The most Spine-chilling character in The Eyre Hall Trilogy: The Sin-Eater #Halloween

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a Victorian, Gothic Romance, and the three-part sequel to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

The first novel in the series, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, is set on and around Halloween, 1865, in a mysterious, gothic mansion in Yorkshire. There are quite a few villains in The Eyre Hall Trilogy, but there is one enigmatic and ghostly character called Isac das Junot, The Sin-Eater.

Isac das Junot is a character of my own creation who appears at least once, making chilling interventions, in all the novels in the trilogy, but I did not invent the existence of sin-eaters.

Sin-eaters were real people who were summoned to the bedside of a dead person. This figure is thought to be of ancient, pre-Christian origin, although we know they were popular in Victorian times, especially in rural areas.

Sin-eaters were summoned to a dead person’s bedside by his family. They placed a tankard of ale containing a coin and some food, on the corpse’s body, which the Sin-eater ate and drank, symbolically taking with him the sins of the deceased, who was thus enabled to continue his journey to afterlife in a sinless manner.

Most Sin-eaters were poor people or homeless beggars, and although they were officially frowned upon by the Church, this macabre tradition was carried out in different parts of the British Isles, including Yorkshire and Wales, until mid-19th century. One of the last reported sin-eaters  was reported to have died in Shropshire, in 1906. More about sin-eaters here  and here.

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The following is an extract of the Sin-Eater’s arrival at Eyre Hall in Chapter XXVI of All Hallows at Eyre Hall.

Susan, one of the house staff, is narrating the episode.

As I returned into the hall, the heavy front door screeched eerily and a gush of chilled fog came flowing into the hallway. A pounding thump resounded and suddenly out of the dense cloud emerged a faint, dark shadow, which gradually solidified into a human shape, while a breath of frosty wind poured in and enwrapped those of us who were standing in the hallway.

“Mr. Rochester has sent for me.”

His grating voice echoed the words ominously. I heard frightful cries around me. Some of the guests ran into the adjacent rooms, swearing they had heard him say the words three times. Others said he was death, who had come to visit the just dead, and if anyone looked at his eyes they would be taken, too.

Within seconds everyone disappeared. I stood alone with him. His glazed eyes stared at the only person who had remained. Nailed to the ground, my back stiffened. His eyes had impaled me. My jaw dropped, as he added in a low, frosty voice, “I have a message for Mrs. Rochester.”

Someone shouted from inside a room, “No! He has come to take her with him.”

I plucked up the courage to approach him and speak, “I’m afraid Mrs. Rochester cannot see you, sir, but I will take your name, if you please, to inform her of your visit.”

His frozen features set on my face, and I noticed his eyes were red, all red, and his lips mauve. The rest of his face was a cemented gravestone carved with long creases down his flat cheeks, which looked as sharp as flint. His towering black figure was like an unearthly leviathan. My legs were shaking, and I would have run away had I not decided I had to protect Mrs. Rochester from the omen of death.

Disquieting words rang out of his lips, “I am the Sin-Eater. I have come to bestow the wisdom of my ancestors upon the cadaver that is laid in this house, so that he may not become an undead.”

I was speechless, motionless, and breathless, as he continued with his foreboding address, “Time is short. His evil deeds have chained him to this world to roam and torment the living until the Last Judgment. I must see him today, or he will never rest, and his soul will wander in anguish around this house and his loved ones.”

Who was this unearthly monster? What did he want? What could I alone do to fend him off?

His threats persisted, “I must see Mr. Rochester immediately, or leave his soul to roam in this house until the Day of Judgment.”

I forced myself to breathe in and managed to raise my right hand up to my neck and clutch the tiny cross hanging from a gold chain, the only possession I owned, and mustered all my strength to reply feebly, “Please leave, sir.”

Miraculously, he walked backwards towards the door, gradually devoured by the persistent fog that had accompanied him like an entourage.

“Stop, sir!” I turned to see Simon’s distraught face run up from behind me. I had not seen him during the episode. Someone must have run downstairs and informed him of what was happening.

“Please, wait. I will inform Mrs. Rochester of your presence. Your name, please, sir?”

“Mr. Isac das Junot, from the Netherlands.”

The figure became larger again, as it walked forward, appearing even taller than before. I noticed he wore no hat and his slimy jet black hair was pressed down with a wide middle parting and tied back into a short greasy pigtail.

