Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is Emily Bronte’s supreme legacy. Indeed, many eminent critics consider it the greatest novel in the English language – a dramatic and imaginative masterpiece.

The scene is the dark windswept Yorkshire moors. The time is the last century. The drama concerns the attempt of Heathcliff, a dark-skinned gypsy waif of passionate and violent nature, to destroy the families of Earnshaw and Linton. The mystical history of Heathcliff’s life after the death of his love, Catherine, is perhaps the most poignant fictional haunting in any European language, and one which lives unforgettably in the memory.

Panther Imperial edition first published April 1961.

I have been away from blogging for a while and thought I’d ease myself gently back into the swing of things with this lovely Panther Edition of Wuthering Heights. Though I haven’t been posting much, that’s not to say I haven’t been reading! So I do hope to have more lovely gothic romance reviews on here soon.

In the meantime, here’s a link to a great blog I stumbled on. Fittingly entitled Bad Reviews of Good Books, it chronicles readers’ honest opinions about some of the greatest classic novels of all time and I found it compulsive reading! Taking a look at what our learned friends from cyber-space have been saying about Wuthering Heights, the comments range from the bizarre:

“The story carries the reader along, but every character is laced with a dramatic flaw (and by dramatic, I mean, it isn’t like a ‘weak man’ could just be weak to his wife; he’s weak in the face of the universal will. A selfish person isn’t just selfish about her daily amount of reading time, or whether her husband goes out whoring or not; she’s selfish about every single thing that comes into contact with her).”

 To the downright ridiculous:

“I read it on the train and, as we RAN SOMEONE OVER, I got eightish hours to read it.”

It certainly is an interesting debate as to whether just reading a book gives you the automatic right to critique someone else’s work and to how informed that opinion might be. Personally, I love reading other people’s reviews, good, bad or ugly but only after I have finished reading the book for myself. 

Anyway, to end with a good review of this great book – here’s what Charlotte Bronte herself had to say about her sister’s novel:

 “Wuthering Heights stands colossal, dark and frowning, half-statue, half-rock. It is Moorish and wild and knotty as a root of heather. Over much there broods ‘a horror of great darkness’; in its storm-heated and electrical atmosphere we seem at times to breathe lightening.”

 

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Wuthering Heights

Dominated by the wild, terrible figure of Heathcliff and infused with much of the bleak beauty of its setting, the Yorkshire Moors, Wuthering Heights is one of the most highly imaginative novels in the English language. Such is the intense power of the atmosphere which Emily Bronte builds up that even the incredible Heathcliff seems real and every detail of the fantastic story of his love for Catherine Earnshaw remains clearly remembered long after one has finished the book. It is a strange story, with something of the vividness of a nightmare and something of the beauty of an old ballad, and it contrasts strongly with Agnes Grey and Jane Eyre, the novels which were written at the same time by Anne and Charlotte Bronte.

Written by Emily Bronte, first published 1847. Published in Penguin Books 1946. This reprint, 1965. Cover art Paul Hogarth.

I’ve said it before and will no doubt say it again – there’s too much running and not enough kissing going on in this blog and so of course I had to share this gorgeously smoochalicious cover of Wuthering Heights the minute I saw it.

According to Wikipedia, Paul Hogarth OBE was an English artist and illustrator best known for the cover drawings that he did in the 1980s for Penguin’s Graham Greene’s books. And yes, his artwork is worth looking out for – search for his book covers online and there is an amazing array of his work out there, it’s great.

And it’s been a good week for ferreting out some of my favourite books and writers – in addition to the Penguin edition of Wuthering Heights above, I also found this:

The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte. Written by Daphne du Maurier. Doubleday edtion published March 1961. Giant Cardinal edition published December 1962. 1st printing October 1962.

Of all the Brontes, Branwell, as a child, showed the most promise. He was worshipped by his sisters and his widowed father; it was to him they all looked for literary success. Yet he alone was unable to bridge the gap between childhood fantasy and adulthood, and produce a mature, finished book.

There is, however, no question of his influence upon the writings of his sisters, and certainly Emily drew heavily on him for her memorable portrait of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.

Conscious to the end of his sisters’ success and his own monumental failure, he turned to a life of dissipation and withdrew to live in the wild, fantastic imagination of his mythical, self-invented kingdom of Angria.

He died at thirty one, from alcohol and excessive laudanum – an ‘eloquent unpublished poet.’

