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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Anne Bronte's grave

Anne Bronte, Scarborough, St Marys, Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Yorkshire
 Anne, the Brontë sister people often forget, is buried in St Mary’s churchyard, Scarborough, Yorkshire.  Overshadowed by her better known siblings, Charlotte and Emily, Anne is probably best known for writing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and less known for her other novel, Agnes Grey.  She is the only one of her immediate family not to be interred in the Brontë vault at Haworth, and died of tuberculosis (consumption) just 8 months after her brother, Branwell and a mere 5 months after Emily.

Anne Bronte, Scarborough, Yorkshire, St Mary's, Wildfell Hall
She had grown to love Scarborough whilst working as a governess and, when she fell ill, hoped the sea air would revive her.  She journeyed the 70 miles from Haworth with Charlotte and a friend, Ellen, stopping en route in York, and arriving on Saturday 25th May 1849.  By this time, she was very frail and asked Charlotte whether it would be better if she returned to die at home.  The doctor’s advice on Sunday was that the end was very near; and the following day she was gone.  Charlotte made the decision to bury her in the town and the funeral apparently took place two days’ later.  It seems that only Charlotte, an old school teacher who happened to be in town and, presumably, friend Ellen, attended.  Charlotte commissioned a headstone, but returning 3 years’ later found a number of errors on it.  The errors, whatever they were, were seemingly corrected – but the inscription still has Anne’s age wrong.

A new plaque rests on the ground in front of the headstone.  It says:

Anne Brontë
novelist and poet
The original headstone reads

Here Lie the remains of Anne Brontë

Daughter of the Revd P Brontë

Incumbent of Haworth Yorkshire

She died Aged 28 May 28th 1849

The text contains one error
Anne Brontë was aged 29 when she died
This plaque was placed here in 2011
By the Brontë Society

So there she is, in the shadow of the ancient castle, overlooking the colourful houses, busy harbour and slot machines of Scarborough.  The house she died in was on the site now occupied by the Grand Hotel – which has also seen better days.

Some mysteries… I am sure there is a reasonable explanation as to why Charlotte decided that her sister should lay at rest remote from everyone else in the family, and then be interred so swiftly without even allowing time for her father to attend the funeral.  Perhaps it was a matter of expense.  Shortage of cash may also explain why Charlotte did not discover that the text on her sister’s tombstone was incorrect for 3 years.  Finally, it appears that Charlotte prevented further publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – possibly because she considered it unsuitable; or was she jealous?  The novel was published in 1848 under the pseudonym ‘Acton Bell’ (was this inspired by Arthur Bell Nicholls, who later married Charlotte?) and quickly sold out.  But it was widely considered to be revolutionary in its treatment of issues such as alcoholism, domestic violence, sex and vice in general: sounds like a ‘must read’ to me.

You can read a bit about the Brontës and Haworth HERE.

Scarborough, St Mary's, Anne Bronte, Yorkshire

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