The Life of Charlotte Bronte (Penguin Classics)
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Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of her close friend Charlotte Brontë was published in 1857 to immediate popular acclaim, and remains the most significant study of the enigmatic author who gave Jane Eyre the subtitle An Autobiography. It recounts Charlotte Brontë's life from her isolated childhood, through her years as a writer who had 'foreseen the single life' for herself, to her marriage at thirty-eight and death less than a year later. The resulting work - the first full-length biography of a woman novelist by a woman novelist - explored the nature of Charlotte's genius and almost single-handedly created the Brontë myth.
Brontës still find themselves standing within its shadow, often simultaneously using it as a source and offering resistance to the story it tells. Professional biographers have always been in the business of saving two reputations: their own and their subject’s.1 Victorian women biographers laboured under the additional burden of establishing their right to the title as well as the worth of their subject. Novel-writing, it was generally conceded, might well be within a woman’s grasp because, as
progress of the cataract which was forming. He was nearly blind. He could grope his way about, and recognise the figures of those he knew well, when they were placed against a strong light; but he could no longer see to read; and thus his eager appetite for knowledge and information of all kinds was severely balked. He continued to preach. I have heard that he was led up into the pulpit, and that his sermons were never so effective as when he stood there, a grey sightless old man, his blind eyes
Appreciations(1897), pp. 3–61. 37. Letters, no. 166. 38. PB to ECG, 3 November 1856 (quoted Barker, p. 792). 39. Letters, no. 191. 40. ECG to W. Smith Williams, 20 December 1860 (Letters, no. 481). Gaskell’s unfamiliarity with Evangelical usage can be seen in a letter to George Smith, where, assessing her progress with LCB, she wrote, ‘I look forward to being ready by Febry (DV to use her own pious expression)’ (Letters, no. 314). 41. Barker, p. 110, and Gordon, pp. 13–14 42. This aspect of
to be judged by frivolous conjectures, emanating from any quarter whatever. Let me know what you heard, and from whom you heard it.’ ‘May 3rd, 1848. ‘All I can say to you about a certain matter is this: the report —if report there be —and if the lady, who seems to have been rather mystified, had not dreamt what she fancied had been told to her —must have had its origin in some absurd misunderstanding. I have given no one a right either to affirm, or to hint, in the most distant manner, that I
London—She breakfasts with Mr. Rogers, visits the Great Exhibition, and sees Lord Westminster’s pictures—Return to Haworth and letter thence—Her comment on Mr. Thackeray’s Lecture—Counsel on development of character 350 CHAPTER X. Remarks on friendship—Letter to Mrs. Gaskell on her and Miss Martineau’s views of the Great Exhibition and Mr. Thackeray’s lecture, and on the ‘Saint’s Tragedy,’—Miss Brontë’s feelings towards children—eHer comments on Mr. J. S. Mill’s article on the