Getting Dumped by Charlotte Brontë

From the Internet’s best magpie Maria Popova comes the tale of Charlotte Brontë turning down her suitor’s proposal of marriage. As Popova mentions, it’s hard to top this as an example of “it’s not you it’s me.” I’m not sure what my favorite part is, so I bolded a few.

My dear Sir

Before answering your letter, I might have spent a long time in consideration of its subject; but as from the first moment of its reception and perusal I determined on which course to pursue, it seemed to me that delay was wholly unnecessary.

You are aware that I have many reasons to feel gratified to your family, that I have peculiar reasons for affection towards one at least of your sisters, and also that I highly esteem yourself. Do not therefore accuse me of wrong motives when I say that my answer to your proposal must be a decided negative. In forming this decision — I trust I have listened to the dictates of conscience more than to those [of] inclination; I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you — but I feel convinced that mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you. It has always been my habit to study the character of those amongst whom I chance to be thrown, and I think I know yours and can imagine what description of woman would suit you for a wife. Her character should not be too marked, ardent and original — her temper should be mild, her piety undoubted, her spirits even and cheerful, and her “personal attractions” sufficient to please your eye and gratify your just pride. As for me, you do not know me, I am not this serious, grave, cool-headed individual you suppose — you would think me romantic and [eccentric — you would] say I was satirical and [severe]. [However, I scorn] deceit and I will never for the sake of attaining the distinction of matrimony and escaping the stigma of an old maid take a worthy man whom I am conscious I cannot render happy.


Farewell—! I shall always be glad to hear from you as a friend

Believe me
Yours truly
C Brontë

How awesome is this? Makes me want to read Jane Eyre all over again. (Along with the book this came from, Hell Hath No Fury: Women’s Letters from the End of the Affair by Anna Holmes.)

And let’s all watch this again. Forty-four seconds with the great Orson Welles, if for no other reason than to recall how awesome his voice was:

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons


19 thoughts on “Getting Dumped by Charlotte Brontë

  1. Amazing letter. It sounds so modern in parts. And great clip too. I don’t think I’ve seen that version of ‘Jane Eyre’ before. Watching that clip makes me think I’d like to. 🙂


    1. Yes, that film is a treat – highly recommended. And I agree with you on the letter. I always knew the Brontes were awesome; this gave me a better sense of why. Such fantastic spirits. Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Charlotte was a girl after my own heart! Her refusal reminds me of Pride and Prejudice, when Lizzie turns down Mr Darcy. Both women clearly know themselves, warts and all, and are not willing to compromise for anything. Thanks for making this old maid giggle.


    1. Yes, exactly right – I had the same thought! There’s something awesome about seeing a woman’s intelligence and self-confidence break out of the role her society ascribed to her. After reading this letter, I have no trouble at all imagining Charlotte at a modern-day dinner party. She would definitely hold her own (if we moderns could even keep up with her!)


    1. Yes, that’s good too. Years ago an English-language radio station in Taiwan used to wake me up with promos for a radio play version of Jane Eyre that were kind of spooky. I wonder if anyone else recalls those – they were unforgettable to a hot, drowsy 22-year-old…


  3. There’s quite an interesting sort of pride here too – the type of woman she describes as being suitable for this man sounds like your standard ‘little woman’, and she’s clearly very aware of not being that and not at all sorry about it!
    Thanks for liking our twisted art story. Cpome back next week to see how it pans out.


  4. I can’t help but think that also behind her refusal was the realization that if there was unhappiness in the home her art would be affected. And an artist–of her stature especially–but all artists too, cannot let anything stand between themselves and their work, which is paramount.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s