Title page of the first edition
|Publisher||Thomas Cautley Newby|
|LC Class||PR4172 .W7 2007|
|Text||Wuthering Heights online|
Wuthering Heights is a novel by Emily Brontë published in 1847 under her pseudonym "Ellis Bell". Brontë's only finished novel, it was written between October 1845 and June 1846.Wuthering Heights and Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey were accepted by publisher Thomas Newby before the success of their sister Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre. After Emily's death, Charlotte edited the manuscript of Wuthering Heights and arranged for the edited version to be published as a posthumous second edition in 1850.
Although Wuthering Heights is now a classic of English literature, contemporaneous reviews were deeply polarised; it was controversial because of its unusually stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty, and it challenged strict Victorian ideals regarding religious hypocrisy,morality, social classes and gender inequality.. The novel also explores the effects of envy, nostalgia,pessimism and resentment. The English poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, although an admirer of the book, referred to it as "A fiend of a book - an incredible monster [...] The action is laid in hell, - only it seems places and people have English names there."
Wuthering Heights contains elements of gothic fiction, and the moorland setting is a significant aspect of the drama. The novel has inspired many adaptations, including film, radio and television dramatisations; a musical; a ballet; operas, and a song by Kate Bush.
In 1801, Lockwood, a wealthy young man from the south of England, who is seeking peace and recuperation, rents Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire. He visits his landlord, Heathcliff, who lives in a remote moorland farmhouse, Wuthering Heights. There, Lockwood finds an odd assemblage: Heathcliff, who seems to be a gentleman, but whose manners are uncouth; the reserved mistress of the house, who is in her mid-teens; Joseph, a cantankerous old servant of Heathcliff's; and a young man who seems to be a member of the family, yet dresses and speaks as if he were a servant.
Snowed in, Lockwood is grudgingly allowed to stay the night and is shown to a bedchamber, where he notices books and graffiti left by a former inhabitant named Catherine. He falls asleep and has a nightmare in which he sees the ghostly Catherine trying and begging to enter through the window. He cries out in fear, rousing Heathcliff, who rushes into the room. Lockwood is convinced that what he saw was real. Heathcliff, believing Lockwood to be right, examines the window and opens it, hoping to allow Catherine's spirit to enter. When nothing happens, Heathcliff shows Lockwood to his own bedroom and returns to keep watch at the window.
At sunrise, Heathcliff escorts Lockwood back to Thrushcross Grange. After his visit to the Heights, Lockwood becomes ill and is confined to his bed for some length of time. The Grange housekeeper, Ellen (Nelly) Dean, who is looking after him, tells him the story of the family at the Heights during his convalescence.
It is thirty years earlier. The owner of Wuthering Heights is Mr. Earnshaw, who lives there with his son Hindley and younger daughter Catherine, as well as with young Nelly Dean, who is the same age as Hindley and is his servant and foster sister. On a trip to Liverpool, Earnshaw encounters a homeless boy, described as a "dark-skinned gypsy in aspect." He adopts the boy and, as he refuses to divulge his real name, Earnshaw names him Heathcliff. Hindley feels that Heathcliff has supplanted him in his father's affections and becomes bitterly jealous. Catherine and Heathcliff become friends and spend hours each day playing on the moors. They grow close.
Hindley is sent to university. Three years later, Earnshaw dies, and Hindley becomes the landowner; he is now master of Wuthering Heights. He returns to live there with his new wife, Frances. He allows Heathcliff to stay, but only as a servant, and regularly mistreats him.
A few months after Hindley's return, Heathcliff and Catherine walk to Thrushcross Grange to spy on Edgar Linton and his sister, Isabella, who live there. After being discovered, they try to run away, but they are caught. Catherine is injured by the Lintons' dog and taken into the house to recuperate, while Heathcliff is sent home. Catherine stays with the Lintons, who are landed gentry, for several months and is influenced by their elegant appearance and genteel manners. When she returns to Wuthering Heights, her clothing and manners are more ladylike, and she laughs at Heathcliff's unkempt appearance. The next day, knowing that the Lintons are to visit, Heathcliff, upon Nelly's advice, tries to dress up in an effort to impress Catherine, but he and Edgar get into an argument, and Hindley humiliates Heathcliff by locking him in the attic. Catherine tries to comfort Heathcliff, but he vows revenge on Hindley.
