Why did Charlotte Bronte go to such great lengths on the publication of her acclaimed, best-selling novel, Jane Eyre , to conceal its authorship from her family, close friends, and the press? In The Secret History of Jane Eyre , John Pfordresher tells the enthralling story of Bronte's compulsion to write her masterpiece and why she then turned around and vehemently disavowed it.Read more...
Why did Charlotte Bronte go to such great lengths on the publication of her acclaimed, best-selling novel, Jane Eyre, to conceal its authorship from her family, close friends, and the press? In The Secret History of Jane Eyre, John Pfordresher tells the enthralling story of Bronte's compulsion to write her masterpiece and why she then turned around and vehemently disavowed it.
Few people know how quickly Bronte composed Jane Eyre. Nor do many know that she wrote it during a devastating and anxious period in her life. Thwarted in her passionate, secret, and forbidden love for a married man, she found herself living in a home suddenly imperiled by the fact that her father, a minister, the sole support of the family, was on the brink of blindness. After his hasty operation, as she nursed him in an isolated apartment kept dark to help him heal his eyes, Bronte began writing Jane Eyre, an invigorating romance that, despite her own fears and sorrows, gives voice to a powerfully rebellious and ultimately optimistic woman's spirit.
The Secret History of Jane Eyre expands our understanding of both Jane Eyre and the inner life of its notoriously private author. Pfordresher connects the people Bronte knew and the events she lived to the characters and story in the novel, and he explores how her fecund imagination used her inner life to shape one of the world's most popular novels.
By aligning his insights into Bronte's life with the timeless characters, harrowing plot, and forbidden romance of Jane Eyre, Pfordresher reveals the remarkable parallels between one of literature's most beloved heroines and her passionate creator, and arrives at a new understanding of Bronte's brilliant, immersive genius.
- ISBN-13: 9780393248876
- ISBN-10: 0393248879
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
- Publish Date: June 2017
- Page Count: 256
- Dimensions: 9.56 x 6.56 x 0.88 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-02-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Pfordresher (Jesus and the Emergence of a Catholic Imagination), an English professor at Georgetown University, suggests that Charlotte Brontës beloved novel Jane Eyre draws its deep emotional power from the way she refashioned her own losses and frustrations into her heroines triumph. This book is a narrative of that transformation, essentially a biography of Brontë as told through the events of her novel. Pfordresher makes his way with anecdotal ease through his subjects life, generously acknowledging his debt to previous biographies, letter collections, and Brontës juvenilia. He doesnt quite resolve a paradox of Jane Eyre: Brontë claimed she was not her heroine, but the novel was titled an autobiography, and she insisted on its truth. The psychologizing, speculation, and parallel-hunting are interesting and occasionally haunting; for example, Pfordresher finds Brontës dead sisters in the character of Janes best friend, Helen Burns. But the biographical interpretation occasionally confuses the writer with her creation and ultimately limits the novel to a wishful righting of Brontës childhood torments, unhappy work as a governess, and painful, unrequited passion for Constantin Heger. Fans of the novel will enjoy this behind-the-scenes investigation into Jane Eyre and the imagination of its author, but the parallels it produces arent enough on their own to explain the enduring fascination of Brontës work. (June)
The woman behind the words
The Brontë sisters were publicity shy. The three writers used masculine pseudonyms both to overcome the bias against female authors and to preserve their privacy as the respectable, unmarried adult daughters of an Anglican clergyman. Charlotte even continued to use her nom de plume well after the death of her sisters and the critical success of her novels. She also vehemently denied that she served as the model for her most famous heroine, Jane Eyre—even publicly scolding William Makepeace Thackeray for introducing her as “Jane Eyre.” And yet, despite these protestations, Charlotte acknowledged that every emotion that Jane experiences in the novel was also experienced by her creator.
Jane Eyre, which is subtitled “An Autobiography,” is, in many ways, also an autobiography of Charlotte Brontë. Rochester is based in part on Charlotte’s great unrequited love, Constantin Héger, and Charlotte’s sister Maria was the model for doomed little Helen Burns. But in The Secret History of Jane Eyre, John Pfordresher explores how Jane Eyre is more than a superficially autobiographical novel; it is a complex emotional self-portrait of the author. Pfordresher, a professor of English at Georgetown University, is obviously a great admirer of Charlotte, and he uses her letters, earlier work and life experiences to explore his topic. But he also uses the novel itself as a kind of treasure map to find where Charlotte has hidden herself in Jane’s story. In an especially interesting section, Pfordresher uses his expertise in Victorian art to show how Jane’s drawings, as described in the novel, express Charlotte’s deep and turbulent emotional life. The moon, used in many key scenes, is symbolic of Charlotte’s yearning for the mother taken from her at a young age.
This is a fascinating and authoritative book, written with intelligence, wit and affection, and full of surprises. Reader, I recommend it.