Anne Bronte – What A Woman!

It’s Anne’s 200th birthday this year and to celebrate her and her life I wanted to look a little closer at her and how we view her.

The portrayal and our understanding of the Bronte Sisters has had many incarnations and has changed dramatically over the years. It’s always interesting to look at this, as it reveals other facets of their complex personalities, offering us another tantalising glimpse of who they really were.

The sisters have been variously portrayed as the scourge of decent society, the lonely gentle geniuses, victims of a hard, cruel and isolated environment. There are so many words that have been used to describe them and it’s all too easy to accept a one-dimensional view of them. They are long gone and as we view them through the lens of our current 21st century view-point we can easily mistake our contemporary impressions and influences that colour our view of them, for the actuality of their existence and who they were. This is especially true of Anne, we know relatively little of her and she’s often been portrayed as the quiet, weak sister.

She was born in Thornton West Yorkshire on 17th January 1820, the youngest of the Bronte children. Within a year the family had de-camped from Thornton to Haworth where Anne’s dad Patrick had been offered a parish to watch over and reasonable sized home for his growing family. Within a few months of arriving in Haworth, Maria Bronte; Anne’s mum had died, leaving Patrick to raise their six children alone.

Anne has often been described as gentle and sometimes referred to as weak, however, I really feel that she was so much more that this and her perceived weakness comes, in part, from her position as the youngest of the family. I also feel that looking at the events of her life and her writing she was really very strong and self-sufficient.

It’s documented that Anne was the only Bronte sibling that had no memory. of their mother and so from the very start that set her apart from the rest of her sisters and brother. When Patrick Bronte finally decided to send his daughters to school, it was decided the Anne was still too young to go, so she stayed at home, alone in a house full of adults.

Only to be re-joined by her two eldest sisters when they returned home from school to die of Consumption, which they did in rapid succession. One can only imagine how traumatic these events must have been for young Anne and how self-reliant she must have had to be, whilst all attention was focused on her two dying sisters. We know that Helen Burns in Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was based on their eldest sister Maria and it is to be wondered if the Helen’s death scene described in Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was a result of Anne’s description of their sister’s deaths. A few days later her next two sisters Charlotte and Emily returned home, as the school closed and Anne must have lived in fear that they too would die. They did not succumb to Consumption, during childhood, but these events must have given Anne nerves of steel and a very solid sense of self-reliance.

It is very clear from the writing of the Bronte Sisters that the idea of becoming a governess was a terrible nightmare to them, but it was Anne who went and found herself a position as a governess to the Ingams at Blake house. Her letters show that it was indeed a nightmare; she was homesick and felt out of place at Thorpe Green Hall and it is understood that several episodes in Jane Eyre; where John Reed throws a book at Jane and when the Ingrams discuss how they mistreated their governesses came from Anne’s actual experiences as a governess that she related to Charlotte. Despite the horrors, and the loss of her post at Blake House, she endured and was determined to help support her family financially. She found another post at Thorpe Green Hall, staying for over 5 years – refusing to give up and return home.

She even managed to get a place for her brother Branwell, who had a very sketchy professional history. This was no mean feat for a lowly governess and she was clearly aware that bringing her brother into her place of work, was a risk, yet she bravely stepped up.

Anne’s worries regarding her brother’s behaviour were well founded, but she kept going, as a governess, through the subsequent scandal as Branwell & Mrs Robinson proceeded to have an affair. She was revolted by their behaviour and had to put up with the humiliation of household servants, locals and friends gossiping, and she did. She only left her position when the Mr Robinson dismissed her and Branwell after he found out about the affair. Throughout, she had shown remarkable strength of purpose and resilience – it wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last.

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Anne wrote her novel Agnes Grey, a largely autobiorgaphical account of the life of a governesss. She also wrote poems on the subject of love and loss which are ascribed to her (as believed unrequited) feeling for Willie Weightman, her father’s curate. Willie died of Cholera and her writing shows that Anne felt his loss deeply, but again her strength of character is evident as she kept to her purpose and plans regardless of suffering and how hard she found it.

In the following years Branwell met with further disappointments in his professional and love lives and he fell into alcoholism and Laudanum addiction. As his physical and mental health declined, Anne stoically nursed him, watching him waste away as he purged and ranted – not a task for the faint hearted.

After the loss of Branwell, Anne wrote her novel: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, It’s the story of Helen Graham, abused by her alcoholic husband, Arthur Huntingdon, she runs away. She meets Gilbert Markham and falls in love with him, but they are unable to marry. Anne’s depiction of Arthur’s decline was based on Branwell’s death. Anne’s story speaks clearly of the unfairness faced by abused wives, it is an unflinching depiction of alcoholism, she refused to romanticise what happened to her brother. Helen Graham is a clear-thinking, strong woman and Anne creates a narrative about the choices that the men in her story faced and how they handled them, which even today feels relevant – none of her sister’s Byronic heroes for Anne, just real men with real demons and choices.

