The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.jpg
Title-page of the first edition, 1848
Author Anne Brontë (as "Acton Bell")
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Epistolary novel, Social criticism
Publisher Thomas Cautley Newby
Publication date
June 1848
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 3 vols., 492, ?, ?
ISBN ISBN 978-0-19-920755-8 (Oxford University Press : New York, 2008), ISBN 978-0-14-043474-3 (Penguin Classics, 1996), ISBN 978-1-85326-488-7 (Wordsworth Editions, Ltd., 1999)
OCLC 162118830
Preceded by Agnes Grey

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second and final novel by English author Anne Brontë, published in 1848 under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Probably the most shocking of the Brontës' novels, this novel had an instant phenomenal success but after Anne's death, her sister Charlotte prevented its re-publication.

The novel is framed as a letter from Gilbert Markham to his friend and brother-in-law about the events leading to his meeting 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 very soon finds herself the victim of local slander. Refusing to believe anything scandalous about her, Gilbert Markham, a young farmer, discovers her dark secrets. In her diary, Helen writes about her husband's physical and moral decline through alcohol, and the world of debauchery and cruelty from which she has fled. This novel of marital betrayal is set within a moral framework tempered by Anne's optimistic belief in universal salvation.[2]

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is mainly considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels.[3]

May Sinclair, in 1913, said that the slamming of Helen's bedroom door against her husband reverberated throughout Victorian England. In escaping her husband, Helen violates not only social conventions, but also English law.[4]

Background and locations[edit]

Blake Hall, illustration, reproduced from photographs taken at the end of 19th century

Some aspects of the life and character of the author's brother Branwell Brontë correspond to those of Arthur Huntingdon in The Tenant.[2] He resembles Branwell Brontë in three ways: physical good-looks, sexual adventures (before his affair with Mrs. Robinson, Branwell is thought to have fathered an illegitimate child, who died at birth[5]), and especially in his alcoholism.[2] Another character of the novel, Lord Lowborough's association with opium may also reflect the behaviour of Branwell Brontë.[6]

Another possible source for The Tenant is the story of Mrs Collins, the wife of a local curate, who in November 1840 came to Anne's father Patrick Brontë seeking advice regarding her alcoholic husband's abusive conduct. Mr Brontë's counsel was probably surprising given his status as cleric — he said that she should leave her husband. Mrs Collins returned to Haworth in the spring of 1847, while Anne was writing The Tenant, and told how she managed to build a new life for herself and her two children.[2]

The Brontё biographer Winifred Gérin believed that the original of Wildfell Hall was Ponden Hall,[7] a farm house near Stanbury in West Yorkshire, England. Ponden shares certain architectural details with Wildfell, including latticed windows and a central portico with a date plaque above.

Blake Hall at Mirfield, where Anne had been employed as governess, was suggested as the model for Grassdale Manor, Arthur Huntingdon's country seat, by Ellen Nussey (though it is not certain), a friend of Charlotte Brontë, to Edward Morison Wimperis, a commissioned artist for the Brontë sisters' novels in 1872. Neither Blake Hall nor Thorpe Green, place of another Anne's employment as governess, corresponds exactly with Grassdale.[7]

Linden-Car, in whose vicinity Wildfell Hall stands, is located in Yorkshire. Car in northern dialect means pool, pound or low-lying and boggy ground. In Lindenhope hope in north-east dialect means a small enclosed valley.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel is divided into three volumes.

Part One (Chapters 1 to 15): Gilbert Markham narrates how a mysterious widow, Mrs. Helen Graham, arrives at Wildfell Hall, a nearby old mansion. A source of curiosity for the small community, the reticent Mrs Graham and her young son Arthur are slowly drawn into the social circles of the village. Initially, Gilbert Markham casually courts Eliza Millward, despite his mother's belief that he can do better. His interest in Eliza wanes as he comes to know Mrs. Graham. In retribution, Eliza spreads (and perhaps creates) scandalous rumors about Helen.

