THE EXAMINER (essay date 1847) [The critic praises Jane Eyre but doubts that a woman composed it. According to the critic, Jane Eyre is defective as a novel but forms an admirable autobiography.] There can be no question but that Jane Eyre is a very clever book. Indeed it is a book of decided power. The thoughts are true, sound, and original; and the style, though rude and uncultivated here and there, is resolute, straightforward, and to the purpose. There are faults, which we may advert to presently; but there are also many beauties, and the object and moral of the work is excellent. Without being professedly didactic, the writer's intention (amongst other things) seems to be, 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. There are, it is true, in this autobiography (which though relating to a woman, we do not believe to have been written by a woman), struggles, and throes, and misgivings, such as must necessarily occur in a contest where the advantages are all on one side; but in the end, the honesty, kindness of heart, and perseverance of the heroine, are seen triumphant over every obstacle. We confess that we like an author who throws himself into the front of the battle, as the champion of the weaker party; and when this is followed up by bold and skilful soldiership, we are compelled to yield him our respect. Whatever faults may be urged against the book, no one can assert that it is weak or vapid. It is anything but a fashionable novel.... On the contrary, the heroine is cast amongst the thorns and brambles of life . . . The hero, if so he may be called, is (or becomes) middle-aged, mutilated, blind, stern, and wilful. The sentences are of simple English; and the only fragrance that we encounter is that of the common garden flower, or the odour of Mr Rochester's cigar. Taken as a novel or history of events, the book is obviously defective; but as an analysis of a single mind, as an elucidation of its progress from childhood to full age, it may claim comparison with any work of the same species. It is not a book to be examined, page by page, with the fictions of Sir Walter Scott or Sir Edward Lytton or Mr Dickens, from which (except in passages of character where the instant impression reminds us often of the power of the latter writer) it differs altogether. It should rather be placed by the side of the autobiographies of Godwin and his successors, and its comparative value may be then reckoned up, without fear or favour .... The danger, in a book of this kind, is that the author, from an extreme love of his subject, and interest in the investigation of human motives, may pursue his analysis beyond what is consistent with the truth and vitality of his characters. In every book of fiction, the reader expects to meet with animated beings, complete in their structure, and active and mingling with the world; and he will accordingly reject a tale as spurious if he finds that the author, in his love of scientific research, has been merely putting together a metaphysical puzzle, when he should have been breathing into the nostrils of a living man. The writer of Jane Eyre has in a great measure steered clear of this error (by no means altogether avoiding it), and the book is the better for it. (p. 756) A review of "Jane Eyre," in The Examiner, No. 2078, November 27, 1847, pp. 756-57.
"Review of Jane Eyre." Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, edited by Laurie Lanzen Harris, vol. 8, Gale, 1985. Literature Criticism Online, http%3A%2F%2Flink.galegroup.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FBTKFNH167969074%2FLCO%3Fu%3Dnew31382%26sid%3DLCO%26xid%3De8445cbb. Accessed 19 Feb. 2018. Originally published in The Examiner, no. 2078, 27 Nov. 1847, pp. 756-757.
Gale Document Number: GALE|BTKFNH167969074