The following year, Frances Earnshaw gives birth to a son, named Hareton, but she dies of consumption a few months later. Hindley descends into drunkenness. Two more years pass, and Catherine and Edgar Linton have become friends, while she grows more distant from Heathcliff. Edgar visits Catherine while Hindley is away, and they declare themselves lovers soon afterwards.
Catherine confesses to Nelly that Edgar has proposed marriage and she has accepted, although her love for Edgar is not comparable to her love for Heathcliff, whom she cannot marry because of his low social status and lack of education. She hopes to use her position as Edgar's wife to raise Heathcliff's standing. Heathcliff overhears her say that it would "degrade" her to marry him (but not how much she loves him), and he runs away and disappears without a trace. Distraught over Heathcliff's departure, Catherine makes herself ill. Nelly and Edgar begin to pander to her every whim to prevent her from becoming ill again.
Three years pass. Edgar and Catherine marry and go to live together at Thrushcross Grange, where Catherine enjoys being "lady of the manor". Six months later, Heathcliff returns, now a wealthy gentleman. Catherine is delighted, but Edgar is not. Edgar's sister, Isabella, soon falls in love with Heathcliff, who despises her but encourages the infatuation as a means of revenge on Catherine. This leads to an argument with Catherine at Thrushcross Grange, which Edgar overhears. Finally, enraged by Heathcliff's constant presence and foul language, he forbids Heathcliff from visiting Catherine altogether. Upset, Catherine locks herself in her room and begins to make herself ill again. She is also now pregnant with Edgar's child.
Heathcliff takes up residence at Wuthering Heights once more and spends his time gambling with Hindley and teaching Hareton bad habits. Hindley dissipates his wealth and mortgages the farmhouse to Heathcliff to pay his debts. Heathcliff elopes with Isabella, but she is desperately unhappy, as a letter from her to Nelly makes clear. Two months after their elopement, Heathcliff and Isabella return to Wuthering Heights, where Heathcliff discovers that Catherine is dying. With Nelly's help, he visits Catherine secretly. The following day, she gives birth to a daughter, Cathy, shortly before dying. While Catherine is lying in her coffin overnight, prior to the funeral, Heathcliff returns and replaces the lock of Edgar's hair in her necklace with a lock of his own.
Shortly after the funeral, Isabella leaves Heathcliff and finds refuge in the South of England. She gives birth to a son, Linton. Hindley dies six months after Catherine, and Heathcliff thus becomes master of Wuthering Heights.
Twelve years pass. Catherine's daughter, Cathy, has become a beautiful, high-spirited girl. Edgar learns that his sister Isabella is dying, so he leaves to retrieve her son Linton in order to adopt and educate him. Cathy, who has rarely left home, takes advantage of her father's absence to venture further afield. She rides over the moors to Wuthering Heights and discovers that she has not one but two cousins: Hareton, in addition to Linton. She also lets it be known that her father has gone to fetch Linton. When Edgar returns with Linton, a weak and sickly boy, Heathcliff insists that the boy live at Wuthering Heights.
Three years pass. Walking on the moors, Nelly and Cathy encounter Heathcliff, who takes them to Wuthering Heights to see Linton and Hareton. Heathcliff hopes that Linton and Cathy will marry, so that Linton will become the heir to Thrushcross Grange. Linton and Cathy begin a secret friendship and a correspondence, echoing the childhood friendship between their respective parents, Heathcliff and Catherine. Nelly finds out about the letters.
