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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young woman who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behaviour becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of the disastrous marriage she has left behind emerge. Told with great immediacy, combined with wit and irony, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful depiction of a woman's fight for domestic independence and creative freedom.

576 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1848

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About the author

Anne Brontë

624 books2,944 followers
Anne Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. Anne's two novels, written in a sharp and ironic style, are completely different from the romanticism followed by her sisters, Emily Brontë and Charlotte Brontë. She wrote in a realistic, rather than a romantic style. Mainly because the re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was prevented by Charlotte Brontë after Anne's death, she is less known than her sisters. However, her novels, like those of her sisters, have become classics of English literature.

The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. In Elizabeth Gaskell's biography, Anne's father remembered her as precocious, reporting that once, when she was four years old, in reply to his question about what a child most wanted, she answered: "age and experience".

During her life Anne was particularly close to Emily. When Charlotte's friend Ellen Nussey visited Haworth in 1833, she reported that Emily and Anne were "like twins", "inseparable companions". Together they created imaginary world Gondal after they broke up from Charlotte and Branwell who created another imaginary world – Angria.

For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of 19 she left Haworth and worked as a governess between 1839 and 1845.

After leaving her teaching position, she fulfilled her literary ambitions. She wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 1846) and two novels. Agnes Grey, based upon her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847. Her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels, appeared in 1848 and was an instant, phenomenal success; within six weeks it was sold out.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is perhaps the most shocking of the Brontës' novels. In seeking to present the truth in literature, Anne's depiction of alcoholism and debauchery was profoundly disturbing to 19th-century sensibilities. Helen Graham, the tenant of the title, intrigues Gilbert Markham and gradually she reveals her past as an artist and wife of the dissipated Arthur Huntingdon. The book's brilliance lies in its revelation of the position of women at the time, and its multi-layered plot.

Her sister Emily's death on 19 December 1848 deeply affected Anne and her grief undermined her physical health. Over Christmas, Anne caught influenza. Her symptoms intensified, and in early January, her father sent for a Leeds physician, who diagnosed her condition as consumption, and intimated that it was quite advanced leaving little hope of recovery. Anne met the news with characteristic determination and self-control.

Unlike Emily, Anne took all the recommended medicines, and responded to the advice she was given. That same month she wrote her last poem, " A dreadful darkness closes in", in which she deals with being terminally ill.

In February 1849, Anne decided to make a return visit to Scarborough in the hope that the change of location and fresh sea air might initiate a recovery. However, it was clear that she had little strength left.

Dying, Anne expressed her love and concern for Ellen and Charlotte, and seeing Charlotte's distress, whispered to her to "take courage". Conscious and calm, Anne died at about two o'clock in the afternoon, Monday, 28 May 1849.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,774 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
April 17, 2018
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is not quite Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, but I did really enjoy it. It's surprising, given how dated the characters' moralizing is, but I was so swept up in the past and the setting that I felt totally 19th-Century level shocked by the cheating and lying and *gasp* drinking.

There's something about the Brontes - because it feels impossible not to speak of them collectively - that just works for me. Maybe it is our shared birthplace close to those dark, dreary Yorkshire moors. Maybe I just love that all three are unafraid to create characters - protagonists, even - that are pretty darn despicable. Or worse-- annoying and sanctimonious like Helen Graham.

I'm pretty sure I should hate Helen. I almost do. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading her story and - despite her being absolutely insufferable in her self-righteous diatribes - I can find a sort of affection for her and admire how strong and steadfast she was in a time when women had very little power.

Here, Anne Bronte frames one character's first-person narrative inside another, which I actually really liked. Whether it be this, or first person minor like in Wuthering Heights, I love how the Brontes frame their stories. This book begins with Gilbert Markham writing a letter to an old friend and telling him about the strange circumstances of the titular tenant of Wildfell Hall, then later switches to Helen Graham's first person when Gilbert reads her diary.

And, you know, outdated as it may be, there are some universal themes that have withstood the test of time-- wanting to change someone for the better and realizing you can't, and wanting the best for your children. Like Jane Eyre, Helen Graham often speaks out on the position of women. In some ways, she is the most outspokenly feminist Bronte character I have met, quick to point out double standards and lament the limitations placed upon her.

Perhaps most surprisingly of all, I found this a highly-readable character drama. I usually settle into classics with the assumption that I will have to work a bit harder, but this was a pleasantly easy read. I'm glad I finally made time for it.

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Profile Image for Amy.
43 reviews108 followers
June 22, 2008
Carol said I must list my all time favorite books. What a challenge this is! I have read everything those Bronte girls wrote, even their childhood poetry and I love all of it. But Anne will take the showing on my list for her bravery. Of course Charlotte was the most prolific and Emily the true brainiac, but Anne has my complete respect for being a true literary pioneer: she was the first woman to write of a wife leaving her abusive husband - and then goes on to lead a happy, successful life! Up to this point, any woman who left her husband met some type of horrific demise. At one point in the novel she slams the door on her husband and feminists claim it was the door slam heard around the world. Critics were and still are harsh toward Anne because of the structure of the novel: she hides, somewhat, behind the devices of letters and diaries -they claim, and I agree, that her tale would have been more powerful had she faced her reader without these. BUT, let's give Anne a big break, she did a truly brave and unprecedented move here, so if she hid a bit behind a lengthy dairy entry, I will forgive her and relish in the power this tale gives women. We owe Anne quite a bit, so read this great story with a forgiving heart and when you finish, thank her because she is one of our noble literary grandmothers.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.3k followers
April 27, 2022

doesn't roll off the tongue like middlemarch march, but elle and i bravely march on in our project of reading long classics in small installments over the course of a month.

also - not enough houses have names these days, in my opinion. might start walking around calling my apartment Oakbrook Abbey or some nonsense.

anyway. let's do it!

imagine if you were at a party and you made a new friend so you told him about yourself and were like "what about you, what's your deal" and he refused to answer and you were like ok weird...and then a few weeks later he starts sending you a series of letters detailing his life story and totaling 576 pages.
that is the frame story of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

it is technically past midnight and i am not sober but i refuse to fall behind on the second day.
“'Well! you ladies must always have the last word, I suppose,' said I [...]
'You may have as many words as you please,—only I can’t stay to hear them.'”

god that goes so hard.
i get as much a kick of calling old books feminist as the next guy but...this may be genuinely feminist. will keep you posted.
in other news: there are WAY too many names in this, and our narrator is annoying and deserves to be named gilbert.

“[T]his was too disagreeable a supposition to be entertained a moment after it could conveniently be dismissed.” me when i'm deluding myself
gilbert is still pretty annoying but i think helen may be up my alley. what could be better than a b*tchy and mysterious woman???

“Where her opinions and sentiments tallied with mine, it was her extreme good sense, her exquisite taste and feeling, that delighted me; where they differed, it was still her uncompromising boldness in the avowal or defence of that difference, her earnestness and keenness, that piqued my fancy: and even when she angered me by her unkind words or looks, and her uncharitable conclusions respecting me, it only made me the more dissatisfied with myself for having so unfavourably impressed her, and the more desirous to vindicate my character and disposition in her eyes, and, if possible, to win her esteem.” now that is a man written by a woman.
i've said it before and i'll say it again: the best straight romance is a man who is obsessed with a girl with no stakes or expectations and she has no idea until a sudden Big Reveal.

DAY 5: CHAPTERS 9 & 10
just noticed i've quoted from this every day since day 1, which was a plot summary.......not an awesome sign actually!! not pointing towards me having much to say about this!!
except that this gilbert fella is a real bozo.

DAY 6: CHAPTERS 11 & 12
too much drama too early. who cares. it's like how gossip is better when you know who it's about? same thing for love-based angst and declarations and rejections from characters you barely know in romances you didn't even think were happening yet.
i did like the part where gilbert laid on the ground, though. that was funny.

DAY 7: CHAPTERS 13 & 14
at one point in this, a younger brother starts singing a love song to annoy his older brother, who's in a bad mood, until the older brother hits him and he tells on him.
the human experience is unchangeable by time.
less relatable when gilbert beats some guy on the head with a metal-tipped whip, but ok.
it is badass to follow that up with “You may go to the d—l, if you choose—and say I sent you” though.

DAY 8: CHAPTERS 15 & 16
guys, i'm on vacation.
this is another way of saying that the wherewithal it's taking me to continue with this project today is roughly equivalent to conquering a small nation, or pretending to enjoy listening to classical music.
it's backstory time for these characs. i was about to say "finally," but we're actually not all that far into this book - it's just comically slow going.
“Never fear, my dear! the male fools and reprobates will never want for partners, while there are so many of the other sex to match them.” savage.

DAY 9: CHAPTERS 17 & 18
it is actually day 11, but i'm going to experiment with something called "not catching up," since i think we have days to spare this month. and also i haven't read in days and i'm not sure i still know how.
more of girlfriend's backstory today, and i gotta say: knowing more about her is making me like her less!
in conclusion: mr huntingdon is an ass, gilbert is a bozo, and helen is annoying. all star lineup.

DAY 10: CHAPTERS 19 & 20
still 2 days behind but honestly i think that's pretty impressive for the kind of vacation i am having.
this is SO ANNOYING - i have heard 0 reasons why she likes this guy and a hundred not to and we're just expected to be like "yeah that makes sense that she would marry his ass against the wishes of her combination mother / BFF."

DAY 11: CHAPTERS 21 & 22
it's actually day 14 now, but this book is only 53 chapters long and thereby i do not have to catch up yet. also i don't feel like it, because this hasn't been that fun!
mostly it's been one thing, which is "cut into mercifully short sections."
helen is very annoying to me and it is funny to read all two (2) of her friends be like...your husband to be is pretty red-faced, are you sure on this one?
also, how ironic that this is the longest day so far. i will never be positive again.

DAY 12: CHAPTERS 23 & 24
...it's day 16.
fellas, is it cheating for your girl to love god? that's space in her heart for another man........
a third of this book has been backstory, with no end in sight. can't even find the humor in the phrase "confounded slut."

DAY 13: CHAPTERS 25 & 26
some things are true throughout time, such as if your significant other is really trying to get you to leave town they are definitely hiding something, and if you're already married it's probably bad.

DAY 14: CHAPTERS 27 & 28
i want to take back what i said about the feminism of this book. so far it seems mostly hinged on acting like a woman isn't responsible for her emotional actions. or maybe i am just SO SICK OF READING ABOUT THIS TRAGIC MARRIAGE THAT COMMON SENSE AND BASIC DECISION-MAKING RECOMMENDED AGAINST LIKE 11 TIMES!!!

DAY 15: CHAPTERS 29 & 30
attempting to catch up while the most irritated with this i've been yet. a brilliant idea from me.
she goes, "But I remembered that I had brought all these afflictions, in a manner wilfully, upon myself; and I determined to bear them without a murmur."

DAY 16: CHAPTERS 31 & 32
i truly eat any and all positive words i have said about helen to this point. she is so mean to people who don't deserve it and so passive in her own situation.

DAY 17: CHAPTERS 33 & 34
another set of chapters today in another dreaded catch-up attempt.
the drama is higher but i care even less!
ah, that's not fair. helen at least had some good lines in this one.

