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9780199207558_450“And there I beheld a tall, lady-like figure, clad in black. Her face was towards me, and there was something in it which, once seen, invited me to look again. Her hair was raven black, and disposed in long glossy ringlets, a style of coiffure rather unusual in those days, but always graceful and becoming; her complexion was clear and pale; her eyes I could not see, for, being bent upon her prayer-book, they were concealed by their drooping lids and long black lashes, but the brows above were expressive and well defined; the forehead was lofty and intellectual, the nose, a perfect aquiline and the features, in general, unexceptionable – only there was a slight hollowness about the cheeks and eyes, and the lips, though finely formed, were a little too thin, a little too firmly compressed, and had something about them that betokened, I thought, no very soft or amiable temper; and I said in my heart – ‘I would rather admire you from this distance, fair lady, than be the partner of your home.'”

The wonderful thing about Victorian literature, to me, would be the missionary and didactic approaches intended by the authors. For instance, Wilkie Collins’s Man and Wife (1870) draws the contemporary readers to the fact that this fiction is regarded to be as real as the world they live in – “This time the fiction is founded on facts, and aspires to afford what help it may towards hastening the reform of certain abuses which have been too long suffered to exist among us unchecked.” In Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, it could be said that she unshackles and disburdens herself with this “semi-autobiographical” tale, when she serves as an innocent witness in her brother Branwell’s rakish affairs with the eldest daughter of the Robinson’s family followed with his consequent alcoholism, or being an audience of Mrs. Collins’s. a local curate’s wife, who seeks Brontë’s father for consultation of her husband’s drunken and profligate habits.

Apart from the contrivance of similarities between “drunkenness, gambling, and insanity”, temptations in relation to “precaution, intemperance, and abstinence”, and moral degeneration, it is her mission to debunk the intrinsic viewpoint towards “fairer sex” in different aspects from contemporaries! If we are to evaluate Helen Graham’s functions in her character – Staningley, Grassdale Grove, London, Wildfell Hall – it is a spiritual pilgrimage and stages she has gone through in being enlightened, so as to reach the ultimate goodness, and spread the nobility to others (not being immaculate, but a yogi and guidance). It is, at first, especially poignant with respect of the plot when her son, Little Arthur, in fact, is actually inflicted by his father’s bad habits and deportment, that Helen has to be reticent in delivering her son from the misdeeds, and weaning him from alcohol and perverse persona; but her mystery makes all her past and reasons unknown to the neighborhood, including Mr. Millward and Gilbert. In this post, I want to conclude some points I make regarding this novel which impress me the most, and my mind conjured up an article I read long ago that reading classics arouses greater empathy in you!

Marriage Counsellor for Singletons

In the Preface, Anne is to “warn one rash youth from following in their steps, or preventing one thoughtless girl from falling into the natural error of my heroine”, thereby her book would not be written in vain. Yes, in fact, not only she tries to reflect the evil/angel personified from characters with studies of physiognomy but also emphasizes to restore  the sensible ground of “study, approve, and love” for girls provided with their inborn strength of sensitivity to trivialities, rather than taking the other halves infallibly and impetuously. In some ways, Anne, the Cinderella Brontë, also endeavours to unleash some tension and relinquishes the deep-rooted pressure which tends to be harsh on girls in contemporary days, be it attributable to their relations and whatnot. Take Esther Hargrave’s case, she is quite embittered lest she would ascend to the parlour of old-maidenhood as well as being a “mere cumberer” to her mama and Walter (her brother). To Helen, it is at best when Victorian females implement “patience” – the widely virtue – into good and proper use.

Helen: When I tell you not to marry without love, I do not advise you to marry for love alone: there are many, many other things to be considered.  Keep both heart and hand in your own possession, till you see good reason to part with them; and if such an occasion should never present itself, comfort your mind with this reflection, that though in single life your joys may not be very many, your sorrows, at least, will not be more than you can bear.  Marriage may change your circumstances for the better, but, in my private opinion, it is far more likely to produce a contrary result. […] you cannot tell what Providence may have in store for you.  And meantime, remember you have a right to the protection and support of your mother and brother, however they may seem to grudge it. (p. 318)

Marriage Counsellor for Couples

Helen: When you behave well, she can only rejoice with trembling; she has no security, no confidence in your judgment or principles; but is continually dreading the close of such short-lived felicity; when you behave ill, her causes of terror and misery are more than any one can tell but herself.  In patient endurance of evil, she forgets it is our duty to admonish our neighbours of their transgressions.  Since you will mistake her silence for indifference, come with me, and I’ll show you one or two of her letters—no breach of confidence, I hope, since you are her other half.

In Millicent Hargrave’s case, it is Helen’s chance to exhume Hattersley’s insolence to penitence and transgression. Helen points out to him that no one is incorrigible when provided with the right path to reformation. In fact, my eyes are swelled with tears when reading Hattersley finally realises his wrongdoings to his wife and restores himself back to righteousness. On the other hand, regarding wifely duties, husbands often mistaken “submission” for “indifference”. On socially aspect, it is an observation of confinement and condescending nature that should not to be overlooked, but as a harmful prospective in women. Although it is treated as passivity and victim-hood, it should not be seen as piteous, but cowardice. Millicent is too lucky in this case to have Helen defend for her. Penitence should be inborn duties in both sexes, but it is also a feminist point of view to not to permit weak nature of submissive patience override women, and let it asunder.

Limitless Undying Love

Mortal grounds

Gilbert: But, if we may never meet, and never hope to meet again, is it a crime to exchange our thoughts by letter?  May not kindred spirits meet, and mingle in communion, whatever be the fate and circumstances of their earthly tenements?

(Helen) “They may, they may!’” cried she, with a momentary burst of glad enthusiasm. “I thought of that too, Gilbert, but I feared to mention it, because I feared you would not understand my views upon the subject.  I fear it even now – I fear any kind friend would tell us we are both deluding ourselves with the idea of keeping up a spiritual intercourse without hope or prospect of anything further – without fostering vain regrets and hurtful aspirations, and feeding thoughts that should be sternly and pitilessly left to perish of inanition.”

This is the most beautiful part I find in this novel! Love, is actually an act of pertinacity which withstands and disregards time as well as circumstances in its own entirety. Helen is a strong female character to enlighten the males in this novel of various aspects.


(Helen) “If you loved as I do,’ she earnestly replied, ‘you would not have so nearly lost me – these scruples of false delicacy and pride would never thus have troubled you – you would have seen that the greatest worldly distinctions and discrepancies of rank, birth, and fortune are as dust in the balance compared with the unity of accordant thoughts and feelings, and truly loving, sympathising hearts and souls.”

All in all, it definitely will be on the top five novels I have read this year, and I am grateful to Anne Brontë with her passionate, sensual and sensational writings in Agnes Grey, as well as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall that lead me grow fonder with appreciation and think deep in Victorian Literature. It is demonstrably beautiful novel which presents the testimonial of love as well as the strongest and versatile heroine (feminist, mother, wife, lover) in the fiction world.