Literary Heroines – Charlotte Bronte

I adore this picture of Charlotte Bronte. She looks so wonderfully English and demure. Fabulous.

Her novel, Jane Eyre, has long been a classic favourite of mine and Wuthering Heights by her sister Emily is another. In fact, I loved the Bronte sisters and their writing so much that when I was 17 and studying for my English Literature A’Level I choose to write my extended essay (a gigantic piece of prolonged coursework which counted towards your final grade) on the contrasting personalities of Charlotte and Emily and of their writing style and of their heroines Jane Eyre and Cathy. I can’t remember what conclusions I drew, but I remember being incredibly proud of my work. I’d love to be able to get my hands on that essay now and read it – what thoughts did I have as a 17 year old, I wonder?

In any event, I am still a huge fan of the Bronte sisters (not least because one of my fondest childhood memories is of taking a family trip to their home, Haworth Parsonage) and I find myself returning to their books and their incredible, memorable characters again and again – who doesn’t love Cathy and Heathcliff and the brooding setting of the moors, or the wonderful Jane Eyre and her Mr Rochester and the demented wife in the attic? Just brilliant. Of course, I love Jane Austen too, but maybe there is something about my Yorkshire roots which finds myself drawn to the work of the sisters who lived there too.

The Bronte sisters were, of course, skilled poets, as well as novelists. So, just because I can, here is a very lovely poem by Charlotte Bronte – enjoy.

Life, by: Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)

IFE, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?
Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily
Enjoy them as they fly!
What though Death at times steps in,
And calls our Best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet Hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!

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