BRONTË, CHARLOTTE. (1816-1855). English novelist and author of Jane Eyre. ALS. (“C Bronte”). 1¼pp. 8vo. [London, June 22, 1851?]. To English physician and education advocate SIR JAMES KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (1804-1877), best remembered for introducing Brontë to her biographer, novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.
“I shall be disengaged at 2 o´clock to-day, and it will give me great pleasure to see Miss Ryle and yourself.
I trust the improvement in Lady Shuttleworth’s health continues – will you remember me to her kindly and believe me, dear Sir James. Yours respectfully & sincerely…
When I see you I shall be better able to say whether I can avail myself of your kind wish that I should spend another evening in Gloucester Square – the last was very pleasant and left a happy impression.”
The daughter of an Anglican clergyman, Charlotte and her sisters, Emily and Anne, fostered literary ambitions since childhood. Charlotte worked as a governess and a teacher at a boarding school, experiences which inspired her writing. Although her first novel, The Professor, was rejected for publication, she was encouraged to submit future manuscripts and, in October 1847, Smith, Elder & Co. published her gothic melodrama Jane Eyre under the pseudonym Currer Bell. Groundbreaking for its first person narrative from a female perspective and commentary on such topics as education, class, sexuality, and feminism, it was a popular success. The mysterious identity of the author created much speculation, which increased with the December 1847 publication of Wuthering Heights by Emily under the pseudonym Ellis Bell and Agnes Gray by Anne under the pseudonym Action Bell. Anne’s second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was published six months later and, shortly thereafter, Charlotte and Anne traveled to London and revealed their identities to their publisher after much public pressure to do so. During subsequent visits to London, Charlotte began to move in literary circles, becoming acquainted with William Makepeace Thackeray, Harriet Martineau and Elizabeth Gaskell, the author of Cranford, North and South and Wives and Daughters, whom she met at the London home of Kay-Shuttleworth.