Charlotte Brontë’s Headmaster in Jane Eyre
WILSON, William Carus (1791–1859), Church of England clergyman and founder of charity schools. Autograph letter signed to an unnamed correspondent, 4 sides (4 x 5 inches), Casterton Hall, September 10th 1847, reporting that “Mr Holmes does not seem to be able to give any more satisfactory account of this disagreeable business, so I suppose there is nothing to be done but to pay the money” and sending his correspondent a cheque, assuming that his opinion remains the same.
William Carus Wilson, a Church of England clergyman, was the founder of several charity schools for girls and was a prolific author of accessible religious literature, mainly aimed at children. The Clergy Daughters' School which he founded at Cowan Bridge, Lancashire in 1824, became notorious as the original of Lowood Institution in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre published in 1847 (the year of this letter). Charlotte Brontë entered the school in 1824 with her sisters, Maria, Elizabeth, and Emily, and always blamed the school's harsh regime and punitive religious discipline for the deaths of her two eldest sisters. When Mrs Gaskell identified the school and Carus Wilson by name in her Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) she was threatened with a libel action.
The Mr Holmes referred to is possibly the Rev. Holmes, a fellow graduate of Trinity College Cambridge who also set up School for the Daughters of Clergy (in Gloucester in 1831).
By 1847 when this letter was written Wilson had ceased the active editorship of his periodicals, and handed over the management of his schools to his son and sons-in-law.