#AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Resilience and Romance #Bronte200

Today’s a special day. It’s Charlotte Bronte’s 200 birthday, so I’ve decided to post letter ‘R’ with some more words to describe Jane Eyre. Playing around with words beginning with ‘R’ related to Jane Eyre, I came up with this fun summary of the most important aspects of the novel.

R

Jane’s a survivor. She has no use for regret, because she’s resilient and makes use of her resolve to overcome her problems. She takes refuge in another town and starts a new life with a new identity, because she refuses to be ruined by circumstances. Jane is a rationalist and a reasonable young girl, she never lets her feelings take over completely. She’s always in charge of her life.

I’d consider Mr. Rochester a bit of a rake, a rascal, and a rogue, by leading Jane into believing he was a bachelor. He also did a lot of roleplaying, including playing a fortune-teller to laugh at his friends and inventing a rival for Jane in Blanche Ingram, although he had no intention of marrying her. I mean, what would have happened when her influential family found out about his wife?

There is never any rancor on Jane’s part. She forgives everyone including her aunt and cousins. She doesn’t seek revenge, which she knows is the Lord’s. She is not vengeful and does not recriminate Mr. Rochester after the marriage farce, she simply moves on with her life.

Rapport and rapture is what Jane and Rochester felt when they met. Jane Eyre is overall a romance. It is one of the most romantic novels ever written. There’s a beautiful quote from Mr. Rochester regarding Jane and Rochester’s ribs.

Mr. Rochester loves rattling Jane. Their conversations are full of verbal duels, and Jane is as good at arguing and provoking her as she is at provoking him.

There is a raving lunatic in the attic called Mrs Rochester. The question is when did she start raving and why?

Jane constantly speaks to her Dear Reader and she loves reading, and obviously writing as she wrote her autobiography at such a young age. Jane’s world is portrayed realistically and honestly. She makes sure her Dear Reader knows exactly how she feels. The autobiography is written from the mature Jane’s perspective according to her recollection, ten years after she married. It’s a retrospective story.

Jane and Edward

Jane was a bit of a rebel as a child, and even as an adult, she’s not prepared to live according to other people’s conventions. Jane was concerned with moral or religious respectability. She wanted to follow God’s law, not man’s version of it, based on hypocrisy.

Thornfield Hall, one of Jane’s residences, will definitely need rebuilding if they are going to stay on the Rochester Estate, which presumably they will be doing. In my sequel, I took care of that by building Eyre Hall.

Charlotte Bronte was considered a bit of a recluse. She reportedly didn’t like London or leaving the parsonage, especially after her sisters died.

Jane is recompensed for all her suffering. Her struggles are rewarded, and she is finally reconciled to Mr. Rochester, whom we are told recovered the sight of one of his eyes, and most of his mobility after the fire. Jane Eyre is about the renaissance, of a poor orphan girl and how her struggle for survival is finally rewarded, therefore all the wrongs she endured are repaired.

Finally, I have boldly decided to recreate Jane’s world, by retelling and rewriting part of her story; the part she wasn’t completely honest about, due to her naivety. My aim has been to reinvent Jane’s future twenty-two years after Jane Eyre married Mr. Rochester.

Would you like to join me in this new and exciting journey to Eyre Hall?

Banner and Lucy

 

 

 

Letter R & S #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre Rebirth and Sequel

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to discuss Jane Eyre’s Rebirth and Sequel in the Eyre Hall Trilogy.

R

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is now complete:

Banner and Lucy

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

Reading All Hallows

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

Telfth Night Bilboard Night

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

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

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

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

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

Magazine Midsummer at Eyre Hall

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

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

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

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

Letter Q #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre Quotes

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to show you some famous and significant quotes from Jane Eyre.

Q

I love these quotes because they show us how powerful Jane’s character was.

She wanted to be Mr. Rochester’s equal. She insists on being independent, having free will, and being the same.

She refuses to allow him to trample on her, in spite of being much richer than her, much older than her, and part of the patriarchal ruling classes.

Finally, I love the way she’s more concerned with happiness than doing what’s expected. That’s why at the end of the novel, when she discovers his first wife has died, she returns to him, in spite of the indignity of returning to the man who lied to her.

She’s prepared to give him another chance, but on equal terms.

She marries him in the end, but she warns him that she is no longer a poor dependent:

‘If you won’t let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening.’

She asserts her independence by threatening to choose to build a house of her own next to his.

