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Week 2: Jane Eyre I

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Anne Jamison

on 28 July 2013

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Transcript of Week 2: Jane Eyre I

'I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.'

Charlotte Bronte, 'Jane Eyre' (1847)
Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)
1816: born in Yorkshire, the third of six children (Ann, Emily, Maria, Elizabeth, and Branwell)
1820: the family move to Haworth Parsonage
1821: mother dies from cancer
1824: attends the Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge
1825: Maria and Elizabeth die from tuberculosis
1831: attends Roe Head School and returns in 1835 as a governess
1839: accepts position as a governess in a private home, and again in 1841
1842-44: completes her education in Brussels
1844: embarks on a project with her sisters to found their own school; project fails
1846: publishes a selection of her poetry, alongside Emily's and Anne's under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte also completes her first novel, 'The Professor', which is rejected for publication
1847: Charlotte publishes 'Jane Eyre'; Emily publishes 'Wuthering Heights'; and Ann publishes 'Agnes Grey'. The sisters visit their publisher in London and reveal their true identities.
1848: Branwell dies of chronic bronchitis exacerbated by his alcoholism and drug addiction; Emily dies shortly afterwards of tuberculosis
1848: Ann dies of tuberculosis
1849: publishes 'Shirley'; begins moving in literary circles, making the acquaintance of Thackery and Gaskell in London and attending various lectures and exhibitions
1852: The Rev. Nicholls, curate at Haworth, proposes marriage; Charlotte declines the proposal
1853: publishes 'Villette'
1854: becomes engaged to Nicholls and eventually they marry; Charlotte appears to admire him, but does not love him
1855: Charlotte dies from pneumonia while pregnant with their first child aged only 38
Historical Contexts
The life of Charlotte Bronte
The Novel
the Victorian period was the great age of the novel in England
Thomas Hardy
The Bronte Sisters
George Eliot
Charles Dickens
Elizabeth Gaskell
Anthony Trollope
Victorian Novelists
Colonial Britain
the economic crash of 1847 was followed by the introduction of global capitalist-driven commercial markets which saw the middle classes gaining in social, monetary, and political power. Britain became an industrial capital of the world.
Women in Society
the 'Woman Question'

the 'Woman Question': what women are supposed to be and what they ought to do
Barbara Leigh Smith (1827-1891)
: painter and social reformer dedicated to the cause of women's suffrage; published 'A Brief Summary, in Plain Language, of the Most Important Laws concerning Women' in 1854
Anna Jameson
'The press has lately teemed with works treating of the condition, the destiny, the duties of women ... The theme, however treated, is one of the themes of the day.'

'"Woman's Mission" and "Woman's Position"' in 'Memoirs and Essays: Illustrative of Art, Literature and Social Morals' (London: Richard Bentley, 1846), p. 215.
Barbara Leigh Smith (1827-1891)
When a woman married, everything she owned, inherited or earned belonged solely to her husband to dispose of as he wished.

In 1850, author and editor, Edwin Hood wrote: 'The legal position of woman is a most anomalous one ... Political existence she has none ... Widow or spinster, she is no citizen, and as a wife her whole being is merged in the being and existence of her husband.'

'The Age and its Architects: Ten Chapters on the English People in Relation to the Times' (London: Charles Gilpin, 1850), pp. 389-90
Women and Work
'Women and Work' (1857)
'No human being has the right to be idle ... Women must, as children of God, be trained to do some work in the world ... And we must train ourselves to do our work well ... Women must, as children of God, be trained to do some work in the world. Women may not take a man as a god; they must not hold their first duty to be towards any human being ... Young women begin to ask at the age of sixteen or seventeen, "What am I created for? Of what use am I to be in the world?"'
'Women and Work' (1857) in Candida Lacey's 'Barbara Leigh Smith and the Langham Place Group' (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1987), pp. 38-40
Dr. Anne Jamison

'It has no learning, no research, it discusses no subject of public interest.'

Charlotte Bronte to W.S. Williams, 28 October 1847 in 'The Letters of Charlotte Bronte', vol. 1, ed. by Margaret Smith (Oxford: OUP, 1995), p. 554.
'Such social commentary as it may offer is oblique, limited, incidental. It is both in purpose and effect primarily a novel of the inner life, not of man in his social relations; it maps a private world ... A love-story, a Cinderella-fable, a Bluebeard mystery, an autobiography from forlorn childhood to happy marriage: this novel makes its appeal first and last to the unchanging human heart.'

Kathleen Tillotson, 'Novels of the Eighteen Forties' (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), pp. 257-8.
Jane's Education: the Reeds and Lowood
'Me, she had dispensed from joining the group; saying, 'She regretted being under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner, - something lighter, franker, more natural as it were - she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children.' Chapter One
'I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love them. They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that could not sympathize with one amongst them; a heterogenous thing, opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation at their treatment, of contempt at their judgement. I know that had I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping child - though equally dependent and friendless - Mrs Reed would have endured my presence more complacently; her children would have entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling; the servants would have been less prone to make me the scapegoat of the nursery.' Chapter One
Evangelical discipline = the subjugation of the self
'You are aware that my plan in bringing up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self denying ... a judicious instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings of the primitive Christians ... when you put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge into these children's mouths, you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls!' Chapter Seven
'From the day she left I was no longer the same ... I had imbibed from her something of her nature and much of her habits: more harmonious thoughts: what seemed better regulated feelings had become the inmates of my mind. I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believed I was content ... I appeared a disciplined and subdued character ... [now] I had undergone a transforming process ... my mind had put off all it had borrowed from Miss Temple - or rather that she had taken with her the serene atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity - and that now I was left in my natural element; and beginning to feel the stirring of old emotions ... it was not the power to be tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no more. My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that sensations and excitements, awaited those that had courage to go forth into its expanse to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.' Chapter Ten
Life at Thornfield
'... I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen: that then I desired more of a practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach ... all of incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired and had not in my actual existence.' Chapter Twelve
'It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it ... 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 learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.' Chapter Twelve
‘From their early childhood, girls are accustomed to fill an inferior place, to give up, to fall back, and be as nothing in comparison with their brothers.’

Sarah Ellis, 'The Wives of England, their Relative Duties, Domestic Influence, and Social Obligations' (London: Fisher, Son, & Co., 1843), p. 68.
Sarah Ellis
‘Woman has been and is even yet too often told that in herself she can be nothing; that she is in fact a mere relative being, dependent entirely upon man for her happiness.’

Anne Richelieu Lamb, 'Can Woman Regenerate Society?' (London: John W. Parker, 1844), p. 3.

'I have not yet said anything condemnatory of Mr Rochester's project of marrying for interest and connexions. It surprised me when I first discovered that such was his intention: I had thought him a man unlikely to be influenced by motives so common-place in his choice of a wife; but the longer I considered the position, education, &c. of the parties, the less I felt justified in judging and blaming either him or Miss Ingram, for acting in conformity to ideas and principles instilled in them, doubtless, from their childhood. All their class held these principles: I supposed, then, they had reasons for holding them such as I could not fathom. It seemed to me that, were I a gentleman kike him, I would take to my bosom only such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousness of the advantages to the husband's own happiness, offered by this plan, convinced me that there must be arguments against its general adoption of which I was quite ignorant: otherwise I felt sure all the world would act as I wished to act.' Chapter Eighteen
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