`Men don't seem to understand making letters a vehicle of communication - they always seem to think us uncautious. I'm sure I don't think I have said anything rash - however you must burn it when read.' Despite the request, Charlotte Brontë's lifelong friend Ellen Nussey probably burnt very little of her correspondence, and in this edition, based as far as possible on original manuscripts, many confidential and outspoken letters are published in full for the
first time. The present volume includes letters from Charlotte's childhood (the first written to her father in September 1829), and takes the reader up to the publication and review of
Jane Eyre (1847). Early editions depended largely on bowdlerized or inaccurate copies, and even the much improved Shakespeare Head edition of 1932 suffered from limited access to manuscripts, owing to the nefarious activities of T. J. Wise. Since 1932 many more manuscripts have become available, and the present edition includes new letters, previously unpublished passages censored by Ellen Nussey or Mrs Gaskell, and full annotation. As well as Charlotte's own letters, a handful of important
letters by friends and family relating to her or illuminating her correspondence are included, along with extracts from the diaries of Emily and Anne Brontë, Ellen Nussey, and Charlotte's rejected
suitor Henry Nussey. The full Introduction includes an illuminating account of the early publication history of the letters, and biographical material on the main correspondents. Of particular interest in the notes to this volume are the extensive quotations from early reviews of Jane Eyre.
`a monumental and scholarly work ... unquestionably the definitive edition, allowing us to read the unexpurgated version of Charlotte's letters for the first time, and will be compulsory reading for Brontë scholars and enthusiasts alike.'
`brilliant and scrupulous Notes'
`This first volume of Charlotte's letters is an invaluable scholarly resource and a stirring story ...'
`For anyone interested in how life is transmuted into art, this volume will be a pleasure.'
`The strength of this volume of letters, many published for the first time, is that it allows Charlotte to speak with her own voice. For anyone interested in how life is transmuted into art, this volume will be a pleasure.'
Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times
`It is a work of painstaking scholarship: she has located new letters and redated and established accurate texts for old ones...Margaret Smith has made a magnificent job of disinterring Charlotte Bronte's own letters, and in doing so has inaugurated a new era in Bronte studies.'
The Independent on Sunday
`a monumental and scholarly work. The redating of many letters is particularly important ... this is unquestionably the definitive edition, allowing us to read the unexpurgated version of Charlotte's letters for the first time, and will be compulsory reading for Bronte scholars and enthusiasts alike.'
The Daily Telegraph
`Margaret Smith, an exemplary editor, provides all the biographical grounding you could want. There is hardly a reference she does not explain, hardly a fictional echo she does not pick up'
`Readers must be grateful to Margaret Smith for the recovery of accurate texts - as accurate as they can be at this point in time, given their wanderings, dismemberments and mutilations ... The restoration of the texts themselves is a triumph of meticulous labour.'
`now, at last, we have this reliable text, painstakingly reassembled and scrupulously edited by Margaret Smith ... This first volume of Charlotte's letters is an invaluable scholarly resource and a stirring story, resonant with powerful feeling, in which a hidden imaginative life stubbornly forces its way through the thickets of domesticity into the light of day. I can hardly wait for the sequel.'
The Sunday Times
`This book's plain exterior conceals a rich layering of intelligence, character and feeling ... The whole volume is put in context by the brilliant and scrupulous Notes ... Margaret Smith has the weight of all the Bronte scholars before her, but her touch is light ... This book becomes not just a collection of letters, but more a calling up of a presence of heart and mind.'
`all this marvellously biting and passionate correspondence has finally been pulled together in a text you can trust'
Lucasta Miller, The Independent
`At last, 140 years after Charlotte's death, we have the first of two printed volumes of all her known letters, edited by a distinguished scholar, Margaret Smith. It is a literary even of importance that these can now be read in the new, authoritative version.'
The New York Review
`Now, for the first time, we have an authoritative edition of Charlotte's letters, and can rely on the words we read being those she actually wrote, down to the last capital and comma...Margaret Smith is an outstanding editor. She has worked previously on editions of the novels and is very familiar with the Brontes' output and lives. Most important of all, she is a meticulous, accurate transcriber. Most people make minor slips when copying. She does not.
Her work can be relied on completely.'
`This new edition of the letters more accurately dates all the letters that can be dated and more accurately transcribes them, where manuscripts or photocopies of manuscripts can be consulted, than the edition it replaces ... Margaret Smith has also restored Brontë's punctuation to produce a text that is not only more accurate but more engaging. Margaret Smith's careful transcription of letters and diary papers already published, together with her
knowledgeable restoration of deleted names, sets several records straight ... This long awaited and handsome new edition of Charlotte Brontë's letters, scrupulously edited by Margaret Smith, will help to counter
Brontë myths both old and new.'
Janet Gezari, Connecticut College, Essays in Criticism, Vol. XLVI, No. 2, Apr '96
`a handsome book of meticulous scholarship.'
Studies in English Literature, 36:4, Autumn 1996
`Margaret Smith's editorial work evinces, as ever, the highest scholarly standards and painstaking research.'
Catherine Malone, Review of English Studies, Vol. 48, No. 191, Aug '97