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The Brontës: 1850
Burnley, Lancashire; and Windermere, Cumbria

Suspecting and later confirming that Charlotte Brontë was “Currer Bell,” Sir James and Janet Kay-Shuttleworth invited her several times to their homes in London, Lancashire, and Windermere. Sir James was a medical doctor who was former Secretary to the Committee of the Council on Education, and after an early resignation due to ill health, he attained baronetcy, and moved to Burnley, Lancashire. Finding the countryside dull, he was eager to acquaint and amuse himself with literary celebrity.

Charlotte Brontë had expressed reluctance to accept further invitations from the Kay-Shuttleworths, but visited Gawthorpe Hall, their ancestral home, from 12 to 16 March 1850. Despite her misgivings, she found the picturesque, grey, and stately house very much to her taste.

Charlotte would later return to Gawthorpe Hall in January 1855 with her husband, Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls, staying for three days. After their return to Haworth, however, Charlotte fell seriously ill.

Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Burnley, Lancashire; Charlotte Brontë stayed here twice as guest of Sir James and Lady Kay-Shuttleworth [28 September 1990]

In August 1850, Charlotte again accepted an invitation to the Kay-Shuttleworth's Briery Close residence. There she met the writer Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell, another invited guest. Although Charlotte had sent Mrs Gaskell a copy of Shirley (addressed to “the author of Mary Barton”), and Mrs Gaskell had written a very cordial reply, they had never met in person. At this first meeting, the two took to each other immediately.

Elizabeth Gaskell would later write Charlotte's biography, The Life of Charlotte Brontë. It was published on 25 March, 1857, almost exactly two years after Charlotte's death.

Briery Close, Cumbria, home of Sir James and Lady Kay-Shuttleworth; Charlotte Brontë was a guest here in August 1850 [24 April 1983]

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Index to the Brontës