Together, the Bronte sisters wrote some of the best known novels in the history of English literature. Their short lives were prolific, but despite penning seven novels between them – several of which have gone on to become literary classics known the world over – the sisters lived a tough life.
As a new drama charts the sisters and their life with their father and alcoholic brother Branwell, here’s a look their various works – and a rundown of who wrote what…
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
The epic tale charting the girlhood, upbringing and adulthood of our eponymous heroine and her love affair with Mr Rochester is one of the most famous novels in English literature. Published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell – the chosen pen name of Charlotte Bronte – it was an instant success and went on to achieve global fame.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Written under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, Wuthering Heights was also published in 1847 – the year before Emily Bronte’s death aged just 30. The only novel she produced, it tells the tragic tale of Cathy and Heathcliff against the dramatic backdrop of the unforgiving moors inspired by Bronte’s own upbringing. Wuthering Heights may have polarised initial reviewers but nowadays it’s regarded as a literary giant.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte
Following widow Helen Graham – who moves into a mansion to escape her alcoholic husband – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was Anne’s second novel and her most famous, published in 1848 under the pen name Acton Bell. Initially a huge success, the book was almost forgotten in the following years, not helped by the fact that a republication a year after Anne’s death was blocked by her sister, Charlotte.
Villette – Charlotte Bronte
Based on Charlotte’s own experiences as a governess in Brussels, Villette was her fourth novel and a reworking of her first – The Professor (which was published posthumously). Her 1853 novel charts the journey of Lucy Snowe to the French city of Villette where she teaches at a girls’ school. It was hailed by critics upon its publication, with some suggesting it was superior to her previous hit Jane Eyre.
Shirley – Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte’s second published novel after Jane Eyre was Shirley, the 1849 tale set during the Industrial depression between 1811-12. Written during the time of three of her siblings’ deaths, the novel is believed to include a reference to both Anne and Emily. It’s also credited with turning Shirley – then a little-used boy’s name – into a popular name for girls.
Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte
Anne Bronte’s debut novel was published in 1847 and followed governess Agnes Grey – a fictional account believed to be loosely based on the author’s own experiences. Although popular at the time of publication, the novel has fared less well with modern critics.
The Professor – Charlotte Bronte
The first novel written by Charlotte Bronte, The Professor was rejected by multiple publishers before eventually getting a posthumous publication in 1857 – two years after the author’s death – although reviewers weren’t kind to it. Sharing a similar plot to her later work, Villette, the novel follows William Crimsworth who heads to Belgium to teach.
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