Charlotte Bronte’s book, Jane Eyre, was first published on this day in 1847. I was introduced to this book in high school for class. Loved the book then, and still do. I reread it from time to time.
I had a wonderful email exchange on this book recently with a writer friend I first met through Twitter, then met in real life at the Festival of Faith and Writing last spring. At some point, we both discovered how much this book influenced us, helped us, even maybe helped save us, which led to an email exchange on the impact of this book. Good books can do that. My writer friend sent me a link to an article she had written on the very topic of Jane Eyre and its influence in her life.
To commemorate the publishing of this book and as it is one of my favorites, below is a sampling of some lines from Jane Eyre. Compiling this list makes me want to read the book again. The language is strong, vivid, and so unique from the language in modern-day books that it seems fresh, not old, antiquated (ok, it is a bit antiquated), but it is intellectually strong, deep, and relevant to issues even today.
“We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.”
“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.” To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.
These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is – I repeat it – a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.”
“But what is so headstrong as youth? What so blind as inexperience?”
“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”
“It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself,
than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all
connected with you.”
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
“I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into it’s expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst it’s perils.”
“It is a pity that doing one’s best does not always answer.”
“I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”
“But I tell you–and mark my words–you will come some day to a craggy pass in the channel, where the whole of life’s stream will be broken up into whirl and tumult, foam and noise: either you will be dashed to atoms on crag points, or lifted up and borne on by some master-wave into a calmer current…”
“When once more alone, I reviewed the information I had got; looked into my heart, examined its thoughts and feelings, and endeavored to bring back with a strict hand such as had been straying through imagination’s boundless and trackless waste, into the safe fold of common sense.”
“My help had been needed and claimed; I had given it: I was pleased to have done something: trivial, transitory though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and I was weary of an existence all passive.”
“The subjects had, indeed, risen vividly on my mind. As I saw them with the spiritual eye, before I attempted to embody them, they were striking; but my hand would not second my fancy, and in each case it had wrought out but a pale portrait of the thing I had conceived.”
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
“If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved of you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.”
“I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.”
“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”
“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”
“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye.”
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”
“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you, – and full as much heart!”
“Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour … If at my convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”
“There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”