#AtoZChallenge ‘J is for Jane Eyre’ #Haiku #NaPoWriMo #PoetryMonth

Photo by Author and Translator @OlgaNM

Olga, who blogs at Olga Author Translator, took this beautiful photo last year at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I don’t know if it is supposed to be Jane Eyre, but it certainly reminds me of her!
In fact, this sculpture is called Wilsis and belongs to a series of portrait heads by Jaume Plensa, depicting young girls from around the world, with their eyes closed in a dreamlike state of contemplation.

Photo by author @Annecdotist

Photo by author @Annecdotist

Anne Godwin, who blogs at Annecdotal, took these photos of North Lees Hall, which many believe was Charlotte Bronte’s inspiration for Thornfield Hall,  during one of her many walks which she finds conducive to the creative state of mind

In fact, On Sunday, 17th June 2018, she’ll be leading a guided walk called  In the footsteps of Jane Eyre, at the Peak District National Park, more information about the walk here.

An enormous thanks to both Olga and Anne, readers, writers, book bloggers, and supportive participants  of many online book blogging and writing communities, for allowing me to include their photos on today’s post, meant as a humble tribute to Jane Eyre, a novel I know both of them also love and admire.

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Jane Eyre
Plain, slight, poor orphan
Fulfilled all her childhood dreams
Beloved Jane Eyre
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Jane Eyre was an underpiviledged and underfed, Victorian orphan. She didn’t stand a chance of living her own life, and yet she fought for her place in the world, in spite of constant adversity. She was honest, tenacious, loyal, intelligent, hard-working and fiercely determined to be ‘an independent woman’.  

I would never have had the inspiration or courage to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy if I hadn’t read Jane Eyre when I was a teenager. I’ve regularly reread it since then.

It took me a long time, but I eventually followed my dreams, too.

Last year’s AtoZ Challenge was All About Jane Eyre, in case you’d like to check it out.

Have you read Jane Eyre? What are your thoughts?

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This year is my fourth AtoZ Challenge. My theme this year is poetry once again. I’ll be writing a haiku a day, but I’m also adding a new hobby to the posts, photography. I will post one of my photos, or a donated photo, every day to accompany my haiku.

This April, I’ll also be sharing my poems and joining another group of poets at National Poetry Writing Month, organised since 2003 by Maureen Thorson. Write 30 poems in 30 days. I’m in! What about you?

 

My latest copy of Jane Eyre, the one I’ve been rereading since 1980! And my Jane Eyre cup, a present from my best friend, Anna, who is neither a blogger nor a writer, but who knows? I’m working on it and both are highly contagious!

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.

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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 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.

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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

The Moon in Jane Eyre Part Two: At Thornfield Hall

The Moon in Jane’s Arrival At Thornfield Hall and First Encounters with Mr. Rochester.

This post is a continuation of a previous post on The Moon in Jane Eyre Part One: At Gateshead and Lowood which has been a very popular with readers interested in Jane Eyre.

The moon makes many symbolic and significant appearances at Thornfield Hall, so this post will also come in two parts. This first part refers to Jane’s arrival at Thornfield hall and her first encounters with Mr. Rochester. The rest of her stay at Thornfield Hall will be covered in another post.

The Third Storey and The Attic at Thornfield Hall 

The moon makes its first appearance the day after Jane’s arrival at Thornfield Hall. In the evening, once her first class with Adele was over, Mrs. Fairfax offered to show her around the house. The tour ended in the mysterious and uncanny third storey, which was devoid of the moonlight:

All these relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine of memory. I liked the hush, the gloom, the quaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no means coveted a night’s repose on one of those wide and heavy beds: shut in, some of them, with doors of oak; shaded, others, with wrought old English hangings crusted with thick work, portraying effigies of strange flowers, and
stranger birds, and strangest human beings,— all which would have looked strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of moonlight. If there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt.’
‘So I think: you have no ghost, then?’
‘None that I ever heard of,’ returned Mrs. Fairfax, smiling.
‘Nor any traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?’
‘I believe not.”

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Jane and Mrs. Fairfax continue their tour to the attic, which Jane describes as black as a vault. They walk up a very narrow staircase and then with the help of a ladder through a trap-door to the roof of the hall and a view of the surrounding countryside, which Bertha is denied.

