Charlotte Brontë and I Can’t Agree on Everything

Bronte vs AustenJane Austen’s admirers are a diverse bunch, from Chief Justice John Marshall to my husband (finally!). I’ve learned recently, however, that I cannot count Charlotte Brontë as a member of the 200-year-old “Austen Admiration Society.”

Between volumes of Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, which I’m reading as part of Beth’s read-along, I have been perusing—and I mean part 1(a) of this “Janus word’s” definitionCharlotte Brontë: Selected Letters (edited by Margaret Smith). Brontë said this to George Henry Lewes, a literary critic and philosopher, in 1848:

What induced you to say you would rather have written “Pride and Prejudice”… I had not seen “Pride and Prejudice” till I read that sentence of yours, and then I got the book and studied it. And what did I find? An accurate daguerreotyped portrait of a common-place face; a carefully-fenced, highly cultivated garden with neat borders and delicate flowers—but no glance of a bright vivid physiognomy—no open country—no fresh air—no blue hill—no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen in their elegant but confined houses. These observations will probably irritate you, but I shall run the risk.

That isn’t her only swipe at Austen in this selection of letters. It seems few novelists of this era impressed Charlotte, who fourteen years earlier recommended to her good friend Ellen Nussey that, “For fiction—read Scott alone all novels after his are worthless.” I assume she meant Sir Walter Scott, who, as it turns out, was actually a Jane Austen fan.

Oh well. Charlotte Brontë and I can’t agree on Austen, but I do think we’d probably have been of the same opinion about her books.

Happy Friday! What are you reading this weekend?

PS. Don’t forget to participate in my Villette-inspired GIVEAWAY!  [See details here]

20 thoughts on “Charlotte Brontë and I Can’t Agree on Everything

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  4. Miss Alexandrina

    Interesting. I guess that shows how diverse readership and opinion was, even in Austen and Bronte’s time!

  5. It’s been many years since I picked up any sci-fi but I’m enjoying Rohan & Alex Healy’s ‘Gyaros Book 1 – The Mice Eat Iron’ Just goes to show YAs can be any age.

    1. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I used to read a lot of sci fi when I was teenager, but I’ve almost completely lost my taste for it (though I will pick up an occasional sci fi book just for the variety). I hope you had a nice weekend!

  6. I recently finished Mockingbird which was fabulous. It’s about a girl with Asperger’s dealing with the death of her brother. It’s from the girl’s point of view and I found it fascinating to learn a little more about Asperger’s that way. But going to read Chime and have no idea what to expect. First chapter was pretty engaging though.

    1. Mockingbird sounds very interesting. Have you read Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World? It features a teenager with an Aspergers-like condition. I really liked it (it’s young adult).

  7. From what I have read of Charlotte Bronte, she seems rather snobbish, not even supportive of the writings of her own sisters. I am in between books at the moment, but looking forward to the grand re-opening of our local library this weekend and getting started on my summer reading list.

    1. Bronte does come across as rather snobbish in some of these letters, though she seems supportive of her sisters (in these letters, at least). The parts that surprised me the most were when she spoke so openly about how she didn’t particularly like the families that hired her as a governess (it really wasn’t the right occupation for her!). I hope the grand re-opening of your local library was fun and that you have a pile of new books to read.

  8. I’m in the middle of a riotous, very funny novel called “Gulliver Takes Manhattan.” Not for the faint of heart, and the author definitely needed to format his book and hire an editor, but hilarious and full of sharp observations about the gay scene in NYC. This is just about as far from “classic” as you can get.

    1. It sounds good! I ended up doing no reading over the weekend (which is pretty unusual for me) because I was out of town. I’m feeling very behind this week.

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