Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2018-09-01
  • Publisher: Connell Publishing
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Jane Eyre, published on 16th October 1847, was an instant popular success. More than 150 years later, it still powerfully affects its readers with all the charge of a new-minted work. It is easy to forget, now, how shocking it was to its mid-19th century readers. Virtually every early reviewer felt obliged either to condemn or defend its impropriety. As Josie Billington reminds us in this compelling guide, the most savage reviews denounced the “coarseness” of language, the “unfeminine” laxity of moral tone, and the “dereliction of decorum” which made its hero cruel, brutal, yet attractively interesting, while permitting its plain, poor, single heroine to live under same roof as the man she loved. What caused most outrage, perhaps, was the demonstrable rebellious anger in the heroine’s “unregenerate and undisciplined spirit”, her being a passionate law unto herself. “Never was there a better hater. Every page burns with moral Jacobinism,” wrote an early critic. As the poet Matthew Arnold was to say of Brontë’s “disagreeable” final novel, Villette, “the writer’s mind contains nothing but hunger, rebellion and rage”. In this book Josie Billington looks at the passion and indeed rage which filled Bronte, and shows us that, though sometimes criticised for melodrama, this is a novel of great intellectual seriousness, moral integrity and depth of feeling. She quotes George Henry Lewis: “It is soul speaking to soul; it is an utterance from the depths of a struggling, suffering, much-enduring spirit.

Author Biography

Dr Josie Billington is a Victorian Literature specialist in the School of English at University of Liverpool and has published widely on nineteenth-century fiction and poetry, including Faithful Realism(2002), Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters (2006), Eliot's Middlemarch (2008), Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Shakespeare (2012). In her role as Deputy Director of the Centre for Reading Research at University of Liverpool she is studying the value of serious literature as a power for good in modern life - a pursuit which, she dares to think, George Eliot might have endorsed.

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