I’m going to talk about three of my favourite writers.
Known as “the eldest Brontë sisters that survived to adulthood” Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three important writers of the XIX century in the English Literature. This article dives into their lives and their works, alone or together. Also includes a discussion about which of them was the best writer, and a reflection of the book of poems they did in common.
Charlotte was the eldest of the three sisters, born in 1816. Then was Emily, born in 1818 and finally Anne, born in 1820. They were from Thornton, but they grew up in Haworth, all this located in Yorkshire.
They had two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, but both died during their childhood. Also a brother called Branwell, well-known due to his dissipated life. Their mother, Mary, died of an illness one year after giving birth to Anne. Their aunt Elizabeth and their father Patrick, an Anglican clergyman, raised them.
The three sisters went to different schools and moreover, they were also taught at home. With their brother, they were often left alone. However, these moments they used them to create and write stories; they started from an early age.
After their education finished, Anne, Charlotte and Emily worked as teachers and governesses. In 1842, Emily and Charlotte went to Brussels to develop their French knowledge, but the death of their aunt made them return to home for her funeral. Emily stayed, while Charlotte went back to the Belgian capital, as an English teacher. Nonetheless in 1845 she was back home with her sisters.
They all died during their middle adulthood, due to tuberculosis: Emily in 1848 at the age of 30 years, Anne in 1849 at the age of 29 and Charlotte in 1855 at the age of 39 years.
INFLUENCES, STYLE AND VALUES
Charlotte Brontë: denunciation of board schools
Charlotte always blamed Cowan Bridge -the board school she went to as her older sisters- for the death of Mary and Elizabeth. They both died of tuberculosis that they caught in the school.
Charlotte said: the board school had a poor medical care, they served food in bad conditions, there was a lack of heat and comfortable clothing, and that the teachers were too severe, as their punishments. However, this is controversial, because some recent researchers disagree, saying that the food, clothing, heating, medical care, discipline, etc. at Cowan Bridge was not considered bad for religious schools of the time.
Charlotte experience in Cowan Bridge was her inspiration when describing and creating Lowood School in her famous book Jane Eyre.
Emily Brontë: writer as a hobby
Emily Brontë only wrote one novel, Wuthering Heights. Her single book was controversial from the start of its release.
Its originality, subject, narrative style and passion raised made the book intriguing to readers. Although certain critics condemned it like “atrocious” due to the confrontation with all conventions, sales were magnificent for a novel from an unknown author and with these ideas.
Something to point out from Emily Brontë was her shy personality outside the family circle. Another important fact about her is that, above all, she loved the wild landscape of the grasslands around Haworth, something reflected in Wuthering Heights.
In addition, Emily used to write only for her own satisfaction; she didn’t have any desire for recognition.
Anne Brontë: overshadowed by her sisters
Her works were most of them based on her experiences as a governess and on her brother’s (Brandwell) decline due to alcohol and drugs. Moreover, they demonstrated her idea about books; they should provide moral education, a sense of moral duty. This is better recorded in her book The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Anne’s book Agnes Grey seems to be a semi-autobiographical novel of her. In addition, it followed a line of <<a heroine, abandoned and left alone, that resists not only by her almost supernatural talents, but mainly due to the power drawn from her temperament>>, like most authors describe it.
The influence of gothic novels from authors like Ann Radcliffe and Walter Scott is noticeable in her works.
Here goes a brief summary of the argument and some notes of the most important book from each Brontë Sister.
Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre (1847)
This novel goes through the life of the orphan Jane Eyre, from her childhood to her adulthood; from how she struggled with her aunt and cousins to when she finally marriages her beloved man.
This is considered one of the most successful works of eldest Brontë sister who survived to adulthood.
Charlotte introduced various themes on her book: morality, religion, social class, gender relationships, love and passion, feminism, atonement and forgiveness, and finally the search for home and family. All this, gives the reader issues to think about.
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights (1848)
This story centres on the fervent and tragic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, and how these hard feelings tear down both of them, and the people around.
This was the only novel published by Emily Brontë. However, it’s rumoured that she wrote a second one, although it has never been proved. In addition, two years later, her sister Charlotte edited and re-published Wuthering Heights under by herself.
