Anne Brontë was a British novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. Anne's two novels, written in a sharp and ironic style, are completely different from the romanticism followed by her sisters, Emily Brontë and Charlotte Brontë. She wrote in a realistic, rather than a romantic style. Mainly because the re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was prevented by Charlotte Brontë after Anne's death, she is less known than her sisters. However, her novels, like those of her sisters, have become classics of English literature.
The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. In Elizabeth Gaskell's biography, Anne's father remembered her as precocious, reporting that once, when she was four years old, in reply to his question about what a child most wanted, she answered: "age and experience".
During her life Anne was particularly close to Emily. When Charlotte's friend Ellen Nussey visited Haworth in 1833, she reported that Emily and Anne were "like twins", "inseparable companions". Together they created imaginary world Gondal after they broke up from Charlotte and Branwell who created another imaginary world – Angria.
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 and was an instant, phenomenal success; within six weeks it was sold out.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is perhaps the most shocking of the Brontës' novels. In seeking to present the truth in literature, Anne's depiction of alcoholism and debauchery was profoundly disturbing to 19th-century sensibilities. Helen Graham, the tenant of the title, intrigues Gilbert Markham and gradually she reveals her past as an artist and wife of the dissipated Arthur Huntingdon. The book's brilliance lies in its revelation of the position of women at the time, and its multi-layered plot.
Her sister Emily's death on 19 December 1848 deeply affected Anne and her grief undermined her physical health. Over Christmas, Anne caught influenza. Her symptoms intensified, and in early January, her father sent for a Leeds physician, who diagnosed her condition as consumption, and intimated that it was quite advanced leaving little hope of recovery. Anne met the news with characteristic determination and self-control.
Unlike Emily, Anne took all the recommended medicines, and responded to the advice she was given. That same month she wrote her last poem, " A dreadful darkness closes in", in which she deals with being terminally ill.
In February 1849, Anne decided to make a return visit to Scarborough in the hope that the change of location and fresh sea air might initiate a recovery. However, it was clear that she had little strength left.
Dying, Anne expressed her love and concern for Ellen and Charlotte, and seeing Charlotte's distress, whispered to her to "take courage". Conscious and calm, Anne died at about two o'clock in the afternoon, Monday, 28 May 1849.
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