The Professor is Charlotte Brontës first novel, in which she audaciously inhabits the voice and consciousness of a man, William Crimsworth. Like Jane Eyre he is parentless; like Lucy Snowe in Villette he leaves the certainties of England to forge a life in Brussels. But as a man, William has freedom of action, and as a writer Brontë is correspondingly liberated, exploring the relationship between power and sexual desire.
William’s first person narration reveals his attraction to the dominating directress of the girls’ school where he teaches, played out in the school’s ‘secret garden’. Balanced against this is his more temperate relationship with one of his pupils, Frances Henri, in which mastery and submission interplay. The Professor was published only after Charlotte Brontës death; today it gives us a fascinating insight into the first stirrings of her supreme creative imagination.
Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B-
Before I got into romance reading and listening in a big way, my usual literary diet consisted principally of historical fiction and classics, mostly from the 19th century. I don’t listen to so many of the latter these days, but when I realised that 21st April 2016 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, I thought I’d revisit one of her books in audio and had intended to pick up a copy of Villette. But then I came across a new(ish) version of The Professor, which happens to be the one book of hers I haven’t read, and decided to give that a spin instead. Although it was the author’s first novel, she was unable to find a publisher for it in her lifetime and it wasn’t published until 1857, two years after her death. It’s the only one of her books to take a male character as its central protagonist and narrator, and as such presents an interesting viewpoint; a female writer attempting to write how a man might think and act, which I believe to be quite unusual for the time. The novel has often been dismissed as a “dry run” for the much more successful Villette, and the two books do indeed take their inspiration from Brontë’s experiences as a schoolteacher in Brussels.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.