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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Jane Eyre

Author and Title: Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre: An Autobiography

First Edition: London: Smith, Elder, 1847. 3 volumes, post 8vo., 31s. 6d.

Summary: "Edited by Currer Bell." The ten-years-old Jane Erye is the orphaned daughter of a poor clergyman and she lives with her widowed aunt Mrs. Reed and her three odious children. She strikes her cousin John after he provokes her and her aunt sends her away to Lowood Institute, a charity school operated by the cruel Mr. Brocklehurst (based on Brontë's experiences at Cowen Bridge school). Before she leaves, Jane confronts her aunt, condemns her treatment at her hands, and denounces her children as liars. At Lowood, Jane endures physical and spiritual hardships due to the poor conditions at the school. After a typhus outbreak at the school exposes these conditions, Brocklehurst is replace and conditions improve. Meantime, Jane learns to temper her behavior through the example of the saintly classmate Helen Burns and the kind teacher Miss Temple. When her schooling comes to an end, she takes a job as governess at Thornfield Hall to a young French girl Adele Varens. She soon meets Adele's guardian and master of the house Edward Rochester and the two spend many hours together in frank conversations. The house exhibits strange sounds, such as a coarse laugh, and events, such as a fire in Rochester's room and an attack on a guest. Over time, Jane admits to herself her love for Rochester, however he seems more interested in the rich and beautiful Blanche Ingram. Nevertheless, Rochester proposes to Jane. On the eve of the wedding Jane dreams a strange woman sneaks into her room and rips her wedding veil. When she wakes, she finds the veil has been ripped—an act (along with the laughter) Rochester attributes to a drunken servant Grace Poole. At the wedding, Mr. Mason interrupts the ceremony to reveal that Rochester has a wife still living. Back at Thornfield, Rochester confesses and introduces his mad wife Bertha Mason. After their marriage in Jamaica, Bertha became mad and Rochester brought her to England to be nursed in the attic by Grace Poole. Rochester wishes Jane to remain as his mistress, but she refuses and runs away. Wandering across the moor, she finds refuge with the Rivers siblings: the Rev. St. John Rivers and his sisters Diana and Mary. In time, St. John reveals they are cousins, children of her father's sister, and she has inherited a fortune from her uncle John Eyre. Happy now to have a family, Jane divides the money between the four cousins. St. John plans to go to India as a missionary and proposes to Jane. She refuses and hears the voice of Rochester calling to her across the moor. Jane returns to Thornfield and finds it burned down. She learns that Bertha started the fire and committed suicide and that Rochester was injured in his attempt to save her. Rochester and Jane reunite and marry. (TJB)

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References: EC; Sutherland; Wolff


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