This is an unsigned review of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre from an American women’s magazine, The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction. It was published in December 1847, two months after the novel’s release.
It is a largely critical, negative review.
How does the reviewer critique Jane Eyre?
Firstly, the reviewer positions Jane Eyre as a text that alarmingly transgresses the traditional social and moral order:
It is the boast of its writer that she knows how to overstep conventional usages – how, in fact, to trample upon customs respected by our forefathers, and long destined to shed glory upon our domestic circles (p. 376)
In particular, the reviewer's personal values are challenged by the novel’s representation of women and its female author:
People were once ashamed to stand forth as the advocates of vice … but such barriers are unhappily broken through, and not by men only, but by women, from whom we naturally look for all that is gentle and loveable. The desire of the present generation is to be bold and fearless. (p.377)
The heroine herself is a specimen of the bold daring young ladies who delight in overstepping conventional rules (p.378)
Secondly, the reviewer claims that the novel is unrealistic. They write, ‘Everybody moves on stilts – the opinions are bad – the notions absurd,’ and that, ‘The foundation of the story is bad, the characters are ill-drawn, and the feelings false and unnatural’ (p. 380).
Some praise is given, however, to the scene of Jane and Rochester’s reunion. The reviewer continues, ‘it would be wrong to assert that there are not other good scenes also’.
After reading this review, Brontë responded by saying that it ‘seemed the result of a feeble sort of spite’.
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