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Full text of "The Brontes"

THE   BRONTES                          IOQ
the work of one writer. It is unlikely that this
caused any prejudice against Wuthering Heights.
Charlotte's supposition that it did, which she
dwells on with such strong feeling in the bio-
graphical sketch of her sisters, was based, appar-
ently, on nothing more substantial than the fear
that reviewers and the public would " look
darkly " upon what they believed to be a cheat.
But, as obviously no cheat had been perpetrated,
seeing that the author of Wuthering Heights,, by
calling herself " Ellis Bell/3 quite clearly had not
attempted " to palm off an inferior and immature
production under cover of the success of Jane
Eyre " (though had a cheat been intended, such
a course would have been perfectly possible), it
is difficult to see how Charlotte arrived at this
conclusion and it may, therefore, be assumed that
she was here merely casting about for any reason
which might explain why Emily's book was not
an immediate success. Yet her own attitude to
Wuthering Heights, as revealed in the well known
Preface to its second edition, shows well enough
why it was not popular. Indeed, Charlotte's un-
concealed horror of her sister's creation still haunts
the minds of readers and few critics have not been
overpowered by her fine sentences into an adop-
tion of her emotional reactions to the book. But,
in fact, such reactions are abnormal and, splendid
as Charlotte's Preface is as a piece of writing, and
moving as were the circumstances in which it was
written, it cannot be regarded as an understand-
ing criticism ; it is a great pity that the Preface
is nearly always printed with the book. Wuthering