Jane in love

Jane’s first full declaration of love for Rochester appears in the great Chapter 17 of Jane Eyre. The party is underway, Jane is watching over Adele while knitting in the shadows, decidedly not part of the group.

“He is not to them what he is to me,” I thought: “he is not of their kind.  I believe he is of mine;—I am sure he is—I feel akin to him—I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him.  Did I say, a few days since, that I had nothing to do with him but to receive my salary at his hands?  Did I forbid myself to think of him in any other light than as a paymaster?  Blasphemy against nature!  Every good, true, vigorous feeling I have gathers impulsively round him.  I know I must conceal my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannot care much for me.  For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not mean that I have his force to influence, and his spell to attract; I mean only that I have certain tastes and feelings in common with him.  I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever sundered:—and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him.”

How many novels does Jane Eyre surpass? Nearly all of them, all of the novels ever published and unpublished. The pleasure of re-reading Jane (and Jane) is to re-encounter two geniuses, Bronte’s and Jane’s; I maintain they are not the same thing. Bronte published four novels, two of which are considered great (Jane and Villette). Had Jane wrote more novels, all would be works of genius.

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Jane brain

Chapter 17 of Jane Eyre is filled with wisdom, Jane’s wisdom. Here she is coming round to knowing that Mr. Rochester is removed from her, not just absent from Thornfield Hall but from her standing in the world:

“You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, further than to receive the salary he gives you for teaching his protégée, and to be grateful for such respectful and kind treatment as, if you do your duty, you have a right to expect at his hands.  Be sure that is the only tie he seriously acknowledges between you and him; so don’t make him the object of your fine feelings, your raptures, agonies, and so forth.  He is not of your order: keep to your caste, and be too self-respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and strength, where such a gift is not wanted and would be despised.”

I love how smart Jane is–the paragraph above shows an active brain going full throttle.

Days later Rochester returns with a gaggle of party guests–Jane makes her way down to the galley for some food, and upon returning up the stairs spots some of the female guests. Note the detail and the reverence in Jane’s observation–and how Scott Fitzgerald might have been influenced by this bit when Nick Carraway first sees his cousin and her golfer friend:

Presently the chambers gave up their fair tenants one after another: each came out gaily and airily, with dress that gleamed lustrous through the dusk.  For a moment they stood grouped together at the other extremity of the gallery, conversing in a key of sweet subdued vivacity: they then descended the staircase almost as noiselessly as a bright mist rolls down a hill.  Their collective appearance had left on me an impression of high-born elegance, such as I had never before received.

 

Jane addiction

A great novel like Jane Eyre makes one question why one reads anything else. I picked up Jane a couple days ago and will likely reread it all, because it’s alive and fresh and better than anything published yesterday, today, or tomorrow. I don’t know the history of Jane, but I’d guess that it has always been well-received and admired. I love everything about it, and believe everything Jane says about life, grief, friendship and love. I’d know Helen Burns or Mr. Brocklehurst on sight if I saw them in the street.

Here’s a favorite bit of Jane from Chapter 10:

 

I sat up in bed by way of arousing this said brain: it was a chilly night; I covered my shoulders with a shawl, and then I proceeded to think again with all my might.

“What do I want?  A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces, under new circumstances: I want this because it is of no use wanting anything better.  How do people do to get a new place?  They apply to friends, I suppose: I have no friends.  There are many others who have no friends, who must look about for themselves and be their own helpers; and what is their resource?”

I could not tell: nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain to find a response, and quickly.  It worked and worked faster: I felt the pulses throb in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour it worked in chaos; and no result came of its efforts.  Feverish with vain labour, I got up and took a turn in the room; undrew the curtain, noted a star or two, shivered with cold, and again crept to bed.

A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required suggestion on my pillow; for as I lay down, it came quietly and naturally to my mind.—“Those who want situations advertise; you must advertise in the —shire Herald.”

“How?  I know nothing about advertising.”

Replies rose smooth and prompt now:—

“You must enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for it under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald; you must put it, the first opportunity you have, into the post at Lowton; answers must be addressed to J.E., at the post-office there; you can go and inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any are come, and act accordingly.”

This scheme I went over twice, thrice; it was then digested in my mind; I had it in a clear practical form: I felt satisfied, and fell asleep.

With earliest day, I was up: I had my advertisement written, enclosed, and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school; it ran thus:—