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624 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1849
...but I perceive that certain sets of human beings are very apt to maintain that other sets should give up their lives to them and their service, and then they requite them by praise: they call them devoted and virtuous. Is this enough? Is it to live? Is there not a terrible hollowness, mockery, want, craving, in that existence which is given to others, for want of something of your own to bestow it on? I suspect there is. Does virtue lie in abnegation of the self? I do not believe it.This book is long, complicated, and polemical. It is full of numerous characters that are never proclaimed fully evil or utterly good, references that few modern readers would understand without the copious end notes, and bundles of plots weaving in and out of a myriad number of sociocultural subjects. The authors' views are as obvious in her text as the nose on your face; religion, politics, women's rights, you name it, she has something to say about it. Finally, what this all adds up to is not an adventure, nor a history, not even a treatise of various ideas on multifarious subject matters, but a romance, if that.
'It is not,' she resumed, much excited, - 'It is not that I hate you; you are a good sort of man: perhaps you mean well in your way; but we cannot suit: we are ever at variance. You annoy me with small meddling, with petty tyranny; you exasperate my temper, and make and keep me passionate. As to your small maxims, your narrow rules, your little prejudices, aversions, dogmas, bundle them off: Mr Sympson - go, offer them a sacrifice to the deity you worship; I'll none of them: I wash my hands of the lot. I walk by another creed, light, faith, and hope, than you.'I'm not surprised Woolf decried Charlotte Brontë within her A Room of One's Own for letting too much anger and indictment creep into her writing. I myself wonder at Brontë's fervent declamations, often uttered by female characters who later on act in complete opposition to their previously stated thoughts and feelings. Seemingly, perhaps, as this sort of idealism rarely results in a happy ending, at least for most suspenders of disbelief. Seemingly, as what matters is that Brontë did indeed pen her insight on paper that later was successfully published. She did exhaust most of her cutting wit and fine tuned psychological scalpel on the matter of women from infant to old maid, but there are men and children, poor and rich, politic and politic that may not be likable but always are true.
‘I must read Shakespeare?'This book achieves exactly that.
'You must have his spirit before you; you must hear his voice with your mind's ear; you must take some of his soul into yours.'
'With a view to making me better; is it to operate like a sermon?'
'It is to stir you; to give you new sensations. It is to make you feel your life strongly, not only your virtues, but your vicious, perverse points.’
"If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women. They do not read them in a true light; they misapprehend them, both for good and evil. Their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend. Then to hear them fall into ecstasies with each other's creations—worshipping the heroine of such a poem, novel, drama—thinking it fine, divine! Fine and divine it may be, but often quite artificial—false as the rose in my best bonnet there. If I spoke all I think on this point, if I gave my real opinion of some first-rate female characters in first-rate works, where should I be? Dead under a cairn of avenging stones in half an hour."
"Shirley, you chatter so, I can't fasten you. Be still. And, after all, authors' heroines are almost as good as authoresses' heroes."
"Not at all. Women read men more truly than men read women. I'll prove that in a magazine paper some day when I've time; only it will never be inserted. It will be 'declined with thanks,' and left for me at the publisher's."
"To be sure. You could not write cleverly enough. You don't know enough. You are not learned, Shirley."
"God knows I can't contradict you, Cary; I'm as ignorant as a stone. There's one comfort, however: you are not much better."
“If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend.”