‘Do you like the truth? It is well for you.
Adhere to that preference - never swerve thence.’

Charlotte Brontë, Shirley

Lies and the Brontës

The Quest for the Jenkins Family

by Monica Kendall

Radical insights into Charlotte Brontë’s vital two years in Brussels (1842-3)

The Jenkins family knew the Brontës in Brussels and West Yorkshire. Eager to learn about them, their descendant read the Brontë biographies, and discovered that no one had researched this family, and, worse, that what was written was fabricated, with one biographer copying another, embroidering, even making up dialogue.

Yet Mrs Gaskell had deliberately sought out Mrs Jenkins when researching her famous Life of Charlotte. If it had not been for Mrs Jenkins, Charlotte would never have gone to Brussels, never met M. Heger. There would be no Villette, no Jane Eyre.

This book purges the lies and identifies one of Charlotte’s characters for the first time. It reveals a thrumming wire that connects Byron to Trollope to Henry James, and gives further evidence of the adultery of William Wordsworth’s eldest son. Above all, it gives a radical new perspective on the inspiration for Charlotte’s novels and those vital two years she spent in Brussels (1842–3). The book is a quest, a biography and an occasional travel book.

About the author

Monica Kendall has a Master’s degree from St Hugh’s College, Oxford University, and another from University College London. She has previously edited two books: John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (Pearson/Longman, 2004) and the secret diary of a teenage great-aunt trapped in occupied Brussels during World War I, Miss Cavell Was Shot: The Diaries of Amy Hodson, 1914–1920 (SilverWood, 2015).

More about Monica


“The book is extremely impressive – staggering research and so well written. I am riveted [...] What riches! [...] a fantastic achievement. It’s some time since I felt so excited about a Brontë-related book!”

Helen MacEwan, author, and founder of the Brussels Brontë Group

“There is something strangely hypnotic about the whole narrative, especially early Welsh wanderings (the magic Ystrad Meurig! the bamboozled school inspectors!), and the later (brilliantly detailed and gossipy) re-creation of domestic life in mid 19th-century Brussels.”

Richard Holmes, the foremost biographer of Shelley and Coleridge

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Books by Monica

Lies and the Brontës

Lies and the Brontës

The Quest for the Jenkins Family

Read more
Miss Cavell Was Shot

Miss Cavell Was Shot

The Diaries of Amy Hodson, 1914–1920

Read more

Monica Kendall