Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle by Clement K. Shorter. Hardcover. 1896 is a
A wonderful Biography of Charlotte Bronte’s life, written 40 years after her death. A fascinating read for any Bronte enthusiast.
A Thorough Review:
“Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle was written with the permission of Bronte’s husband, Arthur B. Nicholls, 40 years after her death. This biography contains many important letters not included in Gaskell’s book. Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography is considered the best and most reliable Bronte biography available. I read Mrs Gaskell’s biography and found it worthy of many of the compliments by various reviewers. However, that biography omitted many letters which compromised the biography and left a gaping hole in certain areas of Charlotte’s life.
Clement K Shorter also shed light on many issues which were considered extremely controversial in Gaskell’s biography. Namely, the controversy surrounding Bronte’s brother, Branwell and the Lady Scott. Gaskell writes that Branwell hoped to marry the Lady after husband’s death, however a stipulation in his will prevented Scott from marrying Branwell without losing her considerable fortune.
Shorter went as far as to publish the infamous will, which supposedly made such claims. There was no mention of conditions should Lady Scott marry Branwell Bronte. In fact, Shorter states that the Bronte sisters fabricated the entire story. Gaskell, however, wrote that Branwell died with Lady Scott’s letters in his pockets.
Both books are excellent biographies that I would recommend to all Bronte enthusiasts. Gaskell’s biography is of a more personal nature. The emphasis is on on Charlotte’s relationship with her family and the illnesses which devastated the author’s life throughout the years.
Clement K. Shorter’s biography expands the biography in order to include various people who touched Charlotte’s life beyond her immediate family. Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle contains chapters on the following people: Elizabeth Gaskell, Ellen Nussey, Mrs Wooler, Mr Williams, Mary Taylor, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Arthur B. Nicholls.
The book also dedicates a chapter to curates at Haworth, which presents a very different side of the usual tragic view of Bronte’s life. This chapter introduces a curate named Mr William Weightman, who Charlotte and her sisters were extremely fond of. There seemed to be quite a bit of teasing and humorous references to the curate in letters to Ellen Nussey.
This biography also contains a chapter on various suitors Charlotte had. Bronte had four marriage offers throughout her life. This book discusses each suitor through letters to Charlotte’s closest friend. One thing is for certain, Bronte was determined to never marry except for love.
The book was unexpected treasure. I thought I might find some of the information dull after reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography, but Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle presented a very different view of a novelist who lived a very tragic and short life. I feel that Gaskell’s biography focused on the tragedy, but this book shows a playful side of Charlotte, and perhaps even a slightly conceited side when it came to her suitors.”