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Archive Authors 2021 > The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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message 1: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Dec 29, 2017 07:11AM) (new)

Lesle | 5408 comments Mod
The 542 page novel (1848 by Anne Bronte) is framed as a series of letters from Gilbert Markham to his friend and brother-in-law about the events connected with the meeting of his wife. A mysterious young widow arrives at Wildfell Hall, an Elizabethan mansion which has been empty for many years, with her young son and servant. She lives there in strict seclusion under the assumed name Helen Graham and soon finds herself the victim of local slander.

Any of the 28 Members that voted in?


message 2: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8784 comments Mod
I have read this book and really enjoyed it. Anne Bronte has been overshadowed by her sisters, unjustly so. This book is very entertaining.


message 3: by Piyangie, Classical Princess (new)

Piyangie | 855 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "I have read this book and really enjoyed it. Anne Bronte has been overshadowed by her sisters, unjustly so. This book is very entertaining."

Heartily agree with you, Rosemarie. I loved this work of Anne and it is now one of my favourite classics.

From what I have read, Charlotte is to blame for not letting her work being published following Anne's death. It is said that the story's main character Mr. Huntingdon resembled their drunkard and notorious brother, Branwell, that Charlotte was both ashamed and angry with Anne for writing such a story close to home.


message 4: by Blueberry (new)

Blueberry (blueberry1) | 765 comments I am.


message 5: by Piyangie, Classical Princess (new)

Piyangie | 855 comments Mod
Me too.


message 6: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 23 comments I am in.


message 7: by Rachana (new)

Rachana | 48 comments Started reading it yesterday.


message 8: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5408 comments Mod
I read it at this time last year. I remember I had a hard time setting it down. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I may reread if I get my other planned reads done this month!


message 9: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 4371 comments I plan to start in about a week.
I was torn between the two Anne Bronte books. Agnes Grey seemed like a good choice, it has half the length and some experienced readers chose it. But I then decided that some Agnes Grey voters had already read TTOWH and I should go with the book I've heard so much about since I joined NTLTRC.
I expect TTOWH to be a great January read,


message 10: by Inese (new)

Inese Okonova | 69 comments This is a really powerful book. Especially considering time when it was written. Strongly recommend it to all who have not read. I think Helen is one of the strongest female characters of 19th Ct.


message 11: by Patrick (new)

Patrick I love Agnes Grey. I have Tenant on my iPad now and hope to get started today. I have way too many books-in-progress, but this is one that I have wanted to read for a long time.


message 12: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 4371 comments FINISHED CHAPTER 6

I am impressed by the sheer amount of descriptive adjectives Anne uses. While I usually tire of over-description in modern novels, I find myself more accepting of it in 19th century works, Maybe it's because I'm fascinated with the use of archaic descriptions and maybe it's because they just "have the best words."

An example is Anne's description of the Wildfell Hall church pew:
"where the faded crimson cushions and lining had been unpressed for many years, and the grim escutcheons, with their lugubrious borders of rusty black cloth, frowned so sternly from the wall above."

I find myself reading swiftly through the dialogue and more slowly through the descriptions to ensure I take it all in.


message 13: by bri (new)

bri (bri__anna) | 3 comments Couldn't put this down til I finished it last night! Looking forward to seeing others impressions and experiences of this novel :)


message 14: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 1079 comments I read this book in 2017 and it was one of my favorites.


message 15: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5408 comments Mod
This one was 2 years ago for me but I believe, I too had a hard time putting it down.


message 16: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 4371 comments FINISHED CHAPTER 15

I like that Anne has made the narrator, Gilbert, a flawed hero, if indeed he turns out to be a hero. I read a character analysis that described him as a kind-hearted, industrious and passionate farmer. He may well be, but he is also somewhat self-centered, often petulant, violent and self-righteous. A human.
I am just where Gilbert has opened the book from Helen so I presume matters will be revealed and the plot will thicken.
People certainly wrote long letters in those days.


message 17: by bri (new)

bri (bri__anna) | 3 comments Brian wrote: "FINISHED CHAPTER 15

I like that Anne has made the narrator, Gilbert, a flawed hero, if indeed he turns out to be a hero. I read a character analysis that described him as a kind-hearted, industrio..."