It’s an amazing biography – Daphne du Marier’s skill as a novelist and storyteller bringing the life and times of the Bronte family alive. Anyone interested in the writings of the Bronte sisters can’t help but be drawn in by this beautifully written and wonderfully observed portrait of their incredibly talented but deeply troubled brother, Branwell.

I bought both these books for £1 at the wonderful Colin Page Books in Brighton, an amazing bookshop known and loved by bibliophiles far and wide. This is the kind of place that sells proper old books – gilt edged, leather bound, dusted in antiquity – rows upon rows of them, stacked floor to ceiling in that wonderful  ‘there must be some sort of order to this chaos’ way that real bookstores have.

And fear not all you cheap’n’cheerful paperback pulp fans – this place has something for everyone! For outside the shop are a couple of trestle tables where the paperbacks are sold and there is always a great selection, most priced at a very reasonable £1. I’m lucky enough to live and work nearby so this is one of my favourite lunchtime stops for a browse and a bargain!

For more info on this wonderful place, check out the antiquarian Booksellers’ Association page HERE.

Poe

He was a goodly spirit – he who fell:

A wanderer by moss-y-mantled well –

A gazer on the lights that shine above –

A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love:

What wonder? for each star is eye-like there,

A looks so sweetly down on Beauty’s hair;

And they, and ev’ry mossy spring were holy

To his love-haunted heart and melancholy.

Al Aaraaf, E.A Poe 1829

Poe. The Laurel Poetry Series. Published by Dell Publishing. First printing March 1959. This fourth printing, November 1962. Cover drawing by Richard Powers.

A rather lovely little book of the complete poems by Poe, along with an introduction, chronology and notes by the editor Richard Wilbur.

Like most geniuses, Poe didn’t think much of his poetry, describing his verse collections as ‘trifles’ and, though he loved writing poetry, the need to actually earn a living meant most of his energy was spent on editorials and prose fiction. 

The above excerpt is taken from Poe’s longest poem, Al Aaraaf, first published in 1829, which he claims to have written when he was just 15 years old. I thought it’d be fun to quote since (obviously) this is where the title of my blog came from. What I love best about Poe’s writing is the open spaces he creates in my head, the slip-streaming of my own imaginings through and around his words, luring me into a different realm than the one I started reading from. Spellbinding stuff I guess.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Poe old bean, and here’s wishing for an afterlife as flowingly dreamy as the one you’ve conjured here.

Wuthering Heights

A Strange and Bitter Love…

Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights, a love story, when she was 27 years old. It is the only novel she wrote. She died three years later in 1848, in Yorkshire, English farm country which she had rarely left and which is the setting for this one tempestuous and tragic book that established her fame.

With only her stealthy observations of a few neighbors and the teachings of her hot, proud heart, Emily Brontë created two intense, ill-fated lovers… Heathcliff, brought to Wuthering Heights as a starving Liverpool waif… Catherine Earnshaw, whom he grew up to love in that house with a passion that became a destroying rage when Cathy rejected him for her more proper neighbor Edgar Linton.

As demonic and relentless as the wind whistling across the Yorkshire moors is Heathcliff’s revenge and its inevitably Satanic conclusion.

Written with ardour and astounding competence, this probing novel by a relatively inexperienced young woman remains a masterpiece long after other romantic tales of its time have been forgotten.

Written by Emily Brontë, special contents of this edition copyright Lancer Books 1968.

Cover art by Lou Marchetti (thanks Ruben!). 

If you’ve read my review of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, you will know what a fan I am of the Minster Classics. Wuthering Heights is number 47 in this series. This isn’t my favourite cover by a long shot, but the typeface is nice and big and (fairly) easy to read by candlelight if you were ever so inclined!

Speaking of which, I saw the new Wuthering Heights film recently. Directed by Andrea Arnold, there was a Q&A session with her afterwards. Time and budgetary constraints meant that only about half the book is covered and I got the impression this film was less about making another adaptation of the book and more an attempt to understand and tell Heathcliff’s part of the story.

Largely criticised as being too grim, (I guess none of the critics have read the book then) I thought the film was stunning and, for me anyway, very reminiscent of Emily Bronte’s poetry. One of those rare movies you watch and you immediately want to watch it all over again. Lucky for me, since it’s a Film 4 production, it should be on the telly any day now!

