The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140434743
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/1996
Series: Penguin Classics Series
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 84,475
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 1190L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Anne Bronte was born in 1820, the youngest of the Bronte family. She was educated at home, and was particularly close to her sister Emily. Her first novel was AGNES GREY, and it was followed by THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL in 1848, written under a pseudonym. She died in 1849. Dr Stevie Davies is a novelist and critic, and teaches at the University of Swansea.

Read an Excerpt

You must go back with me to the autumn of 1827.

My father, as you know, was a sort of gentleman farmer in ----shire; and I, by his express desire, succeeded him in the same quiet occupation, not very willingly, for ambition urged me to higher aims, and self-conceit assured me that, in disregarding its voice, I was burying my talent in the earth, and hiding my light under a bushel. My mother had done her utmost to persuade me that I was capable of great achievements; but my father, who thought ambition was the surest road to ruin, and change but another word for destruction, would listen to no scheme for bettering either my own condition or that of my fellow mortals. He assured me it was all rubbish, and exhorted me, with his dying breath, to continue in the good old way, to follow his steps, and those of his father before him, and let my highest ambition be, to walk honestly through the world, looking neither to the right hand nor to the left, and to transmit the paternal acres to my children in, at least, as flourishing a condition as he left them to me.

'Well!--an honest and industrious farmer is one of the most useful members of society; and if I devote my talents to the cultivation of my farm, and the improvement of agriculture in general, I shall thereby benefit, not only my own immediate connections and dependants, but, in some degree, mankind at large: hence I shall not have lived in vain.'

With such reflections as these, I was endeavouring to console myself, as I plodded home from the fields, one cold, damp, cloudy evening towards the close of October. But the gleam of a bright red fire through the parlour window had more effect in cheering my spirits,and rebuking my thankless repinings, than all the sage reflections and good resolutions I had forced my mind to frame; for I was young then, remember--only four-and-twenty--and had not acquired half the rule over my own spirit that I now possess--trifling as that may be.

However, that haven of bliss must not be entered till I had exchanged my miry boots for a clean pair of shoes, and my rough surtout for a respectable coat, and made myself generally presentable before decent society; for my mother, with all her kindness, was vastly particular on certain points.

In ascending to my room, I was met upon the stairs by a smart, pretty girl of nineteen, with a tidy, dumpy figure, a round face, bright, blooming cheeks, glossy, clustering curls, and little merry brown eyes. I need not tell you this was my sister Rose. She is, I know, a comely matron still, and, doubtless, no less lovely--in your eyes--than on the happy day you first beheld her. Nothing told me then that she, a few years hence, would be the wife of one entirely unknown to me as yet, but destined, hereafter, to become a closer friend than even herself, more intimate than that unmannerly lad of seventeen, by whom I was collared in the passage, on coming down, and well-nigh jerked off my equilibrium, and who, in correction for his impudence, received a resounding whack over the sconce, which, however, sustained no serious injury from the infliction; as, besides being more than commonly thick, it was protected by a redundant shock of short, reddish curls, that my mother called auburn.

On entering the parlour, we found that honoured lady seated in her arm-chair at the fireside, working away at her knitting, according to her usual custom, when she had nothing else to do. She had swept the hearth, and made a bright blazing fire for our reception; the servant had just brought in the tea-tray; and Rose was producing the sugar-basin and tea-caddy from the cupboard in the black oak sideboard, that shone like polished ebony in the cheerful parlour twilight.

'Well! here they both are,' cried my mother, looking round upon us without retarding the motion of her nimble fingers and glittering needles. 'Now shut the door, and come to the fire, while Rose gets the tea ready; I'm sure you must be starved,--and tell me what you've been about all day. I like to know what my children have been about.'

'I've been breaking in the grey colt--no easy business that--directing the ploughing of the last wheat stubble--for the plough-boy has not the sense to direct himself--and carrying out a plan for the extensive and efficient draining of the low meadowlands.'

'That's my brave boy!--and Fergus, what have you been doing?'


