Charlotte Brontë began writing the novel Shirley in 1847, shortly after the publication of Jane Eyre. There is no doubt that she had studied the criticisms on Jane Eyre, and intended to follow the critics’ advice by making her third novel less melodramatic. She begins the novel with an apostrophe to the reader, in which she warns him against any expectations of that kind (I):

If you think, from this prelude, that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you never were more mistaken. Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reverie? Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama? Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard. Something real, cool, and solid, lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning, when all who have work wake with the consciousness that they must rise and betake themselves thereto. It is not positively affirmed that you shall not have a taste of the exciting, perhaps towards the middle and close of the meal, but it is resolved that the first dish set upon the table shall be one that a Catholic — ay, even an Anglo-Catholic — might eat on Good Friday in Passion Week: it shall be cold lentils and vinegar without oil; it shall be unleavened bread with bitter herbs, and no roast lamb.


Social Realism Fairy Tale Romantic Love Sunday School Black Book 
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Notes and References

  1. Martin, R.B., The Accents of Persuasion (London, Faber & Faber, 1966), p. 138.Google Scholar
  2. Briggs, Professor Asa, ‘Private and Social Themes in Shirley’, BST, Part 68 of the Transactions, vol 13 No. 3 (1958), pp. 207–14. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Incorporated Brontë Society.)Google Scholar
  3. Holgate, Miss I., ‘The Structure of Shirley’, BST, Part 72 of the Transactions, vol 14, No. 2 (1962), p. 19. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Incorporated Brontë Society.)Google Scholar
  4. Hinkley, Miss L.L., The Brontës: Charlotte and Emily (London, Hammond & Hammond, 1947), p. 215.Google Scholar
  5. Korg, J., ‘The Problem of Unity in Shirley’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol XII, No. 2, (1957), p. 136.Google Scholar
  6. Woodward, E.L., The Age of Reform: 1815–70 (Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1954), p. 477.Google Scholar
  7. Duthie, Dr E.L., The Foreign Vision of Charlotte Brontë (London, Macmillan, 1975), p. 141. (Reproduced by permission).Google Scholar
  8. Frye, N., Romanticism Reconsidered, Selected Papers of the English Institute, published by Columbia University Press, (1968), p. 5.Google Scholar

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© Cynthia A. Linder 1978

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  • Cynthia A. Linder

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