Letter to William S. Williams of Smith, Elder & Co., dated Haworth, 28 October 1847
Henry H. Bonnell Collection, bequest of Helen Safford Bonnell, 1969
In this letter to William S. Williams of the firm that had published Jane Eyre, Brontë reacted to some of the early reviews of her first published novel. She defended her portrayal of Helen Burns, a virtuous child who dies in Jane’s arms. Helen was, Brontë implied, a fictional reimagining of her own sister Maria, who had died at the age of eleven after falling ill at the Clergy Daughters’ School.
of the Monthly Reviews and Magazines be likely to see in “Jane Eyre” (if indeed they deign to read it) which will win from them even a stinted modicum of approbation? It has no learning, no research, it discusses no subject of public interest. A mere domestic novel will I fear seem trivial to men of large views and solid attainments.
Still – efforts so energetic and indefatigable as yours ought to realize a result in some degree favourable, and I trust they will.
I remain, dear Sir
Octbr 28th / 47
I have just recd. “the Tablet” and the “Morning Advertiser” – neither paper seems inimical to the book – but I see it produces a very different effect – on different natures. I was amused at the analysis in the Tablet – it is oddly expressed in some parts – I think the critic did not always seize my meaning – he speaks for instance of “Jane’s inconceivable alarm at Mr. Rochester’s repelling manner – I do not remember that