What on earth is the purpose of Hunsden in the Professor? He doesn't develop much as a character, he doesn't do much and we never hear his thoughts except when he speaks. True, he does move the plot forwards - for example, getting Crimsworth the job in Brussels. But his main purpose is to say sardonic things it seems.
But about getting Crimsworth the job. It could be Charlotte Brontë's way of saying that you need connections to succeed. Because in the beginning Crimsworth only gets his jobs because of his brother and Hunsden. Ironically when he relies on others to get him a job the job is not sastisfactory. The brother abuses him and M. Pelet accuses him of trying to steal Mdelle Reuter away from him. Then later Madame Pelet and Madame Reuter talk and it seems that because of Pelet, Mdelle Reuter employs Crimsworth. This also doesn't work out because Mdelle Reuter tries to prevent him from seeing Frances Henri. When he actively seeks a job he does get a good one - but he relies on the good references of M. Vandenhuten, father of his former pupil. In all cases he relies on connections, good and bad. Hunsden represents a Connection to Crimsworth, because he is the only known good friend later on in the novel. Wealthy, well-born and shrewd, Hunsden is what Crimsworth is not (except for being well-born) and so it would be logical that he should be what Crimsworth aspires to. Only it's not the case as Crimsworth doesn't enter trade in the end, and he often refuses Hunsden's offers of help (ungrateful man!)
I never really understood why Hunsden has to be so sardonic. In the other novels, the hero is a sardonic figure to the heroine, but Crimsworth is a man and Hunsden is not the hero. This is why some people claim they're gay but I doubt it. Crimsworth is physically attracted to Frances which puts that out of the question. I suppose being inexperienced Charlotte wanted to put in a Man of the World who sounded cynical. Still he keeps on criticising Crimsworth and prounouncing judgements of doom. Hunsden in that case is the voice of reason, because Crimsworth shouldn't analyse himself too well - that would be biased. He sees clearly that Crimsworth is not cut out for trade, that the latter is not suited to advantageous marriage and that the latter is disliked by the X- belles. Crimsworth will say that the X- belles are stupid and insipid. This is not wholly true, and we have Hunsden's word for it. This is a cruder form of Charlotte's attempt to portray an unattractive flawed hero, and the condition of being disliked. Since Charlotte faced this problem all her life in her jobs and in public. Almost every reader hates Crimsworth, but perhaps that was her intention all along.
But Hunsden isn't always right. Crimsworth says he couldn't understand the X- women and didn't think very highly of them and Hunsden says it is sour grapes. That might be true. But Crimsworth doesn't seem very bitter - only perplexed and uncomfortable. Crimsworth moreover is happy because he has his own hothouse fruit - that is, Frances. Also Mdelle Reuter is pursuing him. So we know that Crimsworth isn't entirely repulsive to all women. Hunsden's misconceptions are useful to show the sort of impression Crimsworth gives. In Villette no one apart from shallow Ginvera is there to tell the heroine what others think of her. Lucy deduces their thoughts herself but it isn't the same thing. Unknown to Hunsden, Crimsworth has developed. Even if Hunsden's earlier impression was true Crimsworth has become more charming because he is independent and on his own. He also has a life outside of Hunsden's thoughts. A more complex relationship than mentor and protegée, which you don't really see in Jane Eyre. No wonder Charlotte thoughts The Professor was superior to Jane Eyre in depth (it is, but not in imagination, power and poetry).
The relationship between Hunsden and Crimsworth is precarious. Hunsden insists on helping him but then Crimsworth refuses. Hunsden chides him for not thanking him when he does help. Which is stupid in Crimsworth. We can't see these characters as wholly real people because Charlotte knew very little about tradesmen. We must see them through the eyes of a naïve Victorian Yorkshire spinster. I suppose the impression she was trying to give was that Crimsworth is stubborn and wants to be independent. He hates owing people favours, especially since he can't repay them. Certainly he hasn't got the means to repay Hunsden. Though he seems to be fine with accepting other people's favours (Vandenhuten). This is because he is desperate for a job. (Still he refuses Hunsden's help yet again). Also Vandenhuten owes him a favour as he saved his son's life. It is possible that there is a more sinister side to Hunsden's kindness. He likes the idea of beings weaker than him and helps people to get a kick out of it. That would explain why he is always demanding thanks. Since after Crimsworth becomes successful and relies less on him, they become good friends, Hunsden obviously isn't meant to be a villain. He is a flawed person with good and bad points. It is said that Hunsden is based on Joshua Taylor, father of Mary Taylor, Charlotte's friend. If that is true it would explain a good deal. Mr Yorke in Shirley is based on Joshua Taylor, and it is stated that Mr York is good to those beneath him but haughty to those above him. He likes to patronise and feel he is a good guy. That could be why Hunsden alternately helps and bullies Crimsworth. Crudely expressed, but you see the point. Only in Shirley is everything refined to more complex and realistic characters.
