Autumn in Jane Eyre

The autumn months of September, October and November witness major events in both Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester’s lives.

Jane Eyre starts narrating her autobiography in autumn, specifically in November, ‘a drear November day’ she calls it. The novel has an oppressive and gloomy beginning in which she tells the reader about her loveless and lonely childhood at Gateshead, with her heartless Aunt Reed and bullying cousins, Georgina and John.

Jane is trapped in a freezing outdoor climate with an equally frosty atmosphere inside the house, as she states in her very first paragraph.

‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.’

And there we have one of the major themes in the novel, freedom, or in this case lack of freedom represented by the confinement she is subject to outside, due to the weather, and inside as she is denied access to family reunions and even locked in a room.

However, Jane’s experience of Autumn is not always so miserable.

Eight years later, after graduating at Lowood and taking on a teaching position there, she decides she wants to widen her horizons, so she advertises for a job as a governess.

‘…towards the close of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to Lowton. A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the charms of lea and water.

My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done, I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the shoemaker’s to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.

‘Are there any letters for J.E.?’ I asked.

And this is when she receives Mrs. Fairfax’s reply, offering her a job at Thornfield. Jane travels to Thornfield Hall that same autumn, specifically in October and she finds everything there pleasing.

She arrives in the evening, but she describes her first morning there as a ‘a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.’

Jane is finally feeling calm and happy which contrasts to the opening chapter which starts with a dreary autumn.

The reader and Jane can presume that her luck is changing and that a better life full of new opportunities lies ahead. She has her duties, which enable her to earn a salary, but she is not trapped at Thornfield. She is her own boss. No one bullies her. She’s starting to live her life as a free person, which is what Jane desires.

One of her most famous phrases in the novel is:

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

Jane is a prisoner at the beginning of the novel, and she’s started her road to freedom once she arrives at Thornfield Hall.

The following November, Jane learns that she has inherited a fortune from her uncle John Eyre, a wine merchant who lived in Madeira, when St John gives her the solicitor’s letter and she confesses her real identity. It’s also when she learns St John and his sisters Mary and Diana are Jane’s cousins.

Another crucial event to the plot, which took place in autumn was the fire which burnt down Thornwood Hall. It occurred during the harvest, so probably between late September and early October.

It was a ‘dreadful calamity’ as Jane is told when she returns to find Rochester, but really, it meant that Rochester had become a widower and consequently a free man. It was a perfect end to her rival, the first Mrs Rochester, and although Mr Rochester was injured, he survived and was able to remarry.

Curiously Mr Rochester had married Bertha Antoinette Mason in Autumn, too.

‘I affirm and can prove that on the 20th of October A.D.—(a date of fifteen years back), Edward Fairfax Rochester, of Thornfield Hall, in the county of—, and of Ferndean Manor, in—shire, England, was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason, merchant, and of Antoinetta his wife, a Creole, at—church, Spanish Town, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in the register of that church—a copy of it is now in my possession. Signed, Richard Mason.’’

So for Rochester his ill fated and according to his account, mistaken marriage, began and ended in autumn, specifically in October.

The novel ends in summer, but it is because of the events which occurred the previous autumn that they are both free at last.

Jane has refused St John’s offer of marriage and she has inherited a fortune, while Rochester has lost his main property but he is still a wealthy man and overall, he is free from his ‘mad’ wife.

‘I sat at the feet of a man, caring as I. The veil fell from his hardness and despotism. Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his imperfection and took courage. I was with an equal—one with whom I might argue—one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.’

They are both financially, emotionally and legally free, so they are able to marry for love and live as equals.

Jane believes she has her happy ending and urges her readers to believe it too, but as Orson Wells once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

 

I couldn’t let it go.

Jane Eyre leaves too many spaces between the lines. There are countless unanswered questions about Bertha, the first Mrs Rochester’s life and death, her brother, Richard’s role in his sister’s marriage and confinement, and Mr Rochester’s abundant lies and manipulation. On the other hand, what about Jane’s intelligence and fiercely independent nature, would she be content to spend the rest of her life exclusively devoted to an ailing and irritable husband in a remote, manor house?

There was so much that I wanted to explore, and that’s what led me to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy, but I warn you, it is not for any unconditional fans of Mr. Rochester.

 

#MothersDay ‘Jane Eyre’s Mother’ #MondayBlogs #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre is the most famous female, literary orphan in English literature, but what do we know about Jane Eyre’s mother?

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Surprisingly, for a character who doesn’t appear in the novel and is hardly mentioned, we know a great deal. We know her name and maiden surname, how and we she died, who and why she married, a few things about her family and some significant aspects of her personality.