Wuthering Heights

There are few more convincing, less sentimental accounts of passionate love than Wuthering Heights. This is the story of a savage, tormented foundling, Heathcliff, who falls wildly in love with Catherine Earnshaw, the daughter of his benefactor, and the violence and misery that result from their thwarted longing for each other. A book of immense power and strength, it is filled with the raw beauty of the moors and an uncanny understanding of the terrible truths about men and women – an understanding made even more extraordinary by the fact that it came from the heart of a frail, inexperienced girl who lived out her lonely life in the moorland wildness and died a year after this great novel was published.

Written by Emily Bronte 1847. This is the Signet Classic edition with a foreword by Geoffrey Moore, copyright 1959.

Happy Birthday Emily Bronte, you are 193 today, so I thought I’d commemorate the occasion by posting another wonderful edition of Wuthering Heights.

This Signet cover is gorgeous and illustrated by the same artist who did the cover to the Signet edition of Turn of the Screw, reviewed HERE. The signature is a little easier to read- Jaines / Jainee Hill? – but I’ve not been able to find any info on the artist.

Northanger Abbey

DARK SHADOWS,

BRIGHT HUMOR…

If tales of terror set in old, dark houses scare you or inflame your imagination, you’re not unlike Catherine Morland, heroine of this marvelously impish satire by Jane Austen.

Northanger Abbey is the medieval manor of Henry Tilney, with whom, while at a summer resort, Catherine falls in love and wants to marry. But she becomes darkly suspicious of the abbey once invited there – for she has read many of the Gothic horror novels popular in the author’s day. Surely a wicked crime lies buried in it. Surely, Henry’s eccentric father is gruesomely involved…

The true situation at the manor exposes Catherine’s folly. It also subjects her to a deeper humiliation. For NORTHANGER ABBEY (1818) is a literary satire, a mystery, and something more. It is a bright, barbed study of social snobbery, of the search for love frustrated by ambition and greed. As such, critics have rated it not far behind Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – and, in its own right, one of the greater glories of English literature.

Complete and unabridged. Written by Jane Austen. Finished 1803, first published 1818. Special contents of this edition copyright 1968 Lancer Books. Cover art by Dick Kohfield.

Catherine Morland is 17 and loves reading gothics. Her current fave, The Mysteries of Udolpho, is ‘the nicest book’. Her passion for ancient edifices and all things horrid is second only to the love she feels for Henry Tilney, the young man who has caught her eye while visiting Bath. So when Catherine is invited to stay with his family in the medieval manor of Northanger Abbey, she is ecstatic.

Paperback Library Gothic

Henry is no stranger to the gothic novel himself and he has a fine old time adding fuel to the fire of young Catherine’s over-inflamed imagination, regaling her with tall tales of the sinister servants and haunted passageways that await her at the Abbey. When they do arrive at Northanger, Catherine is almost disappointed to find how well kept and modern it is, bereft of ‘the heaviest stone, of painted glass, dirt, and cobwebs’. Surely there could be nothing to fear in such safe, comfortable surroundings? Could there?  

If you like chick-lit and Regency romance, chances are you already love the works of Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey is a satire on the popular gothic novels of her day and as such is worth a read. The story begins and ends with the usual mélange of men, marriage and money I’d expect from an Austen novel but the middling bits get suitably suspenseful and show off her obvious fondness for this genre. Four out of five stars.

This edition of Northanger Abbey is one of my Minster Classics. From what I can make out by the inside cover, Minster was a company based in London, England who published forty eight classic titles, including such gems as The Adventures of Pinocchio, Black Beauty, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights and Robinson Crusoe.

There is something reassuringly familiar about them – something comforting about their cheap & chunky feel in my hands, their easy on the eye typeface and non-glare paper – not to mention the wonderful cover art and Americanized spelling on the back cover blurb.

Sure enough, though Minster books were sold in the UK, the contents and covers were printed in the U.S.A and copyrighted to Lancer. They are identical to the Magnum Easy Eye Classics range published in 1968, so perhaps Minster was a UK subsidiary or something.

Anyway, here are a couple more of my favourites:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving.

Of Mischief and Mirth…

Two early Dutch – American roques leap merrily to mind whenever their famous creator in mentioned. One is the gangling Yankee schoolmaster Ichabod Crane – that awkward butt of many past pranks – who, riding a plow horse home from a party onne night, is terrifyingly pursued by a headless horseman. The other is a genial lazy Catskillian wo awakens from a twenty-year nap to find the Revolutionary War come and gone, himself an old man in a new young world.

