Saturday 9 May 2020

Trouble at Lowood

 When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation at Lowood, it gradually disappeared from thence; but not until its virulence and the number of its victims had drawn public attention on the school. Jane Eyre

Something about Victorian literature in troubled times.  Charlotte Bronte's descriptions of typhus in Jane Eyre which infected forty-five of the eight pupils at Lowood school for orphans during a bright and beautiful April and May is remarkably prescient.  The poorest suffered the most and of course Charlotte was drawing on memories of the loss of her two young sisters Maria and Elizabeth.

It's been a while since I read Jane Eyre and it was such a pleasure to revisit the scenes where Jane climbs the step-ladder to the attic at Thornfield and throws open the casement window looking out over the hills and valleys and vents her frustration at the limitations of her existence.  Charlotte's voice seeps into the text and becomes the voice of Jane. 

There is also the wonderful chapter where Jane meets Mr Rochester and as she walks alone on the frosty causeway she first of all sees his large dog, Pilot, and thinks for a moment it is the Gytrash of North England legend which haunts solitary ways and startles travellers.
Jane Eyre
When Mr Rochester later asks Jane if she is from another world she goes along with his questioning to the bafflement of Mrs Fairfax.  Jane, at last, has met a kindred spirit. 

"No wonder you have rather the look of another world.  I marvelled where you had that sort of face.  When you came on me in Hay Lane last night I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind to demand whether you had bewitched my horse."  Jane Eyre