The Poems of Anne Brontë
Second, revised edition with new introduction.
Edward Chitham (Ed)
Edward Everett Root Publishers Co. Ltd.
About this book
This is the definitive edition of the poems by the leading modern editor. It makes the work fully accessible to all.
This new edition is essential to understanding Anne Brontë’s life, her entire literary works, and her relationships with her sisters.
Anne Brontë`s poems have in the past been overshadowed by the marvellous productions of her elder sister Emily, whose leadership she accepted for many years during her youth. In commenting on both the novels and the poetry, however, the increasingly different aims of the two are only just now being clearly recognised. Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are not both simply `Gothic novels` and the poetic work of Anne and Emily cannot be subsumed under the heading 'Gondal'.
As this editor shows, we have to grasp how different Anne Brontë`s life experiences were from those of her sisters. Charlotte and Emily shared a bedroom in their childhood (indeed, a bed). They made up their plays which Charlotte called `strange`. Anne slept with her Aunt Elizabeth, a lively, intelligent woman coming from the Wesleyan hotspot of Cornwall. She was steeped in Wesleyan Methodism and had nothing to do with Calvinism. Elizabeth inducted Anne into Evangelical Christianity, a view congenial to Patrick, Anne`s father. Without understanding Anne`s continuous and heartfelt attachment to this mode of thought, feeling and action, we cannot understand her work. As a Methodist, Elizabeth insisted on organised work and behaviour, and as a Wesleyan, on the view that `Jesus died for all`; Anne took on these attitudes.
We have Anne`s retrospective view of her life in poem No.57, which Edward Chitham argues should be studied very closely. It is an intensely honest summary of her life`s experience. Clare Flaherty called this poem a `haunting, elegiac lament over an unfulfilled life`. Here Anne relives her childhood, stressing her own vulnerability, but also her concern for others. She points to the Bible as her exemplar and surprisingly says that her study makes her `wiser than her teachers`, pointing among other things to the scenes in Wildfell Hall where Helen uses theology to struggle with her husband on his deathbed. In lines 178-207 she deals with her relations with Emily.
Edward Chitham, in his new introduction, suggests that nothing could be clearer than her admission that the two drifted away from each other, from childhood to adulthood. In Gondal, sometimes Anne supported Emily`s narrative, sometimes wrote on her own account. Though Emily has often appeared the more dominant woman, sometimes – for example, after the initial rejection of Wuthering Heights - Anne firmly but quietly supported her sister.
About the author
Edward Chitham is a leading authority on the Brontës, and author of A Life of Anne Brontë; A Life of Emily Brontë; Brontë Facts and Problems, and The Birth of Wuthering Heights.
"At a time when Anne Brontë's bold realism and themes of female empowerment have helped her emerge from her sisters’ shadow, Dr Edward Chitham’s definitive edition will be treasured by all. The scholarly notes include Charlotte Brontë's commentary on Anne’s last poem." - Rebecca Fraser, author of Charlotte Brontë and The Brontës: Charlotte Brontë and Her Family.
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