Anne Bronte

British novelist and poet Anne Brontë was born 17 January 1820. The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë was the youngest member of the Brontë literary family and lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of 19 she left Haworth and worked as a governess between 1839 and 1845. After leaving her teaching position, she fulfilled her literary ambitions. She wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 1846) and two novels. Agnes Grey, based upon her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847. Her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels, appeared in 1848. Anne’s life was cut short when she died of pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 29. She is less well known than her sisters Charlotte, who was the author of four novels including Jane Eyre and Emily who was the author of Wuthering Heights, mainly because the re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was prevented by Charlotte Brontë after Anne’s death on 28 May 1849.  However her novels, like those of her sisters, have since become classics of English literature.

Agnes Grey was Anne Bronte’s debut novel and is largely based on Anne Brontë’s own experiences as a governess for five years. Like her sister Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre. It follows Agnes Grey, the daughter of a minister, whose family comes to financial ruin. Desperate to earn money to care for herself, she takes one of the few jobs allowed to respectable women in the early Victorian era, as a governess to the children of the wealthy. As a governess, she works in several bourgeois families including the Bloomfields and the Murrays The novel addresses what the precarious position of governess entailed and the trouble that affects a young woman who must try to rein in unruly, spoiled children for a living, and about the ability of wealth and status to destroy social values. The novel also deals with issues of oppression and abuse of women and governesses, isolation, ideas of empathy and the fair treatment of animals. After her father’s death Agnes opens a small school with her mother and finds happiness with a man who loves her for herself. By the end of the novel they have three children, Edward, Agnes and Mary.

Anne Brontë’s second and final novel was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels and was an instant success. The novel is framed as a letter from Gilbert Markham to his friend and brother-in-law about the events leading to his meeting his wife. It concerns A mysterious young widow named Mrs. Helen Graham who arrives at, an Elizabethan mansion named Wildfell Hall, which has been empty for many years, with her young son and servant. She lives there under an assumed name, Helen Graham in strict seclusion, and becomes a source of curiosity for the small community, gradually the reticent Mrs Graham and her young son Arthur are drawn into the social circles of the village. Initially, Gilbert Markham casually courts Eliza Millward, despite his mother’s belief that he can do better. His interest in Eliza wanes as he comes to know Mrs. Graham. In retribution, Eliza spreads (and perhaps creates) scandalous rumours about Helen.

Before long Helen finds herself the victim of local slander. However a young farmer named Gilbert Markham refuses to believe it and investigates, discovering a dark secrets concerning her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon, a handsome, witty chap who is also spoilt, selfish, and self-indulgent, whom she marries blinded by love and whom she resolves to reform with gentle persuasion and good example. However Upon the birth of their child, Huntingdon’s behavior gets worse as he becomes increasingly jealous of their son (also called Arthur) and his claims on Helen’s attentions and affections. Huntingdon’s disreputable friends also lead him astray by frequently engaging in drunken revels at the family’s home, “Grassdale” oppressing those of finer character. Huntingdon experiences a physical and moral decline through alcohol and the world of debauchery and cruelty. Until Not surprisingly Helen decides she’s had enough of his drunken antics and flee’s with her son, eventually arriving at Wildfell Hall….

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