The Professor (Modern Library Series)

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The Professor was the first novel that Charlotte Bronte completed. Rejected by the publisher who took on the work of her sisters in 1846 - Anne's Agnes Grey and Emily's Wuthering Heights - it remained unpublished until 1857, two years after Charlotte Bronte's death. Like Villette (1853), The Professor is based on her experiences as a language student in Brussels in 1842. Told from the point of view of William Crimsworth, the only male narrator that she used, the work formulated a new aesthetic that questioned ...
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Professor (Modern Library Series)

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Overview

The Professor was the first novel that Charlotte Bronte completed. Rejected by the publisher who took on the work of her sisters in 1846 - Anne's Agnes Grey and Emily's Wuthering Heights - it remained unpublished until 1857, two years after Charlotte Bronte's death. Like Villette (1853), The Professor is based on her experiences as a language student in Brussels in 1842. Told from the point of view of William Crimsworth, the only male narrator that she used, the work formulated a new aesthetic that questioned many of the presuppositions of Victorian society. Bronte's hero escapes from a humiliating clerkship in a Yorkshire mill to find work as a teacher in Belgium, where he falls in love with an impoverished student-teacher, who is perhaps the author's most realistic feminist heroine. The Professor endures today as both a harbinger of Bronte's later novels and a compelling read in its own right.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This first novel went unpublished during Bront 's lifetime, rejected by publishers each time it was submitted despite her growing fame for such works as Jane Eyre and Shirley. It was released only after her untimely passing, when there was a great hunger for anything from the pen of this now-famous author, but it was a poor addition to her work. A critic in 1857 wrote that it was "crude, unequal, and unnatural to a fault; it has all the unripe qualities of a bad first work ." And indeed it is dreary and confusing, uninvolving and filled with minutiae, and suffers from many awkward and improbable devices, not the least of which is the choice of a male protagonist to tell a tale with many autobiographical aspects. The reading by James Wilby is expert and probably as exciting and dramatic as is possible, given the material. Comprehensive literary collections will want to add this early work of a major author, but more popular collections can safely pass it by.--Harriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679602736
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/23/1997
  • Edition number: 1997
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.33 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlotte Brontë was born at Thornton, Yorkshire, on April 21, 1816. Her father, Patrick Brontë, became curate for life of the moorland parish of Haworth, Yorkshire, in 1820, and her mother, Maria Brontë, died the following year, leaving behind five daughters and a son who were cared for in the parsonage by their aunt, Elizabeth Branwell. The eldest daughters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in 1825 from tuberculosis contracted at the religious boarding school to which they (along with Charlotte and her younger sister Emily) had been sent. (All the Brontë children ultimately suffered from lung disease.)

Raised at home thereafter, Charlotte, Emily, their youngest sister, Anne, and brother, Branwell, lived in a fantasy world of their own making, drawing on their voracious reading of Byron, Scott, Shakespeare, The Arabian Nights, and gothic fiction, and writing elaborate poetic and dramatic cycles involving the histories of imaginary countries. Charlotte's early writings revolved around the kingdom of Angria, about which she wrote melodramatic tales of passion and revenge. She spent a year studying at Miss Wooler's school in Roe Head (later relocated to Dewsbury Moor), and went back there to teach from 1835 to 1838; subsequently she worked as a governess.

With Emily, Charlotte traveled in 1842 to study languages at a boarding school in Brussels; her close emotional attachment to her instructor, M. Heger, a married man, would later figure in her fiction. Charlotte and Emily went home after a year because of their aunt's death; Charlotte subsequently returned to Brussels for a year of teaching, 1843 to 1844. A joint collection of poems by Charlotte, Emily, and Anne--published pseudonymously as Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell--appeared in 1846. The three sisters had in the meantime each written a novel, of which Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey were accepted in 1847 for publication the following year. Charlotte's first novel, The Professor, based on her experiences in Brussels, was rejected by a series of publishers (it finally appeared posthumously in 1857).

