Letter G #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Gardens

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.

G

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.

Snowy garden

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.

Orchard spring

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.

Proposal garden

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.

Jane Teacher

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.

Mr. Rochester Blind

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.

Jane and Rochester friends

There was no possibility of taking a walk that (November) day.

November is a dark and ominous month in Jane Eyre’s life.

Firstly, she is locked in the red room, as a child, at Gateshead. Secondly, she is lonely at Thornfield Hall, before Rochester’s arrival. Finally she is leading a solitary life in Morton, while her cousin, whom she doesn’t love, proposes to her.

Gateshead 

The first lines of Jane Eyre presents the reader with a gloomy November day:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day…. the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.

The young girl, under ten years old, was confined to the house she detested. She had been taken in by a family who relegated her to the position of a homeless poor relative they despised. In the breakfast room, where she was expelled, away from the rest of the family, who were comfortably seated in the drawing-room, Jane observed:

…to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.’

Later that day, she was confined to the ghostly Red Room, after refusing to be bullied and beaten by her cousin John Reed.

Thornfield

Jane arrived at sombre Thornfield Hall  in October, but chilly November arrived fast, and Mrs, Fairfax informed Jane of what to expect from then on:

I’m sure last winter (it was a very severe one, if you recollect, and when it did not snow, it rained and blew), not a creature but the butcher and postman came to the house, from November till February; and I really got quite melancholy with sitting night after night alone.

Thornfield Hall was a vault-like, dreary place between November and February. On this occasion, Mr. Rochester returned in January, when he met Jane on the icy causeway, on her way to Hay.

Morton.

Shortly after moving to Morton, and recovering her health, in November, Jane set up a school, where she lived. She found both a job and lodgings. She describes the rudimentary building:

I had closed my shutter, laid a mat to the door to prevent the snow from blowing in under it, trimmed my fire, and after sitting nearly an hour on the hearth listening to the muffled fury of the tempest, I lit a candle, out of the frozen hurricane—the howling darkness.

Shortly after, still in November, she learnt of her uncle’s death and the fortune she had inherited. Months later, she returned to Thornfield Hall in search of Rochester.

November in Jane Eyre

November is the month of transition between the warmer and colder part of the year. It heralds a time of introversion and hard work in order to lay the foundations for the spring.

During those chilly autumn days at Thornfield, Jane more than teaches, she transforms Adele into a more docile pupil, and ears the respect of the rest of the staff who thought she was too frail for the job. By the time Rochester arrives she’s literally become the ruler of the roost. She sleeps upstairs with Mrs. Fairfax, very near the master’s room, she has got to know the house and the area, she has gained the respect of everyone, and she loves it at Thornfield. There is no-one to boss her around, until he arrives.

In Morton, she occupied her time drawing and reading, teaching, and gaining the respect of the locals as she worked as their teacher at the newly founded school, until she learnt of her new and improved situation.

The positive events in Jane Eyre occur in spring and summer, while winter is a time for introspection, loneliness, and hardship. Fortunately, spring and summer bring renewed hope and love to her life, as we have seen in other posts on this blog.

Emily Dickinson, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, also had a sad, cold,  and difficult view of November.

Charlotte Bronte would have loved this poem, which she probably never read.

How happy I was if I could forget
To remember how sad I am
Would be an easy adversity
But the recollecting of Bloom

Keeps making November difficult
Till I who was almost bold
Lose my way like a little Child
And perish of the cold.