The first time her mother is mentioned, Jane is at her uncle, Mr Reed’s house. Jane tells the reader:

I could not remember him (Mr Reed); but I knew that he was my own uncle—my mother’s brother— that he had taken me when a parentless infant to his house;

Consequently we know that her mother’s maiden name was Reed and that her husband’s surname was Eyre. We also learn that Jane has no memories of her father, her mother or her uncle, because she was an infant when they died.

Jane also tells us about the effect that the lack of loving parents or relatives affected her personality. Well before Freud identified and shared his theories regarding the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind, Jane Eyre was fully that her parents’ absence was affecting her moods and character were due to factors beyond her control, within her psyche.

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Ten year-old Jane tells Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary, called in by Mrs.
Reed when she fainted after being punished and locked in the red room:

I am unhappy,—very unhappy, for other things.’

‘What other things? Can you tell me some of them?’

How much I wished to reply fully to this question! How difficult it was to frame any answer! Children can feel, but they cannot analyse their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in words. Fearful, however, of losing this first and only opportunity of  relieving my grief by imparting it, I, after a disturbed pause, contrived to frame a meagre, though, as far as it went, true response.

‘For one thing, I have no father or mother, brothers or sisters.’

Jane describes herself as unhappy because she is missing the family she doesn’t have. A contemporary psychologist might suggest that, as an orphan, Jane was vulnerable and predisposed to physical and psychological risks such as depression and antisocial behaviour, and would probably need counselling. Instead she was plunged into an unloving household, where she was demeaned, neglected and physically and psychologically abused. There could have been many outcomes to her future personality, she could have sunk into disruptive behaviour or swam to the surface as a stronger, fiercely independent, determined and kind person.

There were many real and literary orphans in Victorian Literature. Here’s some more information in two previous posts including information about orphans in Victorian England

Jane Eyre found out about her parents’ death and bad relationship with her maternal grandfather, Mr. Reed, from Bessie, a servant at her aunt’s house. Bessie in turn had learnt this information from another, older servant at the house, Miss Abbot.

“On that same occasion I learned, for the first time, from Miss Abbot’s communications to Bessie, that my father had been a poor clergyman; that my mother had married him against the wishes of her friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a shilling; that after my mother and father had been married a year, the latter caught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor of a large manufacturing town where his curacy was situated, and where that disease was then prevalent: that my mother took the infection from him, and both died within a month of each other.”

This passage informs us that her mother married a clergyman for love, against her family’s wishes. Jane was aware that her mother valued love over social convention or economic stability.

Nine years later, while Jane is working at Thornfield, she was called to visit her Aunt Reed, who was on her deathbed. Jane took the opportunity to ask her why her aunt hated her so much.

‘I had a dislike to her (Jane’s) mother always; for she was my husband’s only sister, and a great favourite with him: he opposed the family’s disowning her when she made her low marriage; and when news came of her death, he wept like a simpleton. He would send for the baby; though I entreated him rather to put it out to nurse and pay for its maintenance. I hated it (referring to Jane)  the first time I set my eyes on it…’

Thus Jane learns that her aunt had hated her mother and that she was jealous of her husband’s affection towards the helpless baby.

In summary, we know that Jane Eyre’s mother, Mrs Eyre, née Jane Reed, was beloved by her brother, Jane’s Uncle Reed, who had been a well-to-do magistrate, before his premature death. We also know she was estranged by her parents for marrying a clergyman, Mr Eyre, whom they considered was below her station. We know she married for love, that Jane was born nine months after their marriage and was a three-month old baby when her parents died, a year after marrying. Mrs Jane Reed Eyre died of typhus, a disease contracted by her husband first. We can infer that she was a passionate, independent and determined woman, who was prepared to turn her back on her family and material comforts, in order to marry the man she loved.

It surprises me that Jane only mentioned missing her mother once as a ten-year-old child and never mentioned her mother as an adult. Grown up Jane seemed to have completely wiped her mother out of her thoughts, perhaps because she had no memory or image to cling to. On the other hand, we can imagine her mother’s influence in Jane’s famous quote that she’d rather be happy than dignified. It definitely seemed to have been her mother’s motto too!

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I’d also like to remind you that today, 31st of March, is the anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s premature death in 1855, at the ge of 38. She was pregnant when she and her unborn child died.

Her death certificate gives the cause of death as tuberculosis, but biographers, including Claire Harman, have suggested that she died from dehydration and malnutrition due to vomiting caused by severe morning sickness. Charlotte Brontë was buried in the family vault in the Church of St Michael and All Angels at Haworth in Yorkshire, UK.

Photo by Dave Green of St Michael and All Angel’s Church, Haworth (Wikipedia).

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P.S. If you haven’t read Jane Eyre, you’re missing out on one of the greatest novels ever written, and it’s almost free on amazon kindle, including the audiobook!

