Letter M #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre and The Mason Family

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today Jane is going to tell you all about the Mason family, her husband’s troublesome in-laws.

M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Maso Villain

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Letter H #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Husband

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Husband. Edward Rochester himself will tell us all about his life. This is Edward Rochester’s autobiography.

H

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

Battle_of_Marston_Moor,_1644

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

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

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

Haddon_Hall

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

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

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

Adele

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

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

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

Bertha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horse

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

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

Wedding

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

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

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

Mr. Rochester Blind

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

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

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

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

Jane3

Dear Reader, do you believe him?

Three Line Thursday Challenge

Entwined

Leaves trembling witnessed our promises.
Reverent stems watched over
your flesh and mine entwined.

@LucciaGray

Three Line Thursday: Three lines, maximum thirty words, in response to a weekly photo prompt.

Have a look at the rules, admire the photo prompt, read the other entries, and why not take part?

 

************

The end of the winter and coming of spring reminds us of nature’s new cycle of rebirth, hope, and love.

There’s another chance; we can begin again, as we move forward.

This reminds me of Jane and Rochester’s passionate reunion after their traumatic separation. It is found in the last pages of Jane Eyre.

 

I arrested his wandering hand, and prisoned it in both mine.
‘Her very fingers!’ he cried; ‘her small, slight fingers! If so there must be more of her.’
The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder—neck—waist—I was entwined and gathered to him.
‘Is it Jane? WHAT is it? This is her shape—this is her size—‘
‘And this her voice,’ I added. ‘She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, sir! I am glad to be so near you again.’
‘Jane Eyre!—Jane Eyre,’ was all he said.
‘My dear master,’ I answered, ‘I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out—I am come back to you.’

 

Although my portrayal of Edward Rochester is not favourable in All Hallows at Eyre Hall, there is no doubt in my mind of the sincerity of their love and passion in Jane Eyre.

However, Rochester’s obsession with Jane, as well as her excessive admiration of and submission to such an egocentric and ruthless character stand in the way of any chance of a positive development in their relationship in the long-term.

Love, like nature, must move on: eppure si muove.

The direction of the movement belongs to the seed of creativity.

Charlotte Bronte’s last love letter

‘To forbid me to write to you, to refuse to answer me, would be to tear from me from my only joy on earth, to deprive me of my last privilege _ a privilege I shall never consent willingly to surrender. Believe me, my master, in writing to me it is a good deed that you will do. So long as I believe you are pleased with me, so long as I have hope of receiving news from you, I can be at rest and not too sad.’

The last known love letter Charlotte Bronte wrote to her ‘master’, the man she fell madly in love with in her early twenties, her Belgian professor, Constantin Héger, was written on 18th November 1845, exactly 169 years ago, tomorrow.

M Héger

M Héger

What do we know of the love life of the woman who penned one of the greatest love stories ever written? In spite of her numerous letters, and the biographies written by her contemporaries, there is still a great deal of controversy.

Was she a nun-like, prudish bore, or was she a passionate, romantic lover?

Tanya Gold, reminds us in an article in the Guardian  that her contemporary biographer, prim Mrs. Gaskell, wanted us to believe Charlotte was a dull and saintly, so she intentionally left out certain significant aspects of her love life, even suggesting that her well-known infatuation with Heger was imagined.

Who was Heger, and how did they meet?

In February, 1842 Charlotte and Emily, accompanied by their father, travelled to the Pensionnat Heger, in Brussels to complete their studies. Their aim was to improve their skills in languages. In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music.

Their stay was interrupted in 1843, due to the death of her aunt, Elizabeth Branwell. After a short trip to Haworth, Charlotte returned alone to Brussels, where she remained until January, 1844.

On her return to Haworth, and for almost two years, she exchanged passionate letters with her professor and mentor, M. Héger. Four of these letters have been recovered and are kept in the British Library.

