#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge ‘Marry me’ #JaneEyre

This is my response to Charli Mills’

March 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. Respond by March 6, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 7). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

****

Marry Me, Jane!

‘Soon I shall be a bridegroom,’ said Mr. Rochester.
Jane looked down at her plain, governess dress and remembered Blanche Ingram’s extravagant clothes, noble features and glossy, raven hair.
‘I’ll leave at once. Miss Ingram will have plans for Adele.’
Jane refused to witness the man she loved marry a beautiful, yet unworthy gold-digger.
‘You would have me marry that frivolous woman?’ Rochester shook his head. ‘You think so little of me, Jane? I ask you to pass through life at my side as my best earthly companion.’
Rochester kissed her hand. ‘Jane, say Edward I will marry you.’

****

It’s amazing how the mind works. I saw the picture of the raven and thought of Blanche Ingram’s hair! For those of you don’t remember, she was Lord Ingram’s daughter, who Mr. Rochester used to make Jane jealous, tease her and perhaps find out if cool Jane loved him…

I’ve tried to capture the moment Rochester asked Jane to marry him, which is no doubt one of the most dramatic and romantic scenes in the novel. Jane is convinced that he’s going to marry the awful Miss Ingram, but Mr. Rochester recognises gold when he sees it, even if it’s hidden under an ugly dress!

 

Letter M #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre and The Mason Family

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

M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Maso Villain

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Letter H #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Husband

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

H

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

Battle_of_Marston_Moor,_1644

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

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

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

Haddon_Hall

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

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

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

Adele

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

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

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

Bertha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horse

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

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

Wedding

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

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

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

Mr. Rochester Blind

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

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

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

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

Jane3

Dear Reader, do you believe him?

Letter F #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Friends

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 Friends. Jane will tell us all about her friends in her own words.

F

A friend is someone you can trust and a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, usually exclusive of intimate or family relations. You must both enjoy each others’ company and support each other, too.

I have had very few friends in my life. While I was living with my Aunt Reed, there was only one person, Bessie, their young servant, whom I could call a friend. She told me stories by the stove in the kitchen, looked after me when I was ill, and consoled me when I was depressed. Betty once told me, when I was sick and sad that, ‘God is a friend to the poor orphan child.’ She was the only person I missed at that cold house.

When I was at Lowood, I had some more friends. Helen Burns, a young girl my own age, whose family were from Northumberland. Her mother had died, and her father had remarried a young girl, who did not care for Helen, so she was sent to Lowood.

halen and jane

Helen sustained me during the first months in my new home, when I frequently cried. She did not vex me with questions. Helen was patient, sitting beside me, and remaining silent until I was ready to speak.

When I told her I was sad because Mr. Brocklehurst had humiliated me, she chastised me for being too impulsive, too vehement, and too feeble. She reminded me that there were guardian angels to help us, and that I should not let hatred get the better of me. Helen had calmed me, and comforted me. I used to rest my head on her shoulder, put my arms round her waist, and feel grateful that I had a real true friend, at last.

Helen was faithful, and never ill-humoured with anyone, however unpleasantly they treated her. She believed her strength and endurance would lead her into heaven, when her time on Earth was over.

She was called to heaven too soon, too young. Miss Temple found her in my arms one sad June morning. My face against Helen Burns’s shoulder, and my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen was dead.

Even while she was dying, her last words had been to comfort me. She told me not to grieve because she was not in pain, and she did not mind dying, because it meant that she would escape the great sufferings life would bring her, and because she would be united with God, who would look after her.

She was buried at Brocklehurst Churchyard. , covered by a grassy mound. Fifteen years after her death, I returned to find a grassy mound. I had a grey marble tablet placed on the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word ‘Resurgam.’

Helen Burns Resurgam

I made other friends at Lowood. I often took walks in the woods in summer with Mary Ann, I tried my best to make friends, earn respect and win affection at Lowood. I was also well received by my fellow-pupils. Those my own age treated me as an equal, and I wasn’t not molested by any. However, I never had a friend like Helen again. If I have a daughter, I’ll certainly call her Helen.

Miss Miller and Miss Temple were pleased with me because I was a good student who pleased my teacher by reaching the head of my class.

Miss Temple

I also considered Miss Temple, who had become the superintendent at the seminary, a friend because she was my counsellor and guide while I was at Lowood. I owe the best part of my acquirements to her. She encouraged me in my studies, and her friendship and company had been my greatest comfort. She was the closest I have ever had to a mother figure, so I will never forget her either. I became a teacher thanks to her encouragement and direction.

I was devastated when she left to marry and move to a distant country. It was then I advertised for the position of governess.

I got on very well with all the servants at Thornfield Hall. Mrs. Fairfax always treated me with friendliness, and so did Leah, the young maid, and even Sophie, Adele’s French nurse.

Jane and Adele

Adele was my boisterous pupil, although she did not excel in her studies, she tried hard. She was always kind and respectful to me. When I married Edward I took her out of her strict boarding school, where Edward had sent her when I left. She stayed at home, for a time, until I found her a more indulgent school. We have become good friends over the years. Adele is a pleasing and obliging companion: docile, good-tempered, and well-principled.

Jane and Rochester friends

Mr. Rochester professed to be my friend, before he declared his love. He used to call me ‘my little friend’ and confessed many events to me, such as his relationship with Adele’s mother, the French opera singer, Celine Varens, and his wild years as a bachelor. I saved his life from a fire in his room one night, and he also called me when his friend, Mr. Mason was attacked in the attic. We enjoyed each other’s company and discussed many matters. Although he was my master, we were friends of a sort, at first, until we fell in love. Then friendship became something more powerful and absorbing.

When I left Eyre Hall, after discovering Mr. Rochester was already married, I had absolutely no friends, no family, and not a single shilling to my name.

Jane Mary Diana

I was fortunate to find the Rivers in Morton. Diana, Mary, and St. John, were kind to me, before they knew I was their cousin. I was starving, cold, sick, and penniless, when I arrived on their doorstep in search of charity. They took me into their home, nursed me, fed me, and found me a job as a teacher and a small house to live in. I thank God he helped me find them when I was close to death.

I have not felt the need for friends since I married Edward, because he is everything to me. He is my husband, my companion, my lover, and my friend.

Jane and Edward

My beautiful #JaneEyre

Was Jane Eyre Plain or Pretty?

Some readers of The Eyre Hall Trilogy have considered that my Jane Eyre is too beautiful, arguing that Charlotte Bronte drew an ugly, or at least plain young girl.

When I read (and reread) Jane Eyre, Jane is/was never ugly in my mind, and I have proof that she was never ugly in Charlotte Bronte’s mind either.

Jane Eyre had quite a few antagonists in her autobiography, some of which were also her direct enemies, and therefore described her negatively.

For instance, her Aunt Reed called her ‘deceitful’ and said she had a bad character, and the servants at her aunt’s house said she behaved like a ‘mad cat’.

Her cousins, Georgina and John, called her ‘impudent’, ‘rat’, and ‘thief’.

While Jane was at Lowood Institution, Mr. Brockelhurst called her a ‘liar’ and ‘evil’, however that doesn’t mean any of these descriptions were true. In fact we know there were plenty of liars in Jane Eyre, who seemed to revel in demeaning her, leading to her obvious lack of self-esteem throughout most of Jane Eyre.

Jane_Eyre-Joan_Fontaine-1

We know Jane was honest, sensible, generous and intelligent.

When she arrived at Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester refered to her as ‘plain’ on more than once occasion.

Part of the misinterpretation comes from the use of the word ‘plain’ in the novel.The word ‘plain’ has led some readers to interpret that Jane was ugly, yet ‘plain’ does not mean ‘ugly’.

What does ‘plain’ mean in Jane Eyre?

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Plain as poor.

