Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte
The Penguin Classics edition of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, her groundbreaking study of a woman’s valiant struggle for independence from an abusive husband is edited with an introduction and notes by Stevie Davis.
Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young woman who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behaviour becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of the disastrous marriage she has left behind emerge. Told with great immediacy, combined with wit and irony, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful depiction of a woman’s fight for domestic independence and creative freedom.
In her introduction Stevie Davies discusses The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as feminist testament, inspired by Anne Brontë’s experiences as a governess and by the death of her brother Branwell Brontë, and examines the novel’s language, biblical references and narrative styles.
Anne Brontë (1820-1849), youngest of the Bronte sisters, was born at Thornton, West Yorkshire. Her father was a curate, and her mother died when she was a baby, leaving five daughters and one son. After the death of her sisters Maria and Elizabeth from tuberculosis in 1825, the Brontë children were homeschooled, and together they created fantasy worlds and kingdoms which they explored in writing. Anne worked as a governess between 1840 and 1845, after which she published Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) under the pen-name Acton Bell. Anne Brontë died in 1849.