Charlotte Brontë – terrible teacher, brilliant novelist

December 4, 2009

…am I to spend all the best part of my life in this wretched bondage, forcibly suppressing my rage at the idleness, the apathy and the hyperbolical & most asinine stupidity of those fat-headed oafs, and on compulsion assuming an air of kindness, patience and assiduity?


These were the thoughts of the young Charlotte Brontë, as written into her journal when she was a teacher at Roe Head School in Mirfield.

The short-sighted author had a habit of making entries in it while the class was in progress: there are reports of her writing in tiny script, her nose nearly touching the paper, then sitting with her eyes closed. The girls in front of her might have thought she was receiving spirit messages.

She did not make much of a success of being a governess either – to just two of the young children of Skipton mill owner John Benson Sidgwick. She was unable to control them, but she did admire his Newfoundland dog.

Richard Wilcocks will speak about a lot more of her writing and her life when he gives a Powerpoint- assisted talk in Headingley Library on Thursday 8 December 2016 at 7pm called ‘Charlotte Brontë – Terrible Teacher, Brilliant Novelist’. He will also go into role as John Benson Sidgwick, who will give his own view of the unhappy woman he employed, and of governesses in general.

The talk is a LitFest ‘Between the Lines’ event and it is free. The main part of the annual Headingley LitFest (the tenth) takes place in March 2017.