Anyone read "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall"?

Boy, those Bronte sisters could write. I’m reading The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall for the second time, having read it once many years ago.

This novel is about the unhappy marriage between an idealistic young woman and her charming-at-first but utter-asshole-at-last husband. It’s a bit over the top in its religious discussions and pours on the agony and martyrdom of the heroine, but still.

Now, Anne Bronte was an unmarried young woman who had lived somewhat in isolation in Yorkshire under her parson father’s supervision (like the other Bronte girls), and who had a brief stint as a governess. She wrote two novels and then died young of tuberculosis. So how in hell was she so very knowledgeable about the precise personality of a manipulative, narcissistic alcoholic? It’s a perfect portrait of an abusive asshole, very modern in its wisdom.

Color me gobsmacked at how worldly and intelligent this retiring unmarried girl was, especially about toxic human relationships. It’s a wonderful novel, not quite a masterpiece as some other Bronte works, but amazing anyway.

Not read the book in question, but in my opinion she might have got her insight on alcoholism from her brother, Branwell, who finished life not only with TB, but an addiction to alcohol and laudanum

I remember reading it.

It goes much slower than Jane Eyre or Villette, and so much of the drama was internalized and philosophical and angsty that I was tempted to write it off. But it’s not a bad book.

Yes, several times. It’s rather impressive for its depiction of an unrepentant alcoholic and a miserable marriage for a mid-Victorian novel. It’s my understand that Arthur Huntington is somewhat based on Branwell Bronte, and that Anne picked up some experience of country house life from her work as governess. Also see her other novel, “Agnes Grey”.

The BBS made a version of Tenant about 10-12 years ago with Tara Fitzgerald, Rupert Graves, Toby Stephens.

The “brief stint as a governess” lasted five years, and included travel with the family, so Anne lived a much less secluded life than most people assume. (In lots of ways, her literary reputation was shaped by her sister Charlotte, the only one of the siblings who lived long enough to become a public figure – and Charlotte painted a portrait of her as a shy, nun-like figure that was not precisely accurate. She also disliked The Tenant, which is particularly unfortunate, as it’s a terrific book that deserves far more attention than it’s gotten.)

I had forgotten that brother Branwell was a souse. Didn’t he also have an “intrigue” with a married woman that horrified his proper family?

Yep, the mother of the child he was tutoring (allegedly).

Her name, amusingly enough, was Mrs. Robinson.

Hey, I just read Tenant and Agnes Grey a week or so ago! I’d read them before but it had been several years. I really enjoyed Tenant, I think it’s great. I’m thinking I might put it on our book club list.

:nodding: Branwell was a tutor for the household where Anne worked as a governess. He was fired for presumably having an affair with the lady of the house. The affair has never been substantiated. The Bronte legend holds that he descended into alcoholic/narcotic hell shortly thereafter.

I have it but haven’t yet read it. I got it as it’s a classic of Christian Universalism.

The chess scene, where it’s clear that the game is a metaphor for sex and that Walter is playing to screw Helen, who is resisting but isn’t wholly averse to losing, is amazingly hot: it also got me laid once by emulating it, and you can’t say that about many 19th Century novels.

It’s a pretty good adaptation too. I read the book about a month ago for a class and then the professor showed this BBC version. If a roomful of nitpicky English students can enjoy it despite the changes from book to film, it’s obviously good. :wink:

That said, I’m not a huge fan of the book. I liked it well enough and a lot of the character interaction was fascinating, but it was often a bit slowgoing for me.

I read it earlier this year, and I enjoyed it. I had always heard Anne Brontë dismissed as the “third sister who was less talented than the other two”, but The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is still pretty impressive. I then got hold of a copy of her earlier work, Agnes Grey. I thought it was very noticeable how much her writing matured between the two.

Hah. Isn’t that something about 19th century literature and some of us women? The combination of the repression and the civilized but witty repartee can be arousing.

I adored Tenant, and actually preferred it to either Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. (The former wasn’t much competition at all – I really really disliked WH.) Haven’t read it in nearly twenty years, however, so it’s possible my estimation would change. The adaptation was lovely.

I remember not being hugely impressed with Agnes Grey, but it’s been too long for me recall why.