The Morgan Library: The Brontë Exhibit

The photo below shows a first edition copy of Wuthering Heights and a first edition copy of Jane Eyre. I found this display at the exhibit really cool because on the copy of Wuthering Heights below the title, it says “by the author of Jane Eyre.” As we know today, Emily Brontë actually wrote Wuthering Heights, not Charlotte. Apparently Thomas Newby, who published Emily and Anne’s works in England tried to conflate the three Bells in order to capitalize on Jane Eyre’s success with the public. What surprised me was that literary critics were convinced that the same person wrote all the “Bell” novels. Some even insisted that they were actually written by a man, as was the case with William S. Williams of Smith, Elder & Co. who wrote, “if ‘Jane Eyre’ be the production of a woman- she must be a woman unsexed.” This further displayed to me the difference in time period between now and when these novels were published. Given today’s technology, any person with a smart phone would be able to discern who the author of a specific novel is (and would certainly be expected to if they were a critic), and it wouldn’t be so terribly shocking for that author to be a woman


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