Anne Brontë is the forgotten Brontë sister, overshadowed by her older siblings - virtuous, successful Charlotte, free-spirited Emily and dissolute Branwell. Tragic, virginal, sweet, stoic, selfless, Anne. The less talented Brontë, the other Brontë.
Or that's what Samantha Ellis, a life-long Emily and Wuthering Heights devotee, had always thought. Until, that is, she started questioning that devotion and, in looking more closely at Emily and Charlotte, found herself confronted by Anne instead.
Take Courage is Samantha's personal, poignant and surprising journey into the life and work of a woman sidelined by history. A brave, strongly feminist writer well ahead of her time -- and her more celebrated siblings - and who has much to teach us today about how to find our way in the world.
Anne is often refered to as "the other Brontë sister", the shy one who almost doesn't count. Samantha Ellis, who was of the same opinion before she visited Haworth and the Brontë parsonage, completely changed her mind as the collection manager showed her one of Anne's letters. Shocked by what she discovered, she wanted to find out more about a quiet country girl who didn't leave many traces behind, except her novels and her poetry of course.
This is not a traditional biography by a historian of profession, this is a personal research about Anne's life by an admirer who didn't spare her efforts to learn about someone who died more than a century and a half ago. I loved Samantha Ellis's style, this biography is well-researched and if there is one thing I learned about the Brontës : I don't think there can be any such thing as a well-tamed, cold biography about a family that many people are so passionate about ! To the point where the president of a wise assembly of historians had to knock on a table with her shoe to get some silence following a dispute. Suits me, I'm passionate too ! I don't always agree with Samantha's look on that family, because I believe that it's impossible to judge people that are long dead and gone when you didn't live the same life as theirs, but I loved her enthusiasm, her curiosity, her thoughtfulness, her humanity, how she was moved by what she discovered. All of us fans who are so engrossed by the Brontës have found something of us inside their writings, it's not just words to us, they are a part of us, they make us feel, vibrate, the same as when we fall in love.
Samantha speaks a little about her own life, comparing some episodes to Anne's, but this biography is a tribute to Anne's talent, personality, thirst for life, her relations with those surrounding her, how and why she was pushed aside during her life but also after. It also taught me that the version of "The tenant of Wildfell Hall" which I read was incomplete, and it's the version you will find mostly everywhere, it's unbelievable ! So I hunted down and bought a complete edition which begins with Gilbert's letter to Halford "When we were together last, you gave me a very particular and interesting account..." while my previous edition began with "You must go back with me to the autumn of 1827..." so I intend to read it anew, without any cut this time ! I also want to re-read Anne's poems with a different eye now, and find a complete uncut/altered edition (there too).
I highly recommend this book that gave me a totally new outlook on Anne, it's a wonderful discovery and I want to read more by Samantha Ellis, but also more about Anne and her family.