Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gothic Romance and Unlikely Endings

Charlotte Brontë, having been a mousy little governess for many years, knew well the limitations of women in her situation. Each passing year, and her social isolation, lowered her chances of meeting a marriage partner. With more than a rudimentary education, a vocation that encouraged the attainment of knowledge and critical thinking, and the psychological ability to live independently, she was not likely to find someone who would appreciate her inner self enough to dismiss all her social shortcomings. But in her imagination, anything was possible. Just think of all the books that have been written since Jane Eyre, in which an ordinary girl like you or me finds herself at an impressively dark and brooding castle or manor house, presided over by an equally dark and brooding (and invariably attractive) man, and, after a series of nerve-wracking adventures, finds that this man wants only her. His distant, moody arrogance masked a lonely heart in which only she had found a way to set up home. (Sigh!) As a teenager, my favorite author of that genre was Victoria Holt, which was one of the many pen names of Eleanor Hibbert. She was also Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr, writing historical fiction.

Here we have Dolly and Minerva attending a party at Thornfield, Mr. Rochester's home. Edward and Jane are married, much to the chagrin of Blanche Ingram. Of course, Thornfield, at that point was burned and abandoned, and Edward was blind and blighted by scandal. Jane could have only made a life with him in that state; never as mistress of Thornfield.

Here's a factoid: Did you know that Charlotte Brontë was about 4'9" or 4'10" in height? Even in those days, she was considered exceptionally small. Her sister Emily was about 5'6".

Sources: room (Cooper-Hewitt Collection), ladies, Mr. Rochester, naughty couple, man in blue, man in black.

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