The Life of Charlotte Bronte is the posthumous biography of Charlotte Brontë by fellow novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. Although quite frank in places, Gaskell suppressed details of Charlotte's love for Constantin Heger, a married man, on the grounds that it would be too great an affront to contemporary morals and a possible source of distress to Charlotte's still-living friends, father and husband.The first edition was published in 1857 by Smith, Elder & Co.. A major source was the hundreds of letters sent by Brontë to her lifelong friend Ellen Nussey.-- Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.more...
On the bicentenary of Gaskell’s birth, editor of the Oxford Classics edition of the Life, Professor Angus Easson spoke to the Brussels Brontë Group about the role of the Group’s home town in Gaskell’s research, and the problems caused by reporting on the Brussels years.
Having accepted the invitation from Patrick Brontë to write the life of his daughter Gaskell was keen to bring the same “charm of locality and sense of detail” to the Life that had already characterised her novels Mary Barton, Cranford and North & South. She quickly realised that a visit to Brussels was needed. Like Professor Easson himself, she visited the cathedral, Royal Park and Belliard steps that feature in the novel, as well as many key Villette locations since destroyed.
Gaskell’s investigations were however made more delicate by the fact that when Villette was translated into French, the fictitious city name was changed to ‘Bruxelles’. Individuals portrayed in the novel were thus left with even less to mask their identity and felt understandably wary of welcoming a second English novelist into their homes.
Undaunted, French-speaking Gaskell made contact with locals including the widow of the former English chaplain and the Brussels chief of police. Although failing to win an audience with Madame Heger (the inspiration for the almost certainly slanderous character of Madame Beck), Gaskell was able to meet with Charlotte’s beloved Monsieur Heger (Monsieur Paul).
Her careful investigations were not however enough to stop debate around the accuracy of the final book: a debate which continues today. brussels bronte