A Virtual Tour Of The Anne Brontë Exhibition: Part II

Last week we embarked upon part one of a virtual tour of the Anne Bronte exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth. We looked at Anne items and ephemera within the old Brontë parsonage itself, but today we will look at the main body of the Anne Brontë exhibition, contained in a series of display cases in the Bonnell Room next to the museum shop.

Sadly, on my latest visit I didn’t manage to get a close up picture of the first display case, but here’s an image from my earlier visit in January. It’s a stunning start to the ‘Amid The Brave And Strong’ exhibition because it contains two fine examples from Anne Bronte’s necklace collection, made of carnelian and turquoise:

Amid The Brave And Strong exhibition

Here we see examples of Anne’s precocity, including a sampler created at just eight years of age, and a sketch of Roe Head in Mirfield, the school she entered aged 15.

In last week’s post we saw three images of Anne’s beloved spaniel, two by Anne herself and one by Emily. Centre stage here is another image of Flossy, along with his collar. Note that I call Flossy a ‘he’: sometimes the spaniel is referred to as female due to a puppy called Flossy Junior being given to Ellen Nussey, but there are no references to any other puppies around the parsonage so it seems likely that Anne’s four legged friend was the father rather than the mother. Here also we have Anne’s German language textbook; Anne was an excellent linguist, and the only Brontë sister who could read Latin and Greek.

 

Here we see the only signature of Anne Brontë under her pseudonym Acton Bell. According to Charlotte (whose ‘Currer Bell’ signature can also be seen here) their first book, Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, sold only two copies. One of the purchasers, however, a Mr Enoch, was so impressed that he wrote via the publisher to ask for their autographs.

 

Anne was a wonderful artist, as indeed were all the siblings, and perhaps her most popular artwork is ‘Woman gazing at a sunrise over the sea’ shown in the display case above. It’s easy to think that this represents Anne herself at her beloved Scarborough, but in fact had seen neither Scarborough nor the sea at the time she drew this in 1839.

My personal favourite artwork of Anne’s is ‘What You Please’ pictured below, as I believe it’s an Anne Brontë self-portrait. This case also contains a first edition of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, published together in 1847. It was perhaps fitting that the two sisters, Anne and Emily Brontë, who were so close to one another, and whose arms were to be seen constantly entwined in their childhood, should find their remarkable novels published side by side in adulthood.

Another beautiful drawing by Anne, along with her groundbreaking novel The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall which is still relevant and powerful today. This is a particularly moving copy of the book as it was Anne’s own copy which she presented to her friend Ellen Nussey in January 1849. It was just a month after Emily’s death from consumption, and Ellen walked Anne around the room as she waited for the verdict of a doctor’s consultation: the verdict when it came was a terrible one, Anne had just weeks or months to live. Ellen remembered the visit at which she was presented this book: ‘Anne was looking sweetly pretty and flushed, and in capital spirits for an invalid. While consultations were going on in Mr Brontë’s study, Anne was very lively in conversation, walking around the room supported by me. Mr Brontë joined us after Mr Teale’s departure and, seating himself on the couch, he drew Anne towards him and said, “My dear little Anne.” That was all – but it was understood.’

Contemporary critics were extremely harsh about the writing of Anne and her sisters, but she faced up to them and hit back in her famous preface to the second edition of The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall. Her message was, and is, a simple one: truth is all that matters. We also see a Brontë inkwell and one of Anne’s quills – it’s incredible to think that they wrote their novels using these instruments, and often by candlelight.

In this very moving display case we see Anne’s handkerchief bearing her hand stitched initials and stained by her blood, a symbol of the bloody coughing associated with tuberculosis. Here also is Anne’s last letter, to Ellen Nussey asking her to accompany her to Scarborough. Even at this time, when she had little need to preserve paper or money, Anne writes using the frugal ‘crossed letter’ style, meaning that you had to read the letter both vertically and horizontally. The paper is black bordered as Anne is still in mourning for Emily.

‘Last Lines’ was the title given by Charlotte Brontë to this, Anne’s final poem, after her sister’s passing. I believe, however, that Anne had also been working on a philosophical essay, one that is published for the first time in book form in my book Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200and that those were her actual last lines.

The exhibition closes, as all such retrospectives must, on a sad note of finality, and yet we can still remember the joy that Anne Brontë brought to so many people and which she will continue to bring, whatever challenges our little planet faces. I hope you’ve enjoyed my virtual tour of the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s exhibition, ‘Amid The Brave And Strong’ is a fine and fitting tribute to Anne Brontë in her 200th birthday year. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour, and don’t forget that, if you wish to do so, you can donate to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth via this link. I hope to see you all again next Sunday for another new Brontë blog post.

A Virtual Tour Of The Anne Brontë Exhibition: Part I

This time last week I was in Haworth having a whale of a time, whilst also social distancing and keeping to all the rules and regulations of course. I finally had the opportunity to see the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s Anne Brontë exhibition entitled ‘Amid The Brave And Strong’, and I have to say that they have done Anne proud in her 200th birthday year.

I visited the Parsonage on her birthday in January, but at that time visitors were only allowed into the Bonnell Room (named after the museum’s great benefactor) adjacent to the shop. I had planned on visiting again much sooner than this, but of course this world wide pandemic had other ideas. The good news is that Anne’s bicentenary celebrations have been extended into 2021, but I know that for multiple reasons many of you will be unable to see this exhibition. I’ve therefore created this post showing pictures of Anne items on display throughout the main museum and within the special Anne Brontë exhibition in the Bonnell Room.

