Thackeray pp 106-112 | Cite as

‘A Great and Strange Man’

  • Charlotte Brontë


From The Brontës: Their Lives, Friendships and Correspondence, ed. Thomas James Wise and John Alexander Symington (Oxford, 1932) iii, 54, 76, 117–18, 193–5, 239–47, 253; other sources specified in the notes. Charlotte Brontë (1816–55) greatly admired Thackeray, and had a copy of Jane Eyre (published Oct 1847) sent to him. Moved by his warm praise of the novel (letter to W. S. Williams, 23 Oct 1847, LPP, ii, 318–19) and by her conviction that he was ‘the greatest modern master [whom] I at heart reverence with all my strength’ (The Brontës, ii, 184), she dedicated to him, in fulsome terms, the second edition of her novel, published in Jan 1848. She was then much embarrassed to discover that his life bore some resemblances to her Mr Rochester’s (mad wife, daughters requiring a governess). So was he, the more so when speculation arose about her having, in real life, played Jane Eyre to his Mr Rochester; Elizabeth Rigby, most culpably, gave publicity to these rumours in her review, covering both Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair, in the Quarterly Review, Dec 1848. (Thackeray gave a spirited reply to an enquiry about this rumour: ‘Alas, Madam it is all too true. And the fruits of that unhallowed intimacy were six children. I slew them all with my own hand’ — Adversity, p. 11.) Subsequently the two novelists met during Charlotte Brontë’s visits to London, Dec 1849, June 1850, and May–June 1851, during the last of which she attended four of the six Humourists lectures.


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  1. 1.
    George Smith’s ‘Reminiscences’, in Leonard Huxley, The House of Smith, Elder (privately printed, 1923) pp. 67–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The dinner that evening was a social disaster. Thackeray had invited the Carlyles, Mrs Procter, Mrs Brookfield and other friends. Charlotte Brontë, shy and withdrawn, was overwhelmed by her role as chief guest, and replied monosyllabically to all questions. Thackeray hardly helped, as host. On the way down to dinner, he addressed his guest as Currer Bell: ‘She tossed her head and said She believed there were books being published by a person named Currer Bell … but the person he was talking to was Miss Brontë— and she saw no connection between the two’ — Charles and Frances Brookfield, Mrs Brookfield and her Circle (1905) II, 305.Google Scholar
  3. Later in the evening, he unceremoniously (and very rudely) crept away to his club, leaving his guests to depart as they might — Anne Thackeray Ritchie, Chapters from’Sorne Memoirs (1894) pp. 63–4.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Elizabeth Gaskell, Life of Charlotte Brontë, Everyman edn (1908) p. 335.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1983

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  • Charlotte Brontë

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