Letter N #AtoZChallenge Necks and Necklaces in #JaneEyre

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 I’m going to tell you about the symbolism regarding necks and necklaces in Jane Eyre. 

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Necks and Necklaces in Jane Eyre

Necks are important in Jane Eyre, they symbolize pain, love, and worldly riches and grandeur.

Pain

  • Her cousin John enjoys breaking birds’ necks

“John no one thwarted, much less punished; though he twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set the dogs at the sheep…”

  • Blood trickles down Jane’s neck when her cousin John hits her:

“I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him in frantic sort.”

  • Miss Scatcherd, a teacher at Lowood, punishes Helen Burns by hitting her mercilessly on the back of her neck

“…returned in half a minute, carrying in her hand a bundle of twigs tied together at one end. This ominous tool she presented to Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she quietly, and without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher instantly and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of twigs. Not a tear rose to Burns’ eye…”

Love

  • When Jane left Gateshead to be an intern at Lowood she held on to the only person who had been kind to her in her aunt’s house, Bessie.

“ I was taken from Bessie’s neck, to which I clung with kisses.”

  • Jane died with her arms around Helen Burns’ neck:

“I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen Burns’s shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen was—dead.”

  • Adele puts her arms around Jane’s neck affectionately:

“I remember Adele clung to me as I left her: I remember I kissed her as I loosened her little hands from my neck.”

  • Finally, when Jane finds Mr. Rochester at Ferndean, he says he found the pearl necklace she had left behind at Thornfield Hall. He says:

“…and, after examining your apartment, ascertained that you had taken no money, nor anything which could serve as an equivalent! A pearl necklace I had given you lay untouched in its little casket; your trunks were left corded and locked as they had been prepared for the bridal tour.”

Jane wearing pearls at her first ill-fated wedding

Mr. Rochester wore it himself around his neck (under his cravat) as a reminder of Jane’s love:

“Do you know, Jane, I have your little pearl necklace at this moment fastened round my bronze scrag (neck) under my cravat? I have worn it since the day I lost my only treasure, as a memento of her.”

  • Diana and Mary show affection by hugging their brother’s neck:

“They both threw their arms round his neck at once. He gave each one quiet kiss, said in a low tone a few words of welcome”

  • When blind Mr. Rochester discovers his beloved Jane has returned to him:

“The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder—neck—waist—I was entwined and gathered to him.”

Riches and Status:

  1. The portraits of Mr. Rochester’s ancestors on the staircase wall, which she saw on her first day at Thornfield Hall.

“Traversing the long and matted gallery, I descended the slippery steps of oak; then I gained the hall: I halted there a minute; I looked at some pictures on the walls (one, I remember, represented a grim man in a cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hair and a pearl necklace), at a bronze lamp pendent from the ceiling, at a great clock whose case was of oak curiously carved, and ebon black with time and rubbing.”

  • Blanche Ingram’s description by Mrs. Fairfax:

“Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck: olive complexion, dark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr. Rochester’s: large and black, and as brilliant as her jewels.”

  • After proposing he says to her Mr. Rochester offers her his riches:

‘I will myself put the diamond chain round your neck, and the circlet on your forehead,—which it will become: for nature, at least, has stamped her patent of nobility on this brow, Jane; and I will clasp the bracelets on these fine wrists, and load these fairy- like fingers with rings.’

 

  • When Jane leaves Thornfield Hall, she also leaves a pearl necklace, which could have been and heirloom, the one on the painting. This symbolizes Jane’s relinquishment of the riches Mr. Rochester offered her.

“I encountered the beads of a pearl necklace Mr. Rochester had forced me to accept a few days ago. I left that; it was not mine: it was the visionary bride’s who had melted in air. The other articles I made up in a parcel; my purse, containing twenty shillings (it was all I had), I put in my pocket: I tied on my straw bonnet, pinned my shawl, took the parcel and my slippers, which I would not put on yet, and stole from my room.”

Woman with gold necklace.2

  • Finally, at the end of the novel, when Mr. Rochester has recovered his eyesight, he says:

“Jane, have you a glittering ornament round your neck?”

I had a gold watch-chain: I answered ‘Yes.’

In this case, we can assume that Jane has bought and chosen her necklace, because it was the first time he had seen it.

Jane told us that Miss Temple’s gold watch hung from her girdle, probably with a string or cord, yet Jane’s hands from a gold chain around her neck. Jane has reached and surpassed her childhood idol, Miss Temple.

The gold chain lets her Dear Reader know that Jane has finally acquired the social status she dreamed of by her own means, and on her own terms. She is not wearing an heirloom, but a  jewel she has chosen and bought herself, in this case a gold necklace.

 

 

Letter M #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre and The Mason Family

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 is going to tell you all about the Mason family, her husband’s troublesome in-laws.

