So much share in 'Wuthering Heights' Branwell certainly had. He was a page of the book in which his sister studied; he served, as to an artist's temperament all things unconsciously serve, for the rough block of granite out of which the work is hewn, and, even while with difficulty enduring his vices, Emily undoubtedly learned from them those darker secrets of humanity necessary to her tragic incantation. They served her, those dreaded, passionate outbreaks of her brother's, even as the moors she loved, the fancy she courted, served her. Strange divining wand of genius, that conjures gold out of the miriest earth of common life; strange and terrible faculty laying up its stores and half-mechanically drawing its own profit out of our slightest or most miserable experiences, noting the gesture with which the mother hears of her son's ruin, catching the faint varying shadow that the white wind-shaken window-blind sends over the dead face by which we watch, drawing its life from a thousand deaths, humiliations, losses, with a hand in our sharpest joys and bitterest sorrows; this faculty was Emily Bronte's, and drew its profit from her brother's shame.
Here ended Branwell's share in producing 'Wuthering Heights.' But it is not well to ignore his claim to its entire authorship; for in the contemptuous silence of those who know their falsity, such slanders live and thrive like unclean insects under fallen stones. The vain boast of an unprincipled dreamer, half-mad with opium, half-drunk with gin, meaning nothing but the desire to be admired at any cost, has been given too much prominence by those lovers of sensation who prefer any startling lie to an old truth. Their ranks have been increased by the number of those who, ignorant of the true circumstances of Emily's life, found it impossible that an inexperienced girl could portray so much violence and such morbid passion. On the contrary, given these circumstances, none but a personally inexperienced girl could have treated the subject with the absolute and sexless purity which we find in 'Wuthering Heights.' How infecte, commonplace, and ignominious would Branwell, relying on his own recollections, have made the thwarted passion of a violent adventurer for a woman whose sickly husband both despise! That purity as of polished steel, as cold and harder than ice, that freedom in dealing with love and hate, as audacious as an infant's love for the bright flame of fire, could only belong to one whose intensity of genius was rivalled by the narrowness of her experience—an experience limited not only by circumstances, but by a nature impervious to any fierier sentiment than the natural love of home and her own people, beginning before remembrance and as unconscious as breathing.
The critic, having Emily's poems and the few remaining verses and letters of Branwell, cannot doubt the incapacity of that unnerved and garrulous prodigal to produce a work of art so sustained, passionate, and remote. For in no respect does the terse, fiery, imaginative style of Emily resemble the weak, disconnected, now vulgar, now pretty mannerisms of Branwell. There is, indeed, scant evidence that the writer of Emily's poems could produce 'Wuthering Heights;' but there is, at any rate, the impossibility that her work could be void of fire, concentration, and wild fancy. As great an impossibility as that vulgarity and tawdriness should not obtrude their ugly heads here and there from under Branwell's finest phrases. And since there is no single vulgar, trite, or Micawber-like effusion throughout 'Wuthering Heights;' and since Heathcliff's passion is never once treated in the despicable would-be worldly fashion in which Branwell describes his own sensations, and since at the time that 'Wuthering Heights' was written he was manifestly, and by his own confession, too physically prostrate for any literary effort, we may conclude that Branwell did not write the book.
On the other side we have not only the literary evidence of the similar qualities in 'Wuthering Heights' and in the poems of Ellis Bell, but the express and reiterated assurance of Charlotte Bronte, who never even dreamed, it would seem, that it could be supposed her brother wrote the book; the testimony of the publishers who made their treaty with Ellis Bell; of the servant Martha who saw her mistress writing it; and—most convincing of all to those who have appreciated the character of Emily Bronte—the impossibility that a spirit so upright and so careless of fame should commit a miserable fraud to obtain it.
Indeed, so baseless is this despicable rumour that to attack it seems absurd, only sometimes it is wise to risk an absurdity. Puny insects, left too long unhurt, may turn out dangerous enemies irretrievably damaging the fertile vine on which they fastened in the security of their minuteness.
To the three favouring circumstances of Emily's masterpiece, which we have already mentioned—the neighbourhood of her home, the character of her disposition, the quality of her experience—a fourth must be added, inferior in degree, and yet not absolutely unimportant. This is her acquaintance with German literature, and especially with Hoffmann's tales. In Emily Bronte's day, Romance and Germany had one significance; it is true that in London and in prose the German influence was dying out, but in distant Haworth, and in the writings of such poets as Emily would read, in Scott, in Southey, most of all in Coleridge, with whose poems her own have so distinct an affinity, it is still predominant. Of the materialistic influence of Italy, of atheist Shelley, Byron with his audacity and realism, sensuous Keats, she would have little experience in her remote parsonage. And, had she known them, they would probably have made no impression on a nature only susceptible to kindred influences. Thackeray, her sister's hero, might have never lived for all the trace of him we find in Emily's writings; never is there any single allusion in her work to the most eventful period of her life, that sight of the lusher fields and taller elms of middle England; that glimpse of hurrying vast London; that night on the river, the sun slipping behind the masts, doubly large through the mist and smoke in which the houses, bridges, ships are all spectral and dim. No hint of this, nor of the sea, nor of Belgium, with its quaint foreign life; nor yet of that French style and method so carefully impressed upon her by Monsieur Heger, and which so decidedly moulded her elder sister's art. But in the midst of her business at Haworth we catch a glimpse of her reading her German book at night, as she sits on the hearthrug with her arm round Keeper's neck; glancing at it in the kitchen, where she is making bread, with the volume of her choice propped up before her; and by the style of the novel jotted down in the rough, almost simultaneously with her reading, we know that to her the study of German was not—like French and music—the mere necessary acquirement of a governess, but an influence that entered her mind and helped to shape the fashion of her thoughts.
So much preface is necessary to explain, not the genius of Emily Bronte, but the conditions of that genius—there is no use saying more. The aim of my writing has been missed if the circumstances of her career are not present in the mind of my reader. It is too late at this point to do more than enumerate them, and briefly point to their significance. Such criticism, in face of the living work, is all too much like glancing in a green and beautiful country at a map, from which one may, indeed, ascertain the roads that lead to it and away, and the size of the place in relation to surrounding districts, but which can give no recognisable likeness of the scene which lies all round us, with its fresh life forgotten and its beauty disregarded. Therefore let us make an end of theory and turn to the book on which our heroine's fame is stationed, fronting eternity. It may be that in unravelling its story and noticing the manner in which its facts of character and circumstance impressed her mind, we may, for a moment, be admitted to a more thorough and clearer insight into its working than we could earn by the completest study of external evidence, the most earnest and sympathising criticism.
[Footnote 26: 'Memoir.' Charlotte Bronte.]
[Footnote 27: 'Emily Bronte.' T. Wemyss Reid.]
'WUTHERING HEIGHTS:' THE STORY.
On the summit of Haworth Hill, beyond the street, stands a grey stone house, which is shown as the original of 'Wuthering Heights.' A few scant and wind-baffled ash-trees grow in front, the moors rise at the back stretching away for miles. It is a house of some pretensions, once the parsonage of Grimshaw, that powerful Wesleyan preacher who, whip in hand, used to visit the "Black Bull" on Sunday morning and lash the merrymakers into chapel to listen to his sermon. Somewhat fallen from its former pretensions, it is a farmhouse now, with much such an oak-lined and stone-floored house-place as is described in 'Wuthering Heights.' Over the door there is, moreover, a piece of carving: H. E. 1659, a close enough resemblance to "Hareton Earnshaw, 1500"—but the "wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys" are nowhere to be found. Neither do we notice "the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house and a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way as if craving alms of the sun," and, to my thinking, this fine old farm of Sowdens is far too near the mills of Haworth to represent the God-forsaken, lonely house of Emily's fancy. Having seen the place, as in duty bound, one returns more than ever impressed by the fact that while every individual and every site in Charlotte's novels can be clearly identified, Emily's imagination and her power of drawing conclusions are alone responsible for the character of her creations. This is not saying that she had no data to go upon. Had she not seen Sowdens, and many more such houses, she would never have invented 'Wuthering Heights;' the story and passion of Branwell set on her fancy to imagine the somewhat similar story and passion of Heathcliff. But in the process of her work, the nature of her creations completely overmastered the facts and memories which had induced her to begin. These were but the handful of dust which she took to make her man; and the qualities and defects of her masterpiece are both largely accounted for when we remember that her creation of character was quite unmodified by any attempt at portraiture.
Therefore in 'Wuthering Heights' it is with a story, a fancy picture, that we have to deal; in drawing and proportion not unnatural, but certainly not painted after nature. To quote her sister's beautiful comments—
"'Wuthering Heights' was hewn in a wild workshop, with simple tools, out of homely materials. The statuary found a granite block on a solitary moor; gazing thereon he saw how from the crag might be elicited a head, savage, swart, sinister; a form moulded with at least one element of grandeur—power. He wrought with a rude chisel, and from no model but the vision of his meditations. With time and labour the crag took human shape; and there it stands colossal, dark and frowning, half-statue, half-rock; in the former sense, terrible and goblin-like; in the latter, almost beautiful, for its colouring is of mellow grey, and moorland moss clothes it; and heath, with its blooming bells and balmy fragrance, grows faithfully close to the giant's foot."