And here he proceeded to give a particular account of his sport, and the respective traits of prowess evinced by the badger and the dogs; my mother pretending to listen with deep attention, and watching his animated countenance with a degree of maternal admiration I thought highly disproportioned to its object.

'It's time you should be doing something else, Fergus,' said I, as soon as a momentary pause in his narration allowed me to get in a word.

'What can I do?' replied he; 'my mother won't let me go to sea or enter the army; and I'm determined to do nothing else--except make myself such a nuisance to you all that you will be thankful to get rid of me on any terms.'

Our parent soothingly stroked his stiff, short curls. He growled, and tried to look sulky, and then we all took our seats at the table in obedience to the thrice-repeated summons of Rose.

'Now take your tea,' said she; 'and I'll tell you what I've been doing. I've been to call on the Wilsons; and it's a thousand pities you didn't go with me, Gilbert, for Eliza Millward was there!'

'Well! what of her?'

'Oh, nothing!--I'm not going to tell you about her;--only that she's a nice, amusing little thing, when she is in a merry humour, and I shouldn't mind calling her----'

'Hush, hush, my dear! your brother has no such idea!' whispered my mother earnestly, holding up her finger.

'Well,' resumed Rose; 'I was going to tell you an important piece of news I heard there--I've been bursting with it ever since. You know it was reported a month ago that somebody was going to take Wildfell Hall--and--what do you think? It has actually been inhabited above a week!--and we never knew!'

'Impossible!' cried my mother.

'Preposterous!!!' shrieked Fergus.

'It has indeed!--and by a single lady!'

'Good gracious, my dear, the place is in ruins!'

'She has had two or three rooms made habitable; and there she lives, all alone--except an old woman for a servant!'

'Oh, dear!--that spoils it--I'd hoped she was a witch,' observed Fergus, while carving his inch-thick slice of bread and butter.

'Nonsense, Fergus! But isn't it strange, mamma?'

'Strange! I can hardly believe it.'

'But you may believe it; for Jane Wilson has seen her. She went with her mother, who, of course, when she heard of a stranger being in the neighbourhood, would be on pins and needles till she had seen her and got all she could out of her. She is called Mrs. Graham, and she is in mourning--not widow's weeds, but slightish mourning--and she is quite young, they say--not above five or six and twenty--but so reserved! They tried all they could to find out who she was, and where she came from, and all about her, but neither Mrs. Wilson, with her pertinacious and impertinent home-thrusts, nor Miss Wilson, with her skilful manoeuvring, could manage to elicit a single satisfactory answer, or even a casual remark, or chance expression calculated to allay their curiosity, or throw the faintest ray of light upon her history, circumstances, or connections. Moreover, she was barely civil to them, and evidently better pleased to say 'good-bye' than 'how do you do.' But Eliza Millward says her father intends to call upon her soon, to offer some pastoral advice, which he fears she needs, as, though she is known to have entered the neighbourhood early last week, she did not make her appearance at church on Sunday; and she--Eliza, that is--will beg to accompany him, and is sure she can succeed in wheedling something out of her--you know, Gilbert, she can do anything. And we should call some time, mamma; it's only proper, you know.'

'Of course, my dear. Poor thing! how lonely she must feel!'

'And pray, be quick about it; and mind you bring me word how much sugar she puts in her tea, and what sort of caps and aprons she wears, and all about it; for I don't know how I can live till I know,' said Fergus, very gravely.

But if he intended the speech to be hailed as a master-stroke of wit, he signally failed, for nobody laughed. However, he was not much disconcerted at that; for when he had taken a mouthful of bread and butter, and was about to swallow a gulp of tea, the humour of the thing burst upon him with such irresistible force, that he was obliged to jump up from the table and rush snorting and choking from the room, and, a minute after, was heard screaming in fearful agony in the garden.
As for me, I was hungry, and contented myself with silently demolishing the tea, ham, and toast, while my mother and sister went on talking, and continued to discuss the apparent or nonapparent circumstances, and probable or improbable history of the mysterious lady; but I must confess that, after my brother's misadventure, I once or twice raised the cup to my lips, and put it down again without daring to taste the contents, lest I should injure my dignity by a similar explosion.

