The Jane Eyre ‘trilogy’ – Jamaica and Yorkshire, England – Jean Rhys, Jane Stubbs and Charlotte Bronte

JANE-PIC

We assume you’ve read Jane Eyre before you read this ‘Jane Eyre Trilogy’ as well there are a few mentions of a certain someone who appears in the story but is only revealed slowly….

Before we even return to the desolate and remote moors of Yorkshire and the towering imposing home of Thornfield Hall, we are thrust into the heady and sweaty days of Jamaica at the time of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 .

Money, power and influence still spoke however when Mr Rochester arrives in Jamaica….

JANE

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jamaica and Yorkshire

This is the start of the story of a certain young girl by the name of Antoinette – for she will have arole to play in these three novels and her story will be tied up in everyone else’s as indeed it wil be in the story of Thornfield Hall itself. She tells her story of her arranged marriage to an Englishman by the name of  Edward Rochester. She reveals her difficult childhood and family life with the problems of her mother and brother both having mental health issues.

Once married they travel to Granbois in Dominica and Edward and Antoinette who he has named ‘Bertha’ – his suspicions of his new wife and of her family background and her suspicions of whether he is faithful and whether he married her for anything other than money.

With Bertha’s paranoia and mental state suffering, she is taken to Rochester’s home in England, together with a maid Grace Poole and her life becomes even more painful and punishing. She is soon driven to extreme measures…

The settings of Wide Sargasso Sea
The settings of Wide Sargasso Sea

Place

Bertha’s background is revealed and her Creole heritage examined and contrasted with Rochester’s rich and privileged one.

While Rochester is keen to marry for money and land, possessions and t be able to control the ‘secret’ of the locale. The novel was written to reflect the time and setting of English colonialism and Jamaica’s road to freedom. Rochester’s words on the landscape of the country of his new bride –

I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness.

thornfield hall

Thornfield Hall, By Jane Stubbs – set in Yorkshire

Berta is taken to his English home – his turf, his homeland where she will be easier to manage and control. She and Grace are set up in the house with the help of Mrs Fairfax who now takes over the narrative of how she came to know and work for Mr Rochester.

Thornfield Hall becomes darker and more prison like in this novel and the ‘behind the scenes’ events and the whispers of the servants make this a thrilling and secretive visit to the hall with secrets in its walls….

Place

The Main street in Haworth - pic courtesy of Wikipedia - perfect for wandering down with Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester
The Main street in Haworth – pic courtesy of Wikipedia – perfect for wandering down with Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester

We walked carefully on the roof leads for the wind was buffeting in from the east. Leah leant against the battlements and took in the view, the patchwork of fields the toy cow and the miniature sheep. This I reflected would be a splendid place for an invalid who lived secluded from society to come and take exercise and enjoy the fresh air, though a lady who had lived on a tropical island might find the Yorkshire air bracing.

jane 3

Jane Eyre – set in Yorkshire

This is the story of the governess who comes to Thornfield some time later and who at first does not know of Bertha or who she is, nor of her past. Jane is nervous at first of the strange noises she hears, of Rochester’s strange behaviour and of the servants’ behaviour towards her. That Mrs Fairfax has some strange ideas she thinks and doesn’t seem to appreciate her growing relationship with Mr Rochester, but the full facts are not always at her disposal. The secrets are once again in those walls of Thornfield Hall….

Place

The Bronte Parsonage - pic courtesy of Wikipedia -  A must see for the Bronte aficionado - http://www.bronte.org.uk/
The Bronte Parsonage – pic courtesy of Wikipedia – A must see for the Bronte aficionado – http://www.bronte.org.uk/

Jane Eyre describes her arrival at Thornfield, her sense of needing to pace the corridors and to be free from social and physical sense of being trapped in a  man’s world.

I could not help it; the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the corridor of the third story, backwards and forwards, safe in the silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind’s eye to dwell on whatever bright visions rose before it.

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot

The ‘Jane Eyre Trilogy’ is an epic story of Thornfield, the background and history of its inhabitants long before Jane Eyre ever even hears of it. The Hall is the main character throughout, a hall of imprisonment, but also of salvation. A Hall which will also give Jane Eyre the adventure and achievement that she never thought she would have from her days of ‘torture’ at Gateshead school.

To experience this story – seen through the eyes of three different authors and various characters within the house and beyond it, this is an epic tale of an old hall and its inhabitants, its secrets, its history and the effect of legacy and duty on all those who live there. Listen to the whispers of the secrets from its walls……

For more information on the settings of these wonderful series of books – we found the Bronte parsonage  http://www.bronte.org.uk/and surrounding area to be THE place to visit and the Visit Yorkshire website http://www.yorkshire.com/what-to-do/jane-eyre. If you take any one of these books with you the area will come more alive than you could ever imagine……

Thornfield Hall – Yorkshire – Jane Stubbs

thornfield hall

The  real story behind the scenes of Thornfield Hall – Mrs Fairfax tells her own story of what really went on behind the scenes of Thornfield Hall and how Jane Eyre really felt about Rochester and the legacy of Mr Rochester.

While the story of Thornfield Hall and the relationship between Jane and Mr Rochester is only really known from Jane’s point of view. This story tells of the arrival of Bertha to the hall and her subsequent stay and scandal whilst there. How did she come to the hall? What is Mr Rochester’s real intentions? What links does Mrs Fairfax have with the family of the house?

The house is full of mystery and intrigue and by the time a certain young governess enters the frame, there is a lot of secrets whispering in the walls, down the stairs and along the corridors.

Just who was the real woman in the attic? The house keeper who has been there since the beginning tells her story. Let her voice be heard.

