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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

by Anne Brontë

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,7831421,224 (3.94)3 / 510
Anne Bronte's second novel is a passionate and courageous challenge to the conventions supposedly upheld by Victorian society and reflected in circulating-library fiction. The heroine, Helen Huntingdon, after a short period of initial happiness, leaves her dissolute husband, and must earn her own living to rescue her son from his influence. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is compelling in its imaginative power, the realism and range of its dialogue, and its psychological insight into the characters involved in a marital battle.… (more)
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  2. 123
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Catreona, Olivia_Atlet_Writer)
  3. 70
    The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors by Juliet Barker (amerynth)
    amerynth: Great biography of the Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell
  4. 40
    Middlemarch by George Eliot (amanda4242)
  5. 30
    The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (TheLittlePhrase)
  6. 30
    Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (Lapsus_Linguae)
    Lapsus_Linguae: Both novels feature a strong female protagonist trapped in an abusive marriage. Endings are also pretty similar.
  7. 30
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (Lapsus_Linguae)
    Lapsus_Linguae: A self-righteous heroine leaves the place where she lived for many years, gets wrongly accused of "immoral behavior", has strong Christian views, and so on.
  8. 30
    Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (sturlington)
  9. 20
    A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell (TheLittlePhrase)
  10. 20
    Trifles by Susan Glaspell (TheLittlePhrase)
  11. 20
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Lapsus_Linguae)
    Lapsus_Linguae: Both novels start with the arrival of a new person in small rural community... Anne Bronte's style is often compared to Austen's.
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  13. 10
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English (138)  French (2)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (142)
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
"Enjoyed" might be a strong word for reading this. The story of Helen's marriage isn't quite as depressing as some other hard-hitting 19th-century novels (cough cough, Jude the Obscure), but it's on up there. In reading fiction, I don't think I've ever run across depictions of male characters who are such prime examples of gaslighting, toxic masculinity, narcissism, and emotional abuse. It surprised me in a 1848 novel, because Anne Bronte certainly would not have had those specific terms in mind when she crafted the characters.

And it is a well-crafted novel. It's realistic throughout: no caricatures; no extreme drama or sentimentalism; no plot holes or sudden fortuitous endings (though, SPOILER ALERT, it is a happy ending!). Much unlike some of the twists and little gothic details of Charlotte's work. ( )
1 vote SusieBookworm | May 31, 2020 |
I loved this book. Helen deserves everything and I'm so glad that she eventually gets it, as unlikely as it seemed at many times in her life. ( )
  j_tuffi | May 30, 2020 |
Another one of those books that had somehow slipped through the cracks for far too long. I'm glad I finally read it: it's a well-crafted novel, with believable (if nearly all pretty awful) characters. ( )
  JBD1 | May 2, 2020 |
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is one of the books that had me banging my head as to why I have waited this long to find it. The Bronte sisters were on my neglected read list for 2013 so I started with the sister I didn't know, Anne. I liked Agnes Grey so I jumped into this book immediately after finishing Agnes Grey.

Gilbert Markham is the story teller or more correctly the letter writer as the novel is the letter Gilbert is writing. Anne Bronte assumes the identity of Gilbert writing as a male for the first part of the book then the book switches to Gilbert reading Helen's (the tenant) diary. The switch reminded me of Virginia Woolf's Orlando; a near seamless switch of the story tellers sex. I will admit at the start of the book, I was wondering how a mid-nineteenth century woman would be able to carry the story out as a male narrator. It is, however, very well done.

Alcohol is one of the major themes in the book. It destroys lives and marriages and although deadly, it is not hopeless some people can reform. The effects of alcohol are seen through the eyes of Helen Huntingdon (introduced as Helen Graham) in the second part of the novel. It affects those around her: her husband, his friends, her friends through the actions of their husbands, and even her young son.
Faith plays a major role for Helen. No matter what happens she maintains her faith.

