The short tragic lives of the Bronte sisters read like one of their gothic romances. A family of 6 motherless children living in isolation on the bleak Yorkshire moors, raised by their distant minister father and their strict aunt. A family domed to be thwarted in love and to face early deaths. The last surviving sibling finally finds happiness through her marriage only to die while carrying her first child the following year. A family destined to leave behind a body of literature still read and enjoyed till this day.
Charlotte (b.1816) , Emily (b.1818) and Anne (b.1820) were the younger three daughters born to Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell Bronte. The Bronte’s also had two older daughters, Maria and Elizabeth and one son, Branwell . Soon after Anne’s birth Patrick moved his growing family to Haworth upon accepting a curacy at an Anglican Church located there. Tragedy first struck the lives of the Bronte sisters when their mother died shortly after their move in 1821. In 1825, the two eldest Bronte siblings became ill while away at school. They returned home and died shortly after their return. Following the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth, the surviving children Charlotte, Burwell, Emily and Anne were educated by their father at home. Their childhood was spent playing on the moors, reading and making up stories to tell one another and writing for their own enjoyment.
Dating as we know it was uncommon in the mid 1800s. The Bronte sister all enter adulthood as singles. Because they were unmarried they each had to earn a livelihood. Charlotte and Emily both worked for a time as teachers. Anne was a governess.
In 1846, the three sisters tried their first attempted at becoming published writers. They self published a book of their poetry titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. It sold all of two copies. Undeterred Charlotte’s next venture was a novel she had written called The Professor. This novel failed to interest publishers. In 1847 all three sister published the novels they would become famous for. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, the emotional sage of love and life of the titled character, was an instant success. Emily’s Wuthering Heights is one of the most enduring romances in the English language. It is the story of the passionate and destructive love that consumed Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. Anne’s book Agnes Grey was released to the reading public later that year. Agnes Grey depicts the struggles faced by a young unmarried woman forced to earn her living. Young woman in Agnes’ day were forced to depend family and social connects to find a husband. Without those connections a woman’s life was very difficult.
Emily and Branwell both died in 1848 of tuberculosis. Also in 1848, Ann’s second novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was published. Anne used an interesting literary devise in her novel. She wrote a series of letters from the main character Gilbert Markham to his bother in law relating how he came to marry his wife. Anne died the following year in 1849.
Charlotte, the remaining Bronte sibling, published Shirley in 1849 and Villette in 1853. She then married her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. Alas her life was not to be a long one either. She died while carrying her first child in 1855. She was just 38 years of age. Her first novel The Professor was published after her death in 1857.
Literary Style and Criticism:
Their Joint Work:
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