The Mutilated Texts of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
The first edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - published by Newby at the beginning of July (1848) - was riddled with typographical errors: most were irritants rather than obstacles to the understanding of the story. Anne's own copy of the first edition, currently held in Princeton University Library (USA), contains many pencilled corrections of the text, these are doubled-up with corresponding proof-corrections marks in the margins. These notations are believed to be in Anne's hand - but this is not absolutely certain. The belief is that Anne gave Newby a large list of corrections (probably when she visited him in London with Charlotte); however, only a limited number of these appeared in the second edition, which was published during the second week of August 1848 (it also included Anne's 'Preface'); and in any case, a number of 'new' errors were introduced into this re-print making it little better than the first. The first American publication was produced by Harper Brothers of New York in July 1848. This was based on the Newby first edition, but the typographical errors were corrected by their own 'house editor' who also made a number of other 'improvements'; additionally, the spelling was brought into line with American usage. It is unlikely that Anne played any part in its production. Later American publications may be based on this edition (check for American spellings).

Anne's novels achieved far greater sales in America than they did in England (though specific figures are not known): however, as the American publishers were not bound by British copyright laws, she received no payment whatever for these; which seems quite unfair and rather sad.

Shortly after Anne's death, Charlotte made it known that she did not want 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' to be re-published, and the publishers respected her wishes. However, shortly before Charlotte's demise, in 1854, the London firm of Thomas Hodgson issued a one-volume edition. Hodgson performed extensive editing of the novel, removing many sections of it including the opening letter to 'Halford' and the chapter headings. Other omissions ranged from single words to almost complete chapters: some sections were completely re-arranged in an attempt to compensate for the omissions. The editing was reputedly performed in the interest of economy, as Hodgson tried to produce a 'cheap' copy of the book. It resulted in a weakening of the whole structure of the novel; and, unfortunately, most subsequent English editions, including those eventually produced by Charlotte's publisher, Smith-Elder & Co., followed this text. By 1969 no fewer than thirteen British editions of the mutilated version had been published. These copies are still rife today, despite notes on their covers claiming them to be 'complete and unabridged'. As the awareness and interest in Anne's work increases, more publishers are seeking to amend this situation by basing their productions on the Newby first and second publications.97  In 1992, The Oxford University Press published 'The Clarendon Edition' (hardback), and this is based on the Newby first edition, but incorporates the corrections presented in the second edition. All the corrections pencilled in Anne's own copy are indicated in the textual notes (they have not been incorporated into the main body of the text as it is not absolutely certain that they are authorial).

The 'Oxford World's Classics' 1998 paperback edition, and the 'Wordsworth' 1998 paperback edition both use the Clarendon text, and are consequently as close as it is possible to get, to Anne's original creation. The 'Oxford' has an introduction by Margaret Smith; and the 'Wordsworth', by the former Brontë Parsonage Museum Curator, Kathryn White.

Another edition, known to be true to Anne's original, is the 'Penguin' 1996 - which has an introduction by Stevie Davies. (Beware: not all 'Penguin' editions are of the original - i.e. the 'Penguin Popular Classics'.)

Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage
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