Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Classics Challenge - March Prompt

This month's prompt - Setting

Choose a setting within the novel that most intrigues you. Is it the house of the character? Maybe the place where the novel reaches its climax?  

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

'My father, as you know, was a sort of gentleman farmer in -----shire;'
The opening lines of chapter 1 establish clearly the rural setting. Anne Bronte never fully identifies place names but it's obvious she's writing about the countryside she was so familiar with and loved so well - the dales, fells and moors of Yorkshire.
" To this end, I left the more frequented regions, the wooded valleys, the cornfields, and the meadow lands, and proceeded to mount the the steep acclivity of you ascend, the hedges become scanty and stunted......rough stone fences, partly greened over with ivy and moss. The fields, being rough and stony and wholly unfit for the plough were mostly devoted to the pasturing of sheep and cattle."
The Haunted House by John Atkinson Grimshaw
"Wildfell Hall, a superannuated mansion of the Elizabethan era, - venerable and picturesque to look at, but doubtless, cold and gloomy enough to inhabit, with its thick stone mullions and little latticed panes, its time-eaten airholes, and its too lonely, too unsheltered position."
The narrator, Gilbert Markham, is a farmer and the description of his daily and seasonal activities on the land, the planting and harvesting , the horse-drawn ploughs and the women reaping in the fields , bring the pre-mechanisation rural time period vividly to life. 

The Harvesters by John Atkinson Grimshaw
The Markhams live about five miles from the sea and in the early summer they plan a picnic day there with family and friends. The older members travelled by carriage while the rest of the party walked.
Forge Valley near Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw
"I have a very pleasant recollection of that walk, along the hard, white, sunny road, shaded here and there with bright green trees,and adorned with flowery banks and blossoming hedges of delicious fragrance; or through pleasant fields and lanes, all glorious in the sweet flowers and brilliant verdure of May."
Scarborough c. 1840s - artist unknown
"...on gaining the summit of a steep acclivity, and looking downward, an opening lay before us - and the deep blue sea burst upon our sight! - deep violet blue - not deadly calm, but covered with glinting breakers - dimunitive white flecks twinkling on its bosom, and scarcely to be distinguished by the keenest vision, from the little sea-mews that sported above, their white wings gliitering in the sunshine:"
 Anne Bronte loved the sea and her favourite place, and where she is buried, was Scarborough which no doubt provided the inspiration for the picnic venue.

Her love and enthusiasm for the places she's writing about in the first half of the book really shines through and adds a wonderful background to the story. While the course of that story could be told against another setting it wouldn't be the same.

John Atkinson Grimshaw ( 1836-1893) was a Yorkshire artist. He had a home outside Leeds and another at Scarborough. Many of his paintings would have been familiar scenes to Anne Bronte.


  1. I enjoyed reading your post. I like Anne's contrasting description of Wildfell Hall.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Debbie. This was the first AB I've read and I really liked it.

  2. Your post has reminded me of how much I loved this book. Lovely illustrations too. I didn't know that Scarborough was Anne Bronte's favourite place, nor that she was buried there.

  3. Fabulous post--I love Yorkshire and while Tenant of Wildfell Hall is not my favorite Bronte novel, I do love Anne and feel this post was a wonderful tribute to her. All the Brontes conveyed such a strong sense of place in their works--I liked the phrase, "time-eaten airholes."