Reader, please join me in wishing Anne Brontë, the youngest member of our beloved Brontë family, a very happy birthday. Anne was born in Thornton, Yorkshire to Patrick and Maria Brontë on the 17th January 1820. Anne is best known for her two novels, Agnes Grey, which documents the trials of the eponymous governess, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, an outstanding and unflinching look at alcoholism, violence, masculinity, and feminism in the 19th century. Her poetry cannot be ignored, and there is much to enjoy about her surviving sketches and artwork. However, Anne may also be responsible for the creation of Charlotte and Branwell’s famous tiny books, in which they wrote about their fantasy world, Glass Town, as children.
The earliest surviving of Charlotte’s books did not contain the likes of The Twelves, Lord Charles, or Douro, but it was in fact about Anne. Charlotte is thought to have created the book and story in an attempt to cheer up her younger sister, who was ill at the time. The book is part of the collection at Anne and Charlotte’s former home, which is now part of the Bonnell collection at the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Charlotte began the story with, “There was once a little girl and her name was Ane” and illustrated it with tiny watercolour sketches. She then covered it with a fragment of flowered grey wallpaper, which can still be seen today.
Towards the back of the book, there is evidence of the emergence of Glass Town and Gondal, worlds which came into existence when Branwell Brontë was given a set of toy soldiers by his father, Patrick. The tiny book contains a map which has been divided into four sections, or provinces, one for each surviving sibling: Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The names of Wellington and Parry (Charlotte and Emily’s chief men) are clearly visible at the head of two pages. The Brontë Parsonage believe that Charlotte’s book dates from around 1828, however, the British Library believes it to be 1826 due to the presence of the Glass Town/Gondal material. It’s such a charming little book, and demonstrates how Anne inspired Charlotte, just as others today are also inspired by her life and works.
The British Library have a lovely little online article about this Anne-inspired book which contains images and a transcript. You can click here to access it. You can also find information about it on the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s website.
To conclude, thank you Anne for always being an inspiration. Oh, and happy birthday!
In Loving Memory of Bob the Bichon (2007-2019). A lover of life, the Brontës, and Haworth who knows that I’m just going to write because I can’t help it.
Thanks for reading. I’d love it if you stopped by The Journal of Juvenilia Studies where you can read my essay, “Autobiography, Wish-Fulfilment, and Juvenilia. The ‘Fractured Self’ in Charlotte Brontë’s Paracosmic Counterworld”.
Tales of the Genii (edited by myself) is now available from The Crow Emporium – click here to buy.
Please do not copy, share, or use the images from this post without seeking permission first.