Bertha’s room was described as ‘windowless’ and the rest of the upper floor was dark and gloomy, probably due to small windows and heavy curtains. The moon, which has been a positive omen in Jane’s life, lighting her way in dark moments, and announcing the appearance of positive characters, is denied to Bertha who must live concealed in absolute darkness.

Notice also the lies Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane when she claims there are no legends of ghosts, yet all the servants are aware of Grace Poole’s secret charge in the attic and the strange noises, which they all hear on occasions.

The lack of moon in this instance indicates a moral as well as physical darkness, as it encloses falsehood, as well as captivity and concealment.

Mr. Rochester’s Arrival

Jane arrived at Thornfield Hall in October. The following months passed by tranquilly, as Jane taught Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ‘ward’. One afternoon in January, Jane volunteered to take a letter to Hay, which was two miles away, for Mrs. Fairfax, because she thought it would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk. On her way, she sat on a style and observed Thornfield, and the surrounding countryside as she watched the rising moon. Jane tells us:

I lingered till the sun went down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them. I then turned eastward. On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud, but brightening momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost in trees, sent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys: it was yet a mile distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thin murmurs of life.

The rising moon is heralding a singular event. A few minutes later, Mr. Rochester fell off his horse on the causeway. She describes their first meeting thus:

‘If you are hurt, and want help, sir, I can fetch someone either from Thornfield Hall or from Hay.’
‘Thank you: I shall do: I have no broken bones,—only a sprain;’ and again he stood up and tried his foot, but the result extorted an involuntary ‘Ugh!’
Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing bright: I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and considerable breadth of chest.

 

Moon phases

The moon is not yet full, but it is ‘waxing’ or in the first quarter growing into a full moon, indicating the initial moments of a great event. After describing him in great detail, he asks her what she was doing on the causeway. There follows an important quote regarding the moon. Jane herself admits it is a positive omen, which assists her as she walks at night, and metaphorically through her own, uncertain life. It is also significant that the mood is shining directly on Thornfield Hall, signaling it out as a safe place for her.

He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in my direction before.
‘I should think you ought to be at home yourself,’ said he, ‘if you have a home in this neighbourhood: where do you come from?’
‘From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when it is moonlight: I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter.’
‘You live just below—do you mean at that house with the battlements?’ pointing to Thornfield Hall, on which the moon cast a hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods that, by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Whose house is it?’
‘Mr. Rochester’s.’
‘Do you know Mr. Rochester?’
‘No, I have never seen him.’
‘He is not resident, then?’
‘No.’
‘Can you tell me where he is?’
‘I cannot.’

Rochester horse

Jane herself describes the moon as an element of security. It is her home, the place where she feels safe, which, at the moment, is Thornfield Hall. The moon lights her path, showing her the way to her errand and back home. It has also enabled her to scrutinise Mr. Rochester carefully, pointing out to her a person who will have a great influence on her life. We saw in part one, that Miss Temple was introduced to Jane in a similar way.

On her way back from posting the letter, she lingers at the gates of Thornfield Hall before entering. She watches the moon and the stars in awe, aware that something of great importance has occurred, although she is not yet able to fathom what has happened.

I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house—from the grey-hollow filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me—to that sky expanded before me,—a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as she left the hill-tops, from behind which she had come, far and farther below her, and aspired to the zenith, midnight dark in its fathomless depth and measureless distance; and for those trembling stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins glow when I viewed them.
Little things recall us to earth; the clock struck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon and stars, opened a side-door, and went in.

She soon realizes that the man she met was her employer. The following day, Mrs. Fairfax informs her that Mr. Rochester requires her presence for tea in the drawing-room. Mr. Rochester makes the usual inquiries an employer might make about her family, past life, and how she came to work at his house.

The conversation then takes a strange turn and he accuses her of being a witch and using magic, with the help of her ‘people’ and the moonlight, to throw him off his horse in their first meeting the previous day. She tells him jokingly there are no such beings in England any more.

‘I thought not. And so you were waiting for your people when you sat on that stile?’
‘For whom, sir?’
‘For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them. Did I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned ice on the causeway?’
I shook my head. ‘The men in green all forsook England a hundred years ago,’ said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. ‘And not even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace of them. I don’t think either summer or harvest, or winter moon, will ever shine on their revels more.’

