The illustrations in the Facsimile edition are very different to any others I have seen before. These were carried out by Edmund H. Garrett and I looked at a few of them in detail. Garrett produced these monochrome illustrations in 1897.
The opening illustration shows Jane in a windswept pose—the west wind buffets her cloak away from her. In the background, three figures are walking away. These are clearly the other Reeds with the nurse (or possibly the mother) going out for a walk.
This illustration reinterprets the line: ‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day’ in that Jane is the one who is denied the walk while the others are permitted to. The foliage is bare and the scene looks icy and hoarfrosted. This is very much in line with Gothic images later in the novel, particularly those inspired by Bewick’s Birds: the illustrator appears to be focalising his impressions through Jane’s perspective.
The next few I looked at (none of these are illustrated here) were fairly expected: Mr Brocklehurst (tall, thin, long nose) looks down at a submissive Jane: his long arms seem disproportionate to his body; his arms also appear to be of different lengths. Jane’s hands are fixed together behind her back with her palms outwards—like a Jesus figure, although she looks away from the viewer’s observance. The cleric leans forward from a large chair and glares towards her face. She appears to be looking slightly away to the right: developing her own thoughts. In another image, Jane meets Helen Burns; Helen’s nose is buried in a book—both pairs of feet are drenched by the flooding from the rain-soaked walkway. Helen is hunched over—she shows in her posture her physical ailments yet to come. Jane leans towards her, clutching her outer cloak and looks directly on: expectant and yearning for comfort. In another, Jane and Helen sit together on a large rock in the centre of a stream, their unshodden feet touching the water—a symbol of freedom if ever there was one. Helen appears to be conversing with Jane—or rather Helen is talking and Jane is listening. They are surrounded by nature.
An illustration which really caught my eye was Rochester, collapsed and exhausted by a roadside stile. Pilot looks on expectantly and slightly intimidated by Jane. Jane reaches her right arm out, imploring and entreating the gentleman: while the moon appears to be alarmingly slipping away beyond the hedgerow—consequently plunging everyone and everything into inky darkness. Jane’s face is averted—we cannot read her expression—but Rochester sees all. His face is contorted and has a fixed mask-like grimace of fear; of stoicism; of irresolution. He cannot decide how to act. Jane has all the power. Now, any modern reader of Jane Eyre can see this subversive power within the text but to see it pictographically here is quite original, quite playful. Garrett pokes fun at Edward, pallid and seated, caught in a stile, up a small hill, entrapped by Jane’s physical presence.
The next illustration which was unexpected and highly imaginative was one inspired by Rochester’s tale of being cuckolded by a new suitor to Céline Varens. Rochester had been tricked by his courtesan. Rochester looks from parted curtain, which stands in for a performance —although Rochester is the only spectator. The foregrounded scene is self-explanatory but Rochester’s look of pain and dismay sets the tone for experiences which Jane receives at Rochester’s machinations (with Blanche Ingram). He was clearly inspired. Garret captures Rochester perfectly in this moment of this sexual usurpation.
A delightfully playful image is the one where Rochester is shown as the gypsy woman in Vol. II, ch. IV. Here, Rochester plays ‘an old crone’ and ‘tells’ Jane her fortune. This is an almost laughable section of the novel, yet Garrett reveals its Gothic and fairytale imagery perfectly. The viewer can almost see the outline of what is clearly Rochester’s face, grasping at Jane’s hand in a kind of mock-marriage-proposal. Although, here Jane is on bended knees. The symbolic fire blazes behind them both: fueling and inspiring.
The failed-marriage scene is shown with a cast of astounded onlookers depicted in marvellous theatricality. The figures are grouped in freeze-frame mode: at the moment of the revelation. One figure (Mason? A cleric?) raises his hands to his face to protect himself from the shocking reality of bigamy. Rochester —who seems younger than in his earlier images—scratches his head with his right hand: perplexed, frustrated and surrounded. A solemn figure haunts the background: there is no escape.
Garret shows Jane on the moor: alone, frightened and supported only by the penetrating rain and wind. Her feet meet water and the thick grass is parted to allow her progress. Looking up to the sky, Jane seems isolated yet searching for spiritual guidance.
The final etching that I selected depicts Bertha’s suicide and the burning of Thornfield. This remarkable image clearly comes from the vision of the artist. A dark figure runs along the ramparts, appearing to be in the midst of the action of putting out flames. Smoke and flames are rising above. Bertha is falling from the ramparts in a supernatural-like attitude, her legs disappearing into the darkness, her wild hair resembling flames rising above. Her clothing is an ethereal shroud, barely covering her breasts; she is neither human nor spirit. As in Garrett’s other images, he captures a great sense of movement. Unlike other contemporary illustrations, Garrett does not draw on physical racial stereotypes to portray Bertha.