Sign In
Forgot Password? Register - AS/A2 English Literature Study Guides - texts in context.


Jane Eyre » Preface


A preface to the first edition of 'Jane Eyre' being unnecessary, I gave
none: this second edition demands a few words both of acknowledgment and
miscellaneous remark.

My thanks are due in three quarters.

To the Public, for the indulgent ear it has inclined to a plain tale with
few pretensions.

To the Press, for the fair field its honest suffrage has opened to an
obscure aspirant.

To my Publishers, for the aid their tact, their energy, their practical
sense and frank liberality have afforded an unknown and unrecommended

The Press and the Public are but vague personifications for me, and I
must thank them in vague terms; but my Publishers are definite: so are
certain generous critics who have encouraged me as only large-hearted and
high-minded men know how to encourage a struggling stranger; to them,
i.e., to my Publishers and the select Reviewers, I say cordially,
Gentlemen, I thank you from my heart.

Having thus acknowledged what I owe those who have aided and approved me,
I turn to another class; a small one, so far as I know, but not,
therefore, to be overlooked. I mean the timorous or carping few who
doubt the tendency of such books as 'Jane Eyre': in whose eyes whatever
is unusual is wrong; whose ears detect in each protest against
bigotry--that parent of crime--an insult to piety, that regent of God on
earth. I would suggest to such doubters certain obvious distinctions; I
would remind them of certain simple truths.

Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To
attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the
face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of

These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as
is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be
confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human
doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be
substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is--I repeat
it--a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly
and clearly the line of separation between them.

The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been
accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show
pass for sterling worth--to let white-washed walls vouch for clean
shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinise and expose--to rase the
gilding, and show base metal under it--to penetrate the sepulchre, and
reveal charnel relics: but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.

Ahab did not like Micaiah, because he never prophesied good concerning
him, but evil; probably he liked the sycophant son of Chenaannah better;
yet might Ahab have escaped a bloody death, had he but stopped his ears
to flattery, and opened them to faithful counsel.

There is a man in our own days whose words are not framed to tickle
delicate ears: who, to my thinking, comes before the great ones of
society, much as the son of Imlah came before the throned Kings of Judah
and Israel; and who speaks truth as deep, with a power as prophet-like
and as vital--a mien as dauntless and as daring. Is the satirist of
'Vanity Fair' admired in high places? I cannot tell; but I think if some
of those amongst whom he hurls the Greek fire of his sarcasm, and over
whom he flashes the levin-brand of his denunciation, were to take his
warnings in time--they or their seed might yet escape a fatal

Why have I alluded to this man? I have alluded to him, Reader, because I
think I see in him an intellect profounder and more unique than his
contemporaries have yet recognised; because I regard him as the first
social regenerator of the day--as the very master of that working corps
who would restore to rectitude the warped system of things; because I
think no commentator on his writings has yet found the comparison that
suits him, the terms which rightly characterise his talent. They say he
is like Fielding: they talk of his wit, humour, comic powers. He
resembles Fielding as an eagle does a vulture: Fielding could stoop on
carrion, but Thackeray never does. His wit is bright, his humour
attractive, but both bear the same relation to his serious genius that
the mere lambent sheet-lightning playing under the edge of the summer-
cloud does to the electric death-spark hid in its womb. Finally, I have
alluded to Mr. Thackeray, because to him--if he will accept the tribute
of a total stranger--I have dedicated this second edition of 'JANE EYRE.'


December 21st, 1847.

Religious devotion; spirituality in practice.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
A particular system of belief, faith and worship ' for example, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism.
Literally, to 'buy back'. In Christian belief, the redemption of humanity was achieved by Jesus who in his death on the cross made a complete sacrifice sufficient to pay for the sins of the world.
Title (eventually used as name) given to Jesus, refering to an anointed person set apart for a special task such as a king.
Tomb; term used to refer to the tomb in which Christ's body was laid after the crucifixion.
A king of Israel whose reign is recorded in the Old Testament in 1 Kings, chapters 16 - 18.
Micah, Old Testament prophet; Old Testament book of the Bible
The act of proclaiming a revelation received from a divine source, often interpreted in the light of current and/or future events
Micah, Old Testament prophet; Old Testament book of the Bible
1. The fourth son of Jacob. 2. One of the twelve tribes of Israel. 3. The kingdom which covered the southern area of Palestine.
The Old Testament frequently refers to Israel as the Promised Land allocated to God's children. Prophecies refer to it as his chosen nation and the one out of which the Messiah would come.
A walled city of refuge, east of the Jordan
Henry Fielding (1707-1754), an English novelist and dramatist – author of Tom Jones.
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), a Victorian English novelist – author of Vanity Fair.