*Welcome to Part Two of a two-part blog post on Charlotte Brontë’s  Jane Eyre. Read yesterday’s post, Part One.

Physiognomy & French – Jane Eyre: Part 2

Have you noticed that Charlotte Brontë seems to infuse two things into all of her novels? Physiognomy and French.


Charlotte Brontë infused the French language into her novels. There are always at least one or two of her characters who converse mainly or partially in French.

Her audience, she would have assumed, would have known French quite thoroughly. It was an important and necessary aspect of 19th century English education.

Unfortunately for me, my French training ended in the fifth grade. While reading Jane Eyre and The Professor I’ve had to infer from my weak French (and Spanish) repertoire what the characters may be saying. Many times, I’ve simply skipped over the lines until English words return. Sadly, I’ve probably missed out on many character forming and plot forwarding conversations.

It has made me yearn to learn the language.

But I’m scared! Learning languages is difficult, time consuming, and requires great effort.

And finally, I have found the easier way out. At least when it comes to Charlotte Brontë’s novels. I received a copy of Villette for Christmas, published by Arcturus, that contains translated footnotes for all of the French lines! Finally, I will be able to understand the full story.

And yet… I still want to learn French…

How do you read books that contain dialogue in other languages?

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