The next day my mother and Rose hastened to pay their compliments to the fair recluse; and came back but little wiser than they went; though my mother declared she did not regret the journey, for if she had not gained much good, she flattered herself she had imparted some, and that was better: she had given some useful advice, which, she hoped, would not be thrown away; for Mrs. Graham, though she said little to any purpose, and appeared somewhat self-opinionated, seemed not incapable of reflection--though she did not know where she had been all her life, poor thing, for she betrayed a lamentable ignorance on certain points, and had not even the sense to be ashamed of it.

'On what points, mother?' asked I.

'On household matters, and all the little niceties of cookery, and such things, that every lady ought to be familiar with, whether she be required to make a practical use of her knowledge or not. I gave her some useful pieces of information, however, and several excellent receipts, the value of which she evidently could not appreciate, for she begged I would not trouble myself, as she lived in such a plain, quiet way, that she was sure she should never make use of them. 'No matter, my dear,' said I; 'it is what every respectable female ought to know; and besides, though you are alone now, you will not be always so; you have been married, and probably--I might say almost certainly--will be again.' 'You are mistaken there, ma'am,' said she, almost haughtily; 'I am certain I never shall.' But I told her I knew better.'

'Some romantic young widow, I suppose,' said I, 'come there to end her days in solitude, and mourn in secret for the dear departed--but it won't last long.'

