Jane Eyre

Category: Writing & Reading | Type: Discussion | Title: Jane Eyre (in Context) | Author: Charlotte Brontë

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. 

 

 Customary throughout Bookdoors is that neither the introduction nor any annotation to the novel reveals the plot. Novels happen in time, and, as in life, we are suspended between something we know and something of which, however seemingly predictable, we cannot be entirely certain. Suspense is inherent to much narrative and central to 19th-c. fiction. This is not simply a device by which the author keeps us engaged. The novelist knows that through suspense we readers discover something of our own desires and fears respecting not only the characters but our lives. That said, without giving away anything, I can quote Jane Eyre's very last sentence: “'Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus.'”

That the novel ends there may surprise even those who have read Jane Eyre, no less those familiar with it only through one of the twenty-eight feature films and TV adaptations. These and the preponderant literary criticism do not reflect the novel's being primarily a depiction of Jane's spiritual pilgrimage toward a self-respect consistent with Christian faith. In part this limited understanding is owing to our weighting the novel's first and decidedly romantic half more than we do the second. Most of us find romantic love a more congenial subject than that of the protagonist's higher journey. And most readers today de-emphasize the spiritual pilgrimage because we are generally far less learned in the Bible than Brontë's Victorian contemporaries no less Brontë herself,  the daughter of the Reverend Patrick Brontë, an Anglican curate. Almost by default the love story for us eclipses the spiritual narrative, yet it is the spiritual that finally makes viable and sound the love story.

A Victorian reader would probably have recognized that these are not just the novel's last words but also practically the Bible's. With “come, Lord Jesus,” Brontë quotes the penultimate verse of the Bible's final book, Revelation, itself the book of endings. Reinforcing this doubling, her own penultimate paragraph refers to Gospel of Mark and to John Bunyan's hugely influential The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come (1678). Bunyan's religious allegory had an incalculable impact on the 18th- and 19th-c. English novel. A staple of children's reading, Pilgrim's Progress formed the sensibility of a great many young readers, including those who went on to write Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, Oliver Twist, and now Jane Eyre.

The Rev. Patrick Brontë, an Irish Protestant who managed with the help of a wealthy patron to go to Cambridge and be ordained, was far from sternly evangelical though he appears to have deplored in his family any suggestion of opulence or luxury particularly in dress, an antipathy Jane Eyre also expresses. He possessed an inquiring, active intelligence and was himself a published poet. To his credit he was unusually tolerant, at least among other Anglican parsons in that area of Yorkshire, of Evangelicalism and Dissent (Search).

But his sister-in-law, the redoubtable Aunt (Elizabeth) Branwell, possessed a quite different temperament. She was a dourly chaste woman severely conscious of Original Sin. In 1821 she reluctantly left her family home in temperate Penzance to live in a remote, inclement Yorkshire parsonage. She moved, as so many unmarried Victorian women did, upon the death of her married sister. The six children, all under the age of eight, their hard-working but ill-paid father, and the servants needed an overseer. Aunt Branwell took a sterner view of the children's conduct and religious practice than their father. The four surviving children cloistered themselves in their imaginative worlds in part to escape her vigilance, for though not an unkind or ungenerous woman, she diffused a wintry Calvinism. Temperamentally she seems to have been out of place in the household and was especially alien to Emily, for Aunt Branwell disliked animals and never once walked upon the moors in her years in Haworth, where she died in 1842. She inculcated her earnest religion into Anne and Charlotte and less effectively in the wayward Branwell—the three children having typical spiritual crises and a passionate rebirth of faith in their adolescence—but was notably unsuccessful with Emily, whose spirituality took an unorthodox form. Shortly after Jane Eyre became a literary phenomenon, Charlotte married an Anglican clergyman, Arthur Bell Nicholls, an Irish Protestant like her father and a man of earnest faith.

The novel's first and second editions provoked several blistering attacks for its alleged anti-Christian sentiment, the author's vulgarity, and her endorsement through Jane of rebellion. (The first annotation in the Preface below says something more about this.) In the December, 1848, issue of The Quarterly Review the reviewer, Elizabeth Rigby, found the novel evinced “such genuine power with such horrid taste.” Taste symptomized far more to the Victorians than it does to us. For them it was not relative and merely a matter of competing aesthetic preferences. One's taste was a manifestation of one's character and moral life.

