Back in April, I took part in The Classics Club’s 23rd Spin event, for which my result was to read the lesser known classic, The Professor by Charlotte Brontë. Having previously enjoyed Jane Eyre and Shirley, albeit not as much as Emily’s Wuthering Heights or Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I was looking forward to reading more by Charlotte.
The Professor is the story of a young man, William Crimsworth, who on reaching his maturity neither wishes to follow his wealthy guardians’ plans for him to join the clergy or to be the whipping boy of his estranged older brother in business. So instead, with a little kick up the backside by the sympathetic Mr Hunsden, William sets off for Belgium, where he quickly gains employment teaching English. First at the fawning Monsieur Pelet’s boy’s school and subsequently, a similar position at the fascinating Mademoiselle Reuter’s neighbouring girl’s school.
Charlotte manages to bring alive the bustle, noise and atmosphere of a school of this period really well, and that is not surprising as she based the story on her own experiences of studying languages in Brussels in 1842. She could almost have been one of William’s pupils at Mademoiselle Reuter’s. As you can imagine, while not handsome, the young William causes quite a stir at the all-girl’s school. With his youth, English exoticism, aloof nature and noble bearing he has many of the girls a titter and even attracts the interest of the headmistress.
We then observe William’s proceeding maturation, his loves, his wounds and his eventual successful career as a professor. Unfortunately, while I sympathised with William’s situation, I did find it hard to particularly like him! As I said above he is aloof, as well as proud and rather rude: particularly with the scathing critiques he makes of his female pupils. Thankfully though as he matures, gains more experience and falls in love we do see a softer, more pleasant side to him, so it is good I hung on there to the end with this one.
In conclusion, I found The Professor a little hard going at first, but I persevered as it is a relatively short book and it did get easier towards the end. This was Charlotte’s first novel which, having been rejected by many publishing houses, wasn’t published until after her death in 1857, and I think that shows a little to be honest. However if you’re a huge Charlotte fan, you’ll probably like to read this to see where her writing began. Okay read.
I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you read this? Or have you read any of Charlotte Brontë’s other, lesser known works? Which is your favourite Brontë sister?
This is book #19 off my Classics Club II list.