Jane Eyre was published under Charlotte's pseudonym, Currer Bell, in 1847 and achieved commercial and critical success; it had gone through four editions by the time of Charlotte's death. Jane Eyre won high praises; William Makepeace Thackeray (who later became a friend) declared himself "exceedingly moved and pleased," and George Henry Lewes applauded its "deep significant reality"; it was also criticized by some for the rebelliousness of its heroine and for what the Quarterly Review called "coarseness of language and laxity of tone."

During this period the Brontës underwent repeated tragedies. Branwell, despite his early promise, had been ravaged by the effects of drink and drugs, and when he found work as a tutor in the same household where Anne was a governess, his involvement with his employer's wife led to his dismissal; he died in September of 1848, followed three months later by Emily and the following year by Anne. Charlotte, the sole survivor, published two more novels, Shirley (1849), a novel of Yorkshire during the Napoleonic period, and Villette (1853), a further fictional exploration of her Brussels experiences. In 1850 she met the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, with whom she formed a close friendship; Gaskell later wrote the classic biography of her friend, The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857). Charlotte married her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, in 1854, and died on March 31, 1855.

Biography

Charlotte Brontë was born on April 21, 1816, in Thornton, Yorkshire, in the north of England, the third child of the Reverend Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell Brontë. In 1820 the family moved to neighboring Haworth, where Reverend Brontë was offered a lifetime curacy. The following year Mrs. Brontë died of cancer, and her sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moved in to help raise the six children. The four eldest sisters -- Charlotte, Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth -- attended Cowan Bridge School, until Maria and Elizabeth contracted what was probably tuberculosis and died within months of each other, at which point Charlotte and Emily returned home. The four remaining siblings -- Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne -- played on the Yorkshire moors and dreamed up fanciful, fabled worlds, creating a constant stream of tales, such as the Young Men plays (1826) and Our Fellows (1827).

Reverend Brontë kept his children abreast of current events; among these were the 1829 parliamentary debates centering on the Catholic Question, in which the Duke of Wellington was a leading voice. Charlotte's awareness of politics filtered into her fictional creations, as in the siblings' saga The Islanders (1827), about an imaginary world peopled with the Brontë children's real-life heroes, in which Wellington plays a central role as Charlotte's chosen character.

Throughout her childhood, Charlotte had access to the circulating library at the nearby town of Keighley. She knew the Bible and read the works of Shakespeare, George Gordon, Lord Byron, and Sir Walter Scott, and she particularly admired William Wordsworth and Robert Southey. In 1831 and 1832, Charlotte attended Miss Wooler's school at Roe Head, and she returned there as a teacher from 1835 to 1838. After working for a couple of years as a governess, Charlotte, with her sister Emily, traveled to Brussels to study, with the goal of opening their own school, but this dream did not materialize once she returned to Haworth in 1844.

In 1846 the sisters published their collected poems under the pen names Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell. That same year Charlotte finished her first novel, The Professor, but it was not accepted for publication.

However, she began work on Jane Eyre, which was published in 1847 and met with instant success. Though some critics saw impropriety in the core of the story -- the relationship between a middle-aged man and the young, naive governess who works for him -- most reviewers praised the novel, helping to ensure its popularity. One of Charlotte's literary heroes, William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote her a letter to express his enjoyment of the novel and to praise her writing style, as did the influential literary critic G. H. Lewes.

Following the deaths of Branwell and Emily Brontë in 1848 and Anne in 1849, Charlotte made trips to London, where she began to move in literary circles that included such luminaries as Thackeray, whom she met for the first time in 1849; his daughter described Brontë as "a tiny, delicate, serious, little lady." In 1850 she met the noted British writer Elizabeth Gaskell, with whom she formed a lasting friendship and who, at the request of Reverend Brontë, later became her biographer. Charlotte's novel Villette was published in 1853.

In 1854 Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, a curate at Haworth who worked with her father. Less than a year later, however, she fell seriously ill, perhaps with tuberculosis, and she died on March 31, 1855. At the time of her death, Charlotte Brontë was a celebrated author. The 1857 publication of her first novel, The Professor, and of Gaskell's biography of her life only heightened her renown.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Jane Eyre.

