I do not know what Peripatetics read in the article she quoted, but something else than I got out of it, apparently…
I read it as well…
Wheat talks about the artistic theory Brontë had, based on her opinion of Austen, whom she found ‘more real than true’. Wheat concludes that, for Brontë, there was a difference between the ‘real’ and the true/Truth. The ‘real’ being the actual entity without its appearance and the Truth being the subjective Truth of the artist; the agreement between the feelings of the heart and the perceptions of the brain; the coming together of ethical standards and scene/character. Wheat quotes an example of reality in a rising sun: the rising itself is real, whereas the perception of it would be the Truth of the artist, but not the reality. If Brontë perceived Truth as the linking of the artist’s ethical standards with the scenes and characters he creates. Indeed, then we can understand what Brontë meant in her preface when she said that she wanted to ‘dissever conventionality from morality, self-righteousness from religion, human doctrine from the creed of Christ, appearance from truth.’ Indeed, she wanted to express her ‘ethical standards with the scenes and characters she created’. She wanted to express the Truth, i.e. Morality, Religion, the Creed of Christ, in short what she perceived for herself to be Morality, Religion and the Creed of Christ as opposed to the conventional and ‘right’ ones like Rigby found them, they might differ from the ones others might have, but does not make them less of that. In that sense, her Truth was indeed subjective, like Peripatetics and I intimate. Yet, we seem to differ in how far we want to go in that. I hold, as Aristotle, that ‘the mind is affected by knowledge and the will by desire’ and that passion occurs despite will or reason. Wheat then goes further to state that Hegel distinguished in the will the subjective side that provided energy. François Fourier, a contemporary of Brontë herself, even regarded passion as a (God-given) weapon against the restraints of society. If we see Aristotle’s view, it is clear that Charlotte would have been affected by what she knew and by what she desired. So would then Jane be, as she is a product of Charlotte’s imagination. But so would Rochester be. If Charlotte, taking Aristotle’s view, would be affected by her knowledge and will to write, then it is reality that the Truth Charlotte formed in her mind and expressed without design (by the so-called ‘Muse’, which she found missing in Austen) is affected by her knowledge and will (to express). Going further in that, if she then was raised in a certain way, educated in a certain way, read certain books and lived in a certain society with certain morals, it is totally inevitable that in that subjective Truth, which was formed in her mind, she, even unconsciously, would have alluded to, incorporated, or taken as a model certain facts or rules in her knowledge. Charlotte intimated that Jane Eyre had too much melodrama in it and that it wasn’t altogether ‘real’. Thus, the lack of reality implies an excess of Truth which is subjective and a harmony between the feelings of the heart and the perceptions of the brain. Thus the statement that the end of the novel would be only there to satisfy the moral standards of the time is totally at odds with Brontë’s view of the Truth and her perception of the novel in itself as ‘not altogether real’. If she had made it real, as she found Austen did with her novels, she would have complied with moral standards as to marriage only to please, but as she concedes herself that the novel was not real enough, she expressed Truth in that marriage and not reality. The Truth she then expressed in the fact of the marriage in the end is affected by her knowledge and desire, who affected her mind to form the idea of the marriage and affected her will to have Jane marry Rochester. If she did link her ‘ethical standards’ with the scenes and characters she created, which she herself and Wheat implied, then she did not merely satisfy the moral standards of the time, but she satisfied herself in expressing her Truth.
Not only that, If Brontë had an attitude towards her work, which Wheat argued as well, then the reality of the two life-courses of Jane and Rochester, carries within itself an implicit judgment. If Rochester comes to wretchedness and Jane comes to independence, then we can conclude that between both their roads exists a striking difference: both roads lead one into another direction to necessarily another end. We could go into the religious, but it is not even necessary to realise where Rochester really ends and where Jane really ends. Rochester’s road leads to destruction, something common in the Byronic hero. Rochester only looses: money, his estate, family, sight, hand, Jane, company. Jane’s road only adds to what she has/knows: affection, love, work, family and finally money and independence. We could argue, that beside her Truth Brontë expressed on the whole in her work, she incorporated in her characters different perceptions and different feelings and explored how those characters would react to passions that occurred despite their will or reason, in short a different Truth for each of them. Indeed, that was a common interest: ‘the process of passion’s interaction with man’s faculties’, ‘man’s battle within himself’, not the result, not the tears or desperate acts. (Wheat) Both Rochester and Jane deal with those passions differently, which implies for the scenes occurring in the course of the story, not a different reality for both of them (because they both see Rochester’s bed burnt, Mason stabbed and the wedding hindered), but a different feeling towards it, and as such a different subjective Truth for both of them. When Jane remarks that Tornfield is a splendid mansion and Rochester compares it to a dungeon, it is the feeling in them both that is different, the Truth of it which is different to them both and not the reality, which stays the same for both: a Thornfield with cultivated grounds, battlements etc. That is what makes Rochester and Jane so human, the fact that they each have a brain and add a different Truth to reality. Charlotte even gives us a hint when she has Rochester talk about his superiority of experience and age. Indeed, the reality for both will stays the same, but the knowledge and desire that affect the mind and will are indeed different for them both. In that, if these two Truths are two parts of the Truth evoked in Jane Eyre, which is imperative as the book was entirely constructed in Brontë’s mind, then the reality of Rochester’s Truth leading to destruction and dependence, in opposition to Jane’s Truth leading to independence, is an implicit judgment towards Rochester’s Truth. It does not even need a moral argument, but a mere logical and philosophical one. As the ethical standards of the author are linked to the scenes and characters he creates, then it is to be asked why Brontë made Rochester humble at the end if that scene was naturally her subjective Truth.
But if we go further in that course of thought, it is clear that, if truth is the harmony between feeling and reason (Aquina), then it is certainly understandable that Brontë says about Ingram that ‘tenderness and truth [was] not in her’. Indeed, there is no harmony between the feelings of the heart and the perception of the brain, because in Ingram’s case there is no feeling towards Rochester. When Brontë then later writes, when Rochester turns out to have a wife already, that the ‘stainless truth was gone from his idea’, then indeed, the perception Jane had, of harmony between her feelings and her brain towards him, is no longer there, because her brain tells her to leave him and her heart tells her the opposite. She has only her feelings to stay with him, yet reality, the cold reality, without appearance and without feelings or judgment, tell her he is married, that she will be his mistress if she stays. That is a reality that she, in relation to her perception, cannot call ‘true’ because it gives no harmony between the feelings of her heart and the perception of her brain. Yet, Rochester finds it true, because his Truth, taking Aquina’s point of view, is subjective to his ‘ethical standards’, and so both Truths and trues conflict. Yet the reality is for both the same. If we look at Bertha in this respect, Brontë calls her violent appearance only natural, but not true. Lowood was true, but not real, in the sense that Brontë expressed ‘true’ Lowood in harmony of heart and brain, but not in reality because that had been too painful. If she then expresses, on the contrary, Bertha in reality, she expresses Bertha in the sense of a mere fact, without judgment on her (Brontë’s) part. Yet, she ‘wanted to make horror too predominant’ and in that she intimates that the cold reality Jane and the reader see, is in fact the Truth she wanted to express as the linking of her ethical standards with the scene she created. The creation of the subjective Truth as her main purpose in writing the novel, reveals in this scene of horror, as she called it herself, an implicit judgment as it was intended to be ‘horrifying’. Brontë got criticised for her portrayal of Bertha, but argued that that type of madness, called moral madness, took all the good and human in a person away and left only the fiend-nature. She never claimed to have portrayed the Truth, but rather the reality/natural. Indeed, her perception in her brain and feeling in her heart towards people like Bertha required pity like she says herself, yet she did not portray Bertha in a pitiable way. No, because the reality of Bertha’s physical state, and not the Truth of it, is relative to Rochester alone, and indirectly to Brontë because she dealt Rochester his character and Truth. He has the power to improve or worsen reality, not Bertha’s condition. It is obvious that Jane and Rochester both see a different Truth in Bertha’s condition, but the reality stays for both the same. They both perceive that reality clearly different and in that attribute a different Truth to it. Brontë herself clearly pitied people like Bertha and also thought pity in order from others, yet she didn’t impose that Truth on Rochester. Naturally not, as the state of Bertha’s confinement was a part of Rochester’s Truth and not Brontë’s. Even if that argument is left out of the discussion, Brontë thought pity in order for Bertha. Jane has pity on Bertha, Mason has pity on her, but there is one person who clearly expresses no pity. If the reader feels pity as well, which would be implied by all criticism Brontë endure, then there is a revelation for that reader. In connection with the destructive end to which Rochester’s Truth leads, the scene of horror just before his monologue is a tool from Brontë to distinguish between the Truths of Rochester and Jane. It is conditioning her reader, whom she often addresses, for the tale of woe of Rochester later. It is the same tool as Shakespeare uses at the start of King Lear, whose road will lead to destruction and death as well. It is not revealing the reality of the situation, because the reality is already known: contrary to what was presumed before, Rochester has a wife who is mad and locked up in the attic (thus the Gothic element is explained). That is the reality both have to face. What is not yet faced however is the Truth of the reality, for both. In that scene, to the reader is revealed the start of Rochester’s subjective Truth: the perception he has of his morally mad wife, the feelings he has towards that and what those two together create. He will later reveal that he hates her, and not because she is mad, he just hates her. Instead of pity which is felt on Brontë’s part, he displays hate, considers her as not a wife and attempts to forget. The Truth Jane sees in that same reality, however, is one of pity and one of a wife. The deliberate horror for which Brontë was criticised is then not a horror that has its place in Brontë’s Truth, like Peripatetics argues, because Brontë thought pity was in order, but one that has its place in Rochester’s Truth alone as it then stands, in opposition to Jane’s which is one of pity as well. I would argue that, as Brontë’s Truth and Rochester’s Truth are definitely different on this issue, the scene of horror Brontë deliberately created because of her own ethical standards of pity towards Bertha, is relative to an implicit judgment of Rochester’s Truth on her part, which idea of pity was expressed by Jane and rejected by Rochester.
If the mind is affected by the knowledge one has (Aristotle), then it is imperative that Brontë was affected by her knowledge of Paradise Lost, which Emberson argued as well. In her earlier work she made several allusions to it. It is not even an implicit knowledge which she incorporated in the mere line of events she created in Jane Eyre, but even a literal allusion towards it in the third watercolour: ‘The likeness of a Kingly Crown;’ what it diademed was ‘the shape which shape had none.’’ There stand two lines of Book II of the epic poem. The cormorant being a symbol for an ‘insatiably greedy or rapacious person’ (contemporary 19th century Oxford English Dictionary) also links the cormorant in the picture not only with Paradise Lost where the cormorant is Satan’s disguise in Eden and thus acquired the image of temptation and sinister figure (Bacon), but also with Rochester as temptation and deception are prominent in Jane and Rochester’s early relationship (Denney). As the cormorant in the times of Brontë had moved on to a personification of insatiable greed and she had a definite knowledge of Paradise Lost (Emerson) I perceive it as very unlikely that in this case Brontë’s mind would not have been influenced by her knowledge, as Peripatetics claims and thus that the cormorant would just be accidental.
Far more important than the literary allusions though, is the mechanism that Milton uses in his display of Satan. Where Blake claimed that Milton was a Satanist because his depiction of God was so far inferior to his depiction of Satan (Luxon and Zukerman), Fish brings forward the theory that Milton deliberately has not only Adam and Eve seduced by Satan’s logic, but also the reader, after which the latter slowly realises that that logic by which he was seduced is in fact twisted and nonsensical (Surprised by Sin). Luxon and Zukerman then state that ‘the reader emerges from the experience renewed with a greater sense of faith, which is the ultimate goal of the poem.’ In essence the argument that Fish holds up after years of research is more founded than Blake’s, but is also consistent with the words of Marvell: ‘That Majesty which through thy Work doth Reign/ Draws the devout, deterring the Profane./ And things divine thou treatst of in such state/ As them preserves, and thee, inviolate.’ (PL copy of 1674). The words in the preface of the poem. Peripatetics’ claim that Paradise Lost is a sacrilegious work does not hold up against 50 years of academic research. Brontë had certainly a thorough knowledge of Paradise Lost and therefore she was affected by it. It is striking that a definite parallel can be drawn between Satan as the cormorant and the metaphoric meaning of the word ‘cormorant’ applicable to a person at the time of the publication of Jane Eyre. Parallels also have been drawn between the drowned woman in the first water colour and Bertha and Jane (Denney). Certainly when Jane writes in chapter XXVI that the ‘floods overflowed [her]’ she associates drowning with despair, we can see parallels with the first water colour and the drowned woman in it. However, the total hopelessness of the drowned corpse’s situation is not the total hopelessness of Jane because Jane is not yet dead or not yet given to despair, but rather Bertha whose dowry has been taken, but who is left in the attic in ‘a shrine of memory’ with a ‘vault-like draught’ finding its way through the gallery from time to time. Not only there is a parallel with despair or feelings which cannot be controlled, like Aristotle identifies ‘passion’, but Rochester even addresses the same image when he tells Jane: ‘But I tell you—and you may mark my words—you will come some day to a craggy pass in the channel, where the whole of life’s stream will be broken up into whirl and tumult, foam and noise: either you will be dashed to atoms on crag points, or lifted up and borne on by some master-wave into a calmer current—as I am now.’ (chapter XV) It is curious that also the cormorant in the picture does not seem to be affected by the storm on the sea. Pickrel argues that the bracelet would be an emblem of Jane’s womanhood, as an element of hope in the desolation of Lowood. Although that approach is problematic as to the Truth Jane expresses about jewellery and quackerish Jane Eyre (Denney), the emblematic bracelet is consistent with the feminist idea of Jane being in danger of loosing her womanhood to Rochester. Then the bracelet is not an emblem highly valued by Jane in Truth, but a general emblem that speaks to Brontë’s ‘reader’ and is necessarily part of Brontë’s Truth. That idea is also consistent with the ‘preface’ leading up to the description of the paintings: ‘While [Rochester] is so occupied, I will tell you, reader, what [the paintings] are.’ It is not in the there and then Jane addresses her audience, but it is Jane the writer, or Brontë for that matter, who addresses her reader, ten years after the events so to say. Thus we could indeed argue that the watercolours, although painted by Jane, are a definite part of Brontë’s Truth, certainly as Jane is a product of Brontë’s mind. In that, the watercolours are affected by the knowledge of Paradise Lost, which clearly shows in their imagery and which also allows them to work for Rochester as well as for Jane.
When Milton has his Satan put forward a more logical argument than his God and does that deliberately so, and shocks his readers when they finally realise that they are believing the very being that caused the Fall of Man and human death, Milton addresses the human free will that voluntary chose to be tempted and that is still present in the readers of his work. That free will was given by God to man because ‘Not free, what proof could they have givn sincere / Of true allegiance, constant Faith or Love.’ (PL 3.103-4). Without the free will there was no ‘true allegiance’. Yet that free will, indirectly, caused the Fall of Man as well. It is that problem of the free will that Brontë addresses when she makes Jane face the reality of married Rochester. Jane has a free will, as have the readers of Paradise Lost, and she can voluntary choose to stay with Rochester or not. Readers of Paradise Lost can choose to be tempted by Satan, but Satan caused the Fall of Man and challenged God as ‘the monarch whose authority should never be questioned’ (Zukerman and Luxon). Jane can stay with Rochester while he is married, but is that the right thing to do? As Brontë gave Rochester a destructive and desolate end as her Truth about his course, it is unlikely that she found that that logic of his was at all pleasing. Brontë gave Rochester, like Milton gave Satan, a particular Truth that seems to be logical, but is ‘twisted and nonsensical’ (Zukerman and Luxon). The image of the cormorant is then a definite and inevitable parallel between Rochester and Satan as Brontë must have been affected by the knowledge of it in her mind. If she had the same experience as Fish addresses, which is likely as she closely studied the work (Emerson), then she cannot have failed to incorporate that principle in Jane Eyre, a principle which is also present in King Lear. Nevertheless Milton’s end was foretold, Brontë’s characters can choose (Millstein).
