Stephen Fry’s exclusive introduction to this new Folio Society edition lavishes praise on Georgette Heyer’s meticulously researched and deliciously entertaining Regency Romance, Venetia.
Illustrated by Santiago Caruso
Introduced by Emma Donaghue
Illustrated by Santiago Caruso, our edition of Charlotte Brontë’s beloved novel celebrates its gothic undercurrents.
Orphaned Jane emerges from a cold, hostile upbringing at Lowood Institution to take her place as governess at Thornfield, home of Mr Rochester. Her petulant but loving charge, Adele, and the housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax, are her sole company, while Rochester remains a distant, mysterious and yet imposing presence. As time goes by, however, Jane’ life at Thornfield becomes increasingly unsettled, and strange and ever more frightening occurrences lead her towards a shocking revelation.
Do you think I am an automaton? – a machine without feelings? ... Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you – and full as much heart!
As compelling in character as she is ordinary in looks, Jane Eyre is one of literature’s greatest heroines. Hers is a captivating love story that encompasses, among other things, loss, deception, devotion and obsession. With themes of madness and forbidden knowledge, and a Byronic male lead – the glowering Rochester – Jane Eyre is also a suspenseful gothic mystery. Its sparse settings resemble those of Wuthering Heights; places which not only lend themselves to the novel’ psychological drama, but in which the air crackles and whispers with forces beyond human control. However, the narrative belongs to Jane, and it is her singularity and the vivid portrayal of her inner life that make this novel exceptional. Brontë’s intimate first-person narrative formed a template for later authors, including Joyce and Proust. As a female character, Jane was far ahead of her time. In her fierce meditations on spiritual and emotional dilemmas, and her determination to remain inwardly free when the cruelties and desires of others threaten her integrity, she was a proto-feminist figure quite unlike her pliant predecessors.
‘Everybody I’ve ever mentioned the book to says, with a stern fervour, “I love Jane Eyre”’
- Emma Donoghue
Artist Santiago Caruso’s dedication to the fantastique made him sensitive to the novel’s otherworldliness. His illustrations evoke its eerie scenery and the intensity of Jane’s experiences. In most she is central: a small but wilful figure whose ‘obscure’ life is as profoundly engaging as that of the most dazzling heroine. As author Emma Donoghue writes in her introduction, Jane ‘survives all sorts of abuses and humiliations because she is driven on by a sense that she matters, because everybody matters’.
Bound in printed and blocked buckram
Set in Adobe Caslon Pro
Frontispiece and 9 colour illustrations
9½˝ x 6¼˝
Who is Jane Eyre?
‘“Who is this?” asks Rochester, as Jane approaches him. “Answer me – speak again! ... Who is it? What is it? Who speaks?” This is just one of many moments in which other characters ask the name of this novel’s protagonist. “What account can you give of yourself?” St John Rivers demands as she faints on his doorstep. Jane Eyre is her answer.
‘When we say we love it – and everybody I’ve ever mentioned the book to says, with a stern fervour, “I love Jane Eyre” – do we mean the novel or Jane herself? The book was first published in 1847 as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, “edited by” the assumed-to-be-male “Currer Bell”. Charlotte Brontë deliberately conflated the woman with the text in the preface she added (still as “Currer Bell”) to the second edition, calling it “a plain tale with few pretensions”. That’s disingenuous; Jane Eyre reeks of ambition. It was a controversial best-seller (with some reviewers accusing it of being coarse or fomenting social revolt) from day one.
‘Jane is a Plain Jane – a phrase first recorded in 1912, which may derive from the novel. She’s plain in two senses: frank, as well as unbeautiful. And no wonder it’s hard to distinguish her from her story, when Jane Eyre’s principal goal is – like Jane’s – to make the world take a nobody seriously.’
An extract from Emma Donoghue’s introduction
Illustrating Jane Eyre
Santiago Caruso was born in Quilmes, Argentina, in 1982. He is an avant-garde symbolist artist, and his work is rooted in the nineteenth century’s decadentism. Dedicated to the fantastique, he has illustrated books for publishers worldwide. His work stands out for the vigour of its poetry as well as for its technique. Caruso’s artwork is represented in galleries in Buenos Aires, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Spain.
