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Anne Brontë Reimagined
A View from the Twenty-first Century
Anne: the overlooked Brontë – was she the most talented and pioneering author of the family?
Anne’s writing has often been compared harshly with that of Charlotte and Emily – used as a measure of her sisters’ genius. But her literary and personal reputations have changed drastically since she was first published in 1846. Agnes Grey, with its governess protagonist, was assumed by some to be a first novel by Currer Bell.
Reviews were mixed, some critical of ‘crudeness’ and ‘vulgarity’, yet the book sold well during Anne’s lifetime. Her second and most famous work, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was groundbreaking in its choice of subject matter: marital abuse (physical and emotional); gender equality; education; alcohol abuse; and its effect on family life; and married women’s rights – married women were then viewed as the property of their husband. Anne’s reputation changed from coarse and vulgar to strident, moralising, pious, reserved and, eventually, just plain boring.
Who, then, was the real Anne, how was her reputation destroyed, and why has she been so overlooked?