This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today Jane’s going to tell you about her origins and her orphaned childhood.
My name’s Jane Eyre and I’m an orphan.
My parents died when I was but an infant. My mother’s brother, Uncle Reed, kindly took me in, although he too died when I was a baby. His wife, my Aunt Reed, had promised to look after me, but she disliked me so much that my birthday was never celebrated, and I never dared to ask when it was.
When I asked my aunt about my father’s family, she said she had no news of them. Miss Abbot, who had been her maid for many years told Bessie, the younger maid that my father had been a poor clergyman whom my mother had married against the my grandfather Reed’s wishes, because he was beneath her, so he cut her off without a shilling. My parents died within a month of each other of typhus, a year after they married.
If my mother’s brother, Mr. Reed had been alive instead of buried in his vault at Gateshead Church, he would have treated me kindly, but his widow enjoyed humiliating me and telling me I was wicked, so I was an unhappy and unloved child. I was habitually abused, consequently, I was full of self-doubt and often depressed. My aunt said I was wicked, which meant I was often punished. Sometimes I was made to sit on my own, which I didn’t mind, because I disliked them all, but other times I was locked in a room, which I hated.
Fortunately, my aunt sent me away to Lowood Institution, with the assurance that she would never see me again. It was still too soon as far as I was concerned.
Nine years later, while I was working at Thornfield Hall, my aunt she sent for me on her death-bed and gave me the following letter, which she had received from my uncle, Mr. John Eyre, my father’s brother three years earlier.
‘Madam,—Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my niece, Jane Eyre, and to tell me how she is? It is my intention to write shortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira. Providence has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I am unmarried and childless, I wish to adopt her during my life, and bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave.—I am, Madam, &c., &c., ‘JOHN EYRE, Madeira.’
When I asked her why I hadn’t been informed, she replied, “‘Because I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend a hand in lifting you to prosperity.”
She told my uncle that I had died of typhus. She said it was her way of taking revenge, on a poor orphan. I forgave her, but it wasn’t enough. I knew she still had to make peace with God, which would only happen if she were truly sorry, which I doubted.
I discovered my uncle had died while I was working as a teacher at Morton, after leaving Thornfield Hall. His lawyer, Mr. Briggs, was looking for me because my uncle had died and left me all his property, which was twenty thousand pounds. So thanks to him, I was rich. I was sorry he had never found me, so I had never met him, but if I had lived with him in Madeira, as he had wished, I would never have met Edward.
My mother, Jane Reed, had a brother, John Reed, who was married to my Aunt Reed.
My father had a brother called John Eyre, a wine merchant who lived in Madeira, and was my benefactor. He also had a sister, who married Reverend Rivers, that was how I was related to my cousins St. John, Mary and Diana.
When I married Edward, I had no parents, uncles or aunts, but I had five cousins. I was sure I would have no type of relationship with Eliza or Georgina, and St John would travel to India, but I had two wonderful cousins, Diana and Mary, who were like two sisters to me.
I have always refused to indulge in self-pity. Life is too precious to waste time feeling sorry for oneself or thinking about what might have been. My present and my future is in my hands, and I aim to make the most of it.
I’m sorry I lost my parents, and I feel sympathy for the little orphan who was humiliated and abused for the first ten years of her life, but everything that happened after leaving Gateshead has brought me closer to finding happiness, so I’m grateful for every minute, which helped my character grow.
Perhaps I’ll write a sequel to my autobiography, and tell everyone about the house I built a house with my uncle’s inheritance, which I called Eyre Hall in his honour.