Charmotte Bronte's Letters to Héger in the British Library

Charmotte Bronte’s Letters to Héger in the British Library

Although Mrs. Gaskell had personally visited M. Heger while she was writing Charlotte’s biography, and was shown the letters, she decided not to include them, or their relationship, in her biography. This was probably due to various reasons. Firstly because Charlotte’s father and husband were still alive. Secondly, because the Victorians, and Mrs. Gaskell herself, did not want the memory of their admired novelist to be tainted, by revealing that she had been shamelessly in love with a married man.

In 1912, M. Heger’s son, Paul Heger (1846-1925), who had never met Charlotte Bronte, because he was born two years after she left Brussels, presented the British Library with four letters sent by Charlotte Brontë to his father between 1843 and 1845, and they were shortly after printed in The Times newspaper, causing a literary scandal.

We do not know Héger’s reaction to her letters, because although she refers to his replies in her letters, the former have been lost, and the only remaining accounts are those put forward by Mrs. Heger, M Heger’s wife, the mother of his six children, and his employer, for she was the owner of the Pensionnat where he worked.

According to his wife’s reports, she herself kept the letters, which her husband had torn, sewed them and preserved them for posterity. In spite of being the accepted version, it sounds at the very least improbable that she would bother to recover and keep the ardent letters a young English student fervently (and probably annoyingly, for her) sent her husband.

Bronte scholar, Brian Bracken’s article published in Janaury 2013, challenges traditional assumptions, based on Marion Spielmann’s article (1919), ‘The Inner History of the Brontë-Heger Letters’, which suggested that it was M. Heger who tore the letters, while his wife repaired and preserved them. Spielmann had no doubt also found it difficult to accept that Charlotte Brontë had fallen in love with a married man and had written passionate letters to him.

There is no proof either way, but I am not the only person to suspect that it was Heger who repaired the letters his wife had found and torn, kept them, and aware of their literary value, gave them to his sons on his deathbed to be made known in England.

I am in no doubt that Edward Rochester is modeled partly on M. Heger. Charlotte says of him in a letter to Ellen Nussey, when she first arrived in Brussels:

He is professor of Rhetoric a man of power as to mind but very choleric and irritable in temperament—a little, black, ugly being with a face that varies in expression, sometimes he borrows the lineaments of an insane Tom-cat—sometimes those of a delirious Hyena—occasionally—but very seldom he discards these perilous attractions and assumes an air not above a hundred degrees removed from what you would call mild & gentleman-like he is very angry with me just at present because I have written a translation which he chose to stigmatize as peu correct.

Charlotte would later fall in love with his ‘Byronic’ character and refer to him as ‘master’, in her letters. How far their relationship went, or to what extent it was reciprocal, is also unknown.

In Jane Eyre, a frail, petite, pale, and plain governess, much like Charlotte herself, fell in love with the unattractive, temperamental, and choleric Rochester, except in this case it was reciprocal, and Rochester was rich enough to do as he pleased. Rochester was also married, but he had no legitimate children, and his mad wife conveniently committed suicide, so her fantasy was complete, including a happy fictional ending.

The last letter she wrote to Héger, at least the last one which has survived, ends thus:

Farewell, my dear Master __ may God protect you with special care and crown you with peculiar blessings.

Brontë's publisher, George Smith, commissioned this portrait of the novelist from George Richmond (1809-1896),  as a gift for her father.

Brontë’s publisher, George Smith, commissioned this portrait of the novelist from George Richmond (1809-1896), as a gift for her father.

In any case, although Charlotte Bronte, was reportedly tiny, frail, and shy, she was no ugly, unwanted spinster; she received and rejected four marriage proposals between 1839 and 1853. She finally married a man she did not love, but who offered her the financial, and perhaps emotional security, she lacked. Their home was only theirs as long as her father, Patrick Bronte was the pastor at Hawthorne, on his death Charlotte would have been homeless. Mr. Bronte’s original opposition to Mr. Nicholls gradually weakened, and Charlotte and Nicholls became engaged. He became curate at Haworth, and they were married. She died eight months later. Charlotte was pregnant, and it is presumed that she died of severe dehydration and malnutrition due to hyperemesis gravidarum (sever morning sickness).

