First published under the pseudonym of Currer Bell in 1847, "Jane Eyre", the semi-autobiographical story of a poor, plain, but highly intelligent and courageous young woman is now regarded as one of the great works of English literature. The author, whom we now, of course, know by her real name of Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) dedicated the novel to Thackeray (1811-1863), whose work she admired.

Though they are very different in some ways, Becky Sharp, the heroine of his most famous work, "Vanity Fair", published more or less contemporaneously to "Jane Eyre" is also resourceful and single-minded - though her family history, with her mother a French opera dancer, bears more resemblance to that of Adele, Jane's pupil. What is perhaps even stranger is that, like Edward Rochester, Thackeray had a mentally ill first wife who was institutionalised!

Needless to say, rumours abounded that the two secretly knew each other and had even had an affair - which was absolutely untrue.

They did eventually meet, but sadly, partly due to Charlotte's painful shyness, it was not the most successful of meetings, nor was a subsequent one. We can only wonder if they may have been better keeping their acquaintance to one of mutual admiration on paper!

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