I am sure I was not the only impressionable teenager who read chapter IX of Jane Eyre and was haunted forever by Charlotte Bronte’s description of Helen Burns’ death in Jane Eyre’s arms, where Helen’s corpse rested, nestled with Jane until the following morning.
Helen Burns was Jane Eyre’s best friend at Lowood Institution for Orphans, where Jane spent seven years as a student and two as a teacher. Helen supported Jane through the public humiliations Mr Brocklehurst imposed on her, and helped a non-conformist Jane to understand and adapt to the teachers and routine at Lowood. In case you don’t remember, you can read a flash fiction summary of chapter VIII, in which their friendship is explained, and chapter IX, which deals with Helen’s death.
Chapter IX ends with a few brief lines about Helen’s burial in an unknown mass grave. Forty girls, half of the pupils at Lowood, died of typhus that summer. As most of the girls were orphans, few of them had families, and those who did could not afford to pay for a headstone.
Resurgam is dedicated to my grandmother, Rafaela Fernandez, whom I never met because she was killed in an air raid in August 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, and buried anonymously in a mass grave. My mother, who was seven at the time, was sitting on her lap. Miraculously, she survived.
No doubt that is why I was especially sensitive to Helen’s death and anonymous mass burial. When I decided to write an Eyre Hall Series Novella, Helen’s death scene, her anonymous mass grave, and the word Resurgam were constantly on my mind.
In Jane Eyre, Jane tells her Dear Reader, that she returned to the cemetery fifteen years later, when she was married to Mr Rochester and had a son, to lay a headstone on her friend’s grave with the word, Resurgam.
Why Resurgam? Resurgam is Latin for “I shall rise again.” It is found in the Bible referred to the resurrection of Christ on the third day. Helen was fervently religious, and stoically accepted her death. Helen also influenced Jane’s religious beliefs and faith in God, especially regarding life after death, which Jane firmly believed in. Her faith was the reason why she wanted her friend to have a headstone to remind everyone who saw it that they would rise again after death.
I wrote Resurgam to capture the moment Jane returned to Brocklebridge cemetery and erected Helen’s headstone. The plot explores the reasons Jane did so at that precise moment, and how the event came about. The novella delves into the themes of friendship, honouring our past and our deceased friends and relatives, as well as love, marriage, motherhood and social concerns.
Naturally I reimagined Jane, some years into her marriage, with her young son, John Eyre Rochester, while she was living at Eyre Hall, the house she built on the site of Thornfield Hall, with her uncle John Eyre’s inheritance.
Readers of Resurgam will see how the Rochesters’ marriage developed over the years and the way in which Jane adapted to her new life as the wife of the wealthy owner of the Rochester estate, as well as the reasons and way in which the word Resurgam finds its way to Brocklebridge Church graveyard.
Writing Resurgam was cathartic for me and my Jane Eyre. It was written at a challenging time, which led to a personal reflection about the life we lead, the dreams we achieve, and the people and life we leave behind, because we can’t have it all, or can we?
The events narrated in Resurgam occurred eleven years before Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, Book One of the Eyre Hall Series, so it can be read as a standalone or as a prequel to the series. Some of the main characters of The Eyre Hall Series, such as Michael, Susan, Mrs Leah, John Rochester, Bishop Templar (who is Archdeacon), and Isaac das Junot, appear in this 22,000-word novella. Check out yesterday’s post for the blurb and more information about Resurgam.
If this sounds intriguing, why not preorder here. It’s available on Amazon and other book retailers at a special launch price of one dollar click on the image below.
As always, if you would like a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review, just let me know in the comments or sign up for my newsletter by following the link below:
Chapter Two also takes place at Eyre Hall and the surrounding land in July 1865, twenty-two years after Jane Eyre’s marriage to Edward Rochester. Her husband has suffered an attack while they were walking in the grounds and they have returned to Eyre Hall and called the doctor. The narrator is Jane.
Michael called Simon as soon as we arrived and instructed him to take Edward to his room, wash his muddy wounds, change his clothes, and put him to bed. Then he told Beth to call Adele and Christy to bring hot tea and led me to the drawing room. I was shivering, despite the woollen cloak. Michael suggested I sit by the fire. I nodded, too shocked to speak. Edward’s face had looked as grey as a corpse’s, and his hands had felt as cold as death. Perhaps he had died, and I had not noticed.
“Michael, how is Edward?”
“Mr Rochester will recover.” But Michael’s intense stare did not appease my distressed thoughts.
“Why are you still here? Please fetch Dr Carter.”
“I’ll leave as soon as Miss Adele comes downstairs to join you.”
I was grateful for his loyalty, but my major concern was Edward’s health. “I’m well, Michael,” I said, forcing a smile, because I knew he would not leave me unless I convinced him I had recovered from the shock.
“John must come home as soon as possible.”
