Author Anne Bronte was a gifted rock collector, researchers reveal

A student has helped uncover that one of Britain’s most famous authors was not only a gifted writer but also an experienced stone collector with an active interest in geology.

Anne Bronte, the youngest of the sisters, built up a collection of attractive specimens before her death at the age of 29 in 1849.

Writer Agnes Gray was once thought to have collected objects for their aesthetic value, but researchers have found that she was an informed and skilled geologist during the golden age of science.

Sally Jaspars, who is studying Bronte for her PhD at the University of Aberdeen, said: ‘Her interest in geology is mentioned in her literary works – indeed she makes reference to science in The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall and to a book by Sir Humphry Davy direct.”

She asked Stephen Bowden of the university’s School of Geosciences for help analyzing the collection, which is housed at the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Howarth, West Yorkshire.

Anne Bronte was an experienced rock collector with an interest in geology, research has shown (University of Aberdeen)

Together with experts from the University of Leeds and a specialist spectroscopy company, they found that in addition to carnelian and agate she collected in Scarborough, where she worked as a governess, the collection also contains stalactite and a rare species of red obsidian that originated outside of the United Kingdom.

It’s also likely that Bronte would have visited the Rotunda Museum near where she was staying in Scarborough, researchers said, which contained exhibits on the region’s geology.

Ms Jaspars said: “This is the first time that Anne’s collection has been systematically described and fully identified, and in doing so we increase knowledge about Anne and show that she thinks scientifically and is engaged in geology.

“She was an intelligent and progressive person, consistent with the scientific research of the time.”

The research results have now been published in the journal Bronte Studies.

dr Bowden added: “Our Raman spectroscopy analysis that we performed at the Bronte Parsonage Museum shows that Anne Bronte not only randomly collected beautiful stones, but skillfully amassed a significant collection of semi-precious stones and geological oddities.”

“Anne’s collection includes stones that are unusual and rare enough to show that they were deliberately collected for their geological value, and it is clear that her collection required skill to identify and collect them.” Author Anne Bronte was a gifted rock collector, researchers reveal

Bobby Allyn

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