Mr. Brocklehurst’s daughter, Augusta, says of the girls at Lowood,

‘Oh, dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little holland pockets outside their frocks—they are almost like poor people’s children!

jane-eyre-2

Here plain clearly means that their clothes and hairstyle is simple and poor. Brocklehurst’s daughters were wearing curled hair with ribbons, and dresses with lace and trimmings. The girls at Lowood were ugly because they were plainly dressed.

In the following extract, Jane herself says she dresses plainly because she is poor,

I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain— for I had no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity.

  • Plain as honest and truthful.

Plain is also used in the novel to mean ‘unvarnished truth’ Mrs. Fairfax is described as addressing Jane with ‘plain friendliness’

jane_eyre_7611_crop

When Jane Eyre arrived at Thornfield Hall, she was a poor, naïve, unworldly young girl, who had lived within the walls of Lowood institution for eight years. Jane was indeed poor and plain because she had no money and very little self-confidence or knowledge of the world.

When Mr. Rochester said she was plain, he meant it as ‘no frills’, simple, poor, and honest. He didn’t mean she was ugly.

Plain is used to describe her clothes, hair, etc. as simple, with no adornments.

Yet, when she first arrives at Eyre Hall, Rochester calls her a ‘nonnette’ which is a small gingerbread cake made of honey and usually orange marmalade. That’s hardly an ugly thing. It suggests reddish tinges to her hair, small, and sweet.

When Rochester says, in his famous marriage proposal,

‘You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are—I entreat to accept me as a husband…’

He is echoing her words, meaning he loves her just as she is. She’s not wealthy, or from a noble family, or stunningly dressed, as Blanche Ingram (in the picture below) was, but she is honest and unspoilt. He loves her the way she sees herself, not only as he sees her.

Blanche

In fact, once Rochester has proposed, her self-worth has changed drastically. Jane calls herself beautiful. The following morning she says,

While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt it was no longer plain: there was hope in its aspect and life in its colour; and my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount of fruition, and borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple.

Later, when she goes downstairs to speak to Mr. Rochester he says,

‘Jane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty,’ said he: ‘truly pretty this morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my mustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek and rosy lips; the satin-smooth hazel hair, and the radiant hazel eyes?’ (I had green eyes, reader; but you must excuse the mistake: for him they were new- dyed, I suppose.)

Wedding

Later, when Jane has fled from Thornfield Hall on discovering that Mr. Rochester is married, and that his wife is lodged in the attic above her room, she meets her cousins in Morton.  While Jane is staying at Moore House with her cousins Mary, Diana, and St. John, she tells Diana,

‘And I am so plain, you see, Diana. We should never suit.’

Jane has once more lost her self-esteem. She is telling Diana that she is not worldly or sophisticated enough to be her cousin’s wife, but Diana replies,

‘Plain! You? Not at all. You are much too pretty, as well as too good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta.’

There is no doubt that Jane was a short and thin young girl, probably due to lack of nourishing food, in an Institution where many girls dies of sickness and malnutrition, but I also have no doubt that she would have grown into the beautiful, healthy, intelligent and confident woman, who appears in my novels.

Jane 2

In The Eyre Hall Trilogy, Jane has grown into a wealthy and self-assured woman, so she has the clothes, jewels, security, and intelligence to be beautiful. I have maintained her physical characteristics, she is short and slim, her eyes are still green, as she says they are in Jane Eyre, and her hair is auburn, as Rochester described it, too.

Jane is as beautiful in The Eyre Hall Trilogy as she was in Jane Eyre, if some readers didn’t capture her beauty that, it’s their problem, not mine or Charlotte Bronte’s!

Michael says of Jane while he is her valet at Eyre Hall in All Hallows at Eyre Hall:

I am in love with a lady who has lively green eyes, pale cream skin, rosy round cheeks, smooth wavy auburn hair and soft coral lips.

One of my favouriter actresses to play the part of my mature Mrs. Rochester, is Rachel Weisz.