He nodded. “I’ll be back with Dr Carter in less than an hour, and then I’ll ride to Millcote to send a telegram to Master John.”
As soon as the door closed, grief crushed my chest like a boulder, and I felt helpless. Minutes later, Adele rushed in fussing as if I had suffered a heart attack. “Adele, I’m well. It is Edward who took another turn.”
“We were by the lake, and suddenly he clutched his chest, cried out, and lurched so violently that his chair overturned and he fell to the ground.”
She threw her arms around me. “How dreadful, Jane!”
“It was a blessing that Michael arrived so quickly.”
“What was Michael doing by the lake?”
I could not fathom why Michael had been so close by, and then I remembered he had draped the cloak over my shoulders. “He brought my winter cloak. I went out with my summer coat.”
“Well, thank goodness he’s so thoughtful. I hate to think of you alone with Edward, sick on the ground, out on the estate. You wouldn’t have been able to lift him and push him back on your own.”
Adele was right, and I shuddered to think of having been alone when Edward fell. Michael was nothing like the shy lad who had arrived at Eyre Hall nine years earlier. He was sturdy and loyal, like the trees in the orchard. I had grown to depend on him for my life to run smoothly. He brought my meals on time, and he knew what I preferred to eat and drink, he carried out my errands, kindled the fires and drove me wherever I needed to go.
But he would leave one day, when his sister, Susan, who had been a maid and was now apprenticed at the parish school, found a permanent position, or married. He would marry and find another employment, no doubt in a grander household. He was too clever and resourceful to stay at Eyre Hall forever.
They would all leave me soon, and I should be alone. First Edward, then Michael and finally John, who was already away most of the time at Oxford, or in London, with his fiancée, Elizabeth. He would marry in a few years and maybe find a position in London. Elizabeth’s father, Judge Harwood, a prominent London magistrate, would no doubt endeavour to keep his daughter and future grandchildren close to him.
I would become an old, widowed maid in this empty country house, which should have been full of children, if God had allowed me to have more, at least one more; the little girl I held in my arms for a few minutes before she died and was taken away from me forever. I saw the iron gate to the Rochester crypt inside our church every Sunday, and I never ceased to shed a tear for the innocent body I buried there ten years ago.
Dr Carter entered the room solemnly, with his navy-blue coat, as always, starched and buttoned, and his medical case firmly gripped in his broad hands.
The doctor was getting old. He walked stiffly and had trouble standing up after he had been seated. His overweight frame no longer had the worthy presence of his youth, but his light-grey hair, grave voice and expression conferred an air of wisdom which led his patients to believe every word he said and follow his instructions to the letter.
“Good day, madam, Miss Adele.” He greeted us both with the tragic tone of the bearer of bad news. I offered him some tea, which he declined, and delivered his medical diagnosis at once.
“Mr Rochester shows the typical signs of apoplexy, a distorted mouth, slurred speech, weakness of the right arm, and pain at the back of the head.”
Adele jumped up from her seat and rushed towards the doctor, who was still standing in the doorway. “How is he? Can we see him?”
“He is stable at the moment. Despite the weakening of the body and paralysis of his left limbs, his breathing is slow but deep and regular, and his heart activity is feeble, but even. I suggest we let him rest and recover.”
Adele grabbed his arm. “But tell us, will he get better? He must get better!”
Dr Carter coughed and retrieved his arm from Adele’s grasp. “When he is able to speak, we may discover that he has some long-term physical damage such as urinary incontinence, inferior vision and hearing, and perhaps impaired memory.”
“But you can cure him, Dr Carter?”
“Adele, please sit down or you will make yourself ill.” I patted the seat next to mine by the hearth, then I turned to the physician. “Please take a seat and tell us how we can help Edward.”
He approached the armchair to our left. “I cannot stay long; Mrs Carter is expecting me for lunch.”
He dropped his case on the floor and sat. “There is no definite cure for this malady, madam. However, periodic bloodletting can help by decreasing blood pressure as can the use of purgatives, and some laudanum for the pain, which may all prolong his life, or at least render it more comfortable. I have instructed Simon to rub his legs with a woollen cloth and some ginger ointment to improve the circulation and to prepare plantain tea twice a day to reduce the inflammation from his head injury. I also suggest several cups of dandelion tea for the bladder and kidneys.”
We sat in a tense silence, pondering over the doctor’s disturbing prognosis. “How long can we expect him to remain with us?”
“It’s hard to say. This episode was far worse than last year’s illness. He is older and weaker. I suggest you call John.”
“Michael is on his way to send him a telegram.”
Dr Carter shook his head. “I doubt he’ll be with us next Christmas.”
Adele cried into her handkerchief, and the doctor continued. “I will visit daily, more than once if needed. I would warn you that nervousness or distress of any kind should be avoided at all costs as it will worsen his weak health and shorten his life. He needs absolute rest. He must no longer engage in any kind of subjective labour.”
