Saturday, 3 March 2012

Charlotte Brontë’s Ingratitude

Amateur bookworms and literary scholars alike have been rejoicing at the news that a long-forgotten and scarcely-read short story by the 19th century novelist, Charlotte Brontë, is about to be published for the first time by the London Review of Books.

Until its recent accidental discovery, the composition (written in imperfect French, replete with misspellings and grammatical errors) has been languishing, unnoticed, in the dusty vaults of a Belgian museum for nigh-on 100 years.

Entitled L’Ingratitude, the story is dated 16th March 1842, and as such is thought to be the first piece of homework undertaken by the budding author during her educational sojourn in Belgium - where she, along with her sister Emily, took French lessons from their tutor, Constantin Heger.

Indeed, the Heger connection makes this piece all the more interesting to Brontë fans, many of whom would be aware that the writer fell deeply in love with her teacher over the course of her stay in Belgium. 

Unfortunately for Charlotte, Heger was a happily married man, and her love therefore went unrequited.  Her affections were not entirely wasted, however – she would go on to use Heger as the inspiration for a character in her 1853 novel, Villette.

The story is available to read, in both French and English, on the LRB website:

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