The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Anne Bronte's second novel, published in 1848, which is now celebrated alongside those of her sisters but which Charlotte Bronte tried to suppress as a 'mistake'. It examines the life of Helen, who has escaped her abusive husband Arthur Huntingdon with their son to live at Wildfell Hall as a widow under the alias 'Mrs Graham', and it exposes the men in her husband's circle who gave her no choice but to flee. Early critics attacked the novel as coarse, as misrepresenting male behaviour, and as something no woman or girl should ever read; soon after Anne's death, Charlotte suggested the publisher should lose it for good. In recent decades, though, its reputation has climbed and it now sits with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights as one of the great novels by the Bronte sisters.

The image above shows Tara Fitzgerald as Helen Graham in a 1996 BBC adaptation.


Alexandra Lewis
Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle (Australia)

Marianne Thormählen
Professor Emerita in English Studies, Lund University


John Bowen
Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson