anne bronte

Anne Brontë: The Youngest and Least Known of the Brontë Sisters


Anne Brontë: The Youngest and Least Known of the Brontë Sisters

Anne Brontë (1820-1849) was an English poet and novelist, and the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. She wrote two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, under the pseudonym Acton Bell. She also contributed poems to a joint collection with her sisters Charlotte and Emily, titled Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Anne’s novels are considered among the classics of English literature, but she is often overshadowed by her more famous sisters.

Early Life and Education

Anne was born on January 17, 1820, in Thornton, Yorkshire, England. She was the daughter of Patrick and Maria Brontë, a poor Irish clergyman and his wife. Anne had five siblings: Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell and Emily. The family moved to Haworth in 1820, where Patrick became the vicar of St. Michael and All Angels Church. Anne’s mother died of cancer in 1821, leaving the children in the care of their aunt Elizabeth Branwell.

Anne was educated at home by her father and aunt, and later attended a boarding school in Mirfield for a year. She showed an early interest in literature and art, and with her sister Emily created an imaginary world called Gondal, for which they wrote poems and stories. Anne also enjoyed music and nature, and was deeply religious.

Career as a Governess and a Writer


Early Life and Education

In 1839, Anne took a position as a governess for the Ingham family at Blake Hall, near Mirfield. She found the work difficult and lonely, as she had to deal with spoiled and unruly children. She left after a few months and returned to Haworth. In 1841, she became a governess again for the Robinson family at Thorpe Green, near York. She stayed there for four years, and formed a close friendship with her employer’s daughter Lydia. Her brother Branwell joined her in 1843 as a tutor for the Robinson boys, but he was dismissed in 1845 after having an affair with Mrs. Robinson.

Anne returned home in 1845 and devoted herself to writing. She had been working on a novel based on her experiences as a governess, titled Agnes Grey. She also collaborated with her sisters on a collection of poems, which they published in 1846 under male pseudonyms. Anne chose the name Acton Bell, while Charlotte was Currer Bell and Emily was Ellis Bell. The book sold only two copies, but it encouraged the sisters to pursue their literary ambitions.

Anne’s novel Agnes Grey was published in 1847 by Thomas Newby, along with Emily’s Wuthering Heights. The novel tells the story of Agnes Grey, a young governess who struggles with poverty, isolation and mistreatment by her employers and their children. The novel is realistic and unsentimental, drawing on Anne’s own experiences and observations. It also reflects Anne’s moral and religious views, as well as her feminist critique of the limited opportunities for women in Victorian society.

Anne’s second novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was published in 1848 by T.C. Newby. The novel is considered one of the first feminist novels in English literature, as it depicts the plight of Helen Graham, a woman who flees from her abusive husband Arthur Huntingdon and tries to make a living as an artist. The novel is narrated by two characters: Helen herself through her diary entries, and Gilbert Markham, a farmer who falls in love with her. The novel exposes the horrors of alcoholism, domestic violence and adultery, and challenges the social norms that trap women in unhappy marriages. The novel was controversial at the time for its boldness and realism, but it also received praise from some critics and readers.

Death and Legacy


Career as a Governess and a Writer

In 1848-1849, Anne suffered a series of losses that deeply affected her health and spirit. Her brother Branwell died of tuberculosis and alcoholism in September 1848; her sister Emily died of tuberculosis in December 1848

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