Of the rude chisel we find plentiful traces in the first few chapters of the book. The management of the narrative is singularly clumsy, introduced by a Mr. Lockwood—a stranger to the North, an imaginary misanthropist, who has taken a grange on the moor to be out of the way of the world—and afterwards continued to him by his housekeeper to amuse the long leisures of a winter illness. But, passing over this initial awkwardness of conception, we find a manner equal to the matter and somewhat resent Charlotte's eloquent comparison; for there are touches, fine and delicate, that only a practised hand may dare to give, and there is feeling in the book, not only "terrible and goblin-like," but patient and constant, sprightly and tender, consuming and passionate. We find, getting over the inexperienced beginning, that the style of the work is noble and accomplished, and that—far from being a half-hewn and casual fancy, a head surmounting a trunk of stone—its plan is thought out with scientific exactness, no line blurred, no clue forgotten, the work of an intense and poetic temperament whose vision is too vivid to be incongruous.
The first four chapters of 'Wuthering Heights' are merely introductory. They relate Mr. Lockwood's visit there, his surprise at the rudeness of the place in contrast with the foreign air and look of breeding that distinguished Mr. Heathcliff and his beautiful daughter-in-law. He also noticed the profound moroseness and ill-temper of everybody in the house. Overtaken by a snowstorm, he was, however, constrained to sleep there and was conducted by the housekeeper to an old chamber, long unused, where (since at first he could not sleep) he amused himself by looking over a few mildewed books piled on one corner of the window-ledge. They and the ledge were scrawled all over with writing, Catharine Earnshaw, sometimes varied to Catharine Heathcliff, and again to Catharine Linton. Nothing save these three names was written on the ledge, but the books were covered in every fly-leaf and margin with a pen-and-ink commentary, a sort of diary, as it proved, scrawled in a childish hand. Mr. Lockwood spent the first portion of the night in deciphering this faded record; a string of childish mishaps and deficiencies dated a quarter of a century ago. Evidently this Catharine Earnshaw must have been one of Heathcliff's kin, for he figured in the narrative as her fellow-scapegrace, and the favourite scapegoat of her elder brother's wrath. After some time Mr. Lockwood fell asleep, to be troubled by harassing dreams, in one of which he fancied that this childish Catharine Earnshaw, or rather her spirit, was knocking and scratching at the fir-scraped window-pane, begging to be let in. Overcome with the intense horror of nightmare, he screamed aloud in his sleep. Waking suddenly up he found to his confusion that his yell had been heard, for Heathcliff appeared, exceedingly angry that any one had been allowed to sleep in the oak-closeted room.
"If the little fiend had got in at the window she probably would have strangled me," I returned... "Catharine Linton or Earnshaw, or however she was called—she must have been a changeling, wicked little soul! She told me she had been walking the earth these twenty years; a just punishment for her mortal transgressions, I've no doubt.
"Scarcely were these words uttered when I recollected the association of Heathcliff's with Catharine's name in the books.... I blushed at my inconsideration—but, without showing further consciousness of the offence, I hastened to add, 'The truth is, sir, I passed the first part of the night in—.' Here I stopped afresh—I was about to say 'perusing those old volumes,' then it would have revealed my knowledge of their written as well as their printed contents; so I went on, 'in spelling over the name scratched on that window-ledge: a monotonous occupation calculated to set me asleep, like counting, or—.' 'What can you mean by talking in this way to me!' thundered Heathcliff with savage vehemence. 'How—how dare you, under my roof? God! he's mad to speak so!' And he struck his forehead with rage.
"I did not know whether to resent this language or pursue my explanation; but he seemed so powerfully affected that I took pity and proceeded with my dreams.... Heathcliff gradually fell back into the shelter of the bed, as I spoke; finally sitting down almost concealed behind it. I guessed, however, by his irregular and intercepted breathing, that he struggled to vanquish an excess of violent emotion. Not liking to show him that I had heard the conflict, I continued my toilette rather noisily ... and soliloquised on the length of the night. 'Not three o'clock yet! I could have taken oath it had been six. Time stagnates here: we must surely have retired to rest at eight!'
"'Always at nine in winter, and rise at four,' said my host, suppressing a groan; and, as I fancied, by the motion of his arm's shadow, dashing a tear from his eyes. 'Mr. Lockwood,' he added, 'you may go into my room: you'll only be in the way, coming downstairs so early.... Take the candle and go where you please. I shall join you directly. Keep out of the yard, though, the dogs are unchained; and the house—Juno mounts sentinel there, and—nay, you can only ramble about the steps and passages. But, away with you! I'll come in two minutes.'
"I obeyed, so far as to quit the chamber; when, ignorant where the narrow lobbies led, I stood still, and was witness, involuntarily, to a piece of superstition on the part of my landlord which belied oddly his apparent sense. He got on to the bed, and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears. 'Come in! come in!' he sobbed, 'Cathy, do come! Oh, my heart's darling! hear me this time, Catharine, at last!' The spectre showed a spectre's ordinary caprice: it gave no sign of being; but the snow and wind whirled wildly through, even reaching my station, and blowing out the light.
"There was such anguish in the gush of grief that accompanied this raving, that my compassion made me overlook its folly, and I drew off, half angry to have listened at all, and vexed at having related my ridiculous nightmare, since it produced that agony; though why was beyond my comprehension."
Mr. Lockwood got no clue to the mystery at 'Wuthering Heights'; and later on returned to Thrushcross Grange, to fall ill of a lingering fever. During his recovery he heard the history of his landlord, from his housekeeper, who had been formerly an occupant of 'Wuthering Heights,' and after that, for many years, the chief retainer at Thrushcross Grange, where young Mrs. Heathcliff used to live when she still was Catharine Linton.
"Do you know anything of Mr. Heathcliff's story?" said Mr. Lockwood to his housekeeper, Nelly Dean.
"It's a cuckoo's, sir," she answered.
It is at this point that the history of 'Wuthering Heights' commences, that violent and bitter history of the "little dark thing harboured by a good man to his bane," carried over the threshold, as Christabel lifted Geraldine, out of pity for the weakness which, having grown strong, shall crush the hand that helped it; carried over the threshold, as evil spirits are carried, powerless to enter of themselves, and yet no evil demon, only a human soul lost and blackened by tyranny, injustice and congenital ruin. The story of 'Wuthering Heights,' is the story of Heathcliff. It begins with the sudden journey of the old squire, Mr. Earnshaw, to Liverpool one summer morning at the beginning of harvest. He had asked the children each to choose a present, "only let it be little, for I shall walk there and back, sixty miles each way:" and the son Hindley, a proud, high-spirited lad of fourteen, had chosen a fiddle; six-year-old Cathy, a whip, for she could ride any horse in the stable; and Nelly Dean, their humble playfellow and runner of errands, had been promised a pocketful of apples and pears. It was the third night since Mr. Earnshaw's departure, and the children, sleepy and tired, had begged their mother to let them sit up a little longer—yet a little longer—to welcome their father, and see their new presents. At last—just about eleven o'clock—Mr. Earnshaw came back, laughing and groaning over his fatigue; and opening his greatcoat, which he held bundled up in his arms, he cried:
"'See here, wife! I was never so beaten with anything in my life: but you must e'en take it as a gift of God; though it's as dark almost as if it came from the devil.'
"We crowded round, and over Miss Cathy's head I had a peep at a dirty, ragged, black-haired child; big enough both to walk and talk; indeed, its face looked older than Catharine's; yet, when it was set on its feet, it only stared round and repeated over and over again some gibberish that nobody could understand. I was frightened, and Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling it out of doors: she did fly up, asking how he could fashion to bring that gipsy brat into the house when they had their own bairns to feed and fend for? What he meant to do with it, and whether he were mad? The master tried to explain the matter; but he was really half dead with fatigue, and all that I could make out, amongst her scolding, was a tale of his seeing it starving and houseless, and as good as dumb, in the streets of Liverpool, where he picked it up and inquired for its owner. Not a soul knew to whom it belonged, he said; and his money and time being both limited, he thought it better to take it home with him at once, than run into vain expenses there; because he was determined he would not leave it as he found it."
So the child entered 'Wuthering Heights,' a cause of dissension from the first. Mrs. Earnshaw grumbled herself calm; the children went to bed crying, for the fiddle had been broken and the whip lost in carrying the little stranger for so many miles. But Mr. Earnshaw was determined to have his protege respected; he cuffed saucy little Cathy for making faces at the new comer, and turned Nelly Dean out of the house for having set him to sleep on the stairs because the children would not have him in their bed. And when she ventured to return some days afterwards, she found the child adopted into the family, and called by the name of a son who had died in childhood—Heathcliff.
Nevertheless, he had no enviable position. Cathy, indeed, was very thick with him, and the master had taken to him strangely, believing every word he said, "for that matter he said precious little, and generally the truth," but Mrs. Earnshaw disliked the little interloper and never interfered in his behalf when Hindley, who hated him, thrashed and struck the sullen, patient child, who never complained, but bore all his bruises in silence. This endurance made old Earnshaw furious when he discovered the persecutions to which this mere baby was subjected; the child soon discovered it to be a most efficient instrument of vengeance.
