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Title: The Professor
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Romance, Classic?
The novel is the story of a young man, William Crimsworth, and is a first-person narrative from his perspective. It describes his maturation, his career as a teacher in Brussels, and his personal relationships.
The story starts with a letter William has sent to his friend Charles, detailing his rejection of his uncle’s proposal that he become a clergyman, as well as his first meeting with his rich brother Edward. Seeking work as a tradesman, William is offered the position of a clerk by Edward. However, Edward is jealous of William’s education and intelligence, and treats him terribly. Through the actions of the sympathetic Mr Hunsden, William is relieved of his post, but starts a new job at a boys’ boarding school in Belgium.
The school is run by the friendly Monsieur Pelet, who treats William kindly and politely. Soon William’s merits as a “professor” reach the ears of the headmistress of the neighbouring girls’ school. Mademoiselle Reuter offers him a position at her school, which he accepts. Initially captivated by her, William begins to entertain ideas of falling in love with her, but then he overhears her and Monsieur Pelet talking about their upcoming marriage and their deceitful treatment of him.
William begins to treat Mademoiselle Reuter with cold civility as he sees her underlying nature. She, however, continues to try to draw him back in by pretending to be benevolent and concerned. She asks him to teach one of her young teachers, Frances, who hopes to improve her skill in languages. William sees promising intelligence in this pupil and slowly begins to fall in love with her.
Jealous of the attention Frances is receiving from William, Mademoiselle Reuter takes it upon herself to dismiss Frances from her post and to hide her address from William. After a long search he re-encounters Frances in a graveyard and they renew their acquaintance.
It is revealed that as she was trying to make herself amiable in William’s eyes, Mademoiselle Reuter had accidentally fallen in love with him herself. Not wanting to cause a conflict with Monsieur Pelet, William leaves his establishment.
William gets a new position as a “professor” at a college, allowing him and Frances to marry. The two eventually open a school together and have a child. After achieving financial security the family travels around England and then settles in the countryside, near to Mr Hunsden.
Villette was actually next in this omnibus edition of the Bronte’s but since I’ve already read it twice and my second read was not nearly as enjoyable as the first time, I didn’t want to read it, so I simply skipped it.
The Professor is a nice little story about how a woman thinks a man’s life would go. While there ARE such introspective and delicate men as William, it really seemed dialed up past whatever I’ve ever seen in a guy. Maybe I’m not observant enough but it seemed to me that the story would have been served better if William had been Wilhelmina and she had met Frank instead of Frances. Getting inside a guy’s head is not nearly as complicated as Bronte makes the process.
This was quintessential Romance and as such had all of the baggage that goes along with that genre. I can handle old school romance but I was thankful that this was under 400 pages and not a monster like Shirley.
In food terms, this book felt like plain pancakes with a pat of butter on it. If I hadn’t read a book for a month (I can’t think of a situation where that could happen any more, but it technically “could”) I probably would have devoured this and asked for more; just like when you are hungry, pancakes really hit the spot. But as I am a gourmand and nearly a glutton in terms of books I simply eat this one and say “next!”. Po’ little ol’ me! Pity me….