Lily Cole has defended the decision to involve her in the 200th anniversary celebration of author Emily Bronte.

Lily Cole

Lily Cole

A leading literary expert has quit the Bronte Society after it announced the actress and model as "creative partner" for the bicentenary events held by Bronte Parsonage Museum to celebrate the work of the 'Wuthering Heights' novelist.

But Lily has slammed the reaction as "prejudice" and likened it to that which Emily Bronte herself faced in the 1800s, when she published her acclaimed novel under a pseudonym in order to disguise the fact she was a woman.

She said in a statement: "2018 offers us both the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in the UK, and the 200th anniversary of Emily Bronte's birth, so it feels poignant to begin the year on the topic of prejudice.

"Emily Bronte ... published her work under an androgynous pseudonym: Ellis Bell.

"Writing in 1850, Charlotte Bronte explained why she and her sisters all used pseudonyms: 'We did not like to declare ourselves women, because we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.' ...

"Now I find myself wondering, fleetingly, if I should present the short film I am working on for the Bronte Parsonage Museum under a pseudonym myself, so that it will be judged on its own merits, rather than on my name, my gender, my image or my teenage decisions."

Lily, 30, began her modelling career at 16 and has had acting roles in 'Doctor Who', 'St. Trinian's', 'The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus' and 'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie'.

She also has a Double First degree in History of Art from Cambridge University, is a prominent environmental campaigner and is mother to a two-year-old daughter called Wylde.

Lily continued: "I would not be so presumptuous as to guess Emily's reaction to my appointment as a creative partner at the museum, were she alive today. Yet I respect her intellect and integrity enough to believe that she would not judge any piece of work on name alone."

Nick Holland, who has published books on the Bronte sisters, wrote on his blog: "The central question should be, what would Emily Bronte think if she found that the role of chief 'artist' and organiser in her celebratory year was a supermodel?"