Unmasked at Last, the Real Jane Eyre; She Was a Teacher Who Fell for a Surgeon, and Their Love Conquered All

Article excerpt


FOR 150 years, readers have believed the heroine of the great romantic novel Jane Eyre was an invented character based loosely on the author herself, Charlotte Bront.

But research by a retired teacher suggests she was actually modelled on a real woman - Frances Jane Eyre.

The revelation has set the literary world buzzing and given a new twist to one of literature's most studied works.

According to the research - published in the specialist journal Bront Society Transactions - the real Jane Eyre was a teacher and member of a religious sect in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Its author, Margaret Connor, started delving into the character's history when she was researching her own family background in church records.

She unearthed the story of this teacher's love affair with a surgeon and how gossip about the relationship probably reached the Bront household via mutual friends.

Indeed, the story of the real Jane Eyre's love bears some similarity to that of her fictional namesake.

In the novel, dramatised by LWT this year with Samantha Morton in the starring role, our heroine falls for her dashing suitor, Mr Rochester. But their love cannot be - because he has a wife.

They marry in the end, but only after Mr Rochester has been blinded in a fire.

Nothing so dramatic happened to the Miss Eyre who lived in a Moravian religious settlement in Fulneck, Leeds. She met and fell in love with a surgeon from nearby Pudsey called Machill.

At first, their relationship was stifled because she was reluctant to sacrifice her career as a teacher at the church school. But in the end they, too, married and lived happily ever after. …