DAY 18: CHAPTERS 35 & 36
all but begging for mercy at this point.
it is probably #Cruel and Unusual to blame helen for 100% of her problems, but i do blame her for my having to read about 100% of them.

DAY 19: CHAPTERS 37 & 38
third two-set day in a row and i am finally almost caught up. curse you, vacation version of myself!!
this is a bit cartoonish imo!!!

DAY 20: CHAPTERS 39 & 40
if i can read two sets today, as i have for the previous 3 days, i will finally be caught up.
but at what cost.
why...would this woman...who has hated this one man before there was even a reason...rush to tell him her biggest secret, immediately before making him hate her?
genius alert!!!

DAY 21: CHAPTERS 41 & 42
there's a part in this where a character is like "god damn me" and our protagonist is like "if god was listening you'd be in hell already."
that's the only part of today's set i have enjoyed.
caught up.

DAY 22: CHAPTERS 43 & 44
we are now nearly to the three-quarter mark of this book. we have been in backstory purgatory since 25%. never in my life have i read a book structured like this, and that is a good thing.
helen has to be the slowest writer on earth also. she'll write a 5 page journal entry and be like "i had been up all night - hours had passed since i sat at my writing-desk - the sun began to light the room -" blah blah blah.
BACKSTORY OVER! oh my god. i thought we'd never seen the day.
i had completely forgotten this is all a series of letters to some dude who made the grave mistake of expressing casual interest, including hundreds of pages' worth of some woman's journal.
jesus. helen has terrible taste AND decision-making skills.

DAY 23: CHAPTERS 45 & 46
really feeling like ye olde boat beating against the current at the moment.
after our narrator has finished reading the manuscript (interrupted by 30 minutes spent GETTING DRESSED) he shows up at helen's house only to refer to her servant and only companion as an "old virgin." insane. missed this guy's antics.
if i nearly killed someone by hitting them on the head with a blunt object and then found out they'd actually done nothing wrong, i would have apologized better than "i'm sorry but idc if you accept."
AND this guy hits him with "I clenched my hands and stamped my foot upon the rug." these are possibly the most annoying characters in all of classic literature.
not him holding hands with helen's brother because they look like hers..............
i can't take this anymore.

DAY 24: CHAPTERS 47 & 48
well, yesterday i was pretty dismal, but i was also reading during commercial breaks from watching my precious sixers lose. so maybe that was why.
it wasn't that.

DAY 25: CHAPTERS 49 & 50
a whole new meaning to the phrase "so close, yet so far."
"I never sought his company but with the hope of hearing something about her, and he never sought mine at all, because he saw me often enough without." the only person who might find what's his nuts as annoying as i do is poor lawrence.
dramatic things are happening, but they don't really feel dramatic because i do not care.

DAY 26: CHAPTERS 51 & 52
i cannot believe how violent this guy is. this dude is causing permanent brain damage and hurting women on the daily.
elle was talking about how charlotte and emily hid this book for ages and everyone thinks it was because they were jealous, but her theory is that it's actually because it was bad and they should have done a better job.
she's right!!!
one chapter to go.

okay awesome i'm so glad these hateful bozos found eternal happiness. whatever.

in all honesty, this book has none of the charm of jane austen, none of the compelling darkness of wuthering heights, and none of the skillful characters of jane eyre.
if anne didn't have the last name brontë, i think there's no way this book would have survived 200 years to remain relevant.
it's not even really feminist.
rating: 2
Profile Image for Ruby Granger.
Author 2 books45.6k followers
January 24, 2021
I've read this once before (I was thirteen and we went to the beach for the day; I read it in a single sitting and didn't end up swimming at all because I loved it so much!). The plot is fast-paced and was just as enjoyable this time around.

The book is written part-epistolary and part-diary. Like Frankenstein, the form is a writing inside of writing inside of writing. This raises so many questions about validity & reliability of the story, especially with regards to the meticulous dialogue... It's also funny that, though written as a letter, it doesn't seem to follow the contemporary letter writing etiquette rules!

I loved the character of Helen / Mrs Graham / Mrs Huntington -- she is one of the best proto-feminist characters in Victorian literature in my opinion (maybe even better than Jane Eyre!!). It's so refreshing to have a widow at the centre of the story, and one shrouded in scandal too. It makes a change from the typical respectable woman.

Would very much recommend.
Profile Image for Jess.
382 reviews244 followers
March 2, 2020

(Find the full sized image here.)

Before we discovered Anne Brontë, some of us fancied Heathcliff. We wanted to fix him, tame him, soothe his tortured soul. Or maybe if you preferred the more mature and experienced man, you craved Mr Rochester. Perhaps you even draped yourself out of your bedroom window on stormy nights, convinced that someone somewhere was calling to you.

Not any more. It's time to ditch those Byronic heroes, everyone. No more 'mad, bad and dangerous to know'; only sober, honest men brimming with common sense from now on.

Wow. This woman was such a literary pioneer. Who else can you name that effortlessly tackles marital abuse, marital rape, alcoholism, drug addiction, infant custody and female self-determination all in one book?

Anne Brontë : the feminist writer we need but truly don't deserve.

This merits a bad ass-Brontë -strut:


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall certainly reflects the religious orthodoxy of the time. The emphasis on repentance may feel slightly archaic and outdated to the modern audience reading from a more secular society, but I don't think anyone can deny that it is superbly charged throughout with Anne's beautiful belief in universal salvation, a quality that may very well never genuinely grace our pages again. Nevertheless, her boldness, brutal honesty and eloquence in proclaiming equality is timeless. This is a stunning, completely unflinching examination of marriage and its abuse.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is said to be the first sustained feminist novel - Winifred Gérin even dubbed it the first 'manifesto for Women’s Lib'. Now, that’s a high honour... and the novel is entirely deserving of it. It caused absolute scandal when it was first published in 1847, selling out in just 6 weeks, (yep, that's faster than both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights) which makes Anne the most successful of the sisters during their lifetimes.

So, why the scandal? Well, Anne depicts a woman who:

1) Leaves her womanizing, alcoholic and abusive husband
2) to make her own independent living
3) and takes her son with her.

Let’s clarify that in context: in 1847 this wasn't just unusual; it was illegal. Women were wholly subject to the control of their husband. They could not own property or seek a divorce. They didn't even have true possession of their children.

I would say 'fun fact', but it really, really isn't: marital rape was actually completely legal util 1991. So just imagine how shocking it was to contemporary readers when Helen (the at times sanctimonious heroine) refuses to have sex with her husband one drunken night, locking herself away in her bedroom. If this was effectively denying conjugal rights as recently as 1990, you can imagine how scandalous this was in 1847. Mary Sinclair commented in 1913 how "the slamming of Helen Huntington’s bedroom door against her husband reverberated through Victorian England".

And I guess she must have slammed that door pretty hard, because Charlotte Brontë refused to sanction further editions of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall after Anne’s death in 1849. In fact, it wasn't printed again officially until 1859, and that fly-by-night edition was butchered; it was ruthlessly edited to squish the intended three volume novel into just one. Now, it's debatable as to whether Charlotte did this as a bit of bitchy revenge out of jealousy for Anne's success, or if she was just terrified of public opprobrium - but either way it sucked that she did it at all.

Anne however was not fussed about the scandal she'd caused. She wanted to prove a point: this is a campaigning novel. In the scalding preface to the second edition in which she defended herself, she said:

I wished to tell the truth; for truth always conveys its own moral.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was written in deliberate protest against the social conventions of the time. Anne wrote from "personal experience"; witnessing her brother Branwell deteriorate into alcoholism and drug addiction, having had a disastrous affair with the wife of the employer he shared with Anne. She had him secured the position as a personal tutor, herself already being the family's governess. As a result, she felt responsible for Branwell’s devolution. Essentially, she wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as a warning: she wanted to save others from the same fate, cautioning young men about the consequences of excess and enlightening young women of the perils of bad men.

I think in many ways I respected this novel more than I enjoyed it. Rather than being plot driven, it's very much introspective. The romance is a lukewarm at best and there's not the slightest whiff of anything supernatural. Maybe that’s part of the reason why Anne’s work isn't as well remembered as Emily’s or Charlotte’s - that, and more crucially, she refused to glamorize an oppressive man. Arthur Huntington is not a romanticized, brooding Byronic hero - he’s an arsehole. And Anne tells us that blatantly (well, words to that effect, anyway): living with a self-destructive husband is not thrilling or exciting, not even in theory.

Anne Brontë is possibly the most underestimated voice in English literature. George Moore endowed her with the less than flattering epithet of a ‘literary Cinderella’, always in the shadow of her two sisters. But she is not in their shadow because of an inferior intellect, as so many critics have claimed. (And prowess is not necessarily measured by endurance!) If only she had lived longer, she would've been able to defend her work - from both the hostile critics (and she'd already done this once) and more importantly, from her sister Charlotte. Anyone poised to attack me with the specious argument that Anne was also the least spirited of the sisters should seriously reevaluate that claim: this remorseless attack of social convention completely and utterly belies that image of "docile, pensive Anne".

The result of Charlotte's interference? Anne's not on the school curriculum. You probably won’t be forced to read her stuff for an exam, even at university level. But I strongly urge you to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall of your own volition. An incredible novel: subversive, compelling, refreshing and, sadly, relevant.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
532 reviews58.5k followers
April 21, 2022
I really enjoyed this one... more than Jane Eyre!

I knew I needed to decide which Bronte sister I liked the most and this is it. Anne was definitely a feminist and it shows in this book. I definitely understand why it was controversial when it was first published.

Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books431 followers
February 6, 2022
Helen: [slams and locks the bedroom door on her abusive husband in a ground-breaking proto-feminist statement; insists that his abuse is not her fault; realizes that she can't change him despite the cult of domesticity's insistence to the contrary; refuses to have sex with him after she learns of his affair, denying the law of coverture; leaves him to live independently; pulls a knife on another absolute creep who is trying to grab her]

There's also her response to Mr. Hargrave's overwrought, manipulative declaration of love, where he describes how much he is suffering because she is rejecting his advances:
"In the first place, I don't believe you," answered I. "In the second, if you will be such a fool, I can't hinder it."
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
458 reviews3,240 followers
March 13, 2023
An unknown woman suddenly appears in the dilapidated mansion Wildfell Hall, abandoned for many years by the wealthy family that owned it as uninhabitable, surrounded by the bleak moorlands in a remote quiet village, in the northern English countryside during the early part of the 19th century, no one knew she was coming the locals are very curious who is she ? What is she doing calling herself Mrs.Graham, a widow with a lively five- year -old boy Arthur. The villagers distrust outsiders, the gloomy dismal, cold, Wildfell Hall is not fit to live only a couple of rooms are fixed and just loyal, old servant Rachel to assist, there is a mystery to be solved... The son of a late gentleman farmer Gilbert Markham a neighbor, is smitten by Helen Graham her beauty, poise, intelligence, good manners and still young about 25 around the same age as he. Going to see Mrs.Graham often any excuse will do, being a friendly good neighbor bringing a book, giving her son a puppy finally declaring his undying love but Helen rejects him, not possible any future between the couple some enigma from the past, that remains unexplained and Gilbert shouldn't come anymore, it's upsetting her feelings. The unusually independent woman rare in those days, makes a modest living, painting and selling beautiful, vividly colored, landscapes ... But scandalous rumors drench the whole area,
destroying her reputation that Mrs.Graham was never married and her landlord Frederick Lawrence, a frequent visitor is the spitting image of her son Arthur even the local amiable vicar stays away from the lady. The jealous confused hot -tempered Gilbert, neglects his family a loving mother younger brother rather lazy, the witty Fergus pretty, sweet, sister Rose and especially the farm. Mr.Markham becomes a peeping Tom hiding in the bushes and behind trees outside Wildfell Hall, spying on Mrs.Graham witnessing the affections of Mr. Lawrence and Helen with his own eyes towards each other so the rumors are valid... The out of control Gilbert seething with tremendous anger, deep jealousy and extreme hate attacks his friend Mr. Lawrence unprovoked, with a heavy whip on horseback striking his head causing much blood to spill, falling down from his animal on a muddy wet lonely road, the badly injured Frederick is stunned, why? The rains pour over the prone body the somewhat remorseful moody Mr.Markham, tries to help but soon leaves his victim to fend for himself and rides away...Later Mrs.Graham gives Gilbert her secret diary to read, a troubled past she has experienced, full of unbelievable torment suffering and abuse, her little son in the middle not comprehending any of it thank God, but she must escape this environment or the child will also be marked for life and the mother can not let this happen...A superior work, this indictment of the lack of freedom , which women in England endured, during that harsh era what they went through, so much mistreatment little rights . Anne Bronte shows the world that she was as talented a writer as her big sisters.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,061 followers
May 21, 2023
Who is the mysterious new tenant of Wildfell Hall. Why is she so proud and unapproachable? And why has she chosen to live in such a desolate, forbidding place?

“What have I done? and what will be the end of it?”

Intrigued? Then how about if I say that the great author Charlotte Brontë said that this novel should never have been written, and it would be better for everyone if it never saw the light of day again. Harsh words indeed, from Anne Brontë’s elder sister.

Critics loathed The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, calling it “rough, revolting, disgusting” and “ungodly”. One even said its author had “a morbid love for the coarse, not to say the brutal”.

Anne Brontë was adamant in her Preface:

“When we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear … I wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it.”

even going on to give a hint to her readers that its author “Acton Bell” may not be the brazen young man they had supposed:

“if a book is a good one, it is so whatever the sex of the author may be. All novels are, or should be, written for both men and women to read.”

In fact, the author was not revealed to be a woman until after Anne Brontë had died.

I have for many years attempted to argue that all four Brontë siblings should be considered separately, on their own merits. But the old humbug prevails, that they should be grouped together for literary purposes. There is a tired misconception of Emily and Charlotte as twin geniuses, Anne, their sister, as a lesser talent, and Branwell as a hopeless, depressive alcoholic.

By this model, then, Charlotte and Emily were Romantic novelists, in the literary sense of the word, with Emily indulging more in sensations, and Charlotte more in narrative. But Anne was a Realistic novelist—and one who was very much ahead of her time. She was a fiery feminist, and dismissive of creating any Gothic atmosphere. In fact the “soft nonsense” she was so scornful of in her Preface to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was a veiled reference to Emily’s novel, “Wuthering Heights”. Anne had a burning desire to tell the truth, and strip bare the essential imbalance of power between men and women in society. Specifically, she wished to reveal this dichotomy within the suffocating hierarchical structure of Victorian marriage. Anne held a mirror up to society’s failings, and allied to this was an even more personal concern.

All the Brontës—including their father, Reverend Patrick Brontë—believed Branwell to be a talented genius: both a painter and a poet, with far more potential than any of them … yet Branwell was also an alcoholic. And Anne wanted, by writing this novel, to give as direct a warning as she could to her brother (who read all his sisters’ novels), of the possible consequences for him.

But she was not writing for Branwell alone, and she did not portray him exactly. Anne’s novel was a cautionary tale, intended to be read by anyone and everyone. It threw down a gauntlet to the prevailing patriarchal society. Apart from his sorry addictions, Branwell had had an affair with his employer’s wife, and probably fathered an illegitimate child who died at birth. Both the alcoholism and the sexual exploits are very much indicated by one character Anne created, although the sexual element could only be hinted at in the novel. This character, was dashing and Byronic. The opium addiction too, is there, represented by another character .

Despite the restrictions of writing for Victorian sensibilities, and obeying the conventions and codes, the story Anne Brontë told, was bleak indeed: shocking and violent. Even 175 years later, reading one particular chapter, I had to take a deep breath at the veracity of what I was reading: the drunken debauchery of loutish but wealthy young men, and the subjection of the women, who were their wives. Anne was dealing with subjects never before considered appropriate for respectable Victorian literature. She daringly incorporated such scenes, related in very powerful direct dialogue, giving them an immediacy, yet the whole is disguised as a persuasive Victorian novel. Her novel was no mere thrilling entertainment, but written in deadly earnest.

Tragically, Anne was not to know that Branwell would die just two months after the second edition, followed by Emily, and then she herself, the following May (1849). She was just 29 years of age, but had produced an outstanding and groundbreaking work of fiction, and one of the first feminist novels. The BBC have rated it as one of the top hundred influential novels of all time.

One wonders what would have followed, if this young star had been allowed to follow her potential. Perhaps she would through her writing have effected some changes in English Law, much as Charles Dickens had. We will never know. But we do know much of the Brontës’ story, for instance that their surname was “Brunty” and “Brontë” was a little affectation: an invention by their father, to appear more distinguished. There had been two older Brontë sisters, who died of illnesses while at school. After this, Charlotte and Emily were brought home, where they and their remaining siblings, Anne and Branwell, amused themselves by making up elaborate stories about fantastical worlds. Branwell was their “king”. Branwell had been devoted to one of the elder sisters, after his mother had died, and that’s where all his problems began.

For most of the siblings’ lives, they lived in Haworth, a very old, remote village with cobbled streets, set amidst the Yorkshire moors. Their home is now the “Brontë Parsonage Museum”, crammed with artefacts and little stories they wrote as children. The little books are full of almost indecipherable writing, crossed over the other way to save space. The museum is now an enormously popular tourist attraction, with Haworth itself beset by crowds.

Anne Brontë used locations which were familiar to her. She set the farms in North Yorkshire: the original of Wildfell Hall was probably “Ponden Hall”, a farmhouse near Stanbury in West Yorkshire. The family farm of the narrator is “Linden-Car Farm”. The village of Linden-Car, which Wildfell Hall stands close to, is a composite of two Yorkshire dialect words: “car” meaning pool, pond or low-lying and boggy ground, and “hope” meaning a small enclosed valley.

Two of the houses where Anne had been employed as a governess, may have provided the inspiration for “Grassdale Manor”, another country seat. One was “Blake Hall” at Mirfield, which was used by Edward Morison Wimperis, an artist commissioned to illustrate all the Brontë sisters’ novels in 1872. The other was “Thorpe Green” where she also worked. It is likely that the author used aspects from both houses. Unlike her sisters however, she did not imbue “Wildfell Hall” with any romance whatsoever. This is no mysterious haunted gothic mansion; it is simply dilapidated, damp and unwelcoming.

Another part of the novel may have been taken from Anne’s experience. A Mrs. Collins, the wife of a local curate, had asked advice from Anne’s father, Rev. Patrick Brontë in 1840, about her alcoholic husband’s abusive conduct. Rev. Brontë advised her to leave her husband. Seven years later, Mrs. Collins again visited Haworth, and said that she had managed to build a new life for herself and her two children. This was while Anne was writing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was published in 1848, and is broadly speaking an epistolary novel, in which the author cleverly incorporates different voices, at different ages. A young gentleman farmer is writing to his friend with a long story to tell. His story begins in 1827, when he had been 24, and we follow the events over the next twenty years. During the first third of the novel, we meet his small social circle of friends. This part is a social novel, similar to Jane Austen’s comedy of manners in its observations of the small numbers of people, and how their lives and personalities interact.

One lives in strict seclusion, painting watercolours and selling them to dealers. She is probably one of the first women in English fiction who is an artist, not a housekeeper, companion or governess. When, reluctantly, she meets her neighbours, her opinions seem so odd, scandalous and out of step, that all sort of rumours begin to spread. Yet what she says does not sound at all strange to modern ears. She is a woman out of her time. Her voice adds a discordant note, and the events are soon to turn much darker.

The second section comprises a journal, and this is probably where the Victorian critics threw up their hands in horror. If they believed such debauchery took place, it certainly was not the province of novels. The voice in this middle section sounds very like a flawed yet idealised version of Anne herself. She has the same strong religious conviction; determined she can advise another on what is right, and rescue them from giving in to their weaknesses. We see this character develop over the twenty years, in a similar way to the first section.

The third section is again part of the frame letter, but now in the near present, spread over two years. This part is very gripping. There have been many twists and turns throughout this novel, and one final twist is particularly satisfying.

With The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Anne Brontë advocated hard work, honour and truth, but she also challenged many of the accepted rules of the patriarchal society of the time. Even the well-intentioned men represented the system of laws and social norms which entailed keeping women subordinate. At this time, with virtually no possibility of divorce, and married women being regarded as property, it was even more essential for them to choose wisely, or to endure a life of misery. We see decisions based on infatuation failing time and time again. Older and wiser people see the dangers of romance, and entrapment, but to no avail.

After their deaths, a publisher asked Charlotte if she would prepare new editions of her sisters’ novels, to be published as a lasting tribute. Charlotte was happy to do this for “Wuthering Heights”, although she changed a lot of the dialogue to make it a bit more intelligible to readers outside Yorkshire. She also agreed to republish Anne’s novel, “Agnes Grey”—but she would not consent to do so for The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall. She wrote to the publishers:

“Wildfell Hall” it hardly appears desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake.”

These damning words would have a huge impact upon Anne’s reputation. The first edition of The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall had been a huge success, and had sold even more copies than her own novel, “Jane Eyre” had done. She repeated these words in public in 1850, a year after Anne’s death, when she finally revealed her sisters’ true identities to the world by writing “Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell.” In it, she went on:

“[Anne] had in the course of her life, been called on to contemplate, near at hand and for a long time, the terrible effects of talents misused and faculties abused; hers was naturally a sensitive, reserved and dejected nature; what she saw sank very deeply into her mind; it did her harm. She brooded over it till she believed it to be a duty to reproduce every detail as a warning to others.”

Thus it is perfectly clear that Charlotte blamed the writing of The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall for Anne’s death. The novel is so intense and truthful, that Anne’s refusal to ignore these matters caused both mental and physical strain that were too great for her to bear. Charlotte was not motivated by anything as base as envy—but she may have deceived herself nevertheless.

The Brontë sisters were forced to watch Branwell’s deterioration and misuse of his talents. Anne alone had devised a way of coping; putting it on paper as a warning to others was cathartic. But during his final and fatal decline into drink and opium addiction, Charlotte had refused to see Branwell. One record from the time says that she did not speak to him for two years. From being his closest friend, Charlotte had now turned her back on him, and he died of tuberculosis.

