Tuesday, March 8, 2016

J is for Jane Eyre

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.


  1. Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite books. Very, very cool!

  2. How amazing. This was one of the first classical books I ever read.

  3. I was amazed when I first discovered the link!

  4. What an amazing family connection!

    I have to confess, my aunt gave me a volume of stories by the Bronte sisters when I was a young teenager, but I never had the urge to read any of them. Shame on me.

    1. Oh, you must read 'Jane Eyre', Deb! Definitely her best, I didn't like her other two novels, and unlike many people, I didn't much like Emily's 'Wuthering Heights' either.

  5. An amazing connection. I'm going to make you groan now. I don't like Jane Eyre and any of the Brontes. All much too gloomy for me. Whilst I can appreciate their uniqueness and talent, I choose not to read them anymore.
    I do enjoy reading about the sisters etc and visiting Haworth. There is a film coming out about the sisters problems with Branwell. Of course 2016 is the bi-centenary year.