But what is not said bears heavily on this volume, which takes us up to 1847 and the publication of Jane Eyre. Apart from the fact that so many letters were destroyed or lost or censored, there is a world going on underneath them, in which Charlotte was writing her chronicles of Angria, composing poems and sketches and, finally, novels.
Because she kept that world completely hidden from her main correspondent, her school friend Ellen Nussey, we become keenly aware of the disjunction between her social and inner life. So, when she takes her father to Manchester for a cataract operation, she writes to Ellen: 'You ask if I have any enjoyment here in truth I can't say I have', although it was during those weeks that she began to write Jane Eyre, drafting its intense opening chapters in little notebooks.
Even if much of Charlotte's heart is left out of these letters, what we find instead is a lucid development of style and tone as she creates the peculiar voice that rooted Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe so securely in reality. The almost-invisible governess with her biting tongue, her solitude and her anger begins to express herself in barbs directed at her employers and pupils: 'I will only ask you to imagine the miseries of a reserved wretch like me - thrown at once into the midst of a large Family - proud as peacocks and wealthy as Jews,' she writes to Ellen Nussey from her first situation, spikily characterising her employer thus: 'Mrs Sidgwick is generally considered an agreeable woman - so she is I daresay in general Society - her health is sound - her animal spirits are good - consequently she is cheerful in company - but O Ellen does this compensate for the absence of every fine feeling of every gentle - and delicate sentiment?'
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