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Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855), English writer noted for her novel Jane Eyre (1847), sister of Anne Bronte and Emily Bronte. The three sisters are almost as famous for their short, tragic lives as for their novels. In the past 40 years Charlotte Bronte's reputation has risen rapidly, and feminist criticism has done much to show that she was speaking up for oppressed women of every age.
Charlotte was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, in the north of England, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman who moved with his family to Haworth amid the Yorkshire moors in 1820. After their mother and two eldest children died, Charlotte was left with her sisters Emily and Anne and brother Branwell to the care of their father, and their strict, religious aunt, Elisabeth Branwell. The children created imaginary kingdoms, which were built around Branwell's toy soldiers, and which inspired them to write continuing sagas about the fantasylands of Angria and Gondal.
Charlotte attended the Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge in 1824. She returned home next year because of the harsh conditions. In 1831 she went to school at Roe Head, where she later worked as a teacher. However, she fell ill, suffered from melancholia, and gave up this post. Charlotte's attempts to earn her living as a governess were hindered by her disabling shyness, her ignorance of normal children, and her yearning to be with her sisters.
The collection of poems, Poems By Currer, Ellis And Acton Bell (1846), which Charlotte wrote with her sisters, sold only two copies. By this time she had finished a novel; THE PROFESSOR, but it never found a publisher during her lifetime. Undeterred by this rejection, Charlotte began Jane Eyre, which appeared in 1847 and became an immediate success. Charlotte dedicated the book to William Makepeace Thackeray. The heroine is a penniless orphan who becomes a teacher, obtains a post as a governess, inherits money from an uncle, and marries the Byronic hero in the end.
Branwell and Emily died in 1848 and Anne died the following year. Although her identity was now well known, Charlotte continued to publish as Currer Bell. Jane Eyre was followed by Shirley (1848) and Vilette (1853). In Jane Eyre Charlotte used her experiences at the Evangelical school and as governess. The novel severely criticized the limited options open to educated but impoverished women. The title character from Shirley was an attempted ideal portrait of Emily. . Shirley was one of the first fully developed independent, brave, outspoken heroines in English literature.
In 1854 Charlotte Bronte married her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. She died during her pregnancy on March 31, 1855 in Haworth, Yorkshire. The Professor was posthumously published in 1857.