"I remember Mr. Earnshaw once bought a couple of colts at the parish fair, and gave the lads each one. Heathcliff took the handsomest, but it soon fell lame, and when he discovered it, he said to Hindley: 'You must exchange horses with me, I don't like mine; and if you don't I shall tell your father of the three thrashings you've given me this week, and show him my arm which is black to the shoulder.' Hindley put out his tongue, and cuffed him over the ears. 'You'd better do it at once,' he persisted, escaping to the porch (they were in the stable). 'You'll have to; and if I speak of these blows you'll get them back with interest.' 'Off, dog!' cried Hindley, threatening him with an iron weight, used for weighing potatoes and hay. 'Throw it,' he replied, standing still, 'and then I'll tell how you boasted you would turn me out of doors as soon as he died, and see whether he will not turn you out directly. Hindley threw it, hitting him on the breast, and down he fell, but staggered up immediately, breathless and white; and had not I prevented it, he would have gone just so to the master and got full revenge by letting his condition plead for him, intimating who had caused it. 'Take my colt, gipsy, then,' said young Earnshaw. 'And I pray that he may break your neck; take him and be damned, you beggarly interloper! and wheedle my father out of all he has: only afterwards show him what you are, imp of Satan. And take that; I hope he'll kick out your brains!'
"Heathcliff had gone to loose the beast and shift it to his own stall; he was passing behind it when Hindley finished his speech by knocking him under its feet, and, without stopping to examine whether his hopes were fulfilled, ran away as fast as he could. I was surprised to witness how coolly the child gathered himself up and went on with his intention; exchanging saddles and all, and then sitting down on a bundle of hay to overcome the qualm which the violent blow occasioned, before he entered the house. I persuaded him easily to let me lay the blame of his bruises on the horse: he heeded little what tale was told so that he had what he wanted. He complained so seldom, indeed, of such things as these that I really thought him not vindictive; I was deceived completely, as you will hear."
So the division grew. This malignant, uncomplaining child, with foreign skin and Eastern soul, could only breed discord in that Yorkshire home. He could not understand what was honourable by instinct to an English mind. He was quick to take an advantage, long-suffering, sly, nursing his revenge in silence like a vindictive slave, until at last the moment of retribution should be his; sufficiently truthful and brave to have grown noble in another atmosphere, but with a ready bent to underhand and brooding vengeance. Insensible, it seemed, to gratitude. Proud with the unreasoning pride of an Oriental; cruel, and violently passionate. One soft and tender speck there was in this dark and sullen heart; it was an exceedingly great and forbearing love for the sweet, saucy, naughty Catharine.
But this one affection only served to augment the mischief that he wrought. He who had estranged son from father, husband from wife, severed brother from sister as completely; for Hindley hated the swarthy child who was Cathy's favourite companion. When Mrs. Earnshaw died, two years after Heathcliff's advent, Hindley had learned to regard his father as an oppressor rather than a friend, and Heathcliff as an intolerable usurper. So, from the very beginning, he bred bad feeling in the house.
In the course of time Mr. Earnshaw began to fail. His strength suddenly left him, and he grew half childish, irritable, and extremely jealous of his authority. He considered any slight to Heathcliff as a slight to his own discretion; so that, in the master's presence, the child was deferred to and courted from respect for that master's weakness, while, behind his back, the old wrongs, the old hatred, showed themselves unquenched. And so the child grew up bitter and distrustful. Matters got a little better for a while, when the untameable Hindley was sent to college; yet still there was disturbance and disquiet, for Mr. Earnshaw did not love his daughter Catharine, and his heart was yet further embittered by the grumbling and discontent of old Joseph the servant; the wearisomest "self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to take the promises to himself and fling the curses to his neighbours." But Catharine, though slighted for Heathcliff, and nearly always in trouble on his account, was much too fond of him to be jealous. "The greatest punishment we could invent for her was to keep her separate from Heathcliff.... Certainly she had ways with her such as I never saw a child take up before; and she put all of us past our patience fifty times and oftener in a day; from the hour she came downstairs till the hour she went to bed, we hadn't a minute's security that she wouldn't be in mischief. Her spirits were always at high-watermark, her tongue always going—singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same. A wild, wicked slip she was; but she had the bonniest eye, the sweetest smile, and the lightest foot in the parish. And after all, I believe, she meant no harm; for, when once she made you cry in good earnest, it seldom happened that she wouldn't keep your company and oblige you to be quiet that you might comfort her. In play she liked exceedingly to act the little mistress, using her hands freely and commanding her companions."
Suddenly this pretty, mischievous sprite was left fatherless; Mr. Earnshaw died quietly, sitting in his chair by the fireside one October evening. Mr. Hindley, now a young man of twenty, came home to the funeral, to the great astonishment of the household bringing a wife with him.
A rush of a lass, spare and bright-eyed, with a changing, hectic colour, hysterical, and full of fancies, fickle as the winds, now flighty and full of praise and laughter, now peevish and languishing. For the rest, the very idol of her husband's heart. A word from her, a passing phrase of dislike for Heathcliff, was enough to revive all young Earnshaw's former hatred of the boy. Heathcliff was turned out of their society, no longer allowed to share Cathy's lessons, degraded to the position of an ordinary farm-servant. At first Heathcliff did not mind. Cathy taught him what she learned, and played or worked with him in the fields. Cathy ran wild with him, and had a share in all his scrapes; they both bade fair to grow up regular little savages, while Hindley Earnshaw kissed and fondled his young wife utterly heedless of their fate.
An adventure suddenly changed the course of their lives. One Sunday evening Cathy and Heathcliff ran down to Thrushcross Grange to peep through the windows and see how the little Lintons spent their Sundays. They looked in, and saw Isabella at one end of the, to them, splendid drawing-room, and Edgar at the other, both in floods of tears, peevishly quarrelling. So elate were the two little savages from Wuthering Heights at this proof of their neighbours' inferiority, that they burst into peals of laughter. The little Lintons were terrified, and, to frighten them still more, Cathy and Heathcliff made a variety of frightful noises; they succeeded in terrifying not only the children but their silly parents, who imagined the yells to come from a gang of burglars, determined on robbing the house. They let the dogs loose, in this belief, and the bulldog seized Cathy's bare little ankle, for she had lost her shoes in the bog. While Heathcliff was trying to throttle off the brute, the man-servant came up, and, taking both the children prisoner, conveyed them into the lighted hall. There, to the humiliation and surprise of the Lintons, the lame little vagrant was discovered to be Miss Earnshaw, and her fellow-misdemeanant, "that strange acquisition my late neighbour made in his journey to Liverpool—a little Lascar, or an American or Spanish castaway."
Cathy stayed five weeks at Thrushcross Grange, by which time her ankle was quite well, and her manners much improved. Young Mrs. Earnshaw had tried her best, during this visit, to endeavour by a judicious mixture of fine clothes and flattery to raise the standard of Cathy's self-respect. She went home, then, a beautiful and finely-dressed young lady, to find Heathcliff in equal measure deteriorated; the mere farm-servant, whose clothes were soiled with three months' service in mire and dust, with unkempt hair and grimy face and hands.
"'Heathcliff, you may come forward,' cried Mr. Hindley, enjoying his discomfiture, and gratified to see what a forbidding young blackguard he would be compelled to present himself. 'You may come and wish Miss Catharine welcome, like the other servants.' Cathy, catching a glimpse of her friend in his concealment, flew to embrace him, she bestowed seven or eight kisses on his cheek within the second, and then stopped, and, drawing back, burst into a laugh, exclaiming: 'Why, how very black and cross you look! and how—how funny and grim! But that's because I'm used to Edgar and Isabella Linton.'
"'Well, Heathcliff, have you forgotten me? Shake hands, Heathcliff,' said Mr. Earnshaw, condescendingly, 'once in a way, that is permitted.'
"'I shall not,' replied the boy, finding his tongue at last. 'I shall not stand to be laughed at. I shall not bear it.'"
From this time Catharine's friendship with Heathcliff was chequered by intermittent jealousy on his side and intermittent disgust upon hers; and for this evil turn, far more than for any coarser brutality, Heathcliff longed for revenge on Hindley Earnshaw. Meanwhile Edgar Linton, greatly smitten with the beautiful Catharine, went from time to time to visit at Wuthering Heights. He would have gone far oftener, but that he had a terror of Hindley Earnshaw's reputation, and shrank from encountering him.
For this fine young Oxford gentleman, this proud young husband, was sinking into worse excesses than any of his wild Earnshaw ancestors. A defiant sorrow had driven him to desperation. In the summer following Catharine's visit to Thrushcross Grange, his only son and heir had been born. An occasion of great rejoicings, suddenly dashed by the discovery that his wife, his idol, was fast sinking in consumption. Hindley refused to believe it, and his wife kept her flighty spirits till the end; but one night, while leaning on his shoulder, a fit of coughing took her—a very slight one. She put her two hands about his neck, her face changed, and she was dead.
Hindley grew desperate, and gave himself over to wild companions, to excesses of dissipation, and tyranny. "His treatment of Heathcliff was enough to make a fiend of a saint." Heathcliff bore it with sullen patience, as he had borne the blows and kicks of his childhood, turning them into a lever for extorting advantages; the aches and wants of his body were redeemed by a fierce joy at heart, for in this degradation of Hindley Earnshaw he recognised the instrument of his own revenge.