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 74 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In simple words, this is a love story. Mostof the reviews were misleading to me,focusing too much on the unusual-for-its-time plot. It held my interest to the endand unfolds in a fresh way. Anne Bronte should have as much recognition as her twosisters. This particular edition is part ofthe Barnes and Noble Library of EssentialReading, which says it all. There is anintroduction by Deborah Lutz which althoughinteresting to me, is one to question Dr.Lutz and other feminist writers/teachers inmy opinion often read far too much into thewritings of women from past eras and theirconjecture becomes fact, which is misleadingand negative. Of course this makes forlively discussion and that's a good thing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love the Bronte's and have read all of their books. This one definatly is one of the best. Anne Bronte should be as well known as her sisters for this amazing novel. It was captivating and i could not put it down. Surprisingly enough, i read it in two days! It was so good, i can't even describe how wonderful it is!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the best Bronte book written. Anne is even better than Charlotte and Emily. The story is amazingly advanced for its time in terms of her criticism of the hypocrisy and misogyny of her society. I could not put this book down!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a great lover of Victorian Classics, especially decent novels depicting the importance of love in relationships. This novel by Anne Bronte, I should say is the most touching story I have ever read.. Eventhough the plot is of the early 19th century, the heroine's character cannot be confined to that era. She can be anyone, even a 21st century woman. Being very independent myself, I could identify with her. In some ways, I realized that my nature is very much similar to that of Helen Huntingdon's (the negative traits in her). May be that's the reason why I am drawn to this book and it's leading lady. Mind you, I am not a feminist. This is a book, I think, women (especially younger ones) should read and learn from. The moral strength, sense of responsibility and learning from mistakes... these are top three positive aspects of Helen's character. I realized as I progressed through the book that I need to develop them myself to be a better and strong person. I can assuredly say that Helen Huntingdon is my most favorite heroine of all times. Anne Bronte's portrayal of the character of a strong woman with deep moral conviction who emerges out a winner in life establishes her as a writer with deep sensitivity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is unfortunate that Anne Bronte has been slighted for her sisters, Emily and Charlotte. Her novel is written with incredible depth and complexity. Helen Graham, the protagonist, is nothing like her archeptypal Vicorian peers. Bronte establishes her to serve as a means of outcry against the rigidity of the Victorian era, as well as a plea for reform. The novel is an expose on taboo subjects, such as infidelity, domestic abuse and alcoholism. Even more startling is her advice to readers: better to never marry than to marry poorly. This was a very revolutionary idea for the era, for no girl could afford to not marry and maintian whatever status she had. Bronte does not oppose the institution of marriage, rather she recognizes the importance of selecting a worthy mate. The novel provokes much thought and is ideal for discussion environments, whether in academia or social.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Helen Graham, a mysterious and fiercely independent woman living in a secluded castle during the 19th Century in Victorian England. Helen, along with her son Arthur, is a recluse, and soon becomes the topic of town gossip. She is befriended by Gilbert Markham, who at first is received very coldly by Helen, but he is persistent and wins her trust. It becomes clear that Gilbert has developed intimate feelings for Helen, and although we can guess that she feels the same for him, she is determined to convince him that this is not a proper match. So she gives Gilbert her diary, which vividly details her abusive marriage to Arthur Huntington, an alcoholic and debaucher. Although this may sound like a depressing topic (which it is), Bronte¿s talent is what makes the book so absorbing and satisfying. She incorporates all the necessary ingredients to sufficiently whet your appetite, (romance, suspense, and a plethora of plot twists and turns) and provides a very satisfying, albeit, surprise ending. This is a book I will read again and again. It is a real treasure. By the way, I was told that the Oxfords Classics edition is the best one to buy. It contains a preface by Ann Bronte and the letter to J. Halford Esq. in the beginning, instead of just starting with Chapter One ('You must go back with me'). These were in Anne's original text, and in my opinion, add quite a bit to the entire work. Highly recommended, especially for book clubs. Cris