The following year, Edgar becomes very ill and takes a turn for the worse while Nelly and Cathy are out on the moors, where Heathcliff and Linton trick them into entering Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff keeps them captive to enable the marriage of Cathy and Linton to take place. After five days, Nelly is released, and later, with Linton's help, Cathy escapes. She returns to the Grange to see her father shortly before he dies.
Now master of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, Cathy's father-in-law, Heathcliff, insists on her returning to live at Wuthering Heights. Soon after she arrives, Linton dies. Hareton tries to be kind to Cathy, but she withdraws from the world.
At this point, Nelly's tale catches up to the present day (1801). Time passes and, after being ill for a time, Lockwood grows tired of the moors and informs Heathcliff that he will be leaving Thrushcross Grange.
Eight months later, Lockwood returns to the area by chance. Given that his tenancy at Thrushcross Grange is still valid, he decides to stay there again. He finds Nelly living at Wuthering Heights and asks what has happened since he left. She explains that she moved to Wuthering Heights to replace the housekeeper, Zillah, who left.
Hareton has had an accident and is confined to the farmhouse. During his convalescence, he and Cathy overcome their mutual antipathy and become close. While their friendship develops, Heathcliff begins to act strangely and has visions of Catherine. He stops eating and, after four days of increasingly bad health, is found dead in Catherine's old room. He is buried next to Catherine.
Lockwood learns that Hareton and Cathy plan to marry on New Year's Day. As he gets ready to leave, he passes the graves of Catherine, Edgar, and Heathcliff and pauses to contemplate the quiet of the moors.
|1500:||The stone above the front door of Wuthering Heights, bearing the name Earnshaw, is inscribed, presumably to mark the completion of the house.|
|1757:||Hindley Earnshaw born (summer)|
|1762:||Edgar Linton born|
|1765:||Catherine Earnshaw born (summer); Isabella Linton born (late 1765)|
|1771:||Heathcliff brought to Wuthering Heights by Mr Earnshaw (late summer)|
|1773:||Mrs Earnshaw dies (spring)|
|1774:||Hindley sent off to university by his father|
|1775:||Hindley marries Frances; Mr Earnshaw dies and Hindley comes back (October); Heathcliff and Catherine visit Thrushcross Grange for the first time; Catherine remains behind (November), and then returns to Wuthering Heights (Christmas Eve)|
|1778:||Hareton born (June); Frances dies|
|1780:||Heathcliff runs away from Wuthering Heights; Mr and Mrs Linton both die|
|1783:||Catherine has married Edgar (March); Heathcliff comes back (September)|
|1784:||Heathcliff marries Isabella (February); Catherine dies and Cathy born (20 March); Hindley dies; Linton Heathcliff born (September)|
|1797:||Isabella dies; Cathy visits Wuthering Heights and meets Hareton; Linton brought to Thrushcross Grange and then taken to Wuthering Heights|
|1800:||Cathy meets Heathcliff and sees Linton again (20 March)|
|1801:||Cathy and Linton are married (August); Edgar dies (August); Linton dies (September); Mr Lockwood goes to Thrushcross Grange and visits Wuthering Heights, beginning his narrative|
|1802:||Mr Lockwood goes back to London (January); Heathcliff dies (April); Mr Lockwood comes back to Thrushcross Grange (September)|
|1803:||Cathy plans to marry Hareton (1 January)|
Ellen Moers, in Literary Women, developed a feminist theory that connects women writers, including Emily Brontë, with gothic fiction. Catherine Earnshaw has been identified by some critics as a type of gothic demon, because she "shape-shifts" in order to marry Edgar Linton, by assuming a domesticity that is contrary to her true nature. It has also been suggested that Catherine's relationship with Heathcliff conforms to the "dynamics of the Gothic romance, in that the woman falls prey to the more or less demonic instincts of her lover, suffers from the violence of his feelings, and at the end is entangled by his thwarted passion".
The original text, as published by Thomas Cautley Newby in 1847, is available online in two parts. The novel was first published together with Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey in a three-volume format: Wuthering Heights occupied the first two volumes, while Agnes Grey made up the third.
