A letter never sent

On first publication, Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall outsold Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. However, after Anne’s death, Charlotte Bronte suppressed publication of Anne’s book stating:

“Wildfell Hall it hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake, it was too little consonant with the character, tastes and ideas of the gentle, retiring inexperienced writer.”

As a consequence, and despite Anne being the first of the sisters to write a novel with a female narrator, who was also relatively plain (something Charlotte did only later), Anne has often been considered the “minor Bronte”.

What follows is just my imagination:

A Letter Never Sent

My Sis-Ter
My BIG Sis-Ter
My suppressor
My mutilator
My how popular
now you are!

Haven’t you done
well with Jane?
And our other Sis
with Catherine?
What a success
you all turned out!

But me, well I
was “little Sis”
and naturally just
too Molly-coddled.
Why how good of
you big Sis to
annihilate the “mistake”
of my brain befuddled.

If your insulting conceit,
when I was still alive
(the patronizing remarks,
and your preface snub),
didn’t grieve me enough,
now in death you silence me.
You rule my work:
“hardly…desirable to preserve”!
How would I have coped as a
“gentle, retiring inexperienced writer”,
if I’d lived, without your intervention?

When my work was,
eventually, republished,
far from preservation,
there was instead mutilation.
My work a shadow
of my creation.

I could…
like Em’s Catherine,
come knocking on your window,
haunting you,
pricking your conscience…

But, I’m Anne,
the Realist,
I know my place,
I know what’s moral,
and like my Helen,
I’ll do the right thing,
and stay silent!

(I’m not sure how this works in print – I think it’s more of a performance piece: Listen on soundcloud). Submitted to dverse open link night.

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29 thoughts on “A letter never sent

  1. ha….would not surprise me in the least to be honest….there is always the possibility of tifts when it comes to family and siblings….ha….pretty fun to think on as well…as if…and might could have been…smiles.

  2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a really good story. I didn’t know that Charlotte Bronte had supressed it – that would have made me pretty mad in Anne’s position.

    • The book was controversial (people didn’t think alcoholic behaviour should be written about), but so was Emily’s Wuthering Heights. Yet, after their deaths it was only Anne’s book she suppressed.

  3. Very creative, and now through you she has a voice, all the things left unsaid. Have never heard of this story before but sisters…they can be so mean to each other sometimes.

  4. Anne has always been portrayed as this very gentle, very loyal younger sister, sweet-tempered and all. But I always suspected that the creator of Wildfell Hall (and even Agnes Grey, who can be quite determined with her charges and their parents) would have had quite a bit of backbone and rebelliousness. I suppose Charlotte did it for their brother’s sake, but oh, how it must have hurt!

    • It could be she was protecting the brother, but interesting she didn’t do the same with Emily’s Wuthering Heights, which also featured a drunkard…I can only imagine?

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