‘Anne’s book was far more radical than anything her more famous sisters ever wrote’
While her sisters penned wildly passionate novels with heroic protagonists and Gothic undertones, Anne Brontë’s masterwork is firmly rooted in reality. Its frank depiction of marital breakdown and a woman’s forthright and daring response to her situation sent shockwaves through Victorian England, and the novel quickly became a publishing phenomenon. Returning to the unadulterated text of the first printing, this exceptional new edition includes Anne’s heartfelt preface defending her work, as well as an essential new introduction by historical novelist Tracy Chevalier. New illustrations by Valentina Catto blend artistic techniques that perfectly befit the era but also feel contemporary in their execution, drawing readers into the heart of the narrative. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall joins Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights as part of our lavishly designed and illustrated Brontë series.
Bound in printed and blocked buckram
Set in Adobe Caslon Pro
Frontispiece and 7 colour illustrations
9½˝ x 6¼˝
A publishing triumph that became a travesty
‘Not quiet. Fiercely passionate. And wholly revolutionary’
One of the great Victorian novels, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is also one of the most consistently underrated. Despite its phenomenal success and the critical attention it received on first publication in 1848, it was withdrawn when Anne died just a year later by Charlotte Brontë, who believed it to be an erroneous reflection of her sister’s character. When it was finally republished in 1854, it had been subjected to major editorial omissions, which have persisted to this day. For this anniversary edition, we returned to the first printing, presenting Anne’s ground-breaking manuscript in full. Published in series with our existing Brontë editions Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights completes the trio of the sisters’ most accomplished works.
The mysterious arrival of an unaccompanied woman
I often wonder what will be her lot in life – and so does she; but her speculations on the future are full of buoyant hope – so were mine once
When the enigmatic Helen Graham and her son move into the rambling, run-down Wildfell Hall, the village gossipmongers are delighted. Who is this beautiful young woman? Where has she come from? And – perhaps most pertinently – what happened to her husband? Romantically drawn to Helen, gentleman farmer Gilbert Markham refuses to believe the escalating rumours surrounding her circumstances. Self-assured and impetuous, he persists with his courtship until Helen is compelled to reveal the shocking truth. But far from dampening Gilbert’s ardour, the revelations deepen his love and Helen is torn between preserving what’s left of her tattered reputation, and following her heart. However, as passions unfold, fate intervenes and Helen has no choice but to face her tumultuous past.
A feminist novel that shocked and enthralled
‘Wildfell Hall is a different, wilder beast – perhaps too wild for its time’
Tracy Chevalier, from her introduction
Anne Brontë’s choice of challenging subject matter and her revolutionary shift of the gender balance were considered scandalous at the time. However, the novel’s radical premise – combined with its wry wit, intrigue and engaging characters – results in a gripping story that remains strikingly modern today. This is a Brontë novel that defies expectations, eschewing the eccentric for the authentic and, as such, it will surprise first-time readers. As Tracy Chevalier writes in a new introduction that delves deep into the home truths that inspired Anne’s novel, ‘Wildfell Hall is a different, wilder beast – perhaps too wild for its time.’ And what better time to become acquainted with the least-known Brontë than on the 200th anniversary of her birth, in this beautifully illustrated edition that recognises her incredible literary achievements on par with those of her sisters.
About Anne Brontë
Anne Brontë was born in 1820, the youngest of the Brontë family. Her father was curate of Haworth, Yorkshire, and her mother died when she was 20 months old. Anne was educated at home, and then attended boarding school between 1836 and 1837. Between 1839 and 1845, Anne worked as a governess, an experience that inspired her debut novel, Agnes Grey, first published in 1847 under the pseudonym Acton Bell. The novel followed the commercially unsuccessful Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, published in 1846 by Anne and her sisters, Charlotte and Emily. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, now considered Anne’s masterpiece and one of the first feminist novels, appeared in 1848. It was an immediate success, but following Anne’s death from tuberculosis in 1849, Charlotte suppressed subsequent printings. The novel did not appear again until 1854.
About Tracy Chevalier
Tracy Chevalier is a celebrated historical novelist. Born in Washington DC, she now lives in London. The author of 10 novels, she is best known for the international bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), which has been translated into 43 languages, sold more than five million copies worldwide, been adapted into a film, and will soon be performed as an opera. Her most recent novel is A Single Thread (2019), set in and around 1930s Winchester Cathedral. In 2016 she was a Creative Partner with the Brontë Parsonage to celebrate the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth.
About Valentina Catto
Valentina Catto is an Italian illustrator. Born in Turin, she studied art at the Università degli Studi di Torino, graduating with a degree in Film Studies. She has lived in New York and London, where she produced artwork for theatre posters and stop-motion animations, and concept art for independent films. In 2017 she returned to Turin and worked as a cover artist for independent publishers. She has been shortlisted for the World Illustration Awards (2018) and the AOI Poster Prize for Illustration (2019). Her artwork is a mix of digital collage and digital drawing and painting.
Wuthering Heights defies easy classification and stands alone as a uniquely powerful novel that transcends genre. Patti Smith, the singer-songwriter and poet, has written a new, lyrical introduction to this edition, in which she sums up Emily Brontë’s complex gifts.
One of the greatest works of modern fiction, Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple is presented in a beautifully crafted new Folio edition, illustrated by British artist Lela Harris.