Washington Irving wrote copiously more than ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip Van Winkle,’ however, and this volume includes many of his neglected romances told in the slyly humorous vein of his two masterpieces. Not all are set in New York State; indeed, Ichabod and Rip themselves are European folk heroes who Irving Americanized. He was equally at home with German, Spanish and Indian legends, and his eye for local colour makes at least one tale of a plains buffalo hunt unforgettable. This collection, chosen from seven of Irving’s forty volumes, represents at his finest a graceful writer often called ‘the father of American literature.’

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

‘Hullo, Mole!’

Hullo, Rat!’

No they weren’t just calling each other names, for this was the formal first meeting of Mr. Water Rat and Mr. Mole, and they were being polite about it.

The wonderful picnic on the river that came of this meeting is the beginning of the story THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS has to tell. Soon Mr. Toad of Toad Hall – a curious creature indeed – comes on the scene, and then the real fun begins.

Though there is a good deal of genuine animal lore in the book, it is not meant to tell us how animals live. Rather it simply tells a story that is charming fun to read, and leaves the reader with a warm glow of appreciation for both human and animal friends.

Kenneth Grahame, who liked to tell stories to his own little son and later expanded them into this book, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859. He died in 1932.

The cover scan of the Magnum Easy Eye edition of Northanger Abbey, as well as some more gorgeous illustrations from other editions of this novel, can be found HERE.

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is unique, and cannot be classified; the reader feels either pronounced dislike or tremendous admiration. It is sombre, humourless, of unrelieved gloom. Yet there is about it a titanic greatness, impressing one profoundly; indeed it is awesome. Its large outlines, its intensity of feeling, its foreboding shadows at once stimulate and oppress the imagination. It is a wild prose poem rather than a novel – the tragedy of souls at grips with fate and fighting a hope-lost battle. Love of life and passionate adoration of the earth burns in it.

Written by Emily Bronte. First published 1847. This edition printed Richard Clay & Company, Bungay, Suffolk and published by P.R Gawthorn Ltd, Russell Square, London. With an introduction by Robert Harding.

Well, well, well,  it feels almost as if I had given up blogging for lent but fear not dear reader, I am back, this time with another copy of my favourite gothic and what is the first hardback book to grace these pages.

Wandering around on the edge of the town just the other day, I came across a rather enchanting looking church, old enough and ugly enough to warrant further investigation. Popping in to light some candles, I was delighted to find  a booksale taking place in the crypt, where I unearthed this copy of Wuthering Heights as well as a some Mary Stewart novels and a mint copy of the 6th Pan book of Horror Stories.

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of hardback books myself – too unwieldy, too much faff to carry around – but this is a nice edition with a lovely full colour frontispiece by C.E. Montford. My only quibble would be about some of the points made in the introduction by Robert Harding, in which he describes Wuthering Heights as  “humourless, of unrelieved gloom,” and “one of those books of which only two feelings are possible: hearty dislike or baffled admiration.”

Anyway, a link to the original artwork, recently sold as part of a lot for £80, is HERE.


Uncle Silas

WAS THERE NO ESCAPE FOR MAUD RUTHYN FROM HER SINISTER UNCLE SILAS?

“When I closed my eyes I saw him before me still, dressed in deathly black, ashy with a pallor on which I looked with fear and pain.

…And those hollow, fiery, awful eyes! It sometimes seemed to me as though the curtain had opened, and I had seen a ghost.”

Maud Ruthyn was obliged to live with her mad Uncle Silas in his isolated, terrifying old mansion for four years if she wanted to receive her inheritance. If she ran away she would be penniless. If she dared to stay, then one night she would be found lifeless!

UNCLE SILAS ranks with THE MOONSTONE, THE WOMAN IN WHITE and WUTHERING HEIGHTS as one of the most haunting, terrifying Gothic novels in the English language.

Written by Sheridan Le Fanu. This Paperback Library Edition – January 1967.

Known as the father of the modern ghost story, Sheridan Le Fanu is a Victorian novelist and short story writer whose prose continues to  chill and inspire to this day. Virginia Coffman, creator of the fantastically gothic Moura series, cites him as a major influence of hers, so I was very pleased to happenchance upon this gorgeous Paperback Library edition of Uncle Silas on a day out in Eastbourne the other week.

This is a classic gothic story –  where an orphaned teenage heroine, duty bound to the wishes of her dead father, finds herself having to live with her strange Uncle Silas until she is old enough to claim her inheritance.

