Yet when it comes to the inspiration for Mr. Rochester and Bertha Mason, two of the most compelling figures in English literature, Mr. Pfordresher stumbles. His argument that Charlotte drew on her father Patrick’s demanding presence, fiery temper and “sexual energy” for Mr. Rochester is unconvincing: Patrick’s attempts to remarry after his wife’s death seem more to do with caring for his six children than with lust.
The claim that Bertha’s lunacy was based on Charlotte’s trip to North Lees Hall—where the mistress of the house “reputedly went mad, was confined in a padded room, and died in a fire”—is a fair one. But Branwell, the author’s miscreant brother, is an equally good candidate that Mr. Pfordresher ignores. In her biography of Charlotte, Claire Harman points out that he kept the household awake at night “with his noisy despairing” over a past lover and is rumored to have set his own bed on fire.