This is a copy of the Brontë sisters’ school report from the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge. It provides an insight into the school’s estimation of the young Brontës.
This is the report’s first appearance in print, nearly 80 years after the sisters attended the school. It is published by the Journal of Education, a British magazine begun in 1867 for teachers, lecturers and other educators.
From what we now know of Charlotte Brontë’s prolific writing as a teen, as well as the accomplishments of her later novels, the report seems to vastly underestimate her abilities. It states that she ‘Writes indifferently’ and ‘Knows nothing of grammar, geography, history, or accomplishments’. It does, however, reinforce contemporary accounts of the Brontës’ aversion to formal schooling.
The Brontës' tragedy at the school
In September 1824 Charlotte and Emily followed their two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, to the school. 1825 proved to be a devastating year for the school – and the Brontë family. Typhoid fever hit Cowan Bridge, leading to a number of deaths among its pupils, thought to have been exacerbated by the school’s poor food and harsh regime. Maria and Elizabeth fell ill; after being sent home, they both died of tuberculosis in May and June, respectively. Shortly before Elizabeth’s death in June, Charlotte and Emily were also removed from the school.
The school’s routine and conditions, combined with Charlotte Brontë’s memory of her sisters’ deaths, provided inspiration for Lowood School in Jane Eyre.
- Article by:
- Sally Shuttleworth
- The novel 1832 - 1880, Childhood and children's literature
Drawing on children’s literature, educational texts and Charlotte Brontë’s own childhood experience, Professor Sally Shuttleworth looks at the passionate and defiant child of Jane Eyre.