Student Reviews: Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Book Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.

Jamie Watts: English Studies

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is undoubtedly a masterpiece. I think it far outshines Wuthering Heights and is equal to Vilette and Jane Eyre in its accomplishments. In fact I often wonder if Charlotte Bronte’s decision to suppress the publication of this book after Anne died was motivated more from a place of jealousy than any moral concerns about propriety.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was Anne Brontë’s second novel, first published in 1848 under the pseudonym Acton Bell.


Anne Bronte writes frankly and openly about conditions affecting (admittedly middle class) women in Victorian England with no legal rights to property or, should their marriage fail, their child. The main character, Helen Graham, marries for ‘love’ rather than a suitor her de facto parents find suitable, which is also a change from earlier Regency writing such as Jane Austen. However, Arthur Huntingdon is a swine – cheating, gambling, drinking, he is an utterly loathsome man. Helen begs him to allow her to leave when he takes up with Lady Lowborough but Huntingdon refuses, this motivates Helen to flee with her child to help his moral upbringing.

Having read this book six years ago it has lost none of its lustre, the story is observed by Gilbert Markham who is besotted with Helen. He first believes village gossip that she is sleeping with Mr Lawrence but it later transpires that he is Helen’s brother and he is helping her. She makes a living from her art so Bronte is concerned with the female as artist. Ultimately Helen must do what is good and she returns to nurse Huntingdon when he is ill. Suddenly and unexpectedly (same thing happens in Jane Eyre and defies logic) Helen inherits vast wealth, Arthur Huntingdon dies and she is able to marry Markham. For a novel of 600 pages most of this happens in about the last five, so the ending feels rushed but I think I’m correct in thinking Anne was taken ill and does not long after this novel came out. For a Victorian novel it is so accessible and easy to read and I think it’s such a shame Anne isn’t regarded as well as Emily or Charlotte.

Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is covered on the optional module ‘The Ninteenth-Century Woman Writer’.

Jamie is currently studying an MA in English Studies. Have you also read this novel? Let us know what you thought in the comments or on our social media platforms.


Christian Maps, Jewish Monsters with Asa Simon Mittman.

Attention All!

We are delighted to announce that the university will be hosting Professor Asa Simon Mittman for a talk titled ‘Christian Maps, Jewish Monsters’ on 20 March. Please see below for the full details of this event.

Date: Tuesday 20 March 2018

Time: Reception 6:00pm, Public Lecture 6:30pm

Location: Reception – Stephen Langton Building Foyer, Lecture – Stephen Langton Lecture Theatre

Lecture Title: Christian Maps, Jewish Monsters

Speaker: Asa Simon Mittman, Professor and Chair, Art & Art History, California State University, Chico

Lecture Abstract and Speaker Bio:

In ‘Christian Maps, Jewish Monsters’, Mittman explores a curious, fraught image of idol-worship on the Hereford World Map, produced in England c. 1300. This massive, encyclopaedic sheet has been seen as a terrestrial map, a universal map, a biblical compendium, a history, and on. In the south-east quadrant of the world, in Arabia, between the two arms of the Red Sea, we find the Jews, a mass of four men in vaguely monastic robes, kneeling in prayer before an altar on which squats Mahun, an ugly, twisting calf that is, despite the prevalent use of gold throughout the map, decidedly not golden. The calf-idol is raising its hind leg to defecate on the altar. The image of the defecating polytheistic-Jewish-Islamic Calf-Muhammed is animate, but ought not be so; it is a man-made thing, but it acts. The image could function as it does by being contained within the geohistorical framework of medieval cartography, a construct that allows for the smooth imbrications of times (contemporary and past) and places (there and here). By looking at this figure, and then zooming out to consider the massive map, as a whole, Mittman disentangles this complex, aggregate image, and its implications for our understanding of medieval England. In doing so, he provides a point of reflection on our own present context, and its contemporary depictions of non-Christians.

Asa Simon Mittman is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Art & Art History at California State University, Chico, where he teaches modules on ancient and medieval art, monsters, and film. Mittman’s collaborative work with Susan Kim on the Beowulf Manscript, Inconceivable Beasts: The Wonders of the East in the Beowulf Manuscript (AMCRS, 2013), won a Millard Meiss Publication Grant from the College Art Association and an ISAS (International Society of Anglo-Saxonists) Best Book Prize, and his book Maps and Monsters in Medieval England(Routledge, 2006) is a foundational Monster Studies text. Other collaborative works include, with Peter Dendle, a Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous (Ashgate/Routledge, 2012), and, with Marcus Hensel, the forthcoming with the Medieval Institute Press/Arc-Humanities Press, Classic Readings on Monster Theory: Demonstrare (Volume 1) and Primary Sources on Monsters: Demonstrare (Volume 2). Mittman has also contributed to the growth of Monster Studies through the creation of academic communities such as the Material Collective and MEARCSTAPA (Monsters: the Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory and Practical Application). His current projects include research on the Franks Casket, on representations of Jews on medieval world maps, and, with Sherry C. M. Lindquist, curation of the exhibit Terrors, Aliens, and Wonders: Medieval Monsters at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.


To book onto this event, please see our Eventbrite Page.