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10 Moody Facts About Jane Eyre

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When Charlotte Brontë sat down to write Jane Eyre, she didn’t know she was writing a major work of literature. The gothic novel about a governess’s romance with the brooding Mr. Rochester was an instant classic in its time and is still much loved today, 168 years later. After all, who can resist a tale featuring a madwoman locked in an attic?

1. Like Jane, Brontë Worked As A Governess.

Jane Eyre was a provincial girl hired to work as a governess among strangers. So was Charlotte Brontë. In 1839, the wealthy Sidgwick family employed Brontë to live in their country estate and educate their children. She hated the job, writing, “I had charge given me of a set of pampered, spoilt, turbulent children, whom I was expected constantly to amuse, as well as to instruct.” She became depressed and withdrawn, causing Mrs. Sidgwick to scold her.

2. The Madwoman In The Attic Was Inspired By Real Life.

That same year, Brontë visited Norton Conyers House in North Yorkshire. There she learned that 60 years before, a mentally ill woman had been confined in “Mad Mary’s Room” in the attic. The story was inspiration for Bertha Mason, Rochester's insane wife. In 2004, the owners of the house discovered a blocked staircase connecting the attic and the first floor, just like the staircase described in the novel.

3. The Harsh School Jane Attends Was Also Based On Experience.

When Brontë was five, her mother died, leaving her poor clergyman father to care for six children. He sent Charlotte, Emily (author of Wuthering Heights), and their two older sisters to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, Lancashire. It was a harsh, disciplinary environment with bad food, cold buildings, and physical abuse. Brontë later drew on these memories when creating Lowood, the school Jane attends. The cruel headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst, was drawn from a real person, Reverend William Carus-Wilson. (More on him below.)

4. Helen Burns Is Based On Brontë’s Sister, Maria.

Like Helen Burns, Jane’s friend who dies at Lowood, Maria Brontë was neglected and abused when she got sick at school. Brontë’s biographer Elizabeth Gaskell wrote that when the child wanted to rest in bed, a teacher “took her by the arm, on the side to which the blister had been applied, and by one vigorous movement whirled her out into the middle of the floor, abusing her all the time for dirty and untidy habits.” Both Maria and the second-eldest Brontë daughter, Elizabeth, contacted tuberculosis at the school and were sent home, where they later died.

5. Brontë Wrote The Novel While Nursing Her Blind Father.

While Brontë was writing Jane Eyre, her father Patrick had a pre-anesthetic operation to have cataracts removed from his eyes. He was left blind and helpless while his eyes healed. It’s no coincidence that Rochester is blind at the end of the novel, and that, like Brontë’s father, he eventually regains his sight.

6. Before Mr. Rochester, There Was The Duke Of Zamorna.

As a child, Brontë made tiny books with her brother Branwell they called The History of the Young Men. They were based on toy soldiers that Branwell received for his 9th birthday. The children loved these soldiers and made up elaborate worlds surrounding them. Charlotte’s invention was Alfred the Duke of Zamorna, a petulant, Byronic character with an illegitimate child from an affair—all characteristics he shares with Rochester. As such, the British Library says that “the Duke of Zamorna can be seen as a precedent for Rochester in Jane Eyre.”

7. Love Triangles Were All Around Her.

When Jane discovers that Rochester is married to Bertha Mason, she leaves him rather than commit bigamy. In real life, not only was her younger brother, Branwell, having an affair with a married woman, Charlotte herself had fallen in love with a married professor named Constantin Heger. The crush was unrequited—Heger even tore up the love letter Brontë wrote him—but the situation may have inspired aspects of Jane and Rochester’s relationship, as well as the novel Villette.

8. She Was Forced To Apologize To Her Cruel Schoolmaster.

When Jane Eyre became a success, Reverend Wilson recognized himself in the character of Mr. Brocklehurst and threatened to sue Brontë. She avoided a lawsuit by writing him an apology. Wilson’s grandson described it as a “sketch … retracting a good deal of what she had formerly written about the school in Jane Eyre.” She even gave Wilson permission to publish this sketch under her name. Curiously enough, he never did. The apology has since been lost.

9.Jane Eyre Was Published Under A Male Pseudonym.

In 1846, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte published a poetry book under the pseudonyms Acton, Ellis, and Currer Bell. They knew they would be taken more seriously if the public believed that they were men. Charlotte also published Jane Eyre under the name Currer Bell. When it became a bestseller, the literary world became consumed with learning more about the mysterious Bell brothers.

10. Even Her Publisher Didn’t Know She Was A Woman.

Having corresponded by letter, Brontë’s publishers, Smith, Elder, and Company, had no idea that Currer Bell was a woman. In 1848, circumstances forced Charlotte and Anne to go to London and meet their editors in person. She wrote later:

Neither Mr. Smith nor Mr. Williams knew we were coming—they had never seen us—they did not know whether we were men or women, but had always written to us as men. "Is it Mr. Smith?" I said, looking up through my spectacles at a tall young man. "It is." I then put his own letter into his hand directed to Currer Bell. He looked at it and then at me again. "Where did you get this?" he said. I laughed at his perplexity—a recognition took place. I gave him my real name: Miss Brontë.

A year after Anne and Emily died, Brontë outed all three of them as women writers in the preface of the combined edition of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. You can read the whole thing here.

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15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
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MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

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China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
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People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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