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Ten Facts About Anne Brontë

"Anne Brontë", circa 1834. A pencil sketch by her sister, Charlotte


Hello again, Janeites! Let's take a trip once again to mid-1800s rural Yorkshire, this time to discover ten delightful details about the life and writing of revolutionary creative thinker, peacekeeper, and youngest sibling... Anne Brontë.

1. Despite penning the most radical novels, Anne is the least-known Brontë sister.  

Anne wrote for purpose as well as pleasure, and desired more than anything to illuminate the hardships and pain of governesses and those affected by addiction and abuse. These realities were quite taboo subjects for conversation in Victorian England, and for raising the topics in her fiction Anne was harshly judged and critiqued; her important work was ignored and cast aside. The baby of the family, Anne was outwardly gentle and reserved, but within her there burned a just and righteous fire... even her sisters were shocked by her work. More than anything else she wanted to include deep meaning and morals in her novels and help others who had similar experiences to herself know they were not alone. She hoped to speak on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves.

2. During childhood, she and Emily created their own imaginary world: Gondal.

Reverend Brontë could not have known what creativity he sparked after bringing home twelve wooden soldiers for Branwell. Elucidating on the adventures the wooden soldiers could have had– the Glass Town Federation– an imaginary world was born. Charlotte and Branwell focused mainly on a fictitious kingdom called Angria. Meanwhile, Anne and Emily broke away to collaborate on the cultivation of another world, Gondal. The Brontë siblings worked on these fantastical lands from adolescence through adulthood, filling several notebooks with extensive plans, poems, sketches, and stories.

Anne Brontë's poem, "Night"

3. More of Anne's poetry than prose survives to the present day.

Anne wrote poetry beginning in her youth and contributed twenty-one poems to the sisters' publication debut in 1846: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Despite limited success with that book, Anne continued to write poetry until her death and the distinct manuscripts of dozens of her lyrical poems have survived the centuries. Here is a transcription of her 1845 poem "Night", as seen above.

“I love the silent hour of night,

For blissful dreams may then arise,

Revealing to my charmed sight

What may not bless my waking eyes!

And then a voice may meet my ear

That death has silenced long ago;

And hope and rapture may appear

Instead of solitude and woe.

Cold in the grave for years has lain

The form it was my bliss to see,

And only dreams can bring again

The darling of my heart to me.”

The original title page of Agnes Grey

4. She published her two novels in a span of two years.

Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey was published in December 1847, included as the third volume in a three-part set which also featured Emily's Wuthering Heights as volumes one and two. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was published in three volumes six months later in the June of 1848.

5. Agnes Grey is based upon Anne's experiences as a governess.

Anne Brontë's first novel, Agnes Grey, follows the life of the title character as she navigates the world of England's upper class... as a governess. Anne herself worked as a governess for five years, and pulled from her own memories and reflections to create both an endearing, believable character in Agnes Grey, as well as an entirely realistic setting. In her debut, Anne illuminates the dangers and hardships of the oft-perilous (yet oft-overlooked) occupation.

6. She held fast in the midst of literary criticism.

When her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was harshly censured due to its topic matter, Anne wrote that above all, there was a purpose to her story. She had written the novel to enlighten her readers and to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it.”

Anne Brontë's final letter, a "cross written" note to Ellen Nussey

7. Anne had a heart for others.

In her last surviving letter, dated April 9, 1849, Anne broaches the subject of her own death. With Charlotte in mind, she implores the Brontës' close friend, Ellen Nussey, to look after her dear older sister. This letter was "cross written", meaning the missive was written both vertically and horizontally, a practice that first came into being as an effort to save money during postal service reforms. In the letter– despite the subject matter– Anne carried herself with her usual grace and gentleness:

[...] I have no horror of death: if I thought it inevitable, I think I could quietly resign myself to the prospect, in the hope that you, dear Miss Nussey, would give as much of your company as you possibly could to Charlotte, and be a sister to her in my stead.

8. She was very devout.

After the death of Maria Branwell Brontë, austere Elizabeth Branwell arrived to help take care of her brother-in-law's children. While Aunt Elizabeth was not terribly tenderhearted, Anne was her favorite niece, as well as her roommate. Due to living in such close quarters, much of Anne's character as well as her personal faith– Elizabeth was a Wesleyan Methodist rather than Evangelical Anglican, like Reverend Brontë– was impacted by her aunt.

9. Anne is the only Brontë not buried in Haworth.

Near the end of her life– ailing from the tuberculosis that so viciously affected her family– Anne requested to visit Scarborough, in North Yorkshire. She had visited the area during her time as a governess and knew many claimed the waters there cured them. Accompanied by her sister, Charlotte, and their friend, Ellen Nussey, Anne arrived in Scarborough on May 25, 1849. She passed away only days later on May 29th and was laid to rest at St. Mary's Church. Charlotte arranged for Anne to be buried in Scarborough so the aging Reverend Brontë– still mourning the deaths of both Branwell and Emily in 1848– would not be required to bury another one of his children so soon. All other members of the Brontë family were buried at St. Michael and All Angels' Church in Haworth, where Reverend Brontë was the minister.

10. Her sister did not care for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Charlotte Brontë, in "A Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell", dated September 19, 1850, revealed the true personage of her two sisters. She discussed Emily and Anne's life and works; what she wrote, however, about Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall altered the course of its popularity and place in classic literature forever. Many people were shocked by the novel's grim, stark honesty and unflinching portrayal of alcoholism and abuse. Thus, it had not been entirely well-received. Charlotte mentioned this in her notice and continued:

At this I cannot wonder. The choice of subject was an entire mistake. Nothing less congruous with the writer's nature could be conceived. The motives which dictated this choice were pure, but, I think, slightly morbid.

Due to Charlotte's status as a successful novelist, readers took her words to heart and many distanced themselves from the "scandalous" novel. When approached by Anne's publisher, Charlotte also declined the printing of a second edition. One cannot help but wonder at the catalyst for these decisions. Did Charlotte hope to protect her sister's reputation? Did she genuinely disagree with Anne's choices? We many never know...


Did any of these facts surprise you? Leave us a message in the comment section below!


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