Musing upon Jane Eyre led me to muse upon some of the ‘intertextualities’ (for want of a smaller word) that the novel has attracted since it was first published in 1847. Of course the most famous is Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea; and at this point I have to confess that I read post-colonial texts because I ought to not because I want to. Is that a horrible thing to say? Part of me cherishes a fondness still for dear old snobby, wry, admittedly quite brutally repressive Englishness. In a writer like Bronte, I slide over the racist traces with a kind of tender diffidence; there are much less forgivable writers, whose racism, sexism or other failings are not atoned for by largeness of heart, beauty and poetry.
Then there's Jasper Fforde. I thought The Eyre Affair had some interesting ideas, but on the whole I found it shoddy. One can't build a whole novel, much less a parallel world, on one slender conceit.
And then there's this gorgeous sketch from Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie:
Customer: Did you write this?
Shopkeep: Jane Eyre. No, that was Charlotte Bronte.
C: Right. Well I'd like to see her then please.
S: I'm afraid she's no longer with us.
C: Oh? Indeed? I can hardly say I'm surprised.
Watch the whole thing here.