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The complete text seems to be here, but it's so riddled with typos it's hard to enjoy, or even understand what was trying to be written. All, or nearly all, free versions available via Barnes & Noble seem to have this problem.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. The themes of this book are, in some ways, more powerful than either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Helen Huntington has to be one of the most controversial Victorian heroines written of. Her struggles are the one's that most books from this era brush over. This book shows the dark side of life in the nineteenth century, something you will never find in a Jane Austen novel. Everyone should read this!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the introduction to this book the comment is made that if it had not been for the other two Brontes, no one would be reading this book today. I have to disagree. This book has a few issues (mostly there is some confusion about who the narrator is writing to ( a friend but if he is married to the narrators sister, why does the narrator mention his sister got married?) and why he has gone into the narrative in the first place), but the characters and the plot make it easy to overlook the issues. The themes covered in this book are relevant today. It covers the difference between love and infatuation, the effects substance abuse has on families, the courage born from the duty to protect ones child, and in short the refusal to be anyones victim. I felt we got to know the tenant of wildfell hall and observed through her actions and thoughts that she was remarkable and admirable, as opposed to being told by the author that she was such. It was as if we got to understand her, know her and like her they way the narrator did. She was a woman who had many reasons to be small - if she had let the cruel treatment of others, and her lifes disappointments change her. Instead she was remarkable by staying true to herself and to her moral compass. The circumstances in this womans life ,at a time when women had so little empowerment , were the makings of a tragedy. Instead we find a story and a character that was ahead of its time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, and cannot understand why Anne Bronte has been so neglected, pushed back back behind her older sisters. I love most of Charlotte's books as well, but The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is my favorite. It is so well written, and so engrossing, that the closer I came to the end, the slower I read, for fear that it would be over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of the 3 Bronte sisters for more than a year now. I found Charlotte to be an adequet writer, but when I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I knew I had found the best sister of all. Ann Bronte is the one whom little is known about, but she is definately the best writer, towering over her sisters with her masterpiece that I found so engrossing. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was absolutely incredible, portraying evil being conquered by true love, and finishing with the happiest ending ever!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read the book yet- but it makes you give a rating. Just in case you are looking at this book, the Collins Classics appears to be from the complete unabridged 2nd edition of the novel. It includes the preface letter in Volume One that I noticed several free editions did not have in it. There are actually 593 pages in this edition not 192 in the product details above.
Book-touched More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, it aroused all sorts of emotions in me. Set in the Victorian Era the heroine Helen Huntington Graham could easily be transported to today. Helen angered/frustrated me, puzzeled me and touched my sympathy as did other major characters in the book. It was fun to retire to my modern day garden, read this book and be transported to the Victorian era. It challenged me to think what could have informed Anne Bronte at such a young age and during her time in history of the themes of which she wrote: sextual inequality, feminism, domestic abuse, alcohol/drug addiction, marital infidelity. As I researched this I learned she saw and lived much of it within her own family. Anne earned her place as the best of the Bronte writers.
lovelacereader More than 1 year ago
Anne Bronte chooses to illustrate the truth of man's nature. That it is foolish to think that we can change a person, and that there will be some who never make right choices for themself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The quality of the image is so terrible that I couldn't make out more than half the words on some pages. I understand that scanned books will have errors, but the 1858 copy is simply illegible and should be labeled as such.
Lisa Simons More than 1 year ago
Slow to suck you in, but great character development and intense storyline. With less gothic tones than either of her sisters, Anne writes very realistically...even shockingly for the day. Smacks you in the face!
SheReadsNovels on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Although Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre have always been two of my favourite Victorian classics, this is the first time I've read anything by the youngest Bronte sister, Anne. I feel a bit guilty that it has taken me so long to get round to reading one of Anne's books, especially as I enjoyed it almost as much as the other two books I've just mentioned.Anne's writing style is not the same as Charlotte's or Emily's ¿ there's less dramatic romanticism and poetic imagery, although she still writes with a lot of passion. She has quite a sharp style that is probably more similar to Jane Austen than to either of her sisters.I won't go into the plot in too much detail but The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the story of Helen Huntingdon, a young woman who leaves her alcoholic husband and goes into hiding with her five year-old son, Arthur. Not long after arriving at Wildfell Hall she meets local farmer, Gilbert Markham, who falls in love with her. When Gilbert questions her about the rumours circulating about her in the village, she allows him to read her diary in which she had recorded the details of her unhappy marriage.The book has an interesting structure - it's told partly in the form of letters from Gilbert Markham to his brother-in-law Jack Halford, and partly as extracts from Helen Huntingdon's diary. I loved the first section from Gilbert's point of view, describing the arrival of the mysterious woman at Wildfell Hall with everyone wondering who she was and where she came from. The