Good To Know

Sadly, Brontë died during her first pregnancy. While her death certificate lists the cause of death as "phthisis" (tuberculosis), there is a school of thought that believes she may have died from excessive vomiting caused by morning sickness.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      April 21, 1816
    2. Place of Birth:
      Thornton, Yorkshire, England
    1. Date of Death:
      March 31, 1855
    2. Place of Death:
      Haworth, West Yorkshire, England
    1. Education:
      Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire; Miss Wooler's School at Roe Head

Read an Excerpt

The other day, in looking over my papers, I found in my desk the following copy of a letter, sent by me a year since to an old school acquaintance:



"DEAR CHARLES,--

I think when you and I were at Eton together, we were neither of us what could be called popular characters: you were a sarcastic, observant, shrewd, cold-blooded creature: my own portrait I will not attempt to draw, but I cannot recollect that it was a strikingly attractive one--can you? What animal magnetism drew thee and me together I know not; certainly I never experienced anything of the Pylades and Orestes sentiment for you, and I have reason to believe that you, on your part, were equally free from all romantic regard to me. Still, out of school hours we walked and talked continually together; when the theme of conversation was our companions or our masters, we understood each other, and when I recurred to some sentiment of affection, some vague love of an excellent or beautiful object, whether in animate or inanimate nature, your sardonic coldness did not move me. I felt myself superior to that check then as I do now.

"It is a long time since I wrote to you, and a still longer time since I saw you. Chancing to take up a newspaper of your county the other day, my eye fell upon your name. I began to think of old times; to run over the events which have transpired since we separated; and I sat down and commenced this letter. What you have been doing I know not; but you shall hear, if you choose to listen, how the world has wagged with me.

"First, after leaving Eton, I had an interview with my maternal uncles, Lord Tynedale and the Hon. John Seacombe. They asked me if Iwould enter the Church, and my uncle the nobleman offered me the living of Seacombe, which is in his gift, if I would; then my other uncle, Mr. Seacombe, hinted that when I became rector of Seacombe-cum-Scaife, I might perhaps be allowed to take, as mistress of my house and head of my parish, one of my six cousins, his daughters, all of whom I greatly dislike.

"I declined both the Church and matrimony. A good clergyman is a good thing, but I should have made a very bad one. As to the wife--oh, how like a nightmare is the thought of being bound for life to one of my cousins! No doubt they are accomplished and pretty; but not an accomplishment, not a charm of theirs, touches a chord in my bosom. To think of passing the winter evenings by the parlour fireside of Seacombe Rectory alone with one of them--for instance, the large and well-modelled statue, Sarah--no; I should be a bad husband, under such circumstances, as well as a bad clergyman.

"When I had declined my uncles' offers they asked me 'what I intended to do?' I said I should reflect. They reminded me that I had no fortune, and no expectation of any, and, after a considerable pause, Lord Tynedale demanded sternly, 'Whether I had thoughts of following my father's steps and engaging in trade?' Now I had no thought of the sort. I do not think that my turn of mind qualifies me to make a good tradesman; my taste, my ambition does not lie in that way; but such was the scorn expressed in Lord Tynedale's countenance as he pronounced the word trade--such the contemptuous sarcasm of his tone--that I was instantly decided. My father was but a name to me, yet that name I did not like to hear mentioned with a sneer to my very face. I answered then, with haste and warmth, 'I cannot do better than follow in my father's steps; yes, I will be a tradesman.' My uncles did not remonstrate; they and I parted with mutual disgust. In reviewing this transaction, I find that I was quite right to shake off the burden of Tynedale's patronage, but a fool to offer my shoulders instantly for the reception of another burden--one which might be more intolerable, and which certainly was yet untried.

"I wrote instantly to Edward--you know Edward--my only brother, ten years my senior, married to a rich mill-owner's daughter, and now possessor of the mill and business which was my father's before he failed. You are aware that my father--once reckoned a Cr?sus of wealth--became bankrupt a short time previous to his death, and that my mother lived in destitution for some six months after him, unhelped by her aristocratical brothers, whom she had mortally offended by her union with Crimsworth, the ----shire manufacturer. At the end of the six months she brought me into the world, and then herself left it, without, I should think, much regret, as it contained little hope or comfort for her.