Despite bravely facing more loss and heart-ache when Emily died shortly after, Anne also had great joy in her love of the seaside. Right until the very end of her short life, Anne retained her strength of character. As her health declined, Anne decided that she wanted to spend some of her little time left at the Yorkshire Coast. Charlotte and her farther both felt that Anne was too weak to travel and along with Ellen Nussey tried to pursued her that her plan was a bad one, but they failed. Anne, strong and independent as ever, carried her point and with Charlotte to help her, she travelled to her beloved Scarborough, where she died a few days later. Again showing her brave spirit, she remained unafraid of death to the end.

I feel that when we look at Anne, we have to accept that she was a multi-facetted, complex individual and far more so that then labels that have been applied to her would leads us to believe. She was gentle and quiet, but she was also clear-sighted, brave, persuasive, smart, resilient and really, really, strong. 

It remains only to say that; Anne was an amazing woman and she left an incredidble legacy. The best way to honour her and her birthday is to read her wonderful writing, so let’s do just that!

Happy Birthday Anne!

Thanks & have a great day.

Sarah x

10 Easy Eco – Living Ideas For Spring!

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Spring has finally sprung, even here in Yorkshire! To celebrate the longer days and better weather I’m having a good Spring Clean and getting some stuff sorted – Including looking at ways we can be a little kinder to the environment. I have to admit to being really quite lazy, so I’ve found that if I want my new eco-habits to stick then they need to be easy to do and keep up with. So, I’m going to share some of my super-easy eco-friendly living ideas to make your Spring a little greener!

Turn off the lights – as the days are longer, make sure that everyone in your house got the memo that we do not need to replicate Blackpool Illuminations and that natural light is best – the lights stay off! You’ll save loads of energy and money too!

Get an Eco-egg! A what now? I hear you yell! An eco-egg is a small egg shaped thingy that you put in your washer, it contains two types of environmentally friendly minerals that when in contact with water create oxygenation in the water and all the little air bubbles losen and help remove the dirt! It is so easy to use just fill it and it can be re-used again and and again and again! By using an eco-egg you can eliminate a HUGE amount of chemical & soap based pollution, no to mention all the plastic containers and it is mcuh more economical that detergents, so you’ll save some money too – bonus! Eco-egg can be refilled and re-used almost indefinately and it washes well for a standard wash (I have been using one for a couple of years). For help getting really dirty clothes or stains clean, eco-egg also do a booster gel. A super-easy way of making the laundry a bit quicker for you and cleaner for the environment.

Put a re-useable bag in you coat pocket and bag, so you never need to buy a plastic bag again.

A tumble dryer is tempting if you live in a climate like the one we enjoy here in Yorkshire – we get ALOT of rain, but, they really guzzle energy and all the hard-earned pennies that costs, so get some ecozone dry cubes! They reduce drying time for clothes in a tumble dryer, soften clothes without needing chemicals or single use dryer sheets and reduce wrinkles and creases, meaning less ironing. All resulting in less energy usage, chemicals, products and cost!

A washing line or airer in your garden, on a balcony or in a sunny window, can save a massive amount of energy and money and it also means you don’t need to find the cash and space for a dryer. An airer will last for many years and it folds down to nothing when not in use.

Switch to solid shampoo and conditioner bars. I made the switch last year and I’ve never looked back. There’s an increasing range of solid shampoo and conditioner bars to suit all hair types and they’re inexpensive too. We’ve saved at least 30 plastic bottles in the last year from using solid shampoo and conditioner bars and my hair looks better too!

I use this plastic free solid conditioner bar by alternative, it smells great and works really well, also I have sensitive skin and this does not irritate it – which is good. The conditioner bar lasts about 4 months (I store it in an aluminium tin, which is rust free, in the shower). So it’s really economical and eco-friendly!

Put a recycle bin upstairs – it’s a forgotten recycling goldmine. It’s amazing how much we can recycle from upstairs. Plastic bottle and containers from toiletries and cosmetics, cardboard loo rolls, waste paper.

As the warm sunny days return, it’s time to bust out the picnic gear, for Picnics and BBQs save your money and the environment – stop buying single use plates and cutlery. Invest in some cute eco-friendly bamboo based reusable picnic-ware, the planet will thank you. It’s much more stylish and who really wants to eat with bendy plastic forks and soggy paper plates?

eco-friendly bamboo picnic cutlery

Swap from single use makeup remover cloths and cotton wool to reusable cotton or bamboo facecloths and make up remover pads. If you find flannels and washcloths too rough or thick, then try using some cotton hankies, they are fine, gentle on the skin, they wash well and they’ll last for years.

