The Tenant at Wildfell Hall (Anglais) Broché – 30 juin 2010
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It is particularly gratifying to have a definitive library edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (reveiw of English Studies)
It is obvious to the careful reader that a massive amount of textual evidence has been compressed into this Clarendon volume. The Introduction to the Clarendon edition ... is a model of its type ... Rosengarten unequivocally introduces the text, providing the reader with a context for the composition and publication of the novel. Nowhere in Brontë scholarship is it possible to find such a complete and valuable compilation of the publication history ... One can only admire the grasp Rosengarten has of the myriad typographical and substantive errors that mar the variant versions of the early editions and the lucid way in which he presents and explains such complex data ... a book well worth having: it is scholarly, handsomely produced and easy to read ... provides a fitting conclusion to the Clarendon series and, as such, represents a milestone in Brontë scholarship. (Peter L. Shillingsburg, Mississippi State University, TEXT, Volume 9, 1997) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .
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Within a few months Helen became much more familiar with her husband's character. He had no hobbies nor interests, as she did. She is a gifted painter, loves to read, enjoys the outdoors, and is not easily bored. Arthur demanded all Helen's time and attention, to entertain and pamper him. When he could no longer bear the country solitude, he left for London, to reacquaint himself with his old haunts and bachelor friends. He insisted his wife remain behind, at their estate, Grassdale Manor. Huntington's behavior worsened with time, even after Helen bore him a beautiful son. He brought his debauched friends into his home for months on end, hosting wild drinking orgies and participating in a variety of low behavior extremely insulting to his wife, indeed, even encouraging his friends to mock his spouse. Helen eventually discovered that one of the houseguests, the wife of a friend, was Arthur's longtime mistress. Thus a double adultery was being conducted at Grassdale Manor, while she and her son were in residence, along with excesses of every kind.
It was at this point that Helen, contrary to the customs of her times, locked her bedroom door against her husband. This seems like logical behavior in the 21st century. And many might ask why she did not leave Huntington long before. In the Victorian Age, the law and society defined a married woman as a husband's property. Women were totally dependant upon their mates, and husbands could actually have their wives locked away in asylums at their whim and convenience. There is a scene in the novel where Arthur has all Helen's paints and canvasses destroyed, and takes possession of her jewelry and money, so she cannot leave him. When the profligate begins to manipulate his young son, encouraging the child to drink and curse his mother, Helen does run away with her child.
As the novel opens, we find her living in a few rooms at the remote Wildfell Hall, under the assumed identity of Helen Graham, a widow. Here she earns her living by painting. The neighbors are curious and seek her out, one in particular, Gilbert Markham. However when Helen is not forthcoming about her past, she becomes the object of ugly gossip and jealousy. Much of this compelling story is narrated through a series of letters Markham writes to a friend, and through Helen's own diary entries.
The novel is divided into three sections: Helen's life at Wildfell Hall and her friendship with Gilbert Markham; Helen's diary describing the Huntington marriage; and the events following Markham's reading the diary. Anne Bronte's novel is powerful, haunting and quite disturbing. Miss Bronte, and her brother Branwell, served as governess and tutor to the children of wealthy aristocrats. Some of the behavior described here is apparently taken from events which Anne witnessed, and which marked Branwell severely. Ms. Bronte openly stated that in "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" she, "wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it." This well written, extraordinary tale can most definitely hold its own against the works of Anne's more famous sisters, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, and those of other noted authors of the period.
Written as one long letter - and a diary within a letter, like Kostova's The Historian - from protagonist Gilbert Markham to his brother-in-law on how he met his wife, Helen, most of the actual story is presented in diary form by Helen herself. Initially presented to the reader as a mysterious widow who arrives in a small English village (where she first meets Gilbert), she becomes, very much against her will, a source first of endless curiosity, and then a target of malicious gossip.
