Report by Gehayi
The novel A Hidden Passion is, nominally, by Lucia Logan. I must say “nominally,” because, if this were a just world, Charlotte Bronte would receive sole billing. I say this because A Hidden Passion has precisely the same plot as Jane Eyre. I am not speaking of generalities. I speak of a book which is identical in every detail.
In both books, there is a plain, impoverished orphan—Jane Eyre in the original, David Ayres in this–who is being reared by a relative who doesn’t want him/her and bullied by his/her cousins. The orphan creeps off to a window seat to read a book that’s a particular favourite; the orphan’s eldest cousin finds him/her there and hits the orphan. All are shocked when the orphan loses his/her temper, calls the bully names and attacks him. As punishment, the orphan is shut up in the red room upstairs. Jane is afraid of the red room because this is where her uncle Reed died; David is afraid of the red room because this is where his aunt Ware perished. Both children have panic attacks at being imprisoned in the red room, and pass out.
As the books continue, arrangements are made to send both orphans away to school. Both children are catechized by unpleasant, self-righteous ministers and are sent off to charity schools run by those ministers—Jane to Lowood (the name Bronte used to describe the Cowan Bridge Clergy Daughters’ School, which she and two of her sisters attended) and David to Almsford. Almsford is identical in all particulars to Lowood save that it has been genderswitched. What was once an institution for poor or orphaned girls is now a charity school for poor or orphaned boys. Both Jane and David are labeled liars when the miserable minister comes to visit. David’s hair is cut because it curls too much…which does NOT happen to Jane in the book (a girl named Julia is shorn of her hair), but which does befall her in the classic film. Both have noble, long-suffering friends who die of consumption during a typhus epidemic; both have kindly charitable teachers who feed the half-starved children. The main difference between Jane Eyre and A Hidden Passion is that Jane and Helen Burns remain simply friends, and Miss Temple a compassionate teacher. David and Jeremiah Holt, despite their youth, are both friends and lovers, while Mr. Miles Kirkham—”kirk” being the Scottish work for “church,” which is probably the closest the author could get to “temple”– becomes David’s lover after Jeremiah.
Two years after leaving the charity school, both orphans get hired as private teachers for the young French wards of a dark and secretive man. In Jane Eyre, the orphan is Adelé, the daughter of an dancer friend of Mr. Rochester’s and one of her former lovers; in A Hidden Passion, the orphan is Henri, the son of an actress friend of Mr. Nordson’s and one of her former lovers. In Jane Eyre, the guardian of the French orphan is Edward Rochester, master of Thornfield; in A Hidden Passion, the gentleman is Peter Frederick Nordsen, master of Wildwood.
Both Rochester and Nordsen resemble each other, physically and emotionally, enough to be brothers—I would say twins. Both have the same gruff manner of speech and the same moodiness; both enjoy long conversations with the private teacher en residence; both examine the teacher’s paintings…although David’s are infinitely tamer than Jane’s.
Eventually, of course, both the Rochesters—pardon me, Mr. Rochester and Mr. Nordsen—fall in love with the Eyre or Ayres of their choice, scorning the wealthy local women whom everyone expects them to marry. Instead, both propose to their wards’ teachers. The fact that this is nineteenth-century England, that gay marriage is not yet dreamt of, and that homosexuality itself is illegal does not trouble Nordsen and Ayres in the least. For this is not the based-on-fact nineteenth-century England that Charlotte Bronte knew. No, this is the world of Okay-homo, in which all the principals are gay, and all the people in what should be a historically gay-unfriendly world miraculously forget about the strictures that would create obstacles, conflict and possibly an actual story, and instead treat gayness as if everyone from the Lord Chancellor on down considers it the ultimate in coolness. If Oscar Wilde had lived in such a fictional world, he wouldn’t have been arrested, tried and sent to Reading Gaol; he’d have been given a ticker-tape parade.
I dislike anachronisms, especially those so easy to fix with a little research. But then, I do not believe that Logan was thinking in terms of anachronisms—merely of following the story as written by Bronte.
Plans for the wedding and a subsequent trip to London advance. Nordsen and Ayres have sex three times before the wedding day, while Rochester and Jane keep their hands to themselves. I do not protest, mind; the sex is the only original thing in the book.
