To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Very few families produce one outstanding writer. The Brontë family produced three. The works of Charlotte, Emily and Anne remain immensely popular, and are increasingly being studied in relation to the surroundings and wider context that formed them. The forty-two new essays in this book tell 'the Brontë story' as it has never been told before, drawing on the latest research and the best available scholarship while offering new perspectives on the writings of the sisters. A section on Brontë criticism traces their reception to the present day. The works of the sisters are explored in the context of social, political and cultural developments in early-nineteenth-century Britain, with attention given to religion, education, art, print culture, agriculture, law and medicine. Crammed with information, The Brontës in Context shows how the Brontës' fiction interacts with the spirit of the time, suggesting reasons for its enduring fascination.
She opened her eyes wide. ‘Whatever cannot ye keep yourseln for, then?’
‘I have kept myself; and, I trust, shall keep myself again.’
(Jane Eyre III.iii.341)
Though Moor House servant Hannah's faculties were never ‘loosened or fertilized by education’ (Jane Eyre III.iii.340), she knows what schooling is for. Having registered the destitute but well-spoken Jane's claim to respectable social rank, Hannah immediately identifies the sole area in which a middle-class woman without ‘brass’ can support herself: education. As the servant of two governesses (on temporary leave to bury a father), she is aware that formal education at a boarding school is an essential qualification for any woman who aspires to live by teaching.
Hannah's creator had possessed that knowledge since childhood. Charlotte Brontë's own schooling was a family investment in her future ability to earn a living as a teacher, with the added bonus of her being able to pass on what she had learnt to Emily and Anne. Even the period at Cowan Bridge was part of a scheme to educate the Brontë girls (except Elizabeth, who clearly was not held to be the academic type) for teaching posts. The original advertisement for the Clergy Daughters' School in the Leeds Intelligencer spoke of pupils' being fitted ‘to return with Respectability and Advantage to their own Homes, or to maintain themselves in the different Stations of Life to which Providence may call them’.
Books about Britain in the early nineteenth century characteristically refer to the period as one of progress and reform. The title of Asa Briggs's classic The Age of Improvement 1783–1867 sums up a fundamental belief held by British people at all levels of society during the life-span of Patrick Brontë (1777–1861): the belief that human beings could become better and make their world better by labouring with and for one another. The impulses that guided them and the policies they evolved were diverse, conditioned by social factors as well as by individual inclinations; the latter aspect is important, not least because this was a time when individuality asserted itself vigorously in all walks of life and in members of both sexes. The student of the nineteenth century who attempts to map out consistent lines of development, attaching them to representatives of political parties and philosophical schools of thought, soon becomes thoroughly bewildered. Terms such as ‘conservative’, ‘progressive’ and ‘radical’ fail to do justice to the complexity of movements and people. Reformers are seen to have made common cause across class and party lines. Similarly, causes that posterity regards as enlightened were sometimes opposed by persons whose reforming zeal manifested itself in other contexts. One thing, however, was clear then and is equally so now: in the words of an 1828 review of a schoolbook, ‘[t]his is truly the age of intellectual improvement, and in every form and manner exertions are multiplied to advance it’.