Anne Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
This book narrates how Gilbert Markham fell’s in love with Helen Graham, the mysterious tenant of Wildfell Hall. Helen’s story is also shared; mainly the misery she experienced in her marriage with the drunken Arthur Huntingdon.
This was Anne’s second published novel, after Agnes Grey that caught little attention. Despite Charlotte and Emily didn’t agree with her decision of making public this work- due to the <<realistic portrayal>> that represented-, the youngest Brontë sister decided to bring it out , because in that way, she could warn others about the drawbacks of drunkenness.
WHICH WAS THE BEST WRITER FROM THE SISTERS?
The debate about which was the best Brontë sister has always been very controversial. While Anne has never actually been considered in it, the readers of Charlotte and / or Emily always have different views about this discussion.
Here we have two different opinions:
“Emily’s work is much more deep and complex (than Charlotte ones); she explores the limits of human nature in so many levels… The characters in Wuthering Heights are so passionate, destructive and original… Always in the edge, but still human…”
“I have to say that I enjoyed both ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’, and sadly I have only read each book once…. but I will have to go with ‘Jane Eyre’ as my favourite at the moment. Maybe with more readings my preference will change, but now I’m loving Charlotte.”
When talking about this debate, people always mention Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights when comparing.
Charlotte’s wonderful book, Jane Eyre is mainly liked due to the happy ending of the principal characters after all the bad things they went through in their lives. Emily’s dismal but passionate book Wuthering Heights is praised due to the intense and ardent love that the characters have, and the deep thoughts that are inserted in the work.
COMMON WORK: “BEST POEMS OF THE BRONTË SISTERS”
The Brontë Sisters, apart from having their own works, they wrote together a book of poetry. It is composed of sixty one poems, from which nineteen are from Charlotte; twenty one from Anne; and other twenty one from Emily.
The idea of publishing this work was from Charlotte, and Anne supported her from the start. In contrary, Emily wasn’t very enthusiastic about it, but finally she was convinced by her sisters.
They found a publisher and under their pseudonymous names, they published their common work.
Unfortunately, the book attracted hardly any attention. Only three copies were sold, so the sisters decided to return to work on their own books.
Now, the years have past, and the Brontë Sisters despised work is started to be appreciated more and more. Here we have a modern review, from an anonymous reader.
“Charlotte Brontë had said “The bringing of our little book was hard work. As was to be expected, neither we nor our poems were at all wanted.” When I read the poetry I found it so puzzling why so. The Bells’ poetry is absolutely marvellous. And those of who don’t know, this collection is the occasion for the adoption of their pen names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.
“Anne’s poems (keeping up with the prose styles) comparing with Emily is composed more carefully and less dramatic like “A Reminiscence” while Emily’s are more impassioned, evocating the sense feelings and landscape like in “Remembrance”. Out of all I find Emily’s poetry are the best. One stanza in “The teacher’s Monologue” gives the homesickness Charlotte (and perhaps her sisters as well) felt for Haworth.
“Sweet dreams of home my heat may fill
that home where I am known and loved”
The collection gives you a better insight to the Brontë sisters’. Though they are mostly emotional, and heartfelt with a sense of loneliness and solitude they are also sad and melancholy but not miserable in anyway what so ever. My favourite is Emily Brontë’s “The Caged Bird”.”
The Bronte Sisters were beyond doubt, exceptional. Being a female writer in the XIX Century was something difficult, which explains why they published their works under male names. On top, they had the courage to make known their ideas about important issues of the time such as gender, love, social status, religion, education etc; they went against all the standards of the epoch.
Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three talented sisters whose works were possibly criticised in their publishing moments, but nowadays are unquestionably considered gold novels of the English Literature.
“The Brontë family” online article from Wikipedia website.
“Best Brontë sister” online forum from Last.fm website.
“The Brontë sisters” online article in the BBC channel website.
“Best Poems of The Brontë Sisters” online review in the Good Reads website.
“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” book. Author: Acton Bell (Anne Brontë ).
“Wuthering Heights (charlotte’s edition)” book. Author: Emily Brontë .
“Jane Eyre” book. Author: Currer Bell.
Writing an informative article about something I’m interested in,
Emilie H. Featherington