Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

May 23, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 1:39 am

We’re All Mad Here

In an article about what is scribbled in the margins, the author mentions his own copy of Jane Eyre:

It seems, in fact, that mad scribblings are more common than sane ones. I was once shown a copy of Jane Eyre that was thick with the bile of a woman scorned. Every instance of a male character being brought to book or receiving any kind of comeuppance was heavily annotated, sometimes with “Ha!” added as an afterthought.

I had to smile when I read this. It reminded me of one of my professors and several of my classmates- I wonder if this is one of their copies. I recall the professor’s glee at the thought of Bertha’s attempts at murdering her husband, and then at burning down his house. On the last day of class, the class wrote Bronte-inspired limericks, one of them in praise of Bertha’s ‘burning the poor bastard.’ My copy bears no such annotations. In fact, I am still horrified by the idea of writing in a book. I have a special copy which already had writing in it, so I feel less guilty about adding my own. It didn’t come with any interesting notes. There are a few really ridiculous ‘insights’, though- for example, the deep symbolic ottomon. You know the one I mean, the one which is an allusion to Turkey. Don’t remember it? Hm. Oh, and I’ve corrected it for punctuation, spelling, and grammar. I’m sure that you would correct it to if every time Mr Rochester proposed he would begin with offering to send Jane to ‘Bittemutt Lodge’!

And I like mad scribblings! I would rather have mad ones. But most of my books are marginalia free. When I corrected exams, I did often find that people had annotated their own essays! This was an endless source of fun. Does anyone have any mad scribblings in the margins of their Bronte novels?



  1. I wouldn’t say mad, but I read Wuthering Heights when I was around 14, and I didn’t understand some (well, okay a lot) of the words, so the scribblings were mainly ‘definitions’ if not smileys/sad faces/ or annoyed ones. hehe

    Comment by le_ssa — May 23, 2006 @ 3:19 am |Reply

  2. The version of Jane Eyre I used at A level is full of little notes that I thought penetrating and important then, but strike me as very fatuous now! I noted, for example, each time a breeze was mentioned because I was convinced it was significant in some way. I also added a ‘bleugh!’ to the bit when Mr R says “our honeymoon will shine our life long: its beams will only fade over your grave or mine”. In retrospect, perhaps I was being a little harsh. 😉

    Comment by Liz — May 23, 2006 @ 4:47 am |Reply

  3. I also had trouble bringing myself to write in my books. However, after my teachers ordered me to repeatedly, I became used to the idea, and now I like to do it. In fact, I probably go too far. My first copy of Jane Eyre looks like I dipped it in red ink. Hardly a single page has not been written on, and not all my notes sound all that sophisticated. Sometimes I talk straight to the characters, especially when they say something I don’t believe they really feel. Comments like “Yeah right!”, “You’re in denial!”, “hint, hint!”, and “Earth to Jane!” are quite common. I let some bitterness towards my instructor seep into the pages as well. We had a disagreement over one of my essays, so afterwards I went through the book looking for quotes to prove my point. When I thought I found enough to make my argument undeniable, I wrote “I WIN!” in large, dark letters next to the most convincing quote. Rather childish, I know, but I still think I was right. My last example is truly random, having absolutely nothing to do with Jane Eyre and everything to do with a sibling’s peculiar humor: my brother took my pin, circled the page number of pg. 185, and wrote “I was here!” Occurances like this make reading the margin notes almost as fun as reading the novel! 😉

    Comment by griffin — May 24, 2006 @ 12:35 pm |Reply

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