Love and the Aspiring Mind in Villette

  • Jocelyn Harris


Dale Spender’s thesis in Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen (London, 1986) that fiction is predominantly the creation of women cries out to be tested.’ Charlotte Brontë is one of the female tradition’s heroines, and yet in Villette her obsessive exploration of the conflict for a woman between romantic love and intellectual aspirations seems to have been resolved, as far as it ever could be, with the help of three male authors, one of them a poet. To judge from the likenesses, Tennyson’s poem The Princess provided the impossible Utopian ideal, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s Paul et Virginie a warning and a drastic solution and the fifteenth-century story of Abélard and Héloïse a powerful and actual precursor.


Romantic Love Actual Precursor Male Author Traditional Female Role Intellectual Aspiration 
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  1. 2.
    Margot Peters, Unquiet Soul. A Biography of Charlotte Brontë (London, 1975) pp. 55–6.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Winifred Gérin, Charlotte Brontë: The Evolution of Genius (Oxford, 1967) p. 368.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See Jean Hagstrum, Sex and Sensibility: Ideal and Erotic Love from Milton to Mozart (Chicago, 1980) p. 131.Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    Joan Stevens, Mary Taylor, Friend to Charlotte Brontë: Letters from New Zealand and Elsewhere (Auckland and Oxford, 1972) pp. 93–4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Colin Gibson 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jocelyn Harris

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