Time went on, ever making a sharper difference between this gipsy hind and his beautiful young mistress; time went on, leaving the two fast friends enough, but leaving also in the heart of Heathcliff a passionate rancour against the man who, of set purpose, had made him unworthy of Catharine's hand, and of the other man on whom it was to be bestowed.
For Edgar Linton was infatuated with the naughty, tricksy young beauty of Wuthering Heights. Her violent temper did not frighten him, although his own character was singularly sweet, placid and feeble; her compromising friendship with such a mere boor as young Heathcliff was only a trifling annoyance easily to be excused. And when his own father and mother died of a fever caught in nursing her he did not love her less for the sorrow she brought. A fever she had wilfully taken in despair, and a sudden sickness of life. One evening pretty Cathy came into the kitchen to tell Nelly Dean that she had engaged herself to marry Edgar Linton. Heathcliff, unseen, was seated on the other side the settle, on a bench by the wall, quite hidden from those at the fireside.
Cathy was very elated, but not at all happy. Edgar was rich, handsome, young, gentle, passionately in love with her; still she was miserable. Nelly Dean, who was nursing the baby Hareton by the fire, finally grew out of patience with her whimsical discontent.
"'Your brother will be pleased,'" she said; "'the old lady and gentleman will not object, I think; you will escape from a disorderly, comfortless home into a wealthy, respectable one; and you love Edgar, and Edgar loves you. All seems smooth and easy; where is the obstacle?'
"'Here! and here!' replied Catharine, striking one hand on her forehead and the other on her breast. 'In whichever place the soul lives. In my soul and in my heart I'm convinced I'm wrong.'
"'That's very strange. I cannot make it out.'
"'It's my secret. But if you will not mock at me, I'll explain it. I can't do it distinctly; but I'll give you a feeling of how I feel.'
"'She seated herself by me again; her countenance grew sadder and graver, and her clasped hands trembled.
"'Nelly, do you never dream queer dreams?' she said, suddenly, after some minutes' reflection.
"'Yes, now and then,' I answered.
"'And so do I. I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they've gone through and through me like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. And this is one: I'm going to tell it, but take care not to smile at any part of it.'
"'Oh, don't, Miss Catharine,' I cried. 'We're dismal enough without conjuring up ghosts and visions to perplex us....'
"She was vexed, but she did not proceed. Apparently taking up another subject, she recommenced in a short time.
"'If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable.'
"'Because you are not fit to go there,' I answered; 'all sinners would be miserable in heaven.'
"'But it is not that. I dreamt once that I was there.'
"'I tell you, I won't hearken to your dreams, Miss Catharine. I'll go to bed,' I interrupted again.
"She laughed, and held me down, for I made a motion to leave my chair.
"'This is nothing,' cried she; 'I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be any home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights, where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain my secret as well as the other. I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and, if the wicked man in there hadn't brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now, so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.'
"Ere this speech ended I became sensible of Heathcliff's presence. Having noticed a slight movement, I turned my head, and saw him rise from the bench and steal out noiselessly. He had listened till he had heard Catharine say that it would degrade her to marry him, and then he stayed to hear no further. My companion, sitting on the ground, was prevented by the back of the settle from remarking his presence or departure; but I started, and bade her hush.
"'Why?' she asked, gazing nervously round.
"'Joseph is here,' I answered, catching opportunely the roll of his cart-wheels up the road, 'and Heathcliff will be coming in with him.... Unfortunate creature, as soon as you become Mrs. Linton he loses friend and love and all. Have you considered how you'll bear the separation, and how he'll bear to be quite deserted in the world? Because, Miss Catharine....'
"'He quite deserted! we separated!' she exclaimed, with an accent of indignation. 'Who is to separate us, pray! They'll meet the fate of Milo. Not as long as I live, Ellen; for no mortal creature. Every Linton on the face of the earth might melt into nothing, before I could consent to forsake Heathcliff.... My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning. My great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath; a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff. He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don't talk of our separation again; it is impracticable; and——'
"She paused, and hid her face in the folds of my gown; but I jerked it forcibly away. I was out of patience with her folly."
Poor Cathy! beautiful, haughty, and capricious; who should guide and counsel her? her besotted, drunken brother? the servant who did not love her and was impatient of her weathercock veerings? No. And Heathcliff, who, brutalised and rude as he was, at least did love and understand her? Heathcliff, who had walked out of the house, her rejection burning in his ears, not to enter it till he was fitted to exact both love and vengeance. He did not come back that night, though the thunder rattled and the rain streamed over Wuthering Heights; though Cathy, shawl-less in the wind and wet, stood calling him through the violent storms that drowned and baffled her cries.
All night she would not leave the hearth, but lay on the settle sobbing and moaning, all soaked as she was, with her hands on her face and her face to the wall. A strange augury for her marriage, these first dreams of her affianced love—not dreams, indeed, but delirium; for the next morning she was burning and tossing in fever, near to death's door as it seemed.
But she won through, and Edgar's parents carried her home to nurse. As we know, they took the infection and died within a few days of each other. Nor was this the only ravage that the fever made. Catharine, always hasty and fitful in temper, was henceforth subject at rare intervals to violent and furious rages, which threatened her life and reason by their extremity. The doctor said she ought not to be crossed; she ought to have her own way, and it was nothing less than murder in her eyes for any one to presume to stand up and contradict her. But the strained temper, the spoiled, authoritative ways, the saucy caprices of his bride, were no blemishes in Edgar Linton's eyes. "He was infatuated, and believed himself the happiest man alive on the day he led her to Gimmerton Chapel three years subsequent to his father's death."
Despite so many gloomy auguries the marriage was a happy one at first. Catharine was petted and humoured by every one, with Edgar for a perpetual worshipper; his pretty, weak-natured sister Isabella as an admiring companion; and for the necessary spectator of her happiness, Nelly Dean, who had been induced to quit her nursling at Wuthering Heights.
Suddenly Heathcliff returned, not the old Heathcliff, but a far more dangerous enemy, a tall, athletic, well-formed man, intelligent, and severe. "A half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes, full of black fire, but it was subdued; and his manner was even dignified, though too stern for grace." A formidable rival for boyish Edgar Linton, with his only son's petulance, constitutional timidity, and weak health. Cathy, though she was really attached to her husband, gave him cruel pain by her undisguised and childish delight at Heathcliff's return; he had a presentiment that evil would come of the old friendship thus revived, and would willingly have forbidden Heathcliff the house; but Edgar, so anxious lest any cross be given to his wife, with a double reason then for tenderly guarding her health, could not inflict a serious sorrow upon her with only a baseless jealousy for its excuse. Thus, Heathcliff became intimate at Thrushcross Grange, the second house to which he was made welcome, the second hearth he meant to ruin. At this time he was lodging at Wuthering Heights. On his return he had first intended, he told Catharine, "just to have one glimpse of your face, a stare of surprise, perhaps, and pretended pleasure; afterwards settle my score with Hindley; and then prevent the law by doing execution on myself."
Catharine's welcome changed this plan; her brother was safe from Heathcliff's violence; but not from his hate. The score was being settled in a different fashion. Hindley—who was eager to get money for his gambling and who had drunk his wits away—was only too glad to take Heathcliff as lodger, boon-companion, and fellow card-player at once. And Heathcliff was content to wait and take his revenge sip by sip, encouraging his old oppressor in drink and gaming, watching him lose acre after acre of his land, knowing that sooner or later Earnshaw would lose everything, and he, Heathcliff, be master of Wuthering Heights, with Hindley's son for his servant. Revenge is sweet. Meanwhile, Wuthering Heights was a handy lodging, at walking distance from the Grange.
But soon his visits were cut off. Isabella Linton—a charming girl of eighteen with an espiegle face and a thin sweetness of disposition that could easily turn sour—Isabella Linton fell in love with Heathcliff. To do him justice he had never dreamed of marrying her, until one day Catharine, in a fit of passion, revealed the poor girl's secret. Heathcliff pretended not to believe her, but Isabel was her brother's heir, and to marry her, inherit Edgar's money, and ill-use his sister, would, indeed, be a fair revenge on Catharine's husband.
At first it was merely as an artistically pleasurable idea, a castle in the air, to be dreamed about, not built, that this scheme suggested itself to Heathcliff. But one day, when he had been detected in an experimental courting of Isabel, Edgar Linton, glad of an excuse, turned him out of doors. Then, in a paroxysm of hatred, never-satisfied revenge, and baffled passion, Heathcliff struck with the poisoned weapon ready to his hand. He persuaded Isabel to run away with him—no difficult task—and they eloped together one night to be married.
Isabella—poor, weak, romantic, sprightly Isabel—was not missed at first; for very terrible trouble had fallen upon the Grange. Catharine, in a paroxysm of rage at the dismissal of Heathcliff, quarrelled violently with Edgar, and shut herself up in her own room. For three days and nights she remained there, eating nothing; Edgar, secluded in his study, expecting every moment that she would come down and ask his forgiveness; Nelly Dean, who alone knew of her determined starving, resolved to say nothing about it, and conquer, once for all, the haughty and passionate spirit which possessed her beautiful young mistress.
