The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the second and final novel by Anne Brontë (1848), is concerned with the story of a woman who leaves her abusive, dissolute husband, and who must then support herself and her young son.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a slightly darker work than her first novel Agnes Grey, focusing on dashed dreams and frustrated hopes.
A mysterious young widow arrives at Wildfell Hall, an Elizabethan mansion which has been empty for many years, with her young son. She lives there under an assumed name, Helen Graham, and very soon finds herself the victim of local slander. Refusing to believe anything scandalous about her, Gilbert Markham discovers her dark secrets. This passionate novel of betrayal is set within a moral framework tempered by Anne's optimistic belief in universal salvation.
Originally published in June of 1848, it challenged the prevailing morals of the time; a critic went so far as to pronounce it "utterly unfit to be put into the hands of girls."
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is mainly considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels. May Sinclair, in 1913, said that the slamming of Helen's bedroom door against her husband reverberated throughout Victorian England. In escaping from her husband, she violates not only social conventions, but also English law.
Anne Brontë (1820-1849) was a British novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. She also wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters under the pseudonym Acton Bell.
Anne was the youngest of the Bronte siblings, born in 1820. Like her sisters she wrote under a pename: Acton Bell. Agnes Grey was published in 1847 and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 1848. She died shortly after this in 1849, aged just 29 years old.
Anne preferred a more realistic style to the romanticism of her sisters, basing her first novel on her own experiences as a Governess.Anne Brontë shows an equal talent to her sisters; her novels are gripping and realistic, but inevitably overshadowed by the more dramatic romanticism of Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Emily's Wuthering Heights.