Jones, Phyllis Kelson
The religious beliefs of Charlotte Brontë as reflected in her novels and letters.
The Open University.
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I have attempted to find out what was of significance in the sphere of religion in Charlotte Bronte's life and thought. For information on this I have concentrated on a study of her better known novels, her letters and the contacts she had through family and friends.
Naturally of importance was her up-bringing in an Evangelical Anglican household. But at the same time, she had a father, who though orthodox in his theology was unorthodox in his views on child-rearing. The mental freedom this gave her was important. Her education, though far from conventional, was such as stimulated and invigorated her imagination. Her natural inclination and independence of thought, , enabled her to use this freedom.
Her letters are revealing of a person capable of passionate feelings and strong emotions. But these she was only able to give open expression to in her novels. This was undoubtedly what contributed to their lasting appeal.
In delving into these personal responses it has been possible to throw an interesting light on religious thinking in sections of nineteenth-century church life, particularly on the contentions and divergencies within the EvangeIical and Catholic wings of the Anglican church
This has in turn shown how, leading an isolated life in an isolated part of the world does not exclude Charlotte Brontë from absorbing and reflecting currents of religious thought that were strong at that time. To give background to all this, it seemed helpful to introduce the whole subject by a brief outline of what those main strands of thought were, both Protestant and Catholic. This, in turn, led to a consideration of the changes that had taken place during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries not only in Anglicanism, but in Catholicism and Methodism.
In summing up, it was interesting to trace Charlotte Brontë’s changmg attitudes; how she responded to new ideas and controversies as her literary reputation grew and her horizons expanded.
What remains after all this sifting of ideas is the conviction that over and above all the outside influences there is always the indefinable factor, the spark of genius.
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