Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre was given to me when I was a teenager by some unremembered soul who knew I loved books. I read it through without putting it down, and continued to read it once a year until well after I was grown up and married. Talk about respect for the feminine! Which, it turns out, is simply respect for the soul. That this author was sent by Providence (as they said in the 19th century when Brontë lived) to show me the difference between convention and morality, I count as one of the great blessings of a blessed life. Jane, a poor but proud woman, overcomes a childhood that would have killed a lesser spirit, and finds work as a governess in the household of a tragically wounded, deeply flawed but quite desirable man, Edward Rochester. How she maintains her dignity and self-respect after she falls in love with him is one of the great soul-strengthening stories of all time.
Consider a woman who thinks like this while talking about her future marriage with the man she loves:
"Why, Jane, what would you have?" asks Edward Rochester. "I only want an easy mind, sir; not crushed by crowded obligations. Do you remember what you said of Céline Varens?—of the diamonds, the cashmeres you gave her? I will not be your English Céline Varens. I shall continue to act as Adèle's governess: by that I shall earn my board and lodging, and 30 pounds a year besides. I'll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give me nothing but—"Well, but what?"