In any case, everything falls apart when the brother-in-law of Rochester and that of Nordsen expose the fact that both men are already married. Yes, Nordsen has a mad wife in his attic.
And so on it goes, deviating in small details (the cousins that David finds are three brothers, not a brother and two sisters, and the minister brother wants to become a missionary to India, not China) but remaining identical overall.
In the preface to this book, the author calls this “an homage to Jane Eyre.” This, to my eyes, is NOT an homage. An homage involves two works sharing some basic elements without being the exact same story. Rent could be taken as an homage to La Boheme, for example. There are similar themes—bohemians coping with love, poverty and death—but the characters and the plot differ.
That’s not the case here. In scene after scene, Logan either paraphrases Bronte or her words are absolutely identical to Bronte’s. I am amazed that an editor at Dreamspinner Press didn’t notice it prior to purchasing the book, never mind publication.
There is a word for this: plagiarism. It’s not a pretty word, and I don’t like using it, but there is no way to copy 95% of another author’s book–and then submit it to various publishers–purely by accident. If you’re above the age of reason and of average intelligence, then you should know that you don’t take things—or take credit for things—that don’t belong to you. Copying another author’s words and then claiming to have written them definitely qualifies as both.
The sad thing is that the story could have been interesting if Logan had gone with Jane Eyre’s basic plotline–“orphaned governess/tutor falls in love with the master of the house”–but let the tutor and the gentleman develop their own backgrounds and problems and personalities, rather than being Homosexual Rochester and Genderswitched Jane. As it is…well, I’m sadly disappointed in the—no, I cannot call her the author.
In the copyist.
A Hidden Passion
|There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.
||THERE was no possibility of taking a walk that day. The skies had been clear enough earlier in the morning, as I sat unobtrusively in a corner of the schoolroom, listening to Mr. Nash’s lesson; but a gathering cloudiness had darkened the heavens all afternoon, and they had opened an hour or so since, with a downpour so cold and so penetrating that our usual outdoor exercise was out of the question. I was glad, for I never liked long walks, especially on cold afternoons such as this one. Try as I would, I could never keep up with my older cousins’ more robust strides, and returning home – to the manor house, I should say, for as I was constantly reminded, I had no right to consider it my home – meant only at best a scolding for my lackadaisical ways, and a keen self-awareness of my physical inferiority. At worst, I would be punished for returning with wet and muddied clothing, further proof that I had no sense of gratitude and no concept of how to care for the good things that were given to me.
|Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing bright: I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached middle-age; perhaps he might be thirty-five. I felt no fear of him, and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning him against his will, and offering my services unasked. I had hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one. I had a theoretical reverence and homage for beauty, elegance, gallantry, fascination; but had I met those qualities incarnate in masculine shape, I should have known instinctively that they neither
had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should have shunned them as one would fire, lightning, or anything else that is bright but antipathetic.If even this stranger had smiled and been good-humoured to me when I addressed him; if he had put off my offer of assistance gaily and with thanks, I should have gone on my way and not felt any vocation to renew inquiries: but the frown, the roughness of the traveller, set me at my ease: I retained my station when he waved to me to go, and announced –
“I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horse.”
|Though the sun’s rays were gone, a nimbus of light still glowed in the west, and the rising moon shone brightly enough that I could now see the traveller clearly. He was dressed in a heavy black riding cloak, collared with fur and clasped with steel, which prevented me from determining more than that he was of middling height and build. His face was well-chiseled, with a broad, intelligent brow, deepset, piercing eyes, and a determined chin with a decided cleft to it. His hair was tousled, as much from his ride as from the fall, I judged, for he wore no hat. In the irregular light I could not decide whether it was blond or brown or somewhere in between. No longer a youth, I could not in fairness describe him as middle-aged; I would place him in perhaps his mid-thirties. He was not classically handsome, but even wearing a pained and wrathful expression, his face was distinctive. I would describe his looks as compelling; in any case I felt drawn to again offer him my assistance. If he had been gracious and smooth-tongued in his refusal, I might have been too nervous to continue to importune him. Had he but smiled, and thanked me graciously, I should likely have acquiesced when he waved me on my way. But his gruffness and incivility put me under no obligation, or so it seemed to me, and thus I persevered despite his protestation that “he would do.”
|“You said Mr. Rochester was not strikingly peculiar, Mrs. Fairfax,” I observed, when I rejoined her in her room, after putting Adele to
bed.“Well, is he?”“I think so: he is very changeful and abrupt.”
