Biography

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Anne Brontë (BRAHNT-ee) 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.{$S[A]Bell, Acton;Brontë, Anne}

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Brontë left home to attend school briefly in 1824-1825 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.

Biography

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Anne Brontë was born January 17, 1820, the sixth and last child of Patrick and Maria Branwell Brontë. She was born in the village of Thornton in West Yorkshire, England, but the family moved to Haworth just a few months later so that her father could take a higher paying position as the local parson. Brontë’s mother died before her youngest daughter was two years old. Their aunt, Elizabeth Branwell, came to live with the family and cared for the children. She and Anne were particularly close as Aunt Branwell was effectively the only mother the girl remembered having. The two eldest daughters, Maria and Elizabeth, died when Anne was only four. Growing up, Anne was closest to her sister Emily, and together they made up stories about the imaginary land of Gondal. Charlotte and her brother Branwell similarly played together, making up stories about a fantasy land named Angria.

Anne Brontë did not attend school until she was fifteen when she took Emily’s place at Roe Head School. She was acutely homesick but, unlike Emily, she endured being at school and worked hard because she believed an education would give her the means to support herself. Her first known poems were written during her two years at school. She worked as a governess for the Ingham family at Blake Hall in 1839 and then, in 1840, for the Robinson family of Thorp Green, near York, where she stayed for five years. Her poetry expresses her homesickness and unhappiness with her appointment. Brontë captured her experience as a governess in her novel Agnes Grey (1847), which depicts a young governess trying to manage spoiled children.

While at home between the two jobs, Brontë met her father’s new curate, William Weightman. Her writings of this time suggest that she fell in love with him, but there is considerable scholarly debate over this point. If true, her feelings were hidden and almost certainly unrequited. Weightman and Aunt Branwell both died in 1842, and Brontë grieved through her poetry. In 1843, Brontë’s brother Branwell joined her at Thorp Green to tutor the Robinson’s son. Brontë resigned her post in June 1845—Branwell was dismissed soon thereafter for having an affair with Mrs. Robinson.

In 1845, with all four Brontë siblings at home and out of work, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne reached an agreement to secretly publish their poems. Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell was published the following year. (The sisters used pseudonyms that preserved their initials but obscured their sex.) Agnes Grey, Brontë’s first novel, was published in 1847 and her second, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was published in 1848. During this time, the family’s health was deteriorating. Branwell drank himself to his grave by September 1848. Many contend that Branwell, in part, inspired the character of Mr. Huntington. Emily died of tuberculosis in December 1848. Brontë was also ill and, seeing her own death coming, she asked Charlotte to take her to Scarborough, a favorite place of hers near the sea. Anne Brontë died there on May 28, 1849, at the age of twenty-nine. She is buried there, while all the other Brontës are buried in the family vault in St. Michael and All Angels’ Church, Haworth.

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