There is still a great deal to read, reread, and discover about the author of Jane Eyre. Margaret Smith has edited an invaluable selection of letters written by Charlotte Brontë from her schooldays to her death in 1855, with many useful notes, giving us some insight into her priveleged and passionate mind.

Why I love romantic novels with Byronic Heroes

I love reading romantic novels with Byronic heroes, on occasions, because they are emotionally gratifying.

The reader enters an ideal world with young, beautiful, rich, and powerful people, and it all ends well, which is satisfying after a hard day facing the real, sometimes boring, and often ugly world.

There’s a likeable heroine who eventually makes an unlikeable hero, very likeable, leading to a happy ending. What’s there not to like?

There are many novels following this timeless pattern, recurrent in many love stories throughout literature, all of them immensely popular.
Put simply:

1- Bad guy meets good girl.
2.a- Bad guy tries to seduce, dominate and/or spoil good girl, making her bad, too, but he fails because she’s stronger or cleverer, or better, so good conquers evil. Or
2.b- Good girl tries to make bad guy into a good guy.
3- Finally he becomes a good guy and they live HEA (which usually includes marriage and/or children).

This formula has been successful in literature for centuries. It started with Mr. B in Henry Fielding’s Pamela (1740), and can be seen again in  Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1813), Captain Wentworth, in Persuasion (1817), Rochester, in Jane Eyre (1847), Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights (1846), Max de Winter, in Rebecca (1938), Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga (210-2011), Christian Grey, in Fifty Shades of Grey (2011), to name a few of the most well-known.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the literary quality of any of the previous novels mentioned, I’m merely pointing out that the main romantic plot arc in these novels is almost identical.

This moody, and self-assured, male protagonist, who is finally tamed by the heroine, came to be known as the Byronic hero, named after the English Romantic poet Lord Byron, and described by Lord Macaulay as ‘a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.

Portrait of Lord Byron by George Henry Harlow. Circa 1816.

Byronic heroes are brooding, darkly handsome, and they have a secret, hidden past, which makes them behave antisocially. They are usually worldly, rich, cynical, destructive, and resentful. They have difficulties identifying and even expressing their emotions, and women find them extremely alluring. They are idealized yet flawed characters, who need to be recovered and repaired by the perfect heroine.

Many readers enjoy these novels. I enjoy them, no, I love them. Although I often wonder why I liked them in the first place.

I think it’s because I’d like it to be true. I’d like to believe, even if it’s for a few hours, or minutes, that good can conquer evil, that love can soften resentment, and cure all ills. I want to be optimistic….for a while.

One of my favourite contemporary romance writers is Roberta Pearce. The Value of Vulnerability is the third novel I’ve read by this author who specializes in romantic novels with strong female leads and rich and handsome, alpha males, with HEA endings.

What makes her novels worth reading or different from other similar novels?

Well, I haven’t read all the others, but I’ve read a few, and what makes Roberta Pearce’s novels different is that they are impeccably written, with economical, precise prose, and the characters are well portrayed.

Ford is perfectly depicted from page one. After leaving a girl he’s just slept with, he says;
“You mentioned having difficulty with some finances. Now you have fewer.”
She licked her lips, staring at the scattered hundreds with an expression he had seen dozens of times: greed combined with humiliation, and underwritten with gratitude.
He’s a real baddie, with the usual Byronic defects, and he develops, and grows out of them as the novel progresses, and the reader expects.

The reader’s interest is in discovering who’s going to make him change, and how she’s going to do it.

She is Erin, beautiful, young, intelligent, generous, friendly, loving, and far too good a person for him.

In the real world, if she were my daughter, or a friend, I’d say, ‘keep away, he’s no good’, but this isn’t the real world. I’m escaping from reality. It’s a romantic novel, and I know it will be all right in the end. I keep turning the pages impatiently, and I know there will be ups and downs, twists and turns, but I know I won’t suffer…too much, because it will have a happy ending.

Why do I recommend it? Because it’s well written, the characters are authentic, the story is beautiful, and it’s a welcome break from a real, hard day!