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The Life of Charlotte Brontë

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  4,178 ratings  ·  131 reviews
Charlotte was the most robust, gifted and technically competent of her famous sisters. This study of her by a contemporary is an outstanding biography by any standards: finely written with a self-effacement on the part of the biographer which is all the more remarkable when one considers the sucess of Mrs. Gaskell's "Cranford", so alive with sunlit gaiety and personal magn ...more
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Published (first published 1857)
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Melinda
After I read that wretched book by Gelsely Kirkland, I was refreshed and encouraged to read a biography of Charlotte Bronte. I recently read "Cranford", and Elizabeth Gaskell became of interest to me. In searching other books that she had written, I found that she had known and been a friend of Charlotte Bronte's, and was asked by Charlotte's father to write a biography of her after her death. Hence the beginning of reading "The Life of Charlotte Bronte".

It is a very worthwhile book, based large
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J.A. Ironside
I like Elizabeth Gaskell's work. She tells engaging stories and that is exactly what she has done here. Originally requested by Charlotte's father to write a biography of Charlotte's life. Patrick Bronte together with Charlotte's widowed husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls, wisely realised that if they did not select someone to write about Charlotte's life, then someone who was not their choice would certainly do so. Unfortunately, while Gaskell seemed the most suitable choice for a fair, unbiased acc ...more
Dorothea
This is not the one book to read about the Brontës, but certainly not to be skipped if one is reading several.

It was completed and published only two years after Charlotte's death, by a personal friend of Charlotte's who was also a friend of her father's and who gained access to many of Charlotte's letters and who traveled to all the places that were important to Charlotte and interviewed people there who knew her.

So, despite the omissions, the softenings, the biases that Mrs. Gaskell wrote alon
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***Carol***
3.5*

I should never think about reviews! Once I decide I have Something To Say, it just drags on & on!

I now have recent reads that prove that writing a biography or memoir when the subject or close friends & family are still living is no easy task. Memories differ, things happen that some want to forget. Take The Moon's a Balloon by David Niven by David Niven where he allegedly borrowed other peoples' memories, amalgamated some of his own & for obvious reasons didn't want to admit that his second marriage was deeply u
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Marie
Most of us now know how wrong Gaskell got some things. That being said, if she had not recorded the life of "her dear friend", the Brontës as we know them would not have been propelled to the mythical heights which have fueled their popularity. Gaskell does a good job of weaving Charlotte's life into a fantastical story, but left out major elements -- things that would have been improper or embarrassing to publish, and totally skewed and falsified other things to add to the romance and intrigue ...more
Kate
I read this as a stand-in Gaskell while I was waiting for more of her fiction to arrive at the library. I can see why this biography is still considered one of Gaskell's important works.

First of all, Gaskell makes heavy use of letters to and from Bronte to illustrate Bronte's life and character. This is good biography practice, of course, but it also lets you see just how much more intellectual Bronte had become by the end of her life. Her letters become much more interested in ideas, and much m
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Kivrin
I've heard this biography disparaged by others who love Charlotte Brontë, and so I fully intend to read other biographies for the sake of comparison. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of Ms. Brontë by one of her contemporaries.

ETA a few quotes (from Charlotte's letters) that really resonated with me:

"I have some qualities that make me very miserable, some feelings that you can have no participation in—that few, very few, people in the world can at all understand. I don't pride m
...more
Galena Sanz
Este libro me ha gustado muchísimo más de lo que esperaba, después de leer otras biografías más actuales de Charlotte Brontë donde siempre se calificaba esta primera biografía de condescendiente y en ocasiones no del todo sincera (debido a su época y a las personas a las que se alude) creo que a pesar de todo es un buen reflejo de la personalidad de Charlotte y que a través de sus cartas podemos llegar a conocerla mejor. De todas las biografías que he leído siempre las he notado ascéticas, mient ...more
Sara Steger
What a remarkable discourse this is on the life of Charlotte Bronte, as assembled by her friend, Elizabeth Gaskell. Having been written so soon after her death, this biograph might perhaps lack in the objectivity which a later biography could present, but whatever might be lacking in that quarter is well made up for in spirit and understanding.

Much of Gaskell's approach is to quote from the considerable correspondence of Charlotte herself, which gives this a pointedly personal flavor. We are see
...more
Yara
Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell first met in August 1850, after Gaskell had already been intrigued by Jane Eyre and its mysterious author for some time. Gaskell writes: “She and I quarrelled & differed about almost everything , – she calls me a democrat, & can not bear Tennyson – but… I hope we shall ripen into friends.” And that they did: despite their frequent disagreements, they would exchange letters and ideas and pay each other visits until Brontë passed away in 1855, Gaskell ...more
Ali Nazifpour
This is one of the best books I have read, and definitely the best autobiography. It has all the merits of a great novel, but it is real.

