2 Biography of Emily Brontë
3 Summary of »Wuthering Heights«
4 Reviews of »Wuthering Heights«
4.1 Contemporary Reviews of »Wuthering Heights«
4.1.1 Reviews that appeared in British magazines or newspapers
4.1.2 American Reviews of »Wuthering Heights«
4.1.3 Unidentified Review of »Wuthering Heights«
4.2 Charlotte Brontë as a Critic of »Wuthering Heights«
4.3 Later critical response to »Wuthering Heights«
»Wuthering Heights« is the solitary prose work of Emily Brontë and was first published in 1847. Although the novel is now generally considered a masterpiece, there were lots of negative reviews after the publication. Critics called it for example shocking, grotesque or mishappen and were horrified by it.
In my work I will concentrate on the reviews of »Wuthering Heights« that appeared shortly after the publication of »Wuthering Heights« until the end of the 19th century.
Firstly, I will give a short biography of Emily Brontë to illustrate her way of living. After that I will summarize her novel.
Following the summary of »Wuthering Heights« I will concentrate on the reviews of »Wuthering Heights«.
At first I will present the way this novel was criticized by the reviewers in English as well as in American newspapers and magazines shortly after the publication in 1847. Then I will refer to Charlotte Brontë as a critic of »Wuthering Heights« and show how she judged her sister’s work. Furthermore her review influenced later criticism. In the end I will illustrate the later critical response to »Wuthering Heights« and I will show if there has been a change in judging the novel and how Charlotte Brontë’s preface influenced the reviewers.
2 Biography of Emily Brontë
Emily Jane Brontë was born on July 30th, 1818 at her father’s parsonage at Thornton, Yorkshire, as the fifth child of Patrick Brontë, an Irish clergyman and his wife Maria Branwell, the daughter of a Cornish merchant.
Two years after her birth on April 20th, 1820 the family moved to Haworth, eight miles from Thornton because her father became the minister of a church in Haworth.
“Of all the influences on Emily’s life, the landscape of her home at Haworth had the greatest effect in quickening her mind and in shaping her character” (Gérin 1971, p.1f). Her father opened her eyes to the natural world lying at the door.
In 1821 her mother, Maria Branwell died at the age of 38 of cancer. So her older sister Elizabeth Branwell came to look after the household. But the family as well as Elizabeth Branwell was not very happy with this situation. “Their mother’s death and the advent of their aunt brought all the children together in one common gesture of self-perseveration” (Gérin 1971, p.4).
To give his children the best education possible Mr Brontë decided to send his children to a boarding school. In 1824, Maria and Elizabeth went to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge, Charlotte followed them in August and Emily finally joined them in November because of an illness. Emily was the youngest pupil at school. There were only four pupils under ten and even three of them were Brontës. Then there was an epidemic at school and Maria and Elizabeth suffered from tuberculosis. Soon after having sent them home to recuperate, both of them died. So Mr Brontë decided to educate Emily and her sister Charlotte at home. Charlotte, Emily and Anne then educated themselves as well as they could and read a lot. Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne amused themselves by telling stories about some toy soldiers which Mr Brontë had given Branwell as a gift after one of his trips. Emily and Anne created their own Gondal saga, and Branwell and Charlotte recorded their stories about the kingdom of Angria in minute notebooks.
In July 1835, Charlotte returned together with Emily as a governess to Roe Head. Emily stayed there as a pupil, but soon got homesick and then left school in October. Two years later in 1837 Emily went to teach at Law Hill School near Halifax. The situation was very difficult for her, so she only stayed there for six months. But her stay at Law Hill was very important for her intellectual development. “She gained a knowledge of people and human relationships […]. The pages of Wuthering Heights are filled with memories of Law Hill and its special atmosphere” (Gérin 1971, p.74).
Then Emily and Charlotte decided to open a school of their own. Therefore they went to Brussels to learn French and school management at the Pensionnat Heger, a girls’ boarding and day school. Charlotte was liked by her students but Emily was hated. “The students made fun of her old-fashioned clothes, her refusal to engage in conversation, and her apparent unconcern for their happiness” (Thaden 2001, p.4). The death of her aunt who had raised her and her siblings forced her to return home at the age of 24. For the rest of her life Emily stayed at Haworth. “The loves of her life were her animals- dogs, cats, and even a falcon, and the heath-covered moors around her home” (Thaden 2001, p.5).
During this time she wrote poetry based on her Gondal fantasies. Finally Charlotte discovered her poems and was very impressed by them. In 1846, she persuaded her sisters Emily and Anne to allow their poems to appear in a book together with her own poems. “To shield their privacy and conceal the fact that they were women, the sisters self-published under the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell” (www.glencoe.com). Emily used the pseudonym Ellis. The book was not very successful, it sold only two copies. Nevertheless, they continued writing.
Emily wrote »Wuthering Heights«. It was accepted first but was not published until 1847 after »Jane Eyre« by Charlotte became a best-seller because the editor wanted to profit on the success of »Jane Eyre«.
In September 1848, Branwell died unexpectedly of tuberculosis. At his funeral Emily caught a cold and got extremly ill. She died on December 19th, 1848 at the age of thirty.