Charlotte was shocked at some of Branwell’s failings being exposed to the world, in the shape of . Charlotte felt that she had failed Branwell in his final months. She had not stood by her brother in the way that Anne and Emily had, and now it was too late. Not only was The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall painful for her to read, but she could not bear the thought of others reading it, and passing judgement on Branwell. This must have felt intolerable. It is not surprising that Charlotte suppressed the next edition of The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, insisting:

“nothing less congruous with the writer’s nature could be conceived”.

She refused to allow the possibility of further slurs on Anne, who was now known to be a female writer. The vivid and realistic scenes of drunken abuse would certainly seem scandalous coming from a perfectly respectable young lady, whose father was a parson.

However, to remove Anne’s revolutionary novel from the Brontë canon inevitably caused great damage to her place in literary history. After Charlotte herself had died in 1854, publishers began reprinting The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, but they stripped it of several chapters, to keep the page count down, and it was riddled with errors and omissions. Brontë scholars now refer to this as “the mutilated text”, but nevertheless it was widely distributed and republished. Hence readers were confirmed in their idea of Anne as a lesser writer, with little talent: “the forgotten Brontë”, only remembered because of her connection with the brilliant Charlotte and Emily.

By the time the book reappeared in 1992, in a complete scholarly edition, it had been almost completely forgotten. Hopefully now this myth of there being just two brilliant Brontë sisters, which has resulted in The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall being largely ignored for well over a century, will soon be laid to rest, and the book and its author will begin to get the recognition they deserve.

I had written an analytical review of The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, but jettisoned it, as it seems more important to put the novel in its proper place, in the literary greats, as a soaring work of genius. Hopefully, I may persuade just one or two to look again at this astounding, truly revolutionary novel.
Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,564 followers
January 26, 2016
"Reformed rakes make the best husbands."

This is the maxim that governs the universe of historical romance novels. That a puerile assumption regarding dissolute cads turning into paragons of puritanical goodness on being administered the vital dosage of a virgin's 'love' fuels women's fantasies in this day and age depresses me to no end.
In a sense, this is the dialectical opposite of Kerouac's On the Road in that it systematically demystifies a contrived notion of masculine 'coolness' - the bastard child of a vile solipsism and unchecked aggression - that the latter romanticized. Women writers of today, particularly those who are laughing all the way to the bank by mass-producing this unforgivable blather, wake the hell up! The youngest Brontë sister saw the evil the cult of machismo breeds in young male children and portrayed it without inhibitions, without holding anything back. 150+ years ago. What are you still waiting for?
It is all very well to talk about noble resistance, and trials of virtue; but for fifty-or five hundred men that have yielded to temptation, show me one that has had virtue to resist. And why should I take it for granted that my son will be one in a thousand?-and not rather prepare for the worst, and suppose he will be like this-like the rest of mankind, unless I take care to prevent it?

Reading this nearly made me experience that same nightmare that is encapsulated in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Of course the horrors that Atwood delineated with an unsettling composure make you break out in gooseflesh while Helen's traumatic experiences are merely unpleasant. But there's the same sick feeling of being held against one's will, the same revulsion that threatens to overshadow all other emotions. A blow by blow account of an abusive marriage and a woman being condemned to tolerating a melee hosted by drunken, wife-and-child-abusing reprobates day after infuriating day, year after agonizing year will do that to you. Especially when this picture of oppression is completed by the inexorable professions of love from overenthused admirers who do not take the matter of consent all that seriously. Does that seem harrowing enough?
Marriage may change your circumstances for the better, but, in my private opinion, it is far more likely to produce a contrary result.

That I am choosing to hold back a star is because Anne's writing lacks Emily's verve and Charlotte's intellectual rigour and that certain something which makes one wish to prolong the act of reading a book. Her characterization is a bit wobbly as Helen is inconsistent throughout the length of the novel - she is stringently insular against Gilbert's growing affection for her and suddenly she isn't, she secures an escape route from her husband's den of debauchery and suddenly returns to that same hell when he is dying in an act of Christian compassion. Besides the repeated attempts at making doctrinal virtue a crutch on which to balance her self assertion wearied me. (Yes yes this was the Victorian era, I understand!)
The narrative is a bit lacking in an overall structural integrity. This is particularly evident in the presence of certain generic plot devices and cliches that Anne employs to effect a reconciliation between Gilbert and Helen. I would have been most happy if Gilbert had just been a mildly nosy townsman narrating the events because as a character he may not have been there at all.

P.S.:-Mary A. Ward's introduction mentions how Branwell's alcoholism and reckless behaviour inspired Emily and Anne Brontë to recreate the same kind of violence in their fiction. Heathcliff and Huntingdon were the results.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,194 reviews9,465 followers
January 7, 2019
Some movies are really pretty bad except for one transcendent performance, Sophie’s Choice for instance. The glittering pallid Meryl Streep is just brilliant whilst the movie itself is a bit of a pain. Same with novels.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a game of three halves. For the first 100 pages the tiresomely earnest Gilbert Markham tells his tale of how he fell in love with the new lady tenant of the crumbling hall and how she drove him crazy with her intense mysteriousness and this is all very well but the next 200 pages is the diary of the said lady and wow.

Helen Graham’s own story is fierce and scintillatingly told. It’s of how she set her cap for this beautiful bad boy and got all married to him with everyone telling her it was a terrible mistake, and how little by little, she found herself living a life of horror – no, there was never any physical violence, but there were all the colours of the rainbow of psychological violence, beginning with the speed his originally perfectly sincere love and lust dwindled away, and how his excursions to London with his old rakish buddies began to take longer and longer, and how the wine and spirits became more and more noticeable, and how eventually he would openly flaunt his affairs in front of her, inviting his latest girlfriend as a houseguest for weeks on end, and she not allowed to say one word, for propriety’s sake.

All this in excruciating detail, with the screws tightened on each succeeding page.

Another part of the genius of this section is that Helen herself is self-revelatingly skewered. (I hope this was Anne Bronte’s intention!) Because Helen is a religious obsessive and - we have to say - really sanctimonious - and frankly is more than a bit of a pain in the neck. She seems to know the Bible backwards and inside out & always has a handy quote from the second epistle of Samson to the Troglodytes or the book of Maccabees. Victims of patriarchal oppression are not by this sad circumstance necessarily loveable themselves.

But the awfulness of the 100% possession of the wife and her money and her property by her husband is a terrifying vision. You can see arbitrary oppression running through many 19th century novels – Les Miserables, Oliver Twist, Caleb Williams, etc. And here it takes place not in the gory dungeons but in the mimsiest, most doily-infested of drawing rooms. For many women, marriage was an invisible prison.

Alas when that part of the narrative closes we are back to Gilbert for the more predictable conclusion to the story and here it is the 21st century reader who might find themselves a trifle oppressed, by the jawbreaking circumlocutious language and the interminable periphrasing. Gilbert uses fifteen ten dollar words just to tell you he walked down a street.

The central 200 pages of Helen’s diary are a 5 star read. But the first and last sections drag this novel down, down, down. With regret, I have to say – overall, 3.5 stars.



It is late September 1848, the drawing room of the Parsonage at Haworth, home of the Bronte family. The sisters are discussing literature in between bouts of coughing. Bramwell lies dead behind the sofa.

Charlotte : Oh come on, you totally stole from Jane Eyre, admit it.

Emily : Oh shove off. See that stain on the ceiling there? That’s Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights now, that’s massive. 120% original. Heathcliff, Cathy – boom. Already a classic.

Charlotte : Yeah well, it’s a pity all the critics think you belong in the loony bin.

Anne : Wait a moment, dear sisters, whilst I perform a mental calculation. Agnes Grey, that’s one. Tenant of Wildfell Hall, that’s two. So that’s Anne v Charlotte, two-one, and Anne v Emily, er, oh! Two-one again! That’s called winning, you know.

Charlotte : Oh shut up Anne.

Emily : Yeah, shut up Anne.

Anne : How very vulgar, but of course no surprise.

Charlotte : And anyway, since we’re on the subject, Jane Eyre, right, she’s a governess, right, and your Agnes Grey, what is she then? Oh, wait, a governess. And which one was published first? Oh, ME – that’s who, me. You ripped me off. I’m going to sue your backside.

Anne : Then I’ll see you in court any day soon, dear sister. I think you’ll find you have no copyright on the word ��governess”. There’s more than one oppressed governess in merry England. Just like there’s more than one house. Are you going to sue us because our characters live in houses?

Emily : Oh shut up Anne. Drone drone drone just like your feeble novels. Just because you don’t know when to stop writing.

(They all pause to cough, then resume arguing.)
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
December 1, 2021
Bravissima, Brontë!

There is a straight logical line leading from the brilliant fiction of Anne Brontë, written in 1847, to Margaret Atwood's equally persuasive The Handmaid's Tale of our own era. Eloquent, erudite, witty women describe what makes patriarchal, Christian society brutally unjust to any woman of feeling and intelligence, and not just in extreme cases, but in its core idea of women's roles and choice(lessness) - their suppressed individual right to self-defined sexuality and their denied financial and judicial independence.

It is the eternal story of beautiful, smart Helen! She is 18 years old, and she feels attracted to a typical bad guy, Arthur Huntingdon. In a modern, liberal, democratic and equal society, she will have an affair with him during her teenage years, then she will get over the butterflies, leave him and embark on another adventure during her years of professional emancipation and training, possibly with less disgusting Mr Hargrave. When she realises that he isn't her type either, she will break up again and eventually find her Mr Markham, marry him and have children while pursuing her professional career. Possibly, the marriage will work out, and they will live through ups and downs and stay together. Or they might divorce and go their separate ways again, on equal terms.

But this is not the kind of society Helen is born into. She is brainwashed with a genuine fear of Hell, and a wish to earn her place in Heaven by suffering humiliation and degradation in this life rather than going against the inconsistent Church teachings (which even believers fail to explain in the course of the narrative, thus creating involuntarily comical effects by discussing the sadness they feel that they won't be loving each other in the same - read: physical, sexual - way if they are united in Heaven, rather than on Earth).

So Helen, cursed with being born into the wrong society, has to suffer when she feels her first sexual desire, and she decides to marry the scoundrel that crosses her path, and then to endure his entitlement and misogynistic attacks for years. Both she and her infernal husband consider her his property. They are one single entity, with him being the head, and her being the body to be used and discarded at the head's pleasure. Only when she realises he might turn her 5-year-old son into an alcoholic, she runs away and lives (against current law) in hiding in a remote place, quietly suffering the gossip of the village that shows no mercy for a young woman on her own, and produces such a flood of fake news regarding her behaviour that the reader would have fallen into despair, had she not been schooled in the post-truth era (Brontë seems to have lived in a pre-truth era, which leaves the reader wondering when truth was ever spoken!).

