8 thoughts on “Victorian Reviews of Jane Eyre: Observations and Reflections

  1. Pingback: English B1918 S18: The Victorian Novel – Renata Kobetts Miller, Ph.D.

  2. Renata Miller

    Per the directions that I distributed in class, please post a citation for the review that you found and your brief observation/reflection by posting a reply here.


  3. Steve Mendoza

    Title: Review of Jane Eyre (Recent Novels: French and English)
    Author: George Henry Lewes (December 1847)

    George Henry Lewes’s criticism is wanting to tell everyone that the book is a “must read” and that Jane Eyre involves a character who evolves her realism and transforms it into her anger and truth, something unseen in Victorian literature in that time. “To have realism, it must come from reality, not being involved in the window of the world.” (P.691). George breaks down the significance of a governess and from that point of view, it brings a better understanding of feminity and shows Jane as a perfectly groomed woman, not a machine or some sort of puzzled that needs to be solved throughout the story. Thus, from being a matured woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind against those characters who consider her invisible (like the Reeds for example) to those who treat her like a used inanimate object (Mr. Rochester), Jane experiences freedom as a heroine and as George points out in his critique review, not many female protagonists have that opportunity. Her desires are inclined to be suited for Jane which makes her very successful in being noticeable, instead of invisible.

    Site used:
    British Library (www.bl.uk/collections-items/review-of-Jane-Eyre-by-George-Henry-Lewes)


  4. Kayle Nochomovitz

    From: Hunt, Leigh. “Jane Eyre. An Autobiography. Edited by Currer Bell.” The Literary Examiner, 27 Nov. 1847.

    This review notes that Jane Eyre is a book worth reading, a “vivid [portrait] of men and things,” a book that the reader can count as among his “choicest favorites.” At the same time, the author(s) regard Jane Eyre as a “defective” novel, different from other novels of it’s period. It is “anything but a fashionable novel. It has not a Lord Fanny for it’s hero nor a Duchess for its pattern of nobility…the pages are scant of French and void of Latin…the heroine is cast among the thorns and brambles of life.” At the same time, the authors declare that they “like the few fashionable characters introduced into the book less than those of humbler pretensions.” As the review progresses it becomes clear that the reviewers don’t even consider Jane Eyre to be a true novel, but rather an autobiography, and must be read in that light. When compared to other autobiographies “[i]t has more graphic power, more earnest human purpose, and a more varied and vivid portraiture of men and things.”
    An interesting feature of this review is how Jane’s plight is read mostly in terms of class, with no mention made of the role her status as a woman might play in her struggles. The review notes that the writer’s intention “seems to be (amongst other things) to show how “intellect and unswerving integrity may win their way although oppressed by that predominating influence in society which is a mere consequence of the accidents of birth or fortune.” Given the time at which the review was written, this reading of Jane Eyre through a primarily class lens is not surprising.


  5. Emily Miller

    George Henry Lewes raves that Jane Eyre is original and fresh and that he hopes we will hear more from the author, who, he is certain, is a woman. Lewes posits that the characters, and much of the story itself, must be based on fact because the descriptions are so “real”. He whets potential readers’ appetites with descriptions of Brocklehurst, Miss Temple, Helen Burns, Mrs. Fairfax, and Mr. Rochester. In his review, Lewes includes paragraphs from the novel that give context for Jane’s journey and that describe encounters between Jane and other characters. Lewes is careful to include excerpts where Jane addresses the reader, probably because he feels this is distinct to her writing style. He chooses the scene at Lowood when Brocklehurst reprimands Miss Temple for allowing the girls to dress or wear their hair other than arranged “closely, modestly, plainly,” contrasted with Brocklehurst’s own wife and daughters who are lavishly attired. In another excerpt, Jane describes Miss Ingram, Jane’s competition for Rochester’s affection. And lastly, the scene Lewes reprints is from Jane’s encounter with St. John, after she learns she is to inherit a great fortune but which she insists on sharing with her new-found relations. Lewes purposely chooses quotes that he feels will lure readers into wanting more without ruining the story for them. He advises that Jane Eyre “..must be read through: no skipping – no peeping to see how Jane goes on a few leaves forward, or whether she gets married, or how her property comes to her.”