Rigby accuses Brontë (whom on the basis of the pseudonym Currer Bell she believed to be a man) of having made sinfulness attractive. Jane and Rochester are appealing but fundamentally abhorrent, the one for lacking a Christian sense of gratitude, the other for being immoral. That they often remain appealing despite their real character makes them and the novel insidious. Rigby describes Jane as having “a mere heathen mind.... No Christian grace is perceptible upon her.... It pleased God to make her an orphan, friendless and penniless—yet she thanks nobody, least of all Him.” Rigby means that because God is omnipotent and omniscient, the family and social condition and body and mind we are born with result from divine providence. She concludes that Jane is not only an ingrate but a rebel as well, embodying what Rigby calls “the most subtle evil,” Pride.

These are extreme charges. Their origin is far more in Rigby's politics than Jane's theology. To Rigby an ungrateful orphan is a menace to domestic and social order. William Blake's ironic poem “Holy Thursday” from the Songs of Innocence unmasks as ruthless political expediency the insistence that pauper-orphans express in jubilant song their gratitude to Church and State. For Blake much of Christianity is only self-serving politics by another name, and Rigby would illustrate his point. She vigorously supports social order—the current social order—and Jane, who is physically frail but intellectually strong and principled, frightens her. In fact, Rigby's attitude is practically identical with Mrs. Reed, Jane's guardian, that of a suddenly frightened bully.

Rigby finds little Jane "hard," "earnest," and evincing a "spiteful precocity." Jane does take a petulant satisfaction in her various deprivations. The tone of the novel's first sentence, “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day,” is one we'll hear again at different moments. This outlook can curdle into resentment, and resentment is the incubator, Rigby suspects, of rebellion. She assails Jane's egocentricity, insisting that Jane thinks only of herself, not of herself in relation to God. This is half-true but finally unjust, for Jane's pilgrimage is about how to arrive at a balance between what she owes herself and what she owes God, and the compatibility of the sometimes competing claims. Nevertheless, Rigby states, “Altogether the autobiography of Jane Eyre is pre-eminently an anti-Christian composition.” Not “un-” but “anti-,” and, we might suppose that Rigby believes it all the more seditiously “anti-Christian,” because Brontë has seeded it with many allusions to the Bible and Bunyan as a sort of undergrowth to camouflage her anti-Christian sentiment.

Again, Rigby fastens on the political. She is outraged by Jane's “murmurings against the comforts of the rich and the privations of the poor, which...is a murmuring against God's appointment—there is a proud and perpetual assertion of the rights of man, for which we find no authority either in God's word or in God's providence—there is that pervading tone of ungodly discontent which is at once the most prominent and the most subtle evil....” The charged phrase in that tirade is “the rights of man,” words and a concept that of course never appear in the Bible and that, Rigby believes, encourage rebellion against “God's word...God's providence.”

Rigby surely knows that “the rights of man” quotes Paine's title to the incendiary book he published in 1791 during the French Revolution. Paine justifies revolution against a legitimate authority when the latter has betrayed the trust of those it was formed to serve. Rigby indicts Jane as a co-conspirator and covert Jacobin. For Rigby the concept of “natural rights” is an anti-Christian fiction, a godless political construct that feeds personal pride and substitutes nature for divinity. Lucifier illustrates what happens when the doctrine of natural rights, which is pride by a voguish name, infects the mind. Natural for Rigby are obedience and duty, and unnatural "the tone of mind and thought which has overthrown authority and violated every code human and divine abroad, and fostered Chartism and rebellion at home, is the same which has also written Jane Eyre.” Chartism was a working-class movement that began in the early 1830s, following the First Reform Bill, 1832, and reached its zenith in the mid-1840s and its climax and effective end in 1848. The Charter had six points, among which were universal male suffrage and a secret ballot. In 1842 a caravan of wagons delivered a gargantuan petition of more than three million signatures to Parliament, which refused to accept it.

Rigby's attack is really a panic-attack. Her historical moment terrifies her into believing Jane a rebel. Brontë published Jane Eyre in October of 1847, practically the zenith of the grim, frightening period known as “the hungry 'forties.” The climax comes in the revolutionary year 1848, the year of “The Communist Manifesto,” which Marx wrote specifically to incite the English workingman, who he believed would lead the worldwide revolution against the owners and expropriators. Not only did the English workmen not lead, they didn't follow. The period is a time of rage on the Continent not seen since the French Revolution; in England there is terrible suffering among not only the indigent but the working classes. It seems evident that the appalling misery may end in revolution unless the government makes some significant concession. The English and Irish poor show astonishing patience, and the question that still teases historians is why there was no comparable revolution in England.

