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Thread: Contemplations on Jane Eyre

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    Contemplations on Jane Eyre

    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.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  2. #2
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    As to the ‘good nature’ of Rochester, there seems to be a clue in Pilot, the Newfoundland dog. On the grave of Boatswain, his dog, Byron wrote:

    ‘Near this Spot
    are deposited the Remains of one
    who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
    Strength without Insolence,
    Courage without Ferocity,
    and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
    This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
    if inscribed over human Ashes,
    is but a just Tribute to the Memory of
    Who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
    and died at Newstead Nov. 18th 1808.’

    Other than of profound love, it might shed an additional light on the nature of Pilot. The poem is one of Byron’s most well-known works. Not only considered as a pledge of love to his dog, it is interesting, but to the nature of Pilot, if he were indeed modeled after Byron’s dog (which is very probable), then his nature of ‘Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity and all virtues of Man without his Vices’ would be a very good description of Rochester’s good nature modelled in his dog, who likes Adèle to play with him, who likes her to caress him, who likes Jane instantly, but is always and ever with Rochester and dominated by him. Except of course, at the end, where ‘[he] has gone home to his dinner’. Both names are also strikingly similar in place of origin: both a boatswain and a pilot are functions on boats, but where a boatswain is working on deck, a pilot has a more fundamental role because he is in charge of the rudder (both definitions taken from the Online Etymology Dictionary). When Pilot is to be considered as a pilot (which his name would suggest as there was no other meaning for it, apart from one extended to air-balloons in 1848, and no mention of the name Pilot is made in a dictionary of names) and the symbolic personification of Rochester’s good nature (which the cult around Eos-Victoria, Prince Albert’s dog, would suggest), then, again, Rochester’s phrenology should be considered: where he might have sufficiently good and many ‘propensities’, ‘moral sentiments’ and ‘intellectual faculties’, in other places there might be contradictions to those same faculties. Essentially, unlike physiognomy, phrenology did not define elements as absolute, but only within a meaningful combination. (Andrews) It assimilated the ‘Protestant culture of self-advancement’ (Shuttleworth). In that sense, Rochester might have had favourable lumps and bumps, which Brontë implied when she wrote of his ‘good nature’, but that ‘good nature’ modelled in Pilot (the rudder) is dominated by other propensities that would contradict the good ones. Accidentally, the ‘abrupt deformity where the suave sign of benevolence should have risen’, is located on the top of the skull, either just above or just below the hairline, depending on where Rochester’s hair would have begun. The fact that Jane notices a deformity is a grave sign of lack of empathy, which is often noticed in narcissists. Connected with his narcissism, it should be noted that Wurmser noticed a link between narcissism and shame, where narcissism was a defence-mechanism against shame. In an attempt to defend against that there are two subtypes of narcissists according to Gabbard: the oblivious one and the hyper-vigilant one. The oblivious one would create an antithesis of his own character in order to hide the continuous state of shame his devaluated character dwells in. The hyper-vigilant one does not hide himself, but blames the devaluation on others, he becomes obsessed with the idea that others bring shame on him and thus grows controlling. Jeffrey Young and Aaron Beck defined techniques narcissists employ to cope with their problem: surrender, avoidance and over-compensation. Surrender would mean to surround oneself with people who keep one in check. Avoidance would mean to avoid the shame and not share it with others. Over-compensation refers to striving for perfection by critical or superior behaviour. All three techniques can be employed at the same time. It has been argued that a bad relationship with the caretakers (the parents in most cases) can result in the conviction that one has a defect that makes one undervalued or feel unwanted. In an attempt to avoid rejection because of his flawed nature one tries to control the view others have of him and so the behaviour they show towards him. Thus the narcissism portrayed in Manfred and Rochester implies a weak self which induces self-love as a defence-mechanism. As I have argued in connection with the moon-motif, Rochester has emotional problems connected with his past. The rejection he felt as second son and the shame relative to Bertha’s unfaithfulness, forced him first to want to commit suicide, but then resulted in extremely controlling behaviour towards her. Paired up with an innate failure of empathy, which is both present in Rochester’s phrenology and the general characteristics for narcissism, it made him unable to judge properly towards the general treatment of his wife and his fear of shame made him want to hide her and forget her, as he tried to hide and forget his weaker self portrayed in Richard Mason. Not only that, but an idea of entitlement to love and to be loved induced him to look for love. Unable to find his ideal image of love, he reduces himself to mistresses, which is below himself he considers. Having a proud nature, as Jane called it, he adorns his bride, and wants her to be a fairy because it makes him feel good; it makes him feel supernatural as well, superior to the world. It is consistent with Jane refusing to be one and Adèle insisting upon ‘Mademoiselle not [being] a fairy’ where Rochester in both cases continues in his fantasy. When he feels she thinks he is an ogre with bad manners when Jane refuses to dine with him after the shopping spree, it emphasises the delicate balance which is present in him constantly between shame and grandiose self/perfection. When the grandiose self gets criticised and shame is imminent, the narcissist instantly grows defensive or blames the other, in a sense he blows the case up like Rochester does by intimating that Jane finds him horrifying . In chapter XXI, when Jane tells him she must go to Gateshead, the control he has over her by having to give her money and seeing that she has only five shillings in the world, seems to amuse him. It seems to be even normal for him to give her £20 more than her yearly salary, when she only has worked for him half a year. The £50 Jane gets instead of £30/£15 (pro rata) is not only almost double but it gives Jane a wage of £39,216.50 and not a wage of £23,529.90/£11,764.95 (pro rata) (using the average earnings index). With her initial agreed upon wage she would have earned an equivalent of almost £2000 per month, with the ‘raise’ Rochester gave her, she would have earned an equivalent of about £3000. If it is his narcissism taking the overhand there, then he surely feels very happy to be able to do something grandiose as that. When Jane declines he gets angry… Unfortunately she does not allow him to be grandiose… Moreover, he does not understand why Jane goes ‘running a hundred miles to see an old lady who will, perhaps, be dead before [she] reach[es] her: besides, [she] sa[id] she cast [her] off.’ Indeed, empathy with the old lady is not his strongest point… When Jane then intimates that she will advertise for a new position, he has lost control of the situation and wants his cash back. This desire of control, which feminists have put down to sado-masochism (Millstein), is maybe more connected with narcissism, as narcissists try to control the view of other people and their behaviour because they need to be superior in order to avoid shame. In that, Rochester desires to control Jane because he feels superior to her, and wants to keep it that way. That is why he objects to any rebelliousness from her side, like on the dinner-front after the shopping spree. He will attach her to a watch-chain when he has fairly seized her… He quotes there the last part of the chorus of Burns’ (what’s in a name) The Bonie Wee Ting: ‘I wad wear thee in my bosom,/ Lest my jewel I should tine.’ However, he changes the verse a little: ‘I’ll wear you in my bosom, lest my jewel I should tyne.’ (chapter XXI) Where Burns’ verse is a sign of true affection: I would wear you in my bosom for fear that I might lose you; Rochester links it with attaching Jane to a watch-chain: I will wear you in my bosom for fear that I would lose you (it needs to be noted that the word ‘tyne’ can either mean ‘mislay’ or ‘perish’), a little like the caging of a bird or the putting into a display cupboard of something expensive one has purchased for fear it might break: a double feeling of great affection, but destructive affection that deprives the bird of freedom or that renders the object useless. Although Jane calls it vanity and pride, she admits to his susceptibility to praise, which is another criteria for narcissism, only not out of vanity but rather out of insecurity which the person does not want to admit to. This issue also contributes to the discussion whether Adèle is or is not his daughter… I have argued that she is, as he gives her material things, which he also gives to Jane, which he gave Céline, Giacinta and Clara. In essence he treats Adèle the same as all the other people he loves/loved. Yet, he does not publicly declare that she is his daughter. Naturally not as he wants to spare himself the shame and memory of Céline, certainly in public. As a narcissist he certainly does not want to come across as a debauched person, as that is far from the perfect self he wants to have. Yet he does tell Jane… It is only speculation, but he seems to employ the technique of Surrender (Young and Beck) with her (‘I knew you’d do me good.’ (chapter XV)), while he has the technique of Avoidance (Young and Beck) in public. When Millstein then notes that Rochester needs to realise the limits of the self, ironically, through having nothing left apart from himself she does have a point. The shame he felt he had to hide, the rejection he felt when Jane left, the perception he has of other people who know his shame after the disclosure of his bigamy, is all gone when he looses his sight. When he cannot see, he cannot see other people’s behaviour towards him and he does also not need to try to control it and to come across as perfect because he cannot see the reaction of people. He still has his organ if Individuality, arguably quite big, but does not have the senses to have too much ‘perception’ of his environment, the very thing which caused him to have an obsession for hiding his shame. The self-love and insecurity is still there when he asks whether he is hideous, when he does not want to be helped by a servant, etc. in chapter XXXVII, but it is less of a problem as it cannot so much control him anymore as a person. In the time he became a recluse and could do nothing but think: he became aware of the fact that narcissism ruled his behaviour, that narcissism made him do things with enthusiasm (hope) and perseverance (firmness) that brought him nothing, rather took things away. He surrenders to Jane so that she can bring his feet on the ground when he goes off again. Although he will still miss his faculty of ‘benevolence’ and will still not be able to be empathetic with people and thus not realise the consequences of his deeds for others he will be able to listen to Jane. As he is blind, she in a sense controls him and he needs to trust her, which tones down his problem of narcissism as it will reduce the effects on the outside world. Acceptance is the first step in overcoming. Thus, the lovely image of Pilot, as the one who steers the boat, who ‘has gone home to his dinner’ on who satisfies his own need independent of Rochester for the first time in the story, while before he was only portrayed with Rochester, is a sign of the latter’s weak nature that is no longer ruled by narcissism anymore and can do what he likes, now really steering the boat, at least with the help of Jane.

    Brontë claimed that she wanted to portray Rochester as good-natured but erring through rashness and that that was the Truth. She knew phrenology and physiognomy well and cannot have made a mistake in depriving Rochester of ‘benevolence’. Together with her knowledge of Paradise Lost, where she came across one of the first true narcissistic characters in English literature; and her knowledge of severely narcissistic Byronic heroes trapped in the condition, she created a character that is bafflingly accurate in the emotional struggle with narcissism, a subject which Wheat identified as prominent in Romantic literature. Causes, symptoms, cure (which is very difficult still) or toning down are present and speak of an amazing understanding of that kind of personality even before it was named in 1905.
    linging to a particular idea/principle, and not wanting to listen to reason, certainly when there is no sign of madness; a split personality, as if there are two personalities in one physical person. The clinging to a particular idea once formed in the head of the narcissist can be down to the fact that he took that course out of shame, or that he finds it shameful to admit he was wrong. If Rochester clings to the idea of having no wife, he clings to it, because cannot admit to have a wife like Bertha out of shame. He does not want to hear reason, or is not able to see the wrongs he is doing because he has no empathy and consequently has no notion of what is really wrong, what has bad consequences for others (lying to Jane and depriving Bertha of activity in a barely lit room for 15 years). These two things are inherent to narcissism. The split personality can be down to the oblivious kind of narcissist who tries to hide his real personality, which is flawed and shameful to him, by creating a ‘better’ version, like I argued Mason can be considered as. Thus, there are indeed two personalities in one. Blasphemy and ‘hating God’, of course, are not a part of the modern perception of narcissism, but fit in the ‘bad’ picture of the devil, and people who committed enough sin to be eternally doomed. It also needs to be noted that Byron’s heroes, who were eternally stuck in their narcissism had connections with the occult and vampire fiction (Millstein). Thus the ‘demonic’ nature is easily connectable with narcissism as portrayed in Byron’s characters which the Brontës had certain knowledge of. My conclusion is that Brontë went that little further than Byron, which Bloom found an inherent necessity for any author (otherwise there is no Truth to be told that has not already been told), by not rejecting the Byronic Hero in his narcissism, but taming him into an acceptable person rather than a troublesome overbearing (debauched) man, like Arthur Huntington or Heathcliff. And that 50 years before the term ‘Narcissism’ was even known in psychology.

    I just want to make clear that I disown my posts before my thread ‘Mr Rochester…’. There is a great chance of discrepancies and I do not wish to discuss them further.

    I also want to state that I selected my sources very well and that they include university sources primarily. Millstein’s was a dissertation for a PhD which is the best in its kind.

    I want to make clear that my judgment of Bertha’s treatment is founded upon academic proof, which I have used in one of my last replies in ‘Are we reading the same text’. Apparently this was not noticed.

    I feel it also necessary to remark that there is something in logic as ‘ad hominem’ and that I consider this discussion as ‘ad hominem’ and not as a mere intellectual discussion. If it were one, it would not carry my posts and assertions only.

    Lastly I want to say that I consider phrenology and physiognomy pseudo-sciences that do not hold any scientific truth nowadays. Although they have contributed to the science of neurology, it needs to be acknowledged that the ideas expressed in phrenology and physiognomy are severely old-fashioned, (sometimes) racist and sometimes totally wrong. However, in some cases, there is a ground of truth in it (and not subjective truth), which has been academically and clinically researched and proven in the meantime. In a contemporary context it is a deplorable science, but in connection with Jane Eyre it carries great importance, as suggested by Andrews. Hence my look on Rochester’s phrenology and physiognomy. I am aware of it being in America still considered as a science by some, but it shouldn’t be in a truly modern world.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  3. #3
    Old Student Peripatetics's Avatar
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    Bienvenue, vous avez été cruellement raté. Monologues ne sont pas très intéressantes.

    “I just want to make clear that I disown my posts before my thread ‘Mr Rochester’...... There is a great chance of discrepancies and I do not wish to discuss them further. “ !!!, oh?
    Ok, this appears schizophrenic but I'll comply.

    Contemplations on Jane Eyre – by contemplations does kiki mean free-associations in psychiatric terms? For kiki ranges free and wide off the subject of the novel. We learn a great deal what kiki thinks of Byron, of Manfred, of Milton, of “Truth, i.e. Morality, Religion, the Creed of Christ” as interpreted by kiki (very wide of the meaning of true and Truth as Charlotte defined it; since true = reality and Truth = artistic imagination. Not religious belief. ), but little if anything about Jane Eyre the novel.
    I thought that this was a Literature Forum, subdivision: General Literature, subdivision: Bronte, Charlotte; not Religious Text or Philosophical Literature. Am I being unreasonable in asking that we stick to the subject?
    Kiki acutely writes: “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. “
    "Ex-act-ly--pre-cise-ly: with your usual acuteness, you have hit the nail straight on the head."( chp.23)- Let's stick to the subject - what Charlotte wrote, the Truth (artistic imagination).
    To argue the meaning and applicability of narcissism, when she points out that the term was not even used before 1905, seems sloppy logic if not perverse.
    When she writes: “Thus the narcissism portrayed in Manfred and Rochester implies a weak self which induces self-love as a defence-mechanism. “, are we now to understand that the proof that Rochester is demonic, is that he is narcissistic? It would appear that Bertha has been replaced by amateur psychoanalysis.
    This argument is beyond me and I don't have a license to practice.
    Ah well, it seems that I'm a bookworm content to burrow in a dusty tome, while kiki is a butterfly soaring high in the sky.

    PS - Bitterfly, l'honneur nous faire part de vos pensées.
    Last edited by Peripatetics; 02-14-2009 at 03:19 PM. Reason: fancy

  4. #4
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    So a clinical psychiatric definition of narcissism is not good enough. I dread to think what is. Of course, it is difficult to face reality, but I didn’t think one could live in such a fantasy. Byron is noted for his characters who are narcissists, sado-masochist, controlling, taking revenge etc. etc.. Peripatetics can keep disagreeing with it, but she’ll hit her head against the wall. Discrediting a PhD dissertation of all kinds says more about Peripatetics than about the dissertation. I trust Peripatetics never saw a work of Byron and the persistence of the grandiose self in it? Byron was so bad as a man himself that he was divorced after one year and that by his wife, a case which could only have happened if she had enough proof of repeated adultery, extreme violence etc. etc. The man was so ego-centric that he married his wife only for the sake of revenge because she refused him a first time. He fired duelling pistols in the house 'just to frighten his wife' and he manhandled her when she was pregnant. She was so controlled that, when he left she wanted to go and lie on the mat of his dog to wait for him. Does Peripatetics think narcissists did not exist before they were clinically identified? I thought that scientists actually researched reality and than drew conclusions in stead of the other way round which Peripatetics argues when she intimates that the criteria for narcissism now do not apply to people then. Even Freud wrote about the narcissism of Manfred. Is that also a source which is not credible?

    Let me list Peripatetics’ mistakes, which are more ludicrous than mine:

    ‘Milton’s Paradise Lost is sacrilegious’. Discredited by 50 years of academic research.

    Jane Eyre is anti-religious’. It was founded upon Rigby’s complaint which was unique in its condemnation of the novel. Discredited by inherent proof.

    The chivalric code has its origins in 1830 in a book of Balzac (source: Wikipedia). That was the most ignorant and ludicrous one of all as it is the longest ever tradition in European literature and exists since the 11th century.

    The discussion on the medieval mindset. It speaks of a total inability to step out of contemporary mindset and to appreciate something in its time and its context.

    'Rousseau’s philosophy was an equivalent of paganism, worshipping Nature.' It is a profound misunderstanding of philosophy and Rousseau in particular, certainly as Rousseau himself was a believing man. And still Peripatetics uses it in connection with Emily’s Wuthering Heights while there is other research on the net that gives a much more interesting interpretation. But I suppose that that is not to Peripatetics’ liking.

    The use of big and difficult words as ‘obfuscation’, ‘non equitur’, etc etc. I can do as well. But it does not make my argument right. I seem to have seen that style somewhere else…

    Wanting to put words in someone’s mouth by calling him an ‘ideologist’ is easy. And certainly taking as a reference a piece of a post. It does not belong to an intellectual discussion.

    The saddest thing of all is the total disregard for allusions and what they can tell. There are whole sites dedicated to the allusions of the Brontës. It passes me how one can disregard it.

    An interpretation is all well and good, but it needs to be founded. Although, I haven’t put that many references in lately I do always check my sources and they are usually academic ones. Permit me to say that I have seen none of that.

    As far as I am aware we are discussing Brontë and Jane Eyre and as far as I am aware that does include Brontë's perception of Truth. It was a very interesting article and to the point. I used it as well as far as I am aware in the interpretation of the end, which is no mere satisfaction of the Victorian morals as it happens... That is at least the conclusion I drew out of that article. Peripatetics writes: 'The analysis results in historical, psychological or aesthetic interpretations. Interpretations multiply into Freudian, Marxist, Feminist, Ideological or just plain vanilla, literary models,' she is very right. Yet my Freudian argument is beyond her?

    I have clearly stated in the last paragraph of my paper that the 'demonic' can easily be merged with the 'narcissistic', yet it seems that that was not read...
    Also the concept of several interpretations that can be considered right is totally alien to this discussion as it seems...

    I demand Peripatetics stops discrediting my analysis on its own and puts forward a well-researched idea with references of her own wothout basing it on an antithesis of mine.
    Last edited by kiki1982; 02-14-2009 at 05:45 PM. Reason: more things to say
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  5. #5
    Man, your paragraphs are oceanic. I'm not plunging myself in there, I'd drown. Spare a thought for the reader's convenience, otherwise what's the point?
    Last edited by joseph90ie; 02-14-2009 at 08:41 PM.

  6. #6
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    It was part of a long-term discussion with Peripatetics, as you might have noticed...

    The main point was the narcissistic nature of Rochester and his physiognomy that is under the surface...

    Usually there is no need to go that deep, but the longer the discussion, the deeper the pit.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  7. #7
    No, sorry, Kiki, I'm the rude one. I'm an awful bollox sometimes. Hey, I like that picture of Beethoven. I have that on the cover of one of my cds, for his first and sixth symphonies. I don't think he looked that beautiful in real life, but who cares!

  8. #8
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    No problem. It can be interesting for others who are looking on the internet for things of that kind.

    It was the only picture of Beethoven I could find... So took that one.

    His lloks improved with age, I think. Engravings and portraits from when he was young are quite ugly, although he didn't have problems to attract women... Maybe something to do with his passionate character?
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  9. #9
    liber vermicula Bitterfly's Avatar
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    Kiki, I have come to a conclusion about you: you are impossibly cultivated.
    I have a question about the beginning of your first post:

    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.
    What Wheat defines as "real" resembles the Platonic Forms ("actual entity without the appearance"). I would have thought - seeing that Thornfield is a realm of appearances, of simulacra, like Plato's cave - that Jane seeks something beyond appearances, which would therefore be Forms, if you remain within the Platonic logic. But you seem to be saying that what she looks for beyond appearances is not Platonic and static (eternal and immutable) but a subjective, almost phenomenological, and therefore relative Truth, that is different for everyone. Is that right?

  10. #10
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Saarburg, Germany
    That is what I got out of that article, yes, I think...

    'The Truth accoriding to the artist' and not the absolute Truth (divine or something like that, the Platonic in that case, I suppose) I should read more philosophy in that respect.

    The article is here, if you want to have a look at it:,M1

    Unfortunately, it is just an 'example' and some pages are not included in that. There are two versions, I only read one, with pages missing. But normally it should just elaborate on the same topic and explore the theme further by looking at Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights and Charlotte's opinion on them...
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  11. #11
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Saarburg, Germany
    The treatment of Bertha Rochester in a true contemporary context

    People always seem to land in the same kind of biased position when it comes to interpreting Rochester’s treatment of his wife. Readers of Jane Eyre seem to be biased towards Rochester treating Bertha well, in comparison to the care that was available then, because they presume that care for the mentally ill was the same all through the past up until the invention of medication and modern ways of dealing with psychiatric patients. They seem to think that Bethlem, as it was from the 1800s to the 1830s like Norris described it, was the standard all through the 19th century or that psychiatric patients were not able to be treated, or kept calm at least, without medication (which is of course available now), and so had to be restrained or confined. Yet there have been a number of asylums like the York Retreat that professed ‘non-restraint’ and ‘moral treatment’. Did they never confine or mechanically restrain people? Was this all a sham, as some professors and people in the field claim, or was it serious? And what with really violent people? I will attempt to throw a glance at what were the practices of non-restraint, not only the theory, but what actually went on in the asylums where that was professed.

    Firstly it needs to be said that the conditions in which mad people were kept in the early 1900s are not at all the same as the conditions in the 1840s when Jane Eyre was written and to what its initial public was obviously used to hearing (because issues got debated in the press) (Roberts). Roberts writes, on his site dedicated to care for the mentally ill and part of the University of Middlesex, about the 19th century in general: ‘The early period of state asylums was custodial, out of it developed a period of therapeutic optimism that reached its height in the 1840s, and declined into therapeutic pessimism in the second half of the nineteenth century.’ It seems that there was a high in the 1840s of therapeutic optimism, so what did that mean? Roberts writes: ‘The optimistic period in the history of asylums runs from about 1830 to around 1860. It was at its height in the 1840s. Asylums built under the 1808 and 1828 County Asylums Act tended to be left to the management of doctors. As the theories and techniques of managing lunatics in asylums developed, so did the belief that this asylum treatment itself was the correct, scientific way to cure lunacy.’ The only way was up, as it seems. What’s more is that the period 1830s to the 1840s is particularly important to Brontë and her opinions as that was the time of her teenage years in which opinions are formed. It is especially acknowledged in research concerning political participation. (J. Gimpel, J. Lay, J. Schuknecht, Cultivating Democracy). About therapeutic pessimism, Roberts writes: ‘The pessimistic period in asylum history developed during the second half of the nineteenth century. Medical theory was strongly influenced by social darwinist beliefs that insanity is the end product of an incurable degenerative disease carried in the victim's inherited biology, and the experience of asylums, and reanalysis of their statistics, undermined the earlier beliefs in their therapeutic value. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, the pessimistic period in asylum history ran gently into a backwater period. Most progress in mental health policy took place outside the asylums, in specialist hospitals like the Maudsley, or in outpatient departments, and the asylums became the quiet back wards where chronic patients live.’ During the second half of the 19th century social Darwinism had taken over. Degeneration was a natural social process and intervening in it (by treating patients in an attempt to cure them f.i.) harms the natural process and is ultimately harmful to society (Roberts). Thus, from an enlightened time of treating the mentally ill, asylum care went backwards, back to the days before treatment. Scientific research in the psychiatric field continued but only in very restricted circles. The reform of humane treatment did not last also partly due to the problem of overcrowding (University of Alabama) as more and more people were admitted to asylums because they were deemed mentally ill (Roberts). Peace could no longer be maintained, keepers were overstretched and as a result reduced to confining patients again.
    It is obvious that something went on from the end of the 18th century to about the middle of the 19th, this in connection with the Enlightenment which brought a new way of thinking (Edginton). Particularly the case of King George III who was mad himself, raised awareness for the insane (Roberts), as they did not want to picture their beloved king in a straightjacket. The first to start a more humane approach to asylum care were the Quakers, led by Tuke, who founded the York Retreat in 1796. They decided to found an asylum after the death of one of their members in the conventional York Asylum (Bewley for RCPsych) and speedily took it over by force (Roberts). Bewley writes about their approach: ‘The views of the original promoters of this establishment shed some light on the psychological, moral and medical treatment available to the mentally ill at that time. Although they were aware that abuses existed in many asylums, they expected that there would be people from whose practice they might learn and by whose instructions they might be guided in the main principles of their moral and medical treatment. The system at that time generally adopted relied on the principle of fear to govern the insane. The practical consequence deduced from this was that attendants should initially relate to patients with an appearance of austerity and perhaps the display of personal strength; in some cases of violent excitement, force would be the most suitable method of control. At the beginning the Retreat assented to the general correctness of these views and although they were modified by the good sense and feeling of the management committee, they were acted upon to an extent that we can hardly contemplate without surprise today.’ In other words, the Quakers acknowledged that the mentally ill which they wanted to care for, were usually governed by fear (of their keepers) and their initial approach should be similar. Yet, they moved towards a more humane treatment by modifying the rules. So we can conclude that they did not from one moment to another remove all restraint and hoped for the best, which would be very unrealistic indeed. Beside that, there was the problem for the Quakers that they were the first in England, and that they had to make their own policy and philosophy. On top of that they did not have experience and needed to learn, but renew at the same time. So the likelihood of restraints being removed at once without regard for side-issues is very small indeed and could be a romantic view of it. However, the method of non-restraint when it was finally established should not be taken lightly as it still works today (not least in the York Retreat itself).

    Further on in the same article Bewley writes about treatments they used in order to calm people. It shouldn’t be thought that their only ‘therapies’ consisted in cleanliness, order, useful occupation and religious service and education. They did use calming medication (as laudanum), although that was largely limited to agreeable patients before the invention of the injection needle, and they used baths cold and hot. A case note from Thomas Prichard, who managed Northampton Lunatic Asylum from 1838, describes the case of a 31 year old railroad labourer who attacked his wife, bit her and was confined in a pauper asylum and was transferred to Northampton having worn a straightjacket for a week prior to that. Prichard deemed ‘restraint unnecessary’ and advised to have the man treated with ‘digitalis, antimony tartrate and calomel’. He also had to be kept quiet and cool, and should get a ‘low diet’. Digitalis is now used against heart failure and problems with heart rhythm, but due to its toxicity, it causes, in too high doses, ‘nausea, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, wild hallucinations, delirium, and severe headache’ (Lacassie). Admittedly it can cause death, but provided the fact that its medicinal effectiveness was already addressed in 1785 by Erasmus Darwin and William Withering (College of Physicians, An Account of the Successful Use of Foxglove in Some Dropsies and in Pulmonary Consumption, London, 1785), it can be considered that doctors knew which doses were lethal and how much one should give to the patient in order to purge, which was a common practice, and which no doubt had a calming effect (only down to the lack of energy). Antimony tartrate or Antimonium Tartaricum is a substance still used in Homeopathy today (Séror). It causes nausea, headaches, drowsiness, weakness of circulation and is now used for things as bronchitis, but was then used in order to relieve certain symptoms of insanity. (Talcott, Compendium Mental Diseases and their Modern Treatment, 1901). Calomel mercury chloride was a laxative, used for the same purpose as digitalis. Although it has now been phased out of use because of its toxic nature, back then it was widely used for medicinal purposes, also for pneumonia (University of Alabama). Whatever may have been the merits of the medication the railroad worker admitted to Northampton got, two days after his admission and necessarily the application of his medication, he asked to work in the garden and did that for more than an hour. By the 13th of August 1838, a mere twelve days after his admission on the 1st of that month, he worked in the garden every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. The same man was discharged ‘recovered’ 2 months after admission. The same man had, as stated above, bitten his wife, but also escaped confinement, knocked down his keeper, scaled two high walls and then banged his head against a bridge. (Î]Thomas Prichard and the non-restraint movement at the Northhampton Asylum[/I] C. Haw and G. Yorston for the Psychiatric Bulletin, 2004). It needs to be asked of course how long the man was ‘recovered’ and how long it was before he was back into care, but by restraining him there would probably have been no way he would ever have ‘recovered’.

    The same article examined the records of the first 50 cases brought to the asylum. 70% of patients brought in had had a history of violence towards others and 22% had harmed themselves or attempted suicide. 18% of patients had been restrained in a previous institution (it needs to be noted that only 74% of patients came from a ‘previous institution’, namely workhouse or other asylum (68%), infirmary (4%) or gaol (jail) (2%) and that 10% was not indicated and 6% came from home) and 16% was brought to Northampton in restraints. Only In 14% of cases restraints were taken off on admission while 8% over all was temporarily restrained in the asylum. Seen that 70% had a history of violence it is remarkable that only 30% was violent in Northampton and that only 8% was temporarily restrained there (Haw and Yorston). Thomas Prichard said that his system was one ‘of kind and preventative treatment, in which all excitement is as much as possible avoided, and no care omitted’ (Northampton Record Office, 1840). It is imaginable that the more excitement provided, the more risk there is that the patient will get violent. However it needs to be noted that both researchers remarked that it is possible that not all restraint was recorded. But even then there is more than a 50% gap between the patients of those 50 that were restrained before and the people of those 50% that were restrained in Northampton. It seems highly unlikely that in ore than 50% of cases the restraint would not have been recorded, while in other cases that was done.
    Prichard noted another ‘remarkable’ case, even for his conception:
    A servant, 31 years of age, was admitted to Northampton on the 30th of August 1838 with ulcers in the lumbar region, legs and ankles because of being strapped to a bed. After her first attack of insanity she was sent to the local infirmary where they had treated her with bleeding and blisters, but that had not made anything better. She destroyed her clothes. Prichard decided to take restraints away and noted: ‘continued in the state about a week during which time she was very bad destroying her bed continuously, tearing clothes to pieces and talking in a most incoherent manner to herself. [She was] treated with both shower baths and laxatives and bathing the head, under this other improved when tonic mixture was given and she rapidly recovered her reason.’ In February, he wrote on the same case, that ‘it had been a very interesting [one]’ and that she had filled the vacant post of a nurse ‘for the last two weeks’ (!). In March 1839 he discharged her and hired her as a nurse!

    Of course not all things went like that. Despite the non-restraint policy, naturally restraint was sometimes necessary. But it was kept to a definite minimum. For controlling aggressive behaviour the man used solitary confinement, low rations and shower baths, however in rare cases he did use restraint. (Robinson, 1859).

    Another great man in the movement of non-restraint was John Conolly. In her article John Conolly and the treatment of mental illness in early Victorian England, Haw discusses the possible medication Victorian psychiatrists had at their disposal. It needs to be acknowledged that we are not considering true ‘psychiatric’ medication that tackles the disorders themselves, because those drugs like anti-depressants were 20th century inventions. Also the principles of medicine were totally different at the time. Haw writes: ‘Patients were frequently subjected to a wide variety of drastic purgatives and emetics, such as croton oil, castor oil, extract of rhubarb and aloes (Esquirol, 1845). Constipation was commonly believed to exacerbate insanity, hence alienists were preoccupied with the state of their patients’ bowels and the desirability of producing daily bowel actions (Esquirol, 1845; Rush, 1812).’ Haw argues, like I thought, that ‘dehydration and electrolyte inbalances might have exhausted an excited schizophrenic or manic patient into a state of temporary quietness and thus appear to have alleviated their condition.’ But Conolly was more cautious and did not approve of ‘drastic purgation’. Besides purgation that was considered ‘wholesome’, there were of course also sedatives that could be used: opiates like morphia salts, hyoscyamine, although the latter is extremely poisonous, but it would not be the first extremely toxic medication… Those sedatives were used to make patients sleep when they were excited (Haw). Surprisingly, or maybe not so, Conolly preferred the latter (Haw), but still found ‘a copious draught of cold water often a better sedative than any medicine’ (Report of the Resident Physician at the Hanwell Asylum, 1840). She does conclude that toxic drugs were often used in psychiatry then, but Conolly did have the wariness to remark that antimony and digitalis seemed ‘to lower the strength of the lunatic beyond expectation, but without significant improvement in the mental state (Report, 1840).

    Drugs were of course not the only means of treatment. There were a number of other methods that were applied like bleeding, blisters, calming in general, the whirling chair, warm baths and giant rocking horses in the courtyard. Because physicians were obsessed with physical causes of mental illness, they bled certain areas that were deemed the cause of mental discomfort. Blisters, moxas (burns caused by a Japanese burning herb) and setons (the application of a thread through a fold of skin) were applied with the aim of counter-irritation (Haw), Conolly did use blisters occasionally, but never moxas or setons (Haw). Depression was thought to result from a debility in the gastric system and so small blisters and leeches were applied to the epigastrium and a bland diet was prescribed (Haw). Furthermore Conolly and Esquirol asserted that madness was the result of an over-excited brain and they believed that shaving the head and applying a paste containing antimony or cold packs (bladders with powdered ice) was wholesome. Shower baths were also deemed calming and Conolly reported that patients were calm for days or even months (Haw). Morison used the douche, but Conolly did not like it as it was too much of a punishment (Haw). While he disapproved of the whirling chair which rotated at high speed so as to shock people out of their delusions, Conolly calmed patients down with warm baths in order to soothe them to sleep. Equally sleep-inducing were supposed to be the giant rocking horses for the patients in the courtyards on which several patients at the time could take place. (Haw)

    When Conolly visited the Lincoln Asylum in 1839, where non-restraint was already practiced by Hill, he decided to do away with all restraint in Hanwell as well and managed that in three months (Haw). However, the ideal situation that was present in Lincoln with its mere 150 patients, was not there in Hanwell as that was an asylum with 800 inmates. To achieve his goal he increased the number of keepers from 1 per 25 patients to 1 for 18 patients and increased the wages to £25 a year. (Haw)

    In order to calm patients down, Conolly decided on seclusion which would remove all irritating sources from an excited brain. To prevent misuse by the attendants he ordered them to meticulously record any use of the padded rooms, which he had specially constructed, and they at all times had to inform a member of the medical staff (Haw). He noted about the absence of restraint that ‘the wards are less noisy, frantic behaviour and manic paroxysms are less frequent, patients are more cheerful and cleaner.’ (Conolly, reprinted 1973)

    There were of course patients who were not correctible in their violence or destructiveness. Women who were continually destroying their clothes, he did not restrain, however, but just supplied them with stronger dresses and a leather belt with a lock (Haw). For epileptic patients that were fastened to their beds at night for fear of fits - he did not continue practicing because he found it unsafe - he made their beds lower and padded the rooms (Haw). But it did not stop with non-restraint and moral management. He improved the wards’ hygiene, lighting and heating in winter. He kept the patients equally hygienic and warm. The food was of better quality and of a bigger amount. Employment was provided. Even leisure activities were supplied in the form of dances, dinners, tea parties and seasonal activities (on a grand scale, for several hundreds of patients!). He also trained the nurses in order to improve their care to his patients and ended up (after some doubt on their part) with a loyal workforce (Haw). Nevertheless, even he could not fail to see that a large number of patients never recovered: ‘the consequences [of non-restraint] may not be that a much greater number of perfect recoveries are effected, for recovery is impossible in a majority of cases of insanity, but the actual number of the insane thus kept in the living and intellectual world, and enjoying a great share of happiness, is immensely increased.’ In the end Conolly was saddled with a lot of chronic patients that indeed did not recover. Though Haw does comment on the ‘occupational therapy’ being certainly in a modern view exploiting, she does put it in its Victorian context of literal ‘usefulness’. She concludes further: ‘We can usefully apply Conolly’s healthy scepticism over physical and drug remedies for mental illness to today’s treatments, although we now have the benefit of the double-blind technique by which to judge a treatment’s efficacy.’

    It should also be mentioned that animals were used in a therapeutic way, as well! The first to introduce them was Tuke (again). By 1813 be had put In his airing courts rabbits, hawks, poultry and seagulls. Conolly had ‘various tame animals’ in his wards and ducks and ‘other aquatic fowl’ in his yards by 1847. In Bethlem, by 1860 they had birds, cats, canaries, squirrels and greyhounds. (Allderidge)

    In connection with non-restraint, there was the moral management-approach which tried to ‘increase the conscience and will of patients and thus to combat insanity by increasing self-control’ (Haw). In his article The Well-Ordered Body: The Quest for Sanity through nineteenth-century Asylum Architecture, Edginton makes a link between the philosophy of the day concerning curing insanity and the architecture of the asylums that had to provide a space for it, as Tuke said it. Moral management could not be applied without a place that allowed such things as Classification, Routine, Discipline and Contact with the Landscape, without which moral management was non-existent. Classification, Routine and Discipline were needed to make a copy of the normal and natural (the sane) in order to put the abnormal (the insane) in it. The cheerful, agreeable aspect, the wholesome of the site, the sense of space, the temperature and the comfort would be able to pass from the outside, where it was sensed, to the inside (the mind). Thus a well-ordered asylum would produce well-ordered minds (Edginton). Patients were classified according to class, gender, behaviour, type of insanity: ‘Those who are violent, require to be separated from the more tranquil, and to be prevented, by some means, from offensive conduct, towards their fellow sufferers. Hence, the patients are arranged according to classes, as much as may be, according to the degree in which they approach rational or orderly conduct.’ (Tuke, Practical Hints on the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums, W. Alexander, 1815). That is as far as the importance of classification goes. The healing aspects of nature, though were present in the construction of the places themselves: great window space, verandas, large day rooms, gardens, sports facilities as bowls, tennis and cricket and a farm. Edginton remarked that from all windows one had a view of the landscape/nature. Even when there were walls around the airing courts, the places where the windows were were elevated enough so as to look over them. Windows were cleverly constructed so people would not jump out of them: they only opened 6 inches top and bottom, they consisted out of little panes and they were four feet from the floor. They were always directed south and they had an uninterrupted view of the landscape. The asylums did not have fences, but instead a ditch with a wall on the other side so the lunatics could not escape, but did have an uninterrupted view of the landscape and did not feel ‘locked in’ by a fence or wall. (Sennett) That design was an effect of the ways people wanted to cure insanity and it was apparent in the design of lunatic asylums by the 1840s. While Wakefield (1818) and Cornwall (1820) were built like the asylums installed in buildings that were not purpose-built (prisons or similar buildings like convents) with a few alterations as to view and space, by the 1880s asylums were built according to gaiety (Edginton, a view also shared by Roberts and Rutherford who examined the influence of Moorfields Bethlem built in 1815 with a corridor plan ending in two pavilions). The concept of moral management had first been identified in the Retreat of Tuke: the realisation of the humanity of the insane or their incompleteness as rational individuals; the need for non-medical or the psychological aspects of treatment; the treatment of the insane as children and the asylum organisation as a family; the use of nature as a means of calming insanity. (Edginton) Thus, together with the classification, routine and discipline provided, the design of the asylum itself became a therapy to make the insane sane. (Edginton)

    The Audit of Violence of the National Healthcare Commission between 2003 and 2005 in the UK asked about violence on psychiatric wards. 50% of staff of all levels of 203 wards was questioned and for each ward there were 20 patients asked their opinion. The examined wards were mainly acute wards, but also included elderly, learning disability and secure wards. 35% of patients claimed that they were ‘winded up’ by staff or nurses. In the same audit, patients and visitors were asked what they felt ‘triggered’ violence on the ward. Amongst the most common were: substance misuse: the use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or withdrawal from them; staff: (low) staff levels, skills, experience, but also attitudes (patronising), over custodial, interaction with patients, nature or absence of intervention; space and over-crowding: bed numbers, ward/unit layout, proximity of other people, lack of privacy; medication and treatment: side effects, compliance, changes to regimen; frustration: lack of activities, noise levels, being away from family and friends, lack of visitors; smoking: lack of cigarettes, overcrowded smoking areas, annoyance about smoking behaviour of others; excessive noise: radios, shouting people, squeaking doors, ringing door bells, noises made by others late at night; intimidation by other patients; theft; temperature. It is obvious that the same problems existed in the asylums in the 19th century: patronising staff, not enough staff, too many people, lack of privacy, too much noise, squeaking doors, ringing bells etc… Although the medication and treatment should be left to one side as that is not comparable. If all these are kept to a minimum by the layout of the building, the organisation of the asylum, and the training of the staff, it seems totally plausible to me to be able to keep violence to a minimum as patients themselves put it down to other causes than their illness. Admittedly people might just be deluded, but maybe they are much more easily irritated. Whatever is the case it is still down to the staff to tackle it or prevent it and so new guidelines were given In 2005 to the staff. The question about what triggers violence is particularly important if we acknowledge that no patient (or visitor, because they were also asked) puts it down to themselves (or the patients). Of course, people are not aware of the fact that a squeaking door should irritate you that much that you should become violent, but in eradicating the squeaking door one takes away the cause of the violence in the first place which would be a lot harder if one were to try to take away the irritation at once. Conolly and the others of the non-restraint movement tried to diminish causes of irritation so much by achieving quietness, kind nurses, and low numbers of patients, that it can indeed become credible that non-restraint did work without medication. That is at least what the audit was partly concerned with as they did not ask the staff what triggered the violence but the patients and visitors.

    Having seen the types of treatment doctors used in an attempt to cure and calm patients, and having seen the non-restraint policy, we should consider Bertha’s position. Non-restraint and moral management were not a hoax as it seems. It can be said that it is written about seriously in psychiatric magazines, and not least the Royal College of Psychiatrists does not see it as a hoax, but as a system that worked though not cured. Although we can make objections to some of its methods, we should acknowledge, in this context, that that was the best they could do with their knowledge and medication available to them. If there was such an emphasis on healthy wards, kind attendants and non-restraint (which apparently did work due to organisation and diminishing of the causes of irritation), even if it did not cure, is it then to be considered that Rochester did the best he could in confining his wife in the half dark for 10 years, 24 hours a day, and restraining her with a rope under the eyes of Wood, Briggs, Mason and Jane? In my view the non-restraint asylums were definitely better than the ones criticised by the Commisioners and Bethlem which chained people to the floor, although that was largely over by the time Brontë wrote Jane Eyre. Restraint in Bethlem had largely been abolished in the 1840s and was totally abandoned in the 1850s (source: Bethlem itself). What is better? To sit 24 hours a day in the same place with nothing to occupy you and maybe still have blisters applied, be leeched and even beaten, or to occasionally be made calm by (from a modern point of view unorthodox) treatment after which you sleep, become (temporarily) better and can get usefully occupied? Even from a modern point of view the non-restraint policy is just that slight bit better than the conventional way of handling lunatics, because it at least supplied them freedom. In the 19th century, from 1830 on, it was the best that was possible. Harriet Martineau’s article in [I]The Lancet[/I of June 1834 can be considered as a little too romantic in feel, but not as untrue. In that context it is obvious that Rochester did not care. He paid Grace Poole about the tenfold of Conolly’s attendants that were very well paid, in order to keep his wife a secret, not to give her good care.

    The intriguing question still remains, however, which was the actual ‘retreat’ Brontë based the name ‘Grimsby Retreat’ on. The Guardian and the Rowntree organisation both claim it is the York Retreat, and Stanford University puts the same on its fact sheet for Jane Eyre and moral madness, basing it on Showalter (1985) and Sutherland (1997). Yet, there was another non-restraint asylum in Lincoln, the capital of Lincolnshire, the same county as Grimsby is in and 34 miles from there.


    Thomas Bewley, Madness to Mental Illness, A History of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2008, a publication of the RCP

    Camilla Haw & Graeme Yorston, Thomas Prichard and the Non-Restraint movement at the Northampton Asylum, 2004 for the Psychiatric Bulletin

    Camilla Haw, John Conolly and the treatment of mental illness in early Victorian England, 1989 for thePsychiatric Bulletin

    The National Audit of Violence, 2003-2005, Royal College of Psychiatrists and Healthcare Commission.

    Barry Edginton, The Well-Ordered Body: The Quest for Sanity through nineteenth-century Asylum Architecture, 1993, for the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine and the European Society for the History of Psychiatry

    Patricia H. Allderidge, A cat, surpassing in beauty, and other therapeutic animals, 1991, for the Psychiatric Bulletin

    Selden Harris Talcott, Compendium Mental Diseases and their Modern Treatment, 1901

    Factsheet Jane Eyre and Moral Madness, Stanford University
    Andrew Roberts, Mental Health History Timeline
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  12. #12
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Saarburg, Germany
    Jane Eyre and Ivanhoe: a journey into Bluebeard’s castle

    The link between Scott’s Ivanhoe and Brontë has long been identified by Robert Stowell. Already in her story The Green Dwarf Charlotte Brontë undoubtedly borrowed from Ivanhoe (she has a character jailed with a keeper Bertha!), and in Shirley she employed the same technique as Scott in describing a battle from above. In Scott’s book, Rebecca has to describe the battle from the window to Ivanhoe, who is bedridden having been wounded in the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche. In Shirley, Shirley uses the same imagery as Scott (Stowell, 1996). But for me, the similarities that Stowell saw amongst the deaths of Ulrica in Ivanhoe and Bertha in Jane Eyre are more of interest. Indeed, both passages are very similar:

    ‘The fire was spreading rapidly through all parts of the castle, when Ulrica, who had first kindled it, appeared on a turret, in the guise of one of the ancient furies, yelling forth a war-song … Her long dishevelled grey hair flew back from her uncovered head; the inebriating delight of gratified vengeance contended in her eyes with the fire of insanity; and she brandished the distaff which she held in her hand, as if she had been one of the Fatal Sisters, who spin and abridge the thread of human life. …
    The maniac figure … was for a long time visible on the lofty stand she had chosen, tossing her arms abroad with wild exultation, as if she reined empress of the conflagration which she had raised. At length, with a terrific crash, the whole turret gave way, and she perished in the flames which had consumed her tyrant.’ (Ivanhoe, Chapter XXXI.)

    ‘… [Bertha] was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting out till they could hear her a mile off: I saw her and heard her with my own eyes. She was a big woman, and had long, black hair: we could see it streaming against the flames as she stood.’ (Jane Eyre, chapter XXXVI)

    That similarity is thought-provoking. The last part of Ulrica’s storey is a first indication: her Saxon family was murdered by the old baron Front-de-Boeuf and she became his (forced) mistress. Old Front-de-Boeuf was then murdered by his own son Reginald, after Ulrica fed the rivalry between them out of vengeful feelings. She learns that De Bracy and the Templar Bois-Guilbert have kidnapped Cedric the Saxon, Athelstane the Unready, Cedric’s ward Rowena, who had with them the Jew Isaac of York and his daughter Rebecca, who had with them in turn the wounded Ivanhoe, disowned son of Cedric, friend of King Richard and lover of Rowena. They were all returning from Ashby when De Bracy wanted to kidnap Rowena for his wife. They bring their prisoners to Torquilstone and lock them up: the Jew for money, Rebecca for Bois-Guilbert who has fallen in love with her despite his oath of purity and the fact that she is a Jewess; Rowena alone in order to be coerced into becoming De Bracy’s wife in exchange for the so-called freedom of her guardian Cedric and Athelstane, whom she is betrothed to; and Cedric and Athelstane to be killed, despite the promise to Rowena. Ulrica, after 20 years of solitude in the castle and separated from all things and people Saxon, tries to re-unite with her people via Cedric, who is escaping in the disguise of a priest. After he tells her she is a traitor for sleeping with old Front-de-Boeuf, she decides to commit revenge on Reginald by burning down the castle and so helping the besiegers who are trying to save the prisoners. The besiegers of Torquilstone are a conglomerate mainly existing out of the Saxon gang of Locksley, aka Robin Hood, Gurth, a servant of Cedric the Saxon, and The Black Knight, or Le Noir Fainéant, aka King Richard the Lionhearted Plantagenet in disguise who saved Ivanhoe at Ashby (a Norman). In the end, Ulrica will be able to re-unite the Saxons and Normans, as she will make King Richard aware of the fact that there are Norman traitors in his country who are approved by his brother Prince John who wants to usurp the throne and who is denying him the ransom that needs to be paid. From the other side she will also convince the Saxons that Richard is a good king who does not want to wrong the Saxons, the rightful population of the country. That of course after he lays off his disguise. Essentially, the castle of oppression is figuratively and literally destroyed by Ulrica. We could easily see a first link with Bertha here, as she too will turn out to live in a castle of oppression, but we can only see that through the role of being a helping force that unites her and Bertha in a common theme.

    In her article Bluebeard's female helper: the ambiguous role of the strange old woman in the Grimms' "Castle of Murder" and "The Robber Bridegroom", Daniela Hempen discussed the old women in some versions of Bluebeard-tales: also Perrault’s Bluebeard contains very briefly the sister Anne of the maiden and indicates a role of more importance than Perrault’s moral about negative female curiosity lets through. Hempen argued that ‘both Märchen emphasise the prudence of the young heroine and the positive rather than the negative aspects of female curiosity.’ Thus the secret chamber does no longer show what happens to the heroine if she is disobedient to her husband, but rather shows the truth about marriage. It is an opinion shared by Maria Tatar in her essay The Hard facts about the Grimms’ Fairytales (1987). Hempen remarks as well that the chamber which the bride enters is not explicitly forbidden, but that the actual entry seems to be against social norms. As the maiden wanders through the castle in Das Modschloss (The Castle of Murder), the heroine ends up in the cellar where she finds an old woman scrubbing intestines, who tells her: ‘tomorrow I will scrub yours too.’ This shows the old woman as a real villain, as she is the one who murders the girls, but is this really what she is? As the story goes on, the role of the old woman grows ever more ambiguous, also in other versions of the tale: she answers questions of the heroine, she finds a way of saving her (by telling Bluebeard that she has died already, f.i.), but at the same time in some versions, the heroine’s two sisters have already found their deaths (possibly at the hands of the same woman) and the reader gets nasty details about the woman’s work. The peculiar thing is that the relationship of Bluebeard and the old woman is more like one of an old couple than one of a servant and her master (Hempen): only the old woman can dwell in the secret chamber alive, although her existence seems to be restricted to that very chamber. For Hempen the scrubbing of intestines is the evocation of household-work which the old woman seems to be chained to, it is Bluebeard’s dirty work the woman has to perform while he gets all the profit from it: the lock of hair, the heart and the warm blood. In essence, his crimes are concealed behind the old woman, but she will use the little power she does have (the knowledge of his secret) to save the heroine. Sadly, of course, she will also bring her own position in danger by doing that. Hempen further remarks that in both tales the heroine is suspicious towards her new husband and it is the secret chamber that is necessary to save her. Essentially, the old woman seems to fulfill the same role as the dead women in other Bluebeard-tales: they are all victims of the same man. Furthermore, as Bluebeard needs a ‘female helper’ to do his dirty work, he is compelled to share his secret with her and that is what contributes to his downfall (the escape of his bride and sometimes his own death). Hempen argued that that secret is not merely the murdering of the women, as the old woman is not yet dead, but that it is rather his view of women in general: the sexual and non-sexual use he made of them. In that, the bond between the old woman and the new bride is essential for the latter’s escape while isolation leads to death (in the former two sisters’ and other wives’ cases).

    The Bluebeard-allusion is present in Jane Eyre when Jane compares the gallery where Bertha will turn out to live to ‘a corridor in some Bluebeard’s castle’ in chapter XI of the novel. Also the suspicious element in the heroine is present when Jane grows more suspicious during the month of courtship. Robert Sutherland makes a case for Rochester as a wife-murderer, assigns to Mrs Fairfax a role as helper by speculating that she was the one who informed Mason of the impending wedding and identifies Grace Poole as the crone. But I think Rose Lovell-Smith was more right in identifying a combination of three aspects of the female helper in Thornfield: Bertha, Grace Poole and Mrs Fairfax.

    Bertha is as dead for society as the dead sisters of the heroine or former wives of Bluebeard are in some of the tales; she is as dead as the women of whom the intestines are being scrubbed by the old woman. Naturally, Bertha’s role, is not one of answering questions, but rather one of sign. As Lovell-Smith says it: ‘Bertha … , visually horrific, seems to lack personality or individuality: she is all sign.’ The kinship of the dead wives and the heroine, in some tales, is emphasised by the fact that they are the heroine’s sisters (Lovell-Smith). In this case, Bertha is not a sister of Jane, but she definitely plays a role in making Jane aware that something is wrong: she laughs loudly and clearly in the earlier chapters of Thornfield so Jane is aware of some mystery, she leaves the candle in the gallery when she tries to burn Rochester in his bed in chapter XV, she bites her brother in a horrific manner, she tears the veil in two and shows her face briefly, and she will bring about Rochester’s downfall by succeeding to burn down Thornfield in the end. Even if she is not really a blood-relation of Jane, she is a kinswoman when it come to being Rochester’s wife: Jane and Bertha will have the same objective status after the wedding. The same status as the heroine and the dead wives in the forbidden chamber. Bertha is only one aspect, though, as she is both the evocation of the secret (as the dominated and controlled wife, the equivalent of the really dead wives in the tales) and the outward sign of it (when she escapes in the night). For Jane she is the finger with the ring as in tales of type AT955 (Lovell-Smith).

