The opening facsimile of Charlotte Brontë’s hand for the opening of the novel is quite arresting. A double underlining emphasises with perfect clarity that adverb of place.
The date March 16th situates the writing in a fixed time and location. This is evidence of literary history. That elegant, cursive sweep and detailed accurate punctuation (brackets, em dashes) sets it above from any typed version. I can see meaning in the personalisation of that delicate hand.
Similarly, I feel this way about the end section —that infamous/famous line: ‘Reader, I married him.’ That perfectly neat direct address maintains composure and intimacy with her reader. Even after pages and pages of endless writing, that faultless hand is composed and clear. The spaced-apart word ‘Conclusion’ looms above: inviting the reader to question everything.
Read through the sample of handwriting where Jane implores Mrs Reed to forgive her and Jane begs not to be locked once more in the Red Room. The flourishes on the ‘d’ letters; in fact all the capital letters have something unique about them, particularly: the Fs, Is and Ts. With my sharp eyes I notice that present tense verb on the last line is ‘closes’. In my Oxford Classics Edition, it reads ‘closed’. When did this emendation take place? At one point CB wanted to shift the reader directly into that moment, in the present, and witness that torture first-hand and build upon a sense of complicity (with Mrs Reed, therefore further alienating Jane from her reader) that is lost in the past tense.
Emendations to the chapter numbers and volume numbers (this occurs throughout the entire manuscript) did make me chuckle. Evidently, CB changed her mind about numbering at least twice. This might explain why there are differences between editions e.g. the Oxford Classics differs from the Penguin Edition —even CB confused herself in the manuscript stages.
Look closely at the single exclamative words ‘Solitude! Solitude!’ and appreciate their perfection; CB certainly had a wonderful hand. I could have read the entire text this way —just like her publisher did all those years ago.
A few lines of German are written with printed hand—this surely must have been for the publisher’s benefit but it does look as if significantly longer has been taken with these lines for accuracy. This is unsurprising but it really makes them stand out.
A wonderful experience to see JE through Charlotte’s eyes. I recommend it!