Authors: Anne Brontë

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

English novelist

January 17, 1820

Thornton, England

May 28, 1849

Scarborough, England

Biography

Anne Brontë was the sixth and last child of the Reverend Patrick Brontë and his wife, Maria Branwell. Not yet two years old when her mother died of cancer, Anne was raised by her aunt Elizabeth, with whom she enjoyed a special relationship for twenty years. With her four sisters and brother, Branwell, Brontë grew up at Haworth parsonage on the harsh Yorkshire moors. The parsonage provided the Brontë children ample space to engage in a variety of fantasies. For more than twenty years Brontë and her older sister Emily wrote about the adventures of the inhabitants of Gondal, a fictitious romantic kingdom that shared the real-life landscape of the Brontës’ home and Yorkshire countryside.

Brontë Sisters

(Library of Congress)

Brontë left home to attend school briefly in 1824 and 1825 but returned when her older sisters Maria and Elizabeth contracted tuberculosis there; they both died in 1825. A decade later, she attended Roe Head School, where her sister Charlotte was teaching; there she spent time consulting the Moravian minister James de la Trobe, who helped her formulate her ideas about religion and salvation.

Like her sister Emily, Anne wrote poetry regularly from the time she was a young adult, keeping her productions secret from the family. Most of her work has a decidedly religious note, but even in her earliest writings there are suggestions of romantic relationships inspired either by her reading or by her feelings for William Weightman, who came to Haworth as the Reverend Brontë’s curate in 1839. Because she was working as a governess away from Haworth, Anne saw Weightman infrequently during the following three years, but it is clear from her writing and that of family members that his premature death in 1842 affected her greatly.

Brontë secured a position as governess at Blake Hall in 1839 but stayed only six months, finding it impossible to discipline her employer’s children. A year later she was again employed as a governess with the Robinson family at Thorp Green; she remained with them until 1845. In that year, she and her sisters Charlotte and Emily agreed to collaborate on a collection that was issued pseudonymously in 1846 as Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.

Her experiences as a governess furnished Brontë material for her first novel. Agnes Grey was issued as the third volume of a set that included her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights (1847). Before her first novel was in print, Anne began work on a more ambitious piece that some believe was intended as a counterfoil to the high Romanticism of Wuthering Heights. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, published in 1848, deals with the plight of abused women forced to leave their children in the care of their husbands because English law favored men in domestic disputes.

Unfortunately, although she enjoyed some modest fame when her novels were published, Brontë did not live to see her reputation established among the British reading public. Suffering from consumption, she left home in May 1849 to visit Scarborough on the English coast; there she died and was buried within a month of departing Haworth. After her death, her sister Charlotte published an introduction to her novels that deprecated Anne’s talents. For more than a century Anne was considered a lesser luminary beside Charlotte and Emily, but during the second half of the twentieth century critics began a revaluation of her work, using the tools of modern psychology and feminist criticism to discover in her novels and poetry the work of a strong writer with deep insight into domestic and social issues.

Author Works Long Fiction: Agnes Grey, 1847 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 1848 Poetry: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 1846 (with Charlotte Brontë and Emily Brontë) Bibliography Barker, Juliet. The Brontës. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994. Berry, Elizabeth Hollis. Anne Brontë’s Radical Vision: Structures of Consciousness. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria, English Literary Studies, 1994. Examines both Brontë’s poetry and her prose to determine how prevalent image patterns in her work give insight into her vision of society and the need for social reform. Chitham, Edward. A Life of Anne Brontë. Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1991. Well-researched biography that provides careful analysis of the link between Brontë’s life and writings. Devaney, Beulah Maud. "Anne Brontë: The Unsung Sister, Who Turned the Gaze on Men." The Guardian, 17 Jan. 2014, www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/jan/17/anne-bronte-sister-men-charlotte-emily. Accessed 22 Aug. 2017. Frank, Katherine. A Chainless Soul: A Life of Emily Brontë. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Frawley, Maria H. Anne Brontë. New York: Twayne, 1996. Contains biographical information and critical assessments of Brontë’s poetry and novels. Gordon, Lyndall.Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life. London: Chatto & Windus, 1994. Langland, Elizabeth. Anne Brontë: The Other One. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1989. Feminist reading of the Brontë canon. Liddell, Robert. Twin Spirits: The Novels of Emily and Anne Brontë. London: Peter Owen, 1990. Essays on Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, showing that the latter is Anne Brontë’s answer to Emily’s Romantic novel. Miller, Lucasta. The Brontë Myth. London: Jonathan Cape, 2001. Biography of the Brontë sisters, focusing on the ways previous biographers have shaped readers’ appreciation of the three novelists’ major works. Nash, Julie, and Barbara A. Suess, eds. New Approaches to the Literary Art of Anne Brontë. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2001. Collection of a dozen essays by critics interested in presenting Brontë’s literary accomplishments. Several use techniques developed by twentieth century literary theorists as means for assessing the novelist’s achievement.

Categories: Authors