Hunsden does eventually send his relations to Crimsworth's new school but apart from that they are quite equal. This is when their friendship really develops. Even so he likes to jeer at and insult Frances for fun. I think this is more funning and patronising so it's a different thing. Interestingly enough he appears in Brussels to congratulate Crimsworth on his new job, and then the latter introduces him to his fiancée. We don't really see any introductions of lovers in Charlotte's other novels - every set of friends is exclusive from the other sets of friends. M. Paul doesn't get to know the Brettons or Paulina. The Riverses are not shown with Rochester. Only in Shirley are things more social but you don't see introductions being made.
We see another side of Hunsden and Frances in this fateful meeting. Interestingly he doesn't treat her with respect and deference like a lady, but he speaks to her as though she were a child or a man. They argue on politics and countries in a way I doubt Hunsden would go with other ladies. (I have no idea really, because I have not had the pleasure of being acquainted with Mr Joshua Taylor). While he is rude, Charlotte could be putting forth the idea that he is treating her honestly, as a sort-of equal. Well inferior really, but at least he enjoys arguing with her and doesn't avoid it. Another man might entirely dismiss the subject thinking ladies are too stupid to talk serious things with. He argues more intellectually and with enthusiasm with her than with Crimsworth. Likewise Frances breaks out of her shell and argues with him more than she does with Crimsworth. She defers gently to her lover but she fights Hunsden for the sake of fighting. In this case it could be that Charlotte was pointing out that we develop different sides in front of different people - as she did later in Villette. Villette contains human observations just like Professor which is chock-a-block full of it. Only Villette is more refined and better-written.
And on that subject of different sides, Crimsworth is stubborn and intractable with Hunsden, but gentle and affectionate (and yet masterful, how confusing) with Frances. Frances could make him her slave termporarily but Hunsden never can. Then again he can teach Frances poetry because he is superior to her in that, but not to Hunsden who ALWAYS acknowledges superiority.
We also get Hunsden as a mouthpiece for how horrible and corrupt Britain is as a superpower. The things he says is rather cliched, because economic things usually are in novels but nevertheless true. Frances thinks Britain is a good place to work but Hunsden disillusions her. Charlotte could have been snarky about people's attitude to how great Victorian Britain was, financially, when it really wasn't. Especially when the teaching profession was overstocked. Because Frances wants to teach in England when the opportunities weren't great for someone like her with little education. She is not accomplished, though she is well-read.
Charlotte Brontë was notoriously tetchy when it came to other countries, but here Frances defends Switzerland against Hunsden (Frances being half Swiss, half-English). Hunsden represents England, land of progress and industrialisation which is shattering the Romantic visions of Charlotte's youth. Since he is a trader. This industrial side is less idealistic, more cynical, the way Hunsden is. It is an attempt to show that the mercantile class, cynical brutes, flourish (which happens to William's brother in the end) over the idealists. Though the Crimsworths do have a happy ending. I think she was insistently realistic and morbid in order to get over her Romantic disillusionment. It was a fight she battled with all her life and it appears in all her books.
In the end Hunsden retires from trade and lives near the Crimsworths who are now prosperous and retired. His guests are metaphysicians (whom he despises) and tradesmen (whom he identifies with). Still, that he has retired from trade, being rich now, could mean he is a better character in Charlotte's eye. (She has a lot of snarky things to say about tradesmen in Shirley). While he is realistic he is still a good person, not the brute and scoundrel Edward Crimsworth is. He likes to tease Frances about Switzerland and is a dangerous influence on Victor, son of the Crimsworths, who is fond of Hunsden. He says Frances spoils her son rotten (very true) and so we proceed near the sober unhappy end when Victor has to go to Eton where he will hate it. There is also the curious scene where he shows them a portrait of his ideal woman - Lucia, whom Frances deduces was on the stage, and broke chains. She says he knew he could never have her and never seriously considered marrying her and he admired her beauty and temperament. Hunsden then insults Frances by saying she is a weak lamp compared to the fire of Lucia.
Crimsworth responds that his eyes were too weak for a blaze. Now Hunsden likes strong women, Crimsworth must have someone who can be gentle and submissive to him ( though Francese does express her opinions and teases him). This is supposed to highlight the differences between the two men, the active strong Hunsden (still not strong enough for Lucia, since he's now retired and likes the Crimsworths) and the grave, melancholic Crimsworth. It is a story of power against frailty, temperament against temperament and the suitability of character for certain lives and careers.