Caruso very kindly provided The Folio Society with copies of his roughs for this edition and a brief insight into the process of illustrating this great work of literature.
‘Here we have the first image I developed for this project. It shows the moment that Jane is punished by Mr Brocklehurst in front of the class. She is demonised and obliged to stand on the stool for hours. I saw Jane as a stylite from the past: the stool is turned almost into a column, where she learns the prayers and penance. The concept of the upper scene has been taken from Fra Angelico’s fresco: The Mocking of Christ. I liked the almost surreal language of those fragmented elements floating around the figure, so I used it to represent the punishments that Lowood Institute gave to their sheltered girls: The bad food, the scourges with the bundle of twigs, the bad idea of an education which points and punishes all of the 'errors' to let you know that the error is yourself, and the censorship represented by the scissors over the head of Jane: femininity was a sin for the unrightful girls.‘
‘“Punish her body to save her soul” is the phrase over all the scene: the submission of poor girls, women, to a “charity” who degrade them to build servants for the world of men. Remember that Mr Brocklehurst’s daughters were all well dressed and pompous, but the girls in Lowood had no right to beauty, to love and to freedom of thought. This is the idea of “charity” that rules the institution: inequality. But Jane is the fissure in the society, a powerful mixture of sensibility and deep thinking; questioning the whole world around her. Only her wild spirit will make her an equal, for love, for happiness.’
‘This is the first sketch for this scene. I just wanted to depict a double page of Jane in the dry land, as an old painting of a martyr. It was her experience of the vacuum, the cruelty of the elements of this world, which punished her since her childhood.’
‘Later, I thought of the crossroads as the shape of a cross upside down, as some Christian martyrs were crucified. So we have her now, surrendered to God´s will, when she is praying, under a night filled with stars - of distant promises.’
‘Here, with the mark of the carriages on the ground, the idea of a cross has more noise but the figure is magnified, accentuating the suffering and the crucified pose. The distance between her and the sky is a symbol of abandonment. Later, the idea of God will help her with the character of St John.’
‘Here we have Jane and St John at their last discussion about what he thinks is the mission that Jane must perform. That is why St John looks to the right, to what is coming – the East or India with the sun as the masculine ruler. Anyway, Jane is looking at her past life with Mr Rochester, because she hears his calling through the wind. Jane is under the symbol of the moon, the feminine symbol of power, attributed to sorcerers in antiquity. Charlotte Brontë suggested that Jane put a spell on Mr Rochester, as this character himself explained in chapter thirteen.
‘In the final image I added the detail of the book opened to the wind. It is a metaphor for Jane’s spirit stirring her story. The words that Jane wants to hear, the words of love, are coming in the wind, through time and space, through pain and darkness. If you pay attention to the background over her, her past is cloudy and tormentous, but she is the light in there. That is why she will return.’
About Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë was born in 1816. Her father was curate of Haworth, Yorkshire, and her mother died when she was five years old. In 1824 Charlotte and three of her four sisters were sent to Cowan Bridge, a school for clergymen’s daughters, where her two elder sisters died having contracted tuberculosis. Brought back to Haworth, Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne were educated at home. In 1846 the sisters published the commercially unsuccessful Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. In 1847 Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was published to immediate acclaim. In a short period during 1848–9 her remaining sisters, as well as her brother, Branwell, died. Charlotte published two further novels; Shirley in 1849 and Villette in 1853. She married her father’s curate in 1854 and died the following year, on 31 March 1855.
About Santiago Caruso
Santiago Caruso was born in Quilmes, Argentina, in 1982. He is an avant-garde symbolist artist, and his work is rooted in the 19th century’s decadentism. Dedicated to the fantastique, he has illustrated books for publishers worldwide. His work stands out for the vigour of its poetry as well as for its technique. Caruso’s artwork is represented in galleries in Buenos Aires, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Spain.
About Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin in 1969. She is a writer of fiction, history and drama for radio, stage and screen. Her novels include the international best-seller Room (2010, shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes) as well as Stir-fry (1994), Slammerkin (2000) and The Sealed Letter (2008). After recieving a PhD in eighteenth century English literature at Cambridge University, she moved to Canada, where she lives with her partner and two children.
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