The Professor is probably Charlotte Bronte’s least known novel. It was actually the first she wrote, at the same time her sisters wrote Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights. However, unlike the other two, it was rejected by publishers and remained so even after her success with Jane Eyre. It wasn’t until after Charlotte’s death that her husband finally got the book published.
The Professor follows William Crimsworth, an orphan who has been provided with a top-notch education by his wealthy relatives. He rejects their plan for him to join the clergy and marry his rich cousin and instead goes to Belgium and becomes an English professor at a Catholic school for girls. And there’s some love stuff involved as well.
What do I think about this book? Frankly, I wouldn’t have published it either. If it weren’t Charlotte Bronte I wouldn’t even have bothered reading it. What’s interesting about it? Well, it’s Charlotte’s only book written from the male point of view! I’m not a fan of Shirley or Villette either, but at least those have SOME redeeming qualities. I really can’t find much nice to say about this book. For one, it’s boring. If a book doesn’t entertain me, I really can’t like it despite how “well-written” or “intelligent” it is or anything. There was really nothing special about The Professor to endear it to me in any way.
Second, it’s OFFENSIVE. I’m not religious and even I was upset by the portrayal of Catholics and Belgians in this book. Charlotte seems to hate anyone who isn’t English and Anglican. It’s ridiculous because it’s not even subtle- she beats you over the head with it. The Catholic characters in this book are selfish, greedy, and deceitful. When William fell in love with a girl, I thought maybe Charlotte was going to have him have a change of heart and realize that not all Catholics or un-English people are bad. But no! It turns out the girl is kind and good because she was raised and educated by her Anglican grandmother. I can only roll my eyes.
I couldn’t bring myself to totally re-read this book for my Bronte reviews. I only skimmed through some parts for clarification on things I didn’t remember- it’s been nearly five years since I read it. Really, I don’t hate the book because it offended me. I could have tolerated all the blatant prejudices if the book had been interesting. But, it wasn’t. I can only recommend it to die-hard, curious Bronte fans to complete a collection. Oh and unless you understand French, make sure you have a version that translates the large amounts of French dialogue too.
My Rating: 2/10