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The Professor

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This is the first novel that Charlotte Brontë completed. Rejected by the publisher who took on the work of her sisters in 1846--Anne's Agnes Grey and Emily's Wuthering Heights--it remained unpublished until 1857, two years after Charlotte's death. Like Villette (1853), The Professor is based on Charlotte's experiences as a language student in Brussels in 1842. Told from the point of view of William Crimsworth, the only male narrator that she used, this work formulated a new aesthetic that questioned many of the presuppositions of Victorian society. Brontë's hero escapes from a humiliating clerkship in a Yorkshire mill to find work as a teacher in Belgium, where he falls in love with an impoverished student-teacher, who is perhaps the author's most realistic feminist heroine. The Professor endures today as both a harbinger of Brontë's later novels and a compelling read in its own right.


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The characters define this story. Charlotte Bronte did a very good job of defining them, especially the main character William Crimsworth. He is a reserved man, but has compassion, though some say he does not. I'd also say that he is an observer of character, and learns about others through his own study and watchfulness. He studies their expressions to understand them better. He is a man of thinking, and very dutiful and faithful in his tasks. Overall, I really enjoyed his character, and the simple romance of this book. I finished it in about two or three days, so that should say how I liked it. There is a lot of French in this book, and I had to translate it, just to warn you.--Submitted by Anonymous


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The Professor: an Introduction by a Prejudiced Writer who used to avoid reading Charlotte Brontë.

For those who have enjoyed Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë, for those who thought Jane Eyre remarkably well written yet somehow a little too overrated, Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor is the sort of book that compiles meticulous yet tolerable narrative style with a very down-to-earth, sometimes dauntingly realistic plot. There are no great outbursts of passion coming out of the protagonist’s mouth; not even when he is feeling it does he dare express passion at its fullness. And yet The Professor somehow makes the reader feel his passion; it makes the reader feel pain, financial hardship, moral sacrifice, and, eventually, pure, honest, even shy love. For even when the main character himself, Mr. Wakefield, hardly ever succumbs to evidencing his own feelings in front of other characters—among whom are his heartless brother and vain Miss Reuter—even then, Charlotte Brontë somehow leads the reader to guess at her character’s thoughts, to predict his morals before he has appealed to his manners.

If this is your first approach to Charlottë Brontë, I ought to say “beware of descriptions.” They can be long, and they can seem uninteresting at first glance. Yes, she can give the false impression of dwelling more on landscape than on characterization. However, the psyche of each and every character is, in fact, very well worked out and to such an extent that one might even trust that all such things as are unravelled in the novel did happen—still happen—, and that all such people did really exist in mid Victorian England.

A highly recommended life story for those who happen to feel daunted from time to time by the pangs of a disappointed working routine, family affairs and perhaps love life, The Professor doesn’t depict the insufferable events with which an honourable man has to deal in vain: on the contrary, it portrays the true source of our many disappointments in daily life; it shows how the wheel of fortune is not to be trusted, neither when it comes to our favour nor when it fails to feed us and we hardly manage to make ends meet. Had The Professor been written by Dickens, one could wonder at its title being plausibly replaced by Hard Times. Had it been written by Jane Austen, its plot would probably have suited the essence of Mansfield Park’s. But such as it is, it was written by Charlotte Brontë. And by G—, it’s worth reading.--Submitted by Delfina Morganti. Translator, Interpreter and Author.





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The Professor

Charlotte Bronte’s “The Professor” is not an easy to read novel. It is at times slow and repetitive. The main character, William Crimsworth, is quite hateful and, overall, a loser. He is chauvinistic and describes Catholics and other continental citizens (i.e. people not from England) from a racist and self-righteous perspective. All through the novel we have to endure his “morally superior” narrative. But here lies the beauty of it, what he is really doing is concealing himself, hiding behind imposed Anglican values when convenient or criticizing those values when rejected by his reduced English society. He doesn’t want to show the world that he has been hurt by this rejection and abandonment, including by his own brother, who is his sole living relative. Therefore he takes the stance that he is above everyone and above reproach, whereas the rest aren’t up-to-standard. He becomes rather boring and so closed into this self-protection that he turns artificially self-reliable, not even being able to thank the only person who helps him throughout his stay at X_____ and later on, M. Hundsen, whom he puts down as well. Then he goes on to Brussels where, probably because of his hatefulness of character, he feels rejected once more by his friend and superior, M. Pelet, and the woman he makes the object of his love, if only briefly. Both of them betray him through lies and hypocrisy and Crimsworth extrapolates this as a common trait of all continental people and Catholics. He then falls in love with his pupil, Frances Henri, a fellow teacher and strong woman who wants to rise above her condition by her hard work. He projects in her all his ideals of what a woman should be: her propriety, her humbleness and religiousness. At the beginning, she appears as a mousy creature, easily moved to tears, but, as her personality unfolds, she turns out to be a strong woman, quite feminist, probably a reflection of Charlotte Bronte herself. I think that Crimsworth falls in love with her even more since she probably is all that he is not: where he runs away from adversity, as he did when he came to Brussels, she turns to face her fears; where he received help to improve in life (something he is incapable of admitting), she finds her improvement and escapes her poverty through her own means and strength; where he never confronts M. Hundsen’s questionable character, she does so, very strongly, in their first meeting. In all, the author uses the great contrast to highly criticize Crimsworth, representing men and all of the restraining morals of the time. Both he and Frances, coming from the same type of loneliness, deal with adversity in almost opposite ways. Bronte makes her main character, a man, very unlikeable, but introduces the female counterpart in a way that makes you like her, if not from the start, at least as her character comes to light. I have read many reviews saying that this novel is racist and chauvinistic, but it is not. On the contrary, it seems more of an explanation of why people are xenophobic and self-righteous: because of acute loneliness that comes from rejection, isolation and misunderstanding. As Frances Henri herself says: “Patriotism spreads a man’s selfishness in wider circles”. This statement itself sheds light on the whole point of the book, which, by the way, I have also read is referred to as pointless and predictable. These reviews have probably been made by narrow-mined readers who pretended to read a straight-forward romance novel, only to find an uncomfortable story line that leads to an uncomfortable realization of their own predictable flaws.

The Professor

Don't aproach this novel with any expectations! The enjoyment is derived from the realism of the plot (though very simple), the introspective thought processes, the goodness and roundedness of the protaganist, and his triumph over, not only the toils of the world, but the inferiorities of other characters, not to mention of course- it goes without saying- the eloquence of the language used. I found it was a very calm and pleasant sort of read evoking no negative feelings- if anything it keeps you on a constant and slightly elevated level. William Crimsworth at the end of the story comes back to live in the town of what Bronte refers to as X-. It was only on the last page of the novel when the Piece Hall is mentioned that I realise this town is in fact Halifax- where I am right now! Quel coincidence!

The Professor

I expected much more. Yes, I agree that there is no real plot, passions are very restraint, and the first 22-23 chapters are sluggish. Only the last two chapters grabbed me, because they were packed with more events. So it isn't my favourite, only a comme ci comme ca.

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I liked this book, although I think Charlotte Bronte's other novels are a lot more insightful. The plot is fairly weak in comparison and altogether much too predictable... However, William Crimsworth is a likeable character and it is probably the most realistic of all her novels..

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I absolutely loved 'The Professer'. I think that it represented subtle love that is hardly as strong as in any of the other Bronte's books, so that just enough of it is there. Anyone who didn't like it doesn't know what real reading is.

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really boring and like a journal full of observation's which charlotte herself has made with no real plot.

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I have not read the book yet, but I encourage everyone to read Charlotte's poem "The Missionary!"
Grace and Peace to You!

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