Title page of the first edition of Villette
|Publisher||Smith, Elder & Co.|
|Media type||Print: hardback octavo|
|Pages||993, in three volumes|
|LC Class||PR4167 .V5|
|Followed by||The Professor|
|Text||Villette at Wikisource|
Villette is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It is based on her experience as an English teacher in Brussels. Villette is a moving story of hidden feelings and , and a woman's right to love and be loved. People like the book, not so much for its plot, but for the careful and detailed picture of Lucy (the main character)'s feelings and emotions. Charlotte Brontë used Gothic buildings and other things to show Lucy's feelings inside.
The story starts with Lucy Snowe at age 14 observing a visitor at her godmother, Lousia Bretton's, house, a little girl called "Polly" or "Missy." (Her real name is Paulina Mary Home). Polly loves her papa very, very much, and when he leaves, is extremely unhappy. However, she soon starts to like Mrs. Bretton's young son, Graham, and they become great friends. Later, when Lucy tells her she has to leave and see her father again, Polly is very surprised and sad. Lucy comforts her, and they part.
Later, a family trouble (the book does not say what) forces Lucy into action--she goes onto a ship heading for France. On there, she makes friends with a very pretty and selfish girl named Ginevra Fanshawe. When she arrives at France, a gentleman helps her find her trunk, and she finally finds work as a teacher in Madame Beck's boarding school. Madame Beck is a cool, clever, careful woman, who often spies and searches the teachers, firing and hiring easily. However, Lucy is quite satisfied, if not happy, there. Ginevra Fanshawe is a student there, and she and Lucy become friends again. They usually fight with each other because of Ginevra's silliness, but they never get separated completely. Later, young English Dr. John (the gentleman who helped her when she first came to France) keeps on visiting the school because he loves Ginevra, who says she doesn't like him much. Later, Dr. John is discovered to actually be Graham Bretton, and Lucy and Graham become friends again. Lucy begins to love him secretly, but tries her best to keep her feelings hidden. Eventually, though, she buries her love for him by symbolically burying all the letters he sent to her.
Dr. John meets little Polly again, now a young and beautiful countess, and they quickly become friends again - and something more. They marry and have a happy life.
Meanwhile, Lucy begins to be good friends with Professor Emanuel, and they fall in love. However, lots of people, including Madame Beck, try hard to break the two up, and at last force him to travel away. Professor Emanuel and Lucy declare their love for each other before Professor Emanuel leaves, making Lucy the principal (headmistress) of a school in the meantime. However, it is hinted that he probably dies on the trip home.
- Lucy Snowe: Lucy is a usually very quiet, but thoughtful and calm girl. She is very brave and strong, and a bit like Jane Eyre, she is very honest. She is not vain, and says that she is not pretty. Ginevra wonders, "Who are you?" and says she is strange and mysterious. She did not like Graham Bretton as much as Polly when she was young, but when she grew up and met him again, she secretly began to love him. However, she very quietly and unselfishly watches Polly and Graham's happiness together, and admits, "...you are not mine." Later, she and Professor Emanuel fall in love with each other, but lots of people try to stop them from marrying.
- Professor Emanuel: He gets angry easily and is very , but he is also and kind. He can be proud, and likes people to think he is great. He gets jealous easily, and likes to smoke.
- Graham John Bretton: A very handsome doctor, the son of Lucy's godmother. He is cheerful and good-tempered. He does not know Lucy
loves him, and thinks of her as "quiet Lucy Snowe," and he admits she "...tasted nothing of my grace."