Today I’m commemorating the birth of Anne Brontë,
youngest sister of Charlotte, Emily, and Branwell Brontë:
January 17, 1820
Of course I’m not the only one noting the importance to Brontë aficionados of this day in January. Let me point you to a wonderful blog dedicated to Anne, created by Nick Holland, an author and active member of the Bronte Society. His biography of Anne, In Search of Anne Brontë, is due for release in the UK in early March, and is available for preorder! (It will be released in the US in June)
Anne Brontë, the youngest and most enigmatic of the Brontë sisters, remains a bestselling author nearly two centuries after her death. The brilliance of her two novels – Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – and her poetry belies the quiet, yet courageous girl who often lived in the shadows of her more celebrated sisters. Yet her writing was the most revolutionary of all the Brontës, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable. This revealing new biography opens Anne’s most private life to a new audience and shows the true nature of her relationship with her sister Charlotte.
As I post this latest Anne Brontë blog, I’m sitting in a beautiful café drinking a latte and eating a delightful artisan scone, but it’s not just the home made food that makes this place special, and it’s not only the coffee that’s drawn me in.
This is a Yorkshire café like no other, for it was on this very spot that Anne Brontë was born 196 years ago today – the 17th of January, 1820.
#Bronte200 is the Bronte Society‘s five-year programme celebrating the bicentenaries of the births of each of the Brontë siblings (who lived beyond childhood): Charlotte in 2016, Branwell in 2017, Emily in 2018 and Anne in 2020.
I wasn’t aware of Bronte200 until after I had begun to write about Anne Brontë myself: a fiction that started out as a novelette and part of a one book collection of stories featuring women writers.
However, as my research has offered more and more possibilities for lengthening the story, it has evolved into a novella/short novel I now plan to publish on its own as part of a series. I have settled on the title Without the Veil Between taken from the last verse of Anne’s poem:
In Memory of a Happy Day in February (read full poem).
I longed to view that bliss divine
Which eye hath never seen,
Like Moses, I would see His face
Without the veil between.
And to continue the celebration of Anne’s birth day, I offer …
An excerpt from the work-in-progress,
Without the Veil Between © 2016
A novella about Anne Brontë
by DM Denton
From Chapter Two
Anne took a low wooden stool, her portable desk and sketchbook outside, managing to carry them all at once across the lawn to settle within the shade of some current bushes that Emily called their bit of a fruit garden. After half an hour, she felt chilled and relocated further away from the high stone wall and elder and lilac shrubs that divided the Parsonage’s yard from the church’s. At first she couldn’t write or draw, trying to restrict herself to practical thoughts, like the need to weed in the flower patch of lupines and cornflowers underneath the house’s front windows, and missing the Sicilian sweet peas that by now should have shown some attachment to a trellis by the front door, except Martha Brown had forgotten her promise to plant the seeds Emily had collected from last year’s blooms. Anne wondered if it was too late.
She pulled out a drawing begun some months before, Little Ouseburn Church most picturesque viewed from the other side of Ouse Gill Beck, its chancel encased by shrubby trees, a grassy bank sloping towards the stream, the mausoleum just out of sight. The Robinsons’ bonneted phaeton was commandeered every Sunday to transport the family the nearly two miles to the church, immediately afterwards waiting to take them back to the Hall for dinner by half-past noon. Anne was included in and yet irrelevant to the Sunday ritual, the latter demonstrated by no one questioning her leather folder tucked under her arm or even thinking to refuse, as the Inghams would have, her request to stay behind to draw a while before returning on foot.
“You may do what you please, Miss Brontë,” Mrs. Robinson was famous for saying, “and I will tell Cook to put your dinner aside for later.”
“Aren’t you afraid to walk back alone?” Mary might wonder before her mother insisted she get into the carriage.
Anne was relieved she didn’t have to answer, for any explanation of her need for bucolic solitude would have implied dissatisfaction with the confines of her room at Thorpe Green, the subdued light through one slanted window waking her very early, but by late afternoon or in the evening providing inadequate illumination for reading, writing or artwork. She took whatever time she could to be on her own out-of-doors, freed from capricious children and their equally unpredictable parents, the dissatisfaction of servants and repetitive duties, and, especially, the dreariness back stairs and dark corridors made almost unendurable. In contrast it was easy to put up with feeling too warm in the sun and too cool in the shade, watch for rain, hold her paper from curling in the wind, wave away thirsty gnats, and be distracted by birdsong and any of the creatures she could hear but not see or see without seeing, like the fish making little whirlpools of bubbles in the stream between her and the church that months later, having to resort to memory and imagination, she hoped to finish her detailed impression of.
Anne had her head down for over an hour, the shade chilling her again, St. Michael’s and All Angels’ tower, her dry mouth and stomach telling her it was time for tea and biscuits in the dining room with her aunt and father, a chance that either or both would prefer to keep to their bedroom or study respectively. In that case the kitchen, although too warm with the range stoked for heating water, would be a pleasant substitution, as would Martha and her chitchat, much of it about the residents of Haworth that Anne was too prudent to comment on. Of course, if Branwell joined them, he wouldn’t hesitate to express his cynical opinion and even add some tavern gossip.
“Yes, it is that time, isn’t it?”
Anne wasn’t so much startled by William sneaking up on her, as embarrassed by him witnessing her graceless act of picking up the stool, while she held onto her desk and sketchpad. She left the stool on the ground and stood straight to see him sitting on the edge of a horizontal gravestone nearly as high as the wall he was leaning over.
“May I see?” He reached out for her sketchbook, so sure she would hand it to him she could hardly refuse to. This time he interpreted her expression. “I don’t wish to burden you with any sort of critique. I hardly have the qualification for that.”
“It’s not a burden to show you, just to do the drawing in the first place.”
“Surely not.” William was already looking at her work and not just her imitation of Little Ouseburn Church, but flipping through pages of landscapes, animal studies, and portraits. “You must find such satisfaction in being able to capture those moments the rest of us let slip away, and sometimes aren’t aware of to begin with.”
“Except I can’t easily enjoy them as others do, always troubling myself with whether I can really reproduce what I see, what I feel, especially of nature’s beauty. I fear vanity and a weak spirit urge me to try to do so.”
“Well, even if you haven’t satisfied yourself,” William carefully closed the folder, standing and hesitating before giving it up, “you have succeeded in impressing and delighting another.”
“Hey, you two,” Branwell called down from an open window on the second floor of the parsonage, “what scheme are you leaving me out of?”
Anne expected William to quip back, but instead he hopped over the wall, picked up the stool, and followed her to the house, putting it just inside the front door she had slowly opened. With her back to him for longer than was necessary, she was afraid he must think her cold, dull, awkward, and even ill-tempered.
It was his hand that turned her around, lightly but sincerely pressing the fingertips of her left one with a wordless promise of “Trust me.”
© 2016 Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.