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I met two members of the Mason family personally; Mr. Richard Mason and his sister, Bertha Mason, who was Mr. Rochester’s first wife.

Richard Mason was Edward’s brother-in-Law, when I first met him, Richard took the liberty of installing himself as a guest at Thornfield. When Edward discovered that he was at Thornfield he was distressed and asked me to spy on him, worried that he might be talking about grave and mysterious things, but I told him he seemed engaged in a merry conversation with the other guests. Then he asked to speak with him privately in his study. I was worried about Mr. Mason’s intentions. They talked for an hour and seemed to part on friendly terms.

Later that night there was a great commotion at Thornfield Hall. Everyone was woken up by cries of help coming from the third storey. Edward told them it was a servant who had had a nightmare, but later, when everyone had gone back to bed, he called me to nurse Mr. Mason, who had been attacked, but I knew not by what kind of creature. I should have realized they were keeping a dark secret, but I had no idea what had happened and dared not even ask.

I met, no it could not be called a meeting, I mean I came face to face with Bertha Mason the night before my first ill-fated wedding day. She stood before my eyes in my room in the dead of night. ‘She was tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back. I know not what dress she had on: it was white and straight; but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I could not tell.  Her face was a fearful, ghastly, discoloured and savage face with red eyes. She reminded me of a Vampire. She tore my veil and approached me with a candle and I fainted.

Edward tried to convince me it had been a nightmare until I saw the torn veil on the floor. I would find out who she was on my wedding day, after the wedding was interrupted and we were taken upstairs to see her in her windowless room on the third floor.

Richard interrupted our marriage because he was defending his sister from her husband. Rochester was given a high dowry of 30,000 pounds for marrying her, by Mason’s father.

It seemed strange to me that he was not concerned about her physical welfare. He seemed to agree that she should stay in the attic. I suspected that Mason was a villain who had tried to blackmail Edward.

Many years later, one of my Dear Readers, who knew Mr. Mason was a villain, imagined he would return to haunt me twenty-two years later, while my husband lay on his death bed, in her novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. She has written another post about Richard’s role as villain.

Richard Maso Villain

Kevin Spacey would be a great Richard Mason, 22 years later.

There were other members of the Mason family, whom I never met. Edward also told me that Richard and Bertha’s father, had been an acquaintance of Edward’s father, and they had planned Edward and Bertha’s marriage as a business arrangement. Edward’s father negotiated a 30,000 pound dowry and conditions, such as his removal to Jamaica to marry and live there with Bertha.

Much later, when Bertha’s presence became known to me, Edward also told me he found out Bertha’s mother was a lunatic, who lived in an asylum, and that she had another brother, who was a ‘dumb idiot’.

Finally, Bertha burnt down Thornfield Hall and committed suicide, at least that what I was told…

It does indeed seem that the Mason family were the most unpleasant in-laws.

Another Dear Reader called Jean Rhys, wrote a whole book about the Mason family called Wide Sargasso Sea. It’s a prequel to Jane Eyre. More about that in letter ‘P’ for Prequel, on Tuesday.

 

 

 

Letter L #AtoZChallenge Liars in #JaneEyre

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 I’m going to show you a lesser known aspect of this novel. I’ll tell you about the many characters in Jane Eyre who lie. I’ll also be revealing an imperfect Jane, because I’ll be telling you about Jane Eyre’s own lies to us, her Dear Reader, and other characters in the novel. 

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Liars in Jane Eyre

“Deceit is, indeed, a sad fault in a child,’ said Mr. Brocklehurst; ‘it is akin to falsehood, and all liars will have their portion in the lake burning with fire and brimstone.”

Jane was severely humiliated at Lowood by standing on a stool and being called a liar by Mr. Brocklehurst.

After descending from the stool, Jane says, “…so overwhelming was the grief that seized me, I sank prostrate with my face to the ground. Now I wept: Helen Burns was not here; nothing sustained me; left to myself I abandoned myself, and my tears watered the boards.”

Throughout the whole novel Jane is excessively concerned with her Dear Reader believing her. It seems Jane wants the Dear Reader to know she’s not a liar, but her autobiography is full of lies, including her own.

In her autobiography, Jane tells us all about her life from her childhood to her marriage to Mr. Rochester, with great detail, in a moving, heart-felt story.

Jane is a powerful narrator, because she convinces the reader of her honesty. We believe her completely while she is at Gateshead with her cruel Aunt Reed, we continue to believe her while she is at Lowood, and even during her first months at Thornfield, we are mostly with her a hundred per cent, but after that, our trust begins to waver.

Jane becomes unreliable when she falls in love with Mr. Rochester. She becomes his spokesperson: a liar, too, albeit unwittingly, or perhaps not.

Readers are aware that when a story is told in the first person, it must be, at least partially unreliable, because the main character cannot know all the truth or facts, and must rely on the information other characters give her. We believe many of her characters’ lies, because Jane believes them.