He also asks her to play the piano and show him her drawings, and comments on one of them in particular:

These eyes in the Evening Star you must have seen in a dream. How could you make them look so clear, and yet not at all brilliant? for the planet above quells their rays. And what meaning is that in their solemn depth? And who taught you to paint wind. There is a high gale in that sky, and on this hill-top. Where did you see Latmos? For that is Latmos. There! put the drawings away!’

The second painting he examines belongs to a Greek legend. It portrays the evening star and a hill with a woman’s bust rising into the sky, which he immediately identifies as Selena was a goddess of Greek mythology associated with the moon and even regarded as the personification of the moon. He asks Jane, “Where did you see Latmos? For that is Latmos.”

Selena is commonly depicted with a crescent moon, as in this picture, often accompanied by stars; or a lunar disc.

 

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The Moon-goddess Selene or Luna accompanied by the Dioscuri, or Phosphoros (the Morning Star) and Hesperos (the Evening Star). Marble altar, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE. From Italy.

In Greek legend Latmos, or more correctly Mt Latmos, is where the goddess Selene first saw and fell in love with Endymion, vowing to protect him for ever. He tells her to leave him, as soon as he realizes that he has associated her with the goddess. It is interesting that Jane, herself, does not make this association. It is his own fear of the emotions she has stirred in him that makes him practically throw the three women out of the room.

It is interesting to notice how Mr. Rochester has a contrasting view of the moon to Jane’s. He fears the moon and considers it a negative omen. Mr. Rochester associates the moon with female love or lust, which he fears, and witchcraft, which he also associates with love spells. The reader is aware that he is a tormented man, and that this torment is due to unfavourable experiences with women. We have no proof yet, but it seems he does not want to fall prey to another woman brought to him by the moon. He probably also associates the moon with his wife’s lunacy, but of course, at this point, the reader is not yet aware of any of these events.

In part three we will learn more about why Mr. Rochester considers the moon as a negative omen.

 

Christmas in Jane Eyre

I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope you can spend some time with people you love.

Thank you for reading my posts, commenting, and liking. You are my greatest incentive.

Today, I’ve prepared a special post about Christmas celebrations and symbolism in Jane Eyre.

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Some of Jane Eyre’s happiest and saddest moments occur at Christmas.

Firstly, at Gateshead, her Aunt Reed’s prosperous household, Christmas was celebrated with elaborate dinners, parties, and presents:

‘Christmas and the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festive cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening parties given.’

However, Jane Eyre, was treated as an unwanted and unloved intruder by her aunt and cousins. She tells us:

‘From every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded: my share of the gaiety consisted in witnessing the daily apparelling of Eliza and Georgiana, and seeing them descend to the drawing-room, dressed out in thin muslin frocks and scarlet sashes, with hair elaborately ringletted; and afterwards, in listening to the sound of the piano or the harp played below, to the passing to and fro of the butler and footman, to the jingling of glass and china as refreshments were handed, to the broken hum of conversation as the drawing-room door opened and closed. When tired of this occupation, I would retire from the stairhead to the solitary and silent nursery.’

Christmas at Gateshead simply exaggerated her isolation and loveless existence.

No mention is made of Christmas during her miserable years at Lowood School. We can imagine that there are no pleasant or noteworthy memories attached to this time of year for the young Jane Eyre.

We next read about Christmas while Jane is at Thornfield Hall. When Rochester received guests, Mrs. Fairfax informed Jane that Lord Ingram’s daughters, Blanche and Mary, had attended seven years previously.

‘She (Blanche Ingram) came here to a Christmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave. You should have seen the dining-room that day—how richly it was decorated, how brilliantly lit up!’

Blanche’s merry Christmas contrasts with dreary Lowood where Jane was living at that time.

The next mention of Christmas is a metaphorical allusion by Jane after her marriage was interrupted and she discovered Rochester was already married. She retired to her room once more, her world had crumbled, and her expectant summer wedding turned into a desolate wintry night:

A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud: lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, today were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods…’

Frost, ice, and storm have taken over her hopes for happiness. She no longer has a future as the road ahead is pathless with untrodden snow. Jane is a destitute and lonely orphan once again.

Finally, it was just before the following Christmas when Jane discovered that the family who had taken her in and looked after her after she left Thornfield Hall, Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers were in fact her cousins, and that she had inherited 20,000 pounds from her uncle, John Eyre, who had died unmarried and childless in Madeira.

‘My uncle John was your uncle John? You, Diana, and
Mary are his sister’s children, as I am his brother’s child?’
‘Undeniably.’
‘You three, then, are my cousins; half our blood on
each side flows from the same source?’
‘We are cousins; yes.’