The discussion about the goodness or badness of Rochester does not stretch as far as the subjective Truth Brontë expressed in Jane Eyre, but more closely, is present in the mere reality of Rochester’s features. Andrews explored in her PhD-dissertation Physiognomy of Fashion: Faces, Dress and the Self in the Juvenilia of Charlotte Brontë partly the importance of physiognomy and phrenology in Brontë’s work. Particularly in her juvenilia, Jane Eyre and Vilette. There is a clear evolution in Brontë’s perception of heroes and heroines, but she stays consistent in the use of both ‘sciences’. However, her perception of the finality of the features of someone changed and she was not as meticulous as In her juvenilia to describe the features of her characters. But, nonetheless, she notes Rochester’s ‘full nostrils, denoting, [she] thought, choler’. It becomes only peculiar when she switches to phrenology, when she writes about his ‘solid mass of intellectual organs’ and notices an ‘abrupt deficiency where the suave sign of benevolence should have risen’. After, Rochester points out ‘prominences’ that indicate the presence of a conscience. Andrews notes relative to that discrepancy between Jane’s perception of the reality of his skull and Rochester’s: ‘Rochester’s behaviour generally corresponds with those features, though the last example is conspicuously wrong … It is significant that Rochester points his feature, not Jane.’ As Wheat claimed, the reality is the mere reality without feelings. Like the rising of the sun is the action of the rising of the sun. Thus the skull is the skull, the marks are the marks, they do not change with perception. If Jane sees an ‘abrupt deficiency where the suave sign of benevolence should have risen’ she does not perceive or interpret, but just sees the reality as she would see the rising of the sun, without feeling. The abrupt deficiency is a worrying sign as it implies that there is no sign of benevolence. This does not mean however, that Rochester is malevolent by nature. That would not fit his description of good nature and also does not comply with the principle of phrenology which is the coming together of all tendencies and making a total out of that. What that deficiency means, though, is the absence of benevolence and thus the absence of a feeling of sympathy towards other people; a failure to put oneself in the shoes of another; a failure of empathy. As Spurzheim claimed its ‘derangement is occasionally a symptom of insanity’ (Phrenology or the Doctrine of the Mental Phenomena (1833)). But it is not all bad, as the other propensities and sentiments can also compensate. However, the inactiveness of the quality of ‘benevolence’, as Brontë suggests when she endows Rochester with a deficiency in that part of his head, ‘may cause an indifference to it’ (Spurzheim). When Rochester then points out his conscience, we might be overjoyed with the presence of it. At least it is clear that Jane is relieved when she says ‘fortunately for him’. But one needs to note that the quality ‘conscientiousness’ does not at all imply ‘a conscience’ as Rochester wants to call it, but rather a quality to be able to weigh right against wrong; duty against moral obligation; but it does not at all imply that one will necessarily do the good and scorn the bad. Dr Gruillié argued that, in his studies of blind and uneducated children, he noted the absence of conscientiousness. Yet MrJean Joachim Roques in his Revue Encyclopédique argued for the quality to be present, but did not believe in an inherent wish for the good. Spurzheim recognises that a person who combines conscientiousness with the lower propensities is apt to find something just that for a person who combines conscientiousness with benevolence and reverence is unjust. He argues further that there is natural/absolute conscientiousness that is the faculty combined with all other faculties in man (the ‘general’ conscience), the individual version which is relative to conscientiousness combined with the other faculties in the individual and positive conscientiousness which implies legislation, whether divine or civil; the law. Thus, conscientiousness is the basis of morality/absolute conscientiousness but does not imply it. (Not having the feature would just render one unable to weigh good against bad.) So, when Rochester points to his spot for ‘conscientiousness’, it makes it favourable that he is able to weigh good against bad, but does not at all say anything about the conclusion, as that depends on the other faculties, their strength, presence or absence (individual conscientiousness). Like Spurzheim concluded: ‘Thus, conscience, placed on high as a judge within us, and intended by our Maker as a just and equitable one too, by an unhappy train of causes and impediments, takes often much imperfect cognizance of what passes, does its office so negligently, often so corruptly, that it is not to be trusted alone, and therefore we find there is a necessity, an absolute necessity, of joining another principle with it, to aid if not to govern its determinations.’ But this is not all. ‘Conscientiousness’ was also heavily linked with ‘firmness’ and ‘acquisitiveness’. The term ‘firmness’ is clear: it implies constancy and perseverance in one’s plan; it contributes to maintaining the activity one is doing. But, if it is too active it leads to infatuation, stubbornness, obstinacy and disobedience. The spot for ‘conscientiousness’ being marked, also implies ‘firmness’ being very big indeed. Then there is still ‘acquisitiveness’. The term means the force of acquiring. Too much and it results in kleptomania as we know the condition now (which was implied by Spurzheim by his accounts of forceful stealing) or selfishness. When Jane points out that he has a ‘marked breadth on the top of the head’, she does not only imply the spot for ‘conscientiousness’, but also the spots next to it (as the spot for conscientiousness alone does not govern the whole area): ‘hope’ and ‘marvellousness’. ‘Marvellousness’ is the faculty of believing in the supernatural, which Rochester certainly confesses to in chapter XXXVII when he is telling of the Monday night and which he also shows in calling Jane names as ‘elf’, ‘fairy’, ‘witch’, etc. But ‘hope’ is a broader idea which gives satisfaction to the activity we are doing; it gives positivity to whatever other faculties desire, without granting conviction which is down to reflection. Spurzheim concluded that the activity of it varies in different people but that ‘those who are everlastingly scheming, or building castles in the air, possess this faculty in a high degree’. He concluded further that when it was too strong, it rendered the expectation of things ‘unreasonable’, ‘not founded on probability’ or ‘impossible’. ‘Hope’ is also heavily connected with ‘firmness’ and ‘acquisitiveness’. From Brontë’s features of Rochester she formed in her mind, we can conclude that he has indeed a good nature and a great intellect: he is able to weigh the good and the bad, but he has innate problems: he has no faculty for empathy, so is not able to put himself in the shoes of others (which would account for his shameless luring of Jane, and his disregard for Ingram’s feelings), and he is obstinate which is good if for a good cause but can cause problems in a bad case. On top of that he is able to see the good in everything with his great faculty of hope, but which also can make him see things too good, even unreasonably good, can make him live in fantasy. If we now look at his nose, we might come to a more total conclusion. The nose is the organ that comes forth out of the organ of ‘individuality’. The term does not mean what we might suppose it does: narcissism. It means an ability to observe and see the individual objects; it causes one to have a perception of something. For example to link the smell with the word ‘rose’. Its ideal elongates in the ‘Grecian’ nose which denotes that one is: artistic, calm, peaseable, intellectual, patient, accommodating, cultivated, courteous, dutiful, refined, good-tempered, just. Unfortunately for him, Rochester has a ‘decisive’ nose, contrary to St John who does have a ‘grecian profile’. Yet the ‘straight ridge’ Jane describes when drawing him at Gateshead is slightly more pleasing than a Roman nose (with a dent in the ridge, a so-called ‘hawk nose’), which would indicate a commandeering, bossy nature, and arrogance (Physiognomy, Mary Olmstead Stanton, 1881). We do need to mention however, that the larger the nose, the more determination it implies (Lavater). In that sense, it is a sign of the grade of acquisitiveness in a person. Acquisitiveness does not imply material acquisitiveness only, it also implies learning, the desire to reach a goal, which is certainly of great importance in Rochester as it would portray his ‘eagerness’ with which he ‘acquired’ Bertha and with which he is enthusiastic to ‘acquire’ Jane in chapter XXXVII. In combination with his dangerous qualities of firmness and hope, it can indeed lead to severe erring out of ‘rashness’, like Brontë implied in her letter. Besides his nose, he still has another feature which is quite prominent and striking: the cleft in his chin. It denotes a love for art and a reverence for beauty. In their second conversation, when he asks Jane whether ‘[she] think[s] [him] handsome’, she says ‘No, sir’, but then after his reply says that she ‘ought to have replied that it was not easy to give an impromptu answer to a question about appearances; that tastes mostly differ; and that beauty is of little consequence, or something of that sort.’ And he replies: ‘You ought to have replied no such thing. Beauty of little consequence, indeed! And so, under pretence of softening the previous outrage, of stroking and soothing me into placidity, you stick a sly penknife under my ear!’ His reply does not only signify that he does value beauty as the cleft in his chin denotes, the ‘penknife under [his] ear’ designates the spot ‘vitativeness’ which means the desire to live; the instinct to live. In other words, Jane hurt him there severely and stuck a penknife in his will to live. When she then inquires whether he is philanthropist, he feels the penknife even deeper. Given that the word ‘philanthropy’ means either ‘the practice of performing charitable or benevolent actions’ or ‘a love of mankind in general’ (Collins English Dictionary) Rochester’s assertion can be considered as indeed a sign of failure of the propensity ‘benevolence’ like Jane noticed. But it gets even worse when he associates the penknife with it. His will to live was not only challenged when the relativity of beauty was addressed, but also when the term ‘benevolence’ was implied. Thus the reality of Rochester’s features and his reaction when Jane answers ‘no’ to his question about being handsome, suggest a profound regard for the impression he himself makes and a lack of empathy, two characteristic of narcissism.
