I wanted to try something a little different for this Wednesday’s ButterTree and Biscuits... If you’ve been following my blog posts, you know that books and stories have always been the frame through which I see the world. You know that I fell in love with books when I was a little girl, after being read to by my mom each night. Even before I could read, I carried books around — smelled them and caressed them. And there have been times in my life when I’ve drunk the words in novels as if they were my life source. Recently, I’ve started revisiting my favourite stories — and in the process I stumbled across some beautiful, uplifting sentiments about relationships.
Some of my favourite quotes on love and friendship come from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. It’s a novel I think of often — because of the eponymous protagonist’s strong sense of self in the face of adversity. I have also always admired the kinds of connections she forms with other characters in the book. Today, I want to focus on two relationships in particular — her friendship with Helen Burns and her romantic relationship with Mr. Rochester.
Helen Burns is a childhood friend of Jane’s, whom she meets at an institution that aims to educate orphans. It is Helen's kindness and generosity of spirit that draws Jane to her — as well as her strong values, sweet disposition and wise counsel. In one instance, when Jane is being unfairly and publicly scolded, Jane describes how Helen need only look at her to provide comfort:
“[Helen] lifted her eyes. What a strange light inspired them! What an extraordinary sensation that ray sent through me! How the new feeling bore me up!” “What a smile! I remember it now, and I know that it was the effluence of fine intellect, of true courage; it lit up her marked lineaments, her thin face, her sunken grey eye, like a reflection from the aspect of an angel.” - Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Helen also provides wisdom beyond her years when she consoles a distraught Jane — who, after the public scolding, feels as if all her peers hate her.
“If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
This is also one of my all-time favourite quotes, as it is a reminder that integrity is more valuable than popularity; being truly and deeply known is more important than receiving empty praise.
And, overall, it is clear that Jane is grateful for Helen’s steadfast presence:
“Yet I never tired of Helen Burns; not ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment of attachment, as strong, as tender, and respectful as any that ever animated the heart. How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at all times and under all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and faithful friendship, which ill-humour never soured, nor irritation never troubled.” - Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
The relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester is a timeless romance— one that captures the imagination. Jane is to Mr. Rochester a ray of light in a gloomy, meaningless existence. She is for him an intellectual equal, and she also challenges him to rise to her moral standard. His declarations of love are indicative of this, and are full of passion and deep respect:
"I have for the first time found what I can truly love — I have found you. You are my sympathy — my better self — my good angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment.” “I am influenced —conquered; and the influence is sweeter than I can express; and the conquest I undergo has a witchery beyond any triumph I can win.” - Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Another one of my absolute favourite quotes comes from Mr. Rochester. It’s one where he expresses the love you can have for someone, a love that effaces hardship — that exists in sickness and in health. It is achingly romantic:
“Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait waistcoat—your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me.” Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
On Jane’s side, she feels appreciated and understood by Mr. Rochester, in a way that her unfortunate upbringing had never afforded her. In one instance she described his smile as sunshine (And can’t we all relate to the feeling of being smiled at by the one we love?):
“He smiled at me with a certain smile he had of his own, and which he used but on rare occasions. He seemed to think it too good for common purposes: it was the real sunshine of feeling—he shed it over me now.” Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
There are so many more amazing quotes from this book, but I’ll stop here for now. The ones I chose highlight what a relationship can inspire in us. They can inspire us to be better, to grow — like the way that Helen inspires Jane to have faith in herself and to be more forgiving of those who have wronged her. Relationships also give us a space to feel seen — the way that Mr. Rochester feels with Jane, and she with him. Jane brings light and intellect to a dreary old house, and Mr. Rochester is first to bear witness to the intricacies of Jane’s mind and the depth of her feelings.
I hope you enjoyed the quotes I chose, and that you use them when you can’t find the words — in a letter to a friend or romantic partner. If you enjoyed this blog post, let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to pin to Pinterest so you can revisit it later!