Women-Writers of the Nineteenth Century

By Marjory A. Bald | Go to book overview

III
CHARLOTTE BRONTE, 1816-1855

IN studying Charlotte Bronte's achievement, it is best to work, as Carlyle would say, "from the skin inwards," considering her, first as a reader and student of other minds; then as a tentative artist; and lastly as the essential personality whose opinions, tastes, and passions determined the external qualities of her work.

Though the Brontes were all great readers, it can hardly be said that they were deep or accurate scholars; certainly they were not bookworms. Like Lucy Snowe, Charlotte had no "contraband appetite for unfeminine knowledge." We hear her speaking through the lips of her own creation: "Alas! I had no such appetite. What I loved, it joyed me by any effort to content; but the noble hunger for science in the abstract, the godlike thirst after discoverythese feelings were known to me but by briefest flashes." To all the sisters knowledge was a means to an end; it would enable them to drink more deeply of experience. When Charlotte wrote so fervently of the projected visit to Brussels, she was not thirsting -- as George Eliot might have done -- for mere instruction. "I so longed," she wrote, "to increase my attainments -- to become something better than I am. A fire was kindled in my heart which I could not quench." George Eliot would not have thought in that way of what she would become.Whereas she would have sought to escape from herself into books, Charlotte sought to realise herself more fully through their assistance. To her the intellectual woman was one whose interests were quickened by knowledge; she liked thoughtful, book-loving women, because she expected to find in them a greater vitality. She could not muster up a great enthusiasm for women without intellectual interests. We find, for instance, Jane Eyre surveying Miss Rosamond's

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Women-Writers of the Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Jane Austen 1775-1817 1
  • I - The Utilisation of Small Resources 1
  • II - Elements of Her Appeal -- Cheerfulness And Moderation 9
  • III - The Study of Human Temperament 17
  • The Brontes 28
  • I - General Introduction. Family Characteristics 28
  • II - Anne Bronte, 1820-1849 35
  • III - Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855 38
  • IV - Emily Bronte, 1818-1848 77
  • Mrs E. C. Gaskell 1810-1865 100
  • I - Introductory 100
  • II - Atmosphere and Setting 103
  • III - Humour 107
  • IV - Pathos 122
  • V - The Woman's Point of View 136
  • VI - The Social Problem 145
  • VII - Moral Theory or Moral Effect 151
  • George Eliot 1819-1880 162
  • I - Introductory 162
  • II - The Expression of Temperament 166
  • III - The Impersonal Artist 184
  • Mrs Browning 209
  • I - The Negative Approach 209
  • II - The Positive Approach 221
  • Christina Rossetti 1830-1894 233
  • I - Personal Experience Reflected On Her Poetry 233
  • II - Sources 239
  • III - Symbol, Allegory, and Dream 254
  • IV - Emotional Quality 260
  • V - General Considerations 267
  • Conclusion 275
  • Index 285
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