When the monstrous husband is deserted by his second lover and fatally ill from an accident, the saintly woman returns to do her Christian duty and nurse him until he finally, mercifully dies by the hand of the caring author, who knows the reader needs poetical justice after such suffering and pain. The beautiful Helen is rewarded for her consistency and sexual restraint by marrying the valiant knight who waited for her without assaulting her in the meantime, and without calling her ungrateful for daring not to love him, as the not-so-valiant Hargrave did. Rejected men are dangerous, as we know. The highest prize for a devout woman AD 1847 is to marry an apple that is not rotten through and through.

Helen undoubtedly is stronger and more independent than most women of her times, and yet she mirrors the horror of conventional Christianity in combination with patriarchy. Being an intelligent, passionate woman with natural desires, she should have been allowed a choice at every step of her development - as it is, the reader can only bow to the powerful narrative in the voice of a woman who dared to show the injustice and absurdity of her times, writing for both men and women, as she stated in the preface.

Wild One! In the best possible sense!
Profile Image for Piyangie.
518 reviews414 followers
November 17, 2021
The Tenant of the Wildfell Hall is the second novel and my first reading of Anne Bronte. The first thought that came to mind while reading this was why it took me this long to discover her? I was familiar with her more famous sisters Charlotte and Emily but didn't know of her existence until a very recent time!

Anne's writing is far different from that of her sisters. Her approach to writing is more direct. There is no poetic language, no implied romanticism, and less flowery phrases, which is the signature of her famous siblings. Instead, her writing is direct, bold, and realistic. With her authentic writing style, she weaves the tale of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall into a realistic, timeless tale.

The heroine, Helen, finds her paying a bitter price for her foolish infatuation and ultimate marriage to a rake. His alcoholism and debauchery make her life a living hell, but she endures it all with her strong sense of duty. When his conduct threatens the well-being of her son, she flees and seeks refuge elsewhere with the noble desire for the welfare of her son at her heart. Eventually, her "good for nothing" husband dies and she finally finds love and happiness.

Although the gist of the story seems like a pretty little love story, it is not. It is a story of sheer courage and patience to forbear abuse and to hold on when all your hopes are cruelly crushed and despair is threatening to drown you. It is a story of a sense of duty towards one’s husband although he is no better than a demon. It is a story of a mother who is taking the right course of action to protect her son, although that course of action is something which would shock the world (for, leaving one's husband under any circumstances was against the law and nothing short of a crime) and scorn her. This is still the story of numerous women all around the world. For them, Helen is a model of comfort and strength to draw courage from and to stand on their own ground. Having an abusive alcoholic brother herself, Anne must have been well aware of the consequences of women in such a household.

This piece of work is regarded as one of feminist work, but my opinion is to the contrary. Although there is a touch of feminism in it with more emphasis on the wrongs done for women, it is not completely so. The story talks about both sides; a woman's suffering in the case of abuse and debauchery by her husband and a man's suffering in the event of adultery by his wife. And it also points at the villains among men, who rather than offering strength, comfort, and friendly support to a woman in desperate need of it, try to reap their own fruit of selfish passion.

The book deals with so many raw emotions, the ever-changing feelings when faced with different tiers of misery. Though the book lacks beautiful language, flowery prose, and graceful flow as that you would expect in a Bronte, this direct narrative is soul searching with every written sentence tugging at your heartstrings. It is truly amazing when a book does that. I had a delightful reading experience with this book. It is a book quite advanced in time in which it was written. And I'm thankful to Anne Bronte for taking upon a daring venture in writing this wonderful book on a universal and timeless theme.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,861 reviews519 followers
November 4, 2022
An autobiographical novel that shocked society then, it mainly addresses the problems caused by alcoholism and debauchery and the struggle of women to achieve equal rights. Gilbert Markham is deeply attached to Helen, a woman with a reputation for being immoral and hiding an obscure past, which he always tries to defend even if he does not know the truth. Only over time does Helen gains confidence and reveals her sad history, poorly treated and badly loved by an alcoholic and an unfaithful husband who enjoyed his religion. Although she struggles for her independence, Helen is still under the power of her husband, from whom alone death will free her.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,186 reviews1,097 followers
April 20, 2018
What a surprisingly good read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was.

I think when you read a Classic like this you have to immerse yourself in the time when it was written and this one goes back to the mid 1840s, a time when the pace of life was slower, and when there was no Television or social media and a time when snail mail and word of mouth were the facebook and twitter of the time. I think if you have the ability to do this you would love and enjoy this novel as I am sure this was a rocking good read for any reader back in 1848.

The novel is divided into three volumes and begins with the arrival of the beautiful and mysterious Mrs Graham in a sleepy country neighborhood. Mrs Graham causes quite a stir as she gives the country folk something new to talk and gossip about but the talk soon turns to nasty rumors about her and her son. The book's setting is the English country side with its isolated sprawling manors, rugged good looking gentlemen and cackle of young women on the hunt for well to do husbands.

The story is edgy and fresh for its time with likable and dislikable characters and a plot that was suprisingly engrossing. The writting is descriptive but very readable and while I read this one at a slower pace than normal I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with this classic.

So if you enjoy classic literature, but have been putting this one off I advise putting it on your winter reading list, cosy up by the fire and take yourself back in time to get the best out of this book.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 1 book2,812 followers
June 27, 2021
This book is incredible. Such a brilliant beautiful and impressive examination of marriage, gender and social status in the 19th century. A wonderful, wonderful novel.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
December 4, 2013
I suspect that many readers today have no idea that these three vicarage-raised spinsters took the English publishing world by storm in the mid-eighteen hundreds. Thundering from reviews were words like coarse, shocking, immoral, depraved . . . and those reviewers thought the authors Acton, Ellis, and Currer Bell were men!

Tenant hit the shelves with the biggest splash, requiring a second edition, at the front of which Anne added an impassioned forward aimed at critics. She maintains that she is telling the truth as she saw it, and further, in depicting the dregs of drunkenness, she is showing how it really is, now how it would like to be seen.

The only thing she finesses is her gender, implying she's a male--this, she knew well, gave her words agency in a way a female's wouldn't--but she ends the foreword with a determined statement that anything a man could write a woman ought to be able to write as well.

The story itself is pretty tame by today's standards, so it's difficult to understand its profound impact. One has to know something of Victorian history to understand how Mrs. Huntington daring to shut her bedroom door on her abusive, drunken husband, thus denying him his "rights," was a door-slam heard round the world.

That isn't to say that there wasn't question about authorship. Trollope and a few others intuited that a woman wrote the book. I suspect this is because Gilbert Markham is not quite believable as a male, but it could be because Mrs. Huntington, in daring to deny her drunken spouse his rights, and then taking her boy away and leaving him, then getting a happy ending, was nothing a man would write. Just ask Hardy!

Anyway, the basic story is fairly well known: a mysterious widow, "Mrs. Grahame," moves to a secluded town, keeping herself to herself, and earning her living by painting. She gets to know the local sprig, Gilbert Markham, whose POV takes up about three fifths of the book (the rest is Helen's journal of her marriage), is at first antagonistic and then slowly attracted to the widow, who becomes enamored of him, then quite properly according to Victorian mores, shuts him down. She gives him her journal, then makes him promise he will leave her alone, since she must abide alone as long as her husband lives. Later she goes back to her husband when news comes he's suffered a horseback riding accident and is in danger of losing his life. She nurses him faithfully, writes about it in detail, and in a roundabout manner that bows to Victorian notions of delicacy, manages to get her happy ending after all.

For a modern reader, it's difficult to understand how she could like Gilbert, who is really annoying, veering between preachiness and sudden bouts of sullenness and violence, no doubt in the way Anne observed men behaving. What she couldn't do was get inside their heads. The most convincing scenes are Helen's journal, and the minor female characters stand out from the various males, the servant Rachel being one of the best, and Eliza being one of the worst, in a masterly depiction of Victorian female falsity.

The book makes a strong effort to balance the depravity of Huntington and his circle with Christian moralizing, but deep at the heart of this was Anne's own struggle with faith, finally arriving at universal forgiveness: how could God reject the creatures he had made?

Huntingdon's end was harrowing for those times, and there is the resonance of truthful observation of the cost of drunkenness in his physical decline, in spite of the faithfully reproduced but absurd medical cant of the time (including a brief reference to phrenology!). Anne was an acute observer of human behavior, the opposite of poor Emily, whose work reads to me like the fiction of someone incapable of social awareness or comprehension. Emily was her own person, and Wuthering Heights reads like id vortex on speed--no wonder it, too, totally bushwhacked the English publishing world of the 1840s. Then came Jane Eyre, whose central figure, so much like Charlotte, depicts the woman determined to make her place in a man's world.

I think Tenant is also interesting for Anne's take on the Byronic hero/villain, a type that fascinated the Bronte kids (all four of them, Branwell apparently trying to be one, poor thing), as one can see in the juvenilia that still exists. But unlike Branwell, Charlotte, and Emily, Anne does not find the moody, brutal male at all sexy, except superficially, and that doesn't last.

Huntington, in spite of his good looks, is depicted with unflinching accuracy to detail: an abusive, selfish dickbag, who had no value for anyone or anything but his own inclinations, right down to getting his five year old son drunk in order to entertain the company with his swearing and falling down. Those scenes are about the most harrowing in the book, the more because they feel real.
Profile Image for shakespeareandspice.
342 reviews535 followers
February 10, 2017
[4.5 stars]

Move over, Charlotte. Make room for my new favorite Brontë!

It is inevitable for me to compare Anne Brontë with her sisters, and Helen Graham with Jane Eyre particularly, but I shall momentarily do so anyway. Some said this was better than any Brontë novel published, some claimed it deeply overhyped. After reading this, I shall have to agree with the former claim as I thought this book surpassed, to quite an extent, the love I had for Jane Eyre.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall shook me from the first page, when I discovered that rather than the conventional female perspective, the narrative opens with a letter penned by a male protagonist, Gilbert Markham. I am not the biggest fan of framed stories but this one was deeply engaging all the way through. Through Gilbert’s letter, we then dive into Helen’s diaries and her life, which forms the majority of the novel.

Helen Graham is by far of the strongest female protagonist I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. It’s not simply because she has been through an abusive relationship and needs to be pitied, but because she bears through a lot of nonsense from her husband with such grace that there were points at which I was infuriated at her calmness. She takes everything in strides,
“my bliss is sobered, but not destroyed; my hopes diminished, but not departed; my fears increased, but not yet throughly confirmed”

While this sort of pacifism is clearly harmful to her and her son’s existence, in reality, I have a difficult time criticizing her for bearing through so much before she finally decided to do what was right. In such cases, things were most certainly easier said than done. So though I was angered by her mild reactions at times, I cannot fault her in her decisions because I cannot claim something as definitively right or wrong given that I haven’t been through any sort of similar experience as she.

But generally though, how could I not love Anne for shaping a character that is constantly being tested and yet never letting that deteriorate her from her and her son’s happiness. In the end, I would’ve completely understood Helen if she had given up on everything in life, on striving to make peace, but in the end she doesn’t let anyone destroy her existence. And I just had to sit back and admire that for a moment. Her patience was tested by more than just one character, and multiple times throughout, but she always responds in a clear, sensible manner. Her hushed posture can easily be misconstrued for indifference by readers but I don’t think she is indifferent to anything, merely aware of the prejudices against her and cynical of her environment because of it.