So three days went by. Catharine still refused all her food, and unsympathetic Ellen still resolved to let her starve, if she chose, without a remonstrance. On the third day Catharine unbarred her door and asked for food; and now Ellen Dean was too frightened to exult. Her mistress was wasted, haggard, wild, as if by months of illness; the too-presumptuous servant remembered the doctor's warning, and dreaded her master's anger, when he should discover Catharine's real condition.
On this servant's obstinate cold-heartedness rests the crisis of 'Wuthering Heights;' had Ellen Dean, at the first, attempted to console the violent, childish Catharine, had she acquainted Edgar of the real weakness underneath her pride, Catharine would have had no fatal illness and left no motherless child; and had moping Isabel, instead of being left to weep alone about the park and garden, been conducted to her sister's room and shown a real sickness to nurse, a real misery to mend, she would not have gone away with Heathcliff, and wedded herself to sorrow, out of a fanciful love in idleness. It is characteristic of Emily Bronte's genius that she should choose so very simple and homely a means for the production of most terrible results.
A fit she had had alone and untended during those three days of isolated starvation had unsettled Catharine's reason. The gradual coming-on of her delirium is given with a masterly pathos that Webster need not have made more strong, nor Fletcher more lovely and appealing:—
"A minute previously she was violent; now, supported on one arm and not noticing my refusal to obey her, she seemed to find childish diversion in pulling the feathers from the rents she had just made in the pillows and ranging them on the sheet according to their different species: her mind had strayed to other associations.
"'That's a turkey's,' she murmured to herself, 'and this is a wild duck's, and this is a pigeon's. Ah, they put pigeons' feathers in the pillows—no wonder I couldn't die! Let me take care to throw it on the floor when I lie down. And here is a moorcock's; and this—I should know it among a thousand—it's a lapwing's. Bonny bird; wheeling over our heads in the middle of the moor. It wanted to get to its nest, for the clouds had touched the swells, and it felt rain coming. This feather was picked up from the heath, the bird was not shot: we saw its nest in the winter, full of little skeletons. Heathcliff set a trap over it and the old ones dare not come. I made him promise he'd never shoot a lapwing after that, and he didn't. Yes, here are more! Did he shoot my lapwings, Nelly? Are they red, any of them? Let me look.'
"'Give over with that baby-work!' I interrupted, dragging the pillow away, and turning the holes towards the mattress, for she was removing its contents by handfuls. 'Lie down and shut your eyes: you're wandering. There's a mess! The down is flying about like snow.'
"I went here and there collecting it.
"'I see in you, Nelly,' she continued, dreamily, 'an aged woman: you have grey hair and bent shoulders. This bed is the fairy cave under Peniston Crag, and you are gathering elf-bolts to hurt our heifers; pretending while I am near that they are only locks of wool. That's what you'll come to fifty years hence: I know you are not so now. I'm not wandering; you're mistaken, or else I should believe you really were that withered hag, and I should think I was under Peniston Crag; and I'm conscious it's night, and there are two candles on the table making the black press shine like jet.'
"'The black press? Where is that?' I asked. 'You are talking in your sleep.'
"'It's against the wall as it always is,' she replied. 'It does appear odd. I see a face in it!'
"'There's no press in the room and never was,' said I, resuming my seat, and looping up the curtain that I might watch her.
"'Don't you see that face?' she inquired, gazing earnestly at the mirror.
"And say what I could I was incapable of making her comprehend it to be her own; so I rose and covered it with a shawl.
"'It's behind there still!' she pursued, anxiously, 'and it stirred. Who is it? I hope it will not come out when you are gone. Oh, Nelly! the room is haunted! I'm afraid of being alone.'
"I took her hand in mine, and bid her be composed, for a succession of shudders convulsed her frame, and she would keep straining her gaze towards the glass.
"'There's nobody here!' I insisted. 'It was yourself Mrs. Linton: you knew it a while since.'
"'Myself!' she gasped, 'and the clock is striking twelve. It's true then! that's dreadful.'
"Her fingers clutched the clothes, and gathered them over her eyes."
This scene was the beginning of a long and fearful brain-fever, from which, owing to her husband's devoted and ceaseless care, Catharine recovered her life, but barely her reason. That hung in the balance, a touch might settle it on the side of health or of madness. Not until the beginning of this fever was Isabella's flight discovered. Her brother was too concerned with his wife's illness to feel as heart-broken as Heathcliff hoped. He was not violent against his sister, nor even angry; only, with the mild steady persistence of his nature, he refused to hold any communication with Heathcliff's wife. But when, at the beginning of Catharine's recovery, Ellen Dean received a letter from Isabella, declaring the extreme wretchedness of her life at Wuthering Heights, where Heathcliff was master now, Edgar Linton willingly accorded the servant permission to go and see his sister.
Arrived at Wuthering Heights, she found that once plentiful homestead sorely ruined and deteriorated by years of thriftless dissipation; and Isabella Linton, already metamorphosed into a wan and listless slattern, broken-spirited and pale. As a pleasant means of entertaining his wife and her old servant, Heathcliff discoursed on his love for Catharine and on his conviction that she could not really care for Edgar Linton.
"'Catharine has a heart as deep as I have: the sea could be as readily contained in that horse-trough, as her whole affection monopolised by him. Tush! He is scarcely a degree dearer to her than her dog or her horse. It is not in him to be loved like me. How can she love in him what he has not?'"
Nelly Dean, unhindered by the sight of Isabella's misery, or by the memory of the wrongs her master already suffered from this estimable neighbour, was finally cajoled into taking a letter from him to the frail half-dying Catharine, appointing an interview. For Heathcliff persisted that he had no wish to make a disturbance, or to exasperate Mr. Linton, but merely to see his old playfellow again, to learn from her own lips how she was, and whether in anything he could serve her.
The letter was taken and given; the meeting came about one Sunday when all the household save Ellen Dean were at church. Catharine, pale, apathetic, but more than ever beautiful in her mazed weakness of mind and body; Heathcliff, violent in despair, seeing death in her face, alternately upbraiding her fiercely for causing him so much misery, and tenderly caressing the altered, dying face. Never was so strange a love scene. It is not a scene to quote, not noticeable for its eloquent passages or the beauty of casual phrases, but for its sustained passion, desperate, pure, terrible. It must be read in its sequence and its entirety. Nor can I think of any parting more terrible, more penetrating in its anguish than this. Romeo and Juliet part; but they have known each other but for a week. There is no scene that Heathcliff can look upon in which he has not played with Catharine: and, now that she is dying, he must not watch with her. Troilus and Cressida part; but Cressida is false, and Troilus has his country left him. What country has Heathcliff, the outcast, nameless, adventurer? Antonio and his Duchess; but they have belonged to each other and been happy; these two are eternally separate. Their passion is only heightened by its absolute freedom from desire; even the wicked and desperate Heathcliff has no ignoble love for Catharine; all he asks is that she live, and that he may see her; that she may be happy even if it be with Linton. "I would never have banished him from her society, while she desired his," asserts Heathcliff, and now she is mad with grief and dying. The consciousness of their strained and thwarted natures, moreover, makes us the more regretful they must sever. Had he survived, Romeo would have been happy with Rosalind, after all; probably Juliet would have married Paris. But where will Heathcliff love again, the perverted, morose, brutalised Heathcliff, whose only human tenderness has been his love for the capricious, lively, beautiful young creature, now dazed, now wretched, now dying in his arms? The very remembrance of his violence and cruelty renders more awful the spectacle of this man, sitting with his dying love, silent; their faces hid against each other, and washed by each other's tears.
At last they parted: Catharine unconscious, half-dead. That night her puny, seven-months' child was born; that night the mother died, unutterably changed from the bright imperious creature who entered that house as a kingdom, not yet a year ago. By her side, in the darkened chamber, her husband lay, worn out with anguish. Outside, dashing his head against the trees in a Berserker-wrath with fate, Heathcliff raged, not to be consoled.
"'Her senses never returned: she recognised nobody from the time you left her,' I said. 'She lies with a sweet smile upon her face, and her latest ideas wandered back to pleasant early days. Her life closed in a gentle dream—may she wake as kindly in the other world!'
"'May she wake in torment!' he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot and groaning in a paroxysm of ungovernable passion. 'Why, she's a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there—not in heaven—not perished—where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings. And I pray one prayer. I repeat it till my tongue stiffens. Catharine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you—haunt me then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. 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 cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul.'
"He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast being goaded to death with knives and spears. I observed several splashes of blood about the bark of the tree, and his hand and forehead were both stained; probably the scene I witnessed was the repetition of others acted during the night. It hardly moved my compassion, it appalled me."
