Paula has a personal ‘link’ to Jane Eyre.
I first read ‘Jane Eyre’ when I was about 12, and loved it.
About a year later, the story was serialised in 6 parts on BBC, in the old days
of black and white TV. Stanley Baker played Rochester and Daphne Slater played
Jane. It was made doubly interesting by the fact that my class tutor at the
time had been at school with Daphne Slater and used her ‘connections’ to get
the autographs of both lead characters for us all.
‘Jane Eyre’ continued to be ‘special’ to me, especially after
I saw a stage adaptation performed by our local repertory company. It was one
of the first dramatic performances I remember that led to my lifelong love of
theatre, and I read the book more times than I can count.
In my third novel, when I was in my late twenties, a
school-based dramatization of ‘Jane Eyre’ was a focal part of the plot.
Fast forward 30+ years. I started researching my family
tree, and discovered a link (in my father’s family) to landed gentry in the
county of Derbyshire. One of my ancestors was Roger Eyre (born c1430, the son of Robert Eyre (c1390-1459) who owned
land in the county and who had married Joan Padley, heiress to several other estates. They lived in the small village of Hathersage, and
when they died, their tombs were surmounted with brass effigies. These are the
most famous effigies in the church.
What is the connection between this and Jane Eyre? In 1845
Charlotte Bronte came to stay in the Rectory at Hathersage with her old school
friend, and it was here she started to write her novel about Jane Eyre, whose
name was inspired by the brass effigy on the tomb of Joan Eyre (nee Padley).
So it seems Jane Eyre was named after my 15-times-great-grandmother!
Maybe that’s why I’ve always had an affinity with Charlotte Bronte’s novel?
P.S. I’ve also used Jane Eyre in two of my later novels.
In Fragrance of Violets, Abbey’s
acting career took off after she appeared in the lead role in a TV dramatization,
and in Irish Inheritance, Jenna
auditioned for the role.