This review of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre by Elizabeth Rigby, journalist and critic, is perhaps one of the most cutting and scornful of all the contemporary reviews. In private correspondence and in her last novel, Shirley, Brontë wrote of the distress that it caused her.
In particular, Rigby attacks the morality of the novel, at one point writing that ‘the popularity of Jane Eyre is a proof how deeply the love for illegitimate romance is implanted in our nature’. The insults continue with Rigby summarising, ‘It is a very remarkable book: we have no remembrance of another combining such genuine power with such horrid taste’.
The review was first published in the periodical Quarterly Review in 1848, followed by a reprinting in American magazine Littell’s Living Age, as shown here.