"How well I remember the delight, and wonder, and pleasure with which I read Jane Eyre, sent to me by an author whose name and sex were then unknown to me; the strange fascinations of the book; and how my own work pressing upon me, I could not, having taken the volumes up, lay them down until they were read through." — W. M. Thackeray.
At first we see Jane Eyre as an orphan, dependent upon a rich aunt by marriage, and subject to the bad treatment of a poor ill-favoured relation. Her temper is soured by the oppression of grown-up people and the tyranny of children; and the first act ends at a half-charity school for orphans, whither she is sent as a punishment. The second part exhibits Jane as governess to the protégé of a Mr. Rochester,—a hard, peculiar, and to the reader a rather disagreeable person of forty, in whom there is much talk and some little mystery. The mystery, however, is explained, when, after a course of hardly "proper" conduct between a single man and a maiden in her teens, the marriage between Jane and Mr. Rochester is stopped by the "lawful cause and impediment" of another wife being in the way…
Charlotte Brontë was born in the old parsonage at Thornton, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on the 21st of April 1816. She was the daughter of a clergyman, who, in 1820, moved with his family to Haworth. A cheap school for clergymen's daughters came under Mr. Brontë's notice, and in 1824 Maria, Elizabeth, Emily, and Charlotte, Anne being too young, find themselves at the Cowan Bridge Institution, known to all readers of Jane Eyre as Lowood. In 1841, Charlotte persuaded her aunt to disburse a hundred pounds or so of her savings, and she and Emily started for Brussels, which place was selected because Mary Taylor was at school in the neighbourhood. At Madame Héger's pensionnat in the Rue d'Isabelle, Brussels, Charlotte and Emily stayed from February to October 1842. In 1845 literary life in Haworth commenced in earnest. It was while attending her father at Manchester, whither he had gone to consult an oculist and to undergo an operation, that Charlotte Brontë began Jane Eyre. It was published in October 1847. In 1853 Villette was published, the crowning glory of Charlotte Brontë's literary life. The following year she married, and in 1855 she died.
"Of all the novels we have read for years, this is the most striking, and, we may add, the most interesting. Its style, as well as its characters, are unhackneyed, perfectly fresh, and life-like. It is thoroughly English."—Economist.
"A book of decided power. The thoughts are true, sound, and original; and the style is resolute, straightforward, and to the purpose. The object; and moral of the work are excellent."—Examiner.
"Almost all that we require in a novelist the writer has: perception of character and power of delineating it, picturesqueness, passion, and knowledge of life. Reality—deep, significant reality—is the characteristic of this book."—Fraser's Magazine.
"The most extraordinary production that has issued from the press for years. We know no author who possesses such power as is exhibited in these: three volumes. From the first page to the last it is stamped with vitality."—Weekly Chronicle.