Authors > 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Charlotte Brontë
To mark Charlotte Brontë’s bicentenary, Helen MacEwan, Bronte scholar and author of The Brontës in Brussels, compiled a list of her top five, little known, facts about Charlotte…
The love of her life
Undaunted by the teacher/pupil love affair cliché Charlotte fell madly in love with her married tutor Constantin Heger.
Writing to an old pupil cannot be a very interesting occupation for you – I know that – but for me it is life itself. Your last letter has sustained me – has nourished me for six months …
(Letter from Charlotte Brontë to Professor Heger, 18 November 1845)
Brussels and Heger were a huge influence on Charlotte, both as a woman and a writer. She put elements of her tutor into all her fictional heroes, including Mr Rochester.
While in Brussels, the Protestant and rabidly anti-Catholic Charlotte was driven by depression to confess to a Catholic priest in the Cathedral of St Gudule’s.
The Love Letters
After returning to Haworth she wrote desperate letters to Monsieur Heger. He tore them up and threw them away. His wife, in a move worthy of GCHQ, retrieved them and stitched the pieces together again. In 1913 the letters were published for the first time. Charlotte’s emotional outpourings to a married man caused a sensation and something of a scandal.
The pen is mightier than the sword, apparently. Charlotte became so unhappy in Brussels she is said to have sworn ‘Je me vengerai’ (‘I will be revenged’) when she left the city. Her novel Villette, which includes an unsympathetic portrait of Heger’s wife, has been seen as her ‘revenge’. No one we know is celebrating Madam Heger’s 200th birthday, though – Charlotte might have found solace in that…
For more interesting stuff you probably didn’t know about the Brontës, buy a copy of The Brontës in Brussels!