It’s salad season, so we’re buying more fruit, veg & salad, but it can go off quite quickly and that’s a massive waste of resources and money. So instead of grabbing random plastic wrapped fruit and veg at the supermarket, why not switch to an organic fruit and veg box from Riverford. They are dedicated to sustainability and have almost no plastic packaging, all their fruit and veg is organically grown and they have loads of delicious recipies ideas to help reduce food waste – great for your tum, pocket & the environment!

Go for a walk, rather than taking the car or bus. As the days are longer and finer, make the most of it and get some fresh air and excercise. Walk or bike to work, it will help keep pollution in check, you’ll be super-fit and it’ll save a bit of cash too!

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to help you do a little more for the environment and it should be also be said that all of these will help you save money too – an added bonus!

Thanks & Enjoy

sarah x

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Creating Is Good For The Soul.

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As I write this; we’re 10 weeks into isolation, my dad’s health is failing, my mum has dementia, I used to visit them 3 times a week and for the last 2 and a half months I have not seen them, it is very, very hard. However, we have to carry on and so I’d like to share what we’re doing.

Aside from spending a lots of time on the phone to mum and dad, I am eating my own body weight in chocolate and re-reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (both of which have done their bit to maintain the spirits). I’m also attempting to channel my creativity into my reclaimed vintage bead earrings and writing this blog and as Johnny’s also feeling pretty rubbish he’s doing the same with his art and it is helping….

The earrings I created from vintage recycled and reclaimed beads.

We’re also doing colouring-in, it’s a great way to relax at any age and a good family activity. I’ve also made lots of pom-poms and some cushions, As we face each day, a little time spent creating something feels like a small acheivement and it’s great to have a few wins at the moment.

It feels good to create something…… the slow, tiny sparks of inspiration gently easing the worries and anxiety, opening up the mind to reveal a world outside of our daily concerns.

So keep the faith, I say and go create something, anything: a cake, a poem, a picture, a cushion, a mudpie, take your pick ….

Keep physically distant from others & stay safe.

Thanks & Enjoy

Sarah x

The Vanished Bride – A Book Review.

My lovely mum bought The Vanished Bride for me, ‘it was a bit of a risk’ she said, this is because I have opinions on most things and I tend to express them quite clearly to my nearest and dearest. Mum knows how much I adore the Brontes and their work so she was a little concerned that the book would pass muster. As mum explained all this (this is the first Bronte related item she has bought for me that I have not chosen myself – EVER!), I shared her concern. Over the years, I’ve read LOTS of Bronte, Holmes and Austen related fiction and some of it can feel a bit weak. I think it’s because the original authors themselves have such clear voices and a true ability to draw you into their stories. However, Mum and I need not have worried – The Vanished Bride is a fantastic read!

The story of The Vanished Bride is written by Rowan Coleman under the pen name of Bella Ellis – A very neat Nom De Plume for a writer of Bronte fiction! The story is the first part of a collection called The Bronte Mysteries. The story is based around the Bronte Sisters and follows them as they investigate the mysterious dissapperance of a recently married bride, living across the moor from their Parsonage. The story is well paced, with a splendidly intreguing plot and it presents engaging characters, of course it does, this is Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte we’re talking about here and they are well observed and feel right, so well done Bella Ellis for that! The story takes much of what we know about the Brontes and their world and delicately weaves a gripping story into it.

I am not going into the details of the plot or story, as I don’t want to spoil it for you, but, it definately passed my litmus test, it’s a very scientific test and consists of two questions:

  1. Did I binge read it? YES!
  2. Would I read it again? and YES again!

I enjoyed The Vanished Bride so much that I was disappointed when I finished it, I really loved it and will definately read it again, once my daughter has read it – I think she’ll enjoy it too!

I recently noticed on facebook that Bella Ellis has written a second Bronte Sisters mystery called The Diabolic Bones, this time we find the Bronte Sisters investigating the horrifying and macarbre discovery of childrens bones found within the walls of Top Withens Hall, home to the ‘scandelous and brutish’ Bradshaw family. The book is due to be released in September 2020, I have it on my wish list already and I think you should too!

Finally, it must be said that I firmly recommend reading The Vanished Bride, if you haven’t read it already. Bella Ellis tells her stories with a voice as clear and true as as the Brontes themselves!

Thanks & take care

Sarah x

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Johnnyinthe56.

Johnnyinthe56 started painting again in 2016, after a break of 25 years, inspired by a painting session with his daughter.

Fusing his love of Pop-Art and graphic novels he creates ink and acrylic paintings inspired by his huge range of interests and passions – a conversation with modern life.

The conversation encompasses, but is not limited to: football – specifically Leeds United, sunrise, audiences, Kurosawa films, gaming, animals, extream weather, baseball, Japanese culture, space exploration, Hunter S Thompson, grafitti, film noir, true crime, Jaws, architecture, David Lapham comics, portraits, nature and cost of fame, music, tatoos, the sea and more.

The artwork of Johnnyinthe56 is for sale and can be purchased online here.

Thanks & Enjoy

Sarah x