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Maria Brontë

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Maria Brontë

Maria Brontë (1813 or 1814[1] – 6 May 1825)[2] was the eldest daughter of Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell, a part of the Brontë family, and the older sister of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. She was born in Hartshead, Yorkshire.[3]

Early life and education

When Maria was six years old, she was characterised as "grave, thoughtful, and quiet, to a degree far beyond her years".[4] Soon after their mother's death in 1821, Maria and her sisters grew up largely with one another, staying away from society. Maria read the newspaper and revealed her findings to her sisters.[4]

Maria was said to have been a precocious child. According to her father, when he asked 10-year-old Maria "what...the best mode of spending time [was]", she answered, "By laying it out in preparation for a happy eternity."[5][6] He later said that he could speak with Maria on any popular topic of the day as fluently as with an adult,[6] and regretfully recalled her "powerfully intellectual mind".[7] A printer from Thornton also remembered Maria correcting the proofs of one of Mr. Brontë's long poems. According to Charlotte, she was rather serious and silent than otherwise, and Mrs. Gaskell described her as "delicate, unusually clever and thoughtful for her age, gentle, and untidy".[6]

On 1 July 1824, Maria, 10, and Elizabeth, joined the Cowan Bridge School with Charlotte and Emily following soon after in September.[4] The food provided by the school was generally poorly cooked and unhealthy, and the cook was reported to be "careless, dirty, and wasteful".[4] Both Maria and Elizabeth had just recovered from measles and whooping cough, and despite hunger, they often did not eat.[4] The school register read:[8]

Maria Brontë, aged 10 ... reads tolerably. Writes pretty well. Ciphers a little. Works badly. Very little of geography or history. Has made some progress in reading French, but knows nothing of the language grammatically.

Miss Andrews, a teacher there, admitted that Maria had a "fine imagination and extra-ordinary talents".[9]

Death

In spring 1825, a typhoid epidemic swept through the school, causing the departure of almost a sixth of the students and she had tuberculosis between February and June 1825.[10] By the winter of 1824, Maria's health was already deteriorating due to consumption. On 14 February 1825, Maria was withdrawn from the school.[2] She lived at Haworth for three months before dying at the age of 12.[2][4]

Patrick attributed Maria's death to a divine aspect: "She exhibited during her illness many symptoms of a heart under Divine influence. Died of decline".[11]

Influence

According to Elizabeth Gaskell, Maria inspired the pious character Helen Burns in Jane Eyre,[2][6][9] and a teacher on whom Miss Scatcherd was modeled subjected Charlotte's "gentle patient dying sister [Maria]" to "worrying and cruelty".[2][6]

References

External links

  • Find A Grave Memorial
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