“But he that dares not grasp the thorn/ Should never crave the rose.”“The Narrow Way” by Anne Brontë
Anne Brontë was born on January 17, 1820, in Thornton in the United Kingdom. Although less celebrated than her sisters Charlotte and Emily, her reputation is today being reevaluated by scholars. Anne wrote a number of poems as well as two novels before her death at the age of 29–Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall–which draw upon her experiences as a governess and at watching her brother Branwell succumb to drink and addiction.
Anne is known for writing more realistic stories than her sisters and for her progressive views on women, which today are read as perhaps even more feminist than Charlotte and Emily’s. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, for example, Anne writes about the laws that allow men to abuse their wives, suggesting that marriage can become a form of imprisonment, and celebrates the strength of a woman who had to courage to leave her husband. Her story shocked Victorian society.
Anne’s passionate, somewhat unorthodox views, lead Charlotte to try to tame her sister’s memory after her death. She refused to republish The Tenant of Wildfell Hall because she claimed its scenes of debauchery did not reflect Anne’s true, gentle character. Some scholars believe it is in part Charlotte’s intervention that lead to Anne’s literary reputation falling. Charlotte may or may not also have destroyed Anne’s letters and juvenilia. The fact that Charlotte has left far more written material than either Emily or Anne has lead biographers many to focus on Charlotte, simply because there is more to focus on.
This January 17 marks the 200th anniversary of Anne Brontë’s birth. We will be celebrating at Pages Unbound with a number of reviews and posts focusing on Anne’s life and works. Join us and help us remember the most neglected Brontë sister!