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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Words for the right moment

“I'm just going to write because I cannot help it.” – Charlotte Bronte

Bronte, who lived to just age 39 before dying of typhus during pregnancy, was born on this date in 1816.  The oldest of 3 Bronte sisters who survived into adulthood (2 sisters died of tuberculosis), she and her surviving sisters each wrote novels that are still considered classics of English literature. 

In addition to her literary writing, she also had a remarkable lyrical style leaving us with such statements as “The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter - often an unconscious, but still a truthful interpreter - in the eye.”  And “The human heart has hidden treasures, in secret kept, in silence sealed; the thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, whose charms were broken if revealed.”

Charlotte drew from her personal experiences as surrogate “mother” to her 3 younger siblings after their mother died following the birth of sister Anne.  That life experience prepared her for both her first job as a governess and for her writing career that formally began when she and sisters Emily and Anne co-published a book of poetry under the pseudonym Bell – Charlotte as Currer; Emily as Ellis; and Anne as Acton.

While their poems did not succeed, the three women’s subsequent novels – Jane Eyre from Charlotte; Wuthering Heights from Emily; and Agnes Grey from Anne – were wildly successful and led to their revealing their real names to the writing world.   With an innovative style that combined naturalism with gothic melodrama, Charlotte’s writing especially plowed new ground.

Charlotte believed art was most convincing when based on personal experience; so in Jane Eyre she transformed her experiences into a novel with universal appeal.  But, touching on the trials that all authors face, she once lamented “Who has words at the right moment?”  Fortunately for the world, Charlotte Bronte did.

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