chapter  7
12 Pages

Revisioning the double: From The Spell to The Professor and Shirley


During the 1829-1839 decade Charlotte Brontë’s hero, Arthur Wellesley, Marquis of Douro, later the Duke of Zamorna and King of Angria, undergoes a dramatic change. The pure, poetic youth of Albion and Marina (1830) and The Bridal (1832) becomes the wholly depraved predator Zamorna of Caroline Vernon (1839). Once he seduces his wildly infatuated and vulnerable young ward Caroline, his depravity is surely complete.1 The Spell: An Extravaganza in Eight Chapterswas composed in the summer of 18342 when Charlotte Brontë was eighteen, home from Roe Head, and it provides a fascinating turning point, positing as it does the existence of not one, but two Zamornas, who are twins: one virtuous, one evil. The trope of good and evil twins goes back to the early readings of the young Brontës such as the Arabian Nights, while Lord Byron’s Manfred (1817) and Cain (1821), as well as many other Romantic texts, feature their own versions of the double. Later, of course, Zamorna and Mary will produce their own set of twin boys.3 In Christine Alexander’s words, “The Spell is an elaborate study of Zamorna’s split personality” (EEW II:ii xix), where the twin motif becomes Charlotte Brontë’s way of looking at the double nature of her mercurial hero. Charlotte Brontë’s use of the double, or alter ego, in The Spell offers us new

insight into several of her later novels, particularly The Professor (1857) and Shirley (1849).4 I would argue that, in these two novels, Charlotte Brontë is trying to formulate a different sort of hero – opposite to the corrupt Zamorna – one who is both ardent and principled. Villette’s (1853) M. Paul is the most successful in this regard, but, in Jane Eyre (1847), as Mr. Rochester tries to rescue Bertha, feels remorse and prays, we see that he has been reformed. This transformation is as important as Jane’s inheritance and Bertha’s death, which allows her return to him, when nature carries his voice to her as she is about to give in to St. John.5 In this study, though, I will consider The Professor and Shirley, which I see as efforts to address Charlotte Brontë’s ongoing project of creating a new hero. Though the trope of the “evil twin” does not reappear, they still present intriguing revisions that may be seen as realistic offsprings of the melodramatic dichotomy presented in The Spell, where the relationship between William Crimsworth and Hunsden Yorke Hunsden, and the contrast between the near-twins Robert and Louis Moore present an intriguing development of the alter egos in The Spell.