Helen learns the role of a strong woman in the story and in someways goes against the norm of society at the time. She manages not to just and take all that is given to her as do some of the other women in the novel. Her friend Milicent who went from “a little plump lassie then, with a pretty pink and white face: now she's a poor little bit of a creature, fading and melting away like snow.” all at the age of five and twenty. Anne Bronte takes what can be seen as a realistic look at life in Victorian times and writes a compelling novel. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
I wouldn't normally have picked up this book as it's a long time since I've voluntarily read any of the classics, but it was the first book chosen for book club so I thought I would show willing. It was a lot easier to read than I thought, and about a third of the way through I found I was really enjoying it.

I can see why it caused such a stir in its day; Helen is such a strong character and how dare she be so bold as to leave her philandering husband, taking his son and heir with her. In a day and age where marriages were frequently arranged, Helen married Arthur for love, despite her Aunt's misgivings about him. Like many women who have fallen in love with a cad, Helen thought she could change Arthur but she was wrong and she ended up in a loveless, abusive marriage.

Arthur is a despicable fellow and openly flaunted his affairs in front of his wife, so I'm surprised that Helen managed to stay with him for so long. Helen escapes to Wildfell Hall and reinvents herself as Helen Graham, artist and widow, but as much as she wants a quiet life her beauty catches the eye of Gilbert Markham. Gilbert thinks Helen is a widow so doesn't see why he can't pursue her but obviously Helen knows that she is still very much married, despite her husband living his all singing, dancing and drinking bachelor life. Although Helen keeps their friendship very platonic, Gilbert soon gets jealous of anyone who has any contact with Helen especially the owner of Wildfell Hall and the green-eyed monster is sometimes very dangerous.

I'm so pleased that I have read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; it's really quite amazing for its time period. It's daring and courageous in its feminism and clearly was a book created ahead of its time. If it had been written in the latter half of the 20th Century it would have been applauded, instead of criticised, for its boldness. ( )
  Michelle.Ryles | Mar 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
"profane expressions, inconceivably coarse language, and revolting scenes and descriptions by which its pages are disfigured"
added by GYKM | editSharpe's London Magazine
"a morbid love for the coarse, not to say the brutal"
added by GYKM | editSpectator
"The reader of Acton Bell gains no enlarged view of mankind, giving a healthy action to his sympathies, but is confined to a narrow space of life, and held down, as it were, by main force, to witness the wolfish side of his nature literally and logically set forth."
added by GYKM | editNorth American Review
[English] society owes thanks, not sneers, to those who dare to shew her the image of her own ugly, hypocritical visage".
"...like the fatal melody of the siren's song, its very perfections render it more dangerous, and therefore more carefully to be avoided."

» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brontë, Anneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Agutter, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davies, StevieEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosengarten, HerbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stephens, IanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Talley, LeeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tavares, ClarisseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Villeneuve, GuillaumeTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, Mrs. HumphryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, KathrynAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
To J. Halford, Esq.

Dear Halford,

When we were together last, you gave me a very particular and interesting account of the most remarkable occurrences of your early life, previous to our acquaintance; and then you requested a return of confidence from me.
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Disambiguation notice
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Book description
A woman recounts her difficult marriage to an alcoholic and her battles with society's double standards when she leaves him, taking her son with her.
Helen Huntingdon flees a disastrous marriage and retreats to the desolate, half-ruined moorland mansion, Wildfell Hall. With her small son, Arthur, she adopts an assumed name and makes her living as a painter. The inconvenience of the house is outweighed by the fact that she and Arthur are removed from her drunken, degenerate husband.

Although the house is isolated, she seeks to avoid the attentions of the neighbors. However, it is difficult to do so. All too soon she becomes an object of speculation, then cruel gossip.

Narrated by her neighbor Gilbert Markham, and from the pages of her own diary, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall portrays Helen's struggle for independence in a time when law and society defined a married woman as her husband's property.
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Average: (3.94)
1 9
1.5 1
2 39
2.5 10
3 243
3.5 82
4 477
4.5 66
5 298

Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434747, 0141035633, 0141199350

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