Quotes Jane Eyre 3 Quotes Jane Eyre 4 Quotes Jane Eyre 5 Quotes Jane Eyre 6 Quotes jane Eyre 7

I’m so sure she’d eventually be the ruler of the roost! Aren’t you?

Letter P #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre the Prequel

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to tell you about the Prequel to Jane Eyre written almost a century after Jane Eyre was published.

P

Wide Sargasso Sea, the Prequel to Jane Eyre

Although my main inspiration in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was Jane Eyre, its prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea, written over a hundred years later by Jean Rhys, has been almost equally responsible. Both novels are complimentary and it is their combined stories, which have led to my sequel, The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

I read Wide Sargasso Sea, about thirty years after reading Jane Eyre. This short, but intense novel, which was written in the 1960s, tells the story of Bertha Mason in three parts: her childhood, before she met Mr. Rochester, their first meeting and arranged marriage and first four years of matrimony, and finally her death at Thornfield Hall.

After reading Wide Sargasso Sea, it’s impossible not to reread Jane Eyre with new insight and perspective.

Jean Rhys was born in Dominica, an island of the British West Indies to a Welsh doctor and a third-generation Creole of Scots ancestry. She must have understood Bertha Mason’s feeling of alienation in England herself, as she says in this eloquent quote:

Rhys quote

Rhys’ novel tells the formerly untold story of Bertha Antoinette Mason from her birth in Jamaica to her death at Thornfield Hall.

Antoinette who was silenced, imprisoned, and abused in Jane Eyre, is given a voice and a life, a real life, in Wide Sargasso Sea; a life Charlotte Bronte insinuated but never told. In Wide Sargasso Sea Antoinette tells Rochester; “there is always the other side, always”, and that is the story Rhys weaves in Part One which Antoinette narrates.

Edward Rochester narrates Part Two and is shown up as the shady, unscrupulous character he became in Jane Eyre. His elder brother was to inherit the Rochester Estate, so his father arranged a marriage to a rich Jamaican heiress for Edward, his second son, or the ‘spare’. Rochester disliked Jamaica and although his wife was beautiful, he was not aware that she was Creole, and it displeased him, especially after marrying her and disposing of her generous dowry.

When he inherited the Rochester Estate due to both his brother and father’s sudden deaths, he decided it was time to return to England. That was when he locked Bertha away in a windowless, cold and damp attic, claimed he was unmarried and went gallivanting to France, as he himself admits to Jane.

The Third and Final Part is told once more by Antoinette, who not surprisingly, after ten years in an attic, has become the ‘madwoman in the attic’. She supposedly burns Thornfield Hall, endangering the lives of the rest of the occupants, and commits suicide.

Gilbert and Gubar’s seminal study on feminist literary criticism, Madwoman in the Attic, was written in honour of Bertha Mason. I’ve written several posts on this topic in previous posts on this blog:

My fascination with these two novels escalated when I taught Postcolonial Literature to undergraduates at the University of Córdoba. One of the topics on the syllabus was a comparison of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, and that really sparked classroom discussion and my imagination. The idea of reinstating the first Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason, had been nagging at me for a long time, until I decided to reinstate Bertha Mason by bringing her daughter to life and back to the Rochester Estate in my Sequel to Jane Eyre, The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

 

Letter O #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre the Orphan

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’s going to tell you about her origins and her orphaned childhood.

O

My name’s Jane Eyre and I’m an orphan.

My parents died when I was but an infant. My mother’s brother, Uncle Reed, kindly took me in, although he too died when I was a baby. His wife, my Aunt Reed, had promised to look after me, but she disliked me so much that my birthday was never celebrated, and I never dared to ask when it was.

When I asked my aunt about my father’s family, she said she had no news of them. Miss Abbot, who had been her maid for many years told Bessie, the younger maid that my father had been a poor clergyman whom my mother had married against the my grandfather Reed’s wishes, because he was beneath her, so he cut her off without a shilling. My parents died within a month of each other of typhus, a year after they married.

janeeyre1

If my mother’s brother, Mr. Reed had been alive instead of buried in his vault at Gateshead Church, he would have treated me kindly, but his widow enjoyed humiliating me and telling me I was wicked, so I was an unhappy and unloved child. I was habitually abused, consequently, I was full of self-doubt and often depressed. My aunt said I was wicked, which meant I was often punished. Sometimes I was made to sit on my own, which I didn’t mind, because I disliked them all, but other times I was locked in a room, which I hated.

