Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte
Novels
22:09 h
Level 9
Jane Eyre /ɛər/ (originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography) is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë, published under the pen name "Currer Bell". Jane Eyre follows the experiences of its eponymous heroine, including her growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, the brooding master of Thornfield Hall. The novel revolutionised prose fiction by being the first to focus on its protagonist's moral and spiritual development through an intimate first-person narrative, where actions and events are coloured by a psychological intensity. Charlotte Brontë has been called the "first historian of the private consciousness".

Jane Eyre

by
Charlotte Bronte


Chapter I

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had beenwandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; butsince dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the coldwinter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain sopenetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.

I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chillyafternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, withnipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie,the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority toEliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.

The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their mamain the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and withher darlings about her (for the time neither quarrelling nor crying)looked perfectly happy. Me, she had dispensed from joining the group;saying, “She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at adistance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could discover by herown observation, that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire amore sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightlymanner — something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were — she reallymust exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy,little children.”

“What does Bessie say I have done?” I asked.

“Jane, I don’t like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is somethingtruly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner. Beseated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent.”

A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there. Itcontained a bookcase: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking carethat it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk; and, havingdrawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in doubleretirement.

Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the leftwere the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from thedrear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves of mybook, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered apale blank of mist and cloud; near a scene of wet lawn and storm-beatshrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long andlamentable blast.

I returned to my book — Bewick’s History of British Birds: the letterpressthereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there werecertain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quiteas a blank. They were those which treat of the haunts of sea-fowl; of“the solitary rocks and promontories” by them only inhabited; of thecoast of Norway, studded with isles from its southern extremity, theLindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape —

“Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,
Boils round the naked, melancholy isles
Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge
Pours in among the stormy Hebrides.”

Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of Lapland,Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with “the vastsweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of dreary space, — thatreservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields of ice, the accumulationof centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine heights above heights, surroundthe pole, and concentre the multiplied rigours of extreme cold.” Ofthese death-white realms I formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like allthe half-comprehended notions that float dim through children’s brains,but strangely impressive. The words in these introductory pagesconnected themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significanceto the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the brokenboat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly moon glancingthrough bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.

I cannot tell what sentiment haunted the quite solitary churchyard, withits inscribed headstone; its gate, its two trees, its low horizon,girdled by a broken wall, and its newly-risen crescent, attesting thehour of eventide.

The two ships becalmed on a torpid sea, I believed to be marine phantoms.

The fiend pinning down the thief’s pack behind him, I passed overquickly: it was an object of terror.

So was the black horned thing seated aloof on a rock, surveying a distantcrowd surrounding a gallows.

Each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undevelopedunderstanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting: asinteresting as the tales Bessie sometimes narrated on winter evenings,when she chanced to be in good humour; and when, having brought herironing-table to the nursery hearth, she allowed us to sit about it, andwhile she got up Mrs. Reed’s lace frills, and crimped her nightcapborders, fed our eager attention with passages of love and adventuretaken from old fairy tales and other ballads; or (as at a later period Idiscovered) from the pages of Pamela, and Henry, Earl of Moreland.