Classics · Covers

Covers: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre. I believe I have a contrarian’s view of the book, which I’ve read several times–I believe it to be wonderfully written–and several versions of which I’ve watched.

Yet this is from my I Am Alex Locus:

We’d raided the kitchen, and everything was set up on the coffee table in front of the couch opposite the huge TV in the furnished basement with sliding doors out to the dark patio. Kate hit play and Jane Eyre—the BBC one with Ruth Wilson and wasn’t she so great in The Affair?—began. The desert as Jane imagined traveling as she paged through the large book. Discovered by the horrible cousin John and being struck in the head by the book and knocking the brat down and being carried by two housemaids to the red room, begging and begging not to be taken to the red room and abandoned to the ghosts she knew haunted it and seeing the ghost…and my stomach churned and my head grew light and I rushed up the stairs into the kitchen, nearly running into Kate’s mother.

Kate was on my heels as I fought for breath with my hands spread on the kitchen counter and my head rocking back and forth. Her mother got me water, most of which I downed with barely a break.

“What is it, Alex?” Mrs. Winslow asked as her daughter stood beside me panicking. Kate pulled out a chair, and I collapsed into it as her mother refilled the glass and grabbed her phone, but I told her I was okay.

“I have to go,” I said again and again. “I have to go.”

Kate’s hands were tight at my shoulders, preventing me from getting up.

“Alex. Talk to me.”

It is a pivotal moment, triggering a visceral reaction in Alex. And that reaction flows from something her late mother wrote about the novel and how it was not as much a romance as most appear to think it is.

For the cover, I tried several variants of a largely abandoned, unloved woman finding some sort of a place as a governess for a girl of a questionable relationship with Mr. Rochester. I again went to the Met and found an 1847 portrait of a woman who, in the context of Eyre, might be her after all the dust–and the ashes–had settled, not the woman we see along the way.

The portrait is of Anne Charlotte Lynch (later Mrs. Vincenzo Botta) and was painted by the Frenchman Savinien Edme Dubourjal. Again I can find little beyond what the Met offers:

Lynch, an important figure in the social and literary life of New York City in the mid-nineteenth century, was an author and poet as well as an amateur painter and sculptor. Her New York City home became a lively gathering place for artists and literati, one of the earliest salons in America. Among the artists who visited Lynch’s salon was George Peter Alexander Healy (1813–94), who may have introduced her to the French portraitist Dubourjal. The fine cross-hatching in the face and background reflects his experience as a painter of miniatures. The sitter’s delicate features are carefully described and enlivened with small touches of color. The rest of the drawing is rendered in subtle tones of white, gray, and black.

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