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Halloween Countdown, Day 19

On this day in 1847, according to Charlotte Brontë's letters, she received her author's copies of her newly-published work, one of the greatest of Gothic novels, Jane Eyre (credited to Brontë's pseudonym, Currer Bell). Secrets and disguises, fire and death, a sadistic boarding school and a madwoman in the attic: what could be more appropriate for Halloween?

Green finch, Nightingale, Blackbird.

Here is an eerie excerpt, describing how Jane as a little child was cruelly punished by being locked in the singularly spooky "red-room":

“God will punish her: He might strike her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go? Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn’t have her heart for anything. Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself; for if you don’t repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney and fetch you away.”

They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them.

The red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in, I might say never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodation it contained: yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers in the mansion. A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle in the centre; the two large windows, with their blinds always drawn down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery; the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush of pink in it; the wardrobe, the toilet-table, the chairs were of darkly polished old mahogany. Out of these deep surrounding shades rose high, and glared white, the piled-up mattresses and pillows of the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane. Scarcely less prominent was an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of the bed, also white, with a footstool before it; and looking, as I thought, like a pale throne.

This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered. The house-maid alone came here on Saturdays, to wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week’s quiet dust: and Mrs. Reed herself, at far intervals, visited it to review the contents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobe, where were stored divers parchments, her jewel-casket, and a miniature of her deceased husband; and in those last words lies the secret of the red-room — the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of its grandeur.

Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber he breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne by the undertaker’s men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.

My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bed rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe, with subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels; to my left were the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between them repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room. I was not quite sure whether they had locked the door; and when I dared move, I got up and went to see. Alas! yes: no jail was ever more secure. Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travellers. I returned to my stool.

* Read the complete novel here.
* There are two different downloadable audiobooks of Jane Eyre at Librivox, here and here.

Jane Eyre


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 19th, 2013 04:46 pm (UTC)
I had forgotten how much I loved Jane Eyre. Thanks, I am going to go grab an audiobook version to listen to :)
Oct. 20th, 2013 11:47 am (UTC)
My pleasure! I love sharing the Jane Eyre love. :) Happy listening!
Oct. 19th, 2013 05:08 pm (UTC)
Love Jane Eyre! That is a fascinating-looking edition in the top pic.
Oct. 20th, 2013 11:46 am (UTC)
Me, too! :) That edition includes images of the wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg. They're stunning, aren't they? Here's another image from the same copy.

Day 27: January 27, 2010
Oct. 19th, 2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
I read Jane Eyre as a young child and it made a big impression on me at the time, although I have never read it since. Probably should rectify that. I wouldn't mind spending time in that red room... the polished, dark mahogany and the solitude sound a bit inviting, for when I am in the mood to hide away. Would also need a good book to read while sequestered.
Oct. 20th, 2013 11:52 am (UTC)
It's one of my favorites. I've found that it never disappoints, despite my high expectations, every time I revisit it. And it's about time again, as I'll be teaching it next semester in my graduate Gothic course.

I'm with you re: the red room! I'm not put off by a death in the place, and it does sound like a marvelous and properly atmospheric place for some quiet "alone time."

Would also need a good book to read while sequestered.

Yes! :D This!
Oct. 20th, 2013 02:03 pm (UTC)
I've read it a young teen, maybe 12 or 13 and only recently re-read it. It's still a great book, maybe even more so as I'd like to think that some of it might have been lost for my young mind :D
Oct. 20th, 2013 03:09 pm (UTC)
It's always interesting to come back to a book many years (decades) later. I recently re-read Death of a Salesman, which has been sitting on my bookshelf for years. And I was just telling a friend the other day how when I re-read Slouching Towards Bethlehem a few years ago, I was struck by finding ideas that I thought originated in my head but in actuality had their genesis in Joan Didion's writings.
Oct. 20th, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
On that topic: I was really disappointed when I re-read The Neverending story as an adult. Turns out my favourite parts were only half a page long (worst case). It was very unsatisfying.
Oct. 20th, 2013 04:31 pm (UTC)
That must have been very frustrating! I have a couple of old E.R. Burroughs Martian paperbacks on my shelf, and tried to re-read one some time ago only to wonder what on Earth made me keep them all these years. :) For the most part, though, luckily, my childhood favorites still enthrall me.
Trix Middlekauff
Oct. 19th, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC)
Such a great book - have you seen the one illustrated by Dame Darcy? I think you would like it!!
Oct. 20th, 2013 11:48 am (UTC)
Oh wow, I just looked up the Dame Darcy edition - fantastic! Thanks for the heads up!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )