Volume 1: Dedication and Preface


William Thackery, availabe from the Project Gutenburg archivesCharlotte Brontë added this dedication for the second edition of the novel, published in January 1848. William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63) published Vanity Fair, his first major novel, in monthly numbers from January 1847 to July 1848. Charlotte Brontë gives her reasons for adding this dedication in the Preface she wrote for the second edition of Jane Eyre.

Preface to the second edition

Jane Eyre proved to be an immensely popular novel and a second edition was soon required, for which Charlotte Brontë wrote this preface, dating it 21 December 1847. She used the opportunity to convey three things.


Brontë offers thanks to:

  • her readers (‘the Public') for purchasing and reading the book
  • her reviewers (‘the Press') who gave the novel a positive reception
  • her publishers for accepting and issuing a book from an unknown author. (See Jane Eyre: The critical tradition for further information on these subjects.)


In the preface, Brontë defends the book against those who criticised it:

  • She accuses them of timidity, in particular those who are critical of anything unusual in an author's approach
  • She also suggests that they confuse protests against bigotry with a challenge to religious belief as such
  • Against this, she argues that conventionality and morality, or self-righteousness and religion, are often confused
  • She goes on to state her wish to expose religious hypocrisy and falsity and argues that is her right and responsibility to make distinctions between the appearance and reality of faith and virtue.


Brontë also pays tribute to William Thackeray and his new novel, Vanity Fair, then about two-thirds of the way through its monthly publication:

  • She praises him as a truth-teller who has the insight and courage to attack the vices of the day
  • She admires his intellect
  • She regards him as a social reformer who aims to regenerate social morality
  • She also argues that he does all this without including in his work anything coarse or offensive.

Commentary on Volume 1: Dedication and Preface

suffrage In this context the word means ‘expression of opinion'.

my Publishers Jane Eyre was published by the comparatively small firm of Smith, Elder and Co, who were beginning to establish a reputation as publishers of new fiction. They continued to support Charlotte Brontë throughout her career.

PhariseePharisee Member of a Jewish group devoted to a strict observance of the law and claiming a special holiness for doing so. It was among the groups opposed to the teachings of Jesus. The word is often used as general term for people who are self-righteous and hypocritical.

white washed walls vouch for clean shrines Brontë echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:27 when he accuses the Pharisees of only caring about their external presentation of morality, whilst being immoral in their hearts. He uses the image of a well kept grave which contains rotting bones inside.

Crown of Thorns This was placed on Christ's head by his tormentors at the time of his crucifixion.

Ahab … counsel … Ramoth-Gilead This refers to events narrated in 1 Kings 22:1-51 and 2 Chronicles 18:1-34 when the kings of Israel and Judah ignored the warnings of Michaiah, son of Imlah before invading Ramoth-Gilead, preferring to take the self-serving advice of Zedekiah, son of Chenaanah. Charlotte Brontë likens her position to that of Michaiah, the prophet who is ignored because Greek firehe brings bad news.

Greek fire A material used by the Greeks of Constantinople for setting fire to their enemies' ships.

levin-brand A bright light or flame. ‘Levin' actually means lightning and a brand is a torch. Charlotte Brontë will have read the phrase in The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) the celebrated poem by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832): ‘Resistless flash'd the levin-brand' (6.25).

Fielding Henry Fielding (1707-54) was a member of the first generation of great English realist novelists. Like Thackeray (who admired him greatly), he satirises the pretensions, follies and vices of society, but makes more use of physical comedy, frank language and sexual encounters, both serious and comic.

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