Without the Veil Between — Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit by DM Denton
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The following is an excerpt from Without the Veil Between: Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit — a novel by DM Denton:
When I set out, well over two years ago, to write a fiction about Anne Brontë, youngest sister of Charlotte and Emily, I doubted I would find enough material to produce something longer than a novella. Before the first part was finished, I was convinced there was more than enough for a novel.
My objective didn’t change as pages filled and multiplied. I wanted to present Anne as a vital person and writer in her own right, as crucial to the Brontë story and literary legacy as her more famous and — in her brother Branwell’s case — infamous siblings were.
As anyone who ventures off the Brontë beaten path might, I soon realized Anne had a very independent, intelligent, inspiring story to explore, take to my heart and soul, and tell.
Without the Veil Between follows Anne through the last seven years of her life. It begins in 1842 while she is still governess for the Robinson family of Thorpe Green, away from Haworth and her family most of the time, with opportunities to travel to York and Scarborough, places she develops deep affection for.
Although, as with her siblings, circumstances eventually bring her back home, she is not deterred in her quest for individual purpose and integrity. She stands as firm in her ambitions as Charlotte does and is a powerful conciliator in light of Emily’s resistance to the publication of their poetry and novels.
Illustration by DM Denton from Without the Veil Between
Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit — available in paperback
Also available for Kindle
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An excerpt from Without the Veil Between
Excerpted from Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit Published by All Things That Matter Press Copyright 2017 by DM Denton.
Haworth, April 1848
“I have to tell you,” Charlotte interrupted her reading and Anne’s. “I don’t like this one as much as Agnes Grey.”
Anne waited for Emily to differ, but her sister didn’t react as she squatted in front of the hearth to poke at its failing fire.
“Not only has it been such trouble for you to write, when published it will bring you more. It will lay you bare.”
“Then what difference could Smith and Elder make to it?”
“They might—I know you don’t want to hear it—suggest how to smooth it over … tone it down … make it more palatable … more—”
“Entertaining?” Anne wasn’t asking for a reply.
“At least recognize Newby is a shuffling scamp.”
“She does,” Emily admitted listening, “but not without giving him a chance of redemption.”
After months of being upset by Newby’s negligence, Anne could finally smile a little at all the red marks in her personal copy of Agnes Grey. She told herself the best remedy was to move on with a polite yet unyielding expectation of a better result next time.
Charlotte continued to argue that Newby had proved himself unreliable and without conscience, and since the success of Jane Eyre had stimulated Smith and Elder’s interest in future writings of its author’s “brothers,” the choice Anne should make was obvious.
Why didn’t Anne agree? The long delay in the release of her and Emily’s novels had been exasperating. Then Newby rushed them into print and, although Anne carefully labored over final corrections, overdue Agnes was born with defects that couldn’t be hidden.
The results of Emily’s expectancy weren’t much better. Messrs. Smith and Elder had managed Jane Eyre’s entrance into the world as promised, with little inconvenience to Charlotte, no noticeable pain, and as near-perfect an offspring of her literary efforts as could be expected.
The case for Smith and Elders was persuasively made. Yet Anne knew all along she would persist with Newby to obviously resist Charlotte’s influence. She anticipated her oldest sister harassing her up to and beyond the day she sent The Tenant of Wildfell Hall off to 72 Mortimer Street, London.
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“I worry about both of you. Em, you haven’t said a word about the response to Wuthering Heights and hardly more about your next one, which doesn’t seem to be progressing at all.”
“I never wanted to publish and will not again.”
“You knew Wuthering was a strange book, but ‘not without evidence of considerable power,’ as one reviewer put it. And another,” Charlotte continued from memory, “‘Impossible to begin and not finish; quite impossible to lay aside afterwards and say nothing about it.’”
“Unlike Agnes Grey.”
“So, Anne, is the coarseness of Tenant your response to the lack of attention gentle Agnes received?”
“It was conceived before I knew Agnes would be received or how.”
“I don’t criticize your effort. But your subject choice is a mistake. You’re too driven by this need to torture yourself, like some kind of penance.”
“I’ve witnessed the degradation human behavior can fall to.”
“Oh, Annie.” Emily was barely audible. “If only you had stayed safely here.”
Anne didn’t need Emily’s prompting to wonder. What if she hadn’t lost her innocence to the torments of Blake Hall and deceptions of Thorpe Green? What if Gondal fantasies and a little of her girlhood at school were the extent of her worldly adventures? What if her conscience had confined itself to home and church responsibilities, visits to the poor and sick with practical and prayerful offerings the extent of her reaching out beyond the protection of family?
Why would she write novels if only age, love, and death changed her? Poetry would be enough, a more natural and satisfying means of expression. It suited her pensiveness and piety, could be composed in isolated moments and reflect without analyzing. Poetry was a solitary art; even when read by others, its author could go unnoticed. It was perfect for disappearing into.
Novels wouldn’t leave their authors alone. They needed much attention and were complicated things, requiring names and places, themes and tensions, plotting and resolving and so much in between it was difficult to keep track of where they were going.
They were crowded with words and at the mercy of grammar, hard to give up on when months, even years, had been lost to them. Long works of fiction were hard to persevere with, no guarantee anyone would ever read them, or, if they did, with interest and forgiveness.
However, Anne had found a stronger part of herself through their invention. If nothing else, she had achieved independence—cautiously in the first, and, according to Charlotte, irresponsibly in the second—from the Anne Brontë created by circumstance, inhibition, and expectation.
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Contributed by DM (Diane) Denton, a native of Western New York, a writer and artist inspired by music, nature, and the contradictions of the human and creative spirit.
Her historical fiction A House Near Luccoli, which is set in 17th century Genoa and imagines an intimacy with the charismatic composer Alessandro Stradella, and its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled, which takes place in late Restoration England, were published by All Things That Matter Press, as were her Kindle short stories, The Snow White Gift and The Library Next Door.
Diane has done the artwork for both her novels’ book covers, and published an illustrated poetry flower journal, A Friendship with Flowers. Visit her on the web at at DM Denton Author & Artist and BardessMDenton.
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