The Victorian era was full of great writers who changed the way novels were written and viewed forever. During the recent poll on this blog, there was a struggle between three writers for the title of “favorite Victorian novelist.” It looked as though they would tie, but at the last minute, Charlotte Bronte broke through to win with 30% with Charles Dickens and Emily Bronte tying for second place with 24% each. Other favorites included Elizabeth Gaskell (10%), George Eliot (4%), Anthony Trollope (4%), and Thomas Hardy (4%). Poor William Thackeray and Wilkie Collins received no votes. I think this poll shows that there are many different and exciting Victorian authors that can be called “favorite” by readers.
Charlotte Bronte is one of my own personal favorites. Her first novel, Jane Eyre, was a masterpiece. Bronte was able to take many of her real life experiences as a poor girl in a terrible school and later as a governess and bring them to life in this magnificent novel. The novel transcends just a tale of her personal trials by being a novel about a strong, independent, woman of the Victorian era who will not sacrifice her personal ideals for an easier road through life. Of course the gothic elements such as a Byronic hero in Edward Rochester and a mad woman in the attic make this a riveting tale. Her later novels (Shirley, Villette, and The Professor) are also good reads, although I must confess that Jane Eyre remains to me the best of the bunch.
If you have never read a Charlotte Bronte novel, I highly recommend that you do. If you only had to read one, I’d read Jane Eyre. If you’ve already read Jane Eyre – try Villette. Villette is based on Bronte’s experiences as a student in Brussels, when she was in love with an older married professor.
What do you enjoy about Charlotte Bronte’s novels or your other favorite Victorian novelist?