Becoming Acton Bell
Keywords:Anne Bronte, literary juvenilia, Victorian literature
This discussion considers how Anne Brontë’s juvenile productions--her poems and drawings executed before the age of nineteen--anticipate the themes and manner of her adult novels, published as the work of Acton Bell. In setting age nineteen as the upper boundary for her juvenilia, I choose an age somewhat earlier than we usually think of juvenilia, because at age nineteen Anne in effect moved into the adult world by taking a job to support herself as a full-time governess for the Ingham family, moving away from home to educate children who were not her relatives. I do not mean to approach the juvenilia material in a teleological way, implying that Anne was developing toward a goal which we can now discern through the gift of hindsight. Rather, I want to examine what the surviving material objects—the juvenilia drawings and poems--reveal, and then ask how these perspectives persist into the adult writings. In considering the juvenile writings and drawings in terms of what they reveal about Anne’s adult novels, I am preoccupied with "things" that she employed in her writing and visual art to convey meaning, such as trees and shrubberies in her early drawings, or birds and dogs.
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