The Professor was the first novel that Charlotte Brontë completed. Rejected by the publisher who took on the work of her sisters in 1846--Anne's Agnes Grey and Emily's Wuthering Heights--it remained unpublished until 1857, two years after Charlotte Brontë's death. Like Villette (1853), The Professor is based on her experiences as a language student in Brussels in 1842. Told from the point of view of William Crimsworth, the only male narrator that she used, the work formulated a new aesthetic that questioned many of the presuppositions of Victorian society. Brontë's hero escapes from a humiliating clerkship in a Yorkshire mill to find work as a teacher in Belgium, where he falls in love with an impoverished student-teacher, who is perhaps the author's most realistic feminist heroine. The Professor endures today as both a harbinger of Brontë's later novels and a compelling read in its own right. "The middle and latter portion of The Professor is as good as I can write," proclaimed Brontë.
This first novel went unpublished during Bront�'s lifetime, rejected by publishers each time it was submitted despite her growing fame for such works as Jane Eyre and Shirley. It was released only after her untimely passing, when there was a great hunger for anything from the pen of this now-famous author, but it was a poor addition to her work. A critic in 1857 wrote that it was "crude, unequal, and unnatural to a fault; it has all the unripe qualities of a bad first work." And indeed it is dreary and confusing, uninvolving and filled with minutiae, and suffers from many awkward and improbable devices, not the least of which is the choice of a male protagonist to tell a tale with many autobiographical aspects. The reading by James Wilby is expert and probably as exciting and dramatic as is possible, given the material. Comprehensive literary collections will want to add this early work of a major author, but more popular collections can safely pass it by.�Harriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 31, 2001
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