I'd also add (overlapping with self-centred and self-righteous) infuriatingly conceited!


message 18: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 4371 comments FINISHED CHAPTER 33

I have not enjoyed the Helen narration nearly as much as the Gilbert narration. The young Helen in her own write is not as interesting as the older Helen as written about by Gilbert.
The Helen diary entries are slow moving and seem to repeat the same feelings and thoughts, but just at different time periods. Anne writes well, but it is taking a lot of words to get on with the story. Maybe its just that I know where the story is going now, while the story was still a mystery during Gilbert's intro.
As an aside, although Anne attempts to portray it, I'm not sure I fully grasp what these dissipated young men actually do when they drink for months on end. What a life.


message 19: by Brian (last edited Jan 14, 2018 01:42PM) (new)

Brian Reynolds | 4371 comments FINISHED CHAPTER 42

I really enjoyed the last few chapters as the pace and story picked up. It may just be that I'm enjoying Helen's growth into the older wiser Helen. It is often, though, a bit too preachy at times for my taste.
The young Arthur drinking and carousing with the boys was surprising to me. Also, while women of this period did not have power and were subject to husbands' whims, as with Helen, Lady Lowborough sure seems to get what she wants, So far, at least.


message 20: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Jan 17, 2018 07:38AM) (new)

Lesle | 5408 comments Mod
This was quoted under Anne's Life Stories

"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was an immediate success. It is easy today to underestimate the extent to which it was a challenge to existing social and legal structures. May Sinclair, in 1913, said that the slamming of Helen Huntingdon's bedroom door against her husband reverberated throughout Victorian England. Anne's heroine eventually leaves her husband to protect their young son from his influence. She supports herself and her son by painting, while living in hiding, fearful of discovery. In doing so, she violates not only social conventions, but English law. At the time, a married woman had no independent legal existence, apart from her husband. She could not own her own property, sue for divorce, or control custody of her children. If she attempted to live apart from him, her husband had the right to reclaim her. If she took their child with her, she was liable for kidnapping. In living off her own earnings, she was held to be stealing her husband's property, since any income she made was legally his."


message 21: by Brian (last edited Jan 18, 2018 08:12AM) (new)

Brian Reynolds | 4371 comments FINISHED -SPOILERS

I'm not sure I liked Helen and Gilbert ending up together. I really liked Gilbert's narration, but the self-centered and self-righteous explanations for his impetuous actions that made his narration entertaining, are not great features in a mate. Definitely many steps above Helen's first husband, however.
Overall I rate this between 3 and 4 stars and may increase my current rating. I very mush enjoyed the writing but Helen's narration and preachiness grew tiresome at times. Still a page turner though.
I do appreciate Helen's decision to leave as heroic in defiance of society and, especially, the law, as Leslie explains.
Again, they sure write long letters.


message 22: by Brian (last edited Jan 18, 2018 01:18PM) (new)

Brian Reynolds | 4371 comments In reading about the Bronte's, and seeing parts of the PBS show, I see how many are fascinated by the Bronte family saga. Great writing by 3 sheltered young sisters, That Branwell Bronte influence is heavy on the male characters,
The conjectures on the book/movie The Graduate as mirroring Branwell's affair with an older woman are fun. Benjamin Braddock and Branwell Bronte, both young men with affairs with 40ish married women named Mrs. Robinson.


message 23: by bri (last edited Jan 19, 2018 01:01AM) (new)

bri (bri__anna) | 3 comments Trigger warning: discussion of abuse and intimate partner violence

It's this historical context that you bring up, Lesle, that helped me appreciate some of the repetitive aspects you mentioned in Helen's diary, Brian. For me, I saw this as a powerful and accurate portrayal of what we now characterise as the 'cycle of abuse' within intimate partner/family violence (social worker here). I found it frightening.