With gossip flying, Gilbert is led to believe that his friend, Mr. Lawrence, is courting Mrs. Graham. At a chance meeting in a road, a jealous Gilbert strikes the mounted Lawrence with a whip handle, causing him to fall from his horse. Though she is unaware of this confrontation, Helen still refuses to marry Gilbert, but gives him her diaries when he accuses her of loving Lawrence.

Part two (Chapters 16 to 44) is taken from Helen's diaries and describes her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon. The handsome, witty Huntingdon is also spoilt, selfish, and self-indulgent. Before marrying Helen, Arthur Huntingdon flirts with Annabella and uses this to manipulate Helen and convince her to marry him. Helen marries him blinded by love and resolves to reform Arthur with gentle persuasion and good example. Upon the birth of their child, Huntingdon becomes increasingly jealous of their son (also called Arthur) and his claims on Helen's attentions and affections.

Huntingdon's pack of dissolute friends frequently engage in drunken revels at the family's home, Grassdale, oppressing those of finer character. Both men and women are portrayed as degraded, with Lady Annabella Lowborough shown to be an unfaithful spouse to her melancholy but devoted husband.

Walter Hargrave, the brother of Helen's friend Milicent Hargrave, vies for Helen's affections. While not as wild as his peers, Walter is an unwelcome admirer: Helen senses his predatory nature, something revealed when they play chess. Walter tells Helen of Arthur's affair with Lady Lowborough. When his friends depart, Arthur pines openly for his paramour and derides his wife.

Arthur's corruption of their son — encouraging him to drink and swear at his tender age — is the last straw for Helen. She plans to flee to save her son, but her husband learns of her plans from her journal, and burns her artist's tools (by which she had hoped to support herself). Eventually, with help from her brother, Mr. Lawrence, Helen finds a secret refuge at Wildfell Hall.

Part Three (Chapters 45 to 53) begins after the reading of the diaries when Helen bids Gilbert to leave her because she is not free to marry. He complies and soon learns that she has returned to Grassdale upon learning that Arthur is gravely ill. Helen's ministrations are in vain. Huntingdon's death is painful, fraught with terror at what awaits him. Helen cannot comfort him, for he rejects responsibility for his actions and wishes instead for her to 'come with him', to plead for his salvation.

A year passes. Gilbert pursues a rumour of Helen's impending wedding, only to find that Mr. Lawrence (with whom he has reconciled) is marrying Helen's friend, Esther Hargrave. He goes to Grassdale, and discovers that Helen is now wealthy and lives at her estate in Staningley. He travels there, but is plagued by worries that she is now far above his station. He hesitates at the entry-gate. By chance, he encounters Helen, her aunt, and young Arthur. The two lovers reconcile and marry.


Helen and her family[edit]

  • Helen Lawrence Huntingdon, known also under alias Helen Graham (Graham is her mother's maiden name). The protagonist of the novel and the tenant of the title. Wildfell Hall is the place where she and her brother were born. After their mother's death she goes to live with their aunt and uncle at Staningley Manor, while her brother, Frederick, remains with their father. In spite of their separation, Helen retained an affectionate relationship with her brother and later he helped her to escape from her abusive and dissolute husband.
  • Master Arthur Huntingdon, five years old at the beginning of the book, the son of Arthur Huntingdon and Helen. Has a strong resemblance to his uncle, Frederick, which gives rise to gossip. He is grown up by the time of Gilbert's letter to Jack Halford, and is residing at Grassdale with his wife, Helen Hattersley.
  • Mr. Maxwell, Helen's wealthy uncle, who dies near the end of the novel and leaves Staningley to Helen.
  • Peggy Maxwell, Helen's aunt, who tries to warn her against marriage with Huntingdon. Dies several years after Helen's and Gilbert's marriage.
  • Frederick Lawrence, Helen's brother. Helps her to escape from Huntingdon and lends her money, so she can paint again. Eventually, he marries Esther Hargrave.

