The novel we now know as
was first published, in three volumes entitled
Jane Eyre. An Autobiography. Edited by Currer Bell
, in London on 16 October 1847. It was immediately and resoundingly popular. The first edition sold out within three months. A second edition, with an authorial preface, was issued in January and a third in April 1848. Thomas Wemyss Reid (1842–1905) mused in 1877 that ‘Those who remember that winter of nine-and-twenty years ago know how something like a “Jane Eyre” fever raged among us.’
The novel was widely reviewed in newspapers and magazines and discussed by readers including the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–63), whose own literary masterpiece,
, was appearing in monthly numbers during 1847–48. Thackeray, to whom Brontë’s publishers had sent a complimentary copy, thanked them for a gripping and emotionally intense experience:
■ I wish you had not sent me Jane Eyre. It interested me so much that I have lost (or won if you like) a whole day in reading it […] Who the author can be I can’t guess — if a woman she knows her language better than most ladies do, or has had a ‘classical’ education. It is a fi ne book though — the man & woman capital — the style very generous and upright so to speak […] Some of the love passages made me cry […] St. John the Missionary is a failure I think but a good failure there are parts excellent I dont know why I tell you this but that I have been exceedingly moved & pleased by Jane Eyre. It is a womans writing, but whose?