Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three remarkable women who are famous for their novels and have been hailed as some of the greatest authors in British history. Their works continue to be appreciated and read today, but they also had a fascinating life that makes them worth remembering beyond the successes of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.
The most famous Bronte work is arguably “Jane Eyre,” which was written by Charlotte and published in 1847. The novel tells the story of a governess named Jane who falls in love with her employer Mr Rochester. It is one of the earliest examples of feminism in literature as Jane fights for equality at home and at work against sexist societal norms.
The novel Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Bronte, also became a major success and is a deeply complex and passionate story. The narrative revolves around the lives of two main characters: Catherine and Heathcliff. To fully understand this tale one has to delve into the depths of these two very flawed people’s minds; their motivations for revenge, love, hate, and sorrow are all intertwined in the pages that make up this classic work of literature.
Anne Bronte wrote her debut novel in 1847, at the age of 26. “Agnes Grey” tells the story of a poor governess who leaves her abusive employer after just six months and becomes a school teacher in another family. The book is a critique of the social inequality that existed in England during this time period.
In the 19th century, England was a time of great change and uncertainty. The Industrial Revolution was changing society forever, and questioning the status-quo was becoming more and more common.
They were pioneers of women’s literature when it wasn’t very common for women to write at all. Their work focused on female characters which was also revolutionary.
The Brontës explore the duality of human nature and our inherent need to balance it through their characters. They use this idea as a platform for examining personal identity, which allows readers an opportunity to learn about themselves in relation to other people’s experiences.
[published dates in brackets]
The Bronte sisters contributed poems to a collection of poetry, entitled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell which was published in 1846.
- Charlotte wrote the novel Jane Eyre (1846), Shirley (1849), Villette (1853) and The Professor (1857 after her death).
- Emily wrote Wuthering Heights (1847).
- Anne wrote Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall(1848).
Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights
At the time, it was not common for women to write novels, so they used non-gender pseudonyms with the same initials to be taken seriously and get their work published.
Charlotte used Currer Bell, Emily used Ellis Bell and Anne used Acton Bell.
There were five Bronte sisters: Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily and Anne.
The siblings were born in Thornton near Bradford then moved to the parsonage in the village of Haworth, West Yorkshire.
Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily and Anne.
There are no known photographs of the Bronte sisters but a photo with “The Bronte Sisters” written on the reverse was found in France.
Maria Bronte was the eldest sister.
The house where they lived is now the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire.
They were born in Thornton, but moved to the village of Haworth where they wrote their famous novels.
No. Their father, Patrick, was from Northern Ireland but the Bronte sisters were born and lived their lives in England.
Patrick Brontë was curate at Haworth Church, was an energetic campaigner on a wide range of religious, social and political issues, and a tolerant, attentive father to the famous Bronte children.
It is believed that Charlotte was approx. 4 feet 10 inches, Emily was 5 feet 6 inches and it is not known how tall Anne was, though she too was thought to have been small in stature.
There’s no collective figure for the income they received, but Charlotte’s novel, Jane Eyre, was an instant success, catapulting her into literary fame.
She also made £500 at the time, which is twenty-five times the salary of a governess. This is equivalent to approx £50,000 today, taken from an online converter from 1848 to 2021, but may not be accurate.
It is also not known about re-publishing fees she may have received.
The Bronte Parsonage Museum is by the graveyard of St Michael and All Angels Church at the top of the village of Haworth, Yorkshire, England.
Charlotte Bronte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (1818–1906) who became curate of Haworth.
The Brontes: A Life In Letters By Juliet Barker
The Bronte Myth by Lukasta Miller
The Bronte Sisters BY Catherine Reef
Their mother, Maria died of cancer some twenty months after giving birth to their youngest child, Anne.
Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily spent time at Cowan Bridge, a school for less prosperous clergy, for a short time.
Maria and Elizabeth became gravely ill from tuberculosis in the aftermath of a typhoid outbreak at the school. They were brought home and eventually died.
Charlotte, Emily, Branwell and Anne were schooled by the aunt Elizabeth Branwell.
Patrick Branwell Brontë
- Maria: 1814 to 1825, died in Haworth at the age of 11, on 6 May 1825.
- Elizabeth: 1815 to 1825, died at the age of 10, on 15 June 1825.
- Emily: 1818 to 1848, died at the age of 30, on 19 December 1848.
- Anne: 1820 to 1849, died at the age of 29, died on 28 May 1849.
- Charlotte: 1816 to 1855, died at the age of 38, on 31 March 1855.
When the sisters were alive, they all used pseudonyms to help get their books published and it was not known that there was any relation between them.
However, a year after the deaths of Anne and Emily, Charlotte revealed their true identities for public record so as to immortalise their work with these novelists.
Early Victorian period
Charlotte lived longest
Emily and Anne died from various forms of tuberculosis. Charlotte became pregnant and likely died from hyperemesis gravidarum, a complication which causes excessive nausea and vomiting.
Maria (1814–1825) died in Haworth at the age of 11, on 6 May 1825.
Elizabeth (1815–1825) died at the age of 10, on 15 June 1825.
Emily (1818–1848) died at the age of 30, on 19 December 1848.
Anne (1820–1849) died at the age of 29, died on 28 May 1849.
Charlotte (1816–1855) died at the age of 38, on 31 March 1855.
Most of the Bronte family including the father Patrick, mother Maria and five of their children: Elizabeth, Maria, Branwell, Emily and Charlotte are interred in the family vault beneath the floor at the east end of Haworth Parish Church.
Anne Bronte is buried at St Mary’s Church in the seaside town of Scarborough, North Yorkshire.
Here’s a selection of some of the best Bronte poetry: