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Jane Eyre is a famous novel about a girl dealing with stuff like her aunt (Mrs. Reed) not liking her.

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 highlighted part is what I'm struggling with.

To me it's quite a complicated sentence structure.

I think I understand parts of it in isolation, but when put together, those parts no longer make sense to me.

Let's start with

She regretted

The aunt is speaking this line, so by "she" she means Jane of course (right?).

So it just means that "Jane regretted..."

to be under the necessity of

≈ "to be forced to"?

keeping me at a distance

≈ "staying away from me" (me=aunt)

This much is already too much for me so let's put em together. I'm now paraphrasing what I think it means so far:

"Jane doesn't like being forced to stay away form her aunt"

Is that right? It somehow doesn't sound like this would be correct because Jane doesn't like her aunt. Why would she not like staying away from her aunt? I feel like I'm missing something.

Anyways, moving on,

;but that until

I'll be honest, I'd never seen these 3 words in that order before. Funnily enough the first google result for it is also about this exact same quote. It says this just means "but until"

she heard from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation, that

≈ "she heard from Bessie, and could see herself that"

Where "she" means Jane (right?)

I was endeavouring in good earnest to

≈ "I really really really really want to.." (I=the aunt, right?)

acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition

≈ "be more childlike"

, a more attractive and sprightly manner

≈ "be more childlike" (different way of saying the same thing)

--something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were--

≈ "be more childlike"

she really must exclude me

≈ "Jane(?) excludes her aunt(?)"

from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children."

≈ "from things that only kids enjoy"

Let's put it all together again:

"Jane didn't like being away form her aunt, but when she saw/found out that her aunt really wants to be childlike, she put a stop to it."

...what!? I realize this is the Aunt's perspective. If this is correct it vaguely seems like a passive aggressive way of hating Jane, which actually would make sense... she does seem to hate Jane, but is my interpretation of the sentence actually correct? If not, could you put it into a simpler sentence similar to how I've tried to simplify it.

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People here often grumble when a questioner hasn't done enough work on their own before asking us to help. But in your case I think you've done too much!!

Bronte is doing something unusual here. Imagine you've been looking after a neighbour's child all morning and he has been driving you mad. When telling a friend about it later you might imitate the child's whine and say, "Why haven't you got any Coke? Why can't I go to Dweezil's house? When will Mum (Mom) be home?" Or you could put on exactly the same voice and say, "He wanted some Coke. He wanted to go to Dweezil's. When would his mum be home?" Have you heard that being done? It is a bit illogical: the child didn't actually say the words "He wanted" or "his mom". Nonetheless, I've certainly heard myself doing it.

So. The aunt didn't actually say "She regretted..." Bronte uses the speech marks (inverted commas) in such an unorthodox way because she wants the reader to imagine her aunt's voice.

What her aunt actually says is something like this: (You're probably way ahead of me and don't need the rest, but I'll do it anyway!)

"I regret being under the necessity of keeping you at a distance; but until I hear from Bessie, and can discover by my own observation, that your are 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--I really must exclude you from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children."

A couple of things you queried:

to be under the necessity of: needing to or having to

endeavouring in good earnest: trying seriously

from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children: not "from things that only kids enjoy" but from things only children who act like children - proper children, in her view - deserve.

The aunt sounds pretty loathsome. As you say, she and Jane clearly dislike each other. I should read it.

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