Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre courtesy of Postertext on Etsy
I read a book the other day that touched upon literary society in England in the early 19th century. It was chock a block full of insights into the writers that 7th grade teachers do their utmost to make dull. Peer through a window and we see Dickens slowly killing himself as he performs the murder of Nancy from Oliver Twist in front of thousands of hungry audiences night after night after terror filled night. (Bill Sikes, I hate you.) His son waited off stage each evening waiting to carry him away in the likely event he fell dead right before the plunging the knife into lovely, little Nan. Sitting by the fire is Marian Evans before she was George Eliot, before she wrote Middlemarch, a woman cast out of society because of forbidden love. Even after she became all she would become, the women that read her books would not have her to dinner. And there just in the corner, where the shadow meets the light is the lovely Charlotte Bronte.
A plain sort of girl filled with a beautiful complexity. She grew up in a rural place writing mediocre tales about lands that did not exist. She attempted to make a life in the avenues acceptable for a woman. There was the governessing (horrid masters), the teaching (horrid schools), the boarding school owning (no one came). So in the parlor at night, while the wind howled and her father dozed, she and her sisters wrote. They wrote about the world that surrounded them, their disappointments and hopes. They wrote about the things that rattled inside them since birth and the things they had learned in their years of dark rooms and light laughter. Pages and pages, reading bits and pieces to each other here and there. After fingers stained blue with ink and miles walked to the stationers shop, each sister had something worth sending off to publishing houses in a city they had never seen. Anne sent Agnes Grey, Emily sent Wuthering Heights and Charlotte sent The Professor.
The manuscripts went off together in a brown wrapped parcel. Each time the manuscripts were rejected the parcel came back, the brown paper creased and cracking. Our heroines were nothing if not practical. Rather than rewrapping the books they would simply cross off the rejecting publishers name and write down another one. Soon the package was striped in ink from one side to the other. And then. And then a publisher accepted both Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights. They were, the house conceded, good sorts of books.
Charlotte sent off her Professor on one last lonely journey.
A few months later came a reply, "No, Miss Bronte, we are not interested in publishing The Professor, but – Oh the joy in one word! – there is promise here. If you write something else, please send it our way." Three weeks later she sent them Jane Eyre, a book that praised God, shook traditionalists and sits on my desk over a hundred years later.
My darling readers, please do what you love. Teach! Sing! Dance! Mother! Create! Explore! Find the things that have rattled within you since before you could speak. Gather up your discoveries and don your courage. There is promise in each of you.
Raise it up and send it our way.