And so, we had reached the beginning of the end. Soon Edward would be but another memory of days gone by. His corpse would lie alone in the damp crypt, and I would remain in this empty house until it was my turn to join him.
Dr Carter interrupted my thoughts. “I trust his affairs are in order, madam?”
“Not yet. He has asked to see his accountant and his lawyer as soon as possible.”
“His mind may have softened after the accident. We will have to wait and see when he wakes up. I suggest you postpone their visit for a few days.”
“I can’t bear to see him suffer!” cried Adele, burying her face in her handkerchief.
“He will not suffer, Miss Adele. He may have difficulty swallowing and breathing, and his pulse will weaken as his blood flows more slowly. He will leave us gradually but painlessly when the time comes.”
The doctor’s diagnosis had been too pessimistic. A few days later, Edward’s words were slow but clear, and his memory had not been impaired. He insisted I call Mr Cooper and Mr Briggs, because he wanted to make sure all his accounts were in order.
Mr Cooper was a tall, skeletal man with a large head of unruly white hair whose jackets were too long and trousers too short, reminding me of a clown, although he never smiled at all. Simon carried Edward down to the library for his meeting. I was about to leave them to their business when Edward called me back.
“Stay, Jane. You are to supervise all transactions from now on. I have no more interest in earthly matters.”
Edward had asked me to help with the accounts over the last year, so I had become familiar with the procedure. I listened attentively to Edward as he instructed his accountant to prepare for my forthcoming responsibilities.
“You will send one final year’s payment to the following and inform them that all contact will be ceased thereafter.” Edward glanced at me before continuing. “Mr Pickering.”
Mr Cooper’s eyes shot up. “Excuse me, sir, did you say mister?”
Edward interrupted him. “I said Mr Pickering; are you deaf?”
I had seen the unfamiliar names with regular payments. Edward had told me Mr Cooper had mistakenly written Mrs instead of Mister in several entries. I supposed it was another of his lies, but his disloyalty had ceased to trouble me years ago, although Edward kept up appearances in front of his accountant.
“The same for Mr Weston and Mr Heath.”
Mr Cooper’s eyebrows reached his hairline. “Did you say, one year’s annuity, sir?”
“Why do you tire me so? Do not question or interrupt me again, or you will be out of a job, do you hear me?”
Mr Cooper nodded. “Excuse me, sir. I was merely checking the facts. We are dealing with a lot of money.”
“It will be a final payment. Make it known to them that if they ever ask for more, you are to speak to Briggs and he will press charges. Blackmail is a punishable crime and should be reported at once. Blackmailers and other extortionists are punished with seven years’ transportation. They can even be sentenced to death if the victim was threatened with murder.”
“Naturally,” said Cooper, scribbling in his notebook.
“Also, all rents, club annuities and any other expenses not directly related to Eyre Hall and the Rochester Estate will be discontinued immediately.”
Cooper coughed, wiped his forehead, and shot a sideways glance in my direction before asking, “Sir, the overseas expenses; what is to become of them?”
“Continue with the upkeep for the villa in the south of France and transfer it to Adele. Jane has no interest in it, do you, my love?”
“None.” It was the house he had asked me to travel to after Bertha Mason’s presence in the attic was discovered. He wanted me to live with him in France while his wife remained in the attic. I should have realised then that he would not be a worthy husband, but I was blinded by love. “Adele will be pleased.”
“And the other overseas expenses, sir?”
“The same as the rest; the annuity to mark the end of the agreement.”
“Are you sure, sir?”
Edward raised his cane. “I’m sure you are a deaf and dumb imbecile.”
Cooper held up his hand and moved further away to the other side of the desk. “They have not replied to the letter I sent last month, sir.”
“That is of no concern to me. I do not care for a reply, because I did not ask a question. I merely told you to inform them of the new situation. They have been informed, I trust?”
“Of course, sir. It was sent through the diplomatic dispatch to the governor’s office as you instructed.”
“Excellent. Then it is done. I have no more business with them and neither has my wife. I would like to spare Jane the burden of dealing with any of my unfinished affairs. You will take care of these matters at once, Mr Cooper.”
Edward did not intend to justify, explain or much less be penitent for any of his undisclosed expenses, which I supposed were clandestine; he merely wished to ensure they were terminated before I took over our finances. I did not ask or complain; I had no interest in his London acquaintances or dealings over the last ten years of our marriage. I had chosen to immerse myself in my writing and my involvement in local charities and Sunday schools as well as John, Adele, and the day-to-day running of Eyre Hall.
