Last year we discussed Victorian colons in the context of Dickens; now, as I am finally remedying my lifelong failure to read Jane Eyre, I am struck by the punctuation in the second paragraph:
I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.
I like those colons very much; semicolons just wouldn’t be the same (and in any event one of the cardinal tenets of my editorial beliefs is that you can’t have two semicolons in the same sentence unless they are separating groups of items themselves separated by commas). It’s a pity we’ve let this form of punctuation slip away—I wonder when that happened?
The following paragraph has what to modern eyes is a bizarre mismatch of punctuation and wording:
The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their mama in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither quarrelling nor crying) looked perfectly happy. Me, she had dispensed from joining the group; saying, “She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner, — something lighter, franker, more natural as it were — she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children.”
The combination of indirect discourse with quotation marks (which I encounter also in the Trollope novels I am reading to my wife) displeases me, and I am glad it has vanished into the dustbin of history. (I reproduce the punctuation from the 1850 edition of Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. By Currer Bell that is available on Google Books.)