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Jane Eyre: An Autobiography
Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you,—and full as much heart!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;—it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,—as we are!
— Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte

It's hard to imagine that such a statement could rock the Victorian world, but the critics of the day nearly popped their corsets while reading Jane Eyre. As Elizabeth Rigby (later Lady Eastlake), British author and critic put it, "We do not hesitate to say that the tone of mind and thought which has overthrown authority and violated every code human and divine abroad, and fostered Chartism and rebellion at home, is the same which has also written Jane Eyre." And just in case she needed to drive home the point the character of Jane Eyre was labeled a "vulgar-minded woman".

However, like any book noted for its shocking content, Jane Eyre was a smashing hit with Victorian readers.

Charlotte Brontë began writing Jane Eyre as she sat in a darkened room in the industrial Northern England town of Manchester. Her father had just come through cataract surgery. In 1846 such an operation was not a simple snip and out the door procedure as it is today. Patrick was confined to bed in a darkened room for a month, giving his daughter plenty of time to weave her story of gothic romance, mystery and passion.

The Enhanced Classic Jane Eyre

Jane Eye: An Autobiography, is not a story about Charlotte Brontë’s life, but like most authors her writing was influenced by the time in which she lived and her experiences. This Enhanced Classic looks at those moments of association by blending audio, video, images and explanatory text within the novel. Selected media also sheds light on themes and symbolism throughout the book.

Even if you’ve already read Jane Eyre, this multi-media annotation of the novel will not only give you a greater understanding of Brontë’s work, but quite possibly, a chance to get to know Charlotte, a woman who pushed the Victorian boundaries of "custom and conventionalities".

Download the Enhanced Classic Jane Eyre and tell us what you think. It's free!
Anne Dinsdale
Collections Manager
Brontë Parsonage Museum
Author of many books on the Brontës
Sandra Gilbert
Distinguished Professor of English Emerita
Unversity of California, Davis
Co-author of Madwoman in the Attic
Jaqueline Padgett
Associate Professor of English
Trinity College, Washington, DC
French Translations