July 15, 2017

     “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” —the first sentence of Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre." She then describes the cold wind and penetrating rain that inhibit further exercise. It sets the tone for the novel’s exploration of the restraints placed on women in society. Jane’s bold assertion of selfhood and independence is nothing short of heroic.

     Were it not for a period of forced seclusion, however, would Brontë’s keen perceptions and feelings have found expression?

     It was while she was cooped up in a hotel room nursing her father after eye surgery that she penned her masterpiece. No possibility for a walk—but plenty for writing. In fact, not a few books owe their existence to a writer’s isolation.

     In the case of Mary Shelley, she, along with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, were forced indoors by fierce summer storms while vacationing in Switzerland. To entertain themselves, Lord Byron pr...

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