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Their novels caused a sensation when they were first published and were subsequently accepted into the canon of great English literature.
The Brontë family can be traced to the Irish clan mac Aedh Ó Proinntigh, which literally means 'son of Aedh, grandson of Proinnteach'. Aedh is a male name derived from Aodh, meaning "fire"
The sisters grew up in Haworth, near Keighley in West Yorkshire (the region has come to be known as Brontë Country), surviving their mother and two elder sisters into adulthood. In 1824 the four eldest Brontë daughters were enrolled as pupils at the Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge. The following year Maria and Elizabeth, the two eldest daughters, became ill, left the school and died; Charlotte and Emily were brought home.
They had written compulsively from early childhood and were first published, at their own expense, in 1846 as poets under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. The book attracted little attention, selling only two copies. The sisters returned to prose, producing a novel each in the following year. Charlotte's Jane Eyre, Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey were released in 1847 after their long search to secure publishers.
The novels attracted great critical attention and steadily became best-sellers, but the sisters' careers were shortened by ill-health. Emily died the following year before she could complete another novel, and Anne published her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, in 1848, a year before her death. Upon publication Jane Eyre received the most critical and commercial success of all the Brontë works, continuing to this day. Charlotte's Shirley appeared in 1849 and was followed by Villette in 1853. Her first novel, The Professor, was published posthumously in 1857; her uncompleted fragment, Emma, was published in 1860; and some of her juvenile writings remained unpublished until the late twentieth century. Charlotte died at the age of 38 in 1855 after a short illness, possibly related to her pregnancy. She had married her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, less than a year earlier.
The first biography of Charlotte was written by her friend Elizabeth Gaskell and published in 1857. It helped create the myth of a doomed family living in romantic solitude.