I cannot say whether I really liked or disliked Gilbert Markham, but I have to argue that I was somewhat disappointed that we did not get to see a lot of interaction between him and Helen once the story is coming to an end. Given all that Helen has gone through by the end of her diaries, I expected her to be a bit more cautious with her affections. Similarly, I was also a bit unsatisfied with the ending of Jane Eyre so I suppose it’s something that I will eventually have to get past.

And lastly, of course, the controversial aspect of this novel, and what makes it so fantastic, is Helen’s relationship with her husband. Anne Brontë is unflinchingly honest in her depiction of alcoholism and how that leads to an abusive marriage. She is ruthless in her assertion of how women are shoved into a corner without a voice, abused, mistreated, and exploited in their silence. Brontë writes things which are hard to read about, but even harder to comprehend as the realities of women—then, and now. Despite knowing that all of these things still continue to happen in our society, and how much for the sake of propriety we force women into mute beings, Brontë still managed to craft some sentences which punched me right in the gut.

How could I not love something like this?
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,464 reviews9,619 followers
January 21, 2022
My God!! Why!!!!

I was so in love with this book!! I was going to give it 5 stars, slap it on my favorites list and save up to buy this expensive edition!! Then….

we get to the part where she blah blah blah and goes back to where she came from to do stupid things and I got so irritated and felt sorry for what’s his head that I almost snapped. Sigh……………………

I’m glad some people have 3,695 days to get things done 🤨 So 4 stars

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Mara.
1,559 reviews3,762 followers
March 20, 2021
*editing this to full 5 stars, as I am liking this more as I think about it days later* Man oh man, I think this is now my second favorite Bronte novel? A seriously underhyped classic, this was truly a pleasure to read. The only thing that holds me back from a full 5 stars is that I STAN Helen on another level and Gilbert was a little too derpy for my tastes, but I am going to be noodling on this one for quite some time. What a statement about women and their work, feminism, and how much people are truly capable of change

CW: domestic abuse, substance abuse
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
October 15, 2020
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second and final novel by the English author Anne Brontë. It was first published in 1848 under the pseudonym Acton Bell.

The novel is framed as a series of letters from Gilbert Markham to his friend about the events connected with his meeting a mysterious young widow, calling herself Helen Graham, who arrives at Wildfell Hall, an Elizabethan mansion which has been empty for many years, with her young son and a servant.

Contrary to the early 19th century norms, Helen pursues an artist's career and makes an income by selling her pictures.

Mrs Graham's strict seclusion soon gives rise to gossip in the neighbouring village and she becomes a social outcast.

Refusing to believe anything scandalous about her, Gilbert befriends Mrs Graham and discovers her past. In the diary she gives Gilbert, Helen chronicles her husband's physical and moral decline through alcohol and debauchery in the dissipated aristocratic society.

Ultimately Helen flees with her son, whom she desperately wishes to save from his father's influence. The depiction of marital strife and women's professional identification has also a strong moral message mitigated by Anne Brontë's belief in universal salvation.

عنوانها: «ح‍ق‍ی‍ق‍ت‌ ع‍ش‍ق‌ (م‍س‍ت‍اج‍ر ع‍م‍ارت‌ وی‍ل‍دف‍ی‍ل‌)»؛ «مستأجر عمارت وایلدفل»؛ «مستاجر عمارت وایلدفل»؛ «مستاجر ملک وایلدفل‌هال»‬؛ «‏‫مستاجر وایلدفل هال»‬؛ نویسنده: آن برونته؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نهم ماه آگوست سال 2014میلادی

عنوان: ح‍ق‍ی‍ق‍ت‌ ع‍ش‍ق‌ (م‍س‍ت‍اج‍ر ع‍م‍ارت‌ وی‍ل‍دف‍ی‍ل‌)؛ نویسنده: آن‌ ب‍رون‍ت‍ه‌؛ مت‍رج‍م: روش‍ن‌ آق‍اخ‍ان‍ی‌؛ ت‍ه‍ران: اردی‍ب‍ه‍ش‍ت‌‏‫، 1372؛ در 422ص؛ چاپ دوم 1386؛ شابک 9789641710035؛ موضوع: داستانهای نو��سندگان بریتانیایی - سده 19م

عنوان: مستاجر وایلدفل هال؛ نویسنده: آن‌ ب‍رون‍ت‍ه‌؛ مت‍رج‍م: رضا رضایی؛ تهران نشر نی‏‫، 1392؛‬ در 616ص؛ شابک 9789641853060؛ چاپ دوم 1395؛ چاپ سوم 1397؛

عنوان: مستاجر ملک وایلدفل هال؛ نویسنده: آن‌ ب‍رون‍ت‍ه‌؛ مت‍رج‍م: اسماعیل قهرمانی‌پور؛ تهران روزگار‏‫، 1393؛‬ در 464ص؛ شابک 9789643744670؛

عنوان: مستأجر عمارت وایلدفل؛ نویسنده: آن‌ ب‍رون‍ت‍ه‌؛ مت‍رج‍م: مرتضی اسدخواه؛ ویراستار مرجان صادقی؛ تهران بادبان‏‫، 1395؛‬ در 496ص؛ شابک 9786007005590؛

عنوان: مستاجر عمارت وایلدفل؛ نویسنده: آن‌ ب‍رون‍ت‍ه‌؛ مت‍رج‍م مریم صادقی؛ ویراستار مرضیه‌ السادات حسینی‌ آذر؛ تهران متن دیگر‏‫، 1395؛‬ در 496ص؛ شابک 9786009636860؛

فهرست کتاب مستاجر ملک وایلدفل هال: «دیباچه»؛ «نکته‌ ای راجع به متن کتاب»؛ «مستاجر وایلد فل هال»؛ «خدمت هالفورد تقدیم می‌شود»؛ فصل 1: «یک کشف»؛ فصل 2: «یک مصاحبه»؛ فصل 3: «یک مشاجرة لفظی»؛ فصل 4: «مهمانی»؛ فصل 5: «استودیوی نقاشی»؛ فصل 6: «سیر و سیاحت در اطراف»؛ فصل 7: «به گردش رفتن»؛ فصل 8: «کادو»؛ فصل 9: «ماری در میان علف‌ها»؛ فصل 10: «یک پیمان و یک جر و بحث»؛ فصل 11: «باز هم آقای قائم ‌مقام مذهبی»؛ فصل 12: «یک گفتگوی خودمانی دو نفری و یک کشف خرد کننده»؛ فصل 13: «مجدداً به کار چسبیدن»؛ فصل 14: «یک مشاجرة لفظی منجر به ضرب و شتم»؛ فصل 15: «یک برخورد و پی‌آمدهای آن»؛ فصل 16: «اخطارهای تجارب»؛ فصل 17: «اخطارهای بعدی»؛ فصل 18: «یک نقاشی صورت»؛ فصل 19: «یک اتفاق»؛ فصل 20: «پافشاری»؛ فصل 21: «نظریات»؛ فصل 22: «علائم دوستی»؛ فصل 23: «اولین هفته ‌های ازدواج»؛ فصل 24: «اولین جر و بحث»؛ فصل 25: «اوّلین غیبت»؛ فصل 26: «آمدن مهمانان»؛ فصل 27: «یک گناه»؛ فصل 28: «عواطف والدینی»؛ فصل 29: «همسایه»؛ فصل 30: «صحنه‌ های خانگی»؛ فصل 31: «محاسن اجتماعی»؛ فصل 32: «رد کردن اطلاعات دریافتی از طریق مقایسه»؛ فصل 33: «ماجراهای دو شب»؛ فصل 34: «حفظ ظاهر»؛ فصل 35: «برافروختگی‌ها»؛ فصل 36: «تنهایی دو نفری»؛ فصل 37: «باز هم همسایه»؛ فصل 38: «مرد دلشکسته»؛ فصل 39: «طرح فرار»؛ فصل 40: «یک بدبیاری»؛ فصل 41: «امید انسان‌ها در دلشان جوانه می‌زد»؛ فصل 42: «یک نوع اصلاحات»؛ فصل 43: «مرزها فرو می‌ریزد»؛ فصل 44: «فرار»؛ فصل 45؛ «»؛ فصل 46: «مشاورة دوستانه»؛ فصل 47: «یک خبر بهت‌آور»؛ فصل 48: «اطلاعات بیشتر»؛ فصل 49 «»؛ فصل 50: «شک‌ها و تردیدها و یاس‌ها»؛ فصل 51: «یک رویداد غیرمنتظره»؛ فصل 52: «تردیدها و دودلی‌ها»؛ فصل 53: «نتیجه‌ گیری»؛

در کتاب «مستاجر ملک وایلدفل هال»، «آن برونته» در نظر دارد، حقیقت را بیان کند، زیرا حقیقت همواره اخلاقیات را به آنهایی انتقال می‌دهد، که توانایی درک آن را دارند؛ او با جسارت و اصرار فراوان، قدم جلو گذاشت، تا افسانه‌ های رمانتیک که ناشی از عشق بوده‌ اند را، در‌هم بکوبد؛ یک زن بیوه، همراه با پسر و خدمتکار خود، به «وایلدفل هال» می‌آید؛ مردم شهر، داستان‌های عجیبی در مورد او، و زندگی گذشته‌ اش تعریف می‌کنند، اما «گیلبرت مارکهام»، که دل به او باخته، تلاش می‌کند تا این داستان‌ها را باور نکند؛ اما با گذر زمان دچار تردید می‌شود، که آیا اعتمادش به جا بوده است؟ این رمان به باور بسیاری از منتقدین، یکی از نخستین رمان‌های فمنیستی است؛

این دیدگاه «آن» از ابراز حقیقت، در رمان «مستاجر ملک وایلدفل هال»، روی تفسیر کتاب «جین ایر» و «بلندی‌های بادگیر»، به قلم خواهرانش، تاثیر گذاشته، و سطح آنها را به‌ طور قابل ملاحظه‌ ای، بالا برده است؛ اما واقعیات و نیروی اعمال شده روی خوانشگران رمان «مستاجر وایلد فل هال»، موجب ضربه و ناراحتی روحی، حتی روی آن تعداد از مرور کننده‌ های این رمان شده است، که به توانایی‌های قابل ملاحظه ی مولف آن، واکنش نشان داده‌ اند؛ «چارلز کینگزلی»، منتقد مجله «فریزر»، توانایی و جسارت «آن»، در خلق یک کتاب جالب را، مورد تایید قرار داده، و باور دارد که: ما باید از نویسنده‌ ای همانند «آن»، برای برملا کردن باطن کثیف جامعه ی انگلیس، در ورای ظاهر‌ «تر و تمیزش» سپاسگزار باشیم

البته خود «برونته» نیز، به خشونت غیرضروری، و لحن تند قلم‌ خویش، پی برده است؛ از‌ سوی دیگر، آقای «شارپ»، منتقد مجله لندن، عقیده دارد که علاقه ی شدید، و استعداد موجود در این رمان، باید به صورت مثبت، مورد بررسی قرار بگیرد، زیرا احتمال دارد، که خانم‌های خوانشگر این رمان، دلشان بخواهد، همان شیوه‌ ها را، خودشان به مورد اجرا بگذارند، و از همان کلمات خشن، که در این کتاب در اختیارشان قرار می‌دهیم، استفاده کنند، و عین همانها را در صفحه ��شارپ» مجله، به خود ما منعکس کرده‌ اند؛

با مقایسه ی ویژگیهای اخلاقی عالی، خوانشگر این رمان، سر در گم می‌ماند، که «اکتون بل» مرد است یا زن؛ یک فرضیه برای حل این چیستان می‌تواند این باشد، که شوهر این خانم مولف، یا یک آشنای مرد، او را در نوشتن این رمان، یاری می‌داده است؛ جای تعجب اینجا است، که رمان «مستاجر وایلد فل هال»، به قلم کوچکترین خواهران «برونته» نوشته شده است، که حتی در سن نوزده سالگی، اشکال تکلم داشت، و خواهرانش از این می‌ترسیدند، که خانم «اینگهم»، صاحب‌کار او، خیال خواهد کرد، که او ذاتاً ناتوان است؛ و یک دهه بعد، به نظر یکی از ناشرهای «لندن» بنام «جرج اسمیت»، «آن برونته» با اشعار، و دو تا از رمان‌هایش، که مایه ی افتخار او بودند، یک زن ملایم رسیده بود، نه عاجز و ناتوان، که به حمایت احتیاج داشته باشد، نوعی حالت تمنا داشت، که موجب دلسوزی می‌شد؛ «آن» با علم به‌ درستی هدف‌ خویش، از این دیدگاه‌های خشن، شدیداً در عذاب بود؛ اصل نسخه ی دست‌نویس کتاب «مستاجر وایلد فل هال» باقی نمانده است؛

از نامه ی «گیلبرت مارکهم» فرستاده‌ شده به «هالفورد»، چنان برمی‌آید، که «آن برانته» این کتاب را بین تابستان سال 1846میلادی تا ماه ژوئن سال 1847میلادی نوشته بودند؛ زیرا در فاصله ماه‌های آگوست و نوامبر سال 1847میلادی، «آن» سرگرم اصلاح نسخه ی نخست کتاب «اگنس گری» خودش، که پیش از این کتاب نگاشته، بوده است، اما پس از چاپ آن در ماه دسامبر، «آن» فرصت لازم برای نگاشتن کتاب «مستاجر وایلد فل هال» را، در اختیار داشته، و گویا اصل کتاب «مستاجر» نیز، به قلم خود «آن برونته»، در کتابخانه دانشگاه پرینستن موجود است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 23/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Fiona.
319 reviews343 followers
September 27, 2015
The question "Jane Eyre or Catherine Earnshaw[/Linton/whatever]?" has always annoyed me. I couldn't stand Wuthering Heights, accomplished though it was, and I think lots of people tend to assume I must be something of a Jane Eyre devotee: I'm not. I'm really not.

The next time someone asks me which I prefer, I shall tell them: Helen Huntingdon. Emphatically, enthusiastically, and with the fire of a thousand suns. Helen Huntingdon don't need no man. She's had enough of your friendzoning bullshit. Helen Huntingdon will tell you precisely what she thinks of you, with documentary supporting evidence from your wife, and then she will close the library door and make good art, which you are not allowed to see. Helen Huntingdon is a force of nature, and and she has a happily-ever-after to manufacture for herself. She might not know exactly what it'll look like, but it'll be hers.

This book... okay, let's get the one solitary negative out of the way, which is that the structure is a bit weird. The framing narrative is boring compared to the meat of the story, and the meat of the story is told in diary form. It doesn't really work. Do I care? Not in the slightest.

For the first sixty or so pages, we join Whiner of the Month Gilbert Markham, who discovers that there's a new lady living at the house out of town - it's Wildfell Hall, she's the tenant, are you with me? - and she's far nicer and prettier and less of a bitch than the girl he's currently in love with, so he starts flirting. New Lady isn't interested. He embarrasses himself in a wide selection of ways: getting caught climbing in her window by her maid and being told to move on, punching a guy off his horse and having to sidle along and apologise later, endless "are you watching me paint"/"no"/"stop watching me paint, Gilbert" conversations... and then she decides to explain herself.

What follows is Helen Huntingdon's diary through the first seven years of her marriage to a heinous bastard, from when they first meet, to when she leaves him. Anne Brontë sugar-coats nothing. She doesn't say there are good times. She doesn't suggest that Arthur Huntingdon might be alright, really, deep down. She doesn't even make him a monster. You'll recognise him; I certainly do. He's of a kind with Rochester, with Heathcliff, with a hundred men inspired by them (Edward Fairfax Rochester: the thinking woman's abusive romantic hero). But Anne Brontë tells the truth: you'll never reform him. He doesn't just love you. Nobody's different. This is what it's always going to be like.

I read this for a book group, and we noted that Helen Huntingdon does what Isabella Linton does in Wuthering Heights: she marries young and idealistically, thinking she can change a man who obviously strings her along. She does her best, for as long as she can, and then she takes her son and runs. We're not really meant to like Isabella - she's young, she's foolish, we're sort of supposed to think she should have known better - but you know, I was with her all along, and I'm still with her.

Luckily for us, Helen Huntingdon is a complete badass. She sticks around, she puts up with a lot, but she doesn't do it quietly. She doesn't lie down and take anything. There is a core of her that remains there, but it's not hidden away under layers of thick skin. It's right out in the open, and staring pointedly. And when it gets too much, she takes her son, and she leaves. And she supports herself. And she does difficult things, and they hurt, and she does them, and she grows as a character and as a woman (and I mean that as opposed to girl, rather than as opposed to man). Such character growth. I love it.

She's portrayed positively, which is why she's different from Isabella Linton, why she's fascinating and important and my hero, and why you've not read this book. Anne, and Helen, were too far ahead of their time. It was too much, and Charlotte Brontë denied Wildfell Hall a reprint. It fell out of the public eye. In the 1970s, I gather, noticing that marriage wasn't always perfect came back into fashion, and the book had something of a resurgence. Frankly, it deserves a bigger one.

In the author's foreword, she says that she was trying to write something true. For me, Wildfell Hall rings far more true than Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights ever did. The characters act in ways that are true. They say things, and respond to things, in ways that are true. They escape, finally, or don't, in ways that are true. I am happy that I have found this Brontë, for she is my Brontë and I am hers. I think you should read it. Seriously, you can borrow my copy.
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
488 reviews506 followers
December 24, 2018
Segunda Brönte acabada de mi reto #AgostoBrönte. Al iniciarme con Anne Brönte tenías dos ideas que me rondaban la cabeza desde hacía tiempo. La primera es la evidente. ¿Por qué Anne no comparte fama y éxito con sus hermanas? Al menos, no al mismo nível. Y esto me hacía pensar a veces que quizá no tenía la misma calidad literaria. Que tres hermanas sean escritoras es difícil, y más aún que ambas sean genias a un mismo nivel.

La otra cosa que me rondaba la mente era que después de acabar la maravillosa Cumbres Borrascosas, Anne lo tenía, no solo complicado, si no casi imposible conseguir superarlo. Afortunadamente los imposibles solo lo son hasta que se hacen posibles.

He de decir que me ha gustado hasta más que Cumbres Borrascosas. Y mira que éste ya mereció sus cinco estrellas. Pero es que Anne es genial. He descubierto a una mujer feminista, una mujer que luchaba por sus ideales y que no se dejaba gobernar por nadie. Ya solo leyendo su prólogo en el libro te das cuenta de su personalidad y de como tuvo que vivir. Me impacta mucho que una mujer tremendamente religiosa como era ella, no fuese anticuada. Era completamente lo contrario.

La historia inicia con Gilbert, nuestro inicial narrador, en un pequeño pueblo donde se sitúa la gran y abandonada mansión Wildfell Hall. A esta llegará Helen junto a su hijo Arthur y será la comidilla del pueblo. Se verá sometida al machismo de la época y no perderá oportunidades de hacer ver su naturaleza feminista, su ideales inalterables y su increíble fortaleza.

Es imposible no encariñarse con Helen. Se ha convertido, sin ningún tipo de duda en una de mis heroínas favoritas. Es increíble. INCREÍBLE. Y lo más interesante es darte cuenta que Helen era un claro reflejo de Anne. Como he mencionado antes, ese prólogo, podría haber sido un diálogo de Helen en cualquier parte de la novela.

Otra cosa que me llamó mucho la atención con respecto a su hermana Emily u otros clásicos, es lo fácil que se lee este libro. No resulta tedioso en ningún momento. Y no creo que haya mejor libro para adentrarse en los clásicos de la época que éste. Pocos finales he leído con tantos nervios y con tanto miedo de que no acabe como yo quisiera. Ha sido un viaje maravilloso.

Finalmente he llegado a la conclusión de que mientras que Emily era la reina de la ambientación y tenía una pluma bellísima. Anne es más directa, más partidaria de diálogos, que de descripciones y que su punto fuerte es la profundidad de sus peronajes. Repito, pocas heroínas tan maravillosamente fieles a si mismas y adelantadas a su época he visto como Helen.

En fin, que Anne se postula a ser mi Brönte favorita. Charlotte es tu turno. A ver que haces con Jane Eyre para superar a La inquilina de Wildfell Hall.
Profile Image for Carolyn Marie  Castagna.
274 reviews5,773 followers
December 28, 2020
Anne Brontë was greatly ahead of her time!
I was fascinated by her discussions on alcoholism, marriage, motherhood, loyalty, proto feminism, an emotionally cruel marriage, as well as strength in the face of hardship. I think these themes were dealt with in a way that felt very modern. At times I even felt like I was reading a contemporary book set in the Victorian period.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time not comparing Anne's writing to her sisters.
Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are saturated in lyricism, metaphor, atmosphere, and vivid descriptions. These are all literary elements that I look for and adore while reading.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, although fantastic at theme and discussion, felt like it was lacking the music of the written word.
With that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and admire Anne tremendously!
Profile Image for elle.
199 reviews6,117 followers
April 28, 2022
emma and my big classic project for april, where we read a few chapters a day for a month and scream about it.


i didn't like it. it was a solid four star then a three star and then it just tapered into a two star. i know i apologized for comparing anne to her other two (better) sisters, but maybe you deserve to be compared, anne. this is the poor man's jane eyre but not really because you can't even compare the two.

i hated gilbert's point of view because i think he's an insufferable dick but the only redeeeming thing about that part was helen. i thought she was such an intelligent and introspective woman, ahead of her time. i got why this book is heralded as the first feminist novel. but then her diaries erased every "oh i like her" point about her. it was so long and so boring. this could have been done in 50 pages, tops. if you thought gilbert was oversharing, boy oh boy. just wait until helen.

overall, i hated it. but i didn't hate it enough for me to one star it.

i will be rereading jane eyre and northanger abbey after this. sorry, anne. i know you died two hundred years ago but you sort of suck.


day 1 [chapter 1 & 2]
i did not know this was an epistolary novel. this book is literally one big huge letter?
nothing big in the initial two chapters. we haven't met our heroine yet. gilbert is a big oversharer, only on certain occasions apparently, which i appreciate because i also acquire that temporary personality trait (when i am drunk).

