Villette by Charlotte Bronte (Chapters 18-22)

Letters. Real letters. Sealed with a red wax circle, a gummed envelope, or simply stapled shut, how I adore the letters I’ve received in my life.

I used to keep them in a cedar box. Then I moved them to the cardboard boxes copy paper comes in. The ones most special to me lie bound with satin ribbon in a wicker basket at the foot of my bed. Emails, telephone messages, texts cannot come close to the joy which letters provide.

So I can sympathize completely with Lucy’s joy at receiving a promised letter from John Bretton. It’s not enough that she’s alone, at Madame Beck’s, with no family to speak of; she doesn’t even have a man to call her own. So when the letter from him arrives, and Charlotte spends more than several pages writing about it, I understand its significance.

I took my letter, trembling with sweet impatience; I broke its seal.

‘Will it be long-will it be short?’ thought I, passing my hand across my eyes to dissipate the silvery dimness of a suave, south wind shower.

It was long.

‘Will it be cool? Will it be kind?’

It was kind.

To my checked, bridled, disciplined expectation, it seemed very kind; to my longing and famished thought it seemed, perhaps, kinder than it was.

So little had I hoped, so much had I feared; there was a fullness of delight in this taste of fruition-such, perhaps, as many a human being passes through life without ever knowing. The poor English teacher in the frosty garret, reading by a dim candle guttering in the wintry air, a letter simply good-natured–nothing more: though that good-nature then seemed to me god-like–was happier than most queens in palaces.

What I don’t understand is the image of a nun which sends Lucy fleeing from the room. Such an apparition has wrought a terrible fright within her. And what, exactly, is she seeing? It is a figment of her imagination? Is it a haunting? Is it a person with ill intent? Whatever the case may be, this ‘nun’ follows Lucy, at least in her mind, on several more occasions.

Something in that vast solitary garret sounded strangely. Most surely and certainly I heard, as it seemed, a stealthy foot on that floor: a sort of gliding out from the direction of the black recess haunted by the malefactor cloaks. I turned: my light was dim; the room was long–but, as I live! I saw in the middle of that ghostly chamber a figure all black or white; the skirts straight, narrow, black; the head bandaged, veiled, white.

Say what you will, reader–tell me I was nervous or mad; affirm that I was unsettled by the excitement of that letter; declare that I dreamed: this I vow–I saw there–in that room–on that night–an image like–a NUN.


Find more thoughts, and links to reviews, of Week 4 here.

12 thoughts on “Villette by Charlotte Bronte (Chapters 18-22)”

  1. Rachel, I know! I sorely miss letters, too, like the love letters which I used to give (and send). Now everything's email, or text, and it seems so cold somehow. So impersonal. There's nothing to hang on to or put under your pillow.


  2. Gorgeous photo! The colors are so vivid.Lovely post, Bellezza. I, too, miss receiving (or composing) letters written by hand. Currently, I'm reading The Postmistress, a novel in which letters are a main focus of the story.


  3. I know! My fault about the wrong chapters but I read them all the way through too and SO wanted to talk about the nun! What in the world is that gong to be about… I am excited!Love that you stayed faithful to Lucy. I poo-pooed her last week, but love her again now. I am a fickle girl, boo me.


  4. Haven't arrived this far in the book (am following the new calendar now), but know that chapter 22 is called 'the letter'. I hope it's a good one – one to match those of Mr Darcy's or Captain Wentworth's in eloquence and importance for the plot 😉


  5. Suko, I know nothing of The Postmistress, but the title alone sounds wonderful. I'm quite enamored of letters lately, missing them sorely…sometimes technology isn't the answer to everything!Charlie, the nun is interesting and creepy. I keep wondering if she's real or a figment of Lucy's imagination.Ooops, Wallace, I didn't realize that there was a mistake as to the chapters. I hope I didn't spoil anything with this particular post, and perhaps I'd better revisit your initial post to reorganize mine. It's easy to vascillate between likeing and disliking characters, but somehow I never did that with Lucy. I always like her even when I wish she'd be a little more assertive. However, I wish I was a little more assertive as well. ;)Alexandra, I apologize if I spoiled any surprises for you with the revelation of the letter. It's interesting you make a connection to Darcy or Captain Wentworth; I remember thinking along similar lines.


  6. I read ahead too. I'm not sure what the nun signifies, but I was really happy she appeared (or did she?) I figure that this may be the start of the more gothic portions of the the story. Or, this means that Lucy's mental health has taken a significant downturn. Either way, I have high hopes that the novel is really going to start moving in interesting directions.


  7. Mindy, I admit to having serious concerns about Lucy's mental well being, too. Seeing a nun once or twice is one thing; frequent reoccurences are a bit strange. Either the nun is fake, or Lucy's perception is false, can they both be accurate or real? Still, I'm not reading this hoping for an interesting plot as much hoping for more revelation about Lucy herself.


  8. Gorgeous photo, Bellezza! Wouldn't it make a lovely book cover?! I, too, love letters and cards and have saved the special ones from family and friends for several decades. I love the idea of tying them together with beautiful ribbons. Mine are in ugly plastic storage boxes. Time to change that. And write more letters!


  9. What a beautiful picture! I miss the letters I used to receive (and write). They're somewhere in the attic in my father's house. I'd probably shed many tears if I dug them up and read.


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