Final Days of English Author Charlotte Bronte

About the final days of English author Charlotte Bronte, biography and history.


CHARLOTTE BRONTE, English author

Died: Haworth parsonage, Haworth, England, Mar. 31, 1855, at night.

"I always told you, Martha," said old Rev. Patrick Bronte to a servant, "that there was no sense in Charlotte marrying at all, for she was not strong enough for marriage." Charlotte Bronte was the last survivor of the widower's six children and the nine-month wife of Rev. Arthur Nicholls, who was curate at Haworth under Reverend Bronte. The brilliant, well-known author of Jane Eyre was a frail sparrow of a lady, standing only 4 ft. 9 in. tall. She had wed the kindly but stolid Arthur after a long, painful process of gaining her father's reluctant consent; the best she had hoped for, at 38, was "congeniality" in marriage. Both partners were intimidated--he by her fame, she by the loss of independence imposed upon a wife. But her affection for Arthur grew after marriage. A drenching walk with him on the moors in late November, 1854, thoroughly chilled her, and she was unable to shake the cold that followed. In January she discovered that she was pregnant, and thus suffered the agonies of "morning sickness." The condition worsened and confined her to bed. Food was nauseating to her, and she vomited for hours at a time. Soon her flesh wasted to skeleton hollows. "A wren would have starved on what she ate during those last six weeks," said a family friend. In early March, however, she rallied and developed a ravenous appetite. But when the screaming winds of the vernal equinox whipped across the moors, Charlotte--always physically sensitive to weather changes--immediately relapsed into delirium. She begged for food but was unable to swallow. Arthur knew a week beforehand that she was dying. As he prayed beside her bed near the end, she awoke to whisper in surprise: "Oh, I am not going to die, am I? He will not separate us, we have been so happy." Her last hours faded out in coma, and she died early on a Saturday night. Arthur said that she died "of exhaustion," but young Dr. Dugdale ascribed death to "phthisis" with no mention of pregnancy--though decades later he said that of all the babies he ever lost, the one he regretted most was Charlotte Bronte's child. Modern medicine has diagnosed her illness as "hyperemesis gravidarum," a kind of runaway morning sickness that today is easily treated.

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