The Life of Charlotte Bronte

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Penguin Books Limited, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 494 pages
9 Reviews
Written at the request of Charlotte Bronte's father and quoting generously from her prolific correspondence, The Life of Charlotte Bronte -- now with new editorial apparatus -- has long been recognized as a milestone in biographical writing. The marriage of biographer and subject has rarely been so fortuitous: The two women were friends, and like Gaskell's fictional heroines, Bronte lived a life of extreme self-denial, coping with sickness and death and surviving through the strength of her religious faith and moral integrity. Shaped by a novelist's imagination, Gaskell's admiring portrait of Bronte, as well as her descriptions of the people and the events that caused Bronte pain or suffering -- including the unhappy school experiences Bronte herself drew upon in Jane Eyre -- stirred controversy when the biography was first published in 1857. This text honors and preserves Gaskell's intention to re-create Bronte's "wild, sad, life, and the beautiful character that grew out of it".

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Review: The Life of Charlotte Brontė

User Review  - Rachella Sinclair - Goodreads

A good but very sad read. The most striking thing, though is that it highlights how modern Elizabeth Gaskell's voice was compared to her contemporaries. Even so, the end fell apart a bit, reflecting ... Read full review

Review: The Life of Charlotte Brontė

User Review  - Catherine Siemann - Goodreads

On the one hand, this biography was a huge contributor to the Bronte myth, and suffers typical Victorian reticence to the point that it obfuscates as often as it illuminates. If you want to read a ... Read full review

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About the author (1997)

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810, but she spent her formative years in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and the north of England. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell, who became well known as the minister of the Unitarian Chapel in Manchester's Cross Street. As well as leading a busy domestic life as minister's wife and mother of four daughters, she worked among the poor, traveled frequently and wrote. Mary Barton (1848) was her first success.

Two years later she began writing for Dickens's magazine, Household Words, to which she contributed fiction for the next thirteen years, notably a further industrial novel, North and South (1855). In 1850 she met and secured the friendship of Charlotte Brontė. After Charlotte's death in March 1855, Patrick Brontė chose his daughter's friend and fellow-novelist to write The Life of Charlotte Brontė (1857), a probing and sympathetic account, that has attained classic stature. Elizabeth Gaskell's position as a clergyman's wife and as a successful writer introduced her to a wide circle of friends, both from the professional world of Manchester and from the larger literary world. Her output was substantial and completely professional. Dickens discovered her resilient strength of character when trying to impose his views on her as editor of Household Words. She proved that she was not to be bullied, even by such a strong-willed man.

Her later works, Sylvia's Lovers (1863), Cousin Phillis (1864) and Wives and Daughters (1866) reveal that she was continuing to develop her writing in new literary directions. Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly in November 1865.

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