Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chapter 13: Monsieur Edouard Fairfax de Rochester

First: There's a Jane Eyre readalong going on this month. Check it out at Laura's Review Bookshelf.

Second: The book.

Adele's rendition of Rochester's full name is one of those phrases that stuck with me through many rereadings. The gentleman in question is not French, of course (detour back to AP English and the discussion of Bronte's contrasts between the English and the French...), but he does make an appearance.

Jane's just a touch intimidated when she first goes in to meet her employer:
Unused as I was to strangers, it was rather a trial to appear thus formally summoned in Mr. Rochester’s presence. I let Mrs. Fairfax precede me into the dining-room, and kept in her shade as we crossed that apartment; and, passing the arch, whose curtain was now dropped, entered the elegant recess beyond.
But Rochester does her a favor by being his usual charming self.
A reception of finished politeness would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage. Besides, the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt interested to see how he would go on.
See, that whole Byronic moodiness thing does have a purpose.

"I thought not. And so you were waiting for your people when you sat on that stile?"

"For whom, sir?”

"For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them. Did I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned ice on the causeway?"

I shook my head. "The men in green all forsook England a hundred years ago," said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. "And not even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace of them. I don’t think either summer or harvest, or winter moon, will ever shine on their revels more."

Mrs. Fairfax had dropped her knitting, and, with raised eyebrows, seemed wondering what sort of talk this was.

Our girl can give as good as she gets here, even if Mrs. Fairfax is a little too salt-of-the-earth-stolid to keep up.

But! Mrs. Fairfax is a valuable woman, and she proves her worth here by providing some more foreshadowing, as she recounts the Rochester chronology (present generation).

"Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr. Edward; and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him. The old gentleman was fond of money, and anxious to keep the family estate together. He did not like to diminish the property by division, and yet he was anxious that Mr. Edward should have wealth, too, to keep up the consequence of the name; and, soon after he was of age, some steps were taken that were not quite fair, and made a great deal of mischief. Old Mr. Rochester and Mr. Rowland combined to bring Mr. Edward into what he considered a painful position, for the sake of making his fortune: what the precise nature of that position was I never clearly knew, but his spirit could not brook what he had to suffer in it. He is not very forgiving: he broke with his family, and now for many years he has led an unsettled kind of life."

Unsettled, hmm? We shall see where this leads us.

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