First Page Friday: ‘Wuthering Heights’

This is probably my number one favourite novel of all time, and one of the few books that I’ve read more than once. It’s one that I’ve returned to again and again.

Written by Emily Bronte in 1847, ‘Wuthering Heights’ is a multi-generational tale of passion, heartbreak and regret. It tells the story of Cathy and Heathcliff, their destructive love for each other and their legacy to the next generation.

Yesterday afternoon set in misty and cold. I had half a mind to spend it by my study fire, instead of wading through heat and mud to Wuthering Heights.

‘Wuthering Heights’

Emily Bronte died tragically young, at just 30 years old, publishing only this one novel and a small collection of poetry.

On this first page, we meet the rather awkward character of Mr Lockwood, who has just returned from a visit to Heathcliff. Lockwood would like to think that he’s a misanthropist, but he is surprised to find that he’s met his match in Heathcliff. As the novel develops, we’re taken back to Heathcliff’s childhood, and uncover the reason for his antisocial misdemeanor.

He is a childhood friend of Cathy, but a difference in their social class leads her to reject Heathcliff in favour of the blond and bland Edgar Linton. Cathy regrets her decision and Heathcliff is driven half-mad by it.

Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!

‘Wuthering Heights’

Famously, this novel is set on the Yorkshire Moors, where Heathcliff and Cathy’s turbulent romance plays out. It’s wild, passionate and ultimately doomed, yet has the power to override everything, including death.

'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte

The First Page…

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! 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, 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: 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.

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