From this time a slow insidious madness worked in Heathcliff. When it was at its height he was not fierce, but strangely silent, scarcely breathing; hushed, as a person who draws his breath to hear some sound only just not heard as yet, as a man who strains his eyes to see the speck on the horizon which will rise the next moment, the next instant, and grow into the ship that brings his treasure home. "When I sat in the house with Hareton, it seemed that on going out I should meet her; when I walked on the moors, I should meet her coming in. When I went from home, I hastened to return; she must be somewhere at the Heights I was certain; and when I slept in her chamber—I was beaten out of that. I couldn't lie there; for the moment I closed my eyes, she was either outside the window, or sliding back the panels, or entering the room, or even resting her darling head on the same pillow, as she did when a child; and I must open my lids to see. And so I opened and closed them a hundred times a night to be always disappointed. It was a strange way of killing, not by inches, but by fractions of hairbreadths, to beguile me with the spectre of a hope through eighteen years." This mania of expectation stretching the nerves to their uttermost strain, relaxed sometimes; and then Heathcliff was dangerous. When filled with the thought of Catharine, the world was indifferent to him; but when this possessing memory abated ever so little, he remembered that the world was his enemy, had cheated him of Catharine. Then avarice, ambition, revenge, entered into his soul, and his last state was worse than his first. Cruel, with the insane cruelty, the bloodmania of an Ezzelin, he never was; his cruelties had a purpose, the sufferings of the victims were a detail not an end. Yet something of that despot's character, refined into torturing the mind and not the flesh, chaste, cruel, avaricious of power, something of that Southern morbidness in crime, distinguishes Heathcliff from the villains of modern English tragedies. Placed in the Italian Renaissance, with Cyril Tourneur for a chronicler, Heathcliff would not have awakened the outburst of incredulous indignation which greeted his appearance in a nineteenth century romance.
Soon after the birth of the younger Catharine, Isabella Heathcliff escaped from her husband to the South of England. He made no attempt to follow her, and in her new home she gave birth to a son, Linton—the fruit of timidity and hatred, fear and revulsion—"from the first she reported him to be an ailing, peevish creature." Meanwhile little Catharine grew up the very light of her home, an exquisite creature with her father's gentle, constant nature inspired by a spark of her mother's fire and lightened by a gleam of her wayward caprice. She had the Earnshaws' handsome dark eyes and the Lintons' fair skin, regular features and curling yellow hair. "That capacity for intense attachments reminded me of her mother. Still she did not resemble her; her anger was never furious; her love never fierce; it was deep and tender." Cathy was in truth a charming creature, though less passionate and strange a nature than Catharine Earnshaw, not made to be loved as wildly nor as deeply mistrusted.
Edgar, grown a complete hermit, devoted himself to his child, who spent a life as happy and secluded as a princess in a fairy story, seldom venturing outside the limits of the park and never by herself. Edgar had never forgotten his sorrow for the death of his young wife; he loved her memory with steady constancy. If—and I think we may—if we allow that every author has some especial quality with which, in more or less degree, he endows all his children—if we grant that Shakespeare's people are all meditative, even the sprightly Rosalind and the clownish Dogberry—if we allow that all our acquaintances in Dickens are a trifle self-conscious, in George Eliot conscientious to such an extent that even Tito Melema feels remorse for conduct which, granted his period and his character, would more naturally have given him satisfaction—then we must allow that Emily Bronte's special mark is constancy. Passionate, insane constancy in Heathcliff; perverse, but intense in the elder Catharine; steady and holy in Edgar Linton; even the hard and narrow Ellen Dean; even Joseph, the hypocritical Pharisee, are constant until death. Wild Hindley Earnshaw drinks himself to death for grief at losing his consumptive wife; Hareton loves to the end the man who has usurped his place, degraded him, fed him on blows and exaction: and it is constancy in absence that embitters and sickens the younger Catharine. Even Isabella Heathcliff, weak as she is, is not fickle. Even Linton Heathcliff, who, of all the characters in fiction, may share with Barnes Newcome the bad eminence of supreme unlovableness, even he loves his mother and Catharine, and, in his selfish way, loves them to the end.
The years passed, nothing happened, save that Hindley Earnshaw died, and Heathcliff—to whom every yard had been mortgaged, took possession of the place; Hareton, who should have been the first gentleman in the neighbourhood, "being reduced to a state of complete dependence on his father's inveterate enemy, lives as a servant in his own house, deprived of the advantages of wages, quite unable to right himself because of his friendlessness, and his ignorance that he has been wronged."
The eventless years went by till Catharine was thirteen, when Mrs. Heathcliff died, and Edgar went to the South of England to fetch her son. Little Cathy, during her father's absence, grew impatient of her confinement to the park; there was no one to escort her over the moors, so one day she leapt the fence, got lost, and was finally sheltered at Wuthering Heights, of which place and of all its inmates she had been kept in total ignorance. She promised to keep the visit a secret from her father, lest he should dismiss Ellen Dean. She was very indignant at being told that rudely-bred Hareton was her cousin; and when that night Linton—delicate, pretty, pettish Linton—arrived, she infinitely preferred his cousinship.
The next morning she found Linton gone, his father having sent for him to Wuthering Heights; Edgar Linton, however, did not tell his daughter that her cousin was so near, he would not for worlds she should cross the threshold of that terrible house. But one day, Cathy and Ellen Dean met Heathcliff on the moors, and he half persuaded, half forced them to come home and see his son, grown a most despicable, puling, ailing creature, half-violent, half-terrified. Cathy's kind little heart did not see the faults, she only saw that her cousin was ill, unhappy, in need of her; she was easily entrapped, one winter, when her father and Ellen Dean were both ill, into a secret engagement with this boy-cousin, the only lad, save uncouth Hareton, whom she had ever seen.
Every night, when her day's nursing was done, she rode over to Wuthering Heights to pet and fondle Linton. Heathcliff did all he could to favour the plan. He knew his son was dying, notwithstanding that every care was taken to preserve the heir of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. It is true that Cathy had a rival claim; to marry her to Linton would be to secure the title, get a wife for his dying son to preserve the line of inheritance, and certainly to break Edgar Linton's heart. Heathcliff's love of revenge and love of power combined to make the scheme a thing to strive for and desire.
He grew desperate as the boy got weaker and weaker; it was but too likely that he would die before his dying uncle, and, if Edgar Linton survived, Thrushcross Grange was lost to Heathcliff. As a last resource he made his son write to Edgar Linton and beg for an interview on neutral ground. Edgar, who, ignorant of Linton Heathcliff's true character, saw no reason why Cathy should not marry her cousin if they loved each other, allowed Ellen Dean to take her little mistress, now seventeen years old, on to the moors where Linton Heathcliff was to meet them. Cathy was loath to leave her father even for an hour, he was so ill; but she had been told Linton was dying, so nerved herself to go once more on the moors: they found Linton in a strange state, terrified, exhausted, despondent, making spasmodic love to Cathy as if it were a lesson he had been beaten into learning. She wished to return, but the boy declared himself, and looked, too ill to go back alone. They escorted him home to the Heights, and Heathcliff persuaded them to enter, saying he would go for a doctor for his sick lad. But, once they were in the house, he showed his hand. The doors were bolted; the servants and Hareton away. Neither tears nor prayers would induce him to let his victims go till Catharine was Linton's wife, and so, he told her, till her father had died in solitude. But five days after, Catharine Linton, now Catharine Heathcliff, contrived an escape in time to console her father's dying hours with a false belief in her happiness; a noble lie, for Edgar Linton died contented, kissing his daughter's cheek, ignorant of the misery in store for her.
The next day Heathcliff came over to the Grange to recapture his prey, but now Catharine did not mind; her father dead, she received all the affronts and stings of fate with an enduring apathy; it was only her that they injured. A few days after Linton died in the night, alone with his bride. After a year's absolute misery and loneliness, Catharine's lot was a little lightened by Mr. Heathcliff's preferring Ellen Dean to the vacant post of housekeeper at Wuthering Heights.
For the all-absorbing presence of Catharine Earnshaw had nearly secluded Heathcliff from enmity with the world; he was seldom violent now. He became yet more and more disinclined to society, sitting alone, seldom eating, often walking about the whole night. His face changed, and the look of brooding hate gave way to a yet more alarming expression—an excited, wild, unnatural appearance of joy. He complained of no illness, yet he was very pale, bloodless, "and his teeth visible now and then in a kind of smile; his frame shivering, not as one shivers with chill or weakness, but as a tight-stretched cord vibrates—a strong thrilling, rather than trembling." At last his mysterious absorption, the stress of his expectation, became so intense that he could not eat. Animated with hunger, he would sit down to his meal, then suddenly start, as if he saw something, glance at the door or the window and go out. Weary and pale, he could not sleep; but left his bed hurriedly, and went out to pace the garden till break of day. "'It is not my fault,' he replied, 'that I cannot eat or rest. I assure you it is through no settled design. I'll do both as soon as I possibly can. But you might as well bid a man struggling in the water rest within arm's-length of the shore. I must reach it first and then I'll rest. As to repenting of my injustices, I've done no injustice and I repent of nothing. I'm too happy, and yet I'm not happy enough. My soul's bliss kills my body, but does not satisfy itself.'"
Meanwhile the schemes of a life, the deeply-laid purposes of his revenge, were toppling unheeded all round him, like a house of cards. His son was dead. Hareton Earnshaw, the real heir of Wuthering Heights, and Catharine, the real heir of Thrushcross Grange, had fallen in love with each other. A most unguessed-at and unlikely finale; yet most natural. For Catharine was spoiled, accomplished, beautiful, proud—yet most affectionate and tender-hearted: and Hareton rude, surly, ignorant, fierce; yet true as steel, staunch, and with a very loving faithful heart, constant even to the man who had, of set purpose, brutalised him and kept him in servitude. "'Hareton is damnably fond of me!' laughed Heathcliff. 'You'll own that I've out-matched Hindley there. If the dead villain could rise from the grave to abuse me for his offspring's wrongs, I should have the fun of seeing the said offspring fight him back again, indignant that he should dare to rail at the one friend he has in the world.'
