Another copy that I stumbled upon yielded some ephemera. On page xiv of the introduction a yellow post-it note was affixed. It directly announced: ‘Fire/Ice/death/cold’; evidently, key themes of the novel.
The post-it was situated on a page all about interpretations of the novel, just above the key sentence: ‘…Jane, whose character is akin to the elements of fire, brightness, warmth, purity. Characters with whom she is in sympathy share these qualities to some extent; Rochester indeed must go through an ordeal by fire to attain union with Jane.’ This reader has focussed on central elemental parts of the novel in order to interpret crucial character traits and thematic resonances. Interesting. Although, our annotator has added in both ‘death’ and ‘cold’ from their own thoughts. Looking more closely, I can see that these are expounded on in a later paragraph and this student has linked all these ideas together in a litter of extremes.
The front cover is very creased with the opening side crushed into a side vanishing-point, almost like the sun’s rays breaking out in an attitude of intense heat and solar power. The bleached edge is like the peeping solar disc attempting to strain itself over a black horizon—creating a stark chiaroscuro. ‘Jane’, on the cover, looks demurely down. This is actually a portrait of Mary Isabella Grant c. 1850; this painting hangs in the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery. The subject is knitting a shawl. The artist’s father painted this as part of a series of three identical pictures. Mary Isabella died only four years later, at the premature age of 22. It is believed the duplicate images were painted after her death as memorial pictures. The subject wears rings, to indicate her marriage. Mary Isabella’s life differs considerably from Jane’s, thankfully for her long-time readership, but her youth and absorption in domestic duties echo many of the themes within Jane Eyre.
One particularly harsh crease on the cover cuts right through her forename—almost like the splintered chestnut tree in the novel is split asunder. The crevice points to the nethermost corner where it is only met by a fissured and whitened spine. It appears to be a well-worn and enjoyed copy.
The issue was adorned by an especially unusual page-maker. A plastic/sticky clear-and-blue tape marked page 453. It included the words: ‘Rochester spiritual god’. This was next to a passage where the hero calls to Jane supernaturally through the dark night in those memorable words: ‘Jane! Jane! Jane!’ Any reader will know that page well. It is the climax that precedes the long-awaited reunion and eventual fairy-tale happy ending.
A brief examination of this copy’s reading history shows a troubling lack of adherence to that central column. The periods between 1999 and 2001 saw a dearth of lending, furthermore one incomplete date on 12AUG ???? was a mystery year—unable to be recorded in my sample. The plot thickens. We won’t know when and where the novel went for that period yet its silent pages do.