In 1850, when a second edition of Wuthering Heights was due, Charlotte Brontë edited the original text, altering punctuation, correcting spelling errors and making Joseph's thick Yorkshire dialect less opaque. Writing to her publisher, W.S. Williams, she mentioned that "It seems to me advisable to modify the orthography of the old servant Joseph's speeches; for though, as it stands, it exactly renders the Yorkshire dialect to a Yorkshire ear, yet I am sure Southerns must find it unintelligible; and thus one of the most graphic characters in the book is lost on them." An essay written by Irene Wiltshire on dialect and speech in the novel examines some of the changes Charlotte made.
There are several theories about which real building or buildings (if any) may have inspired Wuthering Heights. One common candidate is Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse in an isolated area near the Haworth Parsonage, although its structure does not match that of the farmhouse described in the novel. Top Withens was first suggested as the model by Ellen Nussey, a friend of Charlotte Brontë, to Edward Morison Wimperis, an artist who was commissioned to illustrate the Brontë sisters' novels in 1872.
The second possibility is High Sunderland Hall, near Halifax, now demolished. This Gothic edifice was located near Law Hill, where Emily worked briefly as a governess in 1838. While it was perhaps grander than Wuthering Heights, the hall had grotesque embellishments of griffins and misshapen nude males similar to those described by Lockwood in Chapter 1 of the novel.
The inspiration for Thrushcross Grange has long been traced to Ponden Hall, near Haworth, which is very small. Shibden Hall, near Halifax, is perhaps more likely. The Thrushcross Grange that Emily describes is rather unusual. It sits within an enormous park, as does Shibden Hall. By comparison, the park at Chatsworth (the home of the Duke of Devonshire) is over two miles (3.2 km) long but, as the house sits near the middle, it is no more than a mile and a half (2.4 km) from the lodge to the house. Considering that Edgar Linton apparently does not even have a title, this seems unlikely. There is no building close to Haworth that has a park anywhere near this size, but there are a few houses that might have inspired some elements. Shibden Hall has several features that match descriptions in the novel.
Early reviews of Wuthering Heights were mixed in their assessment. While most critics at the time recognised the power and imagination of the novel, they were also baffled by the storyline and found the characters prone to savagery and selfishness. Published in 1847, at a time when the background of the author was deemed to have an important impact on the story itself, many critics were also intrigued by the authorship of the novels.Henry Chorley of the Athenæum said that it was a "disagreeable story" and that the "Bells" (Brontës) "seem to affect painful and exceptional subjects".
The Atlas review called it a "strange, inartistic story," but commented that every chapter seems to contain a "sort of rugged power." Atlas summarised the novel by writing: "We know nothing in the whole range of our fictitious literature which presents such shocking pictures of the worst forms of humanity. There is not in the entire dramatis persona, a single character which is not utterly hateful or thoroughly contemptible ... Even the female characters excite something of loathing and much of contempt. Beautiful and loveable in their childhood, they all, to use a vulgar expression, "turn out badly"."
Graham's Lady Magazine wrote "How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors."
The American Whig Review wrote "Respecting a book so original as this, and written with so much power of imagination, it is natural that there should be many opinions. Indeed, its power is so predominant that it is not easy after a hasty reading to analyze one's impressions so as to speak of its merits and demerits with confidence. We have been taken and carried through a new region, a melancholy waste, with here and there patches of beauty; have been brought in contact with fierce passions, with extremes of love and hate, and with sorrow that none but those who have suffered can understand. This has not been accomplished with ease, but with an ill-mannered contempt for the decencies of language, and in a style which might resemble that of a Yorkshire farmer who should have endeavored to eradicate his provincialism by taking lessons of a London footman. We have had many sad bruises and tumbles in our journey, yet it was interesting, and at length we are safely arrived at a happy conclusion."
Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper wrote "Wuthering Heights is a strange sort of book,--baffling all regular criticism; yet, it is impossible to begin and not finish it; and quite as impossible to lay it aside afterwards and say nothing about. In Wuthering Heights the reader is shocked, disgusted, almost sickened by details of cruelty, inhumanity, and the most diabolical hate and vengeance, and anon come passages of powerful testimony to the supreme power of love - even over demons in the human form. The women in the book are of a strange fiendish-angelic nature, tantalising, and terrible, and the men are indescribable out of the book itself. Yet, towards the close of the story occurs the following pretty, soft picture, which comes like the rainbow after a storm ... We strongly recommend all our readers who love novelty to get this story, for we can promise them that they never have read anything like it before. It is very puzzling and very interesting, and if we had space we would willingly devote a little more time to the analysis of this remarkable story, but we must leave it to our readers to decide what sort of book it is."
New Monthly Magazine wrote "Wuthering Heights, by Ellis Bell, is a terrific story, associated with an equally fearful and repulsive spot ... Our novel reading experience does not enable us to refer to anything to be compared with the personages we are introduced to at this desolate spot - a perfect misanthropist's heaven."
Tait's Edinburgh Magazine wrote "This novel contains undoubtedly powerful writing, and yet it seems to be thrown away. Mr. Ellis Bell, before constructing the novel, should have known that forced marriages, under threats and in confinement are illegal, and parties instrumental thereto can be punished. And second, that wills made by young ladies' minors are invalid. The volumes are powerfully written records of wickedness and they have a moral - they show what Satan could do with the law of Entail."
Examiner wrote "This is a strange book. It is not without evidences of considerable power: but, as a whole, it is wild, confused, disjointed, and improbable; and the people who make up the drama, which is tragic enough in its consequences, are savages ruder than those who lived before the days of Homer."
Literary World wrote "In the whole story not a single trait of character is elicited which can command our admiration, not one of the fine feelings of our nature seems to have formed a part in the composition of its principal actors. In spite of the disgusting coarsness of much of the dialogue, and the improbabilities of much of the plot, we are spellbound."
Britannia called it a "strangely original" book that depicts "humanity in this wild state." Although mostly hostile, it notes that the book is "illuminated by some gleams of sunshine towards the end which serve to cast a grateful light on the dreary path we have traveled."
G.H. Lewes, in Leader, shortly after Emily's death, wrote: "Curious enough is to read Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and remember that the writers were two retiring, solitary, consumptive girls! Books, coarse even for men, coarse in language and coarse in conception, the coarseness apparently of violence and uncultivated men - turn out to be the productions of two girls living almost alone, filling their loneliness with quiet studies, and writing their books from a sense of duty, hating the pictures they drew, yet drawing them with austere conscientiousness! There is matter here for the moralist or critic to speculate on".
The earliest known film adaptation of Wuthering Heights was filmed in England in 1920 and was directed by A. V. Bramble. It is unknown if any prints still exist. The most famous is 1939's Wuthering Heights, starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon and directed by William Wyler. This acclaimed adaptation, like many others, eliminated the second generation's story (young Cathy, Linton and Hareton) and is rather inaccurate as a literary adaptation. It won the 1939 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film and was nominated for the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture.
The 1970 film with Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff is the first colour version of the novel. It has gained acceptance over the years although it was initially poorly received. The character of Hindley is portrayed much more sympathetically, and his story-arc is altered. It also subtly suggests that Heathcliff may be Cathy's illegitimate half-brother.
In 1978, the BBC produced a five-part TV serialisation of the book starring Ken Hutchinson, Kay Adshead and John Duttine, with music by Carl Davis; it is considered one of the most faithful adaptations of Emily Brontë's story.
The 1992 film Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche is notable for including the oft-omitted second generation story of the children of Cathy, Hindley and Heathcliff.
More recent film or TV adaptations include ITV's 2009 two-part drama series starring Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Sarah Lancashire, and Andrew Lincoln, and the 2011 film starring Kaya Scodelario and James Howson and directed by Andrea Arnold.