"'He'll never be able to emerge from his bathos of coarseness and ignorance,'" cried Heathcliff in exultation; but love can do as much as hatred. Heathcliff, himself as great a boor at twenty, contrived to rub off his clownishness in order to revenge himself upon his enemies; Catharine Linton's love inspired Hareton to as great an effort. This odd, rough love-story, as harshly-sweet as wortle-berries, as dry and stiff in its beauty as purple heather-sprays, is the most purely human, the only tender interest of Wuthering Heights. It is the necessary and lawful anti-climax to Heathcliff's triumph, the final reassertion of the pre-eminence of right. "Conquered good, and conquering ill" is often pitiably true; but not an everlasting law, only a too frequent accident. Perceiving this, Emily Bronte shows the final discomfiture of Heathcliff, who, kinless and kithless, was in the end compelled to see the property he has so cruelly amassed descend to his hereditary enemies. And he was baffled, not so much by Cathy's and Hareton's love affairs as by this sudden reaction from violence, this slackening of the heartstrings, which left him nerveless and anaemic, a prey to encroaching monomania. He had spent his life in crushing the berries for his revenge, in mixing that dark and maddening draught; and when the final moment came, when he lifted it to his lips, desire had left him, he had no taste for it.
"I've done no injustices," said Heathcliff; and though his life had been animated by hate, revenge and passion, let us reflect who have been his victims. Not the old Squire who first sheltered him; for the old man never lived to know his favourite's baseness, and only derived comfort from his presence. Catharine Earnshaw suffered, not from the character of her lover, but because she married a man she merely liked, with her eyes open to the fact that she was thereby wronging the man she loved. "You deserve this," said Heathcliff, when she was dying. "You have killed yourself. Because misery and degradation and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would ever have parted us: you, of your own will, did it." Not the morality of Mayfair, but one whose lessons, stern and grim enough, must ever be sorrowfully patent to such erring and passionate spirits. The third of Heathcliff's victims then, or rather the first, was Hindley Earnshaw. But if Hindley had not already been a gamester and a drunkard, a violent and soulless man, Heathcliff could have gained no power over him. Hindley welcomed Heathcliff, as Faustus the Devil, because he could gratify his evil desires; because, in his presence, there was no need to remember shame, nor high purposes, nor forsaken goodness; and when the end comes, and he shall forfeit his soul, let him remember that there were two at that bargain.
Isabella Linton was the most pitiable sufferer. Victim we can scarcely call her, who required no deception, but courted her doom. And after all, a marriage chiefly desired in order to humiliate a sister-in-law and show the bride to be a person of importance, was not intolerably requited by three months of wretched misery; after so much she is suffered to escape. From Edgar Linton, as we have seen, Heathcliff's blows fell aside unharming, as the executioner's strokes from a legendary martyr. He never learnt how secondary a place he held in his wife's heart, he never knew the misery of his only daughter—misery soon to be turned into joy. He lived and died, patient, happy, trustful, unvisited by the violence and fury that had their centre so near his hearth.
The younger Catharine and Hareton suffered but a temporary ill; the misery they endured together taught them to love; the tyrant's rod had blossomed into roses. And he, lonely and palsied at heart, eating out his soul in bitter solitude, he saw his plans of vengeance all frustrated, so much elaboration so simply counteracted; it was he that suffered.
He suffered now: and Catharine Earnshaw who helped him to ruin by her desertion, and Hindley who perverted him by early oppression, they suffered at his hands. But not the sinless, the constant, the noble; misery, in the end, shifts its dull mists before the light of such clear spirits: [Greek: ta drasanti pathein].
"'It is a poor conclusion, is it not?' said Heathcliff, 'an absurd termination to my violent exertions. I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and train myself to be capable of working like Hercules, and when everything is ready and in my power, I find the will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished.'
* * * * *
"Five minutes ago Hareton seemed to be a personification of my youth, not a human being: I felt to him in such a variety of ways that it would have been impossible to have accosted him rationally. In the first place, his startling likeness to Catharine connected him fearfully with her. That, however, which you may suppose the most potent to arrest my imagination is in reality the least: for what is not connected with her to me? and what does not recall her? I cannot look down to the floor but her features are shaped in the flags! In every cloud, in every tree—filling the air by night and caught by glimpses in every object by day—I am surrounded by her image. The most ordinary faces of men and women—my own features—mock me with a resemblance. The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her! Well, Hareton's aspect was the ghost of my immortal love; of my wild endeavours to hold my right; my degradation, my pride, my happiness, and my anguish——
"But it is frenzy to repeat these thoughts to you: only it will let you know why, with a reluctance to be always alone, his society is no benefit; rather an aggravation of the constant torment I suffer; and it partly contributes to render me regardless how he and his cousin go on together. I can give them no attention any more."
Sweet, forward Catharine and coy, passionate Hareton got on very prettily together. I can recall no more touching and lifelike scene than that first love-making of theirs, one rainy afternoon, in the kitchen where Nelly Dean is ironing the linen. Hareton, sulky and miserable, sitting by the fire, hurt by a gunshot wound, but yet more by the manifold rebuffs of pretty Cathy. She, with all her sauciness, limp in the dull, wet weather, coaxing him into good temper with the sweetest advancing graces. It is strange that in speaking of 'Wuthering Heights' this beautiful episode should be so universally forgotten, and only the violence and passion of more terrible passages associated with Emily Bronte's name. Yet, out of the strong cometh forth the sweet; and the best honey from the dry heather-bells.
Meanwhile, Heathcliff let them go on, frightening them more by his strange mood of abstraction than by his accustomed ferocity.
He could give them no attention any more. For four days he could neither eat nor rest, till his cheeks grew hollow and his eyes bloodshot, like a person starving with hunger, and growing blind with loss of sleep.
At last one early morning, when the rain was streaming in at Heathcliff's flapping lattice, Nelly Dean, like a good housewife, went in to shut it to. The master must be up or out, she said. But pushing back the panels of the inclosed bed, she found him there, laid on his back, his open eyes keen and fierce; quite still, though his face and throat were washed with rain; quite still, with a frightful, lifelike gaze of exultation under his brows, with parted lips and sharp white teeth that sneered—quite still and harmless now; dead and stark.
Dead, before any vengeance had overtaken him other than the slow, retributive sufferings of his own breast; dead, slain by too much hope, and an unnatural joy. Never before had any villain so strange an end; never before had any sufferer so protracted and sinister a torment, "beguiled with the spectre of a hope through eighteen years."
No more public nor authoritative punishment. Hareton passionately mourned his lost tyrant, weeping in bitter earnest, and kissing the sarcastic, savage face that every one else shrunk from contemplating. And Heathcliff's memory was sacred, having in the youth he ruined a most valiant defender. Even Catharine might never bemoan his wickednesses to her husband.
No execrations in this world or the next; a great quiet envelops him. His violence was not strong enough to reach that final peace and mar its completeness. [His] grave is next to Catharine's, and near to Edgar Linton's; over them all the wild bilberry springs, and the peat-moss and heather. They do not reck of the passion, the capricious sweetness, the steady goodness that lie underneath. It is all one to them and to the larks singing aloft.
"I lingered round the graves under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."
So ends the story of Wuthering Heights.
The world is now agreed to accept that story as a great and tragic study of passion and sorrow, a wild picture of storm and moorland, of outraged goodness and ingratitude. The world which has crowned 'King Lear' with immortality, keeps a lesser wreath for 'Wuthering Heights.' But in 1848, the peals of triumph which acclaimed the success of 'Jane Eyre' had no echo for the work of Ellis Bell. That strange genius, brooding and foreboding, intense and narrow, was passed over, disregarded. One author, indeed, in one review, Sydney Dobell, in the Palladium spoke nobly and clearly of the energy and genius of this book; but when that clarion augury of fame at last was sounded, Emily did not hear. Two years before they had laid her in the tomb.
No praise for Ellis Bell. It is strange to think that of Charlotte's two sisters it was Anne who had the one short draught of exhilarating fame. When the 'Tenant of Wildfell Hall' was in proof, Ellis's and Acton's publisher sold it to an American firm as the last and finest production of the author of 'Jane Eyre' and 'Wuthering Heights.' Strange, that even a publisher could so blunder, even for his own interest. However, this mistake caused sufficient confusion at Cornhill to make it necessary that the famous Charlotte, accompanied by Anne, in her quality of secondary and mistakable genius, should go to town and explain their separate existence. No need to disturb the author of 'Wuthering Heights,' that crude work of a 'prentice hand, over whose reproduction no publishers quarrelled; such troublesome honours were not for her.
"Yet," says Charlotte, "I must not be understood to make these things subject for reproach or complaint; I dare not do so; respect for my sister's memory forbids me. By her any such querulous manifestation would have been regarded as an unworthy and offensive weakness."
When, indeed, did the murmur of complaint pass those pale, inspired lips? Failure can have come to her with no shock of aghast surprise. All her plans had failed; Branwell's success, the school, her poems: her strong will, had not carried them on to success.
