by Charlotte Reads Classics
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
After living and breathing this for a week, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is definitely in the running for favourite ever Brontë novel. Honestly, this hasn’t turned into a Brontë blog, but I’m just a little bit obsessed at the moment! Anne Brontë is a brilliant writer on her own merit – she isn’t as sentimental as Charlotte in Jane Eyre or as wild as Emily in Wuthering Heights. Instead, she wrote a powerful and moving book on a unique subject.
Rather excitingly, this book contains one of the greatest literary bastards of all time – Arthur Huntingdon. I can’t believe how awful he was and was genuinely angry about the way he treats his wife, Helen. His decline into alcoholism must have been a subject close to Anne’s heart and no doubt inspired by Branwell’s own demise. She writes very movingly about being a person in love with someone’s intent to destroy themselves:
‘If she gives you her heart’, said I, ‘you must take it thankfully, and use it well, and not pull it to pieces, and laugh in her face, because she cannot snatch it away.’
I though Arthur and Helen’s characters and marriage were portrayed in quite a modern light, for a Victorian novel. Whilst most of the men in the book held an expected opinion that they could do whatever they liked, and their wives should love them all the same, there were unexpected examples of a changing attitude that women deserved to be treated like individuals.
I really enjoyed the form of the book. The narrator is Gilbert Markham, writing letters to his friend about his younger days, but the main part of the book is Helen’s diary. I like books that change narrators – this book was particularly clever introducing the reader to Helen through the eyes of a suspicious close-knit northern community. It highlighted how forward and – dare I suggest feminist – Anne made her leading lady: she was so independent and courageous for the time she lived in. Initially I was a fan of Gilbert, but the more I learnt about Helen, the less I thought he was good enough for her. The jury is still out on that one…
Why is Anne Brontë seen as less talented? Her characters are well-rounded and vivid, her story is passionate and intelligent, and her writing is unique. I was completely captivated by this story, with an immediacy I haven’t experienced reading the Brontës before.
I’ve already started on Agnes Grey!
I LOVE Anne Bronte: I started with Agnes Grey and, oh, love love love. And I’m with you – this whole “the other one” and “the disappointment” – all that crap they say about her. 1) It isn’t true, and 2) I don’t think it’s even helpful to analyse the Brontes as one anyway. I get why people do, but they are three individuals.
I loved your post, I’m a new convert to Anne so I get very excited by people who have discovered her, too. And I think Arthur Huntingdon is ONE of the greatest bastards in literature, though I can’t help but think Robert Lovelace of ‘Clarissa’ gets the prize 🙂
Wildfell is my favourite Bronte book, and Anne my favourite Bronte, by a large margin. 🙂
[…] Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall […]
[…] Walter Hartright, the overall narrator of The Woman in White reminded me of Gilbert Markman from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Were the Brontës writing in their own voices, or had they mastered writing as men writing as […]
[…] although I haven’t read enough yet to talk about it. I think in terms of Brontë-love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is still my favourite, closely – very closely – followed by Wuthering […]
[…] like you would old friends. This week I will be rereading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. When I last read it back in 2011 (how time flies!) I loved Anne immediately. I’ve since reread Wuthering Heights and continued to […]