INTRODUCTION

There are a few novels that stand alone, without ancestry, without affinity in literature. One of the few is "Jane Eyre", a book that has had innumerable descendants, but no traceable descent.

Charlotte Brontë was not shaped by any influence that we can discover among her predecessors and contemporaries. Out of her curious and varied reading she formed a style exclusively and inimitably her own, and sent forth from her remote Yorkshire village a book only less wonderful than "Wuthering Heights".

To realise its unique and startling quality it should be remembered that Jane Eyre was written in 1846-7, and published in the same year as "Vanity Fair". Mrs. Gaskell's "Mary Barton" had not then appeared. George Eliot did not begin to write till about ten years later. A great gulf divided Charlotte Brontë from Jane Austen. Jane Austen would probably not have appreciated Charlotte Brontë. We know that Charlotte did not appreciate Jane. She asks George Henry Lewes, "Why do you like Miss Austen so very much?" She cannot see why. She finds her only "shrewd and observant," and asks again: "Can there be a great artist without poetry?" There is something alien and unsympathetic to her in Jane Austen's finish and reserve. She has no patience with her exquisite art. For her it is finished because there is no more behind it, and reserved because the best part of life is kept out of it. For Charlotte Brontë the best part of life is the passion that exalts and transfigures it. Passion is poetry: poetry is passion. It is the truth of men and women. Some people have none of this truth in them, such are Jane Austen's ladies and gentlemen. To Charlotte they were not real people.

To be sure there are in Jane Austen two exponents of passion, Lydia Bennett and Mrs. Rushworth. She uses her Lydia very effectively to show what a vulgar thing passion is. Of Mrs. Rushworth she says less, intimating that the less said the better.

-v-

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Jane Eyre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • A List of the Principal Books on the Brontë Family xiii
  • Preface xvii
  • Note to the Third Edition xx
  • Illustrations xxi
  • Chapter I 1
  • Chapter II 6
  • Chapter III 12
  • Chapter IV 20
  • Chapter VI 34
  • Chapter VI 46
  • Chapter VII 54
  • Chapter VIII 62
  • Chapter IX 70
  • Chapter X 77
  • Chapter XI 88
  • Chapter XII 103
  • Chapter XIII 113
  • Chapter XIV 124
  • Chapter XV 136
  • Chapter XVI 148
  • Chapter XVII 157
  • Chapter XVIII 177
  • Chapter XIX 192
  • Chapter XX 202
  • Chapter XXI 217
  • Chapter XXII 239
  • Chapter XXIII 246
  • Chapter XXIV 256
  • Chapter XXV 274
  • Chapter XXVI 286
  • Chapter XXVII 296
  • Chapter XXVIII 322
  • Chapter XXIX 339
  • Chapter XXXI 350
  • Chapter XXXI 359
  • Chapter XXXII 367
  • Chapter XXXIII 378
  • Chapter XXXIV 391
  • Chapter XXXV 413
  • Chapter XXXVI 424
  • Chapter XXXVII 433
  • Conclusion 453
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