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Charlotte's third novel, the last published in her lifetime, was Villette, in 1853.


Arguably Charlotte Brontë's most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator, flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great and cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy's struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë's strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.


A young woman, seemingly alone in the world in heart, in fact, sets out to find her place in the world. Lucy Snowe, forced by circumstances and urged on by a sense of adventure, decides she "cannot lose and may win" and travels to "Villette" where she becomes first a sort of nursemaid to the small children of and lady's maid to the director of the school- a strong, successful but somewhat cold and calculating woman. In time the director raises Lucy to English teacher and Lucy begins to find some security, yet the sense of loneliness remains. She finds relief for this in the friendship of two very different men - the socially superior knight-in-shining-armour, as it were, Graham Bretton, and the crusty professor, M. Paul. Lucy must decide which of these friendships can develop into love as she learns the lessons about life, love, loss and longing that all of us face. Based in part on Charlotte Bronte's own experience in Brussels with a gifted teacher who saw her as she could be and her knight-like young publisher, George Smith, whose admiration failed to see her beyond how society saw her, Villette is a priceless portrait of love and loneliness, of joy and pain, of going bravely on when it seems there is nothing to go on for. Filled with beautiful passages on emotion and human nature, Villette is a book that satisfies something in the soul.--Submitted by Claire Copeland

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Recent Forum Posts on Villette

Charlotte Brontë's Escape Scenes

I did not like Villette but I was entranced by the section of her loneliness during the summer holidays and consequent feverish flight. It was the outburst of all the tense and weighty sadness she'd been suffering under for weeks. Likewise Jane Eyre's flight was thrilling. Is it just me or does anyone else think that wild flights are Charlotte Brontë's trademark?


Hi, I finished Villete - a true masterpiece. I just read it for the first time - and spent the past 2 1/2 hours trying to wrap my mind around it. It's funny, though, because while I greatly admire the book, I can't say I loved it. It didn't make me smile. Yet, the amount of involvement I felt as a reader is a true testament to my favorite author's genius. A few thoughts though: The character of Paulina greatly puzzled me. I found her to be a bit creepy as a child, and an oddly immature adult. I found it interesting that she gained Lucy's esteem. She praised Paulina... for what? Paulina really didn't appear to have much of a depth of character at all. It seems to me that her only credentials were her beauty, and lack of arrogance in comparison to her cousin. How did she win Lucy's affection? And even when she married the handsome Dr. John in the end, it gave me an aura of a "prince and princess together at last." Miss Fanshaw appears to be the ugly stepsister. Yet, again, other than being quieter and more submissive, Paulina is strikingly similar to Miss Fanshaw. Both are pretty, doted upon, and spoiled. Dr. John pretty much falls for both of them based on their looks. I don't understand why Lucy gave Paulina so much credit. The Ending: The ending was a difficult thing. It was disappointing and infuriating, yet, I don't think it should have ended any other way. Lucy was not meant to reach happiness, I feel. She had a rough life, and I feel like giving her a happy ending would strip away from the authenticity of the book. On the other hand, killing off Paul Emanual would have definitively made it too sad. Leaving the ambiguous nature was suitable, though, I'll admit, greatly frustrating. Another question: In chapter XLI, M. Emanuel referred to Madame Beck as "femme" when he was trying to tell her to leave him and Lucy alone. Now I don't speak French, but upon entering that word on my trusty Google translate, I got that that word means "wife." Does anyone have another translation, speak French, or have an explanation for why he would refer to Madame Beck as that? All in all, this book was truly remarkable - unlike any other I have read. I am surprised that it has not received more recognition. Its unpredictable nature and depth of feeling were great. I also liked how Bronte had a few different stories intertwined with Lucy's, and that they all saw completion. Paulina and Dr. John - the "perfects"; Miss Fanshawe and de Hamel - the "shallows"; and of course our chaotic Lucy and Paul Emanuel. Any thoughts?

Villette: a wonderful novel

Hello everyone! I finished reading 'Villette.' I loved it. I liked very much Dr. Bretton and Paulina, but my heroine was Lucy Snowe, absolutely!! Has anyone read it?


just finished villette by charlotte bronte affected me deeply her writing reminds me of letters written during the civil war and conversations with my greatgrandfather would welcome any other feedback on her work

the youth drama

I'm still reading the book, but frustrated immensely with not knowing what befell Lucy and her family between her last visit to her godmother and the time when she sets out to the Continent. It's something disastrous where she loses all her ties, seems to implicate her godmother and cousin too, and oppresses her so much she even goes to confession with a Catholic priest, and the priest thinks it of such a nature that she would do better in giving her life to the church. if it's never revealed what this disaster was (it seems even a shamefull one), are there any theories on what happened?

A Radio review of Villette

Introduction: "Villette" is my second (to "Jane Eyre") favorite book by Charlotte Bronte. It is a kind of difficult and sad, but deep book (not without some comical scenes). The first time I read it, I remember that I was half-way through the book and I was suffering from the agonizing lack of plot so much, that although I like Charlotte Bronte's writing, I stopped to ask myself "Why am I reading this?". And then it was, as if I had felt a tip in my shoulder from Charlotte herself and I knew the answer. She seemed to say to me "If you who are just a reader can't bear Lucy Snowe's life, how is she to bear it that has to live it?". And I hastened to read what became of her. In that way it is a very clever book that makes you live the experience of her heroine (whom I like no matter how secretive she becomes sometimes). So, I have grown to love Villette very much and I think that in the future it may even surpass my love for Jane Eyre. I certainly esteem it very much, but then again Jane Eyre is such a wonderland and gives you such a strong feeling of love and everlasting happiness that you enjoy just dwelling on that. To the point now: In 2007 Diane Rehm of the WAMU 88,5 FM made a "Reader's Review" about Villette inviting three university professors to comment on the book. I think that such events are pretty rare, so I made a video in youtube with their conversation, using pictures of Charlotte's life as a background. For anyone interested the address is or just type "ksotikoula" to see it. I would be happy to discuss with you their review or any other opinions about this book or it's connection with Charlotte's life.

The Ultimate Bronte heroine?

There is something about Lucy Snowe which changes her from being a detached, independent woman who after a struggle at lasts finds love i.e. an instant Victorian heroine. (I know I'm generalising here). Lucy Snowe appeals to the reader as an underdog, and there is something inherently painful about her experiences which touches the heart and not just the mind. She is undoubtedly the most human character in all Bronte's novels. At first I felt that she was being used as a tool to make the reader think in a particular way, but by the end I saw a real woman there, struggling to match her intellectual ideas with genuine, raw emotions. But is Lucy Snowe intended to be Bronte's ultimate heroine, or a representation of herself - or both? Whatever the intention, I think this is Bronte's best.


I went through couple of other threads.. I didn't find any topics regarding the ending of the story. I just finished reading the book and curious to know what other people thought about the ending. For me, this book is the best book ever. When I got this book from library, and began to read some pages, it really made me bored looking how long the book was. But I am glad I didn't return it. Slowly I got the hang of this book and kept reading it all day long. I wish she made the happy ending of Lucy Snowe. I was really looking forward to see it. But so many hints were pointing out that he died on the voyage to meet her.:bawling: :bawling: :bawling: Think back on thier last meeting, when M Paul stopped after saying "When I come back___" He didn't say any more. And those three years were the best of her lives cuz she had hopes of him coming and have a happy ending. Also, how she described the storm and stuff when he was about to arrive. This really makes me sad.. Ughh.. Oh well, I hope there are other people out there who want happy ending as well. All the other people did, why not she? If M. Paul was to die, how terrible it would be??

Discuss Villette by Charlotte Bronte

I am in the progress of writing an essay on the book Villette and I'm having some difficulty with wrting enough on the topics. Can anyone comment on some of the topics i chose such as the obvious social class differences, the impact of the theatre or the integration of nature or ghosts in the book.

Some like 'em plain

Because my sister and I share the same unwavering predilection for British Literature we always feel the need to show off our so called reading-prowess via animated and lengthy discussion (sounds weird I know).On reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, the question: would you prefer to be in a Bronte or Austen novel caught my interest and this I applied to my sister. "Jane Austen, hands, down!”:crash:-here was accompanied by a thumping action to emphasise her point. Upon inquiring why she felt so, she came back with “Because there’s always a happy ending and you’ll almost certainly end up with a nice husband.” "Yes, but that’s not sufficient enough for me. What are you’re other reasons?” I observed that my sister had an almost unconcealed prejudice against Bronte books (what can I say, I have a sixth sense?) "Well,” I don’t think she meant to sound so superficial; she’s very candid in her ways, “why does Charlotte Bronte feel the need to make her characters so homely looking? Wouldn’t it kill her to make a good-looking heroine?” I can see my sister was still very bitter about the whole Paullina-Doctor Bretton falling in love thing. Clearly, she felt Lucy Snowe had more rights to him than little Polly ever did. "I know, it would have been nice for Lucy to run off with the handsome doctor. Too bad she wasn’t handsome enough,” this last part I said and assented good-humouredly. “I mean I know the approach she’s getting at; she’s trying to be practical and everything…etc, etc” on this point my sister starts condemning the whole plain heroine and unprepossessing hero route Charlotte Bronte always takes ( Jane Eyre to her Rochester and Lucy Snowe to her Paul Emmanuel). In other words my sister's reasoning can be explained by imagining half of England’s population as beautiful and the other ugly. So why did she have to portray the ugly half?! Lengthy discussion, see? Anyway, if you followed the above transaction between my sister and I, you’d probably want my point. Readers, take this into consideration, it is only an opinion and without any intention of sounding shallow: why does Charlotte Bronte- undoubtedly brilliant as she was-feel the need to make her heroines plain and not prepossessing, homely and never beautiful. My sister and I wonder, my sister especially. We can’t help contemplating that if Lucy Snowe had some beauty in addition to her other charms as a character, would she have been able to capture Dr. John’s affections? Can you sense how badly we wanted them two to get together? Life it seems is full of contradictions and can we not doubt that a person’s attractiveness renders even the most reserved character personable? Especially in the eyes of a man who becomes impressionable by beauty and loveliness in a woman? By this I’m talking about Dr. John by Ginerva then by Polly. :ladysman: In my estimation readers, it seems in order to get the leading role in a Charlotte Bronte novel, homeliness and a quiet, perceptive nature is a job requirement. Feel free to discuss.

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