Friday, July 20, 2012

Author Focus: The Bronte Sisters and Giveaway (A Victorian Celebration).

This week's author focus is a 3 for 1 deal on the Bronte sisters. If you are interested  in any of the other posts I've written on other Victorian authors, they are linked here:
I'm excited to talk a little bit about the Brontes! I had never picked up a Bronte novel until my project, but with each new title, I am more and more in awe of the three sisters.

I should say up front that I am no expert on the sisters or their lives, but there are a number of biographies on them if you're interested in learning more. Think of this post as a very broad overview into their lives!

The Bronte family consisted of their parents, Patrick and Maria, as well as their two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, and their brother Branwell. Their mother and two older sisters all died when the girls were young, leaving the three sisters with their brother and father.

The Bronte Sisters.

Charlotte, the oldest of the trio, was born in 1816. As a child, she was sent away to school at the Cowan Bridge School, which later inspired Lowood School in Jane Eyre. It was there that her two older sisters contracted tuberculosis and passed away in 1825. After her removal from the school, she served as a teacher to Branwell, Emily, and Anne. Emily was born in 1818 and was also enrolled at the Cowan Bridge School. Like Charlotte, she was pulled from the school and sent home when disease spread in the school. The second youngest, she was under the care and instruction of Charlotte and her Aunt Elizabeth for the remainder of her schooling. Anne was the youngest of the Brontes. Born in 1820, she was too young to be sent away to school like her older sisters, so she was already at home when the girls returned and her eldest sisters passed away.

At home, the four remaining Bronte siblings had to entertain themselves as best they could. They created literary worlds where they could escape from the everyday and explore their own interpretations of literature. They even created their own mythical land and began to write stories centered on Branwell's toy soldiers and their own imaginings of events in their heads.

In 1831, Charlotte was sent away to school at Miss Wooler's school. She seemed to thrive in the environment, and when the opportunity arose, she took on work teaching. Emily also accompanied her for a time, but came back home after three months. Anne took her place.

Charlotte Bronte
During their education and travels, all three of the girls continued to write. There are excerpts of letters from Charlotte to Branwell with more descriptions and narratives to go along with their childhood stories. Before beginning to really focus on writing, both Charlotte and Anne worked as governesses to help out their family (perhaps their inspirations for Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey). Emily seemed to have issues with leaving home, so she stayed with her father while her sisters worked.

It was in 1842 that their Aunt Elizabeth determined to send both Charlotte and Emily to Brussels to study in a boarding school. She felt that this exposure outside of England would do both girls some good, and since both of them showed a high level of intelligence, she was happy to spend the money. Anne stayed back home and continued in her post as a governess. In Brussels, the girls studied under the Hegers. After 6 months, both were offered the opportunity to stay on for free if they also taught some lessons at the school. Both accepted, but returned to England a few months later when their aunt passed away. While their inheritance paid off their debts and would allow them to live comfortably, Charlotte chose to return to Brussels to teach a little longer while Emily chose to stay home.

Charlotte was away for another year before returning home. It's rumored and believed there was some level of affection on her part towards Mr. Heger, which may have encouraged her to come home. However, things were also going downhill at home. Mr. Bronte had been sick and Branwell was also in declining health.

Emily Bronte
It is after Charlotte returned home that the sisters began writing seriously. Charlotte began writing Jane Eyre while sitting beside her ailing father and brother. She also began to take interest in the writings of both of her sisters. Emily had been writing poetry and after being convinced by Charlotte, the three sisters decided to try and get a volume of their poetry published. It eventually was and they published the work under their pen names-Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The volume only sold 3 copies, but it sparked more literary discussions around the dinner table.

In 1847, the Bronte sisters each published a work. Jane Eyre by Charlotte, Wuthering Heights by Emily, and Agnes Grey by Anne were all published under their pen names to varying levels of success. It was after the publication of all three novels that rumors sprouted about Currer, Ellis, and Acton being only one person. To prove their publishers otherwise, Charlotte and Anne traveled to London with letters from their publisher (Emily refused to go and stayed home).

