Anne Bronte: Pseudonym, Poems & Books

Instructor: Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson is a 6th-12th grade English and Drama teacher. She has a B.A. in Literature and an M.Ed, both of which she earned from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Although Anne Bronte is perhaps the lesser known of the Bronte sisters, her poetry and novels are still highly regarded today. In this lesson, we will look at what Anne was able to accomplish as a young woman and how using a fake name allowed her to be taken seriously as a writer.

Anne Bronte: A Brief Life

Anne Bronte (1820-1849) was an English poet and author whose sisters Charlotte and Emily became famous writers. Anne also had two other sisters who died when they were kids, as well as a brother, Branwell, who became an artist. Their father was an Anglican clergyman who primarily raised the girls, with help from their Aunt Elizabeth (since their mother died in 1821).

Anne was often characterized as mild-tempered, religiously devout and friendly. She was primarily educated at home by her father and was an avid reader. As an adult, she worked as a governess for several years.

Though Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte are all still highly regarded for their novels and poetry, their tragic and untimely deaths are almost as well known as their writing careers. Anne's siblings Branwell and Emily both died in 1848 after battling what was then called consumption and is now known as tuberculosis. Anne died one year later on May 28, 1849, of the same disease. Not long after, in 1855, Charlotte Bronte died during her pregnancy shortly after getting married.

Drawing of Anne Bronte Done by Her Sister Charlotte in 1845

Pseudonym and Poems

Pseudonyms, also called pen names, are fake names used by some writers who want to hide their identities. When Charlotte proposed to Anne and Emily that the three of them should create a book of their collective poetry, Anne and Emily were reluctant at first. But they agreed to do it by using pseudonyms. Charlotte used Currer Bell, Emily used Ellis Bell and Anne used Acton Bell. Notice that all three pseudonyms start with the same first letter as the women's real first names.

The sisters chose Christian names that were considered androgynous, or gender-neutral, hoping that their work would be judged based on its merit alone. They knew that women 'authoresses' were evaluated differently by male reviewers. In some cases, male reviewers during that time would condemn female writers for not focusing on suitably feminine subjects. In other cases, male reviewers would go easy on writers who were women. The Bronte sisters did not want their critics to take either route when reading their work.

Unfortunately, when their book of poetry, entitled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, was published in 1846, it did not sell. However, it did get people talking; many speculated about who these mysterious authors were. This buzz helped the Brontes to continue to write under these pseudonyms, but the sisters eventually decided to try writing novels individually instead. After contributing 21 poems to the book of poetry, Anne Bronte began work on her first novel.

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