Unreliable narrators add more complexity to the story, because they don’t tell the truth, and the reader needs to read the narrative more closely and make his/her own decisions about the veracity of events narrated.

The extent to which Jane believes the lies, because she wishes to believe them, is up for discussion.

Was Jane the only person in the house who didn’t know Bertha was there, in spite of seeing her once, before her marriage, when she tore her veil? Why did she always believe others’ accounts of the laughter and strange noises on the third floor? When Mr. Mason was attacked by someone in the attic, why didn’t she ask who it had been?

Did Jane prefer not to know about the pretense in the attic?

Perhaps she did, at the time the events occurred, but what about years later? There are two Janes in Jane Eyre. The naïve, 19-year-old Jane, and the mature Jane who writes the autobiography ten years after events occurred. The mature Jane has had plenty of time to grow up and realize that she might have been too naïve, at the time. Nevertheless, the older 29-year-old narrator maintains the pretense of Mr. Rochester’s innocence. Why? Why is the older Jane narrator even more unreliable than the young Jane?

Let’s look at the reasons why some narrators don’t tell us the truth:

  • They can be naïve.
  • They can be mentally unstable.
  • They can be liars who are purposefully misleading.

I’d say Jane becomes unreliable for all of the above reasons.

Firstly she is naïve, she was not only nineteen when she met Mr. Rochester, and she had led a sheltered life, not having left Lowood Institution for the length of her stay, eight long years. She had met very few men, probably only Mr. Brocklehurst and the local vicar, and had no experience of real life outside those walls.

Jane believes all the lies other characters tell her, and practically everyone in the novel lies to her. Her aunt lies to her, Mr. Rochester, and the servants at Eyre Hall, including Mrs. Fairfax.

Secondly, she suffered a transitory mental instability; she was in love, or rather madly and hopelessly in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester. Recent scientific research has investigated the chemical storm that romantic love can trigger in our brains. Dr. Frank Tallis, has gone as far as to write a book about love as a mental illness called Love Sick.

Finally, I hate to say this, but I believe Jane, the 29-year-old narrator, is also purposefully misleading. Why? Because she wants us to love ‘her Mr. Rochester’, the man she has fallen in love with, as much as she does. She wants us to forgive him, respect him, and love him, because she needs her Dear Reader’s complicity. Consequently, she accepts his lies, forgives him, embellishes his treatment of Bertha, Adele, Blanche, and herself, so that we will see him as she does, and love him.

Jane purposefully, and successfully, manipulates her Dear Reader into loving Mr. Rochester.

She’s in love and we all know love is blind. When St. John Rivers suggests Mr. Rochester behaved incorrectly:

‘He must have been a bad man,’ observed Mr. Rivers.
‘You don’t know him—don’t pronounce an opinion upon him,’ I said, with warmth.

What? What’s to know? He lied to you, repeatedly.

Mr. Rochester is clearly unreliable because he is a compulsive liar, constantly trying to convince Jane of his innocence. He’s also selfish and immature; someone else is always to blame for his problems.

Mr. Rochester has told Adele her mother is dead, yet he later confesses to Jane that her mother fled to Italy with an opera singer and abandoned the child in Paris.

The truth is that he married a rich heiress for her money, locked her in his attic, had an illegitimate child in France, the child’s mother is not dead, he had no intention of marrying Blanche Ingram, he was not ruined, he insisted he was a bachelor, he tricked Jane into a bigamous marriage. When all else failed, he offered to make Jane his mistress, which would have compromised her future and ruined any chances of having a family, and he knew it.

 

 

Nasty mr_rochester

Lies are hurtful. The person who is lied to is deprived of any control over their future because they cannot make an unbiased decision. They are not fully informed about their possible courses of action, so they may make a decision that they would not otherwise have made.

 

Jane’s power of decision is withdrawn by Mr. Rochester’s lies. If Jane had known Mr. Rochester was married, she would probably have behaved differently.

Jane’s Lies

Finally, we must remember that Jane herself lied on several occasions.

She lied to Mr. Rochester when she told him she had no family. On her behalf, she was communicating someone else’s lie; her Aunt Reed’s.

She lied by omission to Mr. Rochester, when she didn’t tell him about her cruel aunt or her hard days at Lowood. She did not wish him to see her as an unwanted or humiliated young girl, so she omitted those details of her life, which she only tells her Dear Reader.

She blatantly lies herself, by inventing a false identity, including a false name, when she tells her cousins her name is Jane Elliott. The reason is self-preservation, but it seems she would have put up with the pretense forever if necessary. She didn’t own up, or tell her cousins the truth, she was found out by St. John.