Branwell passed away in September 1848 from tuberculosis, but it was rumored he had a drinking problem. Emily fell ill in September of the same year and passed away in December-from tuberculosis. It is rumored she left behind a manuscript when she passed, with orders for Charlotte to burn it. After the publication of Wuthering Heights, she didn't want any more of her work out to the public (Wuthering Heights was a bit scandalous). Anne had published The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in the same year, but passed away in May 1849. Again, the cause of death was attributed to tuberculosis.

After suffering through the deaths of her three remaining siblings in only 8 months, Charlotte turned back to writing and published Shirley in October 1849. She also moved to London and befriended some of the other literary minds of the era-namely Elizabeth Gaskell and William Makepeace Thackeray. She became close friends with Gaskell, who later wrote a biography of Charlotte after her death.

Anne Bronte
Her third novel, Villette, was published in 1853. In June 1854, she married Arthur Bell Nicholls. She became pregnant shortly after her marriage, but her health declined. She passed away on March 31, 1855 at only 31 years old. Her last novel, The Professor, was published after her death (the novel was actually written around the time of Jane Eyre).

After Charlotte's death, the only surviving member of the Bronte family was their father Patrick. He outlived all of his children and passed away in 1861 at 84 years old. 

I think the Brontes are tragic in many ways. It is shame that such intelligent minds were taken far too soon. I wonder what other things they would have written given the time and opportunity to create more. To date, I have read Jane Eyre, Villette, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey. I have loved all four of the novels I've read so far, but I can't wait to read more. Their complete novels are as follows:

Anne Bronte:
  • Agnes Grey (1847)
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
 Emily Bronte:
  • Wuthering Heights (1847) 
Charlotte Bronte:
  • Jane Eyre (1847)
  • Shirley (1849)
  • Villette (1853)
  • The Professor (1857)
There is also the collection of their poems that they published together and a fragment of Charlotte's unfinished work, Emma.

For this week's giveaway, I am giving away THREE Bronte titles-one from each sister. I will pull names based on which sister you choose (so if there is only one entry for one sister, that person will automatically win). To enter, read the following and comment below:
  • This giveaway will be open internationally (I will be shipping from The Book Depository, so as long as they ship to you, you can enter)
  • You MUST be a participant of A Victorian Celebration to enter.
  • You MUST be 13 years or older
  • You do not have to follow me or subscribe to qualify
  • You MUST leave me your e-mail so that I contact you if you win
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will pick a new winner.
  • To enter, comment on this post and answer the following question: Which Bronte sister is your favorite and why? Also, what book would you choose if you won?
  • The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Friday, July 27, 2012 EST.
Good luck and thanks for entering!

*All information came from and Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte*


  1. I have read and enjoyed all the posts on the British writers.
    I am a fan of Charlotte Bronte. If you've not read The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell, please do. It is not just about Charlotte, but life in general during her time period.
    I would love to be in this drawing for the books.
    I would choose Charlotte Bronte, any book by her is delicious. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. I feel like I know Charlotte more personally because of Gaskell's book.
    Emily is a bit of a mystery. Anne seemed like a sweet spirited person.
    Thank you.

  2. What a great giveaway!! I actually own every single novel by these ladies and have read them all except Shirley and The Professor, so I'm not entering. I just stopped in to say you are awesome. (I'm reading Juliet Barker's new book, The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of a Literary Family right now. VERY EXCITING!!)

  3. Anne Bronte - my absolute favourite! I was so sad when I finished Tennant, because earlier that week I'd read Agnes Grey and I knew that was it, it was over, I'd read the novels.

    (I have all the titles, so not entering the giveaway)

  4. First of all thanks for writing about the Bronte sisters, then thanks also for the giveaway (and for making it international :D). So far I have only read Emily's Wuthering Heights, but from your post and other articles I read about the sisters, I'm quite interested in Charlotte's personality, so I can say that she is my favorite so far. And from what I have read about her, I see her as a tough woman with independent mind and self determination (at least that is what I imagined her to be..)

    Actually I'm curious about Emma, and would like to choose it in the first place, but I don't think it is available at bookdepo. So, I'd choose The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

  5. It is very difficult to choose as there are so many great things about each different sister, however, if I had to pick, it would be Charlotte because Jane Eyre really stood out for me. I also think she was a really interesting person.

