The Brontë Sisters
Charlotte (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) was the eldest of the Brontë children who survived into adulthood, her older sisters Maria and Elizabeth having died as children. Charlotte was educated at Roe Head, where she later served as a teacher between 1835 and 1838. In 1839 she took up the first of many governess positions which would provide inspiration for her most famous novel, Jane Eyre. In 1842, she and Emily enrolled at Constantin Héger’s boarding school in Brussels. Charlotte also taught there for a year in 1843. Charlotte’s first manuscript was The Professor which failed to secure a publisher. In response she wrote Jane Eyre, which was published in 1847. She wrote her second novel Shirley while grieving for her sisters. Her final novel, Villette, was published in 1853. The following year she married her father’s curate Arthur Bell Nicholls. She died less than a year afterwards, possibly from the effects of severe morning sickness. The Professor was published posthumously in 1857. In the same year the famous novelist Elizabeth Gaskell published a biography of Charlotte.
Emily (30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was the second eldest of the three famous sisters, and the fifth of the Brontë children overall. Emily attended the Clergy Daughters’ School for a short time between November 1824 and June 1825. At 17, she attended the Roe Head Girls’ School, where Charlotte was a teacher, but returned home after only a few months due to extreme homesickness. Emily became a teacher at Law Hill School in September 1838 but the stressful work damaged her health. She studied with her sister Charlotte at the academy run by Constantin Héger in Brussels. Unlinke her sisters, she wrote only a single novel, Wuthering Heights, published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. It was published in 1847 as part of a three-volume set which also included Anne’s Agnes Gray. Emily died of tuberculosis in December 1848, aged 30. She had, until shortly before her death, refused medical attention.
Anne (17 January 1820 – 28 May 1849) was the youngest of the Brontë siblings. She attended a boarding school at Mirfield between 1836 and 1837. At 19, she left home and worked as a governess between 1839 and 1845. She wrote two novels. Agnes Gray, which was inspired by her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847. Her final novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is often considered one of the first feminist novels, was published in 1848. Her novels were published under the pen name Acton Bell. She died of pulmonary tuberculosis aged 29. She is not as well-known as her elder sisters, partly because Charlotte prevented the re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall after Anne’s death.