day 2 [chapter 3 & 4]
gilbert is not a fave of mine at the moment. we're finally introduced to helen, who feels a bit sanctimonious but also seems to have very strong morals which i love. i can totally see why this was called the "first feminist novel". so far so good. it's definitely dark, but also so beautifully written. i think i'm gonna end up loving helen and this makes me so excited.

day 3 [chapter 5 & 6]
it is currently 6am, which means i am actually so ahead of schedule. who am i?
ok i take back what i said about helen being mildly sanctimonious. i love her. i love how intelligent and introspective she seems. i also love how nature and surroundings are so woven into the narrative. also, gilbert (whom i am still iffy about), getting closer to helen and farther away from eliza is super interesting because it seems like a case of emotional attraction vs. physical attraction.
anne brönte, you are awesome.

day 4 [chapter 7 & 8]
i don't think i'll like gilbert lmao. but him appreciating the painting was cute. and then he self sabotaged. oh, gilbert.

day 5 [chapter 9 & 10]
gilbert is literally so stupid. that's all for today.
and like...he gets offended so easily???. gilbert stop being a sensitive little bitch thanks & think about what YOU'VE done.

day 6 [chapter 11 & 12]
the worst feeling on earth is getting compared to sisters/cousins around your age. but i'm sorry anne, i have to compare you to charlotte and emily. i feel like this is much less refined angst compared to her two sisters. jane eyre was beautifully written, withering heights was absolutely wild but had such good angst. i feel like this falls short and i am so scared because i think it might be a 3 star read.

day 7 [chapter 13 & 14]

day 8 [chapter 15 & 16]
gilbert is the poster asshole for: "if i can't be happy, everyone around me has to suffer".

but also: "because, i imagine there must be only a very, very few men in the world, that i should like to marry; and of those few, it is ten to one i may never be acquainted with one; or if i should, it is twenty to one, he may not happen to be single, or to take a fancy to me."

day 9 [chapter 17 & 18]
i am currently knee deep in a 20 page paper that is due in six hours, but i am soldiering on because this obviously takes precedent (i know, my priorities are absolutely in order).
short update for helen graham and helen graham only: i'm sorry i called you sanctimonious you are actually amazing i love you.

day 25 [chapter 45&46]
long story short—i am sad to report that this feels like bad school required reading for me. it was a three star at one point but...it might be going down. guys, this is just so dull and pointless. i hate everyone in this book. i read this drunk yesterday which made it slightly better because some parts were funny (i don't think they were supposed to be funny). but alas, i am almost at the end. i must finish. stay tuned to see who wins at the end: me or anne bronte's brick of a book.


previous reads
march: middlemarch
Profile Image for Gabriel.
488 reviews640 followers
October 28, 2021
No miento si digo que es un librazo y que me parece necesario leer a Anne Brontë; tanto como se lee a sus otras dos hermanas.

Esta novela fue un escándalo para su época, y lo curioso no es que lo fuera solo para los lectores sino para la misma familia de la escritora. En esta obra hay tintes autobiográficos con los temas que plasma y no los dulcifica ni un poco a la hora de mostrarlos. De hecho, la misma autora lo deja claro al inicio con una introducción que me parece preciosa, valiosa y muy imprescindible. Al menos, deberían leer esa parte y estoy seguro que los conquista y los anima a leer este relato tan desgarrador.

La inquilina de Wildfell Hall es una novela epistolar (narrada por medio de cartas) y está enmarcada en el realismo porque retrata el matrimonio y lo injusto que resultó para la mujer en la época victoriana, la violencia doméstica, la infidelidad, el alcoholismo, la maternidad, los roles de género, la fe y sus límites. Creo que abarca demasiado en tan poco y claro, todo esto desde el punto de vista en el que las temáticas afectan (como no podía ser de otra forma) a la mujer.

Sin duda alguna creo que no puedo hablar demasiado de la obra, es importante leerla y descubrir porqué Helen es una protagonista excepcional en todo el sentido de la palabra. Es una mujer que claro está, tiene defectos al inicio, entre esos el más llamativo es su estúpida ingenuidad a la hora de creer que puede cambiar los actos de las personas que la rodean, especialmente el de su marido. Esa ceguera la llevará por una espiral de emociones y dolores nada llevaderos; un camino en el que todo se volverá dramático y terrible para ella y al hijo que debe proteger a toda costa. Y eso es justo lo que más admiro de Helen; su capacidad para pellizcarse, despertar de su burbuja de ensueño y aceptar que no puede salvar a alguien que no desea salir de un círculo vicioso. Encontrarse a sí misma y darse cuenta que lo más importante es velar por su propio bienestar y el de su pequeño y por sobre todas las cosas lograr obtener autonomía a toda costa. Volver a tener la independencia y la completa libertad de vivir y criar a su hijo como lo merece.

A lo largo del libro se dan detalles de lo mucho que una mujer puede llegar a ser criticada, juzgada y menospreciada por la sola condición de ser mujer sin alguna figura masculina al lado. O por la idea de vivir sola, de no casarse o por tener un hijo que no disponga del padre como guía en su vida. Y no solo se ve esto en la historia de Helen, también se pueden mostrar otras partes igual de deleznables en otras mujeres que lo viven igual o peor que ella. Lo verdaderamente triste es que esas miradas y esas palabras sin falta de tacto y llenas de desprecio sean dirigidas a la mujer y no a los verdaderos victimarios de situaciones como las que vive la protagonista. De verdad que Anne Brontë no se cortó ni un poco al relatar algo tan necesario. Fue cruda, directa y sin vacilaciones al punto y me dio tanta rabia el machismo y la misoginia que se podía respirar en muchos de los personajes.

El único pero de esta novela y lo que más me costó digerir fue el tono religioso que hay entre sus páginas que a veces se me tornaba pesado y cansino. Sin embargo, aunque hay bastante de esto no me impidió continuar y llegar al final que tanto ansiaba y esperaba con ganas.Y sí, aunque es la historia que menos me ha gustado de las hermanas Brontë; Anne me parecerá siempre una escritora admirable y muy valiente para su época; dejó muchas cosas sobre la mesa bastante peliagudas en esta novela. Lo que si no me explico es porqué tan poco éxito y reconocimiento a día de hoy comparada con sus hermanas si también se lo merece con creces.

Como conclusión, solo me queda confirmar que de ahora en adelante cuando piense en novelas atemporales con personajes femeninos decididos, fuertes, con un temple difícil de romper, que no dan vergüenza ajena y que son el tranquilo ejemplo de cómo fueron creados con la magnífica esencia de incomodar y de evidenciar problemas que no están nada bien siempre pensaré en La inquilina de Wildfell Hall y Jane Eyre. Las hermanas Brontë son espectaculares y merecedoras de que se sigan leyendo y analizando sus escritos. Hasta Cumbres Borrascosas de Emily es otra fuente vital para entender el amor tóxico y enfermizo por ambas partes sin el género como obstáculo en la comprensión del mismo.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
685 reviews3,641 followers
April 10, 2020
This was a beautiful love story with one of the most interesting narrative styles I've ever encountered. Without saying too much, the narration of this story shifts, and the overall style is not your typical narration style of a novel. Does this make sense? :P I hope not, because I want for you to read this book and see for yourself what I'm talking about (also I'm really tired when writing this, so bear with me).
Anne Brontë has a way of creating very complicated and also mean characters, and I love it. I did see some ressemblances between this book and "Wuthering Heights", and I liked it. As a matter of fact, I think I like "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" just a little bit more, because to me it read more easily and had a beautiful storyline. The characters of this book come with a heavy background, and it's the gradual revelation of this background that makes the story so interesting.
While this book is my favourite by Anne Brontë so far, I did have some minor problems with it. The middle part dragged on a bit too long for my taste, and I started questioning one of the characters' behaviour and lack of decision-making (yes, I just made that a word!). But all in all, I admire Anne Brontë's talent and way of telling a compelling story that will drag you in and leave you with a smile on your face :)
Profile Image for Fernando.
680 reviews1,092 followers
August 3, 2022
"Las sonrisas y las lágrimas son tan parecidas para mí, que ninguna de ellas se limita a ningún sentimiento en particular: a menudo lloro cuando estoy feliz y sonrío cuando estoy triste".

Siempre sostengo que leer a cualquiera de las hermanas Brontë es alcanzar la perfección de la literatura feminista que luego continuarían muchas escritoras más.
Imponer sus novelas en un mundo controlado por hombres debe haber sido dificilísimo para ellas y en efecto lo fue, ya que debieron cambiar sus verdaderos nombres por seudónimos para poder publicarlas, de esta manera Charlotte se transformó en Currer Bell, Anne en Acton Bell y Emily publicó su única novela bajo el nombre de Ellis Bell.
Estas tres hermanas tuvieron además la desgracia de morir de tuberculosis a muy temprana edad, salvo Charlotte que vivió un poco más siendo esta última la que más novelas publicó, cuatro: “El profesor”, “Shirley”, “Villette” y la más famosa “Jane Eyre", mientras que Anne publicó esta novela y “Agnes Grey” y Charlotte sólo una pero poderosísima e inolvidable novela para su época, me refiero a “Cumbres Borrascosas”.
Volviendo a “La inquilina de Wildfell Hall” nos encontramos con una novela excelentemente narrada por Anne Brontë y además con todos los giros argumentales posibles para llevar adelante la historia con la particularidad de que no es Helen Graham, la misteriosa inquilina que alquila una vetusta y destartalada mansión junto a su pequeño hijo Arthur sino por un impetuoso e impulsivo muchacho que luchará por conquistar su corazón a toda costa y contra todas las probabilidades, desde las calumnias, los rumores y la envidia que Helen genera en Linden Car hasta el choque contra el duro corazón de Helen y muy especialmente contra el pasado que Helen oculta y protege.
El carácter de Helen es propio de los personajes bronteanos: decididas, valientes, orgullosas y… feminista.
Enfrentan al mundo que le es hostil de la misma manera que las propias autoras con una particularidad más propia del feminismo: Helen es pintora, una profesión o actividad artística que incluso en su época (1848) era privativa de los hombres.
Hasta en esos detalles las hermanas Brontë se animaban en la literatura. De hecho, en “Cumbres Borrascosas”, el carácter determinado y extremadamente impulsivo de Catherine eclipsa por momentos al del propio Heathcliff en intensidad y violencia.
Helen Graham oculta algo que le impide al apasionado Gilbert Markham llegar a su corazón y será luego de leer un extensísimo diario escrito por ella que le presta a él para acercarnos a la verdad y saber si realmente estos dos corazones llegarán a estar juntos o no.
Luego de haber leído cuatro novelas de las hermana Brontë sigo sosteniendo que su literatura supera con creces a la sobrevalorada Jane Austen con sus frívolas e insufribles novelas.
Dios guarde a las hermanas Brontë.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,092 reviews6,576 followers
May 12, 2019
I really enjoyed this! Not as much as Jane Eyre (which will always be my favourite Brontë novel), but Anne was so ahead of her time with this. We stan a feminist icon!

TW: abusive relationships
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