Fortunately, my aunt sent me away to Lowood Institution, with the assurance that she would never see me again. It was still too soon as far as I was concerned.

Nine years later, while I was working at Thornfield Hall, my aunt she sent for me on her death-bed and gave me the following letter, which she had received from my uncle, Mr. John Eyre, my father’s brother three years earlier.

‘Madam,—Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my niece, Jane Eyre, and to tell me how she is? It is my intention to write shortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira. Providence has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I am unmarried and childless, I wish to adopt her during my life, and bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave.—I am, Madam, &c., &c., ‘JOHN EYRE, Madeira.’

When I asked her why I hadn’t been informed, she replied, “‘Because I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend a hand in lifting you to prosperity.”

She told my uncle that I had died of typhus. She said it was her way of taking revenge, on a poor orphan. I forgave her, but it wasn’t enough. I knew she still had to make peace with God, which would only happen if she were truly sorry, which I doubted.

I discovered my uncle had died while I was working as a teacher at Morton, after leaving Thornfield Hall. His lawyer, Mr. Briggs, was looking for me because my uncle had died and left me all his property, which was twenty thousand pounds. So thanks to him, I was rich. I was sorry he had never found me, so I had never met him, but if I had lived with him in Madeira, as he had wished, I would never have met Edward.

 

Jane_Eyre_family-tree

My mother, Jane Reed, had a brother, John Reed, who was married to my Aunt Reed.

My father had a brother called John Eyre, a wine merchant who lived in Madeira, and was my benefactor. He also had a sister, who married Reverend Rivers, that was how I was related to my cousins St. John, Mary and Diana.

When I married Edward, I had no parents, uncles or aunts, but I had five cousins. I was sure I would have no type of relationship with Eliza or Georgina, and St John would travel to India, but I had two wonderful cousins, Diana and Mary, who were like two sisters to me.

I have always refused to indulge in self-pity. Life is too precious to waste time feeling sorry for oneself or thinking about what might have been. My present and my future is in my hands, and I aim to make the most of it.

I’m sorry I lost my parents, and I feel sympathy for the little orphan who was humiliated and abused for the first ten years of her life, but everything that happened after leaving Gateshead has brought me closer to finding happiness, so I’m grateful for every minute, which helped my character grow.

Perhaps I’ll write a sequel to my autobiography, and tell everyone about the house I built a house with my uncle’s inheritance, which I called Eyre Hall in his honour.

Letter I #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s First Person Narrator

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today it’s all about Jane Eyre is going to tell us about her use of ‘I’ or First Person Narrator. 

I

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

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

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

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

jane_eyre_an_autobiography_by_charlotte_bronte_2370006095781

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

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

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

Wedding

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

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

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

I forgave them all, Dear Reader.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Letter B April #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre, The #Book

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 Book, told by Jane herself.

B

Jane Eyre is my autobiography. It was published by my author, Charlotte Bronte on October 16th 1847, ten years after I married Mr. Rochester. The first American edition was published a year later.

My author used a male pseudonym, Currer Bell, to publish the book because she wanted to preserve her privacy and because she didn’t want readers to know she was a woman.

At the time it was published, it became a best seller immediately. Readers and critics praised it as an innovative work of great promise, which was unconventional, powerful, fresh and original.

Jane

However, not all reviews were favourable. Some critics considered it a revolutionary text because of the representation of a love story, which transcends class, and portrays passion too vividly.  These critics didn’t like my single-mindedness or independence, and others even thought it was coarsely written.

The only positive thing about these disapprovals is that all of these critics identified that there was a subtext with an underlying critical message to the establishment, which was exactly my intention. I wanted to prove that a poor orphan, through education, employment, hard work and faith in God, can become a fulfilled adult and cross the unjust and ridiculous class barriers, which were exploiting underprivileged children and adults at the time.

Nowadays, most people describe the book as my coming-of-age story because it deals with my psychological and moral growth from youth to adulthood.

It describes my life in five stages:

  • My first childhood years at Gateshead Hall with my cruel Aunt Reed and my nasty cousins, Eliza and Georgina, and their sadistic cousin John.
  • My stay at Lowood, where I was educated and became a teacher. These were the years of my intellectual growth, where I excelled as one of their best pupils, thanks to Miss Temple.
  • My first independent employment at Thornfield Hall as governess to a young French girl, and my first experience with romantic love, when I met and fell in love with my employer, Mr. Rochester.
  • My journey to Morton, after discovering he was already married at the altar, and the discovery of my kind cousins, Diana, Mary, and St. John Rivers, where I was able to live and work independently, as a teacher in my own home.
  • Finally my return to the Rochester Estate and Ferndean, Mr. Rochester’s Manor House, after discovering that Mrs.Rochester, Bertha Mason had committed suicide and burnt down Thornfeld Hall. I married and started a family of my own, at last, as I had always wished.

