Charlotte Bronte the author of Jane Eyre was one of the most romantic writers of the 1800’s. Partly biographical, Jane Eyre is about the struggles of a strong independent young woman and her need for love.
Packed with atmosphere, it is a deeply romantic book that positively sizzles with passion. In fact, largely because of its many biographical elements, I like many others have often wondered about Charlotte Bronte’s own search for love.
And now her secret has been exposed. Because Charlotte’s secret love letters have just been discovered. And what an intriguing story it is too!
A Forbidden Love
In about 1844 Charlotte stayed with a professor Constantin Heger and his wife in Brussels while she was studying languages. It must have been then that she became infatuated with him.
She was just 28 at the time but as her beloved professor was a married man with children everything had to be kept very quiet.
On returning home to England she carried on a correspondence with him – which in those days must have been a highly controversial thing to do. Because had anyone known about the affair her reputation would have been in tatters.
The correspondence in fact, was so secret that the professor on receiving the letters was careful to tear them up and throw them into the waste basket under his desk.
But as the story goes, his wife having become suspicious of the clandestine love affair was on the lookout for some evidence. She found the shreds of paper in the waste paper basket and carefully pieced them together.
The Love Letters of Charlotte Bronte
The love letters of Charlotte Bronte were mostly written in French and here are a few intriguing bits of what the professor’s wife found among the shreds:
“If my master withdraws his friendship from me entirely, I shall be absolutely without hope.”
“I must say one word to you in English – I wish I would write to you more cheerful letters, for when I read this over, I find it to be somewhat gloomy – but forgive me my dear master – do not be irritated at my sadness – according to the words of the Bible: ‘Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaketh’ and truly I find it difficult to be cheerful so long as I think I shall never see you more.”
These and other outpourings must have upset the professor’s wife considerably because she kept the damning letters and probably read them over and over. Did she keep them as evidence?
The sad affair was doomed to failure and 3 years later Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre. She must have poured all her feelings of unrequited love into it because the work is full of pent-up emotion. In fact another of her lesser known works, Villette is said to bear a noticeable resemblance to her own love story.
And now, one of Charlotte Bronte’s letters is due to be published by the British Library in an Anthology of love letters by historical personalities. The anthology called “Love Letters: 2000 Years of Romance” is to reproduce original love letters in the authors’ own handwriting.
What a win for Graphologists. Wouldn’t you just love to get hold of it? I know I would!
The saga of Charlotte Bronte’s love letters updated and continued
What the letters reveal
A wish come true! I have just come upon a wonderful article about Charlotte Bronte’s letters at www.Brainpickings.org where there are illustrations of some of her letters from the British Library.
The following illustration of Charlotte Bronte’s handwriting is an excerpt from one of these letters which she wrote to Professor Heger. Some of the letters have been torn and patched together again. The thinking appears to be that Mrs Heger found them and tore them up. After which they were either sewn or patched together. :
A few observations about the handwriting of Charlotte Bronte
The most obvious signs in this handwriting are the tiny middle zone, the even lines that droop toward the ends and the overall consistency of style. The diacritics (i-dots, punctuation etc)are well-placed.
The overall aspect of her handwriting gives us an accurate impression of her character that ties in perfectly with the observations of Elizabeth Gaskell who wrote a lengthy and sometimes rather tedious biography of Charlotte Bronte. She knew her personally and though the book could have been cut (my apologies Mrs Gaskell) it does give us some interesting insights into Charlotte’s rather complex personality.
So what can we glean from the handwriting per se?
We see that Charlotte (how that name has become popular again!) is very disciplined and enormously focused. She is insecure and very shy but is also intelligent and creative In fact she lives in her imagination rather than in the everyday world. She is intensely loyal but has a tendency to depression and feelings of guilt. There are signs of an emotional and sensual awakening which she tries to repress.
Now it’s your turn. What can you glean from her handwriting? Do write in and tell me how you think I arrived at these observations.