BronteAlong: Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights Frontispiece
BronteAlong has now officially moved on to a focus on Wuthering Heights, after weeks and weeks of wallowing recklessly in everything Jane Eyre. As promised, we won’t be necessarily leaving Jane and Edward F. Rochester behind… just adding Cathy and Heathcliff to the mix.

Although it’s kind of hard to imagine them all together in the same room, in’it?

Wuthering Heights

As you know, I never had quite the fondness for Wuthering Heights as I did for Jane Eyre, but that’s not saying a whole lot, as I was deeply obsessed by Jane Eyre when I was a young lass.  It would have taken a whole lot to have jolted me out of that attachment.

And Cathy and Heathcliff just never did. I mean, I love a good tale that involves woe, and scandal, and staggering across the moors, and desperate love, as much as (and quite likely more than) anyone else. But I knew before I even read it that the story ended tragically, so I never even allowed myself to fully hope for these characters, to fully invest in them, if you know what I mean.

Also, they are kind of maddening. You just want to shake them!

Of course, that’s pretty much how I feel about Lily Bart and Selden in The House of Mirth.  Every single damn time I read that book (I’m down to about once a year with the Wharton gang — I tend to pick them up in the fall, when my husband and I are often traveling to New York) I say EVERY TIME I read it, I retain a shred of hope that Lily will do something different, not take the loan from slimy Trenor, something… or that Selden will finally locate his spine and marry her after all.

Oh, PS, House of Mirth Spoiler Alert. Belated. Sorry. (But honestly, if you haven’t read The House of Mirth yet, how on earth did you find this blog?)

Where was I?

Oh yes, Wuthering Heights. Staggering woefully across the Yorkshire moors. Awesome.

So I watched the 2009 version from Masterpiece Theater, and I loved it. Tom Hardy was a great Heathcliff — he always plays such a believable baddie, and I thought he really nailed the pride and vulnerability in the younger Heathcliff, and the pride and remorse of the older one.

Lots of pride, that Heathcliff. Lots of pride. And, um, anger. Plenty of that, too.

I have no idea what sort of craft I might conjure up to celebrate this portion of BronteAlong, though! I shall have to read it and watch it again to get inspired. I’ve been listening to it, off and on, for a week or so, in my car — courtesy of a great audio version narrated by the excellent Michael Kitchen.

This is, of course, only my first post in the Wuthering Heights series of BronteAlong. More to come anon!

Bibliophile

Ever since we started in on this whole BronteAlong madness, I’ve been reminiscing about how I grew up loving Jane Eyre. When I was about 12 years old, I suddenly graduated from obsessively re-reading Little Women (and Little Men, and Jo’s Boys, and Rose in Bloom — I do nothing halfway) to obsessively re-reading Jane Eyre.

As I have mentioned before, I grew up in a rather run-down Victorian house on Cape Cod that we inherited from my Great Aunt Eva. We had been living in a little house three doors down the street from her.  When I was born, bringing the total child count to 3, we were officially Too Big for That House.

When Aunt Eva died a few years later, it made sense for us to move into her old house and sell the wee house down the lane. Our new house came complete with all Aunt Eva’s gorgeous old things — mahogany secretaries and marble-top sideboards, hooked rugs and needlework samplers, and, of course, rooms and rooms filled with books.

War-time cookbooks. Leather-bound Shakespeare. Maps of the world predating World War I.

Aunt Eva wasn’t a snob, either — I found plenty of mystery novels (lots of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers), adventure-on-the-high-seas books (ooh la la Horatio Hornblower), and various novels of an even pulpier variety.

It would seem that Eva was as much of a literary omnivore as I would become.

It was her copy of Jane Eyre that I fixated on during my early teen years. Part of a 1904 series of “great books,” all published as part of something called The Everyman’s Library, they were nicely bound in red, and decorated with flowing art nouveau frontispieces.

I asked my mother if she could dig up those old books for me, so I could be reunited with them, for obvious, BronteAlong-related purposes.

