11 March 2005

Charlotte on a different Jane

Yesterday, Maud posted about Charlotte Brontë's opinion of Jane Austen. Brontë's impatience with Austen has always made me smile. They're such different writers: the former with her passionate yet contained wildness, the latter with her sharp gaze and sly wit. I wonder what Austen would've thought of Jane Eyre?


On this day in 1853, stirred by a reading of Charlotte Brontë's latest novel, Villette, William Makepeace Thackeray recorded these thoughts in his diary:

"The poor little woman of genius! The fiery eager brave tremulous homely-faced creature! I can read a great deal of her life as I fancy her in her book, and see that rather than have fame, rather than any other earthly good or mayhap heavenly one she wants some Tomkins or another to love her and be in love with. But you see she is a little bit of a creature without a penny worth of good looks, …and no Tomkins will come. You girls with pretty faces… will get dozens of young fellows fluttering about you – whereas here is one genius, a noble heart longing to mate itself and destined to wither away into old maidenhood with no chance to fulfil the burning desire."

Thackeray had met Brontë, but he could not have known that she had rejected a marriage proposal from Arthur Bell Nicholls three months previously. When Nicholls proposed a second time, in April, 1854, he was accepted, though Brontë died within a year of their marriage.

Hmph. Although I know why she defended him, sometimes you gotta wonder. (Then again, that could be my chronological snobbery talking.)

(Via Today in Literature)

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