Charlotte Brontë’s Apology: Gothic Undercutting in Villette as a Feminist Revision of Jane Eyre College

With the 1847 publication of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë—publishing under the androgynous pseudonym “Currer Bell”—effectively obscured her gender along with her identity. While Brontë did not unanimously pass for male, debate about the author’s sex began immediately, and even critics who accused the author of being in fact an authoress acknowledged a “masculine firmness of touch” in the novel (qtd. in Alexander & Smith 273). In 1848, an anonymous reviewer for the Christian Remembrancer addressed the rumors, decrying the “masculine hardness, coarseness, and freedom of expression” in Jane Eyre as particularly egregious if coming from the pen of a female author (qtd. in Alexander & Smith 136). In December of that year, a review by Elizabeth Rigby for the Quarterly Review rejected the rumored female authorship as an “unlikely proposition,” asserting that if Jane Eyre had been written by a woman, then such a woman must be “one who has…long forfeited the society of her own sex” (qtd. in Alexander & Smith 136). While Brontë later attributed the use of the androgynous pseudonym to an “impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice,” she was not particularly flattered by critical accusations of...

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