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.|
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Agnes Grey (1847)
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
- Wuthering Heights (1847)
- Jane Eyre (1847)
- Shirley (1849)
- Villette (1853)
- The Professor (1857)
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.
*All information came from wikipedia.org and Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte*