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The Professor by Charlotte Brontë

1857

Dark and Darcy-ish version

The Professor was Charlotte Brontë's first novel, written before Jane Eyre but published posthumously.


It's a love story between the professor, William and another teacher, Frances, and seems to clarify the writer's ideals for what a relationship should be based on: Brains before beauty, honesty instead of deceitful games, intellectual compabitibility before passion.


There are also some interesting examples of the English supposing superiority over Europeans, as well as a few demonstrations of the French paternalistic disdain for the Flemish.

 
Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, no date. Very pleasant to hold, not too big and very light!
My distinguished copy

My copy has a blank white cover, so seeking to polish my post, I found dozens of different depictions of the professor: Young and handsome, older and distinguished, blond and bearded, dark-haired and Mr. Darcy-ish (above), middle-aged and reflective. Some covers forego the professor in favor of a portrait of Charlotte Brontë, or a drawing of two lovers.


Charlotte Brontë actually did study in Belgium, where the novel takes place, and fell in love with her professor, but he was older and married, and nothing ever came of it (as far as we know...). While reading I often had the impression that William, or sometimes Frances, was Charlotte herself. It was a little distracting and I had to keep setting myself straight.


The Professor brought me joy (the keep-the-book kind.) The only other Charlotte Brontë novel I'd read before was Jane Eyre. I tried to read Shirley, but found it rather boring. However, my interest was piqued by The Brontë Story biography, so I'll make another attempt and will be sure to inform you when and if I make it to the end!

 

These passages narrated by William, the professor, give insight into the views of the author.


The French:

Monsieur Pelet, (the French Headmaster), was not married, and I soon perceived he had all a Frenchman's, all a Parisian's notions about matrimony and women. I suspected a degree of laxity in his code of morals, there was something so cold and blasé in his tone whenever he alluded to what he called le beau sexe*. (62)

* women


Pelet's house was kept and his kitchen managed by his mother, a real old Frenchwoman. She had been handsome--at least she told me so, and I strove to believe her; she was now ugly, as only Continental old women can be. Perhaps, though, her style of dress made her look uglier than she really was. (63)


Catholicism:

The poor little future religieuse* had been early taught to make the dictates of her own reason and conscience quite subordinate to the will of her spiritual director. She was the model pupil...where life lingered feebly, but whence the soul had been conjured by Romish wizard-craft. (94)

* nun


The British English had features more irregular but also more intellectual than those of the Belgians,...a general air of native propriety and decency; by this last circumstance alone I could at a glance distinguish the daughter of Albion and nursling of Protestantism from the foster-child of Rome, the protégée of Jesuitry. (95)


She has been brought up a Catholic. Had she been born an Englishwoman, and reared a Protestant, might she not have added straight integrity to all her other excellences? Supposing she were to marry an English and Protestant husband, would she not, rational, sensible as she is, quickly acknowledge the superiority of right over expediency, honesty over policy? (101)


Marriage:

The idea of marrying a doll or a fool was always abhorrent to me. I know that a pretty doll, a fair fool, might do well enough for the honeymoon; but when passion cooled, how dreadful to find a lump of wax and wood laid in my bosom, a half idiot clasped in my arms, and to remember that I had made of this my equal -- nay, my idol -- to know that I must pass the rest of my dreary life with a creature incapable of understanding what I said, or appreciating what I thought, or of sympathizing with what I felt!" (100)









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