That is parallel with Manfred (Millstein). Naturally there is incest implied in the play, but incest has also its own psychological implications. Garber writes: ‘to commit incest means that one keeps within the family. But Manfred and Astarte carry the narrowing even further, taking it to its finest point, for theirs is narcissistic incest; a sort that reduces [in] its smallest reach the distance one needs to go to get outside of the self. If what one reaches for is the exactest cast of oneself, then one has hardly to reach at all.’ Millstein then goes on stating that Glass wrote that ‘Astarte is ‘ultimately a projection of [Manfred’s] own mind. For in the dialectic of narcissism, the other is always simply a reflection of the self’’ Where Manfred and Astarte’s relationship is clearly an incestuous one, it is also clear that Manfred is a narcissist and that ‘excessive narcissists like Manfred focus their attention on themselves to such a degree that they project themselves onto everything and everyone around them.’ (Millstein) Definite parallels between Byron and Augusta Leigh (his half-sister) and Manfred and Astarte have been acknowledged (Marchand), beside a general influence concerning Bryon’s life and character itself on Heathcliff and Rochester (Oxford Companion to the Brontës), Rochester even shares the same breed of dog with Byron: ‘I went down stairs—the carriage was at the door. I passed his room. There was a large mat on which his Newfoundland dog used to lie.’ (Anna Isabella Byron, née Milbanks describing their separation). Brontë made a definite allusion to Manfred in The Duke of Zamorna in 1838, and the play was reviewed with excerpts in Blackwood’s Magazine in June 1817. However, Brontë in expressing her Truth seems to have ‘sought the appropriate middle ground in employing the Byronic Hero’. (Millstein) This was also the conclusion of Jorquera, who highlighted the answer of Rochester to Ingram’s assertion that she would like ‘an English hero of the road’, by which she necessarily implies a Byronic Hero who was/is the most notable hero in English Literary History (Thorslev). Rochester’s answer: ‘Well, whatever I am, remember you are my wife; we were married an hour since, in the presence of all these witnesses’ (chapter.18), parallel with Millstein’s claim that Brontë sought a middle ground for the Byronic Hero to be acceptable and Brontë’s own will to express Truth, would indeed suggest that Brontë was not taken to the narcissism, portrayed in Manfred and Rochester. Although Bloom points to a certain erotic tension towards Byron himself which had to become tamed, which is debatable, he does state that ‘[Rochester] has been rendered dependent on Jane, and he has been tamed into domestic virtue and pious sentiment’ (Modern Critical). Millstein notes that Rochester only considers the limits of the self by ironically having only his character left after the loss of his possessions. She then ranks the three heroes Arthur Huntington (The Tenant by Anne Brontë), Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë) and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë) as respectively a total rejection, a making acceptable and a ‘full adoption’. (John Clubbe calls Heatchcliff the Byronic hero ‘gone berserk’.) It is obvious that there are parallels between [I[Manfred[/I] and Byron on the one side and the Brontës’ characters on the other side. Not least because of their knowledge of the works of Byron. However, where Manfred is fixed in his narcissism and refuses to acknowledge the boundaries of his self to the bitter end, Charlotte Brontë’s characters can choose. She lets Jane debate her decision: ‘Is it better to drive a fellow-creature to despair than to transgress a mere human law—no man being injured in the breach? [. . .] who will be injured by what you do?’ … ‘I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.’ (chapter XXVI) So can Mrs Reed, but she persists in her idea of Jane. So can Rochester, as he is equally a product of Brontë’s mind. Unlike Heatchcliff, Rochester will not go the whole way, he will not end up a Byronic Hero ‘gone berserk’ and thus not end up a Manfred, but as Satan, as Manfred, as King Lear, he does have a logic of his own that narcissistically rejects human law.
Heathcliff is haunted by Catherine from the day she dies until the end of Wuthering Heights (Pinion) because of his own wish. Manfred, on the other hand, is haunted by the image of Astarte out of guilt. But both Heathcliff and Manfred welcome their torture because it is the only way they can remain connected to their loved ones (Mllstein). In a sense this also happens to Rochester. When he cannot find Jane anywhere, he concludes she is dead, but does not cease to long for her, not even physically: ‘I longed for thee both with soul and flesh!’ (chapter XXXVII) He regularly dreams vividly about her and when she returns is convinced that it is a dream as well. When we look at Manfred’s speech:
‘I have so much endured-- so much endure— (Manfred, Act II, scene IV)
‘That I merited all I endured, I acknowledged—that I could scarcely endure more, I pleaded’ (Jane Eyre chapter XXXVII)
‘… though it were
The deadliest sin to love as we have loved.’ (Manfred, Act II, scene IV)
‘I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower—breathed guilt on its purity’ (Jane Eyre chapter XXXVII)
‘and that I shall die;
For hitherto all hateful things conspire
To bind me in existence-- in a life
Which makes me shrink from immortality--
A future like the past.’ (Manfred, Act II, scene IV)
‘Who can tell what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged on for months past? Doing nothing, expecting nothing; merging night in day; feeling but the sensation of cold when I let the fire go out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless sorrow.’