“Please wait here in the entrance.” The intruder nodded, as Simon continued, “You will be eating and drinking later, I expect.” The unearthly visitor smiled, showing a fistful of teeth, which were as black as his hair.

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Mrs. Rochester finally agrees to Junot’s macabre ritual, in spite of the opposition of her friends and family. I’ll post an extract tomorrow.

Why would rational and Christian Jane, acquiesce to such a disgusting ceremony?

There is a simple answer. The Sin-eater not only saves the dying from hell, but also from wandering the earth as a ghost, thereby performing a service for the living as well.

Jane knows her husband has died without confessing his sins or repenting to a religious authority, and she is not willing to take the risk of having him haunt her beloved Eyre Hall.

However, Junot is much more than a sinister or pitiable Sin-eater, he is not at Eyre Hall to receive charity, and during his brief visit, he does a great deal more than absorb Rochester’s sins, but I can’t include any spoilers to my own novel!

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Follow this link If you want to know more about The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

Passion, suspense, secrets, betrayals, villains, and romance, Book One of The Eyre Hall TrilogyAll Hallows at Eyre Hall, will be free for the first time on Kindle Deals, for five days only, to coincide with the Halloween Weekend, from 29th October to the 2nd November, 2020.

#WWWBlogs ‘Why I wrote The Eyre Hall Trilogy, a Sequel to #JaneEyre’ Part 2 #HistoricalFiction

In my previous post I wrote about my inspiration and reasons for writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy and why Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte needed a sequel, which would incorporate the themes and characters in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and take the story one step further into the next generation, twenty-two years later.

I had four objectives in mind as I wrote The Eyre Hall Trilogy:

  • Firstly, my aim was to expose Rochester as a tyrant and revindicate Bertha Mason as his first victim. 
  • Secondly, I wanted to make sure that amends would be made, so Bertha’s daughter, Annette Mason (my literary creation), would be reinstated.
  • Thirdly, I wanted Jane to realise that Rochester had been a villain and to find love again. 

  • Fourthly, I have loved Victorian fiction since I started reading, about 46 years ago! I have looked to my favourite writers for inspiration. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is meant as a tribute to the following Victorian (and some 20th century) authors and their literary creations, who have all influenced the characters and events which appear in some form or other in my trilogy. To name a few; Mary Shelley, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rosetti, Elizabeth Barrat Browning, Robert Browning, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas de Quincey, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Daphne du Maurier, Jean Rhys, and so many more, whose works are firmly lodged in my literary mind.

  • Finally, I aim to write novels that will entertain and engage readers by transporting them to another time and place, to a pre-digital and pre-electronic age, where our great-great grandparents lived and loved, just as intensely as we do today, in spite of not having light-blubs, modern bathrooms or kitchens, cars, phones or tablets.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy are three fast-paced, entertaining, historical novels, with gothic elements, suspense and romance, which I hope contemporary readers will enjoy.

If as a result of reading my novels, my readers are encouraged to read or reread Victorian novels, such as Jane Eyre, (as many have told me), that is an extra bonus!

Here are more of my posts about the Eyre Hall Trilogy  

Important news! Freebie over the Halloween weekend!

Book One of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, (International link follows) All Hallows at Eyre Hall will be free for the first time on kindle deals to coincide with Halloween, from 29th October to the 2nd November. Make sure you download your copy!

 

#WWWBlogs ‘Why I wrote a sequel to #JaneEyre’ Part I #HistoricalFiction ‘All Hallows at Eyre Hall’

Seven years ago, in 2013, I started writing The Eyre Hall trilogy, which took me four years to complete. Book One, All Hallows at Eyre Hall takes up the story of Jane Eyre twenty-two years after her marriage, while Rochester is on his deathbed, and we find out what has been happening at Eyre Hall, the house Jane Eyre built, after Thornfield Hall burnt down.

When I first read Jane Eyre, I was fascinated by Jane’s character and fortitude. She was an orphan who grew up in a hostile family, with her cruel Aunt Reed and her spiteful cousins.

Jane later survived physical and emotional hardships, such as sickness, malnutrition, and humiliation, at Lowood Institution, yet she was determined and intelligent enough to eventually become a teacher there.

At eighteen, she decided she had outgrown Lowood. She wanted to see the world, but she was still a poor orphan, and yet she had the resoluteness and optimism to apply for a job as a governess in order to gain further independence.