Rigby is extreme but not alone in her indictment of Brontë's allegedly radical politics. Eleven months earlier The Christian Remembrancer reviewed Jane Eyre, and while defending the novel as not “antichristian,” did remark upon its “masculine power...masculine hardness, coarseness, and freedom of expression,” in short the author's taste. The male reviewer's emphasis upon “masculine” is intended to expose something perverse in the author, for the reviewer has deduced that Currer Bell is a woman, and women, through their more delicate sensibilities, are presumably more sensitive to matters of taste. The clue to the author's gender is the vehemence with which Jane speaks of the “wrongs” inflicted on governesses as a class. Only a woman, the reviewer believes, who had experienced first-hand the degradation of being a governess could have written so passionately.

This reviewer and Rigby converge in identifying a specific feature of Jane's nature—her resentment. The anonymous reviewer writes, “Never was there a better hater. Every page burns with moral Jacobinism.” (Anger seems to have been part of Brontë's signature, for Matthew Arnold claims that he's never met an angrier person.) “Moral Jacobinism” is a fine phrase but it falsifies Jane Eyre, attributing to it an incendiary odor. Jacobins supported the French Revolution and espoused a democratic or at least republican view. They were anti-clerical, often anti-Catholic and sometimes anti-Christian though many were deistically inclined. But to equate Jacobinism with godlessness is simply Christian political propaganda, and to claim that Jane is a rebel, and thus the spawn of the Anti-Christ, convicts without analysis or even evidence. No radical sentiment burns in her breast. Jane is no rebel; but she is a resenter.

Resentment can be the incubator of radical politics, but the two are not inevitably synonymous. Resentment may feed strictly on itself in isolation, finding no outlet in significant action, as instanced by Dostoyevsky's Underground Man. Resentment is a bilious fluid that permeates the psyche. It is not necessarily flammable but almost always corrosive, and it eats away first at its own container.

Jane is egotistical only in the sense that her awareness of social conditions never extends beyond her condition. She develops no social theory to rectify the sources of her resentment. Her position is local and personal, not social and political. This may disappoint many readers. Jane Eyre is not, for instance, a feminist tract, and Charlotte Brontë was no suffragette. This hardly makes her unusual among her contemporaries: her friend and biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell, did not support women's suffrage; nor did George Eliot, Florence Nightingale, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Like her father, Charlotte was a Tory, and among her heroes from childhood on was the Duke of Wellington, who vehemently opposed the First Reform Bill. Virginia Woolf in “Women and Fiction” is somewhat misleading when she writes that in Jane Eyre “we are conscious not merely of the writer's character...we are conscious of a woman's presence—of someone resenting the treatment of her sex and pleading for its rights.” Jane's and Charlotte's resentment does not extend to her sex no less plead its rights as a sex but is a personal  resentment. It is important to the novel's subtlety and Jane's complex psychology that we not coarsen or obscure either with a view that exaggerates the novel's politics.

Resentment comes easily to Jane. Her body is small, her looks ordinary at best among a number of statuesque women, and she lacks family. Her physical and social insignificance renders her powerless, almost invisible, a condition exaggerated by her having no relatives and connections ("his sisters and his cousins and his aunts," as they sing in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates, for relations are the social and often economic currency of 19th-century England. She has no discernible future beyond a dry singleness dedicated to other people's children, a lifetime of self-denial, one so narrow as to be only pulses above non-being. Nevertheless, she resents not her class or sex but the assumptions about her nature. It is not the rights of her sex, she claims, but in the most rudimentary sense she demands the recognition of her humanness—that her desires are no less keen and worthy than those of any other woman or of man of any class.

As with the English working class, what is perhaps most surprising is Jane's not rebelling, except for the sudden fury of a nine-year-old on which the novel opens. But, owing in part to the punishment that follows and to subsequent events, from that point Jane disciplines herself and contains her resentment. Her energy goes into self-repression, not self-expression. Assisting in this self-conquest is Jane's absorption of the conventions of Christian moral thought. Aside from her single act of violence, she never again does anything hostile. The novel is a political decrescendo from that initial point even though the temptations to act, no less speak out, are great. Jane observes and experiences dreadful ills: the conditions in charity schools, the abuse of governesses, the inequities of the patriarchy, including primogeniture, the unfairness of the divorce laws, and the debased legal status of women upon marriage. Despite this bill of particulars detailing the condition of women, Jane never recommends any structural or legal change in the status quo. She espouses no feminist politics nor even nods to Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published more than a half-century earlier. Instead, Jane directs some of her most trenchant criticism at other women, several of whom, especially those who are comely and rich, inspire her disapproval.