Huntingdon and his circle[edit]

  • Arthur Huntingdon, Helen's abusive and alcoholic husband. He is a Byronic figure of great fascination but also of hardly-concealed moral failings.[8] His abusive behavior forced Helen to run away from him, but nevertheless when he becomes ill (falling from his horse when drunk and injuring his leg badly), Helen returns to Grassdale to take care of him. Unwilling to stop drinking alcohol, Huntingdon deteriorates in health and eventually dies. He is thought to be loosely based on the author's brother, Branwell,[9] but critics don't agree on this point. Many of them point out that there is too little resemblance between them (and only one physical — like Branwell, Arthur has masses of red hair). As well as Lord Lowborough, Huntingdon bears far strongest resemblance to two types of drunkards outlined in Robert Macnish's The Anatomy of Drunkenness.[6]
  • Annabella Wilmot, Lady Lowborough, Arthur Huntington's paramour. She is flirtatious, bold and exquisitely beautiful, but her unfaithfulness and debauchery lead her to self-destruction.
  • Lord Lowborough, one of Arthur's friends and Anabella's husband, apathetic but devoted. Melancholic, dour and gloomy, he is in complete contrast to Huntingdon. He used to gamble and drink too much alcohol, and developed an addiction to opium but, after his financial ruin, gradually reforms himself. Lowborough truly loves Annabella, and her conjugal infidelity brings him such suffering that only his Christian faith and strong will keep him from suicide. Later he divorces Annabella and after some time marries a plain middle-aged woman, who makes a good wife to him and stepmother to his children with Annabella — son and nominal (possibly, from her affair with Huntingdon) daughter. Lord Lowborough also has some resemblances to Branwell, such as: a life of debauchery, periods of remorse/religious torments, and opium, as well as weakness.[6]
  • Ralph Hattersley, a friend of Huntingdon and husband of Milicent, whom he marries because he wants a quiet wife who will let him do what he likes with no word of reproach or complaint. He mistreats his wife. "I sometimes think she has no feeling at all; and then I go on until she cries - and that satisfies me," he tells Helen. But when he reforms himself, he becomes a loving husband and father.
  • Mr. Grimsby, one of Arthur's friends, misogynist. Helps him to conceal his affair with Annabella.

Linden-Car Farm inhabitants[edit]

  • Gilbert Markham, a twenty-four-year-old farmer, and narrator in the novel. Although he is the hero of the novel, Markham is noted for his imperfect nature, exhibiting jealousy, moodiness, and anger. Gilbert's mistake in believing Helen to be a fallen woman and his disloyal behaviour (striking Frederick Lawrence whom he believe to be Helen's lover) disillusion the reader with the romance hero.[10] However, during the course of the novel he grows morally and proves to be worthy of Helen.
  • Fergus Markham, Gilbert's younger brother, high-spirited and witty. Gets Linden-Car Farm after Gilbert goes to live with Helen in Staningley.
  • Rose Markham, a smart and pretty girl. Gilbert's younger sister and friend of Millward sisters.
  • Mrs. Markham, Gilbert's mother, great admirer of Reverend Millward and his ideas.

Ryecote Farm inhabitants[edit]

  • Jane Wilson, a friend of Eliza Millward and scandalmonger. Tries to ensnare Frederick Lawrence, but when Gilbert reveals to him her hatred of his sister Helen, Frederick breaks off their relationship.
  • Richard Wilson, Jane's brother. Succeeds Reverend Millward to the vicarage of Lindenhope and eventually marries his daughter, the plain and unattractive Mary.
  • Robert Wilson, brother of Jane and Richard, a rough countrified farmer.
  • Mrs. Wilson, mother of Wilson children and a talebearer like her daughter.

The Vicarage inhabitants[edit]

  • Eliza Millward, daughter of the vicar, friend of Jane Wilson and like her a scandalmonger. Gilbert carries on a half-serious flirtation with her before he first meets Helen.
  • Mary Millward, Eliza's elder sister, she is the direct opposite of her. Plain, quiet, sensible girl, housekeeper and family drudge. She is trusted and valued by her father, loved and courted by children and poor people, dogs and cats; and slighted and neglected by everybody else.
  • Reverend Michael Millward, Eliza's and Mary's father. Man of fixed principles, strong prejudices and regular habits. A man of unshakable opinions, he considers anyone who disagrees with them deplorably ignorant.

