Living

The Bronte Sisters: Dramatic poetry and a family that persisted

April is National Poetry Month. It is also the birth month of beloved author Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855). Charlotte Bronte and her sisters, Anne and Emily, novelists and poets all, were dramatic, poetic fiction writers steeped in nature. Manatee County Public Libraries offer Bronte works and information as print books, films, eBooks and other online resources, including biographies.

The famous Bronte sisters came by their artistic ability to describe natural settings through an unusual upbringing in remote West Yorkshire, England – the Bronte sisters were raised as “free-range children.” The Bronte Society maintains Bronte Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire, with wild moors intact so we may retrace the Bronte’s steps. Manatee County libraries can help search out the Bronte Parsonage.

Claire Harman’s “Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart,” an exciting biography, explores the life of the leading daughter, Charlotte, the eldest child. Author of “Jane Eyre,” she forged a path in publishing for her sisters following the cancer death of their mother. Two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died as teenagers from recurring lung disease which suddenly struck both girls after they were sickened at a school for daughters of poor clergymen. Amazingly, three Bronte novels, “Jane Eyre” first, all came out in 1847, but Emily and Anne died soon afterwards. An earlier, self-published poetry book, initiated by Charlotte, is another legacy of the poetic Bronte sisters.

Charlotte Bronte, a small, frail but very capable student, was on her way to being a girl’s school teacher. She saw how unhealthy boarding school conditions doomed her sisters. School sorrows and joys were often grist for her writing mill. Lyndall Gordon’s biography, “Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life,” adds another woman’s point of view to Harman’s. The earliest biography, done by famous Bronte friend and fellow novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, is an Overdrive eBook with Manatee County libraries. Manatee County libraries web site also delivers an Emily Bronte biography online. A free treat, this classic is a flexible way to start using eBooks: Mary F. Robinson’s “Emily Bronte.”

Charlotte Bronte’s novel, “The Professor” was published after she died. That earliest novel stems from a long, painfully-unrequited love for Charlotte’s married Belgian teacher. Manatee County libraries have Charlotte Bronte novels, including her second published novel “Shirley,” bound in one handy volume. Looking for scholarly essays? Try “Readings on Jane Eyre” and “Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.”

Youngest sister Anne Bronte, famous for her novel “Agnes Grey,” has that book and other works on our library shelves. She is included in a big Bronte biography, “The Brontes” by Juliet Barker and in “Best Poems of the Bronte Sisters,” a slim volume perfect for Poetry Month. See Anne’s poem “Home” as she gives us another gift for Earth Day. Lastly, Bronte stories abound as films and television treatments can be found at Manatee County libraries.

Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. You can access the library via the Internet: www.mymanatee.org/library.

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