Place and setting

Charlotte visited Norton Conyers in 1839 and heard the legend of Mad Mary in the attic and the room can be visited today. http://nortonconyers.org.uk/index.html Bronte parsonage in Haworth is the site that all Bronte fans should visit http://www.bronte.org.uk/ Another theory is that North Lees Hall in Hathersage is in fact the inspiration for Thornfield  - http://www.peakdistrictinformation.com/towns/hathersage.php
Charlotte visited Norton Conyers in 1839 and heard the legend of Mad Mary in the attic and the room can be visited today.
http://nortonconyers.org.uk/index.html
Bronte parsonage in Haworth is the site that all Bronte fans should visit
http://www.bronte.org.uk/
Another theory is that North Lees Hall in Hathersage is in fact the inspiration for Thornfield – http://www.peakdistrictinformation.com/towns/hathersage.php

 

If you have read Jane Eyre, which if you haven’t, why haven’t you?, you will already be familiar with the gothic large Thornfield Hall located in Yorkshire where the rich Mr Rochester lives alone – well with his ward Adele and his housekeeper Mrs Fairfax. She has seen everything and until now has hidden in the background. But when she says things like this, it is immediately intriguing that we want to know more –

As I said, the Rochesters are very good at keeping secrets

Rochester informs the house that someone will be coming to life there – he is vague to say who this strange lady is – only that she is ill and needs special care. The hall once shut up and empty now becomes  a bustling place as servants scrub and prepare for the latest arrival and the master of the house – Mr Rochester who seems rather biblical and grand:

The Master sat at his uncle’s great mahogany desk. Glints of red and green from the stained glass in the lead window flickered behind him

How difficult must it have been to keep such a secret – of a mad woman in the attic – secret from all visitors, some servants and any outsiders? Mrs Fairfax is worried and concerned for Bertha who she humanises (rather strangely in some ways for us)-

I had not promised to stand idly by while she was treated with harshness and kept like a prisoner.

The moment when Jane Eyre enters the picture, the Hall is a hub of secrecy,  candlelight vigils and late night whispers in corridors and a tragedy unfolding  in the attic at the top of the house.

All the events from those troubled times – the unexplained laughter, the fires, the injuries, the slamming of door and painful noises are all explained by Mrs Fairfax and Thornfield Hall becomes a more chilling and unforgiving place. Far different from that which Jane Eyre described…

thornfield hall

I must admit that I read this with some trepidation as Jane Eyre must be one of the best and most iconic reads in the English language. It does mirror closely the events of that novel except for one important one which I am still thinking about…..

It’s very interesting to see Mrs Fairfax as the main character and to see her view of all the strange goings on which happened in Jane Eyre’s account of the story. I was pleasantly surprised by her human portrayal of Bertha and they way in which she lived and moved through the house. Her secret identity was revealed slowly and it was fascinating to actually get to meet her in this way, face to face as it were instead of through another character such as Jane Eyre. Not everything in a large house like this is ever what it seems and Bertha’s real place at Thornfield and they way the servants and in particular Alice Fairfax was intriguing. The scenes between Alice Fairfax and Grace Poole were the highlight of the book as when they chat and discuss matters, this is when the book really shines and we find out the real meaning of events, and the role of servants of the time.

By the time Jane Eyre arrive on the scene I was aching for her not to enter the house or to get too excited about her impending marriage. It was fascinating to see the background to the world Jane Eyre entered  however and also to see how she is a minor character her as this is the story of Bertha. I will now reread Jane Eyre with a new understanding of the house and its inhabitants. Together with Wide Sargasso Sea,this novel adds to the overall story and explains much which the original only hints at. It is the skill of a clever author who manages to respect the original and explain or hint at events to make events more clearer and the characters of Alice and Bertha more human and people to be admired and respected.

I have a new respect for Alice Fairfax – she had a tough role at the house and a tougher role to play when Bertha comes on the scene. Her warmness and kind nature contrasts with the dark angle of the story and it’s the women of that house and the goings on behind the scenes that really makes you feel as if you’re one of them and that Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, here only sub characters in the story, really unawares of the real goings on at Thornfield Hall.

Jane Eyre, Haworth, England

The home of Jane Eyre
The home of Jane Eyre

You may have read the book Jane Eyre. If not you should as it’s perhaps one of the best books I have ever read, so much so that I have several editions in several languages and have seen various  film versions.

But the original English version is always the best and I have my copy purchased from the bookstore attached to the Bronte parsonage in Haworth, not far from Leeds.

When you visit  the area, its like stepping into a Bronte novel. There are many towns and landmarks around the area that that continue to fascinate Bronte enthusiasts and scholars above all.

The language and the novel’s setting are like a perfect marriage and you have to visit Haworth to really see what I mean. The novel is structured around five separate locations, all supposedly in northern England: the Reed family’s home at Gateshead, the horrible Lowood School from Jane’s childhood, Rochester’s manor house Thornfield and Rochester’s rural retreat at Ferndean.

I also see examples of  Bronte locations  in other places I visit: there are old ruins of a house near Gibside in Gateshead (The Main House – home to the Bowes-Lyon family) and this to me could have been Thornfield Hall. I see Jane returning to the house as it lies in charred ruins very time I go there. I can almost see Rochester on his black horse with Pilot the dog running across the field.

Another link I love about The Bronte sisters is that they were well travelled women for their day and travelled to Brussels, living there for a time in order to improve their French. I took myself off on  a Brussels Bronte guide when I was there and discovered a city hidden from the majority. And its such a treasure, it’s a rare treat for the real fans of these fantastic writers.

Brussels and  Ferndean manor will be featured in upcoming blog posts since they really do confirm that the Bronte sisters, in my opinion, really were some of the luckiest authors that ever lived due to the richness they created out of the richness of their surroundings.