Finally, Jane, the mature narrator, lies to us, her Dear Reader, by insisting on Rochester’s innocence and her naiveté ten years after events occurred.

cast montage jane eyre es

In summary, almost every character lies or is lied to.

Aunt Reed: Lies about Jane’s uncle and cousins.

Cousin John: Denies his abusive behavior to Jane.

Cousins Georgiana and Lizzie: Ignore their brother’s abusive behavior and support his lies (by omission).

Mr. Brocklehurst: Says her aunt is pious and charitable.

Miss Temple: Doesn’t tell Jane she’s getting married and leaving Lowood (lying by omission).

Mrs. Fairfax: Said there were no ghosts or other persons at Thornfield Hall.

Leah and Grace Poole: Support Mrs. Fairfax account (lying by omission).

Mr Rochester: Claims to be unmarried, insists Adele’s not his daughter, says Adele’s mother is dead, leads Jane to believe he’ll marry Blanche Ingram, leads the Ingrams to believe he’s been ruined. (There are many more lies I cannot prove, but infer from the narrative, related to the fire, Bertha’s death and his father and brother’s deaths).

Adele: Claims her mother is dead.

Jane: Omits details about her days at Gateshead and Lowood. Gives a false identity at Moor House.

The only truthful characters are Helen, who dies in her arms at Lowood, and  Ironically, her cousins are the only people young Jane lies to directly and purposefully.

So, do you still believe Jane and Mr. Rochester’s marriage, based on lies and passion, would have been happy in the long term?

Letter J and K #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Jobs and Knowledge

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 Eyre is going to tell us about her ‘Jobs’ and her ‘Knowledge’ I’ve written about them together, because her knowledge enabled her to work as a teacher.

K J

My name’s Jane Eyre and I’m a writer and a teacher.

I believe that without the knowledge gained at Lowood Institution and my teaching experience, I would never have survived in the harsh world in which I was born, a woman and an orphan.

I spent eight years at Lowood institution, where I was a teacher for the last two years. Although life at Lowood was hard, I am very fortunate to have studied, worked, and lived there for eight years. I learnt fluent French, history, geography, and English grammar. I also learned to play the piano reasonably well and had great skill at drawing. I had great teachers with stores of knowledge, such as Miss Temple, whose guidance helped me to gain invaluable teaching experience and knowledge.

Lowood

It was a very strict boarding school. In the mornings and afternoons, I taught English, French, Drawing, and Music. In the evenings, I had various duties such as sitting with with the girls during their hour of study and reading prayers before seeing them to bed. Once the girls were in bed, the teachers had supper and when we retired for the night. I usually read by the light of the candlestick, until the socket of the candle dropped, and the wick went out. Once a month, for a few days, if I was lucky and the sky was clear and there was a glowing moon at my window, I would read until my eyelids fell heavily.

When my friend and mentor, Miss Temple, left Lowood to marry and live in a distant land, I became restless. Tired of the suffocating atmosphere of Lowood and eager for horizons, I applied for a job as a governess. I had always conducted myself well, both as teacher and pupil, at Lowood, so the school inspectors signed a testimonial of character and capacity, which enabled me to be employed as governess in a private home.

Jane and Adele

I worked at Thornfield Hall as governess to an eight–year-old French girl called Adele, from October to June. My salary was 30 pounds a year. One of the reasons I was chosen for the employment was my knowledge of French. Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a French lady, Madame Pierrot, with whom I conversed as often as I could. My French was almost fluent after seven years of applying myself daily to the language, and Adele respected me at once for this reason.

In the mornings, after breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, the room Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the schoolroom. Most of the books for adult reading were locked up behind glass doors, except one bookcase left open containing everything that could be needed in the way of elementary works of literature, poetry, biography, travels, a few romances. They were many more than had been available at Lowood. There was also a new and grand cabinet piano, an easel for painting and a pair of globes.

Adele was a docile, though unenthusiastic pupil. She was a little spoilt and it was not easy for her to concentrate, however she was obedient and although she had no special talents, she made reasonable progress. She studied with me until noon, and then she had some free time with her French nurse. She was friendly and loving and I became very fond of her.

When I had to leave Thornfield Hall, after the interruption of my bigamous wedding, I travelled to a distant town to find work.

My kind cousins, Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers, who did not yet know they were my kin, neither did I, sheltered me from the cold and shared their meagre rations of food with me. As soon as I recovered from my illness and arduous travels, I begged them to find me a job, because I did not want to be dependent on their charity.

‘I will be a dressmaker; I will be a plain-workwoman; I will be a servant, a nurse-girl, if I can be no better,’ I said to them.

St. John was finally able to find me a job as a teacher. There was no girls’ school at Morton, and St. John had hired a cottage with two rooms attached to a schoolroom with the intention of opening one. My salary was thirty pounds a year plus the use of the simply furnished adjacent cottage. The cost would be covered by a lady called, Miss Oliver; the only daughter of the richest man in the parish. She also paid for the education and clothing of an orphan from the workhouse, to be my maid.