Wedding

I’d like to remind readers, that although there is a degree of intimacy in my autobiography, Jane Eyre is not only about my life. I am proud to say that Jane Eyre is about the lives of so many orphans and poor children who struggled alone in the harsh and unsocial conditions of 19th century England.

Jane Eyre is about girls like Helen Burns, who died due to lack of nutritious food and medical care, and women like Bertha Mason, who were locked in an attic and stripped of any human rights whatsoever, while spoilt rich children, like Liza and Georgiana had too much to eat and no social conscience whatsoever.

Orphan

It’s about the need for love and education and the independence of women through systematic schooling and employment. It’s about the right of the lower classes to have equal access to education and fair living conditions.

It’s also a powerful love story. A story of the passion unleashed in the young naïve girl I was (I was only eighteen when I met Mr. Rochester) and the experienced and embittered married man I met at Thornfield Hall.

Many readers are kind enough to imagine I tamed Mr. Rochester, the blasphemous and egotistical owner of the estate, into a generous and considerate lover.

I thank them for their trust in me, and remind them that without the fire, which burnt Thornfield Hall and almost blinded him and stumped his left hand, it would not have been possible. He matured with age, the damage and purge of the fire, and perhaps the knowledge that he would be alone.

Fire Thornfield

I will not deny that he loved me, Dear Reader, because we all know he did, more than he had ever loved anyone else, but unfortunately not more than he loved himself.

It pleases me greatly that about two hundred years after I was born, readers and scholars are still deriving pleasure from reading about Jane Eyre’s life and adventures, and inspired to write thesis, scholarly articles, sequels and prequels, make films, and plays, which have also become best sellers. I thank you all kindly and look forward to finding out what audiences will think in the next two hundred years.

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More about Charlotte Bronte:   http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/eyreov.html

More about critical reception when it was published: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/bronte.html

Why I write neo-Victorian Fiction

I’ve had a special and personal interest in Victorian Literature since I was about 12, when my teacher, Sister Catherine, used to read aloud to us, mostly Victorian novels, which I grew to love. She introduced me to the Victorians. I vividly remember listening to The Moonstone, David Copperfield, Little Women, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn. I can still hear her soft sibilant voice tell us all those wonderful stories, which made us laugh and cry. I wrote a post about Sister Catherine some time ago.

 

Moonstone

I write historical fiction because I love travelling in time and space. I’m not interested in purposefully (I’m afraid I can’t control my subconscious) writing about myself or my contemporaries, at the moment. I prefer to lose myself in other places and eras. I’m especially obsessed with Victorian times and writers, because they have become my beacon in the sea of words and ideas I need to express.

I am fascinated by novels such as Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, Silas Marner, Persuasion, Tess of the d’Urbevilles, The Woman in White, etc. My inspiration and ideas come mainly from 19th and 20th century writers, especially the Victorians. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a tribute to my Victorian ‘Masters’ who introduced me to the pleasure of reading and taught me the craft of writing. Many of these writers and their literary creations appear throughout my trilogy.

Jane Eyre

History is continuous, and understanding can only occur in retrospect. We need to stand back and expose the prejudice and injustices of the past in order to understand the present and move forward. This can only occur in retrospect. If you take a step back from a problem you have a better angle. You can now see the whole picture. It’s happened and it’s over. You can understand it better.

We congratulate ourselves because we have a fairer education system and more freedom of choice, gender equality, but I’m asking readers to walk in Victorian shoes, to understand our literary grandfathers and where we come from. How we fought to gain these social advances and why the struggle is ongoing.

All Hallows Museum

Which writers have influenced me?

My most important influence is Charlotte Bronte. Her literary creations, Jane Eyre, Edward Rochester, Richard Mason, and Bertha Mason have come to life once more, twenty-two years after Jane Eyre ended. I have also brought to life the original setting and recreated a new residence for the Rochester family, after Thornfield Hall was burnt down, Eyre Hall.

Charles Dickens appears as a character in my novel. I have read many of his novels, letters, and biographies, so I have enjoyed recreating his voice and opinions in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. Charles Dickens’ London is also present in my recreation, and I have used many old maps of London, pictures and photographs of the time, to inspire me and take me around the city.

dickens

Robert Browning also appears, after his wife Elizabeth Barret Browning died, as Mr. Greenwood, Adele’s suitor. I read Thomas de Quincy’s detailed account of his opium addiction in Confessions of an Opium Eater, in order to write about the use and effects of opium at the time.

Jenny Rosset is based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s long poem, Jenny, about a Victorian prostitute. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson is referred to. Michael Kirkpatrick is partly a combination of Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth and Thomas Hardy’s Gabriel Oak.

The characters in the Eyre Hall Trilogy read and discuss novels such as, Treasure Island, Persuasion, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Silas Marner, and Wuthering Heights, among others. They also read and quote poems by Christina Rossetti, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Anne Bronte, and Robert Browning.

Dorian Gray

In my final volume, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, makes special reference to Maria or the Wrongs of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft, Frankenstein by her daughter, Mary Shelley, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by R. L. Stevenson, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, among others.

What are my aims in writing neo-Victorian novels?

I had four objectives when I decided to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy:

Firstly, my aim was to expose Rochester as a tyrant and revindicate Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic, as his victim. I am sure that Jane Eyre would have become another victim, given a few years, which is what is disclosed in my novel.

Secondly, I wanted to make sure that amends would be made, so Bertha’s daughter (my creation) would be reinstated, and Jane would find happiness and lasting love, with another, worthier man (my creation).

Thirdly, I’ll admit I’m an irreverent, daring, and provocative writer, who looks to her favourite writers for inspiration. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is meant as a tribute to many Victorian (and some 20th century) authors, which I have already named.

Twelfth Night Billboard

Finally, I aim to write novels that will entertain readers and transport 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 lightbulbs, cars, phones or tablets.

If my readers are encouraged to read or reread the classics, that would be an extra bonus!

I’ve written a previous article about writing prequels and sequels here: https://lucciagray.com/2014/11/08/sequels-prequels-reinterpretations-rewritings-and-writing-back/

How have I approached neo-Victorian fiction?

I’ve used the following literary strategies:

Intertextuality:  A literary device that creates an ‘interrelationship between texts’. I’ve included texts, plots, characters, from other novels in my novels.

My most important sources are the characters, plot and setting in the prequel Wide Sargasso Sea as well as Jane Eyre.

Metafiction: Literature talking about literature.

Charles Dickens discusses the process of writing with Jane, inviting the reader to think about literature and the process of literary creation. Jane also talks about the books she writes and her writing process.

Postcolonialism: Writing back to the ‘Empire’ and traditional Victorian writers.

I’ve done this by paying attention to the secondary or marginalized characters who would have been ignored at the time, such as the servants and the prostitute.

I’ve read between the lines of Charlotte Bronte’s unreliable narrator: a young, naïve woman who is in love, and looked below the surface for hidden meanings.

Feminism: Empower Jane to move on without/in spite of Mr. Rochester and I’ve made an attempt to reinstate Bertha Antoinette Mason.

Lucy writing

What’s my writing process like?

At this point, I ought to tell you that before I sit down and write, I have ‘seen’ the scene in my mind and heard the characters interacting. I usually jot down a few ideas and do lots of research which includes finding pictures and specific information, too.

The Eyre Hall trilogy is character driven. I plan a simple, loose plot outline, basically three parts and thirty chapters, and let the characters interact and move the plot forward. I need to know what my characters want, how they feel, what they’re wearing, looking at, thinking about, and doing, before I write. I learn more about them as I listen to them and watch them interact.

I’m overjoyed when readers recognize my sources, and I love it when they say they’re going to reread the original Victorian novels I mention, this isn’t my main aim. I’d like my readers to walk in Victorian shoes, to understand our literary grandfathers and grandmothers and where we come from.

My objective is to write novels that will entertain all types of readers and transport them to another time and place, where there were no light bulbs, phones, fridges, malls, emails, mobiles, planes, or cars; to the world where our great-great grandparents lived and loved just as intensely as we do today.

Are you interested in reading and reviewing my novels? I’d love to hear from you!

 

What is Neo-Victorian Fiction?

As I consider myself a writer of neo-Victorian fiction, I thought I’d clarify the meaning for readers, students and scholars who are interested in the term.

