Before the three Brontë sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne – were known as the authors whose literary works we have come to love and admire so much, these daughters of a clergyman had no alternative but to find employment.
Like their father, Patrick Brontë, they were ambitious to better themselves in life. The career options open to them were to find work as governesses or schoolteachers, but they longed for independence and nothing gave them more fulfilment than pursuing their private passion of writing. However, being successful authors was still only a dream for the girls.
Charlotte, who had always greatly disliked her posts as governess, hit upon the scheme of opening a school in Haworth one day with her sisters. This would allow them some sort of independence.
Read the letter in which Charlotte wrote about this dream.
They wanted to include languages in their curriculum, of which French would be the most important. They were diligent students and dreamed of perfecting their knowledge of the language in a French-speaking school.
Mary Taylor, Charlotte’s life-long friend, often wrote of her continental experiences and, after reading one of her letters, Charlotte’s imagination was set alight.
Read one of Charlotte’s letters, describing Mary’s travels.
Once the idea had taken root in her mind she could not let it go. She gained support for her scheme by arguing that further education, and in particular a command of foreign languages, would secure the success of their school. She wrote to her aunt, who was the only one within the family to help them financially, in a shrewd bid to enlist her help.
Read the letter Charlotte wrote to her aunt.
Furthermore, Charlotte knew her elders would more likely agree to the plan if she did not go alone. It was agreed Emily should go with her.
Charlotte now had to find the right school.
Her friend Mary and her sister Martha were going to the Château de Koekelberg, a highly acclaimed girls’ school in a leafy suburb in Brussels, but this was too expensive for the Brontë girls. They were recommended a cheaper but highly regarded school: the Pensionnat Heger in the Rue d’Isabelle.