The first eleven years of our marriage had been like a protracted honeymoon, until the severe breakdown I suffered after my daughter’s death. I dread to remember the abyss I descended into, and I thank my dear cousin Mary and her husband, Reverend Wharton, for helping me recover my sanity during my stay with them in Wales. Unfortunately, by the time I returned, Edward had become restless and impatient at Eyre Hall. His trips to London and visits to acquaintances were frequent, but, in all honesty, I was partly to blame, for I had stopped loving him, and yet, his lies, betrayals, and imminent death still saddened me.
I surreptitiously wiped a tear as they continued to talk about the estate matters I was already familiar with. I felt old and unloved, and yet Edward had met me and found love later in life. Perhaps it was different for men, so free to feel love at any age while we women were constrained to find happiness only in our child-bearing years. I still had my courses, although little did they serve me, for I was barren. I was half a woman who would soon be a solitary widow nobody would ever love again.
Come back tomorrow I’ll be posting an excerpt of chapter three!
If you’d like to know more about Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, check out these two posts:
All Hallows at Eyre Hall has seven main characters, Jane Eyre Rochester, Edward Rochester, Richard Mason, Annette Mason, Michael Kirkpatrick, John Rochester and Adele Varens, although there are about thirty-eight other secondary characters, 16 created by Charlotte Bronte, which appeared in Jane Eyre, and 16 characters which are unique to The Eyre Hall Trilogy.
I just love this image, sandwiched between Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Gaskell. You can’t get more Victorian than that!
Characters mentioned in Jane Eyre and All Hallows at Eyre Hall:
Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre, Richard Mason, Leah, Adele Varens, Bertha Mason, Dr. Carter, Mr Briggs, Mrs. Diana Rivers, Mary Rivers, St John Rivers, Captain Fitzjames, Mr Wharton, Mrs Alice Fairfax, Mr Fairfax, Mr Woods.
Note: Jane’s Aunt Reed and cousins Georgina and John are briefly mentioned, but they do not appear in All Hallows (her Aunt and John died in Jane Eyre).
In any case, none of the original characters are exactly the same as they were in Jane Eyre, twenty-two years have passed, so their lives have changed and their characters have developed over time and they been recreated in my own imagination.
The following table will help you see this transition from Jane Eyre to All Hallows at Eyre Hall.
In Jane Eyre
In All Hallows at Eyre Hall
He was the master of Thornfield Hall and the Rochester Estate. He was about forty years old and claimed to be a bachelor with no children.
He’s about 65 and on his death bed. He’s still the master of the Rochester Estate and also of Eyre Hall. He claims to have only one son, John Rochester.
She was a 19 year-old governess, who married her employer, Mr Rochester.
She’s 42 and becomes a widow during the novel. She is a novelist and philanthropist, who is concerned with the well-being of young orphans and the education of children.
An English landowner who lived in the British colony of Jamaica. He was Bertha Mason’s brother (step-brother according to Wide Sargasso Sea) and he interrupted Jane and Rochester’s wedding, exposing him as a bigamist.
He still lives in Jamaica, but he has squandered his family fortune and has returned to blackmail Jane, after Rochester’s death. He knows more of Rochester’s secrets, which are still unknown to Jane.
Mr Rochester’s 10-year-old ward, who was born and brought up in France. She was most probably Rochester’s illegitimate daughter, and her surname is Varens, like her mother, a French opera singer, who was Rochester’s mistress.
She is a 32 year-old spinster, who is still living with Mr Rochester and Jane, searching for the love of her life and looking forward to meeting her mother who is living in Italy, before she dies.
She was a young servant when Jane Eyre arrived at Thornfield.
Mrs. Leah is the housekeeper at Eyre Hall. She is a spinster who is about Jane’s age.
Bertha Antionette Mason
Mrs Rochester. She was Mr Rochester’s first wife, whom he locked in their attic claiming she was insane. She allegedly burnt Thornfield and jumped from the battlements to her death.
She is mentioned as Annette Mason’s mother, whom she gave birth to while she was in the attic.
He was Mr Rochester’s private physician.
He is still the Rochester family doctor, who currently resides at Ferndean, Mr Rochester’s manor house. He is about Mr Rochester’s age. He has one son who is studying medicine.
He was a London solicitor who interrupted Jane and Rochester’s first marriage attempt, at Richard Mason’s instance, and later informed Jane that her uncle had died and she had inherited his fortune.
He is a solicitor who works in London and is employed frequently by Mr Rochester.
Miss Diana Rivers
Jane’s cousin, whom she met by chance after leaving Thornfield. Diana and her siblings take Jane in when Jane is homeless and penniless after leaving Mr Rochester on finding out he was married. She marries Captain Fitzjames. She is Mary and St John’s sister.
Mrs Fitzjames. She is married to Admiral Fitzjames. She employed Michael’s mother as a seamstress and took the orphaned Michael and Susan for holidays at her house. Jane met Michael and Susan on a visit to Diana’s home at Christmas. They have no children.
