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Excerpts from Contemporary Reviews of Wuthering Heights

When Wuthering Heights was first published, the reviewers appreciated its power and Emily Brontë's exceptional talent. The following excerpts are typical:

  • "This is a work of great ability, and contains many chapters, to the production of which talent of no common order has contributed. At the same time, the materials which the author has placed at his own disposal have been but few. In the resources of his own mind, and in his own manifestly vivid perceptions of the peculiarities of character in short, in his knowledge of human nature–has he found them all.... It is not every day that so good a novel makes its appearance; and to give its contents in detail would be depriving many a reader of half the delight he would experience from the perusal of the work itself. To its pages we must refer him, then; there will he have ample opportunity of sympathising,–if he has one touch of nature that 'makes the whole world kin'–with the feelings of childhood, youth, manhood, and age, and all the emotions and passions which agitate the restless bosom of humanity. May he derive from it the delight we have ourselves experienced, and be equally grateful to its author for the genuine pleasure he has afforded him." (1847)
    : This excerpt is from a clipping, one of five reviews found in Emily's desk after her death. The source of the clipping has not been identified.

  • "There seems to us great power in this book but a purposeless power, which we feel a great desire to see turned to better account. We are quite confident that the writer of Wuthering Heights wants but the practised skill to make a great artist; perhaps, a great dramatic artist. His qualities are, at present, excessive; a far more promising fault, let it be remembered, than if they were deficient. He may tone down, whereas the weak and inefficient writer, however carefully he may write by rule and line, will never work up his productions to the point of beauty in art." (Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper, January 15, 1848)

  • "If this book be, as we apprehend it is, the first work of the author, we hope that he will produce a second,–giving himself more time in its composition than in the present case, developing his incidents more carefully, eschewing exaggeration and obscurity, and looking steadily at human life, under all its moods, for those pictures of the passions that he may desire to sketch for our public benefit." (Examiner, January 1848)

  • "Wuthering Heights is a strange, inartistic story. There are evidences in every chapter of a sort of rugged power–an unconscious strength–which the possessor seems never to think of turning to the best advantage. The general effect is inexpressibly painful. We know nothing in the whole range of our fictitious literature which presents such shocking pictures of the worst forms of humanity....
    "     ... The work of Currer Bell is a great performance; that of Ellis Bell is only a promise, but it is a colossal one." (Atlas, January 22, 1848)

    Brontë: Table of Contents

    Day 1

    Overview of Emily Brontë
    Publication of Wuthering Heights & Contemporary Critics
    Later Critical response to Wuthering Heights
    Film Versions of Wuthering Heights

    Day 2 Themes in Wuthering Heights
    The Narrator
    Day 3 Wuthering Heights as Socio-Economic Novel
    Psychological Interpretations of Wuthering Heights
    Religion, Metaphysics, Mysticism and Wuthering Heights
    The Gothic and Wuthering Heights
    Romanticism and Wuthering Heights
    Day 4

    "I am Heathcliff"
    Emily Bronte's Poetry


    March 4, 2009