ABSTRACT

Charlotte Bronte's Villette, by being her last novel, tempts one to consider it the culmination of her career - 'Heaven's last best gift'. The three surviving chapters of another novel, Emma, prove that she herself did not think so. Villette itself puzzles gready the reader who expects her to be not only different from what she has been before, but better. It is at first sight plainly not only less realistic than Shirley, but much less well constructed mechanically than either it or Jane Eyre. Its obvious afftnities are with the early and imperfect Professor. Even though it returns to the freer, less demanding method of the single vision of the narrator-heroine, it abounds with inconsistencies and loose ends, while Lucy is clearly a less comprehensive, less vital, less appealing, and therefore less satisfying narrator-heroine than Jane Eyre. Yet that one reads and admires Villette must prove that it is no failure, and its having been preferred even to the undoubtedly greatJane Eyre indicates that it has qualities not to be found elsewhere.