story probably wouldn't have worked had it not been set in the 19th century. Today there's nothing unusual in a single mother living alone with her little boy, but in 1828 when The Tenant of Wildfell Hall takes place, it makes her the target of gossip and scandal.When Helen's diary began it took me a while to get used to the change of voice and the change of pace but it soon developed into the most powerful section of the book. I didn't particularly like Helen as I thought she was just a little bit too saintly and perfect, but she was a very strong person who defied convention to do what she thought was best for herself and her child. Her diary entries are filled with descriptions of some really despicable characters and describe scenes of drunkenness, violence, verbal and physical abuse, and adultery, which I can imagine readers in the 19th century would have been shocked by. Apparently after Anne's death, re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was prevented by Charlotte, who considered the choice of subject to be a big mistake. However, I would have no hesitation recommending this book to anyone who has enjoyed Emily and Charlotte's work, as well as those of you who have never read any other Bronte books - it gets 5 stars from me.
littlebookworm on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a wonderful book and a prime example of Victorian literature. I loved every word, and though the ending was predictable, it was extremely well done. The novel's significance definitely lies in the way that Anne Bronte describes the position of women in society; she revealed far more than the ordinary novelist would have. This portrait of society is what will ensure the novel lasts, but I sincerely hope that all readers of this work appreciate the story itself as much as I do.
craso on LibraryThing 5 months ago
There is a new tenant at Wildfell Hall; a lone woman with a small child. She keeps to herself and won't tell her neighbors about her past life, which causes them to become suspicious and to start rumors. The gentleman farmer living closest to the lady falls in love with her and tries to defend her. When he starts to believe the gossip, she gives him her journal and her sorted past life is revealed.This was a disappointing book. The writing was excellent, but it just wasn't the book for me. I understand that standards of morality were different in Victorian times and I am sure the book was scandalous when it was first printed, but it didn't seem too terrible to me. Helen's husband was a sadistic, self indulgent idiot and he made their life together unbearable, but she endured it for the sake of propriety until his actions threatened their small child. The story was very slow paced and had no excitement, it was just a soap opera about a bad marriage.
AshRyan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Apparently, the main reason Anne Brontë's masterpiece is not as well known as her sisters' is that Charlotte suppressed any new editions after her death, as the novel was deemed extremely shocking for its time. This is very unfortunate, as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is much better than Anne's previous book, Agnes Grey, better even than Emily's Wuthering Heights, and nearly as good as Charlotte's Jane Eyre. Like Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall examines the roles of reason and passion in life and concludes that both are necessary to achieve happiness. More specifically, Wildfell Hall is about how to judge other people's characters, particularly in matters of love. These themes are brilliantly dramatized through a story about a woman who makes a youthful, but profound, error in whom she chooses to marry, and as her husband's vicious nature becomes increasingly clear, struggles to leave him---and how she herself is unfairly judged by her new neighbors when she manages to do so. (While I'm sure Anne didn't intend it this way, given her Christian piety, the novel could be read as a good argument for liberal divorce laws and the wisdom of cohabitation before marriage.)Many people sharply contrast the romanticism of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre with the realism of Wildfell Hall, but this is a mistake---and, despite its more frank depictions of some of the social problems of its time (including alcoholism and domestic abuse), Anne rejected this dichotomy in the novel itself:"'But romantic notions will not do: I want her to have true notions.'"'Very right: but in my judgment, what the world stigmatises as romantic, is often more nearly allied to the truth than is commonly supposed; for, if the generous ideas of youth are too often over-clouded by the sordid views of after-life, that scarcely proves them to be false.'"This is related to the broader theme about the dichotomy of reason and passion, which she also rejects, so that analysis more or less misses the whole point of the novel.Like Jane Eyre (and to a lesser extent Wuthering Heights), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an intellectual and emotional tour de force, and one of the greatest classics in all of world literature. It's a real tragedy that Anne died even younger than her sisters before she could write anything else. Four and a half stars.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing 6 months ago