Rachel+Weisz+78th+Annual+Academy+Awards+sRe4GhQudfgl

My favourite description of my Jane Eyre, is found in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, when Charles Dickens visits Eyre Hall and gifts us with this eloquent description of the mature Jane Eyre, the woman I’m sure she would have become,

We sat drinking brandy after dinner by the fire. It was a restful moment after such an intense conversation. I examined my host. Jane’s pale complexion and delicate frame stood in stark contrast to her confident movements and assertive manner, which denoted a remarkable strength and serenity of character. Her flawless features fit perfectly in her heart–shaped face. Her dainty fingers and soft hands caressed her dress distractedly as she watched the fire. Her russet hair was tamed with several pretty hair clips, and her inquisitive green eyes held a gentle gleam when they rested on mine. She was one of those fortunate women who grow more beautiful as they age. Her voice was soft and melodious and her manner charming. It was a pleasure to be in her company.

So, Dear Reader, do you still think Jane Eyre was ugly?

Casting my villainous Mr. Rochester, Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons?

In a recent interview for Brook Cottage Books as part of a Book Tour, I was asked,

‘If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?’

I replied Alan Rickman in the first place, but I wasn’t completely convinced, so I added Jeremy Irons as my second choice. I also added that they were both far too good-looking for such a nasty character as the sick and evil Mr. Rochester!

The interview was published today in Glynis Smy’s blog.

Alan Richman dates

When I wrote the answer to that question, I knew there was an extremely slim chance of Alan Rickman playing Mr. Rochester in my novel, because for that to happen, my novel would need to be ‘discovered’ by the literary mainstream world, and later by the film world, and that will probably not happen in the near future, although I can dream…

Now, the slight possibility has become an impossibility, Alan Rickman passed away yesterday.

When I claimed that Alan Rickman would be my ideal Mr. Rochester, it was a quick, unconscious reply, I didn’t reflect on my reasons, so I’d like to do so now.

Judge_turpin

Mr. Rickman has played many villains. One of his first villainous roles was as criminal mastermind Hans Gruber in Die Hard. He also played other nasty characters, such as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the corrupt and lascivious Judge Turpin in Sweeny Todd, and an unfaithful husband in Love Actually.

However, his most famous villainous character was undoubtedly Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. Snape was malicious, complex, and ambiguous, right to the end of the Harry Potter series.

Snape was the reason I chose Mr. Rickman, yet at the same time, Snape is probably the reason why I wasn’t completely sure if I would cast Alan Rickman as Mr. Rochester.

I consider Snape as a very romantic type of villain, because his character develops in such a way that he becomes a hero, thereby encouraging the reader to believe in the ultimate power of good over evil.

Severus Snape

Converting my villain, Mr. Rochester, was never my intention. Although Mr. Rochester has redeeming qualities, he is, foremost and right to the bitter end, a selfish and evil character.

What makes a villain in literature and on screen?

Readers and audiences need to hate villains, although they are intrigued by them, because evil both frightens and fascinates us.

Villains often torture virtuous characters, or they are used as opposites to bring out and contrast the good characters. They embody evil in the struggle for good and evil within ourselves, and in the world.

They are evildoers, sometimes in the extreme. They are selfish and lack empathy, so they will go to any extremes to reach their goals. They do not shy away from the use of violence and destruction, ignoring the pain they cause others. They have no conscience and no limits. They are prepared to lie, cheat, blackmail, or use force to get what they want.
They are often ugly, rich, and often physically and psychologically sick.

On the other hand, it’s always useful if they’re not a hundred per cent evil, as even the smallest hint of goodness will be their downfall, because they will be vulnerable and suffer.

mr_rochester

Mr. Rochester was passionate, witty, and clever. I’m convinced he loved Jane Eyre, in his own way, with a unique passion with which he never loved anyone else. He was also a liar and a selfish and spoilt, rich landowner, who never thought about is tenants, or did a single day’s work in his life.

He was a taker, not a giver. He wanted Jane Eyre and was willing to go through anything to have her. He blatantly went against the law of man and his religion, to achieve his goals.

