Critical investigations of the foreign settings of Charlotte Brontëë's The Professor (1857) and Villette (1853) have tended to conceive Belgium (fictionalized as Labassecour in Villette) as simply "not England." In contrast, this essay considers the historic and geographic specificity of The Professor and Villette, arguing that Belgium represents a crucial middle-ground between British and French values in the mid nineteenth century. Not only was Belgium the location of the decisive British victory over the French at Waterloo, but British commentators also increasingly depicted Belgium as a "little Britain on the continent," or potentially Anglicized space, in the 1840s. Drawing on both Brontëë's explicit references to the Napoleonic Wars in The Professor and Villette and contemporary Victorian conceptions of Belgium, this essay argues that Brontëë's use of this particular foreign space is not just a result of her experiences in Brussels in the early 1840s. Instead, the overlooked middle——ground of Belgium epitomizes the conflict between British and French values in Brontëë's fiction——and the possibility of their reconciliation. While Brontëë ultimately rejects the idea that Belgium represents the site of a possible Anglo-Continental union, it is nonetheless a space in which Brontëë's characters reformulate or consolidate their ideas of home, revealing Britishness to be both culturally produced and value-laden in Brontëë's fiction.
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