The figure of the mentor-lover raises difficult but inescapable questions about the nature of sexual love and its links to the attributes of the mentor - power, judgement and moral authority. As such it provides a means to evaluate the works of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot, each woman employing the figure extensively, though to very different ends. This lucid and tightly-argued study appraises their maturing interests, identifying what distinguishes each from the others as they contend with issues of sexuality, family, selfhood, freedom, conduct and gender. The characteristics they associate with the mentor-lover also provide a pattern against which to test the similarities between their concepts of the figure and their own relationship to the reader, as, through authorship, they become mentor-lovers in their own right, each eliciting a different form of love and electing a different style of instruction.

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