    I would pick Agnes Grey, because it seems to be quite a forgotten book, despite many people enjoying just as much (if not more than) the other more famous Bronte books such as WH and JE.

    Thanks so much for all the giveaways and great posts for The Victorian Celebration, much appreciated. :)

  6. I'm going to nominate Anne Bronte for my favorite, because she is so under-appreciated.
    Charlotte Bronte also gave me some very good times reading Jane Eyre over and over again and sympathizing as a mousy but clever girl. Wuthering Heights never sat well with me; it seemed like a situation where a woman basically keeps diving in for more abuse, so I didn't see the "romantic" aspects others seemed to.

    I didn't realize Elizabeth Gaskell wrote a book about Charlotte, so I plan to look for that too! Thanks for the tip, Allie and Annette!

    I would like Agnes Grey if I were to win (to cmylks[attttttt]yahoodotcom)

  7. This is tricky because even though I haven't read any of Anne's works, I have a feeling she will be my favourite.

    But I will choose Charlotte since I do adore Jane Eyre. My first Bronte experience.

  8. I have only read one of the Bronte sisters so far, Emily Bronte, so I would have to say that she is my favourite as I have only read Wuthering Heights. But Wuthering Heights is by no means a favourite of mine, as Heathcliff is just awful. This is a wonderful post, I really should read up more on the Brontes, as they were a tragic but very talented family.

    1. I would choose the Tenant of Wildfell Hall as I do not yet have any of Anne's books. My email address is terrirens(at)gmail(dot)com

  9. Charlotte is my favorite because Villette is one of my most favorite books. I'd have to pick The Professor as the book I would choose. It has been called an earlier draft of Villette (or, at least a different take on a similar circumstance) and I am intrigued.

  10. My favorite Bronte is Charlotte of course, because I love Jane Eyre very very much. I love Wuthering Heights too, but in a rather different way. I'm attempting to read Villette, but sadly I'm having a hard time doing it, too many words that are unfamiliar to me (English is not my mother language).

    I would love to try to read one of Anne's works, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I want to see how her writing stands out from her sisters' works!

    My e-mail: elsa_maran at yahoo dot com

  11. What a great post! And you're so generous, Allie.

    As you know, I'm working on completing my Bronte collection. For this reason, I would love to win Anne's Tenant of Wildfell Hall!

    But, as for which sister is my favorite (horrid, horrid question!), I think I'll have to go with Emily. Although she was the least prolific, there's something about her and her writing that really attracts me - there's a darker edge to her that I really connect with and enjoy.

    Thanks for another chance at winning another awesome giveaway!


  12. I've only read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and I loved them both! I loved Emily's writing for its intensity and the book really captivated me despite the strong negative emotions involved with the characters.. And Jane Eyre is lovely, I liked the character and how the story unfolds. If I have to choose which one is my favorite, I think I'd choose Charlotte, her writing is beautiful and she was wonderful as a person.

    I'd like to read more of Charlotte. I have a copy of Villette as a to-be-read, so for this giveaway I would choose Shirley. It is said to be Charlotte's only historical novel and I am wondering about that..

    Thanks for the interesting post about the famous sisters and for making this giveaway!

  13. Love the Brontes! I've read the same four books that you have read, but I do want to read them all. Charlotte is my favorite, but I would love to win a copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I want to get to know Anne's work a bit better. Charlotte remains my favorite so far though because I lvoe Jane Eyre so much. She seems to balance out her sisters writing. Anne is a bit more on the serious side and Emily leans towards the emotional. Charlotte's books feel like a good balance of those two extremes.

    avidreader25 [at] gmail [dot] com

  14. my fav would be Charlotte b/c she was the adventurer - willing to go to Brussels then willing to return and continue her studies and relationship. that is inspiring to me from a woman living in her era.
    Your post is lovely ~ Ty for all the info and insights..
    Anne's books i haven't yet read but either of hers would be deliteful to win ~ TY!
    faithhopecherrytea at*gmail*dotcom