Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Life of Charlotte Brontë” as Want to Read:
The Life of Charlotte Brontë
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Life of Charlotte Brontë

by
3.88  ·  Rating details ·  7,214 ratings  ·  254 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Life of Charlotte Brontë, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
SpindelyShankz You can get a e-copy from project gutenberg

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,214 ratings  ·  254 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Life of Charlotte Brontë
Sawsan
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
...more
Duane
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
Melinda
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, british-lit
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
...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.
Lorena
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
Jess
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.

Ulte
...more
Dorothea
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
...more
Marie
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
Kate
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
...more
Amanda
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, non-fiction
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, not i ...more
Sara
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
...more
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
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 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. &
...more
Katie
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
Rebecca
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
...more
Charlie
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.
Susan
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
...more
Katherine
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.
Sonya
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
...more
Girl
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.
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.
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
...more
Suzanne
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 (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder
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
...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.
Quirkyreader
See my response on my book blog: http://quirkyreader.livejournal.com/1...

2.2.13. I am changing my rating. After doing more research on Charlotte, the Gaskell book in my option, still has some merits. But, in this biography she started mythperceptions that have been picked up and used by others writers writing biographies of the Brontes.
...more
Hermien
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I especially liked the historical feel of the biography and Elizabeth Gaskell's perspective as a close friend of Charlotte's.
Hannah Smith
This book's existence is nothing less than a complete privilege.

Elizabeth Gaskell, a renowned writer of the Victorian age herself, handled her subject with tenderness and reverence. She became friends with Charlotte Brontë years after the premature deaths of Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë. This was an interesting time to make acquaintance with the authoress; her days involved caring for her father, keeping the household and parsonage in order, working on novels, and engaging in consistent bat
...more
Kathleen Flynn
According to Goodreads I started this in December 2017. It's certainly possible. Initially found it vastly tedious and despaired of ever finishing such a mammoth tome. I would pick it up between other books and quickly put it down. Returning to it again recently -- and finding it far easier going -- seems a measure of my progress in knowing stuff about the Brontes. I was no longer reading Gaskell for facts (she's not a great one for facts) but for where she diverges from what's known about Charl ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Victorians!: Life of C Brontë - Section 3 2 14 Apr 03, 2016 11:56PM  
Victorians!: Life of C Brontë - Section 2 3 17 Mar 31, 2016 06:51AM  
Victorians!: Life of C Brontë - Section 1 5 32 Mar 27, 2016 01:31AM  
Victorians!: Life of C Brontë - Section 4 1 12 Mar 22, 2016 05:33AM  
Women's Classic L...: Week 5 - Overall Impressions 21 28 Nov 29, 2015 12:06PM  
Women's Classic L...: Week 4 - Chapters 22-28 4 9 Jun 01, 2015 09:21PM  
Women's Classic L...: Week 2 - Chapters 8-14 11 13 May 30, 2015 07:48PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • More Than Love, A Husband's Tale
  • America's Daughter (Dancing Soul Trilogy, #2)
  • Africa's Child (Dancing Soul Trilogy, #1)
  • Woman in the Shadows (Clara Vine, #2)
  • Losing Jon: A Teen's Tragic Death, a Police Cover-Up, a Community's Fight for Justice
  • The Brontës
  • On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
  • Shirley
  • The Victorian Chaise Longue
  • The Professor
  • Das siebte Kreuz
  • Pleasant Day
  • The River of No Return
  • Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America
  • A Writer's Diary
  • The Son and Heir: A Memoir
  • Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More
  • The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
See similar books…
2,683 followers
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

News & Interviews

Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
25 likes · 4 comments
“If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love our friends for their sakes rather than for our own.” 156 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
More quotes…