‘… disasters came thick on me…’
‘Late that night … ere I retired to my dreary rest, I supplicated God, that, if it seemed good to Him, I might soon be taken from this life, and admitted to that world to come.’ (all Jane Eyre chapter XXXVII)
‘And I would hear yet once before I perish
The voice which was my music’ (Manfred, Act II, scene IV)
‘All the melody on earth is concentrated in my Jane’s tongue to my ear (I am glad it is not naturally a silent one): all the sunshine I can feel is in her presence.’ (Jane Eyre chapter XXXVII)
‘For I have call'd on thee in the still night,
Startled the slumbering birds from the hush'd boughs,
And woke the mountain wolves, and made the caves
Acquainted with thy vainly echo'd name,
Which answer'd me-- …
Yet speak to me! I have outwatch'd the stars,
And gazed o'er heaven in vain in search of thee.’ (Manfred, Act II, scene IV)
‘It soothed me to feel the balmy night-air; though I could see no stars and only by a vague, luminous haze, knew the presence of a moon.’
‘If any listener had heard me, he would have thought me mad: I pronounced them with such frantic energy.’ (all Jane Eyre chapter XXXVII)
‘MANFRED. Say on, say on—‘
I live but in the sound--it is thy voice!’(Manfred, Act II, scene IV)
‘Answer me—speak again!’ he ordered imperiously and aloud.
‘Is it Jane? What is it? This is her shape—this is her size—‘
‘And this her voice,’ I added. (all Jane Eyre chapter XXXVII)
‘PHANTOM. Manfred! To-morrow ends thine earthly ills.
Farewell!’ (Manfred, Act II, scene IV)
‘MANFRED; One word for mercy! Say, thou lovest me.’ (Manfred, Act II, scene IV)
‘How can it be that Jane is with me, and says she loves me? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came? To-morrow, I fear I shall find her no more.’ (Jane Eyre chapter XXXVII)
There are definite echoes of Manfred in the one-before-last chapter of Jane Eyre, certainly when the speech of Rochester after the proposal is put in its original chronological place, on Monday night instead of on the day he proposes. As Heathcliff, Rochester sees Jane and dreams about her. Yet, there is one fundamental difference between Heathcliff, necessarily Manfred, and Rochester: where Manfred does not give up his narcissism and orders Astarte’s spirit to be called to ask for forgiveness or a pledge of love, Rochester does not order but supplicates. As Millstein and Bloom noted, Rochester has been tamed. The ‘Satanism’ that Manfred displays is not relative to Satan in particular but is an inherent ‘Satanism’ like it was present in Byron himself: a questioning of society and its values in itself, the ‘notion’ of being above it and a failure to get out of it or understand the controversy of it, a narcissism first put forward in Satan of Paradise Lost (Bostridge). Essentially it is impossible for Satan to be Satanic as he cannot worship himself, unless he is narcissistic. Manfred is not Satanic as such because he does not worship Satan/Arimanes, but considers himself as his equal. Thus, the demonic characterisation of Rochester is not relative to Satan himself or to religious bias, but to narcissism, a quality which makes Satan Satan in Paradise Lost and which made Byron Byron to some extent. Byron’s body itself was not buried in Westminster Abbey because of ‘questionable morality’ (Mondragon) and his statue, commissioned by his friends for £1000 was rejected for 10 years after his death, by the British Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery. In the end, Trinity College at Cambridge placed it in its library (Elze). Although he was a celebrity his behaviour was clearly publicly disapproved of. Seeing the parallels between Byron, Manfred and Rochester on the one hand and the public disapproval of Byron’s antics on the other hand, it seems highly improbable that by ‘taming him’, or like many feminist critics have claimed ‘castrating him’, Brontë could have meant anything positive at all in the initial characterisation of Rochester. If she expressed Truth, she cannot have escaped the controversy around the Byron cult. ‘Taming’ her Byronic hero is then not so much approving of it than judging it.