Two hundred years ago and some three hundred miles from Barnstaple one of the Nineteenth Century’s most well known writers, Charlotte Bronte, was born on this day. Born in Thornton, West Yorkshire, Charlotte was the third child of Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell. Her parents had been married in December 1812 and an entry for this event can be found on our shelves…
Her mother, Mary, was originally a native of Penzance, having been born there in 1783 and when she died in 1821 her sister, Elizabeth Branwell, was persuaded to leave Cornwall to take care of the nieces and nephew in the family home. You can find more about Penzance and the Branwell family in the Cornish section of our Local Collection of library items and the Cornish Bishops Transcripts held by our partner department the North Devon Record Office.
Her father, Patrick, was a clergyman and “[o]n 25 Feb. 1820 the Brontes had moved to Haworth, nine miles from Bradford, of which Bronte had accepted the perpetual curacy.” [Dictionary of National Biography Vol VI edited by Leslies Stephen, published 1886]. He was also keen for his children to learn and would borrow books from the Keighley Mechanics’ Institute Library.
Haworth was to become synonymous with the family. There are many items in our general collection which cover the beauty of the region Haworth is situated in, including Volume XVI of The Beauties of England by John Bigland and published in 1812. Another volume, published in 1800 is A Topographical Description of Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire and a part of The West Riding of Yorkshire by John Housman which contains this rather stunning map of the general area…1847 saw the publication of the novel she will be remembered for the most, Jane Eyre. However, shortly after her success Charlotte lost some of those closest to her including her two sisters, Emily and Anne, and her brother Branwell. Her fame now pushed her into the path of other writers and in August 1850 she met to woman who would become her biographer, fellow writer, Elizabeth Gaskell.
In 1854 Charlotte married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, but her happiness was short lived and she died less than a year later in 1855. Her father asked Elizabeth Gaskell to write his daughter’s biography and a copy of this can be found in our general Biography section along other biographies of both Charlotte and her sisters, Emily and Anne.You can find out more about our Library Collection by visiting our website www.northdevonathenaeum.org.uk/librarycollection.html