Charlotte Brontë, writer of Jane Eyre and eldest of her writer-sister clan, was apparently extremely prolific from a very young age. A manuscript has been uncovered that the author wrote when she was just 14-years-old and is soon to be sold at auction. It just so happens to include a precursor to Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s mentally ill wife from Jane Eyre. The news is huge but the book itself? Very, very tiny.
Brontë published Jane Eyre at the age of 31, who knew she was throwing around ideas for her literary masterpiece when she was just a teenager? Sotheby’s auction house says the unpublished work is titled “The Young Men’s Magazine, Number 2″ and is dated August 1830. They estimate the piece will sell for around $482,000 when it goes up for auction on December 15.
According to the Associated Press, “The mini-magazine, measuring 1.4 inches by 2.4 inches (35mm by 61mm), contains a tale of murder and madness set in the imaginary world of Glass Town.” Book specialist Gabriel Heaton said it, “Crafted with extraordinary care, this minute manuscript marks Charlotte Brontë’s first burst of creativity and, significantly, provides a rare and intimate insight into one of history’s great literary minds,” and that it describes “when Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s insane wife, seeks revenge by setting fire to the bed curtains in her husband’s chamber.”
The Daily Mail has further details. “Although the plot is different, many of the scenes bear a striking resemblance to the novel she wrote as an adult,” they write, mentioning that the manuscript itself was hand-written by Brontë.
A few exceprts of the story were provided. This one describes a male character going mad and imagining setting fire to a bed:
He constantly raged about the spirits of Caroline Krista & Charles Wellesley dancing before him. He said that every now & then they glided through his eyes to his brain where an immense fire was continually burning & that he felt them adding fuel to the flames that caused it to catch the curtains of the bed that would soon be reduced to ashes.
This one describes an attic, similar to the one in Jane Eyre where Bertha is kept:
The floor was of wet rotten wood blacker than the back of a chimney. The sides were of the same but… partially concealed by elegant draperies of spiders web.
“The manuscript she penned when she was 14 tells of the adventures of a man after he witnesses a murder,” writes the Daily Mail. “With hand-cut pages, she replicated the format of printed periodicals of the day, complete with table of contents, articles, poetry and classified advertisements, one of which reads: ‘Six young men wish to let themselves all a hire for the purpose of cleaning out pockets they are in reduced CIRCUMSTANCES [sic].’” The name she gave her magazine was inspired by Blackwood’s Magazine, which father subscribed to at the time.
A mini-manuscript, by one of our favorite authors, giving insight into one of our favorite novels and oft-thought-about characters? Can we all please take a moment here? Can we also talk about how the owners had no idea of its significance before they brought it to Sotheby’s? Wow.