I’ve just got back from a week’s filming in Haworth and its environs – its bleak, freezing, inhospitable, endlessly compelling environs – for a documentary about … yes, you guessed it: the Brontës. There were three of us presenting, each going in to bat for a different member of the family.
The novelist Helen Oyeyemi was Emily’s champion, the BBC stalwart Martha Kearney was Charlotte’s, and I was there to represent Anne. She’s the only Brontë sister I can really cope with. The others, with their Wuthering Heights and their Jane Eyres, are just … too much. T’Sturm und t’Drang are not my way, in life or in reading. Give me the quiet, forensic scrutiny of Agnes Grey, the eponymous heroine of Anne’s first book, based on her miserable experiences as a governess for two rich families full of semi-feral children. Or the slow, pitiless anatomising of the effects of alcoholism on a Victorian family, so accurate that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall could have been written yesterday.