Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: Ch. 1

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Wuthering Heightsd

Chapter I

1801.d—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!d  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,w 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:d 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 sympathising 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.d

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 Heightsh 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.d  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.d

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,h I detected the date ‘1500h,’ and the name ‘Hareton Earnshaw.’h  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.w

X [d] Wuthering Heights

Writing & Reading

This introduction includes biographical material on Emily Brontë and discusses Wuthering Heights in general terms only, without divulging the plot. The annotations themselves offer a detailed, running commentary on the novel, though also without anticipating the plot. The discussion here of Emily Brontë’s short life intends to give some impression of the author and to suggest some motifs in the novel. Sections 1. and 2. discuss Emily Brontë's life; 3. her poetry; 4. and 5. reactions to …

(read more)

X [d] 1801.

Writing & Reading

There seems no special significance to the year except that it is the threshold between the centuries, and just barely in the 19th, the century of massive technological and demographic change. The date is under two generations before the railroad, which, with the Industrial Revolution, accelerates large demographic changes. By about 1850, more people in England will live in towns a…

(read more)

X [d] This is certainly a beautiful country!

Writing & Reading

Is Lockwood being naively sincere or sarcastic? Is it "beautiful" country? We'll learn shortly that it is rugged and in some ways hostile. The adjective "beautiful" generally referred at this time to a softer, more inviting landscape.

X [w] jealous resolution,

"Jealous" in this context and later in the chapter means "vehement in feeling" (OED); Heathcliff's "resolution" is to keep his fingers imprisoned in his pockets. 

X [d] Thrushcross Grange:

That it is a "Grange," which suggests farming and crops, and that it bears within its name "thrush," a songbird, indicate a more cultivated, pleasant place than Wuthering Heights. The reader will learn shortly that Thrushcross Grange is an affluent manor house with an enclosed park that extends two miles from the manor.

X [d] more exaggeratedly reserved than myself.

Writing & Reading

Heathcliff's "reserve" creates the "misanthropist's heaven" Lockwood just described. But there is more: the Heights's inhabitants dislike especially what Lockwood represents: physical softness, fancy language, a citified attitude, vanity, and incompetence when it comes to understanding dogs and the weather. 

X [h] Wuthering Heights

Places

Wuthering Heights is likely an amalgamation. Beside the possibility of Ponden House, another source is Top Withins (photos below). Another, at least for the inscriptions and carvings, is High Sunderland in Halifax parish, a house Brontë became familiar with when she taught at Law Hill.

X [d] ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial ad…

Writing & Reading

Note the pedantic, fussy tone, as in "atmospheric tumult"; in the next sentence the "indeed," and the last sentence whose first word is "Happily."

X [d] deeply set in the wall, and the corners defen…

Writing & Reading

The deeply-set windows, strong structure, and defensive belligerence mirror Heathcliff's hard strength and black eyes that withdraw under the brows.

X [h] griffins and shameless little boys,

The architectural ornamentation declares the house's Pre-Reformation construction. Griffins were mythological creatures often employed in English heraldry. They had the head and wings of an eagle, the body and hind quarters of a lion. Putti were small boys, often naked, representing cherubs or cupids. 

X [h] 1500

Places

The house has been in the Earnshaw family for three centuries and was built in the Tudor era, as Ponden House was. 

X [h] ‘Hareton Earnshaw.’

Writing & Reading

Earnshaw was the name of a servant at Law Hill, the school in Halifax where Emily Brontë taught for some six months in 1837. She drew eclectically on familiar details though not in a way that clarifies the novel.

More important is the first name, Hareton. As with Hindley Earnshaw, whom we'll soon meet, the first name evokes the animal world, with which Wuthering Heights is in close contact.  

X [w] penetralium.

The innermost, secret place; the inner sanctum. 

Lockwood's ham-fisted irony is intended to camouflage his own lack of understanding. 

Someone as imperceptive and pleased with himself as we learn Lockwood is will find that the Heights's strangeness can disturb his polished veneer.