Neo-Victorianism is a compound noun formed by the following two terms, ‘Neo’ and ‘Victorian’.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the prefix neo refers to: a compound referring to a new, revived, or modified form of some doctrine, belief, practice, language, artistic style, etc.

Ironically, according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, the word ‘neo’ as prefix, was first used in Victorian times, in 1880.

The term Victorian isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It can refer to the period of Queen Victoria’s life (1819-1901) or her reign (1837-1901). It can also refer to the 19th century in general, and some historians consider it spans from the French Revolution in 1789 until the beginning of World War I in 1914.

It is an enormous amount of time, so many divide it into ‘early period’, ‘the Height of the Victorian Era’, or ‘The Mid-Victorian Period’ (1848-1870), which was the greatest period of economic prosperity and growth of the Empire, and the ‘late Victorian period’.

Neo-Victorian is a relatively new term, Neo-Victorian Studies journal, was first published in 2008. According to Marie-Luise Kohlke, founding editor of the Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies, Neo-Victorianism is “the afterlife of the nineteenth century in the cultural imaginary.

So, a loose definition would be that the term Neo-Victorian refers to contemporary re-engagement, reimagining or artistic revival, of everything related to the Victorian era, such as fashion, history, art forms, famous and infamous people, literature, including authors, novels, and characters.

Most contemporary views of Victoriansim have been and are largely derived from fictional narratives and their film and television adaptations. So let’s have a look at some examples of  Victorian literature and culture mediated through neo-Victorian representations such as:

Cartoons and children’s films such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, A Christmas Carol

BBC adaptations of the works of Dickens, Austen, Thackeray, Hardy, Mrs. Gaskell, George Elliot.

Films such as Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights.

Novels: Sarah Waters, Fingersmith, A.S. Byatt Possession are my favourites.

Characteristics of Victorian Novels.

Let’s look back at Victorian novels before returning to neo-Victorian fiction.

The world was rapidly changing in Victorian England, and so were people’s views of themselves and how they should interact with this evolving world.

The major changes were bought by the growth of the population due to expansion and colonization, the growth of the working classes and the advances in science and technology.

Steam power, improved forms of transport, more jobs in factories and cities, scientific knowledge, improved many aspects of their lives, but also brought new problems such as overcrowding, increased poverty and crime.

The growing working classes required more social investment in education, health, and housing. Women were becoming more independent and demanding equal rights.

 

A new philosophy, Utilitarianism, advocated by John Stuart Mill was concerned with the promotion of happiness and wellbeing of the majority of the population, instead of the elite. More egalitarian and ethical modes of thinking led to increased social awareness.

As a result, the themes which interested the Victorians were:

Ethical: Right and Wrong / Good versus evil, which can be exemplified in Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde

Industrialisation and progress: Class and Social issues such as prostitution, orphans, wages, living conditions, education, workhouses, addiction. These themes are prominent in Dickens.

Science versus religion and/or superstition. This can be seen in their interest in science Fiction and detailed and systematic crime fiction such as Sherlock Holmes.

Women and their role in society also figure prominently in literature as authors and main characters in novels.

However writers hadn’t abandoned Gothic, Fantasy, and Romance. Literature as a purely aesthetic endeavour providing pleasure and entertainment was also present.

The Victorians wrote about love and life and the torments and pleasures of loving and living. Their characters, stories and themes are still relevant and exciting for modern audiences as we have seen. So what did they write about? Well, they wrote about everything and anything.

You name the genre, they wrote about it first:

Detective fiction: Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle

Vampire novels: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dystopian: H. G. Wells The Time Machine, Trollope The Fixed Period

Fantasy: George MacDonald The Princess and the Goblin, the precursor of Tolkien / C. S. Lewis

Romance: Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

Sensation Novel: Mary Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.

Comedy: Dickens, G. K. Chesterton, Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde,

Social criticism: child labour, work houses, especially in Dickens’ Oliver Twist

Prostitution: Jenny a long poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Drug addiction: Thomas de Quincy’s Confessions of an Opium Eater

Erotic: The Romance of Lust, by Anonymous, The Pearl is a collection of erotic tales, rhymes, songs and parodies in magazine form that were published in London between 1879 to 1880.

Paranormal: The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde.

Adventure: Treasure Island by R. L. Stevenson

History: Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe

Science Fiction: H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds

Travel: Around the World in 80 Days, Kipling’s Jungle Book

War:  Kipling’s Soldiers Three

Poetry: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Byron, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning.

Short Story: Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy all wrote short fiction.