Consequently, Jane decided she would leave her humble abode at the Parish school and live at Moor House with her cousins Mary and Diana, with whom she planned to share her inheritance.

Jane also tells St. John that she will leave her full-time employment at the Parish school after Christmas, although she promised her pupils she would visit them once a week to teach them for an hour.

Meanwhile, she is determined to spend a merry and splendid Christmas, for the first time in her life. She plans to: ‘clean down Moor House from chamber to cellar…till it glitters again,..’ She also plans to make sure the house is warm, ‘… afterwards I shall go near to ruin you in coals and peat to keep up good fires in every room;’ Finally she will make sure they have the best food to eat, ‘… and lastly, the two days preceding that on which your sisters are expected will be devoted by Hannah and me to such a beating of eggs, sorting of currants, grating of spices, compounding of Christmas cakes, chopping up of materials for mince-pies, and solemnising of other culinary rites…’ 

She also refurnished the house to its previous grandeur with ‘Dark handsome new carpets and curtains, an arrangement of some carefully selected antique ornaments in porcelain and bronze, new coverings, and mirrors, and dressing-cases, for the toilet tables, answered the end: they looked fresh without being glaring. A spare parlour and bedroom I refurnished entirely, with old mahogany and crimson upholstery.’

Jane’s first Merry Christmas was spent at glittering Moor House with her cousins, Mary and Diana. Jane tells us:

‘It was Christmas week: we took to no settled employment, but spent it in a sort of merry domestic dissipation. The air of the moors, the freedom of home, the dawn of prosperity, acted on Diana and Mary’s spirits like some life-giving elixir: they were gay from morning till noon, and from noon till night.’

Jane is still missing Rochester, and although it is ‘they’ who were ‘happy from morning till night’, she was also content because she had found a home, a family, and financial stability at last. Jane was warm and comfortable, had plenty of food, and enjoyed the company of her loving cousins. A sharp contrast to her hapless situation at the beginning of the novel.

This Christmas with her newfound family is undoubtedly Jane’s most peaceful and joyous moment in the novel.

Even if you are missing someone, as most of us are, I hope you all have a joyous and peaceful Christmas. The best is still to come.

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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.

 

Fictional Houses: from Thornfield to Eyre Hall

Throughout literature houses, or buildings where people have converged have become central elements and powerful symbols in the creative process.

According to Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space ( La Poétique de l’Espace, 1958), the house becomes the representation of the universe. It can also be examined as the manifestation of the soul through the poetic image.

Houses in literature are often places of intimacy which can hold memories, experiences, they can also keep secrets, and arouse sensations, merging into the action by becoming a witness, accomplice, and even instigator of events. In any case, the symbolic value of houses cannot be underestimated.

It would be impossible to mention all the houses in English literature. The aim of this brief overview is to bring our attention to the importance of houses by reminding us of some of the most significant literary houses, which have become part of our collective unconscious.

We could start with the Herot, the Mead Hall in the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, which J. R. R. Tolkien recreated as Meduseld (meaning mead hall in Old English) in Middle-earth, a richly decorated meeting and gathering hall for the King and his advisors. Herot was both a seat of government and as royal residence, symbolizing civilization and culture, wealth, safety, and merriment, in contrasts with the darkness, danger, and evil of the swamp waters inhabited by the monster, Grendel.

A reconstructed Viking Age longhouse (28.5 metres long) in Fyrkat

 

Our next stop would be at the The Tabard Inn, in the London borough of Southwark, which accommodated the numerous pilgrims on their way to their annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, fictionalised by Geoffrey Chaucer in the The Canterbury Tales. The Inn keeper, Harry Bailly, accompanies the pilgrims on their journey and proposed that each tell two tales on the way to Canterbury.

 

The Tabard Inn, Southwark, around 1850

Hamlet’s tortured speeches, Ophelia’s singing, his father’s ghost, the deaths of Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, and Hamlet himself, are inseparable from the place where they took place, Elsinore Castle, in Denmark.

Helsingoer Kronborg Castle known by many also as “Elsinore,” the setting of William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

 

The novel which is considered to initiate the gothic genre is set in and called, The Castle of Otranto, written by Horace Walpole. Many more gothic novels are set in singular buildings, such as Count Dracula’s dark and ruined castle inhabited by vampires, recreated by Bram Stoker.

