Jane Eyre’s beginnings


Anyone who has read Gaskill’s Life of Charlotte Bronte will know that Charlotte accompanied her father Patrick Bronte to Manchester when he underwent a successful cataract operation.  Mr Wilson a famous oculist recommended comfortable lodgings which were ran by a former servant of his.

The Salutation

The lodging house has long gone, but the street remains.  The Salutation pub stands facing where the Charlotte and her father stayed.  A blue plaque stares out blankly onto where according to the information Charlotte began her most famous novel Jane Eyre.  This is an excerpt from a letter Charlotte wrote describing her Manchester lodging;-

August 21st, 1846: –

“I just scribble a line to you to let you know where I am, in order that you may write to me here, for it seems to me that a letter from you would relieve me from the feeling of strangeness I have in this big town. Papa and I came here on Wednesday; we saw Mr. Wilson, the oculist, the same day; he pronounced papa’s eyes quite ready for an operation, and has fixed next Monday for the performance of it. Think of us on that day! We got into our lodgings yesterday. I think we shall be comfortable; at least our rooms are very good, but there is no mistress of the house (she is very ill, and gone out into the country), and I am somewhat puzzled in managing about provisions; we board ourselves. I find myself excessively ignorant. I can’t tell what to order in the way of meat. For ourselves I could contrive, papa’s diet is so very simple; but there will be a nurse coming in a day or two, and I am afraid of not having things good enough for her. Papa requires nothing, you know, but plain beef and mutton, tea and bread and butter; but a nurse will probably expect to live much better; give me some hints if you can. Mr. Wilson says we shall have to stay here for a month at least. I wonder how Emily and Anne will get on at home with Branwell. They, too, will have their troubles. What would I not give to have you here! One is forced, step by step, to get experience in the world; but the learning is so disagreeable. One cheerful feature in the business is, that Mr. Wilson thinks most favourably of the case.”


What must that street have looked like then?  Oh to go back in time to August 21st 1846 and see Charlotte coming and going from 83 Mount Pleasant Boundary Street!  I, like most people perhaps, always assumed that Jane Eyre was written at the Parsonage in Haworth, but this appears not to be the case.  According to this information, the novel was started at the above address.  Where once stood Mount Pleasant 73 – 93 the back part of the Municipal School of Art stands.


title page of Jane Eyre

A few days later, she writes thus: “Papa is still lying in bed, in a dark room, with his eyes bandaged. No inflammation ensued, but still it appears the greatest care, perfect quiet, and utter privation of light are necessary to ensure a good result from the operation. He is very patient, but, of course, depressed and weary. He was allowed to try his sight for the first time yesterday. He could see dimly. Mr. Wilson seemed perfectly satisfied, and said all was right. I have had bad nights from the toothache since I came to Manchester.”

Excerpts of Elizabeth Gaskill’s Life of Charlotte Bronte from this site Thanks!

Currer Bell image here





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10 thoughts on “Jane Eyre’s beginnings

  1. Oh my. I would have been frantic during those days. I am not a cook! Recipe following is how I do it. My Father would have wanted more than beef and mutton. Also, this is telling about how far medicine has come in such a short period of time. Now, some can have major surgeries and be up and moving about in four days so the insurance companies believe! What a beautifully written letter. Thanks for the info, as always, Lynda!

    1. People talk about the ‘good old days’ but where they really that good? perhaps in some ways as the pace of living was slower, but it was a world for the robust only. Being ill in those days was a very risky business indeed!!! Having said that though, through mistakes progress was made. I love Charlottes letters too – so much information and observation in them, they really illustrate the time in which she was living in:) We still have mutton, but it isn’t a cheap dish now:)

  2. It’s an odd feeling when you are standing at location that may be better known for having been something else in a different reality. Is the blue circle the only marker?

  3. Yes, the blue plaque looks out onto the back of the Municipal Art school where the house on Mount pleasant terrace used to be Al. It’s a real visual exercise to imagine what it must have been like – there’s no clues. Fun doing so though:)

    1. I just love these ‘in this place…’ or near this spot…’ We went on a Jack the Ripper tour in London once and saw a sink in a shelter where The Ripper was supposed to have stopped to wash the blood off his hands and scrawl on the wall. That was really chilling :O

  4. dear lynda,

    i have bought a charlotte bronte’s jane eyre from the bookstore last month. and i have not yet read it. i am glad in anticipation that you featured ms. bronte as a worthy blogpost topic. yeah, great write were instilled in a place in a great writer’s mind. i do hope to find time starting to read this book as your post hints a great promise of a great story. thanks so much.

  5. jane eyre was a very important book to me growing up. ever since i was in 6th grade and read it i became an anglophile, obsessed with classic english literature. jane eyre helped push me in my choice to become an english major and go do a study abroad program. i did not know that she wrote it in manchester or where she wrote it, but i chose manchester metropolitan university because it had a partnership with my college in south dakota. i ended up staying in a dorm room on cavendish street, where my window looked out on the salutation. one night when i went out with friends to the pub i saw the little blue circle and the lovely big portrait of charlotte on the inside. coincidence? who knows…

    1. Its a small world Kelly! I know Manchester Met! It was the first and only time we’ve ever been in the Salutation – a very Bohemian pub and quite popular with students. Not far away on Oxford rd is the Footage and Firkin (now called the Footage). That used to be an old cinema. Further down the road used to be Rock World, another popular venue (now sadly closed).
      I too love Jane Eyre – Charlotte was a powerful writer. Its great to see that she is still inspiring people through the years!
      Thanks for your comment and visit Kelly – appreciated:)

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