She does not conceive of situations as structurally wrong. Rather, the issue for her is how this or that person fulfills a designated role and in doing so affects her. Because her focus is upon how individuals operate within the system and not how the system shapes or compels them, she is ill-positioned to think politically though well-positioned to judge as a Christian moralist. God's injunctions and expectations of us never change, irrespective of the conditions, and Christianity never interested itself in the context's mitigating circumstances but looked upon each individual sub specie aeternitas, in the context of eternity.

What Jane wants is nothing less and, just as important, nothing more, than a change in the way in which she and on occasion others like her are understood. She wants no change of status or role but she insists upon being recognized as a person, as Jane Eyre, rather than principally an orphan or charity student or governess or wife or Christian missionary. She demands to be recognized for what she shares in common with all other humans, her essential humanity. She, too, has desires and fears, ones she shares with every other English man and woman. Grant that, and she bows to the status quo, with its hierarchies and inequities of birth, gender, looks, social class, and power. If there is a “natural right” for Jane, it lies in recognizing those such as herself, the meek, are fully human; class and gender add nothing to fundamental human dignity.

She feels fettered (the word appears repeatedly in the novel), and this provokes her most assertive statement. Her will, which should be affirmative, has had to turn against herself and even against life. Such strength as she possesses is exhausted in merely enduring. Her noblest and strongest statement appears here:

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or to learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex. (Ch. 12)

This is the closest Jane comes to Mary Wollstonecraft and, beyond the novel's opening, the nearest she approximates Jacobinism. Perhaps Rigby saw a veiled threat that those human beings bound to a numbing calm will snap their fetters if they cannot find some satisfaction: Jane says, “Nobody knows how many rebellions ferment in the masses of life....” But Jane does not mean a collective revolution or even an individual rebellion. She means only single, quiet, introverted rebellions. This “fermentation” leads to no Dionysian outburst. Jane's manifesto could apply to all women so tightly fettered—and there is no Victorian woman who is not—but it is aimed specifically at those like Jane who lack virtually all power except the power of self-denial and the will to survive. As such it is a governess manifesto, really a Jane manifesto, and not a feminist one.

In the phrase “precisely as men would suffer,” we may hear Shylock's cry, “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
 organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
 food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter 
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”
 Yet Jane never even imagines the threat Shylock makes, “And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?” Rather, her self-respect requires self-denial, a condition that Christianity itself endorses.

Jane's self-respect is costly but finally priceless. Were self-respect nothing more than what Christian duty and social mores require of her, Jane would be tedious if not contemptible to the reader. But she is relentlessly principled in insisting that her essential being must weigh in every decision that affects her. Her moral Jacobinism consists in requiring those who love her as well as those whom she serves to recognize her as a psychological and spiritual equal. Jane does not challenge the hierarchy but she demands that those with power are obliged to develop a moral imagination that allows them to apprehend the weak as being intrinsically no different from and as worthy as themselves. This is admittedly a radical, even inflammatory idea in the political and social world of the Victorians. Yet it is one whose power derives not from Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson but from Jesus Christ.

Jane's theology absorbs her politics over the course of the novel. She is never tempted again to rebel politically but she is severely tempted to rebel against Christian asceticism, passivity, and duty. These temptations create the novel's suspense. What will she do? From practically the opening, she frames her dilemma around two questions, “What do I want? What is good for me?” Self-respect includes living a life responsive to her explicitly human and carnal needs and a spiritual life responsible to Christian faith and morality. Self-respect begins with what many in her society would regard as the audacity of an insignificant creature's developing a lofty concept of her self, one whose desires and aspirations equal anyone's. Such a self requires the exercise of her full humanity while allowing her to live, in any station, with a dignity worthy of a being imbued by God with body, spirit, reason, and choice.

 

CHRONOLOGY

1816. April 21, Charlotte the third of six children born to the Rev. Patrick Brontë (d. 1861) and Maria Branwell Brontë (d. 1821): Maria, 1814 (d. 1825); Elizabeth, 1815 (d. 1825); Branwell, 1817 (d. 1848); Emily, 1818 (d. 1848); Anne, 1820 (d. 1849).

