Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

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Jane Eyred

Preface

A preface to the first edition of “Jane Eyre” being unnecessary, I gave none: this second edition demands a few words both of acknowledgment and miscellaneous remark.

My thanks are due in three quarters.

To the Public, for the indulgent ear it has inclined to a plain tale with few pretensions.

To the Press, for the fair field its honest suffrage has opened to an obscure aspirant.

To my Publishers, for the aid their tact, their energy, their practical sense and frank liberality have afforded an unknown and unrecommended Author.

The Press and the Public are but vague personifications for me, and I must thank them in vague terms; but my Publishers are definite: so are certain generous critics who have encouraged me as only large-hearted and high-minded men know how to encourage a struggling stranger; to them, i.e., to my Publishers and the select Reviewers, I say cordially, Gentlemen, I thank you from my heart.

Having thus acknowledged what I owe those who have aided and approved me, I turn to another class; a small one, so far as I know, but not, therefore, to be overlooked.  I mean the timorous or carping fewd who doubt the tendency of such books as “Jane Eyre:” in whose eyes whatever is unusual is wrong; whose ears detect in each protest against bigotry—that parent of crime—an insult to piety, that regent of God on earth.d  I would suggest to such doubters certain obvious distinctions; I would remind them of certain simple truths.

Conventionality is not morality.  Self-righteousness is not religion.  To attack the first is not to assail the last.  To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.d

These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue.  Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ.  There is—I repeat it—a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.

The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth—to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shrines.h  It may hate him who dares to scrutinise and expose—to rase the gilding, and show base metal under it—to penetrate the sepulchre, and reveal charnel relics: but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.

Ahab did not like Micaiah,d because he never prophesied good concerning him, but evil; probably he liked the sycophantw son of Chenaannah better; yet might Ahab have escaped a bloody death, had he but stopped his ears to flattery, and opened them to faithful counsel.

There is a man in our own days whose words are not framed to tickle delicate ears: who, to my thinking, comes before the great ones of society, much as the son of Imlah came before the throned Kings of Judah and Israel; and who speaks truth as deep, with a power as prophet-like and as vital—a mien as dauntless and as daring.  Is the satirist of “Vanity Fair”h admired in high places?  I cannot tell; but I think if some of those amongst whom he hurls the Greek fire of his sarcasm, and over whom he flashes the levin-brandw of his denunciation, were to take his warnings in time—they or their seed might yet escape a fatal Rimoth-Gilead.h

Why have I alluded to this man?  I have alluded to him, Reader, because I think I see in him an intellect profounder and more unique than his contemporaries have yet recognised; because I regard him as the first social regenerator of the day—as the very master of that working corps who would restore to rectitude the warped system of things; because I think no commentator on his writings has yet found the comparison that suits him, the terms which rightly characterise his talent.  They say he is like Fielding: they talk of his wit, humour, comic powers.  He resembles Fielding as an eagle does a vulture: Fielding could stoop on carrion, but Thackeray never does.  His wit is bright, his humour attractive, but both bear the same relation to his serious genius that the mere lambentw sheet-lightning playing under the edge of the summer-cloud does to the electric death-spark hid in its womb.  Finally, I have alluded to Mr. Thackeray, because to him—if he will accept the tribute of a total stranger—I have dedicated this second edition of “Jane Eyre.”

CURRER BELL.

December 21st, 1847.

X [d] Jane Eyre

Writing & Reading

For students, teachers, scholars, and the inquisitive general reader: To employ the full capacity of the annotations, please go to bookdoors.com and click on ReSearch Engine. You will discover a variety of ways to use the annotations' content to any one and or to all of the BookDoors In Context editions. You will also be able to search the text of the nearly 100 works on the site. …

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X [d] I mean the timorous or carping few

Writing & Reading

Only four months after writing this Preface Charlotte Brontë regretted doing so, telling her publisher that she had been too "enthusiastic," a word that then often had pejorative connotations. The Preface deserves a moment of attention, for she reveals something of what she intended in Jane Eyre. …

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X [d] piety, that regent of God on earth.

Writing & Reading

She means that a narrow, self-serving piety is the God worshipped by especially the hypocrites. 

X [d] To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharis…

Writing & Reading

Sardonic. Her novel's exposure of the pharisaical (hypocritical in seeming righteous while rigorously obeying the letter rather than acting in the spirit of the law) does nothing blasphemous or un-Christian. In referring to Jesus, she reminds her reader that it was He who first exposed and challenged the Pharisees.

X [h] to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shr…

Religion

Matthew 23:27. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." The reference reappears in the novel.

X [d] Ahab did not like Micaiah,

Religion

Micaiah is a prophet but not the prophet of the Book of Micaiah. Our Micaiah's prophecy offends Ahab, who jails him. See 1 Kings 22: 1-20.

Ahab wishes Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, to join him in attacking Ramoth-gilead, a land ruled by the king of Aram. Jehoshaphat insists that Ahab first check with the prophets to see if the Lord favors the mission. They agree, but then Jehosha…

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X [w] sycophant

Flatterer, fawner.

X [h] the satirist of “Vanity Fair”

Writing & Reading

William Makepeace Thackeray, the author. 

X [w] levin-brand

Lightning.

X [h] Rimoth-Gilead.

Religion

The land in which Ahab was killed. 

X [w] lambent

Shining or glowing with a soft light or flame that does not burn.