Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights, her only novel, between December 1845 and July 1846. It remained unpublished until July 1847 and was not printed until December after the success of her sister, Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre. It was finally printed under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, and a posthumous second edition was edited by Charlotte. Follow Catherine and Heathcliff through the harrowing story of Wuthering Heights.
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About the Author
Emily Brontë was an English novelist and poet, who, along with her sisters Charlotte and Anne, produced some of the most enduring works of the 19th century. Best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, Brontë published her works using the pen name Ellis Bell, a practice common for female writers at the time. Called the Sphynx of Literature, Brontë had no desire for fame and wrote only for her own satisfaction. She died of consumption in 1848 at the age of 30. Collectively, the Brontë sisters’ novels are considered literary standards that continue to influence modern writers.
Read an Excerpt
I have just returned from a visit to my landlord--the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropist's heaven; and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name.
"Mr. Heathcliff?" I said.
A nod was the answer.
"Mr. Lockwood, your new tenant, sir. I do myself the honour of calling as soon as possible after my arrival, to express the hope that I have not inconvenienced you by my perseverance in soliciting the occupation of Thrushcross Grange: I heard yesterday you had had some thoughts--"
"Thrushcross Grange is my own, sir," he interrupted, wincing. "I should not allow any one to inconvenience me, if I could hinder it--walk in!"
The "walk in" was uttered with closed teeth, and expressed the sentiment, "Go to the deuce": even the gate over which he leant manifested no sympathizing movement to the words; and I think that circumstance determined me to accept the invitation: I felt interested in a man who seemed more exaggeratedly reserved than myself.
When he saw my horse's breast fairly pushing the barrier, he did put out his hand to unchain it, and then sullenly preceded me up the causeway, calling, as we entered the court--"Joseph, take Mr. Lockwood's horse; and bring up some wine."
"Here we have the whole establishment of domestics, I suppose," was the reflection suggested by this compound order. "No wonder the grass grows up between the flags, and cattle are the only hedge-cutters."
Joseph was an elderly, nay, an old man: very old, perhaps, though hale and sinewy. "The Lord help us!" he soliloquised in an undertone of peevish displeasure, while relieving me of my horse: looking, meantime, in my face so sourly that I charitably conjectured he must have need of divine aid to digest his dinner, and his pious ejaculation had no reference to my unexpected advent.
Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff's dwelling. "Wuthering" being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily the architect had foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones.
Before passing the threshold, I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date "1500," and the name "Hareton Earnshaw." I would have made a few comments, and requested a short history of the place from the surly owner; but his attitude at the door appeared to demand my speedy entrance, or complete departure, and I had no desire to aggravate his impatience previous to inspecting the penetralium.
One step brought us into the family sitting-room, without any introductory lobby or passage. They call it here "the house" pre-eminently. It includes kitchen and parlour, generally; but I believe at Wuthering Heights the kitchen is forced to retreat altogether into another quarter: at least I distinguished a chatter of tongues, and a clatter of culinary utensils, deep within; and I observed no signs of roasting, boiling, or baking, about the huge fireplace; nor any glitter of copper saucepans and tin cullenders on the walls. One end, indeed, reflected splendidly both light and heat from ranks of immense pewter dishes, interspersed with silver jugs and tankards, towering row after row, on a vast oak dresser, to the very roof. The latter had never been underdrawn: its entire anatomy lay bare to an inquiring eye, except where a frame of wood laden with oatcakes and clusters of legs of beef, mutton, and ham concealed it. Above the chimney were sundry villainous old guns and a couple of horse-pistols: and, by way of ornament, three gaudily painted canisters disposed along its ledge. The floor was of smooth, white stone; the chairs, high-backed, primitive structures, painted green: one or two heavy black ones lurking in the shade. In an arch under the dresser reposed a huge liver-coloured bitch pointer, surrounded by a swarm of squealing puppies; and other dogs haunted other recesses.
