Page:Life and Works of the Sisters Bronte - Volume I.djvu/17
ishing in the effort. She showed them to us oppressed by poverty and by daily contact with a vicious brother, and yet, through it all, remaining dutiful, loving, and virtuous, as the good English public likes them to be: she describes the deaths the piteous deaths of two of the sisters in the very moment, or on the very threshold, of success, and, finally, her narrative brought us to the death of Charlotte herself Charlotte snatched from happiness and from motherhood, after one brief year of married life : and so skilful is the tell- ing, so touching the story, that the great English heart goes out to it, and forthwith the Bronte books must be books of genius, because the Brontes are so interesting and their story so tragic.'
Perhaps this explanation is put forward to account rather for the continuance of the Brontes' fame than for their origi- nal success. Such a critic would admit that 'Jane Eyre' is at least a vivid and exciting story; that 'Villette' has at least passages of extraordinary brilliance: but he will obsti- nately maintain, none the less, that other books, now forgot- ten, have had as much, and that the Bronte ' legend ' has unfairly strengthened the claim of the Bronte stories upon posterity.
Let us see how such a contention stands in the case of ' Jane Eyre.' ' Jane Eyre ' to run through a summary of the plot is the story of an orphan girl, reared at a Charity School amid many hardships, going out into the world as a governess, and falling in love with her employer, Mr. Roch- ester. She yields herself to her own passion and to his masterful love-making with an eager, an over-eager abandon- ment. The wedding-day is fixed ; the small marriage party assembles. But in the very church, and at the moment of the ceremony, it is revealed to Jane Eyre that Mr. Rochester has a wife living, a frenzied lunatic who has been confined for months in a corner of the same house where she and Rochester have had their daily dwelling; that Rochester has deliberately entrapped her, and that she stands on the edge of an abyss. The marriage party breaks up in confu- sion; and Rochester's next endeavour is to persuade the