Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Professor by Charlotte Brontë.

The Professor is Charlotte Brontë's last published novel (1857), however it was her first attempt at a publishable novel: it was written before Jane Eyre but refused by Smith, Elder & Co, who said they would be interested in something longer. And so The Professor was never published in Brontë's lifetime, something I dare say wouldn't have concerned her and she referred to her feelings for the novel as being "paralleled by those of a doting parent to an idiot child"!

Like Villette, The Professor was inspired by her time in Brussels in the early part of the 1840s, but unlike her other novels The Professor's protagonist is a man: William Crimsworth. Refusing to become a clergyman, he goes to work as a tradesman with his brother Edward. However, unable to stand Edward's jealous nastiness, he accepts an offer to work in Brussels in an all-boys boarding school. Such is his success he goes on to accept an offer from the headmistress (Mlle. Reuter) of an all-girls school. He initially falls for Mlle. Reuter, only to discover she is to marry M. Pelet. Nevertheless, when she introduces him to Frances and he begins to feel affection for her, Mlle. Reuter is jealous and sends Frances away. William leaves the school and tries to find Frances.

I take no pleasure in saying I found this a very tedious novel, though it is Brontë's shortest novel so it wasn't too much of a trial! It was frustrating too be cause I loved it at first, but I seem to have lost my way somewhere after page 50. The basic premise for it - a young man growing up and making his life alone in Brussels - was interesting: I do like these 'coming of age' as it were novels. But I couldn't find anything in William that I especially liked, and I didn't think his character was terribly well portrayed, so I couldn't feel anything at all when I read it, and my concentration lapsed more than once. But I am a huge admirer of Jane Eyre and Shirley, and having read Villette too it seemed a shame not to re-visit The Professor. At the very least I would say it makes for an interesting comparison with Brontë's other novels. 

On the plus side, though - I did find five of the six illustrations of the novel by Edmund Dulac! If or when I find the missing sixth I shall add it, but for now, here are the five:





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12 comments:

  1. A genuinely bad book, relieved only by occasional passages so bizarre that they become pleasingly grotesque.

    I found that the novel improved if I assumed that the narrator was not a teacher at a school but a madman in an asylum who believed he was a teacher in a school.

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    1. That would definitely work for me too!

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  2. I kind of dread trying this one, but I intend to. I want to read all of the Bronte novels. :)

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    1. Reading all the Bronte novels was my aim too when I read this one. Don't dread it - it's only 250 or so pages, and everyone will forgive you if you find it boring! :)

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  3. I found it very similar to Villette, and I hated the first 50-100 pages of that novel. Nevertheless, I managed to fall in love with it near the end, a miracle which didn't happen with The Professor, unfortunately. But it's still a good novel, though maybe too much on the "teaching" and less on the "passionate" side of Bronte's writing.

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    1. I could never get into Villette unfortunately - and I actually liked the first 50 - 100 pages! Of the non-Jane Eyre CB books Shirley is my favourite. Off ALL the sisters, Villette and The Professor are at the bottom of my list in order of preference, but then I always did prefer Anne Bronte :)

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  4. I loved Villette, but was surprised how boring the beginning of this book was. I started it but didn't finish it (though I mean to, eventually). Also the premise of a male teacher falling in love with his female student, though not unrealistic, is a little hard to get excited about.

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    1. Indeed, it wasn't particularly compelling, was it? :)

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  5. I'm on a 2016 mission to find out more about the Bronte sisters so this is all good information to have. I'll definitely be reading Villette before The Professor, though.

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    1. Do you have Juliet Barker's book on the Brontes? I haven't read it yet, but it's supposed to be very good! It's on my list, must read it myself soon :)

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  6. I quite enjoyed this book when I read it, if only for the lovely writing. But looking back I think I agree that it's not exactly got the pull of her other novels. I haven't read Shirley yet but I finally read Villette earlier this year and loved it!

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    1. Shirley's a definite favourite of mine! So good - looking forward to see what you make of it :)

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