I can't stop thinking about that quote from May Sinclair, that Helen slamming the door against her husband 'reverberated throughout Victorian England.' I know that there were women out there whom Helen's act of resistance, and indeed, her escape - when it was illegal, illegal; when women would not have separate legal status under law for another 30 years or something - and took hope, or had a spark lit inside.

For me, that what great literature does - lights something.


message 24: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5408 comments Mod
Brianna, your comment is so point on. Thank you for your insight as well.


message 25: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 4371 comments I have heard for years that Nora's slamming of the door when leaving her husband in Ibsen's The Doll's House reverberated throughout the world. That may explain why May Sinclair used similar terminology when describing Helen's departure, since she has to escape secretly. She does slam her bedroom door, though. Ibsen's Nora's leaving her husband was so controversial that German presenters changed the ending when presenting the play.
A Doll's House was first presented in 1879 and TTOWH came out 32 years earlier in 1847. Yet Nora 's leaving shocks the world while Helen's only reverberates throughout Victorian England.
The different effect can be explained. A Doll's House was a play presented throughout the world or at least Europe. Watching a play can have more impact than just reading something. Also, the play ends with Nora defiantly slamming a door when leaving while Helen, though slamming her bedroom door, has to use stealth to leave, and eventually returns. More shockingly, Nora defies maternal expectations by leaving her children behind while Helen never would have left her child.
TTOWH did have an impact on Victorian England when it was publshed. However, I wonder how much more of an impact it would have had if Charlotte had not been, as Muriel Spark calls "a harsh sister" to Anne, and prevented its reprinting. Too bad.


message 26: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 23 comments Brian wrote: "FINISHED -SPOILERS

I'm not sure I liked Helen and Gilbert ending up together. I really liked Gilbert's narration, but the self-centered and self-righteous explanations for his impetuous actions t..."


I am not happy about Helen and Gilbert ending up together. I feel she could of lead a more independent life as a widow. I do agree with Brian, Helen became a little too preachy near the end of the novel, but overall I really enjoyed this book.

Anne Bronte was definitely overshadowed by her sisters. I enjoyed this book much more than Wuthering Heights.


message 27: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8784 comments Mod
So did I, Laurie.


message 28: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 836 comments I’m reading this, currently at Chapter 12. Various people have said it is much better than Agnes Grey, but I disagree. I liked Agnes once I got into the story, but not this one. I’m very bored, it seems to be dragging on endlessly with socialising & tedious conversations reported in detail. Looking at comments made here, it looks as if something may happen eventually so I haven’t given up yet...


message 29: by Suki (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 89 comments I really enjoyed this story, but I really got bogged down in the preachiness at the end. I was reading the book at bedtime and the last little bit took me three nights to finish! Every time I started reading the theological conversations Helen was having with her husband, I fell asleep. Apparently, Anne Brontë was a deeply religious woman (according to the essay at the end of my Penguin English Library edition), and believed in redemption for all, which conflicted with the church's teachings of eternal damnation for all sinners who died unrepentant. It didn't feel like it when I was wading through the theology, but she was actually taking a bold stand against the accepted teachings. Combined with the unheard-of freedoms she gives to her Helen character when she has her stand up to, and eventually leave her husband, this book must have shocked a lot of readers!

I had really hoped for more for Helen: I was horrified when she returned to her husband to nurse him through his illness (and to suffer more of his verbal abuse!), and I had mixed feelings about her marrying Gilbert. At first I really liked him, but later his petulance and abusive behavior towards his friend (and his attitude that he felt the behavior to be justified in light of his feelings) made me tire of him, and wonder if that sort of behavior may eventually be turned on Helen. I found myself agreeing with the words of her aunt, "...could she have consented to remain single, I own I should have been better satisfied..."


message 30: by Blueberry (new)

Blueberry (blueberry1) | 765 comments Trisha wrote: "I’m reading this, currently at Chapter 12. Various people have said it is much better than Agnes Grey, but I disagree. I liked Agnes once I got into the story, but not this one. I’m very bored, it ..."

