17th January 2020! On this day, two hundred years ago, in Thornton, Yorkshire was born novelist and poet Anne Brontë, the youngest of the Brontë family. Not long after her birth, the family moved to Haworth Parsonage. She was barely one when are mother became ill of what is thought to be cancer, and died. Their aunt, Elizabeth Branwell, who had moved to the parsonage to nurse her ailing sister, stayed on to look after the children. Anne was educated at home, and in Roe Head school. She learnt reading and writing, Latin, needlework, music, and painting. Between 1836 and 1837, she also attended a boarding school in Mirfield. Anne went out to work as a governess between 1839 and 1845, working for two different families. The first was for a shorter period of a few months, the latter almost five years with the Robinson family at Thorp Green Hall. In 1845, after the sisters discovered each other’s poems, they selected poems by each of them for publication. In December 1847, Anne’s first novel Agnes Grey was published in three volumes. Her second novel, The Tenant at Wildfell Hall, also appeared in three volumes some months later, in June 1848. Both books were published under her pseudonym Acton Bell as were the sisters’ poems. Towards the end of that year, Anne fell ill with influenza, and was later diagnosed with consumption. She died in May, 1929, aged only twenty-nine.
As a fellow blogger (here) mentions, facts about Charlotte are easier to find than about Anne, still like her, I have tried to compile a few I found from various sources. All my sources are listed below as are a few bios of Anne and reviews of her works, should you like to explore more about the youngest Brontë.
- Anne is described as having been ‘different in appearance from the others [with “violet-blue eyes, finely penciled eyebrows, and a clear, almost transparent complexion’, and light brown hair], and her aunt’s favourite’.
- With sister Emily, Anne created the imaginary world of Gondal, which consisted of four kingdoms, about which they wrote verse and prose (more about Gondal here). The first of Anne’s known poems, ‘Verses by Lady Geralda’, dating to 1836, is set in Gondal as is ‘Alexander and Genobia’, from 1837. The verses have survived but not the prose.
- Anne contributed 21 poems to the book of poems she and her sisters published under the names, Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Emily also contributed the same number while Charlotte wrote 19. Published in 1846, this book did rather badly, selling only two copies in its first year. However, it did get good reviews.
- At nineteen, Anne went out to work as a governess. Anne’s first book Agnes Grey, was based on her experiences on this job, the title-character Agnes, sharing a lot in common with Anne herself.
- He second book, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was based also on real life experiences. Specifically, their brother Branwell’s struggles with alcoholism and drugs was the inspiration for the antagonist in the book.
- Anne’s writing style was less romantic and more realistic than that of her sisters.
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is seen as a ‘groundbreaking feminist work’.
- After Anne died, Charlotte prevented the republication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in England (not in America), according to some to protect Anne against onslaughts because of its subject, while some even feel it was due to jealousy of Anne. Consequently, the book was almost forgotten. It was republished only in 1854.
- Anne may have had a possible speech impediment.
- She was known as the less talented and meeker Bronte sister. Yet, in 1924, in Conversations in Ebury Street, George Moore wrote that ‘if Anne Brontë had lived ten years longer, she would have taken a place beside Jane Austen, perhaps even a higher place’.
- Find: A detailed bio of Anne here and on Wikipedia here
- A page dedicated to her here
- A review of Agnes Grey here highlighting why the book ended up being overlooked despite its merits.
- A review of Agnes Grey (here) by a blogger who ‘enjoys the narrative voice of Agnes Grey‘.
- A pretty craft cover of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, with tweed and embroidery by a fellow-blogger, commemorating Anne’s 200th (here)
- On the Folio Society Edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (here)
Have you read either (or both) of Anne Brontë’s books? How did you find them? What about her poetry? Any favourites you’d like to recommend? Any other interesting tidbits that you’d like to add? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
- Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Bront%C3%AB