Charlotte "Currer Bell" (Bronte), an English novelist, born at Thornton, Yorkshire, April 21, 1816, died at Haworth, March 31, 1855. She was the daughter of the Rev. Patrick Bronte, a native of Ireland, who shortly before her birth became curate of Thornton church, and in 1820 minister of Haworth. She lost her mother at the age of five. Owing to her father's narrow means, the family were early inured to industry and self-denial, and being, by the habits and circumstances of the place, in a great degree cut off from the ordinary pleasures of childhood, they were accustomed to occupations and amusements beyond their years. In 1824 Charlotte and three of her sisters, Maria, Elizabeth, and Emily, were put to a school at a place called Cowan's Bridge. The situation proved to be unhealthy, and Maria and Elizabeth died the following year from disease contracted there. The hardships suffered at this school from scanty food and severe discipline furnished to a considerable extent the theme of "Jane Eyre." In the autumn of 1825 Charlotte and Emily left the school, and for several years lived at home.
During this period Charlotte had the care of the younger members of the family; she spent much of her time in writing, and manifested a development of mind and a compass and facility of thought remarkable in a girl of her age. In the winter of 1831 she was again put to school at a place called Roe Head, where she continued nearly two years. Here she was free from discomforts, save what grew from a tendency to despondency. She cared nothing for play; was quiet and studious, often confounding her schoolmates by knowing things quite out of their range; and sometimes exercised her genius in telling stories for their entertainment. In 1835 she reentered the school as a teacher; but the labor wore upon her health and spirits till she was forced to give it up. In 1839 she obtained a situation as governess, but fell into a hard and uncongenial family, from which she soon withdrew. In 1841 she went out again as governess, and met with kind and appreciative treatment; but the occupation was not suited to her disposition.
She next determined, in conjunction with her sisters Emily and Anne, to establish a school of her own; and to qualify themselves for the task, she and Emily in the winter of 1842 went to Brussels. At the end of six months they were employed as teachers in the school they were attending. Emily did not remain quite a year, but Charlotte spent nearly two years there. In the summer of 1844 the arrangements were made for opening a school at Ha-worth; they sent out circulars, and received many assurances of good wishes to the enterprise, but obtained no pupils. Henceforth the sisters remained at home, dividing their time between household cares and literary labors. In 1846 they issued at their own risk, under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, a volume of poems; but the work met with little favor. Notwithstanding this failure, each of them wrote a prose tale, hoping the three would be published together. These were, "The Professor," by Charlotte; "Wuthering Heights," by Emily; and "Agnes Grey," by Anne; the names assumed in the volume of poems being still retained. The last two found a publisher; the first was everywhere refused, nor did it appear till after the author's death.
It was under the weight of all this discouragement that Charlotte undertook the composition of " Jane Eyre," which was published in October, 1847, and met with immense success; it was translated into most European languages, and dramatized in England and also in Germany under the title of " The Orphan of Lo-wood." Emily, to whom Charlotte had been deeply attached, died Dec. 19, 1848. Anne died May 28, 1849, her novel, "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall," having been published the preceding year. Charlotte's second novel, " Shirley," was published in October, 1849. She had taken great pains with the work, but it hardly made good the expectations raised by "Jane Eyre." From the large use she made of local manners and traditions, the secret of the authorship soon transpired, and she was invited to London, where she was introduced to the prominent literary characters of the time. Her third novel, "Villette," published in 1853, seems to have taken more or less of its shape and texture from the author's recollections of Brussels. In strength and originality of characterization it does not equal " Shirley," but is perhaps more interesting and attractive as a whole. It met with almost unbounded applause.
About this time Miss Bronte had an offer of marriage from the Rev. Arthur Nicholls, her father's curate. Mr. Bronte objected to the match, and Mr. Nicholls resigned his curacy; but by the spring of 1854 Mr. Bronte came to view the matter in a different light, and an engagement was formed. Mr. Ni-cholls resumed the curacy, and the marriage took place in the following June. They continued to reside at the parsonage until her death. " The Professor " was published some time after the death of the author, and a few chapters of her unfinished novel entitled "Emma" appeared in 1860 in the "Cornhill Magazine," then edited by her friend W. M. Thackeray. A biography of Charlotte Bronte, by Mrs. Gaskell, was published in 1857, and a second edition, considerably modified, in 1858.