"My father's relations took charge of Edward, as they did of me, till I was nine years old. At that period it chanced that the representation of an important borough in our county fell vacant; Mr. Seacombe stood for it. My uncle Crimsworth, an astute mercantile man, took the opportunity of writing a fierce letter to the candidate, stating that if he and Lord Tynedale did not consent to do something towards the support of their sister's orphan children, he would expose their relentless and malignant conduct towards that sister, and do his best to turn the circumstances against Mr. Seacombe's election. That gentleman and Lord T. knew well enough that the Crimsworths were an unscrupulous and determined race; they knew also that they had influence in the borough of X----; and, making a virtue of necessity, they consented to defray the expenses of my education. I was sent to Eton, where I remained ten years, during which space of time Edward and I never met. He, when he grew up, entered into trade, and pursued his calling with such diligence, ability, and success, that now, in his thirtieth year, he was fast making a fortune. Of this I was apprised by the occasional short letters I received from him, some three or four times a year; which said letters never concluded without some expression of determined enmity against the house of Seacombe, and some reproach to me for living, as he said, on the bounty of that house. At first, while still in boyhood, I could not understand why, as I had no parents, I should not be indebted to my uncles Tynedale and Seacombe for my education; but as I grew up, and heard by degrees of the persevering hostility, the hatred till death evinced by them against my father--of the sufferings of my mother--of all the wrongs, in short, of our house--then did I conceive shame of the dependence in which I lived, and form a resolution no more to take bread from hands which had refused to minister to the necessities of my dying mother. It was by these feelings I was influenced when I refused the Rectory of Seacombe, and the union with one of my patrician cousins.

"An irreparable breach thus being effected between my uncles and myself, I wrote to Edward; told him what had occurred, and informed him of my intention to follow his steps and be a tradesman. I asked, moreover, if he could give me employment. His answer expressed no approbation of my conduct, but he said I might come down to ----shire, if I liked, and he would 'see what could be done in the way of furnishing me with work.' I repressed all--even mental comment on his note--packed my trunk and carpet-bag, and started for the North directly.

"After two days' travelling (railroads were not then in existence) I arrived, one wet October afternoon, in the town of X----. I had always understood that Edward lived in this town, but on inquiry I found that it was only Mr. Crimsworth's mill and warehouse which were situated in the smoky atmosphere of Bigben Close; his residence lay four miles out, in the country.

"It was late in the evening when I alighted at the gates of the habitation designated to me as my brother's. As I advanced up the avenue, I could see through the shades of twilight, and the dark gloomy mists which deepened those shades, that the house was large, and the grounds surrounding it sufficiently spacious. I paused a moment on the lawn in front, and leaning my back against a tall tree which rose in the centre, I gazed with interest on the exterior of Crimsworth Hall.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2006

    Fairly Predictable

    Although this is a well written novel, it is fairly predictable in its plot line and characters. It seems to rush over significant events while dwelling on seemingly unimportant details such as location, clothing, etc. However, in spite of this, it is a nice, quick read, good to take on a plane or while waiting in line.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A let dowm

    THis books was rather boring because it was basically all descriptions of characters and the main character is a very likable one and neither is the girl he falls in love with I think Bronte had a good idea for a story then got tired after all her character descriptions and decided to slcak off on the rest of the book
    but ill give her credit it was her very first book and was kinda good in a weird way
    i am stil a charlotte bronte fan no matter what

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2008

    Outstanding

    This book was so good. It is interesting to see how Brotne started out her wonderful career. I would recommend this novel to all.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013

    Good read

    I read this book for the first time and really enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    Enjoyed book however not as much as Jane Eryre and Wuthering Heights on to the next Bronte sisters novels. : )

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting edition to your Bronte library

    Charlotte Bronte was a mastermind, and while her first novel was not as good as Jane Eyre, it was still an enjoyable read. It is nice to see how she developed as an author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    &fire

    &star

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted September 27, 2009

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    Posted July 13, 2013

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    Posted July 19, 2011

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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