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A special issue celebrating Anne Brontë's bicentenary has been published on the Victorians: A Journal of Culture and Literature journal:
Victorians: A Journal of Culture and Literature

Number 138, Winter 2020
Anne Brontë Bicentenary, Special Edition

Greetings from the Editor
Deborah A. Logan
p. 1

Deborah Denenholz Morse, Amber Pouliot
pp. 105-111


Anne Brontë's works have yielded fewer critical insights focusing on her representations of space than have her sisters' novels. This essay argues that, in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne is equally attentive as her sisters to environment. She echoes, albeit in a different register, their representations of freedom and delight in the natural world, while she explores even more deeply her protagonist's ongoing experiences of enclosure and imprisonment in the middle-class home. In her sensitivity to these constructed spaces—how they are accessed, by whom, and under what circumstances—Anne Brontë shapes her novel's themes. The physical distance and tension between Grassdale Manor (Huntingdon's estate) and Wildfell Hall (Helen Huntingdon's remote retreat) charts the psychological escape and emergence into autonomy and self-government of the novel's protagonist—Helen Graham, the tenant of Wildfell Hall.

"Uncivil Usage": Shifting Forms of Control in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Elizabeth King
pp. 124-140

The question of how authority is maintained is a major preoccupation in Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, where the treatment of animals serves as a significant indicator of different strategies for exerting control. Brontë's mirrored structure of two separate courtships enables a comparison of the different forms of control exhibited by each of Helen Graham's suitors; encoded in their treatment of animals are insights into the alternative manifestations of authority each man represents. Although Arthur Huntingdon and Gilbert Markham use very different methods to assert control, ultimately they are both deeply concerned with maintaining a position of structural privilege. While Arthur embodies an entitled, thoughtless masculine power typical of an upper-class gentleman, Gilbert exemplifies a much more deliberate maintenance of control, indicative of new forms of governance emerging in nineteenth-century England.


The question of how authority is maintained is a major preoccupation in Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, where the treatment of animals serves as a significant indicator of different strategies for exerting control. Brontë's mirrored structure of two separate courtships enables a comparison of the different forms of control exhibited by each of Helen Graham's suitors; encoded in their treatment of animals are insights into the alternative manifestations of authority each man represents. Although Arthur Huntingdon and Gilbert Markham use very different methods to assert control, ultimately they are both deeply concerned with maintaining a position of structural privilege. While Arthur embodies an entitled, thoughtless masculine power typical of an upper-class gentleman, Gilbert exemplifies a much more deliberate maintenance of control, indicative of new forms of governance emerging in nineteenth-century England.


Many scholars connect Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) to Brontë's experience of living with her brother Branwell's alcoholism. There is further scope for understanding this novel in the context of alimentary excess in the nineteenth century, through medical and theological discussions on the relationship between body, soul, and nutrition that are consistent with the Brontës' Anglican ethos. While not dismissing Huntingdon's alcoholism, this essay focuses more on the prevalence of unhealthy alimentary excess in Brontë's novel, and the violence wrought by poor nutrition on the body and soul of self and others. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall engages closely with the 1830s and 1840s medical and theological understandings of nutritional links between physical and mental health. Brontë's novel further shows how neglect of bodily health through poor nutrition not only damages the individual body but compromises the moral health of society.

Drew Lamonica Arms
pp. 169-180

Unlike her sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne Brontë professed to write for the moral edification of her readers, a duty she saw as God-given and part of her Evangelical calling. This article considers Brontë's literary principles, most clearly communicated in the Preface to the Second Edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by exploring her religious poetry and establishing her sense of authorship as Christian labor. Drawing on the many uses of "labor" in her poetry, this discussion examines the necessary connections Brontë affirms between an inward labor of spiritual self-improvement and the labor she hoped to do in the world "amid the brave and strong." A close reading of Brontë's final poem offers another opportunity to reevaluate Charlotte Brontë's portrayal of Anne, given in letters and published writing after Anne's death, that mischaracterizes her artistic aims and aspirations.


"Thy love to me impart:" The Literary-Theological Legacy of Hymns in Patrick and Anne Brontës' Father-Daughter Relationship
Alisa Clapp-Itnyre
pp. 181-199

Little information survives regarding the theological or the familial relationship between the Reverend Mr. Patrick Brontë and his daughter, Anne. This analysis utilizes an obscure Sunday School hymn book held at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, from which Patrick selected hymns for his annual Sunday School Anniversaries. The hymnal helps clarify his theological beliefs, especially regarding sin and the afterlife, and their influence on Anne's theology. A close-reading of two such hymns and of Anne's poems, "Confidence" and "A Prayer," reveals connections linking the father's beliefs and the daughter's doubts.

"And is that the use you make of your Bible?": Universalism in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Susanna Millsap
pp. 200-211

Although scholars have offered varying interpretations of the "truth" mentioned in Anne Brontë's preface to the second edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, one primary lesson is often overlooked. The importance of universalism—for both Brontë and her narrative—deserves further study, as it is part of the truth the author wished to convey. A close reading of the preface, the novel, and biographical materials demonstrates the savviness with which Brontë incorporated this controversial belief into her narrative. Her choices to argue both sides of the issue and to present a character study in Arthur Huntingdon demonstrate keen rhetorical and audience awareness. Ultimately, Brontë's nuanced portrayal of universalism highlights the importance of other lessons in the novel, suggesting that assured salvation is no excuse for immorality.

