The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë, Peter Merchant

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is known as one of the first feminist novels, mainly I think because the protagonist Helen had the audacity to slam the door in her husband's face (GASP! ...SMILE!)

 

"The slamming of Helen Huntingdon's bedroom door against her husband, May Sinclair later wrote, reverberated throughout Victorian England." (The Guardian)

 

Yes, Anne Bronte's work seems just as unconventional and priceless as those of her better known sisters. However, what I didn't expect is that Anne had a good sense of humor. Though the heroine faces mistreatment which is infuriating at times, I found myself chuckling at Helen's directness, like in her conversation with Esther,

 

 “I shall expect my husband to have no pleasures but what he shares with me; and if his greatest pleasure of all is not the enjoyment of my company - why - it will be the worse for him - that's all.'

'If such are your expectations of matrimony, Esther, you must, indeed, be careful whom you marry - or rather, you must avoid it altogether.”

 

See, kind of funny, right?

 

In the end, I felt that Tenant of Wildfell Hall equal in quality to her sister Emily's Wuthering Heights (even though Wuthering is still my favorite) and Charlotte's Jane Eyre. Why Charlotte would not republish Tenant after Anne died is beyond me. Charlotte apparently wrote, 

 

"Wildfell Hall it hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake, it was too little consonant with the character, tastes and ideas of the gentle, retiring inexperienced writer."

 

In summary, I think Charlotte is wrong when she labels Anne as inexperienced. I wonder if given how realistic and similar Tenant is to the lives of The Brontes, if a republish wasn't granted because it strikes too much of a personal chord? That, of course, is only my theory.

 

If only I could travel back into time....