Charlotte, Emily & Anne Bronte Biography
Charlotte, Emily & Anne Bronte are among the most important novelists in English literature. To find a one brilliant writer in a family is rare. To find three is unique, what makes their story all the more remarkable is that their lives were so limited and so short.
Their father named, Patrick Bronte came from Ireland and was a church curate. He & his wife Maria had 6 children. After Maria’s death in 1821, they were looked after by her dedicated and intelligent sister Elizabeth. The children were born near Bradford, but they moved to parsonage in the village of Howarth in Yorkshire in 1820. This house perched on a hill, beside a large Cemetery and the wild countryside of West Riding was to be their home for rest of their lives. It would create an everlasting mark on their work & their reputations.
Howarth was a grim place with no sewage system. The drinking water in the local well was contaminated. This was because it filtered downhill through the underground contents of the cemetery. The people of the area scratched a living from the land or worked in the local mills. Food was in the short supply and many were malnourished. Most people ate little but porridge and potatoes.
Average life expectancy was about 25 years. Half of the children died before they were 6 months old. The parsonage with its outside toilet of a plank across a hole was one of the poshest homes in village. Bronte family was better off than most but still lived in very harsh conditions.
Charlotte and Emily along with their 2 older sisters were sent away to Cowen bridge. This was a school that educated the children of low ranking church officials. And the girl’s brother Branwell stayed at home to be educated by their father and aunt. Which was lucky for them because life at Cowen house was terrible. The treatment received by its pupils was brutal. The place was so filthy that outbreaks of disease were common. The two elder Bronte’ sisters caught tuberculosis. All four sisters were sent home.
Too late, however, both the elder girls died soon afterward. Tuberculosis would eventually have a hand in killing all the Bronte siblings. Although conditions at Howarth were tough. Life for the 3 remaining sisters & their brothers was filled with education, imagination, and conversation. They read each and everything they could get their hands on including newspapers & magazines.
Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Bramwell were so intense in their reading habits and note-taking that they could remember and discuss books their dread years before. They would make up stories together weaving detailed tales about Distan made-up kingdoms. Many of their imaginings would end up in little matchbox-sized notebooks filled with tiny handwriting and illustrations.
As they grew-up they had little contact with anyone outside their own small circle of friends and relatives. All their lives, Charlotte & Emily, in particular, could be painfully shy with people they did not know. Emily even had a habit of turning to face away from someone she didn’t want to talk to. However, she had a sharp temper like her father. He often carried the loaded gun around with him.
Life choices were limited for respectable young ladies. Only slightly less so than in Jane Austen’s time. The Bronte girls could either marry into a good family or become a schoolmistress or a governess. They certainly didn’t fancy marrying. So, they opted for a governess. Charlotte and Anne were governesses to various families. The sisters thought that they could put their learning to a good use by running their own school.
Charlotte & Emily went to Belgium for a while and taught some classes. However, they didn’t make a good impression on their peoples. They were mostly disliked. Another career considered inappropriate for ladies was writing. So, once Charlotte, Emily & Anne published the book of their poems in 1846. They used three male pen names. The book listed its authors as brothers Currer, Elis, and Acton Belle. It sold three copies, not exactly a best-seller. Bronte sisters did not mind too much. They never wrote for fame, they wrote because they love to write. They continued working on their prose, spending many hours privately discussing each aspect of their writing with one another.
Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey:
Charlotte’s novel “Jane Eyre”, Emily’s “Wuthering Heights” and Anne’s “Agnes Grey” all appeared in the late 1840s. All these were published using their pen names. Even the publishing companies didn’t know the truce at first. Charlotte and Dan went to London to the publishers of Jane Eyre. These three novels were vastly more popular than the poetry book.
Despite the success, none of the sisters managed to finish more than the couple of other books. Charlotte published two more novels during her lifetime Shirley and Villette. And wrote the tenant of Wildfell Hall and that was that rather Branwell died of alcoholism and TB in 1848. Tuberculosis took Emily a few months later age 30 and died aged 29 the following year. And Charlotte died in 1855 shortly before her 39th birthday.
After they were gone the sisters’ reputation carried on growing how earth became the tourist attraction. Their stories were typically Victorian filled with rags to riches elements but also daring original even shocking. In their turn, these books have encouraged generations of later writers, musicians, and artists.