“The end of Religion is not to teach us how to die, but how to live………..”
Anne Bronte`s grave has been dedicated and graced with a new memorial stone after 164 years, to rectify a mistake on the original. Anne died of tuberculosis in the North Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough at the tender age of 29, but the original weather scarred headstone in St Mary`s churchyard states her age as 28. She is the only member of her illustrious family not buried at Haworth, West Yorkshire; she travelled to Scarborough because she loved it there, and if truth be told, probably wished to breath the sea air one final time before she died. Anne was the third Bronte to die within a year, brother Branwell had died eight months earlier, followed by sister Emily. “He that dares not grasp the thorn Should never crave the rose.”
I last paid my respects to this great novelist`s final resting place two years ago, when the weather was like something out of sister Emily`s Wuthering Heights: it was blowing a viciously cold gale of epic proportions; my face was lashed with horizontal rain which hit me as if I had been struck by several thousand rounds from a gatling gun. As I attempted to stand reasonably upright, I took in the spectacular backdrop of Scarborough Bay, with breakers of immense size and ferocity, crashing onto the deserted beach far below. To say it was decidedly Bronte-esque would be an understatement. The sheer awesome, Gothic beauty of nature, red in tooth and claw, unleashed, was such a magical moment for me, that I just stood there ( or tried to) in the lonely churchyard, and laughed with the emotional exhilaration of it all.
Anne was the quietest Bronte, and also the least known and most overlooked in comparison with her more famous sisters: but like them, her novels unflinchingly reflect her preoccupation with female independence in a male dominated society; the men folk may initially think they run the show in the Bronte books, but it becomes clear over time that Women`s Lib wasn`t something unknown to the Brontes. Nothing happened in their books without the tacit consent of the ladies. Anne`s talents have been criminally overlooked down the years; she is a novelist of the first rank, who`s works are powerful, and great works of literature. She did not flinch from confronting head on such things as alcoholism, and the use of women as nothing more than sexual chattels, to be used, abused and discarded by men once they had been seen to have served their purpose. Like all the women in the Bronte novels, her women were not quiet, simpering, baby producing wallflowers, but people who bit back with added interest. This attitude of course, deeply scandalised a Victorian society steeped in sexual and social hypocrisy. Anne`s novels have always been widely read, but her reputation has always been lesser than Charlotte and the sublime Emily: and there`s the rub of the matter; the sublime Emily. It is a vaulting reputation which no mortal, not even another Bronte can overcome; but let us at least appreciate Anne for her virtues, because she is a wonderful writer of rare perception and delicacy; and allow her to walk in the sun in her own right.