Jane Teacher

It was a small village school attended by poor cottagers’ daughters. I was required to teach them knitting, sewing, reading, writing, and ciphering. They spoke with a broad accent. some of them were unmannered and  rough, as well as ignorant; but others are docile.

I took it as my duty and my challenge was to develop these the these students into refined and intelligent children. My efforts were rewarded, and they soon took a pleasure in doing their work well, keeping their persons neat, in learning their tasks regularly,in acquiring quiet and orderly manners. They progressed surprisingly well, and I was able to teach some of them grammar, geography, and history.

After marrying Mr. Rochester and inheriting my uncle’s fortune, I had no need or time to work as a teacher. I had enough to keep me busy at home, my husband, my child, the Estate, and my writing career.

I hope matters will improve for women in the future, but at the moment, teaching is one of the greatest and most honourable professions a woman can undertake. It will allow her to live independently and fulfill her need to be useful in society. Teachers instill knowledge, good habits, and encourage students to develop their talents to their best ability.

I dream of a day when everyone will have access to education and knowledge whatever their job or station in life. Every person should be allowed to grow intellectually and morally through education.

Education Quote

Letter I #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s First Person Narrator

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 it’s all about Jane Eyre is going to tell us about her use of ‘I’ or First Person Narrator. 

I

Jane Eyre is my autobiography. It’s the true story about what happened to me from my childhood until I married Mr. Rochester, when I was nineteen.

I wrote my autobiography for you, Dear Reader because I wanted you, and only you, to know about my life from a first hand account. I have told you things I have never told anyone.

Only you know I was locked in the Red Room at my aunt’s house, only you know how I felt when I was introduced to Bertha Mason in Mr. Rochester’s attic, and only you know how I wondered and almost died on my way to Morton. We have many secrets, Dear Reader.

You know all about my first ten years at my Aunt Reed’s house, and everything that happened at Lowood. I did not lie, and I did not purposefully omit important details. I was honest and hard-working. I made few friends and no enemies. I learned a worthwhile profession and desired to move on and widen my horizons.

jane_eyre_an_autobiography_by_charlotte_bronte_2370006095781

When I arrived at Thornfield Hall, the lies started, Dear Reader. It was not my intention to lie to you, and I did not lie about my feelings, or what I saw and heard. However, I was lied to, and delivered those lies to you, unknowingly.

Mrs. Fairfax, Leah, and Grace Poole, told me there were no ghosts or other persons at Eyre Hall, when they knew that Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason, was living in the attic. I realize that now. Grace Poole took up her food, slept with her, and held the key to her room. Everyone at Thornfield Hall knew about her, except you and me, Dear Reader.

Edward lied to me by telling me he was unmarried, even inside the church where we were to be wed, in the vicar’s presence. He assured me there was no one in the attic, except Grace Poole. He also told me he wasn’t Adele’s father, and he led me to believe that he would marry Blanche Ingram. I was fooled and so were you, Dear Reader.

Wedding

Then, when I visited my aunt on her death bed, I also discovered she had lied by telling me that my father’s family were poor, and that my only relative, my Uncle, John Eyre, was dead. I later learnt that my uncle was wealthy and that I had three wonderful cousins.

When I left Thornfield, I was forced to lie myself. I gave the Rivers a false name and refused to tell them my real story, for fear of rejection. I told my cousins my name was Jane Elliott when no such person existed. On this occasion, I did not lie to you, Dear Reader. You knew exactly who I was.

You must forgive me for lying, Dear Reader. I lied because I was naïve, gullible and in love. I believed the things they all said to me, but they all lied, mercilessly, cruelly, for their own advantage. My aunt lied to hurt me, Mr. Rochester lied to seduce me, and the servants at Eyre Hall lied to protect their master, and preserve their salaries.

I forgave them all, Dear Reader.

I forgave my aunt on her deathbed: ‘you have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God’s, and be at peace.’

After the bigamous marriage attempt, Edward asked me to forgive him: ‘Will you ever forgive me?’ He asked and I forgave him, too. ‘Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot.’ I told you Dear Reader, because only you know my heart. ‘I forgave him all: yet not in words, not outwardly, only at my heart’s core.’

The lies are not yet over. My final lie to you Dear Reader, is a wish. I wish to be happily married to Edward forever, but I will never know if my wish came true.

Many warned me that he would return to his selfish ways, that he was too self-centered to be a good father and husband. Others were sure that I was too strong willed and independent to remain in a secluded old manor house, looking after a moody, sick, rich landowner for the rest of my days, while there was so much to be improved in our country, so many orphans to look after and children to teach.

One reader imagined I built a house with my uncle’s inheritance, where Thornfield Hall once stood and called it Eyre Hall in memory of my Uncle John Eyre. She imagined I looked after my ailing husband and his ward, Adele, as well as my son, John. I supported parish schools for orphans and poor children, maintained the church at Hay, invested in charities for poor families, and I was a fair and considerate employer. I managed the Rochester Estate, where tenants and farmers paid fair rents and had safe houses in which to live. This Dear Reader imagined there were more secrets at Thornfield Hall and Eyre Hall that I had not yet discovered, because there were more secrets at Eyre Hall. She also knew I was a passionate woman, so I may have encountered love once more.

If you enjoyed my autobiography, which is only for your eyes, Dear Reader, you already guessed that I would I write more novels for the general reading public. Jane Eyre was an author.

Dear Reader, is this what you imagined my life would be like twenty years after I married Mr. Rochester?

 

 

Letter H #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Husband

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 it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Husband. Edward Rochester himself will tell us all about his life. This is Edward Rochester’s autobiography.

H

My name is Edward Fairfax Rochester. My honourable surname, dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. It’s etymology is related to a fortress, ‘chester’ meaning Roman fort in Old English. My family has lived in Yorkshire since the 12th century. My surname was briefly changed to ‘de Rochester’ after the Conquest, which was probably when my ancestor moved from Kent, where there were too many Norman invaders, to Yorkshire.

Battle_of_Marston_Moor,_1644

My first famous ancestor was Damer de Rochester, a brave soldier who had been struck by a cannon ball on Marston Moor in 1642, fighting for the Parliamentarians against the Royalists. My father used to say that was why King George, whom he considered a vengeful man, had denied my grandfather a Peerdom.

My mother’s surname is also of ancient Anglo-Saxon origins. In this case, the Fairfax were landed gentry who have always lived in Yorkshire. My mother’s older brother, retained all the land, as was customary. Her father remarried, when his wife died, and her younger step-brother, was later disowned and became a clergyman. My mother was rather fond of her little brother, so she insisted my father should employ him as vicar at Hay church, and when he died, his wife, Mrs. Fairfax, was employed as our housekeeper.

Mrs. Fairfax was a good woman who knew her place and never boasted of her husband’s relationship with the landowning Fairfax family. My parents cut off their relationship with the Fairfax shortly after they married. My mother’s family considered the Rochesters too fierce and warlike. I’ll admit, my father was never a patient man, much like myself, but he was an honourable Rochester.

Haddon_Hall

Our house, Thornfield Hall, and the nearby church, was built by my ancestors in the 12th century, shortly after moving to Yorkshire. Additions were made in the 13th and the 17th centuries.

The Hay district church stood just beyond the gates of Thornfield Hall. It was a small village place of worship, which was erected, when the original house was built in the 12th century. My grandfather renovated the older derelict building. It was the church where my grandparents were buried, where my parents married and were buried, and where my brother, Roland, was buried, too, in the family vault at the front of the altar. It was the same altar where I had stood as Jane’s groom, twice. It is where we christened our son, too. My unfortunate first wife, Bertha Mason, was buried anonymously in the graveyard.

This quiet, secluded place of worship, which would also be my last resting place, had been Roman Catholic before Henry VIII’s ecclesiastical reform, and although we had become Anglicans, not wanting to vex the King, there are still many reminders of our ancient religion, both in the church and in our minds.

Adele

I once confessed to Jane that I had brought Adele over from France when her mother died on the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or small, by one good work. Adele was my expiation, and she was the person who brought Jane to me, so perhaps we shouldn’t have swapped our ancient beliefs so easily. In any case, officially, I’m an Anglican.

I was the spare, the second son, who would not inherit my ancestor’s lands. I hated being second best to my brother, simply because he had been born first. He was a whining, fair-haired and sickly Fairfax, like my mother. I was my father, and grandfather’s living image. I was the Rochester, but my brother, Rowland Rochester was destined to inherit what was mine. I realized I would always be the aimless and unlikely replacement to my brother, and behaved recklessly in my youth.

My father and my brother schemed to get me as far away as possible, out of the country, to be rid of the troublesome young man I had become. So, my father provided me with a wealthy marriage. He had an old acquaintance, Mr. Mason, a West India planter and merchant, whose possessions were vast. Mason had a son, Richard and a daughter, Bertha Antoinette. He offered thirty thousand pounds as dowry for his daughter, and my father signed the deal. I left college and was sent out to Jamaica, to espouse a bride already courted for me. My father told me Miss Mason was the boast of Spanish Town for her beauty, and this was no lie. She was a beautiful woman, tall, dark, and majestic, and I was suitably dazzled. Her family wished to secure me because I was of a good race, but they did not tell me the truth until it was too late.

