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Full text of "The Brontë sisters"

THE  BRONTE   SISTERS                            2J
unable to break out of the narrow circle of convention
which encloses her. Except for this pathetic study of a
breaking heart, Shirley is more 'external' than any other of
Charlotte's novels, and there is a certain amount of conver-
sational 'padding' to bring the tale up to three-volume
length. Yorkshire landscape, described here and there as
vignettes in The Professor and Jane Eyre, in Shirley naturally
enough receives fuller treatment, but it is less the wild moor-
land of Haworth than the wooded undulations round
Hartshead.
Villette (1853) is regarded by many good critics, though
not by the general public, as Charlotte's finest novel
Certainly if The Professor be forgotten its originality
is great, while its study of a woman's loneliness is
supreme.
The disappointments of Villette are doubtless due to the
rigid convention of the day respecting the proper length for
a novel, which obliged Charlotte to make a four-strand
plot out of a single-strand story. The core of the book is
Charlotte's Brussels experience—Villette being the name she
gives to the city of Brussels—in the Heger pensionnat, here
presented boldly in close resemblance to its actual fact.
Lucy Snowe arrives by night, practically penniless, in
Villette, is taken on by Mme. Beck as her children's nurse
on the judgement of her kinsmen and English professor,
M. Paul Emanuel, and presently becomes English teacher
in her school. The pupil-teacher love-relationship develops
between Lucy and M. Paul. During the holidays Lucy is
left alone at the pensionnat except for an idiot girl; in
agonizing loneliness she roams the streets, enters a Catholic
Church, makes—fierce little Protestant that she is—a con-
fession to a priest. Later M. Paul realizes his love for her
and wishes to marry her; but the jealous Mme. Beck
stimulates the religious difficulty to keep them apart, and
when that proves inadequate packs M. Paul off to Guada-
loupe to attend to family affairs. Before he goes, however,
M. Paul establishes Lucy in a neat tiny school of her own, and