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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405151191.2007.x


Charlotte’s last novel was published in late January 1853, having been deferred in order not to coincide with the publication of Mrs Gaskell’s Ruth . It opens in the home of Mrs Bretton in the town of Bretton, where the heroine Lucy Snowe is staying for a visit. The coincidence of surname and place seem to suggest a longstanding stability and permanence which was not to bless either Lucy or the Brettons in later life. The visit to Mrs Bretton and her son is enlivened by another visitor, Paulina Home, a child of great charm who forms an immediate bond with Graham Bretton. The delightfulness of these first three chapters is in fact a false start. When Lucy returns home a stormy period begins. From the hints she gives, the reader conjectures she is nominally taken care of by relatives who are indifferent or positively hostile – thus ranging Lucy along with Jane Eyre, William Crimsworth, and Caroline Helstone. At any rate she suffers what she describes as a shipwreck, and becomes the companion of a difficult woman, Miss Marchmont, whose life has been saddened and soured by the death of her fiancé. Her death in turn leaves Lucy shaken and poor (“the possessor . . . of fifteen pounds,” ch. 5) but eager to sample life outside the sickroom. She decides on the Continent, and almost sleepwalks to Villette, the capital of Labassecour (Brussels, capital of Belgium). On the boat over she becomes ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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