Charlotte was the third and middle daughter born to Patrick and Maria Branwell Brontë. She had two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who both died as children from tuberculosis, and two younger sisters, Emily and Anne. She also had a younger brother, Branwell. Subsequent to their mother’s death from uterine cancer, Charlotte and her young siblings were brought up in Haworth, Yorkshire, by their father, Patrick, and their aunt, Elizabeth Branwell.
Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily all attended Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire during 1824. The fees were low, the food of a poor quality and the discipline harsh and often unfair. It was reported that the food provided by the school was generally poorly cooked and unhealthy, and the cook was “careless, dirty, and wasteful”.
Lowood Institution, the school which features in Charlotte’s famous novel, Jane Eyre, is said to have been based on Charlotte’s recollections of Cowan Bridge School.
Maria and Elizabeth both sickened during their time spent at this school and were effectively sent home to die in June 1825. They died within six weeks of each other at the ages of eleven and ten years old, respectively. After the deaths of his two oldest children, Patrick removed Charlotte and Emily from the school and the remaining four siblings were all home schooled for five years.
In 1831, Charlotte attended Roe Head School in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, and this is where she met her lifelong friends, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. Charlotte returned home a year later to teach her sisters, but she returned to the school as a teacher in 1835. Charlotte did not enjoy teaching and her health declined and she succumbed to depression during her time at Roe Head School. She eventually left her position at the school in 1838 and returned home.
During the period 1839 to 1841, Charlotte worked as a governess to families in Yorkshire. She did not enjoy this work either, claiming that her employers treated her as a slave and constantly humiliated her.
In February 1842, Charlotte and Emily attended a finishing school in Brussels in order to improve their qualifications in French and learn some German. Their goal, together with Anne, was to open their own boarding school. It was at this school that Charlotte met Constantin Héger, an unusually devoted teacher with a brilliant and unusual mind. Charlotte and Emily returned to Haworth after the death of their Aunt Branwell in October 1842, but Charlotte returned to Brussels on her own, in January 1843, to take up a teaching post at the school. Charlotte was homesick and became overly devoted to Constantin Héger, who is believed to have been the subject of her first book, The Professor, which was rejected by publishers and only published after her death. Constantin’s wife is said to have become jealous of her and Charlotte decided to return home to Haworth in January 1844.
During the course of 1844, the three Bronte sisters attempted to open a boarding school in their home. Their efforts did not attract any pupils and the project was abandoned in October.
In May 1846, Charlotte, Emily and Anne self-financed the publication of a joint collection of poems under the assumed names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. They used these pseudonyms to veil their sex as female writers were regarded with disdain by Victorian society at that time. This book was not a success and they only sold two copies.
Despite the rejection by publishers of her book, The Professor, and the failure of the poetry book, Charlotte went on to write, and successfully publish, Jane Eyre in September 1847. In 1848, Charlotte started writing her second novel, Shirley. It was during the writing of this novel that she suffered the losses of her brother, Branwell, and both her sisters, Emily and Anne, all from respiratory diseases. Shirley was published in October 1849.
Charlotte’s last novel, Villette, was published in 1853, soon after her marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father’s curate. Charlotte became pregnant soon after her wedding and died, together with her unborn child, on 31 March 1855, at the age of thirty-nine. She is believed to have died from dehydration and malnourishment due to vomiting caused by severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum.
Interesting information about Charlotte and her siblings
The Bronte siblings used to produce tiny books which were no bigger than matchboxes and were packed with stories and advertisements written in tiny writing. They stitched the books together using printed scrap paper and leaves. These tiny manuscripts were produced through their teenage years and into their twenties. They found miniaturization to be amusing and suggestive and like the idea of being giants carrying around these tiny pieces of literature.
Charlotte was a very tiny person. Her estimated height was approximately four foot seven and her clothes that are displayed at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, including shoes, corsets, gloves and dresses, would fit a modern child. She was self-conscious about her height and her looks in general, thinking of herself as being very plain. Charlotte also rarely smiled because her teeth were bad and many of them were missing.
Charlotte wrote to her friend Ellen Nussey in October 1849, two years after Jane Eyre was published, saying: “I find I really must go to Mr Atkinson the dentist [in Leeds] and ask him if he can do anything for my teeth.”
Her bad teeth were one of the first things Elizabeth Gaskell noticed about Charlotte. In a letter after they first met, Gaskell gave a less than flattering description of her friend: “a reddish face, large mouth and many teeth gone; altogether plain.”
To find out more about the Brontë family, click HERE to read a review by Olga Nunez Miret of The Mother of the Brontës: When Maria Met Patrick by Sharon Wright (@penswordbooks) Highly recommended to Brontës fans and to early XIX century historians.
“They were from different lands, different classes, different worlds almost.
The chances of Cornish gentlewoman Maria Branwell even meeting the poor Irish curate Patrick Brontë in Regency England, let alone falling passionately in love, were remote.
Yet Maria and Patrick did meet, making a life together as devoted lovers and doting parents in the heartland of the industrial revolution.”
About the author
Robbie, short for Roberta, is an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with her son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about her mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with her mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton).
All of Robbie’s children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications. Robbie has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differentiate her children’s books from her adult writing, these will be published under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Robbie has two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.
Find and follow Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Books by Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Through the Nethergate
Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Margaret, a girl born with second sight, has the unique ability to bring ghosts trapped between Heaven and Hell back to life. When her parents die suddenly, she goes to live with her beloved grandfather, but the cellar of her grandfather’s ancient inn is haunted by an evil spirit of its own. In the town of Bungay, a black dog wanders the streets, enslaving the ghosts of those who have died unnatural deaths. When Margaret arrives, these phantoms congregate at the inn, hoping she can free them from the clutches of Hugh Bigod, the 12th century ghost who has drawn them away from Heaven’s White Light in his canine guise. With the help of her grandfather and the spirits she has befriended, Margaret sets out to defeat Hugh Bigod, only to discover he wants to use her for his own ends – to take over Hell itself.
It is available from Lulu.com here: Lulu.com
It is also available from TSL Publications as a soft copy book here: TSL Publications
While the Bombs Fell
What was it like for children growing up in rural Suffolk during World War 2?
Elsie and her family live in a small double-storey cottage in Bungay, Suffolk. Every night she lies awake listening anxiously for the sound of the German bomber planes. Often they come and the air raid siren sounds signalling that the family must leave their beds and venture out to the air raid shelter in the garden.
Despite the war raging across the English channel, daily life continues with its highlights, such as Christmas and the traditional Boxing Day fox hunt, and its wary moments when Elsie learns the stories of Jack Frost and the ghostly and terrifying Black Shuck that haunts the coastline and countryside of East Anglia.
Includes some authentic World War 2 recipes.
Robbie also writes as Robbie Cheadle
The Sir Chocolate books are a delightful marriage of story, verse and cookery
… a perfect recipe for sharing with children. Silly Willy goes to Cape Town tells the adventures of two very different brothers…and includes five party cake ideas.
You can purchase the Sir Chocolate books from:
or you can buy them in South Africa directly from the authors by emailing Robbie Cheadle at email@example.com.
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