Brooke, Charlotte (1750☓1760–1793), poet, dramatist, and pioneer in the introduction of Irish culture to the English reader, was born at Rantavan House, Mullagh, Co. Cavan, daughter of Henry Brooke (qv) and Catherine Brooke (née Meares; 1718?–1772) of Co. Westmeath. Charlotte and her brother Arthur were the only children of a family of twenty-two to survive to adulthood. She was educated at home by her father, who took a special interest in the theory of education, emphasising encouragement and the evocation of interest, and deploring any form of coercion. She was remarkably precocious, quickly gaining a wide knowledge of literature in English, French, and Italian, and showing a marked capacity in art and music. She seems to have been interested in the Irish language from an early age, hearing poems read from manuscripts by native Irish speakers in her neighbourhood in Co. Cavan and being captivated by the beauty of the language and the imagery. She later made a formal study of Irish, collected Irish manuscripts, and recorded poems that she heard spoken. Her father encouraged her in her Irish studies and literary projects, in which he also had a strong interest.
Henry Brooke's meteoric literary career in London declined after his drama ‘Gustavus Vasa’ was banned by the lord chamberlain. The family went to live at Killebegg, near Naas, Co. Kildare, where Henry and his brother Robert (1710–84) engaged in ‘progressive’ but unprofitable farming. Henry then became the first editor of the Public Register (later the Freeman's Journal). Charlotte was introduced to the literary and theatrical life of Dublin, where her father's plays were staged. She met David Garrick (a close friend and admirer of her father's work) and Mrs Siddons, and seriously considered becoming an actress, but was advised against doing so as her forte was in composition. In Dublin she made the acquaintance of scholars and fellow enthusiasts for the Irish language: Theophilus O'Flanagan (qv), Muiris Ó Gormáin (qv), Sylvester O'Halloran (qv), and her father's old friend Charles O'Conor (qv), who helped her with her work of collecting Irish manuscripts. She later met Joseph Cooper Walker (qv), who in 1786 gave her the opportunity to publish her translations of Irish poetry. The classical tradition in literature was being challenged by the romantic and national in Europe at the time. Bishop Thomas Percy (qv) had published Reliques of ancient English poetry in 1765, and Specimens of the poetry of ancient Welsh bards had been recently published. Charlotte corresponded with Bishop Percy and probably had a similar project in mind.
With the decline in her mother's health the family returned to live at Corfad, near Mullagh in Co. Cavan, where her mother died in 1772; and Charlotte, now – like the Brontë sisters later – largely isolated from society, devoted herself to scholarship and the care of her father until his death in 1783. Her published work only began in 1786 when Walker included three of her translations of Irish poems in his Historical memoirs of Irish bards (1786). These anonymous translations aroused considerable interest in literary circles. Charlotte had sustained in 1783 a disastrous financial loss arising from the failure of her cousin Robert Brooke's (qv) industrial enterprise at Prosperous, which left her nearly destitute. However, with great courage and determination and the generous support of the Irish literary world (including members of the Royal Irish Academy), she published in 1789 the work by which her name is remembered and honoured in the history of Irish literature and which acclaims her as a forerunner of the whole literary movement for the revival of Irish in the nineteenth century and the formation of the Gaelic League. The Reliques of Irish poetry, consisting of heroic poems, odes, elegies and songs translated into English verse, with notes explanatory and historical and the originals in Irish character, to which is subjoined an Irish tale, by Miss Brooke (1789) was printed by George Bonham of South Great George's St. This work includes five poems from the Fenian cycle, two poems from the Ulster cycle, three songs by Carolan (qv), and a poem by Pádraig Mac a Liondain (qv). In her notes she wrote of her work as paraphrasing, rather than translating, the Irish poems, since so much of the subtlety of the original is lost in translation. The significance of the Reliques of Irish poetry lies in the fact that it was the first time that a fairly wide selection of Irish verse appeared in print. In the circumstances of the time it set an encouraging example.
Though in declining health and poor circumstances she published (1792) a selection of her father's writings in three volumes, prefacing the work with a memoir of her father and a defence of his reputation as a writer. She also published (1791) a direct and simple presentation of Christian doctrine for children using her father's didactic method, The school for Christians in dialogue for the use of children. She died 29 March 1793 at Cottage, Co. Longford, in the home of the Brownes, friends with whom she had lived for some years.