The Brontë sisters - Creativity and Writing
The Brontë sisters:
English writers (pictured above in a 1834 painting by their brother, Branwell, who was in it but
painted himself out - from left to right: Anne, Emily and Charlotte) .
Lived in Haworth in the Yorkshire moors that inspired their books.
Their most famous books
Jane Eyre (by Charlotte),
Wuthering Heights (Emily)
Agnes Grey (Anne).
Why were they so creative?
1. Inspiration and imagination
They were inspired by:
- the beautiful Yorkshire moors surrounding their home.
- the books they read (like Gulliver’s Travels and The Arabian Nights).
- their vivid imagination - Charlotte and her brother, Branwell
(pictured right in a 1840 self-portrait) , created the imaginary world of Angria, and
Emily and Anne created Gondal.
2. Ambition and purpose
Despite the fact they all wrote anonymously with pseudonyms, they wanted their work to be appreciated.
This was much more important to them than money.
- wanted “to be forever known”.
- was the only sister to achieve fame and fortune from the huge popularity of Jane Eyre (1847).
But she never left Haworth, so that she could look after her ageing father (pictured right).
3. Passion and enthusiasm
They all loved writing and creating beautiful and emotive literature.
They learned from
- great writers (particularly Lord Byron, pictured right, and
Walter Scott, pictured right below).
- a teacher during their brief stay in Belgium in 1842
The teacher taught them the importance of
- study (learning from reading).
- experience (see point 5).
- writing for an audience (see point 6).
Their writing was based on
a) personal experience
The horrible school Charlotte was sent to in 1824 became Lowood School in Jane Eyre.
Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights may
have been based on the sisters’ brother, Branwell.
“Novelists should never allow themselves to weary of the study of real life”, Charlotte
b) social injustice
They responded to:
- the unfairness of convention (particularly women’s inequality and social
“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion”, Charlotte (pictured
right in 1850) wrote in the preface to Jane
Jane (like Charlotte) fights for her
- self-respect and independence.
They produced challenging literature that educated people about:
- life and love.
- social problems (like sex equality, alcoholism, cruelty and class divisions) - see
In Emily's (pictured right in her brother's portrait) Wuthering Heights, Catherine doesn’t marry her
beloved Heathcliff, because he comes from a lower class.
Seeing the story through Jane
Eyre’s eyes (using ‘I’ in the text) was revolutionary.
7. Determination and self-belief
They persevered with writing, despite bad reviews and poor sales. Only two copies of their book of poetry were
Eyre and Wuthering
Heights were criticized as coarse and immoral
Charlotte was told by the Poet Laureate early in her career that:
“literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life”.
Like her sisters, she was determined to prove him wrong.
Their father was a Church of England minister and so Christianity was very important to
them (making criticisms of immorality particularly hurtful).
They believed their talent was a gift from God and so should be developed as much as
Religion also gave them the principles and purpose to cope with
life’s problems and seize its opportunities.
9. Customer satisfaction
Charlotte's (pictured right in 1854) Jane
Eyre was extremely popular because of the book’s passion and emotional honesty.
People identified with Jane, because they saw in her their own thoughts and feelings.
Key quotes on
It is not violence that best overcomes hate (Charlotte, Jane Eyre).
Life appears to be too short in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs (Charlotte, Jane
Key quote on religion
Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion (Charlotte in the
preface to Jane Eyre).
Key quotes on
A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow (Charlotte, The Professor).
There is always a “but” in this imperfect world (Anne, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) .
Key quote on the
All true histories contain instruction (Anne, Agnes Grey).