Skip to main content

Full text of "The Brontes"

See other formats

THE   BRONTES                      123
Heathcliff was no devil, but a passionate, fierce
willed, reckless, undisciplined man, such as wild,
remote places discover and encourage, such as the
moors harboured, as Charlotte told Mrs. Gaskell of
on their walk. Charlotte, certainly, had called
Heathcliff " a man's shape animated by demon
life " in her Preface, but that was because his pas-
sion for Catherine outraged her ideal of love.
Charlotte idealised love. She loved the passion
itself. To her, as she wrote in Shirley^ it was a
" divine virtue," " living fire brought from a
divine altar." She was horrified that it should be
shown as ravaging and reckless, leaving ruin in its
wake. No wonder that she shuddered as she read
and re-read Wuthering Heights and questioned
whether it wras " right or advisable " to create
beings like Heathcliff; no wonder that she pro-
tested against acknowledging that love, as she
understood it, had any part in HeathclifFs passion
for Catherine. " A sentiment, fierce and in-
human," she declared that to be, " a passion such
as might boil and glow in the bad essence of some
evil genius ; a fire that might form the tormented
centre, the ever suffering soul of a magnate of the
infernal world." In creating Heathcliff, Emily,
she feared, had been overmastered by her imagi-
nation as those who possessed creative gifts were
liable to be.
Emily, herself, would probably have said
" Fudge " to this explanation, not sharing her
sister's illusion as to the divinity of love. For love,
Emily might have said, is a very peculiar thing ;
intense, sacred, if you like to call it so, but when