I wouldn’t put anything past him, which is why my novel (in which I have used the spaces Charlotte Bronte left in the original text) paints a picture of a selfish, obsessive, impulsive and unscrupulous lover.

He was capable of committing bigamy, ordering a murder (he would never dirty his own hands), and covering up his deeds by bribing whoever could help him out.

He was more than immoral, he was amoral, because he was convinced that his actions were beneficial to others as well as himself. Incapable of any type of empathy or compassion.

800px-Jeremy_Irons_face

Mr. Rickman was a great actor and a perfect Snape, the villain who Harry Potter named his son after and described as, ‘… the bravest man I ever knew.’ The ambiguous villain, whose ulterior motives are not as dark as they seem. However, I’m no longer convinced he would have been as convincingly and totally evil as Jeremy Irons.

Jeremy Irons transmitted, the perfect, cold-blooded villain in Reversal of Fortune, and you can’t get more wicked than Scar, can you? I think he’ll nail Mr. Rochester, one day…

 

****

Meanwhile I’ll leave you with an excerpt of Chapter XIII, of All Hallows at Eyre Hall, depicting Mr. Rochester’s weak point. The only possibility of making him suffer, by tasting his own medicine, is his love for Jane, which eventually leads to his confession on his death-bed. He finally tries to make amends by telling her the truth about her stillborn daughter, but it’s too late.

****

“Jane, I must confess and only your absolution can save me. You must promise to forgive me for what I am about to tell you.”

“I cannot absolve you or anyone else. If you like, I can call Mr. Wood, or Bishop Templar, if you prefer.”

“Yes, Mr. Wood, he will absolve all of my sins, but what good is that to me now? Bishop Templar, what is he to me? No, Jane, it is you who must forgive me.”

“Edward, I have told you a hundred times, I forgive you for everything, for your short temper, your relationship with Blanche, your flirts in London, your illegitimate children and your dark past before we met. Is there anything else to forgive?”

“There is something else, Jane. I have done you wrong. I have done you a terrible wrong, but you must understand me and find it in your heart to forgive me.”

“I am tired of being your conscience. If there is no solution and it is a further unknown treachery, you must face the consequences of your actions on your own. I would prefer to remain ignorant of any further wrongdoings.”

“Perhaps that would be best, but I cannot sleep, I cannot live, and neither can I die, if I do not confess and receive your forgiveness. Jane, you must help me carry my burden once more, but I guarantee that this time there will be some benefit in it for you. You will suffer greatly at first, but when I am gone, believe me, it will fill your life with reward, hope and purpose.”

“You have intrigued me. Proceed.”

“So precise, so Jane-like. Please don’t hate me, Jane.”

I remembered Michael’s words. “I do not wish to carry the burden of hate.”

“Forgive me, my dearest Jane. You are the love of my life. I once asked for your forgiveness, and you gave it to me. Can you forgive me a second and a third time? You were a passionate, righteous woman. I had expected you to shed tears, reproach me my misdeeds and accuse me angrily. Why didn’t you forcefully make me behave? You became passive once more, and you let me go. Why? Did you stop loving me? Did you lose patience? Interest? You stopped conversing with me. You left me while you were at my side! I had to find consolation elsewhere, because you refused my kisses! You shrank from me in disgust! I am a passionate man, and you were ice and rock to me once more. I failed you and I am sorry. If you find it in your heart to forgive me, you will allow me to die in peace.”

“I cannot forgive you before you speak. What must you tell me?”

“You are cruel, but I will be brave…”

****

 

Today is All Hallows. Find out What Happened at Eyre Hall on That Day #HalloweenBooks

Yesterday was All Hallows Eve, which has come to be known as Halloween. I wrote about how the festivity was celebrated in Victorian England, and what happened on that day at Eyre Hall.

Today’s post is about what happened the following day, November 1st, All Hallows or All Souls’ Day. It is no spoiler that Mr. Rochester is on his death-bed, and is destined to pass away during the course of the novel. However, there is a hint of a big spoiler in the extract. You will be glimpsing an unexpected and dramatic turn in Jane’s life.