Bertha

Miss Mason was Mr. Mason’s step-daughter. She was a creole, like her mother, his first wife, who was shut up in a lunatic asylum, and there was a younger brother, who was a dumb idiot. I soon learned her splendid dresses, and demure glances were a farce, because she had been familiar with other men on the island. I had been tricked to marring her.

I found her nature wholly alien to mine, her tastes obnoxious to me, her cast of mind common, low, narrow, and singularly incapable of being led to anything higher. In short, she had a pigmy mind. I found that I could not pass a single evening, nor even a single hour of the day with her. Soon she showed me her outbreaks of violent and unreasonable temper.

I lived with that monster for four years, on that infernal island, until I received news that both my father and my brother had died, and the Rochester Estate was mine, at last. I brought her back with me. Her brother insisted and what could I do? He reminded me of the dowry and I told him that it was insufficient for everything I had put up with, and still had to endure.

I made sure she was well fed and comfortably hidden in my attic. I paid a trustworthy woman to look after her. She had everything she needed, but her madness spiraled after our arrival in England. She escaped and tried to burn the house down, on several occasions

I could not stand living under the same roof as her, even though I never saw her, but I heard her. I began to abhor Thornfield Hall, so I travelled to the continent in search of a good and intelligent woman. Instead I fell under the spell of the beautiful but fickle opera singer, Celine Varens.

Six months before Jane arrived at Thornfield Hall, Celine gave me her daughter, Adele, affirming she was mine. I tell you Pilot is more like me than Adele! Celine abandoned her child, and ran away to Italy with a musician or singer. I am convinced I am not her father, but hearing that she was quite destitute, I took the poor thing out of the slime and mud of Paris, and transplanted it here, to grow up clean in the wholesome soil of an English country garden.

You see, my goodwill has always turned against me. I vowed never to become involved with a beautiful woman again.

Horse

One day, nine years after returning from Jamaica, I met a small, pale, elf-like creature who stole my heart. I fell in love with her youth, her naiveté, her quick, sharp mind and her generous spirit enraptured me. However, I soon learnt she was as independent and headstrong as I was selfish and scheming. I had to have her as my wife, not my employee or my mistress. I wanted her skin on my skin, our bodies joined as soon as possible, so I devised a plan.

I thought she was too young to realize she loved me yet, so I had to make her feel jealous,  I invited Blanche Ingram, a beautiful woman, who was the antithesis of Jane. Blanche was tall, with raven hair and dark eyes. She wore expensive clothes and jewels to catch a husband. She was also a snob and a bitch. I would tease them both nicely. It was a game for my enjoyment. I knew Jane would win. She already had my heart and Blanche was only after my money. I would never marry a dark beauty again, I had already done that once. I wanted a real, English rose, on this occasion. An intelligent, soul mate. I wanted Jane Eyre.

Wedding

After Jane left Thornfield Hall, when Richard Mason cruelly interrupted my first wedding attempt, the lunatic’s madness escalated. She succeeded in burning down the house, and when she went up to the battlements to throw herself down, I tried to save her. I swear that’s why I went up there, but she threw herself off, after burning down my ancestral home.

I had lied, and I had broken the law, God’s law and man’s law, to make Jane mine. I even tried to ruin her, by trying to convince her to be my mistress. I would have done anything in my power to have her back at my side, but she disappeared like a summer breeze. I became a desperate and brooding beast living in a decrepit and secluded manor house with two old servants.

I was crippled. On one arm, I had neither hand nor nails, but a mere, ghastly stump. My face had ugly burn marks, and I was almost blind. My eyes could only perceive a glow. Everything around me was a ruddy shapeless cloud, until a year later, when my fairy returned.

Mr. Rochester Blind

After the fire, I had a long time to think about my deeds. I did wrong to Jane. I would have sullied my innocent flower, breathed guilt on her purity. I began to experience remorse, repentance, and the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I prayed that Jane would return to me and promised the heavens that I would be a better man. When she returned to me, I humbly entreated my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto.

After we married, I recovered the sight of one eye, and learned to cater for my needs with one hand, instead of two. I held my son in my arms and saw he was a Rochester, like me, and thanked God for the second chance I had been awarded. I would try to be the man Jane Eyre deserved for the rest of my days.

I know some people don’t believe in me, and I can understand that. They think I can’t change, but I know I can. I’m not sorry for my past, I did what I had to do. I was a reckless youth and I married the wrong woman, but I was misled by my father and enticed by selfish women. None of it was my fault.

I’m only sorry for the unjust way I treated Jane. You may think I’m not good enough for Jane, and that’s true, too, but I’m going to try to be a better man for her. I will not go back to my gallivanting ways and I will never hurt her again.

Jane3

Dear Reader, do you believe him?

Letter G #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Gardens

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 it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Gardens. Jane will tell us all about the gardens in her life, in her own words.

