There is an important literary anniversary this month – on 17 January it will be Anne Brontë’s 200th birthday. Anne has always been the rather neglected Brontë sister, which is a real shame as she was a superb novelist.
Her book The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was a brave work for a woman to write, dealing with an abusive and alcoholic husband and a wife who takes her young son and runs away to try and start a new life and support herself. I am also very fond of Agnes Grey, the story of a young governess, a book which highlights the plight of women in that profession. Did you know that an unusually high proportion of women in Victorian lunatic asylums were ex-governesses? If you have never read either of these books, this anniversary year is a good time to do so.
Of course, the anniversary is being celebrated by conferences, talks and special events – I will be giving a talk on Anne at Mosman Library, and a talk on Anne and the governess situation for the Australian Brontë Association on Sat 12 Sept in Sydney. From 20 – 23 May there will be an international Juvenilia Conference held at the University of Sydney, which the general public are welcome to attend. There will be talks on Anne’s early writings as part of that event. A new play has been written – The Lost Voice of Anne Brontë by Cate Whittaker – and it will be on at the AMPA Theatre in Sydney from 31 Jan to 2 Feb, before it then goes off to Haworth for performances there.
There are also some interesting new books about Anne appearing – Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis (I enjoyed her book How to be a Heroine), In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland, and there is also an interesting new book about Anne’s mother, The Mother of the Brontës: When Maria Met Patrick by Sharon Wright.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis
How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis
In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland
The Mother of the Brontës: When Maria Met Patrick by Sharon Wright