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Full text of "The Brontèˆ sisters"

THE  BRONTE  SISTERS                          25
her soul to buy bliss', that she has 'an inward treasure'
which will sustain her in all circumstances. Jane is not afraid
to tell Rochester frankly that she loves him, that wherever
he is, there is her home, but that she despises him for thinking
of marrying a rich and beautiful but spiritually inferior girl.
In 1847 such an attitude was an astonishment and a portent;
even today it is not as generally accepted as could be wished.
Jane is all woman and all women, but bends upon the
woman's eternal problem of love versus society her mind as
well as her heart.
Shirley (1849) strikes quite a different note. A story of
the Yorkshire Luddite riots of 1812, it is one of the first
two great regional novels, and one of the first two great
industrial novels, in English literature, sharing the honour of
originality in these subjects with Mrs. GaskelTs Mary Barton,
a Lancashire industrial tale which was composed during
many of the same months as Shirley and published in the
previous year.
Every facet of Yorkshire's industrial problem in 1812 is
admirably expressed in Charlotte's story. Robert Moore,
the cloth manufacturer of Hollow's Mill, the half-Belgian,
half-Yorkshire descendant of an old mercantile house, is
faced with bankruptcy, because the war between England
and Napoleon has cut off his continental markets. The new
textile machinery, which by eliminating some labour and
speeding up the processes will cheapen his product, may save
him from ruin; accordingly he is determined to install it
whatever the sufferings of his discharged operatives. These
men in despair turn Luddite, break his machines as they
cross the moor, attack his mill, shoot and wound him from
behind a hedge. He is saved from ruin only by a loan from
the young heiress Shirley Keeldar, who however rejects his
mercenary proposal of marriage with scorn and marries
his tutor brother Louis, thus leaving the repentant Moore
free to marry his true love, Caroline Helstone, the vicar's
niece. Subsidiary complications, all however skifully linked
to the main theme, introduce Caroline's long-lost mother,