On this day in history, Charlotte Brontë declined a marriage offer from Reverend Henry Nussey on the grounds that she was too “romantic and eccentric” and not suited to be a clergyman’s wife. In the mid-19th century, women didn’t have many options when it came to providing for themselves, so turning down a marriage proposal could be considered a risky move.
Instead, Charlotte worked as a teacher and governess to support her brother’s literary aspirations. Unfortunately, Branwell Brontë succumbed to alcohol and opium abuse and later died when he accidentally set fire to his bed.
Charlotte went on to publish under the pen name Currer Bell, releasing Jane Eyre in 1847.
Although fearless and independent, life did not end happily for Charlotte. She was the last of her siblings to survive, and after caring for her father, went on to marry his curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, a year after publishing Villette. She died while pregnant shortly after the marriage.
It’s interesting to consider what might have happened had Charlotte accepted Reverend Nussey’s proposal. Would she have gone on to publish in an age when such options were limited for women or been lost to mediocrity for the sake of security and social acceptance?