G

The first garden I can remember was at my Aunt Reed’s house, Gateshead Hall. There was a glass-door in the breakfast-room, which led onto the shrubbery and the path leading to the gate and the fields, where the sheep fed on short, blanched grass. I remember it was almost leafless, so it must have been the end of autumn, because when I walked out further, there was another part of the plantation with leafless, silent trees, and falling fir-cones. I can see a few autumn, russet leaves swept by the winds. I spent nine springs and nine summers in that house, and yet I cannot recall ever seeing a single flower. No child should be forced to have such a colourless childhood.

Snowy garden

When I first arrived at Lowood Institution, when I was ten years old, it was winter, and I did not enjoy being forced out to the garden for fresh air in the freezing, snow-covered garden, especially since our clothes were insufficient to protect us from the severe cold. We had no boots, and our shoes were soaked and our numbed hands covered in chilblains, as were our feet.

The garden was a wide enclosure, surrounded with high walls, and a covered verandah along one side. There were broad walks and a middle space divided into scores of little beds which these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate.

When April arrived, I had settled in. I had some friends and I had grown to enjoy the classes and the lessons. We could at last endure our daily hour in the garden, and when it was sunny, it was pleasant. I was overjoyed to plant in my garden the seeds we were given and some roots I had dug up in the forest.

The brown flower beds turned green, and flowers peeped out amongst the leaves: snow- drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. The vegetation matured in May and Lowood became green and flowery, at last. The great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland plants sprang up profusely.

Orchard spring

It doesn’t seem possible, but I imagined it was the first time I had seen the sweet explosion of spring. The garden glowed with flowers: hollyhocks sprung up tall as trees, lilies opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies.

In June, the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell. The evenings were so warm and serene, I knew this was where I had to be. Nevertheless, as the years passed, when I went upstairs to my room and opened the window and looked out, I yearned to travel beyond the hilly horizon, over those most remote peaks I longed to surmount. I hadn’t left Lowood in eight years and I longed to follow it farther, which I did when Miss Temple married and left.

Thornfield Hall didn’t have a garden, as such, it had a lawn in front of the building and grounds leading onto a great meadow, which was separated by a fence. Beyond there was an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.

There was an Eden-like orchard, which was full of trees blooming with flowers. A very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. A winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse- chestnut, led down to the fence At the bottom was the fence, and beyond, the fields and the winding path which led to Hay.

Proposal garden

The orchard with gooseberry trees, large plums, and cherry trees, was my favourite place to wander unseen, and it was pleasantly shady in spring and summer. There was a delicious fragrance of sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose. It was here, one June evening, when trees laden with ripening fruit, that Mr. Rochester proposed to me, the first time, by the light of the rising moon.

After leaving Thornfield Hall, when it was discovered that Mr. Rochester had a wife, who was locked in his attic, I wandered about like a lost and starving dog, crossing fields on foot to get as far away from Thornfield as was possible, I knocked on a clergyman’s door. It was Moor House, in Morton, where the Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers lived. It was a small grey, antique house with a low roof and latticed casements. The garden was dark with yew and holly and there were no flowers.

I stayed there until I recovered my strength and found a job as a teacher. My new home was a cottage with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor half hour from Morton. There was a small school room and a kitchen with had four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard. Above, there was a small chamber with a bedstead and chest of drawers. There was a tiny garden with a wicket, which shut me in from the meadow beyond. It looked very scanty when I arrived, but I was going to plant some roots in spring.

Jane Teacher

I was glad of this opportunity to make a living on my own as a school-teacher and when I looked at the quiet fields before my cottage, I knew I should be happy, but I cried of loneliness. I stayed at the school until the end of autumn, when I discovered I had inherited a small fortune from my Uncle John in Madeira, and that the Rivers were my cousins on my father’s side. So, I returned to Moor House to live with them, until one night I heard Edward calling me, and I returned to Thornfield Hall.

Thornfield had been burnt down by Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason. I eventually found Edward at his Manor House, Ferndean. It was an isolated and sombre place. There was no garden, there were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest. The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and narrow, and the front door was narrow too.

When I found Edward, he was crippled and blind, and feeling rather sorry for himself. He said he was like the old lightning-struck chestnut tree in the Thornfield orchard, but I told him he it wasn’t true, to me he was as green and vigorous as the last time I had seen him.

Mr. Rochester Blind

The second time he proposed to me was also in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields, which I described to him. They were brilliantly green with flowers and hedges and the sky was sparklingly blue. He sat in a hidden and lovely spot, on a dry stump of a tree, and I sat on his knee, while I told him about my travels since I had left Thornfield.

I told him I was an independent, rich woman and that I could build a house next to his. This house would have a beautiful garden, which he would one day be able to see when he recovered his eyesight. I think that might happen. I would call it Eyre Hall, in honour of my uncle, John Eyre.

Jane and Rochester friends