“True: no doubt he may appear so to a stranger, but I am so accustomed to his manner, I never think of it; and then, if he has peculiarities of temper, allowance should be made.”
“Partly because it is his nature–and we can none of us help our nature; and partly because he has painful thoughts, no doubt, to harass him, and make his spirits unequal.”
“Family troubles, for one thing.”“But he has no family.” “Not now, but he has had–or, at least, relatives. He lost his elder brother a few years since.”
His ELDER brother?”
“Yes. The present Mr. Rochester has not been very long in possession of the property; only about nine years.”
“Nine years is a tolerable time. Was he so very fond of his brother as to be still inconsolable for his loss?” “Why, no–perhaps not. I believe there were some misunderstandings between them. Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr. Edward; and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him. The old gentleman was fond of money, and anxious to keep the family estate together. He did not like to diminish the property by division, and yet he was anxious that Mr. Edward should have wealth, too, to keep up the consequence of the name; and, soon after he was of age, some steps were taken that were not quite fair, and made a great deal of
mischief. Old Mr. Rochester and Mr. Rowland combined to bring Mr. Edward into what he considered a painful position, for the sake of
making his fortune: what the precise nature of that position was I never clearly knew, but his spirit could not brook what he had to suffer in it. He is not very forgiving: he broke with his family, and now for many years he has led an unsettled kind of life. I don’t think he has ever been resident at Thornfield for a fortnight together, since the death of his brother without a will left him master of the estate; and, indeed, no wonder he shuns the old place.““Why should he shun it?”“Perhaps he thinks it gloomy.”
The answer was evasive. I should have liked something clearer; but Mrs. Fairfax either could not, or would not, give me more explicit
information of the origin and nature of Mr. Rochester’s trials. She averred they were a mystery to herself, and that what she knew was
chiefly from conjecture. It was evident, indeed, that she wished me to drop the subject, which I did accordingly.
|“You said that some people might think Mr. Nordsen odd,” I said to Mrs. Daultrey, as I joined her in her sitting-room after delivering Henri into Marthe’s care. “After meeting him, I would say there is no doubt of it.” “You think he is odd?” she asked. “In what way?”
“He is very abrupt and changeful.”
“I suppose he may seem so to a stranger, but I am so used to his manner that I scarcely notice it any longer. And I try to make allowance for any eccentricities of temperament he may display.”
“Why?” I asked, wondering that she felt it necessary to excuse his peculiarity of manner.
“For one thing, it is simply his nature, and he means no real harm by it; for another, he has painful memories, no doubt, that trouble his spirit.”
As this was the first I had heard of my employer’s history, I was naturally curious. “What type of painful memories?”
“Family troubles, for one thing. He lost both his father and his elder brother some years ago, though I believe they were never especially close.”
“His elder brother?”
“Yes, Mr. Nordsen – the present Mr. Nordsen, that is – has only been in possession of the property for about a dozen years. Mr. Gregor, his brother, was not a very cordial man, and their father was from what I hear very harsh and exacting. He was also very fond of money, and did not wish to split up the family holdings to provide for Mr. Peter; and yet he did not wish his younger son to lack the wealth and consequence he felt due to the family name. Some provisions were undertaken, to secure Mr. Peter’s fortune, which were not quite fair to him, and caused him a great deal of unhappiness. What those provisions were, I never knew exactly, but he broke with his father and brother over them, and for many years since he has led a wandering, unsettled life. I do not believe he has been home more than a fortnight at a time since coming into possession of the estates. Though I suppose it is no wonder he dislikes the place.”
“Why should he dislike it?”
“Oh, well – ” Mrs. Daultrey paused, suddenly self-conscious.
“Perhaps he thinks it gloomy.” It was obvious this was not what she had originally meant to say. I wondered if she felt it was improper for us to gossip about our employer in this manner; but it was clear that she was no longer comfortable discussing the subject, and it would be rude to pursue it further. Accordingly, I let it drop, and the conversation turned to her plans to plant the kitchen garden once the weather grew warmer.
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