The Perceived Anti-Catholicism of Charlotte Brontë’s Novel: The Professor

  • Diana Peschier


In a forward to the first edition of The Professor Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte Brontë’s husband, wrote, ‘the authoress made some use of the materials in a subsequent work — Villeite’. 1 He also pointed out that the two stories ‘are in most respects unlike’.2 It is true that there are striking differences in the actual texts, not least that The Professor is narrated by a man, its central character,3whereas Villette is narrated by Lucy Snowe. Nonetheless in both novels, Brontë used similar tropes of anti-Catholic writing to articulate a sense of female melancholia and isolation and the use of surveillance as an instrument of control.4 It is the expression of anti-Catholicism in The Professor that this section will particularly concentrate upon; specifically how certain stereotypes are employed by Brontë and how they can be interpreted in the light of nineteenth-century cultural perceptions. These are also reflected in Chapter 9 in relation to Brontë’s Villette.


Cultural Perception Actual Text Catholic Country Simultaneous Subjection Trained Subjection 
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  1. 1.
    Arthur B. Nicholls, Preface to Charlotte Brontë, The Professor (London: Smith and Elder. 1857).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Charlotte Brontë, The Professor, ed. Margaret Smith and Herbert Rosengarten (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 54. For the rest of the chapter the above edition of the novel will be referenced as Professor followed by the page number.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Sally Shuttleworth, ‘The Dynamics of Cross Culturalism in Charlotte Brontë’s Fiction’, in Michael Cotsell, ed. English Literature and the Wider World. Vol. 3. 1830–1876 (London: Ashfield Press, 1990), p. 178.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Symptoms of hypochondria, in Dr Thomas John Graham, Modern Domestic Medicine (1826).Google Scholar
  5. Quoted in the notes to The Professor, ed. Heather Glen (London: Penguin Books, 1989), pp. 311–12.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Charlotte Brontë, ‘Reason’, an undated poem in Stevie Davies, ed., The Brontë Sisters: Selected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1988), p. 52.Google Scholar

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© Diana Peschier 2005

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  • Diana Peschier

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