Perhaps the main reason Anne Bronte's masterpiece is not as well known as her sisters' is that Charlotte suppressed any new editions after Anne's death, as the novel was deemed extremely shocking for its time. This is very unfortunate, as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is much better than Anne's previous book, Agnes Grey, better even than Emily's Wuthering Heights, and nearly as good as Charlotte's Jane Eyre. Like Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall considers the roles of reason and passion in life and concludes that both are necessary to achieve happiness. The real topic of Wildfell Hall is how to judge other people's characters, particularly in matters of love. This theme is brilliantly dramatized through a story about a woman who makes a youthful, but profound, error in whom she chooses to marry, and as her husband's vicious nature becomes increasingly clear, struggles to leave him---and how she herself is unfairly judged by her new neighbors when she manages to do so. Many people sharply contrast the romanticism of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre with the realism of Wildfell Hall, but this is a mistake---and, despite its more frank depictions of some of the social problems of its time (including alcoholism and domestic abuse), Anne rejected this dichotomy in the novel itself. Like Jane Eyre (and to a lesser extent Wuthering Heights), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an intellectual and emotional tour de force, and one of the greatest classics in all of world literature.
About the Author
Anne Bronte (1820 -1849) was a British novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Bronte literary family. The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Bronte lived most of her life with her family at the small parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of nineteen, she left Haworth working as a governess between 1839 and 1845. After leaving her teaching position, she fulfilled her literary ambitions. She wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 1846) and in short succession she wrote two novels. Agnes Grey, based upon her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847. Her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall appeared in 1848. Anne's life was cut short with her death of pulmonary tuberculosis when she was 29 years old. Anne Bronte is often overshadowed by her more famous sisters, Charlotte, author of four novels including Jane Eyre; and Emily, author of Wuthering Heights. Anne's two novels, written in a sharp and ironic style, are completely different from the romanticism followed by her sisters. She wrote in a realistic, rather than a romantic style. Her novels, like those of her sisters, have become classics of English literature."