Places: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1848

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: Early nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedWildfell Hall

Wildfell Tenant of Wildfell Hall, TheHall. Old run-down country house dating back to the Elizabethan era, situated in the north of England, some seven miles from the nearest town and two miles from Gilbert’s farm. The house belongs to Frederick Lawrence, Helen’s brother, and was the family home until fifteen years earlier, when he removed to a more spacious modern house, Woodford, in the neighboring parish, leaving the hall untenanted. It is described as being built of dark gray stone; having thick stone mullions and narrow, latticed windows; being surrounded by stone walls and an overgrown garden; and being set on the moors and therefore completely isolated. A few rooms have been prepared for Helen, including one room she uses as a studio.

Linden-hope

Linden-hope. Family farm of Gilbert Markham, where he lives with his mother, sister, and brother. The farmhouse is portrayed as typical of a gentleman farmer, where good manners and etiquette are combined with open hospitality and unpretentious living. The farmlands are situated in a fertile valley and run up the sides of the moorland. The nearby village is not well described apart from the parish church and its vicarage, where Gilbert’s first love lives. The setting corresponds to Yorkshire, the home county of Anne Brontë.

Linden-Car Bay

Linden-Car Bay. Nearest seaside place to the village, the overlooking cliffs being five miles away. A group excursion is made here through the summer countryside. The location is probably Scarborough, where Brontë spent several holidays. It is also featured in her earlier novel, Agnes Grey (1847).

Staningly Hall

Staningly Hall. The first place mentioned in Helen’s narrative, it is the country residence of her aunt and uncle, with whom she lives. It contains extensive grounds and woods, to which Mr. Maxwell invites a party of Helen’s suitors to enjoy the hunting, symbolic of Helen’s being hunted, she being heiress to the estate. At the end of the novel, Gilbert and Helen take up residence there, after it has been made clear that class differences and financial inequality are no bar to true love.

Grassdale Manor

Grassdale Manor. Country residence of Arthur Huntingdon, where Helen spends her married life. It is not dissimilar to Staningly in location or architecture, both being vaguely described, and probably both being based on Thorp Hall, Yorkshire, where Brontë was a governess. The contrast is in Helen’s treatment at both places. Near Grassdale stands the Grove, another country house belonging to their neighbor, Mr. Hargrave, one of Huntingdon’s “friends.” Hargrave lives at the Grove, with his mother and sisters, who become friends to Helen. It lies a day’s coach ride from Staningly and a similar distance from Wildfell Hall.

*London

*London. Capital of Great Britain whose fashionable life is described by Helen and consists of a series of meeting grounds, where young women may find a suitable husband in the presence of chaperones. Such meeting places consist of balls and dinner parties. Brontë’s descriptions are necessarily vague and derivative as she had hardly ever left her native Yorkshire village. Another side of fashionable London emerges through the novel: that of dissipation. Arthur retreats to various drinking and gambling haunts with his companions, escaping the domesticity Helen seeks to create for him.

BibliographyFrawley, Maria H. “The Female Saviour in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” Brontë Society Transactions 20, part 3 (1991): 133-143. Examines the novel in light of the Victorian ideology of woman as savior or angel in the house and shows that Helen both submits to and struggles against this conventional role.Jackson, Arlene. “The Question of Credibility in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” English Studies 63, no. 3 (June, 1982): 198-206. Discusses narrative techniques and explains how Brontë’s point of view and plot organization reveal the novel’s characters and increase their credibility.Langland, Elizabeth. “The Voicing of Feminine Desire in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” In Gender and Discourse in Victorian Literature and Art, edited by Antony Harrison and Beverly Taylor. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1992. Analyzes the use of two narrators and shows how Gilbert finally adopts Helen’s perspective. The narrative techniques are a means of refuting the idea of woman’s redemptive spirituality and of providing a way for a woman to voice her desire.McMaster, Juliet. “ ‘Imbecile Laughter’ and ‘Desperate Earnest’ in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” Modern Language Quarterly 43, no. 4 (December, 1982): 352-368. Argues that Huntingdon represents Regency dissipation and Helen Victorian seriousness, a dour earnestness that is finally mitigated by her love for Gilbert.Thormahlen, Marianne. “The Villain of Wildfell Hall: Aspects and Prospects of Arthur Huntingdon.” Modern Language Review 88, part 4 (October, 1993): 831-841. Places the work in its historical context and analyzes Huntingdon’s character in light of contemporary theology, social developments, and science.
Categories: Places