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Charlotte Brontë: The Imagination in History$
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Heather Glen

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199272556

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199272556.001.0001

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The Prism of Pain: Villette and History (2)

The Prism of Pain: Villette and History (2)

(p.251) CHAPTER EIGHT The Prism of Pain: Villette and History (2)
Charlotte Brontë: The Imagination in History

Heather Glen

Oxford University Press

Lucy Snowe's narrative poses a distinctive challenge to that gospel of effectiveness and well-being being publicly celebrated and ostentatiously proclaimed in the England in which Villette was conceived. After the insecure 1830s and 1840s, the nation appeared to be entering upon a new period of economic health and social stability; in which, as one twentieth-century historian puts it, ‘contentment as well as prosperity seemed more widely enjoyed’. The Great Exhibition was a potent symbol of this optimism. Both the mighty spectacle itself and the ‘orderly…manageable…good-humouredly amenable’ crowds who came to it inspired ‘admiration of the present and confidence in the future’. Both seemed to give evidence that England was ‘moving in a right direction towards some superior condition of society’, in which ‘a more refined and fixed condition of happiness’ might be universally shared.

Keywords:   Lucy Snowe, narrative, England, Villette, Great Exhibition

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