Thursday, January 7, 2016

Let's talk about: Anne Bronte

(sketch of Anne Bronte, made by her sister Charlotte around 1834)

Anne Bronte was born on January 17, 1820 at 74 Market Street in Thornton. Her father was curate there at the time. She was the last of the six children born to Maria and Patrick Bronte. 
The house was quite small for their large family and Patrick began looking for a better appointment and they were able to move to Haworth in April of 1820 where they lived in the parsonage. 
Anne was four months shy of her second birthday when her mother died and only a couple of years older when her oldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth died as well. 
Her aunt Elizabeth Branwell (her mother's sister) came to stay with them and be a sort of surrogate mother to them.
The four children banded together and began to create imaginary worlds that they made up stories about. Branwell (the brother) and Charlotte had their own world and Anne created a world, Gondal, with Emily. 
She and Emily were described as "like twins". Charlotte's friend Ellen Nussey described Anne this way,
"Anne, dear gentle Anne was quite different in appearance from the others, and she was her aunt's favorite. Her hair was a very pretty light brown, and fell on her neck in graceful curls. She had lovely violet-blue eyes, fine penciled eyebrows, and a clear almost transparent complexion. She still pursued her studies and especially her sewing, under the surveillance of her aunt." 
Anne's first time away from home was when she went to school at Roe Head at age fifteen. She didn't make many friends while there and was very homesick but she was hard working and wanted to get an education.

In 1839 she accepted a position as a governess at Blake Hall for the Ingham family. Apparently she used her experiences there for her novel Agnes Grey. She was dismissed from her job at the end of the year. 
She returned home. 
There is some speculation that she fell in love with her father's new curate, William Weightman and that he is the subject of many poems she wrote during 1840-1845. He was an attractive man that by all accounts was kind to the Bronte sisters and was liked by them all. No one knows for sure if she had feelings for him or not and if they were returned. 
Either way, Anne was determined to find another governess post. All four of the Bronte children were staying at home at this point and money was tight. She got a position with Reverend Edmund Robinson's family at Thorp Green near York and left for it around May 1840. 
 She would work for them for the next five years and spend very little time at home as she also went on vacation to Scarborough with the family. 
During this time she saw the York Minster for the first time and it left a lasting impression on her. She also grew to love the seaside at Scarborough.
In November 1842 her aunt died which would have been quite hard for her and that was followed by the death of William Weightman, who died from Cholera. 
 In December of that year she wrote a poem "To-" that is thought to be written about his death. 

"And yet I cannot check my sighs, 
Thou wert so young and fair, 
More bright than summer morning skies, 
But stern death would not spare; He would not pass our darling by
Nor grant one hour's delay, 
But rudely closed his shining eye
And frowned his smile away, 
That angel smile that late so much
Could my fond heart rejoice;
And he has silenced by his touch
The music of thy voice."

 In January 1843 Anne's brother Branwell came with her to Thorp Green when she returned after the holidays. He was to be the tutor for one of the children. She continued on there for two more years but resigned in June 1845. It is generally believed that she left because she had found out about her brother's affair with Mrs. Robinson (the mother) and no longer wanted to remain there. She stayed close with the daughters that she had taught.

By the summer of 1845 all of the Bronte children were home again but the circumstances weren't as happy. Charlotte convinced the sisters to make a book of their poetry. They decided to have pen names. Anne chose Acton Bell.
By July of 1846 the three sisters were starting to write novels. She wrote Agnes Grey. They sent their novels out for publication and began working on new ones. She began writing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It is believed that some of the book was based on Branwell as he descended into alcoholism and depression. At one point Branwell's bedclothes started on fire while he was in bed drunk. Anne discovered him and tried to rouse him but Emily was the one to drag him out. He soon caught influenza and it is thought he also might have had tuberculosis. He died in September of 1848. 
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall became a success.
Soon Emily also became ill with tuberculosis and died. 
During this time Anne was also ill. Her sister's death affected her deeply and made her illness worse. Over Christmas she became ill with influenza and tuberculosis followed. Her father called in a specialized doctor but he didn't think her chances were good. 
"Anne is very patient in her illness." Charlotte wrote. 

Anne seems to have been very religious and found hope in her belief that she may be received with joy in Heaven. Anne asked if she could be taken to Scarborough thinking that it may do her some good. Charlotte was frightened that her sister may not do well on the journey and refused. Anne wrote to Charlotte's friend Ellen asking her to intervene fearing she didn't have much time left.

"I have a more serious reason than this for my impatience of delay: the doctors say that change of air or removal to a better climate would hardly ever fail of success in consumptive cases if taken in time, but the reason why there are so many disappointments is, that it is generally deferred till it is too late. Now I would not commit this error; and to say the truth, though I suffer much less from pain and fever than I did when you were with us, I am decidedly weaker and very much thinner my cough still troubles me a good deal, especially in the night, and, what seems worse than all, I am subject to great shortness of breath on going up stairs or any slight exertion. Under these circumstances I think there is no time to be lost... I have no horror of death: if I thought it inevitable I think I could quietly resign myself to the prospect... But I wish it would please God to spare me not only for Papa's and Charlotte's sakes, but because I long to do some good in the world before I leave it. I have many schemes in my head for future practicehumble and limited indeedbut still I should not like them all to come to nothing, and myself to have lived to so little purpose. But God's will be done. " (The Brontes, Juliet Barker, p 589)

 Patrick, their father, intervened and asked Charlotte to accompany Anne to Scarborough with Ellen. They stayed first in York as Anne really wanted to see the Minster again. 
Then they went on to the seaside. 
Anne was becoming very weak at this point. It was obvious that she did not have long. 
They were told by a doctor that death was very close. 
Anne spent a lot of time in prayer and speaking of her faith in God. She told Charlotte and Ellen of her love for them and told Charlotte to "take courage". She was calm and aware of what was going on until the very end. The doctor said that he had never seen such a deathbed and "it gave evidence of no common mind." As opposed to her siblings that had fought death in the last moments she went peacefully at around two in the afternoon on Monday, May 28, 1849. 
Charlotte had Anne buried in Scarborough. Her funeral was held on the 30th and her father did not have time to make the trip. Anne was buried at St. Mary's overlooking the sea. Charlotte bought the stone to be placed on her grave with the inscription, 
"Here lie the remains of Anne Bronte, daughter of Revd. P. Bronte, Incumbent of Haworth, Yorkshire. She died, Aged 28, May 28th, 1849."

Anne has become known as the "forgotten" Bronte sister. She was the meek one, the quiet one, the one whose works have not been as well read. 
I am so glad that I have finally read one of her novels and that I will be able to read her other one as well. I think that Anne should not be overlooked anymore.


The Kings said...

I agree! One of my favorite books now is "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall". I want to read her other book now, too!

cheryl said...

We will both have to buy it there! :)