Wednesday the 23rd of October–time again for Shelf Control. I haven’t posting so regularly recently but I am trying to whenever I can. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This week my pick is a bio of Charlotte Brontë by E.F. Benson (1867-1940), otherwise known for his Mapp and Lucia series which I found to be great fun. Besides a large number of novels and short-story collections, Benson also wrote a fair bit of non-fiction, including biographies (among others, of Sir Francis Drake and Queen Victoria). He also wrote an essay separately on all the three Brontë sisters some years after this bio in 1936.

This biography of Charlotte Brontë, written in 1932 is a short one (just 144 pages), and has been described as one that tries to show the real Charlotte rather than the saintly picture painted by Elizabeth Gaskell or other earlier biographers. Reviewers (Goodreads here) seem to get the impression that he didn’t even like Charlotte very much but still manages to present a honest portrait. The Gaskell bio (The Life of Charlotte Brontë) of course did feel like it presented a version of Charlotte that would be more acceptable to the times (and yes, a little saintly too, certainly), but what I liked about it was it’s incorporation of CB’s letters which made it feel like one was at least getting a glimpse of the way she saw things. But that is the only bio of her I’ve read so far and I would like to read one (or more) that gives a truer picture as well. This seemed a good option since it is fairly short, and I have liked the books by Benson I’ve read so far (Mapp and Lucia, and also The Freaks of Mayfair). [I do also plan to get to the Juliet Barker at some point (but at 1000+ pages, it will be a while before I do). Before that I do also want to read The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë by Daphne Du Maurier.]

The Benson bio I downloaded via (here).

Which is your favourite Brontë sister, and book by them? Have you read any Brontë bios? Which one/s and how did you find it/them? Any Brontë bios on your TBR? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!


5 thoughts on “Shelf Control #62: Charlotte Brontë by E.F. Benson

  1. I’ve not come across this bio but am working my way through Clare Harman’s study which came out on the bicentenary of her birth. I’ve also read a couple of lightweight bios of the Brontë siblings. I agree that Charlotte isn’t as saintly as some would like but she’s certainly someone I would, have been interested to meet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She certainly is. I love Jane Eyre and seem to find ‘new’ things in t each time I read it, and Villette, is excellent too–I though she did Lucy Snowe so well with all her secretive nature, and never really revealing everything the way it was.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Villettee I’m looking forward to in due course, I enjoyed The Professor but felt it was flawed, and her last novel, using The Professor‘s basic plot but with genders reversed, sounds to have profited from her more positive experiences getting Jane Eyre and Shirleywritten and published.


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