Dr Davies's introduction and subsequent
editorial notes provide a comprehensive exposition of Anne
Brontë's novel. In them there is astute commentary
on the main theme of the novel: the role of married women
in society throughout the nineteenth century. The
Tenant of Wildfell Hall deals particularly with the
Regency period and the effeteness Anne Brontë witnessed
first-hand as governess in a wealthy landed family; an effeteness
her brother Branwell aped and which she and her sisters
had to suffer at home. So not surprisingly the characters
in the novel are powerfully drawn, and Dr Davies gives us
a riveting analysis of those characters throughout the novel.
One important feature of this edition is the editor's
highlighting the theology embedded in all the novels of
the Brontë sisters, and how their novels interconnect.
Not surprising given the closeness of the Brontë siblings,
and the intensity with which the sisters (and at one time
their brother) discussed each other's work; at once sharing
and stimulating their individual genius. Religion played
a great part in their daily lives and would have featured
strongly in their discussions.
In this respect, Dr Davies offers in-depth commentary
with some perceptive observations on Anne Brontë's
particular attitude to God, the Bible and the Church. The
theology expressed in the novel is the outcome of personal
heart-searching and a constant pondering over God's purposes
throughout Anne Brontë's life. That accords with the
view I expressed in my sermon at the Brontë Society's
Memorial Service in 1995: that had she been alive today,
Anne Brontë may well have been a radical priest-writer
ordained in the same Church as her father. In her religious
outlook as in much else, Anne Brontë was proleptic.
Dr Davies's edition is well worth its price and is a valuable
addition to Brontë scholarship.