The Illustrated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, ill. by Dame Darcy

One of the few books I bought during the November to January “From the Stacks” period was The Illustrated Jane Eyre. I could think of few things to better spend holiday gift money on; I’d “promised” it to myself for my next re-reading.

The story of Jane, and Bronte’s prose, is more stirring each time I read; this is my third time, I think. I came to this classic late in life, but immediately embraced it as a favorite. The Illustrated Jane Eyre is a lovely edition, from the faux weathered-leather binding, to the gatefold cover, to the thick, rough-cut pages. Most beautiful of all are Dame Darcy’s illustrations: on the cover, in full-page painted color glossy tip-in pages, and full and partial page pen-and-ink drawings. Darcy clearly embraced the task. Her illustrations are numerous and reflective of the text. They manage to capture both the dark passion of the book as well as the more ephemeral inner thoughts of its characters.

Bronte’s strong language and passionate tale were daring at the time, even though she wrote under the pseudonym Currer Bell, who was assumed to be male. Many critics might have echoed the words of the character St John to Jane:

Your words are such as ought not to be used: violent, unfeminine and untrue. They betray an unfortunate state of mind: they merit severe reproof: they would seem inexcusable;

Jane noted something like this of herself in an earlier conversation with St John:

He had not imagined that a woman would are to speak so to a man. For me, I felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their heart’s very hearthstone.

Indeed, both Jane and Charlotte have earned their places by mine.

For more Bronte-related goodness, visit the excellent Bronteblog. (Apologies for lack of umlauts throughout; writing this post has exceeded the nap time of 2yo Guppy.)

Added later: This is an unadorned edition of the text. There is a fascimile page of the first edition, and the book is divided into three volumes, which are then subdivided into chapters. The Dame Darcy edition includes the preface to the 2nd edition, as well as its dedication to Thackeray that was later removed–he had a wife who was institutionalized for madness. It also includes CB’s note to the third edition. There is no scholarly introduction or afterward, and there are no notes. This lets the story and the art shine, but I did still crave some explanatory notes, and bought the paperback Penguin edition to get some.

3 Responses to “The Illustrated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, ill. by Dame Darcy”

  1. writer2b Says:

    This sounds like a beautiful edition of a favorite story. I’m curious about the illustrations… I’m going to have to find a copy.

  2. girldetective Says:

    I’ve not liked Dame Darcy’s comic books, but this seems a good pairing of her style and a dark, Victorian romance.

    I just saw Definitely, Maybe, and liked it the more for its Jane Eyre subplot. It made me want to get an edition with the Eichenberg woodcuts. I have a Wuthering Heights with his illos, but not JE.

  3. Donald Says: