Villette is Charlotte Bronte’s powerful autobiographical novel of one woman’s search for true love, edited with an introduction by Helen M. Cooper in Penguin Classics.
With neither friends nor family, Lucy Snowe sets sail from England to find employment in a girls’ boarding school in the small town of Villette. There, she struggles to retain her self-possession in the face of unruly pupils, the hostility of headmistress Madame Beck, and her own complex feelings – first for the school’s English doctor and then for the dictatorial professor Paul Emanuel. Drawing on her own deeply unhappy experiences as a governess in Brussels, Charlotte Bronte’sautobiographical novel, the last published during her lifetime, is a powerfully moving study of loneliness and isolation, and the pain of unrequited love, narrated by a heroine determined to preserve an independent spirit in the face of adverse circumstances.
Helen M. Cooper’s new introduction places the novel in the context of Bronte’s life and career and argues for the importance of the novel as an exploration of imperialism.
Charlotte Bronte (1816-55), eldest of the Bronte sisters, was born in Thornton, West Yorkshire. Jane Eyre was first published in 1847 under the pen-name Currer Bell, and was followed by Shirley (1848) and Vilette (1853). In 1854 Charlotte Bronte married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. She died during her pregnancy on 31 March 1855 in Haworth, Yorkshire. The Professor was posthumously published in 1857.
If you liked Villette, you may enjoy Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, also available in Penguin Classics.
‘I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have been reading Villette’
‘Her finest novel’