Theatre: Oscar Wilde, G. B. Shaw

Musicals: Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas, and music hall was also a popular form of entertainment.

The Victorians were avid readers. The number of readers was expanding. Even those who couldn’t read, read by listening to public or private readings. Reading aloud was a Victorian form of entertainment. Dickens gave many public readings of his work and reading aloud was a popular pastime for families.

Many novels were serialized and some were sold as magazines. Most of them were later printed into three volumes, also called triple deckers. Many were lent through the lending libraries.

‘Penny bloods’, which came to be known as penny dreadfuls was the name for booklets which told stories of adventure, such as gothic tales, pirates and highwaymen, and crime. They were published weekly with illustrations.

What is a Neo-Victorian novel?

Fiction written by a contemporary author which employs Victorian settings and/or styles to self-reflexively invoke the Victorian era for the present.

BUT

The aim is not simply to set a novel in the Victorian era due to nostalgia. There must be something more than an aesthetic or historic recreation.

In other words, fiction that is consciously and purposefully set in the Victorian era in order to reinterpret, rediscover, or make a statement concerning one or more aspects of Victorian literature and transmitting these findings, or conclusions to a contemporary audience.

Neo-Victorian novels have a specific and conscious aim to put forward an argument about Victorian culture and literature, which the author considers has a message or relevance for a contemporary audience.

Many of the neo-Victorian writers could also be called Postcolonial. Some have considered that Victorian authors and their works represented the mainstream or traditional Victorian society, which supported Colonialism and the Empire either implicitly or explicitly.

They could also be called Feminist because their aim is to discuss, raise awareness, and promote equal rights and opportunities for women in all walks of life, especially in education and employment. More on Feminism in Victorian Literature in this post: https://lucciagray.com/2014/03/24/the-madwoman-in-the-attic-part-i/ and

These writers are writing back to their imperialist forefathers. So for example, Jean Rhys in Wide Sargasso Sea is both Postcolonial, neo-Victorian and Feminist.

Jean Rhys writes back to Charlotte Bronte by reimagining Bertha Mason’s life before during and after she married Mr. Rochester. Rhys takes a Creole woman, who was a minor character from the colonies, without a voice. Bertha had no rights in England. Rhys reinvented her life and gave her a voice and the central role in the novel, which brings us to why I wrote The Eyre Hall Trilogy, but more about that in my next post.

It’s an ample topic and I’ve skimmed through, but if you have any ideas or suggestions, let me know.

In my next post I’ll tell you why I write neo-Victorian fiction and I’ll discuss What’s the point of Reading Neo-Victorian Novels instead of reading the real thing.

Is Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall a Standalone #Novel or The Second Volume of a Trilogy?

I’d like to start by answering a previous question. Many people ask me if it’s necessary to have read Jane Eyre or Wide Sargasso Sea before reading the novels in the Eyre Hall Trilogy, and I always tell them it isn’t necessary.

It’s true that some of the characters in my novels originally appeared in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. However, many other characters are original to The Eyre Hall Trilogy, never having appeared in Jane Eyre.

Similarly, some of the plot lines are taken from ‘the spaces’ which Charlotte Bronte and Jean Rhys left in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, but most of the suspense and intrigue has been devised by my own overactive imagination.

The original plots and characters in both novels are partly present in my own, but there is enough back story by means of flashbacks and conversations to enable readers to remember or be acquainted with the characters and stories.

Some readers have said they read or reread Jane Eyre after reading All Hallows at Eyre Hall, and I love hearing it, but that’s purely a matter of choice. I personally believe authentic Victorian fiction, with its relatively slow pace, heavy reliance on telling instead of showing, and detailed descriptions, is often hard going for contemporary readers.

You may like to read my post on prequels, sequels, reinterpretations, rewriting and writing back, for more information about how I have combined both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, making both novels the backstory to The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

Coming back to our original question, is Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall a standalone or part of a trilogy? Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is both a standalone novel and part of a trilogy.

I hope it will be read by readers who have already read All Hallows at Eyre Hall, but it can also be read without having read the first volume. I actually gave it to several beta readers, who had not read All Hallows, and they told me they considered it as a complete novel on its own.

That said, readers of Twelfth Night who have not read All Hallows may want to read the backstory with more detail and decide to read it afterwards. That’s fine, too, but again, not necessary.

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall has various plot lines, which start in Chapter I and end in Chapter XXXIII. Some of these events have their origin in All Hallows, others in Jane Eyre, or Wide Sargasso Sea, and others are unique to Twelfth Night. In any case, there is sufficient information for the reader to have a complete reading experience.