The Parsonage now allows visitors to take pictures within the museum, without the use of flash, so I’m delighted to be able to share my pictures with you, allowing you to take a virtual tour of ‘Anne Brontë: Amid The Brave And Strong.’ At the end of this post you’ll also find a link that will enable you to make a donation to the Brontë Parsonage Museum at this challenging time, after all every little helps. There are so many items to show that I’ve decided to split this ‘tour’ into two separate posts, so without further ado let’s commence the first part.

We’ll be taking a look purely at Anne Brontë items on display in Haworth’s Brontë Parsonage Museum at the moment, but of course there are treasures relating to all the family there. The first room that visitors enter is the Brontë dining room. It contains the couch upon which Emily took her final breath, but it also contains this magnificent dining table, around which Anne and her siblings walked as they shared ideas and plotlines and composed their works.

Let’s head upstairs now, passed the striking grandfather clock. One item that always grabs the attention on the first floor is Charlotte Brontë’s dress (different ones are displayed in different years), but take a look at the beautiful seashell necklace around the neckline – it was Anne’s. Anne loved to collect seashells and, as we shall see, she loved colourful, eye catching necklaces. The stockings on display here were also worn by Anne.

In this display case we have a selection of Anne’s art, with five of her drawings on show. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind Emily’s colourful portrait of Flossy, on the bottom left here, also being included.

Charlotte made three extant drawings of her youngest sister Anne (and there were possibly many more) but this one is my favourite.

Needlecraft was an essential skill for the Brontë sisters, both for the making and repair of their own apparel and so that they could teach it to others during service as governesses. Here we have Anne’s needlework kit, and the results of her labours – a beautifully crafted lace collar which she made for Charlotte.

Bobbins, buttons and bits of lace were in this tin box owned by Emily Brontë. Not the most exciting tin, you may think, but it held an exciting secret. In 1895 Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte Brontë’s widow of course, found that it had a hidden compartment. When this was opened he found tiny scraps of paper with writing and drawing on them – these were the diary papers which Emily and Anne had written between 1834 and 1845 and then hidden away from the world. They were nearly lost for ever, so could more Brontë treasures still be hidden from sight, waiting to be discovered?

Here we have portraits made by Anne Brontë. The image on the right entitled ‘A very bad picture’ is, I believe, a self-portrait composed using the aid of a mirror. On the left we have a delightful portrait of one of Anne’s Robinson charges while she was a governess at Thorp Green Hall.

We now leave the parsonage that Anne and her family knew and enter the extension added to the building by Patrick Brontë’s successor Reverend Wade. At the bottom right is a first edition of Anne’s first novel Agnes Grey, published alongside Wuthering Heights by Thomas Cautley Newby. He was an unscrupulous publisher who treated his authors appallingly, but without him we might have had no Brontë novels today.

This wooden lion was obviously much loved by the Brontës, and as the youngest sibling Anne would have been the last to play with it. Also, just how delightful is this tea set used by the sisters, showing three young women enjoying a cuppa?

Anne’s needlework prowess is on show again, as this sampler was made by her just a month after her tenth birthday.

From the first time she encountered it in July 1840, Scarborough was a place that Anne Brontë loved. She collected pebbles and shells from its beach, and here are some of them. It’s fitting that Anne now lies at rest in Scarborough, overlooking the sea and sand that she adored.

The brooch on the left was Anne Brontë’s and the brooch on the right was Charlotte’s, and within the centres are locks of their hair.

We finish this portion of the parsonage tour with Anne and Charlotte’s hair once again. The bracelet at the back was fashioned from Anne Brontë’s locks, and the white bracelet at the front was made from Charlotte Brontë’s hair.

Next week we will head down the stairs and into the Bonnell Room which contains the main exhibition devoted solely to Anne in this, her special year. I will be bringing you each individual case in detail, and talking about what the items within tell us about Anne and her family. I hope you’ve enjoyed part one of this virtual tour of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, and if you wish to donate directly to the Brontë Parsonage Museum itself you can do so via this link: https://www.bronte.org.uk/support-us/donate/2/general-donations

I hope you can join me next Sunday for part two of our virtual tour and our Anne Brontë celebration, and the good news is that there is no 10 PM curfew on reading this blog.

National Poetry Day And The Brontës

Today’s new Brontë blog post is light on my words but heavy on those all important Brontë words, apologies in advance, although that may well be a good thing! The reason for this somewhat truncated post is that I’m back in my beloved Haworth for the weekend, sans laptop, but the good news is that I’m finally about to visit the Anne Brontë 200 exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, and I’ll bring you a full report on that next week.

Friday of this week was National Poetry Day, so here are some of my favourite poems by the Brontës, along with some pictures I’ve taken in a rather rainy and wuthering Haworth this week.

Perhaps the most famous Bronte poem of them all

Branwell Northangerland
Branwell wrote poetry under a Northangerland pseudonym

Anne Bronte’s poignant yearning for her Haworth home

Linnet poem Emily Bronte
The Linnet In The Rocky Dells by Emily Bronte

Life by Charlotte Bronte

 

This week in 1842 saw William Weightman’s funeral service, so it’s fitting to close with one of Anne’s eulogies to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normal service will be resumed in next week’s blog, so until then stay healthy and happy and don’t forget to stock up on good books before the next lockdown arrives.