Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) was an English novelist who is best remembered for writing the classic Victorian era Gothic novel Jane Eyre in 1847. The popular and highly influential book has remained in print and has been adapted to film and television numerous times.
She was one of six children born to Rev. Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell Brontë and the eldest of the four children who survived to adulthood. Her mother died when she was five years old and her father sent her and her two older sisters (Maria and Elizabeth) to a harshly disciplined boarding school, the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, where Marie and Elizabeth died in 1825 while still children.
Her brother, Branwell (1817-1848), dissipated his talent as a painter with dissolute living, dying of alcoholism and drug addiction, but her sisters Emily (1818-1848) and Anne (1820-1849) were, like Charlotte, novelists of considerable talent, Emily in particular being famed for her novel Wuthering Heights. Charlotte herself authored four novels, The Professor (published posthumously), Jane Eyre , Shirley, and Villette. Jane Eyre went on to become one of the most famous and beloved novels in the English language.
The "autobiography" of an orphan who survives a harshly disciplined boarding school to become a governess and great romantic heroine, Jane Eyre's early chapters include descriptions of a girls' boarding school based on the harshly disciplined Cowan Bridge school of Charlotte's own childhood. The ten-year-old Jane is made to stand atop a "punishment stool" in public shame before the entire school, and the fourteen-year-old Helen Burns, one of literature's great minor characters, is publicly switched by a harsh teacher for not having cleaned her nails one morning.
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