Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre
by Arthur Mee, J. A. Hammerton
Charlotte Brontë was born at Thornton, Yorkshire, England, on the 21st of April, 1816, of Irish and Cornish stock. By reason of her father's manner of living, she was utterly deprived of all companions of her own age. She therefore lived in a little world of her own, and by the time she was thirteen years of age, it had become her constant habit, and one of her few pleasures, to weave imaginary tales, idealising her favorite historical heroes, and setting forth in narrative form her own thoughts and feelings. Both Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne early found refuge in their habits of composition, and about 1845 made their first literary venture--a small volume of poems. This was not successful, but the authors were encouraged to make a further trial, and each began to prepare a prose tale. "Jane Eyre," perhaps the most poignant love-story in the English tongue, was published on October 16, 1847. Its title ran: "Jane Eyre: an Autobiography. Edited by Currer Bell." The romantic story of its acceptance by the publishers has been told in our condensation of Mrs. Gaskell's "Life of Charlotte Brontë." (See LIVES AND LETTERS, Vol. IX.) Written secretly under the pressure of incessant domestic anxiety, as if with the very life-blood of its author, the wonderful intensity of the story kindled the imagination of the reading public in an extraordinary degree, and the popularity at once attained has never flagged. Though the experiences of Jane Eyre were not, except in comparatively unimportant episodes, the experiences of the authoress, Jane Eyre is Charlotte Brontë. One of the most striking features of the book--a feature preserved in the following summary--is the haunting suggestion of sympathy between nature and human emotion. The publication of "Jane Eyre" removed its authoress from almost straitened circumstances and a narrow round of life to material comfort and congenial society. In reality it endowed at once the most diffident of women with lasting fame. After a brief period of married life, Charlotte Brontë died on March 31, 1855.