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is a novel for readers who enjoy historical novels including adventure, mystery, and romance. The novel starts during a storm on the Atlantic Ocean in November, and moves back to Eyre Hall, the country estate where the extended Eyre-Rochester family live, for Christmas. Part of the action will also take us to Victorian London, and finally across the ocean once more to Jamaica. A myriad of diverse characters will entertain the reader with their unique first person accounts of events. There are several unconventional romances, murders, kidnappings, and lots of suspense, right up to the last page!

Some of the characters first appear in Jane Eyre, and others are unique to Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. I have included the folowing ‘Cast of Characters’ at the beginning of Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, to enhance the reading experience.

Meet the Cast in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall

Characters initially in Jane Eyre:
Jane Eyre, Richard Mason, Leah, Admiral Fitzjames (he was captain in Jane Eyre), Mrs. Diana Fitzjames (who was Miss Diana Rivers in Jane Eyre), Celine and Adele Varens, Mr. Briggs, Dr. Carter, Bertha Mason, and Mr. Rochester.

Characters of my own creation in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall:
John Eyre Rochester, Michael and Susan Kirkpatrick, Annette Mason, ‘young’ Dr. Carter, Captain Carrington, Mr. William Greenwood, Dante Greenwood, Mr. Smythe, Nell Rosset, Jenny Rosset, Phoebe, Simon, Beth, Daisy, Fred, Cook, Joseph, Christy, and Isaac das Junot.

Character sketches

Jane Eyre is no longer a nineteen-year-old, penniless governess. She is a wealthy woman in her early forties, who promotes education and social welfare, writes novels, and manages the Rochester estate. She was married to Mr. Rochester for 21 years and has one son, John Eyre Rochester, although she had several miscarriages and a stillborn daughter. After her husband’s death, Jane was blackmailed into marrying Mr. Mason and abandoned by the man she loved.

Richard Mason was Mr. Rochester’s brother-in-law. His sister, Bertha Mason, was Rochester’s first mad wife.

Annette Mason was born in Thornfield Hall while her mother, Bertha Mason, was married to Edward Rochester and locked in his attic. Her uncle, Richard Mason, took Annette back with him to Jamaica, where she was brought up in a convent, as an orphan, supervised by her uncle. She returned to England to claim her birthright when Mr. Rochester was on his deathbed. She is now living at Eyre Hall as Jane’s ward.

Michael Kirkpatrick used to be Jane’s valet, but he left Eyre Hall and joined the Royal Navy when Jane accepted Mr. Mason’s proposal.

Captain Carrington is Michael’s captain on board the HMS Princess Helena. He was also captain to Admiral Fitzjames, who is married to Jane’s cousin, Diana.

Adele Varens was Mr. Rochester’s ward. Jane Eyre was first employed at Thornfield Hall as her governess. Her mother, Céline Varens, was Mr. Rochester’s mistress in France. Adele is engaged to the widowed poet, Mr. Greenwood. They have been living in Venice for the past year with Mr. Greenwood’s son, Dante. Susan Kirkpatrick, Michael’s sister, has accompanied Adele as her maid and companion.

Mr. Briggs was a solicitor who had been dealing with the Eyre-Rochester family’s affairs, and Mr. Smythe is his new employee.

‘Young’ Dr. Carter is Dr. Carter’s son. He has taken over his father’s practice in the area.

Mrs. Leah is the housekeeper at Eyre Hall. She used to work as a maid at Thornfield Hall before Jane Eyre arrived.

Nell is a ten-year-old girl who is Jane’s companion throughout her illness. Her mother, Jenny Rosset, is a seamstress at Eyre Hall.

Simon, Beth, Daisy, Christy, Fred, Cook and Joseph are also servants at Eyre Hall.

Isaac das Junot is a sin-eater. He is a sinister character who appears when there is a death at Eyre Hall.

****

I hope readers who have read All Hallows and/or Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall will be interested enough in the extended Eyre-Mason-Rochester family, to want to read Midsummer at Eyre Hall (due in spring 2016), which will end this trilogy, because it will mark the end of an era at Eyre Hall. However, ends also lead to new beginnings, and Midsummer at Eyre Hall will open the door to the start of another stage in this family saga.

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is on a Kindle Countdown Deal at a special reduced price 0.99 until the 26th of November. It’s also free to download on KindleUnlimited