanour . . .” is quoted in Shorter 1908, vol. 1, p. 85.

[>]
Wooler, “Bend inclination to duty,” is quoted in Gordon, p. 39.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “a fine, generous soul . . .” is quoted in Gordon, p. 147.

[>]
Taylor, “things that were out of our range . . .” is from Stevens, p. 158.

[>]
Taylor, “She picked up every scrap . . .” is from Stevens, p. 163.

[>]
Nussey, “she chose in many things . . .” is quoted in Shorter 1908, vol. 1, p. 86.

[>]
Nussey, “all told in a voice . . .” is quoted in Shorter 1908, vol. 1, p. 88.

[>]
Nussey, “Branwell had probably never been far . . .” is quoted in Rees, p. 40.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “In one delightful, though somewhat monotonous . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 103.

[>]
,
[>]
Nussey, “inseparable companions,” “in the very closest sympathy . . .” and “lithesome, graceful figure” are from Wise, vol. 1, p. 112.

[>]
Nussey, “Sometimes they looked grey . . .” is quoted in Barker, p. 194.

[>]
Nussey, “One of her rare expressive looks . . .” is quoted in Gordon, p. 43.

[>]
Nussey, “had lovely violet-blue eyes . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 112.

[>]
Nussey, “strange stories . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 114.

[>]
Branwell Brontë, “I
know
that I am not one . . .” and “Now Sir, to you I appear . . .” are from Wise, vol. 1, p. 134.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Must I from day to day sit . . .” is quoted in Gordon, p. 52.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “dolts,” is quoted in Gordon, p. 49.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “quivering & shaking with stars,” is from Alexander 2010, p. 156.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “What in all this is there . . .” is quoted in Rees, p. 52.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “I could have been no better . . .” is from Wise, vol. 2, p. 117.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Liberty was the breath . . .” is from
The Works of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë,
vol. 8, pp. 148–49.

[>]
Anne Brontë, “This place of solitude . . .” is from Chitham, p. 60.

[>]
Southey, “Literature cannot be the business . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 155.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “I have endeavoured . . .” is quoted in Gordon, p. 65.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Am I to spend . . .” is quoted in Gordon, p. 67.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “I told her one or two rather plain truths . . .” and “If anybody likes me . . .” are quoted in Rees, pp. 61–62.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “There is a climax . . .” is from Charlotte Brontë,
The Professor, Emma and Poems,
p. 26.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “My health and spirits . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 166.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Mary is playing . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 167.

[>]
Patrick Brontë, “Should a flea . . .” is quoted in Lock and Dixon, p. 383.

[>]
Patrick Brontë, “A roasted onion . . .” is quoted in Lock and Dixon, p. 382.

 

Three: “What on Earth Is Half So Dear?”

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “I fear she will never stand it,” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 162.

[>]
“though she could not easily associate . . .” is quoted in Barker, p. 294.

[>]
Emily Brontë, “There is a spot . . .” is from Emily Brontë,
The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë,
p. 94.

[>]
,
[>]
“low in stature . . .” and “He was a very steady . . .” are quoted in Rees, p. 63.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “in a common-sense style . . .” and “Do I love him . . .” are from Wise, vol. 1, p. 174.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “You do not know me . . .” is from Shorter 1896, p. 295.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “I had a kindly leaning . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 174.

[>]
“the usual branches . . .” is quoted in Howe, p. 113.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “desperate little dunces,” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 175.

[>]
Ingham, “had once employed a very unsuitable governess . . .” is quoted in Whitehead, p. 84.

[>]
,
[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “More riotous, perverse, unmanageable cubs . . .” and “does not intend to know me” are from Wise, vol. 1, p. 178.

[>]
Ellis, “Gentlemen may employ their hours . . .” is from Ellis, p. 266.

[>]
“She may be known . . .” is quoted in Howe, p. 112.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “I am tolerably well convinced . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 206.

[>]
“owes its fame to its commerce” is from Smithers, p. 78.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “the idea of seeing the SEA . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 183.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Its glorious changes . . .” is from Shorter 1896, p. 299.

[>]
Nussey, “There never could have been . . .” is quoted in Gordon, p. 82.

[>]
,
[>]
Branwell Brontë, “farewell of old friend whisky” and “a native of the land . . .” are quoted in Barker, p. 320.

[>]
,
[>]
Branwell Brontë, “I take neither spirits, wine nor malt liquors . . .” and “two days out of every seven” are quoted in Barker, p. 322.

[>]
Patrick Brontë, “agreeable in person . . .” is from Turner, p. 258.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Miss Celia Amelia Weightman” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 201.

[>]
Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, “Believe us when we frankly say . . .” is from Barker, p. 325.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “sits opposite to Anne . . .” is quoted in Chitham, p. 15.

[>]
Grundy, “small and thin of person . . .” is from Grundy, p. 75.

 

Four: “Who Ever Rose . . . Without Ambition?”

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “No one but myself can tell . . .” is quoted in Barker, p. 351.

[>]
Emily Brontë, “A scheme is at present in agitation . . .” is from Shorter 1896, p. 147.

[>]
Anne Brontë, “what will be our condition . . .” is from Orel, p. 45.

[>]
Emily Brontë, “all merrily seated . . .” is from Shorter 1896, p. 147.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Papa will perhaps think it . . .” and “he was as ambitious . . .” are from Wise, vol. 1, p. 242.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “Before our half year . . .” is from Shorter 1896, p. 92.

[>]
Charlotte Brontë, “a little black ugly being . . .” is from Wise, vol. 1, p. 260.

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