Was Charlotte Brontë Gay?
By Deborah Lutz
When Jane Eyre was published in 1847, it quickly took its place as one of literature’s most famous love stories—straight love stories, of course, with the plain governess Jane falling for the mysteriously tormented, butch Rochester. Yet the intimacy between women in some of her lesser-known novels, especiallyShirley, gives pause. And then there is the cross-dressing — Rochester as an old gypsy woman, Lucy Snowe in Villette as a young dandy flirting with a pretty woman. Shirley fancies herself an “esquire” because her parents “gave me a man’s name; I hold a man’s position.” “It is enough to inspire me with a touch of manhood... I feel quite gentlemanlike.” Her governess worries about her disdain for needlework and her habit of whistling because people will feel that she “affected masculine manners.”
Evidence mounts in Charlotte Brontë’s letters to her best friend Ellen Nussey.
Prof. Lutz is the author, most recently, of The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, a biography about the Brontë sisters told through their objects.