Miss Mary Rivers
Jane’s cousin, whom she meets by chance and takes her in at Morton, when Jane is homeless and penniless after leaving Mr Rochester on finding out he was married. She marries clergyman, Mr Wharton. She is Diana and St John’s sister.
Mrs. Wharton is a clergyman’s wife. They have moved to Wales, where he has found a good position. They visit Jane once a year, usually at Christmas. They are childless.
St John Rivers
Mary and Diana’s brother. He is a clergyman. He proposes to Jane, but she rejects him. He leaves for the colonies in India as a missionary and never returns to England.
He is only mentioned, but he has not returned to England and is still in India.
Mr Rochester’s housekeeper whose husband was related to his mother, née Fairfax.
She is only mentioned.
He was a clergyman who was related to Mr Rochester’s mother, whose surname was Fairfax, thus Mr Rochester’s middle name was Fairfax.
He is only mentioned, but a letter written by Mr Rochester to Mr Fairfax, shortly after his marriage to Bertha Mason, is an important document in All Hallows.
He was the local clergyman at the church on the Rochester Estate. He married Jane and Rochester.
He is very elderly now, but he is still clergyman on the Rochester Estate church.
He is briefly mentioned as Jane’s cousin, Diana’s, husband.
He is now retired Admiral Fitzjames. Michael and Susan’s father died while on a mission on his frigate.
He is briefly mentioned as a Clergyman who married Jane’s cousin Mary Rivers.
He is briefly mentioned in All Hallows.
Characters which are unique to All Hallows at Eyre Hall:
John Eyre Rochester, Michael Kirkpatrick, Susan Kirkpatrick, Annette Mason, Bishop Templar, Mr. Greenwood, Jenny Rosset, Nell Rosset, Thomas Rosset, Simon, Beth, Christy, Mr Raven, Mr Cooper, Mr Tempest, and The Sin Eater, Isac das Junot.
Annette Mason. She was born in Thornfield Hall. Mr Rochester denies being the father, although he was married to Bertha Mason, who was locked in the attic, when Annette was born, so, if he is not lying, her father’s identity is, as yet, unknown.
Her uncle, Richard Mason, who had taken her with him to Jamaica, as a baby, brought her back to England to claim her birthright when Mr. Rochester was dying.
John Rochester. He is Jane and Rochester’s son. He is 21. He is studying Law at Oxford and he is engaged to Elizabeth Harwood, the daughter of a London Judge. Elizabeth is mentioned, but she does not appear in the novel as she is ill throughout the novel.
Michael Kirkpatrick. He is Jane’s faithful valet, who has been employed at Eyre Hall since he was fifteen, nine years ago. Jane met him at her cousin, Diane’s home and offered him and his sister, Susan, a job at Eyre Hall.
Susan Kirkpatrick,is Michael’s younger sister. She started working as a maid and is now teaching at the Sunday and Parish school, although she still lives at Eyre Hall.
Jenny Rosset claims to be s a widow with two young children,Nell and Thomas. She is about Jane’s age and she works at the George Inn occasionally and sometimes she works as a prostitute for wealthy clients. She knows some secrets about both Thronfield and Eyre Hall.
Mr. Greenwood is a widowed London poet who has been courting Adele. They have been exchanging letters for months and he has been invited to stay at Eyre Hall and meet Adele and her family. He has offered to marry Adele and accompany her to Venice to be reunited with her mother Celine Varens.
Simon is a clumsy servant at Eyre Hall. He is Mr Rochester’s valet.
Beth and Christy are two maids who work at Eyre Hall.
Mr Raven is the owner of the Rochester Arms, the only pub on the Rochester estate. The Sin Eater, Isac das Junot, is a mysterious, supernatural character who appears in every book of the trilogy when someone has died. He makes prophesies and scares the life out of most people who cross his path.
Mr Cooper is Mr Rochester’s accountant and Mr Tempest is the Undertaker.
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today it’s all about Jane Eyre is going to tell us about her use of ‘I’ or First Person Narrator.
Jane Eyre is my autobiography. It’s the true story about what happened to me from my childhood until I married Mr. Rochester, when I was nineteen.
I wrote my autobiography for you, Dear Reader because I wanted you, and only you, to know about my life from a first hand account. I have told you things I have never told anyone.
Only you know I was locked in the Red Room at my aunt’s house, only you know how I felt when I was introduced to Bertha Mason in Mr. Rochester’s attic, and only you know how I wondered and almost died on my way to Morton. We have many secrets, Dear Reader.
You know all about my first ten years at my Aunt Reed’s house, and everything that happened at Lowood. I did not lie, and I did not purposefully omit important details. I was honest and hard-working. I made few friends and no enemies. I learned a worthwhile profession and desired to move on and widen my horizons.
