Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Charlotte Bronte, and thank you for Jane Eyre :)

Today is Charlotte Bronte's birthday. She was born in 1816 at Thornton, near Bradford in Yorkshire, a place close to my heart as I was born and bred nearby. When I pulled back the bedroom curtains every morning, I saw the same moors that the Brontes saw all around them during their lives.

If Charlotte had lived, she would be 195 today. A lot has changed in those years. Photography was only developed towards the end of her life, but how glad I am that it was possible before Charlotte died, because we now know what she looked like.

Contemporary sources describe her as plain, and portraits of her are not very attractive, but her photograph shows her to be a woman I consider pretty. Gone is the severe expression of the portrait, and in its place a softer face and expression. Charlotte's appearance, as well as her writing, it seems, was ahead of its time.

But although a lot has changed, a lot remains the same, and this is why we still love Jane Eyre, and the woman who wrote it, almost two hundred years after Charlotte's birth. We recognise our own inner lives and inner struggles in Charlotte's most famous heroine, our struggle to be ourselves no matter what the circumstances, and to find our own happy ending.

So what is about Jane Eyre that you love? Is it the romance, is it the mystery, is it the Gothic horror, is it Mr Rochester with his strong character, or is it Jane herself, with her indomitable will, or is it something else entirely?

Amanda Grange

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