    [Lewes, George Henry.] “Review of Jane Eyre”, by Charlotte Brontë. Westminster Review [London] 48 (Jan 1848): 581-84.

    Accessed from the website: http://www.thebrontës.net


  6. “The Literary Examiner.” Review of Jane Eyre. The Examiner, 27 Nov. 1847, pp. 4–5,
    http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000054/18471127/002/0004. 12 February 2018.

    I thought this a somewhat fair review, both complimentary and critical, if only just slightly bipolar. “There are faults, which we may advert to presently; but there are also many beauties…”

    Before the reviewer goes into a lengthy summary of the plot, or in his words, “the secrets of the story…” he points out how this body of work appears to be the “first efforts of an original writer” and touches briefly upon how altogether different it fares from the traditional works of that time.

    The reviewer says, “it is not a book to be examined by the fictions of Sir Walter Scott, Sir Edward Lytton and Mr. Dickens.” And while, “the object and moral of the work is excellent… taken as a novel or history of events, the book is obviously defective.” (I found many contradictory statements like this throughout). I believe this may be large-in-part due to the fact that literary critics at that point never really received something quite like Jane Eyre before (it being a more “humble” work), and so weren’t entirely sure how to treat it or what to make of it. For this reason, I also found the review to be pretentious in parts:

    “It is anything but a fashionable novel. It has not a Lord Fanny for its hero, nor a Duchess for its pattern of nobility. The scene of action is never in Belgrave or Grosvenor square. The pages are scant of French and void of Latin.” (God forbid).

    Another thing I found particularly amusing was that the reviewer said, “it is a very clever book…of decided power…” but, in regard to the style, he says, “it is rude and uncultivated here and there.”

    Now “rude” is a very interesting choice word. And as I read on, I couldn’t help but wonder what other terms they’d give it had they’d known it was written by a woman, for which, though titled an autobiography, he says, “though relating to a woman, we do not believe to have been written by a woman.” What makes this statement even more ironic is that moments earlier in reference to its male counterparts of that period, the reviewer points out that Jane Eyre contains “more graphic power, more earnest human purpose, and a more varied and vivid portraiture of men and things.” So obviously, the jokes on him.

    Overall, I wasn’t exactly sure what their general consensus/opinions toward Jane Eyre were as a whole, however, he makes it clear (in a rather random and abrupt conclusion) that the reader ought to place the three volumes that comprise the work of Jane Eyre “among his choicest favourites.” And there you have it.




    In spite of the traditional definition of the word “sympathy”, Freeburg Kees contends that Bronte’s use of it in Jane Eyre, is interchangeable. According to her, Bronte used Sympathy was used to denote race, power, class, family relations as well as kinship. To illustrate her point, she refers to two “now-obsolete” meanings of the word “sympathy” in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). “The first denotes a literal, physical connection between people and things …”. Similarly, the second defined it as “… accord, harmony … agreement in qualities…”.

    These definitions encapsulate Jane’s belief that she was of the same race as Mrs. Reed. They did not get along; there was no loving nor nurturing of Jane by Mrs. Reed; no blood ties; Mrs. Reed believed Jane was inferior to her and certainly wielded all the power she could over Jane!

    Freeburg Kees also refers to the class difference in Jane’s relationship with Mr. Rochester and his relationship with Bertha. The irony is that he thinks Bertha is an unsuitable mate not only because of her race but also because he had no loving, emotional feelings towards her. On the other hand, although Jane was not considered of equal rank with him, he felt a deep connection with her — “a sympathy”.




    According to her, Bronte used “sympathy to denote race, power, class …

    These definitions encapsulate Jane’s belief that she was NOT of the same race as Mrs. Reed


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s