1. Triumph and tragedy (1777-1825)
Patrick Brontë was born on St. Patrick’s Day, 1777, into a poor family of farm workers living in
northern Ireland. His mother was Roman Catholic but his father was Anglican and raised him that way. Patrick tried work as a blacksmith and weaver before becoming a teacher in 1798. His local priest appreciated his intelligence and helped him get a scholarship to in 1802. He graduated in 1806 and was ordained a priest in the Church of England the following year. While serving as an assistant pastor in 1811, he saw his first book, Cottage Poems, published. In December 1812 he married Maria Branwell (b. 1783). His second book, The Rural Minstrel, was published in 1814. Cambridge University
What an astounding story! A boy is born into a dirt-poor family living in rural
Patrick and Maria's first two daughters, Maria (b. 1814) and Elizabeth (b. 1815), were born while they lived in the town of
Patrick became the pastor of the Anglican church in the small town of
What a sad story! At 29, Maria Branwell had already been socially condemned a spinster and marginal female when she married Patrick. She moved three times and gave birth to six children in seven years. Then she suffered and died of cancer.
In August 1824, Patrick sent his four older daughters to live and learn at the Clergy Daughters’ School about 40 miles (64 km) away in
How tragic! Patrick wants a proper education for his four precocious daughters. Socially ennobled but still financially marginal, he trusts them to a Christian school started specifically to meet his need and theirs. Members of the staff, and older students at the school following their dreadful example, betrayed his trust. Within a year, they had physically and psychologically damaged all four daughters and two of them had died as a result.
2. Intensification (1825-1838)
Charlotte and Emily, together with their younger brother and sister, now learned at home, taught by their father, aunt, and local adults skilled at music and drawing. Expected by their father to entertain themselves, the children focused intensely—for the next six years—on imagining a fantastic world of their own. In 1827 they started writing about it and supplementing their stories with their own illustrations and maps. In 1831, Emily and Anne started working together on a separate saga.
For inspiration, all four siblings devoured the daily newspaper and the handful of magazines, including Blackwood’s, to which their father subscribed. Articles in Blackwood’s and Byron’s poems inspired all four, especially Emily, to create Byronic characters who, like the man himself, dramatically embodied arrogance, intense emotion, sexual dominance, and downright wickedness. They also read the Bible, Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare,
She returned there, however, in July 1835 as a teacher. Emily went with her as a student but didn’t like it and returned home after three months. Once Emily returned, Anne took her place. Both Charlotte and Anne returned to
3. Failures as teachers and governesses (1838-1845)
In September 1838 Emily started work as a teacher in a nearby town but returned home in April 1839. Thereafter she assumed responsibility for doing most of the housework. She also taught Sunday school, learned German, practiced the piano, took long walks alone on the moors, and continued writing.
In April 1839 Anne tried working as a governess but she too returned by Christmas.
Branwell, after working briefly as a portrait painter in a nearby town, returned in debt but in time to join his family for the holidays.
In 1840 Charlotte and Anne returned to work as governesses.
In January 1843 she persuaded her employer to hire her brother Branwell to teach his now eleven-year-old son. Branwell eventually became the lover of his employer’s wife. In June 1845, when Anne discovered this, she resigned as governess without explanation and returned to
In 1842 Charlotte and Emily enrolled in a school in
By 1845 all four of Patrick Brontë’s surviving children, ages 25 to 29, were back at home unemployed and uncertain about what to do next.
4. Success as historically significant authors (1845-1848)
In the summer of 1845 Charlotte, Emily, and Anne decided to pay for the publication of a book of poems which they had written. Slow in getting printed, only two copies sold. One of the pleased purchasers asked the authors for their autographs. Two reviewers singled out Emily’s poems for praise. Undaunted, all three agreed to write their first novels and see if they could get them published.
During this time Branwell was at home with his sisters. He too worked on his first novel and got paid for writing several poems published in local newspapers. But depression and his addictions to alcohol and opium increasingly hampered his work.
By July 1846,
After the publication of Jane Eyre,
5. Denouement (1848-1855)
Branwell died of tuberculosis in September 1848. Emily became ill after attending his funeral and died of tuberculosis on December 19th. Anne became ill after Emily’s death and died of tuberculosis on May 28, 1849.
In June 1854
Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.