When I arrived at Thornfield Hall, the lies started, Dear Reader. It was not my intention to lie to you, and I did not lie about my feelings, or what I saw and heard. However, I was lied to, and delivered those lies to you, unknowingly.
Mrs. Fairfax, Leah, and Grace Poole, told me there were no ghosts or other persons at Eyre Hall, when they knew that Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason, was living in the attic. I realize that now. Grace Poole took up her food, slept with her, and held the key to her room. Everyone at Thornfield Hall knew about her, except you and me, Dear Reader.
Edward lied to me by telling me he was unmarried, even inside the church where we were to be wed, in the vicar’s presence. He assured me there was no one in the attic, except Grace Poole. He also told me he wasn’t Adele’s father, and he led me to believe that he would marry Blanche Ingram. I was fooled and so were you, Dear Reader.
Then, when I visited my aunt on her death bed, I also discovered she had lied by telling me that my father’s family were poor, and that my only relative, my Uncle, John Eyre, was dead. I later learnt that my uncle was wealthy and that I had three wonderful cousins.
When I left Thornfield, I was forced to lie myself. I gave the Rivers a false name and refused to tell them my real story, for fear of rejection. I told my cousins my name was Jane Elliott when no such person existed. On this occasion, I did not lie to you, Dear Reader. You knew exactly who I was.
You must forgive me for lying, Dear Reader. I lied because I was naïve, gullible and in love. I believed the things they all said to me, but they all lied, mercilessly, cruelly, for their own advantage. My aunt lied to hurt me, Mr. Rochester lied to seduce me, and the servants at Eyre Hall lied to protect their master, and preserve their salaries.
I forgave them all, Dear Reader.
I forgave my aunt on her deathbed: ‘you have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God’s, and be at peace.’
After the bigamous marriage attempt, Edward asked me to forgive him: ‘Will you ever forgive me?’ He asked and I forgave him, too. ‘Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot.’ I told you Dear Reader, because only you know my heart. ‘I forgave him all: yet not in words, not outwardly, only at my heart’s core.’
The lies are not yet over. My final lie to you Dear Reader, is a wish. I wish to be happily married to Edward forever, but I will never know if my wish came true.
Many warned me that he would return to his selfish ways, that he was too self-centered to be a good father and husband. Others were sure that I was too strong willed and independent to remain in a secluded old manor house, looking after a moody, sick, rich landowner for the rest of my days, while there was so much to be improved in our country, so many orphans to look after and children to teach.
One reader imagined I built a house with my uncle’s inheritance, where Thornfield Hall once stood and called it Eyre Hall in memory of my Uncle John Eyre. She imagined I looked after my ailing husband and his ward, Adele, as well as my son, John. I supported parish schools for orphans and poor children, maintained the church at Hay, invested in charities for poor families, and I was a fair and considerate employer. I managed the Rochester Estate, where tenants and farmers paid fair rents and had safe houses in which to live. This Dear Reader imagined there were more secrets at Thornfield Hall and Eyre Hall that I had not yet discovered, because there were more secrets at Eyre Hall. She also knew I was a passionate woman, so I may have encountered love once more.
If you enjoyed my autobiography, which is only for your eyes, Dear Reader, you already guessed that I would I write more novels for the general reading public. Jane Eyre was an author.
Dear Reader, is this what you imagined my life would be like twenty years after I married Mr. Rochester?
This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Gardens. Jane will tell us all about the gardens in her life, in her own words.
The first garden I can remember was at my Aunt Reed’s house, Gateshead Hall. There was a glass-door in the breakfast-room, which led onto the shrubbery and the path leading to the gate and the fields, where the sheep fed on short, blanched grass. I remember it was almost leafless, so it must have been the end of autumn, because when I walked out further, there was another part of the plantation with leafless, silent trees, and falling fir-cones. I can see a few autumn, russet leaves swept by the winds. I spent nine springs and nine summers in that house, and yet I cannot recall ever seeing a single flower. No child should be forced to have such a colourless childhood.
When I first arrived at Lowood Institution, when I was ten years old, it was winter, and I did not enjoy being forced out to the garden for fresh air in the freezing, snow-covered garden, especially since our clothes were insufficient to protect us from the severe cold. We had no boots, and our shoes were soaked and our numbed hands covered in chilblains, as were our feet.
The garden was a wide enclosure, surrounded with high walls, and a covered verandah along one side. There were broad walks and a middle space divided into scores of little beds which these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate.
When April arrived, I had settled in. I had some friends and I had grown to enjoy the classes and the lessons. We could at last endure our daily hour in the garden, and when it was sunny, it was pleasant. I was overjoyed to plant in my garden the seeds we were given and some roots I had dug up in the forest.
The brown flower beds turned green, and flowers peeped out amongst the leaves: snow- drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. The vegetation matured in May and Lowood became green and flowery, at last. The great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland plants sprang up profusely.