By Horace Walpole. Title page from the third edition

 

Moving to the early 19th century, Jane Austen writes about more stately and luxurious houses, such as Pemberley, the fictional country estate owned by Mr. Darcy, in Pride and Prejudice. The beauty of the house plays a key role in Elizabeth Bennet’s attitude towards Darcy and leads to her reappraisal of her first negative opinion of Mr. Darcy.

Harewood House, near Leeds in West Yorkshire, was the setting for Pemberley in the ITV fantasy series Lost in Austen.

 

The middle and end of the 19th century and Victorian literature saw a return to somber abodes, after a brief period of delightful Regency homes.

The Bronte sisters resumed the gothic atmosphere in their characters’ dwellings. Wuthering Heights is the name of the inhospitable farmhouse where the story unfolds, and Thrushcross Grange, where the pleasant Lintons lived, represents comfort, peace and refinement.

 

igh Sunderland Hall, near Halifax, West Yorkshire is considered by some as the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

 

Thornfield Hall, is the unforgettable gothic mansion which Jane Eyre describes thus on her arrival as governess:

‘I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.’

Thornfield was allegedly burnt down by Bertha Mason, the first Mrs. Rochester. Towards the end of the novel, Jane returns and finds it a ‘blackened ruin.’

 

Haddon Hall has appeared on television in 2006 as Thornfield Hall in Diederick Santer’s 2006 BBC version of Jane Eyre

In the sequel,  All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Richard Mason begins the narration by describing Eyre Hall, a house Jane Eyre rebuilt on the grounds of her beloved Thornfield Hall.

 

 

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‘The carriage swayed its way up the birch lined driveway towards Eyre Hall, tunnelling through the ghostly morning mist. The muggy air reeked of wilting foliage and soggy earth as the carriage halted abruptly, and the coachman closed and barred the heavy yard gates. The vehicle rocked as he leapt on, spurring the horses back into movement. Seconds later, I stepped out unsteadily onto crunchy gravel, adjusted my cloak and hat, and looked up to the rebuilt mansion for the first time.
Twenty-three years had passed since my last visit to another house in this same spot, when I was bitten by a raging lioness fighting to preserve her offspring and her reason.’

Eyre Hall has a central role in the novel, having witness the events which have occurred in the last twenty-two years, since Jane married Rochester. Eyre Hall will continue to witness the surprising events that will lead up to Rochester’s death, and thereafter.

Another unforgettable fictional dwelling is Satis House, the sinister mansion where Pip meets the spellbinding Estella, and the enigmatic Miss Havisham, is as powerful as any of the characters in Great Expectations.

According to the biographer John Forster, the novelist Charles Dickens, who lived nearby, used Restoration House as a model for Miss Havisham’s Satis House in Great Expectations

 

Manderlay, the house where Max de Winter lived with Rebecca, and his nameless second wife and narrator of Rebecca, is one of the most famous houses in 20th century literature, and one of the most memorable novels written by Daphne du Maurier.

Du Maurier’s Childhood visits to Milton Hall, Cambridgeshire, home of the Fitzwilliam family, influenced the descriptions of Manderley, especially the interior.

Brideshead Castle, where Lord Sebastian Flyte, the younger son of the aristocratic Lord Marchmain’s family mansion, takes his eccentric Oxford friends to meet his family, still breathes the atmosphere of pre-war England, while passively observing changing times, recreated by Evelyn Waugh, in 1945.

 

Harewood House, seen from the garden. It has featured in both the television and film versions of Brideshead Revisited
Not all novels are set in houses, and houses many not even be significant elements in a novel, but when the character’s abode is central to the action, it becomes one of the most enduring elements in the novel.

I hope that readers of All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Volume One of the Eyre Hall Trilogy will feel they have been walking along its corridors and up the stairs into the bed chambers, or sitting in the drawing room by the fireplace, or looking out of the windows towards the wintry landscape. Perhaps they even feel the ghosts of Thornfield lurking around, as Jenny Rosset, one of the characters says to Richard Mason:

‘I was at Thornfield, as you know, but I’ve never been to the new house. It’s in the same spooky place. I bet it’s full of them ghosts I heard at Thornfield. They live in the tree trunks and earth caves around the house. They whisper in the night, sometimes they come out and play mischief.’

 

Which are your favourite literary houses?

In case you don’t remember all their names, there is a much longer list of fictional houses here.