Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the 5th day of Christmas, Babbitt's Books gave to me . . .

. . . an early copy (1870) of The Professor, authored by Currer Bell. 

Currer who, you say? 

Up until recently (say the last century or so), published women were scarce. When women did manage to get published under their Christian names they were expected, according to Charlotte Brontë, to adopt a "mode of writing and thinking . . . called 'feminine' ." Deviating from the expected norm might cause "authoresses . . . to be looked on with prejudice." Brontë notes that she and her sisters Anne and Emily "had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise." Women who wanted to tackle heavier, riskier material, or women who just wanted to write honestly, were usually out of luck. To circumvent this problem, many Victorian women, like George Eliot and George Sand,  or Michael Field (an aunt and niece combo!) resorted to writing under male pseudonyms.

So the name that you will find on the first edition of Wuthering Heights is not Emily Brontë, but Ellis Bell. Similarly, the name on the first edition of Jane Eyre will be Currer Bell, not Charlotte Brontë. Anne Brontë, the third sister, wrote her two bestselling novels under the nom de plume Acton Bell 

The Professor was written before Vilette and Jane Eyre, but not published until after Brontë's death in 1855. Villete is basically a reworking of The Professor, with a woman's point of view. Still, it would be something to give this book to an enthusiastic Brontë fan this Christmas, to watch the initial puzzlement, then the delight as you revealed the true nature of this treasure. Maybe pairing a $4 copy of Jane Eyre with The Professor would be a nice hint.

Title: The Professor. To Which Are [sic] Added the Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
Publisher: Smith, Elder & Co.
Year: 1870
Features: Early Edition
Condition: Good+ (the leather spine and corners are rubbed, plus a hungry insect chewed a couple of the inside corners)
Price: $60

Title: Jane Eyre
Publisher: Nelson Doubleday, Inc. 
Year: 1950
Features: Hardcover
Condition: Very Good
Price: $4


  1. Act fast, as Brontes are flying off the shelves, as they say, a fun thing to picture. Somebody bought a paperback Villette earlier this week!

  2. Do you still have this copy?

  3. Hi Amber,

    We still have THE PROFESSOR, but not the inexpensive copy of JANE EYRE.

    Thanks for your interest.

    -Babbitt's Books

  4. I have that jane eyre copy - only in a bit better shape.