When The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte was first published in 1848, it created a scandal and was a runaway bestseller, out-selling her sister Emily's Wuthering Heights. Her sister Charlotte condemned it as overly realistic (which makes me wonder about Charlotte, who was also critical of Jane Austen's gentler offerings).To the modern reader, the scene that sparked the scandal might fly past without notice; when the husband of our heroine, Helen, gets drunk and verbally abusive, she goes to her room and locks the door against him. Outrageous, eh? Much more shocking to me was an early scene where Helen and her five-year-old son visit her new neighbors and they offer both of them a nice alcoholic beverage. When Helen refuses on the part of her son she is given a lecture by the mistress of the house on how boys need to learn to drink from an early age.The Tenant of Wildfell Hall tells the story of Helen, her disastrous marriage to the dissolute Huntingdon and her subsequent flight to the run-down Wildfell Hall, where she lives in a few rooms alone with her son and a single servant, and of how her presence in a quiet, rural area excites the attention and then the gossip of her neighbors. Bronte is a master of characterization, especially in the form of Helen's husband, who enters the story as the witty, Byronic hero (also, he is hot), and then develops into someone very different. Helen's a bit of a damp squib, what with her firm belief in her duty to let everyone around her know when they are falling short, morally speaking, and in her determination to revel in her misery, but one can't but admire her fortitude and strength of will. And Gilbert, well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions about Gilbert.
jannief on LibraryThing 6 months ago
Probably my second favorite book written by the Bronte sisters (Jane Eyre by Charlotte was just a tad better, IMO). This dealt with a then controversial subject regarding should a wife stay with an abusive husband. It begins from the male perspective - that of the young man that falls in love with the mysterious "widow" that recently moved into Wildfell Hall. When rumors begin to circulate that perhaps the widow is a fallen woman, he quickly rises to her defense. In so doing, she reveals to him her true tale. This is done through the reading of her journal (she gives it to him to read) and therefore the story changes to her perspective for most of the remainder of the book. Although a long book, I did not find it to drag at all. Once I was able to devote time to reading, I really got wrapped up in the story and was riveted to it. Although dealing with a serious subject, I did not find it dark, dreary and depressing, like "Wuthering Heights", nor was it boring, like "Villette". I did not find that it dragged at all (and even Jane Eyre did that in places). I highly recommend this book to those that like the classics. I'm looking forward now to watching the movie!
Rosa_Saks on LibraryThing 6 months ago
Anne was the only one of the Brontë-sisters whom I was not familiar with, and that is why I wanted to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I half expected her to resemble her sisters in style and thematics, and she partly did. However, I was surprised (and excited) to discover that the story of Helen Graham/Huntingdon was not a powerful and all-consuming love story with an almost gothic backdrop. Rather, Anne Brontë places heavy empahsis on realism, and the fact that marriage in the Victorian era was not always as romantical as it often tends to be portrayed.Our heroine, Helen, has experienced an unhappy marriage - one that she got into when she was very young, in fact, too young to really comprehend the effects it would have on her life. Mr. Huntingdon, who seemed wonderful and loving at first, soon revealed himself to be quite the opposite. It is refreshing to read a book where the true nature of the average Victorian marriage is revealed with all its positive and negative sides. It really makes me think of the difficulty in marrying someone one barely knows, and all of a sudden being supposed to have breakfast together, go to social events together, in geneal; plan a life together.Helen is not a Jane or a Catherine. She is a heroine in her own right. She is strong, hopeful, kind and determined. And the Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful rendering of the sometimes grim nature of Victorian marriage.
atimco on LibraryThing 6 months ago
Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, first published in 1848, is considered the most scandalous of the Brontë sisters' novels, dealing as it does with themes of domestic abuse, gross marital infidelity, alcoholism, and a woman's blatant defiance of her husband in the face of the most painful betrayal. Please be aware that this review will contain spoilers. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall tells the story of a young woman, Helen, who marries thinking she can mold her husband into a better man. With a setup like that, it is necessarily tragic and admonitory toward others who may be of the same mind. Arthur Huntingdon, while never quite a monster, is a wholly selfish being who quickly lapses into alcoholism and extramarital affairs when his fascination with Helen ceases. Helen, who really does love him, is slowly stretched out on a rack of emotional and spiritual agony that intensifies as their marriage progresses. When Arthur thoughtlessly starts corrupting their young son, Helen knows they must escape for the boy's sake. But at that time a woman had no legal right to seek divorce, no matter what the provocation, and to run away from one's husband was almost unheard of. Many readers hail Helen as an early example of feminism, pushing back against male tyranny and abuse. The novel is partly epistolary and partly excerpts of Helen's diary, and the epistolary parts are narrated by Gilbert Markham, a young farmer in the district to which Helen flees. Writing his tale for a curious friend, Gilbert chronicles his introduction to Helen and their slowly blossoming friendship and eventual love, hampered always by secrets from her past. It's striking that Gilbert is far from a heroic figure, even with Arthur Huntingdon and Walter Hargrave as foils. Gilbert can be petty and vindictive, even unreasonably violent toward another man. Though I was glad that he and Helen do end up getting married, I did wonder a little if he really deserved her. I closed the book thinking perhaps he would grow in the right direction under Helen's