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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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(1847)



This is the second and final novel by Anne Bronte, published under her pseudonym Acton Bell. Probably the most shocking of the Brontes' novels, it was an instant success. The novel is framed as a letter from Gilbert Markham to his friend and brother-in-law about the events leading to his meeting his wife.



Let it not be imagined, however, that I consider myself competent to reform the errors and abuses of society, but only that I would fain contribute my humble quota towards so good an aim; and if I can gain the public ear at all, I would rather whisper a few wholesome truths therein than much soft nonsense.--from the Author's Preface



Outstanding feminist and realistic novel that had phenomenal success. Unfortunately, that success was short. It ended by Anne's death and her sister Charlotte's prevention of re-publication. A mysterious widow, Mrs. Helen Graham arrives at Wildfell Hall, a nearby old mansion. A source of curiosity for the small community, the reticent Helen and her young son Arthur are slowly drawn into the social circles of the village. Initially, Gilbert Markham casually courts Eliza Millward, despite his mother's belief that he can do better. His interest in Eliza wanes as he comes to know Mrs. Graham...--Submitted by Julie Cat


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Recent Forum Posts on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Who was the model for Mr Huntingdon?

I finished reading Tenant of Wildfell Hall yesterday. I wondered how much Anne based Mr Huntingdon and his drunken friends on their brother Branwell or whether there were other models. The deathbed scenes are very painful, and I suspect Anne was remembering Bramwell here. Branwell was an alcoholic, but he was not married, so where would Anne Bronte have witnessed the marital discord? Although Branwell was an alcoholic, I doubt he was allowed to bring friends back to the vicarage for drunken parties. Anne writes these scenes so vividly, I think she must have witnessed much of the behaviour she described.

I felt like starting a new thread on this novel :D

This book has stayed in my mind for about two weeks now. It had something, although it was very conventional in its set-up. I see why Anne is the forgotten sister of the three Brontės, because her style is good, but she just doesn't have the depth of either Charlotte or Emily, nor has she got their originality (which Emily is certainly the best at). Still, in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall she wrote something that was definitely compelling and taboo-busting (if that word exists). I suppose, though, that Mr Gilbert Markham is slightly efeminate for a 19th century man, and certainly a farmer of the era. I can't help thinking he would be a hit with the ladies because he is sensitive and likes reading stuff and dicussing it. Wordsworth :drool5:. So was Rochester, though, he liked music and singing, not really male activities. Anyway, so they are both forerunners of 'the new man' from the 90s. I love the animosity that starts Gilbert and Helen's relationship. It's a bit cute and it's a cliché that was already tried by Austen. It's a shame Anne didn't allow it more time before she starts the diary. But Arthur Huntingdon is something else. Even in the very first chapters, you can recognise a budding abuser, and it is all the more dificult to read if you know what is going to happen later. A reader almost gets angry at Helen's romantic naļvety. The aunt, I believe, has to serve as a kind of more experienced mother figure who knows very well why Helen should not marry this man, so she tries very hard, almost entreats her without wanting to be indiscrete about Helen's uncle, to reject Huntingdon. But it is not to be, uncle doesn't listen to his wife, old Lawrence obviously doesn't care much and Helen does not listen to her aunt. (Although Helen's aunt was defnitely wrong about Lord Lowborough who is a kind of less tragic Rochester-figure who reforms because of love after one mistake). The way in which the men are symbolised in their carriages when they arrive for Helen's uncle's shooting party is kind of cute. From the other side, young Helen Lawrence (as it turns out) tends to be a little vain and Huntingdon tickles that vanity, in opposition to Mr Borham (what's in a name?) of whom it can at least be said that he likes to hear himself talk. So, in a way, it's a bit her own fault for fancying that her own judgment is always right. In a 19th century context, it must indeed have been pretty much taboo to leave your husband, even if he was a pig and messing up your child, but where Helen really shines is the self-sacrifice she makes in going to help him who hurt her so much It's a bit of a double feeling as she tells in her letters of his slow descent to death. A reader starts to feel sorry. Not because he has become a good man or is even sorry for his deeds, but because he is so weak-willed he doesn't even make an effort to reform (uunlike his two friends Hattersley and Lowborough). He is lost as a man, maybe even doomed (who knows) because he just can't be a**ed to do anything about it. Anger of before makes place for pitty in disdain. In terms of the three Brontė Byronic Heroes, Huntingdon, Rochester and Heathcliffe, Heathcliffe is the most authentic. He is mad, bad and out of controlled and is convinced of his ways, like Byron himself and his heroes. Rochester is also mad, bad and out of control at some point (we catch him after this), but is strong enough to reform and becomes acceptable as a man. Huntingdon I personally find a spoilt child who has never learnt what 'no' means. Obviously also Anne's view as Helen's main argument for disappearing with her son is not her own safety or unhappiness, but her son's life. She wants him not waste his life on pleasure. He is not really a Byronic hero, I don't think, or not a strong one. He is a misguided individual who lacked proper parental authority at one point. I found the discussion in favour of giving a five-year old child alcohol very poignant in today's context... The end was very classic and had been done before (no-yes-no-yes). Still, it was exciting. I felt, in terms of style, Anne Brontė was trying very hard to be good and went over the top. Her sisters wrote with more ease. It wasn't sublime sumptuous prose like Wilde, but it was trying to be that. Didn't quite work out, although some of the things were very very nice to read. Any thoughts, fans?