If you have read Jane Eyre, perhaps you’ve wondered what happened after Jane and Rochester married, so have I, that’s why I wrote The Eyre Hall Trilogy, on special offer at the moment.

#AtoZChallenge ‘J is for Jane Eyre’ #Haiku #NaPoWriMo #PoetryMonth

Photo by Author and Translator @OlgaNM

Olga, who blogs at Olga Author Translator, took this beautiful photo last year at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I don’t know if it is supposed to be Jane Eyre, but it certainly reminds me of her!
In fact, this sculpture is called Wilsis and belongs to a series of portrait heads by Jaume Plensa, depicting young girls from around the world, with their eyes closed in a dreamlike state of contemplation.

Photo by author @Annecdotist

Photo by author @Annecdotist

Anne Godwin, who blogs at Annecdotal, took these photos of North Lees Hall, which many believe was Charlotte Bronte’s inspiration for Thornfield Hall,  during one of her many walks which she finds conducive to the creative state of mind

In fact, On Sunday, 17th June 2018, she’ll be leading a guided walk called  In the footsteps of Jane Eyre, at the Peak District National Park, more information about the walk here.

An enormous thanks to both Olga and Anne, readers, writers, book bloggers, and supportive participants  of many online book blogging and writing communities, for allowing me to include their photos on today’s post, meant as a humble tribute to Jane Eyre, a novel I know both of them also love and admire.

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Jane Eyre
Plain, slight, poor orphan
Fulfilled all her childhood dreams
Beloved Jane Eyre
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Jane Eyre was an underpiviledged and underfed, Victorian orphan. She didn’t stand a chance of living her own life, and yet she fought for her place in the world, in spite of constant adversity. She was honest, tenacious, loyal, intelligent, hard-working and fiercely determined to be ‘an independent woman’.  

I would never have had the inspiration or courage to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy if I hadn’t read Jane Eyre when I was a teenager. I’ve regularly reread it since then.

It took me a long time, but I eventually followed my dreams, too.

Last year’s AtoZ Challenge was All About Jane Eyre, in case you’d like to check it out.

Have you read Jane Eyre? What are your thoughts?

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This year is my fourth AtoZ Challenge. My theme this year is poetry once again. I’ll be writing a haiku a day, but I’m also adding a new hobby to the posts, photography. I will post one of my photos, or a donated photo, every day to accompany my haiku.

This April, I’ll also be sharing my poems and joining another group of poets at National Poetry Writing Month, organised since 2003 by Maureen Thorson. Write 30 poems in 30 days. I’m in! What about you?

 

My latest copy of Jane Eyre, the one I’ve been rereading since 1980! And my Jane Eyre cup, a present from my best friend, Anna, who is neither a blogger nor a writer, but who knows? I’m working on it and both are highly contagious!

K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge #CosPhoChal ‘Portraits’

This Monday’s theme is ‘Portraits’.

I remembered that I have some lovely pictures of portraits I took at the National Portrait Gallery in London, a lesser known gem, right next to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, and others I took at Charles Dicken’s Museum at Doughty Street, London.

Here I am as close as I’ll ever be to my favourite writers. Top left Robert Browning and his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Mr. Greenwood, who marries Adele in All Hallows at Eyre Hall is based on the widower, Robert Browning.

Elizabeth B.B. wrote the most romantic sonnet in the English language, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

 Top right with Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote the unforgettable Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of my favourite novels, whose influence features strongly in Midsummer at Eyre Hall. We all have to balance the capacity for good and evil we possess.

The bottom left are the Bronte sisters, Anne, Charlotte and Emily (from left to right) in the famous painting by their brother, Patrick Branwell Bronte. The portrait on the right is of Charlotte Bronte.

The bottom right, Mr. Charles Dickens, who features prominently in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, where he narrates a chapter, and Midsummer at Eyre Hall, where his generosity and friendship will be of invaluable help to Jane Eyre.  

Isn’t it wonderful that the Bronte’s and Charles Dickens are so close, in the Gallery and in my literary heart and mind.

Here I am with Dickens’ portrait in the reproduction of his dining room at his home in Doughty Street.

A caricature of the older Dickens, on his way to the continent, which means anywhere which is not UK!

This isn’t a portrait, but I thought I’d include his chair, where he sat and probably read, chatted, and perhaps plotted and made notes, before sitting at his writing desk. 

Finally, here I am beside a portrait of my favourite sports person, Rafael Nadal, the greatest Spanish tennis player of all time, and one of the best in the world, not only because he’s a world tennis champion, but because he’s such a good sport.

I hope you liked my portraits!

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge: Honeymoon Love Letter @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charlie Mills’ Carrot Ranch Weekly Flash Fiction Prompt 

March 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. It can be between a couple before, during or after the honeymoon. Or it can refer to a honeymoon period. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 14, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published March 15). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Honeymoon Love Letter

He refused, yet again. Why wouldn’t they leave him alone? He would never share Charlotte’s love letter.    

Dearest husband, the word seems strange, yet marvellous, my husband, at last. You are dearer to me today than you have ever been, yet less than you shall be tomorrow. I shall never forget the wild nights spent in Bangor, or the gleams of sunshine which woke us every morning. I love you, Charlotte.

Arthur folded the letter he had read every day since his wife passed away, fifty years ago, and tucked it back under his shirt, close to his heart. 

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This flash fiction is inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s honeymoon in Bangor, Wales, with her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls. They were only married for nine months, and very little is known about their relationship, however, the letters she wrote during her honeymoon and her obvious desire to marry him, in spite of her father’s opposition, as well as Arthur’s tenacity, leads me to believe that there was a love story between them.   

The letter I have included in my flash was inspired by words and sentences she wrote in ‘real’ letters about her husband and her honeymoon.

           Arthur Bell Nichols circa 1854

Arthur Bell Nichols met Charlotte Bronte in 1845 when he was appointed curate to her father, Reverend Patrick Bronte. The first time Arthur asked for Charlotte Bronte’s hand in marriage, in 1852, her father, the Reverend Patrick Bronte refused, probably because he considered his curate to be beneath his famous daughter. As a result, Arthur applied to work in Australia, although he also persisted in is pursuit of the elusive Charlotte, in spite of her overprotective father.

Charlotte and Arthur eventually married in June 1854, nevertheless, Charlotte’s father refused to lead his daughter her up to the altar, or attend the wedding ceremony.

The newlyweds spent a protracted honeymoon in Wales and Ireland, and there is no indication that it was not a happy, albeit short, marriage. Charlotte wrote several letters during her honeymoon, describing her journey as pleasant and enjoyable.

Unfortunately, Charlotte died nine months later, probably due to complications with her pregnancy, as she suffered severe morning sickness and general ill health. Charlotte and her unborn child died on 31 March 1855. She was 38-years-old.

These may or may not be photographs of Arthur and Charlotte (Both are disputed).

Nicholls became the copyright holder of his wife’s works. As interest in Charlotte Bronte grew in the months and years after her death, Patrick Brontë asked Charlotte’s friend, the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, to write her daughter’s biography. Arthur Nicholls was reluctant to allow Mrs. Gaskell access to Charlotte’s letters and was not pleased with Mrs. Gaskesll’s account. In any case, neither Mrs. Gaskell nor Patrick Bronte were Arthur’s fans. The biography was controversial, incomplete, due to its omissions, and was withdrawn and rewritten twice due to accusations of slander. It was finally published in 1857.

Arthur remained at Haworth, looking after Reverend Patrick Bronte until his death in 1861. He put the contents of Haworth Parsonage up for auction in October 1861, retained the family’s manuscripts and private effects, and returned to Ireland, his homeland.

Nine years after Charlotte’s death, Arthur married his cousin. He died in 1906, and it is said his last words were ‘Charlotte, Charlotte.’

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Women Writers Who Used Male Pen Names #InternationalWomensDay #WWWBlogs

Nineteenth-century Britain was a time of great progress and reform, in British society due to industrialization and social upheaval. One of the most controversial debates were about the position of women in society. Aspects such as a wife’s right to own property, a mother’s right to custody of her children and ownership of her body, or right to vote, saw the birth of the movement for women’s rights, and the first suffragettes at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This was also the era of the professional woman writer, a time in which more women were writing professionally and demanded a place alongside men in the literary world.

The Bronte Sisters

One of the strategies these early women writers turned to was the use of male pseudonyms.

These have been referred to by 20th century feminist literary scholars such as Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar as ‘metaphorical trousers’ or male pseudonyms in the 19th century, in order to be taken seriously as authors.

I wrote a post called Madwoman in the Attic in two parts with more information on the topic.

Here are a few of the most famous women who used male pseudonyms. The most well-known are probably the three Bronte sisters.

Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre, is one of the most celebrated female novelists in all literary history. Charlotte Bronte originally published Jane Eyre and all her works under the name Currer Bell. This name represented the male identity necessary to succeed during the time in which Bronte was actively writing. Jane Eyre is regarded as one of the most influential works of literature in history and is now published under Charlotte Bronte’s true name.

Anne Bronte (1820 – 1849) wrote Agnes Grey, in 1847. Her second novel was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the story of a woman leaving her abusive spouse, was published the following year. She published her novels with the pseudonym Acton Bell.

