February 22, 2015

Charlotte Bronte On Jane Austin

Charlotte Brontë on Jane Austen

I have likewise read one of Miss Austen’s works—Emma—read it with interest and with just the degree of admiration which Miss Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable. Anything like warmth or enthusiasm—anything energetic, poignant, heart-felt is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstration the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré and extravagant. She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well. There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting. She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound. The passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood. Even to the feelings she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but distant recognition—too frequent converse with them would ruffle the smooth elegance of her progress. Her business is not half so much with the human heart as with the human eyes, mouth, hands, and feet. What sees keenly, speaks aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study; but what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death—this Miss Austen ignores. She no more, with her mind’s eye, beholds the heart of her race than each man, with bodily vision, sees the heart in his heaving breast. Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady, but a very incomplete and rather insensible (not senseless) woman. If this is heresy, I cannot help it. If I said it to some people (Lewes for instance) they would directly accuse me of advocating exaggerated heroics, but I am not afraid of your falling into any such vulgar error.

 —Believe me, yours sincerely,
C. Brontë.

I think this explains why I could not make myself into Jane Austin, though I tried several times.


  1. That is the beauty of the human spirit. You would not make yourself into Jane Austin because every human being is unique.
    No labels or people can define who we are. We are unique individuals.
    The term incomplete is also a label.
    Have a good week.

    1. "The term incomplete is also a label".
      Julia, do you care to elaborate that?
      Agree everything else you said. Have a good week too!

  2. Yun, as I commented on your FB page, I think what Charlotte Bronte wrote is a very astute assessment of Jane Austen’s work. I know Jane Austen is widely celebrated but I’ve never been a big fan of hers. I found “Pride and Prejudice” hard to get through although the premise of the story is good. I don’t feel the quality of her writing is as good as Charlotte Bronte. Nothing profound in it. “Her business is not half so much with the human heart as with the human eyes, mouth, hands, and feet. “ Exactly my thought too. I didn't know Charlotte Bronte had written about Jane Austen, interesting and a great find, thanks for posting this.

    1. Madilyn, I am glad you life this quote. Charlotte Bronte was really sharp yet we have to agree with her!