There are a few must-read classic female authors, according to popular opinions. Throughout adolescence, my main “female author obsession” was with Jane Austen – basically I was fangirling about everything Austen…Quite an embarrassing phase, yet closely before it came the rather shallow obsession with so-called “celebrities”; thus, fangirling over Austen was not a bad idea at all.
As a younger person, one feels that Pride and Prejudice is just oozing with profound passion and romance – Mr. Darcy: enough said. Sense and Sensibility came a close second, though I felt Marianne could do better than Colonel Brandon. Yet as I grew older, I realized that Persuasion made more sense than Pride and Prejudice – Anne Elliot was much more courageous and enduring than Elizabeth Bennet was, and Captain Wentworth was much more layered and complex than Mr. Darcy was; Colonel Brandon was the perfect fit for Marianne – it just had to happen after all; and Mansfield Park is not at all boring – not at all actually; it’s quite intriguing to see Fanny Price as an unexpected heroine.
Enough about Austen though; yet I must not forget about the great role she played in pulling me into the “Brontë Universe” – now that’s a completely different story. The three intriguing sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) are as interesting as their characters were; Elizabeth Gaskell wrote a prolific biography about Charlotte Brontë after the latter’s death – it is considered one of Gaskell’s most influential works, despite her more relevant reputation as a novelist. It’s safe to say that people were always interested in the Brontë sisters. I recently came across this article which claimed that the sisters themselves became the heroines of their own lives – like their characters were – which is pretty accurate since readers and enthusiasts do not hesitate to attribute certain characteristics to each sister and always portray their lives in such a romantic manner.
My timeline with the Brontës is not a continuous, but rather intermittent, one. I first read Emily’s only novel Wuthering Heights when I was in the eighth grade as part of my English Literature class requirement. I cannot remember if it were an abridged version of the novel even, all I remember is that I enjoyed it but haven’t understood a single word of it. In 2011, I read Charlotte’s Jane Eyre – it was quite heartbreaking yet hopeful at the same time. I was perhaps more interested in Jane and the name she made for herself, rather than Charlotte. Jane‘s fame surpasses Charlotte’s; I’ve met people who genuinely believed Jane was a real person and that was her autobiography! (I’m not sure how common is it for that to occur in other parts of the world).
In 2016 I picked up Agnes Grey, which was much less melodramatic than Jane Eyre and quite easy to get through – I could not put it down. I’m very unsure what would my sentiments be when reading Jane Eyre five years later or Wuthering Heights after eight years – I believe it would be abominable to claim that Agnes Grey is much better than – what I like to call – her literary cousin Jane Eyre; yet am I allowed to say that I enjoyed the latter much better without hearing shocked gasps in the background…?
It doesn’t matter…The point is, Agnes Grey managed to stir something inside of me; it was quite beautiful without even trying. That was the whole point; unlike Jane, Agnes did not witness as much misery, hardship, and heartbreak – and that’s okay. Agnes is considered a personal piece loosely based on Anne’s life; it would be quite depressing if a life like Jane‘s existed (though I’m pretty sure there are many people who live and lived like her).
That’s when it started…I guess the moment I was done with Agnes Grey. I wanted to delve deeper into the “Brontë Universe”, regardless of what I would be reading; I want to consume everything that is Brontë. These women managed to weave something mystic and beautiful into their writings – I romantically picture them writing together, sharing their common experiences, and letting their unspoken, inexplicable sentiments pour out on paper. Due to their status as women, they published under also well-known pseudonymous: Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell.
After finishing Agnes Grey, I prematurely decided that Anne is my favorite sister – I looked into her history and discovered that her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hill, was supposed to be concealed from the public due to its controversy; however, feminist scholars found it and released it to the world. Perhaps that is why Anne is characterized as the most “feminist” of the sisters, yet I don’t think feminism comes in pre-defined degrees.
Right now, I am just getting into Charlotte’s The Professor and am quite intrigued to see how it progresses. The book I borrowed from my university library contained a preface by both Charlotte and her husband (written after she passed away), which I wanted to include here because I found it quite fascinating – as if I were physically holding people’s heart-felt personal sentiments right in my hands:
I’ll wait and see where Charlotte’s going to take me within the pages of The Professor. Till then, I am proud to declare this as my “Brontë Year” throughout which I’ll be exploring the sisters’ magical universe.