A Brontë expert has resigned in protest of the appointment of supermodel and activist Lily Cole as a patron for the Brontë Society.
Cole was chosen by the society as a creative partner for the 200th anniversary of Emily Brontë's birth. However, Nick Holland, former active member of the society and author of books on the Brontë sisters, has strongly criticised Cole's selection, saying the decision was made as part of the society's drive to be "trendy" and to "attract a younger audience".
In a blog post, Holland said: 'What would Emily Brontë think if she found that the role of chief 'artist' and organiser in her celebratory year was a supermodel? 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.
"The very basic rule should have been that the person chosen for such an important role as creative partner is a writer. The drive now is for one thing - attracting a young audience. Being trendy is the ultimate aim, with the Brontës themselves relegated to the sidelines."
Holland added that while he will still visit the Bronte Patronage Museum, he could "no longer continue to be a member of a society whose leaders' views are so opposed to my own".
"It’s best that I leave the society now, before they announce James Corden as the creative partner for 2019, a year in which Patrick Brontë is being remembered, and Rita Ora as organiser for Anne Brontë’s celebrations in 2020", he said.
However, Holland's critique of the society has been branded "tedious killjoy carping" by fellow Brontë writer Samantha Ellis.
In response to a story about the controversy, Ellis tweeted: "What tedious killjoy carping. @BronteParsonage brilliantly balance intellectual rigour, integrity & FUN, in general & esp for #Bronte200."
A spokeswoman for the society said: "The Brontës were trailblazers and it is one of the roles of the society to ensure that their lives and work continue to be of relevance and interest to modern society. Lily's innovative projects in the fields of literacy, nature, storytelling and the environment are the perfect fit for Emily, and her originality and creativity will bring a fresh perspective to our 2018 celebrations."
The fresh row comes after years of infighting in the society between modernists and traditionalists over the direction it should take to keep in step with the 21st century and to attract new members. Last year, the organisation's a.g.m. saw “furious exchanges” between “warring factions”.