It then lays bare all of the shameful undercurrents of marriage in the Victorian age, particularly for a woman who was unwise or just unlucky enough to seriously misjudge the man she married. If you think it's a tough mistake to make now, only imagine its consequences in an age where divorce was rarely an option and you were almost always stuck with what you got, no matter how repugnant, immoral or tyrannical. Everything is here: adultery, alcoholism, abuse, alienation and humiliation.
At the time, Bronte was apparently skewered by hypocritical moralistic critics who felt she shouldn't have exposed this underbelly of Victorian society's mores - or more precisely, its lack of compassion or even recognition of what women were expected to endure. Helen's character, a religiously devout woman but also a fighter who refused to accept the worst of the abuses or allow her son to be corrupted, was lambasted as an evil influence on women and girls. It's gratifying to know that as history's hindsight and passage tells us now, this novel ended up going a long way towards shaking up 19th century morals and and bringing about the first stirrings of women's rights.
Like most Victorian novels it runs long and the modern reader might feel that it drags when compared to the quicker pacing of contemporary fiction, but I really enjoyed it and felt transported to another time.
Anne Bronte knew alcoholism first hand through her brother Bramwell who drank himself to death, and her revulsion of the alcoholic personality is central to this book. The heroine of "Tenant", Helen Graham, is a headstrong and independent young woman, who marries Arthur Huntington against the advice of her family. She is one of those who loves not wisely but too well, because Arthur, a selfish and irresponsible womanizer, cares about nothing but satisfying his own wishes and desires.
Helen wants to help Arthur turn his life around, which Arthur couldn't care less about, and his drinking and adultery right under her nose eventually repels her to the point where she despises him as much as she once loved him. It is only when she sees him attempting to influence her young son to become a chip off the old block, that she realizes her responsibility as a mother to save her son from his father trumps her duty as a wife to stand by her husband. With the help of her brother, Helen runs away with her son to the anonymity of life in a small village. Here she meets Gilbert Markham, who falls in love with her, but realizes that their relationship has no future as long as her husband is alive. Arthur's ultimate death from alcoholism not only frees Helen from an abusive and degrading marriage, it also leaves her free to find happiness with Gilbert.
Anne Bronte pulled no punches in writing this book and that is probably what so perturbed readers of her own era; too bad for them, because they were unable to appreciate this book for what it is, one of the unrecognized classics of English literature.
This story is about a young lady of a good family in England 1827. Her name is Helen and her buyer's remorse after marrying for love. She ends up marrying a swine in Arthur Huntington. You can see Arthur H's in any bar or pub. The scenes of his abuse are well done. There are times when his wife, the main protagonist, is being abused by one of his friends and he sits back in drunken reverie, laughing foolishly.
The novel itself is told in the epistolatory style, meaning it is told in a series of letters. The effect comes off well and it comes off as if you're reading the private lives of someone, getting their most intimate thoughts. If you like that style, I recommend the very different but very well done dangerous liasons.
In the story, Helen's suffering is well portrayed. The reader gets a good sense of how and why she does what she does. Time and time again, I'm amazed at how resourceful and knowing she is for a woman of her age (early 20's I believe). But as she said to her illicit would be lover later on, young in years but old in tears. I can feel the cruelty of the world around her. It is as if everyone is perfectly conscious of her sufferings but no one dare acts (although this changes later, as you'll find out).
The other protagonist, Gilbert Markham, is sort of a pompous fool. At one point he nearly kills Helen's brother. He's spellbound by love, yes, but I got the feeling that he just wasn't the kind and gentle type that you want Helen to end up marrying. Luckily most of the book revolves around Helen who is far more interesting because of how she handles her problems and her sheer resourcefulness.
The reason why I closed the book and felt that I profited from it is because the imagery of the scenery and Helen's steadfastness in the face of such hardship impressed me. There's a point in the book where her hopes are literally shattered and burned up and yet she still carries on. An ordinary woman, with few friends and little to look forward to carrying on with life despite such serious setbacks. Now that to me is heroism. I'll take that over Batman or any other comic book hero any day.