'Texts from Jane Eyre': What would literary characters say if they had cell phones?

Mallory Ortberg's new book imagines text conversations between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, and more.

Courtesy of Focus Features
Actress Mia Wasikowska (r.) stars in the 2011 film adaptation of 'Jane Eyre.'

What would various literary characters say if they could get their hands on cell phones?

That was the idea that sparked writer Mallory Ortberg to write the new book “Texts From Jane Eyre,” which imagines text conversations taking place between literary personalities. Sherlock Holmes, Scarlett O’Hara, Captain Ahab, and of course the future Mrs. Rochester are all included as well as more modern inclusions like teenage detective Nancy Drew and the denizens of Sweet Valley High

Ortberg, who is also the co-founder of the website The Toast, told NPR she was inspired to write the book after a friend who had recently moved to the South said living there was like “Gone with the Wind” but with cell phones added.

“I just immediately thought, 'Oh God, Scarlett O'Hara with a cell phone would be horrifying,'” she said.

Now her book, released on Nov. 4, is earning praise – Barnes & Noble called the book “very entertaining,” while Entertainment Weekly wrote that it's “a skillful bit of literary sculpting that chips away at great works of fiction… really, really fun” and the Washington Post called it “catnip for English majors… witty.” 

Here are a few of our favorite text conversations from Ortberg’s book:

1. Between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester:


J: "do you really want me to describe my walk to you."


J: "it is fairly cloudy out. looks like rain soon."

2. Between Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth Bennet of "Pride and Prejudice"

M: "do you know who I miss?"

E: "Who?"

M: "Mr. Collins. remember Mr. Collins? remember him? remember when he visited?"

E: "I do. I do remember"

M: "what i liked about him the most was how much he wanted to marry you. remember that?"

E: "Yes"

M: "remember when there was someone who wanted to marry you"

3. Between Melanie Hamilton and Scarlett O'Hara of "Gone with the Wind"

M: Darling, I was going through some old things this morning and found Charles' ornamental officer's sash. I thought you'd like to have it. So I gave it to Mammy for cleaning and she'll give it to you later."

S: "who is charles"

M: "Scarlett, how you joke!"

S: "was he that guy"

M: "I know it pains you to speak of him. That's why you act so high-spirited about it. And I think it's simply marvelous of you. But you don't have to be brave with me, Scarlett dear."

S: "that guy with like the chin thing"

4. Between Meg and Jo of "Little Women"

J: "I hope you realize you're breaking up the family"

M: "I really wish you wouldn't see things that way"

J: "A broken home. That's what I come from now. A broken home."

M: "That's not what they call it when your sister gets married."

5. Between Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger of "Harry Potter"

R: "Also what's a credit card, because I keep getting offers for them in the mail. Are they magic too?"

H: "No. No, honey, credit cards aren't magic."

R: "Because I've signed up for six or nine of them. Does six come before or after nine"

H: "Ron you haven't used them yet have you"

R: "All you have to do is give the card to a shopkeep and they swipe it over a little machine. And then they give you things. It's wicked."

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