Adaptations which place the story in a new setting include the 1953 adaptation, retitled Abismos de Pasion, directed by Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel and set in Catholic Mexico, with Heathcliff and Cathy renamed Alejandro and Catalina. In Buñuel's version Heathcliff/Alejandro claims to have become rich by making a deal with Satan. The New York Times reviewed a re-release of this film as "an almost magical example of how an artist of genius can take someone else's classic work and shape it to fit his own temperament without really violating it," noting that the film was thoroughly Spanish and Catholic in its tone while still highly faithful to Brontë.Yoshishige Yoshida's 1988 adaptation also has a transposed setting, this time to medieval Japan. In Yoshida's version, the Heathcliff character, Onimaru, is raised in a nearby community of priests who worship a local fire god. Filipino director Carlos Siguion-Reyna made a film adaptation titled Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (1991). The screenplay was written by Raquel Villavicencio. It starred Richard Gomez as Gabriel (Heathcliff) and Dawn Zulueta as Carmina (Catherine). It became a Filipino film classic. In 2003, MTV produced a poorly reviewed version set in a modern California high school.
The 1966 Indian film Dil Diya Dard Liya is based upon this novel. The film is directed by Abdul Rashid Kardar and Dilip Kumar. The film stars the thespian Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Pran, Rehman, Shyama and Johnny Walker. The music is by the legendary composer Naushad. Although it did not fare as well as other movies of Dilip Kumar, it was well received by critics.
The novel has been popular in opera and theatre, including operas written by Bernard Herrmann, Carlisle Floyd, and Frédéric Chaslin (most cover only the first half of the book) and a musical by Bernard J. Taylor.
In 2011, a graphic novel version was published by Classical Comics. It was adapted by Scottish writer Sean Michael Wilson and hand painted by comic book veteran artist John M Burns. This version, which stays close to the original novel, received a nomination for the Stan Lee Excelsior Awards, elected by pupils from 170 schools in the United Kingdom.
In her 2019 novel,The West Indian, Valerie Browne Lester imagines an origin story for Heathcliff in 1760s Jamaica.
Kate Bush's song "Wuthering Heights" is most likely the best-known creative work inspired by Brontë's story that is not properly an "adaptation". Bush wrote and released the song when she was 18 and chose it as the lead single in her debut album (despite the record company preferring another track as the lead single). It was primarily inspired by the Olivier-Oberon film version, which deeply affected Bush in her teenage years. The song is sung from Catherine's point of view as she pleads at Heathcliff's window to be admitted. It uses quotations from Catherine, both in the chorus ("Let me in! I'm so cold!") and the verses, with Catherine's admitting she had "bad dreams in the night". Critic Sheila Whiteley wrote that the ethereal quality of the vocal resonates with Cathy's dementia, and that Bush's high register has both "childlike qualities in its purity of tone" and an "underlying eroticism in its sinuous erotic contours". Singer Pat Benatar also released the song in 1980 on the "Crimes of Passion" album.
Wind & Wuthering (1976) by English rock band Genesis alludes to the Brontë novel not only in the album's title but also in the titles of two of its tracks, "Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers..." and "...In That Quiet Earth". Both titles refer to the closing lines in the novel.
Songwriter Jim Steinman said that he wrote the song "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" "while under the influence of Wuthering Heights". He said that the song was "about being enslaved and obsessed by love" and compared it to "Heathcliffe digging up Kathy's corpse and dancing with it in the cold moonlight".
Maryse Condé's Windward Heights (La migration des coeurs, published in 1995; English translation published in 1998) is a reworking of Wuthering Heights set in Cuba and Guadaloupe at the turn of the 20th century, which Condé stated she intended as an homage to Brontë.
Mizumura Minae's A True Novel (Honkaku shosetsu, published in 2002 by Shinchosha; English translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter published by Other Press in 2013) is inspired by Wuthering Heights and might be called an adaptation of the story in a post-World War II Japanese setting.
In Jane Urquhart's Changing Heaven, the novel Wuthering Heights, as well as the ghost of Emily Brontë, feature as prominent roles in the narrative.