Charlotte Brontë, 1816-1855
Charlotte Brontë's earliest literary exercises were in the genre
of poetry. Her decision to abandon poetry for novel writing exemplifies
the major shift in literary tastes and the marketability of literary genresfrom
poetry to prose fictionthat occurred in the 1830s and 1840s.
Early in her career, Charlotte sought advice on her poems
from Robert Southey, then poet laureate of England. His assessment of
the hopeful young writers literary expectations, preserved in a
letter dated March 12, 1837, has become infamous:
Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life: & it ought
not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure
she will have for it, even as an accomplishment & a recreation. To
those duties you have not yet been called, & when you are you will
be less eager for celebrity.
to George Eliot
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