    More interesting is the aspect Grace Poole. John Sutherland in 1997 saw In her the quintessential crone, but as it turns out she is not the only one in Thornfield. Grace Poole fits the description of the old woman as a servant, who leads the attention away from the secret, as she is the keeper of Bertha (and Rochester’s secret). That is the reason why she is accused every time Bertha comes out of her cell: when she tries to burn Rochester in his bed in chapter XV, when Bertha tears up the veil in chapter XXV. Even when Rochester poses as the gypsy, Jane thinks it is Grace Poole. In essence, and I have already stated this, the substitution of Rochester with Grace Poole is not at all coincidental: here also it is of importance as it indeed indicates the real perpetrator who is not Grace Poole, but Rochester. Also in Bluebeard’s tales it is not the old woman, who might be scrubbing the intestines or putting the kettle on the fire, who is the villain, it is Bluebeard himself. The servant poses merely as a cover. And so it is with Grace Poole: she is only a servant of Rochester, trying to cover up the secret for him who pays her handsomely for that service. Although, her problem with drink, brings the downfall of Rochester a few times very close, as Bertha succeeds to escape three times. As she is indeed part of his secret, she will be part of his downfall as well. Might we suppose that on the night Bertha escaped, Grace had fallen asleep again? It is certainly alluded to by the keeper of the Rochester Arms in chapter XXXVI. Also Grace’s description as ‘a woman between thirty and forty; a set, square-made figure, red-haired, and with a hard, plain face’ (chapter XI), makes her akin to Ulrica as middle-aged woman past her glory-days. She even is alluded to as a possible cast-off mistress of Rochester at some point, essentially the same as Ulrica. She certainly comes across as the villain, particularly after the fire in chapter XV when Jane interrogates her. She will turn out innocent in chapter XXVI, only carrying out orders from Rochester, but because of her drinking, she fulfils the means for Bertha to be a sign to Jane. And that is what makes her a helper.

    Mrs Fairfax, though, is of more interest, as she is definitely elderly and has a role severely ambiguous as both the servant and distant blood-relation of Rochester. She also fulfils her role by supplying Jane with food and drink, and by showing her around the house. Whether she knows anything about Bertha as the wife of Rochester, is doubtful and I would not agree with Sutherland on that. It is clear she knows a little about the argument between Rochester and his family, and it is clear that she must know about the lunatic in the attic: certainly she, as the housekeeper, must know about it and the fact that no-one else is to be called apart from Dr Carter or Mr Poole from the Grimsby Retreat if something is the matter. It is liable that she could have guessed, however, as Rochester intimated at one point, because why else is it so important that no-one apart from Dr Carter and Mr Poole can be called? why is it that Bertha needs to stay a secret? Furthermore, there must at least be one person other than Grace In that household that knows what went on: old John, the coachman. It is mentioned in the last chapter that he called Rochester by his Christian name: Mr Edward. And that was the case because he had known him since he was a child. In that, he was no doubt present at the time Rochester was sent to Jamaica to marry and as a servant he must surely have been informed of that. He must have seen mad Bertha arrive. Whether the man had been informed about the fact that Mr Edward’s wife had gone mad, is not sure, but as nothing was to be said about the marriage of Rochester, it is certainly possible that the servants were sworn to secrecy. As such, he could have done 1+1 and dropped a hint to Mrs Fairfax. This, of course, is speculation, but it is not totally impossible. As Rochester himself informs Mrs Fairfax of the fact that he is to be married to Jane, old Mr Rochester must have informed the servants about young Edward’s marriage. What is obvious is that Mrs Fairfax tries to minimise the attention of Rochester in Jane’s eyes and tries everything to discourage Jane in hoping for the affections of Rochester. Here, again, we see a helping role towards the heroine. It will also be Mrs Fairfax who will make Briggs and St John Rivers aware of the governess’s story, and through that, she will be one of the means that re-unite Rochester and Jane. Because, it is through those letters written to Briggs and signed by ‘Alice Fairfax’ that Jane takes the decision to write to her, requesting information about Rochester. As she will receive no answer, because Thornfield has burned down in the meantime, and as she will want to refuse St John’s proposal, she will finally go back to Rochester.

    However, it is neither Bertha, Grace Poole, nor Mrs Fairfax who will actually supply Jane with the good ending, like the old woman in Bluebeard supplies the heroine with an escape route or some time until her brothers arrive to slay Bluebeard. Ironically enough, it will be the evil stepmother Mrs Reed who will supply Jane, notably during the Thornfield section, with the address of John Eyre in Madeira. When Jane starts to feel encaged after the shopping trip and Rochester wants to tie her to a golden watch-chain (hinting at his secret), she decides to write to her uncle John Eyre because she would feel better if she were to bring some money into the marriage at some point. It is that letter, which intimated that she was going to be married to Rochester, that (un)fortunately crossed Mason’s path and prevented the marriage. Thus, there is a role for Jane Reed here too as female helper. Without her confession, Jane would have got married to Rochester and learned the truth afterwards somehow. What’s more is that Jane, prior to the letter she writes to her uncle, is ‘dead’ in a typhus epidemic at Lowood. That puts her in the same kind of situation as Bertha who is ‘dead’ as well and makes her in that situation akin to the woman in the same way that the heroine is akin to the dead wives in the forbidden/secret chamber in the fairytales (Hempen). Consequently, it is only Mrs Reed who knows about Jane, as the old woman is the only one (apart from Bluebeard) who knows about the dead women. Sutherland argued it was Mrs Fairfax who contacted Mason on the impending marriage, but I think it is obvious that Jane Reed has a more active role in supplying Jane the means to prevent her own wedding, as the letter Jane wrote to her uncle is also declared to be the reason why Mason found out in the book. As Mrs Fairfax says: ‘I hoped you might be trusted to protect yourself…’ (chapter XXIV). That is what Jane does, though unaware of it. If Mrs Reed was not assigned a special role, why else has Brontë her summon Jane Eyre to her death bed? Not at least to be forgiven, because that is clearly not what she wants…

    As In Bluebeard’s tale, all female helpers disappear somehow: Mrs Reed passes away, Bertha jumps from the roof, Mrs Fairfax is dismissed with a pension to stay with friends and Mrs Poole is not needed anymore after Bertha’s death, so she was probably dismissed although that is not mentioned explicitly. In the fairytales, the lot of the old woman varies between escaping with the heroine to just not being mentioned anymore. Nevertheless, after their role as ‘helper’ is plaid out, all disappear somehow. (Hempen)
    The role of female helper in Jane Eyre seems to be connected with the controlling view Rochester has of wives, women and marriage, like Bluebeard. So the bonding between Jane herself and Bertha, and Mrs Fairfax in particular (Mrs Poole does not really play a bonding role) is important to learn Rochester’s secret. Contrary to what he makes out to want in a wife in chapter XXII - when she says: ‘At God’s feet, equal, - as we are,’ and he repeats: ‘As we are,’ - he does not consider Jane his equal, which features in buying her things she does not want. During the month of courtship there is a struggle going on between Jane and him, something that Mrs Fairfax notably instigated. Jane wants to keep him ‘in check’ (chapter XXIV) and he ‘threaten[s] awful vengeance for [her] present conduct at some period fast coming’ (chapter XXIV). Rochester even links the veil he bought Jane with a dagger and poison: ‘But what did you find in the veil besides its embroidery? Did you find poison, or a dagger, that you look so mournful now?’ (also chapter XXV). It is very peculiar to have that situation going on during the month courtship. It is even more peculiar that Rochester even controls the wedding-clothes for Jane, as that was only a bride-affair. It is ironic that Brontë puts in his mouth the words about the veil and its poison and dagger. Certainly in combination with the Bluebeard-allusion in chapter XI.
    Jane writes that Mrs Fairfax approves of her somewhat impertinent behaviour during the courtship. Indeed, Mrs Fairfax has her doubts about Rochester, whether she has guessed his secret or not. After all she has had enough experience of his character to know his (controlling) ways. For that, no marriage is needed. In chapter XXIV she tells Jane bluntly that ‘all is not gold that glitters,’ a proverb which was also used by Shakespeare in his Merchant of Venice, Act II, scene VII:

    ‘”I am sorry to grieve you,” pursued [Mrs Fairfax], “but you are so young and so little acquainted with men. I wished to put you on your guard. It is an old saying that ‘all is not gold that glitters;’ and in this case I do fear there will be something found to be different to what either you or I expect.”

    “I hoped you might be trusted to protect yourself,…”

    “I hope all will be right in the end,” she said, “but believe me you cannot be too careful. Try and keep Mr Rochester at a distance: distrust yourself as well as him. Gentlemen of his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses.”’

