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Anne Brontë and the Trials of Life

Robert Butterworth

The trials Anne Brontë experienced in her lifetime left her with a deep interest in the psychology of suffering. This study, which considers both her novels and her poetry, focuses on the exploration of suffering in her work by examining her anatomisation of the trials her characters face and the strategies they deploy to cope with them. The novel Agnes Grey is read as a study of a woman working in circumstances in which her professionalism is unacknowledged and denied, while The Tenant of Wildfell Hall depicts an individual who is trapped in a deeply alien and uncongenial environment. Equally, struggles to face adversity, achieve happiness and find and retain religious faith form the subjects of her poetry. The book concludes by considering the common ground between Brontë’s heroines and their experiences and her overall views about how to confront life and its trials.

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Chapter 4: Struggle in Anne Brontë’s Poetry


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Struggle in Anne Brontë’s Poetry


When the Brontë sisters published Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell in 1846, the reviewer in the Athenaeum decided that he should refrain from breaking a butterfly on a wheel, and declared that ‘the indulgences of affection’ should be brought to bear when considering Anne Brontë’s poems.1 There has been little rise in the reputation of her poetry since. Even Anne’s early champion, George Moore, considered that Emily Brontë’s poems ‘are above Anne’s as the stars are above the earth’.2 In examining it here, I want, to begin with, to argue that we need to make two adjustments if we are to come to a just appreciation of her verse. Firstly, we need to discriminate within her body of poetry rather than seeing it as a single, uniform corpus. I shall argue below that there are important differences between the Gondal and the non-Gondal poems, and that it is in the latter that we can realistically look for poems of real value. Secondly, we need to attune ourselves to the sort of poetry Brontë is setting out to write; and I shall contend that this is the poetry of statement. These adjustments made, we will be in a position to examine how subtly Brontë, in her best poems, pursues her exploration of the trials of life in her depiction of a variety of types of struggle.3 ← 101 | 102 →

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