The Grove inhabitants[edit]

  • Walter Hargrave, a friend of Arthur and, first of all, dangerous admirer of Helen while she is still living with her husband. A cousin of Annabella Wilmot.
  • Milicent Hargrave, Walter's sister and Helen's close friend. Meek and calm. Married to Ralph Hattersley against her will, but with the lapse of time and Ralph's reform they start to love each other.
  • Esther Hargrave, the younger sister of Milicent and Walter, and Helen's friend. Unlike her sister she is bold, high-spirited and independent. Eventually marries Helen's brother, Frederick Lawrence.
  • Mrs. Hargrave, mother of the three Hargrave children, a hard and stingy woman. Adores her only son and tries to marry off her daughters as soon as possible.

Other characters[edit]

  • Mr. Boarham, one of Helen's suitors prior to her marriage. However, Helen ultimately refuses his marriage proposal because she is repulsed by his dull conversation and considers that they are too different to each other. Helen prefers to spell his name 'Bore'em'.
  • Mr. Wilmot, the uncle of Annabella Wilmot and another of Helen's suitors, whom she considers a scoundrel.
  • Rachel, a servant and friend of Helen and her son. Has taken care of Helen since her birth.
  • Alice Myers, another paramour of the elder Huntingdon, hired ostensibly as a governess of little Arthur.
  • Benson, a servant at Grassdale Manor. Has compassion for Helen in her misfortune and helps her escape.
  • Jack Halford, an esquire, husband of Rose Markham and the addressee of Gilbert's letter. He is an unseen character.


The novel is set between Regency and Victorian times.

  • 1793 - Arthur Huntingdon born.
  • 1803 - Helen Lawrence born at Wildfell Hall; Gilbert Markham born.
  • 1821 - the beginning of Helen's diary (1 June). She is back from her first season in London where she met Arthur; Wedding of Helen and Arthur (20 December).
  • 1822 - Arthur junior born at Grassdale Manor (5 December).
  • 1824 - Helen reveals Arthur's affair with Annabella (7 October).
  • 1827 - Helen flees to Wildfell Hall with Rachel and little Arthur (24 October).
  • 1828 - Helen goes back to Grassdale to take care of ill Arthur (4 November); Arthur dies (5 December).
  • 1830 - Gilbert and Helen are married (August).
  • 1847 - Gilbert ends his letter to Jack Halford and narrative (10 June).



In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Huntingdon and most of his friends are heavy drinkers. Lord Lowborough is 'the drunkard by necessity' 'whom misfortune has overtaken, and who, instead of bearing up manfully against it, endeavors to drown his sorrows in liquor.' Arthur, however, is the 'drunkard from excess of indulgence in youth'.

Only Ralph Hattersley, husband of the meek Milicent, whom he mistreats, and Lord Lowborough reform their lives. Helen's undesirable admirer Walter Hargrave has never been such a heavy drinker as Arthur and his friends and he indicates this to her, in an attempt to win her favour. Arthur and Lord Lowborough particularly seem affected by the traditional signs of alcoholism.[11] They frequently drink themselves into incoherence and on awakening after their 'orgies' they drink again, to feel better. Lord Lowborough understands that he has a problem and with willpower and strenuous effort overcomes his addiction.

Arthur continues drinking even when he injures himself falling from a horse, which eventually leads to his death.

Ralph, although he drinks heavily with his friends, does not seem to be as much afflicted by alcoholism as by his way of life. Once he resolves to spend his time in the country with Milicent and their children, away from London and its temptations, he becomes a happy man. Mr. Grimsby, by contrast, continues his degradation, going from bad to worse and eventually dying in a brawl.

Huntingdon's son Arthur becomes addicted to alcohol through his father's efforts. Helen, however, unwilling to let her son be a drunkard like his father, begins to add to his wine a small quantity of tartar emetic 'just enough to produce inevitable nausea and depression without positive sickness'. Very soon the boy begins to be made to feel ill by the very smell of alcohol.

Gender relations[edit]

Gilbert's mother, Mrs. Markham, holds the prevailing doctrine (at that time) that it is 'the husband's business to please himself, and hers [i.e. the wife's] to please him'.

The portrayal of Helen, courageous and independent, in contrast, emphasises her capacity for autonomy rather than submitting to male authority, and the corrective role of women in relation to men. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is thus considered by most of the critics a feminist novel.


