Anne Brontë was the baby of the world’s most famous literary family, the youngest of the six Brontë children, and only 20 months old when her mother died in September 1821.
She lived for just 29 years, but in that time, she and her sisters Charlotte and Emily became authors of some of the best-loved books in the English language.
2024 marks the 175th anniversary of the death of Anne, who is the only Brontë not to be buried in the family vault beneath St. Michael and All Angels church in Haworth, where the family lived. Rather, she was laid to rest at St. Mary’s, Scarborough, having spent her final days in the coastal town before she died in May 1849, most likely of pulmonary tuberculosis.
Only recently has an exhibition on her life been staged there at Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre. Organisers from The Anne Brontë Society said they wanted to show Annes connection to Scarborough ran deeper than just being buried in the area. “Many people might know she is buried here, but I don’t think they realise she lived here for five weeks a year, said founder of the society Lauren Bruce.
They felt it was important to capture some of this connection and to recognise Anne as a major literary figure.
In addition to a collection of poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell published with her sisters, Anne had two books published in her lifetime – Agnes Grey (1847), which deals with the plight of a family governess, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), which examines the consequences of married women’s lack of legal rights. “We’ve found references, right back to the 1930s, of Anne being the most ‘tragic’ Bronte,” said Ms Bruce as the exhibition launched. And we want to change that story.
It was not the first time that an event had sought to change perceptions of Anne. To celebrate what would have been her 200th birthday, in 2020, the Brontë Parsonage Museum launched an exhibition on Annes life and work. “Its like theres been a big conspiracy in the past to portray her as gentle and long-suffering when all the evidence suggests a highly intelligent women equally talented but determined to do something different with her writing, said principal curator Ann Dinsdale at the time.
She was less hooked on Byron and the romantics. She wanted to have a moral impact, to do some good in the world.
Many would say that Anne has tended to be overshadowed at times by her sisters. But in 2024, the 175th anniversary year since her passing, she will almost certainly be celebrated as one of the greatest Victorian writers in her own right.