3 Summary of »Wuthering Heights«
The story is told by Mr Lockwood and Ellen (Nelly) Dean. Mr Lockwood is the tenant of Thrushcross Grange and was no witness of the things happening at Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. All the information he gets from Mrs Ellen Dean, the housekeeper of Thrushcross Grange who tells him the story while he is ill.
One day Mr Earnshaw returns from a journey to Liverpool and brings home with him a dirty, black-haired child in torn clothes. He takes the child as his son and calls him Heathcliff which is the name of a son of the Earnshaws that died in childhood.
Catherine likes Heathcliff very much but Hindley hates him as he is his father’s favourite. Therefore he feels supplanted in his father’s affections by the boy. A few years later Mrs Earnshaw dies and Hindley is sent away to college.
Two years later, Mr Earnshaw dies, too. Hindley comes home for the funeral with his wife Frances. He forces Heathcliff into the role of servant and stops his education. Then Catherine starts to teach Heathcliff all she has learned and plays with him in the fields. One day they run to Thrushcross Grange where they see Isabella and Edgar. Isabella and Edgar think that they are burglars and Catherine is injured by the watch-dog. Therefore she is forced to stay at the Grange for a few weeks. Returning home Catherine is dressed like a lady and gives up her wild ways. When she sees Heathcliff she laughs at his black, cross look. So Heathcliff runs away in anger.
Shortly after the birth of Hareton, the last of the ancient family of Earnshaw, Hindley’s wife Frances dies. Hindley gives himself up to wild living and only Mrs Dean cares about the child. The household falls into chaos, Catherine’s teacher stops visiting her and Edgar Linton is the only person that comes to see her. Heathcliff is harshly treated and starts hating Hindley more and more. Catherine and Heathcliff argue intensely and when Edgar asks to marry him she agrees although she still loves Heathcliff. She tells Nelly that she is unhappy but she cannot marry Heathcliff because it would degrade her and she is attracted by what Edgar represents. He is good-looking and will be rich. Heathcliff listens to the conversation and runs away.
As Catherine recognizes that Heathcliff has left, she starts looking for him all night in a storm and then gets ill.
Three years after his father’s death Edgar finally marries Catherine. Nelly has to go with her to her new home Thrushcross Grange.
After some years Heathcliff returns to take his revenge on the Linton family. He is now an educated man with money. Catherine is very happy to see him but Edgar is not very excited. Nevertheless they pick up their friendship. Heathcliff stays with Hindley at Wuthering Heights and gradually gains financial control by paying Hindley’s gambling debts.
Soon Isabella falls in love with Heathcliff. Catherine tells Heathcliff about it. Although he does not like her, he tells Catherine that he will make good use of it. Catherine starts a quarrel with Heathcliff and so Edgar Linton asks him to leave his house. Edgar is very furious and tells his sister Isabella that if she marries Heathcliff she will be only his sister in name. Catherine is furious at Edgar for driving Heathcliff away and at Heathcliff for wanting to marry Isabella. So she does not eat or drink anything for three days and falls ill with a brain fever. While being ill, Heathcliff and Isabella elope. But soon Isabella is very unhappy at Wuthering Heights.
One day, when Edgar has gone to church, Heathcliff visits Catherine. Catherine accuses him that he kills her. But Heathcliff accuses her of killing them both by marrying Edgar. Then Catherine forgives him and Heathcliff forgives her what she has done to him and they swear undying love for each other. Two hours after having given birth to her daughter, a second Catherine, Catherine dies.
A few days later, Hindley, realizing that he has gambled away his property to Heathcliff, tries to kill him. In the struggle over the weapon, Hindley is wounded.
Meanwhile Isabella’s love for Heathcliff has turned into hate. She decides to leave Wuthering Heights and never revisits the area. Now, she lives in the south, near London and has born a son called Linton. Six months after his sister’s death Hindley dies, too, and leaves Heathcliff as the master of Wuthering Heights.
Twelve years later, the second part of the story takes place. Cathy (Catherine) lives together with her father and Nelly, the housekeeper at Thrushcross Grange. Until the age of thirteen she has not left the house alone because her father is frightened that something could happen to her. Furthermore Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff do not exist for her.
One day Isabella dies and Edgar has to go to London to fetch her son Linton. During the three weeks of his absence Cathy escapes for the first time. Nelly has to look for her and finally finds her at Wuthering Heights where Cathy meets Hareton. She is disgusted to learn that Hareton, whom she had taken for a servant, actually is her cousin. Then Nelly tells her how her father hates the Heights and makes her promise not to tell Edgar that she has been there. The next day Mr. Linton and his nephew Linton, a weak and pale boy, return to Thrushcross Grange and Catherine is very pleased to get to know her cousin. But the same day Heathcliff sends Joseph to Thrushcross Grange to fetch his son. When Catherine wakes up the next morning, Linton has gone.
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- Technische Universität Carolo-Wilhelmina zu Braunschweig
- Reviews Wuthering Heights British Landscape Fact Fiction English Language Teaching