Introduction to Wuthering Heights (from Penguin)
is Emily Brontë's only novel, an impassioned, spellbinding tale considered to be one of
the greatest literary works of all time. The story—as turbulent as its title suggests—transports the reader
to the North Yorkshire moors to witness the drama of the Earnshaws and the Lintons, and the volatile, yet
spiritual, relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff.
was first published in December 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell with 250 copies
printed. The novel met with harsh reactions from readers and critics who saw it as depressing and
morose, and even immoral.
called it "a strange book.
..wild, confused, disjointed and
improbable; and the people who make up the drama.
..are savages ruder than those who lived before
magazine (U.S.) advised, "Read
… but burn
This strong reaction was due in part to the book's intense examination of the human spirit. Readers
accustomed to novels such as those by Jane Austen, published thirty-five years before, sought a realistic
portrayal of the mores and manners of the English upper classes.
, in contrast, focused
not on society, but on the minds, hearts, and souls of its members.
Prior to the publication of
, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë had published a volume
of poetry under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; Charlotte's
had also been
published. Confusion arose as to the identities of the Bells, and it was even thought that they might have
been one person.
was believed by some to have been written by the same author who
Despite the reasons for which
was not valued in its own time, it has since been
recognized as a work of extraordinary talent, elegance, and genius. One writer, Joyce Carol Oates, best
summed up its power by calling
an "anomaly, a sport, a freak in its own time, it can be
seen by us, in ours, as brilliantly of that time--and contemporaneous with our own."
About Emily Brontë
Emily Brontë lived most of her life in England on the North Yorkshire moors like those depicted in
. Not many details are known about her life. As one Brontë scholar stated, "Next to her
genius, the most astonishing thing about Emily Brontë is the silence which surrounds her life." Charlotte
Brontë declared that Emily's "disposition was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favored and
fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she seldom crossed
the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the people [all around] was benevolent, intercourse with
them was never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced."
Emily Jane was the fifth of six children born to the Reverend Patrick and Maria Brontë on July 30, 1818, in
the village of Bradford, Yorkshire. Three years after Emily was born, her mother died of cancer, the first of