I've just devoured Jane Eyre. Late last year, Nick mentioned that he was enjoying it, and I think I suggested that having devoured it as an adolescent, I hadn't bothered to return to it. I felt what I had relished as a fifteen-year-old would seem tawdry or overblown to me now. However, something made me pick it up last week, and I only put it down this morning.
My enjoyment is somewhat qualified; my taste doesn't really run as far into faery as all that. So some of the purple passages are a little too purple for me, but you can't beat this one for sheer seat-gripping emotional intensity, and for cataracts of eloquence on the subject of love. I doubt any modern romance could rival Jane's first confession to her Reader that she, the insignificant slip of a governess, loves Rochester, her Byronic master:
“I feel akin to him, - I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him...Every good, true, vigorous feeling I have, gathers impulsively round him. [Though] we are for ever sundered - yet, while I breathe and think I must love him.”
And here she is giving him a serve:
“Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?...Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? - You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty, and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.”
Finally, when they are reunited, and he questions her ability to love him, blind and lamed as he is:
“Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice? Famine for food, expectation for content. To be privileged to put my arms round what I value - to press my lips to what I love - to repose on what I trust: is that to make a sacrifice?”
I feel ashamed that I didn't think this book would stand up to rereading; I'd be surprised if anything new could stand up to this book.