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Tony Grist

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The Lowood Institution [Feb. 25th, 2013|11:12 am]
Tony Grist
The Reverend Mr Brocklehurst is a snob, a hypocrite and a sadist but his influence at Lowood is mitigated by his rarely bothering to put in an appearance. The greatest evil of his regime is starving the school of funds (though perhaps he is a just steward and the funds simply aren't there). The head mistress or Superintendent is humane and conscientious and the staff she's saddled with are mostly decent but, like the children, overworked and underfed. One of them is a little too fond of picking on kids she doesn't like. The food may be lousy but the education provided seems- by the standards of the time- to be more than adequate- as may be judged by the accomplishments Jane emerges with.  Bronte isn't a crusader. She's not saying- as Dickens would have done- "We must wipe institutions like this off the face of the earth." Rather she's telling us how things are. These places exist; they perform a necessary function; they're run by people who are variously gifted and motivated; it would be nice if they were better funded. I think this makes her a realist.

Jane is happiest during the typhus epidemic. Discipline breaks down and she and her mates get to roam the countryside at will. Without labouring the point, Bronte is clear-eyed about the heartlessness and resilience of children. It's not exactly Lord of the Flies, but it's getting there.

Helen Burns is one of the first of the Victorian martyr children- and one of the most plausible. Think what a horror Dickens would have made of her.  Bronte is good at dreamy spiritual people because she was one herself. Dickens wasn't because he wasn't.

The real Mr Brocklehurst sued Bronte for defamation of character- thereby making sure that nobody would ever have any doubt who she had in mind. Twit!
linkReply

Comments:
From: cmcmck
2013-02-25 12:18 pm (UTC)
I'm a Dickens lover and therefore biased, but I do think Whackford Squeers is an amazingly drawn character! :o)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-02-25 01:54 pm (UTC)
I love Dickens too. He's the one novelist I keep going back to.
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[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2013-02-25 12:50 pm (UTC)
I love you reading this live. It's like sitting opposite you in a railway carriage in 1848, and hearing you excitedly comment on the next installment of the serial (nb: I know this wasn't actually serialised).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-02-25 01:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2013-02-25 03:49 pm (UTC)
I didn't know the real Mr. Brocklehurst sued her. What a jerk.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-02-25 04:03 pm (UTC)
The Internet is a wonderful source of information.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2013-02-26 09:00 pm (UTC)
The Rev Carus Wilson. Calvinist who was a total Job's comforter after Maria and Elizabeth Bronte died of TB.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2013-02-25 04:06 pm (UTC)
Yes. I went looking into this and found one account saying that he took advice but decided to write her a letter of complaint instead. She wrote him a letter of apology and he dropped the whole thing. At least, thus saith this source:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/revealed-why-brocklehursts-inspiration-threatened-to-sue-bronteuml-479611.html
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-02-25 04:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the link.

I wonder he thought he had a case. I've seen pictures of the school at Cowan Bridge and it doesn't at all resemble Bronte's
description of Lowood. I think she'd have been justified in telling him to go swivel.
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[User Picture]From: zoe_1418
2013-02-25 05:15 pm (UTC)
I love learning these British expressions... (go swivel)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-02-25 06:31 pm (UTC)
Ah, you don't have that one.... :)

Edited at 2013-02-25 06:31 pm (UTC)
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