How I Met Charlotte Bronte and Her Sisters


Who can resist a biography of a favourite author written by another favourite author

Who can resist a biography of a favorite author written by another favorite author

I was going to indulge in more cakey goodness today but realized I could not let this week’s celebration of Charlotte Bronte and her sisters go by without comment.  So instead of writing about revolutions in  home cake production I write about Charlotte, Anne and Emily.

Books are like friends. That is an indisputable fact, no? Sometimes though an acquaintance takes time to develop before it blooms into devoted enduring friendship. So it was with me and the Bronte’s.

I first bumped into the Bronte’s in a way as unobtrusive, as diminutive as Charlotte herself.

How does a Victorian obsessed 1880’s girl get to the ripe old age of 14 without knowing who the Bronte’s are?

I don’t know.

My only excuse is my late acquisition of competent reading skills due to dyslexia and my mother’s prejudice against big books, she is more of a  Reader’s Digest Condensed person than a Charles Dickens person.

That being said Mom’s favorite Bronte is Emily. The impression Wuthering Heights made on her at 13 never left her. She told me it was the most romantic book she ever read and it remains her favorite.

I did not read Wuthering Heights until my late teens and while I loved the writing I did not like Catherine and detested Heathcliff. I don’t know about you but it is pretty hard to root for a character you don’t like. However I do love her use of language and like so many others find her personally fascinating.

But Emily was not the first Bronte I met. My first acquaintance was with Anne. I bumped into her quite by chance when I picked Agnes Grey up somewhere. I read it. I enjoyed it but it did not send me flying to the card catalog looking for more. I had no inclining she was part of a famous threesome. 

In fact I forgot all about the book until some years later I decided to read all the books by all the Bronte’s and found Agnes Grey earily familiar, like I had been there before, and low and behold I had.

Some time after Agnes Grey I picked up The Proffesser at a second hand book store, a small hardback edition in faded blue with black embossed letters. When I went to take today’s shelfie I was surprised to find it has been replaced by a paper back edition. The whereabouts of the original remains a mystery.  I liked  the Proffesser and the name of Bronte rang a distant bell. But only Distantly.

Then sometime during my fascination with Charles Dickens in 7th grade I began looking for other authors of the Victorian age and discovered THE Bronte’s.  And what a discovery!

I was not an immediate fan, indeed on first reading Jane Eyre at 14 I found it heavy going, especially the paragraphs of untranslated French.  But I enjoyed it enough to seek out Villette. It was Villette that hooked me. There was something in Lucy that resonated with me. I identified with her, championed her and rejoiced in her triumphs. I really wished I could learn German the way she learnt French.

I could not understand why Villette was not more popular than Jane Eyre and said so to anyone who would listen.

I’ve decided Jane Eyre is one of those books you must grow into. With each re-reading I gained greater understanding of the forces at play and so the story took on  greater meaning. Now every few years I go through a great craving for Jane Eyre and binge watch all available movie versions while re-reading it.  I have read it at least six times, in fact I think I might feel a binge coming on.

So from a series of inauspicious accidental meetings I grew to love the Bronte’s and count them among my closest literary friends as do thousands of others.

How’d you meet the Bronte’s? Do you have a favorite?

leave a comment or tweet me @seahamber.