The school of 80-100 young girls was situated in a large old mansion in the Rue d'Isabelle. Though the Brontes knew little French and kept mostly to themselves, they enjoyed teaching much better than the time spent as governesses. Their stay in Brussels, however, was interrupted after the death of an aunt, upon which they returned to England. Though Charlotte returned to Brussels after nearly three months, Emily refused to leave home again. Charlotte did not enjoy her return to Brussels without Emily, having no one with which to socialize. She left Brussels again within a year.
Charlotte was not a woman that had many suitors during her lifetime. Still, she apparently was attracted to M. Heger and he to her, as their correspondence after her final departure reveals. Barker places Charlotte's attraction as a motive for her return to England. Nevertheless, Heger was instrumental in harnessing Charlotte's writing style. Having an obsessive eye for detail, Heger condemned to a flow of words without a clear objective. He forced Charlotte to disclipline her runaway imagination.
Charlotte Brontë’s father played a major part in the ending of this novel. His influence on her and their inadequate relationship led to the controversial events in Villette. Charlotte intended to make the ending of Villette unhappy because of the events of her own life; although her father disagreed with this. After she finished Villette, “her father, to whom she had read some passages, was partly responsible for its enigmatic finale. He could not bear a sad ending, and in the first version M. Paul had died in the shipwreck.” (Fraser 426). With the influence of Brontë’s father, Paul Emmanuel’s fate left uncertain.
Contemporary Reactions to Villette
- "That's a plaguy book that Villette. How clever it is--and how I don't like the heroine." William Thackeray
- There is something almost preternatural in its power." George Eliot
- "All the female characters, in all their thoughts and lives, are full of one thing, or are regarded by the reader in the light of one thought--love." Harriet Martineau
- Bronte is "nothing but hunger, rebellion, and rage, and therefore that is all she can, in fact put into her book." Matthew Arnold