February 25th, 2013


The Lowood Institution

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!

No, I Don't Get It

You grow up in a repressive, low church, stupid-headed society. You're smart enough to hate it but you can't help internalizing the values and beliefs and you don't have whatever it takes to shake 'em off- even after you've moved to a society that would encourage you in the struggle. Decades later you're still acting on stupid-headed beliefs that are unworthy of your mind. You're capable of reading books that would disabuse you of them (you've got a degree, dammit!) but you choose not to. Why? What is it you like about your chains?

Nick Clegg Should Hire Me As An Adviser

How's this for an explanation of what happened?

"I learned about Lord Rennard's little problem back in 2008 and asked Danny Alexander to have a word with him in private. Shortly afterwards Lord Rennard resigned. I'll leave it to you to imagine what exactly transpired at that meeting.  And, no, we didn't tell the media at the time because we prefer not to wash our dirty linen in public. Who does?"

If you look at the facts as we know them it seems to me that Clegg acted exactly as a leader should- firmly, decisively- even ruthlessly. Why then is he trying to create an impression of shiftiness and lack of grip?