The Lake Poets’ inspiration
The Lake District in Cumbria is the largest national park in England. It was much appreciated by Charlotte Brontë in her day (and was where she met Elizabeth Gaskell, her biographer), and by Lake Poets like Robert Southey, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the first of the romantic poets.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me,” claims its protagonist. Now it is possible to glimpse its writer’s passionate personality and rebellious streak. The relationship between Mr Rochester, a wealthy landowner, and his daughter’s governess was based on her unrequited love for a married professor she met when studying in Brussels. Charlotte brought the story to Victorian England and, in Yorkshire, found the perfect pastoral and Gothic setting, comprising inclement mornings and rain that batters the windows. Also known as God’s Own County and the Garden of England, it is one of the largest green spaces in Europe.
Lowood, the cruel boarding school where Jane spends her childhood and part of her youth, was inspired by Cowan Bridge Clergy Daughters’ School (Lancashire). That is where Charlotte went in 1824, with her older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth. Both died of tuberculosis in 1825. The writer always blamed what happened on the terrible conditions they had lived in. The school was transferred to Casterton in 1833, but the building is still standing and there is a commemorative plaque in memory of them.