Charlotte’s sister, Emily Bronte, published her only known novel, Wuthering Heights, under the male pen name Ellis Bell. The three sisters chose to write under masculine pseudonyms to deter any bias on the basis of their gender. Emily Bronte’s health was poor throughout most of her life, and she died at 30 in the year 1848. In 1950, Charlotte Bronte edited Emily’s novel and re-published it under Emily’s true name. Today, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are considered two of the most important English novels in history.

            Mary Anne Evans, pen name George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans: More widely known by her male pen name George Eliot, Evans was a prominent author and journalist during the Victorian Era. Evans is said to have published under a male pseudonym in order to distance herself from the female romance novelists of the time and to ensure that her works were taken seriously. After her first novel, Adam Bede, was published in 1859 and reviewed positively by critics, Evans revealed her female identity to the world.

On other occasions, women wrote under their married names, to endow them with greater respectability. Here are some examples.

Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant (née Margaret Oliphant Wilson) (4 April 1828 – 25 June 1897), was a Scottish novelist and historical writer, who usually wrote as Mrs. Oliphant. Her fictional works encompass “domestic realism, the historical novel and tales of the supernatural

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson (29 September 1810 — 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature. Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Bronte, published in 1857, was the first biography of that author.

               Mrs. Henry Wood

Ellen Wood (17 January 1814 – 10 February 1887), was an English novelist, better known as Mrs. Henry Wood. She is perhaps remembered most for her 1861 novel East Lynne, but many of her books became international best-sellers, being widely received in the United States and surpassing Charles Dickens’ fame in Australia.

Mary Augusta Ward née Arnold; (11 June 1851 – 24 March 1920), was a British novelist who wrote under her married name as Mrs Humphry Ward.

There is plenty of proof as to why women had to use male pseudonyms or their husbands or brother’s names. I suggest those who are interested in the topic read my post Madwoman in the Attic Part II, for a more detailed account and bibliography.

I’m just going to include one eloquent example in this post. A letter the Poet Laureate, Robert Southey (1774-1843) wrote to Charlotte Bronte in 1836 in reply to her petition for advice on being a writer.

“Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life and it ought not to be.  The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure she will have for it, even as an accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties you have not yet been called, and when you are you will be less eager for celebrity”.

Robert Southey was an English poet of the Romantic school, and one of the so-called “Lake Poets”. He was Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 to his death in 1843. Although his fame has long been eclipsed by that of his contemporaries and friends William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Nevertheless, women authors achieved remarkable literary success in a profession clearly dominated by men. Many of them were able to successfully pursue their literary ambitions in spite of the patriarchal oppression they were subject to, and they passed the test of time with flying colours!

Fortunately, society, including men and women have come a long way since the 19th century, and nowadays, at least in the English-speaking/writing/reading literary market, as I perceive the situation, women and men write and publish with equal opportunities.

Nevertheless, as all social progress, it’s an ongoing struggle and unfortunately, there are many places in the world where women are still struggling to be heard.

Do men and women writer have equal opportunities as readers and writers where you live?

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge: Creating Jane Eyre

This post was written in response to Charli Mills Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge, at Carrot Ranch.

January 26, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme, “women create.” It can be art, sewing, ideas, babies. What is at the heart of women as creators? Go where the prompt takes you.

january-26

 

Creating Jane Eyre

“Who’s the author of this abhorrent attempt at a novel?” asked Lady Eastlake.

“Currer Bell,” replied Mrs. Mozley.

“Who on earth is he?” asked Mrs. Rigby.

“Some say he’s a woman,” said Mrs. Mozley

“Women don’t describe such coarse and shameful relationships between men and women,” snapped Lady Eastlake.

“Unless it is such a woman who has long forfeited the society of her own sex,” said Mrs. Rigby.

“It’s unchristian. We should make sure it’s banned,” suggested Mrs. Mozley. “Just in case it’s a woman’s creation. Imagine how degrading it would be for the rest of us.”

They nodded.

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When Jane Eyre (1847) was first published by Charlotte Bronte under the masculine pseudonym Currer Bell, it was received with mixed reviews. Some were highly praising and others harshly critical.

Some of her staunchest critics were female and criticized Jane Eyre for being vulgar, improper, anti-christian, as well as politically incorrect. Her three main female critics were Lady Eastlake, Elizabeth Rigby and Ann Mozley, the three women I’ve brought together in today’s flash.

Among the most outspoken critics was the conservative Lady Eastlake, who accused Charlotte Bronte of lack of femininity, and of agreeing with the working class uprisings of the Chartists, who were demanding votes for the working classes.

In addition to Lady Eastlake, Elizabeth Rigby, an author and art critic, and the first woman to write for the Quarterly review, stated that if the book was by a woman, “she had long forfeited the society of her own sex.” Rigby also considered Jane Eyre  showed “coarseness of language and laxity of tone.” Rigby was especially irate about her unflattering depictions of the aristocracy, accusing Charlotte Bronte of a “total ignorance of the habits of society.”

