Two hundred years ago today marks the anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), writer extraordinaire!
For those who do not know, Charlotte Brontë was an English author famous for her novel Jane Eyre (1847), which is my favorite novel of all-time! Brontë also wrote the novels Shirley (1849), The Professor (published in 1857), and Villette (1853); along with a collection of poetry which she co-authored with her sisters called Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte Brontë died at the age of 38 in the year 1855. Although her life was brief, she left behind a legacy of great works.
Out of all the different authors I have read throughout my lifetime, Charlotte Brontë is the author who had the most impact on my life and my writing. Her work showed me how poignant it is to create characters who can express one’s own views. When I first read both Jane Eyre and Villette at the age of fourteen, I was mesmerized at how eloquent Brontë is when expressing the sentiments of her characters. Here are my favorite quotes from Charlotte Bronte’s works Jane Eyre and Villette:
Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
“Wise people say it is folly to think anybody perfect; and as to likes and dislikes, we should be friendly to all, and worship none” – Charlotte Brontë, Villette
Here is a letter which I “wrote” to Charlotte Brontë when I was in my first year of high school for English class:
Dear Charlotte Brontë,
Thank you for writing your book Villette. It had a great impact on my life, as it gave me insight on the many different personalities and characters of people in everyday life. The way you described the places, events and people so convincingly I couldn’t believe that this book could be fictional as it is so close to reality. You would even use a whole chapter sometimes to describe a character by giving so much information on the person that eventually, I felt as if I really knew them as people and not characters from a book.
Take Lucy Snowe for instance, the main character of your story. To me, among all the interesting characters in your novel, she stood out the most. Perhaps its because I could really understand her point of view, and how frustrated she got whenever people judged her, casting her off as “inoffensive as a shadow.” Some points in my life really made me connect with the way she felt; whenever she was treated as someone who was transparent or invisible, and how Lucy would always struggle to find someone who would actually see her for who she was, and not who she appeared to be.
At the beginning of the story, I hadn’t always thought that Lucy was the most interesting character I had ever read about. I thought her boring and dull, yet a good narrator as she chronicled the events of her life while visiting her godmother’s home. She would rarely speak, but would calmly observe the characters of her two friends as they would embark on many small adventures to pass the time. As the story began to develop more, I saw that she was not at all as she seemed to be, and her personality was in fact, closer to my own personality than any other character I have ever read about.
Once again, thank you for writing this novel. If I had never made the choice to pick it up and read it, I would probably never have read a novel as perfect as yours. I absolutely have no doubt that Villette will always remain etched in my mind as a wonderful novel whose story will never be forgotten.
Until next time,