The apartment and furniture would have been nothing extraordinary as belonging to a homely, northern farmer, with a stubborn countenance and stalwart limbs set out to advantage in knee-breeches and gaiters. Such an individual seated in his armchair, his mug of ale frothing on the round table before him, is to be seen in any circuit of five or six miles among these hills, if you go at the right time after dinner. But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure; and rather morose. Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of underbred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort: I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling--to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He'll love and hate equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again. No, I'm running on too fast: I bestow my own attributes over liberally on him. Mr. Heathcliff may have entirely dissimilar reasons for keeping his hand out of the way when he meets a would-be acquaintance, to those which actuate me. Let me hope my constitution is almost peculiar: my dear mother used to say I should never have a comfortable home; and only last summer I proved myself perfectly unworthy of one.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
"Gun Portrait" from Marion Harland
Several illustrations from Bronte Society Transactions:
Main Street, Haworth
Haworth Old Church
The Birthplace of the Bronte Sisters, Thornton
The Black Bull
Branwell Bronte's Chair
The Waterfall on the Moor
Emily Bronte, drawing of Keeper
Facscimile Title Page of First Edition
About This Edition
Text of Wuthering Heights
Emily and Anne Bronte, "Diary Note"
Charlotte Bronte, "Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell"
Ellen Nussey on Emily
Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life Of Charlotte Bronte on Emily
Emily Bronte, Poems
Historical, Social, and Legal
Inheritance, Law, and Women
From Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, A Brief Summary, in Plain Language, of the Most Important
LawConcerning Women (London: Chapman, 1854)
Class, Urban Culture, and Mobility
Urban Slums and Street Children
Houses, Home Decor, and Consumer Goods
From Charles Eastlake, Hints on Household Taste
From John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice
Regional and International
William Wright, The Brontes In Ireland
The Great Hunger
From Richard Blakesborough, Wit, Character, Folklore & Customs of the Nortern Riding of Yorkshire, 1898
Literacy: Summary and Quotation from J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels
Haworth and Vicinity
Memoirs and Pilgrimages
C. Holmes Cautley, "Old Haworth Folk Who Knew the Brontes," 1910
Virginia Woolf, from "Haworth, November 1904"
The Bronte Society and Parsonage Museum
From Claude Meeker, "Haworth: Home of the Brontes," 1895
Critical and Artful
Sequels, Adaptations, Films
Reading Group Guide
1. To what extent do you think the setting of the novel contributes to, or informs, what takes place? Do you think the moors are a character in their own right? How do you interpret Bronte's view of nature and the landscape?
2. Discuss Emily Bronte's careful attention to a rigid timeline and the role of the novel as a sober historical document. How is this significant, particularly in light of the turbulent action within? What other contrasts within the novel strike you, and why? How are these contrasts important, and how do they play out in the novel?
3. Do you think the novel is a tale of redemption, despair, or both? Discuss the novel's meaning to you. Do you think the novel's moral content dictates one choice over the other?
4. Do you think Bronte succeeds in creating three-dimensional figures in
Heathcliff and Cathy, particularly given their larger-than-life metaphysical passion? Why or why not?
5. Discuss Bronte's use of twos: Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange; two families, each with two children; two couples (Catherine and Edgar, and Heathcliff and Isabella); two narrators; the doubling-up of names. What is Bronte's intention here? Discuss.
6. How do Mr. Lockwood and Nelly Dean influence the story as narrators? Do you think they are completely reliable observers? What does Bronte want us to believe?
7. Discuss the role of women in Wuthering Heights. Is their depiction typical of Bronte's time, or not? Do you think Bronte's characterizations of women mark her as a pioneer ahead of her time or not?
8. Who or what does Heathcliff represent in the novel? Is he a force of evil or a victim of it? How important is the role of class in the novel, particularly as it relates to Heathcliff and his life?
From the Trade Paperback edition.