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The Reader’s Guide to Charlotte Brontë ’ s “Jane Eyre”

Moor House (aka Marsh End)

The home of St John, Diana and Mary Rivers. Jane is taken into the house when she is starving and alone on the moors.


Moorseats Hall view
Moorseats Hall in Derbyshire

Inspirations

The house of Moorseats, just north of Hathersage, is believed to be the inspiration for Moor House. It was owned by Thomas Eyre and visited by Charlotte with Ellen Nussey.

Location

The description of Whitcross (where Jane is dropped off from the coach and where she makes her way eventually to Moor House) makes it quite clear that Charlotte based it in Derbyshire:

Chapter 28. Whitcross is no town, nor even a hamlet; it is but a stone pillar set up where four roads meet: whitewashed, I suppose, to be more obvious at a distance and in darkness. Four arms spring from its summit: the nearest town to which these point is, according to the inscription, distant ten miles; the farthest, above twenty. From the well-known names of these towns I learn in what county I have lighted; a north-midland shire, dusk with moorland, ridged with mountain: this I see. There are great moors behind and on each hand of me; there are waves of mountains far beyond that deep valley at my feet. The population here must be thin, and I see no passengers on these roads: they stretch out east, west, north, and south

The fact that Moorseats is in Derbyshire helps to confirm this. And then there is the nearby town:

Chapter 31. "Oh, I only came home from S—" (she mentioned the name of a large town some twenty miles distant)…

The town of Sheffield is very close to Moorseats (actually about 10 miles away). Of course, Charlotte may have been inspired by Moorseats but the intended location could have been elsewhere in the Peak District.

The distance from Moor House to Thornfield is not given precisely, 36 hours is mentioned in chapter 36. The distance from Rydings Hall to Moorseats is about 40 miles (65 kilometres) which is far too short to take 36 hours. Even setting Moor House in the south of the Peak District would make it no more than 50 miles.


St John Rivers

St John Rivers portrait
Andrew Bicknell from the 1983 TV series

Brother to Diana and Mary, a good man with high principles. His desire is to become a missionary.

Chapter 29. Mr St John – sitting as still as one of the dusty pictures on the walls, keeping his eyes fixed on the page he perused, and his lips mutely sealed – was easy enough to examine. Had he been a statue instead of a man, he could not have been easier. He was young – perhaps from twenty-eight to thirty – tall, slender; his face riveted the eye; it was like a Greek face, very pure in outline: quite a straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin. It is seldom, indeed, an English face comes so near the antique models as did his. He might well be a little shocked at the irregularity of my lineaments, his own being so harmonious. His eyes were large and blue, with brown lashes; his high forehead, colourless as ivory, was partially streaked over by careless locks of fair hair.
  This is a gentle delineation, is it not, reader? Yet he whom it describes scarcely impressed one with the idea of a gentle, a yielding, an impressible, or even of a placid nature. Quiescent as he now sat, there was something about his nostril, his mouth, his brow, which, to my perceptions, indicated elements within either restless, or hard, or eager. He did not speak to me one word, nor even direct to me one glance, till his sisters returned.

Chapter 30. But besides his frequent absences, there was another barrier to friendship with him: he seemed of a reserved, an abstracted, and even of a brooding nature. Zealous in his ministerial labours, blameless in his life and habits, he yet did not appear to enjoy that mental serenity, that inward content, which should be the reward of every sincere Christian and practical philanthropist.

Chapter 32. "It is strange," pursued he, "that while I love Rosamond Oliver so wildly – with all the intensity, indeed, of a first passion, the object of which is exquisitely beautiful, graceful, fascinating – I experience at the same time a calm, unwarped consciousness that she would not make me a good wife; that she is not the partner suited to me; that I should discover this within a year after marriage; and that to twelve months' rapture would succeed a lifetime of regret. This I know."

Chapter 34. As I looked at his lofty forehead, still and pale as a white stone – at his fine lineaments fixed in study – I comprehended all at once that he would hardly make a good husband: that it would be a trying thing to be his wife. I understood, as by inspiration, the nature of his love for Miss Oliver; I agreed with him that it was but a love of the senses.

Chapter 35. "He is a good and a great man; but he forgets, pitilessly, the feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large views. It is better, therefore, for the insignificant to keep out of his way, lest, in his progress, he should trample them down.

