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Day 5

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Chapter VIII

November 19, 2022 by Yiyun Li

Madame Beck: as thrilling as Tolstoy’s Napoleon!

Wise, firm, faithless; secret, crafty, passionless; watchful and inscrutable; acute and insensate—withal perfectly decorous—what more could be desired?

Lucy Snowe’s disparaging comments on Mrs Sweeney and the Irish in general: I was glad to learn from the Penguin Classics edition that Charlotte Brontë’s father rejected his Irish background and changed the family name from the Irish Brunty to “Brontë.”

Lucy’s relationship with Madame echoes her relationship with life, which is not soothing, nor winning, nor overwhelming. How many of us can keep life at such an objective distance, sans wishful thinking?

I stood—not soothed, nor won, nor overwhelmed.

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