ay before the Kindle even existed and e-books were generally unheard of, my Mam had given me a game for my Nintendo DS that deepened my love affair with 19th century storytelling.
The name of the game was “100 Classical Books”, and I spent my daily commute to Munich for school with Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters. And, while I love Jane Austen and Charles Dickens – it was particularly the Bronte sisters that stuck with me.
Reading The Professor, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre [amongst others] deeply resonated with me back then – and today. Where Austen is often ladylike in her subtlety, humorously ironic and pleasurably romantic, the Bronte’s are angry, shockingly passionate, and demanding.
My sixteen year-old self, was particularly drawn to Charlotte Bronte and her “poor, plain, overlooked governess” (Harman 2015, 227), who makes for a very unconventional heroine. After reading Claire Harman’s book “Charlotte Bronte: A Life” recently, my love for Jane and compassion for Charlotte has only deepened.
I am a firm believer that every creator leaves parts of themselves in their creations that transforms their work into little time capsules. Their emotions, their thoughts, their experiences, their favourite colours and smells – through their work we are able to experience little moments of life, even after the creators have long passed.
What has always appealed to me in the character of Jane Eyre, was her strength as a woman to stand for her own opinions and decisions, but also her willingness to believe that she was worthy of love – even if she could not boast of beauty.
Like her heroine, Charlotte and her sisters believed that no matter how horrible and humiliating the outside world was, “it was preferable to the state of feminine inertia” (ibid., 87). I think many women can appreciate that point of view even today.
That’s why, for Charlotte’s birthday today on the 21st of April, I wanted to do something in not only her honour, but in appreciation of the woman she created: Jane Eyre.
Jane Eyre was the first fictitious woman I consciously was aware of who expressed her rage and who’s anger was allowed to “rush through the narrative of her life like the storm winds […]” (ibid., 226). As a woman who was unable to honestly express her anger and true emotions for a very long time – she is a great inspiration to me.
However, after reading Charlotte’s biography, I also know that she carries the ghost of Charlotte within her: The suffering, the misery, the defiant anger at the world and the role of women in it – the hope for a life lived in alignment with her vocation.
It’s all of this – and so much more that I cannot express – that I want to acknowledge and appreciate today, and with this illustration.
Happy Birthday Charlotte, and thank you for the heroine that has accompanied me ever since I tapped on your book on my Nintendo DS.
If you are a Jane Eyre lover as much as I am and want to take home a print, then have a look in my Etsy Shop here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/526292623/charlotte-brontes-jane-eyre-illustration?ref=shop_home_active_1