The Spell – A Study of Young Charlotte, Part II

The Spell

On to the second part of my study of the young Charlotte Brontë – I’m really on a roll with this, aren’t I? 😉

This past week, I managed to finish another work in the collection of Charlotte’s juvenilia. This text, entitled The Spell, is different from The Secret in that it is a short novella, and so only one complete story is portrayed. While I do usually prefer longer stories because of their depth and complexity, as well as the potential for character and plot development, there were times throughout The Spell when I wished I could enter a different world just for a moment. I felt that I was slower getting through The Spell because it was a longer tale and I had to make sure that I was paying attention and following the threads as closely as possible. However, in The Spell, Charlotte varies her narrative voices periodically and writes as a young boy, a learned doctor and a female aristocrat, so there is a lot of variety in the way the story is told. Whether this makes it more confusing or not is hard to say, but at the end of the story, I was very pleased with it and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to solve the mystery that was presented to me.

Here are my immediate impressions, documented while reading Charlotte Brontë’s The Spell. Keep in mind that these notes are not meant to present spoilers at all; rather they reflect my train of thought/theories and my “detective work” as I attempted to get to the bottom of the mystery at hand!

The Foreword (by Nicola Barker)

“and so you should find it as a friend and treat it just as indulgently and just as fondly.”

“This is Charlotte Brontë utterly without restraint.”

The Spell is the writer before the writing.”

(*many of these quotes will be analyzed in my second blog post of this weekend, coming soon…)

The Tale Itself…

  • same BELOVED characters of The Secret, but again, in different forms and circumstances (ex. Arthur Augustus Adrian Wellesley = Duke Zamorna; Marian Hume = Florence Marian Wellesley).  Lily Hart is even featured!
  • CB must’ve painstakingly kept track of the history, lineage and connections of each of her creations.

The Preface

  • book is not explicit, but the reader must use it to piece together aspects of Zamorna’s identity/personality = Is he insane or not?
  • quite like Rochester in that he broods, walks in the wilderness alone, contains and hides his emotions. “‘He is far too faithful to love her the less for any slight failure in that beauty which he once thought matchless.’” = Zamorna seems like an exacting and grave husband.
  • child’s funeral = it is rather difficult to keep track of each personage = CB had a vast knowledge of her characters and their relationships.
  • “‘You must be aware of the elf’s disposition!’” = supernatural = narrator has some sort of power.
  • impossible to tell how old the narrator is = he is treated like a child, BUT speaks and narrates as an adult = clearly not fleshed out by CB yet.
  • letter from Duchess of Zamorna (Duke’s second wife = married for 6 months) to her grandmother = so randomly placed (a tad jarring)! When in chronology is this exactly? Zamorna seems more Byronic (“so cold, so strange, so silent”) than ever! The Duchess idolizes Zamorna as a writer (celebrity) and a man.
  • Did Marian (Zamorna’s first wife) know of Zamorna’s lust/love for Mary (second wife)?
  • A mystery = the reader is a detective with clues = compelled to solve this situation.
  • Mary = “it has been my constant study, the business of my life, to watch the unfolding of his strange character.”
  • How many children does Zamorna have? The plot thickens!
  • Mina Laury’s speech to Mary is SO powerful, but Mary holds her own and is powerful right back = STRONG WOMEN!


            (1) Marian Hume (deceased)

                        (male child) Marquis Almeida (deceased)

(2) Mina Laury (nurse) (affair)

(3) Mary Percy (current Duchess Zamorna)

(4) Emily Inez (of Castle Orsonay)

(male child) Ernest Fitz-Arthur

(female child) Emily

                        Therefore, the Duke has 4 women in his life…maybe…?!?!

  • Zamorna is truly intoxicating = he is cruel and secretive and disloyal, but something about him draws the reader in!
  • perspective of Dr. Alford (scientific) = a third narrator = CB testing different voices and diction = but voices are not distinct enough yet to say that CB has mastered her craft = 2 male narrators (doctor and Duke’s young brother Charles) have almost the same voice.
  • Zamorna speaks just like Rochester = CB is learning how to write Byronic men.
  • Is Mina magical/a witch and did she heal Zamorna?
  • OR Are there two Zamornas??? He is at home sick and with the Earl of Northangerland at the same time. Is Zamorna a twin???
  • at times, it is impossible to tell who the narrator is, so I just assume it is Charles.
  • Zamorna to Mary = “‘Why did he, I – I mean…’” “‘But I’ll be even with him!’”
  • Mary is onto something = “‘Arthur…I begin to think that you have a double existence.’” “‘There cannot be two Zamornas on this earth; it would not hold them!’”
  • narrator (or perhaps, the writer?) is critical of the story = “Reader, pass to the next chapter, if you are not asleep.”
  • scene where Zamorna reveals Emily Inez as his “wife” is reminiscent of Rochester revealing Bertha to the priest and Jane = recycled scenes.
  • Zamorna’s speeches are over the top and full of many allusions and literary references = a bit heavy-handed at times.

Okay, I cannot go any further with my notes or, as a famous detective once said, the game is up! It’s up to you now to solve the mystery and discover Zamorna’s true secret…pick up a copy of this compelling, intriguing and fascinating novella and fall under Zamorna’s spell for yourself!


Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart


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