It can be read for many reasons. It can be read by those interested in literature as an account of three great novelists, as the book completely captures its three characters, and it enriches our understanding of the novelists and their novels. It can be read by the historian because it also captures the spirit of its time and its place. It can be read by the s
...more
Susan
It's amazing to be able to read a biography of Charlotte Bronte written by someone who knew her. Ms Gaskell used her skill developed as a novelist in presenting events, and in some places she was so strongly indignant on the Brontes' behalf--the Lowood school, Branwell's relationship with his employer's wife--that she had to make modifications in the third edition. (This version has all the third edition changes highlighted in the notes so the reader can compare for themselves) She made extensiv ...more
Catherine Siemann
On the one hand, this biography was a huge contributor to the Bronte myth, and suffers typical Victorian reticence to the point that it obfuscates as often as it illuminates. If you want to read a biography of Bronte, Juliet Barker or Lyndall Gordon provide more information. On the other, Gaskell was friends with Bronte, towards the end of her life, and writes with real affection, and there's something irresistible about reading one important Victorian novelist's biography of another.
Sawsan
I love Charlotte Bronte, she's one of my favorite authors of classics, i think she's a fascinating person,her writing were emotional and honest reflecting life and people at that time focusing on moral values and responsibility.
i read about her life before but i enjoyed reading this book too
this book is written by her friend Elizabeth Gaskell who used charlotte's letters to her friends to write this biography,the letters showed some aspects of Charlotte's feelings and personality
Charlotte Bront
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Caroline
Elizabeth Gaskell (author of North and South and friend of Ms. Bronte), was asked by Charlotte's father to write this biography. It's evident that she takes great care not to pain or offend those still living, just as she wants to do justice to a woman who was esteemed as an author and beloved as a daughter, sister, friend, and (briefly) wife.

Charlotte Bronte's life was full of physical and emotional suffering. She was by no means perfect, but I come away from this book with an even greater admi
...more
Sorcha
First published not long after Bronte's death - Gaskill was a contemporary and a friend - the first edition suffered controversy, as many of the people referenced were still alive, and some objected to their inclusion. This edition is the 1st edition, with plenty of detail in the appendix to detail the differences with the changed 3rd edition.[return][return]Volume 1 details Bronte's younger years; with much contextual narrative as to both the Yorkshire people's personality type and that of the ...more
Tiffany Anderson
The fact that this book was written by a friend of Charlotte Bronte and contemporary female author, by an individual who could request letters Bronte had written to her still-living friends and other authors, and who could personally give her own impressions of Charlotte makes for an incredibly unique biography. Gaskell only knew Bronte in the last five years of her (Bronte's) life, but she managed to give a well-rounded impression of what that life entailed.

Due to the period, there are some se
...more
Furqan
Mar 10, 2012 Furqan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in the myth of Brontes
The history of Bronte family is marred with the record of diseases, alcoholism, unrequited love, loneliness and their untimely deaths. Their lives are as much as fascinating as the literary Classics they later came to write.

The life of Charlotte Bronte was published by Elizabeth Gaskell two years after the death of her friend (albeit not a close one) Charlotte Bronte. While this book is a classic in its own right, for being the first of its kind and introducing the name of Bronte to the wider V
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Peter Ellwood
One senses that Charlotte Bronte would have been appalled by this account. Partly because she would have shrunk instinctively from any kind of disclosure about her life; but more especially because it is palpably dishonest, a hagiography of St Charlotte. She was not that kind of woman.

It is a curious feeling to read about the childhood and development of the three Bronte sisters, complete with their needlework each evening, and candles out at nine: and to realise with a jolt that it is not inten
...more
Vessy
Mar 23, 2015 Vessy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm aware that it won't be a happy tale, but nevertheless, I will read this book about Chralotte Bronte, whose words still echo within me trough her immortal heroine: "I am a free human being with an independent will" I think I owe her memory that much. Thank you, Charlotte Bronte, for giving me all you did!
Rachella Sinclair
A good but very sad read. The most striking thing, though is that it highlights how modern Elizabeth Gaskell's voice was compared to her contemporaries. Even so, the end fell apart a bit, reflecting Gaskell's fear of offending the delicacies of those still alive. I know the history, including the fact that Charlotte Bronte was pregnant when she died. Searching for mention of her pregnancy and its possible role in the cause of her death, I had to comb through the last chapter three times.
Jeni Enjaian
Do not read this book if you expect a biography of the sort published in the 20th and 21st century. It is a different format and not at all satisfying if one expects the above described.
I enjoyed the book but I definitely have a couple "bones to pick." One, Gaskell's chronology is quite hazy and hard to decipher. Two, one of the reasons for the first point is Gadkell's frequent insertion of Charlotte's correspondence. While fascinating to read these letters, it helps Gaskell avoid making any sor
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Becky Weaver
I can't have a scholarly opinion on the accuracy of Mrs. Gaskell's book. Reading it added to my admiration of the Brontë sisters' writing, and it was an engaging biography of a smart, unusual woman living in a time very different from our own.

