Letter from Charlotte Brontë to her brother Branwell, 1 May 1843


Charlotte Brontë’s best-known character, Jane Eyre, suffers for her passionately outspoken nature, just as Brontë was herself constricted by societal expectations of women in the Victorian age. In this letter to her brother Branwell, written when she was 27 and yet to become a published author, Brontë described her frustration at having to curb her feelings and ambitions to conform to social norms:

… one wearies from day to day of caring nothing, fearing nothing, liking nothing hating nothing – being nothing, doing nothing – yes, I teach & sometimes get red-in-the face with impatience at their stupidity – but don’t think I ever scold or fly into a passion here – if I spoke warmly, as warmly as I used to do at Roe-Head they would think me mad – nobody ever gets into a passion here - such a thing is not known … The black Swan Mr Heger is the sole veritable exception to this rule …

What does the letter tell us about Brontë’s influences?

Though always firmly guided by her own moral and religious principles, Charlotte was attracted to those with passionate natures like her own. When she tells Branwell that in solitary moments she returns ‘as fanatically as ever to the old ideas the old faces & the old scenes in the world below’ she is referring to the stories she and her brother wrote about the imaginary world of Angria. The hero of the Angrian stories is the glamorous Duke of Zamorna, inspired by Charlotte’s obsession with the poet Lord Byron.

The mention of ‘the black Swan Mr Heger’, a teacher at the Brussels school where she was working, is also significant. The tuition she received from Heger, and her growing infatuation and eventual distancing from him, brought about a shift in her portrayal of male heroes. The Byronic model evolved into the more realistic male protagonists found in The Professor (1857), Jane Eyre (1847) and Villette (1853), who are passionate and masterful, yet able to appreciate women as individuals.

Full title:
Letter from Charlotte Brontë to her brother Branwell
1 May 1843, Brussels, Belgium
Manuscript / Letter / Ephemera
Charlotte Brontë
© Brontë Parsonage Museum
Held by
British Library
Ashley MS 161

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