The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
The least known of the Bronte sisters, Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall features a breathtakingly strong heroine, and the level of emotion common to other Victorian gothic literature of the day. Helen Huntingdon is married to an alcoholic wretch; defying the rigid social conventions of the day, she leaves her husband to protect her son, earning money to live as an artist. While hiding at Wildfell Hall, she meets Gilbert Markham, who falls in love with her, and sets in motion events that neither foresaw. 394 pages, softcover.
Unfairly judged by her sisters and critics, Anne Bronte had a singular vision of women's rights that extended beyond the "rights" given in her own time.
Divided into a unique three-part style, we learn of Helen Huntington's life via Gilbert Markham's letters--and in the middle, her own diary, which he transcribes faithfully. Escaping the corrupting influence of her husband (whom she admits it was a mistake to marry), Helen flees for the sake of her son Arthur, carrying him away to the remote Wildfell Hall. With a strong sense of her religious convictions and duty, Helen revolts against the idea that men may go off and have affairs, get drunk,--in short, "be a man"--whilst she and her son suffer the consequences of such heathen behavior. 535 pages, softcover, with an introduction and notes.
Drawing on her own experiences, Anne Bronte wrote her first novel out of an urgent need to inform her contemporries about the desperate position of unmarried, educated women driven to take up the only "respectable" career open to them--that of a governess. Struggling with the monstrous Bloomfield children and then disdained in the superior Murray household, Agnes tells a story that is at once a compelling inside view of Victorian chauvinism and ruthless materialism and, according to George Moore, "the most perfect prose narrative in English literature."
Written when women---and workers generally---had few rights in England, Agnes Grey exposes the brutal inequities of the rigid class system in mid-nineteenth-century Britain. Agnes comes from a respectable middle-class family, but their financial reverses have forced her to seek work as a governess.