We’re less than one week from the 200th birthday of the great Anne Brontë, so I’m thrilled to say that my new book to mark this occasion, ‘Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200’ is available right now from its publisher Valley Press, based in Anne’s beloved Scarborough, from Amazon or by ordering from your local book shop (even better if it’s an independent bookshop of course).
I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I’m really pleased with this book and as I know there are lots of Anne fans reading this book, I thought I’d briefly share details of Crave The Rose. It contains things never seen in a Brontë book before, and thanks to the team at Valley Press it looks absolutely beautiful too.
My book is in three sections, the first of which is a mini-biography of Anne Brontë over the course of nine chapters. Each chapter opens with an Anne Brontë poem that is relevant to that part of her life, and this biography contains new information that has come to my attention since I wrote ‘In Search Of Anne Brontë‘ five years ago.
The middle section looks at a recently discovered essay by Anne Brontë which has never appeared in a book before. The essay is included in full, and I also explain where the essay was found, how it was verified that Anne was the author, and why I believe that these are the final words that Anne Brontë ever wrote.
The final section also contains things that can be found in no other Brontë book, as we take a walk back to the nineteenth century archives and hear first person accounts of people who met the Brontës face to face in their everyday lives. It gives us real insight into what the Brontës were like, and many of the accounts are incredibly moving – and often very surprising too.
I hope you will enjoy reading ‘Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200’ as much as I enjoyed writing it. Next Friday there will be a birthday post to mark Anne’s big day itself, and I may see some of you at Brontë 200 events in Bradford on Friday and Scarborough (I hope to be there on Sunday). For now I leave you with ‘The Narrow Way’, Anne’s magnificent poem which contains the title words to my new book:
‘Believe not those who say
The upward path is smooth,
Lest thou shouldst stumble in the way
And faint before the truth.
It is the only road
Unto the realms of joy;
But he who seeks that blest abode
Must all his powers employ.
Bright hopes and pure delights
Upon his course may beam,
And there amid the sternest heights,
The sweetest flowerets gleam; –
On all her breezes borne
Earth yields no scents like those;
But he, that dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.
Arm, arm thee for the fight!
Cast useless loads away:
Watch through the darkest hours of night;
Toil through the hottest day.
Crush pride into the dust,
Or thou must needs be slack;
And trample down rebellious lust,
Or it will hold thee back.
Seek not thy treasure here;
Waive pleasure and renown;
The World’s dread scoff undaunted bear,
And face its deadliest frown.
To labour and to love,
To pardon and endure,
To lift thy heart to God above,
And keep thy conscience pure, –
Be this thy constant aim,
Thy hope and thy delight, –
What matters who should whisper blame,
Or who should scorn or slight?
What matters – if thy God approve,
And if within thy breast,
Thou feel the comfort of his love,
The earnest of his rest?’
We have made it into a new year, so happy 2020 one and all! This isn’t any old new year, of course, but the end of a six year period which has seen the 200th anniversaries of the births of the Brontë children. They’ve saved the best for last, for this year sees the 200th birthday of our beloved Anne Brontë.
In fact, the big day is just twelve days away as I type this, so we’re not only in the year of Anne, but the month of Anne too! The History Press, who published my ‘In Search Of Anne Brontë’ in 2016 and who will be publishing my book on Charlotte Brontë and Ellen Nussey later this year, have dubbed this month ‘Janneuary’ – I like that, so I’m borrowing it to give a Janneuary update on three Brontë birthday celebrations heading rapidly towards us.
Brontë pilgrims often make their way to Haworth, and understandably so – it’s worth a visit on any day of the year, but Anne Brontë lovers should also try to get to Scarborough. It’s a beautiful place on a sunny day, which is why Anne loved it so much. She is buried there of course, in St. Mary’s churchyard in the shadow of the ancient castle, but she also spent large chunks of her summers there during her years as a governess to the Robinson family of Thorp Green.
Anne always remembered Scarborough fondly, and it’s good to see that they remember her fondly too, for they’ve put together an exciting sequence of events to mark this special occasion. The first event gets under way next week, and it’s a brilliant way to mark Anne’s life and her artistic as well as writing talent. Called ‘Anne Brontë p.200’ it runs from 11th January to 8th February, and is at Woodend Creative, a large building in beautiful grounds just a short walk from the Grand Hotel and adjacent to Scarborough’s excellent art gallery.
The brainchild of local artist Lindsey Tyson, it is based upon an excellent idea that takes Anne’s ‘The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall’ and turns it into 200 individual pieces of art by 200 artists, each of whom has used a page from the book as their base. The results are incredible, and if you can’t get along to the exhibition you can buy the complete set of Anne inspired artwork in this stunning book that you can purchase at the event or from Lindsey via this link:
That’s not all that’s taking place on the east coast this month. On the 14th, Tim Tubbs is giving a talk on ‘The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall’, and on the 17th and 18th, Eddie Lawler is presenting his ‘Tracking The Brontës’ show. Eddie has performed at Haworth on many occasions, and now lives at Scarborough with his wife Olga who painted this fantastic version of Branwell’s portrait of the sisters. It’s a brilliant show – fun, moving and packed full of facts (with a little Yorkshire rapping thrown in for good measure). All of those events are also at Woodend.
