bronte sisters lily cole society

The Brontë Sisters Would Have No Patience for This Sexist, Elitist, Pearl-Clutching Book Snob Claiming to Defend Their Legacy

So let's revel in the deliciousness.

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The Brontë Society is one of the oldest literary societies in the world, charged with running the Brontë Parsonage Museum and “also for promoting the Brontës’ literary legacy within contemporary society.” However, like so many other classic literature societies, some members seem to be under the impression that their #1 job is to be snobby elitists looking down their nose at as many actual book fans as possible.

One such member, author Nick Holland, has dramatically announced his resignation from the group after Lily Cole was chosen to be a “creative partner” this year, on the bicentennial anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth. Cole is a graduate of Cambridge University and a well-known advocate for literacy issues. She’s also an actress and modeled when she was younger, which is enough to send Holland into a tizzy of snobbery.

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On his personal website, Holland wrote a pearl-clutching screed titled “Emily Brontë, Lily Cole, and the Shame of the Brontë Society.” He calls Cole’s appointment a “rank farce” for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he saw her act in a play a while ago and he didn’t like her performance. So, clearly we’re dealing with an entirely reasonable person here. (Also, the writer of that play is a current Brontë Society creative parter, so Holland cries “nepotism,” rather than seeing a relationship between respected colleagues.)

Holland writes on his site, “The central question should be, what would Emily Brontë think if she found that the role of chief ‘artist’ and organiser in her celebratory year was a supermodel?” He claims that “We all know the answer to that, and anyone who doesn’t isn’t fit to make the decision or have any role in the governance of the Brontë Society.”

I agree with Holland on this one. How would Emily Brontë feel about a lover of books having a position of some authority in a literature society? And how would Brontë feel about a man bemoaning and belittling her position? You’re right Holland! We do all know the answer to that.

The Brontë Society says right there on their home page, they’re all about promoting these women’s work in “contemporary society.” People like Holland, though, are entirely stuck in the past. Which is ultra ironic, considering that if the society had existed at the time of the Brontës’ lives, the writers–three women of modest means forced to write under male pseudonyms–would probably have been denied membership themselves.

https://twitter.com/junodawson/status/948878491919048704

One more thing, and this may be petty, but if you’re going to attack young passionate literature fans, get your damn homophones right.

Lily Cole has responded that she hopes her work with the society be “judged on its own merits, rather than on my name, my gender, my image or my teenage decisions.” So say we all.

(via The Guardian, image: Wikimedia Commons)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.