She just dropped them off today — Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights among them. Guess which one I liked best when I was a girl:

Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights

I took that book with me everywhere. Thought absolutely nothing of sticking it in my back pocket and going to the beach with it. Or on a long bike ride to read in one of my favorite spots — an old abandoned house on the north side of town. Later, they boarded that place up and I could no longer crawl through the broken windows to sit on the ground and read while the sun set over the dunes. Yes, I do go in for the overly dramatic. What of it?

In the front of the book, there is Eva’s name, just where I remembered it:

Inscription in Aunt Eva's Jane Eyre - 1908

It was apparently a gift from my great-grandmother, Minnie:

Bottom of the same page (Jane Eyre)

Wilhemina Baker, whose long, silver hair I can remember brushing out when I was a little girl. She lived to be 101. Her husband, Samuel Baker (“Pop” to me), lived only 6 months longer, dying at 102 years old. They had been together since they were teenagers. Here’s Minnie at about 19 years old (when she graduated from Boston University – note the diploma scrolled up in her hands):

Minnie Baker

Back to the actual book:

Jane Eyre Title Page

So pretty!

Jane Eyre Frontispiece

…you ain’t kidding, mister.

And oh look at that! Guess which page it still opens up to:

Jane Eyre

…also known as “the fireplace scene.” I loved it even then.

In contrast, let’s see how comparatively pristine the copy of Wuthering Heights is. Even the frontispiece is noticeably less faded and manhandled:

Wuthering Heights Frontispiece

Although it, too, opens up to a favorite scene:

Wuthering Heights

I am so happy to have these back in my hands!

Since we are moving on Wuthering Heights next in our BronteAlong, I will clearly have to manhandle this copy a little more in the coming weeks, and make it look a little more well-loved.

Although I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that it can catch up to how well-loved that copy of Jane Eyre is. No 38-year-old woman, however hard she might try, can possibly love a book with anywhere near the devotion and ferocity of a 14-year-old girl. At least not the 14-year-old, book-obsessed girl that I was.

What books grabbed you by the throat when you were young?

The Official 2010 Bronte-Along

jane eyre - coverJoin us.

Melissa and I are still neck-deep in our Jane Eyre obsession (for me it is a rekindled passion, for Melissa it is new and FRESH) and we are moved by purely altrustic purposes to invite you to share our joy.

Join us in an unabashed and self-indulgent Bronte-Along, as we swoon in unison over Mr. Rochester’s bigamist charms.

In Melissa’s own words:

Required: Watch the 2006 Masterpiece Theatre film version of Jane Eyre

Encouraged: Read the book by Charlotte Bronte

As if you could help it: SWOON

Hoped for and encouraged: blog, tweet facebook about it if you are into it. Basically, I just want others to swoon with :o)

Would be awesome: Craft, paint, visual journal, etc about it! I have been so inspired to paint the characters and research the dress of the times etc, that you might be similarly swept up. If so, I would love to see your work!

Anything else? Suggestions welcome! I will compile a complete list of interested parties so we can visit everyone’s blogs and see what everyone is up to! And suggestions for requirements or encouragements will be added to an official post stating it all. I mean an unofficial post. Yeah.

The bottom line is that I am just so utterly in love with the story that I want others to share it with!

xo,

melissa

It is my secret hope that we can expand the theme, make it a true tour of the glories of the Sisters Bronte, and move on from Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights, to enjoy Heathcliff’s sullen and vengeful brooding… and perhaps end the trip in a prolonged visit to Wildfell Hall to complete the cycle.

For although I love Jane Austen dearly, I often feel like the Bronte sisters get the short end of the stick. All this Darcying about and Colonel-Brandoning it up is quite well and good, but sometimes a girl just wants some dark and brooding moorland action to soothe her soul.

Am I wrong?

Of course I am not.

Join us.

Jane Eyre - If you must leave me

You cannot resist. Confess it.