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The Life of Charlotte Brontë

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  8,750 ratings  ·  284 reviews
Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857) is a pioneering biography of one great Victorian woman novelist by another. Gaskell was a friend of Bronte's and, having been invited to write the official life, determined to both tell the truth and honor her friend. This edition collates all three previous editions, as well as the manuscript, offering fuller informa ...more
Paperback, Third Edition of 1857, Oxford World's Classics, 587 pages
Published June 20th 2002 by Oxford University Press (first published 1857)
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SpindelyShankz You can get a e-copy from project gutenberg

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Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charlotte Bronte one of my favorite authors of classics, i think she's a fascinating person,her writings 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 Bronte lived a h
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
A biography of Charlotte Bronte written by one of her contemporaries and as biographies go it's very good. If you are interested in or are a student of Charlotte Bronte this is a must read. It's probably more subjective than one would like a biography to be, but it's obvious Gaskell liked Charlotte and wanted to show her in the best possiible light. But this is a very detailed work, full of interesting information about Charlotte and the entire Bronte family. And the fact that Gaskell is a very ...more
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
Katie Lumsden
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly brilliant, moving and engaging read - more letters and commentary than a biography at times, but well worth a read.
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british-lit, classics
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
Iza Brekilien
This book is particularly interesting to me because it combines two factors : one, Elizabeth Gaskell *and* Charlotte Brontë (two for the price of one) ; two, this is the first biography that a man (Patrick Brontë) asked a woman to write. Apparently, no woman novelist had written a biography before about a woman novelist. It was published in 1857, so 2 years after Charlotte's death.

This is a strange biography : at the very beginning of the book, Elizabeth Gaskell tells us about Yorkshire and its
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because Truman Capote recommended it in one of his letters, and so far he's batting 100. It explains so much about this very serious, judgmental, somewhat dour woman and the darkness in her work. My God, she lived across the lane from an overpacked cemetery whose rotting bodies leaked into the town water supply and caused much sickness and death, including many members of her family. I was fascinated to read that she admired the French writer George Sand, who was her temperament ...more
There are some brilliant Brontë biographies out there. This is not one of them.

Fabulous - though intrinsically unengaging – propaganda. Gaskell almost single-handedly gave breath to the Brontë myth, depicting Charlotte as a suffering saint, establishing the opinion that the works of Emily and Anne were negligible and implying Patrick Brontë was a family tyrant – among other static images. As a dedicated Brontë fanatic, I would be lying if I said my blood did not boil as I attempted this one.

Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, non-fiction
2017: DNF at 33%. I had the wrong expectations for this work. This is a collection of letter fragments written by Charlotte Bronte, which Gaskell has curated and contextualized. I was expecting a Gaskell novel about Charlotte Bronte. Gaskell's writing does not shine or entertain in this volume like it does in most of her other works (at least, for me). I may attempt to finish this in the future, now knowing what to expect. I recommend you pick this up if you want to learn about Charlotte Bronte, ...more
Jan 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, classics
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
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
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
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

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 unhappy. &
These days, this biography gets a lot of flak. In part, it's justified, because Gaskell went into this with certain aims, which influences how she wrote about her subject and means her objectivity is pretty much shot. She wanted to write about Charlotte Brontë the woman because she was worried about how people perceived her through her writing. That wasn't for Gaskell to say (and she also makes assumptions about Anne Brontë that I had issues with). It's the job of a biographer not to pass judgem ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Maybe I would have liked this more if I didn't know that Elizabeth Gaskell was a big fat phony who didn't even really care for Charlotte Bronte or her writing. "My dear friend Charlotte"? Really? She knew her for a couple years before she died, they were never "good friends" and Gaskell wrote letter upon letter spreading gossip about her and her family. Not to mention how often Gaskell brings herself into the narrative. Ugh. ...more
How this book made it onto The Guardian's 100 best nonfiction books ever list in 2017 is truly beyond me. At times beautiful but mostly boring and painful. ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Ali Nazifpour
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
I own a greeting card that depicts three happy, smiling young ladies who appear to be thinking slyly, all with brown eyes and middle-parted hair. The words "Bronte Sisters" are lettered into the pastel rose background of the card, and I have mounted it on the wall above this very computer where I pen--er, type--these lines to you. They smile down, but never make eye contact.

Yet I must report that, according to this biography of Charlotte by Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell, my card and its merriness? Lie
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
It's a fascinating book, especially if one wants to have a view of the Brontes as seen by their contemporaries. Gaskell did a lot of research on her subject, and many later biographers made use of her findings. However, she also omitted some key information about Charlotte Bronte's love life (her love for her married teacher, M. Constantine Heger), as it would not have gone down well with the public. It's a very interesting document of Victorian sensibilities. ...more
Jazzy Lemon
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent biography written by her good friend and for the most part compiled from Charlotte Brontë's letters. One of the most touching things was the death of Emily, and the sad heart of her faithful dog, Keeper, who attended the funeral and then howled and cried outside her door for days afterward. ...more
Jocelyn Green
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
In this biography, Charlotte Bronte's friend Elizabeth Gaskell makes use of dozens of letters to show us the kind of person Charlotte was, and inso doing, let Charlotte speak for herself as much as possible. I appreciated getting to know Charlotte's voice and personality through all these letters. Not every single one of them held my interest as much as others, but those were easy enough to skim. ...more
Lauren Kammerdiener
"Now there is something touching in the sight of that little creature entombed in such a place, and moving about herself like a spirit, especially when you think that the slight, still frame encloses a force of strong, fiery life, which nothing has been able to freeze or extinguish."

Upon the death of her dear friend, Elizabeth Gaskell was asked to write a biography on fellow novelist Charlotte Brontë, the woman whose books had so widespread an impression on the public, that half the country
This biography has been written by a friend of Charlotte Bronte, another female author who knew Charlotte personally and wrote with care not to expose other friends to unwelcome public scrutiny. It draws heavily, quoting verbatim, on many letters written by and to Charlotte, so the reader enters into a very intimate relationship with the reclusive protagonist. Her deep love for her family and her Yorkshire home pervade the text. Entering into the details of her domestic life, one gets to underst ...more
Andrea AKA Catsos Person
CNF @ 26% May 8, 2015 Women's Lit group BOTM

What would be interesting about the life of a poor clergyman' daughter from the Victorian era?

1) Her experiences and people at The Clergy Daughters' School inspired aspects of Jane Eyre's (the character) experiences at the fictional charity school Lowood.

2) She fell in love with a married man (Constantine Heger) who may have inspired the character M Paul Emmanuel from her novel "Villette"

3) She had a romance with her publisher George Smith

Gaskell tone
Grasshopper Bot
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Didn't enjoy it. ...more
James Kelly
Dec 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
If you're looking for a biography of Charlotte Brontë, don't stop here. Gaskell's work is more fiction than fact, motivated by a desire to rescue Charlotte from accusations of being base and unfeminine. Because her works were deemed inappropriate from the pen of a woman, Gaskell attempts to portray Charlotte as a properly quiet, demure and retiring woman whose work merely reflected the harsh, brutal world around her. Consequently everyone around Charlotte is vilified and her environment painted ...more
Catherine Siemann
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: victorians
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. ...more
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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

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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.” 158 likes
“[Charlotte Brontë] once told her sisters that they were wrong - even morally wrong - in making their heroines beautiful as a matter of course. They replied that it was impossible to make a heroine interesting on any other terms. Her answer was, 'I will prove to you that you are wrong; I will show you a heroine as plain and as small as myself, who shall be as interesting as any of yours.” 11 likes
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