The Brontes-Out Into The World-Emily, Anne and Charlotte

Emily took a job teaching, but after six months became ill and gave up. Anne took a job as a governess, and was dismissed, probably because she could not control spoilt brats. Charlotte too then became a governess, which she found even worse than school teaching. A governess was neither part of the family, nor a servant: it was a lonely role, and the Bronte novels, especially Agnes Grey, reveal its horrors to the full. In Charlotte’s case she seems to have been hypersensitive to what she regarded as snubs, and indeed to have gone out of her way to irritate her employers – especially the woman of the household, while believing that the husband could do no wrong. Both Charlotte’s attempts at being a governess were failures. Anne quickly got another job as a governess at Thorp Green Hall, near York, with the Rev. Edmund Robinson and his wife – a position in which she seems to have been greatly appreciated by both children and parents. In her case determination won through over loneliness. Charlotte and Emily decided that the only way forward for them was to open a school themselves. This would require capital, in which their aunt might be able to help, but it also required them to have more advanced skills. Borrowing money from their aunt, they embarked on an extraordinarily brave venture – and enrolled at a school in Brussels as pupils. The school was run by a Mme Heger. In those days university education was not available to women, and perhaps this trip should be seen as its equivalent. They left in February 1842, returning urgently in November when Aunt Branwell died, which of course changed the household entirely. Emily was delighted to take on the role of housekeeper at the Parsonage, and a visitor remembered Emily kneading dough in the kitchen with a German language book propped open in front of her. Scope for her imagination, her own chosen routines, a beloved dog and walks on the moors were what kept Emily sane.


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