Charlotte Brontë: A radical Tory
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Although it is well known that Charlotte Brontë had pronounced political views and interests from childhood onwards, few academics have examined her preoccupation with politics, in the sense of public life and government affairs, at any length. Insofar as critics and scholars have considered her political opinions, they have found her Toryism hard to reconcile with the rebellious spirit in evidence throughout her mature fiction—a spirit that was felt by more than one contemporaneous reviewer to be akin to that of Radicalism. This article shows that there is no contradiction: Charlotte Brontë's political opinions were rooted in her ardent patriotism and love of freedom, both of which passions are compatible with Tory values. In her writings, veneration for the traditional British institutions, and for the Duke of Wellington as the preserver of Britain's ancient liberties, coexists with awareness of the right of women as well as men to carve out independent and meaningful lives for themselves. In the latter respect, she may be said to have adopted a radical stance.