Narrative Technique

Hello everybody, I would like your opinion about the narrator of the tenant of wildfell hall. I actually think the narrator is Helen, as 3/4 of the novel is her diary. And the fact that Gilbert is who introduces the story and ends it is a way Bronte used to show us that a woman's live in the victorian age was completely dominated by a man. What do you think? Thanks in advance!!!

Help would be very gratefully recieved!

I have got a coursework question and I am really struggling with it. It is : Analyse the representation of the female artist in ANY ONE OR TWO novel(s) studied on this course. I have chosen Tenant of wildfell hall, would anyone be able to give me some hints/tips! Thanks Lucy

Incomplete Online Etexts

One note to those reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall electronic texts online. All of the electronic texts that I have seen online (including the text available at this site) omit what is essentially the first chapter of the novel. The novel is constructed as though it was a series of letters from Markham to Halford. The portion omitted from the online texts is Markham's initial letter to Halford that informs the reader about Markham's relationship with Halford and why Markham is initiating this autobiography of his life prior to his introduction to Halford. Thus, in a sense, the letter to Halford comprises the first chapter of Anne Bronte's novel. What is presented in the online texts as "Chapter 1" is an invention of the narrator Markham. Markham indicates to Halford that he will tell Halford about his prior history and that he will begin with "chapter 1" because the telling of his story will comprise many chapters. The chapters are presented in the book as though they are Markham's creation rather than Anne Bronte's, which is why the book begins prior to chapter 1. The explanation for why the online texts omit part of the text of the novel is possibly twofold. Novels (or all books really) normally begin with chapter one. If the author has relevant material prior to chapter one that material usually has a heading such as "introduction" or "explanation" etc. Anne Bronte does indeed have an "introduction" to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is included in some online editions of the book and omitted in others. Since the initial letter to Halford does not have a proper section title or heading, those generating the electronic versions of the book may have naturally started with chapter one, unaware of the material prior to chapter one. Additionally, there was a cheaper published edition of the book released after its initial publication that omitted both Anne Bronte's introduction to the book and the opening letter from Markham to Halford. Its possible that the online editions of the novel derive their sourcing from that edition rather than the first edition.

Structure and Narrative technique.

Hi people. I have got a few questions for this novel, The Tenant from Wildfell Hall. What would you say about Anne“s Structure and Narrative technique for this book according to these questions? • How is the story structured? Chronologically? • Are there any flashbacks to the past? • Who is the narrator? Is the story told from a first-person point of view or a third-person point of view, or is it told from an omniscient point of view (by an all-seeing narrator)? I would be very glad if someone could answer this questions detailed but easily. Best regards, Mike :)

The Tennant of Wildfell Hall

I feel that the Tennant of Wildfell Hall stands alone as great literature, and should not be judged on the basis of how it promotes ones socio-political agenda (feminism), a proposition which is doubtfull in itself. I am amazed that Anne Bronte is almost the forgotten sister. Some feel that she owes the novel to Emily because of some supposed connections to Wuthering Heights. I have read both, and feel there is some similarity in subject matter, but greatly different approaches. It is interesting that some feel that girls should not read this when Anne essentially wrote it as a warning for them not to follow the path of Helen huntingdon. Scott

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I find that I take umbrage at the notion that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a "feminist novel" simply because the main character, Helen Graham, seems to personnify an independent woman. This work exposed the a great deal of the hypocrisy that characterized much of Victorian England. It is a brave work, dealing with issues of alcoholism, spousal abuse--and far ahead of its time. It should be judged by that criterion solely, not because the female character leaves her abusive husband to make a life of her own.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Bronte's second novel is much more than an account of marital strife.

It is a feminist novel, in that it presents Helen Huntingdon as an independent woman. She chooses to marry Arthur Huntingdon, a man whom she knows to be spineless and mercurial. Then she suffers physical and mental abuse from her husband and watches as Arthur tries to pervert their young son. She takes the drastic measure of leaving her husband, taking young Arthur with her. She supports herself and her son by selling her paintings. She falls in love but is faithful to her husband whom she nurses in his final illness. She then makes the decisions as to when and where she and Gilbert Markham will marry

But it is much more than a feminist novel. Like Helen's paintings, it paints a picture of the human condition .....

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This was excellent reading! Anne Bronte has indeed surpassed her other two siblings.
Helen Huntingdon was indeed a courageous and determined woman for her times, who fought the evils of abuse in an impossible, dead-end marriage. She had the strength to walk away from it's evil clutches, especially when her dignity and her child were threatened. Considering that those were Victorian times, when her class of women were only mean't for decorative or breeding purposes, to break away from such a marriage and support herself the way she did, fighting the prejudices and malice of her neighbours makes her a strong and admirable character.
Why even today, in many countries women take this kind of abuse in marriage lying down!
Every woman should read this book. It should be translated in many languages.
I live in India and abuse of this sort is very common practise, especially in certain male-dominated ethnic communities. It should teach women everywhere not to tolerate the evils of such a male-dominated society. This is where educating women to support themselves to be self sufficient is very crucial. Helen should be an example for many such ill-used women.

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