Some readers have found it remarkable that they could read all the novels of Jane Austen and find no clue to the fact that the author had lived through three of the most momentous events in English history: the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. Austen deals only with private life.
While Charlotte Bronte was not alive during the era of the Luddite Riots of 1811-1812, her father was; and, he had fought on the side of the factory owners.
Charlotte's knowledge of the period was something less than encyclopedic. But, she reveals a fine sense of the confusion, hard feelings, and disruption of the time.
One of her central themes in Shirley is the need to place one's private needs and desires in proper perspective with the "outside" events and conditions.
Robert Gerard Moore becomes so obsessed with his fabric mill and the destructive...