Grace In The Arts: The Bronte Sisters: A Ministerial Home Without Much Blessed Assurance -- By: James A. Townsend

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 14:2 (Autumn 2001)
Article: Grace In The Arts: The Bronte Sisters: A Ministerial Home Without Much Blessed Assurance
Author: James A. Townsend


Grace In The Arts:
The Bronte Sisters:
A Ministerial Home Without
Much Blessed Assurance

James A. Townsend

Elgin, Illinois

I. Introduction

Charlotte Bronte [BRAHN-tay] wrote of her sister Emily in her obituary, “I have never seen her parallel in anything.”1 As a matter of fact the very same eulogium could be applied to all three Bronte sisters-Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. Never in the history of literature have three sisters so distinguished themselves as such world-class authors. Some literature professors would probably class Emily’s Wuthering Heights among the top ten novels in English literature. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre is not to be rated far behind that novel.

Another unparalleled fact is that none of the trio of world-renowned sisters lived to be forty years old. Charlotte (1816–1855) lived to be 39, Emily (1818-1848) 30, and Anne (1820–1849) only 29, yet among the three of them seven of their novels were published—with two of them proving to be blockbusters. The great literary critic Matthew Arnold penned a poem entitled “Haworth Churchyard,” referring to where this remarkable family of authors was buried.

Charlotte Bronte met other celebrated contemporary English writers such as William Thackeray, Thomas Carlyle, and Matthew Arnold, as well as being friends with two well-known female authors—atheist Harriet Martineau and Unitarian writer Elizabeth Gaskell (who would become Charlotte’s first biographer). She was also a contemporary of female authors George Eliot, George Sand, and Jane Austen. (Austen’s novels Charlotte did not particularly admire.) Intriguingly, if we include the three Bronte sisters along with the last three named novelists, five of the six female authors felt compelled—in that male-dominated society—to assume masculine pen names in order to get their excellent

works published. (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte took the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, preserving the same initials of their first and last names, in order to secure publication.)

Whether we can classify the falsehood of Ellen Nussey (Charlotte’s longest-lasting friend and pen pal) with the lies of the Egyptian midwives (in Exod 1:19) or not, we are indebted to Ellen for her falsity. In the last year of Charlotte’s life, Ellen promised Charlotte’s husband to burn Charlotte’s old letters. However, Ellen relented this promise and later shared 300 of Charlotte’s 500 letters to her with Charlotte’s first biographer. The twenty-four year corresp...

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