Peripheral Voices in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Grace Pregent
pp. 212-230

The character system developed in Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall offers a case study of characters and characterization through its focus on their "proper place." What is the proper place of major and minor characters? This article argues for a reconceptualization of character landscapes within narratives. Despite the overwhelming presence of rupture in Tenant—bonds broken by death, infidelity, or abuse—from the margins, a host of minor and very minor characters encourages a consideration of how peripheral voices are perceived. Studying minor characters and their interrelationships expands the thematic discourse surrounding the novel, whose characters model a range of bonds between men, between women, and between men and women.

Consent and Enclosure in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: "You needn't read it all; but take it home with you"
Catherine Quirk
pp. 231-241

While much recent scholarship situates The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as a proto-feminist text, highlighting Helen Huntingdon's status as a working woman and her radicalism in leaving her first husband, this article argues that Anne Brontë's narrative structure in fact limits the character's radical potential. The novel's structure replicates the form of nineteenth-century coverture, which establishes her husband, Gilbert Markham, and not Helen, as the center of narrative power. Markham's framing letters enclose Helen's text within his own; while this has been read as granting authority to the woman's narrative, such framing instead contains it and controls the possibilities of its interpretation.

"It seemed as if they looked on vacancy": Life Writing in Agnes Grey
Maria Frawley
pp. 242-252

This essay reads Anne Brontë's first novel through the lens of life-writing, moving beyond restrictive notions of the autobiographical to encompass a range of narrative strategies deployed by authors exploring selfhood and subjectivity. Agnes Grey reveals Brontë's relatively sophisticated understanding of different dimensions of identity, both her own and that of her eponymous heroine. Brontë explores personhood in order to encourage readers to consider the ways humans come to be understood and treated as persons, and the situations that cause persons to think of themselves as fundamentally human. Further, she deploys a range of rhetorical tools and narrative techniques that foreground the intersubjective nature of her heroine's self-understanding and the dynamics of her interiority, complicating in the process any superficial understanding of the character as quiet and, in turn, unsettling the impression that biographers of Anne Brontë, beginning most influentially with her sister Charlotte, have perpetuated.

The Word of a Woman, Thanks be to God: Women's Writing in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Clara Poteet
pp. 253-267

Anne Brontë's use of Victorian iconography of religious awakening and biblical language in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall highlights the potential for women's writing to facilitate spiritual conversion. Milicent Hargrave's letters and Helen Huntingdon's diary offer powerful explorations for both the legitimacy of women's writing and the role of Scripture in spiritual conversion. Gilbert Markham and Ralph Hattersley, through their conversions, participate in a new egalitarian Christianity, one that is just as much about behavioral reform as spiritual transformation, and one that honors women's words and lived experiences as metaphorical scriptures. For Anne Brontë, the spiritual and earthly planes were inseparable, and her novel of social realism points to a Christianity made of lifelong listening, learning, and relearning.

Disconsolate Tenants of the Metabolic Rift: An Anthropocene Feminist View of Farming in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Shawna Ross
pp. 268-289

This article argues that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an ecofeminist text by showing how maladaptive patterns of land management, which contribute to the decay and depopulation of rural areas, are connected to Anne Brontë's exposure of women's vulnerabilities in the Victorian period. Through a series of material and aesthetic links between land productivity and familial discord, Tenant provides a gendered account of the nineteenth-century energy crisis that Marxist ecologists refer to as the metabolic rift. In doing so, Brontë's narrative constructs a feminist history of the Anthropocene, as well as a critical counter-narrative of the British Agricultural Revolution.

Angel Bright, Infernal Demon: Tracing Parallels between Arthur Huntingdon and John Milton's Satan in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Alexa Kelly
pp. 290-302

Anne Brontë invests the villain of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall—Arthur Huntingdon—with qualities similar to John Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost. Both figures assume false exteriors to tempt others into sin, thereby exerting their corrupting influences on those around them. However, while Satan is punished by an eternity in Hell and doomed by the promise of the conquering Son, Huntingdon's punishment lies not in the afterlife, but in his erasure from the novel and replacement by his son. Huntingdon's Satanic qualities increase the efficacy of Brontë's cautionary tale by revealing the sinful nature inherent in every human being, a nature that can only be overcome with the help of God.

Satisfied With Such a Life
Alexandra Lewis
pp. 303-315

This neo-Victorian short story offers a perspective "from below" on the miserable first marriage of Helen Huntingdon, the eponymous tenant of Wildfell Hall. Presented in the form of a confidential communication from servant Rachel to her co-worker Benson, the story examines the dangers to which women subject themselves when they marry. Despite her loyalty, Rachel is acutely aware of the ways Helen minimizes and underestimates her worth and that of other members of the servant class. It is the unlettered Rachel who better understands what Helen risks in her engagement to Gilbert Markham, and who perceives the dangers, for women, of "want[ing] too little and forget[ting] too much."

Review Essay: New Work on Anne Brontë
Deborah A. Logan
pp. 316-320

Robert Butterworth, Anne Brontë and the Trials of Life (Peter Lang, 2017), 165 pages, ISBN 978-1-78707-403-3, $65.00.
Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë. Edited by Robin L. Inboden (Broadview Press, 2020), 268 pages, ISBN 978-1-55481-455-8, $16.95.

Contributors
pp. 322-323

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