It doesn’t seem possible, but I imagined it was the first time I had seen the sweet explosion of spring. The garden glowed with flowers: hollyhocks sprung up tall as trees, lilies opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies.
In June, the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell. The evenings were so warm and serene, I knew this was where I had to be. Nevertheless, as the years passed, when I went upstairs to my room and opened the window and looked out, I yearned to travel beyond the hilly horizon, over those most remote peaks I longed to surmount. I hadn’t left Lowood in eight years and I longed to follow it farther, which I did when Miss Temple married and left.
Thornfield Hall didn’t have a garden, as such, it had a lawn in front of the building and grounds leading onto a great meadow, which was separated by a fence. Beyond there was an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.
There was an Eden-like orchard, which was full of trees blooming with flowers. A very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. A winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse- chestnut, led down to the fence At the bottom was the fence, and beyond, the fields and the winding path which led to Hay.
The orchard with gooseberry trees, large plums, and cherry trees, was my favourite place to wander unseen, and it was pleasantly shady in spring and summer. There was a delicious fragrance of sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose. It was here, one June evening, when trees laden with ripening fruit, that Mr. Rochester proposed to me, the first time, by the light of the rising moon.
After leaving Thornfield Hall, when it was discovered that Mr. Rochester had a wife, who was locked in his attic, I wandered about like a lost and starving dog, crossing fields on foot to get as far away from Thornfield as was possible, I knocked on a clergyman’s door. It was Moor House, in Morton, where the Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers lived. It was a small grey, antique house with a low roof and latticed casements. The garden was dark with yew and holly and there were no flowers.
I stayed there until I recovered my strength and found a job as a teacher. My new home was a cottage with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor half hour from Morton. There was a small school room and a kitchen with had four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard. Above, there was a small chamber with a bedstead and chest of drawers. There was a tiny garden with a wicket, which shut me in from the meadow beyond. It looked very scanty when I arrived, but I was going to plant some roots in spring.
I was glad of this opportunity to make a living on my own as a school-teacher and when I looked at the quiet fields before my cottage, I knew I should be happy, but I cried of loneliness. I stayed at the school until the end of autumn, when I discovered I had inherited a small fortune from my Uncle John in Madeira, and that the Rivers were my cousins on my father’s side. So, I returned to Moor House to live with them, until one night I heard Edward calling me, and I returned to Thornfield Hall.
Thornfield had been burnt down by Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason. I eventually found Edward at his Manor House, Ferndean. It was an isolated and sombre place. There was no garden, there were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest. The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and narrow, and the front door was narrow too.
When I found Edward, he was crippled and blind, and feeling rather sorry for himself. He said he was like the old lightning-struck chestnut tree in the Thornfield orchard, but I told him he it wasn’t true, to me he was as green and vigorous as the last time I had seen him.
The second time he proposed to me was also in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields, which I described to him. They were brilliantly green with flowers and hedges and the sky was sparklingly blue. He sat in a hidden and lovely spot, on a dry stump of a tree, and I sat on his knee, while I told him about my travels since I had left Thornfield.
I told him I was an independent, rich woman and that I could build a house next to his. This house would have a beautiful garden, which he would one day be able to see when he recovered his eyesight. I think that might happen. I would call it Eyre Hall, in honour of my uncle, John Eyre.
Throughout literature houses, or buildings where people have converged have become central elements and powerful symbols in the creative process.
According to Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space ( La Poétique de l’Espace, 1958), the house becomes the representation of the universe. It can also be examined as the manifestation of the soul through the poetic image.
Houses in literature are often places of intimacy which can hold memories, experiences, they can also keep secrets, and arouse sensations, merging into the action by becoming a witness, accomplice, and even instigator of events. In any case, the symbolic value of houses cannot be underestimated.
It would be impossible to mention all the houses in English literature. The aim of this brief overview is to bring our attention to the importance of houses by reminding us of some of the most significant literary houses, which have become part of our collective unconscious.
We could start with the Herot, the Mead Hall in the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, which J. R. R. Tolkien recreated as Meduseld (meaning mead hall in Old English) in Middle-earth, a richly decorated meeting and gathering hall for the King and his advisors. Herot was both a seat of government and as royal residence, symbolizing civilization and culture, wealth, safety, and merriment, in contrasts with the darkness, danger, and evil of the swamp waters inhabited by the monster, Grendel.
A reconstructed Viking Age longhouse (28.5 metres long) in Fyrkat
Our next stop would be at the The Tabard Inn, in the London borough of Southwark, which accommodated the numerous pilgrims on their way to their annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, fictionalised by Geoffrey Chaucer in the The Canterbury Tales. The Inn keeper, Harry Bailly, accompanies the pilgrims on their journey and proposed that each tell two tales on the way to Canterbury.
