|Charlotte Brontë was
born at Thornton, in Yorkshire, England, the third of six children, to
Patrick Brontë, an Irish Anglican clergyman, and his wife, Maria Branwell.
In April 1820 the family moved to Haworth, where Patrick had been appointed
Perpetual Curate. Maria Branwell Brontë died of cancer on 15 September
1821, leaving five daughters and a son to the care of her sister Elizabeth
Branwell. In August 1824, Charlotte was sent with three of her sisters
to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire (which she
would describe as Lowood School in Jane Eyre). Its poor conditions, Charlotte
maintained, permanently affected her health and physical development, and
hastened the deaths of her two elder sisters, Maria (born 1814) and Elizabeth
(born 1815), who died of tuberculosis in 1825 soon after they were removed
from the school.
Charlotte continued her education
at Roe Head school in Mirfield from 1831 to 1832, where she met her lifelong
friends and correspondents, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. Charlotte returned
as a teacher from 1835 to 1838. In 1839 she took up the first of many positions
as governess to various families in Yorkshire, a career she pursued until
1841. In 1842 she and Emily travelled to Brussels to enroll in a pensionnat
run by Constantin Heger (1809 - 1896) and his wife Claire Zoë Parent
Heger (1804 - 1890). In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught
English and Emily taught music. Their time at the pensionnat was cut short
when Elizabeth Branwell, their aunt who joined the family after the death
of their mother to look after the children, died of internal obstruction
in October 1842. Charlotte returned alone to Brussels in January 1843 to
take up a teaching post at the pensionnat. Her second stay at the pensionnat
was not a happy one; she became lonely, homesick, and deeply attached to
Constantin Heger. She finally returned to Haworth in January 1844 and later
used her time at the pensionnat as the inspiration for some of The Professor
In May 1846, Charlotte, Emily,
and Anne published a joint collection of poetry under the assumed names
of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Although the book failed to attract interest
(only two copies were sold) the sisters decided to continue writing for
publication and began work on their first novels. Charlotte continued to
use the name 'Currer Bell' when she published her first two novels.
Her novels are:
Eyre, published 1847
Professor, published posthumously1857
Her novel The Professor was
written before Jane Eyre and rejected by many publishing houses and was
published posthumously in 1857.
Her novels were deemed coarse
by the critics. Much speculation took place as to who Currer Bell really
was, and whether Bell was a man or a woman.
Charlotte's brother, Branwell,
the only son of the family, died of chronic bronchitis and marasmus exacerbated
by heavy drinking, in September 1848, although Charlotte believed his death
was due to tuberculosis. Emily and Anne both died of pulmonary tuberculosis
in December 1848 and May 1849, respectively.
Charlotte and her father
were now left alone. In view of the enormous success of Jane Eyre, she
was persuaded by her publisher to visit London occasionally, where she
revealed her true identity and began to move in a more exalted social circle,
becoming friends with Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Makepeace
Thackeray and G. H. Lewes. However, she never left Haworth for more than
a few weeks at a time as she did not want to leave her aging father's side.
In June 1854, Charlotte married
Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate. She died nine months later during
her first pregnancy. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as
phthisis (tuberculosis), but there is a school of thought that suggests
she may have died from her excessive vomiting caused by severe morning
sickness in the early stages of pregnancy. There is also evidence to suggest
that Charlotte died from typhus she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd,
the Bronte household's oldest servant, who died shortly before her. Charlotte
was interred in the family vault in The Church of St. Michael and All Angels,
Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.