Charlotte Bronte's 200th birthday marked in Britain

LONDON (AFP) - The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Bronte, whose intense and passionate vision of rural life in "Jane Eyre" has haunted generations of readers, was being marked in Britain on Thursday (April 21).

Fans are hosting a birthday party in the house in northern England where Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne grew up and wrote their books.

The anniversary highlights the enduring global popularity of the Brontes, whose works are seen as among the most important ever written by female authors.

A wreath will be laid for Bronte in Westminster Abbey on Friday and a ballet version of "Jane Eyre" is opening next month, while the National Portrait Gallery is hosting an exhibition in her honour.

The Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, a remote village on the edge of moors in Yorkshire, draws tens of thousands of visitors from around the world each year, while the sisters' books are staples of British bookshops and school curriculums.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte were a clergyman's daughters who wrote for pleasure and dreamt of becoming published authors but feared they would not be taken seriously because they were women.

They therefore adopted the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell when they sent "Jane Eyre", "Wuthering Heights", "Agnes Grey" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" to publishers in the 1840s.

Emily Bronte fell ill with consumption and died in 1848, followed by Anne the following year. Charlotte lived for a further six years before dying in Haworth in 1855 aged 38.

"Jane Eyre", which has never been out of print in Britain, tells the story of the heroine's youth as an orphan and how she falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester, while working as a governess.

Charlotte Bronte's other works include "Shirley" and "Villette".

Her biographer Claire Harman told the BBC this month that she was someone "who both longed to be 'forever known', but clung to anonymity in order to achieve it, a woman much more concerned about truthfulness than personal fame and someone who felt compelled to put into words her own terrible sufferings... as being the only way to deal with them."