Charlotte Brontë’s French Homework

The Guardian attempted to get me all excited at the prospect of a hitherto unknown Charlotte Brontë work (their headline is “Charlotte Brontë’s lost short story to be published”), but in fact, what we are really talking about is some French homework she did as a young woman. The grammar is, apparently, a bit hit-and-miss (I don’t know French, so I can’t comment), and in general the work is far too short and insubstantial to be called anything as grand as a “lost short story.” If you’re interested in Brontë’s life, however, this tale of a rat–yes, a rat–who leaves behind a devoted father for the excitement of a larger world only to die in oblivion is of significance because of the teacher who assigned it, Constantin Heger. Charlotte fell madly in love with Heger and later based part of her novel Villette on their relationship. If you are so inclined, the London Review of Books has posted the original French version of the story, the English translation, and a nice little write-up with some context.

If nothing else, it is fascinating to me that someone can be so well-known that even the appearance of her not-so-accomplished homework is cause for a news story. I expect that poor Charlotte would be mortified. I intend to use this as a cautionary tale for my children.


2 Comments to Charlotte Brontë’s French Homework

  1. March 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Trying to decide if this story is an amusing footnote to a great literary author or, as you’re threatening your children, a nightmarish consequence of potential fame :P

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