Until the passing of the Married Women's Property Act in 1870, under English law a wife had no independent legal existence, and therefore no right to own property or to enter into legal contracts separately from her husband, to sue for divorce, or for the control and custody of her children.[2]

Helen is misled by ideas of romantic love and duty into the delusion that she can repair her husband's conduct.[11] Hattersley declares that he wants a pliant wife who will not interfere with his fun, but the truth that comes out later is that he really wants quite the opposite. Milicent can't resist her mother's pressing, so she marries Ralph against her own will. Wealthy Annabella wants only a title, while Lord Lowborough truly and devotedly loves her. The social climber Jane Wilson seeks wealth.


Helen escapes from her husband in violation of English law not for herself but for young Arthur's sake. She wants to "obviate his becoming such a gentleman as his father".


Helen never forsakes her devotion to her religion and its moral precepts and after all torments she endures she is rewarded with wealth and a happy second marriage.

Helen's best friend, the meek and patient Milicent Hargrave, in contrast humbly tolerates all her husband's vices before he, with Helen's assistance, reforms himself.

Mary Millward and Richard Wilson marry after a secret engagement. They are slighted and neglected by most of their neighbours and relations. Helen makes friends with Mary, entrusting little Arthur only to her care. Mary, like Gilbert and his sister Rose, refuses to believe anything scandalous about Helen without knowing her true background. They sense her good nature that is not easily bent to vice.[11]

Woman artist[edit]

In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Brontë constructs remarriage as a comparative and competitive practice that restricts Helen's rights and talents.[12] Helen's artistic ability plays a central role in her relationships with both Gilbert and Arthur. Her alternating freedom to paint and inability to do so on her own terms not only complicate Helen's definition as wife, widow, and artist, but also enable Brontë to criticize the domestic sphere as established by marriage and re-established with remarriage.[12]

In the beginning of her diary, the young and unmarried Helen is already defining herself as an artist. She writes that her drawings "suit me best, for I can draw and think at the same time." All her early drawings reveal her private and true feelings for Arthur Huntingdon, feelings that will lead her to overlook his true character and lose herself to marriage. Nevertheless, in addition to revealing Helen's true desires, the self-expression of her artwork also defines her as an artist. That she puts so much of herself into her paintings and drawings attests to this self-definition.[12]

After her marriage, Helen has accepted the 19th-century ideal wherein the wife manages a household, cherishes her children and husband, helps the poor and goes to church. As Elizabeth Langland notes, this domestic ideal "endorsed public management behind a façade of private retirement",[13] keeping the wife engaged with duties that left little time for such activities as painting. She no longer has the power to pursue her own art. Although his demolition suppress her artistic talent, Helen reclaims her artistic talent as her own, distinct from her husband's possession of her art, and of her.

After moving from Grassdale Manor, Helen acquires the freedom to own and practise her art. By remarrying she risks losing this freedom, so Gilbert's quest to marry Helen is the more competitive in that he must not only win her heart, but also battle with the loss of legal authority and ownership that remarriage will bring her.[12] Helen's paintings reveal the truth of her situation even as she strives to conceal it: just as her early sketch lets Arthur know of her love, so the painting of Wildfell Hall, deceptively labelled "Fernley Manor," confirms her desperate role as a runaway wife.[12]


Title page of the First American edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, published in July 1848 where Acton Bell (Anne Brontë) is mistakenly identified as an author of Wuthering Heights.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall had an instant phenomenal success and rapidly outsold Emily's Wuthering Heights.[14] Within six weeks, the novel was sold out.[14] In America, the novel achieved even greater sales than it did in England.[1]

However, the critical reception was mixed—praise for the novel's "power" and "effect" and sharp criticism for being "coarse". Charlotte Brontë herself, Anne's sister, wrote to her publisher that it "hardly seems to me desirable to preserve ... the choice of subject in that work is a mistake."[15] Many critics mistakenly interpreted Anne's warning of the danger of debauchery as an approval of dissipation.[3] The North American Review criticized Gilbert as "fierce, proud, moody, jealous, revengeful, and sometimes brutal", and though it admitted that Helen was "strong-minded", but complained about her lack of "lovable or feminine virtues in her composition".[16] It concluded, "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."[16] The Spectator and others misunderstood the book's intentions, accusing it of "a morbid love for the coarse, not to say the brutal".[3]

A reviewer in Sharpe's London Magazine wrote an article warning his readers against reading the book, especially his lady readers. His review noting its "profane expressions, inconceivably coarse language, and revolting scenes and descriptions by which its pages are disfigured".

