Monday, 28 January 2013

The Works Of Charlotte Brontë

A while back, as you may recall, I was lamenting…



…the lack of a favourite author.  Since then I have discovered that I own an awful lot of books I don’t even like and that even when I like, or love, a book, that doesn’t mean that I’ll like other work by the same author.

For example, Charlotte Brontë.

Jane Eyre is one of The Favourite Books…


But when I tried to read…

Shirley…


…part of The Brain dribbled out of The Ears just looking at it.  The Illustration on The Cover is from a picture called ‘A Sheffield Landscape (Yorkshire)’.  It is grey and brown and of some factory chimneys.  WHY WOULD I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK?


Possibly the ugliest drawing of me I have yet managed.

Okay, let’s let the inside of the book sell it instead.  On the very first page of The Novel, the second paragraph, Brontë says this:

‘If you think, from this prelude, that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you never were more mistaken.  Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reverie?  Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama?  Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard.  Something real, cool and solid lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning, when all who have work wake with the consciousness that they must rise and betake themselves thereto.  It is not positively affirmed that you shall not have a taste of the exciting, perhaps towards the middle and close of the meal, but it is resolved that the first dish set upon the table shall be one that a Catholic – ay, even an Anglo-Catholic – might eat on Good Friday in Passion Week: it shall be cold lentils and vinegar without oil; it shall be unleavened bread with bitter herbs, and no roast lamb.’

After reading three or four chapters, I agree with her.  There is no stimulus.  It took me weeks to read a few pages as more and more of The Brain dribbled away.


Maybe it gets better.  Shirley isn’t even in it yet.  But if you can’t grab your reader in three chapters, it doesn’t really matter what happens after that.

And then there’s Villette…

Now, I haven’t read it in ten years, so The Memory of it might be a tiny bit off, and I was a teenager at the time aka a bum-brain, but I’m pretty sure it ends like this…


Thanks for THAT, Charlotte.

‘Lucy must not marry Dr. John; he is far too youthful, handsome, bright-spirited, and sweet-tempered; he is a ‘curled darling’ of Nature and of Fortune, and must draw a prize in life’s lottery.  His wife must be young, rich, pretty; he must be made very happy indeed.  If Lucy marries anybody, it must be the Professor—a man in whom there is much to forgive, much to ‘put up with.’  But I am not leniently disposed towards Miss [Snowe]; from the beginning I never meant to appoint her lines in pleasant places.’
~ from a letter written by Charlotte Brontë while she was still working on Villette, as put in her biography by Elizabeth Gaskell.

And finally, The Professor…

This was Brontë’s first novel, except that nobody wanted to publish it.  Later she reworked it into Villette but after her death her publishers and husband decided it was different enough to publish after all.  I’ve only read it once and it was an okay story but not hugely memorable.  Although there is a certain Brontë archetype in there…


So in conclusion, I still don't have a favourite author.

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