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Full text of "The Brontë sisters"

22                          THE  BRONTE  SISTERS

This relentless truthfulness to ordinary reality is to prove
one of the main characteristics of Charlotte's best fiction.
But The Professor, having opened with an overdrawn hatred-
between-two-brothers sequence taken straight out of
Angria, then swings somewhat too violently away from the
picturesque to the prosaic, so that its realism seems sometimes
so full of gall as to reject digestion. Yet the book has striking
originality, power, and promise.

The orphaned "William Crimsworth, rejected by his
aristocratic uncles and his sordid mill-owner brother, goes
to Brussels and secures a post as teacher in a boys' school.
Presently he is invited to give lessons in the girls' school
next door, kept by the smooth but hypocritical Mile
Zoraide. In this establishment he meets a young pupil
teacher, Frances Henri by name, Swiss Protestant by descent.
Crimsworth and Frances come to love each other. Mile
Zoraide, though betrothed to Crimsworth's employer,
succeeds in separating the lovers for a while, but presently
they meet again, marry, start a school of their own, achieve
a competence and retire to England with their child Victor,
who in accordance with the saturnine mood of the whole
novel 'is as little of a pretty child as I am of a handsome man,
or his mother of a fine woman'.

The master-pupil relationship Charlotte experienced in
Brussels, used in The Professor for the first time, is here told
with nationalities reversed. Charlotte's own opinion of this
novel, written later, at the time of a proposed publication,
could hardly be improved on as a critical estimate:

I found the beginning very feeble, the whole narrative deficient
in incident and in general attractiveness. Yet ... all that relates
to Brussels, the Belgian school etc. is as good as I can write . . .
it contains more pith, more substance, more reality, in my judgment
than much ojane Eyre. It gives, I think, a new view of a grade,
an occupation, and a class of charactersall very commonplace,
very insignificant in themselves.
Letter, 14 December, 1847