Ann Mozley, writing for the Christian Remembrancer in 1848, writes “Never was there a better hater. Every page burns with moral Jacobinism.” The Jacobins were French revolutionaries who aimed to abolish the monarchy and do away with class distinctions, as well as instituting a universal vote, an idea abhorrent to upper class, Anglican Britons.

According to these and other critics, Jane Eyre challenged traditional views about how women should act and behave, and therefore threatening the established social order.

Jane is indeed rebellious and demands respect and equality, although she knows her place, she also believes that her fate isn’t written in stone. Here are her unforgettable words to overbearing Mr. Rochester:

jane-quote-1

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since the 19th century. Censorship, accepting injustice and exploitation, and gender, racial or religious discrimination is something we aim to overcome.

Well done Jane Eyre for shocking them all out of their complacency!

You’d be happy to know that my sequel takes up her fiercely independent, outspoken and resilient, free spirit.

In Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, Charles Dickens visits Jane Eyre (at that time, Mrs. Mason) at Eyre Hall for a few days over Christmas. Dickens confesses that he has left his wife and has a young mistress, although it is a well kept secret, because he is not prepared to affront the establishment. When Jane tells him she is having an affair with Lieutenant Kirkpatrick, her former valet, and she is no longer hiding her feelings, he replies:

“How invigorating! Are you going to shock us all and defy the laws of propriety? How brave of you!”    

That’s my Jane!

10 Differences Between #JaneEyre and Charlotte Bronte #AtoZChallenge #Bronte200

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 point out the Ten differences between herself and Charlotte Bronte.

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I’m very grateful to Charlotte Bronte for making me such a famous person, as Mr. Rochester might say, ‘You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are, have become the most famous female literary character in English Literature.’ 

Some readers mistake me, Jane Eyre, the author of my autobiography, for my pen name, Charlotte Bronte. That’s understandable, but there are plenty of differences between us.

If you check out Charlotte Bronte’s biography here and my biography here, you’ll see for yourselves how different our lives were.

But just to clarify matters, there follow Ten Differences between me, Jane Eyre, and Charlotte Bronte, my alter ego:

  1. I was an orphan and Charlotte wasn’t.
  2. I was educated at a boarding school, while Charlotte was educated at home by her father and her aunt.
  3. I had no brothers or sisters and Charlotte had one brother and four sisters (although two died in infancy).
  4. I never left England, and Charlotte travelled to Belgium.
  5. I married at an early age 19-20, and Charlotte married later in life, at 38.
  6. Charlotte wrote fantasy stories from an early age, while I preferred drawing as my creative expression, until after my marriage.
  7. I wrote my autobiography, while Charlotte wrote poems and fictional novels.
  8. I was fiercely independent, yet Charlotte always lived with and obeyed her father.
  9. I was described as beautiful by some and plain by others, read this post, while Charlotte was reportedly very ugly, no question about it. According to her biographer, Mrs. Gaskell, Charlotte had, “a reddish face, large mouth and many teeth gone; altogether plain”.
  10. I inherited a fortune from my uncle and married a rich man, while Charlotte was not rich and married a humble parson.

In spite of all these differences, there are also Ten Similarities  in our lives:

  1. We were both very short and thin.
  2. We were both born and bred in Yorkshire.
  3. We both lived in the 19th century.
  4. We both fell in love with married men.
  5. We both worked as teachers and governesses.
  6. We both spoke French fluently.
  7. We were both masterful writers.
  8. We both wrote with pen names, she used Currer Bell, and I wrote my autobiography as Charlotte Bronte.
  9. We were both concerned with women’s unjust place in the world and fought for gender equality. I must add that I did so more actively than she did.
  10. We were both religious, but not hypocrites. We truly believed in our faith and the teachings of the Bible.

I’d say, my life may have been a little harder than Charlotte’s for the first ten years, but after that, I was much more fortunate than poor Charlotte was, thanks to my stronger character and single-mindedness. It could also have been because I was an orphan and had no oppressive family to tie me down or repress me, and because the man I fell in love with became a widower, so unlike Charlotte I was able to marry him and be happy, at least for a time.

I hope I’ve made my point. Jane is not Charlotte.

We did not have the same childhood or upbringing, nor the exact same physical appearance, nor did we lead the same kind of life, or marry the same type of man.

I’m resilient, strong-willed and wealthy. I’m in charge of my life.

I am independent, I married the man I loved and had a son.

Charlotte hasn’t been completely forgotten, of course, yet. However, people are still writing about me, talking about me, and making films about me. Me.

I’m also an enigma. Nobody really knows what happened to me after I wrote my autobiography, ten years after I married (I may have exaggerated a little there, it may have been less than ten).

Someone imagined I built a house called Eyre Hall with the money my uncle left me, on the grounds where Thornfield Hall once stood, and wrote a sequel called The Eyre Hall Trilogy. It sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think?

Letter R & S #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre Rebirth and Sequel

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. I’m going to discuss Jane Eyre’s Rebirth and Sequel in the Eyre Hall Trilogy.

R

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a three-part sequel to Jane Eyre.

My aim was to pay tribute to Charlotte Bronte and so many other Victorian authors, whom I consider my literary Masters.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy owes its existence to the following 19th century literary geniuses in no particular order:

The Brontes, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle, Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, George Elliott, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lord Tennyson, Hardy, Wilde, de Quincy, and Jane Austen.

I have aimed to write an enjoyable Gothic Romance, which makes suspenseful and exciting reading for contemporary audiences.

Readers will encounter many of the original characters in Jane Eyre once again, but this series will also bring to life many new and intriguing ones, spinning a unique and absorbing narrative.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is now complete:

Banner and Lucy

Book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, takes place twenty-two years after Jane’s marriage to Edward Rochester. Jane is coping with the imminent death of her bedridden husband, and Richard Mason has returned from Jamaica to disclose more secrets and ruin her happiness once again, instigating a sequence of events which will expose Rochester’s disloyalty to Jane, his murderous plots, and innumerable other sins. Mason’s revelations, and the arrival Bertha’s daughter, Miss Annette Mason, will turn Jane’s world turned upside down.

Reading All Hallows

Book 2, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, moves the action on after Edward Rochester’s death. Jane Eyre, who has been blackmailed into marrying a man she despises, will have to cope with the return of the man she loved and lost. The secrets she has tried so hard to conceal must be disclosed, giving rise to unexpected events and more shocking revelations. This time, the  action will move from the Yorkshire countryside, to Victorian London, and across the Atlantic Ocean to Colonial Jamaica.

Telfth Night Bilboard Night

Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, which is available for pre-order and will be launched on 21st June, Midsummer’s Day, is the final part of the trilogy.

The first part of Midsummer at Eyre Hall is very dramatic and action-packed. Jane will find herself in completely unexpected and dreadful circumstances, which neither she, nor the reader would ever imagine, so I can’t say much more!

The second part begins to show some improvement in her situation and contains more surprises, including two new characters, who will drastically change Jane’s life forever.

In this final installment, Jane will undertake perilous physical and emotional journeys across England, from Yorkshire, to magical Cornwall, and Victorian London. She will discover who her friends and enemies are, and she will have to make challenging and drastic decisions, which will affect everyone on the Rochester Estate.

I hope the reader will find the end is satisfactory, although the final outcome is happier for some characters than for others…

Magazine Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Check out the Eyre Hall Trilogy on Amazon US and Amazon UK

For those living in Spain you can also purchase paperback versions at http://www.libroseningles.com/

*****

For those of you who have read books 1 and 2, would like an ARC of Midsummer at Eyre Hall, it will be available at the beginning of June.

Please let me know if you’d like to be the first to read it 🙂

Letter A April #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s #Author Charlotte Bronte

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 Jane Eyre’s Author, Charlotte Bronte

A

My name is Charlotte Bronte and I was born on 21st April, 1816, in Thornton, Yorkshire.

Charlotte Bronte

My father was Rev. Patrick Bronte, originally from County Down, Ireland, where his father was a labourer. His name was spelled Brunty at the time. I don’t know exactly when it was changed to Bronte, but it was probably when he came to England in 1802, after working as a blacksmith, weaver and teacher, in Ireland. He saved enough money to study theology at St. John’s College, Cambridge and was ordained in 1806.

I hardly remember my mother, Maria Branwell, who died when I was five. She was born in Penzance, Cornwall, where her father was a successful merchant. She met my father while visiting her aunt in Yorkshire.

brontetree

My two elder sisters Maria and Elizabeth died when I was 9, and they were 10 and 11 yeas old. They had been attending a Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire, which had notoriously poor conditions. Much like Lowood, the school I described in my most successful novel, Jane Eyre.

I was the oldest of my surviving siblings, and the last to die. My poor, talented brother Patrick Branwell was a year younger than me, and would have been a great painter and poet if he had not succumbed to the ecstasy and torture of laudanum, alcohol, and the unrequited love of a married woman.

In 1820, the year my youngest sister Anne was born, we to Haworth, where my father had been appointed perpetual curate of St Michael and All Angels Church, and sadly, my mother died of cancer the following year.

