I know, I know. It’s a truth universally acknowledged the Brontës hated Austen with passion. (It’s also universally acknowledged most articles about Jane have to start with “It’s a truth universally acknowledged…”.)
Charlotte is quoted with,
Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady, but a very incomplete and rather insensible (not senseless) woman.
And she’s not the only one: Twain, Churchill, Woolf, and others are wont to throw their barbs in as well. (Don’t read the comments as the pro vs con in that piece gets a little heated.)
So why combine Austen and the Brontës in the same blog?
Jane’s a “duh, let’s talk about her” but the Brontës elude me. I’ve read Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and attempted Villette but the novels never quite did it for me. Yet there is something extraordinary about the family where three out of the four Brontë children (sorry Branwell!) write novels considered to be classic pieces of literature. This is a nice complement to Austen’s six books that have also stood the test of time.
(Plus the Brontë’s morbid, gothic lifestyles is highly attractive.)
While at the surface all of the author’s books seem so wildly different, at it’s core all the ladies wrote societal critiques, whether they choose to admit it or not, of their social mores and times. Jane Eyre is the rejection of what is to be expected of a lady while falling for a man on her own terms — sound familiar? Wuthering Heights is a hot mess — what the eff is that book really about? — but the core relationship has Catherine pining for Heathcliff is all of his Byronic ways, which is parallel with Miss Eyre and her swooniness for Rochester as well as Jane with her Darcy.
As there has been a resurgence of interest in the Brontë family, I decided to make it my mission to get to know the Brontës (and their fans as they too tend to be dismissive of our Jane) and see if in my older youthful years I can fall in love with them as much or as close to our Jane.
Plus, I’ll take any more reasons to wear this t-shirt: