Charlotte Brontë was born on April 21, 1816, in Thornton, England. One of six children, she grew up in the nearby village of Haworth, where her father, the Rev. Patrick Brontë, became the curate of the local church in 1820. Her mother died of cancer the following year. In 1824, Charlotte and three of her four sisters were sent to the Clergy Daughters’ School in Lancashire, where her two older sisters died of tuberculosis. Soon after, Charlotte and her sister Emily returned to Haworth.
Back at Haworth, Patrick Brontë took over the tutelage of his four surviving children, giving them access to his well-stocked library. During this time, Charlotte, Emily, their sister Anne, and their brother Branwell produced a family magazine featuring their poems and stories. This period of Charlotte’s childhood, from 1829 to 1831, was her most prolific as a poet, and her work demonstrates her growing interest in literary history and her aspirations to be included in the canon.
In 1831, Charlotte enrolled as a student at Roe Head School, and she went on to serve as a governess there and elsewhere. She also briefly studied and taught in Brussels before returning to Haworth in 1844.
In 1846, the Brontë sisters self-published a collection of their poetry under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. However, Charlotte did not achieve literary recognition until the next year, when Jane Eyre (Smith, Elder & Co., 1847) was published, also under the pseudonym Currer Bell. Noted for its first-person female perspective, Jane Eyre was an immediate success. Charlotte went on to publish three more novels, including Villette (Smith, Elder & Co., 1853) and the posthumous The Professor (Smith, Elder & Co., 1857).
After her own literary success and that of Emily, with Wuthering Heights (Thomas Cautley Newby, 1847), and Anne, with Agnes Grey (Thomas Cautley Newby, 1847), speculation about the Bells’ identities increased. Charlotte revealed herself as Currer Bell in 1848 and began to move in London’s literary circles. However, Branwell died in September, 1848, and Emily and Anne both died of tuberculosis within the next year. After this, Charlotte spent most of her time in Haworth with her aging father, and in 1854 she married Arthur Bell Nicholls, who had taken over the parsonage in 1845. Charlotte died while pregnant, after an extended illness, on March 31, 1855.