We were fortunate enough to have been looked after by out maternal aunt, Elizabeth Branwell. While our father taught us to read the wisdom and moralizing stories of the Bible, our aunt showed us the pleasure of reading fiction in literary magazines. My aunt, who was so devoted to us that she never married, was able to use her generous annual income to fund many of the ventures in which our father had little interest, such as a girls boarding school, which unfortunately was unsuccessful, and our trips to Brussels to study French.

bronte-parsonage

While we were in Brussels, in return for board and tuition, I taught English and Emily taught music. We were in Brussels when we were informed of our aunt’s death in 1842, due to a bowel obstruction. We were all devastated, but especially my brother, Branwell, who was her favourite. He died six years later. Although his death certificate says he died of chronic bronchitis, he had been suffering greatly due to his addictions, brought on by his sensitive character and acute sense of failure. 

I fell in love with my professor of Rhetoric, while I was in Brussels. He was short, dark, and moody. I was terrified of him at first and anxious to gain his approval as his pupil. Later, my fear and admiration turned to love. When I returned to Haworth, we remained in touch. I wrote him many letters, but unfortunately, M. Heger was married and had six children, so he remained in my literary imagination and became my inspiration for Mr. Rochester.

bronte-charlotte-letters-K90081-43

I will always remember our childhood literary ventures. The four of us would use Branwell’s wooden toy soldiers to play with and invent an imaginary world, which we called Angria. We should have developed those stories into a series of fantasy novels. Branwell once said he would do so, but sadly, it never happened.

We were educated at home and my sisters and I also worked as teachers and governesses in several local schools and households, but none of us considered it a fulfilling job, so we turned to writing, which had always been our passion.

Painting_of_Brontë_sisters

The three of us had written many poems, and in 1846, encouraged and impressed by Anne’s poems I decided to publish a selection of all our poems, which were written under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. We thought best not to disclose our real names and gender because we wanted to preserve our privacy and because we thought our condition as women writers would be looked upon with prejudice.

I had already written The Professor, which had been rejected for publication, but our luck changed the following year, my Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Ann’s Agnes Grey were all published, still under the Bell pseudonyms. It was not until 1848, that we told our London publishers who we really were.

Jane

Although Jane Eyre soon became a best seller, some literary critics thought it was provocative, antichristian and coarse, but you’ll read more about my novel, Jane Eyre in tomorrow’s post. Some critics even thought it had been written by a man! But how could a man have written three volumes uncovering the complexity of a woman’s heart and soul? 

Two of the saddest moments of my life were the deaths of my sisters Emily and Anne in 1848 and 1849. They were both taken in their prime. I heard their failing breaths and watched the colour fade from their faces, as the eternal stillness took over. Every time I tremble from the hard frost and keen wind, I am reminded that they can no longer feel them. It was God’s will. My only consolation is that and the place where they have gone is better than the one they have left. This is part of a poem I wrote when Anne died: ‘There ‘s little joy in life for me, And little terror in the grave; I ‘ve lived the parting hour to see, Of one I would have died to save.

I did not think much of London life, but I visited on a few occasions and made the acquaintance of other notable writers, such as Mr. Thackeray and Mrs. Gaskell. I was especially impressed by the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London, which I visited in 1851.

I had known Rev. Nicholls, curate of Haworth, since 1845. The first time he proposed marriage was in 1852, but my father objected and I was indifferent. Mr. Nicholls was insistent, and he was indeed a kind man, so the second time he proposed, two years later, my father did not oppose the marriage and I accepted. I did not marry for love. I had loved once and I was resigned to live without the hope of such passion again, but I would have liked to have children. I was my father’s only child still living, so I was his last chance of seeing any type of continuation in his line, but sadly, it was not to be. I died during a difficult pregnancy in 1855.

220px-Patrickbronte

I often think of my father, who survived his wife and six children, sitting in his favourite armchair by the window rereading his worn Bible, trying to understand why he had not yet been called. Perhaps I wrote these lines thinking of him:

He that lives must mourn.

God help us through our misery

And give us rest and joy with thee

When we reach our bourne!

It pleases me greatly that our novels are still read and loved, and have inspired other authors and artists over the centuries.

When authors write best, or at least, when they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in them which becomes their master, which will have its own way, putting out of view all behests but its own, dictating certain words, and insisting on their being used, whether vehement or measured in their nature; new moulding characters, giving unthought-of turns to incidents, rejecting carefully elaborated old ideas, and suddenly creating and adopting new ones. Is it not so? And should we try to counteract this influence? Can we indeed counteract it?

from a letter to G.H. Lewes, 12 January 1848.

― Charlotte Bronte, The Letters of Charlotte Bronte: With a Selection of Letters by Family and Friends Volume III: 1852-1855

Have you read my books?

Have they inspired you to write?