The Tabard Inn, Southwark, around 1850
Hamlet’s tortured speeches, Ophelia’s singing, his father’s ghost, the deaths of Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, and Hamlet himself, are inseparable from the place where they took place, Elsinore Castle, in Denmark.
Helsingoer Kronborg Castle known by many also as “Elsinore,” the setting of William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
The novel which is considered to initiate the gothic genre is set in and called, The Castle of Otranto, written by Horace Walpole. Many more gothic novels are set in singular buildings, such as Count Dracula’s dark and ruined castle inhabited by vampires, recreated by Bram Stoker.
By Horace Walpole. Title page from the third edition
Moving to the early 19th century, Jane Austen writes about more stately and luxurious houses, such as Pemberley, the fictional country estate owned by Mr. Darcy, in Pride and Prejudice. The beauty of the house plays a key role in Elizabeth Bennet’s attitude towards Darcy and leads to her reappraisal of her first negative opinion of Mr. Darcy.
Harewood House, near Leeds in West Yorkshire, was the setting for Pemberley in the ITV fantasy series Lost in Austen.
The middle and end of the 19th century and Victorian literature saw a return to somber abodes, after a brief period of delightful Regency homes.
The Bronte sisters resumed the gothic atmosphere in their characters’ dwellings. Wuthering Heightsis the name of the inhospitable farmhouse where the story unfolds, and Thrushcross Grange, where the pleasant Lintons lived, represents comfort, peace and refinement.
igh Sunderland Hall, near Halifax, West Yorkshire is considered by some as the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.
Thornfield Hall, is the unforgettable gothic mansion which Jane Eyre describes thus on her arrival as governess:
‘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.’
Thornfield was allegedly burnt down by Bertha Mason, the first Mrs. Rochester. Towards the end of the novel, Jane returns and finds it a ‘blackened ruin.’
Haddon Hall has appeared on television in 2006 as Thornfield Hall in Diederick Santer’s 2006 BBC version of Jane Eyre
In the sequel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Richard Mason begins the narration by describing Eyre Hall, a house Jane Eyre rebuilt on the grounds of her beloved Thornfield Hall.
‘The carriage swayed its way up the birch lined driveway towards Eyre Hall, tunnelling through the ghostly morning mist. The muggy air reeked of wilting foliage and soggy earth as the carriage halted abruptly, and the coachman closed and barred the heavy yard gates. The vehicle rocked as he leapt on, spurring the horses back into movement. Seconds later, I stepped out unsteadily onto crunchy gravel, adjusted my cloak and hat, and looked up to the rebuilt mansion for the first time. Twenty-three years had passed since my last visit to another house in this same spot, when I was bitten by a raging lioness fighting to preserve her offspring and her reason.’
Eyre Hall has a central role in the novel, having witness the events which have occurred in the last twenty-two years, since Jane married Rochester. Eyre Hall will continue to witness the surprising events that will lead up to Rochester’s death, and thereafter.
Another unforgettable fictional dwelling is Satis House, the sinister mansion where Pip meets the spellbinding Estella, and the enigmatic Miss Havisham, is as powerful as any of the characters in Great Expectations.
According to the biographer John Forster, the novelist Charles Dickens, who lived nearby, used Restoration House as a model for Miss Havisham’s Satis House in Great Expectations
Manderlay, the house where Max de Winter lived with Rebecca, and his nameless second wife and narrator of Rebecca, is one of the most famous houses in 20th century literature, and one of the most memorable novels written by Daphne du Maurier.
Du Maurier’s Childhood visits to Milton Hall, Cambridgeshire, home of the Fitzwilliam family, influenced the descriptions of Manderley, especially the interior.
Brideshead Castle, where Lord Sebastian Flyte, the younger son of the aristocratic Lord Marchmain’s family mansion, takes his eccentric Oxford friends to meet his family, still breathes the atmosphere of pre-war England, while passively observing changing times, recreated by Evelyn Waugh, in 1945.
Harewood House, seen from the garden. It has featured in both the television and film versions of Brideshead Revisited
Not all novels are set in houses, and houses many not even be significant elements in a novel, but when the character’s abode is central to the action, it becomes one of the most enduring elements in the novel.
I hope that readers of All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Volume One of the Eyre Hall Trilogy will feel they have been walking along its corridors and up the stairs into the bed chambers, or sitting in the drawing room by the fireplace, or looking out of the windows towards the wintry landscape. Perhaps they even feel the ghosts of Thornfield lurking around, as Jenny Rosset, one of the characters says to Richard Mason:
‘I was at Thornfield, as you know, but I’ve never been to the new house. It’s in the same spooky place. I bet it’s full of them ghosts I heard at Thornfield. They live in the tree trunks and earth caves around the house. They whisper in the night, sometimes they come out and play mischief.’
Which are your favourite literary houses?
In case you don’t remember all their names, there is a much longer list of fictional houses here.