On Sunday 19th a beautiful celebration of Anne’s life will take place, beginning at the Grand Hotel, on the site of which Anne spent her final moments. A torchlit procession will then lead to the South Bay beach, where pebbles will be thrown into the sea. The procession will then lead uphill to St. Mary’s church where bells will ring out in Anne’s name.
Anne Brontë never crossed the Pennines to Manchester, but her family did. It was in that city that her father Patrick had his cataracts cut away without anaesthetic, and where Charlotte commenced the writing of ‘Jane Eyre’ as she nursed him. Emily Brontë had earlier visited the city with Charlotte too, to consult an eye specialist.
It is now a bustling, modern city but it hosts its very own Anne Brontë tribute under the banner of ‘Project Anne Brontë 200’. It takes place on 28th March of this year in a very fitting setting – Manchester’s ‘Cross Street Chapel’. I say fitting, because the minister of this very chapel, in its original form, in the mid-nineteenth century was a certain Reverend William Gaskell, husband of Charlotte Brontë’s friend and biographer Elizabeth Gaskell.
Pamela Nash has put together a magnificent programme of musical highlights that pays great tribute to Anne, and as Anne loved to play and listen to music she will surely appreciate this tribute. The hugely acclaimed up and coming composer Lucy Pankhurst has written a piece especially for the event – a setting of Anne Brontë’s poem ‘The Bluebell‘ which she has entitled ‘A Fine And Subtle Spirit’. It’s being performed by professional singers and a children’s choir, so it should be a truly memorable event. There will also be performances of hymns by Anne and poems by Emily set to music, and I will be there to say a few introductory words myself (please don’t let that put you off). This is an event not to be missed if you are in or near Manchester, and I will bring more details on it as that final Saturday in March approaches.
Anne was born in Thornton near Bradford of course, the last of the six Brontë siblings and just three months before the family moved to Haworth. Unfortunately there won’t be a special event at the Thornton birthplace of the Brontës and the powers that be are keeping the Parsonage at Haworth closed on that day (January is the month when they change out the exhibitions), but they have organised a party at the Delius Arts & Cultural Centre in the centre of Bradford.
Here is the official description of the event on the Brontë Society website:
“Come down to be entertained by an exciting line-up of musicians, poets and DJs, and try your hand at zine-making, badge-making and other DIY crafts. This is a night to throw on your glad-rags, revel in performances, and enjoy delicious food and drink all for Anne Brontë’s birthday.”
It sounds like there’s something for almost everyone, and no advance booking is required – simply turn up and pay what you want.
The truth is that if you carry Anne Brontë in your hearts, she will be with you wherever you are on Friday the 17th, so why not have your own celebration even if you’re on your own with an Anne Brontë book and a slice of cake (that’s what I plan to be doing in Haworth on the day)? If you can couple that celebration with one of the fabulous events in Scarborough or Manchester as well then you can make it a JAnneuary and MAnnearch to remember!
Happy New Year! May I wish all of my readers a very happy 2020, your support really does mean everything, so I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog in the year that’s gone and continue to enjoy it in the year that’s come along!
Whether you like to call them ‘resolutions’ or not, I hope that you achieve your dreams and goals in the year ahead. It’s a year that will see me have two more Brontë books published – probably my last ever Brontë books, so I hope I’ve done their subjects justice. ‘Charlotte and Ellen‘ will be out in autumn, and ‘Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200’ will be out later this month! It’s worth pointing out that whilst Amazon seems to say that it’s out on the 2nd, tomorrow, it will be a little later than this as the festive period have slowed down the usual typesetting, printing and distribution service with Valley Press. Fear not, however, it will be out later in January, hopefully in time for Anne’s 200th birthday, so you can pre-order now – I hope you will think it worth the wait; it has some things in it that have never been seen in book form before, and I’m really excited about making them available to the public.
Did you spend New Year’s Eve linking arms, and singing Auld Lang Syne? Wouldn’t it be nice to think of the Brontës doing just that – with Anne leading the chorus in that voice described by Ellen Nussey: “She sang a little; her voice was weak, but very sweet in tone.”
Ellen also described how Anne and Ellen loved to play the piano which can still be seen by visitors to Haworth’s Brontë Parsonage Museum. How lovely to think of Anne at the piano, maybe Emily alongside her as she so often was, as they all sang the words written by Robbie Burns in 1788 and which have now become forever associated with Hogmanay celebrations.
Only a dream? Actually, it’s almost certain that this is what took place in the Brontë’s parsonage over the new year period. How do we know this? Because we still have Anne Brontë’s music books. She loved to copy pieces of music by hand onto blank music paper that she would then play on the piano – and we still have Anne’s own handwritten and annotated copy of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ – here it is!
The Brontës were fans of anything Scottish, and especially of Walter Scott, James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, and Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire. Whilst Burns’ name will forever be associated with these New Year words he himself said it was an ancient song which had been passed on to him by an old man, and he had merely set it in print.
Wherever the song originates it resonates powerfully today – should old acquaintances be forget, because they date from long since (‘lang syne’ in the Ayrshire idiom)? No, says Burns, these old acquaintances will meet again and share a cup of friendship again. It’s a simple message – we move on to the future, but we should always remember and cherish the past. So we move on to 2020, and are now just over two weeks from Anne Brontë’s 200th birthday – I wish you all a very happy new year and hope you had a joyous Hootenanny, and as I thank you for your acquaintance I leave you with this timeless song that Anne played on the parsonage piano:
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
[Chorus:] For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.