I think it should be required reading for anyone who doesn't approve of vaccination. Poor Mr. Brontë.
Jessica
Well, it's no secret that I'm a huge nerd when it comes to Victorian/British Lit. Jane Eyre has probably always been in my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Books list, and I have absolutely loved Elizabeth Gaskell's novels. This book, to me, was a perfect blend of all the things I loved about all of the above.

I CAN'T believe I went to England and didn't go to Haworth to visit the Bronte Parsonate. It kills me to think of it! Someday, someday... But reading this was truly the next best thing. I feel like
...more
Janet Lynch
I wanted to read a novel by "Mrs." Gaskell and couldn't decide which one, so of the twenty volumes by that author that I loaded on my Kindle, I chose this biography instead. I was greatly anticipating Bronte writing of "Jane Eyre," but was disappointed to discover that the work abruptly ends before that time of her life. I have since learned that I seem to have only Volume One of the biography and there's a Volume Two. There's a lot of great stuff in volume 1 about a single, intelligent, creativ ...more
Valerie
Note that which edition of this you get matters substantially. This book was written while some of the people within were still alive, and there were several lawsuits and threatened lawsuits that forced Mrs Gaskell to do substantial rewrites.

The edition I have has both the original and the rewritten text--often as footnotes, but in a few cases whole chapters had to be reprinted whole, with one version moved to an appendix.

Some of the rewrites proved beneficial--for example, in a search for new m
...more
Maia B.
What a load of rubbish. Gaskell writes for pages and pages and pages and PAGES about every single solitary thing - from Charlotte and Emily's school in Brussels (giving us a detailed description of the history of the street it was on and every detail of what its rooms looked like), to Branwell's "affair" with a married woman.

Gaskell tells us that the reason she's telling us about Branwell's liaison is that she wants the woman involved to be ashamed of herself. First and foremost, it's none of h
...more
Amy
This book enchanted me despite its flaws. It begins with an excruciating two-chapter description of the Yorkshire landscape, the Yorkshire personality, Haworth, and Haworth parsonage, and my interest lagged until the Bronte family entered the scene. Gaskell unabashedly tried to show the best side of Bronte in her biography, as both her friendship with Bronte and the fact that she wrote the book at the request of Patrick Bronte, Charlotte's father, would incline her to do. I'm glad because I thin ...more
Beleth
Aunque he tardado muchísimo tiempo en leer este libro, me ha gustado bastante. La mayor parte de lo que nos encontramos aquí son las cartas que escribía la propia Charlotte a un montón de personas (como se nota que era una de las pocas formas de comunicarse) con unos cuantos añadidos aquí y allá de Elizabeth Gaskell. Debido a esto, hay fragmentos que están bien pero también hay muchas cosas que me parecen irrelevantes y que duran páginas y páginas y páginas.
En general está bien para poder compr
...more
Katrina
I really enjoyed this book, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this is probably one of the best biographies I've read in years.

Before starting Gaskell's book, I only knew the bare bones of the Bronte family's story as well as a few anecdotes told to me by a couple of English teachers back in school. So it was quite an nice eyeopener to have some the knowledge gaps filled in as it were.

The book is quite a hefty read and Gaskell spends quite a lot time in the beginning of the biography
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Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson (29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs. Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. She is perhaps best known for her biography of Charlotte Brontë. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and as such are of interest to socia ...more
More about Elizabeth Gaskell...
North and South Wives and Daughters Cranford Mary Barton Ruth

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“If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love our friends for their sakes rather than for our own.” 135 likes
“And besides, in the matter of friendship, I have observed that the disappointment here arises chiefly, not from liking our friends too well, or thinking of them too highly, but rather from an over-estimate of their liking for and opinion of us; and that if we guard ourselves with sufficient scrupulousness of care from error in this direction, and can be content, and even happy to give more affection than we receive -- can make just comparison of circumstances, and be severely accurate in drawing inferences thence, and never let self-love blind our eyes -- I think we may manage to get through life with consistency and constancy, unembittered by that misanthropy which springs from revulsions of feeling. All this sounds a little metaphysical, but it is good sense of if you consider it. The moral of it is, that if we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love our friends for their sakes rather than for our own; we must look at their truth to themselves, full as much as their truth to us. In the latter case, every wound to self-love would be a cause of coldness; in the former, only some painful change in the friend's character and disposition -- some fearful breach in his allegiance to his better self -- could alienate the heart.” 8 likes
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