Charlotte Brontë (1816-was the oldest of the Brontë sisters (Emily and Anne were famous writers too) and author of Jane Eyre, Villette, Shirley and other novels. She is well regarded for creating strong, passionate, morally courageous heroines almost unknown to earlier English literature. She wrote under the pen name Currer Bell.
Charlotte was born in Yorkshire County, England. She had two elder sisters that died in childhood, as well as her younger sisters Emily and Anne, and a younger brother Patrick Branwell (“Branwell”).
Charlotte spent time as both a teacher and a governess to obtain financial independence. In 1842, Charlotte and Emily traveled to Brussels, Belgium to enroll in boarding school. Charlotte taught English in return for tuition, room and board. her experience in Brussels contributed greatly to her novels The Professor and Villette.
Charlotte ultimately returned to England in 1844.
The Brontë sisters achieved their first published work together, in a join collection of poetry under the pen names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. The pen names disguised their gender so that they would be taken more seriously during a time when women writers were rare.
Charlotte next published her most famous novel, Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre was a commercial and critical success, though some criticized her writing for the “coarseness” of the emotional portrayal of a feminine heroine. During her writing of her next novel, Shirley, both of Charlotte’s sisters and her brother fell ill and died.
Charlotte’s third novel, Villette was published in 1853. It was critically received well, although it was also criticized for the “unsuitable” desire and conduct of its feminine heroine.
Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854. She became pregnant and her health deteriorated soon after. The cause of her death is open to speculation. Though her death certificate cites tuberculosis, some biographers have speculated that she may have died from dehydration and malnutrition associated with morning sickness. Charlotte died in 1855 at the age of 38.
Her first novel, The Professor, was published posthumously. Another, Emma Brown, has been completed by Clare Boylan in 2003 from a partial manuscript.
Charlotte Brontë is ultimately remembered for the very thing her critics found shocking: Her strong, emotional, morally courageous heroines struggling to find their place in male-dominated society.