In response, Anne wrote her now famous preface to the second edition[14] in which she defended her object in writing the novel, saying that she did not write with the intent of amusing the reader or gratifying her own taste, but because she "wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it".[3] She added that she was "at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be really disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man".[3]

In September, the Rambler published another hostile review, opining that Acton and Currer Bell were probably one Yorkshire woman, and while allowing that the writer was clever and vigorous, it denounced the "truly offensive and sensual spirit" in the novel, saying that it contained "disgusting scenes of debauchery" and was "neither edifying, nor true to life, nor full of warning".[17] Around the same time, Sharpe's Magazine warned ladies against reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, saying that it was not a "fit subject matter for the pages of a work ... to be obtruded by every circulating library-keeper upon the notice of our sisters, wives, and daughters".[17]

However, there were a few positive reviews to balance this. The Athenaeum called it "the most interesting novel which we have read for a month past".[17]


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall challenged the prevailing morals of the Victorian era. Especially shocking was Helen's slamming of her bedroom door in the face of her husband after continuing abuse, thereby overturning the sexual politics of the time. One critic went so far as to pronounce it "utterly unfit to be put into the hands of girls", though another cited it as "the most entertaining novel we have read in a month past." It is considered by some to be a feminist novel. The main character, Helen, is spirited and forthright, unafraid to speak to the men in her life with frankness. Anne Brontë portrays this approvingly, in contrast to the meekness of Milicent who is trampled and ignored by her unrepentant husband. Helen leaves with her beloved son in tow.

Vice is not unique to the men, however; Lady Lowborough's adultery has a particularly devastating effect on her husband, and the malice of Eliza Millward is poisonous to the entire community. The eternal struggle between good and evil is emphasised by heavy use of Biblical references: sinners who repent and listen to reason are brought within the fold, while those who remain stubborn tend to meet violent or miserable ends.

Although themes of alcoholism, animal mistreatment, physical and emotional abuse, unhappy marriage and escape from husband aren't unique to The Tenant as one of the Brontë sisters' novels, there is a marked difference between Charlotte's and Emily's romanticism and Anne's realism and morality.

Some names and locations in the novel look like they could have been a tribute to those in Emily's Wuthering Heights[citation needed]. The preponderance of "H" names (Halford, Helen, Huntingdon, Hattersley, and Hargrave) recalls her novel, and there are similarities in the names and locations of Wildfell Hall and Wuthering Heights. Charlotte Brontë herself did something alike in Shirley to Agnes Grey.


A great success on initial publication, the work was almost forgotten in subsequent years. When it became due for a reprint just over a year after Anne's death, Charlotte prevented its re-publication. Some believe that Charlotte's suppression of the book was to protect her younger sister's memory from an adverse onslaught on her character. However, this seems rather a weak argument, for Charlotte did not take the same action when Wuthering Heights brought similar accusations against Emily, and she always appeared closer to Emily than to Anne.[18]

Others believe Charlotte was jealous of her younger sister. Even before Anne's death, Charlotte had criticised the novel, stating in a letter to W.S. Williams: "That it had faults of execution, faults of art, was obvious, but faults of intention of feeling could be suspected by none who knew the writer. For my part, I consider the subject unfortunately chosen – it was one the author was not qualified to handle at once vigorously and truthfully. The simple and natural – quiet description and simple pathos – are, I think Acton Bell's forte. I liked Agnes Grey better than the present work." Interestingly, this was the only known praise Charlotte ever gave of Agnes Grey.[18]

The Mutilated Texts of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall[1][edit]

Although the publishers respected Charlotte's wishes, shortly before her death, in 1854, the London firm of Thomas Hodgson issued a one-volume edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Hodgson performed extensive editing of the novel, removing many sections of it including the opening letter to Jack Halford and the chapter headings. Other omissions ranged from single words to almost complete chapters (such as 28th): some sections were completely re-arranged in an attempt to compensate for the omissions. The editing was most probably performed in the interest of economy.