Here is Chapter XXIV, which narrates the moment Mr. Rochester’s death is discovered and made known to the residents at Eyre Hall.

Deceased

“Mrs. Rochester! The master is dead! We must stop the clocks and drape all the mirrors in the house, or his spirit will be trapped. He will not be able to leave Eyre Hall, so he will haunt us forever! The windows must be opened and the curtains drawn to let the good spirits in to look after him and keep the malignant out. We must bring ice from the kitchen to put under the bed, or malignant life will crawl out of his mouth and ears.”

Simon had reached the bottom of the staircase, as I stepped out of the library into the hall with Michael. The drawing-room door opened and Adele screamed, “Simon! For goodness sake be quiet, you will wake all the dead in the graveyard!”

John was standing behind Adele looking bewildered, “Mother, what has happened?”

His face white and his expression quite horrified. I rushed to his side, “John, he is at peace at last. There is nothing we can do, except pray.”

“Father!” He shouted, as he pushed past me and rushed up the staircase.

“Wait!” I screamed and turned to Michael, “Michael, go with him! He can’t be alone now!” Michael obeyed at once.

Bishop Templar turned to me and spoke gravely, “Mrs. Rochester, may I suggest we follow John and say some prayers by his bedside?”

“Of course, my Lord, let us go upstairs together.” I took his arm and beckoned to Adele, “Adele, darling, will you come up with us?”

“Not yet, Jane. I can’t bear to think of his lifeless body! I can’t go up now.”

She seemed so distressed that I had no choice but to agree, “Well, wait here. Mr. Greenwood, would you be so kind as to accompany Adele in such a painful moment for her and console her as best you can?”

“Of course, Mrs. Rochester. Come, Adele, let us wait in the drawing-room.”

“Mr. Mason, Annette, will you be so kind as to wait a few minutes while I go upstairs with Bishop Templar?”

“Mrs. Rochester, I would like to go up with you, if you don’t mind.” Annette was looking at me earnestly. I told her Edward was her father. She had just met him, and he was dead, quite a dreadful succession of events for an evening. 

“Of course you can. Are you sure you won’t be too distressed?”

“Quite sure.”

“Then come with us. Mr. Mason, would you kindly wait with Adele and Mr. Greenwood?”

“Of course, madam. Accept my most sincere condolences, and if I can be of any use, please let me know.”

“Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

Before heading up the stairs I turned to Simon, “Please see to the clocks. Go down to the kitchen to tell the rest of the household what has happened, and bring some drapery to cover the mirrors, and of course, the ice.”

“Yes, madam.”

“I will tell Michael to fetch the undertakers at Millcote and Dr. Carter.”

“Yes, madam.”

“I understand you worked for an undertaker in London before working at Eyre Hall, is that so?”

He nodded proudly, “Yes, madam.”

“Could you dress Mr. Rochester when…?” Tears came to my eyes, as I said his name. My feet softened and floated, and my hand slipped from the Bishop’s arm. The floor swayed and I lost my balance. I felt rough, sturdy fingers clasp my waist, as I fell backwards and looked into Mr. Mason’s furrowed brow.

“Mrs. Rochester! Are you unwell?”

“Thank you, Mr. Mason. I am feeling a little dizzy.”

“Please, allow me to accompany you upstairs.” I nodded, and he held out his arm for me to cling to. “Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

When we arrived at the top of the stairs, the gallery seemed darker and narrower than usual and the floor was rolling, as if I were walking on waves. Tears were running freely down my cheeks, and I was still having difficulty breathing.

Mr. Mason took my hand in his and squeezed it hard, “Unfortunately, Mrs. Rochester, this is God’s plan for all of us.” I cringed at his touch, which fortunately brought me back to reality.