So all she need do is live long enough to come of age and claim her money.  How difficult can that be? Well, for Maud Ruthyn it’s an isolated, scary existence, trapped in a gloomy old mansion, haunted by sinister secrets and strange visions,  with naught but the usual cast of crackpots for company. I’m about two thirds of the way through and though nothing too terrible has happened to Maud, I’ve a feeling there’s something more menacing going on behind those crazed, opium-glazed eyes of her Uncle’s than Swedenborgianism.

With three hundred and fifty pages of teensy-tiny typeface (times like this I miss my Lancer Easy-Eyes!) this abridged edition is at least twice the length of most my other Paperback Library gothics and is a treat. Stories like this are written to linger over – I’ve been buried in this book for the last ten days or so and can’t put it down.

They say appearances are everything and this was particularly true within the upper echelons of Victorian society. So long as some semblance of normality is seen to skim the surface of social interaction then all  is well – isn’t it? Sheridan Le Fanu uses this sentiment to great effect throughout Uncle Silas, interweaving deft touches of the macabre and grotesque into the story, building a real sense of foreboding and fear that is not always easy to put your finger on, therefore making you feel all the more uneasy. So I’ll be sleeping with the lights on for a few more nights yet…

Five out of five stars with extra gothic points for this copy since it looks (and smells!) as if it’s been providing  sustenance for the rats while lying on the floor of a dungeon somewhere.


The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller, An International Episode, The Aspern Papers, The Altar of the Dead, The Beast in the Jungle.

Henry James considered “the beautiful and blest nouvelle” to be the “ideal form” for fiction, and to this genre he brought the full perfection of his imaginative artistry. The themes he chose and the values he set forth in the six nouvelles that comprise this Signet Classic typify the depth and power of his craftsmanship – the unique perception of a writer who unerringly deciphers the mind of a gay and flirtatious American girl among the sophisticates of Europe…the motivations of a man who spends a lifetime waiting to experience his “rare and strange” destiny.

“Few Writers of fiction have been so inventive as Henry James,” writes William Thorp. Edmund Wilson commented that “he can be judged only in the company of the very greatest.”

Written by Henry James. This Signet Classic edition published 1980.

‘Tis the season for curling up with a good ol’ gothic ghost story and Turn of the Screw is one of my favourites.

A real ‘treading on eggshells’ sense of suspense pervades this novella, with everything you need for a chilling winter night’s reading.

Originally published in 1898 the best thing about this novella  is how artfully James sows the seeds of doubt as to whether the ghosts are real or imagined. Personally I made up my mind years ago the governess was completely barking and not the kind of person you’d want to leave alone with your kids; the conversation she has with the housekeeper after her first sighting of Quint being a great example of how easy people can mislead each other into believing whatever they want to believe.

Lots of people disagree however and the ambiguity is part of what makes this tale so engrossing. At times the children are almost as sinister as the ghosts and having read this a few times I still find myself asking questions. Henry James’ prose weaves a masterful spell of psychological suspense  by allowing the reader room to draw their own conclusions. The isolated setting, unspoken secrets and spiralling emotions all contribute toward creating a truly spooky atmosphere with a shocking climax.

And though Turn of the Screw is the most well known piece in this collection, the other novellas are worth a mention – in particular Altar of the Dead, one of my favourite stories ever.

The cover art is lovely and a very distinctive style. 5 out of 5 stars.


Wuthering Heights

“My great thought in living is Heathcliff. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be… My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks… Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure…  but as my own being.”

WUTHERING HEIGHTS is a classic work of artistry and genius. Today, one hundred and thirty years after it was published, it is still a totally absorbing and utterly compelling novel of a grim passion, of a glorious love.

Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff must take their places amongst the great lovers of the world. Their complete obsession, and possession of each other, symbolises the oldest, the grandest, and the most romantic theme in literature…

Written by Emily Bronte, first published 1847.

Two more editions of my all-time favourite gothic Wuthering Heights.

The one above is the English Corgi edition published in 1978. This one to the right is the earlier American version published by Bantam books in April 1974.

Apart from the cover art, both are similar versions, containing the same excerpts from the author’s diary, letters, poetry and early writings, with an afterword, biographical sketch and notes on the text by Baruch Hochman.

The cover art for the above seems to be painted by Robert McGinnis – I found a link  featuring  some of his artwork for Wuthering Heights – it is very similar to this except there is no cottage in the background and the foreground is much more desolate. But the woman in the picture looks identical.  I can’t  make up my mind! Some links to the original cover art are HERE and HERE.