Fields and Forests Bare: A Reader’s Update and Returning to Wildfell
by Charlotte Reads Classics
After a series of reading misadventures I return to old reading habits, revisiting the Brontës 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 adore it, but have never returned to Anne Brontë until now.
I’ve read the first couple of chapters this afternoon and there has already been a subversive feminist Victorian discussion concerning male and female upbringing:
You affirm that virtue is only elicited by temptation; – and you think that a woman cannot be too little exposed to temptation, or too little acquainted with vice, or anything connected therewith – It must be, either, that you think she is essentially vicious, or feeble-minded that she cannot withstand temptation, – and though she may be pure and innocent as long as she is kept in ignorance and restraint, yet, being destitute of real virtue, to teach her how to sin is at once to make her a sinner, and the greater her knowledge, the wider her liberty, the deeper will be her depravity.
I couldn’t read this without thinking about poor Clarissa Harlowe. I look forward to judging the rogue in this novel, now that I have read Clarissa – the battle for the worst husband in literature begins.
In other reading news, I read The Castle of Otranto over Halloween and hated it. I was really surprised, with my usual love of the gothic novel. I had a particularly badly formatted edition which didn’t help. But if you’ve read it – please tell me what you thought of it. I have managed to find a couple of contemporary novels which I would highly recommend: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (the greatest twist, completely fascinating, best read if you know nothing about it) and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (WWII novel with utterly heartbreakingly beautiful writing).
Finally, the classics spin has come around again, this was my list:
1. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
2. The Monk, Matthew Lewis
3. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
4. The Life of Samuel Johnson, James Bosewell
5. Vilette, Charlotte Brontë
6. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
7. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
8. La Regenta, Leopoldo Alas
9. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence
10. A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
11. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
12. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
13. The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling, Henry Fielding
14. Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
15. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
16. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
17. Ivanhoe, Walter Scott
18. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
19. Little Women, Louisa M. Alcott
20. Pamela, Samuel Richardson
So I will be reading The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling by Henry Fielding by January 5th. What did you get in the spin? Does anyone want to read along with me?
Hope you have all had a great weekend, I spent today stomping around in the mud with my friend whilst wearing inappropriate footwear. For now, back to the ragged rocks of Wildfell Hall.
What a coincidence. I just posted about this book’s themes for the classic club November question. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Fantastic! I’ll take a look 🙂
Enjoy your reread of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (my favorite Bronte sister novel so far). I think it will be especially interesting with Clarissa behind you.
Dorothy Whipple’s They Were Sisters was my #13 for the spin and I’m really looking forward to it. Good luck with Fielding… glad I didn’t get a chunkster like that!!
I just hope it is compelling enough, I have a wandering attention span at the moment so have been reading much shorter books recently! Looking forward to heating about Dorothy Whipple – never read her.
Edit: I should say I have never read her! I accidentally sounded like I was warning you away!
I read The Castle of Otranto a couple years ago and while I didn’t hate it, I thought that the only redeeming thing about it was that it was the first Gothic novel. Otherwise I was completely not impressed. (Although I’m starting to wonder if I’m also not really a Gothic fan.) So it’s not just you!
Good luck with Tom Jones!
That’s good to hear. I do like a lot of gothic novels but maybe only the evolution of them. Or maybe I only like a hint of gothic? Either way, I won’t be going back to that one!
I found Otranto a strange book; I loved it at hated it all at once. I do like Gothic novels generally, but Walpole can be a little odd (not to mention that my copy was also very badly formatted; speech was indicated by dashes and was not placed on a new line every time it occurred. I’m starting to wonder if that’s how Walpole himself formatted it). Still, I do agree it’s an important book, even if it is a pain to read.
Yes you might be right, I had the same formatting issues as you and did wonder if I would have been able to follow it better if the text had been spaced out a bit. I liked the plot at its very bare bones stage but couldn’t get into it properly at all.
Usually it’s Emily and Charlotte who are hailed are the literary innovators, the rule-breakers, but i always felt that it was Anne, with the Tenant, that really went further. It’s probably my favorite Bronte book (still have The Professor and Shirley to read).
I love this post 🙂 My November has been a series of misadventures – I’ve spent nearly 2 weeks on David Copperfield and I’m just not in the mood for it so I gave it up last night. I started New Grub Street by Gissing and…. I do like it but….
You know, I think I might just follow your example and re-read Anne Bronte. Either that or go for Great Expectations (I’m in the mood for Dickens, just not DC for some reason).
Good luck with Tom Jones – I really enjoyed it! 🙂
Have you read Agnes Grey? It’s one of my favourite books by the Bronte sisters and I believe Charlotte loved it, too!