1820. The family moves from nearby Thornton to Haworth when the Rev. Brontë assumes the post of perpetual curate (Search).

1821.  Mrs. Brontë dies, it's thought, of cervical cancer. Aunt Branwell reluctantly moves from Penzance into the Haworth Parsonage, whose management she assumes.

1824. Charlotte and Emily, along with their two older sisters, are sent to board at the School for Clergymen's Daughters at Cowan Bridge.

1825. Maria becomes ill at the school and returns home. Shortly after Elizabeth also becomes ill and returns home. Both die of consumption (tuberculosis), leaving Charlotte the eldest. She and Emily are taken out of the school, coming home in time to see Elizabeth die.  

1826.  In the now legendary story, the Rev. Patrick Brontë brings home a box of wooden soldiers as a gift for Branwell. Around the soldiers the four children begin what they call the Young Men's Play, which will develop into the Glass Town Saga. This in turn will evolve into the Angria saga, led by Charlotte and Branwell, until Emily and Anne defect to develop their own, the Gondal saga.

1831. Charlotte sent to school at Miss Wooler's academy for girls, The Roe Head School, near Huddersfield, or somewhat over twenty miles from Haworth. She meets Mary Taylor and Ellen Nussey, friends and correspondents, the latter especially important. 

1832. Charlotte returns home after some nine months at the school. As the eldest child she helps especially with the education of the other three. Throughout the three years she's at home, the four children are passionately engaged in literary projects from the writing of plays and poetry to the production of magazines and "books."

1835. Charlotte returns in July to Roe Head, now as a teacher, whose salary  supports Emily's accompanying her and attending the school as a pupil. But Emily is miserable and returns home in in the fall, to be replaced by Anne.

1838. Charlotte leaves Roe Head.

1839. She takes a post as a governess at Stonegappe House, Lothersdale, which she holds for ten weeks. She receives and refuses a proposal of marriage from Ellen Nussey's brother Henry, as well as another proposal from an Irish curate who works temporarily under her father. 

1841. She goes as a governess to Upperwood House, Rawdon, for ten months.

1842. With financial assistance from Aunt Branwell, Charlotte and Emily depart in Feb. for Brussels and the Pensionnat Heger chiefly to study French in order to enable them and Anne to open a small school and so avoid having to go out as governesses. In October, Aunt Branwell dies. Both Charlotte and Emily rush home, and then Charlotte in 1843 returns to the Pensionnat Heger as both a pupil and teacher. She becomes infatuated with M. Heger, who is married, and whose wife, discerning Charlotte's attachment, effectively demands her return to England in 1844.

1844. Charlotte returns in January from Brussels. She is in love and though she writes M. Heger she receives no response. She is increasingly despondent. 

 1845. The plan for a school to be housed in the Parsonage comes to naught, owing in part to Branwell's having been dishonorably discharged from his post as a tutor to the children of a wealthy landed family. He seeks solace in drink and opium. Charlotte can barely speak to him. The Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls arrives in Haworth to assist the Rev. Brontë. Emily accidentally leaves exposed some of her poems she wrote for the Gondal sage, which Charlotte reads. Having for some years an ambition to publish (both her father and brother have), Charlotte placates Emily, who, almost pathologically private, was infuriated by Charlotte's reading her poems, and proposes that the three publish a book of their poems, some twenty-one by each. They do so under the pseudonyms Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell,* in part because of Emily's fierce insistence that her identity remain secret. A fraction of Aunt Branwell's legacy to each will pay for the publication.

1846. The book of poetry is published and reviewed in several distinguished journals (Emily's poems are singled out for praise) but sells just two copies. The three sisters decide upon writing and publishing a novel each (Anne appears to have already written Agnes Grey). Charlotte's is The Professor, which is repeatedly rejected; Emily's is Wuthering Heights, and Anne's is Agnes Grey. While Charlotte accompanies her father, who has gone nearly blind, to Manchester for cataract surgery (successful), she begins writing Jane Eyre, in part at the suggestion of a publisher who was willing to issue Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but not The Professor.

1847. Emily and Anne stubbornly go with the publisher Thomas Newby, though Charlotte's publisher, Smith, Elder & Co. accepted their two novels and Jane Eyre and offered better terms. Worse, though, is Newby's lack of integrity and responsibility. Jane Eyre. An Autobiography (the subtitle is dropped in the third edition) appears in October and, with the help of her publishers' advertising, is instantly successful. Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey appear in Dec.

