When we think of the name “Brontë”, Anne is never the first sister to come to mind. Many of us will have read either Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre at some point in our lives, maybe even both, but who among you could name one of Anne’s books (before reading the title of this post)? It seems that that history has delegated her to the position of “the other one,” even though her first novel, Agnes Grey, was well-received and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall had been an instant success; it quickly outsold Emily’s Wuthering Heights and was sold out altogether in only six weeks. Charlotte Brontë, for one, thought Tenant was an immature work. In a letter to W.S. Williams, she wrote:
That it had faults of execution, faults of art, was obvious, but faults of intention of feeling could be suspected by none who knew the writer. For my part, I consider the subject unfortunately chosen – it was one the author was not qualified to handle at once vigorously and truthfully.
After Anne’s death, she prevented the book’s republication, because it seemed to her “hardly … desirable to preserve.” So is this why The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is not read by highschool students all over the world today? Because it’s just not very good? I think not. There are some pacing issues and a few nitpicks here and there, but I would argue that there is a far more influential factor: romanticisation, or, the lack thereof. Read more