Charlotte Brontë was an English 19th century writer whose novel Jane Eyre is considered a classic of Western literature. She was born on April 21, 1816, in Thornton, Yorkshire, Charlotte Brontë worked as a teacher and governess, and wrote a book of poetry with her two sisters, Emily and Anne, who were writers as well, when young. In 1847, the same year that her sister Emily published Wuthering Heights, Brontë published the semi-autobiographical novel Jane Eyre, which was a hit and would become a literary classic. Her other novels included Shirley and Villette.
Said to be the most dominant and ambitious of the Brontës, Charlotte was raised in a strict Anglican home by her clergyman father and a religious aunt after her mother and two eldest siblings died. She and her sister Emily attended the Clergy Daughter’s School at Cowan Bridge, but were largely educated at home. Though she tried to earn a living as both a governess and a teacher, Brontë missed her sisters and eventually returned home.
A writer all her life, Brontë published her first novel, Jane Eyre, in 1847 under the manly pseudonym Currer Bell, as women authors were not common or popular at the time. Though controversial in its criticism of society’s treatment of impoverished women, the book was an immediate and widespread success. She followed this success with Shirley in 1848 and Villette in 1853.
The deaths of the Brontë siblings are almost as notable as their literary legacy. Her brother, Branwell, and Emily died in 1848, and Anne died the following year.
In 1854, Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, but died the following year during her pregnancy, on March 31, 1855, in Haworth, Yorkshire, England. The first novel she ever wrote, The Professor, was published posthumously in 1857. In 2003, an unpublished teenage novel she had written, The Green Dwarf, was re-discovered and published.