This is too fun not to share.
We recently received a letter from a perceptive Classics reader noting a possible error in our current edition of Jane Eyre. Here’s the passage in question — a John Reed tirade:
"Where the dickens is she?," he continued. "Lizzy? Georgy (calling to his sisters) Joan is not here: tell mamma she is run out into the rain — bad animal!"
Joan? Joan Eyre? Surely not. Fascinated, we took this query Stevie Davies, editor of our current edition and resident Bronte expert, who gave us this enlightening answer.
Delighted to be asked, and it’s a good question, asked by a keen-eyed reader, because it picks up some of the meticulous verbal nuancing and class inflection that make Jane Eyre so authentic a social document. John Reed is calling Jane by a version of her name he considers proper to the lower ranks. This goes right back - Shakespeare: ‘Greasy Joan doth keel the pots.’
Oh, the ever-so-subtle art of the Victorian dis. John Reed is such a toad. Can someone please prepare a list of low-rent versions of common names so we can bring these insults back?