"his derision, his amusement, his contempt for the breakdown of my resignation at being left alone"

The Governess, 1851
Public DomainThe Governess, 1851 - Credit: Rebecca Solomon
The governess’s fears reflect the contempt with which members of her profession were liable to be treated by their male employers. She might dream of Jane Eyre and entertain herself with fantasies in which the master of Bly honours her with an approving look, but the likelihood of this becoming a reality is vanishingly slim. Lady Eastlake writes in an 1848 essay for the Quarterly Review that the governess “is a bore to almost any gentleman, as a tabooed woman, to whom he is interdicted from granting the usual privileges of her sex, and yet who is perpetually crossing his path”.