Wednesday, 23 March 2016

International Women’s Day

Was on March the 8th, and I’m afraid I didn’t mark it in any way. Here, to make up for it, is what has long been my favourite passage from Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’, published in 1847. But first, in case you didn’t know it, the Brontë sisters sent the manuscripts of their first novels to the London publisher John Murray under male pseudonyms, fearing they might be ignored as women. Murray liked what he read and wrote to the sisters asking them to come and see him. At that point they felt they must ‘confess’. To his credit, (and I know a number of things to his eternal discredit), Murray responded that he couldn’t give a nun’s wimple what sex they were, come anyway. And of course he published ‘Jane Eyre’ and, I believe, several other of the Brontë novels. Here, anyway, is that passage from ‘Jane Eyre’:


"I tell you I must go!" I retorted, roused to something like passion.  "Do

you think I can stay to become nothing to you?  Do you think I am an

automaton?--a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of

bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my

cup?  Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am

soulless and heartless?  You think wrong!--I have as much soul as

you,--and full as much heart!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty

and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it

is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the

medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;--it is my

spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the

grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal,--as we are!"
This is Jane's first meeting with Rochester,
when neither knows who the other is.

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