Shirley, Charlotte Brontë’s third novel, was published in 1849. The scene is laid in the Yorkshire country in the period 1811–12, during the industrial depression resulting from the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. The heroine, Shirley, was drawn from the author’s own sister Emily. The other characters include three raw curates,— Mr. Malone, Mr. Sweeting, and Mr. Donne, through whom Charlotte Brontë probably satirized the curates of her own acquaintance. The story follows the fortunes of Robert Moore, who, in his effort to introduce new machinery into his cloth mill, has to encounter much opposition from his employees. In her childhood Charlotte Brontë had heard much of the Luddite Riots which were taking place in the neighbourhood, and which furnished her later for the descriptions of the riots in Shirley. Wholesome and genial in tone, it remains one of Charlotte Brontë’s most attractive novels.
Charlotte Brontë (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) was born in the old parsonage at Thornton, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. She was the daughter of a clergyman, who, in 1820, moved with his family to Haworth. In 1845 her literary life commenced in earnest. Jane Eyre was published in October 1847, followed by Shirley in 1849 and Villette in 1853. The Professor, written before Jane Eyre, was rejected by many publishing houses, and published posthumously in 1857.
The novel before us is Yorkshire throughout—racy of the soil. There is something in it of kin to Jane Austen's books, or Maria Edgeworth’s, or Walter Scott‘s. There is human life as it is in England, in the thoughtful and toiling, the employing and labouring classes, with the women and clergy thereto appurtenant.— Globe.
The same piercing and loving eye, and the same bold and poetic imagery, are exhibited here as in Jane Eyre. Similar power is manifested in the delineation of character. With a few brief, vigorous touches, the picture starts into distinctness.—Edinburgh Review.
Shirley is a novel of remarkable power and brilliancy; it is calculated to rouse attention, excite the imagination, and keep the facilities in eager and impatient suspense. It will unquestionably add to the reputation of the author. Charlotte’ Brontë’s powers of description are displayed to greater advantage in this novel than in its predecessor.—Morning Post.