I agree.


message 31: by Trisha (last edited Jan 31, 2018 08:28AM) (new)

Trisha | 836 comments Finished at last! I can see why people enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t to my taste. The most interesting point about it, I thought, wasn’t stated in the book at all but in Lesle’s message (#20 above) where she explains women’s legal position at that time.


message 32: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5408 comments Mod
Trisha, I am sorry, I totally enjoyed it.

I understand though as, my recent read of Henderson the Rain King it is well liked and revered, I could not connect with him at all and it was unfortunately not my cup of tea, but I am glad I read it.


message 33: by Blueberry (new)

Blueberry (blueberry1) | 765 comments Finally finished. It felt unending. I liked Agnes Gray better.


message 34: by Nidhi (new)

Nidhi Kumari | 81 comments This classic was the last I finished in 2021, and it was a very good read. I consider all three Bronte sisters are incomparable, I like them all. Wuthering Heights has no match. Villette impressed me so much that this year I am reading Charlotte Bronte’s biography.

I liked Agnes Grey also. But The Tenant deals with very mature and serious social issue of institution of marriage of that age. Marriages made in haste or for property are derogatory for both men and women ( and children of course) . How difficult it was for women to survive out of wedlock?

I rated this book 5 stars.


message 35: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5408 comments Mod
I really enjoyed this read as well Nidhi.


message 36: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8784 comments Mod
So did I!


message 37: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 1079 comments I loved this book, Nidhi. Right now I'm enjoying The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell.


message 38: by Karin (last edited Jan 08, 2022 02:48PM) (new)

Karin | 832 comments Oh so excellent! One of my favourite Bronte novels and I am looking forward to reading it with a group of people not likely to misread our leading lady like the last group I read this with (I was quite puzzled how this small group completely missed the point of why Bronte cast her character the way she did.

ALSO--try to get a copy that has all of the original book in it! Charlotte cut out the most controversial part after Anne died. In fact, if anyone knows the right edition(s) that has all of that please let me/us know. Charlotte took out the most important part (so shocking at the time, but not in hindsight).


message 39: by Karin (last edited Jan 08, 2022 02:52PM) (new)

Karin | 832 comments Suki wrote: "I really enjoyed this story, but I really got bogged down in the preachiness at the end. I was reading the book at bedtime and the last little bit took me three nights to finish! Every time I start..."

Suki--I agree that it's hard to stomach, but she had to do this to live up to the Victorian ideal of a virtuous woman because of what Anne was trying to expose with abusive husbands in the upper classes. If in any way Helen did not live up to it, then it would have been argued that she deserved what she got. This would include going back to nurse her now-ill husband.

It was common for this to be done for certain ground breaking things and why real life people like Caroline Norton lived such a pristine post-divorce life and always acted like the perfect lady (she was the person who spent much of her life fighting for the Custody of Infants Bill in Victorian England.


message 40: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5408 comments Mod
Karin
That would be the first edition from June 1848 published by Thomas Cautley Newby.

From what I remember it was Anne's having issues with the book that made her fret so much that Charlotte thought it was why Anne had passed so early. That was part of her true anger behind not wanting to included it in the second release of the Bronte books along with Charlotte thought it was about their brother Branwell.


message 41: by Karin (last edited Jan 09, 2022 12:58PM) (new)

Karin | 832 comments Lesle wrote: "Karin
That would be the first edition from June 1848 published by Thomas Cautley Newby.

From what I remember it was Anne's having issues with the book that made her fret so much that Charlotte t..."


Sure, you may be right--I haven't read their biographies and got my information from someone miffed over the decision. They knew so little about TB at that time and there were many superstitions.
In any event, I was hoping someone knew which, if any, modern ones printed on paper used the first edition instead of the one that Charlotte edited.

https://archive.org/details/tenantwil... is it read online, but that is a slow way to hear it and I use my desktop.


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