Why I'm Quitting This Teaching Bullshit to Become a Governess - McSweeney's Internet Tendency

I was naturally overjoyed when her life improved and she, seemingly, found true love in Mr. Rochester, and I was devastated to learn that not only was he already married, but that he had imprisoned his, supposedly, mad wife in his windowless attic at Thornfield Hall, in the care of the drunken Grace Poole.

Jane’s hardships started anew. In chapter XXVII, after the interruption of her marriage and Bertha Antoinette Mason’s discovery in the attic, Jane told Rochester that she was leaving, and what did Rochester do? He offered her a love nest in France:

You shall be Mrs. Rochester—both virtually and nominally. I shall keep only to you so long as you and I live. You shall go to a place I have in the south of France: a whitewashed villa on the shores of the Mediterranean. There you shall live a happy, and guarded, and most innocent life. Never fear that I wish to lure you into error—to make you my mistress.

Jane saw through his deception and rejected the offer of living with him in France, because she knew she would become the very person he said she would not become, his mistress.

So, the following dawn, she escaped from Thornfield.

Jane found herself alone and penniless once again. She was soon forced to beg for a job and shelter. I was overjoyed that she found three generous people who took her in, days later (she was in a deplorable state by then) Mary, Diana, and St. John, who were her cousins, as yet unknown to her.

I was relieved that she didn’t accept St. John’s proposal of marriage and travel as missionaries to India, because she didn’t love him. A few months later, when she was informed that she had inherited her Uncle John’s fortune and decided to share it with her cousins, it was obvious that her life was on the mend.

I was mesmerised when she finally travelled back to Thornfield Hall, because she had heard Mr. Rochester call her across the Moors on a moonlit night. When she discovered Thornfield had been burnt down, I was devastated, until I found out it had been burnt down by Bertha, who had died in the fire.

I sighed in relief because I knew Jane would be rewarded with a happy ending, and she was. ‘Reader, I married him,” she told us, and I thought ‘At last! What a relief’.

I fell in love with Rochester, too. I was about fourteen at the time. Jane was blind because she was nineteen and in love, and I was blind because I was young enough to believe Jane’s happiness would be eternal.

Twenty years later, a friend and English Teacher from Denmark, Anne, suggested I read Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, and that’s when I understood that every story has two sides. I started wondering what kind of a man Rochester really was, and if Jane’s happiness would have lasted.

Sixteen years later, as a College Professor, preparing my classes on Postcolonial Literature in English at the University of Cordoba, I realized there was a counter narrative in which the colonial cultures wrote their way back into world history, which the dominant Europeans had written.

One of the topics we discussed in class was a comparison of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, which tells the story of Bertha Antoinette Mason, Rochester’s ‘mad’ wife who was locked in his attic. Bertha who was dehumaised, voiceless and constrained in Jane Eyre, was given a voice, a background and a personality in Wide Sargasso Sea.

As a result of further investigations into these two novels, I wrote the chapter titled ‘Sexuality and Gender Relationships in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea’ in the Book, Identities on the Move: Contemporary Representations of New Sexualities and Gender Identities, published by Lexington Books, in 2014, when I was writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

The chapter discusses sexuality and gender relations in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea based on a comparative character analysis of Jane Eyre, Bertha Antoinette Mason, and Edward Rochester.

I don’t know why, it’s ridiculously expensive, but if anyone would like to you can read the article it’s on ScribdYou can also read the chapter on Google Books.

If you’re not on Scribd or if  you can’t access Google books and you’d like to read it, just let me know in the comments and I’ll send you a copy.

Jane was only nineteen when the main events occurred, and ten years older when Jane Eyre An Autobiography was written. The last few paragraphs of Jane Eyre, where she moves the story on a few years, are a couple of rushed and imprecise paragraphs. We are told that Rochester recovers his eye-sight and is able to hold his first-born son in his arms. It’s an open ended story, because the rest of their marriage is open to discussion.

That’s when I realized that Orson Wells had the key to a happy ending: ‘If you want a happy ending, that depends on where you stop the story.’

Charlotte Bronte stopped where she thought best, but Jane Eyre, like all works of art belong to the beholder, and readers are free to reinterpret any work of art. I am neither the first nor the last to do so.

I’ve written a post about this called sequels, prequels, reinterpretations, rewritings, and writing back, which deals with this topic in greater depth. Here is my post on writing sequels, prequels, reinterpretations, rewritings and writing-back.

