HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
Loading...

Shirley (1849)

by Charlotte Brontë

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,494322,441 (3.7)1 / 157
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

English (30)  German (2)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte. Published first in 1849 under the name Currer Bell, I picked up the 2006 version by Penguin Classics and later realized it was yellowed on the shelf for a reason: it is no longer in print. Not that my version is special, it’s just not available in its exact version. I couldn’t even find a photo for you.

I read this book as part of a rabbit trail begun at Jane Eyre. After this, I will still be reading and reviewing Charlotte’s Villette and The Professor, Anne’s Agnes Grey, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell. Really hoping this last book will cover much of the whole family that intrigues me so, but either way, it looks to be a promising biography.

Shirley is such a nice surprise, because most of us have never heard of it. It’s not Emma or Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, but all arts and genres must have their hidden gems. Only so few of even the most wonderful writing (or other arts) get the publicity (and even the longevity) that make up the “tomes” or the “common household names.” I was also a little surprised, because even when I have found a book that I love, I have rarely followed the author to other equally lovable books (with the exception of Amy Tan and a few others). With Charlotte Bronte, so far, so good. Jane Eyre is not a favorite of mine, but it is quite good. Shirley is, in my opinion, at least as enjoyable, maybe even more so. I would think, at the least, that all those Victorian romance fans would want to try this out.

It has it’s flaws, not least of which is the Victorian longwindedness. I also found the obvious rabbit trails with minor characters who Bronte modeled after real people, most distracting and weakening. It took quite a time to warm up, too, and the story lacks some of the complexity of other books of its time. But I did enjoy the more playful tone, the characters (although the men could have been drawn out better), and the general plot (except for mere circumstance concluding our story). I strongly recommend that you don’t read about the story ahead of time. In the first sentence of the back copy I read, it revealed the main plot twist to me, which happens at something like two-thirds of the way in. I enjoy being talked to across the centuries by Charlotte Bronte, even if the main points are a bit obvious (to us now. Perhaps they weren’t, then). It is possible this whole book was just a way to hide the boring pill of social exposition. In that case, still fun.

But why name it Shirley? The book is more about Caroline than Shirley, and the love-square is–obviously–four-sided. It might have been a way to draw attention to the masculine qualities and strengths of one of the main characters. I understand that Shirley was exclusively a man’s name, at the time. However, there’s nothing farcical about the way the more feminine, domestic, reclusive Caroline is portrayed. In fact, she’s also bursting (but restrained) with her own “modern” ideas and plans. Furthermore, the book begins on a complete tangent, which–several chapters in–it abandons for happier characters. Shirley doesn’t enter until much later.

You have to compare Shirley with Jane Eyre, of course. But in many aspects, the two are so dissimilar they could have been written by different people. Except for the women in society thing, the stifled feminine strength bit, most things are both obviously and subtly different. To begin with, Eyre is famously first person, with a very close and intimate storytelling voice. Shirley is not only third person, but has a strong omniscient narration and bits and pieces of being lifted from the story for insight or comment. Eyre, too, is also a pretty dark book, both in tone and content. Even though Shirley is about feminist and industrial struggles, it is exceedingly lighter. It would make a fine Ang Lee film, if only a few more complications arose.

Over all, the book dragged on a little and lingered often off the point, but that’s normal for the time period. It is an enjoyable read, especially as the reader progresses. I wouldn’t hand it to a fan of science fiction as an introduction into Victorian classics, but for those weathered in the genre, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t run out and grab a copy, immediately.

_______________

There are no film adaptations of this movie. Correction: there was one done nearly one hundred years ago in silent film, but I don’t fancy trying to find that. BBC did a radio series as recently as last year.

_______________

“He could walk miles on the most varying April day, and never see the beautiful dallying of earth and heaven; never mark when a sunbeam kissed the hill-tops, making them smile clear in the green light, or when a shower wept over them, hiding their crests with the low-hanging, disheveled tresses of a cloud” (p19).

“So the unemployed underwent their destiny–ate the bread and drank the waters of affliction. Misery generates hate” (p30).

“It seems to me, reader, that you cannot always cut out men to fit their profession, and that you ought not to curse them because that profession sometimes hangs on them ungracefully” (p36).

“He said public patience was a camel, on whose back the last atom that could be borne had already been laid…” (52).

“Your heart is a lyre, Robert; but the lot of your life has not been a minstrel to sweep it” (p87).

“If her admirers only told her that she was an angel, she would let them treat her like an idiot” (p113).

“It is the boast of some of them that they can keep a stone in their pocket seven years, turn it at the end of that time, keep it seven years longer, and hurl it, and hit their mark at last” (p119).

“‘Enough is as good as a feast, is it not, Mr. Sykes?” (p127).

