A Vindication of the Clergy Daughters' School was written by the son-in-law of William Carus Wilson, the founder of the Clergy Daughter’s School attended by the Brontë sisters. The book sets out to challenge Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) for the explicit connection it makes between the Clergy Daughters's School and Lowood School, as depicted in Jane Eyre (1847). Published 10 years after Jane Eyre, Gaskell’s biography was the first source to blur fact and fiction, and stirred controversy between the Brontë and Wilson families.
In addition to Shepheard’s argument, the pamphlet contains letters from former pupils that pledge support for Wilson and the school.
Criticism of Jane Eyre and Gaskell’s Life
Shepheard accuses Jane Eyre of caricaturing the school, although its chief target is Gaskell's Life. His main argument is that the 'charges made against the school and its Founder are erroneous and unjust' (p. 3). As a family member, however, neither is Shepheard's account wholly objective.