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of England During the Thirty Years' Peace 1816-1846," philosophy, guide books, and her own memoirs.
Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855) was the daughter of the Reverend Patrick Brontë. Her life was one of the saddest recorded in the annals of literature. She lost her mother 1821; narrowly escaped death from fever in an unsanitary school; underwent the equally
painful and priceless discipline of teaching; suffered acutely from the pangs of hopeless love; endured agonies of shame on account of the vices of her brother Branwell; and suffered all her life as only those can suffer in whom a fiery soul over-informs a crazy tenement of clay. From the black soil of this cruel life there grew, however, three great novels,—“Jane Eyre," 1846; "Shirley,” 1849; and “ Vilette,” 1853.
Jane Eyre,” she describes love, not from the man's but from the woman's point of view; in “ Shirley " she gives a bright picture of Yorkshire life; and in “ Vilette” she writes her own biography. “Jane Eyre” is the most popular, “ Shirley " the most agreeable, and “ Vilette” the best of her novels. The vitality of all three is such that they still retain very much of their popularity.
Emily Brortë (1818–1848), the sister of Charlotte, left one imperishable novel, “Wuthering Heights,” and some poems which cannot be forgotten. She was so shy that it was said of her that all her love was reserved for animals and that she was never happy except on a moor or in a glen. Matthew Arnold compares the might, passion, vehemence, grief, and daring of her soul to Byron's; and Swinburne says she was a greater genius than her sister. One of her poems, “The Old Stoic,” gives some idea of her spirit:
The fame of Elizabeth Cleghorne Stevenson, better known as Mrs. Gaskell (1810-1865), rests mainly on “ Cranford," a novel which appeared 1851-1853 in “Household Words." This is the story of a quiet country town, and depicts almost perfectly a society in which vivid passion, forcible incident, and absorbing motives have passed by for the principal personages, and have not yet arrived for the secondary characters.
Jean Ingelow (1820–1897) in 1863 published a volume of poems that ran through four editions in a year and deserved its success, for it contained “ High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire in 1571." She also wrote many excellent stories for and about children.
Eliza Cook (1818-1889) is the author of “The Old Arm Chair" and other popular poems.
Adelaide Anne Procter(1825–1864) in 1858 published two volumes of“ Legends and Lyrics,” which in 1901 had passed through thirteen editions.
The literary achievements of these ladies sink into insignificance, however, when compared with those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jane Austen, and George Eliot. These are so important that each claims a separate chapter for herself.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. In what period did women first take their place in English literature? 2. With what great poet is the fame of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
associated ? 3. Who was the first important Irish woman novelist? 4. Give a short account of Charlotte Brontë's life and work. 5. Who wrote Cranford”? 6. Upon what does the fame of Felicia D. Hemans rest? 7. Who wrote “ Our Village”? 8. Who were the three greatest woman writers of the nineteenth century? 9. Write a composition of one hundred and fifty words giving your esti
mate of any novel mentioned in this chapter which you have read. 10. Are more women writing to-day than seventy years ago ? Give reasons
for your answer.
Suggested Readings. The poems and books mentioned in the text will be a sufficient guide to the ambitious student.
JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817)*
Shakespeare has neither equal nor second. But, among the writers who have approached nearest to the manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen.”—Macaulay.
" The realism and life-likeness of Miss Austen's Dramatis Personæ come nearest to those of Shakespeare.”—Tennyson.
“She produced novels that come nearer to artistic perfection than any others in the English language.”—Harold Child.
JANE AUSTEN, one of the most famous and gifted of English novelists, was born December 16, 1775, at Steventon in Hampshire. Her father, George Austen, came of a good family, was a man of excellent intellect, had been left penniless at an early age, had become a fellow at Oxford, had taken orders, and had been presented by relatives with two livings, Deane and Steventon. These were within a mile and a half of each other and contained together not over 300 souls. Jane's mother, Cassandra Leigh, came from an equally good family and appears to have possessed in a large measure the wit and good nature which were preëminently characteristic of her gifted daughter. The standing of both father and mother is clearly indicated by the fact that Warren Hastings, the Governor-General of India whose reputation was destroyed by Burke and whose fame has been preserved by Macaulay, during one of his absences from England left his eldest son in their charge.
Jane was the youngest child in a family of five sons and two daughters. As was then the almost universal custom among the gentry of England and France, she was sent as soon as possible after her birth to a farmer's wife, where she was kept until she had reached such an age that her presence in her own home was not particularly inconvenient to her parents. In France parents who thus farmed out their babies often sent with them blank death certificates for their foster parents to fill up in case they died. Whether such a document did or did not accompany Jane is unknown; at all events it was not used, for she throve and in due time was returned to Steventon.
* Taken from “The Life of Jane Austen” contained in The Pocket Classics Edition of “Sense and Sensibility,” published by The Macmillan Company.
Steventon is located about seventy miles from London in a region that is sufficiently commonplace, being, as Miss Austen herself said, neither pleasant nor dreary, hilly nor flat. The society of the place was in keeping with its topography. Mr. Austen was once asked by one of his neighbors, a wealthy squire: “You know all about these
things. Do tell us. 'Is Paris in France or France in Paris? For my wife has been disputing with me about it.?” Fortunately Jane was not dependent for spiritual nourishment on either the scenery or society of Steventon. In her sister Cassandra, who was her senior by four years, she found a companion whose presence speedily became so essential to her happiness that she could not bear to have her leave to go to school. Mrs. Austen used to say: “ If Cassandra were going