A very tiny book written by Charlotte Bronte at the age of 14, a miniature work, called The Young Men’s Magazine, is returning to the UK after being bought by the Bronte Society at auction in Paris. Experts at her museum suggest this section of the story is “a clear precursor” of a famous scene between Bertha and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, which Charlotte would publish 17 years later. A part of the Young Men’s Magazine paints a picture of a murderer driven to insanity after being haunted by his victim’s ghost and how “an immense fire” burning in his head causes the bed curtains to catch fire.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)
Type of work Psychological romance
Setting Northern England; 1800s
Jane Eyre, an orphan girl
Mrs Reed, Jane’s aunt, and mistress of Gateshead Hall
Edward Rochester, once-handsome owner of Thornfield Manor
St John Rivers, a young clergyman
Orphaned at birth, Jane Eyre was left to live at Gateshead Hall Manor with her aunt-in-law, Mrs Reed. Jane remained at the estate for ten years, subjected to hard work, mistreatment and fixed hatred.
After a difficult childhood, the shy, petite Jane was sent to Lowood School, a semi-charitable institution for girls. She excelled at Lowood and over the years advanced from pupil to teacher. Then she left Lowood to become the governess of a little girl, Adele, the ward of one Mr Edward Rochester, the stern, middle-aged master of Thornfield Manor.
At Thornfield, Jane was comfortable with life – what with the grand old house, its well-stocked and silent library, her private room, the garden with its many chestnut, oak and thorn trees, it was a veritable palace. Mr Rochester was a princely and heroic master, and, despite his ireful frown and brusque, moody manner, Jane felt at ease in his presence. Rochester confided that Adele was not his own child but the daughter of a Parisian dancer who had deserted her in his care. Still, even with this forthright confession, Jane sensed that there was something Rochester was hiding.
Off and on, Jane heard bizarre, mysterious sounds at Thornfield. She finally discovered that Rochester kept a strange tenant on the third floor of the mansion. This hermit-like woman, once employed by Rochester – or so he said – often laughed maniacally in the night. And other disturbances soon followed.
One evening, after the household had gone to sleep, Jane was roused by the smell of smoke – to find Mr Rochester’s bed on fire. Only with a great deal of exertion did she manage to extinguish the flames and revive her employer.