Novels of the Eighteen-Forties

By Kathleen Tillotson | Go to book overview

JANE EYRE

§ 1

Of the novels included here, Jane Eyre has the least relation to its time. That it has some relation (and more than Wuthering Heights) its contemporary success alone would show. But it is not, like Dombey and Son and Mary Barton, a novel of contemporary life,1 nor, like Vanity Fair, a novel of a recent and specific past, impinging on the present. Such social commentary as it may offer is oblique, limited, incidental. It is both in purpose and effect primarily a novel of the inner life, not of man in his social relations; it maps a private world. Private, but not eccentric. Jane Eyre is now read by thousands who have no idea of its period, many of them even too young2 or too unsophisticated for clear discrimination of past from present, imaginary from actual; who devour it, unaware of difficulties, unconscious of any need for adaptation to unfamiliar manners or conventions. And this is a part, perhaps the vital part, of the response of all its readers. The further enlightenment which the more conscious or conscientious may draw from close analysis, from knowledge of biography, social context, and literary

____________________
1
See above, pp. 95-96.
2
No Victorian novel is so apt to be read in early youth; and this has honourable precedent: Thackeray's daughters had 'taken it without leave, read bits here and read bits there, been carried away by [a] . . . whirlwind'; Saintsbury read it 'so early that I never seem to have read it for the first time'. ( A. T. Ritchie, Chapters from Some Memoirs, 1894, p. 61; B.S.T., vol. ii, pt. ix, p. 20).

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Novels of the Eighteen-Forties
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Contents xi
  • Note on Editions and References xii
  • Abbreviated Titles - Of Works Frequently Referred To xiii
  • Part I Introductory 1
  • Part II Four Novels 157
  • Mary Barton 202
  • Vanity Fair 224
  • Jane Eyre 257
  • Appendix I 314
  • Appendix II 316
  • Appendix III 318
  • Index 319
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