I also agree with Derrida that ‘there is nothing outside the text’.

Everything I have written is based on the spaces between the lines of the text of Jane Eyre. 

I’ve created an intertextual and diachronic mélange in my mind, which I have translated into a trilogy. More on intertextuality in this post.

Those were the literary, philisophical and emotional reasons which led me to write a sequel to Jane Eyre.

Part 2, which deals with my specific objectives in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy, is already live.

Meanwhile! Important news! Freebie over the Halloween weekend!

Book One of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, (International link follows) All Hallows at Eyre Hall will be free for the first time on kindle deals to coincide with Halloween, from 29th October to the 2nd November.

Make sure you download your copy!

 

 

 

#WWWBlogs ‘How I found a perfect title for my novel in Four Stages’ #WIP #WritingCommunity #AmWriting #HistoricalFiction

I’d like to share with you the four-stage, frustrating, although ultimately successful, process of searching for and discovering the perfect title for my current WIP.

Stage One: Initial Brainstorming based on the Catalyst

I brainstormed titles based on one of the most important characters, who acts as a catalyst in Jane Eyre’s life, at the start and throughout the Eyre Hall Trilogy, Annette Mason.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is based on the characters and events portrayed directly or insinuated between the lines of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wide Sagasso Sea by Jean Rhys. As a result of my combined reinterpretation of both novels, my main thesis, put forward in The Eyre Hall Trilogy is that the first Mrs Rochester, Bertha Antoinette Mason, had a daughter while she was locked in her attic.

Twenty years later, when her daughter reappears at Eyre Hall, Mr Rochester denies the child, Annette, now a beautiful, young woman, is his offspring, but as he proved to be a notorious and shameless liar throughout Jane Eyre, it is hard for readers and a mature Jane, to believe him.

In The Eyre Hall Trilogy, Richard Mason, Bertha’s step-brother according to Wide Sargasso Sea,  took the child to Jamaica, where he lived, in exchange for monthly payments from Mr Rochester for the child’s upkeep and his silence.

My new prequel (if you want to know why I’m writing a prequel I explain my reasons here) will culminate where All Hallows at Eyre Hall begins, that is, with Annette’s arrival at Eyre Hall with her uncle, Richard Mason, as Mr Rochester lies on his deathbed. Annette’s reappearance leads to a series of dramatic events which will cause havoc in the lives of the Rochester family and all the residents at Eyre Hall.

Bearing this crucial event in mind, I brainstormed the following titles related to Annette Mason’s return to Eyre Hall, where she had been born nineteen years earlier;

My / Her Husband’s Daughter

Mrs Rochester’s Stepdaughter

Mr Rochester’s Secret

Mr Rochester’s Secret Daughter

Jane’s Stepdaughter

Bertha’s Daughter

Bertha’s Daughter Returns to Eyre Hall

The First Mrs Rochester’s Daughter

Miss Annette Mason

Richard Mason’s Niece

The Heiress

The Jamaican Heiress

These titles were fitting, but I didn’t find any of them striking, and although it wasn’t strictly necessary, I wanted ‘at Eyre Hall’ in the title of the prequel like the three subsequent novels, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and Midsummer at Eyre Hall. That meant that Bertha’s Daughter Returns to Eyre Hall was the best fit, but it was too long and disclosed too much of the mystery. I could also add ‘Returns to Eyre Hall’ in any of the previous titles, for example, The Jamaican Heiress Returns to Eyre Hall, but again, that made the titles too long or awkward, so as I wasn’t overly fond of any of the previous titles, I started from scratch, thinking up titles all over again.

Stage Two: Brainstorming Round Two for Emotions

I decided to add a specific moment in time to the title, as I had done with my previous novels, which are marked by significant festivities during which the climax of the novels occurs; All Hallows, Twelfth Night, and Midsummer.

I wanted the events in the prequel to culminate where All Hallows begins, so it had to be a festivity occurring not too long before All Hallows, which led me to a few more titles with September in mind.

Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall

September Moon at Eyre Hall

September Storm at Eyre Hall

Thunderstorm at Eyre Hall

Autumn Equinox at Eyre Hall

September Equinox at Eyre Hall

Michaelmas at Eyre Hall

Season of Mists at Eyre Hall

Again, none of these titles seemed the perfect fit, although I preferred Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall over all the others, in fact in my recent update on the prequel I’m writing to the trilogy, I said this would be the title of my new novel, but I was never entirely happy with that title, because it evoked a calm, happy, pastoral event and that is not what this novel is about.