influence¿which is ironic, really, given the premise of the novel that women cannot reform the men they marry. What makes Gilbert more sincere than Arthur in his admiration of Helen's character and determination to win her? I guess it comes down to which character we trust. There are no perfect or saintlike characters in this story, although Helen is probably the closest we come to that type. Though she patiently endures unspeakable anguish at the hands of her husband, she is far from perfect and her diary at times betrays her active hatred toward the man who has made her life so miserable. If it didn't, she'd probably come across as quite insufferable! She's foolish and naive in the beginning, thinking that she can influence and shape Arthur so decidedly, but she atones for her wilfulness with fortitude. Indeed, she relies on God for her strength, expressing trust and faith in the moments of her deepest distress. And yet... and yet, as a reader I couldn't warm to her. There is an indefinable something about her that repulses both pity and personal attraction. I can't quite put my finger on it. Motherhood is a profound motive in this story, as Helen's primary impetus to escape her husband is her son, whom Arthur is teaching to tipple and curse with the rest of his unsavory circle. Helen cannot bear to see her son becoming like his father, and this provides her with an unselfish motive for leaving. The implication is that she would have stayed and endured indefinitely were it not for her little boy. Little Arthur is the extenuating circumstance that justifies her flight.An interesting (though mostly left resting) thread in the novel is Helen's (and Anne Brontë's) belief in universal salvation; that is, the belief that all souls will eventually be saved, though they must endure the purifying fires of Hell first. A young and inexperienced Helen argues vehemently for this doctrine and calls it a "beautiful t
StoutHearted on LibraryThing 6 months ago
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is one of the least-studied novels of the Bronte sisters, but perhaps the most realistic. It doesn¿t have those happy coincidences that were a beloved trope of Charlotte's, nor the over-romanticized male hero of Emily¿s "Wuthering Heights." In fact, it¿s almost a rebuttal to the latter, and a damning portrayal of Heathcliff-like character as if through Isabella Linton¿s eyes. The brutal Gothic hero is exposed as a selfish, ruinous burden, while those who are forced to put up with such a jerk get the recognition they deserve. It¿s hailed as a feminist novel, though modern feminists may critique the lengths to which Helen goes to serve her duty as a wife.The novel has two narrators: The first, Gilbert Markham, is a gentleman farmer of modest means who writes a letter in which he describes the story of the mysterious lady who moved into Wildfell Hall. In the middle of his tale, he is privy to read this lady¿s journal, and the novel switches to her own narration of her turbulent past for many chapters. The lady calls herself Helen Graham, and when she moves into the neighborhood with her son and no husband, (and no desire to discuss her past), it causes gossipy tongues to wag. At first put off by her aloof manner, Gilbert eventually falls for her, but the strain of neighborhood gossip becomes too much and even he becomes suspicious, especially towards her landlord Mr. Lawrence, with whom she may or may not have a deeper relationship. It turns out that Helen loves Gilbert, too, so she sets to ease his mind by telling him all and lets him read her diary. It exposes a past filled with naivete, domestic abuse, and cruelty, and explains who Helen really is, why she must be so mysterious, and ultimately exposes her true character.Like most Bronte heroes, Gilbert¿s character is marked by whining and selfishness. And like most Bronte heroines, it is Helen who has the best character: strong, steadfast, spiritually solid, and with a pragmatic acceptance of her lot in life, as well as her duty towards others. Though others may judge her, she lives a blemish-free life among drunks, adulterers, seducers, and spiritually-lacking, morally-deficient, gossiping, deceitful people. First, she puts up with her abusive husband out of a misguided attempt to make him a better man by her example. When she realizes how out of her league she is, her epiphany "I am no angel!" serves to remind her more that she is a mere mortal, and can only put up with him now out of the imposed societal code that dictates a woman is a man¿s property. Her duty is to him, and his duty is to himself alone. There are no laws to protect her, and the rules of society deem that women who leave their husbands (for whatever reason) are considered to have lost their virtue. Second, she puts up with a town that demands her time and attention, and spreads lies about her for not exposing her past.Bronte does well skewering the hypocritical nature of early 19th century society. Although a very religious book ¿ it quotes prodigiously from the Bible, and Helen maintains her trust in God and her morals throughout when others would tempt her away ¿ it does not exempt the clergy from criticism. The Reverend Millward is a booze-loving clergyman who¿s more concerned with appearances than true spiritual morality. His daughter, Eliza, is jealous, spiteful, and quick to spread unfounded vicious rumors. The small-town characters are themselves skewed as a busybody, gossiping lot, who seek to torment their neighbors for their own pleasure, shunning them if they seem less than worthy. Then there¿s the upperclass gentlemen, men who leave the business of running their land to others while they cavort like playboys indulging in every vice. They are permitted to behave in the worst ways imaginable, and their wives are expected to put up with it. Any poor behavior upon his part would surely be blamed as a character flaw on her part. This lack of responsibility for one¿s action