Bronte apologized for “Jane Eyre” school description

Posted on June 6, 2006 

Bronte apologized for “Jane Eyre” school description

HAWORTH (Reuters) – Charlotte Bronte offered to rewrite parts of “Jane Eyre” after a complaint from the headmaster of the school on which she based the infamous Lowood school, newly discovered letters show.

The letters have raised the prospect that somewhere, tucked away in a dusty attic or a pile of musty papers, could lie an amended manuscript of the 19th-Century classic, toned down to avoid a libel lawsuit.

The letters will be put up for sale next month by the auction house Mullock Madeley, documents expert Richard Westwood-Brookes said Friday.

The book’s Lowood school, presided over by the cruel Mr Brocklehurst, was a harsh, unhealthy place where pupils were half-starved.

The description upset local headmaster, Reverend William Carus-Wilson, who wrote to his former pupil Bronte after Jane Eyre was published and threatened her with legal action after he said he recognized himself and his school from her unflattering description of Lowood.

But the newly found letters, written by Carus-Wilson’s grandson Edward in 1912, show Bronte dissuaded him from pursuing his case by sending him a 1,400 word sketch, expurgated of the offending passages.

“He … wrote to Charlotte Bronte to remonstrate with her, and the result was that she wrote the sketch that I have in my possession retracting a good deal of what she had formerly written about the school,” Edward wrote in one of three letters to a prospective buyer of a revised manuscript.

The letters are expected to fetch 70 to 100 pounds but Westwood-Brookes said the manuscript, if found, could go for a lot more.

“If it (the manuscript) was to be found, the value at auction could well be 100,000 pounds. It’s of incalculable importance,” he told Reuters.

“Jane Eyre, after all, is known all over the world as one of the most important books of the 19th century.”


Over 150 years after her death, Bronte still enjoys a passionate following, along with her sisters Emily and Anne, for their epic tales set on the windswept moors of Yorkshire.

Up to one million fans annually come from around the world to their home town of Haworth.

A stage production of Jane Eyre is currently playing in London’s West End and Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams is set to star as Charlotte Bronte in a film based on her life, due to start shooting this year.

Alan Bentley, director of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, the former Bronte home, said the sweeping sagas and mythical tragedy surrounding the Brontes’ short lives carried their popularity far beyond the borders of their village.

“There’s a touch of the James Dean or Marilyn Monroe — people who die before their time,” he said. “You always have a feeling they never fulfilled their potential.”


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