    Here, the woman is definitely alluding to Rochester’s nature, which she can’t really reveal as she is a servant and has to be loyal to her master, but which she can hint at. In The Merchant of Venice, Portia needs to find a husband, but her father left her with three caskets which the potential bridegrooms will have to choose from: a golden one, a silver one and a leaden one. One of the three will contain the portrait of Portia and the two others contain something else. The suitor who chooses the casket with the portrait in it will become Portia’s husband. In scene VII, the Prince of Morocco turns up to woo Portia and reads what is on the three caskets. The golden one reads: ‘who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire’; the silver one reads: ‘who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves’; and the leaden one reads: ‘who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’ Morocco, who is proud, powerful and rich in dress and language, chooses the casket which suits him the most: the most impressive one, the most beautiful one on the outside, the golden one. Indeed what he desires, what he imagines should be Portia’s casket (it is obvious). However, it contains a skull and a little scroll that reads:

    ‘All that glitters is not gold,
    Often have you heard that told:
    Many a man his life hath sold
    But my outside to behold:
    Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
    Had you been as wise as bold,
    Young in limbs, in judgment old,
    Your answer had not been inscroll’d:
    Fare you well; your suit is cold.’ (Act II, Scene VII)

    Later, the Prince of Arragon turns up to woo Portia and also has to go through the test of the three caskets. He, as a typical Spanish nobleman: arrogant (also evoked in his name), feels superior and is consequently also superior to the golden casket as it is ‘what many men desire’. As he is not part of ‘the fool of multitude that choose by show’, he selects ‘what he [(naturally)] deserve[s]’ in his station as Prince of Arragon: the silver casket. But this contains ‘the portrait of a blinking idiot’ and a little scroll that reads:

    ‘The fire seven times tried this:
    Seven times tried that judgment is,
    That did never choose amiss.
    Some there be that shadows kiss;
    Such have but a shadow’s bliss:
    There be fools alive, I wis,
    Silver’d o’er and so was this.
    Take what wife you will to bed,
    I will always be your head:
    So be gone; you are sped.’ (Act II, Scene IX)

    After this, Bassanio turns up, also to woo Portia, and he chooses, naturally, the leaden casket because he sees wealth and money as something to pursue happiness with. That is why he borrowed money to go to Portia and pursue his happiness. The leaden casket indeed contains the portrait of Portia. But the moral of Shakespeare is clear: the golden casket is a symbol for only the outside (beauty, wealth, power) and the pursuing of only that, mirrored in Shylock the Jew. Silver is not only a precious metal, but it is also the material for money, a means of exchange, and also the pursuing of only money, also mirrored in Shylock the Jew. Both caskets evoke the moral that what is outside is not reality and that appearances can sometimes betray. That ultimately wealth, power, appearance is not worth its wait in gold. This is not least true in Jane Eyre: Rochester, with an old name and a true English country-gentleman, chooses his first wife on the basis of her beauty alone and thus went for the golden casket like Morocco. Despite of course not knowing about the £30000, but still wanting a wife who was beautiful. Indeed, the golden ‘tomb [will] worms unfold.’ As he has learned, in his arrogance and wealth, he then ‘deserves’ love and goes through Europe choosing the silver casket(s), which will indeed (all) uncover him as an idiot. One might be able to say that he goes for the leaden casket next (Jane), but there is a problem with that: he feels superior and although he does not fall for her beauty, he wants to make her just that. Is it beneath his station to marry someone plain? In a way, he wants to ‘silver o’er’, one might even say ‘gild’ his leaden casket in order to make it ‘what [he] desire[s]’ and ‘as much as he deserves.’ Naturally ‘gentlemen of his station [were] not accustomed to marry their governesses’ and because of Ingram’s dislike of governesses, we might just picture the reactions when rumour gets out that his wife was once the governess of his ward… So he can certainly not allow her to wear a plain wedding-dress and veil, because that would be too obvious. And anyway: money or the appearances of it compensate for any fault of look, don’t they? At least that is what Mrs Fairfax thinks…
    If we apply all this to Jane, she is not in with his beauty, money, or thinks she deserves him, but she is fooled by his outside appearance and will see the ‘golden tomb worms unfold’ on the wedding day. It is doubtful whether Mrs Fairfax does know about the secret of a mad wife, but she certainly has experience with his temperament and superiority, as she is his servant and relation. As such, she warns Jane for his inside, his ‘carrion death’, by taking the proverb of the golden chest into her mouth. To a certain extent Jane desires Rochester, without really knowing why, because it is the first time. So we could easily make a case for the golden casket from Jane’s side as well. Can it then be a coincidence that she wants to look at his face when he proposes? a face that is naturally an outside cover for his skull? and that consequently only shows the outside? While she insists on the fact that Thornfield is a pleasant place, he finds it a dungeon… Indeed there is a difference… Unfortunatly, this situation is only down to naivety and secrecy on Rochester’s part, although the Prince of Morocco probably also had thought twice before he chose the golden casket if he had known about the skull in it…

    It is at the time that Rochester has opened the two caskets and understands the meaning of the scroll that is in each of them, that he finally can open the leaden casket without adorning it. ‘All that is not worth a fillip’ and the submissiveness he shows to ‘his Maker’ are a sign that he does no longer value the outside symbolised in the golden casket, or his superiority symbolised in the silver casket. By marrying and handing himself over to Jane ‘[to be led] about by the hand’, he indeed figuratively ‘give[s] and hazard[s] all he has’, and that only for the pursuit of his happiness, like Bassanio.

    Also The Merchant of Venice backs up the Bluebeard-allusion and the significance of the female helper in Ivanhoe, Jane Eyre and the fairytale itself. Rochester’s inside is not so fine as his outside and the bonding of Jane with Bertha and Mrs Fairfax helps her to suspect at least that something is the matter. Because of that suspicion, Jane uses Mrs Reed’s letter, prevents her own wedding and thus her lot as unknowing mistress. Indeed, her isolation would have led to her victimisation as a fallen woman, or a marriage or relationship of dominance from Rochester’s side. Through the female helper, Jane escapes and will take up a more meaningful role next to Rochester as his wife. The laws are of course still not in her favour, but he himself is and in that, he will not want to dominate her. Now they are truly ‘at God’s feet, equal, as [they] are,’ because Rochester himself is now submissive to that same God. Where during the first proposal Jane is only equal in form, on the outside, whereas it is clear that Rochester feels superior (he even says so and acts like it), the second proposal features them both really equal with ‘perfect concord [as a] result.’ The fire that destroys Thornfield concludes the Bluebeard-tale and symbolises Bluebeard’s death, together with the disappearance of the last female helper(s) (Hempen). It is at about the same moment in time that Jane’s uncle dies in Madeira and that the inheritance is coming her way. We could argue that it Is an end that is also present in some Bluebeard-tales: the heroine escapes, Bluebeard is murdered by his brothers-in-law or taken prisoner and executed, and the heroine gets his riches. It is of course not Rochester’s riches Jane gets, but Jane ends up getting money at about the same time chronologically that Rochester’s mansion burns to the ground.

    Like Ulrica, Bertha and her consorts unite two camps. Both victims succeed in concluding a battle in favour of the weaker one. Both castles of oppression will be destroyed and the world will be more perfect as a result. Thus, killing Bertha off, was not a racist act, as some do argue, but was firstly an inherent part of the Bluebeard-allusion and secondly a helping hand towards Jane. Not only in freeing Rochester from his burden so he can marry, but also in killing off Bluebeard and de-monstering and re-humanising Rochester. Through the battlement-scene, Brontë also made her readers aware of the kinship between Ulrica and Bertha as characters, and consequently the kinship between their two lives: Ulrica as forced mistress, cast off when she is no longer beautiful; Bertha, chosen as a beauty, but cast off when she is disobedient, unchaste and, we might suppose, mad. As I have argued before: Rochester’s secret is not Bertha itself, but how he perceives her, a view that will also apply to Jane and which also applies to Ulrica in Ivanhoe. It is a theme not so much perceived by male fairytale-writers, but definitely by more female authors than Brontë alone (Lovell-Smith). That is what is horrifying about both Buebeard and Rochester’s tale in Jane Eyre and what makes both unsettling; that is why both heroines are suspicious; that is why Rochester changes in his conduct towards Jane and why they have a good marriage; that is why the second time is more perfect than the first time would have been; it is why Jane feels certain that, if she were mad, he would treat her the same; that is why Grace Poole and Mrs Fairfax play an enigmatic role. It is obvious that there is importance to the Bluebeard-allusion, and that, enigmatic as the helpers are, they have a major role in the plot of Jane Eyre. Without them, the heroine would not have ended up as she did.


    Robert Stowell, Brontë Borrowings: Charlotte Brontë and Ivanhoe, Emily Brontë and The Count of Monte Cristo, Brontë Society Transactions, 1996

    Daniela Hempen, Bluebeard’s female helper: the ambiguous role of the strange old woman in the Grimms’ ‘Castle of Murder’ and ‘The Robber Bridegroom’, 1997

    Maria Tatar, The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, 1987
    Rose Lovell-Smith, Anti-housewives and Ogres’ housekeepers: The roles of Bluebeard’s female helper, 2002

    William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Summary and Analysis,

    William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, original text,

    Bluebeard Fairytales of types AT312 and AT312A,
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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