Charlotte Brontë Chronology

Glenn Everett, Associate Professor of English, University of Tennessee at Martin

1816 Born at Thornton, Yorkshire, the third daughter of Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell Brontë.

1820 The family moves to Haworth, where Patrick Brontë has become rector.

1821 Maria Brontë dies of cancer; her sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moves in with the family.

1824 Patrick Brontë sends his two oldest daughters, Elizabeth and Maria, to school at Wakefield. They then transfer to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge, Lancashire. Charlotte and Emily join them here; it will be the model for the school in Jane Eyre. Elizabeth and Maria both return home, to die of consumption.

1825-1831 Charlotte and Emily return home. To amuse themselves, they fill thousands of pages in miniature books with fictions about the imaginary Kingdom of Angria. Their brother, Branwell (born 1817), and their youngest sister, Anne (born 1820), eventually help develop the stories, which occupy the girls well into their twenties.

1831 Charlotte attends Miss Wooler’s school at Roe Head, near Huddersfield. Strikes up friendships with Mary Taylor and Ellen Nussey.

1832 Returns home to teach her sisters.

1835 Returns to Roe Head as a teacher, earning money for her family, particularly to fund Branwell’s studies in art.

1838 Resigns her position and returns to Haworth.

1839 Rejects a marriage proposal from the Reverend Henry Nussey, Ellen’s brother. Also turns down a proposal from another young clergyman.

1842-1843 Charlotte and Emily go to Brussels to study French and German at the Pensionnat Heger. Soon their aunt, Miss Branwell, dies, leaving each niece and nephew a small sum; this enables both to return home. Charlotte then returns to Brussels alone, but is lonely and depressed. She forms an attachment to Constantin Heger, the head of the school, whose stimulating and sophisticated mind appeals to her. He wounds her by mistaking her devotion for love. Madame Heger’s jealousy necessitates her departure.

1844 Tries to start a school at the Haworth parsonage, but no pupils come.

1845 Branwell is fired as tutor for making love to his employer’s wife; he spends three years at home drinking, taking drugs, and otherwise indulging himself until he dies of his excesses.

1846 Charlotte, Emily, and Anne publish at their own expense a joint volume of Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, using pseudonyms. Only two copies are sold. Charlotte’s novel The Professor is rebuffed by publishers. She begins Jane Eyre while caring for her father’s recovery from an eye operation.

1847 Publishes Jane Eyre , an immediate success.

1848 Both Branwell and Emily die. Before her death, Emily infects Anne with consumption. Charlotte, interrupting her writing on her new novel, Shirley, attempts to nurse Anne back to health.

1849 Anne dies of consumption. Charlotte finishes and publishes Shirley.

1851 Travels to London three times as guest of her publisher; meets Thackeray. Journeys to the Lake Country, to Scotland, and to Manchester, where she visits Elizabeth Gaskell, her future biographer. Rejects a marriage proposal from James Taylor, a member of her publishing house.

1853 Publishes Villette, a novel set in Brussels.

1854 Marries her fourth suitor, Arthur Bell Nichols, her father’s curate, who does not share her intellectual interests but who makes her happy. Begins but does not finish a novel, Emma.

1855 Dies in pregnancy; is buried at the Haworth parsonage.

1857 Her previously rejected novel The Professor is published posthumously.

[This chronology is based in part on Karen Lawrence, Betsy Seifert, and Lois Ratner, The McGraw-Hill Guide to English Literature (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985), pp. 231-233]