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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405151191.2007.x


actress whose performance Lucy Snowe witnesses in ch. 23 (which is named after her) of Villette . So startling and harrowing is her performance in a play that is not named that Charlotte can only describe its effect in a series of paradoxes: it was “a marvellous sight: a mighty revelation,” and at the same time “a spectacle low, horrible, immoral.” She thus is given something of the force of a fallen angel. Charlotte notes that in her private life the actress was “not good,” and describes her as “a spirit out of Tophet” (a place of destruction). The chapter is undoubtedly based on the actress Rachel, whom she saw in Adrienne Lecouvreur and as Camille in Corneille’s Les Trois Horaces . She describes the disturbing effect her acting had on her in a series of letters June–November 1851, in one of which (15 Nov 1851) she uses the bullfight image which she also uses in Villette . To Ellen Nussey she wrote (24 June 1851): “she made me shudder to the marrow of my bones: in her some fiend has certainly taken up an incarnate home.” Vashti, in the Old Testament book of Esther, refused the commands of her husband, King Ahasuerus, to display her beauty to the guests at his feast. She was banished, and the king decreed “that every man should bear rule in his own house.” The significance of Charlotte’s choice of name is unclear. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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