“Invention may be all right, but I know it isn’t right for poor folks to starve” (p133).

“For the sigh of the south wind, came the sob of the mournful east” (p168).

“Every path trod by human feet terminates in one bourne–the grave: the little chink in the surface of this great globe–the furrow where the mighty husbandman with the scythe deposits the seed he has shaken from the ripe stem; and there it falls, decays, and thence it springs again, when the world has rolled round a few times more” (p169).

“Sincerity is never ludicrous; it is always respectable” (p176).

“He is simply a man who is rather liberal than good-natured, rather brilliant than genial, rather scrupulously equitable that truly just–if you can understand such superfine distinctions” (p203).

“I tell you when they are good, they are the lords of creation,–they are the sons of God” (p206).

“The man would be half a poet, if he were not wholly a maniac; and perhaps a prophet, if he were not a profligate” (p225).

“…a herd of whales rushing through the livid and liquid thunder down from the frozen zone” (p232).

“Lina, you will haunt me” (p241).

“Men, I believe, fancy women’s minds something like those of children. Now, that is a mistake” (p333).

“‘Cool! Must I listen cooly to downright nonsense–to dangerous nonsense?” (p348).

“Oh, child! you have only lived the pleasant morning time of life: the hot, weary noon, the sad evening, the sunless night, are yet to come for you!” (p359).

“God surely did not create us, and cause us to live, with the sole end of wishing always to die. I believe, in my heart, we were intended to prize life and enjoy it, so long as we retain it” (p369).

“Of course, I should often be influenced by my feelings: they were given me to that end” (p380).

“…as her ideas returned slowly, each folding its weak wings on the mind’s sad shore, like birds exhausted” (p397).

“Oh, child! the human heart can suffer. It can hold more tears than the ocean holds waters” (p406).

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune, but, once let slip, never returns again” (p445).

“I approve nothing Utopian. Look Life in its iron face” (p462).

“Robert! this is a queer world, and men are made of the queerest dregs that Chaos churned up in her ferment” (p507).

“As to your small maxims, your narrow rules, your little prejudices, aversions, dogmas, bundle them off: Mr. Sympson–go, offer them a sacrifice to the deity you worship; I’ll none of them” (p521).

“He did not yet know how many commenced life-romances are doomed never to get beyond the first–or, at most, the second chapter” (p551).

***REVIEW WRITTEN FOR THE STARVING ARTIST BLOG.*** ( )
  DevonTF | Jan 6, 2015 |
This is an odd book. It's sort of two books stitched together, only the join shows really badly. Initially it seems as if it is going to be one of those novels that portrays the life of the working poor, the struggles they had to survive and the impact of the march of progress (introduction of mill machinery etc) has on their life. And it heads down hat route for a reasonable time, then suddenly does a dramatic right turn and becomes a middle class romance. Very odd.
Shirley herself doesn't appear until we're at volume 2, the first third is solidly in historical state of the nation territory. Once Shirley makes her appearance, with her fortune, to boot, it takes a somewhat different turn. She is viewed by a number of men as their meal ticket, only she has ideas about who she will wed herself. That all shakes out in the final third, by which time the poor suffering mill workers and the noble poor have vanished into the background, never to be seen again.
It has its moments, but it certainly doesn't hang together well as a whole. ( )
  Helenliz | Dec 27, 2014 |
People hate to be reminded of ills they are unable or unwilling to remedy. Such reminder, in forcing on them a sense of their own incapacity, or a more painful sense of an obligation to make some unpleasant effort, troubles their ease and shakes their self-complacency. Old maids, like the houseless and unemployed poor, should not ask for a place and an occupation in the world; the demand disturbs the happy and rich...

Shirley may be a disappointment to readers expecting a romance of the same caliber as Jane Eyre. The titular character doesn't appear until well into the novel, and she never fully wrests the position of protagonist from Caroline Helstone. Bronte resorts to the device of a journal to reveal one character's innermost thoughts since that person is without a natural confidante among the other characters.

