Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë

1850 Portrait of Charlotte Brontë
1850 Portrait of Charlotte Brontë

Background Information

Charlotte Brontë, the eldest of the famous Brontë sisters, was a novelist and poet born in 1816. Her most well-known work, Jane Eyre, was published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell (one of three pseudonyms under which she published), the same year that her sisters Emily and Anne published Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, respectively (Ref 1).

*Paragraph on Early Life/Bronte Family

*Paragraph on School Career

*Paragraph on Writing Career

*List of Works (Creative Format? Maybe framed like we distinguish between all the sisters’ works?)

Assessment of Wuthering Heights

Charlotte’s sister Emily wrote Wuthering Heights, but it was Charlotte who edited and published the novel after Emily’s death, in addition to penning the preface to the work (it was originally published in 1847, a year before Emily died and three years before Charlotte’s edition was published). Charlotte additionally added a Biographical Notice, publicly admitting for the first time that the mysterious authors Currer, Ellis, and Action Bell were in fact three women (Ref 2). Charlotte takes the preface as a chance to both praise her sister’s work and express doubt on the inclusion of some of the controversial elements.

The Preface reveals that, while Charlotte admired her sister’s work, she was not afraid to point to its “faults,” or to debate the controversial elements of Wuthering Heights. She discusses the great loss that many readers will experience, as anyone unfamiliar with the passions and wildness of northern England will not be able to appreciate Emily’s skill in representing these qualities. She also acknowledges that Emily–a woman not inclined to converse with the people around her yet knew much about them by listening–may have had a darker view of people than most; as Charlotte claims, when all one knows of people is facts about them, the mind clings to “tragic and terrible traits,” which stick out in memory. Charlotte also expresses doubt that it is “right or advisable” for her sister to have written a character as dark as Heathcliff; however, she notes that it hardly matters, because the writer is “not always master” of her art, and “little deserve[s] blame” if her creative product is unattractive (Ref 3). Even having pointed to these faults, though, Charlotte herself does not even hint at the contention that any of these elements make Wuthering Heights of lesser quality. In fact, she ends her Preface first on the concept that Emily–or an author, for that matter–is not necessarily responsible for the controversial elements of the novel, at least the ones that she addresses in the Preface. She also notes that, despite all this, Wuthering Heights is an impressive work, and ends her Preface on that note.

*Paragraph on our Assessment


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Ref 3 Wuthering Heights Preface

Ref 4