Chapter 37. "He is not my husband, nor ever will be. He does not love me: I do not love him. He loves (as he can love, and that is not as you love) a beautiful young lady called Rosamond. He wanted to marry me only because he thought I should make a suitable missionary's wife, which she would not have done. He is good and great, but severe; and, for me, cold as an iceberg. He is not like you, sir: I am not happy at his side, nor near him, nor with him. He has no indulgence for me – no fondness. He sees nothing attractive in me; not even youth – only a few useful mental points."

Diana Rivers

Diana Rivers portrait
Elaine Donnelly from the 1983 TV series

The elder of the Rivers sisters and the dominant character of the Rivers siblings.

Chapter 28.Both were fair complexioned and slenderly made; both possessed faces full of distinction and intelligence. One, to be sure, had hair a shade darker than the other, and there was a difference in their style of wearing it; … Diana's duskier tresses covered her neck with thick curls.

Chapter 28. I looked at her. She had, I thought, a remarkable countenance, instinct both with power and goodness.

Chapter 29. Diana had a voice toned, to my ear, like the cooing of a dove. She possessed eyes whose gaze I delighted to encounter. Her whole face seemed to me full of charm.

Chapter 29. Diana looked and spoke with a certain authority: she had a will, evidently. It was my nature to feel pleasure in yielding to an authority supported like hers, and to bend, where my conscience and self-respect permitted, to an active will.

Chapter 30. If in our trio there was a superior and a leader, it was Diana. Physically, she far excelled me: she was handsome; she was vigourous. In her animal spirits there was an affluence of life and certainty of flow, such as excited my wonder, while it baffled my comprehension.

Mary Rivers

Mary Rivers portrait
Morag Hood from the 1983 TV series

The younger of the Rivers sister.

Chapter 28. Both were fair complexioned and slenderly made; both possessed faces full of distinction and intelligence. One, to be sure, had hair a shade darker than the other, and there was a difference in their style of wearing it; Mary's pale brown locks were parted and braided smooth:

Chapter 29. Mary's countenance was equally intelligent – her features equally pretty; but her expression was more reserved, and her manners, though gentle, more distant.

Hannah

Hannah portrait
Anne Dyson from the 1983 TV series

The Rivers' servant. Initially unfriendly to Jane because she felt a duty to defend the Rivers against outsiders, she later became a good friend to her.

Chapter 29. "Have you lived with the family long?"
  "I've lived here thirty year. I nursed them all three."

Rosamond Oliver

Rosamond Oliver portrait
Moira Downie from the 1983 TV series

The daughter of the richest man in the area. Attractive and kindly, both St John and her are in love but his love remains distant.

Chapter 31. There appeared, within three feet of him, a form clad in pure white – a youthful, graceful form: full, yet fine in contour; and when, after bending to caress Carlo, it lifted up its head, and threw back a long veil, there bloomed under his glance a face of perfect beauty. Perfect beauty is a strong expression; but I do not retrace or qualify it: as sweet features as ever the temperate clime of Albion moulded; as pure hues of rose and lily as ever her humid gales and vapoury skies generated and screened, justified, in this instance, the term. No charm was wanting, no defect was perceptible; the young girl had regular and delicate lineaments; eyes shaped and coloured as we see them in lovely pictures, large, and dark, and full; the long and shadowy eyelash which encircles a fine eye with so soft a fascination; the pencilled brow which gives such clearness; the white smooth forehead, which adds such repose to the livelier beauties of tint and ray; the cheek oval, fresh, and smooth; the lips, fresh too, ruddy, healthy, sweetly formed; the even and gleaming teeth without flaw; the small dimpled chin; the ornament of rich, plenteous tresses – all advantages, in short, which, combined, realise the ideal of beauty, were fully hers.

Chapter 32. I had learnt her whole character, which was without mystery or disguise: she was coquettish but not heartless; exacting, but not worthlessly selfish. She had been indulged from her birth, but was not absolutely spoilt. She was hasty, but good-humoured; vain (she could not help it, when every glance in the glass showed her such a flush of loveliness), but not affected; liberal-handed; innocent of the pride of wealth; ingenuous; sufficiently intelligent; gay, lively, and unthinking: she was very charming, in short, even to a cool observer of her own sex like me; but she was not profoundly interesting or thoroughly impressive.