Inside Edward’s chamber, our son was kneeling down on the floor by his father’s side, holding his hand and kissing it. Annette was kneeling down on the opposite side of the bed, doing exactly the same. Bishop Templar stood behind John with his hands on his shoulders, attempting to comfort him, while Mr. Mason left my side and stood vigilantly behind Annette.

The Bishop was speaking, but my heart was thumping so loudly I could not hear what he was saying. The room was hot and the air was thick and putrid. I looked at my husband and gasped. Edward’s eyes were frighteningly open, as if he had seen a ghost, and his mouth was wide open, too, as if he had gasped for air before dying. His face was as pale as death itself, and his chest crushed and lifeless. He had gone. 

Once more I felt my legs bend into the floor. The hexagonal forms on the carpet were sliding into squares as my stomach churned. Michael rushed to my side and I managed to say, “I’m going to be sick,” just before he carried me to the toilet table. When I finished, he took the ewer and poured some water on my hands and I washed my face, then he led me to a chair at the foot of the bed.

I heard the distant voice of the Bishop saying some prayers to bid him farewell and facilitate his transit to his new abode in the Kingdom of Heaven, but I was not sure if that would be his destination. He had not confessed his sins. He had not repented for his misdeeds. He had not made his peace with our creator before dying, and he might not be allowed to leave Eyre Hall yet.

I stood up and turned to Michael beckoning him to follow me. We walked out of the chamber and turned into the shorter gallery and the stairs leading to my chamber, where we could not be seen. His eyes shone in the unlit passage. I reached for his hands, and he pulled me closer whispering, “Are you all right, Mrs. Rochester?”

“Yes, I shall be all right.”

“You look unwell.”

“Michael, please go to Millcote and bring the undertaker as soon as possible. There are many preparations that need to be attended.”

“It shall take more than four hours. Will you not need me here?”

“Simon will attend to matters here, in the meantime. He knows what to do.”

His concerned eyes bore into mine, “But you will be alone.”

“Only for a few hours.”

He moved closer, “Before you go, Mrs. Rochester, promise me something.”

“What is it?”

“Promise me you will not take any of Mr. Rochester’s drops.”

He was right. I had thought of succumbing to the easy comfort of the miraculous drug. I put my arms around him, “Hold me, Michael.”

He spoke into my hair, “I cannot leave, if you do not promise. I saw you looking at Mr. Rochester’s medicine cabinet.”

“You are right, the temptation is great.”

“It is very harmful. Think of John, he needs you, so does Helen… and so do I.”

I pressed my face into his chest, praying I would be strong enough to get through the wake and the funeral without breaking down, or relapsing into the comfort of laudanum once again. It was a pleasant and swift evasion, but I shuddered at the thought of its dire consequences, which I had already experienced. Michael was stroking my hair, waiting for my reply, “Promise me.” He insisted.

I broke away and smiled, “I promise. Now go, and please be careful, Michael. It is very late and there is a full moon. Last month a pack of foxes attacked a farmer.”

He told me he would be back as soon as possible, and I returned to the death chamber. They were all looking at Edward and listening to Bishop Templar’s prayers, except Mr. Mason, whose dark ominous eyes were fastened on me, as I entered the room. We listened in solemn silence to the familiar words of Christian consolation, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”

Minutes later Simon arrived with drapery for the long mirror. He told me he had covered all the other mirrors in the house and had stopped the clocks. I told him to bring the ice and wash, shave, and dress Edward in his best clothes. We all left when he returned to prepare the corpse.

Downstairs in the drawing-room, Adele was still distraught and being consoled by Mr. Greenwood. I excused myself and went down to the servants’ quarters to discuss arrangements with Mrs. Leah.

****

Mr. Rochester’s death represents the end of an era. He was more linked to the rigid 18th century modes of thinking than to the more progressive 19th century social, scientific, industrial, and intellectual advances, which would change Great Britain forever. New times are awaiting Jane and all the members of her extended family. These changes will start immediately, and although it is a change she is ready to embrace, it will be traumatic. The full extent will be felt in books two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall.

I hope you enjoyed the extract 🙂