Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre
by Glynnis Fawkes introduction by Alison Bechdel
I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart!
Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre is an insightful and well-researched portrait of young Charlotte Brontë.
Prologue features Brontë receiving a letter from England's Poet laureate Robert Southey. A series of panels focus on Charlotte and the emotions that play across her face as she reads his critique of her poetry.
Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life.
This opening sets the stage for an illustrated chronology of the sixteen-year struggle for Brontë and her sisters Emily and Anne to establish themselves as authors. The 1800’s were not a period favorable for educated women who aspired to move beyond the traditional vocations of teacher or governess.
Following the death of her mother, Charlotte is sent, along with her three sisters, to an austere boarding school. Both of her of older sisters die from "consumption" and the two younger girls are withdrawn from the school.
The four surviving Brontë children remain at home, where their imaginations take flight as they create an elaborate world based on a set of toy soldiers. They call their fantasy world Glass Town. It becomes the basis for their early ventures into writing.
We will be the subject of tales and verse for years to come! Hooray for Great Glass Town!
Eventually Charlotte and Emily return to school and prepare to become teachers. Both girls find the life of a teacher and governess to be distasteful. They want to write. Assuming constant care of young charges leaves no time for these accomplished siblings to pursue their passion for writing. They receive this advice: women cannot support themselves as authors.
Finally the sisters determine that they will find a way to see their work in published form. All three women submit novels for consideration. Anne's Agnes Grey and Emily's Wuthering Heights are accepted. Charlotte's The Professor is rejected. Fortunately Charlotte receives this encouraging response: perhaps she might write another novel for consideration. She gets to work on a story set on the moors. The main character is neither wealthy nor glamorous. She has endured a painful childhood. Despite difficulties the heroine is determined to succeed. Her name is Jane Eyre.
Brontë writes, pouring her life and her heart into the work. When she is ready to submit her final clean copy of Jane Eyre she learns that if the publisher rejects the novel she must pay both sending and returning shipping fees. She risks a double payment if the novel is rejected. She decides to send the manuscript.
I've been writing incessantly for a year- what will come of it?
Fawkes concludes Brontë’s story with a full-page tribute to Jane Eyre. First published in 1847, it has never been out of print, has been adapted numerous times for a variety of media, and translated into approximately sixty languages.
This beautiful and thought-provoking graphic novel is part of The Center for Cartoon Studies reality-based cartoon series. A rich resource and worthy addition to libraries and the school curriculum.
Fawkes line drawings and ink wash are an excellent medium for the pastoral British Isles setting.
Meet Glynnis Fawkes as she discusses two of her recent projects.