1848. Charlotte and Anne go in July to London for the first time, their object to prove that that Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell are three individual authors, and now clearly women, not one male. In the process, Charlotte divulges Emily's identity, for which Emily will not forgive her. Branwell dies at home in September, the cause perhaps an entire dissipation brought on by alcoholism and drug addiction. Emily dies in Dec. of consumption, partly willing her death.

1849. Anne dies in May of consumption. She is in Scarborough to which she has insisted upon going (she had worked in the vicinity) and is attended by Charlottle. Charlotte publishes Shirley. A Tale. She again visits London, where she meets the blue-stocking Harriet Martineau and William Makepeace Thackeray.

1850. While visiting the Kay-Shuttleworths in Windermere (the Lake District; Dr. Kay-Shuttleworth was one of Victorian England's greatest investigators and documenters of living conditions), Charlotte meets the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, who will become her friend and her first biographer. Charlotte oversees the re-publication, with Smith, Elder, of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey along with poems by Ellis and Acton Bell. She also attaches a Biographical Notice that describes her sisters and a Preface to Wuthering Heights.

1851. Begins Villette; visits London and the Great Exhibition; visits Manchester, where she stays at the home of the Gaskells.

1852. Completes Villette.  She is dogged by poor health. Arthur Bell Nicolls proposes to her. Her father is furious and unequivocably opposes the marriage. Charlotte herself is uncertain and unenthusiastic, discouraging Nicholls.

1853. Villette published. Nicholls is dauntlessly persevering; Charlotte is dubious but weakening, and eventually is able to get her father's acceptance if not hearty blessing.

1854. Charlotte marries Nicholls, and they honeymoon in Ireland, visiting his relatives. She finds herself increasingly attached to her husband.

1855. Late in a harrowing pregnancy, Charlotte dies (March 31), apparently from causes associated with the pregnancy. Her infant daughter dies soon after.  

1857. The publication of Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë. The Professor is published.

1860. Charlotte's "Emma," an unfinished work, is published in the Cornhill Magazine.

 

*The "Bell" may conceal a small bit of playfulness. Bell is the middle name of the dour curate Arthur Bell Nicholls, who displays and regularly reminds people of his middle name because it connects him with a distinguished Irish family. 

 

 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

 Writing.

  An Edition of the Early Writings of Charlotte Brontë, ed. Christine Alexander, 3 vols. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987-2004).

  The Poems of Charlotte Brontë, ed. Victor A. Neufeldt (New York: Garland, 1985).

 The Letters of Charlotte Brontë, with a Selection of Letters by Family and Friends. ed. Margaret Smith, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995-2004).

 Selected Letters, ed. Margaret Smith (Oxford: Oxford World Classics, 20070). 

The Belgian Essays: Charlotte and Emily Brontë. ed. and transl, Sue Lonoff (New Haven: Yale U.P., 1992).  

  Jane Eyre, ed. Stevie Davies (London: Penguin Classics, 2006).
 

 

Biographies.

 Barker, Juliet, The Brontës. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1994).

 Fraser, Rebecca, Charlotte Brontë. (London: Methuen, 1988).

 Gaskell, Elizabeth, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, ed. Elisabeth Jay (London: Penguin, 1997).

 Gérin, Winifred, Charlotte Brontë: A Biography. (London: Oxford [paperback], 1967).

 Gordon, Lyndall, Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life (New York, Norton, 1994).

 

 Background and Criticism.

 Alexander, Christine and Sellars, Jane, eds., The Art of the Brontës (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1995), meaning the drawings and paintings.

 ________________ and Smith, Margaret, The Oxford Companion to the Brontës (Oxford: Oxford U.P.,  2006).

 Eagleton, Terry, Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës (London: Macmillan, 2nd. ed., 1987).

 Gilbert, Sandra M. and Gubar, Susan, The Madwoman in the Attic (New Haven, Yale U.P., 1979).

 Glen, Heather, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Brontës (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2003).

 _______________, Jane Eyre, New Casebook Series (London: Macmillan, 1997).

 McNees, Eleanor, ed., The Brontë Sisters: Criticial Assessments, 4 vols (East Sussex: Helm Information, 1996).

 Showalter, Elaine, A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1977).

 Shuttleworth, Sally, Charlotte Brontë and Victorian Psychology (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1996).

 Woolf, Virginia, "Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights" in The Common Reader, First Series (New York: Harcourt Harvest, 1984). 

return to text