Shirley holds more interest as a social novel addressing issues of social, economic, and gender equity. The depression of 1811-1812 provides the backdrop for the action. It pits textile mill operator Robert Moore and others of his station against desperate unemployed mill workers. Both orphan Caroline Helstone, a dependent of her clergyman uncle, and heiress Shirley Keeldar are reluctant to accept the roles assigned to them as single women of marriageable age. Shirley's inheritance allows her to openly defy society's expectations, while Caroline's lack of options as her uncle's dependent is at least a partial cause of her mental and physical depression. Recommended particularly for readers with an interest in women's history/women's rights or 19th century English social history. ( )
  cbl_tn | Dec 7, 2014 |
Set during the Napoleonic wars, Shirley is partially a story of economics and industrialization. It's also partially a love story. Religion also plays a part in the novel. There is a reason it has stood the test of time. The characters are very strong, and one can truly get a feel for the era in which the novel is set. ( )
  thornton37814 | Nov 10, 2014 |
...but I perceive that certain sets of human beings are very apt to maintain that other sets should give up their lives to them and their service, and then they requite them by praise: they call them devoted and virtuous. Is this enough? Is it to live? Is there not a terrible hollowness, mockery, want, craving, in that existence which is given to others, for want of something of your own to bestow it on? I suspect there is. Does virtue lie in abnegation of the self? I do not believe it.This book is long, complicated, and polemical. It is full of numerous characters that are never proclaimed fully evil or utterly good, references that few modern readers would understand without the copious end notes, and bundles of plots weaving in and out of a myriad number of sociocultural subjects. The authors' views are as obvious in her text as the nose on your face; religion, politics, women's rights, you name it, she has something to say about it. Finally, what this all adds up to is not an adventure, nor a history, not even a treatise of various ideas on multifarious subject matters, but a romance, if that.

I loved it.

If history is both well written and well integrated into an intriguing yet formative fictional piece, I'll eat it up like cake. If characters and plots are sacrificed on the altar of theme and powerful insight, I'm all the happier. If my own personal views are presented in a form eloquent, intelligent, and explicit, better yet augmenting and honing my mind as my eye reads on, yes, I will cling to it in as biased a manner as I please. And, if it tickles my particular brand of humor, I will especially treasure it.

Will this book please everyone? No, far from it. The author is far too wrapped within her own thoughts and intentions within these pages, and not even my love blinds me to the emphatic disagreements I had with the book as a result. As these disagreements are few and far between the wonderfully long passages of masterful insight, I don't mind them much. What matters far more to me are many places of brilliance, the brightest of them being the ingenious way with which the author treats gaslighting, that all too common and insidious mechanism that dominates relations between women and men; as if the truth of defining action and reaction lay solely within the latter's power while the former is left to rot in silence.'It is not,' she resumed, much excited, - 'It is not that I hate you; you are a good sort of man: perhaps you mean well in your way; but we cannot suit: we are ever at variance. You annoy me with small meddling, with petty tyranny; you exasperate my temper, and make and keep me passionate. As to your small maxims, your narrow rules, your little prejudices, aversions, dogmas, bundle them off: Mr Sympson - go, offer them a sacrifice to the deity you worship; I'll none of them: I wash my hands of the lot. I walk by another creed, light, faith, and hope, than you.'I'm not surprised Woolf decried Charlotte Brontë within her [b:A Room of One's Own|18521|A Room of One's Own|Virginia Woolf|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327883012s/18521.jpg|1315615] for letting too much anger and indictment creep into her writing. I myself wonder at Brontë's fervent declamations, often uttered by female characters who later on act in complete opposition to their previously stated thoughts and feelings. Seemingly, perhaps, as this sort of idealism rarely results in a happy ending, at least for most suspenders of disbelief. Seemingly, as what matters is that Brontë did indeed pen her insight on paper that later was successfully published. She did exhaust most of her cutting wit and fine tuned psychological scalpel on the matter of women from infant to old maid, but there are men and children, poor and rich, politic and politic that may not be likable but always are true.‘I must read Shakespeare?'
'You must have his spirit before you; you must hear his voice with your mind's ear; you must take some of his soul into yours.'
'With a view to making me better; is it to operate like a sermon?'
'It is to stir you; to give you new sensations. It is to make you feel your life strongly, not only your virtues, but your vicious, perverse points.’
This book achieves exactly that. ( )
  Korrick | Feb 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (42 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brontë, Charlotteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Phipps, HowardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Swedish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Of late years, an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England: they lie very thick on the hills; every parish has one or more of them; they are young enough to be very active, and ought to be doing a great deal of good.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary
Shirley: "Pantheress"!
A woman in a man's world
Boldly makes her way
(StevenTX)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439866, Paperback)

Set during the Napoleonic wars at a time of national economic struggles, Shirley is an unsentimental yet passionate depiction of conflict among classes, sexes, and generations. Struggling manufacturer Robert Moore considers marriage to the wealthy and independent Shirley Keeldar, yet his heart lies with his cousin Caroline. Shirley, meanwhile, is in love with Robert’s brother, an impoverished tutor. As industrial unrest builds to a potentially fatal pitch, can the four be reconciled?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:43 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Set in Yorkshire during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, this novel articulates the social realities of economic hardship, the Luddite riots, dissatisfaction with the government and an inadequate Church.

» see all 8 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.7)
0.5
1 3
1.5 1
2 25
2.5 9
3 79
3.5 27
4 139
4.5 12
5 56

Audible.com

3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439866, 0141199539

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 95,138,196 books! | Top bar: Always visible