Chapter 5


Two pages from the Charlotte Brontë’s preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1848. 21425.19.12*.

Charlotte Brontë dedicates Jane Eyre to Thackeray (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1848).

Also a friend of Thackeray’s, Williams sent Thackeray an early edition of Jane Eyre, hoping Thackeray might review it. “I wish you had not sent me Jane Eyre,” Thackeray wrote. “It interested me so much that I have lost (or won if you like) a whole day in reading it.” Learning of Thackeray’s admiration for her book, Brontë dedicated the second edition of the novel to him.

As the novel was published pseudonymously, many readers thought the mysterious author was governess to Thackeray’s own children. For close friends who knew Thackeray’s marital situation, a dedication to Thackeray in a novel about a man with a mentally disturbed wife seemed rather insensitive (although Brontë herself wouldn’t have known). Thackeray, however, thought it the “greatest compliment I have ever [received] in my life.” Brontë’s dedication may actually have assisted Vanity Fair’s popularity, as Thackeray‚Äôs novel had not completed publication when this edition was published.

21425.19.12*. Bequest of Samuel Shapleigh.

Note: Although it comes from a different edition, the entirety of the preface is available through Google Books.