It damages the structure of the novel;[2] and most subsequent English editions, including those eventually produced by Charlotte's publisher, Smith, Elder & Co., followed this text. These copies are still prevalent today, despite notes on their covers claiming them to be 'complete and unabridged'.

In 1992, The Oxford University Press published 'The Clarendon Edition', which is based on the first edition of the novel but incorporates the author's 'Preface' and the corrections presented in the second edition.


Radio show version[edit]

Ten episodes adaptation aired from 28 November to 9 December 2011 on BBC Radio 4, with Hattie Morahan as Helen, Robert Lonsdale as Gilbert and Leo Bill as Arthur.[19]

Television versions[edit]

The novel was adapted into two television films, both of which were made by the BBC. The 1968 version starred Janet Munro, Corin Redgrave and Bryan Marshall, while Tara Fitzgerald, Toby Stephens, Rupert Graves and James Purefoy starred in the 1996 version.

Musical version[edit]

The novel was also adapted into a three-act opera (following the original three volume structure) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the music composed by Garrett Hope and the libretto by Steven Soebbing.

References in culture[edit]

In the Downton Abbey Christmas special (2011), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the book title acted out by Lady Mary Crawley in the Christmas charade.

The story of Helen Graham is mentioned in Elizabeth George's 1988 novel A Great Deliverance. Her name also used as a secret code.

Tina Connolly's 2013 novel Copperhead is inspired by The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The name of main heroine is Helen Huntingdon and she also has a disastrous marriage.[20]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase "tied to the apron strings" first appeared in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:


  1. ^ a b c The Mutilated Texts of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  2. ^ a b c d e f McDonagh, Josephine (2008). "Introduction and Additional Notes". The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-920755-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Davies, Stevie (1996). "Introduction and Notes". The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-043474-3. 
  4. ^ "Anne Brontë at A Clebration of Women Writers". Mary Mark Ockerbloom. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Barker, Juliet (2007). The Brontes (2 ed.). Overlook Press. pp. 334–335. ISBN 978-1-58567-363-6. 
  6. ^ a b c Thormählen, Marianne (October 1993). "The Villain of "Wildfell Hall": Aspects and Prospects of Arthur Huntingdon". The Modern Language Review (Modern Humanities Research Association) 88 (4): 831–841. JSTOR 3734417. 
  7. ^ a b Dinsdale, Ann (2008). "Geographical sittings". The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Worth Press Limited. ISBN 978-1-903025-57-4. 
  8. ^ Website of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth
  9. ^ Anne Brontë (Website)
  10. ^ Goodison, Susanne (1993). ""The object of their life": defining female self in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Miss Marjoribanks". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Themes
  12. ^ a b c d e A. Diederich, Nicole (2003). "The Art of Comparison: Remarriage in Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall". Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature (Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association) 57 (2): 25–41. JSTOR 1348391. 
  13. ^ Langland, Elizabeth (March 1992). "Nobody's Angels : Domestic Ideology and Middle-Class Women in the Victorian Novel". PMLA (Modern Language Association) 107 (2): 290–304. JSTOR 462641. 
  14. ^ a b c Anne Brontë Remembered in Scarborough
  15. ^ Charlotte Brontë, letter of 15 September 1850, to W. S. Williams
  16. ^ a b "Brontë Sources, Texts, and Criticism". Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  17. ^ a b c Fraser, Rebecca (2008). Charlotte Brontë: A Writer's Life (2 ed.). 45 Wall Street, Suite 1021 New York, NY 10005: Pegasus Books LLC. p. 261. ISBN 978-1-933648-88-0. 
  18. ^ a b The Novels of Anne Brontë
  19. ^ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Episode guide
  20. ^ Copperhead at BronteBlog
  21. ^ Apron strings, tied to at

External links[edit]

The novel online[edit]