Tuesday, May 12, 2015

That Damn Eyre (Words of the Moment IX)

I made it through years of public school followed by years of college and university work without ever having been assigned or read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Not that this is any sort of anomaly, but apparently it is slightly unusual, especially considering my major and especially considering many of the classes I took, i.e., classics English literature, Victorian literature, Old and Middle English literature, etc.

But once I got older, questions and references would come up from time to time in which the speaker or author assumed I had read Charlotte's signature novel. In fact, it reached a point where I knew the novel so well that I didn't see a need to read it.

Then one day at lunch a few years ago, inspiration hit and I wrote a poem about being pursued by Jane Eyre and the ongoing efforts to avoid her. It contained a few cuss words, a few inappropriate references, but it was all done in fun. I read it at a few poetry readings where it was well received, I polished it a little, and eventually had it published. During that time I broke down, gave in, and actually tried to read the novel - twice. Both times I made it about halfway through, lost interest, and abandoned it.

So last week, I'm looking up other words in the dictionary and browsing through other pages when my eye caught the word eyre. Yes, eyre. It's an actual word. A noun, no less.
    • eyre - A journey in circuit of certain itinerant judges called justices in eyre (or in itinere).
The word is now obsolete, but...it was used primarily in England until the 20th century. Which makes me curious about where Bronte got the idea to name her title character. Is there some sort of symbolic joke here? Maybe a reference in the text I haven't encountered? Was it in common use at the time? Or had its eventual decline from the language begun at that point? If so, did the average reader still "get" it?

You know what that means, don't you? Yep, more homework, but more importantly, it'll soon be time for me to make a third attempt, maybe this time read a little more attentively.

Looks like Jane may win this battle yet.

Until Next Time...
Eyrely Yours,

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