I thought about the emotions I wanted to evoke in potential readers of my novel when they read the title, and I made a list of negative emotions and nouns such as; surprise, suspense, rage, hurt, blackmail, restitution, revenge, death, injustice, banishment, exile, justice, moment of truth, lies, and secrets. But there are also positive emotions and events, such as love, passion, forgiveness, restitution, gratitude, reconciliation, truth, honesty, rebirth, and new beginnings. Unfortunately, none of the previous titles immediately evoked those feelings, so I was back to square one, without a title.

Stage Three: Visualisation 

So, I started from scratch for a third time. I slept on it and decided to search for visual stimulus by looking at premade book covers on the internet. This may seem strange to you, but I’m what many people describe as a ‘visual person’. On the one hand, my feelings and emotions are highly influenced by what I see with my eyes and my mind. I do not have a photographic mind, but I do try to visualise things in order to find them or remember them. On the other hand, I also spontaneously see what I’m reading or listening to (audiobooks, songs, conversations), in my mind’s eye.

Visualisation is also a very powerful tool for me as a writer because I ‘see’ my novel’s scenes before I write them. I act out whole scenes, conversations and places, in my mind well before I write them. I need to write a whole post about this, because sometimes I take this need to see to extremes.

Literally, I can’t write a scene if there’s a specific element I want to see and can’t figure out, so I search for it like a crazy person. This could be any prop I consider valuable to me or symbolic in the scene, such as the dress Jane is wearing, a clock on the wall, the exact colour of a character’s eyes, or a even the shape and colour of a chair!

I create and/or recreate visual representations of abstract information and ideas all the time. So, I thought looking at book covers might help. And miraculously it did, almost. I found this image by chance on The Book Cover Designer  by BetiBup33 and I fell in love at once.

Even the title, Red Moon, fit perfectly. I’m a moon lover. I follow full moon rituals which I wrote about in a previous post, and I make sure to look for the moon in the sky and I follow its phases because it fascinates me. I’m delighted that my posts on The Moon in Jane Eyre are my most viewed and it’s something I share with Charlotte Bronte, the moon is not there by chance at key moments in Jane Eyre.

I showed my daughters the cover and my title, Red Moon at Eyre Hall. They are two wonderful women with a sharp eye for beautiful things (I also have a son, but he has other skills!), and they loved it, and yet, I wasn’t fully convinced. It was definitely the best title, so far, but Red Moon, sounded a bit too juvenile, or bland. Red is my favourite colour because I love the fire and strength it conveys, but it still didn’t seem powerful enough for my title.

Stage Four: Finding Perfection with some help from Google!

My next search was on the internet, I started looking for ‘Red Moon’ titles in other novels or general information on the phenomenon on specific webpages and I found many references to Blood Moon and I thought, of course, why on earth didn’t that occur to me before! I found the perfect title, Blood Moon at Eyre Hall. The title and the image with a huge, red moon in a stormy sky with a large country house below in dark shadows, transmits passion, love, mystery, nightmare, troubles, secrets unveiled, death and renewal at Eyre Hall.

So that’s how I found the perfect title for the prequel to The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. The scenes are spinning in my mind’s eye, my handwritten notes, which I always start with before typing anything,  are all over the place in several notebooks, and my chapter outlines, plot and character arcs, are still in the process of reordering and completing, but I feel strong enough to pull it all together, now that I have an image and a title. I’ve printed out the title on my Dream Board (there will be more about dream boards in another post!). So I’m good to go, and I’ll be posting regular updates on my writing process on Wednesdays.

Next week I’ll tell you all about the biblical and astrological meaning and symbolism of Blood Moon and it’s relevance to the themes and events portrayed in Blood Moon at Eyre Hall.

Well, do you think my title is a good fit for my novel?

How do you decide on the names of your novels? Do you find it tough too, or do you come up with a name instantly?

Let me know in the comments.

Important news! Freebie over the Halloween weekend!

Book One of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, (International link follows) All Hallows at Eyre Hall will be free for the first time on kindle deals to coincide with Halloween, from 29th October to the 2nd November. Make sure you download your copy!

 

 

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?

pixabay.com

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.

pixabay.com

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?