But though it could not bring success, it could support her against despair. When this last, dearest, strongest work of hers was weighed in the world's scales and found wanting, she did not sigh, resign herself, and think the battle over; she would have fought again.
But the battle was over, over before victory was declared. No more failures, no more strivings for that brave spirit. It was in July that Charlotte and Anne returned from London, in July when the heather is in bud; scarce one last withered spray was left in December to place on Emily's deathbed.
While 'Wuthering Heights' was still in the reviewer's hands, Emily Bronte's more fortunate sister was busy on another novel. This book has never attained the steady success of her masterpiece, 'Villette,' neither did it meet with the furor which greeted the first appearance of 'Jane Eyre.' It is, indeed, inferior to either work; a very quiet study of Yorkshire life, almost pettifogging in its interest in ecclesiastical squabbles, almost absurd in the feminine inadequacy of its heroes. And yet 'Shirley' has a grace and beauty of its own. This it derives from the charm of its heroines—Caroline Helstone, a lovely portrait in character of Charlotte's dearest friend, and Shirley herself, a fancy likeness of Emily Bronte.
Emily Bronte, but under very different conditions. No longer poor, no longer thwarted, no longer acquainted with misery and menaced by untimely death; not thus, but as a loving sister would fain have seen her, beautiful, triumphant, the spoiled child of happy fortune. Yet in these altered circumstances Shirley keeps her likeness to Charlotte's hardworking sister; the disguise, haply baffling those who, like Mrs. Gaskell, "have not a pleasant impression of Emily Bronte," is very easily penetrated by those who love her. Under the pathetic finery so lovingly bestowed, under the borrowed splendours of a thousand a year, a lovely face, an ancestral manor-house, we recognise our hardy and headstrong heroine, and smile a little sadly at the inefficiency of this masquerade of grandeur, so indifferent and unnecessary to her. We recognise Charlotte's sister; but not the author of 'Wuthering Heights.' Through these years we discern the brilliant heiress to be a person of infinitely inferior importance to the ill-dressed and overworked Vicar's daughter. Imperial Shirley, no need to wave your majestic wand, we have bowed to it long ago unblinded; and all its illusive splendours are not so potent as that worn-down goose-quill which you used to wield in the busy kitchen of your father's parsonage.
Yet without that admirable portrait we should have scant warrant for our conception of Emily Bronte's character. Her work is singularly impersonal. You gather from it that she loved the moors, that from her youth up the burden of a tragic fancy had lain hard upon her; that she had seen the face of sorrow close, meeting that Medusa-glance with rigid and defiant fortitude. So much we learn; but this is very little—a one-sided truth and therefore scarcely a truth at all.
Charlotte's portrait gives us another view, and fortunately there are still a few alive of the not numerous friends of Emily Bronte. Every trait, every reminiscence paints in darker, clearer lines, the impression of character which 'Shirley' leaves upon us. Shirley is indeed the exterior Emily, the Emily that was to be met and known thirty-five years ago, only a little polished, with the angles a little smoothed, by a sister's anxious care. The nobler Emily, deeply-suffering, brooding, pitying, creating, is only to be found in a stray word here and there, a chance memory, a happy answer, gathered from the pages of her work, and the loving remembrance of her friends; but these remnants are so direct, unusual, personal, and characteristic, this outline is of so decided a type, that it affects us more distinctly than many stippled and varnished portraits do.
But to know how Emily Bronte looked, moved, sat and spoke, we still return to 'Shirley.' A host of corroborating memories start up in turning the pages. Who but Emily was always accompanied by a "rather large, strong, and fierce-looking dog, very ugly, being of a breed between a mastiff and a bulldog?" it is familiar to us as Una's lion; we do not need to be told, Currer Bell, that she always sat on the hearthrug of nights, with her hand on his head, reading a book; we remember well how necessary it was to secure him as an ally in winning her affection. Has not a dear friend informed us that she first obtained Emily's heart by meeting, without apparent fear or shrinking, Keeper's huge springs of demonstrative welcome?
Certainly "Captain Keeldar," with her cavalier airs, her ready disdain, her love of independence, does bring back with vivid brilliance the memory of our old acquaintance, "the Major." We recognise that pallid slimness, masking an elastic strength which seems impenetrable to fatigue—and we sigh, recalling a passage in Anne's letters, recording how, when rheumatism, coughs, and influenza made an hospital of Haworth Vicarage during the visitations of the dread east wind, Emily alone looked on and wondered why anyone should be ill—"she considers it a very uninteresting wind; it does not affect her nervous system." We know her, too, by her kindness to her inferiors. A hundred little stories throng our minds. Unforgotten delicacies made with her own hands for her servant's friend, yet-remembered visits of Martha's little cousin to the kitchen, where Miss Emily would bring in her own chair for the ailing girl; anecdotes of her early rising through many years to do the hardest work, because the first servant was too old, and the second too young to get up so soon; and she, Emily, was so strong. A hundred little sacrifices, dearer to remembrance than Shirley's open purse, awaken in our hearts and remind us that, after all, Emily was the nobler and more lovable heroine of the twain.
How characteristic, too, the touch that makes her scornful of all that is dominant, dogmatic, avowedly masculine in the men of her acquaintance; and gentleness itself to the poetic Philip Nunnely, the gay, boyish Mr. Sweeting, the sentimental Louis, the lame, devoted boy-cousin who loves her in pathetic canine fashion. That courage, too, was hers. Not only Shirley's flesh, but Emily's, felt the tearing fangs of the mad dog to whom she had charitably offered food and water; not only Shirley's flesh, but hers, shrank from the light scarlet, glowing tip of the Italian iron with which she straightway cauterised the wound, going quickly into the laundry and operating on herself without a word to any one.
Emily, also, singlehanded and unarmed, punished her great bulldog for his household misdemeanours, in defiance of an express warning not to strike the brute, lest his uncertain temper should rouse him to fly at the striker's throat. And it was she who fomented his bruises. This prowess and tenderness of Shirley's is an old story to us.
And Shirley's love of picturesque and splendid raiment is not without an echo in our memories. It was Emily who, shopping in Bradford with Charlotte and her friend, chose a white stuff patterned with lilac thunder and lightning, to the scarcely concealed horror of her more sober companions. And she looked well in it; a tall, lithe creature, with a grace half-queenly, half-untamed in her sudden, supple movements, wearing with picturesque negligence her ample purple-splashed skirts; her face clear and pale; her very dark and plenteous brown hair fastened up behind with a Spanish comb; her large grey-hazel eyes, now full of indolent, indulgent humour, now glimmering with hidden meanings, now quickened into flame by a flash of indignation, "a red ray piercing the dew."
She, too, had Shirley's taste for the management of business. We remember Charlotte's disquiet when Emily insisted on investing Miss Branwell's legacies in York and Midland Railway shares. "She managed, in a most handsome and able manner for me when I was in Brussels, and prevented by distance from looking after our interests, therefore I will let her manage still and take the consequences. Disinterested and energetic she certainly is; and, if she be not quite so tractable or open to conviction as I could wish, I must remember perfection is not the lot of humanity, and, as long as we can regard those whom we love, and to whom we are closely allied, with profound and never-shaken esteem, it is a small thing that they should vex us occasionally by what appear to us headstrong and unreasonable notions."
So speaks the kind elder sister, the author of 'Shirley.' But there are some who will never love either type or portrait. Sydney Dobell spoke a bitter half-truth when, ignorant of Shirley's real identity, he declared: "We have only to imagine Shirley Keeldar poor to imagine her repulsive." The silenced pride, the thwarted generosity, the unspoken power, the contained passion of such a nature are not qualities which touch the world when it finds them in an obscure and homely woman. Even now, very many will not love a heroine so independent of their esteem. They will resent the frank imperiousness, caring not to please, the unyielding strength, the absence of trivial submissive tendernesses, for which she makes amends by such large humane and generous compassion. "In Emily's nature," says her sister, "the extremes of vigour and simplicity seemed to meet. Under an unsophisticated culture, inartificial taste and an unpretending outside, lay a power and fire that might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of a hero; but she had no worldly wisdom—her powers were unadapted to the practical business of life—she would fail to defend her most manifest rights, to consult her legitimate advantage. An interpreter ought always to have stood between her and the world. Her will was not very flexible and it generally opposed her interest. Her temper was magnanimous, but warm and sudden; her spirit altogether unbending."
So speaks Emily's inspired interpreter, whose genius has not made her sister popular. 'Shirley' is not a favourite with a modern public. Emily Bronte was born out of date. Athene, leading the nymphs in their headlong chase down the rocky spurs of Olympus, and stopping in full career to lift in her arms the weanlings, tender as dew, or the chance-hurt cubs of the mountain, might have chosen her as her hunt-fellow. Or Brunhilda, the strong Valkyr, dreading the love of man, whose delight is battle and the wild summits of hills, forfeiting her immortality to shield the helpless and the weak; she would have recognised the kinship of this last-born sister. But we moderns care not for these. Our heroines are Juliet, Desdemona and Imogen, our examples Dorothea Brooke and Laura Pendennis, women whose charm is a certain fragrance of affection. 'Shirley' is too independent for our taste; and, for the rest, we are all in love with Caroline Helstone.